He couldn't have picked a worse time to climb.
Arcturus wrapped his cloak about him, fighting the urge to shiver against the chilling wind. An unholy amount of snowflakes, driven by the sideswiping gale, crept under his hood and insisted on latching onto his eyes. He found it increasingly difficult to balance his struggle against the wind, watch his step on the straight, narrow path, and retake his vision from the snow at the same time, all the while keeping his senses on high alert any danger in waiting.
At least it's still bright out. The thought flashed through his mind, taking his mind off his immediate discomfort with the rationale behind it. He shifted his back, so that the tapered edge of his bow, Fang, nudged against his lower calf. He raised his head to the bright Skyrim sun shining overhead, and the combined presence of his bow and his ray of sunshine bore away some of the chill in his limbs, although it was not enough to coax his guard down. He knew better than that, especially with Isran's words fresh in his memory.
When it comes to vampires, if you're sloppy or careless, you're dead. And good people will die because of you.
He was not overtly fond of being lectured, but as someone who has also had his fair share dealing with creatures of the night, he recognised the truth in Isran's words. They may look human, but behind their gleaming orange eyes burned unnatural strength, primal cunning and an overwhelming desire to slake their thirst of blood, all of which tailor-made to put them in a dominating position over normal men and mer.
But, as the wind shifted directions and brought to Arcturus the scent of raw, red, human blood, he whispered under his breath, his mind briefly dwelling on how 'normal' could not, and would never apply to him.
"Laas," he whispered, closing his eyes as the power of the Thu'um rushed through him, pinpointing to him a lone sentient being at the end of his intended path. At once, he discerned both similarity and difference – similarity being his sensing of conscious, independent thought emanating from the being; difference being his detection of a slight offness to its life force. To his mind's eye, its presence was undeniable but at the same time slightly… alien.
He dropped immediately to a crouch, aware of the crunch of his boots and his heavy breathing giving away his position. The sideswiping mountain wind, after falling silent for several moments, kicked up again, and this time Arcturus was grateful to have it mask his footfalls. Truth be told, he was somewhat glad this particular vampire had shown itself, heedless of the weather. It told him he was on the right track, and that this was indeed the place of interest Vigilant Tolan spoke of – Dimhollow Crypt.
The thrill of the hunt, regardless of the somewhat unusual game, warmed Arcturus from within. He kept a pinpoint on his complacent prey long after the mental imprint of the Thu'um faded. A particularly tall section of outcropped rock shielded his section of the path from the vampire's heightened eyesight, but he kept a respectable distance nevertheless – with the extreme contrast his armour and cloak made against the snow, it would not take much to spot him, even amidst Reaching behind his back, he retrieved Fang and a quiver of Elven arrows, strung it, and fit one of the well-honed shafts to string.
Line of sight, his mind cautioned.
He blinked, and then he smiled as an elaborate solution eliminated the need for a frontal engagement that he abhorred, especially against such a formidable opponent.
"Ven," he whispered again, this time calling to the howling, chilling wind. The singular word was not enough for him to wrestle control of Skyrim's weather from the Divines, or Kynareth in particular, but it granted him insight on the strength and speed of it and foresight on the direction of the drafts yet to come,
He raised his bow high and to the right, opposite to the turn in the snow-blanketed path so that his eyes stared off into the skies above. He pulled the bowstring taut against his face, the razor-thin edge chafing his cheek. He dug his heels in firmly, holding his crouch and his arm.
"Now all we need is one… little…" he murmured, an undue amount of tension welling up in his complete stillness.
A sudden gust of wind assaulted his right flank, nearly throwing him off balance.
"Breeze," he finished, and let the arrow fly.
It did not fly straight and true, and he was lucky it didn't.
The momentum from the bow expended itself after the arrow flew about five feet off of the mountain ridge and twenty of the ground, and a squinting Arcturus barely saw the arrow take a sharp left turn after its doomed struggle against the wind. It stayed within his perception for only the slightest of moments, moving with incredible speed. He strained his ears for an indication of his marksmanship, but he surrendered that to the fey whistles in the air.
Do vampires even have death throes? He wondered briefly to himself. If he had missed entirely, the vampire surely did not notice it, as he heard neither footsteps nor alarms being raised.
That'll teach you for trying stunts when there's real prey involved. He shook himself and nocked another arrow, pushing away his lingering doubts on facing a vampire directly. Creeping forward, he closed several feet before rising above the barrier of rock. He sprang to his feet, bow strained and eyes firm on the spot he last remembered the vampire to be…
…and allowed himself a faint smile when he saw a High Elf attired in outlandish, yet somewhat regal robes pinned against the rock face, a bloodied shaft of Elven make protruding from one of her dull, lifeless orange eyes. Her fangs were visible in the confines of her gaping mouth, and between them a trickle of crimson made its contrast with the bone-white snow. From the lack of embellishments on her armour and her station out in the frigid landscape, Arcturus put her as little more than an unfortunate thrall graced with vampirism. Even so, it took him some moments to convince himself that the danger was past, and the dusky gleam in her eyes was just nerves and paranoia.
Being dead doesn't mean one can't still be threatening, he mused, eyeing the sharp, tapered fangs. His eyes shifted to the arrow firmly lodged in her skull, reminding himself of his depleting quiver. His hand reached out, as if to pull it from her flesh, but then thought better than it and instead brushed a fleeting caress across the lifeless woman's cheek.
"Keep it." He murmured, returning his attention to the narrow passage carved into the rock, its inky darkness leading into the bowels of the mountain and, almost certainly, more vampires. And yet, while the blindness of the dark, and the nightmares often found within, would deter most men, he was no stranger to it.
Arcturus brushed his hood back with one hand, ridding himself of the snowflakes that have gathered in his hair. His other hand gripped Fang tightly, the screams of spilled blood rushing forth from the dark depths and breaking over him in a tidal wave. But he did not hesitate nor back away. His free hand ran to the center of his chest, and his fingers traced the shapes of a proud, yet sinister nightbird, cradling the full moon within its wings.
Night among strangers. Whispers in the dark.
Walk always among shadow, Nightingale. He almost heard a woman's voice, smooth as silk but deceptive of deep, dark enigmas, call to him.
He crossed the threshold between light and dark, and the shadows embraced him until he was seen no longer.