Frost Fall 19, 4E 203
Bitterness. Tasteless. Gray. Bleak.
Damn Windhelm was depressing and we just walked through the gates!
It may have been Frost Fall but the wind was already sending chills down even the hardiest of Nords in the city. A light snow began to fall making me wonder before remembering how far north the place really was. And the mountain ranges to the west blocked the warmer sun’s rays did not help anyone.
Xian groaned suddenly and tightened his cloak fastener. “I hate this place.” His tail flicked as we passed a guard. “So damn much.”
“Why though?” I asked. “What did this place do to you?”
“It is run by Ulfric Stormcloak, the idiot who orchestrated the civil war because Talos. And his views on any who aren’t a Nord is we are no better than trash!” The contempt in his voice dripped like dew on a mead bottle. He may have been a man who regularly killed and dismembered but speaking ill of someone other than bullshiting? You’re kidding yourself woman. He’s the kind to not care who hears him speak his mind. Unapologetic. “My people aren’t even allowed in the city. Instead they’re forced to live in an assembly on the shipping docks. At least Shatter-Shield is treating them right.”
Another guard walked by, his heavily armored body clanking with each step. His eyes never left Xian until we went around a corner.
“That was weird,” I said with a perplexed look.
“I guarantee you’ll get to see more of that before nightfall Serana,” he replied looking up at the gray blanket of the sky. “Still a few hours before then. Good. Have a feeling I’ll need something.”
That’s not ominous at all, I thought as Xian made his way to a market stall. He pointed to an ale and… a bundle of blue mountain flowers? What in Oblivion would you need those for? All I could really do was shake my head and have a look around the city.
Due to my imprisonment the world evolved without me making every experience a new and rewarding one. A citizen, presumably a noblewoman, pointed me to the Temple of Talos which made me feel uneasy. The spectacle of the interior was quaint to say the least. Everything had a rustic vibe to it.
During my trek to Fort Dawnguard I passed several Nordic ruins that bested the passage of time. Stone archways standing tall and proud marking an unknown potential of spoils or death. My kinsmans’ craftsmanship was something to behold despite its simplicity.
After the priestess had spoken my ear off about Talos and what he stood for I was directed to another structure that was one of Windhelm’s proudest possessions. It was called the Wall of the 500. I was told that, after the original Companions disbanded, Ysgramor and his men created Windhelm. The Nord had wanted the city build for several reasons but the most personal was to look out to see Yngol’s Barrow. Poetic really.
Staring at the wall I couldn’t help but feel enthralled by the legends the names gave. So much history, knowledge and heartache. They lost many friends and loved ones in the battle with the Snow Elves. Ysgramor and his 500 Companions made sure they were punished in the end.
Mother told me some history of the Snow Elves after Saarthal’s sacking. They were driven underground to their Dwemer brethren. The dwarves took them in with a costly agreement of becoming their slaves. Eventually the Snow Elves became blind and underwent a metamorphosis that changed them into the Falmer.
A tragic end for the once prosperous, beautiful people.
I was surprised that the person who snuck up on me wasn’t my reptilian friend but a fellow Nord. he smile was friendly and remanisant, beaming with pride.
“Didn’t think I was that absorbed in my gazing,” I chuckled.
His tattered boots crunched in the snow as he extended a hand. “Rolff Stone-Fist, brother to the general of the grand Stormcloak army!”
“Ah, the civil war,” I said nonchalantly refusing his hand. “Only heard bits and pieces of it.”
“Let me guess, you’ve heard that Torygg was murdered by Ulfric Stormcloak? Every Nord’s hero?”
“Something like that, yes.” He’s certainly not my hero.
“Imperial lies. All of them!” Rolff spat angrily. “Nords oughta rule our land, not some man on a throne down south!” He kicked a small snow drift before continuing. “He challenged the ‘High King’ to honorable combat! And it was accepted. The idiots should have known the consequences it’d bring ‘em. No, instead they brand Ulfric a criminal destined for trial and execution!”
This Rolff certainly was passionate about that shit I had to admit. What he failed to understand was that laws became a thing, overturning ‘Nordic traditions’ or whatever like challenged combat. The duel would be allowed, of course, but killing the other would result in a bounty and other things. Which would have many hunters come for the reward of coin.
