Love & Loss

Dovahkiin Don't Pout

"Some would call it bad luck, but I'm the type who believe that things happen for a reason. Of the members in the circle, you're the most open minded by far. Kodlak saw that in you. He believed in you, even after he found out about our skirmishes with the Silver Hand. His belief was well placed," Aela said, nodding in the direction of Wuuthrad.

Max's expression remained neutral. "That didn't win me any friends. But I don't exactly care about that.”

Aela exhaled in laughter, "That makes two of us."

Max smiled at her for a moment, but he didn't let his gaze linger too long. His expression sobered, "When I was away and the Silver Hand attacked, I was out to find and kill Glenmoril Witches. He wished to be cured, to go to Sovngarde."

Aela nodded, "Kodlak spoke of this to the Circle some time before you joined us. I'm sure if you ask them when they awake, they will say the same. Not everyone took it well. Vilkas was especially troubled."

Max nodded, "I'm not surprised," giving a nod to the snoring, softer hearted twin.

Aela nodded, "Kodlak chose you for a reason. Vilkas is too soft. When he sent you to Glenmoril, he made his choice," Aela said, an undertone of jealousy apparent in her voice, though to her credit she hid it well.

"I'm at a loss. I have no idea what I'm going to do," Max confessed, hunching over and staring into the fire. He pulled at the whiskers on his beard anxiously.

"That's understandable. He had no opportunity to teach you. I read his journal," Aela said, holding the Kodlak's journal in her left hand and handing it to him.

Max looked at her, rather puzzled.

"Where did you get that?"

"You need to keep a closer eye on your pack," Aela said, though it was hard to tell if she was teasing or chastising him. It always was with her. Before Max could respond Aela continued.

"At first, his words were…difficult to swallow, though not inaccurate. The way he speaks of you, it is like you are his favorite son," She looked at him with a surprisingly soft expression, "He was like a father to you, wasn't he?"

Max nodded, the raw feeling of Kodlak's death still ever present in his eyes. They were all close to Kodlak, even Aela the most solitary of the bunch. He was surprised she knew of Kodlak's belief in him before reading his journal. He did not know, but it confirmed his guess that Aela was more privy to others than she lead on. She cared more than she seemed to.

Max lay asleep in the rented room. They were in Falkreath at the Dead Man's Drink for the night. Though Max needed very little sleep to function normally, he was still a living, breathing human and needed his rest every now and again. Serana knew it wasn't wise to venture outside of their room so she decided to do some snooping. She hadn't forgotten those two books Max carried around. She decided to first go through Max's journal. While many of the stories within its pages were fascinating, she was looking for one specific date in particular. She knew the date was somewhere around a few weeks and seven years ago. As she flipped through the journal she couldn't help but think that this would most likely one day be a widely known book. Who wouldn't pay to read about the many adventures of the greatest hero in Skyrim's recent memory?

After some flipping, Serana found a particularly worn page, as if it had been looked at numerous times. On the date of, all that was written was, "The light has gone out of my life." It was followed by dozens of blank pages until they reached a more recent date.

When finally his journal continued it did not speak of what happened with Aela. Serana realized how much this had affected him. She wondered what he had done in the years before the Dawnguard. Perhaps this was what he was referring to when he spoke of a crisis of faith. Having to experience as much loss as Max had in his life, it was no wonder he questioned his gods.

As Max slept he no longer dreamed. He was in the phase of sleep where the Night Mother spoke to him. While she was something of a maternal figure to Max, she prevented him from sleeping soundly. She wasn't the sole reason for this however. His dreams of Hircine's Hunt were the reason he dreamed so frequently of Aela. It was the only way he could still be with her. Recently, this was why he avoided sleeping if he could. It prevented him from facing his demons.

"Have you been avoiding me, child?"

"Not like I once was, Mother. I have been busy lately."

Max could feel the Night Mother's icy smile.

"Yes, I have noticed many wretched crossing the divide. You seek Harkon, a wretch much overdue to my realm."

The Night Mother sensed reticence in her Listener.

"You fear for the fate of his daughter."

Max affirmed this with his thoughts. The Night Mother was silent for a time.

"She is a Daughter of Coldharbor, one of very few left. Few survive the initiation process. She has endured much. She is strong,” the Night Mother said.

"She refuses to speak of the process, though with good reason, I assume. I worry that her mother is no longer and her father will succeed. No good can come from vampire rule," Max confessed.

