Confronting the Tyrant
Serana sat with her legs dangling over the edge of the Skyforge, watching the city below. If she were more familiar with the city and its people, the gossip she was hearing would have been more amusing.
There was one group of ladies that were having a discussion that Serana found particularly interesting. Serana recognized a few of them as shopkeepers. The little club was having a very enthusiastic discussion about the Dragonborn. His recent appearance always seemed to bring gossip along with it. Serana understood now why Max was such a private person. Who knows how the village folk will twist your words?
One of the women, Serana recognized as the Imperial, Carlotta Valentia. She sold all kinds of produce. Her daughter always loved to announce to anyone within earshot how helpful she was at helping around her mother's shop…whether they wanted to hear it or not.
"He helped me get rid of that awful bard suitor…Ah…What was his name?" Carlotta snapped her fingers as if trying to conjure the answer with magic.
"Mikael? He was quite easy on the eyes," a tall, young Nord woman chimed in. Her short brown hair tossing as she turned her head. Serana got a better look at the woman and recognized her as the ambitious owner of Bannered Mare, Ysolda.
"Yes, that's right. Divines, he tested my patience. At first he came on sweet and tried to woo me. When that didn't work, he changed his tune and said the most revolting things to me!"
Another Imperial woman, though much older than her friends spoke up, "I heard from Hulda that he claims he was thrown from the Bards' College for an affair with the headmistress!" she said motioning to an elderly woman that sat beside her, presumably Hulda.
"Divines! That can't be!" Ysolda exclaimed covering her mouth at the scandal.
"It wouldn't surprise me," Carlotta said with a slight shrug.
"So what did Maximus do?" Arcadia asked.
Carlotta shrugged, "I couldn't say. I was hoping he'd rough him up a bit, but Mikael left without a scratch on him. It would seem the Dragonborn has a way with words."
"Yes," Affirmed Ysolda, "He is very polite and kind. He helped me pay for the inn."
"He seems much more distant than he used to though," Hulda added.
Ysolda nodded sadly, "It's such a shame about his wife."
"I was shocked when I heard he was marrying Aela the Huntress. I didn't think there was a man alive who could handle her," Arcadia added with a small laugh.
"If the rumors are to be believed. Maximus is good with more than just an axe," The elderly woman added.
"Fralia!" Arcadia and Ysolda exclaimed, shocked.
Carlotta laughed a little before coming to the elder woman's defense.
"What? She's right! Now that's a man! He can fus-ro-dah my clothes off any day."
Everyone laughed scandalously for a moment. Meanwhile, Serana was choking back laughter and trying not to blush at the same time. She wasn't sure how she felt about hearing this.
"Well," Ysolda relented, blushing shyly, "He is quite comely."
"He slays dragons. Honestly, how can it get better than that?" Carlotta prodded.
"You're pretty enthusiastic about the topic," Arcadia observed.
"Well, I suppose I am. I don't have time for a man with work and my daughter, but a girl can dream right?" Carlotta said with shrug. Ysolda and Arcadia seemed to relent.
"I know I do," Fralia added, causing everyone to not so discreet take a step away from her.
Serana watched curiously as Isran and Max continued to stare at her drawing of the castle infrastructure and surrounding area. It had been a long time since she was allowed to sit in on the planning stages of an operation. She was just a newborn vampire when she joined her father and his followers in a meeting. In doing so, her father was honoring her recent transformation by inviting her to his counsel.
Serana watched in amazement as her father devised an ingenious plan of attack. Werewolves had been threatening their territory and everyone was looking to the Master Vampire to solve this issue.
The meeting had concluded and her father's advisors had glanced uncomfortably at her for the duration of the meeting. No matter how she tried to ignore them, Serana saw how they felt. She did not belong in their meetings. Before she could exit, her father called out to her.
"Serana," he said, "I was happy to have you here."
Her father had been exceptionally nice to her since she had returned from her ritual. Her mother, however had grown much quieter and begun to keep to herself.
Serana smiled weakly, "And I was glad to have joined you."
"Pay my underlings no mind. They only are jealous of your power, Serana." Harkon said, pride obvious in his voice.
Memories of the harrowing night returned to her. The day she returned…the only one to return. She remembered the looks that her father's court gave her. They hated her and envied her blood's power.
"They hate me."
Harkon laughed, "That may be so, daughter. But they fear me more than they can ever hate you. I gave them their power and so they are below me. They fear you as well, my child. Your blood is strong," He said, grasping her shoulder for emphasis, "So long as our family is in power, vampires will rule the night. Without us, they would cease."
Serana nodded, reveling in her father's praise.
Now, as she watched Max conjure up a plan before her, she couldn't help but be reminded of her father. Like Harkon, Maximus was smart, battle tested, and a natural leader. Every one of the Companions hanging on his every word and vying for his praise. Serana remembered what it felt like to be praised by Harkon, it was reward in and of itself. But it was those times when he was not around the scrutinizing eyes of his followers that Serana remembered best, when Harkon was truly her father.
