When I escaped from High Rock, I had thought that Skyrim would mean placing my troubles behind me. Instead, it nearly got me killed.
Of course, it was foolish to stand up to a noble, especially one with so many established cronies. Whether right is right doesn't matter when someone else has might. Turns out that that's not limited to High Rock, either.
I got picked up a bit after crossing the border, near Darkwater Crossing, in an Imperial cordon. Next thing I know, I'm bound, then on a wagon to Helgen to face the block. My head was literally seconds away from parting with my body when, apparently, the luckiest Breton in Skyrim turned out to be me. That's more than can be said for Helgen, of course, because the instrument of my salvation was the destruction of Helgen at the hands of a dragon. From my perspective, a more than fair trade, although I suspect that I am highly biased.
But to my point: apparently justice means even less than I thought it meant in the Empire. My execution was merely a matter of convenience to the Imperial Captain who decided my fate. Or thought she did, at any rate.
Fortunately, when I got loose, Ralof (one of the Stormcloaks) did as well. After a bit of dodging around the dragon through Helgen, we got away through an old escape tunnel in the cellar of the local fort. I had never thought of myself as a killer before, but to my own immense satisfaction, we encountered above-mentioned Imperial Captain along the way. Despite her initial commands for our deaths, she didn't face her own with much dignity. Heavy armor may protect someone from an axe or blade, but when heated to red hot by flames, Imperial Heavy Armor serves mostly as a roasting cage.
Aside from that, there was little effective opposition to stop Ralof and I from getting to Riverwood, where we met his sister, Gerdur. She was kind enough to offer me some gold and food to get me started, and asked me to bring word of the attack to Whiterun if I managed to make it there. I agreed.
I haven't made it there, yet, because I also took the opportunity of being in town to visit the local general store, where the owner was engaged with his sister in an argument over a stolen "Golden Dragon's Claw". Turns out that some thieves holed up at the local monument stole it, and I was offered a sizable reward for its return. Well, I thought that if I could survive my own execution, a dragon attack, and an Imperial garrison, I could fetch him his dragon claw.
I was right, although I hadn't figured on the local variety of undead: Draugr. It's hard to describe them, but they are ancient, mummified corpses that yet move with malevolent intellect, arising from coffins and alcoves alike with strange blue witch-lights for eyes, striking at you with the words of dead arcane tongues on their lips. I was glad to be out of there.
Actually, I stayed longer than I had to. I found the claw relatively easily, but my curiosity got the better of me and I kept exploring, until I found an ancient door that opened by the use of said claw, once the locks on the door were aligned with the symbols on the claw. These barrows may be ancient, but this one was at least well engineered.
On the other side of the door, I found a pedestal with a sarcophagus and some sort of writing on a curved wall. As I came close to the wall, it glowed blue, and I suddenly felt dizzy. I heard some sort of word, like "Fus"...and then I heard the lid of the sarcophagus fly off, and the armored form of a Draugr rose out of it.
He burned, eventually, but not before getting in a bruising hit to my ribs and arm, and not before I had to down two potions of magicka, damn it all. At any rate, he had some sort of strange stone on him, which I took, as well as an enchanted axe.
Both the golden claw and the axe got me a fair amount of gold in Riverwood, and after staying the night at the local inn (my second night, actually), I'm ready to set off for Whiterun. Let's hope today is less...exciting.