Author's Note: Order Vampyrum is one of the first stories I have written here in the forums, and Raven and Draken Decumus were among the first Elder Scrolls characters I have created. As usual I try to stay close to lore as possible, and thankfully, Elder Scrolls:Online and Skyrim have introduced new and awesome additions to the Elder Scrolls world. Of course I want to make a unique and different take, and I won't be exploring Main Quests or side quests, as the time period in which this story takes place is in a certain unexplored time. But since our protagonists are undead, well, we'll see familiar time periods and crisis further along the road.
Bear with me, since this story is mostly for fun and to get back in the swing of things. I am a little rusty hehe.
Raven Decumus: Raven's a young Nibenese noblewoman. She's a Daughter of Coldharbour, a pureblooded vampire. She's a sorceress and a necromancer. Worshiper of Molag Bal and Clavicus Vile.
Draken Decumus: Draken's a young Nibenese nobleman. A pure vampire and brother to Raven, and son to Crassus. Follower of Molag Bal and Clavicus Vile.
Crassus Decumus: Crassus is a nobleman from the Second Era. A vampire patriarch of his family, members of the Order Vampyrum Clan.
Ornery: A Daedric https://vignette.wikia.nocookie.net/elderscrolls/images/c/c8/Banekin_Pet.png/revision/latest?cb=20150911144725. Serves as Raven's bound familiar, and loyal companion.
”On Our Order:
Know first that we are no simple tribe of savages, tearing throats with the orgiastic abandon of our scattered, tribal brethren. Ours is a civil fraternity, to which we are bound - every one - by our dual hunger for flesh and influence. By the virtue of Imperial structure and bureaucracy, Cyrodiil has become our stronghold in the third era, and we suffer no savage rivals within our boundaries, reveal ourselves to none, and manipulate the hand of society to mete out our agendas.”
On Our Conduct:
To preserve our ideals and way of life, two primary edicts shall be observed. Above all, reveal thyself and our Order to no other, for discretion is the greatest of our virtues. Do not feed where you may be found out, or on those who may not suspect your passing. Avoid daylight by lifestyle; dispel common belief in our kind, and maintain supple appearance through satisfaction of the thirst. Second, devote your pursuits to the procurement of influence, political and otherwise. Our strength is not in physical numbers, but in skillful manipulation of society. Always be mindful of our Patrons, and preserve the Order. Devote yourself to these ideals always, and the Order shall count you amongst our own.-https://en.uesp.net/wiki/Lore:Manifesto_Cyrodiil_Vampyrum
"There was but one tribe in Cyrodiil, a powerful clan who had ousted all other competitors, much like the Imperials themselves had done. Their true name was unknown, lost in history, but they were experts at concealment. If they kept themselves well-fed, they were indistinguishable from living persons. They were cultured, more civilized than the vampires of the provinces, preferring to feed on victims while they were asleep, unaware.”-https://en.uesp.net/wiki/Lore:Immortal_Blood
“However, romantic notions of noble, virtuous vampires persist in Imperial traditions, and vampires are thought to pass unrecognized in the Mages Guild and the Imperial aristocracy.”
"When thou enterest into Oblivion . . ." I whispered as my eyes burned upon reading the names inscribed in the ritual circle, covered in glowing symbols. My hand also burned with the names and markings etched on the flesh of my palms. Sower of Strife. Lord of Brutality. Corner of the House of Troubles.
Holding the bitter taste of splintered Daedroth tooth, and the bone of an unfortunate specimen, as a draught in my mouth, I inserted a purified needle in my left ear at the pace of a snail. The sick feeling in my innards turned darker as the portal opened beneath my feet, and the worldly sounds around me made way for the cries of those in Oblivion.
I have been waiting for this for a long time.
"You forgot knapsack. Your potions. Here." A voice said at my feet. "My Mistress. Ravine!"
"Gratitude, Ornery, but I quite honestly believe these are unnecessary. And my name is Raven," I corrected.
"Like the bird." he said.
"Ye—not quite—More like the Direnni sorceress of old."
Amidst the shifting air, I heard a snort. "I forget Mistress. Mortals have dumb names. Unmortals, too."
"Immortal, but I appreciate your candor." I said, preparing to cross over. "If it closes, you know what to do. You are still bound to obey my orders, remember that."
As I said these words I was aware that Ornery had handed me my knapsack with the potions inside, as he hovered around my legs, murmuring something I could not comprehend—the incomprehensibility being, in part, due to my heart pounding like battle drums in my ears and perhaps also to the fact that, both abstracted and petrified, I paid small heed to anything save for the extraordinary jellylike weakness in my legs and hands, which had begun to spasm beyond control.
And yet I moved. The Ritual of Resonance worked.
When thou enterest into Oblivion . . .
The portal devoured my cold breath, my strength, my boldness; it swallowed everything that went through, and it was emptier and hungrier still. Where all my desires, all my love, all my dreams, all my conviction that had ever been was now a void, filled at the fullest with the inanimate voraciousness of this door. I did not even have the will to even cry out.
I hung in the azure vortex for a second, exploring the spectrum of a new reality. In such a transition, I found cinders of thirst that scorched my throat as I fell to the left, right, up and down all at the same moment.
Seconds passed, or perhaps eons. Within Oblivion, difference was not found between the two. The twisting corridor condensed in my sight, ignited, exploded, burned, and withered as I went through, all between one breath and the other. Eternity began.
Oblivion entereth into thee.
The familiar chambers where I stood was replaced by another landscape that was alien. On the precipice of Oblivion, I looked up to a dark, haunted burning sky and an infinite expanse of cold, dead ground. The clothing I wore felt dank and freezing, and piercing air blew through the shrouded forest, but I barely noticed the gusts. Tall wind-wrenched trees, bare and skeletal, reached out like claws to me as I made haste into the woods, wasting no time.
They must be here. Somewhere.
I did not stick that needle in my ear for naught.
Though my instincts that told me to avoid danger were screaming at me, and all I longed to do was to find some nice dark room in which to fold myself and sleep—preferably a sturdy but cozy coffin, with a locking mechanism from within, that could be welded shut—I found myself nonetheless skulking through a foreign wilderness past what appeared to be a perfectly macabre banner of Molag Bal made of human skin and fleshly remains. It evoked the horned image of the long-tongued Lord of Domination, the Prince of this realm. I was not deterred. This was, in fact, an outrageously dangerous decision for any sensible young mage be doing, but I kept going because I needed to find her.
And many sensible and successful young mages were often gifted with a modicum of madness.
My heart pounded so loud I felt certain it would burst from my breast. Glancing back over my shoulder, I saw vague and indistinct figures moving through the mists. An azure light, distant and ethereal, shone through the barren tree branches overhead, yet my sight was limited here, even more with the dark clouds drifting across the scorched sky like a veil. Sharp, floating stones dotted the heavens, these dark promontories. Inconceivable islands shrouded in crackling storms.
Is it night or day? It was hard to tell.
I raced over a carpet of dry, veiny ground cracked with markings and glowing fissures. Even the landscape itself and the ragged rocks that had sprung from it, like the spine of a Wamasu, seem to have felt the brand of torture. Thunder grumbled off somewhere, and a jagged bolt of lightning severed the sky in two. Snow fell all around me, freezing the air, covering me. The ground turned to mud beneath my feet after several careful steps. Sludge oozed between my pale toes and I had to battle to maintain my balance on the slippery dead leaves.
Bloody damnation! I cursed myself for my recklessness as I struggled through the mud. My father warned me on end against carelessly trafficking with Daedra, and even thinking of traveling through the planes of Oblivion at my young age was enough to incur his ire, yet the longing desire to flee the claustrophobic confines of my castle, as well as the constrained proprieties and expectations that came with being a nobleman's daughter, had driven me to ignore his advice on plenty of occasions. This hour, it seemed, I had tempted fate once too often. By the Maker, I shall not hear the end of this . . . should I be fortunate enough to survive.
Several steps ahead made me realize that the surface beneath my feet was was no longer composed of sludge, but was a hardened bed of skulls, from Man to Mer to Beastfolk. A heap of charred bones, with empty sockets and deathly grimaces, stared at me from the dirt. They clattered their teeth as if in mock laughter, like a macabre audience, as I danced and skipped over and about them.
The wilderness made this stroll seem perilous, there was no doubt about that, and I felt— for a fleeting second, that I had been traipsing in a negligent abstraction, a lengthy evening’s walk—now, however, I felt concrete dread inch away into my bones, accompanied by the chill of the realm. I shuddered, and felt both surreal and disoriented.
Perhaps I was just so tired. Freezing Azure Plasm—Chaotic Creatia—moved beneath my feet as I traversed through the preposterous cold in the midst of Coldharbour. The black mountains cast titanic, distorted shadows against the impermeable landscape of the realm in a sight so sinister that, when the wind blew, its raging noise had the sound of a storm at sea preceding complete devastation.
Where am I? North? South? I blinked at the questions I asked myself, thinking: in Oblivion, does such a thing even matter? The notion of any sense of true direction made me feel juvenile and absurd. This is eternity. This is infinite.
Father is going to kill me! I thought. If something doesn't get to me first. Either way I am already dead.
A loud, lost wail of something struck my ears, joining with a roar of some reptilian beast, much closer now, to the shriveled tree where I stood by; another chill wind sent dry twigs skittering across the wilderness as if even the dead debris wanted to flee this place, and as the leaves went, the screams came. A tortured multitude of cries of souls in anguish filled my ears, and if I concentrated closely enough, strident cracklings, roars, cackling and shrieks—a whole forest full of noise an inch from my ears and across which, like a thread of madness, was played like a song—blown in from whatever prison in this realm, someplace beyond reckoning. Many charnel houses and slave pens dotted this realm, and if I was not careful, I would be thrown in them.
My reality was now contained even more: I was tired. Worse, something weighed on my mind like a mountain; there was something I had forgotten, something I was meant to do . . .
"Was it this bad the last time I came here?" I murmured. "No . . . I was here for only half a minute."
I shuddered, and felt as if I was adrift at sea in a shadowy, windowless crate, unaware of direction or of kinds, and with no manner of discovering. What I had been and had for these last years—daughter, sister and home—seemed to have existed in the infinite past or, in a lost dream. What I had done just now, moving with caution through one peculiar forest to a field and through the blue depths of some even stranger pool, had no sequence, like the fevered nightmare of one fraught with calenture. Time and space seemed for a period to be distant, unanchored and deprived upon a vast and compassless ocean.
Ahead of me in the distance, moving about in unison, was a gathering of people.
I approached in haste.
There you are!
Decrepid husks. All of them. Emaciated, skeletal . . . dead. They were many. Empty bodies, driven only by distorted purpose instilled by the masters of this realm. The wind brought their words to me, they spoke slowly and with timorous whispers; their tongues were cut in half. Daedrats scurried and nipped at their feet. Forms beyond saving, but with the flicker of a living soul. Pathetic shells. Afraid, sad, and lost.
They were laboring away with pickaxe and shovel.
Eager to find the information I sought, I approached a cadaverous adolescent with a beanpole of a frame. The lost souls stood idle, watching me as I advanced toward her. I noted a black smear on her lips; she was offering gloomy, almost inaudible speech in a raspy, hoarse voice, telling me to leave her to her work.
I ran a limp hand down her wizened back in wonder. A tactile impression of this creature: the osseous outline of her spine, each vertebra open exposed, an entire sinuous length operating up and down in rhythm with her tortured breathing. Fascinating specimen, I thought. The woman bared her teeth, rotten and broken, at me. It seemed she wasn't pleased with my necromantic inclinations.
The snow continued to fall, which collected in piercing flakes against my face. Then I heard her say, "Leave this realm . . . leave!"
I tried to get her attention with an assertive voice. "Lady Decumus! Daughter of Coldharbour! Do you know who she is? Where is she?"
"Leave!" The soul shriven uttered with a sneer. "Or die."
The others were gathering bones and remains that littered the landscape as others seemed to be building some manner of construct. Their arduous labor allowing them to acquire a haggard, bizarre-looking fellowship of wan and shrunken flesh.
A raddled, slab-shaped beast with a prognathous jaw and great hands was the only one that looked at me now. He was weary from the task of gathering the stones. He was an Orc late in his years, perhaps sixty, perhaps centuries. His face was worn and thin, as if this terrible task had drained his mental reserves along with the physical. His eyes were white sockets that regarded me with pity and then looked back at the stones he was meant to carry. There were dead people amidst the rocks.
"You should be there with them," the old Orc mumbled, though whether he was talking to me or himself, wasn't clear. "You should join their ranks. You belong there . . . All of the dead."
The man turned his head, fixing his vacant stare at me. "You look just like her. The undead sorceress."
Mother? I thought. Could it be her?
To my total chagrin at his words, I found that I could offer no reply. I was demoralized for a moment as his cryptic words. I made a queer sound in the back of my throat and closed the distance between us in a weak-kneed manner, a graceless flounder. Feeble and vain, I struggled for words that would not come.
The knot in my gut, after awhile, had untied itself, and I looked at the Soul Shriven in his empty, milky eyes. "Where is she?"
The orc bared his teeth, a grimace or a facsimile of a smile, and said no more words. Something above cast a grim shadow over us. A huge and terrible creature flew above, weaving between the floating plateaus, unfurling great tapestries of wings, swooping and circling above only to disappear somewhere over the black mountains.
A behemoth, a Daedra titan; keeper of the black soul gems for the Father of Vampires.
All at once a kind of shudder passed through my body, and I realized that I had to return home lest the portal closes, trapping me in Oblivion. I still had a family out there in Tamriel, after all. They wouldn't want to lose another member to Coldharbour.
There was power in this place, I could feel it in my bones: the source of Oblivion that covered me in billows like vapor down a path of frozen air. Within me, I could feel the even colder wave of power, colder than the frost on an ice wraith's teeth, that slithered over me like a dagger of ice into my spine.
A moment passed, and I found myself using the Dark Gift adrift my veins, the realms of power introduced to me beyond my most spectacular fantasies. I gathered and wrapped the ancient power of night around myself, and held it as it turned within my core, seizing down upon it until I could feel the whirl of the realm around me.
The real power vampirism, the gift I had suspected even as a girl, had longed for through my adolescent years until my parents had shown me the way. The power of Oblivion within me. I drew on this power that was the essence of my innermost being until everything and anything out there existed only to serve my will. Once the Dark Gift enveloped me in a powerful hold like the fists of Molag Bal himself, my entire vision blackened for a fleeting second, and my form took upon that of a swarm of bats—and I was gone, taken to flight to jump from floating stone to stone until I came to a pause atop a floating black island covered in blue lichen.
Taking the measure of the landscape around me with exhilarating precision, I knew I had to keep moving.
The view of Coldharbour was vast, though I saw the uncanny portal in the distance. Yet open.
Do not close. Do not close. Do not close!
From floating rock to floating rock, I at last came to the final one closest to the portal.
A frosty wind rustled my long, sable locks as I took a step at the very edge.
And do not look down, I thought.
In spite of my sage counsel to myself, I was unable to resist peering down from my elevated perch on the skies of Coldharbour. Any mortal who would leap from these precarious heights would be smashed asunder beyond any doubt.
Thank the Prince of Rage, I was no mortal.
As I took a deep breath to calm my rising nerves, I closed my eyes, and stepped off the floating rock with an impulse. Gravity seized me and I plummeted downward at breathtaking speed past a hundred feet below.
Stone-Fire—Molag Bal—preserve me!
The cold air rushed past me, bellowing in my ears. Snapping my eyes open, I saw the ground surge toward me like a battering ram until a surreal mist covered the skies. I raced through absolute fog; there was no telling how far I might be, nor even which direction might be up from the rate I was going. My fleeting, nugatory life raced before me as I feared that I had become a victim to some cruel joke on the behalf of my Daedric Lord. Would it amuse Molag Bal to suspend my abilities in his realm and see a pile of my bloody ashes and dust splattered on the ground?
Through the thick fog, gathered perception, and absorbed within me the instinctive, precociousness intuition that was the among the boons of my condition. Seconds before impact, my entirety became a mist that surrounded me like an aura, and my physical form vanished away. The impact didn’t even knock the breath from my body, let alone destroy me. As my body materialized again, I looked down at my preserved flesh and blood in astonishment, gasping in relief.
I am yet here! I rejoiced. Thank Lord Molag for small favors!
My jubilation was cut short, however, when the last of the fog dispersed, and the gateway ahead began its final throes. At this range, all I could see was the glowing door on the ground within the center light up with disintegrating energy. In horror, I stared as the crimson shimmer of energy begin to wink. I registered belatedly what I was was looking at.
The portal to Oblivion that I had opened was closing.
I thought, Oh, this is bad. With a slight push, I burst into speed; my limbs moving me faster than the the mortal eye could see; when my leg moved after the other, I was no longer in the same spot. . . and appeared three feet ahead . . . six feet ahead . . . momentarily expunged from existence by sheer mind-numbing velocity as my magicka reserves were all but depleted. Until I relied entirely on my physical prowess to move . . .
There was so much for me to learn and yet this was a moment between life and death. I could go home or be lost in Oblivion . . . just like her, if she is indeed here.
I was closing the distance between me and the portal with rising speed and intensity, in an sloppy, unpredictable broken rhythm of jumping, teleporting, rolling, of which every single second could save or condemn me.
Closer . . .
Closer . . .
Closing . . .
I screamed, coming in too fast, too steep, pieces breaking off from physical form to spread apart and stream my own contrails of black vapor as I launched into the portal head-first.
Gasping, I lurched upright from atop a desk, screaming, staring into the darkness. Those sights thundered inside my head, blinding me to the contours of the night-shrouded room, deafening me to every sound. I sat motionless, my heart in uproar, pounding so hard and racing so fast. My hand found unfamiliar coils of sweat-damp silken cloth around my body. Finally I realized where I was.
I teleported here.
Utterly surprised by life, my life, I could only laugh. The jaws of Oblivion had not closed upon me, nor the jaws of its denizens. No tentacle, blade or claw had ripped flesh from my bones. Nor had I drowned in slimy pools, asphyxiating on some poisonous fumes. No Dremora warriors or Xivilai swarmed around me to drag me into Coldharbour's countless prison cells to carve my unlife from me with their infernal tools.
I returned safe and sound.
I am home.
After I settled on my desk, I at once snatched a parchment and began to chronicle today's memorable visit with utmost diligence on an unrolled sheet of paper, ready to copy its contents on my journal. Inkwells and goose quills crowded my desk, alongside rogue scraps of paper, tomes bound in leather, and other scholarly paraphernalia. A flickering candle had burned away close to its base, the melted wax oozing out like a greasy fungus across the bottom of the holder. A small blade waited to sharpen the points of the quills as needed. An empty crimson-stained goblet required filling.
Hundreds of books lined the walls, some were written purely for entertainment, but the majority, however, hosted a collection of studies, guides authored by experts in more than three dozen widely varied fields, written by people with vast knowledge and numerous talents from the Second and Third Eras. The shelves had cried under the weight of countless ancient books and scrolls of yellowed parchment.
This was my own little Apocrypha. My own little realm. I had thirsted for understanding, for wisdom, in the same manner others yearned for stuffed coffers or prestige, and with each new adventure or daring escapade, I was quick to document it all, adding to the innumerable works that crowded this chamber.
"Ornery!" I called out. "I have returned!"
A moment later I heard something scuttling, and then something jumped on the table before me: a tiny piece of Oblivion. I looked at the creature in front of me. Ornery was a wingless banekin. He was a cruel and inquisitive, impish in his prancing form: the bound Daedra was gray and shrunken like a little man, a hunched homunculi, bearing sharp wings without the mass to carry him. His back was scaly and spiked, and he stared at me with those cold, azure eyes and bared sharp little teeth, pointed like a slaughterfish.
"Welcome back!" he said. "Were you successful?"
Considering the safe return, I would say this endeavor was successful. Not certain it was entirely a victory, though; I was not certain my mother was still in Oblivion.
I observed the distinguished company with a slight smile. "I came back in a single piece. But I have not found my mother . . . Something tells me she is still there. Somewhere."
"Have you faced Sthorha the Crazed? Nolagha? Keggagiha?"
I frowned. "No—"
"Menta Na? Ozzozachar? Kathut—"
"No. I fought none of your Daedric cousins, none of note anyway. I have spoken with the Soul Shriven of Coldharbour. They weren't as helpful as I imagined."
"You spoke with the Soul Shriven? Kynreeve Xalxorkig would be most furious if the slaves are not working."
"Oh, I am undoubtedly shaking in my boots at the thought of his displeasure," A sardonic tone slipped into my voice. "I have collected the castle's fattest rodents for your own personal gratification, Ornery, and yet you ignore my efforts in favor of needless concerns."
"Never needless, mistress," said the Daedra. "Since the beginning of time, I have seen many a mage fall to the hordes of Oblivion. Coldharbour is a dangerous place, and it has devoured and digested many unfortunate—"
"—Souls, yes." I breathed as I crossed the room to place away my journal. "I shall be sure to visit Coldharbour again, either by a portal or by my death, but knowledge is paramount, because knowledge is power, and as long as I am of this world, I will devote my pursuits to that."
"As you say." Ornery sniffed.
"Where is my father?"
"He slumbers, my mistress." Ornery said. "It is yet day. Past midday. The sun burns in the sky."
"Oh? How long was I gone?"
"Three minutes . . ." I breathed. "It felt much longer in Oblivion. What of my brother? Is he back?"
"Not here. He is yet in the Imperial City."
"Splendid! You shan't speak of this to anyone." I said. "Now go on, fetch me a bar of sload soap."
Rubbing irritably at my temple, I rose from my seat. My eyes were red and bleary from soot and dust. "I need to indulge in some libation . . . get some sleep."
Indeed, the spiritual connection I felt to Coldharbour at first was freighted with terrible and fiery logic; it was challenging to conceive the most peaceful of thoughts regarding Molag Bal's realm after exposure to scathing visions and truths felt firsthand with such ardor and precision. Experience, without a doubt, is a great cleanser of my intellect, purging me of innumerable lethargic ideas, and through some of the most unsettling despondency I had ever encountered. Whatever the afterlife in Coldharbour had to cast at me, I knew I had been through worse on Molag Bal's summoning day. I longed to find confirmation of such a belief, through the proof of the well-being of my mother, a Daughter of Coldharbour, though I have not yet found her to come to a full satisfactory conclusion.
My frequent visits to the realm had caused me to be aroused anew by life’s esoteric promise: immortality, and what I had done to obtain it. Nothing is more precious than time—and everyone knew, the more precious the gift, the higher the price.
Now, all I could hope for was to continue on.
And to wash off the whiff of lavender and foul stench of rancid meat and offal of Oblivion from my body.
The Order sound like the Ventrue. They certainly have a good place staked out (nyuk, nyuk, nyuk) in 3rd Era Cyrodiil. A relatively powerful and stable nation whose inner workings they can infiltrate.
I liked the simple but creepy description of 'Ravine' opening the doorway to Oblivion.
Ornery is well-named, and quite likeable.
You weave a wonderful depiction of Coldharbour, with its scorching skies and frozen ground.
Gah, got to go now. Be back later when I can finish reading.
Though my instincts *that* told me to avoid danger were screaming at me
I think you lost a "that" where I inserted it above
Many of the charnel houses and slave pens that dotted this realm, and if I was not careful, I would be thrown in them.
The wording sounds a little off. Maybe you were looking for "There were many charnel houses", or "Many were the charnel houses?"
Finished reading. That was a really good start. At first I had thought that Raven was still human. Until she began to draw upon not only her vampiric powers, but also the bat form that only the vampire lord/lady's have. I have to admit, seeing Coldharbour once would not whet my appetite to ever return. Let alone to take any comfort in the thought of ending up there for eternity after death. But Raven makes a good point. After enduring Molag Bal's initiation into vampirehood, what is left to frighten or disturb you?
Welcome back to the fanfic Arena, DE!
I note with pleasure that your command of lavishly rich and evocative description remains undaunted by time. I see your vision of Coldharbour is not unlike that of Elder Scrolls Online and you certainly captured it in full measure.
With plenty of luck and some vampiric skill, the impetuous young mage survived her journey – which is a success in itself despite learning nothing of her mother’s fate.
Ornery seems a fitting familiar for Raven and, the fact that he speaks, adds plenty of opportunity to hear his Daedric perspective on things.
Great to see you posting again! You brought Coldharbour to vivid, freezing life. Raven’s ritual and trip through the portal were excellent.
I love Raven’s library. Even for a castle-dweller, there’s nothing like a room of one’s own.
Just a couple of typos:
Wonderfully descriptive and evocative; I could feel the mists of Coldharbour wrapping about me.... And at the same time, you do an excellent job of bringing the characters alive, as well. Details- like Ornery and his "I forget..." just make it that much better.
YOU'RE WRITING AGAIN AND DIDN'T TELL ME? GAAAAAAAAH!!!
I've been trying to find a text-to-voice reader to catch up with Grits, I will def be back to read this!
I found the depiction of Coldharbour to be crisp and evocative, but I must say that Ornery stole the show for me.
He strikes me almost like a younger sibling, but mildly more useful.
To bandwagon on what everyone else has said, your descriptions of Coldharbour were fantastic! Simply amazing, I could picture it perfectly.
I also loved getting to see Raven's vampiric powers in action. You wrote those very well, her bat form was just badass. Awesome start, can't wait to see more! Love me some vampires!
Subrosa: The Order most definitely match the Ventrue in plenty of ways, and yet we don't see much of them(the Order( in the Elder Scrolls but a few mentions. But I have taken plenty of inspiration from the Ventrue Clan in the WOD universe. They're also my favorite vampire clan from that franchise.
Ornery is named after the Banekin pet in ESO. Raven has been knee-deep in some Daedric rituals from an early age, the worst being the most evident here.
Thanks! I believe Raven's visit to Coldharbour was not the full experience of the realm, but the visit was enough to scare some sense into her. Her main desire to return is her mother, who's fate will be explored as the story progresses. The Daughters of Coldharbour are made through a ritual, as we all know, that is tradition among followers of Molag. I would wager many of these followers are young and naive, much like Serana, or very devout, much like Valerica. I don't think anyone likes to ponder on what comes after, especially if they had a glimpse of it. And it would be enough to dissuade many from staying on that course.
Some Daedric worshipers can be pragmatic. They are aware the Daedric Princes are far more powerful and cunning than them, and that these princes will want a very high price. There is little too repugnant for a worshiper of Molag to consider when pursuing their goals. If that means making a few deals with any particular Prince, they'll do it in a heartbeat. They would be careful in their dealings with them, I think, only a fool starts bargaining with daedra without a plan . . . which reminds me of Mistress Dratha from ESO. As she points out, anything worth doing is going to be dangerous, and if you're a Telvanni, navigating danger is what you do. You make a deal with the devil, then find a way to make it work or to rules lawyer your way through it.
Like Dratha once said after being asked on her feelings of being consigned to Coldharbour: "Is it better to know? To count down the days with dread? Or better to be ignorant, to worry and wonder if today is the day, or perhaps tomorrow? Give me a decade or so to decide how I feel about that."
That's what Dratha did; The dremora said he'd come to claim her life in the guise of man. So she banned all men from her tower and ordered her guardswomen to throw out or kill any man who tried to enter. It has apparently worked; She made it 800 years until the events of Morrowind without being killed by the dremora in question, and since we never hear of her dying and other Telvanni from morrowind like Neloth managed to survive (and, in fact, Neloth says the Telvanni are still on Vvardenfell), she could very well be going into the 4th era.
Though Raven understands that she will undoubtedly end up in Coldharbour at the end of the road, it won't stop her from searching for detours or a better path along that journey, and in such case, she went as far as to go to Coldharbour to look for her mother. She will try in the least to cope with this sad and horrible reality.
Good to be back!
Thank ESO I was able to give such good description. I confess I've spent more than enough time exploring that dreadful place in ESO
Not many mages can create portals to Oblivion; while it is possible, the procedure is highly esoteric, very costly and dangerous for anyone of modest means, and there are shortcuts modest mages can use, or in Raven's case, a broad understanding of ancient knowledge and rituals passed on to her by ageless parents. She's a decent mage, though she still has plenty to learn in both fighting skills and of course politics.
Grits: Thanks! Great to be writing once more! The library is beyond a doubt one of her favorite rooms to be in. Pacing is something, I have to admit, I try to work one from time to time. With practice, I hope it flows well
The word count for this episode and this next once is large, but the future installments won't be as large. As a matter of fact I had to break it down some in different parts.
Treydog: Thanks Trey! I like to imagine I'm there with the characters, putting myself in their shoes. Ornery was fun to write, and Raven is one of my main characters that I'm reintroducing again.
Daedric minions can be amusing
mALX: Sorry!! I was going to send you a PM, I swear!
For sure! Thanks! As a matter of fact, I also have to go back and reread Jerric's story, too.
Zalphon: He definitely does come across as that, a very mischievous and destructive younger sibling.
BretonBlood: Raven's powers are a mix from the abilities we see in Oblivion and Skyrim, as well as ones in ESO. Since she's a pureblooded, she does have a greater range of vampiric powers which grows stronger as her vampiric stages, which also brings a great many risks and weaknesses.
Previously on Order Vampyrum: Raven Decumus makes a daring visit to Coldharbour to find out the truth about her mother. While she returns safe, she is ultimately unsuccessful in locating her.
Struggling up from the seaweed-depths of a nighterror, I squirmed in my coffin, gasping, staring into the darkness. How they chased me—how those hands dragged me under—how the sounds of Coldharbour thundered inside my head, blinding me to the contours of the coffin, deafening me to every sound save the beating of my heart.
In silence so deep I could hear the frantic, ragged breaths from my own lips, I disentangled myself from within the satin-lined coffin and opened the lid, gazing out into the the opulent suite that was my chambers.
A canopied four-poster bed, Imperial in style and unused, was piled to the heights with pillows and expensive linens. A wash-hand basin, jewelry box, coffers, and other feminine furbelows cluttered the top of a mahogany dressing table. Candlelight shone through the room. Lilac and tansy sweetened the air. A great framed mirror, mounted over the vanity, put to the test the myth that all vampires cast no reflections. Kindling, unlit and unused, was piled in the fireplace. A Breton styled carpet, brought from High Rock, was spread out over the cold stone floor. An old armoire held my rather vast and extensive wardrobe.
Standing next to my coffin, I meticulously scoured my private chambers, and as peaceful as the sight was, it failed to calm the tempest raging inside my head.
Feverish images paraded backward across my mind: Shattered fragments of obsidian glass converged before me, the broken shards flying through the void, coinciding into a pattern I could not quite discern. Severed iron chains snaked toward a dank Daedric floor, the entirety of it jangling loud as they snapped back together. Flying titans circled like vultures above a dead land where slaves congregate in mass.
We all had nightmares, my family. My brother especially. Sometimes his screams woke me from restless sleep, ringing out from his chambers and echoing across the hall. Sometimes he called my father and mother's name; other times he called mine, in fear, despair, or rage. More often, he just screamed as though his heart were being cut out.
With me the most memorable of dreams, the ones that have achieved a haunting reality so intense that it seemed like it just happened, have dealt with either death or horror. Thus the fate of every vampire as long as they walked Tamriel. Ad infinitum. Yet no dream had produced in me these lasting echoes since these dreams, and now reality, of Coldharbour.
I need a drink.
I have relentlessly thirsted for knowledge of Oblivion and a firsthand experience, and now I found myself thirsting for something else entirely this night: blood.
I had not fed for days.
The countless hours of reading and research, and nightmarish visions had in some pressing, vicarious way made me exceedingly hungry. I was so thirsty that I had begun to salivate, and felt a touch of giddiness. My mouth felt as dry as ashes and I would do anything for a fresh flagon of hot blood to restore some vitality to my skin.
Running my hands through my long black hair, l released a long drawn-out sigh. My mind was overwhelmed by knowledge and information I have gathered in recent weeks, and the visit to Oblivion that filled me with seemingly unending moments of suffocation . . . I need a drink of that warm, vermillion ambrosia.
I heard light, faint footsteps outside of my room. Several seconds later there was a discreet knock on the door and I opened it to see our manservant at the threshold.
"Evening Gallinius," I said with a smile.
Gallinius was a mortal man who's angular face was too long and equine, a nose too pronounced and beaked, and, as first impressions went the day I met him, a rather large jawbone. But his blue eyes were kind, astute, vivid; there was still a robustness in his face, tempered by a wondrous, abiding tenderness that caused him ever to seem on the verge of an apologetic smile. He was a conscientious-looking fellow, and in his frail wrinkled hands was a book the size of a ledger. My mood lightened: I was very fond of him.
"Evening my lady," he smiled. "I believe this belongs to you. For a moment I thought it was your brother's planner."
I chuckled. "Draken and planning? Good one."
The Imperial handed the book to me. "This book is indeed your style." He cast a glance at the stacks of books on the shelf. "A missing addition to the collection."
"Reading edifies the mind, Gallinius. But too much of it has left me a bit peckish." I admitted.
My gaze was irresistibly drawn to the succulent vein pulsing at Gallinius' throat; I was sorely tempted to sample his defenseless neck with my fangs. Perhaps just a taste?
No, I resolved, peeling my eyes away from his throbbing vein. Unlike some vampires, I did not take blood from just any mortal. Especially not our own servants.
Gallinius studied my face. "Are you well milady? Your complexion is, if I must confess, etiolated."
"Night terrors," I told him in a flat tone. "I have not fed either. I am blood-starved."
Gallinius was not convinced. "I have served your family since before you were born, and I know you well enough that you aren't this reclusive. I know this is beyond the pale, so excuse my forwardness, my dear, but may I ask how goes your recovery? Since the ritual. Since your death."
I gave him a cool, careful look. My eyes went colder still, and my tongue was heavy, and all I could do was stare at him. How could I explain? What could I say about the ritual that I underwent a few months ago? I could never unchoose the choice I made. I could never take it back. As my father had once said, there was no going back. And I was not even sure if I wanted to. I could not allow myself to be thinking about this. Just as father said for me not to think of those people . . . the ones that I . . . I put my hand to my temple, trying to rub away the memory of that day, the 20th of Evening Star. The things I have suffered, and the things I had done.
