Prologue: Volkihar

 
Previously: Dramatis Personae

The last mainland vampire died at Viktoriyah's hand; she plunged an polished ebony dagger into the intruder's chest. It was enchanted, of course, designed to burn its victims. Some might say her favored weapon was rather ironic, but at the end of the day, it was one of the best weapons against vapires.

The mainlander was a Nord, skin pale as snow, her long hair blindingly white. She died gasping, choking on her own blood, red as her eyes. But she lived long enough to utter her last words.

"We are not done," she bit out, bloody fangs gleaming in the light of the sconces. "There will be more."

"And we'll kill them just the same," Viktoriyah assured her calmly, reaching down to pull her dagger back out. Despite being a Redguard, she'd been using a polished Altmeri accent for the last century. Even as she spoke, the castle thralls were already moving to collect the bodies of the undead invaders. They would all be beheaded and then burned to ash...just in case.

"You don't understand," the dying vampire chucked painfully. "We...are legion."

"And we," Viktoriyah gazed upon her blade, glinting with blood, "are Volkihar." 

***


***


Lady Valerica was a stickler for cleanliness. Despite the castle being breached by over a dozen vampires, her biggest concern was the state of the great hall. There were corpses strewn across the ancient stone floor, blood soaking into the rugs, and of course...there was the stench.

"These half-breeds from the mainland all smell the same," she scowled, looking about herself.

"Cave, crypt, and sewer," Viktoriyah nodded perfunctorily, as she wiped off her beloved ebony dagger and slid it back into its holster.

"We'll have to root the rest of them out," Lord Harkon wearily sighed. He and his wife were not a loving couple and only spent time together during feasts in the great hall. Now that this one was ruined, they'd have to do it all over again. "We can obviously hold our own against them, but the last thing we need is another 'incident' like Northwatch Keep."

Valerica nodded in agreement, a rarity in itself. "At this rate, all of Skyrim will rise up against us."

"Strange," Viktoriyah mused humorlessly, her eyes and voice expressionless, "that neither Movarth nor Vighar felt the need to apprise us of uprisings on the mainland."

"For all we know, they're already dead," Harkon stated grimly. "I think I will send Namasur to Movarth and Salonia to Vighar to find out just what the hell is going on down there. Vingalmo will smooth things over with the Thalmor, as always."


"And I, my Lord?" Viktoriyah asked. She didn't actually want to go anywhere or do anything, but she had long learned it was best to volunteer for assignments and get them over with as quickly as possible.

The royal vampire exchanged looks before turning their glowing red eyes back onto her. She knew better to flinch beneath their collective burning gaze.

"Our rebels aren't the only ones that have us concerned," Valerica began. "The war in Skyrim is troubling enough."

"We are also disturbed to learn that the current Jarl of Haafingar is a mere child," Harkon added. "We need to know what's going on Solitude as well."

Viktoriyah worked very hard to keep her voice neutral. "You want me to infiltrate the Blue Palace?"

"We realized mingling with mortals is highly undesirable," Valerica nodded stiffly. "Only the Daedra know how our daughter does it every day, but at this juncture it's an unfortunate necessity. There is too much happening in Skyrim that we do not know, and ignorance is the one thing we can't afford."

Viktoriyah bowed her head slightly. "I will prepare to leave at once, of course."

***


After a century of living at Volkihar, there was only one person Viktoriyah cared to bid goodbye.

Vingalmo was tall, as all High Elves were. He had pale olive skin and long white hair he wore in a ponytail, favored gray vampire armor for some reason, and today was armed with a long iron sword.

Everyone at Volkihar stayed armed. The running joke was that it was ancient habit from when they were all mortals in Skyrim.

Vingalmo was not her sire, but Viktoriyah had felt drawn to him from the start. Aside for the pureblood royal couple, Vingalmo was the most refined member of the court. When she first came to the castle, he introduced her to the pleasures of chess and Altmeri classical literature. It was his accent that she chose to emulate. They sometimes spent entire nights playing chess.


Tonight he was in the library on the second floor, at his favorite spot overlooking the railing. And he looked a lot more stressed than usual.

"This is most distressing business," he said to her, almost in greeting. "Elenwen is not going to like this at all."

"Elenwen?" Viktoriyah smiled a little, trying to keep her voice light. "The Thalmor Ambassador?"

"An entire troop lost at Northwatch Keep, and now an attack on Volkihar itself," he grimly stared, his jaw tightening. "If we can't get the riffraff under control, it'll invite the wrath of the entire Dominion."

Viktoriyah was intrigued. "Are you really frightened of the Dominion? Do you actually think they could take us?"

"Harkon and his family would likely survive." He turned to face her. "The rest of us would not."

She nodded solemnly. "I am bound for the Blue Palace. His Grace requires the aid of a spy."

Vingalmo nodded. "The situation in Skyrim is far worse than we anticipated."

"How?" she asked. "How did things get so bad so quickly without any of us being the wiser?"

The ancient elf scowled. "You may have noticed our royal couple often remains preoccupied. Him with his damned scrolls and prophecies; her with her infernal alchemic obsessions. And their daughter who can't seem to get far enough away from them. Oh, yes...they are quite the paragons of leadership."


Viktoriyah couldn't resist smiling. It was no secret Vingalmo had his own designs on the throne, and he wasn't the only one. The only reason he hadn't committed a coup was the simple fact that the royal family were purebloods and he was not. He lacked their strength, their speed, their near-invulnerability, and as much as she favored him, she didn't see him faring much better on the throne were they to die.

"While I possess no love for Lord and Lady Dysfunctional," she raised an eyebrow, "they do have the strangest ability of holding this court together...if nothing else."

"And the mainland?" he looked at her. "How well are they holding that together?"

Viktoriyah shrugged. "The mainland vampire crisis will resolve itself soon. The thin-blooded and the common will be slaughtered; and if Movarth and Vighar are truly dead, His Grace will simply prop up someone more competent in their places. It's the mortal war in Skyrim that's got him worried, and I've never seen either of them this worried."

Vingalmo was grim. "If the mortals can't resolve their issues soon, they will soak Skyrim in blood. It will disrupt the economy and plunge the Empire into chaos." He cocked his head to the side. "It's difficult to control chaos."

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