SotF: The Vigilants of Stendarr LEGACY







    The mud gave way to the weight of boots as three hooded travellers from the east made their way through the city of Morthal. The sun was beginning to set and the townsfolk and merchants have already cleared the streets, knowing better than to be out and about after sundown. The travellers felt a slight chill on their backs; they were certain it wasn’t just the wind.


    Barring the occasional guard or vagabond, the streets was empty. Taverns and inns were awfully quiet in spite of their reputation as hubs of Nord culture in Skyrim. The travellers kept their hoods up. Eyes were upon them.


    A few minutes pass before the travellers finally reached their destination; Highmoon Hall, the seat of the Jarl of Hjaalmarch. The building was as of typical Nord design; roof of straw and tar, walls of carved oak and a foundation of stone.


    Before the travellers could enter, they were stopped by a pair of guards garbed in gambeson and a pale green sash with spear in one hand and a shield in the other.


    ‘Halt!’ shouted the first guard, his voice hoarse. ‘State your name and business.’


    The three travellers were wearing mud-stained linen tunics and trousers with a dark robe worn over them. The travellers had their weapons hanging off the belts that wrapped their waist and the shadow of their hoods hid their faces. The guards felt uneasy.


    The leader of the trio nodded and reached into a satchel slung by their side and pulled out a roll of parchment bearing a wax seal of Hjaalmarch. The guard understood, the document was from the Jarl herself.


    ‘I am Falrielle, Senior-Vigilant of Stendarr,’ said the leader of the group, a woman. ‘The two that accompany me are Gideon of Wayrest and Sven, son of Skorhar and our business is with the Jarl alone.’


    ‘I am sorry to say,’ said the guard, his tone insincere, ‘but the Jarl will not be seeing any visitors at this hour.’


    ‘That is quite a shame,’ said Falrielle, hands rubbing her chin in contemplation. ‘Might the Jarl be available for an audience in morrow’s morning?’


    ‘No,’ replied the guard sternly.


    ‘And perhaps the morn after that? We are here on the personal request of the Ja-‘


    ‘Look, stranger,’ interrupted the guard, his tone getting more hostile. ‘Morthal doesn’t like nosy travellers and we have orders from the Steward himself; the Jarl shall receive no visitors until further notice. So feel free to wait around or leave.’


    ‘Oh,’ said Falrielle. ‘Why can’t the Jarl see any more visitors?’


    ‘That’s none of your conc-‘ shouted the guard.


    ‘Enough, Hrojar!’ shouted the second guard, earning a look of disdain form his companion. ‘I will deal with them,’ he continued. Hrojar silently protested but he nonetheless complied and went back to his post.


    ‘Hail, Vigilants of Stendarr. I am Jurgen,’ said the second guard. ‘I apologise for my fellow guardsman’s behaviour, stranger. The whole city has been on edge, well, even more so in the past few weeks.’


    ‘Because of the attacks?’ said Falrielle.


    ‘That is correct, because of the attacks which is no doubt the reason why you are here,’ said the guard in a hushed voice to which Falrielle nods in agreement. ‘The other problem that’s stirring trouble is the Jarl’s “condition”. Have you heard of it?’


    ‘The Jarl’s “condition”? I’ve heard many rumours of Jarl Ravencrone but you must be referring to her gift of foresight.’


    ‘A curse more like it!’ barked Hrojar.


    ‘Shush,’ hissed Jurgen before turning his attention towards the travellers. ‘Yes, that is of what I speak. The Jarl’s gift has led her to see many events that have yet to come; events both great and terrible and while this is usually a blessing to her people, the visions demand a high toll on the Jarl… and this morning was the worst of it’


    ‘On the eve of noon whilst dealing with the daily concerns of us common folk, the Jarl had received a terrible vision from the Divines. The visions were too much; the Jarl was writhing on the ground in pain while the rest of us were helpless to aid our Jarl. She kept mumbling something about the dragons; those great beasts in the tales we tell our children. After a few moments of what felt like an eternity, the Jarl fainted and Steward Aslfur took charge.’


    ‘My sympathies.’


    ‘I appreciate your concerns traveller but Morthal does not accept your pity,’ said Jurgen. ‘The Jarl embodies the people of Morthal: strong and stubborn, we will get by.’


    ‘Nonetheless, I wish the best of recoveries to the Jarl but we were summoned here for a job and it is not in the Vigil’s interest to leave our work unfinished.’


    ‘Understandable policy but as my companion said: the Jarl shall receive no visitors until further notice. But I propose a compromise; we will notify the Steward of your arrival and he’ll see to it that you will be granted an audience as soon as possible.’


    Falrielle nodded her head in acceptance.


    ‘We have travelled for a long time today to Morthal and are in need to food and rest’ said Falrielle, ‘we are also short on coin, might you give us any recommendations on which inn we should make our patronage?’


    ‘The Crabber’s Den in the northern edge of Morthal’ barked Hrojar in the distance. ‘Food is barely edible and beds will give you the itch but you won’t find inn in Morthal. I wouldn’t go there myself but…’


    ‘We are short on coin right now so it will have to do. We thank you for your assistance.’




    The Crabber’s Den lived up to its reputation of being the cheapest inn in the city. Sitting on the edge of the city, the Crabber’s Den was nothing more than a glorified outhouse; it was mostly empty with the exception of a handful of shady patrons.


    But the Vigilants were low on money, so it will have to do. Falrielle’s companions pulled their hoods down revealing a lightly bearded Imperial man in his thirties and a clean-shaven Nord boy, barely after his coming of age. Falrielle however kept her hood up, she preferred it that way.


    The innkeeper was a tubby middle-aged Nord man, stubble and balding. He faintly smelt of fermented fish, herring to be exact. The waitress-cum-cook, judging from the stains on her clothes is a Nord woman of similar age to the innkeeper. Married perhaps?


    For dinner the Vigilants will be having bowl of Marsh Crab Stew with bits of parsley and dirt, a stale loaf of black bread from the Vigil and a tankard of marsh watered-down ale. Conventional minds would agree that the meal was terrible but rumbling stomachs tend to override the protest of one’s taste buds and the Vigilants dropped all pretext of table manners and gorged their meals.


