The nap was too short as naps often are.
My latest orders are to report to Fort Greenwall on the road between Riften and Windhelm and assist the Imperial Legion in the taking of the fort. After having spent a considerable amount of time in the Rift between the Imperial Legion and the Dawnguard I cannot help but wonder if it would have been easier to simply send me a rider with a message and an Imperial flag so that I could have claimed the fort myself when it was still occupied by bandits.
Hoping to save some time I decided to not take the road to Riften, instead crossing the river at a bridge near a fort along the shore. That way I would be walking directly towards Fort Greenwall instead of wasting time going to Riften.
This plan went awry as soon as I came to what appeared to be a ruined farmhouse. Closer investigation revealed it to, in fact, be a ruined farmhouse, but smoke was rising from the chimney and I could hear someone talking to themselves inside.
No ambush awaited me, only a bemused Nord in scaled armor who warned me that entering the "Den" required that I keep all weapons sheathed. I agreed and was allowed to pass inside.
I do not remember Balmora having a lot of Skooma, but then I do not remember much of it at all anymore. I may simply have not noticed or forgotten. For my first time I was gifted a red flask of what she called "Redwater Skooma", which she claimed was a more potent Skooma unique to the Den. I thanked her and pocketed it intending to deliver it to an alchemist, but that wound up not happening due to events that followed.
There were six rooms, each occupied by an occupant either unconscious or on his way towards that. An "attendant" patrolled the small hallway, but to what purpose I do not know, for he only told me to pick a room and be quiet. I paused at one room in which a man in Imperial Legion armor sat miserably. I entered the room and asked if he needed assistance, but to my surprise he recognized me from Helgen.
He had barely escaped, badly injuring his back and legs after he leaped from a battlement to avoid being set ablaze. He managed to crawl to Riverwood some days after I left, but the damage to his back could not be fixed. Skooma took the pain away, at least for awhile, but each dose was less effective than the last, an unfortunately common story among addicts. The Redwater variety helped more, but it could only be found in the Den and he was loathe to leave. He asked me to leave him be, so I left and continued down the hallway where the purple haze was wafting from.
I suspected that the attendant would not be happy for a customer to explore further into the Den, but the Dunmer's wits were addled by the free Skooma he must have been receiving and I was able to creep behind him and unlock the iron gate he was guarding.
Then he looked up at me in the shadows and mostly behind a crate, which should have rendered me nearly invisible to most folk. He yelled his alarm and grabbed a bow from some place behind the vats, inexpertly loosing an arrow in my general direction.
He and I engaged in a brief ranged duel, his bow versus my crossbow, as I pondered his unexpected perception. Neither of us won, for I had no desire to run out of bolts. Instead I dashed out of cover to cover ever closer to him until I was close enough to charge at him with my axe. Shouting and footsteps from further inside the cavern heralded the arrival of his comrades, but the thud of my blade into the side of his neck solved the mystery of his awareness as his body started to dissolve into black dust.
Vampires again, perhaps a splinter group unaffiliated with the Serana's father's mad plot, but vampires nonetheless. The man had likely sensed my blood rather than seen me, not that it made a difference.
His friends had come too late, but they would not have made a difference either. No doubt they were prepared to strike down a manic Skooma addict, but they had no chance at all against an experienced fighter.
Deeper into the cave I noticed the wall carvings and fixtures were starting to becoming more frequent and familiar for they were ancient Nordic, just as in any barrow mound littered about the province.
The second entry were of this year some months back while I was still in Cyrodiil. The author traveled from Summerset to Skyrim by ship and chanced upon a fellow vampire in a Solitude inn. His unnamed comrade thought his journey a fool's errand, but suggested that elements in the story (which the thief left out) pointed to a location in The Rift.
The subsequent entries detail the man's incredible luck in finding the Bloodspring by way of overhearing a visiting hermit in Riften mention finding red water bubbling out of the ground. He turned several locals into thralls to enlarge the basement of a nearby home and join it to the underground spring. The Bloodspring, however, provided vampires with no sustenance and only disease and addiction to mortals. The latter problem solved the former, such as in the case of the unfortunate Imperial soldier I encountered.
I found a journal in a pile of black dust when I returned, this one with the same handwriting as the earlier one detailing the history of the place. The Bloodspring had once been a normal spring of water dedicated to Arkay during the First Era, but a priest went mad after his lover was turned into a vampire.
After accepting the infection from her the two went on a rampage, killing all the other priests. A number of them took to the sacred spring to beg Arkay's protection, but were killed there, turning the water forever bloody via the use of an artifact called the 'Bloodstone Chalice'.
I have never heard of this chalice, but the idea that the water really is blood is interesting, that it is due to the corruption of an ancient God even more so. I thought it would simply be a spring of water passing through an underground vein of iron ore.
I found nothing and no one beyond the Spring, only a spiral staircase back to the surface some distance away from the ruined house. I returned with the intention to bring the addicts in the basement back to the surface, but alas, the attendant, also a vampire, had already killed the poor souls. I dispatched the surface lookout, the doorman, the dealer, and the "attendant" before leaving, but it did little to assuage my guilt over the injured soldier's demise.
And after all of that I had still to travel to Fort Greenwall for the attack! Fortunately my assault upon Redwater Den took not as much time as could be expected and I reached the fort before evening.
Of course this means I must once again trek the width of the province to report my success to General Tullius in Solitude. As per tradition I will be spending the night in the captain's quarters, the body of whom we were not able to find. Perhaps he was the one that fled.