Chapter 4: Laid to Rest

(You can check out the previous chapter here: Chapter 3 - Forsworn )


The following morning, Bronmir and Throngarr left the Four Shields Tavern and headed south-east, back across the Dragon Bridge, turning north-east at the fork. They had no intentions to revisit the Forsworn camp that hid within Dragon Bridge Overlook. They did, however, have every intent to pass through Morthal.

Pass through, being the preferable phrase.

There was little of note on the road. For once, everything was calm and quiet. It worried Bronmir greatly. Thus far, the entire journey had been full of nasty surprises and hidden enemies. Though it was a nice reprieve, he worried it meant something far more troublesome lay ahead. Could Morthal hold some hidden secret, some ancient foe, and Lady Kyne was to test Bronmir’s spirit against this evil? Surely, that was nonsense. Right?

As they reached Morthal, right away, Bronmir had the sinking feeling he was right. There was a crowd gathered outside the Jarl’s Longhouse, and they did not look happy.

“Well, what’s the Jarl going to do about it?” one of the townsfolk asked.

“Yeah,” another chimed in. “How are we even supposed to feel safe in our own homes?”

Throngarr nudged Bronmir. “Wonder what happened here, eh? Are we getting involved in their messes, too?”

“I don’t know, but if these people are troubled, I do feel we should help them.”

“Please, please,” the Jarl’s Steward said to the people. “Enough already. I have told Idgrod of your concerns. She’ll look after you. Please, go back to your business.”

“We’ve no need for wizards in our midst!”

“Morthal has enough problems as it is!”

After a moment, when it was clear it was doing them no good, the man who first spoke said, “Bah, it’s no use. Let’s get back to it, then.”

Bronmir approached the Steward. “What’s going on here? What happened?”

“Oh, an outsider. I wish I could welcome you to Morthal in happier times, but we’ve had a turn of terrible fortunes, lately. A wizard by the name of Falion recently moved in, and the folks say he’s doing all kinds of dark experiments…things unnatural. Scaring the people. Between you and me. He scares me, too. They want him gone, but Jarl Idgrod refuses to tell him to leave. She claims he’s less than harmless.”

“What was that argument about?”

“Oh, poor Hroggar. His house recently burned down. Real pity about his wife and kid. The screams woke half the town. Most folk won’t go near it now, claiming it’s cursed. Hroggar claims it was a hearth fire, but some of the townsfolk suspect he set it himself.”

“With his own wife and child inside? The man must have been mad!” Throngarr remarked.

“Yes, well, that’s what they say. It was barely dawn the next day when he professed his love to Alva. Of course, nobody can prove it. Problem is, with the war, we don’t have the manpower to look into it, which pains the Jarl greatly. She’d love to know what happened, if Hroggar was involved. Perhaps you’d like to help. Might be a bit of coin, in it.”

Bronmir inclined his head. “I think that’s why we’re here.”

The Steward inspected the two Nords for a moment. “Very well. I’ll take you to Jarl Idgrod Ravencrone. Follow me.” He led them into the Jarl’s Longhouse and before the Jarl. “My Jarl. These two adventurers wish to be of service to you and to Hjaalmarch.”

The elderly Nord Jarl inspected the two Nords in a similar manner to her Steward not moments ago. “So, life has brought you to Morthal, and to me. What purpose this serves, we will no doubt see.”

“We hear you might need someone to look into that house fire,” Bronmir said, with a touch of caution. This woman radiated power and influence. She had been around a long time and planned on living a good while longer.

“Hroggar’s house fire? He lost his wife and daughter in the blaze. My people believe it to be cursed now. Who am I to gainsay them?”

“We also heard an interesting rumor…. What does Hroggar say about it?” Bronmir questioned.

“Hroggar blames his wife for spilling bear fat in the fire. Many folk think he set the fire himself.”

“Even with his wife and child still within?” Throngarr pointed out.

“Lust can make a man do the unthinkable. The ashes were still warm when he pledged himself to Alva.”

“Why have you not arrested Hroggar, then?” Bronmir inquired.

Jarl Idgrod arched an eyebrow. “On rumor and gossip? No. But you, a stranger, might find the truth for us. Sift through the ashes that others are too fearful to touch. See what they tell you. Should you prove him guilty or innocent, I will reward you.” And with that, she turned away, her Steward close to her heels.

Bronmir and Throngarr exited the Longhouse with weighted hearts. This was certainly quite the depressing story they had managed to find themselves in. They made their way over to the burned down house – or, at least, what was left of it.

Despite having been quite some time ago, wisps of smoke still rose from the still smoldering ashes, though they were cold to the touch. After several moments, Throngarr grunted with exasperation.

“Bah! There’s nothing here! Nothing to say whether Hroggar is a mad fool, or an honest one.” He turned to Bronmir. “This is a waste of time. We should…. What are you staring at?”

Bronmir’s gaze was fixed in a corner of the house. Throngarr followed his eyesight to the illusory shade of a little girl.

Father?” a soft voice came from the ghost. “Father, are you there?

“Who…” Bronmir said but choked up. “Who are you?”

Helgi. But father says I’m not supposed to talk to strangers. Are you a stranger?

“No, child, we’re friends of your father. What happened?”

The smoke woke me up. It was hot and I was scared, so I hid. Then it got cold and dark. I’m not scared anymore. But I’m lonely. Will you play with me?

“If we do, will you tell us who set the fire?” Throngarr asked.

Okay! Let’s play hide and seek! You find me, and I’ll tell you! We have to wait until nighttime, though. The other one is playing, too, and she can’t come out until then.

“The other one? What do you mean?”

I can’t tell you. She might hear me. She’s so close. If you can find me first, I can tell you.” And with that, her misty image vanished.

“Well,” Throngarr said after a brief silence. “That was…spooky. What do you think? Should we try to find this girl, or does she even know anything?”

Bronmir stood in continued silence for a moment, brow furrowed deep in thought, before responding.

“Pains me though it does to say, I think the girl is rather irrelevant. I do wish we could do more for her, but she is dead. That being said, this other one intrigues me, greatly. Do you recall what she said about this other one? That she can only come out at night? And this Hroggar fellow being so quick to pledge love to Alva that they say he set the fire himself? What creature that only walks in the night would be capable of compelling a man so, and how? Idgrod said lust, but I think it something far more sinister.”

“You don’t mean…a vampire? Blood of Talos, man! That is far more than I wish to tangle with in my lifetime!”

“I haven’t any hard proof, just a hunch, but I think Alva might be this other one and I think she is a vampire who Seduced poor Hroggar into killing his family and pledging himself to her, so she could have a servant. Like I said, though, I haven’t any proof. We do need to find, ah, Helgi, but it might be best to report to the Jarl and tell her of my suspicions, first. She might also glean some insight as to where Helgi may be hiding.”

