A/N ~ So sorry about the delayed chapters! First it was because I started two other fics, then it's because my nails were too long, then it was because of writer's block, and then because I got caught up in Daos (three finished volumes are up now).

Suffice to say, Indrathel didn't even make it to dinner. She was back at the Headquarters before the sun had even fully set.

She was still drunk, but starting to sober up as she faced the disapproving gazes of her comrades.

"I don't see what the problem is," she grumbled, rubbing her temples. "I just had a few drinks."

"Indrathel," Psylina began, "I don't think you're grasping the severity of your actions. You shared classified intel at a dinner part with some of the biggest mouths in Solitude, you indulged to the point of inebriation--which is unbecoming of a Thalmor agent--and you did it all while wearing...that."

Idrathel glanced down at her black gown and then back up at her fellow Thalmor. It appeared that out of everything, her outfit offended them most of all.

"This is our fault," Mirnor stated grimly. "We knew the events you endured at Northwatch Keep had a deeper effect upon you, and yet you were not given the opportunity to properly process your experience. I may need to find a more suitable posting for you."

Indrathel stared at him. "A more suitable...are you reassigning me? Again?"

"Well, you can't very well remain in Solitude, can you?" he snapped. "By this time tomorrow, every noble house in Skyrim will be laughing about this disastrous evening. You do realize your drunken ramblings have compromised the Dominion, do you not?"

"Compromised the Dominion?" she snapped. "You want to punish me for my conduct, fine, but at what point do the Thalmor finally admit that our entire tenure in this kingdom has been disastrous? What exactly has Elenwen accomplished over the last thirty years, other than sending us all to die from her den of cobwebs and dim lighting?"

"This isn't about Elenwen," Mirnor bit out. "This is about vampires. You're right, Indrathel. The Thalmor have not sufficiently addressed the fact that our comrades were overrun by the undead, a foe we were not prepared to repel. We were focused on the war, and we got distracted."

"Distracted," Indrathel scoffed. "Avoidant, you mean. You and Elenwen and Atirion all hide behind your walls, playing nobility at dinner parties, but the whole time you knew what this country was really like. You knew about its dangers and you said nothing."

"There are vampires everywhere, Indrathel," Psylina interjected. "Tamriel has been home to the undead for thousands of years. Did you learn nothing at the Academy?"

"To be fair," Mirnor reclaimed control of the conversation, "we have been complacent. Vampires are usually found in caves, or occasionally out on a road. The idea of an undead horde invading a military installation is unprecedented...but we should've foreseen it nonetheless. This is Skyrim, after all." He paused, then stood up straight. "You need to deal with your demons, Indrathel. And sometimes, the best way to deal with one's own demons is by dealing with someone else's." He cocked his head to the side. "Are you familiar with a town called Morthal?"


Skyrim dawned gray and drab the next morning, matching Indrathel's mood. Her head throbbed from drinking in excess and she felt sluggish as she left the Headquarters for her last walk through Solitude. The air was cold and heavy with rains to come, and after they left she was bound for a town in the middle of nowhere that she'd never heard of and was only known for its marshes and vampires.

Because that's just what I need. More vampires.

Then again, it seemed Mirnor had a point. Indrathel couldn't stop talking about vampires. She couldn't stop thinking about vampires. She couldn't stop dreaming about vampires. The last time she'd faced them, she was caught off guard. Vampires hadn't even been a thought before coming to Skyrim; now she wondered how the hell people traveled the country alone all the time.

And werewolves, she blinked, suddenly remembering. Werewolves are also a thing.

I'm definitely taking a carriage to Morthal.

There was hardly anyone in the Castle Dour courtyard, even though it wasn't actually raining. A lone soldier practiced with his sword while Indrathel warmed herself by the firepit. She warmed rather quickly, considering her robes were fitted black leather, so she had to walk to cool herself.

She didn't go far, but she did go somewhere unfamiliar. It suddenly occurred to her that she hadn't visited the Temple of the Divines. As she wondered why that was, she vaguely recalled a feeling of resentment when she first arrived in Solitude. She couldn't remember exactly what gripe she had with the gods, but she assumed it had something to do with the massacre at Northwatch Keep.

