Actions

Work Header

Good Fortune

Chapter Text

Miraak awoke.

That in itself was an oddity, as his last memories were of his defeat by the last Dragonborn’s hands and his impalement on Mora’s spikes, but what was equally strange was that he was lying in a warm bed of furs, a fire crackling merrily in the hearth.

He scrabbled into a sitting position, mind racing. His mask and robes were gone, he noted, replaced by the simple tunic and breeches of a commoner. His magic was muted, a smoldering coal burning low in his chest, as opposed to the vicious wildfire that wrapped his whole being.

The door opened, and the last Dragonborn entered.

You,” he snarled, and he lunged, aiming for her throat.

She easily sidestepped his attempt at an attack- an admittedly pathetic attempt, but an attempt nonetheless- and tripped him as he passed, grabbing his arm and twisting it behind his back as she forced him to the ground. He was forced to kneel as she increased the pressure, sinking to his knees with a roar of anger.

“Are you done?” the Dragonborn asked, her expression unchanged from the placid smile she had been wearing since she had entered.

Miraak bared his teeth, barking obscenities as he struggled.

The Dragonborn let out a disappointed sigh. “Sit,” she commanded, releasing her grip on him and straightening.

Miraak felt his legs collapse and he landed on his backside with a jolt. His eyes were wide with shock, horrified that his own body had betrayed him.

What,” he breathed, “have you done to me.”

“I suppose the real question is what did Hermaeus Mora do to you,” she replied with a nonchalance that made his blood boil.

“Do not play games with me,” he snarled. “You witch, what have you done.”

“Rather rude of you to insult the one who freed you from an afterlife of servitude under our good lord,” she said mildly. “You haven't even bothered to learn my name.”

Miraak froze. Freed him?

“Now, if you've calmed yourself,” she began, “I would be willing to explain why you are here.”

“Let me up,” he growled, shifting uncomfortably on the ground.

The Dragonborn observed him for a moment, studying him with a slight smile.

“I think not,” she said finally, moving away to seat herself on the bed. “I rather like the sight of you beneath me.”

Miraak flushed with rage and embarrassment. “You mock me,” he snapped, irritation clipping his words short.

She let out a quiet huff of laughter. “Perhaps,” she said. Lines of amusement crinkled the corners of her eyes. “But it is better than what you would have suffered beneath Mora’s thumb.” She paused briefly. “Well, his figurative thumb, seeing as he is an amorphous mass of eyes and tentacles.”

“Enough of your blathering,” he barked. “Explain!”

She let out another soft laugh. “So demanding,” she said, a smile pulling at the corners of her mouth.

She let him linger in silence for a few more excruciating moments before she began. “Our good lord was rather eager to be rid of you,” she said, steepling her hands beneath her chin. “It didn't take much effort to convince him to pawn you off to me as a thrall, of sorts.”

“A thrall?” Miraak said incredulously. “You intend to use me as a servant of your whims?”

“Of course not,” she replied, waving off his anger. “I am going break you and leave you a shell of a man.” At Miraak’s enraged sputters, she continued. “Or at least, that's what I told Hermaeus Mora.”

She settled more comfortably among the the furs, lounging like a contented cat, a casual air unbefitting of one holding a man’s fate in their hand. The disgraced Dragonborn bared his teeth in defiance, lifting his chin up proudly even as he was sprawled on the floor.

“In reality,” she said, “I suppose I'm keeping around for amusement.”

Miraak bristled. “Amusement?” he spat. “You shame me, bring dishonor to my name, everything you have done, for amusement?” He struggled to rise to his feet, but his legs refused to comply, and he had to settle for glaring up at her. The effect was largely diminished by the lack of his mask the the difference in height.

“You think me to be so petty?” she asked dryly. “No, defeating you was, admittedly, a priority. You were dangerous. Keeping you alive, however, was a choice I made on a whim. You should be thanking me, you know.” She pat the space next to her. “Come here.”

Miraak rose, and he walked, stiff-legged and against his will, to her side, finally slumping onto the bed next to her. He clenched his hands until his knuckles went white and he could feel the skin of his palms break under his nails.

“So obedient,” she murmured, something indecipherable in her eyes. Miraak was caught in her stare, wide eyed and heart hammering, as if under a spell.

“Now, I suppose you are wondering how I do that?” He very nearly flinched away as the sound of her voice snapped him out of his daze.

“I could care less for how,” he said darkly, “as much for all the ways I could kill you to make it stop.”

The Dragonborn clicked her tongue disapprovingly. “Then you wish not to know?”

Miraak battled with his pride for several moments under her expectant gaze, conflicted and uneasy. His stubbornness warred with his curiosity until the latter won.

“How?” he asked, with the air of a man defeated.

She smiled at him- smiled like one might smile at a child, he realized, with condescending affection and amusement. The thought made him grow hot with anger, but something else, something he couldn't identify, made a flush creep up his neck.

He was nearly startled out of his skin when she began untying the laces that held the front of her shirt together, but he was held in place be the same force that had kept him on the floor. His breath hitched as the neckline of her shirt dipped lower, revealing the shadow of her cleavage and-

“What is that,” Miraak said, voice devoid of emotion.

A dark, geometric tattoo spiraled down her chest, the abstract head of a dragon curling over her heart, the neck gracefully arching up to her collarbone and past the other side of her sternum before diving down and disappearing beneath her shirt.

“Mora’s parting gift,” she replied dryly, tying her shirt back up. “You should see your own.”

He did flinch at that, lifting a hand instinctively to his chest. Then, almost desperately, he pulled his tunic over his head, tossing it aside and splaying his hands over his ribs.

As she said, on his chest was a near mirror image of her own tattoo, and he could see where it traveled from his collar down to where it's tail ended at his hip, just below the waistband of his breeches.

“What are these?” he growled, anger burning in his stomach. “You would let Hermaeus Mora brand us with these shameful pictures!”

I think they are quite nice,” she said easily, leaning closer to study him. A finger, calloused but gentle, traced the path of the dragon’s body down his stomach, and Miraak restrained a shiver.

“Enough!” he barked, grabbing his tunic in a half baked attempt to hide from her touch. “What do they do?”

Thankfully, the Dragonborn withdrew her hand.

“They bind us together,” she said. “Your soul will follow me wherever I go. If I die, so do you, and you spend an afterlife with me.”

Miraak felt his blood run cold. “And where,” he said slowly, tunic forgotten in his lap, might that be?”

She snorted. “Who knows?” she says. “Maybe we spend eternity together in the halls of Sovngarde, knocking mugs with Ysgramor. Maybe we run with Hircine on his endless hunt. Maybe we wander the shadows of Apocrypha once more.” She ran her fingers under his chin, tilting his head towards her. “Or perhaps,” she purred, “we join Sanguine in his eternal debauchery.”

Miraak jerked away, as if burned, and the Dragonborn laughed in response. “Relax,” she said. “Sanguine has no claim on my soul, and I have no such designs for you- your virtue is safe.”

“Why you-” he sputtered, the damned heat returning to his cheeks with a vengeance.

She laughed again, teeth bared in a mockery of a smile.

“Furthermore,” she continued, amusement warming her voice, “our good lord placed… a charm, of sorts, on us. If I give a command, albeit a simple one, you must obey. Although... I have yet to see how… specific I can get before the it is no longer within the bounds of the charm.”

“So I am to be your dog?” he snapped, flexing his hands impatiently over the cloth of his breeches. “That is your grand plan for me? Your final attempt to strip me of my pride and humiliate me?”

“A dog, you say?” she hummed thoughtfully, a smirk curling at her lips, and he felt his stomach plummet. “Well then, the bed is hardly the place for you if that is what you think yourself to be.”

Miraak cursed himself for falling for the trap so easily, and was, at least, not surprised when she rose to her feet and crooked a finger at him. “Come, pet,” she said, leading him out of the bedroom.

He felt his legs carry him towards her, having, at least, the presence of mind to hold on to his tunic, and out the door and down a set of stairs, and finally into a large room, where the Dragon seated herself in an overstuffed armchair in front of a blazing hearth.

“Sit,” she said, and Miraak tried to deny the action, teeth gritted till he could his jaw groan in protest, but his body complied without a struggle, obediently settling at her feet as he quietly seethed.

“Good boy,” she murmured, cupping his face with one hand.

She studied his features intently- the striking ridge of his brow, the sharp line of his jawline, the strong slope of his nose- and pulled away with a soft, disapproving hum, as if she had looked him over and found him wanting. Somehow, the thought struck an unpleasant chord in him, the idea that he was inadequate and lacking.

Miraak shook it quickly, disgusted with himself. Why should he care for the opinion of this mortal, half-baked Dovahkiin, this insignificant human woman?

The insignificant, half-baked Dovahkiin that conquered the World Eater, the tiny, treacherous voice in the back of his mind whispered. The mortal, human woman that did what you could not and brought the dragons to their knees.

The one who brought you to your knees.

A scowl twisted at his mouth, and he sneered at the ground as the Dragonborn sat in silence, each lost in their thoughts.

“Lycka,” she said suddenly, her voice piercing the quiet like an arrow.

Miraak glanced up at her, bewildered.

“My name,” she clarified, rising to her feet. “It would be best for you to learn it.”

And so she left him, on the floor at the foot of her chair, as she walked away.

----

Lycka. The name, he noted, was Nordic. However, the woman in question was decidedly not.

She was tall and broad shouldered, but that was where the similarities ended. Her skin was a deep, warm bronze, the tone of someone born with tanned skin and spent many years in the sun besides, not quite as dark as a Redguard’s, but a far cry from the pale complexion of a native of Skyrim. Her hair was dark, a brown that was a shade away from black that spilled over her shoulders like ink. Her eyes were slanted, resembling an Mer’s more than anything, a dark, rich amber, captivating and fathomless.

He remembered those eyes the most, the way they glowed gold in the green cast of the world of the Black Books, the molten fire in their depths when she absorbed a dragon’s soul.

Pretty, he supposed, but fierce. There was a hardness to her, even more so than the inhabitants of the wild lands. A strength to her jaw, the straightness to which she held herself, even as she faced him in the heart of Apocrypha.

The Last Dragonborn, surely, but certainly not the least.

Miraak would sooner bite out his tongue than admit it aloud.

----

It wasn't until several minutes later when Miraak tried to get up that he realized that he couldn't, and that, apparently, the Dragonborn’s- Lycka’s- orders were valid until explicitly otherwise, and quietly resigned himself to a night on the floor.

Chapter Text

Miraak awoke. Again.

He must have dozed off at some point, sitting on the ground and leaning against the chair. In Apocrypha, he had never felt the need to sleep- or to eat, or any other mortal necessities, for that matter. The fact that he had fallen asleep was disturbing to him, to say the least.

As if in response, his stomach rumbled rebelliously.

He tried to rise once more- and failed miserably.

“Oh.”

His head jerked up at the sound. The Dragonborn stood at the doorway, brow furrowed in confusion. She was dressed in a fine, high collared tunic and a pair of dark breeches- a far cry from the armor she had worn at Apocrypha.

“You spent all this time here?” she asked.

“Of course,” Miraak sneered. As if he could be anywhere else. He grasped the front of his tunic briefly, grateful that he had the sense of mind to put it on before he dozed off.

She blinked. “I… apologize,” she said slowly. “It was not my intention to leave you out here.”

Miraak sputtered. Not her intention? She had led him around like a leashed dog, sat him down like a tame pet, and left him there for the gods know how long, and she had the nerve to walk in and act surprised.

Before Miraak could lash out, Lycka interrupted- which, in all honesty, was for the best, considering he was in no position to do much more than glare ineffectually from the floor.

“You may rise,” she said, and Miraak suddenly found that his legs would finally comply to his demands.

He scrambled up with as much dignity as he could muster, a dark scowl painted over his pale features.

“I imagine you’re hungry,” she said. Miraak continued to scowl, but didn’t object- ever since he had awakened he had felt the dull ache of hunger in his stomach.

She tossed him something- he caught it effortlessly, turning it over in his hands. A bottle, the silhouette of liquid visible through the dark glass. It was lucky of her that he caught it, he thought. Belatedly, he wondered if the humiliation of fumbling and dropping it would have been worth the irritation it would cause her if the bottle fell and shattered on her floor.

“It’s mead,” she said, startling him out of his thoughts. “I’ll bring you something to eat as well.”

She left after that, not giving him a chance to respond as he stood in front of the hearth with the full bottle.

He sighed wearily, and, seeing as he had nothing better to do, settled into the armchair- the same one she had sat in earlier, he noted- and uncorked the bottle with his teeth.

“Might as well,” he muttered bitterly, and took a long gulp. The mead was rich and heady on his tongue, and sent a pleasant warmth through his core. It was strong, he noted appreciatively, the dry taste of the alcohol still prominent through the honeyed sweetness.

He wasn’t sure how long he sat there, warmed by the fire and mead and taking measured sips. It was an odd sort of domesticity, one that he had long forgotten.

Lycka returned, holding a bowl of soup and a loaf of bread. She seemed amused, taking in his relaxed posture and the alarmingly low level of alcohol remaining in the bottle.

“Comfortable?” she asked, a smile crinkling the corners of her eyes.

Miraak let out a noncommittal grunt, quietly watching her set the food on the small table in between the chair and the hearth.

Lycka, apparently unconcerned by his behavior, settled into the chair across from him, looking completely at ease.

Miraak eyed her warily for a brief moment, before tearing off a chunk of bread and holding it in his fingers for a moment- Divines above, how long had it been since he had seen bread, much less eaten it?- and bit into it. It was warm, he noticed, crumbly and filling, and before he knew it, he had finished off half the loaf.

He scowled at his own lack of self control, taking a spoonful of the stew, hot and savory, and refusing to let any emotion cross his face.

Rabbit stew, maybe, he thought, enjoying the taste slowly even as he glared into his bowl. Commoner’s food, although not in Solstheim. Fauna was scarce on the island, and meats had to be shipped from the mainland. He frowned at the thought. Had they left Solstheim? His last memories had been of Apocrypha, and he was irked by the realization that he had little to knowledge of, well, anything, really.

He cleaned off the rest of his food relatively quickly, trying- and failing- to ignore the quirk at the corner of Lycka’s mouth as she watched him.

“Was it good?” she asked after he had eaten the final chunk of bread, eyes twinkling with amusement.

“It was… adequate,” he grumbled.

She laughed then, warm and genuine, and the sound made Miraak pause.

She rose from her seat, brushing imaginary dust off her lap. “I have errands to run,” she said. “You’re welcome to do as you like, so long as you don’t leave the house. I won’t be long.”

Miraak blinked and opened his mouth to protest- why or how, he didn’t know, probably with a scathing remark that would ultimately have no effect- but Lycka had already moved to grab a cloak and was out the door before he could gather his thoughts.

He stared at the door for a few moments, narrow-eyed and frowning.

He stood and strode to the door with long, tense strides and reached for the door. A spark of hope lit in his chest when his hands closed around the knob unhindered- and froze.

He grit his teeth and attempted to clench his hand, but it remained weak and loose around the doorknob. No amount of effort could get him to turn the damned thing.

He swore and pulled his hand away, whirling around to punch the wall. The wood splintered under the force, and the shards bit into his knuckles and dug into his skin.

Snarling profanities, he wrenched his hand back to inspect the damage. Several splinters had embedded themselves in the back of his hand, and he flexed it, wincing as the movement made them shift deeper into his skin.

He grit his teeth and ignored the pain, pacing angrily across the room.

Miraak exhaled sharply, fury burning at his blood and roaring in his ears. He was tempted to break something, anything, petty and childish as it was.

He refused. He was the First Dragonborn, and Divines be damned if he lowered himself to do something as inane and trivial as that. His fingers twitched.

Miraak took a deep breath and closed his eyes. He would not.

And so, with nothing else to do, he explored.

Where Lycka had left through- presumably the exit to the outside world- was to his right, so he turned left, and the room opened up to small dining area, with the wooden table pushed up against the wall. A cabinet filled with bottles of liquor and various filled with dried meats, herbs, and cheeses stood against the adjacent wall, and a hearth with a cooking pot beside that.

He trudged up the stairs and grimaced, remembering being led down those same stairs like a dog. He peeked through a door, finding nothing more than what appeared to be a makeshift armory and storage room. Mannequins covered with armor- mismatched, he noticed with irritation- leaned against the walls. Wooden chests were stacked haphazardly and weapon racks hung crookedly on the wall. Busted training dummies and broken archery targets littered the floor.

Miraak shut the door to preserve his sanity, pivoting and taking three long strides away from the room before he felt he was far enough to prevent a stroke.

“Absolutely disgusting,” he said to no one in particular. Hermaeus Mora was probably laughing at him.

He wandered a bit more, taking stock of the upper floor. A door that led to the bedroom that he had been in, a stone tub- a tub!- filled with water that smelled suspiciously like dragon’s tongue, a shelf scattered with various potions. It looked… very lived-in. Messy. Organic. Not at all like the cold walls of his temple.

He huffed, brow furrowing, as he tread back down the stairs, curiosity sated for the moment. As turned back, he noticed a second set leading down, though it was only a few steps before the rest of the path was blocked by a door. He tested it, frowning when it wouldn’t budge. Locked, then.

Suddenly, he heard the door open, and he turned sharply.

Lycka had returned, stretching languidly as she shut the door behind her. Miraak caught a glimpse of a sliver of light just before it closed completely, and then he turned his attention to the Dragonborn.

“Back so soon?” he asked dryly.

Lycka hummed, shrugging her cloak off her shoulders and draping it across the chair in front of the hearth. It was damp, he noticed, and flakes of snow were caught along the fabric before they melted from the heat of the fire.

