“I’ve got these guys,” Selene told Blanche, sensing a drastic change in her scent. “You take care of her. Mul qah diiv!” She was instantly covered in orange and blue light that took the form of dragon scale armor around her body, and she drew another arrow and waited for the next group to come out of the dorm.
Five of them filed out, and Selene shot the first one as she tried to ignore the urgent, low tone of Blanche’s voice behind her as she poured out a flurry of words. But the scent of the dark-haired woman she spoke to was off, and she wrinkled her brow. “Hey, is she a—what on Nirn is she doing with the Dawnguard?”
“I’m not with the Dawnguard,” the vampire said as a spike of ice suddenly flew from her hand, missing Selene by an inch, and pierced the stomach of a soldier who had gotten a little too close. Selene skewered him with arrows while he was down, and the second he died, the woman stepped up next to Blanche and called forth another spell. He rose again with a groan and turned on his comrades.
Lovely, Selene thought, a necromancer. Oh, how she hated necromancers.
Blanche nocked an arrow and shot another soldier, but the arrow bounced off his armor, and now a new wave was coming in.
“Zun Haal Viik!” The Shout took care of their weapons very nicely, and their axes clattered across the floor. While they scrambled to retrieve them, she sniped one, and then another.
“We’re bottled up here in the corridor,” Selene noted. “We need to get out to the main hall before they flank us.”
But her comment was too late. She felt a searing pain in her right shoulder as a crossbow bolt hit. Someone was sniping from behind. Selene turned and drew on her adversary, but her head began to swim and she tottered off balance.
Suddenly, out of nowhere came a ghostly figure comprised of the same ethereal dragon armor that covered her, and it charged the Dawnguard soldier, cutting him down with ease. Selene downed a blood potion while it covered for her.
That soldier had been the last—for now—and the ghostly figure vanished. The vampire’s reanimated soldier, now looking like a battered rag doll, moved over to join the three women and stood behind its master attentively.
“I’m Selene,” she said, looking up at the vampire.
“Serana.” The woman sheathed her spells. “A friend, don’t worry.”
Selene glanced at Blanche. Her scent had cooled, but her eyes were warm. “Right . . . can one of you yank this bolt out of my shoulder, please?”
Blanche wordlessly took off her razored gauntlet and got to work.
“Fuck! Me!” Selene hissed through her teeth as Blanched fixed her fingers around the bolt and pulled it partway out. “How bad is it bleeding?”
“He had very good aim.” Blanche ripped it out abruptly with a little spatter of blood and flicked it off to the side of the corridor. “Hold still.” Her hands lit with healing magic, and she pressed one hand to Selene’s chest and the other to her corresponding shoulder, fingertips touching. The touch stung, but the magic soothed, and Selene gritted her teeth and took the pain.
“Blanche, now might be a good time to call the dragons.”
“Dragons?” Serana repeated. “What do you mean, ‘dragons’?”
“We have some friends we thought we’d call on for help.
Serana looked at Blanche. “Durnehviir?”
“Durnehviir.” Blanche stepped away from Selene, wiping her hands on her armor and putting her gauntlets back on. “They aren’t going to have much room in here; we had planned to summon them from a platform outside.” Serana nodded consent as Blanche added, “But we need to bring these idiots out of the fort with us. Perhaps if we made some noise to get their attention.”
Selene aimed and shot at a lone soldier who had come into the hallway. “We don’t know the fort that well, so we should get to the door first; otherwise we could get trapped. Better to stand there and yell; let them come to us.”
“Good plan.” Serana nodded. “Let’s go.”
The women circled around the edge of the round hall until their backs were to the front door. Two soldiers stepped carefully into the atrium. “What?” Selene called, an arrow trained on one of them. “That’s all that’s left? Just you two? Where are the rest of your buddies?”
“They’re coming,” the soldier assured her, “with help.”
His threat was punctuated by the growl of a troll.
“Well, come on!” Selene shouted. “We’re waiting!”
