Chapter One - The Silence of the Kill
Verus walked down the shadowed hall, lit only slightly by dimming torches. The building he was in was one of death. One of malevolence. Its occupants were feared the world over as bringers of misfortune. Even the richest of men dreaded hearing their very name. This building belonged to the Dark Brotherhood.
At first glance one would never assume Verus Terentius to be an assassin. He was merely an old man, after all. There wasn't a single thing about him that would make him stand out from a common street beggar; the streets of many major cities were full of his kind, after all. Impoverished by the years of bloodshed and horror that marked first the Oblivion Crisis, and then the fall of the Empire and the resurgence of old powers. No one in the world was safe from poverty, especially the elderly, who had so little to lose already.
Yet, this simply served to prove what an excellent assassin he was, for there was not a single thing about his appearance, his posture, or his personality that could be considered true. He was a faker, an illusionist of the highest caliber, and a veteran of decades of bloody death.
He turned a corner, his cane tapping the stone floor as he walked, and moved towards a closed door at the end of the hall. Light shined through the cracks along the edges, and the torchlight seemed to grow even dimmer, even though Verus knew better. Matthias was an intelligent bastard, and understood just how important atmosphere was to people's responses and actions when under pressure. Verus hated him. The Breton man had a penchant for torturing the members of the Brotherhood he was in charge of. Not in body, but in mind, which Verus considered just as, if not more heinous. The man was a skilled manipulator, there was no doubt of that, but one day he would do something that would cross the line, and Verus sincerely hoped he was no longer around when it happened.
He continued without pause, pushing the door open with a slight effort. Matthias was sitting behind his desk as always, pieces of parchment strewn across it, as well as several books. There were some weapons and various pieces of armor and other items strewn across the room, giving it the appearance of chaos, but Verus knew it was a ruse, if not why it was necessary. Matthias was one of the most meticulous and orderly people he knew, and any mess that he made could only have been done deliberately.
The Breton himself was fairly young for his rank, and there were a lot of rumors about exactly how he had attained it in the first place, although nothing was known for certain. Not only that, but no one even knew how skilled an assassin he was at all, or what abilities he could use or specialized in. No one had ever seen him fight, and he never seemed to go on any missions. All anyone had ever seen him do was sit behind his desk and give orders. He was definitely a mysterious person, but despite that, he had a way of making people let down their guard down around him. Verus would never, ever, allow himself to drop his guard in the presence of a snake like Matthias.
Some people might be taken in by his calm, gentle tone, and his easygoing, non-confrontational way of giving orders, but Verus knew better. The illusionist had grown up conning and lying to people, and he knew a fellow deceiver when he saw one. However, where Verus lied and manipulated to make his own way in the world, Matthias seemed to do the same for purposes unknown, which made Verus paranoid to no end.
The illusionist made haste to take a seat, and waited for Matthias to acknowledge him. When he had walked in, the Breton had been reading a book that he had propped open, his head held in his palm. Verus simply wanted to receive his job and move on, but it seemed as if Matthias had different plans, because he refused to so much as glance up at the Imperial for nearly five minutes. Verus bore it with practiced ease, however. Matthias always tried this tactic, perhaps hoping to make the illusionist angry. The dirty-blond Breton had always failed to get any significant reaction from Verus in the past, however, and he planned to keep it that way.
When Matthias finally looked up and met his eyes, Verus couldn't help but twitch lightly in his seat. There was mischief in those eyes. No, not mischief. That's too innocent a word. Rather, it's maleficence.
"I have a job that's tailor-made for your talents, Verus," Matthias drawled, extending the word 'your' until it sounded like something obscene.
"What are the details," the Imperial responded politely, his tone neutral.
"Well," Matthias began (And there's that damn accent again.), there's a noble in Sunhold, which is in the Summerset Isles in case you didn't know, that seems to have offended quite a lot of people with his speeches. I've never heard of him personally, but you know, what with the revolution and the start of the Dominion and all of that nonsense that it's probably rather easy to insult someone and get killed for it. The thing about this job that makes it different though is that the kill needs to be flashy, and very public."
Verus couldn't help but frown. He was being sent to assassinate a noble from the Dominion? That already didn't bode well for his chances; he hated assassinating Altmer. The blasted knife-ears were often skilled with magic, or if not, they were protected by more than a few able guards. Even so, it wouldn't be nearly half as bad if not for the last part. Flashy he could do; as an illusion master, he excelled at it, even. Public, though? That would be considerably more difficult.
