Frost in Morrowind

Edward Frost's time in Morrowind has come to an end; but his struggles are recorded here for any to read. A year in the making, and spanning one hundred and fifty chapters… Violence, suspicion, loss, betrayal, revenge, power with a price, a fight for survival, ages-old mysteries... all thrust in the way of Edward Frost, a man simply trying to rebuild his life.

Chapter 1 can be found here.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Chapter 101: Beside you in time

It was fortunate that I had thought to cast a Silencing spell when Falorn awoke: it meant that no-one outside the groundskeeper's hut heard his scream. If my guards had come running and found me - now a vampire - bent over Falorn's bed, it would likely have been a bloody encounter.

"Falorn, settle yourself." I said, fastening the Wolfen ring, on its chain, around my neck. It was a relief to have it back. "I'm not here to hurt you - or anyone. If I was... well, you know me: I'm a straightforward person - not especially given to jokes. If I had wanted to hurt you, I would not be standing here talking to you: I would likely have killed you in your sleep."

The Bosmer leapt out of bed, but stood his ground a few steps away, staring at me.

"You say that," he replied, "and that would be correct of Master Frost - but are you really him any longer, v-vampire?"

I tried to sigh, and was only half successful, since I no longer had any breath.

"I am sorry if I startled you, Falorn... I just needed my ring back - and I wanted to let you know that I have... returned. I may be... different, now - but I'm still going to live here, and I still want you and the rest of the staff here as well."

The groundskeeper shook his head slowly, bemused and seeming to barely hear me. He looked as if he could not believe his eyes.

"I found you in the great hall last night... Master Frost." He still seemed reluctant to call me that. "You were dead. No-one knew why - but there you were... dead. We thought maybe some sickness, or poison... or..." Falorn's gaze flicked across the glowing crescent mark on my face. "It was decided to inter you in the Foreigner's Crypt outside Vivec the following afternoon."

I listened, entranced, as Falorn recounted the events leading up to my entombment. I had only been gone a day...

"We... did not know of any family," he went on; "or how to contact your friends and associates... but someone turned up anyway: a high elven woman - Sirilonwe, she said her name was."

I started at the name.

"Sirilonwe!" I exclaimed. "Sirilonwe came?"

Falorn gave me an odd look (more odd than the looks he was already giving my pale countenance and sharp fangs, anyway).

"Yes - I thought it strange at the time. She too wanted to ensure that you were not to be cremated; and she made us keep you covered against the sun as you were carried to the crypt." The groundskeeper's eyes slid out of focus for a moment. I could see that he was thinking; that realisations were sliding into place. "Although... not so strange now that I know... That would be why you asked not to be cremated, of course." Falorn frowned. "You certainly kept us all in the dark, eh?"

"If I had told you, Falorn, what would you have done?"

Not giving an answer to that, Falorn sighed, but remained wary.

"I have to say, Master Frost: even if you tell us all that you want us to stay, I don't know that many would. Everyone knows what vampires can do." He paused for a moment, apparently meaning what he said as a challenge of sorts. When I remained silent, he continued: "I think you will need to speak to all of us - at once - and let us know what has happened; and what will happen."

I nodded in agreement.

"Yes, I will... but not right now - tomorrow evening, I think. You can tell everyone in the morning that I've returned, though. I think knowing that I might have... attacked someone in the night - but did not - should help to persuade everyone."

With that, I cancelled the Silence spell and left the shack, weaving invisibility magic about me as the door swung shut. Hidden from detection by my archers and swordsmen ranged about the castle grounds, I leapt up to an out-of-the-way door on the battlements, and slipped into the keep.

I found my bedroll among the rest of my equipment in my chambers, and carried it down to the secret vault near the great hall. I would rest within the vault, safe - I hoped - until morning. My plan was to teleport to the Vivec Mages Guild in the morning to approach Sirilonwe... I just had to speak to her. I would do it in the daylight hours so that she would hopefully feel somewhat safer in my presence; knowing that she could escape into the sunlight if she wanted to.

I had to feed again near dawn. The blood of the mortal running through my veins had cooled and dissipated very quickly; so that only several hours after I last fed, I was again cold, sluggish and starving. Even closeted in the secret vault I could smell the change in the air that signified the approach of the morning sun - so without the luxury to do things another way, I cast Divine Intervention to bring myself instantly to the landing outside the nearby Imperial Chapel, in Ebonheart.

