måndag 5 juni 2017

The Elder scrolls, Fanfic: The Season Unending, Book 1: Autumn of Anarchy, Chapter 2: Memories

Chapter 2:

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They began breaking camp at dawn. Actius and Fasendil walked east across the hillsides south of Helgen, travelling rather light, the tent, the clothes on their backa sword for Fasendil and Actius's bow and arrow, as well as leather helm each that they had taken from the stormcloaks. All other amrour they had buried at a marker location, Actius had meant to throw it away, to obviously imperial or stormcloak for traveling incognito but Fasendil wouldn't have it arguing the cost and time that went into making a scale or ringmail was far to great to simply let it rust. Any extra swords had been left along with the armour. Hadvar had decided to travel unarmed. As a nord he could simply claim to be a refugee and walk unharmed by both sides. That benefit was not as certain with the other two but they still kept the leather helms and Fasendil's sword hidden inside their packs. Actius kept the bow on hand, it was a hunting bow after all, it wouldn't look too out of place for anyone. He hoped no one would bother comming close enough to realize Fasendil was an elf. That could lead to all sorts of trouble.  
The first hours of their journey went by uneventful, they walked all morning, it soon became evident to Actius that Fasendil wans't used to traveling this far of the beaten road, so Actius was rather glad the weather stayed fair. They stopped and ate lunch near a cave spring called Graywater, after Actius had checked so that no one or nothing hostile was using the pond. He could tell some bears had used it recently but it was empty now. The afternoon went much the same except that since they were reaching the top of the slope Fasendil seemed a little more comfortable. Actius managed to shoot a mountain goat too, they tied the goat to a stick and carried it between them, it weighed them down but fresh meat might very well be in low supply in the comming days so they could not really pass up the opportunity. Late in the afternoon they saw smoke and Actius left Fasendil with their packs while he scouted ahead. He foudn arelativly burned down mountain farm. Perhaps the goat he had shot had escaped from here, the farms in the mountains usually mainly have cattle rather than try and raise crops in the rocky ground. Actius went and got Fasendil and they walked down to the ruins of the farm.
"What do you think happened here?" Fasendil asked Actius as they drew closer to it. "Bandits?"
"Could be" Admitted Actius "There is a bunch of them up in the ruins of fort Neugard"
"Fort Neugard?" Fasendil inquired him absent mindedly.
"Oh there's a ruin of an old imperial fort up here, on the northern side big lake, well big to be this far up, sorth of midway between the pale pass in the south and Haemar's pass in the east."
"Really? Why is it there?"
"You're the imperial soldier you tell me"
"I didn't even know it existed, odd that no one told me about it"
"Well the ones who knew about it probably just assumed you knew and the ones who didn't know couldn't have told you could they?"
"I guess, Helgen was built after the pale pass was rediscovered during the Oblivion crisis, this fort may be it's predecessor, meant to control Haemar's pass" Actius shrugged "So you think that the bandits there are the ones who burned this farm down"
"In truth? No, I think it was our scaly friend from yesterday, look at how the fire has spread and how the barn is scattered, it looks like it was scattered by something big, and the fire has spread like it was poured on to the wood. Or breathed" Actius took a pause and looked a little closer.
"Plus the inhabitants look like they were burned alive rather than stabbed" he said pointing at a smoking pile in the middle of the yard, He saw Fasendil flinch.
"That's the inhabitants?" He said with a abhorred look on his face.
"Well some of them, I guess the dragon may have eaten some" Fasendil looked at him with narrowed mouth and a raised eyebrow. "What?" Actius asked, then he considered what he had just said "Oh sorry about that understanding what an animal has done is an old habit"
"I preferred when we hunted animals to when they hunt us"
"You're in the wrong province then, giants, trolls, weres, sabercats, and bears are all capable of killing and eating humans" Actius informed him "Granted only trolls do so consitently the other creatures are smart enough to realize that humans are more trouble than they are worth"
Actius walked up the broken barn.
"What are you doing?" Fasendil said suspiciously. Actius grabbed a shovel from inside it and threw it to him.
"Can't leave these poor folk unburied can we?"
"No you're right we shouldn't"
"And while you do that I'll go over their house for supplies"

