I don't intend for the hiss to escape my lips when I open my achy eyes, but it escapes and I shut them. Even with the overcast of dark clouds the gloomy world is somehow brighter than it was before. When did the gloomy world get so bright? Surely I'm not dead.
Snow lands on my cold, bare skin. It burns as it melts. How long have I been out in the cold? I can't feel my fingers nor my toes (or feet, rather). Have I finally succumbed to frostbite like my mother always warned me I would? Damn. Out of all the terrible things to happen to me, Mother being right is the worst one.
Hesitantly, I open my eyes and blink away the blur and the dark edges of my vision. When the scene clears, my eyes shut on their own accord once more.
A wagon. I'm in a wagon. Surrounded by Targaryen (or Stormborn) soldiers—the Unsullied, I believe—and Lannister soldiers. I open my eyes and stare ahead and see many, many wagons full of Unsullied soldiers. My wagon is the last of the prisoners of war convoy.
I then turn to my wagon-mates, surprised to see only one Unsullied soldier and two simple people. Like me. Like my wagon-mates, my wrists are bound together in front of me. Unlike my wagon-mates, I'm wearing simple rags that do nothing to shield off the Skyrim cold.
I glance at the man sitting next to me, who's shivering like a leaf despite his heavy leather armor. On one of his shoulders is an emblazoned pauldron, showing a sun quartered with four diamonds in each quarter. I don't recognize the symbol as any of the major provinces or even the minor ones. I frown but move onto the next wagon-mate.
Now the one across the shaking man is a true Unsullied. He sits with his wrists bound like the rest of us. I glance at the wagons ahead of us and notice that, unlike his fellow soldiers, he doesn't wear his black helmet that covers most of the face. He stares at me from the corner of his dark eye, and I get the idea to back off.
The last man I observe sits across from me. He's an older gent, with a scruffy salt-and-pepper beard and matching reclining hair. He dresses like how I would be were I not in rags, though with finer quality cloth while mine was itchy wool. He observes me, too, and unlike the Unsullied next to him, he seems kind enough. Wanting to break the silence, I suppose.
"You're awake. They hit you pretty good." He says.
I didn't notice the throbbing of my head until he said so. Out of habit, I reach to touch my head but pull up two hands instead of one. I huff and drop them back into my lap. "I suppose so," I say to him.
He leans back in his seat. "The name's Davos Seaworth. Yours?"
For a minute, I wanted to huff and say it's none of his business. Then again, I'm not hiding anything—except for the glaring fact that I can't seem to remember how I got into Lannister hands in the first place. I stare at him, stuck on the edge of wanting to tell him but also wanting to stay secretive.
Finally, I answer, "Dyanna." Then I copy his posture, leaning back in my own seat. I still can't feel my hands or feet, but I glance at them again. They look fine. Not black like charcoal, but nearing an obnoxious blue. Not good but certainly not bad, either.
"What are you in for?" I hear him ask.
Ah, the very question I don't know how to answer. But judging by the look on his face, that seems like the very thing he doesn't want to hear. I suppose I could humor him—we're heading to our impending deaths, anyway.
"I was . . . caught." I say, then smile. "I was caught stealing someone's sweetroll."
Davos Seaworth laughs. "Is that so? You're by far the most dangerous of our bunch yet."
I open my moutht to add to the joke, but my bench-buddy next to me spits at the Unsullied's feet. I recoil at the sight of the nasty black spit. "Damn you!" He hisses. "Skyrim was fine until the lot of you came 'round. The Lannisers were fat and lazy and to busy drinking their liver to death with wine." He spits again, and I recoil at the grown spit.
"I could've crossed the border no problem," the man continues saying. Then he shifts to me, and I'm struck by how young he looks. For reasons unknown to me, he looks like he goes by the birthname Will. "You and me, we shouldn't be here. It's the Unsullied the Lannisters want."
Davos scoffs. "We're all kin in bonds now, deserter. No need to get upset."
Deserter? I raise an eyebrow at Davos, but he waves me off. I frown; what's the story with him, then? That's what I want to know.
"Shut up!" A Lannister soldier shouts, but his warning goes unnoticed by us.
The wagon squeaks as we go downhill. I close my eyes, enjoying the sound of nature and the occasional noise of our wagon horse. I hear the birds in the trees and the light wind rustling the branches of those trees. Reminds me when I was a girl, with my head full of the latest legend I urged my father to tell me. Then I would go running outside with my wooden sword and pretend the trees around me were either draugr or bandits.
