8. Windhelm

8. Windhelm

Feb 13, 2022

Second Archivist Eldaline, a senior Thalmor dignitary, has been betrayed by a vengeful former lover and delivered to Windhelm, along with the mysterious Book of Fate, which was in her possession.

Skavild, her library assistant, formerly a Stormcloak warrior tasked with assassinating her, has been prevented from entering the city by various checkpoints.

"We meet at last, Wilfred Storm-Cloak." Said Eldaline.

"So, you are the author of the first edition of Nords! Arise!"

"With all available respect, that is a little fanciful. Why would you think such a thing?"

"Because that is the edition where I am called Wilfred throughout." Said Ulfric Stormcloak.

"Do you mean to say, your name is not Wilfred? Why was I not informed immediately?"

But as Eldaline cast her mind back to the Archives of Alinor, she recalled that she had perhaps been a little unhinged in the years after the War with the Empire.

"I wish I could write as angrily as you can, Second Archivist Eldaline." Said the junior archivist.

"It is not anger, to them, it is as good-natured as a Hello and How Are You." Said Eldaline. "And do not let your imagination run away with you. They are simple creatures. Stay with my formula.

And so take this down, as follows:

"Like Ysgramor, Wilfred Stormcloak is a true hero of Skyrim. His name will ring in Sovngarde for generations to come.

No, change that. Generations. Not Generations To Come. I hate it. Never write it again, even if I say it by mistake.

Only he, Wilfred, will have the courage to challenge Imperial rule by arms.

Only Wilfred's thu'um, a gift from Talos himself, will strike down its traitorous puppet rulers.

And by their deaths we shall be free of our Imperial shackles and the Thalmor overlords that darken the Imperial throne."

"That was amazing!" said Ondolemar. "Positively vulgar."

"Second Archivist Eldaline..." Said an even more junior archivist.

"I am still dictating." She said.

"Archivist Halthir, she keeps saying Wilfred." Said the very junior archivist.

"Keep your mouth shut and write it down." Said Archivist Halthir. "When you have been a field commander in as many campaigns as the Second Archivist has, we'll see how good you still are with names."

So he had been Wilfred for a short time, and it had caused a small amount of consternation in the Stormcloak ranks. The Nords corrected Wilfred to Ulfric, but I am afraid that they also changed the phrase to Generations To Come in subsequent editions. This was to the considerable distress of most of the Thalmor, who simply did not like the way it sounded.

"Oh." Eldaline said aloud, in the present. "Well, you are welcome. I see that your soldiers have improved upon the original text, as intended. If that is all you wanted me to admit to, why did your jailors immediately ask me about secret weapons drops in the night, and anonymous notes telling your commanders about caches full of money hidden in mountain passes, and Imperial troop placements? I am not a logistics expert and Imperial general rolled into one, as your men seem to think."

"They have much more to ask you. But that is not why you are in my hall. I know who you are and what you do. Or did. I want you to tell me about this book my guards found on you. What is it for, and why did the Thalmor make it?"

"The Book of Fate? It is just a book. Some say it is magical and reveals the reader's fate. I have not read it." Said Eldaline.

"I don't blame you." Said the Jarl. "If my fate was yours, I would not want to know it. But this is not a magical book. It is a tragic fairy tale, and you wrote it yourself. You will never be Jarl of Windhelm. The only thing you will be in Windhelm is a corpse."

Eldaline said, "The book says that... what?"

"You know what it says. You will return to the jailors, and tell them why the Thalmor have made this book."

"You are horribly mistaken." Said Eldaline.

"We'll see."

When Skavild got back to where he had left his borrowed horse, it had apparently become unborrowed again, because it wasn't there. All of their luggage was in its bags.

A faint clanking noise approached and became a loud clanking noise. Not a horse. Thought Skavild. "Have you seen a riderless horse, saddled and laden?" he asked the patrol.

"By the nine! Skavild! We all thought you were dead!"

"Aeslaf? Is that you under there?" Skavild recognised the harsh voice of one of his former brothers-in-arms.

"Ha! Come back to the camp with us, brother! Tell us of your adventures!"

Good idea. Thought Skavild.

