Turdas, 27th Sun’s Dusk, 4E 201
& Fredas, 28th Sun’s Dusk, 4E 201
I woke up in my Aetherius room perfectly healthy. On reflection, the amount of Lifeforce I gave to Valminoor should not have had such an effect on me. I think the absorption of Sirlaak’s soul splinter was so foreign to my body that it caused the malaise I suffered.
I willed myself to my room in Silverpeak Lodge and then lay on my bed.
Rigmor and I spoke for over an hour via our amulets. My beloved would be able to visit again soon, and I looked forward to Our Quiet making things easier for us.
I entered the living area and smiled at the noise of talking, laughter and yipping.
Xin played with Gladys last night but sat far from the newcomer this morning. She had probably worn the Nix-Hound out.
Meeko had made himself scarce, leaving Kinomaru to deal with Gladys.
I made my way to Wujeeta.
“Breaking fast with all your friends, Wujeeta?”
“I will break your head with my broom if you keep the cheek up!”
“You need some help with this house. We need another housekeeper and perhaps a gardener.”
“Well, you were planning to hire more staff before the kerfuffle about avalanches and moving.”
“I will see who I can find in the next few days.”
“We need a teacher for the children.”
“Okay, I will find one of them as well.”
The Ka’Po’Tun are to be given access to my unedited journals. All Dragonguard have been asked to assist with any questions. Dhali assured me that the Royal Guards are well aware of the trust I am showing.
My squad for the day was Valdimar, Daenlyn, Ko’rassa and Aletio.
It was the first field trip for Aletio. He assures me he is ready to accept any differences in this timeline compared to the time splinter in which he existed, but it won’t be easy for him. I am not the Wulf he knew, which will be the most significant change he faces.
I had three trips planned for the morning. First, I will visit Serana and see how she is. I will then visit Stendarr’s Beacon and pick up the architectural plans for The Hall of the Vigilant rebuild. Lastly, I will visit Solitude and begin discussions on the conversion of Dragonmount into an orphanage and school.
I gathered the Dragonguard squad and teleported us to Valerica’s laboratory in Castle Volkihar.
Serana greeted me with a smile.
“How are you and Valerica getting along?”
“Okay, until I told her I wanted to become mortal. Now she is ignoring me. Well, that is up to her.”
“Does she think you asked to have your soul handed to Molag Bal?”
“I know you will offer to teleport me to Falion, but I have seen little of Skyrim since awakening. Therefore, I will make my way to him the slow way.”
“I know you are capable of safely reaching him, Serana.”
“Do you know how Falion manages this transformation?”
“I have a theory. I am guessing that Falion will replace the consciousness of an untainted soul within a Black Soul Gem with yours.”
“Which would condemn a soul to The Soul Cairn.”
“I think such souls will be returned to Mundus at the end of the Kalpa. Just make sure you don’t use an entrapped innocent.”
“I guessed that Falion would require a filled Black Soul Gem. That is another reason for my solo and slower trip. I will have plenty of opportunities to soultrap a bandit or other unsavoury person who attacks me. Shit to a fly, remember.”
“Come on, that was a good analogy, if not very complimentary! You are welcome in Silverpeak Lodge, Serana. I see no obstacle to you becoming a Dragonguard.”
“I will see you soon, Wulf.”
I had no desire to speak to Valerica, so I teleported us to the hill leading to Stendarr’s Beacon.
Keeper Carcette was outside, talking to other Vigilants when we approached. She handed me a tube with architectural plans inside. I stored them in my journal case.
“I shall look at these as soon as possible, Keeper Carcette.”
“We have two problems, Wulf, that you may want to investigate.”
“You don’t think Vigilants are capable of investigating them?”
“In both cases, Vigilants have gone missing when investigating them. I am hesitant to send more.”
“Okay, what can you tell me about the problems.”
“Vigilant Moric Sidrey is a Breton scholar researching relics of Stendarr and their possible locations. He approached me with evidence he said proved that a relic was inside a cave system called Ruunvald. He didn’t know which relic, and most of his evidence involved complex trails through ancient documents. However, he was convincing, so I approved a small expedition of six Vigilants, including Vigilant Moric.”
“You didn’t do the same for Vigilant Advald and Dimhollow Crypt.”
“Vigilant Advald only had his suspicions and no other evidence. I would have allocated resources if he had returned from Dimhollow Crypt with more.”
“After a couple of weeks, Vigilant Moric returned with two other Vigilants. They all swore they could feel the presence of Lord Stendarr within the ruins but needed more hands to help with the excavation. Their enthusiasm was convincing, so I sent another six Vigilants with them. Other Vigilants, without my permission, recently joined them at Ruunvald, so persuasive were the Vigilants already there.”
“They neglected their duties?”
“It has never happened while I have been Keeper in Skyrim, so I am unsure how I should deal with them. If a relic of Stendarr is found, I will probably forgive them.”
“I assume you have asked for regular reports.”
“Yes, and it has been more than a fortnight since I received one.”
“Do you fear they may have fallen victim to Lord Harkon and Volkihar Clan?”
“I don’t know. I sent another two Vigilants just before the Volkihar attack, and I haven’t heard from them.”
“Is there anything else I should know?”
“A Vigilant that left us at the same time as Isran to help reform The Dawnguard came to me just before the Volkihar attack. His name is Florentius Baenius, and he asked about Ruunvald. He, like others, left The Dawnguard after falling out with Isran. After that, he resided here at Stendarr’s Beacon. In Florentius’ case, I can understand Isran’s concerns, for I had the same.”
“Florentius believes that Lord Arkay speaks to him and guides him. This delusion led to him arguing against some of my decisions and the basic doctrine of The Vigilants. I assume the same happened with Isran and The Dawnguard.”
“What kind of madman claims to speak to The Nine?”
“He is not like you, Wulf. When speaking to Florentius, he will also claim to be speaking to Lord Arkay. Even you don’t claim The Nine speak to you in such a manner.”
“One of The Nine can, but rarely does so. For the other Divines and Daedric Princes, I have to visit one of their shrines or temples. I doubt Lord Arkay speaks to Florentius in such a manner. Is he a trained Priest of Arkay?”
“Yes, and Florentius is a good man, Wulf. I doubt he knowingly lies about Lord Arkay.”
“Eccentric or insane, the difference is negligible. Why did Florentius ask about Ruunvald?”
“He heard rumours of a Vigilant excavation there. He decided to join them when I told him what I knew.”
“I will visit Fort Dawnguard and tell Isran about Serana becoming mortal once more. While there, I will ask Isran if he has heard from Florentius. It doesn’t matter either way, as I will investigate Ruunvald.”
“Serana never wanted to be a vampire, did she?”
“No, and the method of making her one was brutal. Serana wasn’t asked before her parents gave her to Molag Bal. What is the other problem?”
“Read this letter I received the day the Volkihar Clan attacked us.”
I read the letter out loud to the Dragonguard.
I’ve received your letter about the sudden disappearance of our patrols in The Pale. The news is troubling for sure. I was shocked to hear that my old partner Fenrik was among them. He was a Vigil Enforcer and the finest warrior I knew. For him to be missing is no small thing, but perhaps fate has conspired for these events to happen so that I may repay the life debt I owe him.
I will leave for Dawnstar in the morning and take a room at the inn. If I learn anything, you will be the first to know.
Stendarr’s mercy be with you,
- Wulf: How many Vigilants went missing before you contacted Azarain?
- Carcette: Six.
- Valdimar: Were the disappearances happening when Dawnstar was troubled by nightmares?
- Carcette: Yes, so at first, we thought there might be a connection. But a couple of them have disappeared since Vaermina’s relic was destroyed.
- Ko’rassa: What about the Perfect Blood Hybrids? Wulf said The Vigilants think their cult is hiding somewhere near Dawnstar.
- Carcette: They could be the cause. I haven’t heard from Azarain, and like his old partner, Fenrik, that is concerning. Both of them are veterans who have survived many encounters with powerful undead.
- Wulf: Okay, the obvious place to start is the inn. We shall investigate after Ruunvald.
- Carcette: A patrol reported you and some unusual Khajiiti saved them from bandits and Perfect Blood Hybrids.
- Wulf: Only one of my companions was Khajiiti. The other three were Ka’Po’Tun from Akavir.
- Carcette: Are they cat people like the Khajiiti?
- Wulf: Yes. They have a common ancestry with Khajiiti but have lived in Akavir for thousands of years.
- Daenlyn: Wulf told us that the Vigilants were harassing who they thought were pilgrims.
- Carcette: I agree with the changes that Wulf wants to happen, but we need a headquarters first. Once The Hall of the Vigilant is built, I can issue decrees and change how we operate in Skyrim.
- Wulf: You can’t afford to lose many more Vigilants.
- Carcette: I have asked our Head Chapter in Cyrodiil for replacements. You will be glad to know that whoever they send will be more merciful and closer to what you believe is our role. The reforms you desire are already happening. We have just been slower to adopt them.
