Concentrated Evil

Morndas, 12th Morning Star, 4E 202 to Middas, 14th Morning Star, 4E 202

Today I am going to put the new Sentinels through their paces. Then, depending on how they handle the first task, I may take them along for the second.

Inigo is with me as an experienced member of the squad.

Aranea is Master level in both the Destruction and Restoration Schools of Magicka. She will soon be Master of the other Schools. After decades of never moving away from Azura’s Shrine, she does not want to be cooped up anywhere else. Azura no longer gives her visions, but Aranea is still dedicated to her goddess.

Ghorbash was a hero in every sense of the word during The Great War. His service record is full of commendations and mentions in dispatches. Having the blue skin generally associated with Orsimer in warmer climes makes him an instant friend to Inigo.

Derkeethus is similar to Ghorbash in many ways. He fought as a member of the Legion during The Great War and has since been pensioned off. He spent years as a miner till captured by Falmer. His friends in Darkwater Crossing asked The Companions for help but could not afford their fee. Wujeeta heard this via Argonian friends, and she knew I would be incensed. The Companions are not my favourite people! We rescued him several months ago. He kept mining while I had his service records sent to me. I think he will be a good Sentinel.

The first task for this new squad is to help clear Windcaller Pass of wild animals. After removing the Redguard thieves from the cave system, many scholars and miners have lost their lives to the animals within.

A couple of days after returning from Sancre Tor, I took the advice of Herald and asked Auryen if any archaeological digs were planned. Avram had mentioned some exciting things about Windcaller Pass, and after some research, Auryen decided it was worth exploring. Last night Auryen walked from their camp to Silverpeak Lodge and pleaded for us to do something about the animals.

High Queen Elisif asked me to investigate the cause of recent vampire attacks on villages and towns. At first, I planned to help with the dig, but then the vampire problem arose. I was told a group of vampire hunters called Dawnguard were actively investigating the situation. So, the second task for today is to visit the Dawnguard fort and see if we can help.

A new Divine Task started last night, and my compass points to their fort. The urgency of the Divine Task is low, so I believe we can spend the time helping Auryen. The Herald of Akatosh said I would receive more information to help with Divine Tasks. So far, I have zero information except where to go! Even if High Queen Elisif hadn’t asked, I would have visited the Dawnguard anyway.

We climbed Bostin’s ladder, and everybody remained on deck as I flew the airship down the mountain and anchored just outside Auryen’s camp.

  • Wulf: Inigo, you didn’t pee yourself with fright!
  • Inigo: Refusing to fly on the back of a dragon doesn’t mean I am afraid of heights.
  • Ghorbash: I would give it a go!
  • Wulf: Next time Odahviing visits, praise him. Appeal to his ego, and he might let you fly with him.
  • Ghorbash: Olette says she had a very long ride with him. And she stabbed him in the snout the first time they met!
  • Wulf: Odahviing was quite taken by Olette’s bravery. Plus, Olette is a master manipulator, if you haven’t noticed.
  • Aranea: She has a good soul, as do the other children at Silverpeak Lodge.
  • Wulf: As do the dozens at Dragon’s Keep. Their empathy for each other is palpable. They are like soldiers who find comfort by speaking to other soldiers. Feelings they can’t easily explain need no explanation when it comes to the other children. Similar experiences create a level of understanding that we can only hope to emulate.
  • Derkeethus: Wulf speaks true. Ghorbash and I have an understanding of each other rare between our species. We have lost comrades in battle and seen the cruelty of a common enemy. It is a strong bond that ignores border, race and religion.
  • Ghorbash: Just don’t get in my way, lizard!
  • Derkeethus: Then don’t be too slow, my piggy friend!

We climbed down the ladder then Inigo said, “I know you would have liked to bring Rigmor here to do some archaeology with you.”

“Duty calls for both Rigmor and me.”

“At least you had some quiet time together after Sancre Tor.”

“I needed Rigmor near me to cope with what I have learnt.”

“I am honoured you trusted me with those secrets.”

“You and Lydia deserved to know. I want to tell all The Sentinels, but it is too big a risk.”

“They know about Rigmor. So perhaps it is not as big a risk as you think?”

“I will think about it. Let us go see what the fuss is about.”

I said to Auryen, “Penitus Oculatus pest control. How can we help you?”

“Have I ever told you how droll you can be?”

“You have been here a few days already, and I am sure this dig will be another week at least. Won’t the museum collapse without you there?”

“Oh yes, Avram can certainly handle things for a while. That is except for the tours because he is terrible at those!”

“What’s it like to return to fieldwork?”

“I have wanted to do so for a long time. This dig may turn out to be quite fascinating.”

“It would be good if we can open up another passage through the mountains. Anything we find to do with Windcaller will make The Greybeards ecstatic.”

“As agreed, any relics to do with their founder will be handed to them after we make replicas.”

“I would like to present such things to them, and Paarthurnax gathered together. I have no idea how long it has been since some of them visited the summit.”

“Well, we can’t continue our nice quiet, slow investigation of the ruins unless the animals are gone.”

“I’ll talk to Patero and get an idea of what we face. See you soon.”

I walked over to Patero and asked, “What is the situation?”

“We spent a few days exploring the caves that the Redguards occupied. Then, after breaking through some rubble, we found our way into a much larger complex. Unfortunately, it is full of bears, wolves, big cats and other beasties that wanted us for lunch.”

“There must be another entrance.”

“Yes, well, a quick glimpse before we ran for our lives showed several people in different states of consumption. Some of them looked like miners. Others looked like unfortunate passers-by invited in for a meal.”

“I don’t like slaughtering wild animals.”

“We did try scaring them away with torches and spells. No luck.”

“Once they find Man and Mer are easy prey, they forget about the harder to catch and tougher alternatives. Even if you shooed them away, they would be a danger to the innocent.”

“Once they are cleared, it may take a few days to inspect the new section. I have no doubt we will have more hard labour ahead as it looks like an earthquake caused damage to the natural tunnels.”

“I will visit when I can.”

“I am sure we can entertain ourselves sifting through buckets of rubble in search of tiny fragments of civilisation.”

“That sounds, ah… riveting!”

I walked over to the beaming Latoria and commented, “Wonderful robes!”

“Lovely Celestine told me where she purchased hers. They had many designs, but I like the moons on this one.”

“Of course, being the beautiful Khajiit that you are.”

“Do you think that handsome Inigo will like it?”

“Ah, that explains the expense for something likely to get muddy during a dig.”

“Well?”

“I think he finds you charming. There is no need to dress to impress.”

“I was hoping to speak to him without Anahbi and Ashni staring daggers at me.”

“We might be able to spend some time at this dig later, but not today.”

“Then I shall just have to give him meaningful stares full of promises while you are here.”

“Can you use a whip and manacles?”

“An odd question. No, why should I need to know those things?”

“No reason, I was just curious.”

“I find this all very exciting.”

“The dig or Inigo?”

“Both.”

I walked up to Kyre and asked, “Why aren’t you wearing your armour?”

“I was constantly putting it on then taking it off. Since it seems my time here is mainly as a miner, not guard, I will stick to these clothes for now.”

“It must make a welcome change digging through rock looking for something other than ore.”

“Yes, it made prying down a big slab that was in the way far more interesting.”

“Well, have fun digging because I have a feeling there will be a lot more of it.”

“It will still be better than working in a Silver-Blood mine.”

I asked Madras, “Are you enjoying yourself?”

“It is interesting. Not as interesting as Rkund, to be sure. After all, they are just old Nord caves.”

“I find Dwemer ruins the most boring things on Nirn. Nordic ruins come a close second.”

“Yes, well, each to their own.”

We entered the cave. Nobody mentioned there were deceased where the Redguard thieves once camped!

It is unusual to see bears and big cats share a den. But the pair that attacked me were buddies that shared meals. Unavoidably, they both died within seconds of attacking.

Inigo commented, “That new sword of yours slices and dices like nothing before!”

We have entered one of the newly uncovered sections, and I can see a wayshrine similar to those on the seven thousand steps. That makes sense since Windcaller is associated with both places.

A puma is staring at me like I am a leg of lamb!

The puma leapt, and I cut it down mid-flight.

 I inspected the wayshrine and read the plaque out loud,

“Those to your right like to crawl in the dark.

Those to your left….”

