Part Three- Welcome to Skyrim
We walk into a round shaped room and see a man laying dead by a table. Ralof prays over him for a few moments before telling me to strip the man and take his gear. Ralof cuts my hands free and I do as he said. It’s a little unsettling to take the possessions of one of the blond man’s fallen comrades, but he’s right when he says the guy won’t be needing it any longer.
I end up with a Stormcloaks uniform just like Ralof and all the others who’d nearly been executed. I take the iron war axe and toss aside my tunic and foot wraps. “So,” I begin hesitantly. “What is this place?”
Ralof quirks an eyebrow at me. “Haven’t you been listening?”
“Not really,” I reply truthfully. “I’ve had a bit of a headache, plus I’ve been stuck trying to sort things out for myself.” That’s something that always drove Mama crazy. I’m not much of a listener. I’m more of a act-now-scramble-later kind of girl.
Ralof shrugs and begins speaking as he looks around the room. He’s already tried both doors, finding them locked. The dead man didn’t have a key, either. I don’t think he’s going to find much, considering there’s hardly anything here. “This is Skyrim. Helgen, to be more specific,” he gestures with his arms, indicating the town itself. I nod, having gathered that much so far. “How’d you get here, by the way?” He asks as we sit down at the table after Ralof moves the dead man to the side.
I tell him about the night I got lost, and how the Imperials captured me. Ralof shakes his head.
“They caught us the same night, you must’ve happened through right after- or it was a different ambush. They’d set a trap for us. Ulfric was with us too, he’s the leader of our rebellion- Ulfric Stormcloak. He’s also the High King. There’s a lot of debate over that matter, which just adds to the war and fighting. It’s the Stormcloaks against the Empire. There are a lot of individual influences at play too, like the Thalmor Embassy. They’re a group of High Elves on the Empire’s side. Not many are aligned with us.”
Ralof looks like he’s got more to say- probably about the dragons, but halts as he hears voices in the hallway.
“Imperials,” he mouths, “take cover.” I crouch down and draw my axe, then we each flank a side of the door. I hear the chain being pulled a few times before the door begins to come down. From my angle I can see two people; the female captain from earlier (the one who nearly had my head chopped off!) and another lower ranked Imperial. The door opens completely and the two step inside.
We get the jump on them, taking them by surprise when we lunge. We get in a couple good hits before they even draw their weapons. Ralof and I fight well, back to back, axes swinging. I happily finish of the woman while Ralof does the same with the man. We loot their bodies, each dripping with blood- our own and our enemies- and Ralof finds a key that’ll get us out of the keep.
I change into the studded imperial armor, as it’s stronger than the Stormcloak uniform. I take the imperial sword as well, because I’m more familiar with swords than axes.
“Ready?” Ralof asks after we’ve plundered. I nod and follow him as we exit the round room and walk down a hallway, then a set of stairs. It’s a grueling battle, getting through the entire keep. I’ve never fought so hard and long before. By the time I hear the words “Look, that looks like a way out!” I’m absolutely beat, covered on blood, scrapes, cuts, and bruises. Ralof and I are still standing though, along with other Stormcloaks that decided to stay back, in case others needed help finding their way.
All in all though, it was totally worth it. I’ve got good armor, a hefty change purse, a sword, a bow, and a thick quiver of arrows to start me off- that’s almost more than was taken from me. Ralof and I find ourselves going through a cave like entrance which leads us back to daylight. We duck down for a moment, seeing the gargantuan dragon flying off overhead.
When the dragon is out of sight, we right ourselves and begin walking down the winding path before us. “So… Dragons?”
“I thought they were a legend. I’ve certainly never seen one before. But like Jarl Ulfric said, ‘legends don’t burn down villages’. I have no idea what to tell you about that… Anyway, my sister lives in Riverwood, a town not far from here. I’ll take you. She might have an idea as to what our next move should be.” Ralof returns his axe to his belt and continues walking along the path, arms swinging.
I sheath my sword and walk beside him but remain quiet. The sun is in the middle of the sky, signifying it’ll be dark in a couple of hours. I’d nearly been executed… and now what? I’m alive and well besides some cuts and bruises, but also thrust into a world in the middle of war and dragons. I’d like to just go back home, or to Cyrodiil.
After about a half of an hour of walking, we come to a turn in the path, and there are three tall rocks before us, each with a hole toward the top and a picture depicting what the stone represents. “The Standing Stones.” Ralof states. “There are different ones all throughout Skyrim. Here we have The Warrior, The Thief, and The Mage. You should pick one. They help you develop certain skills, depending on the one you choose. You can only have one active at a time. My personal recommendation is The Lover’s Stone, located east of Markarth. That specific one helps with every skill out there, but for now, choose one of these.”
I step forward and look at the images. After a moment of deliberation between The Warrior and The Thief, I choose The Thief. As I touch the stone, a blue beam of light shoots out of the top toward the sky. I feel a slight chill, then nothing. I step back onto the path, seeing Ralof’s small smirk- most likely at my choice of stone.
“Riverwood is just another half hour away or so. You’ll be able to sell some of the goods you gathered back in the keep. Plus, there’s an inn that you’ll be able to stay at.” Ralof explains as we continue on our journey to Riverwood.
