Everything felt wrong. My mouth was cotton as I rolled to my stomach, my vision swimming, my ears popping. My fingers scrambled for something, I didn't quite know what. And then a weathered but strong hand caught mine.
"Steinar?" I guessed, hoping to be right.
"Who else?" he snapped though it lacked his usual scorn.
He sounded concerned and wary. And maybe a bit scared. My vision righted itself, slowly, so that I could see we were in near darkness, surrounded by stacks and stacks of books. Pages covered the floor, almost like a second skin, and above our heads were lights, dim so as not to take away from the fact that this was a Daedric Realm. Everything in me could feel it.
"Miraak must have set a trap," Steinar growled.
I ignored him, choosing to test my leg strength. My stance was stable and good thing too as the books shifted, accommodating the wing span of a serpent like dragon as it glided towards us. My guard went up, especially when I spotted Miraak. His mask was back in place but I knew his gaze was on us. Steinar was still on the ground, his hand still in mind which made it awkward to hold. I dropped his hand but stepped in front of him, his one defense against Miraak, since he had no sword. Miraak slid from his dragon, landing solidly on his feet, facing me. There was too little distance between us. And a part of me yearned to close that distance, to feel his mouth on mine and his hands on my skin. To feel his skin. The other part only saw the ghost of Dyre behind this man, saw the obstacle he was.
"I set no trap," he intoned after a few moments of silence.
"And yet, here we are," I retorted, sweeping my hands over the twisted library before me.
It made me nervous. As bad as Coldharbour was, this realm was worse. It reeked of isolation and sorrow. And regret.
"You do not care for this realm," Miraak observed.
I had hoped I hadn't made my feelings known.
"Then you must feel it."
His words were a low rumble and he reached up, removing his mask and the expression beneath was heartbreaking. I ached for this man who was my enemy. His mismatched eyes were pools of emotion, the contrasting colors making me want to comfort him.
"I regret it all," he admitted. "My betrayal, what it did to you Nithrogr."
"My name is Syra," I snapped, throwing my anger at him to suffocate the feelings of sympathy.
He gave me a sad smile, those scars seeming to stretch a bit.
"That you are so... forceful. Nithrogr is not alone in there, is she?" he asked.
"Our souls merged," I replied. "But I am the dominant soul."
My eyes narrowed at him.
"But feel free to touch me and see if you do not believe."
Miraak gave a low chuckle.
"In you, I feel Nithrogr, dominant or no. You are two halves. Do you so readily believe that she does not influence you?"
"Syra," Steinar hissed, his hand now gripping my leg.
I ignored him. With just the two of us here, I'd rather not take my eyes off Miraak. He was a complex man and I did not know if now he would attack, when he had the upper hand. The dragon watched us, his eyes on me, his expression significant though I could not place it.
"Free us," I demanded of Miraak.
"The master of the realm has brought you here," Miraak informed me. "I cannot free you, not against his will."
"The master of the realm?"
A Daedric Prince. A damn Daedric Prince. I was back in their notice, under scrutiny no doubt.
"Why would he bring us here?" I demanded. "Doesn't he know what I can do?"
We'd had a few arcane enthusiasts in the Brotherhood when I was growing up. And the one theory they all seemed set on was that I had some ability, or chance, that I could kill a god. It was one thing that puzzled me about Molag Bal dragging me into his realm. Did he have a death wish? Or maybe I couldn't. Was there a limit to how much of higher being's power I could absorb? Those lips twisted into a sad smirk.
"Do you think he cares? Here, in his library, he can keep an eye on us. You are part of his collection."
His eyes drifted past me, to Steinar, his eyes narrowing slightly.
"Undoubtedly, old Mora has grown tired of my attempts to be free of this place. And so he has brought you along to kill me. The end result is still the same. You will be stuck here."
"A risk I'm willing to take," Steinar growled.
Miraak sighed deeply.
"So be it."
He drew his blade, the grace in his movements alarming. I didn't know why I was so surprised. He was a killer anyway.
"Back off!" I snarled, sending a shout his way following my words.
