“The Orc said for Isaran’s hands only.” The courier was insistent and Celann knew that he was only doing his job, but the sigh he let out indicated his clear exasperation with the matter. Though if he was honest, if Durak only wanted Isran to receive the correspondence, he probably had a good reason.
“Fine,” he said, “follow me.” He led the young man through the fort’s massive foyer and up the tower staircase to Isran’s office, where their leader was unpacking and repacking barrels of varying contents. The administrative area that Isran was trying to organizing was a disaster but he insisted that he not have any help, and that the rest of the crew needed to work on training.
“I hope you have a good reason for interrupting my work,” he said as Celann stepped into the room. “You know you can clear recruits without me.”
“This isn’t a recruit, it’s a courier,” he explained. “He’s got something for you—and only you apparently. From Durak.”
Isran furrowed his brow but took the letter from the courier’s hand. His face was expressionless as he read.
“Thank you young man,” he said, “and take this.” From his pocked he obtained a couple of septims, which he handed over and then gestured for the courier to leave. Celann turned to follow him, but stopped in his tracks when Isran spoke again.
Celann could tell by the subtle change in cadence that he was in trouble—for what, he had no idea.
“Yes?” he replied.
“Do you know anything about this?” Isaran handed him the letter.
There may be a concern with the Winstead Manor report. In Dragons Bridge, I met a young girl, a member of the Cantor family, who seems to have some peculiar knowledge of the Dawnguard’s presence in her home. Her bearing was consistent with that of someone who may have witnessed some violence, but she was confused and unwilling to provide details. Given the size of that operation and Cantor family’s relative high social class, I thought it was something that might require a follow up.
Celann did not know how to respond. He had compiled the Winstead manor report from Beleval and Ingjard’s notes. There had been no survivors, human or vampire. The eldest daughter of the deceased humans, a citizen of Solitude, identified her parents’ bodies. Despite the sheer number of vampires holed up in that estate, it was a basic and straightforward—albeit tragic—mission. The Dawnguard did not operate in secret, so he could think of no reason why someone, a family member or other survivor, would be left out of the official record. But Isran was a stickler and did not tolerate inconsistencies.
“I don’t know anything about this,” he said, shaking his head and returning the missive. “Beleval and Ingjard gave their reports and I pulled it all together.”
“Beleval? Didn’t Vi’van lead that raid?” Isran had stood and walked over to the shelf where he kept his records, pulling the appropriate ledger off the shelf.
“She did,” Celann replied. “She came back after a few days, signed off on the report, then I gave it to you.”
“A few days? She didn’t return with the group?” Isran asked.
“No, she did not.” Celann spoke slowly as Isran glared at him. While most groups traveled together and back on missions, it was not required.
“You don’t find that peculiar? That Vi’van arrived back at the Fort days after her group returned?”
Celann let out a light sigh. Of course, Isran was going to make that an issue. “No, I did not,” he replied “There are any number of reasons why someone might not return with the groups. In this case? Well, they were up by the Pale and Vi’van’s parents live in Dawnstar.”
Truthfully, he had only just thought of that now. At the time, he didn’t think anything at all. They didn’t have much in the way of hierarchy or supervision. Some of the bandits they’d sprung from Riften’s prison had to stay at the fort. But apart from that, as long as no one abandoned entirely, there wasn’t a lot of individual scrutiny.
They stared at each other intently for several moments. Anyone else in Tamriel would have become deeply uncomfortable. But Celann, having known the man for longer than anyone else in the fort, refused to be intimidated by Isran. They were firmly on the same side and while Celann knew that Isran’s militancy might keep some of the young recruits in line, they had known each other far too long to him to indulge his intimidation tactics.
“Very well,” he said. “Let’s bring Vi’van up to discuss this.” Isran walked out of his room to the hallway overlooking the foyer. “You there, Nord!” he called out.
“Of course! Ollrod, send Vi’van up here!” He turned around and walked back to his room with Celann behind him.
Celann stood quietly, watching as Isran went back to organizing. As the minutes wore on, he felt rather awkward just standing there and so grabbed a broom with the intention of helping—or at least, looking helpful. Needless to say, he was more than a little relieved when Vi’v arrived.
“Good day,” she said, nodding to Celann and Isran. Celann returned her smile, while Isran’s solemn countenance remained unwavering.
