Title: 5 Tenets
Summary: There are certain codes one must follow when inducted into the brotherhood. Traditions long since forsaken with the death of the previous listener, yet the Dovahkiin has still managed to break them all anyway. Hinted, Lucien x Dovahkiin. Spoilers.
Author Note: There are possible spoilers, though this doesn't follow the Dark Brotherhood quest exactly as in the game. I threw in a few things of my own. Hope you enjoy.
Kynesgrove didn't boast a reputation as being a most luxurious of places to spend an evening, especially if it involved being confined and stranded inside the only dingy inn available. To be honest compared to other providences it was poor and shabby, much like the people residing within.
Men shuffled miserably around in dirt covered clothing, pickaxes clutched in lumbering hands on their way home from the nearby mine carved into the mountainside, barely two septims to rub together despite all the strenuous manual labor. Women wore dusty dark dresses tainted with muck and ripped seams at the hem as they worked the fields, planting and digging up crops on their pitiful excuse of a farm. Stalks of wheat ready for harvest were left unattended while cabbages and potato plants occupied a small corner, attracting bugs to devoir some of the ignored harvest.
Pine trees stood towering and foreboding around the entrance and vast entirety of the settlement altogether, casting shadows amidst the stone path winding through town and the only inn within miles. When the wind blew the branches into a frenzied dance the jade needles swirled and littered the ground, giving the place a rich powerful scent of pine sap and fresh stripped bark.
The sun was dwindling on the horizon, the glowing ball plunging with each passing moment enveloped by darkness. The moon already visible in the darkening sky casts its pale luminescence against the blackened gold, a picture almost akin to a half burnt sweet roll. A traveler cloaked in sorrel leather attire stood at the precipice of a gapped stone wall. A stick of wood sprouted nearby harboring engraved arrows serving as direction markers to nearby holds.
A glance at the thick puffs of obsidian clouds that would be more appealing as plumes of smoke began to rumble menacingly overhead. A deep inhale of night air revealed the heavy damp scent of moisture clinging to the chilled breeze that rustled the trees filled the stranger's lungs. Vast rising in humidity over the past few miles left her skin clammy and senses seeking lodging of an adequate nature to serve as shelter for the now confirmed brewing storm.
The traveler shuffled onward after a belated pause, ears and eyes unnaturally aware of the surrounds as she watched the shadows grow and stretch to accommodate a large majority of the road and small buildings. Everywhere her eyes fell seemed oddly vacant and quiet as the townsfolk rushed indoors. The place rapidly became a ghost town in little more than five minutes as fields and mine lay abandoned.
Leather boots clanked up creaky wooden stairs of, what the hanging sign read as, Braidwood Inn before she maneuvered towards the door just as rain began pelting the roof. Her supple pink lips quirked in an odd mix of amused irritation. Half her brain and instincts were quite displeased, if not repulsed by the amount of noise she was making, while the other was satisfied in the utter lack of covertness.
Rational logic told her these were small town people, predictably unused to strangers, and the idea that they would respond favorably to a foreign individual clinging to the shadows like a phantom and sneaking about like a Khajiit were ludicrous. No, a warm welcome was not in the cards either way but there was little sense to be had in administering reasonable suspicion for the locals when they possessed something that was… Well not quite necessary but certainly favorable, in her best interests at the least.
Her bare hand pushed the rimy wooden door open as she took a few steps inward avoiding a spray of rain water. The door clamped shut behind her with a piercing click in her now recently sensitive ears, though the few people loitering in the main room appeared oblivious to what must be a subtle sound at best.
A drunkard nestled comfortably in a bench beside the door glared up from a half full tankard. His hazy brown eyes blinked ponderously up at her unfamiliar features and he grimaced, slamming the mug onto the tabletop as his eyes gave her a once over. The bronze drink sloshed about as droplets splashed out and pooled on the cheap putrefying wood.
"We don't like strangers here," he slurred with a grimace and stood on shaky legs. He didn't so much stand as he pitched and wobbled to and fro, one foot or another constantly shifting to steady his unbalanced body and keep him from toppling over like an overstuffed sack.
Grey-blue eyes blinked and regarded him from beneath a leather hood concealing and shading most of her face. A prickling sensation triggered up her spinal column to her nape, unpleasantly making her suddenly very aware of all the attention directed at the spectacle, at her. Glancing around there were at least six other occupants, mainly Nords, with multicolored eyes fixed sternly studying her like they were all mages and she a newly discovered spell tome.
So much attention was pesky and inconvenient, yes, though not unbearable. She wasn't here on business anyway so discretion wasn't a necessity.
The drunken blonde Nord staggered, his meaty hand slapping the table making the dishes clatter in protest. His chiseled face was taunt with resentment, his pupils dilated with drink, and a sneer made his mouth twitch at the corner as he snarled when he failed to startle her.
Attention shifted back to him. Her resolute to remain calm and impassive where tempted as his blundering form teetered and they were rendered face to face, quite an accomplishment considering her small stature in correlation to his own. Black eyebrows narrowed in distaste at the overwhelming stench of him at such close proximity.