He was sent back into his dragon and the beast snapped to, striking at me. I dropped to the ground,avoiding it and grabbed Steinar on my way up. He was heavy but had regained some semblance of control of his body. As I turned us in the opposite direction, running up the dark bridge, his legs were able to keep up, though he leaned heavily against me.
"We can't run forever," he argued in my ear.
I could hear a hint of fear in his voice but chose not to focus on it. I also chose not to inform him that yes, we actually could, run forever. Daedric realms were fairly infinite, depending on their master's will. But if said master's will was to have Miraak and Steinar battle, then he'd reshape the ground beneath us and send us right into Miraak.
"We need to get you a weapon," I said, absentmindedly.
I'd gotten so use to walking in shadow, in adjusting, and 200 years in Coldharbour helped get me use to the dark. Even as Steinar stumbled along beside me, I navigated the dark halls, avoiding stacks of books that Steinar either tripped over or trampled, noticing that it was getting darker, the lights drifting away from us. We were being herded. Or that was the intent. To send us scrambling back for the light. And had Steinar been alone, he probably would have fallen for it, given that he struggled, trying to make me go back towards the light. Probably because in this darkness, he was blind.
"Stop," I hissed.
"No!" he snarled back.
"Trust me, damn it!" I snapped, shaking him off.
As expected, he collapsed, not expecting the sudden withdrawal of support. I looked down at him, barely able to see him in the dark.
"Steinar, in all this, have I given you reason not to trust me?"
"You're a dragon!" Steinar spat. "And I am the Dragonborn. Its my destiny to kill you!"
"I was born with a human soul!" I threw back at him. "I was dying and Akatosh saved my life. Now that dragon soul he blessed me with has merged with my human one but at my core, I am human."
It felt good to say. Especially to him.
"Do you think I would ask for that burden? That burden that comes with being some predestined hero?" I asked. "Or a predestined villain?"
He was silent in the darkness and I pressed on.
"I do not think myself evil," I continued. "Though many of my actions would paint me as such. And while those actions are past, they have shaped me just as much as my current actions. And I can say with absolute certainty that destiny is crap."
"Of course you would say that. Yours is to die."
I curled my hands into fists, badly wanting to hit him. Or shake sense into him. Neither action would get me very far.
"I refuse to believe my destiny was to be raped," I said instead and I could feel him cringe, even if I couldn't fully see him.
I took a step towards him.
"My brother, my captor and even the Lord of Domination himself," I recalled. "I can't accept that such things were destined. And Steinar if my death is scripted to come about at your hands, I reject it that much more. I plan to live through all of this. Killing Miraak, killing my brother. I intend to live through it. And if I have to kill you to do so, then so be it."
"Its saying things like that that make me not trust you," Steinar pointed out.
"You're one to talk," I remarked dryly.
I offered my hand and somewhere in all that darkness, he found it and I pulled him to his feet, setting his weight on my shoulder again. He rested less on me as we continued into the darkness, with less objection from him.
"Why am I so weak?" he grumbled.
A fact I was wondering as well.
"Our souls were ripped from our bodies," I said, recalling what I could before I'd awoken. "And this is a Daedric realm. I spent two centuries trapped in one and as I said, I am two souls merged. Perhaps those factors make me somewhat immune to any effects."
I shrugged, careful not to shrug him off.
"Two centuries," Steinar repeated, not so much a question.
I took it as one.
"My brother ... sold me to Molag Bal," I explained, still not at rest with the information itself. "I was stuck in Coldharbour, frozen in time. Meanwhile, the world changed."
"So why did he release you? Why are you in Skyrim?" Steinar asked.
"I'm not sure," I admitted.
Up ahead, I could see the faintest hint of light and was instantly wary.
"If your brother had not raped you, would you wish him dead?" Steinar asked abruptly.
I glanced at him out of the corner of my eye, one eye on the light.
"No," I admitted and Steinar made an odd sound in the back of his throat. "What?"
"You do not believe in destiny," he went on. "Because of the hand you were dealt. But what if you had been the Last Dragonborn? What if our positions were switched and you were born me?"
