Part 49 - Return to Volkihar

Back at Volkihar Castle, Valerica took a few minutes clearing spider webs from her laboratory, and tossing the spoiled ingredients away. "I'll need to gather a lot of fresh supplies to get this place back to what it was. Let's go take a look at the rest of the castle."

It wasn't until she reached the courtyard that she made any further remarks. "It's good to be home again, but I hope the rest of the place isn't as run-down as this. I expected the parts we've just come through to have decayed, as nobody knew that part of the castle even existed. This looks like Harkon hasn't made any repairs since I went to the Soul Cairn!"

"That's probably right, mother," Serana concurred. "And I wasn't here to do anything about it. The passageway through to the main hall has collapsed, and we'll have to go around the outside."

"Really? I know Harkon never liked this part of the Castle, but just letting it fall into ruins? Oh, well, I have all the time in the world to fix it up again, and I think I'll start by replanting here."

"It looks like I have a good supply of thralls to help with the reconstruction." Valerica remarked when they entered the Castle Hall. "It's a pity Harkon himself didn't leave a corpse I could use."

She cast a spell over one of the vampire corpses, which raised itself up and walked over to the rubble blocking the passageway to the courtyard. It tried valiantly to lift one of the blocks, but failed. Serana raised a second one, and together they managed to move the block.

"I'd better stay here and help Mother for a while," Serana told Clark. "This appears to need two of us."

Clark pointed to a larger corpse in the corner. It appeared to be a troll, wearing armour. "Now that's different!" exclaimed Valerica.

She waited until the two thralls had put the stone block down where she wanted it, and cast her spell at the dead troll. As it floated up off the floor, one of the vampire thralls collapsed into a pile of ash. The other just stood there, moaning.

When Valerica found that the troll had the strength to move the rubble unaided, she told her daughter to release her thrall and go with Clark. "I can manage on my own, now."

Clark wasn't in any hurry to leave, however. He wanted to find out more about the whole story, from Valerica. Serana had no clue what was going on while she was in Dimhollow Crypt, so she hadn't been able to tell him everything. And there was a lot she wasn't saying about her early life, and becoming a vampire.

"Serana, while the troll's clearing the passage, why don't you get the other corpses to clear the rest of the hall? Just send each one down to the shore with some of the lighter debris, and you can leave its ash pile there when you raise the next one."

"What will you be doing?" Serana asked

"I need to talk to Clark for a while," Valerica replied, and led him back to the bedroom.

Bedroom wasn't a very accurate term in a vampire castle, of course. There wasn't a bed, just a pair of coffins. His and hers, Clark assumed.

Valerica began her tale with the chance meeting of one adventurer with another in a bar in some village in Tamriel. Harkon had been sitting at the bar when she walked in, and since she was confident she could persude just about any man to buy her a drink, she 'd picked him.

He noticed the bow on her back, and asked her if she'd consider joining him in exploring a nearby cave. He wanted someone with ranged capabilities to watch his back, as he was very much a sword-and-board fighter. He'd heard from others that this particular cave was likely to be tough.

"I have a few spells I can use, too," she'd told him. "But they're mainly for when anyone gets too close. And healing, if it's really too close!"

He'd laughed at that, and admitted he carried a lot of potions, because he didn't have that skill. She agreed to trying that cave with him, to see if it worked out. They shook on the deal, and he bought her that drink.

"It was just as difficult as everyone had said, but we managed it," Valerica continued. "Our fighting styles meshed very well, and we didn't get in each other's way. Both against the bandits in the upper level, and the zombies, or draugr - I forget which it was, now - on the lower. And the loot in the chest at the end was as much as we both could carry."

"When we got back up to the first chamber, we dumped everything in a pile next to the bandits' bedrolls, ready to divide it up between us. He looked at me, and then the bedrolls, and I knew what he was thinking, because I was thinking the same thing. We just about ripped each other's armour off!"

"We were a successful team for quite some time. We didn't just work as a pair, sometimes we'd hire others for special projects. Often, we'd come back with more than we could sell, even after the others had taken a generous share."

"We found a small shack, with a bed and some chests we could lock, and made that our base. By that time we had enough self-control to go home first!"

"That's when Harkon started to notice that he had a problem. He was always looking back to see if I was all right. He asked me to marry him, so he could leave me safely behind with the family."

"I wanted a proper house before that, but we could afford it. So we found a place and moved in. As soon as I was pregnant with Serana, Harkon made me stay behind, and he hired mercenaries to take with him. I insisted they were male, of course!"

"And then one day he found himself in a nest of vampires. They were a lot stronger than he'd expected, and he was the only one of his band who got out alive. I made sure he was properly healed, as I'd heard you could get nasty diseases from vampires." Valerica smiled. "I was really ignorant about vampires back then."

"So was he, or he wouldn't have got into the position of losing his entire band of mercenaries. He told me he needed to find out more about them, so he'd be better prepared next time. I took that at face value, not realising that he was jealous of the vampires' power, and wanted it for himself."

"He went off on an expedition to the North, and I presumed that it included the College of Winterhold, and their library. Wherever he did go, it took him several weeks, and when he came back, he announced that we were moving. He'd found us a Castle to live in!"