That buffoon of a vampire! I hissed. Why Lord Harkon left Orthyjolf in charge of the castle is beyond me. But at least he left very specific instructions before heading… where ever he went.
It was very unlike Lord Harkon to leave the sanctuary that was his castle, his home. Always he would send someone in his stead to complete a task or finish a concern. Usually consisting of murder, betrayal and bloodlust but this time, however, it felt different.
Having Orthyjolf and myself sent Garan out to fill the Bloodstone Chalice did not seem unreasonably noteworthy. My Dark Elf brethren was a very powerful one among we that were the court. Some thirty or forty odd vampires in our ranks. A weighty number, to be sure. But numbers are a trivial thing with we Volkihar, oh no.
Being the oldest and most powerful shakes many lesser courts and covens to their very being!
“Vingalmo!” Oh, by Molag Bal…
“What do you want Orthyjolf?” I sighed. “I’m very busy.”
“Not busy enough it appears.”
“I am busying thinking of something. I reiterate: what do you want?”
“Simply to remind you to that the Moth Priest must be in our clutches before he arrives.” He look extremely smug sitting atop Lord Harkon’s throne. It truly did not fit its current occupant. Definitely Harkon.
For sure me.
“Report to me when Marethi returns from his mission.”
I rolled my eyes at my ‘equal.’ “Yes I do. I will report to you when Garan returns with the filled Chalice.” It was a simple task really. Extremely trivial, child’s play- no not even worth my time when compared to many of the other things I have done over my long life.
“Good,” he said with a smug, toothy grin. “Lord Harkon shall be pleased when I give him this information.”
CuSith and Caren, the royal Death Hounds, made their way towards the throne. Both pairs of blood red eyes stared daggers into the Nord, growling and showing their displeasure. Rows and rows of needle-like teeth became bared as the vibrating growls became louder and turned into snarls.
“Down, damn you!” the Nord barked. The hounds did not relent. “Either you both settle down or I bury you.” He unsheathed his red blade, brandishing it menacingly. CuSith and Caran ceased their noise making but they only stared harder at him. “Fucking dogs.”
“Now now Orthyjolf,” I replied coolly, “there’s no need for such harshness to the court pets. After all they’re just like you and the rest of the Nords right? Just dogs to the higher ups?”
“What did you say, you knife-eared bastard?!” He soon garnered the attention of the few within earshot, their heads turning like buzzards.
I merely smiled and played it off. “You heard me my Nord friend.”
“No way in Bal’s cold embrace that we are friends Vingalmo! Our constant quarreling and bitterness has seen to that.”
“Right,” I agreed. “But that hasn’t stopped us from working together.”
“No. No it has not,” he snarled, putting his sword away. “Our differences in opinion, however-”
“Turns people away from our conversations and what drives our fear, and respect, towards Lord Harkon,” I finished. CuSith rubbed his narrow head up against my leg, either pinning for attention or to draw me away. I grumbled at the notion. “Stalf.”
“Yes, Vingalmo?” came the gruff voice of the Nordic vampire. He stood tall for his people, probably where some of their brains go and the rest to brawn. Our local creature handler nonetheless.
“Take care of CuSith and Caren already. Feed them to keep them occupied.”
“Alright, fine,” he responded obediently, if reluctant. “Come you two, I know you’re… hungry.” Stalf smiled grimly at the hounds and both gave a knowing bark. “Well don’t you worry, I’ve got your favorite lined up!” The Nord laughed as he walked the Death Hounds to the cage pen, two hallways down.
“I know he’s a vampire and all, but he really enjoys making the victims suffer,” I sighed.
Soon the high pitched cries rang out for all who would listen.
“Help me!!! Help m-aaaagghhhh!!!” The woman’s pleas fell on deaf ears as the sound of wet tearing echoed off the stone walls. The pleas transformed into cries of pain only to be followed by gurgling. And finally nothing but the laughter of Stalf and the breaking and gnashing of flesh and bone. Judging from the accent the woman possessed, I’d say she was an elf. Altmer, Dunmer or Bosmer, I could not tell. After all…
Everyone screams the same.
“Now that it’s quiet,” Orthyjolf remarked after the Hounds finished. “We have the matter of welcoming Garan back and finding that Moth Priest.”
“Indeed. Garan left for Redwater den some three days ago. His is due to return any day now.”
Redwater Den. Pah! The place was now run by common vampires and bandits. The drinks that were manufactured out of the place was a special type of Skooma. Like the kind made from Moon Sugar, it is tremendously addictive, even when taken in small quantities.
Redwater itself was used for luring in simpletons and tricking them into drinking the vile liquid. After an addiction was formed, their supply is denied to the point the victims pass out from withdrawal. And poof, new food supply for the vampires.
Unfortunately we learned somewhat recently that the vampires had gone rogue and now use the Den for their own purposes with their thralls keeping the appearance of dealers.
