The brothers stood in front of the carriage, still not aware that Arthius was aboard. Arthius cursed to himself knowing that he should have expected this. Vilkas and Farkas were probably travelling by foot and checking every carriage on their way. Arthius looked at the sleeping Serana, who was sitting in the corner. He had to think of something quick. He reached into their satchel of potions and brought out two potions of invisibility. He looked at Serana and carefully but quickly muffled her with his hand and dragged her down to the floor with him. Serana's eyes shot open as her breath quickened. Arthius silently shushed her as he gave her the potion.
"Greetings, we need to inspect your carriage. Official companion business" Arthius heard Vilkas speak. He quickly popped open his potion and began to drink it.
"I can assure you that there's nothing wrong with my carriage" the man said grumpily.
"We are searching for a man. Brown hair, pale, Nord" Farkas spoke with a gruff.
"You mean him?" the driver asked as he pointed back to the seats. Just as he did this, Arthius muffled himself with his tunic as he shouted.
"RAAN MIR TAH"
The shout was silent, but the effect still worked. Nearby, a deer began to noisily stomp and jerk around as it ran through the forest, getting the attention of the three men. Vilkas quickly inspected the carriage, seeing nothing.
"After them!" Farkas shouted as he charged into the woods. Vilkas stormed after his brother but stopped at the tree line, as he looked back and eyed the carriage. He then heard shouting in the distance and rushed after his brother. Arthius waited in silence as he lay next to Serana. The carriage driver was now cursing, thinking that Arthius and Serana snuck away without payment. As he sat back down, Arthius covered the driver's mouth as he whispered to him.
"I will give you triple what I owe you if you continue. Do not speak of this to anyone or I swear on the divines, I will kill you" Arthius said as he released the driver. The driver gulped slightly as he shifted in his seat. He then cracked the reigns as he continued the carriage down the road. Arthius lied back down next to Serana as the effects of the potion faded. He looked to Serana with a smile as she sighed. Arthius grinned at her as he pulled her into him. She rested her head on his chest as they lied in the carriage. They stayed in silence for a few hours as they approached Morthal.
"Arthius?" Serana asked.
"What…I'm concerned with what will happen once you're cured" she said nervously. Arthius looked over at her with a raised eyebrow.
"How so?" he asked.
"I mean, do you think…" Serana trailed off.
"I just- I don't know how I feel about it" Serana continued. Arthius shifted himself to face her.
"If this isn't what you want, tell me and we'll act as though this never happened" Arthius said as he placed his hand on her cheek. Serana looked up at him with a blank face, before kissing him.
"It's what I want" Serana said with a smile. Arthius kissed her forehead before settling back down. Serana lied down again, grateful that Arthius couldn't see through her lie. They arrived in Morthal later that evening. Arthius paid the man as he promised and a bit extra for taking them somewhere beside a hold. Serana looked around the town, feeling uncomfortable with the swamp surrounding it.
"Not much of a sight, is it?" Serana said as Arthius approached.
"No, not a good reputation either" Arthius said as he looked around.
"There was almost a vampire uprising here, luckily a great hero was able to stop it" Arthius said as he crossed his arms.
"Who was the hero?" Serana asked.
"Me" Arthius said with a smirk. He smiled as he received the rough slap across the face from Serana. He quickly walked ahead to avoid Serana's swings as they continued through the town. They soon stopped in front of a home as Arthius glanced at Serana. She nodded at him before he knocked on the door. A young girl opened it and looked at the two before glancing back.
"Falion, there are some vampires at the door" she said loudly. Arthius and Serana's eyes shot open as they worried if someone had heard the girl. An older Redgaurd dressed in blue robes quickly pulled the girl away from the door ad he looked at the visitors.
"Ah, Arthius. Good to see you again" the man spoke, gesturing them inside.
"Hello Falion" Arthius smiled as he walked in. Falion smiled at Serana, nodding before she entered the home. Falion closed the door behind them and gestured towards a few chairs. Arthius simply crossed his arms as Serana stood beside the wall with her hood on.
"So, what brings you here?" Falion smiled.
"Well, as you can tell-"Arthius began.
