The Prize

Sundas, 15th Sun’s Dusk, 4E 201

& Morndas, 16th Sun’s Dusk, 4E 201

I had to fix the vampire problem in Morthal even though Vigilants of Stendarr were in the city. I am tired of Vigilants harassing innocent civilians whilst obvious Daedric activity is ignored. They do not represent what Lord Stendarr teaches. I know Lord Stendarr’s avatar travelled with Father for several years and that Divine is the epitome of empathy and compassion.

I decided to take a squad of the new Dragonguard on a trip to The Hall of the Vigilant. There I hoped to speak to Keeper Carcette, the leader of the order in Skyrim. I planned to offer our assistance if something needs investigating but is too dangerous for Vigilants to handle alone.

The squad I chose consisted of Gregor, Froa, Rayya and Valdimar.

Upon exiting Silverpeak Lodge, I summoned Nafaalilargus.

He appeared out of the ether and gently landed on Silverpeak Lodge’s roof. I hadn’t warned the squad, and some drew their weapons.

Nafaalilargus chuckled and said, “Dovahkiin, I see introductions are in order, and perhaps clean undergarments.”

I said to the group, “Put your weapons away. Nafaalilargus is a friend and ally.”

Weapons were sheathed, and curiosity took over from fear.

  • Froa: Other Dragonguard mentioned you, Nafaalilargus. You were a Legionnaire and friend of Tiber Septim.
  • Nafaalilargus: Yes, I was a Legionnaire. Tiber called me ‘The Proud Jewel of the Imperial Crown.’
  • Wulf: Nafaalilargus, you shouldn’t lie in front of me. You named yourself that, not Father.
  • Nafaalilargus: Sometimes, Talos’ crotch spawn, you can be rather irritating.
  • Gregor: There Wulf goes again. He is talking about his father as if we four are not still in awe.
  • Wulf: I have told you that Father being Talos is normal to me. Don’t expect any reverence except what a son shows a loving father. Being the son of gods is irrelevant to most things I do.
  • Nafaalilargus: Let us return to the important subject. That being me, of course.
  • Wulf: Nafaalilargus has helped mortals many times and not just Tiber Septim. He is a hero amongst the Khajiiti, for he helped them defeat powerful dragons that invaded Elsweyr.
  • Valdimar: Didn’t Cyrus kill you?
  • Nafaalilargus: Cyrus wasn’t a Dragonborn, so he did not absorb my soul. But yes, he beat me with brains, which I admit, are not my strength. Who are you?
  • Valdimar: Valdimar Jurgarnsen, ex Battlemage of The Imperial Legion.
  • Nafaalilargus: A mage? That would explain your smart-arse question.
  • Wulf: Nafaalilargus, it is not up to us to massage your colossal ego. Cyrus beat you in battle. Get over it!
  • Rayya: And be careful what you say about Cyrus!
  • Nafaalilargus: Your name, Redguard?
  • Rayya: Rayya Shifylar.
  • Nafaalilargus: Be assured, Rayya, that I greatly respect Cyrus even though he called me Richton’s pet. Cyrus managed what some of the most powerful Dov failed to do and defeated me in battle. Although I like gold, I am still fond of battle and appreciate Cyrus’ skill. Some think his defeat of me forced Tiber Septim to negotiate a treaty, but that was always going to be Lord Talos’ approach.
  • Wulf: Let’s not get caught up in certain parts of the past. Overall, Nafaalilargus has been a friend and aid to mortals.
  • Gregor: I am Gregor Fjanssson, and I am honoured to meet you, Nafaalilargus.
  • Nafaalilargus: You have an air of command about you, Gregor.
  • Gregor: I was Captain of the Dawnstar’s city guards. My father was a no-nonsense sergeant during The Great War. Military discipline has always been part of my life.
  • Froa: I am Froa and was once a Stormcloak. Then I tried to be a Priestess of Talos but found that quite tricky. Wulf has allowed me to help people, and I am wearing boots!
  • Wulf: Froa doesn’t usually wear boots.
  • Nafaalilargus: Froa, it would be boring if we were all the same. I am not a typical dragon.
  • Froa: The Dragonguard, especially those who trained in Akavir, are not typical. I feel right at home!
  • Wulf: Nafaalilargus, we will teleport to my new property, Heljarchen Hall, and then walk to The Hall of the Vigilant.
  • Nafaalilargus: And you want me to fly scout?
  • Wulf: Yep.
  • Nafaalilargus: Okay, summon me again from Heljarchen Hall, as I have no idea where that is.

I have been practising the summoning of the new Dragonguard, so now I can do it as easily as with the longer-serving members. We appeared outside Heljarchen Hall.

Then I summoned Nafaalilargus and headed for The Hall of the Vigilant.

When we passed Fort Dunstad, a platoon of Legionnaires had just finished morning muster. Skyrim’s citizens felt more secure now that Legion troops garrisoned all the forts.

A bit further on, Nafaalilargus hovered and said, “Hello, bandit-type person! Should I roast you alive?”

I walked over and said, “Nafaalilargus, leave him to me!”

The bandit, who had been waiting to ambush somebody, turned and swung his axe at me. I blocked the axe with my shield and cut his head off.

Valdimar commented, “I was told that you decapitate enemies quite often.”

“It is the cleanest and surest way to kill. If you stab somebody or cut across them, they might still take a swing or two before doing the decent thing and dying. Nobody has ever swung at me after I cut their head off. Besides, apart from some knights with neck guards, there is usually no armour to worry about.”

We were climbing high so I could look at The Hall of the Vigilant before we entered it. Nafaalilargus roared angrily and said, “Wulf, The Hall of the Vigilants is destroyed! I see a dead Vigilant and Death Hound.”

We hurried to the top of the rise and looked down upon smoking ruins. There was no sign of life.

We quickly climbed down and followed the road to The Hall of the Vigilant’s entrance.

A Death Hound lay where killed.

A Vigilant lay dead upon the entrance stairs. His lifeblood was frozen around him.

We entered the main building to a scene of devastation. Dead vampires, Death Hounds and Vigilants, lay scattered amongst the shattered furniture.

The dead vampires wore clothes synonymous with the Volkihar tribe. A male vampire’s armour was particularly elaborate and denoted that he was of high rank.

One deceased Vigilant lay on a table with a key next to him. It was to open a nearby safe, which was already unlocked and empty.

I turned to The Dragonguard.