"You are correct about that, she will share her story with you when she is ready. As for your companion's mother, she lives. Though she is not easily accessed. Look to your companion for the answer," the Night Mother advised.

Max allowed her to continue.

"I must ask why you refused Harkon's offer of alliance. The Dark Brotherhood would have done well to see his prophecy through."

Max knew this was coming, he honestly wondered sometimes why the Night Mother chose him as the Listener. Cicero was of a mind sick enough to carry out her will.

"I am disappointed that you question my choice, Listener. I chose you because you are careful…cautious. You see all the angles of a plot before you strike. Cicero was mad to fault, he would see the Brotherhood to its destruction," The Night Mother said, reading his thoughts.

Max frowned, "I did not see Astrid selling me out coming."

The Night Mother did not budge in the least, "That is what I am for… To see the unpredictable. I am a necessary evil, Maximus. Though I know you desire Sovngarde I see a different fate for you, but it all hinges on your decisions that are to come."

Max wasn't sure what she meant, but what the Night Mother saw did not sound good to him, but life wasn't fair. He knew that. The least he could do was spare Skyrim a terrible fate.

"Now my child, I ask nothing of you this day. You have served me well. The Brotherhood cannot continue until the vampire threat is quelled. Do not hesitate to call on your brothers and sisters for assistance should they be needed. Be mindful of your feelings. Should you become too attached, your judgment shall falter," The Night Mother wrapped Max in her chilly embrace that he had come to find soothing in a way. It was the same embrace that had saved him from the massacre of the original Brotherhood. Astrid's betrayal still didn't make sense to him. She had only succeeded in strengthening Max's trust in the Night Mother. She spoke her usual final words to him.

"Go forth, my child, and do what must be done. Until we meet again, my Listener."

"Until we meet again, Sweet Mother."

Serana had continued snooping through Max's things. This time she had found the old book he always carried around. She found him reading from it numerous times, but never wrote in it. This indicated it was either a book or someone else's journal. Serana read the name written inside the cover.

Kodlak Whitemane

Harbinger of the Companions

In my dream, I see the line of Harbingers start with Ysgramor. Each of them ascends to Sovngarde, until we come to Terrfyg, who first turned us to the ways of the beast. He tries to enter Sovngarde, but before he can even approach Tsun, he is set upon by a great wolf, who pulls him into the Hunting Grounds, where Hircine laughs with welcoming arms.

Terrfyg seems regretful, but also eager to join Hircine after a lifetime of service as a beast.

Then I see every next Harbinger turn away from Sovngarde and enter the Hunting Grounds of their own accord. Until it comes to me, and I see great Tsun on the misty horizon, beckoning me. It appears I have a choice. And then, at my side, a stranger I had not seen before. As I look into his eyes, we turn to see the same wolf who dragged away Terrfyg, and he and I draw weapons together.

I realize this is only a dream, but a strong enough dream to inspire a man like me to take to writing, so it must be of some import….”

Serana found this to be consistent with what Max had told her. She continued on, skimming a few pages until she found more about Max.

“While Vilkas was confiding, through the shadows of Jorrvaskr, I saw a newcomer approach. He wished to join our numbers. It was the stranger from my dream, the one who would stand with me against the beast. Vilkas began speaking obliquely, not wishing to air our problems in front of our guest, and I had to be doubly cautious to not reveal anything of our secrets to the newcomer while also not revealing the details of my dream to Vilkas. I don't know how the politicians deal with these sorts of machinations daily.

In any case, I've sent Vilkas to test the newcomer. We'll see if he is truly the great warrior I dreamt of.

This newcomer, it seems, is made of decent stock. He calls himself Maximus and has already impressed some of the Circle with his mettle. I still keep my own counsel on his place in my dream, for now. Let us see what kind of destiny he is carving before hitching to him.

In the meanwhile, I look for ways of cleansing my blood. The writings and legends on the subject are sparse and contradictory. I don't wish to engage any wizadry on this matter, but I fear they may be the only ones who best know how to navigate these worlds of knowledge….”

Serana continued to read about Max. He eventually was trusted enough to join the Inner Circle. A little later on, Serana’s eyes lit up as she saw Aela and Max mentioned together. It would seem the two attempted to avenge Skjor on their own, after he was killed by the Silver Hand. Aela and Max had gone outside the Companions and waged their own war. This must have been how they first became close. Kodlak seemed to believe that there would repercussions for their actions against the Silver Hand.

