Ill Met by MoonlightbyAnyaWVossand©
Notice – I don't own any of the rights to Skyrim. That honor belongs to Bethesda.
Serana, It's time for us to part ways.
Not permanently, I'd imagine, but there are some things that fated warriors are meant to do alone. I let my new friend know that I'll be back at the castle should I be needed, but I kind of doubt that I'll be needed immediately. I've been trapped in that sarcophagus for hundreds of years, and Skyrim is a very different place than it used to be. Because of this, I'm going to do a little sight-seeing.
As a Daughter of Cold Harbor, I know that I look a little different than mortal people. My eyes glow an catlike amber yellow wreathed in black, though if I stay out in the sun it isn't as noticeable. Unfortunately, this requires me to be out in the sunlight as I mingle with the populace. Some ignorant vampires refer to the living as cattle, but I think that's a heartless way of looking at things. What's the sense of referring to them as beasts, when my own people skulk around in hidden shadows? Not that I really skulk. A Daughter of Cold Harbor doesn't skulk, but she does keep a low profile.
After a bit of mingling I learn that I'm in Whiterun. It's a pretty enough town with a grand keep. I try to imagine a dragon being held in bondage there, its godlike wrath and strength chained by the tools of men. In my travels I've seen them flying about the mountains and over the open lands, assisting my new doom-fated friend to defeat one. Once its soul had been consumed and its bones lay bare in the moonlight, I caressed my fingertips over its ancient skull and pitied it. This creature had a name once, and its fury and cruelty may not have ultimately been its choice. Certainly I've been made to do questionable things in the service of my particular daedric prince.
By the time the sun is setting I've seen all of this city that I desire to. At the stables just outside the city walls I set out on the road leading west, passing by the ruin of a watch tower. A large skeleton lingers there at its base, left unburied and visible for the mockery of mortals to rejoice that their champion brought it down. Beyond that stands an ominous fort, with sentries prowling the parapets. I make it a point to remain unseen, traveling overland and leaving the road.
A bitingly cold wind begins to blow, carrying stinging drops of rain. Lighting flashes across the dark sky, the cloud cover obscuring the stars. I could continue to travel, but to do so in such conditions is inconvenient and uncomfortable, so I begin to look for a shelter. Soon enough I find a small hillock of upthrust rock, with a dark cleft buried within it. A faint glow seeps out – likely bandits or some other band of degenerates that no one will miss. Maybe I can feed from a few of them before I claim the shelter for my own tonight.
Once I slip into the dry warmth of the interior I can immediately smell the vermin reek of lesser vampires. Death clings to them strongly, barely making them more than draugr. Their hungers rule what's left of their common sense, leaving them stupid and feral in many cases. My hand moves to the elven dagger at my hip. I shouldn't need any other weapons to destroy these creatures. Yet I hear the sounds of struggling and battle, of screams and shrieks. Something has entered the cave before me. Perhaps this champion will succumb to my blade instead and provide me with a meal. I cannot feed from the lesser creatures here.
The first room I enter is grandiose but crude – a crypt sunk into the floor with stairs leading up to coffins stood up on their ends. Likely the vermin think themselves very stylish waking up in such a fashion, though the garbage littering the floor makes it plain that they have no sense of cleanliness. Cages meant for mortals hang from the ceiling, though they stand empty. Perhaps the hunting hasn't been so good of late, and that is not a pleasant thought. Starvation only inflames their powers, leaving them disgusting husks with far too much access to magics they can't handle.
While I quietly make my way over a floor littered with skeletal remains, bloody rags, and empty wine bottles, I notice a goods chest beneath a glowing torch. The vessel is locked, without any sign of attempted entry. Odd. Does this chest belong to the vermin, or those they appropriated the cave from? It really doesn't matter, but whatever the case all parties in here aren't interested in wealth. This battle raging further in is about something else.
One of the stairs leads up to a sarcophagus with a false back, and I walk through a narrow stone passageway that leads downwards towards a more finished living space. The stink of vermin is strongest here, and I presume that this is where they lurk most of the time. Smears of blood glisten on the floor and the walls, and the sounds of struggle cease just as I reach the mouth of the room. Torches glow, revealing another mortal cage, along with tables and chairs, and beds lining the wall. The bodies of the fallen creatures lay mangled on the floor, their flesh mutilated.
