Tes3Mod:Tamriel Rebuilt/How I Became a Monster I
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Editor's Note: The following tale was found as a tattered manuscript left on the doorstep of a Cyrodiilic publisher. As no names are mentioned, it cannot be verified as either fact of fiction.
I suppose my troubles began with my expulsion from the Mages' Guild. Or did they? It is possible things would have turned out the same no matter what, but I will never know. Nor do I care, in truth. What use is it to dwell on might-have-beens? Still, my expulsion seems a suitable place to begin my tale - an appropriately bad note to start on. I had been a promising student, and, though young, ascended rapidly through their ranks. At the tender age of twenty-one I had already attained the title of Conjurer, outranking men and elves over twice my age. All agreed that I could look forward to a bright future indeed. It was no wonder, of course, considering the work I put in. Every hour of daylight I spent either in the library with my head buried in some arcane tome, or out in the furthest corner of the university gardens practicing my spells. That I should become a great wizard was inevitable, such was my devotion to the craft.
But it was not to be. As is ever the cruel way of fate, my dreams were shattered. Without warning or reason, I was cast out. Perhaps they feared me; what I could become. Perhaps they thought my talent unnatural...unholy, even. Yet the only reasoning they gave was that I lacked patience and temperance - the two most important virtues to an Imperial mage. It did not matter that where I lacked patience and temperance I had ambition and determination to spare. These were not the virtues of a mage, they said. And so I packed up my few possessions and left.
For a full day I wandered the streets of the great Imperial City, pondering my fate. Things appeared grim indeed. The Guild of Mages had been my only hope in life; I lacked the strength to join the Legion as my brothers had done, and the humility to serve the Cult of the Divines alongside my sister. And, as I was of noble blood, the thought of lowering myself to 'common' employment was unthinkable. The day before my whole life had been spread neatly before me. Today it was gone.
I booked a room at the Dragon's Wing, a dingy Inn not far from the University. I had enough money to stay for a few weeks if need be - my parents sent me a purse full of gold once a month, and as my expenses were few it had stacked to a small fortune. I thought I might return to their estate in time, but not yet. I was not ready to face the shame of telling father of my failures. I would stay in the tavern a while, and work up the nerve - a grave mistake. Or was it? Maybe it would not have mattered where I went. I suppose the same fate would have found me eventually.
That night I attempted to drown my sorrows in liquor, like so many others do when depression takes hold. And it worked, for a time. After a few bottles of Flin and a lick of moon sugar I couldn't care less what became of me. I could feel nothing, and it felt good. As I sat there in the tavern, a lone drunk half-slumped across his table, I noticed a woman in the far corner. There were many people in the tavern this night - a group of Legionaries telling war stories, a pair of solemn elven diplomats from Morrowind, a nobleman with a harlot less than half his age, and commoners of all shapes and creeds, making merry despite their low-born status. But something about this woman captured my attention.
A dark hood covered her head, but from what was visible of her angular face, I could tell she was elven. Wrapped in a long cloak, her body was slender and lithe - much smaller than the Morrowind diplomats?. She was a Wood Elf, and I was enchanted. Even as I watched, she turned and looked straight at me. Her skin seemed a little pale for a Bosmer, but her green eyes were bright, and her smile brighter still. For a moment we stared at one another, then the round frame of the barkeep came between us. He was taking drinks to the soldiers, and when he had passed, she was gone. I wondered then if I had not imagined her; if she was nothing more than a hallucination brought on by too much whiskey and moon sugar. I ordered another bottle, but changed my mind when I felt how light my purse had become. It was time for bed. I stood (albeit with difficulty), and stumbled up the stairs to my room. And there she was. Waiting for me. With a seductive smile, she took my hand and led me into my room.
