Dragonsreach, Palace Of The Kings, Castle Dour: Asked Jarl, Exposed Ulfric, Informed General Tullius.
While we were having a quick breakfast I sat next to Lydia and asked, “It is not just frustration at getting revenge is it?”
Lydia replied, “No. I am worried Alduin has or may devour Bjorn’s soul before he gets into Sovngarde.”
I had to be honest with her so said, “I am sorry Lydia. I do not know how many souls there may be and how quickly Alduin can or does consume them. If they can hide or are even aware of what he is doing. Our only hope is to get there as quickly as we can, if we can. Wait here while I speak to the Jarl and then we will know our next step.”
Lydia just nodded and I headed for Dragonsreach.
I approached Jarl Balgruuf the Greater and this is the conversation,
“Welcome friend! Do I still call you Guardian General? I see you are no longer wearing the uniform.”
No my Jarl. That duty is ended and now my concern is the dragons. Please call me Wulf.
“Wulf it is then. You need to speak to me about something?”
I need your help. I need to trap a dragon in your palace.
“I must have misheard you. I thought you asked me to help you trap a dragon in my palace.”
You heard right. You know I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t important.
“Of course. First you saved Whiterun from that dragon. Then you saved my hold again and the whole of Skyrim from that rebel Thalmor invasion. I owe you a great deal. But I don’t understand. Why let a dragon into the heart of my city when we’ve been working so hard to keep them out?”
(Only a few people know of the real threat the New Order presented and Jarl Balgruuf was not one of them. He did not know they were trying to breach Martin’s barrier and bring Malacath into the mortal realm as a Living God King. That all mortals would have been killed.)
The threat is worse than you know. Alduin has returned.
“Alduin? The World-Eater himself? But… how can we fight him? Doesn’t his return mean it’s the end times?”
I’m Dragonborn. Prophecy says I can stop him!
“I don’t know about such things but I heard the Greybeards summon you. That’s good enough for me. Now what’s this nonsense about trapping a dragon in my palace?”
Lydia and I already defeated Alduin in battle at the very top of the Throat of the World. He has retreated to Sovngarde to restore his strength. He does that by consuming the souls of brave men who have fallen in this senseless war. We need to trap one of his allies so we can find out how to reach Alduin. We must do it before it is too late and he is too strong.
“I want to help you Dragonborn and I will. But I need your help first. Ulfric and General Tullius are both just waiting for me to make a wrong move. Do you think they will sit idle while a dragon is slaughtering my men and burning my city? No, I can’t risk weakening the city while we are under the threat of an enemy attack. I’m sorry.”
I understand Jarl. You have shown considerable restraint in not joining this madness of brother killing brother, friend killing friend. Some say your hesitance to choose sides is a sign of weakness. I admire it for its common sense and your fortitude of character. I have a plan to end this war without providing more food for Alduin. If the worry of enemy attacks is removed?
“Then I would be glad to help you with your mad dragon-trapping scheme. Surely another truce is not possible after the one to oppose the New Order?”
Can you please see what is required to prepare Dragonsreach for trapping a dragon. I will hopefully take care of this war by the end of today.
“Aye, Dragonborn. Maybe you can stop the dragons – and this war into the bargain.”
I went and gathered Lydia and Meeko and set out for Windhelm at around 11:00AM. I told Lydia I was to meet with Ulfric. I did not tell her my entire plan as I know she would object to the danger I was risking.
We came across some bandits attacking Whiterun guards. Lydia saw red at her old comrades being harassed by such scum and together we made short work of them. One of the men looked at her and gave a nod of appreciation. She smiled back. No words are needed between those who watch each other’s backs.
We kept coming across evidence of the war and how intense it had become. Piles of dead men and women waiting for burial by comrades too busy making new piles elsewhere. Fat predators watched us ride past. They no longer bothered to chase live food when so much fresh meat was left out for them. At one place I got off my horse and inspected the dead Imperial soldiers. All of those of obvious Nord blood had a Talos symbol around their neck. I am certain this war has killed far more Talos worshippers than the Thalmor have.
