Dragon of the East - Arc 3, Chapter 1

  • Reinhardt

    ~ ~ ~

    Windhelm’s an old city, I can tell you that. A jewel of stone buried in snow. I whistled at the sight from across the icy River Yorgrim. The Jarl’s castle rivaled the size of Dragonsreach, standing in the shadow of a mountain.  It’s a remnant of the Kingdom of Skyrim, founded by the 13th descendant of Ysgramor. Unless that commemorative plaque I’d read was lying.

    “The Palace of the Kings,” I announced, beaming in the afternoon sun. “Ysmir, I’ve always wanted to see it!”

    A breeze blew by. Falura drew her coat in tight.

    “Yes, it certainly seems… grand,” she said dryly. The woman was bundled up comfortably on her horse. Mine had, uh, bolted off back at Kynesgrove. Bit of bad luck, that. Falura got the privilege of an easy trip to Windhelm, while the rest of us hoofed it.

    “Aye, it’s ancient alright,” I said. “This was where it all began. The first realm of man in Tamriel!”

    Dar-Meena shivered, blowing into her hands. “Great. Can we get inside the walls now? My tail’s ready to break off like an icicle.” Chases didn’t speak. He just stretched his hood down, pretending we didn’t notice him standing against the wind.

    Pfff. This lot couldn’t take a few chilly little squalls. Oh, in a couple of months they’d be wishing for this kind of weather. Winter takes on a whole ‘nother meaning in Skyrim! Falura went to leave her horse with a stable master and stopped to chat with him; I think they’d met already. The rest of us waited at the mouth of the bridge to Windhelm.

    “We decided how long we’re gonna stay here yet?” I asked.

    “Till tomorrow morning. No longer,” the Dragonborn said, leaning back against the cold stone archway. “We need to get on the road to Riverwood as soon as possible.”

    I supposed that was fair. We didn’t want to keep Delphine waiting on us. Speakin’ for the others, of course; I could’ve tolerated a few more days away from her. Falura came back from the stables and we all started for the city.

    Except for Chases.                                         

    “This way, Dragonborn,” I said, waving along. “Gate’s across the river.”

    “You three go on ahead,” he replied.            

    The ladies stopped. I raised an eyebrow.       

    “You’re not coming with us?”


    “Well why in Arkay’s name not?”       

    “To leave fewer witnesses… among other things. I am not what you would call a city person.”

    “Just let him do what he wants,” Dar-Meena griped, antsy feet shuffling toward the bridge. “Can we get where it’s warm already?” Falura and I traded looks.

    “Let’s make it official,” Chases said. “We will meet at this spot tomorrow morning. Anyone who isn’t here by noon gets left behind. You can all do as you please until then.”

    That was that, since nobody voiced any naysays. The Dragonborn was in a stiff mood. Dar-Meena eagerly led the way, but not before trotting back to bid Chases farewell.

    “Hey,” she said. “Don’t freeze to death out here. Find someplace warm.”             

    He nodded. “I’ll manage.”

    We walked across the bridge. Down below to our right, a ship was anchored in the river. Argonians were unloading boxes of cargo onto the docks, while sailors scuttled on deck. Windhelm’s seaport’s a cute little thing compared to the one in, say, Solitude. But with the war going on I’d wager the Stormcloaks were happy to get their hands on any stock of sea goods.

    This was the heart of the Stormcloak campaign. We entered the gates of Windhelm and beheld the city in white, tall walls dividing the streets, chimney stalks billowing smoke. Beggars were warming up by a fire pit at the front steps of an inn, wrapped in shabby blankets. Dar-Meena didn’t mind their stench. She went right up and started warming her tail.

    The beggars left to find another fire.

    “Walls are such a wonderful invention,” Falura proclaimed with a smile, strolling up to the flames. “I can’t feel the wind anymore.”

    “Walls are nice,” said the lizard lady, “but fire’s better.”

    I joined the women and toasted my mitts. Passersby were few and far between. Windhelm seemed to get by just fine, despite the lack of Imperial law; folks weren’t off raiding homes and burning buildings in a fit of anarchy. These Nords could manage their own government. Short of any Imperials or Thalmor snooping around, Talos worship was alive and well, which made Windhelm a haven for the faithful. I saw more than a couple amulets to the Ninth Divine worn openly.

