The Graveknight's Oath - Chapter 7 - Hunger

  • Chapter 7 - Hunger

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

    Gaspard gazed up at the night sky in wonder.  Masser and Secunda were both very full and close this night.  Some nights the moons shown nearly as bright as the afternoon sun, at least it seemed so to his sun-sensitive eyes.  He savored nights when both moons were nearly full.  It felt as if he could wander around in a kind of shadowed daylight without the drain of the beating sun.

    He wondered how many times he had gazed at the night sky over the years.  More nights that he should have, certainly.  By rights he should have died more than 150 years ago.  The Wheel of Life that Arkay presided over had been thwarted by the capriciousness of a vampire lord and his own failure as a holy knight.

    When Gaspard and Arissa had returned to Falkreath from Brittleshin Pass he had immediately set out for the Hall of the Dead to return the priest Runil’s journal, but a walk through the graveyard had distracted him, turning into a walk through the forest beyond the small city as well.  He appreciated the earthiness of Falkreath.  With no protective walls, the edges of the city practically disappeared into the forest.  It was very easy to wander from paved cobbles into bushy overgrowth.

    He leapt lightly upon a clump of fallen trees and walked with perfect balance across them.  He pondered removing his boots so he could feel the texture of the bark and moss as he trod over them, but ultimately decided to leave them on.

    The citizens of Falkreath seemed a good lot too.  He wondered what it would be like to actually settle down here.  To truly find a home instead of picking up and leaving after a few weeks to protect his secrets and avoid the inevitable angry villagers with fire and pitchforks.  To “wander on”, as he inevitably felt he must. 

    Falkreath drew him.  It was a place sacred to Arkay.  Many had died in battle and been buried here throughout the ages.  Gaspard had not studied its long and bloody history, but he knew enough.  Talos himself had fought battles here and in the Reach, under one of his many other names, before becoming Tiber Septim, emperor of Cyrodiil.  The Wheel of Life turned here very frequently.

    Good people lived here now.  Maybe he could settle down; talk to the Jarl and buy a house or maybe some land a small jaunt from the city.  Arissa might not enjoy that decision though; she had wanted to leave the city.

    Arissa had not joined him on his walk.  She had mumbled something about needing strong mead and headed straight to Dead Man’s Drink with barely a glance at him to see if he was joining her in the taproom.

    He didn’t think she wanted him to join her tonight, so he had watched her go without a word.  Arissa seemed caught up in her own thoughts since they exited Brittleshin Pass.  She had been silent during the entire return trip, a marked contrast to her chattiness during the morning’s jaunt to the cave.  He could tell she had been hiding some type of injury from him, but had not commented on it, even though he could have called upon Arkay to heal her.  He thought back and realized he had not mentioned that skill to her so she did not know.  Many vampires could not easily channel the powers of restorative magic.  When next he saw her he would offer…


    Gaspard tensed at the sound, preparing to blend into the night if necessary.  His red eyes scanned the brush for danger, but saw none.

    A wolf howled in the distance, its plaintive whine startling him.

    Gaspard suddenly remembered he was not the only one that enjoyed the nights when the full moons held sway.  He had not brought any weapons, leaving them with Queen Alfsigr in the stable, though in truth he did not need much more than his own innate talents at projecting runes in order to defend himself from a mere wolf.

    A quick spasm of anxiety pervaded his mind.  What if that wolf is more than just a normal wolf?  What if it is, or was, a friend?

    Another howl.  The noise receded to the west and he began to relax again. 

    His thoughts drifted back to Dustman’s Cairn and the dark secret he had discovered about the Companions a few days back.  He was not the only one cursed by the spawn of a Daedric Lord.  He had fled Whiterun soon after returning from the Cairn, victorious in the quest they had given him, but deeply disturbed by what he had discovered.  The Companions had provided him a bed and work when he needed it, for which he was grateful, but he could not afford for them to discover his own secret.  Werewolves and vampires did not often get along very well.

    He was surprised none of them had smelled his curse, though until Farkas had changed while battling the Silver Hand in the Cairn he had not deciphered their true nature either.  Strange that.  He should have seen it well before the final piece of evidence had been presented.  There had been that undercurrent of both sadness and bridled rage that pervaded the hall that he had not quite been able to put his finger on.   Perhaps he had just not wanted to see it.  Jorrvaskr had felt like home too, for a brief time.

