Author's Note: I really like the concept of Mourner's Dawn—the whole command prompt resurrect thing actually being an in-game possibility. But I don't think I did the idea justice the first time around. It started out alright, but then I started writing it again after a hiatus and it just got silly. So this one, I hope, will be the story I meant to write when I started writing Mourner's Dawn.
Now, that doesn't mean it's the same story in any way. This is not Mourner's Dawn Redux. This is a story about the Black Hand acting like adults rather than a crazed band of betrayed teenagers and actually trying to solve their problems in a calm and logical fashion… and then forgoing all of that to better feast on Lucien's entrails.
But generally light hearted, despite this.
Lucien blinked, wondering when the entirety of the Black Hand had gone mad and why in Sithis' name was he always the one left to clean up the mess. But Ungolim only stood there, picking through the towering stack of contracts on Lucien's desk like asking a Speaker of the Black Hand to go make friends with a Necromancer was an everyday occurrence.
"Tell me, Ungolim," Lucien said at last, easing himself down into the nearest chair. "Just how long has it been since you took complete leave of your senses?"
Ungolim turned and fixed him with a look of cold disinterest, one eyebrow arched.
"Lachance, you do understand the situation you are in, yes?"
There was no other excuse for it, Lucien decided, meeting the mer's gaze. They'd all gone mad. Somehow, the worst parts of Sithis had leaked from the void while he was out chasing down his damned Silencer and they'd all gone stark raving mad without him.
"I understand that Arquen has taken it into her head I am to blame for the recent deaths in the Family, if that is what you're implying," he said at last, registering the unreadable look on Ungolim's face with the knowledge that it usually prefaced Lucien, my friend, I'd like you to do something totally idiotic that could very well kill you.
"And at the moment it is her word against yours."
"Might I remind you," Lucien snapped, running gloved fingers through his hair, "That not only do these deaths bear the mark of an unsteady hand, but that they have ceased since Arquen took on a Silencer."
Ungolim pursed his lips, shooting Lucien a look that very clearly said idiot child.
"And might I remind you that Arquen can account for her whereabouts for every unfortunate death, whereas you, my friend…"
Ah, there was the my friend, Lucien noted with abject distaste. Frankly, he was surprised it had taken so long.
"Be that as it may, I fail to see how bringing a Necromancer into the Family will help matters."
Ungolim sighed and sat down at the small table, one hand already massaging his temple.
"Is this your normal state of idiocy, Lachance, or are you being especially difficult today?" he snapped without venom. "This woman is not a Necromancer. Or, if my sources can be entirely trusted, not the sort of Necromancer we're accustomed to at any rate. It is my understanding that she can put the correct soul to the body rather than a…" he trailed off, waving a hand in the air as his thoughts eluded him, "a collection of soul-shaped energy."
Lucien pursed his lips and leaned back in his chair, watching Ungolim for any sign that this was some sort of strange test. Bosmer were notoriously flighty in their logic and Ungolim was no exception. His tests of loyalty were often both violent and ridiculous. But then, that was the sort of thing one expected from a race that enjoyed drinking fermented sheep.
"You and I both know contacts in the Mages' Guild are next to useless," Lucien said at last. "Their… language seems to consist entirely of what might be possible in the next hundred years rather than what is currently applicable. Somehow, I don't think our dead will wait that long."
But Ungolim only shook his head, pulling a wrinkled scrap of parchment from his pocket.
"This woman doesn't work for the Mages' Guild," he said, grabbing a bottle of ink from the nearby desk with a stray bolt of telekinesis. "So far as I can tell, she doesn't work for any guild."
Lucien opened his mouth to protest and stopped. This was… interesting actually. Even Necromancers had their strange half assembled Order of the Black Worm and various allegiances. And yet this… woman worked alone? Lucien closed his eyes, fingers twitching out the motions of a spell that would ease his headache a little. He knew better than to trust Ungolim in matters like this. They'd been working together far too long now and Ungolim knew just how to phrase his requests to peak Lucien's interest. Chances were this was just another mountain crazy, half dead from hypothermia and worshipping an Uderfrykte or something equally bizarre.
