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Rising at Dawn

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“Each night, when I go to sleep, I die. And the next morning, when I wake up, I am reborn.”
Mahatma Gandhi

 

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The marshes of Morthal had a distinctive smell of rot and decay – the earthy, musky scent of decomposition, thick mud, and the sharp tang of slick creatures that dwell within it. Azarahd pulled the hood of his Nightingale armor closer around his face, blocking the feeble rays of the sun that threatened to crest the mountains at any moment. His blood raged against the coming light, his nerves feeling as though they were on fire. He glanced back at Serana to see the woman close behind, her cowl also pulled down low over here eyes. The whirring of bugs and sluggish movements of nocturnal creatures churned around them, slowly fading, each finding shelter to rest for the day ahead. Fallion, the shunned wizard of Morthal, stood barely thirty feet in front of them, a stoic centerpiece in a circle of standing stones.

 

“Do you have them?” he asked, folding his arms across his chest. Azarahd reached into one of the concealed pockets of his armor, procuring two black soul gems that were faintly pulsing with obscured, dim light. He handed them wordlessly over to the Redguard.

“Good. I’m sure it… wasn’t easy,” he stumbled, seeming to second-guess his words even as he said them. He looked back and forth between the two vampires momentarily before clearing his throat.

“Shall we get on with it?”

 

Azarahd felt Serana shift uneasily beside him. He glanced sideways at her, cocking his head in an unspoken question.

“You should go first,” she offered, her tone kind, but her forehead wrinkling with apprehension.

“There is no need to be nervous,” Ahz tried to offer, but Serana just smiled sadly at him, shaking her head.

“Maybe not for you. You’ve only been this way for a few months… But me? Who knows what will happen once I’m cured. Maybe I’ll just… dissolve into dust.”

“Do not say such things,” he insisted lowly, earning a simple shrug from Serana.

“It’s true. So if I don’t… make it, I’d like to at least see you succeed first.”

 

Azarahd swallowed thickly, unable to argue. He nodded curtly, planting a firm, companionable kiss on her forehead, before stepping into the center of the summoning circle. Fallion pocketed one of the soul gems, holding the second aloft. The gem emitted a faint, humming sound as the wizard began to focus his magicka.

“As the sun ends the night, end the darkness of this soul,” Fallion spoke, voice loud and harsh amidst the muffled quiet of the bog.
“Return life to the creature you see before you!”

 

Azarahd only had a few seconds to briefly wonder whom exactly Fallion was praying to before it felt like something with sharp, cold fingers had reached into his body and firmly taken hold of his heart. He doubled over, grasping at his chest, fighting the urge to claw through his armor, to stop the sudden, jagged pain that ripped through every fiber of his being.

 

In an instant, the pressure lifted and he gasped loudly. For the first time in over half a year, his lungs burned with fresh air, his own blood pulsing loud and hot through his ears. The light of the morning around him seemed to shimmer wildly before equalizing. Ahz had fallen to his hands and knees without realizing it, his breathing ragged.

“The ritual is complete,” Fallion stated. “How do you feel?”

 

Lightheaded, the Khajiit slowly pushed himself up to his feet, lowering his hood and looking up at the sky. A single hawk flew overhead, high above them, a simple black silhouette against the pale blue backdrop. It seemed to hover in place, simply gliding on the currents that blew down from Solitude. He felt the tickle of the sun on his face, whiskers twitching in the damp, cool breeze of the morning, but he felt no pain. He closed his eyes, breathing deeply.

 

Smiling, he turned to Serana, her worried face still covered by her cowl, eyes glowing faintly.

“I feel born anew,” Ahz nearly laughed, smiling gently. Serana returned his smile with a wary one of her own. He stepped forward, placing his large hands on her slender shoulders.

“Have faith, ahziss kah’jay,” he implored, squeezing the tops of her arms gently. She nodded, her expression solidifying into something stoic and determined, before brushing past Azarahd and stepping into the center of the standing stones. Fallion pulled the second black soul gem from his pocket, repeating the words of the ritual word for word, then paused, looking around. For a moment it almost seemed as if nothing had happened. Ahz took a tentative step forward, tail twitching nervously.

 

Without warning, a deafening blast of red and black energy burst forth from Serana’s eyes and mouth, startling the birds from the trees and causing both Fallion and Azarahd to drop to the ground, covering their ears. Ahz felt his teeth vibrating in his head, and he was sure he heard Serana’s scream amidst the cacophonous whirlwind of light and chaos and something that was not entirely of the plane of existence.

