"You know what is right. Go and do it. At times it is not enough to look for good in the world. Sometimes you need to put good in it."
- Archon Tactius, his final sermon
Despite initially pressing a few feet into the building, the group found themselves taking another rest around the bend leading to a spirally ascending staircase. Perhaps it was too much to be around Sharza's remains or perhaps they did not realize just how exhausted they were. It did not matter, they needed to take another moment to catch their breath and did so with a command from Claudia. A dark, somber silence overtook them punctured only by the light of the narrow window nearby.
Each were marred and sweating and their muscles ached. Sibylla passed around a large canteen of water from which everyone drank desperately. Do'Ravier seemed to be sulking away from the others but also made it clear he did not want to be disturbed. Bann-Je sat on a nearby stone bench but not before brushing off the spot he wanted three time.
Claudia wondered how they got here. The simple answer was because despite no longer being part of the Vigilant of Stendarr or the Inquisition, it was still the right thing to stop this rogue mage. The vampire was not in the mood for simple answers. She remembered the time when she slipped in between life and death and was confronted by Arkay. The Divine urged her to think deeper, to go back further than the simple answer of how she got here. She realized she was not the only one here. She had dragged four others; three now. Sharza's death weighed on her but now was not the time to mourn her. They had to finish this. Yet, Claudia could not help but ask why did she take these three with her?
There was the practical reason. She never would have gotten this far without them. Bann-Je was crazy, Sibylla was belligerent and Do'Ravier was both liable to complain and be unstable but despite all that she could not question their loyalty. Why they stuck by her, she could not know. What she know was how they all met.
Being the daughter of a noble family, and all the education that went with it, brought her a long way when she surrendered her social status into a type of exile with the Imperial Cult. When the priests found out that she was good with a bow and rapier it was only logical that they offer her the opportunity to serve as one of the Vigilant of Stendarr. She went through the basic training and did a few months of running missions with some of the veteran members of the order. Everyone that worked with her knew that her talents would be wasted if she was not quickly made into a team leader. All that was needed was for her to be given a team.
Claudia was good at what she did and the order agreed she needed a team of equally talented individuals. The new leader was sent to High Rock where she would meet the rest of her team, all of them having been gathered and assigned to her from the various departments of the order. She had read the reports, all of them told of their prowess on the field and there were only small scribbled warnings regarding their "eccentricities." Claudia lived to regret not paying careful attention to those fine print warnings.
She first met the Archon the Cathedral, Tacitus, who had requested an expert team of Vigilantes to help manage the area. It was over the next few days that the rest of her team filed into the building. First was Sibylla who came from Skyrim, all haughty with martial pride and never too far from a tankard of mead. Next was Do'Ravier shuffling in with boxes of books and a little too much energy. Finally, Bann-Je walked into the cathedral door...and repeated it two more times.
Their first few missions nearly had them all killed, not by the enemy, but by each other. Bann-Je would shroud himself only to prevent Do'Ravier and Claudia from launching arrows and spells who refused to take the chance of friendly fire. This did not deter Sibylla who was too used to working by herself and at one point the two even tripped over each other. At another point Sibylla nearly brained Claudia on a backswing while the Nord did get a nasty shock during a chain arc from Do'Ravier's lightning spells.
After the third near accident, Bann-Je almost swallowing one of Claudia's arrows while Sibylla shaved off Do'Ravier's left whiskers, Claudia decided that enough was enough. She marched the group out into the cathedral's courtyard and they had a good long talk about their strategies. Each explained how they understood battle, how they operated and what they expected the others to do. Claudia ended it with a simple admonition.
"All of us, we need to talk to each other. I expect you all to keep me informed on what you do. I want to help you all. But you all need to help me too. That is all, dismissed." Claudia told them before leaving the courtyard. She wondered if that one statement had made all the difference. That was how they all started talking to each other on more than just a professional basis.
And now they were carrying her on when she knew she could not have done this alone.
"We've made it this far. We can't do anything for Sharza, not yet at least. Lets finish this and put it all to rest." Sibylla insisted, needing to say something to break the silence.