- Aletio: Begging your pardon, but the Vigilants I knew in Skyrim were well respected by the citizens and helped cure diseases and aid the ill.
- Carcette: And what Vigilants would they be?
- Wulf: It is a long story, but Aletio doesn’t come from this Mundus. He is noticing some differences between his and our reality.
- Carcette: I will accept that such a thing is possible since I have recently experienced the impossible. I hope the Keeper Carcette you knew was a kinder soul than I have been.
- Aletio: She was well respected and an advisor on spiritual manners to High King Nazeem.
- Ko’rassa: Nazeem the Redguard?
- Aletio: Yes, he was the first ever Redguard High King and popular with the citizens.
- Ko’rassa: There is something fundamentally wrong with that statement!
- Wulf: In this timeline, Nazeem is one of the most despised citizens in Whiterun.
- Aletio: I know, but it was fun watching your reactions. Truthfully, Nazeem was beaten to death by a Nord warrior he called a barbarian milk drinker. It was pretty messy, by all accounts. However, I am not telling a lie about the rest. Keeper Carcette was a spiritual advisor to High Queen Elisif the Fair, and the Vigilants were well respected.
- Wulf: Okay, let’s visit Fort Dawnguard and speak to grumpy.
We teleported to Fort Dawnguard and then made our way inside.
It didn’t take long to locate Isran.
- Wulf: Good morning, Isran.
- Isran: There are still blood-suckers that need eliminating. So how can it be a good morning?
- Daenlyn: With that charming disposition, your social calendar must overflow with invites!
- Wulf: I came to tell you that Serana will soon be mortal. Surely you can’t still hate all vampires after witnessing what she did?
- Isran: You are asking me to put aside decades of hate. It is not so easy, Dragonborn. But we shall treat each case on its merit.
- Wulf: That is all that I ask, Isran.
- Isran: You said you would aid us with training and so forth.
- Wulf: That is what I plan to do but first, I have to get The Vigilants back on their feet. They have been dealing with losses beyond what was inflicted by Lord Harkon.
- Isran: I am sure Cyrodiil will send more meat for the grinder.
- Ko’rassa: I am impressed by the constant level of moody aggravation. It must take years of practice to achieve it.
- Wulf: Have you heard from Florentius lately?
- Isran: No, and if Sorine or Gunmar asked you to find him, don’t bother. I don’t trust that man and don’t want him here!
- Wulf: I haven’t spoken to Sorine or Gunmar. Keeper Carcette was worried about him and many Vigilants investigating a cave called Ruunvald.
- Isran: I had heard he was at Ruunvald. I don’t like the man, but I don’t wish him harm. I hope you find him and the Vigilants alive and healthy, Dragonborn.
- Aletio: Did you find his communion with Lord Arkay a problem?
- Isran: He insisted his lectures on morality came from Lord Arkay. I refused to believe him. Things escalated from there.
- Wulf: Sometimes, putting up with another person’s delusions is best if they cause no harm. Doing otherwise can harm the delusional.
- Isran: Perhaps I need to hear what he said, but not the lecturing that followed.
- Wulf: Okay, Isran, I hope to see you soon and organise ways we can help.
- Isran: Tell Florentius that we would welcome him back if he can maintain some appearance of normalcy.
- Wulf: I shall tell him.
The quickest way to Ruunvald was to start in Shore’s Stone, so I teleported us there.
A Redguard approached and said, “Well, look what we have here. Hello, Dragonborn. I bet I can beat you to a pulp!”
“For a start, I am wearing armour, so any punches to my body would be ineffective. I am a foot taller, weigh at least fifty per cent more than you and have been trained by experts in unarmed combat. You stand no chance and wouldn’t even land a punch before I knock you senseless. So go away.”
A passing Legionnaire asked, “Do you want me to put Azadi in a cell to sober up, Thane?”
“No, he isn’t drunk, just delusional. I’ll handle it.”
The Legionnaire continued on his way.
Azadi snarled, “Delusional? I’ll teach you to talk about me that way!”
Azadi swung, and I dodged. He swung again, and I dodged again. This dance went on for a minute when Ko’rassa said, “Wulf, there may be people in trouble, and this idiot is wasting our time.”
I said to Azadi, “You are not getting close to hitting me. You are insufferable, and I suggest you walk away before I hurt you.”
“Coward! I can smell your shame!”
“Okay, Azadi, I warned you.”
Three quick jabs bloodied and staggered my opponent. I could have knocked him out with one punch, but that risks permanent injury.
After a few seconds, Azadi stood and staggered to the side of a house. I followed in case he needed healing.
He shook his head and said, “You’re tougher than you look. You got me, fair and square. Thank you. Here this is for you.”
Azadi handed me a note.
I asked, “You knew I was The Dragonborn, and I warned you. You are not surprised I beat you to a pulp, so what is this all about?”
Azadi smiled, then disappeared.
I read the note to The Dragonguard,
“We’ll be in touch.”
- Valdimar: He used a recall spell. He came around the side of the house because it was location triggered.
- Wulf: Yes, he didn’t use a ring or scroll, so that is the most likely scenario.
- Ko’rassa: If he wanted you to help him, why not say so?
- Aletio: It seems to me that the ratio of weird people is the same as inside my time shard.
- Daenlyn: You were very patient with him. How often did he swing and jab and find fresh air, not your head?
- Wulf: Well, we have wasted enough time. Let’s hurry to Ruunvald.
It was an uneventful and quite pleasant walk to Ruunvald.
I was surprised to see a locked Dwemer Lift.
I said, “I wonder if they have stumbled upon Dwemer ruins full of automatons and Falmer?”
We had to walk a bit more before finding a path leading to Ruunvald.
There was a camp to the left of the entrance, and inside one of the tents, I found a journal. I read the relevant sections to the squad.
I knew I should have volunteered for the excavation earlier. For months, Moric had been going on to the Vigilants about detecting mystical energies deep in the east mountains. He said he’d found some old tomes about the ruins of ‘Ruunvald’ or something the like, a Nordic chamber thousands of years old. I remember thinking, ‘Yeah, if it’s so old, how come no one’s found it yet? There’s plenty of adventurers wandering around these parts.’
Most of the other Vigilants agreed that we had more important things to do. But Moric took a team and went digging, and when he started turning up a long-buried temple, well, I felt like a troll in a dung heap!
Soon enough, he was sending back letters and visiting the Hall, begging for as many men as we could send. I didn’t volunteer at first, as it still seemed like a myth. But when word came back that they’d hit the main chamber, I packed up and headed this way to help. I always did want to be a part of history, and better late than never, they say.
Well, ‘they’ didn’t mention that the latecomers would be stuck with guard duty. I just sit up here all day, watching for bandits and wolves, neither of which I’ve seen. Mostly I just see diggers coming up for supplies. I’ve seen them a lot less regularly, now that I think about it…
All right, it’s been three days since anyone’s come up. The last one to emerge was that skinny Nord runt, Apa, and he just walked around a bit with a weird vacant look in his eyes. He eventually told Florentius and me to come down as soon as we had the chance, then shuffled back in.
Something ain’t right, and I aim to find out what…
- Wulf: It would have been helpful if Volk used dates instead of numbered days.
- Ko’rassa: At least we know Florentius didn’t enter till days after he visited Keeper Carcette.
- Daenlyn: What is so special about Apa walking around with a weird vacant look in his eyes? I thought that was normal for a Nord.
- Valdemar: How would you like me to fireball your stupid horns?
- Daenlyn: Yes, please, but wait till I am about to shed the velvet. It will stop the itching, and I won’t have to scrape them against a rock!
- Wulf: I think we are about to enter a den of weirdness.
- Aletio: Luckily, we have an expert weirdo with us.
We entered Ruunvald and could hear somebody lower down continually hitting some wood.
We quietly approached an overhang. A Vigilant Enforcer was looking away from the entrance, which was pointless if she was a sentry.
Around her head was a red miasma.
I used Zoom Vision to get a closer look.
When I used Heat Vision, her body heat was above average.
Another Enforcer was below, using a pickaxe on wood planking as if it was an ore deposit.
I leapt down and studied the Enforcer with the pickaxe. It was pure when I scanned his soul, but something was attached to it. A thread of Magicka invisible to the naked eye led from him to further inside the cave.
He was ensorceled, and I instinctively knew I couldn’t save him. Still, I asked politely, “Excuse me, I am looking for Florentius Baenius. Do you know where I might find him?”
The Enforcer turned and aimed his crossbow at me.
I cut him down and then eliminated the other Enforcer.
The Dragonguard joined me.
- Wulf: They are ensorceled, and I don’t think we can rescue them. Their souls are pure, but a thread of Magicka leads from each Vigilant to elsewhere in the cave.
- Valdimar: Yes, if you sever such a connection, the ensorceled dies. What do you suggest we do?
