The Bounty Chronicles: Ch. 18

*~Serana Volkihar~*


“Well this is nice,” I said trying to make small talk. Xian and I had just left Fort Dawnguad with over five-thousand gold in tow. The sun was till high in the air above us, bright yellow and orange beams barely visible warmed everything, casting shadows several inches ahead. With everything that happened between Lights and him fresh air was a must. It was doing wonders for me at least. “Strolling along a canyon even I wouldn’t mind staying a long while.”


“If you say so,” he simply said.


“Why so glum?” I asked raising an eyebrow. “Is it still bothering you?”


“You’ll need to be more specific. There are several things on my mind right now.”


“Well, off the top of my head, Lights.” That paladin was a piece of work. One moment he appeared righteous and holy and the next he was a mere petty child stealing Xian’s notebook and reading… whatever that was.


“I’d rather not think on that little shit,” he grumbled.


Okay so Lights wasn’t it. The only other thing I can think of is… “Was it me patting you head?” I asked innocently.


“A… A little bit, yes,” he admitted. “But also something else. About traveling.”


“Traveling? What about it?”


“Skyrim’s not exactly a small province Serana. It is many leagues across and travel takes a long while on foot.”


“Then what do you suggest? Horse drawn carriage?”


“Yep.” He chuckled at his answer.


“I was kidding, you know,” I cocked an eyebrow at him.


“You may have been, but this one is not. Far faster than walking on foot.”


Well there was an opportunity I just could NOT pass up!


“Aren’t you quick to show a woman a good time? Not going to buy me a meal first?”


I had to hold my ever growing grin and desire to laugh aloud at Xian. His eyes grew as wide as saucers and if he could have blushed I know damn well he would’ve.


“I-I… That’s… Why are you going this to me?!”


“Because it’s easy,” I retorted with a grin.


He gritted his teeth, trying to think of something to say.


“… I hate you right now.” He sounded like a child with that line.


And I lost it.


“Oh by the Gods and Daedra…!” I sniffed, brushing away a tear. “Perfect!”


“Some way to thank you savior.”


“Oh come on,” I said after calming down a bit. “Was only teasing.”


“Yes, well, do remember I know much about vampires Serana,” he said. “Especially when they toy with others.” It sounded extremely bitter. Or was I just imagining that?


“If it makes you feel better, I am sorry for poking fun at you. But it’s only because you’re so damn serious.”


“Who told you that?” Xian asked with a dubious look.


“Remember I did walk from my family home to here. Stopping in villages and cities along the way. I heard things.”


“Such as?” He cocked a boney brow.


“Well, for starters,” I began was we made our way inside the cave, “many told me you take everything seriously. Joke or no.”




“What for?”


He groaned. “Because I was either doing a contract or coming back from one. When this one receives a bounty, he thinks only on it until it is fulfilled.”


“I see.” I looked him up and down quizzically, studying his body language. “Do you still do that? After all, you are doing a contact and you are not being a complete ass.” Xian truly wasn’t. Almost pleasant really. It was a bit strange to be honest.


“Very astute of you,” he mused. “But answering your question: it depends.”


“On what?”


“On what type of contract I am given. For example, a contract given on, say a bandit, then yes, I am serious throughout it. If I am given one to be a bodyguard, or a foot agent, like my current one, then no.”


“Huh,” I stated flatly, furrowing my brow.


It was his turn to raise an eyebrow.




“I expected… I don’t know, a more complex answer.”


He smiled a little. “So did a couple other friends of mine.” The lizard suddenly chuckled at the last bit. “’Friends.’”


“Something funny?”


“Just- including you, I only have five real friends. Perhaps six if I include Balgruuf.”


I was a touch surprised and showed it. From what I was told while trying to find Fort Dawnguard, many people opened up on how heroic Xian really was. True, they all agreed he was a bastard and an old whoremonger, but he made the roads and countryside safe by taking contracts.


That Xian did not have very many friends was both surprising and unsurprising at the same time.


Still he had more than me. If the bounty hunter beside me wasn’t one I would have no friends. No one to even help me in this new Skyrim. Life before being put in that damn cave was strained, even as a little girl. My mother and father had their arguments and disagreements to be sure; no marriage was perfect. But their spats, fighting and raging just got worse when we pledged ourselves to Molag Bal.


After that, life became poisonous.


Xian saw my expression grow solemn and melancholy.


“Hey, what’s wrong?” He placed a hand on my shoulder.


“Uh…” I stammered a little, not knowing what to say. Having someone to talk to still felt foreign to me. Anyone who wasn’t my mother, I should say.


“You alright Serana?” He asked as we stepped out into the light and out the other side of the cave. “You seem deep in thought.”


“It’s complicated. Just a very long story wiggling its way around my head,” I answered after a moment of silence.


The ebony scaled lizard looked ahead of us and back. “We have about an hour’s walk to reach Riften. Have plenty of time if you simply wish to talk.”


