Tirdas, 16th Sun’s Dawn, 2E 403 to Turdas, 18th Sun’s Dawn, 2E 403

Fort Dawnguard, Castle Volkihar, Soul Cairn: Scroll read, More scrolls needed, Mother’s hiding spot, Under evil, Fantastic portal, Dreadful Oblivion slice, Mother is mad, Mother is lying, Kill the Keepers, Rescue an undead horse, Fight an undead dragon, Third scroll got, Make Dovah friend, Back to Tamriel, Blind priest, Directions to a glade.

These journal entries were written near midnight on Turdas, 18th Sun’s Dawn, 4E 203 in Ivarstead.

We left Dragon Bridge at about 8:00AM on Tirdas, 16th Sun’s Dawn.

It was just after 3:30PM by the time we reached Fort Dawnguard.

The only encounter was a tribe of Riekling who Serana found quite amusing till one of their spears whizzed past, inches away from her head.

We entered the Fort and saw Isran and Dexion having a chat.

I approached Isran.

“I’m impressed you could find a Moth Priest so quickly.”

Helps when you are the Arch-Mage of the College of Winterhold. It was logical Dexion would visit there. Serana will now give Dexion the Scroll to read.

(I walked over to Dexion.)

“Hello. What can I do for you?”

Glad you made it here safely Dexion.

“My rescuers! It’s good to see you all again.”

Have the Dawnguard made you feel welcome?

“It’s not exactly the hospitality I’m used to, but your man Isran has seen to my needs well enough. And might I add, this is a remarkable fortress. I have colleagues back home that would love to study this place in detail.”

Isran is not my man Dexion. He is the leader of the Dawnguard. Are you ready to read the Elder Scroll?

“Oh, most certainly! Let’s find out what secrets the scroll can tell.”

(Serana walked over and handed Dexion her Elder Scroll. He unrolled it and started reading.)

“Now, if everyone will please be quiet, I must concentrate. I see a vision before me, an image of a great bow. I know this weapon! It is Auriel’s Bow! Now a voice whispers, saying “Among the night’s children, a dread lord will rise.” In an age of strife, when dragons return to the realm of men, darkness will mingle with light and the night and day will be as one.

The voice fades and the words begin to shimmer and distort. But wait, there is more here. The secret of the bow’s power is written elsewhere. I think there is more to the prophecy, recorded in other scrolls. Yes, I see them now… One contains the ancient secrets of the dragons, and the other speaks of the potency of ancient blood.

My vision darkens, and I see no more. To know the complete prophecy, we must have the other two scrolls.”

Any more insights from the reading?

“I wish I could say that I did, but without the other two Scrolls, the picture will remain incomplete. I admit, I feel a bit frustrated that I can’t be more helpful. Still, our enemy is likely just as much in the dark as we are, and that’s something. Now it’s a race to claim the remaining Scrolls and discover what part Auriel’s Bow has to play in this prophecy.”

Thanks Dexion. Perhaps you should get some rest now.

(Dexion wandered off to get some sleep. It appears scroll reading takes quite a physical toll sometimes.)

I asked Isran,

You’ve heard the Scroll reading. Now do you believe Serana?

“I heard a lot of vague nonsense. You could interpret that a hundred different ways. Only thing that stood out for me was Auriel’s Bow. That’s a powerful weapon, and I sure as Oblivion don’t want the vampires to get hold of it. The Moth Priest can stay here for now. As for the vampire, I still don’t trust it, so keep it on a leash.”

How about the fact I already have the Elder Scroll containing the ancient secrets of the Dragons. Something mentioned in a prophecy written thousands of years ago came true. This is not nonsense. Her name is Serana, not ‘it”! She has fought against her own clan and it is about time you showed her respect. Whilst you sit here killing a few vampires she will be helping me save Tamriel.

(I walked away from Isran in a foul mood. He walked off barking some orders to some poor young Dawnguard recruits. Serana came hurrying over and intercepted me.)

“Do you have a moment to talk?”

Sure, what about?

“That Moth Priest, Dexion. He said we needed two other Elder Scrolls. You have one of them and I think I know where we can start looking for the last.”

Why didn’t you say something before?

“Half the people in here would just as soon kill me as talk to me. That doesn’t exactly make me want to open up. I got a warmer welcome from my father, and that’s saying something.”

Does your father even care about you any more?

“You know, I’ve asked myself the same thing. I thought… I hoped that if he saw me, he might feel something again. But I guess I don’t really factor in at this point. I don’t think he even sees me as his daughter any more. I’m just… a means to an end.”

I am sorry. Everybody deserves the love of their parents. So where do you think this Elder Scroll is?

“We need to find my mother, Valerica. She’ll definitely know where it is, and if we’re lucky, she actually has it herself.”

You said once you didn’t know where she went.

“The last time I saw her, she said that she’d go somewhere safe… somewhere that my father would never search. Other than that, she wouldn’t tell me anything. But the way she said it… “some place he would never search.” It was cryptic, yet she called attention to it.”

Maybe your mother didn’t trust you either.

“That’s always a possibility. She was almost as obsessed as my father by the time she shut me in. But I can’t worry about that now. We need the scroll, and she’s our only lead. Besides, I can’t imagine a single place my father would avoid looking. And he’s had all this time, too. Any ideas?”

Have you ever heard of the expression, ‘hiding right under your nose.”? It means hiding nearby but the searcher still can’t find what they are looking for. Your father hardly ever leaves Castle Volkihar. What if you Mother found a way to hide there?

“Wait… that almost makes sense! There’s a courtyard in the castle. I used to help her tend a garden there. All of the ingredients for our potions came from there. She used to say that my father couldn’t stand the place. Too… peaceful.”

It would be pretty risky staying around the castle. Would your Mother dare?

“Absolutely! My mother is no coward. That is… I don’t think we’ll actually trip over her there. But it’s worth a look.”

I don’t think they will let us in if we knock on the front door.

“True. But I know a way we can get to the courtyard without arousing suspicion. There’s an unused inlet on the northern side of the island that was used by the previous owners to bring supplies into the castle. An old escape tunnel from the castle exits there. I think that’s our way in.”

It is a long trip so if we are going we need to go now!

“It’s around the side of the castle. Let’s move!”

So we started the long ride to Volkihar Castle. This Divine Task seems to have been 90% travelling so far!

Just random wild animals encounters on the way to the island.

I took the opportunity to learn more about Serana. This ancient and powerful vampire in a young woman’s body was still an enigma to me.

I had been fairly hostile to Malesam simply because he worshipped Boethia. I have since softened my opinion of him after learning more about his adopted daughter Cerys.

I have been careful not to quickly judge Serana. I get the sense she regrets what he parents did to her. That Molag Bal was not her choice of God to worship. She must have sensed my confusion as she rode up beside me,

“Every time you look my way I see a mixture of emotions. Do you hate me, kill me, befriend me or, Gods forbid, love me? Ask some questions so you can decide.”

You should be a diplomat like my friend Baa’Ren-Dar. I swear he reads minds sometimes.

(Serana laughed at that. Not an evil cackle but the laughter of a young woman enjoying a jest.)

Were you and Valerica close?

“Before my father became obsessed with prophecy my mother and I spent quite a bit of time together. She was very fond of her alchemical garden in the castle courtyard. She taught me quite a bit about cultivating quality reagents.”

Sounds like quality time with a caring parent. So you always got along?

“Like the best of friends. I would never hesitate to share anything with her.”

Then it all changed.

“It was very sudden. It was almost like one day we were a normal family. Then the next day I didn’t know who they were. I’d try to visit my mother in the garden and she’d quickly shoo me away saying she was much too busy.”

