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Skyrim Story - Of Dawn And Dark: Part 2: Vampires Rising
The canyon entrance acted like a gate for the pair saw the light at the end as soon as they stepped inside. Once they were in the sunlight and their eyes readjusted, they found themselves surrounded by snow-covered mountain walls for a few dozens steps over the slow sloping ramp. Once they were downhill, the familiar autumn setting of the rift greeted them. Though their attention was on the young Nord in simple clothes standing there.
“Hello there, are you here to join the Dawnguard as well. The name's Agmaer.” He extended his hand toward Derbana.
She shook his hand, “I'm Derbana and he is Jerthar. We're both here to join the Dawnguard, same as you.”
“Well met, friends. Do you mind if you go with me. I have to say, I'm a bit nervous.”
Derbana looked at Jerthar who merely stared at her. She nodded and the three ran up the winding dirt road that cuts through the autumn forest enclosed in this mountainous canyon. As they turned right to pass the corner, they saw the first impression of Fort Dawnguard.
A massive stone tower complete with ramparts stood before them. A large archway cut from the same stone connected the tower with the fort. The dirt path took them around the first tower, Agmaer looked up at this wonder of stone.
“Wow, I never saw anything like this on the farm.”
He now noticed his two companions ran ahead of him. Agmaer ran to catch up, but Derbana was in the lead with Jerthar several feet behind. They were running up the natural ramp with the Fort's reinforced wood doors finally in sight. Standing front of these doors was a man wearing a complete gray set of Dawnguard Armor. He walked up to the siblings.
“Here to join the Dawnguard?”
“Yes. I'm Derbana, this is Jerthar, and the young man running to catch up is Agmaer.”
“Good. Isran will decide if you've got what it takes. Go on, he's right inside. The name's Celann, by the way.”
He stood to the side, just as Agmaer caught up. All three of them opened the door and headed inside.
They stood in a small entry way, unlit with a wood bench on either side. The main chamber in front of them was a large cylindrical room with doorways leading out left, right, and ahead. Lining the walls were random stacks of crates or a few barrels next to each other. Banners of the Dawnguard hung down from the protruding stone décor, two banners hung down from each wall as their bottom tips were a few feet from the stone floor. Two large steel gratings in the shape of the crescent moon faced each other as they were embedded into the floor which connected to the middle circle from both the front and the back of the room. Beneath this grating was water.
As they stopped inside, the three walked into the middle of a discussion with the two men standing in the middle circle. Derbana knew the man facing away from them was a Vigilant of Stendarr judging by his uniform. The other man facing them wore the same armor as Celann, but red instead of gray.
“Why are you here, Tolan? The Vigilants and I were finished with each other a long time ago.”
“You know why I'm here. The Vigilants are under attack everywhere. The vampires are much more dangerous than we believed.”
“And now you want to come running to safety with the Dawnguard, is that it? I remember Keeper Carcette telling me repeatedly that Fort Dawnguard is a crumbling ruin, not worth the expense and manpower to repair. And now that you stirred up the vampires against you, you come begging for my protection?”
The Vigilant walked closer, his tone became more firm, “Isran, Carcette is dead. The Hall of the Vigilants...everyone...they're all dead. You were right. We were wrong. Isn't that enough for you?”
Isran said, “Yes, well...I never wanted any of this to happen. I tried to warn all of you. I am sorry, you know.” He peered passed Tolan, “You three, quit hiding in the shadows and step forward.”
The siblings did so and stood at the side of the two man. Isran giving each of them a once over with his eyes before asking, “So, who are you? What do you want?”
“We're here to join the Dawnguard. I'm Derbana, he's Jerthar, and Agmaer.” She pointed to each of them as she spoke.
“Got a fire in your belly to kill vampires, eh? Good for you. But look around...there's really not much to join yet. I've only just started rebuilding the order.”
“What can we do to help?”
“I need someone out in the field, taking the fight to the damn vampires, while we're getting the fort back into shape. Tolan was telling me about some cave that the Vigilants were poking around in. Seemed to think it was related to these recent vampire attacks. ” He turned to the Vigilant, “Tolan, tell her about, what was it, Dimhollow?”
