The sky was purple and green. Auroras blanketed the stars above in curving patterns and both moons were full and vibrant. The nights were never this beautiful on earth. Revan faced forward once again as he walked silently through the quiet, darkened streets of Whiterun. Most of the simple wood built houses he passed had already dimmed the lights for the night but a few were still illuminated inside. Probably eating supper. A light breeze blew through the air, carrying faint scents of soup, spices, and roast mutton. They tinged his nostrils and caused his mouth to water.
“Should have eaten…” he muttered softly, but against the dead silence around him, he might as well have yelled. A guard posted nearby glanced in his direction, giving him a slight nod. The young man returned it and continued his walk. It was odd not to hear the usual shuffle of armor and equipment with every step that he had grown accustomed to. Dressed in a simple, green, buttoned down shirt and coarse woolen slacks, one could mistake him for an ordinary citizen. Except for the sheathed sword at his hip. Casually dressed or not, he refused to be unarmed at any point. And with his status, no guard was foolish enough to question the blade he always carried. Still, he despised the silence. All the easier for the raging torrent in his mind to roar into his ears and drive him insane. Shaking his head, the young man picked up his pace.
Revan reached his destination and could hear the soft tunes and buzzing chatter before even reaching the door. The large double door, two story, wooden building was simple and homely in design, much like the rest of Whiterun. He glanced briefly at the sign above the doors reading “The Bannered Mare” before letting himself inside.
The intense light of the roaring, centered fireplace assaulted Revan’s eyes and momentarily blurred his vision. The warmth of the large room contrasted heavily to the air outside and crisped his skin gently. He quickly closed the door behind him and faced the tavern full of the city’s regulars. The buzzing chatter took a slight jump in volume as many customers, drunk and sober alike, hailed his presence. The young man gave a small smile and slight wave as he immediately made his way in a beeline toward the bar. Several people spoke to him as he passed, ranging from a few “good to see you’s, a couple “hello sir’s, and even a slurred and intoxicated “he ‘on’t look sho tough!”.
He reached the counter and quietly sat on a stool until the bartender and innkeeper made her way over to him with a welcoming smile. The older brunette placed her hands flat on her side of the counter and tilted her head to the side, inspecting Revan curiously. He shifted slightly but remained silent. Finally she spoke with a slight glare in her eyes.
“You know, Ysolda told me about what happened today.”
Revan withheld a smirk and simply shrugged. The woman sighed.
“You could have at least waited until the town guards rallied to go with you. Boy I swear, every day you pull something more foolish than the day before. You’re gonna wind up getting yourself killed. You’re not invincible son.”
Revan scoffed. “I’m fine, aren’t I? Besides, I wasn’t alone. I had Serana with me.”
“And you’re lucky there’s somebody crazy enough to walk into the gates of the afterlife with you. I honestly don’t know what you would do without that woman.”
The boy sighed, leaning on one hand and offered a lazy smirk. “It’s good to see you too Hulda.”
The innkeeper eased her expression into a heartwarming smile. “Welcome back hun. What can I get you?”
Hulda rolled her eyes. “As if I needed to ask.”
She reached under the counter and retrieved a bottle of Honningbrew reserve. Swiftly grabbing an empty mug, the brunette poured the amber drink until it filled to the brim, topping in creamy foam. She placed the bottle next to him.
Revan made to fish into his pockets to grab some gold coins but a firm hand reaching across the counter stopped him.
“Don’t you even think about trying to pay!” The expression she wore was more stern than her words. Revan scoffed.
“I’m no freeloader, Hulda.” He gently removed his arm from her grip. “I have the money. Fair is fair. Nobody else gets free drinks.”
Hulda shifted her stance behind the counter and folded her arms. “Nobody else is the Dragonborn. Nobody else has saved this city and its residents more than the entire guard combined. When they do…”, she pushed the bottle closer to him. “Then they get free drink as well.”
Revan gave her an exasperated expression but when she simply raised an eyebrow, he offered no more argument and took a swig of the drink before him. Hulda smirked.
