I had a choice this morning: travel north to the College, east back to Isran, or west back to everything else. Curiosity prodded me east to see how Isran’s former friends were acclimating to their old friend.
The dawn started sullenly, a hazy grey which brightened to a equally sullen yellow that I could barely see through. If there were any Dragons about I would have only been able to hear them, but the world was quiet this morning, as if it did not want to wake either.
A bandit leaped out of the bushes in front of me by the hot springs, brashly demanding my money or my life. The Dunmer looked young, but then they usually do, and I thought to offer her mercy. I simply drew my curved Ebony dagger and invited her to make an attempt, at which point she had second thoughts and ran off down the road.
I arrived at the walls of Riften a few hours later, exact time being impossible to determine with the fog hanging overhead. I had no business there and walked around the city to the valley connecting Skyrim to Morrowind.
The Dawnguard had been busy while I was away. There was a new palisade at the foot of the fortress, manned by a young Dawnguard whose face I did not recognize. I, however, was and she opened the gate with a solemn greeting, just as cheerful as Isran.
The corpses from the previous attack had been burned and piled in a pit just inside the gate, a precaution I can only assume was Isran’s, since vampire corpses quickly decay into dust in the sunlight anyway. Burning them was an excess of caution that I am pretty sure defines the leader of the Dawnguard.
The two guards at the fortress gate waved me in and I found Sorine and Gunmar standing in the hall, both disgruntled and ready to leave. They were willing to talk to me and we spent some minutes talking about the Dawnguard. Both had arrived two days ago and were denied a meeting with the very man they had been told were looking for them. This embarrassed me, being the one responsible for them being at the fort at all.
As we stood there contemplating coming back another day, the portcullis for the outside gate came crashing down, trapping us inside. A moment later three more rose from the hall’s doorways, not only keeping us inside the fortress, but confined to the entry hall. A sudden light from the ceiling blinded us, Gunmar cursing, Sorine scrambling away, and as for myself, prepared to have very harsh words with Isran.
As I suspected, the “trap” was Isran’s and it was to ensure none of us were vampires. Had we been, he assured us from the balcony, the light would have set us aflame. A pleasant thought.
He directed his two “friends” into an adjacent chamber, Sorine to work on crossbows, Gunmar to tame trolls…which I did not think was even possible or desirable. As for me, he asked that I come up to the balcony to meet a visitor who had arrived during the night.
Nothing about how Isran had been acting up to to then surprised me, but the visitor did. Serana had somehow traveled the entire width of the province to take refuge with a group of people who could not possibly hate her any more. The only reason she was not immediately slain was that she brought the Elder Scroll, if it truly is that, with her as a sign of her good intentions. This staved off her execution at Isran’s hands long enough for me to arrive and vouch for her…a woman I have not known for more than a day, really.
The only excuse she had for such a rash action was that she needed to speak with me. It turns out a thousand years or so is enough to change most anyone, including her vampire father. According to Serana, her father spent his years studying vampire lore, fashioning himself as some sort of vampire nobility which does not actually exist. He became obsessed with an ancient prophecy that predicted a day would come when vampires would no longer be hindered by the sun.
He attempted to raise forces to bring the prophecy about (Serana did not know exactly how this was to happen), but Serana and her mother disagreed with his course of action. The disagreement ended with Serana being buried for a thousand years and an unknown, but probably just as cruel, fate for her mother.
Serana had taken a great risk in traveling to Fort Dawnguard so that she could convince me to aid her in stopping her father’s plan to change the sun in some way. I agreed to help, feeling I had little choice in the matter, and Isran chose that moment to subtly interject, saying there was nothing in her story that led him to believe she should not immediately be slain. I countered that I believed her, at least for the moment, and he owed much to me already for what I have done for the Dawnguard.
He begrudgingly agreed to let Serana keep her head and Serana excused herself out of the fortress, flatly stating that it was no place for me to stay and in no way a place for her.
But she had not come without a plan. She believed the scroll on her back was a genuine Elder Scroll and thought it critical to making her father’s obsession come to pass. She was eager to have the Scroll read by a Moth Priest, but they still live in Cyrodiil as they always have. I informed her of this and she seemed surprised. Perhaps the Priests were more widespread when she was last awake.
Isran surprised us both, or perhaps all three of us, by providing useful news: a Moth Priest had arrived in Skyrim through the southern border a week or so ago, but Isran did not know where the Priest was heading nor where he was now. Serana thought someone at the College would know whereas Isran suggested asking carriage drivers and innkeepers. A walk from Dawnguard to the College would give me an opportunity for all three.
Serana insisted on coming with me to the College and Isran did not try to stop her, so once again it was us two on the road together. We left the canyon, passed through the small cave separating the fort from the rest of Skyrim, and was immediately assaulted by four vampires. We made short work of them and walked on to Riften. Serana wanted to stay outside, so I went in alone, sold some gemstones, and met her at the north gate where I spoke with the local carriage driver.
The Moth Priest had passed through Riften a week ago and had asked the Driver for a ride to Dragon Bridge, but the carriage only went as east as Whiterun. The Priest declined to travel that far, confounding the driver who tried to explain that the Priest could take a different carriage from Whiterun to Dragon Bridge.
I was willing to pay for a ride to Whiterun, but Serana quietly pointed out that it would be difficult for her to stay out of the sun in an open carriage. I thanked the driver, gave him fifty Septims, and continued on foot.
We arrived at Windhelm early into the evening and I thought Serana would want to continue walking, but she asked to stop there, curious to see the Grey Quarter she had heard about. I had little interest in the city and numerous reasons for not wanting to enter, but I agreed.
We passed through the gate just in time to witness two Nords harassing a Dunmer woman. They left together after threatening to throw her and “her kind” into the sea and she turned on Serana and I, irritably asking if we hated Dunmer and reveled in intimidation too.
What I remember of my involvement with the Dunmer would not be at all believable, so I simply told her that Khajiit were targets for such fools just as often, though we do not suffer such fools nearly as patiently. She laughed ruefully and told me that Windhelm was the wrong city for us then, catering only to the prejudice and hatred hidden in the hearts of Men. That it was also the breeding ground for a racially-based civil war was not helping matters. She wished us luck and we parted, another glimpse into Skyrim that failed to make a positive impression.
The local innkeeper had a free room with two beds, but no information regarding our wayward Moth Priest. Serana and I can either continue north to the College or trust our luck while attempting to save time tomorrow by heading directly for Dragon Bridge.
But it is just past midnight now and this has been a long day. Whatever course we take tomorrow can be decided upon after some sleep.