“If I may ask, how did Ulfric kill… what was his name again?”
“Torygg. The dogs say he Shouted the man to pieces. More lies! It was his bloody blade which pierced his heart that killed the puppet king.”
“Yes Ulfric can Shout. He trained with the Greybeards when he was just a lad-” Rolff stopped mid sentence as a chortle escaped from the Argonian by my side. He must have snuck up to not be heard by me. The disappointed look on the Nord’s face quickly turned into anger when it dawned on him that Xi was with me. Rolff spat on the Argonian’s boot and continued with a snarl. “Maybe Ulfric shouda Shouted that puppet to pieces. Shouted so loud he’d blow all dem gray-skins and scale-backs into the Red Mountain!”
Xian laughed at that like it was a personal joke. He had more history with this moron than I ever would but still. Who the fuck is that much of a bigot?
Rolff’s deathly leer was casted on me next. “And their tail-fucking whores!”
Anger, rage, animosity- whatever the fuck one could call it!- was all I instantly felt. My eyes narrows into vicious slits promising pain upon the Nord. What I failed to notice was Xian’s exact same expression.
“Excuse me?” we barked in unison. There was enough of a dark choking tension and murderous intent to scare a dragon.
Stone-Fist was too stupid to see that.
“You’re a Nord and you ruin yourself with a cock that isn’t even human?!” He suddenly smirked, grabbing his crotch and thrust forward. “You need a real man, sweet heart!”
“You wanna run that by me again?!” I snarled getting up in his face. My open hand flickered between fire and lighting hovering dangerously close to his chin sizzling his half-formed beard threatening to light it aflame. I didn’t know what to be pissed at more and frankly didn’t care!
“What is going on here?” came a voice filled with authority.
We glanced over to see a guardswoman glaring at us. The simple lamp on her hip illuminated her armor and tabard adorned with a blue bear. The plated helmet atop her head had engravings of obvious Nordic design and influence now weathered due to use and age.
Her eyes furrowed as they went from Xian to Rolff. “What is going on here?” she repeated.
“Just a difference in opinions,” Xi answered.
“This bitch threatened me with magic!” Rolff argued. “As did her lizard pet!”
My ‘lizard pet’ cracked his knuckles. “I can assure you, guardswoman, that he only lies to cover his own ass. He conjured up the animosity simply because I was standing next to my friend here.”
“You lying, worthless pair of boots!” he roared.
“Both of you, shut up!” the guard shouted. “Another word from either of you will earn you an incarceration. Understood?” The two men nodded in agreement. “And you, mage. Don’t believe I didn’t see that open hand of yours with magic pouring out of it.” She patted a pair of iron cuffs on her belt. “Any more threats and you’ll be thrown in the cell as well.”
“Whatever!” I angrily hissed storming off in a random direction. Who the fuck does that man think his is? Some big shot in this place? Nothing but a big fish in a damn puddle!
“She with you?”
“Yes she is,” Xian answered.
“A short fuse, just like you. I suggest making sure it doesn't cost anyone of us anything.” The Nord woman gave one final remark before returning to her route.
A warning. The last knot in the hangman’s noose just before the lever was pulled. The real question was who’s neck would be around the coiled snake of a rope?
“You could have gotten us arrested!” the bounty hunter reprimanded after catching up. “Or better yet kicked out of this shit-hole of a city!”
“I don’t FUCKING CARE!!!” I screamed grabbing Xian by the throat and shoving him against a wall. So blinded by rage I didn’t care who was unfortunate enough to be in my grasp. He tried to get out but it was for not. “That pig had no right, no damn decency, to say who or what I let inside me!”
His eyes widened and he stopped struggling. “‘Who or what’?”
I tensed and gritted my teeth. How long ahd that disgusting memory stayed buried? How long since I cheapened myself to gain the gift of vampirism? So damn long ago that I should be nothing but dust in the wind yet I still remember the sensations.
But I got what I wanted. So did he.
Gradually I began to feel the world again as Xian nudged my arm. A small crowd had formed and gawked at the Nord woman pinning an Argonian to the wall. None were calling for the guards for assistance, coming closer together like skeevers.
