Sidetracked in Riverwood
The rest of trip back to Fort Dawnguard went without any problems, much to everyone's surprise. Spring was on its way and the snow was beginning to melt. The area surrounding Stendarr's Beacon was quite beautiful. It was there that Mjoll and Aerin departed. Max told Mjoll to seek out the twins Vilkas and Farkas at Jorrvaskr in Whiterun, for they were running the Companions at the present. She would need some guidance on her newly found ability and Max had no time to teach her unfortunately.
Max and Serana entered Fort Dawnguard, very much looking forward to cleaning up after their travels. Isran had granted Max some time to treat his wounds and rest for a bit before they were to go ahead with the Elder Scroll. There was no telling when a warm bed would be available to him again. Serana made it a point to stay around Max or Dexion as much as possible. She didn't trust Isran nor the rest of the Dawnguard. They avoided her at all cost. Most did not even acknowledge her presence.
Isran was standing right at the center of the room waiting for them when Max awoke from his nap. He expected no less from the surly Dawnguard leader.
Isran's laugh sounded as though it were a condescending spat. "I'm impressed you could find a Moth Priest so quickly."
Serana quickly noticed that Isran had a way of making people feel as though they were being reprimanded when he was actually complimenting them.
"Is everything ready?" Max asked.
Isran nodded, "For the reading? Yeah. Just let the old man know when you're ready."
Max looked over a Dexion who smiled at him.
"Ah, my rescuers!" he said cheerily to Max and Serana.
Max smiled back. "Have my companions made you feel welcome?"
Dexion's smile thinned, he tousled his beard as he spoke, "It's not exactly the hospitality I'm used to, but your man Isran has seen to my needs well enough. And might I add, this is a remarkable fortress. I have colleagues back home that would love to study this place in detail," Dexion mused.
Max smiled politely at the comment but remained on topic.
"Are you prepared to read the scroll?"
"Oh, most certainly!" the old man piped, "Let's find out what secrets the scroll can tell."
Serana reached out and handed Dexion the Elder Scroll, its golden clasps glimmering in the light that filtered through the ceiling.
Dexion held the scroll at arm’s length and glanced around the room at Isran, Serana, and Max's curious eyes.
"If everyone could please be quiet," Dexion requested, "I need to concentrate."
He pulled the fold down and began describing what he saw.
"I see a vision before me, an image of a great bow. I know this weapon!" Dexion exclaimed, "It is Auriel's Bow!
Max glanced at Serana who nodded to Max, indicating she too knew the bow.
"Now a voice whispers, saying 'among the night's children, a dread lord will rise,’" Dexion said, his voice rather chilling.
There was no mistaking what that meant or whom it spoke of.
"In an age of strife, when dragons return to the realm of men, darkness will mingle with light and the night will be as one."
No mistaking that part either.
"The voice fades and its words begin to… shimmer and distort," Dexion said, straining to hear whatever was being said.
"But wait, there is more here."
Max glanced at Serana who was staring intently at the Moth Priest.
"The secret of the bow's power is written elsewhere. I think there is more to the prophecy recorded in other scrolls," Dexion paused for a moment, his eyes moving about the page.
"Yes… I see them now. One contains the ancient secrets of the dragons, and the other speaks of the potency of ancient blood," Dexion paused with a slight breath.
"My vision darkens," he breathed, "And I see no more," he sounded sad that his experience had ended.
"To know the complete prophecy, we must have the other two scrolls," Dexion said, his voice growing more tired as spoke. He wobbled and almost fell to the floor. Max stepped forward and placed a steady arm on his shoulder.
"I must rest now. The reading has made me weary," Dexion said with a sigh.
Isran stepped in, he nodded towards Serana, an indication that he should talk with her.
"Come on old man, let's get you to bed," Isran said, sounding surprisingly gentle. As the Dawnguard leader lead the priest from the room, Max turned to look at Serana. Her eyes were darting about the floor in thought. She looked at him, her expression rather perturbed.