    Loose window on the first floor. East.


    After ordering another round of piss-tasting ale, the Vigilants finally settled down. Sven is leaning on the chair, Falrielle is re-reading her documents and Gideon is enjoying a pipe of pure Cyrodiil Toby, fine ground.


    ‘So what now?’ said Sven.


    ‘Now we wait,’ said Gideon, bellowing a plume of smoke. ‘Eager? There’s no need to rush these things, the night is still young and we’ve spent the whole day walking without rest. I think my feet has a blister or two from all that walking.’


    Falrielle kept her head down, paying no heed to the conversation and driving her focus on the documents.


    ‘Say rookie, where did you say were from again?’


    ‘A small village called Karfell, a little to the east of Windhelm. And you?’


    “I am introduced as Gideon of Wayrest for a reason but alas, I haven’t seen home in almost 20 years. Not like it is home anyway after the corsair attack.’


    Smacking of wooden spoon in bowl. Fish. Salmon. Onion. Garlic. Imperial.


    ‘My sympathies,’ said Sven, taking a sip of his ale. After a period of silence, the boy said, ‘Does this usually happen? The waiting I mean.’


    ‘It’s part of the job. Nothing too glamorous but it’s just the way it is. To be honest, how we do things isn’t too differently from the common sellsword companies, the organised ones anyway. We either stumble into trouble or get called to sort out one, find out whatever is causing it and kill it.’


    Redguard. Imperial. Quiet. Ploughed a tavern wench in Whiterun. Coin pouch. 50 Septims.


    ‘Of course with that said, we aren’t completely alike. For one thing, we have a goal other than “make more coin” and we never turn down aid to the needy. Anyway back to your question, yes the job description is “Go here, kill that” but ask yourself do we know exactly where “here” is? Part of our job is to find them. On good days, the monsters we find are common bandits or at the worst of it, a coven of rogue mages but on the bad days’




    ‘Right on the money!’ Gideon slapped the table and pointed at the boy. ‘Keep that up and you might even see your fifth year, rookie. I know we around telling people that the “Vigil of Stendarr will drag the Daedra and their worshippers into the light to face the Judgement of Stendarr” but in truth, that’s more for reputation than it is a reflection on our actual operational procedure. Don’t get me wrong, when we do sniff the Daedra out, we WILL come down hard on them but the smart Vigilant will look into a case and will not assume that every wrong doing in Tamriel is caused by the Daedra. The smart ones anyway…’


    New patrons at door. Four. Leather cloak. Quiet. Armed. Swords and daggers. Smells of incense. Quiet.


    ‘and the dumb ones?’


    ‘There is a reason why we consider the fifth year of service to be a milestone in this line of work.’


    Patrons talking to innkeeper. Subject: Vigilants. Vigilants. Quiet. Vigilants. Vigilants. Stop. Vigilants. Vigilants. Vigilants. Vigilants. Vigilants. Vigilants. QUIET!


    Sven and Gideon’s conversation was interrupted when Falrielle slammed her fists on the table. She grunted and rasped as she reached for her belt and whipped out a small unmarked vial of dark glass. Falrielle took a quick glance of the container before quickly downing the contents.


    She sat on the chair, waiting for a few agonizing seconds for the potion to take its effect. Her breathing, first rapid and tense slowed down to an even and calm rhythm. Falrielle was sweating when she took a peek from her hood: Gideon, used to this was enjoying a smoke. Sven from what she could make out was panicking and wanted an answer, but that is a subject for another time. The mysterious patron approaches.


    ‘Were you the band that sough an audience with the Jarl not too long ago?’ said the mysterious patron, his voice deep and stern.


    ‘What if we were? Who’s asking?’ replied Gideon, his relaxed pose concealing his move for his weapon.


    ‘The stranger before us is Aslfur,’ said Falrielle, beads of sweat dripping from her brow. ‘Steward of Hjaalmarch, Hand of the Jarl and at the moment, acting ruler of the Hold.’


    The steward was surprised.


    ‘It is my duty as the leader of this unit to be in the know. Also don’t bother trying to jump us, your three, no, four guards are as subtle as a pig in a pantry. One of them has a cold, she should get it check out. But if you insist on having us arrested or thrown out, you don’t need your guards for that; we would of have done so by the asking. However if you are here to talk,’ she continued, gesturing at the empty space in their table.


    The Steward pulled a seat from an unoccupied table and joined the Vigilants.


    ‘Impressive. Very impressive,’ said the steward. He tried to take a peek under Falrielle’s hood but the shadows hid her face well. ‘You must be Falrielle, Senior-Vigilant and Master-at-Arms of the Vigil.’ He turned to the others. ‘You must be Gideon of Wayrest and you the Initiate Sven.’


    ‘Don’t look so surprised, o’ faithful of Stendarr. As steward it is also my duty to be in the know but enough small talk. Why are you here?’


    Falrielle reached into her satchel and pulled out a roll of parchment bearing a wax seal of Hjaalmarch.


    ‘From the Jarl herself,’ she said in a hushed tone as she passed the missive to the steward.


    ‘Ah,’ said the steward. ‘Our “little” problem. Tell me, what do you know so far?’


    ‘Not as much as we would like to,’ said Gideon. ‘The attacks began on the eve of First Seed this year when a pair of woodcutters went missing for a week only to be found dead with their guts torn out in a dyke not too far from where they usually work. The guards having ruled out foul-play was ordered by the Jarl to nail bounties on the walls of every tavern and inn in Hjaalmarch. Skyrim being the hotbed of mercenary work, swarmed the Hold like flies on a corpse. Within the month of the attack, mountains of heads of the supposed responsible creature rolled at the feet of the Jarl.’


    The Vigilant took a deep smoke from the pipe.


    ‘Being a random stab the dark, no one was surprised that the witch hunt did nothing when the next attack at the Ides of Mid Year occurred but luckily or not so luckily for Hjaalmarch, the bodies were fresh enough to determine the cause: vampires.’


