Did Serana really believe she could hide her problem from me?
She kept it extremely well hidden, nothing short of extraordinary. Staving off the intense urge to drink in an instant was a feat worthy of praise. Self-control was something several passive vampires I met wanted more than anything. I believe one even works for the guard, taking only small amounts from criminals who were locked up from petty crimes to heinous atrocities.
And when I considered how long she was sealed away in that crypt I couldn’t help but feel even more sorrow for her. Coming from a man such as myself to show outward feelings is a rarity but when something of immense magnitude forces itself onto a being?
How could I not?
It had been two days since our departure from Shore’s Stone. By the Hist I was surprised no one caught onto her! Her magical illusion, though continuously played with my eyes and mind, nearly flickered out in front of several guards and the town smith. It was Serana’s quick thinking of using that invincibility spell of hers to scramble away from the folk. A handy trick I wished I could do but that was why I had potions; to mimic magic.
“Are you done with your charade Serana?” I asked.
“What are you talking about?” Her questioned was marred by a long, drawn out breath.
“I’m talking about your shaking, you’re trying to conceal it. You did not think I wouldn’t catch that?” The vampire did not make eye contact, opting to, instead, look to the ground ahead of her steed. “Well?”
“Will you stop hounding me?!” she barked, face covered by the black hood of her armor. “I’m fighting the feeding shakes, yes. So what?”
That she was fighting it was a good sign. That I tripped her nerve was my grave mistake.
“What other shakes would you be having? The undead don’t feel, nor are phased, by the cold.”
Her hand balled into a fist causing her to immediately wince in pain. Was it bigger?
“So I’m an undead now? An unfeeling creature?!” Serana’s voice dripped with anger and annoyance. She sounded like a growling animal, banging the sides of its cage daring to be unleashed. “Am I?”
“Did I fucking say that? Did I say you did not feel emotion when you clearly have in the past?” I challenged. The vampire only glared at me. “No. Only that the cold does not affect you and your kind.”
Could I really blame her hysteria on the thirst she was wresting with? Yes, easily. All the facts, and symptoms, were glaring from behind cover. The horses had become nervous, put on edge from Serana’s outburst, braying and swaying their heads about. In truth we had been riding since waking up some time ago and the beasts needed a quick rest and food.
“My kind?!” she growled. I could hear her knuckles pop some paces away. “So I’m no better than a lowly blood sucker?! I’m a Volkihar dammit!!”
“Serana enough of this petty, meanin-”
The world started to go in circles as my body left the back of the horse. With a loud THUD I landed on my back, the rear of my skull hitting the path like a toy ball. Why is it always my damn head?! I thought angrily as my vision warped and blended together, trying desperately to correct the damage that was dealt. An iron grip held an arm in place while the other was pinned uselessly between my back and the ground. A leg was pressed against my stomach making me lean forwards slightly and another hand forced my head back to expose my neck further. Hot, ragged and uneven breaths puffed against my flesh, dampening the scales and skin.
I could only see the clouds slowly make their journey across Kynareth’s domain. Formless and free, bowing only to the whim of themselves. The breathing was closer now as the seconds ticked by. The feeling of two sharp objects prodded against a vein bulging against my flesh.
Serana was thirsty. Incredibly thirsty to try and drink from me.
Ordinary people in my place would have pissed and shit themselves, begging for their lives only for the pleas to fall on deaf ears. However I was not an ordinary mortal. Far from it. Honestly speaking I had believed my time was up but the end did not come. Serana was wavering terribly, her lower eyelids twitching with uncertainty and hands trembling upon my throat and arm. It seemed that she was holding off on killing me, on giving into that primal need for blood.
All she needed was a push.
“Go ahead. Prove I was wrong about you.”
Slowly the strength of her grip began to weaken and her breathing started to morph into gasps of horror. I was always of the mindset that one has the control over their body’s actions no matter the circumstances, like a werewolf looking at the moon and resisting the change or one’s rage and anger over menial trivialities. I believed that the uncontrollable part of shit like that was because they allowed themselves to not fight back.
You always have a grip on your own mind; be stronger than the pull.
Serana relinquished her leg from my gut, much to my relief, and proceeded to stare at her hand. She could only shake in shock from the actions taken and the one not taken. She turned her back as I was able to straighten up.
“I’m sorry,” came her hushed apology.
Was I imagining things or was there a hint of disgust in her words?
“What was that?” I asked after quickly cracking my neck.
“Why are you looking away from me?”
“I almost killed you.” Was she having a conversation with me or herself? “I almost drained you dry...”
