The quiet but firm statement snapped a pair of murky blue eyes open faster than the sound of aggressive shouting. The subject of the command was well used to such sudden interruptions to his sleep cycle, and thus was no longer fazed much by the quick retreat of slumber into the far corners of his mind on waking. Indeed, a mere two seconds after being jolted awake, he had both feet planted firmly on the ground and was in the process of rising when he felt a firm but gentle hand on his chest.
“Easy, Lord Dov. I just wanted to let you know your guest has arrived.”
After he blankly blinked up at his rouser a few times, she gave a few more words by way of explanation.
“The guest from Dawnstar.”
His expression immediately sharpened, and he passed one hand over his cobwebbed features as the other reached for a set of clothes. “Thank you, Lydia. Tell him I’ll be right down.”
The older Nord woman bowed her head slightly. “At once, my Thane.”
Closing his eyes, he rolled them behind his eyelids at his housecarl’s formality, blindly dressing himself and rising to pull a pair of well-worn leather boots on. Lacing up his shirt and jacket, he trudged toward his bedroom door and lazily pushed it open, striding toward the nearby staircase. The arched eyebrow of his Redguard guest was proof enough of the other man’s surprise at his entrance, an occurrence he had no time to analyze before an explanation was given.
“Why the heavy tread, Listener?” He smirked. “Hagraven cast a hex on your steps?”
He snorted. “Ha. As if.” He approached the other man and clasped his forearm in greeting. “And when we’re alone, it’s Ketar.”
The Redguard smiled wider. “Of course, Listener.”
Ketar rolled his eyes good-naturedly and silently offered his guest a seat by the hearth. Only when they were both seated and presented with drinks did he speak again. “So, what news from the Sanctuary?”
“No different from the last time I visited. And I say I visited because you haven’t been up there in…oh, about three months now.”
“Given what you’ve heard about recent events, can you really blame me?”
He frowned. “I suppose not, but given your status, it’s hardly good form for you to be missing for such long periods.”
Ketar shrugged. “On the contrary, Nazir. Our Brotherhood hadn’t had a proper Listener for generations before I showed up, and it ran just fine. From what I hear, you and Babette have been doing an equally fine job.”
Nazir frowned deeper. “And Cicero—”
“I know you dislike jesters—”
“Putting it mildly,” he grumbled.
“—but for my sake, try not to shank him in his sleep. You know Mother gets cross whenever she sees you fingering your knife while staring at him with a complete lack of subtlety.”
“Actually I didn’t, and what is she going to do? Tell you to put a contract out on me?”
Ketar laughed. “I wouldn’t put it past her. Whatever she was in her past life, that woman is one vindictive cur.” He shrugged. “Besides, that’s one order I could never follow.”
Nazir arched an eyebrow. “Too loyal to turn out a friend?”
“No.” He smirked. “Too proud to let anyone kill you but me.”
The Redguard smiled. “Wouldn’t have it any other way.”
“I figured as much,” Ketar replied, taking a long drag of his mead. Half a minute of silence passed before he looked over at Nazir with a critical eye. “What else?”
A sigh. “Nazir, these visits invariably end with you telling me some juicy tidbit of gossip or rumor, usually with a sinister smile involuntarily pasted to your lips. Yet throughout this visit, you’ve had a near-constant frown. What gives?”
The Redguard pursed his lips tightly, leaning forward in his seat. “On my last visit to the Sanctuary, Babette informed me of a…situation brewing in the east.”
Ketar’s eyebrows furrowed. “Go on.”
“Old and connected as she is in the vampire world, she caught wind of something she found rather troubling. Word of a new group of bloodletters, called the Dawnguard. Word is, they’re gearing up for a major vampire hunt in the imminent future, and based on their history, they are not playing around.”
Ketar arched an eyebrow. “I didn’t know there was enough of a vampire presence in Skyrim to warrant such measures. Is there?”
"They certainly seem to think so, and what Babette has heard about their leader isn’t encouraging. I know you’ve no innate love for the nightwalkers, but—”
“For Babette’s sake, I’ll look into it. Any leads worth mentioning?”
“Apparently, they’ve sent out an open call for prospective hunters to sign up at a fort in the east that bears their name. It’s nestled in the mountains just north of Stendarr’s Beacon, reachable only through a pass called Dayspring Canyon.”
