It's been a month. A whole month without a Listener, and we are suffering. We cannot hear the pleas of the people of Tamriel, we cannot receive their contracts. We've been forced to roam the streets, listening to the talk of the town. We cannot look weak, not now. If we look weak then the Dark Brotherhood will die out once and for all. To help combat this, the remaining members of the Black Hand are restoring an ancient position. They call it a Keeper. A Keeper is one whose sole purpose in the Brotherhood is to protect the remains of the Night Mother. It is said that they will make their decision tomorrow, and that the person will be given one last contract. I can scarcely imagine having only one more contract.
I stand up from the table and excuse myself, wanting to train a bit to release some stress. The contracts are lessening noticeably now. I can count them on my fingers and only a few trickle in. We are dying, though everyone keeps pretending we're not. I don't see the point, and think that we might as well accept it. It's not like there's anything we can honestly do. But I guess we must retain our hope, and pray to Sithis that conditions improve. What I wouldn't give for a Listener. But alas, there is no Listener. All I can do is wait, listen, and watch.
I finish my routines and retire for the night. I sleep soundly, escaping into dark, silent bliss. There are no screams, no wicked evil wails of pain and agony. There is only silence.
The sun rises far too soon, and I rise with it. I prepare for the day and head into the dining hall, and see everyone already there. Then it hits me, the Black Hand is announcing their decision today. I join the crown of people to see who the lucky one was, to see who was cursed with the honor of becoming the Keeper. To see who performs their last kill. Rasha stands proudly before the group, and we fall silent. His golden, cat-like eyes bore into us, as we wait patiently for the announcement.
"Cicero, you have been chosen, see me in my quarters please." Rasha hisses in his usual, cat-like voice. My heart stops. As proud as I feel that I should be to have been chosen, I feel nothing but dread. I have one kill left. I numbly follow him, walking silently down the corridors than will become my permanent home. It's not a home now; it's a prison, a tomb for the living, a tomb for me.
"Cicero, as you know you will be given one last contract before you take on your duties as Keeper. I have chosen one I believe you will enjoy. Kill well, Brother." Rasha hisses, handing me the contract, my last contract. I take it and return to my room before gingerly opening the papers and reading them.
Kill the Jester. He can be found in Bravil where a woman named Alisanne Dupre used to live. If he's not there, can be found in an inn by the name of the Lonely Bard. Speak to the Jester. Tell him, his death has arrived, and then send him to the Void. Your reward will be great if you succeed, and even greater if you do not kill him immediately.
Irony. Sweet, twisted irony. Rasha did not open the contract but he must have known. Now I must go to her home, or what's left of it. I chuckle darkly, half in fury and half in honest mirth at my own expense. I don my armour and pack food and another set of armour. I shall walk in and they will all see me, they will all know the Dark Brotherhood lives.
I prowl the streets of Bravil, invisible to the eyes of those who do not search for me. I am a shadow, blending seamlessly into the night as though I was born to. And in a way, I was. There are no records of my birth, I merely showed up at the orphanage when I was six. There are no traces of my passing, except for the people who I leave with my name upon their lips, but never my last name, only Cicero. The only thing I have of my parent's is an ebony pendant shaped like the sun and a few memories of my mother. The pendant has my name engraved on it, in the center. No one from my old life remembers me, as they only ever really thought of me as freak, and people like me aren't exactly remembered. I would know. Eight years later I went back to that place. I went back strong, a member of the Brotherhood. They did not remember, though I remembered them. They raised me, cared for me, and yet I slip into the recesses of their mind, as though I was never there at all.
Up ahead I see it, the house, HER house. I walk up and push the door open, revealing a dim hallway and simple furniture. I scour the house, but I find no sign of the Jester. I do however, find a diary. Her diary. I read it, every single word, and fing my name. She mentioned me, mentioned a man whose pain is tangible, a man who faces his agony because there is nowhere left to hide from it. A man who does not fear the burning wraith of Sithis like any other mortal, because he welcomes it with open arms, hoping that it will replace the pain he feels within. A man who has run so far, only to look back and realize he hasn't taken a single step.
How could she know this? How is it possible? I did not speak to Alisanne enough for her to know this; I did not speak with anyone enough for them to know this. It is not possible, yet it happened. She knew, she saw, and she understood. Alisanne, with her blonde hair and entrancing, almond shaped blue eyes that remind me so much of the sea. Her angled features, strong jaw and high cheekbones that marked her as a half-breed, a mix between a Nord and a high elf. She takes more after the elf in my opinion. Not that it matters anymore, she's dead. I feel a twinge in my heart as I think on that, and bitterness once again envelops me.
