Friday, June 16, 2017

Skyrim Day 072 - Assassins, Above and Below

28 Frostfall, 4E201

Serana made the decision this morning to head directly for Dragon Bridge by the nature of her constant, unending complaining. When we got rooms at the Inn last night there was a complaint that the bed was uncomfortable and itchy, when we woke (if she even slept) it was too bright outside. The journey today was also too cold and too long. And this from someone who walked from one end of Skyrim to the other seeking the Dawnguard. Did she complain to herself?

Rather than risk spending more time than I had to with her I decided to go to Dragon Bridge instead of taking additional time to visit the College. What information I had placed the Moth Priest near the village and that was good enough for me. I figured if the information was wrong we would find out sooner rather than later.

With an unhappy vampire in tow, I set off for Dragon Bridge just before the sun rose, hoping this would allow me a break from Serana's opinion on the world. Alas, the darkness did not last long, nor did the silence. Perhaps it served some defensive purpose, for we made it almost to Dragon Bridge without interruption save for a foolish Dunmer bandit who thought to demand our money. She was quick to realize her mistake and ran off.

I thought to save some time by going over the hill between Morthal and Dawnstar rather than around it. Serana grumbled about getting snow in her shoes, but she chose to follow me instead of taking the long way around the hill via the road. We came to a path through the rocks and she immediately ran towards it, eager to be on the trampled snow instead of the loose stuff we had been trudging through. I yelled at her to stop, but she ignored me and disappeared past a bend in the path.

I knew the path was not going to lead towards the other side of the hill, there was no prepared path that did. I ran after her, expecting her to be grumbling in front of a cave or a hidden shrine, but she had chanced upon something far more dangerous.
The foolish vampire had stumbled upon a Giant clan's campsite, two of whom were present. She had attacked them, but Giants are rather resistant to magicka and her spells did not have the effect she had hoped for. With two Giants attacking her, Serana was cornered and nearly killed before I caught up to them. Fortunately I arrived in time and both turned on me, but only got in each other's way. I feel a bit bad about killing them, it was Serana's recklessness that led to it and they were bothering no one.

I dragged her out of the camp and we continued down the side of the mountain, passing a broken Oblivion gate on the way down. Serana listened to my story of the Oblivion Crisis with interest, wondering what kind of world she would have woken up to under Mehrunes Dagon. I pointed out she likely would not have woken up at all, the first and only thing we agreed on today.
We made it to the other side of the hill with snow in our shoes, Serana enthusing about the lack of light-reflecting snow on the plain. I prefer the warmer, southern Skyrim myself, its quicker to move on and the usually clear sky allows a farther vision. Whiterun is visible from just about any point on the plain, but we had no reason to visit it today.
Save for a trio of hunters we encountered no one on our walk across the plain until the Dragon landed right behind us.
Dragons before today always roared as they flew, creating a great disturbance and bringing notice to themselves, which was likely their intention. But this Dragon managed to glide in behind us with barely a sound and the landing of the great beast was the only notice Serana and I received before it attacked.

The actual battle is not as interesting as the method the Dragon chose to initiate it. The Dragons I have fought in the past have seemed like accidental things, I simply happened to be in the area when the Dragon decided to burn a farm or announce its presence. This battle very much felt like it was planned and executed against me specifically, a thought that does not ease my worry. If the Dragons are being directed and not by the Stormcloaks, I can only assume the large Dragon from earlier is commanding them, but to what end?

Serana handled herself admirably during the fight, though her lightning magicka served to annoy the Dragon more than harm it. Still, it served as a good enough distraction.
If she was surprised by the sight of the Dragon's "soul" being absorbed into my body she did not show it. With the Dragon's assassination plot foiled we continued on towards Dragon Bridge. With no more Dragons to fight off we made good time, but never reached the town.
Just before the famed bridge lay the remains of a recent, one-sided battle. A passenger wagon was overturned and surrounded by dead Legionnaires, the last-stand defense of their ward, the Moth Priest. A note on one of the dead vampires revealed that they had known of the priest's journey ahead of time and set the ambush to kidnap the man and bring him to a place they described as 'Forebears' Holdout'. If I needed another clue as to what had happened, there was a slim book in the wagon on the effects of reading Elder Scrolls, complete with annotations from a Moth Priest, though I thought them all to be blind.

The name suggested a similar last-stand of whomever the Forebears were, but the letter gave no hint as to where this Holdout was. It was Serana that spotted the blood trail leading away from the ambush and we were able to follow it to a cave. Serana assured me the blood was relatively fresh, so I hoped we had enough time to rescue the only person in Skyrim who could make use of Serana's scroll. Into the cave we went, not without Serana's complaints, of course.

