Morndas, 17th Sun’s Dusk, 4E 201
It was a pleasant morning to be outside. Silverpeak Lodge will never be the warmest of places due to its altitude. However, the children were content to sit around the open fire while Celestine read some popular children’s books.
I was helping Olette tend to her menagerie.
Several of my friends were doing other activities, including archery practice, chopping firewood and honing weapons.
Looking around, I could not help but feel relaxed amongst those who love me and whom I love in return.
Meeko was sitting amongst the children and only moved every few minutes to let another take a turn at scratching his ears. He suddenly stood and cocked his head to the left and right.
“Earthquake. A big one!” cautioned Hashire.
Sune advised, “Make your way to the children. They will be frightened.”
Frost became frantic and would have run away, except Hashire and Sune hemmed him in. They knew he risked injury if he hurtled down Silverpeak’s path in a panic.
I thought I would have time to walk calmly to the children, but that was not the case. The earthquake did not start with a low rumble and build to a crescendo. It started so violently that I found myself on my knees and trying not to end face-down in the snow before taking three steps.
Even above the noise of the earthquake, I could hear the terrified screams of the children.
The earthquake was relatively short. About twelve seconds after it started, it stopped just as suddenly.
My friends rushed over to help Celestine calm the children while I helped Olette to her feet. She was not frightened but concerned for her animals and quickly inspected them.
As I helped Olette check the animals, I had my back to The Throat of the World. Olette was facing the mountain, and a look of fear crossed her face. She pointed and said, “Father!”
I had never seen Olette scared, and she had never called me father. With dread in my heart, I turned, and coming down the mountain was a wall of death. An avalanche was hurtling toward Silverpeak Lodge, and I knew I could not rescue everybody if anybody.
Rigmor woke me via our amulets.
“Wulf, what is it? What has frightened you so?”
I sat up and told Rigmor of my vision.
She asked, “And you are sure it was a vision and not a nightmare?”
“What are you doing to do?”
“I will kick myself for never realising the danger of Silverpeak’s location. When exploring Windcaller’s Pass, we saw that this area is prone to earthquakes of some magnitude. But even a smaller tremor will likely cause an avalanche that destroys the lodge and everybody in its way.”
“None of us suggested that possibility, Wulf!”
“I will summon Nafaalilargus, fly to the summit, and talk to Paarthurnax. That will let me look at the snowbanks as we climb and understand how often earthquakes happen. I will talk to Silah and see if she can tell me when this quake might occur.”
“Will she tell you?”
“She will tell me if I have time to evacuate Silverpeak. It will be traumatic enough moving everybody once more, and I don’t want to do it in a rush if I can avoid it.”
“Everybody has invested so much effort into making Silverpeak Lodge their home.”
“I know, but I must protect those I love, and we cannot remain here.”
“There are too many of you to move back into Proudspire and The Safehouse.”
“I could scatter us amongst my many houses, but that is not ideal. Highreach might be the option. I will have to think about it.”
“Nothing is pressing here, so I want to join you today. No arguments, Wulf. I know when my presence will be of benefit.”
“I don’t know what today will entail. However, we must be careful not to reveal your identity.”
“I think you will approve my choice of wig.”
“Do you like the new armours I have prepared for you and Felix?”
“Yes, they are not so shiny and pristine. They look like warrior armour, not parade armour. I don’t blame your friends for wanting a bit of individuality.”
“Others did the honing of the weapons and repairs on the amours. It only took me a couple of hours of enchanting to bring them up to standard.”
“Summon us when you are ready. Go and do your checks, so you know what is next.”
“Yes, my Countess.”
I donned my armour and made my way outside.
The sun was shining, and fog obscured much of The Throat of the World.
I summoned Nafaalilargus. A few seconds later, he appeared from the ether less than three feet from the ground. He still managed to land with a huge thump that made snow tumble from nearby trees.
Hashire commented, “You have all the grace of a falling boulder!”
“At least I can still fly, Lunch.”
Sune whinnied, her form of laughter, then remarked, “You two bicker like brothers!”
I walked over to Nafaalilargus and said, “I want to visit Paarthurnax. Please fly close to the edge of the mountain. I want to inspect it as we travel.”
“You are concerned about avalanches?”
“Yes, I will explain as we fly.”
As I told Nafaalilargus of my vision, we flew up and down the mountainside several times. It was apparent to me what danger lurked above Silverpeak. Why it never occurred to me earlier, I do not know.
We landed close to Paarthurnax.
- Paarthurnax: Drem Yol Lok. Greetings, Dovahkiin and Nahfahlaar.
- Nafaalilargus: Why do you insist on using that name?
- Paarthurnax: Perhaps, like the Khajiiti, I find your preferred name has too many syllables.
- Wulf: Greetings, Paarthurnax.
- Paarthurnax: You flew up and down Monahven several times, Dovahkiin. Were you searching for something?
- Wulf: I was assessing the danger. I had a vision of an earthquake and avalanche.
- Paarthurnax: Do you think the frequency of your visions has increased since travelling through the time wound?
- Wulf: It is too early to tell, but I am more confident distinguishing dream from possibility.
- Paarthurnax: I observed the building of Silverpeak with reservations. However, I thought you must have considered the dangers and knew of the infrequent earthquakes.
- Wulf: Only when travelling Windcaller’s Pass did I realise the strength of the earthquakes in the past. However, the danger of rockslides and avalanches did not cross my mind.
- Paarthurnax: Many think that entities beyond the gods send visions. Your preservation may be important to such beings. God of gods if you so desire.
- Wulf: That is an interesting theory and worth discussing. However, I need to assess the danger right now.
- Paarthurnax: While I awaited the return of Alduin, five earthquakes would have destroyed Silverpeak. The last was that which collapsed Windcaller’s Pass. It is impossible to predict their arrival, Dovahkiin.
- Wulf: The children seemed to be the age they are now in my vision, so I suspect the earthquake is imminent.
- Paarthurnax: Imminent has a different value to Dov and other long-lived entities.
- Wulf: Okay then, within a year or two or maybe tomorrow. We will have to abandon Silverpeak Lodge, but I would prefer to do it without panic if possible.
- Nafaalilargus: Wulf wants to ask Silah, but she is constrained on what she is permitted to say.
- Paarthurnax: Dovahkiin can try. It is worth the effort.
- Wulf: Thank you for your assistance, Paarthurnax.
Nafaalilargus flew me back to Silverpeak, and we studied the dangers lurking above it again.
I farewelled one dragon and summoned another.
Silah slowly descended from a height. Her downdraft raised snow and shook nearby trees. However, her landing was elegant compared to Nafaalilargus’.
I walked over to Silah and asked, “Can you please change to spirit form?”
As Silah transformed, I moved into some shade. My tactics were not lost on the Jill.
Silah walked over and stood with arms crossed. She stated, “You are going to ask something awkward and hope to gain information from the familiar body language of a mortal.”
“You know me well.”
“I had a vision of an earthquake that resulted in an avalanche crashing down from The Throat of the World and demolishing Silverpeak Lodge. I want to evacuate elsewhere without rushing or in a state of panic. Therefore, I must ask, my favourite Jill, do I have time for a planned move, or is the danger imminent?”
“I can tell you this. Any harm to you or the people you love would be a major junction in the timeline. Such a junction is imminent, but it has nothing to do with harm to you or the people who live here. Past that point, there is no major junction for some time, so I would say you can plan for a dignified change of address.”
“Is this major junction to do with Lord Harkon?”
“I can’t tell you that, Wulf. We agreed that you would not pressure me for forbidden knowledge.”
“I apologise, Silah. The vision has put me on edge, and I am not thinking as clearly as I should.”
“Then I hope you have asked Rigmor to join you.”
“She invited herself after I came out of the vision.”
“The empathetic bond via your amulets has perplexed The Nine. They still don’t understand much of the universe’s metaphysics.”
“Love is the most powerful force known. The love Rigmor and I share is likely manifesting in many ways that would perplex logical minds.”
“This is true, and you would think Lady Mara would argue that exact reasoning.”
“I don’t know if Lord Harkon and his clan are Molag Bal devotees. Regardless, I intend to wipe them out, and it would be a bonus if that weakened Bal’s influence on Nirn and aided Mother.”
“Hear that silence? That is your answer from me.”
“Regardless if we have time for a more ordered change of address, the quicker it is done, the better I will feel.”
“You do what is needed, Wulf. Rigmor’s presence will allow you to make the right decisions.”
“Thank you for answering the best you could, Silah.”
“As always, it is my pleasure to aid you when possible.”
Silah changed into her dragon form and took off with the same grace she used to land.
I summoned Vayu, who looked perplexed that I teleported him such a short distance.
When I explained the vision to him, he understood. We must keep our worries to ourselves and not discuss the problems where children might overhear.
Vayu said, “It will be sad to leave Silverpeak, but I agree that we have no choice.”
“Highreach is probably our best option.”
“Our presence there would not stop the changes you want to be made to the town from progressing.”
“You won’t be travelling with me today, as we had planned. I am taking Rigmor, Felix, Lydia, Celestine and Inigo. I have no idea where this vampire thing will lead us.”
“I understand. I will ask Dae to examine Highreach and see what needs to be done to accommodate us. I will remain here.”
“That is an excellent idea.”
“Yes, of course, it is! All my ideas are great.”
Vayu chuckled as he made his way indoors.
I summoned my travelling companions, and we discussed my vision quickly. We then talked about my plan for the day.
- Wulf: I don’t know what will happen with the Volkihar Clan, except I intend to wipe them out.
- Rigmor: Today?
- Wulf: I don’t know. I have only planned visits to Keepers Carcette and Thorondir and then Fort Dawnguard.
- Lydia: Froa said the leader of The Dawnguard is, her term, not mine, an insufferable dick.
- Wulf: Isran has let his hatred of vampires blind him to empathy and reason. He will not like what I have done.
- Rigmor: He would have expected you to kill that vampire lady without hesitation.