In seconds we were on the bed, making passionate love. Had I been sober, I might have thought it all a little strange. A beautiful elven girl appears from nowhere, and drags me into my room for a night of passion. Or maybe I'd have just been grateful. Which I was - very grateful indeed. Unfortunately, given my intoxication at the time, I can recall little of what went on. All I remember is that it seemed to last for hours, and was one of the most wonderful things I have ever experienced. My only wish is that I had been sober, so I could have enjoyed it (and remembered) more.
In true story-like fashion, she was gone when I awoke. It was around midday, and I was naked atop the sheets with a splitting headache, and pleasant but vague memories of the night before. As I lay there thinking on how I must have been the luckiest man in all Cyrodiil, I suddenly noticed that my head was not the only thing that ached. The right side of my neck was incredibly sore; not with the deep pain of a strained muscle, but the immediate sting of an open wound. I sat up and gingerly touched the skin, feeling only a mass of congealed blood. It was on my pillow as well; a dark stain that would surely raise the ire of whoever did the Inn's washing. Leaving my bed, I walked to the tall mirror to inspect my hurt further. The dried blood concealed the wound itself, but after a few dabs from a damp washcloth, two round puncture-marks were revealed, about an inch apart. You, reader, will already begin to guess at how I came about them, and at the nature of my mysterious paramour. But I, blinded by my high-born naivety, did not, fool that I was. Or rather, I pushed the dark suspicions to the very farthest corner of my mind. Perhaps a rat had bitten me in the night? Or my elven lover's nails had broken the skin, as she gripped me in ecstasy? Settling on the latter explanation, I made ready to descend for breakfast. When I dressed I wrapped a scarf about my neck to hide the marks. Given the warm weather it may have looked a little odd, but it was not unheard of for a scarf to be worn for accessory, as opposed to practicality.
As it happened, I spent only an hour or so of that day out of doors. I took my usual morning walk after my meal (though it was afternoon), and the vigor of my step soon banished the ache in my head. The rest of the day was spent alone in my room, reading some of the books I had 'borrowed' from the Guild before leaving. The following days were squandered doing the same: reading these texts and bemoaning my lost future. I will not bore you with the details, and instead skip to the early morning of the third day, when something truly remarkable happened.
I awoke with the rising of the sun in intense agony. My face and upper body burned as if splashed with boiling oil - I had never known such pain before. As I writhed, I opened my eyes and saw a most curious and horrifying sight. Looking down, I saw the skin on my naked chest and arms begin to blacken and crisp, with small wisps of smoke slowly rising from it. Lifting my hand to my face, I watched it do the same, before shriveling like the limb of a mummified corpse. Then I realized. It was the sun! The sun was killing me!
This recognition brought me a surge of strength, and I flung myself from the bed, rolling onto the floor and away from the sun's deadly rays. Instantly the burning stopped, but the ache in my skin remained. Cowering in the shadows I wept, at the pain in my body and this terrible turn of fate. I quickly guessed what it was I had become, but I had to know for sure. Crawling through the shadow cast by my bed, I reached the mirror and gazed within. Then I saw what I both expected and dreaded. Nothing. Where my bewildered face should have been there was nothing - just the reflection of the room behind me. It was true, then. I was a vampire. I drew the sheet from my bed with my now claw-like hand, and drew it about my body to shield me from the sun. Standing, I inched towards the window and pulled the curtain across, feeling the sun's fire even through the sheet. Then, weeping without tears, I lay again on my bed and closed my eyes.
It all fell into place. The Bosmer woman was a vampire, and I in my drunken state had failed to notice. I then remembered the unnatural brightness of her eyes, and how cold her body was to touch. Even at the height of our ecstasy her skin had been as cold as the grave, and when I pressed myself against her shapely chest I had felt no heartbeat - only the shudder as she climaxed. Oh what a fool I was.
