A new fic I've started for Dishonoured, 'Emily Kaldwin: Silence is Silver' has just dropped its first chapter. If you're interested in the game or my work, I'd love it if you could give it a look!

A Scheme

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Ulfric Stormcloak walked into his room—

And narrowed his eyes.

"Take that off." He insisted.

"Oh come on, like I was going to miss this opportunity?" Alexander was lounged against the back wall, the Jagged Crown sat on his head. "Look at this thing. It's awesome. It looks good on me, right?"

"Take it. Off." Ulfric growled.

"Ugh. Fine." Alexander pulled the helm off, handing it out towards Ulfric. "Behold, your prize. I hope you put it to good use."

Ulfric took it reverently, scrutinising the crown from every angle. It was real; that he didn't doubt. The 'horns' couldn't be anything other than Dragonbone, and the metal itself matched the expected style perfectly.

"The greatest symbol of the Nord kings…languishing in a crypt." He muttered. "If that isn't a metaphor for the state of our nation, I don't know what is."

"Eh, I could probably make an essay out of it." The Archmage agreed with a shrug.

"Thank you." Ulfric looked up at him. "You've done more for this country than you can imagine."

"You've got a lot of faith in that hat." Alexander judged.

"Not just that." Ulfric reached out, clasped his shoulder. "This truce was your doing. You may well have just saved Tamriel."

"Well, I had help." Meteuse demurred. "And you could certainly have made it a bit easier for me…oh, by the way, while I have you here—"

"Something else?" Ulfric asked, tensing.

"Just a matter of curiosity." Alexander drew a red book from his robes. "Care to explain what 'uncooperative dormant asset' means?"

Ulfric read the title, and froze.

"Where did you get that." He uttered.

"Stole it. So?"

"That's not—I'm no spy."

"I'm tempted to believe you, but then Elenwen actively tried to save your rear end at Helgen, so what's going on?"

"That manipulative bitch…" Ulfric's fists tightened, and he turned away. "…Do you promise not to speak to others of this?"

"Not at all." Alexander replied.

"Hnph. Not sure what I expected there…" Ulfric sighed, and let his mind go back to a place he'd been hiding from for a while.

"It was nearing the end of the war. Our unit was ambushed, and I was captured by Thalmor soldiers. Galmar, Rikke, and the others all assumed I was dead. Elenwen was the Justiciar put in charge of my 'interrogation', and she…"

"I've seen underneath her solar." Meteuse held up a hand. "You don't have to go into the details."

"Thank you." Ulfric put a hand to his forehead. "I talked. I don't even know how long I was in there, but eventually, I told them everything they wanted to know. A week later, Elenwen tells me that…that the information I gave them was what let them take the Imperial City.

I escaped, not long afterwards. Fought to reclaim the capital. But then, the Elven bastards contacted me again. Told me that if I didn't provide them with information, they'd tell everyone about how it was me that betrayed them, and lost them the city. I couldn't bear the thought of my comrades knowing what I'd done, so…I complied. For a while."

"What changed?" Alexander asked, voice impassive.

"The Markarth Incident." Ulfric answered. "The injustices I saw in there...I snapped, for lack of a better word. Told the scheming knife-ears that they could say whatever they wanted about me; I wasn't giving them anything more. At that point, I didn't care what happened to me. Just wanted to save my people from oppression." He chuckled. "They never contacted me again. Just ordered the Empire and Jarl Hrolfdir to imprison me and my men, and take away the free worship we'd fought for. Hardly a noble martyrdom, but that's the world we live in."

"Then your father died, then High King Istlod died. Then Torryg, then came the war." Meteuse summarised the rest of their recent history. "You've just been having a rather awful time of it, haven't you?"

"In short. And now look at me." Ulfric spread his arms. "A Tongue, almost fifty years of age, and I'm still too afraid to face the woman who tortured me."

"I would hardly say that calling her bluff and starting a war counts as 'too afraid to face her'." Alexander pointed out. "And, if it makes you feel any better…It was a bluff."

"What?" Ulfric asked.

The Archmage held out the book. "Give it a read. Some bits are missing (no idea how that happened), but apparently, the Imperial City had already fallen by the time you gave in. Elenwen couldn't break you fast enough, so she lied to you to try and recoup her failure."

