Middas, 14th Morning Star, 4E 202 to Fredas, 16th Morning Star, 4E 202
After breakfast, we made our way into Fort Dawnguard to talk to Isran.
When asked, a young Dawnguard woman told us Isran was out the front door and in a foul mood.
Sure enough, Isran was angry enough to chew rocks!
- Wulf: Isran, it is a lovely morning, don’t you think?
- Isran: I should’ve known it was only a matter of time before they found us.
- Inigo: I must have heard about Dawnguard recruiting in at least four cities and several towns. The same places the vampires are attacking. Sucking blood does not make you stupid!
- Wulf: Did they find their way into the valley, and how many were there?
- Isran: Three made it to one of the gates. Several of our more experienced members took them down with crossbows.
- Wulf: Were all of them vampires, or did they use thralls?
- Isran: One vampire, two thralls.
- Wulf: What clan were they?
- Isran: I don’t know, and I don’t care. We burnt the bodies, so don’t bother asking to see them.
- Ghorbash: It was probably a low-level vampire. A more senior one was likely watching. At a guess, they were probing your defences.
- Isran: If I wanted tactical analysis, I would have asked for it.
- Ghorbash: You are lucky I take this uniform and its oath seriously. If I didn’t, I would beat you to a bloody pulp, you ignorant amateur!
- Derkeethus: You run around taking on a few vampires here and there. That does not prepare you for an enemy that uses military tactics and may attack like an army, not a disorganised mob.
- Isran: You are all correct. This attack is the price we pay for openly recruiting. I value the advice, and we will step up our defences.
- Wulf: The different clans of vampires are going to pose various threats. Some are no more than bandits. Some are well organised with a lot of resources. They don’t often co-operate, but if they band together, you may have another Rada al-Saran leading them and a Grey Host to battle like in the second era. Anything approaching a Harrowing would make this a military matter, not something the Dawnguard can handle by itself.
- Isran: I don’t suppose you have some good news to help my sunny disposition?
- Aranea: That depends on your definition of ‘good news.’
- Wulf: The vampires were looking for something in Dimhollow Crypt. They thought it was important but did not know precisely what was hidden there. We had to fight our way through many vampires inside and outside the crypt. Vigilant Tolan was killed before we arrived. Vigilant Adalvald was killed just as we reached the main chamber where the artefact was kept.
- Isran: They were both good men.
- Wulf: From the evidence I saw, Tolan fought bravely and was overcome by numbers, not a lack of skill or determination.
- Isran: It is not right to leave them there.
- Wulf: I performed Arkay’s Rights over both. Their souls are safe.
- Isran: Thank you. What was the artefact the vampires were about to discover?
- Wulf: It wasn’t an artefact but a young vampire woman called Serana. She is the daughter of a Vampire Lord.
- Isran: In all my years of hunting bloodsuckers, I have never encountered a Vampire Lord.
- Wulf: His name is Harkon. Serana said he used to be a king. His clan is extensive, and his castle is almost as big as this fort.
- Isran: What did you do with it?
- Wulf: With what?
- Isran: The vampire.
- Wulf: Serana is not an ‘it’. She is a young woman who wanted to go home after being in stasis for six hundred and eighty-two years. So, I took her home. Her father seemed more relieved to have the Elder Scroll back in his possession than his daughter returned.
- Isran: You what? You just delivered her and an Elder Scroll to a clan of vampires?
- Wulf: Unlike you and the Vigilants of Stendarr, I believe in the law and working within it. Neither Serana nor her clan had committed any crime of which I was aware. Lord Harkon’s castle has remained unmolested by any Imperial authority for hundreds of years. A castle that everybody knows is inhabited by vampires. Therefore, I had no right to detain Serana or take the Elder Scroll from her possession! Plus, I wanted to see inside the castle and gather intelligence on Harkon’s clan.
- Isran: And what is your impression of Harkon’s clan?
- Wulf: They are the worst type of vampires. They have mortal slaves and feed on flesh, not just blood. They are not as repulsive as the clan that feeds on children. I wiped one lot of them out, but I think they are spread all over Tamriel.
- Isran: And the mighty Dragonborn didn’t do a thing to wipe that lot out!
- Aranea: Commander Valdr, do we have to deal with this man? We can defeat the vampires without compromising our values!
- Wulf: Isran, I could have wiped out the lot of them, but the innocents, the mortal slaves and Serana, would have perished. I will not kill the very people I have been put on Nirn to save!
- Isran: How can this Serana be innocent? A vampire cannot be innocent!
- Wulf: Most who have become a vampire did not choose to do so. Not all vampires hunt innocents for their nourishment. Vampires have held positions of trust throughout The Empire’s history, and I know for a fact that some still do. You are as bad as The Blades, whose hatred for dragons blinded them so much, they wasted my time. Their idiocy cost lives and souls as it delayed my battles with Alduin. I did not need The Blades to defeat Alduin, and I do not need The Dawnguard to defeat the vampires.
- Inigo: Isran, the Commander told you, ‘You can be part of the cure, but only if you are not part of the problem.’
- Isran: I… I need to be part of the cure.
- Wulf: I don’t know your story, Isran. But I can understand a hatred so bad it threatens your very soul. It can drive us to do the most immoral things that seem justified at the time. Yet, those actions can send you insane with guilt later.
- Isran: Are you talking from experience?
- Wulf: Believe me, Nirn does not need an insane Dragonborn commanding armies of dragons and fighting from the back of one. That is another reason why I will not compromise my morals.
- Derkeethus: And that is why it is fortunate you stopped another Dragonborn who was like that!
- Isran: What next?
- Wulf: When an Elder Scroll comes into play, it is often involved in prophecy. Not always, but enough to assume the one Serana carried either announces a prophesy or gives clues on fulfilling a prophecy. Logic says, in this case, it is the latter. Harkon knows of a prophesy he either wants to see fulfilled or prevented. That prophecy is what we are dealing with and not just aggressive vampires. At the moment, we will have to wait and see what transpires as this is speculation, not fact.
Fatigue hit me, and I staggered. It was the first attack in a couple of days and inconvenient.
- Isran: Commander Valdr, is there something wrong?
- Aranea: He was cursed by the Underking. The curse was removed, but there are lingering after-effects that may last for some time.
- Wulf: A vampire removed the curse, Isran. A vampire!
- Aranea: You must rest, Commander. In this matter, I outrank you, so regard it as an order.
- Wulf: I will rest only if The Sentinels help Isran improve the defences of this place. Then I will welcome studying the insides of my eyelids.
- Inigo: Will you accept our assistance, Isran?
- Isran: Gladly. I am grumpy, not stupid.
- Aranea: We will only be minutes away from you, even in the furthest reaches of the canyon. So, if there is something urgent, we can get to you quickly. If you need us, just yell.
- Inigo: No, don’t yell. The fort will crumble to dust!
- Wulf: I am too tired to find that amusing.
- Aranea: I will escort you to Bostin.
I looked up at Bostin then asked, “Can’t you carry me?”
I barely remember making it to Bostin and collapsing on my bed. I was warned the fatigue would get worse just before it ends entirely. I took this bout of fatigue as a good sign the lingering effects of the curse were over or just about over.
I awoke to quiet and darkness. I concentrated then knew it was six in the morning. I had been unconscious for almost eighteen hours!
That was starling enough. When I realised the Divine Compass had moved, I jumped out of bed and hurried into the living quarters of Bostin.
Inigo intercepted me and said, “Relax, Wulf! Your compass has shifted, yes?”
“Yes. Is it Serana? What has happened?”
“I volunteered to watch over you after Rigmor left.”
“Rigmor was here?”
“When she couldn’t talk to you via your rings, she popped in. When Aranea assured Rigmor that it was only fatigue from the curse, she lay beside you for as long as she could. Sadly, she had to return to Bruma a few hours ago.”
“What do you know about my compass moving?”
“Serana came to Fort Dawnguard and asked to see you. She just came strolling up to the front door! Isran was disturbed how easily she got past all their defences.”
“How long ago did she arrive, and where is she? Why wasn’t I woken?”
“Aranea threatened to skin us alive if we tried to wake you, and Rigmor threatened worse. Serana arrived about seven hours ago. Derkeethus and I went to investigate the activity around the fort. It was like somebody had kicked a nest of ants. That is when Isran told us about Serana. He has her locked in the fort’s dungeon.”
“When we told Rigmor, she was shocked. By walking up unarmed to the fort, Serana entered parley. Isran broke the rules of parley by placing her in the dungeon.”
“Did Isran say anything else?”
“Serana was carrying the Elder Scroll. I don’t know if Isran took it from her.”
“Rigmor broke an agreement by popping in like that, but I would probably have done the same. She is asleep. Therefore I will talk to her later. First, I am going to check on Serana and maybe bang Isran’s head against a wall.”
“Do you want us the come with you?”
“No, let everybody sleep. I will be back soon, with Serana.”
I made my way to Fort Dawnguard’s dungeon and found Serana in a torture chamber!
Serana asked, “Did you know I was in here?”
“No, I swear, I only found out less than twenty minutes ago. I would never have allowed this!”
“You must have thought little of my father and home. Is this any more civilised?”
“Is that human blood in the bucket and on the floor?”
“No, it is an old trick. Cover your torture devices with animal blood and make it seem you are willing to inflict pain and suffering.”
“I could pick the lock and get you out, but I think I will make Isran release you. Humility is often a good teacher.”
“His hatred is beyond anything I have experienced before. I was starting to worry, and then along comes my knight in shining armour.”
“It’s not a shiny as it should be. I will have to polish it later.”
I discovered Isran praying to Stendarr. He found it difficult to concentrate with me staring at him.
After a few seconds, he stood up. I had removed my helm, and he stared into the eyes of my Dovah.
Anger made my voice more like a growl as I yelled, “How dare you treat Serena like that! She should have been escorted to my airship!”
“Others in the fort wanted to kill it. So I put it in the dungeon to protect it.”
“An unforgivable breach of protocol was not enough, so now you lie as well? Once inside Bostin, she would have been safe.”
“Despite all the extra security and checkpoints your people helped set up, it still managed to make it to our front door!”
“I could walk around undetected and kill everybody in this whole damn fort. Does that mean I should be locked up? Serana could have killed you in your sleep if she wanted to harm you.”
“I left the Elder Scroll with it.”
“I suspect that is because you have never dealt with one before and are unsure how to handle it.”
“Why is it here? What does it want?”
“You will accompany me and unlock her cage. Then Serana will answer those questions without me resorting to threats. She came to assist us, you idiot!”
“What is with your eyes?”
“You see my Dovah. Am I a beast, Isran? That is what ignorant people call dragons.”
Isran did no answer, but we both knew what it would be.
I said, “Come, Serana has spent enough time enjoying your hospitality.”
As I followed Isran, I could tell he was relaxed.
As soon as he saw Serana, his mood changed dramatically.
I observed the torture equipment as I approached Serana. If I thought for a second Isran had used them on people, vampires or not, I would arrest him and make sure he spent time in a dismal penal mine.
- Isran: You said you have something really important to say to Commander Valdr. So, let’s hear it!
- Wulf: Serana, your Knight has returned, but alas, he couldn’t get his horse down the stairs.
- Serana: The grumpy one doesn’t sound very apologetic for how I have been treated.
- Wulf: I can’t perform miracles. Serana, why did you come here?
- Serana: I’d rather not be here, but I guessed this is where I would find you. I needed to talk to you.
- Wulf: Take your time. I don’t care how impatient Isran gets.
- Serana: I need to tell you about the Elder Scroll that was interred with me. And tell you about me.
- Wulf: I’m listening.
- Serana: It all comes back to my father. I’m guessing you figured this part out already, but my father’s not exactly a good person. It is evident that even by vampire standards, he is depraved. He wasn’t always like that, though. There was… a turn. He stumbled onto this obscure prophecy and just kind of lost himself in it.
- Wulf: Sometimes prophecies come true. I am evidence of that. What does the one your father heard say?
- Serana: It’s pointless and vague, like all prophecies. The part he latched onto said that vampires would no longer need to fear the sun. That’s what he’s after. He wants to control the sun so that vampires can rule the world.
- Wulf: And he became obsessed with this?
- Serana: Yes, absorbed… obsessed. Whatever you want to name it. It was kind of sick. For someone who fancies himself as vampire royalty, the idea of vampires no longer having to fear the sun is pretty seductive.