She deciphered he was drinking Nord Mead by his warm sultry breath in her face, and quite a bit of it at that.
His breath held the hardy odor of honey and mint as he staggered uncomfortably close, his intoxicated state robbing him of the polite wherewithal of personal space. She stepped away at the offending closeness and overbearing smell of mead, earth, and sweat.
"Did you not heat me?" He snapped aggressively making her teeth grit and her fingers twitch with the urge to grip her sword. Apparently her silence thus far was irritating him, but she had no desire nor obligation to collaborate with an unreasonable drunk.
"Alright, that's enough." A woman paraded over like a scolding mother, her brown hair was tied back and her green dress flowed as she moved. Her footsteps were quick and heavy with purpose, her eyes warm and hopeful with little specks or irritation rather than gleaming with suspicion. "Customers are always welcome," she quirked a smile at the prospect of coin and beckoned the younger girl to follow while the Nord sat down and the inn resumed its natural state of clattering mugs and drunken mumblings.
When they reached the counter she leaned in to whisper, her voice low and dull from worry and hardship, "Ignore them. Drunk and angry the lot of them, but not harmful," She assured while leaning away and taking place behind the countertop. "I'm Iddra, the owner. Are you looking for a room by chance?"
The stranger nodded and reached up to push back the leather cowl revealing a head of flowing black tresses appearing soft as the finest silk and cut at the oddest of angles to frame her lith face.
Iddra couldn't help staring but this stranger was unlike anything she'd ever laid eyes on. Her hair was so unusual, parted on the right side a crop of ebony strands hung down the left side of her forehead reaching only about an inch past an icy blue eye, a second layer of strands on either side clipped featherlike chin level while the rest hung neatly below her shoulders. She had the typical paler skin custom to the Nord race, but she was a bit on the short side. Not to mention thin, almost a bit emaciated looking. Her small form wrapped in an uncustomary set of light leather armor. A decent hunting bow strapped to her back along with a quiver of steel tipped arrows and a menacing looking steel sword at her hip.
In all this girl was exceedingly curious, but what perturbed her most was the vivid silvery-blue of her eyes that seemed to shimmer in the light and glow brighter in the dark like a Khajiit, as well as that luscious flow of ebony that rivaled the ingots themselves. So clean, shiny, and silken was a feat only the richest of the rich could pull off. Being so clean simply wasn't heard of for lower and middle class dwelling in a residence, and as a traveler, forget about it. But that aside the two colors together were exceptionally rare in any race but nonexistent for the seafaring Nords who were renowned for both light hair and eyes.
She resisted the urge to cup her chin in her unnerved ponderings. Something was off but she couldn't place it or understand the source of her unease. The stranger had done nothing to invoke fear or hostility, appeared relatively shy in her quietness, and more importantly was a potential customer. Instead she swallowed back her nerves and gave the subtlest of smiles. "Food, perhaps?"
Iddra's mud brown hues couldn't help notice the look on the young woman's face when she emphasized the word food. Perhaps she could have been more subtle but this traveler had the appearance she hadn't eaten for days and was in a bad way. On closer inspection she could make out the dark rings under her eyes that stood as a testament of too little sleep were less than comforting. Usually she didn't care what her customers did, where they came from, or what condition they were in upon arrival but for some reason she truly did this time. "Do you have a name?"
The girl straightened and began to fish through her pocket producing a nice sized coin purse. "Rosalind," she finally answered in an enchanting musical lilt of a voice that made Iddra gasp. She had a voice a bard would kill for and any man would fall in love with. "I'm just looking to wait out the storm," she informed, digging out shiny bits of gold pieces from the pouch.
"Are you quite certain? We have many things available and I happen to be a very good cook as well." Iddra was being pushy and it came out in both tone and presentation but she was relieved to see the attractive traveler smile subtly with humor.
"If you insist." She laid her gold on the counter as Iddra waved a hand to a room just off to the right. "Just surprise me then."
Iddra laughed with delighted victory and swept up the coins to pocket them. "I'll bring you something shortly."
Rosalind found her room easy enough and stripped out of her weaponry, laying it inside a chest at the foot of her rented bed before shutting it with a clank. Sitting on the bundle of furs her fingers rubbed her tired eyes as she sat there till the friendly innkeeper made an appearance with a buffet on a tray.
She set it next to her with a smile before taking her leave. The entire contents contained a slice of goat cheese, a sweet roll smothered in still dripping gooey icing, sliced pieces of beef, grilled leaks, a horker loaf, a bowl of tomato soup accompanied by a slice of bread, a single red apple, and both spiced wine and a piping hot mug of tea.
She leaned sideways on the bed to glance out the doorway in search of the innkeeper, thinking quite surely there was no way that she had given the woman nearly enough coin for all this. She caught a glimpse of her grabbing a dark haired Breton by the arm to support him and lead him to his room. They caught each others' gaze for a moment and Iddra just gave her the faintest quirk of a smile and a nod as she drug the man away.
