Skyrim Day 091 – Underwhelmed by Windhelm

From Traversing Tamriel


22 Sun’s Dusk, 4E201
Dawnstar
~~~

It had not occurred to me before I accepted the axe, but there was only one Khajiit at Helgen and it was possible that Ulfric  would recognize her, which is to say myself. I spent more time last night thinking of creative (mostly magical) ways of disguising myself before realizing that the answer lay within forty Septims or so.

My plan was very simple: store all my gear at Breezehome and purchase the cheapest, most worn equipment Belethor and Ulfberth had to offer at their respective shops. This meant waiting for Belethor to stagger into his shop apparently whenever he pleases.

I decided to wait in the plaza as the town awoke around me.  The smaller merchants have stalls in the plaza square, most selling sundries I had no use for. I listened in on a conversation between a townsperson and an elderly merchant named ‘Fralia’ who was selling a small quantity of weaponry from the Battle-Born family forge.

The customer asked if the family had ever considered selling their wares to the Khajiit caravans, but she haughtily replied that they had enough customers as it was and did not need the help of Khajiit. A more vengeful one than I would relieve the Battle-Born of their goods, but I have no time for petty thievery…nor the skill to succeed, probably.

Distracted, I did not notice the Dunmer striding into the square until she was just about in front of me, leaning against a post holding up the overhanging roof of Belethor’s shop.

She was extravagantly equipped, fully dressed in steel armor adorned with meteoric glass shaped to deflect and absorb blows. The stuff is too heavy for my liking, though I do prefer a glass blade to steel.
Obviously a mercenary, she introduced herself in typical Dunmer style: as an artist of blood painting upon the canvas of life…or something like that. I do not believe such flowerly language is appreciated by the Nords, less by a potential customer. We talked for a few moments, but it was clear to her that I was not a potential customer. Belethor unlocked his shop a few moments later, so I wished her fortune and stepped inside the shop as she nodded at me. 
Belethor had a better selection than I had been hoping for. I was looking for a farmer’s canvas shirt and pants, but the man had specialized in expectation of the coming war between the Imperials and  the Stormcloaks, so I settled for a poorly-made set of fur armor into which large iron studs were set. It made me look more a bandit than impoverished wanderer, but I had to settle for what I could find.
Ulfberth was more accommodating, stocking dozens of the steel daggers Nords use a hundred times for just as many reasons every day. With the axe strung tight against my back and the dagger into my ill-fitting fur armor I set out on the road once again.
With my crossbow, bolts, weapons, armor, flasks, and ingredient pouches at Breezehome I felt very light on my feet with just a dagger, axe, and soft fur armor. I was also defenseless at range save for my magicka, but I had decided that was a last resort just in case Ulfric has agents along the roads.
That wound up not being a concern, the road between Whiterun and Windhelm was empty, I encountered only a single Sabre Cat which I bypassed with the aid of a Calm spell.
Windhelm is aptly named, the city sits on the coast north enough of the springs to receive no help against the cold coming over the sea from the north. 
The location is a bit of a mystery. Windhelm’s docks are built in the shallows of the river, unlike Solitude’s deepwater docks on the sea. The navigation into the river is treacherous, one can even see an old wreck nosing into the river from the city’s gatehouse.
I was allowed into the city without challenge, making me suspect that my identity and arrival were already known, but Windhelm is so chaotically built that I would have had no trouble dodging the guards if it came to a chase. The twisty alleys reminded me, poorly, of Markarth’s channels and chambers.
Finding the palace was easy enough, all I had to do was head in a general direction for the largest building within the walls. Again I was let inside without a single question and this was to see the leader of the rebellion! I cannot help but wonder if I would have been allowed inside if I had been wearing my Imperial gear. Perhaps I would have for all the security I have seen in the place.
The outer door opened right into the throne room, another perplexing strategic decision. It was surprisingly blue, with blue banners along the wall and ceiling facing a rough, blue carpet which led to a throne draped with blue fabric of some kind. Probably needlessly expensive.
But Ulfric was not in attendance. His steward, who readily admitted he did almost nothing, pointed me to a side-room. The door was open and the voices of several men floated out of it.
This was a meeting of the Stormcloak war council, which apparently is open to the non-Nordic public. I did not know of this. Apparently neither does General Tullius. 
Ulfric was not a very active participant, seeming to prefer to listen than speak. He looked smaller than I remembered him being and far more tired. I felt the best way to handle this situation was to play it very proper, for it could easily turn into a hostile one.
So I bowed to “War Leader Ulfric”, a title which brought a wry smile to his face, and announced that I had a gift from Jarl Balgruuf. He did not move, but everyone else in the room drew blades and axes. Ulfric waved them down and asked if the gift was the axe or the dagger. In response I handed him the axe, but he handed it back immediately, telling me to inform Balgruuf that he would be entertaining visitors shortly.
A Stormcloak invasion it is then…but with what troops and hardware, I cannot tell. I have not seen one war-engine in the entire province or anything to suggest either the Imperials or Stormcloaks are capable of even battering down a simple gate. Perhaps they simply all rely on ladders.
Ulfric excused himself from the council and went into the Hall, giving orders to his steward before he was seated.
No one paid any attention to me, so I left the palace. I thought at first to immediately continue back to Whiterun. I hurried out of the gates, again unchallenged, hit the Sabre Cat outside with another Calm spell and proceeded along the road for several hours.

Again I was undisturbed, reaching Whiterun as the night’s guards began their patrols. It was too late to call upon the Jarl, so I have retired to my own home and will attend to Ulfric’s business tomorrow morning.


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