 

Then, all at once, it was gone. The silence left in its wake was just as deafening. Azarahd shook his head as he got to his feet, trying to clear his ears of a pervasive, high-pitched ringing. He looked to the circle to see Serana’s small figure crumpled into a heap. With a startled shout, he leapt over to her, sliding to the ground and grabbing her tentatively by her shoulders to roll her over.

 

To his great relief, she looked like her usual self, but her cheeks were flushed pink, lips slightly parted with the intake of a stuttering breath.

“Serana…” Ahz sighed shakily, tucking several stray hairs behind her ear as he cushioned her head on his lap. Her eyes fluttered open and Ahz felt his pulse quicken. Hazel eyes, beautiful rich golds and greens and flecks of dark brown, stared back up at him.

“Are you okay?” he asked breathlessly.

“I…” she began to speak, her voice hoarse and dry. “I think Molag Bal didn’t want to let me go without a fight,” she laughed weakly. Azarahd pushed her cowl back away from her face, and Serana cringed instinctively.

“Do not…” he purred assuredly, moving his hands to her back to help her sit up. “Look. Breathe… Can you feel it?”

 

Serana pushed tentatively away from him, getting to her feet with the grace of a newborn horse. She turned in a small circle, eyes to the sky, gaze darting this way and that. She looked back down at herself and hastily, impatiently, rolled the sleeves of her tunic up to her elbows, holding her forearms out into the light, studying them. Her skin was as white as freshly fallen snow, her wrists divided by the soft blue of her veins beneath. She uncurled her hands to inspect the soft pinks dusting her palms and fingers, turning them over to do the same to her knuckles. The sun finally crested the far mountains to the east, and the three figures were bathed in a warm golden light. Serana lifted her head, as if startled, her gaze flitting to Azarahd’s. The stark morning sun radiated off of her dark, umber hair, giving her a reddish halo.

“I can feel it,” she whispered, a breathless smiled gracing her features, eyes glistening wetly.

 

Somewhere in the distance a songbird began to trill.

 

---

Serana’s appetite was insatiable. Azarahd had to admit that his first bite into the seared slaughterfish he had ordered was nearly close to orgasmic, but Serana seemed to be having a truly spiritual experience.

“I had honestly forgotten that food even…. tasted. Does that make sense?” she explained through a mouthful of grilled leeks.

“Indeed,” Ahz agreed, popping a slice of tomato into his mouth and relishing in the way the flavors burst over his tongue. “I confess… it was one of the things I missed the most. That and not being able to get drunk.” He grinned, grabbing one of the bottles of mead on the table and taking a long swig. Humming appreciatively he smacked his lips. “Especially that.”

“Drinking before noon? I’m in.” She snatched the bottle from his hand, taking her own long swig.

 

The innkeeper watched them with something akin to amusement. The Mooreside Inn was fairly quiet. Most of the patrons were already out for the day, Serana and Azarahd having arrived just shortly after sunrise, their voracious appetites in tow.

“What would you like to do with this beautiful day we have ahead of us?” Azarahd asked, tucking his hands under his chin and leaning on the table.

“Well… what is it that day-dwellers do? Take walks? Smell flowers?”

“Yes, I’d say they probably do both on occasion…”

“Sounds boring,” Serana sighed, taking a final bite of her venison before pushing the plate away.

“We’re less than a day from Solitude,” Ahz pointed out thoughtfully. “There’s more to do there than in this…” he looked around the Inn with a crinkled brow, “charming little town.” Serana perked up a bit at that.

“That sounds like it could be fun… so long as we stay off the main trails. The Dawnguard isn’t going to know that we’ve been cured. I’d really like to not have to deal with them on my first day as a mortal again.”

“Fair enough,” Ahz smirked. “I can lead us through the swamps easily. And, if we catch some mudcrabs we can steam their legs for dinner tonight.”

“That sound amazing,” Serana sighed, leaning against his arm with a dreamy look.