Ketar nodded slowly, fingers steepled as he stared into the hearth. “I’ll leave as soon as I’ve had some breakfast. Speaking of which, would you like to stay? Lydia makes quite the horker steak.”
Nazir smiled and waved him off, rising to his feet. “Thank you, but no. I’ve already taken up too much of your time, and I have other engagements.”
Ketar smirked. “A steamy rendezvous?”
“If by ‘steamy’ you mean the state of spilled blood, then yes.”
The younger man sighed and shook his head as he stood with a smile, once again clasping forearms with his friend. “May your feet be swift and your blade silent.”
“As they are always, Listener.”
Ketar watched him go with an absent look on his face and his mind running in a thousand different directions.
“So, two satchels for the road?”
His head snapped to his smirking housecarl with an amused air. “You know me so well.”
She smiled wider. “I’d better. I take better care of you than you do. I daresay without me, you’d be skin and bones by now.”
“Or have bled out by the wayside after taking on one too many trolls.”
“Hm,” she hummed back at him absently as she wrapped the aforementioned meals. “Or mauled by a pack of wolves.”
“Desiccated by a giant spider.”
Lydia wrinkled her nose. “Shackled and enslaved by Falmer.”
“Roasted alive by—”
They both stopped short, and the room fell eerily silent as Ketar’s gaze shifted to stare at the floor.
“Let’s,” he started with a roughness to his voice, “just agree that my life is better with you in it than out.”
Lydia just nodded silently and finished her wrapping as her Thane pulled the last of his armor on. His slightly shorter form now sported a full set of enchanted black leather armor, the hood pulled back for the moment as he strode over to her with whisper-quiet steps. She gingerly handed him the bundle, and he took it without a word, slinging it over his shoulder as he made his way to the door.
He stopped short and looked back.
“I could go with—”
“Thank you, Lydia…but no. I…” he sighed hard, “I need to learn to walk on my own again.” He took another moment to brood before smiling back at her. “Besides, Whiterun’s become a bit of a danger zone lately. Can’t afford to leave the valuables unguarded.”
Lydia shot him a peeved look, but shook her head in acquiescence. “Be careful, milord.”
“I will,” he replied firmly.
A moment later, he was out the door.
In the midst of opportunely refilling a flask at the body of water Dayspring Canyon was no doubt named after, Ketar felt a presence approach from behind, excited and nervous, by the way his steps were bouncing.
“Oh, hey there. You here to join the Dawnguard too?”
Ketar turned to see a young Nord man with long blond hair, little more than a teenager to his eyes. He frowned at the question, then turned back toward the castle. “Intrigued by them, more like.” He took a breath and resumed climbing the path to the front gate. “I’m reserving judgment until I know more.”
“Well, uh, I suppose that’s a wise enough decision. Wouldn’t want to rope yourself into anything unseemly so soon in your life.”
Ketar arched an eyebrow at him. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
The Nord chuckled nervously and rubbed the back of his neck. “Well, uh…I guess what I mean to say is, you’ve got your whole life ahead of you, right? That is, you don’t really seem all that much older than me...”
When his sentence dropped off, an awkward silence descended over the pair.
“Eh…truth is, I’m a little nervous.”
Ketar glanced over at his companion, who was nervously wringing his hands.
“I’ve never done anything like this before.” He looked up at Ketar excitedly, his movements rather erratic. “I hope you don’t mind if I walk up with you. Hey, uh, don’t tell Isran I was afraid to meet him by himself.” He shrugged. “Not the best first impression for a new vampire hunter, I guess.”
Despite the seriousness of his mission, Ketar couldn’t help but restrain laughter.
“Y-You’ve probably killed lots of vampires, huh?”
His mirth immediately vanished.
“I’m sure Isran will sign you right up. Not sure he’ll take me. I hope so.” They strode on in silence for a while, the young man’s eyes widening after a while. “That must be it. Fort Dawnguard...” His jaw dropped. “Wow. Bigger than I expected.”
Ketar Niel Dov didn’t consider himself a myopic person. In truth, he believed quite the opposite was true. But as he approached the ruins of Fort Dawnguard, he couldn’t help but feel a brief but massive sense of underwhelm. The castle was impressive, to be sure, but its state of disrepair was, well…deplorable, to be quite frank.
