Chapter 1: Unbound
2 days later…
Orion woke up. He was in a cart. His hands were bound and the rest of his belongings were gone. All he had on were beggar’s rags. “Hey you, you're finally awake! You were trying to cross the border right? Walked right into that Imperial Ambush, same as us and that thief over there” Ralof told him. “Yes I remember now, Why am I here?” Orion asked him. “The Empire thought you were one of us, even though I told those Imperial Soldiers you weren’t with us but they just grabbed you” Ralof replied. “Damn you Stormcloaks, Skyrim was fine until you came along, the empire was nice and lazy. If they hadn’t been looking for you, I could’ve stolen that horse and been halfway to hammerfell! You there you and me we shouldn’t be here! It’s these Stormcloaks the empire wants” The horse thief said. “We’re all brothers and sisters in binds now thief!” Ralof said to the horse thief. “Seems that way to the Empire” Orion said to Ralof. “Shut up back there!” The Imperial Soldier driving the cart barked at them. Lokir looked at the bound and gagged Ulfric Stormcloak that sat to the right of Orion and asked “And what’s wrong with him huh?” Ralof looked insulted and snapped “Watch your tongue! You’re Speaking to Ulfric Stormcloak, The true High King!” Lokir was shocked as was Orion. Orion would’ve normally called Ulfric a traitor but now if he did then he’d be calling himself a traitor and a hypocrite as they were both prisoners of the Empire so he remained silent not knowing what to say.
The horse thief however was a bit more shocked than Orion. “Ulfric? The Jarl of Windhelm? You’re the leader of the Rebellion. But if they’ve captured you… Oh gods, where are they taking us?” He said with fear. “I don’t know where we’re going but Sovngarde awaits,” Ralof said. “Indeed, an eternity of meeting our ancestors, and feasting and mead.” Orion replied. The horse thief started to panic a little bit “no this can’t be happening this isn’t happening” he said. “Hey what village are you from horse thief?” Ralof asked him. “Why do you care?” Lokir replied. “A nord’s last thoughts should be of home.” As Ralof said this, Orion thought of his home in Bruma, how peaceful his life had been. Earning a name for himself by doing bounties for the count. Keeping out of trouble. And… his mother. Lokir was thinking of his home as well and he replied “Rorikstead… I’m I’m from Rorikstead.” Orion could see that they were approaching a town. An Imperial soldier standing on top of the gate said “General Tullius Sir, The Headsman is waiting!”. Tullius who was ahead of them responded “Good, let’s get this over with!”. Lokir started to panic even more and said “Shor, Mara, Dibella, Kynareth, Akatosh. Divines, please help me!”. Orion made a prayer of his own “Mighty Talos, if you can hear me please spare my life, and even if this is supposed to be my death, then give my mother peace so she can live knowing that I can be in Sovngarde”. Ralof looked at him but said nothing and thought “This man must be a fellow Talos worshipper too.”
They then entered the town. Orion then saw General Tullius on his horse negotiating with… The Thalmor. Ralof looked at Tullius and remarked “Look at him, General Tullius, the Military Governor. And it looks like the Thalmor are with him. Damn elves. I bet they had something to do with this”. Orion cursed the Thalmor then asked Ralof “Where are we anyways?”. Ralof, recognizing the town from his youth, replied “This is Helgen. I used to be sweet to a girl from here. Wonder if Vilod is still making that mead with juniper berries mixed in. Funny, when I was a boy, Imperial walls and towers used to make me feel so safe.” “Same here, I always felt safe with the Empire, now that they are about to kill me, I’m unsure” Orion replied. Ralof looked at Orion and thought “There’s more to this man than meets the eye, perhaps later I can get to know him better”.