One day in particular stood out to her. It had been before her parents' turning. A great celebration was planned for those selected for the ritual. Her parents were among the few and came to the ball looking their best. Little Serana was also dressed up for the occasion in a beautiful dress, much to her delight. The dark theme of the ball went unnoticed, after all, Serana's family lived their lives according to the darkest of the Daedra, Molag Bol. Serana spent most of the night watching her parents dance happily together. To her they were the image of love. It was something Serana longed for, but being a vampire made that difficult. A dwindling vampire population meant few candidates for a mate. Especially canditates of which her father would approve. The moment Serana remembered best of her father was when he extended his hand in an offer of a dance. They laughed and danced, caught up in the high spirits of the party. She would never forget it. It always leapt to mind when she thought of having to kill him. The options were diminishing and it appeared she would not be able to keep her family together as she had hoped.
The day when her father offered Max the power of his noble blood, Serana had wondered what it was Harkon intended. She always wondered how that would have worked. Would Max have become her father's pet like all of the rest? Or would he have resisted Harkon's will and taken the vampire clan for his own?
No, Serana knew Max. It was just as Mjoll had said, Max had a weak spot for her despite his formidable willpower and honeyed words… Max would have followed her even after he ceased his mortal life and joined the clan. Wouldn't he?
Serana stared at Max's thoughtful expression as he poured over the map. The longer this prophecy has existed, the more complicated it has made her life. The people she loved were on all different sides of this battle and it seemed as though one would have to die for the other to survive. Could she accept that? Could she kill her own father? From where she now stood, Serana saw the lines clearly drawn before her. It was Maximus or Harkon. Harkon, the unstoppable force, asserting his dominance of the living world through sheer will and violence. Maximus, the immovable object, strong and unwavering in his protection of the innocents. Maximus was more than that to Serana though, he was the only one who was completely on her side. The only one who had nothing to gain from her, but yet here he was. Her shelter from the storm on top of all of the incredible responsibilities he bore on his burly shoulders. Max could have done most of this on his own. Killing Serana would have been far easier than protecting her from Harkon’s forces.
Max looked over at Serana who appeared to be deep in thought. He could have guessed what she was thinking about. The battle with the Volkihar clan was hanging over everyone's heads. He knew what Serana was going through. This whole time she had been forced to fight her own people. Maximus had never fully recovered from the civil war.
Isran had asked to speak to him in private, which did not surprise him in the least.
"So, you have the bow?" Isran asked.
Max held out the bow, the gorgeous weapon glimmering in the light. Even Isran's calculating eyes widened at the sight.
"I've heard it described in tales… but I could never have imagined its beauty."
"The Companions have agreed to help, but I will need yours as well, Isran," Max said, doing his best not to sound needy.
Isran nodded solemnly, "Indeed. The day hasn't been won while Harkon still walks Tamriel."
Max gave Isran a knowing look, glancing over his shoulder. He could feel Serana watching them.
Isran moved from Max's side to face him, this time looking Max hard in the face, scrutinizing him.
"But what of Serana? Can she be trusted to lift a blade against her own kind?" Before Max could respond, Isran elaborated "Her own family?"
Max bit the inside of his lip slightly, though not enough for Isran to see.
"I trust her to do the right thing," Max said firmly.
Isran's brow raised slightly and exhaled, "I suppose that's as much as I can hope for."
"I'll address the rest of the Dawnguard, you worry about your people. Meet me halfway out," Isran said giving Max a slight, but no less monumental, nod of approval.
While Isran and the rest of the Dawnguard collected outside for Isran's speech, Max rallied his Companions. He put on his armor and donned an iron helmet with downward slanting horns. Apparently this helmet was a favorite of his. Everyone seemed to recognize it from his journey to becoming Harbinger and Dragonborn. It was something of a trademark.
"Let's move, people," Max said to the Companions, "I need time to plan an inspiring speech."
There was a collective laugh, though it was still tense. His effort to ease the tension was clearly appreciated. Everyone began to gear up and head for the city gates. Mjoll made a point to stop and say something to Max.
"See you on the far side, brother. It brings me joy to see you wearing that old helmet," Mjoll said with a friendly bump of her forearm. Max returned the gesture with a smile, "And you, sister."
Then, it was only Max and Serana remaining in the mead hall. They stared at one another for a moment before Serana broke the silence. He removed his helmet
"Here we are," Serana said sheepishly.
"It's been one hell of a jouney," Max said with a slight smile.
"It has," Serana said with a sad smile. She decided to change the subject as something Mjoll said occurred to her.
"Is that 'old' helmet going to protect you properly?" Serana said reaching out and playing with the helmet, though concern was carefully laced in the comment.
"My head is harder than it looks," Max joked moving a step closer to her.
Serana smiled, "Oh believe me, I know."
They both laughed tensely.
Neither was ready to say goodbye. Max seemed to have a more grim feeling about the situation than she. Did he know something she didn't? Serana doubted that. It was more likely that it was the other way around. After all, Serana knew her father wasn't one to play fair.
Serana followed behind Max on her new horse. He would occasionally glance back but his eyes did not linger on her for too long. Serana could tell he was afraid. Not for himself, but for his people. For her. Every single one of the Companions was his friend, family even. She knew he especially feared for her, as she did him. It was likely one or both of them would die. Serana would take a killing blow for Max and she knew he would for her. It was an impossible position. Serana could only stare at beautiful landscape and take solace in the experiences she had had in the last few months. If Max died and she did not, Serana wouldn't know what to do with herself. How many must die for her to live a life of her own choosing? Perhaps it wasn't meant to be.
