"It is never in the people's vision of gods and heroes that they ever have the fatal flaws of humanity. In all my life here on this earth I have seen a great many things, but none as great as the intertwined passion between two doomed souls."
A Flower in Dragonfire
She ran through the rain, barefeet squishing into the mud as she raced as fast as she could. The trees she whipped past slapped their cold branches at her cheeks and legs. Her maroon hair soaked by the downpour, bones chilled to the very core.
An opportunity of salvation presented itself when she came upon a dilapidated cottage. She fell into the mud, crawling quickly under the porch to hide in the dying weeds and freezing ground.
"Y'ffre, bring your tears to hide me in your flesh." She prayed, digging her fingers into the cold mud.
Her pointed ears twitched when she heard the clanking of metal armor ringing through the forest. Goosebumps crawled up and down her bronze skin. She pushed herself back under the porch even further as the steps of soldiers went up towards the cottage.
The soldiers stopped in front of the porch stairs, and in the maddening quiet the elven woman began to take out a sharpened deer antler from her smallclothes. She eyed the ankles of them men after her, cat-like eyes peering out like green flares against her black sclera.
She shirked back at the pounding on the door, not taking her eyes off the exposed legs of the Imperial soldiers. The sound of shuffling feet was heard from above.
"Can I help you?"
Though the voice was higher pitched, it was easily recognizable as an Argonian.
"Under Imperial order we demand that you release the Bosmer woman." One of the soldiers demanded.
"I must say I have no idea what you're talking about." The Argonian told them, "No one but me, now please-"
If he had tried to shut the door it seemed to have failed. The soldier stopped it with his foot, yelling for his men to search the house.
"This is an absolute violation!" The Argonian cried.
The was the sound of a hard punch, and a breathless grunt.
The Bosmer woman laid herself quietly in the mud, waiting as the cottage was turned inside and out. It felt like hours that she stilled herself from shivering in the freezing ground, and her fingers had lost all feeling. She began to see her breath when the soldiers gathered back outside in the rain.
"She isn't here, Captain."
"Bullshit, I want that redheaded cunt on a pike." Someone spat.
She recognized the voice. The Imperial Captain that raided her forest. For an Imperial he was a tall and imposing man with dark hair and eyes. He took off his Captains helm and threw it to the ground in a rage, his forehead crinkling with anger.
"Little Bosmeri bitch!" He cried, "I want her found! Spread out!"
The Bosmer woman snarled, crawling closer to the edge of the porch. In the dimming light she could see the poor young Argonian on his knees, held back by two soldiers as the others searched the trees.
"Where is she?" The Captain punched the Argonian.
"I don't know who you're talking about!" The lizard repeated, spitting out blood.
The elven woman felt pity for the Argonian. Managing to catch his gentle blue eye. She put a calloused finger up to her frozen lips.
She counted the number of guards, thinking maybe she could manage to set the lizard free. She was ready to pounce when a hand reached from the porch above to grab her hair.
She kicked wildly as she was pulled out from the mud, thrown into the forming circle of soldiers. She quickly brandished her antler dagger and lunged for the Captain. The soldiers held her back and aimed their blades at her throat.
"You wily little bitch." The Captain said, forcibly taking her dagger and throwing it to the ground, "I'll have your head for what you did to my men in that rat filled woods of yours." He grabbed her face, "You should have taken my offer when given the chance."
"Y'ffre will have you suffer for the burning of his children." She spat, earning a slap across the face.
"I've had enough of these elves and their gods," The captain said, tossing her head to the side, "Take them back to the city."
"Them?" The Argonian said horrified, forcibly pulled away back to the wagons.
The Captain turned to him, his hard set eyes peering down at the lizard.
Water entered her nose, her entire skull flaming hot.
She felt a hand pull her back up to the surface, she gasped for air, water stinging her eyes. Her vision could no longer tell the difference between the rains and the river.
"I think ten times is enough." The Captain said, "That ought to cool you down before you enter my city."
The guard holding her threw her back next to the Argonian, both of them tied with ropes. The Bosmer woman spit a mouthful of water at the Captain, who grabbed her hair and pulled her head back.
"I'll personally hold you back down under the water, elf." He warned, his eyes lingering too long on her before he let her go.