  • Wulf: Thoughts?
  • Gregor: There are not enough casualties for the damage we see. It is out of proportion.
  • Wulf: I agree. The amount of damage suggests a significant battle occurred, and there should be more dead Vigilants than we can see. The vampires would not bother gathering their dead. Therefore I think those we see were all that were killed.
  • Froa: Do you think the Vigilants were outmatched?
  • Wulf: Outmatched and outnumbered. There are far more Vigilants wandering the roads than rested in this hall or Stendarr’s Beacon at any given time. There are very few Vigilants at the new temple being built. Many of the Vigilants who were here are now cattle for the vampires or thralls. Some would say their fate is worse than their comrades’ quick death.
  • Valdimar: It is impossible to tell with the vampire corpses, but the Vigilants died a few days ago.
  • Wulf: Yes, a couple of them are fly-struck, and I would estimate three days ago. Or, to be more precise, three nights ago, the vampires would have attacked at night.
  • Rayya: Do you think any Vigilants survived?
  • Wulf: It is possible. It is not cowardice to leave an unwinnable battle. Not when your survival will probably save more lives than a senseless death.
  • Valdimar: That is what General Tullius told me. When it became apparent that the fight at Helgen against Alduin was unwinnable, he selected a handful of people to escort him to Solitude. It was not ego when he told us that many lives would depend on his survival. We understood, and so did those we left to die. If they had a break in the fighting, they saluted us as we organised ourselves and our mounts. When we were ready, the remaining Legionnaires and city guards attacked Alduin all at once, giving their lives so General Tullius could live. We were terrified Alduin would hunt us, but he didn’t.
  • Wulf: Alduin somehow knew I would come to Helgen and waited for me. That is the probable reason why he didn’t pursue General Tullius.
  • Valdimar: Why didn’t Alduin attack you?
  • Wulf: He did not know the strength of my Thu’um or if I knew the Shout the Ancient Tongues used on him. Alduin ordered his restored dragons to fight me and observed a couple of those battles. I think the strength of my Thu’um surprised him, but I had no way of defeating him for some time.
  • Valdimar: So, if he has attacked you…
  • Wulf: We wouldn’t be having this conversation.
  • Gregor: Some of the vampires are wearing expensive-looking armour.
  • Wulf: The signature armour of senior Volkihar vampires.
  • Gregor: And what are Volkihar vampires?
  • Wulf: I suppose you could call them a species of vampire, but they use the collective noun of a tribe. The vampires of a tribe can trace their line back to a particular coven. Sometimes that lineage started thousands of years ago. The Volkihar vampires are the largest tribe in Skyrim. I don’t know if Movarth was a Volkihar, and I doubt very much that those in Bloodlet Throne were. Members of a tribe do not necessarily work together or even like each other. They are divided into clans. Clans are sometimes divided into two or more covens. It would have to be a powerful clan of Volkihar vampires that attacked the Vigilants.
  • Froa: Why attack them now? I would think that attacking this hall is like kicking an ant nest. The Vigilants will be incensed, gather together and lash out.
  • Wulf: That is a good question, Froa. Why do you think they attacked the hall since Volkihar vampires are renowned for being elusive and discreet? Some even live under the ice, dragging their victims through it and into their lair!
  • Froa: Well, perhaps they were after something they knew was within this hall?
  • Valdimar: Yes. They might have been after an artefact, a book, or even a person with certain information.
  • Froa: The safe was empty and unlocked. Maybe what they were after was in there?
  • Wulf: This is all excellent thinking but speculation since we don’t have any clues to tell us why they attacked. Also, I don’t think any of the dead are Keeper Carcette. Therefore, we need to speak to other Vigilants and gather more information. The only other place they gather in numbers is Stendarr’s Beacon. We will walk there from Riften. There is also a new temple being built south of Dawnstar. We might visit that as well.
  • Gregor: Will the Vigilants rebuild this hall?
  • Wulf: I will rebuild it! I want to increase the influence of The Divines in Skyrim. If you look at the original charter of The Vigilants of Stendarr, they can be a boon to communities through free healing and even escorts for pilgrims. Lord Stendarr taught that all mortals should be given help where needed, no matter their race or religion. I think the Vigilants of Skyrim have lost their way, and a bit of a nudge will put them on the right path.
  • Gregor: Well, I would say this is a pretty big nudge!

I telepathically said to Nafaalilargus, “We are teleporting to Riften and then walking to Stendarr’s Beacon.”

“I will go there and see if it has been attacked, then find you and report.”

Nafaalilargus roared and vanished into the ether.

I held on to my Amulet of Talos. Even the new Dragonguard members knew I was about to talk to Rigmor.

“Hello, milady.”

“Good morning, my Dragonborn. Are you having fun with the Vigilants yet?”

“We arrived at The Hall of the Vigilant and found it destroyed by vampires. All the Vigilants that were here are dead or missing.”

“Oh! How long ago did that happen?”

“We estimated at least three nights ago. We will report the massacre to Stendarr’s Beacon and make plans there.”

“Do you know which vampires did it?”

“We suspect they are of the Volkihar tribe. That narrows it down to about ninety-percent of vampires in Skyrim.”

“Why did they attack the hall?”

“We think they were looking for something or someone. An artefact or information or maybe both. We don’t have any clues as yet.”

“Talk to me when you know more.”

“Will do. Have fun numbing your bum on your throne.”

“I expect a line of people wanting to know what will be done about the Thalmor. Like Elisif, I can’t say something that might contradict Mede’s official policy.”

“Use Olette’s advice.”

“I might have to. Freathof and Malesam will object to posting announcements around the city. Then again, they object to everything. But who wears the tiara?”

“Not you.”

“Well, I might have to get one.”

“I once asked Mother how she dealt with obstinate advisors.”

“And?”

“Kick them in the nether region and continue with your idea.”

“Hey, that might work!”

I was smiling as we teleported into Honeyside.

When we exited Riften near the stables, a Legionnaire was having trouble with one of the ex-guards.

I stepped in and cut down the assailant.

The Legionnaire said, “Thank you, General. These idiots still appear occasionally and claim we took their jobs. That is at least half a dozen since the war ended.”

Froa looked at the body and quipped, “You’re losing your touch, Wulf. This guy still has his head attached.”

We cut across the grasslands near Riften and encountered a lone Vigilant.

I said, “Excuse me, Vigilant. I need to speak to you.”

She turned and said, “You speak to a Vigilant of Stendarr. Cavort with any Daedra, and we will hunt you down.”

“You’re a Vigilant? Perhaps that is why I called you one?”

“Yes, well, what can I do for you, citizen?”

“We have just come from The Hall of the Vigilant. It has been attacked and destroyed by vampires.”

“Yes, we know. Keeper Carcette arrived at Stendarr’s Beacon a few hours ago.”

“Is Keeper Carcette badly hurt?”

“First, tell me who you are. It is suspicious you knew about the hall, and now you ask about our leader.”

“I am General Wulf Welkynd, Dragonborn and Champion of The Divines. I am also Thane of whatever Hold you call home, except for Winterhold, but that will be added soon.”

“Ahh, the one who blasphemes about talking to Lord Talos and is a known associate of Daedra.”

Far too often, I have to scare idiots into cooperating. I used my Thu’um and whispered, “I DO TALK TO THE DIVINES, AND I DEFEATED ALDUIN WITH THE BLESSINGS GIVEN TO ME BY THE NINE. I HAVE THWARTED DAEDRIC PRINCES AND EVEN TRAVELLED TO THEIR REALMS IN OBLIVION TO DO SO. NOW TELL ME, IS KEEPER CARCETTE BADLY HURT!”

The Vigilant flinched then, in a less arrogant manner, said, “She may lose sight in one eye. Her exhaustion plagued her as she staggered into Stendarr’s Beacon.”

“Thank you, Vigilant. Stendarr be with you.”

A bit further on, Nafaalilargus appeared out of the ether and said, “Oh look, some bandits are waiting in ambush. They look a tad cold, the poor things.”

Nafaalilargus then roasted a couple of bandits who screamed as they burnt.

Froa whined, “When do we get to kill the bad guys? You and Wulf are wiping them out and making us feel redundant!”

Nafaalilargus laughed and replied, “There are some bandits just over the bridge. Have fun! And Wulf, Stendarr’s Beacon is intact, although the occupants don’t seem used to dragons hovering over them.”

As my scaly friend said, more bandits were waiting to ambush travellers. I let my friends take care of them.

A bit later, an Argonian in Legion armour yelled, “I prayed to The Hist that you would cross my path, Dragonborn. Time to die!”

He ran towards me, and I jumped out of his way.

I said, “Whoa, whatever I did, let’s talk about it.”

The Argonian charged at me once more, so in one fluid movement, I stepped forward, drew my sword and cut his head off.