Castle Volkihar was quite the jaunt, so the small army made camp for the night. The Inner Circle members namely Mjoll, Farkas, and Vilkas volunteered to keep watch, it was a good way for them to satisfy their wolf spirits. No one besides Max and Serana knew of their ulterior motives. If Isran had any clue, he either hid it well or simply didn't care at this point. As long as Serana wasn't the only one awake, she supposed.
It seemed Max was having trouble sleeping. He was outside sitting on the ground behind his tent and staring up at the sky. Serana could tell by his elevated heartbeat that he was apprehensive.
"It seems sleep evades you too," Serana joked.
Max exhaled a small laugh, "So it would seem," his voice was low and quiet. He looked away for a moment.
Serana came up beside him next to him. "What troubles you?"
Max didn't look at her right away, he motioned for her to follow him away from the camp. They began to walk at a leisurely pace.
"It's about Harkon and rest of your clan," Max said, finally looking in her beautiful glowing eyes.
Serana knew what he meant by that. "I know, Max. I've been thinking about it myself. I don't see any other way to stop them. It has to be done."
Max couldn't fathom Serana's position. To kill his own father? The thought was disturbing.
Serana sighed, "He wasn't always like this. There was a time when he was a good father. A good person? Maybe not. But he was good to me. Not like now."
Max nodded, "The prophecy changed that?"
"Yes. That's when he started to isolate our clan from the mortal world. I can't say when exactly he discovered the prophecy, but the change was gradual," Serana said, trying her best to recall when it all went wrong, but she couldn't find one exact date and time.
"What were they like before? Your parents," Max asked.
"Happy," Serana smiled at a memory, "They were both intelligent and passionate people. My mother was a peasant and my father was born into privilege. He left that behind to be with her and chase their dreams of power. They met at a twilight séance at an Azura shrine. I was born shortly after they were married. After they discovered Azura couldn't give them the power they desired, they looked elsewhere. Somewhere down the road, they found themselves at the feet of Molag Bol's shrine. My father did unspeakable things to get Molag Bol's attention, and my mother survived her rite. I was too young to remember any of it though. The first thing I remember is watching my parents dance at ball in the castle. I thought my mother looked so beautiful," Serana said, looking at the stars.
Max smiled at her, "Not as beautiful as you."
Serana laughed, "Flattery," Serana said, taken slightly aback, "I'm not used to that," she said with a smile.
Max smiled, "You will, in time."
Serana smiled, "Only if it's from you."
They sat there for a moment, simply staring at each other. The moon was bright tonight, illuminating everything wonderfully.
A look crossed over Max's face briefly, then vanished again.
"Were you close with anyone else in the clan?" Max asked innocently.
Serana shrugged, "I suppose, they were the closest thing to an extended family I had. What makes you ask?"
"I'm curious. Did everyone seem to be onboard with your father's plan?"
"Some were hesitant, but you don't exactly defy my father and get away with it," Serana stopped walking and stared at Max. "Why?"
"I've been keeping an eye on the activities at the castle. It seems your father has called in some of the lesser vampires to give his forces the numbers to match ours. He knows we're coming."
"The Night Mother told you this?" Serana asked, catching on quickly. "What does this mean?"
"Not only are there more vampires, but it seems some of the senior members of Harkon's court have not returned to his side. It sounds as if they used their recruiting tasks as a chance to run," Max said. He sounded troubled and rightfully so.
"Still, the sheer numbers of lesser vampires and their thralls will be an issue. It's a good thing we brought the Companions," Serana said.
Max nodded, but seemed very interested in staring at his hands at the moment.
"Why would the Night Mother help us fight Harkon? Wouldn't she want the sun blackened?" Serana asked.
"I don't know her reasons. I only hear what she wants me to. It seems she has reason to want Harkon dead as much as anyone. But we still need to be careful." Max said thoughtfully. He stepped forward and grabbed Serana's hands.
"We have no way of knowing what will happen when arrive tomorrow, but I want you to know that meeting you changed my life and gave it purpose again. You are the bravest person I've met."
Serana was beyond flattered. She didn't know what to say, though she could tell where this was headed.
"Should we get out of this alive," Max continued, "I hope we have a chance at something, whatever that may be."
Serana couldn't describe what took over her. It wasn't like anything she'd ever felt before, living or undead. All words escaped her, so the only thing that would suffice was action. Something was not enough. She wanted it all.
Before she knew what she was doing, Serana leapt at Max, throwing her arms around his shoulders and planting a big kiss square on his lips. Max inhaled at the surprise, allowing himself to fall backwards, through the flap of his tent and onto the ground. The moonlight filtered into the tent just enough that they could faintly see one another, it made everything feel all the more surreal and fantastical.
They broke the kiss and looked at each other breathlessly. Serana's beautiful eyes glowed especially bright as she looked down at him, mere inches away.
