All the travel and late nights of the last couple of days caught up with me, and I allowed myself to doze until 11am. I restocked my food supplies from the innkeeper's stores, and had him prepare me a big meal. Today would involve a very long walk, and I'd need the fuel.
Isran had told me that Sorine Jurard would likely be found Southwest of Volskygge, a Nord ruin in the mountain range West of Solitude. I'd actually passed by Volskygge when I was escorting Serana back to her home. Hiking up the path into the mountains, I whispered a prayer to Meridia as I passed her shrine. My journey was uneventful, and I reached Volskygge by 3pm.
A group of three bandits were guarding the entrance to the place, and attacked me as I approached. With a flaming glass war axe in one hand and Dawnbreaker in the other, I joyously waded into melee combat and lay into the scum. Two went quickly into the void, but the third panicked once he was on fire, and tried to flee. Using my newly crafted bow, I placed a shot perfectly between his shoulder blades and he went down in a smoldering heap.
By Sithis it felt good to kill again. It had been three whole days since Cragslane Cavern and I'd spent most of time since then sitting idle on a damned carriage. The promise of more action inside the ruin was very tempting...logic told me I should stick to my task and begin the search for Sorine, but it also suggested that bandits were likely guarding someting of value in Volskygge. I ignored my better judgement and went into the ruin, thirsty for blood and plunder.
Just inside the entrance was a large chamber holding several more bandits, and I crept into the shadows without being seen. Somehwere in my travels I had come across a couple of bottles of Frenzy poison and this was the perfect opportunity to try them out. I tipped a Dwemer arrow with the poison and drew on the group of bandits, six of them in all.
I took careful aim at the thigh of a nasty looking orc...I had to make sure the shot wasn't fatal so the poison could do its work. My arrow flew and the orc was staggered as the rest of the bandits went on alert, looking for the source of the shot. Suddenly the orc lurched to his feet and drew his sword, attacking his comrades from behind!
The bandits stopped looking for me as they were forced to defend themselves against their enraged companion. I used the rest of my Frenzy poison on another arrow and waited in the darkness. The frenzied orc cut down two of the bandits before the others ganged up on him. I knew he wouldn't last long, so before he died, I shot another one of the bandits from behind, this time a female Nord.
The remaining two bandits were Nord men, and the female suddenly turned and drove her blade into the ribs of the one who had just finished off the orc. The look on the face of the final Nord when he saw that was priceless, and I had to stifle a laugh from escaping. The female bandit was fully consumed in her rage, and launched herself at the last male.
I took this as my cue to draw my blades and step into the light. The frenzied female decapitated her former comrade as I approached and delivered a savage chop across her back with my war axe. She never saw it coming and died instantly. Hail Sithis...a room full of six bandits defeated with just two arrows and a single axe blow!
Acquiring more Frenzy poison as soon as possible became a priority, it seemed there was nothing better for thinning out a group of enemies. Perhaps there was a way I could make it myself, but I'd need to do some experimenting at the alchemy table. I don't think I know of any ingredients with the Frenzy effect yet.
Continuing deeper into the tunnels of Volskygge, I encountered two more bandits guarding a locked door. After shooting them both from the shadows, I picked the lock and found a lever behind the door. Pulling the lever opened a secret tunnel into a treasure room, which contained a bunch of coin and some potions. Decent, but hardly a hoard worthy of being so well guarded. I was convinced there was a big treasure to be had here, I just had to find it.
I passed through a dining hall of some kind, and killed a few more bandits along the way, but also found the remains of a couple draugr. I wondered just how deep into the ruin the bandits had gone, perhaps more undead still lurked here. I wouldn't have to wait long to get my answer to that one.
Next I entered a room dominated by a huge four sided sarcophagus, with a locked gate at one end and a book on a pedestal before it. The book had a simple riddle about animals, and the room was lined with four switches engraved with animal images. It was not difficult to solve the riddle and flip the switches in the right order to open the gate. I was very wary the whole time though, half expecting draugr to suddenly attack.
After passing through the gate I descended a long spiral staircase into the gloom, and discovered the body of a dead bandit on the landing. This was apparently as far as the bandits had investigated, and the following halls were crawling with draugr. Magical fire reduced them to rubble, with Dawnbreaker causing a few of them to explode in a glorious burst of blue.
I moved through the chambers dispatching the undead and looting the numerous urns. These urns were no doubt the reason the bandits were after the place, they were a fantastic source of coins and gems. An insistent rumbling in my stomach told me I had been exploring Volskygge for a few hours, and I stopped to eat some bread and stew in a dark corner before moving on. I kept my eyes open for a place to sleep, just in case.
Lulled into a false sense of security in my superiority over the draugr, I was careless in my defense when fighting a draugr scourge in one of the halls. Staggered by the fiend's powerful attack, I couldn't prevent him from summoning a giant frost atronach in between us. In the tight quarters I had to go through the atronach to get to the draugr. I eventually prevailed in the tough battle, but resolved to use stealth from then on.
