The Protectors of the Night

  • If anything had been watching on that cold, snowy, windy night in northeastern Skyrim, it would have observed four dark shapes proceeding along the southern road that lead to Windhelm. The only thing out of the ordinary was that while one shape forged ahead and plowed a trail through the nearly waist-high snow to make the going of those behind easier, two others that followed were carrying the fourth and final shape. It looked as though they had made a rough stretcher out of two fairly straight saplings and some sort of hide, which was supporting the weight of the fourth shape.

    The shapes were, in fact, men, battered and bloody after a long, brutal day of walking, tracking, and fighting. Through the snowflakes the leader could be seen, trudging along in his battered armor he had obtained as a member of the Dawnguard. And under his helmet and his dark hair, were his green eyes. Eyes that betrayed the fear in him. Fear for the health of the man who lay wounded on the stretcher behind him, and fear for the fate of that man.

    - - - - - - - -

      

    The day had started out well enough in the camp of the four warriors, which lay to the southwest of Winterhold near the ruins of Alftand. It was a frosty morning, as most in Northern Skyrim are, although the wind wasn’t overly strong. The previous night they had scraped away the snow around where they were laying, so that it wouldn’t melt and soak them by the morning. The Orc was the first awake a bit before dawn, who had little hair but an enormous, muscle-bound body and large, protruding teeth. He quickly set about saving their dying fire. Then the leader woke up, a middle-aged Nord with several battle scars obtained during the course of his career as a Dawnguard soldier. Next awake was the newest group member, and recently a student at the College of Winterhold, a young Breton, who had plenty of hair and but an average-sized body. He began roasting a few rabbits killed the day before by the final man, a young and athletic (aren’t all of their people?) Redguard, with dark, fuzzy hair and dark eyes to go along with it. But, as usual (as the Breton was to learn), the Redguard woke up grumpy.

    “Why aren’t those rabbits cooked already? Why don’t you just use some of your fire magic to insta-cook it for us?” he grumbled.

    “Because, horker brain, although the fire would cook the outside of the rabbit, the inside would still be raw,” the Orc, Borug, growled. “And everyone thinks my people are stupid,” he finished with a barely concealed grin.

    “Oh, and since when are you the damn Gourmet, Barug?” the Redguard, Raccan, retorted. “Maybe if he used a weaker fire spell, then the meat would cook all the way through.”

    The leader, Brandr, decided to interfere, saying with a grin, “If you two fine chefs are done arguing, I think the rabbit is ready to be eaten.”

    The Breton, Daris, although he had looked somewhat nervous during the “argument”, realised that the two were just fooling with each other, and ripped off a piece of meat for each man and handed it to them.

    “Mmmm,” Raccan said with relish, “This rabbit is good. Did I mention that I killed them myself?”

    “Yes, several times,” said Daris, joining in, “It’s almost as though you’re proud of it.”

    Raccan, with exaggerated slowness, turned his head to look into Daris’ eyes. “Well, maybe I am. Something the matter with that?” he said.

    Borug chuckled, glancing between the two. “Well, I can see that you two are going to be good friends,” he said with a toothy smile.

    Then Brandr got to his feet and said, “I’d say it’s about time that we checked up on our equipment,” with a glance to Daris, who, as a mage, had but a small satchel of his belongings and nothing in the way of weapons and armor. “You sure you’ll be fine without something for close quarters?” he asked.

    “Yes, don’t worry about me,” said Daris. “I’m sure I can just hide behind one of you big warriors when my reserves run dry,” he ended with a smile.

    “Well,” said Raccan, picking up and restringing his hunting bow from where he had lain it on top of the rest of his equipment, some brown leather armor and a quiver, “If I was you, I’d pick one of the broader members of our party.”

    “Oh,” said Borug, reaching around his set of heavy steel plate to grab and heft his double-bit steel battleaxe, “I hope you’re not aiming that at me.”

    “Of course not,” said Raccan hurriedly. “I was just pointing out that with all that armor on, you look rather large and. . . imposing.”

    “Why Daris,” asked Brandr, “Were you referring to me?” as he donned his black Dawnguard armor, picked up his steel shield, and slid his shiny steel mace into his belt.