"Yes, you're a vampire. Why did you not cure yourself when it was still in its early state?" Falion asked.
"Because I didn't contract it from a normal vampire" Arthius said as he nodded towards Serana. She looked up at him with her arms crossed, feeling a bit nervous. Falion looked at Serana before looking back at Arthius.
"Friend or foe?" he asked plainly.
"Friend" Arthius stated. Falion nodded before smiling back at Serana. He then held out his hand at her.
"Falion, pleasure to meet you Serana" Falion said. Serana shook his hand, giving him a nod. Falion turned back to Arthius.
"Serana is a daughter of Coldharbour" Arthius said. Falion's eyes shot open as he turned back to Serana.
"So, that means-"Falion began.
"I'm very old. Yes" Serana said. Arthius smiled at her before Falion turned back to him.
"So, you're trying to get cured are you?" Falion asked. Arthius nodded at him before turning to Serana. She was looking down so he didn't get a glance at her. Arthius turned back to Falion with a second nod.
"Alright, do you have the black soul gem?" Falion asked. Arthius nodded as he reached into his satchel and pulled out a black soul gem and handed it to Falion.
"Alright, meet me at dawn. The same spot as last time" Falion nodded as he walked out the door. Serana looked up at Arthius with a raised eyebrow.
"Last time?" Serana asked.
"Another time Serana" Arthius said plainly.
"We should get a room while we wait, it'll be a long night" Arthius said as he walked to the door. He held it open for Serana as she walked out.
"Pleasure to see you again Agni" Arthius smiled at the young girl.
"You too Mr. Arthius" she smiled back at him while she worked at the alchemy table. Arthius walked out the door to Serana.
"It's strange how such a young girl is so fascinated in alchemy" Arthius said with a shrug.
"You are aware that I was fascinated with alchemy when-"she stopped when she saw the smirk on Arthius' face. She then punched him in the jaw, making Arthius stumble. He looked up smiling at Serana, making her grin.
"You're trying a bit too hard to be hit" Serana smiled as she shook her head.
"Or maybe I just enjoy the feel of your hands" Arthius said with a smirk. Serana raised her hand once more but her seriousness broke as she leaned over laughing. Arthius pulled her into him as he wrapped his arm around her waist as they walked down the path. They soon arrived at the inn, which was pretty empty other than a drunk and the owner. Arthius dropped a few septims in front of the man at the counter.
"A room for the day please" Arthius smiled. The man gave Arthius a polite smile before nodding to a door. Arthius walked over to the door and held it open as Serana entered the room. Arthius entered after her and closed the door before turning to her.
"We have some time-"Arthius was then muffled by Serana's lips. She held him against the door as she tossed her hood aside. Arthius smiled as he broke the kiss and pressed his forehead to hers, staring into her eyes. Arthius could see the hunger in her eyes as she pressed her lips to his again. Arthius wrapped his arms around her waist as he pulled her into him. He began kissing her neck passionately, getting a moan from Serana. Arthius thrived at this as he nuzzled her neck, loving the smoothness of her skin. Serana smiled as she held his head there, as she began playfully biting his ear. Arthius began to move around the room, keeping Serana with him. He sat down on a chair as Serana positioned herself atop of him. She straightened up, making Arthius stare up at her. She held his head in both hands as she looked down at him as she bit her bottom lip. She then slapped him across the face, getting a playful growl from him. Serana chucked as she moved his head around in different directions as Arthius just looked at her, as she was wearing her all too familiar blank face. Arthius stared into her eyes as she moved his head around. He was almost entranced as she played with his head, just staring into her eyes. Serana slowly leaned in and kissed him passionately, the hunger and lust now gone. Just the love she had for Arthius was what was showing. Arthius closed his eyes, as did Serana as they kissed in silence. The only sound being their lips parting occasionally. Arthius reached up and undid her hair, getting a large smile from Serana. Arthius opened his eyes slowly, not wanting to disturb the moment as he just stared at the woman in front of him. He lost his breath as she slowly opened her eyes and stared into his. Arthius slowly placed his palm on her cheek as he smiled at her. Serana held his hand there as she closed her eyes, making a few tears fall. Arthius wiped them away before leaning in and kissing her cheeks. She looked up at him with a smile.
