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and at the end of our lives, it's good to be the only thing left

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“My life is not my own to lead, and never has been,” he had written in a journal, which he had promptly tossed into a fire at the Urshilaku Camp. 

“This world is strange, I think I belong in the past,” he had confessed to a random stranger he’d met at a cornerclub, who he never saw again.

“I wonder if he took it all for granted, even then,” he had told a scrib that had crawled across his foot when he made camp in the wilderness.

“I miss them,” he had said to his reflection in a dusty mirror, pretending that he was referring to something else.

“I wonder if he was happy,” he asked the stars on nights when the only thing he could feel was bitterness.

Raidyn wondered about a lot of things, was upset about a lot of things. He had always wanted nothing more than a reply, for the flames or strangers or stars to take him in and tell him everything: tell him that there was a reason for all this pain, that he hadn’t been returned to life so that he could suffer and fantasize about an era long gone. Tell him that he wasn’t just a pawn in someone else's plan. Give him any sort of reason to not be sad and bitter and angry. Give him a purpose.

However, the stars were cold and distant, and he had yet to be offered a reason to carry on.

His own fate had escaped his grasp, seemingly dictated by forces outside of his control. People told him that he was this or that, and they never listened to what he had to say on the matter. Though, in a horrible, twisted way, everything had started to fall into place the moment he stepped foot onto Vvardenfell. The dreams that weren’t his. The memories that weren’t his. They grew in number with every step he took towards uncovering the truth.

Towards the mountain.

The Ashlanders were skeptical of his status as Nerevarine. Raidyn, on the other hand, had never been more certain of anything in his life. A certainty that he hated, wanted to cast into the fire and watch it turn to smoke. He wanted to run from his apparent destiny, to finally take control of his life. 

A part of him longed for a past that he remembered more and more with every passing day. Longed for people that were either long-dead or might as well be. Longed for a voice of reason in the mess that was his existence.

He just wanted to go home, but he wasn’t sure what that meant anymore.

In fact, he had been planning to run off, and desert his ‘duties to the Empire,’ go somewhere far from the reach of the forces that sought to use him. That is, until his most recent assignment.

When everything crashed and burned.

That old Imperial had warned him that it would be difficult, even more dangerous than the other missions he’s sent Raidyn on. Raidyn had of course brushed him off. It would be nothing he and his companions couldn’t handle. Scourge, his cliff racer, had went into the cavern with him, while Siecas, an old friend of his that he had recently reunited with, had stayed behind in Gnaar Mok.

When Raidyn emerged from Ilunibi, disoriented and confused, Siecas had rushed to his aid, only to start sobbing into his shoulder when he realized exactly what was wrong.

The severity of his prediacment hadn’t really hit Raidyn until they were back in Balmora, seeing the reaction of the Imperial agent when he and Siecas, his poor, beloved Siecas, stepped into the old, one-room house.

Raidyn had corprus - a disease that completely destroyed it’s victims bodies and minds, and had no known cure.

He had slumped down against the wall, burying his head in his hands as he started to tremble, while Siecas talked to the agent.

There was hope yet, he had said. An ancient Telvanni wizard who was supposedly working on a cure, who might be able to save him. The Imperial had given them some gold, a Dwemer artifact as an offering, and sent them on their way. They were back outside, alone again on the streets of Balmora and getting disgusted looks from the people passing by. It didn’t bother Raidyn much though, he was used to being an outcast.

The silt strider driver had turned them away after taking one look at Raidyn, and so did the mer at the docks. The three of them had no choice but to travel through Molag Amur on foot. 

The journey hadn’t been easy; the air was dry and scorching from the lava pools that dotted the region, grims spires of rock dotting the sloping landscape. Ash-storms from Red Mountain ravaged the land and made it hard to even see his hands in front of him. It burned Raidyn’s throat, and he was never more grateful for the pair of goggles he’d picked up weeks ago for keeping the ash out of his eyes. He’d spent the journey either on Scourge’s back or leaning against her as he walked. Corprus was apparently supposed to make the afflicted stronger, but Raidyn only felt small and weak. He was dying, and he knew it.

