The next day I went to see the Jarl. I still had to get an answer about the axe.
"Due to the sidetracking, he has been waiting for a little while for this message." I mention politely.
Jarl Balgruuf paused for a few moments, and I could see him thinking. "I suppose it is time I give him an answer..." He turned to his Steward. "Proventus, what do you make of all this? If Ulfric were to attack Whiterun..."
Proventus Avenicci bowed slightly. "As in all things, I urge caution. Wait and see."
The Jarl sighed. "I feel as though only prey would wait for something to happen. It's time to act."
His Steward looked shocked. "You plan to march on Windhelm?"
The Jarl gave him a strange look. "I'm not a fool. I mean it's time for Ulfric to face me as a man, or march his Stormcloaks up to the gates. I am not like the High King Torygg, may he rest in peace. If Ulfric wants to challenge my rule in the old way, let him. Though, I suspect he'll send his 'Stormcloaks' to do it for him."
I bristled at the insult, refraining from making any biting remarks. I was no Stormcloak, but I was no lover of Imperials as well. Any insult to my Nord brothers I took as an insult to myself.
Irileth then spoke up. "Ulfric has made it clear. To refuse his claim is to side with the Empire."
Avenicci held up a hand. "I still feel we should wait. See if Ulfric is serious."
The Jarl slammed a fist on the throne. "Oh, he is serious. But so am I." He stood up abruptly, thrusting the axe in my direction, and I caught the handle deftly. "Return this axe. The esteemed Jarl of Windhelm has my answer. Make sure he gets it."
I look him in the eye and nod. "I'm afraid this will be the last time we shall be on speaking terms, Jarl Balgruuf."
He got my meaning, frowning. "Go then, Nord."
It was dark when I arrived, but there was no time to waste sleeping, though I was tired and chilled to the bone.
Ulfric turned to Galmar. "You were right."
"Again?" Galmar said, an eyebrow raising.
"I'm in no mood to joke." Ulfric said rising up to lean over the map in the middle of the room.
I spoke up. "Give the word, and we will go in there and take out the Imperials, my Jarl. Whiterun could be yours."
Ulfric shook his head. "Whiterun is only a means to an end."
"I've toured our camps," Galmar stated. "We are ready, Ulfric. Whenever you are."
Ulfric folded his arms. "Is any man ready to give the order that will mean the deaths of many?"
I gritted my teeth, slamming a fist onto the table, causing the others to jump. "No! But a man must be ready to give that order when he must! Those Imperial bastards have been getting away with things for too long! Now is the time to strike!" I motion towards Galmar. "These men and women under you call themselves Stormcloaks because they believe in you. I admit that I am a neutral party in all this, though I wish death upon the Imperials who killed my wife. If being in your army gives me that pleasure, then so be it. But these men believe in you. Do not deny them their revenge for the land."
Galmar joined in. "Those men out there are the meanest, toughest sons of bitches Skyrim has to offer. And they want this. More than you do, more than likely."
"Whiterun's army will no doubt be bolstered with Legionnares." Ulfric pointed out. "And those walls around Whiterun are old, but they still stand. Are you certain we're ready?"
Galmar stood straighter. "We are ready."
"Alright." Ulfric turned to me. "This is it. A new day is dawning and the sun rises over Whiterun. Markus, make haste to our camp in Whiterun. I want you on the front lines. You'll have your chance to take out as many Imperials as you want."
I nodded sharply. "Many will die by my hand."
"Aye, I can see that." Ulfric clapped my arm in a handshake. "Fight well, or die well. Talos be with you."
"And Kyne be with you." I wished him back.
I spent the night outside in my tent with a large roaring fire and soup to feed my rumbling belly. Then, saddling up Arrow, we headed off for Whiterun.
Passing the river, I heard what sounded like a large cry, similar to the dragon's cry I fought at the watchtower, and I drew up Arrow short. He stamped his feet nervously as I waited and watched, listening for the noise again.
