Since I'm apparantly allowed more than one fanfic at once here, I decided to take advantage of it and start posting my latest fic, 'The Neveragaine Strikes Back'. Bear in mind that this is the sequel
to 'The Neveragaine' (covering the events of Tribunal), so it's best to read the original story in full before starting on this one. Updates will also be a lot slower on this fic, as I've only just started writing it.
So, onto the prologue:Prologue: Trouble In Paradise
As a fighter, I was always taught that you should never let your guard down. If things seem unusually quiet, it’s often a sign that the enemy’s just getting prepared and all hell is about to break loose. If I’d only remembered that, perhaps none of this would ever have happened.
After more than six months of living as the Nerevarine, I was still struggling to get used to being Vvardenfell’s hot new celebrity. For the first few weeks it was fantastic: everywhere I went there’d be people bowing and scraping, saying things like “Almsivi bless you, Nerevarine,” and “how may I serve you, Incarnate?” and “please may I lick your boots clean for you, Nerevar-Born-Again?” But after a month had gone by, and people were still collapsing into stammering incoherence whenever I so much as spoke to them, the excitement was starting to wear off pretty quickly. I even considered visiting Telvanni areas just for the novelty of being treated with polite indifference (or even not-so-polite indifference).
Things just got crazier as time went on. Before long there were people turning up at Bal Isra for pilgrimages – yes, honest-to-goodness pilgrimages
. Some of them even seemed to believe I had mystical healing powers of some sort, and could heal their sick friends and relatives just by touching them. I had enormous trouble convincing them that I was just an ordinary mortal rather than some sort of divine being.
“No, seriously,” I would plead. “I’d love to help you, I really would, but I’m useless at magic. You need to go and see a healer
I felt so guilty about disappointing them that I usually paid for a healer’s fee, and of course, word quickly got around. Eventually I caved in and learned a couple of spells to cure diseases and suchlike. I managed to persuade the Temple to install a healing shrine so that I wouldn’t have to cure everyone personally, which was not
how I planned to spend the rest of my (potentially eternal) life.
Indarys Manor itself was doing quite well. I’d made quite a nice little pile by selling off the Sixth House artifacts I’d collected at Red Mountain (and hadn’t blown all
of it on expensive gowns imported from Cyrodiil), so there was plenty of money for improvements. The population had grown to around twenty (plus guards), and we even had our own silt strider port going to Maar Gan and Ald’ruhn.
Things in House Redoran had also improved quite a bit since the fall of Dagoth Ur. The Blight was gone, and ashstorms were a lot less frequent now, making the Ashlands a much nicer place to live in. Arethan Mandas – the ‘Mad Lord of Milk’ – was back in Ald’ruhn under his daughter’s care, and as for Hlaren Ramoran, his relationship with his bodyguard Nalvyna seemed to be progressing nicely. When things got particularly boring in Council meetings, we’d sometimes catch him staring dreamily off into the distance, humming a little tune to himself.
If only the Council business had been going half as well. When I was first appointed Archmaster, I’d dreamed of creating a new House: a House with the honour of Redoran, the enterprise of Hlaalu, and … well, I’m sure there must be something
good about the Telvanni. Top of my list of ‘improvements’ was abolishing the ridiculous system of ‘advancement by honourable duel’. If someone thought they would make a better leader than me, they could damn well explain why
they thought it instead of dragging me out to the Arena.
But I’d reckoned without the Redoran council – the stickiest stick-in-the-muds ever to gum up the workings of government. I’d propose some trivial change – at least, one that seemed trivial to me – and they’d look at me as if I’d suggested holding a revolution and overthrowing the Tribunal. “But we’ve always
done it this way,” were the words I’d come to dread.
I soon sussed out who I could count on to support or oppose me. Athyn Sarethi was generally (though not always) on my side, and together with Brara Morvayn, we formed what I’d come to think of as the ‘liberal wing’ of the Council. Lined up against us were Hlaren Ramoran, Miner Arobar and Garisa Llethri – making a nicely-balanced three on each side, which didn’t exactly help with decision-making. As Archmaster I technically had the casting vote, but I didn’t want over-use it and turn the others against me.
It didn’t help that the other Councillors were still struggling with the idea of a human Archmaster. I wouldn’t have minded so much, except that they seemed to deal with it by treating me as a sort of honorary Dunmer. As a result I had to sit through meeting after meeting, grinding my teeth, while the others whinged endlessly about Imperials and the Empire and what a bunch of greedy honourless bastards we all were. (Not in those exact words, obviously, but that was the gist of it.)
