Chapter Twenty-Eight

As Lerna and Lydia came close to the outskirts of Winterhold, Lerna began to sense something…it took her a moment to realize that she could sense Azura's power signature, the sensation seemed to be coming from off toward her right. Lydia noticed her thane acting strangely and asked

"Is something wrong?"

Lerna shook her head "No, not wrong exactly…I think Azura has a shrine near here, I can feel it…it's almost like its' pulling at me."

Lydia wasn't sure how she should respond to that. At times, Lerna seemed so normal Lydia could almost forget that her thane was actually a 200 some year old daedra prince but then things would happen and Lydia would once again start feeling misplaced. As far as she could tell, Lerna didn't really seem to need her for most things and if something came up where she did, like the situation where she had been the only person who could enter the dream stride without alerting Vaermenia it would be easy for Lerna to teleport to Whiterun, grab her and come back…Lydia didn't understand why her thane bothered keeping her around, she felt like she was just a big heavy anchor tied around Lerna's neck.

"Anyway, we should keep moving." Lerna said she was completely unaware that her housecarl's insecurities were coming back with a vengeance. Lerna had assumed that what had just happened would have proven to Lydia that she was in fact needed on this journey.

Soon after they arrived in the city or village rather it was very small. It was obvious that Winterhold had once been substantially larger but much of it had been destroyed at some point and not rebuilt.

"What happened here?" Lerna asked softly

"It was the Great Collapse" Lydia said

Lerna looked at her, expectantly waiting for a further explanation

"After the eruption of Red Mountain most of Winterhold fell into the ocean. No one really knows why, although the most popular theory is that the College Mages had something to do with it, either through a spell accidently gone horribly wrong or through deliberate malice." Lydia continued

Lerna still didn't understand though "if that happened all those years ago, why haven't they rebuilt the city by now?"

"Not enough people, most of the survivors fled and never came back." Lydia replied

Lerna didn't really know what to say to that.

They walked through the city and came up to a stone walkway but their way forward from there was blocked by an altmer woman

"Sorry, only members of the College of Winterhold are allowed beyond this point, no exceptions" she said firmly

"Why?" Lerna asked

"We don't want any accidents caused by people dabbling in things they don't understand." She responded "if you wish to join the College, you must prove to me that you can cast a spell."

"What kind of school expects students to already know everything before they even get in?" Lerna asked, unknowingly speaking her thoughts aloud.

The woman's attitude became very condescending "Like I just said, we don't want any accidents, furthermore the College is a place to study magic, and our main focus is on learning and developing new spells not simply recasting already established ones. Besides, it's not like I am asking you to summon a daedra prince or anything like that, that would be utterly ridiculous, something simple will do…of course if you are too incompetent to manage it-"she trailed off.

Lerna's eyes flashed a little at that, if this snob wanted a demonstration, Lerna would give her a show she wouldn't soon forget

First she cast an invisibility spell on herself.

The Altmer woman said that was acceptable but Lerna pretended not to hear, instead she walked a few steps back and over to the right then she dispelled her invisibility and summoned a lich and then sent it running with a turn undead spell and while it was fleeing, she destroyed it with her strongest fire spell. She then summoned another lich and destroyed it with her strongest frost spell and then a third and destroyed it with her strongest shock spell. Then she cast her strongest protection spell and finally she finished it off by cast a telekinesis spell on some of the snow in the ground and making it form a dragon…albeit a very small one.

"Satisfied?" Lerna asked the Altmer woman

Before the other woman could summon up a reply though, one of the town guards came rushing over and demanded "What in Oblivion is going on here?"

"Shouldn't that be what in Tameriel is going on since we are in Tameriel NOT Oblivion?" Lerna replied

"Don't be smart with me" the guard snapped back "I am not in the mood"

"It's all right sir" the altmer woman said "this young lady was simply demonstrating her magical proficiency in order to enter the college, there is no cause for alarm."

"Well keep it down then" the guard ordered "NORMAL people are trying to sleep, here!" and then he stormed off, muttering darkly about damn mages under his breath

The altmer woman then turned to Lerna and said "As impressive as that display was, I strongly suggest you refrain from using such magic outside the College, as you may have noticed the locals do not take kindly to it."