    “You know why the Dragonborn stayed back out there?” I asked Dar-Meena.

    “He told you, didn’t he?” she muttered. “I’m not his keeper. Chase does what he wants.”

    “So we’ve noticed,” Falura added, sounding like a dutchess. “He seems to be a very private Argonian.”

    “Yeah…” Dar-Meena’s eyes were shifty, wandering around the courtyard.        

    A grin crept upon my face. “How’d you two come across each other? Was it a chance meeting on a lonely night? Or did he slay a mighty dragon and sweep you off your feet?”

    She didn’t pay me any mind. “I met him in a graveyard.”      

    “Ha! Truer than fiction, eh? Mind telling the whole–”          

    “Will you shut up for two seconds?”             

    Falura stiffened. “For goodness sake! He was only making conversation.”                         

    “Open your eyes and look around. All these people passing by… Do you see the looks we’re getting?”

    I took a gander for myself. Aye, we were getting some funny stares from the locals. Not looks of disgust, at least outright. Just the kind that said, ‘What’s that doing here?’

    “We’re attracting the wrong kind of attention,” Dar-Meena said stiffly.                 

    Falura disputed. “Doing what?”

    “Gracing the city with our presence? Damned if I know.”           

    “I imagine we’re a more eclectic group of travelers than what these people are used to, that’s all.”

    Dar-Meena backed away from the fire. “Whatever. I say we go our separate ways for a while.”

    “Split up in a city none of us know?” I said. “Now where’s the sense in that?”

    “I’m sure you’re both smarter than you look. You’ll be fine,” she snorted, leaving with a toss of her hand. “Entertain yourselves for the evening. I’m off to find the markets.”

    We watched her back as she turned a corner down the road and disappeared into the maze-like walls of the city. Falura scoffed.

    “Charming girl…”                                                                           

    “The Dragonborn likes her,” I shrugged. “Different strokes, I guess. So… where’s this leave you and me?”

    “Where indeed. It would be nice to explore the city.” She pondered for a minute. “Perhaps splitting up will do some good. We haven’t had much time to ourselves since we’ve traveled together. Take the rest of the day off, Reinhardt. We can rejoin here at sundown.”

    “You sure? I mean… I’m supposed to be your bodyguard. I’d never forgive myself if something happened…”                                                                                                                         

    Falura put a hand on her hip. “You call yourself a bodyguard without a sword? I was under the impression you needed to buy a new one.”

    Oh, right. I still don’t know how that slipped my mind.

    “Guess I’ve got an errand.” I glanced off at the roads, scratching my head. “But, uh … My pockets are still a little light...”

    The mage sighed and reached into her coin purse.

    “This is the last handout you’re getting from me,” she said.             

    I counted on that. It’s just a fact; people don’t tend to like expensive volunteers.


    I strolled through the streets of Windhelm later that evening, a shiny new longsword hanging at my side. The smith’s greatswords were out of my price range. It was a dandy steel blade – a cut below my old one, but I’d make the most of it. Was hoping maybe the lizard lady could spare some coin to help buy me a shield, after she’d gathered all the profits from peddling our dragon scales. Having something I could put between wyrms and their fire seemed like a wise idea.

    A couple of children ran by through the slush. Tall walls make the roads of Windhelm feel like hallways in a castle with no ceiling. As I turned a corner, a man in a brown coat appeared, brushing past me.

    Take a guess who it was. I’ll give you a hint: there were two horns sticking out the back of his hood.

    “Oh-ho! If it isn’t the Dragonborn!” I said. “Decided you were a city person after all?”

    Chases turned around, his lizard face as readable as a book with no pages.

    “Reinhardt. I am in the middle of something. Unless this is urgent…”

    “In a hurry? Where are you off to?”

    The Argonian checked the streets for signs of anyone coming. “The Jarl’s palace,” he said. “I wish to speak with Ulfric Stormcloak.”

    “Ulfric? You got business with him?”

    “I am hoping he will recognize me. We met at Helgen. If there’s a chance he knows anything about the black dragon…”

    “Ah! Sounds exciting. I’ll join you!”

    Chases blinked. “Why?”

    “Why not? No way I’m gonna let a good squabble go on without me!”