"Don't think I'm giving you an impossible mission, now. You'll have Cingaer for company, at least. He may not have the most experience of our Brothers, but he's an excellent shot, which I do hope you'll take advantage of. And I did mean this mission was especially suited to your skills. In fact, I already know of an excellent method of disposing of this fellow."
Verus leaned forward in interest despite himself, and Matthias gave him a smile in return.
"You see, Gladryn, your target, and his… Lady-friend, shall we say, named Alara, typically hold balls once every two months, and have been doing so for the past hundred years like clockwork. Additionally, I've been informed that his mansion is one of the most spectacular in Sunhold, as it has a clear roof. I suppose that would probably be glass, but given the Altmer, one can never know. Nevertheless, if, say, you had a peerless archer with you, he might be able to kill him from a significant distance. And since you also happen to be an illusionist without compare, there's no reason that a single arrow can't turn out to be something much more interesting in the minds of all his guests."
Matthias closed his book and clasped his hands together in front of him, his blonde hair falling into place to cover his eyes.
"Of course, the method of execution is entirely up to you. But that would seem to be the most efficient plan. And you do care a great deal about efficiency, don't you, Verus?"
The Imperial said nothing to that, but nodded his head slightly in acknowledgement. Matthias smiled brightly in response. Without saying another word, he took a seemingly random piece of parchment from the desk and handed it to Verus. The illusionist didn't even need to read it to know it contained the details of his mission, as well as Matthias's suggested assassination method. He would, of course, use it. The Breton was right, after all. Verus did care a great deal about efficiency, and Matthias's proposed method was a good one. Once he arrived in Sunhold, he may have to change the plan as more details made themselves known, but for now, he would be operating on the assumption that he would be doing exactly what the Breton had said.
Verus stepped carefully down the plank that led to the docks. Oh, how he hated traveling by boat. He had the terrible misfortune of always getting seasick, regardless of how short or smooth the trip was. Cingaer followed amusedly after the vaguely sick looking Imperial. The Bosmer was much lighter on his feet and at ease with the water than Verus was, and while he didn't particularly enjoy ships, he had nothing against them either. Verus, on the other hand, acted like he had a grudge against every single ship captain in existence, no matter how kind or accommodating they were. This had made the trip all the more amusing for the thin Wood Elf, since the captain of the ship they were now departing had been neither.
The Bosmer was dressed in a set of leather armor, and had a bow slung over his shoulder and a short-sword sheathed at his waste. As distasteful as he found it playing the bodyguard, he did have to admit that even he was better suited to it than Verus was. The Imperial, dressed in fine blue cloth and a bright red cloak and hood, looked more like a noble or a merchant than an assassin, which was entirely the point. It also had the benefit of making him look younger than he usually did, especially with the hood down. While the gray hair, both on his head and on his face, certainly signified that he was old for a human, the more vibrant colors of his clothing made, in Cingaer's opinion, for a more respectable, perhaps even dashing, appearance. Now if only he could get that ugly expression off of the Imperial's face, he might even seem approachable. His ugliness couldn't be helped, Cingaer supposed, but then Verus was an illusion master, right?
As if sensing the Bosmer's thoughts, Verus turned to glare at him. Cingaer merely took the opportunity to catch up with the Imperial, who had been walking rapidly in the direction of the city proper. The Bosmer, who had never been to the Summerset Isles before, was looking forward to the opportunity of seeing Alinor. In his enthusiasm, he clapped Verus on the back and laughed lightly at the scowl he received in return.
"Oh come now, Verus. Don't act so miserable. You'd think you were walking to your death or something."
If looks could kill, Cingaer would be a bloody, unrecognizable paste on the ground.
"Don't say such things. It's a bad omen."
Cingaer's laughter simply went up in volume, and Verus was now reminded of just why he hated Bosmer.
"Ah, you Imperials and your superstitions are so quaint."
Verus growled, before snapping out a response, "I'm a Colovian, not an Imperial. Get it right, Wood Elf."
The Bosmer did stop laughing, but only to regain his breath to make another comment, "Of all people, I don't think you can really insist on someone using the correct terminologies, Verus."