“I’m not going to speak of a personal matter right now,” I sneered. “I just don’t think it’s a good time for me to talk about it.” I was expecting him to be forceful or even a bit insistent on even the tiniest bit of information.


I was pleasantly surprised.


“If you do not wish to talk, then don’t. Not going to force something that personal out of you. Can relate after all.”


“That’s incredibly noble of you,” I replied, shocked.


“I am a Thane in several Holds,” he mused.




“Yes. Basically think of it as something akin to nobility. A jarl- A Nord who rules over their Hold- grants the title to those who have proven, in laymen’s terms, useful. Or in the housecarl’s words, a ‘hero.’”


“Do you have any responsibilities as a Thane?” This was taking my mind off of things that was my family.


“Yes but I never do them. Told the jarls that when they granted it.”


“And they haven’t taken the title away from you?” If this was back when I was just sealed away, anyone that did not perform their duties and shirked their work were reprimanded. Harshly.


“A few of them have. A select few just do not mind that I do not do those duties.” Xian rubbed his eyes and scanned the area.


“Does it bother you that those that were taken away were?” Curiosity was clearly evident in my voice.


The bounty hunter shook his head. “Not even in the slightest. I am a hunter, a wanderer after all.”


“I suppose that has validity,” I agreed after some thought. At least the information was about this new, changed Skyrim. Honestly, any new information on the current state of society was helpful.


“Do you mind if I ask you something this time?” He asked.


“Alright. Such as?”


Krie stared me in the eyes. “Why did you come back?”


“What?” I asked confused.


“You heard me.”


“I already told you back with the rest of them,” I insisted. “If my father actually achieves this prophecy everyone will die. Humans, elves, beastfolk. Even vampires.”


“Elaborate on that,” he demanded.


I was growing more than a bit angry with him. And it showed in my expression and gritted teeth. Still the lizard did not relent on it. “If my father was able to put out the sun, armies would be raised in efforts to put vampires into the ground! No one would rest until every last one was killed.”


“Meaning you too.”


“Hey! I am not doing this entirely to save my hide!” I yelled at him, orange eyes blazing with annoyed anger. “I risked a lot coming to the Dawnguard and being nearly killed by the fuckers as well! I’m doing this so the new world I’ve been thrust into isn’t my last!”


My eyes burned holes into his own, waiting, daring, him to even say something that would trigger me even further. I was ready for him to pile on the anger.


“I’m sorry,” Xian said after a long, still silence.


“Better fucking be!” I barked. “You have some nerve, or balls, to ask me that when you already know! What could you even gain from that?!”


“Because this one knew you weren’t telling everyone everything.”


My eyes widened in surprise and bewilderment, replacing the anger in an instant. “How?” I looked at him dumbfounded.


“I have been doing what I do for nearly a decade. If my skills were not so sharp, I would have been killed eleven years ago.”


Why eleven? “Alright fine. But you didn’t have to be an ass about it,” I snapped after taking a deep breath. Still couldn’t believe what I was doing: only friend in the world and he just forced something out of me like a common criminal! “Asshole!”


“It is in my job description.” Xian let loose a sigh. “This one is sorry for making you feel angry, attacked even. But friends sometimes push, Serana.”


My face twitched with annoyance and my eyes narrowed. “That still didn’t give you any reason or right to treat me like someone from your contracts.”


“Yes,” he replied softly. “You are correct.” The Argonian started to think on his predicament only to speak a moment later. “I know it will not make up for it but how about a little recompense to mend this now salted wound?”


“No,” I grumbled, not in the mood for his wily ways.


“Really? Not even going to hear the details?”


“Xian, just stop.”


“Fine. And here I thought you were going to ask me anything you wished.”



He had to be playing me, the bastard just had to be.


“You’re lying to me.”


“I could be. I might not be. But why would I lie to you?” The bounty hunter asked reassuringly. “I have been nothing but honest with you since the day we met.”


“Because I know you wouldn’t give away such details freely without any strings attached.”


Krie thought on my words for a little bit but not before laughing to himself. Everyone that spoke to me had stated that he was very secretive. They all knew him but did not know anything about his past. Not even where he was from. The ebony hunter never spoke about his history to a soul.


“This one time, I am willing to let that slide.”


I felt like I was hit aside the head with a hammer. Did he just say he would tell me any piece of whatever I asked him?  


“How can I be sure you won’t be making it up?”


He smiled. “Starting to think a bit like me, looking at every possible angle. But you do not know until you ask. Go on,” the lizard beckoned. “Any question and I shall give you the honest truth. No matter how outlandish or how personal.”


If Xian was being serious about this matter, then I had the opportunity of the era! There was well over a thousand questions about him, and other things, which would help me understand him or the rest of Skyrim. But the more I actually thought about it the more only a single question could be asked. That was his condition.


By the Blood, why is this suddenly so difficult?!


