Chapter 20: Tribunal and Blood Moon
Chizrae spent the next few days with Talvalo and Daerazal trying to make plans about what she should do next. Direction was still undecided, but at least packing had already begun.
Then one night, while sleeping, growls and barks penetrated her dreams. It took her a minute to realize she wasn't imagining it. Loki was genuinely upset about something. Bolting upright in bed, she gave Talvalo's shoulder a vigorous shake. "There's an intruder in the house," she hissed.
"What?" he groggily asked, annoyed that he had been so forcefully awakened. Yet the angry barks turned into an unmistakable howl of warning. "More drow?" he asked with caution.
"I don't know." Both of them threw off their covers and reached for the trunk at the foot of the bed where a few spare weapons were kept. Chizrae had just grabbed a glass longsword, when a figure dressed in black leather armor appeared in a puff of smoke and struck her in the back with an enchanted dagger. The sharp pain, blistering heat, and crippling paralysis were nothing compared to the sheer terror she felt as the room suddenly swarmed with multiple assassins.
Talvalo had been reaching for a sword, but at the sight of so many opponents in such close quarters, he opted to transform into the werebeast, instead. Towering over the swarm, he leaped over the bed, barreling his wife's attackers onto the floor and throwing them against the walls. The raging werewolf took on all of the assassins himself in attempt to shield her while she was helpless.
As soon as Chizrae felt sensation in her fingers again, she coughed up blood and began fighting for her life in a different manner, casting multiple restorative spells on her many wounds. As she paused between castings to fight off the dizziness, she noticed that Loki and Daerazal had joined the fight from the hallway. The assassins' dark armor blended well in the shadows, but did nothing to help them escape the wolf's keen sense of smell and the drow's infravision. Loki snapped at any legs and hands that weren't familiar. And with both adamantine swords in his hands, Daerazal made short work of any unguarded backs.
Talvalo grabbed one of the assassins that tried to slip past him while Chizrae was tending her life-threatening wounds. His powerful, clawed hand tore away the leather armor and plunged straight through the man's gut to rip out intestines. Loki chomped down on the dagger-wielding hand of another and refused to release it. Daerazal reversed his grip on the sword in his left hand. Then with one lethal sweep, the poisoned adamantine blade in his left hand penetrated the assassin's armor and ribs at the same time the enchanted blade in his right hand removed the assassin's head. It was good to see her brother's familiar, martial expertise in action once more.
Chizrae continued to drain her magic to prevent herself from losing any more blood, but when she felt strong enough, she whipped behind the assassin going after her wounded wolf and sank the glass blade deep into his throat. Then, she stepped back to watch the last standing intruder fall. Breathless and shaken, she looked around at the carnage - cooling bodies in the dark. The four members of her small family were all wounded and splattered in blood, but no less than ten assassins lay in the spreading puddles of warm blood at their feet.
"What the hell is this? Where did they all come from?" Daerazal angrily demanded, giving voice to what all of them were thinking.
"Are they drow?" Chizrae nervously asked, terrified that the Guallidurth Llothians had sent assassins after all.
Her brother sheathed one sword, knelt by his last kill, and stripped off the mask. "Dark elf, … but not drow." He moved away from the dead dunmer and stripped another mask from one of the bodies. "Human." He moved to a third. This one he paused over, unsure what to think of it.
"Argonian," Chizrae informed him. "They are the lizard people of the Blackmarsh region. Beastfolk are commonly kept as slaves here, but some are free." A chill went down her spine. "These assassins are from Morrowind, but don't look like the Morag Tong."
"Who's the Morag Tong?" Daerazal asked, standing.
Talvalo shifted back to his elven form. "They are a legally sanctioned assassin's guild native to Morrowind. They must have legal writs to carry out executions."
"Then, it looks like someone finally gave up on Shazi and Jiub being able to do the job," the drow surmised.
Chizrae dropped to her knees and began searching the bodies, and Daerazal and Talvalo joined her, but none of the bodies carried legal writs or offered any other clues about who had sent them. Finally, discouraged, she sat back on her heels and covered her face with her hands. Loki limped to her side and licked her hand, and Talvalo wrapped his arms around her in an attempt to comfort her; but this had crossed over the line for being consolable.