"Do you have a moment to talk?" She asked.
"What's on your mind?"
"Dexion said we needed two other Elder Scrolls. I think I know where we can start looking," Serana confessed.
"Why didn't you say something earlier?" Max questioned.
"Half the people in your little crew would just soon kill me as talk to me," Serana said, "That doesn't exactly make me want to open up," She said, the usual sarcasm returning to her voice.
"I got a warmer welcome from my father, and that's saying something," Serana continued.
Max snorted in otherwise silent laughter.
"What is it between you two?" Max inquired.
"Ever since he decided to make that prophecy his calling, we kind of drifted apart,” Serana said waving an arm out to the side, the other resting on her hip.
Her usual stoic façade fell when she looked at Max again, she looked sad.
"I don't think he even sees me as his daughter anymore. I'm just… a means to an end," She said with a discontented sigh.
Max's eyes fell to his crossed arms as he let her continue. He knew that this troubled Serana deeply. It would trouble him too to know that his parents no longer cared for him.
"Anyways, we need to find my mother, Valerica. She'll definitely know where it is. And if we're lucky, she'll have it with her."
Max's eyebrows drew together in question. "I thought you didn't know where your mother went?"
Serana nodded, "The last time I saw her, she said that she'd go somewhere safe… somewhere that my father would never search. Other than that, she wouldn't tell me anything," She said with a shrug. She crossed her arms a squinted, her brow crinkling rather cutely.
"But the way she said it… ‘Some place he would never search.’ It was cryptic, yet she called attention to it."
Max nodded, "Sounds like she was being cautious."
Serana turned her face slightly, "Maybe…"
She extended a palm upward in question. "What I can't figure out is why she said it that way."
"Besides I can't imagine a single place that my father would avoid looking. And he's had all this time, too," Serana shrugged, "Any ideas?"
Max pursed his lips for a moment and stared down at the stone floor, "In Castle Volkihar?" he said with a slight shrug.
Serana's eyes widened, "Wait… That almost makes sense!" Serana's eyes widened at this revelation.
"There's a courtyard in the castle. I used to help her tend the garden there. All the ingredients for our potions came from there. She used to say that my father couldn't stand the place. Too…peaceful," She mused, obviously noticing how backwards it sounded. But that was her father, of that she was sure.
"Staying around the castle sounds pretty risky," Max thought aloud.
Serana nodded her agreement, "Oh, absolutely. But my mother's not a coward, Max," she chided ever so slightly, to which he nodded.
"That is… I don't think we'll actually trip over her there. But it's worth a look," Serana said with a shrug.
"Well," Max said, sighing thoughtfully, "They aren't going to let us in the front door."
Serana snorted, "True. But I know a way we can get to the courtyard without arousing suspicion."
Max smirked warily. "As long as it doesn't involve swimming."
Serana laughed silently.
"There's an unused inlet on the northern side of the island that was used by the previous owners to bring supplies into the castle. An old escape tunnel from the castle exits there. I think that's our way in."
Max thought for a moment, then nodded. "Let me gather a few things and we'll be off within the hour. He carried off at an unusually brisk pace.
Serana followed him, for he had been the one to carry her things into the castle. She carefully followed, keeping her eyes locked on him and not daring to look around the castle. Serana could not wait to leave Fort Dawnguard. She observed something that she had otherwise overlooked until today. He carried two books with him. One she presumed was his journal, for he was writing in it quite frequently in his down time, perhaps to keep things straight. Being the Dragonborn and all you had to have quite the task list, Serana had to imagine. She secretly wanted to swipe it from him in hopes that at least some of it would contain his thoughts. She wanted to pry into that mysterious mind more than she should and she knew it. Serana also noticed an additional journal, it was worn and slightly smaller than Max's. He carried it right with his own, perhaps it was a spare but Serana suspected otherwise for she never saw him write in it. He only read it from time to time, she noticed a frayed red ribbon marking a particular page. Serana cursed her curiosity.
