A/N: So there was a prompt on the kink meme requesting the Dragonborn's family paying them a visit, with a particular interest in Dragonborns who had gone against type or defied parental/cultural expectations in some way, e.g. Orcs learning magic, Empire-supporting Nords with Stormcloak parents, Imperial heiresses who've turned from pretty socialites to mead-swilling warriors, that sort of thing. Liriel, the assassin with a heart of gold who had two human children and a human husband where she had already had considerable angst over his shorter lifespan, and had already had to unpack a great deal of cultural baggage in the process, was an obvious choice, especially given N&J ended with her on her wedding night wondering if she should have told her Thalmor parents but deciding no, they'd never understand. A sequel where they found out anyway and turned up demanding answers was just crying out to be written.

So of course, here is the fic where said Thalmor family arrive in Skyrim to find out just what Liriel's been up to and if these alarming rumours from the Embassy are true...

THE STORY SO FAR: When dragons returned to Tamriel, the one chosen to fight them was an Altmer woman called Liriel, who went on to become Archmage of Winterhold, Listener of the Dark Brotherhood, Slayer of Alduin and adoptive mother to two little girls called Sissel and Lucia, who lived with her and her husband in Markarth. So far, so canon. However, said husband was no ordinary human, but Madanach the King in Rags, and thanks to Liriel, he and his Forsworn followers were instrumental in helping the Empire defeat Ulfric Stormcloak. As a reward for his assistance, Madanach got to keep the kingdom he'd worked for all this time and now rules from Markarth as Reach-King, with his one remaining legitimate child Eola as his heir to the throne, and Liriel Dragonborn as his beloved wife and Queen. Sadly for him, Liriel never told her family back in Alinor about the wedding, leaving that to fall to the Thalmor Ambassador, and when Liriel's Justiciar mother hears disturbing rumours of her daughter marrying a human, the scene is set for trouble.

Summary: The worst part of any marriage is dealing with the in-laws, especially when they don't think you're good enough for their little girl. But when your wife is an Altmer and her mother is a devoted Thalmor Justiciar, even a king has his work cut out for him.

Pairings: F!Altmer DB/Madanach, Cicero/Eola, Argis/Elisif
Relationships: het
Kinks: family drama, crack, a bit of angstiness
Warnings for unabashed elven supremacy from the Thalmor characters. Also, Ancalime is pronounced 'an-KA-lee-may'.

It was a sunny, if breezy day, in Solitude. Seagulls and hawks wheeled overhead, occasionally landing on the docks to steal fish or beg for food from unwary strangers. Long-term Solitude residents knew far better than to feed them, and even their notoriously sentimental Jarl and High Queen had accepted the need to ban people from trying to give them food. Didn't stop visitors from trying though, only to have to flee when the seagulls starting harassing them once food stopped being provided, much to the annoyance of the guards who had to deal with the problem and the amusement of everyone else.

Of course, that only applied when it happened to adults. When children were involved, it was a different story. One such child was standing on the docks, newly arrived off a boat from Anvil in Cyrodiil, staring about her at this strange Northern country and shivering a little in the woollen dress her mother had bought her during their brief lay-over in Cyrodiil. She'd complained at the time about being too warm and her mother had told her she would need it in the barbarous ice-waste kingdom they were going to.

It didn't look very icy. But there'd been big white ice mountains in the distant Sea of Ghosts and the marsh on the other side of the river didn't look inviting. She liked the arch though with its big palace balanced on it, home to High Queen Elisif and King-Consort Argis of the Reach and their little girl Princess Lirela, about six months old now. Not much chance of her being allowed in, although you never knew. Daddy was often able to wrangle invites to parties and as for Mamma... When Mamma demanded something, she usually got it.

Right now, the little girl was staring at a seagull. She knew what seagulls were. She'd grown up by the sea after all, although she wasn't ever allowed to go to the harbour on her own. But right now Mamma and Daddy were supervising the luggage being brought ashore and paying no attention to her.

