I held the sword in my hands, surprised I managed even that. My eyes tracked Lilith through the window, watching her and wondering how she could be so in control, so focused on building the pyre for Steinar. We wouldn't be able to take him home, wouldn't be able to bury him at Helgen with his mother. And so he'd end up buried in a strange land.
“This is your fault,” I declared, pressing my forehead against the glass.
My words were directed at Nithrogr. If she hadn't coveted Miraak, desired to bestow him freedom he'd lost a long time ago, Steinar would be here, as intolerable as ever rather than the martyr he was. Nithrogr didn't respond, slinking further into her solitude. She felt the shame without me adding to it but it made me feel better.
Serana's voice was a surprise but I didn't jump, acting as though I had expected her presence and keeping my gaze trained out the window on the sky that would soon be lit up with the first streaks of dawn.
“Everything I got from you, from your blood and I never got a hint of Nithrogr. I know a bit about your bond with her, how it feels,at least for you. But you kept all of Nithrogr.”
“The way I see it, real Dragonborns, they're born with a dragon soul,” I reasoned. “Their bodies know what they're in for. Nithrogr was thrust on me. So I doubt I have dragon blood. Just a hybrid soul.”
“Are you scared? That she's taking over?” Serana asked.
“Always,” I admitted. “It never occurred to me that I'd be around long.”
Serana leaned against the wall beside me.
“Remember what I said earlier? About not getting a hint of Nithrogr? I think she only has what power you give her,” Serana confessed. “So, the times she's taken over, its because you wanted her to. Or needed her to.”
“And how do you propose I stop her from seizing full control?” I demanded to know.
Serana leveled her gaze on me, completely serious in her next words, not that she had been joking before.
“Find something your willing to fight her for,” the vampire advised.
The sound of footsteps approaching brought our conversation to a close, our attention now drawn to Brynjolf. Serana wordlessly left, though she paused in the doorway next to him, her back to me. I had a feeling they were communicating silently and I didn't care. Let them think they needed to handle me with care if it made them feel better.
“You okay?” he asked.
“No,” I admitted.
He sat down beside me, setting an extra blanket in my lap. I must have been shivering. It didn't matter. Nothing was registering.
“He sacrificed himself lass. That wasn't a call you made,” Brynjolf assured me.
“But it should've been,” I insisted.
Realizing I wasn't going to put it on myself, Brynjolf retrieved the blanket, shaking it out and throwing it around my shoulders. He then leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees and hanging his head a bit. He was exhausted. We all were or should've been. Sleep should've taken me not too long ago but I kept seeing Apocrypha. Steinar. Carefully, I set his sword down and then leaned against Brynjolf.
“Miraak is downstairs. I suspect he is waiting for you,” Brynjolf said, though he clearly didn't want to.
“Let him wait,” I said even as I felt the monster within stir, curious.
“You should-” Brynjolf began.
“I cannot control myself when he's around,” I confessed. “I don't know him. Shouldn't. He's centuries older than I am even before Coldharbour. These emotions shouldn't exist. I shouldn't exist.”
Brynjolf tilted his head to look my way.
“My mother,” he said abruptly, the subject not one we'd ever approached.
He seemed confident in it though, pushing on.
“She was a romantic. It got her heart broken over and over again but she always bounced back. Always believed that there was someone out there for everyone.”
“I didn't believe her. I watched her heart broken and crying and just assumed that some people were just meant to be alone. I even resigned myself as one such person.”
His lips curled up into a faint smile.
“And then, I laid eyes on the most beautiful woman I'd ever seen. Granted, she handed me my ass and killed a fellow thief, but not undeservedly so.”
Those eyes of his drilled into me, as if he could see into my soul.
“There's no one else for me. And if that stands true for you, well, that means you had to wait about 200 years for me,” he pointed out. “So, maybe my mother ran out of time before she met her man and all that time doubting her should've been spent better.”
I looked away, scoffing to save face.
“What a dumb thing to say,” I decided.
His fingers gently caught my chin and he turned my head back, kissing me just as gently. It was quick, fleeting, and I wanted more but he drew back, a softness to his eyes as he stared at me.
“Steinar or Miraak, I'm glad you came back,” he admitted, his finger brushing over my lower lip.
“You want to kiss me again?” I guessed, biting back a smile. “Don't you?”