“Hey, look, there! I can see the ocean!” Siecas called out, breaking the silence between them that had lasted since they left Balmora. He pointed towards the horizon. Sure enough, Raidyn made out the blue of the sea through the storm, and saw the silhouette of a massive Telvanni mushroom tower sprouting from one of the islands.

Oddly, Raidyn felt a great deal of aphrenision as they approached the tower. He should have been happy, right? This was seemingly his one chance at getting cured, at surviving this. So why did the sight of the tower make him stop dead in his tracks?

“There are ghosts behind my eyes,” he told Siecas. “I don’t know what to make of it. I don’t know who to believe.

Siecas gave him an odd look, stopping just a few steps ahead of Raidyn.

“The books,” he elaborated, “they all tell different stories. I don’t know which words speak the past as it happened. I’m here for a reason, but everything is twisted, wrong, even in my head. Somebody’s been lying to me. I need to make things right,” he continued, voice hoarse but warped with quiet anger. He didn’t give Siecas a chance to reply, walking off towards the tower with Scourge at his heels.

The next moments were just as blurry to him as the past days had been. With a whisper of a spell, he crossed the water on foot to the island the tower grew from and entered through the old door, Scourge and Siecas following after him. The odd interior of the tower was just as alien-but-familiar as everything else in Morrowind was to him, and he immediately felt uneasy. It was suffocating, something heavy was in the air, though logically he knew that nothing was amiss. It smelled all earthy and rotten, and dread crept up in the back of his throat as some ancient instinct alerted him that something was horribly, horribly wrong here. Or, an even more ominous prospect, something wasn’t wrong yet, but would be soon. Scourge had evidently sensed his distress; Raidyn heard her cooing softly as she headbutted his back gently. He chirped something unintelligible to her, reaching behind himself to pet her head.

Siecas had wandered off, speaking to an armored woman. Raidyn’s ears only registered an unpleasant buzzing, and he didn’t hear what was said. After a moment, Siecas came back over to him. “She says Divayth Fyr isn’t here,” he said, with a heavy sigh, fidgeting with a loose thread from his sleeve. “We’ll have to wait. Until he’s back. But--”

“Hmph,” Raidyn mumbled bitterly. Scourge was now at his side again, leaning against him slightly while he scratched under her chin. “I can wait. It’s fine.”

Siecas’s brow furrowed. “It’s not fine, but we don’t have a choice. And…..and she said, you have to go downstairs, with the other-- With the corprus beasts, until he gets back.”

Raidyn said nothing, but shrugged, pushing past Siecas and heading towards the downward sloping corridor that he assumed lead to the caves below the tower. 

“Raidyn-- Wait--”

He turned as Siecas grabbed his shoulder. The Maormer was frowning, his eyes damp. “Raidyn, just-- I--” his head was lowered, his ears drooping. “I don’t want you to die.”

“I already did,” Raidyn replied.

“You can’t keep saying things like that!” Siecas burst out. “You-- I can’t lose you. I can’t.” There was desperation in his eyes as he threw his arms around Raidyn, pulling him close.

Raidyn’s hands remained at his sides. “I don’t mean that I died. I mean that, a long time ago, I did. But that wasn’t me-- but it was. I don’t know. I don’t know.”

“Is... is that what you were talking about earlier? Nerevar, and the prophecies?”

“I’m so sick of it, Siecas. So sick of prophecies and people, telling me what to do, telling me who I am, who I’ll be.” His voice had gotten quieter. 

“I know,” Siecas said, “I know.”

“I don’t know what to believe anymore. I don’t think I ever did. I remember them, Siecas. All of them. I remember my friends, my enemies, my…..” he trailed off, thinking better of what he almost said. “I don’t know who I am. But I’m sick of being told who to be. Is that contradictory? Am I wrong?”

“No, no you’re not wrong. It only makes sense that you’d be uncertain, this was just all so sudden, but I’m sure by the end of all this, you’ll have the answers you’ve been looking for.” He pulled away from the hug. Raidyn’s hands remained still.  