    On the trail back from Dustman’s Cairn with Farkas he had been as silent as Arissa during their trek back from Brittleshin Pass.  He had decided he must leave the Companions, as he always must leave.  He would reveal nothing to anyone else about their secret.  They had been a good bunch too; very welcoming.  Perhaps they would not have cared if his own problems had been revealed.    

    Ah, too late now, he thought.  My fate has already been decided with regard to the Companions.  I left.  Unlikely they would allow a deserter back.

    Gaspard returned to the present.  How long had he been wandering through the forest?  A few hours at least.  The sun had just set when they returned to the city, while now the moons were high in the sky.  The forest was quiet again.  No creatures made a sound when a predator stalked the land, and he was most certainly a predator.  He sighed as he felt the pangs of blood starvation again.  The sun no longer beat down upon him, exacerbating the hunger, but the adrenaline rush of the battle with the necromancer had fully worn off now.   Adrenaline occasionally helped him ignore his hunger, though there was another entity that helped him through cravings on occasion.

    With a glance around to make certain no one was watching he concentrated his will and charged a spell.  “Come to me Kymbaly; across the expanses of Oblivion I summon you to my side.”  Speaking while summoning was not necessary, but he always felt solemn when casting this spell.

    Gaspard released the spell and relaxed his will slowly.  A bright blue-glow nearly blinded him for a second as a wolf fully a handspan taller than the average wolves of Skyrim appeared out of thin air directly before him.  The wolf immediately examined its surroundings for enemies to engage.  Sensing none it raised its head and howled a mournful wail as it eyed its master. 

    He fell to his knees and wrapped his arms around the great shimmering wolf. “Ah Kymbaly, it has been far, far too long.”  He removed his gauntlets and ran his hands over the coarse fur of the wolf.  The wolf did not actually have blue fur, but was limned in a blue radiance indicative of its origin from another plane of existence.

    Kymbaly nibbled lightly on Gaspard’s arm, careful not to close her powerful jaws too hard.  Gaspard wouldn’t have minded.  “I am sorry my friend.  I have not been in a place where anyone would understand if they saw you.  Wolves are not exactly welcome in civilized areas.”

    Gaspard looked up at Masser and Secunda once again.  The moons had not dimmed, but they could not match the brightness of Kymbaly’s radiance.  “I met several of your kin recently.  Well, sort of I guess.  They were not wolves like you, but men who could change to the form of a beast.”  The wolf watched Gaspard with one ear cocked high, her nostrils flaring as he breathed. 

    Kymbaly blinked and snorted, and Gaspard continued on, “No I did not let you meet them.  I was afraid of the consequences if they knew me to be a vampire.” Gaspard laughed a bitter laugh and mused, “So why did I tell Arissa?”  He ruffled the wolf’s fur again and sat down on the ground, his legs crossed.

    “You have not met Arissa yet either.  I only met her a few days ago.  She is…complicated.  I know given how we met I should not trust her, yet I do.  She projects an air of casual indifference, but I believe she cares much more than she lets on.  She does not want anyone to see her true self, the same way I keep everyone away.  Except you.”

    Gaspard pulled in his will and prepared the spell to summon Kymbaly again.  In a few seconds the original spell would expire and Kymbaly would be sent back to her home plane once more, but Gaspard needed more time.  It had been weeks since he had talked with his friend.  The wolf had always been great at listening when Gaspard needed someone to listen, or just needed a friend.

    From a certain point of view, the great wolf always left him, but never left him.  Kymbaly had been his only constant throughout his long years of wandering.  Kymbaly disappeared as the summoning spell abruptly ended, and Gaspard felt a wrench of loss.  He often wished that the wolf could remain in Nirn instead of being whisked back to Oblivion, but it was never to be.  Though if Kymbaly had been a mortal wolf she would have died long ago instead of becoming Gaspard’s longtime companion.

    Gaspard sighed and cast the spell to summon his friend once more.  Kymbaly appeared before him and immediately gazed around, searching for enemies first.  As always.

    “Come Kymbaly.  Let us hunt.  We both could use a stretch.”  And to avoid thinking of his true hunger for a little while longer.

    Runil rocked back and forth in his chair on the porch.  The old Altmer had enough of the conversation dominating the evening at Dead Man’s Drink.  Dragons indeed.  The young were so gullible.  Helgen had been destroyed over a month ago, certainly, but where now was this dragon who was supposedly the cause of the destruction? Nowhere that’s where!  Who had actually seen it?  No one, that’s who!