Athyn could usually be counted on to smooth things over when they got too heated. But relations between me and Athyn were slightly strained at the moment, mainly because of Varvur.
Ah, yes. Me and Varvur Sarethi.
We spent as much time as we could together after Red Mountain, which wasn’t easy. I was the Redoran Archmaster, living in Bal Isra, while Varvur was training to be a Buoyant Armiger and spent most of his time in Vivec (the city, not… oh, never mind).
Even when we did manage to get together, we still had to find places where we could talk (and other things) in secret. Not to mention getting hold of sterility potions, without tipping off the whole of Vvardenfell that the Nerevarine had a lover. I eventually managed to get some from Sharn gra-Muzgob, after swearing her to secrecy on pain of having her necromantic activities reported to the Temple.
In order to see as much of me as possible on his visits to Ald’ruhn, Varvur came up with the idea of teaching me Dunmeris. After six months in Morrowind I could already understand it reasonably well, but speaking it was another matter. I’d never been much good at languages, but luckily Varvur had lots of patience.
“Conjugate the verb ‘to love’,” he said to me one day.
“I already know that one.” It was one of the first I’d learned.
“Never mind, let’s do it again.” He began to recite the verb forms in Tamrielic, and I repeated them back to him in Dunmeris. “He loves you. She loves you. They love you. We love you.” He slid his hand under the table and gently closed his fingers around mine. “I love you.”
My heart was starting to race, but I grasped his hand tightly and repeated the words in Dunmeris. “I love you.”
From then on, we were as close to engaged as we’d ever be without announcing it officially. The only problem was that Varvur’s parents still didn’t know about it. When we’d first started seeing each other, we’d held off telling them because we weren’t sure it would last – but now, in hindsight, that was starting to look like a bad idea. How would they react when they found out we’d been shagging each other in secret for months on end?
In my more optimistic moments, I told myself that it would be okay. After all, it wasn’t like I was a penniless nobody any more – I was the Redoran Archmaster and a high-ranking Imperial knight, not to mention a famous hero. I’d have been a pretty good match for Varvur if it weren’t for my low birth and – of course – the fact that I wasn’t a Dunmer. But surely that wouldn’t matter so much to people as kind and tolerant as the Sarethis?
“We’re going to have to tell them some day,” I said to Varvur, as we lay in each other’s arms somewhere in the Grazelands.
“I know,” he said, sighing. “I wish now that we had told them at the start. It would have been more honourable, certainly. But it’s too late now.”
I nuzzled up against him. “Do you think they have someone else in mind for you, perhaps? Some Redoran noblewoman?”
“I doubt it. If they had, they would at least have introduced me to her by now. I think they believe I’m too young to marry.” He paused. “Besides, you
are a Redoran noblewoman.”
“Well… technically.” I knew I wasn’t kidding anyone with that one.
“And the Nerevarine besides,” he went on. “If Nerevar reborn is not good enough for them, who would be?”
I didn’t answer for a second or two. Varvur’s words had brought to mind something that had been niggling at me for quite some time.
“Varvur… doesn’t it ever bother
you?” I said at last. “That I’m the Nerevarine?”
“No,” he said, looking surprised. “At least, not any more.” He gave me a searching look. “And you? Does it bother you?”
“I… well, it’s just…” I was struggling to find words to express what I felt. “Ever since Red Mountain, it’s like everyone has gone completely insane. People are treating me like I really am
Saint Nerevar. And…”
I took a deep breath. “I just have this horrible feeling that someday, they’re all going to wake up and realise I’m not nearly as great as they thought I was. Even you.”
“No,” he said instantly. He wrapped his arms around me and held me close, kissing me almost fiercely. “No. I love Ada, not the Nerevarine.”
I felt tears prick my eyes. Neither of us said anything else, but we tacitly agreed to put off telling The Folks a little while longer. And of course, eventually the inevitable happened and Athyn found out.
I’d gone to Varvur’s room for ‘comfort’ during one of my occasional bouts of painful homesickness, and Athyn walked in on us. He didn’t actually catch us in bed together, thank Dibella – that would just have been too
much of a cliché – but he did find me sitting half-naked in Varvur’s lap, with his arms around me. He didn’t say anything, just stared at us for a moment and then closed the door again, but I think he realised we hadn’t been practising verb inflections this time.