"Why was he so belligerent?" Lerna asked

"There has always been some tension between the city and the college unfortunately, most Nords do not trust the magical arts or those who practice them, particularly since the Great Collapse, some of them find it suspicious that the College survived unharmed when most of Winterhold did not and with the dragon attacks, people are even more on edge than usual." The altmer explained

"Is that why you are standing out here?" Lerna asked

"In part" the woman admitted "our arch mage thinks it's' a good idea for now to limit interaction between the college and the locals…he is also concerned about defending the people of Winterhold should there be a dragon attack on the city…the walls were destroyed during the Collapse and have not been rebuilt. Anyway, you have proven yourself to be quite a capable mage and are welcome to join us here at the College…by the way, I do not believe I have introduced myself, my name is Faralda, what's yours?"

"Lerna, Lerna Maston" Lerna replied

"Nice to meet you." Faralda said and then she turned her attention to Lydia "how about you, are you here to join us as well?"

Lydia shook her head "No, I'm Lerna's housecarl; I am merely accompanying my thane."

Faralda raised an eyebrow "Really, you're a thane, right and I'm queen Barenziah."

"It's true" Lerna said "Jarl Balgruff named me a thane after I killed a dragon that was attacking the Western Watchtower."

"Oh, sure he did" Faralda scoffed "and I suppose you're the dragonborn too."

"As a matter of fact I am and I can prove it" Lerna said and then she shouted "FUS" knocking Faralda back several paces

Once she had regained her balance Faralda said "Well, that was something new…I suspect there is much we can learn from one another…I am not sure whether or not your housecarl will be allowed to accompany you, we have not had a thane among our ranks for a very long time. You will have to speak with Mirabelle Ervine about that. For now, I will have to ask you to wait here while I take Lerna into the College and find Mirabelle."

"That won't be necessary." A female voice said the voice sounded like it had come from behind Faralda."

Lerna glanced over and saw a brown haired woman coming toward them

"I am right here. I heard a ruckus coming from over here and wanted to see what it was." she said

"That was me" Lerna admitted "I was showing Faralda some of the spells I can cast."

"I see" then she turned to Faralda "and?"

"I was quite impressed" Faralda admitted "she demonstrated a few spells that I have never seen before."

It was obvious that Mirabelle's interest spiked at that

"I originally studied with the Mages Guild in Cyrodiil" Lerna said "That's where I learned most of the spells I used." It was true, although she had learned several more since becoming Sheogorath; she had not demonstrated any of those.

"Impossible" Mirabelle declared "The Mages' Guild was dissolved well over a century ago."

"WHAT?!" Lerna exclaimed

"Everyone knows that" Faralda pointed out

"I DIDN'T" Lerna responded and then she turned to Lydia "Why didn't you tell me?!"

"It never came up" Lydia admitted

"So are you going to tell us the truth then?" Mirabelle asked

"Do you normally pry into your students' personal lives" Lerna countered

"No, however we also do not like liars in our ranks, so unless you tell us the truth about where you learned those spells we cannot trust you nor allow you to join." Mirabelle declared firmly

Lerna hesitated, she didn't WANT to do this, she was certain that the moment she told them, they would first try to kill her and when that failed use her as an experimental test subject.

Picking up on Lerna's hesitation, Mirabelle added "You can limit it to just the two of us, we don't need to share it with the whole college."

"…all right, but we need to go somewhere we won't be overheard." Lerna said

"I know just the place." Mirabelle responded and she led the group along the pathway into the college grounds and through one of the side doors. Then they headed down into the atrium.

"Why is this place so dusty?" Lerna muttered softly

"Because no one comes down here anymore" Mirabelle said "new students are prohibited from coming down here actually, this place can be dangerous for those who don't know how to defend themselves properly but there are four of us so we will be safe…it IS the best place in the college to discuss things privately."

"So start talking" Faralda ordered

"I think it might be better to start by SHOWING you instead of telling you." Then she turned to look at Lydia "You may want to step into the next room for a minute."

Lydia nodded and walked away

"I'll call you when it's safe." Lerna called after her

"…what's going on?" Faralda asked she was getting suspicious; this was just too weird for her.

"I promised Lydia that I would never show her this again." Lerna replied and drew her sword. Faralda raised her hand and readied a spell, expecting an attack and ready to counter it and Mirabelle shifted into a more combat ready stance but she was NOT expecting any violence.

Lerna ignored both women and in one clean motion, cut her own head off her neck.

