Serana was unique, even among vampire kind.
Not bloodthirsty, hungry for power or vengeful, to an extent, like many others of her species. I may have been biased but the facts do not lie. Very few vampires in history were of pacifist nature and those that were hid their night-side due to fear of being killed. I had the pleasure of meeting a couple of such a bloodsucker during my line of work. A few even begged me to kill them as they could not find a cure and were losing themselves to the thirst.
And I did. A mercy in their eyes; mercy and murder in mine.
“Nirn to Xian,” came the familiar feminine voice of the vampire followed with a snap of her fingers.
“What?” I asked innocently. “Was thinking.”
“More than likely on what we’re going to do once we hit Windhelm.”
“You could say that. Stay the night and hire a carriage for Winterhold. If I had to guess on the time frame of getting there, I’d say a couple of days. Maybe longer to nearly a week if have a case of bad luck.”
She gave a knowing grin. “If today is anything indication I say luck’s on our side. Well maybe for you as you were just paid over five thousand gold.”
I laughed to that a little. Simply because a hunter was paid a large amount of septims did not mean it was a good day. No, the good part came when one figured out what to spend it on.
And in my case, what would be supplies. And drinks. And a bath
“Yes. Yes I was.” I squinted at the open horizon hoping to spy on the familiar buildings and wall of the city. Could just make them out. “Seems we’re nearly to Riften. Hope they have a carriage or some horses to use.”
“So you keep saying.”
“I’m sorry, do you want to walk all the way to Windhelm? That’s three days if you push yourself; six if you don’t. Horses are faster than us.” Odahviing could get us there in mere hours but the sight of the red dragon would scare the people and prompt the guards to attack and shoot him down.
“But we would miss out on all the bonding along the way,” the vampire remarked in obvious jest. She already know more about me than everyone else in Skyrim.
“Who says we can’t talk on horseback? Be awfully quiet onto Windhelm.” Was I…? No, couldn’t be.
“Sure,” she replied with a knowing, toothy grin. “Let us start with those wenches shall we.”
“If you insist.” Why dammit?! Was shamming me with past, though admittedly great, dalliances some sort of game to her? To everyone in Skyrim? For as long as I try to avoid that shit people keep bringing it up!
“Just kidding. Don’t really want to know anyone personally that you fucked.”
Oh thank the Hist! “How kind of you.” If I had had hair I’d have a bald spot for how many times this subject was brought up.
“Besides isn’t that Riften?” Serana asked pointing a finger to the north.
“It is, thank the gods.” The faint purple of guard uniforms started to become clear the closer we got to the city’s brown moss covered wall. The smell of the growth, even from a few yards away, brought back memories of the swamps near my home making me smile. Always did enjoy the baser things in life.
“I’m not really familiar with this place. Only passed through to find you and the Dawnguard.” Serana lowered her hood to reveal her head to the sun; the thing had been down since the stone bridge a while back.
Vampires are known by everyone to use Illusion magic to mask what the disease, or power, does to their facial features. Sunken cheeks, pale skin, orange fiery eyes. What was different about Serana, namely the variety of vampirism she had, was that her features were not like that. Her father, Lord Harkon, was Lord of the Volkihar vampires. Perhaps it was a special kind of strand. Even so that did not mean she was in the clear. Her eyes were like every other kind out there.
“You going to put up your illusion or not?” I whispered as a long guard strode past us. “I can’t stop them and any civilians from-“
“Xian shut up and relax,” she interrupted. “My magic is up.”
“It is?” I asked with a perplexed look.
“Yes. What do you see when you look at me?”
How could I even answer that question? Serana’s eyes and skin color kept changing, going from her vampiric porcelain and orange eyes to beautiful, stunning even, green eyes and fair skin. It was as if a battle of magic was taking place, each variation vying for control and dominance while giving me a damn headache in the process.
I was in no way immune to the school of Illusion. On the contrary my mind was just as susceptible as anyone else is on Nirn.
She watched my squinted gaze and raised an eyebrow. “What’s with that look? See something weird?”
“Yeah,” I answered. “This one does… but it can be discussed later.”