When they marched their way towards the city, the Argonian looked at her.
"Are you alright?" He whispered.
She nodded in return, "Got the mud out of my hair didn't it?" She offered a sly smirk.
Once inside the bowels of the city the Argonian was thrown into a cell, the Bosmer woman being led down into a room she presumed was for interrogation. She was pushed into a hard wooden chair, sitting across from the Captain of the Guard.
"Leave us." The Captain barked, standing up from his chair and peering down at the Bosmer. The prison guards fled the room.
The Captain paced a few moments, waiting to be alone. The elfs skin began to crawl when he came up behind her.
"You've been a thorn in my side for far too long," The Captain said, "You and the fucking tree goblins you call family." He grabbed her hair once more, pulling her to her feet.
"You should have slit my throat when you had the chance." The elf retorted, "Human coward."
"The City would have you pay for your crimes. Killing a noble is an assault to the Empire." He whispered in her ear.
"The pig sent raiders and then tried to climb on top of me." She spat, "I will not pay for defending myself."
The Captain pushed her face into the table, "You'll answer to the crime of murdering a citizen of the Empire!"
The elf struggled against him, "I would see myself pleasing the Emperor before I do such a thing."
The Captain laughed, "Would you?" He turned her around.
He took a piece of her maroon hair, twirling it in his fingers, "Maybe I could arrange something."
"Your so-called 'offer'?"
"We're a long way from your little hovel, elf…" The Captain said, "But it still stands. You are mine, utterly and completely, and I'll recuse my soldiers from your forest."
The elf contemplated this for a while.
"The Argonian?" She finally asked.
"I can make him take the fall for the murder of that fat lord. City needs someone to blame." The Captain grabbed her ass, "Now how about it?" He held her jaw and kissed her.
She pulled herself away, "I am not property."
"No, no, no," The Captain moved his hand into her pants, fingers guiding themselves over the dark hairs of her pussy, "I get to fuck you all I want. And I'll make sure all these crimes go away. But the Argonian will take the fall." He pulled her ragged shirt down to bite her tattooed breasts.
Without a second thought she kneed him in his erection.
"Little bitch, I'll have your head!" He howled in pain.
She was about to pounce on him when the door behind them opened; the guards that were standing outside moved to restrain her.
"Put her in with the lizard, and make sure she stays there!" The Captain spat.
The guards pulled her away from attacking the Captain, tossing her down the hallway and into the only cell open for her.
She crashed into the Argonian, who caught her just as the guards locked the door.
At the sounds of their footsteps falling away, the Argonian set the woman in the sole chair of the cell.
"Did they hurt you?" He untied her hands.
She marveled at how he was able to escape his binds, but kept her amazement to herself. Instead she shrugged.
"You meet one human you learn pretty quickly what it is they want in return." She cleared her throat, "I'm Niamh by the way. Figured you'd want to know the elf who got you in here."
"And a ruddy good job you did!" The Argonian flew his hands up in the air, "A lizard can't have peace in the woods anymore!" He slid to the floor, head in his hands, "I just wanted to experiment in peace."
"I'm sorry." Niamh said, "I never meant for you to get mixed up in my affairs. See, they tried taking things that weren't theirs. And when we fought back they burned my home." She looked at the ground, "Papa always did say I have a hot head."
The Argonian sighed and after a long silence finally looked up at Niamh.
The Argonian seemed annoyed now, "My name is Kesh-Ra."
Niamh smiled, "Nice to meet you."
"I suppose it could have been for a lesser cause." Kesh-Ra shrugged, "Humans don't seem to have 'no' in their vocabulary."
Niamh snorted, "You couldn't be more right."
"So how do we get out of here?" Kesh-Ra asked, still on the floor.
"I'll work it out, no matter." Niamh assured him.
She got up to check the bars on the gate, disappointed they were made of newer metals.
"Well, well, well." She heard from the cell across from them.
"Look at what we have here." The dark elf bit his bottom lip, "A sweet red tart from Valenwood. Such a pretty little elf you are."
"Shove it up yours, ashlander." Niamh spat, checking the bricks around the gate for weak points.
