The Bounty Chronicles: Ch. 14

*~Sorine Jurard~*

I awoke to the sound of knocking at my door.

“What time is it?” I groaned, pulling the furs closer to my face. It felt early in the morning, something along the lines of six or seven.

“Around eight in the morning,” came the voice of Talen-Jai. “Xian wanted me to make sure you got up at, in his words, ‘a reasonable time.’”

Of all the…! That Argonian and I were going to have a little chat later.

“Alright,” I sighed. “I’m up, I’m up.” Groggily getting out of the warm bed, my limbs pulsed with the side effect of sleep. “When you see the ebony lizard, tell him to be ready for me.” It was a mix of a threat and a promise.

“Gotcha. I’ll tell him once I am down the stairs. Sure he’s heard it already though.”

Wait, so he’s already up and ready?! What the hell?! Fast, efficient little…!

A simple gray shirt and pants were all that I had on at the moment, but that was rectified in several minutes. The cuirass was the most difficult piece of the armor to put on, if only due to my exhausted state. But the thought of Isran made the job simpler. Keeping him waiting was not such a good idea, what with his short fuse and temper. That Redguard was a one-man army on his own. There was very little battle situations he could not solve with his warhammer and magic. Right terrifying even. Scary and nightmare enduring.

With the leather armor now appropriately in place, and a quick pat down of weapons and supplies, I walked out of the room and headed for the dining area. Looking out the nearby window I could see the market slowly being brought to life. It felt good to know that, despite a growing vampire threat, life could be so normal.

“Nice to see you up, at last.”

I turned to the left to see Xian in a chair with a steaming cup of something in his claws. Taking a deep breath, the aromas of the liquid filled my nose with the scent of nutmeg.

“I didn’t know you were an early riser and is that coffee?”

“It is indeed,” he smirked. “Does this one assume you want a cup before we head for the market for quick supplies?”

“That one assumed right!” Xian gestured Keerava over to pour a second cup as I took a seat by him. His tail swished back and forth, reminding me what a dog does when happy. The smirk still played his face as I took a sip. “Ahh, by the Gods… I needed that.”

“Like the ale last night? I thought not,” Xian mused between drinks. “Shit’s expensive too. Even before the war.”

“Didn’t the Imperials and Stormcloaks come to an understanding or something similar some time ago?” I had heard about that little truce while I was out of Skyrim. Dwemer ruins are all over Tamriel after all. And I did not pay attention to wars of succession.  

“They did, under my asking them.”

“Are you serious?” He nodded. “But…. Wait a moment, let me guess. It was just so you could save us all from that Alduin, yeah?”

“You do your studying, it appears,” he chuckled.

“But that was long ago. Couldn’t they have-“

He cut me off with on open palm.

“No. Simply no. As Balgruff put it back then, the wounds are too deep.” He looked away, showing a twinge of sorrow before resuming. “It’ll take a miracle for them to shake hands in a true truce. But they’re dead set on seeing the other’s head roll on the floor. Literally.”

By ‘they’, he must have meant General Tullius and Ulfric Stomcloak, the heads of power for the Empire’s division in Skyrim and the blue buffoons, respectively. And if I was reading his posture correctly, Xian found the war as idiotic and pathetic as I do.

“That is an interesting image to uphold. It must have made the truce meeting kind of awkward and hostile.”

“I can tell you about the unpleasantness while enroute for Fort Dawnguard.” The Dragonborn took another drink of coffee. “If you so choose it.”

“Thanks for the offer,” I smiled lightly. “I might take you up on it.”

“Then it is all on you.” Xian set down his now empty cup and rose. “This one needs to acquire several things before setting off. You going to accompany me or wait outside the North gates?”

I gave his proposition a thought. I’d get a first-hand look at how he’d haggle prices down on everything he needed. But at the same time I knew it was only because he was Isran’s ‘foot agent.’ Xian would be sent where ever upon command, and promised payment, and expected to work everything out on his own. Like he always did.

“Thanks, but I think I’ll pass.”

“Whatever,” he shrugged.

“I’ll meet you by the nearest tree by the gates. I wanna read and study those crossbow plans!” Somehow or another I had nearly forgotten about the schematics Calcelmo had given us for that favor of his. I truly hoped they were worth the trouble we went through. Better be, at any rate.

