The Dragon Queens

Chapter 9

Citadel hospital- Saren

Saren watched the holo news and growled. His hierarchy, the pride of the Citadel navy was kowtowing to a bunch of primitive thugs. He sneered at the weakness of the Council that was nearly tripping over themselves to do the primitive’s bidding.

Those barbarians had killed his brother Desolas and his friend Victus. He cast his mind back to remember the others in his platoon. He and Victus had been best friends, there was Kyree Barrus from the outer colonies who always joked about the terrible rations. Young Vakarian who was planning on joining C-sec once his tour was over, always showing everyone holos of his young son Garrus. Haldus the pyro, who cackled when things burned but was the gentlest soul of duty.

All those bright young minds had been slaughtered on that Spirit’s forsaken planet. His thoughts strayed to his arm and he turned his head to look at it. Where once his arm had been, there was now a cybernetic replacement.

If the blade hadn’t cauterized his wound, he would have bled to death before he had been evacuated off that blasted world. He took a deep, shuddering breath.

He would have his revenge. He would destroy the Empire and the spineless Councillors for what they had done too him. But first he needed to get into a position to strike.

Nirnian Imperial Transport The Overburdened- Desolas

Desolas and his men who all sat on identical low metal cots with retractable metal covers in the hold of some ship. They had been loaded on six hours ago and had endured that migraine and vomit inducing method of travel. The first time they had experienced it, they had been packed into an similar hold and sealed in their cots to keep them from disintegrating from the transition from oblivion, whatever the hell that was.
Now they had been released from their pods but were now they were just sitting around waiting for something to happen. Victus was sitting with a small group of his remaining platoon playing a Nirnian card game called cloak and dagger that he had learnt from his cell guards, they had even given him a deck as a going away present. That was what baffled him the most, throughout their stay as POWs the Nirnians had treated them with absolute respect, calling them “Worthy Adversaries” and even playing card games with their prisoners, through the bars though, they were never stupid about guarding them.

The door at the far end of the room opened and several figures entered. Even from this distance Desolas could see that it was the two females from the throne room who had questioned him and several guards. “May we speak with General Desolas” the gold one called. Hesitantly Desolas stood and walked down the aisle towards them, stopping about seven feet from them and saluting “Yes?” he asked respectfully.

The gold one smiled “we never had a chance to introduce ourselves General, I am Queen Ayrenn and this is my sister Queen Serana. We have come to inform you that you are to be released back to your people in five hours. As such we wish to return your belongings to you and offer out well wishes for your men’s safe return.”

That statement stumped Desolas, they were being released? Their gear was being returned? The Queens were offering wishes for safe travel? He had to ask them what they meant but as he opened his mouth the two Queens inclined their heads regally and left the room. A solder came in with a bundle and handed it to Desolas.

He opened it and saw his battered armour and Omni-tool wrapped in what looked like a dark grey cape and with the sword he had used in the latter part of the invasion. He looked up in confusion at one of the guards “why are you giving me a sword and cloak?” he asked bewildered.

“The cloak is an old Redguard custom, when Prisoners of War were released they were given a cloak as an act of good will and a show of wealth as well as to protect the newly released prisoners from the harsh sun as they marched home. The sword is because you won that by right of war. The solder who used it needs it no more and you do, therefor the sword is yours until you pass it on to someone or it is taken from your corpse.” The guard explained and held out his hand.

“You are a good leader and a better warrior, we of Nirn show respect to those who have earned it, you and your men did that through your bravery and your hesitance to waste the lives of your men. Go in peace beneath the guiding hands of Talos General Desolas Arterius.”

Desolas mimicked the hand gesture and was startled when the Nirnian grasped his forearm firmly and clapped Desolas on with opposing shoulder.

When they emerged from the Shuttles onto the Citadel they were greeted by gasps from the assembled crowds waiting to welcome them. Desolas looked over his men and could see why. They were all clad in their armour
but also in the cloaks they had been given, and all carried the weapons they had used.