    ‘And now, no one wants to take the job,’ interrupted the steward. ‘Good, you’re up to speed on our situation.’


    ‘Has the College given any help on this?’ asked Falrielle. The steward takes a deep gulp of his drink at the mention of the College.


    ‘When has the College ever been helpful?’ said the steward. ‘We’ve been trying to contact the College from before this whole mess started but you know how the College is,’ he continued in a tone of annoyance, drinking his ale to cool off. Falrielle and Gideon could sympathise.


    ‘You see, Morthal hasn’t had a court mage since 92’ when the previous office holder was devoured by a pack of Chaurii while he was busy gathering some fungus in the marsh. Or at least he was probably devoured, all we found was his ring in a dung pile. Anyway, we’ve been sending them a letter, every month since then but you know how these stuck up mages answer.’


    ‘The College is unable to acquiesce your request and apologises for the great inconvenience,’ said Gideon as if reciting a passage from a religious article much to the steward’s grim approval.


    ‘After Mid Year, hunters occasionally show up to take the job but none has ever given us any significant results.’ The steward takes another sip of his drink before saying, ‘but none have died either which is a good thing, I suppose… then there’s the Dawnguard.’


    ‘Dawnguard?’ parroted Falrielle. ‘Do you mean The Dawnguard? The same Dawnguard from the legends?’


    ‘Hah, we wish,’ said the steward breaking out in laughter. ‘No, it was just another motley sellsword crew who thought the name would help with advertising. There really was nothing special about them. They had a Nord warrior draped in leathers and furs, a roguish Imperial woman, a Breton spellsword.’ The steward took a sip of his drink. ‘A dropout mage of the College and a Bosmer archer. They appeared that morn of the 21st and spun tales of their great deeds and the like; typical sellsword drivel if you ask me.’


    ‘The Jarl in her wisdom signed a contract with this crew: find and kill the vampires in return, they shall be paid five thousand Septims and be given gratitude of Morthal. All they did was spend two days doing an inn crawl before leaving the city on the third.’


    ‘That night, our outer watchmen reported a blood curdling howl and screams in the dark. Nothing out of place in Hjaalmarch but the morning patrol found four freshly killed corpses near an unnamed cave and get this; three of them are members of the crew. The fourth is the odd one out.’


    ‘And that’s where we came in,’ said Falrielle. The steward grunted.


    ‘Before midday, the Jarl had me pen this missive to the Vigil and any other organisations that deal in the supernatural for aid. So far, only you three have answered,’ said the steward, taking a deep swig of his tankard, finishing his ale. ‘Well, not exactly. That night the College had finally changed their tune and claimed that they’ve dispatched one of their masters.’


    ‘Did they say who?’ said Gideon, leaning forward in interest.


    ‘As if the College would tell us,’ spat the steward. ‘Unless something terrible has happened to this mage, he or she is due to arrive tomorrow morn, which I am here to invite you to join us.’


    ‘Will the Jarl be there?’ asked Sven.


    The table grew silent.


    ‘Jarl Ravencrone… my wife will be there in the morn. I would of have preferred if she rested but the woman insists that she be involved in this matter. I can say no more, she is the Jarl and I as Steward am sworn to serve her.’


    ‘On behalf of my companions, we gladly accept your invitation.’


    ‘Then we will see you in the morn, good Vigilants,’ said the steward, getting up from the table to leave the inn. ‘Oh before I forget, would you like to sleep in a more luxurious accommodation?’


    ‘We thank you for the offer steward,’ Falrielle bowed her head. ‘But we have already paid for the beds here and it would be inappropriate for us as guests to violate our agreement with the innkeeper,’ she continued. The steward bowed his head and left.




    Jarl Idgrod Ravencrone had an air of sickness about her. She was pale, far too pale to be healthy for a human, her arms were gnarled and her hair had streaks of grey and silver. The wrinkles of her face made her look older than she really was or at least compared to her husband. The Jarl was slouching on her throne, her legs stretched out to the hearth with one arm resting on the throne and the other on her chin, as if she was contemplating.


    To the Jarl’s left stood a muscular Nord warrior garbed in leathers and furs. His arms folded and his eyes trailed the Vigilants. He must the Jarl’s Huskarl; the personal bodyguard and keeper of the household of the Jarl. To her right was Aslfur, Husband and Steward to Jarl Idgrod.


    The Vigilants bent their knees and lowered their heads. Falrielle was the first to speak.


    ‘Hail Idgrod Ravencrone, Jarl of Hjaalmarch. I, Falrielle, Senior-Vigilant of Stendarr along with my companions, Gideon of Wayrest, Vigilant of Stenddarr and Sven, son of Skorhar, Initiate of the Vigil, thank you for granting us an audience in these times of trouble,’ said Falrielle, keeping her head down.


    ‘Hail Vigilants of Stendarr,’ said the Jarl, her voice gravely. ‘I am flattered by your show of courtesy but there is no need for you to bow or any other gestures of courtly etiquette for you are here on invitation and thus are my personal guests and my guests need not trouble themselves with the usual fanfare,’ she continued.


    ‘Thank you, my Jarl,’ chanted the Vigilants in unison as they rose.


    ‘Hah!’ chuckled the Jarl, slightly amused by their display. ‘I have but one request before we continue: may you remove your hoods? I prefer to look at my conversation partners in the eye.’


    Gideon and Sven promptly pulled down their hoods but Falrielle was hesitant. After a few moments she complied. The court was silent.


    The Vigilant’s facial features didn’t really stand out except that her hair and her skin were white as the snow that blanketed the realm. She had a scar running across her lip and she avoided looking at the Jarl directly with her pale blue eyes. The light of the sun was in her face.


    ‘I see… You may put your hood back on,’ said the Jarl.


    ‘Thank you, my Jarl,’ replied Falrielle.


    ‘Meant you no harm or insult.’ The Jarl leaned forward. ‘I presume that you’ve had your fair share of experience? I am referring to you, Falrielle. With your seniority, am I right to assume that you are the most familiar with the dealings of the supernatural and the like or am I mistaken?’


