The Bounty Chronicles: Ch. 24- Excavation



The camp was desolate, void of people and noise save for the occasional breeze and biting wind. A couple of tents were fully made with belongings still contained within. The only sign of life was the smoldering fire pit before us.


“This sure paints an eerie picture,” Agmaer said worryingly. His hand moved to his axe hilt on instinct, trying to predict what outcome would be thrust onto us. “Abandoned camps are quiet enough, but a Vigilant camp?”


“I suppose.” I was a Vigilant of Stendarr for a small portion of my life and the differences in what was happening at Ruunvald was pretty simple to see. At least for the most part. The leftover footprints of men and women were faded and nearly covered in the blowing snow. The tell-tale signs of the indentions would’ve been missed by an amateur. “The people of this camp would not just leave so suddenly and not take their belongings.” My claws and fingers played with the remains of ash only for it to be scarcely warm. A sign of freshness. “It couldn’t have been too long ago.”


“So you’re saying the fire’s not hot, yeah?” Agmaer asked with that look of his. I shook my head. “Maybe it’s been about half a day since it was lit. Would explain it not being stone cold.”


“Indeed, my friend.” Standing I took another look around before traipsing into one of the tents. Desertion was the obvious thing that came to mind. The tidiness of the lodging was what got to me. The bedroll pristine, the organization of small items on the oak table. Why in Oblivion did Florentius have to get tangled in what felt like the plot of some shitty murder-mystery novel?


When we had gone to Isran a day ago he made it incredibly clear he did not care for the Imperial in question. It was brought up that a man of his prowess and ability to speak with Arkay, which I believed to be bullshit, had probably immense skill in the Restoration school of magic. My babbling at getting the Redguard to see reason had miraculously worked! Isran was reluctant and finally caved at the idea of having a potent healer like Florentius.


He went on to say that he had been keeping tabs on the Vigilants for months stating it was a pet project to see what the ‘professionals’ were doing. Our leader pointed Agmaer and I north, towards Ruunvald. An ancient Nordic ruin high in the Vithal Mountains, nearing the border of Morrowind. Something about the ruins having a magical attunement no other had.


The next question was if it was attuned to Aedric or Daedric magics.


For the markings buried deep in the bowls of this place to resonate to the surface meant they were extremely potent. But they continued to feel alien. Ancient, has to be, I thought.


“Lights, what is it? You’ve got a strange look on ya.” Agmaer was astute, had to admit. But the man had no connection to the magical sense of Nirn or Aetherius, relying on those who did for answers to his questions.


“It is magic,” I answered. “Deep in the crevices of this place. It’s giving a faint signature. How far below I can’t say. Only that it’s far.”


“Great, shit I don’t understand.”


“You mean like acting like a fool in front of Ameriya?” I asked with a cheeky grin. The shade of red he turned was priceless and immensely bright from embarrassment and anger.


“Fuck you!!”


Containing my laughter was like a dam trying to keep the leaking flood waters in check only for the defense to crumble away. It only served to make him stew and wallow in his own emotions. “Damn this’ll be a fun pass time!”


“Why?” he complained.


“Because you act like a stupid love-sick puppy whenever you and she bump into one another whenever you aren’t on Dawnguard business. Fuck, even then you do!” I continued to giggle, shoulders shaking in glee. It’s picturesque and cliché. The perfect combination.


“I really hate you right now Lights.”


“Pay back for the book and troll shit yesterday!”


It took a little while before our priorities were straightened out and the weather had decided to blow a light snow our way. Another hindrance against us, besides an abandoned camp. The tent was thankfully warm, making searching less frantic and stressful.


“What exactly are you hoping to find?” Agmaer asked.


“Anything that might explain what transpired here, however minute. Stendarr’s Vigil don’t just disappear and leave things without a trace.” Several large knit bags were close but yielded no secrets; only fruit and individually wrapped preserved things of meat. “Even the food…”


“What could this be I wonder,” the Nord muttered, kneeling before a bed roll.


“Find something?”


“Maybe.” His gloved hand lifted the fur sheet to reveal a journal. Covered in wrinkled brown leather and etched with someone’s name in silver embroidery. A common thing for Vigilants to utilize. “’Volk Abernan.’”


