Two men sat on either side of a campfire. It was a peaceful night out at the edge of the Bitter Coast. One was a wizard in expensive looking blue and purple robes, the other a freelancer in average common looking brown clothes, the exception being his white Chitin gloves, boots, and breast plate. The former was an Imperial who had lived in the small city of Balmora most of his life. The other was a Dunmer, or Dark Elf, who had been born and raised in Cyrodil and worked as a freelancer until his eventual arrest and transfer from the Imperial City to Seyda Neen in Morrowind.
The wizard sized up his new companion with a critical eye. He knew a lot of the Dunmer, after all they made up a little over 50 percent of the population of Morrowind all the way past the Red Mountain and the Ashlands in the east, all the way to Hila Oad and Seyda Neen on the Bitter Coast. The only true exceptions were Gnisis, which was mostly populated by Imperials and Orcs and Slotstheim, which was mostly populated by Nords, though a new Imperial Colony, was well as a garrison had started up there.
Dark Elves, or the Dunmer, as the locals liked to be called, were typically distrustful of all other races and tended to look down on them. Even those of The Great House Hlaalu tended to look down on 'outlanders' though they had adopted more the Empire's policies than House Redoran or House Telvanni. Still, this one looked even more distrustful of others and wore no house colors. But, unlike other Dunmer that he had ever seen, this one knew more about the Empire's ways and customs than even the Hlaalu Counselors in Balmora did.
The Dunmer looked up at him, his red eyes glaring at the young Imperial. "What are you staring at, Wizard?"
"A puzzle, of sorts..." he answered vaguely.
What ensued was a conversation that was the start of a mutual friendship built on respect amongst competitors going after the same prize. In this particular instance, the death of a Necromancer.
They talked a bit of their pasts, their mutual hatred of the Dark Arts, and what they could do and soon formed a bit of a strategy, which didn't work, against their foe. In the end, they won, and both survived to fight another day.
I woke up in a cold sweat. I had been having dreams like this ever since that day I found out Tal Halkum had been turned. Though I didn't show it too the others, I was a bit anxious. After all, Vampire or not, Tal was still a friend of mine.
After seeing what I could do, he had signed on with the Imperial Cult, while still maintaining his status with the Mage's Guild, to learn a bit more about healing and alchemy. He could have learned the same things at the Guild, but he said that sometimes the higher ranked wizards could be a bit stuffy and over critical sometimes. From the few meetings I had with them, I was inclined to agree. Still, he was a master in the School of Destruction and Alteration, and apparently now, Illusion. Add to that his vampiric powers, and I had one of the most worthy opponents I've ever had to face.
I looked up at the sky, it was still about mid-day. Since there were Vampires about, we had taken to traveling at night. We hired a Khajiit tracker out of Balmora, since they could see in the dark better than anyone, and the nine of us, eight Legionnaires and myself, had been on constant alert ever since.
I began checking over my gear. No one questioned me when I donned the gear I brought up from Seyda Neen. It was the light armor from that Dark Brotherhood assassin that tried to do me in, in my sleep. Coward.
Nearly got me too, but, as I said before, natural healer... Well, that and a powerful shield spell.
Back to checking my gear...
My Imperial broadsword was in excellent shape. One thing about Imperial craftsmanship is that their blacksmiths take pride in their work. I slipped on my Dark Brotherhood breastplate along with the boots and the gloves. I checked my stash of daggers as well. Both were made of silver and were as sharp as ever. Too bad I lost my silver longsword and a full set of silver throwing daggers.
Many creatures in Morrowind can not be hurt with conventional weapons. Like nearly everything I hunt. Daedra of all types and Vampires especially, can only be hurt with silver, enchanted, or daedric weapons. My conjured arsenals could be classified as both enchanted and daedric and work well in short fights. However, they take a certain amount of energy to create and maintain, so prolonged use is not advisable.
After my nightmare, I decided I wasn't getting anymore sleep, so I figured I'd take the next watch. Sha-Grim, would be happy, though he seemed pretty content sharping his axe. Despite being of Orcish make, it wouldn't do him any good, but at least he'd be able to hold off what ever enemies may come their way.
We are still a few hours walk from the Ancestral Tomb I had just emptied out earlier in the week, but if I knew Tal, and I did, he was waiting for me. He knew, despite my hasty retreat, that I would not leave our business unfinished, and like so many other battles, both of us would be at our strongest.