Earlier that day several miles to the north and many hundred feet lower down Oswulf was riding along the way alongside his marching his soldiers. Or walking was perhaps a better temr for it, unlike the imperials who always marched in formation the stormcloaks walked a loose group, sure they had scouts and a rearguard but discipline for the sake of discipline was not their thing. Oswuld suspected some of the former legions members in his forces disapproved but he did not feel inclined to do what needed to be done to enforce a stricter discipline at this point.
Oswulf was glad they had managed to find a horse for him. He was from Whiterun, the nobles of whiterun felt more at home in the saddle than on foot. Not that this was a spectacular horse of course but it beat walking. He had been gifted it by a band of refugees from Helgen who they had met along the road, it had been used by them to pull a wagon, now his men pulled that wagon instead, there were another three other wagons but Oswulf had gone for the most ridable horse. He had also fashioned himself a simple saddle from some furs. A noble of whiterun like himself had to know how to do that, out on the open plains of Whiterun you sometimes had to be able to survive with nothing but you mount and your resourcefullness. Oswulf thought about his home, Valtheim a village in eastern whiterun, about as far east as one could get before eastmarch began, it was one of many villages along the White river, at every waterfall or rapid there needed to be one, because the faltbottomed ships traveling on the river needed to be hauled unto a structure of waxed planks and actually pulled over land past the falls or rapids. Since there was money in that work small villages grew up to support it. Valtheim was rather diffrent though, highest falls in Skyrim where there was such place, and it wouldn't have been possible if not for an old Dwemer, dwarf, machine that used the power of the fall, througha  giantwaterwheel itself to pull the ships up the steep hillside beside it. As far as Oswulf knew it was the only such machine in the world. though the high elves of the summerset isles claimed they had one too, one better that they hadn't 'stolen from superior mer' as they put it. Oswulf was willing to bet his family fortune no such machine existed. It was just the usual elven superiority attitude talking.
Thinkig of home made him remember how he had first come to be in the service of Ulfric Stormcloak.

Oswulf had ridden up to the stables outside Windhelm, on one of the finest horses in all of Skyrim, he had thrown the reins to a stablehand and told him to take care of the horse. Oswuld had been clad in his finest armour and while he left his bow and long two handed spear on his pack horse he kept the armour and his axe with him. Then he marched up to the main gate.
"I am Oswulf of Valtheim!" He announced with high voice. "I have come to meet Ulfric Jarl of Windhelm!" It was very pompous, very cermonial, Oswulf liked it.
"Ulfric Stormcloak is the High King of Skryim" The guard growled at him. Oswulf looked at him for the first time. Some lowborn whelp had contradicted him, this was outragoeous.
"Not until he has been chosen by the moot, not that I expect you to understand these things, but at least understand that you should not contradict you betters" Oswulf told the guard coldly. The man made a motion of his hand towards his sword, Oswulf took a step forward and grabbed him by the neck "Inform jarl Ulfric that the Graf of Valtheim wishes to speak with him" Oswulf hurled the man back. He stared down the other guard who had made a motion to interfere, but then suddenly changed his mind. Oswulf stood there at the gate waiting until the first guard returned and told him that the jarl would see him now. Oswulf nodded and started walkign towards the palace of kings. Then he turned to the guard again.
"What is your name guard?" he asked.
"I am Raolf, of Riverwood"
"You have made an enemy here today ,Raolf of Riverwood, remember that"

Oswulf entered the royal hall of the palace of Kings. He had once visited the court of King Torygg in Solitude but this, this was how a nord king should live.
"So you are Oswulf of Valtheim?" A large warrior sitting on the throne asked him. He knew that this must be Jarl Ulfric Stormcloak.
"I am"
"Oswulf Lichbreaker?" the Jarl pressed him "Who slew the lich at Yorgrim?" Oswulf could not help but grimmace, they had been almost twenty people who entered the nord tomb at Yorgrim, Oswulf had been the only one to make it out alive so he had been cheered as a hero and praised for destroying the lich. Atleast by the people, those who knew anything of war used the name to mock him.
"Yes" he replied stiffly.
"You introduced yourself at the gate as the Graf of Valtheim, does this mean that your brother and father are dead?"
"No my jarl"
"Then you are not the Graf of Valtheim and in all likeliehood never will be"
"My father is sick my jarl" Oswulf told him "And my brother conspires with the imperials to give our lands over to them"
"And so you turn to me?" Uldric asked him. "How many of the warriors of your village came with you?"
"None my jarl, I cna only offer my own axehand to your cause"
"the axehand of the lichbreaker" a jeering voice said from the side of the room. Oswulf turned to look and met a warrior in furs.
"Who are you?" Oswulf asked him.
"I am Galmar Stonefist" The man told him.
"Well Galmar Stonefist I am a noble of Skyrim and you should consider your tone when speaking to me"
"I fiught on Ulfric's side before your were a glint in your father's eye boy" Galmar told him.
"And I can trace my ancesty back to the five hundred companions who fought for Ysgramor"
"Enough!" Uldric decleared from his throne. "You will both treat each other with respect" He turned to Oswulf "To show a lack of respect for one of my advisors is to show lack of respect for me Oswulf" Then he turned to Galmar "To not show respect for one of the descendants of the five hundred is showing a lack of respect for the history of Skyrim Galmar"
"Yes my jarl" they both replied. Ulfric nodded to themself then looked up at Oswulf again "What of Jarl Balgruuf? He is your liege lord"
"He has yet to declare his intentions, just like most jarls, I have no doubt he will side with Skyrim too when time comes, and then my brother and father will feel compelled to..."
"If you know the mind of Jarl Balgruuf, then you know more than I do, he is a true nord that is true but the man has got a long memory too"
"my Jarl...?"
"Never mind, let's just say what Balgruuf and I have history" said Ulfric "Now as for you, we'll simply have to see how useful your axe arm are to us, Galmar, arrange a test for our friend"