“I have no desire to dance with a vampire, but nor do I have the intention to leave these people to suffer at her hands…. Mayhap we could speak to this Falion fellow. They did say he dabbles in dark magic. Perhaps he could offer assistance?”

Bronmir shook his head. “Nay. I thought of that, too, but what if he does more than dabble? What if he is also a vampire? Or a necromancer in league with the vampire? A legion of enthralled servants to the vampire, if felled, could then be raised by a competent necromancer. They could be trying to breed an army, here in the heart of Hjaalmarch. Quite frankly, this is probably the second most favorable place to do it. Falkreath might be better, with its ancient burial grounds and already skeptic people, but, failing that, the swamp provides both cover and secrecy. Who knows? Maybe their lair even resides within the swamps!”

“You seem to have given this a fair bit of thought, Bronmir,” Throngarr noted, with more than a hint of suspicion.

“Indeed. If it is vampires, we must be ready to face anything. Still have to prove it, though. But yes. I am devoted to Lady Kyne, who detests those who prey on the innocent. Perhaps not vampires, specifically – or even undead, for that matter - but close enough.”

“Fair point. I hope I did not offed with my comment.”

Bronmir laughed. “You’ve been travelling with me for several days, now. If I were a vampire or an agent of darkness, I think you’d have long since discovered me. Your nose is sharper than mine.”

“Also a fair point.” The two shared another laugh.

“Well, no time like the present. Keep digging here, Throngarr. Might be something else of note. I’m going to speak to the Jarl.”

“Watch your back, my friend.” Throngarr nodded Bronmir off, who headed back towards the Jarl’s Longhouse.

The guards, who had evidently been informed that Bronmir was investigating the fire for them, allowed him inside with no hesitation. Within moments, he found the Steward.

“Ah. Steward,” he began. “Just the man I was looking for. I have news for the Jarl. About the…you know.”

“Ah, yes. Come. I will take you to Jarl Idgrod.” He stood and walked with purpose deeper into the Longhouse, up a flight of stairs, and into a room in which the Jarl was sitting, nose bent over documents of a sort. When she noticed them enter, she quickly stuffed them away.

“Aslfur, my husband. Ah, and the stranger who has been so gracious as to investigate the fire for us. I presume your presence here means you found something…important?” The arch of her brows and the look in her eyes was anything but questioning.

“Ah, yes, my Jarl. But, ah, I would prefer Bronmir over stranger, if it please you.”

“Bronmir, is it? Very well. A Nord with an Imperial name. Fine by me. What have you discovered, Master Bronmir?”

“Well…this is probably going to sound crazy…but apparently rumor is you’ve the gift of sight, so perhaps not so crazy. We – my companion Throngarr and I – found Helgi’s ghost within the charred ruin of his home. She was…less helpful than we hoped but more helpful, I think, than she meant to be. She spun quite a tale without saying much of anything at all. She’s challenged us to a game of hide and seek, and she has promised answers should we win.”

Idgrod scowled slightly. “Not so crazy, indeed. I don’t believe you ever asked his daughter’s name – or his wife’s – and yet here you stand knowing it all the same. Either a trick, or you are being honest. So. A game? Well, did you find her?”

“Nay, my lady. She gave us a cryptic message that forced me here. I left my companion to search the rest of the house, perhaps something we missed, though I doubt there is anything left there. But, I digress. She said we couldn’t play until dark. That someone else was playing, too. Someone that could only come out when the sun had fallen. When I inquired further as to who this other one was, she said she couldn’t say. Or perhaps wouldn’t. Said she was always watching. She might see. The mention that this other person was a she and could only come out at night is what brought me back before you. It got me thinking.

“Of all the creatures that walk this world, I only know of two that are capable of seducing a man so that he feels compelled to kill his family and pledge himself the very next day. And of those two, only one is endangered by light. The fact this other one is a she…. I wonder…. Could Alva be a vampire?”

Jarl Idgrod Ravencrone, who had held the throne of Hjaalmarch for many years, about whom it was said she could see things that others couldn’t, frowned. “A vampire? That is a bold accusation for a newcomer to Morthal to make. Alva has been friend to many for quite some time. Possible? Certainly. Likely? I wouldn’t say so. You were right when you said I see things, though sometimes my vision is obscured. If there are vampires among us…. Bronmir. Breathe this to no soul until – unless – you have solid, undeniable proof. I will not make an arrest until we can be absolutely certain this is the case.”

“I understand. Which is why I almost considered not telling you, but I ultimately decided you should be privy to my suspicion. This is, after all, your hold. You should be aware if vampires could be menacing your home and your people. I will do my best to find the truth, whatever she be. I do pray I am wrong, but, if I am right, I promise I will do what I can to help stomp out the vampire, or vampires, if there be more than one, threat to Morthal.”

“I do not ask more than that you find the truth. I would not ask a foreigner to risk his life for ours, but either way, we will be in your debt. Aslfur. Inform the guards that Bronmir and his companion – Throngarr, was it? – are to be given full cooperation and assistance in whatever they require. For as long as I decide, they are given temporary status of Thanes, to allow them to do what they need to discern the truth of this matter.”

Aslfur bowed. “It will be done, my love.” He left the room with a flourish. Bronmir started to follow, but the Jarl called him back.

“If it is vampires, as you say, Master Bronmir…. I hope the Divines are watching over us. Do report to me the moment you unearth the truth, if you can.”

Bronmir took that as a dismissal as she turned back around to the table and once again unfurled whatever she had been reading before. He left the room.

Bronmir pondered over everything they’d learned so far – admittedly, it wasn’t much – as he made his way back over to Throngarr. Perhaps he had discovered something they’d missed, but it was doubtful at best. They might just have to wait for nightfall and…. Damn! He’d meant to ask the Jarl where Helgi might possibly be hiding.

Cursing his foolishness and forgetfulness, he walked back through the threshold of the charred remains of Hroggar’s home and quickly spotted Throngarr, fast asleep against a soot-covered bannister. Bronmir promptly shook his friend awake.

“Throngarr,” Bronmir said as his companion opened his eyes. “Throngarr. Did you find anything else?”

“Huh? ‘Oo are ya’? I’ll kill ya’!” Throngarr’s eyes flashed with white fury for a moment before he realized it was Bronmir. “Oh, Bronmir. What happened? I must have dozed off waiting.”

“The Jarl has given us unrestricted access to whatever we need to find the truth. We have been granted temporary Thane-ship, so to speak. I meant to ask the Jarl where we might find Helgi, if she knows, but I confess I forgot. We’ll have to search around Morthal – she can’t have gone too far – and pick a few places and wait until nightfall and check them out.”

“Sounds as good a plan as any. Thanes, huh? Even if only temporary, it is a rare honor. You don’t meet many Thanes, these days. I knew a young whelp back when I lived in Windhelm. Said he’d be Thane one day. He kept right on saying it until his head was cut off by a Thalmor during the war. Poor lad. He had a strong sword-arm, a good sense of justice, and a keen mind. He’d have made a good Thane.” He cut off abruptly, as though not wanting to say anymore about his time during the war.