“Volk? That pouncy shit is here?” I groaned rubbing my temples. Of course that tool would be in a place like this.


“Alright so that answers an immediate question of mine. There anything else you’d like to say about your Brother?” he asked before thumbing through the pages.


“All you need to know is that Nord is a glory hound. Always wanted to be part of history, good or ill.” Like the attack on the Hall of the Vigilants. Just… damn.


“Well, if his journal is anything to go off of, he just barely missed being killed with Keeper Carcette. He left a day or two before its sacking.” Agmaer turned to me. “Do you think the Vigilants here don’t know what’s become of their base?”


“It is a possibility,” I answered woefully. “And if everyone here is alive then whoever lead them here is now Keeper.”


“How do you people even decide that? I thought the ones here were merely a branch of the main Order in Cyrodiil.”


“You’re correct of course. But the trunk of the tree cannot make a verdict on one location while focusing of the rest of the branches. So a simple custom was forged: should a Keeper fall in battle or retire, the next in line would be the highest ranking Vigilant.” Truly an easy concept of paper and in practice. Over the course of the Order’s history the Brothers and Sisters accepted their most senior ranks as Keeper when appointed. “And all the most worthy ones died at the Hall with Carcette.”


“Well maybe Volk mentions who is the leader here!” Agmaer sounded hopeful, trying to will assurance into my soul for the Order I once served so faithfully. Stendarr’s Mercy! Please have a notable name. Please! Agmaer flipped through several more pages before talking. “He wrote about how the Vigilants were so passive about matters not involving the Daedra. That history is made in non-daedric acts as well. Hmm… no not that… Definitely not! Oh, here’s something.”


Curiosity and suspense filled my eyes. “Go on.” I needed to know!


“Says here, and mind you the penmanship is shit, that Volk came to Ruunvald to be a part of history. A Moric Sidrey requested additional troops for diggers and watchmen, as the excavation was actually providing incredible finds.”


“Moric Sidrey,” I repeated tapping my chin. Why could I not remember who that man was? Infuriating! My tail twitched as my mild annoyance grew. “Dammit I can’t remember that name!”


“Want me to continue?”


“Yeah, go ahead.”


“Alright now…” His eyes scanned the scribblings. “The writing gets more ominous the further I go. Abernan stated that fewer people were coming up to freshen up or to restock on food and water. An Apa had a strange, vacant look in his eyes saying Sidrey wanted both he and Florentius to come down as soon as possible.”


“Why can I recognize and remember even Apa but not Moric?”


“I dunno; selective memories?”


“No idea. And it’s ‘her.’ Technically and biologically.”


“Wait what?”


“Apa. She’s a Redguard who plays as a man.”


“You’re joking right?” Agmaer asked. I shook my head making his eyes grow wide with astonishment. “Why?”


“Apparently she’s comfortable with that identification,” I shrugged, not giving one fuck about the subject. “Apa gets results, which, all in all, is all I cared about then.”


“I see,” he replied after a short silence. The wind and snow flowed without pause, thankfully it wasn’t a storm which mountain tops are known for. “We should head inside Ruunvald if we want to find anyone alive still.” My friend thought for a moment before going on. “You said that you could feel ancient magics deep inside the place, right?”


“I did.”


“Could the magics have done something to Apa and, maybe, the others here?”


I hadn’t considered that. It was plausible and not unheard of for magic, abandoned and forgotten, to cling to a person’s body and mind without a conduit to direct and control the ebb and flow of energies. “It is entirely true that the magic could do that but… I do not think that is the case.” Looking to the falling snow my focus became fixated on the energies and ancient runes below the surface. Something felt out of place. “There is someone... or something controlling and asserting dominance. Bah, I can’t sense any more than that,” I spat in annoyance.


“Just how powerful of a mage-”




“Are you?”


“Eh, decently powerful. Remember I do enjoy a good read.”


“What you consistently do at the Fort!” he jabbed.




It did not take long for us to finally head into the ruin. The crude, rough door provided for more beneficial protection from the cold than we anticipated. The excavators had installed torch holdings accompanied by the odd candlelight spell. The walkway spiraled downwards further into the depths. The magical energies gained strength the deeper we traversed but it still felt different.


“What are we going to do?” came Agmaer’s quick question.