In one of the narrow alleyways there I found an Imperial Legionnaire, and I drank from him the same way I did the Ordinator: leaving him dazed but perfectly unhurt. The eastern horizon was glowing orange when I used the Wolfen ring to teleport back home.

Once the sun had fully risen I used the 'teleportation pillar' in the great hall to reach the Balmora Mages Guild, finding myself face-to-face with Masalinie Merian, the guild guide. When using the teleportation pillar, I always appeared on the 'guide platform' in the Balmora guild hall - and I was thankful for this: tucked away in the corner of the downstairs area, no-one but Masalinie had seen me arrive.

It turned out to be remarkably easy to persuade Masalinie that I meant her no harm. Well, perhaps I should have expected as much, given that Masalinie was friends with the frighteningly odd Scamp merchant 'Creeper'. She did seem surprised; only it was akin to the surprise one might express at seeing a long-standing, conservative-minded friend sporting a particularly daring new hairstyle.

She sent me on to the Vivec hall before anyone noticed me. I would approach the other members later; I just wanted to speak with Sirilonwe first, before she heard from someone else that I was back. Masalinie's position as guild guide made her a hub for gossip: it was likely that the entire guild (at least on Vvardenfell) would know within a few minutes that I had become a vampire.

Flacassia Fauscius, the guild guide at the Vivec guild, was fortunately not nearby when I appeared on the platform there. No-one saw me enter Sirilonwe's chambers.

As on the morning when I woke up next to Sirilonwe, the morning sunlight was streaming through the window to pool on the bed. Sirilonwe was seated on the bed, perfectly cocooned in the brilliant, glaring light. I could not come anywhere near her. In fact, the bright light gleaming on her white coat made it difficult for me to even look at her.

"So you are still with us." She said, pulling her long legs up to her chest. The shadows around her eyes were even more pronounced than usual. I wondered if she had slept at all that night. I don't know if I can truthfully say that she appeared frightened to see me - but she did look concerned. "Edward, I..."

But her voice trailed off. We gazed at each other for the longest time. I had suddenly realised that I just did not know what to say to her. I still wanted her, but... how?

"Sirilonwe..." I began uncertainly, "Falorn told me what you did - that you came to watch over me when I... when I was..."

"When you were dead." She finished my sentence for me; a hard edge to her words. "Edward, I didn't know if you were dead - truly dead - or not. I didn't know which one I should wish for, either. Can you tell me, now, which one I should wish for?"

I could not think of an answer to that; her words distressed me. Did she truly wish that I was dead - destroyed - rather than a vampire? The silence stretched on until Sirilonwe asked, quietly:

"Have you fed yet?" She paused; and I flinched. It was a dangerous question to answer. "Have you drank the blood of a living person yet?" She insisted, louder this time.

I nodded. Sirilonwe paled, looking almost sickened.

"I didn't kill anyone;" I said; "and I will not. I will not hunt and kill anyone." I went on to describe how I healed my 'victims' as I drank from them, leaving them just as I had found them.

I finished by saying:

"Look Sirilonwe, I am still myself - the same person you stayed up half the night talking to - the same person you Charmed because you were curious. I want to still be able to talk to you - and you to me."

Sirilonwe hugged her legs closer to her chest as I spoke. She did not look even remotely inclined to leave the patch of sunlight in which she sat.

"You're asking for trust - a huge amount of trust. It needs to be built again, after what you've done - and I think you'll find that I'm not the only one who feels that way. Remember, after all, how you yourself referred to vampires only a few days ago."

I nodded slowly.

"What can I do to prove myself?" I heard myself ask - but as Sirilonwe and I spoke, I found that I was gazing for long moments at her exposed skin.

I could almost see her veins pumping beneath the golden surface of her body - and I could certainly feel the warmth of her blood radiating from her in great waves, surging with every beat of her heart.

Even if she did come to trust me again, could I trust myself to be near her?

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Chapter 100: The sun shines but I don't

I had a dream just before I returned. Like most of my dreams, it was muddled, and I can't remember much - but I know that it was a dream of unspeakable horror: more terrible than any I had had before.

When I awoke I thought I was dead. I felt cold and I could see nothing: all was blackness. I was not breathing. Slowly though, sensations and realisations began to creep into my mind: I could see - what I was looking at was a stone surface in a pitch-black room - somehow I could see, even in the absence of light. I could feel too: more than cold - I felt that I was lying on my back, and that I was still in my armour.

