Brothers In Binds
...one opportunity leads directly to another, just as risk leads to more risk, life to more life, and death to more death.
― Markus Zusak, The Book Thief
"Hey, you, you're finally awake," said a voice from across from him. Talos blinked his eyes as the world returned to focus. Across from him sat a young Nord in chain mail with blue cloth underneath. To his right were two more Nords, one in rags and the other who was dressed like a noble. Talos noted that the noble was gagged. Talos looked at his hands, noting that they were in binds. Talos cursed. Had he really been stupid enough to move in so close to the battle that he'd been captured? "You were trying to cross the border, right?" the young Nord said as he eyed Talos with concern. "Walked right into that Imperial ambush, same as us, and that thief over there," he said as he nodded in the direction of the ungagged Nord.
"Damn you stormcloaks. Skyrim was fine before you came along. Empire was nice and lazy," said the thief. Talos frowned. At this point he hadn't bothered to see who was driving their little wagon train. Talos took this chance to look at the driver; an Imperial soldier. "If they hadn't been looking for you, I could've stolen that horse and been half way to Hammerfell," the thief fummed, then turned to Talos, "You there, you and me we shouldn't be here. It's these Stormcloaks the Empire wants."
"We're all brothers and sisters in binds now, thief," said the young Stormcloak quickly.
They were all silent for a few moments, it was the thief who broke their silence, he turned to Talos, "And what's wrong with him, huh?" he said as he stole a glance at the gagged noble.
"Watch your tongue. You're speaking to Ulfric Stormcloak, the true High King," the Stormcloak growled, "Show some respect!"
The thief's face turned white, "Ulfric? The Jarl of Windhelm?" he said shakily, "You're the leader of the rebellion. But if they've captured you
." he gasped, "Oh gods, were they taking us?"
Talos looked at the man to his right, so this was the great Ulfric Stormcloak? The man who rebeled against the Empire and the elves? Talos held back a smile, Just like me when I was young, one man against the world
. Meanwhile the thief was becoming more and more anxious, he looked like he was litterally shaking in fear. The Stormcloak seemed to notice this, "What village are you from horse thief?" he said, his voice soft, comforting.
The thief looked at him curiously, with what looked like accusation in his eyes, "Why do you care?"
"A Nord's last thoughts should be of home," the Stormcloak said softly.
"Rorikstead. I - I'm from Rorikstead," the thief said, his voice cracking over each word. Talos watched as the train of wagons approached a great stone gate. There was a loud creaking sound as the front gates opened. Somewhere a soldier cried out something, but Talos did not hear the response. He was thinking of ways to get out of this predicament.
The thief was now crying out to the gods, "Shor, Mara, Dibella, Kynareth, Akatosh. Divines, please help me!" Talos bowed his head. Maybe Akatosh had heard him, but his prayers would be in vain. The Divines did not involve themselves in the lives of mortals. Anyways there was nothing the god of men could do.
As they passed the entrance gates Talos was able to catch a glimpse of a soldier in shining armor, and then he saw him conversing with a group of High Elves. The Stormcloak must have seen them too, "Look at him, General Tullius the Military Governor, and it looks like the Thalmor are with him. Damn elves. I bet they had something to do with this," he hissed.
A sour taste grew in Talos' mouth. So those were the Thalmor? The ones who had banished his worshipers from the Empire? Who thought them mighty enough to control the gods? He knew that thirty years ago the Empire fought against the Elves, and had lost. Their penance was to sign the White-Gold Concordat, banning Talos from worship and giving the Thalmor a secure foothold within the Empire. His Empire destoryed. He didn't like the Altmer before and he didn't like them now.
Defeated Talos sunk into his seat as he caught the Stormcloak in mid conversation, "Funny, when I was a boy, Imperial walls and towers used to make me feel so safe," he said with a half hearted laugh.
He watched as the wagon cleared a corner and then eased next to the other wagon. The prisoners from the other wagon already had begun disembarking. Theirs stopped for a moment, then a harsh voice shouted a command, "Get these prisoners out of the carts. Move!"
Immediately, they started leaving their cart. Once they were all off they lined up the Imperial Officers arranged themselves in front. The captian's armor flashed in the late afternoon sun as the soldier next to her held a scroll and quill and seemed to be counting. "Empire loves their damned lists," said the Stormcloak next to him. Talos held back a laugh.
The soldier with the scroll began reading off names. As their names were called the prisoners assembled themselves at the block, and now they had reached their group, "Ulfric Stormcloak, Jarl of Windhelm," Ulfric stepped forward and followed the others, still gagged and unable to speak.
"It has been an honor, Jarl Ulfric," said the Stormcloak beside him reverently.
"Ralof of Riverwood," said the reader.
The Stormcloak beside him, Ralof, smiled softly at Talos, "Let's go. Shouldn't keep the gods waiting for us," then he followed Ulfric to the block. If only he knew a god was going with him to the block. Akatosh
, Talos swore silently, If you're big golden ass can hear me right now, some help would be nice
"Lokir of Rorikstead."
The thief practically jumped out of his skin at the sound of his name, "No, I'm not a rebel! You can't do this!" he said, eyeing the Imperials wildly, "You're not going to kill me!" He bolted like a daedra fleeing a Temple. Talos hoped for a moment that Lokir would escape.
"Archers!" cried the Captain. A triple of arrows flew from the walls and into Lokir's back. The thief fell to the ground and moved no more. He was dead before he had even hit the ground. "Anyone else feel like running?" asked the Captain of the remaining prisoners, there was silence.
Shaking his head the list reader continued, but then stopped and looked directly at Talos, "Wait," he said. "You there. Step forward." Talos stepped forward, keeping his eyes on the soldier, "Who are you?"
