Miraak drummed his fingers among the fine wooden table that echoed throughout his empty room. It was quiet as he had forbidden anyone from coming inside and dismissed the guards. Despite the hard reinforced stone walls that were decorated with carvings of The Lords, the angry roaring of the dragons outside and the mob of villagers screaming for blood was clearly heard.
His job as High Priest was to deal with any threats to the main Organization and he had done this for decades with no real whims; but today was different. Miraak could even feel his vengeful soul stirr with conflict for the day ahead, wondering if he had the right to even think about this considering his position? The man was bruised from Zind—no, Dukaan — Miraak’s friend, someone who he would even consider family as she had been there for him ever since he first moved in to Solstheim, was to be put at the altar and burnt for her heresy. But was it really heresy?
Luckily for Miraak, his thoughts were his own to hear and for no one else’s, and yet he still felt weary from the actions presented. Was it heresy to refuse to let a family be made into a meal for the Dragons? Was it heresy to treat others as equals and to simply ask for her patron to not be so cruel to others? Even his dragon nature said it was fair, but Miraak knew it was not in the eyes of the Lords. Their word is his will. Simple as that. Every disobedient servant is to be removed.
He frowned and clinked against his golden mask, it was an odd habit to have, but it helped him think and stay focused. Or to distract him from such dangerous thoughts as he knew even he wasn’t safe from his Lord’s righteous wrath if they smelled any hint of doubt.
“High Priest Miraak?” Zahkriisos’ voice broke into his room as they stood by the open doorway already in the traditional robing. Only they would have the gall to disobey Miraak’s orders of being left alone, but they were an exception. “You’re ready?”
“Of course I am.” Miraak said as he quickly slipped on his golden mask that felt heavy on him. “I was about to leave.”
“Right.” Zahkriisos glanced around them before quietly closing the door behind them. They carefully pulled off their purplish grey mask and sighed as they brushed a beaded black twist away from their face. Even with their guarded expression, Miraak knew that this was tearing them apart.
“Just make it quick for her, okay?” Zahkriisos carefully glanced at him, narrowing their dull brown eyes that had specks of green due to their mixed blood. “Even if she deserves it—“
“I’ll do my best to make it as painless as possible.” Miraak simply said as he patted them on the back and waited for his friend to put the mask back on before leaving.
The four main dragon priests of Solstheim easily weaved through the angry crowd to the altar where Dilzahrnil patiently waited for his devoted servants to approach. The hill smelt of used charcoal and human fat where Dukaan was kneed down in front of the grand golden dragon and held in place with a pole. The former priest was beaten and abused, her pale skin pussed with infected wounds and grey hair torn from her bleeding scalp.
“Dukaan.” Miraak commanded as Master Ahzidal, Zahkriisos and their apprentice Vahlok kneeled down beside him in front of the grand Dragon. “You have defiled—“
“I hadn’t defiled anything!” Dukaan spat with rage, speaking in clear common tongue despite missing a few teeth that were ripped out. “I did my duty as a guardian of my people and a servant of the gods!”
Miraak was about to demand her silence but Dilzahrnil gestured to let the former priest speak, clearly amused. His heart beated quicker at the thought of the blasphemy she’d spit out, but nodded in agreement to his lord and stepped back.
“Is it cruel to give back livestock to the poor from the dense offerings?!” Dukaan screamed, her blind eyes shaking with pure anger. “Is it cruel to refuse to let a family be devoured for their sick amusement!!!” Despite her obvious old age and poisoned state, her chains still grew icicles from her scraped palms with missing fingernails.
“I say burn the dragons for their failure to keep our faith!” Dukaan struggled from her bounds as her words shook Miraak’s core. “They are not gods, they are spoiled tyrants! ”
Dilzahrnil flapped his powerful orange wings and spat a heavy stream of fire. Dukaan’s words were replaced with screams of agony as her fat melted and nerves shriveled up.
Miraak had seen many burnings but he couldn’t help but feel sick as he watched his family’s skin turn to flakes and eyeballs boiling like eggs. His stomach twisted as slowly, but surely, Dukaan’s entire body was nothing more but a gaping charred skeleton that stared into nothing.
“Let this be a warning to all who dare defy the Dragons!” Miraak yelled to the silent crowd, feeling Dilzahrnil’s unwavering glare scorch at his back. This was all by script, he practically knew these words by heart. “Return to the fields and do not forget this event!” He thrusted his staff towards Dukaan’s remains, not daring to look back at someone who he once called his grandmother.
