Author's notes: Okay – I know that this story skews the main quest slightly: it's late spring/early summer when the Emperor is assassinated, not late fall/early winter. Also, I do not intend this to be just another rehash of the DB plot – hopefully I'll be able to make this really unique. Fingers crossed, right? You can also find this story on DA.

Oblivion and all it's characters, places, events, etcetera are property of Bethesda Softworks.

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Prologue: Enter the Narrator

--S--

I've always loved to sing. I'm not great at it, but I can belt out a song when I want to, and not butcher it with squeaky high notes, or tone-deaf warbling. Tonight was one of those nights – it was absolutely beautiful. Surreal in a way I had never seen back home, and yet piercingly clear.

I should explain a few things. Best that I start at the beginning.

First off, my name is Sarielle. You don't need my surname. Secondly, I'm from Anvil, and I have no intention of going back. First off, there's my family – hence why I don't want to give out my surname. I'm quit of them, and that's that. There's also a little nasty business with the local Mages' Guild –to which I still belong, in name – involving a fool, an apple, and poison in the apple. Also a little matter of untimely death, and an allergy to an ingredient in the poison, which rendered it doubly effective.

But that's his fault, not mine – I told him 'don't eat anything you find on my workbench'.

He didn't want to listen.

I digress.

I'm currently well outside Skingrad, near a farm or something –there's an apple orchard. It's early in the season, so the apple blossoms are in full bloom – the height of the blooming season, if you want my opinion. I'm not in the city because I had another rather nasty encounter – this one more or less my own making, unfortunately. Of course, no one can tie it to me, and I was doing the city a favor…but the law won't see it that way.

Dare I justify myself? I don't know, but best you hear it from me, rather than from people just drawing conclusions. At least with me you'll have the truth, from the lips of someone who was there.

--S--

I arrived as Skingrad several nights ago, after leaving Anvil. Given the circumstances and nasty bit of unpleasantness clouding my leaving home, I didn't think it prudent to flop at the Mages' Guildhall, so I took a room at the West Weald Inn, down the street. It wasn't long before I was approached by the twitchiest Bosmer I'd ever seen I my life. He said his name was Glarthir, that he had a job he thought I could do, and he'd pay well.

Well, you can imagine my reaction to this statement.

He quickly stammered it had nothing to do with 'that', when I gave him my frostiest look ever and asked him if he wanted to be able to enjoy his weekend. If so, he'd better keep walking.

I am a mage, even if I'm not a great practitioner of destructive magicka. My skills are strongest in illusion magicka. However, the threat was sufficient and the Bosmer back up, as though my outright offer of violence was more welcome than what he was used to dealing with.

Perhaps that should have been a hint. Hindsight being what it is, it was most certainly a hint – one of several.

Glarthir said if I was interested, to meet him behind the Chapel of Dibella, after midnight, and then scuttled off, looking every which way as if he expected to be watched.

Now, I stood there, on the street corner thinking, and scowling mightily as I did so – the twitchiest Bosmer in the world struck me as being highly paranoid. Chances were, it would be easy money, and chances were no one would get hurt.

I continued to muse. There were, of course, several drawbacks, and I was interrupted before I could weigh my options thoroughly.

That was when I was accosted – politely –by the city guard. Now, knowing I might be in a little trouble back home, and being a practitioner of the collage of illusion, I did the most natural thing in the world.

I spelled the guard - very subtly, just enough that he liked me enough to think 'she can't be involved in something like that'. Of course, he didn't really want to discuss anything that might have happened in Anvil – I guess I travel faster than bad news.

The guard wanted to warn me off, 'pretty lass' that I am, against getting mixed up with the town eccentric. After which he bade me tell the guard if anything odd happened, then bade me good day, and got on with walking his beat.

I continued to stand scowling, thoughtfully for a moment before my feet started to move of their own accord. I think better when I can move.

--S--

Well, like a fool, perhaps, I did go to meet Glarthir, behind Dibella's chapel – prepared to ruin his week not to mention his physical well-being if I had to. He was a little crazy.

And it got worse, by the time I told him the second person he had me follow wasn't involved in any kind of conspiracy…he suspected me of complicity in said conspiracy. Which of course, doesn't seem to bode well – because I saw the crackle of madness behind his eyes. I was being paid well, to do basically nothing: just to keep tabs on people, make sure they weren't conspiring against him. An easy job, but one that was beginning to take on worrisome undertones.

Well, I didn't escape Anvil just to get into trouble here, and I can imagine this little fool going on the rampage, if left to his own devices – and that would put me on the list of casualties. Unacceptable, to my way of thinking. So I didn't tail the next person – it was painfully obvious that the conspiracy was all in Glarthir's head, even a fool would be able to see by now.

Instead, I went to the guard. But no proof is no proof and the guard said he could do nothing, not even detain the crazy 'mer based on my suspicions alone.

I met Glarthir on the street later that day, giving me furtive, suspicious looks that no one seemed to think were out of place.

I went back to the Inn and made up my mind: this 'mer is too dangerous. He'll undoubtedly snap at some point, and with my luck being what it is of late, it'll be at me. And I'm not much of a fighter. Oh, I 'know' how, but it's the practical application that would defeat me. And you know, crazy people are stronger than those who are sane. So rather than track his mark, I tracked him – found his residence, made sure I knew how to find it from the inn, how to get from the house to the inn, from the house to the city gates, in short order.

I told him that night, that I was investigating further. Wove him a tale that I had to proceed carefully, played upon his own paranoia –and was praised for being beautiful and brave. I didn't argue, merely assured him…assured him that I almost has this conspiracy unmasked.

Just give me more time. Only a little, and everything would come to its proper end. He liked this.