“Good.” The woman’s face held nothing but triumph and Revan held back a chuckle. He suddenly tensed up slightly as his ears picked up on quiet footsteps approaching from behind. A hand gripped his shoulder and he forced himself not to jump at the contact.
“Hey there. Can I buy you a drink?” Revan didn’t have to turn around. He knew the drunken voice. It was Layra. He gave Hulda a pleading look and luckily his friend caught it.
“Layra, he already has a drink.” Her words were calm.
The dirty blonde shot the older woman a glare before smiling and leaning on Revan’s shoulder. He tensed up further. “Then I’ll buy him his next one.” Revan could hear the sheer cheek in her voice.
Hulda scoffed. “Child, he doesn’t have to pay for drinks. You think I’d charge him of all people? The man has done a lot today and I’m sure he just wants to relax in peace. Poor sod deserves that at least.”
The pressure on Revan’s shoulder eased off as Layra silently sulked away. He nodded his thanks to the barkeeper. She sighed.
“The girl means well. Even if you have no intentions of pursuing her, at least give her the time of day once and a while when she’s sober. It would mean a lot to her just to talk to you.”
Revan rolled his eyes. “Alright. But only because you asked.”
“Hey Hulda!” A drunken call from down the counter. “Where’s our nezt round?”
The barkeeper’s expression darkened as she barked in his direction. “By the Eight, man, can I not have a moment’s break to speak with a friend?!”
The man lazily waved his empty mug through the air and a couple of his friends did the same, laughing. Hulda sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose. “I’m sorry.”
Revan waved her off with a small smile. “Don’t. By all means, run your tavern. I didn’t want to distract you.” He raised his mug. “I appreciate the drink.”
She returned the smile and hurried down to the other end of the counter, continuing to chew out her other customers.
Drink in hand, Revan spun around in his stool to face the fire and the rest of the tavern. Several customers who had been looking towards him quickly shot their eyes in any other direction than his. Through the buzzing hum of conversation in the room he could make out that a few were about him. The participants in said conversations gave him a timid glance every so often. Sipping his drink, the young warrior continued to observe the room, identifying most of its occupants with ease. Makial played his lute in front of several girls who giggled and watched him with awe struck eyes. Uthgerd sat in the corner with a collection of empty mugs, just opposite a passed out Aela. Sinmir was leaning against a support beam near the fireplace, lecturing an uninterested, off duty guard on the lack of security on the city’s northern perimeter.
Revan’s eyes slowly surveyed everyone until they landed and froze on someone in particular. The strawberry blonde had her back turned, but the hair color and length, as well as her figure rang memories in the young man’s heart. He simply stared, unmoving as his mind once again kicked up a whirlwind and assaulted him. Liquid sapphire eyes on a freckled face were all he could see, and the woman before him had neither as she turned around. Revan managed to tear himself away and face the counter once more, but his mind was already in an uproar, bouncing from thought to thought, memory to fantasy and so on. He looked toward Hulda frantically in hopes of another distracting conversation but she was preoccupied with her other customers. Heart threatening to jump from his chest, the young man went to down his drink and found the bottom of the mug quicker than he would have liked. Hastily, he poured himself another and emptied its contents in one go. A familiar smile appeared in his mind. Pretty teeth with a jeweled sparkle and smooth, pink lips made his eyes quiver and nearly spill over. Discarding the mug to the side, Revan gripped the bottle by the neck and took a deep breath before tackling the sizable container. Soft, cream colored skin. Supple curves. That smile. Halfway through he stopped and took a gasp of air. The mead settled into his stomach with a familiar burn and his fingertips began to tingle. It wasn’t enough. The entire room had already seemed to disappear. Revan could only feel her touch. Hear her voice. And all he could see was her golden strawberry hair and striking, sapphire eyes. It all played in a montage of scenarios, some memories, some dreams. But in each, she was there before him.