Ulfric blinked, his mind whirring. "You're saying she…I…are you sure?"

"Would I lie about this after everything else?" Alexander replied, shrugging.

Ulfric hesitated. Then took the book, pocketing it. "So…what are you going to do now?"

"I'm going to do everything I can to save the world." Xander replied. "And frankly the Thalmor are bothering me, so I might have to do away with them. What about you?"

Ulfric looked down at the Jagged Crown. Narrowed his eyes, reached up, and settled it on his own head.

"The same thing I've always done." He said. "Whatever I have to do to save my people."

"Then expect me to send you a few letters over the coming months." Xander replied, with a smile.

Then he winced. "But, uh, you might want to take that off, at least on your way back, it could be a problem if people realised I—"

"Aye, probably smart, that."

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I'm going to be completely honest. I have absolutely no idea how that happened.

Isn't it obvious? Your friends were scheming.

Dulurza was missing for the vast majority of last night…

Elisif glanced across the room. Her Thane was currently sorting out the packing of their equipment for their return journey. Realistically, what that meant was that she was bent over in a very distracting way.

Hey, hey! Focus, we were being suspicious! Potema chided her.

Right, yes.

"Dulurza?" Elisif called.

"Yes, my Jarl?" Dulurza replied, not turning around.

"What were you doing last night?"

"Uh. Kissing you?"

"Besides that."

"Oh. Scheming."

Elisif tilted her head. "…Huh. I was expecting you to be a bit more reticent there."

"Why? I can't stand keeping things from you. I did it for a few weeks and it was awful."

"I suppose you did." Elisif shook her head with a smile. "That honesty of yours will never stop being charming."

Dulurza finally looked back at her. "You think I'm charming?"

"Was that not implied by the fact that I let you sleep in my bed last night?"

"I thought that was just because of what I did with—"

Heads up. Incoming construct.

Dulurza was interrupted by a tweeting and fluttering sound. Through the window to their room flew a hummingbird, glowing blue with magic and carrying a letter tied to its underbelly.

"Looks like Cassia's gotten tired of waiting for us." Elisif remarked, taking the letter…only to hear a knock on the stone outside her door.

"Jarl Elisif?" Called Tullius' voice. "Do you have a minute?"

Elisif shrugged, passed the letter to Dulurza, and walked to her doorway, nodding her head respectfully. "General? What do you need?"

"Our horses are prepared, Elisif. We can leave whenever you're ready." Tullius reported. "And…I wanted to thank you. You've proven far cannier than I gave you credit for."

"Tolerating Ulfric Stormcloak is less a matter of cunning, more of constitution, Tullius." She admitted with a tired smile.

"Oh, don't I know it. But I'm referring more to what you pulled off outside the hall." Tullius glanced up and down the room, and stepped closer. "I have no idea how you convinced Balgruuf to side with the Empire, but you've won us more here than I have in months of warfare. Well done."

Elisif gave him a very confused look. "Balgruuf's doing what now?"

Tullius frowned. "Dulurza said she consulted you. I assumed it was your plan."

Elisif heard a very awkward cough from behind her.

Oh, Divines, she really was scheming.

Bet you it was planned by the mage that tried to evict me. Quick, cover for her!

Elisif quickly took a breath to focus, then replaced her confused expression with an exasperated one. "Of course it was my plan." She hissed. "But secrets don't remain secret when they are discussed casually in hallways."

Tullius winced. "Right, of course. Well then, thank you for your assistance in general. Are you ready to leave?"

"Dulurza? Are we packed?" Elisif asked, turning.

Her Thane was still reading the letter, frowning. "Okay, firstly, when did Cassia learn Orsimer?"

"She's a Meteuse, she might have already known it." Elisif pointed out. "So? What does it say?"

"Uh…" Dulurza looked up. "Is Xander's tall brother still here? And Xander, and the others?"

"I suspect so, why?" Tullius asked, leaning past Elisif's shoulder.

"Octavia contacted shortstack about a plan her and the bigger one came up with." Dulurza looked up. "And it is weird."

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"Uh, sir? Master Arngeir Greybeard sir?" Xander asked, hesitantly.

