From Traversing Tamriel
Sleeping in the former castle of the Volkihar family was easier than I had anticipated. Once I found an actual bedroom I pushed several bookcases behind the door and fell upon the bed, falling asleep almost instantly.
No one attacked me in my sleep, though I did wake with a terrible thirst. Some minor illness, I hope.
Finding my way back to Valerica’s laboratory proved more difficult a task than I anticipated, largely due to my somehow forgetting how to get there! I am not sure how long it took me to find my way back, but it must have been at least an hour of pointless wandering among the rubble of Castle Volkihar. When I arrived the portal to the Soul Cairn was still spinning energetically, sending purple light and shadows dancing about the room.
The Cairn had not changed much in my absence. The confused souls were still lounging around and the soul fragments were still flitting about, chased by blackened skeletons inexplicably wielding swords and bows. For as much as I know about the place it is possible a thousand years passed from my last visit, or a few seconds.
Walking back to the ruined castle Valerica was using as her field camp was just as disorientating as it was originally. At times I felt I was walking without covering any discernable distance, others I was sprinting across the land making great progress. In the end I doubt I approached the place at any pace greater than a careful walk, whatever my confused senses were telling me.
Valerica was still busy at her makeshift alchemy lab and seemed irritated at having her research interrupted. If she wondered why Serana was not with me she hid it well. She took the news of her estranged husband’s death with no joy, only commenting that she would move her work back to her old study. She thanked me, but I am just glad to be done with the whole mess, gratitude or not.
I wasted an more time trying to walk back to the portal than I did from it. I kept getting turned around, ending up in sharp-edged ruins and crumbling tombs, assaulted by skeletons and magicka-flinging spirits despite being very sure I was heading in straight line back to whence I came. The skeletons were not a great concern, but I could not help but feel increasingly panicked at the thought of never finding my way back to Tamriel.
This was foolishness, of course, perhaps some side-effect due to the oppressiveness of the place. I eventually found myself at the wall that divided Valerica’s portion of the Cairn in two, then followed it until I was able to pass through its gatehouse to the side hosting the portal.
I had barely time enough to ascend the staircase back inside her laboratory before Valerica appeared at the portal, more proof that time and distance in the Soul Cairn is not quite as measurable as it seems.
The vampire matriarch nodded at me as she passed by me on the balcony, declaring that it was time for her to resume her work as an alchemist…an odd desire considering nearly all of her family had been slain and her only daughter, who evidently forgot to retrieve her, was joined with a band of vampire hunters. Alchemy was more important, I suppose.
I asked about the continuing existence of the Cairn portal, desiring privately that it be destroyed, but she offhandedly declared it useful for her research as if there was no reason to not want it to remain open. She must have thought I felt the same way, for she assured me I would be able to come and go through the portal as I please now that my soul has become “attuned” to the place. Great news.
I retraced my steps back out to the jetty and re-entered the castle through the bloodied entrance, where I will be spending my last night in this accursed place. I am not sure what day it actually is due to the capricious nature of the Soul Cairn, but I shall enquire to that tomorrow.
Tonight I rest victorious, but uneasy. I cannot shake the feeling that I am forgetting something important.