No ash. So they weren’t in Solstheim any longer, although he had begun to suspect it when he had wandered the house. The furnishings were very Nordic in design, and he doubted that a house like this would be found on the island of Dunmer.

“Apologies for keeping you waiting,” Lycka said, jerking him back to the present, “although this may be common in the future. My duties keep me busy.”

Miraak’s eyes narrowed. “I refuse to be kept in this house like a prisoner while you traipse across the land running fools’ errands,” he snapped.

“Are you not a prisoner?” she said, tilting her head as she regarded him through placid eyes. “Or do you fancy yourself a dog, following at my heels?”

He bristled- again, with the dog- and a sharp retort was already on his tongue when Lycka laughed and waved a hand flippantly.

“All in jest,” she chuckled. “I do not plan on keeping you cooped up here for the rest of your mortal life- I suppose you had enough of that Apocrypha. No, I have a different idea.”

Miraak grimaced at that- any idea of hers concerning him was probably detrimental to both his health and his sanity- and crossed his arms.

Abruptly, Lycka grabbed his wrist, and he stood, rooted in place, in confusion, until she ran her fingertips across the back of his knuckles, sending a sting of pain through his hand.

He hissed. Damn. He had forgotten about the splinters.

She clucked her tongue disapprovingly, eyes glancing to the walls, searching for the blemish in the wood and grimaced when she saw the dent

“You are troublesome,” she informed him, turning back to face him and plucking out slivers of wood with deft fingers. Miraak could feel the callouses lining her hands and she held his own steady.

He swallowed thickly.

Her clever hands finished quickly, and she sent a small thread of magic to him, lighting his hands with a golden glow. The tiny red pricks along his knuckles faded, replaced with smooth skin.

“All done,” she said, patting his cheek like a she would to a child.

A flush threatened to creep up his neck and he flinched away her touch, as if shocked.

Lycka seemed amused by his reaction, but stepped away nonetheless.

“My work here is finished for now,” she said casually. “We’ll move soon- a day more here, at most.”

“Where?” he asked, a frown pulling at his mouth and embarrassment forgotten.

“Where now or where to?” Lycka countered, and her mirth seemed to rise proportionately to his irritation.

“Both,” Miraak said testily.

She laughed a bit, as if his aggravation pleased her greatly, and replied, “We’re in my home Whiterun, and leaving for my estate in Falkreath by the morrow. You'll be meeting some of my dear friends, so behave yourself, hmm?”

He huffed and she laughed again.

“You should bathe,” Lycka said, finally turning away. “I trust you saw the tub upstairs? The water is clean, if you are concerned.” She paused then, and glanced up at him from beneath her lashes. She titled her head, as if considering his appearance.

Slightly bewildered, Miraak wordlessly left her, making his way up the stairs with his brow furrowed and mouth pursed. He retraced his steps to the bathing room with the stone tub. Despite the time that had passed, the water was still steaming. He squinted. Magic perhaps?

With a longsuffering sigh, he stripped himself of his clothes, folding them and setting them down next to a neat stack of towels. Gingerly, he slipped into the water, letting out a sharp exhale as the heat settled across his skin, near-scalding in temperature.

Miraak dunked his head under the water, scrubbing at his hair, before resurfacing with a gasp. He slicked his the hair out of his face, and a tiny moan of appreciation escaped his mouth before he could rein it back.

He slid down until he was mostly submerged, with his nose barely out of the water, and closed his eyes. The water soothed his muscles and eased knots that he hadn’t even known were there. The sharp tang of dragon’s tongue tickled his nose. He inhaled deeply, the aroma warming his bones just as well as any heat. His eyelids fell, lulled to rest by the warmth.

“Enjoying yourself?” Lycka asked, and Miraak jolted so hard that water sloshed out of the tub.

He came up sputtering, and glared at her accusingly. “What-?” 

Lycka paused for a moment, and Miraak realized that she was eyeing him appreciatively- and then it took a moment more to realize that she was simply studying the tattoo on his torso.

“Why-?” he started.

“I brought change of clothes,” she said, “since those-” she waved at his discarded tunic- “are hardly appropriate for travelling, and need to be washed anyhow.” She sent him a sly grin. “Unless, of course, you would go without…?”

Color rose high on his cheeks. “Y- you are obscene!” he barked, resisting the urge sink deeper into the water and cover himself.

Lycka snorted. “It’s nothing I haven’t seen before,” she said flippantly, and Miraak felt his face burning. “Who do you think dressed you after we left Apocrypha? Surely not Hermaeus Mora?” She draped his new clothes on the back of a nearby chair, seemingly completely unflustered by his nakedness.

Miraak grit his teeth. “Leave,” he ground out.

Lycka raised an eyebrow.

With a barely restrained snarl, he muttered, “Please.”

Lycka bowed with a flourish. “All you had to do was ask,” she said, a mischievous gleam in her eyes, and turned and left.

Miraak let out an exhausted sigh, sinking back into the water and running a hand through his hair.

“Unbelievable,” he muttered, a scowl on his lips and a flush still hot on his cheeks.

Chapter Text

Miraak finished his bath hastily, despite his reluctance to leave the hot water, but the embarrassment of Lycka possibly walking in on him again overrode the comfort of the bath.

He dried off roughly with thick, plush towels that were lying on the edge of the tub and grabbed the new robes from where she had left them, shrugging them over his still-damp skin.

The were a deep, solid navy, with a fine gold embroidery along the trim, simple but tasteful. A pair of matching breeches came with it. As he slipped them on, he noticed a telltale coolness to the cloth- enchanted, he noted, feeling the buzz of magicka in his fingers. Mage’s robes.

However, much to his frustration, he was unable to summon more than a spark, and he huffed irritably, balling his hands into fists.

He trudged back down the stairs, eyeing Lycka dubiously. She was sitting in the same overstuffed chair and reading, looking for all the world like she had been there the whole time instead of barging in on bathing men.

She glanced up from her book, a smile curving at her lips as she took in his appearance.

“You look quite handsome,” she commented, looking him over appreciatively.

“Do not mock me,” he scowled, straightening the gold trimmed collar with something approaching self-consciousness.

“I do not say it in jest,” Lycka replied mildly, setting her book to the side and leaning forward. “I mean it wholeheartedly.”

Miraak flushed, and, unsure how to respond, snapped, “What do you want?”

Lycka snickered. “A great many things,” she said mischievously, “and many of which I do not believe you are willing to give.”

The heat spreading on his cheeks intensified threefold, and Lycka let out a delighted laugh.

“You are simply too easy to fluster,” she commented.

Miraak bristled. “If you do not tell me what you want I will-”

“Go upstairs and sulk?” she suggested cheerfully.

Miraak let out a low growl, turning around and intending to do just that.

“Would you like to come walk with me?” she asked suddenly, before he had even reached the stairs.

Miraak paused warily.

“Where?” he questioned.

Lycka gave a little half shrug. “Around,” she replied. “I have a some more things to do in town. Unless,” she said, tilting her head, “you would prefer to remain cooped up here again.”

Miraak grumbled something.

“What was that?” Lycka said, an insufferable smile tugging at the corners of her mouth.

“Fine!” Miraak snapped, significantly louder.

Her grin turned a bit more mischievous. “No need to yell.”

Miraak’s scowl darkened in a manner that probably would have been intimidating to anyone else, but seemed about as threatening to her as a mudcrab.

“Come along then,” she said, reaching for her cloak once more. “Off we go.”

Miraak followed her to the door at a reluctant plod, scowling even more intensely as she gallantly held the door open for him.

“Age before beauty,” she said airily.

Miraak bristled. “You,” he growled, stalking past her, “are infuriating.”

“I do my best,” Lycka replied, shutting the door behind her and strolling leisurely out.

The odd pair made their way out of her home- from the outside, it was a small, quaint cottage-like thing that seemed slightly out of place on the paved stone street, nestled in between a blacksmith and a tavern. Fresh-fallen snow dusted the roof and crunched beneath his feet; his breath billowed out in misty clouds,

There were a few who paused in their bustle to offer greetings- a sulky-looking Dunmer woman nodded curtly, a guard nodded a quiet, respectful salute, the grocer called a cheery “Hullo, Dragonborn!”

Lycka led him through the crowd, the air cold and brisk and nipping at his chill-flushed cheeks, and up a flight of stairs to a small plaza, the center of which sat a massive tree. Despite the snow, clusters of pink blossoms covered its branches.

Lycka followed his gaze. “The Gildergreen,” she told him. “Kynareth’s sacred tree, grown from the cuttings of the Eldergleam.”

“You are rather well-versed in the story,” Miraak remarked dryly.

She laughed brightly in response. “Only because I was the one who had to collect the cuttings for the thrice-damned thing,” she replied. “And there’s Jorrvaskr.”

She drew his attention to an odd, dome-roofed building- build from the hull of a ship, he realized.

Lycka practically ran up the stairs, taking two at a time in her haste, and Miraak had no choice but to quicken his pace and follow.

She burst through the doors, Miraak at her heels, and the conversation silenced.

A dozen pairs of eyes were focused on Lycka alone- men and women both, seated around a crackling hearth, mead and food forgotten.

One man stood. Tall and broad shouldered, dressed in black, wolf-carved armor, he approached slowly, warily, appraising her with moon-pale eyes.

“Harbinger,” he murmured.

“Vilkas,” she replied cooly.

They clasped forearms in the customary Nordic greeting, but the stony silence prevailed in the hall.

Lycka cracked first, a crooked grin forming on her mouth as she dragged the man into a warm hug.

“Miss me, you flea-ridden clod?” she laughed.

“As if, whelp.”

As if a spell had been broken, the rest of the hall exploded into cheering.

Miraak was feeling rather lost.

Overwhelmed, he only caught part of Lycka’s conversation with the man- Vilkas.

“And Lydia?” she was asking. “How is she?”

“As inseparable from Ria as the day you left,” he said, amused. “Certainly a distraction from your absence.” He glanced at Miraak. “And this? Another potential brother for our ranks?”

Lycka snickered as if she had heard a rather amusing joke. “No, simply a companion from Solstheim.”

Vilkas tilted his head in acknowledgement. “A friend of our Harbinger is always welcome in Jorrvaskr,” he said.

Miraak shifted uncomfortably. “‘Friend’ is a rather loose term,” he muttered under his breath crossly.

Vilkas snorted and Miraak startled a bit. He had not expected to be heard.

Thankfully, he was spared from a response as more joined.

An enthusiastic roar of “Harbinger!” was the only warning before Lycka was swept up in a crushing hug by a bear of a man.

“Put her down, you brute.” Another woman followed closely, dark green warpaint stark against her pale skin and fiery hair.

“Farkas! Aela!” Lycka laughed, delighted.

“What was Solstheim like?” Farkas asked, eyes bright with childish glee. “Were there dragons there? How was the mead? Are you staying long? Who,” he paused for a moment, staring at Miraak- Miraak was suddenly aware that his eyes were the same unnerving moon-pale silver of the other- “is that?”

Lycka wrestled herself out of his crushing embrace, a happy, genuine smile across her features.

She looked younger somehow, he thought idly. Less worn. It was far different from her amused smirks that she had offered him before.

“This is Miraak,” she said. “My travelling companion.”

Miraak waited for a glimmer of recognition from the name, some sort of reaction to the memory of the dragon priest who had waged war on Alduin himself-

“A mage?” Aela scoffed. “He looks like Farkas could throw him around with one hand.”

“Not all of us can boast as much physical prowess as Farkas,” Lycka chided, despite how she restrained her laughter.

Miraak bristled, scowling darkly. They mocked him without even knowing who he was!

Lycka sent him a sidelong glance, and Miraak swallowed back his pride and temper. He was in no position to start- or finish- anything.

“And, no,” she continued breezily, “I’m sorry, I won’t stay long. I have business to attend to in Falkreath.”

Farkas seemed to deflate at that, and Aela crossed her arms and huffed. Vilkas smiled wryly at the two of them.

“I will make sure the hall is still standing when you finally return,” Vilkas said in good humor.

Lycka said her goodbyes, mercifully brief, and departed. The biting cold of Whiterun was almost enough for Miraak to wish for the warmth of the mead hall and it’s crackling hearth, despite the company.

“Dragonsreach next, I believe,” Lycka said thoughtfully.

Miraak squinted up. The towering silhouette of the building reached high, almost close enough to brush the bellies of the thick, heavy clouds that covered the sky.

“For what purpose?” Miraak asked, not really expecting an answer.

“To pay my respects to the Jarl,” she replied, “among other things.”

Miraak exhaled sharply from nose, restraining the urge to scoff. ‘Among other things,’ he thought mockingly, lips curling into a sneer.

Lycka glanced at him, a smirk curling at the edge of her mouth. “You know,” she commented off-handedly, “your expressions are much easier to read without a mask.”

Miraak hastily schooled his expression to impassivity, but the damage had been done. Lycka let out a snort of laughter, turning to lead him on.

“Come along, travelling companion,” she called over her shoulder, “I’ll try to make it quick for your sake.”

Miraak bit back a snarl and kept pace beside her as they began to climb the long flight of stairs up to Dragonsreach, pointedly ignoring her self-satisfied smile.

“Do you know who they were?” Lycka asked suddenly, tilting her head to glance at him from the corner of her eye.

He blinked, pausing. “Does it matter?” he commented snidely, shrugging off the question crossly.

Lycka smiled an odd little smile, turning her gaze back to the path in front of her. “I suppose not,” she said mildly. “Just curious.”

He huffed irritably. She always acted so pointlessly- even now, he couldn't see the point to taking that trip to Jorrvaskr, brief and unrewarding as it was-

Jorrvaskr. The ship that has brought Ysgramor and his Five Hundred Companions to Skyrim, the greatest Atmoran warrior in history, and the hull of which undoubtedly formed the mead hall.

He let out a miserable sigh. “They were the Companions,” he said. “And you are their Harbinger.”

She grinned. “Correct,” she said cheerfully.

“Ysgramor was twice the warrior as you,” Miraak said bitterly.

Lycka laughed. “Only twice?” she asked. “Such praise, coming from you!”

They reached the top of the stairs before Miraak could come up with an adequately scathing response, and Lycka entered the great hall without preamble.

The Jarl sat at the head of the table, lounging comfortably and surrounded by his staff and family. A Dunmer swordswoman stood at attention by his side, sharp-eyed and severe.

“Dragonborn,” the Jarl greeted. “So you've returned. I trust you've concluded your business in Solstheim?” His eyes flickered briefly to Miraak.

“Of course, Jarl Balgruuf,” she returned pleasantly. “However, I will not be staying in Whiterun long. I've come to speak to Farengar, if I may.”

A hooded mage stood. “Of course,” he said. “‘My study, if you please.”

Farengar practically bolted to another room, the Jarl shaking his head slowly, amused.

Lycka followed, Miraak trailing behind, to a small study, every available surface covered in scrolls, maps, and books.

“It's not much,” Lycka said, reaching into her cloak, “but I managed to convince Odahviing to give me some of his molting scales. Stubborn old lizard didn't want to part with them.”

Miraak turned to her sharply at the name.

Farengar took the offered scales, practically vibrating with excitement, oblivious to Miraak’s cold stare. Lycka blithely ignored him.

“Fascinating,” he murmured, turning it over in his hands. The red glinted dully under the scattered candlelight. “Absolutely fascinating! I've never had a chance to observe, since the bodies dissipate after you kill them, you see-”

“I'll leave you to your research,” Lycka said with a soft huff of laughter.

They left quickly, Lycka only needing a few quick, hushed words with the Jarl. They had passed through the great doors before Miraak whirled on her.

Odahviing?!” he snarled. “You conspire with Alduin’s right hand?!”

“Former,” Lycka pointed out. “And he has long since proven his loyalty to me, and Paarthurnax as well.”

Miraak sputtered. “Paarthurnax?!”

“A wise and valuable teacher and practitioner of the Way of the Voice.”

“Alduin’s brother,” he retorted.

“His blood relations are admittedly unfortunate,” she conceded, “but he played a valuable part in his downfall.”

Miraak snorted disbelievingly. “I witnessed the dragons’ tyranny first hand,” he spat. “You claim to be Dragonborn and yet you ally yourself with their worst-”

“And you denied Hakon when he pleaded with you to aid him in the slaying of Alduin,” Lycka interrupted, eyes cold despite her mild tone. “You incited your own rebellion, failed, and were imprisoned on your own island for centuries. Do not presume your superiority.”

Miraak flinched, stumbling to a halt.

Lycka slowed, expression stony, amber eyes frigid. She considered him for a few moments, and Miraak felt pinned and exposed beneath her gaze.

Suddenly her demeanor changed, as if carried away by the breeze, her coldness melting away into her perpetual amusement.

“Come along,” she said. “We have a trip to prepare for. Falkreath will not come to us.”

Chapter Text

The remainder of the walk to Breezehome with filled with silence. While Lycka’s cold demeanor had calmed, Miraak was still largely unnerved by her sudden change, and was not eager to test her again.

He sighed as he stepped into the threshold, the warmth of of the hearth seeping back into his bones.

It was odd, he thought. It had been so long since he had felt such sensation in this intensity- hunger, cold, the satisfaction of warmth. His immortal body’s senses had dulled in Apocrypha- now they seemed to be back ten-fold.

Lycka stretched languidly, lazily brushing the snow from her hair and shoulders.

“I’ll be busy for a few hours,” she said casually. “Do what you like, but don’t disturb me.”

With that order, she turned her back and vanished upstairs.

Miraak let out the breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding.

He felt nervous, jittery. He was hyper-aware of his pulse in his ears, the tenseness of his muscles, and he exhaled sharply, forcing himself to relax, stumbled to slump into one of the plush armchairs.