"My mother was a Companion. And her mother. All the way back to Hrotti Blackblade. I stayed with my father in the woods until I was old enough for my Trial. We hunted everything there was to hunt…Good training," Aela said with a smile.
Max admired how genuine her smile was. It was one of those few cracks in her otherwise hard façade. Her face remained neutral as she continued, but the sad look in her eye betrayed her,
"Ma didn't live long enough to see me join, but I fight to honor her and all my Shield-Sisters through time." Her voice was filled with the same determination he felt, keeping the family name strong and honored.
"I know how it feels to have duties passed down to uphold," Max said knowingly. For him it had never been a choice.
Aela appeared interested though she said nothing. Her eyes asked what her voice did not.
"My father fell at the Markarth Incident and my mother was a Legionnaire of the Cyrodiilic Empire. She was burned alive by bandits when they ambushed my home. I was twelve," Max said, his voice was surprisingly calm. He glanced around at the sound of the other Circle member's snores, but most seemed to be keeping to themselves in this time of mourning. Max was surprised Aela was being so open. He had always pegged her as the solitary type.
Aela clearly hadn't been expecting that for her eyes widened, but she let the emotion pass, "I can hardly imagine being able to walk away from a life of violence after what happened to your family."
Max was surprised by her response. Aela seemed to understand his feelings on the topic better than most. Instead of saying the usual 'I'm sorry' or 'That's horrible', she had expressed her understanding for his choices.
"So Max, why the Companions?" Aela inquired.
Max smirked at this, to which Aela raised an eyebrow. She didn't realize how incredible she looked, stretched out on her bedroll in her usual barely-there attire. The way the fire glowed off her well-toned body made Max feel warm all over. It was unfair to think this way given the circumstances, but there it was.
"I wanted something better than the mercenary work I had been doing. Something with a bit more morality," Max said, "I remember my father talking about Ysgramor and the five hundred companions when I was a boy," He shrugged and looked into the fire, avoiding Aela's gaze.
The thought of asking Aela a tough question danced in the back of Max's mind. He wanted to ask about Skjor, but knew that it wasn't his place. Aela seemed to notice his thoughtful struggle.
"Is something troubling you, my friend?"
Max's head went lightly from side to side as if he was deciding how to word his response, he stopped and finally met her steel colored eyes.
"I am not sure how to ask this exactly…"
"Not sure how to ask about Skjor? I’ve heard the rumors," Aela said rather dismissively.
Max turned his head slightly indicating she half right.
"Not so much the rumors as your motive for pursuing vengeance for our fallen shield-brother so intensely."
She thought for a moment, her gray eyes narrowing in thought as she looked away briefly. She didn't appear nervous, though when was she ever?
"Skjor had been a Companion for a long time. Since before my inner circle days even," she lightly bit her lip as she chose her next words. Max found the habit attractive for some reason.
"We broke Kodlak's rules, it was a thrill. Now that I look back on it, I can't help but regret not listening," Aela confessed.
Max could see the remorse in her eyes, though he saw no sense of longing that was often present in the thought of a lost loved one.
"Our shield-brothers and sisters seemed to think that our rule bending also meant that we were involved. I'm sure you've heard the whispers," Aela said flippantly.
Max nodded, allowing her to go on without interruption. He tried his best not to look like he hung on her next words.
"There was some merit to it," Aela confessed, "Our…relationship was not really very intimate. It was strictly sex, to be blunt."
Max's eyebrows raised ever so slightly, he prayed to the Divines she didn't see it, for he wanted her to confide in him more.
She stared at him for a moment, expecting a response or reaction.
"What?" she finally said, with a tad of defensiveness.
"You haven't answered my question." Max said with a smile.
Aela laughed, "I suppose you're right. I guess I wanted to clear the air about Skjor. To answer your question, my motive for revenge isn't avenging a lover, if you think of him that way," Aela said, referring to Skjor.
