Edit: Spellcheck provided by thefluffyone93, thanks a lot!
Under strange skies
Where were you when the Void Broke?
Dylxexes the Younger, of the First Era, states quite clearly that an adventure can only truly begin three ways: by death, by slur, or by letter. To begin without one of these is to be relegated to the status of an indiscretion or, at best, an escapade.
The first thing of notice once consciousness returned to her was the thick fur that covered her body. Warm but a bit uncomfortable against her skin, obviously it wasn't the work of the best of tailors. The strange thing was that the nights hadn't been cold enough to warrant such a coat, she didn't remember going to sleep with one. She didn't remember going to sleep to begin with! What in Founder's name was happening?
The second, third and fourth things of notice came in quick succession:
The strange voices talking in a language that, at first, she couldn't recognize.
The strange man with whom Louise was sharing the horse she was currently riding.
And... the ropes... that held her in place on top of the animal's body.
What was happening? What the hell had happened? Tumbling to the side she felt her tethers loosening.
'Who are these people?'
Had she been kidnapped? How? When? She was in the academy! She should be in the academy! With all her strength (what little she had) she fought to free herself; luckily whoever had made the knots hadn't done a good job.
Her captors started shouting, they knew she was awake and trying to escape, the rider of her horse trying to grab her, but all the movement got the creature nervous and he had to take hold of the reins to not lose control of it.
With a final effort she grabbed the ropes and tossed them to the side. Finally free Louise lost her balance and fell, face first onto the... Snow? There was snow everywhere! But it was spring! She was already too frightened to stop and think about this surreal situation.
Trying to sit up, she frantically searched for her wand, she wouldn't be able to cast a single spell for her dear life but at least Louise could try to scare them. Her holster was sadly empty.
'Founder's blood, where is that stupid thing?!'
Dumb luck was the only thing that saved her as one of the horse's legs passed dangerously close to her head.
'I have to get out of here!'
Accepting her wand was missing she rose, clumsily, made two steps and fell again. Even with adrenalin pushing her forward it was difficult to move with snow to her ankles.
She heard more shouting; soon they would be over her. This was stupid, how could she hope to outrun a God damned horse?
She rose again.
Did they have archers? Louise was terrified that the last thing she would ever feel was an arrow piercing her back.
And it was so cold! Even if she could evade them, what to do next? Without any idea of where she was she would end up wandering aimlessly for hours or days, then a wolf would attack or her body would finally succumb to the elements, or the lack of sleep and food, or...
Her train of thought was violently stopped when she discovered that yes, her captors had rangers, but no, they didn't have archers. Evidence of that was the fireball that had impacted just a few meters in front of her.
Realizing that running was another option out of the window Louise slowly turned to face whoever her kidnappers were. If they had a mage maybe that meant they weren't marauders, maybe she had come across a hunting party that could help her return to the academy! As if. There were many mages of lowly origins that decided to prey the roads for gold and jewels. Fouquet came immediately to mind.
"You freaking moron!" Wait a minute, she had understood that, "What were you thinking?!"
Finally taking a good look she saw there was only two of them, but they were heavily armed and armored. The first man, the one she had shared the horse with, and gave the impression of trying to commit murder-by-stare, was rather... maybe not good-looking but well built, with blond hair that reached his neck.
About the other, the first thing Louise would have to say was tall.
"I was thinking that the girl was hysterical and I had to calm her down before she did something regretfully stupid," He answered in what Louise finally recognized as some heavily accentuated form of Romalian, "something for what fire does wonders."
He was easily a head taller than his companion, his hair hidden under a steel helmet. The girl wasn't sure exactly what, but there was something strange with his face, the proportions were off, and she was convinced there was something definitely wrong with his cheekbones. Louise didn't see him carrying any wand, had he put it away just then?
"You could have hit her!"
"My aim is impeccable, besides I still don't trust her and I did notice you failed to tie the ropes."
The more Louise observed them (and heard their conversation), the more certain she was that they weren't some wannabe cutthroats. The men looked well fed, were well shaved and their armors (leather and steel respectively) looked well maintained. She would expect those who lived in the deep of the wild running from the law to look worse for wear.
"Yes, yes because the Stormcloaks triumph card is a fourteen year old..."
"I am sixteen!"
That managed to silence them, at the price of their undivided attention.