Iddra was much too nice for her own good.
Rose sat there for a moment before picking at the freshly made sweet roll and popped a piece into her mouth considering they were always best when they were hot. It was sweet and absolutely delicious and she polished it off in no time before sipping at her tea. She soon finished the soup and bread and resolved to packing the rest into her bag to take with her on the remaining journey to Windhelm.
Rolling up each individual item in strips of cloth to keep them from being soiled by any other knickknacks or potions she placed them at the top of the bag and tucked it away in the chest. Her fingers curled around her mug of tea and she placed the tray on the nightstand so it was out of the way.
A book laying on a nearby table caught her eye and she grabbed it, pacing back over to her bed she settled comfortably beneath a fur blanket and began to read as she sipped at her drink until exhaustion gripped her. She placed her things aside and hunkered down to get comfortable and shut her eyes.
Nightmares claimed her imagination as they often did when she chanced to sleep and she woke with the sun. Eyes snapping open as she sat upwards in a cold sweat, her heart thumping wildly, encased in its boney prison. Huffing she ran a hand through her disheveled hair and yanked the blankets away. The cool air hit her overly heated skin and she was standing within moments, opening the chest and yanking on her gear in great haste.
Draping her pack over her shoulder she yawned and began her descent through the uninhabited main room. Snores sounded from a few of the rooms and the smell of roasting meat from the hearth made her mouth water. The innkeeper was nowhere in sight so she strode to the door and shoved it open to step into a steam of morning sunlight.
It was still chilly from the evening shower as she stepped down the stairs and onto the path. The rocks were dark in color from being drenched and puddles of muddy water littered the ground. The whole place smelled like wet dirt and crushed pine needles and she marched north out of town all the while picking apart her piece of goat cheese.
It was late afternoon when she made it into Windhelm. Snow and ice embraced every inch of the settlement in its freezing clutches. Her Nord blood kept her relatively comfortable despite the harsh conditions but it was still cold and she huddled deeper into her leather armor. Clasping the leather strap of her satchel she yanked it from her shoulder and began rooting around till her fingers brushed the leather cover of a worn book.
Pulling her journal from her bag she flipped through a couple of yellowing pages, eyes scanning scripted ink till she found Vex's name and the name of the targeted house complete with the item in question. A simple burglary job shouldn't be too difficult at this time of day. Everyone was out and at work she just needed to avoid being caught by the guards. Get in, get out.
She shut the book and stuffed it back inside and began wandering around town in search of the Atheron residence. After a solid 15 minutes of roaming in circles it was becoming clear she was lost and she grumbled with an eye roll. Typical and just her luck. The whole town was one big maze of stone and ice.
Walking up some steps she spied a dark elf and a small boy standing by a house. They appeared to be having a lively discussion. Moving closer she noticed the dark elf glance at her briefly then disregard her existence altogether before responding to the young boy. She wouldn't be surprised if the Dunmer pegged her for an eavesdropper, granted she was a majority of the time these days, though not usually on purpose. All she really needed was some directions and a plausible lie.
"Then I'll invite him out to play. He lives right there. I'm going to knock on his door," the slyness in his juvenile voice taunted the old elf as he threatened to make an advance towards the nearby door, a toothy grin on his young face as she called his bluff.
"No, child don't! That house, that family, their cursed!" The Dunmer practically shouted her warning, sounding quite panicked at the notion, yet the small boy simply chuckled knowing he had tricked her.
He folded his tiny arms looking quite pleased with himself. "Then I was right. He's trying to have someone killed."
The woman sighed defeated and relented with great displeasure on her brow. "Alright. I won't deny it, child. What you heard is true. But Aventus walks a dark path. His actions can lead only to ruin." She sounded much like a stern mother hen, clucking advice with a hinted hopefulness that her chick would obey and not rebel. A safe bet considering his age, but beware the years he became a man. And a Nord man at that. Always thinking they have something to prove, the lust for battle running deep in their blood, and a yearning for glory in their hearts.
The small portion of the conversation she had overheard peaked her interest immensely, curiosity seized her and forced her legs to approach the dark elf. "Excuse me, did I hear you say something about a curse?"
The Dunmer crosser her arms against her chest, her green apron stood out against her blue dress as she frowned disapprovingly but answered in the signature accent of her people. "Aventus Aretino. A young boy sent to an orphanage in Riften after the death of his mother. Apparently he ran away and came back and is now attempting to summon the Dark Brotherhood. Why a little boy would want to contact a group of murderers is beyond me, but he is inviting evil into this city." She hissed the word evil for good measure, for that's all the Dark Brotherhood really was.
"I see," Rosalind paused and ventured a gaze towards the door; an inquisitive raise of an eyebrow at these so called murders caused the elf to squint oddly. The door looked old and ill kept along with the house, the wood chipped and the lock rusted in bronzed streaks. "Well thank you."