"I'd pick a better helmet," I remarked truthfully and he glared.
"Would you believe in destiny if you were me?" he pressed.
"Who can say?" I asked. "I was born with greatness intended for me. Just not to the extent of saving the world."
"Well neither was I," Steinar informed me, the most he'd ever offered.
I waited, on the off chance that he would offer more about himself. And whether it was the darkness, the weakness he felt or the sense of impending battle, he did.
"I was born a bandit's child. My mother was one of their prizes and my father was the chief. I was a child and a fool. I didn't see that she was miserable. All I saw was the wild life these bandits lived. And my father encouraged it. Encouraged me to grow wild and lawless. I lured so many travelers to their death. So many families. My father was proud but my mother would hear of the roll I played in these plans from those captured. And her heart broke, even as she argued that it wasn't true, that the wicked child they spoke of was not me."
I remained quiet, listening, even as we entered the dimly lit room. Pages whispered beneath our feet, the black script moving across the weathered parchment. Steinar didn't seem to notice to the degree I did. He was lost to his past, a past he clearly did not visit often if the faraway look in his eyes was any indication. I knew it fairly well.
"Until she saw me one day, covered in the blood of a man my father's men had cut down before me. And when she saw me, not only her heart broke. Her mind did as well. She no longer cared for the consequences. The next time my father summoned her to his bed, she plunged a knife in his heart and then her own. And in one fell swoop I was an orphan."
I rested him against a stack of books. He seemed steadier on his feet now which was a good thing, I decided, beginning to dig through the fleshy pods around us and under the stacks of pages for a sword or even a dagger.
“Bad things happen sometimes and there's never... there's never a good enough explanation,” I said.
I stood, finding no weapons. Just books. Was it possible to bludgeon Miraak to death? I guessed I'd have to find out, I decided, picking up one that was fairly thick.
“Any luck?” Steinar asked, probably choosing to ignore my gem of wisdom.
“I doubt favor will shine upon us,” I admitted. “Daedric Princes have complete control over their realms. He took the light from us, probably to herd us back to Miraak. That hasn't worked. No doubt he's going to guide Miraak to us.”
“You know a lot about Daedric Princes,” Steinar remarked. “For only being in ones realm.”
“It helps that they're all the same,” I replied, tucking my selected book under my arm.
I extended my free hand to Steinar and he took it, leaning on me again as we set off, further into the darkness.
The cultists were in clear shock, not believing one of their own would go against their master's orders. Lilith didn't know which way their tide would turn when they snapped out of that shock but she would be ready when they did, attacking the rouge cultist mercilessly. She needed the book which the woman had snatched back up.
“Stay with them!” Lilith ordered, giving chase, holding her robes in one hand.
Her feet pounded after the fleeing cultists, who shed the rustic armor as she moved, revealing scanty robes beneath, the likes of which revealed her odd silver skin. A Dunmer then? She dodged the armor, mindful of the uneven ground which the woman ahead of her didn't seem deterred by. She seemed to be enjoying the chase, glancing back at Lilith even, revealing the second mask she wore. It was a mirror to the masks of old dragon priests, some Lilith had encountered, others she'd heard about. This one was pure dragon scale, as black as night, the eye holes glowing red. Lilith knew with certainty that she was staring at Alduin's dragon priest. All the best cults had one.
“Stop!” Lilith yelled.
She was already low on magic, the strain taking its toll after so little rest between uses but she would not let the woman escape. She tapped into the trickling stream of it, summoning a ring of fire around them. The woman stopped just shy of running into the flames, turning to face Lilith.
“Whoever you are, you go no further!” Lilith declared.
That mask was infuriating. She couldn't gleam any details from her opponent, couldn't guess what potential trick she might have. Which would have been nice. The woman lifted her hand, thrusting it forward. Lilith was shocked as that simple gesture summoned slate crystals from the very floor, the likes of which sped towards Lilith, sharp and glimmering. Lilith dodged, narrowly, a splinter of the crystal catching her arm, cutting deep and drawing blood. Hissing, Lilith used her good hand to throw a fireball which the woman didn't even bother dodging. She made no move to stop it and it hit her body, engulfed her, but didn't harm her. She stood amongst the flames, calm. All Lilith could do was stare, mouth slightly agape, as the woman stood amongst the flames. Her surprise mounted as the woman waved her hand, the flames dispersing in a matter of seconds. And with the snap of her fingers, the woman vanished as well.