Truth be told, to be reminded of such things made me uneasy; I wanted to crawl away into a corner somewhere; I felt sure that if things would simply cease for a while—hours, minutes—I could pull myself together and discover some manner to keep moving forward. I had to keep moving forward. Moving forward was all I could afford to do. Especially when I could not stand to look back.
I allowed a humorous smile to come to my face, as though the horrific ritual was only some jest, an old story. "I feel as strong and alive as ever. You should not worry."
"I'm only concerned, milady, forgive an old man. I live only to obey your every need. Your every desire."
"Death feels . . . " I said after a moment, and paused. "You would not understand."
"There are so many mysteries yet to be discovered, especially on our final frontier and yet the more we explore its boundaries, the less we are able to trace a clear line between life and death. You, my dear, have a foot in both countries. The view must be vertiginous indeed."
"It is at least as vertiginous as chatting about my kind with you, I would say. The rest of the mortal world does not seem to share your sense of enthusiasm, however. Vampirism and necromancy defy Tamriel's categorization of 'good'. The world can be a tad bit censorious, don't you think?"
Gallinius was smiling at me. It was a perfectly amiable smile, with not a trace of any derisive implications. "Most kindred spirits out there aren't as affable as you, milady."
"You are too kind," I said as I brushed my disheveled mane of hair. "Still, I am nothing like those ravenous animals, tearing out throats and making spigots of just anyone I cross paths with."
While I said one thing, I was so hungry I could devour an entire village. Next to a sane mind and the lack of sleep, food was one of my leading and supreme deficiencies; one I knew I would seek for with a greed that approached lust.
"I am off to the cattle-cell," I said over my shoulder as I gave my farewell. "Have a splendid evening, Gallinius."
"Yes, milady. Stay out of trouble."
Neither sun nor moons could shine in the dungeons; there were no windows that pierced the thick stone walls. No lights came through the timeless iron bars from the torches in the sconce on the wall, which meant none of our mortal servants had came here recently. The back half of the cell was drenched in gloom. My eyes peered through the umbral cattle cells, looking for my prey.
Where is he?
The cell door was closed but unlocked, and inside the cell was the man I came for. His garb had once been fresh and new, but now they were caked with dirt, and blood-stained and ripped. He was in the same position since he was brought here from the Imperial Prison like all the others, months ago. Resting on his side as a babe, the Imperial man said not a word. Kept in a catatonic state, he was unable to to wake, lost in a dreamless sleep, forever.
Just as I liked it.
The dungeons were always quiet, save for the occasional squeaking of rodents and the constant pumping hearts of the captives. But tonight, I realized the room was silent in its entirety; Ornery had taken good care of any vermin, and there was no sign of life, not a single breath or heartbeat could be heard. I realized at once that the last prisoner had died. The cattle I fed on the regular had been a large and very hideous man, and he made a very hideous corpse. After being caught for the murder of his neighbor, the man later confessed in prison he was hoping to be recruited into the ranks of the Dark Brotherhood. And now his life—and my supper—had expired.
Drat! Just my bloody luck.
It had been too long since I had last refreshed myself in the castle’s cattle cell. Alas, the foul ichor of the dead could not slake my thirst. My nose wrinkled in disgust, the very thought turned my stomach. Unlike the blood of the living, which was the main source of our sustenance, the unclean blood of a corpse held no allure; indeed, it was considered anathema to my kind even to think of partaking of a cadaver's tainted essence.
With a heavy sigh I left the dungeons, and out into the hallways of the castle I called home. Crepuscular tapestries covered the walls and crimson-black, hand-woven rugs lined the corridors as I made my way past room after room, each decorated with old furniture, rare objects of art, and other unmistakable evidence of wealth. It took me almost three full minutes to traverse the length of the south-end of the castle, and as I did the light of the candles and torches seemed brighter than usual, almost harsh, but somehow that only deepened the tenebrosity that surrounded our little family every moment.
Castle Decumus was enormous, its bones made from stones that had been just as old as the Empire during the Interregnum. Many of these stones had been taken from ancient fortifications and bridges since the Second Era. The decor displayed the ancient beliefs of timeless cultures. Everything about Castle Decumus bespoke of both age and permanence, and the walls that held the halls whispered secrets long forgotten.
I liked the sense of age that the castle represented; I valued its longevity, treasured its strength. In many ways it matched my father's life: something that had become wiser and more powerful from age rather than weaker. Though there were cobwebs in the corners and layers of dust in plenty of spaces, the fortress was strong. As strong as ever. Just as Lord Decumus was strong.
Just as I would be. Someday.
I headed toward my father's office, for where else could he be at this forsaken hour? Who else could better explain to me this abrupt and absurd shortage of food? I climbed up the stairs, traversed across a small courtyard, and over an empty hallway where unoccupied suits of armor stood like silent sentinels along the walls. Ancient relics of the Second Era, they were, used by my father's servants during that tumultuous period, now dusty and often ignored.
Reaching to the end of the hall, I came to a door, and opened it. I half nodded around the sweep of this room: Austere. Unpretentious and uncompromising. To me, this was a portal into my father's personality; he lived his years entirely for the Empire. Plain in dress. Direct in speech. Unconcerned with frippery or lavish comfort.
He was seated in the center of the chamber, writing by the glow of an oil lamp, though he had no need for it. He raised his eyes at the sound of the latch. “Good evening, my dear.” Calmly, he set his quill aside. "What is it?” he reproached me.
Our eyes met.
His cropped black hair rested behind a widow’s peak, exposing his lofty brow of Nibenese proportions. A sturdy nose distinguished his aristocratic visage. A black and velvet robe with golden trimmed fabrics hugged his narrow frame. He looked to be in his early fifties by mortal standards, although, to us who knew him, his true age was measured in many centuries, lost in the impenetrable mists of history.
His skin was as flushed as a newborn's. He had an unremarkable face, sprouting a very faint gray and black crop of stubble,with his only feature worth of note being his eyes, paler than stone and blue as ice. Age had failed to bow and shrink him, but existing had taken a noticeable toll.
"There are no thralls in the cattle cells. The last one died." I stifled a calculated yawn. "Were there no prisoners from the Imperial City?"
"Quintus has been occupied; his guards had been doing a commendable job with keeping the peace. If he were to spirit away every prisoner from the Imperial City, it would raise questions. There are bottles in the cupboard," he explained calmly. "I shall procure more cattle this Fridas."
My father crossed the floor to the cupboard on the other side of the office. Pulling open a door, he removed a bottle of blood from the assorted collection. The preserved fluid inside the portly vial was purplish red. I expelled a slow, exasperated breath, having a horrible feeling where this was going.
“Drink this,” he said. “Your brother is out on business, and has fed before he left. I suggest you stay here until he returns."
My father lobbed the bottle of blood at me. I caught it with both hands, then gazed down at the stout corked vial. It felt cold to the touch, like a ball of ice. Weeks-old blood. I am in a mood to hunt.
Preying on mortal stock on the daily basis was risky in a manner, as well as dangerous. We limited our feeding habits to enthralled prisoners and unruly criminals, and hunted in the wilderness at night for bandits and highwaymen, who would not be missed by locals. We also kept bottles of blood at home. If so inclined, we would go out to feed on the slumbering populace. Such a decision was born more out of empirical notions rather than mawkish sentiment or ethics. We were in no hurry to attract the pitchforks—and wooden stakes—of an outraged commonalty.
Indeed, some of my kind were more scrupulous about their prandial habits than others. Though we can, in theory, feed on animals, their blood could not provide the same sustenance as mortals, who's nectar we subsisted on. Though me—and my clan—preferred to feed on the sleeping and unaware, sometimes we felt compelled to seduce and feed. The thrill of hunting was an invigorating frisson unlike any other.
One I needed. This very moment.
“You have been reticent of late. Are you well?" said Lord Decumus, looking up from the map set before him.
What could I tell him? Yes and no; it was issues with my sleep, but it was some other annoyances more profound and unsettling which was at the root of that, and, having told no one else about my mother and the details of my time in a realm of Oblivion, I could not force myself to speak to him about it, either. I murmured something about being hungry.
He nodded at me.
Remarkable and prodigious man, my father.
Cyrodiil-bred and Cyrodiil-raised within the purlieus of Nibenay Valley, several miles from where we now stood—before a period he often described as "days and nights of blood and venom"—my father was born. I recalled him telling me that anti-intellectualism had become a prevailing attitude in the height of his years, and the pursuit of wisdom was on the decline. Despite this, my father thirsted for understanding, for knowledge, in the same way that others desired wealth and prestige. Over the centuries at last he had found a large measure of both—as well as a family.
Yet no amount of fortune in this realm or the next could give a man peace of mind.
Tried as I might, I could not conceal a slight look of amusement and curiosity that was etched on my face, to see my father buried in his office by a storm of ink and parchment. Business ventures, taxations, and trade negotiations had been the bulk of my father's worries. But none of these things had him so exasperated.
I wondered, What bothers you so?
“It is said some sort of beast is stalking the region,” he said after a pause, as if reading my mind. “I do not know what kind, however, but it will keep us from actively hunting."
I frowned. “Are they certain it is an animal?”
“That is what they are saying,” he said. "And yet people have gone missing in different areas in our territories, all at the same time. This leads me to believe it is not a single culprit, but many."
"What of the Imperial foresters patrolling the area?" I inquired with a liquid shrug rippling along the length of my arm. “Certainly they have came across something—anything?"
"—They have. Bodies,” he said, turning to look down upon the map. He rolled a cup of blood back and forth between his palms. "The most recent were two last night. What was left of them. The descriptions given to me all say that they have been drained of blood, and then mutilated and partly consumed. I have witnessed the work of wild animals of the area. Nature at the height of its viciousness. It is quite the conundrum, given that there are no natural predators in this region capable of inflicting such dreadful injuries."
“It could be mortals," I suggested with a subtle, delicate shadow of irritation etched upon my face as I trailed off defensively. "A coterie of murderous pillocks or a gaggle of lunatic cultists—”
My father's eyes flicked toward me. "You mean a gang of marauders loose on the West Weald?” He shook his head. “Since this happened two nights ago, the foresters would have brought them to justice already. On the other hand, these wounds are so terrible that . . . I believe only a sadistic person would seem capable of such abandon. Animals kill for food or to protect their offspring or territory. They are not cruel with purpose, and the damage said to have been done . . . was very precise and perverse, and just as barbaric."
Mulling my father's observations, I added my own. "As if the suffering of the victims was as much the intention as the need to feed. . . The locals could blame it on the Daedra."
My father scoffed. “They blame everything on the Daedra. If a calf is born dead or a rooster crows at the wrong time before sunrise, they will blame it on the Daedra. They can be a provincial lot. They are guilty of half as much as they are accused of and twice what you believe them capable of. Regardless, there are three Daedric shrines in the wilderness bordering these attacks. It could be related, or it could be coincidence. Either way, we shall act."
Dead locals. Danger lurking about. Ho-hum! I am still going to go hunting.
"It isn't unheard of followers of Namira to practice cannibalism." I said.
"That is correct," my father agreed. "But this is not their signature. Cultists of Namira do not leave bodies out in the open. They would sooner sell the remains in a marketplace disguised as beef. They work in shadow, and live in those conditions. Whatever did this, was bold enough to do so."
Or careless, I considered. But not enough to dissuade me from going into the night.
I stared at the blood-filled vial in my hand. Reddish-purple fluid sloshed inside the sealed bottle. I considered whether I should hand this back over to my father or just set it aside. Either way, the very thought of consuming the blood from this bottle was unappealing at the moment. Even more unsatisfactory was that this notion of whatever menace that lurked about would discourage my father from allowing me to hunt out there alone. Perhaps a daughter's pressing needs outweigh the concern over the murder-spree of a flock of bugaboos.
I cleared my throat. "Well, I have appetite for a warmer repast."
"In these events, I would like for you to remain here and assuage your thirst until this matter has been resolved." His voice neither stern nor peremptory nor, on the other hand, particularly tender. It was just a voice which expected to be obeyed. My father's face softened when he looked at me, and a hint of concern traced itself ruefully onto his features. He did something with his lips. It seemed to be a smile. He said nothing for a time—odd and mystifying—wearing the enigma of the moment like a robe.
Pausing but for a moment, I tried to formulate an answer to convince him, but alas, he was set in motion. "This could very much be feral vampires, spreading their virulent blood. The draining of blood speaks volumes. It is their language." My father morosely interlocked his fingers, staring into nothing. "When bodies surface exsanguinated, it is important we investigate. I cannot have you hunting out there when the herd is riled."
"Your brother is not hunting. He's taking care of certain endeavors on my behalf. . . in the city." His sharp glare accentuated a flat curt cast in his face; he looked surly. Clearing his throat with utmost civility, he returned his attention to the map and then, as I watched, his countenance broke out into the droll, exasperated frown which often heralded his jaundiced moments of outrage— at the nobles of his station, the state of the world, renegade Nosferatu, a dead wife—tirades which, in their unmitigated incredulity, would have been insufferable were they not always delivered with such avidity and fervor and a kind of grim delight that was crested upon our family.
"Forgive me," he said slowly, his eyes wide and glistening, "Times such as these are far less trivial than ages long past. You will come to realize one day. Yet . . ."
I have never known a greater man than my father, and if during these late centuries he became here and there irascible or sententious, I could understand it, knowing that our family had fallen on tumultous times since my mother's death. It did not help either that my brother was eager to inconvenience my father from time to time.
I paid attention to his words for but a moment, peeling my eyes from the map. There was something restorative, fresh—during an era of surfeit peace and silence —in listening to this ancient man at considerable measures of his wrath over a map.
The landscape of the map caught my eye: the lakes and rivers, the markings where castles and cities could be found, the forests of Cyrodiil, territories where vampires of our clan has established themselves. My finger ran over the lands under our dominion, my nail tracing everything from the outskirts of Skingrad to the borders of the Great Forest, and some of our lands in Nibenay across Niben Bay.
"Many centuries ago these lands were contested by warring factions, and Tamriel was in plunged into chaos," my father was telling me once again. "Before the rise of Tiber Septim and the unification of Tamriel, the Imperial Legions I commanded were a force to be reckoned with. Even now, the memories of past laurels have not yet faded, even as we were beset upon on all sides by the contenders. Times have indeed changed, and now we have to worry about fanged fiends lurking in hovels and caves. You would think one would find that far less concerning."
There were moments when I wondered how times were like back then when my father was my age, certainly not yet a vampire. I have been fascinated by his tales of old, of meeting men and women of renown, legends of the past, in a time where even dragons were unleashed and Daedric hordes invaded the world and vampires and undead of every variety threatened the world in numbers.
The present days were different.
Where our kind here in Cyrodiil once wore armor and hid in caverns and graves, we now lived in manors and castles and wore trappings of silk and linen. Where we once brandished fangs and claws, we now thrived with quills, inkwells and sealed messages in the night. We had changed. We had evolved. We adapted, and invested over a thousand years of politics and dark magick and every study in between to live a quiet life. Relegated to the shadows. For eternity.
And yet I listened as my father reminisced of a bygone era. Perhaps he was still thinking of lost attachments. Perhaps he was still thinking of my mother. Has she haunted your thoughts, too, father? Does she try to speak to you in your nightmares?
In periods of stress and threat, I have often been often told, in times of terror and fear, or of silence and apprehension, people tend to cling to the past, even to emulate it: taking on old traditions and humming old songs, questing of historic memories and reliving old ancestral conflicts, in an attempt to put behind both the uninspiring present and a future too peculiar and lackluster to imagine.
Perhaps, I reasoned, one of the reasons vampire ancients sometimes sought to slumber away, or somehow meet a final death out of carelessness, or are so exceptionally nervous and driven is that their past is effaced almost before it is made manifest; in their pursuit for old avatars to contemplate they discover only ghosts, specters, shadows: almost nothing remains for them to glimpse or feel, or to absorb their longing. I was touched to the heart: by my father’s ancient disposition and decency and fury, but also by whatever it was within me—within this unlife itself, it appeared so powerful—that I knew perhaps I was irretrievably lost to the same fate as my father. Me and my brother.
"Indeed, times have changed." I echoed, and turned the path of our conversation. "So Draken is not hunting. . . What sort of task have you set him to?"
"Your brother was sent to finalize our dealings with Lentulus regarding the sale of his gold mines. As I, he has vested interests in shipping, goods and services . . . The years have favored Lord Lentulus."
And his coinpurse, I thought. Last I remember the mortal nobleman was at that party he hosted. That sober, airless affair. Such a desiccated specimen.
"What are the lay of your thoughts?" I asked.
"Fitful. I expect him to return with pleasant news, though I suspect he might be indulging once again in his contentious proclivities. I shall weigh the worth of his labor," Lord Decumus said. "And set his achievement to the scale once he returns."
As my father said these words, my mind wandered off and I asked myself: Where shall I hunt tonight?
I really liked the Ventrue a lot in VtM, and loved playing one in Bloodlines. So I look forward to seeing their Cyrodiilic cousins in action.
What you describe about Dratha and others bargaining with the Daedra reminds me of an old Doctor Strange storyline where Doc Strange's big bad rival (Count Ordo I think?) sold his soul to two separate demons for power. The idea being that they would have to fight each other for it if they ever wanted to collect. Then he went to Doctor Strange for help in defeating both to save himself. It was a really cool story arc.
Of course The Devil and Daniel Webster also immediately jumps to mind.
If vampires cast no reflections, then how do they all comb their hair? Or do their makeup? That never made sense to me.
I need a drink of that warm, vermillion ambrosia
I loved this description.
Gallinius' appearance makes me think of HP Lovecraft, also of the long face.
I thought that was a good way you revealed that it is only a few months since Raven became a Daughter of Coldharbour (a DoC?). That was an excellent example of showing rather than telling. I also like the lack of details about the ritual itself. It much more powerful when we are left to imagine, because our imaginations are always going to be so much worse than anything we are shown or told.
Something I find interesting is that the practice of necromancy was not reviled, or even looked down upon on the Classical world. In fact, many of the Greek heroes made journeys to Hades. Of course back then necromancy was confined to summoning the spirits of the dead to converse with them. Pretty light-weight stuff really. It was not reanimating their corpses to create armies of the undead. There were of course critters that turned people into spigots, like Empusa and Lamia, and they were definitely fearful creatures.
but somehow that only deepened the tenebrosity that surrounded our little family every moment
I love the word 'tenebrous', there was even a Darth Tenebrous as I recall. I think he was Plageus' master?
It sounds like band of unruly Brujah have moved into the area! Methinks it is time their betters taught them some manners!
I really enjoyed your lavish description of Raven's father. He truly feels ancient, with one foot still in a ghost-haunted past he can never quite escape.
I also loved how Raven thought of Lentulus as dessicated! That was a very vampiric way of looking at him.
An an old armoire held my rather vast and extensive wardrobe.
You left an extra 'An' at the beginning, probably a leftover from an edit.
but it will keeping us from actively hunting."
Looks like another leftover from an edit.
If a calf is born dead or a [censored] crows
I am afraid the forum's filter has done away with your crowing rooster!
’Struggling up from the seaweed-depths of a nighterror, I squirmed in my coffin, gasping, staring into the darkness.’
- - I found this a brilliant opening – so incredibly evocative. Well done!
A long and lavishly rich description of life in the ancient vampiric castle and those who dwell within.
Loads of background as well as both world and character building going on here.
And a very hungry vampiress whose needs will only be sated by fresh, warm blood – and quickly!
Again quite excellent descriptions and background, allowing is to learn more without doing an "info dump."
Wonder what is loose in the West Weald? And where Raven shall go to hunt for living prey?
Subrosa: On vampires casting no reflection: it has been somewhat hinted in lore, in passing, nothing concrete has come from it. What we do know about certain vampires is that apparently they breathe? They do have heartbeats, and sometimes their body may function like a normal person. I'm willing to bet this is due to how well-fed they are. I imagine a clan who's livelihood depend on their ability to blend in would have reflections in the mirror.
Gallinius was a nice character in this story. There is more to him, as well as the other mortals who serve the Decumus family. Perhaps you may think if discretion and secrecy are their highest tenets, why have mortals servants? I promise this will be answered in the coming chapters.
I debated whether or not to detail the ritual Raven underwent, or at least the aftermath of it. It is much more powerful to believe and have her tell of it, rather than show it. That, and the fact that the ritual is itself degrading, horrendous and could not be effectively told unless I went into great detail, which I won't. https://en.uesp.net/wiki/Lore:Opusculus_Lamae_Bal_ta_Mezzamortie is the the only description of said ritual, imposed in an unwilling subject. After awhile I did not think it was necessary to describe it in full.
Oh for sure! I read some of the old greek stories and was greatly fascinated by it! Necromancy was used to acquire knowledge and wisdom, and as you said, to converse with spirits. In the Elder Scrolls universe few instances necromancy was used for good, and there was even a great debate on the ethics of it. We've seen plenty of folks use necromancy for very evil purposes, men like Mannimarco and this https://en.uesp.net/wiki/Skyrim:Arondil. During this period in the story(and up until the time of Morrowind), necromancy is legal in a sense. Necromancers can experiment on corpses of criminals and traitors.
But there are always moral and ethical issues involved with it, i.e., committing horrific crimes on people who have committed horrific crimes, and is a relevant talking point because many people in modern society are divided on this very issue. There are questions like what if the people whose souls you're defiling are murderers, thieves, and other scum? Would it still be bad? The same question can be applied to the Decumus' family's feeding habits: they feed on innocent people, but they don't kill them. If they do kill, or keep as cattle, they're criminals and murderers, people who society would turn a blind eye if they vanished or turned up dead. Its still a slippery slope.
Darth Tenebrous was Plagueis master, yep!
Something has definitely moved in their territory!
Acadian: I didn't want to do any info dumping but plenty of world building, yes. I want to introduce things at a measured place.
Yes! We'll see if her hunger will get her into any trouble at all
Raven will definitely go hunting for something. But will she come across whatever is out there in the region? She's not the only thing out there hunting.
I shouldn't have told you.
Funerals were supposed to be dreary days with overcast skies that weep cold rain, but the dim lights of the evening stubbornly shone and the trees were filled with stupid birds who sang as if hurt and death had not poisoned the air of Cyrodiil.
The area was choked to the fullest with briars, nettles, weeds and littered with old stone markers, unfenced and untended for many countless decades, it had been abandoned to the encroachments of summer upon summer such as this one, when even stone had to surrender against the stranglehold of invasive roots and voracious vines.
There was no funeral procession, no wailing or weeping of grieving friends and family. There was no priest of Arkay prepared to give a long, droning homily about the impermanence and frailty of life and enduring the distress of the grave.
There was only me, thrusting the shovel into the ground, again and again, until a six foot gaping hole stood beneath my feet. The final resting place where the Lady Priscilla would be interred for all time, who's only visitors would be a walking dead man, and the endless fauna of the region. For a moment this notion was quite real. I saw generation after generation of birds and animals scurrying about, busying themselves with their instinctual habits while the departed soul of the one I cared for remained quiet in a grave.
I sighed when my ghastly work was done, looking up to the coming nightfall, the light around me glimmering, crepuscular, graced with a greenish hue presaging a misty night. The air was windless, still, which rose and fell away in my ears with the other nocturnal sounds of this distant and time-haunted place: crickets and grasshoppers, hooting owls and the reassuring click—now near, now almost gone—of a bat.
Kneeling down next to her, I caressed her soft face and long hair. Her flaxen tresses felt like finely spun silk, spread out beneath her head like a golden halo. She wasn't smiling, and her blue eyes fixed me an eternal glare. Blinking, I brushed off the dirt from her cold cheeks and brow, considering the smooth lines and contours of her beautiful, youthful visage kept remarkably soft and lustrous from her determination to maintain her beauty. If she only knew how beautiful she would have been if she accepted the Dark Gift. Forever beautiful. Forever young.
Our stares met and for a long while we traded the secrets of eternity, the subtle truths of the grave. Her glare was fixed on something beyond living sight. A hopeless plea frozen in place on her silent lips.
I was determined that before our last moments together Priscilla would hear my voice; the indecency of the creatures of the forest having the final word was more than I could abide, and I could only mutter: "I shouldn't have told you . . . I am sorry."
Such a fool I was to believe such things were possible. My father always said it was dangerous. Priscilla herself, on the other hand, spoke often of the goddess Dibella's commandment: "Open your heart to the noble secrets of art and love. Treasure the gifts of friendship. Seek joy and inspiration in the mysteries of love."
These words at a certain level had the quality of a strapping declamation. Nonetheless, they were remarkably beautiful, brought and sowed together in their honest lumplike nature. But such commandments from the Aedra brought me to a problematic conclusion: the truth of those words—or, if not the truth, the impossibility of it.
Open your heart to the noble secrets of art and love. Seek joy and inspiration in the mysteries of love.
Is something as dead as I am capable of such a thing? Where did my own mind and spirit come from if not from the blood and loins of a creature borne from death, hatred and perpetuous hunger? Did the existence of my kind not effectively block the flow of love, no matter how titanic, like some fatal disease in the bloodstream of mortalkind? Or alter the nature of the mystery, so as to diminish to the absurdity of the idea of loving an insect, or a lizard, or a serpent, or a frog, or a skeever, or brain rot—or even blessed and beauteous things—in a realm which permitted the black contagion of vampirism to be spread throughout the provinces. I do not know. Perhaps it is too early to tell. At any rate, I have preserved those edicts as a reminder of some fragile yet perdurable possibility.
I must hurry. Night is upon me.
Stripes of the moons slanted through the canopy above me, and night had arrived fully over the land. There was nothing much in this solitary spot in the forest that could add, or subtract from, or explain the dead young woman in the grave. I couldn’t bear to look at her any longer, and as I lay her into her final resting place, and shoveled pounds of dirt over her lifeless form, I smelled the rich odor of horse droppings when a snort came from several feet away near a tree.
My black steed was the only witness to this terrible event. One I can trust with my secrets.
Horses never forget. They could not. That was kind of like me too.
Destrier's saddlebags bulged with drakes, septims and jewels, and I knew the horse was eager to return to the stables to feed. I needed to bring the riches home to my father, and this detour was costly enough.
There was only one thing to do, at least in this moment, and I did it: I drank from a bottle of blood, wiped my mouth with a white cloth, and walked up to my horse with the shovel in hand and mounted. Frustrated, confused, pondering a way out of my low condition, I made my way out of the extemporary graveyard in the middle of the forest and into the open road.
"Draken . . . you fool," I murmured silently. "She was Lentulus' daughter!"
I had made an egregious mistake.
The enormity of that knowledge crashed upon me like the legendary Mace of Molag Bal. I had underestimated her reaction to discovering the truth. Such a mistake had almost cost me my life, and how ignominious would that have been, to have such a dark secret revealed to the world, to have my entire family undone.
I cannot make such dangerous decisions.
I would not make them again. Fool!
My nostrils flared as I drew in a deep, shuddering breath. This was no time for self-recrimination. If my father discovered this, I would have to face whatever punishment he would undoubtedly devise for my lamentable mistake.
But my father shall not find out. Nor will anyone, for that matter.
The secret went to the grave alongside Priscilla . . . Not even her father would—
I heard voices down the road. Once I turned around a bend, I saw a duo that had stopped across from me, their complaints reached my ears from afar.
"Get it in there, c'mon!” one said.
"I'm trying! Lift it higher, aye, that's it!" was the reply.
I eyed them with aloof, privileged disdain as I rode in their direction. Their wagon had broken down, it had lumbered on, axles creaking under the weight of the heavy loads. It seemed they had to stop to free a wheel that got itself stuck in a rut. The stench of garlic filled the air.
Two men made attempts to fix the wagon, and as I closed the distance between us, I recognized one of them: Marent Plavius, a local farmhand whom my father had dealings with. Perhaps if I pass through fast enough, the man will not recognize me . . .
"Sir, could ye help us?" Marent shouted as I rode by. "Road's gon' right to Oblivion. Cracked bou't three spokes this mornin'."
Sighing, deciding I had nothing to lose, I climbed off of Destrier and helped the man place the wheel back in its place. It was only after a moment did Marent take in the features of my face. When he did, his eyes widened. "Milord, I didn't recognize ya. Apologies fo' disturbin' ya!" 'Tis a surprise."
Marent Plavius' robust face was burnt from being overexposed to the sun, and its rough edges were peeling. He was covered in sweat and grime from a hard day's work, his humble trappings caked in dirt and mud. I knew I did not contrast much from him, as I spent hours trekking through the Great Forest, looking for a place to bury Priscilla. With my simple dark shirt and black wide pants encrusted with dirt and grass stains, as well as my soiled face, I imagined I would have blended in with the lower-class folk. I was wrong.
"Not an issue," I said, “I was content to lend you my aid." My tone was blasé, but the distress, the instant feeling of being discovered, was like a grip of nausea in the pit of my stomach.
The second man looked visibly irritated at me, more so after Marent had called me his lord. He was an evil-looking individual, with a knurl of scar that joined the corner of his mouth to his right ear. His brown hair could have used a good wash, and despite him being mum, his breath reeked of beer and Cyrodilic brandy.
He stared at me with those heavy-lidded eyes in a killer's stare. I have hunted and met few cutthroats in my life, but I knew enough to recognize a man of his kind. He was no stranger to conflict, the scar was testament to that. His curled lip suggested he thought low of me. He scanned me from head to toe, and then studied Destrier, my bags of gold hanging from his saddle . . . the shovel.
"This is Lord Draken Decumus," Marent said to the man. "Son of Lord Crassus Decumus."
The man was not amused; in fact, he looked even more upset.
"This is Durus, my nephew," Marent was saying. "Him and my niece came from Bravil to stay with me fer a time."
I extended a hand. "Pleased to make your acquaintance. What brings you to this region?"
The man took mine and shook. It was a firm grip that scratched my palm with his calloused hand.
"Our house burned down. Imp infestation." He said in a gruff, distant voice. His eyes made contact with mine.
Ah, that could explain his foul mood.
"Nasty creatures. I am sorry to hear that." I said, and with a nod I mounted Destrier and prepared to give them a farewell.
That instant Marent Plavius' horse all of the sudden reared in a panic and Destrier too heaved up under me, neighing with fear, and across the road a family of deer bolted in great bounds from a coppice, a single buck and two does flecked in the leafy nocturnal light; they flew past us in leaping shapes wild-eyed and quiet until each one upon the other hit the carpet of leaves on the other end of the road and disappeared into the woods with a raucous declining storm of thudding hooves and breaking foliage.
Two bags of gold had fallen from my saddle, spilling some of its precious contents on the ground. I leapt off Destrier and began to collect them in haste.
“Woah, there!” Marent Plavius shouted, reining in his steed, calming him. He jumped off of his horse and picked individual coins before handing them to me one by one, eager to prove he would not take a single one. After I collected all of them, we stood there in the side of the road, gazing at the spot where the white tails of the deer had vanished into the forest, listening as their plunging feet and the noises they made disappeared among the trees.
I looked about me but could see nothing out of the ordinary: trees, a long road, distant woodland—all seemed to be normal. A cloud of mosquitoes swarmed around the two mortal men. They slapped at them, leaving streaks of blood on their skin. I pretended to slap away mosquitoes of my own.
Marent looked at me. “Somethin' must'a spooked 'em. Vampires methinks."
"Vampires." I said, having found no other way to answer these words which were so discomfiting and dreadful. I kept quiet, risking only a swift glance at Durus and catching his eye then shifting my gaze a bit. I remembered one of the core words of my clan's conduct. Words my father was so eager to drive home:
Dispel common belief in our kind.
"Vampires only live caves and old forts," I said. "They are reclusive creatures. We haven't had a vampire problem in years. I do not think—"
"Milord," Marent interrupted. "Last night somethin' got caught on my bear trap. I heard it screamin' for hours late in the night. This mornin' when I went to find out what it was, the sun had already risen. Somethin' set the trap off, but when I got there, there was nothin' but a pile o' dust. Still hot at the touch. The sun's rays right on it."
I blinked. "What became of the dust?"
Marent leaned back in the wagon. "I took it to the Imperial City. Some high elf mage said he'd take a look. Said he was busy so I didn't linger. I'll return on the 'morrow. But I'm sure it be vampires!"
Durus sniffed, and spat on the dirt. "We told a few folk. If the attacks continue on around here, they'll bring in some vampire hunters. Maybe your father could hire some."
I did not like Durus' tone, and only shrugged. "Time shall tell . . . perhaps it was glow dusk. Will-o'-the-wisps have been reported here before."
Durus scoffed at the idea. "Glow dusk would be glowing. The dust he found was black as soot. Will-o'-the-wisps don't leave folks drained of blood, either."
I had no time to argue, or entertain the notion of vampires loose in the region, terrorizing the local population. These men were convinced. I could only nod, and produce the best impression of a smile I possible could. "You strike a point. Perhaps we should all be getting home, then."
Marent smiled and tapped the back-end of his wagon, revealing a crate full garlic heads. "We'll sleep soundly tonight."
If I had been in higher spirits, I would have bursted out laughing. Of all the stupid rural foolishness, this peasant superstition was the most absurd. Even if I were a lower breed of vampire, it was nonsense to think that this malodorous plant would weaken me, or any other vampire. Who knew how many people died at the fangs of a vampire because of this folk tale. I held hopes that whatever was out there, even if it were indeed vampires, that Marent and his family would not fall prey. He was a decent man, as far as mortals go, and did not deserve a fate like the others.
"You would sleeper even better with a silver blade," I suggested. "Or if you have any knowledge of magic, a flame spell or staff could work wonders, I am told."
Durus snorted. "We don't have the luxury of sleeping well in nights like these. Us simple folk don't live in fancy castles with high walls or are protected by sentries or guards. Arrogant high-born lords have that privilege."
I could feel the inference jab me in the stomach but I would be damned if I allowed it show on my face. If anyone was arrogant, it was this dullard!
"Show some respect." Marent said. "Lord Decumus' family's been most gracious."
I respectfully bowed, and handed over a fistful of uncounted coins. Marent beamed a great smile and climbed back onto his wagon. "Farewell milord. Have a pleasant evening. And by the Nine Divines, stay safe."
