Solitude had changed from having a quiet night to one full of cries of agony and desperation. The vampires and their thralls numbered a small few (12 in total in fact), taking their time with the guards that stood in their way.
“We need to spread out and thin their numbers,” I said over the yells and charges of the Solitude guard. The only weapons I had on me were the daggers on my boots.
“Of course we do! I’ll take the crowd over here, by the main gate!” Serana brought her arms up, electricity flowing through one and her dagger in the other.
“Fine by me! Just make sure to tell those you save to run to the inn!” A guard dropped dead to my feet; a fatal shot to the throat sent him to Sovngarde. His bow was still in his grasp and the arrow quiver strapped on his back. I snatched the arrows from the quiver along with the bow. It looked cheap and felt even worse in my grip. “Manufactured piece of shit,” I spat.
Serana looked to me, a concerned look in her eyes. “I’ll be fine, Serana,I promise! Just help the guards kill and save!” With that I didn’t wait for a reply and charged for the houses in Solitude. I could only guess my vampire companion went to help the guards and civilians.
Blood and death were what I saw and smelt while running towards the urban district. The panicked wails and screams of women, men and children filled the night. The grunts and orders of guardsmen tried their best to call over the ever growing sound.
Four vampires and four thralls were running amok, killing whatever tried to move against or away from them. The guard were putting up a valiant fight, but were no match for the magic that the vampires unleashed upon them. Lightning Bolt and Drain Life either cut down the men or brought them to an inch of their lives.
An arrow was fired from my bow, hitting a thrall and sending his body to the ground. Maybe this isn’t so bad after all, I thought.
The creatures and their puppets looked over in surprise before baring their teeth in anger. “Get him! Kill him,” a vampire commanded with a point of his finger. The three remaining thralls all ran at me, giving their own type of war cry with weapons held high.
Taking another arrow, which were all being held in my left hand, the next steel projectile missing the target. I cursed to myself, hissing that the bow was to blame.
A battleaxe came down in a cleave and hit the stone where I had previously stood. Before the bow could even go across his head one of the other hypnotised warriors swung his sword in a horizontal slash. I almost did not have enough time to duck and smack him in the head with my temporary bow.
Blood sprayed to the right as the thrall slightly spun in place, revealing an opening to plunge an arrow into the back of his neck. Without even a groan or grunt of pain the human fell dead to the ground.
The axe-wielding thrall took his chance and began a deadly arc for my head.
I shouted,“FIEM!” The power of the Thu’um enveloped me in a ethereal veil, making me look transparent. The edge of the weapon did go through my neck, but it did absolutely nothing. The Khajiit looked in confusion and frustration as I went for a dagger. He went for another attack but was too slow. My blade disappeared to the hilt in the cat-man's temple as the Shout wore off.
Their masters merely looked with fury in their hungry eyes before unleashing all the Lightning Bolts that they could. Running for cover was the best decision to take during that attack but I did not make it unscathed. Several scorch marks littered my armor causing my body to jolt and twitch against my will. I’ll never get used to being shocked with lightning…
With the creatures so focused on me they did not notice the still hardy guards standing up and tackling them to the ground.
“Citizens, run!! While it is still clear,” one of the men shouted. Despite the injuries they had received earlier they were doing very well at keeping the vampires on the ground.
Taking the opportunity, I came out of cover and headed for the guards. Something was beginning to gnaw at me but had no idea what. “Head for the inn,” I added. “It’s safe there!!” The civilians came from their hiding places and made a break for it, gasping for air from their earlier crying. I recognized Svarii and her mother and father before they vanished from sight., silently hoping they would make it to the building. Unfortunately the night was still young.
One of the men looked to me and instantly spoke. “Dragonborn! Thank the Gods you’re here with us! Would you please kill these things killing our people?! Starting with these ones here!” With what strength he could muster, the Nord warrior lifted the vampire’s head by their hair before slamming its head into the stone. A low grunt was heard shortly after.
“With pleasure.” Withdrawing the second dagger from my boot the three vampires held underfoot were disposed of, quickly and humanely. There wasn’t time to spare to give them a longer death. Blood dripped from the deadly tips of the weapons before being wiped clean.
The guardsmen all let out a pleased sigh that their struggle was finally over. dropping their swords to the ground.
“How many of you can walk?” I asked, ready to get them out of their predicament.
“I know I can. If these three cannot, we’ll help each other,” the leader of the group stated confidently. “Don’t worry about us either. You just get the rest of these creatures and send them back to Oblivion!”
“You read my mind,” I replied with a smile. “Take care not to be killed heading for the inn! See you four when this is all done!” Taking my leave, I ran back for the main district of the city. The sense of foreboding was growing worse and worse.
