Martin is kind of cute, even in the game, and afterward I just sort of let my imagination run away with it.


That is the first thing she notices about him; he is alone and afraid and furious, and for a moment she is surprised, because, after all, he is a priest of the Nine Divines. But then again, she reasons, Martin Septim has just seen his world crumble about him—the temple is besieged, his townsfolk are dead, Kvatch is swarming with daedra. He certainly has reason to be angry.

The second thing she notices about him is the weariness.

His shoulders droop with relief when she tells him that Kvatch is safe, and he runs a hand through his hair and mutters, "Thank the Nine." Martin Septim is not an old man. Certainly he cannot be more than thirty, if what Uriel Septim said was true; but here, in this moment beneath the burning towers of Kvatch and in the shadow of the ruined temple, the Septim heir looks ancient. He has had to live through the destruction of his city; he has had to provide aid and comfort in a time when he himself needed it most. So she understands, too, the weariness.

What she does not understand is his despair.

She speaks to him of his father, the Amulet, the Blades, the Dragonfires. But all Martin does is shake his head; she cannot tell if it is because he does not believe her, or if he does not want to. He follows her, of course. How could he not? Martin could never resist his duty; he is not that sort of man. But his despondence is dangerous—if it continues, she thinks wryly, then Lord Dagon has already won.

Martin Septim has eyes the color of the deep waters of Lake Rumare. He looks surprised when she tells him this, the next night, as they set up camp in the wilderness.

"Do I?" he asks. "I've never seen the lake."

Now it is her turn to be surprised, and she looks up from unsaddling her horse. "You've never been to the Imperial City?"

He shakes his head. "Never," he says, his mouth thinning into a firm line. "The opportunity never came. And I was always—needed elsewhere."

She can almost see the thought running through his head: Needed elsewhere, for all the good it did for Kvatch. She sighs.

It is not until much later that Martin speaks to her again. "I don't even know your name," he says abruptly. "You saved my life—you saved all our lives—and I'm still not sure what to call you."

She is seized by a sudden urge to see him smile. "What," she teases, "Hero of Kvatch isn't good enough for you?"

Martin looks at her from across the flickering campfire. "It's quite a mouthful," he says, sounding rueful. "Anything a bit—shorter, perhaps?"

"How about just Hero, then?" she suggests.

And she might be imagining it, but she swears that she can see the corners of his mouth tilt up into a tiny smile.

They are another two days on the road before they reach Weynon Priory. The second evening they encounter a group of bandits just before nightfall, waiting to ambush them around a bend in the road. Martin, she discovers, is quite handy with the fireballs, though his aim could use some improvement. One stray spell nearly takes off her arm. She is surprised again. She had not imagined that a priest of the Nine would be so adept in destruction.

"I wasn't always a priest," Martin tells her when she asks. "Once I was a foolish, headstrong boy just like any other."

There is a story behind that, if the rueful quirk of his lips is any indication, but she does not press him just yet. She likes the way one side of his mouth tilts up higher than the other when he smiles; she likes the way his hands move, strong and steady as they bandage up her cuts. Martin would make a good emperor, she thinks, were it not for the anger, the weariness, the despair.

"You don't think we can do it," she says abruptly. "You don't think you'll make it to the throne."

He gives her a tired smile as he ties up the last of the bandages. "No," he says. "I don't."

"Why not?"

Martin shrugs and sits down beside her on the grass. "Who knows the plans of the Nine? Who knows if they have any plans at all? Do they even care what goes on in Tamriel? I think not."

"So it is a loss of faith."

He stares down at his hands. "I lost my faith six days ago when the deadra came swarming out of the oblivion gate," he says, quiet and fierce and furious. "No help came. I prayed and prayed, and still people died. Do you know what that feels like? To know that you are helpless, and that no one cares."

She sighs.

"I find things," she tells him. "It is a specialty of mine, it seems—I have found the thieves' guild, and the Dark Brotherhood, and a mage's lost sanity. I have found daedric shrines and secret passageways; I have sought out all the hidden places in Cyrodiil. But I cannot find your faith for you. You will have to recover it yourself."

Martin looks at her. "I don't even know where to start."

To the west, the sun is setting, washing the sky in red and orange and touching the grassy hillside with gilt. The color makes her think of wastelands of Oblivion, where everything is tainted with brimstone and fire. How can he give up so easily? Orange is a pretty color but she does not think that anyone would want to see the world bathed in it.

"I'll help," she says. "But you had really best get on it, or else we're all doomed."

"No pressure," Martin says wryly.

They arrive at Weynon Priory the next day to find the place in chaos—assassins everywhere and Prior Maborel dead. She dispatches the Mythic Dawn agents with ruthless efficiency before they can get a hold of Martin. "Stay here!" she shouts at him. "I'm going to look for Jauffre."

Martin, the stubborn man, does not listen, and follows her into the Weynon Priory chapel. She barely deflects a blow that would have taken off his head. Sidestepping, she brings her sword whirling around and sends the assassin flying backward; Jauffre finishes him off with a neat thrust to the throat. "The Amulet!" he shouts, fending off two more agents. "Secure the Amulet!"

The Amulet or the heir? she wants to snap back, but there is no time because Martin has been backed into a corner. She vaults over a pew and ducks between him and the assassin. Martin—who is wielding a dagger, of all things—is breathing heavily, sweat pouring down his face and a ragged gash on his shoulder. "I told you to stay put," she hisses furiously, driving the assassin back.

Martin is still not listening. But at least he casts a restoration spell, and the wound on his shoulder closes up. Jauffre deals the finishing blow to the last of the assassins and turns to face them, scowling.

"The Amulet," he says tersely. And, as an afterthought, "Your Highness."

Then he is off, and they are off after him, and of course the Amulet is gone by the time they reach Jauffre's quarters.