December 5, 2014
The Thief in the Snow - Entry XI: Born Under the Steed
Entry XI: Born Under the Steed
Location: Hjaalmarch Marshes, Hjaalmarch
Date: Loredas, 23rd of Last Seed, 4E 201
I slept in and did not leave for Solitude until it was well near noon. The dream my mind played last night for me was disturbing. Legions of unseen wraiths chased me through endless fog. Every time I thought I found a way out of the marshes, I was drawn back into their murky waters. When I finally awoke, I felt more drained of energy than when I first arrived in Morthal. I readied myself as quickly as possible, eager to leave Hjaalmarch behind. I slogged through the marshes, avoiding hordes of Mubcrabs at every turn. The swamp was an eerie place that was difficult to navigate. As I plodded through the murky knee-high water, I stumbled upon a few ruins and caves but did not investigate any. Once I reached solid land, I discovered what appeared to be a Nordic Tomb with a camp near its entrance. I searched around the area but found nothing of interest except more Mubcrabs and swamp. The trek through the Hjaalmarch Marshes was one I did not wish to repeat and when I saw the massive land bridge that ensconced Solitude, I was overjoyed.
Date: Loredas, 23rd of Last Seed, 4E 201
It had taken me hours to finally enter the hold of Haafingar, the heart of the Empire in Skyrim. Haafingar was the smallest hold in the Province of Skyrim and was quite isolated. Mountains separated it from the southern hold of the Reach and the great Karth River separated it from its southeastern neighbor of Hjaalmarch. There was only one way to reach Solitude by road and that was by crossing Dragon Bridge which spanned across the widest stretch of the Karth River. Soon, I could hear the rushing water of the Karth. This powerful river originated high in the Jerall Mountains of Cyrodiil before carving its way through the Reach. Farther north, the Karth River merged with the Hjaal River before ending its lengthy journey into the Sea of Ghosts.
I traipsed closer and closer towards the river until I finally saw Dragon Bridge in the distance. The curvature of the stones and the carved Dragon’s head made the bridge unmistakable. As I crossed the bridge, I could clearly see the great stone arch of Solitude and the towers that lined the cliff side. On the other side of the bridge, I entered the small village of Dragon Bridge to find it bustling with travelers. I passed a Penitus Oculatus Outpost on my way to the local tavern. The Penitus Oculatus were the Emperor’s bodyguards as well as his law enforcers. Their presence in Skyrim showed how deeply the Empire needed to keep control of Skyrim. I had heard rumblings from both citizens loyal to the Empire and allied with the Stormcloaks say that they felt the Thalmor were directly manipulating the Civil War. That these Elves wanted the Empire to continue its infighting with Skyrim, to keep the Humans drained of men and resources. A united Skyrim and Empire could be a force that the Thalmor were not equipped to handle.
Unfortunately, with the Province practically split down the middle, there seemed to be little hope that the Civil War would be resolved anytime soon. I entered Four Shields Tavern and spoke to a patron, Horgeir. He informed me about the happenings of Dragon Bridge and its history. It seemed that Dragon Bridge was one of the major defensives of Solitude and why there was such a heavy Imperial presence. Horgeir also related how the mill where he worked was making mountains of money due to the war. He then changed topics and told me he was having troubles with his wife. By this time, I was trying to excuse myself from the conversation and found my opportunity when a couple entered the tavern. They were farmers from Karthwasten, a village to the south which had been attacked by a Dragon. Their home and farm were razed to the ground so they had travelled to Solitude to start over. I sympathized with their situation for I had had to uproot my life and start anew many times in Cyrodiil. I donated some gold to them so they could stay in Dragon Bridge for a time as they decided on what to do next. They thanked me but I told them that I was just doing what was right.
As I left Dragon Bridge, I spied a Stormcloak Camp; it surprised me that they were so close to Solitude. Upon closer inspection, I could tell that the camp was merely made up of scouts and that they could not mount a sustained attack if they tried. I was sure that the Imperial Legion knew about the camp’s presence but I still planned to tell Hadvar about what I had found. I could hear the bells of the docks ringing in the distance now as I jogged closer and closer to Solitude. I came across the sawmill Horgeir worked at and saw it was still operating even at dusk. He was right; the war had kept them busy if the enormous stacks of milled logs were any indication. As I continued east along the main road towards Solitude, I discovered Katla’s Farm. There, I saw a Breton child tending to the horses and approached him.
