20. The Brother's Betrayal

20. The Brother's Betrayal

Dec 24, 2022

We continue to see what happened to the scattered remnants of Second Archivist Eldaline's sinister 'Bureau of Advanced Communications' since Eldaline was trapped in Whiterun after being frightened by a big dragon.

"I'm not drunk." said Aranwen. "It's the target. It's twisted."

"Can you at least wait until shift change before you practice shooting your fellow soldiers?" said the door guard.

"No, because then it'll be dark, and my aim will be even worse."

"I thought you said the target was twisted."

"You know what's twisted?" said Aranwen. "Your mum."

"Are you bored, Aranwen?"

"Of course I'm bored. I miss Second Archivist Eldaline and Commander Flopsy and even the human with the shiny head. Never thought I'd be back in this stupid old heap of bricks."

"Well, why don't you go and question a prisoner?"

"I never know what to ask."

"Well, you can't stand here all afternoon, annoying me." said Aranwen's fellow soldier.

"Do you want to go on a date with me?" said Aranwen.

"What, now? I'm guarding this door."

"Well, can't you do two things at once?"

"Yes, but only half-arsed." said the guard. "What are you doing later?"

"Guarding the door." said Aranwen.

"Hey." she said a moment later. "Have they changed the regulation boot? My last ones used to have a triangle heel, and I'm sure these are more square, and not as tall. What's the Dominion spending all the money on? I want nice shoes."

"Shipping in the Archon of War's staff. I heard Commander Sarendil complaining that Lord Carenar wouldn't stop sending messages full of stupid questions. Like 'can you train your soldiers to shoot lightning a bit further'

"My dad wrote the training manual on lightning bolts." said Aranwen.

"Have you been brushing up like you said you were going to?"

"Yeah." she said uncertainly.

"Demonstrate?" said the guard.

"Right." said Aranwen. "Stand still, you bastard target."

The target did indeed stand still, and enjoyed a light tickle with a faint hint of lightning.

"Dad would be turning in his urn, if anyone ever found his body." Aranwen said, and sulked up to patrol the walls. It wasn't her shift. She was doing it out of the kindness of her heart.

She sighed and looked in the vague direction of Solitude. She couldn't see the city because there were cliffs and some mountains and trees in the way. At the Bureau of Advanced Communications, she could put Very Junior Archivist Linvel's notes in the wrong order, or reorganise Commander Aralina's doll collection in order of size rather than alphabetically, as was proper, or she could spend an hour quietly insinuating that Second Archivist Eldaline was getting old and watch her laboriously pretending that she didn't care, or just take the afternoon off and go shopping without telling anybody.

Eldaline did not run any manner of tight ship, and had not since being withdrawn from her combat roles. Anybody who viewed basic administration in the same light as a military manoeuvre was, in her view, insane, and had no business being in charge of anything larger than a pastry shop.

Aranwen walked around the north wall twice. Northwatch Keep had a storeroom and a canteen with a very limited selection. That was hardly shopping.

She looked around for interesting things. There wasn't even anybody outside the walls she could shoot at for fun.

The sun was beginning to set. It took a long time up by the Sea of Ghosts. Aranwen wasn't sure how the sun worked, something to do with Magnus, and he was lazier up north, or something.

"What'cher doing?" said Aranwen.

"Patrolling the walls." said the other guard.

"Is it fun?"


"What do you think of the new regulation boots?"

The guard said, "Not really bothered."

"I can get my leg behind my head." said Aranwen.

"Are you bored?" demanded the guard.

"Yeah. Do you want to play 'I spy'?"

"Go and find somebody else to annoy!"

Is she a short Altmer, or a tall Bosmer? Aranwen pondered, as she crossed the bridge to return to the keep. That's going to bother me for the rest of the day.

Aranwen went to question her prisoner. She had found him in a bush near Dragon Bridge.

"Hello!" she said brightly, once she reached the prisoner's cell door.

"Begone!" he groaned.

"But I'm bored." said Aranwen. "And you might even be dead soon. So you might as well talk to me."

"Dead soon? Why haven't you killed me yet, Thalmor? I'm nothing, and nobody."

And then, though he had been in Northwatch Keep longer than he could say for certain and never once broken, he began to sob.

