This story is based on the Dark Brotherhood questline from The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion by Bethesda Softworks. I don't own Oblivion, The Elder Scrolls, or Bethesda Softworks.
This story is going to jump forwards and backwards in time in some chapters, because the past has a significance to the future. The events in the past take place during 3E420, and the events of the present take place during 3E433.
Sun's Dawn 5, 3E420
The scented airflow barely murmured, not betraying the presence of the hooded man. The pungent aroma of rotting flowers seemed to cling to the path, despite there being no clouds to hold the scent from escaping into the black void above. He crept forward with one indistinct step at a time following the ever-changing shadows, wherever the flickering torches' light couldn't reach. To the chainmail-clad guards he would either appear as a dark corner, or not be seen at all.
The torch-laden patrols were few and far between this night, which made the hooded man's job easier than was customary. He reached the end of the path quickly, and then waited for the next window of opportunity. His many years of training allowed him to crouch there without reaching to protect his nose, for the sharp scent had grown stronger. The man waited under an archway that led through to the courtyards of this grand manor.
The guard reached the man's position then walked past, and then the man readied himself for his next manoeuvre. In one quick movement he sprung upwards, grabbed the decorative spikes that lined the archway, and pulled himself up and over the inner edge of the wall that enclosed the courtyard. He landed on top of the wall in his usual crouch, admired the real spikes that lined the outside edge of the wall, and then took in all of the information he could glean from the manor and its gardens.
From his perch he could see the curving walls and intricate decoration, which spoke of a rich owner and a well-paid architect. The house was surrounded by mossy hills, and in the distance could be seen the wide expanse of the Niben River. The many torches mounted on the walls were an attempt to turn this manor into bubble of dry in the eternal dampness of the Nibenay Valley.
The gardens were the source of the pungent smell. Flowers from other parts of Tamriel had been introduced to the garden, but were unsuited to the humidity of the region. As a result the flowers had begun to rot, littering the garden with tiny corpses. Only nightshade and nirnroot had survived, and many forms of fungi had begun to take back the soil. As nightshade plants were not usually included in gardens due to their poisonous properties, the hooded man suspected that someone had been trying to hide the nightshade amongst other plants.
The man crept along the wall, tracing its curved path to the main house. This wall was not designed for people to walk along, so there was no risk of being spotted. The guards wouldn't bother to look. He reached the end of the wall and climbed up onto the clay-tiled roof. He crawled across the roof, careful not to make a sound or disturb any of the tiles, and then he dropped down onto the stone balcony. Still in a crouch, he reached into a hidden pocket in his robes and pulled out a lockpick. He finally stood upright and approached the door. The lock on the balcony door was simple, and the door was opened in mere seconds.
The room was small, dirty, and sparsely furnished. Across the room sat a heavily wrinkled Bosmer woman garbed in tattered clothes. In front of her lay an effigy made of actual human body parts. Assorted bones surrounded a rotting heart, all arranged in the rough shape of a person. To one side of the effigy was a silver dagger, stained red from being stabbed into the effigy's heart. A violet-coloured flower from a nightshade plant sat next to the dagger, squashed and torn from having its petals rubbed across the blade. The only source of light was the circle of candles that surrounded the effigy.
The man saw that the woman had not yet noticed him, so he audibly shifted one of his feet. She jumped slightly in her simple wooden chair, and with wide eyes stared into the shadow of the man's hood.
"Greetings, my dear elf," he said in a charismatic voice. "My name is Lucien Lachance. I am here as a representative of The Dark Brotherhood."
"Oh, good evening Mr Lachance. I'm Nirwen… Nirwen of Valenwood," she croaked nervously. Lucien Lachance was not what she had expected. He was surprisingly young and light-hearted for an assassin. He couldn't have been much older than 20.
"The Night Mother has heard your summons, and she has sent me here to discuss the details of our contract. The contract is simple; you provide details of the target and payment, and we send the target to Sithis," Lucien continued.
Nirwen hesitated, and then Lucien's manner changed. He walked over to her and crouched so that his face was level with hers. "You do seek the formation of a contract?" he whispered. She nodded, and then he continued in the same tone, "Who would you have us kill?"
"A Bosmer named Galthor and his wife Sylaen" she said quietly.
"And how will we find them?" his brown eyes stared deep into her hazel.
"Galthor is my son," she croaked reluctantly. "Kill him and his wife, but spare their child. The daughter is not at fault."
"At fault for what?" asked Lucien.