With that, the farmhand headed off to the direction of his home. Durus had yet to mount his horse, and though he began to walk toward it, he turned around, gripping something in his hand.
Durus' face became wooden and he unclenched his hand. In his palm was my blood-stained handkerchief. "Those deer scared you some. You dropped this. Lots of blood on here. Yours?"
I felt my face undergo a process of change. My air of affability dropped from my countenance like a discarded veil and my featured were morphed into something harder, humorless and devoid of compassion. This man is already suspicious of something. Perhaps I would need that shovel once more.
With a nod I reached out and grabbed the bloody cloth, and tucked it away in the pocket of my pants.
"Nosebleeds." I said with care, "this humid weather does not agree with me—"
"Neither does any help, it seems. What's a nobleman like you doing out here at this hour eh? With no servants or bodyguards? Dressed like that and with four bags full of septims?"
I stared at him with a vanishing trace of a smile. "One can never go wrong in enjoying some fresh air."
He glared at me. "Plenty can go wrong. Highwaymen would ambush you, slit your throat and take your coin without a second thought. If you were in Bravil, stupidity like that wouldn't get you very far."
Feeling my anger rise like the smoke from a flame, I searched for words but my mouth could not produce them. At last I murmured something about coming from the city with supplies, and trying to get home before nightfall. There was no way this man would have been suspicious of me because of these habits.
“Now, I have lived in Bravil and Leyawiin my entire life, and I have seen people of all kinds,” he went on slowly, “The ones who have nothing to hide, the ones that may look the most suspicious, are often innocent. It’s the ones who try to look innocent that have something they don't want people to find out about."
I could not think what it was he was trying to say, but there was something in the tone of his voice that put me on the edge, anticipating in alert. Some ill fantasy escaped into my mind: What if he discovers the truth!? Never in my heard was there such wild sudden dread. For as surely as the fact of death itself, the prospect of being discovered generated ideas that were undoubtedly obsessed and half crazy, so much so that my initial reaction to this man's dangerous imagined conclusion of titanic proportions was one of frustration, panic, and self-concern.
And the reasons were as simple and as natural as a breath of air. Because a single mistake could undo centuries of preparation—my father and mother's legacy, the riches, the wealth . . . our name. My entire life—the idea that all of it could be destroyed because of me was a fear so great that I felt physical pain.
A heaviness hung in the air between us. Durus' restless eyes searched for something, perhaps a peek at any sign of hesitation from me. I recognized that this man was irritated about something. Clearly he resented nobility and those of lofty positions, but his tone of voice was almost conversational.
"You are the expert on such matters, being a Bravilian." I was saying with a sharp tone. "Perhaps you should be out here at night, keeping us all safe from suspicious cutthroats."
"Not my responsibility."
"Did you say the same thing when imps burned your house down?" I asked with an arched brow.
That hit a nerve as Durus' voice lowered. "This isn't a time to make jokes."
"No? I have spent enough time with you, I would say the time for jokes is appropriate."
"Its getting late," Durus said with a sneer. "Best go back and tuck yourself in a nice, warm bed. Hide behind the safety of your walls while we common folk worry about ourselves. Highwaymen and marauders or gods' know whatever else is out there are probably waiting for fools like you."
"They should tread carefully. They will find that this region has low tolerance for criminals, former or not. They may find that pestering others in elevated status is hardly in their best interest."
"Is that a threat?" he said finally.
Settling on the saddle, I frowned. And at my command, Destrier began to move away. With a nod and a curled lip, I said to him before I left: "Only a fact."
I have to admit that I was a little confused about who the narrator was. At first I thought it was still Raven. But I quickly got the feeling it was someone else, perhaps even her father remembering the distant past. It wasn't until "Draken... you fool!" That I realized who it was.
It certainly looks like things are going to become even more complicated with Lentulus and The Family (which is how I am coming to view Raven and her folks).
Hopefully the two peasants with their flat tire won't complicate things. Though I suspect it might. I was wondering if Draken might decide to kill them to keep them quiet. It looks like they might make that decision for him. I wonder if this Durus fellow might be one of the miscreants causing trouble in the countryside?
The mosquitoes were a nice touch. Like not having your breath fog up in the winter, it is one of those little things that can give a vampire away.
Draken shows that he is a long way from obtaining the dispassionate subtlety of his father. Hopefully he will survive his errors of passion and sympathy and learn from them. That said, once he made the decision to not eliminate those who recognized him on the road at night, he did acquit himself well. One can hope that while Duras is a scoundrel, his open provoking of Draken seems to be evidence that he believes Draken to simply be a spoiled noble, not a deadly vampire.
Wonderful descriptions throughout and a great job of crafting a very tense situation that had me on the edge of my seat.
Subrosa: Sorry. Ever chapter will either have Raven or Draken before it begins. The story will be narrated by them both.
There will be many major complications down the road for the Decumus family. Time will tell how they can solve these problems, or if they can solve them at all. Draken made a terrible choice regarding Priscilla so he's on edge, even around people that may not be a problem at first.
Right! The mosquitoes or certain mannerisms and things can for sure give a vampire away. Though Draken and his sister are, as the term goes, newborns, they're clan/bloodlines specializes in blending in and expertise in concealment to where they are indistinguishable from normal people(when well-fed). Think https://images.uesp.net/f/f1/OB-npc-Seridur.jpg or https://www.deviantart.com/spinnchen/art/Count-Verandis-Ravenwatch-620820155. Doesn't mean they may not slip up
Durus definitely is a troublemaker of sorts.
Acadian: Draken is a long way indeed. There are contrasts to each. Draken is frivolous in a way, materialistic, vain and very passionate. He's also capable of doing some very stupid things. Compared to Crassus or Raven, Draken is more understanding and still coming to terms with a new reality. A good question for him would be does he want to feel human or does he want to act humane? He's still a monster, and as we saw has done(even if accidentally perhaps) something terrible. We'll see how different Draken is compared to Raven and his father as the story progresses.
Durus and Marent had no idea Draken is a vampire: Durus believes he's another rich young man. Draken still has an element of surprise here.
Previously on Order Vampyrum: Raven Decumus discovers news from her father that someone or something is killing local villagers. Draken Decumus buries a noblewoman who was once his long-time friend. She is also the daughter of the man his family has dealings with. On the return home Draken is told by a local that there may be vampiric menace threatening the countryside.
My foul mood was with me all the way home and only worsened when the servants informed me that my father was not in good spirits. More talk of monsters in the countryside haunting the populace.
When isn't there a beast lurking about?
I entered my castle, and prepared for the worst.
Old objects covered the stone walls, paintings of ancient relatives scowled from their dusty canvases, a luxurious carpet lay spread out before me as I entered my home. Though I'd walked past the foyer countless times and turned a blind eye to my surroundings, there was not a day I did not give the family painting a glance. I admired the serenity behind it. What it meant, what was.
All four of us: Me, my father, my mother and my sister.
I stared thoughtfully at the work of art. It was deeply unnerving in a thousand different ways for me to realize that everyone this painting was gone in one manner or another. My mother who was brilliant and sad and exuberant and complex, was dead all those years ago; my father became, in some way, another man entirely. As for myself I had felt detached from reality all my life, more like a wraith haunting the existence of some stranger named Draken Decumus.
And then my sister.
Raven Decumus . . .
I studied her with great interest. She was a beautiful young woman, with keen and intelligent eyes that—in this painting at least—showed a great depth of kindness, perhaps of insight. And in spite of the tradition of austerity when posing, there was an indication of a smile to lift the spirit. And for that minute detail, a tiny smile did grace my mouth, just for a moment.
We were closer than friends, and even closer than siblings. Growing into adulthood, neither of us could imagine life without the other, and circumstances forged our lives into one, and yet now we seemed so distant. So far apart. Taking in the details of our once-happy family had carved into my face a larger smile, but then I thought about my father and mother's history, the ritual we all went through, and a harsh scowl twisted my face.
I realized now there was almost no sound in our home.
The only noise I heard was the steady ticking of the old Alinor ancestor clock. That at least was evidence of life in the castle; one of the mortal servants had to wind it. With ease, I moved to the foot of the sweeping staircase that led to the upper landing.
One of the old furniture creaked.
Flinching at the noise, I turned around and saw something behind me on the stairs. I didn't move.
There stood my father.
My father stood tall and imposing, like a king overlooking his kingdom. His cruel, blue eyes regarded me with indifference. Ever emotionless. Ever amoral.
"You have returned," he said in a silky voice. "Later than you said you would."
He watched me silently while I tried to summon the proper words.
“There were some minor complications—” I began. I took another step or two, caught now in the threshold between the flight of stairs and the sudden and powerful presence of my father.
His eyes were frigid and calculating, and they roved over me, taking my measure. "Pleasant night, I assume,” he said softly, nostrils flaring. No doubt I reeked of alcohol and blood and dirt. "Were you successful with the meetings?"
I steeled myself. "Atrius of Chorrol voiced his frustrations by sprinkling his predicament with excuses . . ."
A sneer came unbidden but unstoppable to my father's face.
"But . . . he has paid a great sum of the coin owed to us, plus principle of thirty percent. The man offered a portion of his next property in the weight of gold as redress for his delay."
Lord Crassus Decumus mused. "Generous but unnecessary. And Lentulus?"
"I paid a visit earlier this evening. His servant informed me he was not home., and refused to tell me when he would be available. I was told he had pressing matters—business in Anvil— he was gone long before I arrived."
"Peculiar. Lentulus is not one to shy away from a meeting. Must be pressing matters indeed to turn a man like him away from his commitments." He said as he moved down the stairs. With that done the tension in the room eased by slow degrees as both of us stood there, each lost in the process of calculating all of the possible meanings behind this encounter.
As I lingered there, my attention was not lured by the aggressive majesty of the décor but by my father’s peculiar behavior; I rarely spoke with my father, but a meeting of this kind should have provoked some hint of warmth. Instead, he seemed distracted, his focus inward instead of outward to my presence.
"I should have lingered awhile longer,” I said. "I may have been able to speak to him. . ." But my voice trailed away as my father turned to face me. The look on his features were twisted as if he was in physical pain. It might have been disdain.
"Well," my father said quietly. He was trying to sound offhand, but I could tell that something was different. "Did his daughter mention when he would return? She has certainly been groomed to follow in his footsteps." He said with a rueful frown. "How is her ladyship? Have you seen her?"
The words struck my like fists. I tried to steel my resolve lest I show any emotion. I have seen her, as I have for many years. I have tried to give her the Dark Gift . . . but . . .
She was unable to faithfully accept the power conferred by my vampiric blood. Perhaps the heavens did not show the correct aspects: the stars did not appear cooperative. Her weak, fragile body could not handle—
"She was not there," I said.
"How unfortunate." My father's eyes went colder still, his manner dissolved into a frigid control that I was accustomed to. He clasped his hands behind his back and stood stiff. If was pleased at my reports, not one flicker of it was on his stern face.
"I have work to attend to—” my father said with an irritable snort and stalked past me. His footsteps haunted the halls with force. "One more thing: I need you see Marent before the night is over. There is something I need you to deliver."
I just saw the man on my way back here, I almost said. Have one of the servants do it.
"Yes," I said with a bowed head. "Father."
He told me what I had to do before I watched his stiff back retreating from my sight. Alone and with a sigh I left to the comfort of my own chambers.
The mirror in my room was no kinder than any other one, but I stood before it regardless, shirtless and barefoot, my hair wild, fists clenched at my sides. I stared at myself through the mirror, much like my father had just done with me.
The depths I saw in my own eyes nearly tore through me, and it seemed to me that I could see through those eyes, that they were windows instead of mirrored reflections. Beyond those windows was the barren landscape of some other realm. Nothing there was natural, or even normal. Nothing there was suited to the needs or desires of mortal experience. It was foreign territory across which dark, eternal shapes hunted and hissed.
“Who are you, stranger?" I asked, my lips peeled back as my white teeth turned to sharp pearl-white canines and incisors.
At the far end of the room there was a pale flickering light and all of my attention was drawn to it. It came from a a replica of the Masque of Clavicus Vile, and it twinkled just before vanishing entirely. Must have been a trick of the torchlight.
I approached the bust, drawn to it like a moth to the flame before picking it up.
The mask was blankly expressionless as ever. Made of steel, with intricate designs swirling in its entirety, it was horned much like the depicted images of the Daedric Lord that created it.
It is said that the Masque of Clavicus Vile concealed one's true countenance, however grotesque and unappealing, drawing the admiration and affection from those who would otherwise be inclined to avoid contact. How appropriate that we vampires of Cyrodiil were our own masques, given supple appearance only through the quenching of our voracious appetites, lest our true nature be unveiled to all.
Hiding behind a facade.
"We are our own masks, are we not?" I asked the masque before setting it back. "'Our coffers stay stuffed; By social graces robust.'"
Though my mood was heavy, I felt somewhat positively embowered in this luxurious life, and yet inflamed by a tragic, nostalgic fever. I stared at the mask fascination as I pondered on the meaning of this new existence, this masquerade.
A voice spoke, jarring me out of my musings.
"Our own masks," the replica masque said back to me. "Our own masks."
What sorcery is this!?
The mask floated in the air, levitating gradually in front of me before it began to turn as if searching for something. It began to twist and turn as a form materialized underneath it; ethereal and unearthly, the eerie glow began to take shape until I saw a headless ghost put on the mask and wander about aimlessly about my chamber, using this priceless piece as his new head!
"What do you want!?" I shouted at this invasive apparition. "What do you want!?"
The phantom said nothing, but walked about in my chamber like a headless chicken. I followed it with my gaze, hands ready for action until caught something else reflected in the mirror, standing at the door my chambers.
I whirled around and saw my sister, of all people, invading the privacy of my chambers like a foreign shadow. Unlike the painting where she looked human, her true nature was anything but.
Her once-chestnut eyes were a cold and molten gold, crimson and black, and they glistened at me like those of a wild predator prowling beyond a hem of a campfire; her pale face was framed by the drapes of long hair that fell over her shoulder, black as the night she had always loved. Though she was blessed with slender, high cheekbones and a narrow high-bridged aristocratic nose sprinkled with freckles, her usual alert eyes were now subdued and dispassionate. Four days without feeding on blood, her visage was cold and very much pallid, haggard and unearthly; her skin was pale, almost pellucid, and her veins, too many to count, mapped out across her entire body and face like an intricate azure design captured underneath glass. Glaring at her, I gazed into her bloodshot eyes; those two sunken orbs of yellow, red and black, half hidden in besmirched skin bags of gray.
Her skin had the sickish plasticity of one who has suffered from some great affliction and whose flesh had underwent severe emaciation, a sallowness of a body not yet recovered from some terrible disease.
She yawned before her tongue traced the polished contours of her fangs. Raven, you have seen better days. I should have known you were behind this.
Instead of a smile, instead of the light of joy in her eyes, instead of the chirp-like way with which she had always greeted me in years past, her face was nearly expressionless: blank but attentive.
She was plotting something.
This was her Scheming Look, and I hated it. Her frozen, neutral expression divulged little clue to what was going on behind that perfectly porcelain face.
"Ah. All this madness makes sense now." I said, irritated at her juvenile wit. "Clever trick. Did you learn to summon this brigand from some scroll or was he the result of your ghoulish experiments?"
"Good question," she replied.
Sidetracked from my righteous rage, my feeling subsided into something else as I glared at Raven beneath arched eyebrows. "What an entirely unwelcome surprise."
"What an entirely unsurprising welcome." She said, voice like liquid gold as she examined me candidly, and just for a split second, I thought I saw a glimmer of happiness, mixed with perhaps a trace of ineffable dejection and lament. But judging from her severe expression, Raven’s mood tonight was something less than friendly.
Is there anything new? I thought with sour measure. It was foolish of me, I realized, in hoping to hear some of her old genuine sardonic grin in her tonality, but I never did. Not since the 24th of Evening Star. Not since the ritual. Perhaps not since what happened to our mother.
These events had scorched it out of her.
And my sister still tried, now and then, to spark a real smile in me. And at times I still tried the same.
We both made great attempts to pretend past events had not molded us.
We were very good at pretending. Masters of the craft.
I cleared my throat and raised an eyebrow as she strode further into my quarters, sending away that summoned ghost back to wherever-in-whatever-he-came-from, leaving my mask twirling against the floor. Casting dust from that grungy library onto my imported Hammerfellian carpet, she reached out and slammed a heavy object down onto the polished top of my desk. I observed, with clinical distaste, that the dusty old thing was some book. Standing there with sheer boredom and disinterest as the smut particles floated in the air, I made sure she knew of my lack of appreciation for the detritus left in her wake.
Intense eyes locked onto mine. Her voice was deep and husky. Her breath sweetened by honey and cinnamon.
“Were you aware that the cattle cells are not well-stocked anymore. As a matter of fact, it is empty. Completely. Father suggested I remain indoors until the murders are solved. Says he 'cannot have me hunting out there when the herd is riled'." She mimicked his voice. "I think whatever is out there is going to keep on killing until it or they are killed. That can take awhile. But why should we refrain from hunting in our own territory?"
I had a horrible feeling I knew where this was heading, and I went straight to the point.
“You are an original pureblooded vampire. A newborn, no less. I am certain you understand,” I told her as I turned and scanned the edge of a shirt I had put on. “There are very few of us in the world. However ambivalent you may regard this matter, the matter is the world is ripe with people wanting to spill our blood. I am quite certain father forbade any of us from hunting until these murders are solved."
We were not the only purebloods in Tamriel—nor vampires for that matter, since the the provinces were rife with over a hundred different kinds of undead—but we were among the handful of vampires who had been bestowed this power directly by Molag Bal, the father of us all. True vampires, and with this fact came tremendous power, along with tremendous price. There is no gift without cost, and the price was our very souls consigned to Oblivion. Ciphers roaming the cold reaches of beyond.
Like that damned ghost she summoned! If I find so much as a scratch on this— I thought as I knelt down to pick up the replica Masque of Clavicus.
"As I have said, that could take quite some time. We could hunt somewhere else. Whatever is out there can be some scapegoat," she shrugged. "There is Dasek Moor or Fort Coldcorn. Quintus said those are areas populated with bandits and marauders. We kill them, and the locals can blame it on this mystery menace. We can use your map—"
"The map I had was the first thing I lost." I cut her off.
" . . . What was the second?" She asked with a furrowed brow.
"My patience." I grumbled as I placed the masque of Clavicus back in its place.
"Ah. Where were you earlier this evening?"
"The Waterfront." I said dryly.
"How was it?"
"Marvelous. The Waterfront District is still indeed a beautiful and lovely, a nostalgic part of the Imperial City."
In my head, I rambled: Such a quagmiry but haunting cesspool of ramshackle, weather-pissed little houses and warehouses, crookedly carpentered I might add, where the abundance of rotund scar-faced thugs and scrawny harlots fuss and bite—where beggars, vagabonds and locals dwell with ravaged and broken hearts, tormented by adversity and defeat, and penury humiliation, seeking to pass on these qualities onto us just as easily as their infections. There is no duplicity there, but a thing . . . a thing in its purest form, however crude that may be. I was somewhat fond of the Waterfront.
"I gave the locals a rendition of Lord Jornibret," was all I told her.
"Putting on a show for the dregs of society again in some smokey tavern. Ever the champion of the downtrodden. How supremely noble of you. My, you look peaky!" Raven came to my side and picked up the masque, and regarded it with an inquisitive look, asking it. "Doesn't he look peaky? Brother, have you fed?"
"Forgive the unsightly countenance. I did not go out to feed remember—" I started to say, though she was much worse than I was when it came to her visage. "I was taking care of some endeavors. I simply had no time."
“Oh, you heathen! I would think,” she interjected, solemn as an owl and exasperated, “I would think that you would be hunting rather than indulging in lower-class romanticism and mawkish fables of saccharine theatrics. Fortunate for the both of us then, as you must be hungry. Was the Waterfront devoid of any flaxen-haired trollops? They are your favorite, yes?"
There was a thick cloud of rage in and around the room at her words. For good reason, we were not a very happy little family. But for a family who has been active in the worship of Daedra, we generally kept our tempers and were decent with each another, being well-bred and imbued with many of the more gentle Nibenese cultivation. Indeed, our love and fondness for one another had a special boldness and desperation. But I could almost hear the rage humming in the cold air. The innocence of such a question was, I now realize, almost unthinkable, given what had transpired of late with Priscilla. There was no possible way Raven could even fathom such a crime committed on my behalf.
I debated telling my sister to fetch her own food, and to get herself into a world of trouble. How it would be nice for once to see her chastised by my father. I tasted the words and how clean they would feel on my tongue, but then an old memory stole like a thief into my mind. Raven and I, a pair of children playing at being mages, running from our castle to the shelter of the trees outside. A wooden cutlass in my hand, and Raven with a wooden staff in hers.
That was before Oblivion's shadow came to Castle Decumus and all things merry and joyous had been torn away. The path we took drained most of the potential for a comfortable moment but I could help alleviate our tumultuous relationship, and perhaps bring back a semblance of a happy family.
Besides I had to speak with Marent once more before the night was over.
"Ah!" she said, opening the book on my table and flipping through the pages. "I found this by the way. A must-read edition. I have been hard at work of late, and found this piece next to Liminal Bridges."
With an exhale, I examined the book from afar. I didn’t see anything particularly noteworthy about the old thing, but Raven evidently felt otherwise. Such was the case with her and books. She put so high a value on them, the spells and forgotten knowledge, her sorcery and those ghoulish experiments. On the other hand, I could not have been less interested or impressed. Looking distinctly bored, I returned to my reflection, inspecting my dark cotton tunic with a brocade collar. I blinked as light reflected off of my polished gemstones from the silver settings of my rings. As usual, my blasé attitude dismayed Raven.
She cleared her throat. "But one cannot be taken with too much time in their work, however preoccupying. It creates unrealistic expectations. It would do us well, you know. To get some air."
Perhaps, just perhaps, hunting was not so bad of an idea.
The night had become a great solitude of hunger and thirst, and a mental exhaustion so deep that it enveloped the entirety of my soul. As I stood in the room, somewhere in the crypt topography of my mind, profoundly hungry, with a deep, visceral, immense thirst such as I had not experienced since I became a vampire. An inexpressible and potent and luxuriant hunger—for precisely what I could not be certain, perhaps tranquility in mind, perhaps a throat to drink from, most likely both. I had to try and keep my mind away from what I had done, and more on a potential scapegoat to take the blame.
I had eternity to live with this guilt, but I shall worry about that later.
And the tempest was over, the thunderclouds had rolled away, and a bright good humor flooded into the room. Slow, halfhearted, I tried to restore a tad bit of goodwill. I said: "Dasek Moor. That is an old fort, is it not?"
But I thought this might provoke Raven into thinking I was jesting; she might embark once again upon her lengthy anecdote, which had become a trifle exhausting in light of recent events, so I only smiled thinly, wrapping myself in a more positive light, and said, "Well . . . I have worked up quite an appetite. We shan't take long. Find something more appropriate to wear to cover yourself up. I will be out in the stables. We shall be back before father even knew we were gone."
Raven digested that for a moment, and the grim straight line around her mouth thickened to a smile. "Cover myself up? You fear for my modesty, I think."
"Discretion always," I reminded her.
She nodded in agreement. "Indeed, discretion always. I can wear that masque!"
"You will do no such thing."
"You look tense, Draken! What harm ever came from a nightly stroll?"
That was a question I did not want to answer.
This lengthy episode revealed much about the history and nature of each member of Draken’s family.
‘We both made great attempts to pretend past events had not molded us.
We were very good at pretending. Masters of the craft.’
- - I especially liked this very appropriate observation by Draken.
"You look tense, Draken! What harm ever came from a nightly stroll?"
That was a question I did not want to answer.’
- - What harm indeed? Do I smell trouble ahead as the young vampires prepare to slake their thirst on a fort full of baddies?
My father stood tall and imposing, like a king overlooking his kingdom. His cruel, blue eyes regarded me with indifference. Ever emotionless. Ever amoral.
This description instantly evoked Bill Nighy's portrayal of Viktor, the patriarch of the Underworld movies.
The depths I saw in my own eyes nearly tore through me, and it seemed to me that I could see through those eyes, that they were windows instead of mirrored reflections. Beyond those windows was the barren landscape of some other realm. Nothing there was natural, or even normal. Nothing there was suited to the needs or desires of mortal experience. It was foreign territory across which dark, eternal shapes hunted and hissed.
I thought this was a wonderful piece of self-reflection (pun intended), as Draken faces the Otherness within himself.
I suspect a great deal of harm will result from a midnight stroll, and look forward to seeing it unfold!
Just caught up with these chapters. Loved them! The Raven chapter again showing off more of what it means to be a vampire, especially a member of the Cyrodiilic clan, or the Order, I really enjoyed that.
The fact that the story is being told from both Raven and Draken is great, seeing how different they are as siblings was awesome in these last two chapters. Draken comes across as way more "immature" and prone to mistakes, case and point being the incident with Priscilla.
The chapter with Durus and Marent was great in just setting up the general relationship of Draken and his family with the commonfolk, and you did a great job of showing the little details that vampires have to do to keep their secret, in this case Draken pretending to swat at mosquitoes. I am also a sucker for the fact that we got to see Draken living by the Order guidelines in that he was trying to create disbelief in vampires to both Durus and Marent. And of course I had to laugh at the garlic segment hahahaha.
Great chapters so far, I am really enjoying it! Keep up the great work.
Acadian:Both being creature of deception, they thrive in secrecy and pretense. You could say its in their blood, but upbringing has plenty to do with it. Both don't like to look in the past at all, but sooner or later it calls to them.
Subrosa: Thanks! The inspiration for Crassus' appearance/looks relate to https://vignette.wikia.nocookie.net/gameofthrones/images/2/26/Profile-RooseBolton.png/revision/latest?cb=20170728090234/https://www.deviantart.com/valeria122/art/Roose-Bolton-529652462. That's how he looks like in ESO.
There is some trouble to be found out there!
BretonBlood: The Cyrodiilic Clan/Order have yet to be seen. But they're out there for sure. Though members of the clan, the two siblings and the patriarch of the family have been isolated, worrying about their individual needs. As time goes on and Raven is out pursuing her quests, she will be far more exposed to the Order's ways than ever before.
Both Raven and Draken are inexperienced, but Raven has an analytical mind and she studies and thinks while Draken is rash and impulsive. Both have strengths and weaknesses that differ from each other, and having them both as protagonists and narrators serve to give an alternate point of view. Draken is a character I felt deserved to have his point of view told.
Previously on Order Vampyrum: Draken returns home, hoping to conceal the death of Priscila from his family. Raven convinces him to hunt with her.
Stepping out into the world was a breath of fresh air as I stared at the infinite night sky in all its beauty. The moons were crested on the horizon, heralding the late hours of night. The cold glow of the two moons were like a benediction as I rode on. The air was cool tonight, and I could taste life in it.
Out here my senses exploded as all manner of sights, sounds and tastes surged in with impossible speed. I saw several grains of pollen—each of them as individual and distinguishable as the planes orbiting Mundus—floated away on the breeze. A swarm of insects came into view, and I could catch the scent of vestiges of plant matter and the blood of animals on their individual proboscis, could count and tell the small hairs on their infinitesimal legs, could trace each delicate tessellated design of their gossamer wings. Water flowing in a creek turned into a rushing tide in my ears, and for a time my mind was confounded under the sensory assault as I saw all manner of lifeforms that scattered about.
The remaining shreds of lassitude had been swept away as night had come. My body, unused for hours, creaked as I stretched. Traces of my sleep-fog had persisted but my vision and focus was as clear as glass. As my powers and abilities were at their peak in this fourth stage, I was ready to roam the night.
I saddled a sturdy black mare, as Draken mounted his dark steed Destrier.
We rode for some time, as my long evening dress, casual and suitable for a number of occasions, caught the breeze in silken crimson and night colored ripples. I raised the hood of my robe and draped it to shadow the ruin of my face. The black would help me blend in the penumbral wilderness. There was also the fact that feeding was messy and bloodstains were easier to hide on dark fabrics.
My brother was silent through the majority of the trip.
A black lock fell over his brow with a manner of gawky, tousled grace, as if conserving even in that blank and mindless stillness some gesture orthodox to his years, an unseasoned charm. For sometime I watched his long, strong-boned, youthful face peering at nothing in particular with an expression of attitudinized meditation; the contemplative bulge of his tongue sliding within the walls of one pale cheek to push out some piece of trapped meat; cold hands working calmly in the folds of Destrier's reins—for certain he had been the victim of whatever misfortune assailed his mind and it was painfully obvious.
Being the only man in the family besides my father, Draken had to deal with the many responsibilities of a nobleman, and as far as I was concerned, he had been coasting isolation ever since. To my perpetual dismay, my brother had little patience for anything that interfered with his own amusements, which clearly included his peculiar desire to perform plays and jests for a drunken audience.
Perhaps one day I would discover what all the fuss was about.
I took a second to look at him as he rode on; how he was graced with the handsomeness preferred by the polite society in the Empire—stellar features, clean-cut, civilized— a welcome change, for I remembered there was a trace of fleshiness in his cheeks in his adolescent years, which often gave to the corners of his mouth a sort of peevishness, so every or so often his young face, when in deep concentration on anything in particular, he looked like a spoiled and arrogant infant of five. To be quite blunt, he still looked like a spoiled and arrogant child of five, removed of any trace of humor or humility.
During our ride into the wilderness, Draken was dull and despondent. Though at times, he had changed into moments of remote abstraction with quick tempestuous outbursts. Whatever had happened earlier this night seemed to have set something off in him. His mood had become vague and unpredictable, and he was able to alternate from sour, uncommunicative dejection to tumultuous anger in an instant, complaining from the sound of animals to the cold weather.
I had never seen him quite so irritated before, nor had I ever seen him so testily at odds with insignificant things, to what he usually had displayed the breeziest good will. For sometime he had been about them, nagging, whinging about petty responsibilities, the owls' hooting, the foxes chirping—only to fall into a deep and profoundly unappreciative silence.
Why are you so downcast? Has something happened to you? I thought. Are you thinking about mother? Have you wondered about her, about the dead winds of Coldharbour as fiercely as I have? I asked myself. Or perhaps the recent meeting had a sour outcome? Some unforseen event? Draken had been distracted of late, and my father increasingly irritated with his antics.
"You mentioned father was sending you to meet with Marent. What for exactly?"
"A simple message," he said. "Marent Plavius complained often and loudly to father about bandits giving him issues. And since Castle Decumus and all her lands, dependents, and chattels belong to our father, and thus to us, well, his problems become my problems."
"Did father send you to Lentulus Manor?"
"Yes. I just returned from Lentulus' home, and he was not there to greet me. I think Lentulus thinks poorly of father sending me. That or his family are distancing themselves. I was told he had pressing matters in Anvil. Father was not pleased."
I said nothing for a moment, only responding with a sound of acknowledgement. This was not new to me, nor to Draken. Time and time again my father had tried to instill within Draken a sense of responsibility and experience, and time and time again Draken was slow to complain and quick to obey. Yet now in his candor, he showed naked bitterness, and was quite vocal. Recklessly so. There was far more to it than this, and it went far beyond in having his patience overtaxed in mundane affairs.
Draken was as an open book. I had read him plenty of times, read his fears and peeves like the clear details of a page. I was made aware of his weaknesses just as I was of his strengths. Draken believed all I did was study. I worked well into reading day and night, and poring over books until my eyes ached, but there was always room for an alternate course of studies.
It was amusing to visit his chambers when he was not there. It was satisfying, moving through his room like a shadow, like a ghost at a forgotten hall. With my curiosity, I touched nothing, and I looked at everything. There was much that could be told, even in silence. Echoes of what is, or perhaps could be.
Every month or so there was fresh strand of golden hair on the black fabric of his clothes like some new accessory, and his room always had a faint smell of lavender oil, and Telvanni bug musk, that subtle but compelling fragrance imported from Morrowind. Draken never used either of them but someone else had.
Most likely a woman.
Draken had always gravitated toward flaxen-haired lasses. Though the strands of hair could have came from different mortal ladies, they all seemed just the same in color. It could have been from a single person. There was only one golden-haired maiden Draken had more reason to come in contact with: Lentulus' daughter.
Is she the reason for this silly behavior?
"Priscilla was not there, then?" I asked.
The deep silence that befell, the tensing of the jaw and the flicker in Draken's eyes felt like an admission to some unheard accusation. He simply shook his head, said she had to leave and moved on to a different subject entirely.
"You are welcome to find a campsite somewhere while I send a message to Marent. There is a fort not too far from here as well." he said harshly. "But since you did not bring any swords, I would strongly advise against it. There is no telling what lurks around these parts in these nights."
"I have my swords. Everywhere I go." I retorted. "If the need arises, I can summon them."
"Bound swords. Must be nice." Draken said, adopting a more soothing tone. Perhaps to conceal his ire. "How simple would it be to conjure all manners of things to solve my problems. I may even be a better conjurer than you."
"The only thing you can conjure up is disappointment." I said with a laugh.
"You will find no argument there. Disappointment seems to follow me everywhere I tread." He said. "The first thing disappointment did was barge in my chamber and thought it was amusing to summon a headless ghost to distract me." He had a disgruntled sense of humor which often seemed to bring a spark of relief not just to his own, but to me.
"Well, just be content that ghost was all I summoned. Reminding you that I left Ornery in his cage. I could have brought him with me." I smiled.
"Thank the gods you had a sane mind to leave that wretched thing behind. I do not know what use that stunted little demon could be of." Draken snorted. "I would have gone mad if I locked myself in a dusty old library surrounded by walking corpses and a bloody Daedric imp that is one fireball away from destroying everything around me. You have a talent for that. Forgoing feeding for seventy-two hours has become a habit with you."
"I have been very occupied with my research, and I enjoy hunting before I feed. Hunting takes time. Time I could otherwise spend productively. Since my resources were exhausted I thought it best to hunt now while I could. Besides I appreciate the serenity of the night. It helps me focus." I told him with a shrug. "We have all this territory under our dominion and we seldom hunt. We never come out here together. We best take advantage of that."
