Taking a Break
They met Serana in the dining hall. She was sipping some of the semisolid tea, having drunk another of her vampire potions earlier. Katja looked at her with concern. Should they be getting her some raw meat? Maybe they could pick some up while they were visiting in Whiterun. She and Anders got themselves some bowls of a thick wheaten porridge with butter, milk and honey in it and some mugs of the tea. It wasn’t too bad, if you added enough honey. As they ate, they explained the plan.
“I’d like to come with you,” Serana said. After who knows how long entombed in that pillar, she seemed eager to experience life – even if it meant coping with the sun.
“Sure, come along. We can pick up some supplies, and I think you’ll really like the Suite. Everybody does. Just don’t bite any of the guests, OK?” Katja smiled to let her know it was a joke. Serana smiled back, but Katja could tell she’d found it a little insensitive. Put my foot in it again, Katja thought. Hard to believe I’m a nationally-known diplomat…
They finished their breakfast and stood to leave. Time to go find Dexion and get him to read the new scroll, along with the one Katja had been carrying all along. Then, she realized that the dimly-seen figure sitting on the far side of the room was the Moth Priest. He’d been sitting there so quietly they had not even noticed him, in their eagerness for some food. For some reason, he had a cloth tied across his eyes; so he had not noticed them, either. Was this some Moth Priest ritual practice?
“Dexion, there you are!” Katja exclaimed, striding over to him. “I’ve brought the elder scrolls.
The old man sighed. “I’m sorry, my friend,” he said regretfully, “I can no longer be of use in this matter. “
“Why? What’s happened?” she asked, her heart sinking. They’d gone to so much trouble to find him, the only Moth Priest in Skyrim, and after one reading he was used up?
“It’s my fault,” he replied. “In my haste to read the first scroll, I neglected the careful preparation required. I thought I’d be able to allay the after effects, but I was wrong. Now I’m paying for it.” Uh oh.
“That covering on your eyes,” Katja asked. “Are you …“
“Blind? Yes. I’m afraid so,” came the reply.
“Can anything be done to help you?” she asked, hoping.
“No,” he said. It’ll have to run its course, and there’s always the chance I may never recover.”
Her heart sinking, Katja said “Then we’re finished.”
“Oh, no. There may be another way, but you’ll have to do it.”
“What do I need to do?” she asked eagerly.
The old man hedged, “I can’t guarantee you’d be free from harm. Becoming blind could be the least of your worries.”
“Don’t worry about that,” she replied. She’d read that one scroll before without suffering any ill effects, unless you count getting attacked by an enormous, ancient dragon immediately thereafter. “Just tell me,” she urged.
Dexion continued, “Scattered across Tamriel are secluded locations known only as Ancestor Glades. There’s one in Skyrim, in the Pine Forest.” That was in Falkreath Hold, Katja knew. He went on, “Performing the Ritual of the Ancestor Moth within the glade should provide the answers you seek.”
“Explain this ‘ritual’,” she urged him.
“It involves removing the bark from a Canticle Tree which will in turn attract Ancestor Moths to you,” he said. “Once enough of the moths are following, they’ll provide you with the second sight needed to decipher the scrolls.”
“Carefully gather the bark? How?” Katja asked.
Dexion replied, “In keeping with tradition, you must use a specific tool in the Ancestor Glade, an implement known as a Draw Knife. Every Moth Priest is taught this ritual, but few ever get the chance to perform it… you should consider yourself fortunate if it works for you.”
She digested this information. “And the knife? Where do I find that?”
“There should be one somewhere in the Glade,” he told her.
“Do I need to read the Scrolls in any particular order?” she asked next.
“From what I saw in the vision,” the old man said, “the elder scroll which foreshadows the defiance of the gods with the blood of mortals is the key to the prophecy.”
“All right then,” Katja told him. “We’ll be off to the Ancestor Glade in a while. But we have some errands to run first. I hope your eyes get better.” Squeezing Dexion’s hand, she took her leave.
Outside Fort Dawnguard, Katja pulled out her magic map. In moments the three of them were standing outside the Luxury Suite. Fortunately for Serana, the sky was overcast and a light rain was falling. “You own this?” Serana asked.
“All mine,” Katja replied with a pleased smile as they made their way inside. “It’s sort of a perk for being The Dragonborn.”
“Dragonborn?” came the response. Serana had been locked away from the world for a long time.
“It’s a long story,” Katja told her, “which I’ll tell you soon. But first, are you up for a bath?” She gestured toward the central pool.