“Huh? About what?” I responded.


“With the Vigilants in this unnerving place. Because that passage in the journal, ‘a weird, vacant look in his eyes’ does not bode well.” The boy stroked his chin in thought. “Do you think it could be some kind of spell? Like from the illusion school?”


“I don’t know,” I confided with a heavy sigh. “I really have no idea.” He could’ve been correct, my mind kept telling me. But at the same time some enchantments cannot, or refuse to, be broken; permanently bonding with the victim and dissolve upon the bearer’s demise. Xhuth! Ak’to mi no xe ut! “That is, if they even attack us.”




“Get back!” Agmaer cried, grasping my shoulder and pulling me out of the path of a crossbow bolt. It hit the wall with an echoing clang of metal biting rock before another zipped past. “Shit!” The shield on his back quickly was in his hand as a third crashed against the leather and steel. “Stay behind! And don’t kill them!”


“Are you fucking kidding me, Agmear?!” I shouted, defending us both from a fireball with a well-timed ward.


“You said yourself that they could be being controlled!”


“That does not mean they can be freed!”


“But if they can be, the Vigilants can help us against the vampires!” he argued.


I managed to ward off another spell before launching a lightning bolt in retaliation. Drain the woman’s reserves by breaking her focus. “You truly wish to do that?”


“Of course I do!!” Agmaer barked as he bashed an unlucky Vigilant with his shield and blocked a blow with his axe. “No one has to die in every battle Lights! You’re the bookworm after all.”


The Nord was really tugging at my heartstrings with that incessant plight. “Bah, fine,” I hissed. “I’ll see what I can do.”


Agmaer began to walk a little before engaging in a duel with two Vigilants. The Altmer and Khajiit just stared at the man with blank, soulless eyes before attacking. Silver clashed with silver as a magical battle between myself and the other erupted.


Flashes of frost and electricity vaulted back and forth crashing into wards and stone walls. The lucky shot I got on the Dunmer appeared to have affected her as the spells she casted were beginning to fall in power. Her reserves were draining quicker than her body could regenerate it and the controlling magics did not know what to do.


Keep firing, dark elf cunt! Suck your energies dry like your high and mighty magisters! Telvanni fucks!


Perhaps that was unjust of me to believe at the time. However given my previous history with the dark elves it was very much warranted. For the instant I was freed I ran. And along the way I gained all a slave could wish for: freedom and justice.


Soon the Dunmer was in close range, which was good as her fire was starting to be snuffed out. Her hand gripped the mace on her hip and in a clean, fluid motion swung with an uppercut. I barely reacted in time to strengthen my ward to absorb the blow, sliding me back several paces. Seemed as though the magic kept the elf alert.




If I cannot stop her though combat, then though other means.


The woman’s next swing came down hard for my right shoulder only for the ward to take and make the exchange useless. A twist and turn later her arm was held behind her back, shaking like an exhausted wolf. I could help but chuckle at the suggestive footing we had.


“Sleep,” I commanded pricking her forehead with a claw. Instantly the fight was gone from her body and crumbled to the ground like children’s toy blocks.


Perfect timing, it seemed, as Agmaer roared and cracked one of the paladins across the temple with his axe. Without a sound the Khajiit fell into an unglorified heap, his armor clanging against the floor.


“And you told me not to kill,” I scoffed.


“He isn’t dead just unconscious,” he grunted before pointing to the dunmer. “And what about her?”


“I put her to sleep with an illusion. No idea if she’s separated from whatever’s controlling them but at least these ones won’t bother us for a while.”


We continued on our way heading further into Ruunvald, finding more Vigilants and rendering them out cold. Even their huskies appeared to be hostile, just as hexed as their masters. Agmaer refused to harm them, unable to harm innocent animals. Putting them to sleep took some work but it was done.


The more we descended the more we became convinced that Ruunvald was no simple ruin. Large open spaces and platforms dotted around gave the impression that this was a place of worship. Ancient candles now black from dust and age were burned down to the wick and wax pooled to the floor. Platters made of gold held offerings of currency, food and flowers so old not even draugr would take them.


“This is strange,” I said looking about. “The vigil is spread thin in this damn maze but we haven’t run into anymore for some time.”


“No sign of Sidrey either,” Agmaer replied grumpily. “You’d think he would have come out by now.”