They then looked at a conversation between a boy and his father. The boy wanted to watch the soldiers but the father didn’t let him. “I guess the father doesn’t want his son to see what is about to happen,” Orion said. “I suppose that’s true, war can do terrible things to you if you aren’t ready” Ralof replied. Orion then saw more Imperial Soldiers gather around and saw a captain and a priest standing at the block. “Get these prisoners out of the carts! Move it!” She ordered. “Why are we stopping?” Lokir asked, a little shaken. “Why do you think? End of the line?” Ralof replied as the answer was quite obvious.
The Cart stopped and Ralof said to Orion “Let’s go, we shouldn't keep the gods waiting for us”. “Indeed, for if we delay our deaths, then what honor is there in that?” Orion replied as they got up and stepped out of the cart. Lokir however wasn’t as brave and said “No! Wait! We’re not rebels!”. Ralof replied with honor “Face your death with some courage, thief”. Lokir looked at Ralof and shouted “You’ve got to tell them we weren’t with you, this is a mistake!”. The Captain then ordered the prisoners “Step toward the block when we call your name. One at a time!” Ralof then said “Empire loves their damn lists!”. Hadvar then started calling out the names starting with Ulfric. “Ulfric Stormcloak, Jarl of Windhelm” Hadvar called. Ulfric then proceeded to the execution area. Ralof then called out after Ulfric “It’s been an honor, Jarl Ulfric”. Hadvar then called out the next person to be executed, “Ralof of Riverwood”. Ralof then proceeded to the execution area. Hadvar then called out the next person to be executed, “Lokir of Rorikstead”. Lokir however was by now full on panicking as he shouted “No! I’m Not a rebel, you can’t do this!” and began to run away. The Imperial Captain ordered him to halt. Lokir responded with “you’re not going to kill me!”. The Captain then shouted “Archers!”. Then two Imperial Archers fired arrows at Lokir. They both hit and Lokir fell to the ground dead. “Anyone else feel like running?” She asked threateningly.
Hadvar then saw Orion and told him “Wait. You there. Step Forward”. Orion then walked up to Hadvar and the captain. Hadvar then asked “Who are you?” “I’m Orion Beo-Wulf”. Hadvar then saw that he was a Nord and told him “You picked a bad time to come home to Skyrim Kinsman”. “Why? Because of the War?” Orion asked. “Yes,” Hadvar said. “Look! I wasn’t with the rebels. I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. I never intended any harm to anyone, I actually came here to Skyrim to join you and the Legion and help end this Civil War, you have to believe me!” Orion said. Hadvar was unsure where to go on this but he had this gut instinct that this man was telling the truth. “Captain, what should we do? He’s not on the list.” Hadvar asked just to make sure what he should do.
Orion hoped they would let him go as he strongly supported them and the idea of Skyrim remaining united with the Empire. The Captain however didn’t believe Orion and told Hadvar “Forget the list, he goes to the block.” Hadvar obeyed and responded “By your orders Captain.” “So” Orion said, “this is how the empire does things around here, by calling whoever the nine they like a traitor and killing them” Hadvar then with regret told Orion “I’m Sorry, At least you’ll die here in your homeland.” “Well at least you're reasonable,” Orion said. “Follow the captain prisoner,” Hadvar said as the captain walked toward the execution block.
Orion followed her and joined the rest of the rebels. He then saw Ulfric Stormcloak at the front as General Tullius was standing in front of him like a king is to his servant. He said “Ulfric Stormcloak. Some here in Helgen call you a hero. But a hero doesn't use a power like The Voice to murder his king and usurp his throne.” Ulfric tried to say something but he was gagged so all everyone heard was a grunt. Tullius continued “You started this war, plunged Skyrim into chaos, and now the Empire is going to put you down, and restore the peace.” Then there was a distant roar distracting everyone. Orion didn’t know what it was. Hadvar was thinking the same thing and asked “What was that?” Tullius shrugged it off and said “It’s nothing, carry on.” “Yes, General Tullius!” The Captain said and then said to the Priest “Give them their last rites.” The Priest who Orion saw that she was a priest of Arkay then said "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!” A Stormcloak soldier interrupted as he stepped up to the block. “As you wish,” the priestess said.
