Skyrim Day 086 – Bittersweet Victory

From Traversing Tamriel

16 Sun’s Dusk, 4E201
Isran is a driven man. There was no message at Solitude for Serana and I and no one I spoke to had even seen the Dawnguard passing nearby. With no instructions we had to assume we were to meet the Dawnguard at Volkihar Keep itself…which struck me as odd. No preparation for the attack? No coordination? Their choice, I suppose.
On our way out I overheard a guard complaining to his friend that the “vampire menace” had gotten worse as of late and that they should wipe them out before it became unstoppable. I wonder who “they” was in his mind. Himself and his friend? The Solitude guard? Imagining his reaction to knowing most of the actions against the “menace” have been at the hands of a Khajiit and a vampiress is an entertaining thought…though he would probably not believe me anyway.
But I was not so eager to be rushing off without readying myself. Coincidently a Khajiit caravan was camping outside the gatehouse, allowing me to stock up on restoratives that Angeline’s Aromatics had lacked and sell some gems that had been rattling around in my pack.
Of course it would not be a day in Skyrim without a lunatic or two assaulting us on the road. This one had somehow managed to find an Ebony breastplate which did all the more to make his cheap iron sword look even cheaper. I considered carrying the breastplate back to Solitude to display in my manor, but Serana reminded me I already had one there anyway. Luck to the fortunate farmer who stumbles upon that body!
I guess we reached the jetty across Volkihar Keep by noon or so, the icy haze making it impossible to accurately judge.
Once again I was surprised by Isran’s lack of coordination, figuring that he and his vigilantes would be waiting for me at the jetty if not before the gates of Solitude. Figuring they were either waiting for me at the actual Keep or had been successfully ambushed en route, Serana and I climbed into the old boat and rowed to her family’s estate.
That’s where we finally found the Dawnguard…all lined up before the gatehouse bridge.
Upon seeing us arrive Isran let out a cry and sprang forwards, the rest of the Dawnguard following as he charged up towards the Keep. As I expected, several of the gargoyle “statues” came to life, attracting the attention of armored trolls (when did the Dawnguard tame trolls?!) who tussled with the stone beasts as the Dawnguard streamed past them.
Just as they were halfway across the bridge the gates opened and vampires charged out, magicka crashing through the air as they closed to melee. The battle soon became a chaotic mess of individual combats in a very small space. How long it lasted, I cannot recall. But when it was over the vampires were vanquished along with most of the Dawnguard.
Isran and two others ran inside while Serana and I hurriedly took stock of our wounds. Neither of us were badly hurt and I had a bloodied Dawnguard axe in my hand that I did not remember picking up. We each drank a few restoratives and followed Isran.

The two Dawnguard survivors were already dead when we entered and Isran was down on one knee, heavily wounded. We arrived in time to cut down his assailants and provide much-needed healing. Without a word of thanks Isran sprang back up and charged deeper into the Keep, alone.

I was starting to have doubts regarding the leader of the Dawnguard’s sanity.

A second melee erupted in the Great Hall where Isran had run into. I feared he was greatly out-numbered, but two Dawnguard members I had not previously noticed were fighting alongside him against four vampires and  two thralls or reanimated bodies, I could not really tell the difference.

We lost one of the Dawnguard, but with myself and Serana the Dawnguard prevailed, again with losses. The Great Hall was clear and Isran moved to the doors at the end of the Hall, but Serana warned him to stay where he was. Lord Harkon was for Serana and I to deal with.

No well-dressed Nordic lord was waiting for us, but the gargoyle form of what he had called a ‘Vampire Lord’. Whatever it was called it certainly looked grotesque. He and Serana traded words, but it was clear each of them knew the final battle was at hand. He even asked me to return Auriel’s Bow to him, promising me that everything previous would be taken as a simple misunderstanding. It was a desperate request and one I rejected, of course.

The battle that followed was rather anti-climatic. His followers slain, all Lord Harkon could manage was flinging magicka around the room and summoning weak Draugr as he glided around. When wounded he retreated to a statue at the end of the room which provided him with a red shield of magicka.

The first time he did this Serana shouted at me to fire an arrow at the shield with Auriel’s Bow. I am a much better shot with a crossbow, but I was never far from Harkon anyway. The first arrow burst into flames against the shield, but it destroyed the shield as it did so. The Vampire Lord shouted something in frustration and resumed his spells and summonings.

Three times we did this, but the fourth arrow against his shield did not cause it to harmlessly explode, instead seeming to draw the energy into Harkon himself. He screamed, burst into red flames, and was utterly destroyed, his blackened skeleton lit for a moment against the fire.

Serana and I walked over to the vampire shrine and silently gazed at the smoldering pile of ash that was her father. Footsteps sounded behind us, but it was just Isran, respectfully alone. Serana sighed and, sounding relieved, told him that the job was finally done. He nodded and thanked her, then, to my surprise, invited her to join the Dawnguard, which she accepted. They left, Serana asking me to stop by and visit if I had any more adventures planned.

I felt like correcting her: none of my adventures have ever been planned! But then was not the time for japes.

In the ashes was a blade in the ancient Akaviri style, the likes of which I have not seen since the Oblivion Crisis. I am loathe to wield it and am planning on displaying it in one of my homes. Perhaps I should see what Lydia has been doing while I have been away.

I have one final task awaiting my attention in Volkihar Keep, one that I am very surprised Serana has failed to remind me of: returning her mother,  Valerica, back to Tamriel. That, however, will have to wait, for I am in need of rest, though I am greatly relieved to have this Dawnguard business finally taken care of.

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