Chapter 1 - Journey's End
Part 2: The Palace of the Kings
Silas and Velroth placed their coins on the counter and waited for what seemed an eternity as the Nord slowly counted each stack. Satisfied, the crusty weathered Nord scooped the gold into a bag and placed it under the counter somewhere.
“Well? Go on, then.”
The two couples made their way down the dock. It was bustling with fisherman and traders alike, the smell of fish mingled with the cold and permeated the salty air all around. Velroth paused a moment, breathed deep, and took it all in. He felt at home on the docks and allowed himself the faintest of smiles and then continued to the stairs at the far end.
Velroth was of a moderate build, for a Dunmer, with slightly darker skin than most of his race. He had hair that was dark and worn long, often tied back into a ponytail. His eyes burned as red as the lava flows of the Red Mountain, so much so that it was not uncommon for others to speculate that he was a vampire. And though he was stern, and bit hard looking, a look emphasized by the weathered lines burned in by the long days in the sun, Velroth was a fair man and always willing to give second chances.
He spoke in low tones, when he spoke at all, but he usually preferred to remain silent and listen, and observe. This characteristic helped offset his somewhat impatient streak; Velroth did not suffer fools well and was not afraid to speak his mind when he thought it appropriate to do so.
Making their way up the icy stone steps, the new arrivals were quickly stopped by two guards stationed at a set of large wooden doors. One male and one female, both clad in steel with helms that hid their faces and accented with swathes of slate blue fabric. With a shield in one hand and a sturdy looking sword on their hips, the guards stood tall and formidable.
“What business have you in Windhelm?” Asked one of the guards.
“Refuge,” stated Velroth.
“You have been processed, then?”
“Yes,” chimed in Silas, “we were told to give you these.” Silas then handed over the parchment given to him by the processing officer.
The guard took the document and examined it closely. After a moment or two, he handed it to his companion, who then scrutinized it as well. After a minute or two more the second guard spoke. “Seems to be in order,” she then motioned to the other and nodded, at which point he opened one of the two doors.
The door swung heavy on its hinges, creaking loudly in protest. Silas was given back the documents and the group was allowed to enter. “To the Palace with you. Jorleif, Jarl Ulfric’s steward, will need to assign you your residence.” With that, the refugees entered and the gate was closed behind them.
The group stepped apprehensively forward, unsure of where to go. To their right was a set of stairs going down. Not much could be seen, but one thing was sure, the area felt of neglect. Pressing on, they moved forward until they came to another set of stairs, this one wider and more traveled. Up the stairs to the left an open courtyard could be seen, straight and to the right was a smaller set of stairs that went down. Going left and up, a great hall could be seen to the left, and from the looks of the placard, likely an inn. To the right, another set of stairs went up to a wall with a smaller arched opening.
As they prepared to go right and up the stairs, a Nord man walked past, stopping to look at them, his face full of disdain and obvious disgust. “Well, isn’t this just wonderful. You’re not welcome here you filthy grey skins. Go home.” He then spat at their feet and continued on his way past them, down the stairs they had just climbed up. Nehrine grabbed Velroth’s arm as he turned to confront the man. “No, Velroth, please.” Velroth looked at her, working out whether or not he should heed her plea. “Please, Velroth, I am tired and need to rest.” She implored. Velroth conceded and held his tongue and they continued up.
As they approached the opening they could see the palace on the other side. They were stopped once more by guards when they reached the entrance doors. “Halt.” Said one of the guards, "do you have writ to enter the Palace of the Kings?" Again, Silas stepped forward. “We were told to speak with the steward Jorleif.” The guard looked over the parchment for a moment before handing it back. “Follow me.”