"Who are you? Where am I? How did I get here?" Louise demanded, summoning all her bravado in her best regal voice, but was sure she only managed to sound like a broken trumpet. Once again she cursed herself for having lost her wand.
"Easy, easy." Said the shorter man, trying to be the least intimidating as he could. His companion didn't even try, "We are not going to harm you, we are near Helgen, my name is Hadvar and this one here is Fasendil."
"Legate Fasendil, mind you, and we were hoping you would answer the last question, preferably on the way back to rest of our column."
Helgen? She had never heard of a place called that, but she was sure she had heard the term legate before, some form of ancient military title, and this Fasendil had said something about a column, were they part of an army?
She felt a chilling breeze caressing her cheeks and was thankful for still having the coat.
"Y- You are the mage, are you a knight or a noble?"
Fasendil looked confused by the question, and Hadvar looked like he was trying too hard not to chuckle; was it such a strange question?
"No, I already told you, I'm a legate, and the son of a merchant. Now, if you want to stay here fine by me, just don't cry when the wolves come."
How did he dare to talk to her like that? Louise was about to give him a piece of her mind, but Hadvar stepped in.
"Ok, calm down you two. Look, we found you near here, I can tell you all the story, but I have to agree with my friend, it's cold and we have to get in motion." That made sense.
"But why the ropes?"
"You were unconscious when we found you. I wanted to bind your hands and feet too, to be on the safe side, but Hadvar only made sure you wouldn't fall over the horse."
"I believed that if she were to wake up and found herself handcuffed she would freak out!"
"And that worked so well, didn't it?"
"Enough! Shut up! Fine, I will trust you, just help me get on the animal."
"Finally! I hate this weather."
While the legate got back on his horse, Hadvar helped Louise to mount theirs.
"So, tell me your name, I don't think you want us to keep calling you 'girl'."
"My name is Louise Fra... eh, Louise"
She wasn't really comfortable telling them her full name, if these soldiers truly didn't know who she really was maybe she could convince them to let her go once she knew the way back to Tristain.
"Family name?" The voice of the legate surprised her.
"Wha-What do you mean?"
"You are a noble, aren't you? Tell me your family name."
"You know? How do you know?!"
"If you were trying to hide that fact, you were terrible at doing so. Your posture is too straight, your clothes look too expensive, and one of the first things you asked me was if I was a noble. Would you feel safer among your equals?" Fasendil asked with some bitterness in his voice.
"I, yes, but... *sigh*, yes I would. My name is Louise Francoise Le Blanc de la Valliére"
"Well, that's a mouthful."
"Louise Francoise sounds Breton, from Wayrest maybe? But I never heard of the Valliére family. "
"What?! How could you not? We are one of the most prominent families of Tristain!"
"You said Tristain?"
"You two do not know of the Kingdom of Tristain? In what kind of place in the middle of nowhere am I if you have never heard of Tristain?"
"How you dare!? That kingdom of yours surely is so insignificant it doesn't even appear on maps!"
"You crude dog, I would be surprised if you could even read maps!"
"And what are you laughing about?"
At some point of their exchange Hadvar had started laughing animatedly. His amusement only grew when both Louise and Fasendil managed to ask the same thing at the same time.
"You have that effect on everyone, don't you Fasendil?
"So, Louise, ever hear of Skyrim, Cyrodiil, Morrowind? The Empire?"
"What Empire? Germania?."
"Germanian Empire? Doesn't ring a bell."
"Then I can't say I recognize any of those names."
"Tell me girl, ever heard of a place called Tamriel?" The legate might be bad-mannered, but seemed something had occurred him.
"Do you know how you ended up here?"
"I'm not sure, why? Where did you find me?"
"Maybe it's more a matter of 'how'." Answered Hadvar, "Fasendil and I are legionnaires, we were escorting some prisoners when we heard a big explosion; we offered to come and investigate, just in case there were enemies around. We found you in the center of a circle of scorched land."
"Do you remember what you were doing before appearing here?"
"I'm not really sure. I was in the Academy of Magic and... mmm... Wait! I remember now! It was the day of the Springtime Summoning Ritual! When we summon… our... familiars... Oh Founder." That made too much sense! Of course something so ridiculous could happen only to her! Barely holding the tears, she pressed her face against the coat to contain her cries.
"You were trying to summon a familiar? Yes, yes, that has some unfortunate implications."