“So much,” he confessed. “But Miraak-”
I leaned forward, kissing him again and clearly surprising him as I wrapped my arms around his neck, leaning into him until we slipped from the sill, falling the short distance to the floor.
“I will always choose you,” I assured him, pushing myself up so that I hovered over him. “Especially when it comes to Miraak. He is Nithrogr's and you are mine.”
Brynjolf's lips quirked.
“Lass, I'm happy to hear that,” he admitted. “More than you know.”
Lilith twisted her hand, putting her all into the fire that sparked to life, eating at the wood of the pyre. Some of which was a bit damp from the snow. She'd spent eons building pyres, watching all manner of comrades as they passed on to the next life, the one thing she couldn't do. Not yet at least. The same rang true of her relationship with Farkas, did it not. One day, he would pass, he would leave her. And if she one day met her untimely end, where was there for her. She was more than human, possessing a foothold in both the Divine and Daedric circles. She didn't need godhood, simply a place to rest once her time was up.
“You are lucky,” she said to Steinar as the fire circled his empty shell.
If he had a soul of his own, one not currently merged with Miraak's, he stood to gain entrance into Sovengarde. And if Steinar did not,well, the end result was the same. Sovengarde. She envied him that. Footsteps in the snow caught her attention and she glanced up, her eyes landing on Serana. The vampire crossed her arms, lifting her chin as if she expected Lilith to argue with her being there. Instead, Lilith returned her gaze to the fire.
“Whoever that woman was, she has to pay,” Serana declared.
This from Syra who joined them as well, probably in Serana's wake.
“We've sat idly by long enough,” she continued. “We need to get to Windhelm and stop Dyre. Stop Alduin.”
“How do you propose we get into a walled city?” Lilith asked. “The Thieves Guild hasn't even been able to get in.”
“Ports are closed and the water front guard presence has increased,” Brynjolf agreed. “However-”
His presence Lilith hadn't counted on and she turned away from the fire to look his way. He was busy rubbing his chin with his free hand while the other was casually wrapped around Syra's waist. A development Lilith hadn't expected. And one she would focus on later.
“However?” Lilith prompted.
“Mercer got word awhile ago about a merchant ship. The Queen's Ruby, the ship was called,” he recalled.
“Fancy name for a merchant's ship,” Serana remarked. “Or else I'm old fashioned.”
“She's not just any merchant's ship,” Brynjolf explained. “She's a decommissioned ship for the Emperor's fleet. A personal gift to its captain from the Emperor himself.”
“No way would the Stormcloaks not seize an opportunity to get their hands on it. Even without cargo, commanding that ship would give them an edge. And having the captain as a hostage?”
Lilith shook her head at the possibility.
“They could try,” Brynjolf agreed. “Though the captain is said to be absolutely bonkers.”
“Anyway, the ship's been out to sea and probably hasn't gotten the heads up that Imperial ships aren't delivering goods to rebel Holds any longer. It stands to reason that they'd go to Windhelm,” he went on.
“Dyre wouldn't pass up cargo,” Syra declared. “He may be a vampire and not need to eat but his allies and the people he feeds from do. He needs the cargo on that ship.”
“Which means we need to intercept it.”
“We're in luck then,” Brynjolf announced. “Because when Mercer got word, the Queen's Ruby was set to dock at Raven Rock.”
“If its docked, there's a good chance it will be leaving at first light,” Lilith reasoned. “Which means we have to go now.”
“I'll get Miraak,” Serana announced, turning on her heel and heading inside.
Lilith looked back at the pyre, not able to see past the flames without squinting a bit.
“Find peace,” she whispered and she hoped, no matter where he ended up, that he did.
She stared out at the ocean, imagining a scenario in which she didn't feel an entire beach between her breasts, rubbing what little cleavage she had raw. Below her, leaning against the very mast she was perched on was the accursed First Mate, her father's right hand, who he'd sent to watch out for her. And he'd gotten his hands on another lute, strumming it and yowling out some tune he'd made up. If she'd been in a rotten mood, she might have told him to shut it but as it stood, her mood was great. Despite the whole sand cleavage thing.
“What's the status of those supplies men?” she called down, trusting her father to have hired men with an ounce of worth in their bodies.