“I’m Agmaer, by the way,” said the blond with an extension of his hand.
The hooded man glanced his way and grasped the appendage firmly. “Ketar.”
He frowned a little. “Interesting name. Redguard?”
His head shook. “Breton.”
“I was going to say: you don’t look Redguard. Still. Strange name for a Breton.”
Ketar smirked wryly. “Well, I’m glad I’ve run across someone well-traveled enough to say so.”
The immediate blush that stole across his cheeks said otherwise, as expected. Agmaer just gave another nervous laugh and kept walking toward the gate alongside Ketar.
Agmaer leaned over to whisper to Ketar. “Where is everybody?” he asked as they caught a glimpse of a Breton man manning the gate. “This place looks almost deserted.”
Ketar simply pursed his lips and approached the sentry, who was clad head to toe in interlocked plates of lamellar armor.
The man crossed his arms and studied them both with an appraising air. “New recruits?”
Agmaer nodded emphatically, while Ketar gave a small tilt of his head.
“Hm. Isran will decide if you’ve got what it takes.” He nodded toward the gate. “Go on, he’s right inside.”
Ketar took and released a long breath as he put his gloved palms up to the massive doors. Exchanging a look with his Nord companion, they pushed forward together and were immediately rewarded with a large, sunlit atrium cylindrical in shape, with a second-floor overlook running around the circumference of the central chamber. The sunlight immediately drew Ketar’s attention to another armored figure, a Redguard standing in the center of the room, every inch of him save his head covered in the same armor as the sentry. At present, he was arguing with a man in armored robes. Though at a distance, Ketar’s keenly-trained ears picked up most of their conversation.
“Why are you here, Tolan?” asked the armored man, Isran, he’d guess. “The Vigilants and I were finished with each other a long time ago.”
“You know why I’m here,” the “Vigilant” answered. “The Vigilants are under attack everywhere. The vampires are much more dangerous than we believed.”
Isran’s tone immediately became agitated. “And now you want to come running to safety with the Dawnguard, is that it?” His voice kept becoming increasingly hostile. “I remember Keeper Carcette telling me repeatedly that Fort Dawnguard is a crumbling ruin, not worth the expense and manpower to repair. And now that you’ve stirred up the vampires against you, you come begging for my protection?”
The Vigilant’s voice became so quiet, even Ketar could barely hear. “Isran, Carcette is dead. The Hall of the Vigilants...everyone...they’re all dead. You were right, we were wrong. Isn’t that enough for you?”
Isran’s eyes widened just slightly, his face falling and facing the ground as his tone softened. “Yes…well…I never wanted any of this to happen. I tried to warn all of you.” He paused for a while. “I…I am sorry, you know.” Suddenly, he stopped short and glanced to his side, gaze keenly sweeping over the two new arrivals. “So who are you?” He asked rather harshly. “What do you want?”
Ketar could feel Agmaer pale at his side, and stepped forward to take the heat off him. “I heard you were looking for vampire hunters.”
“Hmph. You heard right. I’m glad word’s finally starting to get around…but that means it won’t be long before the vampires start to take notice as well.” He looked Ketar over appraisingly. “Mind taking off the hood?”
Ketar bowed his head slightly as he complied. “Not at all. Though I’m curious as to why.”
Isran drew close and pored over the Breton’s face and eyes, though most intently his eyes. “Hm. Easier to tell if you’re a vampire if your face isn’t cloaked in shadow.”
Ketar arched an eyebrow. “Paranoid much?”
Isran crossed his arms. “When dealing with these fiends, a little paranoia keeps you alive.”
He shrugged. “Fair enough.”
“So, you never answered my question—who are you?”
Ketar smiled a little. “My name is Ketar Niel Dov, but as for who I am…well, to be frank, the list of titles is rather long.” He started counting with his fingers. “Guildmaster, Companion, Arch-Mage…but I think the only one you’ll recognize is…Dovahkiin. Or, in the common tongue, Dragonborn.”
Isran’s left eyebrow shot upward curiously. “So you’re the one all of Skyrim’s been gossiping about for the last two years.”
He chuckled. “Unfortunately, yes.”
His arms crossed. “They say you’re some sort of…legendary hero, meant to save the world or some rot.”