“….Maximus shows valor, though even in this more underhanded time. We have not had cause to speak, much and that is something I deeply regret. I have high hopes for his destiny, as I realized that his appearance in my dream may indeed mark him as the Harbinger to succeed me….

….I have received few dreams over the course of my life, but when they come, I have learned to trust them. I have also learned to trust the instincts of my heart, which tells me that Maximus can carry the Companions legacy as truly as any residing in Jorrvaskr….Only Maximus stands as a true warrior who can keep a still mind amidst these burning hearts.

I will not speak to him of any of this, though. It is too much to burden another with. My hope is that he and I can keep counsel over the coming years, that I can impart the wisdom of the Harbingers. All things in time. Firstly, I will seek his assistance in the matter of the witches of Glenmoril. It would appear that our path to the cure is not without some poetic justice for the tricksters who first cursed us….”

Serana was surprised, Kodlak sounded like a wise man. She could see the things Max had learned from him in his demeanor. Even when Max and Aela had sought retribution for Skjor's death, Kodlak had not been angry. Like a patient father, he offered them a chance to redeem themselves. Serana could see by the way Kodlak spoke of Max that he cared for the Dragonborn very much, and was very much responsible for shaping Max to be the unrivaled warrior he was today. Though he never ceased to admire the raw talent Maximus exhibited from the very first day. She wondered why the journal stopped so abruptly. Serana quietly returned the book to its place in his pack when she saw Max stir in his sleep.

She could hear him mumble something quietly though she couldn't make it out.

Finally, she could understand what he was saying. It was as if he were concluding a conversation.

"Until we meet again, Sweet Mother."

Serana's eyes widened at how eerie his voice sounded. She could feel a chill come over her as a cold draft passed through the room. Whatever just happened was no coincidence. Serana now recognized the name from the Black Sacrament. It was to summon the Night Mother. She was supposed to call one of her assassin children to the location of the ritual. He was a member of the Dark Brotherhood.

To say Serana was surprised was a bit of an understatement. She would never have guessed Max had turned to the praise of Sithis and his wife, but then again she was Daedra worshipper, who was she to judge? Serana recalled hearing that the Night Mother was believed to be an incarnation of the Daedric Prince, Mephala.

The ride the following morning was an uncomfortable one. Serana was quiet most of the ride. When she did make eye contact with Max, she looked distant, if not a little troubled.

They were nearing their destination, and Max decided it best not to allow the rift to remain. If they were to succeed, they would need to trust one another.

"Is something the matter?" Max carefully asked.

Serana briefly made eye contact, but her eyes returned to the road before them.

"I, uh, read that old journal of yours," she said, her voice slightly guilty.

Max wasn't as upset as he thought he'd be. He had noticed her eyeing his journal for some time. He supposed it was only a matter of time.

"I shouldn't have, but I wanted to know,” Serana wasn’t able to finish, as Max cut across her.

"About Aela. Sorry to disappoint you, but I can't even talk to myself about it. Obviously you noticed," Max's voice was low and angry.

"I'm sorry," Serana apologized sadly.

"Well, since you're so damned curious… That night, seven years ago. Something within me died, very much like the time when Kodlak died. Since you probably read his journal as well," Max said irritably.

Serana's head sank slightly, but did not speak as Max continued.

"But this night was different. After everything I sacrificed for the Companions. All of the years I spent restoring its glory. I finally had a chance at a new life. I wanted us to both follow Kodlak's lead and cure ourselves. But Aela wouldn't have it."

Serana couldn't help but ask. "Why did you want her cured so badly?"

Max's eyes glassed over immediately as he spoke, "Because it wasn't just her I was worried about… Aela was with child. Any chance I had of a normal life, and a family… died with them. I feared the child would not exist in the afterlife, and if it did, it would be in Hircine's realm."

Serana's jaw dropped as low as humanly possible. Tears filled her eyes as she clasped her hand over her mouth.

"Max…I am so sorry…I…"

"You didn't know. No one does," Max said, his voice tense, but reassuring.

"Why did you join the Dark Brotherhood then?" Serana asked.

Max looked down for a moment, collecting himself, "I suppose that's fair. You heard me talk in my sleep did you not?"

Serana nodded to which Max continued.

"I was in a dark place. I needed to kill to feel better. It was the only thing I was good at. Then, the Night Mother spoke to me. She saved me from our betrayal. The Night Mother doesn't speak to just anyone. She chose me as her Listener. I was the one she used to contact the rest of her children. Essentially, I was their leader. The Night Mother has been good to me. She has done much to alleviate my fears of Aela and our child. They rest peacefully, though I'm not sure if I will ever see them."

