“Hey. You. You’re finally awake.” And then: “You were trying to cross the border, right? Walked right into that Imperial ambush, same as us and that thief over there,” the blonde man said, nodding to the brunette on his left.
Tyler glanced over at the person he was referring to.
“Damn you Stormcloaks…” the thief spat. “Skyrim was fine until you came along. The Empire was naive and careless. If they hadn’t been looking for you, I could’ve stolen that horse and been halfway to Hammerfell by now.” The dark haired man stopped for a minute, fixing his gaze on Tyler.
“You there,” he continued. “You and me, we shouldn’t be here. It’s the Stormcloaks the Empire wants; people of Nordic blood.”
“We’re all brothers and sisters in binds now, thief,” the first man said, solemnly. “Nord or not, we all should be fighting for the liberty of people.”
“Hey! Shut up back there,” the Imperial soldier driving the carriage shouted as he raised the whip on the brown Clydesdale he was guiding.
Tyler let his head fall back and closed his eyes. He had almost made it across the border and out of Skyrim with Cyrodiil being his destination. Opening up an eye, he peered at the person sitting to his right. A cloth gag of sorts was wrapped around his mouth. He was dressed in obsidian garbs, possibly someone of high power?
“Jarl Ulfric Stormcloak,” the blonde man spoke, nodding to the man Tyler was staring at. “The true High King.”
Tyler’s eyes widened as he found words for the first time since capture.
“He’s — you’re the leader of the rebellion…” Tyler spluttered, turning to face the gagged man. “But if they’ve captured you-”
“Oh, God,” the thief shrieked. “If they’ve captured you, where are they taking us?!”
“I don’t know where they’re taking us,” the blonde began, “but Sovngarde awaits.”
The thief shook his head, “No. This can’t be happening.” He proceeded to pray silently, begging for mercy and forgiveness while Ulfric closed his eyes. The blonde man looked off into the distance, grimly.
“Who are they, father?” a small child asked as the wooden prisoner carriages wheeled their way through Helgen, a moderately-sized town on the border of Skyrim. “Where are they going?”
“You need to go inside, son,” the father answered, voice tight. Tyler locked eyes with the little boy; he reminded him of his own brother.
“Why?” the boy asked. “I want to watch the soldiers.”
Hard-eyed, the older man said, “Inside the house. Now.”
The wagons approached the town “square” if you will, and Tyler’s heart began to race. A public stoning was a terrible way to go; maybe he could book it and somehow it out alive. Another seemed to have the same idea because the thief from his wagon hopped off the side and began to sprint like a madman.
“Archers!” a woman, presumably the captain, shouted.
He was struck down with an arrow before making it even twenty-five yards. Tyler’s face drained of all it’s color.
“Step down and wait for your call,” an Imperial soldier instructed.
After descending from the carriage, the prisoners formed a line as they awaited for their name to be called out like a headcount of sorts.
“Ulfric Stormcloak,” the man with the list called.
The blonde man from earlier bowed his head to the leader of the rebellion who stepped forward. “It’s been a pleasure serving you, my Jarl.”
A few more names were called, including the blonde, leaving Tyler as the last prisoner standing.
“Wait. You there,” the man reading off the list said, pointing at Tyler. “Step forward.”
“Who are you?”
“Tyler Joseph. I'm from the Imperial City.”
“You’re a long way from the Cyrodiil; and one of our own, too. What the hell are you doing in Skyrim?”
Tyler remained silent and the man with the quill and scroll sighed.
“Captain?” he asked, turning to the woman next to him. “What should we do? He’s not on the list.”
She crossed her arms, her silver gauntlets clinking together as she glared at the scum who stood before her.
“Forget the list,” she sneered. “He goes to the block.”
“Alright. Follow the captain, prisoner.”
Tyler brushed his calloused fingers against his neck. Beheading.
Tyler approached the beheading station as a religious figure of sorts began to preach:
“As we commend your souls to Aetherius, blessings of the eight divines upon you-”
A large shriek erupted, shaking the earth beneath them. The crowd of people stopped what they were doing and looked to the sky. A large, black beast appeared, wind gusting haphazardly with every flap of his dastardly wings.
Tyler’s heart dropped to his stomach.
“Evacuate the citizens!” the captain shouted, unsheathing her one-handed battle sword as the beast landed overtop of a watchtower.
His roar shook the town, causing Tyler’s ears to bleed and lose his footing. The white clouds grew a few shades darker as they began to swirl in the once clear sky and the beast began to spit fire unto Helgen.
“Ah!” Tyler cried out as part of his garbs were singed by the beast’s ferocious flames. He flailed his arms around to put out the fire, panic kickstarting an adrenaline rush. He had to get out of here. He had to run.
“This way to the barrack!” the blonde Nord from earlier called out to Tyler as he and a now gagless Ulfric Stormcloak began to sprint to the cylindrical, cobblestone barrack a couple hundred feet away. Tyler took off, feet moving of their own accord as he dashed for shelter.