My eyes traced to each one. “What? Never seen a pissed off woman before?!” I barked. Instantly they scattered, startled by the outcry. Exactly how cretines leave a scene. As I let go of Xi’s throat I asked, “Already sick and tired of this hell hole. Where’s the inn?”
“Over there,” he pointed his composure recovered in seconds. “Before that, what the fuck was that Serana?”
“I don’t wanna talk about it!” He opened his mounth in protest. “Don’t!”
“Wasn’t going to ask a damn thing about it. Don’t need you destroying anything. Yet.”
“Then what?” I growled.
“Need a drink”
“For the love of- yes!”
Fucking balls, I hate this place!
The inn wasn’t the problem with my attitude. The experience of the city had soured it. I had always thought Ysgramor’s city would be this grand, open place where warriors would brag and fabricate about their latest mongering over a keg of mean and how many women they bedded. Instead it turned out to be a cesspool of disdain, misery, bigotry and idiocy.
The innkeeper, scrawny bitch of Nord, upped the price for our room and Xian’s bath claiming the reason being for it was it was late! I’d call her a damn cow if she weren’t so much a twig.
Was even mad at the drink!
Xi, on the other hand, had a certain simple clarity about him. He wasn’t angered too much- by the aforementioned incidents. He, in his own words, was finally able to take a bath. Only one stipulation he wanted from me which was to head up the water as madam twig said no water was being heated tonight.
I had finished that part but raised it to near boiling thanks to being distracted. An ice spell saw to that but it would still cause him to burn.
“I’ve waited this long,” he said after a swallow of mead. “I can wait a few more minutes.”
“And I’m sure your armor reeks of you too,” I mused behind my bottle, my attention momentarily diverged from before.
“I don’t doubt that. Will have to clean that too.”
I stared off into the hallway watching the door like a hawk. I was in my own little world of hatred again, indulging myself in how many ways I could messily kill that fucker.
“You’re burning holes into the door Serana. What is it?”
“Is that pig always like that?” I asked. My gaze didn’t move.
“Yes he is. And since he saw you with me he’ll forever believe you a sympathizer against Stormcloak beliefs.”
“Don’t care!” I hissed. The pig’s pompous grin stilled burned like the sun in my mind’s eye. That I needed a ‘real man.’ As if he wouldn’t know what a real man was. Bark to back up the bite but not an ass. Bet Rolff couldn’t even satisfy a woman before he reached his limit. I chuckled at the notion but it was swiftly turned into an exclamation of horror. A naked Rolff… ugh shit gross!!! I shivered.
“I don’t want to know,” went Xian taking a bite from his large steak.
“How- right nevermind.” Vampirism had its benefits. But fail to shiver when it’s appropriate, even by Nord standards, then attention will not be a friendly one.
“Now you get it.” He handed me a fork before whispering, “You may wish to keep up appearances.”
Being a Child of the Night I hadn’t needed to take mortal food in generations to stay nourished. That never did stop many from using food as a camouflage. And despite it all, the narrow minded Nord that likely made the food made it look edible as did the braised carrots.
I hated to admit it but the simple meal tasted better than anticipated. It was nothing to fawn over but good nonetheless. Whoever made the dish seemingly did so with a well seasoned- Ha!- hand. “Why do Nords appear to be half decent cooks?”
“Beats the fuck out of me,” he laughed. “But when hunger strikes my gut like a battering ram I don’t care.”
“Could’ve been poisoned you know,” I teased.
“Do you not see the scales that litter my body?” Xi threw his arms out in mock exasperation. “I am Argonian. It would take a potent venom to kill me. We’re resistant to some and immune to others, same with diseases.”
“Oh I see.” It felt good to forget and smile again.
“Alright, alright I’m up for singing it now,” came a woman’s voice. From the accent alone it was a Dunmer. She sounded young for her kind, around the sixty year range or so.
Several patrons upstairs answered with a resounding, “Yes!”
“He deserves it! He knows it too!”
Xian instantly changed like he had a split personality. First he was calm and somewhat lively, but then he was that. He grew dark and let out an annoyed growl. It looked like thunder heads would suddenly spring to life around him and crack the building in two! “That’s nothing more than a gods damned lie!” he hissed as the bottle started to quietly groan under his tightening grip.