“Yes,” Bronmir said. “Well, shall we split up or search together?”

“We might better be able to determine where a suitable place for a ghost child to hide together. Two sets of eyes and two different opinions will make a difference.”

“A wise decision. Let’s go.”

The two Nord warriors searched through and around Morthal for several hours, waiting for nightfall to come. In the end, they only picked out three possible places Helgi could have decided to hide. In the Longhouse itself was certainly plausible. Where better to hide than a place no one would look for you? Another possibility was Alva’s house. If the other one was indeed Alva, it might make sense for Helgi to hide there, to be closer to her master. But there was a third spot that made just as much sense as the others. Around the crest of the hill behind where Hroggar’s house once stood was a patch of earth that had been disturbed, as though dug up and then reset. Like someone – or, perhaps, two someones – had been buried beneath. Possibly Helgi and her mother?


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Bronmir and Throngarr passed the few hours remaining until night in the Moorside Inn, with food and drink and merriment. The orc bard wasn’t particularly talented, but it lightened the mood enough.

Leaving the tavern with slightly lifted spirits, the dark of the night crept up quickly. Bronmir grabbed a torch and led the way behind Hroggar’s house, to the plot they suspected was a grave. Their first choice. However, upon arrival, there was already someone there…but it wasn’t Alva. Alva was definitely a Nord. They’d seen her. This woman was a Breton. Still, it might be worth speaking to her. After all, it wasn’t Helgi, and they still needed to find her. This woman had also dug up a coffin…. Most mysterious.

They approached with the intent to greet this woman, but she turned and attacked without hesitation!

“What do you think you’re doing here?!” she cried, pulling out a sword and raising blood magic. Blood magic? A vampire! Though, she was not too skilled of one, for Throngarr simply hefted his axe and buried it in her breast without much effort.

“A vampire, eh?” Throngarr said, nudging her head with his foot. “Not a very competent one. I thought they stuck to the shadows, but this one charged us like a fool. Had we not expected vampires, we might have been taken by surprise.”

Bronmir simply nodded in agreement. “Hm…this isn’t Alva. I was so sure of it…but, she is a vampire, so I’m not entirely wrong, I suppose. But look, here, she’s gone and dug up the coffin!” Bronmir hastily opened the coffin to reveal Helgi’s ghost.

You found me!” she said. “Laelette was trying to find me too, but I’m glad you found me first! Laelette was told to burn mommy and me, but she didn’t want to. She wanted to play with me forever and ever. She kissed me on the neck, and I got so cold that the fire didn’t even hurt. Laelette thought she could take me and keep me, but she can’t. I’m all burned up.” And with that, Helgi’s ghost vanished once more, hopefully, finally, peacefully, at rest.

“Wait a minute…” Bronmir breathed. “Laelette? Wasn’t that Thonnir’s wife? Thought she ran off to join the rebellion?”

Throngarr grunted. “Aye, that’s what he said.”

As though like magic, Thonnir suddenly appeared behind them.

“Laelette!” he cried, tears already streaking his face. “Oh, Laelette! She’s…she’s dead…. Ysmir’s beard…she’s a vampire!”

“Thonnir,” Bronmir said softly. “What happened to Laelette?”

Thonnir appeared to have finally noticed them. “Oh, it’s you two…did you have something to do with this? My Laelette, dead?”

“Well, she attacked us, we had to defend ourselves. I ask again, man. What happened to Laelette?”

“She…Laelette…I thought she left to join the Stormcloaks. Ah! Poor Laelette!”

“Did you notice anything strange before she left?”

“Well…she had begun to spend a lot of time with Alva. Yet, just a week before, she’d despised her. In fact, the night she disappeared, she was supposed to meet Alva, but Alva told me Laelette never showed up. I never got to tell her goodbye!”

“Thonnir,” Bronmir said carefully. “I think, perhaps, they did meet after all. I think Alva might be responsible for your wife’s disappearance and death.”

“You think…wait…you think Alva…but that means… Ye gods! You think Alva is a vampire?”

“It’s certainly a possibility we can’t ignore.”

“No! You’re wrong! You must be wrong! Laelette may have met her fate out in the marsh! I refuse to believe Alva had anything to do with this! There’s no way you can prove it to the Jarl!” Thonnir went back to his wife’s body and continued to mourn.

“Sounds like we need to investigate Alva, finally,” Throngarr said.

“Certainly seems that way. We’ll wait until morning. If she is a vampire, we won’t be at a disadvantage.”

Once again, the two Nords took refuge within the Moorside Inn, this time waiting for the safety of daylight.


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When day came, Bronmir headed to Alva’s house while Throngarr went to the Jarl, this time, to inform them of what they had learned. Bronmir knocked upon Alva’s door and was met by Hroggar when it opened.

“Who are you? What do you want?” Hroggar said.

“Ah, a wonderful morning to you too, Hroggar,” Bronmir said. “My condolences about your wife and child. It must be a terrible thing, knowing someone burned down your home while they were still inside.”

“Yes, terrible thing,” Hroggar said without blinking.

“I was wondering…the Jarl has asked me to help look into what exactly happened and try to find out who did it. Would you allow me to enter so we can speak to Alva? I’m simply tying up all loose ends. I’m sure you’ve heard the gossip, that folk think she persuaded you to do it, though I don’t think she did – though, I’m also fairly certain you didn’t do it either.”

“The Jarl…asked you…but…you don’t think…ah.” Hroggar appeared troubled, as though having trouble understanding what Bronmir was saying and making a coherent decision. “Ah, I guess that’s okay. Let me wake her. She’s still sleeping. She sleeps late, sometimes. Alva, dearest heart, that stranger is here. They wanted to ask you a couple of questions.”

After a moment, Alva appeared from another room, her eyes fixed on Bronmir, silently brooding, clearly trying to decide what kind of man he was. It was silent for several minutes before she spoke, her voice like honey dripping with venom. “Let him in, Hroggar. I’ll listen to what he has to say.”

Hroggar stepped aside and allowed Bronmir to enter the house.

Thanking the man, Bronmir entered. “Morning, fair lady,” he began, doing his best to choose his words as precisely as possible. “The Jarl has requested my assistance in helping her determine the truth of the fires. I just wanted to ask you a few things about it. Tying up loose ends, and all that. Being thorough, I’m sure you understand. However, might it be possible to speak alone?”

Hroggar started to protest, but Alva cut him off. “That is acceptable. Hroggar, please leave me to speak to this man alone. You may go to the Inn, if you wish.”

“Ah, okay, dearest heart.” And just like that, he left.

“So,” Alva said. “What is it you ask of me?”