“......I miss them. I miss who they were. I want to go back.”

There was a sort of undefinable sadness in Siecas’s eyes. “I know.”

With that, Raidyn turned away, and went down to the Corprusarium.

He had meant what he said earlier, about ghosts. There were ghosts in his mind, people who were gone or changed, from so long ago. They only existed in memories, intangible as the air around him.

Maybe he’d been thinking of it all wrong. Maybe the most ghostly of them all was Raidyn himself, a twisted echo of what once had been. A bitter, angry, gray-skinned and red-eyed ghost, dead from the moment he was born and cursed to live out a fate that he didn’t want. His happiest memories were of a different time, a different body, a different world. He was at his highest point in all his lives when he was someone else.

He was lost in thought, his conversation with the Argonian guarding the entrance passing by as if it hadn’t happened, Raidyn’s mouth moved, but the words that came out were not his own. Nothing was.

The beasts didn’t attack him and Scourge, leaving them be for the most part as they carried on stumbling around. Looking at them unsettled him, not because of their mutated appearance, but at the thought that that could be me. Raidyn ignored them, or tried to, wandering around until he found a small, unclaimed corner of the caverns with a little fire that was starting to burn out. He idly cast a small fireball at it. He figured that it was as good a time as any to take a nap.

Scourge had already curled up against one of the walls, and Raidyn let himself collapse on top of her, burying his face in her crimson feathers. He didn’t bother removing his armor or Scourge’s saddle; he was too exhausted to care. The cliff racer put one wing over him protectively, lowering her head to floor and closing her eyes.

“.....I don’t know what to do,” he confessed to her. He had always preferred the company of animals to people. They didn’t judge, he could tell them anything, and they wouldn’t repeat it. “I don’t know who to trust. I just wish someone understood. Siecas is nice enough, but he doesn’t…… get it , you know? And he’s not…..he’s not him.

Scourge made a noncommittal snort.

“And this whole corprus thing, I don’t know. I just don’t know.”

He rolled over, pulling a folded up piece of paper from one of Scourge’s saddlebags. He unfolded it, skimming over what was written on it again. (Even though he’d already read it several times). 

“I’m lying to myself, Scourge, when I say that nobody understands. I’m just, uncertain, I guess. I’ve said it over and over, but I don’t know who to believe. The Tribunal, or….”

Skimming the page again, his eyes landed on the last few lines.

As ever, your respectful servant and loyal friend,

Lord Voryn Dagoth, Dagoth Ur.

Raidyn’s gaze lingered on it a few moments longer, before he folded it again and returned it to its place in his bag.

“I know I’m not thinking straight. They said corprus would mess with my mind.” He lifted his arm, the one wrapped in bandages. With his dying breath, Dagoth Gares had reached up and grabbed at Raidyn’s arm, sinking his claws into his flesh and grinning as he gave him his parting words. The wound hadn’t closed, no matter what restoration spells or potions they had tried. Hesitantly, Raidyn started to unwrap the bandages, it couldn’t hurt to check, right? 

He drew in a sharp breath when he saw the wound.

It was blackened around the edges, still leaking unnaturally dark blood, and his veins around the area had turned black. It was much, much worse than when he last checked it. It smelled like death, and he quickly wrapped it back up again. It would heal, and would join the countless other miscellaneous scars that marred his arms.

Or, it would kill him.

He rolled over again, pressing his face into Scourge’s side, suddenly overtaken by a deep sadness. He wasn’t sure why, as the idea of death had never really frightened him. Maybe he was mourning something.

Or someone.

He eventually drifted off to sleep, and as was the nature of sleep on Vvardenfell, he dreamed.

Raidyn was asleep in a cave below Tel Fyr, and then suddenly, he wasn’t.

He gasped as he suddenly found himself in a different body, not unusual when it came to his dreams. Before, it had always felt like a seamless transition from reality to dreams, but something was wrong. This time it had been sudden, jarring, like being awoken from a peaceful slumber by someone tossing frigid water over him. It was horribly unnatural, his mind being ripped from one body and haphazardly shoved into another, but it was far from the only thing wrong with this dream-memory.