Detouring into a side tunnel to bypass a collapsed section of the ruin, I discovered a large area filled with he nests of frostbite spiders. With me sneaking through the shadows, magic frost bow in hand, the spiders didn't stand a chance. I slew over a dozen including one giant spider, and harvested their poison glands and egg sacs.
Eventually I came back out into the Nord tombs, and the place just kept going. After destroying another handful of draugr I almost began to regret coming into this ruin. I couldn't believe the size of Volskygge...I'd been exploring it for over nine hours with no end in sight.
Unfortunately, I hadn't seen any place suitable to camp either. I didn't want to retreat back out of the ruin, even though I was very tired. The hour ticked past midnight as I made the decision to push on and find whatever was in Volskygge to be found. I could sleep later.
Ignoring my tiredness, I continued through the cavernous depths of Volskygge, eventually reaching a throne room. A lone Draugr Death Overlord was seated upon a raised dais, and I managed to slip into the shadows below him without being seen. In my eagerness to destroy the powerful undead creature, I failed to come up with much of a strategy and simply fired an arrow at him.
The Overlord was barely damaged by my sneak attack, immediately spotted me as he stood up, and cast a brutal ice storm in my direction. The cold froze me near to the bone and I was almost killed in an instant. I forced down a couple of healing potions as the Draugr pulled out an ebony battleaxe and began descending the steps towards me, snarling. Trembling with both cold and fear, I drew my own blades.
Using my speed, I dodged past the Overlord on the steps and gained the high ground before unleashing my attack. His huge axe was slow, but every strike that landed was near fatal. The fiend was enormously strong, and more than once I was forced into retreat in order to heal myself. The battle was lengthy and challenging, but eventually my quickness and enchanted weapons prevailed.
After defeating the Overlord, I hefted his battleaxe in my hands. A nasty weapon to be sure, but too heavy and slow for my style. I stowed the ebony axe away in my pack, sure it would fetch a good price from any smith. Behind the Overlord's throne was a huge carved chest filled with loot...gold, gems, scrolls, staves, amulets and more. This was what I had come into Volskygge for, and it was worth it. The hoard had a total value of several thousand septims.
Beyond the chest lay a door that led back outside to the Volskygge peak, a high and snowy plateau savaged by swirling winds. Through the early morning gloom, I could make out another Word Wall ahead of me. Taking care to avoid the cursed thing, I climbed back down the mountain, finally reaching the ground at 5am.
I could feel exhaustion numbing my senses, and began a search for somewhere to camp. Heading West, I discovered an Orc stronghold called Mor Khazgur, but the gates were barred. An Orc named Bagrak up on the wall told me that if I brought the chief an artifact called the Forgemaster's Fingers I would be granted access. Damn this fool Orsimer, I needed a bed, not another errand.
Leaving Mor Khazgur behind, I soon found a cave called Darkfall. I hoped that I would find bandits camped inside and I could use their bedrolls after I'd killed them. If only life could be so simple. Shortly after entering the cave, a rickety bridge collapsed as I was in the middle of crossing it. Helpless, I plunged into the swift running river below and was swept along by the current.
Completely disoriented by tumbling through the water and struggling not to drown, I lost all sense of direction. I think I went over a waterfall at some point, but I can't be sure. Eventually the current slowed, and as I dragged myself spluttering out of the churning water, I was attacked by two Frostbite spiders.
Darkfall cave was cursing me with one bad turn of luck after another. I regained my bearings and slew the foul arachnids, their black blood hissing on Dawnbreaker's white hot blade. A narrow path led upwards from the small riverbank, and I followed it up to a tiny campsite.
Calling it a campsite is actually being generous, it was basically a bedroll and firepit in the middle of a dank and tiny tunnel, and there was the mutilated corpse of a Breton woman by the fire. I found her diary in which she chided herself for thinking she could safely live among spiders and trolls. She wrote that she fully expected to be slain by a troll, and that prediction seemed to have come true.
It was past 2pm, and I'd been up all night and was too tired to care that much about being killed by a troll in my sleep. After eating a few pieces of dried fish, I dragged the woman's carcass away from the bedroll and crawled into it myself. Tomorrow I'd find a way out of this stinking hole, and find Sorine Jurard.
Waking in pitch blackness shortly after 1am, I couldn't remember where I was or how I'd gotten there. I remained calm as I nimbly retrieved my tinderbox in the dark and successfully lit a torch to push back the shadows. As the pitiful camp came into view, I gradually remembered the events of the previous day that had led me here. I also remembered the mention of trolls, and resolved to get out of Darkfall as quickly as possible.
Passing through several caves, I did encounter and slay a pair of trolls, both of them undone by the magical flames of my glass axe. I also discovered a small shrine engraved with the name Auri-El, the old Aldmer name for Akatosh, one of the Nine Divines commonly worshiped in Tamriel. No good could come from invoking him here, at least none that I could see, and I saw no reason to bother risking it.
I left the odd shrine behind, and eventually managed to find a way out of Darkfall cave by 3am, emerging into a clear and starry night. Moving South away from Darkfall, I soon met Sorine Jurard near a small Dwemer Ruin on the bank of a raging river. After introducing myself I explained to her about the vampires and Isran forming the Dawnguard.