    “No, I wouldn’t dare insult my boss the first day on the job,” said Daris with a grin.

    When they had all finished laughing, Brandr said, “We’d best be getting back after that beast by now. It could have gone far in one night, though I think it’ll stay in the snowy parts, so we should have no trouble tracking it.”

    “Aye boss,” said Borug as he pushed himself off the ground, while Daris put out the fire with a burst of frost magic.

    After they had all gotten their armor on, they set out to the east, following their commander as the sun began poking up over the horizon. Raccan soon came up beside him, as he was the only one besides Brandr adept at tracking, although with the snow there was usually little trouble following the trail.

    “This beast takes some great strides,” said Daris, panting. “You said this is the first one you’ve ever gone after before?” he asked of the party in general.

    “Yes,” said Brandr. “Me and Borug have mainly dealt with vampires before now. This is a whole different type of prey, or so we hear. We picked Raccan up in the Braidwood Inn in Kynesgrove while we were heading North, but I doubt he’s done much battle before.”

    “You’re right about that,” said Raccan. “My experience is mostly with the tamer varieties of animal. But I thought I’d come along with you two and try something more dangerous.”

    “Ah,” said Daris. “And then you came into the College asking for a mage with some healing experience, and I volunteered to come along. I must admit though,” he said sheepishly, “That I am mostly untrained in the school of Restoration. Destruction and Alteration are really the only schools that I have any experience in.”

    “And little enough of either of those, I’m sure,” said Brandr ruefully. “Well, we’ll manage, and your skills will improve in time, especially if you stay with us.”

    “If it helps, I do have one potion of Minor Healing,” said Daris, half drawing it from his satchel. “Do you want it?”

    “Well. . .” said Borug, “It’s better than nothing. But you’d better hold onto it for now. If we’re lucky, none of us will need it. Though that it unlikely,” he ended quietly.

    Soon they came upon the carcass of an elk. Raccan knelt and spat, saying, “Not long dead. But the animal kills I’ve seen never looked quite like this. This elk is ripped apart, and a lot of it eaten too. That beast has a large appetite.”

    As the day wore on and the sun crawled across the sky, the four continued to track their prey. The prints gradually became more defined as the snow lessened and the stride decreased, and the group took a short break. Daris wandered over to inspect one of the tracks closer.

    “By Julianos,” he said, still short of breath, “I’ve never seen tracks like these.” For the tracks they were following were not those of a giant, bear, sabercat, nor even a troll. They looked like human feet, but were bigger, and the marks from several-inch long claws could be seen extending off of each toe.

    “Aye,” Borug said, “Werewolves have damn big feet.”

    - - - - - - - -

    As the sun started descending beneath the horizon, the hunters arrived at a rather menacing dark opening in the side of a mountain to the south of Winterhold, from which the smell of rotting meat wafted out to them. The wind was quietly whistling past them, but there was no snow falling as of yet.

    Daris winced after he had examined the opening. “So… we’re going to have to go in there to get it?” he asked nervously.

    “Yeah,” grunted Borug, “And I doubt your bow will be of much use in there,” he said, glancing at Raccan.

    Raccan nodded his head, saying, “Some caves are big enough to use a bow in without feeling too cramped. But I dunno about this one.”

    Brandr turned around and looked at all of them. “Well, we all know why we’re here,” he said. “We gotta kill this werewolf. But take care none of you get bit. Some stories say that you can get infected by even a little scratch from a werewolf. Then you turn into one. Just like with a vampire,” he said, looking back at Borug.

    “Some sort of strategy might not be a bad idea,” said Daris.

    “Aye,” Borug said. “Going into a cave with a werewolf living in it with no plan isn’t the smartest thing we could do.”

    “Alright,” said Brandr. “Me and Borug will lead. Daris, use any frost spells you know to slow the beast down, and make him tired. If all else fails, use fire. Anything with fur hates fire,” he said with a grin. “Raccan, you back him up, and be ready with that bow of yours. If either of you needs to retreat, don’t worry about it, just do what you need to do to be able to stay alive and keep fighting.