I felt magicka flowing through my veins as never before - like it had replaced the blood in my body. I felt almost as if I could do anything with the power of my mind alone: the power of my mind over magicka. I could almost see it - the magicka surrounding me - like millions of tiny motes of light, floating in the air before me. I was reminded of how it had felt to touch the Mantle of Woe...

I tried moving - and successfully sat up on what turned out to be a stone slab in a crypt. As I sat up I brushed something with my hand, which then fell to the floor with a clatter. Absent-mindedly, I slid off the slab and bent over to pick the item up: it was the Daedric katana I had found, and had been carrying at my waist when I... died.

It was obvious that I was believed to be dead, and had been interred in a crypt, as a warrior might: with my armour and my sword. I had been placed in a crypt, and I was cold, and devoid of breath - and yet I could still move, think, see and feel.

I was alive.

Well, no - I was dead... but not gone. I had done it: come back after death - to "persist" as Sirilonwe had put it. I was a vampire.

My heart, though it no longer beat, still lurched painfully in my chest at the thought of Sirilonwe, and our last conversation. Sirilonwe... how could I even speak to her - to anyone - any longer? There would, I thought as I gingerly ran my tongue over the long, sharp fangs where my canine teeth once were, be no doubt in anyone's mind as to what I had become. They need only look at me to see that I was a predator. People would run at the mere sight of me - or maybe even attack me simply for my presence. I did not want that for myself. But how could I overcome those prejudices towards vampires - the ones I myself had shared up until a few short days earlier?

The main obstacle to such a peace made itself known immediately. I was famished - absolutely starved - and instinctively I knew - I felt - that there was only one thing I wanted; that could satisfy me: blood. I needed it: it was essential - I needed to feed to survive. Feeding on a... a mortal would be a violent act... and if it ended in the death of that mortal, there would be no way I could ever be among my friends and... my loved ones - ever again.

"But does it need to end in death?" I wondered as I began to look for a way out of the crypt. Since coming to Vvardenfell I had become a powerful mage - through study, practice, the various magical items and artefacts that had come into my possession... And now this new blood - this vampiric... strength - was empowering me further still. My experience healing the soldiers of Fort Frostmoth after the werewolf attack was proof enough of my ability as a magical healer... and I knew for a fact that healing spells restored lost blood, so...

Realising as I made my way down the cramped corridors of the crypt that I had no idea what the hour of day was, I felt at my waist for a pouch I kept there - and within it, my pocketwatch. Fortunately it was still there, and still actively ticking away, its white face marking out the time. The spring in the watch needed to be wound tight roughly once a day for the device to keep running: this meant that I could not have been 'dead' for all that long. The watch marked the time as being around one o'clock in the early morning, which was ideal for my needs. Putting the pocketwatch away, I tried not to think about what might have happened had I tried to leave the crypt without checking the time first - if it had been daylight outside.

Pushing my way through the heavy wooden door at the crypt's entrance, I found myself on the outskirts of Vivec. Stretching away into the gloom of the bay were the gigantic cantons of the holy city. My need for blood was dire - I felt empty, like a hollow, echoing shell - so being that close to the largest city on Vvardenfell was perfect. I just had to find someone... and then I could feed. Maybe then I would be able to think clearly enough to decide what I should do next...

The only people I expected to be out at such a late hour were the Ordinators, the holy warriors and guardsmen of Vivec. They should be patrolling the terraces that ringed the massive cantons - spread out to cover more ground... alone.

I raced about the terraces looking for one of the gold-armoured warriors, discovering that I could now run at an extraordinary pace. It was as if when I was still alive, my breath - and the beating of my heart - had always interfered with the swinging of my arms and legs; hampering my proper movement. As a vampire I was cold - cold as a dead body - but it felt like the warmth of my mortal body had only ever made me lazy and sluggish.

Rounding a corner on one of the upper terraces of the Foreign Quarter canton, I saw him: my first... The Ordinator paused, staring at my face. His golden, masked helmet hid his expression, but I heard him snarl before flying at me - a spiked ebony mace in his hand.

I could move so fast! I smoothly caught the guardsman and threw him bodily against the canton wall with an almighty crash. His helmet came off and bounced away, and the Ordinator slid back to the terrace floor - dazed and barely able to stand. With one hand I held his mace-arm safely away from me, while pressing him against the wall with the other. The Dunmer had suffered a heavy blow to the head, and barely knew what was happening, I think... and there was his neck...