    He was quite certain that there was no dragon roaming the skies.  Some drunken tavern-fly had probably knocked over a torch and it had just escalated from there.  Dragons!  Hmmph!  Though he did hope that the priestess in Helgen had managed the rites for those who had died.  What was her name again?  Oh well, no matter.  Runil couldn’t travel.  He was the caretaker of the Hall of the Dead in Falkreath.  His duty was here.

    At least the ale had been strong and cold tonight.  His old bones needed a good brace here and there, and this was one of those nights.  The Nords preferred their mead; let them have it.  He knew most other Altmer would turn up their noses at “common” ale, but he preferred the taste to any other drink.  He liked the fizz.  We'll all meet Arkay sooner or later. Best to enjoy the time we've got.

    Movement in the brush beyond the graveyard caught his eye and he stopped rocking.  He squinted into the night, trying to make out the form approaching the Hall of the Dead.  Getting older was difficult.  Ah, there was the young man who had promised to find his journal.  Runil had not wanted to ask, but the man wore a homemade amulet of Arkay.  He was obviously a believer, and therefore someone to be trusted.

    “Good evening Father Runil,” the man said.  Runil couldn’t remember his name either, but he certainly had a low, powerful voice.  It felt like the man’s voice came from the depths of his soul.  Runil briefly wondered why a man with such a voice hid his face behind a hood, but perhaps he was just vain.  Or scarred and afraid of people seeing his deformities.

    “It’s just Runil good sir.  I take it you were successful?  Did you have any difficulties finding my journal?” Runil resumed rocking, studying the other.

    “Nothing that particularly mattered.”   The man looked down as he responded.  It made it even more difficult for Runil to see what was going on under the man’s hood.  No matter.

    "Thank you. It's a collection of regrets that I try not to forget. Here, I promised you this." Runil pulled a small purse of coins out of his pocket and offered it to the man.

    The man looked at the purse of coins for a moment before waving it off with obvious agitation.  “Actually Runil I was wondering if I might trouble you to pray at Arkay’s shrine inside the Hall.  I know it is late, but I feel the need to speak with Him if it is His will.”

    “Of course you may my son.  It is time for me to sleep this night, but the faithful are always welcome here.  Help me up.”  Runil reached out his hand, which the other grasped.  Fires of Oblivion!  The man’s gauntlet was cold.  He must have spent far too long outside in the woods or running his hands in Lake Ilinalta or something.  Runil shook his hand to warm it after the man had helped him to his feet.  “Quite the, umm, grip you have there.”

    “My apologies.  I am a little chilly tonight.”

    “Of course, of course.  Come in and warm yourself.” 

    Runil walked into the Hall of the Dead, followed by the other man, and Runil immediately headed for his bed.  His eyes had suddenly glazed over and he felt the need for a deep sleep tonight.  “Arkay’s blessing upon you my son.”

    “And you.”

    Gaspard’s hunger had returned threefold after he had finished the hunt with Kymbaly.  The ghostly wolf had feasted upon a succulent rabbit before returning home.  He had nothing.  He needed both the solace of communion with Arkay and the pain of touching Arkay’s shrine to keep his mind away from the hunger.  For another day hopefully, he thought.

    He had felt a strong push against his thoughts when he had entered the Hall of the Dead, and he wondered why.  In the past when he had entered other temples or shrines he could barely manage to see straight, and his head had instantly burst with a throbbing headache.  Recently though, when he had entered the Hall of the Dead in Whiterun he had barely felt a flutter.  Why had it gotten worse all of a sudden?  His head began to ache again, though that might just have been the hunger.

    Gaspard looked around at the small room.  He had not entered the Hall of the Dead yesterday, preferring to pray at the shrine outside.  Tonight though he needed a more private communion.  He looked back at the suddenly snoring priest.  Well, private being relative of course.

    He felt a small twinge of regret for the small spell he had cast on the priest when he helped him from the rocker.  He had no desire for company while he prayed at the shrine.  The priest was already weary.  He just needed a small push to calm his nerves.  Gaspard watched him sleep for a moment, a pang of hunger stabbing through his body once more.

    Gaspard quickly turned and sat in front of the shrine.  The Hall of the Dead in Falkreath was nothing like the Hall of the Dead in Whiterun.  Runil’s bed was barely ten feet from the shrine.  The Hall in Whiterun was far from the grand temple in Cheydinhal in Cyrodiil, but at least it had separate living quarters for the caretaker priests, with a real door to separate the food from the shrine.  Quarters.  He meant the priest’s quarters.  What am I thinking?