    “A squabble? As in…?” He let out a huff of warm breath. “Nevermind… Xhuth, I suppose there’s no real harm in it.”

    “Relax. You won’t regret a thing.”                                                  

    “As long as you leave the talking to this one,” he said sternly, “and give no mention of my being Dragonborn.”

    Chases took us on a long winding route to the Palace of the Kings. Anybody watching us might’ve thought we were lost or wandering aimlessly, but I had a gut feeling tellin’ me otherwise. That lizard was too deliberate about the things he did. It’s like there were layers to his thinking you could keep peeling away.

    We passed a lone man walking along the road. I greeted him in passing. He gave Chases and me a slanted look before turning unkindly down another street. I watched him go behind us, lowering my voice.

    “Ysmir… These Nords give colder shoulders than snow.”

    “Take it as fault of my company,” Chases said. “We do ourselves little good being seen together.”

    “Your lady friend thought the same thing.”

    “I’m not surprised. The Nords in this city have avoided me so far. I wouldn’t complain about this, if I did not suspect the reasons behind it.”

    “Think these Nords don’t like your kind? We saw some Argonians out by the docks.”      

    “But have you seen any inside the city walls? I myself have not. It’s as if they aren’t allowed here.”

    “Maybe they just like staying by the water. You lizards do that, right?”        

    Chases’ shoulders slumped. “Duly considered… Still, the Dunmer in this city seem segregated. Their district is a slum from what I’ve seen. Few guard patrols.”

    “Dark Elves? In this city?”                                                                                    

    “They could be refugees from Morrowind; survivors of the Red Mountain eruption, or their descendants.” The Argonian looked at me. “Whatever the racial climates may be, we need to be on our best behavior. Remember that when we see the Jarl.”

    Soon we arrived at the Palace of the Kings. The stone castle lorded high above our heads, making anyone standing in the shade of its ramparts small and insignificant. Stormcloaks watched our every move. We stepped up to a set of great metal doors.

    “Halt,” said a soldier standing at attention. “The palace is closed to outsiders, lizard.”

    I came forward. “We’re here to see the Jarl,” I said, pointing at thumb at Chases. “He’s with me.”

    The Argonian flung me a look, but played along. “We bring word of the dragons,” he said. “It is urgent that we speak with him. The safety of this city may depend on it.”

    A couple of other Stormcloaks gathered around us, sending a clear message.

    “Hand over your weapons first,” the man ordered. Something about his tone rubbed me the wrong way. Was this routine or a shakedown? I stared into the soldier’s helmet, making sure I could see his eyes.

    “Your honor’s good, kinsman? We’ll get them back?”

    He paused. “Aye, you’ll get them back.”       

    “You swear it?”

    “On my son’s grave.”

    “Xhu. Then let us all be honorable men today,” Chases said, unstrapping his sword. We gave our weapons to the guardsmen; after a comb of our clothes for hidden daggers and the like, we went on inside.

    Every grand hall has a long dining table for feasting and guests, and Ulfric’s hall was no exception. Expensive silver dining ware was set on display. The palace was cold and dim, blue banners rimming the ceiling. Far back at the hall’s end was the Jarl’s empty throne, resting on a plinth. A Stormcloak told us to wait for the Jarl and his housecarl. Meanwhile, two men were speaking in a war room to our left.

    “He’s a true Nord. He’ll come around.”                     

    “Don’t be so sure of that. We’ve intercepted couriers from Solitude. The Empire is putting a great deal of pressure on Whiterun.”

    Chases heard it too. He seemed to tense.

    “You think I need to send Balgruuf a stronger message.”

    “If by message, you mean a sword through his gullet…”       

    They stopped talking as the guard announced our presence to them. The first man emerged from the room. It was the Jarl’s housecarl, a gruff bearded Nord, head dressed in a bear pelt and the armor of an officer. He looked like he’d just returned from the front.

    Then Ulfric Stormcloak, the man himself, followed after, dressed in thick clothes that befitted a warlord better than a king. We stepped forward to speak, several guards in attendance. Banners hanging on the sides of the throne were stitched with Windhelm’s emblem, the great bear of Eastmarch – a fitting image for the man now sitting on that throne.