The woman was clearly paranoid and scatterbrained, raving about various end-of-the-world scenarios she had dreamed up and some Dwemer gyros she had misplaced. She wasn't interested in helping the Dawnguard until I mentioned the Elder Scroll that the vampires had, which seemed to get her attention. She said I had to find her a Dwemer gyro so she could finish up the project she was working on, and then she'd go join with Isran.
After a quick survey of the area, I discovered that the daft girl had left her satchel on the edge of the river, not twenty paces away. The thing was stuffed full of Dwemer gyros. Sorine was ecstatic when I handed over the gyros, and she unleashed a manic stream of nonsense about the Dwarves that I followed none of. Regardless, she was satisfied and headed off East towards Fort Dawnguard. Good enough.
I would need to return there soon myself to see what the next phase of Isran's plan involved, but first I had to get to Markarth to meet with Muiri. The place where I'd met Sorine was approximately halfway from Solitude to Markarth, so I still had a long way to go. Crossing the river to the South, I began to follow a path I hoped would lead me to the capital city of The Reach.
Before long I approached Druadach Redoubt, which looked to me like a Forsworn camp. Attempting to pass the place by in stealth, I was spotted by a scout and attacked by a handful of the ragged barbarians. They tried to surround me, but their crude weapons and armor were no match for mine, and I butchered the lot of them in short order.
As I continued Southwest along the path towards Markarth, the sky began to brighten just before 6am, though little light shone through the dense cloud cover. It looked like a storm might be rolling in. The terrain was all rocky crags and scrub brush with little cover, and left me feeling unpleasantly exposed. I stayed away from the main roads and approached Markarth through the hills and back country, reaching the city gates shortly after 7am.
None of the shops were open yet, so I stopped into the Silver-Blood Inn for some breakfast. The innkeeper Kleppr served up some decent rabbit stew and bread still steaming from the ovens. I was disappointed to see Vorstag sitting by the hearth, apparently having safely returned from Lakeview. The fool even asked if I wanted to hire him again.
As I finished my meal and prepared to leave, my contact Muiri entered the inn, saving me the hassle of finding her. I took a seat at Muiri's table and let her know that the Dark Brotherhood had answered her call. she was momentarily stunned by my frankness, but quickly recovered and we got down to business.
Muiri wanted me to murder Alain Dufont, an ex-lover of hers who led a bandit crew out of the Dwemer Ruin Raldbthar. She also offered me a bonus if I would kill Nilsine Shatter-Shield, a noblewoman who lived in Windhelm. I accepted the contract, but didn't bother prying all the sordid details out of Muiri...I just need a name to do my job. Or in this case, names.
I left the inn and did a bit of bartering with the local shopkeepers, and purchased a recipe for Frenzy poison from Bothela at the Hag's Cure. Bothela also sold some of the ingredients I needed, so I brewed up several potions and toxins, including some frenzy poisons. By 10am I had turned my all animal skins into leather bracers and sold off all my junk items, so I headed out of Markarth towards the stables.
My next stop was Falkreath hold...I wanted to check in at the Dark Brotherhood Sanctuary and Lakeview Manor since I was so nearby them. I paid the carriage driver's fare and arrived at the city of Falkreath shortly before 10pm. I didn't bother entering the city, and headed straight for the Sanctuary near town.
Ignoring Astrid, I found Nazir and collected my pay for killing Narfi. Nazir didn't have any more contracts for me and told me to check back with him later. I found Cicero in the quarters Astrid had assigned to him, standing in front of the Night Mother's coffin. The coffin was closed, hiding the Night Mother's remains, but I instinctively went to one knee, bowing low and offering her a prayer of worship.
After enjoying a fleeting moment of peace and reverence, I had a brief conversation with Cicero, both of us expressing our dismay at the sorry state of Astrid's family. Things needed to change for the better, and soon. The best contribution I could make was continuing to complete contracts as professionally as possible.
Passing by Falkreath, I decided to let Mathias know that I'd killed Sinding and that his daughter had been avenged. I took a gamble that he would be at the Dead Man's Drink instead of at home, and I was right. Surprisingly, Mathias wasn't really interested in Sinding...but he was thrilled when I told him I had a few extra cabbages to sell him. Now I just need to get a few more of these locals to like me so I can become Thane.
I filled my belly with potato soup and venison before leaving Dead Man's Drink and heading towards Lakeview. Arriving at home just past midnight, I stashed a few treasures in my chest and turned in for the night. Tomorrow morning I would head back to Riften and Fort Dawnguard.
By 6am, I had broken my fast and was on Gunjar's cart rambling towards Riften. Gunjar was an amiable fellow, and prone to keeping his thoughts to himself, which I appreciated on long trips. Arriving just before 8pm, I washed the road dust down my throat with a bottle of wine and entered the city. I made my way into the graveyard and went into the Ragged Flagon via the secret entrance.
