He had smelled the fires of the forge for three nights now. As Gunnolf crested the hill with his pack in tow, the clanging of the hammer grew sharper. Smoke bellowed over the walls, dotted with embers like fireflies dancing on a breeze. Through the murmuring chaos he could hear drill instructors barking our their orders.
"Must be readying for an attack," he grumbled. "Probably be moving out at first light. Be easy pickings soon. Once they get settled in, we'll catch those bastards by surprise."
Fifteen months had passed since they set out into the wilderness, he and Ylva. He had spent a long time wondering what he would do to the ones responsible for the deaths of his wife and youngest daughter. And after all that time, he found himself still without the answer, even when so close to the hour of his reckoning. But not all was wasted in that time. Gunnolf was gathering others like himself. Hunters who had become the hunted. Since the very start of this conflict, the mobilization of the Ebonheart Pact spelled danger for the hounds of Hircine. Captains from all over the region were placing bounties on the heads of all lycanthropes. But now Gunnolf's pack had grown stronger, twelve in all. Now he was ready to strike at the tower that harbored his nemesis, Captain Brall. A callous leader, Brall was the kind of man who never knew compromise. He would have his victory, even if it meant killing civilians in the process. Even if it meant burning a woman and child to death.
All was quiet now. Except for a handful of guards on patrol, everyone was asleep. Crom, Gunnolf's closest companion, had spent the last hour sharpening his claymore.
"You're going to end up with a dagger if you keep that up," Gunnolf said with a grin. Crom was always anxious to go into battle.
"Well maybe then you'd be able to wield it," he chuckled in reply. Everyone was ready for the hunt. As the pack crept in close they stayed in the shadows, stalking their prey. Gunnolf was just about to give the signal to attack when something caught his eye.
On the hill just beyond the fort, atop a decrepit stone structure, a glimmer of light began to shine. It grew brighter and brighter, until finally it burst straight into the clouds above. This made the lycans pause dead in their tracks. "What sorcery is this," questioned the pack leader. The clouds began to slowly swirl around the beam as if some gigantic drain in the heavens had been unclogged. Gunnolf stood mesmerized by what he beheld, his eyes fixed on the anomaly. Suddenly the sky ripped open with a furious thunder clap, and massive chains fell through, crashing to the ground. The pack never even heard the sounding horn before they were surrounded by soldiers clamoring to the site. Because they hadn't yet changed form, the werewolves were passed unnoticed. Then the daedra came. They spilled out of the void like bugs from a jar, rolling and writhing before standing to face the soldiers.
"This looks like something that needs to be dealt with," Crom whispered to Gunnolf.
"Agreed," said the reluctant leader. "Brall will have to wait."
Gunnolf and his pack transformed as they rushed into the fray. A bloody fight ensued, as men and beast clashed with the daedric minions. When the dust settled, many of the soldiers laid dead. The pack had lost two of it's members to this new evil. And even the captain whom the pack had been hunting was wounded and drawing his last breaths. The second in command of the post then confronted Gunnolf.
"I'm Vladd," he said. "I know what you are." Gunnolf gripped his axe. "But I saw what you did for us, too. And for that I am thankful. We've been ordered to clear out any dangerous beasts such as yourselves in order to better defend the area from our real enemies. I'm not sure that the Ebonheart leaders are aware of how helpful your kind could be in battle, but I will be sure to let my superiors know. In the meantime, I will be ordering my men to abandon the hunt for werewolves in our location. Let's just call it gratitude. It's the least I can do to thank you for saving our skins tonight."
Gunnolf thought long and hard before he replied. He himself had been a soldier once before, and understood that these men were doing only as they were ordered. The opportunity to make a truce with the Ebonheart Pact could be very rewarding, and with Brall now dead, Gunnolf no longer felt the urge to punish these men further.
"I accept your gratitude on the condition that you hold to your word. Your men will watch over our backs, and in return we will watch yours. It seems strange magics are afoot, and neither of us can afford to believe we won't see something like this again soon. So it is done. Let your men know they have the claw of the Bloodmoon Pack."
