Hello readers! Thanks for stopping by.
This is my first foray into the Elder Scrolls fandom, and I have Nightlain to thank for both inspiring me and beta-reading for me. This chapter, under her care, transformed into something I am proud to post. Also, many thanks to StarryNight101 for beta-reading as well!
I sincerely hope you enjoy the first chapter!
Skyrim and its characters, worlds, quest lines, etc. belong to Bethesda. Only Lisara is mine. If you recognize it, I don't own it.
The dying fire in the corner crackled sporadically, interrupting the silence in the room. More often than not, the Sanctuary was frigid and trying to avoid getting frostbite without a fire going at all times was nearly impossible.
Lisara Garnesier sat upright in front of the flames, the natural highlights in her auburn hair reflecting in the light. Her posture was rigid as she rested in the simple wooden chair in front of the fireplace. Though the heat kept her comfortable, there was still a chill that hung over her, permeating her body down to her bones that she could never seem to get rid of. Part of that stemmed from the eternal bleak fog that rolled throughout the Sanctuary's interior, but Lisara knew that wasn't entirely the reason. No, the cold that haunted her day in and day out came from the inside, from within herself.
Events in her life had taught her to keep her distance from others, shaping her into the aloof individual that she was today. When one got attached to someone, experience had shown her that they would end up either dead or leaving her behind. Her family had been the perfect example of that.
Her mother had died in childbirth, leaving her father and her older brother to care for her. What did a soldier and a young boy know about raising children, though? In Lisara's father's case, absolutely nothing. His role in the Imperial Legion kept him away from his children for months at a time. When he was home, he drank himself into a stupor and Lisara had learned all too soon that she was safer avoiding any contact with him.
The day after her brother's sixteenth birthday, when she was only fourteen, she woke to find him gone. His room had been emptied of all his possessions and a note rested on his pillow, addressed to her.
'I'm sorry', was the only proof that he had ever been there.
After her brother's abandonment, her father became increasingly violent. When Lisara turned seventeen, she came to the conclusion that she would no longer be a victim of his abuse. So one night, when the alcohol that he consumed like his life depended on it sent him into the sweet embrace of a deep slumber, Lisara grabbed a kitchen knife from the counter and buried it in his chest, ensuring that he would never leave the cradle of darkness.
His blood had pooled around him, spreading across the pale linen like the beautiful crimson petals of her favorite flower. As she sat there, watching the life fade from his eyes, she felt no remorse, no guilt, no regret. She simply felt...free.
The next morning, a piece of parchment was on her doorstep and when she opened it, the ominous symbol of the Dark Brotherhood — a hand planted firmly on the paper in ink that looked suspiciously like blood — greeted her. The words 'We know' were written underneath.
That day, without hesitation, she joined their ranks.
Even though she'd been with them for six years, she couldn't say that any of the members were truly her friends, nor her family. Those were things she never cared to have again, because she knew firsthand that the bonds people claimed were unbreakable, were in fact the opposite. Besides, if she were to get attached to any of them, they'd probably die while attempting to fulfill a contract. Perhaps it was pessimistic to think that way, but Lisara preferred to consider herself a realist.
Now, her experience with the Brotherhood showed her that family or not, friend or foe, people still wished for the death of others. She was more than happy to oblige their wishes without a hint of regret and no intention to seek penance for her sins. Admitting that she had sinned would be a display of emotion, of shame.
Emotions were for the weak, and weakness did not belong in the Dark Brotherhood.
She crossed her arms tightly over her chest, mimicking the motion with her legs, and thought about nothing in particular as she gazed at the flickering flames in the fire grate, her foot moving up and down at a languid pace.
There were some in the Brotherhood that lingered on their contracts, long after they'd been fulfilled. Whether it was because of remorse or whether they were going over their actions, seeing where they could've done differently, she couldn't say. Either way, Lisara was not one of those. She killed and never thought of her victims again. Because of her sense of detachment, she rarely sat and gazed at anything for far too long. That was a situation where most people's thoughts would wander, eventually coming to rest upon those that had died by their hand. Since Lisara did not look upon the past, she ended up thinking of...nothing.
Which was both depressing and liberating.
As a deep sigh left her, a knock sounded at her door and she turned to glance over her shoulder.