Oswulf snapped out of his memories. Herman had approached him.
"Yes sergant?" he asked.
"We are comming up on Orphan's rock valley sir, this is the last good campsite this side of Haemar's pass. I would suggest we camp here and press on in the morning"
"Very well, see to it"

Actius skinned and butchered the goat while Fasendil was burying the bodies of the inhabitants. He had made up a fire and was setting up a crude smoking rack he had found inside the barn when the elf returned, his hari face and arms wet, which made Actius guess he had send a fair time trying to get himself clean near the farms well.
"Did we carry that today?" The elf asked with a look at the rack.
"Nope we sent mine of with Hadvar, pity really, I should have known it might come in handy"
"We're traveling not ranging for game"
"So I guess you wouldn't want a cut of fresh meat then?"
"Truth be told after having the smell of those people in my nose the last hours, I think I will pass"
"Eat legate, the meat is best when it's still fresh and I fear there won't be many chances for fresh meat in the commin days" Actius with experienced moved took a piece of meat that seemed the most done and flicked it unto the wooded plate. Unfortunatly just as with everythign else they only had the one, Actuis' one, if the legate had had any equipment then it had been lost with the rest of his things. Actiu handed the elf the plate, and while he at first regarded it doubtfully then sighed took out his beltknife and started eating. He finished the piece in no time, something which hardly surprised Actius, marching like the legionaries did required a whole other set of muscles from trekking up steephillside like they had the last day, he knew, before comming to Skyrim he had been in much worse shape to do it than the elf.
"How did you learn these things?" Fasendil asked him as if reading his mind "The mountaineering, the skinning, butchering, smoking. The only one of these skilsl you may have learned in the imperial city would be the archery" Actius shook his head.
"No I learned that after I came to Skyrim too, I arrived here in the autumn almost three years ago, got through the pale pass later than one really should, wearing nothing but the clothes on my back and carrying nothing but a crossbow and a dagger. I was an idiot" He gave the elf a rueful smile, he did not know why he was telling his companion this, perhaps because it's been such a lon time since he travelled with anyone.

Actius spent his first winter down in the valley near lake Ilinalta, or what he had though t to be winter, turned out it was what the nords called late autumn. While traveling in Falkreth hold he came upon a hunterscamp close to where the road, the white river and the easternmost part of lake Ilinalta met. Probably the same one Raolf had intended to go to. The hunters had taken a liking to the frozen imperial, and in exchage for simple services like chopping wood, fishing and gathering nuts and berries they had decided to teach him how to survive in the wilderness, they had taught him to track, to fish to use his crossbow or hunting, though most of them kept telling him it was still inferior a hunting weapon to real bow, they had also let him trade for things he needed, a real bedroll a tent his dagger, made for stabbing people, for a hunting knife, meant to serve as a tool. Shortly before the real winter began he had been resonable able to survive in Skyrim, then just before the last real snowstrms a woman came down from the high mountains. Her name was Angi, a nord hunter, and despite most of the hunters at the camp being older than her they all treated her with a respect bordering on reverence. Asking around Actius learned that Angi lived somewhere up in the mountains, all by herself, had done since she was but a teenager, winter itself could not kill her they said. Actius had gravitated towards the woman, she was about his age and had a natural fierceness about her. Whenever he tried to get near her she just mocked him furiously. But he kept tryign and when she left again for her home in the high  mountains she offered him to come along with her. It was Angi who really had made Actius into the man he was today, she had taught him the bow, though he was nowhere near as skilled as she was, and polished of the talents that the others had taught him the basics of.

