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Chapter 705: Negotiations
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There was a major difference between how the flow of events was supposed to go and how Jon forced it to be. In the game, the Dragonborn and Paarthurnax go against Alduin together when the Dragonborn learns the Dragonrend shout, the ultimate shout that can slay Alduin. While the battle flows in the favor of the Dragonborn and Paarthurnax, Alduin proves to be very powerful and resists the temporary mortality that is caused by the Dragonrend shout. As the battle goes nowhere, Alduin leaves and goes to rest in his hideout.
Jon skipped that part since Alduin didn't show up, to begin with. With the rise of the Dragon Cult, Jon wasn't sure how exactly it was all working from the inside of the Cult but for the most part, Alduin won't bother coming out before he gets strong enough. While that is happening, Alduin would leave his horde and cult the mission of increasing the number of war casualties.
All Jon needed to do was convince the Lords and Ladies of Skyrim that all war casualties must be avoided since it is making his job harder with more Dragons resurrecting as Alduin gets more power. If this continues, even he will be overrun by Dragons… and let's not forget the other two major threats he will have to face.
But now the two factions of the war had to come to terms and that begins with an exchange.
"We want control of Markarth. That's our price for agreeing to a truce." Jarl Ulfric made a demand.
"This is outrageous!" Jarl Igmund of Markarth flew up in rage as soon as he heard what was said, "You want my city? Come and take it, you madman!"
"Ulfric! Are you trying to insult the Greybeards by using this council to advance your own position?" After Igmund, the dissatisfied Jarl Bryling of Haafingar spoke up.
"Jarls, I'll handle this." General Tullius spoke up and tried to calm the people on his side while taking lead in the conversation.
"Is that how the Empire rewards us for our loyalty?" Even the neutral Jarl Balgruuf felt threatened and opposed the idea of hearing such demands.
"I said I'd handle it." The General said before turning to Ulfric, "Ulfric, you can't seriously expect us to give up Markarth at the negotiating table. You hope to gain in council what you've been unable to take in battle, is that it?"
"Calm down, please." Master Arngeir spoke up and his voice filled the room once again, "I'm sure Jarl Ulfric does not expect something for nothing."
"Yes, that'd be entirely out of character." Legate Rikke mumbled sarcastically.
"This is unbelievable!"
"I can't believe we're discussing this."
The Jarls on the Imperial side were so afraid of getting their holds treated as bargaining chips by the Empire and opposed this situation fiercely. General Tullius couldn't take this situation and shouted at them.
"Enough!" The General said and banged his hand against the table, "First, let's be clear. This council wasn't my idea. I think it is a waste of time."
The Jarls quietened down as the General seemed to be willing to go ahead with politics. The war was already costing them too much and Jon Dare made it clear he is the reason why the war is this expensive and he won't stop until the war stops. It was a matter of peace to him.
On the other hand, Jarl Ulfric won't calm down until he gets Markarth. His reasoning is that he was the one who liberated it from the Reachmen but still it was taken by the Empire and he was disgraced despite his reputation as the Bear of Markarth. It was a matter of pride to him.
In front of those two rivals, the General had to play along and at least see where it goes. One can act dissatisfied at any given time and leave the negotiations anyway. For that, the General had to be clear on this with all the people around him
"Ulfric, you are a traitor to the Empire and deserve a traitor's death. If not for the Dragon of Helgen, the War would have long since met its conclusion." The General spoke clearly to a.s.sert his position, "But since this whole thing with Dragons is closely related to the War and since we ran head to head with the Dragon Cult at Solitude, I am willing to at least negotiate in good faith."
The General then turned to Jon.
"And you, since we're all here at your request, I'd like to hear what you think Markarth is worth." The General asked.
That was a test to see which side Jon leans towards.
"Riften." Jon replied, maintaining his neutral stance.
An impatient look surfaced on the face of Jarl Lela of Riften similar to the one on Jarl Igmund of Markarth.
"My Lord!" She stood up and looked at Ulfric.
Ulfric looked back at her calmly and politely signaled her to sit back down.
She had a shaken expression as she looked at Jon who didn't show her any hint of sympathy. On the other hand, General Tullius started a.n.a.lyzing what Jon just offered him.
"The Rift would help secure our communication with Cyrodiil and threaten Ulfric's southern flank." The General said.
It wasn't a bad deal.
Ulfric didn't seem happy all of a sudden as he glared at both Jon and Tullius.
"What's with you, Ulfric?" General Tullius asked, "The Dragonborn has treated both sides fairly but now that I look at you, this doesn't seem to your liking."
