No one recognized the old woman as she hurried through Solitude’s marketplace, though she wore fine steel armor and carried herself with the bearing of an experienced warrior. It had been a long time since she’d been to Solitude - at least twenty years - but not being known was not her concern. She only hoped the person she sought was here.
Weaving through the crowd, Lydia made it through the market and began to run, ignoring the protest of her old bones. Somehow, she knew this errand would be the last she would be able to perform for her Thane, one way or another.
Finally she stopped in front of one of Solitude’s tallest and most elegant homes, Proudspire Manor. She was shaking as she climbed the steps. The man who lived here had to help her, or she was lost. There was nothing else she could think of to do.
Grasping the heavy brass ring on the door, Lydia knocked with all her might, beginning to weep as she did. “Sir Chac! Sir Chac! Please, open the door! I need your help!”
It was with incredible luck that the old warrior had come across the manor being occupied; most often than not these days the only souls that tread in that house were that of Chac’s descendants, his younger family making their home there in search of an education in Solitude. The city was far from what it was 50 years ago, strife had transformed Solitude and a warlike youth culture altered all inner workings of the artful society.
No answer at the door, Lydia’s bones ached as she beat her fists on the door in a last resort for help, she needed someone- and there was only one person left who had the wits to help. Long moments go by that feel like an eternity, and it brings the old woman to her knees in grief. If Chac wasn’t here, she feared her Thane would not survive the coming days.
That is when the gods decided to aid her. The man who opened the door was not Chac, but it was a face she had seen often before. A Dunmer dressed in a sophisticated style peeked a red gaze through the crack in the door, and he was shocked to see who cried before him-
“Sir Teldryn!” she cried, her voice ragged with pain. The Dunmer lifted her from the ground, steadying the once flawless beauty to her feet again and bringing her inside, his heart pounding with uncertainty. “Chac. He needs to be here… my Thane- he’s!”
“He’s here, don’t you fret. But keeping your head is the first thing we need to do, Lydia.” Sero tried to calm her, seeing how nothing could stop her. “Sirius, is he in danger?” Teldryn instantly thought of what ‘danger’ meant when it came to Sirius, and if Chac was going to be involved Teldryn knew the Bosmer he’s grown to adore would be endangered as well. He tread carefully.
“Worse… much worse.”
“Tell me, before you tell Chac. He’s…not been himself lately.”
Lydia could hardly bear to say it, but she was at her wit’s end. She clutched at Teldryn’s shirt, her panicked gaze focused on his face. “Thane Sirius needs help.” Tears rolled down her cheeks, and she was unable to stop them. “Vorstag… Vorstag has died.”
“Died?” Teldryn’s mind reeled. He had known the Nord was getting on in years - he must have been, what, in his eighties? - but he had always somehow thought Vorstag would live forever. He tried his best to calm Lydia, handing her a kerchief and leading her to a chair.
Sobbing, Lydia related the story. “H-he passed away a few days ago. He wasn’t hurt, just… it was time. T-Thane Sirius and I knew he must g-go, and my Thane was with him when he passed… the priest of Arkay came from Falkreath, he performed all the proper rites and took the b-b-body to the Hall of the Dead… I thought Thane Sirius was bearing it well, he was very quiet… but after the priest departed, he…” she bit her lip hard enough to bleed.
“He what?” Teldryn asked, aghast.
“He… he’s gone insane,” Lydia whispered, twisting the hanky violently. “I-I don’t know what to do! I-I’m all alone with him…. I…”
“What do you mean, ‘insane’?” Teldryn asked through numb lips.
Lydia sniffled. “Mad. He’s been screaming. Crying. Smashing things. Swearing. I can’t get him to eat or drink. He doesn’t sleep. H.. he….” She was embarrassed to say it. “He… doesn’t bathe. F-fouls himself.” She was ashamed on behalf of her Thane, but desperate for help. “Please,” she begged. “Sir Teldryn, please. I need to see Sir Chac. He’s the only one I can think of to help. I- I’ve locked my Thane in the house so he can’t get lost… he doesn’t quite remember where he is. But I don’t know how long the lock will hold.”
This was a situation they needed to remedy quick; all else could wait when someone as important to Chac as Sirius was on the verge of losing his life. If there was one man out there who could understand the depth of what Sirius’ endless pain must feel like, it’s Chac. Teldryn was quick to try and calm the hysterical woman, but before he could have any chance at making things right, the Bosmer in question descended the stairs with a curious frown.
“I thought we promised each other not to bring any guests in, Tel-…” The sight of the once young maiden seated in his kitchen prompted a flood of worries into his troubled mind. A bronze flagon clattered on the ground as it dropped from Chac’s hand, liquor seeping between the cracks in the stone floor.
“Why do I have a feeling I’m going to get some gods-awful news?” Chac asks, a jaded tone to his voice that only time has strengthened. Lydia wanted to scream and cry for her beloved Thane’s life, feeling a rage swelling inside at Chac’s distant comment. But no, she needed to stay strong and Teldryn did the chastising for him.
“Have some respect, Chac. The poor woman is in tears; it’s not about you.” Teldryn argued, leaving Lydia alone in the chair while he approached the dangerous Bosmer fearlessly. “She has some very grave news, I’m afraid. I won’t make her repeat it, so brace yourself.”
Chac frowned, knowing his hollow comment must have stung. He was just tired of bad news-
“Sirius’ husband has passed on.” Teldryn saying the words himself reminded him of the frailty of human life, how dangerous it is to rely so heavily on a temporary support. He could see the way Chac’s face fell, mouth parted in any search for something to say. The Dragonborn’s mind flew with memories of Vilkas’ funeral, the years of torment he endured years after; how he warned Sirius that his painful time would also come.
He felt like such a monster for it. Vorstag was a good man and a dear friend for many years.
“But that’s not all, Sirius has fallen into madness. No one can reach him.”
“He’s a danger to himself, to everyone around him.. Sir Chac, you must help him before grief takes him as well.”
Chac undid the vermilion scarf around his dreads and let them fall, wringing it between his hands while he scrounged for a rational thought. Sirius…lost, wild. He couldn’t think of leaving the man to his madness, not after the friendship they’ve built together.
“Please… He was there for Vilkas’ death.. for your granddaughter’s death…won’t you come to his aid this time around?” Lydia begs, removing her helmet showing a bounty of long, silver hair. Teldryn stared at his partner and knew his answer, running a large gray hand over the housecarl’s back.
“You need to lead me to him. I’ll do whatever it takes to keep him safe.” Chac understood Sirius where no one else did, has endured the same hardships and has survived them; he’d be damned if he didn’t pass his sage onto the Imperial.
“I’ll come with you, Azura knows Sirius is in a dangerous state.” Teldryn adds, unknowing of just how ferocious Sirius may become when faced with his past.
Lydia gathered her remaining strength and stood, a little shaky but managing to feel comforted. Just knowing the brave Bosmer was going to help made her stronger. “I have a carriage waiting, the fastest horses in Skyrim. We can be back home in less than a day.”
She watched as the two elves grabbed the necessities for the journey, her heart daring to hope. Chac and Teldryn were good friends of the family, Chac especially so because of the unique gift he and Sirius shared. Though she was still worried sick over her Thane and frustrated at the way old age made it difficult for her to help, she could believe Sirius would be saved.
Chac locked the manor and the trio were off, running through the crowds and outside of the city, where Lydia’s carriage awaited. The driver looked bored, but snapped to attention as the three warriors boarded the carriage.
“Where to, mum-?”
“Back to Lakeview Manor, and please, hurry!” Lydia gasped, collapsing into her seat. She struggled to catch her breath, cursing her tired old body. She could remember being twenty-five, running through the plains of Whiterun with her sword drawn, fighting bandits with her Thane and his husband. Tears prickled in her eyes as she thought of Vorstag, and she stifled a sob.
A gentle hand on her shoulder made her look up. Chac looked grim, but he squeezed her shoulder reassuringly. “It’ll be okay, Lydia. There must be a way to calm Sirius down, I’m sure of it.”
“Thank you,” she whispered, taking his hand in both of hers and squeezing. “Thank you both,” she added, meeting Teldryn’s likewise worried gaze. “He needs friends right now. I’m ashamed to say it, but I can’t do it on my own. Oh, I wish Sofie was here…” A fresh wave of sorrow swept over her as she remembered Sirius and Vorstag’s daughter, killed eighteen years ago in an accident while teaching at the College of Winterhold. Sofie would have been a great comfort to Sirius had she been alive, but Lydia could only hope she and Vorstag were together in Aetherius and watching over her Thane.
The journey lasted only a few short hours - the horses were incredibly fast - but to the three in the wagon it seemed like an eternity. Chac was silent, thinking of his friend, and of the loss of his own husband. Teldryn tried to comfort Lydia, who had removed her gauntlets and was biting nervously at her fingernails. When at last they reached the manor, Lydia flung her entire coin purse at the startled driver, before leading Chac and Teldryn to the door. The elves’ keen ears picked up noise from inside, faint because of the home’s thick walls.
“I… be prepared,” Lydia whispered, turning the key in the lock. “I’m not… not sure what will happen.” Slowly she opened the door, and Chac reached out a hand to hold her back.
“Wait out here, Lydia. Rest. Teldryn and I will go in.”
“Please, help him,” Lydia said anxiously as Chac entered the manor, Teldryn beside him.
A wild scream met his ears, hurting them. A plate smashed. Chac hurried into the main room, his heart in his mouth. “Sirius!”
He stopped dead. His friend was standing in the middle of the room, breathing heavily, frozen in place at the sound of Chac’s voice. Sirius was a mess. His long hair hung ragged and uncombed in his bloodshot eyes, his cheeks dark with a few days’ growth of rough beard. His teeth were bared in a snarl, his feet bare, and he was clad only in a dirty grey robe. Shattered pottery lay scattered at his feet, most of the room’s furniture upturned. An unpleasant odor filled the air, and Sirius was thinner than Chac could remember him being, the robe hanging loosely on his tall frame. Worst of all was the mad light in the Dragonborn’s eyes.
Chac was stunned at his usually neat friend’s appearance, but tried to hide it. He took a cautious step forward. “Sirius? Sirius, it’s me. Chac. Lydia asked me to come see you-”
He saw it coming but couldn’t dodge it. “FUS RO DAH!” Sirius bellowed, apparently deep enough in insanity that he didn’t recognize the two elves before him.
Fifty years of learning the way of the shout allowed Chac to nearly slice through the incoming wave of power from Sirius’ hellbent shout, but Teldryn was not so lucky- The large Dunmer staggered back hard enough to hit the wall, stumbling over a shattered vase. The smell of blood soon joined the awful stink of madman, Teldryn trying to ignore the large tear going through the fabric on his calf.
“Sirius!” Chac called out, his dreads whipping hard around him. “Look what you’ve done to the home you’ve built together!” The elf had a strong feeling that Sirius was no longer himself, he’d become a beast of agonizing passion and there would be no taming him with words. The ragged man grabbed the leg of a table and lunged at the Bosmer, Teldryn lunging forward to try and rescue him in time-
“Teldryn! Stay back, he’s not going to listen to words.”
Sirius snarled, the sight of two familiar faces his mind refused to acknowledge filling his heart with memories that he could not quell; heartbreaking memories of a life he can no longer have. Teldryn’s physique matched that of Sirius’, but the insane man had a power unlike any other even in his starved state. What he did next terrified even the old woman who waited outside-
“YOL ….TOOR SH-”
“TIID KLO UL -”
All things around them slowed to a snails pace, Teldryn the target for a maelstrom of intense fire billowing from Sirius’ mouth now dragging slow enough for Chac to pull the Dunmer out of the way. He only had seconds to act, using all his might to grab Teldryn around the waist and fling him out of the fire’s path, Chac looking back to see the intensity of the sorrow on Sirius’ gaunt face.
The home Sirius and Vorstag had built soon became an inferno, the wood and furniture catching soon into a blaze. Thick black smoke soon filled the air, the menacing silhouette of Sirius approaching the fallen elves making Chac hurt for his friend. The place would come down if Chac didn’t think quick and stop the man…if it meant knocking him out, he’d do it.
“We have to get him out of here, Teldryn.”
“And how do you suppose we do that?!”
“Very carefully.” Chac leapt to his feet, and knew he’d have to pack a punch onto the starving man hard enough to give them time to escape this home of memories.
Lydia smelled the smoke and had to fight back her panic, knowing she couldn’t lose her head at a time like this. Blindly she ran for the bathhouse, praying she could save her Thane, his friends, and Sirius’ beloved home before it was too late.
Sirius advanced on Chac, knowing him but forgetting their friendship and shared powers, wishing only to destroy everything that reminded him of Vorstag. He was deaf to Teldryn’s shouts, oblivious to the flames spreading through his home. He raised the table leg, snarling, meaning to bring it down on the Bosmer’s head and knock his brains out - quite literally.
“ZUN HAAL VIIK!” Chac was quick to react, the table leg flying out of Sirius’ hand and crashing to the floor. It was only mere luck the Imperial was too deep in madness to have consciously chosen a weapon; had he been in possession of his sword Gehenna, Chac would likely have been severely wounded. Sirius merely grabbed a jagged chunk of pottery and flew at Chac, an inhuman scream rising from his throat. Chac caught him by the wrists and they grappled, Sirius actually snapping and biting at him like an angry dog. They fell to the floor, wrestling, rolling into the entrance hall as they fought. Chac’s heart hurt to do it, but he used every advantage he could, kicking and punching at his friend whenever he gained an opening.
“Die, n’wah,” Sirius snarled, his fingers grasping for Chac’s throat. The Bosmer had a second to pray - “Mara, don’t let me kill him-” - before giving the hardest punch of his life, his fist sinking into his friend’s stomach. Sirius’ mad eyes widened in pain, the air rushing out of him. He was still trying to fight, and Chac knew he only had seconds.
He acted as fast as he could. “GOL HAH DOV.” Golden light surrounded Sirius and he went slack as Chac willed him to stop. Teldryn had already staggered to his feet and hurried to put out the fire in the common room, as Lydia ran into the room clutching jugs of water. Within minutes the flames were extinguished, the walls blackened but still sturdy. Chac remained still, holding Sirius in place with his will, knowing the Shout wouldn’t last long.
“Help me,” he said to Lydia and Teldryn, and quickly the three surrounded Sirius and seized him. They dragged the Imperial outside, where he could do less damage. Sirius was fighting Chac’s Shout, his rage insurmountable.
“I can’t keep him docile for much longer,” Chac gasped. “Quick, put him in the bathhouse…”
“VORSTAG!” Sirius screamed, a heartrending sound. He lunged, trying to free himself from their grasp, prevented only by the lingering Thu’um that bound him. He was shoved unceremoniously into the bathhouse, and Lydia locked the door. For the moment, they could rest, Chac kneeling to heal Teldryn’s leg. Lydia stood strong, though tears ran down her cheeks. Sirius had nearly destroyed the last few people he loved, and it scared her to know how deep his sorrow was.
“What do we do now?” Teldryn asked, warily eyeing the door. The bathhouse, an excellent replica of Dwemer architecture, was made of stone and metal and would not burn, but even as brave as the Dunmer was, his heart quailed a bit at the thought of facing that madman again. Sirius was not their friend right now. He was an enraged, vengeful dragon seeking to punish all.
