Disclaimer: I obviously don't own Oblivion. Bethesda Game Studios does, and as one of their loyal followers and forum members, I would never dare claim ownership of any of their works.
Guide Through the Interstice
A/N: A quick note to all you people. This story will make absolutely no sense unless you've read A Cloak of Lies, as this is essentially a little side story I decided to do. It also contains spoilers for said story, so if you haven't read it yet, then off you go!
Claudius looked down at the chessboard, contemplating his next move as his audience of two watched. Well, three if you counted Orson, who was standing stiffly in front of the door to the outer halls of Gardenhall. Across from him sat Riev, a wrinkled old man with eyes sunken deep into his head. His greasy, red hair only served to make him look even older. Appearances, however, were deceiving, as Riev was a Lord, and had the power and intelligence needed to hold such a position. And that intelligence was precisely why he sitting in front of Claudius, playing chess. Because he knew that it's better to join the wolves than try and stand in their way.
Alexia sat on a table to Claudius's right, flipping one of her knives in the air with her usual look of utmost boredom. She suddenly threw that knife at Orson, but he didn't even move to dodge. It lodged only a few inches from his head, but all he did was give it a moments glace. She glared at him, and brought the knife back to her hand with telekinesis. "Can I never get a reaction out of you?" she asked, clearly annoyed at his refusal to play her little game.
He gave her a ghost of a smile. "No."
If anything, this only caused her glare to intensify. Neither player had bothered to look at the display, having been expecting it for the better part of ten minutes. Frankly, Claudius found it amazing that Alexia was capable of showing that much patience. He picked up one of his pieces and moved it forward, eliciting a frown from Riev, who quickly matched it with a move of his own. Too quickly. Claudius seized the opportunity and took his piece with a bishop.
Orson moved from his place at the door to stand next to his master and stood watching the game for a few moments before asking a question. "May I leave milord? I have things to attend to, as I'm sure you're aware. There are certain people that need dealing with, in order for things to move forward. I've taken the initiative of compiling a list."
"Kill them," Claudius responded, without so much as a thought.
Orson nodded and walked away, allowing the door to drift shut behind him. Alexia scoffed and got down from the table, taking a seat in a nearby plushy chair. She allowed herself to sink into it, and stared up at the ceiling. Claudius made his next move in response to Riev's then glanced at her from out of the corner of his eye. "Why, whatever is the matter, sister dear? I thought you preferred Orson? Called him... What was it? Oh yes, cute."
"Well, I've changed my mind. He won't say a word to me or anything. How dare he? It's as if he doesn't know who I am, as if he isn't scared, as if-"
Riev cut her off with a cackle. "Oh, that must be a first for you, eh? A man that's not scared of you? Oh dear, whatever shall we do, the world must be coming to an end!"
Riev continued to cackle even as he made his move, and Claudius allowed himself a slight chuckle as well. "A novel experience for you, is it sister dear? I told you there was no point. He's a broken man."
Alexia silently fumed in her seat. The silence didn't last long. "Oh yeah? Well I bet I can get to him. There's something down in there somewhere. I'll get a reaction out of him, just you wait."
Riev put a hand to his chin in thought as he contemplated his next move. "I'm sure, I'm sure. The only question is, what reaction will it be? I'm betting on disgust..."
"Why you miserable old man..."
Claudius raised a hand, silencing her. "I think you should just give up, Alexia. There's soon going to be someone in his life anyway."
"But I thought she was..."
Riev started cackling again. "Dead? Girl, you should know better than to trust in things like death, being a member of the Order and all. After all, don't we all cheat it every day?"
"But... That doesn't seem right. It definitly isn't normal."
"Normal by whose standards, girl? It's just a bit of necromancy."
"Will you stop calling me girl, old man?"
Claudius made his move, as a smirk formed on his face. The irony of that statement was lost on Alexia, who was far older than Riev. "Honestly, it doesn't matter. So long as it helps to keep him in line. If only we could find something to keep Lucius with us as well. He, however, will not be so easily convinced. He lacked the necessary motivation from the very beginning, and he's slipping, I can feel it. He's just as broken as Orson, but he's trying to piece himself together again."
"You could always threaten his daughter," Alexia suggested as she started to toss one of her knives in the air again.
"Threats are too crude a method for a man like him. That would only push him farther away. No, I think perhaps blackmail would be more useful. Besides, his daughter might prove useful in the future. No need to rush things just yet."
"Blackmail? Do you know something we don't then?"
"Many things, sister dear, many things."
Even as Riev was raising his hand to move his rook, Claudius was already thinking of how to capture it with his queen. The move was swift and merciless, leaving Riev wide-open. He scowled as he looked at the board, trying to find a way out. "You think Lucius may be the key then?"
"I'm not sure. There have been several... Special occurrences lately, but there's no way to tell. It will require more study."
"Hmm. Does he suspect?"
"Most likely. But it doesn't matter what he thinks. He knows full well that he can't leave and still hope to live, not without me."
"He does plan to leave then?"
"Oh, I believe so. He's been making preparations in the shadows for some time now, thinking that no one was watching. He should know by now that the walls have eyes, right, sister dear?"
"Of course, brother. He's been an amusing one to watch, always scurrying around so proud of himself. If only he could always be so interesting."
Riev made another move, freeing himself from check. Claudius knew that all he could do is stall for time. "Does Berich suspect as well?"
"No. He's the same as always, completely trusting in me, despite Rasien's protests. Our move will be swift, and he won't see it coming."
"Do you really think that we can best him though? He has-"
Claudius interrupted him by putting him into check. "Berich has had his time, and he has done his job admirably. He has been our guide through the interstice that is the space between light and dark, Aedra and Daedra. However, now it's time to shatter that boundary. He is no longer necessary. He has fallen into the lies and deceit of the Gods. We shall guide things onto a new path. A path to our salvation."
Riev moved out of check, only to be put back into it a moment later. "Our salvation requires their destruction? Can this world even exist without them?"
"Of course. All they do is guide mortal life along a fixed path. By doing this, we're simply making things open-ended. Think of our new world as a book without end. Checkmate."
Riev looked down in confusion at the board and stared at it for a moment in disbelief, before a knife flew through the air and impaled his king to the wall. He looked over at Alexia, who was now smiling sweetly and giving him a little wave, sans one knife. A scowl was the only response she got.
Claudius rose from his chair and gestured to the door. "Now if you would excuse me, good sir, I have things to discuss with my sister. Do have a nice day."
Riev got up, leaving the pieces where they were, and went to the door. Before he closed it behind him though, he had to make one last comment. "You seem so very sure of yourself, Claudius. How can you be sure that something won't go wrong?"
Claudius didn't even glance at the door as he made his way to his desk, Alexia behind him."Because, good sir, strategy is nothing more than a grand game of chess. I've been here making moves since before the other players had even arrived, and I have all the moves planned out, to the letter. My plans never fail, because I never lose at chess. Such a wonderful game, wouldn't you agree? Especially when I already know the outcome."
More A/N: I've been working on this on the side recently, while I've been thinking about what direction I want my prequel to go in. I had been thinking about adding something like this to the main story at the end, but decided against it. If I ever want to make more side stories for A Cloak of Lies, then they'll be here.