- Wulf: We quickly kill those with the red miasma that we can’t easily bypass and hope we find some miasma-free.
- Ko’rassa: Who is controlling them and why?
- Wulf: I don’t know. Logically it would be somebody after the same relic the Vigilants sought.
We noticed a book on a crate to the right of a tunnel that exited the cavern. It was the excavation journal of Moric Sidrey, the Vigilant in charge of the dig.
I read the four relevant sections to the squad, one at a time.
“I have decided to document our expedition to find Ruunvald’s relic in my journal, hoping that, should we fail, it will illuminate those who follow us. I have stood on academic giants’ shoulders to get where we are today, spending endless hours in libraries and private collections. I am confident that there is some artefact of great power to be found in those ruins, one that the Vigilants could find helpful in their mission.
I do not mean to sound pompous, but I am on the precipice of my destiny with this quest. I am sure we are digging into the right place. I can feel it in my bones, and I dream of finding Ruunvald at night. Even in my waking hours, I can almost hear a reassuring voice telling me we are going the right way.
The expedition has had a great deal of luck so far. After only a few weeks, the first tunnel broke into a large shaft, leading downward towards where I suspect to find the relic. We’ve established our first base camp within the mountains with just a few bits of carpentry. If we continue to be this fortunate, we shall reach our goal in record time!”
- Valdemar: He sounds obsessed.
- Ko’rassa: Or possessed.
- Wulf: He could just be enthusiastic.
- Daenlyn: I think he needs to get out more. There are more exciting things than dusty old relics.
- Wulf: Such blasphemy!
- Daenlyn: Wine, women and song are what he should be seeking.
- Aletio: Wine, goats and song, in your case, Daenlyn.
- Daenlyn: Shh! You promised not to tell if I let you have the pretty one!
I read the second relevant entry to the group.
“Our luck continues! Not only do we continue to tunnel into caves and shafts that speed our descent, but struck multiple veins of precious ore. Now that the excavation has proven to be a financial success, Keeper Carcett has sent more supplies, materials, and Vigilants to further the cause. I cannot contain my glee and have become prone to cheerful outbursts in front of others. One might find this very out of character for me, but the Vigilants seem to share my enthusiasm. Never before have I worked with a group so single-minded in their pursuit. To have so many people working towards the same goal with little to no deviation from the task at hand is an uncanny blessing! Stendarr, be praised!
With so much going well, I hesitate to document what seems like minor troubles in comparison. It must have something to do with the cramped spaces, but I have found myself prone to aches in my head. While these hardly deter me from my leadership role, I have sometimes found myself distracted. I have had many conversations where I drift off, only to have others call me back to reality. Sometimes I lose small amounts of time and can’t remember what I’ve done. I hope this is nothing more than the excitement of reaching our goal, but I will try to keep alert as we dig deeper. Perhaps a half tankard of ale before sleep will help me with these headaches.”
- Wulf: His subconscious mind is fighting the possession.
- Valdimar: Yes, and the headaches are the result.
- Ko’rassa: Are we in danger of being ensorceled?
- Wulf: I don’t think we will be here long enough. However, the dweomer used might get stronger as we approach its source.
- Valdimar: I suggest we take notice of each other’s behaviour. The quicker we detect something strange, the better.
- Aletio: How are we supposed to know if Wulf is acting strange?
- Valdimar: If he makes a funny joke, we will know he is possessed.
I read aloud the third relevant passage.
“The damnable headaches! Minorne, be merciful! I just can’t seem to shake them. The other Vigilants have started to report them as well, but while their focus on conversation and civility may wane because of it, they have not swayed from their task. If anything, they seem to have doubled their efforts. I cannot seem to focus on anything other than the dig. I sit here now, studying some unearthed Nordic artefacts, yet I feel a nagging call to see how the dig is progressing. The other day without thinking, I picked up a shovel and started digging myself. Fortunately, no one seemed to find this unusual, which is a blessing. I’d hate for The Vigilants of Minorne to think I’d lost my senses!
As we dig, we uncover more Nordic ruins and architecture but have yet to hit the main chamber. Every day I dream that we’ll finally reach the relic, and I can’t help but reflect on what this will mean to my reputation! My family will be so proud, especially my father, Minorne. He and Mintorne, my mother, have always been interested in my studies, even if my sister Minorne was not. But I’m most excited to reveal my findings to my colleagues, Minorne and Minorne, and perhaps my mentor Minorne. Oh, won’t they all be pleased?”
- Daenlyn: I hate you, Minorne!
- Valdimar: Not as much as I hate you, Minorne!
- Ko’rassa: Minorne, you should hear what Minorne says about you to Minorne when you aren’t here!
- Wulf: Minorne, whoever that is, has replaced Lord Stendarr in the minds of The Vigilants.
- Valdimar: That is a clever form of possession!
- Ko’rassa: The Vigilants are religious fanatics. They will fight without fear to protect their new god, Minorne.
- Daenlyn: Minorne is an Altmer name. I once, ahh, dated a lady by that name.
- Aletio: You would be at least a foot shorter than the average Altmer woman.
- Daenlyn: Dear Aletio, any woman will tell you that size doesn’t matter.
- Ko’rassa: Where did you get that silly idea from, Danelyn?
The fourth passage suggests complete capitulation by Moric.
“I have found my muse, and her name is Minorne. Reading back over old journal entries, I realise she has called me from deep inside Ruunvald. She is the voice I’ve been hearing, the one who has called me ever downwards into the mountain. The other Vigilants hear her too! What joy to learn that I am not alone in her love! Oh, Minorne, how would we have found this place without you! As I write this, we are digging out the last bit of rock to get to you. Those without tools have started using their hands! I cannot write anymore as I must get back to work. Ruunvald’s secret awaits!”
- Valdimar: If Minorne has been interred for a long time, she must be undead. Probably a Lich of some sort.
- Wulf: Or she wasn’t behind the last piece of rock, but the relic was.
- Ko’rassa: She might have used her dweomer to make them think she was behind the last piece of rock.
- Wulf: That is my supposition as well. By replacing Stendarr as their deity, she has their guaranteed loyalty, making them easy to manipulate.
- Aletio: Why is this journal so close to the entrance if Moric wrote the last entry near the final rocks?
- Wulf: Quote, ‘I have decided to document our expedition to find Ruunvald’s relic in my journal, with hopes that, should we fail, it will illuminate those who follow us.’
- Aletio: Do you think Moric placed it here?
- Wulf: Yes, I think part of his mind continues to rebel against Minorne.
- Aletio: Can he be saved if he is not wholly under Minorne’s control?
- Wulf: If we can eliminate Minorne without harming Moric, we shall try.
We killed all ensorceled Vigilants who we couldn’t sneak past. Heat Vision told me we left over half of them alive. We had to eliminate Huskies, who were far better sentries than their masters.
We came upon a crude altar.
A book titled “The Scripture of Minorne” was on the altar. Moric wrote it, and I read it to the squad.
“Glory be to Minorne! Glory be to the mistress of all! My life for you, oh beautiful saviour! Where once my feeble ramblings seemed so grand, I now realise they are but scratches on parchment, unworthy of you. Oh, if I could adequately describe you, I would write a thousand testaments! Damn my tiny thoughts, if only I were wiser!
Minorne asks that we bring more here for her, more to worship her and do her bidding! I have visited The Hall of the Vigilant and asked for more to come. A simple lie was told, for they would not understand. Not until they saw her, o glorious Minorne!
But she is fearful! There are fools in this world that do not heed her beautiful voice. The guard, Florentius, sent from Minorne’s Beacon, still prays to Arkay, an absentee god who pales compared to Minorne! I will pray to the goddess I can see! May he rot in his cage!
Oh, sweet, sweet, Minorne…”
- Aletio: Why would they cage Florentius and not kill him?
- Wulf: Minorne would find him challenging. How dare he resist her magic!
- Ko’rassa: Her ego would keep him alive as she tries to break him.
- Valdemar: It is like Daenlyn continually playing a tune until you lie and agree that it is good.
- Daenlyn: Hey! I only do that when you are obviously in awe of my music but refuse to admit it!
- Valdemar: No, it can’t be possible for somebody not to like my music!
- Ko’rassa: I’ve noticed the dogs make themselves scarce when Daenlyn sings.
- Wulf: Shush, I can hear voices!
We quietly made our way to a large chamber where two ensorceled Vigilants were firing crossbows at a priest leaping around within a cage. The priest occasionally returned fire from his crossbow. Unpriestlike language taunted the Vigilants peppered with genuinely amused guffaws.
An Altmer mage was watching while moving around. She yelled, “What kind of morons can’t shoot an idiot in a cage?”
A Vigilant replied, “Please forgive our uselessness, my Goddess.”
