Chapter 1: The Crash and The Flames
There was fire everywhere. Violent flames rode up the hard brick walls and along the ceiling. Bronn’s father lay in front of the lord’s chair with his face against the floor, a pool of blood surrounding his torso and a steel dagger wedged in his spine. A man in a black cloak stood above him.
Bronn struggled to move toward him, but Bruccius’ hands pulled him back out of the fire. The man in the cloak pulled the dagger out of Bronn’s father and wiped it off on his father’s head. The man turned to exit out the window, but caught Bronn’s eye as his brother dragged him out the door. The man’s hood covered most of his face, his eyes and nose but a shadow.
Before the man turned away, Bronn saw it: a flicker of white teeth and an evil grin.
The sound of the horse’s hooves against the cold ground woke Bronn from his brief sleep. A light snow had fallen on the lands of Skyrim, and the delicate flakes melted on top of his shaven head and sent a shiver down his spine. The soldiers had stripped him of his helmet and all his other belongings when they had taken him. The carriage bumped along the stony path, and 3 other men, bound as he was, sat around him.
“Hey, you! You’re finally awake,” said a blonde-haired Nord seated across from him. “You were trying to cross the border, right? You walked right into that imperial ambush. Same as us, and that thief over there…”
The thief had rags for clothes and mud and ash stained his white face. The thief gave the Nord an angry look and then looked at Bronn.
Bronn didn’t so much as grunt in reply. He was indeed crossing into Skyrim, but a stranger needn’t know that. The less anyone knew about him the better, not that it mattered now.
“What’s wrong with him, huh?” The thief gestured to Bronn’s right and it was only then that hr noticed another man next to him.
“Watch your tongue.” The Nord warned. “That’s Ulfric Stormcloak, true high king of Skyrim!”
“The Jarl of Windhelm?” The thief uttered, astonished. “You’re the leader of the rebellion.” The thief spoke as if he had realized something that frightened him.
Bronn looked at the man seated to his right. He had blond hair like the other Nord, but unlike the rest of them, he was not only bound, but gagged as well. He wore chain mail that extended down his waist and a wolf-fur cloak. Although he was gagged, Bronn had the impression that Ulfric would’ve remained silent regardless.
“Wait if they’ve captured you–” The thief stammered. “Oh gods! Where are they taking us?”
“Keep quiet back there!” The guard shouted, his hands heavy on the reins.
An Imperial, a pity they didn’t see that Bronn was an Imperial as well, but he couldn’t blame them. Bruccius had cut his hair to the scalp when they were clear of the house. His clothes were worn and ragged, and his face dirtied from their trudge through the Bitter Coast swamps.
“No one can know who we are Bronn,” Bruccius had told him. They had set out on foot from their estate just West of Balmora on the night of the fire. Bronn had his qualms about leaving Vvardenfell. But “The Dark Brotherhood can not be taken lightly,” Bruccius had said. They set off with nothing but the cloaks on their backs and the meager amount of gold they had salvaged from the fire after the ash had settled.
They were quick to take what they could before the town guards strode through to investigate. Bruccius trusted no one, let alone the Imperial guard. They had almost made it too; the ship they had bought their way on was bound for this cold rock where they sought their salvation. They knew little about Skyrim before they set sail, nothing but it’s unforgiving cold and civil unrest.
“It’s these lot’s fault.” The Thief addressed Bronn directly, “We shouldn’t even be here. It’s these Stormcloaks the empire wants.”
“We’re all brothers and sisters in binds now.” The Nord said.
Bronn paid them no mind. His only brother was gone, and likely lay dead at the bottom of the restless sea. The storm had taken them, and their ship had crashed just between the Vvardenfell and Morrowind coasts. The storm broke like a thief in the night, and most of the men were under water before they had even awoken. It was a miracle Bronn had survived at all. He awoke unscathed on the Morrowind shores, and even more of a wonder how he had survived the tumultuous trek West through Cyrodil. He had tried to enter Skyrim from the south and make fast for Whiterun. He was alone, and the only one left in Tamriel that could help him lived just south of the city walls.
As the carriage entered through the gates of Helgen, the thief began to pray and whimper like a frightened child. The Empire would have their heads, but Bronn had lost all will to fight. Everyone he had once loved was gone, and these frigid foreign lands had only emphasized his solitude. The gods had been truly cruel, but perhaps this end was their form of mercy.
“End of the line.” The Nord said just before the carriage stopped. “Shouldn’t keep the gods waiting for us.”
“W–wait! We’re not rebels!” The thief cried out as they marched them out of the carriage. They stood in front of a great stone watchtower. When they called Ulfric’s name he walked over to the stone chopping block solemnly, with his held held high and his pride as leader of the rebellion intact. The thief was not so dignified. “You can’t do this!” He cried as he broke out from under the guard and ran for his life.
“Archers!” The Captain commanded, and before the thief had even made it past the watchtower, an arrow had pierced his back and tore through his chest.
After the commotion had settled the guard called Bronn forward. “You there, who are you?”
Bronn looked the man in the eye, his eyes as cold as the land he stood on. “A Nord,” Bronn said.
“You picked a bad time to come home to Skyrim, kinsmen.” The guard said as he moved his pen across the tome he held. After a brief word with his captain, the guard looked at Bronn with sincere pity. “I’m sorry,” he said. “At least you’ll die here, in your homeland.”
Bronn followed the captain to the block and stood in line with the rebels. A man in ornate brown-gold heavy armor stood face-to-face with Ulfric, denounced him in front of his men, and sentenced him to death for the sake of the empire.
“The empire is going to put you down and restore the peace–” The general said, but he was interrupted by a piercing shout that traveled swiftly through the sky, a painful screech that cried out for blood and flame.
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