"Istar said to toast to you in Sovngarde, when you didn't come back from Solitude that day." Said the Stormcloak warrior called Aeslaf.

"Well, I wouldn't have heard you, 'cause I'm not there. What's all the commotion in Windhelm?"

"Don't know. I just heard the Jarl said no one was going in or out. It was late yesterday. They had us posted out here within the hour."

"Sounds serious." Said Skavild. "We expecting an Imperial attack?"

"Ha! They wouldn't dare." Said another warrior. And ignore that woman, because I don't think you can play the flute like that.

"Hey... Brother, what are you reading? Is it good?" Said the Stormcloak called Arki. Skavild knew Aeslaf and Arki from the encampment at Dragon Bridge.

"Just a spell-tome. I found it in a cave. Trying to make sense of it."

"Hey, give me that spell-book. I can make a fireball." Said Arki.

"Not a chance." Skavild said. "I know that joke."

Skavild looked out over the Windhelm Bridge and the stables. He was searching for that horse. Under the light of day, the situation was even more desperate. The horse was carrying all of Eldaline's official documents, both official and false, and all four of their packed lunches, both poisoned and benign. Not only that, but it was only a matter of time before the Jarl of Winterhold sent word that he was Eldaline's library assistant. In a way, it was lucky that Ulfric had closed the gates.

"Any sign of that horse?" He said, to whoever was listening.

"Don't worry." Said Aeslaf, from somewhere on the fortifications. "Arki caught the beast and brought it to the stables."

"Ah." Said Skavild. "Where's Arki now?"

"Behind you!" Arki roared, in his ear.

"Shor's boots, man, are you trying to kill me? Hey! That's my spell-tome. Don't take my things."

"I'm just cooking the books." Said Arki. "Look. Get it? Cooking the books."

"Get out of here, you idiot." A Stormcloak woman said. "You're as bad as the Imperials say we are, Arki. Look what you've done. Only the last two pages aren't covered in stew."

"Damn that Arki." Skavild snarled. "My poor book. I couldn't even read it now if it wasn't in ancient Falmer."

"Hello, Skavild."

"Hello to you, Ingrys the Fox." Said Skavild. "I'm glad to see your lovely face."

"So, how is it that you aren't dead, Skavild? You chopped down the door of the Thalmor Headquarters, and nobody saw you again. That must be some tale."

"It's hard for me to talk about." He said.

"Well, talk about it anyway." Said Ingrys. "I'm bored."

"It's harder for me to talk about if you've got the nerve to be suspicious, Ingrys."

"Look at this place, Skavild. Checkpoints set up overnight. Jarl Ulfric suffering nightmares, and then Skavild comes back from the dead. I want to hear the story of how you escaped."

"Well, I don't want to tell it." He said. "I don't want to tell you about the brutal torture, and the screams in the night, and the horrible cries of the other prisoners. Those Nords the elves thought were specially dangerous, they held in a place called Northwatch Keep. I can't even bring myself to say that when I was there, I saw six dungeon cells."

Stormcloaks had begun to gather around and were listening to the story Skavild wasn't apparently telling.

"Every one of them had a prisoner in. Except one. There were nothing but old bones in that one. Some soul left to rot in full sight of the others. And I should know. He was across from me.

One day I couldn't go on. So don't make me tell you how I yelled for hours, until the guards came to end my misery, and I ended them instead, with my bare hands, and slipped out of there and hid in the mire, disguised as a horker." Skavild stopped, and looked grave.

"Because I can scarce think of it without feeling ill. And I'm not a Nord with a weak stomach."

"I'm sorry." Said Ingrys the Fox.

"No, I'M sorry." Cried Skavild.

"Well, I have some news to cheer you." Said Ingrys. "They found the very same Thalmor officer who captured you at the Headquarters. The one Istar sent you to kill. They've got her down in the palace dungeons now. Looks like you'll have your vengeance after all."

"What? Alive?" Demanded Skavild.

"I'll tell you what, kinsman." She said. "I can get inside the city on guard duty. I'll make sure she suffers for the torment she has given you."

"Now, Ingrys. Don't do anything that'll get you in trouble."

"Ha. Nobody in there will stop me, Skavild."

To be continued

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