"Hey. Stop that." said Aranwen. "There's a process and you haven't followed it. You can just go straight from defiant and manly to crying for no reason."

"I'm not fit to call myself a Nord, or a Gray-Mane."

"That's good, that's good. The Second Archivist wanted you kept here until she needed you, and now she's been recalled to Alinor, even she doesn't have a use for you." said Aranwen. "So tomorrow, I'll tie you to a rock, cover you in fishpaste and let the seagulls pick your bones clean. That'll help pass the time, because Trinimac's Testicles, I'm bored."

"Hello, Aranwen." said Commander Sarendil. "What are you doing?"

"Making prisoners cry, Commander Sarendil." said Aranwen.

Commander Sarendil and his subordinate appeared unconvinced. "Thorald Gray-Mane!" barked the commander. "Did Aranwen make you cry, or did you start snivelling of your own accord?"

"How can any mortals find pleasure in heaping suffering upon misery as you do?" Thorald Gray-Mane said hoarsely. "Already I am the sorriest wretch in Skyrim, and you mock me by keeping me alive."

"Oh, come on!" snapped Aranwen, startling Thorald by abruptly stepping onto the bars of the cell door. "Since we can't keep you alive much longer for logistical reasons, at least tell me why you're a sorry wretch. This is new. I like this."

"Don't make me speak of it in front of the other prisoners!"

"Commander Sarendil, please can I have permission to interrogate Thorald Gray-Mane, because I'm nosy."

"Granted." said Commander Sarendil.

"Commander Sarendil, it isn't fair." shouted the subordinate. "I've been here for ten whole months and I haven't interrogated anybody yet."


"Aranwen's not a paragon of Altmeri brilliance and can't even do lightning spells, Commander Sarendil, why is she allowed her own prisoners and I'm not?"

"I found him." said Aranwen. "Get your own."

"If you two don't behave yourselves, you'll both spend a week in that cell too." said Commander Sarendil. "Agent Sanyon, would you come here and help Aranwen with her prisoner?"

"Come on, Thorald, stop blubbing." said Aranwen. "And don't even think about making it a boring story."

"Agent Sanyon, please hurry." urged Commander Sarendil.

"Do your worst," said Thorald. "but I think you're not going to like what I have to say."

Aranwen was lost for words. Eventually, she said, "Agent Sanyon, did you hear what he said?"

"That is the most inappropriate confession I have ever heard." said Agent Sanyon, supervising. "I'm personally sickened."

Thorald Gray-Mane looked resigned. His apprehension was long past.

"I don't understand, though." Aranwen continued to circle her prisoner like a toothy and outraged shark. "I didn't know people could be like that. Your own brother? A secret like that's bad enough, but to betray your own brother to his favourite girl like that?"

"I couldn't help it." wailed Thorald. "I love Ingrys the Fox, but she fancied Avulstein. I told her his terrible secret. It broke her heart. That was why I was in Haafingar. I volunteered to deliver the message in his place, but not for Ulfric's rebellion. I took that courier job so that Ingrys might turn to me for comfort. And so my brother wouldn't find out that I'd told her what I knew."

Agent Sanyon sounded as though he had also lost patience. "You know very well that we're not interested in hearing about Ingrys the Fox."

"I feel very uncomfortable, Agent Sanyon." said Aranwen, bending down so that she could hiss menacingly in the prisoner's ear. "Why would you say something so specifically awful, Thorald? You didn't need to go into that kind of detail."

"I'm sorry you had to hear that, Aranwen. Shall I ask the commander to give you the rest of the day off?"

"I'm fine." she said.

"You don't look fine." said Sanyon. "By the gods, if that was my brother, I'd take a secret like that to my funeral pyre, so as not to alarm respectable people. Are all the Nords so debauched? Look what you've done to the soldier, Thorald. She's horrified."

"It's my duty to hear the prisoner's confession, Agent Sanyon." said Aranwen.

She looked down at the contrite Thorald with utter contempt. "Looks like we'll probably have some use for you after all."

"No!" Thorald whimpered. "You tricked me! I told you because I thought you were going to kill me. How can I live after I broke my own brother's trust?"

Aranwen ignored this question. "It's not normal, is it, Agent Sanyon?"

Sanyon shook his head. "What we have heard should probably not leave this room. It would be devastating for morale."


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