"What sort of research have you been conducting?" He regarded me suspiciously.
Before I could reply my mount began to buck, terrified by Bal knows what's out there. Her hooves pounded against the solid road, working herself into a lather, the sweat gleaming on her quivering body. She started to move away from the path before her.
"Easy, Potema," I whispered to her as I drew back on the reins, my horse coming to a halt. Trees lined like landscape, like the column of some ancient temple of a bygone era. The cool night air reeked of damp wood and clay. My every sense alert to the prospect of danger, I shot glances about me in all directions., listening tensely to the nocturnal whispers of the wilderness.
A savage screech tore through the night, sending a thrill down my spine. Flocks of crows, just roused from slumber, flapped noisily as they took to the heavens in panic. Potema reared up onto her hind legs, almost throwing me from the saddle. Her eyes rolled as she whinnied in fright.
A light wind shuffled fallen leaves hidden beneath the fog and brought to my nose a sweet and sickly scent, with a hint of copper. I held my breath, every muscle in my body primed for combat and for feeding. My tongue traced the smooth and white contours of my fangs. "I smell blood on the wind."
Draken sniffed the air, and smelled it too. Together, we goaded our mounts to continue on forward. The ground sloped away steeply from the path on both sides, permitting only a single avenue of approach to the road. Dense woods surrounded us at all sides. I raced across, and galloped passed him.
"Raven . . . wait!" he called out.
Although smell of blood was many miles away, it was child’s play to follow the scent into the forest. With my brother behind me, I raced through the foliage until the whiff of smoke and blood caused me to slow my pace and advance with more caution through the brush and bracken. I dismounted Potema and bound her to a tree, casting a rune spell around her. Draken did the same with Destrier. Together, we crept furtively toward the scent, taking care to stay downwind of whatever creature was ahead. Like specters, we passed through, barely disturbing a single twig.
The flickering glow of a small hearth could be seen past the heavy tree trunks as we drew nearer. I glimpsed a humanoid figure laying outside of a small cottage and smiled in silent triumph, but Draken voiced his concern.
"This is Marent Plavius' home . . ." He told me. "Who is that?"
Just ahead, the forest gave way to an open clearing surrounded on all sides by dense trees. I crept my way up to the very edge of the meadow and peered around the trunk of an old great oak. I stared, with a mixture of both elation and disgust, at the quarry I had gone to such lengths to locate:
The humanoid figure was dead, and the reek of death hung in the air.
The isolated house was secluded in the middle of this area. Old maple trees and boulders bore mute witness to whatever fate had befallen the household, while an eerie silence reigned over this West Weald house. We listened for anything in particular, but there were no agonized moans, no desperate pleas for succor. No mourning kinsmen cried for their dead.
The stillness spoke volumes. There were no survivors.
We approached the corpse, and at once I saw who it was.
"Julia Plavius." Draken said, kneeling down next to her remains. "She recommended Destrier and Potema from the stables to us, do you remember?"
I looked at my brother and saw that this familiar person stirred dormant memories. It was evident a cold rage flared within him. Julia and the rest of the Plavius family had treated our family well and they were peaceful neighbors, as far as mortals went. Lowly and impermanent as they were, Draken perhaps felt they had deserved better than this. He had more contact with them than I ever did. Vivid memories stirred within me as I looked down on her ravaged body.
Julia Plavius' skull had been shattered like an eggshell. A crimson halo had pooled around her head. Her death was instant. Her entire face and torso had been shredded by very sharp claws, just as her sides were. Her exposed ribs protruded from her gaping chest. Remains of bloody meat still clung to her splintered bones, which also were raked by deep claw marks. At this moment I did not see Julia Plavius. I saw myself.
This was me not so long ago, I thought. During that ceremony.
Julia Plavius, I suspected, might have been one of the lucky ones. Though it was an unfortunate fate, she was, in a way, graced with a swift end. My mind ran what this woman felt, what had occurred, articulating a concept which, several months ago, before I was introduced to vampirism, would have been so monstrous as to have went beyond belief but now archived in my consciousness as a fugacious routine in this new realm I now existed, no more to be reflected upon than as in another life the fact that one went to the baker’s to purchase one's sweetrolls.
The only difference between Julia and I was that I survived after my death.
The prodigious amounts of wasted blood had been splashed upon the dirt glistened beneath the light of the moons, turning the spot into crimson mud. The tantalizing smell of so much blood moistened my mouth, despite the dire matters weighing on my mind.
"There are more of them here!" Draken called out as he peered inside the house from the window. I rushed to him, and took a peek within. There were bodies inside, too.
A wooden door creaked on its hinges as my brother kicked it open. Leading with closed fists, Draken entered the domicile through a haze of smoke and shadow, and I followed behind with carefully measured steps. My vampiric eyes penetrated the murk, seeing the humble furnishings one would expect to see in such a modest home: old wooden stools, a low table with stale bread and cheap wine, a couple of cupboards, and a hearth in the center, safely distant from the crude humble walls. Dying coals glowed within it.
"Butchery," Draken whispered. "I cannot believe this . . . the wounds are fresh. This just happened."
All of them shared the same fate as Julia Plavius.
More bodies were strewn everywhere. Five of them. Young and old, their throats had been the target of some wanton savagery. They were still in their nightclothes, death having come for them while they slept.
I stared in disbelief at my new shoes painted red with the sticky substance that seeped through my toes. There was blood everywhere I looked. Displaced remains and ordure squished beneath me as I walked softly up the stairs that seemed to have witnessed its fair share of carnage. The disparate scents of gore, putrefaction, and smoke created a malodorous blend in the smoky atmosphere. There was the sickly smell of dust, and decay and collywobbles in the air. It smelled like a vampire had came through here.
I was irritated, although my irritation lay less in the sight of soiled shoes, than in the fact that the Plavius' life's essence were spilled all over the bloody house in some needless dreadful act. It seemed none of my business, if they were murdered by a gang of marauders or bandits, for such was the affairs of mortals. But when concluded that Plavius' was not only killed, but devoured, it was most certainly my affair. By our virtue, we always had striven to avoid undue death to our prey, especially if they were common villagers. Now some unseen menace had taken up residence with their orgiastic predatory tendencies.
On our territory!
Though I had not fed on blood for some time, and my body required sustenance, I was reluctant to take to the throat of my victim with such a degrading feeding frenzy, much like whatever disgusting beast had done them.
This would surely draw attention.
Draken picked up a bag of septims on the table, and murmured something about giving it away to Marent. He whispered something about not finding Durus anywhere among the bodies.
Who is Durus? No matter! We must do something! Now!
"Burn it," I suggested, and after a pause I told him to do it. "Burn this entire place down!"
"What?" Draken was confused. "Burn it? Anyone can see the fire miles away! You would draw every villager here! We came on horseback, remember? We do not want anyone seeing us riding back."
"There is no concealing this! Look at the mark on their necks! Do you smell that? A vampire did this!" I said, pointing at the bodies. "Look—"
"Look around you! Burning this house—and their bodies—would confuse them! We set them to the torch, there would be no way for them to find out if it was an accident or arson. It is far better for them to speculate than to come to this fact. What if this spreads like a disease? The danger of contagion is high—"
"Word reached the Imperial City. One of them managed to get caught in Marent's trap out in the woods. By the time he had reached it the sun had already burnt it to dust. He has addressed this to others. I was informed earlier this evening they might call vampire hunters to investigate."
My mouth fell, and for a long space I was unable to reply. A sudden fury rushed to my face and I realized the extreme idiocy of my naked emotion. "Earlier this evening you say? Did you tell father? Why am I just now hearing about this!?"
The ceiling creaked before Draken could reply. We both looked up, and to our dismay there was something lurking on the beams! The creature snarled behind a batlike hideous face that was forever robbed of all semblance of humanity. Bloodshot eyes glowed at us. A vicious scream devolved into piercing wail of a beast sans any mind. This was no Imperial man. This was a hunched and soulless monster with a bottomless yearning for bloodshed.
Bloody Oblivionspawn! I cursed silently. I backed away, almost bumping into Draken. We must burn this place down! Right away!
The vampiric fiend dropped down to where we were, and we both sprung into action.
The pair of vampires found plenty, but not the succulent bandits they had hoped to find for feeding.
Nice job of showing us Raven’s keen vampiric senses in several ways during their travel.
’This was me not so long ago, I thought. During that ceremony.’
- - a chilling detail indeed.
Well, there goes the neighborhood, as distant vampiric cousins come squatting on Decumus Castle lands. This is quite concerning to the noble siblings I’m sure since their family works so hard to mask their nature and live among mortal neighbors without complications or interference.
It seems like Draken and Raven must become Vampire Slayers.
I loved your description of Raven sensing the night and its denizens in all their tessellated glory.
There was also the fact that feeding was messy and bloodstains were easier to hide on dark fabrics
I loved this bow to practicality. White is definitely a bad color for vampires. Unless they have a lot of bleach...
Raven's observations about her brother are quite telling.
Potema! An excellent name for a mount!
I have a feeling this is going to be a very bad night for that vampiric fiend!
Simply amazing! Easily the best chapter yet! Watching Raven and her brilliant mind piece together what was bothering Draken was amazing, and I loved the bit about how she goes into his room and just examines everything without touching it because there is still much to be learned from what you see. Brilliant!
Again, your description of their vampiric nature doesn't fail to impress, seeing Raven's senses and how much she really takes in was spectacular.
For a minute I thought that maybe they were dealing with a werewolf since the body was torn to shreds with claw marks, though I assumed they would smell a werewolf, but then if it was a werewolf the house would have been way more destroyed. Then of course we discover the culprit right at the end! With his hideous appearance one has to wonder what strain of vampirism is he??
Acadian: Not exactly what they were searching for.
I think the primary problem for any vampire of a clan like the Order, or even the Volkihar, are other vampires. For various reasons they don't like to share, and don't take kindly to their less esteemed brethren running around causing mayhem. Vampires like Janus Hassildor and Sybille Stentor come to mind.
Subrosa: Great song! I enjoyed it! Heh, the comments had me laughing!
Honestly I debated whether or not I wanted to give detail to Raven's perception of the night; it was something we're always seeing in media and books when it comes to vampires, but I felt it was necessary to add, only because vampires in the TES world, even the ones who dislike their condition, seem to comment on how beautiful the night was.
I often wondered why vampires always wore black, and let's be honest and admit that plenty of the vampires we see in media always wear it for no reason other than, well, being dark and 'edgy'. It made sense in a logical standpoint to explain why Raven prefers to wear black(hides bloodstains, easier to blend in at night, etc), though by no means ONLY wears black. White would not work well!
Raven has a sharp mind, and as her father might say, she's "too bright for her own good". She's always privy to things that may seem unorthodox or out of the ordinary. Draken's behavior certainly is.
Potema is one of Raven's favorite historical figures. Historical being relatively speaking. The events of this story take place not too long after the Wolf Queen.
Let us find out!
BretonBlood: Raven spends the majority of her time at her castle, while Draken spends a good amount of time away. She's intrusive and curious, especially where Draken's concerned.
Werewolves would be the first guess for anyone, but there are certain creatures that have an appetite as strong as a lycanthrope. He is of a different strain.
Previously on Order Vampyrum: Draken and Raven find Marent Plavius' house in shambles; there were no survivors. The two vampires are ambushed by another blood-sucking foe.
Once human and now a shambling atrocity, the creature before us snarled in a gargled voice yet its hideous tongue denied it the luxury of mortal speech. Despite this nightmarish situation, I refused to give into fear. I was a Decumus and a Daughter of Coldharbour. I would not disgrace my family nor Lord Molag Bal by being massacred as easily as a frightened deer taken down by a lion. I would die on my feet if I had to, while looking at my killer square in the face.
The creature growled as it measured both of us with murderous intent.
A fierce snarl filled my ears. It took me a second to realize that it came from my own throat.
I required no further prompting. In a blur of motion, I spun and formed sliced razor-sharp shards of purple-black crystal fragments and sent them at the creature with the full heat of my fury.
A spinning shard sung before my palms, slicing through the smoky air and striking my brutish target in the arm. The creature howled in pain and glared back us. Little trace of humanity remained in this Imperial's monstrous features. Those molten eyes peered out with hunger from beneath a sloping brow. A fleshy mouth grimaced.
Wincing in pain, the creature ducked before I cast another purple projectile.
So this is the creature that has been terrorizing the countryside?
It stalked forward, swatting furniture out of the way, aching for the kill, needing it. Draken prepared a ball of flame, as crystal fragments formed in my hand, ready to fly into this monster's skull.
This, I said to myself, would be too easy.
As if ill-luck was summoned by my thought, the fiend vanished into thin air, my flying shards slicing past the corner where it once stood. Before I could recover from this, an invisible battering ram smashed into my back and sent me across the room—
And dumped me headfirst four feet over to the dining area unceremoniously like a sack of potatoes. I laid there, half stunned, coughing, wind knocked completely out of me, glaring at the group of constellations that wheeled around my head but cast light into the gloom around me.
The night’s already off to a bad start, and I have not even fed yet!
Draken picked up a rusty blade from the hands of one of the dead, and dived in to pierce the creature, but the beast hissed a challenge and lashed out with a backhand swipe that was amazingly hard and fast that my brother never saw it coming. The impact must have rung a huge bell in his skull as he was sent flying through the air, smashing furniture apart, twisting and tumbling until he crashed near the fireplace.
He landed with such force that his head struck with a meaty crunch. He lost his grip on the blade, and the sword slipped away from his fingers as he lay there, without thought or action.
An all-consuming wrath possessed me. The palm of my hands flared in repetition as I cast more crystals skulls at the creature—one, two, three!—and a burst of dark fragments caught it across the chest. Does that hurt, you foul thing? I thought with fierce vindication, savoring the agonized expression on that parasite's face. I hope it burns like Oblivion!
The reeling blood-sucker stumbled and and staggered into a wall. The spinning pieces sliced through the room and into the monstrous fiend. The creature staggered, and within the span of a second it vanished into thin air.
I did the same, wrapping myself in the Embrace of Shadows as I launched myself overhead to hang on the wooden beams above me. Not long after the creature appeared where I once stood, expecting me to have been there.
Despite those shards, I fully intended to slay the creature the proper way: with a proper cleansing of fire and silver. I whispered words into the air, and two blades winked into existence and into my empty hands.
Scarlet and shadow-colored swords from the farthest reaches of Oblivion brought into my world. Impossibly light, superbly formed, and profoundly bloodthirsty. Daedric entities made manifest into tools.
My mental focus was ebbing away as my magical reserves began to dissipate, and the creature was a moment away from discovering me. My eyes scanned everywhere and anywhere, frantic and searching. I found myself looking at jumbled piles of broken furniture, an unconscious brother, and shattered glass surrounding the house. And that—that there—that looked like it could have been a body . . . one of the victims of these monstrosities.
My hand stretched toward Julia Plavius' body outside, and it clenched, staying that way. For one long, long moment I merely stroked the air, feeling her body's shape under my fingers, listening to the potential shivers my cold touch brought to this cadaver, allowing unseen resonances to connect inside my head until they settled into harmony like a fine bard checking the tuning of her instrument.
And at the same time, I drew once more on the power of Oblivion. I gathered perception, and clairvoyance and siphoned into myself the instinctive, subconscious necromancer's intuition has always been an important part of my abilities. And then I began.
Plucking a Daedric entity from whatever-bloody-realm-in-Oblivion, I tossed it at the dead body on a punctuated rhythm like a beating heart which skipped a beat. The hungry beast would find me, and try to kill me, but a bard focuses on perfecting her song as much as the satisfaction of her audience. I stroked the Daedric entity in a sequence, making my song the theme of this impromptu show.
And the true inspiration, the sparkling grace note of genius that brought my corpse to life, was this fine tune: the body of Julia Plavius rose with the Daedric entity inside, and by my distant command, she moved, dispensing and bathing herself with the contents of a nearby oil lamp after breaking it upon her head. The creatures—sensing a mortal—cast its undivided attention to the reanimated woman walking into the house.
Julia's body moved as if she were alive.
The creature answered her call.
This was art. The Dark Arts.
I had no interest in common acceptance that this was an immoral or evil practice. Not here. Not now. Not ever. As long as I existed, I would not bow anyone that said otherwise. It was just the opposite: I seized upon the power Dark Practice with an absolute refusal to fail, and a stark need to win.
Julia's body entered the house.
The creature pounced.
The zombie was crushed by the revenant. It found her blood—what was left of it—more appealing than mine.
Now, I sung the final song, the final line, as I brought together my hands. I moved closer, staggered a bit, but the blistering energy that formed from my grasp only intensified.
I fed the power of destruction magic with my anger, and out came the fireball that depleted all of my energy reserves.
The swirling great ball of fire swooshed through the air, and straight toward the creature and its prey, igniting the oil and broken timbers, which burst into an explosion like a vampire in the sun. Smoke gushed from its torn clothing. The creature wailed like a wraith as it was cremated in gouts of molten skin and charred bone. Nothing stood between us now but empty air, and a flank of rising fires.
I had not a second to spare. I dived forward from my perch and buried the Daedric blades deep into the monster's chest. It struggled to stand but could only rise to its knees. It was being devoured by the fire. It was the fire. Layers of flesh melted like tallow down its body. Skin peeled away. Heat contracted its lips, making the the blood-sucker's grin more hideous and frightening. Smoky fumes rose from the creature's body, which was scorched and blackened beyond recognition. Its mouth snapped tight as it convulsed once, and at last crumbled to dust.
I felt the excruciating heat of the flames upon my own pale features. Both aghast and fascinated by what has happened to the undead beast, I had tried to keep on watching, if only to be able to report what had transpired to my father, but the flames grew so bright that I had to look away.
A second went by and I stepped back, eyes wide, dust-caked blood matting my black hair where somehow my skull had split, down to the blood seeping from my arms, which dangled beside me as my swords blinked out of my realm and back into one of the planes.
How many more to go?
I stared at the walls and ceiling of the modest home, but all I could see was the raging inferno. Tongues of fire licked upward from all sides, thick columns of smoke started to pile upward like great black pillars.
On the other side of the house Draken opened his eyes, rolling over to spit blood onto the wooden floor. He shielded his eyes, as the entire place was far too bright for any of us to see clearly.
"Draken! Over here!" I shouted. "Draken! We must leave!"
My brother was dazed as his senses returned to him. He realized at last with growing horror that the entire house was ablaze. He gasped and smoke filled his mouth, sending him into a paroxysm of coughing. I closed the distance between us, eager to find a way to escape this fiery deathtrap.
We made haste to the entrance.
A scorching blast of heat and smoke drove us back toward the front door, but that was consumed entirely by the fires. My clothes and hair felt singed, and if we did not move, we would both be piles of ash on the floor. We turned back raced through the upper levels of the house. Draken shoved me ahead of him, even still I felt the heat of the flames hot against my back. It was as though I was trapped in a dragon’s lair, with the wyrm's scorching breath bearing down on us, like arms reaching to gather us in.
“Just follow me!” Draken shouted over the roar of the fire as he pulled me away from the crackling orange conflagration, which chased after us as if it were alive. Draken threw up his hand to protect his face from the searing heat while his other hand held mine. I could see the swirling orange and yellow flames reflected in Draken's red eyes.
We sagged against each other, overwhelmed by the severe heat and smoke. There must be a way out—
The floor underneath our feet shifted. My shoes lost contact with the slippery blood-ridden floor as we were both yanked down into a yawning pit that swallowed us both. Gravity seized us and we collapsed a short way below the house, crashing upon the first level and down further still. A mortal would have broken a limb or two, but I managed to stick a landing somewhat nimbly.
Draken did the same.
To my amazement, I found myself standing between a row of large wine casks. Debris and sparks sprinkled over my head, settling around us. A wine cellar, I thought with grudging admiration.
Dusting myself up, I looked around in mild curiosity. Grateful to be away from the inferno. The faint glow of the fire above us entered the cellar through the gap in the ceiling, which cast the chamber below in a better light. Though for a wine cellar, the pungent scent of garlic polluted the air. I could have choked on the stench.
Draken grabbed my arm and pulled me away from hole above us where the raging fires still roared.
"Please be more judicious in your use of fire spells!" He admonished. "We almost died!"
Beneath the icy exterior in which I wrapped myself, I was rather thrilled to see my brother alive and well, but that was not an emotion I wished to convey at this moment. There was pressing concerns.
"I killed that thing," I remarked, casting him a frosty gaze. "It looked like a vampire but—those victims—it fed on their flesh. Devoured some of them to the marrow. Whatever it was, it was not part of our clan, let alone the same bloodline. There could be more of these things out there—How is your head?"
Draken looked pained and it was not the injury on his skull. "I was taken by surprise."
"Quite right, quite right," I said to him, taking a full measure of our surroundings. "We both were. We need to know if there are any more of these creatures, and where they came from! Father needs to know—"
What is that?
My words were cut short as I listened. The relative silence was replaced by an ear-pounding noise, the racing of a heart and breathless pants issuing from a gaping mouth from behind a wine cask—which opened wide from within. Wine did not flow from it, but rather, a mortal man!
I could drink from that just the same.
It was dark but I saw him as clear as day: olive-skinned in appearance, with nervous, rodent-like features and a bald crown with hair all around it. Holding a torch, he looked about curiously until he saw us. Then he was petrified.
"You there!" Draken said. "Wait!"
The man looked at Draken and said nothing, but when he looked at me, all color drained from his face. He was too frightened to form a coherent response. As I flashed him a predatory smile, the man yelped in fright, spun around and vanished back into the wine cask, which I saw lead into a passageway somewhere.
"Who was that?" Draken looked confused, as was I.
I grimaced as I stalked forward. "Some dead man. I hate it when they do that."
Draken was already preparing to follow. "When they do what?"
"Turn and flee for no reason." I muttered.
"There is always a reason, Raven."
"That is why I hate it."
Wonderful job! What made this fight work was how both Raven and Draken initially underestimated their foe – and paid for it. Then however, Raven found her stride with her shards, invisibility and necromantic magic. After the fight, she refused to repeat her mistake of complacence as she scanned and prepared for additional foes. Her firestorm carried the day – and almost herself and Draken with it as the pair barely escaped into the cool wine cellar below.
What’s this? A mortal? Is he to be the midnight snack the vampiric duo still seek? Where does this passageway lead? I look forward to finding out.
Indeed the fight was very well written. I get the feeling you pulled some of Raven's moves from ESO, there is a dark crystal spell in that, it was the first thing I thought of when she was launching them at this blood sucking fiend. Speaking of which, I cannot wait to see which clan he is apart of, the fact that he also feeds on their flesh is interesting, it escapes me which clan that is but I vaguely remember that being mentioned...
They were fortunate enough to escape into the cellar, although not so fortunate for the the mortal man I am thinking. I sense Raven is about to become less powerful. But I am also curious to see where this passageway leads them, there are many possibilities.
The monster lurking in the ceiling rafters made me think of The Lurking Fear, by HP Lovecraft, which has a ghoul that does the same thing.
A very ferocious and fun fight as they duel with invisibility. I loved your description of the bound swords.
Also a very interesting way of working necromancy, in that it is a daedra that animates the corpse, not its own former spirit, or a spiritless husk. It works really well for Raven, as you have clearly shown that her magic (nearly) always goes back to that daedric root.
Raven's use of a fire spell might have been ill-conceived. But I did love how you tied that into their discovery of the wine cellar, and the mortal down there, and finally the secret passage which he used to escape. I wonder where that leads to?
Little trace of humanity remained in this imperial's monstrous features
I am thinking you meant for Imperial to be capitalized.
I fully intended to slay [the] creature the proper way
Your 'the' went invisible where I added it.
Acadian: Draken and Raven have been trained in swordplay, but they've never faced a feral creature like this before. There's an aspect of unpredictability when it comes to facing off against a feral animal that even young purebloods like them are caught unawares.
Fire is dangerous to vampires. Very lethal. But it can also serve to cleanse and burn away, which Raven believed would be useful here. She also believed she killed two birds with one stone; the creature, and any trace of vampires involved. We'll see if that will help the situation or not.
BretonBlood: Plenty of Raven's abilities and powers come from ESO. It made sense since both of her parents were alive during the time of the Interrgnum, which by the time of this story is ancient history. There are arts and spellcraft that have been lost in history, yet Raven's father was able to pass down and teach her and Draken a few things many people had no easy access to.
Bloodfiends are vampires that go feral, and are known to eat flesh as well as drink blood.
Heh. Raven did not leave her lair for any other reason than to feed.
I am ashamed to say I have never read that before! Ghouls lurking about is a terrifying indeed. I'll make sure to check that book out. I've read on google that it is a shortstory, but a very great one.
Thanks! Raven originally carried swords with her but I realized her character is subtle in many ways, including her fighting prowess. She's not the type of woman to walk around carrying swords, not when she can literately cast them into existence. She is free to explore, attend parties, visit towns knowing she absolutely needed to fight, she could use bound weapons.
Conjuration and necromancy come hand in hand. As a matter of fact some consider it to be a subset of conjuration since it can involve summoning spirits from Oblivion. Raven likes make things more convenient. Her primary schools are conjuration, necromancy, destruction. Illusion comes naturally almost, since she's a vampire. But through most of her youth she's been fascinated and drawn by the Daedra, to the point of literally being killed and changed by a Daedric Prince.
Raven feared discovery. The Plavius' were well-known in the area, and the deaths in the countryside had already drawn too much attention from people at a vampire menace. Her father's instilled a certain belief in her as we'll come to see more about. She thought it prudent to at least burn the place lest others discover the bodies. Its harder to speculate on what caused a fire, and why than it is to find bodies half-eaten by some monster. I think Raven tried to make it more difficult. Will this work in her favor, though?
Previously on Order Vampyrum: Upon being ambushed by a bloodfiend, the two vampires fight off the creature. Raven was able to use one of the corpses to burn the house down before killing the creature, and as the flames consume the Plavius' home, Raven and Draken discover a wine cellar . . . and a man hiding there.
I had seen better nights.
Every inch of my fine velvet garments and polished jewelry were coated with blood, scorch marks, and grime. The fabric was soaked completely through with blood that leaked from the wound on my head; had I been a mortal man, I would have succumbed to my injury. My hair stuck to my skull, which throbbed with a burning pain that reminded me of that creature's lucky blow before my sister had taken its unholy life away. A great shame that beast killed Marent and his family. A terrible tragedy.
At least that wretched monster is dead for good, I thought, although that came as meager comfort at the moment. It would seem we are not the only ones that have encountered a vampire and lived.
We followed the mortal into the secret passageway as a high-pitched scream tore its way out of the man's throat. He raced through the path he had just came through, fleeing from the both of us. A longsword swung side to side from his belt in a leather scabbard as he shouted.
"Maker! The lungs on this one!" Raven said as she trailed behind him. "Should have been a minstrel."
All I could remember was how the man eyed me and my sister doubtfully when he first saw us.
Could I blame the man? Raven looked monstrous. I look a very mess myself, I realized, gathering my strength to pursue him further. While the flames from the house had left smoking patches on my clothes, and my skin was intact, I still felt in dire need of some rest, among other things. My skin was clammy and wet with cold blood beneath my torn and useless trappings. My throbbing head felt as if Raven's scalpel was probing around my brain. Thirsty and in need for that replenishing nectar, I forced myself to focus as we followed him through the path that led into a dark tunnel. Perhaps this man could give some of his blood, but I did not have the fortitude or the mental acuity to calculate the proper amount.
"Wait," I called out. The man wasted no time in unsheathing the blade from his scabbard, and gaining speed, as if he could not wait to leave both us and the tight confines of this corridor. His sword caught the ceiling in his hasty effort, and it slipped from his fingers to clatter on the ground. Raven got a hold on it before he could.
He was lost now, torn between facing us and going back the way he came.
Wonder if he knows something we do not, I thought, watching as he fumbled about his robes, murmuring prayers and muttering the names of the Divines. He produced a dagger that glowed with some manner of enchantment, but even that fell from his nerveless fingers.
I wasted no time, and dived in to retrieve the dagger before he could hurt us. Though I picked it up by the hilt, it felt as if the blade itself dug into my flesh. I felt the fine touches of it scrape against the palm of my hand, gnawing at my skin. Then came a searing pain as my hand began to blister and steam, burning with the pain of a thousand suns. I cried out as the item clattered to the ground.
"This consecrated blade is not for your kind, Dark One." He shouted. "Evil thing! Never shall you wield this!"
A priest? I thought. My throbbing hand burned like red-hot coals. Raven pointed the sword at him as she kicked offending dagger away from us. Or perhaps he is a monk.
"Akatosh! Dibella! Stendarr!" he proclaimed. "Protect me!"
His brown robe gave hint to his calling, while his tonsured skull shone like an egg beneath the torch he carried. An amulet of Stendarr rested on his chest, and his rubescent complexion grew ever more scarlet as he spewed his venomous words without end. "Back, Oblivion-spawn! Sinner! Back to the grave that spawned you!"
Raven seemed to find his words amusing. A heartless smirk lifted high the corners of her pallid lips. "Sinner? You must be a perfect godly man, then."
"None of us are perfect, ancient creature, but my darkest sins are not nearly as black as yours."
"Ancient? You mistake us. We are modernity personified. This game we are playing is tedious," Raven stated flatly. “And you must know that I am not a good loser. Come closer, let us talk."
With a soft wail, breathing heavily, and with one hand on the torch and another wrapped around his amulet, the man tried to distance himself from us. In shaken tones he added: "Back foul temptress! Back! I'll kill you just like I killed that other one—” But then he made a futile gesture with his hand, stepping back further, and wrenched from his throat a few words that made Raven pause in her advancement. "No matter how many of those things you create, you won't be strong enough to take over!" He paused, lips trembling. Voice wavering. "I'll take my own life before you turn me into one of you!"
“'Other one'?” I said. "What are you saying, there are more of us?"
"Get back!" he answered. "Stendarr!"
"Calm yourself," Raven whispered after awhile. "We shan't kill you. We want to help. We need to know what are you running from?"
"You burned that house down," he said. "You slaughtered them, didn't you? Like you massacred those poor souls in that dungeon!"
I took a step forward, angered by his to blatant accusation. "It is true. They are dead. Marent, Julia and all the others, but not by our hand. Those flames killed the creature that took their lives. I need to know if there are more of them! What dungeon?"
The monk blinked in horrified amazement, like a man trapped in a never-ending nightmare. He struggled to form words, realizing that we have not killed him yet. "A nest of vampires, or don't you know? Not part of your brood, are they?"
Despite his defiant attitude, the man seemed like he could not help but feel uneasy in the presence of a puissant woman like Raven as she raised a calming hand.
"Nonsense. We are not the same as those animals." I insisted. In truth, I resented being compared to such a creature, but, being mindful to the situation, I kept my tone suitably neutral. “We are pure vampire and they are no more than a diluted bloodline. They’re mindless, ravenous thin-blooded beasts. No brethren of ours."
I spoke with utmost sincerity and from the heart. As a nobleman, rather than some adventurer or warrior, I had never had occasion to hunt other vampires, but now that I was nearly killed by one, I knew I would not feel a hint of remorse should I dealt a blow to one of them. Indeed, I had spent the better part of the year to learn to come to terms with this new life—and to understand my horrific ancestry. That I had now, perhaps, might literally take arms against the loathsome undead fiends struck me as both fitting and something to be proud of, especially under the circumstances. And as far as I was concerned, even a mortal's life was held greater value than that of any thin-blooded creature.
But the verbal revelation of my condition all but sealed this man's fate.
"Creature," the man said, shaking his head. "You're all the same."
"Believe what you want," Raven said, discerning doubt in his expression. She raked her gaze across his quivering, perspiring features. "But you are alive, and in one piece. Most mortals that cross paths with vampires die or face a fate said to be worse than death. The disease some of our kind transmit, if left untreated, will kill you until you become one of us. You have not been bitten, have you?"
"Don’t talk to me about diseases!" he said. "I know of this more than anyone. You think you're like me? You may speak like a human but you aren't. Don't pretend to care. If you're going to take my life, get on with it."
“No, I am not human,” she said sharply, the man's tone eliciting an impatient scowl. "I do not believe I ever was completely human. But I do concern myself with your well-being, to a point. It would be unfortunate if you became a vampire—I would have to kill you for trespassing." She stepped closer. “But you have seen us. What we are. By rights, I should kill you here and now and dispose your body. But that would not bear any fruit, would it? Nor would insulting us with your empty words. Now, tell us, who are you? Tell us what is out there or you will rue the day you walked into this mess."
"Never, foul creature—"
Raven moved—a blur in motion—and a second later the man was looking down in alarm at the length of a silver blade pointed at his throat. Raven glared at him with her hungry gaze, her unsatisfied face only inches from his own. Cold but bright dead eyes threatened him with an instant death. His torch dropped next to his feet.
"A mortal has between nine and twelve pints of blood in his body," she said. "You, I sense, have quite an abundance of it."
"What of it?"
"Well, it will not do me any good sitting in that body of yours." Her lips peeled back, revealing pearl-white fangs that teased at his neck. "Your stubbornness is taxing my civility. Who are you?"
The monk grasped her meaning, perhaps regretting taunting us earlier.
His brain seemed to race feverishly to fashion an appropriate answer. Perhaps he would tell us, or ignore her request. Either case, it was difficult to think clearly with a sword at his throat.
Better think fast, monk, I thought, for all of our sakes. Plavius' burning house will no doubt bring others to investigate, and the man's escape from whatever threat out there would surely lead enemies in our direction. He tarried, not answering quickly enough for my sister, who snicked his skin with the sharp edge of the sword. A trickle of blood ran down his neck, mixing with the cold sweat breaking out of his flesh.
Fearing for his life, the monk broke his silence. "Brot—broth—brother Gaubert of Anticlere. I came to stay at the Weynon Priory. I haven't been a brother for long. A year."
"Why have you come here?” I asked, eyeing his manners and attire as I took a step next to my sister. I made the man aware that the murderous look in my eyes meant that lying to us would be very much against his well-being. I looked around at the path he had taken. "Where does this lead to?"
