This might seem like the beggining of a strange joke, but this story starts with a dunmer and a nord sitting in a tavern.
The nord was a well known man called Brunwulf Free-Winter, the dunmer had been seen before but he kept to himself most of the time. Some of the men in town understood this as the arrogance the elves were known for. Though Brunwulf had come to know his companion as a pleasent and openminded...fellow. And this had been bothering him, since it seemed contradictory.
The other nord did not think of the dunmer, or darkelves very highly. Those who lived in the city lived in a slum, called the grey quater, presumably a reference to their skincolour. And yet this specific dunmer or dark elve decided to aid the lord of the city, Jarl Ulfric Stormcloak, in his rebellion against the empire.
It was bothering Brunwulf.
The dunmer looked at him and said:"You look troubled, my friend."
"Oh it's nothing...", he replied and as the other one kept looking he added:"It's just...I don't get why you support Ulfric."
The elf reaised his eyebrows, acting overly suprised:"Oh, what's not to understand there?"
Brunwulf leaned back and gestured vaguely:"Well...your people are not treated with much kindness in this city."
"And because each and every one of us is bound solely to the fate of his kinsmen, I am to live in a slum and hate Ulfric, is that what you are implying?", he inquired between sips.
"Are you making fun of me now?", the nord gave the dunmer a strange look.
"Not at all, but the same way as your position is not to be compared with Ulfric's, the same way I and the other mer in this city have very little in common.", the darkelf uttered these words with out a hint of irony or arrogance.
"Still...", now Brunwulf had to get to the bottom of this "It does not explain why you for Ulfric, you could aswell side with the Empire."
"Hmph the empire...", his friend's red eyes became smaller, his gaze joyless and harsh.
"This empire is worth little more than the stool, the emperor sits on."
Brunwulf opened his mouth to answere, but the other one raised a hand and went on:"There are good men and women fight for the imperial army in ths war, I won't deny you that. But you also have to see, that just because Ulfric has problems with none-nords, it doesn't have to be that all stormcloaks feel the same. After all they took me in, if you take my word for it. They put me to the same tests as everyone else and gave me the same tasks."
Brunwulf thought about that for a moment:"And what did the imperials do to deserve your ire?"
The elf took a deep breath and went on:"The imperials have done little to deserve anything from me, infact they are as good as any other men, like that young woman working as a blacksmith in whiterun, she has spirit. The imperial army on the other hand...when I came to skyrim months ago, they had set up a trap at the border to catch a group of stormcloaks, aswell as a horsethief and myself and although there was no indication on my person that I was a member of the rebellion, in fact they did not even know my name, they went on to decapitate me, without giving me any chance to state my case."
"How did you survive then?", the man asked curiously.
"A dragon interrupted the lovely ceremony, but let's not talk about that now.", he said and added "What's rather interesting though is that when I went to general Tullius, later as an ambassador of the stormcloaks he suggested that it had merely been a bureaucratic mistake and went on to add some half-hearted apology, which is atleast dishonest if not dishonorable."
"Well...", Brunwulf added in apologetic tone "You can't hold the entire empire responsible for the actions of one man, can you?"
"No I can't and I wont but if you go to the island of Solstheim and talk to the Dunmer there they will tell you, that during the so-called Oblivion-crisis when Our homeland was threatened by horrific monsters the imperial army withdrew alltogether and left us to fight the threat ourselves and when everything was over the empire crawled back out of it's hole as if nothing had ever happened and went on to demand taxes and submission. Is that what men call just leadership?"
The nord looked down into his tankerd, his friend was referencing events long past, but elves had long lives and long memories so he supposed it was true.
"So...", Brunwulf wasn't sure what he wanted to say, but he went on:"Are you saying that it was right for Ulfric to kill his King?"
"As far as I can tell he did not violate any vital rules when he challenged the king to a duel, although I heard the entertaining stories about how Ulfric 'ripped the king in half with his voice'...", he giggled "I studied the way of the voice and there is no shout that can rip someone apart so I am going to believe Ulfric's version in which he simply knocked his opponent down with his voice and killed him with his sword."
The elf lifted his tankerd to drink and then something else came to his mind and he went on:"On a side note, after Ulfric 'murdered' the highking, the kings widow who was suddenly in charge of everything wanted to arrest Ulfric for the crime of killing the king, which as far as I remember is not customary as part of duels, or is it?", he asked with all the irony of a lifetime. "After that they executed the man who helped Ulfric escape. The imperials and the kings wife bend the rules as they see fit and yet the have the nerve to call others traitors. Is that honest leadership?"
"You are going to ask that question again and again, aren't you?", the nord asked with little joy.
"I will keep asking untill I find a fitting answere and by 'fitting' I mean satisfying. After the great war, 30 years ago, the highelves who defeated the empire, brought the emperor to outlaw the worship of the god the nords and all other men venerate the most. And their agents, the Thalmor, arrest and torture whoever they see fit simply on the assumption you might be a worshiper of Talos. And other 'honorable' nord blackmail their neighbors to the Thalmor, simply to get rid of them, uargh.", the elf made a noise as if he had eaten something poisonous.
"So you hate the higheelves, not the imperials?", asked Brunwulf.
The dunmer raised his armes in anger:"No, by the Three, no! I don't care for the highelves anymore then I care for the imperials. If at all it's the Thalmor that I hate, the Thalmor that use the emperor as a handpuppet, the Thalmor that purge Valenwood of it's woodelf citizens, the Thalmor that capture and torture based on what people believe in. If you are true to yourself you know it is right. You know that we cannot fight for an empire that bows to these...*N'Wah*."
There was a long silence. Brunwulf looked at his friend who was staring into his drink.
"So what are you going to do?", he asked after a while.
The dunmer looked up at him and then he looked around, he saw the bard of the tavern, a girl named Luaffyn, and gestured her to come over.
"Is there anything you want me to play, milord?", she smiled.
"Can you play 'The Age of Agression' for me?", the elf asked and the bard's smile faded away almost imidietly.
The age of Agression was a song played by pro-imperial bards, it condemed the stormcloaks and called Ulfric the killer of kings.
"S-sure...", she said mildly uncomfortable, but after all the guy that pays also chooses the song.
She came to the middle of the third line before the commotion started.
"What is this you filthy whore?!", one of the townsfolk shouted.
The darkelf stood up:"I payed her to play the song."
"So you're a traitor now too?!", someone groweled.
"No, but if this land is supposed to be free, then why can't people sing whatever song they like, hu? Who are you to dictate what song she can play and which she can't? Isn't that the kind of oppression you are fighting so furiously? If you are true nord as you lable yourself you should step up and fight so that each and everyone of us may worship whoever they want and sing what they like. That's what I fight for, and that's what you should fight for-", he looked at Brunwulf "-it's the only honorable thing to do."
He put a fistfull of coins down on the table and gave a few of them to the bard:"Thank you for the song..."
And then he left the tavern leaving irritated townsfolk behind.
He stepped out into the night and took a deepbreath of the cold air.
"Oh Vivec...", he thought to himself "I might live to see the day they learn."