Gods above, he feared her.

Perhaps fear was the wrong word. He did not fear for his life- she did not inspire him to cower and hide.

Miraak was fully aware that their situation was rather unorthodox- she had shown that she had no intention to kill him, and his temper and rudeness certainly did not reflect her position as his captor. She did not demand his respect or subservience- in fact, other than her initial display, she had hardly used her ‘powers’ over him, did not lord the over his head or threaten him.

Miraak groaned and slumped further into his seat. She was an enigma. He had no idea of her priorities, her motivations. She kept him for amusement. She was exhausting.

He very much wished he had another bottle of mead.

---

Two hours passed in a lazy, idle manner. Miraak passed the time by perusing her collection of books. Of course, there was nothing he hadn’t seen in Apocrypha, but the items Lycka kept were… interesting, to say the least. She seemed to have all manner of scraps and journals- everything from the scribblings of a common bandit (who she had slain and promptly looted, no doubt) to the recordings of the Companion’s former Harbinger.

It seemed that she kept an extensive compilation of loot, as well. Various weapons lined the racks scattered across the room, and impressive displays held items that ranged from staves to swords to- he paused- the masks of dragon priests.

Miraak stared the mask of Vahlok- his ‘jailor,’ dubbed so by the dragons. He had nearly been killed by the man- and yet the priest had been slain so easily by Lycka.

Perhaps that had been the first warning of his downfall.

No, he thought, the signs were much earlier. When she defeated Alduin, when words of her exploits reached his ears- he had already lost.

The sound of footsteps from behind him wrenched him from his musings. Predictably, it was Lycka.

“I’ve packed our supplies for tomorrow,” she stated cheerily. “Although, I was wondering, do you have a preference for blackberries or apples?”

Miraak stared at her, bewildered.

“Hmm. Apples, then, if you don’t have a preference.”

He continued to stare, bemusement fading to irritation. Lycka’s inanities grated on his nerves. A Dragonborn should have more dignity.

Lycka tilted her head inquisitively. “Septim for your thoughts?” she quipped. “You look rather cross. I have no doubt that I was the one who caused it, but might I ask why?”

“Enough,” Miraak growled. He glanced out the window. The sky was dyed vivid shades of violet and crimson, Masser and Segunda glimmering on the horizon. “I should retire now, if I am to have the energy to deal with your asininity tomorrow.”

Lycka seemed greatly amused by his response. “Of course,” she grinned. “I understand that your old bones might not be accustomed to keeping up with youths such as myself, and will gladly accommodate your needs.”

Miraak fixed her with a baleful glare. She smiled back sunnily.

“Lydia is living with Ria in Jorrvaskr at the moment,” Lycka continued. “You may use her room, if you’d like.”

Miraak nodded shortly, curt despite his internal relief. So he wouldn’t have to spend another night on the floor.

He was directed upstairs to a small, cozy room. Lycka stood at the doorway and watched as he got settled in, her characteristic amused smile tilting her lips.

“Good night, Miraak,” she said, unexpectedly soft, and left.

His gaze lingered on the empty doorway for several long moments after she had gone.

He snuffed out the lantern with a sharp breath, the room cast into a dreary, shadowy dimness.

The bed was plush and comfortable, yet Miraak found himself staring at the ceiling as the sun set fully and the room settled into darkness.

Out of the corner of his eye he would spot shadows writhing within the gloom, the flicker of an eyelid closing and vanishing into the shade.

He drew in a deep breath, turning and burying his face into the pillow. ‘Begone,’ he thought, hands clenched tight and trembling. ‘Mora holds no power over you here.’

The thought repeated like a mantra, although it was a quiet eternity until he fell into a fitful sleep.

----

Lycka woke him with the sun, but if she noticed his tired, troubled gaze she didn’t comment on it.

She had dressed lightly in drab leather armor, a light cloak on her shoulders and a small travelling pack strapped to her back. Two swords were sheathed on her hips, a dagger strapped to her thigh.

She handed him a cloak, light and easy to move in, and a pack that he swung over his shoulder, and, with a quick, smug nod of approval, she led them out of Whiterun.

The weather was on their side- the cold was brisk, but not biting, and the dry snow that crunched underfoot was far preferable to the wet slosh they would have had to trudge through had the it been warmer. The skies were largely clear except for a thin web of clouds that covered the sun, dimming the glare of the snow.

Lycka kept up a string of pleasant, amiable chatter throughout the day, Miraak following half a pace behind her, barely listening and looking rather dour.

It was nearing evening by the time the tundra of Whiterun shifted to the dense pine woods of Falkreath hold, the sun hanging low and heavy on the horizon.

“I’d say we’re making good time,” she said, peering at the sky. “We should arrive at Lakeview by afternoon tomorrow.”

He grunted in response.

Lycka smiled, turning so that she faced him as she walked backwards on the trail, hands folded neatly behind her back.

“I ask you to behave yourself when we reach Falkreath,” she said conversationally. “Please don’t scare my children.”

Miraak paused. “Children?”

“Two,” she replied. “Adopted, both of them.” She tilted her head. “You seem surprised.”

He took a moment to collect himself. “...You did not seem the type,” he managed finally.

Lycka snickered, opening her mouth to respond-

-and froze.

Her eyes flickered to the forest beyond the path, searching.

Miraak tensed.

“Smoke,” she murmured.

He took a long, slow breath. The faint, acrid tang of smoke bit at his tongue.

Her eyes cut across treetops. Miraak’s gaze followed, narrowing on the hazy column the marred the sky.

Lycka took off into the woods without warning, Miraak cursed, following on her heels.

The trees were dense, blotting out what little light remained, and he nearly stumbled over the jutting roots. Lycka practically flew across ground, bounding over obstacles with practiced ease.

Miraak slowed to halt next to her, a small noise of surprise escaping his throat as she tugged him down into a crouch.

Lycka studied the scene in front of her with frightening intensity. A ring of bandits lounged around a burning cabin, laughing uproariously as they dragged out the corpses of a family. One in mage’s robes tossed a fireball around carelessly, another half-dozen milling around and watched the spectacle. The scent of smoke and burnt flesh scorched his throat.

Her eyes were burning.

Slowly, she pulled a sword from its sheath at her hip and pressed it into his hand.

Fight,” she whispered, and the magic rushed through his veins.

They burst out of the shadows in tandem, and the bandits barely had a moment to react before the two Dragonborn were upon them.

Miraak was brutal. He bared his teeth his a feral snarl, sword whipping through the air as he swung at the mage. The blade embedded itself in his throat and the man fell with a gurgle, magic fizzling out in a limp hand.

Two more approached from his left, and he pivoted, lightning crackling at his fingertips. A bolt flew from his outstretched hand and one of the bandits spasmed, falling to the ground. The other charged in, massive battleaxe raised.

Miraak danced out of the way of the first blow, the axe meeting the ground with a heavy thud. One-two, came Miraak’s strikes, his retaliation leaving the bandit short a hand and a head. The body fell.

There was a sudden shove from behind, and he whirled around, swearing, blade in motion-

It was Lycka, he saw, and she was already racing away toward a fleeing archer, the corpses of the remaining bandits littering the ground.

Miraak let out a growl and took a step forward, then paused and turned, casting a frigid, heavy mist over the still-burning cabin that choked out the flames.

He caught up with her as she removed her sword from the archer’s stomach.

What,” he hissed, “was that.”

Lycka didn’t respond, breathing heavily and purposefully turned away from him. She walked away, oddly unsteady on her feet, back towards the road. Miraak followed behind for a while, impatience and irritation building with each stop.

“Answer me!” he barked finally, restraint gone, grabbing her shoulders and forcing her to face him. “What possessed you to barrel into me-”

He froze. Lycka’s face was drawn tight with pain, the feathered shaft of an arrow protruding from stomach.

“Well,” she said, unperturbed, “that’s rather rude, considered I saved your life.”

Miraak stared. “How-? When-?”

Lycka snorted. “I didn't shove you out of the way for fun.”

It took him a few moments to replay the moment in his mind’s eye. “You stupid, careless woman!” he snapped.

“I'm not the one who left their back wide open,” she said dryly, still frustratingly calm. Her hands went to the arrow and she snapped the shaft as near to the head as she could, letting out a long, shuddering breath.

The short contact was enough to leave her hands slicked with blood, and Miraak could see where the leather of her armor had been soaked through, leaving dark, ugly stains.

Lycka staggered over to a tree and slumped to the ground, hand clutched around the arrow.

“I-” she paused to take a deep breath- “I may need assistance with this, if you please.”

Miraak scowled and knelt beside her, dropping his sword on the ground. “I need a knife,” he said curtly.

She fumbled with the sheath on her thigh, eventually presenting him with a short dagger. It was a fine thing, made of ebony and dragonbone, and with a keener blade than any he had seen.

“I imagine after escaping death at the hands of Hermaeus Mora, being shot in the back by a lowly bandit would be a rather undignified way to go,” Lycka said wearily, as if explaining herself.

“Stop talking.” He cut away a portion of her armor and tunic, the leather tough even under the sharpness of the dagger.

Miraak frowned, brow furrowed, as he gauged the severity of the wound. The arrowhead was barbed, he noted, and grimaced. It would be impossible to pull it out without risking massive damage.

“I’ll have to cut it out,” he mumbled, more to himself.

“Sounds unpleasant,” Lycka joked.

Deciding the blade he was using would be enough, he cut another strip of leather from her ruined armor.

“Bite,” he instructed, “and do not tense up.”

Lycka accepted the strip, biting down and leaning back against the tree, eyes closed.

Miraak studied her for moment.

Then he made the first incision.

The breath rushed out of her in a sharp exhale through her teeth, and her hands flexed and clenched, but she did not flinch away from the blade.

She handled the pain admirably, he thought grudgingly. He remembered the first time an arrow had been cut out of him- vividly so, despite the number of years that had past, solely because of the excruciating agony that had accompanied it. He had been held down by another, unable to stop his thrashing as he struggled beneath the surgeon’s knife.

Miraak banished the memory and kept his hand steady, even as more and more blood flowed from the wound and covered his hands. The copper scent was overwhelming, drowning out even the stench of the smoke. Slow, deliberate strokes of the knife sliced away ragged flesh from the barbs, widening the entry point until he could slide it out. When he had finally finished the gruesome task Lycka was trembling almost imperceptibly, the leather creaking between her teeth.

He slipped the arrowhead out, and Lycka hissed through the makeshift bit.

“What would have happened if I had died?” Miraak asked, turning the crude, ugly arrowhead over in his hands once before tossing it aside. “If I had died and you had not. Our souls are bound, as you said.”

She spat out the strip, deep indents of her teeth marking the leather.

“I am… unaware of the stipulations of you dying without me. Perhaps you would become a ghost?” She laughed then, barely more than a weak snicker. “I’ve had my fair share of experiences with ghosts, though I doubt any of them would be as cross and unpleasant as you.”

Miraak smoothed his hands over her wound, hands glowing gold. “I would make your days as miserable as I could.”

She huffed, a hint of a grin curling at her lips, then groaned, head rolling back as the magic knit the flesh back together.

He made quick work of the rest of the injury. Mending flesh with magic was a much simpler task than surgery.

When he finished, Lycka’s breathing had evened out, her eyes half-lidded and exhausted. The setting sun cast long, stark shadows across her face.

“My thanks,” she murmured, hands ghosting over her torso. There was a fresh scar a few inches to the left of her navel, raw and tender and still covered in blood.

Miraak grunted, wiping his bloodstained hands on the grass.

Lycka sighed tiredly. “I think,” she said, “it might be best to make camp for the night.”

She twisted to remove her pack, not without effort, and rifled through its contents. She passed a flask of water to him, which he accepted wordlessly, and rinsed the remainder of the blood- her blood- from his hands before taking a long draught.

Miraak eyed her over the flask. “You should drink as well,” he said stiffly.

She gave him a half-smile. “Thank you for your concern dearest companion,” she replied, a teasing note to her voice. There was… something soft in her tone, something warm.

Miraak didn’t dare dwell on it, handing the flask back as wordlessly as he had taken it.

Lycka sipped slowly, her movements stiffer and more stilted than normal.

He averted his eyes. Seeing her in a weakened state seemed wrong, somehow. His hands twitched, his blood still buzzing from the earlier fight.

He stood abruptly. “I’ll find wood for a fire,” he said, blank and expressionless.

She did not stop him, and he fled from her weary gaze.

Chapter Text

Miraak paced restlessly, hands flexing and breath stuttered and uneven. The sky was darkening rapidly, and he reflexively cast a small flame to light the path.

He paused. Lycka had not restrained his magic again before he left. He allowed the magicka to flow to his fingertips, sparks dancing over his hands. With a snarl, he aimed a bolt at the sky, relishing in the rush of power.

He cast spell after spell into the sky, fire and lightning and ice, until his reserves of magic had nearly drained and his arms were trembling with exhaustion.

Miraak panted, breathing ragged and muscles tense and jittery. The cloying scent of Lycka’s blood clung to him, choking him with every breath.

He ran a hand through his hair roughly, scowling. He had barely burned off a fraction of his anxious energy and was in no hurry to return.

His hands flexed, and he threw a vicious punch at the nearest tree.

The bark splintered, cutting into his hand- he was suddenly struck with the memory of punching the wall of Lycka’s home, the gentle warmth of her magic and calloused hands-

He punched the tree again.

By the time his frustrations had been properly vented, his knuckles were bloodied and stinging painfully. He impatiently sent a pulse of magic to his hands, stemming the bleeding. He could take of later.

When he made his way back to their makeshift camp, Lycka was half-asleep. A red-stained rag was tossed carelessly on the ground beside her, and she was noticeably cleaner- the blood had been wiped from her hands and she had exchanged her ruined armor for a simple cloth tunic. A neatly-rolled bundle of blankets was set aside across from her, another drawn up to her hips as she leaned against the tree.

Miraak dropped his bundle of branches on the ground, scuffing a half-hearted barrier in the dirt and lighting the tinder with flicker of magic.

“I’ll take first watch, he grumbled, settling down on the ground. At some point Lycka had laid out some food- half a loaf of bread, a handful of jerky, a wedge of cheese, and- he paused- an apple.

She flashed him a small, grateful smile. “My thanks,” she murmured sleepily.

He pointed turned away, and heard the rustle of blankets, the soft sound of her breathing leveling out as she dozed off.

Miraak kept watch until the sky darkened into deep indigos and Secunda and Masser hung high in the sky, and the fire died out.

He glanced at Lycka. Her face was… peaceful. The pained grimace she had worn was smoothed into a calm expression, the darkness hiding the pale pallor of her skin.

He stared at her for a moment longer before shaking off the odd feeling and turning back to the road. Magicka alighting on his fingertips, he set up a few wards and runes before finally heading back and tugging a blanket over his legs.

He slept, the scent of copper heavy on his tongue and crimson staining his hands.


When Miraak woke, Lycka was already up.

She was humming softly, running a whetstone along the blade of her sword. The mixture of her voice and the quiet scraping of stone on metal was oddly soothing.

He pressed the heel of his palm to his eyes, rubbing away the sleepiness, and Lycka look up at him.

“Awake so soon?” she asked, amused.

Miraak grunted, bemused.

“It’s almost noon,” she informed him casually.

He bolted up at this. Almost noon?! How long had he slept?

“I do suppose old men like you need plenty of rest,” Lycka said cheerfully.

Miraak glared at her sharply and she snickered. She seemed to have recovered almost completely, bright-eyed and clean of blood, no longer strained and pale.

Miraak was in equal parts irritated and relieved.

“If you’re ready to go, I believe we can make it to my home by the afternoon,” she said, standing up and sheathing her blade. “I don’t doubt that you are as eager as I to move on.”

They set out on the road, Lycka humming merrily, as if she had not had an arrow removed from her gut hours ago.

Thankfully, they didn’t encounter any plumes of smoke nor swarms of bandits, and Lycka did not seem to find the need to plunge into the woods and search out danger, so they made good time to the manor.

Lycka tossed him an apple as they walked, biting into one of her own. Miraak waited before until her attention was turned back to the road before he began eating. It was sweet and crisp, and he enjoyed it more than he cared to admit. Eating and hunger were still odd concepts to him, considering his centuries in Apocrypha, essentially in limbo.

He tossed the core to the side of the road when he finished. There was a trail of juice left, running from his palm to his wrist, and he lapped it up with a broad stroke of his tongue.

There was an huff from beside him, and, startled, he turned to face Lycka. She glanced at him, an amused half-smirk tilting her lips.

Slightly perturbed for a reason he couldn’t name, he pointed avoided her gaze and kept his eyes in front of him.


 The sun was halfway to the horizon when the silhouette of the massive manor came into view. The roof of it was barely visible between the massive fir trees that towered over it.

Lycka abandoned the path to take a more direct route, veering off to scamper down a sheer, craggy slope. Miraak swore under his breath and turned to follow.

The slope was rough and steep, more like a cliff than a slope, and Miraak had to keep a hand on the rocks to keep his balance. Lycka was already back on the ground and halfway to the manor by the time he made it down, and he swore again and jogged to catch up.

He glared at her, a sharp comment on his tongue, but something about her expression made him stop.

She looked… apprehensive, yet eager at the same time. Concern flitted across her features like a shadow.

Miraak tilted his head as he observed her. She wouldn’t be so concerned about her children, would she?

The great doors of the manor creaked open, and the first thing Miraak saw was a wide-eyed girl staring back at them.

“Mama’s home!” she cried, rushing at Lycka.

The Dragonborn laughed, scooping the girl up into her arms.

