OOC City Docks of Windhelm 21 Evening Star, 4E 201 Strange Folk Death loomed over City of Kings. Plumes of red smoke drifted skyward as distant the clang of steel echoed far beyond the city walls. From the ship-hands confined to their vessels to the farmers and soldiers gawking from across the icy inlet, all within a league could see the hellscape that would determine the fate of Skyrim. Curious ships even dropped anchor on the horizon to catch even a glimpse how the siege would fair. None had such a vantage point to best the walls and see the fighting within. That is, none yet. Days ago when guards upon the bridge sounded their horns the people of Windhelm fled any nearby refuge. They called the first day negotiation, but instead of handling peace talks the Stormcloak soldiers built barricades. Guards ensured anyone within the walls was brought to their home or at least an inn for accommodation. Outside the walls, nary a soldier or guard could be found. It was then that the strange folk arrived. Clad from head to toe in black with fur hoods and masks, the argonian who spotted them approaching on their tiny boats nearly took them for Imperials spies. Good fortune and years of segregation worked in favour of the strangers. The argonian saw no weapons and instead of raising an alarm they offered a hand. No one out of the dozen strange folk returned more than a nod before continuing toward one of several warehouses along the docks. All but one surrounded the door so that the remaining could pick the lock unseen. In the chaotic preparation for war no one noticed as the darkly dressed lot filed into the warehouse. It was here that they waited until the hour came. After days spent cooped up in the warehouse each among the strange folk claimed their space. Cloaks laid neatly upon the floor as makeshift bedrolls with masks and weapons close by should need arise. One rested in the shadows on each side of the door, four more behind a stack of crates in the center of the room, and the rest scattered along the back wall furthest from the door. During the waking hours they rummaged through crates and barrels. They found food and wine and thankfully a few decks of cards with which to pass the time. While most willed the hours away, one sat at attention beside a small vent. She wore her weapon on her hip and her hair bound into a thick graying brown braid that circled her crown. When the others laughed she winced, placing an ear closer to the vent. "I'm only saying you look hungry, why not have an a--" the young breton held his tongue as his companion shot a finger into the air. "Don't you dare," growled the orc. Her eyes narrowed and a shadow cast over her face. "No more godsdamned apples. Apples in every bloody barrel, bah! This whole godsdamned rebellion is fueled by bloody apples, probably would lower the arms for a bit of meat and potatoes and cheese. Oh, what I'd do for a slice of cheese." Raising a brow, the young breton chuckled, "A slice of cheese? I'd be more pleased with a bowl of Elsweyr fondue and some bread. What about the rest of you? Except you, Ealgian. I could do without your voice awhile." Bent half into an opened crate, the wood elf raised a middle finger back to the breton and continued his search. "By the Nine," the woman beside the vent gasped before abruptly standing. As suddenly as she stood the whole of the warehouse fell silent. "The Legion has broken through the gates. Our time is now." In a matter of minutes the dozen collected their things and abandoned the warehouse. Stacked in single file line they crept along the city wall under the cover of darkness, hearing the muffles sounds of war through the ancient stone. They approached the gates into the city with weapons drawn, but found no one. From the back of the line Ealgian could hear his orcish companion curse in disappointment. Their leader placed a hand on the gate and raised a short blade with two fingers outstretched for the rest to see. Two fingers turned into one. When the last finger lowered and the gate swung open the strange folk entered Windhelm. A line of wood spikes welcomed the strange folk. One by one the line passed through the gates, backs pressed against the inner wall as they maneuvered themselves around the barricade. A few bodies lay under a fresh dusting of snow riddled with arrows. They were Stormcloaks, likely picked off as a ploy to confuse the defenders. Or so their leader imagined, guiding her darkly clad followers toward the dark streets of the Grey Quarter. The metal ring of blades clashing grew louder and the colours worn by corpses more diverse. Dead men lay in the streets, some coiled in a ball like newborn babes, others with hands still gripping the wounds that killed them. If any among the strange folk felt ill or afraid they did let either show. The line followed their leader obediently until finally they neared the intersection of the courtyard and the Grey Quarter. "Fus-Roh-Dah" The ground beneath their feet quaked and windows nearby shattered. Three Imperial soldiers flew from the inner courtyard, colliding hard against a nearby building before falling into the street before them. Two more followed after, these running to check on their comrades unaware of the strange folk hiding in the shadows. A quick glance passed down from the head of the line down. Watching the two Imperials crouched over their fallen, one of the strange folk, the wood elf, removed his mask. He crept from out the shadows into the street before letting out a long and pitiful cry. Both of the Imperials found him quickly and rushed toward with their weapons ready unaware of the darkly clad group they inadvertently let pass. Windhelm Prison22 Evening Star, 4E 201 Ealgian Parikh Ealgian lie restless against the cold stone bed of his prison cell. He was an archer and a writer and a Blade, none of which particularly well suited for the impatient. Even so, after spending gods knows how many days locked in a stale warehouse his tolerance