 

They set out promptly after finishing their breakfast, bidding their farewells and leaving a little extra coin for the innkeeper, their new lot on life leaving them feeling more generous than usual. They made their way north of the town, chatting and laughing loudly as the slowly rising sun warmed their faces. Moving through the swampy landscape of Hjalmarch slowed them down a bit compared to their normal speed, but neither seemed too bothered, content to keep a casual pace. Serana did, in fact, manage to pick some flowers, even smelling a few. Azarahd cackled gleefully as angry mudcrabs chased after him, snapping at his tail, before he wheeled to easily kill them with carefully aimed arrows. He showed Serana how to remove their legs and rambled about various recipes and potions the creatures could be used for.

 

They stopped in a small clearing around high noon to sit on a fallen tree and share some rations, including a bottle of mead Azarahd had lifted from the inn. Serana laughed openly and unashamedly at Azarahd’s pitiful attempts at translating Khajiit jokes.

“No… you do not see, it is funny because the rug was the liar,” Ahz tried to explain, ears flattened as Serana continued to laugh at him.

“I’m sorry, I really am. But that makes no sense…” Serana nearly snorted, calming her laughter enough to take another pull of mead. Ahz jerked it out of her hands after she had finished, smiling despite his attempts to seem angry.

 

They walked side by side through the winding natural paths of the marshes, sharing stories and making observations. Azarahd felt Serana slip her hand into his, causing him to stutter mid sentence.

“Is… this okay?” she asked, a small smirk playing on the corner of her lips. Ahz squeezed her hand fondly.

“Of course.”

 

---

 

They reached Solitude just as the sun was beginning to set behind the far mountains to the west. They entered the city through the southern tower, their legs burning as they finally ascended the last flight of stairs. The city was more beautiful than Azarahd remembered. They passed the lamplighters as they made their way to the local inn, the streets beginning to glow and flicker with warm firelight and evening activity. Children still ran about in the fading hours of the day, one of them stopping in front of the pair.

“Hey! Wanna play tag?” he asked, beaming at them before doing a double take at Azarahd. “Whoa! You’re a Khajiit! That’s so cool!”

“I am,” Ahz chuckled, placing his hands on his knees. “We cannot play tag with you right now, friend. It is almost dark. You should be heading home.”

“Aww…” the boy’s shoulders slumped as he walked away.

“Never took you for the fatherly type,” Serana jeered, elbowing Azarahd gently in the arm.

“You would be correct,” he huffed. “Children are not for me.”

“I never thought I wanted them, and was content to never have them. But now I guess I have the option, huh?” she mused far too casually for Ahz’s liking.

“You have many options now,” he replied, vaguely attempting to change the subject.

 

As they opened the front door to the Winking Skeever, bold singing, raucous laughter, and discordant flute playing greeted the pair. Serana beamed at the scene, utterly amused and fascinated. Azarahd grabbed her by the hand and led them through the crowd of people that had managed to pack themselves into the tavern.

“Welcome to the Winking Skeever!” the bartender called to them over the din. “What can I get for you two?”    

“I’d like to purchase some butter if you have any,” Ahz began. “And whatever your finest drink may be.”

“I do have some butter, Master Khajiit. And my finest drink…” the man rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “Well I do have a few bottles of Cyrodilic Brandy, but they cost quite a bit of coin.”

“We’ll take a bottle,” Azarahd grinned, pulling out his coin purse without hesitation.

 

Serana trailed behind Ahz as they turned from the bar, squeezing past the crowds of men and elves and argonians all laughing and drinking together.

“It’s nice to see such diversity in a city,” Serana commented. Ahz’s cynical laugh was lost amongst the ruckus. He led them over to a small cooking pot sitting on the edge of a brick oven in the far corner of the incredibly warm tavern. Setting down his satchel he pulled out the fresh mudcrab legs.

“Oh! I had almost forgotten about those!” Serana exclaimed, moving to claim the vacant table nearby. Ahz smirked, filling the pot halfway with water from a nearby jug.

“Their smell would have reminded you in the morning.”

“No doubt,” she laughed airily.

 

A few moments later, the mudcrab legs were steaming and Azarahd was sitting back into one of the stiff, wooden chairs, pulling the cork out of the Cyrodillic brandy with his teeth.

“I don’t think I’ve ever had this stuff before,” Serana admitted. “I hope that doesn’t make me uncultured.”

“Incredibly,” Ahz chastised in monotone. “You should be ashamed of yourself.”

“The shame is nearly unbearable.”

“I cannot believe I’m allowing myself to be seen with you.”

“Your reputation as a lofty connoisseur of fine taste will be ruined forever.”