"Aye. And you have our shield as well, wolf brother," answered Vladd.
After the dead were buried, a small group was dispatched to keep watch over the old stone structure by the fort. Gunnolf and his lycans stayed close by the site as well, unsure if the daedra would be making a reappearance. But nothing stirred. Stranger still was that even the wildlife could not be found in the area, as if the creatures of Nirn themselves feared to be in the presence of such a dark beacon. The soldiers had survived a terrible ordeal, but they soon realized that the nightmare was only beginning. Every night since the battle the men suffered dreams filled with visions of torture and despair. Night terrors of unimaginable horror. The souls of these poor men had been ravaged like the womb of a rape victim, condemned to relive the traumatic event over and over again in their minds.
A week had passed with little activity. But the moons were both shining brightly now, and the werewolves could sense a presence in the night. Someone or something was looming closer. The pack was on high alert, but frustration was beginning to set in. Though their senses were undeniable, whatever was out there in the darkness seemed to elude them in every way. By the time they had finally caught a scent, they were already flanked. Changing form quickly, Gunnolf and his wolves turned swiftly toward the strangers, growling and baring their teeth ferociously. Crom belted out a vigorous howl as he began to stride toward them. The werewolves were met by several of the intruders baring teeth of their own. But these were not creatures of Hircine. These were vampires, and they showed no fear of Gunnolf and his pack.
The commotion had caught the attention of the guards posted at the nearby structure, and now Ebonheart soldiers had come to aid the lycans. Now outnumbered, the vampires knew they had to think fast.
"Well what do we have here? Someone forget to bring their puppies in the house tonight?" The narrow faced Dumner spoke with a raspy, condescending tone.
"Hold your tongue, demon!" Vladd snapped at him. "We have you surrounded and outnumbered. Now we've been scouting these parts for months and I haven't seen a single bloodsucker yet. And if I'm not mistaken, half of your lot is dressed in western garb, which tells me you've come from Covenant territory. So either you start talking or we'll have the pleasure of taking what's left of your miserable lives! Who are you and what do you want?"
"Let's just take it easy there, Chief," the vampire replied. "No need to be hasty. You are correct to assume we have traveled from the west, but I assure you we are no threat to you. For now, my name is of little concern to you. If you would kindly call off your dogs, I will explain our situation better."
"Crom!" Gunnolf shouted. "Let's hear what this bloodsucker has to say." The wolfpack reverted back to their humanoid form, but remained at the ready. The soldiers and werewolves listened as the elf told his story. The vampires, long hated by the Daggerfall Covenant, were being hunted to extinction in the west. Small bands of the undead had begun to form and move east, for there was safety in numbers and in distance from the Covenant. He explained that he'd seen the light of the anomaly just eight days past from a mountain path they were traveling along. But the vampires already knew what this magic was.
"It is called a Dark Anchor," he explained. "A gateway between our world and that of the daedric prince Molag Bal. He now seeks to pull all of Nirn into his plane of Oblivion to proclaim dominance over all life. We may have been created of his ilk, but that doesn't mean we do not value our freedom. If Molag Bal has his way, we would all be slaves to his immortal reign. And I, for one, do not intend to be anyone's property.
"We have been studying these Dark Anchors for a while now, and I believe there may be a way to use them against the God of Schemes himself. If we could but open one from this side, we might be able to sneak into his realm undetected and close these anchors off for good."
Gunnolf grunted. "I knew there had to be something serious about the encounter the other day. We were witness to this Dark Anchor you're speaking of. Drove those daedric bastards back into their hole though. But I'm sure they'll be back. If you keep your noses clean, we'll let you sniff around and see if you can figure something out about this thing." Vladd agreed to let the vampires do their research. After all, none of his men had any idea what to make of it and neither did the wolfpack.
All that night they scoured the ruin searching for any key that could reopen the portal. With an hour left before sunrise, they finally abandoned their duties to seek shelter for the day. Although the undead group appeared to be of no threat to the men, Vladd would not allow them into the fort for sanctuary.
