SotF: The Vigilants of Stendarr

  • III

    The Jarl had a strange air about her. She was pale – too pale- to be healthy for a human. She was about fifty years of age, Falrielle guessed but she couldn’t be sure. The Jarl’s hair had streaks of silver on grey but her gnarled arms and wrinkled face added far too many years. Her posture didn’t help, she was slouching on her throne, and her legs stretched out, her body leaning on an armrest with a hand resting on her chin, deep in contemplation. She was fragile but not weak… nor was she alone.

     

                To her left stood a large man, Nord by his demeanour and the axe in his hand. He was the Jarl’s Huskarl: the personal bodyguard and keeper of her household and he never took his eyes off the Vigilants from the moment they entered. To her right was the man from the inn, Aslfur, husband and steward to Jarl Ravencrone.

     

                The Vigilants bent their knees in unison and lowered their heads with a palm flattened on their chest.

     

                ‘Hail Idgrod Ravencrone, Jarl of Hjaalmarach,’ Falrielle began, forcing her voice to carry across the room. ‘I, Falrielle, Senior-Vigilant of Stendarr along with my companions, Gideon of Wayrest, Vigilant of Stendarr and Sven, son of Sigarde, Initiate of Stendarr thank you for granting us an audience in these troubled times.’

     

                The Jarl gestured her hand bidding the Vigilants to rise. They rose.

     

                ‘Hail, Vigilants of Stendarr,’ said the Jarl, her voice gravely. ‘I, Jarl Idgrod Ravencrone on behalf of the people and city of Morthal bid you welcome but let us drop the courtly pleasantries and let us speak as equals. Come closer and pull down your hood. I would most prefer to look my conversation partners in the eye, if you please.’

     

                Gideon and Sven pulled down their hoods but Falrielle was hesitant. She could hear the Huskarl tightening his grip on his axe. She sighed and complied. The court grew silent.

     

                The Senior-Vigilant’s features didn’t stand out among other Wood Elves; her ears were knife-like and her eyes almond shaped. She was short, shorter than her companions but that wasn’t anything of note. Of the races of Tamriel, it was the Wood Elves that stood the lowest. A completely ordinary elf except for one thing – her hair and skin were as white as snow and the elf struggled to keep her pale eyes open; the light was in her face.

     

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

     

                ‘Thank you, my Jarl.’ Falrielle pulled her hood back and blinked her eyes thrice.

     

                ‘I meant you no harm nor insult but let us return to the matter at hand,’ said the Jarl. ‘Senior-Vigilant of Stendarr. I take with your title of “senior”, you’ve had quite a bit of experience on your belt? That you know a thing or two about monsters.’

     

                ‘You are most correct, my Jarl,’ said Falrielle with a nod.

     

                ‘And do you have some kind of code that forbids you to speak of it?’

     

                Falrielle shook her head. ‘No, not at all. What do you wish to know?’

     

                The Jarl leaned forward. ‘Ever dealt with Draugrs?’

     

                ‘Of course, I live in Skyrim.’

     

                The Jarl cackled. ‘Daedra?’

     

                ‘Apologies, my jarl but you have to be specific. I’ve fought Dremoras, Atronachs, Scamps, Daedroths, and Clannfears. There was that Spider once but I’d prefer not to talk about it.’

     

                The Jarl nodded her head and waved her hand. ‘Werewolves?’

     

                Falrielle lifted her head and pointed at her the scar on her lip. ‘My first gave me this.’

     

                The Jarl leaned back. ‘Vampires?’

     

                Falrielle paused and gave the Jarl a crooked smile. ‘Certainly.’

     

                The Jarl turned to the steward. ‘I believe that you’ve told them everything?’

     

                ‘Yes, my Jarl,’ said the steward sternly. ‘But I can’t take too much of the credit. Our guests were well informed on the situation: where and when it begun and what we’re dealing with. All I did was bring them up to speed on recent events with the hunters.’

     

                ‘Good, good,’ said the Jarl. She glanced at the Vigilants then back to the steward with a triumphant smile.

     

                ‘My Jarl,’ said the steward. ‘Might I remind you of the mage from the College?’

     

    ‘A mage? Didn’t we see to him?’

     

                ‘We did, my Jarl. We met him this morning after dawn,’ said the steward. ‘We gave him a house to work in and had the Priests of Arkay transfer him the corpses. He insisted that he was not to be disturbed.’

     

                ‘Ah. I don’t recall. Must be getting old,’ said the Jarl, rubbing her temple.

