Her eyes, red, follow me as I stir our leek soup. I’ve always loved her eyes, glowing pockets, her insides lava, constantly bubbling and simmering. Hello, my love, from deep in her soft throat. Her people have a darkness—she carries the darkness, too—but her skin can bear the flames. She is capable of burning.

We fight together, in turns. She is always rushing in first, oakflesh and a flame atronach. She flashes purple, shimmers with a ward. She’s mouthy and I love her for it, all enjoy your last breath, and, is that all you’ve got. I love to watch her, crouched and fiery, spitting fire and throwing bolts of lightning. But sometime she doesn’t realize how strong they are. Sometimes she forgets she has a partner, until I come in, whirlwind sprint and breathing ice, buying me a few moments to heal her. Thanks, she whispers, and I know she means it.

How we must look when we ride through the farms and villages between holds: two women mages, soft skin bound in studded leather armor, conjuration circles ringing our proud heads. I want to pull her to the ground in every field of mountain flower, release her strong hips from the weight of that armor, lower myself into her. She is in awe of the ruins and gasps at the views from the edges of cliffs, that’s impressive. She sees the world this way, and somehow, she chose me. I, her Amaranth, a dream in someone else’s head. She, my Brelyna, Dunmer queen.

When I ask about Morrowind, her red eyes turn black, turn away. I know a little, know better than to ask. The first thing she said to me, yes I have an ancestry steeped in magic, and no I don’t want to talk about it. She left Morrowind. She couldn’t bear it anymore, the Telvanni slave houses, the pleas and cries of the captive Khajit. When she left, she says, she had to forget. But I see that nothing is so simple. The way she describes the emperor parasol mushrooms to me, when she traces the outlines of magnificent, stories-high pods. The look her in red eyes, far away, when she describes practicing spells in their shade—we can never fully leave our past behind.

We fought together for months before we realized what was happening. When we set out together for the Staff of Magnus, when we camped in stolen bandit bedrolls, when we huddled together in the swirling snow outside Winterhold, neither of us saw it coming. It wasn’t until we stood in the relative daytime quiet of Iverstead—something about the soft rushing sound of the stream, the sweet domesticity of chickens clucking around our ankles. We’d been visiting Fastred, she was in love, and suddenly, there it was. I gave her a necklace, a ring, the soul-sapping dagger I’d just made, I wanted her, suddenly, to have everything, to take everything that was mine. You’re interested, I asked, and she almost laughing. It’s settled, then, she said, and we were in the Temple of Mara by sunset the next day.

She’ll outlive me, far outlive me. She’ll have two more lifetimes after I’m gone. She reminds me none of us know how long we have, not here and now. The firebomb of a blood dragon, or the knife of a Forsworn in your back in the middle of the marketplace, there are no promises here. But still. She comforts me. When we lie in the darkness of our bedroom, when the thought of a time when I will no longer lie beside her becomes too much, she soothes me, hushes, for however long we have, we’ll have each other.