Daerazal lifted one of the enchanted daggers and studied its make. "They are professional, whoever they are. You need to leave Mysthaven, Chizrae - the sooner the better. Someone with the wealth and power to hand out priceless scrolls on portal magic and hire an assassin guild will stop at nothing to see the Nerevarine dead."
The following morning, after a sleepless night, the furious drowess and her two male companions marched into Seyda Neen to confront an Imperial guard with a report of what happened. Chizrae dropped hints that she knew an Imperial spy had been set on her previously, but she said nothing further about Shazi, choosing instead to focus on the multiple assassins lying dead in her bedroom. When she finished describing the attack, the guard looked disturbed.
"Sounds like the work of the Dark Brotherhood. I'm not sure who you angered, but stay away from me. I suppose this should be officially reported, though. Speak to Apelles Matinus in Ebonheart about this matter."
"You suppose?" Chizrae folded her arms and frowned at the guard's hands-off response. "Who the hell is this Dark Brotherhood?"
"Scum, all of them. If they're after you, friend, you'd better find yourself some help. Or write a will. Or both."
"Well, you're loads of help, as always. Who is Apelles Matinus?"
"He's recently arrived from Cyrodiil. You'll likely find him inspecting the grounds at Ebonheart," the guard explained in a non-descriptive manner.
"Rrrrgh!" the drowess growled in frustration before turning on her heel and marching back down the road toward her home. "They are the most lame guards I have ever met! Not once have they been of any help when this sort of thing happens! They did nothing about the Dreamers or the ash zombies! Even when the Tribunal put a bounty on my head, they didn't lift a finger to -"
"Do we even have time to venture to Ebonheart?" Talvalo interrupted her rant with concern. "I mean, more assassins could show up at any time. I think we should get out of Mysthaven first. We can always track down leads to Ebonheart later, … supposing we live through the night."
"And where would we go?"
He shrugged. "How about Jiub's cavern? It's not like he's going to be using it anymore."
Chizrae shook her head. "Kimmuriel has the other ring. No way am I going to take shelter in a place he can teleport into without knocking first."
"Well, … technically, he can do that through me," Daerazal admitted. "It isn't easy on him, but he can form a gateway to wherever I am. Maybe, … I should return to Menzoberranzan now."
She stopped walking and turned to face her brother. "No. I need your help moving. I need ..." She couldn't bring herself to finish that request. To ask for his protection after everything they had been through seemed not only contradictory, but foolish.
"What about the shrine you and Jiub used to stay in?" Talvalo suggested.
"If they have tabs on Jiub, they will probably search out all his past hideouts," she said, giving her head a small shake.
"My Vos cavern, then."
She gave it some thought. No one else knew about that cavern, … did they?
"We can use the Realmsfade books to transport everything there without being watched and in a timely fashion. Then, we can go to Ebonheart and find the person who can tell us more about the Dark Brotherhood. You were wanting to speak with Vivec about Shazi anyway, and that's just down the road from there."
It seemed like the best idea they had come up with yet, so Chizrae nodded in agreement.
Talvalo looked to Daerazal. "We could use the help of a well-armed mercenary such as yourself. Maybe we could pay Bregan D'aerthe to keep your services here for a time."
Daerazal was skeptical and looked to his sister for confirmation. "Is that what you want?"
"I … want … to trust you." They were perhaps the most difficult words she had ever said.
"Should I vow to never again try to spill your blood? Would you believe me if I did?"
"I don't know," she honestly answered. "But … if I can't accept you as you are, promises won't help," she remembered her own advice to him.
Daerazal's skeptical gaze turned to the altmer. "Are you okay with my presence?"
"Are you okay with mine?" Talvalo turned the question back on him.
"You mean the gold elf or the werewolf? Because frankly, the werewolf smells like a wet dog."
Talvalo drew back in mild offense. "If you're referring to our first meeting, of course I smelled like a wet dog. I'd just come in from the rain. At least I don't smell like a wet dog all the time." His eyes, and Daerazal's, shifted to the big, black wolf relieving himself on a tree where they had stopped.