“Jarl Ulfric, what is that thing?! Can the legends be true?” the blonde man asked as the barrack door slammed behind him them. Blood was rushing to Tyler's ears and it felt like the room was spinning.
“Legends don’t burn down villages,” the Stormcloak leader muttered, running his hands through his greasy brown hair. “We need to move now! Up through the tower.”
There was a bloodied woman on the ground, tears streaking her dirty face; Tyler needed to help her.
“Up the stairs now!” the Jarl shouted, spit flying as the ground rumbled. Tyler glanced at the injured woman one last time and dashing up the stairs with the two other men. Saving himself and leaving her to die; that one would be on his conscious for awhile.
Tyler embarked up the stairs and was almost at the top of the spiral when the dragon's tail hit the barrack causing the stone wall to bust open; the beast’s left wing was visible — a scaly charcoal-colored skin that was secreting some sort of liquid. Tyler was going to be sick.
Tyler fell on his front as a scorching blast of fire shot through the gash in the barrack wall. The beast turned his attention to something Tyler couldn’t make out and flew South causing Tyler to shakily get to his feet and press onward. Debris was everywhere, blocking off the path to the top of the tower. Tyler looked out of the large, gaping hole and saw a burning straw roof of a neighboring building.
“There must be a way on the other side,” the blonde Nord said. “Jump through the roof and keep going!”
“A-ah! I can’t possibly make that-” Tyler exclaimed, eyeing the height of the fall, nervously.
“Jump or die,” Ulfric told him, darkly. Tyler inhaled and closed his eyes, watching as the leader took a running start and jumped from the barrack and into the smoky abyss.
“You can do it, brother,” the blonde said, clamping a hand on Tyler’s shoulder, who could only nod, meekly. He followed in suit and ran, leaping at the last moment and propelling himself through the air. Tyler brought his forearms up to his face, bracing for impact as he began descending into the smoke before landing with a loud thump. He was on his feet as quickly as he was down and began to maneuver his way through the… bedroom? Tyler was rushing to get to the first floor, the obstacles of beds, wooden columns and barrels not helping him out any. He spotted an opening in the floor and jumped through it with a thud as he found himself following one of the Stormcloaks outside of the damaged home.
Soot from the multitude of fires was everywhere, coating the town of Helgen in smoky, dark ash.
“Imperial! Come with me and we will escape across the border!” one voice shouted. It was one of Tyler’s own, an Imperial. Well, an Imperial soldier.
“Brother, you must come with me!” the blonde Nord shouted as he ran to the North-most Keep.
Tyler had to make a decision, a rash one. Join his kind and escape Skyrim, like he’d initially intended, or stay with the man who had been looking out for him from the very first moment.
Any sense Tyler once had vanished as he ran towards the Nord, ignoring the obscenities the soldier was yelling at him.
When the sweeping door to the Helgen Keep closed, Tyler caught his breath. He was safe though his ears were ringing. The blonde Nord instructed Tyler to put on looted armor, introducing himself as he handed Tyler a dagger.
“Ralof of Riverwood.”
“Tyler. Imperial City in Cryodiil.”
“Imperial City?” Ralof asked, incredulously as Tyler equipped some shin guards. “Figured you were an Imperial, but what the hell are you doing in Skyrim; and as a civilian at that?" No response. "You are aware your that people are acting as a militia in the persecution of Nords, yeah?”
“Had no idea it was like this,” Tyler spat, his saliva black. He could feel the soot in his lungs. “We are told our men are heroes keeping the peace in this land.”
It was a labyrinth, the Helgen Keep. From outside the stone walls, Tyler could hear the winged beast’s screeches. It was unsettling to say the least.
“I hope the Lord finds it within his grace to keep the Jarl safe,” Ralof mumbled as he and Tyler jogged through the damp, cobblestone corridors. Tyler wasn’t sure where they were headed, but he knew it best not to ask.
The path went on for what felt like eternity and Tyler was beginning to feel it in his chest; the inside of his throat felt like it was bleeding and he had a cramp in his side from the strenuous pressure he was putting on his body. The deeper they pilgrimaged into the Keep, the less structured it appeared. In fact, it was starting to look like catacombs. There were giant spider’s nests — cocoons — hanging from the top of the vast cave and Tyler was amazed. It was sort of pretty in a maladjusted way to see them glisten a pale cornflower blue from the water that streamed beneath.
“Watch your step,” Ralof warned, pulling Tyler from his daydreams as he crossed the water on small yet secure stepping stones.
They continued onward, but it was when Tyler was just about out of steam that a small light appeared at the end of the tunnel.
“That looks like a way out!” Ralof hollered. “I knew we’d make it!”
Something wet collected in Tyler’s ducts as he let out shallow breaths; his pace quickened. They’d escaped what had felt like certain doom. As Ralof and Tyler sprinted towards the illumination, Tyler felt like he was flying, his feet were light like feathers as he flew for the exit.
Blinding white filled his senses. He was finally free.