The vampire gave me a look before huffing in annoyance. “Fine. At some point on the way we will speak of it.” She started to look around wondering if anyone was watching. “Too many people around.” Her eyes then fell onto the guards by the front gate and carriage driver. “Great now you have me doubting my magic!”
“I didn’t say anything!” I protested.
She rolled her eyes. “More than likely I’m worrying over nothing and it is just you having issues.”
“Yeah that’s it,” I grumbled under my breath. Didn’t matter as I knew Serana could hear me. Damn vampires and their enhanced everything! Complaining was unbecoming of me but the truths were not wrong.
Serna said nothing opting to ignore me and began to look around, taking in what the scenery had to offer her. The orange leaves danced life fire in the trees whenever the wind blew through the area. It was a captivating show.
While she was distracted I made my way to the carriage driver who was locked in a conversation with his steed.
“How’s the old boy?” His hand glided over the palomino’s dark mane. “Doing well?” The beast whinnied in accordance, answering his pleased master. “That’s a good boy.”
“He is a fascinating creature,” I said.
“Oh, hello Xian. What can I help you with?”
“Your carriage still available? My friend and I need to stop in Windhelm before heading to Winterhold.”
The Nord sucked in air through his teeth, giving me a good clue on his response. “Sorry, but it isn’t. A pair of nobles have already hired a ride to Solitude. Something about the Jarl’s gathering happening in a few weeks.”
“Shit.” Carriage was usually faster about raveling as they knew how best to handle their horse. Some individuals could not master riding one to save their ass.
“If I may ask,” Kibel said with a quick glace over my shoulder, “who’s your friend?”
Please for the love of the Hist, don’t you fucking ask! “Just that. A friend. Rescued her for a contract, hit it off almost exceedingly well from there.”
“You make it sound like she owes you, or is part of a business deal.” The man scrunched his face finding his own accusation unwholesome.
“Did I? Ech,” I mumbled. “She follows me on her own free will. No strings attached.”
“That makes it sound better,” he smiled. “But again I’m hired out already. Just waiting for them to drag some of their necessities. I believe Horse-Crusher’s got some available for rent. Could be wrong however.”
“Thanks.” I gave the majestic creature a pat on the head receiving a huff in response. It looked me in the eye before lowering its head to the grass. “Hmm.”
“Sure have a way with animals Xian,” Kibel smiled.
“I have my ways with a lot. Again, thanks.” Glancing back to the vampiric Nord she was still taking her time at absorbing the scenery. She almost looked like a child in a candy shop except for the big eyes of excitement. Merely general interest in the surrounding vegetation for quickly passing through it some days ago. Can’t blame her; I love this place too.
As I made my way to the stables a familiar voice beckoned.
“Xian! Over here!” Turning abruptly I had assumed some kind of danger was present and knelt to grab a dagger. It was, thankfully, a false alarm as it was the stable master’s assistant.
“If it isn’t Shadr.”
“Been a longtime friend. Keeping well?” he asked in a chipper manner. Boy’s optimism.
“Well enough. Getting right to my point are there any horses available? Need to get to Windhelm.”
“Windhelm?” Shadr repeated. “But I was under the impression that you loathed that place. A lot.”
“The impression is correct but it’s a resting spot at best when heading towards Winterhold. Current contract need me there before the target.”
“Who’s the unlucky bastard that’ll receive the wrath of Xane?” the Redguard laughed.
“A Moth Priest. And no wrath will-“
“A Moth Priest?! Come here to Skyrim?!” He screeched his bewilderment for all to hear. A few guards, Kibel and even the horses turned to face us.
I crossed my arms more than a bit angered. “Sure, announce it to the whole fucking Hold and impede my work.”
“Did I hear right?” asked a gruff voice. “A Moth Priest is comin’ to Skyrim?”
I looked to see the stable master himself: Hofgrir Horse-Crusher. “Yes, you heard correctly.” Time was being eaten away with these pointless talks and it was beginning to get on my nerves. Pointless talk is useless talk.
“Always wanted to know something about them,” Shadr said more to himself than anyone.
“Not getting anything from this one,” I hissed. “I need him for a… special reading.” The two men looked to one another, digesting the message. I always hated it when someone, anyone really, wasted my time. This occurrence being one of them. “Do you have any horses for rent or not Hofgrir? We’re in a rush.”