 

They laughed, leaning towards each other across the small table. Azarahd carefully poured a hefty glass for Serana into one of the goblets that sat between them before pouring his own.

“Cheers,” Serana lifter her goblet to knock it against Azarahd’s.

Ali zal an kara,” Ahz exclaimed with a toothy grin. “To good health and happiness.”

“To the end of past lives,” Serana added.

“And to the beginning of new ones.” They both took a long drink, each pulling pack with a bit of a hiss and smacking their lips.

“Wow,” Serana sputtered, her eyes fluttering as she wiped her mouth on the back of her hand. “That is… something else.”

“What is the Nord expression…” Ahz pondered for a moment, swirling the liquid around in his cup. “It will… put hair on your chest?” Serana let out a barking laugh.

“I think you have enough hair on your chest,” she giggled, taking another drink.

 

Silence lapsed between them as the two companions seemed content to people-watch for a while, patiently waiting for the mudcrab legs to steam. Ahz got up a few times to raise the lid of the cooking pot and poke around a bit, always settling back down and taking another drink as he did. The brandy was beginning to make his head swim, especially on a fairly empty stomach. He glanced over to Serana, her attention currently on a pair of argonians in the midst of a heated discussion. Maybe it was his imagination, or possibly the firelight, but the woman already looked a bit older, the lines around her eyes more prominent and her cheekbones a bit sharper. She turned to look at him, having felt his gaze. Her smile was warm and content… she looked happy. She reached across the table to take hold of one of Ahz’s hands again, squeezing it briefly before letting go.

“Is the food ready?” she asked, taking another sip of her brandy. Azarahd rose and checked the pot one last time, pleased to see that the legs had turned a nice, vibrant orange.

“Indeed they are. Fetch some plates from the bar keep, and perhaps a few rags. Mudcrab legs are not for the delicate,” Ahz grinned, taking the pot off the fire.

 

They cracked messily into the steaming hot legs with a primitive kind of satisfaction, eating with their fingers and laughing. The butter was a luxury in and of itself, and Azarahd smeared gobs of it onto his pile of crabmeat, pinching a small sprinkle of salt on top before diving in.

“This was one of the better ideas I think you’ve ever had,” Serana commented through a mouthful of food. Ahz simply chuckled around his own bite.

“You know what they say about talking with your mouth full,” he chastised.

“That it’s the only way to attract a husband?” Serana asked, batting her eyelashes before taking another massive bite.  

“And what would you know of husbands?” Ahz chortled, prompting Serana to lob a piece of shell at his head.

 

The rags were most certainly a good call. After they had finally finished eating their fill and wiping their hands clean, the two settled back into their usual small talk, Azarahd pouring more brandy for the two of them. Things were going well until a tall presence imposed itself in front of their table.

“Now, what’s a gorgeous thing like you doing with a mangy animal like that?” a tall Imperial man slurred in Serana’s direction. Ahz felt the hair on his neck begin to prickle. The last thing he wanted was to get into a bar fight, especially on a full stomach.

“Darius, come on, leave them alone,” his somewhat less drunk companion attempted to interject, pulling on the man’s arm. Darius jerked out of his grip.

“It’s just a question… I didn’t think they let cats into the city, s’all,” he shrugged, taking a steadying step backwards with the motion.

“And I didn’t think they let children consume alcohol,” Serana shot back coolly, taking a sip of her own drink. “Looks like we’re both learning new things this evening.”

“Oh, so you’ve got a smart mouth,” Darius growled, slamming his hands down onto the table loudly. Azarahd sprang to his feet immediately, causing the Imperial to stumble backwards.

“I think you should be moving on your way now, friend,” he snapped, one hand hovering over the hilt of his dagger.

“I don’t have to take that from you!” Darius spat back. Serana also got to her feet.

“Gentlemen, please,” she implored with mock-civility. “There’s no need to fight. Isn’t that right, darling?” she turned to Azarahd, throwing her arms around his shoulders and nuzzling into his neck. The Khajiit did his best not to look as stunned as he felt.

“…Of course… my… sweet,” he responded, looking down at her with a quirked eyebrow and a crooked smile. Her expression said play along, punctuating it with a wink.

“We can’t blame the man for being a simpleton,” she continued. “I assume he’s just never seen an interracial marriage before,” she purred, stroking a hand down the side of Azarahd’s face. Darius sputtered in disbelief, his more reasonable friend behind him also making an unpleasant noise. Azarahd wrapped one large arm around her waist, stroking the small of her back.