Serana’s orange-glowing eyes widened. “That’s full of hot water?” she asked, disbelieving.
“Indeed it is,” her friend assured her. “And I plan to be sitting in it sometime in the next three minutes.”
“Sounds like a fine idea,” Serana agreed. “Is there someplace I can put my things?” Katja led her up the stairs and told her to take any bed, as she and Anders continued to the master bedroom. It had been unused in their absence, and seemed a little… forlorn.
Being back here in her beloved Suite filled Katja with a whirl of feelings. She was delighted to be home, and she was really looking forward to that hot water. And to seeing Wyll, whom she’d been missing more and more as the days went on. She felt that Anders was the first and foremost love of her life; but the idea of parting with Wyll forever filled her with unbearable sadness. How could she possibly give him up? She needed time, she thought, time to sort things out. Time to think of a way to work things out. Oh, maybe I’ll get killed while I’m trying to defeat Lord Harkon, she thought whimsically, and then I won’t have to deal with it. But even as she shelved the problem, her subconscious mind was still working on it.
Katja and Anders dumped their belongings and armor and put on robes, carrying another one with them as they walked back down the gallery toward the stairs. Katja handed the robe to Serana, who was somewhat shyly peeling out of her tight leather armor. “Don’t worry,” Katja told her, “nudity is pretty common here and nobody pays much attention to it.” “If you say so,” the vampire woman replied with a tense smile. I have to remember how little she’s had in the way of normal social contact, Katja thought as they went back downstairs and slipped into the hot pool.
Aahhh! That was so wonderful! Getting her soul back yesterday had been good. Making love with Anders this morning, in an actual bed, had been marvelous. But what could possibly be better than sitting in hot water up to your chin after days in armor, fighting monsters and slogging through ruined castles? Serana, as she was getting over her embarrassment about stripping down in front of everyone, seemed to be enjoying it too. Seemingly there was no conflict between vampirism and hot baths.
“So you were telling me about your being ‘The Dragonborn’?” Serana asked conversationally, as she and Katja sat side by side enjoying their hot soak.
“Ah, yes…” Katja launched into the Condensed Version of her tale, starting with her arrival in Skyrim from High Rock and narrow escape from execution at the hands of the Imperials; her discovery of her Dragonborn status and dealings with the Greybeards; and how she, Anders, and Wyll had eventually traveled through a portal to Sovngarde and defeated Alduin once and for all with help from three heroes of legend.
Serana just sat there soaking in the hot water, and soaking up Katja’s tale – her mouth half-open in amazement. Even an immortal vampire of indeterminate age could be impressed. When Katja wound down she said, “If only my father had realized who you are! If the World-Eater had destroyed Nirn, he and the rest of our kind would have been just as dead as the people he thinks of as cattle. Maybe you might have gotten a better reception.” She pondered a bit longer, then added “Well, probably not. He is kind of insane.”
Katja smiled at her. Just then, glancing up, she saw the front doors open and Wyll come through them, dressed in casual clothing. Her face lit up like a beacon and she jumped to her feet, her full breasts bouncing and sending water drops flying in all directions. “Wyll!” Wyll had just finished walking back to the Suite after a trip to Whiterun, and Kat was the last person he expected to see. He stood there just inside the door, gaping at her as a delighted grin came over his handsome face, momentarily speechless. He was already getting stiff.
Wyll wasn’t the only one astonished. Traveling with the pair, Serana had realized that Katja and Anders were more than just battle companions. She had assumed they were married, or at least lovers. But the look on Katja’s face as this unfamiliar blond giant walked in had her rethinking her assumptions. Recovering his composure Wyll walked around to the rear side of the pool and Katja, still standing, reached up to give him a hug and a warm kiss.
“Kat, you’re here…” he seemed stunned.
“We stopped by for a bath!” she replied gaily. “Care to join us?” Wyll’s face colored. He and Kat shared this problem, their fair complexions like a red-glowing beacon whenever some strong emotion passed through. Being this close to Kat, and her all naked and pink and glad to see him… An area of his anatomy a bit south of his belt was very glad to see her as well, and there was no way he was stripping naked and getting into the pool with all these people around. Some day, he thought dreamily, he’d like to get her in the pool at 2 in the morning when nobody else was around… That thought didn’t help the situation any.
