Chapter 2: White Gold Tower
The night. The welcome embrace of darkness, nature's gift to the assassins, and Roland's favorite time of day. It was his cloak for invisibility, his shroud of evasive magic. He used the environment around him like no other assassin could. He used the things the gods made against them. Killing those they created with the very laws they wrote. As the night clouded over the eyes of his victims he was another shadow, another breeze of wind, anything but material.
The White Gold Tower stood as a panicle of power in the most robust city in Cyrodiil. Naturally, the most powerful man lived there, residing at the very top. It would be Roland's biggest challenge. He would move unseen through an entire stronghold of Legion Soldiers. However, he was not as concerned as many would be. Using the basics would be, perhaps not the fastest, but it would be the easiest way of getting through the tower.
Two Imperials stood at the entrance. They did not move. People not from the city could have thought that they were statues. Roland knew that these men were as aware of everything as eagles hunting for prey. They had the night shift, but they had thoroughly trained themselves to become nocturnal. If a fight were to be engaged with them Roland would have a chance at defeating them, but he was an assassin and stealth was his method of killing. Besides, these men were not his target; they need not die in order for him to get to his victim.
The Dunmer sauntered forward, enchanted invisible to appear as a mirror of everything around him. To a trained eye he would appear as a glimmer of movement and a threat. That is why he moved with unmatched grace and slowness. The sentries did not move their heads toward him; they did not suspect a thing. He was directly between the two of them before he halted. The giant doors in front of him were his first barrier. He could not open them on his own; it would give away his presence in an instant. But Roland was not worried. He had done this before and he would consider this to be one of the basics he had taught himself.
Roland's hand twitched toward his belt, moving as minutely as possible and retrieved a miniscule ball from the pouch. He looked down at it, assuring himself that he had grabbed the proper item. It was the only thing that could be seen, due to the lacking of the invisibility spell he had cast upon himself. It was silver and quite heavy, having a uniquely made bell placed inside its hollow interior. The Dark Elf lifted the ball with a basic telekinesis spell and flung it toward the doors.
A resounding blast of sound erupted from the ball. A sound that rivaled that of metal on metal screeched through the night. Yes, this wasn't stealthy by any means, but Roland had seen it work dozens of times. The two guards jumped in surprise and whirled around toward the tower. One of them launched themselves at the door and pulled it open; looking for what could have possibly made that noise. By the sound that the ball had made it could have been thought that a battle was being fought inside the tower. Being good soldiers these men were making sure that their fellows were alright.
The Imperial called to the guards on the inside, having pulled the door open wide enough for the other guard to come through. The other sentry stayed where he was, however, and it became a perfect opportunity for Roland to slip inside. In all the commotion caused from the ball it was easy from him to pass by them unseen. He was already backing into the shadows, still invisible, before the guards had shut the doors having concluded that no battle was going on.
Hugging the wall and keeping as low as he could, Roland lurked through the corridors in the White Gold Tower. He went up countless stairways and passed by many Imperials guarding the premises. Every one of them did not look around as he went by. He was silent as a ghost as he moved toward his target. Doorways passed by in a blur, leading to places he did not know.
Roland stopped in the middle of a corridor. He realized he didn't know where he was. He wasn't sure where the Emperor may be or how to possible get to him. It was public knowledge that he slept in the utmost level of the tower but Roland had no promise that the Emperor was there now. He needed to find the Emperor's whereabouts before going further. Luckily, a soldier was close by to help him with this predicament.
The Imperial's pearl white armor glinted in the candlelight as he marched down the hall. Roland snuck into one of the many decorative crevices along the walls and waited for the man to come closer. The Dunmer flexed his fingers in his left hand and powered his magicka into his open palm. The faintest hint of green could be seen behind his back, but not enough for the soldier to notice. The armor's heavy boots clanked in a rhythmic pattern as he got closer and closer. Roland held his breath as the Imperial passed by him. With the man's back to him he flew forward and wrapped his arm around the soldier's shoulder, delicately touching the man's face with his enchanted palm. Energy flew out of the soldier's body and he fell backward toward the ground, having no energy to remain conscious. Roland caught him, although difficultly, before he could make a loud clatter in the empty hall. He set the body down on the ground softly and knelt down to get a good look at him. He was not dead. Roland needed information from the man's mind and he wouldn't get it if he was killed. He only had a few minutes; the spell did not last for very long.
