This book is written in blood. Its words are the scars, the deep cuts that I have endured and have dealt out to the ones who began this. Its pages are the flesh I have torn. Its spine the bones that I have shattered and crushed. Each time I open this book it will be to report another has died. It is my journal of murder, my record, and it still has many pages as yet unwritten.
Raddin War Tooth
Harald The White
Bormir One-Hand – Should have bought himself a shield.
Like this journal my life wasn’t always soaked in blood.
I grew up in Hulgard’s Barrow, a small village, on the Skyrim Cyrodiil border. We were a small community of hunters and farmers which had grown up around the barrow said to hold the remains of Hulgard The Righteous. As children we played around the barrow entrance, daring each other to venture inside. We had no idea what terrible power might truly lie beyond that dark entrance.
23rd of Sun’s Dawn, 4E 198
It is getting dark now. I will wait until they have doused their torches to sleep, until their fire is nothing but embers before I strike. Night is the worst time. At night the ghosts of my past haunt me. The happy memories are the worst.
I remember the day my father gave me this journal. It is hard to believe that was only four years ago. We were sat around the fire after dinner. That was always my favourite time of the day. Before bed, when the darkness pressed against the outside of our home, Father would thrill me with his stories of the hunt. I would relish every tale and, when I lay down to sleep, my dreams would be filled with battles with Sabre Cats and Trolls. Near misses and bloody triumphs. Tonight Father had something for me.
Heading to his hunting chest Father disappeared from the golden light of the fire. When he returned he was holding this journal in his hands.
He told me he had bought it from a travelling merchant who had passed through our village. I held it in my trembling hands as he explained.
It was to be our hunting journal. The journal we would fill with our adventures. I was old enough now. It was time for us to begin to hunt together. I was fourteen at the time and happier than I have been for a moment since. As I wrote, the happy memories are the most painful.
We never got to hunt together.
I have steel enough for every one of you. Cling to the light, for when you close your eyes tonight it will be the last time.
My Father was brought to our village a year after the end of The Great War. Alfhed The Brave told a transfixed Inn of his story. Alfhed called my Father The Ghost. He had been found dead on a battle field. The Imperials had loaded him onto a cart bound for Falkreath and a Nord burial. They had travelled all of three miles before my Father awoke under the bodies of his comrades. He rose up on the cart scaring the driver half to death! Alfhed was riding behind and saw the whole thing. My Father had no recollection of anything before that moment. He did not even know his name. The Imperials were terrified of him. Alfhed just laughed and said he was a true Nord.
When the war ended my Father returned with Alfhed to our village. We had lost many good Nords during the war. We had empty houses and fields that needed tending or we would go without crops and food. So my Father rode back from the Imperial City to his new home. Renamed Styrr after the brother that Alfhed lost in the war he began his life in Hulgard’s Barrow. A few years later so did I.
24th of Sun’s Dawn, 4E 198
Bedrel The Skull Splitter did not live up to his name. Whining and begging for his life when I pressed my blade against his throat. I got the information I needed before I killed him. He talked. They all talk at the end. If they still can.
10th of First Seed, 4E 198
Haaki The Unending – ENDED
20th of First Seed, 4E 198
They came to our village at night. Wrapped tight in the thick cover of darkness. No one knew they were there until it was too late.
A week after my Father had given me the journal we were due to undertake our first hunt. The night before we packed and went early to bed. I had not been asleep for more than an hour when the horrifying cries began. I heard Father moving through the house, his muffled instructions to my Mother. Then our door opened and suddenly the awful sounds filled our house, loud, close. The door was quickly closed and bolted.
Terrified, I pressed myself against the shutters in my bedroom trying to look out, trying to see Father. Something flashed past the window, grey, slamming into the side of our house. I ducked quickly away, pushing myself against my wall. I put a hand over my mouth, held my breath so that it would not hear me.
I could tell that it had stopped outside our house. I could smell it. That sickening, sour smell reaching into my bedroom, like its rotten fingers stretching through the darkness towards me. I listened, trying to be quiet, trying to not to attract its attention.
It moved. I think to move away. That was when Mother came into the room to make sure I was alright. It heard her and immediately it tore into the shutters, hammering, clawing to try and get in. I screamed and ran towards my Mother.
I could hear the shutters splinter and crack behind me as I ran. Cold night air rushed into the room along with the foul stench of the dead thing.
My Mother was waiting in the doorway. I ran as hard as I could towards her.
