Ildari stepped into the Cogitum Centralis, the seat of her old friend who had supposedly lost his mind. It was a giant dome-room much like the others, nearly empty except for Sotha Sil on the Throne Aligned (which looked more like a bunch of wires than a throne to Ildari) and some control panels. Seht didn't immediately respond to her arrival. He must have been "hooked into his machines," as people tended to say. She crossed to the center of the room where he was standing...no, dangling? His body was completely slack, supported entirely by the wires, and his eyes were distant and unfocused, not the eyes of someone deeply focused on some calculations. Something was very wrong.
She took off her helmet and dropped it on the floor, wanting to get a better look. She felt his neck for a pulse. Nothing. He was dead. Ildari's mind swam with thoughts, trying to make something make sense. Maybe he had died a while ago, and the fabricants had gotten out without his oversight and attacked Mournhold?
Before she could sort through all her thoughts, there was a flash behind her, and she turned around to see Almalexia in her battle armor. And it started to make sense.
Almalexia launched into a speech about her plan to kill her fellow Tribunes and unite Morrowind under her sole divine rule, but Ildari could barely pay attention, because in her mind she was begging her to stop, to wake up, to bring her old Ayem back.
She tuned back in to hear, "...I think you will scream, mortal."
"Please, Ayem," Ildari begged. "Please don't do this. You don't have to do this." She realized she was crying. It seemed she was doing a lot of that lately.
Almalexia continued as though Ildari hadn't spoken. "For now, you face the one true god."
"Ayem, please!" she shouted. She felt much like she had the first time in the Heart Chamber, begging Voryn to listen. She let the first bolt of magic hit before she even dared to fight. But then it was happening, and she wasn't going to become a martyr again, and so she drew Trueflame.
Throughout their fight, the words of Dagoth Ur echoed in her mind. "How can you kill a god? What a grand and intoxicating innocence. How could you be so naïve?" But Dagoth Ur had died in Akulakhan's chamber, and Sotha Sil was dead behind her, and with a final swing of Trueflame, Almalexia too lay dead at her feet.
She bent down and picked up Hopesfire. At least their blades could be together again. Then she took a breath and lifted Almalexia's still-warm hand, and removed the Mazed Band and used it to return to Mournhold.
Azura had the audacity to manifest on the steps to the Tribunal Temple when she arrived. The Prince prattled on about how killing Almalexia was great and just, and how there was no reason to mourn for Sotha Sil, and how much she loved the Dunmer and would show it by removing the ash storms, and Ildari wanted to scream. For a symbol of compassion, how could Azura be so cold? Had she forgotten how close Nerevar and his councilors had once been? Had she forgotten that they were all dying as part of her grand prophecy, often by Ildari's hand? Or had she simply never bothered to understand mortal love? Whatever the reason, Ildari could only hope she was done being Azura's conscripted pawn. But she knew better than to talk back to the Prince of Dawn and Dusk, and so she stood there silently until Azura was back in Oblivion where she belonged, and then put the Band back on and went to Vivec.
She trudged up the steps to Vivec's Palace, went inside, continued walking right up to the dais without so much as saying hello, reached for Vehk's arm and pulled hir down for a hug, and finally broke down.
Vehk lowered hir feet to the ground. "Trip to Mournhold didn't go too well?" ze asked cautiously.
Ildari shook her head without looking up.
"Come on." Vehk carefully pulled away from the hug and took her hand to lead her out of the main room and into hir living quarters, where they made themselves comfortable on the floor in the pit of cushions and blankets. Ze held an arm out and patted hir chest with the other hand to invite Ildari to lean against hir, an invitation which she accepted. "Do you want to tell me about it?"
Still crying, she recounted everything that happened. Vehk stayed quiet while she talked, but when she was done, she heard a sniffle, and looked up and saw that ze was crying too. They sat in silence for a while, just letting themselves acknowledge the pain.
Then Ildari mumbled, "I don't know if she ever recognized me. And I don't know if it would be better if she did or didn't."
Vehk didn't have an answer.
"Why did I have to kill her?" Ildari asked, looking back up at Vehk. "Why do I have to keep killing everyone I love?"
"Revenge?" Vehk suggested with a weak smile.
"I don't want revenge!" Ildari said. "I've never wanted revenge! I've just been pushed into the revenge role over and over by—"
She paused and looked around the room. "Is this place warded against Daedra?"
She lowered her voice to a whisper. "Can I say 'fuck Azura' really loud?"
Vehk laughed. "Please do."
"FUCK AZURA!" Ildari screamed. "FUCK AZURA! FUCK! AZURA! FUUUUUUUUCK!" She screamed out the rest of her energy until her voice was hoarse, and then she slumped back down against Vehk.
"Feel better?" Vehk asked.
Ildari held up her thumb and index finger in a "little bit" gesture.
"Tired?" ze asked.
"Can I convince you to rest and not recall home in this state?"
She nodded again.
"Shall I prepare the guest quarters, or would you prefer to stay with me?"
"You, please," she mumbled. "I don't want to be alone. I miss...everyone."
Vehk kissed her head. "I know, Iya. Me too," ze said quietly. Then ze nudged her to get up. "Come on, then. Let's get some rest."