Neither Faralda nor Mirabelle could do anything expect stare in shock and a bit of horror. Both feelings intensified when about a minute later, Lerna's head reattached itself and the Breton got back on her feet, groaning in pain while she did so.

"Okay, Lydia, you can come back in now" she called and the heavily armored housecarl walked back in. Lydia took one glance at the two women and immediately figured out what had happened "it's something else isn't it?"

"HOW did you DO that?" Mirabelle exclaimed

"It's connected to how I can truthfully say that I learned most of my spells from the mages guild in Cyrodiil. I am actually 221 years old…give or take a year or two."

Faralda immediately hit her with a turn undead spell but since Lerna was NOT one of the undead it had no effect on her whatsoever.

"I'm not a vampire either; if I was I wouldn't have survived cutting my head off, decapitation is one of the most effective means of killing a vampire." Lerna said

"Indeed" Mirabelle agreed "I know of no living or undead creature that can do what you just did and survive to tell the tale. I am very curious to know how you did it."

"…you have to PROMISE to keep this to yourselves." Lerna declared firmly, looking Mirabelle right in the eyes as she said it.

"You have my word." Mirabelle said

Lerna then turned and gave Faralda the same hard look she had given Mirabelle. Faralda hesitated briefly before also agreeing to keep her silence.

Lerna then launched into her tale, telling them about how she was the Hero of Kvatch and how she later became Sheogorath which took a little while

When she was done, Faralda was the first to speak "A daedra prince" she muttered softly "I NEVER would have guessed"

Mirabelle took a bit longer to gather her thoughts "I believe I will have to inform arch mage Soren of your unique circumstances but otherwise I don't see a reason to let anyone else know….although I should warn you, our master conjurer may well be able to sense you."

"Actually according to Azura, most conjurers are actually very bad at sensing daedra." Lerna explained "There is a MAJOR difference between a daedra that has been summoned to this plane and one that has come of their volition, although to be fair Akatosh's barrier makes it next to impossible for most daedra to come voluntarily anymore. I have also been told that my power signature is very different from any other daedra; part of it is because I am the prince of madness and therefore my signature is highly unique but part is also because I have retained some of my humanity."

The others just looked at her blankly.

"Never mind" Lerna said shaking her head "let's just get out of this dusty old place."

They walked back out to the courtyard but when they had to dodge a blast of fire.

"What the-"Lydia began but cut herself off when her question answered itself.

A dragon was attacking the college!

Several mages were taking shelter under the overhangs and coming out only when they felt safe.

The trouble was that the dragon kept moving, making it hard for their spells to hit it.

Lydia knew that she had to get the dragon to stay put so she did something that was both very brave and very stupid, she ran out into the middle of the courtyard.

"Hey, you ugly overgrown lizard. Why don't you come down and fight us instead of sulking around like a cowardly weakling or are you too chicken?" she yelled out

The dragon responded by swooping down and hovering just a little bit above her, just high enough to be out of range of Lydia's sword and unleashing a torrent of flames. Lydia raised her shield over head to try and protect herself.

Lerna resolved to give her housecarl a stern lecture, reminding her that there is a BIG DIFFERENCE between heroic and stupid and that she had better learn that and then she charged at the dragon.

Lerna knew that a dragon's hide was very tough, it could easily withstand most weapons BUT a dragon's wings were vulnerable, they had very thin scales. Those thin scales made it possible for a dragon to fly BUT also meant that the wings were a weak spot in combat. So Lerna concentrated all her efforts on the dragon's right wing (it was the one closest to her). She swiped at it with her twin daedric swords repeatedly, slicing through the wing and ultimately grounding the dragon permanently.

The dragon turned in rage towards it's' attacker and breathed another blast of flames.

Lerna quickly leapt back and out of the line of fire.

Another mage, Lerna wasn't certain which one; took the opportunity to hit the dragon with a strong lighting spell. Since Lerna was out of range, the dragon turned toward its' other attacker while wiping his tail around wildly, trying to intercept anyone who tried to rush it while it's' back was turned.

Lerna however managed to weave her way around the tail and climb onto the dragon's back and then she ran up the back to the head. Quickly she swung her swords at the dragon's head, slowly weakening the scales, until finally she saw a small hole emerge. With all her enhanced strength she plunged her swords into it, the dragon roared in pain and then it died. Lerna felt the dragon begin to fall and jumped back to the ground quickly before the dragon fell.