At the Flagon, I collected my pay from the Thieves Guild captains, and had a quick meal with Delvin while he outlined my next numbers job at Angeline's Aromatics in Solitude. Vex also offered me a job in Solitude, stealing a Diamond Necklace from the Winking Skeever. After fencing the rest of my stolen goods to Tonilia, I left Riften and headed directly for Fort Dawnguard.
Arriving at the Fort just before midnight, I went in to find Sorine and Gunmar standing in the entrance hall speaking to Isran, who was up on the balcony. After determining that none of us were infected with vampirism, he opened the interior portcullis and let us enter. He told Sorine to get to work on her new crossbow design and tasked Gunmar with training and armoring some trolls.
By Sithis, ARMORED TROLLS. Sounds awfully dangerous and risky, but I suppose they might be pretty useful against a pack of undead. In truth, Sorine's improved crossbow sounds like a much better idea. Isran beckoned me upstairs to speak to him in private.
Isran told me that a vampire had shown up at the Fort asking for me, and it turned out to be Serana. She explained that her father Lord Harkon was obsessed with an old prophecy that foretold of a time when vampires could control the sun and rule the earth. Her mother had hidden her away with the Elder Scroll to prevent Harkon from using it to turn his dream into a reality.
I guess Serana kept her word after all, giving up all the information she had on the vampire's plans, and she asked for my help to stop her father. Normally I would refuse to have a traveling companion, and I'd never associate with a vampire...but in this case it seems I'll have to endure it while keeping my eye on a bigger prize. Stopping Harkon is the most important thing.
The possibility that this was somehow all a trap remained in the front of my mind, even if that didn't make much sense. Serana could've killed me before if the vampires just wanted me out of the way, and she seemed genuine in her desire to stop her father. I didn't necessarily trust Serana, but I didn't want to see her destroyed either. Not yet anyways. Besides, having her with me means I always know where that Elder Scroll is.
I told Isran that we would need Serana's help if the Dawnguard were going to disrupt Harkon's plans, and he reluctantly agreed. Our first priority was to read Serana's scroll, which required a Moth Priest, some kind of scholar in Elder Scroll lore from Cyrodiil. Thankfully, Isran happened to know that a Moth Priest was currently somewhere in Skyrim, so I decided to ask about him at inns and stables where travelers tend to congregate.
But all of that could wait for another day. It was after 2am, and I was worn out. I felt safe enough that Serana wouldn't attack me in my sleep surrounded by vampire hunters, so I settled into a cot in the barracks and drifted into unconsciousness.
I was up by 8am today, and shared a meal with some of the new recruits in the dining hall. Simple soldiers fare, but filling enough...I shuddered to think what Serana planned to do about eating while we traveled together. I met with Sorine and she sold me a fresh quiver of steel bolts for my crossbow.
Sorine also mentioned that her research indicated that the schematic for an improved crossbow design could be found in the Dwemer ruin of Raldbthar. How convenient, I was planning to head there to murder Alain Dufont anyways, and if I found something there that Sorine could use to improve my weapons, so much the better.
Serana and I left Fort Dawnguard by 9am, ran to the Riften stables and paid the carriage driver's fare to Windhelm. The driver said he hadn't seen any Moth Priests when I asked. Perhaps sensing my unease at her presence, Serana mostly kept to herself and limited her comments to minor complaints about being outside during the day. Darkness had fallen by the time we arrived at Windhelm's stable.
Entering the city, I began to search for Nilsine Shatter-Shield, one of my targets for Muiri. She was in the Hall of the Dead, all alone, occupied with tending to the body of a recently deceased woman...she was easy prey. I crouched low in the shadows, and was pleased to see Serana adopt a similar posture so as not to spoil my stealth. Waiting until Nilsine turned towards me, I loosed my crossbow bolt and it effortlessly found the gap between her ribs, killing her in an instant.
I told Serana to hang back and approached Nilsine's corpse alone...I didn't need a vampire watching over my rituals. Offering my prayers of worship to Boethiah and the Night Mother in a low murmur so that Serana couldn't hear, I gently wove a Nightshade blossom into Nilsine's hair above her left ear, and laid her out on the slab next to the other body.
After taking a brief moment to admire my handiwork, I yanked the bolt from her chest and put it back in the quiver as dark arterial blood pooled in the wound. Serana and I left the Halls of the Dead around 10pm, and the streets were deserted. Hail Sithis.
We went into Candlehearth Hall, and I asked Hulda if she had seen any Moth Priests come through town, but she hadn't. She did serve up a hearty plate of roast beef and vegetables that filled my stomach and left me feeling drowsy. I told Serana to wait in the common room of the inn and rented a room for myself. Just because I'm stupid enough to travel with a blood sucker doesn't mean I'm stupid enough to share accommodations with one.
Tomorrow I'll find Raldbthar, kill the bandit leader Alain Dufont, and get the schematics for Sorine.
I was up at 7am this morning, and as I entered into the common room, I saw Serana walking in the front door of the Inn. I wondered if she had slipped out during the night to find someone to feed on, and the thought sickened me. My own appetite disappeared, and we left Windhelm without a word.
