A Truceby Hank and Greenie
Sunset, 14th of Sun’s Height, 4E208
Southern Druadach Mountains, West of Falkreath Hold
Gregor watched her from a distance before he mustered up the courage to approach.
She was the one who deserved his apologies the most, he felt. In stark opposition to the beliefs of her people, Gregor had forced her to become a part of his darkness when she’d killed the Dwemer torturer, thus handing his soul over to the Imperial necromancer. He had laughed in the face of her horror. The memory made him wince and he clenched his fists. After a few more seconds of deliberation, Gregor squared his shoulders and made his way through the tents until he stood opposite Sirine, who had recently returned from the provision run upon Raelynn’s request.
“Sirine,” he began and immediately felt lost for words, all too aware of her hatred for him -- worse than that which Gaius had felt, for hers was personal. “I’m sorry.” It was all he could think of. It was all that he deserved to say. “I’m so sorry.”
It was hard not to jerk at the sound of his voice, but years of forced habit to quell what she felt helped Sirine look quite calm as she lifted her gaze away from the orcish dagger she had finished wiping clean; it had been high time since she gave her beloved blade a little care, and after her chat with a few others around camp, she had decided to take a moment apart by her tent tondo just that.
Though the expression on her face read neutral, the Imperial Redguard couldn't help but tighten her grip around the hilt of the blade out of instinct, but she did no more than slide it back at its place by her waist, not feeling the need to do anything more with it. Dark eyes at last took in the sight of the armoured man, a now familiar sight despite everything
"Gregor." The words fell from her lips like stones dropping into water. "A bit of a surprise to see you." And hear that.
“I know,” Gregor said. He sank down on his haunches, his arms resting on his knees and his hands clasped together in front of his chest, like a man deep in thought. “I needed time. We all did, I think.” After a short pause, he added: “A lot has changed.”
"Clearly," Sirine replied, her hand motioning towards the man- lich
, she reminded herself. She didn't quite mean to sound as cold as she was, but it was hard to push away the memories of her morning nightmare.
Still, it seemed everyone was trying to make peace with one another, and perhaps it was time she... tried.
"You're right about needing time," she replied, sighing a little as she sat down in front of her tent, looking up at the imposing presence. Whether he was sincere or not, he certainly sounded
it. "I still see that day in the prison in my dreams, except in there my friends are dead and I'm alone." Her mouth tightened for a split second before relaxing. "Well, not quite alone, you're there too. I won't lie, I was scared that day, and there isn't much that scares me."
Gregor looked down at the earth, bowing his head in defeat. “You have nothing to fear from me,” he said, and his tone betrayed the pain he felt. “But I understand.” His voice dropped into a whisper. “It is a frightening thing. It scares me now, when I remember.”
It annoyed her seeing him act so... humble. Where was the man who had laughed in her face? Or the person who had been so indignant the first time they had talked? It seemed to Sirine that becoming a lich had put a dampener on the darkness she had associated with him. Where she could see only black seemed only shades of grey now.
"You may be right," she agreed, "but the mind has a life of its own, I've come to learn." She paused a moment before motioning towards the ground. "Sit down, it's awkward just standing and talking." She didn't wait for him to comply before continuing. "So... am I correct to assume you've talked to Zaveed as well?"
Gregor did as she asked and made himself comfortable on the forest floor, spreading out his cloak around him. He pulled up his knees and wrapped his arms around his legs, an infantile position fully at odds with his armored, timeless appearance. “I have. He appears to have taken Raelynn’s words to heart and we settled our differences for good. I was amazed by his forgiveness, truth be told. It is not something I expected. Nor is it something I expect from you,” he said. “Your anger, if you still feel it, is justified.”
"I'm not surprised at all," she replied, smiling wryly even if it only lasted a moment. "Zaveed had made it clear that he didn't wish to hold grudges, and it was due to him that I stayed my blade and did nothing more than carry anger and hatred in my heart." She looked at Gregor, gritting her teeth. It was so hard to feel the same burning anger she had then, seeing this defeated person before her.
