4E 204 year… 5th of Evening Star… 1647…
Even with the strong wind, winter's chill was crisp with the sweet, earthy with scents of pine and mountain flowers. Snow fell hard on the little cliff-side clearing, painting the landscape in the purest white. The tree boughs were laden under their frosty encumbrance. Evening Star's beauty was in full wintery display. No one would ever know how the world truly was from this place with all of winter's beauty and solemn starkness. Yet, even with the blanket of snow, the frozen scene was marred in its surreal form. The air was heavy with more than just the blizzard.
Nine cloaked figures stood at the edge of the clearing, in a semi-circle, with their backs to the dense snowy forest. They were the only thing that broke the pale vision of beauty. The nine women made no sound of any sort, not even the swish of cloth made a note. For any casual observer would think them statues on the cliff side. But today, there were no casual observers on the mountain…
In the dull light snowy storm, their robes shimmered between indigo and violet. Silvery flecks sparkled with the pastel luminescence of the afternoon. The silken robes moved with a life of their own against the cold wind. The magic mantles were autonomous of the wearer, causing the air around them to twinkle.
Daedric runes emblazed upon them glittered silvery on their purple backdrop as the clear primeval symbols epitomizing arcane will. Their combinations so ancient they were almost forgotten to the passage of time. Flittering in the gilded writings were the profane symbols of both of Arkay and Molag Bal. The earliest vampires cursed both the Father of Vampirism and the God ruling life and death.
Their primordial runes spoke of betrayal and blasphemous intent. The women's cloaks were pulled over and covering their heads. Peeking from underneath the hoods, each figure wore identical silver masks. The masks themselves were devoid of any markings and blank of expression, covering their top half of their faces except for eye openings. The metal of the masks absorbed the light of the sun, making them look dull and lackluster. The lines of mask followed their jaw line, protecting lower half of their face. The sides came down to dangerous points just below the jaw. The mask below their nose was open, leaving their fanged mouths exposed.
Each was a vampire.
The Dragonborn stood alone, with her halberd raise in defensive poise. She alone stood between the nine ancient vampires and the rest of her group.
The purple clad figures stood a scant twenty feet from Azriel. Behind her, and flanking to her right were Serana and Valerica. To her left were Aela, Lydia, and Idgrod. Behind Azriel gathered Movarth and the remaining vampires, in front of the mouth of the cave.
At the feet of the woman in the center of the opposing group was the headless body of the Florentius. The priest, had been protected by Arkay up till now, but he had been overwhelmed. Azriel's mind whirled with the possible meanings as she stared at the blood-spray that blemished the snow. Her answers would have to wait.
The middle cloaked figure took a single step forward, over the dead man's headless corpse.
No one on Azriel's side moved. The tension in the air held more of a bite than the cold. For the longest time, the two sides stood silently watching each other.
Finally, the central figure bowed to Azriel and the other eight followed suit.
Valerica shared the briefest glance with her daughter.
Azriel sniffed the tenuous air and tighten her grip on her spear. "Who are you?" Azriel's low voice made the frozen ground shake. Snow fell from the tree branches while the wind picked up.
The woman cast a long look to Serana and Valerica, then rested her gaze back on Azriel. "We have come for the Volkihar in your company."
Azriel's knuckles drained of color as her grip tightened on the spear's shaft. Something struck her familiar about the vampire's voice. It stirred the memories of her past. She gave a sideways look to Serana, then to Valerica. "Why?" She signed to Aela and Lydia her intent with her left hand.
"Their clan has brought unwanted attention to our kind. This must be corrected by our laws. We are creatures of shadow; we do not belong in the light. They must be punished." Her familiar voice rang through the clearing.
"Leave these ones be. They do live in shadow; they break none of your edicts." The ground rumbled once more as Azriel spoke.
The woman smiled slightly before answering. "You must understand, that this is not our way. Once the laws have been broken, our punishment is swift and unforgiving. They must now pay the due. We do not forgive these transgressions, young one. You and the other mortals may go, but these children will have their justness."
Azriel hefted her spear and leveled it. Around her purplish-blue flames erupted, spreading rapidly and surrounding them. "I'll will not allow anyone my protection to be harmed." Her Thu'um made the air vibrate menacingly.
Several of the eight moved, but the central vampire stopped them with raised hand. She made no other movement.
For a long moment the vampire and Azriel stared at one another. "Under your protection?" The vampiress took a bold step forward, still well outside of the flaming wall. "The effect the Volkihars have had in Skyrim, ripple throughout Tamriel. Their wonton destruction in plain view of mortals has brought suspicion on our kind. Our laws are simple and they are irrefutable. You protect creatures that have no respect for the boundaries our kind must never cross. They have defiled those limits and all of Tamriel suffers. We were never meant to outnumber the living. Now, the Volkihar will be culled."
Azriel didn't move, but her flaming wall pulsed outward. "They have nothing to do with what is happening in Skyrim. That alone rests with Harkon and his court."
The vampiress smiled broadly, exposing her fangs. "Of which, they are part, child."
"It has been a very long time since we had any involvement with Harkon." Valerica kept her voice even, holding no trace of the condescending tone it normally held.
