Ok folks! Because you've waited patiently, I hereby give you a somewhat longer update. Even this one I will dedicate to Black Hand.....guess why??
. Also I'd like to thank my sweet editor for helping me as usual despite the fact that he might have better things to do!
Being home again was nice. The ones that cared had missed me for me and that made me feel good. Athyn looked happy and content even though I could spot some worry in his eyes; something bothered him but he did not tell me what it was. I on my part hoped it didn’t have anything to do with the fact that Seth and I had become so close.
What worried my beloved one turned out to be something complete different…
One morning, about two weeks after my returning home, Athyn took my hand as we were having our breakfast together;
“Serene, things are getting nasty within the Redoran community here in Ald’ruhn; the Archmaster is acting way over his limits, and he doesn’t even try to be discreet with his love-affairs, his daughter has abandoned Venim manor and has been staying with Varvur in Ebonheart. Fathasa Llethri was forced to leave home, because Garisa couldn’t stand the sight of her…”
Athyn sighed and looked sadly at me. He gently touched my chin and then kissed me.
“I will call for a formal council-meeting within the coming week, but the day after tomorrow the councilors, except the Archmaster, will come here for a preparatory pre-meeting. We have to discuss how to handle the situation. The Redoran honor is at stake, and I can’t just leave it as it is. I…I am sure you know what I’m talking about.”
I knew. That was the reason I spent those months at Fort Buckmoth, and I was indeed prepared, but scared to death.
“Do you want me to attend to that meeting in two days?” I had a slight hope Athyn would say no, but he just nodded.
“Yes you need to be there, as does Sethyas. We need to make sure everything will turn out as we wish.”
I spent a great deal of time readying myself the morning of the day of the preparatory meeting. Normally I did not pay much attention to clothing, but this morning I chose carefully. Skirt and blouse had to be in the right Redoran-coloring, as did the robe. I combed my hair and tied it back from my face with a broad red silk scarf. I was prepared- outwardly at least. My inner state did not bear thinking about.
“I bid you welcome, fellow councilors.” Athyn’s voice was low but crystal clear. He stood at the end of our big dinner table, one hand lightly touching its surface. We all sat quiet for a while, the assembled Redoran councilors; Miner Arobar, grumpy as always; Hlaren Ramoran, looking fairly happy, as if he had found some unexpected treasure; Garisa Llethri, like a broken man staring down at his hands; and Mistress Brara Morvayn, with a sardonic smile, on Athyn’s left side. Then there were Sethyas and myself. I could feel him pressing his knee against mine under the table; it felt good, a physical reminder that he was with me, no matter what might happen.
When it appeared that no one had anything to say, Athyn started again: “So Sethyas, I…”
Miner Arobar interrupted:
“Since when is Velas one of the Redoran Council? “ he muttered sourly.
“Do not worry about that,” Sethyas replied in a sharp tone, “We have more important things on the agenda today.”
“Sethyas is my personal assistant and thus an honorary member of the Redoran Council.” Athyn started to sound irritated.What is this all about?
I was uneasy now; the only thing that was to be decided was how to deal with Archmaster Venim and I knew what that action would be, knowledge, which made me feel nauseous.
“We know that two of the Great Houses of Vvardenfell now have named Trey of High Rock as Hortator, that is Great House Telvanni and Great House Hlaalu. Trey has been visiting the Redoran Councilors and also gotten their support, save one!” Sethyas stopped talking and looked at each of us.
“This can’t go on any longer; we need a Hortator who will unite the Great Houses, and we can’t let one man and his petty pride stand against it,” Brara Morvayn sounded clear and determined.
“It is just the tip of the ice berg; he’s been doing unspeakable things for a long time and it’s getting worse all the time,” Sethyas looked at me.
“We need to take out the Archmaster, and we need to do it the hard way because he won’t step down voluntarily.”
Athyn cleared his voice and said:
“Serene Catraso, you shall challenge Archmaster Bolvyn Venim to a duel to the death, to take place at Vivec Arena when Masser and Secunda are in the third quarter.”
There was silence, complete silence around the table.
I shivered, sweat running down my back; I knew this was my task but still it scared me terribly. My mouth was dry; I couldn’t speak so I just bowed my head in acceptance.Renie, I know you are scared, but you also know you can and will do this.
I looked up and met the dark red eyes of Sethyas Velas. I nodded, for I knew far too well what had been prophesized.
