The Graveknight's Oath - Chapter 6 - Arkay's Blessing Upon You

  • Chapter 6 - Arkay's Blessing Upon You

    Brittleshin Pass, Falkreath Hold, 13th of Hearthfire, 4E 201

    Arissa’s arrow sped toward Gaspard faster than he could react. 

    Time slowed and in the back of his mind he noted that it had been expertly fletched: solid, straight shaft; well-trimmed hawk feathers attached with the sticky, twisted gut of a goat.  If Arissa had made these she was a very skilled fletcher.  Another part of his mind wondered why Arissa had shot at him.  She had not seemed at all hostile, even when she had stolen his coin purse a few days ago.  The last part of his mind recognized the trajectory of the arrow and that maybe he wouldn’t have to try to dodge it at all…

    Time sped back up as the arrow whizzed past Gaspard’s face, close enough for him to feel the air displaced by its passage, to plant solidly in the chest of the necromancer with a loud thunk.   He turned quickly to see that the necromancer has his arms raised, apparently preparing to cast a spell at Gaspard.  A look of surprise crossed the necromancer’s his face as he toppled to the floor; breathing his last.

    Gaspard suddenly realized in his haste to attack the skeletal warrior he had not made certain his frost rune had actually finished the necromancer.  He closed his eyes and mentally rebuked himself for his oversight.  Fool!  If the necromancer had been dead, his animated skeleton would have fallen immediately.   

    He took a deep breath to calm his nerves and turned to Arissa, “Thank you for finishing him.  I got caught up in the fight and neglected to be mindful of what else was happening.”

    “No problem,” Arissa answered nonchalantly as she lowered her bow. “Sorry if my arrow was a little close.  I only had time for one shot before he finished casting…whatever it was he was planning on casting.”

    Gaspard looked down at the dead necromancer again. “I believe he was about to cast an ice spell, probably similar to my own spear of ice I used on the last skeleton.  My cold blood allows me some resistance, but it still would have been painful.”

    “How can you tell anyway?  I just saw his hands moving.”

    “Certain types of spells create a certain, well for lack of a better word – aura – around a caster’s hands as he is preparing his spell.  It is faint, but noticeable if you know what to look for.  Right before your arrow struck I noticed the smoky-white aura that generally indicates an ice spell of some sort.  If he had been casting a fire-related spell he probably would have had an orange-tinged aura about his hands.  I am thankful he did not think to cast that.”

    “Why is that?” Arissa asked.  She cocked her head slightly to the side.  Gaspard noticed she tended to do that when asking questions.

    He didn’t answer immediately, turning to peer into the chamber beyond to make certain there were no more surprises waiting for them.  She obviously didn’t know very much about vampires, for all her seeming worldliness, or she might have been more afraid of him than she showed.  He wondered if he was the first she had ever encountered.  He quickly pondered whether or not to deflect her question.  It might be better if she didn’t know his weaknesses in case one day she really did feel the need to shoot an arrow at him.

    Arissa came to stand beside him, waiting expectantly.  Gaspard resolutely decided to trust her.  Thieving scoundrel aside she had shown him no reason to distrust her.  He chuckled silently at that.  Thieving scoundrel indeed…

    “My kind  vampires hold a certain weakness to the destructive power of flame spells.  They hurt a great deal more than anything else, save holy radiance spells.  Those are quite rare though, again thankfully.”

    Arissa looked thoughtful and was silent a moment as if she was working something out in her mind.  She absently tapped her fingers on her bow before asking, “Do other, umm, risen dead, share the same weakness?”  She appeared embarrassed, reluctant to press him, but he had already committed to telling her.  Maybe it would save her life one day.

    “Not necessarily.  Most types of the dead share my resistance to frost spells, but they are not any weaker to flame spells than a normal person such as you.”  Gaspard wondered where she was going with this line of questions.

    “Why did you use a frost rune on those skeletons back there then if they are resistant like you are?  Wouldn't a flame spell have worked better?”

    “I do not use flame spells.” Gaspard remarked in a low voice.