“Um, I just had a bath earlier,” he said. “Why don’t you get out and join me for some supper?” He looked at Anders and the woman he presumed was their companion, including them in the invitation. Now she was something else. Lithe and beautiful in a dark sort of way, she seemed young and old at the same time. But her orange-glowing eyes gave him pause. She must be OK if his friends were hanging out with her, but she still made him a little uneasy.
The three had soon climbed out of the pool and toweled off before slipping on their robes, refreshed by the hot soak. Katja headed straight for Wyll, throwing her arms around him in a full-body hug and kissing him passionately, glowing with wellbeing and elation. Serana stole a glance at Anders to see if she could figure out what was going on here. He was looking at his (girlfriend? Friend with benefits?) with a touch of resignation showing in his eyes, but a slight smile on his lips.
Serana gave an internal shrug. Whatever was going on with her new friends, it was apparently complicated and she’d just have to wait for Katja to explain, should she choose to do so. Meanwhile, she glanced around the Suite a little. There were certainly a lot of good-looking men around here. None of them vampires, of course. Her people definitely tended to keep to themselves. One of the parts of life she had missed while she was imprisoned was sex, and since she’d been out there had been little enough time to think or do anything about it. But the hunger was growing.
The problem was, sexual desire and blood hunger were linked in her kind. A vampire would not be likely to achieve orgasm unless they were feeding on blood while engaging in sex; and the potions she’d been drinking daily since running away from Castle Volkihar with the scroll suppressed both urges. Many vampires she knew would simply enthrall a mortal, have their way with them sexually, and over a period of weeks drain them until they were too weak to live. If they liked them enough, they might convert them to vampires. If not, the thralls died.
Such was not for her. Serana had a moral outlook, gotten from her mother, that made such behavior repugnant. She had enjoyed sex with other vampires in the past and once or twice found a mortal lover who was willing. But such relationships were eventually doomed, unless the mortal wanted to become a vampire. A few liaisons, then she would have to break it off before the blood loss became too serious. She sighed. Better just keep taking potions, she supposed.
Meanwhile the party had seated themselves at a table overlooking the common room, and Katja had motioned Lane over. “Welcome back, Dragonborn,” he said respectfully.
“Knock it off, Lane,” she replied with mock annoyance. “It’s Katja, thank you very much, and could you just bring us three servings of whatever’s on the stove. And some of whatever meat you have that’s raw? Oh yes, and some Nord mead, and a bottle of red wine?” Lane was grinning at her, ticking her order off in his head. He had a prodigious memory, and made one hell of an innkeeper. At the mention of raw meat he eyed Serana surreptitiously, but said nothing.
As Lane scurried off to fulfill Katja’s request she turned to Wyll and said “Wyll, I’d like you to meet our new friend Serana. We met her after we got involved with the Dawnguard. Serana, Wyll is the man I told you about, who helped me and Anders defeat the World-Eater. Wyll, Serana is a vampire. But she’s on our side.” She waited for some reaction, but Wyll gave only the slightest start, a hint of puzzlement in his gaze. Good old unflappable Wyll.
Katja went on to explain how Serana was helping them in their fight to stop her own father’s plan to extinguish the sun, and as their food arrived and they all started eating both she and Anders related the tale of their adventures to date. Serana seemed a little reticent, as she sat there delicately eating some raw leg of goat with knife and fork, sipping red wine; but she added something now and again as she had deeper knowledge to contribute.
After they’d covered everything there was to tell of their doings since they’d left the Suite days ago, Wyll had his own story to relate. He’d been walking into Whiterun most days, finding the road mostly pretty quiet and safe. He brought supplies to Lydia and Argis, played games with Anja and kept an eye on her while one or both of the housecarls went on errands around town. He’d been enjoying himself, actually, and with a sly smile he told Kat, “I think you’re going to be pleased with the way things are working out at Breezehome.”
Katja’s eyes widened. “Do you mean…?”
“You’ll just have to see for yourself,” he teased her. “You are planning to visit before you go looking for your Moth thing?”
“Oh yes, absolutely,” she replied. It was getting a little late for a visit now, but maybe they could go there first thing in the morning on their way out to the area east of Falkreath. She squeezed Wyll’s enormous hand where it rested at his side, and then ran her finger up the palm. He flinched slightly and looked her in the eyes. The naked desire there took him by surprise.
Lane had turned the bar over to Ellis, removing his apron (which both Katja and Serana thought made him a lot more attractive), and picked up his lute. He began regaling the Suite visitors with a few Skyrim standards. He wasn’t exactly a top-quality bard, but he’d do until one came along. As they sat there finishing their meal and enjoying the music, a handsome, slightly familiar-looking Wood Elf came by the table. “Do you mind if I join you for a moment?”