Froa clapped and said, “That is more like it. I wonder if his head will roll to Riften?”

I searched the Argonian, and there was nothing on him to indicate who he was or what I did to offend him.

I said to the Dragonguard, “People who should be allies, such as that Vigilant earlier, fail to recognise me. Lunatics and assassins seem to have no trouble recognising me, even from a distance.”

We continued our trek, and Stendarr’s Beacon came into view.

When we arrived, one of the Vigilants did recognise me and told me where I would find Keeper Carcette.

We found Keeper Carcette curled up on a bedroll. One of her eyes was covered by bandages. I gently shook her till she woke.

She looked at me, and then I helped her stand.

She said, “I was unsure if it was a delusion caused by my injuries, but now, I know it was Lord Stendarr. He showed me a vision of you and told me you are The Champion of The Nine, as you have always claimed. I am honoured to meet you, Dragonborn.”

“I am glad to see you alive, Keeper Carcette. Can you tell me what happened at the hall?”

“They came at us in numbers that I have never witnessed before. Not ordinary Volkihar vampires, but members of the Volkihar Clan. No thralls, just powerful vampires and Death Hounds. They swept through us like a scythe through wheat.”

“The Volkihar Clan? The ones who live in that castle off the coast near Northwatch Keep?”

“Yes. The vampires of that clan are some of the oldest on Nirn. They have always been quiet and careful not to draw our ire. We never had reason to risk many Vigilants in an assault on their castle. Now we do.”

“How did you survive?”

“I thought I was dead. So did the vampires as they searched the ruins, or they would have sensed some fresh meat lying helpless. Without conceit, I thought they would be looking for me. It seems Lord Stendarr aided in some way, for not only did I survive, but he also provided a holy weapon for me to seek revenge.”

“It is not conceited as I also think you would have been a priority target. What did you do after awaking amongst the enemy.”

“As I said, I thought I was dead, but then pain, and the voices of the vampires, convinced me I was alive. I opened my eyes, and the pain in my left eye almost made me gasp. The hall was crumbling around me, and through the flames, I could see dead Vigilants and several high-ranking Volkihar. The vampires were discussing somebody called Harkon. I recognised that name, for he is the leader of the Volkihar Clan. I felt no anger as I prayed to Stendarr for the power to stop the unfolding tragedy, but I quickly realised it was too late. I then prayed for survival, as I was needed to guide my flock and defend the innocents of Nirn.”

“And Lord Stendarr answered your prayer. That is something The Nine rarely do. Not because they don’t want to, but The Liminal Barrier makes it difficult for them to do so.”

“I could not locate my weapon and had to be subtle in movement while searching for it. My hand fell upon the blade of a silver greatsword. I had only ever used a mace and was untrained in such a weapon. However, when I put my hand around the sword’s hilt, I felt energy surge through my body and pain and exhaustion were gone. My wounds stopped bleeding, and my armour and the sword felt light and unencumbering.”

“You had never seen the weapon before?”

“No, if one of the Vigilants owned it, I would have seen it.”

“What did you do next?”

“I leapt to my feet and ran through the burning building, cutting down every monstrosity in my way. The sheer hatred I have for vampires seemed to resonate through the sword and my Amulet of Stendarr. The corpses I left behind were the only casualties on the Volkihar side I witnessed. There were still a few alive that pursued me.”

“That is an impressive feat. The vampires had wiped out many Vigilants without casualties before that.”

“I don’t think they killed many of us. There were not enough dead Vigilants, and I doubt they took the dead with them. No, they must have taken many of my comrades alive with them. The Vigilants would have to be enthralled or unconscious, as not one of them would have surrendered.”

“Outrunning vampires would take great speed and stamina.”

“They did not pursue me far. Once again, I suspect Lord Stendarr is responsible for that.”

“Did you run from the hall to here?”

“Yes, my strength was unwavering until I reached Stendarr’s Beacon. I ran for three days and barely had time to tell what happened and issue orders before collapsing. They carried me to this bedroll, and I knew nothing till you woke me. While unconscious, for it was deeper than sleep, Lord Stendarr let me know you would arrive and will aid us.”

“I can sense a decent level of Magicka in you, Keeper Carcette. Are you a Restoration Mage?”

“Yes, as many Vigilants are, we also have many proficient alchemists. We create healing and remove disease potions.”

“I came to visit you at The Hall of the Vigilant because I fear The Vigilants of Stendarr have lost their way. Yesterday I destroyed a coven of vampires that planned to turn or enthral all of Morthal. Yet two Vigilants in Morthal knew nothing of this and even questioned my integrity when I informed them of the threat.”

“I have had reports over the last few months of you confronting Vigilants and accusing them of blasphemy and failing to follow the tenets and commands of Lord Stendarr.”

“There will always be a need for competent warriors to address the dangers posed by some Daedric worshippers and Daedric Princes. However, The Vigilants of Stendarr should be a welcome sight to the people of Skyrim. Instead, Vigilants suspect all and warn all, like paranoid lunatics! They are viewed with fear, apprehension and little perseverance.”

“That is true, and I doubt I would have listened to your complaints as I didn’t listen to Isran and others. Maybe all of you were correct, and the blame lies with me. I did not want to listen to what I needed most to hear.”

“Is Isran the leader of The Dawnguard?”

“Yes, he was once a Vigilant. However, his methods were too extreme, and when I asked him to change his ways, he left the order and resurrected The Dawnguard. Another Vigilant, Celann, left with him. Both expressed dissatisfaction with The Vigilants of Stendarr in Skyrim. Isran’s main claim is we were too soft.”

“What is different about Isran’s approach? Why did you regard his methods as too extreme?”

“Isran’s hatred for vampires makes him reckless in his decisions, and he will risk the lives of many to kill a few vampires. Isran believes that the end justifies the means, but that is not what Stendarr teaches.”

“Is his hatred for vampires what drives Isran and not the desire to protect the citizens?”

“Yes, and he put the citizens at risk in his zeal. Isran shows compassion at times and professes to worship Stendarr. However, his motivation is hatred. He joined us when he witnessed his entire family murdered by vampires who were Molag Bal cultists.”

“People believe that all vampires worship Molag Bal. That is not the case.”

“No, but the majority do.”

“What did Celann say when he left the Vigilants?”

“Like you, he was concerned about our direction. We were not too soft but too harsh. We moved from being respected to despised. We were not what the founders of the order envisioned.”

“It sounds likes Celann would clash with Isran. Is he still at Fort Dawnguard?”

“I don’t know because I have not spoken to any Dawnguard member for several years. I do not know who else Isran has recruited over those years. However, in the last two months, he has been sending recruiters to all the Holds of Skyrim.”

“Yes, I met one, an Orsimer named Durak. He joined The Dawnguard after vampires killed his two wives.”

“Then he is probably another whose motivation is hatred.”

“I have been concerned that The Dawnguard might be nothing more than vampire haters with no concern about an individual’s guilt. Many vampires are of high morality and do not prey upon mortals. Many have helped mortals in times of crisis, and even today, some hold important positions within Skyrim. Is The Dawnguard like The Silver Hand in that respect?”

“I cannot say for certain, Dragonborn. May I ask about the vampires in Morthal?”

“What do you want to know?”

“Who was the leader of the coven you destroyed?”

“Movarth.”

“What do you know about him?”

“Nothing. The Jarl said he was a problem over a century ago, but she thought he had been destroyed.”

“Did the vampires in Morthal look like mortals?”

