Uninvited Guests

 
Previously: Northwatch Keep

Indrathel swam to shore, stopping long enough to pick up her Daedric dagger and nothing else. She swept towards the fort like a storm, her stomach grumbling as she scowled at the interruption. Bandits knew better than to take on a fort fully staffed with Thalmor, so that left Stormcloaks as the like invaders.

I have no use for prisoners, she thought grimly, striding back with purpose. I will gut every Stormcloak I can my hands on. She would even present the leader's head to Elenwen as a gift...or a bribe.

She arrived back within the walls of Northwatch Keep to find a nightmare. The enemy was neither rebel nor bandit. As fate would have it, the enemy wasn't even alive.



The courtyard was littered with corpses. About a third were her fellow Thalmor, their throats ripped out and their bodies left in pools of their blood. The other half were vampires, clad in garish robes and armor. Some were still burning. Some were missing their heads, while others had arrows in their hearts.

Indrathel's mind flashed back to the bodies at the abandoned great tower.

"There were more", she gasped to herself. She should've thought of that. She should've expected that and yet she hadn't; instead she went and slept in a tower full of bodies like it was nothing.

I don't have a lot of experience with vampires. Thanks again, Mara!

She headed into the fort, following the trail of bodies until she was following noise.




There was so much death, halls and rooms full of death. Her fellow Thalmor were putting up a valiant fight, but they were almost overrun. All of the prisoners in the cells below were slaughtered while Indrathel helped the last guard standing fend off the remaining vampires.

Vampires were highly flammable; they fell quite easily to her enchanted dagger. They were also horrifying to see up close, with their demonic red eyes and blood-stained fangs. Indrathel's fear was dwarfed by her survival instincts as she wielded her new skills will deadly purpose, moving through the fort and cutting down the undead as she did.

Even in death, some vampires were still mages, and skilled ones at that. As the last one burned at her hand, she still managed to hurl two magical frost spikes into Indrathel, who was already wet, naked, and now splattered in blood.

She hobbled on through labyrinthine fort, determined to root out any remaining intruders, until she finally returned to the tavern at the heart of the fort.

Gannar and the bartender were just as she'd left them, except now they were gawking at her as though she were a madwoman in the street.

The bartender paused in the middle of polishing a tankard. "The fuck happened to you?"


***

"We can't stay here," Indrathel declared as a fellow soldier dressed her wounds. "Everyone outside is dead, as is almost everyone inside."

The bartender, who was apparently named Merandil, was shocked. "You want us to abandon our post?"

"What post?" snapped Seridur, the last prison guard left alive. "The fort was a ruin to begin with, but now our patrols are dead, my fellow guards are dead, even my fucking prisoners are dead."

"If the fort is attacked again, we'll all be dead," Gannar piped, still drinking his mead.

"Search the bodies," Indrathel ordered. "Gather anything of value you can from our little undead friends, and then get the hell back to civilization."

"What about our soldiers?" Merandil asked, visibly disturbed.

Indrathel's voice was solemn. "There's nothing we can do for them now. The cold will preserve their bodies. The Ambassador will have to send another contingent for them."

"Where do we go?" Korimia asked quietly. She was the young soldier bandaging Indrathel. "To the Embassy? The headquarters?"

"Hell, no," Indrathel scowled. "Head south to Markarth and apprise Ondolemar of the situation. He'll want to know what really happened here."

Seridur raised an eyebrow. "What really happened?"

"Elenwen isn't going to tell people the truth," Indrathel snorted. "At least not the whole truth. Oh, she'll play up the part about the vampires, but she won't mention the fact she understaffed the fort in the first place. We should've had double the soldiers and triple the resources, but since we're all a bunch of 'undesirables', she probably didn't give a fuck."

They spent the rest of the afternoon tending the bodies. The Thalmor soldiers didn't have much; most of them didn't even have a septim to their name. The vampires, however, had all manner of coin and trinkets on them. Some were even lavishly dressed, which baffled Indrathel.

One such vampire was dressed in a long gown of silk and lace, with split bell sleeves. It was blood-soaked and stank of death, and also pierced in some places, but that didn't stop Indrathel from sliding it off her body. She moved as though in a dream, not even sure why she was taking the dress or what value it could possibly have. Eventually when she realized it was simply habit, from a time she no longer remembered.

By the time they were done with the bodies, the sun was going down, and they knew better than to start a long journey in the night, not after battling a pack of vampires.

"Secure every entrance into the fort," Indrathel commanded. "We'll sleep in shifts until dawn. At first light, we all leave."


Next: Return

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