- Wulf: I see a need for both Dawnguard and Vigilants to exist and thrive. To do so, they must adhere to the laws of The Empire and the Ten Commands of The Nine. If Isran does not, I will remove him.
- Felix: More authority and less willingness to compromise. That is the new Wulf, according to milady.
- Wulf: I no longer have the patience to cater for idiocy.
- Celestine: And gods forbid anybody is as obstinate as Wulf.
- Wulf: Why do people mistake listening and not agreeing with being obstinate?
- Inigo: Let us go, my friend. This wind is a danger to my plans of parenthood.
- Lydia: You would have to find a blind partner with no sense of smell first.
- Inigo: I see. Wulf summoned you before you finished your coffee.
- Lydia: Is it that obvious?
- Inigo: Yes, and I do not mind being your scapegoat in such circumstances.
- Lydia: Thank you.
- Inigo: You are most welcome.
- Wulf: We shall start in Dawnstar. The new Temple of Stendarr is not far from there.
We materialised outside Dawnstar’s entrance.
We then started walking towards the new temple.
On the way, we visited the Shrine of Dibella. A mountain flower is a standard offering to the goddess, so I placed a red on the shrine’s base.
We entered a short ravine, Stuhn Ravine, which housed the temple. Stuhn is the old Nordic name for Stendarr.
A half-finished marble statue of Stendarr stood to the left of the temple’s entry arch.
We entered the half-completed temple and were met by Keeper Thorondir.
- Wulf: Greeting’s Keeper Thorondir. I am Wulf, Dragonborn and Champion of The Divines.
- Thorondir: It is a pleasure to meet you, Wulf. If you have come to inform us about the attack on The Hall of the Vigilant, a young Vigilant beat you by half an hour.
- Wulf: But that Vigilant did not know who was behind the attack or why.
- Thorondir: No, they did not.
- Wulf: The attackers were Volkihar vampires of Clan Volkihar. They were after information about a particular discovery made by Brother Adalvald. They abducted him and took him to Dimhollow Crypt, where they hoped to recover a vampire named Serana and the Elder Scroll in her possession.
- Thorondir: Recover?
- Wulf: Serana had been placed in stasis by her mother over nine hundred and fifty years ago. She was hidden to protect herself and the Elder Scroll from Serana’s father, Lord Harkon. He is the head of Clan Volkihar.
- Thorondir: Did you dispose of the vampires and recover the Elder Scroll?
- Wulf: No, I disposed of the evil vampires and took Serana home. I let her keep her Elder Scroll since I am not a thief.
- Thorondir: Why would you do such a thing?
- Celestine: Wulf upholds the laws of The Empire and lives according to the Ten Commands of the Nine Divines. Do you worship Stendarr as part of the Aldmeri Pantheon or The Nine?
- Thorondir: I was raised in Kvatch and am a devotee of The Nine.
- Celestine: Serana had committed no crime and asked for assistance. What would Lord Stendarr want Wulf to do in such a circumstance? I believe his command is clear.
- Thorondir: Stendarr’s command says, ‘Be kind and generous to the people of Tamriel. Protect the weak, heal the sick, and give to the needy.’
- Celestine: Serana is a citizen of The Empire who needed assistance. Her vampirism was irrelevant.
- Thorondir: I see. What is the importance of the Elder Scroll?
- Wulf: I don’t know yet. They are usually instruments of prophecy. Serana said she would find out what was happening and let me know. I feel she has placed herself in danger by returning home. Her mother hasn’t been seen for a very long time.
- Thorondir: Serana would turn on her kind?
- Celestine: What do you mean by ‘her kind’?
- Thorondir: Other vampires.
- Celestine: There is no one big family of vampires, Keeper Thorondir. Many vampires live amongst us and contribute to the welfare of mortals.
- Wulf: Serana disagrees with her father’s plans, whatever they are. That is why she was hidden for almost a thousand years. I will find out what Lord Harkon’s plans are and stop them.
- Thorondir: With the aid of Vigilants?
- Wulf: Probably not. Maybe with the aid of The Dawnguard. We shall see.
- Thorondir: I suppose I am in charge of Skyrim’s Vigilants now.
- Wulf: No, Keeper Carcette lives and is recovering at Stendarr’s Beacon.
- Thorondir: Is there a story to her survival? From what the young Vigilant said, the entire Hall of the Vigilant was demolished, and all were slain.
- Wulf: Lord Stendarr provided divine aid.
- Thorondir: I am glad, for I am not ready for such a senior role and Keeper Carcette is my inspiration and who I most want to emulate in my career.
- Wulf: We shall keep you informed of any developments, Keeper Thorondir. Blessings of The Nine on you and all those who labour to bring this temple into being.
I teleported the group to the hill leading to Stendarr’s Beacon. I did not think it wise to appear in the middle of armed Vigilants suddenly.
As we approached Stendarr’s Beacon, it became apparent that a battle had recently occurred. We could see two dead Vigilants. One of them was the young woman I encountered not far outside Riften.
Keeper Carcette was lying atop a bedroll.
“Keeper Carcette, are you awake?”
Keeper Carcette stood, and she looked unscathed from whatever attack occurred.
“What happened here?”
“Two Perfect Blood Hybrids wearing Vigilant armour approached. They were not recognised by the guards and were challenged. They then transformed and killed two Vigilants before they fled before me and the sword gifted by Lord Stendarr.”
“Why would they attack Stendarr’s Beacon?”
“You and The Dragonguard rescued some Vigilants losing a skirmish against such abominations a few nights ago. The remains of the Perfect Blood Hybrids were brought here for dissection and study. I think the two that attacked were hoping to recover those corpses. In the open, even the best armed and armoured Vigilants stand little chance against these creatures. I doubt any Vigilants would have survived if I were not here.”
“No, you need walls from which you can rain arrows and fire. As I told you, I am willing to fund the rebuilding of The Hall of the Vigilant, but it must be made secure.”
“I shall have our head engineers present plans for your feedback. I feel vulnerable here.”
“I can’t convince you to move into Fort Dawnguard?”
“No, the animosity between myself and Isran is extreme. Neither of us would be comfortable.”
“Did Brother Tolan tell you of Dimhollow Crypt?”
“Yes, he said you and The Dragonguard were going to investigate why the Volkihar Clan was interested in that ancient site.”
“The Volkihar Clan kidnapped Brother Adalvald during their attack on The Hall of the Vigilant. He was the target that night.”
“So, Brother Adalvald’s persistence was justified. I was starting to think he was obsessed over nothing.”
“The vampires knew what was within Dimhollow Crypt, but not how to access what they called ‘The Prize’. They were hoping Brother Adalvald knew how to solve that puzzle. He did not. He died defying the vampires, and I think they respected his commitment to Lord Stendarr. Another young Vigilant by the name of Arfier had followed the vampires and tried to rescue Brother Adalvald. He killed two vampires before being overwhelmed.”
“Another promising recruit lost. Did you take care of the vampires and recover ‘The Prize’?”
“Yes. We killed the vampires and solved the puzzle, which was not complex. The vampires were after two things. An Elder Scroll and Serana, daughter of Lord Harkon. She had been placed in stasis and hid with the Elder Scroll over nine hundred and fifty years ago.”
“Her mother hid them to keep both away from Lord Harkon. I trust Serana and believe she will divulge Lord Harkon’s plans to us once she is sure what they may be. ”
“You trust a high-ranking member of the Volkihar Clan?”
“One of the blessings bestowed on me by The Nine allows me to read souls. Serana’s was pure, although tainted by Molag Bal. Her father’s soul was as dark as any I have read.”
“You met Lord Harkon?”
“We escorted Serana to Castle Volkihar, and I entered with her. Lord Harkon may be evil, but he knows the importance of parley laws and respects them. He soon realised he and his clan stood no chance against me if I were attacked and is fortunate that he did not force my hand.”
“So now we wait for Serana to tell us why the Volkihar Clan has risked all by declaring war on The Vigilants of Stendarr.”
“Yes. I got the impression Lord Harkon cared nothing for his daughter. He is a Vampire Lord. I would not be surprised if his wife and Serana are also Vampire Lords. They may even be Daughters of Coldharbour. I could sense a power within Serana greater than any vampire I have encountered.”
“And you say, even after enduring that degrading ceremony, Serana’s soul is barely tainted?”
“I do not know if Serana is a Daughter of Coldharbour. If she is, I doubt she volunteered for the ceremony. At the moment, this is just a theory. If Serana is a Daughter of Coldharbour, she may be reluctant to divulge that information.”
“I hope Brother Adalvald’s and recruit Arfier’s souls reached Aetherius.”
“Arfier died in battle, and the vampires had not tortured or performed rituals on him. Brother Adalvald had been a guest of the vampires for some time, so I performed Arkay’s Rights to guide his soul to Aetherius.”
“Thank you, Dragonborn. You are accomplishing what our order has failed to do. We have been too busy dealing with imaginary threats instead of the real dangers.”
“I am sure The Vigilants of Stendarr in Skyrim will soon be respected and not feared. We have to ensure you can defend yourselves in the future.”
“What is your opinion of Isran?”
“He has lost himself in hatred. He seems to have been successful in his recruiting, but I must ensure they are not a group like The Silver Hand. Beings must be judged on their actions, not what species they are. We visited the new Temple of Stendarr and informed Keeper Thorondir of the situation. He was pleased you survived.”
“Relieved he would not be thrust into command, I am sure.”
“Yes, he did seem relieved.”
“Stendarr be with you, Dragonborn.”
“The Nine are always with me, Keeper Carcette. I might need their help after I tell Isran I escorted Serana to Castle Volkihar.”
Keeper Carcette chuckled as I helped her down to her bedroll.
I expected the question, so I was not surprised when Rigmor asked, “What is a Daughter of Coldharbour?”
As we walked towards Fort Dawnguard, I explained, “Molag Bal uses rape to insult Ladies Mora and Dibella. He created vampirism as an insult to Lord Arkay. He created Coldharbour to mimic and thereby mock Nirn. The 20th of Evening Star is the summoning day for Molag Bal. On that day, a portal to a pocket realm of Coldharbour is opened, and vampires seeking greater power can enter. Within that pocket realm, young maidens are presented to Molag Bal. He rapes them, one after the other, and few survive the ordeal. Those that survive are regarded as wives of Molag Bal and are called Daughters of Coldharbour.”