So you became suspicious. That is why we’re headed there?

“She had to be up to something in that garden. I’m hoping there is a clue that will tell us where she went.”

Tell me more about your family.

“There’s not a whole lot to tell. You’ve already seen my father’s obsession. My mother’s not a whole lot better but hopefully we find her and you’ll see that soon enough.”

You told me you were close with your mother. What about your father?

“Close with my father? No, not really. Even though I did spend a lot of time with my mother it started to seem I was more like a protégé than a daughter.”

(I could see some pain in her face when mentioning her father. Serana was starting to sound like the dozens of children we have rescued from dark places and given a home and hope at Dragons Keep. A woman who had been denied important parts of her childhood. She was very much like Rigmor in that respect.)

“What about you? What were your parents like?”

(That caught me off-guard. I had barely spoken about this to those closest to me. I felt I needed to reward Serana’s honesty with my own.)

I do not know who they are or were. Not because I am an orphan or anything like that. I know nothing because The Divine have taken away my memories. I woke up one day with skills in combat, tactics, magic and the Thu’um. No knowledge of name, age, childhood, parentage or home. A Champion of The Divine expected to defend and possibly die for everything I did not have. I had to learn to value all of it quickly or become rogue like other Dragonborn have done.

“Why would they do that?”

I can only guess. One day I might find the truth.

“Do you have any idea why?”

I will tell you my theory. I had to do something as their Champion that involved a difficult choice. Whether that be a moral choice or the sacrifice of loved ones or even innocents. I had to do something to save many at the expense of a few or against my own moral code. I have had to do that once. I cooperated with a Daedric Prince and it cost the life of an innocent and loved man. It hurt and made me question myself. On the scales of history that was a small sacrifice. As a mortal I do not think my sanity would survive something on a bigger scale.

“So your theory is you did something they needed and this damaged their puppet and they blanked your memory to fix you?”

The Divine make those decisions all the time when they manipulate us and get us to do what they think is best for all of Nirn. That is their moral priority and collateral damage is accepted. As a mortal I cannot think like that. Small sacrifices are hard enough. Something large would destroy me.

(We rode on in silence for several hours as we both contemplated what was said. Then Serana spoke again and I found myself crying over what is in essence my hunter. I am prey to Harkon and his kind.)

“I was lonely growing up isolated from the world in that huge castle. First I was the daughter of rich aristocrats therefore not allowed to play games with the children of mere maids and cooks. Then my parents decided being devout followers of Molag Bal was a healthy family pastime. Of course they thought being raped by a Daedric Lord and becoming a powerful vampire was the best thing for me. At least I was asleep for over 600 years of this existence.

Combating what I was with what I wanted to be was tiring and as you know, a futile exercise. I know as a young vampire I took the lives of “cattle” my parents provided. I never knew who they were or where they got them, just that they needed to die for me to exist. Vampire children grow to early adulthood very slowly and then stay young forever. I have no idea how many cattle I killed with my thirst.

It was only in my mid-teens did I become powerful enough to feed on those I hunted. I immediately made a decision to only hunt those who meant me harm. Bandits, rapists, thralls of lesser vampires mainly. I tried not to war with the religious fanatics whose life was dedicated to hunting us down. It was a decision that baffled both my parents. They had forgotten their mortality. They could no longer sympathise with mortals. Man and mer were food and criminal or innocent, parent or not, loved or not, they all tasted the same to them and of no more value or importance than a cow to a human.

I was different. I valued the normal man, woman and child trying to live, love and simply survive. I wanted to protect what I never had but yearned for. You feel a need to protect what you don’t remember having but yearn for. In many ways you and I are the same. I feel we were meant to go on this journey together. Perhaps by accident your Divine have given me a chance of redemption. Not forgiveness even though my actions as a child were not from choice.”

Your story is tragic and your choices as you grew admirable. I have been to Sovngarde and there are “heroes” there who I find morally corrupt and, to use a common term, evil. The ninth Divine, called Talos, was known as Tiber Septim when mortal. He did things I find more than distasteful. I could never do the things he did to create the Empire in which I now live. You know what danger to your kind fulfilling prophesy would create. I do not think that is your primary concern. You have made a similar choice. You not only value the everyday mortal, you are also on a mission to save and protect them. We are the same in many ways and I am glad to have your help with this Divine Task.

It was almost 3:30AM on the 17th when we stepped foot on the island. The Castle was not the most welcoming place during the day. At night the tiny amount of light coming from the window slits made it look menacing. Serana said,

“Go left. The tide is out so we should be able to reach the back entrance”

(So we all headed to the left of the Castle which towered above us.)

“Castle looks so big from down here. I mean, it is big, but, well, even bigger.”

We turned a corner and there were steps leading up a door. It was inexplicably lit as if somebody knew we were coming.

There were many skeletons manning the walls and steps. Fireballs, arrows, Meeko and lightning bolts made short work of them.

After the short battle we entered the door into the castle at about 5:30AM.

Serana said,

“So, this was my old stomping grounds. Not the most normal childhood.”

Did you spend a lot of time down here?

“I liked to explore. My parents almost never let me off the island so yeah, I poked around down here quite a lot.”

No danger to you here?

“It was a little quieter back then. Guess a little vampire girl was enough to scare off the rats.”

(Serana was a little girl when she became a vampire. A young girl when raped by a Daedric Prince after being gifted by her parents during an orgy of evil. Just so they could have the pathetic powers of a Vampire Lord. I doubt they would have mourned her if she had not survived. If they had sat and enjoyed the company of a laughing, inquisitive and sometimes perplexing child, like they all are by design, they would have found far more riches than Molag Bal offered them.)

That sounds pretty lonely Serana.

“It was but I got used to it.”

No need for you to feel lonely any more.

“Even Jordis seems to have accepted me and we have had many a long talk. I think she was ready to cleave me in two for the first few days we travelled together. Are there many people in your life? Do you ever get lonely?”

I have over eighty children. They love me dearly and I love them back.

(Serana looked shocked at this. Jordis giggled.)

I did not father them! They are children who were lost in the dark. Wondering if somebody cared. Wondering if somebody would rescue them. We started a school and orphanage to answer yes to both those questions. I have found wonderful people to repair them and bring them back to the light. Many of them were children who survived the dark without help. The empathy the children show to one another is palpable and confirmation of the good that exists in all mortals. If we had encountered you as a child and you asked for help our arms would have opened to embrace you.

“That is beautiful yet you have not answered my question. Do you ever get lonely?”

I am constantly alone. I do not lack for friendship or love. However, there is only one person who I have met who understands the loneliness of destiny.  I am not on a path of my choosing yet I will not jump off it. To do so would harm those who, knowingly or not, depend on me for their freedom and very lives. No matter how much I want to enjoy the two things Gods envy, mortal freedom of choice and the love of a soulmate, I can’t as my sense of duty precludes that option. My soulmate, my beloved, also has a destiny not of her choosing. She is in Solstheim, a slave to her destiny and duty. A God has told me we will be together again one day. I yearn for that day but have no idea when that may be. She understands this loneliness of destiny. Only she can stop it by sharing it. Her name is Rigmor. She was the original child lost in the dark I cared for and rescued.

“I too seem to be caught up in a destiny not of my choosing. I hope I have that freedom after we have finished. As for a soulmate, I have to get mine back first!”

I had to laugh at that. I was starting to sound like a “woe is me” drunk spilling out his life story to anybody who will listen. At the entrance of enemy territory!

As we started to travel through the bowels of Castle Volkihar an appropriate smell arose to which Serana explained,

“The old water cistern. On some days, this would smell just… be glad you weren’t here then.”