Serana suddenly started to shake. Violently. So much that she could not hold herself up and collapsed to the ground.
“Serana!” I hissed. What the fuck is going on?! “What’s happening?! Are you alri-”
There was no way on Nirn that I could finish my statement after turning her to face me.
I gasped in horror as I looked at her. Those beautiful orange fires for eyes were gone and replaced by ones nothing short of red. Blood red from hunger and filling up with a diabolical look. A blood moon in a starless night on each side of her face.
Gnarled hands and boney fingers wrapped around her hood trying to hide the appearance of their master, exactly like spider legs; the right hand was obviously broken now. Her cheeks had sunken in showing how hollow the human body truly is. Gone were her beautiful looks, soft skin and charming smile.
Serana looked so fragile.
“This is… a bare… ly… sane… starved vampire,” she huffed.
“My Gods…” I was dumbfounded. What happened to her? What happen to my friend? “Why didn’t you say something sooner?!”
“You know me. Kept to… myself for so… long.”
I had never seen anything like that in my life! Sure I had seen starved vampires in my day but of such a degree? Fuck no! But where they locked away from blood for so long like her?
“That’s… all you got to say?” she creaked?
“This is nightmare material Serana! Something that shouldn’t exist,” I answered. Vampires that had given into their blood craze were a danger to many and all things that got close to them. Like a dwemer machine they attacked without pause or reason. It made them predictable and very vulnerable. And good money. But her? “What are you really?”
“A vampire. A special… breed,” the Nord struggled. The shaking went from violent to nigh impossible to hold back and then came the cry of pain, a growl escaping her open maw. “So… th-thirsty.”
Shit! NO!! “You can’t hold-”
“Fuck!” Time was against me and I hated it. Why did this shit have to happen? Why her? “Laas… Ya Niir!” The red fire of life burst forth allowing me to see what I normally couldn’t. Unfortunately there was nothing. Not even a lowly rabbit. “There isn’t a damn thing!” I grumbled angrily. Serana looked like she was about to cry. To lose the freedom that was granted to her by something as trivial as that damn thirst.
Looking at her caused something to resonate within me, an urge, a force, to have her survive. We may had been simple friends at the time but that didn’t matter. All I could think then was comparing what was transpiring to it being Tol. Or Xai.
That will NOT happen!!!
“No choice,” I said after looking to my open palm. One grabbed a dagger from my boot while a vial was taken from my belt.
Serana watched as the deadly blade left its sheath. Her eyes widened with worry. “What… are you… doing?”
“What does it look like?” The left gauntlet fell to the rocks and dirt, creaking at the force. The contents within the vial was a green that shimmered around the edges like the sun hitting the sides of an emerald. A stamina inducing regeneration potion. A kick of adrenaline to get the blood flowing. “Giving you a drink.”
Down the fluid went smearing my lips with residue. The effects were subtle and slow to begin with only to fill my body with energy. Enough energy that made me feel like I could run circles around sabre cats, lions and even werewolves! My own substitute for the lack of magical abilities.
Without hesitation the dagger sliced down my hand causing me to grunt in discomfort. Serana’s pupils dilated as the fresh scent of blood filled her over sensitive nose, looking intently as the liquid oozed like a tiny river into the vial. A sound resonated from her, a low gutteral rumble. Was that her stomach or was she growling?
This was a small kindness to hold her over until we ran into an animal or unlucky bandit.
The silence that permeated between us was awkward to say the least. It felt long and drawn out on purpose like reality was playing some kind of cruel, idiotic joke. Reality or Sheogorath, one of the two. Fuck both to be honest.
“Xian,” my friend croaked, “you don’t… have to…”
“Yes I blatantly do,” I interrupted. “Stop lying. You are barely holding onto sanity at the moment. What will become of you in an hour? Two hours if we don’t find any animal or human or elf? What will happen to you in a few minutes?” I asked somberly. She didn’t answer, only gulping loudly. Her eyes went from locking on the vial to the dirt at her feet. I sighed heavily. “Serana, I have told you before that you are a friend. And I treat ‘em like family.”
Family. Hah, coming from the guy who ran away at sixteen. Maybe eighteen, it has been so long now. Was stupid of me to run away.
I shook the memories away not wishing to reminisce, or shed a tear, on my stupidity. The glass was nearly full by the time I was done. Peering to Serana she was trying to contain herself, rejecting her body screaming to easily steal the vial away. She followed each drop of blood as they fell down like rain. I could tell she was fighting the urge to drink from either the tap or my neck again.
Thank the Gods for that.