“Until they died, yes. I detected they were vampires through various means, such as viewing their body heat. I could also have looked at their auras and read their souls. When they died, their vampire status was more visually evident.”

“Then I think you were dealing with Cyrodiilic vampires, and the leader was Movarth Piquine. Did he carry a weapon?”

“No.”

“Movarth was an unarmed trainer in the Fighter’s Guild in the late second era. He never used weapons and killed many vampires of the Keerilth tribe in Valenwood and the Volkihar tribe in Skyrim. One tribe he couldn’t hunt with any success was The Cyrodiilic Vampyrum Order. The reason is that Cyrodiilic vampires looked like mortals and hid amongst the population. Movarth was getting advice from an expert on vampirism who was, unknown to Movarth, a Cyrodiilic vampire. Movarth causing issues to other tribes in other countries was of use to The Cyrodiilic Vampyrum Order. However, when Movarth’s attention turned exclusively towards their tribe, it was decided to recruit him. His advisor caught Movarth by surprise and made him a Cyrodiilic vampire.”

“Movarth had free-will. He chose to hunt mortals and was, therefore, a traitor. There are many instances where unwilling vampires did not change their morality or prey on mortals. Many of them have been nobles in positions of power and could have wreaked havoc in Molag Bal’s name but didn’t.”

“I suggest you read the book titled Immortal Blood. It was written by the vampire who turned Movarth.”

“I will do so. It seems your library within The Hall of the Vigilant was destroyed.”

“Yes, and many unique tomes were within our collection. Fortunately, many were replicated for placement within the new Temple of Stendarr, but some have been lost to history.”

“That is a great loss, but the missing Vigilants concern me. What can you tell me about the Volkihar Clan?”

“Very little. The clan have been isolationist for centuries. Whatever goes on inside their castle is unknown. We suspect their members include the original Volkihar vampires or at least an early generation of them. What relationship they have with other Volkihar vampires is also unknown.”

“I find it incredible that a known nest of vampires has been sitting just off the Skyrim coast for centuries, yet The Vigilants of Stendarr know so little about them.”

“As I said, we know they are powerful and had no reason to lose many Vigilants in an assault on their stronghold. Now we have paid for our caution.”

“You assume the vampires were members of the Volkihar Clan because they mentioned Harkon?”

“That was a clue I heard, but I do not doubt they were members of the Volkihar Clan. The source of such certainty I cannot ascertain. Perhaps I saw or heard something I can’t remember.”

“Should I visit the new Temple of Stendarr near Dawnstar?”

“They need to know what happened, and you will get there faster than the Vigilants I sent from here. Although the temple is nearing completion, it is currently populated by builders, artisans, and only a few Vigilants. The Keeper of the temple is Thorondir. He is my junior and will be second in seniority in Skyrim after the temple is sanctified.”

“I shall assist with the rebuilding of your hall. But that can wait till we deal with the Volkihar Clan. Do you think they were after something you had within the hall? The safe was empty when we inspected the carnage.”

“We always have Vigilants delving into ancient tombs and researching obscure texts. We don’t want to be caught unawares by major developments. It seems that endeavour failed miserably. But no, Dragonborn, I don’t know if they were looking for something or what it may have been. The only vampires I heard talking were speaking Tamrielic but with heavy accents. I understood few words but knew that Harkon was the subject of their conversation.”

“Lord Stendarr could only aid you because you were within a sanctified temple surrounded by his amulets and shrines. You may have been very close to death when he aided you, so that confusion would be understandable. Having been rescued from death myself, I know of such confusion.”

“Oh, which of The Nine aided you, Dragonborn?”

“Lady Azura saved my life, Keeper Carcette.”

“Oh.”

“I am the champion of several Daedric Princes.”

“And The Nine do not object to this?”

“No, Keeper Carcette. They hold no animosity towards the Dark Lords. They know that some will only be enemies of me and some will barely tolerate me, but they trust I will make the correct choices.”

“You have given me much to ponder. But alas, the need for sleep is once more upon me.”

“Yes, of course. I will keep you informed of what is happening, Keeper Carcette. Stendarr be with you.”

“Blessings of The Nine upon you, Wulf Welkynd.”

I helped Keeper Carcette to lower herself onto the bedroll. She was asleep within seconds of laying her head down.

I told the Dragonguard, “We shall walk to Fort Dawnguard from here. I will dismiss Nafaalilargus. It is never ideal when a huge dragon flies over the castle of already paranoid people.”

I contacted Nafaalilargus telepathically and told him, “You are free to go, Nafaalilargus. Thank you for your assistance.”

“Did you notice, Dovahkiin, that I did not mention your meltdown even once? I was going to suggest you drink a few gallons of milk, but this weird thing called empathy said that would be rude.”

“And to think I was going to gift you with a wonderful, solid gold candelabra that I found last week.”

“Hey, I didn’t belittle you, even though it was very tempting!”

“Ask Wujeeta for the candelabra. You should also apologise for vomiting out the front of the house.”

“It was not intentional, Dovahkiin. Even dragons can get bad stomachs on occasion.”

“It stunk like mouldy cheese.”

“Well, the mammoth had been fermenting in my stomach for some time.”

“Off you go and don’t roar. You might make some Vigilants soil themselves.”

Nafaalilargus roared and then chuckled before vanishing into the ether. I suppressed a chuckle of my own as a Vigilant fell onto his backside and stared upwards in horror.

I decided to update Rigmor.

“So, are you hoarse yet from repeating the same assurance over and over and over?”

“No, because a Royal Courier arrived from Mede with a sealed message. He will make a response on behalf of The Empire in due course. In the meantime, the Counts and Countesses are responsible for easing their citizens’ worries. After that arrived, nobody objected to a proclamation being posted around the city and town criers being sent to the bigger villages and towns.”

“We arrived at Stendarr’s Beacon and discovered the head of the Vigilants, Keeper Carcette, had survived the massacre. Lord Stendarr aided her and told her I was coming to help.”

“Does she know who attacked the hall and why?”

“You know that creepy vampire castle just off the coast.”

“Yeah.”

“It was the vampires who live in there. The Volkihar tribe is the type of vampire most prevalent in Skyrim. Well, the ones who live in that castle are the Volkihar Clan. We still don’t know what they wanted or why they attacked. I will visit The Dawnguard to see if they know anything useful.”

“The Dawnguard have recruiters all over the place. We even had one in Bruma trying to recruit vampire hunters.”

“I will talk to you again after I visit them.”

“Okay. How are the new Dragonguard?”

“Not too bad because we haven’t had to deal with much gobblygook.”

“They are still sane?”

“Temporarily. When dealing with ancient vampire clans, I am sure we will encounter mountains of gobblygook.”

“Next supplicant is waiting. Talk later. Bye!”

The Dragonguard had many questions, and our conversation was lively as we walked to Dayspring Canyon, where Fort Dawnguard was situated.

We passed the Vigilant we had spoken to earlier. We nodded to each other, which was the most respect I had yet earned from a Vigilant.

Some wild horses seemed fascinated by the headless Argonian.

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

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

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

We walked past a young man when he said, “Oh, hey there! Are you here to join The Dawnguard, too?”

“I am General Wulf Welkynd, The Dragonborn, and my friends are The Dragonguard. We will not be joining The Dawnguard. We are here to discuss a vampire problem.”

“The Dragonborn!”

“Yes, The Dragonborn.”

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

“What is your name?”

“Agmaer.”

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

“Okay… that makes sense.”

“Good.”

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

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

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

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

“Haha…”

We were impressed by the size of Fort Dawnguard. There must have been many vampires in the second era when the Jarl of Riften had it constructed.