As I stood up and headed out the door, the lizard was heading for the other doors of the inn. Must’ve paid for the coffee already, I thought. For how early it was in the morning the streets and walk ways were already filled with people either heading for work or to window shop.

I was surprised to see the same beggar from the night before, in the same corner no less. Able to see a good deal of her now it was easy to see she was a Wood Elf with sticky, dirty and stringy black hair that clung to her face and neck. She was sitting, legs crossed and cast her large expressive eyes onto anyone that stepped past her. The poor thing’s hands were cupped outward, silently asking for a handout.

There was something off with that she-elf, but I could not quite place it. Was it the way her eyes scanned each person they fell onto? Or how she didn’t even ask a soul for alms? Instead opting to stay silent, unheard, unseen even, as men and women walked past her.

Giving considerable thought to not be anywhere near her proximity, I waded through the crowds of people until reaching the North gate. No way in Oblivion was I going to let a possible member of the Thieves Guild take something precious from me! At the same time I had to give those thieves props for going that far to find valuable targets, however horrible as that may sound. I guess at least she’s not going hungry? I have no damn idea, I pondered.

Taking several strides out of the city, the crisp autumn-like air swept through me, leaving behind the smell of the fresh outdoors. It was always invigorating to take a breath of natural air instead of what was produced in a city or town.

An inkling feeling told me that I had plenty of time to kill as the hunter made his stops. Taking up shade from a near aspen tree the schematics were unfurled and, almost greedily and giddy with excitement, I drank their content.

And by the Gods, what a steal!

For the lowly task of killing a genetically altered spider, I could now make every crossbow the Dawnguard used far more powerful! Able to puncture even the thickest armor, fly through a ribcage like a sheet of paper…! Oh the possibilities! And replacing the steel armors with dwemer metal, or any other, was incredibly simple! Another score for me!

Ha! I thought as my smile continued to grow. This will revolutionize everything! And with my idea of exploding bolts…! I NEED to write this down before I forget!!

Quick as I could I fumbled over myself in search of my spare notebook and sharpened charcoal. Growing frustrated at not finding them quick enough, both items revealed themselves to be in my knapsack by my back. Near instantly my hand starting writing, scribbling like a madwoman more-like, on how every special made bolt, steel or otherwise, could explode with the power of the elements depending upon which salts were placed between the shalt and bolt head.

Oh how I was stuck on creator’s high! It felt so strange, so foreign but felt so right. Ideas bursting forth in my mind, all plausible now with the schematics in my hands! They gave how each section of the crossbow could be improved and even gave pointers on how to improve the previous improvements!

Even tips on the drawstring’s position and power were given. Having it made out of special twine, string, and the obvious notion of having it pulled further back.

Everything was right before my eyes and it was absolutely fantastic!

So absorbed in jotting down thoughts, ideas and other notes I didn’t even hear him walk up.


“Gah!!! Who the hell-” My arms few up into the air, scattering my notes, the schematics, and ideas everywhere. A passing guard looked my way with, what I could only assume, a confused expression. I waved him off, stating it was nothing before turning to see the Argonian hunter. He was staring at me with a cocked eyebrow and a look that spoke of his amusement and disposition.


“You scared the shit out of me, dammit! Nearly jumped out of my skin!”

“From my perspective, you did,” he chuckled.

“Ha ha, very funny. Now help me with pick up what you so rudely interrupted.”

“Alright, gods damn.” He knelt down, picking up the pieces of my brilliance. “What had you so enthralled Sorine?”

“The schematics,” I answered holding up the freshly retrieved. “They were so awe inspiring! Still are. They had new ideas just pouring into my mind like a waterfall. Aww… my own little Aetherius.”


Swiping the fallen notebook and charcoal I got a look at how geared up Xian really was. A large white-fur backpack with a torch, axe, bottle and water-skin at the side. If it was the same kind I was believing it to be there should be a small dragon skull, complete with horns and teeth, on the back.

The thing was bulging too, filled with excess with gods-know what. Doubt I’d be able to heft that thing around. How did he sneak up on me with something that heavy? Kind of unsettling.

“Damn that thing looks full. And heavy. Two questions,” I stated, holding up two fingers. “One: how did you sneak up on me with that much rattling about? And two: what all do you have in there?”

The Argonian chuckled before leading the way.

“Well a: I’m light on my feet and know how to stay silent. And b: couple of tents, preserved food, flint, among other things. Including salt for when I hunt and catch more.”

