Facing The Cold
It was early evening as a small hint of light shined through the wayshrine. There was a heavy breeze outside, chilling any who were caught by it. The sky was now gray as night was fast approaching and the icy land would be shrouded in darkness for most of the day Arthius stared at Serana as she sat, leaning against the wall beside him. She had her hood on and was facing straight forward, only allowing Arthius to see the tip of her nose and lips. She was covered from head to toe in blood as she sat quietly. Arthius suddenly unfroze and went to her side, looking for her wounds. As he began to inspect her arm, Serana jerked it away.
"No, Arthius…it's not mine" she said slowly. Despite her best efforts, Arthius could tell that she was exhausted. "They came a bit after you fell asleep…you were tired so I handled them" she continued. Arthius could faintly see the crimson painted snow just outside of the wayshrine. He looked from a different angle to make out the foot of a falmer. He looked back to Serana, slowly pulling her hood down. Her face was bruised and covered in the blood of her enemies. She stared forward, avoiding looking at Arthius. "We should start going…we still have three more wayshrines" she said as Arthius sat beside her. He slowly wrapped his arm around her mid and pulled her into him. Serana opened her mouth to speak, but her head slowly found Arthius' shoulder. She fell asleep almost as soon as her head made contact, nuzzling into the soft fabric of his tunic. Arthius sat there as Serana slept, deep in thought of what's been troubling him recently. Not only the night mother, but the twins as well. He doesn't know how Isran will react but doesn't exactly care too much as long as he puts it aside and focuses on Harkon. Arthius also thought of what will happen when they fight Serana's father, mainly concerned with how Serana will handle herself. He then thought of Serana, and all the different thoughts she puts in his mind. "What happens once this is all over?" Arthius looked down at Serana as she slept, staring at her while he was deep in thought. "She's gone through so much in such a small time" Arthius thought to himself. He then thought back to when he first arrived I skyrim, after everything that had happened between then and now. "Guess we share that as well" he thought. And then he thought of Alduin, their battle, and the result. It was such a huge battle, maybe the most important in all of Tamriel, and then it was over. Arthius was destined to fight Alduin, and then he did. That was that, nothing more, nothing less. He thought back to how his life slipped away, spending his days just drinking and occasionally hunting for food. But that was it, his life was at a standstill and he didn't know how to get out. "And that's what's going to happen to her" he thought. "Serana is strong, smart, and beautiful, but without purpose, what really matters?" Arthius thought of this for another hour before coming to his conclusion. He rested his head against the wall and dosed off to sleep with just one more thought. "I promise"
Arthius awoke a few hours later, finding that it was around midnight. He slowly placed Serana's head against the wall as he rose. He stepped out of the wayshrine to find about seven dead falmer, either impaled with ice, electrocuted, or throat slit. Arthius glanced back at Serana, jumping as he saw the two gold orbs staring back.
"Rest well?" Arthius asked. Serana slowly nodded at him before rising to her feet and walking out of the wayshrine. Arthius simply turned and began down the path once more, glancing at the river as he walked. "She took them on by herself, quietly" Arthius thought to himself as he turned to glance at her. She was still covered in blood but her armor made it blend in mostly. Her face was no longer bruised and Arthius guessed it was because of the rapid healing factors of a vampire. They passed between two crumbling columns as they continued down the trail, eyeing the waterfalls on the other side of the river. Serana was lost in thought once more. She had been awake a few minutes before Arthius had been. She remembers waking up, rested and warm all over to see that Arthius was basically clinging to her as she slept. She kept telling herself that it was for warmth, just as before. But she felt it building in her mind, with every excuse it continued. She was still unsure how she felt about Arthius, but all of these thoughts were making it more difficult to find out. She stared at the man ahead of her. She halted as he suddenly stopped walking. He slowly turned to her and put his finger up to his lips, signaling for her to stay quiet. He slowly motioned for her to follow him as he crossed the frozen river to the other side. Serana looked in the direction Arthius was looking in to see a large giant. Big for even a giants standards.
"Why are we –"Serana began.
"This may be a different species, and I really don't want to kill one of who knows how many there are. I'd like to leave it for now and bring some of the college here to preserve these creatures" Arthius said quickly. Serana was a bit surprised by his thoughts. The man who can probably take down a village on his own, thinking of such a scientific idea. Serana looked back at the beast as it stood near the shore under a few trees. It was more like a giant dressed like a frost troll. It appeared to have large horns sticking out of its head and a large jaw. It was covered from head to toe with white fur and was holding a typical giant's club. She stared at it as they climbed the small hill, soon losing sight of it. They climbed over the side of the hill to see a large frozen lake. Arthius and Serana stared as the ice sparkled in the moonlight. They saw a small stone structure out near the middle at the edge of the lake, and Arthius felt a power coming from it. He slowly walked on to the lake, Serana sighed before following him.