    “Alright, old friend,” said Borug with a smile. “I heard the strategy, and I’m ready to go. While we whack the big hairy thing, the kids will shoot things at it. Sounds great to me”

    “You heard the man,” said Brandr. “Let’s go get it.”

    Brandr slid his mace from his belt, lifted his shield, and started forward, Borug with his battleaxe next to him, with Raccan following, bow strung and arrow nocked, and Daris taking up the rear, frost spell ready. Before they entered, they noticed that the wind had started picking up, as well as the snow. A blizzard was coming, along with night.

    As soon as they entered the cave, they realized that it was warmer inside, and that some of the snow and ice had melted. It was eerily quiet inside, and water ran down the walls, making dripping and plopping noises as it fell on whatever lay beneath it. A large droplet fell down the Daris’ neck, and he swore, not liking the cave. The fact that there was a hungry werewolf somewhere inside didn’t raise his opinion of it, either.

    They all kept walking, ears straining to hear every sound. Raccan had better hearing than the others, and attempted to separate the natural cave sounds from anything unusual. A small gust of air, the rustling of a small animal, or even small rocks falling were normal, and these were all he heard. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary to any of them, besides the smell, and the bones and rotting carcasses everywhere.

    Suddenly, Brandr stopped. He had seldom had such a strong feeling of foreboding, even when going into the darkest vampire den. At least they usually attacked you as soon as you set foot inside, instead of waiting until you got farther in. Then again, on occasion the vampires didn’t know you were coming. He was pretty sure that this werewolf knew that they were here, as he had heard and read tales about them having an extremely sensitive sense of smell, as well as hearing. Yes, he decided, it was very likely that the werewolf knew that he was not alone in his cave.

    Raccan moved up beside Brandr and whispered, “I think I hear something coming. I think it knows we’re here.”

    Brandr nodded slowly, trying even harder to pick out any unusual sounds. He glanced behind them quickly, and was glad to see that there was plenty of room for retreat straight backwards, as they would likely soon need.

    Then they all heard a low growl, coming from a fair sized opening in the cave to the front and right of them, and that area was somewhat lighter, as there appeared to be a hole in the ceiling that a bit of light filtered through.

    And then it came.

    It came leaping out the darkness to slam into Brandr, flinging him backwards several feet to land in front of Raccan, although his shield took the brunt of the blow. Raccan loosed an arrow, though his aim was off and he hit the beast low on the right side, doing little damage but annoying it thoroughly. Daris then flung an ice spike at it, slowing it but drawing its attention as well.

    Borug, meanwhile, roared, leaped, and swung his battleaxe into the beast’s left arm, nearly crippling it. It howled with rage and anguish, and with its right hand swung at Borug. It was all he could do to block the blow with his battleaxe, which completely broke in half at the impact. He swore and flung the useless 3-foot long handle piece down.

    The beast lunged over at Raccan, and forced him to roll out of the way to save himself, but he came away unscathed. While the beast was rebalancing itself, Brandr finally had extricated himself, and swung his mace at the back of the beast. He was dumbfounded when all it did was bounce off, leaving just a small mark. The beast turned around and roared, jumping over to attack Brandr once again when he was hit by a second arrow, this one hitting him while he was turning and completely crippling his left arm, almost pinning it to his body.

    Looking for easier prey, the werewolf’s eyes fell on Daris, who was preparing another spell. Heading for Daris and roaring with the bloodlust, the beast didn’t notice Brandr until he slammed his shield into his side. Not to be distracted, the beast still managed a swipe with his right hand before Daris could use his magic, sending him tumbling several feet back. Brandr swore and yelled at the werewolf, ready to bash him again, and drawing his attention away. At the same time, Raccan fired another arrow which nicked the bottom of the beast's heart, causing it to bleed heavily.

    By then Borug had retrieved the other half of his battleaxe, and as the beast lunged to try and kill Brandr, he ran forward and swung it, imbedding it into the neck of the beast, just about decapitating it, and silencing it forever. The weight of the werewolf falling nearly pulling the axe out of his hands, as it seemed stuck. He placed a boot onto the body, and ripped the axe out with both hands.