A split second after she hit the ground the dragon's corpse began to seemingly catch fire and a there was the same light show as Lerna absorbed the dragon's soul.

Once it was over Lerna and Lydia sheathed their swords

"By the gods" one of the mages said "so the rumors are true, there really is a new dragon born."

Lerna turned to look at the speaker but before she could approach him, someone else approached her.

"You must be a new student" Lerna turned around to face the person speaking to her and saw that he was a dark elf.

"I am Sovaris Aren, archmage of the College and your name is?"

"Lerna, Lerna Maston thane of Whiterun and this armored idiot is Lydia." Lerna said

"Hey!" Lydia protested "I am NOT an idiot."

Lerna turned to look at her "Then stop acting like one" Lerna countered "what you did there was stupid and dangerous, you could have gotten killed!"

"Well, someone had to do SOMETHING-"Lydia began but was cut off

"Did you say that your name is Lerna Maston?" an altmer man wearing Thalmor robes demanded

"Yes, what's it to you?" Lerna countered

"Nothing" the elf replied "just thought I would do the polite thing and introduce myself. I am Ancano, advisor to the archmage and representative of the Aldermeri Dominion."

"And WHY do the Thalmor need a representative here at the College?" she asked harshly

"We are merely trying to establish better relations with the people of Skyrim and my superiors believe that offering our assistance in their studies of magic is a good way to do that."

"Do you really expect me to believe that?" Lerna demanded. Her tone carried a strong undercurrent of 'how STUPID do you think I am?'

"I don't care whether you believe me or not, it is only the truth." Ancano replied loftily

Lerna snorted derisively "riiight, like anything a thalmor says is ever truthful, trusting you lot is about as smart as trusting Mephala."

"That's enough" Sovaris declared "Lerna, you are new here so I will let you off with a warning. Ancano is here as a guest, I expect you all to be civil to him."

Lerna glared

Ancano snorted derisively "like a filthy mutt could possibly be civil"

Lerna opened her mouth to retort but Sovaris spoke first

"Ancano, don't you start." He ordered "I told you before, I expect you to treat my people with civility as well."

Lerna then shot Ancano a look that said quite plainly 'ha ha, you got in trouble' but made sure that her expression was neutral when Sovaris looked back at her.

"Has Mirabelle shown you around yet?"

Lerna shook her head

"Actually archmage, if it is alright with you, Faralda has offered to give Lerna and her housecarl the tour instead, because there is something urgent that I need to talk to you about."

Sovaris seemed a little surprised but said "well, that's all right with me, you don't mind do you Faralda?"

"Not at all" Faralda replied "if I minded I would never have volunteered." Then she turned to Lerna and said "please, this way."

She then led them through the college, pointing out all the rooms and explaining the relatively small number of rules the college had for its' students.

When it was over, Faralda asked Lerna if she had any questions and Lerna responded

"Yeah, what's the deal with that Thalmor guy, Ancamo or whatever his name was, is he REALLY just an advisor to the archmage?"

"Ancano" Faralda asked "officially yes, a little while ago, the Thalmor sent a whole new embassy delegation to Skyrim and Ancano was one of them. In truth however, the archmage rarely consults with him on anything, Ancano spends most of his time butting into our research projects…I think he's really trying to ascertain how much magic we know."

"Then why doesn't Sovaris just kick him out?" Lerna asked

"Because that would greatly offend the Thalmor, and damage diplomatic relations." Faralda explained

"Oh, please" Lerna scoffed "trying to have diplomatic relations with the Thalmor is just absurd, anyone with half a brain knows that its' only a matter of time before they try and invade us again, might as well try having diplomatic relations with a pack of rabid wolves…actually you'd probably have better luck with the wolves "

"Look Lerna, I am NOT interested in debating politics with you, do you have any questions about the actual COLLEGE or not?" Faralda responded

"Just one…have you guys done any work with the Elder Scrolls?" she asked

"I haven't" Faralda replied "but Septimus Signus was doing a lot of work with them…would talk your ear off about the scrolls if you let him."

"Great, where is he?" Lerna responded

"I don't know… I haven't seen him around for a quite a while actually" Faralda answered

Lerna sighed 'typical, it can NEVER be that easy' she thought

"But you could try asking the college librarian, Urag gro-Shub, Septimus was closest to him." Faralda suggested

"I'll do that, thanks Faralda" Lerna replied and walked away

Together she and Lydia made their way to the library where they found out that the librarian was a somewhat irascible orc.