And then I hear it, the wet panting, and the slow thud of large feet stalking over the blood-soaked wooden planking. I smell it even before I see the lupine silhouette cast upon the wall ahead of its large, black body – a werewolf. I've not run into one of these before, and I haven't as much faith in my dagger as I did moments ago. Instead, I stay on the side of caution and change my shape to that of the Vampire Lord, a taller, demonic looking sea green monstrosity with wings, talons, and daedra-gifted power.
The magic of my transformation sends my typical clothing and supplies to another realm, and perhaps Molag Bal himself is looking through my possessions and having a laugh at my trinkets. Now I wear barely more than a belt with strips of cloth, with my now long hair bound in a braid behind my hunched back where a pair of batlike wings sprout. My feet, now quite similar in shape to the werewolf feasting on the fallen vampiric bodies, presses into the cold puddles of blood, black talons clicking on the floor and shifting the wolf's triangular ears back towards me.
It lifts its savage, snarling head and roars at me, and I screech back at it, wings flaring as I thrust a glowing pulse of magic at its body. The monster's life force feeds me slightly, and I can hear it growl in protest at the feeling of being leeched. It doesn't like the insult I've paid it and it launches itself towards me. I meet it in the center of the room, our large bodies crashing together as teeth and talons rip at one another. This creature is strong and unafraid, though it doesn't handle frustration well. When it thinks it's gotten me pinned within its hairy arms I turn into a flock of bats and fly away, coalescing back into a proper shape to strike it in the back and legs.
Outside the storm rages, and huge peels of thunder rumble the earth. I don't know how long it is that we fight, but to my dismay it becomes clear that we're both evenly matched. Even with all my tricks, this beast cannot be dropped quickly. It's infernally durable. I'm in a great deal of pain, and I know it is too, and rather than risk giving an opening that may result in my destruction, I become a flock of bats and head back up the stone passage. I have just enough strength to coalesce once more within one of the sarcophagi, my shape shrinking back down into the young, beautiful body I typically have. The one I was born with, that is.
Looking out from the crack of the casket's lid, I can see the werewolf drag itself on all fours up to this room. It's breathing is labored, and blood drips from its mouth. Yet as I watch, the black fur recedes, revealing a Nord woman with reddish brown hair and green stripes of war paint over her face. It's a beautiful face. For some reason I was expecting something covered in scars. Leather armor covers her torso while leaving her limbs mostly bare, and she remains on her hands and knees, sweaty and smeared in blood.
"Demon, I will find you. And then I'll kill and eat you" she rasps, her mouth pulling into a hateful sneer.
"I come into this cave, looking for shelter only to find you slaughtering vampires. You are the murderer here" I intone. Of course I meant to kill the vermin too, but she doesn't need to know that.
"Filth! Reveal yourself if you aren't a coward! We will finish this now." Her voice is deep and intense. Do all werewolves sound like this? It's not unpleasant.
I know that she's weak enough to be enthralled, and everything in my mind tells me to do it. It would be a kindness. I'd be saving her life. If I don't do it I'll have to slay her. But to take such a forceful spirit and dull it forever to serve at my whims? It would be like making a rock out of a soul gem. I can't do it. The woman unsteadily makes it to her feet, determined to finish her task even if her eyes know that this might be the end. Would Sovengard await someone like her, or would Hircine take her in as a faithful hound?
"You're ready to collapse" I call out to her. "As am I."
The woman frowns and coughs, spitting a bloody wad of saliva down to the dusty floor. "What of it?"
The door to my shelter creaks as I nudge it open a little more, my own fingers aching and covered with blood. "Can we call a truce? Until we're healed properly. And then you can do your best to slaughter me just like you wanted to."
I peek out of the coffin to see her standing at the bottom of the stone steps, her eyes narrowed. "I will slaughter you" she grumbles, but I know from her body language that she can't even make it up the stairs.
"I'm sure you will" I say, trying to make this an actual conversation. I really don't want to kill her at all. "What's your name? What name shall I give to the bards when I vanquish you?" I really shouldn't goad a werewolf, but I can't help it. It's fun.
"Bitch..." she snarls.
I tsk. "Really? That's the name that will live on in legend? The mighty warrior...Bitch." I open the casket a little more and take a seat at the bottom of it, leaning back against the moldy padding of the interior as I let her get a good look at me. See?
