This is a little short story for an upcoming build I'm working on! I decided to post it early to get a feel for how people like it and hopefully make sure to answer any questions about this potential Guild before I actually post the build. Please be sure to leave me any question or comments if you have any!
As always, Talos Guide You!
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Screams of terror and choking sobs accompanied a heavy pounding upon the chapel door. Each hit splattered blood upon the intricately carved surface, staining the light oak wood with hand prints of crimson. Caring not for the craftsmanship, the woman relentless pounded at the surface. As if the commotion would not be enough, she let the cries of her lips beckon for whoever slept on the other side of the barrier. “Sanctuary! Give me sanctuary!”
Such a demand could not go unheard. The shrieks of the woman woke Titus from his deep sleep. Those few waking moments he spent trying to determine if the noise was truly outside his chapel's walls or if it was merely the sounds of yesteryear's phantoms haunting his dreams. The persistence of the beating and screaming was something he could not ignore, however; without wasting another moment, the man pulled himself from his sheets and hurried to the entrance.
Clothed in nothing but undergarments and a sleeping robe, the priest threw open the locked door, beholding the pitiful sight on the other side. Poor in health and stature, an Elven woman trembled at his sight. She was a scorched and bloodied mess. Each breath was taken as if it were her last and blood dripped from her parted lips. Slits in her once beautiful Aldmeri dress exposed newly ripped skin while some of the material still burned from spells of flame. Her eyes glowed with the same flicker of those embers, telling the priest what she truly was.
No word could be spoken between the two before Titus became distracted by the metal-on-stone footsteps charging towards the temple. His tired eyes shifted towards the pathway leading to the stairs before him. From the darkness, he watched a trio emerge like a pack of wolves. For claws, they carried scorching spells and weapons of silver. For fur, they wore ritualistic robes. Their eyes held the same hunger; their teeth barred the same snarl. They were hunting and the battered woman at the chapel door was their prey.
He acted upon instinct, placing himself between the woman and her assailants. His right hand stretched out towards them as he sent forth a wordless spell. The trio staggered when a blinding light consumed the area, a beacon in the moonless night. The flash dissipated as quickly as it appeared to return the area to a torchlight dim. Titus looked upon his visitors as they dropped their weapons, rubbing their blinded eyes as they tried to adjust to the low-light again. “Good evening, Vigilants,” he bid them, his deep Imperial voice showing no sign of fear. “Odd to see you this far from home.”
The pack leader blinked rapidly as he tried to focus his eyes. A growl left his throat as he retrieved his weapon from the ground. “You're interfering with Stendarr's Justice, Priest! Let us finish the beast and we will let you be.”
Titus remained unmoved at the Vigilant's approach, keeping himself as a living barrier between him and the Altmer who threatened collapse at any moment. “Stendarr's Justice?” he questioned, though he knew well what it meant. “What of Mara's Mercy and Compassion?”
“We have none to spare,” he barked, “for daedra-worshipping abominations!” As his companions joined him at his side, he snatched the priest's robe in his heavy-armored fist. “Move yourself or we will cut you down as well!”
The priest's eyes met the Vigilant's with the same intensity. “You will kill me in my own temple? With the eyes of Lady Mara upon you as she weeps at her altar? Say you that your God of Justice is greater than my God of Love? Why, that's blasphemous, Vigilant.” Titus' words were spoken with a disengaging softness, yet his threats were blatantly clear.
The shuffling of footsteps behind him was a comforting reassurance that if things went poorly, he still had a fighting chance. The priest didn't have to turn around to know his two disciples had arrived, waiting at the chapel door for even the slightest indication they were needed. Donning robes of linen and steel and armed with war-axes and hammers, they were just as impressive as the Vigilants. Unlike the unholy wolves, however, they weren't exhausted from a chase.
Titus almost smiled as he felt the man's grip loosen around his collar. Stendarr's warriors were caught off guard by the temple's caretakers. “Lady Mara,” he began, “bids us show mercy to those who ask. This woman has claimed her sanctuary at my chapel. While she is here, dear Vigilants, we will preserve that sanctuary with our blood.” His hand raised from his side, the brilliant white light dancing between his fingertips. “Will you walk home this night honoring the Divines, or shall we send you limping away in disgrace?”
Silent glances between the three communicated more than words could say. Tired from the hunt, the Vigilants were no match for the armored disciples. They would need time to recover and a pardon from their Keeper to even consider an assault on Mara's unholiest chapel. The leader's companions disengaged, sheathing their weapons and dissolving their spells. His hand released Titus while his eyes stared at the flickering ball of light. “This will not end well for you, Priest of Mara,” he swore, backing down the steps to enter the darkness again. “You trifle with dark forces and will pay for harboring children of evil. Should any of you leave this den, we will not hesitate to deliver our Lord's judgment.”