"You must be the newbie I've been hearing about." He said as they approached

Lerna blinked in surprised, she knew word tended to travel fast but still. "Thane or not, I better not catch you treating any of these books badly and that goes for your little tag-a-long too."

"What crawled up your rear and died?" Lydia demanded

He turned to Lydia "Young people these days have NO respect for the written word; I will NOT tolerate any vandalism. You WILL treat these books with the respect they deserve or you will NEVER set foot in this library again!"

"That's fine, we're not vandals" Lerna said "In fact, right now we aren't here for books at all right now. We're looking for Septimus Signus. Faralda said you might know where he is"

"I might" the guy replied "and then again I might not, depends on why you're looking for him"

"We need to find an elder scroll-"Lerna began

"Ha, and I need to find the Crown of Barenizah" he interjected "look kids, the elder scrolls are not playthings. They are dangerous and not to be messed with…it's gotten Septimus into loads of trouble."

"We are NOT kids" Lerna responded her patience beginning to wear out…a part of her was tempted to just rip the answers she wanted from this man's brain, she was confident that he was mad enough for it to work... probably. However, she held herself in check, it wasn't right to violate people's minds without a reason and being difficult was NOT a good enough reason.

"FEIM" she shouted and made herself transparent "Look, I KNOW it's dangerous. The Elder Scrolls can make people go blind or insane if they aren't careful with them. I know that but I NEED to find one, so just tell me where I can find Septimus, please"

"Whoa" the Orc said "I never really believed in that whole dragonborn stuff but…ok fine. Septimus said that there were too many distractions here in the college; it made it hard for him to focus on his work. He's holed himself up in a small outpost just north of here"

"Thank you" Lerna said politely then she and Lydia both walked away.

Once out in the courtyard Lerna looked up at the sky and more importantly the position of the moon and then she turned to Lydia "it's late, we should probably head to the inn for some rest, and there are not enough beds here for both of us. We will go see Septimus in the morning."

"It's okay I'm not tired" Lydia protested but her body almost immediately betrayed her by yawning loudly

"Riiight, sure you are not." Lerna responded "Come on, let's go."

When they walked inside they were confronted with the sight of a dark elf ranting furiously about Azura. The innkeeper wasn't even pretending to be interested, he was acting like he had heard this speech a dozen times before and didn't want to hear it again.

"Azura is a menace, a foul loathsome absolutely-"

Lerna cut the man off "Don't talk about her that way!"

The man turned and glared at her condescendingly "oh look, a faithful sycophant speaking up for her evil mistress, how quaint."

"I'm NO sycophant and Azura is NOT evil, you're just a small minded idiot babbling about things you have no understanding of."

"Oh really?" the elf snapped back "and I suppose you think you understand Azura?"

"A lot better than you ever will." Lerna shot back

"Well, then explain to me WHY it's acceptable for Azura to drive one man into insanity so he kills dozens of innocents. Explain to me WHY someone who is NOT evil would slaughter dozens of innocent people just to get revenge on one man?!"

Lerna looked at him, confused

For a moment no one spoke and the elf smirked condescendingly "I thought as much, you claim to be SO enlightened yet you are the one with no idea what I am talking about. Let me explain, it all starts with Azura's star, you DO at least know what that is don't you?"

"Of course I know what it is" Lerna snapped

"Then you know that it's the only soul gem in existence that will never break, no matter how many times it's used. I don't know how it happened but I know that Malyn Varen"

Lerna blinked at this, she knew that name. She had driven him insane for stealing Azura's star…Azura hadn't said anything to her about it since then so she had assumed the problem was dealt with.

The elf continued on, either not noticing Lerna's reaction or not caring about it "somehow he came into possession of the star. Originally he wanted to try and figure out how it was made and why it was able to accept white souls but not black ones. Then he found out that he was dying…he got the crazy idea that he would be able to keep himself alive by stealing the souls of others and that the star was the best tool to use. He tried several times and then he finally succeeded in trapping a black soul in the star, killing a student in the process. The other College mages found out about and expelled him but they did NOT take the star from him and now he and his followers are running around Skyrim, killing innocent people and draining their souls. I ask you again how is that ok?!"