“What in..! What’s gotten into you all of a sudden?” I asked easily prying the drink from him before it could explode and shower us with glass and booze.
“That fucking song!”
“Stenvarr?” asked the bard.
A gruff laugh rattled the silent upper area. “That scaley fucker has cost me a fair amount of head hunters and other good paying marks. However he does take the crazy shit that many wouldn’t touch with a spear.” He laughed again before a brief pause. I heard him take a drink. “Xian did save us from Alduin, something only he could do. Sure why the fuck not? ‘Aye’ from me!”
The bard giggled at the mercenary’s statement sounded like gently swaying wind chimes. Her hand clasped around something before notes started to flow through followed by her melodious voice. Warm up, I thought, before the real thing.
He blew up.
Xian violently stood up and threw the table against the wall, shattering the fragile objects on top and the table itself, the legs flying against anything unlucky enough to be in their path. His boots thundered against the wooden floor and his tail thrashed against anything that was in his way. The innkeeper tried to stop him but she wasn’t heard.
The door was slammed shut with almost everything Xian had. The bard dropped her instrument in fright causing it to clatter and break a string.
“By the Reclamations I had no idea he was here!”
Soft and worried murmurs fluttered from one person to the next.
“What now? Just ignore how he feels towards himself?”
“Apologize to him?”
“No, are you stupid Hjern? Ain’t nothin’ to be sorry for!”
“Need to catch my breath…!”
“Fucker!” Stenvarr growled.
And I sat there like a stump.
What was I supposed to do? What could I have done? Used my illusion magic? No if my glamor was fritzing on him then what chance would a simple displacement? So many thoughts going through at one make me sigh in frustration. Just what did he not like about the song? The praise? The heroism? Admiration?
Too many factors again, I groaned looking into Xi’s mead bottle. The innkeeper, Elda Early-Dawn, walked past and went right into the kitchen only to return with a broom and dust pan. I didn’t pay her any mind. All i could do was peer into the opaque brown bottle asking for an answer. Any answer. Please.
Dumb vampire expecting revelations from a beverage.
Not much time passed before I started to hear something shatter. Stupidly I shrugged it off as nothing more than a robbery attempt until grunts and yelps of pain reached my ear. With a twinge of worry I wondered what was making that noise. The closer the main door became the louder the sounds.
Oh please no!
Opening that door still haunts me.
First there was surprise and shock. The inability to move at all. Then came horror as the iron scent of blood filled my nose. Horror made way for anger merging with a seething hatred.
Rolff had Xian’s head in his heads, bashing him against the sign post.
The Nord didn’t have time to react to my interruption, being flung against the brick building with ease. He couldn’t even process his head heating the inn before my hand gripped his throat. Rolff tried so very hard to pry away my fingers but the winner in strength was no contest.
Very good you have him right where you want him. The voice was right; I did indeed, a lamb to the slaughter! More and more loathing for the man fueled the steel grip around Rolff’s neck causing several veins to bulge against the skin. His pitiful struggles only brought amusement to my evil grin. Gone were the emerald eyes of an illusion, replaced by orange embers.
Suddenly I paused and was not sure what to do. I knew I was angry beyond reason but I didn’t know what action to take.
My boot was uneven on the ground. I was stepping on something other than the stone. Using magic to bring it closer I saw that it was a piece of bone sharpened to a point. One of the spikes that adorned Argonian heads.
He hurt your friend. The only one you have.
My eyes narrowed, great orange fires burned against the darkness.
He would surely do it again. Without hesitation.
I bared my teeth, fangs ready. My grip grew stronger, the man now turning blue.
He won’t think less of you.
I growled with all the primal power of a Daughter of Coldharbour. “I will drink you dry!”
“I believe that is enough of that.”
Fear paralyzed me mere inches from the near unconscious and quivering Nord’s jugular. I turned to face Rolff’s savior and found another kinsman. Only he was properly dressed wearing a green suit with a brown fur cloak that screamed nobility. The snowflakes caught on the fur shined like tiny beacons in the light of the brazier’s fire. The clothes wrapped around his stomach showing he had a lazier side to him than most. His hair was tied back in a loose tail. What was left on that balding head.
“I think you can release that man now,” he said without fear. His black boots caused the snow to crunch with every step.