“So I have been told,” the priest dismissed, his eyes shifting from their disappearing forms to the Altmer pressing her bloodied form against his chapel wall. “What a fine mess you have found yourself in, vampire,” he whispered, extending his hand to her in the kindest of gestures. Her wary expression caused him to chuckle. “If your death brought me pleasure, I would have left you to them.”
“Aren't you afraid?” she asked him, her voice breaking between words.
“I am rarely afraid of souls more broken than my own.” Titus radiated a soft kindness that the woman feared she would never deserve again. His hand was a temptation she couldn't refuse. Her crimson-stained fingers reached out to him as she tried to pry herself from the temple's support, but her tired limbs could support her small weight no longer.
The Imperial saw the consciousness waning from her eyes as she swayed back and forth. She couldn't utter her response before crumpling forward, her mind giving way to slumber. Titus rushed to catch her, caring not for the blood that stained his skin and robes. His arms wrapped around her fragile, shaking body, and for a moment, he was consumed by a river of emotion: grief, anger, relief, remorse. “Has man strayed so far from the light we cannot care for desperate, broken souls?” he asked his disciples, but didn't wait for their answer. “Prepare a bath and a bed. We will give her relief from afflictions of the world.”
His faithful two parted wordlessly to carry out their commands and left Titus alone with the Altmer. Holding her heat-less body against his own, he carried the young woman into the safety of his temple, shutting out the terrors of Nirn behind him. He hastened past old, cobweb-filled pews towards the large stone altar at the front of the room. The motif of Mara watched with an unwavering gaze as her Priest laid down the bloody body at her feet. Her ceaseless tears trickled down the stones of her chest, navigating through moss and vines to fall upon the trembling form.
The priest readied his hands over her body, sending forth a spell of orange and green. Nothing ordinary could repair the undead's wounds, but Titus had learned spells others had deemed evil. His mission required of it. In his eyes, there was no difference in the healing of the living and the dead; they both required equal parts compassion. Beneath his hands, her bones began to fuse and muscles began to mend. Her dark blood ceased to be spilled as her skin began to stitch itself shut. He sighed in relief as her gasps for breath began to slow into a normal pattern of respiration.
His hands withdrew from her petite, Elven form when her eyes fluttered open. The vampire took a few moments to let her eyes adjust and appreciate the absence of pain. Titus stepped away as she sat her self up, watching her with a content smile as she stared at the Mara statue above her. Her hand lifted from the table to catch one of the many tears that fell. Her expression was one of confusion. Titus provided the answer for the question on her mind. “We are not like the Divine-worshippers in the cities. They have closed off their hearts to anyone that isn't like them- racial or mortal. It is why we are here, far from the cities of Skyrim, Hammerfell, and Cyrodiil yet close enough to be found by those needing our compassion.”
“You help vampires?” The woman asked, the royal charm of her Elven voice returning since the pain had ceased.
“Vampires, lycanthropes, man-races, beast-races, elven-races,” the priest listed, chuckling softly. “Anyone who humbles themselves enough to ask for our help, we will gladly grant our services.”
“Don't you worry someone will take advantage of you?” Her glowing eyes shifted to the man, a gaze most would find unsettling. He didn't show the faintest sign of fear, making her feel even more relaxed. He didn't see her as a monster like the rest of the world. “I'm sure you know well enough the nature of creatures of the night.”
“My dear,” the man chuckled, “I am far more afraid of the nature of men like me. Look how they've treated you in the name of their god. A swift death would be mercy. A hunt across the mountainside is simply cruel.” His eyes shifted to his disciples as they approached the alter. One of them brought him clean robes and a warm towel to clean the filth from his body. He nodded in thanks before speaking to the woman again. “If someone does wish to cause us harm however, they won't get very far. We may be healers, but we have trained just as diligently as defenders. Styrmir and Rokbul are terrifying examples of our power.”
The vampire looked at the two disciples, nodding in agreeance. “So I can see. I know they mean me no harm, yet I'm still in awe of them.” Her jest and faint smile made the Nord and Orsimer laugh, but she put her gaze back on the priest. “What should I call you?”
“Titus,” he answered her with a warm smile. “I suppose if you wanted to waste your breath you could call me 'High Priest Titus Corpius', but I usually reserve that chore for my adversaries.” After a small chuckle between them, he asked, “What should we call you?”
“My name is Hannarie,” she told them.
“Well, Hannarie, it is a pleasure to meet you.” Titus placed a hand over his heart, bowing his head respectfully. “I'm sure you're tired and hungry from running from those monsters all night. If you'd like, I'll have Styrmir show you where you can wash up and then rest awhile. I'll see about getting you something to eat.”
Hannarie listened, her eyes widening at the prospect of food. “Surely you don't mean blood?” she asked him, the words leaving her lips in an almost desperate way.