  • Wulf: The plaque is too worn to make out the rest.
  • Inigo: My friend, it is obvious we must proceed to the right!
  • Wulf: Calm down, Inigo. We will get to them sooner or later.
  • Aranea: What is so exciting about the right.
  • Inigo: SPIDERS! Giant, hairy, poisonous spiders that go ‘crunch’ when you hit them!
  • Wulf: Inigo has a bit of a spider fetish.
  • Inigo: It is not a fetish! It is an obsession!
  • Aranea: Perhaps Latoria should have spent her money on a spider costume?
  • Inigo: What are you talking about?
  • Aranea: You didn’t notice the looks she was giving you?
  • Inigo: Ahh… no.
  • Aranea: Did you compliment her new robes?
  • Inigo: Latoria wore new robes?
  • Aranea: I sat, for over a century, in the cold of Skyrim wishing I had warm company to roll with. What do I find when I return to civilisation?
  • Inigo: Incredibly handsome blue Khajiit?
  • Aranea: I find people blind to the flirting of others. Warm company within reach, yet they go about oblivious to the opportunities presented!
  • Wulf: Khajiit are usually far more direct when another takes their fancy.
  • Inigo: Ashni and Anahbi certainly are!
  • Aranea: Sleep with Latoria, but if I find you have taken advantage of her, I will tie your tail into a bow!
  • Inigo: O… kay…
  • Wulf: I was wrong shooing Sethri away, was I, Aranea?
  • Aranea: You could not risk the connection between you and the Guardian General being blabbed!
  • Wulf: There is that, but you rejected him every time he visited the shrine.
  • Aranea: He was starting to grow on me. Like a wart.
  • Wulf: When my secret is out, I suggest you give Sethri a chance. He is one of the nicest people you could meet.
  • Inigo: What colour was Latoria’s new robe?
  • Aranea: Blue, which proves she has no taste!
  • Inigo: Ouch!
  • Ghorbash: Hey!
  • Wulf: Inigo thought it would be quieter without Lydia to torment him.
  • Aranea: I promised her that I would continue her legacy.
  • Inigo: That was generous of you.

I put away my sword and prepared Lightening. It is the easiest way to remove pesky spiders.

It is also handy for removing pesky webs!

Spider after spider fell to my spells, then Inigo whined, “Unfair! I want a turn!”

“Well, I do believe mummy spider just ran around the corner just ahead.”

Inigo yelled, “MINE!” as he ran towards the giant spider. Ghorbash followed by didn’t say anything as he was too busy coughing up spider venom.

Inigo’s war cry, when he is not throwing insults, is ‘Hyah!’. One ‘Hyah!’ later, the enormous spider was dead.

Inigo ran from spider to spider, laughing as he went.

When he returned, I asked, “Better than Skooma?”

“It costs far less, and those crunchy sounds are just the best!”

Inigo’s obsession was catered for, so I disposed of the rest of the spiders.

Not long after exiting the spider’s den, we found a cavern with sunlight streaming down through a hole in the ceiling. No doubt, many of the carnivores found dinner dropping in from time to time.

Mr and Mrs Tiger were not impressed with their visitors.

Two strokes of my sword and their worries were ended.

Another big angry cat populated another cavern.

I said, “Inigo, your cousin seems pissed off!”

Aranea replied, “Perhaps he likes Latoria and is jealous?”

In the same cavern, I was attacked by a wolf.

Another puma.

And an annoyed bear.

A bit further on, we came across two bears, a puma and a wolf, who all decided we looked tasty.

I leapt into their middle and killed all four in two seconds with a single sword stroke for each.

Inigo exclaimed, “There is no need to show off for the new Sentinels!”

“I am hurrying so that we can get onto the Divine Task.”

Aranea added, “I don’t mind. The fewer animals I have to kill, the better!”

I said, “Okay. I will leave my sword sheathed and let you lot kill them!”

The sheathing of my sword did not last long. The Sentinels were all too slow to react to a lion that leapt for my throat.

I drew my sword and cut it down inches from me.

That was the last creature we could find. As we were doing a sweep of the caverns, we halted before a boulder blocking entrance to the rest of the tunnels. A breeze could be felt coming from the direction it blocked. I thought I heard something and put my hand up for silence. A few seconds later, I was sure about what it was.

  • Wulf: Can anybody else hear that?
  • Inigo: Yes. Talking… in Dovahzul and very deep baritones!
  • Wulf: It is echoing, so I have no idea how far away the dragons are. The volume is too low for me to pick out the words.
  • Inigo: Don’t ask me to repeat what they are saying. My tongue cannot get around that language without sprains.
  • Aranea: They wouldn’t be inside a cavern, would they?
  • Wulf: They might, but that is rare. I know there is an open area of this passage through the mountains, as you can see from Silverpeak Lodge. Plus, it is written about in some histories I read.
  • Aranea: Will they be hostile?
  • Wulf: Both Paarthurnax and Odahviing told me that Dov will now regard any multiple attacks on me as cowardly. If an individual dragon wants to challenge me, then that is a fair test of combat, and if they are victorious, they will be considered the stronger. So, I don’t expect any more ambushes by multiple dragons, but there will still be individuals who want to challenge me. As for the two talking, I have no idea who they are or if they pose a threat.
  • Ghorbash: Can you ask your scaly friends to investigate?
  • Wulf: I could, but that may put them in danger. If a dragon wants to fight me, they may attack either of them as well. No, it is better if I find out for myself.
  • Derkeethus: We had better warn the bookworms, yes?
  • Wulf: Scholar or historian are the polite terms.
  • Derkeethus: We had better warn the scholar bookworms and historian bookworms, yes?
  • Wulf: Yes. I shall warn them, but I doubt anything but Molag Bal incarnate would stop them from exploring these caves. Even then, they would probably burrow under him.

We made our way back to the camp.

I found Patero inside one of the tents, examining some pottery.

I told him, “We cleared the cavern of the spiders and animals. There were quite a few!”

“Ah, good news. We’ll head back in and continue the dig. Give us a few days, then check back in case anything comes up.”

“There is a large boulder blocking access to the valley. We could hear two dragons in that direction. Whatever you do, don’t enter the valley if you clear that blockage!”

“There is not much chance of that now you have warned us. Thank goodness you did as we would have been eager and ran into the valley and danger!”

“There might not be any danger from them, but I should talk to them first.”

“Okay. I will let the others know.”

I said to the Explorers Guild members, “We are off to deal with some vampires. I will see you all in a couple of days.”

Once inside Bostin’s cabin, I set a course for Riften.

While we waited to go ethereal, we enjoyed lunch and a good talk.

The bell rang to tell us we were autodocking. When I went on deck, I could hear the spruikers in the city’s market and general busy hubbub. Riften always seems livelier than other cities. It is undoubtedly Inigo’s favourite.

A few people stared at us when we disembarked. Unlike most of the other cities, I wasn’t allowed to set up a beacon on the outer walls of Riften. Being in the presence of Maven Black-Briar makes my skin crawl, so I didn’t bother arguing the point.

  • Wulf: Feeling homesick, Inigo?
  • Inigo: That seems like an entirely different life.
  • Aranea: You have done well. Not many people can escape that life and thrive.
  • Inigo: Not many people get to have Wulf as their support.
  • Aranea: Is this where Olette came from as well?
  • Wulf: That bench behind you is where I met Olette. She had avoided those whose sexual deprivations involve children. She had to kill to do so! But the way she earned her gold was perilous. Selling information is not going to be a long-term career. She was a reasonable thief but found the Thieves Guild leader to be an ‘arrogant arsehole, excuse the language, Cap’n.’
  • Aranea: And now she wants to be a bard.
  • Inigo: That is one step toward her ultimate goal. She wants to be a spy.
  • Aranea: I can see the appeal, but indeed there are no retired spies.
  • Inigo: It seems they all get caught eventually.
  • Wulf: Rigmor loves this market. She could send Bruma broke if allowed to shop here without supervision!
  • Inigo: Do you think Latoria would like Honeyside?
  • Ghorbash: Honey what?
  • Inigo: It is Wulf’s house in Riften.
  • Aranea: She would enjoy anywhere you are, Inigo.
  • Inigo: Mm… she is pretty bubbly, isn’t she?
  • Wulf: You could light her on fire, and she would still be smiling. Not that I recommend testing that theory.
  • Inigo: I might invite the lady to a lovely weekend in Riften.
  • Aranea: Good idea. Remember what I said about tying your tail in a knot!
  • Inigo: My tail has not forgotten and is offended. So is Mr Dragonfly!
  • Aranea: They will get over it.
  • Derkeethus: Madesi is one of the few Saxhleel Jewellers remaining in Tamriel. It is quickly becoming a lost art.
  • Wulf: Riften was an enigma. It was a haven for Stormcloaks and their followers. Yet, they had no problems with a sizeable Argonian population. They still kept Khajiit outside though that didn’t stop one trying to assassinate me.
  • Inigo: Compared to how they were treated in Windhelm, Riften would have seemed like paradise.
  • Wulf: At least now, everything is changing for the better.

We exited the gate near the stables, and I said to The Sentinels, “We are going to cross territory that has its share of bandit camps and wild animals.”

We had hardly started our cross-country trek when we came upon an idiot with a staff. He had no idea what he was doing, which made him a danger to himself and anybody near him.

“Excuse me, citizen, I am Commander Valdr of the Penitus Oculatus. What is your name, and what are you doing?”

“Oh… hello there. I am Jac. I didn’t notice you as I was focusing on my Magicka.”

“You were about to resurrect anything dead within a hundred feet of you!”

“Oh, so it was obvious I don’t know what I’m doing?”

“Yes, it is painfully obvious that you have not the slightest idea what you are doing.”

“Well, that’s blunt.”