"Okay, Loki needs a bath." Chizrae was annoyed at their combined, unvoiced complaint. "I'll put it at the top of my list of important things to do right now. Are you staying, or not?" she impatiently asked of her brother.
His expression flattened at her familiar, demanding tone. "I'll stay as long as I'm needed, but only as long as you recognize I am here because I accepted your invitation. I am not your slave, and I refuse to be your hired hand," he firmly insisted.
"Daerazal, … you used to be my servant, but I have never considered you my slave. You were my mentor, and I always wanted you to be my ally. Why else do you think I pulled you from those stinking chores to do other things? If circumstances had been different ..." It wasn't an apology. He didn't deserve an apology. But neither did she deserve his allegiance. It was wishful thinking.
He sighed in understanding. "I'll talk to Kimm as soon as we get back. If he demands payment, I'll remind him I'm protecting his interest in the portal and the scroll by staying here with it."
Talvalo nodded in agreement with the new arrangement. "Then we should continue packing for Vos. It'll take us longer to move everything out of Mysthaven than it will to travel to Ebonheart. I suppose I can ask Aridis to come get the horses and manage the sale of the estate if we explain why we're having to leave on such short notice." He stuffed his hands in his pockets and started walking down the path toward home again. "You don't happen to play chess, do you?" he asked of Daerazal. "My brother and I usually have loads of fun with games like that."
"Don't believe a word of it," Chizrae inserted, hooking an arm in theirs as she walked between them. "He's a dirty cheat."
In Ebonheart, Chizrae's contact referred her to someone else who recommended that she investigate the Dark Brotherhood in the capital city of Mournhold. All roads from Vvardefell had been closed to the mainland due to the blight, however, so the mage offered to teleport them there when they were ready.
Chizrae's next stop was Vivec, where she met with the lord of the city bearing his name. Though his priests had once hunted her as a heretic, the warrior-poet godhead of the Tribunal temple realized in the end that they needed the Nerevarine's help if they were to stop the blight - even if ending Dagoth Ur's curse meant ending their own immortality. He had confessed the truth behind Nerevar's betrayal and murder and explained how he and two other mortal members of Nerevar's council had tapped into the tainted god's heart, as Dagoth Ur did, to become like god's themselves. Though still wary of the Tribunal's priests and militia, and though she had never met the other two godheads of the temple, she had come to an open understanding with Vivec. So, she told him what she knew of Shazi's attempt to kill her, hoping he could shed some truth on that as well. Vivec said he knew nothing of a conspiracy against the Nerevarine, though he was certain she would suffer more assassination attempts unless she rooted out and disposed of the source. He agreed that Mournhold sounded like the best place to begin her search.
While in Vivec, Chizrae also relinquished her position as head of the Vvardenfell Mage Guild to a subordinate she felt most capable of doing the job. She penned a note for someone else to deliver to Ocato in Imperial City, but explained only as much as she felt necessary - that Shazi turned out to be a spy who hired an assassin. For all she knew, Ocato and the Council of Mages could have been behind the plan.
When their affairs in Seyda Neen and Vos were in order, Chizrae, Talvalo, and Daerazal returned to Ebonheart to be teleported to Mournhold. There, they tracked the Dark Brotherhood through goblin-infested sewers beneath the Great Bazaar. Not only did they find their Mournhold headquarters and confirm there was a bounty on her head, but further investigation revealed Morrowind's newly crowned King Helseth was behind it. Rumors about the recent deaths of the previous king and a few other notable people who could have posed a threat to his power - as well as a few more failed assassination attempts - led Chizrae to confront Helseth directly. Having failed to kill the Nerevarine, he invited her into his royal guard, instead. Though Daerazal advised her to kill the notorious man while she could, Talvalo advised her to tread with caution. Killing a king, however horrible he was, would certainly plunge the province into civil war, and make her a legal target for the Empire afterward.