"Hello," she whispered. "What's your name?" Seagulls couldn't talk, she knew that. But being the youngest child in a family of three when her older siblings were a lot older than her was really lonely sometimes. Especially given she lived in an upper-class mansion and most of her parents' associates didn't have children close to her age. Sometimes she got really lonely. So she talked to trees and animals and told them stories and sang them songs. Even if they didn't talk back, they didn't seem to mind listening.

"My name's Ancalime, but you can call me Cali," she whispered. "I'm not from Skyrim. We're here visiting my big sister. She lives in a place called Markaff. I think. I don't know where that is, do you?"

No answer, but there never was. Ancalime just shrugged and kept talking.

"She left home ages ago. Years ago. When I was little, really little. But I still remember her. She was really pretty and took me for horse rides and told me stories and taught me magic and said she was going to learn every spell there ever was and have her own magic castle one day. That's why she left, to learn more. She was going to study in Cyrodiil. Except she got in trouble and disappeared and turned up in Skyrim instead. She wasn't supposed to go to Skyrim! Now she's in even more trouble! Mamma's really cross. So we're here to bring her home." Ancalime glanced over at her mother, still arguing with some poor dockhand, and her father looking tense and uneasy and sad, like he did all the time now whenever he thought no one was looking. Since the letter about Liriel had arrived from the Ambassador here.

"Hey! Elf! No petting or feeding the gulls!"

Ancalime jumped back, slanted green eyes wide. At five foot tall nearly she was already coming up to the same height as some of the lesser races... but these humans, these pale-skinned Nords, they were big. This one was one such and she couldn't even see his face behind that helmet.

"I'm sorry!" she cried. "I wasn't!"

"You looked like you were," the guard snapped. "Every other week we must get some idiot or other trying to feed them and nearly getting their eyes pecked out for their trouble. You're just lucky it didn't attack. Now that's a five septim bounty and a little trip to Castle Dour for you, come on!"

Ancalime was about four foot ten, the Altmer equivalent of somewhere between eight and nine in human terms, and in no way any kind of adult and anyone who bothered to learn anything about elves would know that. But Altmer bred rarely and few humans had ever seen an Altmer child. Many humans who didn't know better thought she was some kind of dwarf Bosmer, as this guard had.

Ancalime gasped, horrified. She didn't even have five septims and wasn't Castle Dour the prison?

"Mamma!" she shrieked. "Mamma, they're taking me to prison!"

The guard followed her eyes to the imperious woman a few feet away, with long red hair just like both her daughters' trailing down her back, the delicately pointed ears and golden skin all true Altmer had, about six foot tall... and most intimidating of all, the blue-gold robes of a Thalmor Justiciar.

"Stendarr's sake," Justiciar Sabrinda muttered to herself but a second later her green eyes had fallen on the hapless guard who was only just realising his mistake.

"Is there some kind of... problem?" Sabrinda asked, cold voice implying that there had better not be, or someone who wasn't her would be in for dramatically more than they'd bargained for.

"Is, er, she with you?" the guard asked, doing his best not to look frightened. Back in the barracks he'd complain about the Thalmor and joke about them with his mates like all of them... but out here in the open with one of their Justiciars staring you down, it was another matter entirely.

"I'm her mother," Sabrinda growled. "Anything you have to say to her, you can say to me. Now, what exactly is she alleged to have done?"

"She was, er, feeding the seagull, or talking to it or something," the guard said, only sweating a little. "That's a five septim fine round here. They attack people, see."

"I see," Sabrinda said calmly. Without batting an eyelid or even seeming to move, she'd flung out a hand, lightning bolt crackling out, hitting the hapless seagull dead centre and killing it instantly. The bird collapsed lifelessly into the river and Ancalime bit back a gasp as it died. She was old enough by now to no longer be terribly surprised at her mother's ruthless streak. Sabrinda wasn't a bad mother or an uncaring one per se... but life in the Thalmor didn't encourage sentimentality.

"Now it will be attacking no one," Sabrinda said calmly. "Come along, Ancalime. We have a long journey ahead of us."

"Yes Mamma," Ancalime said sadly. That was the trouble with her animal friends, she had to be very careful who she befriended and never to bring them back to the house. It wasn't the first time her mother had killed something in front of her. Sabrinda was very particular about who her family associated with and she had a horror of vermin.