"My ire for the Silver Hand runs deep. It's in my blood I guess. We've lost a great deal of ground to them. Skjor's slaughter was the tipping point. Since that decision was left to me, I chose to push back." The fire glistened as it reflected in Aela's steel colored eyes with a terrific effect. She looked quite intimidating…and sexy.
Max mentally pushed the amorous thought aside, he sat up in an attempt to separate himself and hopefully encourage her to assume a less provocative position. She didn't seem to be persuaded in the slightest, or she was giving him some space.
"Thinking back on a month earlier, I never could have foreseen how things lead to this," Max mused as he looked up at the stars thoughtfully.
Aela sat up and looked into the fire, "I agree, though I expected things to come to a head at some point. Not the way that they did, but still. I had some idea. Hell, you were a newborn the day we discovered Skjor," Aela looked at him, but her expression was unreadable.
Max would later come to understand this expression as one of admiration and it would grow to be much less guarded.
Max stared down at Shadowmere as he trotted down the dirt path, the horse barely needed guiding at all when it came to travel, but battle was another thing entirely. He tried to expel the memory that had so often repressed. He then decided to distract his mind with the thoughts of his unique steed. Shadowmere was rather peculiar about who was allowed to harness his power. Max thought back to Serana's go at riding him, it was rather humorous, but to her credit, the girl hung on better than most men. Perhaps Shadowmere cooperated better with fellow undead.
Max glanced over at his companion, "You've been quiet." He instantly realized the irony of his statement. He had become accustomed to Serana filling the silences.
"Funny you should say that," Serana retorted mildly. What was usually a sarcastic jest sounded more like an agitated retort.
Max frowned slightly. "A little apprehensive about meeting your mother?"
Serana didn't move her gaze from its fixation on the road before her.
"It's been… hundreds…thousands of years,"
Max nodded, deciding not to press further.
Serana sensed this and tried to reassure him a little. He was only trying to make conversation.
"When last I saw my mother, we parted on… difficult terms. Wounds don't heal when you're unconscious for several centuries. They're just as fresh as if I woke up the next day," Serana said sadly.
Max looked at the road for a moment then back to Serana, he wanted nothing more than to console her, but he didn't know how. There was nothing he could compare that was even remotely close to such an issue.
"Serana, you don't have to say anything. You have yet to let me down and I don't suspect you will. You're allowed to keep certain matters private, so long as they don't compromise what we're doing here," Max stopped himself from continuing. He didn't exactly want her to know that he trusted her entirely. It would be foolish for him to say so. He needed her to feel like she needed to earn his trust, at least for now.
"I owe it to you," Serana said. She paused for a moment and looked at him, her face serious, "Max, if it had been any other member of the Dawnguard that freed me from Dimhollow Crypt, I would have been killed on the spot. If it had been my father's men the sun would be gone by now and I would be a shut in thrall."
Max's striking brown eyes locked in on Serana as she spoke.
"You're the only one that's given me a chance. Nothing in my life until that day you woke me had been my choice."
Serana could feel her thoughts gushing out of her mouth uncontrollably, but yet she didn't feel that inclined to stop.
"When you refused my father's offer, you took a stand that I had never been brave enough to. If you hadn't I probably would have simply let him control me for the rest of my existence," Serana confessed, feeling herself get goose-bumps as she spoke. She realized she hadn't had any sort of response from her skin since Francois. She actually felt something inside of her, she felt a warmth amid her cold and lifeless internal structure. Serana watched Max's reaction carefully. He appeared to be bothered at her way of addressing her 'life' as an existence. Serana knew her words meant something to him. They seemed to touch his always-stoic demeanor. But in what way, she had no way of knowing.
"Everyone is allowed a choice, it was only a matter of time that you found one. You took a stand against your father whether you believe it or not. You ran away to protect Skyrim from his evil. You are brave," Max said, his voice taking on that commanding tone. It made Serana feel quite…fuzzy and warm? She couldn't quite remember what that felt like, but this was the best description she could come up with. They were east of Whiterun, going off the beaten path in an attempt to save time. Gunmar had asked Max to make a detour to Riverwood to vanquish and infiltrating vampire.