“Yes, that's it. Dimhollow Crypt. Brother Adalvald was sure it held some long-lost vampire artifact of some kind. We didn't listen to him anymore than we did Isran. He was at the Hall when it was attacked. Let me mark it on your map.”
As he did so, Isran interjected, “That's good enough for me. Go see what the vampires were looking for in this Dimhollow Crypt. With any luck, they'll still be there. Feel free to poke around the fort and take what you need. There isn't much yet, but you're welcome to anything you can use.”
“I'll met you at Dimhollow, it's the least I can do to avenge my fallen comrades.”
“Tolan, I don't think that's a good idea. You Vigilants were never trained for...”
He turned to Isran, “I know what you think of us. You think we're soft, that we're cowards. You think our deaths proved our weakness. Stendarr grant that you do not have to face the same test and be found wanting.” He faced Derbana, “I'm going to Dimhollow Crypt. Perhaps, I can be of some small assistance to you.”
Derbana reached out her hand and stopped Tolan, “I agree with Isran, you would be charging to your death.”
He shrugged off her hand, “I'm going and that's final.”
Derbana knew he would not be dissuaded, “Very well. But before you go, meet us outside the entrance of Dayspring Canyon, we'll follow you shortly.”
He nodded and proceeded to leave. Isran looked at Agmaer who was still standing in the entryway, “You there, boy. Stop skulking in the shadows and step up here. What's your name?”
As Agmaer introduced himself to Isran, the siblings walked around to inspect the fort. It boasted a banquet hall, a large room with a fireplace in the very back, and a second floor that looked down into the main chamber. There were four spiral stairwells, three leading outside to the top of the fort and its towers and the fourth leading to the second floor. Two large chambers on either side of the fort were built into the mountain. Derbana looked into one where two dogs were kept behind and in the other chamber was Jerthar who saw a similar wooden barricade with a gate, but it was empty, he noticed the large amount of space, possibly this would be their workshop in the near future.
“What is that?” He eyed a strange device and picked it up, “Interesting, this could be useful.” He tucked it away in a pocket dimension as he headed back.
After taking what little gold and supplies they headed out to see Isran instructing Agmaer in firing a crossbow. Without any further distractions, they joined Tolan outside the canyon.
“Now tell me, why was it so important for me to wait for you two?”
“Because it would take us days to get to Dimhollow Crypt, I can get us there in hours.”
“Huh?” Tolan raised his brow quizzically.
“Odahviing!” Derbana's shout echoed off the mountains.
“Why aren't you shouting for him?”
“I can only use that shout once every few days. I have to shout for him the normal way for now.”
“Well, good thing, you told him to stay close by.”
After a moment, they could hear it, the flapping of dragon wings. Odahviing descended down like a hawk from the sky. The very sight of which made Tolan fall to his back.
Jerthar smiled, “Yeah, I had the same reaction when I first met him, too.”
“Greetings, mortal. It would seem the Dovahkiin wishes for me to bear one more passenger this time.”
“If you would, Odahviing. You need to get to Dimhollow Crypt.”
“Ah, I know of that place. Like the fort, there's been much activity, but of the darker kind.”
“Yes, if you wish to stop them, we best hurry.”
Derbana and Jerthar jumped on his back without hesitation.
“By Stendarr...you expect me to climb on its back?”
“Unless you want to walk to the Pale?” Derbana smiled.
Tolan gulped and climbed up as well.
“We're ready, Odahviing.”
“Hold on, mortals. This is going to be a long flight.”
With his wing unfurled, he soon achieved flight and they glided across the sky as the sun slowly set. Jerthar leaned in to say something, but the look she gave him made him realize that she knew as well. By the time they would arrive at Dimhollow Crypt, it would be night.
“Right there...” Tolan pointed, “That is the entrance to Dimhollow.”
“Good, Odahviing, bring us...AH!”
Odahviing was thrown about as he was hit by both a fireball and a lightning bolt. Derbana looked down to see two vampires guarding the entrance, each holding their spells ready.
As Odahviing spiraled, he flew right above the vampires. Tolan drew his warhammer and jumped off the dragon.
