Flame-Child: Part Two:
Chapter Thirty Three: The Final Battle (1)
“Are you awake sleeping beauty?”
Niyleen slowly opened her eyes and immediately felt her body become racked with pain. It was a pain that rivaled that of the Ascension ceremony she had underwent except that instead of a purely physical torture, she was experiencing agony on three different fronts: physical, mental, and emotional. She tried her hardest to fight it, but it was too much. She’d come so far, done so much, to allow it to end like this without even seeing Lucari—
(Wait a minute.) Niyleen blinked and suddenly as if released from a spell the pain simply vanished. “What in the world—”
“You might have a high magicka pool, and I’ll admit that you’ve got a few tricks up your sleeve when it comes to pyromancy, but you’re way to green to even be think that you’re in any way a proper mage.”
“Who do you think you are to say such a thing to—!!”
When Niyleen laid eyes on who was in the room with her, it took every ounce of restraint not to attack. She finally was face to face with the last person she wished to exact revenge on. This Wood Elf was the last perpertrator that had cheated Niyleen cheated out of her share of the gold those many moons ago. To think that they’d finally meet one another in such a place, under such circumstances.
“What in Oblivion are you doing here Dagger?”
Dagger, Endoen’s right hand man—woman, was someone who Niyleen went back years with. The two of them had even worked together for a time while in the Thieves Guild.
“I’m here to try to help… again,” the Bosmer said with a smirk.
“Help!? What do you mean help?” Niyleen got up and gathered flames in both of her hands. “You and your goons gave my share of the loot to the fucking Forsworn! I have half a mind to kill you elf. In fact, give me one reason why I shouldn’t do just that?”
“I’m here to enlighten you.”
“Enlighten me?” Niyleen could feel herself start to heat up. She hadn’t felt so riled up about the loss of money for so long, that she forgot how caught up about it she could get… but for now, she didn’t care. “I just said I want to kill you! Murder you! End your fucking existence! What makes you think for one moment that I want to listen to a damn thing you have to say? Let alone trust you?”
“I don’t care if you trust me, and you wanting to kill me will have to wait,” Dagger said sternly. “I thought that seeing as you’re the ‘last hope’ that you’d have your head screwed on tighter than you do.”
“The offer to kill you without being ‘enlightened’ is still on the table Mer.”
“Fine, I’ll get to my point.” Dagger said. “I simply want to ask you three questions. If at the end of them you feel like I’m still bullshitting you, then you can kill me and I won’t even put up a fight. Deal?”
(There’s no way she’s serious… but the thought of having her as a punching bag is… appealing…) Niyleen dispelled the flames in her hands. “So, was that one of the questions?” Niyleen smirked at Dagger, gaining a roll of the eyes from the Wood Elf. “Alright then elf, what’s your first question?”
“Who are you?”
“Who am I?” Niyleen glowered at the woman before her. A moment later, the flames in her right hand took form and Niyleen pointed her freshly formed sword at her. “I’m Niyleen Flame-Child, the—”
Her words got stuck in her throat as her head got fuzzy and multiple answers to that question popped into her head. Was she Niyleen Flame-Child, one of the last two Dragonborn and Champion of Mehrunes Dagon? Or perhaps was she Niyleen Flame-Child, former Dark Brotherhood assassin? Maybe she was Niyleen Flame-Child, the Jarl of Markarth, Falkreath, and Riften?
None of them seemed right, and yet all of them fit her so perfectly along with the ‘Raging Inferno of the Reach’ and the Thane of Morthal.
“What… what the fuck did you do to me,” Niyleen said as her mind started to clear up. “Are you telling me that we’re in the Fifth Cycle still? Why else would I think the title of Thane of Morthal would fit me at all?”
“Eeeh, so it did work…” Dagger gave Niyleen a knowing grin that only further antagonized the Halfling. “No Niyleen. That ‘Cycle’ didn’t exist.”
“Then what in Oblivion WAS that!?”
“A diversion. One that won’t last.”
Then was it a dream? It didn’t make sense. Those feelings, those emotions… They were too real, too deeply ingrained within Niyleen for them to have been made up. “So are you telling me that Veronica wasn’t real? That my house, my accomplishments, this anger, sadness, this feeling of being alone… You’re telling me that none of it ever happened!?”