“Of course, ahziss kha’jay, I forget that not all are accepting of our love,” he rumbled, pulling her closer.

“Their loss, really. Khajiit make excellent lovers.”

“Disgusting…” Darius spat, but began to walk away none-the-less. His friend gave them an apologetic, but disgruntled shrug before trailing after him.

 

Azarahd let out a cackle, squeezing Serana tightly to his chest.

“What in Oblivion gave you that idea?” he asked with a grin, one arms still looped around her waist. She drummed her fingers against the overlapping leather of his chest plate.

“Probably the brandy,” she confessed, leaning into him a bit more.

“Hmm… well maybe we should drink some more,” he suggested in, what he hoped, was a seductive tone. He sat back down into his seat, pulling Serana onto his lap. She laughed easily, resting one arm across his shoulders, the other reaching for her goblet. Azarahd’s mind briefly flickered back to his conversation with Brynjolf before they set out from Riften. Serana was just a friend… a very good friend. Who was currently sitting on his lap. He knocked back the last of his brandy before pouring some more with his free hand for both himself and her.

 

“So Khajiit make excellent lovers, do they?” he prodded, smirking at the woman in his lap.

“Oh that’s just what I’ve heard,” she dismissed with a wave of her hand. She paused for a moment to take a sip of her brandy. “It has yet to be proven.”

“Is that a challenge?” he nearly growled.

“Is that a proposition?”

“Only if that’s an invitation.”

 

They stared at each other for a long minute and Azarahd felt her shift on his lap as she moved to set her cup down. Wordlessly, Serana took his face between her hands and brought their mouths together. Now, Azarahd liked to think of himself as skilled in the art of seduction, but something about the suddenness of the gesture made his hand stutter at her sides, his eyes remaining open and wide. It only took him a moment to acclimate before he was gripping her waist fiercely, pulling her closer. Working his tongue into her mouth, humming in satisfaction at the way she yielded to him. He knew people were watching them. He knew this was taboo to so many of Skyrim’s inhabitants. In fact, he was so used to having to hide his romantic exploits with the men-folk and mer-folk that the act of being so unapologetically public went straight to his groin. He groaned loudly into Serana’s mouth before pulling away.

 

“Perhaps we should… find some place more private?” he asked, slightly breathless. She smiled wickedly at him before bounding off his laps and making her way back over to the bar. Ahz sat alone awkwardly, crossing one leg over the other to hide the obvious bulge that had begun to appear beneath his Nightingale leather. Serana returned a moment later, swinging a key from her pointer finger.

“First room at the top of the stairs to the right,” she said, grabbing her pack and beginning to walk towards the stairs. Azarahd scrambled to his feet, grabbing his own satchel as well as the half-empty bottle of brandy and scurrying after her.

 

Once the door was locked they were on each other in an instant. Azarahd felt like he was in some kind of waking dream, the whole situation surreal and new. Time seemed to move slowly as Serana pulled him down onto the bed to lie on top of her. Ahz let himself be pulled and pushed, bending to her desires, docile to her will. He let her slowly, tortuously unbuckle his armor, pushing it off his shoulders and to the floor. He let her guide his hands to her breasts, pulling down her tunic. He bent his head low to take one of her hardened nipples into his mouth, delighting in her rapturous moans and the way she arched her back.

 

They removed each other’s clothes slowly, deliberately. Serana brushed her hands across Azarahd’s shoulders and down his back, humming into his ear as he ran a hand up the inside of her leg.

“Yes,” she whispered her soft encouragements as his fingers brushed against the core of her heat. She was slick and pliant and he easily slid a finger into her, earning a stuttering gasp. Ahz purred deeply.

“How long has it been, ahziss kha’jay?” he rumbled into her ear, slowly working his finger in and out of her opening, thumb pressing down firmly against her clit.

“Far… far too long,” Serana groaned, roughly fisting the fur on the back of Azarahd’s neck.

“Well then, I am honored to reintroduce you.” He slid languidly down her body, removing his finger and hooking her legs over his shoulders. He glanced up at her one last time; the hungry look in her eyes being the only fuel he needed, before taking her sex into his mouth.

