Previously: Greenwall

A/N ~ Once again, I didn't get pics from the battle of Whiterun.

City of Whiterun
Whiterun Hold

The journey to Whiterun took less time than Marcurio expected, mainly because Minerva pressed her ragtag group hard. They trekked from sunup until sundown, stopping only very briefly for food and rest, before continuing until they reached the famed wide plains of Whiterun.

The sun was dying in the west, leaving streaks of red, gold, and vermillion across the sky, bathing the open lands in beautiful light. The weather was fairer here, the skies clearer, and the air smelled of earth, grass, and wild game. Marcurio always loved visiting Whiterun. To him, it represented the pinnacle of Skyrim's beauty.

The mage had to also admit he was impressed with his new friends. Despite mostly being young and experienced, Minerva's followers displayed extraordinary stamina and discipline.

It's Greenwall, he realized, as they triumphantly strolled towards the city gates. They have three crucial successes under their belts. Now, they will either die in glorious battle at Whiterun, or they lived to be lauded as heroes.

It was almost disorienting to think that Minerva's crazy plan was working. Marcurio wondered what that meant for her, besides the fame and riches. Would she retire from the Penitus Oculatus? If not, she would have her pick of assignments. If so, she would have her pick of estates.

Would she go back to Cyrodiil? Her sister was still there, and it seemed the Septima siblings felt like they had a lot to prove to the people who looked down on them. Tatianna would probably want to marry someone from the Emperor's family.

And what about Minerva? Marcurio suddenly felt his heart stop. Would Minerva finally want to settle down? Would she want to get married at last?

I don't want to move back to Cyrodiil, the mage blinked, as the city gates opened for them. The guards of Whiterun did not question the Penitus Oculatus; they simply nodded respectfully and opened doors. With a swagger in her shoulders and hips, Minerva led her followers through the, up the steps past the great Gildergreen tree straight towards the Cloud District. She led them right up to the ancient palace of Dragonsreach, where the Jarl himself would no doubt welcome her with open arms.

In all his years in Skyrim, Marcurio had never been to Dragonsreach. In fact, he was only friendly with one Jarl, and she was currently facing exile.

But Minerva was different, even when she was going rogue. She had access to everyone, everywhere. When the war was over, the Septima name would be restored, and she would never again have to worry about money or affording a home on her own. She very well might choose to finally settle down.

I could move back to Cyrodiil for her, Marcurio realized, and felt his face warm at the thought. She'll probably want a manor with a vineyard. It could be like old times.

Not one of mine
Marcurio had heard many stories from many bards about the beauty and grandeur of Dragonsreach. He had read countless stories and seen yet countless more drawings, paintings, and engravings of the palace. None of them did it justice.

Not even Mistveil Castle in Riften was this tall. He never knew ceilings could be so high. Built in the traditional Nordic style, it was an opulent creation of wooden walls and pillars, high steps, sprawling woven rugs...and the skeleton of a dragon hanging over the fire pit of the great hall.

Minerva gestured to her soldiers to go no further, while gesturing for Marcurio to follow her towards the dais. Robbed of breath, the mage complied, his dark eyes frantically darting about the giant chamber, terrified of making even the smallest misstep. Their whole group smelled of horse, sweat, and leather, and all their clothes desperately needed cleaning. Couldn't they have stopped at the tavern first to make themselves more presentable to one of Skyrim's most famous Jarl's?

Jarl Balgruuf was a serious, classically handsome Nord, with long blond hair and a strong, sinewy build. He sat wearily upon his throne, the weight of his copper and ruby circlet apparent upon his brow. He seemed surprised, yet not too surprised, that an agent of the Penitus Oculatus was visiting him personally.

"And to what do I owe this rare honor?" he raised a pale eyebrow, while his Dunmeri housecarl shrewdly observed from his side.

"Forgive the intrusion, my lord," Minerva bowed her head slightly, using her best "noble" voice. "I am Minerva Septima, of the Penitus Oculatus. This is Marcurio, a mage who has agreed to assist my team. We've just come from Fort Greenwall in the east, where we only narrowly defeated a large contingent of Stormcloaks."