“As I am aware, it is one of the few things that keep you sated, correct?” Titus continued to watch her with an unwavering gaze. “It's far too unethical for us to take the blood from another man, but we have developed a brew that mimics the blood of a mortal almost perfectly. Others before you have tested it and it has served well. I will let you be the judge for yourself, however.”
“By the Eight, you have considered everything,” the woman whispered in surprise. She slowly rose to her feet, sliding from Mara's altar to stand before the priest.
“We have tried,” he told her, smiling sadly. “We haven't devised a cure for those seeking one, be them vampire or lycan, but we are searching to the ends of Tamriel to find one. Until that glorious day when we can grant mercy to those seeking it, we will do what we can to relieve them of their aches.”
The Altmer chewed the inside of her lip anxiously, considering what he was saying. As much as she relished in the power bestowed on her by Molag Bal, she missed the simplicity of mortality. She could scarcely remember living without the gnawing voice of bloodlust or fear of Mundus' beautiful light. Hannarie knew that if she felt the shame of vampirism, others beyond the chapel walls were likely burdened with it as well. “That is very noble of you,” she told the men, her eyes lingering on each one. “If this is what your goddess decrees, perhaps I should start attending chapel more often.”
Despite her obvious jest, Titus responded, “That is all we hope you would do. We need more people to know we are here to give aid. Those we serve are the best messengers we could ask for.” He smiled at her as she simply nodded. “As I mentioned, Styrmir will show you the way.” At his instruction, the Nord offered his arm to the Altmer woman. She took it, though skittishly, and allowed him to lead her out of the chapel's main room and towards a long hallway.
Titus drew a deep breath, his eyes heavy with sleep as he stripped himself of his robe. His remaining disciple took the filthy linen from him, waiting around while the priest began washing the blood from his own skin. “Master,” the orc started, “each time we open our doors, we seem to anger those Vigilants more.”
“It would seem so,” Titus responded,wetting the rag in his hands from the tears of his Lady's motif. “Do you think we should keep them closed? Ignore the cries at our doorstep?”
“No,” Rokbul responded without hesitation. “I didn't mean to imply we should be scared. They have more numbers, but they are weak men. Our resolve is strong, but our allies are stronger.” The priest hummed in agreeance, but the orc continued, “I do think, however, it is time for us to change tactics.”
“Change tactics?” Titus asked for clarification, leaving his back to his disciple. “What would you have us do then?”
The Orsimer knew well the weight of his master's question. Titus was a very clever man and often knew the answers to the questions he asked. He wanted others to think for themselves- to weigh the consequences of their words. Rokbul had pondered the question for many months prior, however; he wasted no time in his response. “We need to go out into Tamriel. The Vigilants of Stendarr hunt the afflicted actively. We need to do the same if we are to save more lives than the few that stumble upon our sanctuary.”
The Imperial smiled at his student's words, but kept his pride contained. “We are three men against hundreds. If we divide ourselves, we will be vulnerable.”
“We will recruit more,” Rokbul responded confidently. “We cannot be the only ones to feel as though Mara's Compassion extends to all. If no mortal with help us, we will extend our enrollment to the lycans and vampires of the night! Who better to reach the hurting than the afflicted?”
The priest chuckled softly as he took his clean robe from the orc. He wrapped it around himself and stared at the man in front of him in contentment. “You have a kind heart and committed soul. You speak with wisdom beyond your years.”
“I had a good teacher,” he jested, grinning at his master.
Titus chuckled softly. “That you did,” he responded in a joking manner. “I have considered the endeavor myself. I just worry if we leave our temple unguarded, Stendarr's army will destroy what we have fought so hard to preserve.”
Rokbul followed the Imperial towards the brewing room, humming in thought. “Styrmir and I could handle recruitment until we have more devoted. You can stay among your people to continue aiding them. I know you fight well enough on your own.”
“You have thought about this for a long while, haven't you?” He yawned as he stretched out his arms. “Very well. We will talk with your Brother when he is finished with our guest and see how his heart aligns. I have a suspicion he feels the same as we do, though.” The orc grinned again, making Titus shake his head in amusement. “What shall we call ourselves then? If we should become more than Priests of the Divines, our guild should have a name.”
Rokbul grunted, crossing his arms over his chest. “My thoughts lead me to think in spite. We should call ourselves a name to rival those Stendarr-worshippers.”
“Something like 'Vigilants of Mara' then?” The name intended to be a joke, yet the moment it was spoken it rang like a bell in their ears. It explained their intentions while sullying the name of the barbarians disguised as holy-men. The two exchanged glances, neither denying such a name as perfect as the one conceived in spite. “The Vigilants of Mara,” he spoke again, solidifying the title. “May our Lady keep us true to such a call.”