“I have to deal with the aftermath of people dabbling in magic all the time. It does not work if I say, ‘Excuse me. You are somewhat baffled by what you are trying. Be a good person and do not try it anymore. Thanks.’”

“Point taken. See, my grandfather was a wizard. My father wouldn’t talk about him much. But I found some of his things in the attic, including this staff. After that, I thought I was turning into a wizard too. Dead things near me would come to life again for a short while.”

“I could confiscate the staff or give you a fair price.”

I fished in my gem bag and produced two emeralds that would sell for about five hundred septims each.

“These gems should fetch about one thousand septims in total. Take the gems to the Khajiit caravan outside the front gate to get that price.”

“A thousand septims! I could fix so many things on our farm with that money. It’s a deal.”

I handed Jac the gems, and he gave me the staff. It was more potent than I first thought, and Jac had been waving it around like a toy. After the transaction, Jac walked away, staring at his gems and smiling.

A bit further along, I saw a travelling bard stop dead in his tracks. Inigo yelled, “You smell like pee, you stupid bandits!”

He had noticed two bandits who were waiting to ambush the bard. He dispatched them both in seconds.

I told him, “Excellent work, Inigo!”

He replied, “I can’t believe I used to be one of them!”

“Used to be. That is the important part.”

I used Bostin a lot, so I would avoid suicidal bandits and animals when travelling. But, unfortunately, it seems they missed me as after the bandits came moronic wolves.

A bit further up the road, a Nord dressed partly in rags and partly in plate armour came galloping past. He then stopped his horse, leapt off and attacked me with his fists while yelling, “Wabbajack Wabbajack!”

I killed him with Unrelenting Force. When I searched his body, I found several bottles of Skooma.

A small cave led to Dayspring Canyon, where Fort Dawnguard was. There are other entrances to the canyon, but this was the quickest.

Because much of the canyon was in shadow, it was more icebound than the rest of Skyrim in proximity to it.

Fort Dawnguard’s outer defences had mainly fallen to ruin, with a few arched gateways being the only things left standing.

We were walking past a young man when he called out, “Oh, hey there! Are you here to join The Dawnguard, too?”

“See the uniforms? We are Penitus Oculatus. So no, we will not be joining The Dawnguard. We are here to find out what they know about the vampire attacks.”

“Truth is, I’m a little nervous. I’ve never done anything like this before. I hope you don’t mind if I walk up with you.”

“What is your name?”

“Agmaer.”

“You can walk with us, Agmaer, but first, let me give you some advice. I don’t know how The Dawnguard is arranged, but if it looks like you have to sign yourself into a military organisation, turn away. Volunteers should not be forced into stupidity that unnecessarily endangers them.”

“Okay… that makes sense.”

“Good.”

“Hey, uh, don’t tell Isran I was afraid to meet him by myself. I heard what’s going on. The vampires, the Dawnguard, all of it. Not the best first impression for a new vampire hunter, I guess. I wanted to help, so here I am.”

“If Isran is a leader worth following, then he would realise the dangers you faced just getting here.”

“Yes, I suppose I did have to dodge some bandits and a bear with big teeth!”

“See, that should give you confidence! Be a man, not a mouse, and squeak up! I mean, speak up!”

“Haha…”

I think we were all impressed by the size of Fort Dawnguard. There must have been a large number of vampires to contend with in the second era.

As with most ancient structures in Skyrim, much damage had been done by earthquakes as well as natural decay.

I could see many ramparts suitable for docking Bostin.

We entered the fort’s entrance hall and joined a conversation between the leader of The Dawnguard, Isran, and a Vigilant of Stendarr.

  • Isran: Why are you here, Tolan? The Vigilants and I finished with each other a long time ago.
  • Tolan: You know why I’m here. The Vigilants are under attack everywhere. The vampires are much more dangerous than we believed.
  • Isran: And now you want to come running to safety with The Dawnguard, is that it? I remember Keeper Carcette telling me repeatedly that Fort Dawnguard is a crumbling ruin, not worth the expense and manpower to repair. And now that you’ve stirred up the vampires against you, you come begging for my pardon?
  • Tolan: Isran, Carcette is dead! The Hall of the Vigilants… everyone… they’re all dead. You were right. We were wrong. Isn’t that enough for you?
  • Isran: Yes, well… I never wanted any of this to happen. I tried to warn all of you… I am sorry, you know.
  • Wulf: Maybe we can help?

Isran turned to me.

  • Isran: Who are you? What do you want?
  • Wulf: I am Commander Valdr of the Penitus Oculatus. I am here on behalf of High Queen Elisif and The Divines to investigate the vampire attacks.
  • Isran: You are the Dragonborn. I suppose that killing dragons does qualify you for killing vampires. Different skillset, but just as dangerous. All right, your welcome in The Dawnguard.
  • Wulf: We are not here to join The Dawnguard but to assist.
  • Inigo: You are a funny man, Isran. Commander Valdr has killed many vampires, including an entire clan of dozens, by himself. Vampires are just another undead and to compare them to the might of dragons is ignorant if not laughable.
  • Aranea: Vampires are a threat to the innocent men and women of Skyrim. That is why we are here.
  • Ghorbash: And in case you missed it, Commander Valdr is here on behalf of The Divines, and I do believe that includes Lord Stendarr.
  • Isran: Yes, well, I stand corrected.
  • Derkeethus: What exactly is The Dawnguard?
  • Isran: We hunt down and kill vampires. Haven’t you been paying attention?
  • Wulf: Change your tone, Isran! We have come here out of courtesy. We do not need you nor The Dawnguard to investigate and fix the vampire problem. You can be part of the cure, but only if you are not part of the problem. Do you understand?
  • Isran: Somebody as short with words as me. We will get along.
  • Derkeethus: My question?
  • Isran: In the old days, The Dawnguard kept all of Skyrim safe from those bloodsucking scum. Then people stopped taking the threat seriously, The Dawnguard was disbanded, and the vampires came creeping back. So now I am trying to re-establish The Dawnguard. Thereby we can take the fight to the vampires for a change. I hope it isn’t too late.
  • Wulf: Dragons didn’t come creeping back but announced their return by wiping out entire towns and battalions of soldiers. Nobody believed in dragons, so there was no defence. The Blades were almost extinct, and nobody knew how to fight dragons.  Dragons were a danger to all life on Nirn, so The Divines sent me to deal with them.
  • Tolan: And they have sent you to deal with the vampires?
  • Wulf: Yes, and that suggests they pose more of a threat than even Isran realises. Vampires have never had the numbers to overcome mortal armies, and our city guards are doing well against their incursions. However, there is something that The Divines want me to deal with which is beyond the extra aggression being shown. It may even be the cause of the extra aggression.
  • Isran: So why don’t they just tell you what that is?
  • Wulf: It is complicated. Let’s say they like me to figure out things by myself. However, they have promised more assistance than I used to get.
  • Isran: It is vital to establish a place for vampire hunters to train and be protected from this unknown threat.
  • Wulf: I agree. We will do some fieldwork while you concentrate on getting this fort up to scratch and recruitment.
  • Isran: Tolan was telling me about some cave the Vigilants were poking around in. They seemed to think it was related to these recent vampire attacks. Tolan, tell Commander Valdr about, what was it, Dimhollow?

I turned to the elderly Vigilant.

  • Tolan: Yes, that’s it. Dimhollow Crypt. Brother Adalvald was sure it held some long-lost vampire artefact of some kind. We didn’t listen to him any more than we did, Isran. He was at the Hall when it was attacked…
  • Wulf: Okay, mark on this map where Dimhollow Crypt is. We shall investigate it.

I handed Tolan my map. He quickly marked the location then handed it back.

  • Wulf: It is not far from The Hall of the Vigilants. We might as well look there for clues.
  • Isran: Here, take a crossbow. Good for taking out those fiends before they get close.
  • Inigo: Commander Valdr is the best marksman with a bow I have ever seen. And I am the second-best. We can fire several arrows in the time it takes to crank a crossbow.
  • Wulf: Inigo is correct. But crossbows are better for those not proficient with bows.
  • Agmaer: Like me!
  • Tolan: I’ll meet you at Dimhollow. It’s the least I can do to avenge my fallen comrades.
  • Isran: Tolan, I don’t think that’s a good idea. You Vigilants were never trained for…
  • Tolan: I know what you think of us. You think we’re soft and that we’re cowards. You believe our deaths proved our weakness. Stendarr grant that you do not have to face the same test and be found wanting. I’m going to Dimhollow Crypt. Perhaps I can be of some small assistance to you.
  • Wulf: You can come with us in our airship if you wish.
  • Tolan: A kind offer, but I need time to pray and contemplate. I can get there safely.
  • Wulf: Wait for us outside the crypt. I will not deny you the chance to avenge your comrades.
  • Tolan: I won’t be alone. Freesia will be with me.
  • Wulf: Is Freesia another Vigilant?
  • Tolan: Freesia is an attack dog trained to bring down enemies quickly and without hesitation. She is the only one who managed to kill any of the vampires who attacked the hall.
  • Wulf: Isran, I believe a potential recruit has arrived.

I decided to watch and see how Isran treated Agmaer.

