Helgen: Bureaucracy, bravery and a dragon’s arrival.
I awoke aboard a carriage about ten minutes out of Helgen. The first words I ever remember hearing were from Ralof, a Stormcloak soldier, “Hey, you. You’re finally awake.”
How long was I asleep?
Where am I?
WHO AM I?
As I sat there confused and feeling a sense of rising panic Ralof rambled on about Helgen, mead and honourable death. Lokir, a horse thief, felt a great injustice and was starting to worry about his pending height reduction surgery. The 4th person in the carriage, a rather hairy and foul smelling Nord by the name of Ulfric, was the leader of the Stormcloaks and said not a word as he had a very secure gag tied around his mouth. At first I thought it was because he had especially effective insults to throw at the Imperials. Later that week I understood why. He trained in the Thu’um and they were worried about him using it to escape.
As we pulled into Helgen the leader of the merry band of executioners, General Tullius, was informed that the headsman was waiting. This made Lokir panic even more. I am sure he soiled himself or maybe it was just Ulfric that smelled that bad. I was wondering what the hurry was. Is the headsman paid by the hour or number of heads removed?
It seems that whoever and whatever I was my sense of humour was intact.
As the carriage stopped the Imperials were ready with parchment and quill to efficiently check us against a list of names. Probably to make sure the headsman didn’t try and claim more heads than there were. Maybe they send a bill to your next of kin for the hiring of the headsman and the disposing of your body?
At this point Lokir made a run for it. Very efficient Imperial archers filled his body with sharp and lethal arrows. As his lifeless body fell to the ground mid step I admired him for his courage even as others thought him cowardly. It was not just the fear of death that drove him. It was a strong sense of injustice. I felt it strongly as well but had neither the strength or will to try and escape as he did. He died defying those who imposed that injustice and did not meekly go to the chopping block as I did. He fought to the end.
When they asked my name I thought for a second and said “Wulf, with a U, not an O”. A young Imperial soldier sniggered and said to another soldier that I must have lost my lucky coin. I have no idea what that was about!
I wasn’t on their list! I assume my real name was. Not being listed made no difference to the Imperial captain. I joined the queue for the chop just the same.
They called me a Nord. I might look like one but, as with everything else, I have no idea of my race.
I was now second in line for the chop and as we waited General Tullius gave Ulfric a tongue bashing. I can’t recall all he said but when he mentioned the Voice, the Thu’um, was used in what was supposed to be fair combat, to kill a King and start a war, I felt a sense of outrage. At this stage I did not consciously know what the Thu’um was. Something in me generated that outrage. Something recognised the blasphemy.
As I pondered this it occurred a second time. A priestess of Arkay was reciting a prayer for the soon to be shortened prisoners when she asked for a blessing from the eight divines.
I was about to loudly educate her on the correct number when a young Stormcloak soldier, who was first in line for the chop, told her to shut up. I decided it would be inappropriate to add any more as he lowered himself onto the block. He was so sure of being received into Sovngarde he showed no fear as the headsman swung his bloody axe and ended his time on Nirn.
Then it was my turn and I felt no fear. No opinion about whether or not I was worthy of Sovngarde. Just those unanswered questions swirling in my head. I lowered myself onto the block and heard a challenge in a language I almost but not quite understood. Everybody else heard the roar of a mighty beast and confusion reigned. Nothing stops the well-oiled Imperial machine so my execution continued.
As the headsman got a good grip on his axe and lifted it high I noticed a beautiful animal approaching at great speed. Another roar was heard which I instinctively knew was the visitor announcing his name.
When the headsman’s axe reached its zenith the immense beast, no not a beast, a Dovah, a dragon my inner voice told me, landed on the tower directly behind the executioner.
I looked directly into the Dovah’s eyes and sensed shock and surprise emanating from him. By this stage everybody, including the headsman, stopped what they were doing to look upon their own nightmares and death which stared back with pitiless regard.
Then the Dovah spoke three words and everybody, including myself, were thrown like leaves in the wind to land in random crumpled shapes around the Helgen town square. Some were never to rise again. Some were screaming in terror and pain. Many trained soldiers, despite the strange attacker and its methods, responded with instinct and orders were issued and the battle for Helgen began.