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By Twenty Fists

It was a freezing night. Snow lay in drifts around the cabins of the small Nord village. The villagers had settled down in the night to sleep, wrapped in many furs on their straw mattresses. In one house on the outskirts of the village, however, a fire still burned.

The whole night, low moans issued forth from the house. In the hours of the early morn, those moans intensified to a crescendo of screams and gasps, and, in the midst of it, the crying of a child could be heard. A Nord warrior’s mate had just given birth to a son. They named him Thorek.

Eighteen years passed. The frigid grasp of winter had given way to the gentler caress of spring. The snow had melted, cascading into the rivers that ran down the mountainsides in great rushes. The sun shone down upon the Skyrim countryside, warming the land with its benevolent rays.

Thorek had grown into a strong young man. He was trained in the art of combat as a warrior in service to his tribe. He was better than his peers were, gifted with an affinity with weapons and combat, the strength to match two his age, and a fury that made him into a machine of death. But before he could truly become a warrior, he had to pass a test.

Like all Nord boys his age, Thorek needed to perform a service for the tribe or a show of great skill or strength. Several of the boys were going to hunt the packs of wolves that had been bothering the women of the tribe as they gathered food. Those who were fleet of foot and gifted with the eyes and hands of marksmen were going out to hunt the moose and stag that populated the forests and fields of the surrounding land. The shaman’s apprentice was going to kill the monsters and abominations in a nearby cave, along with the conjurers and necromancers who summoned them. Thorek’s friend was going with him. Thorek, however, had something else in mind.

The Great Bears always bothered the tribe during the spring by killing the hunters and gatherers to get food for their mates. Thorek intended to kill a bear to help the tribe gather more food.

Thorek chose his weapons carefully, weapons that he had made with his own hands or the weapons of his father. He took a spear that he had made from an ash tree with a head of iron that he had forged himself. He took a bow and twenty-four arrows he had crafted from the same ash tree, with a core and arrowheads made from iron. Finally, he took his father’s axe, Head Hewer, an axe that had saved his father’s life many times over.

Thorek set out then with his weapons and enough provisions for a several-day long journey, with his bow in his hand, his arrows on his back, his spear slung over his shoulder and Head Hewer by his side. He only stopped to eat and sleep, although he also had to repair the soles of his fur boots.

Three days into the journey, Thorek spotted a Great Bear on a small hillock near a rushing river as it busily devoured the bloody carcass of an elk. Thorek quietly situated himself behind the beast and drew an arrow. He nocked it onto the bowstring and took aim. Then, he fired.

He hit the bear in the small of its back. Roaring in pain and anger, the bear began to turn around, during which time Thorek hit it again below the shoulder. It charged at him. He shot it two more times, once in the shoulder and again in the chest. The bear shrugged off the blows and charged on. Thorek slung his bow over his back and pulled out his spear, settling into a ready stance as he did so. The bear reared up to its full height of eight feet once it reached him. Thorek stabbed forward suddenly and gored the bear in the stomach. It roared again and attacked.

It plowed into Thorek. He felt his bow snap across his back as the bear rammed him into a young tree on the edge of the hillock. He struggled, but the bear was too big. It was slowly crushing him. He felt the bear bite into his shoulder. He had failed his tribe.

A red mist settled over Thorek’s vision. He grew very angry. He was a warrior of a great tribe, and he was destined to do great deeds! Thorek grabbed the haft of Head Hewer and smashed it into the bear’s chin, knocking it away. He swung Head Hewer again and slashed at the bear, cutting deep into its chest. The bear roared and charged, but Thorek stepped to the side and let it pass by. It rammed into the tree and uprooted it from the hillock. The bear and the tree plummeted into the river, while Thorek followed after, howling in fury.

He slew the bear as it fell into the river. He hung onto the tree in the river as he and the slain bear shot down the roaring waters. Thorek’s strength left him, and he passed out.

Thorek awoke in the hut of the tribe’s shaman. His shoulder was bandaged, and he was wrapped in many clothes while his back healed. When he fully recovered, he was recognized as a warrior of the tribe.

Twenty years passed, and summer was upon Skyrim. The tribes were growing food and hunting to increase their stocks. Several tribes had been at war earlier in the year, but, for now, everyone was at peace.

Strabismus Aelanthus scanned the hills around him from his perch upon a rocky crag. He looked at the buildings of the tribes and their farmers at work. He saw the hunters in the woods and on the slopes of the mountain, and he saw the warriors feasting and training in the villages.

