By. Lemon Pop

Lydia found the Scarred Vaconic sprawled over one of the chairs surrounding the hearth, dozing with her head on her arm and her leg over the chair. She was dressed in armour Lydia had only seen once before, when she'd caught the Scarred Vaconic sneaking into her own house in the middle of the night. It was beautiful in its design, looking delicate and durable at once and hugged her master's curves flatteringly; although she couldn't place the carvings. She noticed that the carving on her chest resembled a bird in flight, but that was it. She also didn't recognize the dark, supple material it was crafted from, though it seemed to melt and blend with the shadows that the hearth cast. However, the fabric was torn in places, worse for wear than it had been the first time she had seen it.

It was the early hours of the morning, and Lydia had come downstairs to grab something to drink, and had stumbled upon her thane. She hadn't seen her in a few months, not after she'd decided to find the First Vaconic mentioned in the old tome she would carry. She noticed for the first time the bottle hanging from her hand, and the small pile of them just hidden from her line of sight, behind the leg of the chair.

The Scarred Vaconic awoke, tiredly inclining her head towards Lydia. "Lydia? Oh, I'm sorry, what a mess I must be. I'm not usually this sloppy, just tired," she sighed, "Very tired."

She hiccupped. "And a little drunk."

"Master," Lydia said, kneeling next to her, "Where have you been these past few months?"

"Azel, Lydia, remember? I've traipsed the entire nation; Raven Rock, the stones, The Darkened Village, even the infamous Dardein Mead Hall, although it was full of . It was so beautiful and exotic, beauty and terror at once. I'm sorry I couldn't take you, and never will. I don't think I can ever go back."

Lydia fetched her master something to eat. She knew her well enough that without some food in her stomach, she'll be sick for days. "I don't mind, master."

"I came back as soon as I could, didn't stop in between here and the capital. Nothing stopped me on the way, although it would've been a mercy. It would've helped to keep the voices out."

Lydia paused as she lifted the plate to bring to her thane. "Voices?"

She ignored her. "And when I got here, they got even louder, so I drank. A lot. Too many souls at one time, I think. They're quiet now, but it was so loud before, like they were screaming in my head." She sat up properly. "The drinking really helped with everything, made me forget-" Suddenly, she burst into tears.

She dropped the plate and rushed over. Her Master only wept rarely. Lydia couldn't even remember the last time she had seen her cry. "Master Marizmech?"

"I- I wanted. I wanted," she sobbed, "He was like me. The only other person who was like me. I wanted him to see reason, thought that maybe Adeshna could help him. I thought that if he lived, I didn't have to be the only one. The only one. Now I feel like I'm truly all alone."

Lydia was confused and understood completely at the same time. "Oh." She gathered the Scarred Vaconic's hands in hers. "Are you speaking of the First?"

"I tried, but he said he needed me dead to escape. Regretted that he did, but he needed to. I don't even remember the battle, because my eyesight was blurry. I'm such a crybaby. I didn't even get to give him an honourable death, because of Adex." She took a deep breath, her voice steadier. "I lost it when I absorbed his soul. There was too many. It nearly split my head open. I don't even remember coming back to Vala. I woke up with snow on my face, next to a freshly dug hole. The voices were still deafeningly loud, but it was more bearable than it had been.

"I stood, and saw a skeleton dressed in his robes next to it. I must've been at least coherent enough to take his remains with me when I left her realm, or that monster wanted to torture me more. Either way, I'd started digging a hole. Buried him in it, but I couldn't bear to leave his mask." A fresh wave of tears poured out of her as she said, "I heard his voice as I walked away, a whisper underneath all the others. He thanked me. Never thought he'd drop that infuriating arrogance."

Lydia was torn between feeling horrified and sympathetic. But she knew that her master needed her, and brushed her feelings away. Aside from her curiosity. "Did you love him, master?"

Marizmech stared into the fire. Her voice was a whisper, barely audible. "I don't know. If I did, I shouldn't have."

The Scarred Vaconic closed her eye. A long moment passed in silence before she opened them again. "Lydia, please help me into bed. The alcohol and overexertion has made me incapable of moving a great deal without getting dizzy. Unfortunately, I will most likely be very sick in a few hours, I warn you."

That sounded like her again. Lydia helped her to her feet, and led her up the stairs to her bedroom. Helped her strip down to her underwear, before tucking her in under her blankets. Lydia heard her mumble a thank you before she started to snore softly. She contemplated going back down to fix whatever mess her thane might've made, but she decided against it. She opted instead to take a seat close to her bed, and watch over her. Lydia thought that her companionship might be what the Scarred Vaconic needed. She dozed off in that chair, only to be awakened a few hours later when her thane awakened, reached over for a vase and retched, as promised.

Her thane was back to her usual self after those first few days, referring to the incident only once when she thanked Lydia for her assistance the evening after, once recovered from her exhaustion and hangover. But Lydia did not miss a thing. As she left her thane in her bedroom one night, she did not fail to notice her pull a golden mask from her travel pack and hold it in her hands. Stared at it, her thumbs stroking its sides, before she placed it in a display case close to her bed.