Proud Turian soldiers walked with Battle axes and Warhammers, shields and swords hanging from belts and sheaths. Beside him walked two young lieutenants, Victus and Vakarian, Victus with the large golden shield and green sword, while Vakarian’s two black, hand axes swung from their holders on his belt.

In a slightly nervous gesture, Desolas ran his hand over the green and gold sword in it’s sheath, there was something comforting about having it there, like knowing your comrades had your back, he could see why the Nirnians liked their blades.

Councillor Callamus was waiting for them. With a firm stride Desolas lead the two hundred survivors of the Battle of Frostreach up to him and saluted. “Welcome home General” Callamus offered him, returning the salute.

“Good to be home sir” Desolas replied adopting a rigid parade posture. “Let’s get your men checked out by the medics then get you boys debriefed. I personally know of a young man in Huerta memorial who is excited to see you” Callamus told him with a smile.

This news floored Desolas “Saren is alive?” he asked hopefully. From what he had experienced, the Nirnians were very thorough, he had though the entire fleet destroyed to a ship. “Yes, he was on the only ship to make it out of the incident” Callamus told him.

Desolas fumed INCIDENT? That’s what they were calling it now? He carefully smothered his rage. Nodding respectfully at the Councillor he said “My men are anxious to see their families, shall we begin Councillor?”

Citadel- CNN

N- “Good evening Citadel! I’m your host Nira T’Mire and this is Ask Azdazi. The show where Khajit and Nirnian citizen Azdazi-Daro Kirkar answer questions about the Nirnian Empire, their people and their Customs.”

A- “This one offers greetings to this one’s viewers and once again states that this one is happy to act as a voice of the Empire to answer questions and promote understanding between our peoples”

N- “Our first question comes from an Asari from Thessia: So far all your prominent figures have been female, are the Nirnians a Matriarchal society?”

A- “no it is merely by chance, Admiral Drescher is the commander of the flagship Might of the Queens and Voices Galeyal, Gildleaf and Sendu happened to be the Queens Voices on board. The Council of monarchs has several kings and many officers of our army are male. Our society strives for racial and gender equality, the fact that many of the first contact group were female? A coincidence.”

N- “But you have two Queens who rule over you all, how did they come into power? And I think I ask for all of us when I ask why the Nirnians seem so obsessed with them?”

A- “we are not obsessed with our Queens, we are simply affording them the respect they deserve. Our Queens were the ones who first considered putting aside old hatreds and working for racial harmony, rather than racial dominance as the old Empire did.”

N- “But I thought your Empire was thousands of years old, surely you are not implying that it is the same Queens”

A- “yes they are, Queen Ayrenn was the one who led the reform of the third Dominion and crowned the fourth, Serana was the high Queen of Skyrim who ended the civil war and united the old Ebonheart pact. Serana is an immortal being through her vampirism and Ayrenn is Immortal through her birthright of being the Dragonborn who slayed Alduin the world eater. They raised us from the mire of our hatred and ignorance and taught us to be more than we were.

They united factions that wished to see the other extinct and they brought about a peace that had long been thought impossible. They led us to the stars, they encouraged us to create more, build greater, and see farther. They ARE the Empire. Everything that Nirn is now, we owe to the Queens, we would still be fighting among ourselves if they had not been crowned. That is why we show them respect.”

A-“This one wishes to speak of other things. What is the next question” she said more quietly. Nira cleared her throat nervously

N- “from a Turian on Palaven: why do you still use primitive weapons?”

A- “The gods intended for battle to be waged by hand, a gun is an unnatural weapon. With a blade you must get close to your enemy in a feat of skill and the stronger and more skillful survive. This way all are stronger as a result.”

N- “From a Volus on the Citadel: What kind of currency is used in the Empire and has an exchange rate been set yet?”

A-“This one is not sure if there is now an exchange rate but the basic currency of the Empire is the Septim, bigger coins have names that were given over time. A Haal is five septims, Zinaan is ten septims, Diisos is fifty septims, Diiyen is a hundred, a Diiogiir is a five hundred and a Diikiir is a thousand.”

