Return to Fort Dawnguard
After the usual few moments of disorienting darkness, Anders and Serana found Fort Dawnguard shimmering into existence before them, their feet planted on the dirt path leading to the front steps. It worked! He found himself exulting at the realization. Despite all his calm and rational assessments, a tiny part of his mind had whispered that it might not work at all – or would go horribly wrong. From the darkness surrounding them, he thought it was likely the middle of the night. But which night?
Fort Dawnguard was still further to the east from their embarkation point than Riften, and Kat had said the trip to Riften took 12 hours. It was reasonable to suppose that, as they had left from in front of the Luxury Suite at around 9:30 in the morning of the 4th, it would now be late on that same day or possibly early in the morning on the 5th. That was assuming, of course, that their belief in some logical correlation between actual geographical distances and the “real time” taken up by fast-travelling was not completely wrong.
The problem fascinated Anders, now that it had been brought to his attention. He’d always brushed it aside in the past, having only begun to use a magic map after he became embroiled with Kat and her destiny as The Dragonborn. They’d been running all over Skyrim as fast as they could, with the time and date of their arrival of little concern compared with what they had to do when they got there.
So, Serana following, he eagerly led the way up to the doors of the fortress. They needed to get inside as quickly as possible and find someone with access to the time and date. Though he wondered who that was likely to be, if it were truly as late as he feared. Indeed, they found the broad circular entrance hall empty. Taking a passageway to the left, Anders led the way toward the Dawnguard’s dining hall.
For the most part, the place was deserted. Everyone must have gone to bed. But sitting in the dining hall they found Agmaer, the young Nord Anders and Katja had met when they first arrived here. The farm boy. Seated a little ways down the long table from him was an unfamiliar-looking Redguard man of middle years, spare of frame with a thin beard and mustache and a slightly unbalanced look in his eyes.
Anders greeted Agmaer, who seemed a little surprised to see him here without Kat. The young man glanced at Anders’ companion, his eyes sliding past her. Then he did a double take. “Hello, Anders,” he said, then “Serana?!” Serana smiled sweetly at him, and gave a slight curtsy. “You’re..” the youth sputtered, “you’re… not a v…?” The (much) older woman stepped in to spare him any further embarrassment.
“I’ve been cured, Agmaer. I’m as alive and as mortal as you are, now.” She held his gaze with her limpid blue eyes and he seemed to shudder a little. He’d always thought her exotic and attractive, but like most of the other women here she was too much older than him and generally out of his league. Now she was different, more vibrant and less scary – but still, completely out of his league. He sighed softly.
Serana smiled at him. He was young and healthy and not bad looking, but there were limits. There wasn’t a man living in Skyrim she could hook up with and escape the charge of robbing the cradle; but it made sense for her to seek men who had a few years on them, at least. Anders asked Agmaer if he know what time it was, but got no joy. Turning to the other man, he said, “I’m Anders Lanya. My fiancée Katja and I were involved in the Castle Volkihar campaign but we’ve been away from the Dawnguard for a while. This is Serana, the late Lord Volkihar’s daughter. She’s now been cured of vampirism and is here to help.”
The Redguard smiled at him. “Of course,” he said. “Stendarr told me you would be coming. Pleased to meet you, Serana,” he added, turning from Anders to his female companion. “I am Florentius Baenius, an old associate of Isran’s. He’s invited me back to add my efforts to the cause. Of course,” he added with a slightly mad smile, “I only agreed to join because Stendarr told me that it would be for the best.”
Okayyyy, Anders thought. The fellow looked sane enough, for the most part. No one in Skyrim questioned the reality of the Divines; but likewise, few people expected to have those Divines whispering in their ears. “Um… Good to meet you, Florentius,” he said somewhat belatedly. “Would you by any chance happen to know the time and date?”
Florentius looked a little nonplussed. “I can’t say I’ve been paying attention,” he began. Then, abruptly he said “Oh yes, all right. I’ll tell him. Stendarr says that the time is 1 in the morning on the 5th of Morning Star.”
So, a little over fifteen hours lost. That sounded about right. But how…? “Thank Stendarr for the information,” Anders told the former Vigilant. “Well,” he went on, “I really came here to drop Serana off and consult with Sorine. I suppose she’s gone to bed already?”
“Hours ago,” Agmaer confirmed. “She spends most of her days at the forge, translating ancient Dwemer designs into weapons we can use in our campaign. But she’s an early riser. She’ll probably be up in another five hours, if you want to wait. Me, I was just about to hit the sack. You’re welcome to a cot, if you’d prefer.”
Anders considered. His mind was telling him it had not been three hours since he rose from a good night’s sleep, wrapped in Kat’s arms. His body seemed to be trying to convince him it was 1 in the morning and high time he was abed. He decided to accept the latter set of information, since he didn’t really know what he would do to pass the time until Sorine was up and about in any case. “I’ll take you up on that cot,” he told the young Nord. “What about you, Serana?”
“I feel as if I could use a nap too,” she said, yawning. The pair followed Agmaer as he led them down the hall.