"I would prefer to keep that to myself."
"Very well. Is there anything else we must know?" he still stared at her, but his gaze was less piercing.
"Galthor is very paranoid," she croaked. "Do not underestimate him or his guards."
"We are professionals," he whispered with a malevolent gleam in his dark eyes.
That gleam in his eyes said more than voice. In his eyes could be seen the very essence of the Brotherhood; their proficiency in the art of death; their secretive nature; their inescapable grasp. Once marked by the Dark Brotherhood, death is inevitable.
Sun's Dawn 6, 3E420
Lucien's midnight horse had been tethered not far from the manor; out of sight, hidden in a clump of trees. She heard the distinct sound of his footsteps. They were subtle and rhythmical, and each carefully measured. Despite her sudden alertness, she had been trained not to react physically, in case there was somebody watching. She was delighted at his approach, but did not betray his presence or position.
When he reached the clump of trees he reached out with his gloved hand and lightly stroked her black mane. "Shadowmere," he whispered. He then untied her, and rode down a rough trail towards the Green Road. Shadowmere flew like a Pegasus into the dawn sky, with her rider bent forward, and the air whistling past.
They arrived in County Cheydinhal before sunset. Shadowmere knew where to go without him directing her, so he had slept in the saddle. Years of practise allowed him to sleep at odd times and in odd places. He had no intention of visiting the sanctuary, so instead skirted all signs of civilisation and continued on towards his hideout overlooking the city of Cheydinhal.
Fort Farragut was a useful hideout, despite it being dank, dark and mostly inhospitable. He would not let comfort stand in the way of the strategic position of his chosen hideout. After the pleasure of clearing the fortress of bandits and other vermin, he had commissioned for a trapdoor to be installed (Lucien had promptly killed the man who had built the trapdoor, rather than bothering to use blackmail). The many deaths related to the fort, and the introduction of skeletal guardians had caused superstitions and rumours to spread amongst the common folk. No-one would think to go near the fort, and any brave heroes who did were dealt with by his dark guardians.
Lucien rode up the hill and around and to the north of the fortress to a secluded meadow, where he tethered Shadowmere. He walked back to the fortress, staying low to the ground to hide the secret entrance of his hideout from any spies, foresters, or other members of the Black Hand. When he reached the hollowed out tree, he squeezed in through the opening carefully, not making a sound. He inspected the camouflaged trapdoor for signs of being tampered with, then opened it and climbed down the ladder.
Lucien glanced at the portcullis mechanism at the other entrance to the room, and neither lever had changed position by even the slightest measure. He sat down on the stool in front of his alchemy apparatus, and lit the blood-red candle stub. He reached for a piece of parchment and a quill and began to write. Afterwards, he carefully sealed the document with red wax poured from the candle.
Sun's Dawn 8, 3E420
The manner in which you executed the Orc maiden Sharog gra-Ghash was as imaginative as ever.
You must now journey to the estate of a Wood Elf named Galthor off the Green Road near Bravil, where he lives with his wife Sylaen. Galthor and Sylaen must both die by your hand. None of the other members of the family are to be killed. Galthor is highly paranoid, and it would do well for you not to underestimate him or the guards he has hired to defend his home.
When Galthor and Sylaen both lie dead, journey south to the city of Leyawiin. In a barrel in the graveyard near the Chapel of Zenithar you will find your reward for completing this contract, and details concerning your next contract.
Deelus scratched his scaled head and read the note through again. He rolled his eyes, wondering for the umpteenth time why the dead drop was on the opposite side of Cyrodiil to the location of his next contract. He decided that he would visit with some cousins of his on the way to the Nibenay Valley. Deelus was starting to shiver violently; few Argonians have ever considered living in Bruma, or anywhere else that snows.
Lucien's Silencer was a talented killer. Despite that fact, most of Deelus's qualities would be judged as flaws. He earned a large income, but he could never be called rich. His ability to take risks, which had been quite useful in his career within the Dark Brotherhood, also translated into poor judgement when he was in the marketplace, and especially when he was gambling at the Arena.
Despite his loyalty to the Dark Brotherhood he always tried to find loopholes in its rules and Tenets, especially before he became Lucien's Silencer, when he had still been bound by The Five Tenets. He had been temporarily suspended from the Brotherhood on one occasion, when he had procrastinated for several weeks before completing a contract set by Vicente, for the third time in a row.