We reached Windhelm at about 2:00PM. I took Lydia and Meeko into Candlehearth Hall. I told Lydia I must meet Ulfric alone. I assured her I am safe. I am regarded as a neutral. I ordered her not to come looking for me if I am not back by nightfall. She can book a room overnight if it comes to that but leave for home at first light. She started to object and I told her I needed her as a witness to any suspected Stormcloak treachery. She reluctantly agreed. I looked Meeko in the eyes and said the same applies to him. I then left them to go poke the hornet’s nest.
With the name “Palace of the Kings” I expected a bit more. I should not have been surprised to find it was as grey and bleak and unattractive externally as the rest of the city.
I entered it expecting to find musty chambers full of cobwebs so was pleasantly surprised to find great opulence on display. On the throne was Ulfric Stormcloak. He was busy in conversation with his housecarl, Galmar Stone-Fist. To Ulfric’s left was his steward, Jorleif. Sitting at the dining table was a priest of Talos who I assumed must be Lortheim, head of the temple here in Windhelm. Sitting with him was a young Stormcloak commander. Most probably Yrsarald Thrice-Pearced. Also at the table was a man who I saw talking with citizens of the Grey Quarter when I came to this accursed city with Rigmor. His name is Brunwulf Free-Winter and is known to be more sympathetic to different races than other Nords whose choose to live in this bleak place. I had done my homework on these people. I hoped it was enough.
The Divine’s be blessed! Everybody I need as witnesses already here.
I approached Ulfric and was not surprised when he greeted me by title. I don’t think he recognised me from Helgen. Likenesses of my face had been in all the news sheets along with those of Rigmor, Cassius, Yngol and others who led the defence of Skyrim. I had kept several of the better ones of Rigmor.
Here is how my gamble played out,
ULFRIC: “Well, if it isn’t the Guardian General, or should I say Dragonborn since that unpleasantness is over. More evidence of elven treachery and barbarity!”
WULF: “Greetings Jarl Stormcloak. I am here on a matter of utmost urgency. I carry with me papers containing vital information on behalf of the Empire. They are of such significance I can only hand them over to your steward with witnesses of both state and temple present. They are to verify my delivery of the papers and that you have been told of their contents with me present.”
ULFRIC: “Tullius has finally conceded defeat I bet. About time those Imperial scum accept that Skyrim is for the Nord’s and Talos.”
(I kept my face neutral. Let him believe his ambition is about to be fulfilled. It will make the reality so much harder for him to swallow.)
ULFRIC: “Ahh, I see you are a trained diplomat as well as General. I suppose the sooner everybody is in place the sooner the celebrations can start.”
(Ulfric asked Jorleif to gather everybody together for the reading of the documents. He introduced me to each one in turn. The Priest of Talos was Lorheim and the young commander was Ysrald. When they were all in their customary positions I continued.)
WULF: “Steward Jorleif. I need you to read and understand the contents of these documents before telling your Jarl of what they pertain. You must have their significance clear in your mind so negotiations can continue without possible misunderstanding. You can confer with Commander Thrice-Pierced and Lortheim if required. As a matter of fact they could be most helpful with their interpretation. I must have you and your Jarl’s guarantee of this otherwise all discussions are over and I walk out of here.”
ULFRIC: “What nonsense is this? Just hand me the documents and I will figure them out myself!”
WULF: “With all due respect Jarl, you of anybody here should know how pedantic the Empire is when it comes to such things. Why risk the chance of victory? Give in to their foreign ways just once more and then be free of them forever.”
(This was too easy. Appeal to Ulfric’s own sense of Nord superiority and he is as arrogant as any Thalmor!)
ULFRIC: “Very well. The sooner this is over the sooner we can enjoy the wonderful selection of mead they have at The Blue Palace. The boy Torygg might have been a poor warrior but his taste in alcohol was second to none!”
(Ulfric laughed at his own jest and his housecarl joined in like the sycophant he was. I wonder what his reaction to Ulfric’s true nature will be? Perhaps he already knows and cares not at all?)
JORLEIF: “I agree and swear so by my honour.”