“Really? Sofie, wait for me!” A young boy raced into the entrance, skidding around the corner and sprinting full on at them.

“Mama!” he cheered, leaping at her, and Lycka barely caught him with one arm, shifting the girl so she could carry the two of them.

“You’re back! It’s been forever! Did you bring us anything cool?” the boy rambled, clinging to her neck.

“Like a sword?” the girl clarified. “Oh! Or really big sword!”

“Babette came to play with us.” A beat. “Well, she sat around and called us mean names.”

“And Uncle Cicero taught us to juggle knives!”

Lycka raised a brow. “Did he now?”

“Wooden ones,” Sofie continued hastily. “Which is good, because I think Hroar would have cut off his hand, and then you wouldn’t let Uncle Cicero take care of us anymore.” She paused, squinting at Miraak. “Who’s he?”

Lycka glanced at him. “A friend,” she said.

Sofie wrinkled her nose. “He’s not courting you, is he?”

Lycka snorted.

Sofie pouted. “I’m serious,” she said, crossing her arms. “He’s not nearly handsome enough for you.”

Miraak’s eyebrows shot up to his hairline and Lycka broke down into raucous laughter.

The girl marched up to him. “If you want to marry Mama, you have to get through me and Hroar,” she declared. “And also Uncle Cicero, and he’s sneaky and has lots of knives.”

“I assure you,” Miraak said slowly, “that I have absolutely no intention of doing so.”

“Where is Rayya?” Lycka asked, fighting down her hysterics. Her eyes were bright and shining.

Hroar scuffed his foot against the floor guiltily.

“Hroar left the chicken coop open and they all escaped, and Rayya had to go save them,” Sofie said immediately.

“Sofie!” Hroar whined.

Lycka snorted and ruffled his hair until the boy ducked away, batting at her hands.

“I need you two to behave a bit longer,” Lycka told the two of them. “I need to go out and visit the others, and then I’ll be back, and you can have your gifts.”

The children voiced their disappointment vocally, with great amounts of pouting.

“But you just got back!” Sofie said, and Miraak was struck by the realization that these children had not seen their mother in a very long time- Lycka had stayed on Solstheim for well over a month.

“I’m already late,” Lycka said, kneeling down so that she was eye-to-eye with them, arms open for an embrace.

Hroar and Sofie dove back into her arms and Miraak shifted uncomfortably, feeling rather like he was intruding on something.

“Bye-bye Mama,” Hroar mumbled, and shot Miraak a nasty glare from over Lycka’s shoulder. Sofie mirrored the expression, sticking her tongue out at him.

Miraak resisted the urge to roll his eyes.


 Lycka had them out the door again in moments, stopping just long enough to set down their packs and leading him back into the woods. This time, there was no road to follow, but Lycka seemed sure and confident in her bearings, so Miraak made no comment.

They walked for an hour or so- the sun had just begun to kiss the horizon, casting the woods in purple shadows and painting the sky gold- when they came across a clearing. A young girl sat on a toppled tree trunk, arms crossed.

The girl glared up at them. “You’re late,” she said accusingly. A flash of fangs and a glint and crimson and Miraak realized, no, not a child- a vampire.

“I’m sorry, Babette,” Lycka murmured. “I was busy.”

The vampire child huffed. “The others are waiting for us already,” she said, looking cross.

“Of course.”

Babette narrowed her eyes at Miraak, and his hand twitched instinctively. “Who’s that?”

“My companion,” Lycka replied. “No need for hostilities, Babette.”

The vampire sniffed haughtily and turned away.

Miraak narrowed his eyes at them. What business would Lycka have with a vampire, of all creatures?

The 'others' were only a little further, barely a minute’s walk, and Miraak lingered back, wary and hesitant. A tall, sturdily built Redguard was leaning against a tree, a heavy red hood obscuring most of his features.

“Listener,” the Redguard greeted, head tilted in acknowledgement.

“Nazir, old friend,” Lycka said, clasping forearms with him. “I apologize for my lateness.”

“It could not be helped,” he replied.

A jester bound up to her, eyes wide and grinning wildly.

“Oh Listener! Sweet, sweet Listener! Cicero waited so very loyally! He feared that something had befallen you!”

“Fear? Do you really have so little faith in me, Cicero?” Lycka asked, affectionately teasing.

The jester gasped dramatically. “Nothing of the sort! Cicero was simply concerned, as a good servant should!”

Miraak frowned. A stone-faced Redguard, a haughty vampire-child, and a jester with questionable presence of mind. “Your… business? It’s with them?” he murmured, eyeing the them warily.

“Less business,” she replied, “and more… friendly visitations.”

Lycka chattered amiably with all of them- a low, murmured conversation with Nazir, quiet gossip with Babette, bright, ringing laughter with Cicero. Miraak was struck by the similarities of her interaction with these strange people and the Companions- the comfort and familiarity and camaraderie.

He made sure to follow at a distance, unwilling to disturb them or attract attention.

They wandered deeper into the woods, following no particular path, until they reached a small clearing, filled with a half dozen small monuments-

Miraak paused. A cemetery.

Lycka knelt down by one of the many gravestones, speaking too softly to be heard. Gently, she ran a hand along the stone. Nazir and Babette wandered around quietly, and Miraak noticed that the jester silently lingered along the side.

Lycka paid her respects to each grave, expression somber. When she crossed paths with the vampire and the Redguard, and she would exchange quiet words with them, and sometimes she would press a kiss to the back of their hands.

Eventually, she made her way back to Miraak, absent-minded and distant.

“Why did you bring me with you?” he asked.

Lycka, thankfully, did not seem offended, answering mildly. “I did not think it safe to leave you with the children.”

Miraak’s frown deepened. “Do you think me so lowly as to hurt a child-”

She laughed. “I apologize,” she said, “I should clarify- not safe for you. I have no doubt that Sofie and Hroar would have made good on their threats bother you at every opportunity. I feared for your sanity, not them.”

Mollified, Miraak snorted. “They may not be related to you by blood, but they most certainly take after their mother,” he muttered.

Lycka’s smile softened and she looked away.

Miraak followed her gaze. His eyes rested on a pair of gravestones, closer to each other than the others.

“They were family, once,” Lycka said quietly. Her gaze was distant, not entirely there.

Miraak hesitated. “What happened?”

“Many things,” she replied. “Greed, dishonesty… desperation.”

“And yet you care for them still,” Miraak concluded.

She smiled, soft and rueful. “Yes.”

He watched her for a moment. “Betraying you was unwise,” he said flatly, startling another laugh from her.

“Was that possibly a compliment?” she asked, looking rather smug.

Enough,” he growled. “It grows late. I would rather we return quickly, lest we find your spawn have burned down your precious home.”

“You will be comforted to know that I have yet to teach them magic,” Lycka said, a mischievous grin tugging at her mouth.

Miraak snorted. “As if there are not a dozen other ways to set fire to something.”

She laughed again then, bright and brilliant, and for a moment, in the warm evening shadows, her eyes melting into gold in the dying light, Miraak thought she looked happy.

Chapter Text

It was well into the evening when Miraak and Lycka parted ways with Babette, Nazir, and Cicero and finally headed back to the manor.

Lycka seemed slightly subdued on the way back, quiet and contemplative.

It was dark when they made it back, the moons hanging low in the sky. Lycka entered the home quietly. A Redguard woman was inside, seated by the table and maintaining a pair scimitars.

“My thane,” she murmured in greeting, inclining her head in acknowledgement.

“Rayya,” Lycka replied, voice low. “I trust the children were troublesome as always?”

Rayya huffed, equal parts exasperated and amused. “Hroar is a menace,” she said affectionately, shaking her head, “but the both of them are asleep. They tried to insist on waiting up on you, but they are only children.”

Lycka put a hand on Rayya’s shoulder. “Get some rest,” she suggested. “You need it.”

The older woman laughed briefly before setting aside her weapons. “If that is your command, my thane,” she said lightly. She spared Miraak only the briefest of glances before she vanished up the stairs.

“She is my housecarl here in Falkreath,” Lycka explained. “An excellent warrior and a dear friend.”

“Housecarl?” Miraak questioned.

“Of course,” she said. “I am Thane, after all.”

“Thane?” he echoed, voice rising in incredulity.

“Of several holds,” Lycka confirmed cheerily. “Only seven of the nine, though.”

“Thane of only seven holds?” Miraak snorted, thick with sarcasm. “Such blasphemy.”

She laughed. “Unfortunately, Windhelm and Solitude are rather opposed in the war. I cannot become Thane in one without conquering the other.”

Miraak froze. “War?”

Lycka glanced up at him. “Are you… not aware of the civil war?”

He clenched his jaw and shook his head stiffly. “The scope of my knowledge did not include the political machinations of Skyrim,” he said sourly. “I was aware of Alduin and the dragons, of course, but Hermaeus Mora limited my influence outside of Solstheim.”

Lycka hummed in acknowledgement, absent-mindedly crossing her arms and drumming her fingers along her bicep. “It is a dispute between the Stormcloak faction and the Imperial army,” she said. “A useless, bloody war that does nothing but further the goals of those who seek to destroy Skyrim.”

“Why do you not simply end it?” he pressed. “They would not stand a chance against a fully-fledged Dragonborn.”

She was quiet for several long moments. “I have defended Skyrim against a great many things,” she said slowly. “I have protected it from the dragons, from Alduin, from vampires, from you.” She paused, sighing. “I cannot protect it from itself.” She seemed very tired then, shadows falling ever her eyes as she lowered her head.

Miraak didn’t know how to respond to that, so he said nothing, shifting uncomfortably.

Lycka smiled. “You must be tired, are you not? This house is bigger than Breezehome, so you can have a room to yourself.”

Miraak wordlessly followed her up the stairs, and she led him to a bedroom.
“You can stay here for as long as we remain in my home,” she told him, opening the door.

“And how long will that be?” he asked, not particularly expecting an answer.

Lycka snickered, hearing the resignation in his tone. “Until I’m needed elsewhere.”

He snorted and peered inside. It was large and spacious, various trinkets and personal effects littering every available tabletop and cabinet.

This was no guest room, Miraak realized.

Suddenly wary, he glanced back at her. “This is your room, is it not?” he asked cautiously.

Lycka laughed. “I do not intend on sharing a bed with you, if that is your concern,” she said teasingly, and Miraak flushed. She laughed again at his indignant, scandalized scowl. “You have no need to worry about your virtue,” she said. “If you find you cannot sleep, feel free to wander the property. Just take care not to wake the children or Rayya.” She paused. “Good night, Miraak.”

---

Miraak lay wide awake and restless. Somehow, the softness of the bed kept him from sleep- he had slept better on the ground on way to the manor.

Finally, he heaved a massive sigh and hauled himself out of the bed. Vaguely, he wondered if Lycka had expected his restlessness, given her decision to allow him to wander during the night.

He tread quietly, per her warning to not wake the others, slipped his boots and cloak on at the door. It was freezing outside, the moons gleaming against the ice. Piles of snow weighed down the branches off the fir trees and capped their tops, and Miraak abandoned the snow covered path entirely and veered off.

He didn’t know the extent of the property, but assumed the bond- Mora’s curse was a more appropriate name, in all honesty- would stop him if he tried to go too far.

So he wandered, keeping just enough presence of mind not to get lost. The nighttime breeze was frigid and biting, his breath coalescing into heavy mist in front of his lips.

A piercing howl shattered the calm, and Miraak’s fingers twitched instinctively, magicka rushing to his hands. The howl sounded again, and, after only a moment of hesitation, Miraak made his way toward the noise.

He summoned a flame to light the path as he crept deeper into the forest. As he got closer and closer, the howls were punctuated by snarls and the shouts of men.

A fight.

He felt his pace quicken and suddenly he was sprinting, flying over the snow and leaving behind his conjured light.

He burst into a clearing and he blood froze in shock as he watched the scene.

A pack of bandits, at least a dozen strong, were getting torn apart by a wolf.

No, he amended, not a wolf. A werewolf, dark and massive, with blazing amber eyes and bloodstained fangs.

The bandits, oblivious to his presence, attempted to surround it, forming a ring around the beast, but the werewolf lunged and barrelled through their ranks, vanishing into the shadows of the woods.

“After it!” one of the bandits hollered, and barely took two steps forward before the beast darted out of the darkness again and snapped at his throat. Blood spurted from his torn neck, painting his nearest companion crimson.
There were screams and they charged at the wolf, and Miraak finally acted.

A bolt of lightning crackled at his fingertips and arched towards the group, and a fresh round of shrieks sounded from the bandits. The werewolf took the momentary distraction to leap at them, swiping with its oversized claws and practically shredding them to pieces. Miraak lept into the fray, burning with magic, and it seemed like it was mere moments until all the bandits were lying lifeless on the ground.

Miraak took a step back, warily eyeing the wolf. It prowled around the corpses, tearing at their chests and snapping at their ribs- consuming their hearts. Its eyes were wide and wild, teeth bared ferally.

He debated attempting to kill the thing or retreat- he doubted he could do the former easily, weaponless and unarmored as he was, but the latter meant that he would lead it straight back to the manor should the beast give chase. Neither seemed like particularly good ideas.

The decision seemed to be made for him when the wolf snarled at him, dropping down to all fours and slowly stalking towards him. Miraak readied his magic, preparing for a fight,

Slowly, the wolf approached him, fur bristled and hackles raised, and Miraak tensed, raising his hand, flames alighting at his fingertips-

And suddenly the werewolf’s body language changed abruptly. Its ears pricked forward and its tongue lolled out of its mouth, the snarl reduced to happy panting. It trotted over Miraak, tail swishing.

The First Dragonborn only stood in shock as the werewolf nudged his chest with its cold, wet nose, looking up at him with slanted amber eyes.

Familiar eyes.

“You can’t be…” he muttered incredulously.

The werewolf wuffed softly, as if denying his skepticism, blinking slowly.

Miraak sighed. “Of course you are.”

Lycka chuffed, sounding as amused as a wolf could be, and nosed him again, affectionately rubbing at his cheek.

“Get off of me, you ridiculous woman,” he scowled, batting her away. “You reek of blood and dog.”

Lycka let out a sad whine.

Miraak took a moment to observe her. Even on all fours, she still stood up to his chest. Her fur was near-black, thick and smooth- although, at the moment, also slick with bandit’s blood, and her tail swished slowly, stirring the snow beneath her.

“How long before you turn back?” he asked, crossing his arms.

Lycka whined again and turned in place, plopping down on the ground and rolling around. Smears of red streaked the snow where she touched it.

Miraak exhaled sharply, looking up to the heavens. “You are impossible.”

He turned to trudge back to the manor when Lycka gently grasped his wrist in her jaws and tugged him back.

“What?” he said, exasperated. Now that he knew it was Lycka, any fear he might have felt dissolved to irritation.

She wuffed around his hand, pulling.

“Don’t tell me you want me to stay,” he said flatly.

Lycka dropped his wrist, staring at him expectantly.

He sighed through his nose, rubbing at his temples. “Unbelievable,” he scowled. “And I expect if I don’t comply now, you make my life miserable tomorrow, won’t you.”

She yipped.

“Fine,” he said shortly, resigned to a very long night. “What else do you want, then?”

The wolf lowered her massive head and ducked it under his hand and Miraak reflexively scratched her ears before he realized what he was doing and yanked his hand back.

She nipped his fingers. Whether it was playfully or out of spite didn’t matter- while it didn’t draw blood, it hurt, and Miraak yelped indignantly.

Lycka made a noise that sounded suspiciously like laughter, eyes gleaming.

“Irritating, incorrigible woman,” he said under his breath.

She yipped and pranced in circles around him before taking off in a steady lope, away from the manor.

Miraak cursed and followed, jogging to keep up.

Lycka glanced back at him and led him out of the woods. The trees thinned around him and the ground transitioned from dirt to pebbles beneath his feet, and Miraak was suddenly looking over a massive lake.

The waters looked black as ink under the night sky, the meager light reflecting off the lake like so many stars trapped beneath the surface. The moons were mirrored in the still waters, bright and brilliant.

Lycka gave a full body shudder, and Miraak averted his eyes as she changed back. It was an undoubtedly unpleasant experience, if the sound of her bones grinding as they reformed was any indication, and Miraak found no desire to watch the transformation.

When he glanced back, Lycka was crouched on the ground, glaringly naked. Almost against his will, his eyes lingered on her form- the broad, muscled contours of her shoulders, the curve of her waist, the dark, sharp lines of the dragon tattoo-

Miraak wrenched his gaze away.

“If it’s not too much trouble, would you allow me to borrow your cloak?” Lycka asked mildly.

Wordlessly, he yanked off his cloak and tossed it towards her without looking, face burning with… shame? Embarrassment? He wasn’t sure.

Reluctantly, he admitted to himself that Lycka was right- he was rather easy to fluster.

“Thank you very much,” she said. There was rustling as she stood straight and clasped the cloak and wrapped it around her body. She sighed mournfully. “Bandits are troublesome,” she said. “I patrol here at night, but there were more than I expected, and was forced to resort to Hircine’s gift.”

His jaw clenched, a memory rising. “You said that my soul is bound to yours, even the afterlife,” he said stiffly. “So Hircine has claimed yours?”

She rolled her wrist experimentally, and then her shoulders, as if readjusting to her human form. “For now,” she replied. “I have a way to unbind my blood from the beast, but for now it is… useful.”

Miraak blinked. “And that is why you do not sleep,” he concluded, “and do not use your room. The beast blood keeps you awake.”

“You are clever,” she granted. “All are true. When I was unconscious after you pulled the arrow from me was the only time I truly rested for months.” She paused. “Neither the children nor Rayya know about this,” she admitted. “I would appreciate it if you held your silence.”