N- “is there any special meaning for those names?”

A- “yes, but you will have to learn Dovahzul to find out” smirks and leans back with tail twitching in amusement.

N- “From a Hanar on a trading vessel: you speak as this one does, do you also follow the teachings of the enkindlers?”

A- “this one does not know of any enkindlers, this one is a follower in Si, the god of luck and the divines of the Khajiti pantheon but does not know of any “enkindlers” they sound like fire mages”

N- “Finally from a Quarian on omega: What is your homeworld like?”

A- “Nirn is a beautiful land filled with much diversity, this one could speak for hours of its beauty and wonder. There are many natural marvels of Nirn such as the throat of the world in northern Tamriel the continent that the Empire sprang from, there is the great maelstrom of the Akarivin sea, the blazing deserts of Elyswere, the Forests of Valenwood, there is simply too much to describe, but this one shall try to condense what this one’s feels about Nirn. It is beautiful and dangerous, Wondrous and terrifying. Gods made it, Daedra plague it, and Magic fills it. It is our home it is to be loved and feared in equal measure.”

N- “Well that’s all for tonight everyone, Azdazi thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. Tune it next week for another episode of “Ask Azdazi” Good Night!”

Dark brotherhood sanctuary Dawnstar- Ayrenn

The figure slid through the tunnel entrance was disguised as an ancient sewer buried beneath a snowdrift outside the old city sector of Dawnstar. The city had been rebuilt and now surpassed its former glory. The collage had been expanded upon great spires of stone that had been grown from the ocean floor. Massive bridges and causeways linked the magnificent buildings together, each easily the size of the original campus. In the ancient days, they would have been individual Colleges in their own right. They stood impregnable and mighty against the wailing winds and crashing waves of the Sea of Ghosts.

Very little of the figure was visible save for their height, but even that was dubious as the figure bent double and slid dextrously through the tunnel. Moving swiftly along the icy passage, the figure quickly emerged from behind a marvellous and ancient stain glass window depicting a skeleton.

The room beyond was bright and warm, surprisingly homey for all that it was a lair of killers. Ancient
stone walls, ceiling and floors were lit with brilliant lights and filled with the bustle as some worked at terminals or lounged on benches and chairs. Most wore black and red stealth armour but others were clad in simple cloths that followed a similar colour scheme.

Banners with a black hand on a red background rung from the ancient walls with proud dignity. A tall iron sarcophagus sat on a dais high above the everyday bustle of the lair, the iron visage gazing sternly out over her children.

The occupants of the room noticed the figure and quieted quickly, many rising and bowing with respectful murmurings of “listener.” A young girl in a red and black dress with glowing orange eyes came sprinting across the sanctuary with a happy shout of “Sister!” She leapt forward and tackled the figure in a hug “missed you too Babette” the Listener said, their voice muffled by the ebony weave of their hood.
“It is good to see the family looking so well” they continued, putting the vampiric child down and looking at the assembled assassins. There were many smiles and nods. “Carry on please” the Listener told them, bowing their head in respectful greeting. The assassins smiled and returned tot heir tasks or relaxation, the buzz of talk starting up again and the music player starting up again.

“It’s been too long, Come, I think it’s time to catch up” Babette informed her happily before turning to a novice who was standing nearby. “Bring a pot of spiced tea and a bottle of the Bosmer R forty-seven series to the lower private chamber” she commanded.

The novice bowed and scurried off to do the vampire’s bidding. “Still on the R vintage Babette?” The Listener asked mockingly “I thought there was none left. That was a famous trial after all and the blood should be thirty years old at least.”

Babette smiled and shrugged as she led the Listener down into the bowls of the ancient lair. The tunnels had been renovated and the damp problem had been sorted, making the warren of tunnels, training rooms and dormitories a pleasant place to stay.

