The fire crackled as sparks flung in all directions from the crudely made campfire. It was cold, dark and wet. The rain had not ceased for three days, this was not good. The rain lowered visibility and masked tracks, the two things required on any hunt. The flames snapped as the heat broke down it’s fuel as a beast feasts on it’s prey. His eyes were weary, his grey hair wet, clinging to his face. His eyelids became heavy and his vision blurred. Then the world was black and dreams flooded his mind.
Helwyr’s palms began to sweat, the anticipation and fear of the coming battle rattling his nerves. Closing his eyes he thought of home, the small cottage on the riverside, the vegetable patch by it’s side and the warm glow of the roaring hearth from the windows. He thought of his wife, the most beautiful woman alive, sitting by the fire asleep. Her chest slowly moving with her breath and the bump on her belly. His unborn child. The thoughts gave him purpose and reason, he needed to make it back to them. Opening his eyes, his nerves settled and his sword held firm in his armoured hand, he took in a deep breath and looked ahead. The enemy force stood but 400 feet from them, the golden armour of the high elves shone in the midday sun, the crude combination of dull iron, ragged fur and worn leather of the Khajiit and the dull bark like plate of the wood elves. It made for an odd sight. The forces of King Emeric and various Hammerfell lords were outnumbered, a force of 800 strong sent to hold a valley a little inland of Hnes Rax against an oncoming Aldmeri Dominion army, King Emeric had stood in person before the men.
“Men and women of High Rock and Hammerfell. You have worked hard, trained hard for this day. The day when you would be sent into battle, to fight our enemies, protect our people and earn glory for yourselves and for our alliance.” he had said.
“You leave now as untested soldiers, but when you return, you will return heroes” that had earned a cheer from the men, many raising their swords to their king. The words “when you return” had inspired many of the men, he was sure that they would come back. He had faith in the ability of his soldiers to stand outnumbered and come out victorious.
That memory raised Helwyr’s head to the sky and to the banner that seemed to float there. The ferocious lion on blue fabric, rippling like the waves of the ocean. The banner of King Emeric and Daggerfall, looking back down to see the overwhelming enemy force. To each of his sides stood a Redguard and a Breton, the Redguard was lean but his arms showed a strength betrayed by his slender body. The Breton was of a size, broad shoulders and a thick jaw. Helwyr chuckled at that earning the attention of the two men to his side.
“What are you laughing at?” the Breton said with a humorless grumble.
“No reason. You’d give an Orsimer a run for his money though.” Helwyr replied, still chuckling.
The Redguard burst into laughter. The breton gave a humorless smile and turned back to the oncoming army. Helwyr turned to the Redguard and spoke.
“My name is Helwyr Ariann, son of Mieden Ariann. Pleasure to meet you”
“Mordran.” the voice to his left grumbled.
“Talan” the Redguard said with a wide grin.
The three men spoke of their homes, why they joined the army and grimly joked about their likely demise. Then the rattle of metal flooded the battlefield. The sound of iron, steel and elven striking the valley floor below. The enemy had begun it’s advance. They heard a horn blow from within the ranks. A loud voice boomed out a command “SHIELD WALL!”. At the command Helwyr, Talan, Mordran and the rest of the first rank raised their shields in front of them, the edge of each shield overlapping the shield of the man to their left. A second command echoed through the ranks “ADVANCE!”. As one, the large mass of soldiers began to move, their interlocking shields keeping the ranks firm and organised.
“To glory, eh friends?” Talan spoke, loud enough to be heard over the clanking of armour on both sides of the valley.
“Nevermind glory for the moment, lets just focus on surviving this battle. Glory is only really useful to the living afterall.” Helwyr expressed, truly speaking his mind in the anxiety of the coming clash.
Mordran snorted. “Glory follows us in life and death Helwyr, seize it and you will be immortalised in history”. His words were wise but the Breton was clearly battle hungry.
The gap between the two armies closed swiftly, they were close now. Close enough to see wear on the enemies shields and armour. Moments passed before a cry of battle rung out as the enemies broke their ranks and charged in a bloodthirsty frenzy toward the Covenant’s line of shields. “HOLD!” the same commanding voice boomed from further within their ranks. At that command the ranks stopped, the enemies now mere moments away. “BRACE!” Helwyr could see men to his side bending their knees and lowering their heads and he did the same.