"A familiar? What does it has to do with anything? I see the mages always playing with those silly things."
"For the love of the eight, I dearly hope someone skins the one that came up with that stupid spell. Girl, Louise, tell me if I am right: a familiar, a proper one that is, is a creature summoned with the help of a series of complex rituals to act as the lifetime companion and protector of the mage, isn't it?"
Louise just nodded with her head, too busy sobbing.
"Nice to know some schools still teach that. And so, Hadvar, if the spell she was casting was trying to summon a creature to her location and it failed..."
"Yes, 'oh', her home could be on the other side of Nirn for all that we know. But I must say that, all in all, a summoning spell that works backwards is among the most benign outcomes you could expect, I remember this apprentice that summoned a shark but failed to close the portal properly and died of drowning, or that other one that managed to open a portal to the Shivering Islands; he never got over it."
"You are not helping!"
"It wasn't my intention to."
"So, that's it! I failed! And I failed so bad that I managed to send myself to this Founder forsaken place. And I'm sure you didn't even know of the Founder, do you? Figures. My life couldn't get worse."
"I see them."
Finally raising her head after some ten minutes of silent riding, Louise saw the group the legionnaires belonged to. There was a long procession of carts, easily around twenty, each one carrying between four to eight prisoners, all carefully bounded. Each cart was escorted by as many soldiers as passengers, all wearing armors similar to Hadvar´s.
The only different one was the cart directly in the middle of the formation, guarded by easily thrice as many soldiers. But these ones were different, they didn't wear the light leather armors of their companions, no, they were fully covered in metal armors, more similar to Fasendil´s. Whoever they were keeping watch on, was dangerous.
As the three riders got closer to the front of the line Louise could see there were women among the guards. That was striking, as in Tristain even with tales of the Heavy Wind, female warriors were virtually unheard of. She felt strangely satisfied with that.
"Who is that man?" Asked Louise, pointing at the one leading the procession.
"That's General Tullius, Commander of the Legion forces here in Skyrim."
General Tullius was a man that should have been in his mid-fifties, if his white hair was any indication. Muscular and his armor carefully decorated, Louise assumed she had finally found a noble that could help her. But a general? What was a general doing warding some bandits?
"Why is a general…?"
"Legate, report!" At some point, and without Louise noticing, one of the women accompanying Tullius had lowered the march to catch up with her and her companions.
"We found the source of the disturbance Captain. The girl here is a mage, suffered some form of accident and ended up teleported here."
"And you believed her? How do you know she isn't here for Ulfric?"
"I don't think so madam, she would be dead now if we hadn't found her. Besides, she is not a Nord, I doubt they would want her in their ranks."
Without paying much attention to the legate's words the captain directed her gaze to Hadvar and the young girl. If Louise believed Fasendil had a stern expression, this woman looked like she could defeat a dragon in a staring contest. She actually reminded her of her mother.
"I still don't like it. Soldier, take her away from the formation, I won't let anything go wrong today."
Tired and still depressed, Louise didn't want to complain.
"Of course captain."
While they slowly rode away, the legate returned to what, Louise assumed, was his original position alongside the general.
"A woman hard to please, isn't she?"
"Seems strict. That's a good thing."
"Well, yes, but you are lucky she didn't just decide to throw you on one of the carts too."
"Wait, what? Could she have done that? I'm a foreign noble, she can't do that!"
"The thing is, she wouldn't care. Look, Louise, we are all nervous here, none of us want anything to go wrong, not now."
Louise remained silent; now that she looked at them, the soldiers did look grim, taking fleeting glances over their shoulders as if expecting to be ambushed at any moment.
"Why? What is so special about these bandits?"
"These are not bandits Louise, they are Stormcloaks, rebels that started the civil war months ago. Just some hours ago we captured their leader, Ulfric. This is the best chance we have to finish the war."
"Reconquista, a group of nobles that started a civil war in Albion, one of our neighboring kingdoms. It's still going on."
"I guess we have that in common."
Thinking about her home and without knowing how much time would pass before she could return, Louise terminated that conversation.
The sight of Helgen was certainly impressive, nothing in comparison to the biggest Tristanian cities, like the capital or even the port of La Rochelle in Gallia, but it was an imposing construction without doubt. More fortress than town, it had been carved on the side of the nearby mountains.