Roland pulled back the hood on his light, sightless armor and ran a hand through his hair. He was relaxed, it showed in his movements, and he loved how well things were turning out for him. He did not waist time on his boisterous enjoyment, however. He brought his hand down to the soldier's motionless face and brought the magicka rushing to his hand again. Images rushed past Roland's eyes as the spell did its job. He saw a large, circular room with a table in the center, countless chairs arranged around it. The Council Chambers. He saw the endless hallways of the tower, leading to any room you could imagine. A huge library guarded by blind monks, the Legion Soldiers' quarters, the Palace Battlemage's office, the Princes' bedrooms. Then finally he saw the room he was looking for. The Emperor's bedroom was as large and glamorous as anyone would guess it would be. Uriel Septim was there. He had not left his room for several days and had asked not to be disturbed. His guards obeyed his command without question and let him be. They were keeping extra watch on him until the Blades arrived. The Emperor had summoned them for reasons no one knew why.
Roland's hand detached from the soldier's face and returned to his side. The Dark Elf took several deep breaths before standing up again. He had taught himself how to do that spell when he was fourteen. Not everything could be learned from the Dark Brotherhood's spies and so Roland taught himself to learn the true knowledge of his targets from the minds of those around them.
The invisible figure of the assassin snuck forward onto the route he knew would take him to the Emperor's quarters.
It was a tangible feeling to know that he was higher than anyone else in Cyrodiil. It complimented the verity that he had reached the highest point of his Brotherhood career. This epic death that would be written in history books would carry the unwritten knowledge of how the Dark Brotherhood had killed the most prevailing man in Tamriel. All of those who would join the Brotherhood from this date on would know who killed the Emperor. Roland's name would never be forgotten.
The door he looked at now, although it carried a much bigger purpose, appeared no different than the others in the tower. Roland went forward, one toe at a time. The Emperor's door did not have guards surrounding it as he had expected. Septim must have ordered that no one was to disturb him by being on the same level as him. An odd, and dooming notion to command.
His gloved hand crept toward Iron Heart. The door knob was a finger's breadth away. He could feel his hand shaking slightly. This wasn't like him; he was usually much calmer than this before ending a life. When the Dunmer brought himself to grab the door handle a twitch of anticipation coursed through his arm. His hand turned on the knob and the passage opened in front of him.
The room was dark, not a single light illuminated the interior. Septim's bed was placed against the back wall, taking up more space than many beds Roland had seen. Desks, tables, candles, and chairs were scattered hither and thither throughout the room. Crumpled papers and open books were littered across the floor. Many things were disorganized and trashed as if a madman had been living here. A large statue of Akatosh, Dragon God of Time, stood in the corner beside the bed. It was easy to see which God the Emperor favored.
Roland's feet moved mutely across the tiled floor. He pulled Iron Heart out of its sheath and sauntered closer to the bed. He could make out a shape under the sheets, just big enough for a body. Roland's stance straightened, his invisibility deactivated. He walked more confidently now, still quiet but casual. He could see his weapon's silver blade in the darkness. Roland stopped just before the foot of the bed and looked down at the figure of the old man. He relished at the moment before a death. To watch his victim live just a bit longer before murdering them was one of his favorite hobbies. This man had no idea what would happen to him. He did not see the assassin looking down at him, he had no warning of the knife that would be passed through his heart in just a few seconds. Roland had decided that Emperor Uriel Septim was a worthy man to die from Iron Heart's curse. He would make a fine statue to keep as a memory.
The Dark Elf's grip tightened around his dagger. This was the moment. He was wasted enough time here. He had to leave before someone possibly came to check on him. A sharp inhale through the nose inflated Roland's lungs. He exhaled slowly and tranquilly, enjoying the last moments before killing his most prestigious target. His weapon hand rose and he took a step forward.