"I am not your master, young man, Arngeir is fine." The Greybeard turned from the fire he was tending. "How can I help you? You seem to have done an excellent job without me."

Xander laughed and waved a dismissive hand. "What, that? I was just the mediator—"

"The Greybeards hear everything that occurs within these walls, Mr Meteuse." Arngeir reminded him, lightly. "Even perhaps the things we wish we hadn't. You will find no judgement here, nor will your friends."

"Right…So, on the subject of you judging me for things…" Xander coughed. "We never got to talk about me, and my learning Shouts. I know your usual policy is guarding the knowledge very closely. But, if that's not the case, I would be interested in learning more. Or, if possible, teaching."

"Teaching?" Arngeir repeated. "In your College?"

"I'm sure it's hard, don't get me wrong, but the better things are known, the easier it is to teach them, and if it's more than just four people—"

"And then what do they do with that knowledge?" Arngeir asked, his voice becoming sharper.

"Uh…use it..?"

"Precisely." Arngeir sighed. "That is the danger. The Voice is a powerful weapon. Perhaps too powerful. Our way teaches that it should only be used for worship, and self-reflection."

"Then…doesn't that put you at odds with me?" Xander gulped.

He couldn't promise honestly that he wouldn't use the Shouts he'd learned. He could promise it, certainly, it would just have to be a lie.

"Ah, but we also teach pacifism." Arngeir said. "You came to that knowledge of your own efforts, and you may use it as you wish. You would be welcome among our ranks, if you chose to join us. But we cannot in good conscience teach you if you plan to wield the Voice in combat, or teach it to others who might do the same."

"I understand." Xander said, quashing his disappointment. "And if I were to continue learning more of it alone—"

"Then I would wish you the best of luck, but nothing more." Arngeir told him. "However, if I may, I do have a warning."

"Warnings are good." Xander said, nodding vigorously. "Hit me."

"You noticed, I imagine, that your second word was easier to grasp than your first?" The Greybeard suggested. When Xander nodded, "You will find that that trend continues moving forwards. Certain words will be even more difficult than the first, as you struggle to grasp those that are most foreign for you. But in general, knowledge begets knowledge. The first hurdle, understanding what a Shout is, you have overcome. Now, each word will shed more light on the next, and your dictionary will increase exponentially."

"That's good news!" Xander took in Arngeir's expression. "That's not good news."

"The more power you wield in the Voice, the harder it is to control." Arngeir said, gravely. "The inability of my companions to speak is not because of how great their power has become. In truth, it happens far too soon. Usually, it is between ten and twenty words that one's Voice snowballs out of control, and one can no longer speak normally without bringing forth a Shout. After that, even for the most gifted, it takes decades before that control can be wrested back. Some do not manage it in a lifetime."

Xander gaped at him. "You—Ten to twenty?" He repeated. "But…but Ulfric and DB…"

"The Dragonborn is a special case, we both know that." Arngeir explained. "As for Ulfric…He left us with seven known words, and to this day he knows no more than seven. He must be commended for his restraint, at least in that. I imagine speech would be quite a cost to pay, for a Jarl or a General."

"So then…Kyne's left testicle…" Xander breathed, running a hand through his hair. Ten words? That's like three and a half full Shouts! Sure, I only have two words right now, but I've not really had time to try and study more. I was hoping to make this a serious part of my skillset, not just a side-ability, but…I mean what would I do if I couldn't speak, write everything? My handwriting's appalling!

"Thank you. For warning me." He eventually said. "I've just been thinking of it as another magical discipline to learn, but…well, I see why you think it's so dangerous."

"The warrior-Tongues of yore were formidable." Arngeir agreed. "Battles between them and the great spellcasters of the Mer were legendary. Individuals could bring down castle gates, and groups Shouting together could bring down castles. And yet, time and again, they would lose. Jurgen Windcaller believed that using the Voice for war and conquest abused the gift of Kyne, and brought down Divine ire." A small smile came to his face. "I imagine you are the sort who would come up with a more logical reason. Regardless, be wary. The more you give to the art, the more it will take from you."

"Understood." Xander took a few seconds to centre himself, then nodded. "Okay, got it. I'm sure I can solve that."

"Solve…what?" Arngeir tilted his head.

