As it happened the chamber they had chosen in darkness the night before was open to an outdoor area at the top of the fortress. Katja and Anders found themselves snuggling together under the spread-out bedroll for warmth, and wishing for another one before morning. They woke to sunshine coming in through the door and the sound of birdsong in the woods around the canyon. She felt marvelously restored by the night’s rest, even if the bed had been far from soft; and her crotch throbbed as she ran her hands up her sleeping companion’s firm torso.
Anders stirred drowsily. Morning already? He wriggled closer to Kat, his nose buried in her hair, and planted a kiss on her ear. She raised her head to him and returned the kiss, but on his lips. It was light at first, but delivered with more concentration as he woke enough to respond. Then she slipped her tongue into his mouth, as she reached down between them to grasp his rising member. He cupped her face in his hands as he kissed her back.
Katja squeezed Anders’ cock rhythmically, and in moments it had gone from half-stiff to rock hard, the head plumping like a ripe plum. He transferred his hands from the sides of her head to her breasts, massaging them gently and thumbing the nipples to attention. She moaned, pulling away from the kiss to gasp a little. “Oh baby, yesss…” she murmured. They might have things to do and places to go this morning, but for once this thing took precedence over all others.
Mmm, she wanted to feel him inside her. But these stones, even padded with a double layer of bedrolls, were already starting to make her hip ache. What would they do to his knees? The morning sun had begun to take the chill off the room, and this far south it was never as cold, even, as in Whiterun. She threw the bedroll that was serving as a blanket off of them, and lay there just smiling lazily at him for a moment, taking in his tousled beauty. Since the first time she had set eyes on this man, the sight of him had filled her with desire and a quiet joy. Now that she loved him for what was inside as well as out, the effect was magnified.
With an effort Katja heaved herself up onto her feet, then took Anders’ hand and pulled him to stand facing her. She moved in close for a full-body hug, pinning his throbbing member between them. Then she stepped away a few paces, and said “C’mere, you.” She walked over to the nearest wall and leaned against it, planting her hands on it a couple of feet apart. She stood with legs apart and rump thrust out behind her, then looked over her shoulder and said invitingly, “Well, come on then…”
Even after all these months Anders never quite knew what to expect from Kat. Sometimes this was disconcerting, but usually it was a good thing – and this time he was quite pleased. He stepped close to her and caressed her hips and buttocks, then put two fingers in his mouth before inserting them into her cunt. It was nice and wet in there, so he took them back out and guided his cock into their place.
Oooh, yes! He began stroking in and out, slowly at first then faster and faster as she moaned and humped herself back to meet his thrusts. Both of them standing barefoot on the stone floor of the chamber was a little odd, but with no furniture in the room there was little choice and he didn’t like the thought of what kneeling on that floor would do to his knees. He grasped her hips, thumbs digging slightly into her firm buttocks, pulling her to him on each stroke. They both knew this was not the time or place for a prolonged session of lovemaking, so he let himself go.
The sensations as Ander’s big, hard cock slid back and forth inside her soon drove Katja over the edge. She loved getting it from behind, and as she began to come and her cunt clamped down on him, he abandoned any efforts at control and just pumped his seed into her with a low groan. They stood there, knees flexed slightly as he bent over her, panting and gasping, for a moment or two. Then he pulled out, and streams of creamy cum ran down the insides of her thighs.
“Toss me a towel, will you love?” Katja asked. He did so, and she got herself cleaned up a bit before walking over to give him another hug and kiss. “Let’s hope there’s a bed in our future,” she said ruefully. “I’d like to have another try at this soon.” He gave her a smile that was half a leer. Then they both started looking around for their armor.
The two appeared in the dining hall, fully dressed for travel and only a little bit rumpled, as other members of the Dawnguard crew were sitting down to a breakfast of sorts. There was bread aplenty along with butter and jam, some apples, and a pot of hot tea strong enough to peel paint. Expecting the possibility of another long day, they ate until sated and packed along some of the bread and apples for later.
Once again pulling out her map as soon as they’d exited the fortress’s front doors, Katja began checking for the markings she was sure would appear now that Isran had assigned them some new objectives. An arrow appeared just north of the river that Dragonsbridge was on, but far to the west of that small hamlet. The nearest fast-travel point was Dragontooth Crater, where she and Anders had recently killed a dragon.
Katja suspected this would provide them with the easiest travel to the point marked on the map for one of their quest targets, so she took them there. They arrived on a broad dirt road just a little before a squat stone tower, and immediately did an about-face and began walking down it, toward the river far below.
