The Headquarters

 
Previously: Return

"She killed an army of vampires?"

"Some of them," Ambassador Elenwen nodded, bringing over two goblets and handing one to Commander Mirnor. "I received a letter from Ondolemar. The other Justiciars who fled south told him that she moved through the fort--still naked from her bath--cutting down the undead with her flaming Daedric dagger."

Even beneath his Thalmor hood, she could tell his eyebrow had gone up.

"That sounds rather...epic," he blinked.

"Downright mythic, if we're being honest," Elenwen sighed, wearily taking a seat opposite him at the dinner table. "Now, I don't know exactly how many vampires she killed, but after the massacre, she was one of that last justiciars standing, and they now regard her as some sort of hero." She paused for emphasis. "In time, her legend will spread throughout the Dominion."

"Ah, yes," Mirnor slightly twitched. "That's just what the Thalmor needs. Tales of Indrathel, the Half-Breed Hero of Northwatch Keep."

Elenwen met his gaze. "You're going to need to watch that, Mirnor," she warned. "It only takes one wrong word about our new hero to the wrong person."

"Her very existence is contrary to the focus of the Thalmor," he protested.

"Are the Thalmor a set of ideals or a set of vaunted bloodlines?" the Ambassador shrugged lightly. "Take us, for example. You and I are nobodies descended from nobodies nine times over. There are some in the Dominion who don't believe I ever should have risen to the rank of Commander, much less Ambassador. Do I support Talos worship? Divines, no. Do I believe the human races have room for improvement? On every possible level. Do I think that the Aldmeri Dominion has a future if it emphasizes blood supremacy? Absolutely not."

Mirnor sullenly sipped from his goblet and winced. "By the Divines, Elenwen...what is this acrid swill?"

"Argonian ale," she immediately answered without irony, taking a long drink. "It grows on you if you let it." She looked back up at him. "Just like Skyrim."

***


Solitude reminded Indrathel of the Imperial City. It was made of stone and filled with Imperials.

The surroundings and the people were an oddly welcome sight for her, even if she wasn't a welcome sight to them. She felt their eyes upon her, taking in her long black Thalmor robes as they stiffened in fear and fell to hushed whispers.

She didn't care. It was bright and sunny and much warmer than the area surrounding the Embassy and Northwatch Keep. The snow seemed to keep to the mountains, and the high walls kept the cold winds at bay.

Despite the war, life seemed almost normal in Solitude. She could smell aromas from the market, the bakery, and the tavern. Children ran freely in the streets. She spotted several nobles dressed in silk, lace, and velvet, and could smell their perfume on the way to Castle Dour.



The castle was a daunting structure, ancient and forbidding. It cast a great shadow upon the city. There were guards posted at the main entrance and soldiers training in the main courtyard, where a giant fire pit burned.

"I am Commander Indrathel," she announced to a nearby sentry. "Please direct me to our headquarters."

The Imperial soldier mutely pointed towards a building high atop some nearby stairs, a building that was noticeably much smaller than the Embassy.

No wonder Elenwen doesn't bother coming down here.




Once she entered the Headquarters, however, Indrathel found them warmer, cozier, and much better lit than the Embassy. There was an Altmeri civilian in very fine clothes enjoying a steaming mug of tea while a Justiciar and a junior Commander pored over a military map.

"You must Indrathel," the handsome young commander greeted. "I am Corelian and this is Psylina."

The Justiciar in full armor nodded briskly. "We've been expecting you."

Oh, great. Indrathel was immediately uncomfortable.

"We know you've come a long way and would like to get settled," Corelian told her.

Psylina smirked. "You'll find there isn't much to explore. As you can see, the Headquarters is much smaller than the Embassy. We've got beds for Justiciars downstairs that we rotate, while senior command quarters are upstairs."



"Since all real decisions are made at the Embassy, we tend to have a lot of time to kill," Corelian mused.

Indrathel blinked. I know you people aren't subtly complaining about this cushy assignment. If only I'd been sent here first instead of Northwatch Keep.

"Castle Dour," she began hesitantly, "is the headquarters for the Imperial Legion in Skyrim?"

Both nodded. "From here, General Tullius rules his soldiers with an iron first," Psylina mused.

"Word is that Jarl Elisif keeps trying to get him to come to court but he always finds from reasonable excuse not to go," Corelian chuckled, "like say...the war."

"Court?" Indrathel tilted her head. "Have either of you ever been?"

"I have," Corelian nodded. "When the High King was still alive. Commander Mirnor and I attended a dinner."

Indrathel raised an eyebrow. "And?"

Corelian shrugged. "The Blue Palace much like everywhere else in Solitude. A shadow of its former self. The king loved to eat mutton, gods rest his soul, and as for the wine...." He trailed briefly before finishing, "Let's just say you can get a better vintage at the Winking Skeever."

"But be warned," Psylina piped up. "The Thalmor are not welcomed in Solitude, only tolerated. No one will say anything to you--much less actually harm you--but you'll get a lot of looks and even more cold shoulders."

Indrathel squarely met her gaze. "That sounds so much better than vampires."

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