“That is terrible! Do some young girls volunteer for this barbarity?”
“I assume so. Some may volunteer if told of the powers bestowed upon the survivors. I doubt any who have witnessed the ritual beforehand would do so.”
“So, if Serana is a Daughter of Coldharbour, she may resent Molag Bal for what he did?”
“From what I could ascertain, I would think so. I can’t reconcile who I think Serana is with somebody who would volunteer for that ritual.”
“Do you think Lord Harkon was evil before becoming a vampire?”
“I know little about him. I hope Auryen can obtain some information, but I have not spoken to him.”
“This pocket of evil vampires had been sitting in Castle Volkihar unmolested for over a thousand years.”
“Yes, while The Vigilants were busy terrorising innocent citizens.”
“Could you have destroyed the clan by yourself?”
“Yes. However, I would have invited The Dragonguard to the occasion. There were also innocents present, and I would have to be careful not to harm them.
The rest of the walk was done in silence. The area was beautiful, and the weather was pleasant. Everything around us tried to deny the existence of such darkness as Clan Volkihar brings to Nirn.
We entered the canyon, and Rigmor soon noticed the abundance of icicles. She asked, “I can’t remember if they are stalactites or stalagmites.”
“Well, they are icicles. However, if they were rocks, my mother taught me a way to remember. They must hold on tight or fall if they are hanging down.”
“Aha, so they must be stalactites!”
We encountered a rare creature that looked like an Elk made of wood.
“Ahh, what is that?” asked Rigmor.
“They are called Cernunnos. Nord folklore says they were a race that could transform from the form you see into a half-mortal. The top being that of a Nord. The bottom being that of a deer. It is thought that the race somehow offended Lord Hircine and was cursed to remain in the form you see here.”
“Are they rare?”
“This is the first I have seen, and it probably survives because this valley is so isolated.”
When we were close to the fort’s entrance, we heard the sounds of melee echoing from the canyon walls. We ran to see what was happening.
Three vampires were engaging Isran and another Dawnguard. Isran had surrounded himself with a light that weakened the undead. We drew our weapons and charged into the fray.
I plunged my sword into the back of a Khajiiti vampire mage.
Inigo cut another of the vampires down. Isran and his colleague cut down the third.
I inspected the vampires then we approached Isran, who was waiting for us at the foot of the entrance stairway.
I said, “Before we talk, remove Stendarr’s Light, it is rather annoying.”
Isran did so.
- Isran: I should’ve known it was only a matter of time before they found us.
- Inigo: Well, those recruitment flyers you scattered all over Skyrim didn’t make this place an ideal hidey-hole.
- Isran: True. It’s the price we pay for openly recruiting. We’ll have to step up our defences. I don’t suppose that you have some good news for me, Dragonborn.
- Wulf: That depends on your definition of good news.
- Isran: Tell me, even if it doesn’t contribute to my sunny disposition.
- Wulf: The attack on The Hall of the Vigilant aimed to kidnap a researcher named Brother Adalvald. He had discovered some unusual architecture within Dimhollow Crypt. He guessed it was hiding a relic of some type but was unsure what it was and how to obtain it. Somebody told a Volkihar Clan vampire of Adalvald’s discovery, and that vampire knew what it was. They attacked the Vigilants and kidnapped Brother Adalvald. Then they took him to Dimhollow Crypt, hoping he would know how to obtain what was hidden. He didn’t, and they killed him. However, the good news is we recovered what was hidden and killed the vampires.
- Isran: And do you have the relic with you?
- Wulf: Well, it turns out the relic was the daughter of Lord Harkon, the head of the Volkihar Clan. She was placed in stasis and hidden along with an Elder Scroll by her mother. That was over nine hundred and fifty years ago.
- Isran: And what did you do with the vampire and Elder Scroll?
- Wulf: Her name is Serana, and she asked for our aid in returning home. Therefore, we escorted her to Castle Volkihar, and I entered with her.
- Isran: You escorted her to those who attacked and killed the Vigilants? Why didn’t you kill her? Why didn’t you kill those inside the castle?
- Celestine: How many times will I have to educate these people, Wulf?
- Wulf: Not too often, I hope.
- Celestine: We uphold the laws of The Empire and live according to the Ten Commands of the Nine Divines. Stendarr’s command says, ‘Be kind and generous to the people of Tamriel. Protect the weak, heal the sick, and give to the needy.’
- Rigmor: Serana is a citizen of The Empire and needed our assistance.
- Celestine: We provided that assistance as Lord Stendarr would desire. Nowhere does Lord Stendarr order the automatic execution of somebody because they are a vampire.
- Wulf: And even if The Divines asked me to break the sanctity of parley, I would not. Lord Harkon adhered to those principles, and so did I. I did so even when I wanted to destroy Harkon and his clan of monsters there and then.
- Rigmor: Hasn’t that castle remained unmolested by any Imperial authority for hundreds of years, even though everybody knew vampires inhabited it?
- Wulf: Yes, and when Isran was part of The Vigilants, he never did a thing about them.
- Isran: Some members of Dawnguard left us after disagreements. They have heard about this new threat and have returned. I will deal with them, and then you, Dragonborn, can tell me why a vampire turned up asking for you. Since it is carrying an Elder Scroll, I assume it is the one you took home to daddy. Perhaps it led the other vampires here? I have waited for your return before killing it. You will have to work hard to convince me it deserves to live.
- Rigmor: Isran, I can see Wulf’s anger rising to dangerous levels. I would shut up now if I were you.
Isran looked at me and wisely listened to Rigmor’s advice. He entered the fort with a quick backward glance. I smiled, and he quickly closed the door behind him.
I waited for my anger to subside before entering Fort Dawnguard. Isran had made his way to a balcony overlooking the central courtyard.
Isran pulled a lever, and a lens above us spread sunlight throughout the courtyard. Two people, who I assumed were the returning Dawnguard, were immersed in the sunlight.
- Gunmar: All right, Isran, Sorine, and I are here voluntarily and don’t need to be blinded!
- Isran: Hold still for a few seconds, Gunmar.
- Sorine: What are you doing?
- Isran: I am making sure you’re not vampires. We can’t be too careful.
- Wulf: It is a senseless test, Isran. Serana would pass it, for she is a Daywalker like many other vampires, and I doubt the weaker vampires would dare set foot within these walls.
- Gunmar: I recognise you from the news sheets. You are The Dragonborn.
- Wulf: Yes, I am. I will introduce myself to you another time. I have a young lady to talk to, and Isran will lead me to her, won’t you?
- Isran: You two, look around and get yourself reacquainted with the fort. Much has changed since you were last here. Dragonborn, follow me.
We followed Isran to a small holding cell full of torture equipment. Lucky for him, the cell door was open and unlocked.
- Isran: So, is this the vampire you found in Dimhollow Crypt?
- Wulf: Yes, that is Serana.
- Isran: It says it has something significant to say to you. So, let’s hear it.
- Serana: You probably weren’t expecting to see me again, Wulf.
- Wulf: That is untrue. I knew you would seek me out when you had some idea of what was happening. Perhaps I should have given you directions to my lodge. This fort is not the most pleasant of meeting places.
- Serana: I would rather not be here.
- Wulf: Well, here we are, so what do you need to tell us?
- Serana: It’s important, so please listen before your friend loses his patience. Well, it’s about me, and the Elder Scroll interred with me.
- Wulf: Take as much time as you need, Serana. Isran’s patience, or lack thereof, is of no consequence.
- 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 s depraved maniac. He wasn’t always like that, though. There was… a turn. He stumbled onto this obscure prophecy and 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. For someone who fancies himself as vampire royalty, the idea of vampires no longer having to fear the sun is pretty seductive. It was kind of sick.
- 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, 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 long periods of sunlight. Maybe only slightly shorter than what occurs naturally.
- Wulf: The Harrowings of Rada al-Saran were defeated by the sheer number of troops mortals could field. Vampires would be massacred no matter their allegiance or guilt, as mortals would declare war upon them! You would have armies of Isran’s eager to end your existence!
- 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 have placed yourself in grave danger to tell us this.
- Serana: I have, but it is what I promised to do.
- 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?
I looked at Isran, who stood with his arms crossed and displaying the arrogance of a Thalmor.
Celestine muttered, “He was warned. Now for the lesson. I might take a seat and enjoy the entertainment.”
Isran stepped back in alarm, but it was too late. I growled, “Look into my eyes, Isran. See the power of my soul and why your hatred is no match for Divine justice.”
Isran looked and became immobile as his senses recoiled from what was displayed.
After a few seconds, I whispered, “You need to throttle yourself. Go ahead and do so. One hand only.”
Isran’s right hand went to his throat, and he gasped for air as he squeezed with all his strength.
A few seconds later, Isran started to stumble and was in danger of collapsing.
I whispered, “Stop squeezing and take some breaths. Leave your hand there in case more lessons are needed.”
When Isran recovered enough, I said, “Take your hand away, and we will continue our discussion.”
When Isran had regained some composure, I restarted the conversation.
- Wulf: Isran, I have powers that you and many others would rightly regard with fear and probably regard as evil. However, evil and good are not defined by the powers an individual possesses but by the purposes for which they use them. Some vampires use their powers to hunt mortals and treat us as cattle. Others use their powers to help mortals, as witnessed throughout the written histories of Nirn. Right now, powerful vampires hold senior positions in the Holds of Skyrim, the Counties of Cyrodiil and the Kingdoms of High Rock. They are trusted in their roles, yet you seek to label them all evil simply for being vampires.
- Isran: My hatred is what makes me strong!
- Wulf: No, it makes you stupid. What makes you think you could kill Serana? I have seen her in battle, and Serana would end your life in a second. But she wouldn’t have to because I would kill you if you tried to hurt her. And if you think you would have any hope against me, your idiocy is beyond measure.