I stared wide eyed at him.

“Just how many tents? And why so many?” Why would a person need more than one tent?!

“A small and large of both leather and fur,” he replied nonchalantly.

“Okay, here’s a legitimate question. Why?!” I exaggerated my expression because I was incredibly befuddled.

“Because what if that Isran tells me to find something in the northern holds? Where snow is in abundance. Or southward where rain is more likely to storm through the area than crystallized water?” He held his head a bit higher, smirking a touch more. “This one is prepared for either outcome.”

“So you say,” I remarked. “How long were you in there anyhow? It felt like I was reading those plans for only a few minutes.”

“Well, my best guess it took around half an hour to get everything I needed. And we left the inn around the same time as well.”

“Damn,” I replied meekly. “Half an hour? Time goes by quickly when you’re doing something you enjoy.”

“Indeed it does.”

We continued to march in silence for a time, only having the chirping birds, sloshing streams and occasional insect buzz to cut the quiet. The two of us were preoccupied as well with our own thoughts. I couldn’t vouch for Xian but I was back on the subject of the schematics. The great ideas came flooding back again!

He and I made way for the Fort when a new thought crossed my mind. I decided to take up the deal with my supposed friend.

“So what happened at the, as you put it, ‘unpleasantness?’”

“The peace council?” He sighed before going on. “Idiocy happened. Hardly a deal could be made between the Imperial general Tullius and Ulfric Stormcloak. And I was no better.” He looked down in… shame? Or was it anger? I really could not tell.

“Well what happened? What made you no better?”

I got an ear full. And I was terrified at the answer.

“My temper happened.” Xian turned towards the light a little. His face was on the verge of seeming morphing into a monster, a deranged one at that. “That elven fuck-wit – Elenwen!! – played and played with me and everyone there! Wouldn’t shut up about her government and the ‘laws’ it upholds!” The poor fool was about to erupt in pure anger! She really got under his scales that much?! “This one should’ve murdered her when he had the chance!”

“Xian!” I called, placing a hand on his shoulder, forcing us both to stand in place. “Calm yourself!”

“Maybe should have her tortured instead,” he mumbled. His face was dark, full of thunder waiting to explode. And his eyes had a ferocious look in them. The sterling silver that they were normally made him look almost peaceful. But the slit pupils within them were a stark contrast; they made him even more intimidating. They made him identical to that of dragons in the scary stories parents tell their children at night. Xian looked ready to raze everything to nothing but ashes!

“Enough, dammit!” I slapped him across the face, jarring him back into reality. “Snap out of it already!”

Xian blinked several times before gasping a little, appearing to have just awakened from a dream.

“What was that for?” He rubbed his smarting cheek.

I stated bluntly, “An incredible bloodlust temporarily consumed you. Your hatred for Elenwen made you go crazy, like some sort of wild animal. You hate her that much?”

“Yes.” He rubbed his eyes as we resumed out way. “Yes I do. However, I won’t go into detail, but let us just say she had evidence on me. And I could not do a thing.”

“I’m sorry,” I apologized. “I had no idea.”

“Very few do. I plan on keeping it so.” The bounty hunter took a deep breath, calming his nerves and heart, and picked up where he left off. He made sure to gloss over what he wanted. “It took sometime before an agreement was reached… and to calm me down. Stormcloaks got Markarth and the Empire got Winterhold and payment for the Karthwaten Incident. Shook hands and walked out of High Hrothgar.”

“And that was it?” I asked completely taken aback. “They didn’t try to kill each other upon leaving?”

He shook his head, “Nope.”

“And you did not attack Elenwen after the fact?”

“I really, really wanted to,” he growled.

“I’m well and truly shocked.”

“As were Elisif and Balgruff. Each side received the expected holds and compensation. And I shouted my displeasure off the side of the mountain. Arngeir, the one who speaks for the Graybeards, consoled me.” Xane shook his head. “All of this happened a little over a year ago.”

“Damn,” I said. “So that’s how that uneasy peace came about. I wasn’t in Skyrim at the time, you see, so I did not see what happened at first.”

“All you had missed was some bickering from Markarth and Winterhold citizens and many of them blame me.” He rolled his eyes at that. “I ignore them mainly. Besides not caring on what they say.”

“You ignore a lot of people, it seems.”