The vampire moved so quickly she vanished and reappeared just outside of Azriel's flames. "I do not speak to the damned." She didn't look at Valerica as she spoke, but at Azriel. An unearthly coldness radiated from the robes. It matched the abruptness of her demeanor as she closed the distance between them before stopping. "You will do well to remember your place, Volkihar, for as long as you are allowed to exist."
Valerica hissed at the vampiress, standing her ground.
She turned her attention back on Azriel who had moved nearly as fast, placing herself directly in front of Serana. "It has already begun. We have thinned their presence since crossing onto this Province."
For a moment, only the breeze moved. It rattled the leaves in the forest behind the nine. Azriel narrowed her eyebrows and adjusted the spear in her hand. Overhead the lightening flashed, yet no snow fell. The frigid Evening Star afternoon became colder around them.
Feeling Odahviing and Fruunskahdirn nearby, she called to them, knowing that the vampires that stood with her were no match to the ancients in front of her. Azriel's gut twisted, the wind carried no scent of these vampires. They held the kind of power that both Serana and Valerica possessed, but it was also very different. It was also driving her mad that the vampire that spoke seemed so familiar to her.
"Young one, this fight is not yours. Nor, for all of your strengths, can you defeat us. Stand aside and I will allow you to take the mortal and the child of Hircine with you." She gestured only to Idgrod and Aela.
The weight of the halberd in her hand seemed to double as she stared down at the shaft. She heard the movement behind her, vampires shifting in their places nervously. She felt Serana's trepidation and Aela's quiet anger. Her ears caught Lydia shift and Idgrod's increased heartbeat. From within, the wolves howled, calling and pulling against her will. The fight was eminent and she knew it.
Looking up, Azriel stared directly into the masked face of the central vampire. "Zu fen ni kriist ireid. Zu'u fen ni ru nol naan ulfah. Zu'u los Dovahkiin! Zu'u los thur do dovahhe ahrk Zu'u los Ulokuun do Taazokaan. Wo los hi wah uth zey?"
The purple-blue flame formed a wall around Azriel's side, rising high into the air. Magic crackled all around her from the vampires on her side. She heard the movement of steel through the gale that blew around them bringing the snowy squall; lightening hit a tree near the clearing.
The dragons were nearly on top of them.
"Hahnuheim. Ofuun. Mindok." The words fell from Azriel's lips in a whisper.
The vampire took a surprising step directly through the flames.
The wind carried the scent of sacred lotus flowers as the vampire emerged through flames. It was so over powering that Azriel froze. The point of her spear plunged, becoming impossibly heavy.
The vampire didn't attack, instead she pulled back her hood, letting her long blonde hair spill out around her mask. "Fund hi lost zey ol hokoron, Dovahkiin?"
Everyone around Azriel shifted, unsure of what to do. The other eight vampires spread around them, encircling them completely, but didn't cross the flames.
Azriel opened her mouth just as the vampire placed a finger on her spear-tip.
The vampire's ruby-red eyes blazed from under her mask. "Would you make an enemy of me, Ahziial?" She repeated, slowly lifting the mask from her face.
The flaming wall burned out of existence as Azriel stared at the vampire in front of her. The woman took another daring step closer to Azriel, pushing the halberd that separated them away gently.
Serana hissed venomously at the vampiress, sparks flashing from her fingertips. "Don't you dare take another step closer!"
But, it was Azriel the laid a restraining hand on Serana's arm. "No."
The blonde vampire laughed coldly at Serana. "Child, do you honestly think you could ever intimidate me?"
"Stop." Azriel didn't look away from the blonde vampire's face as she whispered.
"Azriel, she isn't who you think she is." This time there was a certain desperation to Serana's tone.
Azriel's jaw loosened. "Eamal..."
The vampire smiled triumphantly as the shaft fell from Azriel's hands. "I see time has not weakened your memory of me, little wanderer."
Azriel shook her head back and forth sluggishly. "No…"
"They killed Florentius and now they threaten us." Idgrod pulled hard on Azriel's arm trying to separate her from the menacing vampire. "Azriel, you must distance yourself from her spell."
Ruby eyes found Idgrod and searched her face. "Flee child, this is no place for you."
Idgrod ignored the vampire, pulling sharply on Azriel's arm. "Azriel, you have to listen to me."
Eamal reached out, ignoring Serana's burning gaze, the threating growls coming from Aela, and Idgrod's desperate, yet futile attempt to drag Azriel away. "You've grown taller, Ahziial." Her fingers stroked the scars on Azriel's cheek.
Boiling jealous rage filled Azriel, but it wasn't her own anger.
"Don't touch her!" Serana snarled rancorously at the older vampire.
Eamal laughed, her fingers dipped below Azriel's chin, tilting her head up. "Why do the damned continue to speak?" Her question was posed to no one other than Azriel. "Does no one see we are engaged?" She stepped closer to Azriel, Azriel's chin still balanced on her fingertips.
For a moment, the crimson-rose pools lingered on the darkened aurelian eyes. The smile played on the ancient's lips as she leaned in. "How I have waited for this…" Eamal murmured, her lips a scant inch from Azriel's.
Snow, driven by the wind and the raging storm, obscured everything. It was that moment that Serana lunged for Eamal. In the perfect white-out the dragon had created, Serana had taken her chance to separate the ancient vampire from her lover.