“He’s made it back now,” came the familiar Dres voice. His attire was a bit banged up, some scuffs here and there, and blood that did not belong to him. In one hand was the Bloodstone Chalice, overflowing with crimson and pulsing between its grooves. In his other was a head. “This chap was a worthy sacrifice. ‘A powerful vampire must be sacrificed in order to unlock the powers thein the Chalice.’” The Nord’s head dripped blood ever so slowly. With the near hollow cheeks and a sunken look, the head was just about out of ‘water.’ “How good it felt to get back into the gray after nearly a century!”
“I know the feeling,” I smiled knowingly. “It has been a while since I’ve blooded my own weapon. Perhaps someday soon.” I nearly swooned at the thought. It had been nearly fifty years ago since my blade bit into flesh, spraying the delicious liquid in all directions. A fellow elf, a Thalmor, got too suspicious for his own good. It was laughable how he tried to use Illusion against me. Oh the fun I had toying with his memories, fears and desires.
The sound of Garan dropping the head awoke me from the stupor of mine, only catching the last portion of his talk.
“- Lord Harkon and his arrival. He will not be pleased if we come up empty handed. “
“Incredibly so,” Orthyjolf agreed. “But from what we have been told by our Lord, the ship will not be arriving for over a month.”
Which places it roughly on a Tirdas. And the port in Winterhold… “Perhaps we make his ship take a different course? And then…” The idea came through like a tidal wave. It was completely simple and very effective.
“What is it dammit!? What’s brewing in that scheming elven mind of yours?” Orthyjolf all but demanded.
“Well two ideas come to mind, maybe a third. Each are very different from each other and require exacting specifications to work.”
“I feel I know what you are going to say, but let us hear so I truly know,” Marethi commented, placing the Chalice on the nearby table. The goblet pulsed with red, the grooves creating the image of a beating heart.
“Our first option would be to attack the docks of Winterhold. It has to be the docks themselves but collateral damage never hurt anybody,” I snickered.
“By attacking the docks, we stir up the people and cause them to panic, throw blame and make repairs. Now just because Winterhold is under the Empire’s jurisdiction does not mean the habitants are. They were part of the section that supported Ulfric.”
Garan and Orthyolf looked at me like I was a fool.
“And just how do you know about that?” the Dunmer asked. "Dabbling in affairs that aren't your own I imagine?"
“Well I am an Altmer. And a vampire after all. Don’t underestimate my field of influence either,” I replied with a sly grin. I had my dealings with the Thalmor some number of years ago. But it was so dreadful and dreary that I could not handle more than a century with them. Leaving the Aldmeri Dominion was no easy task. Careful planning had to be taken or they would still be hunting me like a rabid dog.
A certain ‘unpredictable’ incident at the garrison I was stationed at had mysteriously caught fire. Being the brave elf, I heroically met the blaze and tired using ice spells to quench the flames. But the fire was too big and strong, hungrily consuming wood, thatch and prisoners. There were no survivors.
Well, obviously one.
Only several well trusted agents know my demise was a hoax. And with them sending me information now and then, I know much of Skyrim’s goings on.
“What the fuck ever,” Orthyjolf rolled his eyes. He took a swig of blood before continuing. “Getting back to the plan, I can now see why attacking the docks.” Another drink. “The captain of the ship will redirect and find the closest friendly port.”
“Exactly!” I nearly beamed. Oh, by Molag Bal why?! “Either by the people or to keep the damn Moth Priest safe. Since it would be an Imperial ship the closest place to dock would be Solitude.”
“From there we can follow and capture him as he makes his way to the College.” Marethi nodded the more the plan became sound to him. “Had a feeling you would think of something like that.”
“Then you know me quite well then. But always be weary Garan. You never know what you may get yourself into.” A threat for sure. It was never a good idea to get too close to another. Otherwise once could find themselves with a knife in their back. Sometimes literally. Personal experience speaking.
“With one part explained,” the Nord said, “how about the second one?”
“The second is a bit more subtle. All that we would require is an exceedingly convincing letter to be given to the Moth Priest upon arrival.”
“Hmm…” Garan narrowed his eyes and put a finger to his chin. “I could see that working. If we had an Imperial officer’s seal.”
“If we do do this plan I am sure was can find one in Solitude,” Orthyjolf said. “Convincing them would not be too difficult.”
“Or,” I interjected, “the officer in Winterhold. After all, the Nord jarls have their commander of the guard at their beck-and-call. It could make duping that captain simpler and makes this plan easier. Enthrall him, write what needs to be written, release the worthless fool and deliver upon the ship’s arrival.”
“Good. But in both scenarios the Priest arrives in Solitude’s docks. Now then, about the possible third?”
“The third is the most complicated out of them. This one required sea travel to try and find the ship the Moth Priest is on.”
“Difficult indeed,” my Dunmer brother agreed. “The ocean is quite large, miles and miles of water to comb through.”
Well now we were back to square one. Reaching across the table for a piece of parchment and a goblet of blood for writing, I could now write down idea. “Alright, let us say this plan was our only option. How would we go about this?”
“I don’t know about you two but I would try to figure out which bodies of water in Skyrim connect to the ones in Cyrodiil. After that, try to pin point the current location and where the boat will be in the future.” Well how about that? The brute of the Nord was able to give useful advice.