The temple was enthralling, a castle in its own right. The ancient stone walls were high, cracked, and worn, granting the temple a haunted sort of beauty. In addition to the candles, pale light streamed through the high windows, falling like ghosts upon the fog that drifted in.

Indrathel's feet moved of their own accord toward the nine shrines at the back. They were being tended by a priest, who seemed surprised to have a visitor on such a dreary day, much less a Thalmor agent.

"By the Divines, I bid you welcome," the hooded Nordic priested greeted. "I am Rorlund, high priest of this temple."

"Indrathel," she murmured absently. Her eyes skimmed the shrines until they fixated on a familiar sight.

"Ah," Rorlund nodded in approval. "Mara is the patron goddess to many."

"Mara?" she asked, slowly turning back to him. She felt a pang of annoyance at the goddess's name; her brow furrowed as she struggled to recall why.

"A deity of love tends to draw quite the following in these troubled times," Rorlund explained. His head tilted slightly to the side. "Is there a special someone who--"

"No," she cut him off swiftly. "There's no one." After a bitter pause, she added. "I have no love in my life."

"Mara is not just the patron goddess of romantic love," Rorlund smiled benevolently. "When we are lacking romantic love, it's often easy to forget the love of our friends and family."

"My family's dead and I have no friends," Indrathel replied flatly.

That surprised the priest. "No one? No parents, siblings, former classmates from the Academy....?"

"My parents died," she grumbled. "I have no siblings and I was the only half-breed at the Academy."

Rorlund was compassionate. "These dark times are a stark reminder of all our mortalities," he empathisized. "It helps to think back to better moments...if you have them."

"I have several," she admitted. "My father left my mother and me a nice home. Before she died, she baked sweet rolls in the morning and read me stories at night before bed."

The high priest smiled. "These are fine memories to take comfort in."

"Except they don't give me comfort," Indrathel confessed, her voice heavy, her face sullen. "Remembering my life is like watching someone else's. Like I was there, but I wasn't. There's no...emotional connection to the events I witness, no matter how pleasant they're supposed to be."

The light in Rorlund's eyes dimmed and his jaw tightened ever so slightly. "As though your memories aren't real?"

"Exactly," the tall elf nodded slowly.

"What's the first real thing you remember?" he tentatively asked.

"Waking up at the Embassy some weeks ago," she shrugged. "I'd always wanted to be a member of the Thalmor. I remember working hard, studying hard, training for hours until every inch of my body screamed for mercy, but none of it seemed real until the day I woke up and stood before Ambassador Elenwen herself." She snorted. "That was a disappointment."

"Perhaps that's what this is all about," Rorlund said lightly. "You spent your whole life envisioning a particular future, but now that it's here, you realize it's not what you really wanted after all."

Indrathel met his gaze, alarmed. "So what then? Is this it? Is this all there is?"

"No," he shook his head, chuckling softly, even though the humor didn't reach his eyes. "No, no--you've been granted a second chance, Indrathel. You're still young. You still have your whole life ahead of you. If the current path isn't working for you, you are free to choose another."

Indrathel mulled that over, not sure what to think or say. After a while she admitted, "My contingent was recently surprised by an army of undead at the fort where we were assigned." Pause. "Almost everyone was slaughtered."

Rorlund nodded gravely. "Such tragedy can fill us with grief so numbing it makes us question everything about our lives."

"Now, I'm being sent to Morthal, to fight yet more vampires."

"But this time," he raised an eyebrow, "it's not a surprise."

"No. My superiors think fighting real demons will help me conquer my inner ones."

"It can help you heal," he nodded again. "Once you have avenged your fallen comrades, a weight shall lift from your soul, and you will be free to choose a new path, forge newer, better memories." He smiled. "Maybe make some friends? Even start a new family."

Indrathel mulled that over. "Maybe." She stood up straight, as though suddenly feeling better. "Thank you, Your Eminence. I feel better."

"Divines bless you," he bid farewell, watching as she turned and left. After she was out of earshot, he walked over to the shrine of Mara and grumbled, "You've really gotta stop bailing the riffraff out of jail."

Next: Morthal


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