The painful realization that Vorstag has finally gone was beginning to sink deep under Chac’s skin. Hearing those soul-rending screams from just beyond the metal door filled Chac’s long-healed heart with memories of his own lost husband. Sirius bashed himself against the door, strengthened by his fury but not powerful enough to bust the hinges; Chac leaned his body against the bathhouse door, and let himself sink slowly to the floor.
He needed to think. Needed to dig deep into his memories and remember just what Sirius and his other dear friends had done to reach him in his broken state…what was the one true thing that touched him where all else he’d deafened himself to? What was the only thing that let him realize life goes on?
“You need to do something quickly, Chac. That door isn’t going to hold forever and Sirius could hurt himself…kill himself, if he doesn’t get help now.” Teldryn warned him, seeing how Chac’s body jolted along with the door as the wild man slammed himself upon it over and over.
“You think I’m just sitting here for my health?!” Chac snapped, glaring angrily at his lover enough to make Lydia gasp. He now knew Sirius was looking to seek revenge on the only thing he could not touch or grasp; time. He knew what he had to do, and it was going to be painful.
“Forgive me, Teldryn. But this is going to scare the shit out of you.” Chac smiles sadly, slowly reaching a hand up towards the handle of the door. Teldryn’s jaw dropped inching forward and unsure of what Chac meant-
“If you’re thinking of going in there, you’re more of a fool than I thought!” Teldryn shouts, but there was no changing the unstable Bosmer’s mind- Within a flash Chac reached for the handle and opened the door just as the rhythm of the banging deemed it so; and into the darkness did the elf run, leaving Teldryn to shout angrily at the madness of it all.
“Augh, what are you doing you s'wit?!” was all that Chac heard last, slamming and locking the door behind him. Within less than an instant Sirius was upon him, unarmed and assailing the smaller man with blows Chac did not fight off. Hair pulled, clothes bitten, Chac endured what felt like an eternity of abuse as he tried his hardest to keep Sirius’ hands away from his throat; this is what the man wanted. He wanted to kill, but Chac knew deep down there was still a shred of the man left to know when to stop.
Teldryn remained at the cusp of panicking before he heard a shout reverberate through the Dwarven metal of their cage:
“FEIM ZII GRON”
Sirius was now clawing at an ethereal body, one that cannot harm or be harmed. It was a shout he knew well but rarely used. Chac lay below him, bloodied and beaten but far from death. He used the long moments he had to say his piece; what Sirius needed to know even if it hurt. He needed to know the gods honest truth.
“Time crumbles things; everything grows old under the power of time and is forgotten, through the lapse of time.”* Chac says, softly. Whether or not this will reach Sirius it remains to be seen. “Time will take you, and it will take me. It will take the trees, the rocks, the water and even the gods themselves. What else can we do but cherish what time has gifted us, before someone in the future too will mourn us when our time has come as well?” Chac could see the gears turning in the Imperial’s head even while he struggled to try and harm the elf. He was listening now, Chac thinks…. even if barely.
“Vorstag’s time came, and Sofie’s, just as Vilkas’... Their time on this mortal coil had been spent loving you, building something beautiful with you. And even though time will take this as well, you are still left with the time to cherish your memories.”
He could feel the shout’s effect beginning to wane, knowing he will soon have to fend off the madman and harm him if need be. He didn’t want to, but life time and time again has forced him into positions he never wanted to be in.
“You are suffering, I know that Sirius. No one in the world is suffering more than you, right now.” He could feel Sirius try to wring his hands around his neck, to silence the elf and his truthful words. “…but can you find it in your heart to stop this madness and bring some honor to the death of your husband? Would he want to see you this way?”
Sirius’ inner dragon raged. It wanted death, destruction, murder. It longed to burn and ravage the land for the pain it had suffered. But Sirius was still human, and as Chac spoke his words made an impression on the Imperial. His wounded heart saw the intent behind the words even as his hands still groped for the elf’s neck. The Thu’um faded and Chac was corporeal again, bracing himself for the barrage he knew would come.
But Sirius didn’t take it out on Chac. He howled in pain and sorrow, tearing at his long hair, crawling off the elf. His grief consumed him once more, and he collapsed in a heap on the floor, sobbing. His fingers grasped uselessly at the stone. His hair covered his face, but nothing could hide the gasping, tearing sobs that came from the deepest pit of his soul. Just hearing the names of his husband and daughter was too much for him.
Chac rose slowly, rubbing his throat. His own heart ached for his friend lying broken at his feet. It was cruel fate that they should outlive their most beloved, the bitterest blow in lives that were not always easy. He thought about summoning Teldryn and Lydia, but a particularly loud cry from Sirius changed his mind. He knelt and brushed Sirius’ dirty, matted hair away from his face.
“I need him,” Sirius whispered hoarsely, clutching at Chac. “I can’t… I can’t live without him.” He shut his eyes and allowed himself to be held. Behind his eyelids all he could see was Vorstag, laying in their bed with the gentle smile Sirius loved so much on his face. Time had changed the Nord, turning his hair grey and leeching the strength from him, but even to the very last Vorstag had a smile for his husband. Sirius sobbed against Chac’s chest, his heart bleeding as he remembered their last kiss, Vorstag’s dying words barely audible - “I love you, Sirius.”
“I need him!” he screamed, wrenching away from the comfort of his friend’s embrace, staggering to his feet. He swayed, his starved body on the brink of shutting down in exhaustion. Chac leapt up to try and get him under control again, but before he could take a step he received a crushing blow to the jaw. He stumbled backward, hitting the wall painfully with his shoulder. Sirius was on him again, snarling, but as they wrestled Chac realized Sirius’ intent was different this time. Rather than trying to harm Chac, Sirius was instead attempting to get at something -
The Imperial found what he wanted, the dagger he knew Chac kept in his boot in case of an emergency. He pulled it free, laughing and weeping at the same time. He drew away from Chac, pushing back the sleeve of his robe. He pressed the dagger to his wrist, grinning maniacally up at the Bosmer. “I’ll go with him. That’s what I’ll do.”
“No-!” Chac shouted, as Sirius readied himself to cut.
Deep down Sirius knew it was going to take more than a simple slice to the wrist to end his life; it would be a slow, dwindling death that was not worthy of such a legendary man. Chac had been in this position himself, he knew what it was like to be forced not to do what he truly thought was the only action left…he didn’t stop Sirius. He didn’t stop him, even as his blade found pale flesh and brought copious blossoms of blood from the man’s veins.
All too familiar was the stench of blood that filled the air, filling Sirius with a final sense of purpose as he smiled menacingly towards his mortal end. It would take minutes- maybe more- for him to fade away, and they were minutes that Chac still could use to change his mind. He was above strapping a man down and holding his life hostage, he wouldn’t do that... but he still could try to stop him. He’d do anything, he couldn’t lose him like this.
“I know this seems like the only way out...” Chac starts, his hands up and too afraid to approach the man else he slit his own throat. “And believe me, I’ve been here. I’ve lost my husband, my granddaughter, so many lovers in the past… it always does feel like this. That there’s no other way… it’s the end. But it isn’t, Sirius. You have to realize this.”
“A life without him is no life at all. I can’t live this way. I’ve lived too long, and it’s only pain.”
Chac’s throat tightened, understanding his plight. But he knew there was more beauty left for Sirius to see if he’d just fight through this. He tried not to swoon at the sight of the blood now puddling around him, leading a trail in the cracks slowly towards the door.
“Surely Vo… your husband has asked you to move on, hasn’t he? Vilkas had said the same. “Don’t let me anchor you down… move on, and spread your love, because that is what the world needs.” That’s what Vilkas told me, just before the end. And this is what I’m going to tell you. You can’t let it end here, Sirius. You may never love anyone the way you loved him, but you can damn well enough find happiness trying.”
Sirius didn’t want to believe him, in his mind he had it all made out. Wherever he ended up when every last drop is spilled would be better than being here-
“You’re full of shit, Chac.” Sirius groans, face going pale and looking close to giving up.
‘That’s what everyone tells me’ is what Chac would have said, but he couldn’t think of joking. Not now, this was no joke. Sirius could no longer sit straight, lurching forward in his own blood far enough for Chac to catch him, holding the dying man in his arms. Panic wanted to throttle the elf, but he wasn’t going to waste his last moments feeling selfish for wanting to hold onto Sirius when the man himself wanted to let go.
“I can’t force you to stay, Sirius…” Chac couldn’t hide the tears welling in his eyes, cradling the man’s head in the crook of his arm. “…but it’s going to be one hell of a colder place once you’re gone.” Chac’s mind raced back to all the times he’s experienced this, holding dying old lovers in his arms, friends, realizing that this could be just another tally on the list… he thought of Vilkas, and the months after his death spent thinking he’d never love again…
The door blasted open, Teldryn having smelled and seen the blood begin to seep out from the crack under it. Light and cold air billowed in, the Dunmer rushing in only to gasp at the sight of what looked like a dead friend in Chac’s beaten arms. Whether or not it was the perfect moment, Sirius was given a hazy sight of Chac’s Dunmer beloved, living proof that even after such disaster, love could always blossom again.
“You fetcher!” Teldryn burst out, and whether he was referring to Sirius or Chac neither man could be sure. Teldryn’s sharp ears had picked up the entire conversation, and he was boiling with fury. He crossed the room and kicked Sirius hard, despite Chac’s yell of protest.
“You’re a fucking idiot!” the Dunmer raged. He couldn’t possibly express how selfish and stupid he thought the Imperial was at the moment. His anger, fear, and sorrow had combined to make him nearly delirious, and he kicked Sirius again. “Do you - do you even know - do you even realize - how much pain you’ll c-cause if you let yourself go like this?” he shouted. His own painful memories, of a man he had once loved and then lost, fueled his ire. “Chac, Lydia, do you know how much they’ll hurt after you’re gone?! You chickenshit bastard, I thought there was more to you than this!”
“Teldryn!” Chac yelled, but he was ignored.
“You s’wit, do you think you’re the only one hurting?” Tears ran down the Dunmer’s cheeks. “Vorstag was a good friend to all of us! But you’ve got to pull your head out of your ass and realize there’s still people out there who need you!”
“D-don’t you dare say his name!” Sirius tried to snarl, but it came out weakly. The elf’s words hurt, cutting deep into Sirius’ already crippled and bleeding heart. But they had the effect of a cold splash of water on him, and he was suddenly filled with self-loathing as he saw what he had become. A drop hit his cheek and he looked up at Chac, who was crying silently over him. His friend. A friend he cared deeply about, and who cared deeply for him. A friend he had comforted in his own time of mourning, after Vilkas had passed on. Sirius didn’t want to see Chac sad again. He closed his eyes. “Heal me.”
He felt the warmth of the spell envelop him, the cuts in his wrists disappearing. He let out a long sigh, exhaustion finally claiming him. His tired body, deprived of food and sleep for days, shut him down. He fell asleep, his head in Chac’s lap. The Bosmer stroked his long hair, letting out a shaky breath he hadn’t realized he had been holding. “Thank you,” he said to Teldryn, looking up at him.
Teldryn scoffed, wiping furiously at the tears on his cheeks. “Stupid,” he muttered. “Sleeping like a baby after all the trouble he’s caused.”
“Never mind that. Help me.” Together the pair mopped the blood off Sirius, and carried him back into the house. Lydia had not been idle, using her nervous energy to clean the mess Sirius had made. Her eyes widened when Chac and Teldryn carried the limp Imperial into the house.
“M-my Thane… is he -?”
“He’s asleep,” Chac said, and she let out a sigh of relief. “Help us, please.”
Lydia sprung to action, opening the bedroom door. The room was a mess too, the treasures Sirius had collected over the years scattered about the floor (and in some cases, gone; several Daedric artifacts had been absorbed back into Oblivion as their respective Princes decided Sirius was going to die soon), but the bed was made. Quickly Lydia pulled back the covers and allowed Chac and Teldryn to lay Sirius down. Chac tucked him in, watching the gaunt, grizzled face of his friend, noting the way it was twisted in sorrow even in sleep.
“Thank you,” he said softly to the others, sitting on the edge of the bed. He tried not to remember the happy times he had spent in this house… even in this bed, when he, Sirius, and Vorstag had frolicked together after the death of Vorstag’s abusive ex. “Will you leave us for awhile?”
“Hmph. How do I know you won't try and suffocate him in his sleep while I’m gone?” Teldryn argued furiously, feeling so much anger towards all of them for what he could have avoided. He was a Dunmer who was prone to his repressed feelings, and seeing all of this madness unfold before him made Teldryn despise the two Dragonborns for their selfishness.
“Please, it’s not like that. I didn’t tell him to end it, weren’t you listening?” Chac was shaken beyond belief, giving those pitiful eyes up to Teldryn who refused to be softened by it. He pulled up a chair and stayed at his weakened friend’s side, refusing to leave it just as Sirius had done 20 years ago.
“Even though I can’t understand why you let him do what he did, I appreciate you being here for him… for being his friend, even if he thought it was the end.” Lydia’s noble words tried to soften the argument unfolding before her, stepping away from the hallowed room and catching her breath. This was too much for an old woman, surrounded by ageless men. She left, going to find her solace in cleaning up whatever mess she could find, even if it lay strewn all around her.
Teldryn watched her go, letting out a big huff of a breath. Glaring now at the two Dragonborns, he let his anger vent like so many times before. “You could have tried harder, Chac. Letting a man use your own blade to kill himself? Puh, I’ve seen you do some foolish things in the past but this really takes the cake.”
“Do you realize what it’s like being at the end of your rope, wanting to end your life and there’s so many voices shouting at you, telling you not to be selfish? That it’s not your life to live?” Chac glared, reaching out and pulling the bloodied black hair away from Sirius’ pillow.
“Oh you don’t think I’ve faced this before? That Sirius is the first person I’ve watched try to kill himself before my very eyes?” Teldryn hated it when his voice cracked like this, hated showing that he was sad, but the Three curse him it’s getting old fast. “Every man I get close to winds up this way. Hating life, wanting it to end. Even you, Chac.”
Chac knew he was telling the truth, Teldryn had been there to stop him when the death of Vilkas made him careless with his own life, even eager to die. Teldryn had been there to take away his liquor and pull him out of the fire so many times until his will to live returned. He couldn’t save them all, but he couldn’t let Sirius go this way too.
“It’s not about you, Teldryn.” Chac tried to argue, although knowing he’s already lost.
“To Oblivion with me, you fetcher. It’s about keeping Sirius above all this, and you saying it’s ALRIGHT for him to end his life..it..it isn’t helping anyone!” Teldryn chokes, wanting to hurt Chac but instead storming to the foot of the bed, picking up a dwarven metal urn. Opening it, he found an assortment of gems and a handwritten note, something that looked like it was written maybe 50 years ago. He didn’t read it, but the memory seemed to haunt him.
“How could he destroy all of this? All of these things he once loved?”
“I don’t know,” Chac responded wearily, his gaze still drawn to the pathetic figure in the bed. “I suppose he thought he could erase his pain by destroying his memories.” The Bosmer’s own sadness made his heart heavy. He reached for Sirius’ hand and held it, slowly rubbing his calloused fingers. At the moment he wasn’t to be baited by Teldryn, who fought back the urge to argue and began picking things up. Huffing under his breath, the Dunmer returned items to their shelves, piled strewn books neatly on a cabinet, and folded clothes that had been flung to the floor.