“Alright. There are no large bodies of water that connect the two provinces. If they’d leave by ship then they’d have to use the only one that leads from Cyrodiil to Morrowind.” I drew several pictures to help give the plan a view. “If we were to launch several vampires and thralls at them, we would need to make sure that the Moth Priest’s ship is nowhere near their allies.”
The reports that my friends within the Dominion send me have told me of how the Empire had started to install cannons on their ships. Lined with fire, frost or void salts, the cannon balls fired from them had done massive damage to practice targets. Whether they are afraid the Empire is experimenting so they can be used against the Thalmor or pirate raids, my informants had no idea.
It took us several hours to come up with a definitive plan. The exact location of the ship would forever be a mystery to us but the rough estimation would have to be good enough. The Moth Priest would have to sail towards Morrowind and then head due north and move past the island of Solsthiem. From there they would have to travel several days before reaching the nearest dock.
And Windhelm did not like having anyone remotely related to the Empire on their waters.
It was strange to me. Normally in situations similar to this one Harkon would dictate who would go, namely a lower member of the court. Orthyojlf and I were almost never sent simply due to our importance.
Also, it was rare for us all to not only agree on a plan, but to work on and improve it. Usually we would squalor and bicker with each other until Harkon would glance our way. Then we’d agree to even the stupidest of things just to so he would not kill us.
Other times, thank goodness, Lord Harkon was extremely benign; offering his advice and expertise on plans, schemes and murders. That was the unique thing about him: he was just outright terrifying. Even when pleased all it could take was the wrong push of the button and someone would be a new stain on the floor.
“And there we are,” I said with a hard look. Red stained the white paper with drawn pictures of the bodies of water in Cyrodiil, Skyrim, and Morrowind. “A plan that can work better than the other two!”
“And it only took us three and a half hours,” Garan groaned.
“Either way, my elven brother, the plan is done. And far more detailed than the others. I must say, I rather like this idea a lot. A good kidnapping. Hah. Oh, how I envy whoever the one we send to get our cargo.”
“That brings up the question, who do we send?”
“That Orc fellow. Him and his thralls,” Orthyjolf answered.
“You cannot even be bothered to say my fellow elf’s name?” Garan grumbled. “Typical.”
“Too many of you elves in this place anyhow.” He stared crossly at the Dark Elf. “Don’t give me that look Marethi, you have known about my disposition on this subject for years.”
“Yes that, however, does not justify it. But I digress,” he shook his head. “Malkus. That is his name.”
“So vehement,” Orthyjolf teased with a smirk and a drink of blood. “Makes me think you actually care.”
“When Lord Harkon returns I will make sure he’s told what you have been doing with this new power of your limited, meek disposal.”
“Go make yourself useful and take the Chalice where you found it,” the ancient Nord growled, his mood instantly turning dark.
Hah, Garan found a weak point in him. So testy, I mused. “Oh quiet down Orthyjolf, I am sure Marethi was only jesting. Correct?” I made it clear that, if he wanted to continue to draw breath, he needed to back down. Otherwise my Nord ‘equal’ would try to kill.
“Yes. It was only a jest,” he glowered, crossing his arms. It really wasn’t. We all knew it.
“Good,” the Nord spat. “You damn elves and your fucking scheming, traitorous games.”
“You make it sound like every elf is conniving, old chum.” Filling and getting on the eclectic Nord was terribly easy. Much like light lighting a candle or torch, you only need the right fuel.
“Does not help that you both plot at the same rate as fucking rabbits. Now, both of you, away and carry out my plan.”
“My my, what big balls you have between your legs. Must be for compensation for having little thought in that head of yours,” I quipped with a calm demeanor. But inside I was roaring with laughter as was Garan only his was verbal.
“Shut up, Vingalmo!” He took the final drink of blood, staining his teeth and facial hair, before pointing a threatening finger at the Dunmer; it glowed red with the spell we all knew. “You as well!”
“Always a pleasure Orthyjolf,” I lied with a perfect smile. What I wouldn’t give and who I wouldn’t kill to bring Lord Harkon back quicker. Or to have myself up on that throne… I walked away, catching a glimpse of Garan setting the Chalice in its place. With the vast amount of power it can grant to multiple vampires I had a deep feeling my Lord would use it all on himself.
That brought up a very good question: what would Harkon do with the Chalice after he got back? Use it on several members of the Court? Or all for himself? My gut told me he’d use it all for his own purposes.
And if he did, who would be the truly unfortunate victim of such brutality? A laundry list of people over the years added up, but something still did not seem right. Maybe it was the fact that Lord Harkon had left the castle. Something he would never do, always sending another in his stead.
An inkling feeling told me that I already knew to the answer to my question. Harkon left to, as he put it, hit his prey at ‘his source.’ Did we all know the victim? And if my hypothesis proved true in the future, will it be the same fool? Or new prey?
So many damn questions and precious few answers, I cursed, now flipping through the pages of a remedial alchemy book. Only one thing was certain in my mind.
Whomever Lord Harkon had in his sights, he intended to make sure they were dead when he was through with them.