They entered the palace, and if they had thought that the walls of the city were amazing, it was nothing to the breathtaking interior of the palace. Rich slate blue carpet ran around the hall, encircling a long dining table, while beautiful intricate banners hung from the walls. The stonework was flawless and accented with masterful carvings and gave the hall a very masculine feel, but massive candelabras that hung from the ceiling, and those that were placed along the walls, filled the grand room with a soft warm glow and helped to wash away some of the hardness. At the far end, a raised thrown could be seen, although empty at the moment, it likely belonged to the Jarl. The guard smiled beneath his facemask as an audible gasp came from Azurine, who had never seen such grandeur.
“Remain here. I’ll notify the Steward.” Ordered the guard.
Surprisingly, their wait was short as a middle aged man strode towards them, followed by the guard. He was dressed in fine clothes, but not flashy. One could immediately see their quality, but they also appeared quite practical; well suited for the harsh climate. He wore a heavy, thick moustache and carried himself confidently. Despite his position and growing age, he was far from feeble looking; no doubt he was capable warrior.
He was surprisingly welcoming.
“I am Jorleif, Steward to the Jarl. And, which of you is the fisherman?” Jorleif asked, as he looked down at the parchment.
“I am.” Stated Velroth.
“Excellent! You will be a welcome addition on the docks! And you then, must be the blacksmith,” looking at Silas.
“Yes sera, that is correct.” Said Silas.
“Very good. Another useful trade. You should be able to find work without trouble, as well.
“And let’s see, an alchemist, and…well, well, a mother to be! My congratulations! Well, let’s get you sorted out right away, no doubt you are quite exhausted from your journey, dear lady.”
Nehrine smiled gratefully and nodded.
“Let’s see,” continued Jorleif, “you are all located in the Grey Quarters. Hmm, space is filling up, but I do have a place available that should be large enough for the 4 of you. With room for the little one, too. I’m sorry I cannot give you each your own place, but there unfortunately just isn’t room.”
“We understand.” Said Silas quickly, before Velroth could object.
“Very good.” Said Jorleif. “You’ll be in number 17. Did you come in from the docks?”
“Yes.” Replied Velroth, shortly.
“Ok. Well then, you’ll want to go back to the gate door that you came in. To the left of the doors is a set of stairs. Take those down. You’ll find number 17 just past Sadri’s and on the left. Almost right across from him, actually. Well, across and down a bit, as the layout allows.”
“Is there a key, or something?” Asked Velroth.
“No, I’m afraid not. The space has locks and such on the inside, but if you need a lock for the exterior, you’ll have to purchase one. Sadri can help you with that."
Perplexed by the conversation, Silas spoke up. “Pardon me, sera, but I have to admit, I’m a bit confused. Do you mean to simply ‘give’ us a home? How can you do such a thing?”
Jorleif smiled broadly, and with a warm chuckle in his voice he replied, “I’m terribly sorry, yes, I can see how this looks. While, yes, we offer an immediate place of residence to new comers, it is, of course, not free. We will work out pricing in the coming days, but for now, it is yours to use. “
Upon seeing their still puzzled looks, Jorleif continued.
“Naturally, we didn’t always work this way, but over the years, we have found that it benefits the city to find a place for immigrants and refugees, such as yourself, immediately, if possible. Once upon a time, when we did not, we would have a great deal of homeless wandering the streets. And that is good for no one. Not you, not the native residents, and ultimately, not me, as I am charged with, amongst other things, keeping order in the city. No, your home is not given, but rather loaned.”
Noticing Velroth’s look of concern, he added, “I assure you, you will be charged fairly. Houses in the Quarters go for, on average, only five to six hundred septims, if you can purchase them outright. If not, rent is very reasonable. But, it’s starting to get dark and the night air gets very cold here in the northern parts of Eastmarch and I’m sure you’d like to settle in for the night. As I’ve mentioned, Sadri’s is very close and is usually open late, he can help you with any immediate needs. Come back tomorrow and we’ll set a time when we can work out more permanent housing plans.”
With that, Jorleif stamped their papers and then looked at the guard, who in turn ushered the group out of the palace.
“Oh,” said Jorleif with a smile as they reached the door, “welcome to Windhelm!”