Clich'd as it may sound, when woke again in the evening I half believed, half wished it had been a dream. Indeed, when I raised my hand to my face it was pale as ever - not the charred claw I had seen hours before. Likewise, the rest of my body looked normal; the skin no longer resembling overdone steak. But something else was wrong. The sun had set, and no candle lit my room, yet I could see everything as clear as day. And my vision was much sharper - I found I was able to study the pattern on the wings of a mosquito on the ceiling, and read the fine print of an open book on the far side of the room. Wonderful as that sounds to you, reader, I was distraught. It did not take me long to realize also that my other senses were sharper. I could hear conversations in the tavern below me without even straining my ears, and could smell the sweat, beer and smoke. And the blood. The sweet blood coursing through the veins of every man, woman and elf in the building.
There was one final test. Slowly and deliberately, I ran my tongue along the inside of my mouth, from one side to the other. And I felt them - two slender fangs, just like the ones that had punctured my neck and cursed me to this wretched existence.
A knock on the door startled me out of my wretched musings. It was one of the serving girls. 'Is everything all right, sir?' she asked, earnestly. "You've been shut up in your room all day."
"Yes," I answered quickly. "Everything's just fine." I winced as I discovered that my new fangs had given me a slight lisp, as if to add insult to injury.
"Well I've brought you some dinner. You've not eaten all day, have you?"
"No! There's no need-I am not hungry!" I stammered, but it was too late. The door opened and she entered. Light spilled into the room (there was a candle on the dinner tray), and she gave a little gasp when she saw that I was naked. Fortunately the sheet covered my groin, yet still she averted her eyes. I could smell the blood rising in her cheeks as she blushed.
"I am sorry, sir," she muttered, hastily setting the tray down on the corner table and starting for the door.
"Wait." I didn't know then why I stopped her, and there was an awkward silence as she turned in the doorway to face me. I heard her heartbeat quicken, and her sweet scent filled my nostrils. I have since learned that to a vampire, a young maiden is considered a delicacy, and there is nothing sweeter or more enticing than her aroma - mortals never know it, as they lack the keen sense of smell to detect it. But to a vampire it is strong and intoxicating. And here I was, enjoying it for the first time.
"Come closer," I said. I smelled fear then, and quickly made amends. "I mean, could you please bring it to me. The-the meal." Her fear lessened, and she did as I asked. "I have been feeling unwell all day, you see?"
"I am sorry to hear that, sir." As she drew nearer, the odor began to overwhelm me. I could bear it no longer, and with inhuman speed and strength, grabbed her as she placed the tray on my bedside table. In a split second she was in my lap, one hand clamped over her mouth and the other at the base of her neck. It happened with such speed that my fangs were breaking her flesh just as the dinner tray clattered to the floor.
Oh yes, she had certainly brought me a lovely meal.
If I had thought her smell was sweet, her taste was even sweeter. It was sweeter than the purest moon sugar, but at the same time more tart than the sourest wine. And a thousand times more satisfying than both. I could taste her fear and her confusion, her agony and her ecstasy. Her life, and her grisly death. As I drank I marveled at my newly imbued physical power. I had grabbed her with greater dexterity than an acrobat of Valenwood or Elsewyr, and greater strength than a barbarian of Skyrim or Orsinium. I was death incarnate.
I drained her, but it was not enough. I wanted more, and for a moment my head swam with red thoughts of wanton murder, and the bloody feast that would follow. Outside lay a whole city, full of buxom maidens just like this one. The world was my dinner table.
It was looking into her lifeless eyes that brought me back to the present. The sudden horror of what I had done flooded my mind, washing away the blood with guilt and repulsion. A shred of my mortal self remained, and it was dismayed. I had murdered an innocent young woman, and feasted on her blood. I was a monster. But the newborn vampire in me shoved aside all fears and regrets. I was an immortal, and she was my prey. It was the natural order of things. Yet still there lingered a certain disgust at what I had done, and what I had become.
What shook me more was the sudden realization of what would happen if my deed was discovered. I had to leave. Laying the maid's corpse atop the bed as if she were sleeping, I shut the door and dressed myself. Before long they would wonder where she was. Had she told them of her intent to bring me a meal? Had she been asked to by another? They likely knew exactly where she was, and I was not about to wait for the knock at the door. Taking only my clothes and money, I opened the window and climbed down to the back street below, surefooted as a spider and just as swift and deadly.
