There were many things they never told her about the cure.
Rain fell heavy on the bridge as a cloaked woman hurried over the trench of Skingrad. She glanced over the side, marveling at how quickly the city's runoff was flooding the entryway. True to its reputation, this was the most impregnable settlement in Cyrodil outside the Imperial-
She stopped. A flash of lighting illuminated her face. Her small horns and angular features betraying her Bosmer heritage. But her eyes, wide with fear, glowed pale gold as the light faded. She stared intently at the boulder below, desperate to spot the figure she could swear had just been there. Three seconds, and the expected clap of thunder prompted her to hurry on.
"Hard night to be out, miss" said the woman behind the bar at the inn. "Especially for a little thing like you."
The inkeep looked kindly at the young woman in front of her, studying those strange black eyes. The poor thing was soaked through. Once she was satisfied with the girl's gold for the room, of course, she compassionately ordered her maid to run a hot bath and lay out some dry nightclothes. She also happened to be working on a fresh batch of cider and offered to send some up to her room when finished, free of charge.
Zendiyah laid over the covers and stared into the ceiling, quietly cursing herself. In a hundred and fourty six years of bloodsucking, she had become quite adept at little tricks of illusion to conceal her eyes, and to control unwitting victims. After all she went through to be free of that life, after spending months plotting her escape from her Clan, and the sacrifices necessary to restore her mortality, she still had to resort to all the same tricks to survive. At least she took it easy on the charm spell, she assured herself. She still paid the woman for her room, right?
If only they warned her about the eyes…
Mist covered the streets in the early morning. The bright summer sun was still cold behind pink, hazy clouds on the horizon. The little elf stepped out and squinted in the brightness. The cure had saved her from burning in the sun, but she found she could never quite get used to the light. Or perhaps she was just tired, she thought, sighing. She hadn't slept a full night since the day she was cured. Nor could she recall ever dreaming. Pressing forward, she had much to do before could attempt a nap in the afternoon.
Father Cantus Acutulus kept his back to the elf girl seated behind him. The midmorning light shined through the window, warming his office and giving him a most splendid view of the West Weald, plots of land shining emerald for miles. But today, his focus was on the shimmer of gold reflected in the glass before him.
"I'm afraid I have to deny you access to our records, Miss Erulind." He said, in an even tone.
"But…" she carefully replied. "this is the house of Julianos. I thought you welcomed inquiring minds."
"We welcome scholorship, yes. We especially encourage the young to seek our knowledge." The man turned to face her. His eyes were piercing, but not hostile. "But you will not tell me what it is you are looking to study."
"I told you, I-"
"What you told me was a lie, miss. Just like your name, and just like those eyes."
Zendiyah tensed, but didn't act. Focusing magika into her palms, incantations and equations filling her mind, ready to launch a flurry of spells if she needed to. But she prayed she could still talk her way out of this. Her magic was strongest in the sun these days, but her body couldn't hope to keep up a drawn out fight in its exhausted state.
"Those illusions are impressive. But you're not the first errant student to try a charm spell on me. And no glamour can hide a curse that powerful from a reflection."
"… I can-"
"Relax, miss. I know you aren't a vampire." The greying man said, sitting himself formally at his desk across from her. "At least, not anymore."
The bosmer studied the priests face. Instinctively, she sniffed the air. Though her senses were pathetically dulled since the cure. A vampire can smell blood from miles away. A bosmer should be able to smell adrenaline. All she could smell were old tomes, leather bindings cooking in the sunbeams. Perhaps a hint of woodvarnish? Still, she chose to trust her instincts, and lowered her guard, just a bit.
"The God of Logic teaches that Truth, above all else, is the most sacred gift of men and mer. To distort the truth, will lead even the most practiced of thinkers down the Path of Fallacy and misinformation. I recognize your need to hide what you are, miss. But I cannot allow you to bring false pretenses into our archives."
Solid amber eyes studied his greyish blue. In the day, she merely had an unusual eye color for a Bosmer. But she had been cold and wet and shaken the previous night, and unwittingly convinced the innkeeper that her eyes were black, as they had been before she was Turned. A moment of nostalgic weakness. Most humans in this part of Tamriel had never seen a Bosmer without at least a quarter Altmeri blood before. Her alien black eyes and horns would likely be a curiosity now, and so she had to keep up the glamor all day. Seeing how her lies had turned against her, she thought that Julianos' teaching was perhaps well-founded. Still..
"Let me offer you this. I swear to you right here, that I shall not divulge your mission, or your identity to anyone. On my life. If you tell me the truth, right now."