Lerna didn't speak for a moment; she was too busy feeling guilty. She had talked Azura into allowing her to link the star to the font of madness and drive the thief who stole it insane. Azura had been against it, she had warned that there might be negative consequences but Lerna hadn't listened. She had seen how upset her friend was at the theft one of her most prized possessions and gotten angry on her behalf. It wasn't like when she had stolen things for the Thieves' Guild. The things the guild stole were expensive items to be sure but they were replaceable and (usually) not necessary. A daedric prince's artifacts though were different. Each artifact was in a sense a PART of the prince it belonged to, having it taken was not only thoroughly humiliating it also WEAKENED the prince a little bit, but since most of the daedric way of life revolved around strength even being slightly weakened could have a major impact.

In addition, even though a prince could create another artifact with the exact same properties as the original, it would NEVER be a suitable replacement. It was like comparing a red silk dress to a red wool one, although each had their uses; one was not a suitable replacement for the other.

"Azura's not the one to blame" Lerna said softly

"Just because Malyn messed with the star gives her the right to kill people who did NOTHING to her, is that what you're saying?!" the elf demanded

Lerna looked up to meet his furious gaze "No, Azura didn't drive Malyn insane."

The elf looked at her but before he could speak Lerna continued "Madness is Sheogorath's domain. Azura and Sheogorath are friends; it would be rude for Azura to interfere with Sheogorath's domain like that without permission."

"Really, I've never heard anything like that." The elf scoffed disbelievingly.

"Of course not, did you expect Azura and Sheogorath to put an article about in the Black Horse Courier or something?" Lerna asked

"The what?" the elf asked

"The Black Horse Courier, it's a news pamphlet that gets distributed around Cyrodiil…I'm guessing Skyrim doesn't have an equivalent."

"No, we don't" Lydia said

"Well, you should, it's very helpful" Lerna said and then Lydia's stomach growled very loudly.

Lerna handed her housecarl several coins "here go get yourself something to eat and a couple of beds for the night…I think that should be enough to cover it, if not come and talk to me and I will give you some more." Then she turned back to the dark elf

"Anyway, the point is Azura isn't the one who drove him insane, Sheogorath is so if you want to blame a daedra it should be Sheogorath."

"And I should believe you why?!" the elf scoffed

"Because I'm a priestess of Sheogorath, it's my job to know these kinds of things." Lerna replied

While Lerna and the elf had been talking, Lydia had gotten her food and sat down near them but when she heard Lerna call herself a priestess, Lydia spat out some of the mead she was drinking and began to cough rather loudly.

Lerna immediately turned and raced over to her housecarl "are you okay."

"Yeah" Lydia stammered out followed by a couple more coughs and then she put her fist to her chest a and cleared her throat and got the coughing under control "I'm fine"

"I CAN'T believe you said that!" Lydia thought

"Well, what was I supposed to say, the truth?" Lerna replied

The dark elf meanwhile looked at Lerna critically

"I've seen a few daedric priests in my time and you seem very different from them." He said

"Of course, I am." Lerna replied "You can't expect a priestess of the madgoddess to follow silly little conventions now can you?"

"Perhaps not, but you don't seem crazy enough to be a mad priestess either." The elf replied

"You wouldn't say that if you had ever met Haskill. He's the Chamberlain of the Shivering Isles and boring and sane enough to pass for the daedra prince of dull and boring things…if there WAS a daedra prince of dull and boring things." Lerna said

Lydia looked slightly confused "I thought you liked Haskill"

"Like might be putting it a bit strong, I don't dislike him though either. Plus he is VERY good at his job, which is why I kept him on. By the way, congratulations on improving your telepathy, you are actually sending thoughts to me intentionally now." Lerna replied

"Haven't I been doing that for a while now?" Lydia asked

"Yes, but I just realized I had never congratulated you for it." Lerna responded

Belatedly Lerna realized that she had missed what the dark elf was saying to her while she had been engaged in her mental conversation with Lydia.

"What, sorry I got lost in thought for a minute." Lerna told him

"I SAID, you called Sheogorath the madgoddess and yet everything I have ever read indicates that Sheogorath is male, so explain that to me." He repeated

"Simple, Sheogorath is a daedra prince and thus technically neither male nor female. I suppose the correct term would be 'it' but I don't like to call Sheogorath that because doing that makes my goddess sound like a piece of furniture, its' disrespectful. However, everybody and his uncle calls Sheogorath male and I like to be different so I call her she." Lerna explained

"and Sheogorath doesn't mind that?" he asked skeptically

"Apparently not, I have been calling Sheogorath she for years now and I have never been punished for it, if she was displeased with me, I'd know by now."