Chac sat, rubbing Sirius’ hand, watching his friend carefully. Even asleep, Sirius’ face twisted in pain, and a small whimper escaped his lips. A tear rolled down his cheek, leaving a tiny wet spot on the pillow.
A glint of bronze caught the corner of Chac’s eye and he glanced over at the ancient urn Teldryn had set down. The slightest edge of the old parchment inside intrigued him, and he fished it out, unfolding it. It was a letter, written in a hand Chac knew to be Sirius’. ‘Dearest Vorstag-’
Guiltily, Chac looked at Sirius’ unconscious form, and at Teldryn’s back. The Dunmer was shelving books, grumbling but taking the pains to keep the tomes in alphabetical order. The Bosmer knew he should put the letter back, but something urged him on.
As I’m writing this, you are sleeping by my side, in my home. Our home. Skyrim has never seemed brighter or more beautiful as it does now that we are wedded, and as I watch you I feel as if I could never be happier. I told you you are the most flawless gem of all, and I meant it. You make me feel like I never have before. It’s how I imagine flying must be like…. thrilling and perfect and scary all at once. To think I could have won your love, when there are so many others more deserving… You are so beautiful when you sleep. I love listening to you breathe, I love holding you close so it’s as if we were one. But I am scared, too, a little. Our journey together starts today, and what will become of us? What challenges will we face, what joys and sorrows will we experience? I can’t wait to discover what the years hold for us, my love. Good times or bad, wealth or poverty, in any place on this earth, as long as I can reach out to you and see your smile I know everything will be all right.
I suppose you’re laughing now, reading this, thinking I’ve finally caved in and am using my Imperial powers of speech on you. I admit I don’t usually write things like this. Maybe I won’t even give this to you, maybe I’ll just rip it up when I am done. But Vorstag, I love you so much. I want to grow old with you, I want to wake up every morning and see you beside me. If I lost you, it would be the end of me. It’s okay, keep laughing. Imperial drama at its finest. These are things I’m too embarrassed to say aloud, but I feel them in my heart. It belongs to you, now, and my soul as well. I promise to walk with you until the end of our days, my beloved, and may Azura and the gods grant we will travel together in Aetherius.
Just a little kiss before I stop. Your skin is warm and welcoming under my lips. Truly, my Vorstag, there is no greater treasure on Nirn than you.
With all my love,
Your husband, Sirius.’
From deep within the warm chasms of Chac’s heart, he felt that age old danger welling up inside him; he neatly folded the letter and placed it upon Sirius’ bed, bowing his head low enough to press against the sleeping man’s shoulder. He wanted to weep, but he simply couldn’t, it was a sadness inside him past the point of silly tears. The danger was the way he felt for men like Sirius; men who suffered so deeply, who didn’t deserve what life had wrought upon them. He was a good man, and after reading such a heartfelt letter he could only muse upon the years he spent as this couple’s friend, seeing them through good and bad times.
He remembered every moment of it, it came and hit him like a wave of nostalgia so bittersweet it made Teldryn look over and watch his Bosmer shudder at the bedside. He could only think that Chac was weeping, seeing how his shoulders shook, how one hand soon went to grasp Sirius’ dirty one so tightly. Teldryn was furious just as he always was when sadness came knocking on his door, but he could only melt at the sight. He dropped everything, and went to Chac’s side, comforting him with a simple rub on his back.
“You shouldn’t have read it, you knew it was going to make you cry.” Teldryn sighs, still unsure if the fact that Vorstag’s death has even hit him yet. Chac lifted his head, looking down upon the filthy Imperial’s face.
“He wanted to die with Vorstag. I don’t think he’d planned anything even a day beyond losing him. He must be so lost, and there’s nothing I can do to help him.”
“There’s a few things we can do. Cleaning him up, first off.” Teldryn tried to change the subject, he himself burdened with the unknown of life after his partnership with Chac. “There must be something you can whip up to bring some color back into him? Perhaps his alchemy room hasn’t been destroyed yet.”
“…You’re right. He looks so sickly, I could probably mix together a few tonics…something to help him sleep more deeply.”
“You do that,” Teldryn whispers in a voice only used for Chac. “I’ll get him out of these filthy clothes.”
Chac’s body ached as he stood, leaving the catastrophe of Sirius’ room to scour his home for any reagents still usable. This left the Dunmer with his old friend, biting the inside of his cheek as he got to work pulling away the blankets, revealing Sirius in his fouled, tattered robes. He was no longer a stranger to the male form, undoing button after button and watching Sirius with soft eyes.
“I’m sorry.” Teldryn murmurs, thinking back to how hard he kicked the man when he was down. He just got so hot-headed sometimes and… He stops, looking closer at Sirius’ face. He noticed for the first time small streaks of gray beginning at his temples, no doubt the unbelievable stress of the past few days taking it’s toll so visibly. The smell was making him nauseous, even more so when he stripped the man down to nothing.
He’d feel better once he’d been cleaned up, once Chac anointed him with the right potions. Teldryn prayed for it to be true, but he wasn’t a fool. It was going to take more than a bath and some rest to bring the man out of his madness.
Lydia appeared in the doorway with a big basin of water and some cloths. “Sir Teldryn? Sir Chac asked me to bring these to you.”
“Oh… thank you, Lydia.” Teldryn took the water from her. “Will you make something for Sirius to eat? When he awakes he’s going to need nourishment. Something easy to digest.”
“Yes, of course,” the elderly Nord replied, and she hurried to the kitchen, planning to make a simple soup.
Teldryn sighed, wetting one of the cloths. The water smelled lightly of lavender, a scent he usually associated with Sirius. It was a calming odor, and as he carefully washed the Imperial’s face he hoped it would have a soothing effect on his friend. Working silently, changing cloths frequently, he washed the filth from Sirius’ body. His pale skin was marred by bruises and cuts, most probably from stumbling into furniture during his blind rage but some looking self-inflicted.
Patiently Teldryn combed lavender water through Sirius’ hair, gently working out the snarls and dirt. He had just finished when he realized Sirius had awakened, and was watching him.
“S-Sirius?” the Dunmer spoke softly, unsure of what to expect. “Just lie still, I’m almost done.”
The Imperial made a small noise, his hand clutching at Teldryn’s. Teldryn caught hold and gripped hard, watching his friend, who seemed unable to speak but was trying to communicate with his eyes. The deep, desperate sorrow reflected in those grey depths tore at Teldryn’s heart. He stroked Sirius’ hair, leaning closer.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered. “If I could somehow take it back for you, I would.”
Sirius trembled. He seemed unwilling to let go of Teldryn’s hand, and so the Dunmer stayed still. Sirius’ eyes darted around the room, as if searching for someone, and he saw the folded letter laying on Vorstag’s pillow. He reached for it, remembering every word without even looking, and clutched the letter in his free hand, pressing the paper to his heart. Tears welled up in his eyes once more, as he remembered writing the letter on his wedding night, pouring his heart and soul out on the parchment where Vorstag could see. Now heart and soul were as dead as the man he had given them to.
After a while, Teldryn reached for a sharp razor Lydia had brought, and murmured to Sirius. “Hold still, I’m going to shave you.”
Sirius said nothing, but lay there like he was made of stone, still holding the letter to his chest. Slowly, keeping an eye on Sirius’ hands should he reach for the razor and repeat the scene in the bathhouse, Teldryn carefully shaved the unkempt beard until Sirius looked more or less the same as usual, taking care to trim his soul patch neatly. He frowned, seeing the tiniest slivers of grey in Sirius’ beard as he shaved him. Teldryn was too young to remember the events of the Third Era, but he recalled reading about the Nerevarine. Supposedly he was immune to age, but the grey he was seeing was unmistakable. Perhaps it was due to shock.
“Teldryn.” The Dunmer jumped, thinking Sirius had addressed him, but it was Chac, returned with a goblet of shimmering blue potion.
“He’s awake,” Teldryn’s sly voice whispers. “-and there’s no way he’s going to be able to drink that.”
“He doesn’t need to drink it. Sirius? Can you hear me?” Chac sets down the goblet at the bedside table, sitting himself politely down next to the prone man who looked too weak to communicate. Eye contact was all he could give, and that’s all that Chac needed to make the connection. “You’re looking much better, you’re lucky Teldryn’s good with a shave.” He tries to smile, reaching down and moving his mass of wet hair away from the pillow.
There was nothing said from the Imperial, that despondent silence enough to merit the elven partners beside him to glance at each other in dismay. Chac noticed the letter clutched against his chest, the one he now thinks he should have hidden away- a foolish mistake.
“Lydia’s going to try and get you to eat something.” Teldryn adds, gathering the soiled rags and dumping them in the bucket of lavender water, placing it outside the bedroom door. When the house servants feel that it’s safe to come back to the Manor, they’ll take care of this mess. Sirius’ naked body was politely covered up to the waist by warm blankets- Chac was reminded of how he himself had been in this position so many years ago with Sirius at his bedside, sharing his comfort in Vilkas’ passing. There was one blatant difference however; Chac had so many reasons to keep living. He had his children, his grandchildren, Teldryn… all of these people whom he still loved and wanted to live for.
Sirius had no such luck. At least not now, when he was too destroyed to realize those lingering loves.
“This is going to make you feel a bit sleepy, and trust me I know it will- you taught me how to make it.” Chac smiles again, dipping his cleaned hands into the ointment. Where before those hands were clenched into fists, raining pain down upon Sirius, they now gently followed the curves of his body, smoothing the cool substance over his skin. It numbed him along the way, Chac’s fingertips too having a buzzing sensation.
“This will take a little while, Teldryn.”
“…” The Dunmer wasn’t sure if he wanted to stay and watch, or get up and away from this madness for just a small respite. “I’m going to have a smoke. I’ll see how Lydia’s doing.”
“Take your time. We’re not much for conversation right now.” Chac’s grin was hollow when he looked up to his partner, and Teldryn didn’t reciprocate. He left, knowing his way to the chilly evening outdoors as he walked between crashed furniture. Outside, there was silence. Not even a deer would tread near this hallowed place... Teldryn found his rolled tobacco and lit up, finding refuge in the silence, but not soon from the memories that plagued him. He’s known Sirius for over 50 years, has been to this manor more than a few times. He was welcome here even when Chac wasn’t around... This was just… awful.
Reflecting on the life-shattering sadness he'd felt losing his Nord patron, he couldn’t even fathom what Sirius must feel losing a lover he’s pledged himself to for so very long. Teldryn didn’t think he’d be able to survive such a loss, not even for a day. Smoke billowed out from his mouth, letting the last of the herb float up to the evening sky- he had a job to do. The path back inside towards the kitchen was a haphazard one, broken glass crunching under his boot. The smell of a simple broth overcame the mustiness of the air, but when he walked inside he was met with another heartache.
Lydia was seated on a crate pulled up near the cauldron, her face in her hands and weeping quietly. If there was one thing that still haunts Teldryn after all of these years, it was the sight of an old woman crying. He had to help.
Teldryn didn’t try to engage in small talk. He approached Lydia and put a hand on her shoulder. She had changed into a simple tunic and trousers at some point and the Dunmer could see she was thinner than he remembered. Vorstag’s death and Sirius’ madness were taking their toll on her as well.
“I’m sorry you have to go through this,” he said to her quietly, sitting beside her.
Lydia took the hanky he held out and sniffled. “T-thank you, Sir Teldryn. I… there hasn’t been much time for mourning, I’m afraid… everything happened so quickly. Vorstag was… such a dear friend of mine. I miss him terribly.”
“I know.” Teldryn patted her hand, watching her closely. “Lydia, you have to take care of yourself, though.”
“Yes,” she said sadly, wiping her wet cheeks. “But it’s been… so hard. If you and Sir Chac had not been home… I don’t know what would have happened.” She closed her eyes. “No, I do. I’m sure Thane Sirius would have killed me and himself in his psychotic rage.”
“Don’t think about that,” Teldryn said hastily.
“But it’s true, isn’t it? Thane Sirius had no idea who I was, or even who he was. He just wanted to destroy.” She shuddered. “What’s to become of us now? If he is truly mad, and never returns to himself… what can we do? It shames me greatly to admit it, but I am too old to be of use. My Thane could overpower me easily. But- t-to put him in an asylum… he doesn’t deserve that. He’s brought so much happiness to so many people. It’s true that I am the only family he has… Rayya, Sofie…. and now Vorstag… gone. Yourself and Sir Chac are the only close friends he has left now. I remember when this house was full of laughter, of happiness….” She could have gone on and on. Vilkas, Farkas, dead; Chac’s children growing too old to make the journey; so many friends long departed.
There didn’t seem to be anything Teldryn could say that wasn’t stupidly obvious or painful. “I’m sorry,” he repeated, standing to ladle the broth into a bowl. “But you’re not useless, Lydia. You’re an old, dear friend Sirius loves. He needs you to be there for him.”
“Aye.” The old woman allowed herself to be helped to her feet, and took the bowl of broth from the tall elf. “I will keep trying, of course. I will never give up. I love Thane Sirius very much, I can’t let him suffer.” She strode toward the bedroom, avoiding upturned furniture and scattered belongings with ease. Teldryn followed, both entering the bedroom to see Sirius drowsing lightly. Chac had taken advantage of his friend’s sleepy state to tug the note from his hand, putting it back in its urn and hiding the container under the bed.
“My Thane, are you feeling a little better?” Lydia approached slowly, trying to smile. “Here, I made some broth for you. You don’t have to get up. I’ll feed you if you wish.”
Sirius’ half-lidded eyes followed her as she pulled up a chair beside Chac’s and stirred the bowl of broth. A whine, barely loud enough to be heard, issued from his parted lips. Sadly, Lydia reached out to stroke his hair, watching him anxiously. “Just a little, my Thane. You need your strength.”
He nodded, barely, but it made the Nord’s heart lighter. It was the first time in days he’d responded to her.
Chac’s hands were numb from the wrist down, shaking them lightly as he took his steps away from what remained of Sirius’ family. Just him, and Lydia. Chac knew this old friend of his would serve him until her death, but there was only so much an old woman could do for a heartbroken madman. These next few weeks... these months, maybe years, are going to be critical in the Imperial’s life. He wasn’t capable of caring for himself, and as Teldryn peeked in to watch the Nord woman spoon-feed her Thane, both realized the burden fell on their shoulders as well.
A burden they would gladly set aside all other ventures for. The pair of elves make their escape into the hall far from earshot, the stench of tobacco that followed in Teldryn’s wake making Chac eager to smoke; an escape even for a few moments. They look at each other, knowing just what the other was thinking.
“I don’t have any more.” Teldryn answers the unspoken question, placing both large hands on Chac’s shoulders, giving them a loving rub. “Selfish of me, I know.” He felt as though talking about Sirius could wait for a few moments, at least until they had settled down for the night.
“You always were a selfish bastard, Teldryn.” Chac smiles, one that is clearly hollow. Awkward moments go by leaving both of the elves facing each other, searching sad eyes for any sort of comfort…it wasn’t going to come, this was just the start of a great and terrible time for them all.
“Are you alright?” Teldryn asks, only seeing Chac walk away from him to lead the Dunmer outside, away from this chaotic mess of a home. Night quickly settled in over Falkreath, crickets singing a haunting dirge and fog on their breath. Chac leaned back against the mortar wall, gazing up at the overcast night. Teldryn crossed his muscled arms, misery on his striking features.