"Come in," she beckoned, her voice hoarse from lack of use.
The door opened with a creak and Lisara could hear someone shuffle into the room. By the short distance between each step, as well as the sound of suede shoes scuffing on the stone floor, she surmised that it was Babette who had entered.
"Sister," Lisara greeted in a monotone voice, as she turned back to look into the flames again. Babette sidled up to Lisara and followed her gaze into the fire, raising a slender eyebrow at Lisara's listlessness.
"Yes, hello indeed, Sister. What are you doing?" the vampiress questioned, in the high pitched, innocent voice of a ten year old child.
Appearance wise, Babette was indeed a young girl. However, those in the Brotherhood knew otherwise. Babette had been bitten by a vampire when she was ten and as a result, was now over three hundred years old. She often used her childlike appearance to gain the advantage over her victims, and Lisara both applauded and abhorred the other assassin's ruthless approach.
She'd seen the vampire's skills up close on her first contract. Back then, she'd still been wide-eyed and naive, still thought that the Brotherhood killed with dignity and poise. No, whatever it took to get the job done, Astrid expected you to do. The Tenets of days past had long since been shelved.
On her first contract, she'd been assigned to rid the world of Beitild, a mine owner in Dawnstar. Babette had accompanied her to show her the ropes and to judge her skills so she could report back to Astrid on how their new sister held up when the final blow was delivered.
The chill of Dawnstar's northern wind blew past, causing Lisara to tuck her chin into her cowl, hiding from the cold. Babette, as a vampire, was unaffected by the frigid gale that relentlessly attacked them. Still, she wore a cloak to remain discreet—a ten year old girl wouldn't normally travel in these conditions, after all.
As they dismounted, their horses whinnied and they tied their respective reins to the stable's post. They wandered into town, heading for Windspeak Inn on the far end of the walkway.
What an appropriate name, thought Lisara. The wind up here was far worse than Falkreath.
As they neared the wooden door that marked the entrance to the Inn, Babette finally spoke. "You know why we're heading for the Inn, right Sister?"
"Because they are the best place to gather information, even if you don't speak to anyone."
"Exactly," the girl smiled, the points of her fangs visible just under her top lip.
Lisara shivered at the sight. She'd never met a single vampire before Babette and the girl's eternal youth disturbed her. Well, and her penchant for blood and death, but she supposed that was to be expected, what with her 'condition' and her choice of trade.
They pushed through the door and entered the main hall. Lisara sighed at the comforting warmth that enveloped her and wished they could just stay there for the remainder of their time in Dawnstar. Why the city had such a positive and beautiful name was beyond her. The reality was vastly different.
A table next to the door was available and the girls sank down onto its benches, waving the proprietor off when she began to approach them. They were there to listen. The ambient conversations of the other patrons surrounded them and Babette signaled to Lisara to begin paying attention for any mention of Beitild or the mine.
"This bread is horribly stale. Innkeep! Do you have anything that isn't absolute garbage?!"
"Oh it's so cold outside. Why don't we move somewhere warmer, darling? Riften, perhaps?"
"Riften?! Woman, you must be insane. There are only thieves and rats in Riften!"
"Working at the mine is absolutely horrible. I swear to Talos that woman is trying to work us to our deaths."
"Mmm, I'll drink to that. She's a beast, that one."
"I don't understand why she works us so hard, when she herself never picks up an axe to help. She just sits there, on her arse, watching us suffer!"
"She's probably sitting at home right now, counting the septims we earned her."
Lisara's eyes shifted over to meet Babette's and she raised her eyebrows once at the girl. Babette nodded and they rose from the bench, drifting over to the men who'd mentioned the mine.
"Excuse me," Babette greeted, her voice higher than usual.
"Oh, a little girl. Whatever are you doing here, pretty one?" the man who'd first complained about the mine responded.
"We just moved here and my sister is having a hard time finding work," Babette said as she gestured over her shoulder at Lisara. "We overheard you talking about the mine and wondered if you could point us in the direction of the owner? Perhaps she'd be willing to hire my sister."
"Oh lass—" the man replied as his eyes traveled from Babette to Lisara. "—I wouldn't recommend that. I understand wanting hard earned septims, but Beitild is not one you would...last...under."