(I handed Jorleif the dossier on Ulfric I had found in the Thalmor Embassy. He opened it and looked startled at first. He would have been expecting something from the High Council or at the least General Tullius. Instead he had in his hands paperwork from the Dominion’s highest ranking officials in Skyrim. Ulfric did not notice Jorleif’s discomfort. He was busy laughing and joking with Galmar. He would only show interest again when Jorleif was ready to speak.
I watched as Jorleif read and reread passages of the dossier. This was taking time so I thought I had better engage Ulfric before he became suspicious. As Jorleif asked Ysarald and Lortheim for “assistance” I asked Ulfric about his time with the Greybeards.)
WULF: “Jarl Stormcloak, I believe you know the Thu’um. Did you study with the Greybeards?”
ULFRIC: “I studied with them when I was young. They taught me how to Shout.”
WULF: “Did you intend to become one of them?”
ULFRIC: “Yes. They chose me when I was just a lad. It was a great honour, of course. I was to become a Greybeard myself. I spent almost ten years at High Hrothgar, learning the Way of the Voice. Then the Great War came… I couldn’t stand missing it. I often think about High Hrothgar. It’s very… disconnected from the troubles down here. But that’s why I couldn’t stay, and why I couldn’t go back. I suppose the Greybeards care about Skyrim’s troubles, in their way, but I needed to do something about it. I’m sure Arngeir would call it one of my failings.”
WULF: “I think I am an affront to their “Way of the Voice”.”
ULFRIC: “You’re Dragonborn. The rules don’t apply to you. You can Shout the way dragons do… without training, through inborn instinct. They always hope to teach the Dragonborn to respect the Way of the Voice as they do. They never fully succeed. You’ll have to make your own decision. It’s a beautiful philosophy, but outside the seclusion of High Hrothgar, I was never able to hold to it.”
(It was time to start making him realise what his Civil War has cost. Jorleif and the others had finished with the dossier and were waiting to see what happened next. I wanted them to hear this.)
WULF: “I found it interesting their leader, the ancient Dragon Paarthurnax, does not seem as preachy as they are.”
ULFRIC: “You spoke to Paarthurnax? He is a dragon?”
(I could hear longing, envy and amazement in those two questions.)
WULF: “Yes, did you never get to meet him? Even after ten years? He had no hesitation using the Thu’um as a weapon when he helped me defeat Alduin in combat yesterday.”
(Several of them started commenting on how they heard Shouts coming from the direction of High Hrothgar and what kind of speculation surrounded the meaning of it all. I could see the mention of Alduin had startled Ulfric.)
(When everybody was silent he continued.)
ULFRIC: “You are saying Alduin the World Eater had returned but you killed him in battle!? That the leader of the Greybeards used the Thu’um to aid you? Against all their preaching of how it is to be used for praising The Divines and nothing more!?”
WULF: Did you feel guilty using it when needed? Paarthurnax taught the first Tongues how to use Shouts as a weapon during the Dragon Wars. That is a correct and moral use for it when need arises as the leader of the Greybeards teaches and his disciples forget.”
(I could see the emotions coursing through Ulfric. If he felt uncomfortable at that revelation the rest should shatter his dark soul.)
WULF: “I did not kill Alduin. He can’t be killed on this mortal plain of existence. He fled elsewhere to restore his health. I need to follow him and kill him where his home is. Do you know where that is and how he will regain his strength?”
ULFRIC: “No but I dread the answer.”
WULF: “So you should. He calls Sovngarde home. The majority of Dragons currently causing death and destruction all over Skyrim were killed during the Dragon Wars or by the Akaviri or Blades. Alduin stops the brave fallen from entering the Halls of Sovngarde. After the worthy awaken to the paradise of Sovngarde they are greeted by terror. Alduin awaits them and devours their souls. This war of yours has kept him well fed. He uses that strength to resurrect his kin.”
ULFRIC: “They died for a just cause! Talos wills we defend his status as a Divine and defend the right to worship as we please! The Empire are to blame for their deaths, not me!”
WULF: “Is that so? We will discuss that in a minute but first I see that Jorleif and the others have finished reading. Jorleif, would you like to tell Jarl Ulfric what the document says?”
