So, if anyone can recall (haha) the last two years, I wrote something known as Phantasm. Recall is a follow-up of sorts to that. But reading Phantasm is not required. (In fact, I'd prefer you didn't, because I am not particularly proud of it now that I've grown, writing-wise. Lol.) The gist of Phantasm is Ghost Lucien meeting his Silencer before he can pass on to The Void. (Two years before Skyrim came out, too.)
This is something slightly different, and isn't from Lucien's perspective, as Phantasm is. Also, the romance part of this doesn't come until a little farther down the line.
There are times that she feels all of this is scarily familiar. Like she's used a dagger for decades, centuries, a millenium…
A whole Era.
Sometimes this whole killing business comes a lot easier to her than it should. She doesn't think twice when she plunges an iron dagger in Grelod's black heart. In front of a group of children, no less. And doesn't even bother to scold the little girl that reaches up and places a kiss to her cheek.
In fact, the thought that she's actually murdered someone doesn't even come to her until she's outside Riften, saddling up ol' Szabo, humming Ragnar The Red to herself. Her fingers pause on the saddlebags.
And it hits her, a lot like an Orc wielding a warhammer.
I killed someone.
It seems natural. Like it was always meant to be, and she mounts the old gray horse and rides off. The snow has just begin to fall, harder.
I ended someone's life.
And one part of her, deep in the black recesses of her mind thinks: Who cares?
And maybe she should care because – Where am I? – It throws her, practically tosses her down a path she isn't sure she really wanted to travel.
Who is this?
But it's familiar. She can feel ice seep into her veins, and confusion clouds her mind when she sees Astrid for the first time, lounging comfortably on an unused bookcase. It confuses the hell out of her. It isn't the kind of confusion that comes with waking up in an abandoned shack in the middle of nowhere with nothing but a pretty pathetic little dagger at her side – Astrid's cautious, and paranoid and something about her is off, like she's a ticking time-bomb – No, it is the kind of confusion that comes with seeing someone you weren't expecting, or prepared to see.
And that confuses her.
Where is—And she stops. Because Astrid's speaking, and even the words sound wrong.
Astrid is casual, and careful, and wicked because when she turns around there are three people there.
"If you'll turn around, you'll notice my guests. I've collected them from… well, that's not really important. The here and now. That's what really matters."
And it so easy.
The blood stains her clothes, her cheeks. She is painted up with the stuff, and three people lie dead at her feet. Simple. Easy.
"Well, well," Astrid says. "Aren't we the overachiever?"
The word hurts, and she doesn't know why. It pangs, twists and wrenches her heart. Family. She doesn't remember her own family. In fact, she doesn't remember much before she came to Skyrim, bound in rope and sent to her death, hair hanging limp in her eyes, her mouth twisted in the way only Bretons can twist them, with an arrogance about it. She would not show fear in the face of death.
She will never show fear in the face of death.
They greet her with open arms and wide smiles. Well, except for Arnbjorn and Festus Krex, but she suspects they are the grumpy members of the Family.
She doesn't like being in the Sanctuary, or having a place here.
She can't remember why.
When she falls asleep, she has dreams of people she's never met. A brown-haired vampire smiles warmly up at her, a Khajiit speaks late overtures of friendship. An Orc and a Bosmer eat together, a blond girl is attempting to cook. Two Argonians sit together on a bench. The red one has his head on the green one's shoulder.
A man in black robes approaches. Like a piece of the night itself.
"You sleep rather soundly for a murderer."
She wakes up with drying tears on her cheeks.
Of all the Family members, she thinks she likes Babette the most.
There's something oddly comforting about having a vampire around. And she knows it's weird to say, but it is. It's… comforting. Because she feels actually safe around Babette.
"How long have you been in the Dark Brotherhood?" She asks Babette, once.
Babette's eyes slide up to look at her for a moment, as if surveying her. And then back down to watch as her pet spider tears apart what looks like it had once been a goat.
It takes her awhile to answer, and then, "Two hundred years."
"Since the Third Era?" She's curious, and the words slip out of her mouth before she can stop herself. It seems rude, the tone, the words, but Babette smiles and she relaxes.