The First Mate paused in his yowling to glance at the men still unloading cargo before tossing Falin a dry look. She grinned down at the hulking redguard.
“You love me!” she declared,knowing it was true.
Thaille had been with the family for as long as she could remember and was probably the best friend her father could ever have. Which was why he'd been chosen as her First Mate when she'd been given the ship by her grandfather, a decision he acted like he hadn't chosen for himself. At the end of the day, however, he loved it.
“I'm here for the large cats,” Thaille insisted, grinning at the resting lionness beside him.
Ashanti lifted her head long enough to coo at him before she laid back down. However she was alerted to something, her ears flicking back and forth as she slowly surveyed her surroundings.
“I haven't seen any big cats save for the sabre cats all over Skyrim.”
The high elf announced her presence as she seemed to materialize onto the ship. Ashanti was on her feet in a heartbeat, snarling, back arched and ready for action,
“A lionness? That really takes me back.”
The elf smiled.
“We didn't invite you on board,” Thaille said, setting down his lute.
He was muscle on top of muscle and had he stepped to the elf, he would have towered over her.
“I rarely wait for an invitation when the balance of good and evil hangs in the balance,” the elf continued.
“Stop dancing around the issue,” sighed the woman who stepped up behind her, her arms crossed.
She faced Thaille.
“We need passage back to Skyrim.”
Thaille shot a glance upwards, at his captain, deferring though from the clench of his jaw she could tell he wanted nothing more than to tell them to fuck off.
“We're a cargo ship,” she called down. “Last I checked, people aren't cargo.”
“They're not,” the altmer agreed. “But-”
“I'd say that rests this case,” Thaille cut off. “Aye, Falin?”
“That's Captain Falin to you, Thaille. But agreed.”
The altmer rolled her eyes.
“Bryn may have been right,” she grumbled, cleary regretting those words.
She looked to her companion who simply crossed her arms, tilting her head a bit as if she was waiting for something. The altmer took a step back.
“Alright Serana,” she sighed. “Have at them.”
Serana moved with speed that Falin found impossible, ramming into Thaille. The redguard found himself practically soaring across the deck of the Queen's Ruby, missing the railing by inches and falling into the water. The crew around them froze, clearly shocked that someone so small had thrown the hulking redguard. Quicker than the rest, Falin lurched into action, leaping from her perch, grabbing a hanging rope, one she'd tied to her mast to prevent her upper body strength from deteriorating from long months at sea, and swinging to meet Thaille's attacker. Serana was clearly ready for her, spinning out of the way of Falin's booted feet. Falin would not be deterred and she took a chance, reaching out as if to grab Serana. Serana smirked, seeing that she had the upper hand as Falin was still turned, not yet recovering her landing. She found herself surprised when instead of a slap or a punch, magic pulsed from Falin's hand, the flames licking at Serana's face. She threw up her arms, her armor taking the most damage though she could feel the fire licking at her unguarded hands. Hissing she stepped back, aware of a surprising chill. Lilith, no doubt, as the altmer came to her rescue. Falin leapt back, rolling out of the way as splinters of ice bee lined for her.
“Grudge!” she yelled though she need not have.
Her crew was aligned with her desires and when she stretched her hand upwards, her bow landed solidly in it, a quiver of arrows following seconds later, said arrows scattering across the deck. Didn't matter. Falin grabbed two, barely sparing a second to line up the shot before loosing the arrow. Lilith had't expected anything to come from the attack but was surprised as the arrow tore through her sleeve, embedding itself in the mast. Lilith was surprised but regained her composure too late though. Falin was quick, darting across the deck, an impish grin on her face a mere second before she delivered a roundhouse kick to the Arch Mage, one packed with power that sent the elf reeling. Serana, still slightly flaming, intervened then, grabbing Falin by her shirt, lifting her just enough to throw her as well. Unlike Thaille, Falin had trained for years to get out of all kinds of fixes, using her own core strength to turn herself mid air, landing solidly on the deck. Serana prepared to charge but was cut off by the snarling lioness, the fangs of which gleamed, indicative that she'd protect her mistress at all costs. Serana crouched in preparation, not sure how far she'd go but willing to wing it.
“I leave you two alone for five minutes and this is what happens.”
