An old man had been pestering a guard about something, but was waved away, so I went up to him to find out what was wrong.
"Well, I was taking an evening walk like I always do, and I saw some men outside of Echo Deep Mine. Thing is, they looked like mercenaries, up to no good."
"What makes you say that?" I asked, moving out of the way for a few merchant patrons that rushed through.
"I've never seen them around here, and they looked real tough. In addition, the Echo Deep Mines are not a place people go. There are myths about it." The old man crossed his arms.
"So, what's the problem then? They'll either get lost, die, or eventually wander off." I shrug.
"Anyone going into those mines is up to no good," he continued. "I've asked guards to take a look, but they just ignore me. I need someone to see what has happened. I don't want to be attacked in the middle of the night by whatever they dig up there."
"I'll tell you what," I said, holding out my hand. "I'll take a look for you. I can't promise anything, but I'll come back eventually and let you know what's up with that area, ok?"
The old man smiled, shaking my hand fervently. "Oh, thank you! I'll mark it on your map. Just be careful. We still don't know what's in there."
I put that off for another day as I still needed to join up the rest of the team at Korvanjund.
After arriving at Windhelm, I pushed through the night, knowing that it wasn't too far to the west.
With nighttime came bitter cold winds though, and I started to regret foraying into the area without warming up by a fire. But the other Stormcloaks were waiting for me, and I needed to help them out.
After a bit of searching, I found the group talking. I rode up and dismounted, shaking Galmar's hand in greeting.
"How goes it, Galmar?" I ask, noting the shivering soldiers around me.
"Cold as the inside of an ice wraith. That and some Imperials are camped out around the entrance, staying nice and warm around their fires."
Speaking of staying warm, I am not.
I wrap my fur cloak around me, nodding in Korvanjund's direction. "Imperials? Well, if they're keeping themselves comfortable, let's slip in and send them to their graves that way."
Galmar nodded. "I do wonder what the Legion is doing here, though. Damn Imperial spies...well, should be fun for us, at least. They don't seem to know we're here yet. Ready to spill Imperial blood for Skyrim, son?"
"Readier than anything," I grab the axe from my belt and grip it high.
Galmar turned to the rest of the group and addressed them. "Listen up! Those Imperials aren't here by coincidence! Their spies must have found out we know about the Crown, and they don't want us to have it. But they won't stand in our way. I know some of you are ex-legion and may know men on the other side. But remember this. They are the enemy now and will not hesitate to kill you."
I followed the group, and dismounted near the entrance, leaving Arrow to roam. I could call him if he roams off too far, and I patted him in farewell.
The soldiers around the front entrance were taken out quickly.
One of the guards was wearing this amulet, and I yanked it off him, with intentions to sell later on.
Heading into the crypt, Galmar motioned towards soldiers standing at the top of stairs. "Pick a man and put him down. On my signal..." With a mighty yell, he leaped forward, sword drawn and held high.
I wasn't able to pick off any soldiers well due to the fear of hitting one of our own. As the soldiers were taken out, I looked in my pack for something to help me with the fight.
My fingers brushed the skooma bottle and I hesitated momentarily. Then, I uncapped it and swallowed it impulsively, feeling the familiar rush of strength and pleasure shoot through my bod. I was ready for anything now.
Galmar had a few soldiers stand guard to watch our backs.
Farther in, there was an opening that no one wanted to go through. Galmar wanted to find another entrance, but, for some reason, I couldn't stop myself from just rushing in.
Again, the Imperials clashed with us and we fought face to face. I took down who I could effortlessly, due in part to the skooma.
Soldier after soldier fell by my axe, and with every hack at their limbs, my hatred for them grew. Had Ysolda been cut down this way? Taken by surprise? I know for a fact she wasn't armed.
Had she begged for mercy as the sword came down on her? Had she just been slaughtered for no reason, other than for some noble's perverse pleasure?
This isn't good. Draugr are undead Nordic warriors. It's believed that they once served the Dragon Priests and were buried along with them. They tend to guard the crypts from intruders and gold seekers.
They're usually weak, but it seems these were able to take down some of the Imperials who came in.
A long hallway stretched before us, and a large door blocked the passageway. It had ornate carvings of different sizes and I admired its workmanship.
Next to a dead Imperial who had been peppered with poison arrows, lay a large claw object. It was heavy as I lifted it, turning it over in my hands. The claw itself was made of some sort of shiny jet-black materials, feeling almost stone-like, but smoother than any surface I had come across. It almost resembled a dragon's claw.
I looked at the claw, then the door.
I placed my hand on the rings of the door and pushed. A grinding sound echoed around, and the ring spun around to show a different picture.
A few more turns, and the claw placed in the holes, the door started opening.
