Part 48 - Volkihar Cathedral

Volkihar Cathedral.

The Volkihar Cathedral was remarkably well-lit with natural light for a vampires' temple. Clark presumed that there was something about the stained glass that made the sunlight less oppressive. One shaft was illuminating a pile of ashes in front of an altar to Molag Bal. The altar was in the shape of a bust of the Daedric Lord, with a blood fountain issuing from its mouth. Clark took careful note of that, as he expected to describe it to Valerica to convince her he'd actually been here.

He poked through the ash pile, but there was little to confirm that it was Harkon's. It still retained an unnaturally red hue, but that meant little. His armour and sword had been taken, presumably by the Hunter when Harkon was slain. Wait, didn't Serana tell him that she had them, now?

Clark and Serana left the castle through the front door, and made their way around the outside to the old dock. This was currently the only way to reach Valerica's study, and the portal to the Soul Cairn. Once they'd cleared the passageway through to the courtyard, there'd be another route, but now this was their only choice.

There were skeletons and gargoyle remains everywhere. Clark asked Serana if they'd had to battle their way past all of them before. "Not all of them. Most were already dead, although some were raised again as we passed. More than we wanted, I can assure you."

"Through here," she said at last, and opened a door into a large room, with a high ceiling, and a glowing pit where the floor had once been. Stairs curved down into a swirling purple mist. "The portal's down there," Serana told Clark, as if he couldn't have guessed.

"From what the Hunter told me when he first tried to go through it, I think it drains your health, if you're not undead. Lean on me, so you don't fall when that happens."

The Hunter' appraisal was accurate, and Clark had to stop and regain his composure on the other side. He cast a healing spell, which seemed to work normally for him. A couple of potions, and he was back to normal. Still, he hoped it wouldn't repeat on the way out.

"Which way is your mother? Do we follow the path ahead?"

Serana pointed at an archway ahead of them. "There's a wall dividing this place in two, and a barrier of magical force around it. That arch is the only gap in the wall, and the Boneyard, which is where I left my mother, is on the other side. We should be able to see it from there."

They passed several ghosts just wandering around looking lost, and half-way from the wall to the Boneyard, a couple of skeletal beings rose out of the ground and attacked them. Serana smashed them with ice spikes before they could get near. "I though we'd cleared them all the first time I was here," she told Clark. "I guess the Ideal Masters can raise more whenever they feel inclined."

They found Valerica fiddling around at an Alchemy lab near the door. Clark was initailly surprised that Valerica appeared to be only a few years older than her daughter. But a moment's reflection, and he understood that they'd both stopped aging when they became vampires, so Serana had almost caught up with her mother.

"Who have you brought with you this time? That's not the man you came with before."

"No Mother, it's not. And I'd prefer you not reminding me about him. Clark is here to confirm that Harkon is dead. He's seen the ashes, which is all that's left, in the cathedral where the Hunter killed him."

Valerica asked Clark a few pertinent questions and he thought he'd convinced her he was telling the truth. "I know Serana wants me to return to Tamriel, but do you? Why would you want another vampire?"

"To start with, because it's what Serana wants. Also, she's told me what her father was like, and she doesn't seem to take after him. So she must have inherited her nature from you, and that's enough of a recommendation."

"You know the Volkihar aren't just ordinary vampires," Valerica insisted. "Behold!"

She began to transform before Clark's gaze. Her leather vampire armour melted away, leaving only a thin strip hanging down between her legs. Her face changed into a grotesque troll-like mask, with horns, and her hands and feet grew viscious-looking claws. Small vestigial wings spouted from her shoulders, and she lifted off the ground. The wings apparently gave her a form of levitation, rather than physical lift, as they hardly moved.

However, the majority of her body remained just as feminine as it started, and was now easier for Clark to see and appreciate. He told her so, and she transformed back, laughing. Her armour, however, didn't re-appear.

"You men are all the same, and that's why we love you," Valerica exclaimed. "Don't we, Serana?"

A look of disgust was on Serana's face. Clark imagined that children never consider their parents having any sexuality, but this looked like more. She appeared to be revolted by the whole idea of sex, perhaps as a result of her experience with Molag Bal. He'd need to talk privately with Valerica before bringing the subject up with Serana.

It did appear, though, that Valerica was going to return with them. She gathered the few items she'd need, and prepared to follow Clark back to the portal.

That's when the dragon appeared. He faded in from nothing on the wall opposite the steps from the Boneyard.

"Are you going to stop me leaving?" Valerica asked him. "Do you still hold to the Ideal Masters' bargain?"

"No, Qahnaarin, that was over when you two, and the other joor, defeated me. I come now because I perceive a chance of my own freedom. This new one, he was not here before, but he gives me the hope I need."

The huge beast's head turned to face Clark. "You know the Dovakhin, don't you? The one the mortals call the Dragonborn? I have seen her in your mind, and she appears to be close to you."

Clark was used to his weak telepathy bringing him the stray thoughts of others, but this was the first time it had gone the other way. Had the dragon really seen Diablita in his memories? He had no other explanation.

"Yes, I know her. How does that help you?"

"She is the only one that can use my name to summon me from this place. I cannot leave of my own accord, but if she calls my name in Tamriel then I am bound to appear there. I believe that each time that happens, the hold of this place on my soul will be weakened. You can take my name to her, and tell her of my need."

"I need to know more, before I agree," Clark responded. "Why are you here, and what was the bargain with the Ideal Masters that Valerica mentioned?"

"In my battles with the other dragons of Nirn, I sought advantage by the study of what you call necromancy. I made a deal with the Ideal Masters to guard Valerica until her death, in return for the ability to summon armies of undead."

"They neglected to tell me that she was immortal. So I have been here, bound by my agreement, all this time. I fear that I have been here so long, my body has become attuned to this place, and cannot return to Nirn without the power of the Dovahkin reinforcing me."

Clark pondered the dragon's request a moment. "I can take your name to her, but whether she chooses to call it will be her decision, not mine."

"That is a risk that matters little. If you do not, then there is no chance for me to leave."

Clark was not expecting the name to be a Thu'um. The ground shook, and the wind howled, as the dragon spoke his name, Dur-neh-viir . "Will all that happen again, when Diablita uses your name?" he asked.

"Of course. The language of the Dovah is a language of great power, which is why so few can master it. Now read it, too."

On the wall beneath the dragon, three clusters of symbols were glowing. Clark understood, without quite knowing how, that these were the three parts of Durnehviir's name, written in the dragon script. He wasn't sure how he'd convey that part to Diablita, but the dragon seemed to believe it was possible.

"I can say the name Durnehviir, of course," Valerica pointed out, "but I can't shout it the way the Dovahkin will be able to. And now, any of us could probably write it down, not that that would do anything on its own."

"Correct," the dragon agreed. "If you spent enough time practising, you could eventually understand the meaning, and it would become a Thu'um for you, too. It would please me if you did that, but I do not expect you to devote that amount of time to my cause."

With that parting comment, he spread his immense wings and flew off.