Just be alright, Serana.
The sounds of magic and screams of innocents filled the once peaceful night in Solitude; my own cries and magic filled the echoes. Running in to meet the opposition, my own Lightning spell marked the flesh of the attackers black.
Whatever citizens were left in this particular area, they were either dead or running for their lives. Trying my best, I worked my magic to distract the attackers long enough for them to escape.
“Run for the inn,” I shouted when a small group had an opening available. “I’ll make sure they won’t get you!!”
Without a single word the small gathering fled for their lives.
The wind was suddenly knocked out of my lungs as a thrall tackled me to the group. Momentarily dazed, I would have been killed if an arrow didn’t pierce his throat. Rotating as best I could I saw a guard nocking another arrow and taking aim at another enemy.
“Don’t mention it!” His second arrow flew and hit a vampire in its chest. “Now get up and help with the rest of them!”
“Don’t have to tell me twice!”
Grabbing my Elven dagger I ran for the vampire that the guard had just shot and let loose a stream of electricity. She rose an arm in order to defend her face from serious harm, but also blocked her vision. My blade easily worked its way into the vampire’s side, making her scream in pain. Dodging the punch that came forth I returned the favor and hit her jaw as hard as I could. The bone now hung by only a few strands of meat.
Her wails of agony surpassed the sound of fighting in the background; blood flowing freely onto the stonework at our feet. Her suffering ended as another arrow from the guard cut through her forehead.
One of the thralls began to scream and flail about as his connection to the vampire was suddenly severed. His iron blade nearly hitting several guards as they tried to subdue him before succeeding in killing one of them. When the right opening presented itself they cut him down where he stood.
Making haste towards the guard I gave him my thanks for the second arrow to the vampire.
“Where did you get that strength to break her jaw?”
Oh shit, I thought.
A miracle happened.
Oh thank goodness, Xian.
The black Argonian was running, an arrow ready to be fired from his bow. He was aiming at… me!
I turned slightly and instantly followed his instructions. Another thrall was getting ready to take my head off. Thankfully, even with a bow he’s not used to, Xian was able to stop the Nord. With a grunt my dagger plunged into his chest, ending the thrall’s life.
“You two alright?” he asked the guard and myself.
“I’m fine, Dragonborn.”
“So am I!”
“Good, because we still have two more vampires to deal with! And if you can, keep one alive! This one has questions!”
“Got it,” I replied before heading off for one of the remaining threats. Even though I’ve only known the Argonian for a couple of days, I knew he would keep his target alive.
Rounding a corner from a building, I came across a little boy being cornered against a stone walkway. It had what looked like a table and grindstone in the far corner and a block in the center. It was only later I learned that that’s where public executions took place.
“P-please,” the child begged, tears streaming down his eyes, “I want my mommy!” The fear I heard in his voice nearly broke my heart.
“Well, little boy, I’m afraid it is far too late to find your ‘mommy’,” the vampire replied, taking a step forward. The child tried to lift himself over and onto the walkway only to succeed in fumbling for a grip. “I do so love it when prey tries to flee. Gives the chase a bit more… excitement.”
“Get away from him! Now!” Stepping forward in torchlight that illuminated the area, I revealed my presence to the vampire. His armor looked noble-like with black pieces of leather and a cross brooch on the chest.
Just like what the court wears at home.
“Hmm, a new meal presents herself to me,” the Breton said, turning to face me. His eyes locked onto my own and he became hesitant. “No, it-it can’t be…”
“Child, run!” I yelled to him, hoping he would listen. With trepidation he did as he was told. “To the inn! I’m sure your mother is there waiting for you!”
“Not so fast, boy!” The man ran at full speed in an attempt to grab the child.
I did the same, intercepting him with greater speed; my dagger and magic were at the ready. “You will not lay a finger on him!”
“You are one of us,” he hissed. “Why save them?!”
“Simple: I don’t hurt innocent people!”
He growled, showing his pointed teeth and drawing his axe. “If you will not get out of my way, then I’ll just kill you so you won’t disturb me!”
The lethal axe swept downward in a cleave, the vampire’s strength and speed making the strike that much faster and deadlier. Thankfully I had greater speed and power compared to him. Getting clear of the blow I retaliated with my own. The cut alongside his face bleed freely, making all his features more prominent and terrifying. Almost blood-crazed.
“A nice trick, but I will not be stopped from a simple cut.” His axe came in for a diagonal slash.
It was stopped by my dagger, but the force was jarring. “Then I’ll have to do more than a ‘simple cut’!” With a quick jab, my hand enveloped as much of his face as possible before letting loose a shock spell. “How’s that for more?”
My answer: a scream of pain.
