I killed the old woman. I don't know what made me do it; I still can't understand it to this day. I suppose that this is where my tale starts; where my life gets interesting. Oh boy, does it get interesting. And I don't generally mean that in a good way. You'll see. I had been hunting down up North, by the Nordic-fashioned city of Bruma, when I felt a presence nearby. I guess you could call it a sixth sense. I crouched down, bow in hand, and slowly crept over a small hill. When I reached the top, I saw a little cottage nestled in the mountains, with a patch of flat land serving as a single person farm. An old woman was there, working in the farm, raking down new rows for what looked like fresh potato plants.
How could I know then that this house would be the location of so much pain and misery in my future? Looking back, I wished that I had simply turned around and never glanced back. However, my instinctual curiosity, useful in so many aspects of my life, was my downfall here. I sat to watch the woman, mystified, as I hadn't seen a human, elf, or beast race for nearly a week. I had become a rather solitary being, making my living off of the land, sleeping where I felt it was safe enough, whether it be cave or slab of rock.
Squinting against the setting sun, I saw the woman's graying hair and wrinkling face, her movements obviously displaying the aching and grinding of her old bones. After a moment of her work, she straightened, shielding her eyes from the sun with a callused hand. She must have decided that it was enough for the day, as she collected her supplies and headed toward her thatched-roof cottage in the slow, shuffling, achy pace of the elderly.
I don't know what came over me at that moment, but I suddenly had the overwhelming desire to kill the woman, to drive my dagger into her flesh. I felt a sudden…rage at her, such inexplicable anger that I needed to act upon. I'm not sure if my fury was against her, or against the world. But at that moment, all the feeling I had in me was focused on her. I have had such urges before, to strike, to kill, but always in public, surrounded by many. My impulses had always been controlled by necessity. Now, however, I was in the middle of nowhere. I guess that's the reason I couldn't stop myself.
And before I knew what was happening, everything around me became silent. Time seemed to slow as my senses were heightened. Her breathing was a slow, rhythmic rasping in my ears, and an eternity seemed to take place in the dull thudding of two of her footsteps. I started to feel faint as I tried to control the desire to stop the noise of her footsteps, to eternally end the sound of her breath. I was fighting a loosing battle. After what seemed an eternity, but was in reality were seconds, I had put my bow on my back and was reaching for my dagger.
The sound of my dagger sliding out of its sheath was intoxicating; it made my lust for the kill even stronger. I started to creep toward her, my worn leather boots padded against the ground as I silently trod upon leaves and twigs. As I grew closer to the woman, my pace increased, until I was nearly sprinting at her on bent legs. My heartbeat was like a war drum, pounding out a fast steady beat, making my head felt like it was going to explode any second. It was overwhelming; I had to end it. When I was within yards of the old woman, I stood straight, getting into a full-out sprint at her.
She didn't hear me until I plunged my dagger into her back. With a choking gasp, she spun about to face me, her eyes meeting mine. I saw them fill with a fleeting look of surprise, before quickly turning to one of intense pain and fear. However, her pain did not last long, as I leaned behind her and yanked my dagger out of her back, and slitting her throat in one smooth motion.
She crumbled to the floor on her very own doorstep, breathed her last gasping, gurgling breath, and became eternally still. I stood over the dead body for a moment, panting slightly. Once my heart rate had started to slow, and my senses seemed to return to normal, the reality of what I had just done crashed into me, physically staggering me.
My eyes widened, and I slumped against the side of the cottage. I still held my dagger, glistening in the fading light. It was smeared with a line of blood, dripping noiselessly to the ground, joining the pool of red liquid forming steadily at my feet. Staring at her motionless body, I felt a strong mix of emotions. First, I felt disgust in myself, but I also felt an almost disturbing sense of pride, and…fulfillment. My desire for blood had been filled; the desire I had held back for so long. I had killed livestock and beast for food, but this was different. This was…murder. However, as quickly as it had come, the disgust started to ebb away, and a small smile formed on my face as I stood up straight again.