Serana enjoyed this scenic route. She got to take in the scenery a lot better since she was practically immersed in it. She had always loved the springtime though it made her allergic. That was one benefit of being technically dead. The leaves were fresh and green as they danced in the cool spring wind. The songbirds were out in full force, each filling the air with their unique songs and listening for a reply as they searched for a mate… Or at least she thought that's what they were after.
She glanced over at Max who was alertly checking their surroundings. His thick scars served as war paint down the right side of his face. It made him look even tougher than he did before, if that were possible. Serana realized that was both a blessing and a curse. He had to be that way. Being as famous as Max was, you could never tell whom to trust. She had observed his uncomfortable behavior at the apothecary in Solitude when Angeline had practically proposed to Max for her niece. Serana wouldn't call it awkward, but Max seemed to lose his charismatic edge. He hadn't been kidding when he said Skyrim was his wife. Given the nation's state Max had described, Serana took him at his word that she was a demanding country.
He was so difficult to read. To guess at what he was thinking of at any given moment was pretty much an arrow in the dark. Serana wondered if he knew about her crush on him. She looked down at the horn of her saddle for a moment. She had a crush on him? It sounded so girlish, but alas it was just that. She had no way of knowing if the feeling was reciprocated. She doubted it with the terms on which he passed with his former lovers. Then again, Serana hadn't had much luck in that department either. Being undead put a cramp on dating. She stifled a laugh at her own expense.
“Oh Serana, you must be barking mad,” She thought. A vampire with feelings for a werewolf… now that was worthy of an awful bard song.
She couldn't help but look at her protector fondly. He was a model Nord, albeit only half blood, one would never guess it.
As they neared Riverwood, Serana observed the spring-fed river as it flowed peacefully to the right of the road. Obviously, this was how the village got its name. Max pulled on the reins, slowing Shadowmere to a stop. Serana's roan, growing accustomed to following Shadowmere, also slowed to a stop. Max spoke when she came alongside him.
"I don't want to draw any unwanted attention with these two," he said nodding at the horses.
"Or you, for that matter. So long as you keep your hood up, I think you should be fine, but I think it best that you let me handle this vampire myself," He looked at her expectantly, genuinely wanting her approval.
Serana nodded. "I understand," She watched as her affirmation settled his unease. Perhaps there was something she was missing though.
"I'll need to ask a favor though. I need you to lead these two into Riverwood and tie them up. Just keep a low profile if you can."
As much as Serana hated sitting by while Max did everything, she saw the logic in what he said, like most things he did that she didn't agree with. Eventually she nodded. As Max dismounted he handed her the reins.
"Give me a head start," he said with a slight wave. He began off in the direction of Riverwood. His instincts told him that anyone with a secret that was hoping to blend in would most likely frequent the inn. So the Sleeping Giant Inn it was.
As he made his way into Riverwood, Max noticed the quiet town was quite busy at the moment. Though the traffic included chickens and hounds, there were still a quite a few people out and about. He tried his best to keep a low profile without completely masking himself, though it was tempting to put Rahgot on, he knew it would add more worried stares than his face would.
Max smirked at that, unconsciously touched the healing scratches on his face. The claw marks were unmistakable, but such things were expected of him. He made his way up the stairs to the inn and entered quietly. He saw the inn was relatively lively, but decided it better to assess the situation more clearly.
Max looked around the room, immediately noticing an old ally, Delphine. When she noticed him he gave her the look that said he was here on business. A look she never questioned. Max made sure not to linger on Delphine too long so as not to appear suspicious. He made sure to check out the crowd. He saw a few familiar locals around, but one man instantly stood out to him.