“Stasis charms, they’re a wonderful invention and I’ve been experimenting with aging blood” she smiled innocently as they entered a room that had once been the Listener’s personal chambers, and were now used for visiting guild masters. They sat down on comfortable cushioned chairs at the stone table. The novice scampered in carrying a tray bearing a plate of steaming scones, a simple clay pot and cup and a dusty bottle filled with a dark crimson liquid with its accompanying silver goblet.

“Thank you Rafik” Babette said unstopping the bottle and pouring a generous measure.

“My pleasure Listener, Grandmaster.” The novice bowed and backed out. As the door closed the listener pulled their mask down, showing the shadowed face of Queen Ayrenn. She reached out a plucked a scone from it’s plate, breaking it open and slathering it in butter before taking a bite. Her eyes rolled and she let out a moan of appreciation before she swallowed and poured herself a cup of tea. “This is delicious. Cyrus’s baking?” she asked curiously, sipping her hot tea.

“Of course” Babette informed her sipping her goblet of blood daintily. “He is always excited to cook for
you and he had just pulled that batch out of the oven when you came. He’s already planning on dinner for us all. I do enjoy those sit-down dinners; it really makes us feel like a family.” She replied with a cheeky smile at her old friend.

Her face became a little more serious but not by much, “so what brings such a high and mighty person to associate with us dangerous murderers? Babette asked slyly. “I would think that the queen of everything would have better things to do with her time” she added, looking at her friend over the rim of her goblet.
Ayrenn grinned brightly and took another bite of her scone, reveling in her ability to let the crumbs fall messily without having to each like a dainty sparrow for her court. “Well my dear little sister, you heard of the attack on the colony of Shanxi?” she asked after having thoroughly enjoyed her pastry.

Babette snorted “Course I did, it’s all over the news. Alien attacks tend to do that, also rewarded some of our siblings for their outstanding work in the colony’s defence.” Ayrenn took a large gulp of tea before she leaned back languidly in her chair as if it were her crystal throne.

“Well I was looking over this Council’s star charts and I couldn’t help but notice something I’ve been looking for, for centuries. Something I couldn’t set up if even if I wanted to.” She informed the child Vampire with a sly smile and a twinkle in her eyes.

Babette’s eyebrows rose high “Do tell sister, there is little you can’t achieve with but a twitch of your fingers and a smile. You and Serana have the entire populous so wrapped around your fingers that you could order them into Cold Harbour and they would charge in gladly” she remarked, curious.

Ayrenn frowned “you know we would never do that Babette. We saw the horrors of the great wars and the civil wars. We took the throne to prevent anything like that from happening ever again” she rebuked, her face solemn.

Babette nodded “I know Renn, but you must admit, the people practically think you two are an Aedra and Daedra come to mundus” she informed the Altmer, her old eyes serious in her young face.

Ayrenn nodded in acknowledgement of the statement. “True, but anyway. In citadel space, there is a station. Filled with the worst scum and criminals in their corner of the galaxy with no laws and no oversight. A perfect training ground for the new bloods don’t you think?” Ayrenn had the same smile she had worn when she had been told to assassinate the Emperor.

Babette’s eyes grew wide with excitement. “No laws or oversight?” she asked hopefully.
“None” Ayrenn practically sang, still nibbling on a scone.

“No ruler or government?” the vampire pressed, her eyes gleaming frighteningly and her smile bordering on unhinged.

“A ruler who doesn’t care what happens so long as she isn’t threatened.” Ayrenn informed her, smiling fondly at the ancient’s child like excitement.

“Though I was thinking that if several high profile criminals on that station, just happened to disappeared, and the ruler were to encounter a tragic ‘accident’. Why an enterprising Nirnian could “theoretically”, take control, and perhaps turn it into a lovely asset for the Empire. After the brother hood ahs used it for any and all training purposes” Ayrenn murmured studiously observing her tea with a small smile, her face the picture of innocence.

Babette’s eyes glowed with avarice and pleasure “A whole playground for our people to use, and the chance of expansion?” she said mockingly “Why dear sister, it sounds like your suggesting something.”

