Tes3Mod:Tamriel Rebuilt/How I Became a Monster II
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She led me to a distant corner of the city - a place foreign to me, as I had never ventured far beyond the university. We traveled at great speed, and while we walked many miles, no fatigue entered my limbs. Another of vampirism's boons. We spoke very little on the journey, though my guide did give me her name. She was called Mir'ar, but told me with a smirk that I might call her Mother if I wished. My refusal amused her greatly. I did not speak to her again until we reached our destination. We arrived at a ruined estate, where in the basement of a crumbling manor house was a tunnel leading into an ancient crypt. A thousand years ago it had housed the remains of a noble family, but their bones had long since been cast out; the undead rested there now. We descended a stone staircase that took us far beneath the hill, before opening onto a huge antechamber, from which several passageways branched into the web-like catacombs of the tomb. The air smelled of death, poorly masked by the sharp scent of exotic oils.
Mir'ar introduced me to my new family, or "clan" to use the correct terminology. The tomb housed approximately two-dozen vampires at any given time, but aside from those constantly coming and going there were several who made it their permanent abode. Mir'ar was one, and as I learned, ranked highly among them. She was second only to Hlan the Black, the lord of our clan. Over two thousand years old, Hlan was originally from Morrowind; a Dark Elf, and a powerful spellcaster. Half his unlife he had spent lording over our clan, but it was whispered that he now wearied of the post. General opinion suggested he would soon name a successor and retire, and that Mir'ar was next in line. I was briefly introduced to him, and his great age and power were both immediately apparent. As was his weariness. His pale and heavy-lidded eyes betrayed all. He said little, but was evidently pleased that I had come. His smile made me shudder.
The others I met left similarly frightening impressions, though none held the same gravity as Hlan's. Murderers of the night-but who was I to judge? I was one of them now. There were the twins, Claudio and Claudius. Mir'ar told me of their insatiable appetites, and how they would disappear for days at a time, returning with tales of blood and debauchery. They were very polite in their greetings, and one would scarcely have guessed at the depravity that lay behind their boyish faces. And Calendra; a dark beauty with skin as smooth as the silk from her native Hammerfell. But she was centuries old - elder to all but Hlan. Her weapon was her beauty: thousands had died in her arms, many in greater pleasure than they had ever known before. They called her "the Black Widow", but she was no brooding matron. Quite the opposite - she seemed spirited indeed for a vampire. Then there was Morran, a hulking Nord who had once been a Captain in the Legion. Mir'ar had found him on the brink of suicide after the tragic death of his wife, and convinced him to die a different way. Our strongest warrior, he would often entertain the clan with tales of past battles and campaigns. He rarely hunted, instead keeping an Altmer girl to feed on whom he guarded fiercely. Vampires had died the true death for trying to taste her. I also met Grell; a squat, goblin-like creature with a hooked nose and a hideously wide mouth. He gave me a ghoulish smile, and I saw that he had sharpened every one of his teeth to match his fangs. Mir'ar later explained how he would leap from the shadows onto his prey, grabbing them with his deceptively strong fingers and biting out their throats. A very messy eater, by all accounts. Next I was introduced to Vornus, a Colovian of very few words. Tall, dark and mysterious, he seemed the most classically vampiric with his flowing robes and hair, neatly trimmed beard and sunken cheeks. He shared the tales of his kills with no one, and thus his hunting habits were a mystery. But Mir'ar had once seen him in supplication to Mehrunes Dagon under a full moon, the naked corpse of a maiden spread across his knees.
Lastly I met the "cattle", as they were known. They were the clan's slaves; our food, our servants, and our whores - whichever happened to be needed at the time. A pitiable, sad-eyed lot, to be sure. There was a sense of utter hopelessness about them, and for my first few days I could hardly stand to be near them, such was the force of their depressing aura. They wore enchanted bracers about their wrists that could not be removed without the key (which Hlan kept about his neck at all times), and these supposedly prevented them from using magic to escape. But these were scarcely needed. In their servitude they had lost all willpower, and no longer had desires of their own. They lacked the will to disobey, and existed only to serve us. They would not speak unless spoken to, and nor would they look any member of the clan in the eye, unless ordered to. We had about ten of each sex; most were human, but if one felt like a taste of elf, or perchance something more exotic like orc or khajiit, they could be catered for.