"I might have liked a taste of you were I not in here. But unfortunately as you can see our days are numbered in the dungeons." The elf said.
"What does he mean?" Kesh-Ra piped from his corner.
"I bet those walls feel like they're closing in on you. This isn't your quaint forest. You're going to die in here!" The dark elf laughed, half crazed, "You'll go mad. And the guards won't hesitate to cut your beautiful throat."
Niamh turned back to Kesh-Ra.
"Don't listen to him. He's barking mad." She assured him.
She looked at Kesh-Ra shivering in the corner, eyes darting back and forth. Niamh sighed.
"I'll get you out, Kesh, don't worry." She went back to the gate.
"Captain! Captain!" She called out, "Don't be angry with me, darling, I'll be good for you."
"What are you doing?" Kesh-Ra said harshly.
Niamh turned back to him, "Getting you out."
"It won't work." The dark elf told her.
"Yes it will." Niamh spat, then called again, "C'mon I promise I'll behave."
There was a long quiet before the door to the Captains offices opened. Niamh stuck her tongue out at the dark elf.
"Please don't, Niamh." Kesh-Ra begged.
"What do you want, bitch?" The Captain came to the cell door.
Niamh looked him in the eye, "I wasn't serious about my refusal earlier. I mean why would I pass up the opportunity for a good fuck?"
"It's a little late, elf." The Captain said.
"Oh but you haven't fucked an elven woman before. Maybe let the dark elf have a taste and you can watch," Her fingers slipped through the bars to graze his crotch, "Or have my cunt all to yourself. I could suck you first if that would please you."
"I would. Let the lizard go and I'll stay here and do anything you want." She grabbed her breasts to tease him.
"Why the fuck would I do that?" The Captain frowned.
"Because I can stay down here, darling." Niamh told him, "You can cum on my tits anytime you see fit. I'll keep my legs spread for that big cock of yours."
"Niamh-" Kesh-Ra began to protest.
"Shut up!" The Captain shouted, then looked back at Niamh, "What else?"
"I'll fuck another woman. She can lick my pussy and I'll suck you." Niamh offered, "Throw in as many as you please. We can go back to your office now and I'll bend over. No need to work me first."
She could see the contemplation on his face, he looked back to the guards that were down the hall.
"Get the papers for the lizard." He shouted, then whispered to Niamh, "I'm going to enjoy you."
"Yes you will." Niamh assured him, watching him race back towards the office and shouting that his men weren't fast enough.
Kesh-Ra called Niamh to his corner of the room.
"Why did you do that?" He demanded.
"I'm getting you out of this, Kesh-Ra." Niamh assured him.
"By giving up your body?"
"I'll do what I need to do." Niamh put her foot down.
"I won't stand for this." Kesh-Ra stood up, "I'm going to tell him there's a mistake."
"And he'll kill you," Niamh said, "I got you in this and I'm getting you out."
The thought of being murdered didn't sit well with Kesh-Ra, but neither did Niamh giving herself for his freedom.
"You have to." Niamh set her hands on his shoulders, "Don't let a person like me ruin the possibility of a real life."
The cell door unlocked and the Captain was followed by two guards.
"Take the Argonian outside of the city." The Captain ordered.
The two guards proceeded to take Kesh-Ra on either side, forcibly escorting him away. He was barely out of the cell when the Captain came up behind Niamh. His hot breath on the back of her neck as he lowered her shirt to bite her shoulders. She closed her eyes.
"Just you and me now." He whispered, running his hands over her breasts, "Spread those pretty legs."
There was a commotion outside that made the Captain pause his advances. The guards came back into the room, Kesh-Ra in tow.
"What are you idiots doing?" The Captain demanded.
"Following orders." An armored woman came into the room, followed by two more Royal guards and a man in regal robes, "You've much to explain as to why this cell is occupied, Captain Alban." She eyed him, "Now keep these prisoners close to the wall until we're clear. We won't hesitate to kill you."
Captain Alban pushed Niamh to the wall, Kesh-Ra ran over to her. One of the Royal guards came over to watch them as the others escorted the robed man to the wall.
"Captain Alban take your men and keep your eye on the door to the dungeons." The woman barked.
"But-" He glanced over at Niamh as she fixed her shirt.
"That's an order!"
