The Thief in the Snow
Entry II: Choosing Sides
Location: Helgen, Falkreath Hold
Date: Sundas, 17th of Last Seed, 4E 201
My choice was simple, travel with Ralof the Stormcloak or go with the Imperial Soldier who was about to have me executed. I picked my side using the single motivation that had always driven my choices in life; money. The Imperial Soldier had better equipment. I could steal it after we had escaped and be on my way.
I heard the Imperial Soldier call out, “With me prisoner, let us go!”
“Right behind this one!” I answered back, following him into the keep.
We entered the keep and we both took a moment to catch our breaths. He could not believe a Dragon, what he called a ‘bringer of the end times’ had appeared. He collected himself and removed my shackles. I was surprised; it was not like he had much of a choice. He needed my help but still, the sign of trust caught me off guard. He motioned towards some chests and told me to find any and all gear I could use and he would search for a safe way out of Helgen. He did not have to tell me twice to loot a chest.
I quickly searched the chests and found an Imperial Light Helmet and four gold coins. I found some more gold lying on a table next to a bucket and a book about Mixed Unit Tactics. I could not resist taking the book, though I did leave the wooden bucket, much to my disappointment. A few bottles of Wine lined the shelves along with an Iron Sword. I took them all; I could use the Wine to treat wounds. Probably. I searched the last chest and found another Iron Sword, Imperial Light Armor, Imperial Light Boots, and the Helgen Keep Key. I have always preferred light armor, it makes less noise when sneaking around and keys, well who does not like keys? They open all sorts of things. But I had no time for this, there was a Dragon about and I still needed to escape.
I put on the equipment, pulled out the two Iron Swords and readied myself for what was to come. As the Imperial Soldier opened the door, I spied another Iron Sword that I just could not resist taking. I was going to survive this ordeal and I was going to make some profit out of this horrid situation. We traveled deeper inside the keep until we reached the sound of voices. They must have been other survivors who had found safety here. We hurried into the room where they were only to find Stormcloaks. The Imperial Soldier tried to reason with them but they attacked us on sight. At first, I could not understand why they were attacking me until I realized I was dressed as an Imperial too. How stupid could they be?! Had they ever seen a Khajiit in the Imperial Legion before?! It mattered little as I was forced to draw my blades and defend myself.
We made quick work of the two Stormcloaks, I have many skills and can handle myself quite well with a blade and the Imperial Soldier was a warrior true to form. As the Imperial Soldier searched for a route out of the keep, I quickly pilfered what little possessions the Stormcloaks had on their persons. There was also some food in the room. Tomatoes, a few Potatoes, and a couple of Cabbages; I never leave behind good food. You never know when you are going to need it. We carried on down the hall when suddenly we were knocked to our feet. The ceiling crumbled in front of us as the Dragon attacked the keep with fervor. The Imperial Soldier cursed the Dragon as we turned back and headed down a different hallway.
We entered an old storeroom just in time to find two Stormcloaks looking for supplies. We overwhelmed them easily. The Imperial Soldier thrust his blade through the back of one and my Iron Sword found its way into the heart of the other. Of course I could not resist the opportunity to find more ‘supplies’ that could assist us in our escape or that would make a tidy sum when I was free of this place. I found quite a few Potions of Minor Healing, some Salt Piles, and more food. I took them all and then we continued on our way.
We carried on and found an Imperial Torturer and his Assistant killing a Stormcloak in the lower levels of the keep. My companion tried to talk the two into joining us but neither of the men would hear any of it and both vowed to perform their duties until relieved. While the three Imperials were distracted I searched the torture room discreetly, picking up anything I found of value including my best friend, the Lockpick. I also found two Iron Daggers and equipped those in place of the swords. While swords did more damage, they hindered my natural speed in battle. I much preferred the elegance of a swift dagger across the throat than the cumbersome swing of a sword.
The Imperial Soldier noticed some items still left inside the cages where they had tortured the Stormcloaks and he encouraged me to try my hand at opening the locks. I acted offended that he assumed that I had such skill. He only rolled his eyes as I went on to deftly open the locks without much effort. Inside one of the cells was a Spell Tome entitled ‘Sparks.’ Hmm, I ran my fingers across its cover ever so gently. While the Imperial Soldier had his back turned, I quickly thumbed through the tome to learn all of its secrets. I am quite adept at magic, maybe not as skilled as a Mer but good enough for a Khajiit. After I had learned the spell, I quickly hid the tome and told the Imperial Soldier that we should move forward. Lockpicking all these cells open seemed to increase my skill, something that would prove useful once we had escaped.
I continued onward with my companion as we searched for a safe passage out of the keep. What we found in the lower levels of the keep was quite gruesome. Dead Stormcloaks in cages hung from the ceiling, they looked like animals. I had no love for either side but the sight put a knot in my stomach. If they were willing to do this to the Nords, their fellow man, what would they be willing to do to a measly ‘cat’?
We pressed forward, past a hole in the keep wall that led to a kind of cave system. Dark and musty, the cave was not at all inviting but proved to be the only means of escape from the keep, from Helgen and more importantly, from the Dragon. The Torturer’s Assistant had caught up to us by now, stating how he did not want to stay behind and die at the hands, er, claws of a Dragon. He came just in time as the cave opened into a clearing filled with Stormcloaks.
There were five in total, three attacked us head on while two remained near the far opening and rained arrows down on us. I charged quickly striking the first in the neck and spun off the second, leaving her for the Imperials behind me. My focus was the Stormcloak Archers but the battle axe wielding Stormcloak in front of me stopped me in my tracks. I could not block his attack with just my daggers so my only option was to evade. I side stepped his first attack and countered, kissing his forearm with my blade. He swung again and missed but a swift pivot brought the axe crashing down on my right shoulder. I was able to avoid a fatal wound but the axe inflicted damage.