Brynjolf stood as Lilith returned, having taken off in a mad dash after the cultist. The Arch Mage held her arm, blood seeping from between her fingers. He saw Serana stiffen out of the corner of his eye. She made no other move, still crouching protectively beside Syra, letting currents of lightning dance between her finger tips as a warning to the straggling cultists around them. A few had left, in panic, not knowing what to do but knowing they wanted no part in this defiance. The ones left seemed interested in watching, none approaching to do harm or even offer an explanation. But it never hurt to be safe. Brynjolf stepped over Steinar, striding towards Lilith, reaching into his pocket and retrieving a cloth. Out of breath, she didn't say anything, extending her arm and letting him wrap the cloth around it.
“Any change?” Lilith asked, hoping that maybe, just maybe, the disappearance of the book would mean that.
Lilith bit her lip, looking at the face of the thief. He was too focused on the task at hand, patching her up. He was trying not to worry, she could see that. Lilith glanced around him, at Serana who was clearly not doing well. She was tense, not quite panicking outright yet but the potential was there. Meanwhile, Lilith had just thrown caution to the wind and given chase to an opponent she knew next to nothing about. Except that their voice was familiar.
“Its Syra,” Lilith declared, loudly.
Serana glanced over and Brynjolf looked up.
“She'll kill Miraak and drag Steinar back in no time,” Lilith went on. “I don't even know why we're worried. She's got this.”
“We're lost,” I declared.
Steinar whirled on me. As soon as he was back on two feet, his usual personality returned, no trace of the poor orphan bandit baby he'd been in the dark. He glared at me and I simply raised my eyebrow in response, something he saw in the faint light. Every step was brighter and I had no doubt that at the end of this trip, we'd find Miraak.
“We aren't lost,” he declared.
“So you say,” I sassed.
The banter helped him, I suspected. He was getting ready to fight for his life, for his soul. For his destiny. He turned away and stomped ahead. I kept my strides even and quiet. I didn't want to know what else lurked in this dark.
“I wish I still had my sword,” he confessed to me. “How am I suppose to fight him without a weapon?”
“I suppose it doesn't help if I say with the faith that good will triumph over evil?” I asked.
“But is he evil?”
Steinar's steps paused and he faced me.
“Miraak rebelled against dragons,” he pointed out.
“He's also enslaved people to unearth his temple. And his master is a Daedric Prince,” I argued back.
“And I was a bandit.”
“If you think your evil, then die. Let him kill you, “ I snapped.
Steinar sighed in frustration.
“I can't simplify everything like you,” he pointed out.
“Its called burying your feelings,” I informed him as I passed him. “For later.”
“And when's later?”
He followed me now which was a nice change of pace since I had an idea which path led to Miraak.
“Never,” I replied. “You eventually forget which hole you buried which feelings in so you don't risk it and leave them buried.”
I didn't know if he planned to say anything to that. A roar overhead cut us both off as a dragon zipped above us, flying just low enough that it knocked off books nestled contentedly on the top shelves.
“Run!” Steinar ordered as they rained down on us.
He didn't have to tell me twice.
He tried not to smile as the two emerged into the light, inches from him. His other half saw him first, skidding to a halt and stopping Syra. She threw a look back at the rain of books they'd just escaped, at the dragon that roared as it flew away in the opposite direction.
“You-you did that on purpose,” she accused, turning back to Miraak.
“I did,” he confessed, not at all ashamed.
Her eyes narrowed and she threw the book in her hand at him, her frustrations clearly mounting when it landed just shy of his foot.
“You kind of suck,” Steinar remarked.
“Enough,” Miraak said, cutting off an argument.
He pointed his sword at the Nord.