"The problem of your voice running away with you." Xander extrapolated. "It's an obstacle, but I bet it can be overcome. I'll find a way. Maybe I'll ask Kyne; I've been meaning to properly contact an Aedra…"

"Are you…taking my warning as a challenge?" Arngeir asked, somewhat affronted.

"A little, but don't feel bad." Xander reassured him. "I take mortality as a challenge. Uh, thanks for the help! If I find a way to fix it, I'll be sure to share it with you all. It's been a pleasure!"

Arngeir chuckled, shaking his head. "The pleasure, Archmage Meteuse, has been all mine."

"Thank you." Xander turned to go, and paused. "Oh, by the way, random curiosity. You knew my title, when I first arrived. How was that?"

"I knew a lot more about you than I pretended to." Arngeir admitted. "I knew you could Shout, and how you came to learn it. Impressive, that; to have come upon the meaning of Feim so quickly. Life or death situations are among the best ways to trigger understanding, but still, you're a natural."

"Uh..." Xander waited for an actual answer.

"The Dovahkiin told me." Arngeir simplified, smiling.

"Oh." Xander realised. Then "Wait, really? He talked about me?"

"Repeatedly. You appear to have made quite an impression on him. Now, I suspect we both have important things to attend to." Arngeir gave a shallow bow. "Lok, Thu'um."

"Oh, right." Trying not to blush (or squeal, or any number of innapropriate things), Xander bowed back. "Lok Thu'um."

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"Well, that could have gone a lot worse." Hjar said, brightly, packing her things.

"It could have gone a lot better." Thongvor replied. "We could have done without the ten-thousand Septim fine…"

"It's not a fine, it's a contribution. Or would you rather we tried to trap a Dragon in our city?" Hjar pointed out.

"I still can't believe Balgruuf is allowing that." Faleen said, leaning in the doorway. "When he's done, he should fire his head guard for letting him do it and blatantly ignoring his duty to the citizens."

"Might be a smart play." Hjar pointed out. "Jarl Balgruuf, and his Thane the Dragonborn: The ones who saved the world. Maybe he swindles everyone and he becomes High King out of all this."

"I'll take him over the warmonger or the snowflake." Faleen grumbled.

"Well the warmonger just agreed to peace, and from what I've learned of the snowflake, she might not be quite the moist towelette everyone expects of her." Hjar pointed out. "Either way, the political landscape of the country going forwards is looking pretty interesting…Provided nobody else gets assassinated, that is."

"Speaking of which, what do we do now?" Faleen asked. "We got what we wanted. The city's safe, for the time being. What next?"

"Take these sixty days to knuckle down." Thongvor answered. "We've got a Hold to rebuild. We maintain order, get the people housed, get them working, get the mine back in operation, re-establish trade with the other Holds for as long as the peace lasts. If people are actually in a position to pay taxes by the time it's over, we just might be on the road to recovery."

"Weeeell…." Hjar dragged the word out, catching the attention of both of them.

They stared at her for about ten seconds.

"…'Well' what?" Thongvor asked.

"I don't know." Hjar admitted. "But nothing's incredibly wrong in my life for the first time in years. I was just sort of expecting someone to come in and—"

"Hjar!" Dulurza appeared in the doorway. "Can you come and read this?"

"Oh son of a—"

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"Julius, why are you talking to my Dragonborn?" Would be the strangest sentence Xander had ever said, if his life over the last few months hadn't been completely nonsensical.

"Your Dragonborn?" Julius Meteuse turned from the demigod to smile at his brother.

"Yeah he's mine, I found him first." Xander glanced across. "DB? Is the strange man bothering you?"

"He's trying to convince me to kill Paarthurnax." DB replied, flatly.

Xander internally translated the name as Cruel Ambitious Overlord and frowned. "I've heard of him. Alduin's right-hand-Dragon during their rule, did a bunch of nasty stuff. Sure, when you have the time, get to him." Then he frowned harder, as a memory made itself known. "Hang on, didn't you say his name yesterday?"

The Dragonborn looked away uncertainly. Then, "Paarthurnax is the leader of the Greybeards, and sits at the top of the Throat of the World. He's been helping me."