He didn't listen as he fell on one of the vampires. Bringing his warhammer around, the sharp crack of the neck breaking echoed. Running to the next vampire, he dueled him as the dragon regained control, but still crashed into the snow fields just north of the mountain's base.
“Jerthar! Heal him! I'll assist Tolan!”
“Okay! Be careful!” He said as they both dismounted.
She dashed up the snowy path and toward the battle. It would be a few minutes even at her top speed and she arrived to see the two corpses of the vampires that wounded their dragon friend.
After taking anything of use from them, she proceeded inside.
She saw the natural cavern with moonlight and water falling through the cracks of the ceiling. Ahead past the two rock pillars was the signature archway of ancient Nord ruins and a stone watchtower toward the back of the cavern.
“Don't these Vigilants ever learn? I thought we taught them a lesson back at their Hall.” A voice echoed off the wall.
Derbana drew an arrow and aimed it at the only clear target, a death hound. Letting the arrow fall, the death yelp of the hound echoed.
“Huh? What was that?”
The first vampire lined up and another arrow flew, piercing her through the heart and the second vampire started to search for Derbana and yet he would not have a chance as another arrow pierced his heart too. As she lowered her bow, she sighed in relief.
“Derbana...” She felt a hand on her shoulder, she turned to see it was Jerthar.
“Divines, Jerthar, don't surprise me like that. Future mother here, remember?”
“Forgive me, but stealth is your field, not mine. Odahviing is fine, I healed him as best I could, but a dragon requires more healing than people, but he's good to fly, he went somewhere to recover.”
“It looks like we're walking back.”
They proceeded further into the chamber where they saw the two corpses of the vampires and the one of the death hound. Jerthar reached down toward the hound and moved its head from side-to-side with an examining look in his eyes.
“Fascinating, never have I seen such a creature before...”
“Jerthar...” Derbana peered back to her brother for a split second.
“They must have used a dog and some sort of...profane ritual to make it like this.”
He removed the death hound's collar, “This should prove interesting. I will need to visit the ritual site to be sure, but I've got a few theories about how they turned it into this beast.”
She turned around, crossing her arms, “Jerthar. Tolan didn't make it.”
“What?” He looked passed her and to the ground, seeing the Vigilant dead, “At least, he's in Sovngarde now.”
Derbana nodded, “There is indeed a place for him in the Hall of Valor, Tsun knows this.” She leaned down over Tolan's corpse and closed his eyes.
“Not important. Let's keep going.” She stood up and continued down the stone corridor.
Jerthar put the collar in his backpack before following his sister.
They kept moving down the rooms. They passed burial chambers and catacombs in this ancient tomb. Derbana led the way, easily taking out every vampire, death hound, skeleton, and frostbite spider with supreme accuracy while hiding in the shadows. Their journey would have been a little more expeditious if not for Jerthar stopping to gathering vampire dust and death hound collars.
“Will you hurry up?” She asked, letting an arrow fly, piercing the heart of a master vampire who just finished off a giant frostbite spider.
“Sorry, sister. But research never ends as my professor would say. Besides, I'm not slowing us down that much.”
“I know...it's just I don't want the vampires to find whatever it is that's housed here.”
“Just...finish it up...will you?”
“Just need to get the vampire dust from that last one and that's it.”
“Okay, I'll go up ahead.”
“See you soon.”
Derbana took one last look at Jerthar who was busy with his material gathering before going through the next door. This room was small with every wall made out of the mountain except for the far wall which was carved stone blocks. This wall had three alcoved archways, only the middle one was a doorway while the other two were barred windows. On either side of the doorway was a stone gargoyle statue perched as if resting. The last thing was the pedestal in the center of the room, which had a scroll on it. Taking the Scroll of Fire Storm in hand, she could now hear voices coming from down below.
“I'll never tell you anything, vampire. My oath to Stendarr is stronger than any suffering you can inflict on me.”
She rushed past the doorway to the short railing and looked over the edge to see the vampires and their prisoner. His hands tied behind his back and was on his knees as he was being interrogated.