    Borug and Brandr sagged, exhausted after the brutal fight, and from the weight of their armor and weapons. Raccan had already dropped his bow, and was running over to where the prone form of Daris lay on the cold, wet floor.

    He quickly checked for a pulse. “He’s still breathing,” he yelled to the others. Brandr swore softly.

    “That may not be for the best,” he whispered to Borug, who just glanced at him, worry in his eyes.

    They both walked slowly over to where Daris lay, unconscious.

    “There’s a problem, kid,” Borug started.

    “What is it?” asked Raccan confused.

    “It’s night, and we’re in a cave in the middle of a blizzard, hours away from Winterhold, even in good weather. And if he doesn’t die, he’ll turn,” said Brandr quietly.

    “And even if we could get him to Winterhold,” said Borug, “There aren’t any alchemists there. Even the college doesn’t have a mixer anymore.”

    Raccan looked up after a moment of thought. “What about Windhelm?” he asked hopefully.

    Brandr pondered for a minute. “Windhelm is several hours further,” he said. “But if we have him drink that potion he has, that should buy us enough time.”

    Raccan grabbed Daris’ satchel, and went to pull out the potion, and then swore bitterly. “His weight must has smashed it,” he said sadly, “It looks like only half is left.”

    “Well go ahead and feed him that, and we’ll just have to go a bit faster, won’t we?” said Borug, with a sudden burst of energy.

    Raccan held open the mouth of the motionless Daris, and poured the remains of the potion in. The effect was almost immediate, stopping the bleeding and healing the gash somewhat.

    “Good,” said Brandr, galvanized. “Now go cut a few saplings, as straight as you can find, with that twig splitter of yours,” he said to Borug.

    Borug soon returned with two young trees, and began cutting any small branches off. “What are you planning on using for the bed part, though?” he asked.

    “None of the hides on the carcasses in here will work,” said Raccan, returning from looking around after feeding Daris the remains of the healing potion. “They’re all ripped to shreds.”

    “But there’s still one more carcass in here, isn’t there?” said Brandr, drawing his hunting knife and grinning at the irony of it.

    - - - - - - - -

    And so we arrive back at the group trudging through the deep snow, with Daris laying on a stretcher made from the pelt of a werewolf. The beast that had just nearly killed him had provided Daris with something to help him survive.

    They had cut four small strips of hide to loop through holes cut into each corner of the bed part of the pelt, and then tied them to each sapling. It wasn’t the best stretcher ever made, reflected Brandr, but it was much better than nothing.

    The wind was really blowing now, and with the snowfall it was about as bad a blizzard as any of them had ever seen. But this did help them, as most of Skyrim’s creatures retreated back to their dens and caves in bad weather, even the more dangerous ones, which pleased all members of the party. None of them had any desire to meet a snowy saber cat in the middle of a blizzard while they had a wounded man with them.

    They had been walking for several hours since they left the cave, and it was still black night. It was all Brandr could do to keep on the road to Windhelm. Not that he could see the road, but if he stomped hard enough he could feel the rocks that paved it. If he stomped when not on the road, it didn’t feel the same, more like hard dirt or ice, in which case he had to retrace their footsteps until he found the road again.

    Then Raccan started slowing. “How close. . .do you think we are to Windhelm?” he gasped.

    “We should be able to see the lights in another hour,” said Brandr. “From there, it’ll only be a half hour or so until we reach the gates. There’s a settlement at Anga’s Mill, too, which is about when we should be able to see the lights.

    Right about an hour later they were walking through Anga’s Mill, although there was nobody outside to greet them, just the snow that had been falling all night. And then they saw the lights of Windhelm, with the dark stony walls rising outlined around them, and the dark roofs of houses with tall chimneys reaching up into the sky beyond them.

    “Here, let me take your end,” Brandr yelled over to the obviously exhausted Raccan. Borug still showed few signs of fatigue. Raccan took point, though the snow wasn’t quite as deep this close to Windhelm.

    Soon enough they arrived at the giant gates to Windhelm, and the guards there opened the doors for them.

    “What happened to the kid?” one of them yelled.

    “Oh, we ran into some bandits, and he got hit by one of them. He should be fine though,” yelled back Brandr. “You got an alchemist in town?”