Serana gave him a look of understanding, "Thank you for telling me that. I'm sorry I snooped through your things."

"It's alright," Max said casually.

Serana looked down at the horn of her saddle for a moment.

"I, too was once in love," she confessed. This grabbed Max's attention.

"His name was Francois. He was half Altmer and half Nord."

Max nodded, "Ah, a Breton?"

Serana looked confused, "Is that what they're called these days? Everyone called him a 'Manmer' and called him an insult to both the elves and the humans."

"Yes," Max said, "Today there is an entire breed of 'Manmer', they're called the Breton. Very powerful mages at that. It's much less of a blemish than it used to be."

Serana looked comforted by that, "Good," she paused and smiled in thought for a moment, "Anyways, he was aspiring to be a mage, but Winterhold wouldn't allow such an 'abomination' to train with them. So one day, when we crossed paths. I started to teach him magic that I knew."

Serana sighed, "As you might expect, my father didn't approve. He feared Francois would give me away."

Max snorted in annoyance at that.

"I continued to see him secretly," Serana said.

"Until one day my mother's warnings were beginning to come true. My father had discovered that damned prophecy and was looking for me. That was the day I was left in Dimhollow Crypt," Serana explained.

Max seemed to catch on.

"The reason I asked you if you saw a skeleton when you found me, is I was not placed in that tomb without cost," Serana said sadly.

"Francois gave his life force to seal me in there safely. Only when you freed me was his soul free. I suspect, that part of him is in you as well."

Max looked at his injured hand carefully.

"You are very brave. Thank you for telling me," Max said appreciatively.

Serana smiled weakly and nodded.

“Did he know?” Max asked quietly.

Serana turned and looked at him, puzzled at first. “What?”

“Did you ever confess your feelings to him?” Max clarified.

“No,” Serana said quietly, surprised Max caught on to that part.

“What about you, did you know he felt that way?” Max continued. Part of her wished he wouldn’t.

“Not until that day,” Serana said trailing off. She didn’t want to talk about it anymore. Thankfully, Max didn’t press.

She was thankful when the mists of the northern sea finally greeted her, it made the awkward silence that persisted less apparent. It had been an hour or two since she or Max had uttered a word. So Serana was glad to direct them towards the secret entrance. As they approached the edge of land, Max began to grow rather uneasy.

"We don't have to swim, do we?" he said dreadfully.

Serana smirked she was glad for his change of temperament, "I'm afraid we do. It's only fair, I had to go into a castle filled with vampire hunters twice. The Dragonborn isn't afraid of a little water, is he?" she teased.

Max gave her a mildly annoyed look.

Serana looked surprised. "Are you pouting?"

Max glared at her. "No, Dovahkiin don't pout, they brood."

Serana rolled her eyes and laughed. "Ah, I see. Big difference," she deadpanned.

A ghost of a smile traced Max's lips, but he kept the broody look going.

"Yes, much different."

They both paused for a moment, laughing silently to themselves. Then they looked at one another and laughed aloud.

Max turned his head to one side, relenting, "Alright," he said dismounting Shadowmere, "Let's get going before one of those bloody death hounds find us."

Max and Serana led their horses to a wooded area. Serana melted some of the frost from the grass so they had something to eat. Max began to unhook his armor and clipped the various pieces onto his pack. He then wrapped everything in animal skin to keep its contents dry. Serana could have done the same, but being wet and cold didn't really bother her too much. It’s not like it would kill her.

Max's scarred body was impressive in its bare glory. It was well-maintained, Serana noted with glee. His powerful v-shaped torso was covered with thick bands of muscle. Numerous scars dotted his body, peering out from the dusting of dark chest hair. They were red, pink, white, and every shade in between, depending on how old or severe the wound had been. Only a animal skin undergarments covered his manhood. Serana turned away to hide her blush.

The most recent scar was on his face. It was a reddish color that only added to his intimidating demeanor. It was safe to say, Max was a Nord's Nord, or perhaps more accurately, a human battering ram. If she had to guess, Serana would have chalked up Max's dislike of swimming to the fact that muscle doesn't float, especially a man of his size.

He gingerly moved into the water and grimaced as the cold penetrated his skin. Serana giggled a bit. It was ironic seeing such a tough man yelp at something a trivial as cold water.

"What?" Max demanded, "I'm a Nord-Imperial, not a damned Argonian!"

Serana chuckled and joined him in the water.