"I don't know what I feel," she added, shaking her head. "I want to feel angry, I want to hate you... but at the same time I know if you hadn't tried to kill him, I would never have met Zaveed... that's something I don't wish to fathom at this moment in time. I don't know if it's enough to forgive what happened in the prison but..." She shrugged. "I suppose me not wishing you were dead and off the face of Tamriel is a start?"
“It is,” Gregor agreed.
He fell silent after that and found himself looking up at the sky. The sun was setting and the sapphire blue of the heavens was streaked through with orange fire. It was a beautiful sight. Somewhere in the forests around them, a lark began to sing.
“I did it for me,” the lich said eventually as his gaze returned to Sirine. “I told everyone I did it for my family, my brother and sister, but I did it for me. I was scared. I watched my father die to a horrible disease and he passed that disease on to his children. He put me on the path to necromancy, the desperate last words of a dying man, in the hope that I could use it to save myself and my siblings from that fate. But when it came to the Ideal Masters, and the souls they needed… I enjoyed it. I was good at it. To hold the power to condemn someone to an eternity of suffering…” Gregor shifted on the earth and sighed. “How could I ever die, with that kind of mastery over death?”
It was very strange. She didn't like what he had done, she hated necromancy- the idea of dead people walking around only to have to be felled again made her sick, not to mention the trapped souls- yet hearing his tale of selfishness caused something inside to twitch. Sirine knew that feeling he was talking about very well. It was the same feeling she had felt well up within her when she forced that man so long ago to give up his ship before she sliced his throat. The satisfaction that she'd had power over his life and death had been intoxicating, and she had found that same bloodlust later again when she would send herself and her crew to attack other seafaring vessels.
"I hate that I can relate to you," she replied after a moment of quiet, shaking her head before looking at the lich. "But it seems I can, despite the differences in the paths our lives took. I took my fair share of lives, some deserved it, many did not. I felt I was dispensing justice, but if I really was, my sword should have been pointed elsewhere rather than the directions I took it." She looked away from Gregor, her eyes settling instead on the hollow of her lap, mouth drawn tightly. "It's easy to blame everything else... it's hard to see the truth that most everyone is always looking out for themselves first. I blamed everyone, from my family to the gods for the sour turns in my life, but ultimately I was the one who chose what I did."
Gregor smiled at that. “Hear, hear,” he said and nodded. “It is good that you have already realized that truth now. I had to die to for that to happen. I began to see a lot of things more clearly after I came back. It is all too easy to think that you are only a monster because the world has turned you into one, and that the things you’re doing are just necessary evils.”
He tilted his head as he looked at her while she stared into her lap. In the span of a few minutes, Gregor felt like he had come to understand much more about the woman sitting opposite him. “What now?” he asked softly. “Do you want to do better as well? Make amends?”
"I'm not too sure about that," Sirine replied, looking up once more. "I've never really been that sort of person. For the time being, I am staying with this group... well, Zaveed, truthfully, and he seems bent on staying and seeing all of this-" she motioned in general with a hand- "through to the end. The dwemer took from us both the only families we had left, so perhaps a little vengeance against them isn't the worst thing to partake in. In any case..." She smiled once more, and though it was small, it was a sincere one. "My path is alongside his, and if it ends up with me making amends and becoming a better person, so be it."
She raised an eyebrow as her gaze returned to the lich once more, curious. "And? What about you?"
“See this through to the end,” Gregor echoed in agreement. “Cyrodiil is my home. What they did to the Imperial City is unforgivable. After that… well, my brother and sister still need to be cured of their hereditary disease, and this undeath of mine is nothing more than a half-life.” He shook his head. “It won’t do for them. I need it to stay ahead of Arkay’s judgement, but they are good people.”
After a short pause, he continued. “And after that
... I will build Raelynn a home.”