"How did you manage to find her?" he asked at last.
Ungolim smiled without looking up, scratching figures into the parchment.
"She has a very talkative neighbor." He snorted and looked up, passing the parchment across the table before continuing in unnerving falsetto, "She's just so proud to see dear Ellie working for those Blades."
Lucien looked down at the map Ungolim had scrawled, burning the haphazard lines to memory.
"Her neighbor is the old Draconis woman?" he said with some surprise, looking up to meet Ungolim's eyes through the gloom of the fort.
Ungolim only cocked a brow.
"You know of her?"
"I have a contract for her." He laughed and leaned back. "As soon as I can track my Silencer down."
Ungolim shook his head.
"Postpone it. From what I hear, I doubt this girl is nearly as idiotic as her neighbor. She'll recognize your Silencer's rather… distinctive work and I don't want to startle her off."
Lucien glared, his headache flaring back with a vengeance.
"I resent the implication that Fieryra is incapable of subtlety. I do not choose my Silencers idly, Ungolim. I can assure you—"
"No," he snapped with all the finality of a sepulcher crashing shut. "I do not want to give this woman any reason what so ever to fear for her life."
Lucien sighed and ran his fingers through his hair again, listening as the guardians clattered down the hallway and wondering if the Dark Brotherhood would ever run as cleanly as it had for his father.
"Do we at least know what she is capable of?" he asked. "I do not fancy going into a Necromancer's den without at least knowing what I'm up against."
But Ungolim only shook his head.
"Think of her less as a Necromancer and more as a… country healer with unorthodox methods."
"Yes, I often find reanimating the dead to be a rather unorthodox method," Lucien snapped peevishly. "This is ludicrous, Ungolim. Many of our Family have been mutilated. What makes you think they are not past repair?"
Ungolim glowered at him over the table and there was no doubt in Lucien's mind just how little love lay between them.
"This woman works for the families of dead Blades. Dead Blades that every so often turn up scarred but otherwise unharmed."
"And that proves her prowess at managing the dead, is that it?" Lucien interrupted and pushed away from the table, striding towards the cauldron on the opposite end of the room. "The only thing that proves is the unreliability of your witness, Ungolim. Blades are a drake a dozen. Who's to say it wasn't some other idiot in uniform?"
The look in Ungolim's eyes could very well have shattered stone.
"Last summer, a Blade by the name of Renius Sectubin poked his nose where it wasn't wanted. The Night Mother called upon me to… remedy the situation. Two months later I returned to Bruma on contract to find him drinking in the Tap and Tack. I followed that man for months, Lachance. I would know him by the cadence of his footsteps in the dark—I would certainly recognize him by his face." His eyes flashed dangerously, one hand pressed against the dagger at his side in warning. "And if I failed to kill him, then our Mother is a liar."
Lucien digested this, eyes following the curve of his alembic. This was an… interesting development. He wasn't entirely sure he believed it, but it was something at least. A sliver of hope. If he found this girl—if by some miracle she could resurrect their Family rather than simply reanimating them…
Slowly, he turned and made his way back to his seat, smiling ever so slightly as Ungolim watched him with the same unreadable expression as before.
"Tell me, Ungolim," he said calmly, folding gloved hands in front of him. "So there are dead Blades walking around—I can believe that. But how do we know this… girl of yours isn't simply a clever whore taking credit from a temple priest?"
Ungolim's expression never changed and Lucien knew he was being studied, his reaction gauged against what little Ungolim knew of the traitor.
"That's what I'm sending you to find out, Lachance," he said at last. "I want you to keep your Silencer well away from Bruma until you can tell me what it is she's good for."
"And how exactly will I know what she's good for?" He leaned back until his chair hit the wall behind him, propping booted feet on the table. "Apparently, this isn't a service widely advertised."