Idesa nodded and began ushering the young boy away earnestly and up a set of stairs. Rose waited till they were out of sight before crouching low beside the door. A wary glimpse at her surroundings showed no guards nearby so she slipped a lockpick from her front armor pocket.
A couple adjustments, some fiddling, and a click later she was slithering into the house through a miniscule crack in the doorway. Once inside she could hear the voice of a young boy emanating through the house chanting a strange prayer. The smell of decay, wax, and nightshade was overpowering and burned her nose as she slunk up the stairs towards the noise. The farther in she ventured the worse the stench got and she buried the lower half of her face in the crook of her elbow to stifle it.
Aventus sat hunched over on his knees, a dagger in one hand repeatedly stabbed at an effigy of human bones, a perfect skeleton laid out in pieces with precise care. A putrefied hunk of human flesh and a heart rotting, stabbed, and coagulated adorned the remains radiating that fowl corrosive stench that made her blood churn dangerously. A circle of gleaming candles illuminated the grotesque scene of decaying remains. A book and a nightshade stem were strewn off to the side. The plant petals were bruised and crinkled from being smeared across the steal blade.
The Imperial child jumped to his feet in excitement at the sight of her, which she found slightly disturbing. "I knew you'd come! I just knew it!"
Her body straightened into a standing position and she towered over him, forcing her arm away from her puzzled face. "What?"
His face and voice were filled with utter rapture and for a moment she wondered if he was going to jump about in ecstasy like a small child excited over sweets. Thankfully, no such event occurred but his response was matter of fact and straight to the point. "I did the Black Sacrament over and over, with the body and the… things. And you came!"
Black Sacrament? It definitely sounded connected to this group of murders, which she most certainly was not. A thief, yes. But not a killer for hire. "I'm not who you think I am."
He scoffed. "Sure you are. You're an assassin from the Dark Brotherhood and now that you're here you'll accept my contract!"
"Contract?" She frowned, bewildered.
"My mother… she died. I'm all alone now so they sent me to the Honorhall orphanage in Riften. It's terrible! The headmistress is an evil cruel woman. They call her Grelod The Kind," his melancholy took shape to something dark and irate. His eyes seemed blacker than normal and his face twisted in a way she'd only seen mask her enemies in combat just at the mere mention of such a place. He mocked the woman's name with scorn before snarling, "But she's not kind. She's terrible to all of us! So I ran away and performed the Black Sacrament. Now you're here and you can kill Grelod!"
Rose backed away a few steps while the boy beamed brighter than the sun in Elsweyr, a smile now on his face as he stared at her. His sudden happiness probably meant he assumed she was taking her leave to fulfill his presented task.
She left the ecstatic boy behind, departing quickly without caring if she was spotted exiting the house, wanting nothing to do with this murder. The child seemed so happy she couldn't see breaking his heart by telling him she wasn't going to complete the job so she stalked the streets in search of her original objective.
These things had a tendency to fade away with age. He'd forget all about it soon enough and go on to live a happy normal life.
One burglary later she was on the road again back to Riften.
Walking took several days but it helped to clear the mind somewhat at least. A few bandits had attempted to rob her on the way, not to mention the wolf packs that saw travelers as easy prey, but it was nothing she couldn't handle. The most disturbing thing she had run into on the way back was a rather curious jester stuck near a farm north of Whiterun. On his way to bury his mother he said when the front wheel gave way, but who could tell. The man was positively insane. Either that or an exceptional actor. Still she took sympathy on the poor Imperial, crazy or not, and convinced Loreius to help him, which made him giddy and dance about humorously.
On the positive end she made good time as she entered the city, making a beeline towards the secret entrance of the Thieves Guild. Guards made snarky remarks about her armor as she passed through the streets. Brynjolf was manning a stale in the marketplace dressed in the same fancy clothing she'd first met him in while peddling his newest 'potion.' He sent her a playful smirk and a wink as she passed by, his heavily accented voice charming hordes out of coin with false promises.
She continued on as she made sure he saw her shake her head at him which only caused a teasing smile to grace his lips. She would see him later. Pressing the button, the stone slab skid over the rocks to reveal a wooden manhole. Pulling it open she climbed down the ladder and made straight for the Flaggen before anyone could stall her with conversation.
Vex was leaning against a stack of boxes in her usual place across from the bar, her brown eyes full of expectation as the apprentice thief approached the superior and handed over a jeweled goblet. The blonde took it and handed her a coin purse. "I hear you managed not to botch it up, good. Here's your share."
She pocketed her earnings and made for the exit ignoring Vex's scolding about not taking any more work. Something was gnawing at her from the inside, a questioning fire that needed stifled before anything else could even be considered.
Her days spent wandering the roads were peaceful but brought several contemplations. She marched through the streets, ducking and dodging through the public while also avoiding her higher up, done with his day of peddling fraudulent sewer water. Not an easy task. The man was immensely persistent, especially when it came to money or a new job he had lined up for her. Still she had managed to create a human obstacle course by weaving through the crowd and ducking behind a stone wall.