JORLEIF: “I cannot Dragonborn. I felt my gorge rising just reading of the treachery. I would lose my lunch if you force me to speak it!”
(With that he spat on the ground in front of Ulfric’s throne.)
ULFRIC: “Jorleif! What is the meaning…”
(I used some Thu’um to shut Ulfric up and remind everybody who is in their presence.)
WULF: “SILENCE ULFRIC STORMCLOAK AND LISTEN!”
(Ulfric went to rise and Galmar was about to draw his weapon when my new allies spoke.)
YRSARALD: “Galmar, do not dare draw your weapon on a guest who has not drawn his or we will cross blades!”
JORLEIF: “Ulfric. You will obey the rules of hospitality or slay me. I will stand between you and the Dragonborn rather than witness such barbarism in this sacred building where your father once reigned.”
LORTHEIM: “Ulfric! I have been your advisor and guide concerning your mortal soul since you were a child. Listen to The Dragonborn. He speaks on behalf of The Divines. Do not offend them any more than you already have!”
(Of all that was spoken in those frantic few seconds, Lortheim’s warning was what stopped Ulfric’s famous temper from turning this encounter into a bloodbath. He sat but his welcoming smile was replaced by one of pure hatred. He knew I was not going to be his judge and jury. He knew I was going to be his executioner.)
ULFRIC: “Hold Galmar. Do not believe all you hear but listen to how easily friends can be persuaded to be enemies.”
(Galmar stood with his hands away from his weapon but his glare and stance showed his desire to tear me limb from limb.)
WULF: “Brunwulf Free-Winter. You will be a neutral witness to the following events. You are about to hear the truth. I, Wulf, Dragonborn and Champion of The Divines swear it to be so. Do you accept my sacred oath as a representative of The Nine and their agent on Nirn?”
BRUNWULF: “I am honoured to do so Dragonborn.”
WULF: “I understand Jorleif and did not really expect you to condemn this man with your own voice. I am sorry but I must do it.”
JORLEIF: “Thank you Dragonborn. I do not know if there is a chance for his redemption but if so, I beg you offer it to him.”
WULF: “Ulfric Stormcloak. The document I handed your steward and read by your loyal commander Yrsarald, your dedicated steward Jorleif and your spiritual advisor Lortheim was stolen by me from the Thalmor Embassy a few days ago. The news sheets were full of speculation of who dared infiltrate the place and kill most of the garrison whilst Elenwen was totally unaware was the gossip for days. Now you know.”
ULFRIC: “You should have killed the bitch and all the Thalmor arse lickers who were there as well!”
WULF: “Yes, I can see you would hold a grudge against the woman who held the tools of torture. The ones she used so expertly on your flesh that few scars remain but the memory of the pain lingers for a lifetime.”
ULFRIC: “What would you know of such things? How they can make the bravest man say and do things abhorrent to his very nature? In this you have no right to judge me!”
WULF: “I am not judging you on your ability to withstand such barbarism. I am judging you on what you allowed to happen after. Silent so I can start to list your crimes and then you can try and justify them.”
(I looked around and noticed some guards were also listening with intense interest. Good! The more witnesses the more likely this could not be hushed up with my untimely demise.)
WULF: “Under torture you provided Elenwen information you were told helped them defeat Emperor Titus Mede II in the battle for the Imperial City. In doing so you betrayed your friends and fellow men at arms. Most would never forgive this and accuse you of being a traitor and coward. I do not. Many great warriors have succumbed to such torture. Basic survival instincts are not so easy to overcome.”
ULFRIC: “Great. So can I go home now and we can have a mead or two later?”
(The only person to laugh was Galmar.)
WULF: “What I can’t forgive is how you decided to become their puppet. The shame and/or fear of admitting your weakness overrode your loyalty and oaths to the Empire and your fellow soldiers. Not everybody would have forgiven you for your betrayal under torture. Most of your close friends and comrades, even those you thought you betrayed, would have. They would have known that was not the Ulfric they knew. They would have been proud of you for coming forward and admitting your supposed weakness. You did not give them the benefit of the doubt or chance to do so. You lay on your back like a beaten dog and submitted to the Thalmor as they rubbed your belly and told you all would be okay!”
