1 Evening's Star, 4E201
I woke as the night's watchmen began to turn in and helped myself to a roasted potato before walking into the Legate's tend. As expected the Legate's attention was fully absorbed by the province map spread before her and she addressed me without looking away from it.
My orders were not what I thought they were. Instead of assaulting Windhelm I was to report to a squad of soldiers outside of Fort Amol between Whiterun and Windhelm and drive the Stormcloak garrison out. Nothing much different than what I have been doing.
It was quite a walk from the camp to Fort Amol, but some occurrence of nature created waves of light that danced across the sky, making the journey somewhat more interesting.
I found the Imperial soldiers loitering on the road maybe fifty yards or so away from the fort, heedless of both being noticed and being shot. Somehow neither had occurred before I arrived. My arrival was waited for, but I do not know why for as soon as I confirmed my identity the soldiers gave a yell and charged straight for the fort, leaving me scrambling to keep up.
The reckless charge surprised the Stormcloaks and we had the gate's hastily-built barricade demolished and the few posted sentries overrun before the rest of the garrison began to pour out of the fort's main tower. I played little part in the massacre that followed, the Imperials were able to destroy most of the Stormcloaks themselves and went so far as to abandon the fort completely once the battle was over to chase the few Stormcloaks that fled, leaving me alone with several piles of corpses. Very odd behavior for the Imperial Legion.
I spent some time searching for the body of the Stormcloak commander, but either they died as a common soldier or fled the fort. Whatever their fate Fort Amol was now in Imperial hands, should the Imperial soldiers return to it. But that was not for me to worry about. I arrived back at the Legate's camp by midday.
She was pleased to hear the sole remaining Stormcloak fort was now in Imperial hands, as much as it was in anyone's, then surprised me by ordering an immediate march on Windhelm. More specific orders would come from General Tullius who started the siege around the time the crazed battle at Fort Amol began. So once again I was back on the road going in the same direction I had just left from.
The Legate asked me to "scout ahead" with the implicit suggestion that I need not return to her column to make a report. So it was that I arrived at Windhelm well ahead of her and her troops to witness rocks and balls of fire repeatedly smashing into the fortifications and buildings of Ulfric's base of operations.
I expected a great battle but I could see no troops from either side near the city. I proceeded to the main gatehouse expecting to be shot at by Stormcloaks, but found General Tullius giving a speech before the city gates to a dozen or so Imperial soldiers as boulders and fireballs crashed around them.
I arrived to hear only the end of the speech during which he assured the soldiers that men of distinguished valor would be well rewarded. The soldiers cheered and he pushed open the unbarred, unguarded gates into the city, calling the men to rally to him.
Why were the gates not only unguarded, but not even barred? But then, why did the Stormcloaks flee Fort Amol? I suspect the Stormcloaks' "cause" has been faltering throughout the weeks I have been a participant in this "war" and the rebels are either deserting or splintering into smaller, more dedicated groups about the province. There are countless caverns, tombs, and ruins a small band can hide in and I do not believe the end of Ulfric will mean an end to the rebellion of the Stormcloaks, even if it will certainly be much smaller.
The inside of the city was in worse condition than the view from outside suggested. Half of the buildings had collapsed or burned to the ground and the other half were on fire. The sounds of battle rang along the streets, but resistance was via isolated pockets of Stormcloaks instead of an organized counter-assault and they were quickly overwhelmed. I trailed behind most of the Imperials and aside from dodging a few stray arrows played no part in the battle.
Our assault brought us to the Palace of the Kings where a blood-spattered Imperial waited to hand me orders instructing me not to proceed inside before the General and the Legate.
I did not have to wait long. The General and the Legate arrived together, the former unconcerned and clean, the latter breathing heavily and covered in blood. They said nothing, but the General nodded at me, which I took to mean I was to now enter the castle. Again my expectations were dashed: where I expected a heated band of rebels to charge us I found only Ulfric and his housecarl, Galmar Stone-Fist, at the far end of the hall. There were no Stormcloak rebels attending to their supposed lord at all.
General Tullius made the demand for Ulfric to surrender, but I do not believe either thought that was likely. The ensuring battle was swift: Legate Rikke dispatched Galmar within moments and Ulfric fared little better with the General's blade in his abdomen.
The General asked Ulfric for any last requests, but Ulfric replied only that he wanted the Dragonborn to slay him to make for a better song. General Tullius handed me his blade and I made sure it was quick and painless. I do wonder if Ulfric ever realized I was the "courier" Jarl Balgruuf had sent a week ago. What a sad and underwhelming end to what, in any other time, would have been a hot-blooded Era-defining war. But these times do not make for great heroes or great villains.
The remainder of the Imperial Legion was waiting for us when we exited the Palace. General Tullius announced the victory and declared all survivors' pay would be double as well as compensation to the widows of those that fell during the assault. He then led the men in a cheer for the Legion and the Emperor and that was the entirety of the speech dedicated to the fall of the Stormcloaks.
Once the men had dispersed the two turned to me. General Tullius admitted that I had been an indispensable part of the Imperial victory over the Stormcloaks, though I have a difficult time figuring out how that could be. Nothing I have accomplished under the Legion's banner within the past two weeks could not have been done by a veteran soldier. Perhaps it is the speed at which it was done.
That may be for the bards to muse over, if I am ever worth musing. For now I will spend the night in the Palace of the Kings and tomorrow I may visit Delphine to see what progress she has made.