He hadn't pursued long after that. Simply chuckled and headed into the Bee And Barb for a well earned mug of ale.
"Hands to yourself sneak thief," a guard hissed while passing. A scowl adorned her usually calm face as she waited till he was well out of distance before growling low in her throat, vowing to pickpocket the snarky man later. She was running low on arrows anyway.
Pushing onward she halted by the wooden doors. Bushes and trees decorated the left hand side of the building accompanied by a few flowers that a monarch butterfly chose as a perch. A great metal sight above the door read 'Honorhall Orphange.'
Raising her arm she rested her palm on the rough dry wood in hesitation. It wasn't too late to turn back. She could just walk away and pretend she was never there, that Aventus Aretino never happened, but it was like an invisible force urged her onward, literally. She could swear she felt the imprint of a hand press into her lower back, lightly bunching the thick protective leather when the palm applied pressure to physically nudge and encourage her forward.
It wasn't the first time for such a bizarre occurrence, but it still made her look over her shoulder expecting to see someone and being sourly disappointed and edgy when all that greeted her was empty space. First she figured it was someone using a scroll, or a potion, even a spell to cloak them in invisibility but if she swiped at the air there was no physical mass relevant. Not to mention the fact that warmth from body heat was undetectable. Not a scent permeated the air, not even a heartbeat could be heard. It was… unnerving.
Another rather forceful press in her back had her stumbling inside, more in a desperate desire to escape from the weird frightening sensation than anything else. Her heart jumped into a slight incline of beats before settling into its normal rhythm as she shut the door behind her quickly. May the presence stay outside and away from her where it belonged, if it ever was there to begin with. She scowled. Sheogorath must be beaming, having a great laugh at her wavering sanity.
An elderly woman's berating voice suddenly boomed, cutting through her thoughts of the crafty demented daedra like a knife. "Those that short their chores will get extra beatings! And there will be no more talk of adoptions. None of you riffraff are going anywhere. Nobody needs you, nobody wants you."
Her shrill voice like the scraping of metal over the grinding stone made her draw back at the offending tone while the appalling speech made her surge forward in outrage. Her footsteps light but stalking, a deep rumbling slithering within her chest towards her throat, pearl white teeth revealed in a sneer in a blind furry that lasted only moments.
"That my darlings are why you're here. Why you'll always be here until you come of age and get thrown into that wide horrible world." She paused regarding the mass of children lined up in a half circle about her. Beds lined the walls on either side as the children frowned deeply and all mumbled out a thank you before they were dismissed to bed.
The intruding thief stopped, lips still pulled back in a silent growl when the old woman turned and scowled menacingly at her. "You shouldn't be here. None of them are up for adoption."
Rose's blue gaze burned fiercely as they scanned the elder's face then the room. Ignoring her begrudging threats about calling the guards she sauntered through the room as the children crawled into bed, pulling the blankets over their faces to hide tears. Pacing the room with all the preciseness of a thief and warrior she pushed open a set of doors.
The older woman scampered forward, her boney fingers like skeletal hands clutching tightly to her upper arm to yank her towards the door. The room was tiny and rusted shackles lined the three adjoining walls. "You need to leave," her hiss made another younger woman appear in the doorway. This newcomer clutched nervously at her dress as Rose pulled her arm away, glaring and advancing like a wild animal, foreboding and intimidating enough to make this Grelod shrivel back.
"I'm leaving," she stopped and made a few steps for the door before looking back. A cocky smirk tugged condescending at her lips. "Aventus Aretino says hi."
The other woman gasped and as Rosalind listened to the door screeched closed behind her she could her Grelod's grating voice creaking. "Arentino, that miserable little bastard. If I ever see him again it'll be the beating of his miserable life."
The threat was finalized with the slam of the door and for the first time in a very long while the dragonborn made pace for the Bee And Barb.
The place still smelled thick of mildew, fire soot, and mead and she shrank into an empty stole at the counter. Her hand came up to brush her hood back to reveal the entirety of her face. The female Argonian, Keerava, halted in her cleaning. The dishrag limp in her tan scaled hand as her copper eyes shown with unease and displeasure.
Sighing she leaned forward, her husky voice dropped to a whisper as she continued to wipe the countertop of spilled ale. "Look I already paid off my debt and told Brynjolf he won't get any more trouble from me."
Rose lifted a hand rubbing at her now aching forehead as she signed regretfully. Keerava was her one regret when her superior had sent her debt collecting. She appeared rough around the edges but deep down was an unwavering loyalty to family and exploiting it made her feel ashamed. It was a low move, but there were no other alternate courses. Even worse she had dragged Talen-jei into it all which is why she spent spare time rummaging Skyrim in search of those flawless amethysts. A small hope at making amends to the couple and with two in her pocket victory was close enough to taste but taunt in failed attempts.
