They were gathered in the Duke's courtyard at twilight, enjoying the smell and warmth of a fire of dry branches and bittergreen leaves. Tiny embers flew into the sky, hanging for a few moments before vanishing.
"I was rash," agreed the Duke, soberly. "But Lorkhan had his laugh, and all is well. The Morag Tong will not assassinate the Emperor now that my payment to them is at the bottom of the Inner Sea. I thought you had made some sort of a truce with the Daedra princes."
"The Prince and the Emperor are en route to take possession of Ald Lambasi as our truce agreed. It is certainly typical of the Cyrodiils to assume that their concessions are negotiable, while ours are not," Vivec pulled out a map. "We can meet them here, in this village to the northwest of Ald Lambasi, Fervinthil."
"But will we meet them to talk," ask Almalexia. "Or to make war?"
No one had an answer to that.
15 Last Seed, 2920
A late summer squall blew through the small village, darkening the sky except for flashes of lightning which leapt from cloud to cloud like acrobats across high wires. Water rushed down the narrow streets ankle-deep, and the Prince had to shout to be heard by his captains, who were but a few feet away from him.
"There's an inn up ahead! We'll wait there for the storm to pass before pressing on to Ald Lambasi!"
The inn was warm and dry, and bustling with business. Barmaids were rushing back and forth, bringing greef and wine to a back room, evidently excited about a famous visitor. Someone who was attracting more attention than the mere heir to the Empire of Tamriel. Amused, Juilek watched them run until he overheard the name of "Vivec."
"My Lord Vivec," he said, bursting into the back room. "You must believe me, I knew nothing about the attack on Black Gate until after it happened. We will, of course, be returning it to your care forthwith. I wrote you a letter to that effect at your palace in Balmora, but obviously you're not there," he paused, taking in the many new faces in the room. "I'm sorry, let me introduce myself. I'm Juilek Cyrodiil."
"My name is Almalexia," said the most beautiful woman the Prince had ever seen. "Won't you join us?"
"Sotha Sil," said a serious-looking Dunmer in a white cloak, shaking the Prince's hand and showing him to a seat.
"Indoril Brindisi Dorom, Duke-Prince of Mournhold," said the massively built man next to him as he sat down.
"I recognize that the events of the last month suggest, at best, that the Imperial Army is not under my control," said the Prince after ordering some wine. "This is true. The army is my father's."
"I understood that the Emperor was going to be coming to Ald Lambasi as well," said Almalexia.
"Officially, he is," said the Prince cautiously. "Unofficially, he's still back in the Imperial City. He's met with an unfortunate accident."
Vivec glanced at the Duke quickly before looking at the Prince. "An accident?"
"He's fine," said the Prince quickly. "He'll live, but it looks like he'll lose an eye. It was an altercation that has nothing to do with the war. The only good news is that while he recovers, I have the use of his seal. Any agreement we make here and now will be binding to the Empire, both in my father's reign and in mine."
"Then let's start agreeing," smiled Almalexia.