The man had long blonde hair that was tied back away from his face and wore a faded green tunic that had dark stains near the collar. He sat at the other side of the room with his legs crossed. Max immediately noticed his mismatching fur boots. It was clearly a scavenged outfit. Max didn't need these clues to know that this man was a vampire. His enhanced senses told him everything he needed to know. The scent of a vampire was like pepper shaken directly in the nose. It nearly made his eyes water. He could see the slight glow in the vampire's eyes. He had fed recently. Max watched as two locals got into it. The two began shoving, eventually it lead to punches being thrown. This was exactly the distraction Max needed. He checked his poisoned dagger, glancing down at it discreetly, though he expected the vampire was on to him. The scent worked both ways.
Max stood and began to make his way over to the man he could see the vampire was staring right at him. Max cast look over at Delphine. The woman gave him her approval in secret as she wiped the bar with a certain pattern. She didn't even bother to break up the fight, as the men were too drunk to do any real damage. Delphine waited for Max to move closer. Max made quicker steps towards the man. The vampire stood and began to move forward with a hiss. All the while the commotion was all but ignored Delphine began to yell at the fighting patrons, she moved to restrain one while out of the corner of her eye she observed Max hoisting the unfamiliar off his feet by his throat and carrying him into the next room with a thrust of his knife. She just hoped he didn't get blood on the carpet.
Serana made her way into the town of Riverwood, making sure she took in the beautiful landscape around her. Riverwood sat at the very base of a steep collection of mountains. She found the village quaint and rustic nestled in the mountains as it was. This was a place she would prefer to live in as opposed to Castle Volkihar where most of her 'life' was spent. She led her horse into the cute village, she smiled down at the clucking chickens that pecked at the seed in the dirt road. A hound barked at her as she rode past, but no one seemed to pay any mind. Serana could hear the squeals of a saw cutting wood. Glancing to her right she could see men feeding logs through the vertical blade and slide in halves down the chute. It was surprisingly relaxing to watch as well as smell the wood even from a distance.
Serana decided to bypass the inn and tie up the horses at the post outside of a trader's. She tied up the horses and began to take in the village. Along with the saw, she could hear the telltale clang of a blacksmith at work. Just down the way, Serana spotted the glow of the smithy's fire. Now, this place was as pleasant as she had seen of 4th era Skyrim. Serana decided to make her way over to the river, it was more secluded and would allow her to avoid attracting unwanted attention.
When she reached the riverbank, she scanned the area, hoping that no one had noticed her. Unfortunately she was not so lucky. Serana could feel eyes on her as she kneeled down and cupped a handful of water, then let it trickle through her fingers. It was cool and relaxing, and if need be, she would use it as a momentary distraction.
Max had dispatched the vampire quicker than he had anticipated, his lack of arms and complacency lead to his doom. Max had swept up the ash and was having a quick chat with her. Max learned that Delphine had decided to return to the inn for a bit. She said had missed the people of Riverwood and was taking a vacation. She too had been suspicious of the newcomer. When Max had told her of the vampire, she was more intrigued than surprised. She then joked that she needed to start keeping garlic and silver weapons handy. That was the best summary Max could suffice with such important things looming in his conscious. He had little time to reflect on their conversation.
Max exited the inn and looked around. He could see the horses hitched, but Serana was nowhere to be seen.
Camilla Valerius had spotted him and made her way towards him, no doubt wanting to speak with him. Max cursed the Night Mother and the Divines for so many obnoxious suitors.
Camilla's pleasant manner was enough to reassure him that she was only looking to catch up. He hoped anyway.
"Hello Maximus, it's been quite some time," Camilla greeted.
"It has. How have things been in Riverwood recently?" Max asked, more out of courtesy than interest.
"More prosperous than during the war, that's for sure," Camilla responded.
"So how goes your suitor situation?" Max said with a smirk.
"No better than last you were here," she said with a shake of her head. She smiled slightly and laughed, "Not much selection in Riverwood. Or quality candidates for that matter," She said with a shy glance at Max.
Max laughed rather awkwardly at that. The whole time the conversation was taking place, he was searching for Serana. He needed to get out of here quickly.