“I believe you, Vigilant. And I don't think you even know what you've found here.” A man's voice echoed off the cavern walls, “So go and meet your beloved Stendarr.”
He raised his hand and with a bolt of lightning, the Vigilant fell on his back, dead.
“Are you sure that was wise, Lokil? He still might have told us something. We haven't gotten anywhere ourselves with...”
“He knew nothing...” Lokil interrupted, “He served his purpose by leading us to this place. Now it is up to us to bring Harkon the prize.”
She could stand no more. Drawing an arrow, notching it and taking aim. Her arrow spun through the air, going deep into the neck of the female vampire.
Lokil readied his spells, “...What's that?”
He ran toward Derbana's position, but not fast enough as another arrow sealed his fate. With the two vampires dead, she walked down the stone stairs as they went around to the dirt floor below. And down another few steps, she was on the same stone floor as the three corpses. Walking forward, she knelt over their prisoner.
“Adalvald, I presume.” She closed his eyes. Then she looked up to where they were heading.
The bottom of this cavern was filled with a low level of water. Before she fired her first arrow, they were walking down the small set of stairs to the arching stone bridge. On the other side was a raised circular platform with two sets of concentric archways. The outer arch was a series of thick stone archways connected together in a perfect circle with another set of standalone arches in a simple spear head shape, each of these arches matched the ones below them perfectly. The inner arches matched the same style as the upper layer of arches on the outer archways.
As she got closer, she noticed the platform's finer details especially the couple of skeleton laying there. In the center of the platform was a strange pedestal with a domed top. The floor around the pedestal was a hexagonal stone shape with a grooved line shooting out straight from each corner. There were also four concentric grooved circles etched into the floor as well. Each place these lines and circles intersected, there was a smaller grooved circle. Also on these lines were strange brazier stands with two handles. They are meant to be pushed and pulled up the lines, but they refused to budge. As she looked on, the inner archways divided the two inner grooved circles from their outer counterparts.
“What's with this place? What am I supposed to do exactly?” She asked.
Then she couldn't stop staring at the domed top of the pedestal. It looked just like a button. Without realizing it, her hand moved and fit perfectly atop this button.
“AH!” A sharp pain forced her to her knees as a sharp spike shot up through the button, piercing past her hand. As the spike collected her blood, the innermost etched circle lit up with a purple flaming energy. She tried pulling back, but her hand got stuck and couldn't get it off.
“Damn it. How could this get any worse?” Her answer came in the form of a vampire thrall drawing his battleaxe. She looked over her shoulder to see him charging down at her. Struggling against the spike, it didn't let her go. She tried moving her shield behind her, but couldn't reach.
She heard a strange twang sound with a bolt sticking out of the thrall's chest. As he fell over dead, Jerthar stood there with a crossbow in both hands.
“Sorry for the dramatic entrance, it took longer to gather frostbite venom than I thought.”
“Jerthar, thank you for the rescue. But this spike is draining me of blood, you've got to free me.”
He ran up until he was face-to-face with the purple energy. Brushing his hand against it, he knew he could not pass. Then he noticed the purple energy going down one of the lines to the furthermost circle. Taking the brazier handle, he was immune to the energy's resistance and pushed it down to the far end where the bowl caught afire and extended the wall of energy to the next line. Going through the small maze of purple energy, he managed to get all the braziers in their right places.
The chamber began to quake as the purple energy pooled into the center. Derbana's hand came free and she staggered backwards until her brother caught her. The hexagon pattern opened up and slid into the floor as each of the circles raised forming circular steps and the pedestal rose to reveal a strange monolith beneath it. Approaching cautiously, Derbana touched the monolith and as two sides of the hexagonal monolith fell into the floor, they could hardly believe what was inside.
A black-haired woman posed as if buried, dropped to her feet with her hands bracing. When she stood up straight, she looked at her two rescuers.
“Unh....Where is...who sent you here?” She asked.
“Who were you expecting?” Derbana replied.
“I was expecting someone...like me, at least.”
Derbana looked into her eyes, “Are you a...”
“The Dawnguard would want us to kill you.” Jerthar said.