Verus merely grunted in response, and picked up his pace, as if hoping that the Bosmer would somehow fall behind and get lost. Mercifully however, even though Cingaer had no trouble keeping up, he did stay quiet, perhaps sensing that Verus could only be pushed so far. In this newfound silence (Thank the Gods for this blessing.), Verus was able to pick out all the faces in the crowd that were staring at them. He frowned slightly at this. He had thought that the Dominion was more open to outsiders than before, particularly the Bosmer, but there was still that same arrogance and sense of unwarranted superiority in their expressions. He supposed that not even a revolution could kill that stereotypical trait of all Altmer.
It didn't change their purpose in the slightest, of course. It didn't really matter to him what his target acted like or what he had done in life to deserve death. The contract was simply that to Verus. Nothing more, nothing less. Some assassins chose to get more involved with their kills, and some others killed themselves off completely to deal with taking the life another. Verus was like neither of these examples. To him, there was nothing to become involved with, since to him, those he killed had been dead ever since he had first been assigned as their executioner. It was merely a matter of time catching up with reality. For this same reason, he had no reason to "kill his own humanity", as some of his fellows had described, since to him, he was merely cleaning up the walking dead. Had he not already determined that he would keep conversation with Cingaer to a minimum, he might have asked his opinion on the matter. He had always been interested in his fellows' methods of killing, and what they thought of the act, for various reasons. Matthias would probably say it was so he could better understand their personalities, which would naturally lead to Verus being able to manipulate them better. There was actually a measure of truth to this, as Verus made a practice of manipulating everyone around him all the time. However, more than that, the Imperial was simply fascinated with how the minds of others worked. This was partly why he was so skilled with illusion magic that affected the senses.
When Verus came out of his thoughts, he found that they had already reached the gates that separated the docks from the rest of the city. He had to admit that the walls of Alinor were very impressive. In fact, he'd say they were just as magnificent as the walls of the Imperial City, even if he hated the contents contained within the walls themselves.
Verus sighed in exasperation as Cingaer handed some papers to the guards, who were inspecting everyone that came to and from the docks. The papers had information on them that explained that Verus was a merchant, interested in arranging the sale of some various precious metals. It was, of course, a lie, but with a slight nudge to the mind of the guard examining the pages, making him a bit less suspicious, and a more than a little frustrated at having to do such a tedious job all day, they were passed through the gates with no fanfare.
From here, they would need to find a way to leave the city without attracting attention, which would be easy enough considering Verus's just demonstrated abilities, and then they would have to infiltrate the city of Sunhold and find a place to stay until the time of Gladryn's next ball. That would no doubt be a bit more difficult, since travel in the Isles was heavily restricted, perhaps even more so than it had been before, given the recent creation of the Dominion.
So, while Cingaer marveled like an idiot tourist at the wonderful, impossible architecture that was so common in Alinor, Verus mentally made a list of some of the various items they would need to buy here before moving on. The Brotherhood had gifted them with a certain amount of funds to spend while here, after all, and Verus wasn't one to be stingy with other people's money after all. As Cingaer continued to make a fool of himself by standing in the middle of the street and gawking at everything around him, the Imperial wondered if he could perhaps find a new partner as well. The poor man had no idea…
Two Altmer walked down one of the broader streets of Sunhold. Neither looked anything at all like what they were only a few months ago, but such is the nature of illusion magic.
"Tell me Verus, how exactly do you plan on getting into this party anyway? I mean, it's filled with all the city's bigwigs, right? And I know you don't have documentation or anything this time around."
The Altmer he was speaking to sighed in annoyance before responding, "I'm an illusionist, remember? There's a woman I've been speaking too over the past few weeks. During the course of that time, I've convinced her that I'm actually a good friend of her father, and that I would make a delightful date for Gladryn's ball."
The Bosmer cackled in delight, turning and stopping to face a now very annoyed Verus.
"So wait, let me see if I understand this correctly. You charmed a woman into a date? With one of your compulsion spells, right?"
Verus began clenching and unclenching his hands in silent rage.
"If you're implying that I'm incapable of going on a outing with a woman without some sort of spell to bend her will, then I'd have you know that I can be very charming when I so desire!"
Cingaer nearly doubled over in laughter.
"I never said anything of the sort, Verus. And do you even listen to yourself talk? You sound like some uppity noble."
Verus just brushed past him without a word, fuming. This mission was doing nothing for his commitment to the Brotherhood, which had already been wavering due to some of the rather nasty injuries he had taken in the past. The Imperial unconsciously began to rub his right arm, which had taken so many wounds in the past few years that he had lost count.