The next thing he noticed was pain.

He was in pain, and wherever he was, the air was smoldering and unbearably hot, even more so than in Molag Amur. As more of his surroundings came into focus, the dream became more clear, and he realized he was laying down. The ground beneath him was stone. It was warm, like it had been out in the sun for a while, or--

I’m in Red Mountain.

The worst thing about the dream-memories was that he never had context for what was going on before he arrived in them, but this one, oh this one , it was starting to make sense before he even opened his eyes. When he did, he found that his suspicions had been correct. He was inside Red Mountain, but everything was still blurry, and there was something sticky on his face that made it difficult to open his eyes.

Dread creeping up on him, he reached up to wipe it away, long since used to seeing unfamiliar golden skin instead of gray in his dreams. Sure enough, looking at his hand, it was blood.

It’s only a dream, it’s only a dream, it can’t hurt you, he thought to himself, in a hopeless attempt to quell fears that weren’t even his own. None of it was his, this body, these thoughts, the fear, the pain-- But it wasn’t just physical pain, he noted, as he struggled to get to his feet. Something terrible had just happened-- or he had done something terrible, that was it. This other him that wasn’t him was….sad?

He dragged himself to the wall, using it to support himself as he got to his feet. He clutched at his chest as he slowly made his way towards...he didn’t know what. The whole thing was draped in the hazy fog of a dream, and couldn’t quite make out the details of anything, but what he did know was that he was injured. The air was thick with the smell of blood and ash and death, and he knew that at least one of those was coming from him. All he knew for certain was that he needed to get out of there, now.

His vision was getting darker the further he got, his limbs getting heavy and sluggish, like he was fighting sleep. That didn’t make sense though, he already was asleep, wasn’t he? Wait wait wait no--

I’m dying. I’m dying.

A terrible, hopeless dread was lurking in the back of his mind, a horrific realization settling in as through the haze ahead of him, three figures came into view. He tried to shout out to them, but his ears were ringing again, his mouth was moving and sound was coming out but none of it registered, like he was hearing it through several thick walls. If the three blurry shapes, getting closer and closer , made any reply, he didn’t hear that either.

His legs finally gave out, and he slumped down against the wall. A distant part of him thought thank the gods, I’m safe now, but that was the past mind, the one in the dream. Raidyn though, he knew better. He knew something was horribly wrong. Everything felt warped, strange, out of focus as they got closer.

His body said something again. He couldn’t hear it. His vision was nearly completely dark now. Someone was moving him, saying something, apologizing--

No. No no no no no.

He was right. He was right and I didn’t listen. They lied to me. They all lied to me. Oh gods, no no no no no NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO--

Everything went dark.

There was simply nothing. No sight, smell, sound, touch, anything. If his dream body had a heart, it would be thundering, his skin sweating, eyes darting around and wide with fear. But there was nothing, nothing at all.

Then, his eyes opened.

Everything was suddenly crystal clear, like he was actually there, and it wasn’t just a dream. The ash in the air that filled his lungs with every breath felt real , the sight of the chamber around him was vivid in its details. A cavern in the heart of Red Mountain, some giant thing in the center of it all, flesh and metal and a great glowing, pulsing, power in the center, calling him towards it with every heartbeat. He could hear the whirring of machinery, the churning of magma, the hushed voices all around him.

The voices weren’t in the air though, weren’t spoken, they were inside his mind. People talking idly about this and that, some conversations more nonsensical than others, but he could suddenly hear thousands of voices all speaking at once, some close, some fuzzy and far away.

Overwhelmed, and now with a splitting headache, he fell to his knees, clutching his head and clenching his jaw. However, looking down at himself-- he saw, for once, gray skin. He wasn’t wearing his usual chitin armor, instead something more ceremonial and fancy, but he was himself. His scars, dirty fingernails, that old freckle near his elbow, all his and not that of some dead mer. This was far, far from an ordinary dream-memory.