“It’s hard to say it didn’t exist when it did…”
“Look… All you need to know is that the Cycles are all but over now.” Dagger smiled. “That concoction I gave you, it made you like the Mer involved in the Cycles. You’re no longer fragmented, well way less so than before. That’s how come you can’t just say you’re the Niyleen from the first or the fourth cycle. You’re literally in the process of becoming all of them.”
The explained everything. She felt like the Fourth, looked like the Fourth, and from the looks around her she was obviously still in the events of the fourth Cycle. However, calling herself the ‘Raging Inferno of the Reach’ didn’t seem to encapsulate who she was anymore or what it was she had to do. “I… I see. But how? That still doesn’t explain how I was in the Fifth Cycle but at the same time it didn’t exist!”
Dagger sucked her teeth. “If you ask this many questions, I can’t see how Nega wasn’t fed up with you years ago. To keep it simple, I made it happen but that’s beside the point,” Dagger said as she began to pace in front of Niyleen. “Anyway, question two: how many Daedric Princes are there?”
Niyleen could feel her eye twitch at the simplicity of the question. “Are you joking?”
“Just answer the question,” Dagger said flatly.
“Seventeen. I swear if you don’t freaking get to the point with there—”
“Last question,” Dagger said without hesitation. “What are their names?”
(I’d rather just blast your freaking face in but…) “Fine, let’s see… There’s Molag Bal, Mehrunes Dagon, Sheogorath, Malacath… Jyggalag, Hermaeus Mora… Uh, Hircine, Mephala, Clavicus Vile, Boethiah…”
“A few more to go.”
Niyleen stilled her hand and racked her brains for the remaining names. “Nocturnal?” Dagger nodded. “Azura, Sanguine, Namira, Peryite, and… Meridia. That’s all of them.”
“Are sure about that?”
Niyleen raised an eyebrow. “What do you mean am I sure? You asked for their names! Are you saying I got them wrong?”
“No, not at all. However, I think you may need a recount.”
(The heck is she talking about?) Although she was quite certain that she was correct, Niyleen did a mental recount of the names, and nodded in satisfaction. “Yup, I got all sixteen of them no problem.” The Halfling noticed that Dagger wore a smirk on her face that sent a chill down her spine. “What’s your problem?”
“Permit me to ask you one last question.”
“Why should I?”
“It’ll put everything together I swear.” It took her a few moments, but Niyleen eventually relented. “Ok then. Does the number of Daedric Princes match the number that you JUST said?”
“That’s it!” Niyleen conjured her flame sword and glared at the Bosmer. “I’m done with your idiotic games! Of course sixteen is equal to—wait a second…” (I definitely said that there were seventeen Daedric Princes, but try as I might I can only remember sixteen. It isn’t like I forgot the seventeenth one… just that it never existed.) As Niyleen tried to remember who the last Daedric prince was, she developed a headache that got worse as she thought about it more. Niyleen looked at her with worry in her eyes. “What in Oblivion is going on!?”
“These ‘Cycles’ were supposed to repeat indefinitely,” Dagger said confidently. “A certain Daedric Prince found out a way to ensnare all of Nirn under his dominion. To be fair, it was a brilliant plan. To place all of Nirn in a deep slumber, remove the knowledge of yourself from everyone’s minds, and feed off of the conflict that occurred in the collective that made up their dreams, what we called ‘Cycles’. What made it worse was that unless you knew which Champion to kill, you’d just trigger a new Cycle every time. It was almost foolproof. But these Daedric Princes… It seems rather than accomplishing their endgames, they like throwing us mortals curveballs here and there. You know, to see how we’ll dance to their rhythm.”
“H-how did you figure this out?”
“When the Second Cycle started, I… Something wasn’t clicking with me,” Dagger confessed. “See, the thing is, I was an off and on follower of Peryite. I was born into a small cult that followed him and since I was raised in those teachings… They’ve always stuck with me. I’ve done and had done to me horrible things in Peryite’s name that I often wished to be smited for by some god, any god,” Dagger said gesturing to what looked like a birthmark that covered the left side of her body. “Eventually I was drawn in by the allure of Nocturnal and well… I left that side of me behind.