Cingaer quickly caught up with him, and didn't continue his previous mocking, as they were now coming up on their objective, which was sure to be surrounded by a crowd and more than a few guards.
Unlike with many of the cities Verus knew from Cyrodiil, cities here in the Summerset Isles didn't immediately shift from poor to rich sections, and neither were these sections cordoned off by walls that made them easy to distinguish. Rather, there seemed to be a subtle change in the architecture, the landscape, and just the general mood of the people in the area that only grew more noticeable as you moved deeper into that section of the city. Here, where Gladryn's mansion was located, the difference was the most noticeable. The buildings seemed to shine with splendor, and the towers of some of the surrounding mansions gleamed with an unnatural light that seemed to create numerous small suns. The result was a plethora of colors that scattered across the ground, criss-crossing in places and creating rainbows, and leaving noticeable splotches of black in others. Numerous statues and various plants of different sizes and shapes were scattered everywhere along the street, and like the buildings, they seemed to be radiate light even in the darkness. The plants were especially odd, and looked very alien to Verus's Colovian tastes, since he was used to seeing plants in differing shades of green. Not so here, where the leaves and petals of the foliage could be any shade under the sun, no doubt due to some magical meddling in their growth.
The people were no different, and all of them seemed excessively beautiful, with flawless features and hair that seemed to flow and shine in the various lights. Their clothing was garish; a mismatch of colors tended to meld into each other, and deeply offended Verus's love for simplicity. Simply put, the entire situation, whether it was the location or the people, gave the Imperial a headache, and not simply metaphorically. He could feel his brain aching from looking at the display which no human should ever have to experience for a prolonged length of time.
"Remember, use only the arrow that's marked red for the first shot. When that misses, fire the arrows marked blue," Verus whispered quietly to Cingaer as they parted ways. The Bosmer would head for one of the many towers surrounding the mansion, while Verus would head into the party itself. From the tower, the slim Wood Elf would be forced into making an extremely difficult shot, but the hardest part of the job would be Verus's, even if he would never be able to convince the Mer of that.
The Imperial disguised as an Altmer continued on his way, moving to stand at the spot he had arranged with his partner for the evening. Only moments after he had paused to observe the other party-goers, said person arrived and quickly took his arm. Siltia was a very beautiful young woman, but to Verus's eyes, her beauty was a vain, fake thing. Like practically every other Altmer the Imperial had ever met, she exuded that quality of artificialness that Verus absolutely loathed, in a true example of irony.
Nevertheless, Verus smiled in a fashion that seemed charming on his youthful, High Elven face, but on his real face would probably only seem slimy. Unaware of that fact, Siltia smiled in return and began moving forward towards the mansion's gated interest with him. Verus thought the woman had to be at least three-times his age, though the Altmer didn't have a reputation for long life spans for nothing, so it was hard to tell. He wondered briefly what the woman was actually thinking at that very moment. Was she merely using him, as he suspected, so that she could have a dance party for the ball, or did she truly believe in his persona? He supposed it didn't really matter in the end. The participants of the ball would likely never even get to dance.
He smiled politely at the gate guards, who were an intimidating sort, dressed in full armor of fine make, although Verus thought it looked too elaborate to be truly useful. They were probably just for show, much like the mansion itself.
The pair was quickly herded through a set of double-doors and into the room where the party was taking place, which was a truly expansive area. The floor was detailed with dozens, if not hundreds of engraved flowers, each one appearing as big as a man. If he had been able to see it from above, Verus would have noticed that the engravings were arranged in a circular manner, moving ever inwards, like a whirlpool. The walls were covered in expensive looking draperies showing items from what Verus supposed were probably the history of the Altmer, as some of them looked like they were depicting battles. Where there were no draperies, there were paintings, all magnificently crafted, and where there were neither of those, there were stained glass windows, which, combined with the nature of the light outside, created quite the spectacle. The main attention draw, however, was the ceiling. It appeared almost completely clear, with only the slightest bit of opaqueness visible to careful observation. It revealed the night sky in all its glory, and despite the lights of the surrounding towers, and the glare which was so visible from the street, all of the stars were completely clear. To the Imperial's relief, the ceiling was indeed made of glass. He had been suspecting that it might actually have been some sort of crystal, but now that he could really look at it from the right angle, it was definitely glass, albeit enchanted with something.
