Categories > Games > Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion > The Quest For The Ruby Throne: Book One

Chapter 2: Fight and Flight

by karnag_gro_gornish 0 reviews

With Serana's fate in the hands of Auri-el, there is only one thing left for the two adventurers to do, bring an end to the prophecy that kept Serana locked away for centuries.

Category: Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion - Rating: R - Genres: Drama,Fantasy - Warnings: [!!!] [V] - Published: 2019-09-20 - 4644 words - Complete

Chapter Two: Fight and Flight
Serana and I rode for the northern shore of Haafingar. We stopped in Dragon Bridge along the way, and I sent word with a courier to Fort Dawnguard, and paid him well to ride as fast as his horse would take him. We have the bow, not to mention Dawnbreaker and my voice, now all that remains is to destroy Harkon and liberate Serana from her curse.
As we made our way up the road, I saw Serana begin to lose consciousness beside me as we rode. I stopped our horses and immediately helped her down. She was ashen white, even with the hood of her cloak pulled all the way over her head. “Serana, what is it,” I asked, “Are you alright?”
“Dammit,” she swore, “I was hoping that I would be cured before this happened.”
“Before what happened?”
“I'm...hungry. I am a vampire, after all.”
“Here, take an apple,” I said as I started to reach for my saddlebag, but she took my arm and stopped me. “I don't need food, Karnag. I need, well, blood.”
“Well,” I said, as I crouched back down, “Will Orc blood do? I don't know if it will taste the same as Nord blood.” She smiled at my attempt at humor. “No, Karnag. I don't want to infect you with Sanguinare Vampiris or Porphyric Hemophilia.”
“Well, what if I open a wound and let you drink from it, without you having to bite me? Would that work?”
“I suppose so. But if it doesn't, you do realize that you'll most likely turn? I don't want you to dismiss the gravity of the situation, Karnag.”
“Of course not. And besides, we're going right back to Gelebor. If I do, I'll just get cured by him too.”
“Alright. Well, whenever you're ready, I guess.” I took my dagger that I keep in my boot and held out my arm. I cut lightly into a vein I could feel close to the surface, and held it out for her to drink from. With every drop she tasted, she grew stronger, until after a few minutes of bloodletting, she helped me bandage my arm. “Thank you, Karnag. I appreciate that.”
“Think nothing of it, Serana.”
“No, I'm serious. Karnag, you're a vampire hunter, and you just let a vampire feed from you. That's a big risk you took. I don't want you to think I just see you as a meal.”
“Well, I don't just see you as a vampire, Serana. To me, you're something...more.”
“What do you mean?” she asked, and I could almost see in her eyes the same love that I had for her. “Well, I mean, you're, well, you're special to me. In a lot of ways.” Seemingly satisfied by my answer, I helped her back up on her horse, and we were once again on the road.
We stayed the night at the Winking Skeever in Solitude. The northern shore was a morning’s ride away. But I could not sleep. The gravity of the situation taunted my weary mind. Did we have the strength to do what needed to be done? In the critical moment, would Serana be able to raise a blade against her own father? I knew she had the drive, but when it came down to the moment, would she do it? I prayed to the divines that we would succeed. All of Skyrim depended on it. We laid in separate beds, but I couldn’t help but listen to the sound of her breathing. She fascinated me, enchanted me. No woman had ever been able to simultaneously captivate and terrify me as she did, and if there truly was such a thing as love, then I had fallen so deeply in it that it felt real enough to me.
As these thoughts raced through my mind, Serana turned over to face me. Her eyes were wide awake, confirming my suspicion that she was not really sleeping. “Did you mean what you said earlier?”
“I mean every word I say. What are you referring to?”
“Loving me. As long as I can remember, no one has ever told me they loved me. Not even my mother. I just don't understand, I guess.”
“Love is an alien emotion to Orcs, one I've only begun to understand due to my time here in Skyrim among these Nords. But I'm sure of it, Serana. With every fiber of my being, I am sure.”
“Is that why you let me feed from you?”
“Partially, yes. Partially because my sense of duty runs deeper than my drive to self-preservation. But to be perfectly honest, I was captivated with you from the first moment I laid eyes on you, Serana.”
“I know I said that I don't really know how to be loved, but with everything you've done for me, I'm confident in saying that I love you too, Karnag. You've done more for me in the short time I've known you than my family did for me in centuries. I owe you everything. I love you.” She reached out her hand and I took it, as we stared into each others eyes.