“The thing is dishing out Peryite’s ‘blessing’ is something of a drug for people born into his service. We may end up with various types of disfigurations ranging from simple birthmarks that covered large areas of our bodies and contain the blessing to be monstorous yet sickly creatures, but at the same time we carry the highest of immunity to Peryite’s plagues and have a tendency to be bent on carrying out the Taskmaster’s whims. So during the Second Cycle, after wrapping things up with the Thieves Guild and The Dark Brotherhood, I decided to ‘bless’ one worshipper from each of Peryite’s enemies.”
“So I’m guessing it was during this time that that feeling of yours became even stronger?”
Dagger nodded. “Indeed. You see, travelling to Hammerfell to kill a member of the Citadel of Ebonarm was child’s play, as was finding who was in possession of the Ebony Blade and slaying them. The issue came when I tried to figure out who in Oblivion was the third deity. And so I asked myself the same questions I asked you, and eventually I kept drawing a blank as to who the seventeenth Daedric Prince was. That’s until one day on happenstance I came upon a fool in Dawnstar who seemed hellbent on destroying some artifact that belonged to a Daedric Prince. He called it The Gifter, and the Weaver of Panoply yet for some reason never used the Prince’s real name. But those titles… ss soon as the words came out of his mouth I knew that the seventeenth Daedric Prince was none other than—”
Suddenly a being with its back turned to them appeared before Niyleen and Dagger. “Here I thought you were content with not experiencing death again, but obviously I was wrong.”
Niyleen didn’t know why, but without forewarning Dagger began laughing hysterically for quite a while, and it seemed to only fuel the stranger’s wrath. “If my death were to release everyone else from these damn Cycles, then I’d be more than happy to die over and over again until you bastards got sick of killing me!”
“Wait wait wait!!! What’s going on here,” Niyleen said looking back and forth from the stranger to Dagger.
“We’ve finally hit game over,” Dagger said with a smirk. “You know how I said that I made it so that all of the memories of your previous selves belonged solely to you? Well, I had to break the Cycles in order to make it happen.”
“Break… the Cycles?” Niyleen stared at Dagger. “But… Is that even possible? Aren’t we still in the Fourth Cycle? I mean look around!”
“When she realized the secret behind the Cycles,” the interloper said, as she turned to face Dagger. “We thought that having her killed as savagely as we did during the second Cycle would have been enough to silence her mouth and cease her actions. However, it seems that you’re more plyable than we believed.”
“Time out! Seriously what’s going on here!?”
“Can I explain to the only oblivious one here?” The stranger continued to stare fiercely at Dagger, but gave her permission with a nod. “It’s simple,” Dagger said matter-of-factly. “We should be in the Fifth Cycle, and you should be a miserable bat-shit crazy thane… if I hadn’t gotten to Lucari first.”
“Wait what?” Niyleen couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Lucari working together with Dagger? But how? Why?
“It’s not too surprising really, but then again, I was always the wildcard wasn’t I,” Dagger said directing the question to the stranger. “I mean, how can you truly make note of someone that’s truly mastered becoming one with the shadows? I mean, I could be anywhere…” and in the next moment Dagger vanished.
“All I had to do was be stealthier than the Gray Fox, not terribly difficult when one has been near the top of the ranks of the Thieves Guild, the Dark Brotherhood and the Morag Tong. Not to mention I’m no slouch when it comes to utilizing magic, even if I don’t necessary wield it as much as a certain Redguard,” Dagger said in a tone that made Niyleen feel as if the Bosmer was gloating. “I simply made it so that when you entered this room you were enveloped in ‘shadows’ or a veil so to speak, as I am now. Just as neither of you can see me, what happened here was out of view of the Daedric Princes.”
“But how? I could see if we were nobodies with no affiliation with them, but Lucari was Molag Bal’s…” Niyleen stopped and looked around. “Where’s Lucari? You said she was working with you, right? Then where is she?”
“You really are that green aren’t you?” Niyleen heard Dagger sigh. “Alright then puppet, we may as well not make your master wait any longer. Open up the greenhorn’s eyes, will you?”
The foreign individual simply stuck her hand out. When the scenery began to shift and suddenly they weren’t in Teresa’s castle anymore, Niyleen immediately knew why Dagger had called her green.
(Illusion magic… It’s so simple… That explains all these half-ass ‘it exists but doesn’t’ answers Dagger’s been giving me.)