The second half of the bottle went down quicker than the first. With a light thud, Revan placed the empty container on the counter. The alcohol slowly worked its way through him and he felt his always tense shoulders and back ease into relaxation. The warmth in his stomach had flared into a raging fire. His body heated up from head to toe and he could feel the warmth especially on his neck and cheeks. Slowly the numb, tingle in his fingers also spread to his lips and feet as well. It still wasn’t enough. The train of thoughts in mind powered on. The warrior shook his head and gripped the empty bottle to try and ground himself. It all kept hitting him so fast. One minute they were on his living room couch watching a movie, the next they were at the beach during sunset. One minute he was waking up beside her, the next they were standing at an altar, she dressed in a gorgeous white dress with the same sweet smile, the same loving eyes.
Shattering glass snapped Revan back to reality for a moment. He looked around slowly. Hulda was down the counter staring in his direction but her eyes aimed lower than his. He looked down and saw broken glass shards on the counter around his clenched fist. He opened his hand and watched as red oozed out of his palm and dripped onto the dark brown wood he leaned on. Still shaking, Revan sighed and his hand shone softly with an amber glow. After a couple seconds, the light faded and revealed healed skin. A wet rag was dropped in front of him and he almost fell off of his stool.
“Sorry.” Hulda began cleaning up the glass. When Revan simply held the rag in confusion, the brunette gestured toward his hand. The wounds were gone but the blood was still there and beginning to dry. Quickly wiping the hand clean, he muttered an almost silent thanks. He could feel Hulda’s sympathetic gaze focusing on him but he didn’t want to look at it. He didn’t want it.
“….Another one of those nights, huh?” His friend’s voice was but a whisper, out of respect. It took a moment but Revan slowly nodded in response. Hulda seemed to pause once the mess had been cleaned. “Would you like another bottle?”
Revan swallowed. “Do… Do you have anything stronger…?”
When Hulda didn’t reply, he rose his gaze to hers. He must have looked pitiful, because the hardy woman’s expression softened even further. She reached under the counter and retrieved a relatively small crimson bottle. The label read “Flametongue”. As Revan’s eyes locked on it, Hulda opened her mouth to say something but simply closed it again and opted to reach across the counter and place a hand on her friend’s shoulder. With a squeeze and smile, she gave him a pat and strolled down the counter to another customer, leaving Revan to his own devices.
Thoughts still kicking in his mind, the young man slowly opened the bottle. A very strong and spiced aroma filled his nose and made him cringe. He could already assume the flavor wouldn’t please him but the strong scent promised a high alcohol content. He took a moment to try and settle his gut and prepare it for the thrashing he was about to give it. Among the haze of thoughts reeling in his mind, three simple words rang out in her voice… Three words that held so much meaning and yet not enough. Upon feeling the first line of liquid trail down his cheek, Revan knocked the bottle back.
“I thought I’d find you here…”.
The smooth voice pulled Revan from his quiet fantasy and back to reality. He opened his eyes and almost snapped them shut again as vertigo tried to claim him. Keeping his balance, he turned in his stool and gazed up into bright orange eyes. They studied him intensely and he almost felt a twinge of guilt but was too far gone at this point to care. Her pale lips spoke again.
“You were supposed to meet me at Dragonsreach an hour ago to tell Jarl Balgruuf that we took care of the troll problem.”
When it was obvious she wanted a response, Revan had to swallow and find his voice again. “I um…” he swallowed once more, “…I figured you could tell him. I just… needed a drink…”. He slowly looked toward the counter where he saw three empty ‘Flametongue’ bottles.
His companion picked up one of them, brought it to her nose, and snapped her head away. “By gods… and three of them?”
She bent down slightly to meet his eye level on the stool and placed her cool hands on his face, making him look in her direction. He closed his eyes as her skin chilled his own and released a sigh through his nose.
“Nah ah. Look at me.” She commanded gently. The boy simply moaned.