"Oh, yes." She curls her small hands in her apron. "I fled to Skyrim, you know, during the Oblivion Crises. The Black Hand, which was the ruling power of the Dark Brotherhood, was having problems of its own at the time, and I felt that my own life was in danger. When the crises with the Black Hand was resolved, I asked the Listener if I could leave, for a time."
Babette looks at her again, and she feels as though she is being picked apart from the inside and out.
"You remind me of her, you know." She tells her, smiling slightly. Babette looks a great deal like a small girl when she does that. "The Listener. You have the same eyes, even."
"Do you ever wish the Brotherhood would go back to the Old Ways?" She knows very little of the 'Old Way', but when she asks the question, her heartbeat thuds wildly in her chest. Old Ways. "With the Tenants and everything?"
"Astrid does a great job of handling the Brotherhood." Babette whispers. "Sometimes I think we're better off this way, than the… Old Way. There's no more strife within the Family, I think. No more inner politics."
"Then you don't think we should… worship the Night Mother? Abide by the Tenants? Have blood rituals every Turdas and eat beating hearts?"
And it is here, that Babette laughs, "Sister," The way Babette says it pangs her heart. "Two hundred years ago I would have lain down my life for our Unholy Matron. But now, my only Matron is Astrid."
And she leaves Babette to that.
She really does like Babette.
Her first contracts are simple, easy. She hungers for more.
It is on the way from Marthal, when Szabo is being pushed to her full potential and the guards are far behind her, that she thinks she sees a man in the shadows. Her heart pounds wildly, her fingers find the twin daggers at her hips, and she slides off Szabo to go and investigate.
Had the guards found her?
father prayed and guess who came—
She fell to her knees, clawing at her throat. What IS THIS? Her head pounded, she could hear her heart in her ears, feel her pulse. Szabo nickered and tossed her head. Her eyes flashed with pictures and memories and words she couldn't remember.
the hooded man in Sithis' name—
A virgin blade, passed from the hooded man's hand to hers. She looked up and met his eyes. Beautiful, she thought, Brown and beautiful.
who left but then he came once more—
Those eyes, haunted and afraid. A hand at her throat, pressing, pressing, pressing… No!
to pass through window wall and door—
And then a body, hanging from the rafters, the blood draining into the ceiling. Badly burned beyond repair. Hands on her shoulders, smiles and laughter and – You were wrong.
Her vision swam in front of her, she could feel the cold, piercing air of Skyrim. Szabo neighed, snorted, annoyed with her. She looked up, hands pressed to her mouth.
A woman, completely transparent save the outlines of faded blue, walked into the forest and never returned.
What was that?
She tries to ignore the weird occurrence. It works, but only when she is busy. She takes a particular amount of time wrangling Festus for help with her alchemical experiments. Festus is grouchy, and abrasive, but beneath that, she finds him an excellent teacher.
Astrid approaches her a few days later, a week after the arrival of Cicero.
She doesn't like Cicero, perhaps less so than Astrid, but Astrid is naturally paranoid. Cicero has darty eyes and the way his words spin together in sentences… it reminds her of something. Something unpleasant. She isn't quite sure what, but it is a gut feeling. And it bothers her incredibly.
And now, Astrid is having her hide in the Night Mother's coffin.
"That's… a little disrespectful," She tells Astrid, carefully, chopping up harrada in tiny pieces. "Don't you think?"
And Astrid scoffs and rolls her eyes. She doesn't see Astrid as a believer. In Sithis, the Night Mother, or the Old Way. Astrid just… doesn't strike her as being a zealot. She's heard the others talk, though. About Cicero, about the Old Way and the New Way, about the Night Mother and the Dread Father and what does this mean?
For them? For her?
She keeps chopping harrada as Astrid relays the plan. It's a clever plan, she thinks.
An hour later, she finds herself standing in front of the silver-wrought coffin with several lockpicks jangling in her pockets. The designs are beautiful, impeccable. They also make sense, but not sense. And when her hand braces against the metal, several pinpricks run down the length of her neck, and her stomach feels as though it's filled with ice-water.
She gets to work, sets the lockpick and breaks two before they slide into place. The doors open, and there is her Mother, set deep within the stone and smelling like putrid oils and perfumes. Her back is as taut as a bowstring when she climbs in and pulls shut the doors.
She has never liked enclosed spaces.
Her ear is braced against the doors, straining to hear, her body cold straight to the bone. And then she hears Cicero speaks.