It was like eating a grand meal when starving, drinking from a mountain stream when parched, and savouring a warm, brandy-laced drink after coming in from the freezing night - all at the same time. In fact I felt warm - and almost alive again - the hot mortal blood spreading through my body. From the moment I sank my teeth into his neck, I had let healing magic seep gradually from my hands into the Dunmer's body. His blood was replenished as fast as I could drink it. I drank, and drank; until I was filled completely - and felt almost as if I was glowing.

As I let the guardsman go, I sent my 'Calming Touch' spell into him, so that he would forget entirely that he wanted to destroy me. Sure enough, he tottered unsteadily away to retrieve his helmet, before giving me a polite wave as he left to continue his patrol.

I felt a surge of confidence - almost happiness - as I watched him go. It seemed then that I might really be able to do it; live among mortals, I mean. I could feed without killing - without even seriously hurting anyone - if I was careful. Would it be enough?

Feeling much better (and even stronger and faster than before now that I was no longer starving), I headed for home - really, I was at a loss for what else I should do. The Wolfen ring was no longer around my neck, so I had to go on foot along the peninsula, racing through cool and dark sea air. Falorn probably had the ring, since I had told him that the castle went to him if I died. I needed to speak to him anyway - and I definitely needed that ring back.

I reached Wolfen castle in a few short minutes, and leapt over the castle walls, having first made myself invisible. I had found that I could now leap amazing heights and distances with my new vampiric strength, but I still needed the Tinur's Hoptoad spell to clear the walls.

None of my guards saw or heard a thing - and I came to land lightly in the castle yard; on the mossy, paved surface in front of Falorn's hut. Slipping inside, I soon found the Bosmer groundskeeper, fast asleep in his small bed. On the bedside table was the Wolfen ring, still threaded on the chain I always used to hang it from my neck. I caught it up - and it was then that Falorn awoke, and looked directly at me.

Stepping closer, so that the moonlight filtering through the open window fell on my face, I held up the ring and said:

"My apologies Falorn, but I'll be needing the castle for some time yet."

The Bosmer, a look of absolute horror on his face, opened his mouth and screamed.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Chapter 99: The last remaining light

Early morning light was streaming through the window, making Sirilonwe's normally silver hair glow a deep orange. I had just woken up, but Sirilonwe was still deep asleep in my arms, facing away from me. Her hair was tickling my nose.

This was all new to me... sure, there had been snatched 'moments' with girls my age at the Cult orphanage where I grew up - but in a place like that there was not really anywhere to be alone for any great length of time. I had certainly never woken up next to someone before. The feeling of a warm body sleeping next to my own, her soft, smooth skin... it was all... wonderful.

But it was all tempered by an agony of self-loathing, and the icy thrill of dread running down my spine. What had I done, really? My Charm spell had made Sirilonwe pull me down on top of her, and then... Why couldn't I stop myself?

Sirilonwe rolled over to face me, rubbing her large eyes. After a moment she stopped, and began to regard me steadily, a faint smile playing around her lips.

"I'm sorry." I said.

The smile vanished.

"What?" She rasped, before clearing her throat. "What for?"

"The Charm spell. I'm sorry - it came almost without me meaning... I didn't mean to... It wasn't my intention that..." I paused, trying to slow myself down. "I didn't know you would... I'm sorry. I feel awful. But when you..." I trailed off.

She was quiet for a long time, staring at a spot on my chest. Eventually she spoke again:

"I wanted you anyway. Yes, it wasn't the most chivalrous thing you could have done, but... not all that different than if you had plied me with brandy over dinner. And... I have to confess: I Charmed you too."

I blinked. I was not expecting that.

"What? When?" I asked, startled.

"When we met." Sirilonwe replied. "When we touched hands. I was curious about you, and you never said anything much to anyone here, so..." Her smile returned. " Also, I liked the way you looked." She poked me gently in the stomach.

I thought back to the day we met, and remembered that I had suddenly been quite taken by Sirilonwe when we clasped hands. It was when I had noticed her hair, and her eyes...

"So we are even;" Sirilonwe went on; "and I forgive you. I know you didn't do it to get in my bed - you did it because..." Her eyes flew wide. "Oh no, Edward; it was about the vampires!" She seemed to only just remember. "Get up."

I was feeling more and more wrong-footed. First she was not angry when I had expected her to be - and then suddenly she was angry after all.

"Wh-what?" Was all I managed.

"Get up!" Sirilonwe snapped, pushing me in the ribs so that I fell out from under the blankets, and off the side of the bed.

She leapt up and scooped my clothes off the floor, before tossing them at me.