Talos stood frozen. He searched his brain for a name. He couldn't say he was Tiber Septim, or Talos, not even his name before that. Then a word came to mind. He wasn't sure of where it came from or of it's meaning, but it was perfect. "Your name?" the soldier repeated.
Talos smiled, "Revak."
"Captain, what should we do? This one's not on the list."
"To the block," she said curtly, "all of them."
The reader mumbled something Revak couldn't hear, "Yes Captain," he said, avoiding eye contact with Revak, "You heard the Captain, prisoner, to the block."
With a soft nod Revak followed the others to the block. He strained against the binds around his wrists, managing to loosen them a little, but still not enough to free his hands. Dismayed, he took his place in between two Stormcloak soldiers. He felt the eyes of the citizens of the small town bearing on him. He watched as a middle aged Imperial dressed in fine armor and a red generals cloak was led to the execuation area accompanied by two High elves dressed in intricate black robes. Hate grew in Revak's stomach. Revak cursed, My Empire has become nothing but their puppets!
The general approached Ulfric, who was still gagged, and stared into the Nord's eyes before beginning.
"Ulfric Stormcloak," he said, his voice condemning, "some here in Helgen call you a hero, but a hero doesn't use a power like the Voice to murder the king and usurp his throne."
The general was still droning on, "You started this war! Plunged Skyrim into chaos! And now the Empire is going to put you down and restore peace." Tullius turned and rejoined to the Thalmor.
The Captain saluted the general as he passed her, "Give them their last rites!" she commanded the priest of Arkay next to her.
The young priest stepped forward. You could tell she was nervous. She walked softly, like her legs shook beneath her. She raised her hands, "As we commend your souls to-"
"Oh, for the love of Talos, shut up already," Revak jumped a little at the sound of his former name. I'm a curse now? he thought as the Stormcloak to his right stepped forward.
The priestess seemed just as surprised. Revak could almost make out her scowl from where he stood. "Very well then," she said as the Stormcloak passed her as he made his way to the block. The Captain lowered him to his knees and pressed his head against the stone.
He was smiling as the headsman raised his axe, "My ancestors are smiling at me, Imperials! Can you say the same?" he said as the axe hung in the air before swiftly cutting through his neck. The man died with a smile still etched on his face. His body slumped to the ground as there was a sickening thud as the head landed in the basket. Blood pooled around the bare neck as two Imperials cleared the headless body away from the block so that the next prisoner could approach.
"Next prisoner!" called the Captain, her eyes searching through the crowd. "You!" she pointed at Revak. Revak sighed as he stepped forward. That's when he heard it, a roar. It was dulled, like whatever made it was some distance away. Revak paused as the creature roared again, the others looked just as nervous, muttering under their breaths and searching the sky as they tried to find the source of the strange call. It sounded familiar to Revak, but he couldn't place it.
The Captain wasn't about to let a strange creature interupt her, "I said, next prisoner
," she said with a hint of venom.
Revakaal's mind was a buzz as he approached the block. He'd already thought of a plan. His bonds were loose enough so that they granted some movement, but not much. As he approached he saw that the headsman had been favoring one leg, meaning that his other had been injured previously. He could knee the headsman and use the axe to sever the bonds.
As he approached he heard that call again, but much louder and closer this time. Revak approached the block, his heart afire in his chest. That's when he saw it. Just above the tower he could see a huge black dragon. It swooped and turned, its maw open and raw with black and red flames. Everyone was frozen in fear as the dragon gathered its flame. Revak ducked to the ground, narrowly avoiding the stream of fire. Revak rolled and landed on his knees, and watched as the dragon landed on the tower.
Even in his time as Talos he'd never seen a dragon that size. It can't be
, he thought as he watched the dragon gather flame once more. Alduin?
Revak saw the Captain issuing orders to frantic soldiers. The dragon drew back it's head and let free a blast of flame. Revak charged the Captain, knocking her off her feet and preventing her from being toasted in her armor. Flames surged over their heads as Revak looked and saw that the Captain's helm had fallen off. Her brown eyes were wide in fear and surprise. "Sorry M'am, I'm afraid that you've got a bit of a dragon problem," Revak said as he pushed himself to his feet and ran in the direction of the keep, following a group of Stormcloaks.
Running was awkward still in binds, but he made it into the keep. Two Stormcloaks closed the door behind him. Revak sank to the floor, sweat crawling down his brow. Once the world stopped spinning he took account of what was around him. It was a simple keep tower. He recognized Ralof as he approached. The young Nord's blond hair was caked with soot and ash. He motioned to Revak to come closer, holding a dagger in his hands. "Here," he said, "let's see if we can get those bindings off." Revak nodded and let Ralof cut his bonds. Once free Revak rubbed his wrists to return circulation. Revak nodded in thanks, and rose to his feet. The sounds of fighting and fire still coming from outside.
Ralof looked at him, "What was that thing? You don't think," he paused, choosing his words, "you don't think the legends can be true?"
Revak scowled, "Legends don't burn down villages."
"True," Ralof nodded. "C'mon, let's get out of here," he said eyeing the stairs, "This place is nothing but a tomb." Revak agreed, this shoddy tower wouldn't stand up to any dragon.
"Good idea," Revak said. He noticed a door that must lead below the keep, "Hey, look," he said, pointing to the door, "a way out, don't you think?"
"Ha, looks like our luck isn't completely spent," he said as he picked up an axe from a dead Stormcloak. Revak watched him, "Gundar won't be needing these anymore," he said as he handed Revak a iron sword. Revak drew the sword from it's scabbard, it wasn't the greatest of quality and it was heavily used, but it was sharp; that would be all that he'd need. He gave it a twirl as he checked the balance. Once convinced that it wouldn't shatter he sheathed it and wrapped it and it's belt around his waist and followed Ralof further into the keep.