Leaning back her arm dropped to her pocket to pull out a few septims and lay them amongst the counter. "I'm only here for a drink," she paused making eye contact with the Argonian. Maybe she could see her earnestness; the sorry in her eyes but the deep orange-red only blinked disbelieving. "Please."
"It's your money," she responded and straitened, pulling a mug out from beneath the bar. "What shall it be?"
"Perhaps one of my special drinks this time?" The swamp green and orange lizard sauntered up, edgy and eavesdropping but who could blame him. She was only welcome because she had powerful connections. After all she had done Talen-jei made it clear they despised her but were powerless to do anything about it. They simply tolerated her prescience because of the red haired thief currently sipping his ale in the corner and laughing raucously with an underling.
"Special drinks?" She inquired as Talen-jei mustered his may on the empty seat beside her, eyes ever watchful. She assumed he was more keeping tabs on her than being actually friendly.
"Three in fact, my own recipe. Brought them over from my days as a bartender in Gideon." He informed, his gaze shifting and softening at the sight of the other Argonian who turned away to help another customer. "First is the Velvet Lachance, which is a mixture of blackberry, honey, spiced wine, and a touch of nightshade."
Her eyes crinkled at said poisonous ingredient and his eyes sparkled with humor. "Perfectly safe I assure you. Next is the White-Gold Tower, which is heavy cream with a layer of blended mead, lavender and dragons tongue on top. Last, and only for the bravest of souls, we have the Cliff Racer, made of firebrand wine, Cyrodiilic brandy, flin, and sujamma."
"Hmm," She hummed in thought, playing over the ingredients and trying to keep them straight. Quite difficult considering the number of them. "Well that blackberry one sounds good."
"Ah, the Velvet Lachance," he re-pronounced with assurance and a twinge of a smile.
Keerava returned, pouring the beverage from a flagon and arranging a sprinkling of nightshade leaves to decorate the top pleasantly as she slid it across the table. "Quite popular that one." The Argonian couple smiled at one another as if sharing a private joke.
Rosalind clutched the mug, simply holding it between her fingers as she stared at the deep red color of the drink, the blackberry juice staining it dark but lightened by the wine and honey. The shredded petals were her hesitant cause of unease, but even if the couple did hate her they would never poison her in front of a room of witnesses, let alone Brynjolf.
"Are you going to drink it, or stare at it all night?" Talen-jei's thick accent resounded next to her ear compelling her to lift the tankard and sip the bittersweet drink. A plethora of spices joined the sweet tang of honey counteracted by the juice of the blackberry was pleasantly tasty. "Good?"
She nodded as she swallowed, her tongue licking a drop off her lip. "Bit of an odd name though."
"Yes quite," he nodded, "named in tribute of a famous assassin."
Surprise decorated her face, her eyes narrowed as she turned fully to the deep green scaled male. "It was named after an assassin?" Her finger traced the outer rim of the mug, making a few complete circles as they stared at one another. "That's not comforting, especially with the nightshade."
It was quiet for a moment before the male erupted in throaty laughter. "I assure you it is perfectly safe. I have been serving it for years."
Her eyes squinted with interest. "Who was it named after?"
Talen's head tilted slightly and his fingers drummed over the wooden countertop. "A Dark Brotherhood assassin in Cyrodiil from, roughly, 200 years ago. No one knows the full story of course. They are very secretive organization after all."
A party of drunken Nords in the far corner decided it was about time to show off their impressive fighting skills and as two began a fistfight one stumbled blindly into a table, falling over it and breaking one of the legs with a loud crack. His heavy muscled form sent it topping over, the heavy wood dropping over his steel armored chest as his buddies laughed restlessly.
Talen-jei released a throaty hiss of a sigh and stood to clean up the mess. "Excuse me, I have other things to do."
Rose could only nod and watch him stalk over angrily and shoo the drunks away from the handicapped table that found the rest of its parts snapped off and tossed onto a roaring fire. She sipped her drink occasionally, the noise of conversation surrounded her, the clank of tankards, the crackling from the hearth, yet somehow everything seemed so… distant.
Brynjolf had ducked out the door in the prescience of some blonde Nord she had stolen a statue from weeks prior. Haelga, the Dibella worshipper. Too bad, she wouldn't mind his company for a change. It would give her someone to talk to that didn't want to see her head mounted on a pike by the Riften gates.
Sighing she crossed her leather clad arms over the table and lay her chin against them.
Keerava began to tidy things up as the absence of customers gave her a temporary break. She plucked the now empty mug off the counter noticing the way the thief's eyes began to droop with fatigue and sheer boredom. A dreamy lost look in steel blue irises as dark circles began to pool and stain beneath them. "Perhaps you should consider renting a room for the night."
"I'm fine," she grumbled picking at a flaking piece of wood grain while Keerava muttered a series of grunts and hisses, her native language, while wiping down a mug and turning her back.