Ancalime wasn't entirely sure what vermin meant – the servants had told her it meant unwanted animals that spread disease and damaged food or crops... but Ancalime had heard her mother use it to refer to humans before now, when she thought Ancalime wasn't listening, and Ancalime wondered if that meant her mother had ever shot lightning at a human. She didn't know. She knew you weren't meant to use Destruction magic on people. But people weren't vermin. Or were they? Her Khajiit nanny (left behind due to Mamma not wanting to leave Ancalime alone without proper Elven supervision and her older brother Haldyn being too busy to look after her, especially with his wife Naarie being pregnant now) was definitely a person... but Ancalime didn't think her mother thought the Khajiit dockworkers back home were. It was all very confusing.

"Did you just kill Cali's latest animal friend?" Sabrinda's husband sighed. Meryndor had been married to her for the best part of three hundred and fifty years now, and was quite used to his wife's high-strung nature. All the same, it was usually him who had to deal with the quiet tears afterwards, first with Haldyn, then Liriel and now little Ancalime, sniffling quietly behind her mother.

Sabrinda glared at him, not in the best of tempers. She'd just got off a cramped boat after a long sea journey during which she'd recalled why she'd not left Alinor since returning home from the First War – she did not travel well by sea – only to find cold weather despite it being Second Seed, surly and unhelpful humans everywhere and now her daughter nearly getting arrested by some idiot guard.

"It was a seagull, Meryn," she snapped. "I think a young lady of Alinor can do a little better than a common gull. Especially since they apparently attack people. Cali, stop snivelling, you'll ruin your dress. Oh for Aedra's sake, here, have a handkerchief. Now where are those dockhands – you there! We need these cases transporting up to the city, I'm told there's a carriage available for hire there. I suppose you want paying..." Sabrinda was off, snapping at the local Nords and leaving Meryndor alone with his little girl.

"I'm sorry," Ancalime whispered, staring at her feet. "I didn't mean to."

"I know, caradiel," Meryndor whispered, using a traditional, if slightly old-fashioned, Aldmeri term of affection. "But we're in a foreign country now, among humans who won't understand us any more than we always do them. We need to be careful, and you need to stay close by us, all right?"

Ancalime nodded, subdued. "But Mamma always says Altmer are better than humans," she whispered. "So why do we need to worry about them hurting us? Didn't she go off and fight in the First War to prove that?"

"Well, yes," Meryndor said carefully, always a little bit guarded discussing the war with Ancalime, and for good reason. Not a defeat, certainly not, but not a victory either and things were still delicate. A topic best avoided by sensible mer. "But you see, iell-nin, the humans? They don't all know that yet. And it's bad manners to tell them. So we need to tread carefully, right?"

Ancalime didn't entirely understand but she nodded anyway. She knew what good manners were, and she was used to being around beastkin. Humans probably weren't much different, right? Even if they did look a bit odd with their pale or brown skin and stubby round ears and not a lot taller than her. Especially Nords with the face-paint and braids and the beards that all the men seemed to have. Beards were terribly savage, everyone knew that, and even rebellious young Altmer men trying to look stylish only had a bit of a beard around their chin. Nords had lots of it.

It was all very strange in Skyrim. Ancalime wondered if the Reach would be any better.

"I swear, Elenwen, here five minutes and some idiot guard tried to arrest my daughter!" Sabrinda sighed as she sipped her brandy. "What sort of country is this? I knew about the cold, but dear Aedra, the people are animals!"

"I know, dear, I know," Elenwen murmured sympathetically. Meryndor was off putting Ancalime to bed in the Embassy's guest suite, their last night of the comforts of home before a carriage awaited, and not the luxurious type the great and good of Alinor all had, with roofs and curtains and padded seats, oh no. This was an open wooden cart with no padding, where anyone could see them. The fact they'd be travelling through wilderness with no one to watch was no consolation. "We make do however we can and make what compromises we must. Such is life outside the Dominion, we all know this."