He grunted in acquiescence. While it was not an order and he felt no particular compulsion to obey, the consequences of disagreeing far outweighed any petty spite he might gain from revealing her secret.

Lycka gave him a grateful smile. “Thank you.”

She briefly ran a hand through her hair, wincing as her fingers caught a knot in the dark tresses. “Well then,” she said, stepping gingerly, barefoot in the snow, “I think it is about time we returned home, is it not?”

Home. It did not sound so much a terrible thing as he thought.

“If that is what you wish,” he said, and Miraak caught a glimpse of a smile of a different sort before she turned away.

Chapter Text

It was shockingly easy to settle into life at Falkreath.

It had not been difficult to situate Miraak in Lycka’s room, with how little she used it- although said owner was keen to laud her “extraordinary magnanimity in the face of such ungratefulness.” Miraak had scoffed particularly loudly at that, much to Lycka’s amusement. Things were moved around, clothing was provided, knick-knacks and personal effects removed and replaced with even more clutter.

Awkwardly, Miraak realized he felt more like a guest than a prisoner.

Lycka would spend her nights prowling the perimeter of her property, and when Miraak found found himself restless and unable to sleep, he would join her. (He found himself patrolling with her more often than not.) There wasn’t usually much to take care of- the occasional ragtag crew of bandits, the rare necromancer that strayed too far from whatever insidious hole they crawled out of. Between Miraak and Lycka, any threats were dealt with very swiftly and with great prejudice- very few things on Nirn could stand the combined efforts of two Dragonborn.

During the day, he was basically free to do as he pleased, so long as he did not leave the boundaries of the vast estate, and he filled his time with idle wandering, exploring the winding rivers and sprawling forests until he neared the edges of the property and the bond tugged him back.

After millennia in Apocrypha, the woods of Falkreath were a paradise.

Rayya didn’t seem inclined to bother him and the children were- thankfully- kept busy with studies and chores and seemed to prefer using their free time to be with their mother, leaving them with little time pester Miraak. Despite this, they still found opportunities to make his life miserable- at one point, he had found a bowl of worms on the table instead of dinner, another time, all the clothes had been stolen from his wardrobe and replaced with women’s dresses.

In a particularly childish pique of frustration and irritation, he had frozen their mattresses solid with magic and felt a vindictive sort of pleasure at the shrieks that had echoed in the halls that evening. Lycka, despite herself, seemed equally amused.

Lycka’s perpetually cheery personality seemed to never falter, even in the face of Miraak’s unrelenting dourness and dry sarcasm. In fact, the latter seemed to only inflate it. While he eventually got used to her antics and quick wit, it never ceased to provoke and fluster him, much to the Last Dragonborn’s delight.

Weeks passed in an idyllic blur. It was an odd sort of domesticity, and Miraak was surprised to find that he did not hate it.

One day Lycka tossed him a wooden practice sword, grinning slyly.

“Lets spar,” she said, excitement lighting up her eyes.

Miraak stared at her for moment and sighed. “Fine.”

In all honesty, the prospect of a bout was making him restless. While he was not averse to the simple life at Falkreath, there wasn’t much else to do at the manor, other than desperately avoiding Lycka’s children- and their pranks- and the rare bandit didn’t pose much of a challenge.

And if the thought of possibly besting Lycka in a fight was an enticing one- well, he was allowed his vices.

There was a flat area piece of ground to the back of the manor where Lycka would often spar with Rayya, or train the children in swordsmanship if they begged enough. The snow had been mostly cleared in a neat circle, spanning wide enough that there was plenty of room to maneuver.

They took their positions on opposite sides of the clearing. Miraak experimentally swung the practice blade, adjusting his grip to its size and weight.

Lycka pulled her hair back with a leather tie, rolling her shoulders and bouncing on the balls of her feet. The wooden sword hung from her hand loosely, point down, the tip drawing faint lines on the snow-powdered dirt beneath her feet.

“Ready?” she asked brightly.

Miraak grunted his assent, widening his stance, sword at the ready.

She tilted her head. “Then let’s begin.”

They circled each other for a few moments, slow and deliberate. Lycka was light on her feet, each step barely disturbing the ground beneath her.

Lycka lunged first, darting in like a snake. Her blade whipped through the air, and Miraak parried with a sharp flick of his wrist. She ducked under his retaliating slash and danced out of range.

They traded blows, swords lightning quick. Strikes that would have undoubtedly been crippling or fatal should they have been using real swords were reduced to bruises and welts. Lycka landed a particularly stinging blow to his ribs and Miraak got his revenge with a harsh thrust at her torso that made her wince.

Sweat dripped down Miraak face, and when Lycka pulled back to recover from an especially harrowing barrage, and he took the moment of respite to yank the tunic over his head and tossed it to the ground. The sudden cold was almost bitingly sharp against his exposed skin, but he shook it off.

Lycka’s eyebrows raised, and Miraak flushed.

Her eyes flickered down to his chest, to the stark lines of the dragon that arched down his chest, and he took advantage of her momentary distraction to lunge at her. He brought the sword down on her, teeth bared, and Lycka blocked crosswise, using her other hand to brace the flat of the blade.

Suddenly, she laughed, and Miraak almost jerked back in surprise.

“You’re smiling,” she informed him.

He was tempted to bring a hand to cover his mouth. The exhilaration of the fight was getting to him.

His brief hesitation cost him when she slipped out from under the blade, skipping back, and Miraak growled a little in frustration.

Lycka was good. Perhaps, he admitted reluctantly, one of the best. There were very few moves that she was not ready for, and both her agility and strength were formidable.

An idea formed in his mind. If a master swordsman was so predictable to her, he thought, then he would simply have to switch up his tactics.

He chased after her as she retreated, and Lycka glanced at him, eyes gleaming.

One-two, one-two, Miraak kept his strikes simple and predictable, lulling her into a pattern, but quick enough that it was difficult to counter. She blocked and parried easily, raising a brow at the change in approach.

He kept up the attacks for a while longer, and Lycka finally seemed grow impatient, disengaging for a moment only to rush at him again, sword pointed forward in a thrust.

Hah.

As Lycka lunged, he twisted to the side and grabbed the wooden blade, wrenching it out of her grip. She made a startled noise as the practice sword was yanked from her hands.

“I think I win this round, Dragonborn,” he said smugly, tossing her sword to the side.

“Hm,” Lycka said, sounding unperturbed. “I think not.”

Miraak barely had time to register her words before she was on him. A sharp, bruising hit to his hand made his sword clatter to the ground, and suddenly his legs were kicked out from under him with a sweep of her leg.

She slammed him into the ground, one hand pinning both of his wrists above his head and a knee shoved savagely into his gut. He bucked underneath her, straining to get loose, but she had him in terms of height and leverage, and, despite his best efforts, Miraak remained caught.

A lock of dark hair brushed his cheek from where it had escaped the Lycka’s tie.

He froze.

She was close, so close that he could feel the wisps of her breath as she panted. Her eyes were warm and overbright, and he felt trapped beneath her gaze. His wrists were scorching where she had pinned them.

He felt hot, flushed from exertion and adrenalin, his blood burning with her nearness, too close and not close enough in equal measure.

It would be so easy to kiss her, Miraak thought dazedly. Easier still to simply let her kiss him.

Her lips curled into a smile and he thought for a moment that she might actually-

“I win,” she murmured.

Miraak let out the deep, shuddering breath he didn’t know he had been holding. “So it seems.” His voice sounded tight even to his own ears.

Lycka tilted her head. “Are you well?” she asked, seemingly genuinely concerned.

Probably not, Miraak thought, his face burning hot. She still had him pressed against the freezing ground, her body flush with his. Her tunic scratched against his bare chest with every breath.

“Yes,” he managed to choke out, still very much aware how he was stretched out and vulnerable beneath her.

She hummed skeptically, finally releasing him and standing.

Miraak hastily clambered to his feet, swallowing thickly. He steadied himself and desperately willed himself to calm. He felt so flushed that he barely noticed the cold- in fact, he was near-certain that he was steaming.

“Would you like to go into town with me later?” Lycka asked.

He paused, his hazy head struggling to register her question. “To do what?”

She shrugged. “Just to look around,” she said. “Buy some things, if they catch my eye.”

Miraak recalled the clutter and loot that filled Breezehome and Lycka’s room in the manor, and privately thought that perhaps she didn’t need to buy all the things that caught her eye.

“I would… not be opposed to it,” he said slowly. Leaving the manor would at least provide a welcome distraction from his dangerously idle thoughts.

She smiled sunnily at him. “Good! You should go wash up and change, then,” she said.

He made a noise of assent and started to head back into the manor when something soft was lobbed at the back of his head.

“Don’t forget your shirt,” Lycka added cheekily.

It was dusted with snow and dirt, but Miraak threw it on regardless, turning around so that she wouldn’t see how he reddened all the way to the roots of his hair.

Of course, she laughed anyway.

A pleasant, steaming bath and a fresh change of clothes later, Miraak was following Lycka out of the manor.

“Not bringing your offspring?” he asked dryly, despite the not-insignificant amount of relief he felt.

She let out a little huff of laughter, tucking a few errant strands of hair behind her ear, and Miraak hated how his eyes followed the movement so attentively. “No, not this time,” she answered. “Rayya is watching over them today. They were begging for her to practice with them.”

“A force to be reckoned with, to be certain,” he snorted. Banter was good, he thought. It was distracting, and helped his mind not to wander to things that he perhaps wanted but could not have-

“Do you want anything?” Lycka asked suddenly.

Miraak nearly choked.

Lycka glanced at him oddly for a moment before continuing. “There aren’t many stores in Falkreath, but we could make a detour if you have something particular in mind.”

“No,” he managed to force out. “Nothing.”

She hummed thoughtfully. “We’ll find something for you,” she decided, and Miraak let out an exasperated noise.

They took the road this time, and, while the path was not well-travelled, it was still preferable to traipsing around the forests with only the sun as a guiding point.

Lycka chattered aimlessly, but unlike all the other times she had done so, Miraak could not force himself to ignore her. His eyes flickered down to her mouth, the curve of her throat, the glimmer of her eyes as she smiled.

Never before had Miraak wished for his mask so fervently, cursing his own weakness as he averted his gaze from her for the umpteenth time.

When the town of Falkreath came into view, Lycka attention was immediately diverted to the a homely-looking shop, and it took Miraak an immense amount of willpower not to audibly sigh with relief.

Lycka made a bee-line to the alchemist’s shop- ominously named “Grave Concoctions,” according to the sign.

Miraak huffed and followed her in. It was dull and dreary, dimly lit by a rickety chandelier. He absently browsed the shelves as Lycka struck up conversation with the shop-owner- a stern-faced Redguard woman with sharp, narrow eyes. Bottles of poisons lined the ledges, gleaming sickly green in the meager light.

He caught snippets of conversation from the two women, bits and pieces about the application of void salts and briar hearts. Alchemy, poisons and potions.

Miraak scoffed under his breath. There was nothing alchemy could do that magic or strength could not. It was a sneakthief’s pastime, not a warrior’s.

Luckily, it seemed Lycka was too preoccupied to notice his contempt for the craft and wrapped up her amicable chatter, now carrying a covered basket.

Miraak eyed it with equal parts disdain and suspicion.

“Curious?” Lycka asked as they exited the shop, a smile tugging at her lips.

Miraak scoffed and pointedly turned his head away.

“Are you familiar with Yule?” Lycka continued.

He blinked, surprised by the question, and gave an affirmative grunt.

Lycka beamed up at him. “It begins in a few days,” she said. “Here, look.” She tugged back the cloth covering the basket, and Miraak risked a glance. Clusters of mistletoe, wreaths of ivy, bright bundles of holly, and sprigs of spruce, tied together neatly with red ribbons, filled the basket. “Rayya and I were planning on decorating overnight and surprising Sofie and Hroar with it tomorrow.”

They made a brief stop at the butcher’s for meat and the grocer’s for various spices- “For the Yuletide dinner,” she informed him cheerfully- and then the shop for a woodcutter’s axe, presumably for cutting down a tree and hopefully not people, before they began to make their way back to the manor.

Lycka hummed merrily, her breath misting in front of her lips.

“You are excited,” Miraak observed, an eyebrow arching.

“Absolutely,” she confirmed. “It’s the first Yule I’ve spent with Sofie and Hroar.” She paused, head tilting. “Actually, it’s the first Yule I’ve celebrated since I returned to Skyrim. Saving the world took priority at the time, admittedly.”

Her smile was bright and genuine, and Miraak found his gaze lingering a bit too long on her face to be justifiable.

She was practically skipping through the snow, kicking up flurries and scattering then all around. A few well-aimed kicks ensured that Miraak’s pants and boots would be soaked by the time they made it back.

She snickered at his cross, indignant glance, spinning around and walking backwards to face him.

“Did they have Yule in your time?” she asked.

“Yes,” he answered. He paused, gathering his thoughts and memories. “It was… different. More superstitious, based on fear and appeasement rather than celebrations. Spirits and dragons, rather than the Divines.”

Lycka hummed in interest. “That’s right,” she recalled, “you were alive well before Saint Alessia and the founding of Skyrim.” She snorted. “By the Divines, you really are old.”

He shot her a sharp glare, an acerbic retort on his tongue, but Lycka suddenly stumbled to a halt, expression drawing tight with worry.

She froze, cocking her head. “Something’s wrong. Do you smell that?”

Miraak lifted his head. The sharp tang of fir was overpowering here, and even as a Dragonborn, he could not compete with a werewolf’s heightened senses. But still, something was… off.

The woods around them were almost completely silent. The natural chatter of birds and creatures were nonexistent.

Lycka turned and quickened her pace, brow furrowing, and Miraak followed closely behind.

As they neared the manor, he could finally identify the smell.

Blood.

They sped up to a near-sprint, snow scattering under their feet.

When the manor finally came into view, Lycka let out a choked cry.

Rayya lay on the ground, motionless. Blood congealed in the snow around her, the bodies of half a dozen bandits littering the ground. Dozens of footprints marked the snow

Lycka paled and rushed to her housecarl’s side, the basket dropping the the ground. “Rayya!”

Rayya twitched feebly as Lycka hauled her up, golden magicka wreathing her hands. The housecarl mumbled something, barely coherent, and Lycka shushed her impatiently, focusing her magicka on the gaping wound on Rayya’s side.

“No,” Rayya said weakly. “No, you have to go. They took them.”

Lycka froze, eyes wide, and Miraak felt his blood chill in his veins.

“Who?” he asked roughly.

“Bandits,” Rayya rasped. “They took them. They took the children.”

Chapter Text

Lycka froze.

“Go,” Miraak murmured.

Lycka turned to face him, and Miraak resisted the urge to flinch at her blank, hollow eyes.

“I will stay and help her,” he pressed. “Go on ahead. I will catch up.”

She swallowed thickly. “Thank you,” she said. With one last glance at her hoursecarl, she fled.

Miraak poured his magicka into Rayya, bright golden light wreathing his hands. Her breathing began to steady as the magic staunched the bleeding and numbed the pain.

Even with his skill, it took a several, painstaking minutes before the most threatening of her wounds were mended, the worst of which was her mangled shoulder, which looked like it had been used as a practice target for a battle axe.

“I am fine now,” Rayya grit out. “Go to her. You will need your energy for what you will have to face.”

Miraak nodded stiffly, raising to his feet, but Rayya caught his wrist at the last moment.

“Please,” she said. “Lycka is… not well. I have only seen her like that once before. She cannot be alone. Go to her quickly.”

He recalled Lycka’s gaze, cold and unseeing, her expression stony, and swallowed.

He ran, following the footprints left in the snow. As he ventured deeper into the woods, the footprints changed abruptly- a deep furrow was marked in the snow, and suddenly the footprints changed into that of a massive four-legged beast, deep claw-marks digging into the earth. Shreds of fabric littered the ground.

Miraak exhaled sharply, mouth twisting into a grimace. Lycka had shifted, then. The better to track them with, perhaps, but…

He shook off the ominous feeling quickly, and quickened his pace. He would need to get to her quickly.

The trail wasn’t particularly hard to follow, but as the minutes stretched on with no sign of stopping, Miraak began to wonder what he had gotten into. The forest eventually thinned and flattened to stony tundra, and in the distance, the silhouette of a small fort took form.

He slowed warily as he approached. The snow was soaked with crimson, and two bodies lay on the ground, lifeless and- Miraak grimaced as he neared them- utterly mangled.

The wooden doors were splintered and broken, lying crooked on their hinges. What Miraak could see of the interior looked no more pleasant than the outside- blood slicked the stone floors and he could see the vague forms of corpses in the shadows.

He eased himself past the doors, wincing at the splinters caught at his skin, and summoned a small flame to his hand. The fire chased away the grimy shadows, blood gleaming in the light.

The room itself was small and underwhelming, but there was an open passage in the floor that led deeper down. Smears of blood led up to the opening like a mockery of a red carpet.

With nowhere else to go, he began the descent, trudging down the claustrophobic, spiralling stairs, keeping a steadying hand on the wall.

The stairs seemed to go down forever, with, nothing but his tiny conjured flame to light his path, the shadows seemed to creep in around him. Some of the steps were splintered and gouged, like they had been trampled by a massive beast. He had no doubt to who caused it.

When he finally reached the bottom, it felt like he had descended into another part of the world entirely. It was freezing and the air was damp with mold. Blue fungus lined the walls, giving a dim, eerie glow. Tunnels, dark and neglected, sprawled out all around him.

And then there were the sounds.

Scratching, like nails on stone, echoed dizzyingly around him.