Niyleen may not have known much about magic as a whole, however she knew that when used at the utmost highest level Illusion may indeed be the strongest of any of the schools of magic.
(My father did tell me that true masters of the Illusion school could do near godly feats like altering reality… but to see it unravel before me…)
“Now that you understand how ignorant you were about our situation and how pathetic your ability to sense magic is, can you hurry up and wake us all up from this nightmare?”
(Wait a second…) Niyleen looked at Dagger and saw that the Bosmer was looking for something from her. “The seventeenth Daedric Prince… You mean to tell me that this is all a—”
“It’s no dream.”
The duo looked towards where the voice originated, and upon seeing the entity standing high at the apex of a set of stairs Niyleen scowled as she recognized who it was. “So I take it that we, the women known as Niyleen during this whole ordeal, were in their hands all along.”
“I thought you were slower than this, but I’m glad that it only took you a bit of prodding to see the bigger picture.”
Dagger raised an eyebrow. “You two have met?”
Niyleen nodded. “Aye, once before.”
“I thought she was a ghost that was sent by the Daedric Princes to perturb me throughout the Cycles, but it’s a bit more than that… Now that it’s not in a incorporeal form it’s easier to tell. You’re the Third, aren’t you?”
The being removed its mask and smiled at them. “So you’ve all stooped to calling each other by the Cycle you were featured in? If I were do the same, then yes, I guess that would make me the Third, wouldn’t it?”
There was no denying it. She may not have the same scars on her body, but that face… There was no doubt that the person before her was the same person that had become a war hero and was ultimately betrayed during the Third Cycle. However, something was off about her…
Upon seeing its face Niyleen could see that Dagger was visibly taken aback. “What!?! You mean all this time, Vaermina’s puppet was Niyleen!?!”
Niyleen shook her head. “No, well yes, I mean, kinda. There’s only one person I’ve seen that has those eyes, who has that presence about her… But it’s not Nega. I may not have the fullness of her knowledge and experiences, but can still feel her within me… then it can only be—”
“You’re certainly no fool, I’ll give you that,” Niyleen’s lookalike said. “When I got turned into Molag Bal’s Champion after being sold out by Clavicus Vile, I still had enough power for one wish… And I used it to know everything… to become the strongest version of myself that there ever was! Now I have all of the power with none of the shackles.”
It wasn’t exactly hard to piece everything together. This woman, she was Niyleen, but wasn’t Niyleen. She was Nega, but wasn’t Nega. She was the strongest version of Niyleen Flame-Child without being Niyleen Flame-Child herself. There was a sole person who fit this description and yet it couldn’t be…
“Aeron… So you were drawn in by the allure of the Daedric Princes’ power again, Death-Bringer?”
“When I was given this from by Lord Vaermina she gave me the name Marynziia, and I hated it. It was to hide who I was, to make it so that I wouldn’t upset the delicate balance that was the Cycles.” Aeron closed her eyes and smiled. “But seeing as the Cycles are no more, I can throw off that moniker and be who I always was meant to be… Finally, this is it,” Aeron said enthusiastically. “Nega said you were the key, that the Fourth Cycle was to be the end, but I would have never imagined that she’d be so correct.” Aeron apperated her giant scythe from seemingly nowhere. “Now then, with both of us showing our complete hands, fight me Niyleen! Let us end these Cycles once and for all!!”
Niyleen had plenty of questions for Aeron like, why would she side with a Daedric Prince after what happened to her and how did shd know what Nega had told her, but there was only one pressing question that the Halfling cared enough about to ask.
“If you win, you’ll see her soon enough.”
Niyleen conjured her flame sword and was about to set off to combat Aeron when Dagger impeded her. “What gives Bosmer?”
“Look… you and I… sure we worked together in the past, but we were never exactly friends. Not like either of us were to Alishondra…”
“My offer to kill you is still on the table Wood Elf! I’m not opposed to having you be a warm up for the final battle.”
“Listen, I don’t know how this is all going to go down. It was never explained to me afterall, but remember this: this may not be real, but as she said it’s not a dream. I’ve got a feeling that no matter the outcome between you two, some people may not make it out of the Cycles alive.”
“What do you mean!?”
“…Nothing. Nevermind.” Dagger moved to Niyleen’s side and sighed. “Good luck.”