Blanche and Selene exchanged glances before both letting out a howling snarl. It bounced off the walls of the atrium and spiraled up to the highest levels, following Selene’s resonating words—everyone in the fort could have heard it as it rang—and then faded to a tense silence, leaving the air vibrating.
The soldiers started back, and then advanced; Serana flung a shard of ice at them to keep them from getting too close, and after just a moment, half a dozen men and women charged in from the door to the dining room, accompanied by one very large, armored troll.
“Holy Talos, they really do have pet trolls.” Selene started to back toward the door, focusing her arrows on the troll as she went, while Serana and Blanche did their best to keep the soldiers back. Serana’s reanimated solder tottered forward but was cut down easily and turned to dust. Selene nodded toward someone standing on the balcony. “Blanche, that one’s got a crossbow.”
“Wonderful.” Blanche grunted. She took a shot at the person on the balcony, but he was too far away and dodged her arrow. “The best we can do is run, and ruin the aim.”
As if on cue, Serana dodged a bolt. “Ugh!”
“Let’s go. Out the door.” Selene backed quickly to the door and pulled it open. The second she was in the open air, she Shouted, “Odahviing!”
Blanche darted out after her, barely avoiding another crossbow bolt, and pulled the door shut as soon as Serana was out as well. “Durnehviir!”
The Words of Power boomed in resonance as a dragon’s call echoed in reply over the edges of the canyon. On the ground, a huge vortex of purple light writhed and whirled, forming the shape of a half-rotted, corpse-like wyrm.
At the same time, Odahviing skyrocketed over the edge of the ravine, his red wings sending the trees swaying violently, and plunged to the ground. “Durnehviir, sizaan zeymah?” he greeted the undead dragon.
Durnehviir stretched his rotting, moldy wings. “Odahviing. Drem yol lok, fahdon.”
“Good morning, my friends,” Selene said to the dragons as the door opened the troll barreled out, followed by the soldiers. “We need help.”
“Zu’u mindoraan, Dovahkiin,” the red dragon replied. “Stand aside.”
The two dragons took flight, and the women backed away as best they could, shooting at the soldiers wielding crossbows as the company spread out. But the soldiers weren’t concerned with them at the moment. They were worried about the monsters that soared overhead. A crossbow bolt hit Odahviing, but he barely noticed, breathing fire over the soldiers in response. Durnehviir dipped in and grabbed the troll up in his jaws, chomping it in half before dropping the bottom piece to the ground below.
The dragons were faring well against their opponents, and something like relief seeped into Blanche’s scent. She kept out of the fray and slipped back toward the door into the fort, where some of the Dawnguard had fled back inside. She glanced across at Selene with a look that said, “Ready?”
Selene nodded, and she and Serana followed Blanche. She worried that there were still more inside than out, but there was nothing for it. A few of the soldiers milled about the atrium, confused and frightened, and Selene didn’t give them a chance to get themselves together. She ran toward them and Shouted, “Fus ro dah!” sending them flying and causing even more confusion. Then she drew an arrow to start picking them off.
Blanche did the same, minus the Shouting, but a few of them went after her, and she quit the bow and brandished her spells. Serana grabbed an axe and shield from a fallen warrior and engaged hand-to-hand.
Several Dawnguard soldiers were still arriving, and the three women were soon far outnumbered. Blanche ducked behind a barrel for a moment to drink a blood potion, although Selene imagined it didn’t help her bloodlust at this point, as she emerged with a look and a screech that said she wanted to kill.
Selene hesitated, the thought briefly occurring to her that this was a really bad idea. These soldiers were trying to do what they thought was right. They didn’t hurt normal people; they protected them. They provided a service. Not all vampires were like Blanche; many of them preyed on the innocent and terrorized towns and villages. But then the faint scent of Farkas’s blood wafted through the room and she remembered that they did hurt normal people. And what was the Vigilants of Stendarr’s motto? “Walk in the light, or we’ll drag you there, kicking and screaming.” Well, maybe it was time for the vampires and werewolves to police their own.
But there wasn’t going to be anybody there to run things if she and Blanche got killed, and it was starting to look like that could very well happen. They couldn’t fight all these people. She quickly formed an idea.