With reluctance I did as the man asked and dropped the pig to the ground.
“Torbjorn!” he gasped in a frenzy trying to catch his breath, hurrying to his savior’s side. “Thank you! Thank you!”
“Don’t thank me just yet,” Torbjorn scowled looking to the Argonian endeavoring to stand up. “I see you’ve finally achieved a milestone.”
“Forget about the scale-back!” Rolff wheezed. “She…! That woman… It’s a vampire!”
The noble looked to me and back to him. “Quit lying to me.”
“What?” He stammered his eyes full of disbelief. “Shatter-Shield I swear to Talos that thing’s a vampire!”
I dared not move feeling like I was back at the castle with mother and father arguing over me again. The similarities brought a foul taste to my mouth.
Torbjorn sniffed. “You’ve been drinking again, haven’t you?”
Rolff looked like he was about to break. “You think I’m lyin’?!”
“I believe you’re a fool if you think otherwise. ‘Cause all I see is a coward who’s attacked a man for no reason!”
“That’s no man!” he croaked with more anger and venom than he wanted. “It’s just a fucking useless lizard! There are more like him than Skyrim needs! He’s made you and your damn family so-”
The bigger man fiercely grabbed Rolff’s collar and shoved him into a post. “Xian’s opened my eyes, made me think clearer than I have in years! And don’t you fucking dare bring my wife and daughter into this you pathetic drunk!!” Torbjorn threw the man into a pile of snow like a bag of wheat. “Get out of my sight before I have you tossed in prison for assault, public inebriation, and lying about vampirism! I will make sure not even your brother’s status as General and Housecarl get you out!”
And boy did he run! The bastard ran until his footprints were the only thing still around.
“When I see you again you will be arrested!!!” he yelled out for good measure. Torbjorn took a moment to calm his temper and looked at me, still locked in a daze of confusion. “You may with to do something about your eyes. They’re showing.”
Hesitation was in control now. What was his angle? Why was he covering for Xian? For me? The questions didn’t stop the illusion from taking effect.
The Nord gave a warm smile. “Green as an emerald. Like Nilsein. Like Friga.” Bitterness and sorrow escaped when he spoke that name.
“Why?” I asked.
“Why cover for Xian? He’s an Argonian and he’s told me about how non Nords are treated in this city! Why give him aid and not that son of a bitch of a Nord?!” My emotions were getting the better of me as my voice rose more and more. I was nearing the urge to tear up. One look at the only friend I had made me lose. “Why lie for me? A vampire…”
“Speaking of Xian,” he knelt to the man, “we need to get him inside.” Blood dripped down his face and ran like a weak waterfall staining his black scales. Xi’s arms were shaking with fatigue as they tried to keep him up. Both Shatter-Shield and I were taken aback when he suddenly vomited. The smell of alcohol reached me before the off putting scent did and the bits of steak stared at us covered in yellow.
Vertigo got to him, I thought. One of the deadliest men in Skyrim...
Brought down by a fucking drunk.
“Come on, up we go Xian,” the noble muttered slowly bringing him up. Instantly Xi groaned in pain probably feeling like a nail being hit with a hammer over and over. “We’ll get you cleaned up.”
“I just want my damn bath,” the bounty hunter weakly answered. He refused to make eye contact and turned to the ground.
As we entered the inn demands were instantly made for linen, towels, anything that could soak up the blood. Elda gave a quick exclamation before scurrying behind the counter and handing me some supplies. The people from upstairs even braved coming down to see what was going on only to be left stunned. Some were courageous enough to offer aid only for a quick, weak glar and a, “Get!”- it was actually more ‘fuck off’- from the Dragonborn.
The glass embedded in his head had to be carefully removed before the wounds could be properly healed. I didn’t know any spells that could help and the necrotic healings ones without anyone making a spectacle and possibly alerting the guards. Was I glad that Xian was an alchemist.
He hardly flinched as the glass pieces were extracted from his scalp. Some of them were buried deep. With them successfully out, and one of the regeneration potions down his throat, Xi let out a heavy sigh of relief. The effects were occuring about a moment later as the blood slowed to a halt. It’d take time for it to scab over and fully heal, which he had a plan for that too. His ale, mix it with the mountain flowers from before and shake it until frothy then use tundra cotton for application.