"Yes, I agree," Claudia replied, standing to her full height before walking in front of them.
"And this time, I'll lead from the front."
"You're not exactly the most heavily armored one here, Claudia. Are you sure you don't-"
"I'll be fine, Sibylla. I can sense things you can't." the vampire insisted.
"Well...if you say so." the Nord relented hesitantly.
Claudia watched them slowly gather themselves up before mentally and physically bracing themselves. This was going to be their final push and after such an incident that happened just a few moments ago, it was natural for even the most veteran fighter to become unnerved. However, Claudia knew she could not let them lose momentum. They had to finish this.
"Are you going to be all right, Do'Ravier?" Sibylla asked quietly.
"Do'Ravier will feel much better when justice is served." the Khajiit replied darkly.
"Well then, I suppose we shouldn't wait." Sibylla replied.
"If all else fails, gravity is an unstoppable force." Bann-Je muttered to himself quietly. His remark was overlooked.
"Lets go." Claudia urged.
The walls that enclosed around them may not have been foreboding in a brighter day with their artistic designs and the relief of faces gazing back at them like ancestors from ages past. The stone the building was made of was grainy but not excessively rough to the touch. But with the knowledge that something dark and twisted lurked within the halls turned the statues into silent hostages, a thousand faces that may have well have been effigies to the lives lost to the madness within. Perhaps it was just the weight of the situation weighing on their minds, but each of the Vigilants felt their condemning gaze upon them. Claudia hurried them further up the stairs.
The group stopped at a closed door and took a moment to form up. Claudia stepped first, bow drawn and ready to be loosed while Sibylla fell in behind her. Next was Do'Ravier who clutched his spear firmly while Bann-Je brought up the rear. All four of them shared a final glance before nodding. Without a word, Claudia kicked the door open and they rushed inside, blood rushing, weapons drawn and reflexes ready to spring. They were not prepared for what they saw within.
To Claudia and Sibylla, it was eerily similar to what they saw in the hotel back in Sentinel. If flesh and muscle were plaster and fresco, then the room before them would have been a gallery dedicated to the magnum opus of a master sculptor. It a previous life it may have served as a simple landing or living area but now it had been turned into something far more sinister. It was if an artist had gone into the room and crafted a lifelike scene of rocks, trees and a meadow, right down to the individual blades of ankle high grass, within the room. Climbing vines snaked around the room and up the walls while blooming flowers the size of large hands erupted from various places within the scene. It all may have been very pretty if it weren't for the fact that all of it was in colors of pink, red and ghastly white while having that all too familiar texture and appearance of exposed muscle and flesh.
"Keep sharp, there might be a demon lurking in here." Claudia warned, eyes piercing through the fleshscape.
"Clearly." Do'Ravier sputtered, engross at what he saw.
"No, not Furaldur. Some horrid abomination attacked us in the hotel when it looked like this." the vampire clarified.
"This is...disgusting. So much that would have to be cleaned!" Bann-Je exclaimed in horror.
"Just stay focus and we can put this bastard down." Sibylla reminded them.
"It is funny that you should use those terms, Nord." a voice spoke out to them.
They all jumped, weapons raised and limbs ready to attack. Their eyes searched frantically for the intruder but all they saw was just more of the artistic slaughterhouse they were in.
"Show yourself!" Claudia demanded.
One of the veiny, fleshy vines from the walls slowly uncoiled itself and gently snaked its way towards them. Its movements did not suggest any overt hostility so the group let it approach albeit with all their weapons pointed at it. The tendril delicately raised a lily made of tongues and buds of skin. The grotesque flower spoke to them.
"You think I am the evil one? All you simpletons ever do is destroy and sabotage. I am the true progressive here, I am the one that is trying to set things right." the flower declared.
"...You...Furaldur! That's you speaking!." Claudia snapped, recognizing the voice.
"It has been over a year, Imperial. Alas, I do not remember your name. Hmm, and what is this? Have you fallen victim to vampirism? And your comrades allow you to walk among them? I did not think that was allowed for Vigilants."
"That is none of your concern. Where are you hiding?"