The Captain took the rest of his guard with him, the sound of marching resonating down the stony hall.
"Let's go." The woman said to the others, "We're not safe yet."
The man in purple finery stopped in front of Niamh and Kesh-Ra. He looked upon Niamh with somber eyes.
"I know you."
"Emperor I-" The woman insisted.
"Please," The Emperor halted her, turning back to Niamh, "I have seen you. Come out of the dark, child."
Niamh stepped forward, the light of dawn coming from the barred window illuminating her face.
"Yes," The Emperor concluded, "It is you I have seen in my dreams. It seems the stars were right." A great melancholy fell over him, "It is today. May the Gods give me strength."
"I'm sorry, your Majesty," Niamh began, "I don't understand."
The Emperor seemed heartbroken, "Assassins have taken my sons from me. And I'm afraid I am to be next. My Blades are now leading me away from the city. It seems to be a fated chance that the escape route is through this very cell. I am indeed your Emperor Uriel Septim. Might I have your names?"
"I am Niamh of Valenwood, your Majesty. My dear friend is Kesh-Ra." Niamh answered. Kesh-Ra gave a starstruck wave.
"It is comforting to know your names before it has begun," The Emperor sighed, "As of now what has led you here is no matter, this will not be how you are remembered."
Kesh-Ra's eyes widened as he looked at Niamh.
"So my charges?" Her throat began to dry.
"There is another path yet that you must take. Take heart. There is much to lose before the end." The Emperor said to her.
"Sire, we must move on." The female Blade begged him, pushing in a brick on the far wall.
Niamh heard chains moving from under the floor. Whatever the Blade did caused a large stone to move back and fall aside. Behind it was a dark tunnel.
"Hist, keep me." Kesh-Ra marveled.
"Stay out of our way." The other Blades warned, following the Emperor as he disappeared into the wall.
It was silent for a few moments before Niamh grabbed Kesh-Ra.
"We're leaving." She said.
"I'm not waiting for the limp dicked Captain to come back. We're getting out." She pulled him into the tunnel.
"I don't much like the dark." Kesh-Ra said hesitantly, watching Niamh try to put the stone back.
"We can't be followed." Niamh said to him.
"Alright." Kesh-Ra groaned, helping her push the stone back. Only a sliver of light was left, and Niamh decided it would do.
Now in near-complete darkness, Niamh led Kesh-Ra along.
"I'm no Khajiit, but I can still see. If you get scared just squeeze my ha-OW! Too tight." She scolded.
Niamh led them a ways, coming up on a set of stairs that descended downwards. Kesh-Ra's legs wobbled as they went down into the dark.
Their path opened up into a room, Niamh and Kesh-Ra could hear the lamentation of one of the male Blades. Niamh peeked around the corner, seeing that the female Captain had been killed, men in red robes lay dead around them.
"How could they have found us?" One of the Blades said.
"We need to get the Emperor out." The other told him.
The two Blades led the Emperor away into another part of the room. The older one closed a gate behind them, securing the lock.
"Damn." Niamh said, "We'll have to pick it or find another way around."
"I really don't like this place." Kesh-Ra groaned.
"We'll be out soon enough." Niamh said, going over to search the bodies.
Kesh-Ra shuttered, "Why are you doing that?"
"If we are getting out and there's killers around we'll need weapons." Niamh told him, handing over a mace.
"I don't condone violence." Kesh-Ra told her, setting the weapon aside.
"I'm sure the assassins would love to hear your reasoning." Niamh rolled her eyes, taking up a bow and a few arrows, "It's not much but it'll do."
Kesh-Ra let out a yelp. Niamh looked up to see him pointing to a dilapidated part of wall that had fallen away.
"Good thinking, Kesh-Ra. Maybe it'll take us back to the surface." Niamh smiled.
"I was going to say I don't want to go in there." Kesh-Ra cringed before stepping past the fallen stone to follow his friend, "It's too dark."
Niamh sighed and continued on.
They had traveled for hours through the twisting turns of the old ruins, at times getting on their hands and knees to fit under the short ceiling. Rats had passed their way but paid them no mind. Kesh-Ra flinched when droplets of water hit his head.
