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The Heart of the Dragon

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Two people sit directly across from one another at a marbled table, peppered with savory meats and an incredulous amount of cheese. The room looked like it’d once been two seperate buildings that had been cleaved in half and slammed together, then haphazardly patched with whatever had been closest at the time. An elderly gentleman outfitted in an elegant purple suit sat at the head of the table, with butterflies and fireflies erratically flying near his shoulders. This side seemed to represent the pleasures in life and overindulgence. Aesthetics were key and anyone that crossed over into the northern end immediately looked like they were having the best day of their life. The food looked like something out of a magical feast, with never ending fountains of flowing chocolate and bottomless drinks.

The southern half of the room seemed to be a direct juxtaposition to the northern end, what with it being drab and gloomy. The food had rotted, with worms crawling all over the table, but the moment they’d sought to cross to the northern side, they shrivelled and died. Even the air on the southern end of the room caused the hardiest of men to catch a chill, and was heavier and harder to breathe in. Daring to look in the dark corners of the room was definitely a mistake, as shadows danced and sometimes, it felt like the darkness would stare back. Depressing thoughts would always shoot to the front of your mind and terrible situations not thought of in years made themselves known, not as an old friend, but as a worthy adversary.

A scowling woman with dark ashen skin and vivid crimson eyes sat on the southern end, glaring at the man who purposefully kept flinging pieces of cheese at her every few seconds, a bright grin on his face. A few pieces of mozzarella had gotten stuck in her raven locks, while the cheddar preferred her chestplate. 

“Can you stop?” she growled out, her knuckles a light grey color from gripping the edge of the table so hard. She’d come here with a purpose, and hadn’t gotten a single opportunity to ask her favor yet.

“Can ya not crack my table? You’re grippin’ pretty hard there, and I would hate to send my own descendant out of the tall nest and to her own death, like a wingless baby bird.” He levitates a smaller chunk of cheese in the air, and after a brief second, shoots it directly towards her eye. 

She incinerates it into ashes before it’s even got a moment to melt or hit her. But, in her attempt to stop that piece of cheese, he’d sent a spare piece of swiss at her from under the table. It gets stuck to her pants.

“Ha! Gotcha that time! You can’t even try to outdo the Mad God, child!” the man exclaims in pleasure, and he claps his hands together. The clap results in cheese assaulting her from each direction, including from the ceiling.

She roughly grabs a rotted piece of chicken from the table, careful not to get any of the maggots on her glove, and launches it in his direction, noting with annoyance that the nasty creatures died immediately and the chicken returned to its previous savory and fresh state the moment it crossed the middle of the table. It harmlessly bounced off of a barrier around the man. “I just want to die, already!”

“Well, it’s not that serious. Ya coulda just told me if the cheese bothered you that much,” he replies, but his grin doesn’t drop and it isn’t any less brighter than before, “Teenaged crisis? Boyfriend cheated on you?” he pauses for a moment, and lifts his finger in the air. A candle appears to float on top of his head. “Wait, I’ve got it! Someone shot you in the knee to steal your sweetroll, and you can’t live without it anymore, so you came to Uncle Sheo to handle it!”

Shaking with fury at his response and refusal to take her seriously, and embarrassment at her outburst, she has to force herself to take a moment to breathe. A few moments later, she opens her eyes. Her mouth sets in a line with grim determination, and she releases her grip on the marbled top one finger at a time. “I’m serious, Uncle. I came here to die. I’m tired of watching everyone around me die. It’s been three hundred years since Alduin, and I haven’t aged a day,” her fury slowly fades to terribly hidden sadness, and tears prick at the corners of her eyes. She averts her gaze, unable to meet his eyes, “I watched my husband grow old and die, and there was nothing I could do. I outlived my children and I’ll probably outlive my grandchildren at this point. I’m exhausted, and I don’t want to do it anymore. I’m tired of watching my family die.” Her voice fades to a whisper, and her shoulders slump. “I don’t know how you can do it.”

“It’s hard to take you seriously when you’re covered in cheese, lass,” he says, and she refuses to dignify his statement with a reply, her mouth setting into that firm line again. 

The elderly man sighs and with a wave of his hand, the two ends of the room swap sides. She’s suddenly covered in radiant light and the butterflies float around her head now. “It’s harder to be down when you’re surrounded by the core of Mania.” He stands up from the table, and the man frowns for the first time since she arrived. 

He turns away from her, staring into one of the dark corners of the room. “I channeled all of my pain and anything I didn’t want to think about into Dementia, and I stay in Mania for as long as I can. Sheogorath asked a lot when he had me defeat Jyggalag and take over, and I didn’t realize it until years later why he was so unhinged. It’s easier to do this job when you let the madness take you. To rule a realm… to be a Prince, and do all of the things that come with the territory.” He turns to face her, not as a Prince, but as the uncle she knew him last as, hundreds of years ago. Understanding is clear on his ashen face, and for a second she feels at home again. Uncle frowns at her, and sets his hands palm down on the table, supporting himself as he looks past her eyes, and into her soul. “I can’t kill you. I won’t kill you. I wouldn’t kill my own blood, the last one of my line who actually knows who I was before the last Graymarch, but I can send you somewhere else. Somewhere that needs you and your dragon soul. You can start over, and if you ever want to come back, you’ve but to call for me and gruyere.”  

She wipes her eyes, and looks back in his direction. She offers a weak grin. “I’d rather die and be with Vilkas and my children, but if it gets me away from my memories and the pain…”

“Then you’d do it.”

“Undeniably,” she replies, and the somber look the two share says more than any words ever could.

The old man brings up his previous illusion as the past Mad God. Inspiration seems to suddenly strike as he gets a familiar glint in his eye, one that she recognizes as a telltale sign of his inevitable meddling, and he beams at her, throwing his arms out as if he’s presenting the greatest idea on Nirn. “I know exactly what to do with you! There’s none like us where you’re going, so good luck explaining that one. Plus, they hate elves and mages with a passion. They’ll probably call you a demon and try to kill you on sight, but Nocturnal won’t be able to find you anymore! And, there’s cheese! Plenty of it! Always an upside, lass! Also, remember to shut your eyes and don’t watch the fall! Make your old elf-turned-Daedric Prince Uncle proud!”

She stands up in alarm, eyes wide as a healthy dose of anxiety courses through her veins, “Nope, nevermind, just ki-”

Before she could even finish her sentence, he’s cast the spell to teleport her, and her feet are no longer on the ground. She’s free falling, and she’s heading directly for a small village surrounded by snow. She shuts her eyes and braces for impact. Hopefully, it’ll kill her, but she doubts her Uncle would make it that easy.