"So where is she now?" Fasendil asked when Actius finished the story. Actius shrugged.
"No idea we lived in her cabin in the high mountains for maybe one and a half year, travelled when we could, one day she just packed up and left no idea where no idea why"
"I returned to the hunters camp at Lakeview point, they finally told me the entire story, her brother had gotten into a fight with two imperial soldiers at Helgen and gotten himself killed, so she killed them and then escaped into the mountains, this was when she was thirteen. I guess... that being so friendly with an imperial made her feel she betrayed her brothers memory or something, anyway I went up the cabin again took my things and left, that was perhaps a year ago, if she changes her mind and wishes to find me she will"
"And she's a better bowman that you" Fasendil said apperantly trying to change the subject.
"Far better, I never saw her miss" Actius said witha reufeul smile.
"I've never seen you miss either"
"There's a difference between not seeing someone miss in two days and eighteen months though"

"We have finished setting up camp sir"
Oswulf turned to look at Herman.
"Good job sergeant"  Oswulf told him absentmindedly.
"Sir?" The old soldier asked.
"Was there something else you wanted sergeant?" Oswulf aksed shaking his head as if to pohysically shake the memores out of it.
"I'd like your permition to send out some scouts in the surrounding area"
"Do you think it is nessecery? The imperials got hit worse than we did and they'll be retreating the other way. The men are tired and we don't have all that many men to begin with"
"That is all true"
"But we are effectivly blocking acess to Haemar's pass from our current position, and the imperial legion in skyrim has some pretty talented commanders, they may not be as docile as we would like them to be" Oswulf gave him a scrutinizing look, then he shrugged.
"Very well sergeant you may do as you please in this!
"Yes sir thank you sir"
Oswulf looked back into the fire as the old soldier left him. Funny how the most able warriors he had were also the ones with the closest ties to the enemy. On the other hand despite close ties to the legion he had chosen to fight for Skyrim. Oswuld foudn himself having more respect for the soldier than for the nobles who had turned against them. Despie him beign lowborn. On the other hand, when Skyrim was theirs once again the titles that had belonged to those nobles who had sided with the empire would need new owners, the five hundred companions of Ysgrammor hadn't been nobles when they joined Ysgrammor either. While it was obvious that older nobility was more prestigious, it was never to late to start a new dynasty. Though Ulfric would probably want to hand out titles to fools like Galmar Stonefist. And the memories returned.

Galmar had instructed him to travel north to Stillborn cavern to kill a marauding frost troll that HD been terrorising the north. Oswulf had left the hall and after retrieving hos horse led it down towards the docks. He would have to pass through to so called grey quaterback to get there. He did not relish this. A quater controlled by elves,in the city of ysgrammor. It was an insult to everything Oswulf believed in.  What was worse one of the elves had written a book boasting about it. How they would take over skyrim a piece at the time. Well not if Oswulf had anything to say in the matter, once they had thrown out the imperials these dark elves would be given a one way ticket back to Morrowind. 
"I don't want to learn to sail papa!" A nord child complained at an older man who looked like he might be his father.
"Nonsense! The cruel seas come from a lone line of competent sailors, if was only due to you grandfather's skill as a navigator that we became wealthy enough to buy our land"
"I want to be a warrior! Fight for skyrim!" the boy complained. Oswulf stopped and turned to the boy and his father.
"One does not exclude the other boy, Skyrim has a fine tradition of skilled sailor fighters, Ysgrammor himself came to this land over the sea, and the five hundred companions sailed along side him" Oswulf told the boy. "If you are brave and proud and do what your elders tell you then I have no doubt that you will bring glory to Skyrim" The boys father gave Oswulf a thankful smile.
"Thank you my lord, for encouraging my son" Oswulf gave him a polite nod in return.
"Is it true?" the boy demanded.
"Grimvar!" His father chastised him "You can't speak like that to a noble!"
"Don't worry about it, the boy is just curious about his heritage, nothing wrong with that" Oswulf said waving the matter away, he turned to the boy, Grimvar "Back in the old days, before the empire, sailing ships from Skyrim was the scourge of many of the neighbouring countries, the mere sight of our sail would send them running inland in a haste, it's said they sailed as far as the summerset isles and fought the elfs in their homeland, perhaps we will do that again once our land is ours again, show the elves that not all humans are slaves, when that happens we will need skilled sailors and navigators as much as strong sword arms"
"I'll be ready" The boy promised him.
"I know you will" Oswulf said with a smile. He turned to the boys father "Am I to understand that you own a ship my good man?"
"Yes... I do" The man said with some bewilderment.
"May I request to hire your vessel and your crew, Jarl Ulfric has asked me to deal with a situation north by stillborn cavern, a troll, and my horse is not quite the best way to get there"
"If it is in service to jarl Uldric then hiring the ship is not an issue, in fact I will gladly lend it and my crew to the stormcloak cause for free"
"You do honor to SKyrim my good man" Oswulf said. "I am Oswulf of Valtheim" he said and extended his hand.
"I am  Torsten of clan Cruel-sea" the man introduced himself taking it. "Oswulf? Not Oswulf lichbreaker?"
"Yes... yes I am" Oswulf had admitted a slight bit uncomfortably.
"Can I come?" Grimvar asked excitedly. Torsten turned to rebuke his son.
"He could stay in the boat, well away from harm" Oswulf suggested. Torsten still looked a bit uncomfortable "It may help to show him the virtue and importance of Skyrim's sailing men" Torsten sighed.
"Very well, Lichbreaker" He turned to his son "But you will promise to stay in the boat whatever happens"
"I promise father!"