"This path leads to a well just outside of Fort Wooden Hand. There's been rumors of some unholy work in these parts. I came here alone to cleanse and purify the place. I was captured by two vampires and taken there to be their cattle. That is all, I swear!"
Raven withdrew the blade by just a hair. "You were 'taken'. You are saying the vampires that took you were capable enough to do so? Could they speak?"
"Yes, clearly. Just as we are speaking," Gaubert said. "Said they needed cattle. Plenty of cattle.' They have captured others prisoners. Kept us in individual, isolated cells. Every day they would come for one of us. The screams I heard . . . some were turned, the others were not so fortunate."
"Something does not make sense," I said, recalling the vampiric threat we fought moments ago. "A creature up there in that house was incapable of speech or thought beyond instinct. It was feral."
"Some of them go mad, turn into some hunched, maddened bloodfiends. The matriarch and patriarch controls them. Uses them as fodder for their growing forces." Gaubert eyed her with a suspicious look.
Raven and I traded glances. We made little effort to disguise our contempt and suspicion.
"Strange," I said. "That they would send an inexperienced man like you to investigate. Monks do not go adventuring into the wild to slay monsters."
Gaubert went silent, lost in thought. A twinge of sadness and anger painted his features dark. "They didn't. They didn't trust my capabilities. Said I wasn't much good. They wanted me to stay, and 'do my duties', instead of wandering around seeking glory. Guess I should have listened. I'm as good as dead anyway."
Raven nodded, accepting his answer. As did I, for I did not question the sincerity of his response. It seemed the man went to Weynon Priory for a purpose, and was denied his desires. I always thought the same of my father, I mused, seems we are both disappointments.
But we can both change that. Starting now.
I digested the man's words as I stole a glance at Raven and watched her peeved but charming face furrow in delightful merriment as she stared at Gaubert, with the same ingénue and wonder-struck enchantment of a child who has discovered some strange new animal, a jester, or found some new marvel. I had a difficult time envisioning her sparing his life, and as she took a few measured steps to him, I felt his seconds were all but counted.
As children of the Kin-father Molag Bal, and as vampiric tradition doth dictate, fangs and hypnotic eyes set ablaze, those of my kind and clan reveled in the feast, and of the thrill of the hunt. Like the flames Raven unleashed, violence in our lives had a tendency to persist. But violence was not always the course of action. Raven valued discretion, the intricate subtleties of our condition.
"I will not kill you," Raven said in a lyrical voice. "There may be some use to you. You need to tell us more if we are able to help you, but first you need to tell us. Away from here."
"Why would I help you?"
"What if I told you I can erase all of your pain? Regrets? Give you place to rest with good food to eat and fine wine to drink for the rest of yours days?" Raven raised a hand, and her eyes locked with the Gaubert's. He was unable to look away, though he tried. Surely he knew what would become of him. "You could become a new man."
Raven had cast her hand toward him like a fisherman casting a line. He walked back but lost his footing, staring up at her, being drawn by her hold.
"Yes, I can feel your defenses shattering like glass. You want this to end. You want to give in to me. All will be fine. Now, Gaubert, acknowledge me as your master!"
He stood in respectful silence, as if hypnotized.
Raven's hands gripped his head and shoulder, her demanding grasp leaving his pliant flesh exposed. For a moment the man's compliant lips quivered on a broken wisp of air, faltering—"I'll—do as you—you ask, master—" with an obedience-haunted sense of futility, childish, uncontrollable, as his mind fell servant to Raven's will.
She opened her mouth wide on jaw-hinges like a serpent yawning, and fastened on the man's throat, puncturing the skin with her pointed incisors. With a light bite, she rapturously unloosed the flood of blood, ignoring the grime, sweat, low murmurs and groans coming from him.
She fed on the man, blood trickling gently from his neck in little red rills. He said nothing as he grimaced with a sort of lopsided, reflective expression on his features, part agony, part dream, as if in this mindless stillness all his joys, merriment, worries and pains were being drained away along with his blood.
Raven's complexion transformed.
Her pale skin took on a livelier hue, and the blue web of veins and cracked, dead skin disappeared as if it had been graced by a miraculous and restorative staff; I watched the change: unlike the walking portrait of undeath she had presented moments before, her skin was becoming more ruddy and flushed, her expression in high spirits and satisfaction at the blood rushing through her body. It was possible almost to feel the power of her elation; how it flowed from her entirety in little shimmers and quakes—in the sparkle of her chestnut eyes, and in her red animated lips, and in the rapturous warmth that colored her rich cheeks pink like a newborn. This jouissance, together with the supple aspect on that refulgent face, was something that in my disheveled hungry condition I found altogether inviting. Even more so with the wound on my head that needed healing.
She looked completely and indistinguishably human. A young mortal woman, though the undeniable air of superiority clouded her.
It was a display of sheer dominating authority of willpower; it was almost regal; how Gaubert of Anticlere seemed to shrivel and bend before my sister's vampiric seduction like a frail tree in a gale.
Beguiled, unabashed, and alert, Gaubert bowed his head in deference. "What is your desire, master," he started, "If I can be of service—”
"Accompany us to Castle Decumus. You will explain to my father all that you know about these vampires—" Raven began to say as she cleaned her mouth with a cloth. "And their weaknesses, their plans, everything."
That would take time. Time we could otherwise exploit now to destroy them. If they spread their disease any further, untold numbers would be affected. I had known the Plavius' for years and years, yet the smoldering ruin behind us left no doubt our peaceful neighbors had been eliminated forever, and many more would follow if we did not act efficiently.
No doubt father would be proud if I returned home with glorious news.
"No." I said. "I say we catch them off-balance now. Wipe them out in their nest."
"I will not do such thing," Raven said, then she caught her breath, staring at me as though I had grown another head. "I have obtained what I came for. Legionnaires and villagers are no doubt on their way to investigate the fire, and Fort Wooden Hand is just short of a mile from this house. That will be the first place they flock to when they investigate. Let them deal with the vampires. If there are any survivors, father will know how to best take care of them. We must not get involved."
"I think we should destroy these monsters!” I said. "Imagine fifty of those things out there! It is our duty—"
“No, this has nothing to do with duty!” she said quickly. “This is your bloody pride talking. You want to please father to make up for whatever mistakes you have conjured up in that little tumultuous mind of yours, and indulge in a bit of revenge for that wound that creature left in your head. What good is revenge if the entire godsforsaken population knows that the son of Crassus is out gallivanting in dusty ruins filled with bodies and vampires? Would it do you any good if they connect you to the fire that consumed Plavius' house, which, I shall add, burned all the bodies and erased any trace of vampiric involvement. You do not even know what manner of vampires they are!"
"We are purebloods!"
"But we are not ancient, for all we know they could be, and very well have powers we cannot comprehend as much as experience. We do not know their numbers, nor the fortress itself. It would be far wise to wait. Father has always told us that the hand of society serves us best as tools to further our agendas, and in such case, let the witchhunters and crusaders hunt them down for us."
For a moment Raven was so agitated that I shared a bit of her concern. But she obviously was determined to leave the matter as it was—and she tried to. Yet I was unable to stop. Something had to be done. "Do as you please, Raven. Go on, take your thrall, go and inform father."
"I shall," she said as she began walking toward the path that led out into the wilderness. "The sooner the better. I can return back to my studies while you play at being a vampire hunter."
I was appalled at my sister's distorted priorities. Did she not realize that there were more important things at risk here? Even after all these years she has not let go . . .
"You can drown in your studies for all eternity, Raven, but you of all people should understand that no arcane secret can bring mother back. Do not be consumed by the past. There is no reversing it."
My sister's steel gaze fastened on me, and she dropped the sword that was in her hand. Her brow furrowed. She turned around and walked off with Gaubert at her side. Her voice echoed through the tunnel. "Keep that sword, brother. A desperate, vainglorious man on a fool's errand will need all the help he can get."
Once the pair of vampires got the situation under control by cornering the young priest, it was fascinating to watch as Raven put her full range of illusion-enhanced charm to work to enthrall her new mobile lunch box. Rivetingly described!
Regarding how to proceed, I see some merit in both the disparate viewpoints held by Draken and Raven. That said, I find myself siding with Raven here – things will get taken care of by mortals as she describes, yet the subtlety and distance that serve her secretive family so well are retained.
I love the minstrel remark.
A nice touch of the longsword being too big to use in the narrow passageway. I was thinking that right before he lost the sword.
Looks like the dagger is also a holy symbol. Ouch!
Nice use of the term thin-blood.
It looks like Raven means to make Gaubert a new cattle for Castle Ravenloft. Now that is killing two birds with one stone.
I have to agree with Raven, in that caution is advised before assaulting a lair of unknown vampires, who seem to have some unusual abilities.
Another great chapter. I really enjoyed all the vampire characteristics that you keep building and expanding upon in the story. For example, Draken being burned by the dagger, and how Raven's appearance changed as she fed. That was a great part of this chapter, I loved it! And then Raven using her powers of illusion and charm as a vampire to basically make poor Gaubert her thrall.
I am not sure who I side with because both make good points. Raven is smart for wanting to allow the mortals to settle the issue and that way Raven and Draken are not put in danger considering their overall lack of knowledge on the situation. However, Draken's viewpoint of wanting to go straight to the culprits and put an end to it now before it gets out of hand also makes sense.
Can't wait to see what happens next!
Acadian: Being a stage-four vampire grants them plenty of abilities, as well as a buffed-up version of powers they already have. Illusion is one of her natural skills, and she has an affinity for controlling the minds of others, even more so through her vampiric seduction.
As we will learn from Raven's point of view, Draken's mindset on doing things is a bit aggressive. He enjoys going in, and doesn't really share much her sense of secrecy. After having an encounter with Marent on the road, and later seeing him and his family dead, stirred something inside Draken; he wants to personally take these vampires out. Raven on the other hand came out of her lair for the sole reason to feed. She doesn't care much about what had happened to the extent where she would risk her own life. But risking her life for a member of her own family, well, that's an entirely different story.
Subrosa: Raven has a very different and sometimes subtle sense of humor. She can be snide.
Thanks! Gaubert, as we learned, is not too experienced with battle. He should have known that would have happened, but fear and panic sometimes muddies clear thinking and common sense.
Ah, thin-blood. It was used quite a lot in Skyrim by the vampiric overlords. It was a derogatory term to describe lesser vampires of a diluted bloodline. World of Darkness/Vampire:The Masquerade also uses this term for pretty much the same thing.
Gaubert will play an important role in the story, and there is a lot more to him than being just Raven's bloodbag. We will learn a bit of his history and religion, and see a bit more how vampire thralls work. The question is will he be a thrall forever?
Discretion is their greatest of virtues, and Raven's been well-schooled in the ways of her clan.
BretonBlood: I wanted to avoid info dumping everything into a single chapter, so periodically we'll see what abilities they have and the ones they lack. All vampires have weaknesses. The sun, fire, silver. But holy relics have also been an effective way to harm vampires. We've seen this in Daggerfall, Morrowind, ESO and Skyrim.
I felt it necessary to show Raven in her most monstrous form. That's the first time her appearance is explained in full detail through Draken's eyes. She's at a comfortable place, even when her most sinister attributes are out there, she doesn't really seem all that affected by it. Draken, on the other hand, is visibly trying to hold onto that human semblance at all times, even in the privacy of his own home. His thoughts on the Masque of Clavicus Vile, and the mirror scene is evidence to this. There's also the telling fact that he feels passionate at the moment about killing these vampires while Raven isn't.
Previously on Order Vampyrum: The mortal man is discovered to be Gaubert of Anticlere, a monk that was captured and kept as a prisoner in Fort Wooden Hand by a vampires. Raven makes him her thrall, and makes plans to return to the safety of her home. Draken, having seeing the carnage unleashed at Marent's home, decided to confront and kill these vampires.
The shadows of Fort Wooden Hand swallowed me as I left the moonlight behind and passed through the door with the silver sword in my possession. Having no scabbard, I hefted it on my shoulders as I crossed into the fortress, ready and primed for any immediate sign of danger.
No monsters greeted me, but the scent of their handiwork did. Deep from within came sweeping a dread stench: spilled blood and rotten flesh. I listened, walked further in the darkness, listened again, heard nothing but the rats scurrying in the corners. The malodorous smell of death assailed my nose.
I could only imagine what sights I would behold.
Climbing down the steps, I realized at once that the dimmed out torches cast the entire fort into darkness, but my eyes penetrated the shadows as easily as if it were day. The undeniable exhilaration of the hunt sent my blood racing; I almost wished I was blood-starved, so that I could savor the moment in the height of my abilities.
Several steps further in . . .
I saw them.
Mortal remains, dozens of them, in all their very specific members and variations, scattered about in a heinous meaty display as if in some butcher's shop. I stared in mounting unease at crimson skulls and bones and piles of fleshy remains that littered the spot.
I recalled Marent Plavius left behind in his burning home, and knew that every one of these bodies represented an individual killed by a potential menace lurking about. For all I knew, there were far more than just two vampires in this place. Perhaps Gaubert of Anticlere was mistaken in his haste to escape.
Perhaps, I thought as I walked over an outstretched hand all by its lonesome, this is a lair to a legion of them. That or these two vampires are filthy gluttons.
The sight of death was the sort of thing which in these conditions was to be expected, which one shielded one-self against, and which is at last excused, justified, or in the least ignored, in the same manner a vagabond or a beggar is ignored, or a minor discomfort in the posterior in public, or a scandalous political issue at a social gathering.
It was something I was use to. Raven especially.
From time to time—in dense forests, in old marauder-filled fortresses, beneath the bandit-infested caverns—my sister and I already confronted our share of mortal enemies: culling, feeding, sharpening, and immersing ourselves in the whiff of death. Away from prying eyes of the population, when encountering unruly malefactors, we were permitted to give the monster within us full reign, and potentially better ourselves as efficient hunters.
As time went, me and my sister both confessed to a healthy amount of the gut-wrenching scares and frights that any person felt at the prospect of battle. As vampires, we were told that in our many lifetimes, we would walk through Tamriel, and face deadly encounters in murky, danger-filled streams, come across ferocious monsters, scores of battle-hardened men, renegade mages, nests of vicious giant wasps, werewolves and all others. Though scared half out of my wits myself by the idea of these threats, my father had always told me to make a stout show of power and display no loss of nerve, lest we show any weakness.
As devout followers of Molag Bal—the Tormenter of Men—we had to therefore, paradoxically, appear the inflexible and indomitable while suffering the greatest cause of terror known to mortalkind.
In our youth, prior to being embraced and given the Dark Gift, we both had seen people butchered like calves in the heat of combat. Raven and I had discussed this at frequent growing up, with a certain wryness of tone appropriate to one ensnared in Daedric worship since the moment we could walk. Yet while we both admitting in freedom to feeling moments of fear, by our father's stern guidance we concluded that our need to exhibit coolness and composure made us, to a much greater extent, cool and composed, until fear started to manifest at the quickest arrival of mixed concerns and emotions.
Living as nobles, we were occupied nearly every day and never given a chance to be in a confrontation where we would be fearful. Though in our youth, we embraced the idea of combat, yearned for the perils it brought, and its challenges and thrill. After all, as vampires of the Order we were not meant to stay only in our sedentary administrative sinecure. For that we could have served Clavicus Vile alone.
My father told us we served for power, the tenacity, for the sense of besting death, bettering ourselves in any manner conceivable. And out of some almost inscrutable passion—the desire to kill—we embraced the giddiest ideal of immortality, the hunt, the blood. There was value in strength and boldness, and as much like my late mother we also valued guile and erudition. Both were powerful weapons of a follower of Molag Bal.
And yet the worship of the Father of Vampires was vilified throughout Tamriel, and painted in various shades, and hardly any of them light. Among his most faithful of disciples, one could find: the power-hungry, the sadists, the masochists, and blood-thirsty reprobates, and everything in between. To some, power is everything, and nothing else matters. To some, immortality is a great gift, no matter the cost.
To others, perhaps, it means one does not have to worry about their own indecisiveness, or making bad decisions because they are no longer are in control of what they do. There is no more worrying about risks, about bad choices, about the future, about anything that relies one thinking about themselves. To Bal, doubt and insecurity are for the weak-willed, but even those who are weak can be freed of their doubts and insecurities if they decide to fully pledge themselves to the strong.
I have pledged myself, I reflected, but why do I always feel so uncertain?
I stepped over the remains without a second glance, focusing on my training and abilities. My fingers rested on the cold grip of the silver sword, and my eyes traced the path of blood that led to one of the hallways into the fortress. Were there any survivors besides Gaubert? I thought. In the end, the vampires' dinner were of no consequence tonight, I resolved. Their wanton feeding was going to come to an end—permanently.
I stalked through the dark labyrinth like a hungry lion in search of his victim. I did not care where I was going, as long as it was toward them. Though I was a blood-soaked parody of my usual refined self, I held onto the silver sword for dear life, which was all that separated me from whatever lurked about.
A moan sounded into the tunnels.
I glanced around, cautious for the smallest hint of trouble, then turned my eyes back toward the shadowy path ahead as I made a detour into a corner. My undead heart missed a beat as I spotted a crouching figure only a few centimeters before me. I swallowed hard. My dry mouth became drier still. Bloody Oblivion, I was practically on top of the damn thing.
It looked like a man.
His back was to me, and he appeared to be rather occupied drinking the blood from the ravaged throat of some commoner. The drained bodies of two others lay crumpled on the ground nearby, pale as snow and left in the corner like a folded sack of potatoes. Avaricious biting and slurping sounds emanated from the slavering mouth of the preoccupied vampire as he feasted on a pauper wench.
He was not alone.
Vampires, three of whom I had never seen before, were joyously, blissfully drunk, parading overflowing velvet-stained pitchers and flagons of blood. The mingling of bloodshed and wicked freedom had set them suspended upon a cloud of delirium, their cackling and screeching seemed to ascend and echo throughout the fortress like a rancid gust of wind. It would seem they took sheer pleasure at the carnage, chewing and biting into things as if they were loaves of bread. One of them, a pallid khajiit fellow of around a young man's age with broken fangs, had so lost control of himself in bloodlust that he had took a misstep and poured the contents of his flagon all over himself.
I counted more of them. Four, five, seven . . .
Their misplaced sense of attire, such as it was, evidently had been torn from the cadavers of their victims and donned without the basest sense of decorum or propriety. It was obvious what I saw: the tattered remnants of dead wayfarers' woolen tunics, still torn where their sordid nails had slashed and tarnished them with their original wearer's blood. Other vampires wore mismatched variety of garments misappropriated from gods knew how many unfortunate victims: a priest's robe, some jester's motley, a nobleman's velvet silk coat, straw hats, ill-worn hose and doublets, diverse boots, shoes, and sandals. All of these worn in their singular state and in a desperate need of repair.
The vampires' behavior was beyond appalling. A couple of them gathered in a corner, gazing mindlessly at the dead they had brought, while the others provoked their ire by attempting to get their fangs wet. Others engaged in feasting of uncommon savagery, licking and biting and sucking bones off of the slain until their faces were smeared with the red nectar. Grunts, groans, shrieking and snarling and hissing pounded against my ears.
What manner of bestiality is this?
If I could I would have blushed with shame, humiliated to the deepest depths of my heart by my kinship to these barbarians. They are animals, I thought with growing bitterness. Nothing but animals.
Had I been in charge of this nest, I reflected, I would have seen to it that the entrance was better defended. There would have been sentries posted about, well equipped and properly trained in the use of weapons. There would have been a plan of evacuation set in stone, in anticipation of an extermination such as the one I would unleash, and a leader who knew better than to cavort in some filthy dungeon, giving into their basest instincts after drawing unwanted attention. Indeed, there was much that I would have accomplished otherwise—were I ever mad enough to throw in with such an unsavory lot.
Small wonder Gaubert of Anticlere slipped past them.
“What are you doing here, boy?” A voice blurted. A woman's voice.
I whirled behind me to see the demented, murderous, hunger-ravaged, creviced-face of a large blond-haired woman. Blue tattoos coiled around her neck and hairy arms in a serpentine fashion, and I have been to plenty of taverns to know a thick Nordic accent when I heard it. She snorted and wiped her blood-stained mouth, and glared at me with her glowing sun-colored eyes as she held a massive claymore. At once I was seized by reasonless fear.
This must be the Matriarch.
A hush fell over the fort as the rest of the nest watched the scene with expectancy.
Make no hasty movements, I thought. I did not even dare try to blink for fear of provoking the creature. She was close enough to slay me in an instant, and the only sane thing I could do now was flee. It was my decision to leave my sister and come here alone, and in a passing thought, I now regretted that decision. Armed with only a silver sword and my own resolve, I summoned a silent prayer to Molag Bal to give me power.
Strangely my thoughts were of my mother. I imagined her peaceful face, her serene visage. Forgive me, Raven, it seems I will see mother again soon. Oh, how you will envy me.
"I won't ask again. What are you doing here?”
The woman looked like she had once been beautiful before vampirism hideously morphed her countenance. For so long, it seemed, she had hidden in caverns and forts, grubbing whatever she could—even rats and lizards—feasting on the occasional mortal between times of pursuit by vampire hunters or rival clans; she had no doubt lived like a beast and now, streaked with blood, stinking, fangs bared behind peeled lips and underneath a nose ruined and bent like a flat spoon, it seemed to me that she was a beast—like a starved ice-troll or maddened senche-tiger—and the blood ran even colder in my veins. I felt that she at any given opportunity would go for my throat.
"You've walked into the wrong place." She said hoarsely with her vacant stare. "This is our hunting grounds. Leave."
The other ones laughed at her words, but I took their jeers in stride.
Even as she spoke I felt I was on the edge of capitulating to her, backing away, submitting. I was, to be certain, fearful of her, fearing that I could not control, nor dominate or bend her to my will; and it was this instinctive feeling that had caused me take a step backward while fuming on the inside. At the same moment, it was clear now that if I could channel my fury and need for self-preservation and somehow bury my blade into her pale flesh, I could dispose, perhaps, of all the rest. Yet all the time in out in Tamriel had not weakened her but rather had lent to her muscular and stalwart body furious verve and strength; the sinewy ripples along her pale tattooed arms trembled and sang with murderous power. I traced vicious scars implanted upon her entirety—face, neck, arms, legs—from battles long fought and perhaps won, though without spirit for an attack, I relented and prayed silently in my head.
By the power of the Daedric Princes, grant me wisdom beyond reckoning.
Standing taller than I, the matriarch regarded me with open haughtiness and disdain. Against my will or desire my heart began to race faster, and I knew that if I spoke my voice would crack, betraying fear, assuming my thundering heart hadn't already done that. In a vain effort I attempted to maintain the tremor, and to keep it from surging visibly along the length of my arms down to the hand that held the silver sword.
By the breadth and depth of limitless Oblivion, grant me skill beyond imagining.
For awhile she spoke no words, casting down upon me her contempt-ridden stare. Then she stuck out her tongue, red and wet as a slice of meat, and made a long, winding, circular journey around the edges of her blood-stained lips—a gesture of bizarre and deranged derision. Some of the vampires behind me began to cackle, closing in at a predator's pace. "If you came here to die a permanent death, vampire, we can grant you such a wish,” she said in a cool, surly voice. Her claymore moved. "We'll use that silver, if you'd like."
No need. I would much rather bury it in your heart, I wanted to say.
Yet the very presence of this vampiric thing cowed me, humbled me, anchored me to the most pitiful and wretched abasement; and I was aware that before even pleading an utter to Molag Bal, I must somehow extinguish from myself this craven characteristic. Though it was a fact that my tribe were meant to wear a docile guise of civility, many of us are filled with unnatural fury, and the affluent coating of flattery which skirted and encased that rage was but a manner of self-preservation. With enemies such as these, I knew I had to tear away and destroy this exterior semblance, meanwhile encouraging myself to nurture the murderous hatred which lurked beneath me. Yet somehow I did not think it would take much longer.
"I come to share news. A monk escaped from here with this sword in his hand," I said finally. “Claimed he dispatched one of you as he fled. We crossed paths in the wilderness, and I took this sword." I paused, ruminating, wrapping my fingers around the sword's handle every so slightly. "I came here to warn you all before I take my leave. Do not worry about that mortal. He is taken care of. That is the least of your concerns."
By the bloody mace of Molag Bal, grant me power beyond estimation.
Draken has some nice ruminations on the nature of Molag Bal and his worshipers, giving us a lot of information without it coming across as a clumsy info dump. Mainly because you tied it all in so deftly with his own personal character. That was well done!
Wow, there is quite a pack of the vampire-rabble. They really stand in stark contrast to the discipline and control that mark everything the Decumus family does.
Draken has gotten himself in over his head it seems. I wonder if he will be able to talk himself out of this. Or fight out of it. Half of me also wonders if Raven, knowing her brother, might be sneaking in a few steps behind to back him up.
Given that he is the Prince of Rape, the Bloody Mace of Molag Bal sounds a lot like the Bloody Penis of Molag Bal...
Wow, Fort Wooden hand – home to a blood orgy.
I love how you pay homage to Draken’s noble status with his displeasure over this pack’s numerous fashion faux pas.
I suspect Draken is wisely trying to extricate himself from this fight. Not necessarily full retreat but at least to frame the tactical situation more to his advantage. The excuse he offers for being there is not a bad one but I have a feeling that no matter what he says, these bloodsuckers of a beastly line will not willingly let him walk out.
Subrosa: I was concerned whether or not it would've been info dump. Since Draken and Raven's condition essentially is directly tied to Molag Bal, it was necessary to put that in there. There's a certain duality when it comes to them and the Daedric Princes they're so mindful of; Molag Bal represents that raw power of domination, often expressed by mortals through their evil acts. The worst of the worst are tied to Molag Bal, as we have seen in the Elder Scrolls. Draken does shy away from that particular aspect, but was raised with a 'might makes right mentality that took root. In ESO and Skyrim we see Molag Bal's dialogue supporting that sort of mentality as far as his followers are concerned:
"Your time in my realm made you strong, as expected."
"Kill my minions and you only remove the weaklings from my service."
"The strong will cleanse the world of the weak. Cleanse, my pawn, cleanse."
"Good. I grant you permission to strengthen yourself with my minions."
"Your strength will be rewarded. One day."
Those that serve him do so in a way coherent to this philosophy, though it can fluctuate slightly as people are differing. The basic underlying premise is that life is tumultuous and ever so dangerous, and controlling it and understanding it is the only measure of real power or worth. This philosophy leads to certain cults of Molag Bal doing many things that are thought of as evil. Harkon, for example, claimed he killed a thousand innocents to achieve immortality. In the past, some followers of Bal are willing to kill anyone who gets in their way without hesitation; willing willing to perform gruesome experiments on people. Like Mannimarco, some seek power, they seek to rule. Now, regarding Draken, Raven and family, some of their actions are done not because they enjoy them, but because they feel it is what they must do. Granted, the bulk of Bal's followers are sadists in power.
I don't want to spoil much here, but one thing that's common about the Decumus characters among their contrasting characteristics is that they do not just kill indiscriminately for pleasure. There's always has a reason. If there is no higher purpose for the death of someone, they won't go that route. Raven, as we'll come to discover more of her, believes that a lack of conflict stagnates a persons abilities and offers no no significant growth. With conflict comes progress and evolution, and accepting that fact gives her a drive and strength to achieve whatever she wants; it's simply acknowledging her own nature to dominate, and spreading seeds of discord.
As you've pointed out, the vampires encountered in the fort are very vile, bloodthirsty, with little regard and no respect for mortal life. While Draken and Raven aren't really, in terms, 'good' people, they aren't sadists. Still, one has to be a desperate, or disturbed, or misguided individual to serve Molag Bal, and his shadow is always looming over the two siblings.
The need to survive and thrive among mortals, for them, is a direct result from being hounded by the mortals and potentially destroyed if discovered. Their need to survive breeds this sort of philosophy in the Order, where only the most capable and independent were seen as valuable and counted among kin. In order to survive they needed to be strong, cunning and deceitful.
In the end, the their beliefs isn't just power=I'm the supreme overlord. They only ended up valuing strength so much because it was required to survive, and over time Crassus instilled in Raven and Draken this philosophy, which inspires in them a thirst for personal gain and power grabbing. A similar philosophy is that of the Sith, from Star Wars.
That's Molag Bal's influence alone. There's also Clavicus Vile which will be explored much later.
There's been several comparisons to Molag Bal's Mace to a penis, especially with the whole Vivec thing.
Draken has a very bad habit of getting into trouble.
Acadian: I could imagine Buffy would be more than glad to set these vampires free with her bow
Draken has a taste in quality, and things that aren't quality, well, he considers distasteful.
Draken underestimated his chances here, but in the end, is creating the courage he needs to fight and destroy them. His silent prayer is a manner of rousing that courage. Fun fact: his prayer was also part of a ritual spell in ESO for empowerment.
Previously on Order Vampyrum: Draken discovers a nest of vampires, and confronts the vampire Matriarch at Fort Wooden Hand. Raven decides to return to Castle Decumus with an enthralled Gaubert of Anticlere.
. . . No arcane secret can bring mother back. Do not be consumed by the past. There is no reversing it.
Mist the color of pearl hung over the countryside, just as heavy as those words uttered by my brother.
Somber, absorbed, I gazed for a long while into nothing in particular while riding down the road on Potema, as Gaubert rode beside me on Destrier. The road we took twisted and turned through lands and wilderness far more ancient than any of the races of man or mer—both savage and civilized—who had walked here.
My mother and father must have came through here countless times through the centuries.
Great oaks with trunks as sturdy as towers of stone; gullies that gave way into spider-infested shadows; paths that took us into the depths of the forest to the expanse of Lake Rumare. I remembered how my mother had brought me here from time to time.
I wish you were here with me now.
I thrust my right hand into the folds of my robe and drew out an enchanted silver locket. Within was a blue magical likeness of her with vivid brown eyes and dark brown hair. With one hand I held the locket, and for the last several minutes I had alternately studied it and stared thoughtfully at the familiar features.
Silent, I stared and stared some more on that small image of my mother caught between my thumb and a forefinger. The locket itself was an expensive piece, the spellwork precise, continuous and emphatically feminine. I regarded it, perhaps the twentieth time since I left Draken and that burning house behind, and my heart hammered as strongly and as painfully as it had the first time my eyes beheld it.
I held it then in the palm of my hand, and raised it. Her image, trapped forever in a ghostly shimmering of her own, stared back at me through quaint eyes and a faint smile that was oddly expressive: as though she was still here. As though she had never died.
Wouldn't that be lovely.
Where are you, Lady Illana Decumus?
"Your mother?" Gaubert asked.
"Yes," I said.
The thrall nodded. "I have many recollections. Most of them were of my mother,” he said, his accent a heavy Bretonic. He sat comfortably with one hand guiding Destrier, who seemed uneasy at this new rider, and the other on the small opening in his neck. Whether he felt uncomfortable or not, I was not quite sure.
"We have something in common then."
"In my memory, we were reciting prayers together every Sundas at the chapel." Gaubert smiled wistfully. "In the evening we picked berries out back behind our home, and at night we shared many stories. I can't wait to see her again if, milady, you can permit me to return. I know she misses me."
I felt my defenses falling into place like a shield wall. I had plenty on my mind right now to wander down memory’s roads with some enthralled monk who would sooner kill me. I fitted a polite smile onto my face but gave him no comment, unwilling to encourage any further conversation.
Gaubert, however, was warming to his recollection. “Fathers give us the strength we need to survive this harsh world, but mothers make it well-worth the effort.” He nodded, pleased at his axiom, then raised an eyebrow. "Will she be there when we arrive?"
It occurred to me that truth was often discourteous, but I could not change the words that the moment had written in my head. "My mother left us not long after this was made. Her smile never changed."
My mother was gone. Gaubert's mother was yet alive. The irony was not lost on me. Perhaps Gaubert, this mortal man, shall grow old upon a day, return to Anticlere to see his mother age just the same. I would never see my parents' visage crumble against the arcs of their hidden bones, hair so thin that it appeared nearly gone. I would never see them with splotched skin defaced by age, victim of time that would eat away at both insides and outsides until they were frail and weak. Even the elves, after a few centuries, feel the taxing weight of senescence in their bones. But there was a peaceful transition in becoming old. There was a lasting contentment.
And I? Well-complexioned and bright-cheeked, would never have the luxury, or misfortune, of knowing the damaging effects of senility, of capitulating to dotage. But death? We walk in it, we are death made manifest, but we can succumb to it just the same. My mother has left this world. How long will it be until my father is gone? My brother? Myself? How long will it take before time heralds our end, and our necks are stretched out before the axe, until we are naught but dust in the wind?
"How did she die?" Gaubert knew that she was dead; no youth spoke so fondly of a parent that has left them.
"Hunger for knowledge killed her," I said, surprising even myself by continuing to engage this enthralled monk. "It had driven her to her final moments. I suppose I share that passion for rarefied teachings."
"Forgive me, milady," said the monk, "but your accent . . . you are Nibenese?"
"Born and bred with all of the cultivation that come with it," I said with a slight exasperated tone as my eyes looked upon the shadow of the White-Gold Tower in the distance. "Groomed for greatness and laurels in the Imperial City and beyond."
The thrall smiled. "Ah . . . a seat in the Imperial Throne. As Empress?"
It was casually said, but I did not think it was as casual a remark as it appeared. "Well," I said diffidently, "not exactly."
"Ah, a seat in the Imperial Council?"
For some obscure reason the comment amused me and I smiled. "Too lofty a place for someone like me, wouldn't you say?"
Becoming a member of the Imperial Council was a rare and treasured event, and even more so where vampires are concerned, but not beyond the realm of possibility. My father expected nothing less from me; to learn the ruthless dance of politics, to be cunning and deceptive. To be at the highest pinnacle of Imperial power, perhaps holding more power than the Emperor himself.
After my mother's passing, I thought less and less of my path in the Empire's rolling wheel and more of my arcane studies, and secrets surrounding the hereafter.
"Indeed it is, my milady." He said. "Thank you for not killing me. I thought it would please you."
I studied him. "Interesting. Why would you say that?"
"I have always thought vampires kill and torture their victims for pleasure," he said. "Those creatures that held me captive certainly did."