I open my eyes. The snow halts for now, but with the gray clouds still overcasting it's bound to snow again any moment. Ah, Skyrim. She can never have enough snow, can she? A horrible yet endearing trait; a harsh but beautiful mistress.
"What are you in for?" She asks Davos, much to her surprise. He seems just as so. "You don't look made for war like the Unsullied."
"Right you are," Davos says. "More of a smugglar type, but I've changed my ways."
He glances ahead, and I do so, too. We both notice a stone defense wall with large wooden gates beneath it. Judging by the size of the stretched wall (and the very fact that this town needs such a wall), I can only assume that it's a community of good size—"map-worthy", as some would say.
"I'm the advisor to Jarl Sansa in Windhelm." Davos continues. "I got caught at the wrong place at the wrong time." We both knowingly smile.
We enter the town, and I'm right: it is medium in size, not as big as the Province cities but houses a hundred or so men, women, and children. As the convoy travels deeper into the city, following the river-like brick road, I notice more and more people coming out of their houses to watch the Lannister soldiers.
"This is Helgen," the man next to me says. "I used to be sweet on a girl from here. I wonder if there's still mead with juniper berries."
Out of all the people watching us, a boy no older than ten catches my eye. He sits on his porch, head between two wooden bars. With sparkling eyes he watches us. I can already see the dream of becoming a soldier in his head, of serving justice where it is needed. I blink when he whines, then I notice his father looking down upon him, telling him to go back inside the house. I turn away with a frown, finding nothing more interesting than my blue feet.
The wagon comes to a stop in front of (what I assume) Helgen Keep. I stand with the rest of them, and I'm the last to drop from the wagon. I try not to stare at my impending doom only feet away from me—the wooden block covered with blood. I swallow and stare straight ahead.
But then, I catch sight of the executioner. I know all hope is lost of me not staring. What a sharp, sharp weapon he holds. Thank Gods he cleans and polishes it. How horrible would it be for my head to be cut by a rusty axe? Davos is watching the executioner as well, but he turns away with a grim expression.
"Don't look or think about it. It only makes the reality worse." He whispers to me.
My attention snaps to Will-looking man who sat next to me. Was his name actually Will? I missed them calling out his name. "I'm not a rebel—you can't do this!"
Though I know many legends, I never heard one about men trying to escape their execution. How idiotic of him. Everyone watches as he runs, barely making fifty feet before he's shot down like a deer in the woods. I stare at the distinct line of an arrow sticking up from his back. Maybe his death is better than the one before us. He certainly chose his fate.
"You're not on the list." I hear someone say. I look forward to see a Lannister guard sneering down at me. "Who are you?"
I bite the inside of my cheek. "Dyanna, and I come from the community of Ivarstead." For a second, images of my childhood home flash before my eyes. I will the grief away and stare straight ahead again.
"Ah, home to the Seven Thousand Steps. Perhaps dying on that path would have been a better chosen fate." He says, not expecting a retort.
I give him one, anyways. "More dignified. On my own terms." I shrug. "That and I wouldn't have to see the ugly, lying bastards of the Lannister army."
He ignores me and turns to his superior. "What should we do? She's not on the list."
His superior (a captain, I believe) stares me down. "Forget the list. They all go to the block."
I sigh and walk to where the rest of the Sullied stand around their impending wooden block of death. The General of the gathered Lannisters stalks around before he marches up to the Unsullied I sat with.
"Commander Grey Worm of the Unsullied Army, fighting on behalf of his Jarl Daenerys Targaryen." The General says. "Some here in Helgen call your Jarl a hero, but a hero doesn't use a power like the voice to murder her king and usurp his throne."
Grey Worm barely acknowledges the General in front of him.
"She started this war, plunged Skyrim into chaos through her house words of fire and blood." The General growls, stalking away. "Now it's my duty to put dogs like you down and restore peace to the rest of the pride of Skyrim."
Pride of Skyrim? Ah, because his house emblem is that of a lion.
For a moment, the clouds in the sky break. I raise my head to the fleeting warmth of the sun. Goosebumps break out over my flesh. I'm back in that moment of peace I had in the wagon. Skyrim. This is my final goodbye—
I open and narrow my eyes. What was that? It wasn't the blowing winds or the chirping birds. Thunder? No. A blacksmith dropping a weapon on wood? No, I don't think so. Judging Davos' behavior next to me, he heard the same noise I did.