As I drew near, he called out, “You probably want someone else. I am just the stable boy. Talk to Geimund if you want a horse, or Katla if you are looking for work. I cannot help you.”
“Dar’Raza thanks this one for the information.” I replied, “What is this one’s name?”
“I am Blaise.” The boy answered with confidence.
I chuckled, “How does this one like the farm?”
Blaise sighed heavily, “I hate it. Everyone feels sorry for me, they do not treat me to bad, but…”
“Sorry? For what?” I queried.
“Both my parents were in the Legion.” he answered solemnly. “There was… an ambush. Katla said she would feed me if I could make myself useful. I take care of the animals, run errands, that kind of thing. I guess it could be worse, but…” Blaise paused for a moment before continuing, “I am sick of sleeping outside with the horses. I want a real home, real parents. Not… this.”
I only nodded my head in silence. I thought back to Lucia in Whiterun and how her predicament was much the same as Blaise. Once I had sorted out this whole Dragonborn and Greybeard business, I vowed that I would find a way to help both Blaise and Lucia. There must be somewhere they could go to not only live but to be cared for.
Before making my way to Solitude, I explored the surrounding area which included Mount Kilkreath. I located the Thalmor Embassy and fought the urge to rush inside and murder all the Elves. The Thalmor were the governing body over the Aldmeri Dominion, the alliance formed between the Mer races of Tamriel. This was not the first time this alliance had been forged but actually the third. The First Aldmeri Dominion was formed to stop the Molag Bal worshipers who had taken over the Empire in the Second Era. It was led by the honorable Queen Ayrenn who was young but wise beyond her years. She had helped to restore order in Elsweyr when the Knahaten Flu rampaged through the land. To repay this debt, the Khajiit joined the First Aldmeri Dominion and assisted in its battle to take control of Cyrodiil. Since then, Elsweyr has always aligned itself with the Aldmeri Dominion. Almost a hundred years ago the Void Nights happened, a phenomenon that caused the two moons of Nirn, Masser and Secunda, to disappear for two years. Because of the significance the moons play in Khajiit religion and in our general way of life, Elsweyr was thrown into a constant state of chaos. When the moons did return, the Thalmor claimed responsibility, causing a massive decline in Imperial support. Eventually the ruling body of Elsweyr, the Elsweyr Confederacy, was overthrown and replaced with the kingdoms of Anequina and Pelletine. Seeing the perfect opportunity, the Thalmor reformed their alliance to create the Third Aldmeri Dominion by first adopting Anequina and Pelletine as client states. Their aggressive expansion caught the attention of the Mede Empire and eventually led to all-out war, known as the Great War, before the White-Gold Concordat was signed. Now Cyrodiil, Skyrim, and all the Empire were under the influence of the Thalmor and the Concordat.
I continued hiking through the vast mountain range that inhabited much of Haafingar. I stumbled upon Ironback Hideout where four Bandits were inventorying the items they procured when they raided a caravan of farmers from Karthwasten. I overheard them bragging about how easy the farmers were to kill and how many of the items they had stolen were worthless. I was able to get the drop on them; literally, as I jumped down from the cliff side above and killed two Bandits before they even had the chance to defend themselves. The other two Bandits quickly drew their weapons and began to attack. My speed was no match for them and I countered effortlessly, attacking when I saw the opening. In a few short minutes, I had defeated all of the Bandits.