Although it was an amusing scene, the Vigilants would eventually kill the priest. Minore was identified, so I didn’t hesitate to kill her. My arrow thumped into the mage, and she screamed as she died. Seconds later, the two ensorceled Vigilants dropped dead.
We leapt down, and I inspected Minorne.
On Minorne were two keys and the relic for which so many had died. It was a staff with a pathetically weak illusion dweomer. Its effect was similar but weaker than a Calm spell, which an Apprentice Mage of Illusion can cast! I held it up for all to see.
- Wulf: This is the relic Minorne sought. It has a dweomer of Illusion that will make weak enemies refuse to fight. An Apprentice Mage of Illusion can cast a more potent equivalent.
- Valdemar: All of these people died for a Staff of Calm?
- Wulf: No, Valdemar, they died for Minorne’s desire to own this relic.
- Ko’rassa: Minorne must have been very disappointed when she finally held it.
- Aletio: Aww, poor Minorne.
- Daenlyn: Did Moric ever feel the presence of a powerful artefact?
- Wulf: No, Moric felt what Minorne wanted him to feel. He came here to find a relic, and she used that desire to begin her ensorcellment.
- Daenlyn: How did she ensorcel so many people?
- Wulf: I don’t know. I can understand the mechanics of what she did. She may have learned some magic lost in time because I can’t think of any well-known Illusion spells that would enable such a thing.
- Valdemar: Moric became certain that there was a relic important to The Vigilants inside these ruins. His enthusiasm convinced other Vigilants that he was right. Minorne then used their desire to find the relic to begin their ensorcellment.
- Wulf: Correct. Daedric Princes are adept at using these desires to recruit people with promises. Minorne did her recruiting more directly.
- Daenlyn: A mighty mage killed many people to obtain a weak relic.
- Wulf: I don’t think Minorne was a powerful mage. She found lost magic that she used for selfish means. I am sure your bardic brain can make a mournful song about it.
- Valdemar: I don’t think the dweomer was designed to kill the ensorceled.
- Wulf: I agree. I think she knew enough to use it but didn’t have the control somebody more adept may have.
I walked over to the dead Vigilants.
Florentius said, “Hello, I am here, stuck in a cage, in case you didn’t notice. Arkay suggests you free me now.”
“Lord Arkay will understand that we must be thorough in our investigation. We shall get to you in good time, Brother Florentius.”
A name inscribed on his crossbow identified Moric Sidrey. He had nothing of interest upon him.
Neither did the other Vigilant.
I said, “We had better check for other enemies before releasing you, Brother Florentius. Be patient, and pray to Stendarr that we don’t all die. But I suppose Lord Arkay wouldn’t let you starve to death, would he?”
One of the keys I retrieved from Minorne opened a door with Dragon Priest markings.
I told the group, “This seems to have once been a burial place for a Dragon Priest. We have seen no Draugr or sign of a crypt, so I doubt this excavation has reached far into the ruins.”
We entered a room that Minorne was using as a bedroom. The artwork above her bed suggested she was not a worshipper of friendly deities.
A thorough search found nothing related to the spell she used on the Vigilants.
A lever gave us access to another exit.
After enjoying the fresh air for a minute, we decided we had better free Florentius.
As we walked back, I said, “Let me be the only one to talk to Florentius. I want to assess his mental state.”
When we returned, Florentius didn’t look too pleased.
I unlocked the cage, and his personality changed from grumpy to overwhelmingly cheerful.
He gushed, “I knew you had it in you! Arkay wasn’t so sure. Between you and me, I think he didn’t expect you to make it.”
“You were expecting me?”
“I knew Arkay would save me. I asked for help, and he sent you! You are a very welcome addition to this dreary place, my friend. I owe both you and Arkay a great deal. I’m sure I’ll manage to repay him later, but you… What can I do to thank you?”
“You can thank all of us, for I am not alone, by keeping still for a second.”
I stepped closer to Florentius, whose grin reminded me of Lord Sheogorath’s. I scanned his soul, and it was pure. It was not my place to prove that Lord Arkay did not speak to him. I could harm him if I shattered that delusion. He was blasphemous, but not intentionally so.
I stepped back and asked, “How did you get your hands on a crossbow?”
“Well, Minorne was trying her hardest to make me one of her puppets, but my faith in Arkay was too strong. As she got angrier, I thought my time on Nirn was ending. Then Arkay told me what to do. I started whispering common terms used to praise Arkay and substituted Minorne’s name. I made sure my whispers were audible enough that she could hear them. She commanded an Enforcer to get closer and tell her what I was saying. When he leant close to the cage, I wrestled his crossbow from him. He managed to escape my clutches and armed himself with another crossbow. Then Minorne ordered my death! I dodged and weaved, laughed and insulted. Their bolts kept hitting the bars and fell, supplying me with ammunition. They would have eventually killed me, but I wasn’t going down without a fight and a good chuckle!”
“The Vigilants suffered many losses, and The Hall of The Vigilant was destroyed when Clan Volkihar attacked. Keeper Carcette survived thanks to divine aid from Lord Stendarr.”
“Oh my, Arkay has told me nothing of this!”
“The Dawnguard helped us destroy the clan, and they are no longer a threat. However, The Vigilants and Dawnguard need help to protect Skyrim from other threats. I am sure either order would welcome you back.”
“I once killed thirty vampires with my bare hands, you know. Ask Arkay. He’ll tell you.”
“Will you rejoin The Vigilants, The Dawnguard or neither? Somebody of your skills and connection to Lord Arkay would be invaluable to either.”
“The Vigilants are now homeless, except for the beacon and the Temple of Stendarr, which isn’t finished. Oh, and that secret lot near Winterhold that I shouldn’t mention because they are a secret. I wouldn’t call them Vigilants, anyway. They need to kick in doors and loudly announce the arrival of Righteous Might, not slink like assassins and thieves.”
I had no idea The Agents of Righteous Might had a presence in Skyrim, and I will investigate them later. I had to concentrate on today’s issues.
I asked, “I take it you are not interested in joining the homeless Vigilants. What about The Dawnguard? There is plenty of room in their castle.”
“Isran’s done nothing but mock me. He’s never given me the respect I deserve.”
“Perhaps if you tone down the lecturing somewhat, you can coexist. I think The Dawnguard would benefit from your presence.”
“Look, I’ve just gotten myself out of quite a mess here, in case you haven’t noticed, and while I appreciate your help, I… What’s that? No, that’s not what I… Yes, but… Are you sure? Really? Fine. Arkay says it’s a good idea for me to rejoin Isran. I disagree, but he’s not the sort of fellow you can ignore. I’ll see you at Fort Dawnguard, then. Don’t worry. Arkay will show me the way.”
“Hold it. Are you a Priest of Arkay?”
“Yes, as if I would blaspheme about such a thing!”
“When somebody dies while ensorceled, their soul may become lost. Many souls of Vigilants need your assistance.”
“Oh, of course, I should do Arkay’s Rights for each of them!”
We shall accompany you and keep you safe. I am sure Arkay would agree that is a wise thing to do.
“Do you think…okay…yes, of course.”
“Arkay agrees that is an excellent idea. Let’s proceed, shall we?”
An hour and a half later, every soul was aided by Florentius. The number of Vigilants in Skyrim was at an all-time low. In total, Minorne’s greed cost the lives of fifteen Vigilants.
Florentius didn’t argue when I explained how I would teleport him. He calmly placed his hand on my shoulder with that disturbing grin on display.
When we materialised, he looked at me with no sign of insanity or humour.
“I never asked your name, but Arkay has told me. You are Wulf Welkynd, or so he says, but I know when he is keeping secrets. You are his champion. Well, the Champion of The Divines. You know what it is like to speak to gods. You understand how it can make you seem insane. I will try with Isran, but The Dawnguard must be diverted from hate. Why a Priest of Arkay is needed to steer devotees of Stendarr is a puzzle, but Arkay doesn’t explain everything. I am sure you have that problem as well.”
I didn’t point out that while we walked around looking for dead Vigilants, The Dragonguard had called me Wulf on several occasions, and it became apparent who I was.
I said, “Brother Florentius, Isran learned that not all vampires are evil beings that need to die. That was an important first step to him becoming more accepting of differences. Give him time, and he will accept who you are. Just be a bit more sedate in the meantime.”
“Okay. Please, visit us soon. I want to talk to you about improving The Dawnguard. Say hello to Keeper Carcette for me and express my condolences.”
We teleported to the hill leading to Stendarr’s Beacon and walked to it. A Vigilant told us where to find Keeper Carcette. When we approached, she looked at me and knew I was a bearer of ill news.
I told her, “Keeper Carcette, we rescued Brother Florentius, but that is the only good news. A total of fifteen Vigilants lost their lives in Ruunvald, including Enforcer Moric.”
Carcette closed her eyes, and tears told of her grief.