The people silently but efficiently shuffled out of the stadium as if nothing happened, but their expressions said otherwise. Odd, this was not the first nor the last burning they have ever witnessed. Such expressions made Miraak frown in...something...He told himself that this was normal and just part of the healthy cycle to cut out the ones who wanted to destroy this safe community. Strangely enough, this usually comforts Miraak but today it gave him a bit of a sick feeling. Was he just being hypocritical since he was attached to Dukaan? Must be.
“Pray that your statement remains true, Dovahkiin.” Dilzahrnil’s booming voice hushed just to be quiet enough for the priests as he leaned close enough to devourer them with a glit to his green eyes. “Or I’ll see to it that Alduin himself will take a visit.” With that said, the Elder Dragon spread his wings and took off to the cloudy skies.
As soon as the dragon was gone, Vahlok’s sniffles were heard from behind his yellow mask. Miraak clinked his fingers against his golden veil as the weary servants pulled Dukaan’s hands off from the chains to be buried. He got Dilzahrnil to be merciful enough to give her a proper burial, but only to be served as a symbol: a warning.
Master Ahzidal uncomfortably shifted as she watched the place be cleaned off before strolling back to their collective temples. “It’s unfair.”
Miraak quickly glared at the Grand Enchanter, motioning for her to keep it down but Master Ahzidal still spoke: “It is cruel and unjust.”
“Master Ahzidal.” Miraak hissed, glaring and keeping a firm grip on his staff and another on his golden sword. “You should care to watch your tongue.”
Master Ahzidal’s fiery orange mask simply titled at him unfazed. “I am allowed to speak my mind as much as I’d like.” She then gestured to the curved sword that has been carved with the sermons of the Dragons. “But, if you think my words are unacceptable, you are free to silence me before devouring my filthy heart, High Priest Miraak.”
Miraak sighed as he carefully chose his next words in case of any stray ears. “Just not here where others can hear, then.” He decided, clinking his gloved fingers against his heavy mask and loosened his grip.
Vahlok couldn’t stomach it and went back to his temple as Zahkriisos and Master Ahzidal followed Miraak through his underground home’s hallways into their private meeting room. It was a circular room with a round stone table and wooden chairs. The walls were decorated with long tapestries that memorized the previous masked priests that once ruled this land. It was a peaceful room, only the sounds of the usual temple’s creaks and of the crackle of the floating fireballs to illuminate light. Locking the wooden door behind him, Miraak pulled off his mask and gripped onto his hair to try to clear his head. This was stupid, he shouldn’t allow any dwelling on the subject and just move on his life and duties.
“I’ve set a spell for no stray ears, Miraak.” Master Ahzidal’s voice was no longer echoey as she dropped her helm on the stone table and played with her many, many, many braids that were adorned with gorgeous orange jewels. “So just relax.” She gave a kind mothery smile, her features crinkling with the age she carried despite looking forty-fivish even if she was around when Ysgramor was a young boy.
As one of the few pure atmorans left in the world, she had soft dark skin with curved brown eyes with the height of a giant to match. And as to tradition, she had thick black locks that were all intertwined with dozens of braids that all connected to one large one that was swooped over her shoulder. But as the Grand Enchanter, she also had tiny inscribed runes all over her thin lips and face that simply hummed of her power, Miraak always asked if that’s how she lived so long without the Dragon’s gifts and he always gets a small smile as her response. And as a dragon priest, she also had the traditional dovahzul etched across her face, spelling out ‘Azhidal’ for all to see if she were ever unmasked.
Zahkriisos rubbed their exhausted eyes and grumbled. “How can we, Ahzidal? Zind is dead and will be wiped from history for her actions.” They also had their mask off, showing their rich black skin that was riddled with scars from both battles and from bumping into things in the dark because they forgot to take off their mask. They had a square jaw to match their broad shoulders and frankly powerful body that they gained from always carrying the Bloodskal Blade on their back. Their hair was simple twists that was usually tied back into a simple tail.
Master Ahzidal simply shrugged as she leaned back on the stone throne and folded her hands against her chest. “Simply speak your mind, it helps.” She gave a small wry smile, the crinkles of her face stretching her aged arrow nicks that touched her slightly saggy cheeks. “There is no judgment here where no one can hear our blasphemy.” She gave an airy laugh as if she wasn’t speaking in front of the Dovahkiin, but she knew no one could touch her if they wanted to keep their bones.