The large room Anders and Katja had seen empty on their first visit to the fortress had now been outfitted as a barracks, with many cots scattered here and there. Thanking Agmaer, Anders dropped his pack beside the cot he’d been offered and peeled off his armor, sliding onto the taught leather and pulling the thin blanket up to cover himself. In surprisingly little time, he found himself dropping off to sleep.
In the morning Anders woke as those around him began to stir. He’d had more like a refreshing nap than a night’s sleep, which seemed appropriate under the circumstances. He spotted Sorine already getting into her leathers, and hurried to put his armor back on. She’d left the room by the time he finished (while Serana, he noticed, slumbered on), but he found her again in the dining hall, drinking tea. “Anders!” she said cheerfully, “I thought I spotted you. Where’s Katja?”
Anders gave her a winning smile. “Good morning, Sorine. Katja’s back in Whiterun, making arrangements for our wedding.” The Breton woman’s eyebrows raised at this news. “You and she are getting married, huh? Congratulations.”
His smiled deepened as he corrected her: “Kat and I and Wyll are getting married… It’s a long story, but apparently we have the approval of the Divines. We’re all standing up together at the Temple of the Divines in Solitude next month.”
Sorine seemed a little taken aback by Anders’ statement, but in a moment recalled her manners. “Well, I wish you three all the best,” she said. “What you did has gone a long way toward making Skyrim safe from vampires.”
He grinned, having more startling news to share. “Wait’ll you to talk with Serana! I brought her back with me last night and she’s still sleeping, but she’s taken the cure. She’s no longer a vampire!” Sorine’s eyes widened even more and she sat there, momentarily at a loss for words.
Finally she blurted, “Anders! That is wonderful news! Oh, I do like Serana. I’m so glad she decided to live again.” She took another sip of her tea, considering the ramifications. In another moment she added, “I can’t wait until Isran finds out. That ought to set him back on his heels. He was so hostile when she first came to us, but everything she said she would do she did without flinching, even helping to bring down her own family. I think he’s been feeling bad about some of the things he said to her. And now, he won’t even have vampirism to hold against her.”
Sorine’s bright and active mind, similar in bent to Katja’s or Anders’ own, continued to work as she took a bite of the bread and cheese set before her and washed it down with another swallow of hot tea. “Oh!” she burst out suddenly, “Serana can be a sort of missionary for us! We won’t necessarily have to slaughter every vampire we meet, not if she can talk some of them into taking the cure as she did. We might even wipe out vampirism in Skyrim, between curing the ones who are willing and killing the ones who aren’t.”
Anders smiled, and helped himself to some bread and cheese from a plate on the table, also finding a mug of tea. Many of the thoughts Sorine was having had also passed through his head, since Serana’s return. When Sorine had run down and his mouth was no longer full, he said “Sorine, bringing Serana here is only part of the reason I came. I need to consult with you about Dwemer mechanisms.” Sorine’s face lit with instant enthusiasm at this news. She was used to being regarded as something of a nutcase, since her fascination with the Dwemer and their technology was not universal.
After the two had finished eating their breakfasts, Anders explained in detail what he needed from Sorine. “The Luxury Suite, where I’ve lived for the past couple of years, has a large hot bathing pool set into the floor in the central common room. It’s kept at a uniform temperature, the water level stays at the same height, and the water is always sparkling clean no matter how many people are bathing in there. And believe me, some of them really needed a bath.”
Sorine looked intrigued. There was many a time she’d like a nice hot bath herself, but here in Skyrim such things were rare. Unless you lived in an area with hot springs, hot baths involved kettles and washtubs, and a lot of prep time. Anders went on, “That’s all being taken care of by an installation of Dwemer machinery in the basement down below the pool. I’ve been down there and looked at it a couple of times, and it’s just spinning away there on its own the same as the ancient machinery in a dozen Dwemer ruins I’ve visited. But I have no idea how it works.”
“And you’re just curious?” Sorine asked, prompting Anders for more details.
“Wyll and I are preparing a surprise for Kat, for after the wedding,” he explained. “We don’t want to live at the Suite – there’s no privacy to speak of. And it’s not the kind of place for raising children, either. But we want to stay close to the area, and as there no suitable places on the market we bought an old farm nearby and are doing a massive remodel of the house. Kat doesn’t know anything about this.”
Sorine’s eyes were twinkling with amusement, now. How romantic! Her happiness for her three fellow Dawnguard members was only slightly shadowed by the wistful thought that it had been a long time since there’d been any romance in her life. She had her work, and it occupied most of her attention. But just occasionally, a little loving would be nice. Maybe it was time for her to start looking around a bit.
“So, we’re trying to make sure the house has every creature comfort,” Anders continued. “I designed the water and sewer systems, sort of, but we want to have water coming down by pipes from the cistern running hot in the kitchen when we need it to, and a good-sized tub or small pool in the bathroom that’s kept hot and clean just like at the Suite. And I’m completely stumped on how to do that. I’m hoping maybe you know what sort of Dwemer technology is being used, and how we can adapt it to our new home.”
