November 10, 2013

The Thief in the Snow - Entry I: Dar'Raza is Dar'Raza
The Thief in the Snow
Entry I: Dar’Raza is Dar’Raza
Location: Near the Skyrim and Cyrodiil border
Date: Sundas, 17th of Last Seed, 4E 201

The wagon jolted me forward violently, jarring me awake. For how long I had been unconscious, I do not know, but the large welt that had formed on the back of my head gave me a good indication. I am unsure exactly why I found myself shackled and traveling with what appeared to be three other criminals. Was it the gold I had stolen from a temple in Cyrodiil or maybe it was because I broke the nose of that guard from Bruma? They could not have possibly pursued me all the way along the Pale Pass, would they? Could it be because they just do not like my kind here in Skyrim? Whatever the reason may be it matters little now. All I knew was that my captors were Imperials and while I did not know where the wagon was taking me, I was sure my destination would be revealed in due time.

One of my fellow companions noticed I had awakened and began to speak to me. He was clad in a bluish armor, could he be one of the Stormcloaks I kept hearing about on my journey from Cyrodiil? There were stories of a civil war breaking out all over Skyrim. Escaping the Empire had been a primary reason for my journey north but also the prospect of war had brought me to the Nords’ land. War, war always meant lots of money to be had. The Soldier informed me that I had walked right into an Imperial ambush when I crossed the border into Skyrim and had been captured along with him, his comrade, and a thief.

He asked who I was and why I had been traveling on the Pale Pass but I merely replied, “Dar’Raza is Dar’Raza.”

He raised an eyebrow but inquired no further. The thief spoke next, complaining about how the Imperials only wanted the Stormcloaks and his capture was just a mistake. ‘I was right.’ I thought. I cared little about this war between Nords and Imperials, I had more important things to ponder like escape but the thief would not shut his trap. He kept going on and on, finally turning to our final companion, who was bound and gagged, inquiring as to his identity. The Stormcloak Soldier, the one who had first spoken to me, called the Gagged Man ‘Ulfric,’ this seemed to frighten the thief. Something about him being a jarl but this information did not matter to me; my freedom and my neck were all I cared about.

The two men kept blabbering on but fell silent when we approached a town.  Hmph, Nords hated my kind and would never let us enter their villages. This would be my first time to enter a village in Skyrim and if the Imperials got their way, the last village I would ever visit. Too bad the execution would not be held in Solitude, I heard that city was overflowing in riches. And then I saw them. I seethed. Thalmor. Those pompous stuck up asinine Mer. The Thalmor were a group of supremacist Elves who wished to end the rule of Men. Even though it was the Thalmor who ended the Void Nights, I still hated them all. I am sure their presence in Skyrim had something to do with the Nord uprising that recently begun. While they held no love for the Empire, they held even less for the Nords. The Thalmor’s ongoing eradication of the worship of Talos had rubbed the Nords the wrong way. It had been a rallying cry for the Stormcloaks and their rebellion against the Empire who had placated to the Thalmor.

Their presence should not be a concern to me; I had larger issues to contend with, like escape. The Stormcloak Soldier started to reminisce about his past. His life was flashing before his eyes much too early for my taste but his memories did reveal our location; Helgen. Sounded like a bloody horrible place to die. The wagon pulled into an open area where another wagon filled with prisoners had already arrived. Our captors ordered the two wagons to empty and we began to file out of the back. We were first lined up in a row and then an Imperial Soldier began calling out our names one by one. The Gagged Man was first, then the Stormcloak Soldier. Ralof was his name? It did not matter now. Next was the thief. He panicked and tried to run to his freedom but the Imperial Archers in the high towers fired a few well-placed arrows into his back. I guess I needed to think of a new plan of escape.

The Imperial Soldier gestured for me to come forward; it seemed he did not know my name. He was surprised to see the likes of me so far north. He examined me from head to toe with a quizzical look. I have never been terribly large, always half starving throughout most of my life but being on the run from the Imperials had brought my weight down considerably. My usually clean gray fur was matted with mud and snow. My black mane, which was thick and styled, had become an unruly mess. The rings in my ears, prizes I had stolen, had lost their previous luster. Only my piercing eyes had kept their usual vibrancy for unlike the thief and the Stormcloak Soldier, I had not accepted my fate just yet.

The Imperial Soldier asked for my name and I answered. He snickered and repeated my name, mocking my Khajiit accent. He told me how much he hated the Khajiit Caravans that roamed the open roads of Skyrim and how the Khajiit were the filth of Tamriel. I restrained a low growl in my throat. I wanted to show him exactly what happened to the last Imperial soldier who mocked my caravan, my family. Escape was more important now, the Imperial Soldier would be taught his lesson soon enough but first I needed to find a way to escape… but how? Running was not an option unless I fancied a few new holes in my back. My shackles were impossible to break, I had been trying to loosen them ever since I regained consciousness but to no avail. My only hope was that some miracle would stay the execution. I could pray to Arkay but he never seemed to answer me. As silly as it sounded, Mara always seemed to hear my prayers, well, whenever I stopped long enough to offer one.

I was pulled out of my thoughts when the Imperial Soldier began to speak again. Apparently, I really was not supposed to be there but his captain ordered that I die like the rest. In a surprising turn, he apologized for my misfortune and promised to return my remains to Elsweyr. I thought back to my family or at least the closest thing I had to family. I was born in Elsweyr, or so the caravan members told me. They were the ones who named me ‘Dar’Raza’ and had raised me. 'Dar’ meant ‘thief’ in the Khajiit tongue. They had given me the great distinction in my name because I was a master thief even at birth. ‘Dar’ also had another meaning, ‘clever’; I would find a way to escape.