    ‘You are correct, My Jarl,’ said Falrielle, instinctively keeping her head low.


    ‘I would like to hear about it or is there a code that forbids you of speaking of it?’


    ‘Not at all. Of what do you wish to know?’


    ‘What can you tell me about Draugrs?’


    ‘Draugr. Undead Nordic warriors that are rumoured to be the former living servants of the Dragon Priests of old. Endemic to Skyrim. Draugrs differ from the common reanimated corpse in the sense that Draugrs would periodically awaken to maintain their chambers. Fighting wise, they don’t fight too differently from the modern still-living Nord warrior although their techniques are long lost to the sands of time.’


    ‘Good. And what can you tell me about Chaurii.’


    ‘Chaurus or Chaurii are large insects typically found in deep caverns and chasms under Skyrim although they sometimes venture out in the surface for reasons unknown. Highly aggressive and venomous. Chaurii also possess chitin that would render most blades dull before they pierce.’


    ‘And vampires?’


    ‘I apologise my Jarl but you would have to be specific for there are many types of vampires. For example, there are the Bonsamu who only candlelight would betray them and the mist-form Keerilth strains of Valenwood. Another would be the aristocratic Volkihar and the tribal Dungahar. Both cold and cruel as the winds of the Pale.’


    A crooked grin appeared on the Jarl’s face. ‘See Aslfur, I told you that calling for the Vigil isn’t such a bad idea!’


    ‘Then I apologise for my lack of faith,’ replied the steward.


    ‘Speaking of ideas, aren’t we expecting a mage?’

    ‘We did and we met him this morning, my Jarl. We gave him a house to work in along with the corpses we found. He insisted that he was not to be disturbed.’


    ‘Shame, a mage would make for a good conversation,’ said the Jarl. The court was silent. ‘Oh to Oblivion with it. I spent most of my day yesterday lying in bed and I need my exercise. Besides I’m bored, so let’s see what that mage is up to.’




    ‘Falion!’ shouted the Jarl. ‘Learned anything new? You’ve been playing with them since you arrived at dawn. Hope you didn’t do anything that would get you arrested in Morrowind. That was a joke, take no heed to it,’ she continued.


    Falion sighed, the mage bent over a corpse that was laid on a large table that was lined with two others. A balls of light hovered over them. ‘Jarl Ravencrone, as I have told you before; if I have had found anything new regarding this case I would of have sent a runner for you.’


    ‘No need to be such a sour pus, Falion,’ said the Jarl, jovial as she could be. ‘Come, meet the new help. This is Falrielle, Senior-Vigilant of Stendarr.’


    Falrielle gave a quick nod.


    ‘Gideon of Wayrest, Vigilant of Stendarr.’


    Gideon did nothing. Not a word nor a twitch.


    ‘And Sven, son of Skorhar, Initiate of the Vigil.’


    Sven waved.


    ‘Don’t be a stranger, make your acquaintances with the Vigilants.’


    Falion rolled his eyes and stood up from the table. The mage wiped his hands on the apron he wore leaving streaks of blood before walking towards the Vigilants. From what she could make out off, the mage had some strange device mounted on his head.


    ‘As the Jarl has said, I am Falion, Master of Conjuration of the College of Winterhold,’ said the mage with a hint of disdain in his voice. He then turned his attention towards the Jarl and said, ‘and now we are all acquainted. Now can I be left alone so I can get back to work in peace?’


    ‘There is no need for that,’ said the Jarl, ignoring the tone of the insolent mage that would of have earned him a taste of the lash from a less tolerant Jarl. ‘These Vigilants are professionals and not one of the common rabble.’


    Falion relented although Falrielle could tell that the mage was unimpressed. Of course, she wasn’t there to impress the mage, she was there to work.


    The Vigilant ignored the mage and her colleagues who were having their own conversation and walked towards the first corpse. A Nord male, no more than 30 years of age. As expected of a vampire attack, the man’s chest and throat was torn apart. He was also missing most of his left jaw, the damage looked as it was clawed out. Bruises on his arms and knuckles indicated that he at least put up a struggle.


    The next corpse belonged to a Dunmer, the mage that the steward spoke of. Falrielle couldn’t truly discern the identity of this one, the Dunmer was missing chunks of its face with wounds suggesting that it was chewed off. Most definitely not caused by a scavenger or not one that Falrielle knew of; the incisions looked nothing like those of wolves, sabre cats or even Chaurii and opportunistic mudcrabs have no taste for bone.


    The third corpse on the table was in pieces. Most of its limbs were torn apart and the torso and face was mangled beyond recognition. Falrielle wouldn’t be surprised if this one was carted in a bucket. This corpse didn’t tell much.


    The fourth was one of the culprits or so they say. In life this was a man, a Nord most likely but most would have trouble telling that with its form before her. The creature was sallow, eyes sunken and what teeth it had were merged into fangs. It also had a distinctive scent to it, one that Falrielle could never describe but she knew when she smelt it. The creature’s throat was cut open and it wasn’t a clean cut.


    ‘My Jarl,’ said Falrielle drawing Ravencrone’s attention. ‘How often do vampire attacks occur in Hjaalmarch?’


    ‘Vampire attacks?’ parroted the Jarl. ‘Not as common as one would think! Yes while Hjaalmarch has an endemic Chaurus problem along with Troll and even Spider attacks, vampire attacks happen only once every few decades or at the very least, reported attacks.’


    ‘When was the last attack, my Jarl?’ said Falrielle.


    ‘The last attack…. I believe it was about 20 years ago in the 177th year. Don’t rush me on this, my memory is a little cloudy on this and I am old… Aha! It started when a team of local woodcutters went missing near Hakkar’s Rock in the heart of the Drajkmyr Marsh. You see, it was after the war and most of our soldiers, Divines bless their brave souls, returned from service. Some stayed and some left the Legion to find their fortunes elsewhere. Anyway, the woodcutters went missing for a week before we sent out bounties to deal with whatever that was responsible for it.’