Eventually, I grew weary enough that I blinked and it was morning. But I didn't see Serana in the other bed in the room. Instead, I felt her, sleeping soundly at my back. I felt a warm feeling in her presence that I could not explain, given her icy cold body. But it was a nice feeling.
By next mid-day next, we were met on the northern shore by a full complement of the Dawnguard’s finest warriors. Isran himself took up arms with us. This was going to be a fight that the bards would sing of for ages. We loaded into three wooden sloops and prepared to shove off. Castle Volkihar loomed in the fog, menacingly towering over the calm seas. As we rowed, the castle grew larger and larger, until we made landfall. We disembarked from our boats, and Isran rallied the troops, as it were. “For too long we've allowed these vampires to poison the night and kill our people! Now, we finally have the means to strike back! We now have Auri-el's Bow. The gods themselves have favored us and we must answer with action! The time has come to finally put an end to Harkon and his unholy prophecy! We will march on their lair and destroy those wretched abominations, so they can no longer corrupt our world! This is our fight, and this is our fate! For the Dawnguard, for Skyrim!” He rose his war hammer above his head in a triumphant declaration of will, and the rest of us followed suit. The cheers and cries of our warriors could be heard echoing off the castle walls, so loud that no wind could drown us out.
But this also ruined the element of surprise for us. The castle gate shuddered open, and a handful of Harkon’s loyal subjects poured out, shutting tight behind them. I drew my righteous blade, Dawnbreaker, and handed it to Serana. Her thick gloved hand wrapped around the handle, preventing its holy fire from burning her still undead skin. I drew my new arcane weapon, nocked an arrow that shone as if on fire, and let fly the burning might of Auri-el himself. As each arrow struck its mark, undead flesh burst into flames, and the creatures of the night folded under its gory. Blades clashed with razor claws, and by the time the dust cleared, we counted six dead vampires, with no losses on our side. I believed Isran to be right, that the Nine were smiling down upon us, and guided our moves to rid these evil creatures from the face of Tamriel.
We set upon getting the heavy wooden gate open. Magic was all but useless against it, as Harkon had undoubtedly had it charmed to resist it. We resorted to hammering at it, and setting fire to it the conventional way, but to no avail. I saw an opportunity however and told the others to stand back. I sheathed my weapon and knelt down before the door. I called upon the goddess Kynareth to fill my su’um, my breath, with her grace. I could feel the power of the universe around me, and I channeled it all through my lungs, and out as the ancient words 'Fus Ro Dah'. My Thu’um pushed against the world, and the world pushed back against me. But my will was stronger, and the colossal door cracked and splintered, like so much firewood. The way was clear. Harkon awaited.
We cleared the main hall, and the antechambers surrounding it of Harkon’s subjects. Little by little, we gained ground and held out against them. As vampire after vampire fell to our steel, we reveled in the glory of our triumph. But eventually, the clashing of steel came to an end, and when an accounting of the bodies was made, Harkon was not amongst them. One room remained, the castle chapel. The very room where Serana, and countless others of Harkon’s family were so violently desecrated by Molag Bal. I could feel the gloom in the air, his influence hung heavy as we prepared for the last battle. I pulled the chain release, and the grate to the chapel groaned open. The door gave with little resistance, and Serana and I stepped inside. But before the rest of our party could file in behind us, the door swung shut with a thunderous crash, sealing us inside.
At the end of the hall stood Harkon, resplendent in his true form. He towered a head over the tallest man, fangs the length of daggers, with claws just as long. He hovered a few inches off of the ground, and spoke to me, “I see I have you to thank for turning my daughter against me.” He turned to Serana and said, “Serana, I’m disappointed in you. You’ve taken everything I’ve provided you, all the power, all the potential, and thrown it away for this…pathetic being.”
"Provided for me? Are you insane?” Serana hissed back, “You've destroyed our family, you've killed other vampires, all over some prophecy that we barely understand! No more, I'm done with you. You will not touch him!" She brandished the blinding light of Meridia’s blade before her, but Harkon showed no fear of it. “Ah, I see this dragon has fangs. Your words drip with the venom of your mother’s influence. How alike you two have become.”
“No. I’m not like her. I don’t fear you, father.”
“It matters little to me. You will both bow down to Lord Molag Bal in the end. I will give you one last chance. Surrender the bow to me, or face certain destruction.”
“Never,” I shouted, “You will fall this day, Harkon. Your unholy reign is over!”