"And I must say that is none of your concern. I fear that you all don't see the beauty of what you are walking in and I cannot allow you to destroy that. You do not see the worth of this despite it being before your very eyes." the flower cooed, the vine lovingly caressing the layer of mucus under it. Bann-Je nearly shuddered in disgust.
"There is no beauty in this!" Sibylla sneered.
"That is where you are wrong. Look at it! Truly look at it!" Furaldur insisted. No one did anything except continuing to stare at the flower. The arrangement of petals closed momentarily before opening with a exasperated sigh. The daedric priest continued.
"The flesh is still living, the blood still flows. Against all odds, despite disease, despite wounds, despite trauma, it yet lives and operates!"
"This is an abomination." Bann-Je growled.
"Oh?" the flower menacingly turned in his direction. "And when was the last time your brought something back to life rather than killing it, assassin?"
"I at least gave the mercy of a clean death." Bann-Je grumbled.
"And then it dies, decays and it can't come back. I'm working on giving the gift of life. Continual life. Life that doesn't die." Furaldur retorted.
"All things must come to an end. Death is still very much a part of life. Only the foolish do not prepare for it." Do'Ravier argued.
"Ah, yes. The typical priestly response. You never once thought of the cruelty of Arkay, forcing you to accept an ending to all things rather than trying to fight it? Answer me, mage. You have watched friends die and what did you do? Nothing! You probably said a few pretty words but you must not have cared for them that much if you just decided to leave their bodies to rot. Meanwhile I'm trying to fight the very evil that you let swallow your friends. From where I stand, you seem to be the foolish, perhaps even apathetic, one here." Furaldur judged. Do'Ravier bared his teeth and growled angrily.
"Enough! We have to end this, where are you?" Claudia demanded. The vampire focused her senses. For the first time she realized why it was suddenly hard to detect his heartbeat. It seemed like the whole room was just one heavily pulsating organ that drowned out her heightened hearing. She could barely even make out those of her teammates right next to her. She strained her hearing, he had to be...
"He's upstairs." Claudia announced.
The four moved through the fleshcape hurrying to get to the door at the end. They were nearly upon it when they promptly found themselves face first on the floor. Gagging and hauling themselves off of the sticky, slimy surface, they realized what the problem was. The vein vines had curled fast around their ankles. In the center of the room, a gaping maw lined with dagger like teeth formed, opening like a whirlpool emerging from a still lake.
"I would be sorry to kill you all here but I hardly can allow you to stop me from completing my goal. Besides, your deaths, while regrettable, will only help me find the answer. Who knows? Maybe if you're lucky, your life essences will live on in this wondrous creation." Furaldur's voice spoke from one of the vines began dragging them closer to the maw.
"He can go rot in Oblivion if he thinks I'm going to let myself get eaten!" Sibylla shouted, flailing her ax on the vine around her ankle, oblivious to how close she was getting to the maw. She probably would have been swallowed if Bann-Je hadn't caught her around the waist while Claudia held onto his ankle. The vampire in turn was being clutched by Do'Ravier who had anchored himself with his spear stuck to the floor.
"We have to do something, quick!" Claudia cried. Do'Ravier let out a pained groan.
"Hold tight...and brace yourself. This is going to hurt."
"Do'Ravier, what are you going to do?" Claudia demanded forcefully.
"Did you ever wonder what a bolt of lightning feels like?"
"No, and what does that have to do with-No!"
Under normal circumstances a lightning spell would not affect the caster. Unfortunately, they were standing within the very target of their wrath. There was no way they could avoid feeling the electric shock too and what a very painful sensation it was. When Claudia opened her eyes and felt control returning to her muscles, she could see that much of the fleshy contortions of the creature they were standing on had twisted and writhed into painful positions. Essentially, all what Do'Ravier had done was restart the whole struggle. They were no further in their endeavor of trying to escape. However, just as importantly, they had not gone further backwards either. Belatedly, they noticed that Sibylla, in her painful spasms, had chopped the vine that bound them. Bann-Je was the first to react.