"How do you stand it," Sabrinda said, shaking her head. "I don't think I'd last five minutes out here."

"Don't be so hard on yourself, you survived the Oblivion Crisis and the First War, you would cope with Skyrim," Elenwen scolded gently. Her smile faded as she steered the conversation round to the next topic, the one elephant in the room they'd so far all managed to avoid. Sabrinda's other daughter.

"Liriel's managed to make quite a life for herself out here," Elenwen said, still sounding quite casual under the circumstances. Sabrinda put her drink down, bravado flickering out.

"How bad is it?" Sabrinda said softly. "Look, I know she broke the terms of her exit visa, I know that, but we can come to an arrangement, surely?"

"If that were all, I'd be quite happy to deliver an official chastisement and issue an exorbitant fee for a visa extension," Elenwen said, waving her hand dismissively. "But it's worse than that. She managed to get an invitation to one of my parties – I have no idea how, and no idea it was her at first although I did wonder... Anyway, she turned up, left without warning, and hours later, I find someone has killed the Third Emissary, four guards and a human informant, and liberated two Thalmor prisoners, miscellaneous valuables and some top secret dossiers. No proof it was Liriel, but she's a suspect. I'd bring her in for questioning, but she's just too high-profile. She's Thane, that's some sort of noble title round here, in nearly all the Holds in Skyrim. The Jarls love her. The people love her. They tell stories of her helping the innocent, slaughtering dragons, saving lives and never mind the mysterious petty thieving outbreaks and occasional murders that seem to happen when she's in town. Then there's the interfering in politics – instrumental in two different peace treaties and ending the war. Not to mention the Winterhold Incident – the last Thalmor Advisor we had there died in mysterious circumstances, along with Archmage Aren, they put your daughter in his place, and the College has now decided it doesn't need any Thalmor assistance due to Liriel's own Aldmeri links. Her Aldmeri links! Thanks to her, Thalmor interests throughout the region are in jeopardy! The Dominion does not benefit from stable, independent human kingdoms! The Empire's never been more united, and that new Emperor, Amaund the First of House Motierre, seems to think there's no problem. What does it matter if a few barbarians still worship Talos, is his opinion, and that as long as educated people continue to follow the true Eight, all will one day follow. One day!"

Altmer had a more relaxed attitude to time than humans given their longevity, but they were still painfully mortal, and Sabrinda had buried her own parents only a decade before. She knew what was at stake. As long as mortals believed in Talos, as long as they lived free, as long as Mundus was filled with these shortlived lesser creatures, the whole plane was severed from the Aedra and the Altmer were stuck here, living and dying themselves when they should be immortal. All Altmer knew it, or should know it, and all Thalmor believed it. Sabrinda had done her best to bring up her children to believe it too, although Ancalime was a little young to know the exact details of what purifying Mundus would involve. But Liriel knew, had to know. Yet here she was, not only derailing Thalmor plans but fraternising with humans! Robbing her own country's Embassy if rumour was to be believed.

"None of this is unrecoverable from, is it?" Sabrinda said nervously. "If you let me talk to her, I can take her home maybe, keep her safe in Alinor and away from politics. She never cared about them before, it was all magic and lore with her."

"Perhaps if you had given her a better understanding of politics, she might not be meddling now," Elenwen said tersely, glaring at Sabrinda as if it were all her fault. "As it is, she's not been universally unhelpful. She's been of assistance with the dragons at least. And all of that we might have been able to overlook – but it's worse than that. Sabrinda, I'm so sorry. I'm afraid... I'm afraid your daughter got married at the end of last year. She lives with him in Markarth, along with the rest of his household, his daughter from his first marriage and her husband, and the two children Liriel and he are raising."

Sabrinda reached for the brandy and downed an entire shot, feeling the room start to spin.

"Married?" she whispered. "She – she can't be, she's not even been in Skyrim two years. Sweet Mara, Elenwen, when you said she'd been living in the Reach, having inappropriate relations with humans, I assumed a lover, some tawdry little affair! Bad, I know, but something we can hush up, get her back to Alinor, she's an heiress, I'm sure we'd find someone who might overlook a past. But a husband – children – how are there children already?"