This wasn’t a memory at all.

Still on his knees, the hairs on the back of neck stood on end. The voices of countless other souls got quiet. The glow of the Heart was blocked out by a tall shadow. There was a presence in front of him, he could feel it without raising his gaze.

“They lied to me,” Raidyn said quietly, seething. It was his own voice that left his mouth, not the echo of words spoken long ago. “They lied about everything!”

He was met with silence, but he knew. He knew who he would see if he looked up.

“I should have known better. I should have trusted you, all this time, I was looking in all the wrong places for answers when you were here all along.”

The mountain, looming over him wherever he went in Vvardenfell, that he had been warned by everyone to stay away from, when in truth he should have gone straight there to begin with.

“I won’t make the same mistake twice. I won’t trust their lies anymore. I’m not going to let history repeat itself, I’m going to do what needs to be done!” His head shot up, and unsurprisingly, he was greeted by the sight of a tall figure in a golden mask, standing there silent, still as a corpse. He couldn’t see his eyes behind the mask, but he knew he was looking at him.

He was angry to be sure, and he had his suspicions from the beginning, but what he had just seen was the last push he needed to make a decision that had been brewing in the back of his mind for weeks, maybe even longer.

Raidyn stood up, meeting Dagoth Ur’s gaze and taking a step towards him. He thought of the letter again, no, the invitation. “I’m coming to Red Mountain,” he said. “As soon as I wake, I’ll take Scourge and fly here as fast as the wind can carry us. I’ll join you, help you drive out the Empire and destroy the Tribunal.”

As soon as the words left his mouth, the cavern started to blur around him. The figure in front of him was speaking, but the words didn’t reach his ears before he was torn from the dream and his vision turned to black.

“VORYN!”

Raidyn shouted at the top of his lungs, sitting up and rushing to his feet faster than he thought possible. His chest was heaving like he had just ran for miles and his hands lit up with flames as if he was expecting to be attacked. He startled Scourge so badly that she screeched too, also standing and looking around for the source of her rider’s distress.

He turned to her, scratching her head, muttering “Shh, shhhh, I’m okay.”

The cliff racer didn’t look very convinced. 

“I understand now,” he told her, feverish. “I get it. I know what I have to do.”

His mind felt so much clearer now, like the fog of the divine disease had been lifted by knowing. He hugged Scourge, trembling slightly. “It makes sense now. Everything makes sense. The secrecy, the differing accounts, everything, its-- We need to go.”

His mind was racing, and as he rushed through the caverns back to the rickety wooden gate, he realized something. He could still hear them, the conversations, the voices from his dream--

The hivemind, he realized. That’s what it was. The ash creatures, all linked by the divine disease.

And now I’m one of them.

He was so absorbed in all the realizations that were crashing into him all at once that he nearly knocked Siecas over as he ran up back into the tower.

“Raidyn--” the other mer sputtered, stumbling backwards. “What’s the rush? Oh, never mind, I’ve got great news!” he said, beaming. There was nervousness in his eyes though, he had clearly picked up on the shift in Raidyn’s mood.

“Oh-- oh, wonderful, uh, what is it?” Raidyn really wasn’t interested, he just needed to get out.

“That old wizard still wasn’t back, and I was getting worried, so I thought it couldn’t hurt to look through his things, and, well, I found it! I found the potion!” He spread his arms, grinning happily. “I’m sure he won’t mind if we...borrow it,” he added, rubbing the back of his neck sheepishly. “I left the artifact for him to find, and besides, you’re more important than some experiment. Well, anyways, isn’t this great?”

Raidyn was quiet for a moment. “.......No, no this isn’t great.”

Siecas’s smile immediately faded. “Raidyn.... what do you mean?”

“It’s so clear to me now, Siecas. We were wrong the whole time. I don’t want his ‘cure’-- cure for what? There’s nothing wrong with me, in fact, I’m more right than I’ve ever been.” He smiled, and hoped that it was reassuring.