As Siltia half-led and half-dragged him to a circle of her friends, all stunningly beautiful women with somewhat similar features, Verus suddenly remembered exactly why the Altmer never just dispelled illusion magic on their guests to search for assassins. It had been something he had wondered the last time he had been in Summerset, when the kill had gone absurdly smoothly. It had bothered him all the way back to Cyrodiil, until he realized that many of the High Elves probably used illusion magic to cover up whatever flaws their parents hadn't been able to magically alter before birth. So trying to search for someone using illusion magic would be a futile effort, since practically everyone had at least one spell layered on them to satisfy their vanity, and dispelling them would be rude in the extreme.
That realization hadn't comforted him in the slightest, however, since it simply showed how many of the Altmer where skilled mages. Ever since then, he had been dreading receiving another contract to go back. Inevitably, after all, someone would figure out that he was manipulating their minds or subtly using his skills to influence them. There were too many magic users in the Summerset Isles for it not to happen. He had been lucky so far, or if anyone had noticed, they hadn't said anything. Either way, he wanted to finish this mission and leave as quickly as possible, hopefully never to return. The entire place made him a paranoid wreck.
Verus listened absent-mindedly to the gossip that was being shared between the group of women, and answered whenever a question was asked of him, making sure to stick to his established persona. The majority of his attention, however, was directed at the far end of the room, where a large table, made of some silverish material and draped with red cloth, was located on an elevated platform. Gladryn and his female companion, Alara, were seated there. The former was dressed in silvery cloth that was fairly similar to the table he was sitting at, and Verus couldn't help but think that he looked rather plain for an Altmer. He had no flair, the Imperial realized. None of the fakeness that seemed to permeate Altmer society, that fakeness you could see in every movement and hear in every word.
The woman beside him, however, was just the opposite. She epitomized practically everything there was to know about Altmer society. Her hair, colored a brilliant shade of red that seemed to turn blonde at the tips, was done in an elaborate manner, looking more like a piece of architecture than something that grew from your head. Her skin and facial features were stunningly flawless, and Verus supposed that to some she looked truly beautiful. To him, she merely looked strangely alien, and the Imperial found himself unnerved simply by looking at her, so strong was the sense of unnaturalness. Her clothing was an exquisite thing, flowing and long, made of constantly shifting colors and embroidered with patterns that hurt Verus's eyes to look at; the dress was probably enchanted as well. Her eyes were the strangest thing, though. Despite being a fairly normal shade of green, to the Imperial it seemed almost as if they were glowing. Many of the High Elves nearer to the table seemed entranced or in awe of her. Verus hated her instantly.
His feelings must have transferred to his expression, because Siltia shook his arm lightly. He turned to face her, and though she was smiling at him, there was a warning in her eyes. She led him away from her friends, claiming that she had seen someone she wished to introduce her date to, and as they moved through the crowd, gaining a bit of anonymity, she leaned in to whisper to him.
"Careful, Ilmion," she began, using the name that Verus had taken for this mission, "I know they're a bit radical, but they're also very powerful, and they happen to be in favor with The Beautiful for the moment. Once they've fallen from grace, you can scorn them to your heart's content, but just follow the Rules for now."
Verus nodded, and only barely managed to refrain from asking what the "Rules" were, since he had never heard of anything of the sort before. He had to assume it was something inherently obvious to someone raised in the Altmer culture, however, and so kept his silence.
"Now then," she continued, "I'm going to head back to my friends and claim that I lost whoever I was looking for, but that you found someone you knew in the process, since you so clearly don't want to be there. However, I fully expect you to meet me when the dancing begins."
With those words, she turned and walked away into the crowd, but not before turning her head slightly to give her supposed date a wink. Verus was stunned, and could only stare after her in bewilderment. Here he had been thinking of some excuse he could use to separate himself from her, and she had provided one for him. He frowned slightly, a very unwelcome emotion passing over him briefly as he himself turned and began walking towards the table where the hosts of the party were seated.
Just as he reached the front of the crowd, Gladryn rose from his seat to make, from what Verus had heard, one of his very passionate, and also very long, speeches. Gladryn stood up to his full height, which as it turned out was rather tall, and spread his arms wide as the first syllable of a word he would never finish left his mouth.
Verus couldn't help but smile just the slightest bit, and it was then that he noticed that Alara's eyes were focused solely on him, causing his good mood to plummet. Something's wrong…
Before he could even begin to contemplate how the woman could possibly have recognized him, for that's surely what had just happened, the glass ceiling shattered, and a firestorm suited better to the Deadlands of Mehrunes Dagon descended towards the ground and the guests like the wrath of an angry god. The fire itself didn't actually reach the ground, stopping nearly ten feet from the heads of those inside, but that had never been the purpose in the first place.