Barbarians, he thought. The land is good, but these…animals may prove to be a problem. The Legion showed wisdom when they appointed me to bring civilization and decency to these lands. Only a talented spellsword such as myself would be able to quickly crush these northern tribes before they have a chance to mobilize.

He took one final glance at the region and then began his trek back to the camps where the XXIXth, XXVth, and XXXIInd companies were waiting.

Thorek was in the meeting hall when the hunters brought the news: a massive group of the Southerners bearing weapons was marching into the land. The leaders of the village met quickly to decide what to do. Half an hour later, the war chief walked out of the hall and called to the warriors, telling them that the tribe would go to war. He sent hunters to act as envoys to the other tribes, informing them of the Southern advance and requesting their aid.

A week later, Thorek stood in a line as part of a massive Nord army. He wore the skins of the bear he had slain for his test of manhood as armor, and he carried Head Hewer in his hands. Ahead of him stood the berserkers, wearing skins and in some cases, nothing more than a covering of woad paint. All of them were thoroughly inebriated and very angry. Around him stood other tribal warriors and behind them stood the shamans and archers who would fire upon the enemies.

Across the field, Strabismus Aelanthus stood at the head of his army. They were prepped for battle, and they eyed the Nords with a mixture of curiosity and scorn. Strabismus issued a command, and the army began to slowly advance forward. Abruptly, the Nords charged, screaming war cries and calling for blood. The Imperial army began to fire spells and arrows as the soldiers prepared for the assault. Strabismus faded into the lines of men.

The Nord charge broke against the Imperial column like a wave smashing into the coastal cliffs of the Topal Bay. The warriors in the front line died almost instantly. The Nord woad warriors threw themselves onto the blades of their enemies. Thorek saw a legionnaire dig his longsword deep into the shoulder of a massive naked warrior. The warrior bashed the legionnaire with the butt of his spear and gored him with the tip.

Thorek charged into the fray, screaming. Arrows whizzed by his head, and spells flashed above. He smacked one legionnaire with the side of his axe and then trampled him. Thorek sprinted forward, cutting a bloody swath through the legionnaires.

At the back of the line, Strabismus casted a Shield spell and scanned the battle. His lines had fallen apart, but the legionnaires of the XXXIInd blocked the Nords from rushing the archers, spellcasters, and himself. Strabismus yelped and hopped to his left as a frost bolt landed near his foot. He howled in rage and hurled three lightning bolts at the Nord shamans.

Thorek ran across the battlefield. His vision had misted over with a haze of red, and a hammer pounded on the inside of his skull. He howled in fury and hurled himself at a group of three soldiers. The first one fell instantly when Thorek's axe cleaved into his side. The second whipped around just as Thorek swung his axe downward. The soldier tried to block the blow, but Thorek's swing was so strong that it broke the poor Imperial's arm. Thorek grabbed the fallen soldier's shield and smashed its pointed tip through the third Imperial's face.

Around him, Thorek heard the screams of the dying and saw Nord warriors falling all around him. An Imperial saw him, and Thorek screamed in challenge. The Imperial turned to run, but Thorek caught him first. He swung his axe and spun the soldier around, then bashed the end of its haft into the legionnaire's head, knocking him down. Thorek then swung his axe downward at the soldier's chest. There was a sickening squish. Thorek reached into the cavity he had created in the Imperial's chest, pulled out his still beating heart, and bit down. A nearby legionnaire saw this and convulsed with terror.

Thorek was a fearsome sight, a warrior in bear furs matted with blood and with blood running down his chin from his mouth, drenching his armor in even more blood. He caught a glimpse of the commander and reacted instinctively. Reaching down, he grabbed a dead Nord's spear and hurled it at the enemy commander. Then he screamed, charged through the lines of men, and flew like an eagle towards his enemy.

Strabismus examined the battle before him. It was apparent that his forces would win. Although the Nords fought like demons, they were being cut down by the disciplined Imperials. As Strabismus watched the battle, he did not notice a spear that flew through the air until it struck him and removed his Shield spells. He looked up and saw a Nord, covered in blood and wielding a massive axe, flying through the air towards him. Strabismus's right hand reached toward his side and began to draw his sword, while he moved his left to cast a lightning spell.

Time slowed to a crawl. Thorek saw the commander make a motion. He felt a lightning bolt strike him in the chest. He howled in pain when it struck. The commander then slashed his stomach open as he flew towards him. Thorek felt his life begin to leave him, but he had time for one last act. Howling as if the hounds of Oblivion were on his tail, Thorek swung his axe sideways and slashed Strabismus's head off. Thorek landed hard and fell down dead.