"On the eve of battle. Classic. Yet here I am, surprised as ever," Max said breathlessly, his voice lowering to a husky growl. The one that stirred something within her and helped keep her nerve alive.
Now she had to have him. If they were going to die tomorrow and the world was going to end, she wanted to make the most of it. Serana wanted to live in any way she could, and leave no lingering regret. After all, this had been a long time coming, no matter how much either of them denied it.
Serana could see that Max was still hesitant and being his dutifully chivalrous self.
"Can we even…?" Max asked, his voice trailing off at Serana's nod.
Serana silenced him with a kiss and began to tear at his clothing. Max hummed in amusement and slid back onto his elbows, taking Serana along with him. He let her remove his shirt and she guided him to hers. Next came the trousers and small clothes. Though Serana did not produce any heat of her own, Max was providing enough for the two of them. With all of the laden breaths and roaming hands, the temperature had risen quickly. They spent a few moments simply admiring one another, hands exploring forbidden regions. Above all, Max's heartbeat was the soundtrack to their special night.
Max wrapped his strong arms around her, pressing her closer to his nude body. Admiring her perfect body and soft skin gently as he gently ran his hands along her. She was breathtakingly beautiful. He couldn’t be more smitten.
Serana was a bit frightened at first, upon feeling his excited manhood pressing against her. She closed her eyes and let herself revel in his caress, the warmth of his skin, and the taste of his kiss. It succeeded in warding off memories of her first time, if it even counted. This wasn't about power or domination, it was love of the truest kind. Serana looked at him with her beautiful glowing eyes, admiring him below her as he pleasured her, tongue tracing her chest artfully. Serana buried her face in his neck, much to her surprise he didn't flinch and it didn't take much effort to resist biting him. She began to kiss his neck, her hands snaking down his muscular chest and through the dusting of soft chest hair. He let out a small moan of pleasure at this and sped the pace of their lovemaking.
Slowly she reached down and explored him, doing her best to hide her nerves. Max was gentle as he helped Serana guide them together. Serana winced a little at first. She felt his calloused hands softly cupping her face. She opened her eyes to see him looking at her worriedly. Serana leaned forward and kissed him to assure him that she would be fine. She pulled him towards her, moving him up into a sitting position. She wanted to be as close to him as possible and feel every inch of him. As they began to climax they only fell for one another more. It felt as though stars were exploding behind her eyes. Serana as she moved her hips with the pace, she gripped his shoulders tightly, digging her nails into his back. She relented slightly, realizing she might be hurting him, but his amorous growl persuaded her to continue. Somehow in a body she thought to be completely dead and devoid of any sort of emotion, Serana felt the most intense and wonderful pleasure of her entire life. As her body ebbed and flowed with waves of pleasure, Serana fell forward with a gasp. She buried her face into the crook of Max's neck as she let out a long, exalted breath. Max kissed just under her jaw as she did so. After a bit, she could feel him smile against her neck.
"Well," Serana said as she looked into Max's face, "That was…"
"I believe amazing is the word," Max said with a light laugh. Serana joined him.
"If you do say so yourself," Serana pointed out.
Max smiled at her, wrapping his arm around her waist and pulling her close.
Serana snuggled in close and Max kissed her sweetly.
Hours passed like minutes, and suddenly they found themselves coming to a halt. It felt like minutes ago Serana was watching Max sleep as peacefully as she had ever seen him. The night had ended too soon.
They were getting close to Castle Volkihar. The Dawnguard were close behind them, they too came to a stop. Max rode his horse out to distance himself from the party.
The plan was simple, an all-out assault on the castle. There was little room for strategy with a castle such as this. From their little excursion to the back of the castle, Max knew no vampire would exit from the rear. It was inaccessible from the main areas. The only real form of strategy was that the archers, under Sorine's command, would stick to the tower and provide cover. They would leave Ria to guard the entrance. The rest of the Companions and Dawnguard would charge the gates. Max wished they had a better plan of attack, but there really wasn't much else they could do. He turned Shadowmere around to face everyone else, he took a moment to look at each person before him. Knowing very well that some would die. The Dawnguard had already gotten their speech from Isran, but it would appear the hardened leader was allowing Max to take the reins on this one. There were few more inspiring presences than that of a Dragonborn, even Isran couldn't ignore that.
"Since Ysgramor, the Companions have fought for Skyrim, vanquishing her enemies both living and undead! The Dawnguard has fought vampires since its creation long ago. But let me tell you, this isn't factions or even Skyrim, this is about all of Tamriel! They threaten to darken the sun and throw everything into eternal darkness! The ravaging of our people will see no end under Harkon's reign!" Max paused.
"Now I ask you…ALL of you, no matter what faith you practice or creed you follow… Will you stand by and watch the sun turn black as the vampires overrun our cities and poison our families? Or will you stand together as brothers and sisters…as warriors of Tamriel…and vanquish this evil prophecy!"
A deafening cry filled the air, it was a wonder the vampires didn't hear them as they charged through the hills and dales and crunched through the light snow that blanketed the frigid landscape. Serana noticed a few figures creeping off in the distance. It took her a bit to figure out that these were not vampires, but Dark Brotherhood Assassins providing aid on the fringes of battle.