Nearly two hundred people scattered towards the exits in a mass-panic, some having the presence of mind to cast a shielding spell on themselves, but most simply scrambling for an escape. Gladryn himself fell backwards off of the platform in alarm, but quickly got back to his feet, shouting for his guards. Alara, on the other hand, got down on her hands and knees and crawled underneath the table, which was perhaps the wisest thing anyone there had done.
Attracted by a light in the distance, Gladryn looked up and saw two orbs of bright blue light headed straight for him. To an outside observer, the two orbs would instead appear to be streaks moving across the sky, and the blue color would be more similar to the appearance of a lightning strike.
The High Elf dove to the left, even as one of the orbs impacted the ground where he had been standing with a deafening boom. There was no crater or even any smoke or dust left from the impact, however, which would have set off alarms in Gladryn's head had he stopped to pay attention. To be fair, however, he was rightfully more distracted by something else.
When the initial wave of fire had struck, Verus had immediately dropped his illusion spell and shifted into a new one, casting another dozen individual spells at the same time. As he was at the front of the crowd, he didn't have to struggle against a wave of hysterical people, and even if he hadn't been in such an excellent position, his new appearance would have insured that no one would have gone near him. So, even as nearly a dozen guards sprinted into the room, having finally forced their way through the fleeing crowd, they could gape at the sight of an equal number of Dremora in full armor. These soldiers seemed to be of a certain quality, however, as they quickly formed into a coherent group and began moving around the Daedra and towards their master.
The Daedra apparently didn't think them worthy of even a glance, as they simply charged Gladryn, who panicked and began shooting waves of ice towards the fearsome Dremora. The Altmer finally realized something was wrong when his frost spells simply passed through them. He began to calm down some and stopped casting, as it was simply a waste of mana, and then turned towards his guards.
"You fools, they're an illusion. This whole thing has been an illusion. Just hurry up and surround me!"
The High Elf turned back towards the Dremora, who had all simply run through or around the Altmer, and through the wall behind him by this point. Except, notably, for one that had only now reached him, and went straight past his left side. Gladryn took no note of this, for he simply assumed the last Dremora was the final bit of the illusion. That belief was eliminated when a Daedric knife plunged into his back. The supposed Dremora held the Altmer close as Gladryn's mouth opened and closed in shock. The Daedra leaned in to whisper in his ear, even as the illusion was dispelled, revealing Verus in his original form, an old man cloaked all in black.
"Fate has judged you, and found you lacking."
With that bit of flair, which was the closest Verus would ever come to making his assassinations personal, he ripped the dagger out of the Altmer's back and dropped it to the ground, where it dissolved. Gladryn's body fell to the ground with a thump a moment later, his heart having been pierced. There was no magic in the world that would save his life at this point.
As the guards, who had been momentarily frozen in shock, recovered their wits, Verus turned and sprinted for the exit on the opposite side of the room, where the crowd had stopped to watch. The Imperial threw his right hand forward, and several members of the crowd screamed as most of them dove or scrambled to the side. Only those who had recognized everything as being an illusion did not, and those were blessedly few. Verus raced forward and backhanded one, who had been in the middle of casting a spell of his own, one that would probably be more deadly than the fake flames the Imperial had conjured.
The assassin ran through the courtyard towards the gates, which he noticed the guards were attempting to close so that he would be trapped in. He squeezed his eyes shut and held his right arm over them in an attempt to block out what he knew would be coming if Cingaer had managed to keep his arrows in the correct order.
Sure enough, a moment later, a brilliant flash of light lit up the courtyard, causing many of the patrons to scream again and the guards to fall to the ground, unable to see and clawing at their eyes. Verus amusedly wondered if the denizens on Alinor would be able to hear all the commotion the pair of Brothers were causing.
He ran out of the gates and onto the streets, immediately changing his appearance to a different Altmer that he had seen in the party. The majority of people in the area were still blinded by the flash, but Verus knew he would have to shift the illusion as soon as he was alone or back with Cingaer anyway, just in case. As he cut down a side alley that ran between two nearby mansions, he couldn't help but think that all of his assassinations in Summerset seemed to go far better than they should have.