My warrior's spirit, or foolish pride, whichever you prefer, meant that we would do this right this time, in the dead of night, when Tal Halkum's powers would be at their strongest.
A few hours later, I was relieved by Ogrin Nodd. This burly old soldier had seen a fair amount of action in his day and had been with us when we defeated the Daedra Overlord. He had a long white beard and he wore his hair long and tied in a ponytail in the back. Despite wearing Imperial armor, he still held fast to the beliefs and customs of the Nords of Skyrim. The blue war paint on his face was a clear indicator. Like Sha-Grim, I was happy he was here as he knew some more primitive forms of magic and was a bit of a Shaman. He had some talent in healing, though he had nothing on my skills, and some training in the School of Destruction. I also noted, that since the battle with the Daedra Overlord, he had acquired a silver Nordic battleaxe as well as a silver broadsword.
After a short conversation about our battle plan, I decided to train for a bit and then settled down for a short nap. Before I knew it, it was sunset and time to get moving again. I could only feel anxiety for the battle that lay ahead.
"Don't worry about it kid," said Ogrin laying a hand on my shoulder. His voice was gruff. "You're the only one who stands a chance against him. Just keep your head and we'll pull out of this."
I've seen just as much action as him, probably more, yet it was oddly comforting to hear the old seasoned veteran's words of encouragement. Despite the fact that Tal was a Vampire, I was a bit reluctant to kill him. After all, I've been in Morrowind nearly a full year and he was one of the few people I've come into contact with that I've actually liked. Though I have to admit some of Cosades' people aren't too bad either. The Orc Necromancer in the Mage's Guild in Balmora is probably one of the few of her kind that I won't kill as she's given us a great deal of research on the Legend of the Nerevarine Cult. That chump from the Fighter's Guild isn't too bad either and does know his history. His study on the Sixth House was intriguing, still, I wonder why Cosades and the Emperor are interested in an archaic legend about some reincarnated savior. Speaking of Caius Cosades, I haven't spoken to that old Skooma addict in quite sometime. Perhaps I should see him after I'm done here. I'm sure he's done with his research of the Nerevarine and the Sixth House cult.
Focus. I really need to pay more attention. It's sunset and the others are beginning to leave. Time to be one full alert.
Silence. We've been walking for a few hours now and all we can hear is an unnatural silence as we walk through the woods. There is an uneasy feeling amongst everyone in the group and even our tracker is a bit edgy.
I can feel it. And what's worse, the others can too. Something is coming. Something dark, something powerful. It's Tal, I'm sure of it, an like me, he's bound to have brought some friends. The tracker halts our movements.
"Something in the trees, up ahead..." he tells us. He lets out a low, threatening growl. Despite their animal-like appearance, the Khajiit have always been a fascinating and interesting people to me. Though now I was seeing the animalistic side of them. The tracker bared his fangs and I could see his cat-like claws extend on his hands. I raised an eyebrow. This was the first I'd ever seen one of their kind angry. I could only look on sadly as I knew he was going to do something stupid. After all, his claws would do as much damage as Sha-Grim's axe.
Being an excellent student of the School of Illusion, I cast the Night-Eyes spell on myself. It allowed me to see as well as the Khajiit Tracker in the darkness. I drew my blade, and I could here the others drawing their weapons as well.
"What is it that you see?" asked Sha-Grim.
"Nix-hounds," I answer. "A whole pack of them, but they're at the beck and call of a Bosmer (or Wood Elf as the Imperials like to call them)."
"Only those without the use of silver or enchanted weapons will engage the Nix-Hounds," ordered Ogrin. He's the one in charge here. Well, except for me, but then again, I'm a Freelancer, not a Legionnaire, so I'm free to do whatever I please. "Tracker, we need your eyes, so it's best you not get involved unless absolutely necessary.
The tracker, who still has his teeth bared, grunts in acknowledgment.
"Here," I tell him, "Calming drought." I hand him the potion. He's reluctant at first, but after sniffing it he takes a few swigs from the flask before handing it back to me. His claws recede back into his hands and he is visibly calmed. I place it back in my belt pouch.
I watch silently with the others as Sha-Grim and four of the other seven Legionnaires make their way towards the Bosmer and the Nix-Hounds. The spell begins to fade and my surroundings become dark when I hear something from behind us.