 

Serana cried out, throwing her head back against the pillows and clenching her thighs around Ahz’s head. He held onto her hips firmly, pulling her lower half up off the bed as he laved his tongue against her clit over and over. She grasped the headboard above her with both hands, grinding her pelvis against Azarahd’s mouth. He hummed appreciatively against her wetness, savoring her, opening her up. He felt her shudder and nearly scream as she came so easily, so sensitive, against his tongue. He laughed lowly, pulling away and lowering her back down onto the bed.

“It has been a while…” he murmured, sliding back up her body to capture her mouth in his once more. She kissed him hungrily, getting a taste of herself in the process.

“I would very much like if you fucked me now,” she nearly growled, running her hands down Azarahd’s sides to cup his ass.

“It would be my pleasure.”

 

In a swift movement, Azarahd lifted one of Serana’s legs over his shoulder again, lining his swollen cock up with her entrance before slowly, agonizingly pushing in. By the Nine she was tight, and Ahz couldn’t stop the groan that escaped his lips. Serana grabbed onto his forearms, letting out a long sigh as her eyes fluttered closed. They stayed still for a moment, both acclimating to the others presence, before Ahz started to move, gradually beginning to thrust into her. Serana practically mewled as he released her leg and dropped down onto his forearms, beginning to pump his hips steadily. They panted into each other’s mouths and ears, hot and wet. Azarahd nipped gently at Serana’s collarbone, eliciting short, breathy whines that timed to his thrusts. He felt himself getting close and pulled out suddenly, causing Serana to let out a frustrated cry.

 

“What’s wrong?” she huffed, reaching up to stroke a thumb across Azarahd’s cheek.

“Turn over,” Ahz commanded, his usual bedroom dominance returning. She grinned at him, flipping over onto her hands and knees, raising her ass high in the air.

“Like what you see?” she asked with a smirk.

“Very much so,” Ahz replied, giving her firm bottom a light smack. She squealed with delight, sighing indulgently as he slid back into her.

“By the gods…” she groaned, grabbing onto one of the pillows and clutching it to her chest as Ahz slowly increased his pace. Soon he was driving into her with brutal force, wringing cries from her throat every time their hips connected. She brought one of her hands up to press against the headboard to prevent Ahz from nearly driving her into it. Her legs collapsed, leaving her belly-down on the bed as Azarahd continued to furiously pound into her tight heat.

Jer vara ahziss… Serana… fuck!” He cried out suddenly, thrusts slowing as he milked himself into her, the force of his climax tunneling his vision as he dug his claws slightly into the meat of her hips. He hovered over her for a moment, catching his breath, before slowly withdrawing himself. She laughed breathily as she rolled over to face him, high from the rush of endorphins.

 

On wobbly legs, Azarahd managed to get off the bed and stumble over to their packs, pulling out an old shirt. He stood at the room’s wash basin and poured a bit of water from the supplied jug to dampen the cloth.

“You’re quite handsome, you know,” Serana interjected into the silence.

“Am I? Even to a Nord?” he asked, a smile playing across his lips.

“Well, I certainly think so.”

 

Ahz moved back onto the bed, kneeling between Serana’s legs where she had rolled onto her back and tenderly wiped away the mess they’d made.

“And you’re quite the gentleman,” she laughed, letting her head fall back against the pillows again.

“Only for you,” he winked, wiping himself off as well. He threw the shirt somewhere off to the corner, reaching across to the table beside the bed to grab the remains of the brandy.

 

When he turned back, Serana was staring pensively at the backs of her hands, her expression stony, brow creased in concern.

“Is everything ok?” he asked, pausing before climbing back onto the bed. Her head snapped up, expression reverting to her usual coy demeanor.

“Of course. Let me get a swig of that,” she motioned to the bottle as she pulled back the covers. Ahz joined her, nestling into the soft, Imperial blankets with a sigh. She leaned against his chest as he put an arm around her thin shoulders. They shared the brandy in silence for a moment before she spoke.

“Tell me about Elsweyr,” she said quietly. Azarahd blinked dumbly into the empty space across the room.

“…Really?” he asked in disbelief. She nodded against his neck, running a hand over his chest, her fingers combing through his dark fur.

 

“Well… I was birthed in the North. It is all deserts, as far as the eye can see. The heat is… unlike anything Skyrim has ever known. It is all-surrounding, comforting. It lives in your bones and you never forget it, even on the coldest nights.” He shifted slightly, trailing the pads of his fingers across Serana’s arm before continuing.