  • Isran: You there, boy. Stop skulking in the shadows and step up here. What is your name?
  • Agmaer: I’m, uh… my name is Agmaer, sir.
  • Isran: Do I look like a ‘sir’ to you, boy? I’m not a soldier, and you’re not joining the army.
  • Agmaer: Oh… a… of course.
  • Isran: Hmm… farm boy, eh? What’s your weapon?
  • Agmaer: My weapon? I mostly use my pa’s axe when wolves are attacking the goats or something.
  • Isran: ‘My pa’s axe’, Stendarr preserve us.

Isran noticed I was watching and knew why.

  • Isran: Don’t worry, Agmaer. I think we can make a Dawnguard out of you. Here, take this crossbow. Let’s see how you shoot.
  • Agmaer: Uh, crossbow? I’ve never…
  • Isran: As Commander Valdr said before. It is a good weapon for those unskilled with the bow. Now let me show you how to load and aim…

We quickly looked around the fort before departing, and I selected a place to dock Bostin.

As we left, we saw Agmaer busily practising with the crossbow. Pleasingly, we could see his confidence was boosted. He was efficiently using a weapon that was new to him only minutes before.

Dayspring Canyon is quite picturesque. If Isran hadn’t already claimed the fort, I might have considered it for another orphanage.

Thankfully we made it back to Bostin without incident, probably because we killed everything on the way to Fort Dawnguard.

Inigo asked, “Where to now?”

“Dawnstar. We will walk to The Hall of the Vigilants from there. A steep track leads from the hall to Dimhollow Crypt.”

Sometimes our flights in Bostin coincide with mealtime. It was a bit later than usual, but we still enjoyed our dinner and a talk while waiting for the ethereal travel.

The bell rang, and we made our way onto Bostin’s deck.

After climbing down the ladder, Inigo observed, “This place is as miserable as Windhelm! The sea breeze is an improvement, though.”

“I have never seen so many red lights!”

“There are a lot of sailors that need relief. Prostitution is probably the major money earner in this city.”

We exited Dawnstar and found the Khajiit caravan was under attack by skeletons!

The Dawnstar guards were coming to assist, but we were already there and faster.

We cut down the skeletons and saved the Khajiit but were too late to save a Vigilant.

I searched the Vigilant’s body and found two notes. I read the first one to The Sentinels,

“To whom it may concern,

If you are reading this, then you have discovered the corpse of a Vigilant of Stendarr. Know that this is the fate that awaits all those who set themselves in my path, for I am Vantus Durgois, the true successor to the King of Worms.”

Aranea asked, “Is this anything to do with the vampires?”

“No, just another Mannimarco impersonator. It seems a bad time to be a Vigilant of Stendarr.”

The first note was written on a page ripped from the Vigilant’s journal. The journal was soaked in blood, and very little was legible. I said to The Sentinels, “The deceased is Vigilant Norik. He was investigating Vantus Durgois and had tracked him to a place called Blood-Mane Crypt. We will investigate the place if we get the time. For now, we will concentrate on the vampire problem.”

Ahkari came running up and remarked, “The Dragonborn comes to our aid once more. But, of course, if he had not stolen all the good Khajiit guards or shown them to be traitors, we would have been able to defend ourselves.”

“And if the Khajiit moved their trading inside the city gates like they are now allowed to, they would not need rescuing or extra guards.”

“It is good to see you again, Wulf.”

“It is always good to see you, Ahkari.”

“I had better get back to my tent before one of the others makes so bad a trade that we will have to eat sand for a month.”

We made it to The Hall of the Vigilants with no further encounters.

The Hall of the Vigilants was destroyed. The only corpses were those of vampires and Death Hounds.

My Dovah growled, “Did you see the armour the dogs are wearing?”

“Yes, it is Dragonbone.”

“Kill them all just for that!”

“I am sure there will be plenty of other reasons just as important.”

The Vigilant’s safe, which contained their member lists and other necessary documentation, was empty.

Not far from the ruined hall was a path that passed by Dimhollow Crypt.

We were near Dimhollow Crypt when vampires and their mortal thralls attacked us.

Without getting close, heat vision told me which enemies were living and which was undead.

I headed straight for and eliminated the most powerful vampire.

Vampires are very resistant to cold but vulnerable to fire. The vampire screamed as she burned.

The thralls and lesser vampires were no match for The Sentinels.

We were outside Dimhollow Crypt and could hear a fight inside. Vigilant Tolan was not waiting for us outside, so we assumed he was causing the kerfuffle inside.

We rushed in and found two vampires and a Death Hound attacking a well-armoured dog.

I disposed of the Death Hound with my bow. The Sentinels rushed the two vampires and quickly eliminated them.

I rushed down to the dog and healed her.

“Are you Freesia?” I asked her.

“Woof!”

“Would you like to come with us and hunt some vampires?”

“Woof!”

And that his how I recruited dog number seven.

We think Tolan had no choice but to run into the cave when the vampires outside attacked. He died trying to avenge his friends and comrades.

I performed Arkay’s Rights over his body, and then we studied our surroundings.

A closed gate had no visible opening mechanism, but there was a guard post overlooking it.

We made our way to the guard post and pulled a pull-chain. The gate lifted.

We quietly made our way through the lifted gate and along some short corridors. It did not take long to find the first vampire sentry.

She was a fair distance away for a bow shot, but zoom vision helped me aim.

The arrow flew true, and the sentry died in flames.

As we approached where the sentry was, several skeletons came out of the ground to greet us.

As I took care of one, Freesia bounded ahead and made short work of two others. Meeko is impressive in combat. Freesia is his equal.

I asked my Dovah, “How come you haven’t whined about Freesia’s armour?”

“Because she is, what is Rigmor’s word, aha… Freesia is cool!”

“It looks like teeth and claws anyway. Not carved pieces of bone.”

“DUH! Which one of us is the dragon? I knew that!”

The crypt was full of gates with their opening mechanisms on the outside. They were designed to keep things in, not out.

We could hear the Thu’um being used. Only two-word Shouts, which is what most Draugr use. We approached cautiously past closed coffins waiting for Draugr to leap out, but none did.

We came upon a melee between a vampire, a thrall and a Death Hound against two Draugr. The vampire was discovering her Blood Magic did not affect the Draugr. However, the Death Hound’s ice-cold bites were doing damage.

It was a race between Inigo and Freesia as to who would reach the enemies first. Inigo is an excellent marksman but prefers using his dual swords.

Freesia growled as she leapt at the Death Hound. I think she finds their very existence an insult! A mortal’s best friend, the dog, has been made into something unwholesome and repulsive in the form of Death Hounds.

All enemies were soon dead, or deader, and we moved on.

The subsequent encounter was with a mighty Draugr Lord. Evaluating, I stood back and watched The Sentinels deal with it.

They worked as a cohesive team and, after a hard battle, brought the Draugr Lord down. I was more than pleased with how the new Sentinels were doing.

The next vampire sentry overlooked a cavern dominated by a small pool of water populated by Skeletal Warriors.

I took care of the sentry, and the others eliminated the skeletons.

As we crept along, Inigo was heartbroken to find somebody else had been killing spiders!

The culprit was another vampire sentry who screamed as she burnt.

The scream attracted two more vampires and a pair of Death Hounds.

We soon disposed of them and crept toward the sounds of more fighting.

The sounds were from a vampire battling a colossal spider. His Blood Magic was working against the spider, but it would take too long to kill it. Odds are, the spider would win. The fight was behind another lowered gate.

A lever raised the gate.

I killed the vampire with an arrow. Freesia beat Inigo to the spider and quickly disposed of it.

Inigo said, “Listen to me, Freesia. We could be good friends or mortal enemies. So please don’t take my spider kills from me. Okay?”

“Woof!”

“Good. Don’t let it happen again!”

When we entered a small room, we could hear a conversation originating from a large cavern.

  • Adalvald: I’ll never tell you anything, vampire. My oath to Stendarr is stronger than any suffering you can inflict on me!”
  • Lokil: I believe you, Vigilant Adalvald. And I don’t think you even know what you’ve found here. So go and meet your beloved Stendarr.
  • Vampire: Are you sure that was wise, Lokil? He still might have told us something.
  • Lokil: He knew nothing. He served his purpose by leading us to this place. Now it is up to us to bring Harkon the prize.

I yelled, “We are too late to save Vigilant Adalvald, but just in time to avenge him and the other Vigilants!”

There were two vampires and a thrall. Three arrows later, they were no longer.

I rushed down some stairs and to Vigilant Adalvald’s side. But, unfortunately, the vampires had cut his throat, and there was nothing I could do for him except recite Arkay’s Rights once more.

Next to Adalvald was his journal. I read the following passages to The Sentinels,

“In my previous volume of notes and observations regarding Dimhollow Crypt’s possible connections to the Ancient Vampire clans of Skyrim’s history, I wrote of a great chamber, far larger than anything else I’ve yet seen here in the crypt.

Alas, at the time, a few wandering Draugr forced me to retreat to the earlier passages of the crypt, thus depriving me of an opportunity to study this huge cavern.