Shit! I think to myself as I see the glowing eyes of the one we're hunting. We've been ambushed. A small burst of Telekinesis sends me flying through the air. I can hear the cracking of bones as I hit a nearby tree, hard. Damn, why do I always slam into a tree?
Re-casting the Night-Eyes spell, I see Ogrin and two of the others engage Tal Halkum and three of his brethren, who each look like freshly turned bandits. I chance a glance at Sha-Grin and his group who are having a tough time with the Nix-Hounds and at least three Bosmer by my count. Knowing that he stands a better chance than Ogrin, I decide he can take care of himself. With any luck, the Bosmer are merely unwilling slaves or followers of the Vampires and not abominations of Darkness themselves.
I hear one of the Legionnaires cry out in agony. One of Ogrin's companions have gone down, though I have to admit, Ogrin and the others took down two of the Vamps rather quickly, but I know as long as Tal can keep his distance they don't stand a chance.
I come to my feet and let my magic flow through me. I'm already healed, but now I'm channeling it through my body, fortifying my speed and strength. I won't underestimate him this time. I charge at Tal, but even with my enhanced speed he's still faster. He sends a ball of fire at me, which I dodge, hoping it doesn't hit any one of my allies. I've already lost my sword, dropped it when I was thrown into the tree, so I draw one of my daggers. He manages to dodge as I slash wildly at him.
My slices and jabs are dead on, but he's just too fast. He punched me in the gut. I can hear ribs cracking. Blood comes out of my mouth. He strikes my face. Wow. It's been a long time since anyone has hit me this hard.
Can't give up. I've come so far. He grabs my neck, squeezing hard. I can feel the magic leaving me. I can't maintain my enhanced strength and speed. Odd. This shouldn't be happening. My strength and speed should almost be on par with his... Unless... Damn... Underestimated again... Tal certainly has learned a few tricks. I'm sure the Elder's would have a hard time defeating this fledgling. He's fortifying his own body with magic as I had.
My world is slowly fading, and not only because I've lost my hold on the Night-Eyes spell either. I'm losing consciousness. I'm probably going to die. I barely hear the roar of an Orc going berserk, giving the battle his absolute all, or the battle cry of a Nord putting everything on an incredibly stupid gamble.
Suddenly I'm on the ground. My world is no longer fading. Vision was being restored and I could feel my magic fixing the damage from my incredibly stupid maneuver. I look up and see Tal, badly injured, a huge gash in his chest. I see Ogrin getting the same treatment I had been getting just a few moments before.
Stupid old man. I try to get up, but I'm knocked off my feet again. I turn to see the Imperial Legionnaire that had been killed earlier is my new attacker. His eyes are glowing a fierce red. Bloodlust, and it looks like I'm dinner if I don't move soon. He swings his sword at me, I dodge, and he just barely misses.
I can see the fight in his eyes. He's resisting the urges, he wants to help, but his instincts are too much for him right now. He needs blood, from a fresh source and it looks like I'm the menu. Fortifying my body again, I can easily keep up with his movements, but just barely. The Bloodlust is driving his body past it's normal vampiric limits pushing him into overdrive.
His fangs are bared and he hisses and snaps at me. I only have one shot at this if I wish to save the old man. I draw my dagger and fling it at the new vampire. He knocks it away, so predictable. I lunge at him, conjuring a new dagger in the process. I drive it into his chest, the blade penetrates his armor and goes in deep. I twist it for good measure. He cries out in pain. I'm sorry. You fought bravely and honorably.
I let the dagger dissolve back into nothingness as I watch Ogrin struggling to stand. He's a battered and bloody mess. I watch in horror as I see Tal raise his hand, palm open, and the fire in his hand slowly gaining power.
"NO!" I shouted. I'm too late. The ball of fire strikes the old man, incinerating him into dust. "Damn you Tal..." I'm shaking with rage at this point. At least he has no chance at being turned.
Tal merely looks back an smirks. "Pathetically weak. Even the strongest of your kind." He says this with satisfaction and I only get angrier. "I thought you'd be happy, I released him from his pain and did not force him into this cursed, half-existence, as you like to refer to it as."
Already I can see the wound Ogrin left on him healing, though much more slowly than a wound from a normal weapon.