    “Only the foolish or the courageous approach a Jarl without summons.” Ulfric’s voice was measured and deep. He paused, taking in the Dragonborn. “Do I know you?”

    “I believe we have met,” Chases said. “Recall a certain village and a dragon…”

    “Ah yes. You were with us at Helgen.” He lounged in his seat. “The mysterious Argonian. I last saw you with Ralof… What became of him?”

    “He’s alive, recovering from a broken leg in Riverwood. We helped each other escape.”

    “Shor’s bones!” I exclaimed softly. “That was you? You’re the one who saved Ralof?”

    “You know him?” Chases turned. His eyes got a little bigger. “He… mentioned me?”

    “Only that a man saved his life. He didn’t say nothin’ specific.”

    The Argonian wilted. “I suppose that is the most I could hope for. As long as he refrains from telling too many others...”

    We returned our attention to an impatient Ulfric. The look he gave us was neither warm nor cold, but it teetered on the edge of either. The slightest tip in the wrong direction spelt deep trouble. Every soldier in the palace stood at Ulfric’s beck and call, ready to throw us out by our breeches or lay down their lives at the glint of a blade. This was a Nord with influence.

    “Ralof’s a damn good man. I hope this is true,” Ulfric said. “Now… What should I call you?”

    “You may call me Chases-The-Wind, if you wish.”

    The Jarl seemed indifferent. “And what would your name be?”

    “Reinhardt. The honor’s mine.”                           

    “You follow an Argonian?”

    “I follow blood on the wind. And the sweet scent of mead.”      

    He smirked at that answer. “What brings you to my city?” Ulfric spoke to Chases more than me. “Not everyone can say they made it out of Helgen. I’m always looking for able fighters.”

    “Helgen is what I’ve come to discuss,” the Dragonborn said, “and anything you know about the dragons. I seek information.”

    “Boldly spoken… but I have none to give. Some think that the black dragon’s appearance was somehow my doing. I advise you to disregard such rumors.”

    “Convenient timing then, was it?” I chimed in.                   

    Ulfric lowered his voice. “I would have chosen a different convenience.”

    “Still saved you a shave from the Imperial headsman.”

    “You know absolutely nothing?” Chases prodded. “This is important. The black dragon that attacked us is resurrecting all the others. Their numbers are increasing as we speak.”

    “Is that so?” He didn’t ask how we knew that, or showed if he believed it. It was just another rumor to weigh and consider. “Legends speak of dragons as harbingers of the end times. We hear more reports of them by the day. Their attacks are a growing plague, but the sons of Skyrim will not die lying down. We will fight them as we fight the Imperials.”

    “If fighting is even enough,” Chases dryly remarked.                  

    I nudged the Dragonborn’s arm. Our visit to the leader of the Stormcloaks wasn’t getting anywhere. We wouldn’t do ourselves any favors by wasting his time. The Argonian glanced at me.

    “I would ask one final question,” he said to Ulfric, “something more specific. At Helgen… the Imperials kept you gagged, yes? I have heard scattered rumors that you are able to Shout.”

    The Jarl gave no body language. “Any Nord can learn the Way of the Voice, given enough ambition and dedication.”

    “Is it true then?” I jumped in and asked. “You shouted the High King to death?”

    “Not entirely true, though not entirely false either. My shouting put Torygg on the ground. However, it was my sword piercing his heart that killed him.”

    Chases hissed softly. “Hmm… Wud kaslothtoluu…”                                                          

    “I killed Torygg to prove our wretched condition. How is the High King supposed to be the defender of Skyrim if he can’t even defend himself? He was too privileged and foolish, a puppet-king of the Empire, more interested in entertaining his queen than ruling his country.”

    And now that queen sat on the High King’s throne. Elisif the Fair had become the Jarl of Solitude, though she wasn’t High Queen. The Moot hadn’t met yet to decide that. It wouldn’t until the war was over.

    Which assumed we’d all still be alive at that point and not crispy corpses! But oh well. Every Nord has his priorities. Mine involve less fighting for freedom and more killing big winged people cookers.

    “There hasn’t been a true High King in generations,” Ulfric said. “It’s time we had a real one. A king of our own making.”

    By that you mean you, eh? Good thing he wasn’t arrogant about it.