"What will happen to me now?"
"I will leave you at the local inn, the owner is called Vilod, he is a good man. Tell him that I sent you and stay there."
"And then what? I can't just remain alone inside a tavern."
"Don't worry, after we are done I will take you to one of our mages, they can help you with figuring out what happened to you."
"Good to know."
Crossing the wooden gates Louise could see there were many commoners surrounding the streets, all of them contemplating in silence the march of the legionnaires.
Hadvar rode towards a nearby building. A sign spelling 'Helgen Homestead' hung outside the door.
"This is it. Stay here with Vilod until I arrange what to do with you. Watch out."
Louise descended from the steed she had been sharing with the man and looked with some doubt at the sorry state of her current accommodations. She wanted to complain, but Hadvar was already gone.
It was understandable that the plebeians didn't share the same establishments that nobles did, but would some decency be so out of question? The front door didn't close properly, the chairs that she could see from the windows looked extremely uncomfortable, some parts of the ceiling were missing and the least she knew about the smell coming from the inside, the better.
A freezing breeze made Louise shiver. Once again she had to be grateful for the coat Hadvar had given her.
It was Hadvar's, wasn't it? Now that she thought about it she had never asked the man about it, but she doubted it belonged to Fasendil, the legate wouldn't find any goodness in his heart to help anyone, not even a fellow magician.
Before accepting her fate and entering the building, the sound of a child's voice from a nearby house distracted her.
"Who are they, daddy? Where are they going?"
"You need to go inside, little cub."
"Why? I want to watch the soldiers."
"Inside the house. Now."
And Louise decided that, yes, she did want to see the soldiers. When the next best option was staying inside that watering hole, there wasn't much to think about.
So, tightening the fur cloak around her body, she followed the road Hadvar had taken.
The town was almost deserted now, at least of civilians, as the legionaries took over the streets making sure to keep a close eye on everything suspicious. Suspicious like, for example, a sixteen year old girl (she had been very clear about that), trying to gain entrance to the keep's plaza. A girl who had, incidentally, pink hair and a big mouth.
"No? What do you mean with no?"
"You are not allowed to pass, authorized personnel only"
The sentry, a Red Guard descendant named Avik, really didn't have time for this. It was bad enough that he had been given the very important, very stressful job of guarding the main entry to the chopping plaza in case some rebel scum tried to enter. He didn't want to deal with spoiled midgets too.
"Don't you know who you are talking to?"
"Blah, blah, blah Valliére blah, blah, blah noble blah, blah, blah ' I DON'T FUCKING CARE. Even in Hammerfell they heard you! Now clear the street or I am throwing you in the nearest cell I can find!"
Reluctantly Louise decided she didn't have the time to deal with that stubborn mule.
"Coarse, ignorant, vulgar, dog! How does he dare to talk to me like that?"
Making her way around the stone walls she found a quiet and secluded corner to sit down, next to what seemed to be a collection of construction equipment. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea, what was the point of all this anyway?
'I should just get back. That inn can't be that bad. But I wouldn't know anyone there! Hadvar or even the legate would be better company.'
Resigned, Louise tried to stand up to return to that Vilod's place, but found herself back on the ground when her coat got tangled with something.
"Stupid thing" She muttered. Turning to try and free it, and took the chance to finally pay attention to over what she had been sitting on.
"He he he he"
No one could say that a Valliére didn't get what she wanted.
"That girl is an idiot."
"What was that legate?"
"Nothing madam, I just noticed that we lack sentries on our western walls."
"The general sent them to the palisades to act as early warning."
"That doesn't sound very sensible."
"With most of the men searching the outskirts for Stormcloaks we lack full personnel. Worst case scenario we will know with enough time if we are under attack. Besides, we have enough archers here to fill Ulric with arrows if something goes wrong."
"Fair enough, but I will go and check just in case"
"Don't wander for too long, we are about to begin"
"Don't worry captain, I wouldn't dare to miss it."
It was such a brilliant plan, one could say even foolproof. With all the guards waiting for an attack from the outside, she would be free to sneak in. Finding that ladder had been incredibly fortuitous, so after putting it against the wall (damn it was heavy!) she climbed inside the keep.
She ended some five meters above the ground, but using some catwalks and then some bushes as cushions Louise managed to get to ground level next to a tall wooden building, an armory maybe?
