Grazhir :: Skyrim :: Yvara :: 08

08042015

2.1

Tyranny of the Sun

Awakening
Heartfire, 17th, 4E 201

I was going to continue on west and loop around Skyrim, but I remembered those Vigilants of Stendarr, so I asked the innkeeper about them. He gave me directions to their hall. Even before I arrived I could see the flames.

The place was half destroyed, fires still burning. . . . There were dead vampires, their hounds, and a few Vigilants. I did a bit of poking around and found a marked-up map on one showing where Dimhollow Crypt was, so I marked it on my own map.

I wouldn’t claim to like the Vigilants. They would as soon kill me as speak if they actually realized I was a vampire. Their hall might be gutted, but I knew there were plenty of them out there still alive, roaming Skyrim, and macing vampires and Daedra worshipers with extreme prejudice. This setback was hardly their end.

I left the remains and tried finding the way to the crypt. As it turned out the map was a bit deceptive. Dimhollow Crypt was practically right behind the hall, up a path off to the side and around up the mountain there. Why so close? It seemed like it was so much farther away on the map.

Inside I heard two vampires speaking, one male, one female. Seems those Vigilants had come, or at least one of them. He apparently took out two vampires before he was overcome. They spoke of Lokil (who was obviously much farther inside the place) and Harkon (back at some castle). I doubted very much I could sneak past them, so. . . .

‘Note to self: stop being such a moron as to forget that my fellow vampires are resistant to frost, and an ice-casting lich is a bad idea,’ I thought, quickly switching to fire and a flame atronach.

Once they were out of the way I found the chain to open the bars blocking the way onward. I found a lot of graves in the Nord style, though I had only seen this type before while outside. Then again, it gave rise to understanding why the place was called a crypt, even though it shared nothing of the usual style of a barrow. But deeper, past a huge gate and through a door, the architecture changed quite a bit. There were gargoyle statues, coffins. . . .

Another Vigilant was there, having either penetrated so deep on his own or having been dragged there—I couldn’t tell. He was knocked around a bit by two vampires and killed. I sneaked out onto the balcony adjoining the room and peered down through the balustrades. I saw a kind of courtyard, except it was difficult to define it as one while in a massive cavern. The male vampire, Lokil, was there. The female—I had no idea what her name might be. There was a third with them that I suspected was a thrall, mainly because he never spoke and just followed behind them.

There were stairs leading down, and a bridge of sorts leading over to a large circular platform ringed with arches. At the center was some kind of pedestal. The two vampires spoke of Harkon, and two others, presumably at the same castle. Part of what I was hearing sounded like jockeying for position under a ruler’s gaze.

I made my way down to their level as quietly as I could, and then attacked with fire and an atronach. Once they were gone I was able to investigate properly. The floor under the pedestal had a five-sided design. The platform itself had grooves radiating out from the central design, and rings of grooves bisecting those. There were also receptacles of some kind, or braziers, stopped at points of intersection.

Moving them did nothing (I made the mistake of leaning against one of them and fell over when it shifted position to the next intersection up the spoke) that I could discern, so the only thing of interest that remained was that pedestal. When I went to touch it a spike slammed upward through my hand. It really hurt, damn it!

While I was checking and healing the wound a strange purple light sprang up along the first circle, but in one place it reached along a spoke to one of the braziers, and the braziers were then filled with glowing blue embers. Perhaps now they would do something if moved? I examined the situation carefully before trying anything. The line led from the one brazier to another intersection so I pushed the brazier on that line to that spot.

The line moved, showing me the next intersection of interest, and I nodded, then quickly started pushing things into place. The moment the last one slid into place the platform shook and called my attention back to the center.

That five-sided design on the floor split apart and the floor moved, sinking down in stages like an amphitheatre. The smaller design in the very center rose up like a pillar, still with that pedestal on top. There must be a point, a reason. Could it be opened? I took a deep breath and started checking the sides. One of them was different so I tried prying at the edge. It swung open like a door and inside—inside was a woman, a Nord vampire.