    “Nah, ever since the White Phial closed down there haven’t been any. Nearest one is probably in Whiterun,” the guard yelled. “Nobody in town even sells potions any more. But if you want to rest and heal up, I’d head over to the Candlehearth Hall. They’ve got cheap beds for the kid, if you want him to rest there,” said the guard.

    Brandr waved, dejected. He knew that if they couldn’t cure Daris, they’d either have to kill him or he’d slaughter half of the town. He didn’t like either option.

    “We’d best head into the hall,” he said to Borug and Raccan. “I’ve got enough gold for one room. We can leave the kid there and look around for anybody with cure disease potions.”

    They carried Daris inside, and were very happy to feel the warmth permeating the inn from the great fireplace upstairs, with the famous candle above it, from which the Candlehearth Hall got its name. After asking, Brandr gave the price of a room to the barwoman, and after they all had carefully lowered Daris onto his bed and closed the door, they headed up to the top of the inn to rest. They sat down in a table close to the front of the fire, noticing a middle-aged bearded man wearing fine clothes, as well as a dunmer woman playing a lute. There was also an old man with grey hair, a long grey beard, and a worn robe within earshot, sitting with his back to a corner and reading, with a large satchel leaning against his table leg. After a glance at each patron, the group ordered an ale for Borug and Raccan, Brandr declining, wanting to keep his mind clear until they had helped Daris as best they could.

    “So, as the guard told us,” Brandr started, “Nobody in town sells potions. Although that’s probably true, we should at least check. One of you head over to the general store in town, Sadri’s Used Wares, and see if he’s open and has any potions of Cure Disease. The other can ask around about anything that can cure Sanies Lupinus, and I’ll go ask around at the Palace of Windhelm for the same. I wouldn’t get your hopes up though,” he said grimly. “If we can’t find any potions, I’ll kill the kid.”

    As Borug and Raccan finished their ales and went to go searching for a potion, Brandr glanced over at the old bearded man in the corner. He noticed that the old man had lowered his book and slowly turned to look at them at the mention of Sanies Lupinus, and was still looking at them now. When he noticed Brandr looking at him, he started to speak.

    “Somebody you know get hurt by a werewolf?” he asked quietly.

    “Friend of ours,” said Brandr. “Got swiped across the chest. We think he can survive the wound, but, as I think you heard, we can’t find anything to cure him with.”

    “I might be able to help with that,” said the old man, with a smile that deepened the already large lines across his weathered face. “In most company I can pass for a fair alchemist. Why don’t we go to your friend so I can get a look at him?”

    “Sounds good,” said Borug, relieved. “I’m guessing we won’t have to go looking around town anymore, will we?”

    “No,” replied Brandr, relieved as well. He then stood up and lead the way down to where Daris lay on the bed. He was sweating a bit, but showed no ill effects besides the claw marks on his chest that weren’t fully mended by the healing potion.

    The old man grabbed a nearby chair and sat down next to the bed, thumping down his satchel next to him. “Alright,” he said, rooting around in his satchel. “It doesn’t look like I have a Cure Disease potion. . . but I do have something just as good,” as he pulled out a Hawk Feather.

    “What’s that going to do?” asked Raccan in confusion.

    The old man chuckled. “You don’t have to be much of an alchemist to be able to get the basic effects from an ingredient. This feather may not be anywhere near as appetizing as it would be if you mix it with something else to make a potion, but it’ll do the job.” This said, he grabbed a mortar and pestle, broke the feather in half so that it would fit, and started mashing away. Soon enough it was reduced to a near-liquid paste, which he scraped into Daris’ mouth.

    “That should stop the sweating, as well as cure him of Sanies Lupinus” said the old man. “He should be fine and awake by morning.”

    “Thank you,” said Brandr simply, and the others echoed him. “I’m sure the boy will thank you when he wakes up, too.”

    “Glad to help,” said the old man. “I’m happy my skills could be of use to someone other than myself.”

    Borug and Raccan soon laid down on the floor by Daris to sleep, while Brandr and the old man reclaimed the corner table upstairs. The fire was still burning hot and bright, although the other patrons had retired.