"'Pleasure.’ Yes, well, you see ‘pleasure’ does not dictate what should and should not be done. There was no purpose in killing you, Gaubert. You are in the presence of civilized company now. I do not go around killing people for the satisfaction of it. And as much as I would like to see those creatures dead, it is not my place to go after them. There are rules we must adhere to." I released a sigh. "It’s all that keeps us alive in this dog-eat-dog world."
My father's words echoed in my mind: To we who dwell in the shadow of vampirism, a normal life is just a fraction more of pretense. The only actions of consequence are those we endeavor in service to Molag Bal. We revel in the feast, in vanquishing, in dominating our enemies, drawing power from their demise, and thus we are made stronger for it. But this must be balanced in gaining greater laurels. Remember this always: taking life for sadistic pleasure, or killing sans reason, sans purpose or need—is the workings of a petty fool. Insist on behaving like a mad cur, and you shall be put down like a mad cur."
"Your brother seemed eager to go after them."
"How it is that my brother is willing to overlook the conundrum we are in?" I said slowly, “is it willful ignorance or perhaps something more pathological?" I wiped my forehead shortly with my hand, as if to dislodge the memory of his last words to me.
Were I a self-absorbed walking case of boredom, I might have done the same as him, I occasionally thought with a certain detached resignation. It would have made a great story for the courier, a tale about the kind of knight Draken had always wanted to be: a hero all on his lonesome, searching the vast ends of Tamriel on quests he cannot share, braving unspeakable dangers and facing immeasurable odds.
That had been Draken's dream growing up: the handsome, calm, formidable hero, the kind people tell stories about in hushed whispers of respect and awe, the central piece of some dusty Elder Scroll, a hero of the ages, and all that juvenile imagination.
Vanity, that was the truth of it: pure vanity.
Vanity and pride had always been Draken's flaw. There was nothing wrong in being a hero—one had only to look at legendary figures of history like Queen Alessia, Lyris Titanborn, or Rislav Larich, and the recent Amiel Lannus. There was nothing wrong with the desire to be a hero: many a youth spoke of being heroes, and turned out to become just that.
But when one begins in trying to be a hero, they would be facing a considerable problem. Lust for adventure in and of itself can become a sickness: a disease that no healer can cure. In its final stages, that is all one can think about. At the end, some do not even care about actually being a hero.
They just want people to think that they are.
My brother is suffering from just that. He is as bad a case as any I had ever seen. It it could drive him mad.
Worse: it could drive him directly into Molag Bal's cruel embrace.
In unguarded moments I myself still found that I had drifted into this idea. Just thinking about it could make me shudder. The need to impress others for vain purposes alone was foolish, and I worked very hard in the past to squeeze my lust for the admiration of others into a small, timid voice, that I hoped I could silence forever one day, just as my father had done.
As lions among men, we need not worry what our prey think of us, my father once said to me.
So I had set about this quest in silence. Inconspicuously. Anonymously. Making certain that whatever I would do in this lifetime, or the lifetimes to come, I was doing for the right reasons. I had to be sure I would not suffer a syndrome of glory sickness. I had to be sure I would be loved by others not because I wanted to be, but because it was a means to an end. Because as vampires of the Order, we could not afford to be hated, and then hunted.
Or worse: killed.
"Your brother is a fine young man," Gaubert said. "He certainly looks like he can handle a blade—just as you seem capable of. I think you should go back for him. Will you?"
I stole a glance at the monk, whose face was as bloodless as a peeled potato, alert and distant behind a thick veil of servitude. He rubbed the side of his neck where I had scratched him with the silver sword—and took from him precious pints of blood. His question brought forth memories. They had to do with my youth, but resonated not with an echo of serenity, or mood of repose, and instead held a vague but apprehensive augury of the eternal state of my condition.
We skirted near Lake Rumare.
The moons were high and bright and they sparkled like jewels on the rippling water. The refracted light was intense, hard to look at, but I stared at it for as long as I could, imagining on some deep level that there were answers there. Truths that could be discerned.
"No, I will not." I answered Gaubert. "As much as it seems to be the right thing to do, I have more pressing matters that require my complete attention."
"What 's more important than your own brother?"
"My life." I said with a simple shrug.
Even as I spoke these words, they broke through the cloak of memory, and brought me back to this very area several years ago: I was standing out in the water, knees in the cool sand-gray murkiness, hunting for mudcrabs, and right there at the age of ten where the slaughterfish-infested depths had almost claimed me.
My memory unfolded further.
Draken screaming my name.
Out there I had gone down, down under in a cataclysm of bubbles that followed behind handfuls of algae, and came thrashing to surface with a mouthful of Lake Rumare, spouting water like some desperate fish, and straggling with sudden tumultuous love for my fleeting life, until Draken, lurking on the surface like some merciful and sweating hero above the deep, hauled me back up by my hair.
My vision swam far better than I did. Once I was shocked back to full consciousness, I hung in the wet shore; there was no telling how far underwater I might have been, nor how long I was drowning for. My lungs were choked, half of it of water, but strangely in the end I did not panic nor was I worried; mostly, I was vaguely pleased to discover that throughout all of this struggle, I managed to hold on to a mudcrab.
Or perhaps it was the other way around?
I got a beating from my father and a stern lesson in survival, and for days water leaked from my ears; my mother praised Draken for his bravery—which I believed inspired in him deep-rooted ideals—and though I was warned thereafter to stay away from Lake Rumare, I sneaked back, alone, during the day when I was yet a little half-mortal girl. Stubbornness was a prevailing flaw in my family.
For now everything about this place—the murky depths and the mudcrabs, slaughterfish and reflected sunlight and crying gulls, and the small boats floating over the reeds and the uproar and singsong voices of successful fishermen vanishing away and leaving all behind a certain noontime music, insect-filled diurnal solitude—all of these seemed to die away after I had died, which brought a sense of mystery and brevity.
Like that moment when a long-familiar tune from a bard's instrument is heard all of the sudden by new ears, and is no longer a simple melody but an overwhelming of the heart in all its wordless purity. Looking at Lake Rumare now in my deathly state, I saw more lights and darks than I could ever imagine, and great new dimensions which I gazed with trembling and fascination. Here had been taken away from me that child’s notion that all things lasted forever; here I had learned a certain fragility; not so much as of my own as of all other things, and for that reason Lake Rumare seemed to me a cruel place. A frightening place.
And yet . . .
Lake Rumare possessed a particular and fathomable beauty. So, even after my death and subsequent undeath, I went back there night upon night. Lying on my belly in the sand, I would probe on dead mudcrabs with a stick and reanimate them with a spell, and watch them scurry away with their clicking songs, as I brooded and dreamed in the cold nights. I would remember the gulls flapping their wings in the sky, receding away into the hot stillness of noon. The fishermen in their boats, far out, would call for the merchants in their singing voices. It had been months since I had seen daylight.
Everything was still now. And in that stillness, with the black new world spread out before my eyes, filled with pints of blood, I shivered with the knowledge of our impermanence. For a moment I closed my eyes, then opened them again, imagining somehow by such a ritual I might miraculously arrive to, here in this spot, surveying the place where the first brush with death had left me stupefied, shorn of illusions and a child's innocence. But here in the present all was shadow.
All was night: I saw nothing but the moons-shined ripples of water where men during this hour threw things into the lake, heard nothing but frogs and crickets, and even now it felt as if those sights I beheld as a child happened centuries ago.
I would have lost my life in those depths if it were not for my brother. Like my mother, a particular habit of mine led me to fate's door, only difference was that Draken stopped me from crossing over. And now his particular habit might lead him to such. It was only fair that I save him now.
I lost my mother. I could not bear losing him, too.
"Gaubert. You will have to travel to Castle Decumus alone," I said. "Tell the guards I sent you. Explain to my father what has happened."
"Yes, milady," Gaubert said. "You’re going to help your brother, yes?"
"Someone has to." I murmured.
I lingered there to watch Gaubert ride Destrier toward home. I held out my hand and whispered words into the wind as I looked from the diminishing rider and horse to the gloom of the night sky. A thousand emotions became entangled on the thorns in my heart. I could not do this alone.
A breeze opened from a portal—from my home to here— a small winged Daedra stepped out, rubbing his clawed hands. "You summoned me, master?"
"Come Ornery. We have work to do."
At first, I was thinking Raven was going to be lamenting not having a silence spell on her thrall. . . . but he does begin to grow on you and I enjoy that you have given him plenty of personality.
"My mother left us not long after this was made. Her smile never changed."
"How did she die?" Gaubert knew that she was dead; no youth spoke so fondly of a parent that has left them.'
- - These two passages say much. Gaubert is an insightful (albeit) talkative thrall.
Raven’s thoughts on going back to help her brother flow and transition ever so naturally from ‘No, I will not.’ to ‘I could not bear losing him too.’
And welcome back, Ornery!
Overall, a fascinating look into the complexity that is Raven.
The title of this episode was very appropriate to Raven's contemplations on the impermanence of immortality. One of the things that often struck me about the tv show Highlander and games like Vampire the Masquerade is that Immortals often have a shorter life span than mortals do...
This was a really nice interlude into Raven's tangled ruminations on her past. They led her in a very natural fashion to her decision to return for her brother.
I found someone who reminds me of https://i.imgur.com/K8dK1YK.jpg in a loading screen mod I started using for Oblivion.
Acadian: Gaubert is an interesting character and very perceptive. A good reason Raven was drawn to him. While the relationship between them is tumultous, they have the best interest at heart. Draken is young and stubborn and Raven recognizes this, yet she'll go out her way to help him. Though Draken might not take it kindly to his younger sibling helping him.
The Daedric minion has returned!
Subrosa: I think the concept is immortality is a heavy thing to swallow, especially in the mind of someone young like Raven. The notion that she'll have to get involved in politics and weave lie after lie to preserve herself for countless years to come is a lot, not to mention that mentality that she can't age, and the only way to die is through very unpleasant means. There's also the afterlife. All in all, she's been exposed to a lot at an early age.
Oh for sure. With violent politics, backstabbings, being hunted by would-be heroes, vampire hunters, fatal rays of sunlight, and etc. It takes a cunning mind to survive that long. The ideal plan would be to live somewhere remote and quiet, but with the Decumus, they have a sort of calling to delve into these sort of affairs that'll put them at risk from time to time.
Wow. That sure does remind me of Draken! Very similar in semblance! Which mod is it?
Previously on Order Vampyrum: Draken makes the decision to kill the vampires of Fort Wooden Hand; Raven returns to help her brother.
Am I mad to venture thus? I asked myself. Perhaps this was not my wisest decision.
In an eye blink, a dagger appeared in the hand of the vampire next to me. The blade was steel and pitted with rust, but the edges were honed fine and bore a wicked shine.
I was in motion. My own blade met him before his did me, and not a second after a blur of my silver blade trailed a red mist as it swung away from his chest. The creature met his final death that instant.
If the Matriarch was struck by any distress, it was well-concealed. With a customary courtesy befit a man of my status, I could only incline my head. "That is what you should be concerned about," I told her with a calmly respectful tone as though I had just delivered a message.
No doubt a frown was more appropriately worn on her hideous face than a smile. Not that a creature like that could ever produce a likable smile. I amused myself by imagining this thing in a silken dress or fine linen clothes.
"Kill him!" she shouted.
Her words pierced my ears, harsh and cruel as the sounds of her kin that skulked all around me. My throat was dry as bone. I could feel the cold air touch my bare skin. Foolish of me, to have come here without any armor.
The second closest to me lurched and drew a glass sword. He swung hard, a great and vicious blow had it landed. It didn't. The edge of his blade struck a shadow of black mist left in my wake. I felt myself becoming whole again as I stood behind him, my blade piercing the back of his neck and out the front.
The fortress erupted into chaos.
It begins now, I thought.
My father always said I was too passionate; impetuous and headstrong and swift to anger. That I could never untangle a knot when I could slice it apart with a blade. He would never let this pass if it came to his knowledge, should I be fortunate enough to survive.
The prospect of suffering an ignoble death was unpleasant. Raven could think of some clever and deceptive way to get out of this, but all I can think of is cutting them open.
I glanced at the condition of the weapons they held. Unlike me, these bedraggled vampires were not equipped with silver weapons, only ordinary steel and iron. After all, I was sure they had doubtlessly reasoned, what would vampires want with silver weapons?
A critical mistake on their part, I gloated, or so I intend to prove.
The creatures skulked around me, circling like bloody buzzards. The Matriarch laughed. "You can't defeat all of us."
I had no desire to bandy words with her, but alas she had started. I watched as her heavy boots splashed through the puddles of blood. "Come then!" I said, raising my sword. "You seem eager to be undone in the presence of your kin."
"Arrogant pup!" the Nord snorted a sardonic cackle. "See, I was mastering the art of swordplay while you were still trapped in your swaddling clothes!" she lowered her claymore from the front of her face, granting me a better look at her sneering countenance. “Come, boy, see how a Mistress of the Night fights."
The Matriarch advanced, but so did the other vampires. All at once.
"You are plague to Tamriel. Diseased rodents!" I taunted from behind my sword. "A clutch of soulless parasites. Come at me, then! Come at me!"
There was a scent beyond the blood and beyond the grime of the fortress. It was the sweet smell of coriander, honey and cinnamon, with just a tinge of smoke and burned cloth. And that distinct scent ignited a sizzle in my blood that tightened my face, and I could only manage a sigh of relief. Raven decided to come back.
I did not need to look for her. There was no need to. I knew what it was: it wasn't just a pureblooded vampire, a Daughter of Coldharbour rushing through these shadowy ruins; it wasn't just my sister, returning to lend a helping hand; I sensed her as if one could sense being watched, it was in the pit of my stomach, as if digesting a cold block of ice. I could feel the even colder wave of power, colder than an ice wraith, that slithered into the chamber like a dagger of ice that bit into my back. Those sired by Molag Bal had this effect.
A swirling portal yawned before us, and from a small window to the Outer Realms came an ethereal man sans a head. Oh, him again, I thought.
My hand trembled slightly, and the sword angled only a bit as a little Daedric entity scurried out into the open next to this headless phantasm. It was another of Raven's distraction tactics.
The Matriarch's response was a murmur through clenched fangs. Something caught her eye behind me. "Wha—?"
The creatures gathered around me like hungry jackals, snarling fury. I could feel their cold breaths, could feel surges of hunger and feral blood lust from all directions. If I did not move now, they would overwhelm me.
A twirling crystal sped over my head, followed by two others purple projectiles. The armored Matriarch hurled out of the way, landing over a pile of drained bodies that had been discarded.
Moving my sword in a single fluid motion, I surged forward and cleaved the arm of the first vampire before it could make a move. Within an instant, my blade kissed him on the cheek. And then the rest came.
One, two and three.
Flash. Flash. Flash.
Slice. Slice. Slice.
—and all three of them dust.
Ah, I mused with detached approval. That worked out rather well.
I sprinted into battle. One of the unarmed vampires sprung toward my path, nails and fangs ready, eager to dispose of me. I swung my sword, and the blade passed with only a hint of resistance through flesh and bone. An arm spiraled out through the air, with little droplets of blood; one leg toppled sideways, twitching in the ground before it all turned to dust. I broke not a stride.
All around me, Raven's flames and lightning strikes had ripped at the air, to my left and right. I had seen the remnant vampires afire, screaming as they were ablaze, and I moved to cut them down one by one. My sword sliced into them with ease, they might as well have been made out of butter. Drunk with blood and caught unawares, they offered little challenge to our superior pureblood prowess.
As Raven cast her destruction spells, my blade sheared through meat and cloth alike. There was no stopping here, I was running, staggering, fighting, deafened and half stunned by the explosions of fireballs. Behind me, Raven brandished her twin swords as she too fell upon them.
Turning to dispose my next foe, I was met with a roaring brute of a Matriarch. She came rushing in, her great sword cleaving through the air like a scythe. I parried, and the motion left me off-balance, scrambling enough to try and hold my footing from the force of the blow. The exertion of power was catching up with me, and the Matriarch was hammering me mercilessly across the fort, pushing me back on my heels with one long looping swing after another, and slamming me with her shoulder for good measure. Her hand glowed a malicious red; my arms had gone numb from the shock of impact, and for some strange reason my sword seemed to be growing heavier with every moment that passed. My arms went slow, my legs even slower.
Has this brute from Skyrim, somehow, managed to cast a drain spell on me?
I was starting to think less about winning battle than about surviving it.
The Matriarch came again, this time thrusting her sword. My parry came a beat too late this time. Her sword bit through my side, cutting in deep. I cried out in pain. Blood leaked on her blade as I pushed myself away, taking desperate swings at her. It came out cold, and the droplets cooled my trembling hand as I tried to stanch the flow.
A second later her pauldron slammed into my nose like an avalanche and sent me tumbling to the ground as if I was hit by a carriage. I lay there, half stunned, just as I had been in Marent's home. My head ringing from the force of the blow. For half a heartbeat the fortress was a blur. Raven's summoned and now useless ghost scampered off into view—her Daedric minion was casting little shock spells on the dying vampires—the Matriarch was marching toward me, fangs bared into a facsimile of a smile, my sword a foot away from me on the ground.
And then the years were a vapor, and I was back at Castle Decumus once more, wearing a simple shirt and pants. My sword was made of wood, and it was Raven Decumus who stood facing me, instead of the Matriarch. Every morning we had sparred together, since we were old enough to walk; two half-vampires, spinning and slashing about the courtyard of our home, shouting, jesting and laughing, at times weeping when father and mother weren't around. We were not children when we fought, but knights and great heroes of old.
"I am General Reman," I would shout out, and Raven would call back to me, "Well, I am Versidue-Shaie.” Or Raven would yell, "I am Clivia Tharn," and I would reply, "I am Mannimarco. King of Worms!"
That morning I called it first. "I am Tiber Septim!" I cried, as I had always did. Only this time, this time, Raven answered back with a smirk, "That cannot be. You would have to be smart to be Tiber Septim. Tiber Septim was very intelligent, and father says you lack a cunning mind. He says you will end up dead sooner than you would expect."
I thought that day long forgotten. I could taste my own blood in my mouth, and felt it seeping from my arms and sides. The Matriarch marched toward me with her heavy armor gleaming in the gloom, her flaming kin screeching all around her. Dying.
When I looked at her, it not her horrid features, though; it was my father's. With his penetrating, judgmental gaze and his cold mouth set in a grim frown. Lord Decumus was staring at me the way he used to when I was a child, whenever I had bested Raven at something or whenever my mother came to my defense for something I never did. You are not good enough, that look had always seemed to say. You will never amount to anything.
The Matriarch stepped over a great puddle of blood, hissing at me. She raised her sword for the killing blow, and I shuddered. I should suppose I will die sooner than I expected.
My fighting spirit wasn't destroyed. It wasn't even distant. I could feel where it had gone. I could reach out and touch it. I could only—
A cold wind came swirling through, and a cloud of lightning sparkled blue-white behind the Nordic woman.
Ornery, that vicious little homunculus, dug his claws deep in the Matriarch's neck and released a web of lightning through her body. She danced and twitched like a doll on strings before she managed to grab Ornery in her grip.
Without thinking, without planning, I mustered all of my strength, my courage, my will and I sprung forth to grab my sword. Ornery meant to provoke her, and that he did. Spewing out curses, she tossed him aside and came at me, her feet sending up splashes of blood as she charged. Some of her kin stood back to watch, as I had prayed they might. I made no movement: standing still like a boulder, waiting. The blood they spilled was too much, the ground slippery. Better to let her come to me. If fortune be good, she will slip and fall.
Fortune was not good, but my blade indeed was. Four steps, three steps, here it goes, I counted, and my silver blade swept up to meet her advance. I met her rush, both of my hands wrapped around the sword hilt. Her reckless charge brought her right onto my point, and the silver sword ran through steel and leather and cloth, deep into her chest and out her back, rasping as it scraped along her spine. Her claymore fell from limp fingers, and we both slammed together, chest to chest and face to face.
In the Matriarch's face I saw pain and fear and growing disbelief. I managed a smirk, as I gave my blade a hard twist that made the Nord vampire gasp. Her weight sagged like heavy stones on me, and all at once the woman became a puff of ash and embers that burned my tongue and lips. I rolled over with a cough, soot and dust caking me all over.
Upon seeing their Matriarch undone, the lesser kin all froze in confusion. Two vampires—the ones who weren't shrieking and slapping the flames that licked away at their bodies— fled the fortress like shrieking wraiths.
Ornery scrambled off to Raven's side, murmuring something about unmortals. Raven peered at me with the same expression of faint distaste that my father always had shown when I was growing up.
If I am victorious, why do I feel so defeated?
Breathing heavy, I sat on the bloody ground and dropped my sword, shaking my head to clear my hair of the ash that soiled it.
Perhaps not the wisest decision indeed! But as the old saying, goes, good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
Nice timing on turning to mist!
A headless phantasm and a little daedric man do make for quite a distraction!
What painful memories of his father. One feels for Draken.
I love the term 'unmortals'.
That was both an exciting fight, but also one that was very personal, given Draken's very personal memories and feelings woven through it. Nicely done!
I could feel my the cold air touch my bare skin.
Looks like a leftover from a previous edit.
Edit: Now that I am home, that pic of almost-Draken came from https://www.nexusmods.com/oblivion/mods/48486
Nicely done! I quite liked that Draken’s first indication of Raven’s presence was her smell.
Though we question his choice to allow this battle, with its inauspicious odds to happen, he acquitted himself well. He simply became outnumbered. Raven is every bit his equal – possibly more – and changed the odds to their favor. Together, they achieved victory.
SubRosa is right that you very capably handled the challenge of injecting Draken's personal thoughts and even some of his history into the fight without bogging down the requisite quick pace of such a fight.
I imagine the impact of this battle on the siblings may be minimal. I would not bet that the battle will transform Draken’s tendency to ill-advised impetuousness. Raven still views her brother’s rash decisions as dangerous to himself and others and this incident is not likely to change her opinion.
Just caught up on Chapters 9-11 and all I have to say is: *slow clap*
Well done. The anticipation and eerie feeling in Chapter 9 when Draken arrived in the fort, I thought for sure he was going to be in for a bad time, thought maybe he could talk his way out of it SOMEHOW. Your descriptions of the vampires made them truly horrifying, and then add on Draken's disgust at them because of his more refined living it made the chapter that much better.
Then it was nice to see Raven talking with Gaubert, he is almost a nice soundboard for her to talk to and reflect. I loved how the memories and her past ended up coming to fruition and helping her decide to help Draken. And in what a badass way! I loved this most recent chapter, it was simply amazing.
It was a neat addition having Draken comment on how their weapons were nothing to compared to his silver sword but how that makes sense given they are vampires and wouldn't want that around. Draken turning into mist was awesome, and Raven with her Daedric minion were nice to see, thank Molag Bal for them or her brother may have been meeting the King of Domination.
Absolutely fantastic! I can't wait to see what Raven has to say to her brother.
Subrosa: Wise words indeed. The majority of Draken's life so far has been nothing short of living a privileged life. He's hasn't been in many battles; this is the first major fight he's been in, and while more will come, he'll get experience to make better decisions.
Becoming mist can be useful, just as a swarm of bats.
Thanks! Draken hasn't much going for him right now but personal family issues which will contribute to his next decisions and place in these vampire attacks and whatever is created to counter that. Though he has a family he's never felt more alone; his father is grooming him to be something he's not entirely sure he wants to be, and Raven is occupied with her magical studies and haunted by her mother's fate, which Draken wants to distance. himself as much as he possibly can.
Unmortals was a term I borrowed from Oblivion. The 'ascended' souls of the Mythic Dawn were called referred by Kathutet as 'unmortals' when they reached Mankar's Paradise. With pure-blooded vampires destined for Coldharbour, Ornery's seen his fair share of cultists and those pledged to Molag Bal end up in that horrible place. Interestingly enough it only fuels Raven in her quest for the mysteries surrounding the afterlife. As a fledgling vampire she hasn't had time to truly ponder the effects of her 'immortality', and worries more about her place in the realm of Coldharbour, which everyone knows is the absolute worst place in Oblivion.
Acadian: While the smell of perfumes and scented oils are pleasant, the scent of smoky clothes wasn't so. Draken has a strong sense of smell; he's been around Raven all his life.
Draken's flaw here was hubris. Pure-blooded vampires are a rarity in Tamriel; he was convinced he had greater powers and abilities than those of a more diluted bloodline. While true that he's stronger, when confronted with someone with greater skill and experience, it won't do him much good. He could've been killed had Ornery not intervened.
Raven's more subtle and less prone to making brash decisions; she's shares her father's thoughts about Draken. While no doubt cherished, there's a bit of hard feelings there. Raven mirrors in some of her father's characteristics; she's every bit his child and there's some animosity between her and Draken. He's not as cunning, isn't a studious like she is, and would rather spend his time in the world in taverns rather than doing something meaningful. Perhaps Draken will change in the near future. Perhaps a course of events will set him on an interesting path.
BretonBlood: What I like about the Elder Scrolls universe when it comes to vampires is that there are hundreds of types, with different powers and abilities, some more monstrous than others. They have different feeding habits; some can swallow men whole, others paralyze their victims. They're all very malicious and dangerous, and many of them are evil. The Volkihar clan are cruel tyrants, and their feeding habits are very savage. There are human remains strewn about, buckets of blood, etc, though they're more subtle in politics. The Quarra would rather slaughter an entire village of innocent people rather than choose a few on which to feed. While the Order clan are not good by any stretch, they're a lot less evil and vile than the rest of them; still monstrous in their own way, but not as monstrous and evil as the others.
Vampires are very territorial. We've seen them fight each other in clandestine warfare in Daggerfall, Morrowind, Oblivion and Skyrim. While talking it out may have been an option, the clan Draken belongs to do not tolerate vampires who are not part of the bloodline. Next chapter we'll learn more about the inner workings of the Order clan, and just how the Decumus family tie into it.
Raven is not in a habit of opening up herself to strangers; lives in a large castle alone with her father, brother and many servants which are all enthralled. She felt more open Gaubert since he was enthralled, but as time passes he will be an interesting companion along with Ornery on the the Mages Guild arc.
Previously on Order Vampyrum: Draken kills the Matriarch and emerges victorious after Raven helps him. Upon seeing their leader killed, the surviving vampires fled into the night.
Have to keep going, I told myself. Lurching to my feet, I stumbled over the pieces of armor that once belonged to the Matriarch. I gasped in pain, the frigid air searing my lungs. Each step I took was an unbearable effort. Blood soaked through my shirt. My face felt unusually colder. My muscles groaned as I took a flight of steps. I knew I was nearing my limit. This hurts but if there's more of them . . .
"Draken! Stop! Stop!" Raven hurled orders at me. I heard her panting in exertion as she clambered up the steps after me. "Stop you fool!"
The Patriarch . . . there must be a Patriarch here, too.
I wasn’t even listening to her anymore. Reaching a few steps, I tottered upon unsteady legs. The ground beneath my feet seemed to tilt vertiginously. I took a step and another, then toppled forward onto the ground. Nothing cushioned my fall, and I was met with the cold bloody floor of the fort. It chilled my face, so cold that it burned me.
Guess I should have wore armor to the fight, or left this place when I had the chance. I felt thoroughly drained, like the victims bestrewed all over the place. A scarlet haze fogged my vision.
Seated on the ground with my back on the wall, I could only draw in a breath in pain. Blood spilled from my arm and my side, and I pressed down on the hip-wound with my other hand, trying to stanch the flow.
"Matriarch hit me bloody good," I cursed. "This burns like Oblivion."
Raven didn't quite smile as she turned her attention from me to her familiar. "Bit more than you could chew, huh. Ornery!"
"In Draken's room, in his cupboard above his perfumes, you will find bottles of blood. Bring them."
How does she know? . . .
A shimmering oval of a portal flared before us; the light emanating from it flooded the darkness and Ornery walked through, blurred as the portal swallowed him. A second later, it went out, for a moment plunging the chamber into a dense, velvety blackness.
Black again. I heard something . . .
What horrors would I encounter now? And, more importantly, would I be able to face the it? I thought I would, but now at the moment of pain my certainty was faltering.
"Come on, you coward,” I scolded myself as I struggled to my feet.
"What are you doing?"
"The Patriarch," I told her. "Gaubert mentioned a Patriarch. We have to destroy him."
Silence was the only answer.
She thought for a moment and sighed. "Sit down. That was a rat, you idiot. There's no Patriarch here. Besides he's not much of a Patriarch if he left his brood to be slaughtered. He must have left long before we arrived. We destroyed most of the nest, so rest now. Ornery will be back soon."
That horned little toady better not return empty-handed.
"I suppose this entire thing could have been avoided if we decided to stay home tonight," I told her. "No doubt we will have to let father know of this infestation."
"There is no better alternative," Raven said with a heavy sigh. Blood speckled her face around the patina of freckles that dotted rosily about her nose.
"Of course there isn't. The Order will hear about this as well." I said sourly, picturing my father's displeasure. "I don’t suppose there’s a way we can alter the truth of this misadventure."
"I’m afraid not. I sent Gaubert on his way to warn him should the worst happen." Raven said. "Not a wise choice. Lying to father."
Naturally, I groused silently.
Raven explored the various piles of dust that crowded the floor; searching for clues.
Cradling my wounded arm, I let stood up and did the same. The tunnels of this dilapidated ruin creaked, and every step sent a fresh jolt of agony ripping through my arm, but at last, we reached a large chamber when we found nothing of note on the remains. I watched impatiently as Raven cast open a small portal, where something as small as a cat can travel to and fro.
Ornery must have found the bottles.
I planted myself in an uncomfortable dusty old chair while Raven waited for Ornery to come through. After a moment the portal hummed away before us, and out came the Daedric minion. He dragged a small sack through the glowing rift, exposing several bottles of blood within. He hastily yanked a couple of them and handed them over to to me. "The faster you drink this, the faster you restore damaged tissue."
I tore away the cork on the first bottle and drank away its contents. The cold blood would have tasted better warm, but this was an inappropriate time to be a connoisseur. The rich, sweet nectar did wonders for my constitution; I could feel the lacerations ebbing away as the blood restored me. It was as if someone had poured a pitcher of cool water over my burning skin. The wounds had closed away entirely. A feeling of ineffable peace at last came over me, carrying away all my pains, fears, and doubts.
I could think clearly again.
"All better?" Ornery said.
I didn't reply.
"He is more gracious for your service, Ornery. My brother is not exactly the bastion of temperance," Raven said, surely repressing a disappointed sigh. "To try to get anything into his addled mind is like casting notes in bottles upon the limitless deep and expecting someone to read it. Do you find it challenging? To foster enough energy to make rational decisions, I mean."
I blinked. “It was a brilliant plan—”
“It was a reckless plan.”
"Yet it went precisely as I devised. I killed the Matriarch."
"And as a result, the others have fled . . . Father will be most displeased to hear about this. I will make certain he is aware of every detail."
"Ah. There it is." Old pain colored my faint voice.
There was nothing apologetic about her tone; if anything, she seemed much more comfortable with the idea of discussing my fallacies with my father than she was with divulging a plan to fabricate a well-crafted lie.
"You should thank Ornery for his service," Raven persisted. "He's more useful than you give him credit for."
"Peculiar little thing," I spoke out loud words I meant to keep in my head. "Should send it back to the pits of Oblivion from where it came."
Ornery bared his teeth as he walked up to me, having heard what I said. "Do you know what happens to vampires of pureblood when they die?" the little Daedric imp asked primly. "Haven’t you heard of the quelling of the vampires in The Orchard of Coldharbour?"
"Um . . ."
"Well, the stories told . . . they are dramatizations, you see."
"I can imagine."
"But it’s based on actual events. Gave me an idea or two."
"It’s very profound. A masterpiece,” Ornery told me with a malicious glare. "It's inspiring."
"As you say . . ."
I glanced from Ornery to my sister, and gave her a cold stare, but she was too focused on the remains piled up around the fort. She knelt down and picked up among the ashes a half-burned parchment which survived the creature's combustion. She squinted at the words written and raised a brow in surprise.
"Oh, this is interesting," Raven said. "Miraculous."
"What is it?"
"These vampires were literate. They were reading up on the latest edition from the courier. 'Nightmare Host takes control of Dwynnen'.," she read out loud. "The region is under the rule of a lich and his armies of undead."
I sighed at the news unrelated to our current affairs. "Camoran Usurper is at it again, isn't he? I'm not surprised."
Raven muttered under her breath as she searched the belongings of the other dead. "Neither am I. Only a fool would think he'd stop at Valenwood and Hammerfell."
We know what this meant: the public recoiling from an 'indolent' Empire. Our Nordic Emperor Cephorus II would be once again considered inefficient. Seemed that unrest was brewing and quick.
"You will find no argument there," I said back. "Between that and our little problem here, it seems there is excitement in the world after all. Find anything of interest?"
"The work of a brood of renegades," Raven shrugged with a snort, rubbing vampire dust between her fingers. “Nothing more miserable has ever been made. They can drain an entire village in a night. Drain an entire city if you let them."
Revulsion tightened the edged of my face. "Judging by the bodies here I think they're well on their way."
Raven took a deep breath as though suppressing a shudder. "Quarra, Berne, Yekef, Volkihar . . . Couldn't be any of the clans, could it? I am sure these are rogues, perhaps even originated by a wizard's curse and not Lamae's lineage. Most didn't put up much of a fight."
That Matriarch did.
"Did they say anything to you when confronted?" she asked.
"Nothing worth mentioning."
Raven's brows drew together thoughtfully. "Well, that's unfortunate. Having destroyed the Matriarch, the others will surely call for retribution. Those timorous slithers has made haste to escape, perhaps to warn the others. Gods know how many of them are left out there skulking in the shadows. Suppose we shall find out when the bodies surface. They'll have to feed sometime, these parasites. Won't be long. They have the subtly of a brick."
I listened as I drained the second bottle of blood and gestured Ornery for a third; this one I placed against my forehead, letting the chill of the numb the discomfort somewhat before Ornery took the bottles away and vanished through the portal.