Raldbthar was near to Anga's Mill, where's I'd slain Ennodius Papius, so we headed towards the mill along the main road. We were attacked by a pack of wolves, and during the fight, we were suddenly ambushed by a group of vampires! The three sided battle was chaotic and violent, but Serana and I came out on top with only minor injuries. Undead monster she may be, but Serana has her uses.
A light snow began to fall over the gray morning as we passed by Anga's Mill and started up the mountain trail towards Raldbthar. We slew a snow bear before discovering a small carved staircase on the mountainside, and climbing it brought us to the giant Dwemer ruin.
Three bandits were guarding the entrance to the place, no doubt Dufont's men. My crossbow bolts and Serana's ice bolts sent them all into the void with minimum fuss, and after looting their corpses, we crept into Raldbthar. Just inside the entrance, the tunnel split into three directions, with the path directly ahead blocked by a jet of fire.
Reasoning that the passage hardest to get down would most likely be the correct path, I quickly rolled through the flames. Other than a few singed hairs, I came through unscathed, and Serana followed without hesitation, showing no fear of the fire. Past the flame trap was a locked door, and picking it revealed a room with several bandits, including Dufont. My hunch had proved right.
I'd hoped to repeat my trick with the Frenzy poison to thin out the numbers of bandits, but Serana was spotted by one of them before I could get the poison out. Serana drew the attention of all the bandits and pummeled them with magic, while I shot at them from the shadows with the crossbow.
Alain wielded a magical warhammer, but it didn't help him against an enemy he couldn't see. Before long, all the bandits were dead, and I tucked a blossom of Nightshade into the bandolier on Dufont's armor. Hail Sithis.
The bandits were guarding a huge chest filled with loot. Gold, gems, metal ingots, potions and a magical shield, plus the schematic that Sorine Jurard wanted. Maximum reward for minimal risk, just how I like to do things. The tunnels went deeper into Ralbdthar and there were surely more riches to be had in the place, but I'd gotten what I came for and decided to leave.
Next I needed to get to Solitude to do my sidejobs for the Thieves Guild, and then report back to Muiri in Markarth. Serana and I headed North out of the mountains and then West towards Whiterun where we could hire a carriage. We killed a handful of wolves before entering a giant camp at Tumble Arch Pass. There were no giants around, but we did see a mammoth that was clearly spooked by Serana.
Passing by the Nord ruin of Korvanjund, a few bandits lurking around the place saw us and attacked. I wasn't interested in fighting them and just kept running West, but Serana stopped to give them battle...and I figured that she'd take the opportunity to drink their blood as well. Better bandits in the wild than innocent townsfolk, I guess. I tried not to think about it and kept running.
By the time I reached Whitewatch Tower, Serana had caught up to me, the reinvigorated brightness of her glowing eyes confirming my suspicions about her feeding on the bandits at Korvanjund. Disgusting creature. Eventually we reached Whiterun, and I briefly entered the city to do a little crafting and bartering.
By 5pm I was back at the Whiterun stables, and the carriage driver Bjorlam said that he had seen a Moth Priest who was trying to buy passage to Dragonsbridge, a village South of Solitude. Excellent, we could stop in there on the way to Markarth. In the meantime, I paid Bjorlam to take us to Solitude, and Serana and I arrived at Katla's Farm just before 3am.
I'd eaten on the road, and all I wanted was a bed. We entered Solitude and paid a visit to the Winking Skeever. Once again, I had Serana wait for me by the hearth in the common room and rented a room to sleep in private. I still refuse to sleep in Serana's presence, and this seems to be a pretty good solution...but I'm not sure what I'd do if we were out in the wilderness somewhere. I'll cross that bridge when I get to it.
When I awoke at 10am, the Winking Skeever was unusually quiet, as most of the usual patrons were about their daily business in the city. Creeping out of my chambers, I noticed that the Inn's strongbox was conveniently located on a shelf nearby. Looking around to confirm no one could see me, I picked the lock and lifted the Diamond Necklace that Vex wanted.
Next Serana and I went into Angeline's Aromatics, where I purchased several ingredients. While Angeline was busy counting the coins I'd given her, I slipped upstairs unnoticed and forged Delvin's numbers into her ledgers. After mixing up some fresh poisons, we left her shop and Solitude behind us, walking South along the road towards Dragonsbridge.
Dragonsbridge wasn't far, just a short hike past the side trail that led up towards Meridia's Shrine. The village itself was fairly small, just an inn and a handful of houses built around an ancient stone bridge. The bridge was massive, and topped by a huge dragon head carved of stone. I asked a local guard if he'd seen a Moth Priest in the area, and he said that a Moth Priest had just left the town a short time ago, on a carriage heading South along the road.
Serana and I crossed the bridge and and set off in pursuit. It wasn't long before we came across the scene of a massacre...there was an overturned cart, dead soldiers, dead vampires, but no Moth Priest. Searching the corpses for a clue, I found a note on one of the vampires that detailed their plan to kidnap the Moth Priest and bring him to Forebear's Holdout, a nearby cave.