She woke up, disoriented. “Unh. . . . Where is—who sent you here?”

“I sent myself, actually,” I replied, “after hearing some Vigilants of Stendarr speak of this place. Who were you expecting?”

She sagged against one of the sides, then straightened up. “I was expecting someone from my family. I don’t recognize you. Are you one of my father’s little acolytes?”

I arched a brow at her. “I am no one’s ‘little acolyte’, and I haven’t the least clue who your father might be.”

“My father is a very powerful man. Or he was at one point. I’m surprised another vampire hasn’t heard of him.”

I shrugged. “Sorry, I haven’t. I’m not from Skyrim anyway. Don’t suppose you’d be willing to tell me why you were locked away like this? Because there were vampires and Vigilants all after this place. The only names I overheard were, uh, Jeron, Bresoth, Lokil, Vingalmo, Orthjolf, and Harkon—before they attempted to kill me, that is.”

She gave herself away with her reaction, but to her credit she blanked out her expression fairly quickly. “That’s . . . complicated. And I’m not totally sure if I can trust you. But if you want to know the whole story, help me get back to my family’s home.”

I shrugged again. “I don’t see a reason to not help. You look like you could use a friend right now. Where is it you need to go?”

“. . .My family used to live on an island west of Solitude. I would guess they still do. By the way . . . my name is Serana. Good to meet you.”

I smiled. “Yvara. Likewise. Well, I came in from over there, so I suppose we can try going that way over there instead. If it’s not another way out we can always backtrack.”

“All right.”

I started to walk to the opposite side of the platform from where I’d crossed over and said, “I suppose I should not be asking about that massive scroll on your back, then?”

“Yeah. It’s complicated. I can’t really talk about it. Sorry.”

“It’s fine. Is it fragile, though? Do we need to take care it won’t be damaged?”

Serana laughed softly. “Nothing can destroy an Elder Scroll. Worry more about protecting your hide, and let me worry about my things.”

“Fair enough,” I said as I started up some steps. There were more gargoyle statues on that side. “Do you have any idea how long you were entombed?”

“Good question. Hard to say. I—I can’t really tell. I feel like it was a long time. Who is Skyrim’s High King?”

“Ha, that’s a matter for debate. There’s a civil war going on right now and some think it should be Jarl Elisif of Solitude, while others think it should be Jarl Ulfric of Windhelm. Elisif was married to the High King, but he was killed by Ulfric. To complicate things, Elisif is firmly on the side of the Empire while Ulfric fights to make Skyrim independent from it.”

Serana stopped for a moment. “Empire? What—what empire?”

“Oh dear. Cyrodiil.”

“Cyrodiil is the seat an an empire? I must have been gone longer than I thought. Definitely longer than we planned. Please, let’s hurry. I need to get home so I can figure out what’s happened.”

“I’m not even going to ask why you were entombed, so instead I’ll ask if there’s anything more I should know about your home.”

“It’s on an island near Solitude,” she repeated, then added, “Hopefully we can find a boat to take us there. Not the most welcoming place, but depending on who’s around, I’ll be safe there.”

“Ah, do I even dare ask?”

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

“Oh, hang on. You must be starving. Would you like a blood potion?”

“I—yes, if you have one to spare.”

I laughed and fetched one out, and handed it to her. “We’re bound to stumble over some bandits once we’re back outside, but that should tide you over for now.”

We ended up in a massive amphitheatre with row upon row of seats, many of which were filled, with skeletons if nothing else. That sort of thing made me nervous after my experiences with other supposedly dead things, so I started taking careful shots at them, one at a time. Sure enough, more than a few got up and headed for us.

Once they were cleared out and we had crossed the room I found another word wall: Gaan—Stamina.

After that getting out was simple and uncomplicated. Outside it was snowing something fierce and I had no idea where we were. I could not recall the twists and turns well enough to judge which side of the mountain we had come out on, so I picked a direction at random, hoping to stumble over something I recognized.