Gazing in front of a shattered mirror on the ground, I smiled with satisfaction that the blood had done the work on my skin. Though my flesh was restored, I winced at the ruin of my clothing but reminded myself that there was plenty more where that came from; a nobleman must keep an extensive wardrobe.
The same could not be said of the dead here, however. To add insult to injury, many of them were naked.
I felt a stab of sympathy for the many, unknown mortals. Several years ago, I myself could have been a traveler, or explorer, caught unawares by these night-stalkers. Worst even was my role in the death of Priscilla. At least what had happened was an accident, a terrible accident. At least I had the decency of burying her. In the end, with these missing villagers, she will soon be remembered as a brave and unfortunate soul who had been another victim of a vampire's hunger.
For better or for worse, these savages can take the blame.
Raven inspected the bodies of the mortals that were strewn everywhere. I couldn’t tell if seeing them like this meant anything to her. Despite everything we had endured together over the last few years, I still found her face difficult to read. Most of the time, Raven kept her private thoughts and feelings locked up inside her, just as she probably will for the countless years to come. She did not seem moved at all; for an aspiring necromancer, sights of the dead was normal.
"No sense in lingering in this odious abattoir," she said, turning her gaze to me. "Let's leave before more trouble finds us."
I flirted with the idea of reporting back to my father with a lie, yet that prospect held little appeal: he was not known for his patience when it came to the bearers of bad news, which Gaubert of Anticlere must have delivered by now.
On our way to leave the fortress, I could see a faint light in the distance; the rosy glow of morning was creeping on the horizon. We had to get a move on. Though we were well-fed, we didn’t relish the idea of spending the entire day trapped inside this fortress, not with the dead left in the wake of our monstrous kin. I could just imagine us getting impatient and attempting to travel in the sunlight—with fatal results.
No doubt that my father would want me to take shelter from the sun. It would be second-nature, I thought, to die before he would have an opportunity to confront me about my waywardness.
As I opened the doors and stepped out of the fort, we stopped in our tracks.
Just outside in the courtyard stood a group; over a dozen riders sitting astride their horses, watching us with great interest. All of them in mail and plate, hands on their weapons, with a sigil of Akatosh on their shields.
Knights and Legion soldiers.
"Well met, friends," I said to them with a smile.
I would also not be surprised if Raven probably received somewhat preferential treatment from their father. Father's can have a tendency to have much higher standards for their sons, expecting them to grow up and 'be a man'! While at the same time doting upon their daughters, whom they do not ultimately expect much from, except to find a good husband and not embarrass them in public.
There must be a Patriarch? Down with the Patriarchy! Oh, wait, that's my feminism getting the better of me. I am sure he's a nice man...
Ornery is certainly a helpful little fella. As are those miniature gateways.
The news of Camoran Usurper gives us a timeframe to set the story to. Nice example of Showing rather than Telling.
Uh oh, the sheriff's posse is here, and the sun soon to rise. You know how to set up a cliffhanger!
Nice job portraying Draken’s disorientation and obsession with ‘The Patriarch’. I believe Raven had a better perspective here that any patriarch was either dead or a coward.
Yes, Ornery is certainly handy to have around!
So blood works as well as a good healing potion on vampires – neat!
The good part about being freshly fed is that Draken might well be able to convince the knights and soldiers that he and Raven are both mortals who valiantly rid the fort of the horrible vampires within. We shall see.
Hmmmmm. An interesting observation by Raven wondering on the potential clan that these vampires could be, truly if not one of them then what clan? I have never heard of a group of vampire's coming from a wizard's curse. Quite interesting!
Doubly interesting is the fact that they still fear the sun even though they are well-fed. Being of Cyrodillic nature they should have no issue walking out and about during the day, it may not be their first option, but if well fed they should not fear it. I am wondering if this is just a general fear all vampires have regardless of clan.
And finally what's going on here? Legion soldiers and knights? How are they going to explain themselves out of this one? I can't wait to see.
Subrosa: Raven does have preferential treatment from Crassus; she's been well-schooled, a prodigy in his eyes, and is a walking reminder of his wife. In the next chapters we'll learn more about their relationship; Raven's past history with the ritual, how her father shaped her to what we see now, etc, through flashbacks. Draken's the wayward son that tries to live up to the standards imposed by his father. He's capable, sure, but not there yet.
One her of her defining characteristics is that she wants to be perfect and to be strong, but she only wants those things because that's what her father wants and that's how he groomed her to be. Crassus wanted her to be this powerful, perfect creature, and because she desires to be a good daughter, she decided it's what she would be.
Raven is similar to Draken in the respect that she wanted to please their father, the only difference is that she has an easier time of it and as we'll come to learn in detail she doesn't let her conscious get in the way. Its from Crassus that she learned all about deception, how to influence/read people, and how to get what she wanted by whatever means necessary.
Heh. There always seemed to be a patriarchy when I was clearing out vampire dungeons in Oblivion.
Yes, the story takes place in the old days of the Third Era. In the coming chapters, Draken and Raven will have their separate story arcs and be part of a larger world than the confines of their castle or that region they are in. Eventually the story will take us to Illiac Bay and the Daggerfall areas, too, as well as Coldharbour (this is a crucial point in Raven's arc).
Acadian: Draken's recovering from the heat of battle. When Raven confronted them, she saw a rabble of newborns and a single formidable force, which Draken had taken care of.
Blood potions work like healing potions would, with the added effect of satiating a vampire. In the games these blood potions have healing properties, and like healing potions they can restore damaged tissue and organs.
Certainly! Being indistinguishable from mortals takes them places.
BretonBlood: In ESO, the vampires we encounter in Rivenspire can be said to have been created through a magical item. There's also this little detail from the books:
"Vampirism is a disease, like brain rot or cholera, but far, far more insidious. One can become a vampire through certain magical items or by the curse of a powerful wizard, but the most common cause is the bite or scratch of a vampire."-Vampires of Illiac Bay.
The effects the sun has on vampires varies by strain. Being pureblooded, these two don't necessarily burn and burst into flames, but they are severely weakened by it, even if well-fed. Their blood boils within bodies, and their magical abilities as well as physical capabilities are limited. And as followers of their tenets, they avoid daylight by lifestyle.
I stepped out of Fort Wooden Hand just as a line of men on horses cantered up to the entrance. The riders saw us and their faces hardened and they angled their horses toward our direction. In the span of a few seconds, I read the many countenance of these mortals: hard faces. Cold faces. Curious. Disdainful. Calculating. Stern. They would have to be, to go about doing the work they do.
I recognized their trappings at once.
A sect of zealots woefully composed of knight-paladins and warrior-priests known as the Resolutes of Stendarr.
My mind raced with frantic speeds, looking for a way to salvage this disaster. Do not panic, I ordered myself. I can still turn this around. Nobody needs to know what I was doing tonight.
Somehow I had to turn my brother's stupidity into a manner of uncouth cunning. It was the instant of seeing the knights on their horses that I brought a sudden moisture to my eyes. My mouth quivered as I rushed to them with open arms. "Divines be praised! Oh thank you!"
"Stay where you are, lass." The man who spoke in a gravelly voice was thick and strong, covered from shoulder to feet in fine steel. He flashed his teeth from behind a thicket of his heavy black beard.
I blinked. “Please, I have a hundred septims—”
A Redguard among them in a tattered cloak said, "We’ll take that for a start. Anything else you want to give us?"
"Those robes," suggested another. “You can give 'em to me if ya like."
I could feel the eyes of the soldiers on me, blinking, wondering, watching.
Chin up, I reminded myself, striving to bolster my spirits. Show no true weakness. It is not I who need fear the outcome of this encounter. I have faced far worse and survived.
Safeguarded by the powers of vampirism, I could hardly fear a true death when I was allied to it.
My throat tightened nonetheless.
The urge to stretch out with my new powers was to be expected, as my father said, but I had to exercise the most efficient tools every vampire of my clan needed to utilize: discretion, deception, manipulation.
Tears, perhaps, would do nothing to soften the heart of men such as these. But if I am to sell the deception of being a harmless woman, I resolved, I would have to do away with the last vestiges of pride I possessed.
Strength was referred as one of the purest expressions of domination, though cunning and deception was just as powerful, if not more.
I said nothing more, standing there while my arms went limp and my mouth dropped open—a pathetic, tormented gesture—as I felt tears running down my cheeks. I allowed my entire frame—spine, shoulders, rib cage—all the bones which supported me collapsed within in an instant, and there I appeared helpless and shrunken, tightened fists pressed to my eyes, trembling with loud racking sobs. It was as if something that was trapped within me had been unleashed in a torrent.
From behind the curtain of black hair that covered most of my face, I read the men's faces as thoroughly as I did my books; some of the men looked uncomfortable or seized by curiosity at this sad sight of sobs and bloodless clenched knuckles and warm tears. "They ki—kil—killed them—the bodies! The bodies!"
"Back in there," Draken said with much urgency. "Me and my sister were ambushed."
I trembled, looking at my hands as my eyes beheld the blood on them. "Ple—ple—pleaseeee!"
"I know him!" a man said as he sat on his horse, looking past the dust and blood that caked my brother. A riffraff with a vicious scar. "Seen him at the Waterfront. You're Draken Decumus."
"Son of Crassus Decumus," another said.
Their behavior shifted at the latter's ominous pronouncement. Converted in the space of a wink, it seemed, from a tough gathering of holy warriors with virulent sneers to a faltering group of pusillanimous buffoons.
They knew my father only by reputation, to be certain . . . but the reputation was fearsome; my father was influential, powerful, and dangerous if the need arose. Vexing his children was not in their best interest.
I rose to my feet with feigned difficulty and lassitude, clutching at a pillar, and hoisted myself no more than a foot or so from the ground before the bearded man launched himself to lend me aid. His eyes met mine. He looked concerned. "There, there. Slowly."
"Thank you," I said, my squeaky, piteous voice at any moment about to crack and to dissolve into more sobs, but I decided to manage the deceit. "We barely made it out alive."
"Vampires," Draken said at last, pointing to the doors of Fort Wooden Hand. "A nest of them. I destroyed the Matriarch, and her brood as they tried to take my sister's life. Thank Stendarr you are here."
I could have laughed if I did not feel irritated at his words.
Leather boots touched the ground at once as the men gathered together, planning, drowning us in questions; how many of vampires were there? Were we bitten? Were we scratched? Were there any survivors? And lastly, what compelled us to come out at this unholy hour?
All the while the others went forth into the fortress, dispatched with that remarkable efficiency of which these men are sometimes capable. They came out from within sometime later, making off with a gilded lantern, blood-stained black and suede shoes and a couple of golden rings. Personal belongings looted from the victims the vampires had drained. Another had a sack of collected vampire dust.
Dogs, my father called them all, hounding their prey into a corner and putting fear into their hearts. How many of them joined their order of zealots just for an excuse to put something to the sword? How long did it take until greed and bloodthirsty sadism corrupted their numbers?
There was a simple truth, and that truth was that among the knights and witch-hunters, some weren't interested in the well-being of others, and some suffered from the singular driving force: power. And power gave birth to corruption of ideals. My father once told me this. His words echoed in my mind:
"Do not be fooled by these paladins of the commonweal. At any given time, their ways take flight far beyond the insular pedagogics. Religious ideals often breed a frenzied desire to exercise them. These factions and splinter factions can trace their origin in similar fountains: an entrenched zealotry ever pervasive, brash and puritanical in spirit yet varnished over by superficial correspondences orchestrated to bring them more secular power. It is both convenient and pedestrian to demarcate the concepts of morality, all the while serving the basest individual desires. Such greed can be exploited to serve our own agendas."
I could think of a few ancient factions from the history books; the Alessian Order, the Marukhati Selective, the Dawnguard, the Order of the Hour. Indeed there was no order of knights, inquisitors, or witch-hunters that did not suffer from bedeviled members saddled by the constraints of greed and need to exact terrible wrath through questionable means against their victims, many of whom were innocent bystanders simply accused or suspected of suffering from vampirism, lycanthropy, or witchcraft of the blackest kind.
Put a blade in the hands of a butcher, and they'll make meat out of anyone.
Draken explained the events to the listeners, choosing his words with utmost care in the presence of the men that lingered there. His fabricated story was simple, and quick to the point: a household servant went missing after our father sent him on his way to deliver a message. The man's destination was near this fortress and he came to investigate. I simply joined him. We were ambushed and a battle raged.
"We were on the road when we saw Marent Plavius' house on fire from afar," the bearded man who introduced himself as Adeber explained. "Found his nephew Durus and his sister in the middle of the road on their way back from the market. We arrived at the house but . . . we were too late. The entire place was ablaze. We came here to investigate."
"Gods," I breathed. "Marent is dead?"
"I'm afraid so, and more people will die unless we root out the rest of the vampires."
A woman handed us bottles to cure diseases to prevent the worst. I thanked her as I downed the contents of the bottle, knowing well just how futile the gesture was.
"That is why we are here," she said. "To protect and serve the needs of all."
And to pillage villages and homes at night and blame it on anything else, I thought with guarded displeasure, to bring destruction of the Four Abominations: the Daedra, the Manbeasts, the Risen Corpses, and us . . . the Deathless Vampyres.
"These are trying times," he said at last without altering the tone of his voice, which was wistful and in a way fatigued and stopped just short, it seemed, of actual despondency. "Unrest in the Imperial City. Haymon Cameron's activities are drawing the attention of the Resolutes of Stendarr. The Emperor is employing mercenaries to confront him and our men are too eager to get their blades wet. We will have to branch out, and that'll cause a strain in our organization. We need men on our side here in Cyrodiil. Fine work you have done in the fort, my lord. Very impressive. We could use a hand like yours."
You already have one of us among your ranks.
I glanced nervously to the east, where the horizon was brightening. The sun would be rising soon and I was eager to retire to my own chambers, where I would arrange a warm bath. Yet I would have to endure the wrath of my father and explain our little escapade on Fort Wooden Hand.
If only these holy fanatics had not been involved now. I would have to tell of them to Lord Decumus, too. Yet more one reason, aside from their lifestyle, for me to bear the Resolutes of Stendarr considerable ill will.
Draken mounted Destrier, eager to leave. "The offer is appreciated, but I must refuse. I'm certain Quintus will know how to proceed. Send him my regards."
"Quintus is missing," said the man in a gravelly voice. "We haven't heard from him weeks."
Quintus Vitellia. The name was well-known throughout Cyrodiil, spoken by criminals and righteous law-abiding citizens alike. Keeper Quintus Vitellia, leader of the Resolutes of Stendarr. Quintus Vitellia, who’d been captain of the Imperial Legion, who had brought justice to untold malefactors and outlaws. That explains the Imperial soldiers here.
Quintus Vitellia. Loved by the people. Allegedly missing.
Somehow I was certain he would appear. Somehow I was confident my father would summon me and my brother because of this particular detail.
The holy men began dragging the bodies of the victims out of the fort, and soon after the steps were slick with blood. More came through this sepulchral tunnel, the entire movement a malodorous, bloody and utterly silent march. The effect of silence was sinister, numbing. I edged my way toward Potema, and managed to give up a vagrant sniff, a choked cry, some ironic evidence of life—until Adeber spoke.
"Gods have mercy . . ." Adeber's eyes were glazed, and he was was frowning as he saw the corpses; all the blood had drained from his face and the sweat that was once there seemed to have evaporated from his brow, he now looked parched and dry and accentuating that expression we were all familiar with: hate. He finished his words in a husky, shattered voice, tinged and low. "On their souls. We'll hunt those creatures to the last one."
"I can't look," I said, looking away. I was weeping again, not obtrusively but with the vivid, dishonest tears welling up at the edge of my eyelids. I turned to Draken. "Please, let's leave this dreadful place."
Draken and I rode away from Fort Wooden Hand, toward Castle Decumus where we could finally put this night behind us.
"Worry not milords," Adeber shouted from afar. "The suffering these vampires caused will not go unpunished. None escape the Resolutes. All come into the light. We will double our efforts in this region. No vampire shall escape!"
Whew, the vampiric siblings pulled it off! Raven was brilliant and Draken’s contributions were perfect. Even their need to exit before the sun began to take its toll was well done.
A fascinating view of Witchhunters, Knightly Orders and the like from the perspective of their prey. No surpise that Raven holds them in disdainful low regard.
One can only hope, with this particular band, that Stendarr himself would help keep this group focused on their purpose of defending the defenseless and rooting out evil, instead of using the abilities Stendarr has granted them toward selfish ends.
Raven drinking a potion to ward off vampirism!
Raven plays the vampire-hunters like a harp from hell.
Put a blade in the hands of a butcher, and they'll make meat out of anyone.
This was a wonderfully chilling description. A much creepier version of saying that when you are a hammer, everything else looks like a nail.
Oh thank goodness for those cure disease potions!
Quintus Vitellia sounds like an interesting complication to things.
I had forgotten about that questline in Rivenspire in ESO. That was my favorite zone, a need little detail, I am glad you through that in.
So many good bits in this chapter!
Raven showing off her mastery of deception and why she deserves to be a member of the Order hahaha. That was genius and they bought it! However, I think the men recognizing Draken and knowing that the two of them are Lord Decumus' children helped get them out of that situation...
I got a really good chuckle out of the Cure Disease potions LOL. It was a neat addition.
Now what about this quote Raven was thinking?
"You already have one of us among your ranks."
That was a spicy meatball, was she saying that one of the current members there with them, as part of the Resolutes of Stendarr were a vampire? Or just that one in general among their ranks they have a vampire that they are unaware of? A very interesting point, though it makes sense, what better way to make others believe you are not a vampire than by hunting them?
Acadian: Raven has learned a thing or two from her father, and as we'll learn in this chapter, he has many more lessons for her. Being the creature that she is, Raven knows she has to appear unassuming and simple as she can possibly be. Its essential for her to adopt this guise of being harmless or just a young maiden, and as time goes on, she'll shape her own self to suit the perceptions of others.
Being among those hunted by them, she really doesn't appreciate them too much. But this affects her in a very personal level, which we'll come to see in the following chapters. There's history there between those who hunt things like her, and its recent.
With every holy order, there are always those in them that act our in their own selfish ends and innocent people are caught in the midst. I'm certain Stendarr would not approve, but people can be selfish, evil and greedy, and as we've seen in both real life and the Elder Scrolls, many of these organizations had a reputation to employ violent means towards innocent. It was mentioned in Skyrim that some of the members of the Dawnguard looted and robbed villages and blamed it on vampires. There are indeed holy warriors who would truly fight for the cause, and there are those who would benefit it for themselves, and get caught up in killing innocent people.
Just her keeping up appearances!
Subrosa: Raven knew what to do only because she's been in a precarious situation months prior to the events of this chapter, which we'll visit in the next chapter. When it comes to vampire hunters, inquisitors and holy orders, she's always weary.
Quintus Vitellia was meant to be introduced in this chapter, but due to length, and how he ties in to both Raven and Draken's arc, he'll be shown in the next few chapters. He's a very important figure, and has a chapter dedicated to him.
BretonBlood: To be counted among the Order, one must live by certain guidelines and tenets, behave a certain manner, and come from a certain stock, I believe. Manifesto Cyrodiil Vampyrum hints us at people who are well-established in the upper echelons, people with gold, influence and power. Raven was born into a very privileged life, but she has to prove herself capable of earning that. Crassus throughout the centuries has forged all he has through his own capabilities. He wants to instill the same belief in Raven and Draken, and as followers of Molag Bal, they don't believe in easy things. They can't afford to be lulled into a sense of peace or tranquility. Crassus places value in strife, might makes right, domination, all the spheres Molag Bal encompasses, but at the same time he's pragmatic, and cunning, as we'll see more in this chapter.
As to your question, I would say the latter. There's a vampire among the ranks of the Resolutes of Stendarr, and we haven't met that vampire yet, but that person is well-known among the circles of the Order, and has been placed there for a reason.
Previously on Order Vampyrum: Raven and Draken encounter the Resolutes of Stendarr, and finally set path for Castle Decumus to meet with their father, Crassus Decumus.
Castle Decumus loomed before us, the great edifice which dated back to the days when warlords ruled and fought with fists of iron long before the rise of Tiber Septim. Its familiar turrets and battlements risen to the starry night sky. It stood a staggering stronghold of stone, surrounded by the lushness of the Great Forest. Lights still burned behind those shuttered windows, making it seem as if the place was ablaze from within. Great merlons stabbed up from the parapet like rows of teeth, where the heads of traitors and criminals were said to have been traditionally placed on iron spikes during the days of the Interregnum. Crimson and black banners hung above the watchtowers.
An ancient place full of untold stories and secrets.
Home, I thought as we rode toward the castle’s front gate. The ground sloped further from the path on each of our sides, allowing but one avenue of approach. The dense wilderness surrounded the stronghold on every side.
Mortal sentries posted outside the gatehouse and over the battlements hastened to and fro at our approach. As our mounts galloped below, an eagle-eyed servant shouted from above, his voice traveling to our ears.
"The masters have returned! Open the gates!"
My father scrutinized me as I sat on the table in his office, looking up from his desk, suspicious, reserved, glacial, a serene Imperial manner, with sharp and austere gaze and a lean, hardened stance. Building up within me was this old atavistic dread of scorn from my father, which began to overwhelm me as I sat there with a great deal of hesitance. I hope our accounts of tonight's adventure wouldn't ire him, but I knew him well enough.
Even with the windows shuttered against the coming sun, the chill in the room was tangible.
Lord Decumus was the first to break the silence. "Vampires burn too easily in days such as these, like dried kindling; bursting in flames because they do not listen to their elders. Those who have walked Tamriel far longer than they have."
I was nervous beyond reason and hopelessly confused, with no precedent to guide me now in the presence of my father. In an excess of furtiveness—despite the familiar surroundings and company—I tapped my feet on the floor and my finger on the table, helplessly trying to summon a suitable response.
There was none.
"It takes effort to stay above the ground," my father said, face staring behind interlocked fingers. "It takes effort not to be ash and dust. In such times of judicial inquiries, scrutinies and our less esteemed kin biting at our throats, one has to keep a sensible mind for such affairs. Have you forgotten the tenets of our august Order? Have you forgotten that discretion is the greatest of our virtues?"
Until the rest of my days were but a vapor, I knew I would never forget this moment, as long as I lived. Whatever thoughts I possessed, whatever trivial escapades I had indulged, were devoured in the maelstrom that was my father's eyes. Gaubert of Anticlere, Draken, my mother's fate, myself, all those were gone in an instant, and there was only Lord Crassus Decumus, the man himself, his power, his presence, and the intensity of it.
His eyes were cold, and yet startlingly dark in the lightness that was his countenance. His pupils were pinpoints, burning red and gold, and they penetrated inside me and weighed the soul within. I stared back at him, and in those eyes there was a beast lurking, hungry and frightening, subdued and angry, dark and waiting. Laughter and solitude and passionate cruelty; my father had all of that in his eyes.
It was the same during the ritual, just as it was in Skyrim months ago.
My father was shrewd and insidious, but he was a vampire of Cyrodiil: cunning and manipulation are expected, and as a member of our Order they were even considered virtues. Though my father is analytical and without pity, he was pragmatic and within reason.
As part of our Order, the same was expected of me.
The best history of our clan, that I have been able to muster, came from a small collection of sources, picked for their relative reliability and trustworthiness. When I contemplated how our tribe was spread, and how secretive we vampires of Cyrodiil tended to be both as a society and as individuals, the true measure of the difficulty of assembling our history comes into view, like a mountain unveiled through dissipating fog.
Beyond that pinnacle is our past, concealed by lies, errors, negligence, omissions, and speculation; some vitriolic and some fielded for our own good. To better navigate the precipitous terrain, we required maps to reveal the trails and mountain passes can be located. But not all the directions given to us are accurate, and not every one of them even intend to be. In the end, what was paramount was primacy of ourselves, and our journey long forward.
Our Order, though small in number, was made up of select politicians, lobbyists, merchant princes, high priests and financiers; respected members of society; elite figures of the upper echelons; gifted philanthropists, nobles and court mages, and anything in between. Individuals who could shape others into instruments, and thus shape Tamriel.
Am I capable of such a task? Do I truly want to be?
My father scrutinized me as I sat on the table in his office, suspicious, reserved, glacial, in his serene Imperial manner, his mouth working strenuously as his jaws moved against one another. Building up within me was this old atavistic dread of scorn from my father, which began to overwhelm me as I sat there with a great deal of hesitance. His gaze flicked over to my brother. "From the account Raven's thrall has given me, you took the fight to the thin-bloods with a sense of vengeance."
"A sense of justice," Draken answered back. "For killing Marent Plavius and his family."
“Call it what you will. It still comes down to spilling blood. The way you make it sound, it seems almost dignifying that some survived to spread the word of your massacre.”
"I destroyed most of them. I would have destroyed the others, but . . ."
"There was a delay on your part," my father said, bearing down on him. "And the ones you killed—the ones you did not let escape— not one of them proved a challenge?"
My father paused for a moment. "The creature that led them?"
From my brother's shaky voice, I detected a note of hesitation. If I caught that, undoubtedly so did my father.
"How was it defeated?”
"I impaled it with my sword."
My father measured the tatters of Draken's clothes from the wounds he had suffered, and though his lacerations had healed, the tell-tale signs of his injuries stained the ruins of his attire. "You have been wounded. You went in the fortress without any protection. That was foolish."
"If Raven made the decision to storm the fortress, you'd believe it cunning," Draken said with a note of humor in his voice. "I could not see her heavy with armor, but she would look better than that armored troll of a woman."
Lord Decumus' eyes were a pale yellow, as luminous as they were without pity. "Your lame japes are unappreciated,” he said in a flat tone as cold as the grave. And then, “Raven would have never been so unwise as to put herself in peril like that. You are fortunate she went there to lend you aid."
The word hung between the two, great, sharp, and poisoned. This wasn't the first time my brother mentioned my father's high praise of me. Since my mother's death, Lord Decumus was harsh on him.
Growing up with Draken was not difficult. We’d worried; we’d played; we’d sought out forbidden knowledge; we’d shared secrets and we’d kept a great deal to ourselves. We’d been very close until my mother's death, and then we hadn’t been close at all, because after her passing, I couldn’t handle any more worries and I didn’t want to share any more secrets. I kept myself out of trouble, secluded to my own chambers and studies.
Draken could not keep the bitterness out of his voice. "I killed that thing. Isn't that what we are meant to do? Rip them out, root and stem? I see no issues here."
My father approached him, his face cold and detached. "And if by some miraculous chance the creature had managed to defeat a vampire of pure blood that is Draken Decumus, what consequence might you face, my son? It certainly came close enough, it would seem. You are impatient. You see no value in learning about the intricacies of politics and the court. You hunger for power of the sort you imagine to be in glory in the field of battle. These are nothing but vainglorious pursuits. You have been given a tremendous power few men possess, and what have you done with these abilities? You've sat on your gift and entertained petty notions. You have authority and dominion, but you spend your days in the embrace of questionable women and drinking with ne'er-do-wells."
Draken could not find his words. I sat there, silent as he was.
"Perhaps you’re not worthy of Molag Bal's gift, after all. You understand well that the Kin-Father's will is made reality. To earn his trust you must be powerful in your own right and this is an eternal commitment. But brute power alone cannot guarantee your victory. You saw for yourself when that vampire cut open your flesh. Had you been patient, the Resolutes of Stendarr would have dispatched them and you would have never been involved."
My brother held his tongue.
"Curb that pompous spirit of yours from this point forward. I hope you thanked the creature before you killed it,” Lord Decumus went on, "because it taught you a valuable lesson. When you face another vampire elevated by their kin, you must remain focused—even when you’re convinced that your adversary is incapacitated. Your wrath must be instantaneous, without hesitation and nothing less than lethal, for you are a vampire, and make no mistake, you will be marked for death."
My father leveled upon me his frosty gaze; there seemed to be no belligerence in his look—toward me, at least: if anything, I detected even a touch of cordiality in his manner. But he was still firm: I was beyond a doubt now a culprit to tonight's event, and was partially responsible for what had happened.
“You are a capable young woman, Raven. And you make me proud. But you were born into this elevated position. You haven't the slighest idea what it means to earn it." He closed the distance between us, touching my shoulder. "There are difficult decisions ahead of us, and it is time you prove you are a valuable member of our civil fraternity. There are perilous tasks the Order will have of you."
I blinked, and voiced in modest protest. "I have been preparing, father."
"How so? Reading? If it’s history and heritage that has caught your fancy, I can bore you with lectures of the past. Is that your desire, Raven? To become an academic, some glorified scholar burying your nose in tomes and books? You can study the dark arts, the secrets of necromancy or whatever schools of magic you wish to excel at, or even travel to the planes of Oblivion but that shall only take you so far."
Did he know . . . about my venture into Coldharbour?
"I—I don't know where to even begin."
"On the surface, your strength rests on your beauty, birthright, and wealth. A great measure of your power however, is your Dark Gift. It is generous and comes with many blessings you already have familiarized yourself with. Among those is the blessing of concealment: our countenance lurk in the dark beneath our skins, our true nature remain shadowed deeper still. Your greatest strength is a cunning mind. Learn to take advantage of this in the centuries to come."
"Yes, father." I said.
"You must discover the untold secrets of the Dark Gift in your own manner, and perfect your abilities in any fashion you see fit. My responsibility in the meantime is to help to keep you from losing your way while we blend in plain sight from the prying eyes of our adversaries."
My father stared, somewhat distant. There was no discourtesy, no impertinence found in his voice, yet there was no trace of benignity either. "The Resolutes of Stendarr,” he said slowly, fixing me with his bright, gelid eyes. "Have a particular interest in creatures of our constitution. Draken will deal with them, and this vampiric problem. You, however, will undergo a different task I have for you. This will be revealed in due time. I have received a letter from Quintus Vitellia before his disappearance. You will come to learn of the contents of this tomorrow night."
"What do we do now?" Draken asked.
Lord Decumus circled his desk, hands over a map of Cyrodiil. "We shall need a full bloody sweep through the countryside firmly and without qualm and make certain they are all destroyed. We must seize back what is ours."
Culling other vampires was a necessity required by our clan every time the need arises. Every vampire who are not part of our bloodline, or give into their animalistic desires, are exterminated—some at the hands of vampire hunters. Our involvement, of course, was meant to be secret, like most of our clan's sordid schemes, but such actions could scarcely be kept completely in the dark.
"The Resolutes of Stendarr and the mobs shall search beyond the caverns and crevices, they will look to castles, villas and estates. When the smoke clear and the embers die, as our these creatures are reduced to ash, the blemish of their existence shall haunt us for a time. There will be those who doubt the totality of the extermination of vampires. There shall always be whispers vampires walk among mortals, rumors and hushed whispers that we are here. And if they discover our identities, they will relentlessly hunt us down."
I frowned as I listened to his words. "There is nothing more undignifying than being hunted by your own food source."
Lord Decumus breathed. "Secrecy is one of your most important weapons. It is paramount we cement their beliefs that our Order to be a myth, a story. In time they shall not waste their time chasing shadows every time someone whispers of our kind."
Draken and I nodded.
My father paused to let the implications of his grave statement sink in before continuing. "We cannot live in isolation like these savages do, cowering in fear as we are cut off from the rest of Tamriel. We must labor to increase our influence and dominion; manipulate those beneath our station from our lofty offices of power. It is inevitable that some of them shall recognize us for what we are, no matter how well we blend in, seeing before them a vampire where others would see a man. How do suppose we strengthen our deception?" he asked.
I answered with a subtle shake of the head, and a liquid shrug of the shoulders, waiting for a reply.
"The spread of misinformation; lies, gossip, rumors," he continued, "to obscure it with half-truths. You must encourage these deceptions, creating a lie so thick they blind your adversaries until they cannot separate myth from reality. Layer yourselves in subterfuge and the truth of you shall be difficult to ascertain."
A thrill of understanding ran through me as I stood there in the shadows, a candle illuminating my face.
My father's brows drew together. "You can discredit an accusation should you be unfortunate to fall victim to one. The best approach is to 'flower up' the story, if you will. Increase the number of stories yet take the edge off of yours. Spin the next tale more egregiously. If the truth of you is concealed in a bank of elaborate lies, you can go unnoticed for a very long time. You shall be in significantly less peril."
"Remember this always, true power is found in the fundamental value of self-determinism over all else. A vampire thrives and is empowered by the dark secret he carries, knowing the toll his next decisions shall take. That is the strength of our Order, residing in that secret, sacred place of knowledge and deception. This is power. We aren't beasts prone to unsheathing our claws or baring our fangs, or proclaim ourselves with hisses and orgiastic bloodlust, my children. We can subdue and dominate others, bend them to our will with shackles of silk and jewels, steadfast charisma, and political astuteness. A quill is just as sharp as a sword, and ink just as deadly as poison.”
My father sat behind his desk, staring at us as he drank a chalice of blood. "We are creatures with many grave and terrible flaws, and vicious urges which we struggle to control. We are that which mortals may look upon and say we do not deserve to be in this world but this world is ours just as much as it is theirs. They may not come to know us; but we know them. They will not feed from us; we will feed from them. Because we have every right to survive, and just as much right to survive as they do, and whether you believe we are cursed by the Divines or blessed by the Daedric patrons, that does not matter. We exist."
He inhaled, and with an air of finality, he added:
"Until we are all smited down to the last one, we will continue to exist and we will prey on the weak. We are predators. You both are fledglings with much to learn. I am an ancient with much experience, and in the end you must take the proper steps to thrive, to survive, or be turned to dust. Forever. You will walk Tamriel in the guise of a mere mortal, but nothing about you both could be mere. Life is constant flux and decay. You are not. You can either watch Tamriel change and shift before you, or you can help twist it to suit our desires. The decision to make is in your hands. Pray you choose wisely."
A fascinating interchange among the ancient and his fledglings.
Despite his wisdom and experience, I’m not sure the patriarch’s motivational words to Draken will result in much more than making the young vampire feel belittled, unfavored and likely resentful. If his goal is to have Draken fully embrace the Order, I’m not so sure this encounter will further that objective. In fact, Lord Decumus might even be wise to be careful what he wishes for. Draken has lots of potential and it is ever fully realized, Lord Decumus might find himself perilously at the receiving end of Draken’s resentment.