Syra's voice stopped her midstep as the halfling ran onto the ship, skidding to a halt as soon as she saw the lioness. The feline stopped its snarls to consider her, clearly confused at something. Those pale eyes blinked and Syra lifted her chin, ready to challenge it should it come to that. Her gaze did not stay on the beast, swinging instead to Falin. Her ice colored eyes narrowed as she really studied the face before her, not at all deterred by the arrow pointed at her.
“If you intend to shoot me, I suggest you do so fast,” Syra instructed.”Be warned however that if you attack me, I will not hesitate to return the favor.”
Falin considered it, her lips twisting into a pout that made Serana sure she wouldn't go through with it.Quick as lightning, Falin proved her wrong, notching an arrow that flew right at Syra. Serana moved then, not quick enough but she didn't have to be as Syra caught the arrow with surprising ease, stepping forward, bracing herself before opening her mouth.
“Fus!” she bellowed, the sheer power behind the single word shaking the boat as it hit Falin and her beast, sending the two flying back.
The elegantly carved bow that Falin carried was flung from her hands, sliding uselessly across the deck where it wouldn't do her much good.
“Nice work,” Lilith praised, rubbing her jaw as she came to stand by Syra.
“Much better than yours,” the halfling criticized.
“Serana was the one who started the fight,” Lilith argued.
“And you did nothing to stop it.”
Syra's lack of sympathy did not go unnoticed, even as she grabbed Lilith's chin, studying her face which was swelling ever so slightly. After a moment, she smirked.
“Might want to ice that,” she advised before releasing her and striding towards Falin.
The ship captain scurried to her feet, shaking off the force that had sent her to her ass. She gave Syra a cocky smile.
“I always did like powerful women,” she said, cracking her neck.
Syra took a defensive stance, as if the fight wasn't over. As it turned out, it wasn't. Falin moved, fast as lightning, daggers materializing from hidden sheathes in her boots. She moved with a fluid grace that Syra matched and possibly even surpassed as she caught Falin's arm, twisting it while managing to avoid the second dagger. Syra's fingers dug into the well tanned flesh of her opponent, hitting some nerve and one dagger clattered to the deck which Syra kicked away. Thinking the former assassin's attention was elsewhere, Falin brought up her other dagger, aiming straight for Syra's neck. Syra ducked, releasing Falin's weaponless arm as she rolled across the deck and back to her feet. Falin was in the shadow of her steps, determination on her face as she switched tactics, spinning, bringing her leg up in a solid kick that met one of Syra's reinforced gauntlets. She did not expect the kick that Syra delivered to her chest, enough force behind it that it winded her as she went sprawling back to the deck, downed only for a second before getting back up. Had Syra wanted to drag the fight on any longer, she would have waited, giving the girl a chance to attack again or formulate a plan. Maybe even get her beast involved. But every second she wasted on the ship, fighting a captain of a ship they needed,especially when none of them had an affinity for sailing, meant more dead in Windhelm. And so Syra charged, ducking as Falin stabbed forward with her dagger and driving her fist into the girl's elbow. A move she knew from experience hurt. The dagger clattered to the floor and Falin, hissing, recoiled.
“Oh you bitch!” she hissed, falling to the deck and cradling her arm. “You broke it!”
“Its not broken,” Syra assured her. “Baby.”
“Well now that everyone's disarmed,” Lilith spoke up before Falin could argue back. “As I said, we require passage.”
“And once again, we're a cargo ship,” Falin threw back.
“If you don't help us,” Syra said. “A lot of people, innocent people, are going to die.”
She was bearing down on the woman, hoping that something in her eyes could potray how serious the situation was. Those green eyes stared back, reading her unspoken words and she glanced at ilith.
“Where do you need to go?”
She had entertained thoughts of a throne of corpses, expecting Dyre to be sitting on one as she returned to the Palace of Kings. And was only disappointed. The vampire remained on the same stone throne, Ulfric standing beside him, an empty shell under Dyre's influence. It was rather infuriating.
“I leave and suddenly you stop killing. Did we not warn your sister of the potential doom?” she demanded.
She did not say that said sister was no doubt locked away within her master's realm, never to arrive and therefore, the entirety of the Hold would be slaughtered. She was practically giddy with excitement of so much death.
“Syra has started on this path. Even if I did not slaughter thousands waiting for her, she would still arrive, thinking I did. I think it best to wait, to keep my cattle alive. She will no doubt go to every possible length to save them and I wish to give her that chance,” he replied.