“Stop!” she cried at the top of her lungs. “Sheath your weapons and hear me out!”
Most everyone stopped what they were doing and looked at her curiously, half-distrusting. One of the trolls who had entered the room started to lumber over to where she was, and she quickly sent an arrow into its middle eye. It screamed and thrashed, its fur catching fire, and all the soldiers watched silently as Selene drew another arrow, shot it in its burning head, and ended its misery.
“Do I have everybody’s attention now? Good.”
She caught the scent of blood and looked over at Blanche, who had chewed on her lip till it bled. She was glaring at Selene with an Are you out of your mind? expression. She gave the vampire a furtive wink and turned back to the group. Most of them were young and didn’t look like they had much experience. This might actually work. “Today is the last day of the Dawnguard. The beings you hunt and kill have grown weary of living in fear, and it stops now. You deal in absolutes. If it’s a vampire, it must be evil, and it must be killed. Well, which is more evil: someone who lives as an upstanding citizen, has a home and family, works in the community, and takes only what he or she needs to survive—and never kills an innocent—or someone who kills indiscriminately without stopping to learn all the facts? How many unjust murders have you committed for the sake of justice?”
“It is justice,” one of them said.
“Was it justice to abduct an innocent man and his two children from their home on the notion that a vampire might live there?”
“They knew she lived there,” Serana said quietly, “and they knew what they were doing.”
“What? How?” Selene demanded without taking her eyes from the soldiers.
“They have their spies. They’ve been watching her—us—for a long time, hoping to get the chance to kill her and take Auriel’s Bow. When they discovered me, they brought me here as a lure for Blanche, but . . . our clan thought I was dead. The Dawnguard realized a bolder approach would be necessary when she didn’t show up and the sun disappeared.”
Auriel’s Bow . . . Selene turned her head just slightly and fixed her eyes on the whitish bow at Blanche’s back. Blanche shifted a little, turning her shoulder to hide the weapon. “And that’s when they took Farkas and the girls,” Selene surmised.
“Yes,” Serana confirmed.
She turned back to face the Dawnguard. “And then you tortured him and told him you had killed his daughters in the hope that he might tell you where she was, no? How is that justice, eh?” She narrowed her eyes, and a smug grin crossed her face. “And now the next thing to think about: do you really think it’s just the three of us here? In an hour, this fort will be swarming with soldiers of a kind you have no hope of fighting.”
“Pah, just vampires,” a soldier spat.
Selene let her wolf spirit come to the surface just enough so that her eyes bled to black. “Just vampires? If they’re so insignificant, why did you have to form a whole military organization just to fight them? They’re not just vampires, my friend, and they’re not alone. There are werewolves, mercenaries, experienced warriors—the Dragonborn—and don’t forget the two dragons sitting on the towers outside. Our companions want nothing more than to bring. You. Down. And all this started because your group kidnapped an innocent man and his children.”
“If he’s so innocent, why’d he marry a vampire?” one of them challenged her.
Selene didn’t bother to answer him. “By doing so, you declared war.”
“We didn’t have anything to do with that,” said a young woman in the back. “It was Isran and—”
“I don’t care who did it. You’re all responsible. You’re a military unit, each accountable for the others’ actions. But you’re right: not all of you are to blame for giving the order to abduct them, so I’ll give you a chance to get out. Lay down your arms and lock yourself in those cages you set aside for the two little girls and their father, and we will see that you’re not harmed. When all this is over, you will be set free and the Dawnguard will be disbanded. Afterward, we’ll make a promise to police the activities of the vampires and werewolves, ourselves. However, if you fight us, you will die, and horribly.”
There was a long, tense pause. Somewhere in the back, someone’s axe dropped, and he scampered out. It took a while, but nearly a third more followed. Most of the others seemed indecisive.
Until someone hurled an axe at Blanche’s head. “But they are vampires!”
Blanche dodged behind the barrel again with a hiss while the other soldiers tightened their holds on their weapons.