She looked away in mock determination. “X… Xi… you don’t need to…”
“Shut up,” I said. “You do not appear to have the willpower left to fight your urges. It is either my blood or one of the horses. This option wins on two fronts.” I chuckled at the grim joke, topping off the ‘drink.’ “It saves a horse and you get dragon blood. Stronger then that’ animal’s.” The beast sounded what could’ve been a counter argument. “Shut up.”
The flask, now outstretched to the vampire, wasn’t there long. First she stared at it then, in a movement that barely anyone besides a vampire could track, it was gone. Her eyes locked onto mine and a foreboding tremor to the pit of my stomach.
Serana gulped the blood down as quickly as she could from going into a craze, her tongue trying to get as far into the vial as possible for every last drop. She started to choke and coughed some droplets onto the grass beside her. The image of dew came to mind, gently caressing the blades of grass like an old friend or flame. With her drink finished she panted with effort and blood was running down her chin which was swiftly whipped and licked clean.
I couldn’t resist and laughed to myself remembering doing such a thing as a child. And my godson doing the same with his milk and berries. Sloppy little bastard, I mused. But that is why you love him.
Gazing to the vampiric Nord the effects of having a drink of blood commenced. The taught, wrinkly skin was softening up as youth rushed to her body for a second round. Her solemn cheeks puffed back to life returning her to the look of a young woman. Serana was being filled with life and it showed. Those eyes of hers lost several shades of red giving the impression of the sun peeking around the corner of the horizon.
In simplest terms she was beautiful again.
Again? She already- Ugh, just stop you fuck up.
It took a moment for Serana regain her composure and clean the red from her face. I did not notice her cocking an eyebrow at me. At first I should say; my mind was wandering elsewhere.
“What?” I asked.
“Why are you staring at me like that?” She narrowed her eyes until they were slits. Was Serana being playful or serious? Being unable to tell suddenly made me feel vulnerable. And uncomfortable.
“Just thinking.” Wasn’t lying. Multiple subjects were going through my mind like flashes of light: her thirst, vampirism, what effect my blood had, or was doing to her. “To tell you the truth I am surprised you aren’t drunk from my blood.”
“Should I be?” The expression she gave was mixed with wonder and worry.
“You tell me. I can drink ten meads before feeling an affect.”
“Fucking Oblivion Xian!”
“I haven’t had a drink since the Fort so it’s unlikely you’ll feel anything of that nature,” I assured her. When I was still in Cyrodill, drinking and whoring were my favorite pass times. With a life and profession like mine living is what you make of it and the day that comes afterward. It was a shame I didn’t grow out of either habit until two years ago. Probably around the time Tol hatched if I remembered correctly. Having a family away from family can really change a guy… “Feel better?”
“Still thirsty; it's not like this is broken or anything," she responded sarcastically lifting her swollen hand with a shrug. "However I can feel your blood giving me power. Making me feel… alive! What are you?”
“Here, give me," I quickly said holding out mine for her to take ahold. It took a moment until she decided on trusting me. Obviously broken and it would not surprise me if there was a fracture. With a simple press in the correct places Serana's joints popped into place causing her to gasp and grasp her wrist in momentary pain. "And as for what I am, Lights has already given a description of that.” A scoff escaped my lips before continuing. “And what I oughta be. Again I am the Dragonborn, a Nordic legendary hero blah, blah, blah.”
She shook the pain away from her hand, making a fist over and over to get the fingers working again; her necrotic magic was visibly pulsing, shrouds of black blanketed her hand, stealing away the pain. “That’s why your blood as so much power. Already I can feel the need to drink more of it,” she admitted embarrassingly.
“Well don’t get used to it,” I replied wrapping my hand in linen cloth. “Prefer living even if my life is boring.”
“First of all I wouldn’t drain you, just small doses.” The vampire smiled innocently. “In seriousness you only did this because you felt there was no other way.”
“Yes, that is correct.” I turned to the horses that were oblivious to how close one of their lives could have been forfeit. “Was thinking on killing one of them but figured we required both.”
“Did you really want to alternate between walking and riding one mare or ride with me?”
“Well…. not particularly.”
“My point.” I rubbed my eyes in exhaustion and looked towards the north. The great trees that marked the start of Kynesgrove were in view, great spinney tips reaching into the sky like jagged and uneven teeth. “Should be a few hours before we reach the inn at Kynesgrove. Windhelm is only a couple hours from there.”
Serana’s eyes instantly darted to the side catching movement in the nearby brush. Brown and white spotted ears peeked out from the green like a sore thumb. For her at least before the rabbit hopped along an invisible trail.
“Can you guess what is about to happen?”
“Yes I can,” I smiled.