Drevas didn't know what to expect as he followed the river near Gnesis downstream.

After hours of searching and through the process of elimination, he had determined that the river was the last place Vicente could have gone, but it was far from a comforting thought.

The murky water was treacherously bipolar. The current would appear smooth and soft for a few yards, then sudden twist into raging rapids capable of pulling even the strongest of men under the tide. Enormous stones peeked from under the water as white froth tore past them and the shallower areas revealed a river bed of jagged razors.

A mortal would certainly be killed, a vampire had only a slightly better chance. Broken branches and splintering logs could easily pierce their unbeating hearts. The violence of the rapids could break a spine or neck with ease.

Even vampires could be paralyzed if their backs where snapped in two.

But as the pale Dunmer scanned the water, he saw no indication that his pet had met an untimely demise.

He ran his fingers through his orange Mohawk. He did not believe for a moment that Vicente would have used the opportunity to leave him and make a foolish attempt to return to High Rock. The young vampire was far too attached to him and last night's display of selflessness proved that the first seeds of true loyalty had sprouted through the chains of blind obedience.

That singular moment had signaled that it was time to move onto the next phase of his rise to glory: the expansion of his bloodline.

True, he was only expanding the Berne bloodline, but if the original Berne was killed along with his degenerates, then Drevas would become the patron of the stealthiest bloodline in Vvardenfell.

Clan Threnn had a nice ring to it.

But Drevas couldn't hope to lead his people alone. He needed a right hand man to maintain order and obedience. Vicente would not only lead the Dunmer's army to victory, but he would be the peace keeper after dominance was secured.

Yet, Vicente had not returned home and the evidence- or lack thereof- seemed to point towards the young vampire's unfortunate and inconvenient death.

Perhaps he had been killed by the guardsmen after all…

Normally corpses of the undead were put on display as trophies, but it was possible that the guardsmen had decided to destroy the remains instead.

The village still reeked of death and bloodshed. Maybe Vicente had taken too many lives to be an appropriate symbol of triumph.

Mortals were so touchy about such things.

Drevas's inner monologue was interrupted by a dark gleam in the river.

He had followed the curve of the river past the deadly rapids and to a calmer pool that lazily flowed by. The water here was significantly deeper than the rapids had been and seemed prone to flooding.

As Drevas stepped cautiously closer to the water's edge the soggy bank slipped and sank under his fine boots.

As he peered through the dark ripples he could see a distinctly familiar shape resting peacefully on the sandy river bed.

It was the ebony claymore, its reflective blade darker than any natural black could ever hope to be.

Although the Dunmer's gaunt face was completely emotionless, his chest constricted with fear.

He leaned closer to the water and searched the bottom of the pool for another familiar shape… a slender, human shape.

The fear passed quickly as he realized that his pet was not there, but concern still lingered. Vicente adored his blade- the two were nearly inseparable.

To see one without the other was… disconcerting.

Drevas straightened up again, scanning the surrounding foliage.

A thick, putrid swamp waited on the other side of the pool while the greenery on his side was still forestry, but covered in thick moss and slime.

Drevas circled as far as he could without swimming across the water. The ground was soft, but the pool's flooding had erased any tracks- if there had been any to begin with.

The Dunmer went back to towards the ebony claymore.

He doubted if any mortal had both the strength and lung capacity to retrieve the massive blade, but he was not going to leave it.

He stripped off his adorned tunic, his boots, and trousers- carefully hanging them from a relatively clean branch- then jumped into the luke warm waters.

Without hesitation he dived for the river bed.

Unlike the living, the undead had a tendency to sink in any form of water. They lacked buoyancy.

Drevas made it to the bottom easily. In fact, he was able to stand straight and flat footed as if he were on land.

He grabbed the hilt of the magnificent blade and lifted it up. It was no lighter under water than it was above. He had to use both hands to hold it.

He threw his head back, looking at the water's surface. Swimming back up would be difficult enough, but the added sixty pounds posed an interesting challenge.

The Dunmer bent his knees and kicked off the sandy river bed, kicking his long legs furiously to reach the surface.

The blade dragged him down. For every few inches of distance he gained, he lost three.

Curses bounced off the inside of his skull as he struggled, but he was determined to reach the surface with the blade in hand.

His frantic movements, however, attracted unwanted attention.

Three slaughterfish raced towards him from their hiding places in the dark corners of the pool.

Drevas only noticed the swift flesh eaters when one brushed against his thigh.

The Dunmer stopped his kicking and immediately sank, losing all the ground he had gained, but getting a clear view of his attackers.