He somehow knew this was bound to happen.
Xian didn’t say anything when the dressings where put on. His energy was gone, leaving him a weak and emotionless wreck. He shakily went for the bathing room, the difficult act of letting others help him over with.
“I suppose I owe you an answer now, don’t I?” Torbjorn asked after silence had festered.
“Yes,” I answered. “That would be nice.”
“Fair enough. Did you know this city had a serial killer roaming free in our streets for years?” His question caught me off guard feeling like a slap to the face. “Heh, your expression tells me no. The bastard left no clues at any scene he created, only the torn up bodies of his victims.” The Nord’s lower lip trembled in scarcely contained sorrow. “My dear Friga was one of the women targeted over the years. It nearly tore my family apart!” His stifled cry of anguish resonated with me.
Torbjorn desperately wished she was still alive so they could be a family again. I yearned for the same thing.
“I spent so much coin to find the fucker only for it all to be in vain! No lead was solid enough to follow through!” he took a moment to wipe away the tears and collect himself once again. “Then Xian came along. At first he simple ignored all the talk about the killer we called the Butcher.” What a lovely name. “He took an interest when he stumbled upon one of the latest victims; a woman named Susana.
“She was the only Nord that was kind to him from the beginning. Made him feel at ease amidst the racism. And somehow he was able to find a trail that we, nor the guards, could see. Then that Argonian found him inside of Friga’s own home!” Tears fells from his chin. “Oh Friga, my poor little girl… Forgive me it still stings.”
“It’s alright.” I let out a held breath and smiled to him. “I’m Serana in case you were looking for my name.”
“Thank you, Serana.” The man cleared his throat. “Xian found him, like I said, and put an end to the murders. The same evening he came by and gave my wife, Tova, and I a key to our daughter’s house and the dagger belonging to the Butcher. I asked him what he did to the fiend. Xian told us not to worry about that. It would be morning before the monster was found hanging from a tree beaten to Oblivion and cut open like a daedric effigy.”
The brutality did not surprise me given how Xi violently attacked the dragon back at Riften. In truth it did remind me too much of father. Any rival or upstart was dealt with slowly and painfully, left up as a reminder to not trifle with him.
Torbjorn resumed saying that since then his outlook on the non-Nords in Windhelm had changed. Especially for the Argonians he employed at the docks. He may not have been able to get them inside the walls but he gave them far better wages. Enough to even renovate the assembly to make it more hospitable.
He’s really a changed man, I pondered. All because Xian brought peace to a grieving family.
“Thank you for listening to my ramblings Serana,” Torbjorn smiled weakly. “But I need to get back home; wife and daughter might be making a fuss over my overdue absence.”
We shared a light laugh before bidding farewell to one another. Now it was my turn to set and think on what to do. No one to talk to and the only person I did wish to speak with was probably having a nap in warm water. Why not talk to someone upstairs? Make more frie-
The front door squeaked open crying out for a good oiling, jolting me from my sumber thoughts. Brown boots stepped through only to freeze on the spot.
My face became dark as night and lighting shot through my eyes in contempt. Rolff looked as if he was about to piss his pants at the sight of a monster. If he wasn’t such a loud and obnoxious motherfucker I’d have sent his soul to Molag Bal in an instant! He barely squealed in fright before I changed into my shadow form and bolted away leaving he and Elda in shock.
I went under the only door I knew was safe.
Xian looked from the tub but not truly reacting. His head still pounded like Oblivion, probably that he could not react if he wanted too.
“I’m sorry Xian, but Rolff came in.”
“It’s fine,” he answered in a tired voice. “Kinda just got in anyway.”
It took Xi that long to get ready? How much damage did that pig do to him?!
“Can… can I help you with… anything?” I offered. You sound like an idiot, Serana. Asking a man if he needs help bathing.
“Yeah.” He pointed to the bag of his. “Could you get me a bar of soap? I don’t care which scent.”
Easy enough, I thought. Reaching in I pulled out a dulled red bar. The smell was unmistakable. “Snowberry?”
“I like berries,” was his response.
Nothing but a big softie this man. Never would have pegged Xi to enjoy such fruity aromas but least that’s better than a scentless bar.