    ‘At first we thought it was the Chaurii, blasted creatures, but further investigation by our court mage revealed that the wounds were faked: it was made to look like Chaurii was responsible but it was in fact…’




    The Jarl nodded. ‘As soon as we learned of this, the bounty hunters… just stopped. No one wanted to deal with this for almost a month before a hunter in a large coat with his face hidden behind a helmet hood came before us and made a proposal. The hunter will stop the attacks in return for five-thousand Septims, no questions asked.’


    ‘And this didn’t come off as suspicious to you?’ said Gideon.


    ‘My head may be in the cloud at times but I’m no fool,’ said the Jarl. ‘Of course I was suspicious but we needed a solution before our vampire problem spiralled out of control. We agreed and within the week, the attacks stopped.’


    ‘And you paid the hunter?’


    ‘This is where it got strange: the hunter never showed up the collect his bounty. Even to this day, we don’t know what happened to him or who he really was. And that’s all there is to it for our last vampire attack.’


    ‘Our Jarl has a good memory!’ said the steward in triumph.


    ‘Oh hush you! Flattery will get you nowhere,’ said the Jarl. ‘We’re already married so it’s not like you can further from where you are, my dear steward.’


    Everyone else in the room said nothing.


    ‘Don’t let me keep your from doing your work,’ said the Jarl. The Jarl then gestured to her Huskarl, Steward and her entourage of guards to leave the Vigilants and the mage alone, announcing their exit with a loud slamming of the door.


    ‘Gideon,’ said Falrielle, after a moment of silence, ‘you felt that too, didn’t you? The Jarl…’


    ‘The air of magicka around the Jarl? How could I not notice that? That woman has one of the strongest concentration of magicka I’ve ever felt.’


    ‘Nice to see that the rumours of the dimness of Vigilants to the ways of magicka to be just that: rumours,’ said Falion already seated next to the corpses with tools in his hand for further examination.


    ‘Not surprised that they sent you of all people for this sort of work,’ Gideon spat back, his eyes fixed on the mage. ‘Not especially after that incident with the-‘


    ‘That wasn’t my fault and the Arch-Mage was merely overreacting,’ interrupted the mage. ‘Besides that was a long time ago and I am here on my own volition.’


    ‘Sure you are. Let me guess, you made some puppies expl-‘


    ‘Enough!’ shouted Falrielle, slamming her fists on the table to belay a point. ‘Falion,’ she continued, ‘can you tell us anything interesting about the bodies?’


    ‘Nothing more than you can already see,’ said the mage. Falrielle sensed that he was being coy.


    ‘Do they still have their livers and hearts?’


    The mage stopped what he was doing to look at the Vigilant. From what she could see, he had a crooked smile on his face.


    ‘You know your stuff, my dear,’ said the mage. ‘As a matter of fact, they still have them, unharmed and mostly unspoilt, which made me suspicious: why did they leave their livers intact, so I ran a few more tests on their blood and this is what I’ve found.’


    The mage handed the Vigilant a vial of blood. Falrielle took one sniff and recoiled in disgust.




    ‘Correct! I’m sure the Jarl or maybe the Steward has told you that our companions minus one are vampire hunters but not very good ones if you ask me. From the bits and pieces recovered by the Jarl’s goons, these hunters had silver and wait till’ you hear this: garlic on them when they died. Hah, amateurs…’


    Gideon and Falrielle nodded in agreement. They had little love for these glory hounds.


    ‘These “hunters” thought they were ready but by the time they realised it, the hunter has become the hunted. Poetic don’t you think? Anyway only the Dunmer was drained and only mostly. The Nord has most of his intact which means…’


    ‘Someone hasn’t had their fill,’ said Falrielle. She stood with her hands on her chin, contemplating for a moment before saying, ‘When is the next new moon, mage?’


    ‘The next new moon is tomorrow. Why?’




    Their march began at midday and now the sun was setting and the torchbugs have already come out to play. Their final location is no more than an hour’s walk away but the Vigilants had plenty of time to prepare for the battle to come.


    They chose an abandoned shack, one of the many that dot the marshes of Hjaalmarch. It was small and decrepit, whoever that lived here was not doing so by choice but my desperation. The shack was well ransacked; there was nothing of use in the shack other than a rotting table, a fire pit and the planks that boarded the windows. When she came to, Falrielle’s companions were just waiting for her to begin the preparations.


    Falrielle joined them in reciting their final prayers and incantations around the extinguished fire pit. Gideon drew his weapon: a falchion whose blade was polished to a mirror sheen. The falchion had a mahogany handle wrapped in quality shark skin that ended with a bronze pommel resembling a lion roaring. This weapon was named “Seasons”. It was steel.


    Sven drew his weapon: it was a well-used sword full of notches and scratches. No virgin to battle, it belonged to his father and it saw action in the Great War. This weapon had no name. It was steel.


    Falrielle loosened the leather fastens of a sheepskin bag that covered the head of her weapon; a humble mace. The notches, scratches and dents on the mace’s head are a testament to its experience. The shaft was of ash and Falrielle had crudely carved the weapon’s name on it; “Bite”. It was steel.


    The Vigilant then stood up and planted their weapons in the fire pit. Falrielle readied a leather canteen and after a quick prayer, she doused their weapons in holy water.


    It was a well-known fact among hunters of magical and unholy beasts that silver metal are particularly effective in repelling the undead. Nobody truly knows why the white metal burns the undeath on contact but none can deny its effectiveness. In situations where silver is unavailable, weapons doused in holy water would do in a pinch.


    The Vigilants removed the excess droplets with but a flick of the wrist. Now it was the hard part. On the table laid a small wooden box. Falrielle opened the box and removed five small vials. Gideon uttered a curse, he knew what was coming.


    ‘Sven,’ said Falrielle walking to her comrades with vials in hand. ‘Do you remember the lectures of Senior-Vigilant Wes on the weakness of our mortal vessels when faced with the unholy forms of the supernatural? Senior-Vigilant Wes lectured that every Vigilant must understand that any and every fight with the forces of evil may be our last and that we must prepare ourselves for this bitter eventuality.’