Ignoring Hroggar’s odd, though expected, behavior for the moment, Bronmir got straight to the point. “What can you tell me about the fire that burned down Hroggar’s home with his wife and child still inside? I’ve heard from Aslfur, from the Jarl, from Thonnir, from Joanna, and from Hroggar himself. Now I’m asking you.”

“I’m afraid I can’t tell you much more than you’ve already heard, then. It started suddenly, in the night. The screams woke up at least half the town – myself included. It was pretty awful, what happened. Hroggar and I had been close as friends already, so he came to me grieving. What a shock it was to me when he professed his love the next day. I think he’s trying to make dramatic moves, so he doesn’t have to think about it.”

“It certainly seems that way. You didn’t notice anything unusual regarding Hroggar or his family before it happened?”

“I can’t say that I did. Hroggar was a friend of mine, but his wife didn’t like me much.”

Can’t imagine why, Bronmir thought. “I see. No strange individuals lurking around where they didn’t belong?”

Alva cocked her head. “What a curious question. You seem to already suspect somebody, but no. I didn’t notice anything or anyone out of place.”

Bronmir nodded. Of course you didn’t notice anyone out of place. You orchestrated the whole thing. “Last question. What can you tell me about Laelette?”

The question seemed to take Alva by surprise. “Lae…Laelette? What…what do you mean?”

“Exactly what I asked. Tell me about her. Who she is – was, excuse me – who you two were to each other, anything you might know about the night she disappeared.”

“I…I’m not entirely sure why you’re asking about Laelette. What does she have to do with the fire?”

“That’s my business. Just tell me, so I can absolve you of any part in the fire.”

“I…alright. Well, she’s Thonnir’s wife, mother to Virkmund. Up until a few weeks ago, she despised me. Not sure what changed, but we suddenly became friends. I hate to admit this, or break her promise of secrecy, but if it’s in name of helping avenge Hroggar’s family…. She told me she was unhappy with Thonnir, that she wanted something more…exciting out of life. As her friend, I did my best to remind her she had a comfortable life with Thonnir, but she wouldn’t hear it. She kept talking about going on an adventure or joining the army. When word that Ulfric Stormcloak had been captured and then escaped, I think that ignited her flame. She said she wanted to meet with me that night, but then never showed up. The fire must have been stronger than she anticipated, for she was gone without a trace. I just assumed she left to join the Stormcloaks. Is that not the case?”

“I can’t tell you much, but I can say she didn’t join the Stormcloaks. Or…well, it’s possible she did, but then deserted. She’s dead. You two were friends. Thought you’d like to know. She attacked me while I was looking into something I’d discovered and had to kill her. A pity. I’d have liked to ask her a few questions, too, but she gave us no choice. I think Thonnir might hold a funeral, or something. Thank you very much, fair lady. Enjoy the day. The sun is quite beautiful, right now.”

“Yes. The sun. Beautiful.” She watched with hawkish eyes as Bronmir left her house.

Closing the door behind him, Bronmir sighed. As he suspected, she, too, kept a careful guard on her tongue. And yet…she gave away enough with her eyes. She was most certainly a vampire. As to whether she had anything to do with the fire…unclear, but she clearly lied about Laelette. She knew exactly why Laelette suddenly took a liking to her. Question was…did Alva turn Laelette or did Laelette become a vampire and sought guidance from Alva? There was a third possibility, that Laelatte had found out Alva was a vampire and begged to be turned. A most disturbing alternative, but possible all the same.

Things were getting far too complicated. Bronmir needed hard proof and a lead, and he needed them now. He might have to break into Alva’s house and search it. Problem was, with Hroggar guarding it during the day and Alva skulking about at night, it would prove impossible. Unless he could convince the Jarl to get him a warrant to search her home…. Alva or Hroggar – or both – might not be too keen to attack if they had a procession of guards outside her house.

Of course…it was also possible she suspected Bronmir already knew and was simply confirming her identity. He tried to let it show with his body language – and, of course, the bit about the sun being beautiful – but she may not have picked up on it. If she had, she might have left for the safety of her lair, wherever that might be, which means he might have a shot at breaking in at night, when she left. No guarantee, but it was worth a try. Would be better to have evidence to back up his claim before going to the Jarl about her arrest.


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After informing Throngarr of his plan – and enduring the countless various ways Throngarr called him a fool – Bronmir waited in the Moorside Inn once again, while Throngarr went searching in the swamps, to see if he might be able to find the vampire lair. They ultimately determined that the end of this investigation would lead to the eradication of the vampire threat to Morthal, thus finding the lair to be a top priority. However, they didn’t want Alva to know they were searching for it in case it spooked her enough to stay home, so Bronmir stayed in Morthal, biding his time. She knew Bronmir, but did not necessarily know Throngarr, so if Bronmir stayed behind, she might not suspect what they were up to.

After several hours, Throngarr returned, muddy, sweaty, and exhausted. Bronmir casually watched his covert companion enter the Inn, taking care to take no obvious interest in case Alva, or one of her subordinates, was watching. Throngarr approached the bar and took a stool next to Bronmir.

“Welcome back, my friend,” Bronmir greeted him. “Did your hunt bear fruit?”

Throngarr waited until Jonna approached and ordered a mug of ale, taking a hearty swallow, draining the mug empty with one gulp, before responding.

“Yes,” he said with a burp. “But also no. I found some trace of the beast we were hunting, but I could not track it back to its den. We will have to hope your venture tonight provides more insight. If you don’t mind, I think I’m going to find a pretty woman or drink myself into a stupor. There are some things I witnessed today I’d like to forget, if I could. Watch your back, Bronmir. Something is amiss, here.”

Without another word, the staunch warrior left the inn, in search of his desires, leaving a puzzled and concerned Bronmir brooding over his last words. He, too, ordered a mug of mead, but took his time sipping it, allowing the flavors to dull his brain just enough to forget the look in Throngarr’s eyes. The time he needed passed by like a blur, and before he knew it, it was time to go.

Bronmir finished his mead, slapped a few gold Septims on the bar, and withdrew to the room he’d rented earlier. He’d gone out shopping for some dark clothes and a small belt knife, something easy to conceal but sturdy enough to protect himself should he need it. He put them in a sack and lugged them out the door and left the gates of Morthal behind him, seeking cover in the trees where he could safely put on the dark clothes and belt the knife. He needed to blend into the shadows to avoid being seen. It might not do much good. After all, he was attempting to break into the home of a vampire. They see pretty well regardless of the darkness. Furthermore, Bronmir took into consideration that he had no idea how to break into a house or sneak about, but he was smaller than Throngarr, so less easily noticed.

Either way, Bronmir knew it was their best chance at proving Alva a vampire and to discover what her role had been in the fire that destroyed Hroggar’s home and his family and might even absolve Hroggar of the rumors about him.