“I haven’t seen you cry in what.. ten years?” Chac comments, Teldryn taken aback.
“There was no need to, before this. Running in on Sirius nearly dead in your arms? Would you blame me?”
“I’m not blaming you for anything, except for kicking the poor man. That aside, I’m at least happy you’re showing me what you really feel. Showing Sirius. You keep everything bottled up.”
Teldryn moved in, almost nose to nose with the Bosmer and using his arms to protect the elf from the cold around them. “I am a Dunmer, after all. An iota of restraint in this chaos seemed just a drop too hard to contain, I’m afraid. I apologized to Sirius for hurting him, but I doubt he’ll remember come sunrise.”
Whether or not they bothered anymore to avoid talking about him, they failed. Chac placed his tingling hands inside Teldryn’s coat for warmth, resting his head against the larger elf’s chest. He needed the comfort now, they all did.
“What’s going to happen tomorrow?” Teldryn asks, thinking only the worst.
“We need to get him out of this house, for a start. If anything we could take him and Lydia to one of our homes out East, and let him recover there.”
“That’s what I was thinking. All of these memories… once he realizes he’s destroyed the home he’s built with Vorstag he might just break again.”
“That’s what I’m trying to avoid. If worse comes to worse, we keep him sedated.”
Teldryn peeked down, cocking a skeptical brow.
“It sounds cruel, I know, but it will keep him safe. Even if it’s just slipping a little canis root in his meals…anything to keep him calm.”
“…Well, we’ll see if it comes to that. We should head in and check on them.”
When they returned, Lydia was lighting lavender candles at Sirius’ bedside, a half-empty bowl of soup on the table. The man himself was completely comatose, his mouth slack and blankets covering him up to the chin. For such a large man he seemed to fill so little of the space on the bed, Chac noticing a small indentation on the mattress beside him where Vorstag once slept.
“This is the first time I’ve seen him sleep in days.” Lydia murmurs, a doting look in her eyes. “I’m afraid to leave his side, part of me thinks he won’t be here come tomorrow.”
“He’s not going anywhere, Lydia. We’re spending the night, and if there’s anyone else who needs some rest here it’s you.”
Teldryn took the old woman and slowly led her away from his bedside, willing to follow her all the way to her room upstairs. “You’ve done all you could for him, and more. Chac and I will guard him for the night, don’t you fret.”
Teldryn and Lydia gone for the moment, Chac took the time to scrounge the downstairs for a spare mattress- he felt as if it would be a crime if he rested in Vorstag’s imprint, maybe even a little spooked at the thought. There was just enough space in Sofie’s old side of the room to place a single mattress upon the floor, soot billowing up into the air as he threw it unceremoniously into the space.
There he waited, pacing the side of Sirius’ bed, letting his thoughts get the better of him as he kept taking glances at Sirius’ face. Teldryn returned, running his bare fingers through his mohawk in stress.
“She’s not going to sleep, I guarantee it.”
“At least she’s resting. Here, I put a bed down for you.”
Teldryn looked at it, unconvinced. “You’re telling me that you think I’m actually going to be able to sleep tonight?”
“I could drug you.” Chac grins, Teldryn too drained for any jokes. He merely shook his head, pulling Chac away from the bedside to simply have another few moments with him. They sat together upon the small mattress, barely enough light to make out each other’s features. His voice was naught but a whisper.
“I’m worried about you.” Teldryn confesses, knowing that this day has probably put a great strain on his heart. 20 years of being Chac’s life partner and he’s grown to realize just why Vilkas was always being so anxious about Chac’s behavior.
“Worried that I’m thinking about losing Vilkas?” Chac’s smile remains, reaching up and shaking Teldryn’s shoulder.
“In so many words.”
“I am. It comes and goes….Should I be worried about you?”
“Bah. Don’t even give it a passing thought.” Teldryn stares at their booted feet, thinking of all the things he could confess to Chac about what this day has wrought on his anxieties. He couldn’t fathom the pain Sirius is enduring, just as he couldn’t imagine how Chac felt when Vilkas was lost. He’d be lying if he said he didn’t fear that same agony falling upon him should he ever lose his mate. It was selfish thinking, but still it was there.
“I’ll keep it in the back of my mind.” Chac peeks back at Sirius’ bed, seeing how eerily motionless his body lay under those blankets. Silence went by for a long few moments and Chac began to push himself up to stand and take his seat beside the bed, but a gray hand reached out and held him fast.
“What is it?”
“You stay, I’ll watch him. I just... I want you to try and sleep.” Teldryn didn’t want Chac staring at Sirius all night, he wanted to spare Chac the painful memories as he stared at his dearest friend for so many hours. Chac wasn’t up for it, until the Dunmer stood and locked him there upon that bed.
“Stay. Just do this for me, alright?”
“If you insist. If he shows any signs of waking up, tell me.” Chac gives up, feeling Teldryn’s thumb run along his jaw as he spoke.
“Just sleep, Yi shoksuna…”
Chac lay himself back, watching through hooded eyes as Teldryn pulled up the chair at Sirius’ bedside, candlelight illuminating his saddened face. All Chac could think of was how lucky he was to have him, and how unfortunate Sirius is for not being gifted such a special someone in his darkest time.
The silence lulled him to sleep, his final thought that of his blessings.
Sirius slept, his exhausted body and Chac’s drugs sending him under in no time. But his dreams were uneasy, haunted by the memories of those he had loved and lost. Vorstag was always there, calling him but continually out of reach no matter how hard Sirius tried to run to him. His pillow became damp with tears, quiet noises of distress issuing from his throat. Teldryn, who had been dozing in the chair, jerked awake and blinked, looking down at his friend. Sirius had curled up into a ball, whimpering softly as he slept. The Dunmer’s heart ached, and he reached out to hold the Imperial’s hand.
After a few moments Sirius quieted, though his face was still contorted in agony. His sleep became deeper, and Teldryn hoped he was getting some rest. He glanced over at Chac, who was likewise passed out, the day’s stressful events knocking him out despite his unwillingness to sleep. Teldryn felt a surge of love for the Bosmer, knowing how lucky he was.
The long night finally passed, the sun peeking over the horizon. Teldryn had fallen asleep in the chair, slumped over with his chin on his chest. Chac awoke, for a few minutes confused, then remembered where he was. He sat up, a crushing wave of sadness washing over him. He’d have given anything for it to have all been a dream, but the messy room and the aches in his body from Sirius’ punches were evidence enough of yesterday’s chaos.
He stood, stretching. The door opened and Lydia looked in anxiously. She had spent a restless night of her own, and the dark circles under her eyes proved it. “Sir Chac,” she whispered. “Is everything okay?”
“Well, he slept through the night,” Chac said, crossing to Sirius’ bed. He brushed his friend’s hair away from his face. Teldryn snorted, and Chac shook him gently, waking him.
“By Azura, what a night…” Teldryn winced, standing up and groaning at the kinks in his neck from sleeping in an unnatural position. The two elves and their Nord companion stood ranged along the side of Sirius’ bed, looking down at him. Chac took a deep breath.
“Lydia, we’re going to take Sirius away from here. Today. He can’t stay in this house while he’s in this state.”
“I understand,” she said quietly. “I’m coming as well. While we’re gone I can have a few girls from the town to clean the house up.” She turned, beginning to open drawers and wardrobes, filling Sirius’ old pack with clothes. “It will be good to keep him from his memories. Where will we go?”
Chac thought quickly. “Windhelm.” He saw the look of unhappiness in Teldryn’s face and took his hand. “I know, but Hjerim is the only place big enough for all of us. We can’t take him back to Solitude. He and Vorstag spent a lot of time at our house and…” He didn’t want to go home himself at the moment, having a grieving friend there might only make him think of Vilkas.
“That’s fine,” Lydia said softly. “I’ll go gather my things.”
Alone, the two elves made preparations to leave. Chac returned to Sirius’ alchemy table and made up more of the calming salve, storing it carefully in a little jar. Teldryn went through the kitchen and packed enough food and wine for the trip to Windhelm. Lydia prepared the horses, and soon enough the three stood around Sirius’ bed once more. Chac hated to do it, but he leaned over and shook Sirius awake.
“V-Vorstag..?” The Imperial awoke groggily, turning his head to face Chac. “Chac..?”
“Here, let me help you up…” Chac helped Sirius to sit up, combing back his hair. Lydia turned away respectfully from her Thane’s nude body. “We’re going on a trip,” Chac continued, trying to sound casual. “To Windhelm. For a little while, okay? C’mon, let’s get you dressed.”
Armor was going to be impossible at this point, so Chac helped Sirius into clean underwear and a warm black robe. Sirius allowed himself to be dressed like a child, his head bowed as he lifted his feet obediently for Chac to put his boots on. It hurt the Bosmer’s heart to see Sirius like this, a man usually so strong and in control now submitting meekly to everything. He voiced no protest as Lydia encouraged him to eat a little bread and jam, said nothing as his friends made their preparations, and continued to be silent as they left the house.
Their little band headed down the path to the main road, Sirius’ horse tied to Chac’s since the Imperial seemed unwilling to guide it. He rode silently, his head bowed and his hair hiding his face from view.
Teldryn leaned over to whisper to Chac. “We’ve got to avoid the cities and towns if we can. If people start asking Sirius questions or reminiscing about Vorstag, who knows what Sirius will do.”
Just then, Sirius spoke up. “I want to see him. Take me to Vorstag.”
Sirius’ voice made all three of them leap, every single eye turning to meet with the man who for the past hour had been in a vegetative state. His caretakers all shared the same thought; that having Sirius look upon the lifeless body of his husband would trigger a colossal breakdown in the man’s mind. They couldn’t let that happen, not when he’d already given his life a second chance.
“Sirius, you know that’s not a good idea.” Chac starts, reaching a hand out to place it on Sirius’ shoulder. For the moment, the man said nothing, looking at them with bewildered, half-dead eyes.
“Come with us to Windhelm, at least for a few days. Vorstag is in good hands, my Thane. We can always come back to see him after you’ve healed.” Lydia tried to reason with him, pulling back her horse far enough to box Sirius’ in between Chac’s- to avoid any getaways.
Sirius didn’t seem to register any of their advice, reaching for the reins and pulling them so weakly his horse didn’t consider stopping.
“Wait! Sirius, you’re not well.” Chac tries to grab the reins from him, the Imperial refusing to take no for an answer “Believe me, he’s safe. A few days away from home will do you g-”
It was then Sirius took every last bit of his strength to wind up a punch, sending his fist hard into Chac’s jaw. Teldryn and Lydia both yelped, the force of his blow so strong it knocks Sirius forward, falling off his horse and nearly being crushed under their panicked hooves.
“My Thane, he’s only trying to help you!” Lydia cries out, too weary to jump out of her saddle by the time Sirius was trying his hardest to push himself up to his feet, to run back towards the Hall of the Dead. A thin trail of blood runs down Chac’s lip, Teldryn flying off his saddle to run after the hobbling madman.
“N'chow! What in Azura’s name are you thinking?!” Teldryn calls out, quickly catching up to him-
Sirius was caught easily by Teldryn, but he struggled against the Dunmer’s firm grip. “I have to see him!”
Swiping the blood from his lip, Chac sprinted over to the struggling men. “Sirius!” He helped Teldryn to restrain his friend, shaking slightly. “Sirius, you can’t,” he said urgently. “Please, just calm down, come with us.”
Sirius stared at him helplessly, unable to communicate his emotions. How could he make them see? Maybe it wasn’t too late. Maybe he still had a chance. The gods could take it back, couldn’t they? “I... I have to,” was all he could say.
As gently as he could, Chac refused. “No, Sirius. We have to go to Windhelm now. Vorstag will be safe where he is, but you need rest.”
Tears welled up in the Imperial’s eyes. “He’s… he’s all alone.” How could he make them understand? Vorstag was all by himself in that cold, dark place. Soon he would be put into the earth, forever, and Sirius would never have the chance to see him again. He’d be nothing but another old stone in Falkreath’s sprawling cemetery. But if Sirius could see him… touch him… just one last time, maybe it would be enough. The gods would see what a terrible mistake they had made, and Vorstag would sit up, his grey hair turning brown again and the smile Sirius loved so much appearing on his face.
Chac knew what Sirius was thinking, he had felt the same way after Vilkas’ passing…. he looked helplessly at Teldryn and Lydia. “What should we do?”
“I need to see Vorstag,” Sirius said simply.
“No,” Teldryn said firmly. “Let him rest where he is. We’re going to Windhelm.” He despised the city but recognized the need to get Sirius as far away from Falkreath as possible. He led Sirius firmly away, back to their horses.
Sirius stared at him, unbelieving. Teldryn was his friend. Lydia and Chac were his friends. Why weren’t they listening? Why were they denying him his last chance?
He sagged in despair, beginning to weep once more. Teldryn staggered under Sirius’ sudden dead weight, managing to hold the Imperial up. “For the love of Mephala!” he swore, getting angry. His hand twitched to slap Sirius, but he held back, instead glaring at Chac. “Will you help me?!”
Teldryn never prided himself in his ability to calm a madman, and from years of knowing Chac he’s learned that the Bosmer had an uncanny knack at reaching those who are otherwise unreachable. One could even say he lived for it; Chac was soon at Teldryn’s side, feeling aches in his body as he wrenched Sirius from his grip and tried to haul the tantrum-throwing Imperial back to his horse.
“Sirius, it’s time you and I had a chat.” Chac states, the father's tone in his voice long unused. “-Because this is about Vorstag, and what’s to become of him should you keep acting this way.”
For the moment Sirius seemed to go limp, a 200+ pound toddler who didn’t get his way. He refused to play along as the two elves haul him back up into his saddle, fat tears running down his cheeks at being denied his only desire. Chac was already out of breath, the bruises laid on him last night growing dark as time had gone by. He climbs up beside Sirius, their horses beneath them biting at the bit. “You’re probably not going to want to hear this, Sirius, but this is a lesson I’m going to teach you... one you’ve learned for yourself, but must have forgotten.”
He turned to look at Lydia and Teldryn, both knowing they suffered as well with their own doubts. “This is for all of you, so listen carefully.” It wasn’t often Chac had to give lectures to grown adults, but as young as the elf seemed he was wise beyond his years, attuned to what lies beyond Mundus.
"Vorstag has left this mortal coil, just as Vilkas has, has Sofie, and every soul we’ve watched depart from Nirn. The gods bestow upon us a body at the time of our conception, and we use this body as a tool, as a vessel for our soul for the time we are given before that too, is committed back to the soil. To the air, and the trees. Vorstag’s body is simply a tool, one that has grown old, one that will no longer sustain his soul.”
“Sirius, to go back now and to look upon his empty frame would be like looking upon a statue. He is no longer within there. I have wandered the realms of the dead, the planes of Oblivion, and I know it is true that an immortal soul finds its home there. Not here. Sirius, you know this is true. You’ve been there.”
He received no answer, Teldryn’s curse-red eyes lingering on Chac’s as he spoke so sternly.
“Vorstag’s soul is elsewhere, but I can guarantee you that he is not at peace. He won’t be, until you’ve interred his remains, until he’s sure that you’ve moved on, and that you’re happy. Destroying his earthly possessions and attacking his friends shows him that he cannot move on until this madness comes to an end. Last night, as you slept, I felt a presence at your bed. He’s with you, Sirius. He cannot leave your side- his soul is bound to you, until you can find it in yourself to let him go.”