"What? Wait, what?" Xander's brain briefly crashed, then put itself together in time for him to check their surroundings and demand "You have a friendly dragon? Alive? How long's he been there? Can I talk to him? What does he know?"

"Yes, yes, the whole time, no, a lot." DB answered.

"Helpful. Julius, how do you know about him?"

"I spied on the Blades. They figured it out." Julius answered, with a shrug. "They want him dead too."

"But…why?" Xander scrunched his face up. "Re-evaluating, that makes no damn sense. If he's led the peace-cult for millennia, that means he's a good guy, right? As in, an ally?"

"But he was also the most utterly monstrous dragon alive." Julius pointed out. "More vicious than even Alduin, according to some tales, since Alduin mostly sat around and enjoyed his rule. Paarthurnax has killed more people than possibly anyone in existence barring certain Daedra. If that's something you can do, it leaves a mark, whatever you do afterwards."

"And yet he taught the ancient Nords how to Shout." DB muttered.

"And he's been in solitary confinement on top of a mountain since the Merethic Era, that kind of sounds like punishment enough." Xander said.

"I'm not worried about what he did, I'm worried about what he'll do." Julius admitted. "With Alduin dead, Paarthurnax becomes the strongest Dragon alive. Who's to say he's not just using us to kill his superior, then take his place?"

"If Paarthurnax was going to take over Tamriel, wouldn't he have done it any time in the last few millennia?" Xander countered.

"The Dragons were dead for the last few millennia." Julius reminded him. "Now, Alduin has brought them back in the dozens."

"May not be many left. I've not killed a Dragon since I last fought Alduin, that was over a week ago." The Dragonborn said. "No attacks near me, few attacks anywhere in Skyrim."

"And yet, my sources say they've been seen in the skies in ever-greater numbers, so what does that mean?" Julius crossed his arms. "Xander, you know them best."

"…That they're waiting it out." Xander realised. "They're scared of Alduin, but they're also scared of you, DB. They don't want to try their luck against you, so they're waiting to see who wins."

"Dragonborn, what if you kill Alduin and die doing it, or otherwise can't come back? Sovngarde is usually a one-way trip, I've heard. Or even, you come back weakened and Paarthurnax finishes you off." Julius hypothesised. "He has an army of Dragons and there's nothing we can do to stop them."

It…was a valid point. Xander frowned, looking to the floor. He didn't know Paarthurnax. DB did, and he seemed to vouch for the Dragon, but…Dragon names had meaning, and 'Paarthurnax' was a particularly damning one. On the other hand though, millennia of teaching the Greybeards (rather than otherwise preparing for a return) certainly didn't seem like the actions of an evil schemer. And…well, this was hardly evidence, but the idea of killing the only Dragon he might ever be able to have a conversation with was making Xander squirm.

"Paarthurnax has been an ally so far, and he's also possibly the greatest store of ancient knowledge on Mundus." Xander defended. "Can we afford to throw that away on the off-chance he's secretly evil?"

"Can we afford not to?" Julius attacked. "When the fate of the world's at stake? And that store of ancient knowledge might prove useful to the Dragonborn. One last Dragon soul before going after the greatest threat we've seen since the start of the Era. Alduin's been feeding during this dry period, after all—"

"No." The Dragonborn swept a hand through the air, expression unsettled. "I can't…I'm not going to use one of my mentors as food. Consuming Dragon souls is addictive enough as it is. If I stoop to pursuing them for their own sake, even against non-hostile Dov, I might not be able to stop myself. Besides, Paarthurnax was greatly weakened after our battle with Alduin. Xander, I'm sure you and your friends could stop him with relative ease if it came to it."

"'Relative ease' sounds great until you remember what it's relative to." Xander smiled. "But, thanks, DB. I think it's the right choice."

"Weakened, huh." Julius chewed at the inside of his cheek, then shrugged. "Well, I'll trust you. Divines know you're the expert. Dragonborn, let me say on behalf of the Empire and of my family: Good luck."

"I'd rather not need it. But I'll take it." The Dragonborn turned abruptly and started walking away.

"Uh, don't worry about that, he's always like this." Xander reassured Julius, who snorted.

"I'm sure my ego can survive. Think he can do it?"