“Normally the leader is ahead of those under their command when on an expedition. Because why not.” I laughed at the thought. “Maybe just to look like an asshole.”


“Maybe,” he mused. “To me it makes sense as he’s closer to the mystery, the unexplored parts. If it’s trouble then he has it no problem.”


And still we headed deeper. Ruunvald had to be a place of worship for nothing else made sense. Offering bowls to statuettes were filled with the skeletal remains of offerings from before, now reduced to dust. Every time we passed such a thing the more the suspicion felt true.


Even the carvings and rune etchings were on our side!


“Wait a sec,” Agmaer suddenly said, pointing to a piece of stone. “Is that a journal?”


“Let’s see,” I answered bringing the small leather book to us with the telekinesis spell. “It’s definitely someone’s personal journal. Who’s life will be revealed today?” On the very first page read the words ‘Moric Sidrey.’ “Well shit guess we found a part of him. Now just what’re you writing?” It was recently wrote in judging by the inkwell and quill nearby. “The first entry was…” I stopped in surprise. “That was dated about this place was Hearthfire! Sidrey was here several weeks before-”


“The Hall of the Vigilants was sacked,” Agmaer finished. “So they don’t know.”


“They’ll be heartbroken,” I sighed in despair. I always hated delivering bad news, being the one to comfort the saddened. But that part was enjoyable as they and I got to converse in a heart-to-heart; sappy, happy nothings. “Apa especially. He gave his all every mission big or small.”


“Hopefully he’ll appreciate being alive, as well as swear fealty to Moric. As you said, the custom about highest rank and all.”


My eyes went wide and I smiled yelling out in triumph. “Moric the Bear!! I remember now! Haha! Uh, what’s wrong?” I looked at Agmaer in confusion. Poor guy jumped back in surprise at my outburst. “Oh, right. Sorry.”


“Moric the Bear? Where’d that name come from?”


“Namely for the armor he wears and tenacity he possesses. Beautiful set really, as well as unorthodoxed for a Vigilant.  It has the same vibe of plated armor with robes but it looks awe-inspiring. Plated armor with black furs. Pauldrons on each shoulder with so many etchings in them. On the right it has the sun and the left has the bear that is Stendarr himself.”


“Lights you’re drooling.”


“Fuck you.”






“Who do we have here?” came a feminine voice.


Instantly my hands went for my weapons ready for a fight. What I wasn’t prepared for was being greeted by a stunning young woman. An Altmer from the height of her with long, flowing hair the color of the setting sun. Her long white dress hung loosely on her figure allowing her to move without impunity, stain free despite the ruin and dust like an untouched virgin. She was a man’s fantasy given form: soft, young face, lush lips of a maiden from those stupid Nordic tales, and, every young man’s idiotic, favorite quality, full tits one could get lost in. Truly the picturesque representation of what many men would kill for.


Disgusting vampire! I growled to myself. “Who are you?!”


“Right to the point? You’re not fun,” she complained. “Minorne. And you are?”


“About to kill a vampire!”


“That’s a… unique name.” The woman fiddled with the staff in her hand, the red wood dulled to a pale pink-brown over the years. At the very top of it was a blue and white crystal that gave off a soft hum. Was that what I sensed from the outside?


“What are you?” went Agmaer. “Clearly a vampire but there’s something different about you.”


What the xuth was he thinking?! The thing was a vampire, end of story! Case closed! Nothing more to think about!


“I am not a vampire,” she replied. “I’m a goddess.”


“What a ridiculous attempt at staving off my resolve!” My eyes narrowed full of annoyance and thunder. “You, a goddess? An impossibility! You are a vampire and a shiftless liar!” I charged at her with everything, ready to end the petty confrontation. A blue of movement from the corner of my vision warned me not as my weapons decent on the blood-sucker was halted by a silver longsword. “No.”


The man’s armor was black, made from leathers and furs all sown masterfully together. Long straps dangled past his knees from his waist, swaying like grass in the breeze. His gauntlets had a steel and silver alloy on the back, protecting the hands from blades and projectiles alike. The pauldrons shined brightly from the lit torches and candles showing the sun and Stendarr on each respective place.


“You will not touch the woman I love!” Moric Sidrey declared.