 

“I had a brother… his name was Za’kir. We were not close. When Elsweyr joined with the Aldmeri Dominion, he went off to train under the golden elves. I would not be shocked if he were to be a Thalmor assassin. I always felt as though I may die by my brother’s hand one day...” He paused, sighing heavily.

“Why did you come to Skyrim?” Serana asked after a beat. She shifted her legs to hook a thigh over one of Azarahd’s.

“I was running from my past, why else?” he laughed bitterly. “I was a criminal in Elsweyr. I thought I could start a new here, but it turns out I am a criminal no matter where I go.”

“But you’re also the Dragonborn,” she countered.

“Yes…” Ahz agreed lowly. “Some kind of cruel joke, it seems. Alkosh or Akatosh, whoever it is that’s decided to play with my fate has surely been laughing at me. Perhaps it is a joke on the Nords… their precious hero, a Khajiit. I will tell you, I do not like being the punch line of a joke.”

“You’re not a joke.” Serana pressed off the bed, turning to face him. Her expression was stern, the lines around her mouth set deeply into a frown. “You’re amazing. This land hardly deserves the things you’ve done for it, especially with the way people treat you.” Azarahd smiled, running a hand through her tangled hair.

“The people of Skyrim are not all bad,” he assured, leaning forward to kiss her forehead. “I have found much warmth here.”

 

They fell back into each other again, less frantic, kissing softly and exploring each other’s bodies. Azarahd soon found himself sliding back into her, and she groaned quietly against his mouth, arching up into him and drawing him closer. Ahz vaguely wondered if they were making love, biting down gently against her neck as his thrusts quickened. He reached between them to press and rub her tender spot, reveling in the way she shuddered and clenched around him. He didn’t think he had the ability to find his second climax, but he rode her through her own, whispering sweet nothings into her ear in his native tongue as she clung to him.

 

They fell asleep in a tangle of limbs, candles still burning, and Serana’s damp forehead pressed just below Azarahd’s chin.  

 

 

---

 

 

Azarahd woke slowly, his head heavy and fogged from the brandy. He blinked blearily into the cold morning light of the room. The bed was empty save for himself.

“Serana?” he called out, voice hoarse from sleep. He rubbed his head, running his hand vigorously over his ears to wake himself up. The room was empty. Azarahd huffed, assuming the woman must have gone downstairs to get breakfast. He threw the covers back off the bed, standing to stretch with a loud groan. He began looking for his pants when he saw the note on the table. His face immediately felt cold.

 

Numbly, he walked over and picked up the small piece of torn parchment, beginning to read.

 

 

Az,

You don’t deserve this. So I just want you to know that I am really sorry. I need to go my own way for a while. Being cured has given me a lot to think about and I know I’ll only slow you down. I have faith that our paths will cross again some day. Until then, travel safely, sabercat. My love is with you.

Serana

 

 

Azarahd set the note back down on the table, his chest aching, throat tight. He stood, frozen to the spot, unable to think of what exactly he was going to do next. She was gone, like a candle in the wind… just, gone. He was alone again. Again.

 

He looked back down at the note, lip curling up into a snarl before he lashed out in a quick, sweeping motion, knocking the spare plates and cutlery to the floor in a fit of rage. He stormed to the opposite side of the room, quickly shoving himself back into his clothes and buckling up his armor. He pulled his Nightingale mask over his face, drawing his hood low across his eyes. He tucked Serana’s note into his journal before slipping out of the Inn like a shadow.

 

He blew down to the Solitude stables and promptly stole a horse, driving his heels into its side and galloping out of town in the direction of Dragon Bridge. He wasn’t sure where he wanted to go, but he didn’t exactly care. He didn’t let his horse slow down until he’d careened through town and crossed the bridge, the creature’s flanks foaming with sweat as it anxiously chomped at the bit. He sighed, leaning against the horse’s withers with one hand, reaching up to pull his hood and mask away with his other. The weather wasn’t nearly as pleasant today, thick storm clouds gathering overhead and a light spittle of rain beginning to fall. Azarahd closed his eyes, letting the tiny droplets gather on his whiskers, exhaling steam into the quickly chilling air.

 

After a long moment, he decided he’d make his way to Winterhold and check in on the College. It had been too long since he’d seen his friends there. With a heaving sigh he led his stolen horse down to the river to get a quick drink before driving it onward into the day ahead, refusing to look back.  

 

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