    Sven nodded.


    ‘Did you pay attention to my lectures? That honour and conduct in combat is good and all but in the field, fighting fair is for fools and that the smart fighter will use anything to his advantage. Survival supersedes any notions of honour.’


    Sven nodded.


    ‘Good. For these vials in my hands contain potions that some may frown upon for being… dishonourable. But those who wish to survive to continue to serve Stendarr would not turn down such vital tools without good reason. I will not lie. While I will explain to you each and every expected effects of these potions; they carry a risk that you may die from them for they are dangerous. The choice is yours on whether you should drink them…’


    ‘Gideon,’ said Falrielle. Gideon took the vial filled with a whitish concoction, broke the seal and made a cheers gesture before downing the contents in a single gulp. He closed his eyes for few moments before opening them giving the poor Initiate a shock: his pupils filled his iris. He gave Sven a wry smile.


    ‘What Gideon drank is a potion known as “Cateye”, a mixture of the leaves of Lady’s Mantle, Viper’s Bugloss, a petal of Nightshade and extracts of wolf eye. The effects can be seen before you: Cateye will dilate your pupils so that you can better see in the dark. You’ll also feel a slight headache shortly after drinking it and your eyes will need a few minutes before it gets used to the new sensitivity.’


    Sven nervously reached out and took a vial of Cateye. The young Initiate broke the seal and quickly downed the contents. He grimaced for a few moments before slowly opening his eyes, wincing at the light. Falrielle gave him a warm smile.


    ‘Next,’ said Falrielle before stopping herself. The Senior-Vigilant then knelt on the ground and her companions followed. ‘Is the Dead Man’s Kiss,’ she continued. Gideon instinctively groaned.


    ‘Make no mistake; the Dead Man’s Kiss is a poison, it is a tool in an assassin’s arsenal that has claimed the lives of many kings since it was first brewed. Brewed with what? I will not say for I am forbidden to divulge such dangerous secrets. What this poison will do is that within a few minutes of consumption, the poison will strangle your throat and stop your heart and we will willingly drink it for you see under very closely controlled doses, this concoction has another effect. In a low enough concentration, the Dead Man’s Kiss will slow your heart down to where you will feel the kiss of death, but you will not die.’


    ‘You see Sven,’ said Gideon. ‘Vampires or worse, feral vampires use more than their eyes to find their prey. They listen to your beats of your heart, they smell your blood, they taste your every breath and the Dead Man’s Kiss can mask them.’


    ‘Gideon is correct. If you choose to drink this you will feel pain in your chest and your throat as the poison attempts to kill you. Your head will spin and your ears will ring but don’t give in. All you need to do is sit and breathe,’ said Falrielle as she hands Gideon a vial. ‘As the saying goes: control your fear and you will conquer death.’


    The Vigilants whispered an incantation, drank the vial and sat, motionless with their eyes closed. First their breathing was relaxed. Then it suddenly quickened, becoming raspy and tense. Then their breathing was relaxed again, a little too relaxed; their breaths are far too slow to be normal. The Vigilants opened their eyes and gave the Initiate a nod.


    It was his turn.


    The Initiate picked up his vial and popped the cork. He stared at the vial, his mind at war at itself as his thoughts and doubts kept racing back and forth. Then, he drank it.


    For a moment his breathing was normal, he felt in control. Then his sense of security was ambushed with a sharp pain to his chest and throat, forcing the young Initiate to keel over, choking and fighting for his life. His vision briefly went dark, his eyes fixated on his more experienced comrades who did nothing but watch as his life flashed before his eyes but after a few seconds, air filled his lungs like it was nothing.


    The Initiate had regained control.


    ‘We leave in an hour,’ said Falrielle as she picked the young Initiate off the ground. ‘If you wish to take a nap or a piss or make any other preparations, now is the time.’


    Gideon found himself a corner to get some shut-eye while Falrielle just sat down facing east, preparing to meditate.


    ‘Mentor?’ said Sven. Falrielle just turned to look at him but she kept quiet. ‘The other day in the Crabber’s Den. What happened there? What did you drink?’


    Falrielle turned east and continued her meditation, seemingly ignoring her student’s question.


    ‘The gods do not play fair. Not all mortals are born equal in ability or in luck and me? I see, hear and feel everything. I can hear the sound of the wind brushing on the grass outside. I can detect the scent of the mountain flower you stepped on those moons ago. I know the beats of your heart from where you stand. Nothing escapes me.’


    ‘So the gods have given you the blessing of vigilance. To see, hear and feel all round you so that nothing will surprise you,’ said the young Initiate. Falrielle kept to her breathing and Gideon pretended he didn’t hear anything.


    ‘What I drank was medicine, Sven.’


    ‘Medicine for my curse.’




    He slogged his way through the marshlands with the orb of light being his only companion in the darkness of the night. Mosquitos and other insects swarmed him in hopes of a fresh meal but he did not care. He had an appointment to meet and he refused to be late; after all it was unprofessional to do so.


    When the orb died, Falion waved his hand and another orb of light materialised right before his eyes and continued his journey as if nothing has happened. Other than the smell, the experience made him believe that all of the tales and annoyances of Hjaalmarch are largely exaggerated. In fact, he very much enjoyed the stroll.


    Falion could see a faint silhouette in the distance. It was dark but the stars just gave off enough light that he could make out the details; a gnarled lone tree in the middle of the marsh.


    The mage quickened his pace becoming more reckless. Not caring for the subtleties of stealth, the mage rampages through the reeds and the water, splashing and sploshing before something snagged his foot and sent him crashing into the mud.


    Falion spent a few moments too long in the mud before he got up, struggling to wiggle his foot free from the vine but to no avail. Sighing, the mage redirected the orb with but a thought and saw that it was no vine or root that snagged his foot.


    It was corpse of one of the missing hunters. Probably.