"Are you here to kill me?" A voice shattered through the darkness and Roland's heart nearly stopped in shock. He had not heard it come from the bed. He whirled around, his weapon held out to protect himself, and prepared for an attack.
His blood red eyes fell on an elderly, gray haired man with a face that could rival a rotten pumpkin. The wrinkles were deep with experience and age, each one carrying a different story of this man's life. He wore a decorative, violet robe with a fluffed collar. A diamond shaped amulet, ruby red, lay around his neck. This was Uriel Septim VII, Emperor of Tamriel, and Roland's greatest target.
Uriel did not look surprised to see an assassin in his room. He did not appear remotely concerned for his life. His eyes met Roland's with an infinite domain of compassion and dived into the Dunmer's soul with a piercing gaze that could not be matched by anyone he had met. The elf felt exposed, naked in front of this man. The very presence of him was intimidating and enticing. Roland wanted to get away, yet he wished for nothing more but to remain in this room for a bit longer.
"Roland Scav." The Emperor's voice sung across the room into in the assassin's ears. Roland shuddered in surprise and fear at the mention of his name. It was impossible for this man to know him. He didn't associate with anyone outside the Brotherhood.
A thought shot through the Dark Elf's mind and he turned his head toward the bed. There was nothing. The human-like shape he had seen before was no longer visible. He turned back toward the old man.
"Who was in the bed?" Roland's voice hissed out of his mouth in a nervous jeer. Uriel's lips curved into a small grin.
"I have also been trained as a mage, Roland. There was no one in my bed. You saw what I wanted you to see." The Emperor explained.
"How do you know my name?" Roland rasped. He was angry now and his whispers became reflected roars of the emotion. Uriel did not answer immediately. He motioned towards one of the tables with several chairs surrounding it.
"Please, come and sit." He said lightly.
"No!" Roland snarled. He was like a child refusing punishment after being caught doing something wrong. "You will answer my question. I hold your life in my grasp and I can take it away before you can breathe."
"If you were going to kill me you would have already done it." Uriel countered. Roland blinked. How had this happened? One moment he had been in control of this man and the next he was being dominated by him. "Please, sit." The Emperor motioned to the table again.
"I'll stand." Roland hissed. Uriel opened his hands, palms facing upward, and shrugged.
"Very well. But you have not answered my question. Are you here to kill me?" Uriel asked.
"Yes." Roland answered.
"Ah, but haven't we covered this? If you were going to kill me I would already be dead. So I believe the proper answer would be yes, you were here to kill me but you decided not to. Why do you think that is?"
Roland's mind was twisted in rage from this man's presumption. He could still kill him. It would be easy. The Emperor didn't have a weapon on him and he had Iron Heart. Even if the old man tried to throw a spell at him Roland could easily dodge it.
"I could still kill you, my liege." Roland spoke mockingly. Uriel nodded.
"Yes, you could. But you won't."
"And how do you conclude with that?" The elf spat the words out.
"Because you know the difference between killing someone who is a criminal and killing someone who is not. You know that killing someone who has done wrong is justice. You have done it all your life. Your very first kill was justified. You killed you father because he killed you mother. Although it is a crime to murder you carry out the orders of a God who is beyond any law. You are forgiven for every murder because those who you kill could end up hurting hundreds. If you were to kill me you would be murdering someone who would never harm an innocent life. The order given to you, to kill me, was invented by a source that was not god-like in any means. Your Night Mother allows my death because she was served by the person who wishes it. No god told her to allow my death. She orders blindly. You were guided here to complete a job. But that job will never be fulfilled by a member of the Dark Brotherhood."
Roland did not speak for a moment. He tried to think thoroughly about what the old one had said.
"The Night Mother wants you dead. I answer her callings and I will be answering this one." Roland spoke.
"The Night Mother does not want me dead, Roland. She never chooses the people who the Brotherhood kills. She prays to the god she chooses to obey and he gives her the names of those who are meant to leave this life." Uriel explained. "But please, Roland, if you believe that it is best for me to die I invite you to kill me. I will not resist. Do what you believe is right."