"What are we doing, Arthius?" she asked as they walked.
"I feel something from that stone over there, maybe a word wall" Arthius said as he pointed to the stone.
"It's just…we have had enough stops, and me sleeping didn't-"she was cut off as the ice beside them erupted, sending them back. Arthius opened his eyes to see a dragon emerging from the ice. He quickly stood and stared at it as the ice beneath them broke away. They fell into the water, feeling the immense cold. This was nothing like the water from the river, it felt as though it took the cold from the river and added it to its own. Arthius felt completely frozen, every being of him in pain any time he had tried to move. He slowly opened his eyes to see the beast in front of them, swimming quickly towards them. Arthius' eyes shot open as he suddenly was able to move once more. He grabbed Serana's wrist and looked up at the opening in the ice.
"WULD" Arthius shouted, sending them upwards and out of the water. They crashed onto the ice, completely drained from the cold of the ice. Arthius slowly stood and helped Serana to her feet. She slowly stood as the other dragon emerged in front of them. Both dragons began to circle above them, eyeing their prey. Arthius quickly grabbed Serana by the waist and dove out of the way as the dragons dove into the ice they were standing on. As they lied there, Arthius thought back to some of his readings about how horkers would attack their prey on the ice. Arthius' eyes shot open as he grabbed Serana and jerked her up. He pulled her as he began sprinting as the ice began to break. Arthius charged forward, holding Serana the whole time. They ran as the ice behind them broke continuously as one of the dragons swam beneath the ice. Arthius saw a shadow in front of them beneath the ice, he grabbed Serana by her mid once more and leapt to the side as the dragons shot out from the ice. Arthius and Serana landed in a heap, freezing cold. Arthius eyed the dragons as they floated in front of them, preparing to breathe fire at their enemies. Arthius quickly rolled upwards, pulling out his crossbow. He quickly aimed his crossbow at one of them as it opened its mouth. He shot the explosive bolt into its mouth, making it explode in its throat. It made a small sound before crashing to the ice below. The other dragon roared fire as Arthius quickly pulled Serana to him and held his shield in front of them. He felt the flames against his shield as his shield's ward weakened. The flames died just before he dropped his shield. The dragon landed in front of them, charging towards them. Arthius stood and threw his shield aside as he leapt upon the dragon's head. It squirmed violently as Arthius began stabbing its head. It threw him off as it was shot with several ice spikes. Arthius landed a bit to its left as Serana rushed to his side. She continued to pelt it with ice spikes as Arthius charged forward. The dragon quickly shot its head forward, smashing into Arthius and sending him back as it began readied to breathe fire. Arthius recovered as he charged forward and stabbed down on the top of its snout, make it close its mouth. As he did this, Arthius heard a sound behind them and turned to see the first dragon preparing to breathe fire at both he and Serana, "Gods" he thought to himself. They were standing in the middle of two dragons readying to breathe fire. Arthius acted on instinct as he rushed to Serana and shoved her violently into the water. As soon as he pushed her, Arthius was engulfed in flame from both of the beasts. Serana watched in horror as she fell, watching as Arthius was engulfed in the flame of both dragons. She crashed into the freezing waters once more, feeling nothing. She was frozen as she replayed what had just happened in her mind, seeing her closest friend be doused in fire. And it was because he had to save her again. "Was I just lying to myself this whole time? Am I just another weakling needing saving?" Serana thought as she sank in the water. "Time after time, Arthius had saved me at his own expense, caring for nothing but my safety. And every time he does, he's hurt in some way. The castle, the bandits, the companions, and …him turning into a vampire. And now…he's probably dead" Serana went numb as she thought of this. Serana felt the cold take over,she thought of Arthius as the darkness began to overtake her. She thought of every smile she had gotten from him, and every smile he forced from her. Every moment, every joke, every story. She suddenly thought of what he wanted, to protect her. Her eyes shot open as this thought ran through her mind. "He gave everything to make sure I survived, and I'm giving up. No!" she grew enraged at this. That she was letting herself die after he had saved her. That she would let him die, that she just let it run through her. Her eyes glowed fiercely as she cursed herself for thinking of herself like that. She stared up at the water above her as she began paddling. "If there's any chance that Arthius is alive, by the gods I'm going to take it!" she thought. The dragons eyed the opening, injured but in guard. There was a crashing sound as something quickly emerged from the water, making them prepare. They both roared