- Isran: You would kill me to defend a vampire?
- Wulf: Yes, as that would be my duty as a General of The Imperial Army and Champion of The Divines. Serana is not an ‘it’, as you keep inferring. Serana is a citizen of The Empire and is protected by its laws. She 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.
- Celestine: Serana, what do you make of the blood spread over the floor and torture equipment?
- Serana: It is not mortal blood but that of a pig. It is a common trick amongst amateur thugs designed to intimidate their guests.
- Celestine: I concur, and that fact has also saved you from jail time, Isran.
- Wulf: Yes, if I thought for a second you ever used this equipment on a citizen of The Empire, it would earn you many years in a penal mine, Isran.
- Celestine: Blind hatred has led to enormous injustices by zealots who think their actions are righteous.
- Wulf: Isran, hatred like yours leads to unnecessary bloodshed and genocide. Ask a Minotaur or Ayleid or Falmer. Oh, you can’t because mindless hatred killed them all!
- Isran: I will never trust a vampire!
- Wulf: Who cares? You are not needed, Isran, as I keep reminding you. The Dawnguard could exist without your bias and be better for it.
- Isran: The Dawnguard is mine! I have rebuilt it and this fort, not you.
- Wulf: I am a Thane of The Rift. This fort and land belong to Jarl Horik Strong-Hand, not you. I could have you removed anytime I desire. Unless you can produce legal titles, which I know you can’t. And you certainly don’t own the volunteers who have joined The Dawnguard. You would be surprised how very few would follow you out of that door if I decided to replace you.
- Isran: You’d better know what you are doing.
- Wulf: If I didn’t know what I was doing, you would have been enslaved by Alduin and his dragon allies. You would have been enslaved if I hadn’t travelled to Oblivion and stopped a god manifesting on Nirn. You would have been enslaved if I hadn’t gone to a different realm of Oblivion and defeated another Dragonborn who wasn’t as lovely as me. You would probably have died if I hadn’t stopped Queen Potema manifesting in Solitude. So yes, Isran, I know what I am doing! I do not doubt that I will prevent your death or enslavement many more times in the future if I continue to survive.
- Celestine: You would know nothing of this insane prophecy and the threat to the sun if Wulf had not trusted Serana.
- 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 pretend he isn’t here.
- Serana: I might be able to do that until I feel hungry.
- Wulf: I think his blood might give you heartburn.
Isran grumbled something and then stormed away in a foul mood, which I think is his natural state.
Rigmor had contributed little to the discussions and watched intently as Serana and I talked.
- 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 its content meant nothing to me, and I would not want to try again. It takes a Moth Priest to interpret them correctly.
- Serana: You read an Elder Scroll?
- Wulf: Yes. Reading it enabled me to travel back in time and learn how to defeat Alduin.
- Serana: I did miss some interesting things while in stasis! 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. Recently a Moth Priest by the name of Dexion Evicus asked if he could visit my museum and study the Elder Scroll.
- Serana: You have a museum?
- Inigo: My friend owns many properties. He is stinking rich.
- Serana: I can’t remember any blue Khajiiti before my internment.
- Inigo: I am unique, but we can get to know each other later.
- Lydia: Unique like other snowflakes.
- Wulf: Don’t mind those two. They fight side by side and look after each other.
- Serana: Will Dexion be at your museum?
- Wulf: He might be. If not, Auryen, the museum curator, will know where he is.
- Serana: And where is this museum?
- Wulf: Next to The Blue Palace in Solitude.
- Serana: Do you want me to travel with you?
- Wulf: Yes, Serana. Your immediate family is part of the problem. It is only fair that you have some say in their future.
- Serana: I know my father cares nothing for me. I will have no qualms about doing what is needed to stop his insane pursuit of the prophecy.
- Wulf: Wearing that Volkihar outfit will cause issues if we encounter any Vigilants. Therefore, we shall visit my lodge, and you can select suitable robes for protection. I will then enhance them with my usual array of dweomer. I will also hone and improve your Daedric katana for you.
- Serana: And then we shall visit the museum?
- Wulf: Yes, that is the plan.
- Serana: Do I have to place my hand on your shoulder again?
- Wulf: No, I have teleported you before and can now do so without physical contact.
- Serana: Ready when you are.
- Wulf: You better chat with Inigo first. I can see he is curious so expect a myriad of questions.
Serana faced Inigo with curiosity also evident. A blue Khajiiti does that to people.
“My name is Inigo, and I am pleased to meet you, Serana.”
“Likewise. I can tell you are a close friend of Wulf’s.”
“Indeed. My friend rescued me from an existence of self-loathing and lack of purpose. It is a privilege to help him, and the other Dragonguard protect the citizens of Nirn and, of course, aid the various gods that ask him for assistance.”
“Why are you blue, Inigo? Did you fall into a vat of dye?”
“The alignment of the moons determines a Khajiiti’s Furstock during labour. A rare alignment creates their traditional leader, a male we call The Mane. Another rare alignment produces a cub of any Furstock with blue colouring. They are usually killed due to baseless superstitions and fears. My mother hid my brother and me, so we did not suffer that fate. A pair of retired assassins eventually adopted us. How I ended up with Wulf is a long story best told over a warm fire.”
“Unfortunately, the pleasure of warmth from an open fire is denied vampires. You might say we are allergic to open flames.”
“Yes, those we fight tend to be very combustible.”
“So, what do you want to know, Inigo?”
“Some vampires attacked Fort Dawnguard, and amongst them was a Khajiiti. Is that a rare thing, and does our blood taste different?”
“Haha, I can see you are indeed curious.”
“Yes, and I must warn you, I am less inclined to avoid embarrassing or awkward subjects than Wulf.”
“Most vampires are opportunistic feeders. All mortal blood is the same, although there are components unique to each specie. The taste varies only if the mortal’s diet varies. A hungry vampire will not care what mortal species is available if a meal presents itself. Allowing a victim to survive after contracting Sanguinare Vampiris or other transformation disease is a personal choice that many factors, including race, may bias.”
“My friend said that the vampires in Castle Volkihar were consuming mortal flesh. He has wiped out a coven that fed on children. Is the eating of mortal flesh needed for your survival?”
“No. Vampires only receive nutrition from blood. Usually, Volkihar Clan vampires are not flesh eaters and frown upon the practice. However, the mortals that Wulf saw being consumed were captured Vigilants. Eating their flesh was a form of defiance against Stendarr and those mortals Father regards as our greatest enemies. He would never have condoned such a thing in the past. That he suggested and allowed it demonstrated how depraved he has become.”
“How did you become a vampire?”
“Generally, the children of vampires follow the family tradition. But I sense you are fishing for more information that Wulf is too polite to pursue. Vampires cannot breed via intercourse. We do not age after transformation. Vampire numbers only increase by allowing the various vampiric diseases to run their course.”
“Yes, my friend recently eliminated a vampire who was transformed at ten. That did not stop her from being a very efficient assassin.”
“Even at ten years of age, she would have the physical strength of an adult vampire. Her abilities would not be any less, and her apparent age may have been a valuable asset if she pursued an assassin career.”
“My friend said Lord Harkon offered to turn him into a Vampire Lord on the spot. Would that negate the need for Sanguinare Vampiris to run its course?”
“Yes, instant conversion is one of the powers bestowed upon Vampire Lords. However, each generation of Vampire Lord is less powerful than the preceding one. Wulf would have become a Vampire Lord of less power than Father.”
“Is Lord Harkon very powerful because Lord Bal gifted him the powers of a Vampire Lord and not another vampire?”
“I can see where this is leading, but I will play your game, Inigo. Yes, Molag Bal gifted Father his Vampire Lord powers.”
“You did not answer my earlier question, Serana. How did you become a vampire?”
“The ceremony was… degrading. But we all took part in it. Not a wholesome family activity, but I guess it’s something you do when you give yourselves to a Daedric Lord.”
“Did you agree to the ceremony?”
“Okay, enough of the games. I am a Daughter of Coldharbour and a Vampire Lord. I might have agreed to become a vampire if my parents had asked, but they did not. I would never have agreed to become a Daughter of Coldharbour. I was tricked, and both my parents were guilty of pursuing favour with Molag Bal by risking their daughter’s life. Mother regretted her actions. Father never did. Do not ask about the ceremony. One day, I might be able to tell others of that ordeal. Right now, I do not want to discuss it.”
“Do you worship Molag Bal? I ask this for I must protect my friend, and he has reasons to oppose that Dark Lord whilst showing tolerance of others and even cooperation with some.”
“After what was done to me, that is a superfluous question.”
“It is not, for some beings would become enamoured of the powers bestowed upon them and not dwell upon how they were acquired. My friend has reasons to oppose Molag Bal, and if you are a devotee of his, that will make your acquaintance incompatible.”
“I must feed on mortal blood. That is not an impulse I can ignore with willpower. Wulf mentioned that many vampires have lived and still live amongst mortals and have benefited them. They, too, would still need to feed on mortal blood. Becoming a vampire does not remove free will. Unlike thralls, we decide our loyalties and subsequent actions. Father has chosen a path I find abhorrent and not simply because of the way I was betrayed. I respect the gods that sacrificed much to create Mundus and Nirn. I do not respect the gods who try to usurp their creation or destroy it. So, no, I do not worship Molag Bal. I pick my victims carefully and never feed on the innocent. When I kill to feed, I do not regard that as a crime as those I prey upon are the same types I am sure you, Wulf and the other Dragonguard kill in great numbers. Vampire Lords also feed less than other vampires. I can survive considerably longer than most without consuming blood.”
“I am sorry if I have upset you, Serana. I only ask these things out of concern for Wulf.”
“I understand, Inigo. I am a bit terse because I have been forced into a lifestyle that is not of my choosing. I have been denied the right to a pleasant afterlife shared with loved ones. I am destined for Coldharbour, and Molag Bal would not be pleased I oppose him.”
“My friend says there is a mage who can make vampires mortal once more and free of Molag Bal’s taint.”