Nineteen months of running, of concealment, of grappling with the guilt her new mortal soul felt at all those decades of deciept and murder completely alone had fallen away. Somehow, this stranger had cut through her defenses with precision. She left out many details, but tears fell into her lap as she nontheless blurted out her story.
"So your Clan is still after you?" asked Cantus, softly, when her tears had stopped and enough silence had passed.
"They want revenge for leaving them."
"And you believe you can find a way to stop them in our archives?"
"…yes." Her throat was dry. "My clan is bound to Molag Bal through an altar in our.. in their lair. It flows with our combined mortal blood. Mine is still mixed in."
"And that is how you believe they can track you?"
"Yes. Even without being one of them… I'm still connected. I can feel them, closing in around me. But there's stories of an artifact that-"
"The Font of Julianos." the old priest interrupted. "I have studied its legends extensively. A humble inkpot, blessed by the Father of Wisdom, that vanishes whatever ink is put inside. Even when it is already written down."
Zendiyah paused for a moment, comparing this version to her own. "We called it the Well of Secrets. But it's supposed to be an artifact of Herma Mora, and it specifically erases the bonds of blood. Dunmer used to use it to cut off disinherited children from calling on their ancestors."
"There are many versions." the priest nodded. "In any case, your plan is quite fascinating! But there is one problem with it. …when you were cured… did they tell you about your blood?"
"I… they didn't tell me anything."
"Well, have you considered that there may be side effects to being an ex-vampire?" He asked a little too excitedly. His enthusiasm apparently too thick to see her glare at him. "Your Clan may not be after you just for petty revenge, or even to protect their secrets!"
She watched the priest in bewilderment as he hurried over to his own personal bookshelf. For the first time, she actually saw that they were all dedicated to vampire lore. Copies of tomes she had seen a thousand times in her Grandmaster's own study reflected the purpling light of the setting… when did the sun start to set?
"Yesyesyes, it's right here!" He said, enthusiastically pointing to a page with the small metal device in his hand with a needle at one end. "Black soul shines like the sun. Blood with a stolen life is aetherium vitae!"
The sun set below the horizon and navy ichor was slowly dripping down into the purple horizon. Zendiyah could feel her magicka flow restricting as the night dulled her power. She noticed the faint glow of sigils, now showing through abstract patrerns in the rug, carved into the desk, the door. She recognized them. Illusion magic. Dulling her sense of time, charming her and misdirecting her attention. How did she not notice this? Was this mortal better than her?
Even as she tried to bring herself to run, her body felt sluggish. Exhaustion started to overwhelm her mind as he cautiously approached her with his device.
"I have spies throughout this city, miss. Trained to spot vampires, cultists, and other servants of the Princes. But when they described you, well… I knew we had quite the opportunity."
Sleep. All she wanted was to sleep…
"Your blood is more valuable to a vampire lord than a thousand healthy thralls. But so few bodies can survive resurrection after undeath. No wonder they're after you! But imagine what we can learn from you! How can one corrupted soul be repaired by another? Where does all the raw power go? Perhaps we can learn how to cleanse the scourge of vampirism for good!"
Just a pinch. The device clamped around her limp arm barely felt like a needle. This was much nicer than the first bite.
"You, my dear, are truly one in a mil-"
The dagger pierced his heart. His black and green vestments, dulled in the darkness began to turn shining scarlet in her eyes. The priest stood in shock for a moment, until a small hand reached around him, and pulled it from his heart. A dark-haired adolescent, stepped around the body and pushed it thoughtlessly over, hitting the floor with a dull thud.
"Are you serious, Zee?" They said. Their playful eyes glowed the color of the harvest moons. She saw their fangs glint as they tasted the blood on the dagger. "You of all people fell for this?"
"Alistair." She said with some effort, shaking the cobwebs as the spells faded with their castor's life. In a moment of clarity she summoned all her feeble stores of magicka and her hands lit up with fire. "Don't come any closer!"
"Relax, Zee. You're safe." The kid said, assuredly. "Like I'd turn you into the boss."
"Don't play games with me, Alistair. I know the whole Clan is tracking me. The Grandmaster wants me dead."
"Oh no. What he wants for you is much worse. And not just for leaving. Now come on. This lunatic's got some kind of secret police all over the city. They're bound to figure out something went wrong soon."
"I'm not going back! Forget you saw me!"
They looked at her with a mix of pity and understanding. "Zee…" they finally said. "Everyone was pretty mad when you left. I was too… but I know wjy you did it. And as soon as I found out what he plans to do to you, I got out too. I have a new crew now."
Zendiyah didn't notice when the sound of shouting and spellfire started filtering in through the window. But the sound of a howl halted everything, just for a moment.
"Speak of the daedra."
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