While my description of the place surely horrifies you, reader, to me it was now home, and it did not take me long to settle in. I was allotted a small chamber for my own, fully furnished with a four-poster bed, a tall bookcase and a desk for writing. For a tomb, it was comfortable indeed. Its vaults were as dry as the bones they once housed, with no mould or fungi to be seen. No spiders dared take up residence in the corners, and rats only seldom scuttled along the floors. It would be fair to say that we lived with as much style as the nobles who had been interred there before us, and it made me wonder if things had not turned out for the better. I had a life again. A future. What could I have achieved in the Mages' Guild that I could not now achieve within my clan? The same power and status were again within my grasp, and this time my ambition and determination would serve me, not hinder me. Yes, I was a monster, but I knew I would grow accustomed to the killing.
In that first week I took two lives, not counting those I murdered on the first night. My third ever victim was a beggar, weak from hunger and barely more nourishing than a rat. As with the serving girl, I felt a tinge of mingled guilt and revulsion once the deed was done, but I reasoned that his existence had been a wretched one anyway, and he was better off dead. But the fourth-she was much tastier. Calendra led me to an up-market tavern she often visited, full of plump aristocrats weighted down with glittering trinkets. We descended on a young couple; she took the man, I the girl. Shoving all sentiment aside, I drank my fill, and found her blood to be divine. I could taste her pampering; the expensive Breton wines, sweetmeats, sugar-laden cakes and tarts, and the tang of exotic fruits. When I had finished, Calendra gave me a knowing smile. "I remember my first noble," she said, wiping the young man's blood from her dark lips. "T'was then I knew I was truly dead, and tasting the fruits of the afterlife."
A fortnight after my birth into darkness, Hlan the Black summoned me to his chambers. Initially I was nervous indeed, and lingered long in the hallway outside his quarters before I mustered the courage to enter. I found his chamber a grand affair, its walls hung with decadent tapestries and lined with enormous shelves, each sagging under the weight of a thousand books. Hlan sat in an overstuffed chair, drinking a glass of blood-laced wine. His smile was welcoming, and his manner almost grandfatherly, quickly setting me at ease. He was also very to-the-point. "I asked you here so I might observe you," he said, after asking how I was settling in. "To learn what manner of vampire you are. I wish to-get to know you, as I do with all new-bloods who come with such-recommendations." He motioned for me to sit on a wooden stool opposite his chair.
"Very well, master," I answered, taking the seat. "What would you know of me?"
"Your first kill." He refilled his wine, adding the thick blood from a golden pitcher. "I want to know how it made you feel. And do be honest. There are no right or wrong answers."
"Well-it made me feel good, in the beginning."
The way his eyes lit up unnerved me slightly. "Go on," he said.
"I enjoyed the taste-and the realization of my power?" I hesitated.
"But I was horrified when I realized what I had done. It all happened so fast?"
"You regretted your decision to kill her?"
"Yes?" Again I hesitated. "No. I don't know that I ever made the decision. It just happened."
"Then you simply weren't fast enough to make the decision not to kill her?"
"I suppose so."
"Her smell overpowered you, and you grabbed her. Your body acted quicker than your mind, and by the time it had caught up she was already dead. Am I correct?"
"And afterwards, you felt remorse?"
"That is very interesting." The weight of his gaze burned me like the sun. "And your kills since then. Have they made you feel the same?"
"Similar, I suppose. I kill without pause, but something at the back of my mind knows that what I am doing is abhorrent, even if I can feel no actual guilt?"
"I sometimes find myself wondering why I feel nothing. I am fully aware that I have become a monster, but?"
"But being a monster does not seem so terrible?"
Hlan smiled - the same smile that had made me shudder before, but it had no effect now. "I would now like to share with you a theory of mine. And please bear in mind that it is only a theory - I have no solid proof, and I base it all on conjecture. An opinion, if you will, but an informed one." He sipped his wine, then set the glass aside. "As you are surely aware, vampirism is a disease. A disease unlike any other, it is true, but a disease nonetheless. It places the afflicted in a curious state halfway between life and death-we are often called the Undead, but Unliving would fit just as well, for we are no closer to death than to life. We cannot be truly dead: we do not decompose, our spirits remain firmly in our bodies, and we are fully sentient. We even have to feed to sustain ourselves. But we cannot be truly alive: we do not breathe, our hearts do not beat, and nor do we grow. Physically, a vampire remains at the age they were when they contracted the disease for all eternity. As you can see, I was already advanced in years when I became infected. You on the other hand are lucky, and will retain your youth forever."