Bronmir carefully scaled the wall of Morthal and managed to drop on the other side without making too much noise. He didn’t think the guards noticed anything. Sticking to the shadows, he made his way around Morthal and up to Alva’s house. It was a bit irksome that her home was directly next to the Guard’s Barracks, but there wasn’t anything he could do about it.

Slowly, quietly, he approached the door and withdrew the lockpicks he’d forged earlier, borrowing the iron and the anvil and the hammer from Morthal’s smith. Regrettably, he did not really know what he was doing, but he understood enough about locks to have a grasp of the general idea. Inserting the pick, he slowly began to lift the tumblers one at a time until each clicked, getting a feel for where they were meant to be turned. He took a deep breath, wiped the sweat from his forehead, and inserted the pick again, this time locking them in place in time with the clicks from the tumblers. With a snap, the lock sprang open – on his first try! – and the door swung ajar.

Bronmir slowly crept into the house and closed the door as softly as he could. Turning around, he surveyed the darkness. The main hallway seemed to be empty, and there didn’t seem to be anyone stirring within, so it’s entirely possible he was right, and Alva was gone for the safety of wherever her lair might be.

Suddenly, a light appeared in an open doorway, and behind it was Hroggar, and his eyes spoke of madness.

“Intruder!” he cried. “Begone, thief!”

Hroggar brandished a knife and charged at Bronmir, who easily sidestepped and thrust forward with his own knife. It was regrettable to kill Hroggar before he could prove the man innocent or guilty, but he’d had no choice in defense of his life

Freely able to search the house, Bronmir took Hroggar’s lantern and began looking around for anything incriminating. It didn’t take long to determine there was nothing in the house to suggest any criminal activity. He had been so sure Alva was a vampire. It was disheartening to think he had been wrong. There was little point standing around brooding over it with a dead man in the foyer. He had to leave.

As Bronmir turned to the door, he felt the lick of wind. That was strange. He was still inside. How could there be a breeze in the middle of the house?

No! Not a breeze! A draft! Coming from the west wall! He ran up to it and felt along its edges until he fingered a seam in the wall, a break before the corner. He ran his fingers along this new seam until he got a grasp for its shape. Roughly ovular, but flat at the bottom to fit the floor. Common sense dictated it was a hidden doorway of some fashion. He leaned up against it and pushed with all his might, but it didn’t give way. He tried fitting his dagger in the seam and prying it open, but to no avail. There had to be some way to open it. It was then he noticed the lantern that was out of place. The entire house used static candles. So why was there one lantern on this wall? He examined it and determined it was likely a fully functional lantern, and though it was dusty and old, it showed no sign of having ever been used as intended. He felt around it and pulled on it. A clicking noise sounded sharply and the lantern pulled down like a lever, and the oddly shaped seam in the wall gave way, sliding down to reveal a simple wooden door. Behind the door was a set of stairs. At the foot of the stairs, Bronmir sucked in his breath.

Set up deep below the house, far away from the prying eyes of the regular folk and farther still from the sunlight, was a crude vampire den. An altar – presumably for worshipping Molag Bal; Bronmir may not have been a vampire expert, but he knew enough to know they were the offspring of the Lord of Domination – a makeshift torture chamber complete with tools and a cage, a small desk littered with scrawled notes and broken soul gems, and a coffin. The coffin was the giveaway. It could be a necromancer’s den, or a Daedra worshipper den, but the coffin was a sign as sure as thunder of vampires.

Bronmir hurried to the desk, brandishing the torch, frantically searching through it to see if Alva left some sign of where she might have gone, for clearly, she was not there.

The notes on the desk proved useless. Nothing to suggest where Alva might be. He got an idea. The desk revealed nothing, but maybe she might have left some clue in her coffin….

Bronmir lifted the lid on the coffin and opened it up, allowing the light of his torch to stab through the darkness and illuminate the contents within…or lack thereof. The only thing in the coffin was a small piece of paper with the words Movarth Piquine written upon it… Wait! He knew that name!

Movarth…where had he heard it before? Of course! He had once been a famous vampire hunter in the Second Era, before mysteriously disappearing. He popped back up a few decades later, as a powerful vampire leader of a new coven. Seems the hunter had become the hunted. But he’d been destroyed by an order of clerics based in Cyrodiil over a century ago. So why was his name among Alva’s possessions?

Bronmir became even more determined to find the truth. If Movarth had survived and Alva was his servant, he was preying on Morthal. A Master Vampire…the town was in grave danger. He went back to the desk and went through the notes again, looking for any mention of Movarth.

There it was! It had been staring Bronmir in the face the entire time! It was a journal, and though it was written like bad poetry, it mentioned Movarth.

                                My life is dreary. Where is my prince come to rescue me?

                                Where is my bold Nord warrior to sweep me off my feet?

                                I met a man today when picking nightflowers. He is exciting

                                and exotic. We kissed in the moonlight. It was so romantic.

                                I’m going to see him again tonight.

                                Now I understand the true colors of the night. Movarth has

                                shown me the true black of night and the true red of

                                blood. He has promised me a feast of blood if I do his

                                bidding in Morthal.

                                Hroggar was easy to seduce. Movarth said I should find a

                                protector first, someone to watch over my coffin during the

                                day. Hroggar is perfect.

                                Laelette came to visit me tonight. She slaked my thirst. I’ve

                                hidden her away to let her rise as my handmaiden. I’ve spread

                                the rumor that she left to join the war. Fools.

                                Movarth has confided his grand plan to me. I am to seduce the

                                guardsman one at a time and make them my slaves. Then he

                                and the others from the coven can descend upon Morthal

                                and take the entire town. We won’t kill them. They will

                                become cattle for our thirst. An endless supply of blood and

                                an entire town to protect us from the cursed sun.

                                Hroggar’s family is becoming inconvenient. I’ve told Laelette

                                to kill them all, but make it look like an accident. Hroggar

                                must be seen as innocent if he is going to be my protector.

                                That little fool! Laelette burned Hroggar’s family alive.

                                I asked for an accident and she gave me a scandal. To make

                                matters worse, she tried to turn his little girl, Helgi. Except

                                Laelette couldn’t even get that right. She killed the child and

                                left the body to burn.

                                Something is wrong with Laelette. She keeps talking about

                                Helgi. I think her mind has snapped. She seems to think that

                                the child can still be brought back to be her companion.

                                There is a stranger in town, looking into the fire. I’ll have to

                                be careful.

That was it. That was all the proof he needed to prove Alva was a vampire, that Hroggar was innocent – though also now dead – that Laelette had caused the fire, that Movarth Piquine had returned. And he was preying on Morthal. This information had to be brought to the Jarl immediately.

Sticking the note into his bag, Bronmir carefully left the cellar. A slight twinge of regret again crossed his face when he passed over the fallen corpse of Hroggar, but it had been in defense of Bronmir’s own life. A necessary evil.