(There were murmurs at such vehement condemnation of a “Hero”.)
ULFRIC: “Like I said. Who are you to judge?”
WULF: “Do you remember the Warmaiden who fought beside me at Whiterun? Rigmor was her name.”
ULFRIC: “Your strumpet? Was she there to massage you when the battle was over?”
(Yrsarald was shocked and if he showed contempt for Ulfric before it was pure hatred now. I knew his father was a “Son of Talos” who died on campaign with Ragnar when aiding the Redguards. He would be well aware of who Rigmor was.)
WULF: “Rigmor was a guest of the Thalmor for years from the age of fourteen. She was flogged within an inch of her life on many occasions and will never be able to sleep on her back due to the scars. They beat her so much because she never gave them what they wanted. She remembered she was a Nord and denied their demands for compliance. She even broke the neck of one of her Bosmer floggers. They hated her for her defiance and they feared her for who she was. Her father had terrified them and even as a bound teenage girl, Rigmor did the same. Her father was Ragnar, Son of Talos and The Beast of Hammerfell. One of the most revered and respected warriors in Tamriel’s history. You calling her names shows how pathetic you are in comparison!”
ULFRIC: “Okay, not your strumpet then. Just the daughter of a man who slaughtered thousands of defenceless women and children. She must have been so proud of daddy!”
WULF: “Just like some histories say you did the same when you occupied Markarth? Every one of your “soldiers” trained by the Imperial’s was taught the real story of Ragnar and his men. You choose to believe the lies of your Thalmor masters. Further proof of your black soul.”
YRSARALD: “My father fought under Ragnar’s banner Ulfric. I warn you to slander him no further!”
WULF: “Relax Yrsarald. We are only just starting to show how Ulfric fails compares to the real heroes of Skyrim. I will make sure any Stormcloak rethinks their loyalty to his unjust cause and him.”
(Yrsarald nodded his head and relaxed little.)
WULF: “Let us complete this comparison Ulfric. Did Rigmor go belly up like a beaten dog? At eighteen years of age she attacked the Thalmor Embassy in Bruma and killed every single Altmer and Bosmer she came across. Dozens of soldiers, mages, Justiciars, torturers, jailers, emissaries, cooks, maids and merchants. Whoever was there was guilty of her father’s murder, her mother’s disappearance and her torture. Not a single soul did she leave alive. She did what you were incapable of doing. She never surrendered to them when a prisoner and took her revenge when free. At eighteen years of age she did more damage to the Thalmor than you ever have. In fact you have done nothing but help your Dominion friends! She was awarded for her bravery and stance against the Thalmor by the Emperor himself. That “Strumpet” is now Countess of Bruma. She is a real Nord. You are not!”
(I was careful not to mention the real reason she was made Countess. I have no idea of the rules of the game she is having to play. I guess her Mede royal blood is not something generally known.)
WULF: “Enough about Rigmor, Ragnar and the Sons of Talos. They are not being judged here, you are. You actions at Markarth were not your idea. You were directed by your Thalmor masters on what to do.”
ULFRIC: “Lies! Why is anybody listening to this Imperial puppet?”
WULF: “I have sworn by The Divines to tell the truth. Are you willing to swear they are lies?”
(Ulfric knew he could not. He was waiting for any chance to redeem himself and such a false oath would condemn him for eternity. He remained quiet but I could sense the violence waiting to be unleashed.)
WULF: “Do you remember where you first saw me?”
ULFRIC: “How could I forget? Earlier this afternoon and you have been the most boring visitor I have ever had.”
WULF: “Wrong. On the carriage to Helgen where the headsman awaited there were four people in the carriage. Ralof, the horse thief, you and I.”
(Ulfric stared at me and was startled when he realised this truth. He knew what was coming next and bowed his head.)
WULF: “I heard Tullius condemn you for the murder of High King Torygg. We shall talk about that soon. My head was on the block when Alduin attacked.”
(Ulfric briefly looked at me for a second. I wonder what he thought about being that close to the World Eater?)