“Not fond of vampires, are they? Well, look. Kill me, you've killed one vampire. But if people are after me, there's something bigger going on. I can help you find out what that is.”
“Where do you need to go?”
“My family used to live on an island to the west of Solitude. I would guess they still do. By the way...my name is Serana. Good to meet you.”
“Is that...” Jerthar pointed to what she was carrying on her back, “an Elder Scroll?”
“Yes, it is, and it's mine.”
“Why do you have an Elder Scroll?”
“It's...complicated. I can't really talk about it. I'm sorry.”
“Jerthar, we have time for questions later. We need to help Serana.”
Jerthar took her aside, “To her family...of vampires.”
“I know, but the strange thing is...I trust her. Besides, it's best if we don't let that Elder Scroll out of our sight.”
He looked over at Serana, “Fine, but if it's a trap, don't say I didn't warn you.”
With that final remark, the trio headed across the stone bridge on the other side and made their way out of the dungeon. Their enemies were quickly defeated by the three as they finished the last of the dungeon's denizens in what looked like an ancient colosseum. As they sheathed their weapons, Derbana looked over and was surprised.
“No...it can't be...” Heading toward the exit, there stood a Word Wall she's never seen before. In the two years of adventuring in Skyrim, Derbana thought she found them all. She approached it as if in a trance. Serana and Jerthar looked to see the energy from the Word Wall shoot forward and swirl around her. The other two were amazed, this was the first time they've both seen a Dragonborn absorbing the energy of a Word.
Derbana on the other hand was used to this. As she absorbed its power, she felt the intent of the Word. This Word was akin to the Words for Marked For Death, it felt cold, dark, and evil. The meaning of the Word was “Drain” as to take forcefully the life and magicka of another. When it was finished, Derbana fell to her knee.
Jerthar reached out to touch her shoulder, as he comforted her, he felt the energy radiated into his hand.
“Whoa, that tingles.” He shook his head, “Are you all right, sister?”
“I'll be...” She stood up, “Let's get going. It will take us about three days running to get to where Serana needs to go.” With that said, they left Dimhollow Crypt behind them.
Just as Derbana predicted, it took them three days to arrive at Serana's home. Expect for the few battles with bandits and frost trolls they had along the way, they were mostly silent. Derbana's silence stemmed from the guilt she had. Every few hours, she wondered how Sondas was doing, how he was feeling, and if he'll ever forgive her.
As they pulled the boat onto the beach, it was the first time they saw her home. A giant eerie castle with a large stone ramp that three giants could easily walk side-by-side. Every dozen of so steps were two pairs of gargoyle statues, the same from Dimhollow Crypt. Derbana readied her bow for these statues weren't always what they seemed.
When they got about halfway up the ramp, Serana stopped them.
“Hey, so...before we go in there...”
“What is it?” Jerthar asked.
“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...I know your friends would probably want to kill everything in here. I'm hoping you can show some more control than that. Once we're inside, just keep quiet for a bit. Let me take the lead.”
The three walked up with Serana in front. When they approached the portcullis, it raised to reveal large twin wooden doors and an elderly man in leather armor. Serana entered the daunting castle first, Derbana and Jerthar held back a bit in the gatehouse.
“Jerthar, stay out here and if we're in trouble, come after us.”
“Yes, I feel it, too. There's a lot of energy behind these doors, all of it dark like Dimhollow.”
“Good, hopefully nothing will happen. See you soon, brother.”
She entered Castle Volkihar without another word.
Jerthar shrugged, “If it were only that easy.”
Inside the first room was an entryway where a vampire stood in disbelief, apparently at Serana's presence.
“Wait...Serana? Is that truly you? I cannot believe my eyes!” He walked into the next room, standing on the edge by a railing, “My lord! Everyone! Serana has returned!”
Derbana couldn't believe the sight she beheld. The room was a banquet hall with three long tables, all which had vampires seated feasting on the flesh of once living people. Her eyes quickly scanned the hall, noting the two balconies, the number of vampires and death hounds, and the man standing near the middle of the room...this must be their lord. Plus a shadowy figure standing in the background, shivering while rubbing his arms.
