The Embassy

 
Previously: Jail

The statue instructed her to lay down on her smell prison bed and Indrathel complied, though she wondered how in the world she could possibly fall asleep after an exchange like that. And yet...as soon as her head hit her damp pillow, she was out. She slept in darkness without dreams. The sleep felt both long and brief; when she woke, she was groggy for a few moments, but then her head quickly cleared.

She was in a large bed with clean sheets and pillows, and a thick cover embroidered in gold thread. The room itself was spacious, and luxuriously furnished the way she'd always it would be for a member of the upper classes.



She rolled out of bed, her head throbbing and her throat parched. She wondered if that was a side effect of the goddess's magic, but then slowly recognized the effects of a hangover.

What the hell?

Before she could fall into confusion, there was a knock on the door.

"Commander?" a quiet voice asked. "Are you awake?"

"I am," Indrathel grumbled.

After a hesitation, the voice asked, "Are you decent?"

"Come in," she sighed.

A Bosmeri woman entered; she was short with dark skin and brown hair. "Good morning, Commander," she greeted humbly.

Indrathel blinked, recognizing this woman even though she was sure they'd never met before. "Brelas...?"

"Ma'am," the Wood Elf nodded. "Your bathwater is still heating. I apologize for the delay. The other Commanders woke first."

Indrathel snorted, walking over to a dresser with a large jar of water. She filled a basin and began washing her face and hands. "You mean Ondolemar woke first."

She blinked, catching herself. Who the hell is Ondolemar?

"He did, ma'am. And per the Ambassador's orders...." Brelas trailed off deliberately, knowing better than to speak of her employer or her guests.

"Elenwen told you lot to give him precedence," Indrathel snorted. "I don't know why she overcompensates for the man; she already gave him the best assignment in Skyrim. Makes me wonder why he hasn't fucked off back to Markarth already; the party's over."

Whoa. She recognized her voice; she could hear the words coming out of her mouth, but even as they flowed easily, everything sounded new to her. She paused, skimming her memories, and sure enough, she could remember Ondolemar's annoyingly handsome face. She could remember the sanctimonious sound of his voice, even as he guzzled his drink like the rest of them.

We really partied hard last night, she remembered. She remembered there was music, and lots of people. She remembered the most wine expensive wine in Tamriel flowing like water, and that there were Jarls present. She even remembered some blond Nord lord or some such stumbling about the main hall, propositioning practically every woman in sight, even Brelas.

"By Mara," she gasped, turning to the Wood Elf. "That creepy little Thane who was pawing at you all night...Erl...Eryn...?"

Brelas wrinkled her nose. "Erikur."

"What happened with him?"

"Fell asleep in a puddle of his own sick," Brelas shrugged. "His housecarl had to carry him out to the carriage just after midnight."

Indrathel remembered Erikur's housecarl. Another supercilious Altmeri twit, garbed in the lavish, silken robes of a mage.

But wait.... Indrathel paused. Mara said we could only move forward in life, not back. So how I do remember being at a party when I know I spent the night in jail? And how do complete strangers remember me as well? Doesn't that mean she rewrote my past?

Her eyes widened in realization as she answered her own question. She merely rewrote our memories of the past.

It was bizarre. Everything on the inside and out both felt and seemed so real, and increasingly so by the minute. In fact, it was getting harder by the minute not see the illusion for what it was. Her own memories, the real ones, were even starting to fade.

She didn't sound like herself either, at least not like the self she remembered. The old Indrathel was from the streets; she had an Altmeri accent like her mother, but it was rough around the edges. Or at least it used to be. The new Indrathel sounded much more polished, more proper, colder even.

She rewrote me, Indrathel realized. Mara simply rewrote me.

"Your bathwater should be ready by now, Commander," Brelas informed her. "I'll have a tub sent up. Do you require anything else?"

***



Indrathel speaks....

If you ever have the misfortune to visit the Thalmor Embassy in Skyrim, you'll find it's like a tomb haunted by ghouls. I have no idea why Elenwen keeps it so bloody dark, or why the Thalmor insist on constantly being in uniform. Our uniforms are hideous.

I don't know exactly how long it's stood, or the original purpose of the building, but I do know Elenwen has been in charge for about thirty years. And yet there are there are rooms full of dust and actual cobwebs. There are fewer servants than I expected, and apparently she doesn't entertain guests often.