The Imperial Captain then walked up to the block. “Come on! I haven’t got all morning!” The Imperial Captain then nodded to the Imperial Headsmen and forced the Stormcloak to his knees and put his head on the block. The Stormcloak then mocked the Imperials by saying “My ancestors are smiling at me, Imperials. Can you say the same?" The Headsmen then brought the axe down and beheaded the Stormcloak. Orion then saw one of the stormcloaks standing next to him insult “You Imperial Bastards!” He also heard two other citizens shout “Justice!” and “Death to the Stormcloaks!” Ralof however looked at the dead Stormcloak and said honorably “As fearless in death as he was in life.”
The Imperial Captain then shouted “Next the Nord in the Rags!” Orion knew she was referring to him. Then Orion heard that same distant roar from before. The roar distracted everyone else again as well and unsettled Orion and Hadvar even more. “There it is again, did you hear that?” Hadvar asked. “I said, Next Prisoner!” The Captain barked. “To the block prisoner, nice and easy, I’m sorry you got mixed up in this mess.” Hadvar said in a more comforting tone. “It’s not your fault,” Orion said as he stepped up to the block. He was then forced on his knees. “It’s all over, finally Sovngarde!” Orion thought to himself.
Just then he heard the roar for the third time and saw something moving through the air towards them. “What in Oblivion is that?!” Tullius shouted. “Sentries, what do you see?” The Captain asked. Then an Imperial Soldier said “it’s in the clouds!” as the thing landed on the tower behind them. “Dragon!” A stormcloak soldier shouted, panicking. Then the Dragon shouted something and then suddenly the sky was full of meteors. “Don’t just stand there! Kill that thing! Guards get the townspeople to safety!” General Tullius shouted as the Dragon then shouted again and killed the headsmen and forced Orion on the ground and back a few feet right as the headsman's axe was about to chop Orion’s head off. Orion then felt an arm grab him and helped him up. It was Ralof as he said “Hey Kinsman. Get up! Come on, the gods won’t give us another chance!”
Then he ran towards a tower behind them and said to Orion “This Way!” as Orion followed him inside. Inside he saw Ulfric and a few other stormcloaks who were all unbound. “Ralof, you’re alive! Thank Talos!” Ulfric said happy to see him. “Jarl Ulfric! What is that thing? Could the legends be true?” Ralof asked him. Ulfric replied “Legends don’t burn down villages!” then asked “Who is this?” not knowing who Orion was. Ralof explained “One of the other prisoners, the Empire thought he was with us.” Ulfric then recognized him as the man who wandered into the ambush and said to Orion “Well friend, I’d ask you to join the Rebellion, but we’re all too busy staying alive right now.” “Yes, and if that thing wasn’t there, I’d actually consider joining since the Empire basically ordered my execution.” Orion replied. The tower then shook a little bit and Ulfric shouted “we need to move now!” Ralof then told Orion “Up through the tower let’s go!” and they both went up the stairs. They then encountered some stones blocking the stairs and saw a stormcloak say “We just need to move some of these rocks to clear the way!” Then a part of the wall in the tower gave way as the Dragon broke through and breathed fire through the opening at the Stormcloak, killing him instantly. “Get back!” Ralof shouted as he and Orion backed away. Ralof then went to the open space and after looking at the dead Stormcloak with sorrow, told Orion “See that inn on the other side? Jump through the roof and keep going!” “Are you mad?!” Orion asked. “Go! We’ll follow when we can!” Ralof said as he went back down the stairs to reunite with Ulfric and the other Stormcloaks.