“Very well, then,” Harkon replied, his small wings beating in preparation for battle. “You will bear witness to the power of Lord Molag Bal!” The ancient vampire cast a cloak spell and disappeared from sight. I drew Auri-el’s Bow to my chest and nocked an arrow. I felt the warmth as the bow emitted a glow of pure sunlight. I closed my eyes and reached out with my mind to find him. I turned and fired, and the arrow struck true. A ball of light erupted where it landed and Harkon turned visible once more, his flesh burning.
His fists glowed red, and hurled balls of flame towards Serana and I. We scattered as they impacted the ground. He sent a ball of blue magicka at one of the gargoyles that surrounded the chapel, and the beast came to life. Serana took after it, I kept my eye on Harkon. I kept firing, not caring where my arrows landed as long as they were near enough to cause him pain. His undead flesh crackled and burned in the cleansing light of Auri-el. He grew angrier and angrier as his health deteriorated, and made a mad dash for the altar of Molag Bal at the back of the room. The altar spewed out a constant stream of blood from Oblivion, and the beast drank deep from it. The burns started to heal as he drank, and I took the chance and fired three arrows in quick succession into his back.
Meanwhile, Serana fought with the Gargoyle. She parried its strikes with Dawnbreaker, its light doing little against the abomination’s stony skin. She lunged for its belly and the blade penetrated deep into the soft flesh, where viscera caught fire and burned the creature from the inside out. A rocky husk collapsed to the ground and Serana came to aid me. Harkon recoiled in pain from the arrows, and left a vulnerable opening, and Serana took it. She slashed with Dawnbreaker, and nearly cut the vampire lord in two. Knowing he was mortally wounded, Harkon collapsed to his knees, and with his dying breath, said only, “Serana, your own father?” and burst into a brilliant violet flame. Flesh and bone alike turned to cinder and ash, and the lord of the vampires was no more.
Serana dropped Dawnbreaker, consumed by emotion. Her father was gone. The prophecy ended. She was safe, all of Tamriel was safe. But she wasn’t happy. After all she had been through, all the suffering her father had inflicted on her, he was still her father. The child does not get to choose their parent, and Serana knew this. It gave her comfort to know that he would never hurt her again, however.
I took an urn from another room and scooped the blood red ash into it. Serana understood why. It would serve as a trophy, a reminder of who won this day and who lost. She herself took her father’s personal sword from his armory, an ancient longsword from the far away land of Akavir, from when dragons still ruled the skies above Tamriel.
We left the chapel, never to return, and addressed the Dawnguard, who were anxiously awaiting our victory. I looked at Serana, and she looked at me, gave me a half smile, turned back to them and said, “My father is dead.” Cheers erupted from the band of hunters, as the joyous news rang through the air. As the celebration wound down, the Dawnguard prepared to leave the castle for good. But Serana stayed behind, and I asked her why. “I’m not done here, Karnag.”
“What more is there to do?”
“My mother. I know where she is. I have to get her back from Oblivion.”
“I’ll go with you.”
“You don’t need to. This is my quest.”
“Any adventure of yours, I’m more than happy to go along. An Orc follows to the death.” She smiled and clasped my hand. I could feel my heart nearly beating out of my chest. A part of me thought about declaring my love for her right then and there, but it was not the right time. Not yet.
“So, how do we get to her?” I asked. “Well, that’s just the thing,” She responded, as her smile faded away. “She told me where she was going, just not how to get there. I bet there might be a clue in her garden, in the courtyard.”
“Then let’s get going. No time like the present.” We snaked through hallways in the castle, and turned a corner to find a wall of rubble in our path. “Damn it,” Serana cursed, “looks like father had the passage blocked up.”
“Is there another way?”
“No. Not that I know of.”
“Well, leave that to me then. Stand back.” Serana backed up a few paces as I collected myself. ‘Just like the front door,’ I thought to myself. I took a deep breath, and focused on the rubble, and with a Shout, tore the rubble apart. The dust settled, and there was a staircase leading out. “After you, Serana,” I said, gesturing to her. She took point and headed up the stairs into the warm afternoon air.