- Wulf: But you are a Daywalker. I assume that is because you, too, are a Vampire Lord. Isn’t Harkon also a Daywalker?
- Serana: Yes, he is. But that trait is rare, even amongst Vampire Lords, and it is not like we can breed more with it. If you want vampires to rule, you must deal with the sun.
- Wulf: Crops need sunshine to grow, and many animals rely on crops. The mortal food chain could collapse. The vampire food chain could then collapse.
- Serana: He would have to allow lengthy periods of sunlight. Maybe only slightly less than occurs naturally.
- Wulf: Not only that, the Harrowings of Rada al-Saran were defeated by the sheer number of troops that mortals could field. Vampires would be massacred no matter their allegiance or guilt as mortals would declare war!
- Serana: My mother and I realised these things. That is why we opposed my father. That is why I was sealed away with the Elder Scroll.
- Wulf: You placed yourself in grave danger to tell me this.
- Serana: I did. But I observed you and The Sentinels inside Dimhollow Crypt and on the way to Castle Volkihar. All I saw was honesty and compassion. That made me think I can trust you. I hope I’m not wrong.
- Wulf: Yes, you can trust me.
- Serana: I guessed you would be here. When I saw your airship, I knew you were.
- Isran: All right, we’ve heard what it has to say. Now tell me, is there any reason I shouldn’t kill this bloodsucking fiend right now?
- Wulf: I would kill you before letting you try. Anyway, I have seen Serana in combat, and I doubt, even without a weapon in her hand, you would last long if she defended herself.
- Isran: You would kill me?
- Wulf: As would be my duty as a Penitus Oculatus Commander. Serana is not an ‘it’, as you keep inferring. Serana is a citizen of The Empire and has committed no crime known to me. If you had killed her before now, I would make sure you never saw freedom again after being charged and found guilty of murder. Serana has already saved you from arrest.
- Isran: How?
- Wulf: She told me that is animal blood in the bucket and on the floor. If it were people’s blood, I would arrest you under suspicion of illegal confinement and torture.
- Serana: You would have done all that without being in the Penitus Oculatus.
- Wulf: Yes, I would have done them as Champion of the Divines. But Isran used to be a Vigilant of Stendarr. So he doesn’t give a hoot what the Ten Commands of the Nine Divines say.
- Isran: My hatred is what makes me strong!
- Wulf: Your hatred makes you an idiot. Not all vampires are the same, and neither are dragons nor Daedric Princes nor Daedra nor Khajiit. It is mindless hatred like yours that leads to unnecessary bloodshed and genocide. Ask a Minotaur or Ayleid or Falmer. Oh, you can’t because blind hatred like yours killed them all!
- Isran: I don’t trust it and never will!
- Wulf: That means diddly squat for you are not needed, Isran, and this is the last time I will remind you of that fact.
- Isran: You’d better know what you are doing.
- Wulf: If I didn’t know what I was doing, you would have died after Alduin defeated me. You would be a slave if I hadn’t travelled to Oblivion and stopped a god manifesting on Nirn. You would be a slave if I hadn’t gone to a different realm of Oblivion and defeated another Dragonborn who wasn’t as lovely as me. You would be a slave to Queen Potema if I did not stop her. Finally, you would be dead if I didn’t stop one of our Thalmor friends who had control of a magical artefact belonging to Magnus.
Isran stood with his mouth open.
- Wulf: You knew nothing about this threat to the sun until I used my judgement and trusted Serana. I know what I am doing, Isran.
- Serana: Calm down. I think Isran finally understands.
- Isran: Serana, don’t start feeling like a guest because you aren’t. You’re a resource. You’re an asset.
- Wulf: No, Serana, Isran does not understand. Let’s just pretend he isn’t here.
- Serana: I might be able to do that until I feel hungry.
- Wulf: I would imagine his blood might give you heartburn.
- Serana: In case you hadn’t noticed, I have the Elder Scroll with me. Whatever it says, it will have something that can help us stop my father. But of course, neither of us can read it.
- Wulf: I have read one before, but I would not want to try again. It takes a Moth Priest to interpret them correctly.
- Serana: You read an Elder Scroll?
- Wulf: Yes, so I could go back in time and learn how to defeat Alduin.
- Serana: I did miss some interesting things while in that coffin! But what about a Moth Priest? They are all half a continent away in Cyrodiil.
- Wulf: No, they aren’t. I have collected many artefacts on my travels, including the Elder Scroll I read. My museum and The College of Winterhold share a safe place to store some of the more dangerous and valuable artefacts. Recently a Moth Priest by the name of Dexion Evicus asked if he could study my Elder Scroll. Naturally, as the owner of the scroll and Arch-Mage, I gave permission. He was due in Skyrim this week.
- Isran: You are the Arch-Mage?
- Wulf: I am many things, Isran.
- Serana: So, will he be at the College?
- Wulf: If not, Master Urag will probably know his whereabouts.
- Serana: Urag gro-Shub?
- Wulf: You know him?
- Serana: Well, back before I… you know, The College of Winterhold was the first place I’d visit for magic or historical things. He had been there for hundreds of years, even then! The wizards knew about all sorts of things that people shouldn’t.
- Wulf: Yes, I heard he came from the 3rd City of Orsinium. That would make him 990 years give or take thirty. I have never asked him because I am allergic to being ripped apart by Atronachs.
- Serana: He still uses that threat?
- Wulf: Would you like to accompany me, Serana?
- Serana: I was hoping you would ask. So, yes! I’ve wanted to get out and explore a bit.
- Wulf: Isran, you no longer have to worry about this single, tiny, unarmed vampire overcoming the dozens of armed Dawnguard you have here.
- Isran: Will you keep me informed of what you find?
- Wulf: The people who have volunteered for The Dawnguard have genuine concerns. Serana knows I swore to kill all of Harkon’s clan the next time I step inside his hall. So it would be only fitting that The Dawnguard assist. So yes, despite your best efforts to convince me otherwise, The Dawnguard will be kept informed of significant developments.
- Serana: Can you guess the one thing you said that made my father foam at the mouth for hours?
- Wulf: When I compared vampires to intestinal worms?
- Serana: That was the funniest thing I had heard in over six hundred and eighty-two years!
On our way to Bostin, Serana’s eyes became more vampiric.
I said to Serana, “Your eyes have changed. They are now a glow in the dark, creepy black and yellow.”
“That happens when I haven’t fed for some time.”
“How often do you need to feed?”
“Not very often at all. Being a Daughter of Coldharbour, I can go without blood much longer than most vampires. I can survive on ‘normal’ food for months. I can rest, almost like sleeping, to regain my energy.”
I was at a loss for words. What Serana just let slip changes everything.
Serana looked at me worriedly and asked, “Are you okay? I assure you I won’t go feral on you just because I haven’t had a daily bite.”
“Serana, you just told me you are a Daughter of Coldharbour.”
“Oh, that was a slipup. Like you using the Thu’um near me.”
“That is a very personal subject. I will speak to you about it when and if you feel comfortable.”
“I appreciate that. It is not that I am ashamed. I had no say in the matter.”
“If we are going to be confronting many vampires, you could be a victim of mistaken identity during a fight.”
“I was thinking that. Plus, I don’t feel comfortable wearing this noble outfit. There is nothing noble about my family.”
“We will stop at one of my houses, Silverpeak Lodge, and you can choose what you want from the collection I have stored there. I will then enchant it and give you some other items to help.”
“Aren’t you worried about finding the Moth Priest?”
“No, he seemed keen to visit a few places in Skyrim. If he is not at the College, it shouldn’t be too hard to track him down. Anyhow, I need to check on two dragons.”
“Possibly. I might have to kill them. We will see.”
“I would like to read some more of those histories if you don’t mind. Anything more detailed on the 3rd Era would be great.”
I found some suitable books for Serana. Then, when she was settled and reading, I set Bostin’s course for Silverpeak Lodge.
I then stood on deck and contacted Rigmor.
“Can you talk, my naughty Countess?”
“I knew you were inside Bostin, so I took the risk.”
“I understand, but we must be careful we don’t zap ourselves into trouble.”
“You were asleep for many hours before I started to worry.”
“What do you know?”
“I know that you didn’t get much done before the fatigue hit you.”
“Hopefully, that will be the end of it.”
“What has happened since then?”
“Serana turned up at Fort Dawnguard. She came to visit me, and instead of bringing her to Bostin, Isran locked her in a dungeon.”
“Anyway, I wasn’t too pleased when I awoke and discovered what had occurred. To cut a long story short, Serana is now travelling with us to search for a Moth Priest. Serana brought her Elder Scroll with her, and we need a Moth Priest to tell us what it says. We think it will help us stop her father from fulfilling a prophecy that says he will be able to block out the sun. Unfortunately, I don’t know the exact wording of the prophecy.”
“Aranea said that Serana is gorgeous.”
“Nothing is as beautiful as you, my Nordling.”
“Don’t try and weasel out of it. Is she gorgeous?”
“Stunning for her age. Most women start to show a few wrinkles after their six hundredth year but not Serana. She doesn’t look a day over five hundred!”
“It is good your mood is lighter.”
“Serana just dropped a hint on how she became a vampire. I won’t say more till she tells me more. But I get the sense her parents betrayed her in the worst way imaginable.”
“I can sense anger and a great sadness when you even think of what you suspect.”
“She could very well be a lost girl in the dark, but there was no Dragonborn to save her.”
“Almost time to head back to another round of ‘Who’s the child’s father?’”
“Is there something in the water in Bruma? You seem to have quite a few bastard cases to adjudicate.”
“Just clean country air and watching all the animals go at it.”
“Hey Bjorn, can you do what that bull is doing? I sure can, but the cow gets mad when I do!”
“My dearest Wulf, you are a sick weirdo!”
“Love you too.”
I leant on the rail and stared into infinity. I often catch Rigmor staring into infinity. Random thoughts crossed my mind till the docking bell brought me back to the living.
We climbed down the ladder then I asked Inigo to take Derkeethus and check on the dig.
When we entered Silverpeak Lodge, Serana exclaimed, “Wow!”
As the current Sentinel Squad mingled and starting telling tall tales, I took Serana down to the basement. She quickly picked a bright red mage outfit. She will undoubtedly be easy to spot in any fight!
When we returned to the main living area, she said, “One of the children, the elven boy, is a vampire! I can tell from here!”
“His name is Lestat. He became an orphan in the vampire attack that turned him. He survives on beast blood but thinks the others would treat him differently if they saw him feed.”
“Why is that dog on fire?”
“That is fake fire, but he uses real flames in combat. His name is Kaiser, and he is a Daedra. He didn’t like his masters and decided to join us. The normal-looking hound with him is Karla. She belonged to a student of the College who died. She seemed sad, and I thought that being with children might help. And it has!”
“And the mechanical dog?”
“We recently discovered some Dwemer whose souls and skeletons were transferred into mechanical bodies. One of them had built Anima for mortal children who once lived with them. He reanimated him when he heard about the children we look after. Anima acts so much like a flesh and blood dog he must have a dog’s soul.”
“And that thing with it?”
“Zorin is his name. I picked him up in Bostin a couple of days ago from Solstheim. The Telvanni Wizard who contacted me said a farmer found him. He was taken to the Wizard for identification. We think he is one of the swamp creatures that Hermaeus Mora turns into Lurkers and originally comes from Akavir. Solstheim was not an ideal place for a swamp creature to live. In just a couple of days, he had adopted the mannerisms of a dog. The children like him.”
“The little dog and the huge white one?”
“I found Vick in a Skooma den. I gave him to Olette, the first orphan I rescued. The large white dog is Meeko. He adopted me. If I get a chance to tell you my story, you will learn what I mean. We are not quite sure if he is a dog.”
“How many children have you got?”
“Eight here. About one hundred at my orphanage.”
“Are all of the Penitus Oculatus here also Sentinels?”
“Yes, and their number keeps growing. I usually travel with a squad of four. When doing a Divine Task, the squad that was with me at the start will remain with me till the end. Three of the four travelling with me at the moment are new to the role. We became Penitus Oculatus after Emperor Titus Mede II suggested it would make things easier for us if we had the official authority to search and ask questions. Members of the Penitus Oculatus usually rotate duties and spend time as the Emperor’s guards. We won’t be doing that.”
“Nobody, not even the children, has come up to me.”