    “As you say. It is not my place to judge,” Chases replied. “This is your people’s land. You bear the consequences of your own actions.”

    The Jarl frowned. “I fight because I must, Argonian. A man who clings to apathy will see the world change without him.”

    “True. But no man can fight every evil he crosses, or join every skirmish he sees. I stopped fighting political battles long ago. Forgive me if I sound brash.” The Dragonborn gave a curt bow. “It was gracious of you to speak with us. We will be on our way. I shall give Ralof your regards, if I meet him again.”

    Ulfric stood from his throne.                         

    “I expect you will do that. I look forward to hearing his account, when he returns here.”


    We left the Palace of the Kings somewhat disappointed but, thank the gods, no poorer than we’d entered. The guards back outside returned our weapons as promised. I’d been worried over nothing. Ulfric Stormcloak wasn’t a man who had my support, but I could admire anyone who trained soldiers with integrity. A shame there’s always a few bad eggs.

    Stars shone above Windhelm, the night crisp and cold. Chases and I stopped on the steps away from the palace to talk.

    “Me and Falura are spending the night at a fancy inn,” I said. “You should join us. No need to be a stranger if we’re all meaning to travel together. I’ll even buy us drinks.” And put myself in the poor house again.

    The Dragonborn didn’t look at me. “Thank you, but I will seek a quieter place to spend the night. First I want to find Dar-Meena, wherever she is.”

    “Ah, your lady friend.” I grinned. “I last saw her at the markets. Shops oughta’ be closing down now, but she might still be there.”

    “It is a place to start.” He turned to me. “Should I assume you want to come along?”

    I stared blankly at the lizard. He stared back.

    “What?” Chases said.

    “You looked like you wanted to eat me.”

    “I was smiling.”


    After silently agreeing to forget that trade of words, we went off in search of the girl. The markets were closed, stalls and awnings empty for the night. I asked some folks still loitering about and one of them said she’d seen Dar-Meena heading toward the inn.

    It was about that time we started hearing voices. Angry voices, echoing over the walls. One of them sounded familiar.

    Chases must’ve thought the same thing I did, ‘cause he left in a hurry. I followed him down an empty road; fire pits let the way. There’s something about the quiet beauty of a city at night that makes my skin crawl. We kept our pace, spotted the inn up ahead, and lo and behold…

    “Back to the docks with ya! Your kind ain’t welcome here!”

    “Piss off! You don’t tell me what to do!”

    We stopped. Dar was there alright, at the entrance to the inn. But so were two other men, shaking their fists and holding bottles of mead in their hands. They were cursing and yapping back and forth like a bunch of angry dogs.

    “Answer me honest, Dragonborn,” I said. “Who do you think started it? The girl or the two milk-drinkers?”

    “I try to have faith,” Chases grumbled. “Mind yourself. We break this up without causing a scene.”

    “Don’t know about that... This smells bad.”

    “Probably the alcohol.”                 

    We stepped into the light of the inn’s windows.

    “For the last time, I don’t work at the docks!” Dar-Meena snapped. “Just let me through!”           

    “She’s right, you know,” I spoke up. “How ‘bout you two leave the lady alone.”               

    The three turned to us. One of the men had a cap with ear flaps and the other looked raggedly dressed, but with big muscles. Quick to take advantage of a posse, the lizard lady withdrew from her spat and joined us.

    “Great timing, you two,” Dar-Meena said with a sinister smirk. “Can we do something about these bone-heads?”

    “And what would the trouble be?” Chases asked.                

    “Isn’t it obvious? They won’t let me inside!”

    The muscle man grumbled to himself. “Just what this city needs… More outsiders.”

    “The only thing worse than you scale-backs are the damn grey-skins,” the other said, raising his voice. “You ain’t here to help the Stormcloaks! You’re here to eat our food and pollute the city with your stink!”

    “Stink? Oh, you mean that’s not yours?” Dar-Meena snarked. “I assumed you couldn’t tell the difference between a sidewalk and a latrine. My mistake.”

    “Shut your trap, lizard! Before I wear that tail of yours as a belt!”

    “Dar-Meena, must you worsen this?” Chases hissed, turning to the drunks. “Please allow my companions to enter the inn. We’re staying the night and leaving tomorrow. Hardly an inconvenience to anyone.”