"We actually have time to just…sit back and not worry about anything" she said as she ran her hand through his hair. Arthius brought her to him, nuzzling her neck. Serana kissed the top of his head as she nuzzled it. Arthius leaned back slightly, bringing Serana with him. They then heard a loud crack, making look at one another. Then the back leg of the chair snapped in half, sending them falling back once more. Serana toppled off of Arthius as he hit his head on the floor. Serana landed on her side before rolling onto her back, the top of her head almost measuring to Arthius'. She turned to him with a large grin. She found it amusing how he appeared to be upside down from this angle.
"Gods Damnit!" Arthius shouted. Serana laughed as she reached over and put her palm on his cheek.
"Or…I suppose we could just lie back and not worry about anything" she said grinning. Arthius looked over at her, feeling a bit annoyed. It faded as soon as he saw her smiling at him, calming his every sense.
"I love you" Arthius said.
"I love you too" Serana grinned. Arthius grabbed her arm and quickly pulled her to him, placing her on top of him as she laughed. They were soon sitting on the bed, Arthius' back against the wall as Serana sat on his lap and leaning into him. She rested the back of her head back on his shoulder as she stared into his eyes. Arthius was twirling her hair with his finger as serana nuzzled into him.
"It's almost time" Arthius said calmly. Serana looked down for a moment before looking up at him. She grinned widely at him then, placing a large kiss on his lips.
"Then we should be going" Serana said as she slowly rose, beginning to fix her hair. Arthius smiled before rising and gathering his armor, sword, and shield. They departed after getting a wink from the innkeeper, to which Serana scowled at. They made their way through the swamp to find a circle of columns with a large platform at the center. Falion was waiting beside it, crossing his arms. Arthius approached with a nod to Falion.
"Let us begin" Falion said as Arthius stepped in the center. Serana stood a bit away from it behind Falion, not trying to interfere in any way. They both waited patiently until Falion began.
"I call upon Oblivion realms. The home of those who are not our ancestors. Answer my plea!" Falion shouted as he raised his arms.
"As in death there is new life, in Oblivion there is a beginning for that which has ended. I call forth that power! Accept the soul that we offer!" Falion shouted. As he did this, Serana felt something strange within her, she simply shook it off as Falion continued.
"As the sun ends the night..." Falion spoke. Serana's chest began to pound, she felt a great pain as Falion spoke. Something wasn't right, she knew something was wrong.
"…end the darkness of this soul…" Falion shouted. Serana heard it as a whisper, she was sweating heavily and her breath was quickened. She was panting heavily as the pain ran through her entire body.
"…return life to the creature you see before you!" Falion screamed. Serana pounded the tree beside her as the pain increased She fell to her knees, shaking violently. She found it hard to breathe though she was panting heavily. Her chest hurt beyond belief as her vision blurred. And suddenly, it stopped.
"The ritual is complete" Falion spoke. Arthius was on his knees, he slowly rose and looked around blinking. It was morning now, and the light broke through the trees. It was then that he saw Serana on her knees looking hurt. He quickly rushed over to her as Falion made his way back to Morthal. Arthius knelt beside Serana looking at her with concern.
"Are you alright?" he asked. Serana instantly smiled as she heard his voice. She smiled up at him, but the smile faded as soon as it came. She stared at the man in front of her, wondering if Arthius was behind him or if the voice came from somewhere else. Arthius stared at her, unsure if this was even Serana. The woman he loved almost looked nothing like the woman in front of him, yet he knew they were the same. Serana slowly rose her hand and placed it on Arthius' cheek. Her hand was rough and cold, unlike the Serana he loved. Her hand was soft and soothing, and her eyes were kind and loving. The woman's in front of him had eyes that only showed hunger. She was a vampire, the thing he hated. Arthius swatted her hand away as he quickly rose and backed away from her. Serana watched in shock as she realized what had happened.
"Arthius…" she whispered as the tears swelled in her eyes. It was true, the entire time it was always true. There wasn't any love secretly building. There wasn't any true happiness between them as they stayed together. There wasn't any true passion. Every kiss was false, every embrace wasn't true, and every "I love you" was just a lie. It was all just an effect of the blood bond, and now it was gone. The man she loved…never truly existed. Just an illusion of what Arthius was.