“Apologies if I’ve disrupted the day’s training, but we have a matter to resolve.” Isran liked Vi’v more than he liked most people and his acknowledgment that he may have interrupted her was as close as the man got to anything resembling a warm greeting.
“Of course,” she said. “How can I help?”
Isran handed her the letter and Celann observed as she read. Nothing in her expression would indicate that anything was amiss. Indeed, she almost seemed relieved but it was difficult to tell.
“Can you explain any of this?” Isran asked.
“I can try,” she said. “It appears that Durak met Prisca, the younger Cantor sister.” She took a deep breath, looking over the letter once again. “It appears that she survived her….” With this she paused. “It appears she survived her injuries. I am very glad to read this.”
“There was no indication of an injured family member in your report,” said Isran. “Why was this not mentioned by Ingjard and Beleval?” He looked over at Celann who nodded in agreement. This was a considerable omission by anyone’s standard and now he was confused.
“Ingjard was unaware of the young woman and I instructed Beleval not to mention it,” she explained. The calmness of her voice was certainly not unusual, yet in the face of such a glaring omission, Celann was astonished at her unwavering composure. Vi’van was not inclined toward ardent expressions of regret or justification, but her reticence here was interesting, to say the least.
“Okay, but WHY?” Celann spoke before Isran could. His tone was not angry, but it was sharp as he was dying to know what possible reason Vi’van, one of the Dawnguard’s most trusted leaders, could have for not including this seemingly innocuous information out of an official report.
“I was hoping to keep it a secret,” she said.
“Enough of this!” Isran interjected. “Vi’van, explain yourself. Now.”
She let out another deep breath and shook her head, avoiding the men’s angry and confused stares. “I kept it a secret because when I found the young woman, Prisa, she was in the basement, an obvious prisoner of the vampires, weak and sick. She had been turned and was in the late stages of sanguinare vampiris.”
“So, she was a vampire? And you—”
“And I chose not to kill her,” Vi’van said, interrupting Isran, her tone growing steadily assertive. “I chose to help her. And I knew that you would not approve. So I kept it a secret.”
“Well, shit.” Celann looked back and forth, observing Vi’van’s resoluteness and Isran’s growing anger. He braced himself for a torrent of angry admonishment and the inevitable suspension of one of his favorite comrades. Once she was gone, he would be tasked with finding a replacement. But more than that, he would miss Vi’van terribly; she had quickly become someone he admired and cared about.
But such a harsh reprimand did not come. It was clear Isran was angry, but he just looked at her and shook his head. “Can either of you give me one good reason why I should tolerate this?
“Because she’s our most trusted field agent? And perhaps she did exactly the right thing?” Celann noticed that Vi’van’s composure was wavering and spoke up immediately.
“Isran,” she said. “You didn’t see her. She was so weak and sick. She’s innocent. So yes, I took her to Fallon.”
“We agreed that no vampire could request being cured in to escape our capture and punishment!”
“Yes! And for vampires raiding homes and feeding on people, that makes sense. It does not make sense to punish someone just for being a victim!” Celann had heard Vi’van argue about things passionately before—usually about the lack of flavor in Black Briar mead—but the level of fervor she was approaching here was unprecedented.
Isran let out a frustrated sigh. “Vi’van. Celann. There may come a day, when we might need to be known for our mercy, when compassion might direct our course of action. But it is not this day!”
Before he could continue, she looked him straight in the eye. “I did what I did. And I would do it again. I take full responsibility and if you’ve nothing further, I’ll accept the consequences.”
Isran closed his eyes and shook his head. When he finally spoke it was slow and deliberate. “I am going to let this one go,” he said. “But the two of you need to keep this quiet! We cannot have the promise of a cure compromise our mission. Vi’van, you are dismissed.”
She nodded solemnly but smiled warmly at Celann when her back was to Isran. Celann was pleased that she recognized that he was on her side, but dreaded how this might strain his relationship with Isran.
“Listen Isran, I—”
Isran put up his hand and shook his head. “Send someone in plain clothes to Morthal to suss out this Fallon. I do not condone what Vi’van did, but that doesn’t mean we won’t have use for him in the future. And that is all I will say on the matter.”
“Thank you,” Celann replied as he turned away, barely able to contain his smile. It wasn’t often Isran reconsidered his vision for the Dawnguard. But when he did, it was rather gratifying.