The Graveknight's Oath - Chapter 5 - Frost in the Dark

  • Chapter 5 - Frost in the Dark

    Falkreath Hold, 13th of Hearthfire, 4E 201

    Gaspard pressed himself farther down in Queen Alfsigr’s saddle as they rode along the trail north.   When that didn’t seem to help he pulled his hood further over his face.  Dammit, where was the famous Falkreath mist today?   He refused to look up.  Even after all these years of forcing himself to remain outside during the day, he still keenly felt the drain of the sun upon his body.  Worse still to look at it.  At least there were nice flowers that grew on the sides of the road.  He could pretend those interested him.  Sadly no roses though.

    Maybe it was his horse that was the problem?  It had been several decades since he had owned, or even ridden a horse.   Now, up on Queen Alfsigr’s back he was even closer to the sun than normal.  He shook his head, ruefully. That is just stupid Gaspard.  Next you will be blaming the fact that Falkreath is a little higher in elevation than Whiterun. 

    The problem wasn’t the sun; the problem was that he hadn’t fed in days.  The last had been that rude farm-owner in Whiterun, the one that kept asking him if he spent time in the Cloud District.  Gaspard smiled.  That one at least deserved the bite marks he had deliberately left.  The man was a nuisance.  A true farmer would be out in the fields tending his crops instead of wandering the marketplace pretending he had the Jarl’s ear.  Gaspard hoped his extravagance in leaving bite marks on the man helped tone down his ego a bit.  Normally he healed any wounds he caused and left no trace of his foraging.

    Alas, the longer he went without feeding the more lethargic Gaspard felt when out too long under the beating sun.  It was difficult to concentrate sometimes.  He stole a glance at Arissa riding her own horse at his side, whistling during what she probably thought as a bright and cheery day.  No, not her!  He quickly glanced away before she realized he had been watching her.  He would find someone else when he returned to Falkreath later. 

    He needed a drink, just a little one, to sate his hunger so he would never think about Arissa in that manner.  She didn’t deserve that.  Just a tiny sip would do and that will hold me for...

    He snapped out of his reverie with a quick jerk as he realized that Arissa had said something to him.  He ruefully responded, "My apologies, I missed what you said."

    “I asked ‘Is that horse from the Whiterun Stables'.” Arissa called out in a slow, exaggerated voice dripping with sarcasm.  “Someone’s not paying much attention today.”

    He deliberately ignored her tone, not taking the bait, “She is.  Queen Alfsigr is her name.  She seems to be a good nag; a little too spirited though.  It has been a long time since I have ridden in a saddle so I would have been perfectly fine with a sedate horse."  Gaspard paused then figured it would never hurt to apologize again.  She didn't know what he had been thinking, nor did he have any intention to tell her, but he felt guilty nonetheless, "And again, I am sorry.  I was thinking about something."

    "Must have been deep thoughts."  It wasn't quite a question.

    "I...uhm, yes, I suppose," he finished lamely.  Gaspard buried himself further inside his hood, staring down at Queen Alfisgr's mane.  He wondered if vampires blushed when embarrassed.   Most of his kind probably had no idea what the latter word even meant any more.  His own blood was as cold as the Sea of Ghosts during Evening Star, so it was unlikely his face showed any hint of a blush, but it was impossible to tell without asking Arissa.  And that would have embarrassed him even more.

    A ruined tower rose up out of the treeline on a rocky hill to the west of the road.   Gaspard heard an off-key chant emanating from the tower.  Drunken bandits probably.  Hopefully the bandits were too long in their cups and would not bother them as they rode past.  Even still he loosened the shield hanging from Queen Alfsigr’s saddle, just in case.  Arissa had quietly prepared her own weapons too he noticed.  Gaspard lengthened the reins, allowing Queen Alfsigr her head.  She immediately lengthened her stride with a powerful rumble as they galloped past the tower and its inhabitants.  

    Arissa caught his eye with a head bob, signaling the danger was past.  It was more problematic trying to rein her in so quickly after letting her gallop, but he wasn’t ready to let his horse think him an easy mark.  “Easy girl, time to slow…DOWN!” She deliberately bucked, not enough to throw him, but enough to let him know she didn’t appreciate his command.  She wanted to run.  Gaspard heard Arissa snickering behind him.  He was a little put-out that she hadn’t had any difficulties slowing her horse.

    She continued on with the direction of her original question, "I thought your horse looked familiar.  I purchased my own horse there too, a few weeks ago."  She patted her horse’s neck, a coal black roan which she rode bareback.

    Gaspard muttered a quick prayer to Arkay that Arissa had not pursued the deep thoughts conversation any further.  Horses were safer territory.  He wondered how much riding experience she had.  She appeared completely comfortable without a saddle, and he remembered how easily she had vaulted upon her horse before they left Falkreath.   How did she remain so well balanced without a saddle anyway?  Or avoid hurting the beast?

    Arissa continued on, "Adagio here seemed a bit more spirited than yours which was why I chose him.”  More spirited?  Gaspard hesitantly wondered just how tempestuous her horse was when she gave him free rein.   He was quite glad Queen Alfisgr was apparently more sedate.