Max was at the head of the charge, letting out a terrific battle cry. There was a collective feeling of invincibility among the warriors as they met the vampire horde. Soon Mjoll's impressive roar along with the other Companions joined in. Even Serana found herself shouting with bravado.
Serana saw the air itself ripple at the unleashed Thu'um echoed. Moments later a dragon's roar filled the skies. The vampires paused to watch while the Companions fought on. It caught some of the Dawnguard members a little off-guard. Many of them had not fought with Max, but the Dovahkiin's dragon was something of a living legend. Odahviing's fire scorched the landscape, causing the vampires to push closer to their enemies, hoping to force the dragon to cease. Max was forced to wave the great dragon off. The shield bearers were managing to hold with the help of the Dawnguard crossbows. Serana found herself most effective when standing behind the Companion shield master, Njada Stonearm. She was so well protected that she hadn't even needed to draw her blade yet. She could see Max cutting a swath through the advancing vampires. He stood back to back with Mjoll, who was dealing just as much damage as her oldest friend.
Max's voice rose above the din as he turned to face them, Mjoll taking point and buying him time.
"Inner Circle! To me!" Max boomed. A Dawnguard member's death cry filled the air shortly after. This seemed to shake his comrades, but Isran continued to bark orders and words of encouragement.
Serana could see Vilkas and Farkas cutting their way to Max and Mjoll. Serana decided she should do the same.
Max and Isran exchanged a look, meaning it was time to make a push for the gates. They were going to lose people here, but it had to be done.
The Inner Circle members formed the tip of the arrow's point formation. Max was at the very center with Mjoll at his right and Isran to his left. Serana took her place at his flank, preparing to cast spells as fast as she could manage.
It still hadn't sunk in… she was wiping out her own clan. And soon… Her family. Her own father.
Serana's thoughts were interrupted by deafening cries of an offensive. Shields thumped and swords clattered. It was terrifying to behold. Serana had been in fights before, but this was a full-fledged battle. It wasn't something she wanted to experience. If she could just get through today…that would be great.
Serana saw a Companion fall just as they ascended the staircase. Gargoyles began to come to life. One had all but crushed the female Companion. Ria was her name. Serana grimly noted that her survival was unlikely.
The gargoyles were giving everyone a rough time, especially with the limited space on the bridge. In doing so, the gargoyles were also giving the vampires time to retreat and lay an ambush. Serana was already growing weary of battle and they hadn't even sighted the most powerful enemy. Harkon.
The Inner Circle and Isran continued to lead the charge into the great hall, the dread hounds were on them in moments, colliding head on with the shields. The undead beasts felt neither fear nor pain, making them the ultimate distraction. The remainder of the vampire horde flung themselves at the attackers as their defenses slowly broke apart. Isran called for his Dawnguard to stay in formation, but the ferocity of the attack had broken the ranks apart.
It was easy to tell that this fight was deadlocked. While the vampires had more losses, they also had larger numbers. Thralls were expendable and like the dread hounds, a good distraction. It allowed the vampires to use their magic. The trolls met the dread hounds with impressive ability, especially with their new armor.
Serana saw her chance to do some damage. She cut through the crowd and dispelled the magic in the room with a curse. Max seemed to seize the opportunity and run past her, grabbing her arm to tell her to come along.
"We have to do this now!" Max called from over his shoulder. He swiftly cut down Rargal Thrallmaster with a quick one-two from his axe, the gore didn't last as the vampire receded to dust. They sprinted up the steps and paused at the door to the cathedral. They knew where it lead. Harkon's end or theirs. Either way, this would be done. They looked at one another and without having to say a word, knowing what the other was thinking. I love you.
Max shouldered the door open with a loud bang. Serana stepped into the room to see her father, already transformed and waiting for them. The room was very unnerving. Everything from the design to the lighting was creepy. The ancient designs of the pillars were beautiful, though in a haunting sort of way. The lighting that trickled through the stained glass was dusty and dim in a room that held darkness well. The many corners made excellent hiding spots, this made Max a little nervous. His nerves were not necessary. As it would seem, Harkon had no intention of catching them by surprise. He was transformed and standing before them, no doubt hoping to persuade one of them.
"And so, you've returned. Is your... plaything keeping you entertained?" Harkon said, casting a diminishing gaze towards Max.
"You know why we're
here," Serana gripped the hilt of the Blade of Woe tightly. She hoped
there was still a chance to make him see…
"Of course... You disappoint me, Serana. You've taken everything I provided for you and thrown it all away for this... pathetic being," Harkon waved at Max as if he were a fly to be brushed off. Max could tell it angered Serana far more than it did him.
Serana knew then that it was hopeless. She would be forced to fight her father. It was sad to recognize that if she were to refuse he would kill her, one way or another. The man she once called daddy was long gone, that she knew. She had kept the smallest beacon of hope within her. Hope that he might see it as she did, but that hope was now gone forever.
And here she was, with the only man her father would have ever had a chance of approving of, fighting him. She knew that Harkon didn't truly believe Max to be a pathetic being, it was all talk to dissuade and intimidate.