I leave her home, taking her journals with me and head to the Lonely Bard. I enter the inn and instantly notice him, the Jester, sitting in the corner, watching the world with a tormented smile. His skin is pale, his wide eyes a strange orange color. Not amber, not gold, but orange. His hair is brown and his build is small and lanky. There is a peculiar look in his eyes, and as the orange orbs flick carelessly over to me, I can feel the malice that burns like a raging inferno within him. His smile widens, and he stands, motioning for me to follow him.
He heads up the stairs to a room in the back, away from the others. I follow cautiously, my hand never leaving my blade. I walk in and find him sitting on the bed, grinning widely, insanity bubbling up behind those orange eyes. He cocks his head slightly, seeming to be fascinated by me, death incarnate to his twisted mind.
"Oh you came! I just KNEW she'd send you! That perfect, wonderful sister of mine! AHAHAHA!" His laughter is high, as is his voice. Laughter is not the right word; it's more of an insane cackle. I am profoundly disturbed by the man, and that he knew exactly who I was and why I was here. How did he know his sister put out the contract?
"The Dark Brotherhood has come, and your death approaches. Do you not fear me?" I ask honestly, the question nagging at me. He rolls his eyes as though it should be obvious, and smiles widely.
"Of COURSE not!'Twas I who gave you the contract! Indirectly of course, I gave the specific instructions to my sister, who relayed them to you." I am surprised, who would ask for a contract on themselves? He may be disturbed and not right in the mind but I didn't think anyone was insane enough to do that. Perhaps he is further gone than I had previously thought.
"You hired us? Why?" Normally I would just kill the fool, but he interests me and it is my last contract. I might as well make it one to remember. He laughs again, and I hear the echo of it repeating again and again in my mind, even after it ends.
"I am tired, so tired. To live, day after day, with the burden of my past pressing down on my shoulders. I suffocate, despite the air in my lungs. I choke, despite my lack of food or drink. I cough, despite my lack of illness. I am dying, dying from the wickedness that clings to my mind. I can see it in your eyes, you know the pain of which I speak but you do not let it hold you like I do. No, you restrain what you feel, hide your heart away so it is not broken again." His voice is so knowing and light, as though he simply reads me like a book. I shudder. How does he know? Alisanne's diary was untouched, and even if he had read it he does not know that the one she spoke of is me. How does he know the things I hide?
"We're not as different as you might think, you and I. No, no, no, no, we are alike! You and I, we both lost so much that we cared about but you, you are different, so different. You sought revenge, you knew, you KNEW!" His voice rises at the end, and he laughs again, he laughs for a long time. This man, he is insane. I should kill him right now but I find that I cannot. I cannot help but stay my hand this once, at least until he finishes explaining. After that, he will die.
"Do me a dying wish, take my journal. Take it, and keep me alive. Don' let me be forgotten, remembered only as a minor shadow in the massive painting that is life, evanescent to any eye but that of my sister's. They will all forget, that is their way. But you, you can keep the journal, keep me alive through it, though my mortal form will be dead. That way, I will not disappear, not completely, not yet." Such a simple request, so I nod, understanding his pain. I will grant the wish of this man, this twisted, dying man. He deserves at least that.
I draw my dagger looking him in the eye. The familiar thrill does not come, the excitement and quickening of my heart. In fact, everything seems to slow down. He closes his eyes, his mouth twisting upwards into something that resembles a smile mixed with a grimace. He turns away from me and takes his final breath, then begins to laugh. His laughter echoes throughout the room, making me shudder. I slit his throat, giving him a quick and painless death. My final kill, is complete.
I grab his journal from his desk and start towards the door. I wont read it though, I just don't want to. I don't want to know what happened to him to cause him to become like this. The thought makes me shudder. His laughter still echoes in my brain, and I can't get the noise out of my head. I leave the room and return to the Sanctuary.
I walk in and Rasha is the first one to greet me. I nod and he hands me a sack of gold, my final payment. I feel as though something is terribly wrong, perhaps there is. Perhaps I'm simply tired after a long day. I excuse myself before Rasha can say anything and head to my room. The Fool of Hearts, the assassin, the old me is no more. Now I am the Keeper of the Night Mother, an honored position but not one I'm sure I want. No sense complaining though, perhaps I will enjoy this new position. I shake my head silently, grimacing. I was never meant to give this life up.
The Keeping tomes are on my desk, and I really ought to read them. I sigh and head over there, sitting down and lighting a candle so I can see better and open the book. I pour over the tomes, reading everything and not noticing the pangs of hunger. Eventually I hear a knock at the door and look up. Kallie walks in without waiting, and I guess the knock was just to announce her arrival.