The barstool beside her squeaked in protest as a force manifested in it, making the Argonian turn to service another customer. The unfocused thief continued to pick the wood until she noticed the absence of Keerava's speaking. The woman was always on top of things. Customers never had to wait long, even on the busiest of days, and seeing as how the woman had nothing to do at the moment other then to polish her mug to an absolute shine it was bewildering that the deep rumbling hiss of her accent wasn't taking an order.
Likewise there was no response from beside her and when her eyes flicked to the side she found out why.
There simply was no one there.
Ebony eyebrows furrowed, her gaze lingering unblinkingly on unhindered air as Keerava continued with her busy work. She was now sweeping the floor, the cornstalk bristles scraping against the wood she finally looked away. A nearby candle flickered and another creek, as though someone was shifting in their seat disturbed the emptiness beside her. Only this time the innkeeper took no notice.
Rosalind bit on her lower lip, a creeping sense of foreboding unease prickled her neck and tossed her belly. She could feel her heart rate escalate as she convinced herself not to look over at what was the source of her discomfort. Swallowing she maneuvered in the seat, placing a few coins in tip on the counter for the struggling innkeeper as she took a moment to collect the courage to slink past the unearthly presence.
The only way out of the inn meant passing that one particular stool.
Breathing deep she calmed herself, quelling the fear. It was quiet. The stool hadn't made any noises and it was very possible it was just old. Old wood creaks. It was silly to think it was anything else, ridiculous even.
She scoffed a tiny smile on the corner of her mouth as she gathered her things to leave. She leaned over to grab her bag, a crop of black hair sliding onto her face as she did so. When she sat up forward again the Argonian had pocketed her gold and was situating a tray to take to a nearby table. Her footsteps stalked around the corner as Rose situated her bag on her shoulder and then something bushed her hair.
Cold as fresh snow, as death against her cheek.
Something traced her cheekbone, pushing the black strands away like a curtain and tucking them behind her ear.
For a second her heart hammered with adrenaline and she gasped going rigidly still beneath the freezing chill of inhuman fingers. She was paralyzed with fright, shameful as it was to admit. She had heard of it happening to others before, like whelps in the midst of their first battles, but never her. She fought bandits, saber cats, trolls, dragons for Akatosh's sake and had never been choked up, but for a split second she was actually petrified into a standstill.
Once the frigid caress broke away it was like whatever control it possessed over her body dissolved along with it and she lurched backwards onto her feet, toppling the stool over with a clatter. A series of heads turned to stare at her as she stood in the center of the room, heaving breath like a horse worked over its limit, eyes fixated on nothing before bolting out of the inn.
She ran down the alleyway and over the bridge to Honeyside. Shoving open the door she dashed inside and slammed it shut, locking it before turning around to lean against it. Slowly she caught her breath and sank to the floor to sit legs bent, knees in the air, and scrunched up tight against the solid bulk like a hedgehog in a ball.
Her housecarl, Iona, practically sprinted up the basement stairs and into the kitchen, her steel war ax drawn and poised for attack. "My Thane, is everything alright?"
Rosalind nodded and shooed her away with a hand and after much reluctance the older woman finally took the hint, sheathed her weapon, and retreated to her room. Uncurling she finally stood up and paced to her bedroom, throwing her pack on the floor and shoving her weapons onto the chest she crawled into the bed.
The fur blankets found themselves over her head, her eyes squinted shut tight enough to make spots of color dance behind the lids. Every sound sent her on edge, even the ones that were familiar which made falling asleep exceedingly difficult, though eventually she had managed.
A short fit of restless sleep was cut abruptly shorter when a weight settled onto the bed, dipping the mattress and startling her awake. Her blue eyes snapped open as she lay motionless on her stomach, her head resting sideways on the pillow so all she could make out was the wardrobe in the dark room.
A hand snaked out slowly inching towards a candle on the nightstand. If she moved slowly enough maybe the intruder wouldn't notice she was awake. The silence was deafening, her hand quivering as each moment brought her fingers closer to the bronze handle.
They barely grazed the grooved metal when her wrist was caught and pinned to the bed beside her waist. The trespasser maneuvered above her, straddling her petite body, pinning her arm down with a knee as a flat solid chest bore down on her back.
The solid form of the intruder lay firm and flush upon her back keeping her pressed to the bed while also making it slightly difficult to breath. It was definitely a male and he was heavy, and tall, taller than her for sure, and his dead weight made him seem like he weighed more than any bulky Nord she had ever come across. Even without armor he was suffocating her.
The man leaned down, his nose resting against the crown of her head just at her hairline, his mouth lined up perfectly with her ear. She felt him breath a few times through his nose. A cool gust of air ghosted her skin and made her hair sway.
She should fight, scream, use a spell, a shout, something, but again that familiar sense of pure terror, mind numbing and paralyzing, held her motionless.
His hand roamed from her right shoulder blade listlessly, unhurried, in its descent upward. Cupping the bulge of her shoulder he squeezed then drifting his fingers gently to the juncture that joined it to her neck. He was toying with her, moving so slowly, excruciatingly, his fingers traced the side of her throat hovering over her throbbing pulse enjoying the feel of the wild frantic beats.