"It would be a lot safer for everyone if you found a nearby cave to hole up for the day," he explained. "No offense, but I'm not the kind to take those sort of chances. My men are a little on edge as it is. No need to add any extra complications. I'm sure you understand."
"I do," replied the vampire elf. "Will we be welcomed back in the evening to continue our research?"
"I don't see a problem wi--"
"Were you followed?!" shouted Gunnolf, crashing into the ruin. "There are nearly 100 Covenant soldiers marching straight for our position! WERE YOU FOLLOWED?!!"
The Dunmer glared back with a smug disposition. "They may have been tracking us. I don't know. What I do know is that we are outnumbered two to one, and with little time left before the sunrise we will have to move quickly to dissolve this situation. Tell me wolf. Are you afraid of heights?"
Together they devised a plan to defeat the incoming army. As the Daggerfall soldiers reached the fort, they were met with about forty Ebonheart men formed in front of their gate and ready for a fight. Feeling they would easily crush the opposition, the Covenant army pushed straight for them. It was no surprise to them when Vladd and his men retreated into the fort, not even stopping to close the gate. However their haste would be their doom. As the enemy funneled through the doorway, the gate came crashing down, crushing a handful of soldiers and cutting off the rear of the assault. Vladd and his men began to mop up the stranded soldiers inside the fort as the Gunnolf's pack along with the vampires descended from the parapet onto those remaining outside the gate. The sounds of steel clanging and teeth gnashing was matched only be the screams of terror in the mouths of the enemy. It was nothing short of a slaughter. In the end, the ragtag group had been successful down to the last man, losing not one to the force of 100 Daggerfall Covenant troops now laid slain and dismembered before them.
Bloodied but feeling elated, the group met back up in the halls of the fort. As the sun rose, Vladd agreed to allow the vampires to stay safely secluded within the fort. But this wasn't a time for rest. Crom had found a reserve barrel of mead, and more than willingly tapped into it and began pouring out tankards. The men celebrated their victory, feasting and drinking through the morning hours. Then Gunnolf stepped up on his table to propose a toast as all gathered around.
"Well, we make one hell of a team!" Gunnolf grinned ear to ear. Everyone agreed. As tankards were clapping together he continued, "If it had not been for the discipline of your men, Vladd, or the cunning of your vampires," he said gesturing to the Dunmer, "or the strength of my pack, who knows how this battle could have ended up? We are strong separately, but together we are unstoppable." Gunnolf stepped down from the table and moved through the crowd. The mood heightened with every word, and as everyone listened they felt themselves overcome with a sense of belonging. The pack leader continued his speech.
"It seems our fates have aligned as well as our purpose. If we wish to be free, truly free, from the tyranny of gods and empires; all who would seek to dominate us, then I propose we start our own pact right here this day. I say let us form a legion whose sole intent is to stand against these enemies. The Daggerfall Covenant would bring back the empire of the second era, ruling vainly over all of the provinces. The Aldmeri Dominion would see us under the thumb of the elven lords in the south, spitting in the faces of those they deem unworthy in their eyes. And the daedric prince Molag Bal would have us all enslaved for eternity to be nothing but playthings in his terrible realm of Oblivion. But the Ebonheart Pact is different. I see now that the Pact looks to defend the sovereignty of it's people and provinces, allowing them to govern themselves without the disdain of outside rulers bringing them to heel. I see all of you, cursed and mortal alike. But is it not a curse to live in the shadow of evil all your life? We are all cursed in that regard. So what do you say? I propose we reach out to all those who are tired of living in the shadows; those accursed ones who are willing to fight for our cause. And I propose we march our accursed legion to the gates of our enemies and burn them to the ground! Who's with me?"
A mighty thunder erupted from the halls of that Ebonheart fort loud enough to be heard in all corners of Cyrodiil. From that day forth the enemies of the Ebonheart Pact would grow ever wary of the night, for fear that the cursed ones would take them in the darkness. They became renowned as the scourge of the north, and they called them the Accursed Legion; born in blood, forged in battle.