“For Nirn’s sake, Athyn! You can’t be serious? Letting a young woman do your fighting for you! What kind of coward are you?” Garisa Llethri spat, rising from the table to grab Athyn by his collar. Seth immediately stepped between them, putting his hand on Garisa’s chest.
“Calm down! This is how it’s going to be. Serene has been away for three months, preparing for this, it is prophesized by The Divines,” Sethyas gently made Garisa Llethri sit down again.
“We need to come to consensus in this matter; we have to agree that we need to take these actions in order to put things right in our House and also make sure we name our Hortator, Trey of High Rock. So are you with me?” Athyn looked at each of the councilors while uttering these words.
“Why of course Athyn, dear,” Brara Morvayn said in an almost amused voice. “I’ve wanted to teach that mer a lesson for a long time.”
“I’m with you; I’m just worried about who you chose to duel Venim,” Miner Arobar shook his head. “A woman, a skinny weak woman, dueling the Archmaster, that’s preposterous.”
“A woman challenging Venim might just do the trick,” smiled Hlaren Ramoran. “He’d never ever expect that, it’d probably stun him to lose. So of course Athyn, I’m all with you.”
“What about you, Garisa?” Athyn looked sadly at his old friend. “I’d expect you to be the one who really wants him…gone.”
“I will, I assure you, but I didn’t expect you to sacrifice your beloved one,” Garisa replied.
“Enough of this ranting! Serene is more than capable of taking Venim down, and so she will!”
Sethyas banged his fist on the table. “The conclusion is clear; we will proceed as said. Serene will challenge Bolvyn Venim to a duel to the death at the council meeting on Loredas. End of discussion!”
The following three days before the regular council meeting should take place were not very pleasant for me. My family did all they could to distract me from thinking of the coming ordeal but that did no good. On the contrary, it made me even more aware of all I stood to lose. I had lost one family already; I could face death more easily than the prospect of losing another. They, for their part did not want to think about it, but for me it would have been preferable…maybe.
Athyn and I tried to get some quality-time together, but that didn’t turn out well, due to his feeling so miserable. He actually felt sick and I was afraid he really would be taken seriously ill. But of course it was all in his mind. The evening before the council meeting he was very worried and his stomach was in uproar. I gave him a sedative potion, knowing he needed to get some sleep; it was vital that he was fit and sharp the following day. It was vital for me!
Since I could not sleep during the night before the meeting I spent some time with Sethyas; he was strong and secure and was one who really understood what I wanted. So we sat in my chambers, talking. I told him about my background, about Cyrodiil, about the prison and how I ended up in Vvardenfell. I told him about the Blades, the Emperor’s peculiar interest in me and about my time with the Ahemmusa. I also told him about Sedrane…
He told me that he also had been transferred from the Imperial Prison in Cyrodiil to Vvardenfell, he also had met Caius Cosades, he also had to do some killings…. but then again, he was an assassin.
“What I’ve told you so far is no secret; Athyn knows, and so do others, but what I will tell you now, Serene, is something that will have to stay between you and me. You remember I told you about Setsuna? My sister. I lost her, I lost her in a most gruesome way, and meeting you somehow made me pretend I got her back…or at least the incarnation of her, but you’ll understand…”
I got us a bottle of brandy; this was going to be a long night, I could tell by the looks of Seth, as he sat beside me on my bed, took a deep breath and started talking;
“I am a member of the Morag Tong as you know and once I got a writ to assassinate Durus Marius, a leader in the Dark Brotherhood. Morag Tong was at war with the Brotherhood at that time. I naturally did not hesitate to take the mission. To make a very long story short, I shot him with a poisoned arrow, but before he died he told me this story:“Ah yes, I know your name; we’ve been watching you since you were a bandit in Cyrodiil, quite a shame too. You could have been quite an asset to our organization. Still, it looks like we got the better half though! Hahaha! That’s right! Setsuna is a Dark Sister now! Not only that, when we told her that you’d been lying to her all these years, she broke down! She hates you Sethyas! She’s renounced the blood you two share, and even now she has come to Vvardenfell to prove her loyalty to Sithis by killing you! It’s almost…poetic, and most certainly ironic. Had you simply told her your true nature you might have saved her from her dark destiny! And you will die Sethyas. I have not seen an Assassin with her talent in many years, as much as you may think yourself good, she is better. And once the Morag Tong’s golden boy is dead, we can finish our mission here, and eliminate the servants of Mephala in Sithis’ name.”