Sirine nodded, and for the first time in a very long time she thought of her mother, wondering if she was still in Anvil or perhaps somewhere else. A small part of her still felt some affection towards the woman; she hoped her mother was safe, wherever she was. "A home for Raelynn. I would say if anyone deserves one, it's probably her. None of this could have been easy for her." It still amazed her that the healer had managed to take a necromancer as her beloved, but then, hadn't people look at her
with narrowed eyes for being friends with Zaveed?
Gregor opened his mouth and closed it again. The fact that Raelynn had delighted in Gregor’s darkness, up to a point at least, was perhaps not his secret to tell. “Don’t be fooled,” he said, his tone light, “she likes her bad boys.” Turning it into a joke was a decent middle ground. “But you’re right. That day, after the prison, was rough on her.” The memories flooded back and Gregor fell silent. His hands grabbed each other tightly.
"It would certainly seem so." Sirine still didn't quite know everyone well, and she doubted she would if she was being honest with herself, so it seemed more than possible that there were details about the others that she didn't know. The same could be said for herself though.
"I was the one who had told Daro'Vasora." Sirine decided there was no reason to keep that little tidbit a secret any longer. "I... may have lost my temper a little in my defense of Zaveed. Truth be told, I had thought Daro'Vasora of all people would have known your secret. This group had seemed so... close knit, it was hard to imagine something so great having been hidden for so long."
Gregor blinked. “It was you?” he asked, surprised. A few seconds passed and a soft chuckle emanated from his helmet. “I guess I could have known. Yes, I went to great lengths to keep my activities and my motives hidden from the others. They’re good people, Sirine. Most of them would not have tolerated me in their midst if they knew. The only reason I’m still here is because the situation is rather desperate.” He shrugged. “Better the devil you know.”
"I still find good is a rather relative term," Sirine muttered, shaking her head a little. "They were
good enough to let you stay among them, the same way I suppose they let myself and the other two remain in your group." She distinctly recalled Daro'Vasora mentioning having to think about letting Zaveed stay with them. "There are many who would have tossed you to the wolves- most people would have, or finished you off. No offense, just stating the obvious. The fact that you're here speaks of their magnanimity I guess." She let out a short laugh. "It's strange that good would have shunned you at one point, yet good is what has kept you now with these people you seem to care for."
“I wouldn’t say that was a matter of good,” Gregor said. “In Gilane, for example, it would have been in their best interests to put me down or to hand me over to the Poncy Man and his killers. But things had changed so much, for the worse, by the time we reached the oasis and the gathering of the tribes, that putting a violent end to me might have jeopardized their position with the nomads, or sabotaged their chances of success against the Dwemer.” He spread his hands apologetically. “I don’t mean to sing my own praises too much, but I did defeat Zaveed and we need bodies now more than ever. No, the goodness of these people is in how they treat and support each other, and the strength of their conviction in the face of a much more powerful and tyrannical enemy. How they dealt with me was just pragmatism.”
"Perhaps I'm thinking a little too much from my own experiences and how I would have dealt with the situation," Sirine admitted. "She asked me what I would do; I told Daro'Vasora that my way of dealing with dissension involved a blade to the throat... so you can see where we would have differing views. Believe me, despite seeming- well, being
all in arms about Zaveed, I knew very well that if someone killed him, it would have been deserved. Oh, I would have been angry, I would have wet my blade and coloured it red, but I would still have understood why
. It's why I feel that they are rather... merciful."
“They’re only people,” Gregor said. “I think you and I both do whatever it takes to win. I have killed people that got in my way that didn’t deserve it. Some people that thought they could trust me, even, but when they threatened to impede my quest, to slow me down…”
He let those words hang in the air for a few seconds. “But most of the people here aren’t like that. I was a friend to them. We fought together, bled together, traveled together. Admitting to yourself that the man you’ve traveled with is a monster that should be executed is hard when you thought that man was your friend for weeks. They can use my help, but it also helps to put their hearts at ease to think that I am not beyond redemption,” Gregor said and shrugged. “I guess it’s a little bit of both. All I can do now is strive to not take their mercy for granted, and to make sure they don’t come to regret their decision.”
