The Dragonborn Hunts

Lord Harkon’s Bane

All right, then. Having had some experience with these things before, Katja was not surprised, when the four of them had materialized on the stony ground before the entrance to Castle Volkihar, to find that the rest of the Dawnguard was there before them. Weather conditions were superb for this far-northern island, white and gray cumulonimbus clouds with patches of blue showing, and not a trace of precipitation.

“Looks like a nice day to storm the castle,” Katja remarked. It appeared everyone was waiting on her lead, so with high-powered bow drawn, she walked stealthily up the stone bridge leading to the castle’s front door. As she did so, the rest fell in with Wyll, Anders, and Serana behind her and she was struck by how absurd this seemed. In these conditions, they were as likely to escape notice if they came in with destruction spells blazing.

She had barely gotten level with the first pair of crouching gargoyles when the one at her right came to life with the sound of shattering stone. She sank an arrow into it at close range, but these things were hard to kill. Further up the bridge, the leftmost of a second pair of gargoyles came to life as well – and suddenly a full-scale battle had broken out. Several vampire minions had joined the fight and all of the Dawnguard were in the melee. This sort of fight wasn’t a good fit for Katja’s ranged attacks – it could be difficult to tell friend from foe unless you were right up in their faces with a sword or mace.

Choosing her targets carefully, Katja aimed her bow and assisted in the takedown of the second gargoyle and a couple of the vampires without managing to shoot any of her allies. Wyll and Anders, at least, were mindful of her and her lines of sight; but she hadn’t given the rest of the team that lecture. And, she realized, when you’re going at it hammer and tongs with a deadly opponent, you don’t really have leisure to consider whether one of your allies is trying to get in a shot.

After a few loud, chaotic moments silence reigned again. The sun shone, a few seabirds wheeled overhead, and on the stones of the bridge lay three or four dead vampires and two piles of rubble that had formerly been gargoyles. Katja felt both surprised and relieved to realize that her forces had taken no casualties. She approached the front doors and pushed them open, only to be swarmed over as her entire party rushed into the hall. Serana stood on the balcony ahead of her using a bow on enemies below, while everyone else had galloped down the stairs into the dining hall.

From the balcony Katja was having trouble telling friend from foe, so she ran down into the dining hall as well and used her bow to end several contests that were going on. They even had one of Gunmar’s battle trolls with them, and she kept having to pull her shot whenever she instinctively zeroed in on it as a target. There were half a dozen vampires in this part of the castle, all of them fighting desperately against the invaders; but Lord Harkon was not to be seen.

When the battle had ended, no more than a minute or two after the Dawnguard had stormed the dining hall, Katja began searching the area. There were several rooms leading off the hall, and as she entered one with some crafting tables in it she heard a muffled voice saying, “Is someone there? I thought I heard…” Not all the vampires had been at supper, apparently. Followed by Wyll and Anders, she tracked the sound of the voice to a closed room.

Flinging open the door Katja stepped inside, and was immediately attacked by a red-armored vampire. She hurled him across the room with a Shout, then put a couple of arrows into him for good measure before Anders and Wyll rushed in to finish him with blades. That seemed to be the last of Harkon’s people, though if they searched the rest of the castle they might find more. Of more pressing concern, however, was the whereabouts of the lord of the manor.

Rounding a couple of staircases, Katja found Isran standing before an iron grate. He seemed to be fired up by the fight to the point where all he could do was shout slogans. She spotted an iron ring on a chain and pulled it, which caused the gate to rise. Then she and Serana, followed by Anders and Wyll, continued up a staircase to a wooden door. “This is the family chapel,” Serana told her. “My father may well have taken refuge in here.”

Katja pushed the door open carefully and stepped inside, Serana right beside her. As they beheld Lord Harkon before them in his Vampire Lord form, the doors suddenly slammed behind them and her men were locked out. She could barely hear them, pounding on the thick wood and crying out to her, as the grotesque and demonic-looking Harkon addressed his daughter.

“Serana, my darling. I see you still favor keeping a pet.” This pet will bite your hand off, Katja thought irritably. The guy was, well, scary as hell. But he pissed her off so much that she completely forgot to cower in fear. He richly deserved everything that was coming to him. Though obviously he was aware of her presence, she guessed that (given his attitudes) Harkon might dismiss her as a threat. So she made herself meek and mouse-like, creeping up onto the balcony to her right where she could listen and watch – and be ready to shoot.

Harkon was now saying, “You disappoint me, Serana. You’ve taken everything I provided for you and thrown it all away for this… pathetic being.” Serana shrugged that off, confronting her father for what might be the first time.

“You’ve destroyed our family,” she told him. “You’ve killed other vampires. All over some prophecy that we barely understand. No more. I’m done with you. You will not touch her.” Katja felt a little thrill at this. Serana was defending her! Not that she necessarily needed it, but it still gave her a warm feeling.