"You know Max," Camilla said, her face getting serious.
Max tried his best not to look uncomfortable. He glanced away and finally as if it were a godsend, he spotted Serana.
"Camilla," he interrupted her, "I really need to be getting on my way," He instantly noticed her crestfallen expression and began to finesse an excuse that would satisfy her I apologize, but it looks as though my friend over there," he pointed to Serana, "Is in a bit of a predicament with that bard that chases you."
Camilla looked over to see Sven attempting to serenade Max's female friend. She chuckled at the sight.
"At least it’s not me for a change," she said with a giggle, Max joined in.
"Tell you what. If you deal with Sven I can help you with your 'lack of quality candidates' problem," Max tried.
Camilla laughed, "Alright, you've got yourself a deal."
Max handed her some gold.
"Go to Whiterun and look for the carriage driver. His name is Bjorlam. Tell him the Dovahkiin is calling in a favor. He'll take you to Riften free of charge. The Temple of Mara has plenty of people inquiring there about potential spouses. Use this to donate to the church. They're much more likely to help you when their palms are greased."
Camilla smiled, "Thank you, Dragonborn. Any woman that receives your affections is very lucky."
Max awkwardly shifted his gaze away from Camilla and thanked her.
"If you ask Sven nicely, I bet he'll escort you to Whiterun," Max said rather jokingly. Camilla laughed at that.
She followed after him as they went to help his 'friend'.
Serana was beyond flustered. One minute she was watching the salmon jump in the river and then next, some blonde and oddly feminine bard was trying to sweet talk her. She couldn't decide what was worse; his pick-up lines or his singing. She decided he wasn't a bad singer, but his high-pitched voice was better suited for a woman. She cursed the Daedra for toying with her like this. They enjoyed such things way too much. Serana offered the bard and awkward smile and then avoided making eye contact with him. As she looked she could see Max and some woman from the village heading towards them. Max was leading their horses.
Serana looked at the bard finally, "Look, uh…"
"Sven. I am here on business and my friend over there," she pointed to Max. The bard followed her finger, when his eyes laid upon the person in which she intended they widened in fear.
"My friend over there looks like he's ready to leave. He does not like to be held up. Do you understand?"
Sven nodded but he didn't appear too fazed, "It looks like your man there has found himself another woman. My woman. Camilla."
Serana narrowed her eyes at him, "You're trying to make her jealous by talking to me?"
Sven's bravado seemed to diminish then, "Well, I guess I don't know. You are quite attractive yourself… and you smell nice."
Serana shook her head in disbelief. It was all she could do to stop from smacking her own forehead, "Thanks, I guess… good luck with that Camilla," She said, her tone implying he would need it.
Sven, in one last ditch effort, he reached out and caressed Serana's skin, they both gasped at the contact of skin for different reasons. Serana out of genuine shock and Sven at her frigid skin.
Serana swatted his hand angrily. Before she could say anything a shout pierced the air and Max somehow traversed the remainder of the distance between them. He did not look happy, clearly aware at what Sven may have discovered.
"Are you bothering her?" Max said, his voice hissed with anger.
"Her skin… It's… cold," Sven said, his voice almost horrified.
"I don't care how it felt! Is this how you treat a woman you find alone?" Max said, his eyes alight with outrage. Serana couldn't tell if he was actually that riled up about it or if he was merely acting as though Serana were something of a fling of his.
"No… I don't know what came over me. I'm sorry," Sven apologized shakily.
Max appeared to relent silently. He turned to the woman that was following him. She was quite pretty, though she looked quite worried about the altercation before her.
"I think it'd be better if you asked someone else, Camilla." Max said to the woman, rather cryptically.
Camilla nodded, appearing to know what he meant.
"Safe travels, friend." She turned without saying another word. Sven chased after her, but she paid him no mind.
Serana climbed atop her horse and followed Max and Shadowmere from Riverwood.
"What was that all about?" Serana asked after a while.