    He turned back to the shrine and attempted to clear his roiling thoughts by reciting the Verse of Arkay once more this day.  "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."

    Strangely the prayer did not calm him.

    He pulled his gauntlets off again and placed his hand on the shrine.  A small burn, but bearable.  In a low voice he began, “Merciful Arkay, please…please show me the way.  You have given me a vision that I do not understand.  I must know what I am to do in your name.  I killed a necromancer today.  Well, my companion killed him, but this necromancer had nothing to do with a wolf skull.  I just do not understand.  Please show me again.  Show me what I must do.”

    Gaspard waited, his hand on the shrine, his thoughts in turmoil.  The pressure in his head began to grow.  Blood starvation.  He needed to find a victim tonight.  No, a donor.  A donor.  The pressure grew sharper.  What was happening?  Why would Arkay not answer?

    “Tell me.  Please!  Tell me!”  Gaspard’s voice rose.  The pressure grew near to debilitating.  The hand he had placed on the shrine felt hotter again.  Pain.

    “TELL ME!”  His sudden snarl of frustration and pain echoed through the chamber.  Runil the priest did not wake.

    His hand suddenly burst into flames.  With a shriek he pulled it from the shrine and immediately the flames died, though the pain remained.  Tucking his hand under his armpit he rolled onto his side and tried to breathe to calm himself again.

    “What happened?” he whispered.  “In the cave I felt so close to you my Lord Arkay.  I don’t understand.”


    Gaspard took another deep breath as tears traveled down his cheeks.  He hadn’t cried in decades.  He was so hungry.  So very hungry.  He looked up at Runil again.  The priest had not awoken through any of the commotion.

    Just a sip.  Runil would never know.  He would heal the bites afterward, when he was himself once more.  No one would know…

    Gaspard rose, shaking violently…desperately.  He bent over the priest and caught himself.  This was a priest of Arkay.  He could not bite him.  He couldn’t.  So hungry.  So hungry.

    Gaspard awkwardly lunged forward and bit.

    Chapter 7

    Art Credit:


  • Ry Willams
    Ry Willams   ·  November 8, 2015
    Oh okay. Thanks for clearing that up for me. You would be perfect there. Wouldn't December be the month for that actually? That's Writers Appreciation Month.
  • Rhoth
    Rhoth   ·  November 6, 2015
    NAtional NOvel WRiting MOnth.
    Lissette and Sotek and a few of the other blog writers are doing it.
  • Ry Willams
    Ry Willams   ·  November 6, 2015
    Hey man! I understand. Life has been kicking my you know what for the past month. So I know what you're going through. All do time. NaNoWriMo? Forgive me but I think I haven't heard of that group before.
  • Rhoth
    Rhoth   ·  November 6, 2015
    Thanks Ry.
    More is on the way.  Just slower than I'd like.  Haven't had much time for writing in the past two weeks.  Which is why I haven't joined in the NaNoWriMo that some of the others have been doing.
  • Ry Willams
    Ry Willams   ·  November 6, 2015
    Ah, yes! the horrors of being a Vampire in Skyrim. ( Thus why I will never play as one ) So rich in detail! it goes down all so smooth This "S" rating work here no doubt. The conflicts the hero must face. Man Vs. Himself, This is the best I've read that p...  more
  • Rhoth
    Rhoth   ·  November 2, 2015
    More interpretation of Runil wont really come for awhile (you'll see why in chapter 9 though you can probably make a guess). He will eventually make a return though.
  • Rhoth
    Rhoth   ·  November 2, 2015
    I have read the journal. The part where he is scoffing at dragons was kind of an outgrowth of that. He dreamed of them, but as yet there has been no proof of dragons in the world (as at this point in the narrative I had not pursued the main quest yet).
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  November 2, 2015
    I'm pretty sure you can guarantee that both Rhoth and I have read that journal. I'm looking forward to your interpretation of him Rhoth.
  • Ebonslayer
    Ebonslayer   ·  November 2, 2015
    If you've ever read his journal then you'd understand why.
  • Rhoth
    Rhoth   ·  November 2, 2015
    Thanks Lissette.
    Yep, Runil is an interesting character.  On the surface he has a lot of regrets, but he also sees things in a "live life to the fullest" way.  Different than some of the other priests of Arkay in the game...or Altmer for that matter,