He was chosen as a child to walk the path of Jurgen Windcaller and follow the Way of The Voice. He was taught above all to never use his Thu’um as a weapon, for it was most sacred and only to be used in worship of the Divines. But the fires of rebellion burned within his blood, and he answered their call…with a Shout that shook the land of Skyrim and the Empire beyond.
Warrior. Revolutionary. Nord. His name… Ulfric Stormcloak.
The son of a Windhelm Jarl, Ulfric was chosen to study with the Greybeards at High Hrothgar from a very early age, and would spend most of the next decade developing the awesome power of his Thu’um. It was expected that Ulfric would himself become a Greybeard one day, if it were not for the Great War of the fourth Era. Despite the teachings of pacifism that were the cornerstone of the Way of The Voice, Ulfric was compelled to join in the fight against the elven Thalmor, who sensed the growing weakness in the Empires of Men. Gone were the fabled days of the magnificent Septim Dynasty. The landscape of Tamriel was a patchwork of independent kingdoms who battled each other over resources and territorial disputes.
High Rock and Skyrim had been most prosperous during this time, and Ulfric wished to fight to preserve the Nordic way of life, including the worship of Talos, which the Thalmor had outlawed. Joining the Imperial Legion, the young Stormcloak was powerful and brave, yet untrained in the ways of war, and hesitant to use his Thu’um in battle due to the teachings of the Greybeards. He was quickly captured in battle, and subjected to the tender mercies of the Thalmor, who tortured him relentlessly for many days, making him believe the information he had finally given up had led to the fall of the White Gold Tower. In truth, the Imperial City had fallen long before Ulfric reached his threshold for pain. Shortly after the fall of Cyrodiil, he was released from prison and returned to Skyrim.
With the tragic demise of his father, Ulfric found great sadness within his native land of Windhelm upon his return. With his reputation as a war hero, Ulfric Stormcloak was quickly named Jarl of Windhelm. Immediately he was approached by Jarl Igmund of Markarth, who had lost control of his territory known as the Reach. It had been taken by savages called Reachmen who recognized neither the authority of the Empire or the Nords. They even managed to take the city of Markarth itself. Igmund pleaded for assistance, and Ulfric agreed to assist under the condition that the worship of Talos, which had been outlawed with the treaty that ended the Great War, be freely allowed again. Igmund agreed, and Ulfric immediately laid siege upon the city in what would become known as the Markarth Incident.
It is believed Ulfric used the power of his Thu’um to brutally crush the rebel Reachmen and drive them again into the hills surrounding the Reach where they would become known as the Forsworn. Jarl Igmund gratefully welcomed Talos worship once he was able to enter the city.
When the Imperial Legion arrived to bring Markarth back under Imperial rule, Ulfric refused to allow them entry into the city until free worship of Talos was assured. Desperate to restore order to a city that had sunk into murderous anarchy, the Legion agreed, order was restored and all was well…for a while. The Empire, desperate to maintain peace with the Aldmeri Dominion, was all too happy to break their word. Thus Ulfric along with his fighting men, were soon driven out of the city of Markarth by Imperial troops. Ulfric’s resentment was enormous. He felt betrayed by an Empire he and many other Nords had fought so hard and sacrificed so much for. It is here, by all accounts that the Stormcloak Rebellion began.
Ulfric’s position came to be one of secession. He reasoned that because the Empire was now essentially a subject of the Thalmor and the Aldmeri Dominion, to remain under Imperial authority was to be an underling to an underling. He began to believe that Nords would only be truly free when all of Skyrim was purged of Imperial Rule. Over time, he became increasingly nationalistic in his views. Some accused his policies of being outright racist. He is known for having segregated the Dunmer living in Windhelm to the Gray Quarter slums as well as for refusing to allow Argonians to live within the city walls at all.
Despite Ulfric’s call for all the Nords of Skyrim to secede from the Empire, he managed to co-exist for a time with his Imperial overseers. But that would soon change…
Ulfric’s unsteady relationship with the Empire collapsed completely when he openly killed the High King of Skyrim. Ulfric and his supporters maintain it was a formal duel meant to illustrate just how weak Skyrim had grown under Imperial rule, and how essential it was for Nords to split from the Empire. Ulfric claims High King Torygg accepted his challenge, and it is reasonable to assume Torygg would have had to, for to do otherwise would not only have been humiliating, it would have proven Ulfric’s point all the same.
Some have called it a duel in the old Nord way, and thus an honorable kill. Then there are those, such as General Tullius of the Empire, who claimed Ulfric literally Shouted Torygg to pieces, condemning it as an act of cold blooded murder and an attempt to usurp the crown of the High King for himself. In any event, orders for Ulfric’s arrest were issued immediately and for the next few months, Ulfric was confined to the boundaries of Windhelm. Ultimately, he was duped and led into a trap at Darkwater Crossing, where he quietly and peacefully surrendered. Whereas General Tullius would have seen the Nord leader extradited to Cyrodiil to face murder charges, plans were inexplicably changed and it was decreed that Jarl Ulfric Stormcloak would be transported to Helgen and executed immediately.
Perhaps it was just coincidence; the events of that day…for as the Legions of the Empire prepared to execute not one, but two speakers of the Dragon Tongue, a great beast came soaring out of the skies, raining fire and death down on Helgen, and allowing these two people of great power to escape with their lives.
The prisoner who escaped Helgen has gone on to give us hope in a time when dragons appear to have returned in force to consume the world of Man with elemental fury. Jarl Ulfric simply went home to Windhelm, to rule his land as he had before. Their paths have crossed several times since, these two warriors, but where their respective fates will lead them and if they will ever meet again, remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, the rebel Stormcloaks continue to fight fiercely for Skyrim’s independence and the right to openly worship Talos as their forefathers did, unwavering in their resolve to decide their own destinies, free from Imperial rule or Thalmor interference.
They fight for their freedom.
They fight for justice and to honor the blood of their fallen kinsmen.
And they fight…because they believe in Ulfric Stormcloak, who they believe to be the true High King.
The final chapter in the life of this controversially influential man is yet to be written. Some say he should led Skyrim into its next Golden Age; others fear him and wish him dead.
Ulfric and his Stormcloaks were not the first revolutionaries willing to spill blood to shed an Imperial yoke. There was once a Red Eagle who was so compelling; he would inspire Men even from beyond the grave.
But that… is a story for another day…