WULF: “Alduin recognised me as a fellow Dovah and held back his attack. He could have done a lot more damage with is first shout so in a way you owe me your life. I know Alduin regrets his mercy. Mine was accidental but still regrettable.”
(I knew I was being far from gentle with Ulfric. I remembered those piles of dead soldiers on the way to Windhelm and felt no guilt or mercy.)
WULF: “I had help from Ralof and a young Imperial officer. I had seen that young officer rescue a child in full view of Alduin! Where did I see you next Ulfric? Ralof and I saw you in a building just standing there. As everybody else was desperately trying to survive you just stood there without a care in the world. Same when you were in the carriage. Same when Tullius was giving you a lecture. You had no care in the world because you knew your Thalmor friends would rescue you. They had known of your capture and had planned to kill whoever was in the way to rescue their asset. Somehow you knew that. Men, women and children. Stormcloak and Imperial. Their lives meant nothing to you as long as you got rescued. The dragon might have changed the dynamics of the situation but you knew they would still come through. I heard your Thu’um. A clever tactic to make it seem you fought your way to freedom in case any Stormcloak survivors reported back. There were dozens of men loyal to you on those carriages. You, Ralof and I were the only passengers of that train of death to survive. You could have saved others if you had half the courage of Ralof. You did not try or care. What were their lives compared to yours? Your cowardice that day will define the Ulfric remembered by those who currently wear your colours.”
(Some of the guards who had been listening started to remove their uniform. They left in their undergarments. Less embarrassed about being seen in those than Stormcloak colours.)
WULF: “Now we come to the futility of your war. The dossier makes it clear. You have only lasted this long thanks to Dominion interference. They have allowed you to keep this war going and drain Skyrim and Empire of fighting men and resources. They were never going to let you win! All those lives lost in a futile fight for a false cause!”
ULFRIC: “False cause? You claim to be a “Champion of The Divines” yet you are OK with the blasphemy of a ban on Talos Worship. You are a disgrace to your race and no champion!”
WULF: “You do not care about Talos or his worship! You have used his name to recruit true believers. You want to be High King of Skyrim. It does not matter to you how many Talos worshippers die in the process. I stopped on the way here to search the bodies of Imperial soldiers killed fighting Stormcloak. All the Nords had Talos symbols on them. Your false war has killed far more worshippers of Talos than the Thalmor ever have. The most horrific part is you have acted as if you have approval of The Divines. That Talos himself has commanded that young men lose their lives in defence of his divinity. You have no such approval. Talos has never made such a request of his followers. Lortheim, have you ever received such a request from Talos? Do you know of any priest who says they have?”
(Lortheim looked more than a little uncomfortable at the question. He finally answered.)
LORTHEIM: “No Dragonborn, I have not received such instructions or claimed I have. I know no colleague who has.”
WULF: “Does the existence of Talos depend on the existence of worshippers? Is his strength dependent on how many worshippers he has? Do you need a shrine dedicated to him to pray to him?”
LORTHEIM: “Talos the Divine would exist if no men still lived to worship him. So no, his strength and existence is not reliant on the number of worshippers. Any shrine dedicated to a Divine can be used to speak to all nine.”
WULF: “So the claim Talos wants followers to fight for the right to worship him is based on assumption, not fact. There is no danger to Talos. Anybody can continue to worship him without the Thalmor even knowing?”
LORTHEIM: “Yes, yes and yes.”
WULF: “I put to you Ulfric that what Lortheim says is correct. How do I know for sure. Let me test something. Lortheim, catch this coin!”
(I retrieved my “lucky” coin and tossed it to Lortheim. He caught it and his eyes widened and he gasped.)
WULF: “What do you feel Lortheim?”
LORTHEIM: “The presence of Talos himself. He has touched this coin in his divine form. It is a thing of wonder!”
WULF: “Thank you Lortheim. I will let you hold it for a while. It was a gift from him and I treasure it so will want it back.”
(Lortheim just nodded and continues to hold the coin up and stare at it as if transfixed.)
WULF: “Talos himself stood before me and confirmed what Lortheim said. Your claim that Talos wants the men of Skyrim to die defending his divinity is false and without base.”