There was some kind of fort up ahead, but they all looked pretty alike at a distance. After skirting the place, however, I realized that Dawnstar was to the north. I assumed that Serana would not want to overnight there, especially as she’d only just woken up, so I pushed west toward Solitude. We could cross the marshes and loop around the coast, perhaps.

We weren’t far past Morthal when we ran into two Vigilants of Stendarr; they attacked her. They died. I drained one to see if their Divine patronage altered the flavor of their blood—or maybe I was just hungry.

I was still a bit nonplussed at her not knowing of the Empire. “Serana, for what it’s worth, it’s the year 201 of the fourth era. The third era went four hundred thirty-three years and began when Tiber Septim unified the provinces of Tamriel into the Empire. So you’ve been asleep for over six hundred years. Part of the reason for the current war is because of the apotheosis of Tiber Septim as Talos. Ulfric fights because Talos worship was outlawed due to the Great War around twenty-five years ago. But I expect you’ll find a much better understanding of events in books. I’m something of an indifferent scholar when it comes to history.”

“Good to know the world didn’t get boring while I was gone,” she said wryly, then asked, “Are you an alchemist?”

“Ah, no, not yet anyway,” I said, pausing in the act of picking yet another flower cluster. “I find myself quite unable to help gathering ingredients along the way, though. And besides, my little firebug here needs his pollen.”

Bloodline
Heartfire, 18th, 4E 201

Night slowly gave way to day as we got to the coast and worked our way west, fighting bears and skirting horkers, and eventually came upon a fort. I had no idea who controlled it and wasn’t in the mood to check; I sincerely doubted Serana would be interested, either. A castle loomed up in the distance, on an island in line of sight from the fort. Serana nodded and said, “That’s it, out there to the north. We used to keep a boat around here to get there and back.”

We found one at a small jetty near the fort and began the row over. She chose that time to ask about me and I said, “I’m a mage from the College of Winterhold. I have a room there, but I also have a home outside Whiterun. I find the place convenient because it’s so close to a lot of merchants and it’s far warmer than the College environs.”

When we docked I said, a bit teasingly, I admit, “So this is your home?” The place was massive.

She looked almost embarrassed by the question. “I didn't want you to think I was one of those . . . you know, the women who just sit in their castle all day? I don’t know. Coming from a place like this, well . . . it’s not really me. I hope you can believe that.”

I shrugged. “You’ve given me no reason to believe you’d lie to me.”

A few steps later she said, “Hey, so . . . before we go in here. . . .”

I paused and looked at her directly; something of her expression made me ask if she was all right.

“I think so. And thanks for asking. I wanted to thank you for getting me this far. But after we get in there, I’m going to go my own way for a while. I think—there’s a lot I need to think about and figure out. Once we’re inside, just keep quiet for a bit. Let me take the lead.”

“That’s understandable,” I assured her. “And you’re welcome. The landscape may or may not have changed much, but having a friendly face along the way probably helped. I just wanted to make sure you got home okay.”

She seemed relieved by that response, that I wasn’t offended or something. “What do you think you’ll do after?” she asked, head tilted to one side.

“More of the same,” I said. “I’ve been working on advancing my magic, so I’ll keep making the rounds, stopping in at the College and my house outside Whiterun, trying to improve my skills, be a better mage. This was kind of on my way anyway. Well, not quite this far north, but I’d have gone by Solitude anyway, then south and around.”

Serana nodded and started walking again, barely pausing when someone behind the gates yelled, “Lady Serana’s back! Open the gate!”

Inside we were confronted by an angry man. “How dare you trespass here! Wait—Serana? Is that truly you? I cannot believe my eyes! My lord! Everyone! Serana has returned!”

He rushed off from the entry hall and Serana said wryly, “I guess I’m expected.”

I let her take the lead as requested and followed her forward, then down one side of the stairs. An extremely handsome man was standing part way down the center of the room. There were long tables to either side with various vampires seated there, eating. The place was disgusting. Blood was splattered everywhere, various bloody body parts. They lived like pigs.