Time began to slow as the enemy neared, Helwyr could see the white of his enemies eyes as they moved in an adrenaline fueled carnage. He counted down, three, two...one. He felt the force of the enemy slam into his shield, the enemy pushing with all their might to break the line. Further along the wall he could hear the screams of the dying. Suddenly they were close as he saw Mordran thrusting his sword under and over his shield. Talan and Helwyr looked at each other, nodded then did the same. Helwyr stabbed his sword under the wall, he felt it as it sank through flesh and scraped bone. Blood splashed his hand and he thrust two more times before feeling a fresh push against his shield.
The battle was much the same for a time, the enemy would push against the shield wall attempting to break the rank. Every time a man fell, the man behind him would step forward and take his place in the wall. The enemy tried to use their overwhelming numbers to flank around the side of the formation only to be met with the same wall as men on the side turned and locked shields. It wasn’t long until the enemy began to route, running for their lives.
“Come, we have them on the run! Let us end this n-” Mordran was cut off as a spear flew and struck his throat. Blood splashed Helwyr’s face. Before he had the chance to rescue his comrade the man from behind eagerly stood forward and locked his shield with Helwyr’s.
“Oblivion take them!” Helwyr shouted from the top of his lungs as he pushed from the line.
A Khajiit confronted him. Enraged Helwyr quickly dispatched him with a swift slash to his throat leaving the cat writhing on the ground as he bled out. It wasn’t long before he was beset upon by more foes, first an elf in golden armour thrust his sword toward Helwyr’s chest, side stepping Helwyr rammed his shield into the Altmer knocking him to the ground and burying his sword in his gut. Caught of guard a Bosmer slashed down, leaving a shallow cut down the right side of Helwyr’s face. Rolling away before the final blow could be dealt, he saw the Bosmer reinforced by a Khajiit clad in leather and iron. The two charged Helwyr the Bosmer being the first to strike. Helwyr ducked under his swing and thrust his sword catching the bosmer in the thigh. A the elf fell to his knees the Khajiit came in swinging wildly. Helwyr use his shield to knock away the cats sword then swung to no effect as his foe dodged back. Helwyr pushed the offensive, not giving his enemy a chance to recover. In panic the Khajiit fell backwards, Helwyr stood over him and slammed the edge of his shield into the cats neck. A loud crack made Helwyr cringe slightly. Turning he saw the line has advanced closer to where he was. Striking the still kneeling bosmer in the back of the neck with his sword, Helwyr made his way back to the line and rejoined Talan.
“You’re a madman Helwyr. What were you thinking? What of your wife? You child? You could have fallen just as Mordran did!” Talan expressed in a mixture of concern, anger and sadness.
Helwyr remained silent and continued on with the ranks.
The journey back to Daggerfall from the battlefield was deadly silent. Only the sound of the wind rustling the trees and the patter of hooves on the dirt below them. This was a strong contrast to the journey from Daggerfall, spirits had been high, conversation rampant throughout the warband. But the loss of friends and blood on once clean hands had stilled the tongue of all but a few. Helwyr had not spoken a word since Mordran’s death. Talan refused to talk to him while he was like this and left him to ride alone, though Helwyr knew Talan was grieving too. They had entered the city gates to praise and cheer. Some raised hands and put on smiles purely for appearances. Helwyr did not. Then, as they did before, they stood before their high king. He sung praise of the bravery, courage and will to fight against impossible odds.
“You return, but I can see in your eyes that you are not the same people who left this city moons ago. No. Something has changed. You have changed. You are now Heroes.” Emeric had said to them to many cheers from the ranks.
Hero. Is that was he was now, Helwyr thought. He didn’t feel like a hero. He felt cold as if the snows of Skyrim had possessed his soul. He felt hard like like an anvil but pained as if the hammer was constantly striking. He felt like a murderer. The very men he had slain had likely been told the same thing as him. That he was being sent for the greater good. That he would return a hero and know that justice had been done. Helwyr closed his eyes. Emeric’s words trailed off and all was quiet. A hand touched his shoulder, it was Talan.
“Coin for your thoughts?” Talan asked, putting on a grim smile. Helwyr blinked and looked away.
“Aye, I thought so. Well I’ll be in the barracks if you ever need to talk. I guess you want to head off home now. I hope they give you comfort.” Talan said offering his hand in farewell. Helwyr gripped his friend arm.
“Farewell, Talan. Forgive my mood.” His friend held his hand up.