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

Fort Dawnguard’s main structure looked sound. From outside, it seemed it could house quite a sizable garrison.

I told my friends, “We do not need The Dawnguard. If I find them unpalatable, we shall warn them away from our investigations.”

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

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

Isran turned to me.

  • Isran: Who are you? What do you want?
  • Wulf: I am General Wulf Welkynd, Dragonborn and Champion of The Divines. My companions are called The Dragonguard. I am here to investigate the vampire attack on The Hall of The Vigilant.
  • Isran: I suppose killing dragons does qualify you for killing vampires. They require a different skill set but are just as dangerous. All right, you are welcome in The Dawnguard.
  • Gregor: Isran, General Welkynd has killed many vampires, including several covens of dozens each, by himself. Comparing the strength of vampires to the might of dragons is ignorant, if not laughable.
  • Froa: Wulf has faced Daedric Princes in Oblivion, and you think he qualifies to join The Dawnguard? Yeah, I think he is overqualified, don’t you?
  • Valdimar: Vampires threaten the innocent men and women of Skyrim. That is why we are here.
  • Rayya: And in case you missed it, Commander Valdr is here on behalf of The Divines, and I believe that includes Lord Stendarr.
  • Wulf: We are not here to join The Dawnguard but to cooperate in solving a problem.
  • Isran: Yes, well, I stand corrected.
  • Rayya: What exactly is The Dawnguard?
  • Isran: We hunt down and kill vampires. Haven’t you been paying attention?
  • Wulf: Change your tone, Isran! We have come here out of courtesy. We do not need you nor The Dawnguard to investigate and fix the vampire problem. You can be part of the cure, but only if you are not part of the problem. Do you understand?
  • Isran: Somebody as short with words as me. We will get along.
  • Rayya: My question?
  • Isran: In the old days, The Dawnguard kept all of Skyrim safe from those bloodsucking scum. Then people stopped taking the threat seriously, The Dawnguard was disbanded, and the vampires came creeping back. So now I am trying to re-establish The Dawnguard. Thereby we can take the fight to the vampires for a change. I hope it isn’t too late.
  • Wulf: Dragons didn’t come creeping back but announced their return by wiping out entire towns and battalions of soldiers. Nobody believed in dragons, so there was no defence. The Blades were almost extinct, and nobody knew how to fight dragons. Dragons were in danger of enslaving all mortals, so The Divines sent me to Skyrim to deal with them.
  • Tolan: And they have sent you to deal with the vampires?
  • Wulf: They placed me on Nirn to defend all mortals from all threats. These vampires must have a plan because we deal with the Volkihar Clan. After centuries of remaining quiet, they have declared war! They wouldn’t have a hope of surviving if I attacked their castle with a battalion of Legionnaires, so there must be something they think gives them an edge. I intend to find out what that is.
  • Isran: How do you know the Volkihar Clan is involved?
  • Wulf: I recognised the dead vampires at The Hall of the Vigilant as senior Volkihar tribe vampires. Keeper Carcette told me they were members of the Volkihar Clan.
  • Tolan: But Keep Carcette is dead?
  • Froa: Did you hear that, Wulf? We should go back to Stendarr’s Beacon and tell Keeper Carcette she is dead!
  • Wulf: Tolan, how did you hear about the attack on The Hall of the Vigilant?
  • Tolan: A young Vigilant near Riften told me.
  • Wulf: And you came running here without waiting for them to finish the tale.
  • Tolan: Well, yes, the shock made me a bit hasty, it seems.
  • Wulf: Lord Stendarr helped Keeper Carcette survive. She slayed several senior vampires and some Death Hounds before running for three days to reach Stendarr’s Beacon. She issued orders and then collapsed. While she was unconscious, Lord Stendarr told her I would arrive to help The Vigilants of Stendarr. Keeper Carcette has been watching the Volkihar Clan for a long time. She was confident that was who attacked the hall.
  • Isran: Well, now we know the enemy, is seems vital that we establish a place for vampire hunters to train and be protected from this threat.
  • Wulf: I agree. We will do some fieldwork while you concentrate on getting this fort up to scratch and recruitment. I must understand if there is a plot of Molag Bal’s involved. I could destroy the Volkihar Clan, but I want to know what they are up to first.
  • Isran: Tolan told me about some cave the Vigilants were poking around in. They seemed to think it was related to increased vampire activity. Tolan, General Welkynd about, what was it, Dimhollow?

I turned to the elderly Vigilant.

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

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

  • Wulf: It is not far from The Hall of the Vigilants. We think most of the Vigilants were turned, made thralls or taken as cattle. I don’t know Brother Adalvald, so I can’t say if he was among the dead or missing. Keeper Carcette agreed with my speculation the vampires were searching for something. Brother Adalvald might have been their target.
  • Tolan: The vampires took most of the Vigilants? Then something must be done to rescue them!
  • Wulf: You took a vow when joining, did you not?
  • Tolan: Yes, a sacred vow that none would dare break.
  • Isran: I never broke the vow but was tossed out for other reasons.
  • Wulf: Would that vow allow the endangerment of many innocents to save the Vigilants who also took that vow?
  • Tolan: No.
  • Wulf: Then understand that we must save as many innocents as possible. To do that, we must understand why the Volkihar Clan have done this. Wiping them out to rescue the Vigilants taken from the hall might not accomplish that, and then we would have failed in our duty.
  • Gregor: Rescuing the Vigilants would be the same as ignoring mortal casualties to kill a few vampires. We wouldn’t want to do that now, would we, Isran?
  • Isran: Look where timidness has led us.
  • Wulf: I warn you, Isran, that I do not regard all vampires as things to be slaughtered. When living in Skyrim, they are protected by the same laws as mortals. Punishment rendered must be consistent with Imperial Law. Do not break those laws or ask others to do so. Do you understand?
  • Isran: I understand hypocrisy backed by strength.
  • Gregor: Isran, here is a chance for you to either point our General Welkynd’s hypocrisy or apologise. If you don’t do either to my satisfaction, I will smash you in the face.
  • Rayya: I think Isran mistakenly thinks that Wulf regards dragons as beasts that need to be hunted and killed for what they are, not what they have done. Is that right, Isran?
  • Isran: You call yourselves Dragonguard. Is that not what your order does?
  • Wulf: It is what some did, and for the same reasons you hate vampires. However, if it weren’t for dragon allies, we would have lost the Dragon War, and I would have failed to defeat Alduin. Dragon allies prevented another dragon from stealing the magic of the Khajiiti and becoming a god. Similarly, vampire allies have aided mortals many times and still do today. I can cover the roof of Fort Dawnguard with dragon allies if you need proof, Isran.
  • Isran: Then I apologise, General Welkynd. I have concentrated so much on rebuilding this fort I have paid little heed to the outside world.
  • Gregor: That is good enough. I might have hurt my back trying to reach your mouth anyway.
  • Rayya: Isran, I believe you are still a devotee of Lord Stendarr.
  • Isran: Yes, I am. Why do you ask?
  • Rayya: Then you do not consider yourself Ash’abah?
  • Isran: No, I was raised to follow The Nine, not the Yokudan ancestor beliefs. What about you?
  • Rayya: I will be Ash’abah the moment I kill my first vampire. I have accepted this as I see what Wulf has sacrificed to protect the mortals of Nirn. Such a label will not decrease my faith in my gods.
  • Wulf: Rayya, I apologise for not asking about your willingness to combat the undead.
  • Rayya: Vayu and I talked long about the subject. He accepted my willingness to do so as genuine before accepting me into The Dragonguard. You have been somewhat distracted, so do not concern yourself with that minor oversight.
  • Wulf: Thank you, Rayya. Now, we shall head for Dimhollow Crypt and report what we discover as soon as possible.   
  • Isran: Here, take a crossbow. They are good for taking out those fiends before they get close.
  • Froa: Wulf is the best marksman with a bow I have ever seen. We can fire several arrows before the best crossbow user can fire a single bolt.
  • Wulf: Froa, crossbows are better for those not proficient with bows. And the average crossbow has more stopping power than the average bow. However, I do not need the crossbow, Isran.
  • Tolan: I’ll meet you at Dimhollow Crypt. It’s the least I can do to avenge my fallen and missing comrades.
  • Isran: Tolan, I don’t think that’s a good idea. You Vigilants were never trained for…
  • Tolan: I know what you think of us. You think we’re soft and that we’re cowards. You believe our deaths proved our weakness. Pray that Stendarr grants mercy and that you do not have to face the same test and be found wanting. I’m going to Dimhollow Crypt. Perhaps I can be of some small assistance to you, Dragonborn.
  • Wulf: I advise you not to go to Dimhollow Crypt, Tolan, as you are not needed there. However, Keeper Carcette could use you, so I advise you to head for Stendarr’s Beacon. I see you wear the robes of a Restoration Mage. Those skills will be necessary for the days to come.
  • Tolan: I doubt I could add much to the expertise of you and The Dragonguard.
  • Wulf: If I went to Dimhollow Crypt to kill vampires, I would not take my friends. I have wiped out dozens of vampires at a time by myself. Their Blood-Magic cannot harm me, and my Thu’um kills even the most powerful of them without me having to draw my sword or bow.
  • Isran: Why can’t their magic harm you?
  • Wulf: I have blessings that make my blood that of Saint Alessia, Dragonblood, and my soul that of a dragon. I am mortal, but vampiric Blood Magic does me no harm.
  • Gregor: Not only that, General Welkynd is probably the finest warrior on Nirn. He has killed thousands of mortals, Daedra and undead in combat. He has traversed different parts of Oblivion, confronted Daedric Princes and survived.
  • Wulf: I will take my friends with me as observers. We are on a scouting mission, and the more eyes and brains involved, the more likely we will discover what we seek.
  • Tolan: But you don’t know what you seek.
  • Wulf: That is precisely why the more eyes and brains, the better for this task.
  • Tolan: Oh. That makes sense.
  • Isran: How many days before you can report your findings?
  • Wulf: It will take us about an hour to reach Dimhollow Crypt. I have no idea what we shall encounter there. If we have not returned by midday tomorrow, something drastic has happened.
  • Isran: How can you possibly get there so quickly?
  • Wulf: I could fly there on a dragon. However, we use teleportation spells.
  • Tolan: Fly on a dragon?
  • Wulf: We could spend a lot of time discussing what I can do, or I can get on an do it.
  • Rayya: There is a potential recruit standing over there with his mouth open and a look of amazement on his face, Isran.