Orion then saw that there was no other way and sprinted and jumped through the opening in the tower towards the inn. He landed in the upper room and then jumped down through a crack and exited the inn. Ralof meanwhile, went back down stairs and reunited with Ulfric and the other Stormcloaks and said to Ulfric “My Lord, our friend made the jump from here to the other side in the inn.” “Ralof, go you need to find a way out of here.” Ulfric said. “Jarl Ulfric, are you sure?” Ralof asked. “Yes, we’ll catch up when everyone’s recovered. Now go!” Ulfric replied. “Yes my Lord” Ralof said as he ran outside the tower to try to regroup with Orion.
As Orion made it out of the inn, he caught up with Hadvar, an old man and the boy from earlier talking to his dying father. “Haming, you need to get over here! Now!” Hadvar shouted. “Torolf, talk some sense into your kid! You need to get over here now!” The old man shouted. “Get up Papa! Get up!” Haming pleaded to his father Torolf. “I’m done for the little cub, go run for it!” Torolf replied. “What are you doing? Get off the road! Get off the road boy!” The old man shouted. Haming then ran over toward Hadvar and the old man. “That’s it son! Make me Proud!” Torolf said. “That a boy! You’re doing great” Hadvar encouraged. Then the dragon landed right in front of Torolf. “gods! everyone get back!” Hadvar shouted as they all ran back behind a burnt house. Then the dragon shouted and burnt Torolf to a large crisp. Haming stood there looking at his father’s dead body. “I’m sorry,” Orion told him.
Hadvar then saw Orion and said to him “Still alive Prisoner? Keep close to me if you want to stay that way!” Hadvar said. “Thank the Nine you’re here Hadvar!” Orion said. “We need to keep moving!” Hadvar said as he turned to the old man and told him “Gunnar! Take care of the boy! I need to find General Tullius and join the defense!” “gods guide you Hadvar!” Gunnar said to Hadvar. “Follow me Prisoner!” Hadvar said to Orion. “Right behind you!” Orion replied. They ran for some time before the Dragon swooped on a wall above them. “Stay Close to the wall!” Hadvar said as he and Orion stuck to the wall. The Dragon then shouted fire at an Imperial Soldier who died instantly. After a few more minutes of running both Hadvar and Orion found General Tullius along with other wounded citizens. Tullius, who realized they were fighting a battle with this Dragon he could not win, then saw Hadvar and told him “Hadvar! Into the keep soldier! We’re leaving!” “It’s you and me Prisoner! Stay close!” Hadvar told Orion. “Right behind you!” Orion said. They then made it to the keep where they saw that Ralof had caught up with them. Hadvar was furious “Ralof! You damned traitor! Out of my way!” He shouted. “We’re escaping Hadvar! You’re not stopping us this time!” Ralof replied in an equal tone. “Fine! I hope that Dragon takes you all to Sovngarde!” They then ran to separate entrances of the keep.
Orion then had to make a choice: To go with the one Imperial soldier who actually had reason and common sense and who knew he wasn’t a stormcloak. Or to go with one of his fellow prisoners whom they both have something in common and who also told the Imperials he wasn’t a Stormcloak. Orion had to make a choice quickly. “Ralof! Wait up!” Orion said as he ran to the middle entrance. Ralof then smiled humbly as he held the door open for Orion as they both left Hadvar to his fate and entered the keep together.