His touch lingered a frightfully long time on her jugular before he threaded his hand in her hair, clasping her head and holding it down on the pillow.
The dagger came next.
Freezing sharp steal, like the blade had spent a week soaked in the coldest snow of Windhelm. As the weapon traced sadistic and taunting over her throat, mapping out the path of his fingers, she felt his lips touch her ear, whispering like a lover.
"I could kill you now," he insinuated, confidence radiated in the aspect. His breath tickled making her shudder. The deep tone of his voice was dark, authoritative, and seductive in a dangerous way. "If I wanted."
The weight suddenly lifted and he was gone, the room empty save for her. She was free and she scrambled in great haste out of the bed running through the house, a silent scream on her lips as she tore into her housecarl's room never once glancing back. The woman startled from her sleep, yawned and hastily pulled herself up. "My Thane?"
"Lucien." She purred. The blond Nord leaned over a table staring at the map that adorned the smooth surface. She had been waiting in the main room for his return, regarding him with a prying stare when his spectral form slinked soundlessly into the sanctuary upon the wee hours of the morning.
She glanced at him, a certain hidden knowledge speckled her eyes with an underlying confusion. He almost smiled in amused mockery. She knew he was up to something, knew something important, but just what his intentions were alluded her grasp and this pleased him vehemently. "I summon you here in order to offer insight considering your once high station… Yet somehow you always manage to disappear for prolonged lengths of time."
Her ire rose at his condescending expression, unfazed by her subtle insinuation that his status was of no longer relevance, but her face was calm when she pivoted towards him. Unwilling to let her displeasure show, let him know his secretive nature was getting the better of her. Making her quiver in a jittery way that was most unpleasant. "Is there something you wish to tell me?"
Despite the urge to smirk his face remained stoic, his voice lilting in an almost playful way at her desperation. "Dear sister, what would I have need to tell you?"
Astrid's face fell as she frowned at his reluctance to answer her inquiry. She was the leader of the Brotherhood now and had been for some time. Every bit of knowledge was essential to her, especially that which only the phantom Speaker could provide from the Void, but he was stubborn.
It was no secret that the once acclaimed assassin wasn't exactly her number one fan. She had been in possession of his summoning spell for many years and in all those years she had learned many things about him and his personality. He was the definition of a contradiction. Playful yet serious, charming with his unusual fondness for etiquette but underneath was a great potential to be exceedingly rude, and loving yet sadistic in nature. He had a deep resounding loyalty to the Brotherhood yet he once ordered the annihilation of an entire sanctuary. He was… complex.
He could be a powerful ally or a deadly enemy.
"For starters," she continued, fishing for clues, "how about were you go."
"Windhelm." He replied instantaneously, moving about the room as he folded his arms, growing ever disinterested at the redundancy. His ghostly blue robes hid his hands and his hood covered his face enough to give a hint of mystery.
"Windhelm? What would you need in such a desolate place?" Her brow rose as she watched him wander about, glancing at pointless things. She never really understood why he did that. What was so fascinating about a bowl of apples?
Lucien's spectral hand plucked a ripe red fruit from the bowl and he twirled it in his hand. The familiar weight and texture felt good and he found himself thinking just how amazing some nightshade and a little deathbell would do wonders. "A young boy prays to our mother."
Astrid signed and her fingers pinched the base of her nose. Not this again. "Lucien, I've already told you we will not accept such a petty contract. A child's contract will not grant us the fear we seek." She paused considering all the reasons not to waste her time on such a stupid assassination. "Besides, it is a waste of our resources."
The specter scowled disapprovingly as he placed the apple back among the rest. "Our terrible matron demands all contracts be fulfilled." His voice was lowered in warning, dangerous, and his eyes, once honeyed brown, now black and glinting cold like the void. "Even the, tedious ones."
She was intimidated but not scared. He was bound by the tenets of old and he would never kill her, no matter how angry she made him. "The old ways are over. I am in charge now and I say it is a waste of our time."
"As you wish." His anger spiked immensely, eyes narrowed disdainfully at the Nord who scorned all he held dear. He let the hatred seep into his voice. He was still loyal to the old ways, to Sithis and the Night Mother. Astrid enraged him with her talk of change and abandonment of all the sacred traditions that kept the family going for generations. "I will take my leave."
"Lucien." Astrid smiled at his irritation. Sometimes she enjoyed getting under his skin. It meant that despite all his resistance she had the power, not him. "Why must you insist on making this difficult? You know I can just summon you again tomorrow." She pointed out but her words had no affect on him as his spiritual form vanished from existence, leaving her alone in the room as he ventured back to the frozen embrace of the Dread Father and his unholy bride.
Author's Note: Well this is the introduction. I had planned on making it all just a one-shot but it was getting to be quite long so I decided to break it up. There will be a max total of 6 chapters, this one and a chapter for each Tenent.
Hope you enjoyed.