He sincerely hoped it wasn’t what he thought it was.

Miraak crept along the tunnels at a snail’s pace, the soft leather soles of his boots barely making a sound on the cold stone floors. The noises grew louder, grating on his ears and doing absolutely nothing for his nerves.

The scratching grew to a crescendo, and as he neared, he could make out more sounds that were equally unpleasant- the unmistakable squelch of tearing flesh and crushed armor. Miraak shuddered in revulsion, steeling himself for what would inevitably be a horrific sight.

And horrific it was. The cloying scent of blood hung like a shroud, and it felt almost as if he was being coated in it, inescapable and vile. It covered the floor like it had been carelessly spilled from a bucket, slick sticking to his boots.

The tunnel opened up to a large room. Tables had been overturned like they had been carelessly tossed aside, chairs with broken legs and broken bottles and glass shards littering the floor.

And Lycka, shaped like a massive, hulking wolf, was tearing out the entrails of a corpse. The unfortunate soul was not the first- mutilated bodies were strewn around like demented ragdolls, chests torn open like paper boxes.

“Lycka, stop!” Miraak barked.

Lycka swung her great head, growling. Blood caked her muzzle, spittle foaming at her mouth. She dropped down to all fours and began to pace, tail lashing.

Miraak took a cautious step forward and Lycka snapped at him, fangs bared and eyes wild. Her fur bristled along her spine, ears flattened against her head.

His mouth curled into a grimace. She was too far deep in the beast blood to hear him, too feral to even recognize him.

Suddenly, she lunged at him. He crashed to the ground with a grunt, shoulders pinned by massive paws. She snarled, amber eyes overbright and teeth gnashing.

Miraak swore, attempting to to twist out of her grip, using what meager leverage he had to push against her chest and keep his throat out her fang’s range.

“Lycka,” he grit out. “Enough! Calm yourself!”

With a final burst of energy, he shoved her back and gave himself just enough space to scramble out from under her. She lunged at him, and he instinctively threw up a ward, still on the ground. Her massive form slammed into him with enough force to send him skidding on his back.

He grunted with the impact and dropped the ward. Lycka lept at him again and he rolled to the side, barely quick enough to dodge the claws that left deep furrows in the stone floor.

Lycka!” he snarled, shifting upright. “Stop! What of Sofie and Hroar?”

Her head whipped around, overbright eyes focused on him, but stilled.

Miraak got to his feet slowly, wincing at the movement. He leaned against the wall, pressing a hand to his shoulder where her claws had broken the skin, sending a thread of magicka to staunch the bleeding. His eyes never left the massive wolf, taking deep breaths to calm himself and stave off exhaustion.

He swallowed thickly and let out a shaky breath. “It would not do if Sofie and Hroar were to see you in this state,” he said. His voice was level and soothing, but he would be lying if he said that it was not a difficult task.

Lycka shuddered, a whine rising in her throat. She stumbled back, claws scraping the stone floor.

Miraak hesitated for a moment, sighing through his nose. “I will find the children,” he said. “Go do what you must.”

A low sound escaped her throat and she fled, deeper into the caverns.

Miraak pulled a not-insignificant amount magicka from his rapidly dwindling reserves, hand wreathed in vivid purple light. There was a tugging sensation just behind his eyes, and his vision shimmered, white mist creeping into his peripherals.

He ignored the flashes of red in the corners of his eyes, turning his attention to the twin, weakly pulsing blue forms deeper in the caves.

A target in sight, he trudged onwards. Lycka had been busy in his absence- not a sign of life remained in the caverns. Rooms were abandoned, objects scattered in their haste, and the few that were occupied were only so by corpses.

Miraak did his best to ignore the carnage, making his way towards the two figures of the children. The closer he got, the fewer signs of chaos he encountered- likely, the remaining bandits had gone to Lycka rather than the other way around, leaving the depths of the cavern untouched. He dispelled the sight as he neared, head throbbing with the effort, and pushed his way past a final door.

It was a makeshift dungeon- if it could even be called that. Cages used to keep animals lined the walls. Most were empty, save one.

Sofie and Hroar were huddled in the cage furthest from the door, wincing as the light from Miraak’s flame hit their eyes. Sofie wrapped her arms around her brother protectively.

“Sofie, Hroar,” he said lowly. “It’s me. I’m here to take you home.”

The girl peered out of the cage warily. “M-Miraak?” she said.

“Are you unharmed?” he asked.

Sofie shook her head. “One of the bad men threw Hroar and he hurt his ankle,” she said in a small voice. “He said it hurts to stand.”

Hroar whimpered pitifully as Miraak gently picked him up and sent a pulse of magicka to dull the pain of his swollen ankle, softly shushing the boy.

He hesitated before he led them out.

“Hold onto my robes,” he told Sofie. “And close your eyes. Both of you.”

The children, too meek to question the order, did as they were told, and Miraak cautiously left the cells, picking his way past the scattered, mauled corpses.

Down one of the tunnels, the sounds of a fight echoed against the stone walls.

Miraak’s eyes narrowed. “Come,” he told the children. “We will take another path.”

“Is that where Mama is?” Sofie asked, releasing her grip on his robes and peering down the hall.

“Yes,” he said. “Now come, your mother will be fine-”

The sounds of the scuffle silenced abruptly.

Sofie darted off into darkness, and Miraak cursed.

“I thought you were supposed to be the troublesome one,” he groused at Hroar, adjusting the boy in his arms and taking off after her.

Miraak could smell the blood before he saw it. “Cover your nose,” he ordered, and quickened his pace. The stench of blood grew heavier and heavier, hanging like a sickeningly cloying cloud in the air. He could Sofie’s tiny figure standing at the mouth of the tunnel and-

He heard it then, the sickening crunch of jaws on bone, the tearing of flesh.

He cursed under his breath.

Miraak caught of up to the girl, who was standing stone still.

“Sofie,” he murmured quietly. “Sofie, come back here-”

“Is that her?” she asked. “That’s Mama, isn’t it?”

Miraak risked a glance into cave. It was Lycka indeed, still in her wolf form and dimly lit by the meager light of a torch. She was tearing apart the bodies of the bandits, limbs strewn like trash, blood splattering the walls and dripping into inky puddles.

“Yes,” he answered quietly.

That seemed to be all the confirmation that Sofie needed, and she walked in without a backwards glance.

“Mama!” she called. “Mama, it’s me, Sofie!”

The wolf’s great head turned to face her, amber eyes glowing. A low, rumbling growl echoed from her chest.

Miraak’s blood ran cold.

Sofie, fearless in the stupid, oblivious way only children could be, smiled brightly. “Hi Mama,” she said.

Lycka stilled, silent except her heavy, raspy breathing. Miraak didn’t dare move, his grip tightening around Hroar.

The boy whimpered, and Miraak shushed him, eyes never leaving the scene in front of him.

Lycka slowly approached her daughter on all fours. Sofie stood, arms out as if expecting a hug.

The Last Dragonborn nudged Sofie with a damp nose. The girl giggled and wrapped her arms around the wolf’s head. Lycka snuffled, and prodded Sofie away, back towards Miraak.

Miraak gave her a short nod. “I’ll take the children back home,” he said softly. “They’re safe.”

Lycka held his gaze for several long moments, amber eyes steady and unwavering, and finally turned and padded away.

“Come,” he told Sofie. The path back to the surface seemed shorter without his blood thrumming in anxiety.

Miraak squinted against the sudden light, shielding his eyes with a hand. The sun was setting, hanging comfortably just above the horizon like an overripe fruit.

Hroar nestled safely in his arms, he herded Sofie back to the manor, the path slow going with a child in his arms and another at his heels, but they made decent enough time, arriving at the manor just before the sun completely set.

Miraak had just begun to open the door when Lycka appeared, bedraggled and feverish, human again at last. Her hair was tangled and wild, and she was dressed in mismatched, ill-fitted clothes, some of which were caked with blood.

“Mama’s back!” Sofie chirped, and Hroar wriggled in Miraak’s arms to get a better look.

Lycka offered them a small, exhausted smile, walking towards them with a gingerness that implied pain and weariness. She crouched down to brush her daughter’s hair back with a gentle hand and pressed a kiss to her forehead, and then leaned towards Miraak to do the same to Hroar.

Sofie tugged at his sleeve to get his attention.

“I’m sorry I called you a horker-shaped piece of chicken crap,” she said earnestly.

Miraak stared. “You never called me that.”

“I did,” Sofie assured him. “Just not to your face.”

Miraak grimaced and shooed her away, ignoring Lycka’s tiny smile as she led them away back to their rooms.

Rayya was inside waiting for them, looking exhausted and worse for wear but very much alive. Lycka pulled her into a tight, fierce embrace and the two women exchanged words, too quiet for Miraak to catch. Eventually, the housecarl turned away, patting the children on their heads and retreating to her room to recover in peace.

Lycka’s hands gently brushed the hair off of Hroar’s drowsy face. Sofie tugged at her hand and her mother bent down and swept her into a hug, pressing a kiss to the top of her head.

Miraak watched quietly as she tucked both children into bed, whispering softly. He felt incredibly out of place.

Lycka shut the door behind her quietly, her gentle smile melting away into something unreadable.

Tired was too much of an understatement to use.

She stumbled to the unlit hearth and sagged into a chair, head cradled in her hands.

Miraak felt like he was intruding. It was wrong, somehow, seeing her vulnerable like this. It was different from the time he had cut the arrowhead from her and watched her bleed, but somehow this was a hundred times worse.

An idea sprouted in his head then, and, with one final glance at Lycka, he crept back outside. The snow had started up again, the pale flakes glittering under the light of the moons, and fresh powder covered the remnants of Rayya’s initial battle.

He found what he was looking for after a few minutes of searching and half-tripping over obscured, frozen corpses- Lycka’s basket, filled to the brim with supplies, laid half-buried in the snow, the handle poking out like a beacon. Miraak yanked it from the snow and made his way back to the manor, checking its contents briefly. It was as he remembered- various bundles of spices and flora, and a cut of meat, neatly wrapped in butcher paper.

He entered the manor as quietly as he left, the building dark and cool. Lycka remained where he had left her, slouched in a chair by the cold, empty hearth.

Miraak stopped in front of her, standing a little straighter. A flick of his hand set the hearth ablaze, casting the room in a warm glow.

“Here,” he said gruffly, holding out the basket. “You said you had plans tonight.”

Lycka looked up at him, surprise written across her face, hesitant as she took the basket, holding it so gingerly it might as well been made of spun glass.

A tiny puff of air escaped her lips, a barely-there huff of disbelieving laughter. A faint smile quirked the corners of her mouth.

“I thought,” Miraak said, suddenly needing to fill the silence, “that the children would disappointed if Yule was interrupted by something like this-”

He cut off abruptly. Lycka stood, and closed the meager distance between them with single step. Her eyes met his, the warm, bright amber drawing him in.

Her hands cupped his jaw, her thumb tracing the curve of his cheek, and she tilted her head up and she pressed the softest, gentlest kiss he ever experienced against his mouth.

“Thank you,” she murmured against him, her breath mingling with his. Her hand brushed against his jaw, fingers threading through his hair. Then, “You’re cold.”

He certainly didn’t feel cold, Miraak thought vaguely. Rather, he felt like he was on fire, her lingering touch leaving scorching trails in its wake.

Lycka pulled away, and he reflexively reached for her, stopping himself just before she noticed the movement.

“You should go rest,” she said softly. “Get some sleep.”

And so Miraak found himself in Lycka’s room, staring at the ceiling with the definite and undeniable knowledge that he would do anything for her so long as she asked, and that it had nothing to do the tattoo scored across their chests.

Chapter Text

He was stretched out beneath her, wrists pinned above his head with rough, calloused hands. The linen of her tunic scratched against his skin infuriatingly, and he could feel the supple leather of her breeches brush against his bare hips where she straddled him. Her weight shifted above him, and a rushed moan escaped him.

“Impatient,” came her low voice, smug and self-satisfied.

He grit his teeth and tested the strength of her grip, muscles bulging as he pressed against her. She seemed more amused than anything by his efforts.

He let out a frustrated breath, head falling back, and forced himself to relax.

“Good boy,” she murmured. Her head ducked down, dark hair cascading over her shoulders and tickling his cheeks. Her lips ghosted over his in a soft, barely-there kiss, a stark contrast to the rough hands that held him down.

He did not dislike it.

Her lips grew wicked and quirked into crooked smile, and her mouth was on him again, lapping down his throat with flashes of teeth. The edge of her canines dragged against his skin, and his gasp drew out into a groan. He bit into his lip to stifle the sounds, but it only seemed to encourage her further, bright eyes twinkling as she nipped his collarbone and laved her tongue over the dark lines of the tattoo that spiralled down his torso.

Her hands left his wrists and settled at his hips, her fingers drawing idle patterns along the line of his hip bones and leaving scorching trails in their wake.

He shuddered, his breathing stuttered and uneven, and he clutched the sheets for purchase, hands balling into white-knuckled fists.

“What’s that?” she asked, light and teasing. “Did you want something?” She rocked back on her haunches, wrenching a startled moan from his lips.

“Please,” he rasped, desperate and wanting. “Please-”

Miraak woke with a jolt, sweating and aching, and began cursing every divine and daedra on Nirn.

 


 

After taking more than a few moments to collect himself, Miraak forced himself out of bed and to the washbasin, not bothering to heat the water and wiping the sweat and grime from the previous day’s exertions from his skin.

He wiped his face with a cold, damp cloth, glancing at his faint, distorted reflection in the window and running hand over the line of his jaw. His eyes flickered down to his chest, the tattoo little more than a dark, indistinct blur.

Miraak scowled and turned away, tossing the cloth aside and dressing with sharp, angry movements.

When he finally emerged from the room, he stopped and paused for a few moments. The hallway had changed drastically- quite literally- overnight. Ribbons and paper streamers danced across the walls, bright sprigs of flowers and leaves entwined throughout. Paper lanterns hung from the ceiling, colorful and cheery.

He wandered upstairs, where Lycka was precariously balanced on a chair as she attempted to place a wreath on an ornamental suit of armor.

“What-?” Miraak said.

Lycka shushed him, not bothering to turn around until the wreath was firmly placed and she hopped off the chair.

“What are you doing?” Miraak tried again, and Lycka shushed him once more, a finger pressed against his lips like she was silencing a child, and the urge to nip at her finger flashed like lightning through his chest.

“The others are still sleeping,” she whispered. “I’m trying to finish before they wake.”

Miraak took a moment to ponder the exact series of events that had led to him, the First Dragonborn, one of the most powerful of his brethren, being scolded by a doting mother like an unruly child as she decorated her home.

Despite her insistence on his resting the night before, it appeared she hadn’t taken her own advice. Dark shadows marred her eyes, but despite her tiredness her smile was warm and genuine.

Lycka started down to the kitchen and Miraak followed at her heels, peering over her shoulder. He stopped at the doorway, watching as she bustled around, light streaming from the windows.

“Would you help me with breakfast?” she asked.

Miraak blinked. He couldn’t remember the last time he had done something as mundane as cooking. Before his awakening as Dragonborn, at the very least.

“Do I truly have a choice?” he groused.

“Of course,” she said simply. “You always do.”

Miraak blinked. “I…” he started, then paused. Tried to remember when she had last forced him to do something and came up short.

Sit,’ she had commanded him once. ‘Come here.’ It felt like lifetimes ago.

Lycka was still looking up at him expectantly.

“What do you want me to do?” he said, and words felt odd in his mouth.

Lycka brightened, eyes crinkling in a smile.

“Here,” she said, shifting to the side to make room for him, “chop the carrots, like this, and then cabbage.”

Miraak dutifully accepted the knife she offered, handle first, and settled into place beside her, getting to work.

Lycka shot him another smile and turned her attention to the pot, stoking the fire and pouring a generous handful of some dried, fragrant herb into it.

She hummed as she worked, collecting herbs from where they were strung up to dry. She brushed up against him as she passed, and Miraak could feel the warmth of her lingering even after she was across the room.

He took a deep breath.

He watched her retrieve a slab of ham out of the corner of his eye and carve off a few thick slices, then chop the slices into cubes, and then meat and herbs both were tossed into the pot.

Miraak finished with the last of the carrots and moved onto the cabbage. The smooth, repetitive motions of the knife were soothing. Mundane. Lycka’s voice floated through the kitchen like a breeze, sunlight streaming through the windows and bathing everything in a warm, golden glow.

She reached around him to grab the chopped vegetables and everything went into the pot. She covered it with a heavy wooden lip and brushed off her hands with sense of finality.

“There,” she said, sounding pleased. “Now we wait.”

She wiped her hands off with a damp towel by the wash basin- Miraak dutifully followed suit- and dusted some scraps of herbs that clung to the front of her tunic.

When Lycka turned her attention back on him, a flash of teeth at her lower lip, Miraak paused, studying her carefully.

“Thank you,” she said softly.

“It was... nothing,” he replied. He knew her gratitude was for more than this morning alone, but couldn’t bring himself to say anymore.

Lycka looked up at him from beneath her lashes, amber eyes glittering. Her mouth was set in an straight line- a stark contrast from the usual curve of her smile.

“We might move on soon,” she said. “North, to Winterhold, as soon as Rayya recovers and the children are comfortable.”

Miraak made a low sound of acknowledgement. “Trust me when I say that your children’s absence will be of no great loss to me,” he comment dryly.

Lycka glanced at him with fire-bright eyes, eyes melting to liquid gold under the morning light.

“You,” she said, “are quite odd.”

Miraak sputtered. “You-!” he started.