Evidently, it wasn’t. “You’re not thinking right, the disease messes with you, you know that! Come on, it’s as easy as taking a potion. We can fix this, put it all behind us. You can’t fight Dagoth Ur if you’re--” he averted his gaze. “You can’t fight him if you die from corprus first.”

“Did it really never occur to you that maybe I don’t want to fight him?”

The color completely drained from Siecas’s face. “ Raidyn--

“Actually, there’s no ‘maybe'. I won’t fight him. We were wrong about everything, the enemy isn’t Dagoth Ur, it’s the Tribunal. They’re the reason everything went wrong, they did this to me!! Why fight him when we want the same things? Why fight the only god on this whole damn continent who hasn’t been lying to his people for thousands of years!?”

Siecas grabbed Raidyn’s hands. “Raidyn, please-- think about this reasonably. I don’t think-- I don’t think they’re telling the full truth, but, lesser of two evils, right? Just-- just take the potion. We can talk more about this when you’re in your right mind.”

There was no convincing him, Raidyn realized. He couldn’t see what Raidyn saw, didn’t know what he now knew. But what he could do--

Was play along, just for the moment. 

Raidyn smiled internally, but on the outside, he sighed, and lowered his head. “You’re right, I’m sorry. You’re right. I’ll take the potion.”

Siecas, smiled, clearly relieved. He let go of Raidyn’s hands, seeming to become a bit more self aware. “Good, good. Let’s go then.” He nodded to Raidyn, before turning and heading back the way he came.

Scourge could fly, so reaching the higher levels of the tower was no issue for her, and Raidyn was a mage, skilled in Alteration, so he didn't end up needing the potions the agent had given him. He handed them off to Siecas, who was far less magically inclined than he.

“Good, right where I left it,” Siecas said, taking a small vial from one of the many shelves around them, before returning to Raidyn. “After this, it’ll all be okay.” He was smiling again, a genuinely hopeful look in his eyes.

Raidyn felt just a little bad, he really did. He’d known Siecas since they were children, and even if it had been turbulent sometimes, he cared for him. But it had to end, as all things did. Siecas had made it very clear whose side he was on, and it was the wrong one.

It’s us or them.

It was a nice feeling, finally belonging to an ‘us.’

Raidyn nodded to Siecas, and took the potion from his hand as he held it out. A small bottle, the contents of which would apparently rid him of corprus. Yesterday, he might have taken it. Before he knew the truth.

He smiled at Siecas, and instead of immediately taking the potion like the other mer was clearly expecting him to, he started to pace around the room. “It’s a nice tower he’s got here, must have taken a long time to grow,” he observed. “Real shame about that.”

“What do you m--”

Raidyn called fire from his soul to his hands as effortlessly as breathing, and cast a fireball into the room across from them.

Siecas watched in stunned silence as the fire started to spread, devouring the furniture and beginning to crawl across the walls to other parts of the tower. Raidyn stood with his back to him, watching the fire eat at the walls. 

“This ‘cure’ shouldn’t exist, and neither should anyone who knows how to create it,” he explained, eerily calm about the fire consuming the tower and slowly approaching the two mer and the racer.

“Raidyn, NO! What were you-- what are you thinking!?”

“I’m thinking that I finally have the answers I was looking for,” he spat, turning around to glare at Siecas, anger that he had bottled up finally exploding in a violent inferno. “The Ashlander wise woman was wrong about one thing, I am marked.” He raised his free hand, still shrouded in flames, and made a fist over his chest. “I have a birthmark-- two, actually, one on my back, and one dead center in the middle of my chest.” He narrowed his eyes. “Almost like a scar. Almost like I was run through with a spear.”

“The Tribunal are liars and murderers,” he continued, pacing back and forth. “And I'm sick of being manipulated! Damn Azura, damn the prophecies, I’ll no longer let them control me! I’m not the fool that Nerevar was, I’m my own person, and this is my life! I’m going to burn them all, all the gods, all those who try and stop me.”