     

                ‘With age comes wisdom, my Jarl,’ said the steward.

     

                ‘Flattery will only get you so far, Aslfur.’ The Jarl paused and turned to the Vigilants. ‘I hope you had your breakfast for I wish to see this mage. Come along, his dwelling is not far.’

     

                ‘My Jarl,’ said the Huskarl. ‘You are not well, please rest.’

     

                ‘I’ve had enough rest for the week. I spent yesterday memorising the chips and grains of my ceiling and a woman of my age needs the exercise.’

     

    IV

    ‘Falion!’ said the Jarl as she slammed the door open.

               

                The building that housed the mage was built on one of the numerous piers overlooking the lake. It had no windows or none in the traditional sense: just some holes near the ceiling to let the air in, air that Falrielle noted that stunk of marsh.

     

                The mage sighed. He was bending over a corpse that was laid over a large table lined with two others. A ball of light hovered over them, illuminating the room. ‘My Jarl,’ said the mage, not taking his attention off his work. As I have told you before, if I have found anything new I’ll let you know.’

     

                ‘No need to be such a sour puss, Falion,’ said the Jarl. ‘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 not react. Not a sound nor a twitch from him.

     

                ‘And… Sven? Yes, Sven, son of Sigarde, Initiate of Stendarr.’

     

                Sven waved.

     

                ‘Don’t be a stranger, make your acquaintance.’

     

                The mage sighed again and turned away from the corpses. He wiped his hands on his apron, painting streaks of red and black as he walked toward the Vigilants. From what she could make out, the mage wore a strange glass laden device on his head.

     

                ‘Salutations, I am Falion, Master of Conjuration of the College of Winterhold,’ said the mage. ‘Duty completed, my Jarl. May I now complete my other task? You summoned a mage not a castellan and it is my wish to see my duty through.’

     

                ‘Why you little-‘ said the Huskarl, his hand unfastening the strap on his dagger.

     

                ‘There is no need for that,’ said the Jarl with a wave, paying no attention to the mage’s words. For a moment, the air suddenly grew thick and heavy, and the hair on Falrielle’s neck stood on end. ‘These Vigilants are professionals; they know what they’re doing.’

     

                Falion relented and began his report. He spoke as all mages do; a stream of jargon so thick that only a fellow mage would understand. For what Falrielle could understand, he was talking about vampires and their need to feed. Gideon, a fellow mage said nothing and Sven, a farm boy nodded in confusion. The Jarl just smiled, humouring the mage.

     

                Falrielle soon ignored the mage and walked towards the table. The corpses were sallow and pale; the Priests of Arkay did what they could but only they could do so much to slow the decay.

     

    The first was a Nord man, no more than thirty years of age. His chest and throat was torn apart. He was also missing most of his left jaw and an eye. The damage didn’t look like it was caused by blade. Falrielle grimaced – she knew that this was the work of a lesser vampire, a class of vampires that are more beast than man.

     

                The next belonged to the Breton spellsword or so she guessed from his clothes, heavy enough to give him actual protection and light enough to give him the necessary mobility to cast spells. He had no face, the bite marks indicated that it was chewed off. Scavenger damage and he could not tell her more.

     

                A grim smile formed on Falrielle’s face as she stood over a fellow Wood Elf. She was missing her body from the waist down and the Priests of Arkay had already removed her organs for burial. Another corpse except that her head was soft, as if every bone was crushed. She did not pry, neither the Jarl nor Sven needed to see this.

     

                She walked over to the last subject: one of the attackers or so they claim. In life, he could’ve been a farmer, a merchant – anyone really. Now in his undeath he was a Bloodfiend – a lesser vampire no more than a wild animal. He was bald, his hair having fallen out due to malnutrition and his lips were missing, doubtless chewed out by his mouth of razor sharp teeth. He had a distinctive smell on him, one that Falrielle could never properly describe but a smell she knew all too well.  

               

                ‘My Jarl,’ said Falrielle. ‘How often do these attacks happen and when do they happen?’

     

                ‘For vampire attacks? Not as often as you think. There is little to rule in Hjaalmarch but I do what I must with the lands entrusted to me,’ said the Jarl. ‘Hjaalmarch is home to many dangers, Chaurii, Trolls, Giant Spiders but vampires are a rarity. And for when they attack… I don’t remember, Aslfur?’

     

                ‘Usually at the beginning and the end of the month: under the shadow of a new moon,’ said the steward.