In the mile or so of trail between Dragonstooth and the river they were attacked twice, once by a particularly nasty humanoid creature all covered in gray skin, and again by a saber cat. After months in Skyrim Katja was becoming almost nonchalant about fighting off hostile wildlife. It was a given – if you were out walking around in Skyrim, things would come darting out of the bushes intent on killing you. And, presumably, eating you. With Anders or Wyll watching her back, though, they didn’t stand a chance. She now had a beautiful cloak she had made from the thick, creamy fur of a couple of snow cats who’d mistaken her for lunch.
Where the road came down to the water there was a goodly waterfall off to the west. But directly in front of them the water formed a shallow, quiet pool and they had no trouble wading across. Climbing a low hill on the far side, they abruptly came to an area of low-lying Dwemer ruins with one small tower rising above them. And standing in the midst of these was an attractive, youngish-looking woman with dark auburn hair in a page-boy cut, dressed in something similar to Imperial armor. This must be Sorine Jurard.
She seemed a bit distracted, and as Katja and Anders approached she was talking to herself. “Where can it have gone to? I know it was right here…” Turning to them, unsurprised at their appearance, she asked Katja “Do you think mudcrabs might’ve taken it? I saw one the other day… Wouldn’t be surprised if it followed me here.” Observing Katja’s look of perplexity she added, “My satchel. Just look around for it, will you?”
Dusk was coming on but there was still enough daylight for a search. Katja wanted to ingratiate herself with Sorine; so, mudcrabs having been mentioned, she backtracked to the riverbank and began looking along it. In moments her eyes seized on a brown leather satchel, and she scooped it up. She returned the few paces to Sorine and proffered it, receiving the woman’s thanks. And now to business!
As was often her way, Katja got right to the point: “Isran asked me to find you.”
Sorine looked disbelieving. “He did? No, you must be mistaken. He made it exceedingly clear the last time we spoke that he had no interest in my help. I find it hard to believe he’s changed his mind. He said some very hurtful things to me before I left.”
Katja wasn’t entirely surprised to hear this. Isran himself had hinted that there had been a rift between him and his former colleagues. She likely wasn’t the only person he’d rubbed the wrong way. “Anyway, I’m quite happy in my current pursuits. So if you’ll excuse me…” Sorine continued.
Katja needed a way to convince her to put aside her differences with the Dawnguard’s leader. “Vampires threaten all of Skyrim. We need your help,” she told the older woman.
“Vampires? Really?” came the sarcastic reply. “Oh, and I suppose he now remembers that I proposed no less than three different scenarios that involved vampires overrunning the population.” Sorine seemed to make an effort to stifle her resentment at this point, and continued “Well, what are they up to?”
“They have an elder scroll,” Katja told her.
Sorine was taken aback. “I… Well, that’s actually something I never would’ve anticipated. Interesting. I’m not sure what they would do with one, but in this case Isran is probably correct in thinking it isn’t good.” Exactly Katja’s assessment. She was one of probably only a handful of people in Skyrim who had some personal experience of the scrolls, and knew they had immense power. This argument seemed to have turned the trick for Sorine, as she now went on “All right. If nothing else, I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to learn more about what’s going on so I can better defend myself.”
“Now where is it Isran expects me to go?” Sorine asked.
“We’re meeting at Fort Dawnguard,” Katja replied.
Sorine smiled. “Ah. Been working more on his secret hideout, has he? It’ll be interesting to see how much progress he’s made. I’ll finish up here and head in that direction soon as I can. See you there.” Katja thanked her, and she and Anders walked a few paces away. The light was getting dim, and they had a hard time finding a second arrow on the map.
Anders, studying the map over her shoulder, suddenly stabbed a finger at it. Sure enough, an arrow was just visible almost superimposed on the marker for Bonechill Passage, a spot they had visited in the past. It was far to the south of the province, some distance east of Falkreath and not that far from the road to Riverwood.
Well that was convenient. After yesterday’s (or was it the past two days?) marathon quests, Katja had been afraid they’d be out searching for Isran’s two old compatriots for weeks, no doubt without meals or beds in the interim. Instead, it had only been a few hours since breakfast and they’d already gotten Sorine to agree to join the Dawnguard. And now this other, the mysterious man called Gunmar, might be found a few seconds away by fast-travel.
However, when the snowy slope leading to Bonechill Passage appeared around them, there was no sign of Gunmar. They entered an ice cavern, and picked their way along its slippery passages with care. There was little sign of life, certainly no oversized Nords to be seen. Then ahead, Katja heard the unmistakable peevish growling of a bear, warning them away.
Her attitude toward bears was not like Temba Wide-Arm’s. That Ivarstead sawmill owner would as soon have seen them wiped from the face of Skyrim, and had paid Katja to deliver ten of their pelts to her in recent months. But Katja usually preferred to live and let live, at least with what few specimens of the province’s wildlife as did not attack her on sight.