Well, praise be to Stendarr, for as I write this, I have just spent nearly a full day exploring that very cavern.

It was a risk that proved more than worth it because what I found in that chamber nearly defies description.

Central to this huge cavern is an island of stone in a subterranean lake. Upon this island is something I can only describe as an elaborate ceremonial construction surrounded by stone columns linked by arches.

There is no mistaking the stark contrast in architecture here; no ancient Nords make this stonework. Here, too, were more of the gargoyle statues that I first glimpsed in earlier passageways.

There is no Draugr burial site in Skyrim that contains these statues, save Dimhollow Crypt.

Indeed, I am now certain that the strange construct in this main chamber was built long after the crypt and by wholly different masters. These must be the same builders who placed the gargoyles through the crypt, perhaps to frighten away the curious.

All signs seem to indicate that the masons who crafted these strange arches were servants of some ancient master who favoured necromancy or vampirism.

The style and craftsmanship in the stonework are not only distinct in terms of design, seeming to speak of an entirely different culture than that of the old Nord peoples, but also in skill with which they were fashioned.

The cutting and shaping of the stone, for example, suggests more sophisticated tools than the crypt’s original architects would have possessed.

Although I feel a sense of exhilaration that my theories have at last been confirmed beyond any shadow of a doubt, I am also disappointed at the lack of answers. How long ago were these new features added to the crypt? And by whom? And for what purpose?

On one point, I have no doubts. I must return to the Hall of the Vigilant and share these findings with my brothers and sisters. When they see what I’ve discovered with their own eyes, they will no longer scoff at my theories or mock my endeavours.

And when that is done, I will return to my work. For now, Dimhollow Crypt might be a mystery, but by Stendarr I will see that mystery solved.”

I stood stunned, shook my head and then looked around.

  • Inigo: My friend, what just happened? You have turned very pale!
  • Wulf: My Divine compass just moved. It no longer points to Fort Dawnguard!
  • Inigo: The Herald of Akatosh said The Divines would provide more help. Perhaps this is what he meant?
  • Wulf: I was expecting verbal clues or instructions.
  • Inigo: This makes more sense. You don’t bombard them with questions they can’t answer, and you still have to discover most things yourself.
  • Wulf: Yes, you are right. It just took me by surprise, that is all.
  • Ghorbash: I am still trying to wrap my brain around your relationships with gods.
  • Aranea: And not just his own. Lady Azura and others seem pretty fond of Wulf.
  • Wulf: Any god that wants Nirn to exist and mortals to be free will appreciate what I do. Some, like Boethia, will co-operate as long as they benefit. They are no more difficult to deal with, except for the arrogance than some.
  • Inigo: You have them beat in that department, my friend.
  • Wulf: You know it is not arrogance on my part. I have to sound confident when dealing with them. They will exploit any weakness shown, so it is best to hide them behind the bluster.
  • Inigo: I know. I was just trying to lighten the mood. It is those gargoyle statues, for they are scaring Mr Dragonfly and me!
  • Wulf: They are undead. Well, some of them are.
  • Inigo: Haha, very funny. Mr Dragonfly is quaking in his jar! Tell me you are joking.
  • Freesia: Grrr!
  • Inigo: Oh, Wulf is not joking?
  • Freesia: Grrr!
  • Wulf: When you get close to the undead ones, they will pounce on you. Their teeth and claws are razor-sharp, and, like many other undead, their bite can inflict frost damage.
  • Inigo: And you can’t tell which ones are undead?
  • Wulf: Nope. Heat vision will not tell me as they are undead.
  • Aranea: Tell me again why I came down from my nice comfortable camp at Azura’s Shrine?
  • Wulf: Sethri?
  • Aranea: Ah, yes. Bring on the gargoyles!
  • Ghorbash: Things were much simpler during The Great War. The enemy wore uniforms and was mortal. It was easy to tell who needed chopping with my axe.
  • Wulf: Okay, I think my compass is pointing to something in this cavern. Let’s explore!

The vampires had no helpful information on them.

My compass was centred on a central column. Bloodstains could be seen above a central dome on top of the column.

I said, “I think this is a blood seal. I might regret this, but it can’t be any more painful than other blood seals.”

I placed my hand over the dome. A spike shot out and pieced it.

I yelled, “Ouch! Ow! Fuckity fuck!”

Aranea told me off, “Such profanity coming from a religious person such as yourself! It is unseemly!”

“Says the Priestess of Azura who told Inigo to sleep with Latoria.”

“Did I tell him to go and ‘f’ Latoria? No, I did not. Now stop crying while I heal your hand!”

Aranea cast Minor Healing and the hole in my hand vanished, along with the pain.

“Now, will you survive your brush with death, Wulf the Wimp?”

“I should fucking hope so!”

Aranea walked away, shaking her head. A ring of Cold Flame encircled the central column.

I warned The Sentinels, “Do not touch the fires! I have placed no dweomer on your armour to protect against Cold Flame. You should be able to pass through it quickly without harm. Like jumping through normal flames.”

Inigo asked, “What in blazes, get the pun, is Cold Flame?”

“It is a product of Coldharbour. Instead of burning, it freezes.”

“Are we dealing with Molag Bal? Isn’t he one of the few Daedric Lords you are yet to offend?”

“I haven’t even met half of them yet.”

“Let’s assume, going by your current record, half of them will hate you. Molag Bal would be in the hate your guts half.”

“I know. It is not my fault that Daedric Princes get all narky when I oppose their plans for domination or the destruction of Nirn.”

Braziers on rails surrounded the circle of Cold Fire. I didn’t know what it would achieve, but I assumed the idea was to slide each brazier until they all ‘burned’ with Cold Fire.

So that is what I proceeded to do.

When the last brazier slid into place, the floor around the central column lowered to create steps. Finally, the central column lifted to reveal a vertical sarcophagus.

I instructed The Sentinels, “I am going to open the sarcophagus. We don’t know if the occupant is hostile, so keep your weapons sheathed unless whatever or whoever is inside attacks.”

Inigo came and stood by the side of the sarcophagus just in case.

As the front of the sarcophagus lowered, a stunningly beautiful vampire was slowly revealed.

It looked like she was about to fall, and I was ready to catch her when her eyes suddenly opened. Not the red or yellow eyes I was used to seeing with vampires. Instead, they were pale blue with a very small macula, like we were in bright sunlight.

The vampire steadied herself then stared at me.