"So-as well as placing us in this "state", the disease has several other symptoms you will have no doubt discovered. Firstly, it enhances almost every aspect of our physicality. It makes us stronger, faster, and more aware of what goes on in the world around us. These are the benefits, and while they are sweet, they come at great cost. No more can we walk beneath the light of the sun, and no more will the food we enjoyed as mortals sustain us - we need blood; preferably humanoid. We can survive on animal blood if need drives us, but no vampire wants to drink it. It is the blood of men and mer we thirst for. Nothing else will bring true satisfaction. And unfortunately, the need is not only physical. This bloodlust also affects the mind, altering the way we think. We find ourselves doing things we would never have been able to do before-thinking thoughts that would previously have been inconceivable to us. For example, murder ceases to be a crime. It becomes a way of life...a method of feeding our hunger. Death ceases to be mourned, and causing pain ceases to bring guilt. Generally speaking."
He paused, and tilted his head to regard me a moment before continuing. "The curious thing is that these alterations to our thought processes occur on many different levels. That is, the minds of some are altered more than others. Why, in the most extreme cases, the mind is essentially destroyed. These vampires retain nothing of who they were - their intellect, their experience, their knowledge. All is wiped clean. They become animals: bestial slaves to blood, possessing little more understanding or control than a rabid dog. But do not worry, new-blood." He smiled, sensing my fear of becoming such a creature. "It will not happen to you. The change is generally instant - they are ruined from the beginning. These are the Wild Vampires, who roam the night feeding on whatever they can. They have no clans: no clan would accept them. They often live alone, though some band together to hunt in packs like wolves. Maddened things. Most sane vampires hate them, and kill them on sight. Thus they are rarely found where the clans hunt, and seek refuge in the wilderness, living like rats in caves and burrows."
"What makes them this way, master?" I asked.
"Well, this is where the conjecture begins." Again he smiled. "Some say it depends wholly on who they contracted the disease from. On the vampire who bit them - their age and power, or the "strength" of their bloodline. For example, a vampire who contracted the disease from myself would by that logic, be of a more stable mind than one sired by a new-blood like yourself."
"But you do not believe this?"
"I do not. Why, Mir'ar is still reckoned young among us, yet I detect no madness in you. No. I believe it depends entirely on the individual. Or more precisely, who they were before contracting the disease. I believe it is the level on which the mortal mind is able to resist corruption that determines the resulting vampire. Their strength of mind in life, if you will. Their willpower."
I nodded, beginning to understand.
"When the weak-minded are infected, the disease dominates them, and destroys them. These are our Wild Vampires. Bloodlust incarnate - vampirism in its purest form, unhindered by thought, reasoning, morality or logic. On the other hand, we of stronger mind retain at least some of these things. That you and I are able to have this discussion shows we have retained our intellect and reasoning. But try having a conversation like this with Grell."
I laughed, as did he.
"The disease has much more of a hold over his mind, because his will was never as strong as ours. Do you understand? It is the strength of the disease's grip on the mind that determines our nature. And ironically, the lesser the vampirism's hold, the greater the vampire. For the red thirst only clouds the mind, and thus we who can resist its call are far more dangerous than the fools who follow it blindly. We can think, while they can only act."
"But why do you assume it has any less of a hold on me than the others?" I wondered. "You said it yourself: I could not stop myself from killing that girl."
"Perhaps not. But the horror you felt when the deed was done, and the way you now ask yourself why you cannot feel: that shows me you have retained your notions of morality. I am not saying you have a conscience - far from it. But the disease has spared your memory of it. You are a vampire who still has most of his mind, new-blood. Do you know how rare you are?"
I did not know what to say.
Hlan picked up his goblet and drank the last of his wine. "Now leave me," he said, quite abruptly. "I will summon you again in due course, but do not wait for the call. It may be a long time in coming."
I left his chamber with an odd feeling. Now there was no doubt: I had fallen on my feet with no less grace than a Khajiit. My expulsion from the Mages' Guild felt like it had happened in another lifetime, and in a twisted way it had. My future was with the clan now. Hlan was my master, and seemed to see great potential in me - I was somehow superior to the others.
I was special.