I slid off Varvur’s lap, grabbing at my robe, and made for the door – but he caught my arm before I could get any further. “No, Ada, you go back to Bal Isra. I will talk to him.”
“It’s my job,” I said flatly, but he shook his head.
“No, let me. He’s my father, and it is my dishonour for keeping this from him. I should have told him earlier.”
Before I could protest he was hurrying off after his father, leaving me torn between following him or chickening out and heading off home. I hesitated for a few moments, then poked my head out of the door just in time to see them both disappear into Athyn’s study.
There wasn’t much to do except teleport back to Bal Isra. I felt guilty about leaving Varvur to face the music alone, but at the same time I couldn’t help feeling slightly relieved that the truth was out. Okay, so this was a slightly awkward way for it to happen, but surely a man as fair and reasonable as Athyn would come round eventually?
But my hopes were dashed when Varvur showed up at Indarys Manor the next morning. From the grim expression on his face, I guessed his father hadn’t reacted by breaking out the shein and discussing wedding presents.
“What happened?” I asked, dreading the answer.
“You know my father. He doesn’t get angry, he just…” Varvur broke off, sighing heavily. “He asked if the two of us were sleeping together.”
“And what did you say?”
“I told him that we were, of course. And then he asked why I hadn’t told him earlier, so I tried to explain – but I could see he was not happy about it.”
“What happened then?”
Varvur’s fists clenched. “He started… lecturing me. As if I were a child still. Telling me that I should be beyond the age of ‘infatuations’ with human women. That I should have more respect for you, and not make promises I couldn’t… keep.”
My jaw dropped. “Could you have believed it? I am not fourteen years old any longer! So… well, I am afraid I lost my temper a little.” He heaved another gusty sigh. “I told him that this was not an ‘infatuation’ and we were in love. And that I had made no promises to you, but that if I had, I certainly would not break them.”
“Well… that doesn’t sound so bad,” I said. “Maybe it’s just a misunderstanding. If we can persuade him that we’re really in love with each other – ”
Varvur was shaking his head. “There’s more. He started repeating lies he had heard about you – malicious gossip and slander. I would never have believed it of my father.”
?” That didn’t sound at all like Athyn. “What sort of lies?”
He waved a hand angrily. “They are not worth repeating! And so I said to him. I told him I wouldn’t listen to any more of it, and then I left.”
There was a long silence. I was beginning to see just how badly wrong I’d been when I blithely assumed Athyn would give us his blessing.
“What about your mother?” I asked. “Do you think she’ll be on our side?”
He shook his head again. “I doubt it. I don’t like to speak ill of my mother, but… she is prejudiced against humans. She likes you because you helped our family, but if my father doesn’t want me to marry an Imperial, she certainly would not.”
“So what do we do?” I said at last. “Varvur… I really wouldn’t want to get married without your parents’ approval. Especially your father’s. After the way he’s treated me, and everything he’s done for me… I just couldn’t.”
He nodded. “No, I don’t wish to either. I could never do that to my parents. I suppose we will just have to wait, and hope that they change their minds.”
So we did, and a bloody uncomfortable wait it was. We still had to meet in secret to avoid any publicity, but now we had to do it in the full knowledge that Varvur’s parents knew, and disapproved. In a way it was harder for me than for Varvur – not that he didn’t love his father, but to me Athyn was a friend and mentor, the man who’d made me everything I was today. I knew I’d disappointed him, and I felt terrible about it.
To make things worse, Athyn and I had to see each other practically every day to discuss business. He never actually said anything to me about Varvur, but I could sense the tension between us whenever we met – and to be honest, I couldn’t entirely blame him. I knew I couldn’t exactly be the daughter-in-law he’d always dreamed of.
Sometimes I found myself wondering if it was even worth it. There were so many practical problems in the way of my relationship with Varvur, and not just because of race and background. We came from totally different cultures, worshipped different gods... and then, of course, there was the issue of children. For some reason, the children of mixed-race marriages always take on the mother’s race – so any kids I had with Varvur would be Imperials, not Dunmer. They would grow old and die long before their grandparents, let alone their parents.
In the end, it might have been easier for both of us if we’d just given up and gone our separate ways. The only problem was that I loved him.
Things couldn’t go on like this, of course. Something had to give. But when the crisis came, it happened in a way I most definitely would not have expected.