    “Why did your group go after this werewolf?” asked the old man.

    “Me and Borug have been with the Dawnguard over in their fort to the southeast of Riften for a few years, fighting vampires. Since we smashed the Volkihars maybe 3 years ago, there hasn’t been a whole lot of trouble from the vampires, so Isran, our leader, decided to expand our operation, so to speak. He wants to start a new “branch” of the Dawnguard men, called the Protectors of the Night, who specialize in hunting werewolves. We were the first attempt at that, and I suppose it could’ve gone worse. All of us still have a lot to learn though,” said Brandr. “This particular werewolf we heard about because it’s gone feral, and has been killing people around Winterhold. We set out North from the Fort, and when we stopped at Kynesgrove Raccan joined up with us. Daris was supposed to be our healer-” here he stopped, laughing at the irony along with the old man. “He had been studying at the College of Winterhold, which is where we found him, and he wanted to come with us. Next we cut through the mountain south of Winterhold, and while we were headed east we ran into his trail, so Raccan tracked him to his den. And there we killed him.”

    “I’m no expert on werewolves, but I’d say a fair amount of luck was involved with your success,” said the old man with a grim smile.

    “Yes. . .” said Brandr. “Knowledge about fighting creatures like these generally comes with experience. Or if you’re lucky enough, you can find a person who has survived their experiences, which is nearly as good, and quite a bit less dangerous. I know a lot about vampires, but these werewolves are completely different. Almost like starting all over again,” he said, smiling.

    “Well, we’d best get to bed,” said the old man. “I’ll be staying here for a while, so if you happen to chase another one up around here, stop by and I’ll tag along with you. You never know when you might need a more experienced healer,” he said with a grin. “Which will probably be often, given your line of work. And who knows, maybe I can make something besides healing and disease-curing potions.”

    Brandr smiled. “That sounds great,” he said. “We can always use an older and wiser man in our group. We’ll definitely stop in the next time we come this way.”

    And with that, they headed off to bed.

    Around noon the next day, when the others of the group were already up, Daris finally awoke, and was very confused. They filled him in on all the details, scaring him when telling him about his close shave with becoming a werewolf. Then, he cut the pelt off of his stretcher and near deathbed, and carried it upstairs to give to the old man as thanks, and a souvenir of sorts. The old man, laughing, accepted the pelt and bade them goodbye. They all then set off for Fort Dawnguard to report their success, as well as the recruitment of two new men. They had each now survived their first encounter with a werewolf, which is more than most residents of Tamriel can boast of. Isran, Brandr decided, would be very pleased with his new Protectors of the Night.

Comments

8 Comments
  • Tim
    Tim   ·  January 21, 2016
    Thanks Bowiedesto! I tried to kinda have a diverse group race-wise, with the large-toothed Orc, grumpy Redguard, magicey Breton and then the Nord as the leader
  • Idesto a'Shinbira
    Idesto a'Shinbira   ·  January 21, 2016
    I enjoyed this, Tim. I like the different but united characters in the group, their banter & the fight scene. A good start!
  • Tim
    Tim   ·  January 12, 2016
    Hehe, yeah, I could see Kodlak chillin' in a tavern. I actually thought about the old man being a werewolf, but decided to keep him as an old alchemist. Glad you liked it :D
  • Exuro
    Exuro   ·  January 11, 2016
    Fun beginning, good fight.
    I kept thinking that the old man was going to revealed as Kodlak. I could see him helping a were victim and be out their hunting one of his own if they went feral, that is if he hasn't already died.
  • Tim
    Tim   ·  January 5, 2016
    Hey yeah, that's a good idea, thanks everybody :D. I actually hadn't thought about it before, lol. I'll definitely include something about DG + Companions whenever I post my next part.
  • Sotek
    Sotek   ·  January 5, 2016
    Stands to reason that DG turns against the Companions.I know that will be a direction I might explore
  • Lyall
    Lyall   ·  January 4, 2016
    Dawnguard vs The Companions. I can see it now.
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  January 4, 2016
    I like that you used the dialogue by the campfire to establish relationships. This is nice work. Good job. The Companions of Jorrvaskr better watch out. Uh oh!