  • Wulf: Well, this is unexpected. My name is Wulf, and these are my friends. We mean you no harm.
  • Serana: Unh… where is… who sent you here?
  • Wulf: Your name first, and then we can talk like civilised beings.
  • Serana: My name is Serana.
  • Wulf: Serana, I assume I am not who you expected to open your coffin?
  • Serana: I was expecting someone… like me, at least.
  • Wulf: Well, I am certainly not a vampire. We did kill a few who were trying to find out what was hidden here. They were working for somebody called Harkon.
  • Serana: So, he finally found me!
  • Wulf: I don’t think they knew you were here. They had just followed a Vigilant of Stendarr here out of curiosity.
  • Serana: A Vigilant of Stendarr? What is that?
  • Wulf: You don’t know? How long have you been locked away like that?
  • Serana: Good question. Hard to say. I… I can’t tell.
  • Wulf: Ask a question that might give you a clue.
  • Serana: Okay, I feel it was a long time. Who is the High King of Skyrim?
  • Wulf: Elisif the Fair, Jarl of Solitude, is the recently appointed High Queen of Skyrim.
  • Serana: I don’t know that name. You said she’s Jarl of Solitude. Who supports her?
  • Wulf: All of the Jarls voted her High Queen at a moot. That was at the end of the Skyrim Civil War a few months ago. Emperor Titus Mede II of the Imperial Empire also approves of her reign.
  • Serana: Empire? What empire?
  • Wulf: The Imperial Empire, which is centred around the White-Gold Tower.
  • Serana: Cyrodiil is the seat of an empire? I must have been gone longer than I thought, definitely longer than we planned!
  • Wulf: I think your brain is rattled. A Cyrodiil centred empire has existed in one form or another since the time of the Ayleid. The first empire of Men was founded in 1E 243 when Saint Alessia’s forces seized control of the White-Gold Tower. What year were you imprisoned?
  • Serana: 2E 251.
  • Wulf: The year is 4E 202. You have been locked up for six hundred and eighty-two years and missed the entire third era! There was no emperor when you were locked up. Instead, a Potentate controlled the Empire.
  • Serana: Yes, you are correct. The word emperor confused me. It may take some time for my brain to function normally.
  • Wulf: Why were you locked away?
  • Serana: I’d rather not get into that with you if that’s all right.
  • Wulf: Understandable. I am a stranger and not a vampire. When was the last time you trusted a mortal?
  • Serana: I’m sorry, it’s not that… it’s just that I don’t know who I can trust yet.
  • Wulf: The lead vampire we killed was called Lokil. Does that name mean anything to you?
  • Serana: He must have been trying to climb the ranks. He was a minor noble of my father’s court when I was placed in the sarcophagus.
  • Wulf: Your father is Harkon?
  • Serana: Lord Harkon. He was a king before he became a vampire. Now he is just a lord. Or he was. Let me get to my home, and I’ll have a better sense of where we all stand.
  • Wulf: Tell me about your home.
  • Serana: It is an island near Solitude. Hopefully, we can find a boat to take us there.
  • Inigo: Or we can fly in Wulf’s airship.
  • Serana: A Khajiit, a Nord, a Dunmer and an Orsimer. Skyrim is a bit more cosmopolitan than in the past. They are wearing uniforms but not you, and I cannot tell your race due to your helm.
  • Wulf: We are members of the Penitus Oculatus. The Empire’s spies, assassins and constables in charge of the emperor’s safety. I am part Nedic and part Atmoran. Maybe a bit of Breton in there as well. That depends on the histories you read.
  • Serana: I don’t remember ever meeting a blue Khajiit.
  • Inigo: Meeting or eating? Anyway, I am unique.
  • Wulf: I think I know where you lived. It is a rather large castle, am I correct?
  • Serana: Yes.
  • Wulf: Well, vampires still live there. I don’t know if that means your father is still alive, or should I say, I don’t know if your father is not a pile of vampire dust.
  • Serana: Charming.
  • Inigo: He has his moments.
  • Serana: That castle is my family home. Not the most welcoming place, but depending on who’s around, I’ll be safe there.
  • Aranea: At a guess, father problems.
  • Serana: Good guess. My father and I don’t get along.
  • Ghorbash: That is why us Orsimer have got it right. Don’t like your dad? Then, kill him and become head of the household. Easy.
  • Derkeethus: My father is a tree. I can’t say if we get along because he never says anything.
  • Serana: Wulf, are your companions typical for this era.
  • Inigo: We were normal before we met Wulf.
  • Wulf: You talked to Mr Dragonfly before you met me.
  • Inigo: Good point.
  • Wulf: I don’t suppose you want to tell me why you carry an Elder Scroll?
  • Serana: It’s… complicated. I can’t really talk about it. Once again, I’m sorry.
  • Wulf: Don’t worry, I would not steal it from you. I have my own, and I know where there is at least one more. I wouldn’t like to read one and find I am bound to another prophecy.
  • Inigo: Thanks to your handsome blue friend, you survived the other one!
  • Ghorbash: When did I do that?
  • Wulf: Okay, Serana, I can see you are keen to get home and find out what is happening. We will escort you. First, we will make our way to Riften, where my airship is docked. We will then fly to Solitude, which will take two hours, and walk from there to your home.
  • Serana: Why are you doing this for me?
  • Wulf: Because I believe my gods want me to. We are working with a group of people, The Dawnguard, who would kill you without asking questions. Me, I give everybody a chance.
  • Serana: Your gods?
  • Wulf: They have always been called The Divines. When you were locked away, there were eight. Now there are nine after Tiber Septim achieved apotheosis. Due to the need for a mortal to aid them on Nirn, I am Champion of The Divines.
  • Inigo: As well as the Champion of Boethia, Hermaeus Mora, Azura and Meridia!
  • Wulf: Yes, thanks for that, Inigo. As you heard, I am not some religious zealot. Not like the Vigilants of Stendarr, who are as determined as The Dawnguard to wipe out vampires and anything else they think is associated with Daedric worship. They tend to forget that Daedric worship is legal in all Imperial provinces.
  • Serena: And why would The Divines want you to help me?
  • Wulf: Unknown. They don’t tell me much. I have to figure it out myself, and getting you home safe is a good start.
  • Serana: As a vampire, I can smell blood, and there is something strange about yours.
  • Wulf: There is a good reason for that, but I can’t tell you. Not because you are a vampire. It’s just that I don’t know who I can trust yet.
  • Serana: Haha. If my father is still alive, you are taking a significant risk doing this for me.
  • Inigo: Serana, you have no idea what kind of risks Wulf takes almost daily. I can assure you this. If Lord Harkon is violent towards Wulf, your castle will become a pile of rubble with Harkon’s entire clan buried in it. And that is without anybody else’s assistance.
  • Wulf: Enough talk. I don’t want to exit the way we came in. There may be other discoveries to be found. Let’s head out.
  • Freesia: Woof!
  • Wulf: Serana doesn’t need to borrow a sword. She already has one. Plus, I can measure her Magicka, which is pretty substantial.
  • Serana: You got all that from one bark?
  • Wulf: Not really, but don’t tell the others I can’t speak canine.
  • Inigo: Except with Meeko. But he is a dog that isn’t a dog.
  • Serana: You are not working for Sheogorath by chance?
  • Inigo: Oh, that’s right. Wulf is The Skooma Cat’s champion as well.
  • Wulf: No, I am not working for Uncle Sheo at the moment.
  • Serana: Okay, it looks like the definition of sane has changed in the last few centuries.

We headed for the opposite side of the cavern from where we entered. It was as good a place as any to start looking for an alternate exit.

Two gargoyles burst into action.

I chopped down one.

Inigo and Freesia took down the other.

I looked back to where Serana was locked away. Somebody went to a lot of expense to make her prison aesthetically pleasing!

We came to a door, and Serena commented, “This feels like the right way.”

We walked into another cavern, and it was of Dragon Wars vintage. I told my companions, “This looks like prime Draugr territory. Some of the vampires we encountered earlier learned the hard way that their Blood Magic does not affect them.”

Serana replied, “It sounds like training is now sub-par.”

A lowered gate blocked the way out, and I found a lever I assumed would raise the gate. I told everybody, “Watch the vertical coffins. They are almost certain to have Draugr burst out when I pull this lever.”

As predicted, pulling the lever freed some Draugr.

We quickly cut them down then Serana commented, “You are all amazingly… violent. I believe the Khajiit’s warning about the castle being reduced to rubble was not a bluff.”

Ghorbash and the others were so busy talking they didn’t notice a Skeletal Warrior sneak up behind the large Orsimer.

I cut it down and noticed another skeleton was approaching.

I turned it into ash with Unrelenting Force.

Serana said, “So that is why your blood smells different. I have met Tongues before. But you are more. You are Dragonborn.”

“Yes, that was a bit lazy of me to give that information away. I have the blood and the soul of a dragon, gifted to me by Lord Akatosh.”

“My father would love to turn you, or if that failed, keep you locked up and use you as a perpetual source of powerful blood.”

“Well, we had better not let him know what I am then.”

“I won’t tell him anything that might contribute to his insanity.”

“Is he insane, or is this the pissed off young daughter talking?”

“A bit of both.”

We walked through the previously blocked archway and found ourselves in an amphitheatre. Most likely it was used as a fight pit.

I quickly polished off the resident skeletons and Draugr.

We came to a Word Wall. None of them except Inigo had seen one in action before. They stood mesmerised as the Wall tried to teach me the Power Word ‘Gaan’, which means stamina. It is the first Word in the Drain Vitality Shout. Of course, I already knew the Word and Shout.

  • Wulf: The word wall says, in Dovahzul, ‘Het nok kopraak do svolo wo piraak mulaag wah kriin dovah nuz ni gaan wah kriin pogaan’.
  • Derkeethus: Huh?
  • Wulf: In Tamrielic, it says, ‘Here lies the body of Svolo, who possessed the strength to kill a dragon but not the stamina to kill many.’
  • Inigo: It is a wonder they found enough of Svolo to inter.
  • Wulf: Maybe they waited for the dragon to poop him out?
  • Inigo: I would hate to be the Priest of Arkay handling that mess!
  • Serana: Do they have a word for people like you two?
  • Ghorbash: Weird is the word we use.
  • Serana: That sounds appropriate.
  • Inigo: Handsome, debonaire and sophisticated are suitable as well.
  • Serana: No, I think weird is more than appropriate!

An exit from the amphitheatre led to a lowered gate.

The gate led outside.

We stepped outside, and within seconds, Serana had pulled up her hood.

  • Serana: Ah, it is so good to breathe again!
  • Inigo: I didn’t think vampires needed to breathe?
  • Serana: We don’t. Call it a hobby.
  • Wulf: The hood? Are you not a Daywalker?
  • Serana: I am, but the sun is a bit bright at the moment for my eyes.
  • Wulf: Let us get you back home, so we all know where we stand.
  • Serana: I have to be careful, so don’t judge me on what I can do during my first encounter back home!
  • Aranea: You might have to play along with your father at first.
  • Serana: If he thinks I will run and betray him, I will be locked away.
  • Wulf: I assume if he was once a king and now calls himself lord, the rules of parley will be honoured.
  • Serana: The father I once knew would never break parley. I am not so sure now.

By retracing our steps to Riften, we arrived without confrontation.

I said to Serana, “It takes two hours for the airship’s dweomer to prepare it for an ethereal jump. If you wish, I can provide some texts outlining the history of the third and fourth eras. Nothing too deep, just brief discussions of major events.”

“I would appreciate that.”

I gathered the relevant books and showed Serana to my writing desk. She was soon absorbed in study.