"Adopted," Elenwen said, and that wasn't terribly reassuring – worse if anything. Liriel had gone out and intentionally taken two humans into her house? Not even as wards or servants or anything? "About the same stage of development as little Ancalime, I'm told. Sabrinda? Sabrinda, don't, I know it's a shock..."

Sabrinda couldn't breathe. The room had gone blurry and she was shaking all over, refusing to believe it, gasping and sobbing. Her little girl, married to a human, bonded to a lesser creature, perverting and abusing Mara's gift of love by sharing it with – with one of them! And children? As well keep a lapdog and call it one's baby.

"Sab? Sabby?" That was Meryndor, and Sabrinda turned to him, all her usual dignity gone as she reached out to the one constant in her life, the one who kept her sane, grounded, reminded her there was something to keep fighting for. Even Thalmor Justiciars loved, and Sabrinda loved Meryndor very much. She clung onto her husband, hoping he'd get her through this, just as his memory and his letters had got her through the First War and the Oblivion Crisis. "Sabby, meleth, what's wrong? Mara's mercy, what's happened? Oh gods, it's Liriel, isn't it? What's she done? Ambassador, I swear, whatever it was we can fix it, get her home, we've all had our youthful misadventures, right?"

"I'm fairly certain yours didn't involve stealing state secrets, negotiating peace treaties between enemy heads of state and flying off into the sunset on a dragon to go fight a semi-mythical dragon god," Elenwen said drily, a flicker of amusement at the confusion on Meryndor's face. "No, I'm afraid it's worse. Your Liriel has married a human."

Meryndor just stared at Elenwen, too stunned to process all this and barely hearing Sabrinda's renewed cries of anguish.

"She got married?" Meryndor whispered. "My little girl got married? Without me?" He looked more upset at not being there to walk her down the aisle than about the human son-in-law. Honestly, fathers were so sentimental sometimes.

"She's also adopted two human children," Elenwen continued, secretly rather enjoying this. "They're all playing happy families down in Markarth. It is rather embarrassing, you know. The child of a high-ranking Justiciar and her husband who owns half the vineyards in Alinor openly marrying a human and raising children with him. It's not exactly low-profile either – she's made quite a name for herself and as for the husband..."

"There must be something we can do," Sabrinda gasped, drying her eyes and getting practical. "How hard would it be to eliminate him? With him gone, we could take her home, find new homes for the children among our human contacts, we could put all this foolishness behind us..."

"Harder than you might think," said Elenwen, grimacing. "He's... high-profile. Were it to be linked back to us, there'd be... issues. An incident. Quite possibly the Second War sooner than we're prepared for. There are rumours he and his even have a hold on Emperor Amaund."

"Well, go freelance then!" Sabrinda cried. "Aren't the Dark Brotherhood operating again? Did you try performing the Sacrament? I had to deal with them before the Oblivion Crisis, that Lachance fellow was quite reasonable. Even tried to recruit me – I had to say no, of course, but even so, charming man... I mean, I suppose he's long dead by now, but can't his successors help? Don't they discreetly eliminate obstacles?"

"We tried," Elenwen said, shuddering as she sipped her own brandy. "We sent an agent to perform the Sacrament in secret. We heard nothing. So we sent a cell to investigate. The little shack he'd used was covered in blood. The bodies looked like they'd been torn apart by a wild beast, the two that weren't a little pile of charred ash anyway. The Justiciar looked like he'd been... eaten." Elenwen shivered at the memory. She normally had a very high tolerance of blood and carnage, but the sheer savagery of the assault had been a bit extreme even for her. Most unsettling of all had been the message painted on the walls in blood. ELENWEN. HE IS NOT FOR YOU, it had read. When the Dark Brotherhood said no, they clearly didn't mess about. But even that had paled to what had transpired a few nights later, when Elenwen had woken up to find the Justiciar's missing dagger buried in the pillow next to her face, spearing a note simply reading:

If the Reach-King's name is mentioned in the Sacrament again, the next dagger will be in your throat.