"Stop squirming, Kesh-Ra." Niamh hissed, observing the wood and iron arrows she had found in a pile of rubble.
"Is it raining still? And I swear that I'm hitting every spider web…"
"Be quiet." Niamh kept him from moving forward.
She crouched down, make a slight ascension before turning the corner. Her ears twitched and she motioned for Kesh-Ra to meet her.
"There's a group of people just past the broken wall." She told him.
"Is it the Emperor?" Kesh-Ra asked, earning a shrug from Niamh.
Niamh went towards the broken opening, dropping down onto the floor of the room below. She readied her bow. Kesh-Ra hid, watching Niamh until she gave him the clear.
"We need to get the Emperor out of here. There's no chance for help now…"
Niamh stood behind a pillar, watching the two Blades usher the Emperor along, both of them haggard and tired. Her ears twitched when she heard distant footsteps on stone from the landing perpendicular to her.
Without hesitation Niamh knocked her arrow, coming out from the pillar to shoot at the platform across from her. The robed assassin fell to the ground, three more behind them.
The Blades hadn't processed Niamh being there, taking out their weapons to kill the assassins. Niamh struck an arrow in the throat of one who came too close to the Emperor.
Kesh-Ra, hearing the commotion, jumped down to be beside Niamh. His grey eyes grew wide at the sight of slaughter, the smell of blood making his stomach churn. Niamh patted his shoulder, jumping down to meet the Blades.
"You!" One of them shouted, "I knew I should have had you killed-"
"Enough!" The Emperor halted the soldier, "Had it not been for her, I think we may not have gained the upper hand in their ambush."
The Blade frowned, sheathing his weapon.
The Emperor looked at Niamh, and Kesh-Ra trying his best to lower himself to the ground.
"Come closer," He said to Niamh, "Come so that I may speak to you."
Niamh warily stepped towards the Emperor, eyeing the two Blades as she came closer. Seeing the Emperor in his fine robes made her embarrassed at the state of her torn and dirty clothing. The Emperor gave her a warm smile.
"My trust in you seems to confuse my Blades. But they do not see you as I do." The Emperor told her, "The Gods have told me of you."
"I'm not on good terms with your Gods." Niamh told him truthfully.
"I have studied the Nine well, and the stars upon which they have shaped their paths," The Emperor said, "I've a wonder, which sign has marked your birth, child?"
Niamh thought for a moment, knowing some of what the Emperor was implying.
She hesitated, "The Lover, your Highness."
The Emperor seemed solemn, "I see." He sighed, "When I read the signs it tells me of my death. Ultimately it is necessary. Today, the Lover will bring upon passions unlike any other as you continue your path and confront fate. In your face I see the sun's greatest companion. The dawn of Akatosh's great glory may banish the coming darkness. It is a great hope that with the promise of your aid, my heart must be satisfied."
"You truly see all of this?" Niamh asked.
"It is all I can give you." The Emperor said.
Niamh thought for a moment, then looked up at him, "What must I do?"
"Inevitably I go to my grave. A tongue shriller than all the music calls me to it. I would have you follow for a while, but then we must part our ways." The Emperor told her.
The Emperor then turned and walked with towards the remaining exit out of the room.
The younger Blade looked at Kesh-Ra, "Might as well make yourself useful." He handed over a torch, then walked on.
Kesh-Ra went over to Niamh, "I don't like any of this."
"There are safety in numbers, my friend." She said to him, "Just try to hold the torch high enough not to burn my hair." She backed away.
"Sorry." Kesh-Ra lifted his falling arm.
The two followed on for the next few rooms, Niamh warily checking the corners for any lingering assassins. Eventually they came upon a Sanctum. The older blade stopped them.
"I don't like this. Let me go first." He descended the stairs.
His sword was out, and he warily went across the room in its entirety. When he was at the other side he waved a hand.
"It seems clear for now."
The rest of the group came towards him. They were led down another set of steps that came to a gate. The older Blade tried to open it, swearing in frustration.
"They're got it barred!" He exclaimed, "It's a trap!"
Kesh-Ra grabbed Niamh, fear shaking his whole body.
"What about the side passage back there?" The younger Blade offered.
"Worth a try, Baurus. Let's go!"