“I can’t believe it,” the man said, “My long-lost daughter returns at last. I trust you have my Elder Scroll?”

“After all these years, that’s the first thing you ask me? Yes, I have the scroll.”

“Of course I’m delighted to see you, my daughter. Must I really say the words aloud? Ah, if only your traitor mother were here, I would let her watch this reunion before putting her head on a spike. Now tell me, who is this stranger you have brought into our hall?”

Serana glanced back for a bare second before saying, “This is my savior, the one who freed me.”

“For my daughter’s safe return, you have my gratitude. Tell me, what is your name?”

‘Maybe you should tell me yours first,’ I thought, ‘except I’m pretty sure it’s Harkon.’ “I am Yvara.”

“I am Harkon,” he replied, “lord of this court. By now, my daughter will have told you what we are.”

‘Well, no, I could tell that for myself,’ I thought. ‘Or is there something I’m missing?’ “You’re vampires,” I said slowly, realizing that Serana had turned her head away and was staring off at one of the walls.

“Not just vampires. We are among the oldest and most powerful vampires in Skyrim. For centuries we lived here, far from the cares of the world. All that ended when my wife betrayed me and stole away that which I valued most.”

‘And I’m thinking from what you’ve already said—or not said—that it’s not Serana.’ I nodded, unsure if I was supposed to be nosy and ask for further details. “Well,” I began, intending to make polite noises about leaving.

But that was enough to get him going again. “You have done me a great service, and now you must be rewarded. There is but one gift I can give that is equal in value to the Elder Scroll and my daughter. I offer you my blood. Take it, and you will walk as a lion among sheep. Men will tremble at your approach, and you will never fear death again.”

I didn’t much fear it to begin with. I wasn’t some Nord who thought fleeing a bad situation was cowardly. I called it smart. “And if I refuse your gift?” I had to know. Serana still had her face averted.

“Then you will be prey, like all mortals. I will spare your life this once, but you will be banished from this hall.”

Oh, like that would be a chore. Again, they lived like pigs.

“Perhaps you still need convincing? Behold the power!”

He transformed then, into something I would never willingly choose to be. He was more monstrous in appearance than anything.

“This is the power that I offer! Now, make your choice!”

Let me think. Being able to hover, be ugly, and have crappy little wings, or stay myself? How could I possibly decide. “I am honored by the offer of your gift, but I must decline. I am happy as I am.”

“So be it!” he said, and Serana walked away at that point. “You are prey, like all mortals. I banish you!”

I came to back outside, near the boat. My vision was blurry for some time, but eventually I was able to see clearly and row back.

Prophet
Heartfire, 24th, 4E 201

I strolled on up to Elysium, intent on relaxing and unloading some goods, enjoying that wonderful bathing pool, but I stopped dead when I saw Serana perched on the stone wall outside, idly kicking one of her heels against it.

“You probably weren’t expecting to see me,” she said.

True, I was surprised. “I wasn’t, but that’s fine. Would you like to come in? Though—” I glanced over at the shrine. “I need to warn you that the property is under Kynareth’s eye. I inherited the place, so to speak, because she found me worthy to have it. The journal the caretaker left behind said ‘the unworthy’ would be kept out. I admit I was really shocked when I was accepted. I guess she doesn’t have a problem with vampires?” I shrugged. “But with that in mind, you’re more than welcome to come in and we can talk where every passerby can’t overhear.”

She nodded and followed me in, hesitating slightly at the door. But it was fine. I fetched out some blood potions and offered her one, then took a seat near the fireplace, waving to the other chair. “So what’s up?”

She uncorked her potion and took a sip, nodding. “It’s—well, it’s about me. And the Elder Scroll that was buried with me.”

The Elder Scroll was a touchy subject so I asked, “What about you? Is something wrong?”