“I guess I'm expected.” Serana whispered as she walked past and down the stairs.
Their lord spoke, “My long-lost daughter returns, at last. I trust you have my Elder Scroll?”
As Serana approached this man, “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 turned to Derbana, “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?”
“Derbana the Third, who are you?” Her voice was firm and indifferent.
The man rubbed his chin, “I am Harkon, lord of this court. By now, my daughter will have told you what we are.”
“Not just vampires. We are among the oldest and most powerful vampires in Skyrim.” He stated to pace left-and-right, “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.”
She dared to ask the question, “What happens now?”
“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...”
“No...” Derbana said, causing Harkon to freeze and the entire court to be still.
“You dare to spurn my offer? Before you see it's full power?” He asked, Derbana giving a silent glare as her reply, “Very well, maybe there's something else I can give you.” He threw a spell so quick, she didn't see it.
“Father, no!” Serana's warning came too late.
Green energy enveloped her as the scene changed. She stood back in Breezehome in her simple green dress. Swearing she was in a dark castle, but that must have been a dream as she felt the warmth from the hearth. Then a pair of hands gripped her shoulders and squeezed them softly.
Looking over her shoulder, it was Sondas standing behind her. Knowing it was him, she relaxed and enjoyed his rough hands massaging her soft shoulders. Resting her body against his, she closed her eyes and felt warm all over.
“I can give this if you so desire.” Harkon's voice came out of Sondas' lips and yet Derbana didn't seem to notice, “Your husband always by your side, enjoying the rapture of the flesh day-after- day, night-after-night. In your heart, this is what you desire. All you need to do is give in...” His soft whisperings in her ears, made her feel good all over.
“And...and my child?” She asked.
“I will spare it. Just give in and be the queen of this court.”
“I...” She weakly said. Then the illusion broke as Harkon shouted. Derbana fell to the floor, barely conscious as she witnessed the battle before her.
Harkon was thrown down against the back banquet table by a Vampire Lord screaming in bestial rage. It looked back at her with his monstrous face, but those eyes...soft and full of care, she knew then it was the same Vampire Lord that was in Whiterun. Then the Vampire Lord screamed in pain as Harkon rose to his feet. His hand outstretched to the spasming Vampire Lord who was now on all fours.
“You forget your place. You are bound to my service, don't you forget that!”
The Lord turned his head upward to glare at Harkon before turning to the laying Derbana with the same soft eyes, His fanged mouth quivered as to get a single word, “Da...”
“AH!” The vampire who was at the entryway screamed as he was thrown into the banquet hall, turning into ash as he fell to the floor below. They looked as he was just a pile of ash. A split second later, Jerthar instantly appeared, kneeling next to his sister. He quickly threw her arm over his shoulders.
“You...” Harkon stomped closer to the pair, “are nothing more than prey.”
Jerthar looked to see the entire court had risen from their chairs, slowly encroaching like a pack of wolves surrounding their still alive meal.
Without a moment's hesitation, Jerthar and Derbana vanished. The mystic tunnel they traveled through with the familiar pain and nausea woke Derbana up as if from a dream with her and Sondas. However they seemed to be in the tunnel longer than before by a whole minute.
When they were through the tunnel and stood on solid ground, the siblings were standing in the main chamber of Fort Dawnguard. Derbana couldn't believe it, they traveled pass all of Skyrim in just over a minute, much to Isran's surprise.
“How in the Eight Divines did you two get here?”
Jerthar raised his head weakily and when he opened his mouth, blood spat out and onto the floor. The next moment he fell on his back, blood leaking out from every orifice in his head. Derbana watching his still body, not even moving caused her to freeze.
Isran rushed over and started casting all the healing spells he got.
As she continued looking at Jerthar's unmoving body, her eyes wondered up and remembered the illusion that played in her mind. Feeling how easily Harkon had seduced her, she felt as if this was all her fault, but she did not feel pity for herself instead she felt hatred. Hatred toward Harkon, possibly more so than to Elenwen, and as she watched her brother clinging for dear life. All she knew for certain at that moment was...
“Harkon, I will kill you.”