On the job, all of these bad qualities became useful. They had allowed him to stay in a little Breton girl's cupboard from midday to sunset, writing bizarre poetry in his mind whilst he waited to butcher her at the correct moment. He had also been able to get close to a powerful vampire by donating his blood, and risking becoming diseased. He had even once convinced one of the Palace Guards in the Imperial City that he was an ambassador from Black Marsh, thus exploiting a loophole and allowing him to access floors 3 through 12 of the Imperial Palace.
Deelus walked back to the city of Bruma in his tattered civilian clothes. He strolled over to the stables in order to hire a carriage to the Imperial City. Using some of his gold he had received from the dead drop, he paid the driver of the carriage. Deelus didn't like horses very much, but they were sometimes necessary in his trade. The driver urged the pair of horses to pull the carriage south, away from the snow of the north.
As they travelled closer and closer to the Imperial City, the air slowly warmed. Deelus tasted the air with his forked tongue, and was not bitten by the cold. He was relieved to be out of the intense cold that had made his scales rigid and brittle. He limited himself to just a couple of days visiting with his relatives and gambling at the Arena, before he would hire a boat and travel further south towards Galthor's manor.
Sun's Dawn 10, 3E420
Beneath the dusky sky, Deelus stood on the balcony where his Speaker had stood just a week beforehand. He was garbed in dark-tinted leather armour. Across his back was slung a wooden bow that had been painted black, and a quiver of poisoned arrows. At his hip was his grotesquely serrated dagger. He had a lockpick in hand, but it was not necessary for the first door, which was already unlocked. He paused for a moment, suspicious.
He crept inside, cautiously sniffing for anything unusual. Despite the horrible scent of rotten flowers that permeated everywhere, he could sense something else. He was surprised at how bare and dusty this room was, which was out of place in a house this grand. This interested him; one of the grandest rooms of this house was not being used for its original purpose. In the middle of the room he could see a bloodstain, which stood out vividly from the dusty brown of the floor.
Deelus ignored his curiosity, and focused on the job at hand. He listened for the footsteps of any guards that might have been posted indoors, and opened the wooden door that connected this room with the corridor. Deelus exited the room, and glanced around the corridor. A swarm of new smells, sounds and flavours greeted him, all coming from downstairs.
The flavours of roasting meat, smoke, and red wine filled the air, making him wish he was down in the banquet hall. The voices and laughter of those below echoed and ricocheted through the manor. Deelus dismissed his impulses, and found the door to the master bedroom. This door was locked, so he dexterously picked the lock with a lockpick held in his expert fingertips.
He glanced around the room, searching for hiding places. His eyes settled on the large bed in the middle of the room, under which he promptly hid. He relaxed his muscles, preparing to wait the many long hours it would take for the bed's owners to arrive. Gradually his sense of hearing became heightened, and his other senses dimmed. He covertly listened to the events happening below.
Unfortunately, there are some things that cannot seen or heard. Galthor was an experienced magic user, and regularly cast spells to detect the presence of spies or assassins. When Galthor cast detect life and saw the magical silhouette of a person in his bedroom, he knew that something was amiss. All of the guards, servants, and other occupants of the manor knew to stay within their designated spaces at all times, lest they experience Galthor's wrath.
Nirwen had not known that Galthor used magic to detect unwanted visitors to his manor. She had chosen the room with the balcony because Galthor avoided visiting that room. The room was directly above the entrance to the house, so it would only be within range of his magic if he was near the entrance to the house. Galthor's paranoia meant that at night he never went anywhere near the main entrance to the house, hiding behind several layers of guards, so the balcony room was always out of range of his magic during this time. The Dark Brotherhood usually only worked at night, as the lack of light made stealth missions easier. If Deelus had stayed in the balcony room until Galthor was asleep, he would have had more of a chance of completing the contract.
Galthor sent a group of his personal guards upstairs to fetch the intruder. Deelus tried to fight back, but he had lost his stealth advantage. He had been trained to kill his targets whilst they were still unaware, and he wasn't as strong a fighter in open combat. He was easily captured and disarmed. The guards escorted the assassin down the stairs, and he felt dread.
Galthor had a smooth, angled face, silvery-blond hair, and icy blue eyes. Deelus tried to look around the room as the guards pushed him against the wall, but the intensity of the elf's icy gaze made it impossible for him to shift his own gaze. The elf pulled an antique elven shortsword off its bracket on the wall and swiftly cut the Argonian's throat. The casual drip of blood onto the dark wooden floorboards could have been mistaken for rain.