He smirked and the Priestess almost wished she could paint his likeness. He'd been turned so early in his life that his face still held instances of the innocent boy he must have been before he'd become warped and depraved as he was now. She had seen child vampires in her long life, perfectly angelic faces that could hold monsters beneath, monsters that fed savagely and with a hunger they chose to never suppress. As children often were known to do in the face of maturiy. But Dyre was something else. He was dark and sadistic, a murderer and everything that would serve Sithis well if Sithis could have kept a hold on him rather than losing the boy to Molag Bal as he had. He was shaped by the Brotherhood, taught by Harkon and manipulated by the Priestess herself. She honestly wondered though what he could do if she had not been placed at his side, to masquerade as a madwoman who simply wanted to watch the world end. If he knew her agenda, knew he was simply a puppet in her plans, what would he do? Would he turn against her and demand the same of Alduin? Or would he not care so long as she held her end of the deal and helped him claim the sister that drove him? She was almost tempted to ask him, to lay it all out for him, for she hated her curiosity being left unsatisfied. But she had to be ever mindful of her master's agenda as well, which only allowed her own to exist because they intertwined. And as soon as he fully had what he wanted, she would as well.
“I will trust you judgement of your sister,” she relented as she made her way up those stairs.
She took her seat on the arm of it, leaning against him, attempting as she always did, to entice him with her body though his interest was little. He was too smart for her to slack though and he expected the light seduction, the aggressive taunts that spelled out her courting him, a facade she would keep up until the moment when she would finally spring her trap.
It was the silver skin that had her thinking. Liltih stared out at the ocean, waiting and watching for Windhelm, despite the fact that it would be a few hours yet. She remembered chasing that... priestess, remembered that silver skin and those crystals. Heck, she'd found a shard of said crystals in her skin and had clutched it in her hand. It was no ordinary crystal and quite possibly would never be found in Skyrim or any of Tamriel for a while. The only place she'd ever seen such things was the Shivering Isles and that had been during the Greymarch. She remembered seeing those crystals appear, remembered feeling immeasurably guilty as the already mad residents of New Sheoth had been driven even madder as they tried and failed to remain calm. All had been uncertain of what the outcome would be and even Lilith had doubted the Hero of Kvatch would be able to rise to a challenge thrown down by the gods before his time. She closed her eyes, not just reminicing but letting herself truly remember all the actions that had led to her father's freedom. She had made many a questionable choice then, had shut off her humanity in an attempt to survive the game of politics and trickery she had to weave, all that Haskill had assured her needed to be done. Lilith's eyes flew open, memories she'd pushed aside cascading down upon her as she recalled one thing she'd hoped to forget. She had not successfully ended the Greymarch alone, they had not. There was no way that the Hero would have let Lilith approach him. By then he was too jaded, too aware, Mehrunes treachery and Martin's death fresh in his mind. Physically he was a threat and approaching him thusly had been out of the question without him seeing them as allies. And so she'd gone to the one person who was capable of achieving said feat. She opened her palm, looking at the crystal shard again, not wanting to believe even the slightest chance that this new enemy had once been her ally but able to see the connecting threads more an more clearly now that she'd faced the woman in battle. There was no way to really tell other than to rip the mask from her face and see and even that she was hesitant to do. If she had to though, she would.
She jumped, surprised to see Syra beside her, wrapped in Serana's cloak again.
“Syra,” she admonished, pressing a hand to her chest.
“You had ample opportunity to hear me,” Syra retorted with little attitude and Lilith sighed.
She brought her hand up, showing the crystal to her friend. Syra studied it but there was no familiarity in her gaze, no hint that she knew what it was. Which either meant she'd never crossed paths with the priestess or she had but it had never come to a fight. Either way, it didn't matter if Syra had or not since the woman's connection was quite possibly to Lilith herself.
“The cultist that sent you and Miraak into that book? I ran after her and she threw but one attack and was gone.”
“Gone?” Syra repeated. “Like she vanished.”
“I suspect because she doesn't exist, not fully at least, in this world anymore,” Lilth confessed. “No...I know that's why. She long ago shed the flesh that allowed her to move unhindered through Nirn. And now she is a mere spirit, traveling through thought.”