It was simple enough to follow the trail of blood from the scene of the attack to Forebear's Holdout, a short distance East of the road. I figured the vampires were after the Moth Priest for the same reason the Dawnguard were; he was the only person in Skyrim who could actually read an Elder Scroll. The entrance to the Holdout was a narrow opening in a sheer wall of stone.
Once inside, we could see a small underground fortress guarded by a handful of vampires and their hounds. At the top of the fortress was a glowing blue orb of magical energy, and we made our way towards it, not bothering to hide ourselves. Undead came at us in groups of two or three, and Serana and I butchered them all, her magical assault complimenting my flashing blades of fire.
I must say, for all her obvious faults, Serana seems especially eager to destroy her own kind, much more than if her only interest was mere self-preservation. It's kind of hard not to admire that zeal, even if she is a fiend. Perhaps she's just insane, or perhaps I see a fragment of myself in her...I've been eagerly destroying my own kind for years now. In either case, her habit of raising slain foes as groaning zombies is extremely unnerving.
After killing all the vampires, we were able to investigate the glowing orb up close, and could see the Moth Priest trapped inside. I found a blue weystone on the body of a vampire named Malkus, and placed it in the receptacle on a nearby pedestal. This dissipated the magic of the orb and freed the Moth Priest...who immediately attacked us.
He seemed to be under some kind of mind control, but after I cut him a couple of times he snapped out of it and yielded. The Moth Priest's name was Dexion Evicus, and he thanked us profusely for saving him from the vampires. I explained that the Dawnguard needed his help to read an Elder Scroll to foil a vampire plot, and he readily agreed.
By 3pm we exited Forebear's Holdout, and Dexion began heading towards Fort Dawnguard to meet with Isran. Serana and I needed to get to Markarth, but we were still much closer to Solitude than Markarth, so we ran back through Dragonsbridge and returned to Katla's Farm. The carriage ride to Markarth took forever, as heavy rains had flooded the roads in some areas, and it was nearly 3am by the time we arrived, wet and miserable.
We went inside the Silver-Blood Inn and I had a bite to eat while we dried ourselves off by the fire. Leaving Serana to wait until morning, I rented myself a room. Tomorrow I would find Muiri and collect for my first major Dark Brotherhood contract. The weariness of the road soon dulled my restless enthusiasm, and I drifted off to sleep.
I awoke at 10 am, and discovered Muiri conveniently milling around the common room of the Silver-Blood Inn. Seating myself away from Serana, I caught Muiri's eye and beckoned her to join me as I broke my fast. Muiri was thrilled to learn that both Alain Dufont and Nilsine Shatter-Shield were dead. She paid me 800 septims, and gave me a ring that would magically fortify any potion or poison I mixed. I couldn't wait to try it out.
After rejoining Serana, I did a bit of bartering with Markarth's merchants, selling off various junk items and buying a couple of trinkets with useful enchantments. As soon as I got to another Arcane Enchanter, I'd be be able to craft some great gear. I also tested out Muiri's ring at the Hag's Cure, creating a few longer lasting paralysis poisons. Serana and I exited Markarth and hired the carriage driver to take us to Falkreath.
We arrived outside the city gate just before 11pm, and I was ravenous. I still didn't trust Serana enough to bring her into my house while I slept, and decided the safer option was to stay the night in Falkreath's inn. We entered the city and headed towards Dead Man's Drink.
We were approached by a man in simple traveler's clothes, who simply said "Die" and summoned a gargoyle before attacking me! It was a vampire in disguise, and as I backed away to create space to draw my weapons, the townsfolk suddenly sprung into action. City guards, farmers and merchants joined the fray and ripped the vampire and his gargoyle to shreds within seconds. I could only laugh with amusement...these Nords are a hardy people indeed.
Inside Dead Man's Drink, I satisfied my hunger with a few bowls of thick beef stew as Serana silently eyed up the other patrons. I decided to chat with a few of the locals to try to boost my reputation in town, and one man I spoke with was a bearded fighter named Thadgeir. His friend Berit had recently died, and Thadgeir asked me to bring Berit's ashes to the local priest of Arkay for the necessary burial rites. I guess the old fool was too busy drowning his sorrows to leave the tavern and do it himself, so I feigned some sympathy and agreed to deliver the ashes to the priest Runil.
As I spoke with the innkeeper Valga to rent a room, she mentioned that a group of local hunters led by Valdr had gone missing somewhere West of Lake Ilinalta. I decided to keep my eyes peeled for any sign on Valdr's party, sure that finding them would impress the people of Falkreath. I left Serana in the common room and went to sleep...tomorrow I'd pay a visit to the Dark Brotherhood Sanctuary.
I was up before 7am today and found Serana in the common room of Dead Man's Drink, seated at a table with Runil, the priest of Arkay. After ousting the vampire from her chair, I sat down and presented Runil with Berit's ashes. The priest thanked me and tucked the small urn into one of the voluminous pockets of his robe. After a brief discussion with Runil, he asked me if I'd be willing to retrieve his journal, which he'd lost within Bloated Man's Grotto.