I started to go through the recent events that he and I were together. Dimhollow and his holey hand, Morthal, Solitude and its night of death, all up to now. I cursed to myself when nothing was really sticking—


Wait! Maybe I could ask something about the notebook of his.


Lights had started reading something that was incredibly person to Xian. Personal enough that he would have stabbed him with that arrow. It seemed to me, at least, that it was a secret worth killing over.


“I believe I got something.”


“With that look you got,” he said, “you look both hesitant and determined.”


“Why wouldn’t I be?” I asked. “You nearly killed Lights over this one.”


His eyes went wide.




“No what?”


“No as in, why are you picking that of all things?”


“Because it is obviously very near and dear to your heart that it’s worth killing a member of the Dawnguard over,” I argued.


Xia’s face became scrunched up in anger and annoyance, clearly upset over the question and trying to find a way to weasel out of his promise. His little show continued for a walks-worth of time before the lizard finally caved.


I won this time.


“Fine. A promise is a promise, and I never break those.” He took a deep breath and sighed. “What Lights was reading off for all to hear was the lyrics to a song my mother sang to my brother and me when we were growing up.”


I nearly recoiled at the secret. A song? Really?!


“You have got to be pulling my leg! A song sang by your mother?”


“Yes!” He barked in clear frustration. “It is the only thing I have of them!”


“Wait what?” I asked in confusion. “Your family’s dead?” Everyone needed their family and their support. Whether they were good, bad…


Or deplorable.


“No. No my family isn’t dead.” He look to the ground with what appeared to be shame, anger and regret. “Haven’t seen them since I ran away at eighteen.” Xian looked me in the eye. “I’m not going to divulge anything more of my past.”


At a loss for words all I could do was simply stare at the Argonian. A person who many people say is a hero in one way or another is a soft, sentimental man with a tough exterior as protection. A soft side I just caught a glimpse of was a completely different person then the one who usually came to the surface.


And I had to say, the contrast it was quite shocking.




“That’s all you can say?” He asked incredulously. “’Oh?’ Given an immensely rare look at the other side of me and that’s all you can utter?”


That he was getting upset was strange. Why would Xian even care if someone was told of his sensitive side and then become aggravated by their simple reaction? I figured he would be angrier at trying to return to normal, not perturbed at my simple reaction.


“Then what would you prefer then, hmm?” I asked in nigh condescension.


“Something along the lines of saying thank you would be a start! Another is swearing to keep it to yourself.”


Just by reading his body language I could see that the lizard was trying to keep his anger in check. Either Xian really wanted to keep his family safe from any potential enemies or keep their memories to himself. And speaking in fairness it was the least I could do to thank him. The damn fool did tell me a secret that would otherwise have followed him to his death. And If I was understanding my own reasoning correctly, Xian loved his family above everything else.


With a simply smile I gave him a light punch on the shoulder.


“You’re right. Thank you for telling me what it was. I’ll keep quiet on it too so don’t worry about that.”


He was unsure of what to do, unable to reciprocate an action of thanks. Weirdly the lizard looked like a deer caught in a torch’s light.


“Thank you then. For understanding.” As we continued, Xian suddenly looked me up and down. “Did you get taller all of a sudden?”


My look said it all. “What? No.” The fuck kind of question is that?


“Strange. Last I measured, you came to my chin.”


“Nu-uh,” I shook my head. “I have always been a touch shorter than you. If you thought otherwise I’d say it was due to the blood loss you suffered. Made you hallucinate the other thing.”


“Still, strange,” he murmured before finally giving a shrug. Glancing towards the sky Xian started to think on the time. “It appears to be around one, maybe even two, in the afternoon. We should be reaching Riften in just a few more minutes and hopefully catch a carriage to Windhelm.” He grumbled the city’s name. A clear sign of the lizard’s displeasure.

“What’s wrong with Ysgramor’s city?” I asked. “Figured the, now ancient, place would be a welcoming place full of study.”


“’Welcoming place.’ Hah! Wait till we get there, then tell me what you think of the damn city,” he hissed ominously. Such disdain for an important city in Skyrim’s history and my reptilian friend didn’t appear to have an enthusiasm about it.


“Then I’ll take your word for it.” I gave him a slight nod. Despite that, there was no way I was going to let his opinion sour my hopes for Windhelm. True, the ancient Nords and Snow Elves had their disputes, disagreements and warring. Sarthal was evidence to that.


Even from all the way on an isolated island, news of the sacked city eventually reached us. Centuries later, maybe but it was not really all that surprising. Humans have a natural distrust to anyone that isn’t one of them. A vicious cycle that will be horrible mistake on humans’ part.


No one was perfect.


“Ysgramor’s city is of importance. But not for the reason you would think or wish to believe,” Xian grunted. “Historical facts are still found in the oldest city in Skyrim. Just watch yourself around its people. Particularly how they view someone like me.”


“You’re a cryptic son of a bitch, aren’t you?”


“Mhm,” he nodded mockingly with a sly smirk.

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