Ketar winced. “Don’t believe everything you hear. There’s a big difference between hero and celebrity.”
Isran’s head cocked slightly. “And which are you?”
Ketar’s gaze sharpened. “The kind that doesn’t require grandstanding.”
Their eyes locked for a few moments before the Redguard tilted his head ever so slightly. “I think you’ll do just fine.”
“Glad to hear it,” replied Ketar with a tilt of his head. “Now, what’s this ‘vampire problem’ you’re on about?” He motioned to Tolan. “Your friend mentioned something about the Vigilants.”
“I’m afraid,” Tolan interrupted, “the Vigilants are no more. Some coven of vampires attacked our stronghold out of nowhere, razed it to the ground. Not a single soul survived.”
Ketar’s eyes widened. “Not one?”
Tolan’s head shook.
“But…the Vigilants are experienced fighters. You take on Daedra, for Shor’s sake!”
“Daedra worshippers,” Isran amended with a disdainful glance at Tolan. “There’s a difference.”
Ketar looked off to the side, eyes drifting back to the tense pair. “What can I do to help?”
Isran snapped back to the Breton with a fire burning in his eyes. “I need someone out in the field, taking the fight to the damn vampires while we’re getting the fort back in shape.” He nodded toward the Vigilant. “Tolan was telling me about some cave that the Vigilants were poking around in. Seemed to think it was more related to these recent vampire attacks.” He looked toward the man in question. “Tolan, tell him about, what was it, Dimhollow?”
“Yes,” he replied gravely, “that’s it. Dimhollow Crypt. Brother Adalvald was sure it held some long-lost vampire artifact of some kind. We didn’t listen to him any more than we did Isran.” His face darkened. “He was at the Hall when it was attacked...”
“That’s good enough for me,” Isran interrupted before turning to Ketar. “Go see what the vampires were looking for in this Dimhollow Crypt. With any luck, they’ll still be there. Here, you should take a crossbow.” He reached for the back of his belt and handed the device in question to Ketar. “Good for taking out those fiends before they get close. Feel free to poke around the fort and take what you need. There isn’t much yet, but you’re welcome to anything you can use.”
Ketar bowed his head slightly. “My thanks.”
“I’ll meet you at Dimhollow,” said Tolan. “It’s the least I can do to avenge my fallen comrades.”
Isran turned to him in concern. “Tolan, I don’t think that’s a good idea. You Vigilants were never trained for—”
“I know what you think of us,” Tolan interrupted sharply. “You think we’re soft, that we’re cowards. You think our deaths proved our weakness. Stendarr grant that you do not have to face the same test and be found wanting.” He turned to the Dragonborn. “I’m going to Dimhollow Crypt. Perhaps I can be of some small assistance to you.”
Ketar glanced over at Isran’s grim expression, then gave a small nod to the Vigilant.
Tolan nodded back and left a few moments later.
Ketar’s blue eyes drifted to the crossbow and the small quiver of bolts that was hanging from its trigger.
“You there, boy,” said Isran suddenly, causing Agmaer to jump. “Stop skulking in the shadows and step up here. What’s your name?
Turning for the exit gate, Ketar paused to place a hand on Agmaer’s shoulder. “Good luck, friend.”
He caught smatterings of their first exchanges as he went out the door.
“Hmm...farm boy, eh? What’s your weapon?”
“Uh, my weapon? I mostly just use my pa’s axe, when wolves are attacking the goats or something.”
“’My pa’s axe.’” A sigh. “Stendarr preserve us. Don’t worry, I think we can make a Dawnguard out of you.”
With that, Ketar finally let out the laughter he’d been suppressing as he stepped out into the light.
While the journey to Dimhollow Crypt was surprisingly uneventful, a feeling of ominous foreboding never left Ketar’s bones the whole time. The last time he’d felt anything so dark and powerful was…an uncomfortably recent experience he’d have preferred not to think about so soon…or ever. Shoving those thoughts away, he ran a hand over his new crossbow, pulling back the crank to draw the string and place a bolt in its firing chamber.
Hm…never used one of these in combat before.