As they ran to the middle of the room, Ralof then looked down at one of his fallen Stormcloak and said sadly “We’ll meet again in Sovngarde brother.” “I’m sorry for your loss Ralof” Orion said. “He died honorably,” Ralof said. “Good. Are we the only ones left?” Orion asked. “Looks like we’re the only ones who made it.” Ralof replied. “What was that thing?” Orion asked. “That thing was a Dragon. No doubt. Just like the childrens’ stories and the legends. The Harbingers of the End Times.” Ralof replied. “The stories are true then? I’ve heard of the stories back in Bruma but only believed them to be myths.” Orion thought. “We’d better keep moving, come here. Let me see if I can get those bindings off.” Ralof told Orion. “Thank the Nine I came with you Ralof.” Orion said. “Well, you made that choice, my friend and you made the damn right one” Ralof replied as he took out a dagger and then cut off Orion’s bindings. “There you go, you may as well take Gunjar’s gear, he won’t be needing it anymore.” Ralof said. “Right,” Orion said as he took the armor and the axe. “Alright, get that armor on and give that axe a few swings. I’m going to see if I can find some way out of here.” Ralof said. “Right, you do that,” Orion said as he put on the Stormcloak armor and gave the axe a few practice swings. “Is that door a way out?” Orion asked. “This one’s locked, let’s see about that gate.” Ralof said as he went to the gate opposite the door. “Damn, no way to open this from our side.” Ralof said. “And there’s no other way out of here?” Orion asked. “No there’s no other way out of here that doesn’t lead back to that Dragon.” Ralof then replied.
They then heard a gate open and heard footsteps. It was the Imperial Captain that had ordered his execution along with another Imperial Soldier. “Come on Soldier! Keep moving!” She shouted as they ran towards them. “It’s the Imperials! Take Cover!” Ralof said. “No need to ask me twice” Orion replied as they hid on opposite sides behind the gate. “Get this gate open!” She ordered. The Imperial Soldier obeyed and pulled the chain and opened the gate and walked through. Orion then attacked the Captain while Ralof attacked the other Soldier leaving Orion to get his revenge. “It’s the escaped Prisoners! Soldier! Get them!” The Captain ordered. “Yes Ma’am!” The Soldier replied. “Die Imperial Scum!” Orion shouted as he killed the Captain. Ralof then made quick work of the other Soldier. “Serves her right eh?” Ralof said as they finished them off. “Indeed, for her brash decisions have declared me an enemy, and who am I to prove her wrong?” Orion replied. “Once we get out of here, I will definitely like to get to know this man better.” Ralof thought. “Now what?” Orion asked. “Maybe one of these Imperials had the key.” Ralof replied. Orion checked the Imperial Soldier’s body while Ralof checked the Imperial Captain’s body. “Nothing here. Any Luck?” Orion asked. “Here we are. Found a key. Let’s see if it opens that door.” Ralof said as he picked up a key from the Captain’s corpse. Orion followed Ralof to the other side of the room. Ralof tried the key on the door and it fit. “That’s it! Come on! Let’s get out of here before the Dragon brings the whole tower down on our heads!” Ralof said. “Right behind you!” Orion replied. Ralof went through the door and down a staircase and Orion followed close behind.
They then saw some Stormcloaks up ahead. “Some more Stormcloaks!” Orion said. But then the Dragon roared and the pathway ahead of them collapsed. Ralof ran up to the rubble and said “Damn, that Dragon doesn’t give up easily.” “Maybe we can get out through that door,” Orion said. “Worth a try, let’s go!” Ralof said. “Right behind you!” Orion replied. They then heard two voices in the room. They sounded like Imperials. “Grab everything important and let’s move!!! Dragon’s burning everything to the ground!” One ordered. “I just need to gather some more potions.” The other said. “Freedom or Sovngarde!” Orion shouted as he attacked one of the Imperials. “Stormcloaks! Get them!” The first Imperial ordered. Ralof attacked the other Imperial. It wasn’t long before they both were dead. “Better think twice before executing an innocent man!” Orion shouted. “A storeroom, see if you can find some potions, we’ll need them.” Ralof said. Orion looked around the room and found a few potions in a barrel and some other potions on a shelf. “I found these, they will definitely come in handy” Orion said. “Done? Let’s get moving.” Ralof replied as he opened a door and continued down deeper into the keep.