Sirius looked up, beacon-red eyes staring at him with disbelief. Bosmer were always intuitive to the presence of ghosts, of spirits; Sirius had been too furious to feel Vorstag there beside him. Teldryn felt a chill run up his spine, wondering if Chac’s words were true, if Vorstag was indeed laying beside Sirius as he stood sentry over him that night.
“Come with us to Windhelm until you’ve gathered the strength to see through with his funeral. Teldryn and I will help you, and we’ll make sure his body is given the burial it deserves. Just as Vilkas’, it will be an occasion to celebrate his life, not to mourn his passing.”
Chac’s words cut deeply, but in his heart Sirius knew they were true. He remembered his dreams, of Vorstag calling to him from afar. Was he really the reason his beloved couldn’t ascend to the peace of Aetherius? Ashamed, he allowed himself to be led back to his horse. If Vorstag was still with him, why couldn’t he feel him?
Lydia wiped tears from her eyes as she helped her Thane onto his horse once more. Finally the little group was on their way again, Chac expertly guiding them along roads he knew like the back of his hand. Sirius was silent as before, his troubled heart making him unable to speak. Everything his friend had said was true. If he had learned anything in his long, long life, it was the fate of souls. He had spoken to spirits, seen people taken to Oblivion, faced ghosts countless times. To think of bringing Vorstag back was blasphemy. He had had enough dealings with necromancers to know a reanimated body was not the same; Vorstag resurrected would be nothing but a soulless husk.
His head throbbed and his eyes burned. He wanted to cry, but his grief was too great for tears at the moment. Lost in his own thoughts, Sirius didn’t notice as the lush forest of Falkreath turned into the vast plains of Whiterun, and the plains to the cold, snowy drifts of Eastmarch. Chac had done an excellent job of avoiding the settlements on their route, but as they approached Windhelm he could see people gathering to welcome the fabled Dragonborns to their city. He stiffened in the saddle, motioning to Lydia to pull Sirius’ hood up to hide his face.
“Sir Chac, Sir Sirius,” a guard greeted them respectfully. “May I welcome you to Windh-”
Chac held up a hand. “Thank you, friend. Could I trouble you to spread the word that we are not to be disturbed?”
The guard looked over at Sirius, noting how the normally tall and proud Imperial was slumped in his saddle, his face mostly hidden by his hood. He started to ask a question, but Chac cut him off, leaning down to whisper harshly in his ear.
“Sir Sirius is in mourning. Do not speak to him. Lead us to Hjerim and make sure we are not disturbed. And if you wish to keep your head attached to your neck, I strongly suggest you do not mention his husband.”
“Y-yes sir,” stammered the guard, who was young and easily cowed. He watched as the small group stabled their horses, then led them through the crowded, icy streets. Chac and Teldryn flanked Sirius, Lydia behind. Sirius let himself be guided through Windhelm, never lifting his head. The guard used his authority to chivvy people along, watching over the visitors until Hjerim’s door was latched firmly behind them.
No one saw the spirit, who followed along without a sound, watching his husband with mournful eyes.
Windhelm was a city of constant change, political uprisings and battling factions all making their home here in this city simply built for mourning. Teldryn wouldn’t have said the same, it’s a bitter place and the hate towards his kind has never changed, no matter how long Ulfric has been dead. They were safe within these walls, these prison-like stone walls that made the squad of mourners feel unwelcome. It was hard to get anywhere without being noticed, even if they’d pulled up their hoods and walked briskly through the frigid winds that smelled of sea salt and poverty.
“Dalis keeps the place clean and warm,” Teldryn comforts Lydia, seeing how the cold ached her bones. “Chac and I hired a Dunmer housekeeper, we let his family live there when we’re away.” The tiny smiles they shared where of some respite. Since becoming Thane, Teldryn had put plenty of his wealth into providing for destitute Dark Elf families. Dalis and his children would have to stay elsewhere for a time, but as they approached Hjerim, they made no fuss of moving out.
The housekeeper Dalis invited them in with open arms, walking into Hjerim was like crossing through a portal into another world. Inside it was warm, every hearth burning with earthly-smelling wood, foyer and dining hall heavily decorated in the Dunmeri style. To Teldryn it felt like home, but to Sirius it was like an escape from everything he’d been surrounded by these past months. Vorstag had become too weak and old in his final years to leave Skyrim; the change of smells and sights would be good for him.
“The place looks wonderful, Dalis.” Chac smiles, removing his heavy white cloak. “I’m sorry we didn’t have time to send word, we’re… it’s a hard time for all of us.” Before they had the chance to explain themselves, three young Dunmer boys raced down the stairs, joyfully greeting their guests and ignorant to the suffering on their faces.
“Hey! Scurry on out of here, the man’s not feeling well!” Teldryn piped up, Lydia clueless to the Dunmeri language, fearful of when the smallest of the boys tugged at Sirius’ cloak, his tiny gray hand clutching at the cloth. Teldryn invited himself to reach down and snatch up the little child, throwing him over his shoulder with a squeal. “You little scribs need to learn some manners!”
“Oh leave him be, Teldryn. He’s just a baby.” Dalis sighs, Chac trying his hardest to get Sirius away from all this; they didn’t know what has befallen Sirius… Dunmer in Windhelm tended to stay out of Skyrim’s gossip. Placing his hand on Sirius’ lower back, he gently tries to lead the man towards the back room; the place where Pjerlas and Alesan once slept. It was closest to the kitchen, the privy, everything he needed.
Walking inside, even Chac was surprised at how the room was decorated; paper lanterns of all colors filled every corner, children’s drawings posted on the wall, exotic Dark Elf quilts on the two large beds. Lydia followed them in, closing the door to quiet the sound of Teldryn and Dalis’ conversation.
"Make yourself comfortable, everything in my home is yours to use.” Chac tried to comfort them, knowing this could either be a welcome or shocking experience for them both. Feeling stressed, Chac had to leave them for only a moment to make sure every weapon and artifact in Hjerim remained out of sight. This place needed to be secure for all of them, and the large collection of beautiful weapons upstairs was the first thing to go.
Heedless of Chac’s departure, Sirius collapsed onto one of the beds. As Lydia removed his cloak and boots, he gazed around at the bright colors and trinkets. His eyes were drawn irresistibly to the children’s drawings, reminding him with a fresh pang of sadness of his own little girl, taken before her time. The decor, however, was soothing to him though Lydia found it garish. It reminded him of his life in Morrowind, centuries ago. As he looked around, he noticed a small etched tablet standing on the bookcase. He reached for it, taking it down and tracing the carvings with a finger. It was a small icon of Azura, done in the ancient Dunmeri style, Daedric letters circling her. He ran his fingertip over each letter… “Moon-and-Star bless you”.
It was almost as if the Prince was before him again. Holding the tablet to his chest, he lay down, closing his eyes. Lydia covered him with a quilt, staying until her Thane’s deep, slow breathing convinced her he was asleep. She departed quietly after ensuring there was nothing in the room Sirius could use to harm himself, leaving the door open and going to find Chac.
Unseen and unheard, Vorstag entered the room and sat on the bed beside his husband, watching him sadly. His parents and daughter awaited him in Aetherius, but he couldn’t leave while the man he loved was in so much pain. He reached out to touch Sirius, his ghostly graze like a cool breeze on Sirius’ cheek. Vorstag wished he could show himself, convince Sirius that everything was all right, it was okay to move on and be happy again. He didn’t want to be an anchor to his beloved. But Sirius was too far in despair, so deep in his own pain that he would never be able to see his husband’s spirit before him until he was able to accept the reality of his death.
Meanwhile, Chac was upstairs in his bedroom, securely locking a large chest which now held every weapon in the house. Teldryn and Dalis watched him silently until he was finished. He turned to them and saw the bewilderment in Dalis’ eyes.
“Sirius has lost his husband,” he said in a low voice. “You did not know them very well, but they were devoted to each other, and Vorstag’s passing….” He did not want to shame Sirius in front of someone who barely knew him, and tried to be as tactful as possible. “…Sirius is understandably upset and depressed. He…. tried to hurt himself earlier and I want to be sure it doesn’t happen again.” There was no sense troubling Dalis with the details, knowing a violent man was in the house with his children would cause the Dunmer to panic, possibly upsetting Sirius more. “I just ask you treat him gently, and don’t be offended when he doesn’t talk to you. He’s been… very quiet.”
“Of course, my Thane,” Dalis said respectfully. “Lord Nerevar will be given the utmost care and respect, I promise. I will keep the children from bothering him, and we will find another place to stay as soon as possible. My sister lives in the Grey Quarter; we can stay with her as long as you need.”
“I’m sorry to show up so suddenly and kick you out,” Chac apologized. “It’s been.. a very trying time for all of us.”
“You said it,” Teldryn mumbled, feeling more tired than he could remember being in his entire life. Wearily he began to undress, ignoring Dalis, who flushed and bid the two elves a hasty goodnight before leaving to check on his children.
Alone for the first time in more than two days, Teldryn rolled his aching neck around his shoulders, feeling a painful crackling even Chac could hear. There was so few remnants of the home Vilkas and Chac once built here, and frankly the burning incense Teldryn once thought so comforting was becoming a source of his bleary eyes and stinging brain.
“I don’t remember ever being so knackered in my life.” Teldryn sighs, a dramatic growl in his voice. He sat himself upon their bed, falling unceremoniously upon his back to look at the Bosmer; he was frowning, but of course he would be, there was no source of happiness for miles and miles around them. Teldryn didn’t like it, but could either of them escape it?
“Don’t push yourself tonight, Chac. Perhaps Sirius is well enough to sleep on his own..at least for a time.”
“Mmm.” Chac grunts, unsure of how Sirius took that dark lecture at the start of their journey. “I’ve been thinking of a way to find some peace for him. The spirit that follows Sirius is still with us, but he’s too pained to notice him.”
“What do you suggest we do?” Teldryn rolls over in the bed, sitting his chin on his hands with the open space beside him on the bed looking so inviting.
“I want to meditate with him tonight. If he can find a way to clear his mind and quiet his thoughts, there just may be a chance that he could feel Vorstag with him.”
Teldryn wasn’t sure about how he’d feel being surrounded by the ghosts of his loved ones. The thought alone was frightening, but then again he’d never once felt a spirit cling to him the way Vorstag’s apparently does to Sirius.
“Would Sirius be satisfied with just a phantom? A dream?”
"There’s only one way to find out. It certainly beats having Sirius hounding over his corpse, looking for any sort of life in him.”
“This one’s all on you, Chac.” Teldryn knew he’d be no help contacting the dead, and even less of a help getting Sirius to relax. His eyes were ready to close the longer he lay on their bed, but his heart raced to the sight of Chac turning to leave their room. “Wait!”
“Wake me up when you’re finished with him. There’s something I need to say.”
“I will. Just sleep until then, babe.” Chac smiles softly, leaving to Sirius’ bedside. He ignored the hushed voices all around him in Hjerim, put on his brave face to the Dunmer family which packed their belongings. A darkness loomed over the closed doorway where Sirius slept, Chac’s skin prickling as his fingers touched the doorknob- it was warm. Almost hot.
Opening the door, Chac’s heart nearly leapt out of his throat to the ethereal blueish glow that vaporized the moment he set eyes upon Sirius’ bed. The sight was so fleeting that even the hawk-eyed Chac had doubts of whether or not what he saw was actually there... Sirius was motionless, one would even think he was dead looking upon his body.
“Sirius, my friend. Before you sleep, there’s something we need to do together.” Chac smiles, sitting upon the bed next to his, barely an arms length away. It creaked beneath his bottom, stirring the man ever so slightly. He didn’t respond, and he continued to not respond until enough gentle words from Chac’s mouth to merit the Imperial to open his eyes and lock them with the Bosmer’s.
“I know the pain you’re in is too hard to ignore, I know it’s so great there’s nothing else you could possibly think of, but that pain won’t fade until you learn to accept what’s happened.” Chac starts, his voice that of a father’s. “You can’t feel his spirit, you can’t feel the way it clings so tightly to you, how even now it lies just beyond a veil you cannot lift until your assent.”
Sirius said nothing, wanting so hard to feel what Chac could. Part of him even felt enraged to how this elf could feel Vorstag when it was Sirius who should.
“Meditate on the happiest memories you have of your life with him. Share them with me, if you can. Get lost in them, until all you can remember is the joy you shared..because Sirius, if you are gone, the greatest part of Vorstag that still lingers on this earth will be gone as well.”
Whether or not Sirius could cooperate with him, or if he was still too irrational to think straight, only time would tell. Chac wasn’t expecting this to work overnight, but he was willing to spend every day working with Sirius to try and bring the man an ounce of peace.
Sirius sat up, glowering at Chac from behind his hair. His rage, the rage of that inner dragon he sometimes struggled to control, rose within him. “Why do you feel him?” he growled. “I loved him, I spent every moment with him, I cared for him when he was - t-too old - why should you feel him, you only fucked him once in awhile!”
Chac winced but tried to ignore those cutting words, knowing it was only Sirius’ anger and sorrow speaking. “Sirius, please. Calm down.” He caught his friend’s hands in his and squeezed gently. “I want to help you. I want to help Vorstag. Neither of you can move on until you can face the reality of his death.”
“Maybe I don’t want him to move on,” Sirius said churlishly. “Maybe I want him here even if he doesn’t want me to see him.”
“Don’t say such childish things!” Chac said heatedly. “I know that’s not what you really wish. And I… I just wish for you both to have peace. Please, give it a chance.”
Sirius fought back the acidic retorts which rose in his throat, trying to control himself. This was Chac, one of his oldest, dearest friends, and he was only trying to help. His hands tightened into fists in Chac’s grip and the elf mentally prepared himself for another attack. Sirius’ eyes were wild, bloodshot and ringed with fatigue, his lip curling like a dog’s. But at the same time he was desperately trying to hold back his anger, a tiny voice inside imploring him not to turn on the only support he had left.
His eyes fell upon the tablet still laying on his pillow. Azura’s gaze seemed to reproach him. The fight went out of him, and he slumped over, tears beginning to flow. He sobbed, head between his knees, as Chac rubbed his back. The elf knew the scalding tears of grief hurt, but would eventually bring healing to his friend. He continued to rub Sirius’ back until the hoarse, choking cries ceased. For a long time Sirius remained motionless, catching his breath. Finally he sat up and looked at Chac.
“Okay,” he said softly. “Okay, I’ll try.”
“Good.” Chac put an arm around him, and when Sirius didn’t pull away gently embraced him, letting the Imperial rest his hot face against his tunic. “Tell me. Tell me about the happiness you had together. I’m sure Vorstag is listening.”
Again he caught the briefest flicker of blue from the corner of his eye, and he knew Vorstag was indeed there.
“He was everything,” Sirius mumbled. “Everything to me. I never knew what love really was until I met him… didn’t know why people bothered… but V-Vorstag…. I’d do anything for him. Just to see him smile.”
Chac felt a shiver go through Sirius’ body, and he pulled the quilt around them. “Close your eyes,” he whispered. “Don’t say anything for a little while. Just listen.”
