The Outer Demon

Previously: The Inner Demon

A/N ~ Sorry for the lateness!!! A new fic on my Dark &Twisty blog was consuming me there for a minute.

One thing she did miss about the Thalmor Headquarters were the beds. Indrathel did not get a good night's rest; the pillows at the inn were worn and flat, and the straw smelled. She ended up rising before dawn.

And it wasn't just the bed; the events of the previous night still left her unsettled. Morthal was having the strangest, most unexplainable effect on her. On the one hand, she felt oddly at home. Her body relaxed and her manner of speech even changed. On the the other hand, she was definitely "the outsider", so much that these people were willing to embrace a vampire before her.

The inn was dark and mostly quiet. The few rooms were filled with sleeping patrons, some snoring softly. With a blast from her hand, Indrathel lit the firepit and warmed herself beside, wrapped in a blanket and losing herself in mismatched thoughts until Jonna sleepily rose to ask if she needed breakfast.

"I'm supposed to have breakfast with the Jarl," Indrathel sighed.

"Would you like a bath? Benor won't mind."

Indrathel's face warmed at the thought of seeing the Nord again.

"I'm still good from the bath last night," she smiled slightly. "And judging by the way he was drinking, I don't think Benor wants to be disturbed just now."

Jonna snorted. "He does if he wants to keep sleeping here." She rounded the counter to fetch her broom.

Indrathel laughed softly. For some reason, everything about this scenario--the tavern, the drunks, the wanderers--seemed so familiar, so real, unlike her life.

"I assume you'll be wearing those robes of yours when you go to meet with the Ravencrone."

"I'll be dining in an 'official' capacity, so yeah."

Jonna paused in her sweeping. "If you don't mind my asking, how does a girl like you get mixed up with the Thalmor?"

Indrathel's shoulders helplessly rose and fell. "I ask myself that every day."


A guard came for Indrathel some time later in the morning, summoning her to Highmoon Hall.

In the light of day, Indrathel noted that Jarl Idgrod Ravencrone was a very regal woman, even if her clothes weren't as fine as the average noble in Solitude. She had an air about her that signaled she was descended from a very old bloodline.

"Your Grace," Indrathel greeted calmly as she stood before the humble throne.

"Commander," the old woman greeted neutrally. "My husband tells me you believe we have a vampire in our midst, even after I informed you that although we once had a vampire problem, that is no longer so."

"Have a vampire problem," Indrathel forcefully corrected her. "Alva is not human, not anymore."

The Jarl raised an eyebrow, as though intrigued by her determination. "That's a serious accusation, Commander."

"It's not an accusation, it's a fact," Indrathel fired back.

"And yet you have no evidence," the Jarl scoffed.

"You know," Indrathel began lowly, "ever since those things tore apart my contingent and left my fellow soldiers drowning in their own blood, I've done my research on the undead. I've dreamed about them almost every night. A vampire problem doesn't just manifest in a body count, Your Grace. Anything odd happen in Morthal since Alva arrived?"

The Jarl and her husband exchanged a look, but both seemed hesitant to speak.

The wheels in Indrathel's mind began to spin, her thoughts flashing back to the night before.

"If you leave that kinslayer Hroggar," Benor had said, "I would be happy to keep your company."

"You tempt me mightily, Alva. But I won't cuckhold another man, even a murderer like Hroggar."

"Your Grace...who is Hroggar?"

Alarmed, the Jarl exchanged looks with her husband once more. Her jaw tightened and her eyes darkened as she grimly said, "I didn't realize the Thalmor put stock in idle gossip."

"Sometimes all a traveler has to go on is idle gossip, my lady," Indrathel countered.

The Ravencrone paused before saying, "Hroggar works at the mill. His house burned down recently. He lost his wife and daughter in the blaze. My people believe it to be cursed now." The old woman shrugged. "Who am I to gainsay them? It doesn't mean Alva is a vampire."

"How did the fire start?"