    “I would probably end up on my back in the thistle bushes if I tried to ride your horse.  Queen Alfsigr will do for me now, though if she continues on like this I may have to find a more agreeable horse.”  Queen Alfsigr snorted.

    “Why do you insist on calling her by the full name?  I remember the stable master telling me they called her Allie.”

    Gaspard pondered that for a moment with his head down, realizing that he had never even considered calling her Allie.  He turned to Arissa again, “When I was a Knight of the Nine, it was considered good manners to speak in what they called ‘high tongue’.  Do not use contractions of any sort; mostly grammar, but proper names as well.  It stuck with me, even 200 years later.  It sounds more dignified to call her Queen Alfsigr than Allie anyway.”

    Arissa glanced sidelong at him and smirked with found pleasure, “If we contracted your name I could call you Gassy.”

    Gaspard winced at the joke and shook his head in mock pain, “Please do not.  I do have some of my own dignity left.”  He sighed expansively, “Come, let us ride again.  Brittleshin Pass is up near the north side of Lake Ilinalta and we will likely have to skirt a portion of the lake.  I would like not to be all day in the sun getting there.  Queen Alfsigr is itching to run again anyway.”

    “You’re the boss.”

    Gaspard sighed once more.

    Gaspard beckoned Arissa closer and whispered in her ear, “What do you know about this place?  Is it a barrow?”

    She whispered back, “I don’t know anything about this place, but it doesn’t look like one to me.”

    “Nor to me.  There are risen dead here nonetheless, so be on your guard for a necromancer.”  Gaspard’s set jaw and intense gaze betrayed an emotion that Arissa had not perceived in him before.  Loathing.  He moved away as Arissa nodded in the dim light.  Arissa wondered what had happened to cause that reaction.  He hadn’t betrayed that much emotion when speaking about his own turning.

    In the distance the object of their discussion shuffled around, precisely patrolling its set path.  The risen dead…skeletons of long-dead warriors brought to back to a form of un-life by a foul necromantic ritual.  Arissa did not know much of the necromantic arts beyond rumor and legends, but she was cautiously optimistic that this necromancer was not very skilled in his craft.  Most necromancers preferred to raise more powerful servants. 

    The two had entered Brittleshin Pass a few moments ago.   The flickering lights of lit torches revealed the cave pass was inhabited, but they had not expected to find the undead.   Arissa shuddered.  The last time she had entered an old ruin for a little bit of “artifact recovery” she had encountered Draugr, powerful followers of an ancient Nordic pantheon of priests, doomed to remain in the gray area between life and death.   Closer to death though the way they had decomposed.  And that smell…

    Fearing for her life she ran from the barrow, leaving the treasures to others.  She had not entered a Nordic barrow since.  She was not the least bit enthusiastic about facing more of the dead, though at least the skeleton didn’t wreak of decay.

    What I wouldn’t give for a good solid mace right now.  She ruefully fingered her sword.  It might be difficult to land a solid hit on the creature when it was composed only of bones and profane animus.  Arissa leaned against the cave wall, mindful of the fuzzy moss growing here and there. 

    What am I doing here?  This is not me.  I’m following a vampire into a cave full of undead creatures for a reward that likely amounts to less coins than if I’d just robbed the priest!  I should've just robbed the priest.

    Gaspard threw a glance at her to make sure she was following.  He had not taken his sword out of its sheath yet, but he had readied the heavy disk of steel he called a shield.  How he managed to lift the thing in combat she would never know. 

    Arissa swallowed quickly and moved to follow him.  She had not shown her fear to him yesterday when he revealed himself as a vampire and she would not show her fear now.  There was something about him that screamed that she needed to travel with him.  Sometimes she had gut feelings about a particular person and they had never steered her wrong yet.  Her gut told her that Gaspard was a good man for all that he was a vampire.

    Still, she feared him.  And now to go back into a cave full of undead with him?  Madness.  So why am I walking farther into the cave, and not right back out?  Shaking her head she quietly readied her sword for a quick draw and moved to flank Gaspard. 

    Without warning the temperature around Arissa and Gaspard suddenly dropped.  It felt as if the heat of her body was being forcibly drawn from her and she involuntarily gasped.  The skeleton, alerted to their presence, moved to intercept them followed by a second they had not seen, but a loud explosive flash suddenly rent the air in front of them.  The two skeletons blew apart, their bones flying in all directions; the animus that had directed them spent.

    Arissa tried to calm her rattled nerves with a few deep breaths.  Gaspard, the bastard, didn’t seem fazed at all.  Surely someone heard the explosion though.

    “What was that?” she asked in a whispered voice, though stealth was probably a moot point by now.

    He looked at her, “A magical rune.  I have a certain facility with channeling the chill inherent in my body into runes, one of the few benefits of my curse,” He finished wryly.  He watched with greater interest, noting that she was still rattled from the blast, “I should have warned you first.  My apologies.”

    “Why was it so cold around you?   It felt like the cold around you was sucking my own body heat away right before the explosion.  And then it stopped.”