I continued, “There was a relic in Ruunvald, but it had nothing to do with Lord Stendarr. A mage sought the relic and ensorceled the Vigilants. The spell she used proved fatal to all those enslaved by her. The relic was of little value, and I killed the mage. Brother Florentius performed Arkay’s Rights for all the deceased, and Ruunvald is safe if you want to recover the bodies.”
Carcette tried to talk but couldn’t.
“Brother Florentius sends his condolences and has rejoined The Dawnguard. I think he will help there. We will now investigate Dawnstar. We can only hope the outcome there is somewhat better.”
Carcette nodded, and we left her to grieve.
We teleported to the outskirts of Dawnstar and made for Windpeak Inn.
The inn was crowded but would soon be packed as work finished for the day.
I weaved my way through the people, waving and saying hello back to the many who recognised me. The dragons were a bit of a distant threat to the people of Dawnstar. However, the night terrors caused by Vaermina’s relic were real and impacted all their lives. Therefore, it is natural that I get more recognition for solving that problem than for defeating Alduin.
I approached Thoring, the barkeep.
“Good evening, Thoring.”
“And a good evening to you, Dragonborn. What can I do for you?”
“I am looking for Enforcer Azarain. I believe he was staying here.”
“Yes, he booked a room for several nights. However, he didn’t return from an errand last night, and I haven’t seen him at all today.”
“When was the last time you saw him?”
“He was halfway through his evening meal when he abruptly got up and headed for his room. He came out fully armed and told me he had an urgent errand to run. He seemed worried.”
“Did anything happen before he abandoned his meal?”
“One of the local urchins handed him a note.”
“Which room was he using?”
“The shared one to my left.”
“Thank you, Thoring.”
“I hope he is okay, Dragonborn. He was the only Vigilant who has ever spoken to Dawnstar citizens with respect and not threats.”
We entered the shared room that Azarain had rented. On a set of drawers was a note. I read it to the squad,
“Meet me at the Windward Ruins tonight. I have some information.
- Wulf: I doubt Azarain would go alone to this meeting unless he recognised the handwriting.
- Ko’rassa: Windward Ruins are not far from here.
- Wulf: It is far enough for the sounds of a small melee not to reach Dawnstar.
- Valdemar: Well, the rest of you should hurry along and check out Windward Ruins. Meantime, I will stay here in case Azarain makes a welcome appearance.
- Daenlyn: You are a mage. Typically that precludes copious alcohol consumption as it might damage their delicate brains. But you are a Nord, so your brain is damaged from birth. Plus, you have consumed copious amounts of alcohol since you were a babe. Even your mother’s breast milk was eighty per cent proof. Therefore, if we leave you unattended, you will upset the residents of Dawnstar by drinking their inn dry.
- Aletio: A valid and undeniable reason for dragging Valdemar out into the frozen wastes of Skyrim.
- Ko’rassa: I can’t imagine why he would prefer a lovely, warm inn and mead to the pleasures of frostbite and wild animals that think he is dinner.
- Wulf: Alas, Valdemar, we might encounter Perfect Blood Hybrids and would stand no chance without your mage skills.
- Valdemar: I didn’t notice a hint of sarcasm in that remark, Wulf.
- Wulf: Luckily, you can’t hear my inner voice, which is sniggering.
- Valdemar: One more wisecrack about Nords, Daenlyn, and I will set alight to your underwear!
- Daenlyn: What was that, Valdemar? Oh, you want us to speak slower and use smaller words? Okay, we can try.
Valdemar had to laugh along with the rest of us. Daenlyn, being a bard, is used to dealing with hecklers. Running circles around Valdemar is not much of a challenge for him.
It was a relatively short walk to Windward Ruins, but even a short distance from Dawnstar is still hazardous, as the Khajiit caravans know.
I stopped to chat with a reliable source of gossip and information, Ahkari.
- Wulf: Good evening, Ahkari.
- Ahkari: It would be better if Wulf had many gems for trade at fair prices.
- Wulf: I have a few. Here you go.
I handed Ahkari a handful of assorted gems.
- Wulf: Don’t worry about evaluating them now, Ahkari. I trust a fair price will be deposited into my account.
- Ahkari: You seemed to hand this one many random gems. But you know the prices well, so expect a certain amount, give or take a small percentage, in your account.
- Wulf: Isn’t that a wise thing for a trader of goods?
- Ahkari: Indeed, Wulf, it is very wise.
- Ko’rassa: Who are the new cubs, Ahkari?
- Ahkari: Apprentices. Unlike the other cubs thrust upon us, these ones were expected and will train with us. Khajiit hopes you noticed our new donkeys.
- Ko’rassa: They are excellent and well-bred. Lucky for you, Wulf’s gems would have paid for them ten times over.
- Ahkari: Shhh! We don’t want that one thinking he isn’t getting fair prices!
- Wulf: I am glad the other cubs could return to their parents.
- Ahkari: Unfortunately, they have to live in Hammerfell for now. But The Thalmor will hunt them everywhere else except there. The Redguards scare the faeces from them.
- Wulf: They scare the crap out of them.
- Ahkari: That is what Khajiit said!
- Wulf: The cubs will be missed in Solitude and my museum.
- Ahkari: Sadly, you will soon fill the orphanage again.
- Wulf: Do you know Enforcer Azarain?
- Ahkari: Oh yes. That one is the only Vigilant to buy and sell with us. All other Vigilants deliver warnings about our worship of Daedra and how they will keep an eye on us. Kharjo used to be best at dealing with them. That one would quote relevant Imperial laws and place a paw on mace in a menacing way.
- Wulf: When was the last time you saw Enforcer Azarain?
- Ahkari: He hurried by Khajiiti caravan last night. Usually, that one stops to chat and often buys Azura Star treats. Do you want to buy some?
- Wulf: Wouldn’t they be frozen in this weather?
- Ahkari: They would be so if Khajiit did not sit on them to stop the freezing.
- Wulf: We think Enforcer Azarain might be in danger, so we must hurry and find him.
- Ahkari: Khajiit understands.
- Daenlyn: Hello and farewell, for now, dear Ahkari.
- Ahkari: It has been too long since you sang for this one’s caravan, Bard Daenlyn.
- Daenlyn: Alas, Wulf only allows me outside once a month, and then I have to wear a chain, so I don’t run away.
- Ahkari: Khajiit thought that one’s time travelling with Bandari would improve lying skills. Khajiit sees that both humour and lying still need much practice.
- Valdimar: Hah! Somebody who sees through your fake veneer of skill.
- Ahkari: Khajiit is confused. If that one is a great mage, why is there no fur on top of the head?
Valdimar lost all chance of rebuttal as Khajiiti and Dragonguard burst out laughing.
We soon moved in silence as we did not know what was hiding in the peaks and troughs of the ice field.
When Windward Ruins came into view, we halted while I scanned it with Zoom Vision and Heat Vision.
I said, “Nothing is living there that I can detect. But still, let’s approach with stealth.”
We slowly and silently made our way to the lip of Windward Ruins. What we discovered was the frozen corpse of Enforcer Azarain.
We jumped down and inspected the body.
- Wulf: He was stabbed in the back.
- Ko’rassa: Was somebody he trusted wielding the knife?
- Valdimar: Enforcer Azarain was a veteran and would be cautious. We all agree he would have recognised the handwriting on the note.
- Wulf: We haven’t enough evidence to conclude the note writer was the murderer. However, if Azarain had trusted the murderer, he might not have been concerned about them being behind him.
- Aletio: Azarain would have been on high alert, so if the killer took him by surprise, they must have exceptional skills.
- Wulf: At least we know it wasn’t Perfect Blood Hybrids. Let me check his body.
I searched Azarain’s body and retrieved his journal. As per usual, I read the relevant sections to the group.
“The investigation has moved slowly, but that was to be expected. Until recently, the townsfolk had their own problems with nightmares, and few paid any mind to the fate of Stendarr’s chosen. Intentional or not, Vaermina’s relic provided the perfect cover for whoever had harmed the Vigilants. The Dragonborn, with the assistance of The Dragonguard and a Priest of Mara, solved that problem. It was another that Vigilants should have attended to but didn’t.
The rumour is The Dragonguard killed hundreds of Thalmor in a single night without a witness. I wonder if The Agents have recruited him.
But I digress. In this journal, I will write what I’ve pieced together so far in the hope it provides some clarity.
From what I’ve gathered, Fenrik came to Dawnstar to investigate rumours of Daedra worship. There was some thought that a Daedric cult was the source of the town’s recurring nightmares. Ironically, a cult that died long ago was, in a way, responsible for the nightmares. After all, they brought Vaermina’s relic close to Dawnstar all those years ago.
One night, Fenrik disappeared without a word to the innkeeper or anyone in town. It was then that other patrols started to go missing, also without a trace. It makes sense to eliminate the best and most experienced Enforcer first.
Of leads, I have one. The other day the innkeeper found something curious behind the inn. While emptying the trash, he discovered an Elven dagger. Its blade was warm with blood and, upon further examination, tipped with poison.