“I am eager to be free of my imprisonment. And you are the only thing that stands in my way.”
“You intend to fight an unarmed man?” Syra asked, crossing her arms.
Something in her expression told him she didn't approve.
“You're trying to appeal to my sense of honor. I have been without the press of others opinions for so long, things like honor have no meaning to me,” Miraak replied.
“Nithrogr remembers you as an honorable sort,” Syra retorted.
Behind his mask, his eyebrow twitched. So this was her game.
“Very well,” he sighed, relenting.
A weapon would do the Nord no good but Miraak snapped his finger and another dragon rose from the murky dark around them, landing in what space there was between the two parties. For their part, neither Syra nor Steinar flinched as that reptilian head swung their way, revealing a blade still shoved into his face.
“Well hello again,” Syra greeted as Steinar gripped his sword, drawing it.
The dragon growled and Syra braced herself.
“You are dismissed,” Miraak commanded of the dragon.
He had not summoned it for battle. This was a battle he was looking forward to, reclaiming a part of himself that he'd long thought lost to him. Steinar gave his blade a few practice swings, re-familiarizing himself with it. Syra watched him, a fact he was aware of. Her blue eyes were hard to read, her face a blank. He worried that was a result of Nithrogr's influence, worried that he'd be fighting this battle on two fronts. It was a bridge he'd cross when and if it came to it.
“Ready?” she asked.
Her fingers fiddled with one of the gauntlets she wore, adjusting it.
“What are you planning?” he asked, keeping his voice low.
“I've noticed, when I shout, there's a delay between when I can again. Perhaps its because the Thu'um is more for dragons and I'm mortal. Who knows? Either way, if it effects me, its got to affect both of you,” she reasoned.
Steinar was clearly confused, having not followed her logic and she rolled her eyes.
“Do not waste this chance,” she ordered.
Before he could say anything, she charged, darting towards Miraak. He seemed surprised by her charge, drawing and turning his sword, swinging the blunt side her way. Syra threw up her hand, the sound of the sword hitting the gauntlet echoing. She turned into his body, digging her elbow into his rib and he grunted, not realizing she was done. At least not until she sent her fist angling up into his face, the force behind the punch, knocking his mask off. He was frustrated and that's when Steinar saw her plan.
“Fus Ro!” Miraak roared, the shout carrying Syra away.
Even not at full power it still packed quite a punch but she had told him not to waste his chance and so Steinar charged, hoping she was alright. Miraak seemed to be prepared for Steinar's attack, seeing through some semblance of his plan.
“Fus Ro Dah!” Steinar shouted, his shout packed with its full power, hitting Miraak.
The man's feet left the ground and he flew. Steinar was there to meet him, bringing his sword down. Miraak blocked him, his sword clutched in a death grip in his hand. Even strewn, Miraak was able to hold his own, his mismatched eyes narrowed in annoyance. Steinar tried not to be smug, the sense of victory he felt wasted when Miraak drove his boot into the back of his knee, the force behind it enough to cripple Steinar's stance. He fell forward, his sword sliding from Miraak's enough that the man was able to bring his up, narrowly separating Steinar's head from his shoulders. He rolled away, forcing himself to his feet. Miraak moved with surprising speed, his sword breezing through the air. Steinar only had so much time to block and he did so, shoving back with as much of his bulk as possible.
“Iiz Slen Nus!”
Syra's voice was clear but weighted with power. Miraak turned to meet her Thu'um as Steinar, wisely, chose to evade it, throwing himself out of its path. The power hit Miraak, his body encased in ice in the span of a second. Steinar got to his feet, ignoring the ache in his leg, staring at the ice statue that was Miraak. Then he glanced at Syra.
“How did you do that?” he asked.
“Nithrogr was a dragon. She didn't have to learn the Thu'um,” Syra explained.
She rubbed her shoulder, clearly bothered by the pain she felt. Her hair was a mess, the few braids she wore unwinding.
“Is he dead?” Steinar asked.
“Yol Toor Shul!” was the response, the heat of fire radiating from within the ice statue until it burst out.
