Nocturnal - Part X

They soon came to a large chamber that appeared to be the main hall of the old castle. It was almost deserted, and the vampires in it were scattered enough that they were able to kill each one without alerting the others.

"So where's the boss? The Patriarch ought to have been here, if there is one. This place appears to be symmetrical, and so the other wing would be just like the one we came through. The only other exit is the front door."

Cyndil cracked the huge door open and peered cautiously out. This door was lower than the one they'd entered through, and led out to a broad area between the ledge they'd cleared, and another on the opposite side. There was a good chance there would be vampires on that ledge too, and they'd have the advantage of height. She closed the door again, and gestured toward the other wing.

That was not quite a mirror of the first, but the vampire opposition was similar. One or two around each corner, none of them expecting the visitors. Finally a door led out to the ledge.

There were no bats to assist them on this side, and the two archers there noticed the door being opened. Since you can't reflect arrows, Clark was anxious to close with them quickly, but he wasn't about to rush in between them and Cyndil. He'd seen what her bow could do, and didn't want to risk friendly fire. Especially in the back.

He headed off to one side, splitting the archers' targets. Their foes' best strategy would be take an opponent each, and trust that the other could handle theirs. He hoped that it also meant that they'd split up, too. The one on his side did drop back as she fired, and he kept moving and dodging. He was nearly level with the other, who turned as he passed to aim at him. That left her more vulnerable to Cyndil, who made no mistake with her shot. The vampire's arrow flew wide of Clark, and he saw her fall.

The one he was chasing was running out of room to retreat. When she backed into the cave wall, she switched to her dagger, and lunged. Clark blocked with his shield, and methodically went about making the most of his weapon advantage. He had the longer blade, and a shield, so it wasn't at all an equal contest.

Cyndil, fortunately, left him to it. She'd gone to the edge overlooking the cavern floor, and had started firing down on what were presumably more vampires there.

"That's three less to worry about when we go out the front door," she told him. "The two up here, and I got one more down below. I think there was another down there, but he didn't stay around."

When they did go out the door, they could see bats firing fireballs at something in the distance. Perhaps it was the same vampire.

They moved along the wall, as far from the bats as possible. Now there was nobody above them, it was safe to do so without having anything dropped on their heads. A small opening in the far wall appeared to lead to another section of caves.

They pushed their way through a curtain of roots that hung down from the ceiling. "Those would keep the bats out," Clark noted. "Maybe we'll find the Patriarch in here."

The cave had apparently been a burial chamber at some point in the past. The walls were lined with coffins, held up on poles driven into the rock. Several more broken ones were scattered on the floor where they'd fallen when the supports rotted.

And at the other end a green swirl of illusion magic indicated that a vampire had spotted them, and cast invisibility. That didn't matter to Clark, who could still see his pink glow, but Cyndil wouldn't be able to see him. Clark ended that problem with a flare spell. It was weak, and wouldn't do much damage, but the flames would give Cyndil her target back. Soon the flames were stronger, and the Patriarch was a beacon of light, as one of the special arrows found him.

He closed on Clark, reasoning that he was dealing less damage, so he might be the weaker opponent. Not a bad estimate, but Clark was concentrating on defense. He made sure the vampire's back was towards the archer, and his bulk shielded Clark from her fire. And to compound his problems, the Orc tried to use a fire spell on Clark. Only once, of course.

"Now we need to take his dust back to Nocturnal as proof," Clark told his companion. "And I'll collect it from all the others on our way back. I gather there's a man in the Imperial City who'll pay over the odds for proof that a vampire was slain."

Nocturnal had heard the same, and she was prepared to match the offer. "I don't like them any more than he does, and any you kill elsewhere, will be ones that don't come here." She paid the two for the samples they had, a not inconsiderable sum.

Clark didn't really need the gold, but Cyndil was starting from nothing again. The life of a vampire-hunter had its appeal, she thought, especially if the dust was this valuable. "And the first thing I'll be buying is a ring of detect life. Clark's shown me the value of that!"

"Go see the Count of Kvatch," Clark told her. "We got the chameleon rings from him, and he has a collection of spare jewels you just won't believe."

Nocturnal had one more small extra for the two of them, keys to the guest suite in the castle. "So now you can reward each other."

Cyndil scampered off to check it out, but Clark had noticed Noctunal nod in his direction, and stayed to see what she had to add. "Tell me how she acts. I think she's put her resurrection and the Dremora behind her, but I can't judge the same things you can."

"I think she'll be all right," Clark told Nocturnal. "She's confident enough to get her own way, when she wants to do something different, but she doesn't need to take control all the time."

"Good! There were two possibilities that had concerned me: she could have become a submissive, like the Dremora prefer; or she could have over-reacted, and turned into the exact opposite. It would seem to me that she's back to normal."

"Oh, I wouldn't call her normal. Being returned from the dead seems to have given her a reason to make the most of her second chance. She's better than just normal now!"