     

                ‘Any place in particular do these attacks occur? Any patterns we can follow?’

     

                ‘Are there… yes, I believe there is,’ said the Jarl. ‘Near Hakkar’s Rock in the heart of the Drajkmyr Marsh but take heed: we generally don’t find bodies by the rock itself. Truth be told the vampires only attack during a new moon if it’s away from the rock. Within miles of the landmark people die irrespective of the moon’s fancy.’

     

                ‘Locals learned to avoid that area like the plague and outsiders have little reason to venture that far into the marsh,’ said the steward.

     

                ‘Is that all?’ said the Jarl.

     

    Falrielle nodded. ‘Yes, my Jarl.’

     

    ‘Then I will take my leave. If you succeed – no, when you succeed know that I will reward you well. Falion, I know that the College has no wanting for gold nor favours but I’m sure we can come to an accord. Farewell.’

     

    The Jarl left with her steward, her Huskarl, and her entourage of guards, closing the door behind them.

     

                ‘Gideon,’ said Falrielle as soon as she was certain the entourage was out of earshot. ‘Did you notice? The Jarl…’

     

                ‘How could I not? Aetherius flowed through that woman like a river through a delta,’ said Gideon. ‘But I doubt that she knows it though.’

     

                ‘Uh, Mentor. What is Aetherius?’ Sven scratched his head and blinked in confusion.

     

                ‘Aetherius is the realm where magic comes from,’ said Gideon. ‘To put it simply, we mages can do what we is by channelling the energy from Aetherius. Unless you wish to learn some spells, you don’t need to know the details.’

     

                ‘The gods be praised that the Vigil has yet to dull your senses to the arcane, Scion of Visconti,’ said the mage, bent over the corpses again.

     

                ‘Yes actually,’ said Gideon, his voice beaming with pride and venom. ‘Not that I could say the same for a disgraced of the College.’

     

                ‘I was acquitted for that incident. The council was in agreement that-‘ said the mage.

     

                ‘Enough,’ said Falrielle, waving her hand in the air. ‘You can measure your cocks later. Falion, anything interesting about the bodies?’

     

                ‘Nothing more than the eye can see,’ said the mage. Falrielle fought the urge to frown, she knew he was being coy. ‘The reports are on the table over there and you look at them if you wish to enlighten yourself.’

     

                ‘I assume you’ve read the reports so do enlighten me: when the guards found them, did they still have their hearts and livers?’

     

                The mage stopped what he was doing and turned to her. That strange device magnified his eyes and made his smile look even wider.

     

                ‘So you’re not as daft as you look,’ said the mage. ‘As a matter of fact, they did when the guards found them; unharmed and unspoilt. I would of have preferred to check myself but the faithful Arkay does and they do. When I arrived, the priests had already washed their bodies with natron.’ The mage dug through a small chest. ‘But one of them did collect their blood.’

     

     

    The mage procured a small vial and handed it to Falrielle. The elf took one sniff and recoiled. ‘Sunfire.’

     

                ‘Correct,’ said the mage. ‘However these hunters were, they did their research, I’ll give them that but that is as far as my respect goes. From the bits and pieces recovered by the Jarl’s men, they had silver on them and get this: garlic – garlands of garlic. The vampires must of have smelled them a mile away.’

     

                Gideon snickered, Sven gulped but Falrielle remained silent. The use of garlic to ward off vampires was a popular myth. Popular and untrue. Aspiring hunters hoping to use this bulb to destroy the terrors of the night would only to find that the most it would do is give their blood a little bit of a kick.

     

                ‘Anyway, none of them were drained of their blood or none drained to be drunk. They bled out from their wounds – yes but nothing to suggest that the vampires drained them. The Nord also has most of his guts uneaten, so that means-‘

     

                ‘Someone hasn’t had their fill,’ said Falrielle, rubbing her chin. ‘Falion, when is the new moon?’

     

                ‘The new moon? Tomorrow.’

    ************************

     

     

    Previous Chapter: The Vigilants of Stendarr (I - II)                                                                        Next Chapter: The Vigilants of Stendarr (V - VI)

     

Comments

1 Comment   |   Sotek and 1 other like this.
  • SpottedFawn
    SpottedFawn   ·  January 8
    Love the medieval detective vibes I'm getting from this! Falion is the skilled but shady coroner, with our (mostly) elite team of Vigilant detectives on this new homicide case. Hopefully Sven survives this, it seems like a tough one. :)