The spastic lizard contorted his whole body, wrenching himself free of Claudia's grasp. In one fluid motion, he hurled Sibylla as far as he could towards the door while doubling back to shove Claudia and Do'Ravier in the same direction. It was not graceful or painless but only his quick reactions allowed them to get a head start before the creature could fully understand what had just happened.
"It's locked and barred!" Sibylla cried, trying to force open the door.
"Hack through it! We'll buy you time!" Claudia shouted, launching an arrow into the maw at the center of the beast for whatever good it did. Do'Ravier conjured as many fireballs as he could while Bann-Je hacked at the smaller tendrils wiggling up to vampire could hear the creature's pulse begin to grow in strength. They had successfully aggravated it and she could see more of the veiny cords starting to snake towards them from the undergrowth of skin spines.
The Nord splintered and crushed her way through the door, the others not even needing to be told as they rushed in right behind her. Reforming for a moment in the hallway, they were not even allowed to catch their breath since they could feel the viney fingers of the creature still creeping up on their heels. Turning, Do'Ravier poured another cascade of fire from his paws, halting the abomination in a limbo state upon the ascending stairwell.
"It's going to keep following us." Bann-Je noted grimly.
"We don't have time to play with this thing, the mage might get away again." Claudia growled in frustration. Sibylla thought for a moment before stepping in to cover Do'Ravier when he needed to take a moment. Bashing away an intrusive, probing muscular coil, the Nord stomped at the smaller fingers underfoot before arriving to a conclusion.
"We'll have to hold it back. Claudia, you need to go up there and end it yourself."
"Is that a good idea?" Do'Ravier asked, popping the muscles on his neck with a flex as he waited for his turn.
"Do you see another options, cat?" Sibylla chided.
"Hmmm. No." the battlemage conceded before sending a crackling jolt of lightning into their adversary.
Claudia felt cold with quiet dread. Considering that blood no longer ran warm through her, this was an odd sensation, more realizing her current state than a change from the norm. She wondered if her friends were sacrificing themselves in this act. Unless they were able to uncover some hidden weakness in the creature it looked like they would either get bogged down in a standstill at best or slowly if inevitably give up ground as it won a grinding battle of attrition. The vampire knew she did not have a lot of time.
"I will hurry." Claudia agreed and began to rush up the stairs.
The Imperial wondered why it seemed she was becoming so prone to reflection as of late. Perhaps it had something to do with her recent turning to an undead creature. Maybe it was the knowledge that she was on the cusp of something far larger than she could imagine. Alas, her feet did not give her mind much time for its pursuits nor did her hands allow her time to pause. More mechanically than thoughtfully she flung up the door that was barring her way. She stopped dead at what she saw.
Furaldur, still easily recognized after all this time, had painted intricate, staggering runes on the entire span of the tower floor. The lines and symbols all interconnected and they were done in an eerie red ink, one whose origin she wondered about. In the very center of it all was a glowing crystal orb.
Under normal circumstances this would have been no different to any other daedric summoning she and her team had barged into. They were always eerie, jarring and it was a pleasure to quickly disperse them all because something about these rituals unnerved her no matter how many times she saw them. But this was one ritual she knew she would never forget and one that forced her to stop and gape in awe. Before Furaldur in a ghostly, billowing form was a pale rat. Both the mage and the vision he had conjured were immediately by a window that illuminated the whole of the bare room.
The ghost was larger than most rats she had seen but it was not enormous either. The Imperial was more struck by how unworldy it was rather than anything else. Even more perplexing was the fact that Furaldur seemed to be angrily talking to it. The rodent's ghostly, beady eyes stared up at the mage in apparent annoyance.
"What more do you need from me? I have turned hundreds, maybe thousands, for you! Not even the undead were safe from me because I infected vampires with your gifts! What more do I need to do before you grant me my wish?" Furaldur shouted angrily.
"What more gifts do you want? You've been left untouched by my plagues when by all accounts you should have fallen to them, you have been my herald and enjoyed a touch of my power. I have shown you the gift of Corpus, a rarity that has not been seen in Tamriel for such a long time. You have been given enough gifts in return for your service." the rat replied somehow; Claudia did not see it move its snout.