“No,” I rasped again in disbelief. “Moric. It can’t be.”


“Leave at once or stay and perish. You won't harm her!”


Damn that creature! Damn her to Oblivion!


I growled holding my ground like a bear guarding its territory from a usurper. “A vampire is a vampire, Sidrey. You know that! Which is why if I need to kill you to get to it, then so be it.”


“You had your chance,” the Breton hissed with a tone of ice. “Now you fall!”


Silver crashed against silver generating sparks of light with nearly every blow. I may have remembered his name but his skills of combat were spoken of in the Hall. Every Daedric disturbance he was assigned to was dealt with in accordance of Stendarr’s Mercy. Our code of ethics. In a very, very quick manner.


He brought his knee up to my gut, knocking the wind from my lungs as his fist connected with my cheek. My tail saved my life, slapping Moric across the face, dazing him enough to not connect a finishing blow. A bolt of fire escaped my palm, striking him in the chest and forcing him to quickly put out the embers. How the furs did not catch aflame I would never know.


His blade connected with mine again as Moric went for the neck. Almost as quickly as they touched the Breton changed direction and slashed at my side, cutting the leather and padding of my armor but breaching my thigh.


He’s fast! I thought with a grimace. But you were trained by him!


As Sidrey brought his left fist up for an attack a flesh spell sprang to life with a click of my fingers. He connected but he cried in pain as if he had punched a stone wall. Capitalizing on his temporary stun my own fist landed against his cheek while kicking him back, sending the man sprawling backwards.


As the fight dragged on I noticed from the corner of my eye that Agmaer did not drawn his weapons to kill the vampire. He did not even progress to threaten it! Instead he stood there, squinting as if trying to solve a complex situation.


What was he fucking thinking?! That it’s attractive? Distracted by her chest?! You fucking idiot, kill her!! “Kill her you dumbass!” I yelled parrying a blow. “Kill her and this shit ends!”


“You will not get the chance to do so!” Moric spat his attacked now renewed. “Minorne will not come to harm while I breathe.”


An onslaught of quick slashes and wide arcs rained down on me in rapid succession now filling the cavern with the symphony of clanging metal. He was trained incredibly well by Carcette and other leading officers in the Hall. And it showed extensively in the battle.


With a mighty slam against his guard stance Sidrey was sent back several inches before receiving a powerful punch to the jaw. Only the voice of the monster was heard screeching her ‘concerns’ for the Breton’s safety. . It was trying to employ the trick used by the one traveling with Xian. Pathetic! Disgusting!


After the first strike it did not take much more to make him uneasy on his feet, Left cheek, right cheek, temple, ear, stomach. Moric managed to land a hefty blow of his own to my gut. But his damage was too taxing on his body, the stamina and wind robbed from Moric as if it were water. He dropped to his knees, sword on the ground muttering, “No,” over and over.


“You cannot kill her,” the Keeper rasped. “Please take my life instead!”


“I am not a killer of Stendarr’s Vigilant, Keeper Moric. It is vampires I target.” With a quick jab of my claw Moric went down like a collapsing wall, fast asleep with the illusion working through his body. My gaze became fixed on the fiend making it slowly back away in fright. Her hand gripped the staff tightly causing the wood to groan a little. “And there is one present.”


“Lights hold it!” Agmaer pulled me back. “I don’t believe we need to kill her.”


“What are you talking about? Of course we do!” I snapped back. “If we let it go free it will just do what it did here again! Do you want that on the Dawnguard’s head. On your head?”


He grunted at that showing an obviously struck nerve.


“Now boys I do believe that is quite enough.”


All three of us turned to see a tall, tan man in orange robes heading for us. Agmaer and I readied ourselves instantly weary of the Imperial. The vampire looked at him expectedly. “How did you get out of the cage? Dearly locked it up tight.”


“Magic can be applied to many things if one is creative enough,” he answered. “I simply melted it away like scrap metal.”


“Oh. I never did approve Moric having you in there, trapped and a little cramped.”


“But for whatever reason you decided to not let me free.”




“Excuse me,” Agmaer interrupted. “What in Oblivion is even going on anymore?”


“A quarrel between myself and the cre…” He gave a sigh before correcting himself. “Minorne.”