Again, Ayrenn smiled “now Babette, what could I possibly be suggesting?” She replied, taking a dainty sip and placing he cup back down, reaching for another scone. “Now then tell me of the latest developments” she said, getting back to the business of being the Queen of Blades.

Omega- Aria

Aria was not a happy Queen, ever since that goddess damned Nirnian ship the Footpad had stopped by, there had been a rash of murders, mostly the low life criminal scum that skulked around Omega’s dark spots.
However, it was still annoying that some of her contacts had either gone missing or had been found murdered in surprisingly inventive ways. She snarled and threw back her drink, shivering slightly at the harsh burn that she loved and continue to seethe.

The methods had started simple, a series of snapped necks and knifings that were sloppy at first but became increasingly better. There were a few blunt trauma kills and beatings that she was unsure if they belonged to the usual scum or not. Then they moved to slit throats and precision kills with firearms, then poisons and poison darts, then disembowelling and beheadings.

Every murder had a black handprint that could have belonged to an Asari, Batarian or one of those Nirnians. But as far as she knew there were no Nirnians on this station, she had made sure to keep them at a distance and hadn’t let them on the station for more than an hour, double checking that all the ones that had come aboard, left with their captain.

It had to be Asari, maybe a new assassin, the whole thing stank of someone who hadn’t killed before using HER Omega as a training ground, possibly under a mentor, or a serial killer. Not that she would ever admit it, but she was worried, they were becoming bolder every few moths, attacking higher and higher profile targets.

She sighed again and turned to look at the datapadd in front of her, on this was a list of complaints from the various gangs and Merc bands demanding she stop the sudden thefts as well. This was the same problem, stuff was going missing and not turning up at all, not on the black markets, not with the fences.
It was just vanishing. The self-proclaimed “Queen” of Omega rubbed the bridge of her nose in frustration. Her instincts told her something was happening, and she would be damned before she let something drive her from her realm.

Omega- Kasumi

Kasumi couldn’t remember the last time she had, had this much FUN! As a recently graduated member of the Thieves guild, she was here on special assignment from the guild master herself.

Her mission was to determine ways to bypass and work around mass effect based systems and to find ways for those systems to be utilised by the Nirnian military and “special forces” (both the brotherhood and the guild counted as SF).

So here she was, a small kleptomaniac Bosmer dressed in her black and brown stealth armour and hood, sliding invisibly through the crowded streets of this shit hole picking pockets out of habit and filching anything that could even conceivably be of value. Oh yes Kasumi was having fun.

Citadel- Nirnian Embassy

“What do you miss most about the Empire” the Asari reporter asked the scaled being who stood outside the newly built Nirnian embassy, an beautiful creation of stone that now stood off the presidium in a newly made space.

Carved facades faced outwards, accenting the entry ways and windows with curving designs and scenes from Nirnian history and myth. Graceful fluted columns and delicate stone work decorated the large courtyard that was bracketed on all sides by buildings that even had roofs, unnecessary though they were.

Low stone basins inlaid with geometric designs made of brass hued metal filled with strange and exotic flowers and even a few trees sat artfully around the space as well as a few small water features. A large fountain made of carved white marble dominated the center of the pleasant space occupied with various Nirnian ministerial staff.

It felt like a garden on a planet, the air was filled with the smell of plants, and sound of splashing water, voices and even the chirping of a few birds contained to the courtyard by a series of runes. A bright trio of little Green finches and a few orange sun Sparrows hopped along the rim of a bird bath, cheeping and chirping as they played in the water and a handful of crested redwings picked at the crumbs an woman was offering from her lunch pastry

The Argonian blinked his yellow eyes at her then answered in his low, rasping voice “The baths. The facilities we have here are good, but nothing can beat an authentic Nirnian bathhouse.”

The reporter blinked “you mean to say that Nirnians have buildings dedicated entirely to bathing?” she asked him.