The woman huffs. "My name is Aela the Huntress" she announces, and I nod.
"That's a lovely name. Fitting for such a lovely woman. The bards will have much to sing about". Really, she's very pretty.
The woman groans and takes a seat on the steps, always keeping an eye on me. No worries, I'm not moving for a long while. I turn my head to listen to the storm howling outside. "And you? Vampire...do you maggots even have names?"
"I'm not like them." I can't really hide my disgust. It's like comparing altmer to falmer. I know which one I'd rather bed.
"Clearly..." she growls, nudging a wine bottle with her foot. "You still haven't answered my question."
"I'm Serana. It's not a pleasure to meet you, though under different circumstances it might have been."
There's a moment of silence, the snapping crackle of the burning torches loud in this cavernous space. Eventually she says "I was not expecting a creature like you to have a name so..."
"Human?" I offer.
Oh, well, that's nice of her. I smile and incline my head. "In most cases I'm very pleasant and well-mannered. Are you?"
"I can imagine. Though that's a snappy little outfit you have on. Do you moonlight as a dancer? I'm assuming men still pay for..."
"Would you kindly shut up?" she grumbles, getting unsteadily to her feet to examine the floor for something. Wine bottles are all picked up, examined, and discarded, and I can see her getting more and more irritated until she hauls herself back up to the stone passage to head back to the room with the wooden planks. Upon her back I notice a bow and quiver. I'll have to be careful to avoid annoying her so much that I'm shot before she's well enough to battle me again. I'd hate to ruin that for her.
Soon I grow bored of sitting in a moldy coffin and listening to the rumble of the storm outside, so with a groan I head down the stairs, then up the other stairs to the passage. Aela is looking around the bodies, all of them with their hearts already devoured from their chest. And she called me a monster. It isn't that I don't eat mortal flesh – I just do it with a bit more class. "What are you looking for?"
"Water" she snaps, then sits on one of the cots that escaped the whirlwind of destruction.
"What, to drink?" It's been ages since I've had water that I've almost forgotten what it's for.
"Yes, idiot. And to wash. It isn't good to be covered with such a potent stink."
I can't really disagree with her. Most of the gore on her is from the vermin, who don't always maintain the best hygiene. In a shadowy corner I find a cast iron pot and haul it over to a portion of this room with a rocky floor. It's not hard to find kindling...everywhere...and I gather up some and tuck it around the base of the pot. A torch offers its fire to get the small blaze going, and into the pot I shoot a bolt of ice, summoned with my hand. Another one is enough to fill it, which is good given that I'm too tired to conjure any more of them. Both chunks of ice slowly begin to melt and drip into the bottom of the pot, and I hear the cot squeak as Aela slowly gets up and walks over to my setup.
"Why would you bother?" she asks, clearly confused.
I blink. "Don't...you want to get better? To destroy me?" Honestly, wasn't she just going on about that?
Aela looks at me as if I'm diseased, and then finds a small metal cup to pull out melted water to wash herself with. I just watch, curious, and as she unfastens her armor she smirks. "Have you never seen a woman naked before?"
"Well..." I'd so rather not get into a recounting of the ritual that made me a vampire. I really didn't want to get to know my mother like that. "...yes and no. Didn't I see you naked? As a werewolf?"
"I had on a pelt of fur. It was different." She turns her back to me and begins scrubbing at her skin to get the smears of red off, leaving tanned, fit flesh to glisten in the firelight. I suppose I'm not all that clean either, but I think I'll save my bathing for later. Though...I don't know. I guess taking off the wrist gauntlets, robe, corset and boots would be good. To clean them, of course.
We sit by the fire to keep warm, and while it might seem odd that I'm doing so, it should probably be mentioned that I don't really need warmth. Or air. But I like having such things. It gives a semblance of being mortal again, which had it's positives as well as negatives. I've found some cleanish rags (read, not too blood-soaked) to wipe the travel dirt and blood from my leathers, and I'm doing this with my back against the stone wall when I see Aela staring at me. Her eyes are reflective like a dog's or, I suppose, a wolf's, and she just won't stop looking at me.
"What?" I ask, feeling uneasy.
"You really aren't like the creatures I killed. What vampire cares about its armor?"
I suppose you could call this armor, maybe. "I do. I've not lost my reason. Those...things you killed. And ate, I might add..." I say, gesturing at her with my rag "...contracted a disease, and it rotted their mind. I...well. I'm different. I'm very old."
