When the illusion broke, Drai was far to the north of Riften. Hence there was no one around to see the pinchy features of Selvil Reloth melt away into the Ashlander’s solemn face.
Drai didn’t have to look at the re-etched tattoos on his hands to know the magic had ended. His thoughts were far away. It was easy enough to imagine Taargus’ rage when he finally discovered Drai’s trick and his mistake. Though the Temple mer’s daughter was now safe thanks to Drai, another innocent’s blood was now on his hands. Selvil, no matter how ill-favored his look, had simply been passing through the Vale when Drai had run across him, the Mephalan cultists hot on his tail.
Just like an Ashlander. Drai winced. He had killed the House Dunmer in cold blood, taking on the man’s appearance for his own ends. Did that make him any different from the Mephalans, really? Just as the Mephalan Deathweavers had crawled into the corpse of the Tengri tribe to hide their secrets, so Drai had made use of Selvil Reloth’s visage. The Temple mer’s daughter might be safe now, as well as the outlander Shizzal, but Drai couldn’t escape the killing it seemed, no matter how far he ran.
Drai tried to put the thought from his head, but there were no thoughts remaining behind it to think instead. The death was what it was and couldn’t be changed. Years ago, he might have grieved; now he only felt an emptiness that was somehow as refreshing as it was troubling.
Shaking his head at himself, Drai instead focused on the situation at hand. The Tengri cultists were still after him. Would Zeketah punish Taargus harshly for losing track of Drai, he wondered? He felt a pang as he thought of his once-friend’s fate, but he didn’t wonder for very long: he knew the ultimate outcome. Taargus would remain loyal to the Mephalan mabrigash, and Zeketah would continue to see Drai as either threat or valuable acquisition, grasping for him as long as he was alive. He couldn’t imagine any good coming out of his return to the Vale in either circumstance.
Then his thoughts also returned unwillingly to Shizzal. The Sight had drawn Drai to the outlander for good purpose; that he was sure of. Beyond that, Drai sensed a loyalty and warmth about the strange outlander that was personally appealing to the outcast Ashlander. At another time, Shizzal might have been a friend. Now he was…what? A pawn, a fly caught in a web?
Though the Ashlanders hated House Dunmer and outlander Dunmer even more than that, Drai could not believe his fondness for Shizzal to be a betrayal of his tribe. After all, Drai hadn’t really belonged to any tribe since that dark day long ago…
And that brought up terrible thoughts, where the thoughts of Selvil’s murder had not. Drai clenched his hands and breathed deep, running over and over a mantra to Azura until his mental storm passed.
He stared at the ground. He had to be moving on, his feet stuck fast to the path Azura had laid before him. But could he see Her will through? Could he bring the trouble his Sight promised to yet another unsuspecting innocent?
His Sight: his curse, his responsibility and guilt. Drai had decided three years ago he was better off remaining apart from other people in case it wrapped them up in its webs. Never again did he want others to suffer for the visions he saw. But when the Sight brought him dreams of cultists bent on the world’s destruction and of a way to stop them…what then?
Mephala laughed suddenly, and Drai could hear Her, though faint and distorted, not as clear to him as it had been when he walked among the Daedric Prince’s Deathweavers. It struck him as funny then: a Daedric Prince intent on spinning webs no one could decipher, opposed by a shaman dedicated to another Daedric Prince who might just have the foresight needed to see the ends of those webs.
Yet Mephala hadn’t begrudged him those glimpses granted by Azura, even seemed to be encouraging her followers to seek out Drai directly for the guidance provided by his Sight. Both of the Daedric Princes’ aims aligned here. It chilled him. How could that be? Yet he saw it as an oncoming flood he couldn’t escape…
Drai turned south suddenly, with such abruptness his guar protested. Despite his misgivings, he could see the path his Sight was illuminating for him, and it frightened him, like it had so many times before.
Like many times before though, it felt like the right thing to do. Wondering at fate and the mortals it ensnared, Drai turned his guar out onto the road again, heading back the way he had come.