    “I do NOT!" Gaspard roared in a voice that echoed through the chamber.  He closed his eyes and forced the anger from his voice, "Please leave it at that.”  He suddenly felt the need to drop the whole conversation.  This was verging on territory he had no desire to discuss with Arissa, or anyone else.  Wait, what was that?

    “Hold a moment.  I believe I spied movement in the next chamber.  Look down there.”  He pointed downward, relieved for the distraction.  Any conversation about flame would lead to Shroudhelm and he refused to talk about Shroudhelm with anyone.  Not even her.

    Arissa quickly turned all business again.   She crouched lower and peered into the chamber beyond.  A natural outcropping of rock jutted up several dozen feet from the floor below.  Some enterprising soul had built a carved stone bridge between the outcropping and where the two were standing, as well as wooden ramps winding around the outcropping to the floor below.

    “I don’t see anything,” she whispered.

    “Something is there.  Let me cross the bridge and draw them out.  Just be ready if it is hostile,” he replied.  Arissa nodded and pulled out her recurved hunting bow once more.  It looked old and worn, like the boiled leather plate armor she wore, though still serviceable.  Thievery obviously hadn’t done well for her.  Gaspard was not about to mention that though.  Wandering the land doing menial tasks for subsistence-level survival the last few decades hadn’t done much better for him.  Since coming back to Skyrim a few weeks ago he had felt more alive than at any point in the decades before.  Maybe it was because people had needed him for a change.  He pushed those thoughts to the back of his mind and concentrated on his task.

    Gaspard slowly walked across the bridge, mentally preparing himself to project a rune if necessary, when an arrow whistled past him, its fletching torn to create the noise, quickly followed by another.  He spotted the archers, another pair of skeletons and smiled.  He briefly wondered why they had not fallen when the necromancer died, while he charged down the wooden ramp into battle with the risen dead once more.

    Arissa noted out of the corner of her eye as Gaspard charged down the ramp.  She nocked an arrow and waited until whatever was down there came into view.  She didn’t have to wait long.  More skeletal archers.  Well, her arrows wouldn’t do much good against them, really, unless she managed to hit bone.  She shifted her bow a bit to the left. 

    Steady…steady…and there…

    She released the string with a twang and the arrow sailed straight into the skeleton’s pelvic bone with enough force to bisect the skeleton and release its animus.  Arissa tried not to brag – well, not too much at least – but she had quite an eye for marksmanship.  She quickly readjusted for another shot, but a bright flash indicated Gaspard had made it down the ramp by then and cast another frost rune, ending the conflict.

    “It appears as if that is all of them,” Gaspard called up to her from below.

    “All right.  I’m going to look around up here for that journal we’re supposed to find,” she hollered back down to him.  Gaspard didn’t answer so she assumed he was going to search at the bottom of the chamber.

    What was up with that bout of anger when she asked him about flame spells anyway?  She wasn't sure what had happened in his past to set him off like that, but there was obviously some pain there somewhere.

    She supposed that if one had lived as long as Gaspard said he had there was bound to be pain somewhere, and likely a great deal of it.  She had yet to see her 30th winter and already had suffered enough pain to last a lifetime.  Or two.  Well, I guess everyone is entitled to keep secrets about their past.  I haven’t told him much about me either.  Still, she was curious about his heated reaction to a simple question.  If anything, she thought his anger made him seem a little more human; not quite as stone-faced as he had seemed before.

    Arissa scanned the chamber where they had fought the necromancer.  Two stout wooden cages dominated the wall to her left, across the chamber from where the necromancer had breathed his last.  She looked closer and recoiled.  A dead body occupied one of the cages, likely he had starved to death.  The other was empty of occupants, but a large quantity of dried blood marked the floor and stone wall that served as the back of the cage. 

    Arissa looked away and tried to hold down the meal she had eaten earlier.   Bitter bile rose to her throat, but she managed to avoid spewing the contents of her stomach over the rest of the chamber.  She didn’t want to even think about what had happened here before they had arrived.  Skyrim was all the better for the loss of the evil this vile necromancer had perpetrated.  How could someone do something like that to their fellow man anyway?  She shook her head in amazement at the lengths some would go to for power.  Just like the Thalmor, though even they could not be this perverted and evil.   