By Sithis, another menial retrieval task for a sniveling priest. The void could take this fool Runil for all I cared, but I knew he was a man of some standing in Falkreath. It could only be to my advantage for him to have a high opinion of me, so I agreed to fetch his book. Besides, Bloated Man's Grotto was where I'd killed the werewolf Sinding...I knew exactly where it was and I knew its layout. Finding the journal would be easy.
We left Falkreath behind and reached the Dark Brotherhood Sanctuary by 8am. Serana waited outside while I went in to report my success to Astrid. Annoyingly, Astrid barely mentioned my completed contract before launching into an insane rant about Cicero. She was suspicious of Cicero because she heard him speaking to someone when he was alone in his chambers. I told her she was being paranoid, but Astrid commanded me to enter his room and eavesdrop on him.
A sinking feeling hit me in the stomach, I didn't like where this was going at all...and then Astrid told me I would have to hide INSIDE the Night Mother's coffin! Conflicting emotions boiled inside me. According to the Five Tenets, to disobey an order from a Dark Brotherhood superior is to invoke the wrath of Sithis...but to dishonor the Night Mother is also to invoke the wrath of Sithis. I hated to do it, but I seemed to have little choice in the matter.
Reluctantly, I entered Cicero's chambers and approached the Night Mother's coffin, which had been mounted vertically on a small platform. After a moment of silent prayer in which I begged forgiveness for what I was about to do, I picked the lock on the coffin and threw back the lid. I looked upon the remains of my blessed Night Mother...her withered skin was stretched over dusty bones, her head cocked at an awkward angle.
I didn't have the time to appreciate her beauty, and quickly stepped inside the coffin with her remains, drawing the lid closed behind me. In total blackness, I focused on breathing quietly and tried to ignore where I was. Before long Cicero entered his chambers and began talking nonstop. It was immediately obvious that Cicero was speaking directly to the Night Mother, lamenting that she didn't ever respond to him and implying that he was attempting to turn some of the other family members against Astrid...that was good.
Suddenly, I heard the voice of the Night Mother rasping inside my mind, like someone was tickling me behind my eyes. I could see her bones glowing faintly in the darkness, the pale light pulsing in time with her words to me. I stood in silent astonishment as the Night Mother confided in me that Cicero was a loyal servant, but he would never become the Listener as he desired. Then she told me that I would be the Listener!
The Night Mother told me that I needed to go to a Nord Ruin called Volunruud and speak to a man named Amaund Motierre. She also said I should tell Cicero the pass phrase "Darkness rises when silence dies". My mind was racing. I could barely believe what was happening, becoming the Listener was way beyond anything I'd ever hoped to achieve within the Dark Brotherhood.
Suddenly everything was very clear to me. This was the role I had been selected for, this was the reason the Daedra had led me to Skyrim. My entire life had been a long, painful prelude to this moment. The Night Mother naming me as the Listener was the opening of a door into a future of unlimited potential.
The coffin lid popped open, and Cicero was irate that I was inside, shouting and demanding an explanation. I spoke the Night Mother's pass phrase for Cicero, which he called "the binding words", and he immediately recognized me as the Listener. Drawn by Cicero's screaming, Astrid burst into the room and started throwing accusations around.
Cicero explained what had happened and I confirmed it all for Astrid. To her credit, she seemed to believe me that I'd heard the voice of the Night Mother. However, once I explained the Night Mother's instructions about Volunruud, Astrid foolishly clung to the idea that she was the only one who could give orders, and forbade me from seeking out Amaund Motierre until she could "think about it" for a while.
In other words, Astrid's ego was bruised and she wanted to go sulk. The bitch was actually jealous of the Night Mother. Astrid couldn't be replaced soon enough for my liking. She told me to go see Nazir for some more minor contracts while she decided what to do about Volunruud.
Nazir had two contracts available for me. The first was an orc bard named Lurbuk who worked at the inn in Morthal, a hold capital I still hadn't visited in all my travels around Skyrim. The second contract was a vampire named Hern, who operated Half Moon Mill in order to maintain the appearance of a normal human. I began formulating a plan for the remainder of the day as I left the Sanctuary and rejoined Serana.
I wanted to stop by Lakeview, and drop off a few heavy items I was tired of carrying around. Then I was going to kill Hern at his mill on route to Bloated Man's Grotto, where I would retrieve Runil's journal. That should leave me with just enough time to get back home in time for Faendal to make my dinner.
We walked to my home, and I was amused by Faendal's terrified reaction to Serana...though I suppose my own response was much the same when I first met her. After storing my treasures in the chest and giving Faendal some fresh venison to prepare for later, Serana and I set off towards Half Moon Mill by 11am. The day was clear and the roads were quiet as we hiked North past the Falkreath Watchtower.
By noon we arrived at Half Moon Mill, and I wasn't surprised to discover that my target Hern was hidden away inside, out of the sun's rays. Serana had taken to wearing a heavy wool hood when we traveled during the daytime for the same reason. I told her to wait outside, and broke into the miller's house.