“That is more rediscovered magic as that has not been possible for a long time. I would consider becoming mortal once more, but not while my vampiric powers are of use in opposing Father and his insane scheme.”
“Thank you for answering my questions, Serana. I genuinely look forward to travelling with you as we aid my friend in his endeavours.”
“I can see your loyalty and the others travelling with Wulf is strengthened by love. That will always give you an edge over those surrounding Father. They do not love him but seek power. Their loyalty is fickle.”
I said, “Everybody, please relax when we get to Silverpeak. Lydia, please escort Serana to the basement and help her select a kimono. Serana, leave your sword with me, and I will hone it and place dweomer upon it.”
We teleported into Silverpeak. As Lydia escorted Serana to the basement, Rigmor and I chatted.
“Wulf, I am finding it hard not being myself around you.”
“I trust Serana, but we must remain cautious until we know more about this absurd prophecy and how entangled she is.”
“Her parents allowed her to be raped by Molag Bal!”
“Serana loves her mother, and we do not know what has happened to her or even her name. She might despise her father, but enough to watch him die? We still have much of Serana’s history to unravel before we know her enough for some secrets to be revealed.”
“When you told me you used your Weredragon form to make a point with Lord Harkon, I was upset you have not shown me or your friends that transformation.”
“When we are all gathered for a meal, instead of entertaining with music, I will transform into a Weredragon for the amusement of all.”
“Sarcasm, my dear. It is an art of which you lack practice.”
“What will you do with Silverpeak Lodge?”
“I was considering leaving it to nature to reclaim the land slowly. However, there is a risk somebody might squat in it. I think I will ask my scaly friends to demolish it.”
“Squat in it? As in, go to the toilet?”
“Squat in the civilised part of the world from whence I came means to illegally live within somebodies’ residence or pitch tents upon their property.”
“Your coffers are not endless. The changes to Highreach, rebuilding The Hall of the Vigilant and refurbishing yet another home must stretch affordability.”
“Nowhere near it, my dear Rigmor. My funds are decreasing as I cannot collect enough gems to pay for everything. However, it will be many years before I start having to count my Septims.”
“You are Thane of every hold bar Winterhold. Has that ever been done before?”
“A letter was waiting for me when I arrived at the lodge yesterday. I am also Thane of Winterhold. I don’t think that feat has ever been accomplished before.”
“Back to this prophecy thingy. How could the vampires block out the sun?”
“It is the energy contained with the sunlight that is harmful to vampires, not the light itself. I can cast spells that contain the same energy and harm vampires that way. It would be possible to place a temporary filter between the sun and Nirn that blocks that energy. It would not have to make it as dark as night. However, vampires have advantages in the dark as they can see body heat the same way I can. Therefore, I assume whatever method is used will involve darkness. Plants need the energy within sunlight that harms vampires. Temporary blocking of the sun is possible and understandable. Permanent blockage makes no sense and would be suicide as plants become extinct, followed by starving animals and mortals. Every vampire would also die. I am unsure what happens when they are denied blood for extended periods. I don’t think it would be pleasant.”
“As you said, and as Serana and her mother know, vampires would be eliminated by the overwhelming number of mortals who opposed them.”
“And I doubt The Nine, or the other et-Ada, including Magnus and the Magna-Ge, would allow the death of mortals and Nirn by vampires blocking sunlight. No, whatever magic is used to block the sun would be countered by the gods. Even if they didn’t do so by manifesting in Mundus, they would teach mortal agents the magic needed to reverse whatever is done.”
“Inigo can be sneaky.”
“Serana knew what he was fishing for and provided it. She will eventually tell us what happened during the ceremony. She has probably never had a chance to share her experience with those who may show empathy and thus ease the burden somewhat.”
“Serana claimed her father was not so bad until he discovered the prophecy.”
“Molag Bal does not turn nice people into Vampire Lords. Serana might not know what Lord Harkon did to earn that gift.”
“Do they have to be virgins for Molag Bal to turn them into Daughters of Coldharbour?”
“No, but it is tradition to emulate what he did to Lamae, the first vampire. She was a Nedic maiden and devotee of Lord Arkay. Molag Bal chose her because of her love for Lord Arkay. Molag Bal’s nature is spiteful, and he seems easily slighted. It is easy to think of him as evil.”
“He is what he is, as you often tell people when discussing the Dark Lords. What Lord Harkon and his clan do is evil and done in the pursuit of power.”
“Listen to the sounds of Silverpeak. To me, that cacophony is the sound of mortals enjoying the basics that all crave. Wherever we move to must be filled with the same cacophony.”
“I see Inigo is chatting with some of the children. He is a natural with them.”
“His early years were in an orphanage with Fergus, his brother. I think he understands orphans more than most adults.”
“I wonder how Sorella is?”
“I have not visited them because I am unsure how Yngol feels about my killing of Ulfric. You can always visit Angi and Sorella if you wish.”
“Yes, I might do that. It is probably best they do not know we are still together.”
“Sorella and Lydia were close. Both had suffered recent losses and leant on each other for support.”
“I would not dare visit them without Lydia!”
“What do you think of the variety of armour The Dragonguard chose?”
“Some of them have remained with their original armour. The Akaviri Blades chose some strange-looking pieces.”
“Their armour is not metal but treated woods and leathers. It is as strong as the best steel but weighs far less. However, it is so foreign to Skyrim it will attract attention.”
“And the different coloured katana and dai-katana?”
“All of them are of the highest quality, and colour was a personal choice. The techniques to colour the blades are unknown by Skyrim’s blacksmiths, so the swords will also attract attention.”
“I might chat with a few people while you do whatever is needed to get Serana equipped.”
Rigmor was warmly greeted by those she approached, and I was smiling as I headed for my workroom.
An hour later, we teleported into the museum and hunted down Auryen. As we walked through the Hall of Heroes, Serana noticed the recently installed statue of Azura.
“Why do you have a statue of a Daedric Prince in your museum?”
“Read the plaque.”
Serana quickly read the plaque and remarked, “I see. This museum discusses your life and achievements and displays recovered artefacts.”
“That is its purpose, yes.”
“Lady Azura helping to save your life was a major part of your story so far.”
“Yes, and so I have chosen to mention that fact as one of the first exhibits most patrons will see. No mutual exclusivity prevents me from being Champion of The Divines and Champion of various Daedric Lords.”
“I have not had much opportunity to catch up on the last nine hundred and fifty years of history.”
“I mentioned another Dragonborn I battled in Oblivion when giving Isran his lecture.”
“Yes, I remember.”
“I did not kill him but allowed him to redeem himself. He lives in one of my houses. He had been in stasis since The Dragon War.”
“He has thousands of years of history to learn!”
“One of the Dragonguard comes from a Time Shard. Do you know what they are?”
“Every action creates an infinite number of timelines. Occasionally, time is so broken timelines appear that have no history from before they existed. They come into being, and the entities who live in the shards do not know that their memories are false.”
“That would be a disturbing thing to discover.”
“Yes, and one of the Dragonguard is having to do that. He has to compare what he thinks was real history with the reality of this timeline. It is complex, but he is doing well.”
“So, poor Serana having to catch up on less than a thousand years of history is not a great burden.”
“Oh, it is a burden, especially since you have to deal with the status quo without preparation. But the two examples I gave should encourage you and show that it is possible.”
“This other Dragonborn was in Oblivion. Was he a tool of one of the Daedric Princes?”
“He was Hermaeus Mora’s champion. I now hold that position although the tentacled one and I do not get along.”
“What was Hermaeus Mora’s plot?”
“It wasn’t Mora’s. The Dragonborn rebelled against Mora, and the plot was his. He was enslaving the population of Solstheim using a combination of Thu’um and the ancient magic of The All-Maker. He had not yet escaped Apocrypha, but once he did, he planned to enslave all of Nirn. Thralls would have populated the world. Vampires were not resistant to the magic used.”
“What magic did you use to make Isran choke himself?”
“I could have done it via Thu’um or spell. However, I controlled his soul, and he did not have the willpower to resist. That technique might not work on others.”
“Are you a powerful mage?”
“I am Master of all the Schools of Magic, including Necromancy. But I also know spells taught to me by The Psijic Order, and The College of Winterhold is eager for me to spread that knowledge.”
“You are young, Wulf. How have you accumulated so much knowledge?”
“Sorry, Serana, but we are encroaching on areas that must remain secret for now.”
“I understand. I also noticed how the young Nord woman looks at you. She is the special one from Cyrodiil if my intuition is not mistaken.”
“I cannot say.”
Serana was smiling as we continued our search for Auryen. Legionnaires had replaced the murdered guards. They certainly looked intimidating!
We found Auryen heading for the library, where he spends time in between giving guided tours.
“Good afternoon, Auryen.”
“Greeting’s Guild Master. Can I assist you?”
“How are the Legionnaires working out?”
“Oh, they are eager to learn and become useful guides to our visitors. They will be rotated every three months, so they will have plenty of time to learn what is required.”
“Is Brother Evicus still in Solitude?”
“No, he needed to visit The College of Winterhold and left a few days ago. He was investigating the trail of some other Elder Scrolls. If he is not there, I am sure Master Urag will know his whereabouts.”
“Then Winterhold it is. Thank you for your assistance, Auryen.”
We teleported to the outskirts of Winterhold.
As we walked, Serana exclaimed, “Wow! What happened to Winterhold? It wasn’t so crumbly the last time I visited.”
“You visited The College of Winterhold?”
“Yes. I was never a college member, but my research into ancient alchemical formulas required me to use The Arcanaeum occasionally. Auryen mentioned Master Urag. Is that Urag gro-Shub or one of his offspring?”
“If you visited here not long before you went into stasis, he would be the Urag gro-Shub you knew. A bit older but the same grumpy Orsimer mage. At first, I thought he was about six hundred and fifty years of age. However, Auryen told me he is close to a thousand years of age.”
“He was born in the 3rd City of Orsinium. I never asked his age because I am allergic to being ripped apart by Atronachs. That would make him 990 years give or take thirty. Orsimer don’t live that long. Therefore Master Urag must be using Magicka to prolong his life.”