I mentioned before how I was adept at learning spells and quickly pulled out my most useful spell to date; Healing. With my left paw, I sheathed my dagger and began conjuring the spell. The gaping wound on my shoulder closed as if it had never existed at all. Regaining full mobility, I was able to plunge my dagger into the axe wielding man’s heart. Next, I turned my attention to the Archers but the Imperials had already sorted them out. The Assistant turned to us and said that he would remain behind in case any more Stormcloaks tried to escape. As I picked up a bow from the dead Archer, I nodded my thanks. As I began to follow the Imperial Soldier deeper into the cave, I could not help but regret having to leave all those weapons and armor behind.
As we walked deeper and deeper into the cave, it violently began to shake above us. I shot the Imperial Soldier a worried look but he only continued forward. Suddenly, a loud crash echoed behind us. I looked back to see our way blocked by the newly collapsed cave ceiling. The Imperial Soldier only remarked that we were lucky it did not collapse when we were walking under it. ‘Yes, terribly lucky.’ I thought. ‘We were terribly lucky that a Dragon, who had not been seen since, since I do not know when! A Dragon that wants to kill all of us!’ I bit my tongue and kept these thoughts to myself. He was probably just as confused and scared about what was happening as I was. I needed to focus on the task at hand, getting out of here alive.
We found a stream running through the caves and decided to follow it, hoping that it would lead us outside of the village. It did not, it led us to a large open cave filled with… filled with Frostbite Spiders! I drew my bow, I was not about to go and attack those things head on. I would rather take my chances with the Dragon than with spiders. Luckily they were no match for my companion, as his blade dispatched them effortlessly. My bow did its own amount of damage, from a distance. The ordeal with the spiders left me feeling weak so I pulled out the food I had collected previously and began to eat. I did not realize that some of the ingredients had properties that I could use in Alchemy. Eating these ingredients seemed to reveal some of those properties to me. Too bad I did not have the time or the tools to do anything with the knowledge I had just gained. Refreshed, we continued onwards and I prayed we would not run into any more spiders.
“Hold up. There is a Bear just ahead.” the Imperial Soldier whispered as he crouched behind a rock, “See her?”
I nodded as I looked to where he was pointing. It was a Bear alright, sleeping peacefully in what must have been her den. We could have tried to sneak around her but I whispered to the Imperial Soldier that I could easily land a few clean shots from my bow before she had time to react. He agreed and I proceeded to sneak to a higher vantage point before I took aim. It only took me two shots straight into her side to bring her down. She did not even have time to fight back before I hit her with the killing blow.
We could now feel a cool breeze coming from the opposite side of the bear den. I looked at the Imperial Soldier with a grin and he smiled back. We hurried to the end of the cave until we finally burst through and found ourselves well outside of Helgen. We did not have time to rejoice as he hurriedly told me to hide. We dove under a giant boulder just in time to see the Dragon flying into the distance. With a sigh of relief we both stood and faced each other. He thanked me and introduced himself as Hadvar; he was a Nord and had grown up not far from Helgen. His uncle was a blacksmith and still lived in his hometown village of Riverwood. I introduced myself as well; telling him that my name was not ‘cat’ but Dar’Raza, and he could call me that. He chuckled and nodded. Who would have thought that I would befriend the Imperial Soldier who was about to execute me only hours earlier?
We traveled together down the mountainside road towards Riverwood. Hadvar told me about his hometown of Riverwood, about the area, and a little about his uncle on our descent down the mountain. He also added, if I was so inclined, that I should travel to Solitude, join the Imperial Legion, and fight beside him against the Stormcloaks. I laughed out loud, but he told me he was serious, that they could use a good cat like me in their ranks. He then pointed out some ruins in the distance, ‘Bleak Falls’ or something like that. It was an ancient Nordic Tomb; Hadvar informed me that these burial sites were found all over Skyrim. He recounted that when he was a child he was afraid the Draugr would creep down from the ruins and snatch him away in the middle of the night. I could not help but feel a sense of uneasiness as I stared at the ruins in the far distance.
We left the road and cut through the woods, Hadvar said it would be faster this way but it was not safer. We came across Embershard Mine and were ambushed by a Bandit. I was so startled that I did not have time to draw my bow when she attacked. I fell backwards and scrambled on the ground, trying to get my footing. Hadvar rushed behind her, grabbed the Bandit’s hair, and thrust his sword into her back. She collapsed in a heap instantly. Hadvar held his hand out to me and helped me off the ground. I thanked him but he said it was nothing and that I would have done that same. I was ashamed to think that I only chose to go with him because of the valuables he was carrying. Sometimes a good friend is worth more than shiny armor and sharp weapons and this was one of those times.
We climbed over a small knoll and found Riverwood sprawling out below us. As we approached the outskirts of Riverwood, I hesitated. Hadvar looked at me and gestured forward but I informed him of how Nord villages reacted to the likes of my kind. Khajiit were not allowed inside any city in Skyrim. The Khajiit Caravans would set up their stores outside of the city walls and would wait for the Nords to come out, that is, if the Nords were willing to trust the Khajiit enough to do business with them. Hadvar glanced down at his feet. He apologized for judging me so quickly when we first met. I let out a laugh and he gave me an odd look. I told him he had every right to judge me, after all I was an Imperial prisoner about to be executed. He grinned and restated that he should not have judged me on my looks alone. He insisted that I enter Riverwood walking next to him with my head held high and that if anyone tried to stop me, they would have to answer to him.
Thus I entered Riverwood, alive and free.