Sorine smiled broadly at him, excited. Applying her large fund of specialized knowledge to a challenging project on behalf of friends sounded like exactly the sort of thing she needed to shake up her routine. In the weeks since the Dawnguard had brought down Lord Harkon, she’d been spending almost all of her time either at the forge, making enhanced crossbows and experimenting with different types of bolts; or researching ancient texts, looking for clues as to the whereabouts of more Dwemer technology to borrow or adapt.
“I’d be delighted to help you, Anders!” she said. “I’m going to have to look at the machinery in the Luxury Suite basement, of course, before I know exactly what we’re dealing with; but I have a few ideas. It’ll take me awhile to gather up everything I want to take with me. Are we going to fast-travel?”
Anders nodded, saying “Kat lent me her map for the trip down here. It took us just about 15 hours to get here, so if we can leave by 2 or 3 three this afternoon we’ll get to the Suite at a decent hour tomorrow morning. I promised Kat I’d get the map back to her pretty soon, as she has some more wedding errands to run. It’s not just us who are getting married. Kat’s housecarls Argis and Lydia are tying the knot over in Riften in another couple of weeks.”
That settled, the two parted ways. Sorine scurried off to discuss her plans with Gunmar and Isran, to show Gunmar how to make the crossbows she was working on now, and to gather not only a supply of clothing and weapons for herself, but a collection of tools and Dwemer devices she thought might be helpful. She also brought along a couple of her ancient tomes, in case one of them might point the way to something she didn’t realize she needed until after she’d been to the Suite.
For his part, Anders was at loose ends. He got his pack ready to go, then wandered around chatting with various Dawnguard members. There were now quite a few of them. Walking through an anteroom, he came upon Isran in conversation with Serana. The handsome if stern and aged Redguard seemed rapt, looking intently into her no-longer-glowing eyes. Serana seemed to be emitting a sort of come-hither vibe. Surely she could not be trying to seduce Isran, after all the viciously unkind things he had said about her in the past?
Walking on without interrupting their conversation, Anders wondered: did any of the purported vampire powers persist after the cure? Clearly her eyes now appeared normal and she was not bothered by sunlight, seemed to revel in it in fact. But might she still possess physical strength greater than normal, or have the power to “glamour” men into doing her bidding? Come to think of it, he’d seen little sign of that last power back when Serana was still undead. If she’d had it, she would surely have used it to dial down Isran’s hostility. He’d been damn close to killing her on the spot.
Anders climbed the stairs past the room where he and Kat had had their exciting liaison some weeks ago, to walk out on the parapet and admire the view. The castle’s setting was a pretty one, certainly. Back downstairs, he visited the troll pens, went down to the archery butts for some crossbow practice, and walked around the outer walls. Then, feeling peckish, he went back inside and found Sorine eating lunch.
Somebody had put on a pot of stew, and Anders helped himself to a bowl of it. As at breakfast, a platter of bread rolls sat on the table for all to share. Between mouthfuls, Anders asked Sorine “How’s it going?” Though not leaving until 3 was his own suggestion, and it made the most sense, he couldn’t help being anxious to go. Work on the house was proceeding with lightning speed, and he and Wyll needed to present Hegmar with their “hot water system” before it got too far along. Other concerns niggled at him too. He hadn’t felt half as anxious preparing to go up against the World-Eater as he did now, contemplating their wedding.
Sorine smiled at him, sensing some of what was bothering him. She was anxious too, could hardly wait to see this marvelous hot water device; but it made no sense for them to arrive in the middle of the night, and plenty of sense to make sure she’d brought along everything she could think of that might help their project. After all, as the shortest possible distance between Fort Dawnguard and this Luxury Suite Anders was taking her to was a 30-hour round trip, it paid to double-check.
“I’m well along in my preparations,” Sorine assured Anders. “I wish I had more Dwarven ingots, though. It’s hard to get supplies out here.”
“No worries there,” he replied. “We keep a well-stocked crafting shop in the Suite’s basement. There’s usually a couple of dozen of every kind of ingot, and almost anything else you could want.” Really? She thought. This Suite sounded more and more like it was worth a visit. She’d chatted briefly with Serana during the later part of the morning and she seemed to think it was the best inn in Skyrim. Maybe on the whole continent of Tamriel, even.
After lunch, Sorine went back to gathering her supplies and Anders wandered into the living areas upstairs, where he found a small library. He was soon engrossed in a book on the Dwemer he hadn’t seen before, and sat reading for hours. When he finally came up for air, he sensed that it must be getting close to time to leave. Reluctantly, he re-shelved the book and went downstairs looking for Sorine.
As he walked toward the stairs, he encountered Serana and Isran coming out of Isran’s chambers. She looked like the cat that had gotten the cream, and he looked… bemused. His usual stern and intense demeanor had been replaced with an expression of mildly surprised pleasure. Anders felt a bit poleaxed himself. What was that woman up to? He supposed she might be feeling some urges, and she’d gotten that amulet from Kat; but why pick the cranky old Redguard when there were all these friendly young men around? Well, far be it from him to judge the love lives of others…