Out popped some crazy vampire who started to drain my blood from a distance. Meeko thought that was rude and bit her. A few ‘more savage than usual’ Death Hounds joined in the fun. I killed the hounds and Jordis joined Meeko.

Jordis then proceeded to disembowel the bloodsucker.

I inspected the body and found part of a journal that read,

“Not good enough to live in their stupid keep am I? Stupid sods don’t realize I’ve moved into the undercroft and started taking control of their own hounds. I’ll get my revenge.”

I think finding her in this part of the castle surprised Serana. She took a sniff and said,

“I can tell by the blood she is not one of father’s. Just another inferior vampire who was promptly shown the front door. Father must have been in a good mood. Usually he just slaughters any like her who dirty his island with their presence.”

I was quickly  disappointed with this trip underneath the ancient and evil lair of monsters. Nothing interesting at all. Boring skeletons. Boring spiders. Boring gargoyles. Really really boring and tedious lever puzzles.

Just before I fell on my sword out of abject boredom Serana eagerly told me,

“This leads out to the courtyard. Just head for the door. I can’t wait to see the courtyard again!”

She sounded like the little girl of centuries before eager to learn some gardening from her then mortal and loving mother.

We entered the courtyard and the reality of what we found was very different.

“We’ve made it to the courtyard. Oh no… What happened to this place? Everything’s been torn down… the whole place looks… well, dead. It’s like we’re the first to set foot here in centuries.”

(It was a mess. Anything once living was dead. Rubble all over the place. A stagnant pond and broken outdoor furniture. It was apparent that vandalism and not age caused the extensive damage.)

“What has he done?”

(The enthusiasm Serana had shown was replaced by a forlorn voice full of loss. She stood near some stairs that led to a boarded up door that was useless as nothing but destruction was behind it and around it.)

“This used to lead into the castle’s great hall. It looks like my father had it sealed up. I used to walk through here after evening meals. It was beautiful, once.”

(Serana walked over to what used to be a garden. Now it was just dead plants, a couple of hardy Nightshade and lots of weeds.)

“This was my mother’s garden. It… do you know how beautiful something can be when it’s tended by a master for hundreds of years? She would have hated to see it like this.”

(She walked over to what looked like a giant sundial.)

“Wait… Something’s wrong with the moondial here. Some of the crests are missing and the dial is askew. I didn’t even know the crests could be removed. Maybe my mother’s trying to tell us something?”

A moondial? I suppose that makes sense. Vampires would not have much use for a sundial!

“Well, as far as I’m aware it’s the only one in existence. The previous owners of the castle had a sundial in the courtyard, and obviously that didn’t appeal to my mother. She persuaded an elven artisan to make some improvements. You can see the plates that show the phases of the moons, Masser and Secunda.”

I know some Khajiit who would appreciate this as much as a vampire! Does it work?

“That’s the thing… what’s the point of a moondial except to a werewolf or Khajiit? I always wondered why she didn’t just have the whole thing ripped out. But she loved it. I don’t know. I guess it’s like having a piece of art, if you’re into that sort of thing.”

Maybe if we replace the missing crests we might have an idea what to do next?

“Great idea.”

So what do you think happened here?

“If I had to guess, I’d say the moment mother fled the castle, father went on a rampage. Knowing him, anything at all that reminded him of her was just destroyed.”

I thought he was some sophisticated lord, not a petulant child. He destroys it then walls it off so nobody can see his handy work anyway!

“It appears that way. I suppose he wanted to put the past behind him. Perhaps if he had spent more time with us, he would have recognized the beauty for himself.”

I will start looking for the missing crests.

(I found the first in the weed infested dead garden. It was the full moon.)

(I found the second in the putrid pond. It was a half-moon.)

(I found the third up on a terrace. It was a crescent.)

(Serana watched as I placed each crest in its place on the moondial.)

(After I placed the 3rd Crest loud grinding could be heard and sections of the floor lowered to create a set of stairs.)

“Very clever, mother. Very clever. I’ve never been in those tunnels before, but I’d bet they run right under the courtyard and into the tower ruins. Well, at least we’re getting closer. Let’s go.”

(At the bottom of the steps was a door. I opened it and we entered an area of the castle Serana was surprised to see fairly intact.)

“I’ve never even seen this part of the castle before. Be careful. I don’t know what might be around. We’re getting close, I’m sure of it.”

So all the years you lived here you did not know of this place?

“I had always just assumed this tower was completely destroyed inside. My mother kept this a secret, even from me. She must have been up to something she thought was dangerous.”

Do you remember your mother having gargoyles?

“Not that I ever saw. My mother had a bit of a thing for magical constructs. Not… not what you’re thinking. She just found them fascinating.”

(Ouch. I was not thinking about a lonely vampire getting frisky with ugly stone gargoyles. Now it is a vision I will have to work on to erase.)

They are kind of cute. How can you tell the boys from girls?

(Jordis giggled again. Serana just shook her head. Meeko peed on the nearest gargoyle which lucky for him was a dormant one.)

“Turns out my mother is sneakier than I thought. I wonder what she’s hiding?”

We are not going to find out standing here admiring the pretty gargoyles!

So on we trudged. More skeletons. More gargoyles, More boredom. Even Serana was getting a bit put out by the tedium so when she saw a pull chain behind a gargoyle she tried some welcome sarcasm,

“Wow, I wonder what will happened when you pull that chain?”

You mother will burst from the gargoyle and yell, ‘Happy 650th Birthday!’

With “The Sword” in one hand I pulled the chain, the gargoyle came to life, went ‘grrr!” and then I chopped it in half with a single swing.

A passage opened up and we followed that.

After more gargoyles and skeletons we came to a room full of gargoyles.

YAWN!

After disposing of those we were faced with what appeared to be a dead end. No pun intended.

“I don’t think we’ve reached the top yet. I’d bet there’s some kind of secret passage around here.”

I wonder if your mother reads the same cheap fiction I do?

(I turned one of the candle holders next to the fireplace.)

(The fireplace sank into the ground and we were free to proceed.)

“Leave it to my mother… always smarter than I gave her credit for.”

Did you notice the one I turned was not lit?

“So that was your clue?”

Yes but don’t you think it odd that all the other candles were lit in the first place?

“Now you mention it, yes and now the questions are ‘Why are they lit and who lit them?’.

You think about it and if you ever find the answers tell me. Even if I am dead and you have to use those fancy necromancy skills of yours.

(We proceeded along a twisty corridor eventually entering a large laboratory with a weird construct in the middle.)

“Look at this place. This has to be it! I knew she was deep into necromancy. I mean, she taught me everything I know. But I had no idea she had a setup like this. Look at all this. She must have spent years collecting these components. And what’s this thing? I’m not sure about this circle, but it’s obviously… something.”

I have seen a lot of somethings in my travels and yes, this is definitely a something!

“Ha Ha, remind me when to laugh. Let’s take a look around. There has to be something here that tells us where she’s gone.”

Okay, we shall start looking for something that tells us what that something is and then we can do something.

“Careful! I did not promise not to bite you! Do something useful and look for my mother’s journal or notebook. She was meticulous about her research and that might contain a clue, or something.”

I think we have flogged that one to death. On a serious note, you mother maintained a quite impressive laboratory.

“I had no idea this laboratory even existed. She had an alchemy setup in her drawing room, but nothing that even comes close to what’s here.”

What did she research?

“Looking at the equipment and materials, it looks like she was trying to advance her necromancy.”

To what end?

“I don’t know. Certainly not longevity. Kind of a waste of time for a vampire.”

( We started looking around the room. On a very crowded bookshelf I found Valerica’s journal. These are the relevant entries.)