She shoved me past her and before I knew it I was in the hallway. I heard the door slam behind me, the bolt being drawn across. I beat on the door. She shouted for me to run. I could hear that the thing was in the room with her. She’d shut herself in with it so that I could get away. To buy me some time to escape.
Her screams were terrible. I hammered on the door, trying to get in, trying to help but there was nothing I could do. Eventually she fell silent. It had torn the last of her life from her. No, no, no! She couldn’t be gone! Tears streaming down my face I pressed myself against the door listening for some sound of her, anything to defy what I already knew.
Suddenly the thing was throwing itself against the door, trying to break it down. The door shook with such force that I was knocked back onto the floor of the hallway. Terrified, I began to drag myself backwards along the corridor. I was scared beyond being able to act. I found myself in a corner of the hallway, still trying to edge backwards even though there was a wall behind me. I was petrified; the door’s hinges split away from their frame. I saw its glowing eyes. They fixed on me, hungry.
The blade tore through the door first. I could hear my Father shouting from outside. His steel greatsword disappeared and then once more ripped through the entrance door to our house. With a fearsome shout Father swung his blade and cleaved into two the bar that locked the door. He threw himself against the door shattering it, smashing through it.
My Father rushed forward to me. “Are you alright? Are you hurt?” I shook my head. I was too scared to speak. Behind him the Draugr slammed against my bedroom door trying to free itself. It tore at the door’s panels, frenzied, never taking its eyes from me, its prey. “Where is your Mother?” I began to sob. Father followed my gaze to the pooling blood that had seeped under my bedroom door. He cried out; the grief cutting through him like the sharpest blade. Staggering to his feet Father charged at the door. His greatsword held in front of him he slammed the blade into the wood until the hilt jammed against the door. The Draugr groaned. Father’s sword had torn right through it. He lifted the Draugr on the end of his blade, cutting upwards through the door, the wood splintering, tearing, crying out as he tore the beast in half. I knew my Father had been a warrior but I had never seen such fury. Even when the beast had fallen silent the hilt of Father’s blade scraped against the ripped wood of the door. If there had been a thousand Draugr on the other side of that door he would not have stopped until they were all dead.
Outside an awful scream tore through the night. The sound roused Father from his rage. Like a man woken from a dream he pulled his blade from the door and turned back to me. He raced over to me, scooping me up and holding me tightly to him. We ran from our house into the street. What I saw that night will never leave me.
The streets of Hulgard’s Barrow had been transformed into something from an Oblivion Realm. All around Draugr ripped and tore at villagers I had known my whole life. Father tried to shield my eyes as he ran but even a glimpse of the horrors that had overrun our village was more terrible than anything I could have imagined. Haren Black-Leg tried to fight off a Draugr with a burning torch. His torch caught the Draugr’s rags on fire but it did not stop coming at him. The thing wrapped itself around Haren, the fire spreading to Haren’s clothes, his hair, his skin. Soon the two were completely consumed by the flames. I pressed myself against my Father’s armor, trying not to look, but looking away did not stop me from hearing Haren’s terrible, tortured screams.
It felt like Father ran forever while all around us Hulgard’s Barrow screamed into the night but eventually I heard a door slamming and we stopped. Father gently put me down. Without leaving his side I looked around the dark room. We were in the Chapel.
Father dragged a pew across the door behind us to bar it. The heavy bench screeching as he dragged it across the tiled floor. At any moment I expected the Draugr to hear us, to begin hammering on the Chapel door, trying to beat it down but no attack came. We dragged a second pew between us, stacking it against the first. Once a final, third pew leant against the other two we collapsed onto the cold wooden seat and waited.
I leant against Father, huddled to him, terrified of what lurked outside. He told me to be strong, that I would need to be strong to face what was to come. When I looked down I saw the blood that had spilt onto the pew.
A cold terror overtook me. I traced the blood to a tear in Father’s armor. He looked down at me, reassuring me, trying to calm me but I could already see that he had weakened, his face had grown pale. No Draugr, no monster could ever scare me the way that finding that blood did. I knew at that moment that I was going to lose him. That this terrible night would take from me everything I held dear. I screamed out, “No! No! No! You can’t go! You can’t leave! This can’t happen!” I didn’t care if the Draugr heard my cries, if they descended upon me. I would fight! I would kill them for this!