I set Bostin’s course for Solitude and then kept myself busy testing a theory Auryen had about the Ayleid Waystone. He believes it can act as a gateway to a pocket plane in Oblivion. I am yet to figure out the incantation required to change its destination.

The bell rang, and I had to tap Serana on the shoulder because she was so absorbed in her reading.

Once on deck, she commented, “This is an unusual place to anchor the airship.”

“This dock belongs to my museum called Dragonborn Gallery.”

“There is a museum in Skyrim’s capital dedicated to you?”

“Predominately, it is used to display the objects I find on my travels and their history. A lot of what I do can’t be made public as yet. But everything will be eventually.”

As we walked through Solitude, I could see that Serana was enjoying the dynamic feel of the city. However, I expect that her father’s castle will be a bit more dreary.

When we exited Solitude’s front gate, Serana said, “If I remember correctly, we go along this road for a while then turn right, walk past a Shrine to Meridia then turn left not long past that.”

“That’s correct. Normally I would fly to avoid confrontations. The roads are safer since the end of the civil war, and patrols are more frequent. But the airship tells everybody for miles where I am. So, to avoid scrutiny, we are walking.”

“Can’t you just teleport around?”

“Not at this moment. It is a bit of a lost art that I am slowly piecing back together.”

We turned right and walked past Meridia’s Shrine.

Inigo said, “Oh, the poor things!” when he saw an approaching Thalmor patrol.

“Who are they?” asked Serana.

I replied, “Did you get to the part that mentions The Great War?”

“Ahh, they are Thalmor. You don’t like them, I assume?”

“Not because of the Great War! Their crimes are many, and I kill them whenever I get the chance.”

I stood in front of the Justiciar and asked, “It is a mighty fine day for a bit of Talos worship, don’t you think?”

“Do you know who I am? Do you wish to see the inside of a Thalmor prison? No? Then, I suggest you dare not speak more of that heresy in my presence!”

“Did you know that the Hero of Kvatch could only enter Paradise through a ritual requiring the blood of a Divine? He used Tiber Septim’s blood. Yet you Thalmor say he is not a Divine. Can you explain that to me?”

“You are Penitus Oculatus. You know we have the legal right to stamp out the Talos heresy!”

“How come I can go to a Shrine of Talos, like the several I have in my home and get a blessing that removes diseases just like I can with the other eight Divines? Care to explain how that works if Talos is not Divine?”

“You openly admit to having heretical shrines on your private premises?”

“And in my school where I teach the young people of Skyrim the story of Tiber Septim and how he reached apotheosis.”

The Thalmor thugs tried to surround us. I mean, we outnumbered them and were well-armed. Stupid is as stupid does. The Sentinels moved to block them without getting directly in front of me.

“So, Justiciar, a heretic now stands before you. What are you going to do about it?”

He shouted, “Arrest those who co-operate. Kill those who don’t!”

Unrelenting Force put a quick stop to that plan.

Within seconds the Thalmor patrol was no more.

A Vigilant of Stendarr had watched the confrontation from her horse then walked over to us. She asked, “Why did you kill the Thalmor?”

“See our uniforms? We are protectors of The Empire. So, we were just carrying out our duties. Like you Vigilants when you suspect an innocent-looking civilian is a Daedric worshipper or, horror of horrors, a vampire!”

“Anybody who cavorts with Daedra deserves no mercy!”

Inigo growled, “Half my gods are Deadra!”

Gorbash added, “My god is a Daedra? Or at least the excrement of one.”

I said, “Daedric worship is not outlawed. What is The Empire’s motto? The law is sacred, and The Empire is the law.”

“I will not stand here and argue morality with somebody lacking any.”

“I am Commander Valdr, Dragonborn and Champion of The Divines. You and your order blaspheme against Lord Stendarr. You ignore his teachings and his Divine commands. You dare question my morals? Get out of my sight before I arrest you for vagrancy!”

The Vigilant hurried to her horse and galloped off.  Serana watched our confrontation with the Thalmor and Vigilant without saying a word.

Not far past the Thalmor, we came upon a Noblewoman and her bodyguard combatting a Skeletal Warrior. I yelled to the Sentinels, “It looks like necromancers are active in Wolfskull Cave again.”

We rescued the woman and her guard from the skeletons. Then an arrow thumped into the woman’s midriff, and she dropped dead at her guard’s feet.

A patrol of Stormcloaks had waited for a distraction before murdering the woman. I yelled, “They are no longer combatant soldiers but outlaws. Show no mercy!”

Inigo and Freesia plunged into the middle of the Stormcloaks and started killing them swiftly and without pause.

I ran up and killed their Commander.

A couple of Stormcloaks tried to run. But, inevitably, it did them no good.

I walked up to the distraught guard. He said, “Everybody liked Lady Ulfrisordottir. Why would they just kill her like that?”

“Was she a known supporter of The Empire?”

“Yes. Milady even ran a charity to help the widows of Legionnaires who died in the civil war.”

“Somebody who knew of Lady Ulfrisordottir’s travel arrangements told the Stormcloaks. They were waiting in ambush. You had no hope against them.”

“What do I do now?”

“Gather your horses and take the Lady to Solitude. Inform the Penitus Oculatus agent in Castle Dour. They will investigate and find the informer. You will see justice served.”

“What is your name?”

“Commander Valdr.”

“The Dragonborn? Lady Ulfrisordottir said everybody I know or will ever meet owes their life to you. I just wish milady could enjoy more of what you gave us.”

“As of last week, Stormcloaks are outlaws. But General Tullius believes we will see scum like these murderers crawl out of their holes for years to come. The roads are far safer than they were, but there is little we can do against cowards such as these.”

“Thank you for intervening with the skeletons. Thank you for killing that slime.”

The distraught guard went to fetch the horses. We stood guard over Lady Ulfrisordottir then helped him secure her over the back of her white Solitude stallion.

The guard rode away slowly, leading the other horse. Serana still hadn’t said a word but watched intently.

Not much later, we encountered a Stormcloak sniper. She was hiding in the opposite direction to where the guard and his lady were heading. She aimed, then screamed as Unrelenting Force sent her flying high.

We walked past Steepfall Barrow and were then attacked by a roaming band of goblins.

The goblins did not last long.

Not far from there, we came upon Northwatch Keep. It is a Thalmor prison convenient to the shoreline. Everybody was sure that Skyrim citizens were being arrested on jumped up charges and sold to slave traders. It is a place I intend to investigate when I get the chance.

I walked up to one of the Thalmor guards and asked, “What is this place?”

“That is privileged information. Now move along.”

“This is not your embassy, so therefore, Northwatch Keep is built on Imperial land. As a Penitus Oculatus agent, I have the legal right to walk inside and inspect buildings built on Imperial soil. Would you try and stop me?”

“I ah… well that would be up to my superiors?”

“So, I should ask a Mudcrab?”

The Sentinels burst out laughing, and I even heard Serana try and suppress a giggle.

“Well… I don’t want trouble, Commander. Perhaps you could come back in an hour when somebody else is on guard duty.”

“Oh, I will be back. But not today. Things to do. People to see. You know how it is.”

We walked away from the Thalmor guard, who I am sure knew how close he was to being killed.

I looked over at the castle and asked Serana, “How do they do that?”

“What?”

“Even on a sunny and pleasant day, your home is surrounded by mist and fog and manages to look sinister.”

“I don’t know. It wasn’t always like that. Father has probably got some second-rate mage to produce the fog for him.”

Serana had told me there should be a rowboat or two moored nearby. She was right! We piled in, and Ghorbash took hold of the oars. We made good time and soon landed at the island’s jetty.

We stood on the jetty and stared up at the castle.

I turned to Serana and said, “It is quite an impressive size, this close up.”

“It is something all right.”

“I will approach and enter alone with you. I do not want to appear threatening by marching up to the castle with an armed entourage.”

“That is wise. When we reach the castle, please let me lead and do the talking.”

“I am aware of the etiquette. I will not speak to or approach the lord until spoken to first.”

“I was wondering why you would risk all to accompany a woman, a vampire, into the home of a vampire clan. Your empathy explains that puzzle. Your capacity for violence feeds your confidence. It is an interesting combination.”

“I am a very efficient killer. But I have never committed murder. You have done nothing to threaten or harm me. Therefore, I could not justify harming or killing you. It matters not that you are a vampire. That does not become a factor unless I see you harm innocent mortals. To survive the tasks allocated by The Divines, I must be very good at judging character. Subsequently, I judge you to be of good character.”

“Have you ever met vampires of good character?”

“Yes. One recently saved my life when the Underking cursed me.”

“That guard said everybody owes their life to you.”

“Every being on Nirn does and not just once but several times over. That includes your father if he still lives or whatever you call the functioning of vampires.”

“I suppose we had better make a move.”

“You are understandably nervous, Serana. You have no idea what we will find inside that castle.”

“Would you defend me if a rival clan has taken over?”

“Yes, Serana, I would.”

I told The Sentinels, “Wait here. I will not try and fight dozens of them alone if it comes to that. I will go ethereal and meet you back here. Then we will turn this place into rubble. But I don’t think it will come to that.”