Chizrae accepted Helseth's offer for two reasons. She believed it was better to keep her enemy in front of her, rather than at her back. And she needed an alliance with him to investigate the growing dangers caused by the apparent insanity of the Tribunal's figurehead goddess, Almalexia.
She joined Almalexia's branch of the Tribunal temple to spy on her and the strange events blamed on the third godhead of the Tribunal, Sotha Sil. But when all was said and done, Chizrae ended up standing over the defeated body of the false goddess. Sheathing Nerevar's newly recovered blade, Trueflame, she bent to claim his wife's twin blade, Hopesfire. Then, she lifted her gaze to the grotesque, strung-up remains of Sotha Sil. In her madness, Almalexia had murdered him. Two of the Tribunal gods were now dead, and the words of the daedric prince Azura weighed heavy on Chizrae's mind. She had redeemed and destroyed another part of Morrowind. There was no turning back from the second half of the prophecy now.
She tried to explain to the Tribunal priests that two of their gods were dead. She tried to tell them their gods were mortals tainted with immortal magic that drove them mad. But they laughed at the idea that a small dark elf could defeat a goddess. The temple was in denial that it was on the verge of collapse.
With the Dark Brotherhood and Tribunal affairs at an end, Chizrae resigned from the king's command, and her small family returned to Vvardenfell. When she went to see the remaining godhead of the Tribunal, Lord Vivec was sad to hear of the loss of his long-time friends, but acknowledged that there would come a time when Nerevar's blade would need to end his own senility, too. She swore she would see him to that end when it came.
Back at the werewolf lair near Vos, as they pondered recent events while enjoying nix-hound meat and marshmerrow rice cooked over a campfire on the shore, Talvalo was disturbed by something more dark than the loss of the Tribunal temple. "Sotha Sil is gone. If the legend about his pact sealing the gates of Oblivion was true, … that pact was now broken."
Chizrae looked up from the map she had been studying. "Don't tell me you believe that legend."
"No, not really. However, … it is odd that it coincides with the end of the Septim lineage, which carried a similar legend concerning Oblivion."
"I have too much to worry about with my own affairs to be concerned about Oblivion, too," she muttered and looked back to her map.
"True." Talvalo sighed and tried to sound more positive. "Well, at least the assassination attempts are over, right?"
"Are they?" Daerazal spoke with skepticism. "Helseth lives. Chizrae is still his rival in terms of who will control Morrowind. He tried to kill her three times. You think he's going to stop now just because she did his dirty work for him concerning the Tribunal?"
Chizrae sighed and lifted her chin. "And what would you suggest I do? Hire the Morag Tong to dispose of the king? As despicable as he is, that would only throw the entire region into chaos. Enough people hate him that his time will come, believe me. It just isn't now. Besides, I have no desire to control Morrowind. I just want a quiet place to live. Is there no such thing in the entire multiverse?" she complained in frustration.
"This is quiet." Talvalo looked across the sea and rocks toward the twin moons in the night sky. "It's not very comfortable, but it's quiet."
"I don't mind caves. I spent most of my life in them. But even the caverns I lived in had homes in them. I'm tired of sleeping on rock, and we've got so much stuff crammed inside there's barely any room left for us."
Talvalo set down his emptied plate to warm his hands by the fire. "Well, … if you really want my opinion, I still think we should go to Solstheim. It's remote from the rest of Morrowind, and the population is sparse. There's a few Nord villages, but they want nothing to do with Imperial or Morrowind politics. There's only one Imperial fort on the docks - easy enough to avoid after initial arrival. And there's a few pirate villages that also want nothing to do with official business, … for obvious reasons."
"You told Jiub you were a pirate once," Daerazal remembered. "I worked among Vhaeraunian pirates in Skullport, disrupting Llothian trade. Where is this place?"
Chizrae turned the map for him to see and pointed to the northernmost island above Vvardenfell.
"Solstheim used to belong to the Nords of Skyrim, so they don't like being considered part of Morrowind or the Empire," Talvalo informed the two drow. "They keep to themselves and their old traditions. As long as you respect that, they'll leave you alone."
"Is that … snow?" Daerazal put down his plate and lifted the map for a closer look.