ULFRIC: “YOU LIE! This is all lies!”
WULF: “Remember the oath I swore before you. This is the truth and is the saddest part of your whole pathetic story. By the time you gave in to Elenwen’s expert ministrations the Thalmor had already defeated Mede and occupied the Imperial City. You provided them with nothing but a patsy they could use to cause strife in Skyrim!”
(Ulfric turned white. I could see him thinking and realising the truth of what I said. His bluster was gone. His acceptance of his failure complete. I had destroyed this man but felt no satisfaction. He was a tool of The Dominion. They are the ones I would punish if I could. I had to finish this but make it more likely a Stormcloak will accept the fate of their “hero” and re-join the Empire.)
WULF: “You betrayed your men, The Empire, Skyrim and Talos for no other reason than your ambition to be High King. You were fooled by the Dominion and your stupidity and cowardice has caused untold misery and devastation. You pretended to be High King Toryyg’s friend so you could be close enough to him to issue your challenge. An unbloodied young man who had never fought before and had only the knowledge imparted by his sword trainer. No match for a warrior such as you! You could have easily defeated him using martial skills alone. You made the challenge and the brave man accepted knowing he had no chance. Then against the laws of such a challenge you used your Thu’um. You murdered him. This was not a test of courage. You victory was not a stamp of approval from The Divines. You soul is dark and the gates of Sovngarde closed to you.”
(Ulfric looked up at me with pure hate in his eyes. I was simply the messenger and not the architect of his downfall. But I was something he could take his frustration and guilt out on. I needed to give his believers something to hold on to. He needed some chance at redemption.)
WULF: “You called me a liar despite my sacred oath. I challenge you to a duel to death using the ancient and respected rules of the past. The winner will surely have the blessing of Talos and proven correct. Do you accept?”
(Ulfric is no fool. He knew he had no chance. To accept and die with his axe in his hand would be enough to get his ticket to Sovngarde. It would make his followers pleased to know he showed real courage in the end. He does not realise it but I know many lives could be saved if he accepts.)
ULFRIC: “You have manoeuvred me well Dragonborn. I could wish no more than to die in combat against such a foe. I accept.”
(There as a lot of murmuring and discussions of how this was supposed to work. What was supposed to happen is Ulfric and I agree to armour or no armour. Any armour and weapons used were to be randomly picked from those stored in the barracks for regular soldiers and guards. No magic or Thu’um to be used. A pure test of martial skill. Ulfric didn’t care for rules!)
ULFRIC: “Dragonborn. FUCK THE RULES!”
Ulfric stood and hit me with an “Unrelenting Force” shout of surprising strength. He would have made a fine Greybeard was my thought as I flew and slid along the tables till I fell to the ground stunned.
Others were blocking Ulfric and were remonstrating it was not the way Nords do things. He threatened to shout anybody in his way to death and they soon dispersed. They wisely left the room. You do not want to be in a confined space if Shouts are being thrown about.
They had delayed Ulfric enough that I had time to stand and prepare myself for battle. I had lost my shield. Just before Ulfric reached me I used “Unrelenting Force” for the first time since Paarthurnax had helped me meditate on it.
It was much stronger than before and Ulfric was thrown to the far corner of the room. Galmar had been approaching with his double handed hammer in his hand and he got caught by the shout as well. I had no qualms using a Shout. Ulfric broke the rules so now there were none.
I quickly looked for my shield and found it a few feet back from me. I picked it up and equipped it. When I looked up I saw Galmar had been quicker to recover than Ulfric. He would close first and if he engaged me for long enough his Jarl would join him. I needed to get him out of the way fast.
Galmar was no different than dozens of angry thugs I had met before. He was a hero during the Great War but this was not a disciplined Empire soldier I was facing. His fury took away all skill and replaced it with lazy defence and all attack. I charge him with a shield bash and despite his size floored him like he was a child.
Ulfric was closing so I used my momentum to slide with “The Sword” in front and it entered Galmar’s heart.
He died and another good man was lost to the lie that is Ulfric Stormcloak.