The Holdout was very small and from the entrance we could see a circle of blue magicka shimmering at the back of the cave. Vampires and their strange hounds patrolled the space between us and the magicka, but they were not expecting a rescue attempt and fell to Serana's magicka and my dagger without much bother.
The vampires were dead, but the Priest was trapped within the circle. He was mumbling to himself and did not notice Serana and I outside his cage. After some searching we found an odd stone on the most expensively-dressed vampire and another letter penned by Lord Harkon himself. He claimed to have the Elder Scroll in his possession, so it was obviously written before Serana escaped, and he demanded that someone fetch him a Moth Priest to read it. Success in this would merit a place in his "court" and something he called the "gift of his potent blood".

I asked Serana about this and she explained that her father was from an ancient bloodline that allowed him the half-gargoyle, half-man form he showed me when I returned Serana to him. There was great powers bequeathed upon this form which she called the "Vampire Lord" bloodline. If Lord Harkon wished to, he could infect another vampire with his blood, allowing the lucky vampire to take the form as well, a great gift for a very specific kind of recipient.

Anyway, the stone fit into a pedestal set on a platform before the Priest. Once it was inserted the magicka disappeared and the Priest attacked! But he was not seeking to hurt us as much as he was to defend himself one last time against who he thought to be his captors. He calmed after I asked him if anyone had ever heard of a Khajiit vampire. We are not so foolish as others, after all.
The Priest was not blind, putting to rest that misconception, and introduced himself as 'Dexion Evicus', a very Imperial name. He had no idea why the vampires had attacked his group, assuming they were after ransom instead of information. I explained that Serana and I were part of  the Dawnguard and needed his special skills to read an Elder Scroll.

Surprisingly, Dexion had heard of the Dawnguard, but in its ancient, more powerful, form. He asked to know where we were based out of and I offered to escort him back to Fort Dawnguard. He picked up one of the vampires' swords and assured me he was more capable than recent events have shown. I could not convince him to allow us to accompany him, so we parted ways amid the rapidly decaying vampires, to meet on the other side of the province...once again.
We reached Solitude late into the night, suiting Serana just fine. I was anticipating a relaxing night in my own home, but this hope was shattered when a vampire sprung at me after we entered the city. He hissed that "eternal night" would soon envelop the land, then rapidly backed away, flinging ice magicka as he attempted to keep his distance.

I am not sure what he expected to accomplish. There were three guards present, one ancient vampire ally, and one tired Khajiit that did not feel like prolonging a fight. Serana managed to hit him with lightning magicka just as a guard's crossbow bolt slammed into his chest. Overwhelmed, he collapsed to his knees, presenting an excellent opportunity for a quick end to his nonsense. A swipe of my blade and his head was sent rolling down the street, spilling dust along the way as it crumbled into nothing.

Serana promised to keep watch throughout the night, I suppose she does not need as much sleep as most. I, however, do need sleep before walking back to Fort Dawnguard tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Skyrim Day 071 - An Unexpected Guest

27 Frostfall, 4E201

I had a choice this morning: travel north to the College, east back to Isran, or west back to everything else. Curiosity prodded me east to see how Isran's former friends were acclimating to their old friend.

The dawn started sullenly, a hazy grey which brightened to a equally sullen yellow that I could barely see through. If there were any Dragons about I would have only been able to hear them, but the world was quiet this morning, as if it did not want to wake either.
A bandit leaped out of the bushes in front of me by the hot springs, brashly demanding my money or my life. The Dunmer looked young, but then they usually do, and I thought to offer her mercy. I simply drew my curved Ebony dagger and invited her to make an attempt, at which point she had second thoughts and ran off down the road.

I arrived at the walls of Riften a few hours later, exact time being impossible to determine with the fog hanging overhead. I had no business there and walked around the city to the valley connecting Skyrim to Morrowind.

The Dawnguard had been busy while I was away. There was a new palisade at the foot of the fortress, manned by a young Dawnguard whose face I did not recognize. I, however, was and she opened the gate with a solemn greeting, just as cheerful as Isran.
The corpses from the previous attack had been burned and piled in a pit just inside the gate, a precaution I can only assume was Isran's, since vampire corpses quickly decay into dust in the sunlight anyway. Burning them was an excess of caution that I am pretty sure defines the leader of the Dawnguard.

The two guards at the fortress gate waved me in and I found Sorine and Gunmar standing in the hall, both disgruntled and ready to leave. They were willing to talk to me and we spent some minutes talking about the Dawnguard. Both had arrived two days ago and were denied a meeting with the very man they had been told were looking for them. This embarrassed me, being the one responsible for them being at the fort at all.

