Nyx, to her sister
I couldn’t stay long in Rivenspire – not only is it crawling with vampires, but everything about the place felt gloomy and creepy. Maybe it’s the rain. Fortunately, I had a good excuse to leave. King Emeric’s wife is the daughter of King Fahara’jad of Alik’r, and she asked me to take a message to him.
The heat off the Alik’r sand was such a damn relief, I can’t even say. It wasn’t how either of our parents wanted it, but for better or worse, I grew up a child of the desert. And on that note…
Please tell Mother I understand now, why she feels as she does about the risen dead. We have disagreed so often about her customs – our customs – and I thought I would never be able to understand why she is so unhappy when I talk about slaying the dead and putting them back to rest. It seemed to me – and yes, Papa is to blame for my Imperial outlook on this – that not only was there no harm in killing the dead, not like with a person, but is in fact, a thing to celebrate, a little less evil in the world, a soul laid back to rest. I arrived in Sentinel to find the docks overrun with undead, and I must admit I was not kind to the King’s soldiers, who were refusing to cut them down. Lives were at risk, and I thought the soldiers were cowards.
Then I met the Ash’abah of Alik’r, and now I understand.
I met with King Fahara’jad, asked him about the situation at the docks, and he told me his people would never tolerate a King who gave his soldiers an order to dishonor the dead. Then he spoke of the Ash’abah, who are outcasts because they bear the burden of striking down undead when necessary.
As he described them, all I could think of was us, our family. How Papa raised us to protect the Empire and her people, even if we can’t truly be a part of the society we’re fighting to protect. I left King Fahara’jad and went directly to the Ash’abah camp, determined to earn their respect, perhaps even the right to stand with them. I arrived to find their leader, Marimah, dying of poison.
He had seen my arrival in a vision – it should have surprised me, but it felt oddly right that I was expected. It should have been shocking to learn Marimah had already begun preparations for an initiation ritual to induct me into the tribe, a woman he had never met, and yet I have to say the inevitability of it felt like the Divines guiding both our actions. I had made the journey from the castle to his camp as fast as I could, as though I had known time was short. Marimah’s dying wish was that I be initiated into his clan, and he passed while I was completing the ritual.
The initiation involved a potion that caused me to re-live the past, as mages sometimes do when they need information . I spent the vision looking through the eyes of a warrior prince whose father’s corpse had been raised by a necromancer. He could not strike his own father’s body, it was not only forbidden but abhorrent to him, and I could feel his revulsion as if it were my own. For the first time, I understood Mother’s perspective. But despite his aversion to harming the body of his honored dead, the prince also could not stomach the thought of leaving his father as a vile abomination and puppet of the necromancer.
Something had to be done. Someone had to do it.
In this vision of the past, my brother (the prince’s brother), Haquin, gave me the choice to be the one to strike down their father’s body and return it to the grave, and accept exile as the consequence of breaking tribal law. The other option was to order Haquin to do it, exile him, and take the throne myself.
Of course you know which choice I made. I don’t want to be melodramatic, but I can honestly say it felt as though my entire life had been a preparation for that choice. All I could think of was Papa, agreeing to lose his name, land, and wealth for a crime he didn’t commit in order to protect the Empire. In the vision, my brother – the new King – apologized as he exiled me. I couldn’t help but wonder if anyone apologized to Papa. Haquin praised my courage, but it didn’t feel like bravery; I’ve grown up in exile, and I know there are worse things.
I didn’t tell you before, but I recently went by our old estate in Cyrodil. I was doing some scouting work for the army and was too near not to look. Mother would be heart-broken to see it now; it’s in ruins. An Oblivion gate had opened by the stables, and the bones of the household littered the rubble that used to be our home. If Papa had not been exiled, those bones would be ours. Fate is a twisted thing, and the Divines see further than we do.
Tell Mother… tell her I don’t blame her for being bitter, sometimes. I was just a kid, you don’t remember the estate at all, and Papa made the decision. Of all of us, Mother had the least control and lost the most, and I know Grandfather wasn’t gentle when we arrived on his doorstep in Hammerfell in disgrace. I know how he still talks about Papa – calls him a shifty, lawless Imperial thief, speculates about the women he must be with all the time he’s not at home. He has no idea how many times Papa has risked his life for others or how much good he has done in the world.
I’ve gotten off track. Just tell Mother I understand better, and I’m sorry I didn’t make it any easier for her. I’m especially embarrassed about all the times I called her names and ran away from home, trying to follow Papa when he left on missions. Tell her I’m sorry for that, too.
And when Papa makes it home, tell him… tell him I love him.