"But that is not what I asked!"
"Do you know what you are asking of me? Do not think yourself smarter than me, mortal, I know your intents. You want to prove your superiority over your peers, you want to show the curs in the Imperial Cult that they are wrong and you are right. And how do you intend to do that? You want to fashion my gifts to your purposes. You want to bring life out of disease."
"Fine!" Furaldur snapped, throwing his fists into the air with rage. "So what if that was my goal? I laughed with scorn at all those helpless fools who felt the touch of your gifts that I gave them, begging, pleading for a cure. It was all funny and disrespectful because those diseases were not meant to be a problem, they were meant to be a cure, a cure from death! Maybe a painful existence, but I find it less hypocritical than the Imperial Cult's acceptance of death and willingness to let lives rot away."
"I care not for your opinions. You have Corpus. Either change them under your own powers if you are so wise or continue in my service quietly." the rat snapped. It was then that Claudia realized that the rat was in fact an avatar of Peryite.
"Wouldn't this glorify you? A world where life is continued by disease? Where Corpus doesn't debilitate? Wouldn't all know of your power if you would just accept my petition?" Furaldur argued furiously.
"Do not presume to know above your station, mortal!" Peryite spat. Claudia started to wonder if all the Daedra were like this.
Furaldur jumped when a booming, malevolent laughter washed over the room like a peal of thunder. If the avatar of Peryite made an reaction, it only seemed to be an exasperated shaking of its head. In the distorted plane that seemed to be the medium for Peryite to reveal himself, a hulking, scaly figure with horns emerged from the gloom. Claudia immediately recognized it at the form of Molag Bal. The brute was easily recognize by his muscular, reptilian form, snout full of dagger like teeth and gnarled horns that curled from his head. The avatar stood a head taller than Furaldur and was as wide as a bull.
"Fools, both of you!" the hideous demonic lord roared and sniggered.
"Molag, stay out of this." Peryite scolded.
"So easily manipulated, lesser daedra and mortals alike. Even the passions of your followers can be used for my whims. I believe we had a bet, Peryite." Molag Bal hissed with a vicious grin.
"'Unleash plague upon plague and my followers will not care for me and the mortals will only care for themselves letting their fellows to rot.' The allotted time has past. I have a good memory, Molag Bal." Peryite grumbled.
"Then, I have come to claim him as my own." the prince of rape announced. Furaldur stared at him in horror.
"He's still one of mine!" Peryite shouted violently.
Claudia let the three bicker, holler and rage. It was what she had heard that mattered. There was no cure for any of this. Furaldur did not do any of this out of some twisted glee. There was a science to this. He had been performing experiments, offerings intended to form a more perfect sickness. Her form of vampirism was one of its many results. There would be no cure for her. Taking a shuddering breath, the vampire realized there was really only one option left to her now. She readied her blade.
"Enough, all of you." yet another voice broke out in the cacophony of the argument. Looking above their heads, all three of the contenders saw the familiar shape of Azrua's star signaling her own herald.
"Enough, Molag Bal. You have spoken too soon." the gentler voice chided.
"Why is that?" the Daedric Lord raged contemptously.
It was in that moment the three daedric lords spotted Claudia sprinting across the room, rapier held high. Furaldur had no time to react except only to turn his head to spot his unexpected demise. in one moment the blade went through him and Claudia kept running. A single tear formed in her eye as she continued to push his body on her path forward. She knew that all of this madness was being held in place by Furaldur's abilities. She knew that this was the only way to end it all for all of them. Claudia allowed herself one last tranquil feeling, the sight of the sun gently falling from the open window; the very window she ran through taking Furaldur with her on a sheer drop down to the desert floor.
"I always take care of my own, Molag Bal." Azura explained. "Somewhere up her line, as shown by the bonemold bow she and her family carried, was a Dunmer, a servant who dedicated themselves to me. I keep my promises, I had watched over all of them during their time of greatest need. You should know better, Molag Bal. She and those that she rallied have proven otherwise. There are still mortals who will care for others though their worlds fall apart and break asunder."