The all shuffled into the passage, but it came to a sudden halt.
"A dead end…" Baurus seemed disheartened, "What do we do?"
"I-I don't know." The older Blade was crestfallen.
Niamh heard the clank of armor from the previous room.
"They're coming." She said to them.
"Guard the Emperor with your life." Baurus said to her, rushing off with the other Blade to meet the assassins.
Kesh-Ra panicked, "What do we do, Niamh?"
"Keep back." She told him, aiming her arrow towards the entrance of the room, but the Emperor set his hand on her shoulder, shaking his head.
"I cannot go further," He took his amulet and handed it to Niamh, "Take this. Find Jauffre. He knows where to find my remaining son."
The aura around them seemed to slow the world. Niamh stared into the enigmatic eyes of the Emperor, seemingly watching his soul fleeting between the dancing colors of grey and blue and green. Niamh was suddenly very aware of the weight of her bow, lowering her arms.
"But-" Niamh protested.
"It is my time." The Emperor gave a weak smile, a glint of remaining hope in his eye, "Find him. Close shut the Jaws of Oblivion." He set his hand on her face, "Give Nirn the hope it needs."
A false panel in the wall opened up, before Niamh could draw her bow the assassin sunk their blade into the Emperor. Niamh watched the light in his eyes slowly die out, an image of a golden dragon roaring before igniting into a great fire.
The Emperor fell to the ground, Niamh took an arrow and dug it under the chin of the assassin, ignoring the dagger he stabbed in her side.
Niamh fell to her knees, feeling Baurus brush past her to the dead Emperor.
"Talos, save us…" He said quietly, "I've failed." Blood dripped from a wound in his arm.
Kesh-Ra ran to Niamh. He pulled the dagger from her side, taking the cork off of a poultice. Slowly he poured the sticky substance on her bleeding wound.
The blood sizzled and popped. Niamh fought back the pain as her skin melted back together. A large scar now took place where the blood had been, Niamh still felt a stinging pain but she could walk. Kesh-Ra helped her to stand up.
Niamh walked over and took Baurus by the shoulder, "I'm sorry…" She tried to hand him the amulet.
"The Amulet of Kings!" Barus gasped.
"He gave it to me before he died." Niamh told him.
"Strange," Baurus stood on his feet, "He really trusted you…" He shook his head, "Some say it's the Dragon Blood that flows in the veins of a Septim. They seem to see more in someone than a lesser man. This is a sacred symbol. Crowns and rings are just jewelry, but this...this is divine. It has immense power, one that only a true Septim is able to wear."
"The Emperor said to bring it to a Jauffre?" Kesh-Ra told Baurus.
"What? Jauffre?" Baurus furrowed his brow.
"He said Jauffre knew where to find the last Septim heir." Niamh quickly added.
Baurus thought for a moment, "Jauffre is the Grandmaster of the Blades. I suppose he would know better than I if there were such an heir. Very well. Jauffre now lives as a monk at Weynon priory. It's near the city of Chorrol."
"But how do we even get out?" Kesh-Ra asked nervously, his eyes darting to the assassin lying dead on the floor.
"Through that door must be the sewer entrance." Baurus pointed to the open panel, "That's where we were heading with…" He sighed, "No matter. It's a way out of the Imperial City." He handed Niamh a key, "This is to open the last door."
"Sewers?" Kesh-Ra groaned, "But-"
"We'll be fine." Niamh assured him.
"Nothing a few Thieves can't handle I'm sure." Baurus seemed to sneer at the thought.
"Good sir, I assure you I am a great Alchemist!" Kesh-Ra seemed offended.
"And I am but an Agent of Valenwood." Niamh corrected.
"Close enough," Baurus shrugged, "In any case I'm sure the sewers will be no sort of trouble. The important thing is getting the Amulet to Jauffre. Take no chances, but get to the Priory immediately."
"You can trust us." Kesh-Ra assured him.
Baurus seemed unsure, but smiled at Kesh-Ra.
"Sure. I'll stay here and make sure no one follows you. Good luck."
Niamh pulled Kesh-Ra with her. They opened up the door to the sewers, Kesh-Ra warily stepping through. Niamh gave one last look at the dead Emperor, then shut the door behind them.