“You continue to throw me through a loop, you know that?” I smiled handing the soap over and taking a seat the the head. He must still be in pain, having the worst headache of his short life… “You doing ok?”
Xi was silent for a moment lavering his arms and neck. “So far.”
“Anything I can assist with?”
He gave a soft chuckle. “Last time a woman ask that I had to pay her.”
I grimaced. “Xian-”
“I know,” he interrupted. “I shouldn’t have even said a thing.”
My fingers started to, absentmindedly, play with the snow white feathers on his head. They were remarkable soft to the touch like silk or a hawk’s feathers. Something was eating at my mind and I finally was able to ask him something. “Do you have a family other than the three Argonians in Riften?”
He didn’t shake my hand away when I started to play with his feathers. I felt his features soften. “Yes.”
“So you do have a mother and father.”
“Of course I do. No one just comes into existence without them.” I sighed feeling torn for his situation still. If only I came out of the establishment sooner he would not be so unlike himself! “They live on the border of Cyrodiil and Black Marsh. Them and my brother.”
“Why are you here and not with them?” I asked.
“‘Cause I ran away to make a living by hunting and selling pelts and meats.”
“You… ran away?” I stared in confusion and my digits gripped a couple of his feathers. “Why run away?”
Xian let out a long and tired sigh like he had been holding it in for years. “For that selfish wish: to ply my skills as a hunter.”
“Do they resent you?”
“No. Rather I don’t know. I send them letters but demand none come to me.” He bit his lip. “I hate that so much but… I can’t do anything about it. I’ve made powerful enemies.”
I was jealous of him again. Xi had what I wanted since I was a little girl: a family. Tol-Kei was in Skyrim while his blood was alive, together, however far away. A loving mother, father.... Even a sibling.
“Serana?” Xian spoke.
“Were you always a vampire?”
I knew it was coming but it didn’t make it easier. “No,” I replied after thinking over it. “I was once a human. So many years ago.”
“You’re different from others of your kind,” he said with a scholarly tone. “Very different given your abilities and strength.” My hand slipped to his shoulder. “How did you and Harkon achieve this?”
“I.. don’t want to go into detail,” I said as my voice caught in my throat, the room becoming blurry. “The ‘ceremony’ was degrading, humiliating. Painful. But I survived.”
He wasn’t dumb. Xian knew a lot about vampires that many do not. How they were created. There was no doubt he knew how Daughters and Sons were made.
“Just like the First.”
“Yes,” I raspily sobbed, tears finally breaking free from their confines. Silent sobs convolsed in my chest as I attempted to speak further. “It… it was…!” Xian’s clawed hand closed over mine and gave a gentle squeeze. You can do this! Push past the memories!
“You don’t have to say any more Serana,” he said in a tender voice.
I hated what I did for my gift. Hated myself, the acts I did afterward! Truthfully my whole life went to shit when my family underwent the ritual. It just kept getting worse and kept going in a downward spiral with no rays of hope. Only darkness, despair and loathing were available.
And then the prophecy came to our knowledge.
My grip tightened around his hand and his followed in suit. It was so strange feeling the power behind him despite his injury. A mortal able to meet a vampire’s strength headon.
“It was the worst feeling Xian!” I managed at last, calming down. My head fell on the entanglement of our hands and the tears did not relinquish their sway.
“You don’t have to face that alone you know.” His head tilted to the side making his cheek press against my temple as he went on. “You’re not exactly alone anymore. I can never make you forget such a thing. That is up to you. You’re far stronger than you know. You survived after all.”
I did. I did survive. But at what cost? I was no longer human but I had to wonder. Was the end result worth all of it in the end? I still had no idea.
“You’re simply saying that,” I coughed.
“You know me better than that Serana. I give credit where it is due. For all of my power and Dragonborn prowess you are far stronger than I ever will be.”
“What’s gotten into you?”
“A concussion, most likely,” he mused.
“Moron.” The dunce managed to make me smile a little despite the pang of the past.
“I’m a bounty hunter. Being a moron is in the job description.”
“Not always I imagine.”
I had no idea why he was trying that. But he managed to make it work.
I don’t deserve to have your friendship so freely given to me Xi. But I’m glad I have it.
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