    This one has been here for some time. Exposure to the elements have left almost no identifiable features of the corpse’s owner: the eyes, lips and tongue have been eaten away by scavengers, the skin is saggy from the immersion in the marsh water but at least the corpse wasn’t bloated. Cause of death was evisceration and that means that this one isn’t likely to pop anytime soon. He hated it when they do that.


    Luckily for the mage, his foot was simply snagged by one of the leather straps on the corpse’s armour rather than the corpse itself. Taking his time to carefully free himself, the mage could tell he wasn’t alone.


    The orb died.


    In darkness, Falion sat up and instinctively scanned the area with a spell in mind. He squinted, the orb he relied on had damaged his adaptation to the dark.


    With only his ears as his eyes, the mage could only hear the common ambiences of the marsh.


    A terrible and frenzied scream went off behind him, followed by a loud splash and a deep thump.


    The mage shot a ball of light in that direction, sparks dancing in his hands as he prepared for combat until he saw who it was.


    Falrielle. The Vigilant then playfully whistled at him.


    ‘How was your trip?’ said Falrielle, a coy tone was in her voice.


    The mage freed his leg and picked himself off the ground.


    ‘Not as bad as I thought it would be,’ he said. The mage brushed handfuls of mud off his robes. ‘Is that it?’


    ‘This?’ said the Vigilant, bending down to inspect her kill. Shifting her fingers on what is left on its face, this thing had fangs and the distinct aroma of a vampire. ‘It would seem so. Disappointed?’


    ‘Not at all. In fact, I have to admit that I’m amazed on how you managed to-‘


    Before the mage could finish his sentence, an ensemble of roars and howls, not unlike the one made by this creature echoed through the marshlands.


    Falrielle readied her weapon and smiled.


    ‘It looks like your preparations were not in vain after all,’ said the mage. ‘We’ll it looks like that’s my cue, Vigilant,’ the mage continued. With a quick nod, the mage bolted east making enough noise to wake a deaf drunkard on a particularly cold Loredas morning. Falrielle was impressed at how fast the mage could move if he really wanted to.



    Heart beating like drums and lungs burning with excitement, Falion was having the time of his life. Who knew that getting chased in the dark while wearing a fancy dress would be so much fun? His legs carrying faster than he ever thought they could, the sound of footsteps and hungry growls are prime motivators in helping the mage in moving his feet.


    Suddenly Falion heard a short but loud crackle before it was followed by a thunderous boom. The mage turned his head to have a look and smiled at the pillar of flame engulfing one of his pursuers which was followed by another and another. The runes worked, the mage thought but more importantly: the plan was working.


    The mage ran zigzags and made sharp turns whenever he could to throw of his pursuers and when it seemed that the mage has lost his breathe, the sheer thrill of the hunt gave Falion a second wind to keep running.


    His destination was within his grasp: that tree he saw in the dark was now illuminated by the flames behind him.


    As the mage’s leg gave out, he was in the clear and his feet gave out.


    Whilst choking for air in the mosquito filled marshlands, the mage broke out in hysterical laughter as he finally saw his pursuers: feral vampires, just as he suspected. Unlike their more popular kin, feral vampires are vampires whose hunger have driven them mad, losing themselves in a never ending bloodlust making them nothing more than feral animals, hence the name.


    Safely in a Circle of Protection, the mage hurled insults and other curses at the creatures.


    Until one of placed its foot into the circle. The mage’s pants can never truly be clean again.


    Like a wolf cornering a wounded deer, the vampire bided its time. Slowly stalking towards Falion whose legs who would not listen to him, savouring the moment and the fear and Falion could just see the lust in the creature’s eyes.


    Suddenly a ball of fire flew from behind the mage and singed the creature’s face, stunning the creature long enough for Falion to cast a spell of his own. Blue sparks danced across the mage’s hands as he drew upon the power of Aetherius before he slammed his palm into the ground. In front of the mage, a portal opened and mysterious figure is shaping itself.


    Then a howl…


    Falion’s familiar was a mighty werewolf and with but a thought, it pounced on the vampire and mauled the creature, effortlessly tearing it limb from limb. The mage turned his attention to its companions and threw them a wicked smile.


    Another fireball flew through the air, then another and another as Gideon unleashed a flurry of attacks so furious that it resembled a singular stream of flames. As he incinerated one of the stunned ferals, its packs’ animal instincts kicked in: a full on retreat.


    Scattering like insects, running in whatever direction for their lives but they were already trapped for when the vampires tried to run from their hunters they were suddenly repelled backwards by a mysterious force.


    Gideon smirked. These vampires had walked into a containment circle he drew earlier that day and it worked splendidly. His arrogance was short lived when he heard a twig snapping on his flank and uttered a short curse. One of the vampires had sneaked around the circle and had caught him off guard.


    Staring the creature in the eye, Gideon’s vision blurred and head rang as he attempted to cast a spell. It seemed that he was far too enthusiastic in his offence and the strain was more than his body could bear. In desperation, Gideon drew his falchion, one that has yet to taste blood and took a defensive stance.


    The creature prepared to pounce and then…

    A sword pierced its heart from behind.


    It was Sven.


    ‘Sneaky bugger,’ smirked the older Vigilant.




    Falrielle kept her eyes closed, paying no heed to neither the sounds of battle, the ambience of the marsh nor the chilling wind but only to the sound of her breathes.


    Inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale.


    Her ears twitched.


    The Vigilant opened her eyes and could barely see further than the tip of her nose. Her sight never really was her strong suit despite her being one of the Tree Sap people. It robbed her of her birth right of the bow but it bestowed her the drive to train her other senses. While her eyes saw nothing, her nose and ears told her she wasn’t alone.


    She could hear it through the noise. The creature was keeping low, slowly moving through the marsh and the reeds like how a sabre cat would when stalking its prey. But it was no use to her. She could hear it. She could hear its every step and smell its every breath. But she played along.


    The closer it advanced, the cockier it got moving faster and less stealthily when it approached the seemingly ignorant Vigilant.


    Falrielle rested Bite on her shoulder, feeling the weight of the weapon and waiting for an opening.


