My sole reason for siding with the Imperials in the civil war was that their leader is voiced by Michael Hogan, one of my favorite TV actors. While Ulfric gets major props for being the badass big dude Thirteenth Warrior, I'm always gonna follow Colonel Tigh!
Oh, and... errr... nice write-up!
I awoke this morning with the issue of the Civil War still at the front of my mind, and my own allegiance still unplaced. As a son of Skyrim, and not to mention after the incident at Helgen some weeks ago, I feel duty bound to support Jarl Ulfric and the Stormcloaks. I dislike the idea of Imperial rule as much as the next Nord, and given Ulfric challenged the previous High King in the traditional Nord custom, I see no reason to dispute his claim to the throne. On the other side of the argument, though, there is the issue of non-Nord natives. While I believe that Skyrim does indeed belong to the Nords, I strongly disagree with the idea of driving the other races out of our province. They have something to contribute as well - in particular, my mind is cast back to dear old Ainethach, the long-time overseer of my hometown of Karthwasten. It is this sole worry that is keeping me from siding with the Stormcloaks outright.
In order that I might better understand the positions and opinions of both sides, I decided to visit both Ulfric at his palace in Windhelm, and the Imperial General in Solitude, and speak to them personally on the matter. First I chose to visit Jarl Ulfric, and made my way from Whiterun to Windhelm, arriving at around 10:00am. On entering the city, I met two guards harassing an elf, and was instantly reminded of my only worry in backing these men. Putting the thought to one side, I continued further into the city and entered the Palace of the Kings. There, Ulfric seemed to be engaged in the discussion of war strategies with his appointed general, Galmar Stone-Fist.
Ulfric recalled our first meeting, back at Helgen when the dragon had reduced the town to ashes and rubble. When I told him that Ralof would vouch for me, he seemed interested in accepting me into the Stormcloaks, and told me to speak to Galmar for more information. Galmar in turn provided me with a test of initiation - in order to prove my allegiance and usefulness to the Stormcloaks, I was asked to travel to Serpentstone Isle in the Sea of Ghosts and battle the Ice Wraith residing there. The isle itself is not far from the wreckage of the Pride of Tel Vos that I visited yesterday. I told Galmar that I would consider his proposal, and took my leave.
My next destination was the city of Solitude, my plotted journey taking me across the north of the province, past Dawnstar and Morthal and once again through the village of Dragon Bridge. It was almost evening by the time I arrived within Solitude's grand city walls, and if the first thing to greet me in Windhelm shocked me, then the sight that met my eyes now made me feel physically sick. A local Nord named Roggvir was charged with allowing Ulfric to breach the walls of Solitude, and beheaded before a baying crowd. Disgusted with the behaviour of the Imperials now governing the city, I pressed on to the castle and met with the leader of the Skyrim branch of the Imperial Legion, General Tullius.
Like Ulfric before him, Tullius recognised me from the incident at Helgen, and seemed keen on enlisting me to help the Legion in their fight against the Stormcloaks. He referred me to one of his legates, a Nord woman named Rikke, who much like Galmar presented me with an initiation test to see if I was cut from the right cloth to assist the Legion. Nearby there's an old fort, Fort Hraggstad, that has long been abandoned and overrun with bandits. Rikke wants me to clear the fort of its unwanted occupants, that the Legion might station some troops there. As with Galmar before her, I told Rikke that I would need time to think the proposal over, and left the castle to wander the streets of Solitude a while.
Speaking to the citizens of Skyrim's capital, one thing became very clear - these people swear allegiance not to the Empire or the Emperor, but to the Jarl herself. This blind allegiance means the people have no open desire to be governed by the Imperials, and that if the Jarl's loyalties were to lie differently, they would follow suit. In that respect, they are not so different from Ulfric and the Stormcloaks. Many of the locals asked me for help with their problems - a Bosmer named Dervenin, who I'm convinced might not be sound in his head, asked me to visit the Blue Palace and search for his Master. An Altmer called Taarie requested that if I meet with the Jarl, I don some fine clothes from her store, Radiant Raiments, as an endorsement. Finally, I met a wine merchant named Evette San, who asked if I'd be willing to run down to the docks for her and try to get a shipment of spices released by the East Empire Company. Having nothing else to do today, I decided to spend the rest of my evening helping her.
Down at the docks, I spoke with Vittoria Vici of the East Empire company regarding Evette's spice shipment. Vittoria claimed she would be more than happy to release them, provided the release tariff of two thousand septims was paid. Spotting the gleam in her eye as she spoke these words, I outed her claim as a falsehood. She conceded, apologised, and promised to release the spices and have them sent up to Evette as soon as possible. I returned to Evette with the good news, and she thanked me with a few bottles of her famous San Spiced Wine. With no other immediately pressing issues weighing on my conscience, and the dark of night slowly drawing in, I made for the Winking Skeever and rented a room for the night. Tomorrow, I intend to return to Windhelm and bind my services to the Stormcloaks - an independent Skyrim would serve itself much better than as another province manipulated by the Emperor. I only hope that Ulfric can look past his racial prejudices and recognise that we cannot afford to isolate ourselves from the rest of Tamriel. Until then,