When we reached the courtyard, she was dismayed at the sight. The garden was overgrown with weeds, the large moondial in the center was askew, and the walls of the castle were crumbing with neglect. But more importantly, there were no clues as to where to go from here. No one had set foot in this garden for what felt like centuries. Serana sat on the steps to gather her thoughts. I could sense her dismay. This garden was like a sanctuary for her and Valerica. And to see it in such a state must have been heartbreaking. I was at a loss myself until I leaned against the gnomon of the moondial. The stone shifted under my weight, and as it set to its correct position, a hatch dropped out of the stone support, and a passage opened. Serana bolted up from her spot and ran over. She looked at me in wonder and asked, “How did you know?” With a look of sheer confusion, I said, “Oblivion if I know, I just wanted a rest!” We laughed at the hilarity of the situation, and Serana said to herself, “Very clever, mother. Very clever.” We descended the stairs to the underground passage and eventually found ourselves in a large room. A stone circle sat in the floor, the centerpiece of the room. Shelves all around were filled with books in varying states of ruin and alchemical ingredients, all centuries old. “Your mother kept quite the laboratory it seems,” I said.
“By the Eight, I didn’t even know her ‘laboratory’ even existed.” She looked around for a few moments, and said, “This has to be it. This has to be how she got to Oblivion. This circle must be some kind of portal.”
“How do we activate it?”
“I…have no idea. Look around, she must have left a journal or a clue or something.” We sorted through he books and eventually Serana found a red leather-bound book. She leafed through it and eventually stumbled upon a clue. “Karnag, I’ve found it.”
“How do we activate it?”
“Let’s see here. Some finely ground bone meal, some purified void salts, soul gem shards, ah, damn it!”
“It says we need her blood to activate it. Which, if we had, we wouldn’t be here.”
“You share her blood, wouldn’t that work?”
“Maybe. These things can be a bit complicated. Worth a shot, though.” We sifted through the various supplies, and collected them in a basin. “Here goes nothing,” she said, and added a few drops of her blood to the mixture. The floor began to shake, and the stone circle broke into pieces and arranged itself into a staircase, leading into a swirling void. “I would say it worked. I’ll head in first.”
“No, Serana. Let me go.” I drew my sword, not sure what to expect. I stepped into the swirling abyss and my vision darkened. When next I could see, I was in some place I couldn’t understand. The sky was dark and stormy, but not with rain, with something else. The ground looked volatile, and buildings of blackened stone and violet mortar dotted the landscape. In the distance a tower stood, and as Serana stepped through the portal, she pointed to it and said “There, that’s where she is, I can feel it.”
We made our way down the staircase, and looking back at it, the stone steps seemed to raise up into the sky and just disappeared. Lost souls wandered this plane, some were oblivious to our presence, some pleaded with us to take them out of this place. But we were only here for one person. One of the souls came up to me and told me to take his horse out of this place. It was a beautifully frightening sight, its bones glowed blue, and fire replaced flesh. I looked at Serana, but she just kept walking, almost in a trance. I thanked the soul, and mounted the steed. “His name is Arvak. He’s a good horse, friend. He doesn’t deserve to be in this awful place.” As I rode off, the soul kept calling, “Goodbye Arvak! Such a good horse.”
I rode the horse at Serana’s side, the distant tower growing ever closer. Eventually, my constant prodding eventually broke her out of her state and mounted behind me. I didn’t have any spurs, but the horse seemed to know when I wanted it to gallop, and we galloped faster towards the tower. Eventually we reached its base. I didn’t have any rope to tie Arvak in place, so I just left it there. But as we stepped away, Arvak dematerialized.
We ascended the stairs to the tower, which seemed to go on forever. But finally, we came to a landing. In a far corner stood a woman. I immediately recognized the sable hair and marble skin, this had to be Serana’s mother. Serana ran at her, shouting, “Mother, mother! Is it really you? I can’t believe it!” Valerica whipped around, looking terrified. “Serana? What are you doing here? What’s going on? Where is your father?”
“He’s dead, mother.”
“Are you sure?” she asked, looking astonished. “Yes, I dealt the killing blow myself. I have my dear friend Karnag to thank for it.”
“Karnag? This Orc? He reeks of the Dawnguard, Serana! I can smell it from here. You!” She drew a dagger from her belt and pointed it at me. “You so much as touch her-” Serana took her arm and lowered the dagger. “Mother, there’s nothing to worry about. He’s not a threat.”
“Serana, he’s a vampire hunter! Sworn to destroy our kind!”
“No,” I interjected, “Serana is more important to me than anything. I would never hurt her.”
“So, you used my daughter to track me down, then!”
“No, Valerica. We only want to bring you home.”
“This is my home now. For millennia this has been my home. And my prison.”
“Then let us bring you back to Tamriel. Harkon is dead, you have nothing to fear.”