Elenwen had moved rooms, doubled the guard, consumed a good deal of brandy and not slept well since.

"Oh," Sabrinda whispered, going pale. "We – won't be doing that then. Well, never mind, he's human, he'll be dead fifty years from now, so will these children quite possibly, we'll get her back, find her an understanding husband, someone who maybe will overlook it all for a large amount of gold and a leap up the social ladder. A century from now, no one in Alinor will care about some dead human from this... Reach, did you say?"

"The Druadach Kingdom of the Reach," Elenwen sighed. "Teyrnas Druadaichte y Rhan in their own language, which sounds like Aldmeri except unintelligible and with none of the charm. Tiny, mountainous piece of nowhere, which no one would care about if it wasn't for all the mines. The place is obscenely, staggeringly wealthy and with a few exceptions, most of it's personally owned by its ruler, a ruthless warlord calling himself king who goes by the name of Madanach ap Caradach and who schemed and murdered his way to power."

"There you are!" Sabrinda cried, finally cheering up. "Can't we cultivate him, get him to frame this animal who's corrupted my little girl? He sounds like exactly the sort of degenerate who'd happily execute someone if we gave him reason."

"I'm afraid not," Elenwen said, shaking her head and gearing up for the reactions to this one. "Two reasons. Firstly, despite all appearances to the contrary, he's actually quite obsessed with seeing justice done properly and has resisted all attempts at suborning. It's proven impossible to fix court cases and the ReachGuard actually appear unbribeable. I don't know whether it's loyalty or just that they're more afraid of him than us. Either way, he's not going to execute an otherwise innocent man for us, no Sabrinda, not even if we threaten him or his family. No, planting false evidence of Talos worship on him won't work either, absolutely no one is going to believe the former leader of the Forsworn Rebellion secretly worships the man who conquered the Reach in the first place."

"I was going to suggest doing that to the husband," Sabrinda growled, lightning crackling at her fingers. Oh dear. About time to deliver the final blow.

"He is the husband," Elenwen said, sitting back and waiting for the fun to start. Both Sabrinda and Meryndor's jaws had dropped.

"She... married a king," Meryndor said vacantly. "A wealthy king. Who can't be bribed." To Elenwen's horror, he actually looked rather proud, and even Sabrinda looked pleasantly surprised.

"My baby's a queen," Sabrinda said in wonder, fingers brushing against her lips as she took this in. Then, Justiciar to the last, she recovered herself, although not quickly enough for Elenwen's liking. "Well, if she's going to debase herself for a human, at least she's not an idiot. All the same, we simply cannot have Aldmeri citizens doing this sort of thing. It sets a terrible example – she has a younger sister who idolises her, for Akatosh's sake! No, we will have to step in. Don't worry, Elenwen, we will talk her out of this foolishness and get her home."

"I hope so," Elenwen said, her voice hardening. "The alternative is taking action against Liriel herself – eliminating her husband is difficult and likely to cause an incident, but Liriel does like to travel with just one or two companions in the wilderness, hunting dragons. An accident would be unfortunate, but if you cannot persuade her to retire from public life and return to Alinor in haste... it may be necessary."

"Sab? What does she mean?" Meryndor asked, but deep down, he knew. All Alinorians knew. No one talked about it, but everybody knew.

"We'll bring her home," Sabrinda said fiercely. "I promise you, Elenwen. I know my duty to the Dominion, even if Liriel has forgotten it. I'll make her see reason."

"See that you do," Elenwen murmured. Liriel had set herself up as humanity's best protector, a hero to all of Tamriel. The Thalmor's ideals came into direct conflict with that, and Elenwen abhorred conflict. When it came to choosing between mer and men, all true children of Alinor would choose mer... else they were no true Alinor child.


Madanach groaned wearily, burrowing underneath the covers of probably the most luxurious bed in Markarth. He had a hangover from Oblivion, no Liriel, a certain amount of public embarrassment to live down (although nothing coin and the implied threat of violence wouldn't help with), and then the cheering prospect of going over the accounts with Nepos and seeing just how much his daughter's wedding had actually cost in the end. At least the generous donation to the Temple of Dibella that he was going to have to make to avoid a scandal was tax-deductible. He had no idea who Sam Guevenne actually was, but if he ever showed his face in the Reach again, the ReachGuard had standing orders to execute the son of a bitch on the spot.