"We have no choice, I'm afraid. My sister has not eaten in days and we are beginning to get desperate," Lisara implored.
The man sighed as he glanced over to the other two he was sitting with. When they nodded with sad expressions on their faces, he turned back to the girls. "Very well. Beitild lives on the edge of the city, right next to the mine. You can't miss her home. There's a forge right in the front."
"Thank you so much sir!" Babette exclaimed as she grasped Lisara's hand tightly in her own, and dragged her back out into the wintry night.
They traipsed through the city, heading for the opposite end of the bay, as the man had instructed. Babette glanced up at Lisara and said, "I was impressed by your acting back there, Sister. Not bad for your first time."
"It wasn't my first time. I've had to lie through my teeth plenty."
Beitild's house could be seen in the distance, the forge still glowing orange with recent use. When they were nearly at the front door, they both fell into a crouch and Babette snuck up to one of the front windows, peering up and over the sill into the interior.
"I see her. She's in her bedroom, but she's still awake," the girl whispered.
Lisara crept up behind the vampire and pointed at the door. "We'll have to pick the lock."
Babette waved her hand at Lisara in dismissal as she replied, "That's no problem. I'll take care of the lock. You'll be going in to fulfill the contract as soon as she's asleep. "
An hour passed before Babette gave the all-clear and moved in front of the door, glancing over her shoulder to check for guards. With tiny fingers that moved with precision, she quickly picked the lock and pushed the door open with a slight creak. The duo cringed, but when the sound faded into nothing, Babette waved Lisara over to the open doorway.
"May the Night Mother guide your blade, Sister," Babette encouraged, a sinister smile twisting her otherwise angelic features.
Lisara slinked into the living room, the moon's beams casting a long shadow far beyond where she stood. Beitild had extinguished the candles, so Lisara had to move at a slow pace, relying entirely on her sense of touch and hearing. She remained crouched with one foot extended in front of her body and the other tucked underneath her, to support her weight. Her arms were outstretched so that she could trail her finger along the surfaces of the various objects she passed, to ensure that her bearings were correct and that she didn't crash into anything.
Finally, her outstretched foot tapped against a doorframe and she sidled up to the wall, peering around the corner. She could hear Beitild's soft, even breathing from the hall, and she knew she'd reached the bedroom.
Like a cat, she crept into the room, her steps silent and sure. Luckily, Beitild's bedroom had a single window with no curtains and the pale rays of the moon filtered in, illuminating the sleeping woman in her bed perfectly.
Lisara straightened when she reached the bed and paused, looming over the other woman as she watched her in her last moment of serenity. She slowly rolled Beitild over with gentle hands so that the woman lay on her back. After she was sure that the woman wouldn't wake, Lisara unsheathed her dagger, sharpened just yesterday for this very task, and held it to Beitild's throat, hesitating at the last second.
Babette's voice drifted through Lisara's mind then, "May the Night Mother guide your blade…"
With one quick swipe, Lisara slit Beitild's throat. The blonde woman's eyes shot open as she gurgled on her own blood, trying to keep her last breath from escaping. The effort was futile however, for after a short minute, the light of life left her eyes and Lisara breathed a sigh of relief.
She stood there and watched the crimson rivulets flow from Beitild's throat to pool around her head in a disturbing halo. Lisara couldn't help but think back on the first time she'd seen such an image, when she stabbed her father in the heart.
Perhaps this really is my calling, she thought.
After wiping her blade off on Beitild's sheets, she turned and walked out of the house, meeting Babette's gaze when she stepped back out into the night.
"It is done," Lisara stated. She expected to feel elated at the success of her first kill—well, first contracted kill. At the very least, she should feel satisfaction for a job well done. Instead, she merely felt...emptiness. No joy, no remorse coursed through her. Just an endless void of emotion.
Babette smiled again, less sinister this time and more akin to satisfaction. In a voice that sounded as if she meant it more now than she ever had in the past, the girl said, "Then let us go home, Sister."
Lisara shook her head, breaking herself out of her reverie, her gaze once again fixated on the amber flames. This is why she never reflected on the past. It brought emotions back to the surface that she didn't wish to recall. Her fingers tightened around her biceps as she replied, "Nothing. Thinking."
"You don't seem to think often," Babette observed.