"Lots of snow there, yes. But also lots of wilderness, … if quiet is what you want."
"You expect me to live on the surface with snow?" Daerazal's lip curled in distaste.
"You are free to come and go as you please," Chizrae reminded him.
Daerazal sighed and gave the map back. "Does one of your books travel there?"
"No, but we have books for Dagon Fel and Khuul, both of which have ships that go to Solstheim. And we would still have the books to the other places here in Vvardenfell, so it's not like civilization would be too far away."
"But you would have to enchant new keys for a new home."
"That's true, but I think it would be worth it. Actually, the more I think about Solstheim, the more I think it's a good idea." She faced her husband. "Did you have a particular place in mind?"
He shook his head, but became quiet and thoughtful. "We can ask at the Sea Wolf if anyone on the crew knows of remote homes."
Chizrae dipped her chin to look into his eyes. "Is … something wrong?"
A wistful smile touched the altmer's lips. "Just … wondering. I never knew what became of, … you know, … Sarinowyn and her friend. They're probably still there. I can't help but wonder if her friend ever found a cure."
"Cure?" Daerzal asked, having missed something important in this conversation.
"His ex-fiancee tricked him and her friend into drinking tainted wolf's blood. That's how he came to carry the curse," Chizrae summarized.
"You are wanting to track her down and kill her?" Daerazal asked.
Talvalo frowned. "Of course not. I'm just curious what became of them, that's all. It's been difficult to live with the curse, so I can't help but wonder if her friend experienced something similar, or if she found a way to be rid of it. And I can't help but wonder if Sarinowyn has any regrets about ruining us like that."
"That woman and her friend are of no concern to you anymore," Chizrae firmly reminded him, draping her arms around his neck and giving him a kiss.
"No, … I suppose not." He received another kiss from her, … and another. Talvalo began to find humor the sudden display of affection. "Jealous much?"
"Enough to scratch her eyes out," the drowess admitted with a cunning smile.
"Really? I find that very sexy."
"I find it rather nauseating," Daerazal interrupted, annoyed. "Should I leave you two alone?"
Talvalo said "yes" at the same time Chizrae said "no".
Chizrae gave him one more kiss and faced her brother again. "So, it's settled then. We leave for Solstheim first thing tomorrow morning."
Talvalo frowned at Daerazal. "Your brother will be getting a separate bedroom in the new house, I take it?"
"Count on it," the drow unhappily agreed.
"If we can profit or break even with the purchase price for Mysthaven, we should be able to find something very nice with plenty of rooms in Solstheim." Chizrae picked up her dishes and headed to the water to rinse them off.
With his sister out of hearing range, Daerazal leaned toward Talvalo and lowered his voice. "What are you not telling her?" he asked with suspicion.
Talvalo debated whether to say anything, but he knew the drow would never let him keep silent on the matter if he didn't. "Nerevarine and Imperial politics of the lowlands probably won't follow her there. The Nords there would care nothing about the prophecy. In fact, they've probably never heard of it. She will get the breathing space she so badly wants if we go there. But ... things much worse than assassins could hunt her, if she's not careful. She made a pact for me with Hircine, God of the Hunt. He knows her by name now. And in Solstheim, I will not be the only werewolf." With a sigh, the altmer lifted his gaze to the blood red moon.
Thanks to all who stuck with the reading and left reviews, both for the original upload and this revised version.
For those of you familiar with the first version, I realize how very different this ending is, but I hope no one is disappointed with the changes. What can I say, except my muses took me down an entirely different path this time. The previous ending felt too rushed, didn't fit well with the world time line, seemed a bit illogical, and completely left out any acknowledgment of the final expansion pack. This ending acknowledges both expansion packs for Morrowind - Tribunal and Bloodmoon - so that by the time Bloodmoon is done, the Nerevarine is ready for the Oblivion game to begin, or Chizrae and company can afford to have a pirate adventure or two in-between.
For those of you reading for the first time, I hope you found it entertaining. There is a sequel called "Ashlands to Akavir", but since I changed this ending, I will have to give some new thought to how the next story begins. It may be a little longer before I can begin posting it.