There was a clatter of noise and Miraak cut himself off abruptly, glancing out of the kitchen. Sofie stood just outside, yawning and rubbing her eyes.

“Mornin’ Mama,” she mumbled, voice slurred with sleep.

“Good morning, Sofie,” Lycka replied gently. “Are Rayya and Hroar up yet?”

Sofie shook her head, halfway through another yawn. “I like the decorations,” she said. “They’re very pretty.”

Lycka smiled, the corners of her eyes crinkling. “Thank you,” she said earnestly. “I tried very hard to make them nice.”

Her daughter nodded absently, squinting blearily at Miraak for several wordless seconds before turning and wandering away to do whatever devil-children did in their spare time.

“She likes you,” Lycka said, sounding amused.

“She called me a horker-shaped piece of chicken crap,” Miraak replied reflexively. It was only after the words left his mouth that he realized how ridiculous he sounded.

Lycka waved it off. “You know how children are,” she said, as if she truly expected him to know how, exactly, children were.

Miraak stared at her for a long moment, mouth twisted in a disbelieving scowl, before turning his gaze back to the pot of stew, just starting to simmer. “Why Winterhold?” he asked.

There was a contemplative silence. “The College’s knowledge of magic is far more vast than mine,” Lycka finally said. “They may have information that might be useful.”

“Useful for what?” he pressed.

She made a noncommittal noise. “It is not a… pressing issue,” she said absently. “There are other matters that I must attend to.”

Miraak’s frown deepened at her flippant avoidance, but Lycka ignored his cross expression, brushing past him to check the stew, taking an experimental sip.

“Mm. Needs a little-” she turned, blinking up at him. He was… much closer. He hadn’t even really noticed himself move. “Yes?”

Mirak grit his teeth and took a half-step back.

She offered him small, bemused smile and continued on her way, reaching up to grab a small jar from a shelf and dropping a pinch of its contents into the pot. She gave it a brisk stir, humming a jaunty tune, before finally covering the pot with the lid to let it simmer.

“Do you not care?” Miraak bit out.

Lycka glanced up at him. “About what?” she asked mildly.

He bit his tongue until he tasted blood. “Last night,” he said finally, forcing the words past his throat. “You-”

He stopped, swallowing thickly, and found himself unable to continue.

Lycka’s expression remained frustratingly neutral, like she felt the barest fraction of the turmoil he felt.

The silence lay thick and stifling between them, and Miraak wrenched his gaze from her blank face to stare at the floor, jaw clenched till he felt bone creak under the pressure.

“It should only mean as much as you allow it to,” she said finally, voice level.

Miraak stiffened. “Then what,” he asked tightly, “did it mean to you?”

Lycka was quiet, gaze cool and unwavering, and Miraak felt the aggravation in his chest swell and peak, and he shoved past her.

He stormed up the stairs, anger burning hot and bright and licking at his heels. He stopped in front of the entrance to Lycka’s bedroom, and took a breath.

Nothing. She had felt nothing, if her reaction had been anything to go by, and he was a floundering, desperate fool who had latched onto the first facsimile of kindness he had been offered.

The soft patter of footsteps jarred him out of his daze, and his head snapped to the side. Hroar stood, yawning and rubbing his eyes with the heel of his hand.

“Hullo,” the boy mumbled.

Miraak stared. “You shouldn’t be walking,” he said flatly.

Hroar shrugged. “My foot doesn’t hurt that much.”

“You should ask-” Miraak started.

Your mother.

He cut off abruptly, biting his tongue. “...someone else,” he finished lamely.

The boy squinted. “Okay. Will you help me go downstairs?”

Miraak frowned. “You should ask someone who is not me,” he amended.

“You’re the only one here,” Hroar pointed out. “Finding someone else would require walking, which I’m supposed to ask for help to do.”

Miraak exhaled through his nose. “Make an exception.”

“There’s no point in telling me what to do if you’re just going to tell me to do the opposite five seconds later,” Hroar said snidely.

Miraak narrowed his eyes. “You,” he said, “are a menace.”

“I know,” Hroar said, a familiar smug tilt to his mouth. “So are you going to help me or not?”

Miraak felt like the dramatics of his exit were severely diminished by the fact he reappeared not even five minutes later, with a small child in tow.

“Morning, Mama,” Hroar chirped.

Lycka glanced up and blinked, taking in the sight of her son cradled in Miraak’s arms.

“Good morning,” she said cautiously.

Miraak refused to look at her, stalking past the kitchen and setting Hroar in the plush armchair in front of the hearth. “Stay,” he said, as if ordering a dog, and the boy looked far too happy with himself for someone who had to be carried everywhere.

He turned to leave, jaw set. Lycka stood in the hall, arms crossed and leaning her shoulder against the wall, and he strode past her, eyes set on the end of the hallway.

“Miraak,” Lycka called.

He hated how quickly he stopped. He stilled, swallowing thickly. “I refuse,” he said lowly, turning to face her, “to be pitied.” His teeth grit into a scowl. “I refuse to be taken for a fool.”

She sighed softly. “Miraak,” she said, voice gentle and warm, “I want nothing more than what you are willing to give.”

She pushed off the wall and crossed the distance between them slowly, as if approaching a skittish deer, and reached for his hand. He was pliant under grasp, barely daring to breathe as she pressed a kiss against the palm of his hand.

His mouth went dry as she brushed her lips against his fingertips, then to the back of his hand, before pulling away.

“I believe,” she said, “that I have made my intentions clear.” She took a step back, eyes fixed on his. “What do you want?”

“You,” he breathed, and felt her smile against him as he pulled her into a kiss.

Chapter Text

When Miraak pulled away from the kiss to catch his breath, Lycka was still smiling.

Her fingers brushed down the line of his jaw and he leaned into the touch until she cupped his cheek with a huff of laughter.

“I didn’t think you would be so needy,” she said teasingly.

Miraak gave a wordless scoff in lieu of a reply, but even then he didn’t turn away, the warmth of her palm almost intoxicating.

He tilted his head and tugged her in for another kiss, deeper than the last, and Lycka’s lips curled up at the corners as she gifted him with a flash of teeth, nipping at his bottom lip in a way that made his breath hitch.

Miraak was lightheaded when they finally broke apart, flushed warm and dizzy.

Lycka cupped his cheek with a gentle hand, tucking stray strands of hair behind his ear.

She sighed, her other hand rising to press gentle fingers to his pulse. “What will I do with you?” she murmured.

He sank into her touch, leaning forward to press his forehead against hers, hands resting at the small of her back.

“Mm,” Lycka said. “As much as I appreciate your newfound honesty, I have breakfast to attend to.” She shooed him off, and Miraak pulled away reluctantly as Lycka slipped back to the kitchen.

“Sofie!” she called. “Would you get Rayya?”

There was a muffled shout of confirmation, followed immediately by the unmistakable thud of footsteps as the girl raced to find the housecarl.

Miraak leaned back against the wall, closing his eyes to clear his dizzied mind.

That… had certainly happened.

He tentatively ran his tongue over his bottom lip. The ghost of her warmth lingered on his skin, the memory of her touch still vivid in his mind.

He exhaled sharply, head dropping back against the wall and biting his tongue.

Foolish, foolish, foolish.


Breakfast was warm as pleasant- a rich ham and vegetable stew coupled with a soft, fresh bread with a thick crust, perfect for dipping.

Sofie and Hroar amused themselves by breaking their bread into chunks before carving them into miniature bowls for their soup. On any other occasion they likely would have received a gentle scolding about their manners, but this day-the beginning of Yule’s celebration, mere hours after being kidnapped- it seemed appropriate to let them do as they pleased. Rayya watched on, still tired, but pleased and affectionate, leaning over to exchange quiet words with Lycka.

“Thank you Mama!” Hroar cheered around a mouthful of food, and Lycka laughed and pat his head, eyes warm.

Miraak at quickly, avoiding conversation and eye contact alike, before tidying up his bowls and plates and leaving the table.

What else could he do? It would have been one thing to eat with Lycka alone, another to be without her, but to sit at the table, her surrounded by those who had known her far longer and undoubtedly better than him— after what had just happened?

Truly, he thought, there was nothing he could do.

He caught Lycka’s quizzical glance from the corner of his eye as he rounded the corner to the stairs, taking them two at a time, and barricaded himself in his—Lycka’s— room.

He exhaled shakily, leaning back against the door.

She had been so— unaffected. It wasn’t fair.

Miraak scoffed aloud then, pressing fingers to his temple. Of course, he would be the one to complain about fairness, after everything that had transpired. Millenia enslaved in Apocrypha, all he had done in Solstheim, but it was Lycka’s unruffled temperament in the face of his own weakness that was unfair.

He shuffled to the bookshelf by the bed, absentmindedly browsing the titles. There was nothing he had not already read, of course—Apocrypha contained all the published books that existed on Nirn at any moment— but it was something to do.

The books lost his interest and he wandered to the desk, fingers lightly tracing the engraved wood. He had never really explored any part of the room other than the dresser, too annoyed by the clutter to do anything but sleep. He spent most of his time outdoors, if he could.

He tugged open the topmost drawer— it was filled with shards of shattered soul gems, some no bigger than his thumbnail, the largest almost as large as his closed fist. The glimmered prettily in the candlelight, but held no other value.

The second drawer held something of mildly more import— a collection of scrolls, all rolled and neatly tied. As he closed the drawer, he wondered if Lycka prefered to use them rather than cast spells herself — he had only ever seen her use healing spells, always defaulting to any type of physical combat in battle, whether it was the bow or the sword.

He opened the last drawer, not expecting anything in particular— and paused. It was a small, leatherbound book, handmade and worn with age.

Curiosity piqued, Miraak took the book out, thumbing the edge of the pages. There was no title, only a pair of thin leather ties to keep it shut.

He opened it.

The text was barely legible, hastily scrawled and faded in places, like the author had forgotten to dip their quill in ink.

I am writing this, it read, “in the unlikely event that my life will be of any import in the future, and that a documentation of what I have seen will be of value. I have just escaped—” here, the text was scribbled out.

It continued further along the line. “It brings me equal parts amusement and annoyance that I find that I must censor myself so early into my writing. Where I am escaping from is of no significance. What is significant is I am fleeing to Skyrim. The border is not even a day’s journey away. If all goes well, I’ll reach a town soon.

The entry ended there, and next began, not in ink, but in charcoal, smudged and messy, as if written somewhere decidedly unsuitable for the task.

I seem to have suffered a series of grave misfortunes. First I was captured and labeled a rebel of some sort, then I nearly faced decapitation, and then a dragon arrived. It was all very sudden. I have just left Riverwood, and am facing a long journey to Whiterun with minimal armaments, but is for the good of the people, I suppose. I can only hope that Whiterun is better equipped to deal with such matters.

At that point, Miraak recognized the book to be Lycka’s— her chronicling of her life starting from, it appeared, just before Alduin’s first attack, as she fled from… somewhere.

The journal continued for quite some time in that fashion, with note-worthy excerpts such as, “Vilkas seems to be a sour-faced bastard who could curdle milk with his presence alone,” and, “I greatly respect Jarl Balgruuf, but I simply cannot comprehend how he could produce such gremlin-like offspring .”

Curious, Miraak skipped towards the end of the book, scanning for his name.

It appeared Lycka had written a good amount about her time in Solstheim—there were several anecdotes on her mercenary companion Teldryn Sero and an eccentric dunmeri wizard named Neloth, as well as several pages of writing on the Skaal.

Lycka, Miraak discovered, was a surprisingly apt storyteller. Her writing matched her manner of speaking, with dry humor and a matter of fact tone, and she had a keen sense of observation.

And—finally—she wrote of him.

I was surprised,” she recounted, “that Miraak did not seem to recognize me when I met him in Apocrypha. I suppose his cultists have minds of their own, even if those poor souls slaving away at his temple do not. He seemed quite full of himself, even when he congratulated me for defeating Alduin—as if he did not fail at the same task.

No matter. He will fall, just as any other man.

Miraak's brow furrowed as he read the lines. Lycka’s first impression of him seemed… apathetic. An opponent, like any other. Such a far cry from how she treated him now.

His eyes flickered down, skipping sections that told of her miscellaneous adventures around Solstheim and pausing when he saw his name— “If Miraak steal another one of my souls I will shove an entire dragon femur up his—” until he reached a part where Lycka recounted her next few forays into Mora’s land through the Black Books.

The more more I travel to Apocrypha, the more I wonder—is it lonely? Trapped in a void with only books and monsters for company? I find myself pitying him.

“What an empty existence.”

“Enjoying yourself?”

Startled, he snapped the book shut and whirled to face the interruption, internally wincing at his reaction—like a child caught with his hand in the cupboards.

Lycka was leaning against the doorway, arm crossed and posture loose. Her eyes flickered to the worn cover of the journal. “Ah,” she said. “I’d almost forgotten about that.”

He swallowed down the knot in his throat. “You,” Miraak said slowly, “are a… competent writer.”

Lycka let out a huff of laughter, crossing the room the plucking the book from his loose grasp. She turned it over in her hands, fingers tracing the bindings with the tenderness of an old friend.

“How much did you read?”

“Not much,” he replied. “The first few entries. Some of Solstheim.”

“Only some?” she hummed. She flipped through the book, mouth curling up in the corners as she reminisced. She snickered quietly. “Oh, Vilkas,” she said fondly. “What an ass you were.”

She thumbed through the pages, Miraak shifting uncomfortably on his feet.

Miraak bit the inside of his cheek, studying the lines of her face. “Who were you?” he asked abruptly. “Who were you, before you were Dragonborn?”

The book shut with a resounding crack and Miraak flinched. Lycka stared down at the cover.

“Nobody,” she said calmly. “I was nobody.”

She turned and left.

The room felt cold.


When Miraak rejoined the others come lunchtime, some hours later, Lycka wasn’t there.

“She’s out,” Rayya explained. “Personal business. She’ll be back by the evening.”

Idly, Miraak wondered if ‘personal business’ was Lycka’s only excuse, or if Rayya knew more and simply wasn’t telling.

He tried to ignore hollowness his chest.

He tried his luck with Rayya a little later, approaching while she was sharpening her scimitars on the porch.

“What do you know of Lycka before she was thane?” he asked.

Rayya’s eyes flickered up at him before returning to the whetstone. “As much as any other, I suppose. She escaped Helgen when it was destroyed by the World Eater. She saved Skyrim.” She paused in her work to meet his gaze fully. “I imagine that if she didn’t tell you, than it is not your business to know.”

Suitably chastened, Miraak retreated back indoors.


It was well into the night when Lycka finally returned from her “personal business.” Rayya and the children had long since retired, but a Miraak stayed awake, twitchy and restless for reasons he couldn’t name.

The door to the bedroom creaked open and Lycka stumbled in, startling him to attention.

“Where have you been?” he snapped. “To run off in a temper because I—”

He froze. There was a pool of blood forming at her feet, glinting in the low candlelight.

“Is that concern I hear?” she asked teasingly. She leaned heavily against the wall, wincing. “And don’t be so self-important—it’s unbecoming. I had work to do.”

“You—fool woman,” he hissed, trying for scathing and ending up somewhere between panic and concern. “How careless can you be—”

He helped her strip off her armor— light leather, dark with blood and sticking to her skin and clothes—and tore off the bottom half of her shirt and used to wipe away the blood. Her ribs were mottled with bruises, and long, parallel gashes marked her side.

Miraak busied himself with healing the bleeding wounds first, stemming the bleeding, before running gold-wreathed hands over her ribs to mend the deep bruises and cracked bones. The dark lines of a dragon tail disappeared under the waistband of her breeches.

“Turn around,” he ordered.

Lycka snickered weakly. “How authoritative.”

He ignored her, grabbing her waist and twisting her around, and winced when his hand came away cold and tacky and—

Black.

Miraak stared. It wasn’t blood. It wasn’t simply a trick the shadows, nothing could darken it so completely, blacken it until it absorbed all light and left nothing—

But he knew what it was.

“Lycka,” he said hollowly. “Why were you in Apocrypha?”

Chapter Text

Lycka stilled. “I’d forgotten how observant you are,” she said slowly.

Lycka,” Miraak hissed. “It is not the time for your games—why were you there.”

“If you must know,” she said calmly, “I went for this.”

She reached for her pack, tugging the straps open. A glint of gold caught Miraak’s eyes, and Lycka pulled out—

“My mask,” Miraak said, throat dry, and reached for it reflexively. His fingers brushed across the golden metal, almost reverent— and then he remembered he was supposed to angry.

Miraak scowled. “You risked Apocrypha for this?” he said. “It’s nothing. A trophy for your collection.”

“I’ve never understood why you’re set on denying yourself things,” Lycka said mildly, and passed the mask to him.

It was cold and heavy in his hands, gleaming burnt orange in the low firelight, and Miraak was so focused on the flickering highlights that he almost missed the way Lycka sagged against the wall with a wince.

Miraak clenched his jaw and set his mask aside, ignoring the smear of black left by his hands, and turned and knelt in front of Lycka. She stared down at him as placed his hands on her waist, wreathed in gold light up to his forearms.

“Hold still,” he murmured, voice gentler than he intended. He threaded his magic through her skin, staunching the still-weeping cuts, then the mottled bruises on her ribs. Now that he knew, the wounds were easy to recognize- the bruises from the heavy blows of a lurker, the lacerations from the tentacles of a seeker.

Lycka sighed as the healing magic did its work, and Miraak remedied the injuries as best he could, until little more than pink scars and half-dried blood remained.

“Stay,” he ordered gruffly, and Lycka simply sank to to the floor without a word, leaning against the wall and extending her legs.