"What do you mean?"
"That woman. Who was she?" Serana asked innocently.
Max could sense a bit of jealousy in her tone. He wasn't sure how he felt about that. Part of him found it endearing.
"I met her a long time ago. She's an old acquaintance. Sven and another Riverwood bachelor have been after her for years, but she wants out of there. So I helped her out. Sent her to Riften," Max explained.
"The Temple of Mara," Max answered.
"Is Mara a Divine?" Serana inquired.
Max realized she didn't know who the Divines were.
"Yes, of love and matrimony. Most go to her temple to be wed," Max explained.
"Oh. Were you?" Serana asked.
"Yes," Max said quietly. He lifted the front of a necklace from within his armor and held a wedding band that hung around the chain. There were two other strange tokens hanging from it as well.
Serana decided now was the time to ask.
"You mentioned your parents were in a place called 'Sovngarde' is that like the afterlife for those who believe in the Divines?"
Max looked at her, his expression rather pained, Serana instantly regretted asking.
"Yes. I have been there. It's a Nord's paradise."
Serana looked at him, very confused. "You've been there?"
"Yes, to slay Alduin's soul, I had to ride a dragon to Sovngarde and slay him."
Serana's brow rose. "Now that's a story."
Max laughed lightly. "Yes. I saw my parents. It was nice while it lasted."
Serana couldn't help but notice Aela was not mentioned.
"What about your wife?"
Max moved the wedding band on his necklace in his hands as he spoke.
"Aela was a Companion through and through. A hunter. The gift was everything to her. Every werewolf upon death is sent to Hircine's hunting grounds where they hunt her enemies forever. It was what she wanted," Max's eyes softened for a moment as he thought silently.
Serana nodded, "I am familiar with Hircine. Her realm is a hunter's paradise. Aela is thoroughly enjoying it, I'm sure," Serana said reassuringly. She didn't realize how much Aela's afterlife troubled Max until she saw how much he appreciated her words.
"Thank you. That's good to know," Max said appreciatively.
"What happens to vampires when they…die?" Max asked.
"Well, being given my 'gift' from Molag Bol. I am the most powerful kind of vampire there is. We're called the Daughters of Coldharbor. We are very few, especially now. My mother and I are the only ones that I know of. Anyways, we are supposed to be too powerful to kill, so really I don't think there's an afterlife."
Max appeared interested, "I've spoken with Molag Bol before. He was…interesting. But I've never heard of the Daughters of Coldharbor before."
"It was supposed to be an honor to be selected…but few survive the process and it's…horrific," Serana said, she looked down and took a deep breath.
"When we wake up, we're blooded vampires," Serana said with a morbid ta-da.
Max remained silent, letting her be. She clearly was traumatized by this ritual, in some way or another, it was not his business to pry.
"I never pegged you as a Daedra worshipper," Serana said, changing the subject.
"I'm not really a Daedra worshipper to be honest," Max said, "I just hear what they have to say. They reward me quite handsomely, but nothing beyond a weapon or a boon of some sort."
Serana was intrigued, "You are quite lucky to be selected by the Daedra for a task. Why do I get the feeling you aren't as thrilled about Hircine's realm as your wife?"
Max's expression darkened.
"Well, let's say I've dabbled in just about every religion, but…" he paused and thought for a moment.
"Perhaps I'll explain another time. Forgive me, but it's a difficult subject," Max said apologetically.
Serana nodded, "That's fine, Max. You don't have to go any further."
"No, I think it'll be good to talk about…when I'm ready that is," He said reassuringly.
Serana nodded again. "Until then."
Max smiled at her briefly and turned his attention to the road.
It became increasingly clear to Serana that Max had many things haunting him. The more time they spent together, the more she was beginning to understand what made the most powerful Nord in all of Skyrim the man he was. He was beginning to trust her. This excited her. Despite the odds that were against them, Serana knew somehow Max would find a way to foil her father's wretched plans. They would stop him.