Steinar sprinted out of the blast zone as Miraak stood before them again, damper, probably more frustrated, his attention on Syra.
“I did not wish to hurt you, merely to get you out of the way,” he informed her. “I had thought you'd be wise enough to stay out of this on your own but I see that is not the case.”
“And that just pisses you off, doesn't it.”
“I will not deny that it isn't frustrating. But I have a solution.”
His solution swept down then on leathery wings, a dragon that had been perched atop the bookshelves. It caught Syra with its mouth, by surprise, taking off into the air.
“Syra!” Steinar yelled, his concern distracting him as Miraak charged.
He only just barely managed to block but the blade still caught him, slicing the skin of his forearm. If he had any hope of saving Syra, he first had to defeat Miraak. Which meant he had to focus.
The dragon's mouth reeked. I punched at its snout, pushing my luck. It hadn't impaled me with its teeth just yet but it was in a position to just that. Its wings carried me higher into the air, away from Miraak and Steinar, a fact I didn't care for.
“You asked for it,” I said to it, reaching deep.
Between its jaws, my body expanded, Nithrogr's form taking shape. I now had the advantage as those jaws separated. I dug my own teeth into the unguarded neck of the dragon who'd sought to keep me captive. He whirled, his jaws snapping, closing on air as I forced myself into my own body, losing my tether. I fell through the air, the dragon twisting mid air to catch me, probably ordered to take me away but to keep me safe. A task he'd thought would be easy. I tucked my arms against my body, facing downwards, falling faster. It hurt but I landed atop of on the bookshelves, sliding across the top on my back, inches from the edge. I took a second to breath, to relish not hitting the ground and not breaking anything, before the dragon landed behind me, his bulk rocking the shelf. I slid, grabbing the shelf's edge as it tipped, books falling into the bubbling sludge beneath us. The dragon's head swung my way, his jaws snapping at me as he tried to figure out the best way to grab me without injuring me before the shelf toppled over. I didn't give him a chance, kicking the tightly packed books out of place and slipping through the space created. The dragon behind me roared his displeasure, his wings flapping as he prepared to take off. I had more important things to worry about, sprinting across the shelf, listening for the sound of swords clashing. The library was rearranging itself, determined to help Miraak, to keep me from interfering.
“Steinar!” I yelled.
I beat at the shelves that moved to heed my progress, shoving books off and crawling through. If I couldn't go around I'd go through, no matter how many books I had to displace. When I was done, this realm would be in chaos, the knowledge collected in as many pieces as I could shred it into. Overhead, still trying to catch me, the dragon's jaws closed down on shelves, yanking them out of his way as he dug his snout in the space they left behind, trying to catch me. He was doing more damage and helping me at the same time, pushing aside shelves as he blindly searched, giving me a clear view of the two warriors I was looking for. I drew a deep breath, running towards them.
“Wuld Nah Kest!”
The shout propelled me forward, bypassing the dragon overhead. I was back on the battlefield and Miraak noticed first, realizing he was my target. He shoved Steinar back, just barely dodging when I tried to tackle him. I turned the failed leap into a roll, misjudging the distance and going over the edge. I flailed, reaching for the receding floor only for a gloved hand to catch mine. I stared up into Miraak's mismatched eyes, at the heart break in them and the fear that slowly turned into relief. He'd been afraid he wouldn't make it, wouldn't catch me in time.
“I would have been fine,” I assured him.
He opened his mouth, gods knew what he was going to say. And then he cried out in pain, staring at the sword that pierced his abdomen. I couldn't help it, crying out, shrieking. My pain, Nithrogr's pain, heart shattering. Steinar withdrew the blade, yanking Miraak back by his shoulder. Despite the wound, despite that he was dying, Miraak never let go, pulling me up when he slumped over. I crawled to his side, pushing him on his side, my hands pushing down on his wound, as if it would do any good.
“Syra, what are you doing!?” Steinar cried.
Miraak's eyes found me, smiling just a bit.
“I am so glad I got to see you again, mistress,” he said.
“Shut up,” I commanded. “This is not the end, do you hear me?”