Carefully, Bronmir opened the front door and crept outside. Though he’d been given permission by the Jarl to investigate, granted temporary Thane status, it still didn’t give him excuse to break into someone else’s home. The last thing he – or Morthal, for that matter – needed right now was for him to be captured by the guards. The coast was clear, for now. It was still unnerving to Bronmir that the guard’s barracks was right next to Alva’s house and they had never noticed her vampiric behaviors. Though, she had hidden herself very well, even risking her own life to come out during the day to dampen suspicions.

Clever or not, she was a vampire, and she had to die before the town became her feeding ground – her and anyone else in her coven. Slipping into the darkness, Bronmir shook off the black clothes he had purchased and put his jerkin and armor back on before moving back into the city – through the gates, this time – and returned to the inn, dropping the bag off in the chest in the room he was renting. He took the note out of the bag and left for the longhouse, determined to bring this news to the Jarl.

Lady Kyne must have been smiling on Bronmir, for it seemed the guards had not forgotten him, letting him inside without any trouble, and finding the Jarl was a simple matter, for she was currently sitting on her throne, listening to her Steward – her husband – prattle on about various matters in her hold.

Bronmir did not have time to be eloquent, so he brushed past the Steward and prostrated before Jarl Ravencrone.

“My good Jarl of Morthal,” he began. “I apologize for my rude interruption, but I have found evidence most dire, regarding the matter you asked me to personally attend to.”

The wizened Jarl rose an eyebrow questioningly. “Very well. Speak.”

Bronmir took the note from his pocket. “I acquired this parchment from within Alva’s house only an hour ago. Under suspicion, I entered her home to collect evidence. I knew she would not be there, for earlier today I visited and questioned her about the fires, making sure to hint that I suspected who she really is. I hoped she would flee her home to wherever her lair was, and I was right. I was wrong, however, about Hroggar’s importance to her. She left him in defense of her home, and I had to slay him in defense of my life. Regrettable, but she had her teeth sank deep in his neck. He was beyond retribution. I was, however, able to clear him of killing his own family. This page says it all.”

“That’s…disturbing news. Poor Hroggar. So she was a Vampire, then?”

“Oh, most certainly. But that isn’t the disturbing part. She was instructed by her master to turn the people of Morthal, and make it a safe place for the others in her coven to take refuge while they bred an army.”

“Who is her master, pray tell?”

“Have you heard of the tale of the once legendary vampire hunter who nearly destroyed the Volkihar in the Second Era before falling victim to his prey and then was destroyed by an order of clerics out of Cyrodiil?”

“Movarth Piquine? You mean to say he survived and turned Alva?”

“That seems to be correct. I was not able to figure out where they might have made their lair, but I used to study Vampires. I wanted to join the Vigilants, at one point. I think I remember mention of a cave he once used when he was still hunting. I know your people must want justice for Hroggar and his family, as well as Laelette, but this is an ancient Vampire. I would ask you allow my companion and I to handle this ourselves, lest your people fall victim to this agent of Molag Bal.”

The Jarl brooded upon Bronmir’s request for a moment before responding. “I can’t ask you to do this alone, you’ve already done so much for my people, but if that is your wish, I will not get in your way. Deal with this Vampire, Master Bronmir. Morthal will forever be in your debt.”

Bronmir bowed his head, murmured his thanks, and departed. Now all he had to do was figure out how to kill a Vampire as ancient as Movarth Piquine without dying – or worse!

Bronmir returned to the Moorside Inn to reunite with Throngarr, but the surly Nord was nowhere to be found. As he approached the bar, Jonna smiled at him.

“Welcome back to the Moorside, Bronmir. What can I getcha’ today? You’ll be lookin’ fer that fellow you’s came in with, ain’t’cha’? Now what was his name again….”

“Hello to you, too, Jonna,” Bronmir responded warmly. She’d always been both pleasant and friendly since he arrived. No doubt happy to have a customer, considering the lack of travel to Morthal with the marsh and the civil war, but he welcomed her vibrant enthusiasm all the same. “Throngarr. Yes. Have you seen him?”

“Ah, yes, Throngarr. Strong chin, that one. And he seems…keen, fer someone missin’ an eye, aye? Yes, yes. He left not long ‘fore you came in, yerself! Can I getcha’ a drink?”

“No, Jonna, thank you. I’ve got work to do, for the Jarl, again.”

“I must say, makes me mighty glad to be servin’ one so high and mighty as yerself, if I may say. Also makes me mighty glad to see the Jarl so concerned with the goings-on of this little town to bring in outside help.”

“Well, you might say I was passing through and offered my services during a troubled time. I only hope Lady Kyne smiles on me as much as you do.”

They shared a laugh at that and Bronmir bid her a good night before leaving in search of Throngarr.

“If I was a grizzly, old, half-blind, drunk Nord,” Bronmir said to himself, “where would I be?”

Turned out, Throngarr wasn’t far away. Bronmir found him chatting with Benor, self-proclaimed best warrior in Morthal. The two were having a laugh and sharing a pipe of green.

“Throngarr,” Bronmir said, approaching the two sturdy Nords. “And Benor. Pleasant evening, no?”

Benor grunted and exhaled the draw he had taken from the pipe. “Aye, that it is. Throngarr here was telling me he found the lair of the beast that the two of you hunted earlier and was asking my assistance in claiming its head.”

“Beast. Yes. Throngarr, can I talk to you privately for a quick minute?”

“Pardon me, Benor. The youth and their fantasies.” Throngarr stepped off to the side with Bronmir. “What is it, lad?”

“Did you find its lair, or was that the boast of wine and weed?”

“Oh, I found the cave, easily enough. Wasn’t hard to figure out what it was when I sniffed. Reeked of death and stale corpses. A vampire hideout, if I had to bet my last septim on it.”

“Perfect. I’ve gotten permission from the Jarl to undertake its destruction alone. Well, you and me. But there’s a problem. It’s an Ancient Vampire. A legendary Vampire Hunter turned Master Vampire from the Second Era, I believe. It won’t be easy. Does Benor know it is Vampires we hunt?”

“Yes, he does. Said he’d crave the chance to right his poor city.”

“Right, well no time like the present. If you two are capable now, we should make haste.”

Throngarr chuckled. “I suppose we should, at that. Benor! Are you ready to dance the blade with creatures the night so foul?” He extended his fist towards Benor.

Benor grasped Throngarr’s forearm. “I would that their blood stain my blade and no one else’s! Let us burn some Vampires!”

Bronmir placed his own hand atop their clenched arms. “Thank you, Benor. I asked the Jarl to not involve and risk any more of her people, so your aid is most welcome.”

Benor grinned. “Worry not, young blood. I would feel coward most profane if I did not extend my blade and allowed not one, but two outsiders to do what my own honor demanded. Nay, I could not sit back alone knowing you are about to defend my home.”