The jester's mad. Completely mad. Speaking to nothing, as it were.
And then, she hears the voice.
It is like nails across a chalkboard.
"You've returned to me," The voice is raspy and harsh, and she squeaks without meaning to, flipping around to stare at the body within. The Night Mother resonates with a red glow, and she can feel herself shaking. "Theresa Lisieux. My Listener."
And she welcomes the voice with open arms, and doesn't know why.
That isn't my name.
Eating dinner with the Family is awkward that night. She can feel their gazes on her as she stares at the plate of untouched food.
She is the Listener.
You can tell a lot about a person by the way they look at you. Arnbjorn's is hard, like the edges of diamonds. Veezara's is wondering, careful, surveying each part of her. Gabriella's is a sort of mix between bemused and envious. Festus' is gritty and careful, but uncaring and dismissive, not only of her abilities, but of her role, which she finds honest. Babette's is the deepest, the most soulful, as if she can see past what the others see. Cicero's is crinkled, and happy, and he is the only one speaking, in that mad little tone of his.
And Astrid's… Astrid's is the most ruthless. She feels like a crucified insect upon an alchemy table beneath that gaze.
She tries to swallow her venison.
And then proceeds to nearly choke to death on it.
"Did you know a Theresa Lisieux?" She questions Babette. Babette is in her usual spot, her spider settled on her lap, in a tightly curled position. Almost like a cat.
The name strikes something in Babette. She looks up sharply.
"Where did you hear that name," Babette asks in turn. "If you don't mind me asking?"
"The Night Mother." She says, and her lips quirk up slightly.
Babette smiles. "She was a Listener, two-hundred years ago."
"The one that let you leave?" The one that has my eyes?
"Yes." Babette looks almost wistful. "The one that let me go."
Vittoria Vici and her husband stand side-by-side, hand-in-hand.
He watches as a stone mount crushes her to death.
The assassin slips out of Solitude, completely undetected.
The camp she's made in the middle of the Forest just outside Marthal is tidy and neat. She packs lightly, nearly everything she owns is in the footlocker within the Sanctuary. The fire is lit, and she's feeling particularly jumpy. The last time she was in this forest, strange things happened.
She tries not to think about that, or Theresa Lisieux, or the Night Mother, or the feeling in her gut, the one that makes her feel as though she's been punched.
She has dreams that night. Of a big, black empty void. And brown eyes, watching, waiting.
Her breath catches in her throat. The eyes blink.
"What do I do now?" She asks them. There's a smile, too.
"Embrace your fate, child."
She smiles and reaches out with both arms, and suddenly there's a presence, cold and unfeeling, it pierces her with as much sharpness as a dagger. So cold.
She likes the cold.
"I missed you," It's her voice, but she doesn't say it. It's her, but isn't her. "Oh, how I've missed you, Lucien."
"And I, you," She can feel warm breath against the middle of her ear. "My Silencer."
"Together again," The Not-Her says. "Hm? After two-hundred years."
And there are ghost-lips upon her own lips.
"Again." The brown eyed man says.
"Ha ha! The news is everywhere!" Astrid is leaning casually against the stone-built frame. "Vittoria Vici, the emperor's cousin, butchered at her own wedding! Well done!"
The praise rolls off of her. She's too busy, stuck in the strange transit of feeling something, some recognition or acknowledgment, and feeling nothing. Feeling normality. Her heart beats at a manic rate, Ba-thump, ba-thump, ba-ba-thump-thum, ba-thump.
It is then that Astrid hands her a spell tome. It is old and the pages are crinkled at the edges, heavily dog-eared by several unknown fingers, fingers of people she has never known. It's heavy. The cover is black, without color, and completely devoid of happiness, because from it emanates such a strong, horrible feeling of being trapped.
"And now," Astrid seems almost happy to be rid of the thing. Because her voice lilts, and her fingers curl quickly when the tome is passed into her hands. "Your reward. A unique spell to summon a legend of the Dark Brotherhood. His soul serves us in death, just as he served in life."
She holds to the tome as though letting go of it meant letting go of a part of herself. And she isn't even sure why she feels this way, she just does. And it doesn't make any sense because it's an old, crinkly tome, touched by the filthy fingers of people who don't deserve to touch it—
When she collapses on her bed, she finds herself holding the tome to her heart, with fingers that seem completely in control of their own self.