She was surprised he was able to carry all of his equipment on his back and not drown, but they made it.

A few roaming skeletons were waiting for them at the docks, but Serana dispatched them quickly and reanimated them.

"Nicely done." Max said, quickly putting his armor back on.

Serana only nodded, continuing to carefully towards the undercroft, knowing very well what might be waiting there. She was amazed at how much different it looked. Then again, she supposed eras passing would do that to a place.

She was surprised when she felt a cold presence pass through her, was it the Night Mother?

When Serana saw who stood before her, it was Max in a ghostly form.

"Just having a quick look around,” Max explained.

Serana watched as Max moved about the room disarming traps and exploring pathways.

A guttural growl echoed through the halls and a vampire leapt from another room right at them. The vampire passed through Max and landed just in front of Serana.

Serana moved quickly to one side, dodging a lunging attack. She continued to dance around the vampire's attacks until she saw an opening. She did not hesitate to send her blade for the inner part of the vampire's arm. Her hit landed, but the vampire managed to counter and left a nasty cut in Serana's forearm. She hissed at the vampire and bore her fangs. She threw a draining spell in his direction and sucked in the magicka to her own reserves. She felt the tingle of the Blade of Woe as it healed the gash on her arm. She decided to seize the opportunity and throw an ice spike at the vampire and then flipped her blade into an icepick grip.

The ice pick hit and knocked the vampire back, breaking his defense. Serana capitalized by sinking her blade into the vampire's chest. Unlike living beings, the vampire did not bleed, only dissipating into ash. Serana was slightly relieved at this. She didn't particularly like gore, which she realized was quite ironic, given her condition. Even in his ghostly form Serana could see the impressed look on Max's transparent face. They continued to venture onward, but luckily Max's Become Ethereal shout faded and he returned to solid form just before the gargoyles began appearing. The two continued to creep through the cobweb filled hallways and dispatched numerous gargoyles and skeleton guardians.

Finally, they came upon a barren courtyard. It was quite run down. Max sat his greatsword on his shoulder and took a moment to catch his breath. Max noticed how disheartened Serana looked at this discovery.

"Oh no," she said quietly.

"What happened to this place?" she said shocked.

"Everything's been torn down…the whole place looks…well, dead. It's like we're the first to set foot here in centuries." Serana said, her voice bouncing from the walls of the courtyard. It was ancient.

Serana stared silently, unable to say or do anything. This room really set into perspective how long she had been gone. This place had been her sanctuary from her father. It also had helped to her on the days in which her hunger was too much to handle.

"What is this place?" Max asked.

"This was my mother's garden…It…do you know how beautiful something can be when it’s tended by a master for hundreds of years? She would have hated to see it like this," Serana glanced at Max who looked as though he couldn't comprehend such a thing.

"No, I can't say I can," Max admitted.

Serana looked around the room, seeing the withered remains of plants, vines, and pottery. The only thing that was remotely recognizable was the massive moon dial that was set in the stone floor. It was a little tarnished and some of the hour markers were missing. As Max looked at the hour makers more closely, he could see each of them reflected the waning and waxing of the moon that corresponded with the time.

Serana followed his gaze and recognized that pieces were missing.

"Wait," She moved closer to the moon dial.

"Something's wrong with the moon dial. Some of the crests are missing and the dial is askew. I didn't even know the crests could be removed," Serana stared at it a moment, grasping at memories and hope.

"Maybe my mother's trying to tell us something?" Serana mused.

Max shrugged.

"Let's start by finding the pieces. That might help," Max suggested.

Serana looked at him and nodded, her eye contact lingering for a moment.

Max noticed but said nothing, unsure of what was meant by that look. He had seen it before. Could she…? No…

Max focused on looking for the crests.

Once all of them were placed, Serana began twisting them in place. Finally something stirred. The moon dial began to move on its axis and stairs were revealed.

"A passageway… I should have expected nothing less," Serana said, shaking her head and smirking.

Max looked at her briefly and made his way down the stairs.

They ventured through the ancient remains of a dining hall filled with gargoyles and skeletons. The ancient architecture was something to look at. It reminded Max of the Sovngarde Mead Hall. Max noticed skeletons sitting at the table. The unmistakable sound of bones creaking to life could be heard. Quickly thinking, Max unleashed a powerful Unrelenting Force shout, sending the skeletons blustering about the room. If that was not enough, more gargoyles joined the party. Serana's ranged magic specialty complimenting Max's up close and personal style as they fought their way to... Well, Max had no idea where they were headed. They both realized they were beginning to understand each other's styles and how to use them together effectively. They discovered that Serana's Ice Spike was especially effective against the gargoyles and skeletons, often times freezing them solid, allowing Max to shatter them easily.