On the other hand, however, his tact with Raven was superb and, I expect, will evoke the desired response and motivation from her.
The complexity that you weave into this vampiric family is very well done indeed!
Uh oh, now it is time to face the wrath of their father. I imagine he is not going to be overly pleased by the night's adventures.
As Raven mused, I imagine it would be incredibly difficult to separate fact from rumor and deliberate misinformation when dealing with the history of an order as secretive as the Cyrodiilic vampires.
It sounds like Draken might have been happier being born a Brujah than a Ventrue! As Acadian noted, there is definitely a gulf of misunderstanding and bad blood between father and son.
Daddy Decumus - OTOH - is clearly Ventrue through and through. Again, I imagine him being played by Bill Nighy in the movie version of this tale.
Oohhh another great chapter!
I share the sentiment with the others, I am not sure Lord Decumus' words will do much to inspire Draken when all he did was take Draken's accomplishments and turn them into a failing of some kind. I get he is trying to teach a lesson, tough love so to speak, but I feel he will get the opposite reaction to what he wants.
Also the resentment is real, Lord Decumus definitely favors Raven, poor Draken even mentioned it, had the roles been reversed their father would be singing praise to her, not lecturing her.
It was definitely great to see his thoughts and knowledge of the Order that he imparted to the two siblings. It is definitely something they need to learn quickly if they have any hope of joining that "society".
Acadian: The relationship between father and son is complicated, and ridden in layers of emotion. Draken is a slow learner, but eventually he'll come to learn. Of course, as you've pointed out, this may not be in line with what Crassus has in mind, and certain decisions imposed by Lord Decumus can drive Draken to walk away from the venomous habitat that is his home.
Raven reminds Crassus of his wife, who is believed by Raven and Draken to be dead. There's a special care there for her, and though she's been groomed even before her introduction into vampirism, she still has much to learn and Crassus wants to brand these teachings in her heart before she grows her wings, so to speak.
Subrosa: Every secret society thrives in the spreading of misinformation and deception, and I think the Cyrodiilic vampires took advantage of this. Cyrodiil, being at the height of Tamrielic power, was a perfect place to lay low and build their own power-base, but to do so they need the wisdom, cunning and strong instincts.
Draken the Toreador Brujah? Has a nice ring to it.
If I would consider the WoD vampire clans I would say Crassus is no doubt Ventrue, while Raven herself has a very healthy blend of Tremere and Ventrue, and both in the Camarilla.
BretonBlood: Perhaps. Soon Draken will embark on his first quest for his clan beyond Castle Decumus, and he will gain the experience he needs that'll lead him to making a decision.
It is implied the Order picks their members from a certain pool, whether they're vampires already or perhaps shown the traits and capabilities that'll suit them well if they were to be turned. Both of the siblings were born into it, so to speak, but they have to earn their stripes. Prevalent among the worshipers of Molag Bal is this concept of taking care of yourself, being strong, and though they are purebloods, they have to make an effort.
Previously on Order Vampyrum: Lord Decumus gives a lesson to the vampiric pair, and hints at what is to come.
Dark and cavernous in nature, the bottom region was the beating heart of Castle Decumus. Ancient stone steps led down into the sunken levels. At the center of this lower tier, housed within a concentric pattern of interwoven Daedric circles, stood an imposing statue of the Daedric Lord Molag Bal, with his terrible mace slung over his shoulder. Another equal sized statue of the Prince sat in the corner, with this depiction of the Daedric Lord holding his mace in one hand, and a doomed mortal in the other. A third shrine bore a snarling visage, which egested from a fanged snarl a flowing river of crimson blood.
"I can't see a thing," Gaubert of Anticlere said as he waved his hands in front of him.
With a ball of fire, I lit a torch from a sconce and handed it to the mortal thrall, exposing to him a sparsely furnished chamber that contrasted with the other lush accommodations of the upper levels.
"Oh," was all he could say as his eyes beheld the terrible altar to the Lord of Brutality, with bared fangs as though grinning triumphantly out of the bygone reaches of history.
I was quiet, contemplating in silence this sacred and harrowing place with anguished eyes. While Gaubert seemed horrified with the abundance of dried blood and viscera staining the floor, I stared upon this place with the reverence one would in a chapel, or more appropriately, a burial.
"What is this place?" he asked with trepidation.
"A shrine—an altar—to Molag Bal, the father of all our kind. I come here often to think and meditate."
Jolted by my ominous statements, the former healer took a step back and took in the details of the place. He stared down in dismay as the tell-tales signs of immense bloodshed and untold suffering. "What happened here?" he asked apprehensively. "It looks like someone was . . . sacrificed."
I kept the mortal's gaze, offering no words for but a moment. Everything reminded me of that day, even the smell: musky air was pungent with the reek of smoke, old sweat, rancid death, sweet perfume and blood.
"A young woman. Pure and undefiled, her virtue and honor unbesmirched." I whispered in a slow tone, breaking the silence. I spoke so faintly that at first I wasn’t sure that he heard me. "As dictated by tradition, she was presented as a ripe offering to the Corrupter."
I inhaled, turning away from Gaubert. Could he, yet enthralled to my will, discern the layers of unhealed grief and sorrow in my eyes, or detect the old pain that darkened my voice?
It felt odd to be speaking to a servant like this, and of such a matter that was immensely revealing and personal, but I couldn’t help myself. It felt oddly right, to share without worry of revelation, although I couldn’t have begun to explain why.
"What—what happened to her?" Gaubert asked. Despite his mind being subservient to mine, his earnest face heavy with unmistakable compassion and sympathy. My throat tightened, making it even difficult to speak.
"She died." My voice was little more than a whisper, but I could see Gaubert hanging on my every word. "She was killed by the King of Rape after he was summoned in this very place you now stand."
The fate of this woman provoked a puzzled expression from Gaubert. "She submitted to him willingly?"
I nodded with a knowing expression on my face. "She did. It was her choice. She prepared herself for that day. She understood the consequences."
"I have read numerous tales about Daedric cults, and the forbidden practices done. Some more unspeakable than others. Often than not the price to pay for serving the Daedra are often too high, and the choices made often regrettable."
My mouth made a thin line as I cased myself once again in my emotional armor. "Quite often. But those of us who are children to Lord Molag burn with the relentless determination of those who have discovered how different power tastes when you are the one who wields it. To most it seems we are ridden with vengeful fantasies and sanguine cravings. By this power, we make Tamriel our winepress, and to learn how to bite before being bitten."
It was true. It was a blasphemous thing to utter to most of Tamrielic society, but vampirism was a gift. The promise of untold powers, of sacred answers, of godslike abilities and immortality, the powerful temptations many face. But indeed, there is such a thing as too much sacrifice. There are those who lost their lives to try to claim this power, or fight it. And there are those who passed unto undeath and now hunt the living with unnatural thirst beyond the grave with their souls destined to haunt Oblivion forever.
I looked at the blood on the floor. My blood. This was the price I had to pay.
The young maiden offered to Molag Bal was dead. A scion of the night—a vampire lord—had emerged in her place.
The deed was done, it cannot be unchanged, and I see no way back. I cannot, must not, rewrite the pages with the book from which they were torn asunder. Of this, if nothing else, I was positively certain. From an even younger age, the concept of immortality always called to me. This was a promise, a Daedric pact to great ends, and falling to the temptation of this call resulted in my creation, the risen corpse animated by ancient blood.
I led Gaubert through the halls into another subterranean chamber of Castle Decumus. The atmosphere, like the chamber before it, was cold, stark, and soulless. By design, the temperature was kept suitably frigid.
"Don't mind the mess. Everything is a bit disarranged," I told Gaubert as we crept further into the sanctum. "My brother would be mortified if he saw this unruly state."
I walked through the familiar territory of chains, cages and shackles hung from the ceiling, the better to contain unwilling occupants. This part of the dungeon had an austere, utilitarian feel. The furniture here served a function beyond decorative, and the great expanse of been converted into a laboratory for uses both magical and mundane.
"Fascinating," the monk breathed. "This is quite the laboratory."
Sealed bottles filled with green-colored liquids rested atop long tables. A clutter of instruments of glass, alembics, calcinators and retorts, used to distill or separate mixtures, lined the walls. In another area the hearts, eyes and brains of different specimens floated in jars, preserved in perpetuity in clear embalming fluid. Another table contained books, pages, scribbled notes and sketches tracking my studies and efforts meticulously spread apart.
"I am pleased that you find it to your liking. This place hasn't had many visitors like yourself. Its often quiet, as my father and brother seldom come here."
Though this was a place to work, a stone stab allowed me to rest my head when I felt like taking a break. A portrait of my family, consisting of my mother, father and brother, occupied a position of honor upon a table. It served me as both keepsake and inspiration, a reminder of the unity of blood.
An awkward silence fell over the room. Gaubert's trembling legs reminded me just how weak and tired the mortal was from his captivity at Fort Wooden Hand, and he dropped without pause into the nearest chair, his gaze drifted absently about the chamber, eventually falling on a great slab nearby.
The corpse of a man occupied one of the slabs. Gaubert took a deep breath once he saw the body. The lack of coloration and details testified eloquently as to how long he was dead, and the monk shot me a curious look.
"A prisoner from the Imperial City," I explained to him. "The guards denied him his needs for the duration of his sentence, and according to them, he died of blood lung and cholera. Don't get close. You wouldn't want to catch anything."
A tray of surgical utensils sat near the body, covered by a grayish-white layer of dust and cobwebs.
"What are those for?" he asked. The healer in him was scandalized by the decidedly less than clean condition of the scalpels and pliers and the like, many of which showed evidence of rust, dried blood, or a repugnant joining of both. He curled a lip at the obvious bloodstains on the tools; what could I say? Maintaining a clean environment was not the height of my priorities.
Thank the Maker I did not have to worry about diseases, I thought.
"One of many keys to unlocking certain doors—I am not here to gain knowledge for itself alone—to feel just the elation of discovery. I do not fancy myself the best of scholars but I am invested in my trade of deciphering mysteries, and the study of all its aspects for better use. I need information to feed my mind as much as I need blood to feed my body."
Gaubert cleared his throat. "Your voracious hunger for answers is only rivaled, then, by your thirst for blood. With an appetite like that, you'll wander Tamriel for eternity, gorging yourself like a fox in a hen coop."
I stood over the cadaver before me. A corrective tone slipped into my voice. "Like a connoisseur in a wine cellar. One must choose one's vintage with utmost care, the red and the whites. I have a very particular palate."
"And what do you hunger for in specific, my lady? For if I am to serve you in the best possible manner, I need to understand."
Listening to his words, I dragged my fingertips across the cold, stiff flesh of the remains on the slab. I plucked a scalpel from a nearby tray and brought the tip of the blade against the corpse's chest. My eyes narrowed in concentration as I sliced open the former prisoner's flesh, making an incision large enough to allow me to thrust my curious fingers within the unprotesting body. As I explored the interior regions, my fingers eventually closed around a firm, fleshy member attached within.
Ah, there you are, I thought. Had to get you out before tonight was over . . .
It took a bit of effort to disengage the heart from his chest without damaging its integrity, but I soon succeeded in dragging my prize out into the bright glow of the torchlight. I held the still heart in my hand, inspecting the organ's landscape whose natural beauty was matched by the unsettling black coloration. I wiped the heart with a handkerchief, then safely tucked it away in a cloth so that it could be later stored in a jar.
"While this is no Thrassian Plague, this man was very unfortunate. It seems the guards did not see that he also suffered from an advanced stage of internal gangrene. Unusual. It usually develops further from the heart. I will have to write this down. Maybe I'll still have use for his body."
Gaubert was amused, but only a bit. "With the blood and all, my mistress, I'd imagine you'd be more, um, squeamish at the sight of it."
I wiped my hands clean and plucked a fleshy piece lingering on my wrist. "Sounds to me like you haven't met many vampires. Or women, for that matter."
His face flushed red. "Well, I . . . um . . . "
I took my perch beside the corpse on the slab, and allowed my feet to dangle from the edge. "To answer your question Gaubert, I hunger to know the truth. You of all people should know that we are affected by forces beyond our realm. Through their power, or by the power of the arcane or the divine, kings and rulers have risen to greatness, and empires have been razed to ashes. For good or ill, there is no denying how paramount it is. Necromancy is one of my areas of study, and it is the art in which I pride myself a student of."
Gaubert's brow drew together. "To what end, my mistress? You are a vampire."
I gave the body behind me a fleeting gaze. "As a mortal you walk in an ephemeral existence. You are born, you live, you wither into incontinence and shriveled senility. Not us. We are unchanged portraits."
My hand clenched my necklace which contained the miniature image of my mother. "Portraits that can be destroyed. All it takes is a well-placed bolt, or a kiss from the sun. As you well know, our souls perpetuate after physical death. The Nords believe in the festive halls in Sovngarde, the Khajiit the Sand Behind the Stars, the Redguard and their Far Shores . . . "
"Indeed," Gaubert said, nodding. "Other faiths and cultures have whimsical names for the realm of the afterlife."
"Precisely. I am a Daughter of Coldharbour, a pure vampire—I am repellent unto Heaven—unto Aetherius, and consigned to Oblivion. We traverse this world but I fear that this is merely the beginning of a new chapter in an endless library. The intricacies of Oblivion are freighted with terrible and fiery logic; it is difficult for me to conceive words expressing the nature of Coldharbour, as I had been there for a vapor of a moment. But I need to understand the truth, no matter how scathing that truth is. Are all those who are bound to Molag Bal truly damned for unending torment, or, is there a chance that we, in altering the course of our unnatural lives, able to mold our fates to our benefit?"
"I cannot even begin to imagine, milady. My mind can only work for so much."
"Could you sit down, then, so I can extract your brain for a better read?" I smiled a queer smile, as if to reduce the possible sting from my sarcastic query, forgetting for a moment the numbing emotions my powers of vampiric seduction had upon Gaubert. "Ornery wasn't much help on that front."
I heard myself chuckle self-indulgently, in the first spell of what could even remotely be called genuine humor I had seen in hours. And suddenly the need in me to slip off my attire and to take a bath was nearly as intense as the real need I had by this time to sleep. I started to jabber away at Gaubert of Anticlere with absent-minded unrestraint, thoughtlessly oblivious of his current mood while being overwhelmed with my father's words spoken to me not an hour ago, and my pressing responsibilities into the unfamiliar social labyrinth of the Order.
"Now then," I said in my best soothing voice. "I realize this is an unfamiliar habitat, but you fare better here than reading your daily liturgies and listening to ear-numbing platitudes. You won't feel out of place here. Perhaps—perhaps you'll be reminded of our accents and our foreignness, and so on—but let me tell you something, Gaubert, we Nibenese are the warmest and most accepting people in Cyrodiil. You will have to do a little adjusting. Believe me when I tell you that you shall not be maltreated, flogged, ill-clothed, ill-housed, ill-fed—"
Gaubert nodded. His eyes were hollow and bloodshot as if he needed sleep, and the haze of my enthrallment yet held a powerful sway over his mind.
"—Oh, I'm rambling aren't I? Get something to eat before you bathe. There is wine in the cellar and food in the pantry. We don't have much use for it. Just remember you serve under civilized and virtuous masters. Unlike those butchers at Fort Wooden Hand—" I paused. " . . . There I go again."
"Thank, you, mistress . . . if I may, what do you need me for?"
For a moment I was so surprised that I could not speak. Then the surprise turned into perplexity. What was Gaubert of Anticlere useful for beyond my harvesting of the sweet blood that ran red through his succulent veins? Was there hopes for this man beyond being a catatonic captive in the cattle cell? Or was he like Ornery, just another minion to do my bidding until he was no longer needed?
And would my father allow me to keep Gaubert as a companion?
I confessed to myself that my hunger this night did not allow for much future planning. Further testament to how much I craved slumber and a clear mind.
"There is a long road ahead of me. For the preservation of my family, there are certain responsibilities imposed upon me that I simply cannot ignore. To better take control of both quests, I will need a companion to aid me in my endeavors. You shall serve as my thrall in the coming months."
Walking over to the stack of books, I ran a finger along the spines of the volumes, finding a journal in which to write down today's brief necropsy. My eyes looked at the other books, and for a split second I saw the symbol of an Oblivion gate burned into the cover.
I shall see you again, mother.
"The mysteries of Oblivion lies beyond the horizon, Gaubert. Like a forlorn sailor, I shall cast my boat upon this ocean and navigate these perilous waters where few others have ever sailed, through the raging tempests and titanic waves . . . what shall I discover waiting for me at the end of this voyage? A desolate, ruinous shore? Perhaps something more?"
"I suppose we shall discover it together," he said.
It was with a whisper of a smile that I said, "Of that I have no doubt. Rest well, Gaubert."
Raven again shares more details of her transition from maiden to vampiress.
A well-written conversation as Gaubert learns that he can expect to be well-treated as a thrall. Though he may not have will of his own now, his curiosity and feelings still seem to remain his own. In fact, his curiosity seems to quite match that of his mistress.
Draken and Raven both have interests of their own that may not be compatible with their father's desire that they diligently 'learn and contribute to the family business'.
I might have gone a different way on the decorations...
This was a nice way of bringing us back to where Raven died and was reborn (unborn) as a vampire, and the lesson that all power comes through sacrifice.
I loved the description of Tamriel as a winepress!
So Raven is hoping to find a way to escape from Molag Bal after death. A way for her mother to escape. Now that is a lofty and worthy goal.
And we begin to see what Gaubert's future will be. Which is more than I expected. It is really fascinating how you have written him, and the effects of Raven's mental domination over him. I like that he is not a mindless zombie. He can think, but he has no agency of his own.
This was a great chapter just getting more insight into Raven and Gaubert's "relationship", if you can call it that considering he does not have a will of his own. Though, as Acadian and SubRosa said, he does seem to have his own curiosity and questions. I imagine that is something that Raven appreciates and admires, dare I say even looks for in a thrall or companion given her own thirst for knowledge.
I think they shall make a great duo, and I think he makes for somewhat of a good soundboard for Raven, someone she can talk to and knows full well he will not go blabbing to her father or Draken.
It was brilliantly written the way you wrote Raven talking about her transformation into a pure-blood vampire. At first it seemed as if it was someone else she was talking about, but then we realize it was herself. Very well done!
Acadian: Becoming a Daughter of Coldharbour is a great deal for her. It literally was the point of her death and reanimation. Of course we needn't dwell too much on the horrid details, but is isn't something she can simply walk away from.
Gaubert and Raven are very compatible. Though he's a thrall in service to her will, there will be great things ahead for him and there's no promise he'll be a thrall forever.
Draken and Raven differ in many aspects including this. Draken sometimes will come in conflict with Crassus' interests, and he'll reluctantly do whatever it is he needs to do. He's a free-thinker. Raven on the other hand will do it because she fully believes in ideals, but will also go about her own self-interests, essentially hitting two birds with one stone.
Subrosa: Though the Decumus family live in a castle surrounded by luxury and wealth, the depths of their home is a darker and far more sinister than it appears. Same can be said of all of them.
Coldharbour is known to be a very terrible place. Infamously so. His charnel houses the slave pens of Coldharbour hold no contrition for people that visit them in error or purpose. Raven's major goal is finding out exactly what happens after she dies; she wants to know if she, like all others who are Oblivion-bound, will face an eternity of the worst torments possible, or if there's a chance it isn't so . . . but with Molag Bal being the patron prince, it doesn't look so well. If there is a chance, she is for sure trying to find her mother to free her.
Regarding enthrallment. It is a charm effect in many ways, one forcing another to be absorbed into their own ego. The thrall just considers the master to be the most important person in their life. In the Redwater Den quest in Skyrim, some of the vampires there are talking and discussing logistics with their thralls. Hroggar mentions how good Alva(a vampire) has been good to him and treated him well. This is while he's enthralled. So it made sense to me that they would behave as normal people would instead of mindless zombies. You're absolutely right on him having no agency of his own. Dexion's words from Skyrim comes to mind when he was enthralled.
"That... that wasn't me you were fighting. I could see through my eyes, but I could not control my actions."
BretonBlood: It is more or less a relationship, but not one that should be romanticized by any means. Gaubert is a, as the historical term for thrall defines, a slave to her will. Someone to provide her blood, and to watch over her as she sleep during the day. Raven's choice to turn him into a thrall was preferable than to kill him, as he could've provided the information they needed on his previous captors.
Gaubert keeps Raven grounded to 'mortality' in a way. Growing up in a family of Daedra followers, no doubt the worst and most abhorrent of them all, Gaubert can offer some perspectives that'll anchor her to her humanity despite her gradually gravitating towards her vampiric ideals and predatory nature.
Author's note: It has been awhile since I last wrote. I thought it necessary to provide a little update on where we are now.
During the Second Era, the Nibenese Lord Crassus Decumus, settled in eastern Cyrodiil in the Nibenay Valley. Growing in power and wealth with the strict ideals of the vampiric Order of Cyrodiil, Crassus witnessed his power and dominion come and go over the centuries. As a member of a cabal of undead immortals revering Daedric Princes Molag Bal and Clavicus Vile, Crassus managed to stay out of sight in the shadows.
Due to his vampiric bloodline, Lord Decumus was able to pass undetected among crowds, interact with mortals who possessed information, and forge relationships and alliances with valuable political figures. Crassus labored to increase his influence during and after the Interregnum. To this end, Crassus had a castle built in the Nibenay region. Over the centuries, he forged and cultivated new identities as an export merchant, nobleman, knight, and entrenched himself in the social, political, and economic circles of Cyrodiil with his wife, Lady Illana Decumus.
Current Events and the Story So Far:
It is the Third Era, and tensions between Emperor Cephorus Septim II and Camoran Usurper are at an all-time high. Though conflict is on the horizon when a renegade group of thin-blooded vampires begin to stir chaos in the West Weald, Crassus' two children, Raven and Draken, find themselves facing their own struggles.
Raven Decumus, a Daughter of Coldharbour, seeks to uncover the eternal truths of Oblivion after losing her mother. A young mage and necromancer, Raven is driven by her hunger for knowledge and seeks to discover about her place in the world as a fledgling pure-blooded vampire, as well as her place in Coldharbour.
Draken Decumus, the wayward son responsible for dealing with Crassus' mundane affairs, killed a life-long friend and noblewoman Priscilla in hunger-driven instinct. With much regret, the young nobleman buried her in the wilderness. Draken hopes that his dark secret will never be discovered, but fears his problem might resurface, perhaps even literally, from the grave to haunt him.
The two fledgling vampires discovered a nest of thin-blooded vampires in Fort Wooden Hand, and though they were destroyed by the pure-blooded duo, they are far from being completely eradicated. The Resolutes of Stendarr and other witchhunting groups rise to counter this threat, as well as Daedric influence brewing on all fronts.
In this tumultuous time, Crassus has great plans for his children and his legacy. As new vampires, the siblings must navigate politics, a war of succession, and the emotional strings of their past if they ever hope to survive.
In great hall of our home, my father poured double-bloody mara into a pair of goblets. The busts and statues working as timeless sentries watched me with stony indifference. Lord Decumus brought the goblets over to a pair of chairs positioned before a roaring hearth.
I stood by one of the seats, firelight dancing on my face. I accepted the cup and sipped the rich cold drink, inhaling the scent of cold blood, herbs and alcohol. As I did I looked up to the probing and calculating gaze of my father. I could feel the strength of his insight and intellect in that stare.
Lord Decumus settled into one of the chairs and looked over the rim of his goblet at a display of old Imperial swords that he had acquired far long before I had been born. His eyes were distant, as if he strayed through bygone fields of memory of an era long-forgotten.
Sipping my drink, I wandered the room, stopping now and then to appraise the blades, my errant finger running along one of them. The edge of the blade sliced into my skin and drew forth a drop of blood, thus proving their effectiveness. I took a step back as I took in room’s motif. Then I spotted the latest from the Black Horse Courier that lay folded on the Imperial settee. I picked it up and opened it. More fear mongering news. The headline read:
Noblewoman Missing! Vampires found in Fort Wooden Hand!
"Hard times are ahead," said my father, and I turned to see that he was standing by my elbow. I had not heard him come up behind me. "As I have told you, every witchunter in the province will travel here to partake in a bit of hunting. The Resolutes of Stendarr will not be the only ones endeavoring to destroy vampires."
"You would think they would be out there in Valenwood chasing after Haymon Camoran's forces," I snorted. "How long will it be until they ask the great Lord Decumus to help finance their crusade? They will go as far as to claim that they saved me and Draken from Fort Wooden Hand."
"I will provide them with just the tools they need should they ask. We are a quiet people, Raven. The lands under our domain are peaceful. That reputation must always be. Stability, prosperity, and preserving our secret have been the key components in this life."
I tossed the parchment on a desk, and my eyes fell on a lone table sitting nearby. On it was my favorite game.
Despite my nescience to military things, there are aspects of it that I have found appropriate—fascinating even. Playing chess never failed to please me in its sublime meshing of awareness, critical thinking, speed, subtlety of reflex, recognition of patterns—all of these comprised a graceful, exhilarating overture with a lethal journey to the penultimate and into the final gratifying victory, or dignifying defeat. The sense of rhythm, of watching your opponent's every move while meticulously planning your own was beautiful.
"Imperial War-Chess. It has been so long since I played. Care for a match?" I asked.
My father hovered over to the table and with a nod, he stood in between both sides, expecting the decision to fall to me. I looked at both seats, and after a moment's thought I chose my place.
"So you have chosen the losing side," he spoke with the barest hint of humor.
"We shall see," I smiled as we begun.
We played for a few minutes and as he contemplated his next move, I stopped to think about the times I played this game with my mother when I was not learning about magic.
My father drank the rest of his double bloody mara and glanced up to see me looking at the locket that hung around my neck. He looked at me for a long time.
"She was so beautiful," I murmured. "Ever so beautiful."
"She cared very much for the two of you. There was nothing more she ever wanted than to see you both grow into the young capable individuals you are now." He told me as he moved his piece, and the subject. "When your brother awakes, there is an important thing I would have for both of you."
Surely that can wait.
"Father. I wanted to talk to you in private. There has been much troubling my mind," I said as I took my turn, my voice smaller than I would have liked, "I have been having nightmares. I keep seeing her. All the time. In everything I do. I am not sure if I am qualified to do . . . whatever the Order needs me to do."
My father's eyebrows almost receded to his forehead. I could scarcely blame the reaction. Here was my chance to do something that was significant. Something that mattered, and I was going to pass it up for some diurnal disquietude and worries of the afterlife?
Indeed I was.
I looked up to my father again, my lips pressed together. "Why did she do it? I understand that madness led to her death . . . but why?"
Lord Decumus was a long time in answering. "I do not know," he said as soft as he could.
But I was on the offensive now, feeling at once more the freezing cold of the drink take my heart. "I was not there to witness it but I see it all the time. I see it unfold before my eyes, the way her skin blistered and blackened as the sun consumed her to ashes. I have dreams about Coldharbour—"
My father turned from the necklace that hugged my neck and looked at me with such vividness that I faltered. What did I see behind those eyes? Emotion? "What bizarre stories have you conjured for yourself?"
"These are not bizarre fantasies," I said softly. "We all made a pact. A contract. Signed in blood. I dream of Oblivion ever since I became a Daughter of Coldharbour. If she is there. I need to know. How she is. Her well-being."
"Your mother was a regal creature, but she was haunted by the past just as you are." He focused on chess piece before him before moving his pawn forward. His eyes searched my face for several seconds before he spoke. "You remind me of her."
I opened my mouth to speak, but my father shook his head. His eyes seemed to glow.
"I had never met a woman like your mother. She was strong, intelligent, cunning. This world is seldom fortunate to our kind, but she persisted. Your mother sought out secrets, and the knowledge tore at her until it consumed her. Do not worry about her welfare. Regardless of the eternal nature of Oblivion, she had dealt with those principalities for centuries. She understood the risk, and how to best deal should time had come."
Feeling tears forming in my eyes, I moved my piece. His words were like a tonic—not a cure, but at least a balm for the sting of hopelessness. I looked up to him after moving my piece. "I have read several books on the matter, none of them provide any clear evidence on what becomes of us," I said. "Any piece of ancient history or study relating to Coldharbour tells of lost souls called Soul Shriven, the tormented vestiges of mortals."
My father flashed me a knowing stare. "Have you had any contact with these lost souls on your last daring venture into the realm?"
There was a sharp clack as I set my knight down with too much force and almost rose. My father just sat there. Staring as he always did. Should it have come as a surprise that he knew? The fact alone stirred a feeling of being discovered that I was not accustomed to.
"Do you believe I am not aware of what transpires within the walls of my castle?" he said at last. "That I am ignorant to your rituals and experiments?"
I sat very tall, my eyes hot and challenging. My father's eyes held equal challenge, but his eyes were almost palpably cool.
There was no doubt that the moment was mine to lose or repair. I looked down on the chess game, placing a hand over my heart in a gesture I strained to look honest rather than affected.
"I want to apologize to you for my disobedience," I said, my voice timid and guileless. "For not being transparent. I understand how dangerous it is and there are more important things at stake." A set of eyes continued to watch me. He uttered not a word, so I continued. "I just regret not being able to enjoy my mother when she was yet of this world. I wanted to follow her beyond if only to apologize to her for not being a better daughter."
My words were dramatic, and I had fabricated them with the intent to manipulate the moment, but as I was lost into the smoky depths of my father's distant eyes, I realized that I meant it.
He stared at me some more and cleared his throat. "Since you were a girl you have been bookish, an erudite on many subjects that your mother once said you had a book and a candle while in her womb. You never liked leaving home. You felt comfortable in your own room, imagining Tamriel through the pages from the safety of your own chambers."
My father countered my move with his own; his cavalry was on their way to meet mine.
"You were always a fearful girl. When Lake Rumare almost claimed you, you were left traumatized by the event. You felt powerless as the depths nearly took your life. You felt you were powerless even after your brother pulled you out. When you undertook your trial in Skyrim you realized the fragility of life, even life such as ours. You want control. You crave it. The desire to dominate is seared into your being."
My hand played with a pawn, the piece was rough under my finger but delicate, and I realized how easily I could break it—or crush it or set it aflame; I could destroy this pawn in any number of ways. I’d felt this familiar rush months ago—away from the civilized company in Cyrodiil—out in the coldest reaches of Skyrim, the birthplace of vampirism.
It was alluring yet terrifying.
There was power in the possibility. It wasn't often that one gets the opportunity to casually destroy something of value. Growing up, there’s always another tower of wooden blocks to knock over, another doll to set aflame. Growing up, those toys are taken away, much like everything else.
Much like my mother.
As my cavalry was halved over difficult terrain and my pawns set in place, the decision ahead of me was dire. One choice could result in my defeat, or perhaps my victory. I bit my lip as I planned ahead.
Lord Decumus clasped his hands together. "This is where the road bifurcates, Raven. Right here and now you need to decide whether to repudiate your power by chasing lost echoes or to venture courageously and painstakingly into the depths of your future—never mind the consequences."
"You could devote the rest of your unnatural life to trying to stifle this power, and squander this gift," he said, vacant eyes penetrating the depths of mine. "Or you could consider a different option." His gaze deepened. "This is a dark path into a shadowy realm from which few return. No one's hands remain clean, as you already know."
My fingers hovered over the chess piece, but my focus was on my father as he spoke.
"You spend time learning necromancy. Good. We are caught between the living and the dead, after all, and understanding what this signified requires bold strides, introspection and assessment, but as I have told you, this craft will only take you so far. By the way of our Order, you must devote yourself to the political arena, and our ideals. The test of its value is whether you can live by it."
I nodded as I made my move . . . and almost that instant I realized that I lost.
My father looked at me, nodded as my assessing gaze pondered over the game. From the corner of my eye I saw him glance at the locket on my neck of the beautiful woman we had both cherished—and still cherish—and then look back at the chess game ahead.
"You tried to take your cavalry from Nibenay over the Velothi Mountains to overwhelm my forces, but you were not counting on these soldiers to overtake your leader. You were distracted, and devoted the majority of your power in a single area." He explained as he pointed his finger on the spot of my defeat. "Power is subtle at times. When smoothly employed, it can be absolute."
I straightened and looked over at the pieces, seeing with perfect clarity his winning stroke. I was distracted, focusing on one matter when there was another one that was far more pressing.
The chess game served as a lesson.
I raised my head from the table, feeling a wave of coldness pass through me as if I had been standing knee deep in the airless, cheerless peaks of the highest mountain in Skyrim.
My father bent to look again, and I thought I caught the flicker of a smile. We stood there, both looking at the game in our own way.
"Raven," my father said, his eye still pressed to the game. "Be mindful of all the pieces at all times."
I did not know how to respond to that. Nothing had prepared me for this moment, so I said nothing for fear of saying the wrong thing. I sipped my bloody mara and watched my father rearrange the chess pieces.
For the first time in my adult life, however, I felt like I was at peace.
The summary you provided of where we are to date was a delightful opportunity to refresh where we are and how things fit together.
’In great hall of our home, my father poured double-bloody mara into a pair of goblets.’
- - I love it! I believe ESO actually has the recipe for such a beverage. What else would vampires drink? And it does appear you likely forgot the word ‘the’ prior to ‘great hall’ early in the sentence.
No surprise that Decumus is aware of Raven’s jaunt into Coldharbour. And we learn a little more about the death (?) of Raven’s mother. Decumus' words seem to have struck an impactful chord with Raven.
Wonderful job of meaningfully interweaving the chess game with the tense father-daughter conversation. I enjoy writing a conversations with some of background physical activity simultaneously progressing. For Buffy, this is often grooming or riding Superian. You went one better by choosing an activity that quite relates to and reinforces the conversation.
As Acadian noted, I love the Bloody Mara. Now we just need a Morrowind Mule to finish off our night of drinking.
This father-daughter interlude raises as many questions as it answers. It now seems clear that Raven's mother committed suicide by sunlight. But not exactly why? Her father seems assured that she is well, in whatever afterworld she may be. But is she? He also makes it plain that he expects Raven to move on to the political arena, and leave her quest to find her mother, and what happens to dead vampires, in the past. But will she?
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