    “Come and make me, boot. If you got the stones for it,” the cap man sneered.

    “I will not. There is no need for this.”

    “Don’t like it? Too bad. This is our city. Ours!”               

    They’re asking for it, I thought to myself. These two drunks were looking for a fight, but the Dragonborn wasn’t gonna give it to them.

    What he didn’t realize was that these were Nords. Fighting’s in our blood. When the time comes to talk, we talk with our fists. These men wouldn’t play by Chases’ rules; they were offering a challenge and they expected a reply. Don’t matter to me if a Nord’s sober or drunk as piss. I never pass down a fight. Chases, though…

    Come on, Dragonborn. Nobody in this city’s gonna look twice if we beat these two. Let’s nip this in the bud before it gets worse!

    “We are not here to stir trouble,” Chases said.

    “Don’t think I can take ya?” The capped man had a smile like a rusty wood-saw. “One hundred Septims says I can punch you back where you came from.”

    My eyebrow shot up. Oh, I had the itch.

    “A hundred Septims, eh? Is that all? Why stop there?” I said with a grin, cracking my knuckles. “How ‘bout we add some more purses to the pot? Two on two. Fists only.”

    Chases lowered my arms. He shot me a glare, then went up to the Nords; his hand stayed far away from his sword. “Come on, boot, let’s go!” the man in the cap goaded.         

    “We’re not fighting. If that means we stay outside, so be it,” the Dragonborn said quietly. He turned around and walked away. The drunks watched him leave, chucking insults at his back like rotten tomatoes.

    “Chase, you’re letting them keep us out?” Dar-Meena hissed, getting in his way.

    “Men like them aren’t worth the trouble,” he murmured, pushing her onward in front of him. “We’ll find another place to stay.”

    Damn. And here I was looking forward to some extra coin. The three of us started off. The man with the cap raised his mead in the air, yammering something in a slurred voice.

    Then he threw the bottle.

    Chases saw it coming, just before it shattered against the back of his head. He stumbled with a sharp cry and Dar-Meena caught him, startled. While the two men laughed, he reached back with his hand and cut himself on bloody shards of glass. I spun to the drunkards.

    Why, you…!!                                                                                                   

    “What do you want on your tombstones!?” I roared, leaping to take a swing at the first man in my sight.

    “Reinhardt, stop!” Chases barked. “Xhuth!”

    Sorry, but I was done being nice. Nobody gets away with a dirty move like that while I’m around. My fists were cutting the air, and they wouldn’t stop till those two bastards were lying on their backs.

    Those drunks fought like filthy rats. The capped man picked up a fistful of snow and threw it at my face, but I stuck a hard blow in his gut. He doubled over while the other one charged. I spun him around by his clothes and sent him crashing into a sign post. He picked himself right back up; that man could take a beating. So I let him have it.

    I went in swinging my knuckles like a beast out of his cage, left and right, up and down. Got a lucky hit on his side, then sealed it with a sock to the jaw. The muscle man fell in the slush with a satisfying plop.

    But the capped man was up to his old tricks again. He had a knife in his hand and was coming at me full speed.

    Chases appeared behind him from the shadows. While the fight had raged on, he’d rounded the inn to the other side. He kicked the back of the man’s leg and brought him to a knee, grabbing his wrist. The Argonian raised his elbow and hammered it down on the drunkard’s arm. The result? I’m no expert, but I don’t think arms are meant to bend the way his did.

    He let out a holler.

    Yield!” the Dragonborn snarled.

    “By order of the Jarl, stop right there!”

    We whipped our heads. Orange-yellow light dyed the snow. The guards of Windhelm showed up to catch the commotion, carrying torches and swords. Me and Chases backed away from the two drunks, hands up in compliance. With everything eased, I saw the people who’d watched us from the inn’s windows. Hope they enjoyed the show. It was a one-time performance.

    Dar-Meena hurried to Chases’ side, fretting over his injuries.

    “Gods! Chase, don’t let it bleed like that! Just heal yourself!”             

    The Dragonborn groaned, tenderly feeling the back of his head.

    “No… have to remove the glass first…” He glanced at her unhappily. “I may need help with that…”

    Falura burst out of the inn’s doorway. Apparently she’d been inside and just noticed the fight.