After some walking and a few more pesky skeletons they found another smaller dining hall, it too produced more gargoyles. After entering through a rusted iron gate, Max found a ruined cathedral. At the heart of it was a ruined statue of Mara.

"This used to be a temple of Mara?" Max asked, rather surprised. He supposed the Volkihars hadn’t been the only ones to live in the castle.

Serana looked around the room and nodded but said nothing on the topic. "There should be a switch somewhere, judging by earlier," She said simply.

Max walked around the room, investigating his surrounding for something out of the ordinary.

He couldn't see much of what lay in the rubble so he went to grab a candle from the fastening on the wall. Much to his surprise the fixture was loose and rotated downward. The wall began to slip away and a secret passage revealed itself.

The room that lay inside was some sort alchemist's lab. At the center of the room was a metal design similar to the moon dial from the courtyard.

"Look at this place. This has to be it! I know she was deep into necromancy but I had no idea she had a setup like this!" Serana marveled at the room filled with alchemy supplies both common and extremely rare. There were also bookshelves along one of the corner walls that were completely filled.

Max stared at the mammoth skull that was mounted on the central wall, he couldn't even guess as to how old it was. He really did not want to know what sick and twisted experimentation went on in here. It sent a chill up his spine. Max noticed a staircase that lead to an upper level. For some reason there was a gap in the railing that face the center of the room.

Max inspected the large group of circular rings at the center of the room carefully. If they were anything like the moon dial, they concealed something. Candles surrounded the design in a methodical manner. Some were even still lit after who knows how long.

Serana was looking at all of the pieces of the alchemy lab as well as the stocked shelves Serana's mouth was agape.

"Look at all this," she said, completely blown away. She looked down at the circular design at the center of the room, "And what's this thing? I'm not sure about this circle, but it’s…something." Serana said looking at Max, who appeared to have made the same conclusion.

"Let's look around. There has to be something here that tells us where she's gone," Serana said, inspecting the room carefully. She stopped at the bookcase and lingered there a moment.

"My mother was meticulous about her research. If we can find her notes, there might be some hints in there."

Max and Serana seemed to be on the same page in thinking that her notes were somewhere in the bookcase.

After a while, Serana plucked an old book with a creased spine from its place and began to flip through the pages. Much to her delight, there was handwriting within its pages…Valerica's artful handwriting. It was quite impressive what hundreds of years of practice did.

Max noticed Serana had found the journal, but she didn't appear happy with what she read. She seemed more disturbed, or perhaps overwhelmed for her brow creased and her usually full lips thinned as she continued to read. Max bit back the temptation to ask her what the matter was, instead he decided to simply watch her, eyes darting about the pages, face strained in an attempt to understand whatever she was reading.

Finally, Serana looked at him. Her face was a little troubled, but mostly Max could see she was looking to him for something.

"What is it?" Max asked calmly.

"My mother has gone to the Soul Cairn," Serana said ominously.

Max gave her a mildly puzzled look, "What is the Soul Cairn exactly?"

Serana appeared to anticipate this for she reached into her shoulder bag and pulled out an empty soul gem and held it out to him.

"This is soul gem. Recognize it?"

Max nodded.

"Ever wonder where the souls inside these go after they're used?" Serana inquired.

Max appeared to make the connection. Being trapped in a soul gem was up there with one of the worst ways to go. "Honestly, though… I never touch those things."

Serana smiled weakly, "I don't blame you."

"So are we still trying to find your mother?" Max asked.

Serana nodded, "We need to gather some ingredients. It appears my mother has finally created a portal to the Soul Cairn. I should have foreseen this, she was also so obsessed with it," She paused for a moment and grimaced.

"From what I understand, the Soul Cairn is a terrible place... My mother went there to escape Harkon and to protect me…I can't ask you to follow me there."

Max placed a hand on her shoulder.

"Serana…This is not your fault. It's Harkon's. Using his own family to fulfill a prophecy of power and greed. We cannot allow him to succeed. It would mean everything your mother and Francois sacrificed would be in vain, and Skyrim would fall. I'm not about to let that happen. So if you think I'm going to leave now, Serana, you're mistaken. I intend to see this through. No matter what," Max said firmly.

Suddenly Serana didn't feel so hopeless. At least she wasn't alone.
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