“You’re just playing good because you know you can’t win,” a muscular, heavily armored Redguard with a thick black beard and a warhammer in his hands growled. “You’re bloodthirsty savages, the bastard children of Daedra, and a few cannibals with manners don’t change what you are.”
Blanche, still behind the barrel with her back pressed up to it, twitched her upper lip. ”Isran,” she whispered.
Selene laughed mirthlessly. “And you’re not a bloodthirsty savage? We saw what you did to Farkas. Who will you turn on when all the vampires have been killed off? The werewolves, most of whom don’t go anywhere near civilization? Or the Daedra worshippers? Become a military attachment to the Vigilants of Stendarr?”
He snarled at the remark, but gave no other response.
“What do you think the Daedric Princes will do when you go knocking on their doors? As for us winning, you’re not so sure, are you? I can smell fear, and you’re just as terrified as those poor bastards who locked themselves in the cage.” She briefly turned her head toward the door, sniffed a bit, and smiled before turning back. “Tell me, Isran, would you have killed Farkas and the girls if they didn’t give Blanche up?”
Isran narrowed his eyes. “Maybe I would have, if it meant bringing that creature here, looking for revenge.” He glared at Blanche’s barrel. “But I didn’t have to, did I?”
“I want to kill him,” Blanche murmured. “I want to. Let me kill him, Selene. Leave him for me. I want to kill him.”
“He’s all yours, my friend.”
Fear flared anew in Isran, but he didn’t back down or blink an eye. The fear was complemented with a grim, rock-hard determination. He might be afraid, but he would go down fighting. He wanted this battle as much as Blanche did.
The door behind her suddenly banged open, and Selene didn’t even bother looking back. She smiled and cooed, “Hello, sweetie.”
But it wasn’t Brynjolf who answered. He simply chuckled as Aela said, “Good to see you, honey.” The Huntress stepped up next to Selene, followed by Brynjolf, Karliah, and Vilkas. She raised an eyebrow at Blanche. “Why are you hiding?”
“You would too if you’d almost had your head diced by a flying axe,” Blanche retorted. “Good to see you too, Huntress, Vilkas.”
“Ah, the Companions,” Isran crooned as the other Dawnguard soldiers gathered a little closer together. “And then some, just in time. Shame to have to eliminate you as well. Now, what is that armor the three of you wear? I can’t place it.”
“And you never will,” Brynjolf replied.
Isran shrugged. “No matter.”
“You would do wise to fear them, Mey.” It was Durnehviir.
With that, Selene did turn her head. Silhouetted in the open doorway was the eye of the great dragon. It would have been almost comical if not for the baleful glare.
“They are just as prepared to spill your blood as you are theirs,” Durnehviir rumbled. “And the walls of this fort cannot protect you from the dragons.” To prove his point, he slammed his horned head into the outside wall, making the whole building shake.
Selene turned back and smiled. “Anybody else want to give up?”
A couple more dropped their weapons and fled to the cage, but the rest stood fast. There were fifteen of them left, including Isran, and Selene could hear another troll growling somewhere nearby.
“Where are Farkas and the girls?” Vilkas demanded.
“They’re safe,” Selene told him, “and hidden. The girls weren’t hurt, but Farkas is a bit worse for wear.”
Vilkas growled at Isran, and Selene put a hand up. “Leave him alone. He has a prior engagement with Blanche.” She nocked an arrow but didn’t raise it yet, just glanced over at Blanche. “Are you ready to do this, then?”
Blanche’s fingers puffed into flame, and she grinned.
Vilkas lifted his sword and let out a battle cry. Aela and Brynjolf joined in, and Durnehviir and Odahviing howled, filling the atrium with a deafening roar. Karliah was too soft-spoken for that and just sighed with an expression that said, Nords . . .