He took aim at a snow-laden crag on the path ahead as cold snow bit into the exposed parts of his face, forcing him to squint. Taking his finger off the trigger, Ketar slung the weapon onto the back of his belt and swept his eyes over his surroundings. Though barely visible in the blizzard, he could just make out the dark fissure of a cave entrance ahead, no doubt the crypt’s entrance. He made for it immediately, finding himself stopping just outside and peering into a wall of pitch blackness. His eyes shut and squeezed tightly, a long breath inhaled and exhaled as he took his first steps inside.
His first impression of Dimhollow Crypt was that even the air felt very much like…well, a crypt. Like the other ruins he’d visited during his time in Skyrim, the air felt close and alive in a sickening, rotting way, but rarely had he also felt so cold. His right hand reached down to unsling his new crossbow, eyes sweeping over his darkened surroundings as they slowly adjusted to the poor lighting.
“These Vigilants never know when to give up.”
The voice immediately brought Ketar to a cautious halt.
“I thought we’d taught them enough of a lesson at their hall.”
The Breton’s hooded head peeked out from behind a massive stalactite to see two vampires standing over Vigilant Tolan’s bloody corpse, a steel warhammer still clutched tightly in his death grip. Ketar let out a small sigh of resignation.
“To come in here alone,” said another, “a fool like all the rest of them.”
Ketar’s teeth gritted as he moved around to their blind spot, slowly falling to one knee to take aim.
“He fought well enough though. Jeron and Bresoth were no match for him.”
“Ha. Those two deserved what they got. Their arrogance had become insufferable.”
Ketar braced the crossbow against his shoulder, still not used to the weight but finding it manageable enough.
“All this talk is making me thirsty. Perhaps another Vigilant will wander in soon.”
“I wish Lokil would hurry it up. I have half a mind to return to the castle and tell Harkon what a fool he’s entrusted this mission to.”
Dov’s tense finger paused on the trigger. Harkon? He slowly lowered the crossbow as he tuned his ears to their speech and one vampire turned to the other.
“And I have half a mind to tell Lokil of your disloyalty.”
His companion whirled on him, baring his fangs. “You wouldn’t dare. Now shut up and keep on watch.”
They did just that, and with a disappointed air, Ketar took aim once more, keen ears catching something…unusual as something equally so in his peripheral vision caught his attention. He turned slowly, eyes widening rather comically as he caught sight of it: a large hound, with bared teeth and fur black as night. Its collar glinted in the faint light of the tomb’s lit sconces, and its eyes bored dangerously into Ketar’s.
He put his first bolt between its eyes without hesitation.
Upon hearing the death hound’s death cry, the vampires and another cursed canine took off running for Ketar. Unsure of his exact position, the vampires and their familiar ran toward the death hound’s corpse, missing the living shadow that passed behind their backs. The second hound joined his kin with a whine a moment later, its masters whirling about just in time for one to get a cruelly curved dagger to the heart. The stricken vampire wheezed uncontrollably as his comrade caught and lowered him to the floor.
“I can’t—” he wheezed, “how is—”
“Don’t overthink it,” Ketar half-growled as he lunged forward, kicking the other vampire into a rock formation and forcefully yanking the Blade of Woe from its current sheath.
The “living” vampire sprung upright rather quickly and prepared an all-too familiar spell in his left hand while his right brandished an iron axe. It barely cleared its holster before Ketar’s blade pirouette separated his head from his body. Both were reduced to ash in seconds, their armor and weapons all that were left behind. Glancing over their remains, he took a moment to retrieve his two fired bolts and reload his crossbow, then moved on deeper into the tomb.
To say Dimhollow Crypt was large would be like comparing a dragon to an ox-cart. If he weren’t on such a dire mission, Ketar might’ve been impressed by the sheer scope of the place. As with many such locations in Skyrim, however, the path into the deepest parts of the catacombs was fraught with far too many dangers to permit such unbridled admiration. He made a mental note to come back when the place was fully cleansed, probably with Brelyna or Onmund to catalogue the Nordic relics littering the place. A dozen or so vampires (not including their thralls and familiars) later, Ketar found himself entering a large underground rotunda in the deepest part of Dimhollow Crypt.
Crouching at the top of a set of crumbling stairs, he peered through his hood at yet another group of vampires below, two thralls guarding the stairs. Ketar’s eyes widened in alarm as he registered the pained cries of a living man somewhere below and strained his senses to pick him out of the darkness. Failing this, he grimaced and put a hand over his opening mouth.