The Argonian shook his head “a bathhouse is more than that, it is a place of relaxation and socialization, for exercise and health promotion. Also our various races need certain kinds of baths to maintain proper health” he explained, running a clawed hand through his feathers.

“Can you give us an example?” the reporter pressed causing him to shift from foot to foot. “if you want to know more, I suggest you speak with our cultural ambassador, I’m just a secretary.” He told her before moving swiftly past her and into the building.

Not to be deterred the reported entered the main building, following the signs to her quarry. The wide hallways were filled with windows that must have been holograms since they showed stunning vistas of mountains that were obviously not on the citadel. Carefully pruned trees lined the hall, filling the air with a spicy fresh scent.

She knocked on a door with a nameplate and entered when bid. Inside she found the cultural ambassador, a green skinned female with a jutting lower jaw, small tusks and shiny black hair pulled into a high ponytail looking up from her work.

“Can I help you?” the slightly brutish looking female asked in curious and polite tones.
“Ambassador Gra-Lurn, my name is Kari T’lass of CNN and I was hoping you could answer a few questions” the reporter said in a business like voice.

“Of course, it is my duty to do so” the Orsimer female replied setting down a sheet of what looked like paper but glowed like a datapadd.

“One of your aides said he missed the Nirnian bathhouses, and said that the species of Nirn need to bathe in certain substances. Could you elaborate for our viewers?” Kari asked, looking at the glowing camera that hovered by her left shoulder.

“Certainly. The races of Nirn developed in different environments, or adapted to suit the ones they found themselves in. As a result, the bathhouse developed after the unification once our population became more amicable. The Nords are from the far north and are at their healthiest when they have proper ice baths, which involve jumping into near freezing water, then scrubbing with snow after sitting in a steam bath.
Imperials, Bretons and Redguards are pretty similar, enjoying steam baths and then soaking in water of varying temperatures, though the Redguards scrub with salt. The Altmer need regular sessions of laying in sunlight to achieve a healthy glitter, while Maomer require sea water baths to maintain hydration. Dunmer like having ash baths, which involve mixing the ash into a paste and applying it to the skin before soaking of in hot springs or hot mineral rich water.

The Bosmer love their mist baths, where the air is filled with a thick, cool mist. Orsimer have no special need due to our largely nomadic nature and our original lack of a homeland so we tend to favour the human method. Argonians are extremely fond of their mud baths before rinsing in regular water and the Khajiit self-clean but love sand wallows. A bathhouse is constructed to house all of these needs and it is not uncommon for other races to mingle in social areas. You can also get a massage, exercise, see a healer and in general relax.”

Kari smiled “thank you so much for your time ambassador” she said before shutting off her camera.

Shanxi- General Oraka

General Oraka of the Turian military stared incredulously at the short individual next to him. “The rebuilding goes well” the tiny dark blue skinned Admiral remarked watching everything through his glittering crimson eyes. Oraka held in a frown, staring out as the squads of Turian solders struggled to remove the debris from the invasion. They toiled in groups of fifty to a hundred with an equal number of Nirnians as they all worked to repair the ravaged city under the watchful eyes of Nirnian overseers.

“Hmm” grunted the general, unwilling to indulge what he perceived as a gloating remark, he was furious to see the proud Turian soldiers he had trained and commanded reduced to practically slaves. It didn’t escape his notice either that friendships were forming between his men and the Imperials. Something about the Legionnaires’ willingness to look past the bloodshed and the quality of the alcohol they were offered by
the Nirnians.

They were standing on the battlements of the City’s central Citadel, looking out all the way to where massive twelve-foot-tall beings maneuvered massive stone into the breach that the tanks had blown through the outer wall.

“It is truly a wonderful thing to see such cooperation where there was once blood” the admiral continued, “I must apologise that we were unable to return the bodies of the dead to you, but in our culture bodies must be burned as soon as possible least they rise and haunt the living.”

Oraka glared at him, clamping his mandibles close to his face in an attempt to keep his scathing comments to himself, praying to the spirits to grant him patience to deal with smug Imperial Admirals.

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