“Where will you be headed?” The Nord knew of my strength and patience. Arrogantly challenged me to a brawl a year ago and lost horribly. Since then he’s respected my time, in a way.
“That’ll be two hundred and fifty per.”
“In no position to argue.” A hefty bag of coin landed in his hand. “No doubt more than enough in there. Now which beasts did I just get?”
“The black charger there and the brown and white pinto,” the Nord pointed over his shoulder. The man knew his business had to admit.
“How long before they’re ready?”
“Give us a couple of minutes and they’ll be harnessed and saddled.” Shadr answered the question for his employer, nodding his agreement. Together they headed for the small hut that counted as their supply shed and home. Not even a minute passed before they emerged with saddles under their arms.
Those guys must’ve mapped out everything in that thing, I surmised.
They both went for a horse and started to equip the saddles. The stallion gave a huff while the pinto stayed quiet, simply staring Shadr in the eye. They went back and forth, the man speaking with the beast stamping her feet. Hofgrir joined in, teasing his apprentice on how close he was to the horse.
I smirked a little as the two went at each other for a while. Their inane bickering reminded me of how my father, brother and I would argue over which animal to hunt that night. Deer and elk was my favorite as a boy and it carried into my adulthood. Hah, even the moment was bringing back the smell of crackling fire, burning logs and roasted meats. Strange how it was so vivid. Even the scent was there.
Reality hit me over the head like a hammer, leaving a fake welt. Nothing is that vivid without the assistance of outside force!
Looking over the stained brickwork of Riften’s wall I couldn’t see a damn thing. Abandoning the two men I paced several yards away for a better view. It had to be somewhere close by. It was getting stronger.
Serana had taken notice and followed suit. “What are you doing?”
“I smell smoke.”
“Smoke?” she asked. “I don’t smell- wait…” it was the vampire’s turn to sniff the air and become surprised. That’s smoke alright. And… sulfur. Brimstone? This far from Red Mountain?”
“Shit!” My blood suddenly began to grow warmer, as if signaling me of impending danger. “One would attack now!”
“One what? What is it?” Serana asked. “What in Oblivion is it?”
Where is it? I thought. Where the fuck is it?! Even though the drake was coming I was calm. Not antsy, not even giddy. Just calm. It was strange but what bothered me most about the situation was my blood.
It never warmed up.
Finally I managed to lay my eyes upon the pillar of smoke to the west just over Lake Honrich. Thick as could be and deep black, nearly matching my scales.
“Are you going to answer me or not?!” Serana growled, her face becoming dark as electricity pulsed in her open hand.
“Get inside the wall and into the Ratway!” I yelled. “Another’s on the way so move your asses!”
“W-what?” a passing citizen stuttered in horror. “Another?!”
“Another what?!” my friend pressed. “What is coming?”
“Dragon!” Shadr called out pointing to the open sky. “Not again, we got the stable reconstructed a month ago!”
“We can’t afford to have another built!” Hofgrir sounded.
“Either lose your property or lose your lives!” I growled drawing my bow and nocking an arrow. “Now!”
A metallic roar boomed from seemingly everywhere before the beast came into full view. A dragon covered in scales that were the color of burnt wood and coal giving it an appearance of some sort of demon from Oblivion. The underbelly scales were topaz in color matching the mineral near perfectly. The stench of sulfur that radiated from it was overwhelming to many, suffocating and drowning out the crisp, clean air around us. It was as if the dragon was blanketed in the stuff.
A might bellow came from the monster once more.
“YUL… TOR SHUL!!!”
Fire blew from its gapping mouth burning everything in its path. The small island that house a single building blew up in a glorious fashion. Embers showered the grounds like rain, spreading the destruction. The yells of men and women of all kinds started to scream and bark orders.
“Magic users quell the flames before the whole island burns down! Everyone else find buckets and-”
The nether dragon came in for a dive, snatching the Nord woman up in his jaws. Even from the stables I could hear bones crunch and snap as the beast savored the taste of flesh and blood.
“Get to the Ratway!” I commanded once more. “Every building is off limits to hide in!”
The civilians all started to clamor for the gates, wishing not to be the next victim. Thankfully not a single one was trampled on the way in. I had seen that first hand back about a year ago in Windhelm. It was an experience.