He didn’t answer, only giving a huff as an answer.

Somehow, in one way or another, I couldn’t help but agree with him. While people number in the hundreds in cities, towns, and the rare village, many will hold the same idea of hating a particular person or two. Had that happen to me once, if only because of a miscalculation. Needless to say I was not welcome in some places in High Rock.

My bad.

Finally, after what felt like hours, we reached the cave that lead into Dayspring Canyon. A single brazier sat outside the entrance, the fumes snaking their way into the cobalt sky. While not impressive now, at night I imagined it acted like a beacon in the dark, guiding members of the Dawnguard, and civilians, to safety. A bit childish and cheesy, I know but it did not diminish the value of its symbolism.

“After you Sorine,” Xian said, bowing a bit like a gentleman.

“Why thank you, Dragonborn,” I smiled sweetly. We shared a quick laugh before heading into the cavern opening.

The cave itself was a healthy distance, covering a kilometer or two straight through the mountain. Stalagmites and stalactites jutted through the rocky, bumpy floor and surprisingly high, smooth ceiling. Torches dotted the length to the other side, casting their hearth-like glow for a few good feet.

“Hey Sorine,” Xian said, “I want to apologize again for earlier.”

“You mean your near explosion of anger?”

“Yeah.” He winced a little at that. “I usually have control over my temper. It’s just certain memories-“

“I get it,” I interjected. “Somethings you’d rather keep to yourself. I can sympathize.”

He placed a hand to his, literal, boney chin.

“This one did not peg you for sympathy at bad memories.”

“We all carry something from our past that hounds at us.”

“Some carry more than others,” the hunter whispered. The lizard was rather cryptic when he wished to be. Always having me guessing at what kind of person he actually was. But it was not long before sunlight beamed from the awaiting canyon.

It was just as surreal and beautiful as I remembered it to be. A practically untouched oasis teeming with wild life of all kinds. From song birds to owls, foxes to elk. A small slice of paradise in all honesty. Somehow even the air smelt better than on the other side of the mountain.

Heard and unseen, for the time being, the waterfall gave a tranquil sound to the surrounding forestry, polishing the rocks beneath its crushing waves. Drawing ever close to the small lake, two other familiar figures slowly walked along its shore line.

I could not hold my excitement back one ounce.

“Celann! Gunmar!” I called out to them before breaking into a sprint and tackling the two men into a hug. “It’s been a long time,” I laughed.

“No kidding!” Celann chortled. “I can’t remember when we were last all together like this!”

“I can. It was nearly a decade ago,” Gunmar answered. His red locks and matching beard ruffled in his joyous laughter. “By the Eight, how time passes by!”

The Nord’s scaled armor felt rough to the touch but it at least kept the man protected. I am sure my armor felt alien to his hands as well. He tried to bring myself and Celann closer in the group hug.

“Indeed, it does pass by,” came the rough voice of Xian-Krie. “You’ll forgive me interrupting such a friendly regrouping.”

“And who might you be, Argonian?” Gunmar asked. “You seem familiar but I have no idea why.”

“Xian-Krie, at your service,” he stated.

“As in the Xian-Krie?! The Dragonborn? Incredible!” He gave the lizard a bow. “An honor.”

“Don’t- don’t bow to me,” Xian stuttered. This kind of hero-worship made him uncomfortable? “This one may be Dragonborn but he hates it when others believe it necessary to bow. I am simply a man who takes enjoyment in hunting and toying with his prey.” He gave a hearty chuckle to his own boasting.

My Nordic friend didn’t seem phased by this.

“Be that as it may, you have done a great many things for Skyrim and her inhabitants. And I am sure, deep down, you’re a good man.” Gunmar gave a smile showing his friendliness to the Argonian.

Xane actually took a step back, completely surprised.

“I am taken aback. You are not like your brethren under Ulfric’s banner. Or anywhere else, stating it is my duty to protect the province.”

“Why would I be?” Gunmar shrugged. “I would not even blink an eye if you were an Elf instead of an Argonian. You would get the same respect from me as I would give to a fellow Nord. And besides, it is your gift. Use it as you see fit.”

Xian softened, a rare drop in his usually sturdy guard. And smiled.

“I am touched. Truly, if hesitant to accept such a thing from you. Only Balgruff and the Graybeards have given me such kindness as they would to a fellow kinsman.”