"If you are refusing a direct order, Lachance, say so," Ungolim snapped, his patience fading quickly. "I would much rather kill you now and task someone else with this than spend the rest of the night arguing with you."
Lucien only smiled.
"I am refusing nothing," he said pleasantly, spreading his hands in a gesture of feigned warmth. "I am simply suggesting that the Black Hand hasn't quite thought its plan through."
Ungolim arched an eyebrow, a smirk twitching at the corner of his mouth and Lucien braced himself.
"I should think you'd be glad for the opportunity to prove yourself loyal."
The words hit exactly where they were meant to and even expecting it, it was only through sheer force of will that Lucien managed to keep his face from betraying just how much he'd enjoylighting the little bastard on fire.
"Loyal?" he managed at last, just barely sounding civil. "My father was managing this guild hall when youwere still in Valenwood. The entirety of my life has been spent devoted to Sithis."
"Or so it appears," Ungolim chuckled, leaning back in much the same way Lucien had only moments before. "You'll find that rarely do the two coincide."
Lucien took a deep breath through his nose, unclenched his jaw and sat back, forcibly clearing his mind. The Black Hand had gone mad. This was not news to him. He'd been waiting for Ungolim to do something stupid and get himself killed for months now. It was only a matter of time before the lot of them collapsed in a burning pile of rubble. Daedric invasion, hell. He was half convinced the Kvatch guildhall had simply imploded and taken the city with it.
"Then for the sake of argument, let's say she is capable of resurrection. And if I should find her… unsympathetic to our cause?" Lucien said at last.
"Convince her," he said, smirking as he stood and made his way for the ladder. "Use the Lachance charm. I was under the impression that you could… what was it? Win over any women in Tamriel?"
After the eighth hour jolting along atop Shadowmere, Lucien decided he really wouldn't mind if Ungolim were to suddenly die a horrific death. Now that he really started thinking about it, there was absolutely nothing he'd miss about the nasty little blighter. Sure, it was amusing to watch him drink Arquen under the table every time either one of them found something remotely resembling alcohol. But seeing as how Lucien was traversing the globe again, running a godsdamned fool's errand for some harebrained scheme of Ungolim's again, he wasn't in a forgiving frame of mind.
Necromancy… Sweet Sithis.
Lucien sighed irritably and swept his wind-scattered hair out of his face for the eighty-second time that day before wrenching Shadowmere back onto the road. He knew full well there had been a forester trailing him for the last few miles, but he had far better things to do than duck into the trees and wait for his hellspawn horse to finish ravaging Legionaire mounts. Neither did he especially want to stop and explain just what he was doing in the middle of a fetching heat-wave, riding a black horse while dressed in black and dying of heatstroke.
Times like this Lucien almost envied his Silencer. Even if the strange woman was about to find herself on the wrong end of a Necromancer's staff, at least she hadn't been sent to make friends with one. And Lucien wasn't sure when the hell the Black Hand had gotten together to decide that raising the corpses of their fallen family members was the best way to catch the traitor, but he must have been drunk out of his head and half comatose besides to have ever agreed to it.
Fetching traitor. When he caught the bastard, he was going to string the man up by his own entrails, and… Lucien stopped, his train of thought wandering off as he caught sight of the signpost pointing back to Bruma and the little plank under it that said in rough-hewn script:
Welcome to Stonebriar
Slowing Shadowmere to a trot, Lucien followed the sign's arrow. The path wasn't especially long, branching away from the main and delving northeast into the circle of rocks. And there, in the center of the circle was a little stone house someone had gone to great pains to whitewash, apple-red shutters open to the unnatural heat while a tiny stable hunched nearby, shading a single, dappled mare. Lucien sat back in the saddle, taking in the quaint little cottage and tidy herb garden and knew suddenly and without a doubt that he had ridden eight frustrating, uncomfortable hours for nothing.