“You know quite a lot about her,” Syra caught on.
She was eyeing Lilith, not with suspicion but with a curios sort of glance. One that meant a lot to Lilith, who didn't really want her only friend looking at her like an enemy.
“This is a shard from an Order Crystal. And my father is the Daedric Prince of Order,” Lilith explained.
Syra blinked, clearly surprised but not quite knowing, it seemed, how to react. And so she waited, her features settling into a mask of indifference.
“The last time I saw these was in the Shivering Isles. My father was punished for my birth by being made into a new god essentially. He became Sheogorath and was only allowed to reclaim his realm during a time known as the Greymarch. It was futile as he only got so far before it would end and the cycle would continue. Until mother came up with a way to end it. She chose the perfect time to strike, when all eyes were on the battle against Mehrunes Dagon. She hurried to Haskill, the Mad God's one constant and she struck a deal. When the dust settled and Akatosh retreated, mother was gone and I had a new mission.”
“And Akatosh had no idea?”
Syra seemed skeptical and rightfully so. Lilith smirked.
“He had tasked me with protecting Nirn. And Sheogorath was too mad a mind to be trusted unchecked. It did not seem at all suspicious my actions, given that no one knew of mother's actions who was not personally involved. The plan called to in essence replace Sheogorath so that father could be defeated and freed to wander the wastes of Oblivion. It was not ideal but it was a solution we could not pass up.”
She turned from the water, taking a seat on the deck and leaning against it. Syra chose to remain standing.
“I had a few tasks before I could enter the Shivering Isles. The first being that I had to ensure that the Greymarch was set, that my father's Knights were strong. To that, I went to Amarenthine,” she said, the name filling her with a deep and cutting sadness.
And Syra heard the emotion in her voice. Lilith cleared her throat however and moved on.
“She was Jygglag's first daughter, forged from the original Order Crystal. He carved her as a likeness to Dibella, whom he of course loved and gave her life. It was not an uncommon practice for the gods to create children. Akatosh had his dragons and Molag Bal his vampires. Amarenthine, as I understand, was welcomed, accepted.”
“As you understand?” Syra repeated. “Meaning-”
“Amarenthine is older than I am,” Lilith explained. “And father loved her. And she him. He had created her to help him maintain order and she did so. She was able to see the future, to know what needed to happen for life to continue and so when she sensed a threat or knew her intereference was needed, she would do just that. She could contact mortals through their dreams, with Vaermina's permission. There was little cause then to stage a coup against my father as he still was amicable with the Divines. And so it went that the world spun peacefully. Until my birth.”
Lilith sighed that last part.
“My birth and the fact that I was hidden away made punishment severe for my parents and any who helped them. Mother lost the ability to influence this realm personally, her physical form torn asunder. And father's punishment was Sheogorath. His exact opposite. And while Amarenthine had no idea about my whereabouts, she was still punished indirectly. The Shivering Isles were no longer her home and Vaermina made it difficult for Amarenthine to do her duty.”
She managed a small smile.
“My sister was resilient though. She fled to Nirn and hid herself away, in places where she would not be disturbed and she summoned the Greymarch when it was time. She gathered the Knights, forged the crystals and led armies in place of our father. And always she hoped it would be the end. That she could return home , Jyggalag could reclaim his place and things could go back to normal.”
“She didn't hate you? For causing the events?” Serana asked, her question and presence coming from nowehere.
Lilith glanced at the vampire who sat in front of her, clearly having been there awhile. Lilith had been more focused on Syra but figured it was a tale that would either be repeated or need to be.
“She loved me,” Lilith said. “I met her once, when I was younger, before the Oblivion Crisis. She had been guiding the world long enough to know that some things were inevitable and I was. And she accepted that. We didn't see each other until I came to her with mother's plan. She assured me the army was ready to reclaiming the Isles. Which meant I needed only to find a new Mad God.”
“Does this have anything to do with the disappearance of the Hero of Kvatch?” Syra asked.
Lilith turned to the woman in surprise and Syra looked away.
“I did some reading,” she admitted. “When I was in the Brotherhood and had down time. I wanted to know what I had missed.”
Lilith grinned despite the somber tale she'd only half weaved.
“You could've just asked,” she said.
“I was avoiding you, remember?” was Syra's reply.
