30 Heartfire, 4E201
The Bannered Mare
This morning I had nothing to do. This evening I have entirely too much. Nothing new there.
I woke from another poor sleep in Riften and walked outside intending to start my trip back to the College immediately. As I approached the gate a woman rushed at me and grabbed my hand. I turned on her, dagger ready to gut the thief, but she begged me for my assistance.
Her name was Grosta and she worked Riften's lumber mill along the river by the secretive island estate. Her husband, Leifnarr, had left to sell grain and lumber to a merchant camp set up near an old mine locally known as 'Broken Helm Hollow', close to the Skyrim-Morrowind border. Grosta was near tears as she continued on, saying that it was just herself and their young son at the mill and she could not run it by herself. She suspected Leifnarr left with the merchants to find a better life and asked that I go to Broken Helm Hollow to see if I could figure out where he left to.
The old mine was opposite the Black-Briar estate, so other than some trepidation of being recognized by the guards there, I had no reason to deny the bereaved woman's request.
A Khajiit caravan had arrived during my brief sleep and was established outside of the city gate. The leader was 'Ahkari' and she welcomed me to her little group and offered me the best prices on her wares. I instead offered her my own and traded several gemstones to her in exchange for a few vials of healing elixir.
Broken Helm Hollow was, in fact, almost directly across from the Black-Briars' front door and I suspect it may have been an early family possession when the mine was still solvent. According to Grosta it now served as a stopping-point for merchants traveling between Skyrim and Morrowind, with bandits occasionally taking up residence before being chased out by the merchants' bodyguards.
Broken Helm Hollow was tiny, occupied by three bandits with no room for a fourth. I was surprised to find all three of them sleeping on their bedrolls by the time I arrived in the early afternoon. Too much to drink the night before, perhaps. Unlike most of their criminal brethren, these three died peacefully in their sleep with nary a struggle.
The same could not be said for the unfortunate Leifnarr. I found his body behind a false stone door opened using a pull-chain. He looked to have died to arrow shot and dragged into the secret cell. Why and in what circumstance he was killed is a mystery.
As I left the cave I saw a man dart into a small, unfinished cave on the other side of the road. Thinking he was with the bandits, or possibly the merchants, I dove into the cave after him, expecting a fight.
Instead I was met with the realization that I had not entered a cave, but merely a natural archway that led to a clearing within the mountains.
The man was waiting near a small lake and waved to me as I approached, evidently no bandit. He was very excited about being where we were and started babbling about how much he had been looking forward to joining the Dawnguard and so on. Then it hit me: the vampire hunters known as the Dawngaurd were not based at Dawnstar hold like I thought, but the fortification this happy, unnamed man was leading me to: Fort Dawnguard.
I was feeling a bit silly for avoiding Dawnstar and, as if on cue, the Orsimer Durak came trudging down the path, brightly exclaiming how good it was to see me and how encouraging it was to see me change my mind about joining the Dawngurd. I have run into Durak probably half a dozen times on my trips between the holds, his job apparently being to walk to each one in an attempt to drum up Dawnguard recruits. He plied his spiel upon me every time we met as if it were the first and I agreed to visit if I was in the area...which to my chagrin I found myself accidentally in. My unnamed excitable friend ran right past him on his way to the castle gate, so I excused myself and jogged to catch up.
The guard standing out front waved us in and me and my unknown friend walked inside to witness an argument between two heavily-armed men.
One was asking for aid from the other and from the argument I judged the one asking to be a member of the Vigilants of Stendarr. Apparently vampires had attacked the Order's headquarters, killing all present. He sounded as if he believed himself the last of his Order, though I have seen more than a few Vigilants patrolling the roads.
The other man remained unmoved, pointing out that he had warned the first man about the vampire menace years ago, only to be ignored. They went back and forth awhile longer before the Vigilant left, defeated.
Having concluded that business, the man introduced himself as 'Isran' and asked why I and the excitable fellow were there. Sensing an opportunity I responded that I had heard of the call for vampire-hunters and had come to earn some coin. He laughed, replying that he feared I would earn more than coin, but agreed to give me a task: travel to the 'Dimhollow' crypt south of Mzinchaleft and investigate rumors of vampires living there and preying on travelers along the nearby road.
I do not enjoy fighting vampires, but it seemed a simple task, so I agreed to look into it, should my travels place me north again. As for my new friend, his job was more administrative: clear the considerable amount of debris and garbage from the castle grounds.
And that was my business at Fort Dawnguard, at least for today. I had sad news to deliver to Grosta at the lumber mill, so I bypassed Riften and stopped at the mill. She was upset at the news and ashamed to think he was dallying with another woman while his body was cooling. She presented me with a Dwemer blade as a reward, stating that it was his and that she wished Leifnarr had brought it with him. As for her, she will be selling the mill and moving in with relatives in Solitude.
And then I had nothing to do other than visit another crypt, so I decided to visit Farengar at Dragon's Reach to see what progress has been made with the tablet from Bleak Falls Barrow. Walking from Riften to Whiterun means traversing nearly half the width of the province, yet other than a bear fighting a losing battle against three Stormcloaks I bore witness to nothing. On top of that the Stormcloaks were actually friendly.
I walked through the village of Ivarstead, skirted the edge of the hot springs, and passed the remains of an Oblivion gate, awakening hazy, nostalgic memories of a life I can barely remember.
The night hung over my shoulders heavier than usual and I was surprised to be told it was only three hours to midnight when I stepped inside The Bannered Mare, making tonight a comparatively early turn-in for me. I suspect I shall greatly relish this rest and tomorrow I will sell off what I can, stock up on what I need, and then talk to Farengar about whatever menial task he has for me now.