“They are used to me passing through with strangers. But, I assure you, once you let them know you are happy to talk, you will be swamped.”
Serana headed to the bar to speak to Lydia. She soon had an audience asking a barrage of questions. Serana laughed, and I relaxed. She was enjoying herself.
Inigo came up to me and said, “They broke through to the valley and saw the two dragons.”
“We will head there soon. It won’t take me long to enchant Serana’s gear.”
An hour later, I rescued Serana from a gaggle of children. She went into my room, changed into her new gear, and then came to me just as I finished honing her sword.
She asked, “Well? What do you think?”
“There is not much chance of being mistaken for an enemy vampire!”
“I am an above-average mage, but the dweomer you have placed are well beyond my ability.”
“What about the staff?”
“I have never seen one that shoots fire, ice and lightning at the same time. Once again, the strength of the dweomer is amazing! What is the metal?”
“It is Star Metal. I can turn dragon souls into what Lord Akatosh calls Soul Ingots. Then, using Akatosh’s forge, I can make weapons and staves from the Star Metal.”
“That stuff is worth a fortune! The Ayleid valued it over any other substance!”
“That is because they relied on it falling from the sky. I am still trying to figure out why dragon souls should create Star Metal. Maybe it is just Lord Akatosh’s way of making me use the dragon souls I have stored.”
“You will have to explain to me how and why you store dragon souls.”
“Yes, later. The sword I have given you was given to me when I became Thane of Solitude. I used it for many months before replacing it with my current sword.
“It is beautiful and not too long. I am used to katana’s but will soon get used to it.”
“I have a few nice katana, including a gold one gifted by Boethia.”
“It seems strange having such a devout follower of The Eight, sorry, The Nine, also be favoured by several Daedric Lords.”
“I owe my life to Azura.”
“And this ring. It had more enchantments on it than I can easily count.”
“It improves all Schools of Magicka in terms of spell duration and strength. It was one of my first inventions. All mages who work with me get one.”
“What are we doing next?”
“I will fly Bostin to the bottom of the mountain as I need to check on a couple of dragons. Then we will head for Winterhold.”
“I am glad we stopped here. I now understand more about you, Commander Valdr.”
“Wulf. I am Wulf to my friends unless in public.”
“Wulf it is then.”
Everybody stayed on deck as I flew Bostin down to the dig site.
Serana remarked, “This airship is amazing.”
“I prefer flying on the back of a dragon, but this is relaxing.”
“I have never been close to a dragon.”
“Well, depending on how it goes, you might get very close to one or two of them soon.”
“Hello, Auryen, I believe they have spotted the dragons.”
“Even though you warned them, it was still a bit of a shock.”
“They can be daunting to those who have not seen them before.”
“Well, shoo them away so we can explore the valley!”
“Enjoying yourself, Eriana?”
“Yes, but it can get a bit tedious cataloguing every minuscule find.”
“Latoria, I thought your new robes would be covered in mud and dust by now.”
“A little bit of Magicka here, a little bit of Magicka there, all clean once more.”
“Shh… don’t tell anybody I said so, but you are wearing Inigo down. He is going to ask you for a date!”
“Of course, he is. He knows I purchased new shackles.”
Latoria laughed as I shook my head and walked away.
“I am glad to see you haven’t died of boredom, Madras.”
“Close to it, Guild Master with all this pottery and wood. Where are the metals and oil?”
“Kyre, we are heading in to see about the dragons.”
“Well, don’t get eaten.”
“I try not to make a habit of that.”
We entered the caves and made our way to where the boulder used to be. Patero was waiting for us.
“Guild Master, the two dragons are sitting on Word Walls. They just watched us when we entered a bit into the valley.”
“I will talk with them and see if I can negotiate safe passage.”
“Two dragons are guarding something. It must be mighty valuable or of historical value!”
“Not necessarily. The dragons might simply enjoy the quiet valley.”
“Well, good luck. I will wait for you back at camp.”
Not far past Patero, we found three dead bears floating in a pond.
Inigo said, “I smell troll!”
A short distance from the pond, we came across a single troll.
Unrelenting force killed it.
A wayshrine was bathed in sunshine. The plaque read,
- “I, Jurgen Windcaller,
- Dedicate this Temple
- To Ice and Time,
- For they had forged my Land.”
I said, “Temple to what? To himself or The Way of The Voice? He owes all to Lady Kynareth, yet I have seen no signs of piety towards her so far.”
Inigo added, “Serana if you are wondering, Jurgen Windcaller is not one of Wulf’s favourite historical figures.”
We came to the exit leading to the valley, and I turned to The Sentinels.
“If it comes to combat, I will bring them down with Dragonrend. If I am within melee distance, leave the head to me and concentrate on the flanks. Mages, take notice of the dragon breed as they could be invulnerable to certain Destruction spells. However, the breed isn’t obvious with some until they use their breath weapon.”
I entered the valley. The first dragon I saw was of an undefined breed. If anything, I would say he is a Frost Dragon.
“Drem Yol Lok. Greetings. I am Dovahkiin. Who are you?”
“I am Izvenyah. It matters not who you are. You are not welcome. Begone!”
“You have no authority over me or ownership of this land. I am the Thane of Whiterun. I am a Commander of the Penitus Oculatus. I am Wulf, defeater of Alduin, and the strength of my Thu’um is unchallenged. For these reasons, I demand access to this land.”
Silence from Izvenyah. I walked to the other dragon, who was most likely a Blood Dragon.
“Drem Yol Lok. Greetings. I am Dovahkiin. Who are you?”
“I am Kreindeinvith, and you are trespassing.”
“If you guard this area on behalf of Windcaller, then I suggest you ask Paarthurnax, the leader of The Greybeards if I am a friend.”
“Do you follow The Way of The Voice?”
“No, I do not. I am the Champion of Kyne, who has gifted me with many Words and Shouts. Few would be suitable to a follower of that false religion! My gods are The Nine, and my celestial father is Bormahu. They want me to use the Thu’um to defeat their enemies. Subsequently, I do not have time to contemplate clouds and smell daisies!”
“Then you are not welcome here.”
“If you fight me, you do not die and get resurrected. Instead, your soul will be mine, and you will never fly the skies of Nirn again.”
“So be it, Dovahkiin. We made an oath.”
“You will use the Thu’um for unnecessary violence in direct violation of the tenets of Windcaller?”
Kreindeinvith lifted off. Simultaneously I heard the drawing of weapons and casting of spells. I also heard Izvenyah roar his challenge and lift off.
Kreindeinvith had only made a couple of wing beats before I hit him with Dragonrend.
I watched Kreindeinvith land then looked for Izvenyah.
I hit Izvenyah with Dragonrend as he dived towards me. He, too, crashed to the ground.
We closed in on the two dragons, and their fate was sealed.
In less than thirty seconds, they died, and I was absorbing their souls.
Inigo saw Serana approaching me and turned her around, shaking his head.
After a couple of minutes of composing myself, I approached Serana.
I said, “You have questions, no doubt.”
“You didn’t explain what happened at the Word Wall, but the magic I just saw seems similar.”
“To use the Thu’um, three things are needed. First, a Shout consists of one or more Words of Power. A Word Wall will teach me a Word of Power and the name of the Shout in which it is used. Alas, a Word Wall will not teach me the meaning of the Word. Not the literal meaning but how it can be used to construct a Shout.”
“Like part of an incantation?”
“Yes, that is an accurate analogy. A layperson can’t cast a spell just by listening to a mage and reciting the incantation. With a Word of Power, it is less about pronunciation and more about intent. You visualise how the Word can manipulate reality and its relationship to the other Words of Power that make up a Shout. The more Words used in a Shout, the more potent it becomes. Most Shouts consist of three Words of Power, although I have learnt four Word Shouts.”
“I am with you, so far.”
“Only those blessed by Lord Akatosh can learn Words of Power from a Word Wall. I can sense an active Word Wall from quite a distance. Other beings, such as gods and the Greybeards, can also teach Words of Power to a Dragonborn.”
“And how do you learn the meaning of a Word?”
“Once again, gods and the Greybeards can teach me the meaning of a Word of Power. But what is supposed to happen is what you just witnessed. When I kill a dragon, I absorb its soul and all its accumulated knowledge of the Thu’um. If I know a Word of Power but not its meaning, an absorbed soul will provide the meaning.”
“And when you absorb their soul, the dragon can’t be resurrected?”
“You can destroy a dragon’s physical body, but their soul is eternal. It can’t be captured in a Soul Gem, although some necromancers have managed to create undead dragons. And the Dwemer made dragon automatons using dragon souls. When Alduin returned, he visited the many dragon burial mounds dotted around Skyrim and resurrected the dormant dragons. To those dragons, it was as if they awoke from sleep.”
“But that possibility is gone for the two we just killed?”
“They were my celestial brothers, and I just removed them from any plane of existence for eternity. No afterlife, no rebirth. They are gone, and they taught me nothing!”
“You now carry their souls until a new Word of Power is learnt?”
“Or I use them at Akatosh’s forge to make Star Metal.”
“This absorbing of Souls is unique to Dragonborn?”
“It can take years for a mortal to learn the meaning of a Word of Power. For example, Ulfric Stormcloak studied with the Greybeards for ten years and only learnt three Words of Power and their meaning and a single Shout. On the other hand, I can learn all the Words of Power, their meaning, the Shout, and how to use it in seconds.
“How many dragons have you had to kill to become so powerful in the Thu’um?”
“I would have had to kill hundreds, but Lady Kynareth saw how it affected me. I could not reconcile that The Divines needed me to be strong in the Thu’um, but I would have to slaughter many dragons to accomplish that. It was the first major clash between Divine expectations and the mortal me. Lady Kynareth then taught me many Words of Power and Shouts without the need to slaughter dragons. If she hadn’t, I would be a fraction as strong in the Thu’um as I am now.”
“But you still need to kill dragons.”
“Yes, and it affects me the same now as the first time I did it. If a time comes that I no longer need to use the Thu’um, and if it is possible, I will have Akatosh’s blessing removed!”
“I can see this is difficult for you to discuss. Please, forgive my curiosity.”
“There is nothing to forgive. You just witnessed the power of a Dragonborn. I would worry if you didn’t ask.”
“Why did the dragons land, and what was that miasma that surrounded them.”
“Alduin could not be harmed when flying. A bit like your Blood Magic is stronger when floating above the ground. However, the ancient Tongues who confronted him during the Dragon Wars invented a Shout called Dragonrend. It makes a dragon contemplate their mortality. Their mind battles to reconcile such a foreign concept, and the dragon must land as flight becomes uncontrollable. The two we just fought did not land gracefully! The miasma is just a visual clue to the user of the Thu’um. Eventually, a dragon can overcome Dragonrend, and the miasma will vanish.”
“Okay, that was the last question for now, even though I have a million more.”
“We have time when flying to Winterhold to sit and talk.”
“I would like that. With The Sentinels as well.”
“Okay, let us see why Jurgen Windcaller wasted the lives of two dragons.”
We discovered an unlocked chest in the middle of the valley. Inside was a jade dragon claw.
I said to The Sentinels, “I am not in the mood to deal with a Dwemer Puzzle Door. Let’s get to Winterhold and leave this place behind for now.”
Serana asked, “What is a Dwemer Puzzle Door?”
“The dumbest thing ever invented.”
We made our way back to the camp, and I reported our find to Patero.
“The dragons were guarding a jade dragon claw. A tunnel leads from the valley, and in amongst the unexplored caverns must be a Dwemer Puzzle Door. I am taking the claw with me. When I return, you can accompany me to search for the door if you wish.”
“You can’t stay and search for it now?”
“I just killed two dragons. I am not in the mood for slaughtering other creatures to sate your curiosity. It can wait!”
“Yes, I am sorry you had to do that, Guild Master.”
As soon as we were in Bostin, I set its course for Winterhold.
We then sat and talked while having our midday meal.
- Wulf: Serana, is there anything you want to ask?
- Serana: When you dealt with the Thalmor, you quoted evidence proving Talos is a Divine. Why does the Aldmeri Dominion refute that fact?
- Wulf: Do you want the fake reason or the real one?
- Serana: Start with the fake.