But daughter number (four) one was married off at last, and with any luck he might have more grandchildren in a year or two, hopefully saner than their father. As it was, until that happy day, he had daughters two (five) and three (six) to deal with.

"What is it, cariad?" he said wearily.

"Uncle Nepos sent us," Sissel said, climbing on to the bed and sitting cross-legged next to him. "He said you needed to get up and be presentable, court was opening at ten."

"It's not opening at ten," Madanach growled. "I gave everyone three days off for the wedding, then it's the weekend. Court's not re-opening until Morndas."

"But Da," Lucia piped up, perched on the end of the bed. "It is Morndas."

What? Surely not. The wedding had been Middas afternoon, then the party all night, Thurdas a complete mystery, then waking up on Fredas in the Temple of Dibella with Liriel, both dishevelled wrecks and with the entire priestesshood staring at him. Not actually shouting at him, no one in Markarth other than Nepos, Eola or Liriel got away with that, but radiating disapproval. Neither he nor Liriel had remembered a damn thing but apparently there'd been... fondling. Of each other and the statuary, allegedly. And propositioning of the priestesses, becoming aggressive when told to go home, they were drunk, and insisting they could pleasure a woman like no man they'd ever had. Madanach had sworn up and down he would never do that, only for Senna to snap "not you, her!" and pointing at Liriel, whose cheeks had gone scarlet.

Madanach had profusely apologised, dragged Liriel out of there, gone to the barracks and ordered a squad of ReachGuard into the Temple to clear it up, told Nepos to send a suitably large donation to said Temple as a gesture of apology and then braced himself for a long and difficult conversation with Liriel. Mercifully it turned out she didn't remember anything after having a few drinks with Sam at the wedding party either, and after much cuddling and reassuring each other that it was all right, they still loved each other, they definitely didn't have an open marriage and that they'd drink a disease cure potion each then get back to normal, they'd agreed never to talk about it again. Of course, then the guards had brought that note they'd found in the Temple addressed to Liriel from Sam, with the word 'Rorikstead' scrawled on it in Liriel's own handwriting, and Liriel had left the city in horror, trying to find out just how much was left of their reputations. That had been yesterday... hadn't it? He'd gone to bed to recover and sleep, not having either Liriel's youth or Elven constitution. That had been two days ago?

"I've been in bed two days?" he said vaguely, scratching his face and realising with horror how much stubble was there and how appalling he must look.

"You were fast asleep, Da," Lucia said and she at least looked worried, bless her. "Are you all right?"

Probably not, but he was king and that did mean getting out of bed and proving he was just fine, thank you very much.

"Yes, yes I'm fine, I just need a shower and a shave and food and... what time is it?"

"Half past nine," Sissel said, grinning. "You should hurry. Uncle Nepos and Auntie Keirine have a bet going on as to whether you'll be there or not. He thinks you'll be there at ten but you'll look awful, and she says we won't see you before midday. Still looking awful," she added, completely unnecessarily in Madanach's opinion.

"How much are they betting exactly?" he asked.

"Ten septims," Lucia told him. Ten septims? Was that all? He'd have expected Keirine to have had a bit more recklessness in her at least. Never mind. It was often the smaller bets that were the most fun to derail.

"Right," Madanach said, head clearing. "Lucia, open that cupboard and pass me that little red bottle, the bigger red one next to it and that green potion. Sissel, go and fill the washing bowl from the pool and bring it over here, along with that towel next to it and my shaving kit – it's in that Dwemer box. Then get yourselves out of here and not a word to anyone."

The girls scurried around the room acquiring said items and as they bustled out, Madanach knocked back a poison cure, all-purpose tonic and a stamina draught (and not the Stallion's Draught either, honestly, he kept telling people he didn't need it, he was getting old, not dying) before heading to the very convenient built-in natural pool with waterfall, his Destruction magic providing all the temperature control one might need. By Sithis, he'd missed this room. Two years living here first time around had spoiled him utterly, and now he had it back, he was never letting it go.