Ulfric didn't reply to Tullius' provocations and calculated his words before speaking.
"You heard the man, Tullius, we've made you a fair offer. The Dragonborn has spoken. Markarth will be ours. Now we'll see if there's anything behind your talk of good faith." Ulfric replied while bouncing on the win he so eagerly wanted.
General Tullius sighed.
"You've been fair to us, Dragonborn." He said and turned to Ulfric, "But I now see that this is not a negotiation at all."
"Hold on right there!" Jarl Igmund stood up and walked ahead to the negotiations table, "Who said you have the authority to hand over Markarth? No Jarl shall agree to such a thing."
"d.a.m.n right!" Jarl Balgruuf agreed as he glared at the General.
"Mara's Mercy!" Jarl Idgrod shook her head and seemed saddened by the unwanted development.
While Jarl Bryling remained silent, it was Jarl Siddgeir who sided with the General.
"Both of you, have you lost your d.a.m.n minds?" Jarl Siddgeir faced both Jarl Balgruuf and Jarl Igmund, "You want to show a fractured front against the Stormcloaks? Whatever the General says, you just have to suck it up and trust in the victory of the Empire."
While on the other side, Jarl Lela was having a similar conversation.
"Jarl Ulfric, I do respect your judgment but not Riften… that's my home, my father's, and my forefathers. I can't just hand it over."
"Lela…" Ulfric tried to gently persuade Jarl Lela but before he could speak, someone interrupted him.
"d.a.m.n woman!" Jarl Skald the Elder threw his tankard towards Lela's feet, "You think your city of Thieves, which wasn't even controlled by you, would be any good to the Empire? Shut up and let the men handle it!"
"You shut up, you old skald of woe!" Jarl Lela shouted back at Jarl Skald.
Jarl Skald was momentarily stunned when he was just called "an old skald of woe" but as he was just going to recite the codex of Atmoran insults to Jarl Lela, Galmar Stone-Fist stood between the two.
"You two are in High Hrothgar if you need to be reminded what that means." Galmar seemed as if he was a second away from killing the two Jarls, "You, don't speak unless you're invited to, and you, put some trust in our liege and lord."
As his words shut the two Jarls up, Ulfric sighed and remained silent to show a united front.
But on the southern seat of the table, Jon Dare was gleefully smiling.
"You're happy now, Dragonborn?" Master Arngeir spoke to Jon as he wasn't really looking at anyone except Jon this whole time.
Jon was smiling, he didn't stop doing so, everyone could notice that now. They all went silent, waiting for him to act.
"Excuse my rudeness, Master Arngeir." Jon replied but his smile hadn't gone down one bit, "I was just amazed at how predictable those bunch are."
"They are men of war. Greed drives them. What is amazing there is to predict?" Master Arngeir asked.
"It's not my first time playing this sort of politics but they are easier than ever." Jon laughed, "Allow me to fix what they keep breaking."
Master Arngeir closed his eyes and sighed. Jon was naturally going to have his way anyway.
"May I suggest a different solution to this dreadful exchange you two are coming up with?" Jon asked the two sides.
A solution, he said. Jon's solution was one of two things, he either would make them do something that would completely stop the war and put a halt to their conflict, or he would just make himself a ton of profit while coaxing them to pa.s.s some policies he wants…
"Do we have to give you some mining rights somewhere?" General Tullius asked.
"Nope!" Jon replied.
"And the war won't be crippled?" Jarl Ulfric asked.
"Nope!" Jon replied once again before raising his index, "I dare say, I'd actually be sacrificing some influence and a.s.sets and you'd be regaining more combat strength to your armies."
Jon sacrificing his influence and a.s.sets for their gain while giving their armies a breather? That's exactly what they needed.
"That's ridiculous!" But someone interrupted and it was none other than Amba.s.sador Elenwen of the Aldmeri Dominion, "Jon Dare is always a man who would offer with one hand and pickpocket with the other. You'd be fools to believe whatever he says."
As Elenwen bounced on the talk for the first time, Jarl Ulfric was swift to intercept her words.
"Elf, you're only here to observe. I swear to Talos if you speak one more time…" Ulfric shouted with a voice that echoed across the halls of High Hrothgar.
"Oh why the hate, Ulfric?" Elenwen wasn't a little bit fazed by Ulfric as she grinned widely, "After all, it isn't the Thalmor that is murdering your people and burning your farms!"
Elenwen merely hinted something, insinuating a deep wound on the Stormcloak's face that caused the Empire's faction to tremble for a second there.