The fire had spread across the walls, casting a reddish light on Siecas’s panicked face. “Raidyn, you can’t do this!! The Tribunal had their reasons, I’m sure--”

“THEY MURDERED ME!!” he snarled. “I trusted them, and LOOK WHERE IT GOT ME! They hated me, the whole fucking world hates me!! It’s far beyond time that I have my revenge,” he hissed, taking a few steps towards Siecas, who in turn stepped backwards. Fire blazing behind him, his eyes narrowed to thin, serpentine slits, he asked: “And you know who’s going to help me do it?”

Siecas’s eyes were wide, and his voice small and quiet as he spoke, the realization that Raidyn was being completely serious finally seeming to hit him. “........Dagoth Ur.”

Raidyn grinned. “That’s right. We’re going to do what we should have done in the first place. We’re going to take back Morrowind, drive out the Empire, and I swear on my life I’ll kill each of those three ‘gods’ with my bare hands. Make them feel what I felt.”

“He showed you your-- Nerevar’s death in a dream, didn’t he? He can manipulate dreams, you know that! How do you know that he’s not the one lying to you?” Siecas pleaded.

“He would never lie to me, he’s the only one who cares! You certainly don’t.” Fury burned bright in his eyes, as he raised the potion high above his head. “The Tribunal will die at my hand, and you can’t stop it now.”

“RAIDYN--”

In one swift motion, he threw the bottle at the ground with all his might, and it smashed into hundreds of shards, the liquid it contained splattering everywhere. The fire on his arms had completely burned away the bandage the covered his wound. He looked at it, while Siecas stood there in complete shock. The wound was completely gone, only yet another scar remained. Raidyn smiled. He felt better, better than he had in days, like the divine ‘disease’ had healed him instead of harming him, now that he’d accepted it. His headache hadn’t gone away though, but now it was concentrated at a single point behind his skull on his forehead. He didn’t think for too long about the implications of that.

He called Scourge over, and climbed into her saddle. “With the Nerevarine on his side, Dagoth Ur will become unstoppable, we will become unstoppable. Either come with me, or run, because if you’re not with me next time we meet, then you’re against me, and I won’t be merciful.”

Siecas backed away, taking another one of the levitation potions from his bag. “I’m sorry I failed you,” he said, his voice barely above a whisper. “I’m sorry I didn’t get us here sooner. I did this, I--” his voice broke as his shoulders shook with a silent sob. “.....Goodbye, Raidyn.”

The fire had spread to nearly the entire tower, filling the room with smoke and burning holes in the walls. They wouldn’t have much longer until the entire structure collapsed.

Raidyn directed Scourge towards one of the holes, with one last scathing look at Siecas, who had taken the levitation potion and jumped out of another hole on the opposite side of the room. Raidyn nudged Scourge’s sides with his feet, and with a few powerful beats of her wings, she took off into the cold night air.

The wind whistled past his ears as Scourge carried him out of the burning tower, drowning out all sound but the quiet murmur of the hivemind, and Raidyn smiled to himself. He could see Red Mountain in the distance, a shadow above all of Vvardenfell. There was a place for him there, he knew. A place where he belonged, where he was wanted, instead of merely tolerated. The mountain got closer, the inferno behind him shrinking to only a tiny burning speck the further they flew.

There was blood in his eyes again, dripping down from his forehead. He reached up and wiped it away without another thought.

Soon, he would have his revenge. He could take his anger out on the world in a way that was actually meaningful; he would finally have the power to do more than just sit around feeling sorry for himself. He was so much more than the sad and terrified child he had once been. He would return to Dagoth Ur’s side, right the wrongs of the world, and everything would be okay. It was all going to change for the better.

So why then did he lean down and hide his face in the feathers on Scourge’s neck as with every wingbeat she flew him closer and closer to his salvation--

And cry?

Because it hurts, he answered his own question. It hurts to be more in love with a ghost than the person they've become.

The past was slipping through his fingers, no matter how desperately he clung to memories.

Like all things that made him sad, he buried that realization as deep as he could and smothered it with rage.

Anger was better than sadness, better than numbness.

Better than pain.