“He still uses the Atronach threat, and many mages prolong their life with Magicka. Nobody objects to the practice as long as necromancy is not involved.”
“What happened to Winterhold?”
“In 4E 122, a series of severe storms battered the Skyrim coastline. During one of those storms, parts of Winterhold slid into the sea. Some think most of it did, but there is not enough debris in the water to sustain that theory. I think most of it sunk into the old city below. I intend to solve the mystery one day when I am not getting dragged from one crisis to another.”
We made our way to the Arcanaeum, and Serana stood still with a look of amazement on her face.
She whispered, “The library has grown a bit! All those stories of the heroes of old. Fables, legends, all sorts of narratives!”
“There are a lot of false narratives amongst the honest ones. The college has been quite careful to mark them as questionable. Part of the reason I wanted to create the museum is to teach the truth.”
“I will have to visit when I can, but we need to talk to Master gro-Shub. I am starting to worry Father might send his best clan members to hunt us.”
“It would be unfortunate for them if he did.”
Urag watched as we approached. Serana remarked, “He hasn’t aged a day!”
- Wulf: Good afternoon, Master Urag.
- Urag: Greetings, Master Wulf. Hello, Serana. Nice to see you again, Celestine.
- Serana: You recognise me?
- Urag: You borrowed a copy of ‘Notes on Kagouti Mating Habits by Edras Oril’ in 2E 272. 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 should have joined the college. We always have vampire students, although some try to hide their undead status.
- Wulf: Master Urag is exercising his almost extinct sense of humour. He tried the same joke on one of The Dragonguard.
- Serana: Ha de haha!
- Urag: Thank you. I appreciate an audience that appreciates me. Now, Master Wulf, what can I do for you?
- Wulf: Is Dexion Evicus still in Winterhold?
- Urag: He arrived a couple of days ago and spent a few hours reading obscure texts I retrieved for him, then left for Dragon’s Bridge. He was following the trail of an Elder Scroll supposedly in a private collection near there. He was most upset at the demise of Master Septimus.
- Wulf: I did exact some revenge on Hermaeus Mora by denying him some knowledge he has lusted over for centuries.
- Urag: May I ask why you need a Moth Priest?
- Wulf: For the usual reason. We have an Elder Scroll that needs reading. Perhaps you didn’t notice it sticking out either side of Serana?
- Urag: No, because her hips are much more significant than I remember.
- Serana: If any of you laugh at that, you will be a midnight snack!
- Urag: Serana, would you consider donating that Elder Scroll to The Dragonborn Gallery or this college when you have finished with it?
- Serana: If I survive, I will think about it.
- Urag: Uncertain survival? Didn’t anybody warn you that travelling with Master Wulf is dangerous? He attracts the most interesting enemies.
- Serana: And is that well known?
- Urag: People know some of his exploits after reading his journals. All of them are expertly annotated by a famous and respected Orsimer mage.
- Serana: Journals? What journals?
- Wulf: I keep journals of my activities so that the truth is published. I don’t want my actions misinterpreted or used for propaganda. We occasionally release excerpts, but for many reasons, they cannot mention everything I have done. But there is enough released to tell you about what I have been doing in Skyrim. Master Urag uses the college resources to have them printed and distributed. When the time is right, more complete journals will be published.
- Inigo: Or you can just read the stories sold at most markets. I especially like the ones that mention his incredibly handsome Khajiiti friend.
- Lydia: Oh, they are the ones that mention Kharjo!
- Inigo: The best ones are where you die horribly.
- Celestine: Some fictional stories claim that Wulf bedded Boethia and High Queen Elisif simultaneously!
- Inigo: Well, they are allowed some poetic licence.
- Urag: The ones where Wulf meets Lifts-Her-Tail are popular among young and unmarried mages. And some of the old married mages as well.
- Serana: Do any of them mention a grumpy, Orsimer librarian?
- Urag: Only the comedies.
- Wulf: Thanks for your assistance, Master Urag.
- Urag: You will vanish again and leave me to answer stupid questions on how you do it.
- Wulf: Are you upset I figured out how to bypass the anti-teleport dweomer of the college?
- Urag: We didn’t even know it existed till you told us.
We teleported to Dragons Bridge.
We then approached a guard.
He saluted and asked, “I get confused. Should I address you as General, Thane or Dragonborn?”
“Try Wulf, for that is my name.”
“Can I help you, Wulf?”
“A Moth Priest from Cyrodiil was going to pass this way. Have you seen him?”
“He was a Moth Priest? Well, that explains the two Legionnaires from Cyrodiil escorting him. He asked a few locals questions and then left about an hour ago. Rogen, the resident historian, went with him. His carriage neither entered nor left at a great pace, so you may be able to catch him. He crossed the bridge to wherever he was headed.”
Not far out of Dragon Bridge, we came upon an ambush. Dexion’s carriage lay on its side, its horse slain. A dead Legionnaire lay to one side. A dead Volkihar vampire and Rogen lay deceased at the front of the carriage. There was no sign of Dexion or the second Legionnaire.
As I stood over Rogen, I asked Serana, “You can’t tell, can you?”
“Rogen was a Cyrodiilic Vampire. He often visited the museum to chat with Auryen.”
“Members of the Volkihar Clan would have shown him no mercy.”
As I inspected the dead Volkihar Clan vampire, Serana said, “She is a fledgling, a low-level vampire. Her name escapes me. She had only been turned a few weeks ago.”
On the fledgling’s corpse, I found a note which I read to the group,
“I have new orders for you.
Prepare an ambush just south of the Dragon Bridge. Capture the Moth Priest alive and escort him to Forbears’ Holdout for safekeeping. There I shall break his will.
- Wulf: Serana, do you know Malkus?
- Serana: He is a sleazy, slimy, small dicked Orsimer moron!
- Celestine: Not your favourite, then?
- Wulf: So, either your father sent vampires out to find a Moth Priest without realising you had left the castle with it, or…
- Serana: …or he was hoping to get the Moth Priest and retrieve the Elder Scroll at some stage.
- 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: There is 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 the clan. Having notes with names that are likely traceable to my father would have been unthinkable.
- Rigmor: After Wulf’s visit, your father realises their barbaric activities are now known. He expects a raid by the Legion, 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, this does seem a desperate move. They even left the body of a clan member behind!
- Wulf: Let’s hurry and rescue Dexion. There is no sign of the second Legionnaire, so he may also need rescuing. Who knows how small dicked Malkus plans to break Brother Evicus’ will?
- Inigo: Even if you didn’t know where Forebears’ Holdout was, there is a blood trail that I could follow with my trusty and cute nose.
As we talked, a Dunmer Vigilant walked by. She stared at Serana but did not say a word. I was not surprised she didn’t stop to ask about the dead lying around, including the corpse of a vampire.
Not far from Dexion’s carriage, we came upon another that had been ambushed. It was a merchant caravan, and the deceased were Redguards.
I told the group, “Nothing has been stolen and Forsworn made the arrows used. It seems to be a random attack.”
On the body of a deceased woman was a diary. I read a relevant entry to the group,
“I begged my husband not to go, but he wouldn’t listen. He said if he delayed the shipment even another week, the Legion would find someone else to take it south.
Let them keep their blasted money! The road to Whiterun is dangerous these days, and everyone knows it. So many caravans have been attacked, and many travellers have vanished into thin air. Some say it’s only bandits, but there are rumours of worse, such as Goblins, ghosts and witches.
Twenty years we have been married, and I can’t bear the thought of losing him. I’m not letting him go alone, not this time. We live or die together. Lady Mara, preserve us.”
I remarked, “The roads are safer now after the civil war. There are many Legion and Militia patrols. However, Forsworn will hide and wait for a chance to commit random murder. A patrol will find this tragedy soon enough. We must hurry to Forebears’ Holdout.”
We rushed to Forbears’ Holdout. At its entrance, Inigo sniffed long and loudly for a few seconds.
“Inigo, apart from the blood, what else can you smell?”
“Not the unwashed bodies of bandits with a hint of pee. I can smell Death Hounds. I do not like them after Fergus and I were cornered by half a dozen on one of our adventures. I would rather face zombies!”
We entered and stood still while Inigo cocked his head to the left and right like dogs sometimes do.
After a few seconds, he said, “I can hear talking. Unfortunately, it echoes too much for me to tell how far away they are or what they are saying. I can also not ascertain the size of the talkers’ dicks, although one of them has an Orsimer accent.”
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. The raging river made enough noise for us to whisper without detection.
- Wulf: I can see four sentries. Two are thralls, one is a vampire, and the other is a Death Hound. I can see one vampire looking into that energy field. Somebody, a mortal, is in the centre of the energy field. I don’t know if it is Dexion.
- Serana: How can you see those things from here? How can you tell a vampire from a mortal?
- Wulf: I have the eyesight of a dragon. I can see body heat and zoom in, like a Dwemer eyeglass.
- Serana: Oh. So now we sneak up on them?
- Inigo: No. Wulf will demonstrate his archery skills and make me miserable once more.
- Lydia: Aw, did poor little Inigo think he was an excellent marksman till Wulf came along?
- Wulf: Inigo is still one of the best archers I have met.
- Inigo: Thank you, my friend.
Four arrows later, the four sentries I could see were dead.
Serana whispered, “That was more than impressive!”
I looked at it with Zoom Vision when we were closer to the energy field.
I turned to the group.
- Wulf: That is Dexion inside the field. He is equipped with a katana, as all travelling Moth Priests are. They used to be trained by Blade swordmasters.
- Serana: Use to be? Why don’t Blade swordmasters train them anymore?
- Celestine: The Blades were almost wiped out by The Thalmor during The Great War. Then we were made outlaws as part of The White Gold Concordat.
- Wulf: Serana knows none of that history, Celestine.
- Celestine: I forgot you are not long out of stasis.
- Serana: It is okay, Celestine. I will learn as we go.
- Wulf: We are undetected so far, so let us keep moving and see if we can surprise little dick.