- Wulf: It is not the citizens of the Aldmeri Dominion, but their leaders, the Thalmor, that claim Talos is not a Divine. They state that a Man could not possibly become a Divine. Some even say a Man can’t achieve apotheosis. They can’t prove these claims and ignore that the Tribunal were mortals made gods via Lorkhan’s heart. They forget that Arkay, a Divine that appears in one form or another in most pantheons, was reputedly a mortal raised to godhood by Lady Mara. Because Arkay was reportedly a Breton and therefore had Mer ancestry, his apotheosis was possible. To the laymen, their objection is racist, and they do nothing to repudiate that claim.
- Serana: And the real reason?
- Wulf: Without getting in the Tower and Wheel metaphysics of Aurbis, Talos has strengthened the status quo of our reality. The Altmer leaders want to wipe Talos from mortal memory and then work on the other Divines until linear time is removed. They believe they can then become immortal once more and travel the infinite with Akatosh, or more accurately, AKA. Their hate for Lorkhan and Talos derives from this same desire and belief.
- Serana: Is what they say possible?
- Wulf: I have no idea. We are getting into knowledge possessed by those who created us. The important thing is, the Altmer believe it.
- Serana: Why would Tiber Septim achieve godhood when the Remans didn’t?
- Wulf: I don’t know. Maybe he found a way and worked towards it. Perhaps The Divines needed a replacement for Lorkhan because there was always meant to be nine Divines. Maybe they needed him to help strengthen Aurbis? Saint Alessia reached godhood but is not a Divine. Basically, I have no idea.
- Serana: But you believe Talos is a Divine?
- Wulf: I don’t believe, I know! I have had many dealings with Talos as well as others of The Nine. Many mortals speak to The Divines directly or via intermediaries. Priests and Priestesses of Mara talk to her, and a Sybil speaks to Dibella. Don’t you think The Divines would tell us if Talos was not a Divine?
- Serana: What did Talos think about the Skyrim Civil war. After all, Ulfric used the ban on Talos worship as a reason for starting it.
- Wulf: Ulfric was a puppet of the Thalmor. A traitor during The Great War and after. He did not care about Talos. He cared about Ulfric. I asked Talos, and he didn’t direct anybody to fight for the right to worship him. If you examined the piles of bodies after a Civil War battle, most Imperial Legionnaires wore Talos amulets. Ulfric caused the deaths of more Talos worshippers than the Thalmor. I stopped the war as soon as I could after defeating Alduin.
- Serana: I agree that Tiber Septim became a god. I was curious as to why the Aldmeri Dominion would argue the point.
- Aranea: May I ask you a question, Serana?
- Serana: I can guess what it is. Go ahead.
- Aranea: Did you choose to become a vampire?
- Serana: No, I did not. I think because you are trusting me, you all need to hear the sordid facts.
- Wulf: Only if you are sure, Serana.
- Serana: Yes, Wulf, I am sure. As I said to you earlier, I am not ashamed.
- Wulf: Okay.
- Serana: First, Aranea, let me ask. Do you know how vampires came to be?
- Aranea: They were created by Molag Bal.
- Serana: Correct. Do you know how the first mortal was made into a vampire?
- Aranea: No.
- Serana: Wulf, would you please tell the tale. I am afraid my bias might get in the way.
- Wulf: Yes, but I will have to stand and do it in lecture mode. That helps me piece the story together.
I stood up then said, “Before the Dragonfires and Akatosh’s covenant with Saint Alessia, the Daedric Princes and Divines could manifest physically on the mortal plane. Lamae Beolfag was a young Nedic maiden. Molag Bal saw Lamae and decided to rape her. Although reportedly beautiful, Lamae was also a devout follower of Arkay. Most historians believe it was her faith, not her beauty, that caused Molag to target her. After all, rape is less about pleasure and more about domination and humiliation.
Molag Bal raped Lamae, ripping away her maidenhood and sanity with his deed. Then, as she lay dying from the ordeal, Molag deliberately shed a drop of his blood onto her forehead and left.
Some nomads found the dying young girl and took pity. They spent a fortnight tending to her wounds and trying their best to heal her. But, alas, Lamae died despite their efforts.
As was their tradition, the nomads built a funeral pyre and placed Lamae’s body upon it. But as the pyre burnt, Lamae arose and was enraged.
Lamae ripped out the throats of the nomad women with her teeth. Then, using blood magic to make their members engorge, she raped every man of the tribe. It is believed that within hours, every member of that nomad tribe, men, women, children, were slain by Lamae.
Some people call her Lamae Bal as the rape by Molag symbolically makes her his bride.
Lamae detested Molag Bal for what he did but also hated Arkay for not protecting her soul. Lamae was insane. Her depravity is the basis for the horror stories relating to vampires. People believe all vampires are like Lamae. People like Isran use those generalised depictions to excuse their persecution and do not try to understand vampires.
Lamae was the first pure-blood vampire. The title used to describe these pure-bloods is ‘Daughter of Coldharbour’.
The 20th of Evening Star is summoning day for Molag Bal. Since Lamae’s ordeal in the early first era, worshippers of Molag Bal have offered up young maidens to Molag Bal on that day. The Dark Lord opens a portal to a pocket plane of Coldharbour and rapes the offered maidens. Not many survive. Those that do are Daughters of Coldharbour.”
I sat down. There was silence around the table except for Aranea, who wept. Then, finally, Serana stood and told her story.
She said, “My father, Harkon Volkihar, was once a not very well-known king in the western part of Skyrim. In terms of nobility, he was small fry, but he enjoyed the power he had. He did rule fairly and was liked by his people. My mother is strong-willed and, despite the expectations of the time, ruled along with my father.
I was born into this privileged life. A pampered princess who knew nothing of the hardships many citizens endured. It was a lonely existence because, despite their good natures, my parents were snobs. I was isolated from the rabble, and everything about my life was dictated. Although my parents loved me, I do not doubt that they regarded me as a commodity.
Daughters of nobles are often treated as prized broodmares. Their value to the family is measured by what rank and wealth they can marry. If you want to mate with my daughter, let’s see what we can make out of the transaction first. That is the fate of many noble maidens then and now. Marriage for love? Forget it.
So, of course, my virginity was a commodity as well. I could do things like visiting The College of Winterhold or shopping in Solitude but only with old maids and guards watching my every move and making sure nobody sullied the property of Harkon Volkihar.
Like many men who enjoyed power, my father did not want to die! No matter what the afterlife offered, it couldn’t be better than what he had as a mortal on Nirn. That is why vampirism appealed to him. After all, many noble vampires throughout history were not reviled and ruled for far longer than an average mortal lifespan.
My parents voluntarily became vampires, but I don’t know who their host was. Nothing changed for Princess Serana. What they did was abstract. Something that didn’t affect my day-to-day routine, so I gave it little thought. They never asked me to become a vampire. That would have reduced my value on the bride market. Plus, I could always become one later if I wished.
When my parents started to become more involved with other vampires and their culture, they learnt of Vampire Lords and investigated how they could convince Molag Bal to give them that blessing. That is when they decided to offer me to the Dark Lord the next summoning day.
All of a sudden, the subject of sex was no longer taboo. Perhaps my parents were trying to make sure what Molag was going to do was not a complete surprise. Maybe they thought I might be able to please him if I knew what it was all about. The act of sexual intercourse sounded beautiful to me as only the interactions between consenting adults were described.
When the day came, I was excited to be involved with what looked like a typical celebration. The worshippers of Molag Bal are no different from anybody else. You could not pick them out in a crowd because they are normal.
We entered what I now know is a portal, and I was surprised to see far more people than were at the celebration that my parents took me to. We were in a grassy meadow next to a river. I thought it would be a fantastic place for a nice picnic. Then, all of a sudden, the older people moved to one side. I could see no young men. Left in the middle of the meadow were young girls. Many, like myself, were just of marriable age. Most were pubescent. Not all were there of their own accord. Some appeared to be slaves, some regular citizens. Very few seemed to be of nobility even if those who brought them to this place wore finery.
Then he appeared. Molag Bal was not in his monstrous form but as a naked, tall, well-muscled and dark-skinned Mer. There was no denying he was handsome. He was erect, and his member was massive. I knew that even if I had not seen one before.
I was naïve. I had no idea why my parents would allow me to see a naked man. Why were the adults watching young girls ogle at him?
Those girls who knew why they were there did their utmost to attract Molag’s attention. He took no notice, and instead, he grabbed the nearest victim. The sex act was brutal and brief. The girl’s clothes had been torn from her body, and she had bite marks on her neck and breasts. Blood mingled with Molag’s seed and pooled between her legs. I saw no sign of life.
Molag grabbed the next girl and repeated the process. By now, even the most eager had lost their enthusiasm. Many of us appealed to our parents and other adults to take us away. Those who tried to run to the adults found an invisible barrier that prevented them from doing so. The same barrier hemmed us in, and we could not flee the beautiful meadow.
I don’t know if I was near the end or closer to the beginning of the process. All I know was I was hoarse from begging my parents for help. When none was forthcoming, I tried to block out the sights and sounds.
I had my eyes tightly shut and hands over my ears when he grabbed me. I remember every second of what happened after that. What I was taught to be something beautiful was reduced to the rutting of a beast. The pain was excruciating, and his breath smelt of decay. I blacked out after he expelled his seed and moved to the next girl.
Hours later, I awoke in my bed at home. My parents were so proud I had survived and become a Daughter of Coldharbour. They had their new powers as Vampire Lords, and all was good as far as they were concerned. It was only years later that mother told me Molag dragged her into the meadow and raped her. His gift was not going to come cheap.
I forgave my parents for what they did. They loved me, so no matter how terrible, it must have been for my benefit! You have probably heard similar horror stories from the children at Silverpeak Lodge and the orphanage. Children who are abused often forgive their parents. I might have been a young woman, but in many ways, I was still a child. So isolated from the real world and pampered!
I was suddenly given the freedom to explore the world. There was no need to worry about my virginity. I was no longer needed for an advantageous marriage. I had the powers of a pure-blood vampire and was also a Vampire Lord. No guards were required. As long as I kept my nature hidden when amongst the cattle, I was safe!
If you keep your sanity, then Molag Bal’s rape does not have to destroy who you are. I found I could not regard ‘mortals’ as cattle. I saw people living the life I dreamed about during my lonely existence as a noble child. A Daughter of Coldharbour needs to feed far less often than other vampires. When travelling as a solo young woman, I was often a target of would-be rapists, bandits and other criminals. I decided that killing somebody in self-defence with sword, spells or Blood Magic was justified and an opportunity to feed. I have never targeted an innocent. On the rare occasion that I must feed, I am a potential victim who has turned the books on the attacker. It is no different than any of you killing an attacker in self-defence.
About a decade after I was raped, my father found the prophecy that mentioned that there was a way to block out the sun. He became obsessed. Mother and I opposed him. That is how I ended up in a coffin for six hundred and eighty-two years. My mother placed me there with the Elder Scroll to keep me safe from my father. Now I have the chance to find out what the actual prophecy is and stop my father. Hopefully, we can also find my mother, for she is also in danger from Harkon, the madman of Castle Volkihar.”
Serana sat down. The room was silent. After a few seconds, Serana restarted the discussion.
- Serana: Aranea, I am sorry my honesty has upset you. I have come to terms with the horror of what happened and the betrayal by my parents.
- Aranea: For the last couple of hundred years, I have been surrounded by the love of Azura. I knew of the evils and problems occurring away from her shrine but did not have to experience them. They were things that happened to others. Since joining Wulf, I have cried often at the stories of not just the children but others who have found comfort in our growing family. It is not just Wulf’s presence but the compassion shown amongst those who should be bitter and angry. I hope you accept our compassion not as a sign of pity but a signal that we understand somebody who has remained true to themself. We greatly admire that choice and will support those who make it any way we can.
- Inigo: It is a family. Well said, Aranea.
- Serana: I could see it is a family. I told Wulf I understood him better after the visit to Silverpeak Lodge.
- Ghorbash: I will never admit to anybody that my brother is a lizard.
- Derkeethus: You have always been jealous of the attention that females send my way.
- Serana: So, on the topic of Wulf, can you briefly tell me your story.
- Wulf: I know very little of my life before the 17th of Last Seed, 4E 201. That is when I awoke on a carriage to Helgen. Within minutes of my current life starting, my head was on a chopping block awaiting the pleasure of an Imperial headsman. Unfortunately for him and the residents of Helgen, Alduin attacked, and I escaped that bloody ending.