And so, the fight was on. Durnehviir’s eye disappeared, but he and Odahviing could be heard outside, ready to devour anyone who thought running was still an option, or to bash in the walls of the fort so they could get to the soldiers inside as if they were rabbits in a hole, if the Dawnguard proved to be too strong. Karliah was quickly lost in the fight, but Selene occasionally saw her firing arrows from one corner or another and then flickering out of visibility whenever someone saw her and tried to attack, then reappearing elsewhere when she fired the next arrow. Aela was hacking; Vilkas was slashing. Serana had raised one of the dead Dawnguard soldiers to fight and was busy shooting ice spikes at another. A fireball from Blanche exploded in the distance, and through the crowd, Selene saw her taking Isran on with a vengeance. Neither had suffered a bad injury yet, but it was just a matter of time.
Selene tossed her bow to the side and drew her sword to engage a soldier who was charging her. She dodged his blade and swung around with her own, catching him in the side. He all but ignored the gash and the shockwave that Dragonbane sent pulsing through him and turned on her again, and though she tried to block, he buried his blade in her side. Pain and dizziness overwhelmed her as the silver seared into her flesh, and she dropped to the floor.
“No!” she heard Brynjolf cry, and before she knew it, her adversary fell dead next to her. “Look at me, love,” her husband urged her.
“I’m . . . okay. Just help me up. I think I’ll stick to the bow from now on.” She scrambled over and retrieved her bow, but she found it difficult to pull the bowstring. She did manage to get a shot off and kill another soldier before giving up and collapsing. “Damn it!” she cried bitterly as she dug into her pack for a healing potion. She had none left.
Brynjolf had left her side and was locked in a fierce battle with a wood elf who hurled insults at him with every swing of his blade. Karliah was still flitting in and out, and Aela stood to the side and sniped, with Serana at her back. Vilkas was nowhere to be found. Selene heard a scream from beyond the dining room, and she dragged herself to her feet and stumbled across the hall and past the cage where the prisoners waited.
“Vilkas?” she called desperately.
She found him sitting next to a dead troll and sat down next to him. His trousers were shredded, and three bloody slashes crossed his left leg.
“He hit me just right,” he muttered. “Scraped the armor right off, and most of the skin with it.”
“How bad is it?”
“Eh, a couple dozen stitches and a good healing spell, and I’ll be fine. You?”
“I think I might be going into shock.” With that, she passed out cold.
* * *
Blanche and Isran were still taking one another head-on. He had used a Vampire’s Bane spell against her and landed three crunching blows with his warhammer while she was down. She had recovered in time to avoid being beaten to death, but with each swing she more narrowly avoided his next. Even so, her weapon relied on her mind, not her body, and she was able to keep up her attacks. Finally the moment came where she staggered, and he picked up his boot and kicked her in the stomach. She lost her footing and stumbled backward, and while she groveled in the dust, he approached her and raised his warhammer. “Time is up, demon!”
“Feim Zii Gron!”
In a puff of white, his warhammer came down with an earsplitting clang as metal clashed on stone. An ethereal blue mist trickled away from his hammer while he stared at the place where she had been just a moment ago.
Suddenly, a cork dropped to the ground out of thin air.
With a smash, Blanche suddenly reformed behind him and lunged to bring the empty blood potion bottle down on his uncovered head. When he staggered, she sank her teeth into his neck, and her razored hand burrowed between the plates of his armor into his back. He howled, but the cry was abruptly cut off as her hand burst out of his chest in a storm of blood.
Blanche sneered as Isran’s hammer dropped and he sagged under her arm. She ripped her red-stained forearm out, letting him crumple to the floor, and then turned to bare her fangs and practically roar at two of the younger Dawnguard who watched in horror.
Their weapons crashed to the floor, and they ran. “We are routed! Fall back!”
The room fell silent for only a moment. ”Selene? Selene!” Brynjolf, battered and bloody, ran off.
Aela followed, shouting for Vilkas.
Serana and Blanche regarded one another for a moment, before Blanche gave up and fell to her knees, and then forward.
* * *
When Selene opened her eyes, she was home. She heard Brynjolf in the kitchen, cooing to Rowan, and for a moment she thought she had dreamt the whole thing. Then pain sliced through her side and Blanche groaned next to her. She turned over to see the vampire lying in bed beside her, just opening her eyes. Farkas sat next to the bed, and Sofie and Lucia oohed and aahed over the baby in the kitchen. Serana stood in a shadowy corner, hands folded in front of herself.