Verus stopped to catch his breath about a mile and a half away from Gladryn's mansion. By now, the city was in an uproar, and the Sunhold City Guards were not doubt already searching for him. Unfortunately, they would have no luck. Verus had already changed his appearance several times, and the one he was currently wearing was a mismatch of his previous appearances, so that no one would be able to recognize him specifically.
He already had an escape route planned from the city, despite the fact that the Guard had likely already sealed the gates. Cingaer had his own way out, so he didn't have to worry about his Brother. The Bosmer was a sneaky bastard, anyway, no matter how loud he might be. He'd probably find some hidden passage in the sewer system to escape in, despite how cliché that sounded.
Or at least, that's what he was thinking when the Wood Elf tapped him on the shoulder. Shocked, Verus spun around, a conjured dagger forming in his hands and slashing out at the space behind him. Cingaer nimbly moved back and laughed at his Brother's reaction. The Imperial didn't think it quite so funny.
"You ignorant ninny! You're supposed to have your own method of escape. We even agreed that we weren't going to be meeting back up! And how did you find me anyway?"
The Bosmer smiled in response, before speaking in a rather airy tone, "Why, I simply tracked you from above. It really wasn't too hard, especially since you never went through any populated areas. Really, Verus, you should know as a master illusionist that it's much simpler to get lost in a crowd."
Said illusionist felt very much like punching his companion in a fit of rage, but barely managed to restrain himself.
"Whatever. I suppose I'll simply take you along with me then. Come, let's go."
The Wood Elf turned solemn rather quickly as his work persona took over, and nodded. It was almost unnerving, how fast the normally upbeat Mer could turn quiet as death. Verus filed that in the back of his mind for future consideration, and then began moving again. The only thing that was of importance at that moment was escape.
A girl without a name sat haphazardly on a railing, her feet dangling over the water as she stared at the rising sun. The bridge she was perched on was a glorious thing, the color of gold and silver that sparkled when light hit it. It was nothing but a lie, a self-deception. The Altmer, the girl's race, built such grandiose structures in an attempt to show their superiority and to get away from the hardships that life can bring, even for such a magically gifted people. These buildings were a distraction, a way to put the mind at ease. If you are constantly surrounded by beautiful and magnificent things, what reason do you have to worry?
There were many reasons for the people of the Summerset Isles to worry, in fact, the least of all being that death had visited a prominent politician that very night. The girl wasn't aware of that piece of information, but what she was aware of was that there was no one outside, no traffic moving from place to place. It was very late, she supposed, but still, there should have been at least some guards making their rounds or some drunken idiots making their way back to their homes. And no city, even the grandest, especially the grandest, could avoid having a criminal element. This was a curious thing, but not something that bothered the girl too much. After all, she liked being alone. The darkness was her friend, as was isolation. Through avoiding contact with others, she could escape from the visions.
Those horrible visions. When had they started? The girl couldn't remember. It didn't matter. All that mattered was that she now had a respite from the death, the gore, the destruction. The blood, colored so much like her own eyes when she looked down to glance at her reflection, and had they always been like that? She didn't think so, but why was her head hurting so much make it stop make it stopmakeitstopMAKEITSTOP!
The girl's head spun around, her hair whipping with the motion, to glance at the voice. Behind her stood two men, both wearing hoods and cloaks made of the purest black. That's stupid, she thought. Why would you wear black at night, in a city? It makes you stand out. She considered just turning back to gaze at the water, which was so peaceful to watch, but something about these men made her spine tingle, and that was never a good sign.
"Verus, we need to leave."
The taller of the two men spoke again. His voice was rather high pitched, and the girl thought it was funny to listen to, although the tone seemed wrong to her. She thought the voice should sound funny and happy, not serious. It didn't fit.
"No," the other responded, and his voice was deep, and not funny, and made the girl want to shrink back in fear, but it had been a long time since she had been afraid of anything, not since that woman in the cloak, and the blood, and the blood, and the blood!
The shorter man with the deep voice raised a hand, and the girl's body tensed, ready to pull a blade she had hidden under the sleeve of her white dress if it became necessary. She hadn't coated this blade yet, and as the visions slowly stirred, she began to wonder what the knife would look like after she had plunged it into the deep-voiced man's throat. She was willing to bet he wouldn't sound so intimidating then, and giggled at the thought.