"Laas-Yah-Nir,” came an echoing whisper, and upon opening his eyes, Ketar could see the faint auras of no less than seven entities, one of them sitting lower than the others, no doubt the vampires’ prisoner. He could just make out their speech.
“I’ll never tell you anything. My oath to Stendarr is stronger than any suffering you can inflict on me.”
“I believe you, Vigilant. And I don’t think you even know what you’ve found here. So go and meet your beloved Stendarr.”
Ketar’s hands twitched around his crossbow, desperately trying to aim before—
The Dragonborn’s teeth clenched as he lowered the weapon, fingers whitening around its frame when he spotted the massive bloodstains marring a stone platform below.
“Are you sure that was wise, Lokil?” asked one of the vampires. “He still might have told us something. We haven’t gotten anywhere ourselves with—”
“He knew nothing,” Lokil interrupted, oblivious to the fact that the hunter was becoming the hunted. “He served his purpose by leading us to this place. Now it is up to us to bring Harkon the prize. And we will not return without it.”
Ketar’s stormy blue eyes narrowed as he pulled himself atop a crumbling stone arch, drawing his crossbow and taking aim at Lokil’s heart. Second time I’ve heard about this “Harkon.” He must be the head of the coven.
“Vingalmo and Orthjolf will make way for me after this,” Lokil continued, striding toward a bridge that led deeper into the crypt.
Two other vampires followed behind him towing blank-faced thralls.
One spoke up with a supplicant tone. “Yes, of course Lokil. Do not forget who brought you news of the Vigilants’ discovery.”
Lokil stopped short to fix the speaker with a piercing gaze. “I never forget who my friends are. Or my enemies.”
Then you’ll never forget me, monster.
A loud twang split the still air of the crypt as Ketar released his bolt, but Lokil whirled faster than he’d expected, pulling one of the thralls between him and the projectile. A large, blank-faced Nord starting falling as Lokil drew a steel sword from his hip and summoned an ice spike with his left hand. His two lackeys also brandished weapons, but were nowhere near as fast as their master, as Ketar cut down one with his next shot with relative ease. Quickly tracing the shot to its source, Lokil fired his spike into the darkness with surprising accuracy over such a distance. Despite this, Ketar managed to roll out of the way in time and raise his crossbow for another shot.
The other vampire at Lokil’s side was struck in the shoulder but kept coming, along with two more thralls. Gritting his teeth, Ketar reloaded his crossbow and swung it butt-first at an incoming ice spike, shattering the magic crystal and lining up a shot at one of the thralls. He aimed for its rear leg and fired before it could finish transferring its weight to the front, tripping it and the thrall that came at its back. Ducking under another ice spike, Ketar held his left hand out to the side and felt the familiar pull of Magnus’ might as magicka flowed through the appendage and summoned an explosive ball of fire. With the lesser vampire and his thralls slowed on the steps, he cast his spell right in the center and was rewarded with a cluster of screams as they stumbled about in a panic before falling over dead or over the side of the treacherous drop.
Lokil roared his rage at the loss as he sent another two ice spikes in Ketar’s direction, the Breton finally having enough of this long-range encounter as he stowed his crossbow. He seamlessly somersaulted backward off the arch, left hand once again flaring with magic as an Aetherial cable anchored itself to the stone structure and allowed him to swing toward the lower platform unharmed—and hit the ground running to boot. The cable vanished as he summoned a magical ward with his off-hand while his right reached to his back to grasp a leather-wrapped hilt. Two more ice spikes shattered against his ward as he kept running, a 42-inch longsword made of the finest Skyforge steel clearing its sheath with a metallic shing when he got within twelve paces of the fiend.
Lokil snarled and met his first strike with the strength one would expect from such an inhuman creature, nearly knocking Ketar’s sword from his hand. Anticipating this result, Ketar spun his body with the recoil, regaining his grip over the weapon and using his clockwise movement to make a twirling strike at Lokil’s neck. The vampire ducked with inhuman speed, thrusting under Ketar’s sword in an attempt to end the fight quickly. Ketar simply dropped his arms and the hilt of the sword, catching the thrust with the flat of his blade and shunting it downward. In the same movement, he transitioned into a stab aimed at the vampire’s heart, which was dodged with predictable ease.