Aela grunts. "How old?"
I narrow my eyes. "That's a rude thing to ask."
She smirks a little. "I'm a rude person. One doesn't make it to the inner circle of the Companions by being nice."
"Wait, the Companions?" I ask. She nods, and I close my eyes, hearkening back to a conversation I had with my doom-fated friend. "You just got a new leader of the Companions, didn't you?"
Aela's smile fades. "Yes. A young blood."
I tilt my head. "Also known by a few as the Dragonborn?"
That makes her blink. "You know the Dragonborn?"
"Well of course. We've been traveling together for a few weeks now." I shrug my shoulders, and continue to rub out a stain from my boots. "We parted ways tonight in Whiterun, and I decided to explore a little before heading back our base of operations, in Fort Dawnguard."
Aela clearly needs a minute to process this. "So...if I am to understand this correctly...you are the traveling companion of the head of the Companions, and you are both involved with the Dawnguard. Vampire hunters. And yet you're a vampire..."
I sigh. "It's a long story, Aela. But...yes. I don't want to hurt anyone, or spread a plague over the world. I just want to live in peace with my powers, and put a stop to these feral...things...terrorizing everyone else."
She frowns and looks at the fire. "So why did you attack me?" she finally asks, confused.
"I've never seen a werewolf before. I didn't know if you had sense. And you were killing other vampires; I was worried that I was next."
"All you had to do was say something."
"Really? And that would have stopped you from, oh, I don't know, slaughtering me and pulling my heart from my chest to eat it?"
We glower at each other for a moment, and then Aela says quietly "The Dragonborn smells strangely. I've never wanted to bring it up."
I lift my brows. "I think it's a rash."
We glance at each other, and then we start to snicker. Don't misunderstand me – the Dragonborn is brave and accomplished, but not a frequent bather. Living in one's armor should only be taken to a very definite extreme before adventures should be strictly outdoors and in the open air at all times. Preferably with a breeze.
"Aela, would it be a great deal of trouble to ask that we not fight each other to the death? I really don't want to hurt you, or be hurt by you, any more tonight." I plead with my eyes. I mean, honestly, if I were at my best I could take her without a problem. Maybe. But now it just seems like too much trouble to keep testing our strength.
She picks at her tooth with a fingernail, taking her time to think about it. "I suppose...you're an asset to the Dawnguard and to the Dragonborn. Fine. Once the storm abates and the sun rises we'll part ways, and I'll tell of our glorious struggle in this cave."
She sounds so entirely officious, and I set my things aside, resting my hands in my lap. "Aela, seriously...don't you ever relax?"
"I relax. Frequently. I spar with the other companions, and I hunt down bandits and undead creatures when I feel like it."
I don't think she gets the point. "No, I mean...that all sounds like work."
Aela frowns. "I don't..." Her head turns to the side, and she mumbles "I don't like singing or dancing."
"What about, well...keeping pleasurable company?" Since when have I become so prudish? I suppose being celibate for a few centuries will do that. It's at this moment that I realize that I've really and truly been celibate for several centuries. My god, I hope it all still works down there.
The woman lifts a brow. "That is private."
"Yeah, well...maybe you should keep pleasurable private company a lot more often than you do now. You are far too uptight."
"I'm a mercenary and a werewolf. We aren't a relaxed and easy-going people" she says with a little smile. Yet she shrugs and sighs. "But I see your point. I'm...pent up. Using my strength isn't always satisfactory. But honestly, even among Nords, it's not common to want to bed a woman who can snap your arm off. And who frequently wants to."
I flick a bit of grit from my leather pants, shrugging lightly as I say "Have you considered looking for a woman?"
Aela laughs, though there's an edge to it that's self-deprecating. "Oh yes. That has not always turned out so successfully. The women of Whiterun aren't interested in such things. Not even that Imperial blacksmith."
"Oh, I think I saw her during my stay there. She's a very handsome sort of woman. Good with a hammer."
The werewolf just gives me a look. "Yes, I know. I can only imagine what those hands are capable of. Sadly though, she's devotedly married to her business partner, the lucky man." Her eyes travel over me slowly, and I lift a brow this time, resting my folded arms on my knees. After a while, she says "You're a little like her, but far more refined."