"Yeah, course." Xander replied, and found his answer was genuine. "I mean, his sword was enchanted by me. What can go wrong?"

"Oh, well in that case, I'm not even worried."

They laughed.

"By the way…" Xander hesitated. "Do you mind if we talk in private? There was something I needed to…"

"You want to talk about the conspiracy." Julius supplied.

"Yeah, that."

"Thought so. Follow me."

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Dulurza stared.

Elisif stared.

Hjar stared.

Thongvor and Faleen stared.

L'laarzen's chest slowly rose and fell, as she slept peacefully on her room's bed. She was curled up in a ball, and made regular purring noises as she breathed.

"…This is adorable." Hjar whispered.

"We can leave her, right?" Dulurza asked.

"We don't have to set off for a few hours yet, no." Elisif answered.

"So we should probably just…"

"Yeah. Let the poor cat sleep."

They all slowly slunk away from the doorway.

Facing away from them, L'laarzen cracked one eye open.


Closed it again.

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"So, level with me." Xander asked, when Julius said that the privacy wards were up. "You're not part of a cult, are you?"

"No!" Julius protested. Then he winced. "Well. Okay, sort of."


"It's a conspiracy, yes, but I wouldn't call it a cult." Julius rolled his eyes. He seemed to be completely relaxed, as he always was, even while discussing secrets of international importance.

"Who's in on it?"

"Well, me and you, Elenwen. Probably the other first ambassadors and the people at the very top of the Thalmor, but even I don't know everyone involved."

"Wow." Xander exclaimed. "What's it about? I asked Elenwen if it was a world domination thing, she said that was too obvious."

"Oh the Thalmor definitely want to conquer Tamriel, but this isn't that." Julius pulled over a chair with telekinesis and sat in it. "Xander…what do you know about Towers Theory?"

Xander gave it five seconds. His brain drew a total blank.

"Well, I would assume it connects to the White-Gold tower in Cyrodiil and the Adamantine tower in the Iliac Bay, both of which are credited with immense power from a magical and spiritual standpoint as well as a tactical one." He made up on the spot. "Though, they're far from the only 'towers' of that magnitude in Tamriel. Summerset had the, uh, 'Crystal-like-law' tower, I think? Which got destroyed in the Oblivion crisis. And now that I think about it, the Numidium is referred to as the Brass Tower in the prophesy of the Dragonborn, and that speaks for itself. At which point this becomes more than a strange coincidence, because I've read about the Throat of the World being called Snow Throat or the Snow Tower while I've been doing my reading from here, so the real question is how many other seemingly random yet massively culturally significant tall things are referred to as towers in certain stories—"

"Xander." Julius interrupted, raising a hand.

Xander stopped.

"You could have just said 'I don't know'." His older brother told him, smiling.

"I didn't want to look stupid…" Xander muttered.

"Did you just intuit an entire field of metaphysical study out of fear of embarrassment?"

"Did I?"

Julius chuckled. "Well, you've got the basics. See, stories go that when Mundus was created, the first thing to be built was the Adamantine Tower, where the Et-Ada met for their Convention. It brought some kind of order to the chaos of the primordial soup. Then, when Lorkhan's heart was cut out and fired into the sea, it created Red Mountain. The Red Tower. And when that formed, Mundus was 'stabilised'. The other towers were all created during the Merethic era, mostly by Mer, either to imitate Ada-Mantia's power or to further stabilise the world. Those include the White-Gold Tower, the Crystal Tower, the Brass Tower, and the Snow Tower, like you said. The ones you missed were the Orichalc Tower from Yokuda, the Green-Sap tower in Valenwood, and possibly Doomcrag mountain, but we don't think that counts."

"That's a lot of big large tall things." Xander observed.

"Quite." Julius nodded. "The Thalmor want to take over Tamriel. The 'cult' as you call them, is much more interested in taking control over all the Towers."

"Would that, by any chance, grant them incredible power over the fabric of the universe?" Xander asked, with a squeak.

"Eh, well, they don't really know." Julius admitted. "They certainly might be able to, say, pull Mundus apart. So that could be fun. Feel like reverting to being a primordial spirit? You could float."

"Fun, right." Xander rolled his eyes. Only Julius could make jokes while discussing something like this… "Okay, how do we stop them? Hang on, how are you working for them?"