Miraak plopped down on his seat that was in front of everyone as the High Priest’s chair. It didn’t look special, Miraak just liked being in the center of attention. “What is there to say? The Dragons have always been unfair, it’s their Will.” He leaned against a palm as he forgot all about proper etiquette and such, he even slouched.
“And?” Master Ahzidal’s warm brown eyes trained to Miraak with uncomfortable poise. “I have always been unfair back when your parents were toddlers, doesn’t mean you can’t change.”
“That’s like asking for the lands to split just because you wish for an island.” Zahkriisos scoffed as they sat up and rested their elbows on the table that was draped with many different dragons in expensive silk. “Besides, I still see you gleefully treat people like trash before tearing apart their organs to devour.” They were lucky they were alone, because if this was in a public meeting at Bromjunaar, they would’ve gotten smitted for such words.
“It’s because I’m not stupid , young one.” Master Ahzidal lost her soft tone and her eyes drew into a more duller look as she stared at the shiny jewelry she adorned. “I may have mastered all forms of magic, but even I know that I am no match for the dragons.” She turned her head towards Miraak. “Except for, maybe, you.”
“What?” Miraak was just out of his blankness and shook his head as he processed those words again. He twisted his face in confusion before scoffing: “I may have the soul of a Dragon, it doesn’t mean that I have the power of one besides Shouting, but even that is limited.”
“You may laugh, but I know it’s the truth.” Master Ahzidal’s expression remained the same: analyzing and blunt. “I know that you have the power to permanently kill the tyrants—“
“Master Ahzidal.” Miraak interrupted, his teeth showing and tone dangerous. “Are you sure you want to speak of this? I should drag you to your patron with your name scrapped off your face for even thinking of such a thing.” This is ridiculous, Master Ahzidal was speaking of rebellion! The Dragons and Alduin are the only sovereign in Nirn, simple and done. And even he was no exception to the servertude, not like he was really complaining. He liked assisting the Dragons in their rule, he loved giving his people a sense of community and a safe place to call home. Yes, the Lords could be a bit...cruel, but he considered it worth it if he gets to worship such gorgeous beings who have kept them safe from the dangers of the world.
“I have contributed to the genocide of an entire race.” Master Ahzidal’s eyes narrowed and lips slightly snarled as well, making Miraak back off with a hand on his sword. “I have promised myself to be better, to grow back my humanity and let go of my anger.”
The priest’s dark brown eyes turned black in the lowlight as she unblinkingly stared at Miraak. “I am a fool for letting myself stoop this low but I got a chance to make things right. To destroy the tyrants and rule the lands in equal tranquility.”
“How noble of you, what do you know about—“
“How do you know that High Priest Miraak is the key?” Zahkriisos interrupted as they looked at Master Ahzidal with a glimmer of hope.
Miraak looked over to them with a gasp and tried to process this entire conversation. “Zahkriisos, how dare you—“
“I spoke with the one who hoards secrets.” Master Ahzidal smiled at Zahkriisos’ for a second before a frown formed at her glove that slightly showed his brown skin before Miraak could catch a glance of what’s wrong. “Someone who knows everything and nothing.”
Zahkriisos’ eager expression twisted into fear. They drew back and looked both disgusted and astonished. “The Woodland Man?” They got a nod. “Herma-Mora? Are you insane ?”
“Haven’t you learned from Korthor? Or even Zaan?” Zahkriisos continued before they let Master Azhidal continue, crossing their arms in defiance and taking to looking at the potted plants behind them. “With all due respect Master Ahzidal, you’re absolutely moronic .”
“So defying our Lords is fine but dealing with daedric princes isn’t?” Miraak cooly asked, ice dripping off each word. “I think we’re done here, I will let this go once .” He stood up from his seat and carefully looked at every single member in the room. “I will not tolerate anymore talk of daedra or heresy, or I will gladly burn you both myself.”
“This conversation doesn’t leave this room, you are all dismissed.” Miraak pulled on his golden mask and unlocked the door to the exit. “Remember, we are Dragon Priests, the only Sovereign is Alduin and his brethren.”
“We are Dragon Priests, the only Sovereign is Alduin and his brethren.” They all repeated together as it has been expected of them since they first earned the name of Priest. With that sense of calming familiarity washing over Miraak, he left the room and pretended as if he wasn’t terrified out of his mind.