Ah yes, Lilith did remember. Figuring it better to drop the matter than have Syra try avoiding her again, she returned to her tale.
“The Oblivion Crisis had ended only a month or so before the Greymarch. Our window was small and we needed the Hero of Kvatch. But he was still grieving. He'd lost many friends to the Crisis, the closest of which was Martin Septim. He had a lot of guilt and regret on that front and his distrust of the Daedric and Divine mirrored yours Syra. While he believed he'd failed Martin, the gods had as well in their failure to keep him alive. He was a mortal who'd been touched by Oblivion. He would see my divinty and daedric natures as well as Amarenthine and Haskill, the Mad God's assistant was not a people person. There was no way to approach him. Until Amarenthine decided to enter his dreams. He knew instantly that he was not dreaming normally and she had no choice but to reveal herself.”
“Well we know he didn't kill her,” Serana mumbled and Syra snorted.
“Quite the opposite, really,” Lilith confirmed. “He fell in love with her.”
“Dumb,” Syra judged.
“Oh not at first sight,” Lilith scolded, swatting the halfling halfheartedly. “But she visisted him often to gain his trust and it was the result of much time spent together. Either way, he fell in love and came willingly to help. Amarenthine had to remain behind to push the Knights and I worked from the shadows to stir discontent in the courts of Mania and Dementia. Sheogorath was getting attacked from all fronts while Jyggalag began to break through. Meanwhile, Haskill positioned the Hero of Kvatch perfectly to gain the loyalty of New Sheoth's populace as well as Sheogorath's.”
“And he just let you use him?” Serana asked.
Lilith's face scrunched up, as if she had smelled something bad.
“I was not... as good as I am now. I used a lot of underhanded means and at this point, I was not above manipulation. I told him that Amarenthine could not survive much longer without returning to the Isles and he believed me. Everything he did, he did for her. He had no problem taking over as Sheogorath or facing Jyggalag and freeing him. In the end, everyone who mattered...won,” she said, her voice growing small when she noticed Syra's gaze had gotten pretty intense.
Particularly around the words “who mattered”.
“I didn't know what it meant for a mortal to take over as a god,” she hurriedly said in her defense. “But you can't kill a god so easily. The Hero, he remained loyal to his position and eventually, the madness took hold. He became Sheogorath in more than name and the madder he got, the more he just...forgot Amarenthine. I had given her back her home and freed our father. But she had surprised me because she'd fallen in love with the Hero. And as she so elegantly put it, I had destroyed him.”
Syra and Serana were silent and it was that silence that killed her just a bit. Serana's judgement didn't much affect her but at least if the vampire had reacted, given how tied she was to Syra's inner workings, maybe Lilith could have gotten an idea on what her friend was thinking. She let them sit in silence for a few minutes but neither one caved and she threw her hands up in defeat.
“Last I knew of her, Amarenthine had left the Isles and disappeared into Oblivion to find our father. And before this crystal, I could only assume she either found him or perished.”
“But this crystal proves neither,” Syra pointed out, her voice steady.
She finally looked at Lilith, her fingers moving with lightning speed to grab the crystal.
“This just proves that she chose a different route. She's working against you!”
Syra's voice was rising with every word, drawing attention from the crew as well as Miraak and Brynjolf, both of who were so busy avoiding each other that they had little time for anything else. Syra threw the shard to the deck.
“She is responsible!” Syra declared. “For Steinar's death and whether she killed them or not, the deaths of all corpses in Windhelm!”
Those blue eyes were reptilian slits which told Lilith how deep the rage went.
“I know and I'm sorry,” Lilith admitted, reaching for her friend.
She didn't have a plan of action, something in her compelled her to comfort her friend, and Syra practically threw herself away, her actions violent. She looked as though she wanted to say more, needed to in fact but instead she stormed away, choosing to retreat to the opposite end of the ship. Serana remained, gesturing at Brynjolf to go after Syra while she meanwhile returned her attention to Lilith. The vampire seemed at a loss for what to say.
“She blames me, doesn't she?” Lilith asked.
“Our bond fades as the days pass,” Serana admitted. “What memories I have of hers are old, from a time when she was someone else. And very little of that person remains anymore. She is upset and rightfully so. But he can and will convince her that she has changed. And so have you.”