The craft of the blade can mean many things. Perhaps this Daedric cult, if there is one, is Elven in origin. Moreover, Elven weapons are fashioned from Quicksilver, and a mine is nearby. The poison, too, could have originated from a nearby source. It’s also likely that our murderer moves at night when the eyes of the town are blind to their heathen worship.
As such, I suspect three individuals as possible owners of the blade. Gareth the Mer complains of the cold and yet seems resolute in staying. Harald, the miner, works the ore from which the murder weapon was fashioned. Lastly, Irine, the traveller, seems to know more about alchemy than the proprietors of The Pestle.
All three seem active in the small hours, but I can only follow one at a time. Still, doing so will prove helpful, as they will either lead me to their place of worship or eliminate themselves as suspects.
The knife may fool me. If Perfect Blood Hybrids are responsible, no weapon would be needed.”
- Wulf: There is no proof the dagger was used to harm any Vigilant. Dawnstar is not the largest city but has its share of murders.
- Valdimar: The method of picking the three suspects is also dubious.
- Ko’rassa: Harald working in a Quicksilver mine is irrelevant. If not, you might as reasonably suspect the blacksmiths who forge daggers out of Quicksilver or the merchants who sell them. Quicksilver weapons are relatively cheap in Dawnstar because the ore is mined locally. Many locals would carry a Quicksilver dagger.
- Daenlyn: The alchemists who own The Pestle are excellent and could have told Azarain what poison was on the dagger. If we knew that, we would know the skill required to make it. It is easy to purchase poison if you know the correct people to ask.
- Aletio: A Mer complaining of the cold? Is that such a rare thing? I don’t think so! The dagger was of elven design. That eliminates the miner or anyone else in Dawnstar associated with Quicksilver. Nobody here would make daggers that appeal to Mer and not Nords! Azarain’s list of suspects is based on poor logic.
- Wulf: All of you have done well with your analysis. The list of suspects is poor based on the written evidence in Azarain’s journal. However, I often work on instinct. If I forced myself to write logical links for my suppositions, I would probably have a similar list of tenuous links to my suspects. Enforcer Azarain was a veteran and likely to have developed uncannily accurate instincts.
- Ko’rassa: So, the suspects are worth investigating, as Azarain’s gut feeling might be correct.
- Wulf: Precisely. I think I can eliminate them without following them one at a time. I will get a good idea of their guilt or innocence by talking to them.
- Aletio: You could always scan their souls.
- Wulf: I don’t do that unless necessary, Aletio. It is an invasion of privacy. Many people will have some darkness of the soul, which does not make them bad people.
- Aletio: Forgive me. My Wulf was not Ningheim. I am unsure of the ethics involved.
- Wulf: You never have to apologise, Aletio. We all know this is a difficult adjustment for you.
- Aletio: I am noticing subtle differences, but nothing major. As we suspected, getting used to a different Wulf is my biggest hurdle.
- Wulf: Let’s head for the inn once more. We are more than likely going to find one or more of the suspects in there.
The inn was far more crowded than earlier. I did not ask the barkeep who Vereth, Harald, and Irine were. We discovered their identities by listening to conversations. Harald was working late in the mine.
Vereth was an Altmer, complaining to anyone who would listen about Skyrim’s weather. A Dunmer named Talmath was seated next to him, arguing that being an Ashlander meant the contrast in weather was greater for him than Vereth. That was dubious, as Alinor is tropical. I decided to get involved to ascertain Vereth’s validity as a suspect.
- Wulf: Do you work outdoors or have to travel Skyrim’s road, Vereth?
- Vereth: Are you The Dragonborn?
- Wulf: Yes, but Wulf is my name.
- Vereth: No, I am a clerk for various businesses in Dawnstar.
- Wulf: So, the most travel you do is to walk the streets of Dawnstar from one warm comfy building to the next?
- Vereth: Well, yes.
- Wulf: And you, Talmath, are wearing expensive armour and weapons. I assume you are a caravan guard or perhaps guard pilgrims and others who travel the roads of Skyrim.
- Talmath: I guard whoever needs one on the roads of Skyrim. Sometimes a merchant, sometimes pilgrims, sometimes neither.
- Wulf: Therefore, you experience the fantastic Skyrim weather more often and for extended periods than Vereth.
- Talmath: That fact I tried explaining to our perpetual whiner here.
- Wulf: Your claim that an Ashlander would notice a more prominent contrast than an Altmer is wrong. My experience of Solstheim is one of warmth one second, biting cold the next. Not dissimilar to Skyrim. The layperson might think an ash-covered land must be warm, like a desert, but even deserts experience freezing temperatures at night. However, Solstheim is desert-like due to ash from Red Mountain, not the baking heat of the Sun. Said ash makes it bitter cold when the Sun is blocked, wouldn’t you say?
- Talmath: Yes, I suppose you are right.
- Wulf: On the other hand, Alinor is tropical with constantly high humidity. You couldn’t get a more significant contrast to this part of Skyrim.
- Talmath: Okay, I admit defeat, Vereth. You win the argument.
- Vereth: Oh, I didn’t want to argue, Talmath. And I tend to whine about the weather when, as Wulf pointed out, I spend most of my time in warm buildings. Let me buy you a drink, and we can discuss other topics. I am interested in how the roads are now meaner dragons, New Order and Stormcloaks are gone.
- Talmath: Don’t forget The Thalmor. Oops, sorry.
- Vereth: Haha. Do you think I only live in Skyrim for its excellent climate? Most in The Dominion dislike The Thalmor. We are just not organised enough to do something about them.
- Wulf: It has been a pleasure talking to you both. Have a lovely evening.
The Dragonguard had been watching, and I gave the hand signal for no. I eliminated Vereth as a suspect.
I didn’t bother speaking to Irine. From overheard conversations, she was a devotee of Dibella and often accompanied pilgrims to the nearby Shrine of Dibella.
I signalled The Dragonguard, and we met outside.
After briefly discussing why Vereth and Irine were not suspects, we headed for Quicksilver Mine. I wonder how long it took them to decide on that name.
We entered the mine, and as expected, we found Harald working the late shift.
I tapped him on the shoulder and asked, “Excuse me, is Beitild here?”
He stood with disdain and growled, “Are you stupid? She is the owner of Iron-Breaker Mine. This is Quicksilver Mine. I bet you don’t even know the difference between Iron Ore and Quicksilver.”
Another miner behind him whispered, “Harald, that is The Dragonborn, you idiot. I doubt he came in here by mistake.”
Harald whispered back, “Are you sure, Borgny?”
“Perhaps you should read the news sheets before wiping your arse with them. Oh, you can’t read. Well, you could look at the pictures. So yes, I am sure that is The Dragonborn, the most famous person in Skyrim.”
Harald’s demeanour changed. He suddenly started sweating and looked around nervously.
I said, with a tiny bit of Thu’um, so it echoed, “Borgny is correct. I didn’t come in here by accident. I am looking for a Daedric cult reportedly operating around Dawnstar. Would you know anything about that, Harald?”
“Ahh, no…I am just a miner and love The Nine.”
“Yet you don’t wear an amulet of your favourite. Which of The Nine is your favourite, Harald?”
“Ahh, Lord Talos, of course.”
“Is that an Elven Dagger made of Quicksilver hanging off your belt?”
“Yes, ahh, it was a present. I prefer Nord daggers, but I can’t show ingratitude by trading it in.”
“Well, I am sorry to have disturbed your labour, Harald. Blessings of the Nine on you and all the hardworking miners.”
We left Harald rattled, and we all laughed once we exited the mine.
- Daenlyn: He was like a child caught with his hand in the biscuit jar.
- Valdimar: What on earth is a biscuit? Is that what you dip in your milk?
- Daenlyn: No, it is a baked treat that we smear the entrails of our defeated on. It is incredibly delicious with freshly diced raw liver. I prefer Imperial liver over Nord as there is less alcohol aftertaste.
- Valdimar: He is joking, right, Wulf?
- Wulf: Valdimar, I realise you were trained as an Imperial Battlemage and never attended The College of Winterhold. Still, your ignorance sometimes worries me. Daenlyn is not one of the Woof Elves that eat enemies. A biscuit is another name for a cookie.
- Valdimar: Perhaps Daenlyn could educate me on his people rather than bait me.
- Wulf: I agree. Your baiting of Valdimar had been relentless, Daenlyn.
- Daenlyn: Yes, I realise that now. I apologise, Mage Valdimar. Believe me when I say I respect you and will endeavour to demonstrate that. I might even let you beat me in a mead-drinking contest.
- Valdimar: Apology and challenge are accepted. But there is no need to let me beat you, for you have no chance.
- Ko’rassa: Hold the competition outside. I assume the first one to upchuck or pass out is the loser. Either way, a mess will be made, resulting in justifiable homicide if inside. One or both of you would be deceased with broom-shaped dents in your head.