At that moment, I felt a prickling sensation on the back of my neck; a feeling that someone was watching me, that someone had seen what I had done. I whipped around, dagger at the ready, but saw nothing. The sun was nearly lost behind the mountains to the West, but there was still enough light for me to see the landscape around me in detail. I shuffled in full circle, but could pick out no one in the surrounding forest. Even so, I still could not loose the feeling of being watched, so I kept my dagger and bow at easy access.
Casting one last suspicious look into the immediate area, I turned back toward the body. As I looked at her corpse again, I felt another overwhelming feeling of disgust, but this time not at what I had done- now at the fact that I didn't feel any remorse for my actions; no pity for the defenseless old woman. I wanted to- I genuinely wanted to feel bad, to feel guilty. But I didn't. I…couldn't. Sighing, pushing the unsettling thoughts out of my mind, I squatted down and started to search her for valuables.
I found about 4 gold, which was quite a sum to me at that time, and a letter to some gift-giving service listing the locations of all of her kids. I pocketed the list, not really sure why. I also found the key to her cottage. I looked back up at the sky, finding that the sun had almost disappeared, so I decided to spend the night in her house. I dragged her body into the tall grass surrounding the home before slipping the key into the lock and opening the cottage door.
Upon entering, I found that the old woman (Perennia Draconis, according to the letter) had a dog when it started barking incessantly, but it seemed as ancient as she had been. I tossed it some old boar meat from my pack, and he eagerly started gnawing at it, completely forgetting my presence. I quickly scanned the interior, looking for valuables, but not finding much. According to the sign over the mantle, the place was called "Applewatch".
My stomach growled, so I looked into my pack and pulled out some venison and various vegetables I had stored for my trip. I cooked them in the fire place, petting the content dog while stoking the fire. Looking back, I didn't even feel uneasy spending such a pleasant time in the home of the woman I had just mercilessly slain. My thoughts at the time were only of the food I was cooking. After my meal, I felt a wave of fatigue sweep over me, so I stripped out of my leather greaves, boots and cuirass and pulled on a long coarse shirt to sleep in. I slipped my dagger under my pillow, placed my quiver and bow on the bedside table, and slid into the warm recesses of the covers. It was extremely comfortable, compared to my recent sleeping arrangements, which had consisted of rock slabs and leaf piles. I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.
I was woken not four hours later when my blood seemed to turn to ice, the air still and silent. In one fluid movement I had sat bolt upright and pulled my dagger out from under my pillow, holding it menacingly out into the dark room. I sat there, panting for second, trying to peer through the complete darkness, when a deep, sinister voice spoke to my right.
"You sleep rather soundly for murderer. That's good. You'll need a clear conscience for what I'm about to propose."
I leapt to the left, pulling the covers off the bed as I swung my dagger wildly into midair, attempting to defend myself. I pressed my back against the wall, letting my eyes adjust to the darkness. Across the bed I saw a man, clothed and hooded in the darkest black. His deep brown eyes were studying, assessing every move I made, always calculating. He seemed to be almost…amused at my reaction. His lips were curled up ever so slightly at the corners, and his intense eyes were gleaming with laughter.
"Who-who are you?" I demanded, mentally assessing my options. Listen to him talk, charge and attack, or run. Talking seemed to be the most favorable of my options; he looked quite skilled with a blade, and his athletic form could be seen even through his robes and the way he moved; he could probably outrun me. Besides, I wanted to see what he had to say. He was…intriguing.
"I am Lucien Lachance, a speaker for the Dark Brotherhood. And you, you are a killer. A taker of life. A harvester of souls. Your work, your deathcraft, pleases the Night Mother. And so, I come to you with an offer. An opportunity to join our rather…unique family."
I had no idea what to say. How did he know I had murdered the woman? And how had he known so quickly? Could he have been the presence I sensed after her death? But how had he known I was going to kill her? And what- My internal bombarding of questions was cut off as he continued, looking at me in a way that seemed to convey that he knew exactly what my thoughts were.