They soon reached another room. “Trolls blood! It’s a torture room!” Ralof said. “By the Nine! The Empire ought to at least show a little respect for their Prisoners!” Orion replied. Orion and Ralof then saw a torturer and his assistant torturing two Stormcloaks. Orion attacked the torturer while Ralof attacked the assistant. “Stormcloaks! Get them!” The Torturer ordered his assistant. Orion sliced off the head of the torturer while Ralof killed the other. They saved both of the Stormcloaks. “Thank Talos you two showed up. Thank you for helping us,” one of the Stormcloaks said. “No need to thank us, we’re just looking out for each other,” Orion replied. “Was Jarl Ulfric with you?” Ralof asked. “No, I haven’t seen him since the Dragon showed up.” The other Stormcloak replied. “We’d best stick together in case we run into more Imperials.” the first Stormcloak said. “Of course, the more the merrier.” Orion said. “Wait a second… Looks like there’s something in this cage.” Ralof said as he ran up to one of the cages. “What’s inside?” Orion asked. “Ah, it’s locked. See if you can get it open with some picks. We’ll need that gold once we get out.” Ralof told Orion as he handed Orion a set of 12 lockpicks. “Thanks Ralof,” Orion said as he started to unlock the cage. He got it open and found a dead mage along with some Septims, some more potions, and a spell tome for lightning.
Orion then ran and caught up with Ralof and the others. “Found these in the cage,” Orion said as he showed him the items he found. “Why don’t you keep them, you need more than I do, come on we should keep moving” Ralof said. “Right, let’s go, come on guys” Orion told the other two Stormcloaks. As they moved deeper into the fort, they heard more Imperial Soldiers. “Orders are to wait here until General Tullius arrives,” One said. “I’m not waiting to be killed by a Dragon, we need to fall back!” Another Imperial pleaded. Orion then attacked the Imperials on the high path while Ralof and the other two Stormcloaks attacked the other Imperials. They made quick work of them. “Let’s go on ahead, see if the way is clear,” Ralof said. “We’ll keep watch here in case Ulfric comes through. May Talos guide the both of you,” The Female Stormcloak said. “Thank you, may Talos guide you as well.” Orion replied.
Orion and Ralof then encountered a drawbridge. “Let’s see where this goes.” Ralof said as he pulled the lever. “Right, Let’s go!” Orion said as he followed Ralof across the bridge. Once they both reached the other side, the Dragon roared once more and a huge boulder fell and crushed the bridge, preventing them from going back. “No going back that way now. We better push on, the rest of them will have to find another way out.” Ralof said. They went deeper into the cave until they reached a dead end. Hmmm “That doesn’t go anywhere.” Ralof said. “I just saw another path back there.” Orion said. “Good idea. I guess we’d better try this way.” Ralof said as he took the path. Orion followed him. They then encountered a Spider’s Nest with many Frostbite Spiders. “Why in the Nine Divines are these things in Helgen?!” Orion said to himself as he attacked them. Ralof reading his thoughts responded “Well knowing the Empire, they probably let these things live.” They then killed them all. “I hate those damn things. Too many eyes you know?” Ralof said. “I swear, those things gave me nightm “Let’s keep moving!” Ralof said as he continued on.
Orion followed him deeper into the cave. Ralof then crouched. “Hold up, there’s a bear just ahead. See her?” “Yes, be ready for a fight.” Orion said. “I’d rather not tangle with her. We might be able to sneak by. Just take it nice and slow and watch where you step. Or if you’re feeling lucky, you can take this bow. Might take her by surprise.” Ralof said, handing Orion a bow. “Go ahead. I’ll follow your lead and watch your back.” Ralof said. “Right, let’s go,” Orion said, crouching and beginning to sneak. Ralof followed him. The bear then woke up. Orion and Ralof quickly continued sneaking. The bear then fell back asleep. “Whew. That was close,” Ralof said. “I thought we were goners,” Orion said. “Yes, it seems the Nine are favoring us today.” Ralof said. They then saw the exit to the cave up ahead. “That looks like the way out. I knew we’d make it!” Ralof said. “Thank the Nine! I thought we were going to be stuck here forever!” Orion said. They then exited the cave into the open daylight.