As I walked the streets my senses were assaulted from all sides. As I passed houses I could hear every conversation within, and smell every inhabitant. There was no moon, yet I was able to see for miles as though it were day, and I could taste the breath of everyone who had walked the street since dawn. It felt as if all my life I had been in a dream: in a blurred painting of the real world that lacked detail and substance. That is the only way I can describe it. Now I was free of the dream. Gone were the vague lines, replaced by images crisp and sharp. Gone were the dull and washed-out colors - the true world was far brighter and more beautiful. In undeath, I was more alive than I had ever been. It was both frightening and exhilarating.
My steps took me back to the university - I sought its library where I, ever practical, might learn more of my condition. I reached it with ease, climbing the wall to a window four stories up. I forced it open and entered (windows of all heights were locked at the university, preventing delinquent students of Alteration from using their levitation spells for mischief), smiling as the familiar smell of dusty books hit my nostrils, only this time with more clarity than ever. I quickly found the section I sought, and grabbing an armload of likely looking tomes, sat at one of the desks and began to read. I will not tell you what I learned there, reading in the dark, my vampire eyes not missing a single pen stroke. Some of it would bore you, some of it would intrigue you, and some of it would chill you to the bone, but there is simply too much to recount. So for the sake of my tale I shall push on, and tell of the interruption that came a little after midnight.
As I read an Altmer scholar's theory on the origins of vampirism, my keen ears heard footsteps in the hall outside. They were still a long way off, and I had ample time to hide myself before the door opened. Imagine my surprise when I saw my old tutor enter - the very man who had expelled me not a week before. He carried a small candlestick to light his way, and promptly walked to a shelf and began to browse. I know not why he was there. Perhaps he could not sleep, and sought something to read to pass the time. As I watched from the shadows, I felt a fierce rage boiling inside me. It was his fault. Had I not been expelled, I would never have been in that tavern. Never have met that Wood Elf, and never have contracted this disease. Yes, in every book I read, vampirism was referred to as a disease. Not a gift or even a curse, but a disease. Before I knew what I was doing my fangs were in his neck, and his blood was trickling down my throat. He barely had time to turn, though I liked to fancy he caught a glimpse of my face before he died.
His blood was much less sweet than the serving girl's. I could taste his age - the frailty of his musculature and the weariness of his limbs; the brittleness of his bones and stiffness of his joints. He made a far less satisfying meal, but that he should feed me gave a perverted feeling that justice had been done. His blood drained, I let the limp body fall to the floor. Having learned all that I wished to know (and much that I didn't), I turned to leave the way I had come. And there she was. The vampire who had given me so much pleasure, and so much pain.
She gave me that same seductive smile, but it now held a hint of mocking that had not been there the other night. It spread to a grin, and her lips parted to reveal the fangs she had so skillfully hidden from me. Her eyes shone brighter than ever, and as much as I hated her for what she had done, I wanted nothing more than to make love to her again, with even more passion than before. She could see the lust in my eyes, and as she mocked me with her grin I knew I would never experience that wild pleasure again. Her work was done.
"How did you find me?" I asked, calmly.
"I followed your scent," she answered, folding her arms. "You fed tonight. Before him, I mean." She glanced past me at the crumpled corpse of my former tutor. "A maiden. I can smell her all over you. Was she sweet?"
I didn't answer.
"What is the matter, my dark child? Do you not appreciate the gift I have bestowed upon thee?" Again she mocked me.
"You've turned me into a monster," I spat.
"Monster? No." She laughed, a beautiful sound that made me want her all the more. "I've turned you into a God."
"We have eyes in the Guilds, and often prey on their outcasts. We know all about you, and your talents. I think you will be of great use to us. Now come with me and meet your new family."
Bowing my head, I followed.
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