"So, I have your rapt attention. Splendid. Now listen closely. On the Green Road to the North of Bravil lies the Inn of Ill Omen. There you will find a man named Rufio. He is an old man, his body frail, and he sleeps his days away. You could kill him before he woke, if you so chose. In whatever way you choose, kill him, and your initiation into the Dark Brotherhood will be complete. Do this, and the next time you sleep in a location I deem secure, I will reveal myself once more, bearing the love of your new family."
I thought about his last statement, and some of the possible implications one could interpret from it, and was suddenly extremely aware of the shortness of my shirt, and how much my legs were showing. I colored slightly, embarrassed at my own thoughts, which were most likely completely unfounded. He continued on, seemingly undeterred by my silence.
"Please accept this token from the Dark Brotherhood. It is a virgin blade, and thirsts for blood. May it serve you well, as does your silence," he said with his slight smile, handing me a gold-decorated dagger.
'The Blade of Woe' was inscribed on its gold and black hilt. I stood digesting this
for a moment, before I looked him in the eye and said questioningly:
"The Dark Brotherhood?"
"Have you not heard of the Dark Brotherhood? Of the remorseless guild of paid assassins and homicidal cutthroats? Join us, and you'll find the Dark Brotherhood to be all that, and so much more. We are, more than anything, a union of like-minded individuals. We kill for profit, for enjoyment, and for the glory of the Dread Father Sithis. We are a family, with bonds forged in blood… and death."
Deep in the recesses of my mind I found a distant memory; of my early teen years, working at the linen shop with my aunt. The daily routine involved scrubbing fabric clean in the back room, while gossiping with the fellow workers. I remember my aunt leaning conspiratively over her scrub board, eyes wide and her voice fearful:
"They say that when you murder someone, the Dark Brotherhood visits you in your sleep. It's how they recruit new members."
The understanding must have shown on my face, for he nodded briskly and said:
"Now, I bid you farewell. I do hope we'll meet again soon." And with one last lingering look, in which he took in my scantly dressed form with a slightly raised eyebrow and an amused gleam in his eye, Lucien Lachance vanished. Literally. The door to the cottage opened and closed, seemingly on its own accord, and a cold draft sweeping into the room. The sounds of night filled the room, embracing me.
I stood for a moment, perhaps more, rigid in astonishment. I realized now that I had often heard of the Dark Brotherhood, but these were always tales of evil and heartless murder. And I had just been asked to join them. To 'join their family', as Lachance had put it. Did that make me evil? Was I evil? I thought of the body lying cold outside in the tall grass, and still didn't feel a pang of shame or guilt. I realized that I was just that; a cold, heartless murderer. Maybe not evil, but I was a cold-blooded murderer. I wasn't ready to admit myself as evil. Not yet.
When Lachance had spoken of them, he made the Brotherhood sound like they were…close. A family. A loving family of cold-blooded assassins. The idea seemed so preposterous that I almost laughed out loud. My first inclination was to forget the whole prospect- to never even go near the Inn of Ill Omen. Best to disregard the whole thing. But as I lowered myself back onto the bed, picking up the comforter and pulling it over my body, I couldn't stop replaying Lucien's words in my thoughts.
For my whole life I had felt almost overpowering urges to kill, to murder. But I had always resisted, always controlled myself. At sometimes I had barely contained myself, but I had never given in. Until now. Since my desires did not seem to be shared by any I knew, I had always considered myself a freak of nature, a one of a kind outcast. I felt that my only option was to just conform to fit in with society. But now it seemed that there were others like me; those who embraced their gifts for murder. And these people wanted to accept me as one of their own.
And what about this 'Speaker', this Lucien Lachance? The way he spoke of murder- he seemed to feel the same way that I had felt about killing the old woman. It was…intoxicating. I had not even accepted his offer, yet he was already treating me as family. No one had ever treated me like that, not since my aunt died when I was young. Part of me wanted to see this "Lucien Lachance" again…in the short time I had met him he had made an impression.
Maybe I would just go and check out the Inn, to see what was there. Just to see where the man lived, I thought to myself. The rest of the night continued in the same fashion, with internal arguments and self-objections. Finally, after a sleepless and thought filled night, I set out at dawn for the Inn, fill of determination and purpose. I was going to kill that man. I was going to join the Dark Brotherhood.