- Serana: You know nothing of your life before then?
- Wulf: I know bit and pieces. My memories were not removed but blocked by The Divines. Desperately, Nirn needed me, and that was what they had to do to make me capable of stopping Alduin. I am curious about my past but have accepted their reasoning. When the time is right, I will remember.
- Serana: What you told Isran were some of those other things?
- Wulf: Those amongst others. I have lots of secrets that I have to keep, even from The Sentinels. That is how it has to be while I help The Divines against an assailant they have not named. There is an ongoing conflict that endangers all, including my gods. So please understand when I refuse to talk about some things.
- Serana: And what happens if you die?
- Wulf: Then The Divines would have to find another champion.
- Inigo: Serana, do you worship Molag Bal?
- Serena: No more than Lamae did and for the same reasons.
- Inigo: I thought as much, and please forgive me for my manners by asking. We all believe in what Wulf is trying to achieve. Yes, there is the overall need of The Divines to consider. But beyond that, he cares for all mortals, and now, it seems intelligent undead. He can get distracted by the problems of a single beggar he meets while simultaneously undertaking a complex Divine Task. We must be wary of anybody who engages with him or us. Even if a worshipper of one of the least friendly Dark Lords doesn’t mean to, they could let slip information that endangers Wulf.
- Serana: I understand. I am an unknown. You should be wary of me.
- Wulf: Serana is old, and with age comes wisdom. I am sure she already suspects many things.
- Serana: Old?
- Wulf: Sorry, I meant ancient.
- Serana: Haha. Keep up the insults, and I won’t tell you how I got to Riften and Fort Dawnguard.
- Wulf: You turned into a bat and flew there?
- Serana: I can turn into a bat, but no. That is not how I got there.
- Wulf: Okay, Serana, how did you get to Fort Dawnguard?
- Serana: I teleported to Riften. Then I used invisibility to bypass possible enemies and also get to the front door of Fort Dawnguard.
- Wulf: Teleported! Can you do that?
- Serana: Yes, and I can teach you how.
- Wulf: I am busy setting up portals but thought it would still take me ages to figure out personal teleporting. I can do it to my room at the College of Winterhold, but that still requires apparatus at that end.
- Serana: I had a quick look at the schematics for this airship. You can make Bostin go ethereal to a place you have been before. Is that correct?
- Wulf: Yes. If there is no beacon and manual flying might be unwise for whatever reason, I have the option of doing that. It takes two hours of concentration as the dweomer of the ship prepares it for ethereal travel. I am manually doing what the Dwemer apparatus does when the course is set for a beacon. My memory becomes the beacon.
- Serana: It is the same concept. If you have been somewhere before and you remember it well, you can teleport there. I took a gamble that a grassy area near the stables of Riften would still be a grassy area. I apologised to the Khajiit that I startled when I appeared next to one of their tents.
- Wulf: How difficult is the incantation?
- Serana: You already know 99% of it. You just have to visualise yourself, not this airship, and where you want to go. It will be instantaneous as there is a small mass to move compared to this airship.
- Wulf: Serana, you have no idea how useful that will be! This airship is fantastic, but as you discovered, it is a big flag that says, ‘The Dragonborn is here!’. So I would be able to teleport to where I want and then zap in The Sentinels. I have already figured out how they can zap their horses to them.
- Serana: I like that word for teleporting. ZAP!
- Inigo: It is one of Wulf’s less weird words.
- Wulf: Albatross!
- Inigo: Point proven.
- Serana: We still have a while before Bostin zaps to Winterhold. I can write down the incantation for you before we get there.
- Wulf: Do you know why a lot of knowledge was lost?
- Serana: Dragon Breaks used to be blamed.
- Wulf: They still are. Multiple timelines stitched together to put us back on track according to Lord Akatosh’s preference. Inevitably there are things that we remember that did not happen in some timelines and vice versa.
- Serana: I think many mages have remembered, for I am not the only ancient one. However, they have not shared the knowledge for whatever reason.
- Inigo: Yes, we have a particular Khajiit friend who seems to have such knowledge.
- Serana: Portals are good as you can restrict who uses them and teleport groups of people. Wulf will have to teleport than zap you in individually.
- Wulf: Can you protect against somebody teleporting into a particular area.
- Serana: Yes, I can also give you the spell for that.
- Wulf: How about teleporting between different planes?
- Serana: Certain pocket planes you can prepare for teleportation. You mentioned you have a safe area where you currently store things like your Elder Scroll. You teleport into there.
- Wulf: Yes, and it is a pocket plane of Oblivion. The mages who first created it did not place it in Aetherius because it is dangerous for mortals to remain there for long periods.
- Serana: I wonder why that is?
- Wulf: Inigo, give Serana the answer.
- Inigo: Sounds like gobblygook.
- Serana: Huh?
- Wulf: When dealing with gods and the metaphysical, there are things we will never understand, and we hurt our brains when we try. Gobblygook!
- Serana: Hey, I like that as much as zap!
- Wulf: It is not as good as Albatross, though.
- Serana: What does Albatross mean, apart from a large seabird?
- Wulf: It is versatile. It can mean whatever you want it to mean. You have stubbed your toe and want to swear? Say Albatross instead! You have seen something that confuses you? Instead of ‘huh’ use Albatross!
Serana shook her head as she stood up then moved to my writing desk. I went on deck and was not surprised Aranea did as well. I let her have her space at the bow. I went to the stern. She had a lot to absorb as she is not as used to the injustices of the world. Although Serena’s story was shocking, it was on par with many others we have heard. Some of our orphans have experienced many rapes. Those who abused them might not have been Molag Bal, but they were still monsters inflicting pain on the innocent.
“Rigmor, can you talk?”
“I made an excuse to have a lie-down. Your emotions have been up and down and all over the place.”
“Serana just told us how she became a vampire. Her parents offered her to Molag Bal and watched as he raped her.”
“Oh… that is… I don’t know how to describe that.”
“She still loves them, even her father. That is not unusual. But I fear her father does not love her. I also think it will be difficult for her to accept me killing her father. So I can only hope another option presents itself.”
“You believe that she is a good person. That is despite being a vampire and the description you gave of her father’s clan.”
“Yes, as she said, being raped by Molag Bal does not have to change the fundamentals of who you are. Neither you nor your mother was changed by the years of abuse the Thalmor inflicted.”
“Except I found the anger to wipe out that embassy.”
“But you still see beauty in the world. You still have empathy by the wagon load. The Thalmor added to who you are but did not radically change the fourteen-year-old Rigmor Ragnarsdottir.”
“Yes, you are right. But I often wonder who I would be if none of that ever happened.”
“You would probably be married to some farmer. A gaggle of children at your feet and another on the way!”
“As long as the farmer was you, that would not be so bad.”
“That depends. Would you expect me to change nappies?”
“Then that is a nightmare, and I don’t ever want to talk about it again!”
“Has Serana realised she is dealing with a strange, not normal, weirdo.”
“Obviously. It was unavoidable. People walking by in the street can tell.”
“The other big news is that Serana knows how to teleport and will teach me the spell.”
“Did you tell her how much that will help you?”
“Yes. It means Bostin will be used rarely by me but will free her up for others to use.”
“And it means fewer people keeping track of where you are.”
“I figured out some time ago how Hashire’s teleport works and can put that dweomer on The Sentinels’ horses. It is different from Inigo’s, which I use to zap in The Sentinels, as the horse gives no permission. Like it or not, it will appear where and when its owner desires.”
“Will the horses get frightened?”
“Maybe for the first few teleports.”
“You killed those dragons earlier. The level of despair that generates in you is heartbreaking! It is no wonder that Lady Kynareth took pity.”
“It is a curse.”
“Where to next?”
“We are off to the College as we need to find a Moth Priest. I know one was visiting to view my Elder Scroll.”
“Do you want Serana’s Elder Scroll read because it will help with the Divine Task?”
“Serana is not quite sure what the prophecy her father knows of is. We hope the Elder Scroll will tell us that. If we are fortunate, like any prophecy, it shouldn’t take much to prevent its predicted outcome.”
“Stay safe, my darling.”
“Have fun with the bastards!”
“No bastards today. It seems my citizens can keep their pants on occasionally. Today is mostly border arguments. Party A complaining that Party B’s cattle have strayed onto their property and ate some of their potato crops. That sort of nonsense.”
“You have to learn how to say, ‘Off with their heads!’. You will be amazed how few people would bother you with such trivial matters!”
“A bit drastic but worth considering.”
“I love you and will speak to you later.”
I went back into Bostin’s warm cabin and worked on the Ayleid Waystone once more. Maybe I will ask Serana if she knows about them.
When the bell rang, we all came on deck and were greeted by a typical, Winterhold snowstorm.
Serana looked towards the College and asked, “What has happened to the bridge?”
“In 4E 122, there was the ‘Great Collapse’.”
“Oh, I read about that, but I thought everything would have been repaired by now!”
“Until recently, everybody was blaming the mages for the catastrophe. I proved them wrong. Winterhold, like many cities, was built on top of older structures and large natural caverns. The majority of Winterhold sunk into these caverns and the old city and did not slide into the sea. So it was in no way the fault of the mages.”
“I can sense a story behind what you found and how.”
“I have a surprise for you when we get back to Bostin.”
“What is it?”
“At your age, you should understand the idea of a surprise.”
“Why hasn’t anybody killed you for just being annoying.”
“They are waiting in line with all the others.”
We made our way to Urag.
- Urag: Greetings, Arch-Mage. Hello, Serana.
- Serana: You recognise me?
- Urag: You borrowed a copy of ‘Notes on Kagouti Mating Habits by Edras Oril’ in 2E 240. If you return it in good order and on a sunny day, I might forget about the overdue fees owed. I would hate for you to lose your family castle over a book.
- Serana: I am sorry, Master Urag, but I don’t recall borrowing that book and can’t imagine why I would.
- Urag: You never did. I just wanted to see if your forehead still crinkled up when you were worried. You weren’t a vampire the last time that you visited.
- Serana: You can tell I am a vampire?
- Urag: Many of our students are vampires, and we have many vampire visitors. After hundreds of years, you get good at recognising subtle clues.
- Serana: Such as?
- Urag: Things like pointy teeth, bloodstains on the front of their robes, missing roommates, that sort of thing.
- Wulf: I think Master Urag is exercising his almost extinct sense of humour.
- Serana: Ha de haha!
- Urag: Thank you. I appreciate an audience that appreciates me. Now, Arch-Mage, what can I do for you?
- Wulf: Is Dexion Evicus still in Winterhold?
- Urag: He arrived a couple of days ago. He studied the Elder Scroll you found, then spent time reading obscure texts I retrieved for him. He left for Dragon’s Bridge yesterday afternoon and was planning to stay there overnight. He said he heard rumours of another Elder Scroll in a private collection near there. So he might still be in the area if you are lucky.
- Inigo: Back to Solitude! We will get dizzy if this keeps up!
- Urag: May I ask why you need a Moth Priest?
- Wulf: For the obvious reason. We have an Elder Scroll that needs reading. Perhaps you didn’t notice it sticking out either side of Serana?
- Urag: It is hard to see anything behind that billowing cloak. Plus, her hips are a lot more significant than I remember.
- Serana: If any of you laugh at that, you will be a midnight snack!
- Urag: Arch-Mage, will you be donating the Elder Scroll to Dragonborn Gallery when you have finished with it?
- Wulf: That is up to Serana. It belongs to her.
- Serana: If I survive, I will think about it.
- Urag: Uncertain survival. Why am I not surprised? Didn’t anybody warn you that travelling with the Arch-Mage is dangerous? He attracts the most interesting enemies. But, of course, you would know that having read his journals. Expertly annotated by a well know Orsimer mage.
- Serana: Journals? What journals?
- Wulf: Well, there goes the surprise. Some of my tasks are outlined in published journals. For obvious reasons, they cannot mention everything I have done. When the time is right more of my journals will be published. But there is enough released to let you know much of what I have been doing since awakening.
- Inigo: Or you can just read the stories sold at most markets. I especially like the ones that mention his incredibly handsome Khajiit friend.
- Wulf: Are they the ones that claim I have taken Boethia and High Queen Elisif to my bed? At the same time!
- Inigo: Well, they are allowed some poetic licence.
- Urag: The ones where Wulf meets Lift-Her-Tail are popular amongst the young and unmarried mages. And some of the old married mages as well.
