Of wine and pain
A soft crunch of dry grass punctured silence as footsteps approached from behind. "Good evening, friend. Did not expect to meet you here. I thought you already left."
Annarath took a long sip from a bottle of wine, closed her eyes, and let out a sigh. "Those were some... rough days. Now I'm taking my time. What are you
doing here? I thought you weren't allowed to leave Mages Guild basement."
Fennorian chuckled and sat on the ground beside her. "Went out for herbs and some fresh air. You don't mind company?"
"No, I don't mind your company. How are you after... everything that's happened?"
"I'm fine. Mostly. My mind is still a bit uneasy about what happened when we fought harrowfiends. And, frankly, something still hurts after Tzinghalis... after what he did. Not sure if it's a physical feeling".
"Tzinghalis..." Annarath rolled the name on her tongue like a ripe berry. "His death was too easy."
"Don't." Fennorian frowned. "You are better than that. "
Annarath let out a stifled laugh. "I'm so much worse."
Fennorian raised his brow in a silent question.
"Sometimes things that must be done are not good things to do."
"I believe saving the world outweighs this. You are a hero. And my... " Fennorian hesitated. "My friend."
"It's not safe to have me as a friend." Annarath pretended not to notice that pause. "In my line of work you don't really get to pick your allies, and aside from that, I'm affiliated with some people, who are not exactly law-abiding or even generally nice."
"I'm not ready for the consequences of telling you. You'd hate me. And most likely end up murdered." Annarath took another sip. "I have to side with enemies, who happen to be enemies of my other enemies even if they are no less of a threat to the mortals."
"I'm not one." Annarath rubbed her forehead in frustration.
"Ah, so that's what it is."
"It was obvious that you are not just a Dunmer the moment I first saw you in the Unhallowed Grave, and it piqued my curiosity, of course, but I decided that asking straight away what kind of being you are would be... uncouth."
"Uncouth?" Annarath laughed. "Oh, Fennorian. Always caring about decorum."
"So... now, when we are not complete strangers anymore..."
"No. I... I'm sorry, but I'm not ready to discuss this also. Not yet." She felt as if touched by a cold gust of wind. "I'm not trying to push you away, Fennorian, but... "
He turned to her, very serious, almost grim. "You are." He then smiled softly. "But it's the most unenthusiastic attempt I've ever seen. I understand. I do have some dark secrets of my own, after all."
Annarath chuckled and handed him the bottle. "Want some?"
They sat for some time, quietly sharing the wine as blue hour crept on, bloomed, and slowly faded into darkness. At last, Fennorian broke the silence.
"How have you
been? What is bothering you?"
Annarath hesitated, biting her lip. "Nightmares of Tzinghalis's tower. Of being too late," she murmured bitterly.
Fennorian gave her a long look.
Annarath shrugged. "You were hurt there, not me. It's like I stole those from you and cannot complain now."
"You need to get used to the fact that I'm not in danger."
"But you are! Rada al-Saran is still out there! I just... " Annarath sighed and nudged dead leaves with her boot. "I'm terrified of you joining all the other people I didn't save. All those people..." Names and faces flooded her memory. She swallowed, and it hurt. "All those people who are gone because... because I wasn't strong enough to fight without their sacrifice. Like Darien. Or Abnur. Or Verandis."
"My darling Annarath." Fennorian took her hand. "Please, don't blame yourself. You are
strong enough. You are the strongest, most valiant, most—"
"Looks like you are drunk."
"I care about you, my friend. And I'll try my best to stay alive, I promise"
"Thank you." Annarath took a deep breath. Air was fragrant with smells of drying grass, fallen leaves, and approaching winter.
"What are you going to do now? Leaving to save some other part of Tamriel or staying in Solitude a bit longer?" asked Fennorian.
"I might stay," Annarath said softly, "You need help with the netherroot?"
"That would be very kind of you, but that's not why I asked. I just..." He moved, causing dry grass to rustle.
Silence hung once again. From their vantage point, lights of Solitude were visible, and behind it peacefully glistened the vast expanse of the sea.
"I'm glad that you are still here."
It was already dark, but Annarath felt that Fennorian smiled.