My attention soon turned to my surroundings. The Gagged Man was being brought towards a great stone slab with a bucket next to it. I did not like the sight of the bucket or the large man with the even larger axe. A pompously dressed Imperial began to address the so called ‘Jarl of Windhelm,’ lecturing him about abusing powers and killing a king. What did I care, if I did not find an escape soon it would be me who would be killed next! So what he started a war, war is good. I make a lot of profit in times of war but I would not be able to do so if my head were lying in a bucket instead of on my shoulders!

The next few moments were a blur. A strange murmur came from the distance. The Imperial Captain pushed another Stormcloak Prisoner down on his knees, in front of the stone slab. A Priestess of Arkay began to pray. Maybe I should have said a prayer to Arkay after all; she could have said a few nice words on my behalf. ‘He is only a lowly thief, Arkay. He would stink up the place, Arkay.’ I doubt that would help me much. The loud crunch of the axe yanked me quickly out of my thoughts. A headless body lay on the ground. I could not stop myself from cringing. I liked my head, my head fits my neck and shoulders perfectly. It would be hard to find a replacement on such short notice. I did not observe that a crowd had gathered until shouts rained out from them.

“Imperial Bastards!” cried one woman.

“Justice!” shouted another man.

Clearly there was division in the crowd, maybe a riot would break out and cause a distraction. If only.

Ralof, who had been standing next to me this whole time, spoke, “As fearless in death as he was in life.”

I had no idea what he meant until I followed his gaze back to the headless body lying on the ground. I highly doubt the same could be said for me.

The Imperial Captain called out, “Next, the cat!”

My nose twitched. The murmur sounded again. It was much closer this time. Was it a cry of an animal? It sounded nothing like anything I had ever heard. The Imperial Soldier who had mocked my accent earlier saw I was distracted and called me forward. His tone was sincere, maybe he saw the fear in my eyes or maybe he was just playing me for a fool. I knelt down and lay my head on the slab. It was cold and wet; I did not want to think why it was wet. I could only stare up at the Headsman, more specifically, his very large axe that he held in both hands. He began to raise the weapon when a ferocious roar came from the skies.

“What in Oblivion?!” I cried as a black creature filled the skies and blotted out the sun. The Imperial Captain began shouting orders to the Archers. I watched as what could only be described as a Dragon landed on the tower facing me. Its roar knocked the Headsman off his feet and sent the Imperials scurrying like rats in every direction. I could only stare, stare directly into its red eyes. It felt like those eyes pierced into my very soul. Another roar ripped through the air, knocking me onto my back. Hectic sounds of screaming and destruction filled the air. I heard a familiar voice call out. It was Ralof urging me on, telling me we would not get another chance to escape. He was right, I needed to gather myself and focus on escaping while I had the chance. I followed him as he led me through the maze of what had been the village of Helgen.

Debris lay everywhere. Boulders, wood beams, and bodies were strewn about the streets. My head still felt foggy as I tried to shake off the blow from the Dragon’s… breath? I did not even know what I had been hit with. I had no time to think. Ralof lead me to a tower where the other surviving Stormcloaks had gathered including the Gagged Man who was gagged no more. He spoke to Ralof in a commanding voice; this man was truly a force to be reckoned with. This man, Ulfric Stormcloak, had murdered a king.

The Dragon was still decimating the village outside or at least it sounded that way. Screams and shouts rang out as that horrible roar cracked overhead. I could not think; I could only follow Ralof up the stairs to the top of the tower. As we reached the top, the Dragon burst through the stone wall of the tower, crushing a man under the debris. It breathed fire into the room, sending Ralof and I scrambling down the stairs again. The heat was searing, I thought I had been burned but I was not even near the flames. The Dragon disappeared as quickly as he had appeared. Ralof ran to the newly created opening and pointed to a building below us.

“Jump!” He commanded, “We shall follow when we can!”

“Is this one insane?” I frantically screamed, “It is too far!”

Ralof slapped me on the back and retorted, “Khajiit always land on their feet!”

I would have made a scathing reply but there was no time and the Dragon was circling back again. I quickly leapt down to the building below and began to search for a way out of the burning debris. I glanced at a few pots and pans on the floor. I thought about stealing them only to catch myself. ‘Idiot!’ I screeched in my head, ‘A Dragon is attacking, you need to flee!’ I looked out the window, trying to find a clear path out when I saw the Dragon swoop down on the guard tower, snatch an Imperial Archer, and fling him across the sky like he was a doll. These pots were not worth the measly gold, I needed to get out of here.

“Haming, you need to get over here. Now!”

I had found my way to the main road when I recognized the voice; it was the Imperial Soldier who had promised to return my remains to Elsweyr. I turned to run down the main road when I suddenly stopped. He had a sword and swords were good, I should stick with him. The Dragon landed on the main road and let loose a massive fireball just as the Imperial Soldier dodged out of the way.

He saw me and called out in a snide tone, “Still alive, prisoner? Keep close if you want to stay that way.”

“That is fine with Dar’Raza.” I hastily called back.

He shouted orders to his men and then began to follow the village’s outer wall. A huge gust of wind came from above as the Dragon descended directly on top of us. We pushed ourselves up against the wall as tightly as we could. Fortunately for us, the Dragon was too focused on its prey in front of it to notice us below. The Imperial Soldier barked at me to hurry up and stay close. I had no issue following his orders. I was going to survive this horrific nightmare, no matter who I had to listen to in order to achieve that. We raced through destroyed houses, weaving back and forth between burning walls and smoking corpses. We finally reached a crossroads that led to the keep when Ralof appeared in front of us. The two opposing Soldiers exchanged a few heated words but before they could come to blows the Dragon appeared above us. Both shouted for me to join them as they ran their separate ways. Which one to follow? I could not think clearly. Only a single thought crossed my mind.