- Wulf: Do any of them mention a grumpy, Orsimer librarian?
- Urag: Only the comedies.
- Wulf: Thanks for your assistance, Master Urag.
We managed to make our way back to Bostin without being blown off the bridge.
I set the course for Solitude then gave Serana a copy of my journals currently in print. She started reading those as I studied the teleport spell. I was reasonably sure it would work, but experimentation would have to wait until I complete this Divine Task.
I was still rehearsing the incantation and hand movements of the teleport spell when the bell announced our arrival in Solitude.
As we made our way into the heart of Solitude, I saw Henry leaving the museum.
I asked him, “Anything new and exciting in Dragonborn Gallery?”
“You should know since most of the stuff is what you found on your adventures! Predictably, there was a crowd around The Amulet of Kings, and I had to push my way in to see it. I know the one on display is a copy, but wow! Really wow! The Amulet of Kings being remade is big news!”
“Did you learn anything about it?”
“I might wait for Auryen to get back. That Avram tries but is as boring as oatmeal without honey.”
“You had better catch up to your mum!”
“It is bath night, so I am in no great hurry.”
Henry’s mother called him, and he ran to her. Pending bath notwithstanding, a mother’s summons cannot be ignored!
It was raining, which did not add to The Sentinels enthusiasm for the long walk to Dragon Bridge. Serana was enjoying everything. Anybody would think she had been locked away for hundreds of years.
Serana exclaimed, “Is it common to nearly dress oneself before venturing outside in Solitude?”
“What are you talking about?”
“All of you males know what I mean. Your eyes are following her inadequately covered backside!”
“Oh, you mean Eris! She is a pirate on a ship called Red Wave. She is a bit overdressed today. It must be the cold.”
“Overdressed? I would hate to see what she wears in warm weather!”
“Yes, you have to squint a bit to reassure yourself she is not naked.”
“And I bet you squint a lot!”
“Not at all. I am just going on hearsay.”
Inigo piped up, “I wonder if Latoria could fit in that dress?”
The annoying rain turned into a torrential downpour as we exited Solitude.
We had no encounters on the soggy walk to Dragon Bridge until just before the main gates.
Inigo warned, “I smell vampires, and I don’t mean Serana!”
Because they were undead, I could not use heat vision to detect the invisible vampires.
Serena cast Dispel Magic which made the surprised vampires very visible.
We soon cut them down.
Serana said, “They are Volkihar. My father has probably got most of the clan out searching for me.”
“Not to bring his long-lost daughter back home.”
“No, I mean nothing to him. It is the Elder Scroll he wants.”
“What were they hoping to do? Somehow undo the straps and pinch it without us noticing?”
“Low ranked vampires get desperate for promotion. Therefore, logical thinking is not to be expected.”
We entered Dragon Bridge, and a guard came running up.
He saluted then said, “You made short work of those Vampires, Thane.”
“You recognise me in this armour?”
“High Queen Elisif sent out a diagram so Solitude Guards would recognise the Hero of Solitude.”
“Well, that was considerate of her.”
“There are many reasons why she is well-loved.”
“I am looking for a Moth Priest visiting from Cyrodiil. He was going to stay at the inn last night.”
“He left town with his Legionnaire escort not long ago. I don’t know their destination, but they headed south across the bridge.”
“Thank you for your assistance. We shall see if we can catch up.”
“Thane, he only had a single soldier with him. So we offered to send some guards along with him. There has been a bit of a Foresworn problem out that way in recent weeks. He insisted that even Forsworn would respect a Moth Priest. Something about Reach Magic and moths. It was nonsense to me.”
“Let us hope his confidence was justified or that it is too wet even for the Forsworn to venture out. It is rare for them to be out here. I wonder what is going on with them?”
As we crossed the bridge, I said, “I have never actually bothered with the history of this bridge! I have no idea why as every time I cross it, I add it to my list of research subjects. However, I do know it dates from the 1st Era.”
Serana asked, “Is that a real dragon skull?”
“No. There were some stories about it being a fossilised skull, but that is incorrect. It is just an excellent and very robust carving.”
A few minutes later, Inigo startled us with a loud and energetic sneeze. He said, “My apologies. The silly rain went right up my nose!”
“Why were you staring up into the sky?”
“I wanted to try and keep my eyes open as the rain hit them. You should try it. It is not easy to do!”
“You do get bored quickly, my blue friend.”
“When I was on Skooma, the rain was in lots of different colours. That was interesting!”
Just before the road turned right and crossed a river, we came upon the scene of an ambush. I used night vision so I could see the details.
We quickly established it was not Forsworn but more Volkihar vampires who conducted the ambush. The sole Legionnaire had multiple wounds but put up a brave fight.
A dead vampire was evidence that the Legionnaire did well against what was undoubtedly multiple assailants.
Upon the vampire, I found a note which I read out loud,
“I have new orders for you.
Prepare and ambush just south of the Dragon Bridge. Take the Moth Priest for Forebears’ Holdout for safekeeping until I can break his will.
- Wulf: Serana, do you know Malkus?
- Serana: He is a sleazy, slimy, small dicked moron!
- Aranea: Not your favourite then?
- Wulf: So, either your father sent vampires out to find a Moth Priest without realising Serana had left the castle with it.
- Serana: Or he was hoping to get the Moth Priest and retrieve the Elder Scroll.
- Inigo: If he knows you took the Elder Scroll, he will also expect you to search for a Moth Priest. They will be prepared for us to try and rescue Dexion.
- Wulf: No use speculating. I know where Forebears’ Holdout is. Its name is deceiving, as many think the Forebears of Hammerfell used it. In reality, it is named after a bandit warlord. Long after Forebears was worm food, it was used by necromancers and other undesirables. It seems that the Volkihar clan have claimed it.
- Serana: We had very little need for caves and other hideouts before I was entombed. Castle Volkihar has remained unmolested because no criminal activity could be traced to it. The idea of having notes with names that are likely traceable to my father would have been unthinkable.
- Derkeethus: After Wulf’s visit, your father realises their barbaric activities are now known. He will be expecting a raid by the Legion or Penitus Oculatus or the Dawnguard. So, he is desperate to fulfil the prophecy as it is the only way the clan will survive. Caution is no longer a priority.
- Serana: Yes, even though they may have been using Forebears’ Holdout for some time, this does seem a desperate move. They even left the body of a clan member behind!
- Wulf: Let’s just get there and rescue Dexion. Who knows how small dicked Malkus plans to break his will?
- Ghorbash: Even if you didn’t know where Forebears’ Holdout was, the blood trail would be easy to follow with Inigo’s and Serana’s noses.
The blood was also easy to follow with night vision.
“What that shrine?” asked Aranea.
I replied, “It is not one of the Standing Stones, and I can sense no dweomer. I have no idea. I will worry about that mystery another day.”
Inigo stood at the mouth of the cave and sniffed a few times.
I asked Inigo, “My friend with the large nose, what can you smell?”
“Not the unwashed bodies of bandits with a hint of pee. I can smell Death Hounds.”
We entered, and Inigo said, “I can hear talking. Unfortunately, it is echoing too much for me to tell how far away they are. I am also unable to ascertain the size of the talker’s dick.”
Serana replied, “I only saw his dick because he thought I would be impressed when he waved it in front of me. I don’t think he likes me after I cried laughing.”
A river divided the main cavern in two. Across the other side of the river was a fort. It was a decent size and in reasonable condition for its age. Fortunately, a vampire sentry did not spot us before I fired an arrow and hit him midsection. He screamed as fire consumed him.
Without seeing us, the other guards and Death Hounds assumed where we must be. Unfortunately for them, I could watch them run to and cross the river on a distant bridge. Then they had to run directly towards us. They were easy targets.
I killed the guards and Death Hounds then we made our way to the fort unmolested.
We could see a barrier and could hear voices. I did a universal sign with my fingers, asking Serana if one of the voices was a little dick, to which she nodded yes with an amused look on her face.
I eliminated Malkus with an arrow. Inigo took care of another vampire. All of the enemies had been disposed of, and we could relax and study the situation.
Dexion was in the middle of the barrier.
Serana asked, “Do you recognise the magic used for this barrier?”
“At a guess, I would say Reach Magic. When I have encountered similar, there was always a control mechanism requiring a focusing stone.”
As I searched the female vampire, Serana contemptuously said, “She is a fledgeling and probably only turned within the last week or so. Father must be getting short of experienced vampires or is keeping them close as he waits for an attack upon the castle.”
When we approached Malkus, Ghorbash growled, “An Orsimer vampire! That is disturbing!”
I replied, “I wonder what the Jolly Green Giant thinks about Molag Bal stealing his followers.”
“I wonder what Malacath thinks about being called a Jolly Green Giant?”
I searched Malkus and found the focusing stone.
There was also a handwritten order from Harkon, which I read aloud,
“The prophesied time has come. I have reclaimed my lost Elder Scroll, and now I must have a Moth Priest to read it. For the one who brings me a Moth Priest, I promise a high place in my court and the gift of my potent blood.
Go forth and find me a Moth Priest. This is my command.
I said, “He certainly didn’t know Serana had left with the Elder Scroll when he issued that order.”
There were coffins all over the fort.
I said to Ghorbash, “Stay here and be prepared because Dexion might be ensorceled. I am going to the control pedestal and will disable the barrier. If Dexion attacks you, punch his lights out. Do not kill him!”
I walked to the control pedestal and looked down.
“Are you ready?” I asked Ghorbash.
“Yeah, but I don’t feel right punching the old man. He looks like my mother. Fewer whiskers, though.”
I placed the focusing stone into a receptacle.
It twisted ninety degrees clockwise, which meant it had been accepted as the key to the barrier.
The barrier started to dissipate.
Dexion yelled, “My master is dead, and his enemies shall pay!”
Ghorbash punched the Moth Priest on the chin. Dexion staggered a bit further, then fell to his knees.
When the barrier was gone entirely, braziers came alight and brightened the cavern.
I used Whirlwind Sprint and was soon standing in front of Dexion. He stood up but was unsteady on his feet.
I healed him.
Dexion stood straight and said, “That wasn’t me that tried to fight!”
“We know, Dexion. Malkus, the vampire, had enthralled you. Ghorbash punched you, which interrupted the dweomer, and since the caster is dead, it could not automatically retake control of you.”
“I thank you for breaking that foul vampire’s hold over me. And the healing. I am positive my jaw was broken!”
“Are you alright now?”
“Wonderfully fit! You arrived just in time. I think the vampires were getting hungry.”
“They didn’t want you for lunch, Dexion. Let me introduce myself. I am Commander Valdr. I am also Arch-Mage Wulf.”
“Oh, then that explains how you knew my name. Gratefully, I must thank you for allowing me to study your Elder Scroll. There was much in there about your prophecy. Fascinating! So why did the vampires abduct me if not for a snack? They made a claim they had some purpose in store for me, but they wouldn’t say what.”
“They wanted you to read an Elder Scroll but did not know we have possession of it. So we hope you can read it for us. We believe it has to do with another prophecy that we are trying to prevent from completing.”
“Such a reading needs me to be rested and in more pleasant surroundings.”
“We are working with The Dawnguard to stop the vampires from fulfilling the prophecy. I am sure they can find accommodation for you in Fort Dawnguard. You may be in danger for some time, so it is probably one of the safest places for you.”
“If my knowledge of history serves me, I recall that The Dawnguard was an ancient order of vampire hunters.”
“That is correct, and now they are reformed.”
“I will be happy to assist with your Elder Scroll. Fort Dawnguard, you said. I know where that is. It is near Stendarr’s Beacon. I will make my way there immediately!”
“You don’t have to walk there. I have an airship docked in Solitude. We shall escort you to the city and then fly you to Fort Dawnguard.”
“An airship! Now that would prove mighty handy for us Moth Priests!”
We exited Forebears’ Holdout and into more torrential rain. Serana conjured a simple barrier over Dexion to prevent him from getting soaked.
Dexion loves to talk. His mouth didn’t stop moving all the way to Solitude! His enthusiasm reminds me of Auryen.
- Dexion: Thank you for the barrier, young lady. I can’t help but notice your eyes glowing. Are you a vampire?
- Serana: Yes, I am. My name is Serana, and I am pleased to make your acquaintance.
- Dexion: Since you are with Commander Valdr, I must assume you are of good character. He is a bit of a hero. Did you know that?