No, Serana was putting her foot down. She loved Max. He was the only thing in her entire life that was truly hers. The only one who had never used her for their own gains. She would not let her insane father take him away from her. Serana's eyes burned extra bright with rage.
"Provided for me? Are you insane? You've destroyed our family! You've killed other vampires. All over some prophecy that we barely understand. No more. I'm done with you. You will not touch him," Serana's voice as cold as Skyrim's harshest winter. She had never wanted to speak to her father this way, but she was left with no other choice.
"So, I see this
dragon has fangs. Your voice drips with the venom of your mother's influence.
How alike you've become," Harkon spat, attempting to drive the metaphorical
"No," Serana said, standing her ground, "Because unlike her, I'm not afraid of you. Not anymore."
Harkon could clearly see that his daughter was a lost cause, but maybe… his eyes flashed to the Dragonborn. Max scowled as he prepared for Harkon's speech.
Harkon moved toward Max, but was impeded by Serana taking a menacing step between them and hissing.
"It appears I have you to thank for turning my daughter against me. I knew it was only a matter of time before she'd return with hatred in her heart," Harkon said bitterly.
"Hatred born of your neglect," Max retorted coolly.
"A small price to pay for the betterment of our kind," Harkon stated mildly.
Max levelled a glare at Harkon, "You honestly believe that. I've seen the way you treat your kind."
Harkon laughed, "No worse than you. Tell me, what is your aim? After slaying me who next? Valerica? Serana?"
"I would never harm Serana. She is too important to me," Max said firmly.
Harkon raised a clawed hand to his face as he turned away, "Then my daughter is truly lost." He said, not sounding as sad as one would expect.
"She was lost the moment she accepted a mortal into her life,” Harkon said tragically.
"This is about more than killing vampires!" Max shouted.
"Ah," Harkon said, as if surprised. "I see you must take issue with me using Auriel's Bow to blacken the sun and shroud the world in darkness."
"Enough!" Max shouted, louder than Serana had ever heard him before, "Let us end this!"
Serana couldn't agree more. She immediately changed form and began throwing everything she had at Harkon. She knew she would have to play the role of the primary aggressor in this battle in order for Max to put the bow to use. She noted the look of surprise on Max's face and realized that he had never seen her change form before. She filed that away with the many 'conversations they needed to have if they survived this'.
Max drew Auriel's Bow and notched an arrow, he aimed and fired. The first arrow struck Harkon in the right side of his chest. The vampire roared, ceasing his vampiric drain spell and materializing into a swarm of bats. He rushed past Serana and took form on a staircase, firing a blast of fire at her.
Serana threw up a ward just in time. She could feel the heat as it circled around her. She readied her free hand with a fire blast of her own. It was fully charged by the time she took the ward down. Much to her surprise, as well as Harkon's, Serana felt a blast of fire that joined hers.
Harkon couldn't block both and cried out in pain as the might of his daughter and the Dragonborn met him head on. But Harkon had a plan. He had to act soon, or it would be too late.
Harkon leveled a vampiric grip in Max's direction, knowing full well that neither he, nor his daughter had no means to block it with her magical reserves drained.
Max did his best to dodge the blindingly fast attack, but it only managed to escape its full force. Max began to rise slowly, Auriel's Bow slipped from his grip. Harkon smiled to himself, knowing what was next. Everything seemed to be working…thus far. He successfully sent a vampiric drain from his free hand. It was only a matter of moments before Serana intervened.
Serana howled as she charged forward, flapping her wings for acceleration. As she drew close to her father, she fell from her hover to her feet and used the momentum to charge into Harkon head on, bringing her deadly claws to bear. While her father was stronger than she was, Serana had speed on her side. A flurry of claws and teeth left Harkon on the retreat. He only had enough time to throw up his arms in defense. He again fled. Turning to a cluster of bats and moved toward the center of the cathedral. He had gained just enough magic to cast a summon gargoyle before Serana, hot on his heels, landed an attack.
Max shakily found his feet, barely having enough time to draw his axe and block the gargoyle's onslaught. He felt weak, but bore no visible injury other than looking pallid. Max finally found the strength to strike back, bringing his axe down on one of the gargoyle's arms, lopping it clean off. He didn't have the energy to react to the gargoyle's counter, still feeling the effects of the drain. He was blasted back onto his arse by a stiff arm from the gargoyle's good arm. Max scampered to his feet and managed to raise his axe's shaft up to block the gargoyle's bite from reaching him. He was in a deadly grapple with a stone creature with strength far beyond his. Just as he thought he was finished, Max recalled a trick a kahjiit friend of his had taught Mjoll and himself in their journey to Eleswyr.
"When in a scrap that you know you cannot win on pure skill. Remember this. Fight dirty. It matters not how you achieve victory, but that you are the one left standing and alive." Ra'vir had said.
Max shrugged the shaft of his axe up a little higher, then quickly ducked, letting go of it and send the gargoyle crashing into the wall where Max had just stood. Max grabbed the gargoyle with his left hand and dug his right gauntlet into the beast's eyes. It gave a mighty cry and began to buckle under Max's unrelenting grip. He dug deeper, squeezing with all of his might, no matter how wrong it felt. Finally, the gargoyle fell. Max turned just in time to see Serana, in vampire lord form, come flying past him. Harkon seemed to have thrown her. Max yanked his axe out from under the dead gargoyle and side stepped to place himself between father and daughter. He used the rage that built inside him to fight through the drain's effects. There was also something there that he had not felt in a long time. Purpose. Love. A reason to fight on. As Serana recovered behind him, he would buy her time. Even if he had to die.
