The Imperial City is in chaos.

Oblivion gates are opening inside the city, and the Imperial Legion is barely keeping the hordes of daedra at bay. They battle their way through the streets. She is almost afraid that Mankar Camoran had been right, that they are too late, that Tamriel will be lost to Lord Dagon—

But Martin has a stubborn will to rival any god's, and he has a charismatic confidence that is far greater than Camoran's had ever been. He fights on. She fights with him, protecting him as best she can as the streets run red with blood and the sky slowly turns the scorched black-and-crimson of Oblivion.

Smoke hangs heavy in the air. The city is burning.

"The Temple!" Martin shouts to her as he battles a dremora. "We must get to the Temple!"

--

SO YOU THOUGHT TO STOP ME, LITTLE MORTALS.

The voice rolls through her mind, like flame, like thunder, a thousand times more terrible than Mankar Camoran's had ever been. She screams. Lord Dagon's laughter nearly makes her head split open from the pain, and she falls to her knees, her vision swimming, darkness crowding at the edge of her mind.

DID YOU THINK YOU COULD?

Martin's hand is on her elbow, dragging her up; her boots are slick with dremora blood and she stumbles and nearly slips.

I AM MEHRUNES DAGON, AND TAMRIEL IS MINE.

Martin is shaking her. She tries to focus on him. He is shouting something but she cannot hear him through the haze of pain. "He's here," she whispers. "Dagon is here."

GO. RUN TO YOUR TEMPLE AND YOUR FALSE GODS. I WILL BE WAITING FOR YOU.

--

Dagon is immense and terrible, with his four arms (—a storm a rush of plagued rain the tinder of Anu the eyes of Padhome—) and his gaping maw, and all the fires of Oblivion behind his eyes. She tries not to look as they made a mad dash to the temple; he has not noticed them, and she prays and prays that he does not until they are ready.

(—and the weak shall be winnowed and the timid shall be cast down and the mighty shall tremble—)

They are in the temple now, Dagon's roaring echoing in their ears, and it is just Martin and her as she somehow knew it would be at the end—

He is calm, strangely, even though the world is dying.

"I can stop him," Martin is saying. "I think I know how to send him back." She blinks at him in bewilderment. He does? How?

"But the Dragonfires—"

He shakes his head. "It is too late for that. This is another way. I—cannot stay to rebuild Tamriel. That task falls to others. You shall have to be their hope." And, strangely, Martin is starting to glow.

"Martin—"

He touches her cheek and smiles, and she falls silent, staring at him. Why is he looking at her like that? How can he be so calm? "You never told me your name," he says, a little sadly. Light is gathering around him, faster now, all the colors of fire and molten gold; the Amulet is glittering like a fallen star.

And Martin does not kiss her, and he does not say goodbye, only turns and closes his eyes as Mehrunes Dagon comes crashing through the temple roof.

--

She lives on, but her story ends here, really, that fateful day in the Temple where Martin dies and becomes Akatosh and saves the world.

The Oblivion gates are shut. Tamriel is rebuilt, as she had known it would be, and the Council takes over the ruling of the Empire. She is named Champion of Cyrodiil.

The title sounds strange to her, for she was never Cyrodiil's Champion, but Martin's.

Sometimes, when she sleeps, she dreams of a great golden dragon with eyes the blue of Lake Rumare, and when she wakes she is never sure whether these dreams are meant to be a blessing or a curse.

She likes to pretend that time will dull the sharp pain of her memories. She likes to tell herself that it would never have worked out between them anyway, even if Martin had lived—he would have been Emperor, and she was, after all, a thief and an assassin and a commoner.

She likes to think that she hadn't really loved him.

But she never was very good at lying, even to herself.


A/N: Wow. It's done. Sorry about the ending; I actually tried to write an alternate, happy one, but it didn't work out--it felt weird and forced and I couldn't finish it.

Thanks to everyone for reading and sticking with it for so far! And, as always, reviews make me happy inside. I would especially love to hear opinions on canon vs. non-canon endings.

Look for a short companion piece coming soon.