Walking as quietly as she possibly could Louise managed to get behind some barrels at the edge of the plaza.
"All present and accounted for, Sir."
That was Hadvar. She had found him! She could also see the rebels, why were they there in the middle of the place? They should be locked away already. If she could just get a little clos…
"You are a complete idiot you know."
What? Fasendil! How could he have found her? She had been so sneaky.
"And damn lucky on top of that. Now I am going to pull off my hand and I want you to remain quiet, understood?"
"I said quiet."
Louise just nodded with her head.
"Good," Fasendil pulled Louise behind the building she had landed next to, so no one could see them, and with a stare he froze her in place, "So, tell me, do you have the least idea of what you almost did?"
Louise vigorously shook her head from side to side.
"Of course you don't. We are here to execute the greatest traitor of the Fourth Era and a stupid child is about to make everyone freak out."
These men, they weren't going to be imprisoned? They were going to be executed? For the briefest of moments her eyes wandered to the sky. And she saw movement.
"Ulfric Stormcloak. Some here in Helgen call you a hero." Louise heard a distant voice talking. "But a Hero doesn't use a power like the Voice to murder his king and usurp his throne"
"Shut up. I haven't stopped talking. If I hadn't found you first you would be dead, besides…" He kept speaking, but Louise was no longer paying attention, because at that moment her concentration was focused on the sky behind Fasendil, and the shadow flying around it "Pay attention, you moron!"
"There was a dragon there."
"What? You pretend I…"
"What was that?" Louise heard someone asking.
"Nothing of concern. Priestess, carry on"
Did she hear it right? Priestess? That meant they were administering the final rites to the condemned!
'Dear Founder, I don't want to be here, don't want to see those people die.'
"Stay here and don't move, I will try fix your mess when we finish here."
And he left her there, alone. Her body concealed behind some crates. Desperately trying to not think too hard about the awful place she was.
'I should have stayed, why I didn't listen? Idiot, idiot, idiot. Why do I have to ruin everything I do?'
"As we commend your souls to Aetherius, blessings of the Eight Divines upon you, for you are the salt and earth of Nirn, our beloved..."
"For the love of Talos, shut up and let's get this over with."
"As you wish."
'What? No, please, no. Are they starting early atop all things?'
She closed her eyes as hard as she could. Covered her ears. And waited.
That man, the one that had interrupted the priestess, was he already dead? How much time would it take? She started to hyperventilate. Would it be safe to listen?
Louise slowly uncovered her ears.
The axe striking, and then the sound of a small object hitting the ground.
'He was a rebel, a traitor! He was a sinner in the eyes of men and God, killing him was the right thing to do!'
Louise kept repeating those words, as tears ran across her cheeks.
"Well," Someone continued, Louise no longer caring who that was, "Let's get to the main event. Ulfric Stormcloak!"
The rebel leader, the assassin of kings, he who had sent brothers to kill brothers. Louise needed to see him, needed to see how a monster like that looked.
Slowly Louise rose from behind her covers, just barely enough to take a quick peek.
Was that him? The one she saw walking towards the executioner didn't look like a barbarian, a demon of black heart as so many of the books she had read pictured villains like him. He, Ulfric, looked even handsome, with clean hair and a well maintained beard. With the fine clothes he was wearing Ulfric wouldn't look out of place in the Tristanian court. Why had he been gagged? Were the Imperials so afraid of him that they wouldn't even give him the right of a last word? If he was a noble, even a traitor, that should be basic courtesy!
Louise turned her head skyward, alongside most of the assembly. That had been louder than last time.
"There it is again."
"It's nothing, Carry on!"
One of the legionnaires grabbed Ulfric and forced his head down onto the execution block. From her position, Louise had a clear view of it. She was too focused to see Fasendil making his way next to Tullius.
"General, that sound…"
"Not now Legate!"
"I must insist, sir."
"Then take it to Alliana! Carry on!"
Soon it would be over. The war would be over. It was so close!
Ulfric had his head over the execution block.
The headman raised his axe.
"What in Oblivion is that?!"
Then all hell broke loose.
A/N: So, it finally happened, after having this story in my head for more than a year I decided to sit down and start writing. This is my first story, ever, so criticism will be welcome.
I hope you enjoyed my first chapter as much I enjoyed writing it and stay tune for chapter 2.