“The reason I was down there . . . and why I had the Elder Scroll. 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. Even by vampire standards. He wasn’t always like that, though. There was . . . a turn. He stumbled onto this obscure prophecy and just kind of lost himself in it.”

“Prophecy?” I muttered. “What do you mean by ‘lost himself’?”

“He just became absorbed . . . obsessed. It was kind of sick, actually. The prophecy said that vampires would no longer need to fear the sun. For someone who fancied himself as vampire royalty, that’s pretty seductive. Anyway, my mother and I didn’t feel like inviting a war with all of Tamriel, so we tried to stop him. That’s why I was sealed away with the Elder Scroll.”

Elder Scrolls were serious business, even I knew that. I frowned lightly and had some blood. “You want to stop him. Though I have to wonder what’s meant by not fearing the sun. I don’t much love it myself, but I’ve also never found it to be that much of a bother.”

“I’m not sure he knows the exact wording,” she said. “He knows enough to be obsessed about it, though. If I knew what the Elder Scroll said I might know how to counter him. The problem is that reading an Elder Scroll is no simple prospect.”

“Moth Priests.”

“Exactly. They spend years preparing before they start reading, though. Not that it helps us, anyway, because they’re half a continent away in Cyrodiil.”

“Well, we could ask around, see if there are any in Skyrim. It’s a long shot, though. I suppose we could go ask Urag in the Arcanaeum. Even if he doesn’t personally know, he might have some ideas.”

Serana nodded. “That’s what I was thinking, and I remembered that you were part of the College, so. . . .”

“Sure. We can go there. Uh, we can leave any time after I’ve had a soak, at least. Let me show you around. If you want to take a soak yourself you can do that, and there are plenty of beds if you feel like napping. There are also blood potions stored in the kitchen.” I got up and pointed at the ladder to the loft. “There’s a private area up there, also.” Then I showed her the other bedroom and its pool. “Give me an hour and I’ll be ready.”

We made very good time to Winterhold and headed up to the College. Tolfdir wandered by saying he was pleased to see me, and called me Arch-Mage. Serana raised a brow at me and I smiled a bit sheepishly, then continued on to my quarters. “Uh, yeah, I may have forgotten to mention that part. I didn’t say anything because it can give the wrong impression, kind of like the castle, you know? I’ll tell you the story later.”

I grabbed a few things and went to the Arcanaeum to see what Urag could tell us. He was able to tell us that a Moth Priest had actually been there researching something and left after saying something about Dragon Bridge.

On the way out I ran into Faralda and told her I was kind of in the middle of something and wouldn’t be able to stay this time, then hurried off with Serana in tow. One of the guards in town called me Thane, which had Serana eyeing me again. “It’s hilarious, actually,” I told her. “The people here loathe mages and magic. I don’t think Jarl Korir even realizes I am one. All I did was a few favors for people in town and one for him and I ended up with a fancy title. No coin, power, or anything else.” I shrugged.

Along the way to Dragon Bridge I ran across that damn noble couple again, still trying to find Solitude. “They must have the absolute worst sense of direction in history,” I murmured to Serana. “This is at least the third time I’ve run across them and they’re always on the wrong side of the country or heading in the wrong direction. Never any horses, or a guide. I’m honestly surprised they haven’t been robbed and killed yet.”

“Just out of curiosity, have you tried giving them directions?”

“Every time I got too close the man would warn me off. You know, because we commoners aren’t good enough to be in the presence of nobles.” I rolled my eyes.

The only other point of interest along the way was another would-be thief, this one an Argonian dressed in Imperial armor, Thalmor boots, and some kind of hood. Because that’s not suspicious at all, and so very intimidating.

We got to Dragon Bridge around midnight and I asked the first guard I saw patrolling about the Moth Priest. He pointed us south across the bridge, said the priest and his escort had left only a short while ago.

Heartfire, 25th, 4E 201

They were ambushed not far from the intersection. A dead Imperial and a vampire were there, so I searched the vampire for anything of interest and found a note. I could already see a trail of blood leading away (which made me wonder a number of things) and the note confirmed what had happened.