    “Reinhardt! What’s going on out here?”

    I pointed to the man getting ushered by a guard, the one with the funny looking arm.

    “Son of a bitch threw a bottle at the Drago–” Whew. Caught myself. “He threw a bottle at Chases while his back was turned!” Falura saw the Argonian’s wounds and brought a hand to her mouth. The two drunks were taken home. I thought we were ready to catch our breaths.

    Oh, I was all too wrong. The guards starting spitting some nonsense about ‘charges for disturbing the peace’ and went over to Chases and Dar. They apprehended them, binding their arms.

    “Hey! What are you doing!?” I shouted, stomping up to them.

    One of the Stormcloaks stepped in front of me, breathe vaporing through the slits of his helmet. “I don’t know your face, traveler.” He looked at the Argonians. “You with these trouble makers?”

    “Tell those men to let ‘em go! They had nothing to do with this!”

    “We heard the black one yelling all the way over at Valunstrad, keepin’ people awake. And that red scale-back just broke a citizen’s arm.”

    “It was self-defense!”                                                  

    “Doesn’t matter. If the healers can’t fix him, he might never work again.”

    “Then he shouldn’t have picked a fight he couldn’t win,” I growled. “It’s his own fault! Those two are innocent!”

    “That so?” he said. “Sure you don’t want to reconsider?”

    I took a step closer. “I ain’t a damn liar.”       

    Dar-Meena was speechless, for once. Her wide eyes seemed to grasp how stuck we were; this was neck-deep shit. Two drunks we could fight. Not an entire city guard. Chases watched me intently.

    “Look here,” the guard said in a casual voice. “I see two men standing in front of me. One’s a good, honest Nord who’d never tangle with a couple of scale-back criminals.” He leaned in enough for me to smell his breath. “The other’s a spy for the Imperials. Only one of these men’s got a full life ahead of him. So tell me… which are you?”

    I ground my teeth.                                                                                                                 

    “You dirty whoreson…” 

    “What was that? You’re resisting arrest? We got a nickname for anyone who trifles with us guards in Windhelm, you know.”

    “And what’s that?”

    The man put a hand on the mace at his belt.


    Damn, damn, damn! Nine divines, curse the day this bastard was born! There had to be a way out of this. Something I could say or do to fix everything. This wasn’t supposed to happen!

    I glanced at the Dragonborn. Blood was still pouring down the back of his neck, but he didn’t show a lick of fear. A man of patience, I tell you. “Tell them, Reinhardt,” Chases said. “You were not involved here.”

    Better to have two in the prisons than three. I didn’t have to like it. We just didn’t have a choice.

    I took in a breath.                                                                                             

    “Ho there,” a voice behind me said. “Still being ‘honorable men’ today?”

    I turned around. It was the guard from the palace. And he’d brought friends.

    The slimy Stormcloak tried to smooth-talk.  “Everything’s in order, Alof. Just a couple of scale-back trouble makers. They’re gonna spend a night in the dungeon till we decide how to handle the charges.”

    The palace guard took in the whole scene. He was a quick wit. “Another drunken brawl? Don’t tell me it was Rolff again.”

    “There were two of ‘em. We defended ourselves,” I said, glancing at the inn’s window. “The people up there were watching us. Somebody must’ve seen it.”

    Alof took a confident step toward the other man. “You hear that, Sjarnfid? Sounds like questioning witnesses. Might take you the rest of the night, unless you want to explain why your men didn’t do a full investigation.”

    “Oblivion with that. We’ll wait for the confession. We don’t need witnesses.”

    “Tell that to Yrsarald. Captain signed off early today, something about bad Rockjoint in his legs. Didn’t you hear?”

    “You’re full of yourself.”                                                         

    “Couldn’t make it up if I tried. Just the way it happened to be tonight. I’m sure he won’t mind seeing your smiling face in the morning, though. A shame he’ll have heard about the witnesses by then.”

    Whatever wrath that slimy man risked having to face at the hands of his superior, it was enough to make him think twice. After a moment of weighing, he ordered the guards to release the Argonians. Apparently there was nothing to see anymore. A drunken citizen slipped on some ice and broke his arm. The investigation would go on record saying ‘no disturbances to report.’