    He looked concerned.  “That…should not have happened.  I have only ever drawn my own energy to create the rune.  I have never been able to draw energy from the air around me before.

    “My rune did seem a little bit more powerful than normal though,” Gaspard finished speculatively.  He looked invigorated.  “We should probably keep moving.  Someone was bound to hear that.”

    Arissa stared at him. Oh, NOW you think about the noise you just made.  She exhaled a disgusted breath and tightened her grip on her sword once more as she continued on after him.

    Gaspard moved purposefully past the ruins of the skeletons.  He had not expected to find undead or a necromancer for a simple journal retrieval, but he would put an end to them today.  Arkay demanded it and he would comply. 

    He chuckled under his breath as he thought about what another devotee of Arkay would do if they discovered him to be a vampire.  Would they believe that Arkay demanded his death like he knew Arkay demanded the death of necromancers?  He was technically ‘dead’ as well, just by a different process.  Gaspard tended to believe that Arkay had not struck him down for heresy only because he was still under the curse of the Nine.

    He was always very tense when he entered one of Arkay’s temples or a Hall of the Dead.  Would this be the time one of the priests finally discovered his secret?  He couldn’t NOT go though.  After he had finally managed to forgive one of the Nine for his curse all those years ago, the worship of Arkay had kept him sane for the past several decades.  He would do his best to follow all of Arkay’s tenets, despite the fact that he was an embodiment of all Arkay reviled: living beyond your allotted time, beyond the peace of death that should come to all.  

    Pain constantly wracked his body when he prayed at Arkay’s shrines though.  Until yesterday…

    Gaspard resolutely strode down the stairs, prepared to gather his frigid bodily energy, the Touch of the Grave as he called it, to produce another rune when necessary.  Arissa paced behind him, as graceful and silent as a sabre cat stalking its prey.  And probably more dangerous, he thought wryly. 

    “Who’s there?” a voice called out from the chamber ahead.  Gaspard didn’t answer.  He stepped into the chamber and was gratified to be greeted with a shocked expression from the necromancer on the ledge in front of him.  For necromancer he certainly was, dressed in dark robes and working over another skeletal body on the table behind him.

    Gaspard didn’t hesitate.  Charging forward he quickly released the energy he had drawn into himself into a great rune at the necromancer’s feet.  The rune exploded with a satisfying blast, throwing the necromancer to the side.  It almost seemed more powerful than the one he cast earlier.

    A sudden sharp pain in his shoulder alerted him to the fact that the necromancer had more guards than the two skeletons he had already destroyed.  Another one, off to the side out of sight from the chamber entrance, had shambled toward him and swung its filthy sword to bite into his shoulder while he stood admiring his handiwork.  GAH! 

    Gaspard brought his shield up just in time to deflect another blow aimed at his arm.  He had expended a great deal of energy creating the rune that had blasted the necromancer and had not enough to take care of the skeleton in the same manner.  Oh well, he could still bring forth enough energy to turn into a spear of ice, which pierced the skeleton’s bones.  It crumbled beneath his feet.

    He turned to Arissa just in time to see she had pulled out her bow as she loosed an arrow at him.  What?

    Chapter 5

    Art Credit:


  • Rhoth
    Rhoth   ·  October 20, 2015
    Thanks again Ry.  I really appreciate you and Lissette and the others that have been following my blog so far.  Rest assured I will be continuing it.  I just won't be posting a new chapter every day.  Maybe one per week right now.
    Regarding the new ...  more
  • Ry Willams
    Ry Willams   ·  October 19, 2015
    Awsome! A new build. I'll have my eye out for that one. That's understandable. You being busy and all. My schedule on most days is screwed up as well. Take your time. with any artistic work like this, slow and easy is sure to win the race. Best of luck yo...  more
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  October 18, 2015
    Albee's owned a bunch of horses. 
    Really? That's pretty wow. I keep forgetting that I play with Requiem which doesn't allow the vampiric player to heal with Restoration magic, they need to use the Necromatic healing branch, which in Requiem is a Con...  more
  • Rhoth
    Rhoth   ·  October 18, 2015
    Thanks all.

    Lissette I had a hunch you'd comment on the part about his horse. This is the first horse he has owned in a very long time. He is not used to her yet. He might or might not come to appreciate her later...

    And yes he c...  more
  • LokaCola
    LokaCola   ·  October 18, 2015
    Really like he interaction between Gaspard and Arissa, but that ending though.... Now that is a cliffhanger that makes you want for more.
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  October 18, 2015
    The plot thickens. Arissa!
    And what's this about Gaspard not liking Allie's spirit!? Aelberon LOVES his Nordic spitfire. 
    So you still have him able to use Restoration magicks? That's interesting. 
  • Rhoth
    Rhoth   ·  October 18, 2015
    Glad you enjoyed.
    I've been busy, and also working on a new character build, so chapter 5 went a little slower.
  • Ry Willams
    Ry Willams   ·  October 18, 2015
    First! yes. Ah, it's back. You had me worried there for abit buddy!
    That was so cool, cool as ice baby. Its so deep and so well done. I'm loving every word as I excitingly read sentence by sentence. This is where the characters really dwell on their...  more