    The creature ducked, disturbing the reeds.


    Falrielle turned around to face the creature and blew a sharp whistle, beckoning the creature to attack her. The creature was shocked, so used to attacking prey that could not see, hear nor smell it coming and in its panic, the creature opened its jaws and let out a blood-curdling roar and leapt.


    Falrielle could not see the creature clearly but she could hear it. The Vigilant sidestepped just out of reach of the creature as it slashed wildly in the air before landing. Falrielle turned again with mace on her shoulder and unimpressed.


    She whistled again.


    The creature roared again, its lust for blood renewing its attack, charging at the Vigilant whilst unleashing a flurry of wild slashes. Falrielle dodged each attack, taking care to make sure that each attack would ‘only’ miss her further frustrating the creature. The creature lunged and it gave her an opening. Falrielle smashed on the pommel of her mace on the creature’s head with a loud thud instantly dropping it to the ground.


    Falrielle leapt away and readied her weapon. She whistled again.


    The creature rose from the ground, shaking its head and growling softly as it recovered from Falrielle’s ‘attack’. It let out another roar and leapt through the air only for the Vigilant to turn her body at the last moment and swung her mace as she did. Falrielle’s wrist shook from the recoil of her blow and the creature is knocked back.


    Shuffling on the ground, the blow really did a number on this creature. Eyes full of blood lust and rage locked on the Vigilant, it let out a terrible howl or at least what she thought was a howl since its hanging jaw muffled it.


    Her ears twitched.


    In one quick motion, Falrielle snatched an ampule from her belt and flung the object behind her, shattering on impact and drenching one of these creatures that was sneaking up on her. Falrielle had a grim smile on her face when it let out a howl of pain as its skin sizzled but time is of the essence.


    As it clawed the droplets of holy water of its face, Falrielle used this opportunity to begin her offensive. The Vigilant dashed forward at speeds far too quick for the eye to see and opened her attack with a blow to the face. She found that crunching noise to be oddly therapeutic. Pushing the attack, she swung her mace back only to bring it around to deliver a mighty blow to the creature’s chest. The blow was followed by a sickening crunch. Falrielle then grabbed the creature’s arm and kicked the back of its knee, bring it to the ground. The Vigilant delivered the coup de grace, swiftly and efficiently.


    The first creature recovered from her attack and not forgetting about it, Falrielle blew another whistle. The creature sprang up, shaking with savage fury and lust for vengeance. It snapped and hissed but the Vigilant remained calm. She spun her mace every second or so and skirted the creature. She quickened and slowed her pace at random, making it difficult for the creature to read her movements. She would taunt it with a feint or another whistle but it did not drop its guard.


    Then as luck would have it, the creature lost its footing and tripped. Perfect opening. The Vigilant moved in for the kill.


    She leapt, mace in mid swing with an ear-to-ear grin on her face. As she brought down the mace, the creature made one last desperate attack nicking the Vigilant across the lip but her blow connected and the creature went down.


    Falrielle quivering stood over her opponent’s corpse, her mace bloodied paying no heed to the wounds on her face. It had been a long time since she felt this way, she thought. That thrill for battle, the excitement of danger, the lust for blood.


    Her hands shaking as if it had a mind of its own, the Vigilant rested Bite on her shoulder and closed her eyes.


    Inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale.




    The Vigilants were tired, bloodied and muddied but they were victorious. Standing before the Jarl, Falrielle presented the ruler of the Hold with a sack. Her ached as she began speaking.


    ‘We, the Vigilants of Stendarr and Falion of the College of Winterhold present you the culprits of the attacks,’ she said. Falrielle loosened the bonds and eight heads rolled on the floor of the hall.


    The court was silent. Not a cough, not a whisper as the Jarl gazed at the Vigilant.


    Then the Jarl herself broke the silence with a hearty laugh. ‘Finally!’ she said. ‘See, Aslfur. I told you it was a good idea to call these Vigilants for aid.’


    ‘Credit where credit is due, my Jarl,’ interrupted Falrielle. ‘But we couldn’t of have done it without the assistance of Master Falion.’


    ‘I will admit as exhausting as it may be that that was fun,’ said the mage. ‘Much more stimulating than all the paperwork they have me do back at the college and not to mention that Hjaalmarch is not as bad as they say… it really grows on you, doesn’t it?’


    ‘Yes is does,’ said the Jarl. She leaned back and rubbed her chin in deep thought. ‘I suppose you want your payment,’ she said coldly.




    With a wave of her wrist, the steward walked up to the Vigilant with a parchment in hand.


    ‘By order of Idgrod Ravencrone, Jarl of Hjaalmarch. This mark entails it’s bearer to redeem five thousand Septims from any members of the Merchant Guild of Skyrim. On behalf of the Jarl and the people of Hjaalmarch, I thank you for your service.’


    Falrielle coolly pockets the mark.


    ‘I know you are not mercenaries,’ said the Jarl. ‘But I also know that doing what you do requires food, weapons and gold. Resources that can’t be conjured out of thin air.’


    Falrielle sympathetically nods.


    ‘Hear this: I, Idgrod Ravencrone, Jarl of Hjaalmarch pledge to give aid to the Vigilant of Stendarr. I know that Morthal and Hjaalmarch as a whole may not be swimming in a river of gold but we are a strong people and we never turn our backs on a friend in need.’


    ‘Thank you, my Jarl.’


    ‘No need to thank me. You have done Hjaalmarch a great service and I have caught wind that you are in need of a new patron. Your old one, that oaf in Dawnstar had another stick rammed up his ass again.’


    Falrielle chuckled and the Vigilants bowed their heads. Their work was done for now.






    Previous Chapter: Just a Formality I                                                                                                                             Next Chapter: Just a Formality II                                                                                       


1 Comment   |   Sotek and 1 other like this.
  • Sotek
    Sotek   ·  October 6, 2016
    Just finished section III but I will come back to it in a few hours as time is short.
    I could almost smell the mud in Morthal so vastly different from Whiterun. You've described the place nicely Delta...