He was pleased, excited, as he paid me for my troubles.

I didn't want to be implicated. I had to plan, to plot. The idea of killing him didn't bother me much – the way I saw it I was doing the city a favor, as well as keeping my own hide intact. I had no qualms right now. I was sure if I just disappeared…well, he'd assume he had exposed me as a double agent and would track me down. Can't risk that – or rather, won't.

I've mentioned poison before: that's my other great strength. I'm something of an alchemist – I've been playing with herbs and reagents for years. One of my earliest memories was watching my no-good mother brewing up love potions and telling me – in a horrible mock-baby voice –what she was doing. How she was doing it. How it was perfectly done – she might have been worthless as a parent, but she knew her herbs, and she knew her magicka.

I bet both are coming handy, now that she's getting on in years.

Then come the memories of playing outside, under the careful eyes of my governess, pretending to make my own potions. Learning what things tasted like. How they worked. My mother is a fool, but she is not unintelligent. But I don't want to talk about her anymore, so I digress.

Mer like sweet things – another tip from my mother - though not as much as Khajiit.

Paranoid people won't accept something that they are just given, out of hand.

And I didn't think there were enough charm spells in all the world to make Glarthir trust me enough to just eat something I handed him. So I had to be a little more cunning. Sneaky. Devious – things I learned keeping my hobbies from my parents.

They had funny ideas about what was suitable and what was not. And I happen to be a rather willful person.

Glarthir was safely roaming about, making sure he wasn't being followed. His house was well-warded, but it was the work of a layman. Any mage with only a few months of training could get in – though undoubtedly he thought himself very safe and very clever.

It took time, time I knew I would have. It's harder to find a moving target, and my assertion that his supposed enemy was up to something had made him all the more anxious to keep moving, not to stay in one place too long.

It was a brilliant stroke of luck on my part.

Part of the plan was for this to look like a tragic accident. It had to be – or someone would suspect murder, and then the questions would start, and I'd have to stay put, in the city until it blew over. And each day after the investigations started would be more and more difficult. It was a hassle I did not want to deal with.

But, accidents happen, and Glarthir's death, if it looked like an accident, would not be investigated closely.

'Eccentricity got the best of him', and all.

So I poisoned the food, the drink, I had a small measure of a contact poison with me, from my days with the Guild, but I wasn't sure I wanted to use it. See, I wasn't planning to go into the city proper again. In fact, the guards thought I had already left, you see.

I told them that Glarthir was beginning to frighten me, and that I would be better off in the Imperial City than here. And the guard in question smiled and agreed – a nice girl like me could make her way easily there. Join the Arcane University, and become a great arcanist. Forget crazy Bosmer.

So, I have an alibi. All in all, for being planned on a short timetable, I was quite pleased with myself.

--S--

I've always loved planning elaborate schemes for things, and even better, love implementing grand schemes. Like the time I tried to divert my parents from their pastimes, and wound up setting fire to the kitchen. I had been intending to force the candles at dinner to gutter, then relight: but as I said, I'm not a great destructive collegiate, and my spell fizzled, and the next thing I knew, it was everywhere.

Fortunately, it's easier to ward yourself against magicka, than to employ it as a weapon. Lucky me.

I explored the house, checked the basement, the upstairs bedroom – found myself a little niche that was out of the way. The poisons were fast-acting. Those would actually kill him – once he was dead, had gasped out his last, I'd make the death look like an accident.

It was easier that way. I was thinking a nasty fall down stairs to break his neck. Glarthir will be heavy – he was a pretty solid individual, quite short for a Bosmer – but a feather spell would take care of some of that.

--S--

Glarthir came home for a brief time late that evening, while it was getting dark. It was a tense, stressful thing for me to wait in my little niche, hidden by a chameleon spell and praying he wouldn't notice the telltale ripple that would betray my presence to wary and watchful eyes.

Glarthir made his supper. He wolfed it down. The 'mer drinks too much.

He was dead before he could get the dishes to the wash basin – collapsed on the ground, dead as a doornail. No thrashing, no flailing about, just a sudden intake of breath as he stumbled, as the poison rushed through his body, and then…dead.

First was to break his neck. That wasn't easy – I wound up having to heft him to the landing and put him over the rails three times before he finally landed properly – I wished now that I had learned a telekinesis type spell – something that would have let me manipulate him from the landing as he fell. Then I had to move him to the basement door, and cast him down the stairs, casting his supper things after him. That made a lot of noise. Hopefully someone would hear it, and assume he'd had a little too much of the bottle.

Then I had to clean up the mess he'd left between dinner table and kitchen – so that it didn't look like he'd died there. That took some time, but before the night was half-gone, I was finished, and on my way.

I had the oddest feeling as I crept out the back door, that I was being watched. That somewhere, just behind me, lurked darkness, ready to reach out and draw me in. And if you're a mage, you know better than to just ignore that sort of feeling. It's usually accurate.

I didn't like it, though when I looked, when I cast a detect life spell, there was no trace of a person who should not have been there. I left the city, still under the cover of a chameleon spell and darkness. I'd find a place to camp, and then head for the Imperial City.

--S--

I found my camp outside Skingrad, and took up residence for the night. It was a lovely place, as I said, near an orchard, all silver with apple blossom. The beauty was intoxicating. The fact that I had just staged a death that couldn't be traced back to me - my own cleverness - was intoxicating.

The fact that for that death, I would never be caught, never be connected…was sheer brilliance.

I reached into my travel bag and produced a bottle of wine and opened it, taking a deep draught and then, with a laugh that bubbled up from my own toes, intoxicated by my own cleverness and starting to get there with the wine, I started to sing.