Bronmir clapped his hand on Benor’s shoulder. “It eases my heart and head some to know Morthal’s mightiest warrior will be assisting us, though I can’t promise you payment for your services, nor can I guarantee your survival.”

Benor chuckled, dismissing it with a wave. “Cleaning this stinking town of a stench worse than death itself is payment, enough, methinks. We are fighting a Vampire, lad, not a bandit camp. If I was worried about surviving, I’d have said no. Don’t placate my, boy. I’ve got strength left in these bones for one last good brawl.” He spat, took a long draw from his pipe, then spoke again. “When shall we embark upon this glorious quest?”

Bronmir sighed. “Well… That depends on how long it would take to get to their lair. Ideally, I’d want to get there right after dawn. The Vampires would have just gotten to sleep, thus at their most vulnerable, and their mortal thralls – if there are any – should still be sleepy from having just awoken, thus our best chance to take the advantage.”

“Well,” Throngarr began in response, “I’d say if we went to the inn, had a couple of ales, and then headed out, we’d be there just about then at an average pace.”

Benor grumbled in agreement, mumbling something about a good mead instead of ale, but the three trudged back into the Moorside Inn and shared a few ales – Benor drank a spiced mead, instead – before departing into the Morthal swamps, heading north by north-east.

They carried only one torch between them, and they took utmost care to make certain it did not get too bright. They wanted to keep the façade of surprise, even if it would only be momentary. They encountered naught but a few Skeevers along their path to the lair, but they were only a trifle at best. Their bites were dangerous, but they were slow and stupid – and even then, the worst of the bite was manageable; it was all the diseases they carried that made them so repulsive.

As they came around a small path that led to Movarth’s Lair, the stench of death and rotting corpses even above those from the swamp became more apparent, brining water to Bronmir’s eyes. Benor coughed silently in response.

“Well, lads,” Throngarr said as they stood at the mouth of the cave, dousing the torch. “This is it. No turning back now.” The sun was just beginning to grace the horizon. Perfect timing, as though the Divines were on their side.

Bronmir nodded in agreement, noticing Benor shifting nervously beside him.

“Something wrong, Benor?” Bronmir asked.

“No, ah, well…” Benor began, an anxious tick in his voice. “I…I know you said it was vampires, and I know I said I would help, but standing here… I don’t know if I’m confident enough to face these beasts.”

Bronmir clapped a hand on Benor’s shoulder. “Vampires are dangerous creatures, you have every right to be afraid, but look at it this way. No one else stood with us to defend Morthal from such monsters. Think of all the praise and reward you might get for helping us defeat them!”

Light shone back in Benor’s eyes – presumably thinking of free mead – and he nodded. “Let’s go.”

And so, the three warriors entered the cavern, ready to face whatever terrors the night might hold.

The cave’s mouth opened into a small tunnel, through which the stench of death and rotting corpses grew exponentially worse. The tunnel vanished into a great chasm, atop which a rickety wooden platform was built that led to a stone ramp built into the cave itself. Several Frostbite Spiders lined the ramp, but they were no match for the three warriors.

If they had thought the smell was bad at the top of the cavern, it was nothing compared to the odor that wafted through the small threshold to the next part of the cave. It was almost unbearable.

Through the next opening, they spied a small cave, inside which was what appeared to be a small mine shaft and a small table and chair. Sitting in the chair was a Nord who reeked of blood and guts. A Vampiric Thrall, presumably. The moment they entered the chamber, the Nord, noticing their presence, erupted from his chair and charged. It would have been funny, the way he was going, had he not been trying to kill them.

Almost repetitive from the death of Laelette, Throngarr simply hefted his axe and buried it in the man’s breast.

“I hope these beasties ahead are a bit more of a challenge,” Throngarr remarked. “I haven’t even broken a sweat!”

Bronmir did not so enthusiastically share his friend’s sentiment, though he did recognize it was more for merriment than boast. It helped lighten the mood, a bit,

However, it was the next chamber that proved their first trial. From this one seemed to be the source of the smell. Inside was littered with makeshift burial sites and, scattered about the room, were piles of body parts and bodies in varying stages of decay.

“Urgh!” Benor said aloud, plugging his nose with one hand. “I wouldn’t have even expected Vampires to live in such filth!”

Bronmir had to say he agreed. Even the feral Vampires in the stories said they kept a degree of decency. A messy Vampire was a dead Vampire. It was a wonder nobody had stumbled upon them yet – the Vampires, that is.

Benor’s exclamation, unfortunately, had roused the attention of those within who weren’t dead. Two more Thralls and a trio of Vampire Fledglings – Vampires who had only just been turned; they were still deadly, but not much more so than a Thrall – circled around them. The Vampires began to raise blood magic, their red eyes glowing with hatred, and that was when it happened. Bronmir had not been expecting it, though he’d had suspicion.

Benor, at the sight of the Vampires, seemed to have finally realized it really was Vampires they were hunting. For all his boasting, his cowardice shone through. He shrieked, something about not wanting to tangle with the undead, and fled from the cavern as fast as he could.

Throngarr chuckled softly, then cursed. “So much for the greatest warrior in Markarth.”

Bronmir and Throngarr readied their weapons as their enemies stood before them. Without warning, the battle began. Three on five odds was more favorable, but two on five…. Bronmir found himself forced to use every ounce of experience he had in combat to stay not just alive, but unscathed by the Vampires. All it took was one hit from blood magic, or one slash from their claws to become an undead, but he somehow pulled it off. After a moment, one Vampire and one Thrall lay before him, a mangled mess of desecrated corpses.

Throngarr, on the other hand, seemed to have little trouble, despite missing an eye. He made short work of two of the Vampires, lopping off their heads without much trouble, and the Thrall, though it fought bravely, it died without honor.

The two warriors made their way into the next chamber, which was large – though not as big as the chasm with the Spiders – and inside was a table, set to dine, with a large throne at one end – and that was where they saw him.

A withered, wizened head with a deep-set and ancient face sat atop a still strong body. He was Breton, and though his hair had faded white with age, there was a deep-rooted intelligence and hatred in his eyes. This Vampire would not be like the others they had faced earlier. This was an Ancient Vampire, a master at his craft, and he’d been plotting his revenge for centuries. The question was…why? What had driven him to seek to destroy those whom he’d once defended so honorably?

In the end, it didn’t matter. All that did was that he had become a threat and needed to be destroyed. Bronmir steeled himself for the battle to come. Movarth Piquine as a Vampire would be unlike any adversary either he or Throngarr had ever faced. He turned to his companion.

“Well,” Bronmir breathed, staying quiet to not alert the slew of Vampires and Thralls ahead of them, not to mention their master. “Are you ready to face these Daedra-spawn?”