“No forgiveness needed.” He smiled.
Talan turned and strode away. Looking around Helwyr saw that he was the only one in the courtyard. The ground began to darken as a black cloud passed over the sun. The world became grey as the storm cloud burst open and covered the world in rain. Helwyr looked up, the water splashing his face. He pulled his cloak tighter and made his way home.
As he neared his home he couldn’t help but smile. Through the battle it was this moment that kept him fighting. The moment when he would return home to his family. His wife and his soon to be born child were close. He burst into a jog, trudging through the thick mud and turned the road. He saw his cottage, it was gloomy but he saw a figure wrapped in a cloak in the doorway. Helwyr’s eyes brightened as he made his way to the building. Something crashed into his side as he ran and knocked him on his side. Rolling away he saw reptile like creature, it had a shield like head and a beak like mouth. It eyed him, letting out a screech of warning. Helwyr reached for his sword hilt as the creature sped toward him, unsheathing and slashing in one quick movement Helwyr cut the creature. It fell to the ground screeching in pain. Standing over it he brought the point of his sword down on it’s chest, silencing it. In a red mist the creature vanished from sight leaving a pool of blood at Helwyr’s feet.
Turning his head he saw that the figure in the doorway had turned to face him, hearing the screech of the monster he had just put down. It was not his wife as he had first thought. The stranger’s cloak was black, covering his entire body with only a belt which held a dagger at his side. His face was concealed by his hood. Helwyr started toward him, sword still drawn. Suddenly the stranger raised a hand and fire spewed forth from his palm. Quickly, without thought or effort Helwyr slung his shield from his back and braced moments before the flames struck. The heat was searing, he felt the flames lick his body exposed around the shield. He began to push forward the force of the fire pushing. Memories of the battle past returned. It gave him strength, he was close now. He would not let this mage stop him. Moment passed as Helwyr forced his way. The pushed was strongest now, with one last push he felt his shield connect. The heat ceased and the cold of the air returned. His assailant had fallen, throwing his shield aside he knelt over the man removing his hood. He was young, no more than 20 years on his face. The man smiled his teeth yellow and rotten. Helwyr smashed his fist into the man face, his smile stopped and his eyes closed. Helwyr stood and made his way into the cottage.
His breath caught in his throat. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. He lost all strength and his legs buckled falling to his knees. Tears began to stream down his face. A groan filled the cottage. The thing before him was deathly pale, it’s eyes white and it’s clothes stained with blood. A slash across its throat was still pulsing blood, the gentle patter of the drops striking the floor becoming maddening in Helwyr’s head. The creature that was once his wife, wore the mask of his wife, began to stumble toward him. Helwyr shut his eyes tight, tears dripping from his face. He punched the floor boards and let out a painful scream. He felt sick, angry. The creature moaned again, coming ever closer. Helwyr pushed himself up, rising slowly to his feet. Tears beginning to dry on his face.
“I’m sorry. So so so so sorry. I failed you.” He said quietly to what was once his wife. Her stood a little longer before turning and shutting the door behind him. He could hear the monster banging on the door behind him. Closing his eyes he tried to block out the moans until he heard something. Chuckling. Looking ahead, the mage had regained consciousness and was laughing. Rage filled Helwyr, an anger he had never known, a murderous rage consumed him. Before he knew it he was moving quickly toward the monster before him grasping his sword hilt tightly.
“She’s looking a little worse for wear, eh?” the beast spoke in between it’s bursts of laughter.
Helwyr closed in on the creature before him. It raised a hand to cast a spell but Helwyr swung his sword, lopping it’s hand from arm. Crashing his foot down on the arm, feeling bone break beneath his boot stood over the beast, looking into it’s eyes. It wore the same yellow grin beneath cringes of agony. He wanted to ask why? but the words caught by a blinding rage.
“Oh, what’s the matter? Can’t d-” The monster was cut off and a gurgling sound replaced the words as Helwyr’s sword slashed it’s throat deep. He stood and watched with cold eyes as it’s life pooled around the creatures body.
The flames at Helwyr’s back illuminated the night. His life behind him, burning to ash.
Helwyr’s eyes opened. Tears dried on his cheek as he stared at what was left of his campfire. The rain had stopped. Wiping his face clear he stood and continued the beasts trail.
(There may be some lore inaccuracies in this story so please, if you spot them please point them out, thankyou)