Miraak hurried out of the room to collect a bucket and fill it with water, grabbing some clean rags on his way back. Lycka hadn’t moved, her eyes closed and her chest moving shallowly with her breathing.

He snapped his fingers at her, prompting her to open one golden eye.

“Take off your clothes,” Miraak said, feeling a little absurd, and sat cross-legged beside her. With a spark of magicka, a magelight flickered to life over his shoulder.

Lycka opened both eyes then, brow raised. “I’m perfectly capable of washing myself.”

“Don’t be coy,” Miraak snapped. “I’m still cross with you.” To prove his point, he dunked a rag into the water with a little more force than strictly necessary, splashing both of them.

She snorted, pushing off the wall to strip off the remains of her ruined shirt, leaving her in her bindings and loose breeches.

Miraak leaned forward, cloth in hand, and scrubbed at a dark streak on Lycka’s jaw—blood, the black ink of Apocrypha, some combination of the two. There was a cursory pass over her shoulders, and then, more gently, he wiped the blood and black from the freshly healed wounds.

Lycka winced and placed a bracing hand on his shoulder. Miraak slowed his movements, lightening the pressure until Lycka’s grip relaxed, almost apologetic. She watched him with molten gold eyes, her thumb drawing idle circles on his collar.

Miraak rinsed the rag and started another pass over her wounds, wiping the last of the ink and dried, flaky blood from her skin, leaving only the scars, old and new, as the last blemishes.

He sat back on his heels, exhaling softly. “Done,” he murmured.

Lycka slowly rose to her feet, a hand still on his shoulder, and Miraak followed her up, watching her warily as she stretched and tested her range of movement.

She grimaced a little at the residual pain, but seemed fine otherwise, he noted. He watched the shift and roll of muscles beneath her skin as she twisted at the waist, then rolled her shoulders in a way that made her sigh with relief.

“Thank you,” she said, and Miraak’s gaze jerked back up to her eyes.

He snorted, cheeks warming. “If you were truly thankful for my healing you would abuse it less,” he sniped, hauling the bucket up. He strode past her without another word—he caught the half smile that she tried to hide by turning her head—and tossed the tainted water into the snow, a smear of gray and pink on the otherwise pristine landscape.

When he returned, Lycka had changed into a sleeping shift, the soft, pale linen hanging just below her knees. She lounged on the bed on her stomach, cheek turned to the side and nestled in her arms.

Miraak stood at the doorway, pulse thrumming in his ears. “I—“ he started, paused. He swallowed. “I’ll leave you to rest,” he managed.

Lycka glanced back at him, rolling into her side. “Why not stay?” she asked, patting the space beside her.“There’s plenty of room, and I imagine a bed is more comfortable than a chair or the floor, considering that this is, for all intents and purposes, your room.”

Miraak stilled, one foot out of the threshold. “Is that an order?” he asked.

Lycka smiled. It was… tired. Somber. There were dark shadows under her eyes. “For you? Never.”

Wordlessly, he made his way towards the bed. Lycka’s smile brightened minutely, which he ignored as he sat down and gauged how close he would have to sleep to the edge to keep a respectable distance between them.

“Rest,” he said firmly. “And stay on your side.”

“Who’s ordering who now?” Lycka huffed, tugging the covers over herself.

Miraak scoffed, putting his back to her. The magelight winked out and the room was cast into gloom, thin rays of moonlight trickling in from the window.

“Good night, Miraak,” Lycka murmured, voice low and soft.

He felt the bed shift as she turned, and he laid there, awake, listening to the steadiness of her breathing—and his first realization was that he could have lost her to Apocrypha.

His second was that he was terrified.


 

When he awoke, he was pressed up against Lycka’s back, his face buried in her hair. His arms were wrapped around her waist, and he was so startled that he jerked back with a curse that he barely had the mind to muffle.

Lycka made a drowsy, confused sound, and Miraak froze.

“Mm?” Lycka mumbled. She tilted her head, blinking sleepily. “You should stay.”

Miraak stared down at her, morning light glowing in her eyes.

“You’re warm,” Lycka informed him, and then turned back around, burrowing deeper under the blankets.

Miraak stayed.


When he woke up for the second time, he was on his back and Lycka was pressed even closer than before, tucked against his side with her arm was draped over his stomach, her head resting on his shoulder, and her legs tangled with his.

Bare legs, he registered, belatedly, thick with muscle and as warm as the rest of her. Her shift was hiked to her hip, sheets thrown away in favor of the heat that radiated from him like a furnace.

Miraak’s face burned.

There was a huff of laughter, and his head jerked up. Rayya was leaning against the doorway, smiling smugly. She waved to him, a flutter of her fingers, and before Miraak could collect himself to do more than gape dumbly at her, the housecarl winked and breezed away, shutting the door behind her.

He let his head drop back down onto the pillow with a defeated sigh.

He gazed down at Lycka’s face, nestled just below his collarbone. She looked… peaceful. Calm in a way he had never seen before. Unbidden, his hand rose to cup her cheek, thumb brushing the corner of her mouth.

Lycka inhaled deeply, turning her head to press a sleepy kiss against his palm.

“And good morning to you,” she murmured. The brush of her lips against his skin sent bursts of heat racing up his arm, and he pulled back, if only slightly.

“I thought I told you to stay on your side,” he groused, despite making no effort to disentangle himself.

“Actually, you’re on my side,” Lycka riposted.

Miraak blinked, glancing the other way. She was right. Sometime during the night he had completely encroached on her space, pushing her to the edge of the bed. It was no wonder she had been pressed up so closely against him.

He felt his cheeks burning but said nothing, averting his eyes entirely.

“I don’t mind, of course,” Lycka continued. “I’m perfectly comfortable.”

A glint of gold caught his attention, and Miraak spotted his mask, still on the desk where he left it the night before.

“Why did you do it?” he asked suddenly, eyes focused on the mask.

Lycka followed his line of sight and sighed. “You asked me who I was,” she said, slow and deliberate. “Before I was Dragonborn. I was nobody. I have nothing from that time. You—” she paused, and Miraak turned his gaze back to her.

“Before Apocrypha, you were someone. You have a history,” she continued. “I didn’t want that to be thrown away.”

“You keep saying you were ‘nobody,’” Miraak said. “That doesn’t answer the question.”

Lycka’s lips quirked into a half-smile. “Perhaps,” she replied. She rolled over him in one fluid motion, straddling his hips, and cocked her head as she looked down at him. “But it doesn’t make it any less true.”

Her dark hair spilled over her shoulders, the longest strands brushing against his throat. He swallowed thickly.

“Speaking in riddles?” he forced out, trying for a dry tone but barely managing a step above trembling.

Lycka laughed softly. “What would be the fun in making things easy?”

She ducked down to press a kiss to his brow. “Stay in bed if you want,” she told him. “I need to check on the children.”

And just like that, she was gone, and the air felt so much colder against his skin than she had been.

Chapter Text

“IT’S YULE!” Hroar hollered, and Miraak bolted up, dazed and half-asleep. He had dozed off again, apparently. The last few days had taken their toll.

“Yule!” Sofie cheered, doing her best attempt at a dance as she supported her brother with his arm across her shoulders.

“Whuh—“ Miraak managed, squinting at the doorway.

Lycka appeared out of nowhere, shepherding the children away with a chiding but amused hush.

“You know you shouldn’t running around like that,” she scolded gently, and Hroar pouted, looking suitably admonished.

“But it’s Yule,” Sofie wheedled, and Lycka snorted.

“It’s a day like any other,” she said. “Now scoot, you’re blocking the door.”

The children pouted and whined but left all the same, presumably to find a less-guarded target to bother.

“Did you sleep well?” Lycka asked once they were out of earshot, stepping lightly back into the bedroom and shutting the door behind her.

“...Fine, thank you,” Miraak muttered, steadfastly avoiding her gaze and staring at the rumpled sheets in his lap.

Lycka huffed and shot him a wry look. “Don’t tell me you’re bashful now. It was hardly indecent.”

“Your housecarl saw,” he hissed back, scowling.

“She has undoubtedly seen worse in her line of work,” Lycka riposted, and Miraak felt his face warm.

“It should have been private,” he said. Then, “It shouldn’t have happened at all.”

Lycka huffed. “I forget, sometimes, how old-fashioned you are.” She pauses, cocking her head. “Do you regret it?”

Miraak swallowed thickly. “I should,” he said.

Lycka sat on the foot of the bed, propping up a knee and resting her chin on palm, and looked at him expectantly.

Miraak twitched, facade cracking before it had even fully formed. “I do not,” he finally admitted.

He made to get off the bed, but hesitated when his feet touched the floor. He glanced back at Lycka, who met his gaze with a level calm. His jaw clenched, and then he asked, “Do you?”

“Not at all,” came her easy reply, and something in his chest relaxed.

“I see,” he said, and Lycka laughed a little.

“Do you, now?”

Miraak scoffed, and glanced down at his hands. There was a smear of dried blood on the edge of his sleeve, undoubtedly Lycka’s from the night before. “You should destroy the Black Books, if you have any remaining,” he said suddenly. “They do nothing but harm. They are but temptations from Mora, and Apocrypha holds no use to either of us.”

She huffed. “Surely you’re not still mad about that?”

He sent her a cross look, and Lycka sighed dramatically. “I promise you that I have no more intentions of gallivanting through that poor excuse of a library,” she assured him, and Miraak’s frown deepened, thumbing the cloth where it had been stiffened by the dried blood.

Unease tightened his throat, and he stood up, shucking the first layer of his clothes. He paused. “Are you… going to leave?”

“I could,” Lycka said, splaying herself out on the bed. She rolled onto her belly and stretched like a cat. “Do you want me to?”

He gave an indifferent grunt but nothing else, and quickly stripped down and replaced his robes with clean ones, trying to ignore the pleased noise Lycka made when he was nearly bare and the heat on his face that accompanied it.

When he finished, she rolled off the bed and landed lightly on her feet. “Come on,” she said, beckoning him with a smile. “Rayya and I already made breakfast.”

He obediently followed her down to the dining room, where Sofie pranced about and Hroar cheered her on, Rayya watching them with amusement from the opposite doorway. Her customary warpaint and hood were missing, leaving her face and close-shaven head bare. It was… odd, somehow, to see her so informal.

“Good morning, my thane,” Rayya said, crows feet wrinkling in the corners of her eyes. “And happy Yule. I trust you slept well?”

Lycka snickered in response and Miraak scowled, flushing.

Thane and housecarl brought out a rich-smelling pot of stew and several loaves of fluffy bread, and Miraak’s rebellious stomach rumbled despite his best attempt at surliness.

The children dug in with gusto and complimented the food with full mouths, and Miraak was taking a more reserved approach when a thought sprung up.

“Do you celebrate all twelve days of Yule?” he asked Lycka, looking up from his bowl.

The Dragonborn shook her head. “I don’t follow the old traditions,” she replied. “Many in Skyrim do, but for me, it’s simply… a holiday. When I was younger I would spend time with my family, but other than that, it served no purpose.”

It made sense, Miraak thought. Yule was a northern celebration, where winters were devastating and the turn of the seasons was much anticipated. Lycka… did not look like she was from Skyrim, with her dark hair and warm skin and golden eyes.

“We’d probably get fat if Mama fed us all that fancy food for twelve days straight,” Hroar pipes up, in between shovelling handfuls of bread into his mouth. “On Sofie’s birthday I ate so much cake I threw up.”

Miraak grimaced.

“Hroar,” Lycka scolded, even as the corners of her mouth tilted up. “Not with your mouth full, and certainly not at the table.”

The boy pouted and his sister giggled, and Miraak pressed on with his questions. “What parts do you celebrate?”

“The feast,” Lycka listed off, “the decorations, a bonfire.” She looked up at him, head cocked and eyes bright. “How was it celebrated back then?”

Miraak blinked, slightly taken aback by the question. “It was… a great undertaking,” he started slowly, trying to dredge up the memories. “I don’t—it has been a great deal of time since I last partook.

Something flashed across her face, too quickly to identify, and she pursed her lips. “My apologies. I didn’t mean to…”

“There was a tradition,” he said suddenly, “that was my favorite as a boy. We would gather around the bonfire at night and the elders would tell us the legends of our people. It was…” he paused, nearly stumbling over his words. “It was a long time ago.”

Lycka met his eyes, then, studying him with something indecipherable, and Miraak, suddenly self-conscious, turned his gaze back towards his meal.

“Ew,” Sofie said, breaking the tension so blithely that it was like it hadn’t existed in the first place. “You must be really old.”

Her comment startled a laugh from Lycka, and Miraak rolled his eyes, but his thoughts continued to drift.

In his distance, he missed the thoughtful expression Lycka watched him with.

After breakfast, Lycka fussed over the children and Rayya retreated to her room with mug of ale and a book, stopping to hug the trio and send a smug look towards Miraak.

Eventually, Lycka herded the children to the hearth, where they flopped down on the rug in front of the crackling fire and basked in the warmth. Miraak kept his distance, seating himself in the overstuffed armchair and watching Sofie pounce on her mother with the full intention of starting a play-fight, and it was no time at all until they were all rolling on the floor, alternately catching and being caught, alliances formed and broken and reformed in the span of seconds.

Eventually the Sofie and Hroar banded together—“We can’t defeat her alone! Hroar, take my hand and we’ll be victorious!”—and it seemed Lycka would be defeated by the sheer power of their combined determination, and, in his brooding, Miraak very nearly missed the moment Lycka pointed and said, “Wait! We must combine our forces and defeat our true enemy!”

“What—?” was all he managed before she grabbed his leg, and, with one smooth motion, yanked him off the chair and sent him sprawling on his back with an undignified yelp.

“Charge!” Sofie howled, and dove for him, landing on his stomach and almost driving the wind out of him.

Hroar cackled and—more gingerly than his sister had—and flopped onto Miraak’s chest.

Miraak growled and pushed himself up, sending the children rolling off of him with gleeful shrieks. “There will be consequences for that,” he threatened, and Hroar stuck his tongue out and Sofie responded by tackling him and sending Miraak right back onto the floor.

He allowed the girl to mock-pummel him for a few moments before he retaliated, hefting her up easily with one arm like a sack of flour before clambering to his feet and spinning in circles, Sofie flailing his grip, until the dizziness overtook him and he dropped back down onto the rug, Sofie rolling out of his arms with a wheeze.

There was laughter, bright and clear and entirely unfamiliar, and it took a moment for him to grasp that it was his own, and the realization shocked him into silence.

He sat up, slower this time, and Sofie sat on his legs, peering up at him curiously. “I’ve never heard you laugh before,” she said.

“I didn’t even think he could smile,” Hroar added.

Lycka was staring at him very intently, like she was committing him to memory, and Miraak flushed.

“I don’t… do it often,” he said, rather lamely.

He picked up Sofie under her arms as he stood and deposited her on the armchair, and she pouted and crossed her arms.

“I’ll… be outside, if I’m needed,” he said stiffly, and left the room, Lycka’s eyes burning holes in his back.

The cold shocked him back to his senses.

The weather was milder in Falkreath than the rest of the province, and the snow was lighter even in the dead of winter, but his breath still coalesced into mist and the cold seeped into his bones.

He was feeling more than he could deal with. It was pathetic.

Over and over he let himself be overwhelmed by nothing at all, and all the poise and control he had been so proud of crumbled in moments. Every time he thought he had scraped together some semblance of direction, something new would knock him off course—and of course, he thought sourly, it would something so mundane as a holiday, as his own laughter that would petrify him next.

Gritting his teeth, he started into the forest, where the massive firs casted blue-tinted shadows across the snow.

He trudged on at a near-punishing pace, sloughing through frozen mud and slush until the manor was well out of sight and the forest was so dense that the only beams of light that made it through the crown were no thicker than his fist.

It was quiet, dark, and exactly what Miraak needed.

He exhaled, slow and controlled, and settled down onto the frozen ground, his back against a tree.

It had been many, many years since he had last meditated. He had tried to use it to pass the time in the early years of Apocrypha, before he had learned that immersing himself in his own thoughts in that hellish scape was more dangerous to his sanity than anything else.

But here, in Falkreath, where maybe it was safe, perhaps it would be a solution to the unceasing clamoring in his head.

He inhaled deeply, the cold prickling his throat and lungs, and closed his eyes.

“You’ll catch your death out here.”

He heard her approach before he heard her voice, her boots crunching against the snow.

“I was occupied,” he said crossly, eyes still closed.

Lycka huffed, and he heard her shift, felt her hand cup his cheek.

Finally, he cracked open an eye, scowling but not really meaning it. Lycka was crouching in front of him, expression equal parts concerned and amused.

“You didn’t come back for lunch,” she explained. “Or dinner.”

Miraak blinked, and glanced up. What little of the sky he could see through the trees was dark, stars twinkling in the gaps in the leaves, and a fine layer of snow was dusted over his clothes. His teeth were chattering, he noticed belatedly.

“I apologise for worrying you,” he said slowly, carefully extending his legs. His limbs were stiff with cold and inaction and they protested the movement, and he winced as he felt his joints creak.

She sighed and undid the clasp on her cloak, wrapping it around his shoulders and brushing the snow from his hair. “What were you even doing out here?”

Miraak was silent for a moment. “Clearing my thoughts,” he said quietly.

Lycka paused, gaze flickering to his eyes. “Did it help?”

And Miraak took a moment to reflect. There was a sense of calm that he hadn’t felt in a very long time, something close to peace.

“It did,” he answered, and it was the truth.

Lycka leaned forward and pressed a kiss to the corner of his mouth. “Let’s go home,” she murmured, and something warm bloomed in his chest.

“Home,” he echoed, and the word fit in his mouth, and he ducked down and kissed her fully.