Sirine couldn't help but smile at that. "Seems like you and him have more in common than we all thought, hm?" She figured the 'him' was obvious and so didn't feel the need to clarify who she was talking about. "That has been something I've heard from him since I met him at the docks, not wishing to take Raelynn's mercy for granted." Her mouth twisted sardonically before relaxing. "It's a long way to forgive a man who tortured and hurt those you care about, but as you said, the two of you have made your peace, and the rest of your group has lived up to what you called them the first time we spoke- good people."
She shrugged lightly and let out a soft sigh. "If they can do that for Zaveed, then I can at least accept your apology. I absolutely detest that I was made part of that perverse act, but..." She struggled to find her words, her hands clenching and loosening before she sighed yet again, as if attempting to rid herself of the negativity inside. "... it's the past now."
“I know,” Gregor replied, his voice low and laced with apology. “If it’s any consolation… that knife-eared bastard deserved it. He would have done the same to your brother. Now he can never hope to return to Tamriel a second time.”
The idea made her heart twist painfully. "I know," Sirine managed, her hand inadvertently reaching up to clutch at the septim resting beneath her throat, as if it would lend her some solace. "Bakih deserved none of what happened to him. I only hope he finds peace and tranquility." Her gaze hardened. "That necromancer paid for what he did, but he was just one person. They sunk my ship and killed my companion mercilessly. Until they're gone... there's no returning to life as it was- as it can be."
He nodded. “We can both agree on that.” Gregor’s eyes observed Sirine intently from inside his helmet. The sun continued to set even lower, bringing out the northern light inside of them and restoring some manner of expression to the otherwise featureless steel slate of his visor. “You won’t rest until you’ve had your revenge,” the lich said, and while his voice was barely more than a whisper, it resonated in the dusk like the sound of a bell being struck. “I understand that too.”
"It's easier to forgive others than oneself sometimes." Sirine's expression eased just a touch. "Whether it's right or wrong, I feel responsible for all the troubles Bakih's been through, and this was the last straw... no more. Justice for him, revenge for my crewmates... perhaps, eventually, for the world?" She laughed bitterly. "I'm still working on that." Breathing in deeply, she stood up in a fluid manner, finally letting go of her coin. Her eyes lifted to look at the sky, and she allowed herself a wry smile.
"I am happy we had this talk," she admitted as she looked away from the two moons, her eyes resting on Gregor. "I feel a little at ease, as odd as it sounds. So thank you." Her hand lifted to rub at the back of her neck, looking out in the distance, as if searching for somebody.
“You’re welcome. That’s what I set out to do, so I’m glad to hear you’re feeling better,” Gregor said with an invisible smile. He did not fail to notice that she was looking for something, or someone -- probably Zaveed, he mused -- and he waved dismissively with his hand. “Don’t let me keep you, Sirine.”
The smallest look of sheepishness crossed over her face, and she nodded, unable to keep a small chuckle from leaving her lips. "Farewell then, Gregor." She gave him a parting nod before turning on her heel and setting out. Perhaps this time her sneaking would be better than a khajiit's sense of hearing.
He watched her go in stillness. After she had disappeared from sight between the other tents, Gregor looked down at the earth below him. A wooden spoon, probably accidentally discarded here after being used to eat a hot meal, stared up at him, and he reached down to pick it up. He turned it over in his hands for a while, otherwise motionless, his helmet an impassive mask. The sun was really low now and the rays of light that penetrated the forest far enough to reach him threw long shadows behind him, like pools of spreading darkness. Gregor gripped the spoon with both hands and looked back up at where he had seen the last of Sirine’s back retreat from sight.
The spoon snapped with the sound of a gunshot that echoed throughout the woods.