    Tears ran down her cheeks and she suddenly realized she was crying.  She hadn’t cried in a very long time, and for the acts this necromancer had perpetrated to make her cry again suddenly filled her with a smoldering anger. 

    Arissa ran over to the necromancer’s body on the chamber floor and planted a swift kick in its side.  Shooting pain traveled up her leg and she realized she had broken a toe, but she didn’t care.  She hauled back her leg to kick the necromancer again…

    “Wait!  What are you doing?”  Gaspard had returned to the upper chamber and was just crossing the bridge from the outcropping.

    Arissa quickly turned away, tears still in her eyes that she didn’t want Gaspard to see.   In a weak voice she said, “He deserved it.  And even more than that.  Look…just…just look at those cages.”  She pointed to the bloody cage.

    Gaspard came up behind and laid a hand on her shoulder.  She winced at the cold touch, which radiated through both his gauntlets and her leather jerkin.  He certainly had not lied about that.  She suddenly realized her toe was throbbing in pain and she winced again.

    He continued, “I see them.  But even so, the necromancer is dead and cannot hurt anyone any more.  We have seen to that.”  He paused a moment and lifted his hand from her shoulder, “Now I will see to the bodies and give them both Arkay’s Blessing.  Even someone as depraved as this necromancer does not deserve to go to the afterlife without that.”

    “He doesn’t deserve it.”  Arissa turned and looked Gaspard full in his blazing red eyes.  Vampire eyes.  She shook her head, “He doesn’t.”

    The pain was getting to her now and she needed to get off her feet before it overwhelmed her, “I’m going to go sit outside the cave.  Take your time with whatever you feel you need to do.”  She took care to avoid limping while his gaze still rested on her, but as soon as she made it out of the chamber and away from his scrutiny she crumpled to the floor in a ball of pain and did her best to hold in a scream of agony.

    And rage.  Definitely rage too.

    Gaspard stared at the corpse of the necromancer and prepared his mind for a prayer to Arkay.  He would not send the dead off without a proper ritual.  Even a foul necromancer such as this deserved Arkay's Blessing.  Gaspard was no priest, but he was the only one here who was close.  Maybe his prayer would not invoke Arkay's Law and prevent the necromancer's body from becoming a risen dead if another necromancer attempted to raise the body, but hopefully it would at least afford some protection.  He could give that at least.

    He lifted his amulet from inside his robe and studied it a moment, barely feeling the tingling sensation of pain in his hand.  Two intertwined, rune-etched squares surrounding a cabochon-cut ruby, the amulet had been blessed in Arkay’s name long ago.  It represented the Cycle of Birth and Death, the bailiwick of Arkay.  Personally crafted and given to him by the Hero of Kvatch himself on the day Gaspard had left the Knights of the Circle to become a Knight of the Nine, he had treasured the amulet like no other gift at first.  It represented his faith and commitment to all of the Nine Divines, with a special place in his heart for Arkay.  He had long held Arkay in higher regard than the other Divines.  Most of the other Knights of the Nine also held one or another of the Divines in higher regard than the others.  It was a personal preference, and each had his or her own reasons, though they all served all of the Nine equally.

    When he had fallen, the Master had commanded him to throw the amulet away, for no vampire could bear the touch of such a holy object without pain, especially one dedicated to the Divine that despised their kind with a furious passion.  He had thrown it into the sewers in Skingrad.  Arkay had not protected him that day, though he knew now it was his own failing that led to his fall.

    Decades later he returned.  Wading through the accumulated slime and waste, Gaspard had spent weeks searching for the amulet.  When he finally discovered it he had reverently grasped it without truly thinking.  The sudden pain had knocked him out for almost another full day.  It had taken many weeks of training himself with quick touches and days lost, before he had finally mastered himself enough to be able to hold the amulet for a few seconds before the pain became overwhelming.

    Now the pain barely registered and he could hold the amulet for as long as he needed.  He wore the amulet inside his robes, directly on his skin, as a constant reminder of what he had thrown away all those years ago.  He was not sure whether that said something about him, or whether Arkay had become more lenient in the intervening years.  He hoped for the latter. 