- Wulf: You lot are to make yourself scarce. I will wait here for Harald and then tail him invisibly.
- Aletio: I suggest Windpeak Inn be our place of waiting.
- Wulf: I want you all to be sober.
- Aletio: We haven’t had a meal for almost twelve hours, Wulf.
- Wulf: Well then, stuff your faces with food, not booze.
The Dragonguard wandered towards the inn, chatting amicably amongst themselves.
What happened next was so tedious I don’t have adequate adjectives to describe it.
After some time, Harald exited the mine, and I immediately went invisible.
He looked around nervously and probably expected The Dragonborn or Dragonguard to be watching.
He sighed with relief then started wandering around Dawnstar, but instead of trying the lose a potential tail, he seemed to be following a young woman. Wherever she went, Harald was a few feet behind. Why she didn’t turn and tell him off is beyond me.
I soon had two equally disturbing thoughts.
The first is that Harald was stalking a victim like Calixto in Windhelm. I had to shoot Calixto in the back when he eventually tried to kill his intended victim, Arivanya, an Altmer bard. Calixto was as close to Arivanya as Harald was to the young woman he followed. Arivanya was unaware he was there till I shot him in the back, and he died screaming. It seemed this young lady was unaware of Harald shadowing her around Dawnstar. Just in case, as I did in Windhelm, I knocked an arrow and held my bow at the ready.
The second disturbing thought was the two had arranged a tryst. A voyeur I am not, but I would have to wait and at least listen until the pair had finished. I could imagine Rigmor’s laughter at such a predicament.
Around the streets of Dawnstar, we went.
To my surprise, both of them headed for Windpeak Inn, and Harald even opened the door for the young woman.
I then spent another boring hour keeping my eye on Harald while he had a wonderful time chatting with other patrons and eating a hearty meal. My friends, being the bastards they are, kept walking past with plates of food and mouths stuffed while they chewed noisily. I thought of Lydia’s Apple Cabbage Stew, which helped control hunger pangs. However, I did feel nauseous.
Finally, Harald headed for the exit. I signed for The Dragonguard to remain.
Harald entered Quicksilver Mine, and I thought I had wasted my time as he headed for the miner’s sleep area.
However, he walked past it and the snoring miners and headed deeper into the mine. Then I realised it was just past midnight. I was in the middle of a cliché!
Harald came to a button in the wall. He pressed it, and a fake wall ground slowly into the roof. I could hear chanting and realised I was dealing with a Molag Bal cult. That made me more determined to dispose of them.
I followed Harald inside the temple. I could then see what I faced and decide what to do. I could have summoned The Dragonguard first, but we would have had to open the noisy door again.
When I saw the head devotee was a Vigilant, I guessed who it was.
I walked up behind him and whispered, “Fenrik, I have come to deliver Righteous Might.”
I made myself visible as the startled traitor turned with mace drawn. I let him cast a protection spell as I wanted him to realise how weak he is.
I growled, “Do you think Molag Bal will save you? He will be waiting to punish you for your failure!”
I quickly blocked Fenrik’s mace.
I added, “Enforcer Azarain will be in Aetherius, surrounded by the love of Lord Stendarr and fellow Vigilants who have fallen in service. You will have eternity to decide who got the better deal.”
Azarain thought Fenrik was the best warrior he had ever met. I played with the traitor and blocked his attacks with ease. I touched his armour with my sword, which removed his protective dweomer.
Other cult members were getting close, so I smiled at Fenrik and decapitated him.
The rest of the cultists consisted of unarmoured civilians and a couple of low-level vampires.
Harald found his Elven Dagger of little use against The Dragonborn.
Seconds later, all the cultists joined Fenrik in Coldharbour.
I summoned The Dragonguard, who appeared with weapons drawn. They soon realised there was nobody left to kill.
Rigmor sensed my rage and talked to me via our amulets.
“What is wrong, Wulf? It has been some time since you have felt such anger.”
“Yesterday, we investigated missing Vigilants and found fifteen dead because a mage wanted to retrieve an artefact.”
“Then we investigated more missing Vigilants in Dawnstar. We found them! They are all around me, lying in coffins, sacrificed to Molag Bal by a Vigilant turncoat. That same Vigilant murdered his best friend, all to please Molag fucking Bal!”
“Can The Vigilants of Stendarr in Skyrim survive at this rate?”
“No, they can’t. As a member of The Dawnguard said, Cyrodiil will send more meat for the grinder.”
“Are you angry because of the betrayal by that Vigilant?”
“I am angry because the friend he killed, Enforcer Azarain, was the type of Vigilant I want the rest to be. I need people like him to help reform the order. But he was taken from us by slime who deserve whatever miserable eternity Molag Bal decides.”
“Did you have to kill civilians?”
“I didn’t have to, but I chose to. I could have summoned The Dragonguard but decided to personally deliver what Vigilants call Righteous Might and what I call Divine Wrath. They were not innocents, Rigmor, so their deaths do not plague me.”
“I can join you in the morning, well, later this morning, after I have farewelled the Solstheim delegation.”
“I think we might make ourselves scarce for the day. Just you and me at one of the houses you haven’t seen. It is a small farm outside Whiterun, next to the river.”
“When did you buy that?”
“Quite some time ago, but it was too small, so I had it expanded. I must get a steward for it.”
“Is there enough room for a wheat crop?”
“Not one big enough for a little girl and horse-sized dog.”
“Talk to me when you are back home if need be.”
“I will be okay, Rigmor. My anger is already subsiding. I dread telling Keeper Carcette. She cried when told of the fifteen. I don’t know how many are here as yet.”
“She is strong of faith, Wulf.”
“I hope so because Lord Stendarr is not one for answering prayers with reassurances.”
“Good night, my dear Dragonborn.”
The Dragonguard knew I would talk when ready so let me be. Discussions among themselves revealed they also suspected the headless Enforcer of being Fenrik.
The vampires had caught and dissected a Silver Sword. Ironically, several werewolf heads were impaled on tall spikes surrounding Molag Bal’s altar. A note indicated it was a slow death for the werewolf hunter.
Most of the dead Vigilants were placed in coffins. One exception was a female Enforcer floating in a sarcophagus full of blood. I have no idea of the significance of that oddity.
A pile of bones suggested the small vampire clan had been active for some time. But that was deceptive, as I believe them to be the bones of recently deceased removed from their graves. On inspection, many of the bones had been split to gain access to the marrow.
I searched the headless corpse of Fenrik and found his journal. I signalled, and The Dragonguard gathered close to me while I read it aloud.
“Azarain once told me I was Tamriel’s strongest warrior. But that is a lie.
A strong man would have ended his life long ago. He would have delivered Stendarr’s justice upon his soul. I am a weak man, and so, I live.
The Vigil teaches us that vampires are an abomination to be destroyed without mercy. But in my cowardice, I began to entertain the blasphemous thought that vampirism had a cure.
Never has the subject been broached by the Keepers. After all, the very idea that these creatures were capable of salvation would threaten the principles of the order. So, to learn more, I sought the aid of the very monster I had sworn to oppose.
Molag Bal’s price was steep. I was to gather thralls and build an altar deep in the mines of Dawnstar for purposes that would only become clearer as the nights went on. To that shrine, I was to sacrifice the lives of nine of my brothers and sisters, one for each divine.
At times my resolve has wavered, but the Dark Lord has offered proof in the form of Galur Rithari. His excerpts prove that a cure exists through a dream of being ‘sliced by thousands of tiny knives from my bowels inside out.’ As the town speaks of nightmares and the presence of Vaermina, I now see why Dawnstar was chosen for this unholy vigil.
With only three sacrifices left, the ritual is almost complete. Undoubtedly, Azarain will see this as treason, and I love him as my Shield Brother, which is why I cannot sacrifice him. But every Vigil that dies at our hands calcifies my resolve. The weakness of my mind does not betray the strength of my will.
For all my cowardice, I am worth the souls of a dozen men. If I rejoin the Vigil, more souls will be saved than I give to Molag Bal.
Perhaps when the accounting is done, Stendarr will show me mercy.”
- Wulf: As you all guessed, the headless piece of dung is Fenrik.
- Valdimar: The hubris of the man is astounding!
- Ko’rassa: I hope Molag Bal tells Fenrik about Serana and how easy it is to cure Vampirism.
- Wulf: Oh, he will. Molag Bal will enjoy watching Fenrik wail in despair.
- Daenlyn: A visit to Falion or sacrifice fellow Vigilants. The choice would have been easy, but I am guessing Molag Bal didn’t mention the less bloodthirsty option.
- Wulf: Daedric Princes will fulfil a bargain. Their word is sacrosanct. But they will not stop a mortal from making a poor deal.
- Aletio: Fenrik would have asked Molag Bal if there was a cure. Molag Bal told him of one and negotiated Fenrik’s side of the bargain. Being who he is, Molag Bal created a deal full of spite and an insult to The Divines.