“Then perhaps story swapping is to be expected,” Celann chimed in. “After we get more instructions from Isran.”

“Oh yeah. Kind of forgot about him,” I said at last. “How is he anyhow? Changed at all?”

“How the hell could you forget someone like him? Especially with how boisterous he can be?” Celann laughed, leading us all back to the fort. “He’s probably yelling at us from inside to hurry up! And no to the whole change thing. Same as ever.”

“Fair point. Keeping the old Redguard waiting was never a healthy idea.” The Nord’s opinion was correct of course. His temper was something fierce, smoothing to rival a werewolf’s and maybe make it cower a little.

My kinsman brought us to the grand doors of the illustrious fort. I had to give Isran credit for making renovations to the place. Long supports stretched out to hold up walkways far above the surface of Nirn. The barricades along the main path added a lot of security the place required so long ago. Sentries were stationed in towers, hidden in the tops of the nearby trees with crossbows at the ready. It was a clever idea, to have a hiding spot such as that. But at the same time it was extremely dangerous if the tree, or base, caught on fire.

Upon entering Fort Dawnguard we were greeted by the narrow hallway littered with crates that were filled with, as close as I could estimate, armor and weapons for our members. Surprisingly no one was there to greet we four. Not even Isran. This was worrisome.

I had a strange feeling.

“This is different,” Celann remarked. His eyes looked from left to right, scanning the room as we walked towards the center. “Isran would normally be standing right around here.”

All our boots scrapped against the engraved circle covered in runes. Each one was as unique as the last, its own personal word of magic. Xian knelt down and ran his claws over them, getting a feel and studying their meaning. I had no idea he was interested in magic. Maybe he wished to learn the old craft after all.

The quiet lapping of water could hardly be heard. Looking down, the steel rails embedded into the stone ran along the sides, making sure no one would fall and hurt themselves. The water babbled out what it could, never reaching as far as one in nature could. The liquid must have come from the inside of the mountain the fort was built on.

A voice boomed, drowning out the persistent silence.

“Hold it right there!”

Isran stepped forth from the shadow of the upper level, raising an open hand into the air. A brilliant white light pulsed, sending out waves of energy. A beam of light poured onto us all, bathing us in a blinding ray. It seemed to come from the sun which aligned perfectly with the hole in the ceiling.

“Isran!” I called out to the man. “What are you doing?! We can’t see!”

“Making sure you lot aren’t vampires.” The Redguard lowered his arm, calling off the spell allowing us to see once again. “Can’t be too careful it seems. Now then, welcome to Fort Dawnguard!”

From the way he yelled one would expect bards to appear from behind the crates and start playing their lutes, flutes and drums. The mental image was good but it felt terribly out of place in such a serious environment.

“That’s all well and good Isran,” I replied. “But what now? Why have we gathered now after all these years?”

“The answer, Sorine, is a simple one: Vampires. I am sure our hired man there,” the Redguard pointed to the black lizard, “has already filled you in on our situation. These bloodsuckers are unlike any we have ever face before! And they have an Elder Scroll! But if anyone is going to stand in their way, it is going to be us!”

“A bold prediction,” Xian stated.

“Bold? Maybe. Possible? Extremely! We simply can’t allow those fiends to run amok and create chaos where ever and whenever they please! They will bath Skyrim, and Tamriel, in the blood of their victims if given the chance!”

“Alright fine, but where do we go from here?” I asked

“We will get to that later. In the meantime, get acquainted with the space and your fellow teammates.” Isran pointed first to Gunmar and then to me. “Gunmar, there’s a pen large enough for you to train several trolls. Get them armored up and ready for battle. Sorine. There’s a smithing quarters not far from the pen where you can tinker with those crossbow designs you had drawn years ago! It will put your expertise to the proper test.”

Gunmar and I began to disperse when…

“And you, Xian-Krie!”

“Uh oh, full name,” the Argonian smirked. “What did I do this time? Disobey an order that I did not hear nor remember?”

“Damn straight your whole name, boy! And nothing so crass. You and I are going to get to the bottom of why a vampire showed up here looking for you! By name!”

The Dragonborn’s confused look could be seen from any of the two moons.

“What… did you say?” 

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  • “Scary and nightmare enduring.”

    I assume you meant to say nightmare inducing? Either way great chapter. I very much enjoy the multiple character perspectives. 

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