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Saturday, August 20, 2011

XXXVIII - The Final Meeting

The following weeks passed in an unintelligible blur. There were so many things to do – visit the Urshilaku camp to tell Nibani of her triumph, post a letter to Caius Cosades, travel to all the councilors and thank them for their support, replenish all the potions they had used, confirm to Orvas Dren that the operation of the Ghostfence was no longer necessary. And everywhere she went, people approaching her, some only staring reverently, some throwing themselves into her arms, sobbing their thanks.
When there was at last a peaceful moment, it found Fen in her study in the guildhall of Vivec, studying herself in the mirror. It was almost the exact same as the first time she had met Vivec – her hair was braided neatly, the Robe of the Hortator hung perfectly on her frame, Moon-and-Star glinted on her finger. Except that for this meeting, she was planning on being far less intimidated.
She and Julan made their way through the darkening walkways of Vivec, speaking little. The cantons were mostly quiet save for a few patrolling Ordinators that shot Fen dark looks as she passed. They knew that the elimination of the Sixth House threat meant that Ordinators would not be needed and they would soon lose their positions. The slumbering city seemed to breathe deeply, as if relieved.
Just as it had been the first time, the long flight of stairs up to Vivec’s palace was unguarded, and they walked freely inside. The Warrior Poet floated placidly upon his plinth, watching them with his strange, wide eyes.
“The blight is gone, and we have survived,” he said as the door closed softly behind them. “Now we must dedicate ourselves to rebuilding the Temple. And you must dedicate yourself to your responsibilities as Protector of Morrowind.
“We have lost our divine powers, but not altogether. Some token of the people’s faith remains, and we shall dedicate it to rebuilding the Temple. Now that Dagoth Ur is gone, we can turn our energies to the more humble needs of the people. It is good, honest work, and I believe there is redemption in it.
“There are still issues to be resolved between the Temple and the Dissident Priests. And now that our greatest enemy is gone, we must reorganize the Temple to meet the needs of the people. We have less need of Ordinators, for example, and greater need of priests and healers and teachers. And we must find time to mourn and honor the dead.” Vivec’s eyes narrowed. “And for you, Fen, there is much to do. You still have Kagrenac’s Tools, potent weapons, and the wit and experience of a proven hero. The Tribunal and the Temple are happy to yield to you the duties of fighting the enemies of Morrowind. And now, I sense that you have questions for me, Nerevarine.”
“Yes,” Fen said at once, crossing her arms. “You made an oath to Azura. You swore not to use Kagrenac’s tools. Why did you break it?”
“Along with Lord Nerevar, and at his insistence, Almalexia, Sotha Sil, and I swore before our god of oaths at the time, the Daedra Lord Azura, never to employ the tools of Kagrenac for any purpose. We broke our oaths. We turned our backs on the old gods. I still see no compelling reason to worship any of the Aedra or Daedra. But, for the respect I held for Nerevar, and the respect I held for myself, I should never have betrayed my oath. Of all my life’s actions, I most regret that failure.” Fen considered this skeptically, but went on.
“Why did you try to kill me? This me – not Nerevar. Why did you persecute the Nerevarine when you knew I was destined to destroy Dagoth Ur?”
“Why did I try to kill you? Because you threatened the faith of my followers, and I needed their faith to hold back the darkness. And I thought you were my enemy – a pawn of the subtle Daedra Lord Azura, or a pawn of Emperor Uriel Septim, or a power-seeker like your father, or a simple fraud – perhaps a Hero – but not much of one if my faithful could destroy you. Now circumstances are altered. I needed you, and you needed me.”
“Then why did you try to suppress the Apographa?” Fen pressed. “Because it would make people question their faith in you?”
“Because it was such an unfortunate mixture of truth, falsehood, and speculation that I couldn’t afford to manage the confused reaction of our faithful,” he answered unconvincingly. “Any doubt whatsoever weakened their faith, and we needed their faith to give us the power to maintain the Ghostfence. In retrospect, perhaps we lost the faith of those we most needed while preserving the faith of the meek and indifferent. Perhaps a mistake was made. Who can say?”
I can say,” Fen said angrily. “I saw firsthand the effects of your godhood. It put people under the false impression of safety and it made them doubt me, when I was the one who would put an end to Dagoth Ur. The Apographa contained no lies, and you know it. You were afraid of what the people would think of you. I’ve read your sermons, Vivec, and you try to come off as one that takes immortality very lightly. You act as if it is nothing, and even now you pretend that you are not angered by the destruction of the Heart.
“You can tell me as many times as you want that you didn’t murder Nerevar, but after all you’ve done, the chances that I’ll believe you are thin. You broke your oath to Azura, turned away from the old gods, and schemed and murdered simply because of your own lust for power.” Fen narrowed her eyes. “When we first spoke, you talked to me as if Dagoth Ur was evil straight through. At the Battle of Red Mountain, when he was still Voryn Dagoth and an ally of Nerevar’s, he begged you not to use the tools. You may insist that he went mad under their influence, but he was the one trying to do right, trying to prevent you from causing all the destruction you have.
“Have you ever considered that the Blight, the Sixth House crisis – all of it was your fault? Tell me all the falsehoods you wish, Vivec, but I see right through you.” With that, Fen turned, yanked open the door, and stepped outside, slamming it on Vivec’s furious face.
“Gods, Fen,” Julan said brightly, following her down the long stairs of Vivec’s palace. “That was impressive.”
“It’s past time someone told him that,” she answered grimly. “And the rest of the Tribunal could do with telling as well.”
 “Fen,” Julan said slowly as they stepped on to the bridge onto the Temple canton. “You don’t think your father will hear about this and…come after you, will he?”
“I’m sure he’s heard about it already,” she replied softly. “But I doubt he’ll come after me. As long as I stay out of Mournhold, he’s happy.”
“You don’t sound very bitter about it.”
“I’m not,” she said truthfully. “I was thinking about this while we were in Dagoth Ur, Julan.” She stopped in the centre of the bridge, going to the edge to stare out at the water. “In the year that I’ve lived in Vvardenfell, I’ve felt more like this is my home than I ever did at the palace. I would only want to go back there again if I could be welcomed for…well, for me. In Mournhold, I was always an outsider.” She smiled, leaning on the edge of the bridge and letting the cool wind blow against her face. “Until that happens, I would much prefer to stay in Vvardenfell.” Fen looked back at Julan. “You go on and meet me in the guildhall, all right?” she said to Julan. “I want to think a bit.”
Saying the words she had been thinking for so long made them real, and any doubt about this statement she might have had was instantly gone. Fen looked up at the evening sky, slowly succumbing to night, Masser and Secunda rising side by side into the heavens. Directly above her, Azura’s star shone brightly, and she stood on the bridge watching it until it slowly faded into the night.

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