Hern was actually awake, sitting in front of the fireplace with his back to me. Lucky Lady, I couldn't have asked for a better set up. After taking two silent steps forward, I reached out and cut Hern's throat deep and wide. With black blood pooling rapidly on the floor, I set a blossom of Nightshade on the mantel and slipped back outside. Hail Sithis.
Serana and I continued North and eventually reached Bloated Man's Grotto at 2pm.
I wouldn't consider myself a true friend to Nerevar, but he probably spoke to me more than he spoke to anyone else, so I think I knew him better than anyone in Skyrim. When he showed up at Lakeview with a vampire in tow, I knew something bad was up. If I knew anything about Nerevar it was that he loathed vampires. Alarm bells were ringing.
I was worried when he didn't return home for dinner that night as he'd planned, and after another couple of days passed I decided to go looking for him. Knowing where he was supposed to be going, I retraced his steps, and found his body within Bloated Man's Grotto. Unfortunately, his remains had been partially eaten by the group of bears living in the cave, but he was easily identified by his distinctive facial tattooing.
I slew the bears and retrieved what was left of Nerevar, and found this journal in his pack. I knew he was a violent man, but I had no idea he was involved in the Dark Brotherhood, or worshiped the Daedra! Needless to say I was shocked, but I was intrigued by reading the personal thoughts he so rarely spoke aloud. I felt this book needed some kind of closure for anyone who might ever read it, hence my own little addition.
I cannot be certain of how Nerevar died, or what became of Serana, but I have my suspicions. Reading Nerevar's journal reveals to me that he was betraying his own nature by becoming far too comfortable with a vampire companion. Nerevar always thought that he might be betrayed if he let his guard down, and I'd wager that's exactly what happened. The greatest disappointment is that Nerevar died on the very day he saw new worlds of possibilities opening up for himself as the Dark Brotherhood's Listener.
I had Nerevar Drenthe laid to rest in the great cemetery of Falkreath. I realize that he probably would have wanted something different, but I'm not familiar with any Daedric burial rites, and I wasn't about to go researching them. Burying him in Falkreath seemed like the best option, so it will have to do.
One other thing...if Nerevar could speak now, I think he'd regret his own vanity. He perished chasing after a journal for the priest Runil, in order to raise his standing with the populace of Falkreath. The only reason he was doing that was to become Thane, a meaningless title. Ironically, I found Runil's journal among Nerevar's possessions...he had achieved his pointless task before he died. I gave Runil back his diary, for whatever that was worth, before returning home to Riverwood.
Inside Bloated Man's Grotto, I was clearing out the bears and spriggans with Serana. We had mostly cleared the place out and had already retrieved Runil's journal. Serana had raised a bear as a zombie, and in the middle of a chaotic fight, I accidentally hit the bear a couple of times with my axe and it turned on me. By the time I killed the zombie bear, Serana was attacking me too, and nothing I could do would calm her down.
Serana killed me, and when the game tried to reload, it glitched. My save file corrupted. I had a previous save that I could have reverted to, but it would have required me replaying the last three or four days worth of progress. Ultimately I decided to call this playthrough complete and make the Serana death "official".
Mixed emotions. In a way I'm really sad to see this end, but I'm also kinda relieved. I'm very satisfied with the way I roleplayed this character, and I feel like I accomplished several of the things I set out to do in the beginning, even if I didn't completely finish any questlines.
This ending is disappointing for a few reasons. First and foremost, like Faendal mentioned, Nerevar had JUST gotten to the point in the Dark Brotherhood story where things were getting really good. Being named Listener was a huge deal to Nerevar, and part of the reason I wanted to write this journal in the first place was to describe some of the stuff that I know was coming later in the Dark Brotherhood storyline. It would've been cool to see Nerevar react to everything that happens with Astrid, Cicero and the Emperor.
Second, playing this character and writing his journal has been a ton of fun, so it's kind of a bummer for it to end. I guess it's time to find a new project. Third, if Nerevar was going to die, it would've been nice if it was in some epic boss fight or something, not just "killed by the vampire he always suspected would kill him". I suppose it could've been worse, he could've been killed by the bears.
With all that being said, I'm very happy with this ending for completely different reasons. First, the journal was getting really long and some of the passion I had for writing it in the beginning has faded. I've noticed some of the entries getting shorter and more repetitive, and I think that's a subconscious byproduct of my waning enthusiasm. I'd rather end it before I get bored and feel like writing the entries is a chore.
Second, I was really stuggling to come up with a way for Nerevar to justify his continuing association with Serana, and I knew it was only going to get worse. I had forgotten about the part of the Dawnguard quest that involves the Soul Cairn, and what is required to gain entry to it. I can't picture Nerevar accepting either option available to him when he reached that point and I think the playthrough might have stalled there anyways. So ending things now avoids that whole scenario.
Third, I think this conclusion is actually kinda fitting for the character. Nerevar foolishly wavered from the rigid path he believed the Daedra had set him on to pursue a meaningless sidequest, and paid the ultimate price. Neverar knew he shouldn't trust Serana, and he died for not mistrusting her enough. Fate is a cruel mistress.
Anyways, thanks to anyone who has read this journal. I'd love some feedback, so feel free to post comments or questions.