Sirius obeyed. His eyes stung even when closed, his ears picking up nothing at first but his own ragged breath and Chac’s heartbeat. But as they remained silent, he could hear other things as well. The soft crackling of the fire. Footsteps outside the door, where Lydia no doubt paced as she worried about him. Quiet voices from Dalis and his family as they finished getting their things together. Outside, the howling of the wind. Life continuing, flowing onward even though Vorstag was no longer there.
“No,” he whispered. “No!” Life wasn’t supposed to go on. If Vorstag was no longer here then everything should stop. What was he doing here, anyway? When Vorstag had died he should have died as well. They were one, Vorstag’s heart was Sirius’ heart. There was no reason left for him to live.
“Shh!” Chac held him tightly, restraining him. “Listen!”
This time he could hear weeping, so quiet it was almost inaudible. A fresh prick of sorrow stabbed at his heart. Lydia. His very oldest friend, who had been with him almost as soon as he arrived in Skyrim. She had loved Vorstag as well, and now she was crying. She was hurting, too. Sirius had to be strong. He had to pull through this and comfort her. But he didn’t want Vorstag to go. Moving on would be like forgetting his husband, his dearest love. Torn, he clung to Chac, unable to make a decision. Anxiety gripped him and his breath became harsher, more ragged.
“Don’t go, my love,” he whispered.
Chac has been in this position so many times before, having lost enough lovers and dear ones to know exactly why Sirius had such a difficult time accepting the fact that Vorstag is gone. He couldn’t imagine Vorstag’s specter ever leaving their side, not until his final bidding on this world is complete- with Sirius at peace with his passing. Death is a strange thing to feel; an infinity in a moment, a lifetime in just a handful of seconds. Time was beyond him in death, but looking upon Sirius crying helplessly in their friend’s lap was an eternity of woe upon him.
If only he could reach out, defy the restraints of his soul’s ability and show Sirius that he was alright. This wouldn’t happen, it couldn’t, until Sirius came to accept his fate. Chac remembers how long it took him to come to terms with the death of his first husband, the untimely loss of his grandchild’s life. Long moments went by in this tiny room where nothing beyond soft words of comfort came from the elf’s mouth, Sirius waging war with what he most wanted to believe.
“It will never stop hurting.” Sirius groans, knowing this to be true.
“Time doesn’t heal all wounds, as we’ve been promised as children. I can’t promise you that the years that follow will make you forget how you feel now.” Chac starts, his hard palm running circles along Sirius’ back, feeling how weakly he trembled. “But time does allow us to grow stronger, and to learn all of the reasons why living can still be so blessed.”
There was nothing he wanted to live for, thought Sirius. He didn’t give himself the time to realize just what could befall him in the future, he was too depressed to think of a silver lining on this endless stormy sky. Chac didn’t think it wise to promise Sirius that he may love again, that he may find someone out there who warms his heart the way Vorstag’s did. Like Teldryn did to him...
“I can’t feel him, Chac. I want to, I just can’t.”
“Not tonight, you can’t. We can try again tomorrow, we can spend these days remembering all of the joy Vorstag brought us, you know he would want this. Don’t let the end of his life be the end of his most cherished love of all; your life.”
Chac knew there was no point in continuing this now, and he just held Sirius as the man slumped against him in defeat. A soft knock on the door made him turn.
“Sir Chac? May I come in?” It was Lydia, bearing a tray with soup and bread. “I don’t mean to interrupt but-”
“It’s okay.” Chac smelled the hot broth and his stomach growled, reminding him he hadn’t eaten since leaving Falkreath that morning. “Sirius is too tired right now to concentrate. I’m going to go get something for myself and head up to bed.” He gripped her shoulder reassuringly, before heading off to the kitchen. He needed to talk to Teldryn, anyway.
Vorstag watched him go, knowing his friend was trying his hardest to comfort Sirius. “Thank you,” he whispered. Chac blinked and looked around, certain he had just heard something.
“Sir Chac? Are you okay?”
“Oh, uh, yeah.” Chac shook his head to clear it. “I just thought I heard… it’s nothing. Goodnight.”
“Goodnight,” Lydia replied, turning her full attention to Sirius. “Here, my Thane.” She set the tray on the desk, stirring the soup. “You need to get your strength back. Please, eat.”
For several long moments she was sure he’d refuse, but he finally took the spoon and slowly ate, his weakened body demanding sustenance. Lydia sat quietly watching him, cutting bread for him, until Sirius pushed the bowl away and laid down. It hurt Lydia to see his eyes so dull with pain, the grey streaks at his temples worrying her. She wished she could do something to comfort him, but in his current mood she wasn’t sure mentioning Vorstag was a good idea. Chac was strong and could fight back if attacked, but Lydia had no illusions about her aged body. If Sirius became the raving, howling beast he had been at home once more, she would never be able to stand up to him.
She sat beside him as he stared unseeingly at the opposite wall. Trembling, her hand reached out to gently stroke his hair, something she had never dared to do before. It was like black silk between her fingers, but Sirius pushed her hand away. Guiltily Lydia remembered Sirius had never let anyone but Vorstag play with his hair, and she put her hands in her lap, biting her lip and internally berating herself for her thoughtlessness. Suddenly the little jar of ointment Chac had prepared popped into her mind, and Lydia fished it out of her pack. She was no alchemist and feared using too much, so she merely rubbed a bit on Sirius’ forehead, watching as the soothing balm calmed her Thane enough for him to relax.
As Sirius’ eyelids drooped, Lydia rose and crossed to her own bed. “Goodnight, my Thane,” she said quietly. “I hope you feel better in the morning.” She also hoped the gods would send him some happy dreams, or maybe even Vorstag’s spirit. With a sigh, she blew out the candles and got in bed, the long day taking its toll. She was asleep in minutes, and did not see the pale blue glow which appeared at the side of Sirius’ bed.
Vorstag looked down at his love, wishing mightily that he could give Sirius a sign of some kind. Instead, he settled at the foot of his husband’s bed, prepared to watch over him all night.
What a cosmic sort of feeling this was, sitting alone in his kitchen knowing the ghost of a dearest friend walked among his old home. Floated among the men who lay tonight haunted by his absence, most certainly trying to reach out and let them know he existed. There was no hope tonight for such relief, and Chac sat himself roughly at the small table in his kitchen, leftovers of Lydia’s soup ladled into a bowl. He couldn’t remember the last thing he ate, these past few days have been nothing but a blur to him.
Silence settled deep into the wood of Hjerim, Dalis and his family gone with nothing but the faint chill at the front door to remember them by. Chac cared little for the bland flavor of the soup, or the warmth of the ale he choked down- his mind is awash with burdens he tried his best to clear out of his mind. Over 230 years of living has left him with enough skill to block out the grief, but memories of Vorstag, memories of Sirius’ attempt at his own life bore down heavily on him. An ache settled between his eyes he could not ignore…
“Mara, find peace for your child. He suffers more than any mortal can stand.” Chac murmurs, feeling his throat tighten and eyes sting. He chose to busy his mind with a count of all the blessings he has in his life. Chac did miss Vilkas terribly those first years without him, but he had the joy of watching his daughter grow, a living image of his late husband’s beauty, even as she reaches her 50’s.
Not nearly full but too weary to eat, Chac took the time to rinse his dirty body, to heal the already fading bruises inflicted on him by Sirius nights before. He wanted to sleep more than anything, silently climbing the steps to the upper floors which lie eerily still. In the master bedroom Teldryn slept, Chac’s eyes smiling to the sight of the Dunmer and how he’d not even climbed under the covers and lay sprawled. He must be so exhausted, and Chac thought twice about waking him against his wishes.
“I’m back, Teldryn.” he coos, enjoying the way Teldryn’s eyes blearily wandered before locking with his own. With a tremendous groan he stretches, exposed muscles rippling before going utterly limp.
“How’s Sirius doing?” he croaks, watching unwaveringly as Chac undressed into his smalls before those too, are stripped.
“I’m not having any luck getting him to make peace with what’s happened. I’m afraid I was being too optimistic thinking it would happen overnight.”
“It’s going to take some time. Gods know he’s in a very bad way.” Teldryn wasn’t looking forward to the struggle ahead but he was more than willing to take it on with Chac at his side. He simply watched Chac from across the room, seeing how he left their door wide open, just in case.
“I don’t see him getting any better for at least another few days. Until we’re out of those woods he’s going to need constant care.”
“You know better than I.” There were so many things he wanted to talk about with Chac, things that he needed to let off his chest before they could stew too long and become a plague. He beckoned the Bosmer over, sitting up until he was on his knees with his mohawk flattened to one side of his head.
“So,” Chac approaches, obliging to reach out and grab Teldryn’s extended hands, being pulled into their bed. “You had something you wanted to say?”
“You probably already know what I’m going to gripe about.” Teldryn frowns, but to be completely honest, Chac’s mind was too muddled to think of anything. He knew it wasn’t anything good… He let Teldryn continue.
“This is the third person we’ve had to lay to rest together since we’ve been, well, together, and I just don’t like what it’s doing to you. Heh, I’m so used to seeing you as this obnoxious, bright ray of sunshine..and... well, you’re changing. With every body we put in the ground I can see a part of you slipping away, and I’m afraid there’s only so much I can do to keep it on Nirn.”
“This is just a trying time for all of us, Teldryn. I’ve got you and you’ve got me, we can pull through this no matter how many friends we lose.”
“You aren’t letting me finish, Chac.” Teldryn glowers, squeezing Chac’s wrists and pulling him to sit side by side. “There’s something much more frightening that’s been nagging me ever since Vorstag’s death.” Teldryn stopped, looking as though his long-standing difficulty with expressing himself was getting the better of him. But no, he had to say this, because he promised himself long ago to always say what he needed to before it was too late.
“You don’t want to leave me, I’m guessing?” Chac smiles, sadly.
“Well…yes. And it goes both ways. I’m afraid of what will happen if either one of us dies, what would happen if you left me alone... I look at Sirius and well, I start to panic. My mouth gets dry, and my mind races. For either one of us to end up like him would be..."
“You already know I don’t like talking about this, Teldryn.”
“It needs to happen.” Teldryn blurts, damn near aggressively. “Because gods forbid the worst possible fate befalls one of us? What then? How would I go on if I lost you?” Teldryn knew it was dangerous building your life around someone else, he’d avoided it his entire life until Chac came along and changed all of that. It was so selfish of him to say such a thing, but these worries couldn’t just be ignored.
“Then we live for each other’s memory. Just as I told Sirius.”
“That’s not good enough, Chac.” Teldryn’s heart squeezed, to the Bosmer seeming like a child refusing to believe their time would also one day come. He didn’t want to think about it, let alone talk about it.
“What do you want me to say, then?” Chac scoffs, holding out his arms in confusion.
“Tell me this won’t happen to us.”
“I can’t tell the future, Teldryn.”
“Then lie to me. Tell me what’s happening to the man downstairs won’t ever happen to us.” Teldryn nearly shook him, Chac almost afraid of the intensity in his curse-red eyes.
“…It’ll never happen to us.” Chac lied, his very soul trembling. He could remember over forty years ago lying to his old lover Cicero, the very last words he ever spoke to the man being nothing but pure lies. Something inside him wanted to break, but Teldryn merely nodded. He nodded, looking defeated but satisfied with such a blatant fib.
“Okay.” Teldryn lets go of the elf, slowly pulling away the blankets to lay himself inside, doing so for the Bosmer as well. He could keep telling that lie to himself at least until the worst of this has passed, until the traumatic memory of walking in on Sirius bleeding out in Chac’s arms has softened.
Chac climbs in, blowing out a handful of lights at their bedside leaving nothing but the brightness of the moon to shine on the bed. Together they lay down on their backs, staring darkly at the other knowing tomorrow will be another hard day.
“Thank you, Chac.” Teldryn whispers, turning on his side and offering the Bosmer a place inside his arms. Chac slides in, fingertips dragging down Teldryn’s gray back with nothing to say that would settle his own mind. Discomfort loomed over them both, the delusional Dunmer pressing his lips to Chac’s forehead. This would never happen to them. He went to sleep forcing himself to believe it, but in his dreams he couldn’t hide from the truth.
The days in Hjerim passed slowly. Sirius was rarely alone, but if it bothered him to be watched over like a child he didn’t say so. He talked little and spent most of his time staring at nothing, lost in his own misery. Though his friends tried everything they could think of, there seemed to be no way to get him to snap out of it.
Chac continued to sit with Sirius every night, encouraging him to share his memories, to meditate with him. Often it was like talking to a blank wall, but Chac hoped his words were getting through to Sirius. As the days turned into weeks, Chac was sure Vorstag was still there. He could feel the Nord’s presence more strongly every night, and he longed to be able to share it with Sirius. The man was breathing, eating, allowed himself to be taken for a walk every afternoon, but he might as well have been dead for the difference it made.
Lydia tried hard, too, cooking nutritious meals for her Thane and making sure he was comfortable at all times. She continually hunted through Windhelm’s market for treats or small items to bring home, in an attempt to make Sirius smile, or at least speak. Even his favorite sweetrolls couldn’t seem to cheer him up.
One morning, Chac, Teldryn, and Lydia sat at the great table, eating breakfast, and discussing what to do. Sirius seemed unwilling to cooperate with them, was nearly comatose almost all the time. The only reaction they got out of him was the swift anger directed at anyone who spoke Vorstag’s name aloud. A fortnight ago Sirius had physically attacked Teldryn when the Dunmer mentioned Vorstag in passing; since then Chac had been sneaking canis root into all Sirius’ meals to keep him docile. Together, they despaired.
“I don’t know what we’re going to do,” Chac said, glancing over at the closed bedroom door. “Sirius isn’t responding to anything we do, and I feel as if he’s only a step away from descending into madness once more.”
Lydia sighed deeply. “I feel so helpless,” she said sadly, pushing her eggs around on her plate. “He’s… I’m afraid he’s determined to die. I have to beg to get him to eat, and even then he barely touches half of what I give him.”
“He needs a good kick in the ass,” Teldryn said savagely. “He’s been wallowing in his depression. We’ve been too soft with him.”
“Yeah, I know, you’re thinking I’m mad at him for beating me up, but that’s not it. We’ve got to get him out, away from here, try someplace else if we have to. This city’s fucking depressing enough as it is.”
“No, we really should…” Chac started, but a loud gasp from Lydia stopped him. She was white, looking behind Chac, who whirled around.
“Vorstag!” Lydia choked out, her friend standing before the fire. Teldryn’s mouth hung open. Chac stared, wide-eyed, as Vorstag’s spirit smiled sadly at them. He turned, walking toward Sirius’ room, melting through the door.
“What in Oblivion…” Teldryn stared at the place where Vorstag had vanished through the wood, his face drained of color. Chac’s heart was beating wildly. As Lydia rose to check on Sirius, he caught her arm and held her back.
“Wait.” The three stared at the door. A few minutes passed before Vorstag reappeared, and they heard loud thumps and a crash from inside the room.
“VORSTAG!” The door flew open and Sirius was there, reaching for his husband, only to pass through him and fall to the floor. His eyes never strayed from the image before him, until Vorstag motioned to their friends. Sirius looked up at them, saw the concern and fear in their eyes. Something twisted inside him. He looked back at Vorstag, who vanished.
“Vorstag!” Sirius trembled, his hand outstretched to where his husband had stood. Tears flowed down his cheeks. “I- I’m sorry,” he choked out. Chac let go of Lydia and instead knelt to pull Sirius into his arms, as deep sobs wracked the Imperial’s body. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” he kept wailing, though no one knew which one of them he was apologizing to.