“27th Last Seed

Harkon’s short-sightedness is becoming a serious problem. I’ve warned him time and time again that his foolish prophecy would cast far too much light on our people and yet he refuses to so much listen to a word I say. I’ve become less a wife and more of an annoyance in his eyes. Devoting attention to my work is the only solace I can find while enduring his ridiculous crusade.

28th Last Seed

I’ve had a breakthrough today. I was able to attune the portal vessel to the Soul Cairn properly by using a small sample of ingredients.

Although the portal opened only for a few seconds, I’m confident that with the proper formula, it can be sustained indefinitely. I feel like I’m missing a key ingredient, something of sufficient potency that can resist the forces trying to prevent my intrusion. Communing with the Ideal Masters has proved worthless. They speak in riddles and offer no assistance whether I ensure them a steady supply of souls or not. If I’m to escape Harkon’s clutches, I need to keep the portal open long enough to carry me away from here… forever if need be.

3rd Hearthfire

I’ve done it! After wasting thousands of gold coins on components, I’ve discovered how to sustain the portal. I’m listing the components below without the proper amounts for my own protection. As a secondary precaution, I am combining my own blood into the formula which should prevent anyone from being able to duplicate it and following me into the Soul Cairn.

The formula consists of:

  • Finely Ground Bone Meal
  • Purified Void Salt
  • Soul gem shards

Using the proper measurements, place above in the silver-lined portal vessel and add blood as a reactive agent.

I will make my way into the Soul Cairn tomorrow after I gather my things and prepare for a potentially lengthy exile. More importantly, I must enact my plans with Serana, and get her to Dimhollow Crypt as soon as possible.”

(I took it over to Serana.)

“Any luck yet?”

Yes, I’ve found your mother’s journal.

“You did? Let me see them.”

(I handed the journal to Serana and waited till she finished reading it.)

“Her plan is clearer to me know. I wish she had told me more. I wish she had trusted me more.”

What’s this ‘Soul Cairn’ that she mentions?

“I only know what she told me. She had a theory about soul gems. That the souls inside of them don’t just vanish when they’re used… they end up in the Soul Cairn.”

Why did she care where used souls went?

“The Soul Cairn is home to very powerful beings. Necromancers send them souls, and receive powers of their own in return. My mother spent a lot of time trying to contact them directly, to travel to the Soul Cairn itself.”

If she made it there we will have to follow. Don’t worry, we will find her.

“That circle in the centre of the room is definitely some type of portal. If I’m reading this right, there’s a formula here that should give us safe passage into the Soul Cairn.”

I read it but remind us what we need to find.

“A handful of soul gem shards, some finely-ground bone meal, a good bit of purified void salts… Oh… damn it…”

And blood if I remember correctly.

“It doesn’t specifically say but I am certain we need her blood. Which… if we could get that, we wouldn’t even be trying to do this in the first place.”

Your blood is a combination of your parent’s. Will that do? I once saw a mage make up a mixture of six different mer bloods to simulate Dwemer blood and that worked.

“Hmmm. Not bad. We’d better hope that’s good enough. Mistakes with these kind of portals can be… gruesome. Anyway, enough of that. Let’s get started.”

So if we get this wrong and I step into the portal I might get gruesomed?

“Stick to being a bard. A jester you are not! Mother would have plenty of those materials in this laboratory, you just need to find them.”

(So I started searching. Jordis said she did not have any idea what those things were so gave moral support from the sideline. Meeko sat next to Serana and she casually scratched him on the ear as she reread her mother’s journal.)

(It did not take as long as I thought it would to find the ingredients needed. I walked towards Serana.)

“See that vessel? Put the ingredients in it and let me know when you’re ready.”

(Serana pointed to a small font. I placed all three ingredients inside.)

Done!

“Then the rest is up to me. Are you ready to go? I’m not entirely sure what this thing is going to do when I add my blood.”

I would like to know some things first.

“Of course. I will try and answer but some of this is new to me as well”

What else can you tell me about the Soul Cairn?

“The Soul Cairn is a tiny sliver of Oblivion, the realm of the Daedra. It’s ruled by unseen beings known as the Ideal Masters.”

I have been to several planes of Daedric Princes in Oblivion and even Oblivion itself. I have never heard of a part not controlled by a God.

“Some scholars say the Ideal Masters were once powerful but mortal necromancers. They managed to turn themselves into some sort of pure energy, became immortal by doing so and carved out a part of Oblivion to make their own plane. Nobody really knows. As far as I’ve heard, no one’s seen them and returned to Tamriel to tell about it.”

I have met a being who was a mage but now is now a form of immortal energy. That was by accident but maybe the process was similar. If nobody has met them and lived to tell the tale, how are you sure they even exist?

“I’ve read stories. Stories about fools that managed to… communicate with them. You give the Ideal Masters souls, they give you powers to summon the undead. It’s all very business-like.”

Fools? Why do you say that?

“Because most of the stories end with the Ideal Masters duping the necromancers, who end up dead or wishing they were dead.”

So why was your mother fascinated by the soul cairn?

“Honestly, I don’t know. Necromancers are always interested in souls, though, so that probably has some kind of interest.”

What will you do if we meet your mother?

“I’ve been asking myself the same thing since we came back to the castle. She was so sure of what we did to my father I couldn’t help but go along with her. I never thought of the cost.”

It sounds like she did everything for you sake.

“Possibly. I guess even a vampire mother is still a mother. She worried about me. About all of us. But she wanted to get me as far away from my father as possible before he really went over the edge. She always seemed happy, before we heard the prophecy. Then it all changed. She became a different person. They both did.”

We have to find her first!

“Yes… yes, you’re right. I’m sorry. I just didn’t expect anyone to care how I felt about her. Thank you. Are we ready then?”

Yes I’m ready. Hope this works. I hate being gruesomed!

“All right. Here goes!”

(Serana walked to the vessel, held her wrist over it and cut herself. She allowed a few drops of her blood to hit the ingredients already there then stood watching it mix.)

 (The portal opened! A set of stairs led down to a part of Oblivion. The Soul Cairn.)

“By the blood of my ancestors… She actually did it… created a portal to the Soul Cairn. Incredible.”

Yes it is. A feat the best mages on Nirn would envy. Everybody wait while I try it first. Here goes…

(I cautiously walked down the stairs. About half way down I felt pain and started to feel weaker. I endured it for a few seconds to see if it was just a transition thing but there was also resistance to me moving forward. I decided to go back up before permanent harm was done.)

“Are you alright? That looked painful.”

It was! I think I just got gruesomed. What do you think happened?

“Now that I think about it… I should have expected that. Sorry. It’s hard to describe. The Soul Cairn is… well, hungry, for lack of a better word. It’s trying to take your life essence as payment.”

Well, I am kind of attached to my life essence. We have been together for as long as I can remember. So there’s no way in then?

“There might be, but I don’t think you’re going to like it. Vampires aren’t counted among the living. I could probably go through there without a problem.”

Are you saying I need to become a vampire?

“Not your first choice, I’d guess.”

I know vampirism can be reversed but I have dragon blood! Not physically but spiritually. I also have a dragon soul. Do you know what would happen if we tampered with either by adding vampirism? I certainly do not! It would also seem, not to offend you, blasphemous to interfere with the gifts Akatosh has given me. There has to be another way.

“Maybe. We could just “pay the toll” another way. It wants a soul, so we give it a soul. Yours.”

It is not for sale!

“My mother taught me a trick or two. I could partially soul trap you, and offer that gem to the Ideal Masters. It might be enough to satisfy them. It would make you a bit weaker when we travel through the Soul Cairn, but we might be able to fix that once we’re inside. Maybe.”