I scrambled to my feet and faced Ulfric. His Thu’um had not recovered in time but mine had thanks to my real connection with Talos and his symbol I wore around my neck.
I waited for Ulfric to start his swing. I could easily have blocked it but I wanted him to feel the helplessness Torygg had felt. I used my Thu’um to throw him against the far wall.
I ran towards him. He had recovered enough to get on his feet and swing a half-hearted attempt to decapitate me. I trust “The Sword” through his skull and Ulfric dropped dead at my feet.
I expected chaos to erupt but instead order and calm prevailed.
Yrsarald quickly took charge. He was now the most senior Stormcloak alive and started issuing orders. The doors to the palace were locked. Sergeants were ordered to ensure no soldiers left the barracks. He was doing what he could to prevent panic and hopefully reduce the chance of angry crowds baying for blood.
After a few minutes Yrsarald took up his position as housecarl for Brunwulf who sat the throne as if born to it. Jorleif took up his customary position of steward and had tears in his eyes.
Lortheim approached and handed me back the coin. He said he had a lot of thinking and preying to do and would be in the temple if I needed him. He was then let outside with the doors being barred again behind him.
I approached Lortheim and told him that despite not being a “traditional duel” Ulfric had still fought with courage and that he should have earned his way into Sovngarde. He simply nodded.
I walked up to Brunwulf and told him I was leaving the dossier with him. That he will be grilled by Empire and Stormcloak alike but to remind them he swore by The Divines. His word backed by the other witnesses should all they need to accept the truth. The dossier will simply be a document put in the archives for future historians.
I wished them all the best and quickly went to pick up Lydia and Meeko.
The rumours were circulating already. People were starting to head towards the Palace in numbers. Some headed toward the temple. The tavern was loud with discussion, worry and speculation. I told Lydia I would explain but we needed to leave for Solitude immediately.
We left Windhelm at about 4:00PM. It took less than two hours to hopefully end the Civil War and its waste of life.
As we rode I explained to Lydia what I had done. To say she was furious is an understatement. To her I had denied the chance to fulfil her sworn duty. To me it was a matter of not wanting to put a friend in danger based on a crazy plan. The way Meeko lowered his ears at me and then trotted beside Lydia left no doubt whose side he was on. Sorry mate, I would rather have angry friends than dead ones.
We killed some more Miraak followers. He must be running out by now!
We came across a dragon called Krahagak. He had surprised a Civil War skirmish and did not discriminate between sides. He had quickly killed nearly all by the time we caught up with him.
He left the dead behind when he saw us but was soon hit by Dragonrend.
He landed and we were upon him immediately.
He was soon dead and I absorbed his soul. I had been doing that quite a bit but I think Alduin is far ahead in that count.
We arrived at Solitude about 11PM and headed straight for Castle Dour.
The guards let me through as they recognised the Guardian General. General Tullius did not.
As I approached him he aggressively asked me who the hell I was and are the guards letting any riff raff into his war room. I told him he already knew me. That he was seconds from having my head lopped off at Helgen.
He was about to yell for his guards when Legate Rikke stepped in and told him who I was.
She introduced me as Guardian General and reminded Tullius I was actually a Legate after a promotion in field by The Elder Council. She also told him I am the Dragonborn.
Tullius stood open mouthed and then asked if they really had tried to chop my head off. I told him I was on the block when Alduin attacked.
As with Jarl Balgruuf and Ulfric he was disturbed by the news of the World Eater’s return. Even the Imperials knew that prophecy.
I told his that was not why I was there. I explained what occurred in Windhelm and how it was when I left. He simply stood and listened with is mouth open and an occasional shake of his head.
I told him it was now in his hands but diplomacy of the highest order will end the war with no further bloodshed. He thanked me and immediately starting barking orders and calling for runners.
I left with Lydia and Meeko and booked rooms and food at the Winking Skeever.
I told Lydia I will check with Tullius or Rikke in the morning to see if there is any news of a truce or better. I said we would then head for Whiterun and decide what to do from there.
We retired to our rooms, with Meeko following Lydia, and I wrote this journal entry.
I know not what time I fell asleep.