    Once again Gaspard wondered at the vision he had seen yesterday while praying at the Shrine of Arkay in the Hall of the Dead in Falkreath.  What did it mean?  He did not understand what he supposed to do, if indeed he was supposed to be doing anything at all.  He held a breath for a long moment and then let it out to clear his thoughts.  That usually worked.

    Gaspard wandered over to the cage and sat down in front of it.  He could still touch the body of the victim from here.  For all his preaching to Arissa about everyone deserving Arkay’s Blessing, the thought of giving the blessing to the necromancer first dismayed him, so he decided that the necromancer could wait.

    He closed his eyes and began to chant, "Come to me, Arkay, for without you, there is neither breath nor beginning, nor can any man live, love, or learn without the spark of your spirit."  The Verse of Arkay, spoken in all temples dedicated to the Divine of Birth and Death.  Gaspard felt a tiny spark of Arkay’s favor and the pain washed from his body.  He almost dropped the amulet in shock, but stilled himself.  He resolutely continued on, holding his free hand across the forehead of the victim.

    “As I commend your soul to Aetherius, blessings of the Nine Divines upon you, for you are the salt and earth of Nirn; our beloved Arkay releases you.”  Gaspard remembered a form of that same prayer being given to him a few weeks ago as he laid out with his head on the chopping block in Helgen.  He hadn’t thought about it much since, but he suddenly wondered at the timing of the appearance of that great black dragon.   It couldn’t have been a coincidence could it?  Or is my arrogance gaining sway once more in thinking Arkay may be relenting.

    He sighed and stood up.  Time for the necromancer now.  He repeated the prayer and blessing over the necromancer’s body, wondering if it would feel any different because of the great evils this man had perpetrated.  As he finished he realized that there would be no difference.  Arkay’s will brought all mortals life, and His will decreed that all would receive death as well.  The necromancer was but one of many who had perpetrated evils and was not denied Arkay’s Blessing.  He would not ever rise again as a dead thing at the will of other necromancers.

    Gaspard rose again and placed his amulet back inside his robe.  Was it his imagination or had the pain of touching the amulet lessened?  He scanned the chamber, not finding what he was looking for, before his eyes settled on a small chest off to the side of the chamber.  He hoped the necromancer had placed the journal in the chest.  If he had burned it this would have all been for naught

    Well, not all for nothing, he thought.  He wondered suddenly at the synergy between a priest of Arkay asking him to find an old journal, which had been lost years ago in a place that now served as a home to one of Arkay’s enemies.  Maybe coincidence doesn’t really belong in this conversation anymore.

    Gaspard opened the chest and inside was the journal.  He placed it in his pack and then left to find Arissa.  It was time to head back to Falkreath.

    Chapter 6

    Art Credit:


  • Ry Willams
    Ry Willams   ·  November 6, 2015
    Another fine chapter has this beautifully told story unfolds. I finally have a chance to catch up. Each passing chapter answers questions and brings several more to the table. Keep at it Rhoth!
  • Rhoth
    Rhoth   ·  October 26, 2015
    Thanks LokaCola.
  • LokaCola
    LokaCola   ·  October 26, 2015
    Really great chapter, as already mentioned I really like how he can still be such devoted to Arkay.
  • Rhoth
    Rhoth   ·  October 25, 2015
    Heh, maybe a little teaser. Maybe not. We'll see...
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  October 25, 2015
    If I could pull that double like stunt again, I would, but I can't anymore. I think it was something weird with my phone that allowed me to do that. 
  • Ebonslayer
    Ebonslayer   ·  October 25, 2015
    YET!!! What the hell is that supposed to mean
  • Rhoth
    Rhoth   ·  October 25, 2015
    Thanks Lissette. I'm vain enough to want more likes.
  • Rhoth
    Rhoth   ·  October 25, 2015
    He definitely feels pain so yes it would have hurt. Arissa doesn't hate him enough to shoot him quite yet...
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  October 25, 2015
    sorry, I forgets sometimes. 
  • Ebonslayer
    Ebonslayer   ·  October 25, 2015
    You had me worried there for a second with that arrow. Of course it probably wouldn't have killed him but it would've hurt like hell.