Tolan left for Stendarr’s Beacon. We stayed and observed Isran’s treatment of Agmaer.

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

Isran noticed I was watching and knew why.

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

Isran was a good teacher, and I could see he was genuine in his desire to help Agmaer.

We had a quick look around Fort Dawnguard, but I felt some urgency to start unravelling the mystery of why, after so long, the Volkihar Clan had abandoned its isolation.

We teleported to Heljarchen Hall and startled Ennah.

I said, “Sorry, Ennah, but you will have to get used to me appearing randomly.”

“That might take some time, my Thane…uh…Wulf.”

“Well, I am about to summon Nafaalilargus, and he never appears without letting half of Skyrim know he has arrived.”

“He had better not squash the stables or scare my horse!”

“Horses soon get used to him, and he no longer squashes buildings.”

I summoned Nafaalilargus, and he appeared with a roar.

He asked, “Where to, Dovahkiin? I hope this is important as I was having a bath.”

“You can resume bathing in your piles of gold soon, Nafaalilargus. We are heading for Dimhollow Crypt, which is fairly close to The Hall of the Vigilant. Please scout for us.”

“Dimhollow Crypt, close to that smoking pile of rubble. Okay, scouting instead of bathing. I hope I have enough time to count my money after my bath before you call on me again.”

“Did you like the candelabra?”

“It is beautiful, and worth the grovelling apology I had to give Wujeeta. She is a formidable mortal, Dovahkiin!”

Nafaalilargus flew away, and Ennah asked, “Does he bathe in gold?”

“Yes, gold is Nafaalilargus’ obsession. He had mountains of septims that he rolls around in as if it was bath water.”

Ennah shook his head and then continued chopping wood.

We had no encounters on the way to Dimhollow Crypt. Nafaalilargus was eager to return to his gold bathing and vanished within half a second of me releasing him.

We could hear two vampires talking as soon as we entered Dimhollow Crypt. We silently moved further in until one of them came into view.

The vampires were discussing a Vigilant who followed them into the crypt. The vampires were surprised that the Vigilant killed two other vampires before they took him down.

My arrow flew true, and one vampire died.

Froa rushed the second vampire and cut her down just as she resurrected one of her fallen comrades.

A Death Hound was behind a lowered portcullis.

A pull chain in a nearby tower raised the portcullis.

I killed the Death Hound, and we continued our exploration.

Nord coffins were in abundance. I did not doubt that some of them had Draugr inside. I doubt there is a Dragon Lord in Dimhollow, but the Draugr might protect an artefact.

We could see another vampire in the distance. She had her back to us. My arrow hit her between the shoulder blades.

Froa whispered, “How the fuck does he do that?”

Gregor replied, “He aims, then releases the arrow.”

Skeletons rose from out of the ground as we approached some stairs.

Three arrows downed three skeletons.

I warned my friends, “Wait a few seconds and observe.”

One of the downed skeletons reassembled itself and stood.

I destroyed it for the second time.

Froa asked, “Do they always do that?”

“A good percentage of them do. If you are not careful, they will reassemble and attack your back.”

A lever raised a portcullis, and I waited for one of The Dragonguard to ask.

After a few seconds, Gregor asked, “Why the portcullis? Is it supposed to keep something in or out?”

“Neither, Gregor. It is designed to keep you awake at night as you ask yourself that question.”

It was inevitable that the toothy intruders would trigger Draugr. We killed both sides of the argument with equal enthusiasm.

We arrived at a large cavern with several skeletal warriors and a distant vampire.

Unrelenting Force destroyed the skeletons.

An arrow took care of the vampire.

We heard a vampire muttering to herself and complaining about mindless sentry duty.

An arrow stopped her whining.

Another vampire was facing us when an arrow ended its life.

More sneaking resulted in two dead Death Hounds.

A while later, another senseless portcullis separated us from a vampire battling a colossal spider.

I raised the portcullis and killed the combatants with Unrelenting Force.

As we moved past the dead spider and vampire, Froa exclaimed, “Look at those ugly statues!”

“They are called gargoyles, and some of them are alive. When you get close, they will attack with fangs and claws.”

“Haha, Wulf. As if we would fall for that!”

“Okay, don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

Despite her bravado, Froa didn’t stop staring at the gargoyles as we passed underneath them.

We entered a vast cavern and could hear a vampire speaking to a Vigilant.

  • Lokil: Come now, Vigilant Adalvald, surely you realise you have no hope. Tell us what we want, and I can spare your life. Being a thrall is not as bad as it sounds.
  • Adalvald: I’ll never tell you anything, vampire. My oath to Stendarr is stronger than any suffering you can inflict on me!
  • Lokil: I believe you, Vigilant. And I don’t think you even know what you’ve found here. So go and meet your beloved Stendarr.