Lydia had to bite her tongue; she wasn't sure why exactly but Lerna pretending to be a priestess of herself struck her as simply hilarious.

"Anyway, we've wandered a bit away from the topic at hand, where is Malryn, do you know?" Lerna asked

"Maybe I do and maybe I don't. In any case, I don't see WHY I should tell you, you'll give the star back to Azura."

"And the killings will stop, isn't that the most important thing?" Lerna questioned

The elf looked down guiltily

"Look at this way, however things turn out, you still get what you want. If we succeed and kill Malyrn and take the star, there will be fewer people being murdered and if we fail then there are fewer daedra worshipers in the world, either way you win." Lerna said

"Fine, I'll tell you. Malyrn and his followers have holed themselves up inside Fellglow keep in southern Skyrim."

"Followers, he has followers?" Lerna asked

"Yes, he's attracted quite a number of them; he promised them that they could someday share his immortality if they proved themselves worthy. That's a lie of course; the truth is that he needs them to keep sending him souls in order to sustain himself."

"I see. Thank you for the information." Lerna said

"I hope you defeat them and don't give the star back to Azura." He responded

"Don't bother holding your breath on that last one." Lerna replied, the dark elf didn't respond

Lydia yawned

"Which room is ours?" Lerna asked

"That one on the left, it's the only one with two beds." Lydia said and pointed.

Both women walked in to the room and Lydia locked the door behind them. She then proceeded to begin getting herself ready for bed

Meanwhile Lerna sat down on her bed and pulled out her map. The dark elf had marked the fort on it but Lerna had never been to it so she wouldn't be able to teleport directly there. The closest she had been seemed to be Bleak Falls Barrow, so she would teleport to the entrance and then walk from there….or maybe she should teleport to the whiterun stables and buy a horse first.

Lydia's voice snapped Lerna out of her thoughts

"You're not thinking of going after the star without me are you?" she asked

Lerna's first instinct was to lie and deny it but she realized that Lydia likely knew her well enough by now to know that it was a lie

"Yes, that's the plan."

"Lerna-"Lydia began to protest but Lerna cut her off

"Look, for all we know those Nercormancers could be feeding Malyrn another soul right this minute. I need to go after them as soon as possible but you're exhausted, you can barely keep your eyes open. You'd be WORSE than useless in the state you're in right now."

"I would not!" Lydia protested

"Yes, you would be. Lydia NO ONE can fight well when they're tired"

"You can." Lydia countered

"I don't GET tired anymore, but when I was mortal yes, even I couldn't fight that well if I hadn't gotten enough sleep. Lerna responded "since you can't fight well in your condition, I'll have to cover you which means I won't be able to fight as well because I have to protect you which makes us BOTH vulnerable."

"You can't die." Lydia pointed out

"No, but I can feel pain" Lerna reminded "In fact, I actually feel pain more keenly that I did as a mortal."

"What?!" Lydia asked

"Yes…its' not something we like to tell mortals but gods don't heal naturally. Mortal bodies are designed to be able to self-repair, any injury you get will heal itself eventually but gods aren't supposed to get hurt in the first place so we have to heal all our injuries with magic. I am slightly different in that regard, my body does heal but at a much slower rate than it used to. Also we are more in tune with our bodies than mortals, its' part of our shape shifting ability, we change more than our appearance; we actually change our bodies to match. When I shift into an argonian woman for example, I actually give myself gills so I can breathe under water just like they do."

"Argonaians have gills?" Lydia asked

"Yes and lungs, so they can breathe water or air with equal ease, anyway part of changing you appearance is FEELING how the way your body is before and after the change…its' particular useful when checking to make sure you didn't make a mistake."

"…yet, I've seen you get hurt and it never seemed to bother you that much." Lydia replied

"I have a very high threshold for pain." Lerna replied "Now, lie down before you fall down."

"Yes mother" Lydia grumbled and then she got into her bed. She missed Lerna's brief flash of first surprise and then pain as Lydia's remark unintentionally brought back memories of old dreams, dreams that were forever destroyed.

After a moment shook herself to clear her head and then she set off.