“I suppose you’re right,” Valerica said with a sigh, “But don’t mistake my civility for acceptance, Dawnguard.”
“Fair enough,” I said. “Let’s get going.” Valerica gathered her things, and we made our way down the staircase of the tower.
We reached the bottom, and as we did, an all-too familiar screech resonated out. The war cry of a dragon, thirsty for blood. Its silhouette darkened the sky, and the beating of wings echoed off the tower behind us. The beast hovered mid-air for a moment, and I took the chance, and with all my strength, uttered the words, “Joor Zah Frool!” The dragon fell from the sky and landed at my feet. The dragon was unlike any other I had seen before. Its scales were rotten and its body nearly skeletonized. It as if it had begun to decay but still lived. I drew my sword and raised it high, and slashed the throat of the beast. It bleated a cry of agony, the dead and rotting flesh searing under Dawnbreaker’s holy light. I slashed again and again until the dragon expired, but the strangest thing happened. The dragon did not burst into flame and surrender its soul to me. Just as Arvak had, it simply dematerialized out of existence. I turned to Valerica, and demanded, “What in Oblivion was that?”
“I should have expected that. That dragon’s name was Durnehviir. He was charged with keeping me here for eternity. In all my years I never thought I would see the death of that dragon.”
“Don’t you think you should have mentioned that?”
“You look perfectly capable.”
“Regardless,” I sneered, “I don’t believe it’s truly dead.”
“How? You killed it yourself?”
“But I didn’t absorb its soul. I’m Dragonborn.”
“Perhaps he can not be slain, like the World-Eater. Merely displaced for a time.”
“Funny you should mention that. I did slay the World-Eater. Alduin met his end at the tip of my blade.” At this revelation, Valerica seemed genuinely impressed. “You, you destroyed Alduin? The one who came before all others?”
“I did. My place has been saved in Sovngarde for the deed. It was a mighty sight to see.”
“As impressive as that is, let’s keep moving. Who knows how long it might take for Durnehviir to reconstitute himself.” We trod the long path back to the portal, its stairs rising in the distance. But as we approached, a violet flame burst out of nothing, and the dragon returned on the ground. “Stay your weapons,” the dragon spoke, “I would speak to you, Qahnaarin.”
“Wait, I killed you, how are you here?”
“Cursed, never to die. This is my fate, Qahnaarin.”
“Why are we speaking, then?”
“I believe in civility between seasoned warriors. My claws have rendered the flesh of innumerable foes, but I have never once been felled on the field of battle. I therefore honor-name you Qahnaarin, or Vanquisher, in your tongue.”
“Well, for what it’s worth, I found you equally worthy, Durnehviir.”
“Your words do me great honor, Qahnaarin. It is with this, that I respectfully ask a favor of you.”
“What manner of favor?”
“For too long, I have been trapped here in this wretched place, serving as a custodian for the one who calls herself Valerica. If it is your charge to take her from this place, I ask only that you assist me to return to the skies of Tamriel, where I once called my home.”
“How am I to do that?”
“I will place my name with you and give you he right to call me from this place. Simply speak my name to the ground, and I shall come as your grah-zeymahzin, your ally, and assist you on battle.”
“Just call your name? That’s all?”
“Trivial in your mind, perhaps, but a great honor to me. I don’t require an answer. Simply speak my name, and I will come if I am able.”
“Very well, Durnehviir. I will grant you this request.”
“Many thanks, Qahnaarin. I yearn to spread my wings in the skies of Keizaal once again!” The dragon beat its decrepit wings and ascended into the sky once more, and faded into the distance. It may be useful to have a powerful undead dragon to fight at my side. I would certainly never turn down the assistance.
The three of us ascended the staircase and found ourselves once more in the hidden laboratory beneath Castle Volkihar. As I took my last step out of the portal, it sealed shut behind us and the room fell dark and quiet. It was a strange feeling, knowing that we had accomplished what we came to do. I had somewhat grown accustomed to the constant feeling of incompletion. But even though Harkon was dead and Valerica was now home, there was still one thing left to do. We needed to return to the Chantry, to Gelebor. We needed to finish what we started and bring Serana back to the world of the living.
Serana and Valerica said their goodbyes and promised to stay in touch. We left the castle the same way we came in and took the last boat back to the mainland. Our horse was still tied up where we left it that morning and I summoned up Arvak from the depths of Oblivion. We rode south, back towards Darkfall. Towards answers. Towards redemption.
Sign up to rate and review this story