A watchman recognised Serana as we approached and opened the outer gates.

We entered and were immediately confronted by an Altmer vampire.

“How dare you trespass here?”

As promised, I remained silent. But, fortunately, the vampire soon recognised Serana and exclaimed, “Wait… Serana? Is that truly you? I cannot believe my eyes!”

He rushed to a balcony and announced, “My Lord! Everyone! Serana has returned!”

Serana said, with dripping sarcasm, “I guess I’m expected.”

I followed Serana onto the floor of a dining hall then I quickly looked around. Vampires were not just feeding on blood. They were consuming the bloody flesh of many species. Body parts were piled on expensive platters. Whole corpses lay opened from chest to navel, allowing the vampires to tear out chunks of organs with their teeth. Mortal slaves acted as servants. If I closed my eyes, the sounds would be indistinguishable from pigs eating at a trough. It was unfortunate that my open eyes destroyed that illusion.

My Dovah growled, “These things deserve to die!”

“I agree. But not now. I will never break the rules of parley! Plus, there are mortal slaves. We can’t risk their lives.”

I turned back to study Lord Harkon and listen to the conversation. The tension between father and daughter was palpable. There was a distinct lack of affection displayed.

  • Harkon: My long-lost daughter returns at last. I trust you have my Elder Scroll?
  • Serana: After all these years, that’s the first thing you ask me? Yes, I have the scroll.
  • Harkon: Of course, I’m delighted to see you, my daughter. Must I really say the words aloud? Ah, if only your traitor mother were here, I would let her watch this reunion before putting her head on a spike. Now tell me, who is this stranger you have brought into our hall?
  • Serana: This is my saviour, the one who freed me.

As many gasps issued from watching vampires, I was debating with myself. Had I helped Serana by returning her to this place and these things. They are supposed to be her clan, but even after the short time I have known her, it is evident to me they are not the same in morals or intelligence.

I approached Harkon.

  • Harkon: For my daughter’s safe return, you have my gratitude. Tell me, what is your name?
  • Wulf: I am Commander Valdr of the Penitus Oculatus.
  • Harkon: I am Harkon, lord of this court. By now, my daughter will have told you what we are.
  • Wulf: Even if she hadn’t, the evidence surrounding me is clear. You are vampires.
  • Harkon: Not just vampires. We are among the oldest and most powerful vampires in Skyrim.
  • Wulf: Yet I sense tension and betrayal.
  • Harkon: For centuries, we lived here, far from the cares of the world. All that ended when my wife betrayed me and stole away that which I valued most.
  • Wulf: That was six hundred and eighty-two years ago and does not explain why members of your clan have decided to attack villages, towns and cities.
  • Harkon: They are not of this clan, and their actions have brought unwanted scrutiny of our kind.
  • Wulf: The attack on the Hall of the Vigilants was your clan. So were the vampires that I killed inside and outside of Dimhollow Crypt. Lokil had no idea Serana was locked in there.
  • Harkon: You are brave or foolish, openly admitting you killed one of my lieutenants.
  • Wulf: You call yourself lord and was once a king. I assume the laws of parley still mean something within this court? If so, no question of bravery or foolishness enters the equation.
  • Harkon: Yes, of course, we will not break parley. Nobody would ever do business with us otherwise.
  • Wulf: I have done as Serana requested and safely returned her to home and family. I did it for her and not for a reward or to please you.
  • Harkon: Nevertheless, you have done me a great service, and now you must be rewarded. There is but one gift I can give that is equal in value to the Elder Scroll and my daughter. I offer you my blood. Take it, and you will walk as a lion among sheep. Men will tremble at your approach, and you will never fear death again.
  • Wulf: And if I refuse your gift?
  • Harkon: If you refuse my offer, then you will be our prey, like all mortals. I will spare your life this once, but you will be banished from this hall.
  • Wulf: I doubt your offer would even remotely interest me.
  • Harkon: Perhaps you need convincing? Behold the power.

I watched as Harkon slowly transformed into the form of a Vampire Lord. Harkon recognised it was curiosity and not awe that met his display. He floated from the ground and was undoubtedly a horrific sight to the mortals upon who he preys.

  • Harkon: This is the power that I offer you! Now make your choice!
  • Wulf: I have stood before gods that offered riches and powers beyond your imagination! But I am a servant of The Divines and rejected their offers as I wholly reject your pathetic offer! After all, why would I want you inferior powers over those I already possess?
  • Harkon: So be it! You are prey, like all mortals. I banish you!

Harkon attempted to use Blood Magic to teleport me outside. The blessing of Lord Akatosh makes me immune to all forms of Blood Magic. His spell failed, and it was my turn to demonstrate real power.

“MUL QUH DIIV”

Dragon Aspect surrounded me. I used my Thu’um to amplify my voice.

“Your Blood Magic cannot affect a Son of Akatosh, for my blood and soul are not those of a mortal. I see no noble court of powerful beings. I see parasites no different than fleas or stomach worms. Like all parasites that bother mortals, you need removing. You can’t banish me, but I will walk out of here peacefully, as per the rules of parley.”

I increased the power of my Thu’um. Dust fell from the ceiling while plates and cups rattled.

“LISTEN WELL! THE NEXT TIME I ENTER THIS HALL, IT WILL BE TO DESTROY ALL OF YOU. DIVINE WRATH WILL OVERCOME ANY INSIGNIFICANT POWERS GRANTED BY MOLAG BAL. HE WON’T AND CAN’T SAVE YOU. NOTHING WILL!”

Serana stared at me. Lord Harkon remained silent, as did the other vampires when I turned slowly then casually started to walk from the hall. I could not have been more dismissive of Harkon’s powers.

I glanced at Serana and shrugged. She struggled to contain a grin that crossed her face for a fleeting moment. I hope she will be safe. But, indisputably, her father cares for her not.

As I walked away, I realised my Divine compass was still on Serana. So I will have to wait and see how this all plays out.

When I stepped outside, Freesia was waiting for me.

As I walked towards The Sentinels, I heard Inigo say, “I need to occupy my mind while I wait. One snowflake. Two snowflakes. Five snowflakes. Many, many snowflakes. Too many snowflakes to count!”

When I reached the boat, Inigo asked, “Was it as bad in there as we imagined.”

“Worse, my friend. If there has ever been a group of individuals more deserving of eternity in The Void, I am yet to meet them. Let me describe what I saw as we travel.”

The Sentinels were both horrified and incensed at what I described.

When we arrived at Bostin, those still with an appetite ate a simple meal. Then, all of The Sentinels crawled onto their hammocks and were asleep before I finished flying the airship to Fort Dawnguard.

As I flew the airship, I admired the beauty I saw and smiled when I recalled Rigmor descriptions and her wonder at what others would consider mundane.

On queue, Rigmor said, “My Dragonborn, I have been following your emotions yesterday and today. You have been most amused with little anger displayed till a few hours ago. So talk to me and share your burdens.”

“Okay, I will start with the dig and work my way up to the vampires.”

“Then you will get some sleep. You are exhausted.”

“Well, we met the Explorers Guild….”

Rigmor listened intently, and I could feel her emotions slip into the dark depths where I now wallowed.

When I finished, Rigmor asked, “Was this the level of hatred you had for those who kidnapped me and had me on that sacrificial altar?”

“Yes, and now you can see the potential for violence I struggle to contain. My wrath will mean I won’t need to hide behind my Dovah when I wipe that stain from Nirn. Whatever horrors they have inflicted on countless mortals for centuries will be repaid in full. I will cherish the memories of their last moments.”

“You know I killed dozens, many unarmed when my hatred for the Thalmor took control at the embassy. We all have that monster inside, waiting for its chance to maim and kill without mercy. But you, my dear, beautiful Guardian, must maintain some control. It would destroy you if you killed the innocent when punishing the guilty.”

“That is the only thing that stopped me ripping that place apart there and then. The slaves would have died along with the vampires. I could have done it. The moment I stepped outside, the parley was over. I could have re-entered and wiped them out!”

“But you didn’t. So, do you think there must be something more important than wiping out a vampire clan?”

“I must wait to see how Serana fits into all of this. Why is she important? Harkon and his clan are not much of a threat. What is the Divine Task?”

“Are you almost at the fort?”

“Yes, I am just manoeuvring Bostin into position.”

“Keep talking to me if you want, but you must try and sleep.”

“Okay, anchor dropped. No Dawnguard guards are running to us, so they must have guessed who it was.”

I made my way inside and to my cabin.

When I lay on my bed, sleep proved elusive.

I know not what time I fell asleep.

I know it was to stories of my Rigmor’s childhood. My beloved knows how to soothe the beast that is her Dragonborn. She probably kept talking when I entered slumber to make sure reality did not intrude on my dreams.

2 thoughts on “Concentrated Evil

  1. This was Great, Mark! It’s like replaying Skyrim all over again except it is “Mastered” by a True Master. Thank You

  2. Thanks, Mark. I saved this entry and the next one so I can read them together. I know I haven’t been commenting much lately, been too busy with other things, but I love the way you portray the story surrounding Serana. Well done!

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