"Vampirism is a disease!" Her voice was raised. "It is a disease that kills you! How can you be sure that you will... persist - after that? I know that becoming a vampire is about coming back after death - but how can you be sure you will come back? Especially you, with that... leak."

Sirilonwe pulled her red dress on, and stopped to stare across the bed into my face, her eyebrows knitted together as if trying to solve a puzzle.

"Are you really decided in this?" She asked quietly.

I nodded, and dropped my shirt over my head.

"I don't think I have a choice." I replied, my voice just as sombre as hers. "My body - I told you - my body is already failing."

Sirilonwe did not look angry anymore - well, not as angry, at any rate; she looked miserable.

"What if..." She began, and then seemed to be having trouble swallowing... "What if you're different when you come back?" She finally managed.

A lump was forming at the back of my throat.

"I don't know... But I won't hurt you. I swear I -"

"Just go." Sirilonwe cut across me, covering her eyes.

I froze, my heart feeling as if it was filling with icy water.

"GO!" She shouted, suddenly looking quite fierce.

I squeezed my eyes shut and slipped the Wolfen ring over my finger.

Once I was strapped into my armour, I used the 'teleportation pillar' in the great hall of Wolfen castle to reach the Balmora Mages Guild, had Masalinie Merian teleport me to Caldera, and then asked Folms to send me to the Rotheran Velothi stronghold, way up north in the Sheogorad region. Dagon Fel was an awful long way from the Ascadian Isles - unless you were a mage.

I was decided in my path. I don't think there had been any doubt in my mind since the moment I faced the vampire in the Reloth tomb, the previous day. Her death... well, her destruction was unfortunate - and was not what I had intended. I had given it a lot of thought, and I did not want to kill my vampiric 'parent'. It didn't seem right somehow.

Sirilonwe had told me that vampires had been spotted in the wilderness to the west of Dagon Fel - so that was where I would look. Sirilonwe... my heart lurched painfully again at the thought of her. I didn't know what to do about what had happened with her. I tried to put it from my mind, and struck out north-west from Rotheran, looking for an Ancestral Tomb or some other likely hiding place for a vampire. Somewhere it could shelter from the daylight...

I searched for hours, climbing and then sliding awkwardly down the damp and slippery moss-covered rises of the Sheogorad area; occasionally leaping, magically aided, onto the crest of one of the tree-sized mushrooms that grew there to gain a better look at the landscape. Hours later I found it: an ancestral tomb with the name 'Sarethi' carved above the entrance. This time I removed both bracers and rolled my sleeves up, before securing my shield to my back so that it protected the back of my neck. I drew my sword. I had modified my plan somewhat. They could bite my arms, but I wanted them nowhere near my neck.

Of course, I did not know if there were any vampires to be found in that tomb - or simply the mouldering ashes of generations of a Dunmer family - but I wanted to be prepared.

I was in luck. A few chambers into the tomb I was set upon by two Dunmeri vampires: a male and a female. They came at me side by side, and with a forehand then a backhand swing, I had hit them both in the face with the flat of my blade, causing them to bleed from the nose and mouth just like the vampire in the Reloth tomb. These two required no further incentive to attack me - in fact, the sight of my bare forearms seemed to act like a lure to them. The vampires gripped me by one wrist each, and pinned me, spread-eagled, to the floor.

Their bites hurt - a lot; as you might expect - I could feel the blood being drawn from my arms... but I could also feel their blood, trickling down into my wounds. And then, I felt it: my skill in the magical college of Restoration was such that I could tell when a disease had taken hold in my body (at least I could if I was paying attention). I didn't know which vampire it had come from: maybe from both... a vampiric mother and father.

With some difficulty, I kicked one of them off and thrust a finger on my freed hand through the Wolfen ring, hanging from my neck. Instantly I was in the great hall of the castle, bleeding on the floor.

"Master Frost!" I heard Falorn exclaim. The Bosmer groundskeeper had apparently been checking on the displays of armour in the hall. "Are you quite alright?"

I hesitated, and did not speak until I had regained my feet. I did not want anyone to know what I was doing. But then, there was something I needed from Falorn...

"I live a dangerous life." I shrugged, holding out my arms to show that the wounds were already almost closed: the power of my enchanted 'Keeper' shirt at work. After a moment, I added: "Falorn, there's something I need to ask you."

"Of course, Master Frost." The Bosmer said, his eyes still fixed on my bloody forearms.

"If... if something were to happen to me - if I die..." I paused. I was putting on a performance, but it was not a great stretch for me, given my situation. "If I die, I need you to see to it that I'm not cremated. I would like to be placed in a crypt."