And she dreams.
That night she dreams of a lighthouse. The smell of death clings to it, and she isn't even inside. She's standing outside a rusty-knobbed wooden door with shaking hands and a pair of lockpicks. She gets it open on the first try.
The rest of it is a flurry of images. She's walking down the stairs – Ineedtohurry – A pale, beautiful face is staring up at her with vapid, rotting eyes – Whoisthiswhoisthis – Her footsteps echo loudly, so very loudly – LucienLucienLucienwaitforme – Her fingers brush the doorknob – Thisisitisn'tit? – And a rotting mess of a face, a gaping mouth, cleaved at the nape – NO!
The Hanged Man.
The tome is simple to read, and simple to cast. And thank her Breton blood for that.
At first, there was a small flash of very dark purple light, and eventually a spot in the floor slowly bubbled and pooled with magicka, creating the outline of a well-built individual. The nose, hawkish and long, took shape, and as did the eyes. She… recognized the eyes. There was something about them she couldn't place, a sort of crinkled sadness as her Spectral Assassin came into view.
They stood there, just outside Falkreath, far from the Sanctuary, and took in one another.
Finally, the assassin gave her brusque nod, his eyes never leaving hers.
"My blade is yours," His voice was soft, and dark, and sent chills down her spine. "Theresa."
"That isn't my name." She hissed, fairly annoyed. The Night Mother, and now this man?
He smiled, teeth ghastly in the darkness. "Then what is your name, child… of darkness…?"
"Tess." It felt good, to actually say it. "And yours?"
He did have a name once, right?
"Lachance." Said the assassin. "Lucien Lachance."
The name hit her like a ton bricks. Her legs failed to support her weight and she fell, looking up at him as he approached her. Emotions flitted through her, quick and unyielding, a tidal wave of epic proportions. Joy, wrath, sorrow, confusion, acceptance, love—
Lucien knelt, taking her cheeks in his hands. Another scene flashed before her eyes. Him, her, the snow, an abandoned farmhouse. Applewatch.
A kiss. Tears.
"You," He spoke so slowly, with measure drama, tinged madness. "Are Theresa. Tess. My Silencer. My Listener."
My love, how I've missed you so.
"I'm not me," She asks him, when it is all over. When her world falls, and she loses a Family. For the second time. "Am I?"
The Dawnstar Sanctuary is quiet. Nazir is out, collecting recruits, as is Cicero. Babette… Babette is feeding, and she almost doesn't want to think about that. But right now, right now she has a job to do. The murder of an Emperor.
But she needs a moment, to think. Her and Lucien do not speak of what has been said, what has been done. They speak of business.
"No," He tells her, finally, blending in to the ice and gloom of the Dawnstar Sanctuary. His eyes always watch her. Even in battle, even now. "You are Theresa Lisieux. Reborn."
Dragonborn. Reborn. Dovahkiin. Theresa Lisieux. Listener. Stormcloak. Dragonslayer. She has so many names.
"Why?" She croaks out. Why me? Why her? Why are we one and the same, and if so, why can't I remember?
She feels Lucien's hand. Cold. Terribly cold.
A whisper, at her ear, "It is best, not to question the Night Mother's whims." A kiss on the collarbone.
"I love you." She tells him, in the cold. "She loved you. Why?"
And he tells her, from beginning to end.
There was a woman, and there was a man, and there was a murder.
"You sleep rather soundly for a murderer. That's good. You'll need a clear conscience for what I'm about to propose."
"I want my memories, Mother."
She stands, he stands, hands twined.
The Night Mother stares.
On the matter of Lucien's ghost being able to touch things: He can attack your enemies, when the Spectral Assassin spell is used, thus I decided that he isn't quite a… ghost persay, but more of the poltergeist kind of spirit, or a soul given form and mass by Sithis.
On the matter of Babette's past: Babette mentions, in game, should the player character inquire about her thoughts on Cicero and the Night Mother, that "2 hundred years ago I would have lain down my life for our Unholy Matron. Now, Astrid is the only mistress (matron?) I serve." I may be taking this slightly out of context, but I decided to place Babette as being an assassin in the Dark Brotherhood for quite awhile, and fled to escape the Oblivion Crises. (Which is a bit of an ass-pull but come on.)
Feedback is appreciated!