The clouds parted in the skies, and I saw it. A huge dragon flying around in a circle, as if searching for something. My stomach did a flip and I immediately kicked Arrow forward, breaking into a gallop.
But then, ahead of me, I saw something that enraged me.
That's fucking it. I'm killing them. I warned them not to mess with women traveling, and here they are, messing with women. Their heads are mine.
I leaped off of Arrow and saw their eyes go wide in recognition at me. They attempted to run, but with two fell swoops of my axe, they fell dead upon the ground. I looked at the woman standing there.
She nodded, looking at my axe fearfully.
"Don't worry, these guys have been a thorn in my side for a while now. They won't harass anymore women any longer.
Finally, Whiterun came into view.
I heard a huge explosion ahead of me, and Arrow startled slightly. I halted, scanning the skies.
A huge fireball launched from Whiterun and exploded on the ground, causing the area to rumble under the horse's hooves.
I left Arrow at a nearby farmhouse, hoping he would stay safe from the assault. I manned the catapults as Galmar did a speech, which I didn't much pay attention to. Something about the liberation of Skyrim and all that. I was just ready to knock some Imperial heads in.
Getting closer to Whiterun, the fireballs got bigger and almost burned me passing by. My heart leaped at the thought of getting hit by one of those and I hurried onward, my Stormcloak companion asking me a strange question, which I subsequently ignored.
Glad I had so much practice hunting.
I swung my axe with all my strength, thinking of Lydia as I struck down Imperial after Imperial. Anger grew within me and I led the front line, yelling as I went.
Inside the city, total panic was over the people, and a few children darted into the streets in front of me. I shoved them out of the way, telling them to get inside somewhere, as I didn't want them to get hurt. My problem was with the Imperials, not the children.
The city was easily gone through, and I felt a little bad having to cut down some of the Whiterun guards, as I recognized some of them in my travels through the city before. We had reached the Jarl though.
He surrendered quickly, and I put away my axe, honoring his surrender.
The men around us fell to a more relaxed position, but we were all still wary of each other.
"The Imperials are nothing but lying, murderous bastards!" I spat out. Jarl Belgruuf looked at me, astonished. I thrust the note I had been carrying for so long at him. The note that said to kill Ysolda. "She was my wife, and they murdered her."
Belgruuf held the note, reading it. He looked up at me, sorrow filling his eyes. "I am sorry, Markus. I heard of her death, but did not realize it was by Imperial demands." He handed the note back to me. "If it helps, compensation will be given to you."
I gritted my teeth, temptation to use my new-found powers rising. "I don't want any of your damn gold! My wife was not a horse that was killed and must be paid for in compensation! The only thing that will come of her death is the death of Imperials!"
The Jarl stepped forward, pointing towards the front doors. "How many of those corpses lining our streets were the men who killed your wife? What about their families?"
I was taken aback slightly. A silence fell over the room and the Jarl looked at me, as if awaiting an answer. I shook my head, whispering. "Someone...someone had to pay."
Galmar stepped forward then. "We did not attack Whiterun for Markus, he was here on his own accord. We attacked because we want Skyrim back. We should be fighting the Thalmor, not bending knee to them. The Empire is nothing more than a puppet of the Thalmor. Skyrim needs a High King who can fight for her, and Whiterun needs a Jarl who will do the same. There is a burning city out there who needs a government. And we will restore order."
As he turned to leave, Balgruuf called out. "This isn't over! You hear me old fool! This isn't over!" Then, he turned to me with anger in his eyes. "Markus, you, a Stormcloak? I'd thought better of you. I'd hoped it wasn't true. You'll come to regret this day." He pointed a finger at me, and I turned away, leaving him to rule the crumbling walls of his palace.
Trudging back towards where I had put Arrow, the smells of blood and soot filled the air. The grey skies started rumbling, and I put my cloak around me tighter. I would have to stay at Riverwood's inn tonight.
I had alot of thinking to do.
Part 25 ----- Part 27