Two days later Oswulf had kicked open the door of the palace of kings in windhelm and shoved Galmar stonefist up against a wall totally ignoring the crowd that formed to watch.
"Surprised to see me alive?" he roared. Stone fist had managed to shove him away and reached for his axe but Oswulf charged him swinging his fists before he could get it out. Roaring the older wariror met him. When Uldric had arrived summoned by his servants a few minutes later they were both trying to choke the life from each other's bodies.
"What is going on here?!" Ulfric Demanded. "Unhand each other!" neither had reacted,
"Now!" Ulfric demanded again. And then when they did not he had spoken a word in a strange language, that had been the first time Oswulf had experienced the thuum, it was not quite speaking nor quite shouting, it was power in it's rawest form, more primal than magic, more like the roar of some wild animal but the sound itself had claws. They had been throw away from each other.
"Enough!" Ulfric demanded as they had moved to attack each other again. "Enough I said, Galmar, explain to me what is going on here" he commanded his old friend.
"the lichbreaker here stormed into the hall and attacked me Ulfric" Galmar said to Ulfric.
"You tried to get me killed you son of a bitch!" Oswulf snarled at him. Ulfric turned to Oswulf.
"That is a harsh accusation lichbreaker, I assume you have a reason for making it"
"Stonefist here sent me north to stillborn cave, to kill a frost troll that he said his hunters had tracked back there" Oswulf explained to the Jarl. "When I arrived there I found not one troll but three of them, I would be dead if not for the brave sailors of the cruel-sea clan who rushed to my side when they realized the odds were against me."
"And you are certain that this was not an honest mistake?" asked sighing.
"No hunter worth his salt could mistake three trolls for one"
"You should thank me Lichbreaker, now we truly know that you are worth your salt" sneered at him.
"I'll choke the life out of you with my bare hands Stonefist!" Oswulf snarled at him "Two men died because of your little vendetta"
"Enough!" Ulfric said again with power. He turned to the old warrior "Galmar, you are to test the recruits, that means setting them challenges that they actually have a chance of succeeding at" then he turned to Oswulf "And you are never to attack a member of my court in my hall again Lichbreaker, if you feel slighted you will bring the matter to me"
Oswulf clenched his jaw, but then drew a deep breath. "Yes my jarl" he said throwing a nasty glance at the old warrior who glared right back. Ulfric sighed, he walked over and sat on his throne.
"Is Torsten Cruel-sea allright? I assume the boy is or you would have told me by now" Ulfric asked Oswulf, oswulf looked at the jarl eyes wide in surprise.
" Yes they are fine... How'd..."
"How did I know that Torsten and his boy went with you?" Ulfric said with a smile. "Very few things happen in my city without me knowing, the Cruel-sea clan and the families of the men who died will be compensated, as for Galmar his punishment is that he in his attempts to humiliate or wound you have achieved the opposite and only furthered your reputation, the slaying of three frost trolls is no mean feat even with aid, be satisfied with that Lichbreaker" Ulfric told him, it was the first time Oswulf had heard the title used without that hint of irony in the voice that he had come to expect from other fighters.

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