“What was with the pause?” I inquired.


“Arkay rudely butting in… ‘correcting’ my choice of words,” he grumbled.


“You… heard Arkay?”




“… Oh my Gods you’re Florentius!”


“Hit the nail on the head as it were,” the priest answered. “Florentius Baenius, Priest of Arkay, at your service.”


“You’re who Isran wanted t-”


“Isran? That brute of a Redguard? What does he want with me?” he asked sternly, crossing his arms. “He made it exceedingly, dauntingly clear that my assistance was unwelcome many moons ago.”


“He’s changed his-”


“Hold on,” I said shushing Agmaer, still not getting over one detail. “You actually talk to Arkay? And he answers back?!”


“Yes.” Florentius rubbed his eyes. “I get this more often that I care to admit. Will this convince you so you stop before you begin? Arkay will tell me a fact about your life, Argonian, as I just met you. Your name will not suffice, Lights, as I heard your friend speak it earlier.”


“You’re on. Go.”


The Imperial stood there for a moment, concentrating it seems, on the matter at hand. If Florentius spoke the truth then everything about Aedra and how they interact with mortals will be flipped on its head. On another topic I could see why Isran disapproved of the man, seemingly talking to thin air.


“Arkay tells me you were once a slave as a hatchling by the Telvanni but was rescued by a Vigilant of Stendarr.” The man looked shocked and a pained expression took form. “I am sorry for what you endured.”


“Don’t even fucking go there!” I barked pointing to the Nord beside me. “I had that part of my life buried for a reason and it will stay that way.”


The shuffling of feet should have alerted me but my senses were momentarily dulled. A woman’s hand found my shoulder gently rubbing the steel pauldron. My eyes opened in horror finally realizing what was touching me.


The cretin was ripped from me as I twisted it behind its back. My silver dagger was at the vampire’s throat ready to spill unholy blood. She gave off a shriek of terror like a child’s scream for help.


“I don’t like being touched. Especially by vampires like you!”


“Lights-in-Shadow that is enough!” barked Florentius. He appeared more annoyed than angry. “For whatever reason Arkay demands you let her go.”


“Why in Oblivion should I?!” My grip was like a vice, tightening the more she victim struggled. “It’s just a vampire!”


The Imperial’s eyes suddenly became wipe. “She is not a vampire.”


“How could it not be? The thing’s eyes are the same as the one that left with Krie.”


“I don’t know who you are talking about but it doesn’t matter at the moment. According to Arkay it’s all because of the staff she wields. It seems that the object is vampiric and seductive in nature. He says it drains the life of those she touches, only ever so slightly And-”


“There’s more?” Agmaer exclaimed in awe.


“Indeed. And it gives off the illusion of a vampire. While in reality she is just an Altmer. Go one then,” he insisted. “Release her.”


Against my better judgment I reluctantly let go of the sobbing woman who fell to her knees due to fright. Hands covered her eyes as tears dripped between her fingers. Tears of fear. The woman, the thing, whatever, was going to be scarred by the actions that took place. She would also have night terrors of dancing with death.


Agmaer grabbed the staff from the stone floor inspecting the craftsmanship. What he was most interested in was the crystal that adorned the top of it. One large blue and white crystal with several smaller ones clustered around like a bouquet of flowers.


He must have been thinking what I was as he proceeded to smash the thing to splinters.


Red sparks of magic puffed as the focal point could no longer contain the enchantments. They flickered for a few seconds before, like a fire without air, extinguishing. A near silent sigh escaped the unconscious Moric’s lips but he did not rouse from his slumber. Either I would eventually make it expire or the effect would wear off on its own.


“So,” I asked breaking the silence, “what do we do with… her?” she looked up with tears still running down her face. “She was never a vampire so she won’t be terminated for that. But unwittingly or no she was the cause of this fiasco.”


“It wasn’t my fault,” Minorne croaked between sobs. “I didn’t mean for anyone to get hurt.”


“And I believe you.” Florentius gently rested his palm on her quivering arm. “But maybe you should come with us to Fort Dawnguard before throwing yourself to wherever Moric may go.” The elf looked to him in surprise making the priest chuckle. “Arkay is a deity remember?”

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  • Bravo. Bloody good job. Can't wait to see how this will pan out in future installments  

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