The Breton tried to pull with everything he had but was unable to remove my hand. I amplified the power for the briefest of moments and his wailing intensified. It finally became quiet when there was a schlirk sound. My dagger came back with blood that dripped from its point.
Putting the weapon away I turned to find the human boy still close by. His brown eyes continued to pump out tears. Poor thing was really scared. Deep down, I felt I had caused even more terror for him to see.
I didn’t take a step towards him out of fear of making him even more terrified.
“Are… are you alri-” My eyes widened when the child charged into a hug around my waist. He was sobbing so much the boy couldn’t even speak. Kneeling down, I wrapped my arms around him, hands patting his back as he let out his tears. “Shhh, child,” I spoke as softly and sweetly as I could. “It’s alright. He can’t hurt you or anyone anymore. I promise.”
“Th-thank you,” he said after calming down a little.
I gave him a comforting smile. “Of course, little one. Do you want me to help you find your mother?”
He gave a quick nod.
“Alright, let’s find your mother.” Standing, I took ahold of his shaking hand and walked towards the inn.
The walk there was quiet. I guess that means the city is safe then, I thought. It got me to wondering as to why vampires would so brazenly attack a city like Solitude. It didn’t make any sense. But there was the one chance that my father possibly wasn’t done looking for his daughter. I shook the thought from my mind, not wanting to dawdle on such a matter.
As we drew ever closer to the inn angry shouts began to pierce the quiet.
The spectacle taking place in front of the inn was a sight to see. Xian was interrogating the only surviving vampire rather violently. One of his daggers was slowly being pressed into his shoulder.
“Answer vampire!” He plunged the rest of the blade into the joint making the Nord yell out in pain. Xian drew his other dagger from a boot. “Or the other arm becomes useless as well.”
A woman’s voice had everyone, except Xian, turn to see who spoke. A Redguard lady in a blue and yellow outfit and black hair ran up with tears forming in the corners of her eyes. Behind her a balding Nord with sideburns followed in the same manner. From the outfit he wore the man had to have been the city’s blacksmith.
“Mom! Dad!” Kayd ran right into his mother’s arms and hugged her with everything he had. All three embraced each other in loving, heartfelt arms. I looked at them with a smile before eventually turning away. Wish I could have that kind of family bond again…
My eyes went wide. That wasn’t Xian’s voice; it was the vampire’s.
“I knew it was you, Serana!” He smiled and laughed. “Harkon’s description of you matches perfectly.” I visibly flinched at my father’s name, drawing the attention of everyone. Even Xian looked my way.
“That’s twice I’ve heard that name,” Xian replied. “Who is Harkon?”
“Answer. Now.” His voice became low, looming and menacing.
The Argonian’s second dagger disappeared into the vampire’s shoulder and he hollered.
With blood oozing from his body, the Nord spoke through gasps of pain. “Harkon is… Lord of his vampire court. And he… wants Serana back.”
“What is she to him?” he hissed.
“I’m his daughter.”
The crowd of people fell quiet.
“You’re… one of them,” a citizen said.
“That does not make me like them,” I stated in defense. This was going to get ugly real quick.
“Yeah right. Who’s to say you won’t kill us while we sleep?” The group of people, and several guards, voiced their agreement.
“You’re a danger to all of us, vampire.”
“No,” I pleaded. “I’m not-”
The angry voice that burst through the clamors of the people was Xian’s.
I looked to him in shock as he continued. “All of you, shut up! Think for one damn moment! If she wanted to, don’t you think Serana would have done what you all claim by now?” The rising moon’s light cast the shadows of the dead to eerie lengths, adding to the already tense air. “Do you?!”
“She could be biding her time!”
“I know for a fact that is a lie!”
“Leave.” A calm guard’s voice spoke amidst the yelling. It was the same man that helped me against the woman vampire.
“Excuse me?” Xian still had the vampire pinned against the wall; he continued to squirm beneath his grip.
“Leave the city and only return when the vampire is not in your company.”
“This one is not abandoning her to the wilds of Skyrim.”
“Then leave with her.” He turned to look at me. “Though she has proven herself to me that does not mean everyone else agrees.”
I started to bite my lip, refusing to look at him.
“Serana.” Xian, taking his daggers from the Nord’s shoulders, walked up to me.
“If that’s what it takes so the city doesn’t kill me in my sleep, I’ll go.”
“I am coming with you,” he said sternly.
“Don’t,” I turned to face him. “You can still stay at the inn.”
“This one is not going to allow you to be alone.”
“Why?” I was very curious now.
“Because I just won’t, Serana. I do not want to leave you alone and in unfamiliar territory.”
With a sigh of defeat, he had my answer. “I will be right back. I have several things to acquire first.” Heading back for the inn, Xian turned to the vampire on the ground and then to the guards. “He is all yours.”
