species: vampire

Skyrim Stories: The Dawnguard

There’s only one thing worth remembering. When it comes to vampires, if you’re sloppy or careless, you’re dead. And good people will die because of you.” -Isran

In the Second Era, the city of Riften wasn’t the wretched hive of scum and villainy that one can find today. It was a rich trade hub on the border between Skyrim and Morrowind, where the Nords and Dunmer could trade their wares without attempting to kill each other. The Thieves’ Guild existed, but it didn’t have such a hold over the city–in fact, most believed that they weren’t even real, only a myth whispered by the occasional beggar. It was a golden age in the city’s history. 

But then, one day, trouble began to brew. The Jarl’s son had begun to act strange. He became a quiet lad, refusing to leave the castle during the day and developing a lust for violence. Rumors flew about in the marketplace like arrows. Was he ill? Cursed? Maybe there was a woman involved… or perhaps a man?  This sort of rumor-mongering wasn’t unusual when it came to nobles, but this case was different. This particular wave of gossip had some truth behind it, and the truth was worse than any rumor. 

The Jarl’s son had encountered a dark and ancient power, and come out of it worse for wear. He had been transformed into a monster himself, a night-stalking fiend that survived only by feasting on the blood of the loving. He was a vampire.

Upon discovering what had happened, the Jarl was filled with grief. But he didn’t have to order his beloved child’s execution, even if he was now a bloodthirsty monster. Yet he couldn’t just allow his son to wander freely; the entire city knew the truth, and his presence put everyone in grave danger. The Jarl needed to lock him away, and he needed to do it covertly. 

His solution was creative–and expensive. In the mountains bordering Morrowind, the Jarl had a great fortress constructed to serve his son’s prison. An elite team of mercenaries was hired to guard the newly-christened ‘Fort Dawnguard’ and keep the prisoner quarantined. The mercenaries decided to take the name of the castle they were guarding–they named themselves the Dawnguard and settled into their new home.

They quickly grew bored. These were hot-blooded fighting men, and their prisoner wasn’t giving them much of a fight. The mercenaries needed something to kill, not… coddle

And then they had a wonderful idea. They were well-armed warriors with a hidden fortress and knowledge of vampire slaying. Skyrim’s resident vampire clan, the Volkihar, was active. The next step was clear. The Dawnguard revealed themselves to the world, and set to work hunting down the vampiric menace. 

At first, Skyrim welcomed them. The Dawnguard were the enemies of the Volkihar, after all, and the Nords would rather deal with mercenaries than predators. For the first time in centuries, the Volkihar had worthy rivals, and they lost ground all across the north. Only their own hidden sanctuary, a grand manor on an island deep in the Sea of Ghosts, was safe for them. Everywhere else, they were prey. 

The vampires did not appreciate the irony. 

But being mercenaries, the Dawnguard were never the sort for stalwart heroics, and power quickly went to their heads. They stopped protecting the innocent and began to prey on them. They pillaged villages that wouldn’t allow them to steal from their coffers, assaulted women that wouldn’t invite them to their beds. It quickly became clear that the Dawnguard were no better than the monsters they fought. Though the people of Skyrim would never welcome the Volkihar Clan, a few hushed voices could be heard wishing them victory. 

This shameful display was always destined for a quick and bloody end. It was only a question of who would provide it–mortal or vampire. And as the Dawnguard sank deeper into violence and debauchery, this thought would ultimately cross their minds. They began consolidating power, preparing themselves for the inevitable siege. Secret passages were barred, traps were set, ties with the outside world were cut off. 

And then, one moonless night, a voice whispered to them. The voice made promises of power, swore that their deaths were not inevitable. This voice belonged to the Jarl’s son, still trapped in Fort Dawguard years later. He told his captors that they need not fear any man or monster ever again. All they needed to do was let him out… and give him a snack. 

The Dawnguard were seduced by the vampire’s silver tongue, and by morning, the entire garrison had been turned. This new army of vampires swarmed out of Fort Dawnguard, wreaking havoc across the Rift. And who was to stop them? The Nords couldn’t call the vampire hunters–they were the vampire hunters. 

Someone did rise to face the new threat… the Jarl of Riften. He had commissioned the construction of Fort Dawnguard. He knew where the vampires made their home. And so he did what he should have done years ago; an army was raised, Fort Dawnguard was stormed, and at long last, the Jarl’s son was finally put down. The few inhuman survivors of the battle went into hiding, and many of them left Skyrim behind entirely. The Dawnguard had been dissolved, and for centuries they would live on in infamy.

Until the Fourth Era, that is. 

After the Oblivion Crisis, the vampires of Skyrim had only one enemy to face: the Vigilants of Stendarr, an order of warriors and priests dedicated to stamping out Daedra and other supernatural evils. Though they were experts in the field of Daedra slaying, their efforts against vampires left much to be desired. Or so thought Isran, one of the Vigilants’ best warriors. He believed that the Volkihar were a greater threat than his fellow Vigilants believed, and he became obsessed with wiping them out. The Vigilants would eventually let him go, believing that his methods were too extreme.

The grizzled vampire hunter would go on to discover the ruins of the long-abandoned Fort Dawnguard. He began making repairs and shoring up the defenses. He knew that the Volkihar were a threat, even if the Vigilants didn’t believe him. He was going to be ready when they struck. 

The Vigilants, ironically, never saw them coming. All across Skyrim, patrols were ambushed, watchtowers were destroyed, the Hall of the Vigilant was set aflame. Their leaders killed, their headquarters destroyed, the Vigilants of Stendarr had nowhere to rally. Isran didn’t gloat. He didn’t scoff. He didn’t laugh. 

He began recruiting. 

The Dawnguard had returned, just as the dragons did. And they weren’t going to lower their guard or exploit the people as their predecessors did. Under Isran’s watchful eyes, the Dawnguard would be exactly what it was supposed to be: a shield standing between between the innocent and those that see them as cattle.

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