I can not beat him, not in a straight out fight anyway. He's stronger and faster, and his magical skill in the Schools of Destruction and Mysticism far surpass mine. I have the advantage in Restoration, but he knows this and despite my skills he still heals faster than I. That only leaves Alteration, and we're both nearly equal in skill and power there, though my knowledge is less combat oriented, there's Illusion, which mixed with his vampiric abilities makes him my superior and then Conjuration.
It's my time to smirk. He's hopeless at it, but I'm a master. After all, I can summon more than just daggers, and as a small fee for keeping my mouth shut about her 'abilities', that Orc Shaman taught me a thing or two about Necromancy.
Before you say it, I'm not a hypocrite. I only those powers in the most extreme emergencies, which I think this counts. I'm walking a fine line though and what I'm about to do is incredibly stupid. Risking the tainting of my own soul I call up on all of the magicka I can muster.
Confused, Tal stands back keeping his distance. He knows I'm up to something, but he doesn't know what. With luck, he won't realize I've found his weakness, and he won't exploit mine. After all, he doesn't know of my extensive studies of the Dark Arts so that I may better eradicate them. My eyes are glowing bright red. I can only tell because my vision has a bit of a crimson haze to it. I watch as spirits from the dead rise up from the corpses of our small battle field and skeletons materialize from the darkness.
Realization comes to Tal's face but it's already too late. He's already facing off against my small army of undead warriors. The Imperials have stopped fighting as the spirits of the dead aid them in their battle as well. Even Sha-Grim as a look of fear on his face at the awesome and dark powers I am displaying. The Bosmer are slaughtered viciously. I no longer care if they were mindless innocents or willing participants in this horrid game.
The dark power surrounds me, and it's intoxicating lure energizes me. Now Tal Halkum is seeing what true power is. It's too much for him. The Ancestral Spirits are gradually weaking his defenses and he can not fend off the skeletal warriors, not much longer anyways.
A dark sadistic smile crosses my face. It'll be time to end this soon. Foolish whelp. He had power, but he truly didn't understand it. All that potential, wasted. He was a fool. I summon Ogrin's axe into my hands. He may no longer be alive, but his legacy will defeat the foolish weakling before me.
Tal Halkum incinerated the last of the undead warriors that attacked him only to see more approaching him. His expression is mixed wit both fear and awe. He's lost and he knows it. The Elders will not be happy with him.
He turns to flee, but I am standing in his way. "Going somewhere?" I taunt him. The tables have turned. "You didn't think you'd be able to flee did you? Or were you formulating a plan for actually destroying me?"
If it was possible, he became even paler than before, but held his ground. He bared his fangs at me, and hissed. He was trying to intimidate me, but I could see his fear, I could smell it all over him and taste in the air. I drew strength from it. He began to reinforce his body with his magic again, but it would be no use. I was already draining it from him, stealing his very strength, his life force from his body and absorbing it into myself. His power was now mine.
He seemed to notice this as well. I relished in his look of absolute terror.
"Arcturas..." he said in a shaky voice, "Arcturas... Don't..."
"Don't what? Kill you? Why not, you're nothing but a filthy abomination, a disgusting perversion of magic that shouldn't even exist!" I spat at him. He could back up no further, my skeletal minions had a firm grip on his frail body. He was weakened to the point he could no longer stand.
"Arcturas..." he weakly pleaded. I responded by lifting the axe high into the air and bringing it down, taking off the foolish Vampire's head in one fatal swipe. With my mark now gone, I released my dark power.
As the darkness washed away I became dizzy. I dropped the axe and swayed, but managed to remain standing. I watched as my friend, or what was my friend turn to dust. I preceded to walk a short distance before falling to my hands and knees and threw up.
What have I done?
I felt... Dirty... Tainted...
I felt raw, absolute power... It was exhilarating and invigorating and yet... Wrong... I let it take over, guiding my actions and relished in it's dark feeling.
What have I done?
Only what I had to, to win... But did that make it right? What about the Bosmer? Were they innocent. Who knows, they're dead now... And the others... Oh god...
What have I done?
The Orc woman had warned me that it could happen. I hadn't listened, I though I could handle it. I was wrong, I overestimated my own will power. Even worse, I had become far darker and twisted than the evils I had sought out to destroy. I had looked into the abyss and become a part of it, I was a monster...
What have I done?