Whatever further discussion they had was lost on the mortal plane because their connection to the medium was severed. All that mattered was that Molag Bal was not happy with the general outcome.
Down in the stairwell, the three had formed themselves into a phalanx of sorts. It was simple, effective and utilized their talents to the best of their abilities. Sibylla stood in the fore, shield raised and ax ready to strike quick, punitive blows to anything that lingered too long. For anything that sought to overwhelm Sibylla or was out of her reach, Bann-Je would intervene from behind, his agility and blades slicing off anything that threatened her. Also behind and besides the Argonian, Do'Ravier launched spell after discouraging spell into the creature. With the way they were working they could have easily held back an army. Sadly, the creature was still forcing them to retreat, slowly, but stone cold clearly they were losing.
"Just a few more steps and we'll be barging in on Claudia and the mage." Do'Ravier reported, ear bending low in discouragement.
"We just got to keep holding on. Who knows, maybe once we show up we can find a way to turn this around." Sibylla asserted, knocking away another tentacle.
"It might already be over." Bann-Je murmured.
"Then tell him that!" Do'Ravier retorted, motioning at the creature.
The mass of muscle and flesh suddenly went limp and collapsed on the floor. For a moment the three continued holding their weapons up and stared in skepticism and shock at the pathetic sight. Eventually, Do'Ravier decided that something catastrophic had just happened to it and gave the creature an experimental poke with his spear.
"...It might be dead." the Khajiit shrugged.
"Well, we're not going out the way we came." Sibylla murmured softly, noticing that the abomination had so forced itself into the stairwell that it completely blocked the passage with its mass. There was no telling how much muscle and tissue they'd have to hack through and that was not a prospective they wanted to consider at the moment.
"Ugh, certainly no way we're going that way. It would have to be scrubbed nine times to be thoroughly sure." Bann-Je groaned in disgust.
"We should check on Claudia." Do'Ravier stated, just as much to himself as to the others.
As if sensing a connection with their current state of events, the group rushed up to the top of the stairs only to find it empty. Only a brief glance was cast on the silent runes on the floor. Otherwise, there was nothing else to be seen and it very much bothered the group. Where had the mage, and more important Claudia, gone?
"Can you make sense of the runes, Do'Ravier?" Sibylla asked curiously, still searching for clues herself.
"I'm looking. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense at the moment." Do'Ravier replied, meticulously studying the markings.
"They went out the window." Bann-Je announced forlornly, gazing down on the sand below.
"What?" Sibylla cried, Do'Ravier rushing up behind her.
Down below they saw the Claudia's familiar orange desert robes sprawled out on the sands. There might have been yet another body below the robes and after some careful examination it was clear the the body had been Furaldur's.
"I'm certain I can see movement down there." Bann-Je murmured.
"It's probably the wind. It's daylight out there." Sibylla frowned sadly. There was no denying what had happened to their friend.
"Well, this is our only way down. Please do not resist, I will levitate us down." Bann-Je informed, casting the proper spell and lifting all three of them out of the window and down the tower. The exercise was quite taxing on the lizard and the last couple of feet went by a little faster than the rest of their journey. Fortunately, the sands provided a semi-soft landing.
"Oh, Claudia." Sibylla whimpered sadly.
"I wonder if she did this on purpose." Do'Ravier muttered to himself.
"Are we sure she's dead?" Bann-Je inquired. He got sharp looks from the others. They might have considered scolding him until the orange robes shuffled again and a familiar voice let out an agonized moan.
"Claudia?" Do'Ravier inquired, hauling the robes up. He immediately regretted doing that.
Claudia had turned lobster red and it was quite clear that both the fall and exposure to sunlight had given her enough pain to consider. Instinctively, the three rushed to do something. The Khajiit quickly covered whatever exposed skin of hers under her robes again while Sibylla held her shield over their fallen leader to provide some shade. Noticing a cleft formed by the walls caused a section of it crumbling in from over the years, Bann-Je hurried them all towards it so they could get her out of the sunlight. Along the way, Do'Ravier pricked his arm with one of the Dwemer blood containers and filled up the cylinder before forcing it towards Claudia's mouth from which she began to suck greedily. Once they got her into the shade and she was safely stabilized, they pulled away her hood to see the damage.