“My bow . . .” Blanche moaned.
“It’s safe.” Serana stepped forward and knelt by the bed. “Don’t worry about it.”
“What happened?” Selene asked Farkas.
“We won,” was his simple reply.
When Brynjolf heard her voice, he came into the bedroom. “No losses on our end,” he told her as he took her hand. “Lots of injuries, but none life threatening.”
“You’re hurt,” she noted, motioning to a bandage on his forehead.
“A few scrapes and bruises. That reminds me. Rowan says, ‘boo-boo,’ now.”
“I taught her that,” Lucia bragged as she came in the room and plopped down on the bed. “Are you awake yet, Mama?”
“Hey, we talked about this,” said Farkas. “She needs her rest.”
Blanche smiled and lifted her hand to touch her daughter’s cheek, but then flinched and gave up the attempt.
“And the Dawnguard?” Selene asked.
“Officially disbanded,” Brynjolf announced cheerfully. “All the members are either dead or scattered to the winds.”
“Mostly dead,” Farkas added.
“Disbanded.” Blanche sighed deeply and closed her eyes. “Good.”
“But you—we—have to make sure the vampires don’t get to be a problem now that they aren’t there to fear,” said Selene.
“I can see that cannot be avoided any longer. It is still a price I am happy to pay for the Dawnguard’s demise.”
Aela appeared around the corner. “Oh, and by the way, I don’t know where you got those potions I found in your satchel, Blanche—”
“What were you doing in my satchel?”
Aela ignored the interruption. “—and I’m guessing they aren’t legal, but they tasted marvelous.”
“Right,” Blanche said dryly.
Farkas patted Selene’s hand. “Vilkas will be okay too. He’s gonna be lugging that leg around like it’s a log for a while, though.”
There was a light skittering of feet, and Valindor’s bright eyes peeped into the room behind Aela. “And you two got yourselves wonderfully grounded. You’re lucky you had those dragons to pick off some of the Dawnguard for you, or you would never have survived, ever. Try not to do that again anytime soon, all right?”
“Valindor?” Blanche lifted her eyebrows. “What are you doing out?”
“My lady needed me. In case you haven’t noticed, you almost died. Isran smashed your shoulder and collarbone quite expertly. And lots of other things, too. Why your head wasn’t one of them is a mystery to me. Honestly—”
“Shut up, Valindor.” A soft golden light swirled around her shoulders again. “But . . . thank you.”
Sofie brought Rowan in, and the toddler reached for Selene and grunted.
“I don’t know if that’s such a good idea,” Brynjolf protested.
“Oh, I’ll be fine. Hand her to me.”
When Rowan was finally in Selene’s lap, she reached up and patted her mama’s cheek where the skin was abraded. “Boo-boo?”
“Aye, Rowan, Mama has a boo-boo.”
“Aye, boo-boo!” She leaned in and kissed the scrape gently.
“Where is Vilkas? Is he downstairs? I can smell him.”
“Aye, he’s resting in the housecarl’s bed,” Brynjolf told her.
Selene looked over at Blanche. “Well, my friend, I truly didn’t think we’d make it. So. What now?”
Blanche squirmed a little. “Well, as soon as I can move again without my bones complaining, I’m going back to Fort Dawnguard and pillaging the damn thing to my heart’s content. I took a hit from one of my own swords back there, so there are probably more.” She lifted her eyes to Farkas. “There’s also something I need to ask you about.”
He smiled, instinctively understanding her meaning. “Whenever you want.”
Blanche tilted her head a little to look at Selene. “And if you are ever up for some dungeon delving or mystery solving, I would be happy to have a second pair of hands, or to offer mine. I think there are many things we could learn from one another.” A smile twitched off her lips.
Selene looked over at Brynjolf, who also smiled. “Whenever you want.”
A/N: Collaboration with Digipup on deviantART. Look for Dragonborn: The Legacy, coming soon!