However, in this case, the bear was blocking their passage through the cave. They needed to find Gunmar. So Katja switched to the bow with the Soul Trap enchantment, and took it down with a couple of arrow shots. As the enchantment captured the beast’s soul, filling a Common soul gem, there was a swirling purple mist and a sound like a thunderclap. Katja took its hide and claws, then they continued through to the far side of the passage and out onto the snowy mountaintop once more.
“That’s odd,” she remarked to Anders. “I didn’t see any signs of Gunmar, did you?”
“No bloody bones, at least” he replied. Katja shuddered a bit at the thought. But Gunmar was supposed to be “good with animals,” wasn’t he? He wouldn’t likely end up in a bear’s belly. The map was now showing that same arrow, but behind them; so they reversed their steps and went back through the icy passageway to the spot where they had come in.
Aha! Coming up the steps ahead of them, heading for the passage’s entrance, was a hulking Nord who could only be Gunmar. He was dressed in furs and scaled armor, and carrying a large sword – and he did not look happy. “I’ve been tracking that bear for three days, and now you’ve killed it!” he accused.
“Sorry, it was attacking us,” Katja replied. That was more or less technically the truth. “Are you Gunmar?” she continued. He nodded, looking puzzled.
“We’ve been looking for you,” she told him. “Isran needs your help.”
“Isran?” the man replied, snorting. “Needing someone else’s help? Never thought I’d hear that.” He went on, “I’m afraid he’s a few years too late. I’ve moved on. I have more important business to attend to. Besides, he can handle anything alone! He assured me so himself. What could he possibly need my help with?”
Oof, Katja thought. Our Isran is quite the piece of work. Is there anybody he’s been associated with that he hasn’t antagonized? Praying there might be a hope of salvaging the situation, she told Gunmar “We’re up against vampires.”
“Vampires?” Gunmar replied. “That… well, that might change things. Tell me more about what’s going on.”
Breathing a silent sigh of relief, Katja went on. “We’re not sure what they’re up to, but they have an elder scroll.”
“By the Eight,” came the reply. “All right. I’ll hear out Isran, see if there’s anything I can do to help. So, where can I find him?” She couldn’t help smiling. For a moment there, her quest had seemed hopeless.
“Isran’s at Fort Dawnguard,” she told Gunmar.
A quirking smile played across Gunmar’s bearded lips. “He’s been working on that place for years now. Never lets anyone in… His own little fortress. Well, I guess I’ll get to see what he’s been up to all this time.”
Katja told him, “We’re going back there now. Do you want to come along?”
Gunmar considered. “I suppose I’m done here for the time being. That bear’s not a project any longer. All right, let’s go.”
Once again the map dropped them off in Coldspring Canyon a goodly distance from the entrance to Fort Dawnguard. This time, though, it was broad daylight and there were no vampires attacking. The stroll around to the front steps was almost pleasant. As Katja, Anders, and Gunmar entered the front hall, however, they found Sorine there – and a steel grate rising up out of the floor, barring their passage to the rest of the fortress.
On the circular stone balcony above them, Isran stood. “Hold it right there,” he commanded.
“What are you doing?” Sorine cried, puzzled that they would be rebuffed after being begged to come.
“I’m making sure you’re not vampires,” Isran replied. “Can’t be too careful.” Brilliant light flashed, but none of the people in the hall reacted as vampires would. Isran was now convinced. “So,” he said. “Welcome to Fort Dawnguard.”
Still addressing them from his lofty perch, he continued “I’m sure you’ve heard a bit of what we’re up against. Powerful vampires, unlike anything we’ve seen before. And they have an elder scroll. If anyone is going to stand in their way, it’s going to be us.”
Sorine’s patience was at an end, and she spoke up. “This is all well and good, but do we actually know anything about what they’re doing? What do we do now?”
“We’ll get to that,” Isran responded. “For now, get acquainted with the space. Sorine, you’ll find room to start your tinkering on that crossbow design you’ve been working on. And Gunmar, there’s an area large enough for you to pen up some trolls, get them armored up and ready for use.” Turning his attention to Katja then, he continued in malicious tones “In the meantime, we’re going to get to the bottom of why a vampire showed up here looking for you. Let’s go have a little chat with it, shall we?”
Ulp. With a brief nod to her new comrades, Katja beckoned Anders to follow her and went off through the doorway on her right, now unobstructed. She found a stairway up to the next level and soon met Isran on the balcony, then followed him as he led the way to a chamber on the second floor. Just in the short time she and Anders had been away, the place seemed to be filling up with furniture.
And not very nice furniture, at that. The chamber Isran led them to was decorated with animal skulls and unpleasant-looking rusty steel implements. A torture rack occupied one corner, and blood spattered the floor. Standing there awaiting them was… Serana! Katja had thought they might never see her again. Even if she was on their side, her father had not seemed like someone you could easily evade. And, she was still carrying the elder scroll!
Having brought them here, Isran stood there radiating hatred and mistrust. “So let’s hear it,” he demanded.