Balgruuf leaned to the side to peer at her team behind her. "A large contingent, you say? Did you suffer many casualties?"

"Fortunately no, my lord. Marcurio slew dozens of warriors by himself by wielding lightning."

Balgruuf's leaned back into his throne, wide eyes falling upon the mage. Marcurio shifted uncomfortably beneath his piercing blue gaze. "Indeed."

"We discovered intel at Greenwall that those Stormcloaks were bound for Whiterun," Minerva continued strictly. "I've sent word to General Tullius that Ulfric is finally making his move."

The Jarl sat up straight on his throne now, fully alarmed. "Proventus," he lowly instructed his steward, "summon my brother and Commander Caius at once. Irileth," he turned to his housecarl, "send out our three fastest riders: one to Tullius, one to Jarl Sidgeir in Falkreath, and one to Jarl Idgrod in Hjaalmarch. Advise them that the rebels are returning to Western Skyrim."

"Sire," his servants chorused, before hurrying to do his bidding.

Balgruuf turned back to his guests, eyes dark and jaw grimly set. "You are all welcome to stay, of course. When my steward returns, I will have him assign you quarters so you can rest and refresh yourselves." He paused. "We have a lot of work ahead of us."


Dinner was being served at Dragonsreach, a sumptuous banquet of boar, potatoes, and vegetables, and wine from Cyrodiil. Minerva, her mage, and her soldiers ate heartily, but for the nobles of Whiterun, the mood was sour.

"I thought we drove these traitors from our borders," Lord Hrongar snapped, slamming his goblet down on one of the long dining tables in the great hall. He was the Jarl's younger brother, a towering, shaven head warrior in imposing armor. "How is it that Ulfric is able to return in force when his soldiers could barely handle themselves in skirmishes?"

"I surmise the skirmishes were a distraction," Minerva answered calmly, primly even, as she patiently cut her meat. Next to her, Marcurio eagerly stuffed his face, uninterested in contributing to the conversation. "Even when we began clearing out Stormcloak-held forts, we assumed the rebels were greatly outnumbered. It wasn't until Greenwall that we realized Ulfric had been reserving his soldiers."

Hrongar glared at her in disbelief. "So any day now, we could have a full army at our gates?"

She remained cool. "That is correct, my lord."

"And how is it that Penitus Oculatus didn't figure this out sooner?" he demanded furiously.

"Hrongar," the woman next to him chided softly. She was a dark-skinned Redguard noblewoman clad in green velvet and adorned in gold, her thick black hair braided with golden ribbons. Her finery glinted in the soft flickering light of the fire pit, as did her inscrutable dark eyes.

Minerva noticed that when Hrongar was informed of the impending attack, he sent for her immediately. The woman was visibly pregnant; Minerva had curiously watched her waddle up the steps of Dragonsreach.

Wife? she wondered. Mistress, perhaps?

The Septima remained unbothered by the lord's anger. "Ulfric was never slated to win this rebellion, and on some level, he knew that. His army is outnumbered. The Emperor can outspend him easily. So his defeat was never a matter of if, but when. Were any of us surprised when he kept losing skirmishes all through Western Skyrim?"

Hrongar wasn't willing to let it go. "If we had known this sooner, we couldn't united our forces and marched on Eastern Skyrim."

Commander Caius finally piped up, "My lord, it's always better for the enemy to come to you. It draws him away from his base of support and safety, and lengthens his supply lines."

"And while we wait for them to come, the Stormcloaks could burn every village on their way here from Eastmarch," 

"I don't think they will." All heads turned towards the pensive Jarl, whose somber voice traveled down from the dais. "Ulfric's one advantage is that he appears to be fighting for the Nords of Skyrim. He wouldn't dare alienate the people by slaughtering them."

"Recommend we begin withdrawing our people into the city, sire," Irileth suggested, her voice deep and throaty. "It will cause a bit of a panic, but it can't be avoided."

"Agreed," the weary Jarl nodded. "Begin withdrawal at first light."

Next: Heroes


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