"Isn't she supposed to be on our side?" Legate Rikke glared at General Tullius, the one who agreed to let her sit on the table.
"Elenwen, one more word and it will be me who chases you away, not Ulfric." But the General was calm as he immediately showed that he can go against that missive he received from the Elder Council.
Elenwen was amazed by Tullius' will to defy direct orders but she has already thrown the bait and the Stormcloaks gladly took it.
"The Thalmor b.i.t.c.hes raises a good point though." Galmar Stone-Fist spoke, "In addition to Markarth, we want a public apology from the Empire for its war crimes!"
"War crimes?" Legate Rikke questioned in disbelief.
"Go on, Ulfric, I'm sure you have something in mind." General Tullius, however, was patiently waiting for what the Stormcloaks had in store.
"We want compensation for the ma.s.sacre at Barleydark Farm." Jarl Ulfric spoke.
"You slaughtered them!" Galmar Stone-Fist continued after Ulfric, "The women, the children! You butchers!"
Legate Rikke stood up, unaccepting what she was hearing.
"That's a lie! My legionnaires are disciplined, unlike your..." She shouted.
But the bucket of cold water was spilled on her by the man sitting by her left.
"You don't really expect compensation every time a farm gets burned in a war that you started, do you Ulfric?" The General asked.
"And so the Empire runs roughshod over Skyrim, as usual." Ulfric smiled slyly, "What say you, Rikke, old friend? Will you let the blood of the innocent cry out for weregild?"
Legate Rikke sat back down, shaken, dejected.
"Then how about this?" General Tullius spoke, "We want compensation for the ma.s.sacre at Karthwasten!"
"You slaughtered the very people you claim to be fighting for! True sons of Skyrim would never do such things." Legate Rikke channeled her anger while pointing at Ulfric.
"d.a.m.ned Imperial lies! My men would never stoop to such methods, even in retaliation for your butchery at..." Galmar wanted to retort but Ulfric spoke out.
"This is our homeland, Tullius. All the blood spilled in this war is on your hand." Ulfric said.
He was also admitting the ma.s.sacre he committed when he killed many of those of Nordic-Reachmen descendants when they refused to follow him during the Markarth incident.
"A t.i.t for tat, is it Ulfric?" Jon finally decided to break the pointless bickering, "We're all killers here, why waste time apologizing for killing?"
"They were innocent, Thane Jon." Jarl Balgruuf calmly spoke.
"I've killed innocents too." Jon said, "The Forsworn that captured me lost their sons and women when I decided to eradicate them all. Have they reappeared ever again?"
Jon asked a question.
"When I d.a.m.ned their souls to Oblivion, have you ever blamed me? Have any of you called me a murderer and asked me to apologize or compensate?"
He then pointed at the two sides.
"You two, you agreed to this war. It wasn't Ulfric alone, the Imperial Bigots in that Elder Council also wanted this war, that Thalmor b.i.t.c.h and her cronies wanted this war as well, the young and the old wanted this war. You f.u.c.ks hear the word War and the next thing you do is rush to it with your swords and axes. The only apology you can ever give to those who died is to put down your d.a.m.n weapons and f.u.c.k off where you came from." Jon said and spat on the ground, "If you're not doing that, and I know you won't, sit your a.s.ses down and listen to what I was going to say before that Thalmor b.i.t.c.h interrupted me."
Jon's little speech was full of insults as usual and it somehow worked out with the warring sides. They all looked at him, recognized his deeds and misdeeds, and accepted to hear what he had to say.
"The Stormcloaks are pushing for Markarth as a matter of pride to Ulfric. You want the easily defendable Reach to make a stronghold near Haafingar and launch attacks on Whiterun and Falkreath easily. Still, you'd be fools to think that you can keep Markarth." Jon said and turned to the Imperials, "As for you, you're pushing for Riften for two main reasons. First, you want the trade routes with Morrowind to supply you with Ebony Ore, the one you spend a fortune getting from the sea while enduring Stormcloaks sea raids. The second reason is to raid Eastmarch from the south from an easily defendable route that can give your superior cavalry squads an easy high ground to retreat behind an archer cover. Still, you can't hold Riften without any local ally like the late Maven Black-Briar whom I took pleasure in butchering."
Overall, the two sides were pushing for a mile to get an inch. They didn't know they could actually end up taking what they wished for and it would be problematic in the long run.
Riften is advantageous for the Legion but they have no support in the Rift after Maven's death and Markarth is isolated from the Stormcloak lands from all borders.
So what would Jon suggest?
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