It was like pulling teeth to get the Jarl to talk. Indrathel could see the woman's knuckles whiten as she gripped her throne. "Hroggar blames his wife for spilling bear fat in the fire. Many folk think he set the fire himself."

Indrathel blinked, "With his wife and child still in the house?"

"Lust can make a man do the unthinkable, Commander," the Jarl grumbled. "The ashes were still warm when he pledged himself to Alva."

Indrathel looked at her, incredulous. "And all this seems normal to you, Your Grace?"

"It doesn't prove anything," the Jarl bit out, but Indrathel didn't miss the flicker in her eyes.

The Thalmor Commander paused, her mind racing. "You know she could be using him as a thrall, right? She can keep him alive as long as needed, feeding off him once or twice a day."

"You're speculating, Commander."

"Am I? What about missing?" Indrathel pressed. "Has anyone gone missing since Alva arrived?"

Once more the Ravencrone and her husband exchanged looks, but this time it was he who spoke.

"Laelette," he said softly. "Wife of Thonnir. He also works at the mill. They have a young son, Virkmund."

"Laelette told Alva she wanted to join the Stormcloaks," the Jarl spat.

Indrathel raised an eyebrow. "They were friends?"

"Laelette hated Alva," Alsfur murmured. "But then they did become friends. Laelette was last reported visiting Alva."

"And when was this?" Indrathel demanded. She continued without waiting for an answer. "You say this woman has a husband and a young child, yet she disappears without telling them where she's going? Has she written to them even once since she left?"

A grave hush fell upon Highmoon Hall as the tension rose.

"Hroggar allegedly burns his house down, killing his wife and child, and then promptly moves in with Alva," Indrathel recapped. "Laelette, who can't stand Alva, suddenly becomes her friend and then disappears without a trace?

"You know, before I came to Skyrim, I read dossiers on all of the Jarls. Oh, yes," Indrathel nodded, when the Ravencrone looked surprised. "You'll find Elenwen keeps the most meticulous records on you people. And according to those records, you supposedly possess the Sight."

"I'm not an oracle, Commander," the Jarl pushed back.

"Clearly not," Indrathel snickered. "You had a vampire problem years ago, and you handled it by hiring hunters to wipe them out. Did it ever occur to you they might have learned from their mistakes? Adjusted their strategy?"

"Why?" Aslfur asked. "Morthal is nothing, in the middle of nowhere."

"On the contrary, my lord," she assured him, "Morthal is something because it is in the middle of nowhere. Vast marshes, perpetually overcast skies--it's the perfect vampire haven! Did you really think they'd give it up? Just like that?"

There was that hush again, but it was brief. "What do you need?" the Jarl finally asked, her voice quiet.

"Everything," Indrathel nodded. "I need to know everything about the last vampire attack."


Despite the lack of sunshine, now was the perfect time to go hunting.

Armed with her trusty Daedric dagger, Indrathel followed the Jarl's directions towards a cave northeast of town. She paused on the bridge, overlooking the waters gazing at the mountains beyond the mist.

This might be my last morning, she realized, and yet oddly unbothered by it. The Jarl had offered to send some guards, but Indrathel declined. The hold guards were understaffed and ill-equipped to deal with the undead. She didn't need another slaughter on her conscience.

She followed the dirt path into the marshes; like many paths in Skyrim, the way was marked by small pillars of stones. She could smell the cold wet mud as she walked among the barren trees. And even though the day wore on, the sun still didn't shine.

Despite that, there was beauty in Hjaalmarch, a haunted, desolate elegance that made her feel at home. It was so quiet, so peaceful. Despite the grandeur of Castle Dour and the splendor of the Blue Palace, Indrathel didn't miss Solitude. The misnamed city was loud and filled with people everywhere, all the time.

Morthal, conversely, was the land of the dead.

She reached the mouth of a cave, where the Jarl told her a master vampire had once dwelled with his coven. She paused, noting the braziers burning at the opening and wondering how strong a glamour this vampire could cast that even one such as Idgrod Ravencrone couldn't see through it.

Guess I'm going in.


Popular Posts