The slaughterfish were of average size, but Drevas could not swim to the surface, fight the little monsters, and hold onto the claymore.

He dropped the blade, his hands at the level of his face.

All three came at him at once. He knocked aside one with a sweep of his arm and caught a second one in his hand. The third dodged him.

Drevas held the captured fish in his hands and carelessly snapped its spine. The snapping nuisance went still. He released it and watched it float slowly upward.

The other two turned instantly on their fallen comrade and tore it apart, scale and flesh floating around the carnage like a morbid collection of floating lanterns.

They made short work of it before resuming their assault on the increasingly bored Dunmer.

He caught tail of one as it zipped past and used it to swat the other like a fly. The force killed both, sending one to collide with the river bed before floating a few feet above it.

Drevas let go of his makeshift bat and grasped the blade once again.

It took him nearly ten minutes to break the pool's gentle surface and to climb back onto the bank, his Mohawk plastered to his skull.

He rested the blade against the tree on which he had hung his clothing, not bothering to get dressed until he had drip dried somewhat.

He pushed his hair back and looked back upriver, towards the very distant Gnesis.

He was still unsure whether Vicente was dead or alive, but he had a perfect opportunity to kill two cliff racers with one arrow.

If his pet was simply delayed in returning home, then he should go ahead with his plan to "recruit" new clan members.

If his pet was indeed dead, then Gnesis had robbed him of his second in command and he would do them the same kindness.

0o0oo0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o

Vicente sat waist deep in a shallow pond, his ruined pants drying on the soft grass a few inches away. The article of clothing would have to be disposed of once he returned to Drevas's home. A shame since he was rather fond of that particular pair of pants. It was difficult to find clothing that fit his boney frame properly, but such was one of the woes of being a vampire.

Perhaps he would be able to find another pair on one of his future meals.

But, ruined clothing aside, he was actually enjoying his little adventure.

For three years Drevas had dictated his every move. When he ate, when he slept, when he trained, hunted, even how he looked.

At first, he had embraced the strict schedule. It had been a source of comforting order in the chaos of his new life, but now…

Now he was free from the Dunmer's influence.

And, contrary to what Drevas had preached, he was doing just fine on his own. He had found shelter- sort of, food, and was even able to enjoy the luxury of a relaxing bath.

Certainly, he had taken some losses, his blade being the most prominent one, and he had not been unscathed, but he was alive, nourished, and clean.

And in no hurry to place himself back under Drevas's grey thumb.

And he felt…guilty?

Guilty for wanting to remain alone when Drevas was probably looking for him? Perhaps even worried that he was severely injured or dead?

Vicente owed his very existence to the Dunmer. It was beyond ungracious of him to selfishly stay absent.

He traced his fingers through the still water, watching the ripples collide and fade.

The code of chivalry he had been raised on made it very plain that the proper course of action would be to return to Drevas, especially since he owed the Dunmer everything he was and had.

Yet, he continued to sit in the quiet pool, staring absently at his reflection.

The features of his face hadn't changed since he first looked at his undead self in Drevas's mirror. The same pale skin that stretched tightly over his gaunt cheeks. The same pink eyes flecked with red near the center. He even had the same short, bristled hair- Drevas insisted that it was more practical.

Vicente sighed and looked up to the stars. The twin moons were well on their way down towards the horizon.

He had wasted a great deal of time in the secluded pool. There was no possible way he could return tonight.

Fortunately he has passed a small cave less than half a mile back.

He stood and stepped out of the pool, slid his dried pants over his thin hips and then laced them up.

He would focus on getting some sleep and leave his moral grappling for tomorrow.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0

The cave was tight, but deep enough to hide Vicente completely from the sun.

He curled against the back wall, his head resting on the cold stone.

It took a long time for him finally drift off, but his dreams were far from pleasant.

He was sitting at home in his study reading over a new recipe for health potions.

The sun was pouring through his open windows as a light summer breeze carried in the scents of wild cotton and gardenia blossoms.

He could hear Marelle bustling around in the kitchen as she prepared dinner.

He smiled to himself.

Another day at home…

Something crashed to the kitchen floor. Vicente immediately stood, "Marelle?"

No response.

"Marelle, Dear, are you okay?"

He walked into the kitchen to see his wife on her knees trying to pick up thousands of freshly shelled peas.

"Here," Vicente offered as he knelt to help, "Let me get some of these."

Marelle jumped, startled by his voice. She twisted around, took one look at Vicente's face and screamed, tossing a handful of raw peas at him as she stumbled backwards.

Vicente was shocked at her reaction, but that quickly gave way to anger.