The wyvern gave off another roar, shouting into the sky of Tamriel not caring who or what could hear.
“Viidost Vith! Reveal yourself!”
My cue, I thought. “Serana I want you to go with the civilians and stay there until the fucker’s dead!”
“Since when do you order me around?!” she snapped baring her teeth; the spell in her hands pulsed back to life with renounced vigor. “This will be my first real fight since coming to!”
“I said go! You’ve no idea how to fight a dragon or know the devastation they can wrought!”
“You are near Viidost Vith! I can sense your blood like a beacon in the night!” Powerful gusts of wind blew across the terrain forcing us to shield our eyes from the dust. “That you defeated Alduin thuri is an affront to the Dovah! My Lord demands your death!”
“What the fuck is that thing talking about?” Serana asked over the gale.
“You sound as if I know the damn answer! I’m just as in the dark as you!”
“LAAS… YAH NIR!!!” the dragon shouted again.
He could now see the life force surrounding every living being nearby. With the altitude advantage the brute could see for miles. “There you are Viidost Vith!” The immortal being gave an evil, toothy grin. “And it appears you have rounded up a meal fit for a Dovah!”
My eyes widened in shock as I gritted my teeth hissed in anger; my hands became slack, allowing the arrow to fall to the earth. The fucker outsmarted me without doing so much as lighting a house on fire. I couldn’t Shout at the monster either; it would cause him to fall onto the crowd and kill them in an instant, flatten them like paper. People were going to die and the blame would fall onto me for not preventing it. Life happens.
There was a loud ‘whoosh’ as the great beast nosedived towards the city of Riften. I Shouted Aura Whisper to quickly see what he saw. The people were bunched together like a pack of cornered rats. I grunted in defeat as they began to panic and tried to push others aside. It hardly made a difference in the size of the mass; only the people on the outside had a chance of getting out alive.
Some began to dive for cover while others tried to leap over the railing and into the canal. So many screams of terror, of fear… It was against me, taunting me when it would usually bring me joy and fulfillment.
With cries of defiance, several people shoved as many as possible at the last moment from the maw of death. I watched as certain auras were snuffed out of life with wicked ‘kracks!’ and yells of pain.
No, I thought. Whoever did those brave, selfless acts of sacrifice… Dammit!
“What happened?!” Serana demanded, shaking my shoulder as the dragon flew overhead enjoying the snack he just acquired. “I know you saw what happened! So fucking tell me!”
“Men and woman were killed and eaten but not before others pushed as many out of the way as possible,” I answered after a brief silence. “So he couldn’t eat what was originally intended.” A sudden feeling ripped through my gut. The guards normally stationed at the front gate… They were gone! “Serana the guards!” I quickly pointed out to her. “They’re missing!”
“Do you think that they-” she started.
“Dragonborn!” The voice was unmistakable. Bursting through the maple doors came Unmid Snow-Shod, the housecarl to Jarl Laila Law-Giver. His face was covered in a sheen of sweat and dirt while his greatsword was to his side. “My men, good men, just gave their lives to protect the people and city they loved! Don’t you dare make their sacrifice worthless!”
So that is what happened.
“I know selfless bravery when I see it! It just surprises me that-”
“YUL… TOR SHUL!!!”
Another fatal steam of fire poured against buildings, businesses and even the canal wall. Steam erupted as flame met water, rising into the sky like a dense fog only to mix with the black smoke creating the foreboding presence of a thunderstorm.
Men and women who were brave enough rushed to fill whatever they could get ahold with water and put out the blaze. They called orders to one another to better increase their speed; even through the panicked screams I could miraculously hear them.
“I don’t care if you are surprised or not!” Unmid barked. “That dragon needs to die or the whole city will burn!”
“And its people eaten along with it,” I added.
“Then how about instead of talking we shoot the fucking thing out of the sky!” Serana screamed at the both of us. Electric currents blitzed along her hands and arms filling the small area around us with static before she unleashed her frustration at the returning wyvern.
The bolt struck the dragon on the chest, sending who knows how many volts through his body. He roared in pain, screeching that metallic voice again causing hopefuls to look up. The dragon wobbled back and forth throwing the grace of flight to the wind before catching his balance once more.