A soft snort left Lisara at Babette's lack of tact. Because she looked like a child, she often thought that she had free reign to act like one as well. Babette rarely filtered her responses and simply spoke on impulse. "Thank you for that," Lisara said in a wry tone.
"I just meant that I don't see you stare off into space much. Anyway, Astrid wants to speak to you."
"Astrid? Does she have a contract for me?" Lisara asked as she turned in her chair to face the smaller girl.
"I don't know. I didn't ask. I happened to be passing by and she asked me to come and get you. It's like she thinks I'm a messenger or something," Babette complained as she rolled her eyes, tapping her foot impatiently against the stone floor.
Lisara chuckled under her breath as she rose from the chair, her arms dropping to her sides. "Is she in her room?"
The small vampire hummed in affirmation as she walked out, tossing a halfhearted wave back at Lisara. The brunette shook her head at the girl's nonchalance before she too stepped out into the hallway.
A long forgotten and abandoned Nordic temple had fallen into disrepair, and the ruins were where the Brotherhood made their home. Really, the hallway was more of a tunnel and it was because of the location that that was the case. A series of pathways connected the individual rooms within the Sanctuary to one another, and Astrid's room was located near the front entrance. Lisara headed that way now, the chill of the stone floor seeping through her ebony and crimson leather boots. Though all members of the Brotherhood excelled at stealth, the charm on their boots amplified what was already second nature to them, gifting them with complete silence as they moved. As such, Lisara's steps would not be audible to anyone else outside of the Brotherhood, unless that individual had charms or advantages of their own.
Lit torches lined the path, causing Lisara's shadow to jump erratically across the stone surfaces. The walls of the tunnel were overgrown with algae, and the scent of the spongy matter tickled at Lisara's nose. She never had been a fan of the smells of nature. As she made her way down the hall, rats weaved between her legs, scurrying over her feet and squeaking as they ran along.
A few minutes later, Lisara rounded the corner towards the entrance and spotted Astrid, who was bent over her worktable. Their leader's ashy blonde hair was usually braided and tied back from her face, but she must have been poring over the paperwork for some time, as some strands had escaped their tight confines to drape in front of the Nord's face. Her shrouded armor matched the set that Lisara currently wore.
When Lisara approached the other woman, Astrid glanced up and smiled at her as she straightened, her hands still propped up on the wooden surface.
"Babette said you wanted to see me?" Lisara asked when she came to a halt in front of the table, crossing her arms over her chest again.
Every time she did so, someone commented on how people who stood so defensively were unsure of themselves, self-conscious. Lisara was far from that. She was simply trying to keep herself warm in this Sithis-forsaken environment she was always in. Then again, perhaps it was because of Sithis that the cave was so damn cold.
"I did. I have a contract for you," Astrid explained as she sorted through the pile of papers in front of her, pulling one out from the middle.
The blonde handed it to Lisara, who scanned over the letters scribbled in black ink that ran across the vellum paper. Her eyebrows lowered over her hazel eyes, which were narrowed at the words she read.
"A Companion?" she asked, her words saturated with doubt.
Astrid nodded and replied, "Quite the impressive man, or so I hear."
"Why would anyone wish for a Companion to meet an untimely death? They're normally well liked."
"Mm. Makes you wonder, doesn't it? But we're not here to question. We're just here to get the job done. Do you accept?"
Lisara lifted the paper again and quickly re-read the specifics. When she saw the amount of the reward at the bottom, her eyebrows shot up and she glanced back at Astrid, who smiled knowingly. A normal reward for a contract was around three hundred septims. The reward for this particular Companion's death, was a thousand. Either the person who made the request believed that the Companion was so hard to kill, that it warranted extra incentive, or the man named 'Vilkas' was truly a horrible person.
Not that Lisara was one to judge.
The prospect of another kill—it had been some time since her last—sent excitement coursing through her, and she itched to wrap her fingers around the handle of her blade again. Her expression was devoid of remorse at the thought of ending an innocent's life, and a slow grin spread across her face, morphing her normally soft, amiable features into something more harsh and frightening. The light of the candles along the wall shone onto Lisara's eyes. Though they were a warm shade of light brown, with veins of gold and green running through her irises, somehow they appeared cold and unfeeling.
In an eerie, quiet voice that would have sent a normal woman running, Lisara spoke.