His summons was indeed a long time in coming. It must have been a month at least. In the meantime, I began to adjust to life as a vampire. I would hunt twice a week, as did most of the clan members. The cattle sustained us on our nights indoors, though I found them a poor substitute for a kill. I liked to drain my prey of every drop, but taking too much from the cattle was forbidden. They were too valuable to risk killing them, even if they were generally treated like dirt. Slaves were hard to come by, and had to be smuggled in from Morrowind; the Empire's only province where the practice of slavery was not outlawed. Thus I was always left unsatisfied. Compare it to being offered a thimble of wine while the bottle is withheld. Still, we could not kill every night. Even the great Imperial City could not sustain a population of vampires stealing its citizens after every sunset. Too many murders would have the Legions hunting us down, and while we were stronger than any mortal soldier, they were numerous, and their Battlemages could conjure fire that meant instant death for any vampire. So I grew accustomed to taking most of my blood from the cattle.
My favorite was a red-haired Breton girl (I say girl, though she was a year or two older than myself) called Elise. At least, that had been her name, she said. Now, like the others, she was a nameless slave. Her past life mattered as little as my own. Still, I always called her Elise, though not in front of the other vampires. They would have viewed it as a sign of weakness. Elise was my favored consort, and spent many days (day of course being a vampire's time for resting) in my arms, her slender body warming my cold, dead flesh. That is, when she was not with Claudio, who also enjoyed her company. But he was cruel to her; she frequently came to me after sharing his bed with ghastly wounds in forbidden places. I would always use what knowledge I had of restorative magicks to heal her, but in truth it was not her flesh that needed healing. Inside she was dead - more so than any vampire. Servitude had broken her spirit, and destroyed her beyond the point of return. Even so, she still clearly remembered her old life, and I would often ask her to tell me of it while we lay together. Sometimes the tears would stream down her face as she spoke in a rare show of emotion. I enjoyed watching her cry - not out of sadistic pleasure, but because it showed that some part of her could still feel. In time I think I came to love her, in a perverted fashion. Or rather, the memory of my former self fell in love with the young, care-free maiden she would describe to me. She said a similar thing herself one morning, as I planted gentle kisses on her bleeding neck. That she wondered what might have happened had we met under different circumstances. The cold, detached manner in which she said it nearly made me weep.
When Hlan's summons came, it was not for another philosophical discussion. He had a task for me, and thus began a series of duties I carried out for the clan. A theft or an extortion here, a kidnapping or an assassination there. Everything I did without question, and in reward, Hlan would tutor me in wizardry. He showed me ways to improve upon what spells I already knew, as well as a myriad of new ones. I learned how to summon Daedric servants - powerful demigods from Oblivion, and how to raise the dead as mindless slaves. He taught me how to resist the elemental powers, including fire - ever the bane of we vampires, and how to master them for use against my foes. He taught me how to diminish my opponents? strengths and magnify their weaknesses: how to make the strong frail, the agile clumsy, and the courageous craven. Under Hlan's tutelage I learned everything the Guild had withheld from me. Things they feared would make me too powerful, and I laughed at their failure.
It was around this time that I detected a growing enmity towards me from Mir'ar. At first I noticed her speaking to me less and less, until we never spoke at all unless I was the one to initiate conversation. Then it grew to venomous looks, and from there to outright hostility, borne of a seething hatred. The others noticed it as well, and would occasionally comment. "Don't mind her," Morran said to me one evening. "She's jealous because Hlan's found a new pet." And I didn't mind, because it didn't matter. My desires for her had long since been put to rest. It turned out she preferred the company her own sex anyway, and habitually shared her room with a Khajiit vampire named An'kha. Born under a waxing Secunda and a new Masser, she was an Ohmes-Raht, resembling a Bosmer maiden herself but for the whiskers and tail. Racial enemies in life, lovers in undeath. Would it surprise you, reader, if I said that the thought of them together excited me?
One night, Mir'ar and I were both summoned to our lord's chamber. By this time I had been with the clan for well over a year, and was in high standing despite my age. Just like before, and yet, completely different. "My lieutenants," Hlan said as we entered, smiling broadly. It was the first time he had ever referred to us as such, and I instantly knew something was afoot. "You are surely wondering why I have called you here, so I will not waste your time. I want to tell you of my vision. A vision that you two will be instrumental in bringing to fruition."
"What vision, my lord?" Mir'ar asked. "What are you planning?"
"My sweet Mir'ar," he said, "we are going to rule the city."
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