Taking her cue, Serana said “You probably weren’t expecting to see me again.”
“What are you doing here?” Katja asked her. She was still not convinced she could trust the vampire woman.
“I’d rather not be here either,” Serana explained, “but I needed to talk to you. It’s important, so please just listen before your friend, here, loses his patience.”
You’re as much my friend as he is, Katja thought. She didn’t like Isran and didn’t trust Serana, so it was kind of a toss-up. Serana continued, “It’s… well, it’s about me. And the elder scroll that was buried with me.”
“What about you?” Katja prompted. Serana seemed to be having a hard time finding the right words to express herself.
“The reason I was down there…” she went on. “And why I had the elder scroll.” After a pause to gather her thoughts, Serana continued “It all comes down to my father. I’m guessing you figured this part out already, but my father’s not exactly a good person. Even by vampire standards. He wasn’t always like that, though. There was… a turn. He stumbled onto this obscure prophecy and just kind of lost himself in it.”
“What do you mean… ‘lost himself’?” Katja interjected.
“He just became absorbed… obsessed,” Serana replied. “It was kind of sick, actually. The prophecy said that vampires would no longer need to fear the sun. For someone who fancied himself as vampire royalty, that’s pretty seductive. Anyway, my mother and I didn’t feel like inviting a war with all of Tamriel, so we tried to stop him. That’s why I was sealed away with the scroll.”
Katja interrupted her once again. “What’s all this have to do with the Dawnguard?” she asked.
“I’m sorry,” Serana responded with an edge of sarcasm in her voice, “I had heard there were vampire hunters here. I thought they might want to know about a vampire plot to enslave the rest of the world. Was I wrong?”
“No, you’re right,” Katja replied apologetically. “We just have to convince the others that you’re on our side.” Slim chance of that with Isran, she thought. That guy was so obsessed with his hatred of vampires that he would not even admit they were, at base, human.
“Well, let’s move then,” said Serana. “I’m nothing if not persuasive.”
Isran had been standing there with his arms crossed throughout the conversation, and he now spoke. “All right, you’ve heard what it has to say. Now tell me, is there any reason I shouldn’t kill this bloodsucking fiend right now?”
Katja gave him a look. She hoped it possibly conveyed some of her disgust at the way in which his rabid prejudices were clouding his judgment. “Because we’re going to need her help,” she told him.
It rolled off him like lava off a dragon’s back. “Why, because of that story about the prophecy? About some vampire trying to put the sun out? Do you actually believe any of that?” He hadn’t been there at Castle Volkihar, had not seen the eagerness with which Lord Harkon and his minions had greeted the recovery of the scroll.
Katja tried to point out the obvious to him. “Why else would she risk her life to come here?” she asked.
Isran was unmoved. “Who knows,” he said, shrugging off her arguments, “maybe it has a death wish. Maybe it’s just insane. I don’t really care. It can stay for now, but if it so much as lays a finger on anyone here, I’ll hold you responsible. Got it?”
Turning to Serana, he reiterated “You hear me? Don’t feel like a guest, because you’re not. You’re a resource. You’re an asset. In the meantime, don’t make me regret my sudden outburst of tolerance and generosity, because if you do, your friend here is going to pay for it.” Katja fumed. I could have you for lunch, motherfucker, she thought. Don’t be making threats to me.
Serana’s response to this was in a similar vein, but more subtly phrased. “Thank you for your kindness,” she replied sweetly. “I’ll remember it the next time I’m feeling hungry.” Ouch, Katja thought. Despite her anger at Isran she kind of wished Serana would not rattle his cage. Isran didn’t rise to the bait though.
Serana addressed her now, saying “So, in case you didn’t notice the giant thing on my back, I have the elder scroll with me. Whatever it says, it will have something that can help us stop my father. But of course, neither of us can read it.”
“Who can?” Katja asked her. Serana seemed to be more up on the subject than she was herself.
“Well, the Moth Priests are the only ones I’ve heard of who can do it. They spend years preparing before they can start reading, though. Not that it helps us anyway, because they’re all half a continent away in Cyrodiil.”
“Aren’t there any in Skyrim?” Katja responded.
Isran broke in: “Some Imperial scholar arrived in Skyrim a few days ago. I was staking out the road when I saw him pass by. Maybe that’s your Moth Priest.”
“Do you know where he’s staying now?” Serana asked him.
“No, and I’m not going to waste men looking,” Isran came back. “We’re fighting a war against your kind, and I intend to win it. You want to find him, try talking to anyone who’d meet a traveler. Innkeepers and carriage drivers in big cities, maybe. But you’re on your own.” He walked out of the room.
Turning to Katja once again, Serana asked “Any idea how you’re going to find a Moth Priest? Skyrim’s a pretty big place.”