fire at the opening, attempting to roast whatever came out. As the fire faded away, a vampire lord was floating above the water. It roared and began pelting the bleeding dragon with ice spikes. The dragon roared as it crumbled as the ice spikes sunk deep into him. The other dragon readied its thu'um as the vampire lord immediately began draining it of its life source. The dragon collapsed, overcome by the weakness. The vampire lord continued to drain it until it too collapsed from weakness. It lay on the ice as it was shrouded in darkness, covering every fiber of its being. As the darkness faded, Serana lay in its place. She lied there face down, unable to move as she stared into the ice. The sun would be rising soon, and she knew that she'd probably die if she stayed like this. She very slowly got unto her hands and knees and surveyed the area. Her eyes shot open as she saw Arthius lying on the ice. She calmly walked to him, kneeling beside him. She put her hand to the side of his neck, waiting for a pulse. She waited for a few seconds until she felt it, weak but still there. She carefully grabbed Arthius and slowly began carrying him towards the stone structure. She couldn't take two steps without collapsing from weakness. It took them almost half an hour to move about thirty feet to the structure. Serana collapsed at the foot of the stone and set Arthius down beside her. She could barely breathe as the cold overtook her, making her shake violently without control. She slowly turned Arthius to his stomach and removed his armor. She winced as she saw his burnt flesh under his armor. She assumed he covered his head when the dragons breathed fire at him, protecting his more vital area. She took in a deep breath, still shaking uncontrollably before using all of her strength into a powerful healing spell. She felt every nerve of her screaming in pain but did not stop her spell. She almost blacked out several times as she did not stop for anything. Arthius was mostly healed now, the skin covering his flesh before it would leave a scar. Serana knelt, smiling widely as her body was now having spasms. She turned Arthius over to his back and put her palm to his chest. She immediately collapsed on to Arthius, losing consciousness as she landed on his chest.
Serana awoke, darkness beginning to cover the sky. They had been asleep almost a full day. She looked up at Arthius and gasped as his eyes were open, staring at the sky. Serana rose and began pumping his chest, getting a grunt from Arthius. Serana jumped back as she heard this, fearing that he was dead. He blinked before looking to her, weakly smiling.
"I'm fine" he whispered. Serana knelt there, frozen in place. She then grew furious and slapped Arthius across the face as hard as she could.
"How dare you throw your own life away! You almost died, Arthius!" She screamed at him. Arthius just stared back at her, not attempting to stop her as she slapped him again. She sighed as she stared down at him and wrapped her arm around him, pulling him into a tight hug. She rested her head on his chest, feeling the immense warmth as she listened to the almost entrancing sound of his heartbeat.
"Just…please, don't die" she softly said. Arthius wrapped his arms around her and tightly held her to him, unsure what to think of it. Serana still didn't know exactly how she felt towards Arthius, but she knew that she couldn't lose him, as he meant far too much to her than she thought. As they lied there, Serana felt Arthius' stomach rumble and looked up to see Arthius's face clench.
"Arthius, when was the last time you ate something?" Serana asked.
"On our way to dark fall cave" Arthius said with a sigh. Serana's eyes shot open as she realized that was about three days ago. Arthius began to slowly rise and Serana forced him back down.
"Serana, I can just hunt something to-"Arthius began.
"No, you're still far too weak. Just wait here, I'll get you something" Serana said as she quickly rose and went down the steps.
"You're not in good shape, we'll find something…" Arthius' voice faded out as Serana rushed forward towards the woods. She slowly passed by the frost giant as she began searching the tree line for a deer or goat or…something. About an hour later, Serana spotted a deer and shot a bolt through it without hesitation. She slowly dragged it back to Arthius and collapsed beside him once more.
"I…got you a deer…I was thinking…maybe gather some wood and-"
"YOL" Arthius shouted at the deer, immediately roasting it. Serana winced at the heat, and Arthius noticed.
"I'm sorry, that was stupid" Arthius apologized.
"No…it's freezing out here…it helped warm me up" Serana panted with a small smile. Arthius nodded before pulling the deer close to him. He turned to Serana as she stared at him.
"Serana, when was the last time "you" ate?" Arthius asked. Serana gulped as she feared what would follow her answer.
"The…bottle you gave me" Serana said slowly. Arthius looked at the deer before looking back at Serana.
"Once I eat this, I will have more energy. Energy that came from the deer you caught…" Arthius stared at Serana then, staring into her eyes.
"This energy belongs to you, so once I finish eating and gain it…I want you to feed from me"