by Eriksier the Undaunted
The Volkihar Clan
No Clan is more elusive, yet as infamous and dominant as the Volkihar Clan. Their bloodline has been said to have been the progenitors of two dozen living Vampire Clans across the mainland of Tamriel alone, and eighteen Clans of extinct or unknown statuses across the whole of Nirn. The supposed origins of Clan Volkihar vary greatly from Nord to Nord, and they seem to become more outlandishly fantastical with each passing iteration, I won't be going over them here.
From the very few first hand accounts available, It's said that these vampires are as cold and hideous on the outside as they are in their hearts, looking more akin to demons and draugr than man. If it weren't for their horrifying visage, their aquatic abilities would be enough to make a sailor jealous. Combined with a supernatural resistance to frost (even more so than a Hearty Nord's natural immunity) their ability to move swiftly through the icy waters with little care to taking breath strokes make their favored environments the rivers and lakes of north-eastern Skyrim. In fact, it wasn't until recently that the eastern Sea of Ghosts shores had gotten rid of the menace that is Volkihar. 'Tis a tale best told elsewhere, but one that was no less bloody than the fiends that took part in it.
While not haunting quite as much territory as they used to, do not make the mistake of assuming they are weak or endangered. They still claim many sailors, pirates, and beserkers yearly, and are still effective child scaring monsters for the parents of Windhelm, Danstrar, and Winterhold (even though the most recent evidence we have of their whereabouts only place them in Eastmarch). Their Lair, logically so, is believed to be somewhere under the lakes of Eastmarch, where attacks are most common, and Queen Kirste of Windhelm, daughter of the former King Asgan, has offered a hefty sum for the head of any of those vile creatures.
The Khulari Clan
A Redguard Clan of Vampires lead by a vampire ancient named Elonasia Khulari. Before the Warp in the West, this clan dominated the Dragontail Mountains, and had a healthy relationship with Mannimarco & his Necromancers. After the Warp in the West, they found themselves displaced in Falkreath Hold, settling in (insert large dungeon in the southern Sundered Hills here). According to some captured clan members (from which we've gathered this information), Elonasia was warned of the coming "Dragon Bark" (their words, not mine. I believe they meant Dragon Break, though it was difficult to make out during interrogation) by an unknown source. My suspicions is this was the Mannimarco's doing, but I can not be certain of this.
To offset damages caused by the move from moving across provinces - both due to the Military Arms of the Temples, Meridian Crusaders, and border security, Khulari Clan has moved into the black markets of south-western Skyrim, particularly when it comes to smuggling. Jarls, Thanes, Knights, and more have been said to have indirect ties to them, of course these are nothing but poisonous lies made by disgruntled Redguards. Their rapid growth has, apparently, offended the Artharach Clan who were the original inhabitants of the Sundered Hills as sacred hunting ground ("sacred" is used for just about anything involving Reachmen, Vampirism or not. I suspect that Elonasia Khulari takes these claims and threats as seriously as I do). The Khulari have seemingly forced the Artharach out of the Sundered Hills and into the Ridgelands, to much of the dismay of both the Artharach and the citizens of Lainalten. To those who wish to become a Vampire, no clan in Skyrim is more negotiable than the Khulari.
The Svolfal Clan
A Nordic clan of Vampires led by the Ancient Kairid Svolfal. Kairid is said to have been a colleague of Shalidor's during the construction of the Labyrinthian. Kairid was a master enchanter, studying under the brightest of Dwemeri minds the Rourken Clan of Hammerfell had to offer. The last known date of his life was months before the Shalidor-Rourken War. Some say his time with the Dwemer had given him a deep distrust of Shalidor, these historians speculate that he was the one who crafted the mythical Spellbreaker. Other, more right-minded, Nordic scholars postulate that he had betrayed the Rourken Dwemeri, siding with his friend Shalidor, and had been studying the clan's magical methods to further his knowledge of the lesser known arts. Either way, it wasn't until the time of Thonica's Regency that Kairid resurfaced as a Vampire within the The Winter's Hold where he began consorting with Mages and Sorcerers all over Skyrim. At the time, Kairid Svolfal was especially popular with the teachers of the College of Winterhold where he was often invited to give lectures to inspiring Enchanters, though that connection seems to have evaporated over the centuries.
There are long-standing rumors and speculation that the Mages Guild of Winterhold is said to be very familiar with the clan, so it comes as no surprise that it is believed that the mad master of secrets - Thelen Kaarn - had plotted with the clan. Many assume his sudden madness was a result of the clan's doing, but the only ones who might know for sure are undead physically, or mentally. This sudden madness is believed to be the results of the clan's tampering with the most forbidden arts of the arcane.
A story I've heard told since my youth "the story of the crawling cloud", is about one such art. The Svolfal, as it's claimed in the story, are able to freeze and lapse a small area of the atmosphere. As a result the pocket of sky is said to sink into the ground and shudder as it grows colder and more violent. Eventually, as it creeps along Nirn's surface, it fractures into a series of wailing, icy gusts. Of course, this is just a fanciful tale, a story mothers tell their children. However, one must wonder what kinds of magickal dismay they truly are capable of.