for small, enclosed spaces ran dangerously low. Lying inside a barren and dark room was simply not what he expected. Ealgian sat up from the pathetic attempt at a bed and stared at the rough stone wall. Some organizations gather around ideas and values shared long before finding others. The Blades were unlike those organizations. Unlike the recent recruits who swooned at the mere of the Dragonborn, Ealgian swore the oath for reasons far more personal. He was brought into a secret war and joined them to take some semblance of control. Three decades of hiding, of skirmishes without songs, of hopeful legends shared on long roads, only after all that did the true purpose of the Order appear. And as suddenly as the Dragonborn came, so too did she go. Ealgian shook his head. What had he expected? "Shor's Stone," came a voice carrying down into the hall. Then came the sound of mail and boots against the stone floor. "That couldn't be..." Ealgian rose from his bed and approached the cell door. He watched as others followed suit, surprised by how many shared the prison hall without his knowing. As his eye passed over each cell door he paused. Brow furrowed, Ealgian looked across the hall a few cells down from his own and exhaled audibly. Molspus, here? The thought broke when the Imperial soldiers entered the hall. Ealgian remained quiet as the first two passed him, one spitting 'sneak-thief', until the next lot appeared. His mouth fell agape at the sight of her. Two well armoured legionaries carried the Dragonborn, allowing her bare feet to drag against the ground. Her mouth was bound with a rag the same shade of blue as her tunic. She appeared relatively unharmed aside from the blood speckling her face and arms, but she something seemed amiss. Something in her eyes. Ealgian shut his eyes and leaned his head cell door after the guards passed from out his view. He could hear the sharp creak of another cell, then the sound of flesh falling against the stone. After another creak and click of a lock there was the hall fell silent. Ealgian opened his eyes to find the other prisoners watching what he could not see. "It just doesn't feel right. Stormcloaks killed my brother. Whole reason I enlisted in the Legion, just to see Ulfric's head on a pike. Never imagined I'd actually see Ulfric beheaded and now," the voice paused. Ealgian could hear a body shuffling. "If she followed Ulfric, should we have killed him?" A second voice shot back immediately. "Listen to yourself! Ulfric Stormcloak killed the High King, killed your brother, and killed countless more -- and for what? Power? Pah! I'll be the first to thank the Dragonborn. She is the legend without question and Alduin is defeated. But the dragons are no more. The moment she threw in with Ulfric she stopped being a hero. She could have brought peace to Skyrim, instead she helped tear it apart. Get a hold of yourself, man. This wench deserves not your sympathy." Another set of footsteps echoed down the hall. An Imperial soldier taller than the rest stamped a foot and exclaimed, "Celebrating the bitch who killed your brothers? Get out and clear the streets before disease begins to spread. General Tullius wants Windhelm cleared and livable by dawn. I mean now!" The soldiers marched out the hall leaving only the prisoners and the officer. Ealgian took a breath of relief watching the soldiers depart. He decided this officer was a gift, regarding their notable height and decorated armour. Indeed, there was much to the ornate golden lines running up the white Imperial breastplate unlike any he had seen before. Perhaps sensing his gaze, the officer paid each cell a fleeting look. No more than a brief glimpse, however, it was enough to reveal the golden skin beneath the armour. Ealgian turned himself toward his bucket, lowered his trousers, and began to piss. Out the corner of his eye he caught the altmer cringe and continue down the hall. "Dragon-Child," the altmer announced in a loud, mocking tone. "Or Hunter of Dragons, or what-ever else you nordic neanderthals believe you to be. A skilled warrior, I'll give you that. A strong voice does help. Though, seems a touch useless now." The altmer broke into a brief, hitch pitch laugh. "You failed, Dragon-Child. With you the Empire should have stood no chance, or at least crumbled in fear of what they thought you were. We thought you'd balance the odds. Keep the war going, at least a bit longer. Bit of a disappointment, actually. We'll do without though. You'll have to go, of course." Ealgian heard the familiar ring of steel and futilely pushed against his cell door. "Don't be worried, Dragon-Child. I hear there's a real Dragonborn elsewhere. Tamriel will be quite fine without you." Ealgian grit his teeth and pushed against door with all his weight. Though the bars whined, another sound caught his attention. Rushed, light taps and a cool breeze. When next the bosmer opened his eyes a darkly clad figure stood before him, fumbling at the lock. He paid them back with a small smile as the cell door swung open and the figure turned to the rest. His gaze went first to the end of the hall where the Dragonborn was kept. Slumped against the wall in a red pool lie the Imperial officer. Ealgian would have cursed him had the sound of boots not once more begun down the hall. Their masked leader helped the Dragonborn as the others began toward an open sewer grate. While the others lined up, each taking care to help lower the Dragonborn, Ealgian looked back onto the baffled prisoners taking in the strange sight. Eventually, his comrades had all but disappeared into the sewer, the last paid one last glance. They pointed to the end of the hall and whispered, "The docks." The sewer grate shut leaving Ealgian in no different a position from the rest. He drew in a deep breath, silently accepting his role, and turned to the rest of the prisoners. "Our things are down that way. If we start now, p'haps we'll live understand that bloody sight. What say you?"