Chapter 5 – Proving Grounds

It as just after dawn had broken that Avingard awoke in the Four Shields Tavern. He has slept well considering the bed wasn’t the most comfortable, but the previous day’s events had ensured he would have slept well on a road. Rubbing his eyes, Avingard rose to his feet, grabbed his gear and then left the small room.

As she was last night, Faida was tending the bar but stopped as she noticed Avingard enter from the room.

“Good morning,” she greeted Avingard. “Did you sleep well?”

Not wanting to upset Faida about the bed, he simply replied, “I slept well.”

“Well, let me know if you need anything,” Faida explained smiling before resuming her work.

Avingard looked around the large tarvern. There were no other patrons in the room, but the fire was still roaring in the fire pit. He sat down at the nearest table and pulled out some food for breakfast. He slowly ate some bread, an apple and then drank some water. He was anxious to begin the final leg of his journey to Solitude, which according to his map, he should easily reach this morning.

Once he was finished his breakfast, Avingard stood up and then walked out the only door into the tavern and into the street. The clouds had rolled in the previous night, but were slowly breaking up and the sun peaked through the broken clouds. The sun was still rising as Avingard stepped into the street and looked around.

Dragon’s bridge wasn’t a very big town, only consisting of about four main buildings, with the Four Shields Tavern being one of them. Two other buildings appeared to be tied to a small lumber camp. The small size meant that only a single main road, leading up to Solitude, was the only road in town. The single road, however, split into two after crossing Dragon Bridge with both sections surrounding the Four Shields Tower.

Dragon Bridge was an important bridge for both the Imperials and the Stormcloaks, making this town a prime target for both factions. The bridge, with the large dragon’s head at the top, was the last bridge to cross the Karth river before Solitude. If the bridge fell to the Stormcloaks, they would have unrestricted access in an assault on Solitude.

As Avingard turned north on the final leg of his journey to Solitude, an Imperial soldier stopped and watched Avingard. Unlike other holds, which have their own city guards, Solitude is mainly patrolled by Imperial soldiers because of the strong Imperial Legion support and presence in the Haafingar hold. Not wanting to cause any alarm, Avingard just smiled at the soldier and continued on his way. The Imperial soldier kept an eye on Avingard until Avingard had left Dragon Bridge.

Avingard and an Imperial Legion Soldier
Avingard and an Imperial Legion soldier.

Avingard continued along the road, which forked into two directions – one heading northwest and up a small cliff, while the other northeast along a more flat route. After checking his map, Avingard took the northeast route, which eventually turned eastward. As Avingard walked along the path he noticed a cliff on his left, with snow appearing from the ledges, and a drop to his right. The drop off to his right, and after some distance, would eventually lead to the Karth river.

Peering back at the cliffs to his left, mainly because he wasn’t keen on looking down to the river, Avingard noticed some stone structures built at the top of the cliffs. He wasn’t sure what the stone structures were, but they did grab his attention for a few moments as he walked past them.

Just past the stone structures, the road once again forked, with the road ahead going up the cliff, and the road to the right appearing to go down. Once again Avingard chose the right fork and he began to descend down the cliff. Not far from the fork, Avingard started to overhear voices ahead of him.

“Come along, no more stops, we need to find our way to Solitude,” a male voice ordered.

“Why are we even going to a wedding at this far flung end of the Empire anyway?” a female voice questioned.

“I told you, it’s the wedding of Vittoria Vici, an extremely well-connected merchant with the East Empire Company,” the man explained. “The Emperor’s cousin? Remember? Hopefully these gifts will put us in her good graces, secure that import deal, and lead the way to an audience with the Emperor.”

As Avingard rounded a corner he spotted three people walking along the left side of the road ahead of him. Out front was a Redguard, and was dressed in leather armor and was perhaps the bodyguard. Behind him were two well dressed Imperials – a man and a woman. The man was traveling behind the woman. Avingard caught up to the group as they were traveling much slower.

Wealthy Travelers and Bodyguard
Wealthy travelers and their bodyguard.

“Excuse me,” Avingard interjected.

“Don’t bother me peasant,” the man replied seeming disgusted at Avingard. “I’ve had a long journey and paid too much coin on these gifts to be late to Vittoria’s wedding.”

“Enjoy the wedding,” Avingard said.

“Indeed,” the man said. “If we ever get there.”

As he has witnessed many times in his life, the wealthy always seem to believe they are above everyone else. While Avingard doesn’t have the temperment to put up with such foolishness, he also realized that the bodyguard traveling with the group looked like someone that could handle a sword. Avingard smiled at the man and then continued on his way.

After rounding the bend, Avingard noticed a large stone wall with a large opened door in front of him. It was the outer wall of Solitude, and Avingard was relieved when he finally could see his destination up ahead.

The stone wall was constructed of massive rectangular stones and it looked like it can withstand a large assault. A large square battlement was built on the right side that could provide protection against the road and the river. While the Imperial Legion help Solitude, no banners indicating such were displayed on the outer wall. Next to the main door through the wall was a solitary guard, which just watched Avingard as he passed through the entrance.

Once Avingard had passed through the outer wall ahead of him were the main doors to the city of Solitude. Built with similar stones as the outer wall, the main wall to the city was even more formidable, consisting of a large battlement on the right side and smaller one on the left. The doors to the city were closed with a single Imperial solder guarding the doors. Hung on either side of the door were Imperial Legion banners.

Main Gate into Solitude
Main gate into Solitude.

As Avingard approached the doors, the soldier turned to Avingard and explained, “if you’ve come to Solitude to join the Legion, speak to Rikke. If not, just keep your nose clean while you’re here…or you’ll end up like Roggvir.”

Unsure of who Roggvir was, Avingard nodded to the soldier and then opened the doors and entered Solitude.

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