The blood trail led off to a cave not far away. They weren’t even trying to be subtle. Inside was more of the usual—ruins inside a fairly large cave, but all the one “room”. In any case, across the river was a ward of some kind that reminded me of the one originally around the Eye of Magnus under Saarthal. We picked our way over, through hounds and thralls, and found several vampires trying to work the priest over, to control his mind, thrall him, I suppose. That begged the question: was Harkon not yet aware that Serana had disappeared with the Elder Scroll?

“The more you fight me, the more you will suffer, mortal,” one of the vampires was saying as we crept closer.

“I will resist you, monster. I must!”

“How much longer can you keep this up, Moth Priest? Your mind was strong, but you’re exhausted from the struggle.”

“Must . . . resist. . . .”

“Yes, I can feel your defenses crumbling. You want it to end. You want to give in to me. Now, acknowledge me as your master!”

“Yes, master.”

We finally got close enough to rush in with spells flying and summons helping. I searched them and found some kind of crystal, among other things, then tried to find a way to free the priest. Up a set of stairs was the focus of the barrier and the crystal was the right shape to slot into a depression there. Doing so caused the barrier to fall.

But the priest had been subverted and immediately attacked. Serana and I beat the stuffing out of him until he yielded, which apparently can cause brainwashing to fail. “Wait, stop! I yield! That—that wasn’t me you were fighting. I could see through my eyes, but I could not control my actions. Thank you for breaking that foul vampire’s hold over me.”

“So, you’re all right now?”

“I’m quite all right, thanks to you. Dexion Evicus is my name. I’m a Moth Priest of the White Gold Tower. These vampires claimed they had some purpose in store for me, but they wouldn’t say what. Probably holding me for ransom, the fools.”

“Ah, no. They wanted you because they need someone to read an Elder Scroll. What they don’t know is that they no longer have it; we do.”

“You have an Elder Scroll? Remarkable! But—you two are vampires, as well?”

“Yes, we are. Fortunately for you, we are vampires of the non-evil sort. I’m actually a little surprised you noticed. Most people just see my eyes and think they’re a bit odd, not that I’m a vampire.”

“They don’t notice the fangs?” he asked skeptically.

I shook my head. “It’s weird. Maybe they just can’t believe someone who acts so normal could possibly be a vampire. But then, I’ve seen a lot of really strange things in Skyrim, so, who knows?”

“I see. So, you rescued me so I could read the Elder Scroll for you instead?” he asked.

“It’d be awfully nice of you if you did. We’re trying to stop someone who’s a bit unhinged. If you’re willing I’d like you to come back to the College of Winterhold. I can assure you of a room to sleep in and there’s plenty of people there to talk to, and protect you should more vampires come after you.”

“I’ll hurry on my way there before more of those vampires show up.”

I blinked, looked at Serana incredulously, and said, “Ah, I’m not letting you run off alone. You had two guards with you and they were slaughtered like livestock. No, no, I’ll put you on my horse. We can do any fighting necessary. My horse is a damn coward so he’ll keep you away from any of it.”

Heartfire, 27th, 4E 201

We got back to the College a bit after midnight. Dexion didn’t seem to have too much trouble dozing along the way and Horse kept him out of trouble whenever hostiles popped up. I showed him to my old room and got him settled, finding a few odds and ends for him. It’s not as though he had much to his name at that point, though we had gone back to the wagon to get whatever he wanted from it.

He showed up in the Arch-Mage’s quarters after he’d rested, escorted by Tolfdir, and announced, “I am ready to find out what secrets the scroll can tell.”

“If you’re sure,” I said.

Serana removed the scroll from her back and offered it to him.

“Now, if everyone will please be quiet, I must concentrate,” he said, then opened it. “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 arise. In an age of strife, 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. I must rest now. The reading has made me weary.”

Tolfdir immediately stepped up and escorted him away, presumably back to the bed I’d lent Dexion.