Fortunately, we did not trigger any of the myriad gargoyles and took Malkus by surprise.
Using my bow, I quickly disposed of a Death Hound, Malkus, a vampire he was talking to and another that came running from the other side of the energy field.
I inspected the energy field and said, “I could remove the field by force using Destruction spells, but that might endanger Dexion. The field uses Reach Magic, and a control device must be nearby.”
I turned Malkus over and searched his corpse. I recovered what Reachmen call a Waystone Focus and a proclamation from Harkon.
I read the proclamation to the group,
“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.
- Rigmor: It seems Lord Harkon did not know Serana skedaddled with the Elder Scroll when he issued that order.
- Serana: Skedaddled?
- Wulf: It means to depart quickly. It is one of many excellent words from the most sophisticated part of Nirn.
- Serana: Where you come from, no doubt.
- Wulf: How did you guess?
- Rigmor: What is that odd-shaped thingy you retrieved from little dick?
- Wulf: It is called a Waystone Focus. There will be a control pedestal nearby.
- Inigo: He may have had a small member, but his tusks are enormous. Wouldn’t they get in the way of subtle neck biting?
- Serana: We don’t always feed from the neck, although that is the quickest route to quenching one’s thirst. If Malkus intended to kill his meal, the tusks would not provide a burden but would be painful for the victim. If he wanted to turn somebody, he would have bitten them on the wrist instead.
- Rigmor: There is a nearby ramp. Would the control pedestal be up there?
- Wulf: Probably. I want to have a look around before we go up there.
Many coffins suggested the Volkihar Clan had been using Forbears’ Holdout for some time.
Dexion had not changed position within the energy field and seemed to be staring at something.
We found what that was. The vampires had tortured one of the escorting Legionnaires to make Dexion talk.
I said, “Quiet, please. I need to perform Arkay’s Rights.”
I knelt close to the deceased soldier and recited the ritualistic words.
I then stood, and we spoke of what we saw.
- Rigmor: In the note the fledgling carried, Malkus said he wanted to break Dexion’s will. Why?
- Serana: Before presenting Dexion to Father, Malkus wanted to ensure he would read the Elder Scroll when asked.
- Lydia: Also, he might have thought Dexion knew where the Elder Scroll was.
- Rigmor: Why didn’t he make him a thrall and ask?
- Serana: Sometimes, when you enthral a mortal, they forget things.
- Rigmor: Oh, Wulf mentioned they had not enthralled the Vigilant who discovered your hiding place.
- Wulf: That is correct. They tortured Brother Adalvald for the information they sought.
- Celestine: They will have ensorceled Dexion. That is why they felt safe leaving his weapon with him. However, even when ensorceled, a mortal can rebel against instructions contrary to their nature. The stronger the victim’s willpower, the more successful the resistance will be.
- Rigmor: Dexion resisted, so they tortured the Legionnaire in front of him, hoping to make him cooperate.
- Wulf: That seems to be the scenario.
- Rigmor: Fucking bastards!
- Serana: The Volkihar Clan consists of many fucking bastards.
- Rigmor: They sound like The Thalmor.
- Serana: Wulf, you performed Arkay’s Rights for this soldier but not the one on the road. Why is that?
- Wulf: The Legionnaire on the road died in battle, and his soul would not be confused. This Legionnaire died surrounded by undead, under duress and in a foreign place. His soul may very well have been confused. Necromancers and other unsavoury beings seek wandering souls. Arkay’s Rights are designed to guide lost souls to Aetherius. I performed them as a precaution.
- Serana: Are you a devotee of The Eight, sorry, The Nine, or only one of The Divines?
- Wulf: I will pray to whichever of The Nine is most likely to assist. If I were to be labelled a devotee of any of them, that would be Lord Akatosh. I have great reverence for the god that gifted me my Dragonborn Powers. Well, he didn’t gift them.
- Serana: Another secret yet to be revealed.
- Wulf: Yes.
- Serana: What about this new Divine, Talos?
- Wulf: I regard him as more of a father figure.
- Rigmor: Wulf!
- Wulf: What? Anyway, let us release Dexion and get him safely to Fort Dawnguard.
- Serana: If Dexion has been ensorceled, he may be aggressive.
- Wulf: Usually, the dweomer wears off after the death of the mage who ensorceled the person. However, that can take some time that we don’t have. Therefore, I will speed up the process.
- Rigmor: How?
- Wulf: A solid blow to the solar plexus is usually adequate. The ensorceled then spend some time concentrating on taking their next breath, bringing them back to reality.
- Rigmor: You will not punch a frail old man!
- Wulf: Not so frail, Rigmor, or he would not be travelling the roads of Skyrim. Plus, that old man will be an expert swordsman trying to skewer me with his katana.
- Rigmor: You make sure you only do enough to wind him!
- Wulf: I know I could kill him if not careful, Rigmor.
Rigmor gave me a raspberry. Serana watched the exchange between Rigmor and me with a smile. She was gathering evidence of the relationship we were trying to keep hidden. It was a strain on both of us to resist our typical banter.
We climbed the platform to the control pedestal. Many coffins lined the walls.
I said, “Leave Dexion to me. Stay up here and keep quiet. The more threatened Dexion feels, the harder it will be to break the spell.”
I inserted the Waystone Focus and then leapt to the ground as the energy field dissipated.
Dexion saw me and said, “I serve my master’s will. But my master is dead, and his enemies will pay!” To my surprise, Dexion was also a competent mage. A Fireball surrounded me, and I heard Rigmor giggling. Frail old man? I don’t think so!
When his Fireball didn’t even singe me, Dexion tried to run away.
I caught up to him, turned him around and punched him in the belly.
He doubled over and gasped for a few seconds, then stood unharmed and apologetic. The others had joined us by the time he could speak.
- Dexion: That… that wasn’t me you were fighting. I could see through my eyes but could not control my actions. Thank you for breaking that foul vampire’s hold over me.
- Wulf: I know, Dexion, that is why I punched instead of using my weapon.
- Dexion: Thank The Divines for you!
- Rigmor: Literally.
- Dexion: Why do you know my name?
- Wulf: I am Wulf Welkynd, The Dragonborn. You read my Elder Scroll.
- Dexion: Oh, my, that was a shock. Wait till the other Moth Priests hear what that one had to say!
- Wulf: I read it but didn’t understand it and the Ehlnofey glyphs are no longer in my memory.
- Dexion: That Elder Scroll said nothing until you fulfilled your prophecy. Then it announced its successful completion.
- Wulf: What?
- Dexion: Recite your prophecy.
- Wulf: 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.
- Dexion: Your Elder Scroll says, ‘Misrule took its place at the eight corners of the world. The Brass Tower walked, and Time was reshaped. The thrice-blessed failed, and the Red Tower trembled. The Dragonborn Ruler lost his throne, and the White Tower fell. The Snow Tower lay sundered, kingless, bleeding. The World-Eater awoke, and the Wheel turned upon the Last Dragonborn. The Kalpa continues.’
- Wulf: My prophecy is a list of historical events that had to occur before Alduin returned to this timeline. Are you saying my Elder Scroll refers to those events in the past tense with the desired ending?
- Dexion: Yes, and the reason for that will be debated for a long time by my colleagues.
- Inigo: I have said it before. The Elder Scrolls are the gobblygookest things in existence.
- Lydia: I think you mean the gobblygookiest thing in existence.
- Inigo: Gobblygookiest is not a word!
- Celestine: Children! Behave!
- Rigmor: That is all fascinating, but you are chinwagging in enemy territory.
- Felix: Milady is correct.
- Rigmor: Felix, that is one of the first things you said all day, and it is a slip-up.
- Felix: Oh, ahh, I have been scared to talk for fear of slipping up. I meant to say that Dragonguard Rigmor is correct.
- Wulf: Stop looking so amused, Serana.
- Dexion: These vampires claimed they had some purpose in store for me, but they wouldn’t say what. They were probably hoping to ransom me, the fools.
- Wulf: You will notice my colleague, Serana, is carrying an Elder Scroll.
- Dexion: Oh, and you need me to read it!
- Wulf: Yes, but we would have rescued you anyway. These vampires were seeking that scroll and also wanted you to read it.
- Dexion: Not here, though?
- Wulf: No, we shall take you to Fort Dawnguard. You will be safe there. The vampires were going to take you to Castle Volkihar.
- Dexion: If my knowledge of history serves me, I recall that the Dawnguard was an ancient order of vampire hunters. Just tell me how to get to Fort Dawnguard. I will be happy to assist you with your Elder Scroll.
- Wulf: You can stay at Fort Dawnguard, but the reading of the scroll is to aid us, not them.
- Dexion: Oh, I stand corrected.
- Wulf: There are dozens of vampires scouring Skyrim for you. If you tried to reach Fort Dawnguard, you would become their prisoner again.
- Dexion: These are Volkihar Clan vampires?
- Wulf: Yes, and so is my colleague, Serana.
- Dexion: I take it, Serana, that you disagree with whatever this lot is trying to do?
- Serana: They are trying to block out the sun.
- Dexion: That is ambitious and foolish, emphasising the latter.
- Wulf: In my experience, homicidal megalomaniacs are rarely wise.
- Dexion: True. And the Elder Scroll contains instructions on achieving sun blocking?
- Wulf: We don’t know. There is a prophecy involved, but I don’t think it came from an Elder Scroll.
- Serana: And before you ask, I don’t know the prophecy or when and where Lord Harkon heard it.
- Dexion: How do you propose I get to Fort Dawnguard?
- Wulf: We are going to teleport there. Place your hand on my shoulder, and don’t let go. If you let go, you will not be harmed but will end up here again.
- Dexion: May I ask what happened to young Rogen? He is a most knowledgeable fellow.
- Wulf: Did you know he was a Cyrodiilic Vampire?
- Dexion: Oh yes, Auryen told me.
- Wulf: He was killed in the ambush.
- Dexion: Two Legionnaires with young families and Rogen, all killed by these beings who chase a foolish ambition. Don’t be gentle when you stop them, Dragonborn.