"Marelle!?" He snapped.

She screamed even louder. Suddenly a dunmer with a heavily tattooed face and orange Mohawk appeared to place himself between Vicente and his wife. The dunmer wielded a small knife, fear etched on his face as he wildly slashed.

"Get away from my wife, Monster!" The dunmer yelled.

Vicente bared his teeth in outrage, "You're wife?" He roared.

The dunmer slashed at him again. Vicente effortlessly grabbed the knife by the blade and wrenched it out of the dunmer's hand. The dunmer looked paralyzed with terror.

Vicente pushed him aside, not noticing that the force had thrown the dunmer against the wall hard enough to cause his nose and lip to bleed.

He grabbed Marelle's arm and pulled her closer to him to demand an explination. She continued to scream, the sound grating his ears like metal on ceramic.

The dunmer was yelling, struggling to stand back up.

More yells came from outside as a dozen men burst through the front door holding torches and swords.

The sounds became an agonizing crescendo, Vicente covered his ears.

Marelle ran to the dunmer, her arms wrapped around him.

The mob pounced upon him stabbing him with their swords and waving their torches at his face.

Vicente was forced to his knees, his arms over his head.

The crowd parted to let a man with a large cooking pot through. The contents were dumped over Vicente's head.

He screamed as his flesh melted off his bones, the garlic water burning straight through him.

He fell onto his side, writhing in agony as skin and muscle fell off him in chunks, leaving behind only white bone.

The last thing he saw as his eyes poured down his cheeks was Marelle wrapped in the dunmer's arms…

Vicente woke with a jerk, the back of his hand slamming into the cave wall. The sting hurt, but it was barely noticed in the wake of the nightmare.

He was, of course, used to them by now, but this one had been particularly nasty.

He leaned back against the cave wall, willing himself to relax.

He didn't ponder on the dream's meaning. His nightmares had a horrible tendency of incorporating all the elements of his recent worries in a way that would elicit the most terrified response. Very rarely did they offer any suggestions on how to deal with such stresses.

Unfortunately, he had very little to do other than fall back asleep.

It was still several hours till dawn.

He snuggled back against the cave wall and closed his eyes.

By the time the sun had set, Vicente knew what he was going to do.

He would return to Drevas, but things were going to change.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o

Drevas sat at his table, his journal open and his quill scrolling across the textured pages. Against the stone wall rested the ebony claymore.

Vicente had not returned last night either.

Drevas was beginning to truly worry about his pet, but he had something else to occupy his thoughts.

The Dunmer's many earrings were tinkling with the ferventness of his writing, though it was hard to say if it was from excitement or rage.

Suddenly, the scratching stopped.

Drevas sat completely still, his ears twitching.

He could hear footsteps…

His hand instinctively went to his finely crafted kitana- which he rarely removed from his hip.

The steps were getting closer to his bedroom door. They hesitated outside, their shadow peeking from under the wood.

Knock. Knock. Knock.

"Drevas?" called a very familiar voice.

The Dunmer grinned so widely that every one of his teeth were visible, took his hand off the hilt of his blade, and swiftly opened the door.

"Vicente!" Drevas exclaimed, his arms wrapping immediately around the thin vampire's shoulders in a genuinely warm hug.

Vicente was too stunned to speak or react.

Drevas stepped back, his hands still resting on Vicente's shoulders, though obvious disgust and confusion crossed his grey features as he noted the other vampire's dirt streaked and burned skin.

"What happened to you, Sera?" He asked, also realizing that his pet was shirtless and barefoot.

"It is quite a tale, Drevas" Vicente responded wearily.

Before he could continue, Drevas held up his hand, "I'm certain it is, and believe me, Sera, I can't wait to hear it, but first, I have a surprise to share with you."

Vicente raised an eyebrow, but before he could ask if it could wait till later, the Dunmer grabbed his arm and lead him down to the dungeon, bouncing on every step.

Vicente was almost too tired to be excited about this "surprise", but he was also wary of it.

He had never seen Drevas so pleased, and he was curious as to the source of the Dunmer's joy, but he and Drevas had very different tastes in "surprises"…

"Vicente," Drevas said, gesturing for him to look through the bars of a cell that Vicente was intimately familiar with.

Inside the cell, curled in an unconscious fetal position was a dunmer male. His tunic was torn and blood stained the collar. His clothing suggested a civilian, but his build was closer to that of a fighter…

"I want you to meet Vanel Llandras, protégée to the Captain of the Gnesis guard," Drevas continued.

Vicente stared confused at the unconscious guardsman, "Drevas…"

"He is our newest family member."