The Emperor stood motionless and silent for several moments as Roland looked at him, his hand still holding Iron Heart. Their eyes did not leave each other. Roland was given a free choice of what to do. He could kill the Emperor at this very moment. Stab him through and turn him to stone. If he did not, his family would consider him a failure and he would be looked down upon for not completely a contract. He had never aborted a contract before. It was such a blemish on a murderer's reputation. If he returned to the Sanctuary they would send another assassin to kill Uriel Septim. They would be unsuccessful, of course. After one member of the Dark Brotherhood getting through the White Gold Tower's defenses they would not allow another to get through. The idea of not killing the Emperor was foolish. So why was he compelled to think about this decision?
If he killed Uriel Septim he would be seen as one of the best assassins who ever lived. He would be promoted beyond his current rank and continue onto the higher levels of the Brotherhood. But of course he would have to wait for one of the ranks to open up. But what if so much time passed before that happened that someone else had impressed the Speakers and the Listener enough to allow another assassin into the open position. He would be left in the same rank as before, regardless of who he had killed. He could be an assassin for the rest of his life if there were no opportunities for a new Silencer. Even if he tried to murder one of the current Silencers he would be killed for going against one of his family members. The odds were against him. The way events had been passing throughout the last several months and no open room for improvement he had been forbidden from receiving higher power. He was good at his job. He was a member of the Dark Brotherhood, but he did not believe in Sithis. He was a black sheep in that respect. Then if the Emperor was correct about his possible murder, if he did end up killing someone who did not deserve it he would always wonder if he had made the right choice. But then, with either decision he made he would probably always wonder if he made the right choice.
Uriel waited patiently for Roland's response. The Dark Elf was torturing himself with the debate. He already knew which was the better path to take. What was holding him back was the amount of betrayal he would weigh against himself. He would be trashing the life he had before for something new. He would never be able to go back. He would not be able to live with the rejection his family gave him. He would be on his own. A Dark Elf on the streets whose only talent was to kill.
Roland sheathed Iron Heart and looked down at the ground. He sighed heavily. Uriel did not move or speak. He waited for the Dunmer to speak his decision.
"There is a chance . . . that I would be happier if I didn't kill you." Roland mumbled loud enough for the Emperor to hear. "My family would see me as a failure and they may come and try to find me. They may try to kill me for not completing this contract. I don't know. But if they did send someone . . . they wouldn't succeed."
"Roland?" Uriel spoke questioningly. Roland looked up at him.
"I won't kill you." The Dark Elf said. He walked forward, heading toward the door. He walked with his head aimed toward the floor. He wasn't sullen, he was defeated.
"Where are you going?" Uriel questioned.
"I don't know. I'll travel out somewhere. Maybe to Morrowind. They would be accepting of me out there." Roland mumbled. His hand was at the door knob.
"You could stay here, Roland." The Emperor offered. The Dark Elf stopped.
"What?" Roland asked. Not sure if he had heard correctly.
"You would be safer here. I would give full accommodations to you and you would be protected. I imagine that you have many curiosities that have never been satisfied due to your life in your Sanctuary. You and I can learn much from each other. I, for one, would like to know more about the Brotherhood. I know much, but I have never talked to anyone who has been on the inside." Uriel explained. "You are free to refuse, Roland."
This sounded like an imagination. No one was invited to live with the Emperor in the White Gold Tower. He turned toward the old man and grimaced defensively.
"Are you sure you want to do that?" Roland asked.
"I am." Uriel answered. The two of them looked at one another. Something happened that neither could explain. They did not speak of it afterwards although both were aware of it. They shared a connection that was similar to two old friends meeting after a lifetime apart. Roland had never felt comfortable with someone beside Ocheeva and Teinaava. He knew that this old man, even though he would have killed him an hour ago, would keep him secure if he offered it.
Roland nodded. "Alright."
End of Part 2
Author's Note: I realize that there are some questions or things that may not make sense yet, but don't worry they will be answered.