- Wulf: I am never gentle when setting examples, Brother Evicus.
- Dexion: I am ready. This teleporting will be yet another new experience. I need to get out of The White-Gold Tower more often. Speaking of which, didn’t I see you at an official function recently, young lady?
- Rigmor: Who? Me? Nah, I don’t think so.
- Dexion: Then I apologise. My memory of faces rarely lets me down.
Serana’s grin grew larger as Dexion placed his hand on my shoulder. We teleported to just outside Fort Dawnguard.
I asked, “How did you enjoy your trip through the ether, Brother Evicus?”
“I never imagined somewhere could be so cold or dark.”
“The Void is similar, and neither are places you want to linger.”
“Well, let us enter and discover the Elder Scroll’s secrets.”
When we entered, a young Dawnguard ran to find Isran. While we waited, Dexion wandered around the chamber, muttering to himself as he inspected the fort’s architecture.
Isran arrived and stood with scepticism etched on his face. He is a fool, but I will continue to involve him as the rest of The Dawnguard might be valuable allies.
Celestine whispered to Dexion, who quickly took his place opposite Isran.
- Wulf: Isran, we have Brother Dexion Evicus of The Order of Moth Priests with us. We hope to learn of the prophecy that Lord Harkon is trying to complete. Therefore, Brother Evicus has agreed to read the Elder Scroll in possession of Serana.
- Dexion: You are the leader of The Dawnguard, Isran?
- Isran: Yes, and I am impressed Wulf and The Dragonguard found you and brought you here as quickly as they have.
- Dexion: Unfortunately, not before some good people were killed. But that is a story for another time.
- Wulf: Are you ready, Dexion?
- Dexion: Oh, most certainly! Let’s find out what secrets the scroll can tell us.
- Wulf: You have gone through quite an ordeal. We can wait if you need to rest.
- Inigo: You are looking a bit wobbly on your feet, Brother Evicus.
- Dexion: I shall be okay. Besides, I could not rest knowing an unread Elder Scroll was nearby.
- Inigo: Then I shall stand with you. Lean on me if you must.
- Dexion: Do not look at the unrolled scroll. To the untrained, its contents can cause insanity.
- Rigmor: That would explain Wulf.
- Inigo: I promise not to peep. I did not enjoy my time on Skooma. I doubt I would make a good devotee of Skooma Cat.
Serana handed Dexion the Elder Scroll. He unrolled it and said, “Now, if everyone will please be quiet, I must concentrate.
I see a vision before me, an image of a great bow. I know this weapon! It is Auriel’s Bow! Now a voice whispers, saying, ‘Among the night’s children, a dread lord will rise. In an age of strife, when dragons return to the realm of men, darkness will mingle with light, and the night and day will be as one.’
The voice fades, and the words begin to shimmer and distort. But wait, there is more here. The secret of the bow’s power is written elsewhere. I think there is more to the prophecy recorded in other scrolls. Yes, I see them now… One contains the ancient secrets of the dragons, and the other speaks of the potency of ancient blood.
My vision darkens, and I see no more. To know the complete prophecy, we must have the other two scrolls.’
Dexion started to fall, but Inigo caught him in time and helped him stay on his feet.
- Wulf: Thank you, Brother Evicus. I can see that was taxing both mentally and physically.
- Isran: All I heard was a lot of vague nonsense. You could interpret what the Moth Priest said a hundred different ways. The only thing that stood out for me was Auriel’s Bow. That’s a powerful weapon. I 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: Isran, people infinitely more learned and more intelligent 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 The Dragonborn. That fact proves 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 if you explain how that is in any way vague.
- Rigmor: The Prophecy of The Dragonborn sounds nonsense until somebody competent like Wulf or Brother Evicus explains it to you. Wulf interpreted that prophecy correctly, so he knew when to arrive in Skyrim and wait for Alduin’s return. He will interpret this information and act upon it. Knowledge and logic will save us from the darkness, Isran. Not blind hatred and stupidity! Therefore, I strongly suggest that you stop speaking through your arse!
- Dexion: Young lady, are you sure you haven’t been to The White-Gold Tower recently? That turn of phrase is very familiar.
- Serana: You are all wasting your time. If it weren’t me who owned the Elder Scroll, Isran would have been keen to hear and understand it. To admit the reading has merit would be to admit Wulf was right about me and that I have earned trust.
- Wulf: Brother Evicus, how can you say my Elder Scroll contains the ancient secrets of the dragons?
- Dexion: Much of what is written in the scrolls is allegorical. That Elder Scroll allowed you to travel back in time and learn a Shout that dragons have no defence against. You learned of their weakness and how to exploit it. Therefore, without words, that scroll handed you an ancient secret of the dragons. There may be more secrets, but there is no denying you learnt one of them. As we explore what that scroll now says, we may uncover more.
- Lydia: Huh?
- Inigo: I understood that. Perhaps we need to use smaller words to help poor Lydia.
- Dexion: I find myself weary and must rest.
- Isran: I might be a biased idiot, but I still understand hospitality. Come with me, Brother Evicus. I have a place you can rest.
With surprising gentleness, Isran let Dexion lean on him as he led him to a welcome bed.
I gathered the group about me.
- Wulf: Something stinks!
- Lydia: I thought you would be used to Inigo by now.
- Wulf: Joking aside, Lydia, this whole prophecy is ringing alarm bells in my head. I rely on my intuition as much as my knowledge to survive the tasks I undertake. Putting aside the absurdity of corrupting a relic of AKA to work against mortals, it is too broad in some aspects and too precise in others. We must be careful not to make assumptions without knowing the source of the prophecy and its exact wording.
- Rigmor: No matter your reservations, Wulf, we must find the third scroll. It is the missing puzzle piece and likely the key to making it all logical.
- Celestine: So, where do we start looking for the third Elder Scroll?
- Wulf: Brother Evicus did not suggest it might be one stored in The White-Gold Tower.
- Serana: I think my mother will have it or at least know where it is. Find Valerica, and you find the scroll.
- Wulf: Valerica is a very regal name.
- Serana: Father was a mortal king. Mother was a high noble. Otherwise, they would not have been allowed to marry.
- Rigmor: Celestine, we have another princess amongst us.
- Celestine: And Serana doesn’t get on with her father either. That problem must come with the title.
- Wulf: Did Valerica have the Elder Scroll before you were interred?
- Serana: No, but my mother is very resourceful. More so than father. She would have discovered its location.
- Felix: Are we assuming Valerica knew a third Elder Scroll was needed, even though we only learned that through another Elder Scroll?
- Rigmor: Gobblygook, Felix.
- Felix: Okay, I will accept the assumption no matter how absurd.
- Rigmor: That’s a good man. You won’t go insane after all.
- Serana: Will somebody please explain gobblygook and gobblygookness to me?
- Rigmor: When we are travelling, I shall.
- Wulf: We should find Valerica in case she is in danger. A bonus will be if she has the scroll or knows where it is. I don’t want any more people hurt for Lord Harkon’s ambition. Do you know where your mother is, Serana?
- 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.
- Wulf: Did Valerica act differently in the days or weeks before you were put in stasis?
- 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 too busy to deal with me.
- Rigmor: That 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.
- 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. I was also very unfit because of the Skooma. I would never be able to outrun determined guards for long, and even an angry old woman armed with a rolling pin would eventually catch me and beat me to death! So instead of being the sneaky type of thief my people are renowned 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 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 tiny spaces and quickly hide somewhere in the house. While the guards and other assorted angry people searched for me outside, I would be warm and snug somewhere inside. Sometimes I didn’t have time to do that and had to run for my life. It is luck and a phobia of 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 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 fart. The poor old things are always standing or on their knees because every chair they use gets destroyed except the stone ones in their dining room. However, they cause piles in cold weather.
- Celestine: Keep going, Serana. Wulf was dropped on his head when he was 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: Would Valerica be 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.
- Rigmor: 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. However, she may have left another clue for me. Therefore, I think it is worth taking a look at.
- Inigo: Things uncannily fall into place for Wulf. Anybody would think the gods favoured him. Wulf calls it divine meddling.
- 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.
- Lydia: That could end up quite messy with body parts strewn around.
- Serana: I know a way to the courtyard without arousing suspicion. The previous owners used an abandoned inlet on the island’s northern side. Boats with supplies from the mainland would dock and unload on the jetties there. I think that is our way in.
- Wulf: Do you know your way through the tunnels to the courtyard?
- Serana: I was a lonely little noble girl and spent many hours exploring the castle. My only companions during my explorations were the rats. I grew pretty fond of some of them. Only a fraction of the castle was ever used by my family.
- 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.
- Lydia: 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 insane people we are. 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.
- Wulf: It is the cacophony of life, Serana. It is what I fight for. It is the right of all mortals to have a roof over their heads, gainful employment and religious freedom. I will oppose all who try to deny that right, be they mortal, undead or a god.
- Serana: And you believe Molag Bal to be the greatest threat to these things.
- Wulf: Whether intentional or not, his actions will cause a crisis that only I and one other can avert. But we are again entering areas that should not be discussed yet.
- Serana: Understood, but you must realise how intriguing these secrets sound.
- Wulf: We have a way forward. However, I think we will have little time for rest. If the pace becomes too much for any of you, there is no disgrace in being swapped out for another Dragonguard.
- Rigmor: Do you think Molag Bal is involved in this?
- Wulf: No. Why would he make it so difficult to obtain the weapon Lord Harkon desires?
- Rigmor: Oh, I see why you are suspicious of the prophecy.
- Wulf: The Elder Scrolls are not used to send people on treasure hunts. They are tools of knowledge and prophecy. There has never been a requirement for more than one Elder Scroll to be read before they make sense. I did not ask Dexion as he was exhausted, but I guarantee this.
- Rigmor: Are we waiting till daylight before approaching the castle?
- Wulf: That would be the logical thing to do, but no, we must keep moving ahead as fast as we can. We are in a race with Lord Harkon, and I don’t intend to let him catch up.
Everybody gathered close, and I teleported us to Lord Harkon’s island.