As we stood there contemplating coming back another day, the portcullis for the outside gate came crashing down, trapping us inside. A moment later three more rose from the hall's doorways, not only keeping us inside the fortress, but confined to the entry hall. A sudden light from the ceiling blinded us, Gunmar cursing, Sorine scrambling away, and as for myself, prepared to have very harsh words with Isran.
As I suspected, the "trap" was Isran's and it was to ensure none of us were vampires. Had we been, he assured us from the balcony, the light would have set us aflame. A pleasant thought.

He directed his two "friends" into an adjacent chamber, Sorine to work on crossbows, Gunmar to tame trolls...which I did not think was even possible or desirable. As for me, he asked that I come up to the balcony to meet a visitor who had arrived during the night.
Nothing about how Isran had been acting up to to then surprised me, but the visitor did. Serana had somehow traveled the entire width of the province to take refuge with a group of people who could not possibly hate her any more. The only reason she was not immediately slain was that she brought the Elder Scroll, if it truly is that, with her as a sign of her good intentions. This staved off her execution at Isran's hands long enough for me to arrive and vouch for her...a woman I have not known for more than a day, really.

The only excuse she had for such a rash action was that she needed to speak with me. It turns out a thousand years or so is enough to change most anyone, including her vampire father. According to Serana, her father spent his years studying vampire lore, fashioning himself as some sort of vampire nobility which does not actually exist. He became obsessed with an ancient prophecy that predicted a day would come when vampires would no longer be hindered by the sun.

He attempted to raise forces to bring the prophecy about (Serana did not know exactly how this was to happen), but Serana and her mother disagreed with his course of action. The disagreement ended with Serana being buried for a thousand years and an unknown, but probably just as cruel, fate for her mother.

Serana had taken a great risk in traveling to Fort Dawnguard so that she could convince me to aid her in stopping her father's plan to change the sun in some way. I agreed to help, feeling I had little choice in the matter, and Isran chose that moment to subtly interject, saying there was nothing in her story that led him to believe she should not immediately be slain. I countered that I believed her, at least for the moment, and he owed much to me already for what I have done for the Dawnguard.
He begrudgingly agreed to let Serana keep her head and Serana excused herself out of the fortress, flatly stating that it was no place for me to stay and in no way a place for her. 

But she had not come without a plan. She believed the scroll on her back was a genuine Elder Scroll and thought it critical to making her father's obsession come to pass. She was eager to have  the Scroll read by a Moth Priest, but they still live in Cyrodiil as they always have. I informed her of this and she seemed surprised. Perhaps the Priests were more widespread when she was last awake.

Isran surprised us both, or perhaps all three of us, by providing useful news: a Moth Priest had arrived in Skyrim through the southern border a week or so ago, but Isran did not know where the Priest was heading nor where he was now. Serana thought someone at the College would know whereas Isran suggested asking carriage drivers and innkeepers. A walk from Dawnguard to the College would give me an opportunity for all three.

Serana insisted on coming with me to the College and Isran did not try to stop her, so once again it was us two on the road together. We left the canyon, passed through the small cave separating the fort from the rest of Skyrim, and was immediately assaulted by four vampires. We made short work of them and walked on to Riften. Serana wanted to stay outside, so I went in alone, sold some gemstones, and met her at the north gate where I spoke with the local carriage driver.

The Moth Priest had passed through Riften a week ago and had asked the Driver for a ride to Dragon Bridge, but the carriage only went as east as Whiterun. The Priest declined to travel that far, confounding the driver who tried to explain that the Priest could take a different carriage from Whiterun to Dragon Bridge.

I was willing to pay for a ride to Whiterun, but Serana quietly pointed out that it would be difficult for her to stay out of the sun in an open carriage. I thanked the driver, gave him fifty Septims, and continued on foot.

We arrived at Windhelm early into the evening and I thought Serana would want to continue walking, but she asked to stop there, curious to see the Grey Quarter she had heard about. I had little interest in the city and numerous reasons for not wanting to enter, but I agreed.
We passed through the gate just in time to witness two Nords harassing a Dunmer woman. They left together after threatening to throw her and "her kind" into the sea and she turned on Serana and I, irritably asking if we hated Dunmer and reveled in intimidation too.

What I remember of my involvement with the Dunmer would not be at all believable, so I simply told her that Khajiit were targets for such fools just as often, though we do not suffer such fools nearly as patiently. She laughed ruefully and told me that Windhelm was the wrong city for us then, catering only to the prejudice and hatred hidden in the hearts of Men. That it was also the breeding ground for a racially-based civil war was not helping matters. She wished us luck and we parted, another glimpse into Skyrim that failed to make a positive impression.

The local innkeeper had a free room with two beds, but no information regarding our wayward Moth Priest. Serana and I can either continue north to the College or trust our luck while attempting to save time tomorrow by heading directly for Dragon Bridge.

But it is just past midnight now and this has been a long day. Whatever course we take tomorrow can be decided upon after some sleep.