We all held our breath as the door lowered, dust particles flying everywhere.
A large chamber was on the other side, and we fanned out to see what was around.
We couldn't find the crown in this chamber, but I did find a handle for a nearby door to slide up.
With that, it's time for a level up, and I took another perk in Armsman.
When I went to look at the back of the room, I could hear voices starting to chant, and I shook my head. I then noticed a large stone structure--almost exactly the same as the one found in the Dark Brotherhood's Sanctuary--start to glow. A rune on it glowed brighter and brighter, and I felt myself being drawn to it, though, I tried to resist. In my drug induced state, it was difficult to try and get away.
Suddenly, hands pulled me away. "Watch out, you don't know what that is!" Galmar said, dragging me up the nearby stairs to get to the exit.
We unlocked the door and made our way out of the crypt, a few men and women short, but overall, successful.
Come on, Arrow, let's go. At this point, I felt the skooma had worn off and I was a bit slower and felt drained of all my stamina. Even my small magic abilities seemed drained, and I was craving another bottle of skooma to get rid of the feelings.
We had to get back to Windhelm, and thankfully, it wasn't too far away. I stood near a fire, trying to get warm before heading into the Palace of the Kings, where the Jarl resides.
As I started that way, though, I was stopped by a dark figure.
"Dawnguard?" I mutter, drawing my cloak around me. "Who are the Dawnguard?"
"Vampire hunters. We search out and destroy those bloodsucking scum wherever we can find them."
I shrug. "I haven't noticed any vampire menace." I started to walk away, but his voice rose and I turned to look him again, annoyed.
"You're not paying attention, then. Like most everyone else around here. Haven't you heard that the Hall of the Vigilants was destroyed by vampires? They never took the threat seriously, and now they've paid the price. The Vigilants mostly hunt down daedra worshippers, which is why they got torn to pieces when then went up against vampries. That's why our leader Isran is reestablishing the Dawnguard. Real, serious vampire hunters."
"Look," I began. "I'm cold, hungry, been travelling for a days, and I'm not interested in your little vampire hunt."
As I walked away, he called after me. "That's what everyone says, right up until they find their throat being ripped out by a pack of hungry vampires! If you change your mind, talk to Isran at Fort Dawnguard, southeast of Riften!"
I waved my hand in acknowledgement and continued, rolling my eyes.
So cold, can't wait to get inside and warm up.
Inside, the Jarl was seated at the main throne and I approached, digging through my pack. I knelt and offered it to him. "Here's the Jagged Crown. I believe you owe Galamar a drink?" I grinned at him.
Ulfric chuckled. "Damn him--the old bear was right. Did you run into any trouble?"
"The Imperials were there ahead of us. We lost a few good men."
"Damn it." Ulfric leaned forward, clasping his hands in front of him. "What were they doing there? Imperial spies are everywhere. Never forget that....I trust you gave them a thrashing? Now then, I'm glad you're here as I have a message I need delivered to the Jarl of Whiterun."
"I'd be honored, my Jarl." I tilt my head towards him and he reached next to the throne, bringing out his personal axe.
"Deliver this axe to Jarl Balgruuf the Greater."
I took the axe and sheathed it. "Should I say anything to him other than who it's from?"
Ulfric shook his head. "Men who understand each other often have no need for words. There are but a few simple truths behind one warrior giving another his axe. Keep your eyes about you though, he is known for his temper."
I nod, understanding the message.
I stayed the night at the local inn, and then headed out in the morning, reaching Whiterun about midday.
I stood quietly, looking at Ysolda's old house. I guess I own it now...though I'm not sure I could ever really live in it. I will have to sell Leaf Rest though, there's no way I could live in a place that she was killed. But I feel she would want me to have the old house at least.
It's good for a single person, and I doubt I'll ever get married again. Life is short in Skyrim, indeed.
Going up to the Jarl's palace, a gaurd stopped me. "The Jarl has no business with you."
"I have a message for him, it is urgent." I said, frowning. "I have an axe to deliver!"
The guard, understanding my message, stepped back. "Go on in."
I knelt, holding out the axe. "Jarl Ulfric Stormcloak asked me to deliver this axe to you."
"Did he now? The man is persistent, I'll give him that." He shook his head. "Until that dragon is dealt with that was seen from Helgen, though, Ulfric is going to have to wait." He motioned with his hand and his steward took it from me. "For now, I'll hold onto his axe. But it's a tenuous peace at best. Now, I believe you have business to attend to with Bleak Falls Barrow?"
I grumbled inside. Looks like I was being dragged into this all over again. I couldn't go back to Ulfric without an answer, and the Jarl was holding the axe hostage.
So, Bleak Falls Barrow it was. But first, maybe a drink at the tavern before I get to bed.
Part 20 ----- Part 22