Lokil twirled around him, the red tails of his armored robes flapping like a set of unholy wings as Ketar dive-rolled away to get some distance. He immediately rose to a crouch, tip of his blade pointed outward as he coiled up to leap in one direction or the other. The vampire’s glowing eyes bore holes in Ketar’s skull from across the darkness, said darkness deepening when Lokil motioned to the braziers at his left and right and snuffed them out with a burst of magic. An old familiar chill crept down Ketar’s spine as he peered into the pitch blackness, his own breathing entirely too loud in his ears as he focused on calming himself.
A small shuffle was heard from behind, prompting him to turn toward it partway, but whirl in the other direction when he felt more than heard a presence approach from that end. His sword swung twice rather wildly—high, low—before he withdrew toward one end of the bridge. The shuffling of his steps sounded like drumbeats in the near-silence of the crypt as his adjusting eyes scanned the darkness for movement. A whir of air at his left prompted him to swing in its direction, but that was soon proven a mistake, as he found himself crying out at a pain in his right side. He pointed the sword in that direction one-handed while his other hand pressed against a weeping wound where the pain had erupted.
Scored right between the straps…where the armor’s weakest. He bared his teeth in a grim smile. Smart.
Ketar took several deep breaths, closing his eyes to calm himself and enhance his hearing. Once again, he filled his lungs with air and felt his breast flare with power as he Spoke.
Slowly, so as not to arouse suspicion, Ketar turned counter-clockwise, his bloodstained hand joining the other on the hilt of his sword just as his vision filled with the red glow of his enemy’s existence. A malevolent smile turned his lips as he saw the aura shift locations—right, then left, and lunge forward, in a stab, no doubt. Putting his weight on the balls of his feet, Ketar rapidly sidestepped to his right and twirled counterclockwise in a deadly pirouette that snuffed the aura from existence in barely more than an instant. A satisfied grin spread over his features as he felt an overwhelming sense of relief overtake him. A few gestures with his bloodstained left hand were enough to relight the braziers and reveal the dusty remains of Lokil’s garb, as well as the remaining length of the bridge. Taking a deep breath, Ketar sheathed his sword and moved onward, right hand going to his side as his flesh rapidly knitted back together.
Upon reaching the far side of the bridge, Ketar stopped short and took a long look at the large circular space that greeted him. In the center was a small pedestal with a hollow button. Glimpsing no one else around with his eyes or the remainder of his Aura Whisper, the Breton pressed forward and looked the pedestal over. Seeing no other choice, he pressed his index against the stone button, frowning when it appeared stuck and using his entire hand to push it down, a fact he immediately regretted when a half-inch-wide spike pierced the appendage. He cried out in a sudden pain that vanished as soon as it came, his released blood running down into the edges of the pedestal and starting to glow with a violet hue.
Gingerly holding his injured hand, he looked around to see five arcs of violet magical energy flowing around the room. A quick glance revealed five unlit braziers, at which point Ketar’s shoulders and indeed his entire face slumped with a deadpan look.
Really? Those idiot vampires couldn’t figure this out? The guy at the entrance was right. Lokil was a fool.
A scant sixty seconds later, and the braziers were aligned with the magical arcs and lit with purple flames. Waiting for a few moments, Ketar began to wonder if there was more to the puzzle when suddenly, the floor quite literally dropped out from beneath him. Or, at least, that was what it felt like when the whole platform began lowering, turning the surrounding floor into a set of circular stairs that descended to a pentagonal stone monolith. On one side, there was a rectangular indent with a lever affixed to its center. Cautiously approaching, Ketar readied a lightning spell in his right hand while his left pulled the lever down. When the entire wall began to slide downward, he lunged backward, both hands channeling a powerful lightning bolt in readiness.
The spell faded moments later, his eyes widening when the eerie magical light of the braziers illuminated the form of a shorter, deathly pale Nord woman with the ornate garb of nobility and hair black as night.
With an Elder Scroll strapped to her back.
For a single fleeting moment, Ketar Dov believed he had discovered a very well-preserved—and protected—corpse. But then her tilted head straightened, her pale, delicate lips parted and took in a breath, and with a drowsy flutter, he found himself staring into twin manifestations of the soft glowing light of Magnus at sunset
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - Awake: getting dressed/sitting at the hearth