- Serana: As I have recently discovered. What can you tell me about the prophecy that involved him?
- Wulf: Let me recite it for you. Let us see if you can figure out the meaning of each event listed.
- “When misrule takes its place at the eight corners of the world
- When the Brass Tower walks and Time is reshaped
- When the thrice-blessed fail and the Red Tower trembles
- When the Dragonborn Ruler loses his throne and the White Tower falls
- When the Snow Tower lies sundered, kingless, bleeding
- The World-Eater wakes, and the Wheel turns upon the Last Dragonborn.”
- Serana: That is unfair because I was unconscious for the entire 3rd Era!
- Wulf: You are a mage and therefore have an excellent memory. This should be easy! You have read the histories I provided.
- Dexion: I would not say easy. Many scholars still quarrel over its interpretation even after it was fulfilled.
- Serana: Instead of me guessing, I would prefer you told me.
- Inigo: You are asking Commander Valdr to go into lecture mode. He has been known to talk people to death when he starts yapping about history.
- Wulf: Your tail looks lonely. Why don’t you go and chase it for a while?
- Inigo: It is too slow and easy to catch when wet.
- Dexion: Your tail travels the same speed as you whether dry or soggy, so that statement made no sense whatsoever!
- Inigo: Somebody, please help me! Another person is attacking me with logic!
- Aranea: Would you mind keeping quiet, you flea haven? I, too, would like to learn about Commander Valdr’s prophecy.
- Inigo: I have a prophecy as well!
- Wulf: It is not written down anywhere, and we can discuss it another time.
- Inigo: Bored, bored, bored. Get lecturing then. I promise to keep quiet.
- Wulf: The first line, ‘When misrule takes its place at the eight corners of the world,’ refers to the Imperial Simulacrum. The Imperial Battlemage, Jagar Tharn, imprisoned Emperor Uriel Septim III. Using his superb Illusion skills, Jagar Tharn took on the form of the emperor.
- Serana: That was mentioned in the 4th of the ‘Brief History of the Empire’ series. Jagar snapped the Staff of Chaos into eight pieces and spread them across, as the prophecy says, ‘the eight corners of the world.’
- Wulf: See, it is not so hard as long as I provide a clue.
- Dexion: As Arch-Mage and well-known expert on everything, you know that a logical assembly of facts does not sit well with many scholars.
- Wulf: The following line, ‘When the Brass Tower walks and Time is reshaped,’ refers to the Numidium and a Dragon Break.
- Serana: Somebody found the Mantella and the Totem of Tiber Septim. They were supposed to give them to the emperor. However, something when wrong and a Dragon Break occurred. There is much conjecture on precisely who caused the Dragon Break, but all agree it was an attempt to control Numidium that was the trigger.
- Wulf: That particular Dragon Break is referred to as ‘The Warp in the West.’ As happens in a Dragon Break, seemingly impossible things occurred. For instance, multiple Numidium came into existence along with multiple Totem of Tiber Septim.
- Serana: What does it mean by ‘Time is reshaped’?
- Wulf: Lord Akatosh has a preferred timeline. Female dragons, called Jills, gathered the multiple parallel timelines and, metaphorically, wove them together. Time was reshaped. We have a timeline that Lord Akatosh accepts, but it is not perfect as different parts of the parallel timelines suddenly became part of this timeline.
- Serana: The example I remember mentioned concerns the climate of Cyrodiil. In some timelines, it was tropical jungles like those in Elsweyr. In our timeline, it is a temperate climate. But both are true since the timelines were joined.
- Dexion: Serana, you are discerning the truth far better than many senior historians.
- Serana: As the Commander said, I have the mind of a mage. Logic dictates what I have deduced.
- Wulf: The line ‘When the thrice-blessed fail and the Red Tower trembles’ refers to the False Tribunal and Red Mountain.
- Aranea: My mistress, Azura, was fundamental in the removal of the False Tribunal.
- Wulf: Yes, she was. Lady Azura asked The Nerevarine to intervene as she opposed The Tribunal for many reasons. Vivec, Almalexia and Sotha Sil knew the prophecy of The Nerevarine. When an essential step of the prophecy, the defeat of Dagoth Ur, came to pass, Almalexia panicked. She was insane and did not fully comprehend the ramifications of her solution to The Nerevarine. She killed Sotha Sil in an attempt to disrupt the prophecy. Unfortunately for her, it was too late as she was already reduced to her mortal self by then.
- Serana: Red Mountain is referred to as ‘Red Tower’ as it is one of the seven Towers that maintains reality. The Numidium is another and is called the ‘Brass Tower’.
- Wulf: And what happened when Vivec’s power failed?
- Serana: Something happened to the moonlet, Baar Dau, which threatened to smash into Vivec City.
- Wulf: A solution was provided by the Daedric Prince, Clavicus Vile. It was a machine called the Ingenium that kept Baar Dau in orbit for another five years. The Ingenium needed souls to operate. First, the souls of those already dead were used. Then live sacrifices consisting of convicted criminals, enemy troops and other undesirables were fed to the machine. When their numbers proved insufficient, stronger souls were sought. Innocent and loved people with sufficiently strong souls were to be sacrificed and this caused rebellion resulting in Baar Dau smashing into Vivec City. The collision of Baar Dau triggered the eruption of Red Mountain and the Red Year.
- Aranea: And that is how I ended up looking after Azura’s shrine near Winterhold for all that time.
- Wulf: ‘When the Dragonborn Ruler loses his throne, and the White Tower falls’ references the death of Martin Septim and the destruction of The Amulet of Kings.
- Serana: That one has me stumped.
- Wulf: Martin Septim was the last of the Dragonborn Emperors. The meaning of Dragonborn in this instance is different to my title of Dragonborn. Dragonborn Emperors were able to light the Dragonfires and wear The Amulet of Kings. Not many of them could use the Thu’um or absorb knowledge from dragon souls as I can. Dragonborn Emperors were proven ancestors of Saint Alessia. The ability to wear The Amulet of Kings was that proof. When made Emperor, it was Divine Rule. In other words, The Divines declared their right to rule. Lord Akatosh would bless the newly crowned emperor with the ability to control the Dragonfires.
- Serana: Ah, so when Martin Septim sacrificed himself, his throne was lost because no other Septim heirs were known.
- Wulf: Any claimant to the throne would not be able to prove their Divine Right to rule as The Amulet of Kings was destroyed.
- Serana: How did the White Tower fall?
- Wulf: The Amulet of Kings had many functions. One of them was to enable the White-Gold Tower to stabilise reality. Similar to what Numidium, the Brass Tower, and Red Mountain, the Red Tower, were designed to do. When The Amulet of Kings was destroyed, The White-Gold Tower could no longer perform its function. Metaphorically, it fell.
- Ghorbash: Can I just say that this all makes sense and therefore I must not be well.
- Derkeethus: The Hist is far easier to understand.
- Ghorbash: Your father is a tree. Explain that!
- Derkeethus: That is a valid point!
- Wulf: And onto the following line which reads, ‘When the Snow Tower lies sundered, kingless, bleeding.’ This line references very recent events. The Snow Tower is The Throat of the World and is in the province of Skyrim. When Ulfric murdered King Torygg and started the civil war, he left Skyrim, ‘sundered, kingless and bleeding.’
- Serana: That one is easy to understand.
- Wulf: Finally, we have, ‘The World-Eater wakes, and the Wheel turns upon the Last Dragonborn.’
- Serana: Well, the World-Eater was Alduin.
- Wulf: Yes, but he didn’t wake up. He returned from wherever in time my Elder Scroll tossed him. The Elder Scroll did so due to the unique connection dragons have with time. A connection I have. It was a solution the Tongues used in desperation. They could not have foreseen the consequences. I think they would have still used the Elder Scroll if they did know Alduin would eventually return.
- Serana: And the connection with time allowed you to travel back and learn Dragonrend?
- Wulf: Yes. The use of the Elder Scroll to banish Alduin created a Time Anomaly. Think of it as a very localised Dragon Break. I used the Elder Scroll to do the impossible. It enabled me to travel back via the Time Anomaly and observe the Tongues and Alduin.
- Serana: And why would you be the ‘Last Dragonborn’?
- Wulf: I think that is misleading. Lord Akatosh creates Dragonborn. Sometimes they may not be running around saving Nirn, but they still exist. Remember, he is the God of Time. If he foresees the need for a Dragonborn to assist in diverting a disaster, he will either have one available or select a suitable candidate for his blessing. He chose me, gave me the blessings, and made sure I was in Skyrim in time to deal with Alduin.
- Serana: So perhaps it should have said, ‘the latest Dragonborn.’?
- Wulf: That is my opinion. I know of no reason why I should be the last of my kind. Dragonborn are placed on Nirn to assist mortals. There will always be situations where the gods rely on a mortal ‘champion’. The champion doesn’t have to be Dragonborn, but there are likely future crises that need those unique skills.
- Serana: Have The Divines made you who you are? Have they moulded your morals and personality so that you do their Divine Tasks and in a way that suits them?
- Wulf: No! It is free will that is my biggest asset. Removing my free will would make me no different than a Dwemer Automaton. Free will is a defining element of what constitutes a mortal. I have asked this very question of the Herald of Akatosh and Talos. I am a product of loving parents and was taught by example. I was me long before Lord Akatosh’s blessing!
- Serana: Sorry, that question has offended you.
- Wulf: Dragonborn can go astray. As the Herald of Akatosh told me, I could be a homicidal megalomaniac, and my importance to The Divines would not be diminished. The Divines are willing to sacrifice to protect Nirn and mortals. There may come a time where I am asked to sacrifice, and my gods do not know if I could. That is how I know I have free will. Miraak, the Dragonborn I had to kill, used his free will to denounce The Divines and adopt Hermaeus Mora as his god.
- Inigo: Serana, Wulf is not upset about your question. It is a legitimate query when you know what he does in detail. The Commander does what he does because his upbringing influenced his morals and perspective.
- Dexion: Serana, I had the same reaction as you when I read of what Wulf does. When you read the histories, you find many like him. Some fade into obscurity. Some are so well hidden only the reading of certain Elder Scrolls reveals their actions. Why would anybody constantly put themselves and their souls in such danger?
- Serana: The Divines blocked your memories but do you know who your parents are or were?
- Wulf: I won’t lie, and this will come as a shock to The Sentinels, but I have recently received confirmation of who my parents are. It is not something I wish to be publicly known, so please, ask no more on the subject.
- Aranea: You found out in Sancre Tor. That much, I can guess. You will tell us if and when you judge it to be prudent.
- Ghorbash: We are just pleased you finally know.
- Derkeethus: Dexion, why are you called a Moth Priest?
And the conversation continued as we forgot entirely about watching for danger and simply enjoyed our tinvaak.
Dexion’s robes were covered in blood and ripped. I found him a new but boring set of monk robes in Bostin’s cargo hold.
I said to Dexion, “Sorry I couldn’t find anything more exciting for you to wear.”
“These will do fine. We rarely ever wear anything but grey. It makes a nice change!”
“We still have an hour and a half till we reach Fort Dawnguard. So I suggest you have a short sleep while you can.”
“I have always wanted to try a hammock! If you hear a loud crack, it is probably my spine. But nothing ventured, nothing gained!”
Dexion wandered off, mumbling to himself. I guess it takes a certain level of eccentricity to be Moth Priest.
The discussion we had about my prophecy reminded me of what Auryen said when I returned from Sancre Tor. When I asked him about the seven and my place within it, he said it had something to do with the Towers. He also said that we had discussed them previously. We had not!
I went to my room and started to write down what I knew about the Towers. When the docking bell rang, I was in the middle of assigning each of the seven to a Tower. I could see no logical connections, but there are seven Towers if you ignore Doomcrag. Very few scholars have ever regarded Doomcrag as an actual Tower.
We came on deck, and it was a relief to see the stars and not more rain.
I asked Inigo to fetch Isran and meet us in the entrance hall, but only if he wants to hear what the Elder Scroll says.
I asked Dexion, “Did you get enough rest? We don’t have to read the Elder Scroll right now.”
“It is okay, Commander. I am eager to read it. You never know what you will discover!”
“The follow me. Isran, the leader of The Dawnguard, will be waiting for us.”
“I look forward to meeting him.”