Even from the ground I knew it was searching for Serana. Prideful and arrogant to the extreme, believing all other beings were inferior to themselves, dragons did not take to being attacked kindly. In a way I was connected to them.
Still visible was the streak of smoke that the lightning bolt had traveled. And at the base was Serana staring daggers at the beast, unfazed by the size, strength and ferocity. She sent more his way, bolt after bolt unrelenting in her fervor.
With the majesty the dragons were known for in years past he dodged them, feeling the pulse of wind against his scales. He launched a fireball in retaliation, straight and true for Serana. I acted quickly, placing a hand on her shoulder and Shouting, “FIEM!!!” We became like ghosts, intangible and see through, the fire passing through us and smashing into a nearby tree. The horses, now spooked by the flame, broke free from their stables and ran for safety and over the hills out of sight.
“Viidost Vith!! Your mortal friends shall pay for striking-”
“JOOR… ZAH FRUL!!!”
I Shouted at the dragon once again, shutting him up with a power that all his kind feared. Dragonrend, a power that forced one of the immortal beings to experience the incomprehensibility known as mortality. Paarthurnax willingly subjugated himself for an experiment of mine. He told me how it felt, that his very immortal soul was being smothered by an outside force, literally attacking his spirit and will to live. The pain was substantial enough to knock a dragon out of the sky mid-flight.
Of course those with a strong spirit and will can shrug away the pain but one thing was certain: they couldn’t find it in themselves to stay aloft. They plummet like a boulder back to the ground.
Back to the mortal realm.
The Shout collided with the wyvern, visibly knocking the air from his great lungs. It whined and bellowed as the feeling of being suppressed and suffocation assaulted his very soul. The dragon turned a hard right before losing the will to flap his wings. I gave a cruel, cocky smile as he began to descend at an increasing rate. Soon the grin turned to a scowl of anger and shock as I realized where the beast would crash land: the canal wall. With the weight, speed and size of him there was no doubt in my mind that the wall would break. One way or another.
“You fucking lizard!!” Unmid roared, face turning red with rage and veins bulging from his neck. “Do you have any idea what you have just done?! How you doomed this city?!” Anger was definitely an appropriate emotion for the hardy man to have. After all I did force a dragon to crash against the city.
With a mighty CRASH, the leviathan created waves the size of an inn that smashed into the durable wood of the wall. Boats of all shapes and sized were either destroyed by the dragon’s body or sent spiraling off into, and over, the wall. The momentum of the body of the beast had been slowed down by the water considerably but that was not enough!
Unmid, Serana and I grunted as the leviathan finally hit the wall with a loud BOOM! The wood groaned and bent at the sudden amount of weight placed onto it, forcing the wall to cave and buckle. The water poured from the sky like rain, showering us in the cold water.
“Collateral damage!” I spat to the Nord. “If you’ll excuse me, I’ve a soul to collect!”
“Not without me you’re not!” Serana stated angrily.
“I told you to go with the civilians! Fire will end you in an instant!”
“You stubborn, fucking…!” Lightning once more sparked to life as she bared her teeth in anger. “I. AM! Going with you to kill that thing!” The damage those things could cause…
Why couldn’t she just listen to me?! Without a ward to block the blaze she would be dead from the heat of it alone! Vampirism had its benefits to be sure but its weaknesses were glaringly obvious. And she refused to see it!
A sword suddenly struck the stone between us. “Enough of your pathetic squabbling!” Unmid yelled. “IF you don’t act Riften will be nothing but smoldering wood and charred bodies!”
“Viidost Vith! What is this?! What have you don’t to me?!” The nether dragon wailed in displeasure, no doubt squeezing his eyes shut as the pain raced through his large, scaly body.
“Unmid, do NOT join us! Protect Laila! You’ll only be in our way!” I yelled to him.
Great beats of his wings could be heard as, against my own gut feeling, Serana and I ran towards the docks, leaving the man behind to understand what was said to him. As we made our way into Riften the streets were littered with rubble in every direction. Men, women and children tried to carry off what was crushing one another, crying at the sight of their deceased loves ones or their broken and protruding bones.
We ignored them all and ran for the dragon, daggers and magic at hand.
Viidost Vith: Poison Snake