"No, no, no, no, no" Serana thought as she held her head as the tears fell. Arthius turned from her as his breath quickened. "It wasn't true. None of it. Just another damn magical…" Arthius couldn't hold it in as he punched the tree beside of him with all his might.
"GODS DAMNIT!" Arthius screamed as he continued to punch the tree with all his might. He cursed Mara with all of his being for allowing this. He continued until his fists bled and he couldn't do it anymore. Arthius collapsed, not wanting to bother to even catch himself. Serana was kneeling there, staring at the ground. She allowed herself a few more minutes of self-pity before she slowly rose.
"Arthius…" she spoke. When he did not respond, she continued.
"Arthius, we still have to stop my father. Come on, we've wasted enough time here already" Serana spoke without emotion. "It was all a damn waste of time" she thought to herself. Arthius slowly rose and walked past her back to Morthal as she followed. Serana thought about everything that had happened, every kiss and embrace they had. She now thought of herself as a fool. She cried almost every day, she was such a wreck then, she almost slept with him. Serana was frustrated at these thoughts, though through it all, she couldn't deny that she wanted it to be like that more than anything. "But it can't, it was never truly like that" she thought. "I was a damn fool, I knew it! I knew what it was and yet I ignored it because he was there" she thought. They were now walking out of Morthal on the road, "He made me not worry about it, and he made me stop thinking! He made it so I didn't care about anything! The time we wasted in those caves, feeding our own emotions instead of trying to save all of Tamriel!" she thought furiously. "He made me not care about the troubles…he made me feel as though all was good…he-"Serana was tearing again as she thought about the man she loved. The man who loved her with all his heart and would do anything to bring her joy. The man who never existed. Serana grew furious at this and she punched a nearby tree with all of her might, sending her fist through it entirely. Arthius stopped walking, but didn't turn around. Serana slowly pulled her arm out as she waited for Arthius. He began walking down the path again, and Serana followed. She didn't know what to think, she was just hurt by all of this. She thought back before Arthius was turned. They were still close, even then. But does that mean anything? They were allies, not much else. She then thought of Arthius the person. The man who existed, who had suffered through this same as her. "By the gods, I'm a monster. I just think about my feelings, and Arthius is probably worse off than I am" she thought. She thought of all Arthius was. He was hurt beyond belief by his past, his allies and closest friends never seemed to care as long as it interfered with their own goals. He was charged with being a savior when he needed help as much as any other person. And the first time he loves…he's immediately betrayed. Serana knew that he'd never been hurt like this, not even close, and it was her fault. "I knew it was a blood bond, and yet I allowed myself to love him, allowed my greed to take over" Serana thought. It was night now, and Arthius was setting up a camp. Serana watched as he set up their sleeping rolls and the fire. She watched him keep busy, looking anywhere but in her direction. He finished as he sat beside the fire, staring into it. Serana slowly sat on the opposite end of it, not daring to look up at him. After a few hours, Arthius slowly rose to his feet and made his way to his way to his sleeping roll and stood beside it. He removed his armor and put on his tunic before settling into the roll. Serana eyed him before slowly making her way to her own. She thought of all the nights that they stayed in each other's arms. This hurt her deeply, thinking of laying with him, staying that close to him. Though it wasn't him, no matter how much she wished it was. As she slowly slid into her roll, she couldn't help but ask one question.
"You hate me, don't you?" Serana asked as she lied down. It was silent for a long time until Arthius spoke up.
"No…you gave me a woman to love. Someone who was closer to me than anyone in existence. Someone that I love with all of my heart" Arthius said. Serana's eyes watered at his words.
"And then, you stole her away from me for all eternity. So no, I don't hate you…I fear you, with all my being" Arthius spoke. Serana's chest burst as she heard his words. She shook as the tears rushed down from her face as she bawled loudly. Arthius heard her cry, not giving a single damn about her. She had hurt him more than anyone else, more than all the people that betrayed him. Not caring that he had told her the worst thing anyone could have said to her. He had told her the only thing that truly destroyed her. He had told her the truth.