Harkon laughed his sadistic laugh and charged Max, his jaws apart in anticipation. Max met the charge with a powerful swing from his axe. It forced Harkon to change course and go on past Max to avoid his axe's blade. He quickly whipped around and charged again, this time, Max met him head on. Using the Whirlwind Sprint Thu'um and colliding with a beast twice his size. This wouldn't be the first time, but it may be the last.
And so the unstoppable force meets the immovable object. Harkon thought. How poetic.
Meanwhile, Serana was attempting to recover from being thrown across the cathedral. Even in a tougher form, it hurt like nothing she had felt in a very long time. She knew Harkon was hurting, but then again, so was she. Serana took a few staggering breaths and took in the spinning world around her. That was when she realized what was happening. The very situation they had hoped to avoid. Her father and Maximus, fighting one on one. There were so many ways in which Harkon could kill Max. But there was a look of defiance in Max's eyes that Serana hadn't seen before. The two were trading blows as if it were a choreographed dance. Both skilled and determined to defeat the other for their own reasons. That was until Max's attempt at a pommel strike was caught by Harkon's clawed hand. He landed a clawed punch into Max's gut, that when combined with his vampiric strength, sent the Dragonborn flying. Max flew down the shallow steps and landed in a heap. Before Harkon could finish him, Serana intervened again.
Harkon grumbled slightly as he fended off his daughter's attacks. Just when he thought he had one, the other stepped in. As inconvenient as it was, it was better than fighting them both at one time. The arrow protruding from his chest stung in reminder of that. As much as he hated the Dragonborn, he had to respect the strength he displayed. Not only that, but Serana's ferocity was beyond anything he or his wife could bring out of her. He knew what sort of motivation the young Nord inspired from his daughter, and it made him wish all the more that he had been able to convince Maximus to come to his side. He would have been a perfect mate for Serana.
Harkon sighed a little to himself as he drove Serana back. Ah well, there is no changing the state of things. Soon enough, they will both be dead. I will have what I need.
Harkon's eyes widened as he felt an arrow pierce his abdomen. He let out a small gasp, his eyes darting about the room. Serana and Maximus were both charging him. He knew which one would reach him first and prepared himself.
Serana saw the arrow sink into her father's flesh. He was close to the end. Now was the time to finish it. Before she could do anything, Max thundered past her with his axe in hand, riding the force of a Whirlwind Sprint. She saw a small trail of blood following in his wake. He lunged into the air with his axe high above his head, bringing in down with all of his might. A claw reached out and caught Max midflight, his axe clattered the floor. Serana watched in horror as Harkon drew Max in and sunk his teeth into Max's neck, filling it with a lethal poison. Max's horrific cry filled the cathedral, and wracked Serana's body with a pain she had never felt before. She saw her father hurl her love through the air, crashing clear through a pillar and falling limp on the floor.
Serana hadn't realized she had reverted form, but by the time she did, her father was already charging after her. Serana spotted Auriel's Bow out of the corner of her eye, knowing very well it was the only weapon that could dispatch her father quickly. But she was no good with a bow, she also knew that. She mustered her courage and lunged for the bow, sliding on her knees. She picked the bow up mid skid and felt the world slow down as she pulled back the already, nocked arrow and string. Serana shakily took aim at Harkon. She felt her shaky aim steady, aided by an invisible force.
Both eyes open, breath out on the release, push through your target.
Serana recognized the voice to be Aela's. She did as she was told, and released. In a flash, Serana saw the arrow sink into her father's chest. He felll back on the cathedral steps, thrown the by the force of the arrow.
He breathed heavily as he called out one last time, "Serana, your own father."
Harkon became a sea of red mist, Serana didn't stay to watch him die. She made her way towards the sound of Max's agonized cries. There she found Mjoll and Isran inspecting him. Serana could see the pain in Mjoll's teary eyes as she turned to look at her.
Serana looked down and saw what pained Mjoll so much. Max was a mess. His torso bled profusely and Mjoll's steady hands were the only thing keeping him from bleeding out. Max's right arm was twisted in a direction that was not physically possible unless broken in multiple places. Blood stained his white teeth, indicating he had broken ribs and a punctured lung. Isran was attempting to heal the wounds, though his face looked grim.
What was the most gruesome of all was Max's neck. It was either was mangled or missing altogether in some places, sinew and mangled skin covered in blood. Her father hadn't just sunk his teeth into Max, he had quite literally taken a bite out of him. A greenish venom could be seen around the fringe of the bite wound. Max was barely conscious, the only thing he could manage to do was moan at the excruciating pain. The poison was in his body and he didn't have long, everyone could tell. Serana placed a hand near the poisoned wound and looked between Isran and Mjoll.
"I know what that means," Isran said, meaning the poison. He looked at the bow lying next to Serana.