“Right. We’ll take him to Castle Dour’s dungeon.” And with that, the guards took the vampire away.
Xian emerged from the inn with his bow, quiver and right gauntlet. He also had a large black furred bag strapped to his back. An axe hung along the side along with a torch and a few bottles of potions.
“Are you ready?” He asked me in a soft voice. Something very different from the usual him.
“Yeah. Let’s go.” Making sure my Elder Scroll was still on my back I put my hood up and walked with him to the main gate.
As we treaded closer, three figures started to form just before the exit. I recognized them pretty quickly: Kayd with his mother and father.
“Miss?” The woman spoke reaching a hand for me.
“Yes?” Looking at her I didn’t see a glimpse of fear or hate in her face or eyes. There was only joy.
“Thank you for saving my little Kayd. Just.. thank you so much.”
She started to cry softly before her husband placed a comforting hand on her shoulder. “Sayma.”
“I’m alright, Beirand. I swear.”
“Miss,” came the voice of the child.
“Hey, Kayd,” I responded with a smile. “Doing better?”
“Yes. I wanted to say thank you myself for saving me from…”
“From that bad man.”
My grin got even bigger. “It was my pleasure to save a brave young man like you.” Kayd smiled at my remark.
“We wanted to personally thank you before you left,” Beirand added. “If you ever return and need anything, do not hesitate to ask us.”
“Right, we’d like to help however we can.”
“If I’m ever allowed in Solitude again I may take you two up on your offer,” I said nodding to them. “Ready Xian?”
With the waves of the thankful family we departed from the city.
Xian started to set up came while I sat on a rock going over the event of the night. To hear the people call me blood sucker, a monster, it tore deep into me. Was I truly what they called me? No, I thought shaking my head. I’m no monster. I don’t kill for fun like others of my kind!
“Something is bothering you,” Xian said after putting the final log into the stonewell.
His voice returned me to reality. “Sort of.”
He let out a sigh. I knew that he knew what was gnawing at me. “Serana, don’t let what they said get to you.”
“And why shouldn’t I?” I retorted with a slight frown.
“Because that is not who you are.”
“How do you know who I am?”
His silver eyes looked down to the ground and then back to me before shaking his head. “This one does not.”
“Then I rest my case,” I said bitterly.
Xian knelt beside me, placing a hand on my shoulder. “You have no case to rest because you have not revealed anything of who you are, besides your name, to me. You know that.”
I sighed, looking towards the ground. “I know, Xian. But why are you concerning yourself with me?”
“There are two reasons. The first is because you asked me to get you back home. Something I intend to do. I always fulfill my contracts and to me this is one.”
“So that’s what’s keeping you by my side? A business deal?”
“No. Not entirely.”
“Alright,” I said meeting his gaze. “What is your second reason?”
“I already consider you a friend in the short time we’ve met.”
“I… You…” I couldn’t believe what I just heard. My hands started to tremble. With what I had no idea.
“No one deserves to be alone. Despite what you think of me, I am a caring person.” He looked into my now twitching eyes. “You do not have to be alone anymore.”
Holding back a sob, I couldn’t help myself and wrapped my arms around him. I was able to hold back the tears from what he said, thank the Gods. What I didn’t expect was for him to hug me back.
“It’s alright, Serana. It’s alright.”
“Why even consider being my friend, Xian?” I hugged him a little harder.
“Because unlike the others of Skyrim, you’re willing to try and talk to me. And for that, I thank you.”
All I could do was calmly breath to steady my emotions.
“I know you do not need to but do you want something to eat?”
“After everything that’s happened, I… I would, yes,” I answered, looking back up to him.
“Alright, I’ll be back in a few minutes. Solitude’s harbor not far from here.”
“But we’re not-”
“Allowed in the city, I know,” he interrupted. “But they can’t get me if they can’t see me.” Breaking the hug he began to remove his gauntlets, boots and chest piece and placed them by the fire. “Don’t need them getting wet.”
“Uhh…” I looked away embarrassed.
“Sorry,” he replied before walking towards the harbor. “There’s flint in that bag. Use it and a dagger to start the fire, alright?”
“F-fine.” Complying I rummaged through the pack and retrieved the flint and drew my Elven dagger. After several failed attempts the logs started to go up in the sparks that showered over them.
I didn’t have to wait too long before Xian returned with several fish in his hands.
The fire roasted fish tasted wonderful. It had been too long since I had regular food. And despite not needing sleep, I couldn’t resist and sleep the worries from the night away. Before letting sleep take me, I looked to Xian’s sleeping form in his bedroll and smiled.
Thank you, Xian.