At long last, Sirius was quiet, turning his damp face up to Chac. “Help me,” he said desperately. “Help me, Chac, I want to see him again.”
When the shock faded, Chac felt happiness for the first time in weeks. Despite having a sobbing, begging mess in his arms right now, it was a clear sign to the Bosmer that Sirius was growing closer and closer to reaching that point of understanding; of accepting. Even if he showed no signs of improvement, the fact that he’d just seen the specter of his lost love was undeniable proof that their constant care of him was beginning to take its effect.
“Hush, hush… I can help you. This is good, Sirius. You don’t know how good this is.” Chac comforts him, trying his hardest to get the man to stand on his own, to let him find his own will to push onward. Together they pulled each other up, disbelief in all of their eyes who watched on.
“He’s here, Chac. He’s been here all along, and I’ve been too blind to see it!” It was like a drug he’d become hooked on the very first try, the sight of Vorstag no matter how spectral was something addicting to him. He needed to see him again, needed more of it until it was all he could ever know.
“He has been, I told you this. Without his help I would have never been able to keep you here for this long.” Chac smiles, seeing how Sirius’ hands shook wildly with excitement. This wasn’t an occasion to celebrate however; the next few days for Sirius will be critical. Chac knew that if he couldn’t reach the spirit, Sirius could become fascinated with his ghost and lose himself all over again.
“You see him now, that’s the most important part. He wants to help you, you realize this?”
“I do.” Sirius gulps. “Please, I’ll do anything!”
“Sit with us. Gather your strength Sirius, because you’re going to need it.” Chac smiles to the two that stood by and watched, Teldryn knowing that Chac had an entire plan worked up should the day come where Sirius had his epiphany. It was amazing seeing how eagerly the tall man sat himself down at the table, gray eyes wildly following Chac everywhere he went.
“Where are you planning on going?” Teldryn asks, excited to get out of this hellhole called Windhelm, excited to get their lives back on track. These weeks had been a lot harder on him than he’d ever like to admit…
“We go back to Falkreath, to the place where you built your life together. We give Vorstag the burial he deserves.”
Sirius didn’t want to put his body in the ground, but he already knew being in such close quarters with the memories he’d built and all of Vorstag’s earthly possessions would create a closer tie with the spirit. This would be incredibly difficult for him, for all of them, but if he was promised an audience with his beloved Vorstag once more he’d do anything.
“Maybe the Gods will grant you a chance to speak with him once more, Sirius. We can’t keep him from entering Aetherius any longer, else he become another lost soul.” Chac says sternly, putting a warm hand over Sirius’ own, letting the Imperial know just how dire this situation is.
“Can you do that for him? For yourself?”
Sirius took a deep breath, trying to steady himself. The thought of Vorstag becoming lost, a wandering ghost unable to continue on to his rest because of his selfishness scared him. He thought of their home, which he missed. And he felt a pang of sorrow for Vorstag’s body, neglected for so long when he should have been buried with the highest honor. Shakily, he considered the question. Could he do it? Could he bid goodbye to his love’s earthly remains? If he did, would Vorstag’s spirit return to him once more?
“Yes,” he said, his voice hoarse from disuse. “Yes. I can do this.”
“Good. But first, you need to eat.” Chac put a plate before his friend. “You’ve been neglecting yourself and you need to take better care.”
Sirius nodded and ate as if he’d never seen food before; as he re-energized himself the others drew away and talked in whispers.
“Is this good, truly?’ Lydia asked, still shocked at what she had seen. “I can’t help but feel Thane Sirius is only doing this in hopes Vorstag’s spirit will stay with him in place of a corporeal body. I’m not sure he understands, yet, how important it is to allow Vorstag to move on.”
“You’re right, and this is a very important time,” Chac said in a low voice. “I’m hoping we can help Sirius to see that it’s not the end, just another beginning. I hope Vorstag will be able to appear again, and this time be able to talk to Sirius, so they can say their goodbyes.”
Lydia sighed, still unsure of the plan, but she headed to the bedroom and began packing. Teldryn and Chac did the same, and by noon the party was ready to set off.
The trip to Falkreath was much different from their earlier voyage; Sirius sat up tall in the saddle, his eyes sparkling. Inside, he dwelt on Vorstag’s appearance, how a gentle breeze had awoken him and he had seen his husband standing beside his bed, the smile Sirius loved so much on his face. Though he had not been able to stay for long, the sight of him had kindled a small flame of hope inside Sirius. And there was a certain warmth around him. As if Vorstag’s spirit was still with him, surrounding him with gentle love.
Lakeview Manor was a welcome sight after the endless snow of Windhelm. As Lydia stabled the horses, Chac followed Sirius to the house. The Imperial’s hand trembled slightly as he unlocked the door. Chac put a reassuring hand on his shoulder, supporting him. Entering the manor, Sirius had a brief flashback of the last time he’d been here - the rage that had engulfed him, the tearing sorrow, a quick memory of bleeding in Chac’s arms… he took a deep breath, steadied by his friend, and looked around.
The girls Lydia had hired had done an excellent job. The house was clean and quiet, the furniture repaired and returned to its places. He walked slowly through every room, touching things, remembering. The books on their shelves. The sparkling paragons in their display case. Weapons of ebony, glass, dragonbone, and Stalhrim, returned to their proper racks. His alchemy lab, smelling still of herbs and mushrooms, waiting patiently for his return. And the bedroom, the bed he had shared with Vorstag for 50 years neatly made up. Slowly he sat on Vorstag’s side, running his hand along the slight depression left in the mattress. He closed his eyes, remembering the horrible day he had known it was over.
Vorstag, old, grey and feeble-bodied, had been confined to bed for several weeks; that morning he had taken Sirius’ hand and given him a sad smile. “It’s time for me to go, my love,” he had whispered. “I can feel it.”
“Don’t say that,” Sirius recalled saying uneasily.
“I’m sorry. I don’t want to leave you, my darling… but we’ve known all along this is our fate. I would give anything for you to be mortal like me; or that I could be ageless like you. But the gods decided you were meant for an important purpose which you have not yet fulfilled, and my time is gone.” Vorstag held Sirius’ hand to his cool cheek, his warm brown eyes locked on Sirius’. “Don’t be sad, love. Not many people are fortunate enough to spend fifty years with their beloved… to raise a wonderful child. It will be okay. I’ll be watching over you.”
“Don’t leave me,” was all Sirius had been able to manage, trembling. But Vorstag had been fading even as he spoke, his breathing becoming slower and slower.
“I love you, Sirius,” had been his last words, and as Sirius whispered back “I love you too, so much, Vorstag-” he had smiled and squeezed Sirius’ hand with the last of his strength, and was gone.
Chac watched Sirius closely, seeing tears in the Imperial’s eyes. He took a deep breath and wiped them away, looking up at Chac. “I’m sorry,” he said shakily.
He rose, trembling, and crossed to his wardrobe, taking out a very fine black outfit. “I- I’ll get ready.”
Chac couldn’t believe the knot starting in his stomach the moment he saw the sparkle of those tears in the man’s eyes. For the weeks he watched over Sirius he was certain that he’d never see this day come, the day where they gather and lay Vorstag to rest. The elf couldn’t help himself, he strode up towards the grief-stricken man and embraced him entirely, resting his ear against Sirius’ chest to hear the still-beating heart in his chest. It is one of the few reminders to him that he is still alive, and not a shambling corpse.
“There’s no time for being sorry, take all the time you need.” Sirius could hear Chac’s voice threaten to break, tight. It felt good to be up against him again, feeling his full height. “You don’t want to know how much I cried after losing Vilkas. A veritable ocean, ha.” Chac laughs, reaching up and squeezing Sirius’ shoulders in good faith that he could do this.
“I’ll wait for you to get changed. I’m sorry I don’t have my best black with me.” At the doorway Chac awaits him, listening to the creaking of the wood above him of Teldryn getting prepared as well. This was going to be far from the celebration that was Vilkas’ funeral, so far from the masses of warriors and friends who came to pay their final respects at the Sea of Ghosts.
But that didn’t mean it would be any less special... no, it was Vorstag’s greatest friends, something intimate they could all share away from public eye. After the ridicule he’d faced growing so old, no one needed a reason to mock his passing. If there was one thing Chac wouldn’t be able to handle, it’s to hear another young fool say “finally he’s dead.” There’d be none of that here. It was a solemn air that filled the cleaned home, only Chac’s trained nose smart enough to pick up the faded smell of Vorstag that still lingered on the clothing in the armoire, the smell of old blood in the cracks of the floor.
Looking at Sirius now, dressed in his mourner’s robes as black as his hair, Chac couldn’t stop the tears that rimmed his eyes. He never wanted to see this, no matter how inevitable it was. Teldryn descended the stairs, sleek in his black robes and Lydia waiting ever so patiently in the same. Chac had learned all the ways of the Nordic burial rites, and could only offer his advice to the man.
“Gather anything you want to be laid to rest with him. His most beloved possessions...” Whether or not Sirius destroyed them all, that remained to be seen. The elves could only offer a helping hand by the time Sirius has made his decision.
Sirius nodded, taking a deep breath. He went around the house, slowly collecting the things Vorstag prized. His dragonbone war axe, smithed for him by Sirius, unnamed but always deadly in Vorstag’s hands…. his bow, which had belonged to his father before him…. the small urn of gems Sirius had given him on their wedding night, the note securely tucked inside…. every object Sirius chose seemed to radiate Vorstag’s presence. He wept silently as he gathered his love’s possessions, but he could still feel that aura of warmth around him. It hurt to do this, but he knew in his heart it was the right thing, and Vorstag was with him.
The last thing he added to the small pile was a little doll, saved back from Sofie’s burial eighteen years ago. “H-he can bring it to her,” he explained tearfully to Chac, straightening up. “H-his w-wedding r-ring… and the n-necklace I m-m-made for him… he… he’s st-still wearing them,” he managed to say past the massive lump in his throat, his voice cracking.
Chac hugged him again, letting Sirius weep on his shoulder. “It’s okay,” he whispered. “You’ve done well.” He continued to comfort his friend, as Teldryn and Lydia carefully packed Vorstag’s things for transportation to Falkreath. Lydia had arranged for a note to be sent ahead to the Hall of the Dead, to let the priest of Arkay know they were coming. After a few moments, Sirius seemed to gain control again. Wiping his eyes, he gathered the bundle of possessions in his arms.
“I’m ready,” he said softly.
“It’ll be okay,” Chac assured him, though he had to fight back tears at the sight of his friend dressed in his funeral attire and carrying the things his beloved had cherished. They left the manor and began walking to Falkreath, using the extra time to prepare themselves. Sirius could hardly keep the tears from flowing, but at the same time he hoped Vorstag’s spirit would come to him once more.
Falkreath was respectfully silent when the four warriors entered, many of the residents dressed in black too. Sirius and Vorstag had always been well-liked and highly respected in town, and soft murmurs of condolence were spoken by several people. Chac glanced at Sirius to see how he was doing; the Imperial, though ashen, was nodding and responding politely to everyone who spoke. He walked tall and held his head high, only faltering when they arrived at the Hall of the Dead.
The priest stepped forward to place his hand on Sirius’ arm. “Dragonborn,” he said, his voice filled with quiet respect. “I am very sorry for your loss.”
“Thank you,” Sirius said softly. “Is.. is he..?”
“Come with me,” the priest said, and led the four into the Hall, down a flight of stone stairs to the chambers, where coffins reposed in niches in the walls and secret magic lingered. “We have taken good care of the body while you were away,” the priest told Sirius, as they approached a raised bier in the center of the room. Sirius’ heartbeat thudded in his ears, his throat tightening as he gazed once more on his beloved’s body. He started forward, Chac holding back Lydia as she tried to follow.
“Hello, my love,” Sirius said in a whisper, looking down at Vorstag’s body. The magic in the place had kept Vorstag pristine, his grey hair spread out around him, his eyes closed and his hands folded on his chest. He placed his hands on top of Vorstag’s, gazing down at him. Tears fell and spotted the nightclothes Vorstag still wore, Sirius sobbing quietly. The others could not see his face, but saw his shaking shoulders. Chac wanted to go to him, but knew Sirius needed this, and nothing he could say would stop the pain.
At long last Sirius fell silent, turning to Lydia. He motioned at the pack he had thrust into her arms, and she approached, holding it out to him. He opened it and drew out the last thing he’d packed - a fine suit of blue, trimmed in gold and silver, Vorstag’s finest clothes. The priest stepped forward. “Dragonborn, let me take that, I and my assistant will dress him-”
Sirius silenced him with a raised hand. “No,” he said firmly. “I shall.”
The priest fell back and the others watched in silence as Sirius stripped and bathed the body himself, his hands lovingly caressing Vorstag’s skin for the last time. Gently he dressed the corpse, straightening every stitch, making sure Vorstag looked his best. He finished by combing Vorstag’s hair, and leaned down to kiss him.
“I love you,” he whispered, so softly no one could hear him, except for the spirit that lingered, watching. He stepped back and allowed the priest and his assistant to lower Vorstag into his coffin, before calling the others over.
“Goodbye, Vorstag,” Lydia whispered, laying the axe at her friend’s right hand.
“Rest peacefully, my friend,” Chac murmured, placing the bow at his left. The Bosmer swiped at his tears, swallowing. “May you experience the joys of Aetherius, and send your love to Sirius.”
Teldryn put the little doll in Vorstag’s folded hands, his usually gruff exterior betrayed by the wetness glimmering in his eyes. “Sleep well,” he said.
Sirius was last, carefully putting the urn of gems at Vorstag’s feet, but taking the note from inside and laying it over Vorstag’s heart, where his words of devotion belonged. “Goodbye, my love,” he choked, his finger grazing the faded tattoo on his husband’s cheek. “I-I’ll be along in time.” He kissed Vorstag’s forehead before allowing the coffin to be closed, his last vision of Vorstag’s face embedded in his mind.
The priest motioned to his assistant, but Chac stopped him this time. “Teldryn and I will do it,” he said hoarsely, and Teldryn nodded. Together the two elves lifted Vorstag’s coffin, bearing their old friend outside.
This was a weight he’d gladly carry, a weight far greater than its tangible size; the coffin itself felt like 50 years of memories anchored down by stones upon the elves’ shoulders. It was a weight that would leave their minds aching as deeply as their backs for weeks to come…
Falkreath’s mist clung heavily in the air, to any elf the long-resting sea of buried dead leaving a wisp of death so faint inside the nose. No birds sung, no crickets chirped. The waterwheel’s rhythmic knocking was the only sound noticed beyond the shuffling of the funeral procession’s feet in gravel. It was with pure intentions in Sirius’ heart to remain standing strong, to walk with his back tall and respect for Vorstag in his heart that kept the man simply upright- everyone knowing he’d soon break.
The walk felt like lifetimes, countless headstones being passed bearing time-faded names of warriors of old; it would be a great honor for Vorstag to be laid to rest here. Sirius never wanted this walk to end, but as he approached the sight of the deep trench dug weeks ago, this would be the penultimate of his final moments with his husband. He could only stand idly by as his elven pallbearers took amazing care to lay the casket in the winch, the ropes audibly straining as the weight bore down upon them.