So, you try something you have never done before and trap part of my soul. You offer that to the Ideal Masters as payment and we enter the Soul Cairn with me in a weakened state. Then somehow we steal my toll fee back from under their noses whilst in their Oblivion domain?

“I’m sorry. I wish I knew a better way, something that would be easier for you. Just know that… whatever path you choose, I won’t think any less of you. Sometimes things just have to be done. You and I know that better than most.”

Partially soul trap me. I can’t be a vampire for the reasons stated. Both options are experiments into the unknown anyway so both risky.

“I know this is difficult for you. I hope you trust me. I’d never do anything that could hurt you.”

(Serana said this with such sincerity it hurt. Even now she is questioning my trust in her.)

You have done nothing to make me distrust you. So let me say this clearly. Serana, I trust you completely! What about Jordis and Meeko?

“Thank you for your trust. The portal will be opened for all of you. It will be part of the bargain. Let’s not waste any more time then. I promise to try and make this as painless as possible. Hold still.”

Can’t be any worse than being gruesomed.

(Serana grabbed my head and stared into my eyes. She muttered some incantation under her breath and then released me.)

“Done. Are you OK?”

Yes mistress, I will obey your commands.

“What… I…”

Only joking. I feel perfectly OK. Let’s see if I can enter. If I don’t come screaming back upstairs but vanish then assume toll accepted and follow.

(I started walking down the steps again. I got to the point where I had to turn back last time and felt no resistance or pain. I was soon on the bottom step.)

(I stepped into the unknown, and found myself in the Soul Cairn.)

(I look back and the other’s soon joined me.)

(Serana stood beside me and looked around in disgust.)

“Look at this place. I can’t imagine choosing to come here. My mother must have been terrified.”

What do you know about it?

“Just what my mother told me. I’ve also studied a little bit on my own, but there’s not much. When something is trapped in a soul gem, and then the energy is used for powering an enchantment, the remnants are sent here.”

Any soul gem?

“Well, I think it’s specifically the black ones. I don’t know if the Soul Cairn takes just any leftovers.”

I am sure they were ecstatic at getting a bit of a dragon’s soul. Do you think there might be interesting creatures here?

“Look at this place. Do you think anything would want to live here? The only things that can survive here are the Ideal Masters, the undead and the souls themselves. Well, if you want to call that ‘living.’”

It would be fascinating to meet the Ideal Masters.

“I don’t know if anyone’s ever met the Ideal Masters. I’m not even sure anyone knows what they look like. They could be underground, flying above us… They might be the ground. I have no idea.”

Hear that Meeko? Careful what you pee on! Why do they collect souls?

“Lots of theories. Some say they feed on them like I feed on blood. Others think they use them as payment to an even higher power… almost like a currency. A very strange currency. Whatever they’re doing with them, they’ve been harvesting for millennia. No telling how many souls are trapped here.”

Why would a necromancer want to deal with them?

“Look around you. There are some extremely powerful undead here. Even a necromancer as seasoned as my mother would be willing to spend years trying to gain access to them.”

Summon them you mean?

“Exactly. It’s a lost art. Most necromancers just raise up whatever bodies are nearby. A simple trick, really. Child’s play. But bringing something from the Soul Cairn gives you something much more powerful.”

How do the necromancers communicate with them?

“Well, that’s usually the trick. It’s possible to do it through a simple portal. But to finalize the deal, you have to travel here yourself… and most of them never come back.”

Maybe their portals close. I hope your mother’s portal stays open! Are you sure Valerica has the scroll?

“No, but there’s no way she would have left it in Tamriel. She wanted to get it as far away from my father as possible. I can’t imagine a better place.”

And if she doesn’t?

“Then we find out where she hid it. If she’s still alive… well, as alive as she was before. Or is now. Or… you know what I mean.”

I wonder why she did not hide the Elder Scroll here and then return to Tamriel?

“Probably to avoid whatever my father would do to her if he could get his hands on her. Or maybe her plan was to come back, but she was stuck here. We won’t know until we find her.”

I didn’t expect Soul Trapping me would weaken me as much. I think they took advantage of the deal.

“I’m sorry… “

Serana look at me. DO NOT BLAME YOURSELF! It was my decision.

“Thank you. Come on, let’s move.”

(I looked around. The Soul Cairn was certainly different but not as pretty as Blackreach! There were souls here and there including ones flying around like will o’ wisps. In the distance were several towers with vertical beams of light emanating from them . There was one place that had two close together. As good a place as any to look for Valerica.)

See those twin beams of light. Let us head for those.

So we started walking in single file along the pathway. It meandered here and there but headed in the general direction we wanted to go.

Our first hostile encounter were skeletons. Black in colour but still skeletons.  Serana and I zapped then from a distance with lightning bolts and Jordis peppered them with arrows. They were not much of a challenge.

When walking past a soul it started talking to us,

“You must help me find my Arvak. He doesn’t deserve to be in a place like this!”

Who is Arvak?

“Arvak. My horse. We came to this horrible place together. We were attacked by monsters so I told him to run. Please, he’s such a loyal creature and he’s been running for so long. You have to save him! A place like this will change you…”

How can I help him?

(The soul did not answer. He just started calling for his horse. I wonder how long this had been going on. Years, decades, centuries?)

“Arvak! Arvak, where are you? Arvak, please come back! Come back!”

A bit further along the path the soul of a horse came running past. We decided we would help Arvak and his master if we have the chance. Finding Valerica was our first priority.

The things that attacked us along the path were walking skeletons, floating skeletons, skeleton heads and the souls of necromancers who got trapped in the Soul Cairn. The floating souls that looked like will o’ wisps were often pursued and attacked as well. I wonder what they are or were?

It was not long before we reached the twin towers we saw from the portal.

We climbed some steps and behind a wall of energy was a woman who could not be anybody but Valerica. The family resemblance was strong.

Serana called her mother’s name. I stood back and watched. Their body language showed the strain between the two.

  • Serana: “Mother? Mother!”
  • Valerica: “Maker… it can’t be. Serana?”
  • Serana: “Is it really you? I can’t believe it! How do we get inside? We have to talk.”
  • Valerica: “Serana? What are you doing here? Where’s your father?”
  • Serana: “He doesn’t know we’re here. I don’t have time to explain.”
  • Valerica: “I must have failed. Harkon’s found a way to decipher the prophecy, hasn’t he.”
  • Serana: “No, you’ve got it all wrong. We’re here to complete the prophecy our way, not his.”
  • Valerica: “Wait a moment… you’ve brought a stranger here? Have you lost your mind?”
  • Serana: “No, you don’t…”
  • Valerica: “You. Come forward. I would speak with you.”

(I approached the shimmering wall and Valerica confronted me with hate in her eyes.)

“So how has it come to pass that a vampire hunter is in the company of my daughter?”

I am not a vampire hunter. The only vampires I have ever killed are those who attack me or attack those I care about. If I hunted vampires there would be very few left in Skyrim I can guarantee that!

“It pains me to think you’d travel with Serana under the guise of her protector in an effort to hunt me down.”

I hunt down threats to Nirn and the mortals that live on it. You are nothing compared to the real monsters I hunt and kill. Serana and I are working together to stop such a threat. I have protected her from harm and will continue to do so.

“I find it hard to believe your intentions are noble.”

You do not know me. You have no idea who I am or what I am capable of. Noble intentions? Get this into your warped and evil mind. Myself and my companions have put our lives on the line several times to save every being on Nirn. That includes you and Serana. For no reason other than it is the right thing to do. Noble enough?

“Serana has sacrificed everything to prevent Harkon from completing the prophecy. I would have expected her to explain that to you.”