We made our way to the entrance hall, and Isran was there with scepticism oozing from his stance and mood.
- Wulf: Isran, we have with us Dexion of The Order of Moth Priests. We hope to learn of the prophecy that Lord Harkon is trying to complete. He has agreed to read the Elder Scroll in possession of Serana. Then we will know how to counter the prophecy.
- Isran: I’m impressed you could find a Moth Priest so quickly.
- Wulf: Are you ready, Dexion?
- Dexion: Oh, most certainly! Let’s find out what secrets the scroll can tell us.
Serana handed Dexion the Elder Scroll. He then proceeded to read it aloud,
“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.
To know the complete prophecy, we must have the other two scrolls. That is all.”
- Wulf: Thank you, Dexion. I can see that was taxing both mentally and physically.
- Isran: All I heard was a lot of vague nonsense. You could interpret what Dexion said a hundred different ways. The 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. So the Moth Priest can stay here for now. As for the vampire, I still don’t trust it, so keep it on a leash.
- Dexion: People infinitely more learned and smarter than you dedicate their lives to seeking out and studying Elder Scrolls. How dare you stand there and declare what I said is vague nonsense! I came to Skyrim to study the Elder Scroll containing the secrets of dragons. It belongs to Commander Valdr. That fact is absolute proof that what I said is true and can’t be interpreted in any way. Not that anybody I have ever met before had the audacity to question my reading of an Elder Scroll!
- Wulf: Isran, you have no experience or expertise in these matters. One Elder Scroll mentions another already in our possession. Let’s see you explain how that is in any way vague.
- Ghorbash: Isran, on the way here, we discussed the Prophesy of the Dragonborn. That sounded like vague nonsense till Serana and Commander Valdr explained the meaning of each part. So I suggest you stop speaking through your arse.
- Serana: You are all wasting your time. If it weren’t me who owned the Elder Scroll, Isran would have been keen to both hear it and understand it. To admit the reading has merit would be to admit Commander Valdr was right about me and that I have earned trust.
- Wulf: Dexion, since you have read my scroll as well, do you have any more insight you can share?
- Dexion: Unfortunately, no. All three scrolls are parts of a puzzle. I can’t see the solution to the puzzle without all the parts of the puzzle. Does that make sense?
- Wulf: Absolutely.
- Dexion: I find myself weary and must rest.
- Isran: I might be a biased idiot, but I still understand hospitality. Come Dexion. I have a place you can rest.
- Wulf: Sentinels and Serana, let’s sit down in Bostin and discuss the third scroll.
Not much later, we were all sitting around Bostin’s dining table.
- Wulf: Any ideas where we can start looking for the other scroll?
- Serana: I think my mother will have it or at least know where it is. Find Valerica, and you find the scroll.
- Wulf: Did she have it before you were interred?
- Serana: No, but my mother is very resourceful. More so than father. She would have discovered its location.
- Wulf: It is as good a place as any to start. We really should see if your mother is in danger anyway. But you have previously indicated you don’t know where your mother is.
- Serana: The last time I saw her, she said she would go somewhere safe. Somewhere that my father would never search. Other than that, she didn’t tell me anything.
- Wulf: There must be a clue in that somewhere.
- Serana: Well, when she said ‘someplace he would never search’, it sounded cryptic. Like she thought I would pick up on a clue. She was extremely cautious around the castle. You never knew who was listening or who was a spy for father. I suppose we all became quite paranoid.
- Inigo: I have a suggestion.
- Wulf: Go ahead.
- Inigo: Before I was a bandit, I was a burglar. Not a very good one because of the shakes and jitters of my Skooma addiction. But I was also very unfit because of the Skooma. I would never be able to outrun determined guards for long and even an angry housewife armed with a rolling pin would eventually catch me and beat me to death! So instead of being the sneaky Khajiit thief my people are renown for, I was a clumsy, not very sneaky thief.
- Wulf: What did you do when somebody saw you not being very sneaky?
- Inigo: If I were lucky, I would get a bit of a head start and make it sound like I left the house by banging an exit door open and closed or just leaving it open. I can fit into very tiny spaces and would quickly hide somewhere in the house. While the guards and other assorted angry people searched for me outside, I would be warm and smug somewhere inside. Sometimes I didn’t have time to do that and had to run for my life. It is just luck and a phobia about being beaten to death by a rolling pin that allowed me to escape on those occasions.
- Serana: Inigo, you are a genius!
- Wulf: Geniuses don’t burgle places when they are noisier than a Greybeard’s fart.
- Inigo: Fus Ro Pffft!!
- Serana: If you two have finished with the childish banter, I would like to continue.
- Wulf: There is nothing childish about a Greybeard’s fart. The poor old things are always standing or on their knees because every chair they use gets destroyed. Except for the stone ones in their dining room, and they cause piles in cold weather.
- Aranea: Keep going, Serana. Apparently, he was dropped on his head when a child. Chiding him is only encouragement.
- Serana: There is a courtyard in the castle, and I used to help my mother tend a garden there. We grew all of the ingredients for our potions, and my mother was one of the most skilled alchemists of that time. Father could not stand the place. Too peaceful for him, my mother said.
- Wulf: From previous mentions of Valerica, she sounds bold enough to stay within the castle for all this time.
- Serana: My mother is in no way a coward and is twice as clever as my father ever was.
- Aranea: Somebody would have wandered into that garden during the hundreds of years of your absence.
- Serana: I don’t think we’ll trip over her there. But she may have left another clue for me. So I think it is worth taking a look.
- Inigo: Things uncannily fall into place for Wulf. Anybody would think the gods favoured him.
- Ghorbash: I wouldn’t be surprised to find an arrow with ‘That way!’ written on it and placed there by an old warrior with a white beard.
- Serana: Huh?
- Derkeethus: Talos sometimes helps Wulf out with clues.
- Wulf: Rarely. But hunches like this do seem to pay off more often than not.
- Inigo: Divine meddling. That is what you call it.
- Wulf: If The Divines cared, I would never have found you in that jail cell.
- Inigo: You came looking for me, so it was no accident.
- Wulf: I must have been drunk.
- Serana: Hello, Valerica and the garden! Remember?
- Wulf: Well, I don’t fancy knocking on Castle Volkihar’s front door and politely asking Lord Harkon to look the other way while I search his vegetable patch.
- Derkeethus: That could end up quite messy with body parts strewn around.
- Serana: I know a way to the courtyard without arousing suspicion. There’s an unused inlet on the northern side of the island that the previous owners used. Boats with supplies from the mainland would dock and unload on the jetties there. An old escape tunnel from the castle exits there. I think that is our way in.
- Wulf: Do you know your way through the tunnels to the courtyard?
- Serana: Remember, I was the lonely little noble girl! I spent many hours exploring the castle. Only a fraction of it was ever used by my family. My only companions during my explorations were the rats. I grew pretty fond of some of them.
- Wulf: That’s dangerous. You get too friendly with vermin, and they suddenly think they have the right to hang around, spread fleas and eat your food.
- Aranea: Have you ever tried shooing Inigo away? Maybe you could use a broom and whack him a few times?
- Wulf: He would regard that as foreplay, and he isn’t my type.
- Inigo: I think Serana is wondering what kind of insane people share this table. I would not blame her if she ran away screaming.
- Serana: I enjoy the easy banter between you all. I can imagine it gets pretty noisy around Silverpeak Lodge.
- Inigo: It is a lot quieter since Wulf lost his prank war against the children. In the end, they felt pity for him.
- Wulf: Serana, did Valerica act differently in the days or weeks before you were placed in your coffin?
- Serana: Yes, now I come to think of it. I used to love helping her in the garden and did it almost daily for years. Then about a month before my long sleep, she would shoo me away and say she was much too busy to deal with me.
- Aranea: Sounds like she was doing something in the garden she did not want you to discover.
- Serana: It seems that way! Obvious in hindsight, as many things are.
- Wulf: We have a way forward. I suggest everybody have a meal and get some sleep. I will set Bostin’s course for Solitude. We shall rise early and get to the castle soon after sunrise. Hopefully, that will reduce the chance of sentries patrolling the castle grounds.
- Inigo: Does Elsweyr Chowder sound good? I am willing to make it.
- Serana: That sounds delicious! In case I forgot to tell you, I can eat regular food, unlike most vampires.
- Aranea: I doubt you will be able to after Inigo’s Elsweyr Chowder. Hot in the way in, hotter on the way out.
- Serana: Eww!!
- Wulf: Inigo, make it a bit milder for the milk drinkers. I, for one, would love some of your chowder.
- Inigo: Langley handed me a recipe for Dragon Pie. He thought you might find it tasty. I reminded him that you are partly a dragon. He replied that you would only be partly cannibalistic.
- Wulf: I will be in my room. Call me when dinner is ready.
- Serana: Can I help with the cook, Inigo?
- Inigo: That would be appreciated. It will give us a chance to talk away from the evil that plagues me.
- Aranea: Bahahaha!
- Ghorbash: Give it up, Aranea. I don’t think Priestesses of Azura are capable of sounding evil.
I lay on my bed, and instantly, Rigmor was chatting away.
“So, fill me in!”
“We rescued a Moth Priest from some vampires. Interestingly, one of them had a little dick. Then the Moth Priest read Serana’s Elder Scroll, and now we have to find another Elder Scroll before we know what to do about the prophecy.”
“I knew that would be what you asked about first! You are obsessed with male genitalia!”
“I am not! Anyway, how are you going to find another Elder Scroll?”
“Serana thinks her mother, Valerica, has it or would know where it is. So we are going to search for Valerica in a part of Volkihar Castle that Lord Harkon never visits.”
“Ahh, hiding in plain view! That is a clever move.”
“I can’t imagine she could get away with it for almost seven hundred years. But Valerica might have left a clue for Serana, so it is worth trying.”
“Does she know about me?”
“No. Serana is not a Sentinel, and although I have trusted her with many things, you must remain a secret for now.”
“It seems like Serana and Valerica would have had to be careful who they confided in. Serana should understand.”
“She does. I assume that being the daughter of a noble, she had some training in the games of politics.”
“Not if she was just a broodmare to be auctioned off to the highest bidder. It is rare in Cyrodiil for a noble to marry for love. I complain about how many bastards are produced by my citizens, but it is nothing compared to the nobles. Sometimes mistresses attend official functions alongside the wife!”
“Wow! How many can I have?”
“I think you would find it hard to entertain any after I castrated you.”
“Do you think I would ever stray?”
“No, never. What we have is worth more to both of us than life itself.”
“Yes, well, let us agree not to die heroically until we have lived on that farm for many years.”
“My biggest danger at the moment is dying of boredom.”
“Let us hope it remains like that.”
“I know there is a chance I will get sucked back into the danger and uncertainty. But you will be by my side, and together we are unstoppable.”
“Until we got to Riften Market. Then I would not be able to drag you away with a Mammoth!”
“Can we stay in Riften for a few days?”
“Yes, after Inigo and Latoria have had their stay.”
“She is lovely. I hope Inigo treats her well!”
“Aranea told him she would tie his tail into a knot if he doesn’t.”
“I hope one day she and Sethri can make a go of it.”
“Deep down, she knows he is a nice person. Annoying, sometimes flatulent, but nice.”
“Many pilgrims stop to pray in front of my Azura statue. Unfortunately, the Daedric shrines are too widespread in Cyrodiil. The Empire is proud to proclaim religious freedom. Still, it is not so easy to convince the general population that Daedra worship does not mean the return of the Ayleid or another Oblivion Crises.”
“We will be having Inigo’s Elsweyr Chowder for dinner. Serana is keen to try it.”
“Make sure Inigo doesn’t use any garlic.”
“Serana is a Vampire Lord. Garlic doesn’t bother her, I assume. She is helping Inigo cook, so if she turns into a pile of ash, I know I was wrong.”
“I was thinking about what she endured. Do you think she could ever have normal relationships with men after that?”
“I don’t know. Angi has taken the plunge with Yngol. I often wonder about some of the children after the abuse they endured.”
“Do vampires still like intimacy?”
“They are as varied as us ‘cattle’. There are academic books that go into details, but I am not going to ask Serana! In some ways, she seems rather prudish. Not all noble daughters turn into perverts. Just the ones from Bruma.”
Rigmor and I continued talking till I was called for dinner. The food was good, the conversations light-hearted, and I was relaxed and ready for the next part of this Divine Task.