- Valdimar: Who was Galur Rithari?
- Wulf: Galur Rithari was a Dunmeri champion of the Buoyant Armigers. Vampires of The Aundae Clan attacked and killed a squadron of Buoyant Armigers but spared Galur. It was an insult to Vivec to use his champion as cattle. It was a bigger insult to turn him into a vampire eventually. These events occurred in the Second Era in Vvanderfell.
- Ko’rassa: What or who are Buoyant Armigers?
- Wulf: Each member of The Tribunal had their military order. A Buoyant Armiger was a Knight of Vivec.
- Ko’rassa: And who were The Aundae Clan?
- Wulf: In Vvandenfell, there were three large vampire clans. The Aundae Clan was one of them. All members were Altmer mage vampires specialising in mind control magic similar to what Minorne used.
- Valdimar: What bargain did Galur make with Molag Bal?
- Wulf: Unlike Fenrik, Galur chose to oppose vampires. He only fed on animal blood and hunted members of The Aundae Clan. When he pursued them to their seat of power in the Daedric ruin of Bal Ur, he came upon one of the most powerful of Molag Bal’s Altars. There, an avatar of Molag Bal offered him a cure in return for a specific cursed soul gem from a deep cavern on the northern slope of Red Mountain. Galur was one of a few mortals with enough skill to survive the retrieval of the soul gem. He gave it to Molag Bal, who then cured him.
- Daenlyn: Did Galur suffer during the cure?
- Wulf: Yes. As Fenrik wrote, Galur described it as, ‘sliced by thousands of tiny knives from my bowels inside out.’ It was unnecessary, but Molag Bal is the Prince of Spite.
- Daenlyn: What was special about the soul gem that Galur delivered to Molag Bal?
- Wulf: There are dozens of theories and no hard evidence for any of them. I believe we shall find out what that soul gem was one day, to our detriment. That is intuition, not a premonition.
- Daenlyn: You told us there were cures for vampirism in the past. Did Dragon Breaks remove knowledge of them all?
- Wulf: Dragon Breaks and religious dogma. What did Fenrik say about Vigilant doctrine?
- Daenlyn: The Vigilants teach that vampires are an abomination to be destroyed without mercy. Fenrik thought that seeking a cure for vampirism was blasphemous and that evidence of one would threaten the principles of the order.
- Wulf: And there lies the problem with The Vigilants in Skyrim. In the First Era, an Archbishop of Stendarr’s Temple in Chorrol named four abominations to be destroyed without halt or mercy. They were Daedra, lycanthropes, undead and vampires. There was never any proof this declaration was the will of Lord Stendarr, and to me, it is blasphemous. Stendarr is part of many pantheons. In all of them, he extols the virtue of mercy. His followers are urged to offer medical and other aid to believers and pagans without prejudice. Vampirism is a disease of the soul that can be cured. Many vampires have demonstrated, like Serana, that vampires are not inherently evil. They are beloved mortals with a disease that still have free will. It is the same with lycanthropes, except many have no control if forced into beast form by the cycles of the moons. Many werebears and werewolves remove themselves from civilisation, so they don’t inadvertently harm the innocent. Members of The Companions are rumoured to be werewolves. There are undead roaming my museum who are not evil nor undeserving of mercy. Not all Daedra are evil, and you know my reluctance to label Daedric Princes with good and evil labels. Vigilants like Enforcer Azarain are needed to steer the order in the right direction.
- Valdimar: You will deliberately do as Fenrik feared and threaten the principles of the order.
- Wulf: When principles are based on a demonstrable lie, they must be threatened. I will continue to argue that The Vigilants of Stendarr are needed but in the form Lord Stendarr desires. I might be naïve and be called a blasphemer, but unless The Divines tell me otherwise, I will pursue this goal. The Vigilants and Dawnguard should uphold The Nine’s will by slaying those who harm innocents. They should not be spending time hunting beings simply for existing.
- Valdimar: There is something unrelated to Fenrik I wanted to ask.
- Wulf: I was wondering who would be the first.
- Valdimar: Florentius mentioned secret Vigilants near Winterhold. Azarain wondered if The Agents had recruited you. Are they talking about the same people, and if so, who are they?
- Wulf: They were both referring to The Agents of Righteous Might. After the signing of The White-Gold Concordat, many veteran warriors sought ways to aid the citizens of The Empire. An Imperial veteran called Nirtius Pontanian and five ex-Legionnaire comrades joined The Vigilants of Stendarr. Being more martially skilled than their colleagues, they were tasked with the more dangerous missions. They often took other Vigilants with them, especially if the target was a fortress or extensive cave system. It soon dawned on Nirtius that tackling vampires, necromancers and the like in this fashion led to unacceptable losses. He decided to try the stealth approach, which reduced casualties but was not guaranteed to destroy an entire clan or cult.
- Ko’rassa: They started going undercover, didn’t they?
- Wulf: Yes, like you did with The Dark Brotherhood. Many other Penitus Oculatus agents have done and still do such undercover work.
- Ko’rassa: You infiltrate the enemy and destroy them from within.
- Wulf: That is the idea, and I would be very good at that task. The problem is, when dealing with Daedric cults, you may have to go deep undercover.
- Valdimar: What is the difference?
- Ko’rassa: The Dark Brotherhood would eventually have asked me to assassinate someone. If I were a deep undercover operative, I would be expected to do so and keep my cover.
- Wulf: I have sworn to protect the innocent. If I infiltrated a Daedric Cult and was required to sacrifice an innocent, I could not do so. I would risk myself and the loss of further intelligence to defend the life of the intended sacrifice. Boethia is known to demand the sacrifice of an innocent. Mehrunes Dagon often requires the sacrifice of family or other loved ones.
- Valdimar: What is the name of the clandestine Vigilants again?
- Wulf: The Agents of Righteous Might.
- Ko’rassa: Those who go deep undercover risk losing their morality and sanity. It is rare to find somebody willing to undertake more than a couple of deep undercover missions.
- Wulf: Martin Septim never had to compromise his base beliefs. Neither did Mother. Father did, and he is uncomfortable with those decisions even though he defends their necessity. Some enemies may rightly regard my reluctance to accept collateral damage as a weakness that can be exploited.
- Aletio: My Wulf feared a scenario where his unwillingness to accept collateral damage cost far more lives than he saved.
- Wulf: I am no different, Aletio. I could command armies and send them to war, knowing casualties were inevitable. I could not kill or let be killed an innocent that I could save, no matter the consequences.
- Daenlyn: Fenrik killed seven Vigilants. He must be included in the tally, so that is another eight losses that Keeper Collette must be informed about.
- Wulf: What is worse is the souls of the six sacrificed Vigilants are not residing in Aetherius. They are guests of Molag Bal in Coldharbour. That makes Fenrik’s actions infinitely worse than murder.
- Ko’rassa: Have you spoken to Rigmor?
- Wulf: Briefly. She will join me later today, and we shall spend time together at Tundra Homestead.
- Ko’rassa: Is the update finished?
- Wulf: Yes, and The Dragonguard can add it to the houses they can use. There are some properties available in Winterhold I am yet to inspect and perhaps purchase.
- Ko’rassa: Are we going to tell Keeper Carcette now?
- Wulf: We shall teleport there and tell her if she is awake.
I teleported us to the hill leading to Stendarr’s Beacon. When we reached the beacon, Keeper Carcette, three other Vigilants and a couple of huskies were preparing to go on patrol.
Carcette looked at me and once again, realised the news was grim.
I handed her the journals of Enforcer Azarain, and Fenrik then said, “I shall be writing a full report for my journals. I shall give you a copy, but for now, I can summarise. Reading those journals will tell you much of what occurred.”
“You look exhausted, Wulf. So be as brief as need be.”
“Fenrik was responsible for the missing Vigilants. He had become a vampire and sacrificed six Vigilants in a deal with Molag Bal. He didn’t sacrifice Enforcer Azarain but murdered him. The reasons are outlined in his journal. The remains of the Vigilants are in a cave within Dawnstar’s Quicksilver Mine. Enforcer Azarain’s is in Windward Ruins, not far from Dawnstar.”
“Fenrik sacrificed them! Their souls are with Molag Bal!”
“I am afraid so. Fenrik had enough love for Enforcer Azarain to not inflict that fate on him.”
“Why did Fenrik do this terrible thing?”
“Read his journal, Keeper Carcette. I will discuss it with you soon. Right now, I need to be surrounded by loved ones, even if they are asleep. Blessings of The Nine on you and all Vigilants.”
We teleported into Silverpeak Lodge. I smiled when I saw Meeko was keeping Gladys company.
I said goodnight to my squad and thanked them for their help.
I shuffled to my room, weary in body and soul.
At least this night, I managed to disrobe before collapsing on my bed. I was soon asleep.