Their goal, as I've had it spoken of to me, is to reverse engineer the enchantments of the Fortress of Ice, if they can learn why and how it never melts, they can find a way to rid themselves of the inherent downsides of vampirism. With such ambition requires a certain level of openness with any who would wish to help, of course with both the living and the other clans looking to gain dominance over them, steal their research, or simply exterminate them, they aren't able to be so accepting of non-Svolfal Vampires so don't expect a peaceful welcome from them if you step into their Fortress.
The Artharach Clan
A Reachmen Clan of Vampires. According to a source in Hal Norvold who's name I won't mention here for their sake, that this clan ruled the darkest dungeons of the Sundered Hills with their Reachmen acolytes in the aftermath of the War of Bend'r Mahk. However, in recent years the Khulari Clan of Vampires have migrated into Falkreath Hold, pushing the already declining numbers of the clan out into the Ridgelands. With many of their acolytes dead(er) or turned and scattered about; many of which were turned by the Khulari and thus have become rabid creatures torn between their shame for being forced into an unworthy bloodline and their need to survive.
However, I've heard stories from the Nords of Lainalten that the Artharach have found a new tribe of acolytes, Nordic ones this time. I wouldn't have believed it myself, Nords working along side vampiric Reachmen, if I had not seen the look of terror in the eyes of the warriors who've claimed to come across them. These tribalistic Nords see the Artharach as enlightened beings, much like with their original acolytes, they've also allowed a few of their Nordic tribesmen to receive their wicked curse. This I realize sounds preposterous, but that's what the brave souls who've faced them have told me. The way they're able to twist the minds of men to venerate them leads me to believe they have some sort of powerful Illusion magicks at work.
They have an innate ability to scale mountainous terrain with much more ease than an ordinary man, mer, or beast. Their ability to sense magick and animals is also quite impressive. If you are being hunted by the Artharach, then I would suggest you do what any true Nord would do. Don't run, you won't be able to defend yourself. Don't hide, they will find you out shortly. Turn around and die with an Axe or Halberd in your hands, and enter Sovngarde like a true Nord!
The Vuthyorn Clan
The Vuthyorn bloodline can be traced back to the First Empire, where a long forgotten fort was first constructed by request of then current Empire, and its garrison was put under the watch of General Sivrarik Vuthyorn. The most common version of the story of how the Vuthyorn Clan came to be, which can be occasionally heard in song and prose by the students of the Bard's College, can be summarized as this:
Sometime during that fateful winter, one of the soldiers allowed a poor, old Nordic hag a shelter from the raging blizzards of the mountain peaks. For their kindness, she offered them a great gift - the gift of eternal life. The soldiers had agreed believing themselves to be receiving some sort of potion, such as the mythical Glamoril. Instead, she revealed her gnarled fangs has they tore into the necks of the soldiers there. General Sivrarik awoke to find his garrison dead, and himself alone and infected with vampirism.
With a dead garrison and an insatiable hunger, Sivrarik Vuthyorn wandered Tamriel returning to his magnificent fortress sometime during the late Interregnum after gathering eleven wives whose ferocity and thirst for battle match his own. His first wife, Jyte, was a Nord shield maiden who had impressed him after decapitating a great Frost Monarch with her favorite Wooded Buckler. The second was Leta, a Nibenese seer who could see the life leave her enemies eyes before her attackers drew their blades. The third was a Direnni sorceress named Andratha, a Necromancer. the fourth was Betia the Berserker, who was turned under Leta's recommendation. Suwennri, Orla, and Eloyra the Breton came next, they are the Fort-Wives, and it is their job to fill the new garrison, keep the Fort clean, and the soldiers in line.
The eighth, and ninth wives are his Hunting-Wives, Ane and Elle respectively. They are the wives whom stalk the villages and farms of The Rift and gather the cattle. The eleventh wife is his Storm-Wife, Ingina. She is a Thu'um user of terrible power, able to shroud the Fort in an impenetrable blizzard that no living man or mer has survived.
Of course, the interpretation of events varies wildly from song to song, what we can be certain of is the Vuthyorn Clan is one of the most strategic vampire clans, using a wide variety of military tactics and incorporating combat styles from all over Tamriel. Their ability in battle would be worth praise and honor if they weren't such vile creatures. The last known sightings of the clan was in 3E 412, where a village in the Jerall Mountains along the Skyrim border fell within minutes, being torn from the earth in unnatural destruction. A vampiric maiden who seemed to let one villager survive, perhaps as a territorial warning. Regardless of the intention, this has led Chieftain Volya Wrath-Tune of the Stone-Feather Clan, daughter of the sickly Jarl Mojarik of Songard, to call many raids on the believed vampiric tombs and hideouts around The Rift - albeit largely unsuccessfully.
In 3E 425 a small scale siege on what is believed to be the clan's stronghold has been attempted by various witchhunters and warriors at the request of Volya Wrath-Tune, but the garrison never returned, and thus the siege was deemed a failure by the King of Rift Hold. No new sieges or hunting parties have been conducted by the Hold since, nor have there been any confirmed sightings of the clan or the Wives of Vuthyorn.