I turned north of the hideout and trekked around the mountainside. In the distance I could see a stone pillar of sorts and was curious to investigate. Once I approached the pillar I realized it was a Standing Stone. Legend stated they were ancient magical stones that bestowed a gift upon worthy heroes of old, giving them powers to rewrite their fate. No one knew why the Stones only reacted to certain individuals or how they imbued these individuals with gifts. Each Standing Stone was different, having a constellation carved into its body, and each gave a different gift. As I examined the Stone, I could see the outline of a horse carved into it. The constellations of Tamriel consisted of three Guardian Constellations; the Warrior, the Mage, and the Thief. Each of these Guardian Constellations had constellations that fell under their protection, and these charges along with their Guardian Constellations all governed over a specific season. It was Last Seed now, the season of the Warrior. My birthsign happened to be the Warrior’s charge, The Steed. Her season was Mid Year and it was said that those born under her sign were impatient and always traveling from one place to another. My journey from Elsweyr to Cyrodiil and finally Skyrim attested to my birthsign. At least there was a good reason for my constant restlessness. The Standing Stone before me was the Steed Stone and I felt that it was only appropriate that I tried to accept a gift from this Stone.
I reached out my paw and caressed the symbol on the Stone. A flash of bluish light illuminated the darkness and I could feel a lightness to my step. I sprinted around the Stone for a few moments before realizing what the gift I had been granted was. My armor felt like it weighed nothing and the gear I had been carrying felt light as a feather. I could run faster and jump higher for I was no longer encumbered by the items I carried. I gave a low bow to the Steed Stone before bounding down the mountain towards Solitude.
Farther down the mountain, I could see the Statue to Meridia in the distance. She was a Daedric Prince of Life, the Lady of Infinite Energies and was always said to come in the form of a beautiful woman. I had also heard tales of her hatred for all things undead. When I was a child, I was often told the story of Rajhin, the Thief god of the Khajiit. He was the most successful thief in all of Elsweyr’s history. Rajhin used an ancient relic from Meridia, the Ring of Khajiit, to make himself disappear. Legend states that he was even able to steal a tattoo from the neck of Empress Kintyra Septim. No one knows what happened to Rajhin but most stories relate how the ring rebelled against such abuse that it disappeared, leaving the Khajiit thief helpless before his enemies. I was no Rajhin but I hoped that Meridia was pleased with all the Draugr I had slain previously that she might one day reward me with a ring of my own.
As I reached the main road towards Solitude, I was ambushed by an Altmer Mage who casted fireballs at me but my newly gifted powers allowed me to dodge the blasts swiftly. With my augmented agility I burst forward, closing the distance between us in a blink of an eye. Daggers drawn, I plunged them into the mage before she could even think about casting a healing spell. As I continued along the road towards the main gate of Solitude, I could hear voices in the distance. As I drew near, I observed two Khajiit conversing with the Solitude gate Guard. They were trying to convince him to allow them to set up their Caravan outside of the city. He did not seem too keen on giving any space to them but he finally acquiesced much to the delight of the Khajiit. After they had finished their conversation I approached and introduced myself. The Master Caravaneer was none other than Ma’dran, the Khajiit who had requested a Mammoth Tusk from Ysolda of Whiterun. We talked for a while about the Civil War, Dragons, and the general harshness of the Province compared to Cyrodiil and Elsweyr. I mentioned to him that I was contemplating joining Ri’saad’s Caravan and he related how it was Ri’saad who convinced him to come to Skyrim.
It was near midnight when I left Ma’dran and sauntered up to the main gate. I could still hear the bells ringing from the docks and I spied the silhouettes of sails in the distance. Solitude was a main hub of trade in Skyrim because of its location right on the coast of the Sea of Ghosts. The East Empire Company was located here and many ships entered the docks below the great stone arch that Solitude was perched upon. As I neared the main gate, the Guard held up his hand and told me that the Khajiit Caravan was down the road. I bit my tongue to keep from making a snide remark; this was after all the way things were done in Skyrim. I told him I was Thane of Whiterun and showed him proof. Like so many had done before, the Guard gave me a skeptical look but allowed me entry to Solitude. He mentioned that if I was interested in joining the Imperial Legion, I should see Legate Rikke at Castle Dour and if not, to keep my nose clean or I would end up like Roggvir. I inquired to whom this person was and the Guard told me the tale of Roggvir, a gate guard that allowed Ulfric Stormcloak to escape the city after he had assassinated High King Torygg. Roggvir had been convicted of treason and was about to be beheaded in the main square at midnight. I instinctively pulled at the collar of my armor; I had had my fair share of beheadings that I was not too eager to see more. It was too late for that as the Guard opened the main gate and ushered me inside.