34 - Return to the Tower

"Is it true that Tullius is going back to Cyrodiil?" Elisif asked. "I'd heard that the Emperor left orders for his recall just before that unfortunate incident on the ship."

"We can't say for sure," I replied, "The assassin waited until we'd left, but we had discussed that idea with him, so I know that was his intention. Perhaps the murder was an attempt to prevent it?"

"I hadn't thought of it that way. But I doubt it. Tullius isn't that kind of man."

"Elenwen, however," I suggested.

"Good point. She had her plans disrupted enough when Ulfric went mad and attacked you. I wouldn't put anything past her. And the way the assassin is supposed to have killed him makes me think that even more."

"Oh, how was that?"

"I can't say that in public. We should discuss this in my chambers."

It appeared that the story was making its rounds among the nobles, and was probably leaking down to their servants, too. It was just too good not to be told, and of course, it would always be a question of "don't tell anyone else, but ..." which ensured that it would spread like wildfire.

"So we know the assassin was a woman, at least," I mused. "Did your informants have any other details?"

"Well, the general conjecture is that she might be either a Nord or an Imperial. That's just going by the late Emperor's apparent preferences. And the bigger, the more poison, the theory goes, which supports it being a Nord." Elisif glanced down at herself and added "I hope nobody thinks it was me."

"If they do, we'll blame everything on Sheogorath," I told her. "The problems in the Pelagius Wing were all his doing. It's a wonder you didn't come under his influence yourself."

Elisif got the point immediately. "So things can get back to normal around the Blue Palace on all fronts? No more Tullius hovering around, no more Madgod in the Pelagius Wing."

"And Torygg avenged, if you care to look at it that way," Zahra reminded her. "A bit of closure settles the mind, doesn't it?"

"I can attest to the departure of Sheogorath, if anyone questions it. They should believe the Dragonborn, especially as I'm daedra myself. If you need me to add anything about yourself, we can work that out."

"I'm sure Sybille will ask you about that. Falk and Bryling are part of the charade already, so I'll fill them in on the latest developments. We'll need to figure out whether I make a sudden or gradual recovery. We have both options, and it will depend on what we think the people expect.

"I think they've got to like the crazy woman running the show, so perhaps I'll have an excuse for an occaisonal relapse whenever I want to let my hair down a bit. That could be fun."

As expected, we arrived back at our tower long before we anticipated G'wen arriving. We had time to sit on the platform on the top of the tower, and watch dragons fly past on their way to ... whatever they were doing.

"Do they hunt? And if they do, what do they hunt?" Zahra asked.

"I'm not sure. I think they enjoy chasing the goats on the mountains, but whether that's just for the sport, or because they're hungry, I don't know. Mostly, at least I believe so, they're looking for their place in this world. They were all raised by Alduin just recently, with a few exceptions, and it all must have changed a lot since they were here last."

"A few exceptions? Who, other than Paarthurnax?"

"We only know that he waited for Alduin's return at the Throat of the World. Some of those we encountered at Skuldhavn may have been waiting there. Most, of course, were buried here in Skyrim."

We sat and just watched the landscape for a bit longer. And then, "When do you think G'wen will show up?"

"When she's ready," I replied. "And I think she will. After all, she did report back as we'd planned, or we wouldn't have heard all the stories about the Emperor's demise."

"So when she's ready to deal with us, you mean?"

I must have looked puzzled, because Zahra continued. "Well, we did last see her in rather intimate circumstances, and she's probably wondering if we do that all the time."

"We do, but I see what you mean. We haven't involved anyone else before."

"Right, and she hardly knows us. And even if she knows anything about Dremora, we aren't exactly typical."

"So she has no idea what to expect. Not that she did last time, either, but you know what I mean." I was beginning to understand what Zahra meant, too.

"Yes, last time she knew she'd run into something she hadn't anticipated, and had to make the best of the circumstances. The sort of thing an assassin expects, especially with a contract like that. She'd prepared for it as well as she could, and I think she handled it all rather well. So she's going to be as prepared as she can be for this time, too. Which is why I'm wondering what she expects. She knows that Titus won't be here, to turn to for guidance."

"If she thinks it all out logically, she'll probably suddenly appear stark naked again, and hope it all goes the same as last time," I suggested. "G'wen, if you're listening ..."

"Listening to what?" asked the voice coming up the stairs behind us. "The door wasn't locked, so I came looking for you. Oh wow! What a great view you have from up here! I'm surprised you didn't see me coming."

I told G'wen about watching the dragons, and as I said that, another soared along the valley, roaring his challenge to any other that might be near.

"I imagine you were travelling a bit more quietly than they do, too," Zahra remarked. "We didn't hear you on the stairs, either, until you spoke."

"Walking silently is a habit now," she admitted, "and I do tend to walk in the shadows, without thinking about it. Maybe I shouldn't be too surprised you didn't see me."

"Certainly not as surprised as you were last time, when we could see you," Zahra reminded her.

"Yes, I'd meaning to ask. How did you know to cast that spell of yours? Did I do something to tip you off? After Kothet blocking my arrow earlier, I was being extra-careful not to give myself away. It's uncanny."

"No, it was just dumb luck," we admitted. "Nothing you did."

"And just as uncanny was the way Titus took to me. I've used sex to get out of awkward situations before, but that was something different."

"Well that probably was something you did. And it's likely just to be the way you do things, like walking quietly in the shadows. Whatever, it was, he liked it."

I had to add. "And if the Emperor and a couple of dremora wasn't 'different', I'd want to hear what else you've been up to!"

G'wen giggled. "We're all just people when we're doing that." Then she thought a bit and added "But it did make it a bit harder to know how and when to do anything. I was really glad when you started it all off for me."

Since the sun was setting, and we only had one bed, Zahra invited G'wen to join us. She knew where this was leading, and I think she wanted that as much as I did.