"The Dawnguard will protect Auriel's Bow and that the prophecy never comes to pass. You have my thanks," Isran said respectfully, he stood, grabbing the bow and taking one last look at Max before exiting.. Isran nodded to Mjoll silently before leaving. He was going to allow whatever transpired after this to happen. Maximus deserved it.
Serana didn’t have time to be shocked at the gesture, she was too busy trying conveince herself of what needed to be done.
Mjoll looked sadly at Serana, knowing that she wasn't the only one struggling with this.
"You have to do it," Mjoll said in a low voice.
Serana looked at her, seeing the desperation she felt on Mjoll's face.
Max arched his back as he cried out loudly in pain.
Serana felt tears forming in her eyes. Would he approve? Should she let him pass?
"He will die if you don't," Mjoll said, her tone still low, fighting back the emotion.
"He has refused it thrice before," Serana said, "This isn't what he wants."
"You cannot let him die like this! Anything is better than dying in such agony! He will understand. He has to!" Mjoll pleaded.
Serana looked at her love sadly. Would he forgive her?
His bloodshot eyes glanced up at her as he groaned in pain, his irises began to turn black and his skin paling.
"Do it," Mjoll said, looking morosely at Max.
"I will," Serana said slowly, steeling herself. "But you have to leave and take the Companions with you. When he turns it will not be safe. Not until he learns to control himself. There’s no knowing how long that will be."
Mjoll nodded in understanding though it was clear she regretted it had come to this. She looked at Max one last time and whispered something that sounded like a prayer before exiting.
Serana looked down and caressed Max's face for a moment. Even if turning someone was the most intimate thing a vampire could do, it was still painful to the mortal. No more painful than the state he's in now, she reminded herself.
"I'll try and make this as painless as possible, Max. Trust me." She whispered as she sunk her teeth into his neck.
Serana's eyes shot wide open as all of Max's memories flooded into her mind at once.
All of his sorrow, pain, and regret. All of his joy, strength, and love poured into Serana and made her feel alive again. Everything that Max was…is…was now a part of her as well. It was an incredible feeling. To feel his love for her and to understand every moment throughout his life that shaped who he is was beyond words. As wonderful as his blood tasted, Serana resisted and withdrew her fangs. She watched as the color left Max's skin and listened sadly as his heart stopped. His mangled arm twisted and cracked back into place as the bone healed, the busted ribs followed suit with individual cracks of their own. His wounded abdomen sewed itself back together. He took one last pained breath and then exhaled deeply.
After a few tense moments, blood began to appear on Max's skin until it was completely covered. A flash of light blinded Serana for a moment. When she finally recovered she heard the deafening roar of a vampire lord and the clap of its wings. Max was bigger than Harkon, though he was the only one outside her family she had ever seen in the form. His shoulders were broader and his physique more built, but he still wore a similar outfit to that of her father. He roared and began to fly around the cathedral, casting spells and trying out the new form.
Meanwhile, Serana moved over towards where she had last seen her father, on the verge of death. She couldn't decide if she was happy with the outcome of things or not. The mad shell of the man that was once her father was dead. For that she was happy, at least now things would be easier. Both she and Max were alive, in a manner of speaking, but as she watched his frenzied, blood crazed lord form rage about the cathedral, she couldn't decide if it was for the best. There was something of shrine where her father had perished. Harkon's sword was stabbed into the stone, standing impossibly straight. Atop the pommel, the skull of Harkon's vampire lord form rested. Black ashen remains lay at the base of the sword and an eerie red glow wisped about them. She looked at it sadly and remembered the father he used to be. The one she danced with as a little girl.
After a while, Serana noticed that the chaos of Max's first turning had ceased. She turned, expecting him to be behind her, but instead he was nowhere in sight. Serana briskly exited the cathedral only to find Garan Marethi waiting for her. She was surprised to see him, assuming that the Volkihar Clan was no more.
"Lord Harkon defeated. I never imagined I'd see the day. Clearly, you are the superior vampire, my lady. You have my deepest sympathies, however. I am sure this was not easy for you," Garan said kindly.
"He was out of control Garan. It had to be done," Serana said, also trying to convince herself. "I'm not happy about this. He was still my father. But I suppose my father really died a long time ago. This was…just the end of something else," Serana said sadly, swept up for the moment. It was good to talk to someone she had known for so long. Garan had always been fair with her.
"Of course my dear. It was the end of an age. All will be well now," He reassured. "As for your companion, I showed him to a new set of clothes, seeing as his previous ones were…utterly destroyed."
With that Max approached, looking resplendent the Volkihar Vampire Royal Armor. His expression was unreadable as he approached. It made Serana wonder if he was angry. His eyes glowed the characteristic orange and his skin was paler than before, but it was still Max. He even looked a little younger than he did before.
Serana wasn't sure what to expect as he approached, he didn't say anything, but once he was close to her she felt him wrap his arms around her and pull her close. She did the same with a smile. They stood there for a long while simply holding one another and silently celebrating the harrowing journey being over.
Garan coughed awkwardly, as he was still standing there. "Right. I'll be…gathering the others," he said awkwardly as he shuffled away.
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