    “You lizards should know the law by now,” the rotten Stormcloak said. “Don’t go snooping around where you don’t belong. Get back to the docks.”

    Ysmir’s beard, the man wouldn’t give up! That’s the shame of it – losing didn’t cost him a thing. Just gave him an excuse to pout.

    “You don’t have to tell me twice,” the lizard lady muttered. “We’re going.”

    The Dragonborn glanced at her. “Dar-Meena?”

    “We’ve got to get away from here. Dockworkers live outside the city walls. Better hope they’re kind souls… Just hang in there.” She lent the Dragonborn her shoulder. His scales had begun to pale, which made the red drizzling down his neck all the more prominent. They left, disappearing down a dark alleyway.

    The guards went back to their rounds and the courtyard got quiet. A flute started playing again; I could hear it through the walls of the inn. I met the helm of the guard who’d saved our hides, a smile on my face.

    “I owe you, kinsman.”   

    The man looked squarely at me.       

    “You got lucky,” he said.

    I quit smiling. We were lucky. I was the one who wanted a fight with those drunks in the first place. If things had gone my way…

    I stared at the bloodstains in the snow, kicked up by the guards to where you could barely see them. The Dragonborn knew. He knew this would’ve happened if we’d fought those drunks. This was what he wanted to avoid.

    “Reinhardt, come inside,” Falura said, stepping out from the doorway into the cold. I bade the palace guard farewell and dragged my feet to the warmth of the inn.

    The Nords I knew in Helgen didn’t treat outsiders like second-rate trash. Not like this. Aye, we had our stubborn goats. If an Argonian had passed through our town, folks would’ve turned their noses up. I’d have done it. I was a dumb little snot. But having scales didn’t make you a criminal.

    These were corners of Skyrim I hadn’t seen before. I never traveled far beyond Falkreath hold as a lad. I thought Nords were better than this; I thought I knew my own kin.

    Windhelm showed me how much I didn’t.        

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11 Comments   |   Fallout Night likes this.
  • Fallout Night
    Fallout Night   ·  January 14, 2016
    Here lies the reason why i NEVER support the Stormcloaks, the whole "Skyrim for the Nords!" and "Ulfric Stormcloak is the true High King" crap. I'm not saying the Imperials are any better, but at least MOST of the time they don't pull this crap.
  • Okan-Zeeus
    Okan-Zeeus   ·  January 2, 2016
    I probably could have done a better job, but I'm glad you liked it. ^^
  • Karver the Lorc
    Karver the Lorc   ·  January 1, 2016
    Finally someone draw a perfect picture of the Windhelm. Not that I like corruption and racism, but this is how that city should have looked like.
    Great chapter, Okan.
  • Lyall
    Lyall   ·  January 1, 2016
    I await the day any of your chapters release, not even mentioning the big plot ones. By the way, there is a discussion called Nords are the Superior race, or something, linking to a poll on which race is the best. Be sure to vote Khjaiit.
  • Okan-Zeeus
    Okan-Zeeus   ·  January 1, 2016
    I'm happy you remembered that! Have no fear - I've plotted all this out. Feel free to tell me how you think I handled it when it happens.  
  • Lyall
    Lyall   ·  January 1, 2016
    One thing I noticed, in Arc 2 at the end you made Falura say she's going to tell (The nord, can't spell his name for the life of me) about the "crisis" they have, but in this one she doesn't. You might want to make a note when she does tell him, just some...  more
  • Lyall
    Lyall   ·  December 31, 2015
    I finished reading this, and its great. Keep it up, I'm looking forward to more of it.
  • Lyall
    Lyall   ·  December 31, 2015
    YES! I finished reading all your DOTE chapters several days ago, and the next one is here. I haven't read it yet, but I'm sure its great. It's funny, I've only been waiting 4 or 5 days for this, but it feels like months. Will get back to you after reading it.
  • Ebonslayer
    Ebonslayer   ·  December 31, 2015
    "A Sormcloak told us to wait for the Jarl and his housecarl."
  • Okan-Zeeus
    Okan-Zeeus   ·  December 31, 2015
    For any errors, it helps better if you quote the sentence. That way I don't have to dig through the text. ^^'