Throngarr merely nodded and grunted in accordance, gripping his axe tight in his hands. Bronmir clenched his own axe, praying to Lady Kyne and Lady Mara and Lord Shor and Lord Tsun that he might live to see the next sunrise. He swallowed his fear, took a deep breath, and leapt from the balcony, charging headfirst into the surprised and unaware Vampires and Thrall, Throngarr right behind him.

In the mass of confusion that erupted at that moment, Bronmir’s axe struck down three foes, evening the odds just a little, but it didn’t take long for the Vampires to realize they were under attack, and quickly regrouped, forming a defensive circle around Movarth. However, soon as they realized it was only two warriors, and not an army, they laughed. The Thralls – those that were left – simply circled Bronmir and Throngarr.

Wasting no time, Bronmir lashed out with his axe, the sturdy blade a whirlwind in his hands, as he called upon the blessing of Lady Kyne to become one with the wind, almost vanishing from sight – a nifty trick he had picked up from the Worshippers of the Divine among the Imperial Legion. He had felled another three Thralls before Throngarr caught up with him. The others edged away from Bronmir’s reach.

Unfortunately, useful though her blessing was, it did not last very long, and Bronmir soon came down from his divine high, panting with exertion. Throngarr was looking a mite impressed.

“Well done, you old dog,” Throngarr said. “That was Kyne’s Kiss, was it not? Wonder where you learned that. I knew a soldier in the legion who had Kyne’s favor in such a way as well. They look afraid of you, now. How long can you keep that up for, boy?”

Bronmir shook his head. “I’m afraid…that was the extent…of my ability. It worked, though…didn’t it? There are now…only three of them left….” The Vampires, it seems, had retreated further into the cavern, trusting their Thralls to be able to deal with two warriors. They were dead wrong, as they would soon find out.

Throngarr grinned. “Aye, that it did, and we have the advantage if they are more afraid of you than their undead masters!” With that, Throngarr heaved his own axe and charged the remaining three Thralls, showing them no mercy as his own blade became a blur before them. They stood no chance.

“How about you rest up a smidge, get your breath back under control, before we pursue the Vampires?”

“That sounds like…a wonderful idea.”

They holed up at the table, eating the bread and cheese and fruit – the meat laid out, if it wasn’t human in nature, it was also raw, so they avoided it, but the bread and cheese and fruit should be safe – to recover some strength for a few minutes. When Bronmir was satisfied he had enough strength to resume the fight, he and Throngarr went further into the cavern after the Vampires they sought.

Bronmir was worried it might be a bit of a chase, but it turned out the Vampires were just through the tunnel at the far end, just over the long table, which was where Bronmir and Throngarr headed first. Seems they thought a giant bedroom – one with only one entrance and exit – was far enough out of the way to be removed from the battle. Imagine their surprise when Bronmir and Throngarr burst into the chamber and began hacking away at the closest two of the Vampires – judging by how quickly they fell, Bronmir guessed they were either Fledglings or Blooded; Blooded Vampires had some skill with the blood magic, but not much more than the Fledglings, but that was pretty much the extent of his knowledge on the various tiers of Vampire.

Two of the other Vampires quickly conjured up a slew of Atronachs – unbound Daedra who wandered Oblivion, feeding on rampant magical energy, serving no master until summoned by a conjuror powerful enough – while a third raised the corpses of the slain Vampires the moment they fell. This was not good. Movarth himself hadn’t spurred to action – he seemed to be content simply watching his coven be slaughtered.

Bronmir couldn’t focus on Movarth, though, he had two reanimated Vampires, two Frost Atronachs, and three Vampires to deal with, and only Throngarr at his side for support. Somehow, though, by the luck of the Divine, they scraped through it, their blades passing clean through the third Vampire almost simultaneously as a bolt of his blood magic just ripped past Bronmir’s right ear.

Bronmir and Throngarr faced Movarth Piquine. An Ancient Vampire who lived since the Second Era against a Nord just beginning his own story and a veteran warrior of the Great War. It didn’t take much intelligence to discern who has the favor, but Movarth was as cunning as he was ancient.

The Vampire chuckled softly. “Well, well, so it comes that I must deal with the two of you myself. You two are to be commended for making it this far through all my slaves, but you will not leave this place alive.

“I do not know if you know who I am but, please, allow me to regale you before we dance to the death. I am Movarth Piquine. I was once a trainer with the Fighter’s Guild, but I eventually moved on to hunting Vampires. Ironic that I ended up one myself. I began to study with a Priest in Cyrodiil, learning much about the various Vampiric clans across Tamriel. The Volkihar, here in Skyrim. The Bonsamu, the Keerilth, and Yekef in Valenwood. I hunted them like they hunted mortal-kind. And then I asked this priest about the Vampiric clans of Cyrodiil. I was told the Cyrodiilic Vampire clan’s name was lost to history, and that they were capable of completely blending in with commonfolk, so long as they remained fed. Much to my disappointment, I was unable to find a single one.

“So I returned to my mentor, emptyhanded. And it was then I discovered the horrible truth. My mentor had been one of these Cyrodiilic Vampires all along. So it came to pass that the legendary and unstoppable Vampire Hunter Movarth Piquine fell to his own victim.” He paused here, fingering the flame of a candle, wincing as it charred his skin, then bemused as his skin rapidly healed.

“I went underground, for a time. I was quickly discovered by an order of clerics in Cyrodiil. They hunted me for over two decades before finally catching me, but I got them in the end. I let those fools believe they had destroyed me. I all but vanished from history until my story was published in Immortal Blood by my mentor. My name had meaning again. I thought it time to rise back into the bowels of society.

“I decided to make myself a safe haven, somewhere I could be free from scrutiny and attack alike. I chose Morthal for its isolation. I bided my time, waiting to strike my first victim. To my shock, she came to me, just as she comes to you now.”

Bronmir realized too late he had been stalling. It never occurred to him that they hadn’t come across Alva, yet he knew she should have been there. He yelled and tried to whirl around and slash his axe, but it came up empty. His neck burned. Burn the light, how could he have been so careless?

Throngarr, on the other hand, didn’t miss a beat. The moment Movarth stopped talking and Alva struck, he went into action, but much to Movarth’s surprise, he didn’t fall upon Alva; instead, he leapt right at Movarth, determined to end the bigger threat while he was still supremely confident. His tactic worked. His axe reached Movarth before the Vampire could even react, and by the time the Vampire had widened his eyes in shock – the second time in his life he had ever been taken by surprise – his head was rolling on the floor.

Alva, on the other hand, shrieked in fury and launched herself at Throngarr in a blind rage, entirely forgetting Bronmir. Though he was injured, he was not down for the count. As she ran for Throngarr, he wrapped a solid grip around her ankle, twisted her around, smashing her to the floor. He used this momentum to regain his footing, getting back to his feet, and, in one swift movement, he brought his axe down clean through her back.

It was over. However, the real trouble was only just beginning. And it was Movarth who would have the last laugh.


Chapter 5 coming soon

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