She had explained everything and we have discussed what you and that other monster have done to her in fine detail. I am here on a task given by The Divine. That task has not revealed itself fully but I know the next step is to read that Elder Scroll. Serana is helping me. That is why we are here!

“You think I’d have the audacity to place my own daughter in that tomb for the protection of her elder Scroll alone?

I did not say or suggest that. You hid Serana as much as the scroll. That is obvious. Tell us why.

“The scrolls are merely a means to an end. The key to the Tyranny of the Sun is Serana herself.”

How?

“When I fled Castle Volkihar I fled with two Elder Scrolls. The scroll entombed with Serana speaks of Auriel and his arcane weapon, Auriel’s Bow. The second scroll declares that ‘The Blood of Coldharbour’s Daughter will blind the eye of the Dragon.’”

How does Serana fit in?

“Like myself, Serana was a human once. We were devout followers of Lord Molag Bal. Tradition dictates the females be offered to Molag Bal on his summoning day. Few survive the ordeal. Those that do emerge as a pure blooded vampire. We call such confluences the “Daughters of Coldharbour.”

Now you are going to tell me Serana underwent this ritual willingly.

“It was expected of her, just as it was expected of me. Being selected as an offering to Molag Bal is an honour. She wouldn’t have dared turn her back on that.”

(Without warning my inner beast took over. Rage filled me and the Thu’um was used to amplify the volume and menacing tone of my voice.)

EVIL LYING FUCKING BITCH!

(I quickly grabbed control back. Valerica had stepped back a few feet with concern on her face.)

You do not remember what real love is do you? A mortal mother would not think their daughter being raped almost to death by a Daedric Prince an honour. She would have fought to the death, with teeth and nails as her only weapon if need be, to prevent such an atrocity. Instead you and your privileged husband took the first step towards evil out of greed. You turned to Molag Bal because all the money and luxury you already had was not good enough. Serana told me of the wonderful times she had with you and your beautiful garden. How she valued learning and being close to you. That was the last thing you did that was loving or caring. The ‘tradition’ did not force you to present yourself and Serana to Molag Bal. You chose to present yourself to him in pursuit of even more power. Serana had no choice. How could she stand up to her parents? You and Harkon chose to risk her life and watch her get raped for even more power. Do not tell me it was her choice. Do not tell me it was a privilege or honour.  She was nothing to you but a sacrifice!

“How dare you?”

How dare I what? Tell the truth? Stop lying to yourself. The Tyranny of the Sun requires your or Serana’s blood. Placing her in that tomb might have saved her from Harkon but that was secondary to your hatred of him and wanting to foil his plans.

“How exactly do you plan on stopping him?”

I’ll kill him.

“If you believe that then you’re a bigger fool than I originally suspected. Don’t you think I weighed that option before I enacted my plans?”

I am the fool? My companions and I defeated Alduin. Do you really think Harkon could stand up to us? I turned my back on his offer to join your sick clan. I walked out of that place with him fuming in the background. He saw my power. He knew my companions and I could reduce the castle to rubble and bury him and the clan under it all. If I have to kill Harkon then he dies and there is not a thing he can do to prevent it.

“Perhaps you could kill him. Perhaps you are just a braggart. Perhaps you have Serana completely fooled.”

Serana believes in me. I do not need your approval. It would mean nothing.

(Valerica then turned to her daughter.)

  • Valerica: “Serana… this stranger aligns himself with those that would hunt you down and slay you like an animal, yet I should entrust you to him?
  • Serana: “This “stranger” has done more for me in the brief time I’ve known him than you’ve done in centuries!”
  • Valerica: “How dare you! I gave up everything I cared about to protect you from that fanatic you call a father!”
  • Serana: “Yes, he’s a fanatic… he’s changed. But he’s still my father. Why can’t you understand how that makes me feel?”
  • Valerica: “Oh, Serana. If you’d only open your eyes. The moment your father discovers your role in the prophecy, that he needs your blood, you’d be in terrible danger.”
  • Serana: “So to protect me you decided to shut me away from everything I cared about? You never asked me if hiding me in that tomb was the best course of action, you just expected me to follow you blindly. Both of you were obsessed with your own paths. Your motivations might have been different, but in the end, I’m still just a pawn to you, too. I want us to be a family again. But I don’t know if we can ever have that. Maybe we don’t deserve that kind of happiness. Maybe it isn’t for us. But we have to stop him. Before he goes too far. And to do that, we need the Elder Scroll.”
  • Valerica: “I’m sorry, Serana. I didn’t know… I didn’t see. I’ve allowed my hatred of your father to estrange us for too long. Forgive me. If you want the Elder Scroll, it’s yours.”

(Valerica returned her attention to me.)

“Your intentions are still somewhat unclear to me. But for Serana’s sake I’ll assist you in any way I can.”

Do you have the elder scroll with you?

“Yes. I’ve kept it safely secured here ever since I was imprisoned. Fortunately you are in position to breach the barrier that surrounds these ruins.”

What do you need us to do?

“You need to locate the tallest of the rocky spires that surround these ruins. At their bases, the barrier’s energy is being drawn from unfortunate souls that have been exiled here. Destroy the Keepers that are tending them, and it should bring the barrier down.”

“Sound simple enough.”

“One more word of warning. There’s a dragon that calls itself Durnehviir roaming the Cairn. Be wary of him. The Ideal Masters have charged him with overseeing the Keepers, and will undoubtedly intervene if you’re perceived as a threat.”

How did you become imprisoned here?

“When I entered the Soul Cairn, I had intended to strike a bargain with the Ideal Masters, the custodians of this place.”

What was the bargain?

“I requested refuge in the Soul Cairn, and in exchange, I would provide the Ideal Masters the souls that they craved. If I had foreseen the value they placed on my own soul, I would never have come here.”

They tricked you.

“The Ideal Masters unleashed their Keepers and sent them to destroy me. Fortunately, I was able to hold them at bay and retreat into these ruins.”

You became trapped.

“Unfortunately, yes. Since the Keepers weren’t able to claim my soul, they had their minions construct a barrier that I’d never be able to breach.”

You’ve been imprisoned here for all this time?

“Time has very little meaning to me. Consequently, it has little meaning to the Ideal Masters as well. I suppose you could call this the ultimate waiting game, each watching the other to see which will give in.”

Who are the Ideal Masters?

“I know very little about them. They’re mystic entities that lord over the Soul Cairn, controlling every aspect from its fabric to its appearance.”

What do they resemble?

“Well, some necromancers believe they are the crystalline structures dotting the Soul Cairn. I believe there’s more to it than that.”

How so?

“I think they transcend what we perceive as a physical form. Perhaps they were once corporeal beings, but they’ve obviously reached a point where they no longer require a tangible presence.”

And the crystals?

“Conduits through which the Ideal Masters speak to their underlings and feed on their victims.”

Why would they require sustenance?

“The Ideal Master’s weakness is their insatiable hunger for pure souls. It’s the reason for the Soul Cairn’s existence, and the only leverage a necromancer has when bargaining with them.”

What do the Masters provide in return?

“The ability to summon powerful undead guardians as one would conjure an atronach or daedra. However, the majority of necromancers that are foolish enough to enter into bargain with the Ideal Masters wind up here… as harvested souls.”

Why haven’t you pursued the prophecy?

“Harkon’s vision is a world plunged in eternal darkness where the vampire can flourish and never again fear the “tyranny of the sun.” What he fails to realize is how much attention would be called to our kind if the prophecy came to fruition.”

There would be armies on his doorstep and no matter how powerful he thinks he would be, sheer numbers would annihilate him, the clan and all vampires. I also think he has forgotten what mortals eat. No sun, no crops, no food, no mortals, no vampires.