He slowly opened his eyelids. The woman was a haze before him. Raven black hair barely reached her shoulders and framed a soft, porcelain skinned face. Dark lashes blinked and brought his eyes into her glowing orange ones. Concern practically leaked out of them. Revan smiled softly.
“Serana… I’m okay.”
“He probably needs help getting to bed.” Hulda’s voice carried over to them and caused Serana to stand up straight. They both looked in the brunette’s direction but Serana spoke before Revan could protest Hulda’s suggestion.
“Hulda, you could have cut him off…”
The brunette shook her head. “The lad looked like he needed it.” She began wiping down the counter with a rag. “You know what look I’m talking about…”.
Serana opened her mouth to respond but instead closed it and looked at her companion who was doing a great job of concealing just how intoxicated he truly was. Under her inspection, however he felt like a deer in headlights and dropped his eyes to the counter, as if Hulda’s cleaning motions were the most interesting thing in the world.
Serana slowly drew a breath through bared teeth, fangs displayed clearly, before releasing it quietly. She reached down and placed her hands on her companion’s shoulders gently. “Let’s get you home…”
Revan looked between her, the empty bottles, and the now half empty tavern before slowly nodding and standing up. His legs almost gave out beneath him and he could feel how Serana had placed herself at his side quickly to support him.
He scoffed. “Serana I’m fi-” The vampire shot him a stern look and Revan’s mouth hung open. He swallowed his protests. Giving their thanks and goodbyes to Hulda the pair headed out the door.
The walk back to the house was a blur. Weak knees and swaying vision. Skyrim’s cold breeze had the shorter of the two shivering and he leaned closer into the woman beside him. She kept him upright and they were soon inside the familiar little Whiterun house.
Serana sat Revan in a seat and tended to the dimming fire. She didn’t give him a chance to give into the sleep so eager to take him. “Balgruuf thanked us and said he’d have our payment ready in the morning. Lydia is going to pick it up.”
Revan hummed in response, only now realizing his eyes were shut. The fire grew warmer and his eyes shot open as Serana hoisted him to his feet. “Come on you. Time for bed.”
She helped him up the wooden stairs and into his room. The next thing Revan knew, he was staring at his ceiling, the old wood arching and connecting at an angle. Serana’s glowing eyes filled his vision as she hovered over him, pulling his blanket up to his chest. She left the room for a moment and returned with a mug of what was probably water. Serana placed it on the nightstand and sat at his side, staring blankly into space. Before he could ask her what was wrong, he got his answer.
“Why didn’t you tell me you weren’t okay…?”
Revan’s voice left his throat. The question caught him off guard even though he should have seen it coming.
“Do you… wanna talk? About it?” Hesitation hung on every word. She turned towards the boy and he looked away. Blue eyes and blonde hair once again swam to mind. He shut his eyes as they began to well up.
As the sobs slowed to a stop and the tears ceased to flow, the vampire laid him back down onto his pillow gently. She watched him for a moment as he got comfortable and smiled when he stilled and looked her way. She reached down and wiped the remaining liquid from tan cheeks and made to get up and leave. A hand shot out and gripped her wrist, forcing her to turn around. Their eyes found each other.
“…Stay…” His voice was lower than a whisper.
Serana pointed towards the spare room and opened her mouth to speak but her charge cut her off. “You do help…”
Her eyes once again grew to the size of saucers and she was at a loss for words. A few gentle tugs on her arm and she gave a content smile, crawling onto the bed beside him. Revan rolled over to face the wall as she got under the covers. He could feel her stripping down to sleepwear but was too intoxicated and now too tired to be nervous. Cool skin met his when Serana draped an arm over his waist and nuzzled close to his back. He closed his eyes. As his senses faded one by one and sleep slowly claimed him, he couldn’t help but imagine another beside him.
Strawberry blonde hair and sapphire blue eyes. Freckled smile and a soft, soothing laugh. Her hand found his and squeezed. “I love you, Dakota…”.
By Dakota Pratt
(Writing Sub-Contractor for Pratt Virtual Office Solutions)