Still that's no excuse. We're the Aldmeri Dominion. We have standards.

I wonder if it's the Skyrim effect. I have memories of crossing a ghostly sea on a boat and arriving at a harbor blanketed in snow. The wild stretched before me, unending, unyielding. It takes hours to get anywhere, days if you're going further.

I suppose it's not really a wonder the Embassy is like some ancient tomb of legend. It's a stone sentinel standing alone, surrounded by silence and wilds.



***

She was the last to arrive in the great hall. Her fellow Justiciars were already up, dressed in their long black uniforms. There was also a straggler from the night before, a Redguard who worked for the East Empire Trading Company. He was still drunk.

"Sleep well, Indrathel?" That was Commander Mirnor. He was thin, pale creature with green eyes and a voice that sounded inherently dishonest. "You left the party rather early."

"You miss me, Mirnor?" she absently replied, before yawning.

"We all missed your...unique presence," Ondolemar chimed in. "We don't see many Justiciars...quite like you among the Thalmor."

"What, you mean half-breeds?" Indrathel asked, looking him in the eye. "I thought we covered this last night."

"Indeed," Mirnor nodded, his eyes suddenly unreadable. "But I must admit, our curiosity remains unsated."

"Commander Indrathel graduated at the top of her class," Ambassador Elenwen suddenly interjected. She was a lean blond elf who sounded every bit her age, even if she didn't sound it. "A remarkable achievement despite her...disability."

"Good morning, Ambassador," Indrathel greeted with a slight nod of her.

"Good morning, all," Elenwen replied.

"I wanted to wish you well before returning to Markarth," Ondolemar told her.

"And I am bound for Solitude," Mirnor announced. Indrathel remembered that the actual Thalmor Headquarters were located there. "Commander Atirion has returned to the Blue Palace from Cyrodiil and needs to be debriefed."

"In that case I wish you all safe and speedy journeys," Elenwen nodded. She turned to Indrathel. "Join me for breakfast, Commander?"

***



The main dining room upstairs was as underwhelming as the rest of the Embassy. Clearly, Elenwen's assignment to Skyrim was wearing thin. Indrathel pondered why she hadn't been promoted yet; she wondered if the older woman was being punished for something. Indrathel couldn't stomach the thought of being stuck on this snow-covered mountain in the middle of nowhere for years on end.

Skyrim had its charms to be sure, but this was ridiculous.

Breakfast was boiled eggs, sweet Breton biscuits with tea and fresh apple slices. Indrathel ate with good appetite; she was hungry and for some reason she felt no desire to impress the Ambassador.

"How are you enjoying Skyrim, Commander?" Elenwen asked, leisurely sipping her tea.

"I haven't seen much of it to be honest," Indrathel shrugged. "I will say the snow grows tiresome."

The Ambassador. "You have no idea."

"Any update on my assignment?" Indrathel pressed. "The dinner parties have been fabulous but I'm eager to get back to work."

"I'm considering permanently assigning you to Markarth," Elenwen mulled, "but before I can do that, I have special assignment for you. Are you familiar with Northwatch Keep?"

"Can't say I am," Indrathel shrugged.

"It's the westernmost fort from here," Elenwen elaborated. "At the beginning of the war, the Empire authorized the Dominion to staff it. I recently assigned a contingent of Justiciars and I need an update."

Indrathel met her gaze. "And a simple courier won't suffice?"

"I want an inspection," the Ambassador replied. "I want an honest observation. My Justiciars outside of Solitude and Markarth have been known to...embellish their reports, no doubt in hopes of expediting their promotions and transfers to more desirable locales. If there's anything wrong with Northwatch, I want to know immediately."

Indrathel shrugged again. Sounds fair.

"I'll be providing with you with a map and provisions," Elenwen continued. "If you take the northern road, you should be there within two days. Skyrim is filled with abandoned forts and towers where you can take refuge during the night. You may have to kill a few bandits, of course; ever since the start of the war, Skyrim has become practically overrun with those."

Indrathel stared at her. "The more people talk about this country, the wilder it sounds."

Elenwen flashed what Indrathel figured was her signature smile. It didn't reach her eyes, and her teeth looked razor sharp.

"My dear...you have no idea."

Next: Hraggstad

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