My Father held me tightly to him. I tried to be strong but I couldn’t stop crying. To soothe me Father told me stories of his adventures hunting. As the night drew on the village fell quiet. My Father’s voice grew weaker and his mind wandered. He told me of a dream that had visited him many times recently. He told me of the ‘pups’ as he called them. Two boys he dreamt of, two hunters who ran on the plains at night. In his dream he ran with them, hunted and fought at their side.
“Most men only get one life, I have had two. Talos knows that I have lived more than many men. If I died on that battlefield all those years ago then this has been Sovngarde. You, your Mother” he smiled, “I must have been a fierce warrior in my previous life to have been rewarded so greatly.” I closed my eyes. It was madness but I wished this terrible night would never end so that I would not have to face a day without my Father.
“A man who is already dead cannot die again my child.” Father took off his greatsword. He placed it across our laps. “This is yours now Red.” Outside the village had fallen silent. Death had come to Hulgard’s Barrow. He had consumed our village. Back then I did not know his name.
When the sun rose The Ghost had gone. I begged for him to rise up again, for this to be a mistake again but my cries fell on the deaf ears of the dead. I think I might have stayed there forever; sat by my Father’s side and waited for the end to come for me if it hadn’t been for the noise from outside.
Horses, men laughing, moving through the village. My hand tightened, white knuckles around the greatsword that Father had left to me and, dragging its heavy weight, I made my way quietly to the front of the chapel to look out. What I saw when I pressed against the chapel’s shutters turned my heart to stone. The main road through the village was littered with dead, broken and torn corpses. Had anyone survived but me? A single Draugr stumbled along the road. A fat rider swung his blade as he circled the Draugr lopping off its head. He laughed as the Draugr’s body tottered on for a few steps before collapsing into the wet earth.
More men followed the fat bandit. Spilling from the Barrow they mounted their horses and made their way through the village. Some rode the main road, hooves spraying mud, dodging the discarded bodies of the dead. Others paced back and forth outside the Barrow’s entrance.
After a time I saw what they were gathering for. A dark elf, flanked by two burly bandit chiefs, seemed to almost float from the barrow. The area around the Barrow fell silent, the laughter and shouting fading to nothing as the bandits noticed his appearance. No one, bar the two men at his side, dared to look directly at him. As he passed the bandits looked at their feet, maybe searching the mud for their backbones. Behind the Elf a procession of bandits struggled to carry the weight of the chests they had sacked from the Barrow. Was that what this was all about? Gold? Had this Necromancer come here and torn our village to the ground just for gold? My mind was on fire. I burned with a fury I could not have conceived before. Dragging the greatsword through the mud I ran out onto the main road of the village.
“You!” I shouted at the Elf. “Murderer!” The Necromancer turned to look at me. I tried to raise up Father’s sword but its weight was too great. It skimmed the air at my side before I could hold it no longer and it fell into the dirt. “You’ll die for what you’ve done here!”
“Not in your lifetime child.” The Necromancer sneered.
The fat bandit had spotted me. Laughing he rode toward me, his blade out by his side, just as he’d rode towards the Draugr. “I’ll kill you for this!” I screamed at the Dark Elf as the fat bandit drew close. At the last moment I closed my eyes.
I felt the horse passing, a fat fist grabbed the back of my tunic and I was thrown off my feet. I slammed into the mud. I heard the bandit laughing as I was dragged along through the dirt, the road hammering against my legs, bruising, battering my body. But I did not let go of my sword.
Winded and shaken I was dumped on the road a few feet in front of the Necromancer. As he approached I pulled myself from the mud. I tried to stand but the pain in my legs was too great. I fell to my knees. He smirked, “I see you have the sense to kneel before me child.” It was agony to stand, I wanted to scream but I would not give him the satisfaction. Using my sword as a splint I pulled myself to my full height. “I will never kneel before a murderer.” I spat the words at him.
One of the bandit chiefs, an Orc, slapped me with the back of his hand, knocking me off my feet, throwing me back into the mud. “Take her to the Barrow. Feed her to the Draugr. Then mount what’s left of her on a pike outside the village.” I kicked and fought but the Orc had the strength of two men. He threw me over his shoulder and carried me into Hulgard’s Barrow.
As the darkness of the Barrow swallowed us whole I screamed out to the Necromancer. “I’ve seen your face. I’ve seen you and I’ll find you again! And when I do you’ll die by my hand!” My words echoed off of the walls of the Barrow as the Orc threw me inside.
To be continued…
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Andy Cull is the writer and director of The Possession Of David O'Reilly (UK title The Torment) and In The Dark (www.louisepaxton.co.uk). He's currently writing his first novel and a new horror feature.