“He wants the power. The rest he thinks he can deal with.”

So you prefer living in the shadows.

“I do. It’s how the vampire has survived for millennia, and the only way we can continue to survive in the future.”

If I leave the Soul Cairn, can I safely return?

“Let’s just say a tiny part of you rubbed off on it, and in its place, a bit of the Soul Cairn filled the void. You should find no difficulty using the portal any longer.”

We will go now and take care of these ‘Keepers’.

“Be careful, and keep my daughter safe.”

(I turned and walked towards Serena who had been watching with interest.)

“Let’s kill those… Keeper things and get back to the prison.”

How are you feeling after talking to your mother?

“Relieved… I think. All those things had been building for a while. You have no idea how long I wanted to say that to her.”

Why did you ever agree to her plan?

“Look, I loved my father, but when he found that prophecy… that became his life. Everything else, even me and my mother… we just became clutter. I was close with my mother, but she just kept feeding me her opinions of him, and eventually I started believing them.”

She doesn’t seem too fond of him.

“The moment we gave ourselves to Molag Bal, things got really icy between them. They were both drunk with power, and pulling in different directions. Then he found that prophecy, and… that was it.”

It sounds like you already didn’t like him much.

“Like I said, we were never very close. Not a lot of father-daughter bonding if you know what I mean. But once we threw our lot in with Molag Bal… people just don’t think about their families any more. “Power takes precedence,” he always said.”

And you were caught in the middle.

“I was. Honestly, it took me up until now to figure out that my mother was really just as bad as he was. He was obsessed with power. She was obsessed with seeing him fail. It was just so… toxic. Maybe I could have seen this coming. We could all be better off now.”

You shouldn’t blame yourself! They are adults who made choices and you were powerless to stop them!

“I know that in my head. But I just can’t help feeling bad about… the way things are. Sorry, I know you’re trying to help. Thanks.”

They were both being selfish.

“Oh, they definitely were. I just wonder if that meant it was my job to be giving.”

You tried to give. They did not value the gift.

“Anyway, we should keep moving.”

I looked around and saw one of the towers in the distance. We headed for it.

We had no trouble defeating the various dead things that attacked us. As we approached the tower I could see the Keeper. It looked like mist with eyes wearing armour made of dragon bones.

It had been quite a while since I tried killing with a single arrow. Not knowing what tricks the Keeper might have in close combat I thought it was worth a try.

Aim.

Release.

Right on the head!

Dead.

There was nothing left but goo. That was surprisingly easy! I looked around and decided on the next tower to visit.

On the way we encountered a type of shrine with various undead things worshipping a skull on a dais.

We eliminated the creatures and found it was the skull of Arvak. I picked it up.

The poor soul who had been calling for Arvak was not far away. He thanked me for finding his horse and gave me a spell so I could summon him myself. The soul then vanished.

When we got to the next tower it was floating with no steps or ladders to get to it.

Serana pointed to a pool of crystalline looking water and said she could detect a dweomer on it. I couldn’t. She said she did not think it was dangerous so I stepped into it…

… and was transported to the tower.

As with the previous Keeper this one had captured souls providing it some kind of energy. Valerica told us the energy was used to maintain the barriers on her prison.

I turned a corner and there it was. It was staring at me and had a drawn a bow.

I did a Cyclone shout.

When it was landing I chopped its head off and there was nothing left but another puddle of goo.

I stepped into another one of those pools and found myself back on the ground.

We headed for the last tower.

When close we went into stealth mode and I surprised the Keeper with an Unrelenting Force Shout.

I rushed in and cut him down. The last Keeper was reduced to goo.

We then headed back toward Valerica’s prison knowing the barriers should be gone. She was waiting for our return. I approached and she said,

“You managed to destroy all three Keepers? Very impressive.”

Are you able to give us the scroll now?

“Yes. Please, follow me. Keep watch for Durnehviir. With the prison’s barrier down, he’s almost certain to investigate. Follow me and stay close.”

We followed Valeria though a large doorway to an enclosed courtyard.

We had not travelled very far in when Durnehviir arrived. He was an old green dragon and I could tell he would not be much of a challenge. He did not have any offensive Shouts. His one party trick was to spit some plasma which summoned a Soul Cairn skeleton on landing.

I was not in the mood for a long fight. I did Dragonrend on him and closed in for an easy kill when he landed.

It was over in seconds. I was expecting to absorb his soul. Instead it seemed to return to the Soul Cairn.

I approached Valerica.

“Forgive my astonishment, but I never thought I’d witness the death of that dragon.”

You just witnessed some of the power given to me by Akatosh. I am Dragonborn.

“A mythical figure amongst mortals. I start to understand now.”

Durnehviir is not dead. I did not absorb his soul. The Soul Cairn claimed it. I have no doubt he will be flying around again soon.

“Then let’s get you the Elder Scroll and you can be on your way.”

We walked a short distance to a small alcove. The Elder Scroll was in a locked box which Valerica opened for me. I picked it up and gave it to Jordis to store with the other one she was carrying.

Valerica said,

“Now that you’ve retrieved the Elder Scroll you should be on your way.

I understand why you have to stay. Harkon could use your blood if he can’t get Serana’s.

“Yes, if I return to Tamriel it would increase Harkon’s likelihood of bringing Tyranny of the Sun to fruition.

We will return when we can.

“I appreciate your concern for me, but Serana is all that I care about. You must keep her safe at all cost.  After what I’ve put Serana through, I would understand if she never wished to see me again. I leave that decision in her hands.”

You are still her mother and she still knows love as a mortal does. She will return.

“Remember that Harkon isn’t to be trusted. No matter what he promises, he’ll deceive you in order to get what he wants. And promise me you’ll keep my daughter safe. She’s the only thing of value I have left.”

I promise but I have been weakened. Can you help me make my soul whole again.

“So my daughter applied some of the lessons I taught her about necromancy, did she? Don’t worry, I think I can help you. I bet the Ideal Masters thought it a bargain giving you passage for part of a Dragonborn’s Soul”

I thought that as well.

“Your soul essence was trapped inside a gem. When you and Serana entered the Soul Cairn, it was “given” to the Ideal Masters as payment. You simply need to retrieve the gem. The moment you touch it, your soul essence will be restored.”

Any idea where it would be?

“There’s an offering altar not terribly far from here. I’m willing to bet that the gem you’re looking for is there.”

I walked over to Serana,

“I’m glad we found the scroll, but I… I wish she could come with us. Let’s go. The sooner we get the scroll home, the sooner we deal with my father.”

We headed out of the courtyard and were met by the resurrected Durnehviir.

“Stay your weapons. I would speak with you, Qahnaarin.”

I knew you were not dead.

“Cursed! Doomed to exist in this form for eternity. Trapped between laas and dinok, between life and death.”

Why are we speaking?

“My claws have rendered the flesh of innumerable foes, but I have never once been felled on the field of battle. I therefore honour-name you “Qahnaarin,” or Vanquisher in your tongue.”

I found you equally worthy.

“Your words do me great honour. My desire to speak with you was born from the result of our battle, Qahnaarin. I merely wish to respectfully ask a favour of you.”

What kind of a favour?

“For countless years I’ve roamed the Soul Cairn, in unintended service to the Ideal Masters. Before this, I roamed the skies above Tamriel. I desire to return there.”

What’s stopping you?

“I fear that my time here has taken its toll upon me. I share a bond with this dreaded place. If I ventured far from the Soul Cairn, my strength would begin to wane until I was no more.”

How can I help?

