Ben didn’t know what day it was; he had lost all track of time. It didn’t really matter, though, because it was looking more and more like they would never go home again. Serana and the others had probably closed the portal by now, figuring he and Rowan were lost. Which, he guessed, they were. There wasn’t much left for them now except for overpowering thirst. At first, he had thought a lot about Serana, missing her, wishing he could hold her again; but as time went by, all he could think about was the dryness in his throat. He hated her a little bit now. She had made him this way, caused his desperate dependence on living blood, a sweet nectar he would likely never taste again. But she had only been trying to make them stronger; he knew that, and as much as he hated her, he loved her even more.
A/N: Nudity, sexual situations. NSFW and inappropriate for children.
5E 20, 30 Midyear
Dolff sat on the throne, leaning on his elbows with his face his hands as Coranil stood before him, relaying the information he had obtained at the College of Winterhold. He cursed himself for thinking for even a moment that his job as Jarl of Windhelm was easy. He had known the hard decisions would come sooner or later, but he hadn’t realized it would be this soon or this hard. Things had gotten worse since Rowan and Ben had left and issues had started piling up. Without them there to set his mind at ease, he’d had a rough time juggling his responsibilities, remaining objective, and even keeping his thoughts organized. In a fortnight he would have his eighteenth birthday, but right now those eighteen years seemed like eighty.
And now Coranil was standing here, telling him he would have to send Rowan and Ben into Coldharbour.
Although he still mourned his father, Dolff found that being Jarl of Windhelm wasn’t as difficult as he had feared. His days were filled with business, but everyone knew his or her job and was generous with their guidance. For the most part, the prominent citizens of Windhelm, whom he had expected to approach him with demands and unsolicited advice, gave him the time and space he needed to ease into the job. A couple of them came to the Palace of the Kings with such tidings, but Dolff let them know right away and under no uncertain terms that he would not be bullied, and they left him alone.
Serana stood over Vingalmo, who knelt in the prison cell with hands bound tightly behind his back, impatiently willing him to answer her questions. She had waited for days while he had lain unconscious, wondering if he would ever even recover from the trauma of a trip to Coldharbour. And now that he was finally awake, he wasn’t cooperating. Orthjolf stood by, his hands balled into fists, just itching for the chance to hurt the Altmer.
Standing in the great hall of the Palace of the Kings with Rowan and Ben, Dolff gaped at his father in shock. Ulfric had aged fifteen years, practically overnight. His hair, which had been silvery and shiny, was now a dull, creamy white. His skin was ashen and grayish, and the lines and age spots on his face were much more pronounced. He had lost weight, and his flesh seemed hang off his bones. Even his eyes, which had always glimmered with spirit and intelligence, were milky and dim, peering back as if he didn’t recognize him. The Jagged Crown didn’t so much rest on his head as grip it in a stranglehold.