Arkay’s priest spoke, a sagely voice naught but a whisper in the hallowed ground. His words where beyond their ears, the four having memories of their wonderful time with Vorstag deafen them to any and all other noise. Words spoken, those of the joys of Aetherius and the love Arkay has for his children, how fleeting their time on Mundus may be. The casket resting in the ropes ready to be lowered, Lydia is presented with a bouquet of Vorstag’s favorite flowers for each of his closest friends to offer to the grave.
Teldryn went first, knowing the man the least but far from unknowing. “The Three guide you safely, Vorstag.” he sighs, with all his heart tossing the flower atop Vorstag’s casket. From there, he kneels on one knee at the bottom winch, waiting for Chac to lower him.
Chac was next, anguish so clear on his features. He couldn’t help but glance at Sirius who stared unblinking at the casket, fearing what may happen after his husband is buried. Taking his flower and holding it between his palms, he offered his final regards “I’m sure you will find peace here… watch over us.” The flower joins Teldryn’s, Chac doing his best to swallow the lump in his throat else he would not be able to sing his dirge. He kneels at the top winch, squeezing the handle.
Lydia was next, laying her flower across the coffin’s top, tears streaming down her face. “Goodbye, my friend. I’ll miss you… take care of Sofie for me.” She had always been very close to her Thane’s daughter.
Chac watched Sirius intently. The Imperial was trembling, his mouth twisted as he tried to speak. He struggled to hold himself high, kneeling to lay the rest of the bouquet save one flower on the coffin. “G-goodbye, my love,” he managed. He seemed to want to say more but couldn’t, choked by his own grief. He watched as Chac and Teldryn slowly, carefully lowered the casket into the grave. Lydia patted his arm and he turned to her, hugging her close, both crying together and trying to comfort each other. The priest’s assistants began to shovel dirt into the grave.
Swallowing hard, Chac began to sing softly, an old Bosmeri song of life and death, honoring a brave warrior. His voice was strong and carried across the fog, reaching the ears of the huddled group of Falkreath residents who stood a respectful distance away to see a man they had admired laid to his rest. He put his heart into the dirge, hoping Vorstag’s spirit could hear him. Teldryn stood beside him, head lowered and hands clasped, watching Sirius cautiously through his own tears.
Sirius continued to hold Lydia, watching as his love was buried, until there was nothing left but a mound of soil and the cold stone. ‘Vorstag. 4E 166 - 4E 251. A brave and honorable warrior, cherished husband of the Dragonborn.' Underneath was engraved the same message in the Dragon alphabet. Sirius wished there could have been more. Those few paltry lines could not do justice to the life of his beloved, could not convey how much Vorstag had meant to those who loved him.
Chac’s song ended, the Bosmer wiping at his tears. The group of people on the hill moved away, as did the priest and the assistants, leaving Sirius and his friends to their mourning. Sirius crossed to the grave beside Vorstag’s, laying his last flower at the foot of its tombstone. ’Sofie. 4E 193 - 4E 233. Master Wizard at the College of Winterhold, beloved daughter of Sirius and Vorstag’. His fingers brushed his daughter’s headstone as he stared at the fresh grave of his husband.
With a soft whimper, Lydia leaned against a nearby tree, trembling. Teldryn saw how pale she was, how hard she shook. He darted forward to support her, looking over at Chac. “I’ll take her back to the inn for now. Are you coming?”
“Not just yet,” Chac replied quietly, his eyes on Sirius as the man knelt between the graves of his husband and child. “I want to be sure he’ll be okay.”
Teldryn bit his lip, not liking it but understanding it was important that Sirius keep a hold of his sanity. He escorted Lydia away, murmuring softly to her. Chac stayed silent and continued to watch over his friend.
It began to rain, Chac standing under the overhang of the Hall of the Dead’s roof. He called to Sirius, but the other man didn’t answer, only stood grieving as the rain soaked through his clothes and left his long hair in wet strands.
Unmindful of the rain mingling with his tears, Sirius stared at the headstone of his beloved, despair eating at him. Would it be so bad to just lay down, here, and let go? To lie in the fresh dirt and close his eyes, to let himself fade away? All that he had ever wanted in life was buried, his family gone to a place he could not reach.
Sirius’ head jerked up; he trembled in excitement. Vorstag was there, his spirit glowing faintly, watching him. His heart went to his throat, and he staggered towards the specter. “Vorstag!” He longed to hold his husband, but knew he couldn’t. He stopped before his lover, his grey eyes searching Vorstag’s face. “Don’t go,” he pleaded. “You can stay with me, can’t you? Like this? I don’t care, I just want you with me-”
“Oh, Sirius.” Vorstag sighed. “I wish I could. But it takes so much energy to appear before you like this, and to speak…” he smiled sadly. “You should listen to Chac, and to your own heart. You know yourself I cannot stay. I wish I could, as well… I… I don’t want to leave you, either.” Could ghosts cry? It seemed to Sirius tears glimmered in Vorstag’s eyes, but it may have just been the rain. “But I told you, this is our fate. You must stay here on Nirn and fulfill the destiny the gods have laid out for you, whether it comes in a week, a month, a year… a decade.” He reached out to touch Sirius, wiping his tears, and it seemed for the slightest second that Sirius could feel his touch.
“I know it won’t help to tell you not to be sad. But please, dear, do not forget there are still others who need you. Weep for me if you must, but remember that I will be watching over you, and I will love you forever. Be strong. Don’t let our love be in vain.”
“I’ll try,” Sirius whispered.
“Don’t try, love. Live. Find your happiness again.” Vorstag was fading, unable to stay. Sirius’ heart jolted in panic. He didn’t want to be left alone so soon, there was so much he had to say -
“Goodbye, my love,” Vorstag said, sadness in his own eyes. “Thank you for taking care of me until the very end. I love you.”
“I love you, too,” Sirius wept, watching as Vorstag’s specter faded away for the last time. He stood motionless for a long time, until Chac ventured out into the drizzle and put a hand on his shoulder.
“Let’s go to the inn,” he said quietly. “Get out of the rain. Okay?”
It was unknown to Chac as he waited by the building just what transpired here; he was blind to the sight of Vorstag’s specter, deaf to the final words he offered in love to the grieving man. Vorstag had been there just for him, an intimate goodbye worthy of fifty years of loving friendship. The Imperial lept in shock to the feel of a hand upon his shoulder, turning with bloodshot eyes locked on him-
“Did you see him?” Sirius gulps, reaching up and holding onto Chac’s hand with a painful tightness, closing in around his wrist like a vice. “He was here, Chac. He spoke to me... and he’s gone. Has he moved on?” Sirius sounded so confused and it hurt Chac to think he didn’t have an answer for him.
“He won’t be a lost soul, Sirius.” Chac promises him, trying to pull his hand away as it is slowly injured in Sirius’ grip. “He’s... ngh... he’s with Sofie. With Vilkas. He’s not alone... Sirius, you’re hurting me.”
The rain went from a gentle drizzle to pouring within moments, Chac feeling a zing of fear start to well in the back of his mind the more Sirius stared wildly down at him. He could remedy this; before it could blow out of control. Sirius was merely shocked, at least that’s what he told himself.
“Please, come inside with us.”
Sirius couldn’t fathom leaving his grave, wishing to lay himself against the fresh mound of dirt and rest there, thinking it to be the only warm place left in this world for him. The fresh memory of Vorstag’s voice resounding in his ears blocked out Chac’s words, his vision going hazy. He began to feel Chac try to pull his wrist away from Sirius’ massive grip, the bare hand that buried his husband going purple and numb.
It was all too much. Vorstag’s last words, the pain, his own weakness - blood pounded in Sirius’ ears, his head throbbing, Chac’s struggles seeming far away….
His malnourished body took over his mind. His eyes rolled back in his head and he fainted, for the first time in his life, releasing Chac as he fell. The elf lunged to catch him, but Sirius hit the ground, laying across Vorstag’s grave, his fine clothes now soaked with rain and smeared with mud.
“Y’ffre!” Chac swore, pulling the older man into a sitting position. His head lolled, his entire body completely limp. Chac propped him against Vorstag’s tombstone and swore again, louder. Impatiently he pushed his sopping dreads out of his eyes, thinking rapidly. Should he leave Sirius and get Teldryn to help him? Or should he just try to bring Sirius back to the inn himself?
Looking down at his friend, Chac knew he couldn’t bring Sirius to the inn like this. He was a mess, and there was no telling what he would be like when he awoke. With a sigh, Chac took off his jacket and covered his friend with it before sprinting to the tavern.
Teldryn had succeeded in calming Lydia, and the pair were drinking to Vorstag’s memory by the fire when Chac burst in. He hurried over to them.
“Sir Chac, where’s Thane Sirius?” Lydia asked, her mind jumping immediately to conclusions. Had he killed himself? Her heart twisted in fear.
“He’s passed out,” Chac whispered urgently. “I didn’t want to leave him but I need your help. We have to get him back to Lakeview Manor.”
“Of course,” Teldryn said, as he and Lydia jumped to their feet, throwing a handful of gold down for the barkeep. They followed Chac outside and to the cemetery, where Sirius still sat propped up against his husband’s grave. Lydia raced to find the priest of Arkay and beg the use of his carriage, which was thankfully covered, and the two elves loaded Sirius’ unconscious form into it.
Chac took the reins and they headed home at a brisk pace. Lydia knelt at Sirius’ side and wiped the mud from his face, looking sorrowfully at her Thane. Surely this was too much for one man to bear. She prayed silently to Talos, asking him to watch over her Thane and grant him strength.
It wasn’t a long ride back to the manor, and Sirius began to stir as they pulled into the driveway. One hand grasped weakly at the hem of Lydia’s tunic.
“V-Vorstag,” he murmured, then was silent.
“Sirius.” Chac knelt and patted his cheeks, until the Imperial opened his eyes. “Wake up…. can you stand?”
He helped the Imperial up. Sirius staggered a little, leaning on him for support. “What… happened?”
“You fainted.” Chac bit his lip, noting the dull look in Sirius’ eyes.
“I hoped I’d died,” he replied bitterly. Chac swallowed. He prayed Sirius wasn’t about to go wild again. Trying to sound normal, he said, “Here, come in the bathhouse, let’s clean you up.”
Sirius allowed himself to be led into the Dwemeri-styled building, and willingly undressed and got into the tub. Chac added extra lavender soap to the water, hoping its scent would calm his friend. He sat on a bench nearby, wanting to keep an eye on Sirius in case he tried to hurt himself again. Slowly the Imperial washed, not saying anything. His mind kept replaying the last moments with Vorstag over and over again. “Find your happiness again.” Could he? Was that even possible? The future seemed like a yawning chasm to Sirius, days and months and years without Vorstag ahead of him, nothing but sadness and anger and remembrance, laying in an empty bed night after night.
Dully, not raising his head, Sirius spoke. “I can’t stay, Chac. I can’t stay in Skyrim anymore.”
There it was. The words he never wanted to hear but knew would come… Sirius was right, surrounded by the ghosts of his past in this cold land would prove too great of a torment on his nearly murdered heart. They all heard it, Teldryn glared at Chac, Lydia at Teldryn, all of them silently scrambling in the mere moments for something to say that would make Sirius stay.
None of them spoke.
It was up to Chac to let Sirius know just what he thought; and it all caught them by surprise. “Skyrim loves you, but there’s no worse a place for you right now. As soon as you’re strong enough, Teldryn, Lydia and I will be more than happy to send you off.”
Lydia wanted to speak up in protest, but the nod she received from Chac silenced her. She didn’t want him to leave, the terror of the unknown was thick in her mind. What if Sirius simply leaves only to kill himself elsewhere? Somewhere where no one can find his body? What if he grows filled with rage once again and kills innocent people? If only she wasn’t so old, she could travel with him and be sure that Thane Sirius never felt alone again!
“You are a true friend, Chac.” Sirius sighs, too weak to be heard above a whisper. This very land sucked the energy from him, this wretched sadness was too great for him to bear. He was worried that Chac would offer to leave with him, he simply wanted to be alone.
“We can go w-” Teldryn starts, Chac leaning over and silencing the Dunmer. They had to talk this through together, Sirius was in no shape to leave tonight, nor tomorrow.. after all this was not their decision to make. Silence loomed over them until they pull up to Lakeview, the manor that would soon be rendered vacant. The thought alone pained him, but as Chac said, time crumbles things.
Bringing the weakened man inside, Chac brought him to the hearth and together they pulled off their soaked clothes down to their smalls, shivering with the cold stuck fast to their skin. Sirius stared at the hearth that had cooked his family’s meals since Sofie was just a child, the hearth that Vorstag sat beside in the cold winter months to warm his old bones. He couldn’t bear sitting by it any longer.
“There’s too much of him around.” Sirius closes his eyes, too weak to cry any longer and frankly out of tears to shed today. Lydia went to fetch him dry clothes, something for Chac to throw over himself. “No matter where I turn, he’ll be there. All I want left is for the spirit of him to guide me, nothing more.”
“I understand. Do what you have to, Sirius. You know I’ll always be on your side, and I’ll always be there if you want a friend. But for now, rest.”
Later that night, Sirius stood alone atop Lakeview Manor’s tower, unmoving except for his hair blowing in the breeze. He gazed out at the lake glowing silver in the moonlight, seeing nothing but Vorstag’s face. Sleep had proved impossible, and though Lydia, Chac, and Teldryn were sound asleep, Sirius was unable to rest. The chill air made him shiver, but he hardly noticed. He ignored the aching tiredness of his body, the faint growl of his stomach. Idly he considered his options. It would be so easy to end it all. He could just step off the tower, and it would be over in seconds. No one was awake to stop him.
But he remembered Vorstag’s last words. He was sure his husband would be saddened, disappointed in his death. Joining him now would not bring happiness to Vorstag. But staying was too painful. It was time to leave. He had known it would come eventually, he had never been granted the luxury of settling down in one place for long. It was going to be hard, saying goodbye to the others and leaving the home where his family had lived happily, but being in the place he had shared with the love of his life was something he could not bear any longer. It was time to settle his affairs and move on, as he had done so many times before. It was unfair, but that was his life.
He would leave the manor and its contents to Lydia, a fitting reward for her faithful service over the years, especially the trying times of the past month. Breezehome would go to her as well. The manor in Markarth would be deeded to Vorstag’s nephew and his children. As for everything else… Lydia could do as she wished. Sirius only needed his sword and armor, and one or two trinkets to remember his family by. For a moment he thought about slipping away, but that was unfair to the others whom he had known and loved for so long. After all he had put them through, Chac and Lydia deserved to see this through with him. He had to do everything right, take care of all that he could. And he would visit his family’s graves, one last time. He knew Vorstag and Sofie were not there, but perhaps their spirits would feel his presence at the site of their rest.
Sirius sighed, and turned away from the lake, descending the ladder back into his home. Now that he had made up his mind to leave it, it seemed more precious than ever. Vorstag’s memory was everywhere… his favorite chair by the fire, the tapestry he’d bought in Solitude hanging in the hall, even the spot on the floor where they’d once collapsed in a giggling drunken heap before making love. Sirius knew he could never recover as long as he was surrounded by memories.
“I will do my best, my love,” he said softly, hoping Vorstag could hear him. “If I can keep your memory alive by living, then I will… and someday we will be reunited.”
He trudged off to bed, knowing he needed rest. There was a lot for him to do.
*Chac's quote is from Aristotle.