Harkon remained scornful. “So, I see this dragon has fangs,” he said. “Your voice drips with the venom of your mother’s influence. How alike you’ve become.”

“No,” Serana replied with equal contempt. “Because unlike her, I’m not afraid of you. Not anymore.” To Katja it appeared that Harkon was ignoring her as he focused on his daughter. So as Serana made ready to attack, she shot an arrow from her enchanted bow straight into Harkon’s neck.

It burst into flame, and the Vampire Lord staggered. “You!” he cried, then swirled into a black mist and fled toward the rear of the room. Katja ran down the stairs, switching over to Auriel’s Bow and the Sun-hallowed arrows. She had only a handful of these, and had been saving them. But this seemed to be the moment. Once more in his demonic form Harkon was floating in air above a sort of altar, wreathed in a red light. Would Auriel’s Bow penetrate whatever force was surrounding him?

She aimed and struck, and scintillating light scattered throughout the room as the field surrounding Lord Harkon vanished and he was pierced with a fiery bolt, sagging to the dais below the altar. Hah, got you! Katja thought, and fired another arrow into him. He seemed to dissolve before her eyes, collapsing into a red ruin on the floor. At this same moment, a squad of skeletal guardians of the type they’d encountered when searching for Valerica’s lab materialized seemingly out of nowhere to attack them, and just then the doors to the chapel splintered under a blow from Wyll’s axe and her two champions burst in, ready to do battle with whatever foes she might face.

Katja left the skeletons to her worthy assistants for a moment as she switched to her other bow and regular arrows. Juggling all these different weapons could be a headache in the middle of a battle. By the time she was ready to shoot again, she found only scattered bones to oppose her. Isran strode into the room behind Wyll and Anders, as Katja bent to examine Harkon’s gory remains.

“Well, now that’s done,” he said, grim satisfaction in his voice. He seemed relieved that their trust in Serana had not been misplaced.

“What will you do now?” Katja asked Serana.

“I’m not sure,” she replied. “I think I’ll stay with the Dawnguard for now. They’re respectable fighters, and I think they see the benefits of having a vampire on their side, now.” She thought a moment. “Of course, if you’ve got any more adventures planned…”

Katja smiled at her. Despite their hugely disparate backgrounds, she and Serana had a few things in common and one was the love of discovering new places and vanquishing new foes. “I’d love to have you along,” she said, though there were some exciting but not particularly adventurous items on her to-do list for the next few weeks.

“That’s what I wanted to hear,” Serana replied.

Isran had appeared to be lost in his own thoughts while the two women were talking, but now he spoke: “It’s over. He’s dead, and the prophecy dies with him.” He turned to Serana, seeming to regard her as human for possibly the first time since they’d met. “I… I suppose this is difficult for you,” he said haltingly.”

As if trying to put him at his ease Serana replied, “I think my father really died a long time ago. This was just… the end of something else. I did what needed to be done. Nothing more.”

The grim Dawnguard leader considered this for a moment, then said “I think perhaps… I think you did more than that. You have my thanks.” Serana nodded to him in acknowledgement. The two of them had come a long way together. Now turning to Katja, Isran said “So, the beast is destroyed. Not only that, but Auriel’s Bow is in safe hands. The Dawnguard will now be dedicated to safeguarding it, making sure that prophecy will never come to pass. You’ve served Skyrim well.”

“I had a lot of help,” she responded. Anders especially deserved some of the credit, even if she had been the leader in their enterprise.

Isran continued, “Even with these vampires gone, the fight isn’t completely over. Once we’re settled back in at the fort, there will be more work to do. We’d be honored to have you join us.”

“Thank you,” Katja said solemnly. “I have quite a bit of personal business to deal with at the moment, but my friends Anders and Wyll here may come by to lend a hand. If anything urgent comes up, you can reach us at the Luxury Suite near Whiterun.” She handed him Auriel’s Bow. “Guard it well. This thing has the capacity to defeat vampires or help them to extinguish the sun.”

Taking the bow, Isran inclined his head in thanks. They all walked back out of the chapel and made their way back to the dining hall, now strewn with the bodies of vampires and death hounds. An idea was percolating in Katja’s mind, and she turned to Serana to ask, “Have you ever thought of getting cured of vampirism?”

Serana looked surprised. “No… why?”

“Look what it did to your family,” Katja pointed out.

Serana replied “Even before that, we weren’t the most normal family. We did worship a Daedra, remember?”

Squeezing Serana’s hand, Katja told her “If you want to cure yourself, I’ll support you.” Even immortality and eternal youth could be a curse. The joys of life were magnified when you were mortal, and life was precious and fleeting.

Serana seemed to consider her offer. “I’ll speak to Falion,” she said. “I’ve heard he knows about these things.” Thinking a little more, she continued “I’m going to go away for a while. I’ll meet you back home when I’m done.”

“I want to come with you,” Katja told her. “I know you do,” came the reply, “but this is something I need to do alone. I’ll see you again. Soon.” With that, she took her leave.

37

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