Steinar was looking at me like I was crazy.
“Syra, let him die!” Steinar ordered.
I glared at him directly.
“Why should the gods or princes decide his fate or yours? Your destinies? Why can't you co exist? Defeat Alduin together and then go your separate ways. Why does it have to be either or?”
Nithrogr roared inside me, her influence taking over.
“They're coming,” Miraak announced.
He still watched me even as he delivered his news.
“Minions of Hermaeus Mora. That book-”
He pointed to the book that was on a pedestal nearby.
“It will take you home.”
“And how will I know my soul's half will come back?” Steinar demanded.
“You don't,” was Miraak's response.
Steinar made a face but ran towards the book, realizing a few steps in that I wasn't following.
He was incredulous.
“Mistress, go,” Miraak urged.
“No,” I said, my voice laced with power.
Laced with Nithrogr.
“All those years ago, I failed you. They destroyed you and my father saved me.”
The words I spoke were her's.
“I betrayed you,” Miraak whispered.
His breathing was labored now.
“Humans and dragons could have lived together in peace. I should have led by example. I failed you, I betrayed you.”
I lifted my head, able to see, in the distance, the they Miraak had spoken of. The shelves that had hindered me parted, the dragon realizing that its master's master was in play flying away. A hand grabbed my upper arm, yanking me to my feet and I cried out in objection as Steinar released me. He reached down, lifting Miraak's body onto his shoulders.
“What are you doing?” I shrieked, thinking he meant to throw the man into the abyss below us.
He didn't answer, sprinting towards the book. I followed, waiting to see where his intentions led.
“You won't leave without him,” Steinar replied, setting Miraak down by the book.
He'd been nice enough to retrieve the two swords they'd been using, thrusting his into my hands. I knew it was his because Miraak's hilt was etched with green whereas Steinar's was an impressive red. I almost asked why he was armed when a hulking beast of slime emerged from the dark, roaring, its large head turning towards us.
“Lorker,” Miraak grunted.
I looked to the sword in my hands, that same panic setting in, temporarily replaced by confusion when Steinar stepped in front of Miraak and myself, wielding the sword.
“My mother was from Helgen, born and raised,” he informed me. “I buried her near the lake. Take that sword and let it be her marker.”
“What do you mean?” I asked, bewildered.
Steinar scoffed, turning fast and touching the book, activating it. He drew his hand back, stepping away from the eerie light.
“Prove me wrong, Syra,” Steinar ordered. “Prove to me destiny doesn't matter.”
“Steinar!” I objected, reaching for him, trying to go after him as he charged towards the Lorker.
The book's light engulfed me, my last image of Steinar cutting the Lorker deeply, unaware that two more had emerged. And then we were gone.
Serana fell back as Syra sat up, coughing, reaching blindly for something to grab onto. Brynjolf reacted faster, crouching, letting her flailing hands seize hold of him.
“Lass, shh,” he urged, smoothing his hand over her hair.
“Heal him!” Syra managed.
“Him?” Lilith repeated, looking to Steinar.
He was still unconscious, his soul not yet returned. But looking his way froze Lilith cold as she saw another man rising from the ground, as if some magic dropped him there. His gaze went to Lilith, a mix of blue and brown that distracted, almost, from the pool of red that stained his hand as he pressed it against his chest. Miraak. She knew without explanation, moving, surprised that Serana was already there, a healing spell cradled in her hands. Lilith stood in between the two at the feet of Steinar's body. Because that's what it meant. If Miraak was here. That Steinar hadn't made it. She looked to Syra who was near inconsolable in Brynjolf's arms, sobbing and soaking the front of his armor. She had so many questions to ask but one look into those fierce green eyes told her that he now was not the time. Instead, Lilith stood in silence, staring down at the dead Nord and she felt a sadness come over her, covering her mouth. She hadn't liked him, not how he'd been so arrogant and hotheaded. But it was such a waste of a life, so young compared to her own. To Miraak's, Serana's and even Syra's. Tears ran down her own face, silent but powerful as she let herself have this moment to just sob in tandem with her equally grief stricken friend.