Falorn appeared concerned.

"Well... yes - of course - I would see to it. But why... I mean - why now?"

"I live a dangerous life." I repeated, with a slight shrug. "Look, never fear Falorn; I'll leave the castle to you, since you were here first." I forced a wry smile. "Now come on; back to work."

Watching Falorn go, I felt a little more calm - if the disease running through my veins really did turn me into a vampire in a few days, at least I could feel more confident that I would not be incinerated in a crematorium because I appeared dead.

Three days... Three days left as a living man, with a beating heart. Three days left in the sun. What would I do in those remaining days? I knew I didn't want to talk to anyone. I wasn't sure why - but it probably had something to do with the way Sirilonwe and I had parted. I just wanted to be alone.

I came to think: what would it be like to never see the sun again?

I decided that I should spend as much time as possible outside, in the sun; before it was too late. I'm not quite sure where it came from, but the idea entered my mind that I should try to journey all the way around the coast of Vvardenfell, on foot. I think I wanted to see as much of my new island home in the sunlight as I could - before that became an impossibility.

So, I gathered up a good supply of food from the kitchen, filled my water skins, and just before midday, set out to the east from the castle grounds: simply because that was the direction the main gate faced.

I walked (and sometimes ran) all afternoon without stopping, passing the farms and plantations of the Ascadian Isles, the steaming, sandy pits and skeletal trees of the Molag Amur region, and then the spiny, shining rocks of Azura's Coast. For the whole day, the weather was as beautiful and sunny as I could have hoped for. I bathed in the sea and slept under the stars on my bedroll.

On the second day, I started up the east coast, leaving the spiny rocks behind, and following the ashen beach that faced Zafirbel Bay. After that were the dry yet verdant plains of the eastern Grazelands. I reached the north-eastern tip of the island as the sun reached the western horizon. On both the first and second days I stood and watched the sun set - until the last remaining light had faded away.

My heart was heavy on the third morning: I had covered only half the circumference of the island, and if the accounts were to be believed, I had only that day left. I knew I wasn't going to make it. I can't really say why, but at that time I wanted very much to make it all the way back home, before I was... forced into darkness, I suppose.

My spirits were raised somewhat by the spectacular find I made in a Daedric ruin near my campsite. Heavily guarded, behind an underground shrine, was a wooden strongbox that contained a splendid Daedric katana. My longsword was, of course, very very good - but I had missed the precision and elegance of a katana. I moved the Daedric longsword to my back; the katana replaced it at my side.

It spurred me on, I think - and besides, I felt incredibly restless. I could not bring myself to stop. In fact, as I continued on to the west, along the coast, I began to run; to sprint as hard as I could; my 'Tireless' pants again meaning I never lost my breath or had to stop.

I reached Khuul, at the north-western corner of Vvardenfell, in the early afternoon. I skirted around the fishing village without stopping. Khuul also marked the beginning of the endless grassy plains of the West Gash. I had yet a long way to go. Onwards I ran, until hours later I reached the Bitter Coast. The sun was low in the sky when I descended into the muggy swamps. Soon, the sun was swallowed up by swelling, purple storm-clouds, and a warm rain began to fall. That was the last time I saw the sun.

But still I carried on, using magic to sprint across the surface of the mucky pools of water, and leaping over the tangled masses of exposed roots that pervaded the area. The storm intensified: all I could hear was the thunder, the falling rain, and the frantic beating of my own heart.

Hours later I swept through Seyda Neen, my heart thundering in my ears, feeling as though it would burst. I had traversed the entire north and west coast of Vvardenfell in one day: it was incredible - but by that time it was truly dark. I was running out of time. If I could just hold on for one, maybe two more hours... I could reach home.

I was pounding down the peninsula towards Ebonheart and Wolfen castle - the path I had taken when I had first departed on my three-day journey - when it happened. My heartbeat seemed so loud it drowned out everything else: but it was slowing, even as I tried to maintain my furious pace. I staggered, suddenly very weak. The crescent mark on my face and the place on my chest where the moon emblem had penetrated the skin were both throbbing painfully. I couldn't breathe. I didn't know what was happening.

Was it truly the beginning of the change - the transformation into a vampire? Or was the magicka leaking into my body going to kill me after all - and once and for all? A final death...

I managed to get my finger through the Wolfen ring - though by that point I had stopped breathing - and it was there in the keep's great hall that I collapsed, the world fading away before me.