She was red; redder than a beet and it was clear that she was in agony. Otherwise, it did not look like she had sustained any broken bones or other injuries despite the fall. Naturally, exposure to the sun was devastating enough for her but gave Do'Ravier a moment of pause.
"You're not dead. You should have turned to ash by now. The effects of sunlight are usually very quick." the Khajiit observed. Through hisses of pain and sharp breathes, the vampire talked back to him.
"...Furaldur...was looking for a sickness, that prolonged life. Corpus...helps. But...I think vampirism is...not much different...maybe he found a strain that...is resistant to sunlight."
"Heh, that would certainly make you different." Do'Ravier chuckled nervously.
"No different than say, me. And the other me." Bann-Je said.
"Well, looks like you won't be leaving us anytime soon." Sibylla added with a smile.
Claudia just let herself rest. Despite the pain and the fact that she felt like she just got out of a blast furnace,she felt both relief and fear. She was afraid of what to do now. She was not cured and apparently standing out in the sun would not solve the problem. She was going to need blood. There was not going to be any quick solution to this. And still, Claudia could not deny the fact that it was over. The mission that started in High Rock over a year ago was finally put to rest. She no longer had to worry about a rogue mage on her conscience.
"...I don't know what I'm going to do. I'm not cured." Claudia sighed to all of them.
"It doesn't mean you can't continue on without being a threat. Zelphia has behaved herself for the last century or so." Do'Ravier explained.
"I always did tell people back in the temple that when you're confronted with circumstances you cannot change, you can always change how you see them and your attitudes about them. You can still do some good, Claudia." Sibylla suggested.
"I suppose so." Claudia murmured, watching the sun overhead with her sapphire eyes, glad to be in the safety of the shadows. She still had a lot of thinking to do. She realized the answers probably would not come to her immediately, maybe not even within the next few months. But, she had grown used to living with uncertainty and questions. She couldn't change that, but like Sibylla said, she could always try to find ways to do good for others.
"So. Do you think you more room in your tower for another vampire?" Claudia asked.
"...I'm sure we'll find a place for you." Do'Ravier nodded.
"I have so much cleaning to do." Bann-Je grumbled.
Claudia decided that there would be a great many changes she would have to endure. There were also far too many questions plaguing her. That didn't mean she had to throw away everything in her life. There were still a few good things she wanted to keep around, even if they were a little crazy and had a tendency to get into trouble. She could live with that. So far had done their best to keep her alive too.
The Bedouins tell stories at night as they were the ones most affected by this incident. Within a year some tribes were already returning to the site and found that it had been emptied as if nothing had ever occurred there. There were no further incidents but they walked the abandoned city more carefully these days, the walls echoing of a dark deed committed within its halls.
There is also talk of an old Dwemer tower run by a Khajiiti mage and thorough Argonian. Dromedaries passing through the harrowing Alik'r route find a welcome respite there despite the eccentricities of the people there. For one, there is some whispered talk about the eccentric and unstable behavior about the Argonian and Khajiit. It doesn't help how another Redguard mage always seems to be hanging a little too closely to the Khajiit. Often times there is a burly Nord warrior encased in expensive armor who visits the place and despite her intimidating size and loud personality, no one has been able to pin a story of her acting dangerously.
More curiously are the rumors that every now and then they ask a passing guest to donate some blood. The mages insists they are strictly for research purposes, the nature of magic being complex and all. No one knows what exactly their research is about and they do not tell anyone, the Argonian only insists that "all the instruments are scrubbed thoroughly three times."
Sometimes people ask about the undead, daedric cults or even vampires. The tower residents only say they have not seen any of those. Especially not in their closets.
Author's Note: Done and done. Thank you all for those who read and reviewed. I hope you enjoyed it. Special kudos to Agent94 for lore checking and plot checking. Seriously, if you thought this even turned out half okay, send a thanks his way.