“Do I know you?” Katja asked him. She thought it a little odd that one of the Suite guests would intrude at the owner’s table. Months in Skyrim had begun to erode her natural trusting nature. “Maervon, at your service,” he said with a slight bow. He was tall and graceful, his tilted almond eyes a deep amber brown, brown hair streaked with blond. Almost an Elven version of Anders. “We have met briefly in the past. I usually visit here a few times a year, in the course of my business. I’m a timber buyer for the East Empire Company.”
Throughout this exchange, though Maervon was supposedly talking to Katja, he was looking at Serana. Aha, Katja thought. Our Vampire Mistress has captured herself a new thrall. Or something. Her ignorance of vampires and their ways was beginning to seem more and more like a liability, and she vowed to herself that she would try to draw Serana out on the subject in the near future. Meanwhile, her inborn desire to see everybody she cared about happily hooked up with a love partner was bubbling up within her. The Elf must know what he was getting into. Serana’s looks were unmistakable to anybody with eyes to see. Was she likewise interested?
Serana sensed the Elf’s interest, and she was intrigued by it. He’d spotted her across the room, and been drawn to her like a moth to the flame. Was he ready for all that entailed? As Katja motioned Maervon to pull up a chair and he sat close beside her, Serana turned to him and fixed his warm brown eyes with her glowing orange ones. No point in beating around the bush. “I’m a vampire,” she told him quietly, showing her fangs.
“I know, I know!” he replied eagerly. Then seeming a little ashamed of himself he added, “I can’t help it. I am drawn to your kind, for whatever reason. And you, my lady, are the most beautiful vampire I have ever seen.”
“You have been with other vampire women?” Serana’s sharp question was to the point. She had to know that he understood what he’d be getting into. This would likely be the briefest of liaisons, but her hunger for it was already growing. She refused to use her vampiric power of enthrallment, however. The human “kind” – Nords, Imperials, Bretons, Redguards, and the various sorts of Elves, harbored all sorts of sexual kinks. Being the object of some man’s “perversion” made her feel a little odd. She’d prefer to have sex within the context of a relationship, but with mortals that could not be. Oh hell. She was hungry, she was horny, why not?
“You want to be my bedwarmer?” she asked him. He nodded eagerly. “And my dessert?” she said, showing those fangs again.
“Oh yes,” he murmured so softly the others at the table were unlikely to hear.
“Thank you for supper,” Serana said, standing up and nodding to Katja. “Nice to meet you, Wyll. I think Maervon and I are going to go… talk about something. See you in the morning.” With that, she left the table. Her eager Elf was right behind her.
After the pair had walked away out of hearing Katja said “I’d wondered about that. She’s so beautiful, and she just spent I have no idea how long locked up inside a box at the bottom of a crypt. Then since we got her out she had a short visit with her father, after which she decided to throw her lot in with the people who are trying to exterminate her kind. And we’ve been running around ever since.”
Anders had something to contribute, an odd bit of lore he’d picked up during his years in Skyrim. “Supposedly,” he said, “vampires having sex need to feed on blood while they’re doing it.”
Katja looked at him in alarm. “Does that mean Serana’s going to kill that Elf?” He put a hand on her arm in reassurance. “No, I think it’ll be all right. She definitely doesn’t seem to be as far gone in evil as her father and his minions, and it’s quite possible for a vampire to feed on a mortal without killing them. She just needs to use a little restraint.”
“Oh,” Katja replied, relieved. “I’m sure it’ll be fine then.” After a moment’s thought she added, “I guess it’s not likely to end up a big romance, though, huh?”
“More like a quick hookup,” Anders informed her. “When vampires get involved with mortals long term, the mortals either die or have to become vampires themselves.” Katja sighed. She had continued to hold Wyll’s hand, and now the moment had arrived. Taking Anders’ hand in her other one, she looked into his eyes. “I need to talk about some things with Wyll, so we’re going to go downstairs for a while. I’ll see you later.”
We are? thought Wyll. This was news to him, and he wasn’t sure if it was good or bad. Anders, hoping that what Kat was planning involved telling Wyll that she was going to be with Anders exclusively now, wasn’t too concerned. He gave her a kiss. “See you in a while, love,” he said. She kissed him back, and squeezed his hand before she and Wyll arose and made their way over to the bar, and the trap door behind it leading to the basement.