"Because I'm a genius and they needed me." Julius answered, flatly. "I am amused that you've immediately decided to try to destroy this group."

"I cannot stress enough how much I do not like Elenwen." Xander said. "Also I've recently undertaken my first very stressful dive into politics so I may as well. Also I've gone to this much trouble to stop one apocalypse, I'm not letting another happen. Also I'm…" His voice cracked slightly, "really low on trustworthy authority figures, so I have no faith in anyone calling those kinds of shots. Like, I have you and L'laarzen left, and that's it."

"That's your Khajiit friend, right?"


"She seems really nice."

"She is. I've met some great people here." Xander sucked in a breath. "I can trust you, right?"

"It is never a good sign that you feel the need to ask that question."

"I know."

"Nothing good ever happens when that question is asked. By the logic of every opera we've been to see, something has to go wrong now. I don't want to go 'you can always rely on me!' and then die to kickstart your next character arc."

"I know, it's just." Xander bit his lip. "I kind of…have you heard what happened with me and Octavia?"

"I went to see her." Julius nodded.

"How mad is she?"

"At herself? Extremely."

"Sure. It's herself she's mad at." Xander sighed. "I just…I'm worried. I never thought I'd have to fight Octavia, and you could still kick my ass, and you're in a cult, and…Divines, Julius, how are we going to tell our parents about any of this?"

"As cryptically as possible." Julius said, drumming his fingers on the table. "It sucks, doesn't it? Welcome to the adult world, Alex. Everything's messed up and everyone's at each other's throats, and I'm constantly negotiating with a group of maniacs who think they're all so clever but they're really, really not."

He paused, looked up at Xander. "When the peace negotiations started, remember the first thing you said?"

"I said 'all things being equal, would everyone at this table prefer not to die', I think." Xander answered, blinking at the non-sequitur.

"Yeah, it stuck with me." Julius stood. "You always said you wanted to be a god. Your sisters took that as delusions of grandeur. Am I right that what that really meant was 'I don't want to die'?"

Xander winced, and rubbed the back of his head. "I mean, kind of, yes."

"But now it's not just you. You set up this summit because you want to save lives."

That was…well, yeah, that was it. Xander straightened his back, nodded. "I do."

"How many lives?" Julius prompted.

"All the lives."

"You want to save as many people as possible?"

"I want to save everyone." Xander declared, eyes narrowing. "I want to save the world."

Julius' eyes widened and he grinned, like he'd just heard words he'd been waiting for for years. He moved closer and extended his hand. "Then you and I are after the same thing."

Xander couldn't help but grin too. He shook his brother's hand. "So what's the scheme? You can't say that and not have a scheme."

"Oh, I have a scheme." Julius said.

"We're saving the world?"

"Oh, we're saving the world. Which is why, once I saw everything you've been doing, I had to come here. I need your help."

"Pardon?" Xander checked. "You (you) need me (me) to help with your scheme?"

"Not exactly. It's more appropriate to say that I don't think I can do it without you." Julius clasped his hands behind his back.

"Xander…I need you to help me trap a Dragon's soul."

Xander stood there, slack jawed. Looked at the door. Back at Julius. Licked his lips.


And that is where we're leaving this one off!

Act Five comes to a close and it's finally on a decisive win for all parties. Peace! But with the looming threat of everything going wrong.

Now I should probably clarify before people start commenting that a lot of the Towers stuff is technically not canon. Everything I named exists, but a lot of their significance is implied in unlicensed writings by Michael Kirkbride, ex-Bethesda writer who's stuff still gets slapped up in online ES libraries. I'm rolling with it anyway, because I think it's cool. And the Thalmor conspiracy is just plain fan theory but that's just par for the course at this point, right?

Sadly, another hiatus is coming, and this one will be the full 10 weeks. Sorry, but uni's starting up again and I can't write to a deadline in term-time. Well, I can try, but it might kill me. But the next Act is the final one, so enjoy your christmas present, as the gang gets fully caught up in the Meteuse-Thalmor drama and Julius' impossible task.

The fate of the world's about to be decided. So, let's see what we can get up to in the meantime.

Lok, Thu'um!