The Volkihar are the most powerful tribe of vampires in Skyrim. The Volkihar are paranoid and cruel, and their breath is said to freeze their victims' blood in the veins. They usually live in eastern Skyrim, beneath the ice of remote and haunted lakes, never venturing into the world of men except to feed. Despite these claims, they are sometimes known to dwell within vampire lairs with others of their kind, and can be found all over Skyrim. They can reach through the ice of their lakes without breaking it to grab unsuspecting victims from the surface. Members of the Volkihar bloodline are infected with the vampire's disease called Sanguinare Vampiris, instead of the more common Porphyric Hemophilia.
Lord Harkon and his family are apparently the progenitors of the Volkihar clan. They are pure-blooded Vampire Lords, having been given the gift of vampirism directly by Molag Bal. Harkon and his court dwell within the ancient Castle Volkihar, on a remote island off the coast of Haafingar, near the border of High Rock. The Volkihar bloodline thins with each new generation, becoming weaker and eventually losing the ability to transform, though the progeny and "grandchild" of a pure-blood are still pure enough to transform into a Vampire Lord but are still considered to be half-breeds, at least compared to the Daughters of Coldharbour and Harkon. According to the ancient vampire Vingalmo, certain star signs as well as a mortal descendant of Harkon will allow vampirism to be "faithfully" accepted by the descendant, thus creating a vampire lord seemingly regardless of generation.
Volkihar vampires are not a part of one main cohesive organization. Lord Harkon's court, also known as the Volkihar Vampire Clan, are ancient and purer vampires, who shun the scattered thin-blooded nomadic vampires on mainland Skyrim. The court itself is prone to infighting between Harkon's power-hungry courtiers, who have henchmen and support bases of their own. The court occasionally kills feral vampires around Skyrim to prevent them either riling the prey, alerting humans to their presence, or to get rid of competition. Most members of the court feel nothing but contempt for their thin-blooded descendants as they view them nothing more than diseased mortals that potentially threaten their cover and existence.
Movarth Piquine, once a famous vampire hunter, went searching for the Volkihar vampires and managed to kill one. Majorn the Ancient was the vampiric patriarch of the village of Wittestadr in Eastmarch during the Planemeld in the Second Era, and belonged to the Volkihar Clan.
In 4E 201, the Volkihar vampire clan grew bold as Lord Harkon sought to find his lost daughter Serana, who was involved in a prophecy which would darken the sun and allow vampires to rule Tamriel. The Skyrim branch of the Vigilants of Stendarr were wiped out in an open attack by the vampires, and raids on major cities became increasingly frequent. To counter this aggression, an ancient order of vampire hunters named the Dawnguard was reformed. The prophecy was realized by Serana and the Last Dragonborn, who retrieved Auriel's Bow and learned how it could be corrupted to temporarily block the sun. Lord Harkon was then defeated with the bow, although it is unknown if the Dragonborn replaced him as leader of the Volkihar, or destroyed the court. Either way, vampire attacks in Skyrim's cities became less frequent.