Vigilant Adalvald grunted as the vampire ended his life. I crept forward to see what we faced.

I looked down on two vampires and the dead Vigilant.

  • Lydde: Are you sure that was wise, Lokil? He still might have told us something. We haven’t gotten anywhere ourselves with solving the puzzle.
  • Lokil: He knew nothing, Lydde, and wasn’t worth kidnapping. He served his purpose by leading us to this place. Now it is up to us to bring Harkon the prize. And we will not return without it. Vingalmo and Orthjolf will make way for me after this.
  • Lydde: Yes, of course Lokil. Do not forget who brought you news of the Vigilants’ discovery.
  • Lokil: I never forget who my friends are. Or my enemies.

I noticed a thrall in the distance, but my first concern was the vampires. Unrelenting Force killed Loki.

An arrow took care of Lydde.

I leapt down and crossed a bridge.

Another arrow disposed of the thrall.

I returned to the body of Vigilant Adalvald and said to The Dragonguard, “Silence, please, while I perform Arkay’s Rights.”

My companions did as I had asked, and after the prayer, I felt better knowing Vigilant Adalvald’s soul would find its way to Aetherius.

I searched the vampires and found nothing of use.

  • Wulf: Theories?
  • Gregor: There was a snitch within The Hall of the Vigilant. They told the vampire Lydde who then told Lokil about Vigilant Adalvald’s discovery.
  • Wulf: Yes, that is the logical conclusion, but far more can be gleamed from that short conversation.
  • Froa: I have no idea what that might be.
  • Valdimar: The blank looks I see suggest you tell us, Wulf, for we have no idea.
  • Wulf: Lokil had some idea what Vigilant Adalvald had found. He thought if he retrieved it, he would gain favour with Harkon, who must be a more senior vampire. Keeper Carcette thought Harkon was the leader of the clan.
  • Rayya: Ah, and Lokil thought returning to Harkon with the prize would elevate him above two other vampires.
  • Wulf: Yes, so we can deduce that the Volkihar Clan has a rigid hierarchy. Senior vampires promote lesser vampires based on merit. There is a big flaw with such a structure.
  • Gregor: The competition between the vampires leads to individuals taking unsanctioned action, such as the attack on The Hall of the Vigilant.
  • Froa: Oh, so Lokil organised the attack on the hall without more senior vampires even knowing of his plan!
  • Wulf: Yes, a likely scenario is that Lokil jealously guarded his secret and, without Harkon’s knowledge, attacked the hall to capture Vigilant Adalvald. But Harkon might have been told by Lokil and let him try. Either way, Lokil brought Vigilant Adalvald here, hoping to extract the information on how to access the prize.
  • Froa: Why didn’t Lokil make Vigilant Adalvald a thrall and command him to get the prize?
  • Wulf: Sometimes, memories are lost when a person is made a thrall. Lokil probably didn’t want to risk that, especially if obtaining the prize involved a complex procedure.
  • Rayya: Vigilant Adalvald did not know how to obtain the prize, which is why Lokil ended the interrogation and killed him.
  • Gregor: Lokil thought he could figure it out, but Wulf didn’t give him a chance.
  • Wulf: That was very well done! Let’s see if the book Vigilant Adalvald carried gives us a clue.

I read the book to the group,

“Notes on Dimhollow Crypt Vol. 3 As written by Vigilant Adalvald

The Divines be praised! Here, at last, is the breakthrough I have been seeking. All the dangers I have escaped, the traps I have eluded, and the foul Draugr I have avoided have brought me to this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

No Draugr-infested burial site in Skyrim contains these statues, save Dimhollow Crypt.

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

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

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

For example, the cutting and shaping of the stonework are suggestive of more sophisticated tools than the crypt’s original architects would have possessed.

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

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

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

I said, “Okay, let’s look at the architecture and see what we have to do to get the prize, whatever that is.”

I didn’t have a close look when I pursued and killed the thrall. Now I stood back and scrutinised the architecture.

  • Wulf: That structure is not Nord and was not made at the same time as the rest of the crypt. The arches are very reminiscent of Ayleid and Snow Elf architecture but in stone, not marble.
  • Valdimar: Is it that ancient? Is it from the first era?
  • Wulf: I don’t know. It is times like this I wish Auryen were with me. He could probably tell us when it was made and by whom.
  • Froa: There are a few skeletons. I would guess they are people who have tried to get to the prize and died for their efforts.
  • Wulf: Just skeletons and no weapons, clothing or armour suggested energy of some type killed them.
  • Gregor: That sounds like fun!
  • Wulf: From here, it looks like the braziers move up and down and maybe along the circumference of the circles. I am guessing the prize is in that central column, and the braziers are the key to opening it.
  • Rayya: Should we all go down there if there are traps to be sprung?
  • Wulf: Let’s get closer and look, then decide what to do.

We spent a few minutes looking, and I could detect no traps. We gathered around the central column.

  • Wulf: That is ancient blood on the dome of the column.
  • Gregor: It doesn’t look like that dome pushes downwards.
  • Wulf: I agree.
  • Valdimar: Logically, blood is needed to make something happen. Also, logically, it would need to be a vampire’s blood.
  • Wulf: A vampire’s blood is no different from a mortal’s. Some blood switches are designed to detect Dragonborn blood, but it is not the same as other mortals.
  • Froa: You should try pushing the dome anyway and see what happens.
  • Wulf: I wonder if the orange globe is hollow. Can’t you hit it from here with a Shout?
  • Froa: Huh?
  • Wulf: Inigo once suggested I try something to see what happens. I ended up summoning a large, angry dragon.
  • Froa: Are we going to give up and walk away?
  • Wulf: No, Froa, I don’t work that way. I can’t figure this thing our by staring at it, so here goes!

I placed my hand over the dome and started to lower it. A spike shot up from the middle of the dome, then penetrated my wrist and poked out the other side. Then it withdrew as quick as it sprung up.

I yelled, “Fuck! Shit! Ow!”

Valdimar cast Grand Healing on me whilst trying to suppress his chuckles.

I looked at my wrist, and it was fully healed. Then I noticed something I had never seen before, Cold-Fire.

  • Wulf: Do not touch the blue flames. You are only partly protected against them.
  • Valdimar: Is that Cold-Fire?
  • Wulf: Yes, which proves we are dealing with something vampire related. Cold-Fire is one of Molag Bal’s creations.
  • Froa: What is Cold-Fire?
  • Wulf: The flames don’t burn. They freeze.
  • Froa: As Olette says, cool! Are we close to getting the prize?
  • Wulf: I am guessing we have to light all the braziers.

I held my amulet as my beloved wanted an update.

She asked, “What are you doing, my Guardian?”

“Trying to figure out a puzzle to get something the vampires are after. It is why they attacked the hall.”

“Do you know what it is?”

“Nope. I have no idea.”

“Well, let me know when you find out!”

“Maybe.”

“What?”

“Of course, my beloved, I will let you know.”

“That’s better. Give yourself a pat and a treat.”

It was uncomfortable placing my hand into the Cold-Fire, but I could do it long enough to move the braziers without being hurt.

I moved one of the braziers and pushed it to the outer ring, and it lit up with Cold-Fire.

I continued to move the braziers and came to the last one.

I warned the group, “I have no idea what will happen when this one is lit. Isn’t this fun?”

Nothing happened for a few seconds after I moved the last brazier into place.

Then the Cold-Fire vanished, and the floor surrounding the central column lowered unevenly to create steps.