The man hesitated in his movement, as if caught off guard at the sound of something that was like joy but clearly not. Then, he got over whatever thoughts had struck him and completed the movement, dropping his hood to reveal his face, old and worn by age. The girl immediately noticed the lack of pointed ears and realized they were foreigners. Oh, so that's why they're stupid enough to dress in black.
The old man's companion stepped forward, and started saying something that the girl couldn't quite make out, though the other man's response sounded angry and annoyed. Try as she might, she couldn't understand what they were saying. There was a curious buzzing in her ears that giving her a headache.
The high-pitched man with the voice that the girl just found so hilarious stepped back, apparently momentarily cowed by whatever had been said during the exchange. She didn't miss how his hands twitched towards something concealed by his cloak, however.
The old man turned back to the Altmer girl, and by this point she was growing bored with the situation. The visions were back in full force, and her headache was getting worse. She wondered... If she killed the two men like the visions showed her, would the headache go away? Her eyes, filled with a rising bloodlust, met the dull blue eyes of the old man, and something changed inside of her. She pivoted, her arms pushing off the ground as she launched into the air in an amazing feet of acrobatics, her dress fluttering and hiding the movements of her arms as her feet touched the ground. The old man took a step backward while the high-pitched man took a step forward, his hands moving for something the girl still couldn't see. Her mind automatically registered him as the greater threat, and even as the tall man, who she knew had to be a Mer at this point, likely a Bosmer (He's too slim. Like a woman!), drew his weapon, a short sword she now saw, the Altmer's hands blurred.
To be fair, the Bosmer was rather fast. He wasn't a professional assassin for nothing after all. However, his skills had always been with the bow and the spear. The former had been shattered in his descent from the tower and left behind, and the latter he had not been able to bring. As a result, his sword was only half out of its sheath when he felt the impact of two throwing knives hit his chest.
The girl frowned as the slim Mer stumbled back, dazed but not dead. Her knives had fallen to the ground, clean of the crimson liquid she was seeking. He has armor. "Then let's go lower!"
The Bosmer was brought back to reality at the volume of the girl's voice, so soft and yet so disturbingly loud in his ears, and he could only stare in amazement as the girl he had thought nothing more than an innocent civilian sprinted towards him, another dagger held in her hands. He fully drew his sword and raised it for a swing that would probably cleave the tiny Altmer half-breed in two. Unfortunately, when the blade descended, she merely side-stepped and plunged her dagger into his stomach. The red lifeblood she had been seeking finally started to trickle out, but it wasn't fast enough, not a large enough amount for her. She withdrew the blade even as the Bosmer gasped in pain and tried to back up to get more space. In one fluid motion, she flipped the dagger between her fingers, blood flicking into the air as she did so, and brought it down into the Mer's neck. Something vaguely like a gurgle erupted from the slim man's lips as the hood finally fell, revealing a youthful, round face that was unmistakably that of a Woof Elf. Green eyes stared at her in shock as the man fell backward, thumping against the ground.
The girl spun, and looked towards the old man, but he hadn't so much as moved. He was just watching, staring with an intensity that unnerved her, even as she moved her right hand to draw the dagger from her waist. Before she could, she felt something impact her neck, and darkness claimed her.
Verus stood behind the now still form of the young Altmer girl even as the fake version of him disintegrated into nothingness. He glanced over to Cingaer, who was still gurgling out undistinguishable words, likely pleas for help. It had been an excellent blow, and certainly a fatal one without treatment. It was definitely beyond Verus's limited healing abilities, at least. He moved over to the dying man, who had an arm raised as a rictus of pain passed over his face. Verus sighed as he stared down at him, his eyes showing some remorse, even if no other part of him did.
"My apologies, Cingaer. You were an excellent Brother, for what it's worth. Unfortunately, I am not."
Verus kneeled down next to him and removed a dagger from inside his cloak.
"You understand. I can't help you and if the city guard finds you, they might be able to treat that wound. That's simply not acceptable. Though, even if you will never return to the Sanctuary, at least your death was not in vain."
Verus glanced back towards the unconscious form of the unknown girl.
"I have a feeling you've contributed to something... Great."
Verus raised the dagger, the same one he had received from the one who had originally recruited him, and plunged it into his Brother, ending his life. As the last bits of rage left Cingaer's eyes, Verus turned to the girl who had just taken down a member of the Dark Brotherhood (Admittedly while he was unprepared and didn't have his weapon of choice, but still.), and pondered.
Assassination is the extreme form of censorship. – George Bernard Shaw