Then shaving and getting dressed in his usual formal court regalia – the blue and gold Robes of the First Dragonborn, a little gift from Liriel after the whole Miraak incident, and the matching gloves and boots. Then the Torc of Red Eagle round his neck and a magicka boosting circlet on his head and he was ready to go.

Five minutes before ten, Madanach was striding out into his courtroom as if the last week had never happened, looking as kingly as he ever did.

"At ease," he snapped as the ReachGuard on duty stood to attention on seeing him. He stopped at the table near the throne, where his steward, bodyguard, sister and daughter were all having breakfast, new son-in-law perched on the daughter's lap.

"Hello Reach-King!" Cicero cooed from where Eola was cuddling him. "You are awake! Cicero missed you!" Without another word, he slid off her lap and bounded over, sliding arms around Madanach's waist and grinning suggestively up at him.

"Welcome back, boss," Borkul grinned. "We thought you'd never wake up."

"Not at this hour we didn't," Keirine growled, her usual illusions down for once and the feathers on show. "Brother, you disappoint me." She shoved ten septims into the centre of the table, looking disgusted.

"Shaved and dressed as well, good heavens," Nepos said, surprised. "We were expecting a hungover wreck."

"Not me," Eola grinned as she raked in both Keirine and Nepos's gold. "I knew you'd be here on time, looking as good as ever. I had faith in you, Da."

"Someone was cheating," Keirine growled, glaring at her niece. "I don't know how, but you were."

Madanach suspected that Sissel and Lucia had not come to wake him on their own initiative and that furthermore might be finding themselves richer by a few septims each come lunchtime, but he said nothing. Partly because such cunning and deviousness were traits he wished to encourage in his children, and partly because he presently had a smirking jester groping him.

"Aren't you supposed to be married now?" Madanach growled. "To my daughter, no less."

"Don't worry, Da, Cicero and I have a relaxed approach to monogamy," Eola said cheerily as she tore into her steak, bloody and rare as always. It had probably been vaguely introduced to a cooking fire at one point, but evidently the two just hadn't got on.

"Cicero has heard he and pretty Eola are not the only ones," Cicero purred, dark eyes smouldering up at Madanach. "Cicero has heard of developments elsewhere too."

Oh gods, his daughter deciding to have an open marriage, that was all he needed. Especially with a son-in-law like this.

"Well you heard wrong," Madanach growled. "Now get off me and get back to your wife before I use cloak spells on you."

Cicero scampered off, squealing and cackling as he ran back to Eola, suggestive grin never fading. Madanach inwardly shuddered. Oh good, he could expect a full day of this.

"Right. You, soldier, get to the kitchen and order breakfast for me – bacon, scrambled eggs, toast, they know how I like them done. Keirine, we're opening court any minute, do you perhaps want to at least pretend we're a nice, normal country?"

"Nice and normal? Us?" Keirine scoffed. "Madanach, they know what we are – dark mages, necromancers and Daedra worshippers. We are just the Empire's necromancers and Daedra worshippers now, their magic-resistant special forces for when the Dominion rises again. And you made Hagravens full citizens and it illegal to harm one."

"I did, I also legalised consensual blood-drinking, that does not mean I wish to see it going on in the streets," Madanach snapped, settling himself in the Mournful Throne. "Nepos, what have we got today?"

Keirine sighed and recast her Illusion cloak, Hagraven features vanishing as she took on the appearance of a silver-haired old lady, a female version of Madanach dressed in simple black mage's robes. Eola finished breakfast and chivvied Cicero off to start packing, preparing for their imminent honeymoon in Solstheim – an unusual choice, but it was wild, dangerous and very easy to hide bodies in. It was also rumoured to be home to a Morag Tong cell... although not once Cicero and Eola were through it wouldn't be. The Dark Brotherhood held grudges for a very long time.

Borkul took up his usual place at the foot of the Mournful Throne, and Nepos settled at Madanach's side with the court schedule. Another day in the Reach, just like any other... for now.