The central column turned out to be the top of a pentagonal monolith just over six feet in height.

I studied the monolith on all sides, top to bottom. I couldn’t detect any seams or traps. I touched the five sides, one at a time, until part of the monolith started to slide down.

Slowly the prize was revealed. Inside the monolith was a female vampire wearing Volkihar armour. She had an Elder Scroll strapped to her back.

I told The Dragonguard, “Keep your hands away from your weapons. Don’t do anything that may seem hostile!”

For a few seconds, she remained in a sleep-like state. Then she fell forward, but I did not try to help her, for she may have deemed any sudden movement hostile.

I scanned her soul and found no darkness, just the sickening taint of Molag Bal’s curse.

I can be an imposing sight with my size and armour. I stood relaxed and hoped we could talk before any killing started.

The vampire glanced around and took note of the positions of The Dragonguard. Then she stared at me. I let her start the conversation, unsure what language she would use.

In heavily accented Tamrielic, she asked, “Unh… where is… who sent you here?”

“Here is a chamber within an ancient Nord ruin called Dimhollow Crypt in the Pale Hold of Skyrim. Nobody sent me here.”

“Then why are you here? Why would someone who isn’t… like me… come down here?”

 “Somebody who isn’t a vampire, you mean?”

“Yes.”

“I hope to discover why Volkihar Clan vampires attacked The Hall of the Vigilants. I was not expecting to find who I assume is a clan member in stasis.”

“Are you a Vigilant of Stendarr?”

“No, and I am not a vampire hunter. However, some would kill you simply for what you are, not just The Vigilants of Stendarr. There is also The Dawnguard, a militant offshoot of the Vigilants, who would not bother talking.”

“Not fond of vampires, are they? Well, look. Kill me, and you’ve killed one vampire. But if people are after me, there’s something bigger going on. I can help you find out what that is.”

“As I said, that is why I am here. A vampire by the name of Lokil was responsible for the attack on The Hall of the Vigilant. He was here trying to figure out how to get to the prize, you. Lokil was trying to impress somebody called Harkon. I don’t know if Harkon knew of his plans. It seems Lokil is in a power struggle with Vingalmo and Orthjolf.”

“You are being free with your information.”

“I could see you recognised the names as I spoke them. There are ways of finding out things without questions.”

“I assume you killed Lokil?”

“Yes.”

“I would have killed him for calling me a prize.”

“He may have been referring to The Elder Scroll you carry.”

“Do not try and take it from me!”

“I would not kill you in cold blood, mind the pun, or steal from you. Some introductions would be good. That is only polite before I bombard you with questions, and you duck and weave and do not give me straight answers.”

“My name is Serana.”

“I am General Wulf Welkynd, Dragonborn and Champion of The Divines and various Daedric Princes.”

“Dragonborn?”

“Yep.”

“What various Daedric Princes are you champion of?”

“Azura, Boethia, Hermaeus Mora, Malacath, Meridia and Sheogorath.”

“What do you want to know, Wulf?”

“Why were you placed in stasis?”

“That’s… complicated. And I’m not sure if I can trust you. But if you want to know the whole story, help me return to my family’s home.”

“Would your home be Castle Volkihar?”

“Yes, well, I assume my family still lives there. It is not the most welcoming place, but depending on whose around, I’ll be safe there.”

“Why wouldn’t you be safe in your family home? Is it wise to go there?”

“Let’s say my mother and father had a falling out. Don’t worry. I’m not in danger or anything like that. It’ll just be more unpleasant to run into my father.”

“So, you don’t get on with Harkon?”

“No, he and I don’t get along. Ugh, saying it out loud makes it sound so… common. ‘Little girl who doesn’t get along with her father.’ I have read that story a hundred times. Wait…um…damn it!”

“I feel guilty taking advantage of somebody who has just come out of stasis. Is Harkon head of the clan.”

“As I said, I don’t know if I can trust you.”

“That’s okay, Serana. It is wise to be cautious.”

“I can tell there is more to you than what I see. Call it predator’s instincts if you wish.”

“How long were you in stasis?”

“That’s a good question. It is hard to say. Who is the High King of Skyrim?”

“Who was the last one you remember?”

“Jorunn. He was made High King a few months before I was interred. He had recently defeated the Akaviri and driven them into the sea.”

“That was the year 2E 572 when there was no Imperial Empire, but many squabbled over The Ruby Throne. The second era ended in 2E 896. The third era lasted four hundred and thirty-three years. Today is Sundas, the fifteenth of Sun’s Dusk, 4E 201. Therefore, Serana, you were in stasis for nine hundred and fifty-eight years. I hope your parents are still not arguing after all that time!”

“There is an empire now?”

“Yes, Skyrim, Cyrodiil and High Rock form The Imperial Empire. Like the Reman empire, its leadership resides in The White Gold Tower. Many more countries used to be part of it, but the politics are complicated. High Queen Elisif the Fair is High Queen of Skyrim.”

“That is longer than anticipated. Now I feel an urgency to return home. I need to know why I was left in stasis for so long.”

“Do you know how to get out of here?”

“Your guess is as good as mine. This place looks pretty different from when I was locked away.”

“Well, we could return the way we came, but that is boring. I like to explore, so follow me. And I mean follow, Serana. Do not get in front of me if we encounter enemies.”

“Ahh, who are those with you?”

“They are friends and part of a group that aids me in my tasks. You would have heard of The Dragonguard.”

“A Dragonborn and Dragonguard. Is there a problem with dragons?”

“Not after we defeated Alduin.”

“Alduin returned?”

“Well, defeating him would have been hard if he hadn’t. Alduin’s return was one of many crises that mortal heroes have dealt with while you were in stasis. Your father is probably still crying over the failure of Planemeld. Molag Bal tried to drag Nirn into Cold Harbour.”

“Ambitious.”

“Many Daedric Princes have tried to bypass the Liminal Barrier. He wasn’t the last.”

“What time is it?”

“It will be daytime when we exit. Can you travel in sunlight?”

“Without issue when I am fully fed. My hood will protect me for the trip to Castle Volkihar.”

“Excuse me for a minute.”

I held my amulet and spoke to Rigmor.

“The artefact is quite attractive.”

“What is it?”

“The daughter of the head vampire of the Volkihar Clan. She has been in stasis, like a bear hibernating, for over nine hundred and fifty years.”

“And is she a vampire?”

“Yes, and she had an Elder Scroll with her. I am taking her home. She doesn’t know what is happening, but she might be our best chance of finding out.”

“Why would she help you?”

“My limitless charm and incredible good looks.”

“Wulf!”

“I scanned her soul. She is not an evil person, Rigmor. Her name is Serana, and I think she worries about whatever plans are afoot. That is why she is willing to trust us and help us.”

“Are you going to enter that creepy castle?”

“If Serana wants me to. I will only enter if the rules of parley will be honoured.”

“Why was she in stasis?”

“I have no idea.”

“Okay, tell me more later. Much later! It is very early in the morning, Wulf!”

“Oh, some people get to sleep in comfy beds with silk sheets whilst us workers traipse all over Skyrim.”

“As peasants should.”

I released my amulet, and Serana asked, “Were you praying?”

“No. I was speaking to somebody who lives in Cyrodiil.”

“Does that amulet lets you talk to somebody thousands of miles away?”

“Yes, a Divine placed a dweomer on two amulets to allow the person in Cyrodiil and me to converse.”

“And if I asked about the other person.”

“You would be met with utter silence.”

Serana laughed, and we set out to find the exit.

When we approached two gargoyles, they attacked.