Sethyas squeezed my hand for a while before he continued;
“I am not sadistic, so I will not describe how I finished Durus Marius. Indeed there are things worse than death, and I made certain that he suffered as many of them as I could think of before he finally begged me for death. The world has become a cruel place indeed. Am I contributing to it? Or am I taking it away piece by piece? The hardest part by then was not knowing of Setsuna´s choices. Could I forgive her for joining the Dark Brotherhood?”
“I suppose you could Seth, if you had wanted to,” I said silently
“Ald Sotha, a Daedric shrine to the northwest of Vivec, has been the base of operations for the Night Mother herself.” Seth continued. “I was to kill Severia Magia, leader of the force that had plagued us for all those weeks. I was also told it was possible that Setsuna herself might even be there. This target was the most important of all my Writs and special duties. This was the Night Mother of the Dark Brotherhood.”
Sethyas shook his head as if the memory was too painful to even think about. I stroked his hair gently and waited for him to continue.
“I fired several shots at her, some arrows hitting their mark, others she dodged effortlessly. She then reached out a leather-gauntleted hand and grabbed me by the throat and with her other hand twisted my wrist, my glass blade falling out of my hand.
Holding me secure with brute strength, she stabbed my thigh, and I fell still, unable to move.”
“She ripped off the dark mask and started to taunt me. What she didn’t expect was my urge to stay alive; I managed to get one hand free and that was all I needed. I stabbed her left arm with my Jinkblade, the razor sharp glass edge easily bit through her leather armor, and the enchantment paralyzed her. Then I unsheathed my Daedric katana, and brought it down in a ferocious swing to her neck.
So now I would be free to find Setsuna, and reunite with her at last.”
Seth buried his face in his hands, took a sip of brandy and continued;
“Right before I reached out to open the door to leave Ald Sotha, a shadow extended from my left with a speed that did not leave me time to react. A sharp pain filled my gut, and I fell to my knees once more, but this time in weakness, in pain. The already dark shrine became darker, as I felt the sharp pain leave my stomach. I looked up into a pair of beautiful red eyes that I had not seen in many months. ’I love you, Setsuna.’ I said weakly as the world faded away around me…”
I gasped for breath; I did not see that coming, not at all. I embraced him, kissed him and held him tight. Tears flowed down my face; there was no way I could stop them.
“You know Renie, being dead is strange; you can still feel the pillow underneath your head, likely in your coffin. And you can feel the dressing on your wound. And the dull aches in your body from a potent poison from a hateful sister, who turns out to be a better assassin than you,” Sethyas mumbled with his face deep in my hair.
I wasn’t sure I wanted to hear more, but then again I needed to know the rest of the story.
“Apparently I was watched all the time,” Seth’s voice was hoarse and sad. “The Blades were following my actions the whole time as it turned out. Caius Cosades and Nine-Toes spotted Setsuna but couldn’t stop her from stabbing me…But right afterwards they caught her, and…and prevented her from finishing her work”
“They…they killed her?” I whispered, still clinging tight to his chest.
Sethyas nodded; sadness overwhelmed him and he could say no more. As I sat there with him so close to me, a strange heat came over me, I felt his heart beat faster and his breath became heavier. I lifted my head and looked straight into his eyes and everything around me faded away.What is happening to me…to us?
I …I don’t know, but please stay…please Renie!
I don’t remember how long this tense moment lasted but it seemed like an eternity to me before he finally spoke ant the world came back again;
“It was Nine-Toes that killed her; he had to, it was either her or me and they wanted me alive. I immediately tried to attack Caius; I thought he’d betrayed me and at that moment I wanted him dead. Of course I had no strength to accomplish that…then. I merely screamed at Caius, screamed out that he had promised me to spare her. But then an hour later, when I had regained my senses, I understood that it was my fault. She became what she was because of me. Because I lied.”
After he finished we sat silent for a while. The Manor was quiet, and everybody was asleep, some with and some without my help.
Then something happened…that wasn’t supposed to happen; it was not planned but it happened anyway, for better and for worse…
I put down the quill again. My back aches; I still feel bad remembering that night. I do not know if there were any consequences; I really can’t tell, but I’ll always wonder…Anyway, it will remain a secret, my secret, until now perhaps.
I walk through the silent rooms, unable to find peace. So many nights I have spent writing my story without hesitation, but tonight I just feel unable to continue, I have to ponder about this memory, I have to try and seek answers that may never be found.