“Gerdur!” Ralof shouts ahead and a petite blonde woman turns, elation and surprise crossing her face.
We’d entered Riverwood moments ago and had turned left onto a little bridge, walking behind some houses toward a large wood mill and chopping area.
It isn’t hard to tell that Gerdur and Ralof are related. They’ve both got strong nordic features and the same striking blond hair. Their thick nord accents make me smile. I haven’t come across too many nords in my life.
“Mara’s mercy, it’s good to see you!” The siblings embrace for a moment, then Gerdur pulls back, her hand placed upon Ralof’s shoulder. I hang back for the time being, watching. “But is it safe for you to be here?”
“Gerdur-” Ralof tries to interject.
“We had heard that Ulfric had been captured…” She continues.
“Gerdur, I’m fine. At least I am now.” Ralof reassures her.
“Are you hurt? What happened?” She looks to me. “And who’s this, one of your comrades?”
I give a small smile.
“Not a comrade yet, but a friend.” On our way from the Standing Stones, Ralof had talked to me about joining up with the Stormcloaks. I told him I’d think on it. I’d just arrived in Skyrim, and I wasn’t sure I was going to be staying. I’d rather go back to being an errand girl in Cyrodiil than join a war. “I owe her my life, in fact.” Ralof turns back to his sister. “Is there some place we can talk? There’s no telling when the news from Helgen will reach the Imperials…”
“Helgen? Has something happened- you’re right. Follow me. Hod!” She turns past Ralof and yells to the man atop the wood mill. When she’s got his attention, she beckons him down.
“Ralof!” The man shouts. “Ah, I’ll be right down!” Gerdur leads us further onto the little field that we’re standing on. I sit down on a huge tree stump as everyone talks.
“Uncle Ralof!” I hear another yell and see a young boy bounding our way before jumping into Ralof’s arms. Ralof spins the kid around a few times before setting him down. “Can I see your axe? How many Imperials have you killed? Do you really know Ulfic Stormcloak?” I can’t help but grin, because the kids reminds me so much of Myriil, and my heart twists at how much I miss him. The next time I see him, he won’t be a boy any longer. It’s hard for me to picture Myriil all grown up.
“Hush, Frodnar,” Gerdur scolds. I can’t help but snort at ‘Frodnar’. Nords and their silly names. Not that elf names are much better. “This is no time for your games. Go and watch the south road. Find us if you see any Imperial soldiers coming.”
“Aw mama,” Frodnar pouts. “I want to stay and talk with Uncle Ralof!”
“Look at you, almost a grown man!” Ralof encourages. “Won’t be long before you’ll be joining the fight yourself!”
“That’s right!” Frodnar grins. “Don’t worry Uncle Ralof, I won’t let those soldiers sneak up on you!” With that, Frodnar runs off to keep watch, then Hod appears, looking at the two of us.
“Now, Ralof,” Hod claps Ralof on the back. “What’s going on? You two look pretty well done in.”
Ralof begins explain the events that had occurred over the past couple of days, starting with the Imperial’s ambush on them, and how we’d been lined up for the chopping block just this morning.
“They wouldn’t dare give Ulfric a fair trial.” Ralof continues heatedly. “Treason, for fighting for your own people! All of Skyrim would’ve seen the truth then. But then… out of nowhere… a dragon attacked!”
Gerdur and Hod look astonished. “You don’t mean a real, live…”
“I could hardly believe it myself, and I was there! As strange as it sounds, we’d be dead if not for that dragon. In the confusion, we managed to slip away. Are we really the first to make it to Riverwood?” Ralof scrubs a hand over his face, the reality of the events of the day really starting to catch up with him.
Gerdur confirms that they haven’t seen anyone else come into town today. Ralof is relieved, saying how he just wants to lay low for the time being but he hesitates, not wanting to put Gerdur and her family in danger.
“Nonsense.” Gerdur says, waving a hand at him. “You and your friend are welcome to stay as long as you need. Let me worry about the Imperials.” She turns to me. “Any friend of Ralof is a friend of mine. Here’s the key to the house, stay as long as you’d like.”
I take the key and then she hands me a heavy pouch. Looking inside I see a variety of things from gold to potions.
“There is something you can do for me. For us,” Gerdur continues, I nod. I’d do anything for them, especially after they just opened their home to me without even knowing me. That type of kindness is rare. “We need to send word to Jarl Balgruuf to send whatever troops he can. Riverwood is defenseless. If you do that for me, I’ll be in your debt.”
I nod once more. “It’d be my pleasure. Point me in the right direction and I’ll go now.” I really just want to sleep, but I know how scared and defenseless these people are. Gerdur gives me a small smile and hands over a map.
“This is a map of Skyrim.” She points to an emblem of a horse. “This here is Whiterun, that’s where you’re headed. If you follow this road in that direction,” She looks up from the map and points north to the main path that runs through the town. “And follow the signs, you should be able to get to Whiterun by nightfall.” She then points out different shops in town, also explaining the shops in Whiterun, in case I have anything I want to get rid of.
For now, I decide to forgo selling anything. I just want to get to Whiterun, talk to the Jarl, then get an inn room. I say goodbye to Ralof, Hod, and Gerdur before setting off in the direction of Whiterun.
Read the next part!: Amidala Sunsmuggler: Part Four- Errand Girl Once More