“I will place my name with you and grant you the right to call my name from Tamriel. Do for me this simple honour and I will fight at your side as your Grah-Zeymahzin, your Ally, and teach you my Thu’um.”

I would be honoured to. No matter why you came here, this is now a form of slavery.

“Simply speak my name to the heavens when you feel the time is right.”

How did you end up in the Soul Cairn?

“There was a time when I called Tamriel my home. But those days have long since passed. The dovah roamed the skies, vying for their small slices of territory that resulted in immense and ultimately fatal battles.”

Were you a part of all that?

“I was. But unlike some of my brethren, I sought solutions outside the norm in order to maintain my superiority. I began to explore what the dovah call “Alok-Dilon,” the ancient forbidden art that you call necromancy.”

So you sought the Soul Cairn for answers.

“The Ideal Masters assured me that my powers would be unmatched, that I could raise legions of the undead. In return, I was to serve them as a Keeper until the death of the one who calls herself Valerica.”

They didn’t tell you she was immortal did they?

“I discovered too late that the Ideal Masters favour deception over honour and had no intention of releasing me from my binding. They had control of my mind, but fortunately they couldn’t possess my soul.”

So are you free now?

“Free? No. I have been here too long, Qahnaarin. The Soul Cairn has become a part of what I am. I could never fully call Tamriel my home again, or I would surely perish. I only hope that you will allow me the precious moments of time there through your call.”

Why do you call me “Qahnaarin?”

“In my language, the Qahnaarin is the Vanquisher, the one who has bested a fellow dovah in battle.”

I will do as you ask Durnehviir. I ask that you leave Valerica to her studies until we come to take her home.

We headed to where Valerica indicated my soul might be entombed. It was heavily guarded and it took some time to reach the roof

There was a large gem hovering over a sarcophagus. If its beam touched me I could feel my life essence being drained, same as when I first tried to enter the Soul Cairn.

I quickly opened the sarcophagus and inside was a gem. I touched it and instantly felt my powers and strength return to what they were.

We continued on our way to the portal.

I climbed the steps and eventually found myself back in Valerica’s laboratory. I watched as my companions also emerged from that slice of Oblivion.

Serana looked troubled. I walked to her.

“Yes?”

Does it bother you that we’re working against your father?

“I can’t say it surprises me. I kind of figured we were heading for this someday. I just didn’t know when.”

Will it be hard for you if we have to kill him?

“If? I’ve been assuming that’s where all this is going. I’ve been trying to make my peace with it. Come on. We can talk about this another time.”

There was a door exiting the laboratory we had not tried.

When I opened it we saw a balcony joining the two towers. It was bricked up at the other end.

With some careful climbing we made it down from the balcony and onto the island. It was about 8:00AM on the morning of the 18th. The third day of this part of the task and we still had hours to go.

A few encounters with bandits and bears were the only delays on our long ride to Fort Dawnguard. We arrived there just before 5:30PM.

We found Dexion sitting in a chair with a bandage covering his eyes.

Hello Dexion.

“I trust your journey was successful?”

Yes, I’ve brought the Elder Scrolls.

“I’m sorry, my friend. I can no longer be of use in this matter.”

Why? What’s happened?

“It’s my fault. In my haste to read the first scroll, I neglected the careful preparation required. I thought I’d be able to allay the after effects, but I was wrong. Now I’m paying for it.”

That covering on your eyes. Are you blind?

“Yes. I’m afraid so.”

Can anything be done to help you?

“No. It’ll have to run its course, and there’s always the chance I may never recover.”

I can’t go to Solstheim to get them read. It is not my time to be there.

“There’s another way. The question is, how much are you willing to risk to find Auriel’s Bow?”

Retrieving Auriel’s Bow is a part of my Divine Task. That means I am willing to risk all. Life, soul, everything!

“I can’t guarantee you’d be free from harm. Becoming blind could be the least of your worries.”

Don’t worry about that. Just tell me.

“Scattered across Tamriel are secluded locations known only as Ancestor Glades. There’s one in Skyrim, in the Pine Forest. Performing the Ritual of the Ancestor Moth within the glade should provide the answers you seek.”

Explain the ritual.

“It involves carefully removing the bark from a Canticle Tree which will in turn attract Ancestor Moths to you. Once enough of the moths are following, they’ll provide you with the second sight needed to decipher the scrolls.”

Carefully gather the bark? How?

“In keeping with tradition, you must use a specific tool in the Ancestor Glade, an implement known as a Draw Knife. Every Moth Priest is taught this ritual, but few ever get the chance to perform it… you should consider yourself fortunate if it works for you.”

Do I need to read the scrolls in any particular order?

“From what I saw in the vision, the Elder Scroll which foreshadows the defiance of the gods with the blood of mortals is the key to the prophecy.”

How’s a moth related to the Elder Scrolls?

“Well, as I’m sure you’ve figured out by now, it’s no mere coincidence that we’re named “Moth Priests.” The voice of the Ancestor Moth has always been an integral part of reading the Elder Scrolls.”

Moths barely make a sound, let alone speak.

“Oh, the moths don’t literally read the scrolls… but they maintain a connection to ancient magic that allows the Moth Priests to decipher them. If you listen closely when you find the glade, you should be able to hear their song… a soft, harmonious trilling. It’s through this ancestral chorus that the moths tap into a form of primal augur and become a conduit of deciphering the scrolls.”

How does that help the Moth Priest?

“By having the Ancestor Moth close to the Moth Priest, they can utilize the conduit and share the moth’s augury. Only the most resilient of priests can do it this way… it takes years of practice to interpret the harmony.”

Then how do I even stand a chance?

“You’ve come this far, and you’ve found several Elder Scrolls. Whether you believe it or not, the scrolls have a mind of their own. If they didn’t want you to find them, they wouldn’t allow it. Because of this, I strongly believe you were meant to hear the ancestral chorus. Only one way to find out.”

There is one other thing in my favour. I have already read the Dragon scroll.

“What? How? When?”

It is the scroll used by the Ancient Tongues to defeat Alduin thousands of years ago. This occurred at the very top of the Throat of the World. Its use caused an anomaly in time in a small area where the battle was fought. The gifts given me by Akatosh allowed me to find the time anomaly and when standing in it I was able to read the Elder Scroll. This allowed me to see back in time and learn some of the secrets of the Ancient Tongues.

“I have never heard of such a feat. This needs to be written down. Recorded in the histories!”

That is a subject I would like to talk to you about after we have dealt with this Divine Task.

“It sounds like you have a plan to preserve history. An admirable cause indeed!”

Is it normal for Moth Priests to go blind?

“Sadly, yes. It’s the inevitable fate we agree to pursue when reading the Elder Scrolls. It generally doesn’t occur until a Moth Priest is in his later years, but in my case I simply wasn’t preparing myself properly.”

What went wrong?

“Deciphering one of the Elder Scrolls is nothing like reading a simple book. There’s quite a bit of ritual and concentration required. It can take months or even years to complete a single scroll and even then, months to recover.”

I will pray to The Divine for your recovery Dexion. Now tell me what I need to know to find this glade in a pine forest.

After a few minutes we narrowed down where the Ancestor Glade was.

I turned to Serana and said,

Us mere mortals are worn out. We need to eat and sleep before looking for the Glade. I suggest we travel to Ivarstead and stay at the inn there till morning.

“Book the usual rooms and I will meet you there later. I am also in need of ‘food’.

With that we left for Ivarstead and arrived there about 10PM.

We had a good meal and just before Jordis and Meeko retired to their room Serana came in and joined them.

I went to my room and wrote these journal entries. I still have the feeling that Harkon is not the main concern of this Divine Task.

I know not what time I fell asleep.

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