"What was that?" A Lannister soldier asks his fellow men, but they stare at him.
"I didn't hear anything," One answers.
The General of the Lannisters frowns and dismisses the two soldiers. "It's nothing. Carry on."
"Yes, General Jaime Lannister." The captain says. Then she turns to the priestess next to her. "Give them their final rite."
Huh. I would never have assumed that Jaime Lannister would have traveled all this way from Solitude to watch the Commander of the enemy army perish on a chopping block. I would have always thought he would be too busy with the likes of women (or rumor has it, his sister) to do even the simplest task of guarding the High Queen.
The priestess raises her hands to the sky and recites our final rites. "As we commend your souls to Aetherius, blessings of the Eight"—I roll my eyes. Eight my ass—"Divines upon you, for you are the salt and earth of Nirn, our beloved—"
"Let's get this over with!" An Unsullied spits. He walks right to the chopping block and lowers himself to his knees. The Lannister soldiers look at each other before one goes up behind him and lowers him further until his neck rests upon the bloodied wood. "I haven't got all morning—my ancestors are waiting for me."
Without trying, I catch the soldier's eyes. He gives a smile full of mirth. Unsettled, I shiver. "My ancestors are smilig upon me, Lannisters. Do yours do the same?"
The executioner's blade glows underneath the brief moment of sunlight, then thump.
"You Lannister bastards!"
"Death to the Unsullied! End the Stormborn Rebellion!"
I don't find it a coincidence that my mind goes horrifically blank. I stare at the limp body until my eyes travel upwards to the severed, spurting neck. Blood sprays across the brick floor, and drenches the wood beneath it. The blood even taints the golden armor of the nearest Lannister soldier. I swallow the bile rising in my throat, wincing at the burning sensation it leaves behind. I want to look away. Why can't I look away? Death is not as glorious as most make it seem.
My eyes drift upward until they meet General Lannister's eyes. Though I've never personally met Jaime Lannister, there is without a doubt in my fuzzy mind that he was a gorgeous creature. No wonder his sister, Cersei Lannister (the current High Queen), loved him more than a sister should. Rumor, I know. But if it were the truth . . . I understand completely.
Maybe. It's hard to agree to incest and cold-blooded murder, I suppose.
I blink when the Captain of the Guard raises a hand in my direction. It took a solid second before I realized everyone was staring at me. "I called your name, prisoner!" The captain snarls.
My feet move without consent, and I will myself not to trip over my own two feet. How humiliating would that be? I spare a fleeting glance towards Jaime Lannister, but he's no longer interested. Instead, he watches Grey Worm with his hand over his sword hilt, ready to swing at anything sudden.
When I reach the damp blood (I gag but swallow it down again), I'm pushed down to my knees by a foot. My knees scrape against the bricks and sting. My head is then placed down on the block, and I'm glad I'm staring into the group of prisoners of war. Something inside me growls, waiting to be ripped free. I'm not sure if this is my adrenaline speaking or that little spitfire spirit my mother always tells me I have, but I open my mouth and say two words I've never heard before in my life.
"Valar Morghulis," I say to the crowd. They all stare at me in silence. The world stops and stares at me in silence. What did those two words mean? I don't know. I don't even know the language, and yet saying them felt as if I were at home the entire time. The words bubble out of my chest and throat before I take a breath, repeated over and over, growing louder and louder until I hear nothing but my echo across the community, across the valley. "Valar Morghulis! Valar Morghulis! Valar Morghulis—"
There is another sound from the sky, closer than before. I ignore it over my moment of complete insanity. Then, I feel both the ground and the sky tremble in harmony. There's an explosion of warm wind from behind, and I lift my head to see the sky turn red as flame-covered meteors rain downward.
"What in Oblivion is that?"
My body skids across the bricks. My back hits the ground before I catch wind, then my chest does. I roll over my wrist but don't break it. With a groan, I lift my head up and stare up at the tower the chopping block was beneath.
Black leathery wings is in my vision first before the glowing, sinister red eyes. The beast opens its jaw, showing off its fine teeth that are as sharp as a hundred swords. Then it roars, shaking the sky and earth once more. Out of pure instinct, I scream.