"So, your very last kill was a glorious success, and now you start your new life and duties as Keeper. If I know you, I know you're disappointed, and Cicero, I know you pretty well. So spill, what are your thoughts? You know I wont snitch, we have Liazany for that." I roll my eyes when she mentions the feisty and gossiping High Elf. If she wasn't such a good assassin I'd kill her myself.
"You want my opinion? I think it's an honor. I was specifically chosen by the Black Hand to be the Night Mother's Keeper. That is truly a reward in itself." Kallie rolls her eyes and snorts derisively.
"Bullshit. I know you better than that Ciccy. Come on, what do you really think? You can trust me." Kallie closes the door and sashays over to me, her hips swaying seductively. I scowl at her nickname for me, she knows I hate it. She smirks at my displeasure and pulls up a chair, tossing her silky, long brown hair over one shoulder and sitting her elbow on the table, resting her chin on her palm. She blinks, her entrancing brown eyes and dark hair a massive contrast to her pale skin and red lips. She truly is beautiful. Too bad I think of her as a sister.
"All right, fine. I'm disappointed, who wouldn't be? The kill was my life, my escape, my joy, the hunt was my passion and prerogative. I loved everything about it. Now I have to give it all up. I meant what I said about it being an honor though. It really is, I just wish it could have been someone else. I am built for the life of an assassin, not the life of a house pet, and it seems that's what they want from me." I run my fingers through my hair in frustration, agitated by this sudden turn of events. Kallie crosses her legs, her tight black outfit shifting against her body like a second skin.
Unlike the rest of us, Kallie is a very personal killer, and likes to get to know her target before killing them. Get them vulnerable, and then kill them. So naturally, her clothing is not like ours. Her armour is tight black leather pants and a low-cut black leather vest that shows off her shapely neck and shoulders. Knee high black leather boots with red trim and a thick red sash around her middle completes the look. As meager as that sounds for our line of work, she killed an emperor, and is one of our best assassins. She knows what she's doing, and takes advantage of the simplicity of the average drunken male mind. Surprisingly, she's all business and much more serious than plenty of the others.
"I knew you would be from the moment they said it. I know how much you enjoy being an assassin and I honestly wish there was something I could do. You were always particularly skilled with that dagger of yours… A shame that such talent is going to waste." She sighs and I close the Keeping tome, knowing I wont read any more tonight. Kallie has a habit of distracting people.
"Why are you here Kallie?" I ask bluntly, not understanding the point of her visit. She rolls her eyes, scowling at my blatant question. She sighs dramatically, thought she's always dramatic so it's nothing new.
"Wow, I feel so welcome now Ciccy!" She sighs again and rolls her eyes. She stands up and walks to the door. "I was thinking perhaps a little celebration was in order. Few people leave the assassin business alive, and you have managed so I believe a toast is in order!" She opens it and leans out, grabbing a bottle of fine, aged wine. She closes the door and returns to her seat. A fine port, I'm impressed. I arch an eyebrow, and she merely smiles.
"Where did you get it?" We all have our connections but that kind of wine is something you might find in an emperor's personal collection. Her signature smirk returns and the flecks of gold in her eyes shift slightly, reflecting the small flame from the candle. She laughs and it sounds light and airy, like bells.
"Does it matter? Lets just drink and not worry about where it's from!" She smiles and an image of the Jester appears in my mind. I shake it off and quickly focus on Kallie and the wine. I take the bottle from her and grab two glasses before opening the bottle and pouring the contents into the waiting glasses. Anything that will get rid of the Jester is a good thing in my mind, even if it's only temporary. If only I could thank her. I drink, not worrying about anything past the current moment. Right here right now is the only thing that matters.
The rest of the night is a blur. It was a lot of drunken laughter, I remember that much. That single bottle was large and well known for its rarity and exceptionally high alcohol content. We had a lot more than we really should have had, as we ended up drinking it all. I stretch, and my arm brushes against a curious warmth, I look over to find Kallie passed out beside me. She looks young and innocent, wearing Dark Brotherhood mage armour. Wait, why is she wearing that? I try to recall what she was doing with that but I only draw a blank.
All of a sudden she takes a deep breath and stretches, yawning. She lies on my bed while I sit in the chair right beside it. How did that happen? I'm always the one who makes others sleep on the chair, or with me depending on who it is. Doesn't matter right now, I should focus on remembering what happened. The armour that normally on my chest is sitting on a table, leaving me in only a thin black undershirt and the rest of my armour, minus the cowl and gloves, so only the pants and boots.
My head is pounding, that's never a good sign. I rub my temples; I feel a major hangover coming on. Lucky for me, Kallie is a skilled alchemist, and knows a dozen cures for a hangover. She used to run an apothecary before she joined the Dark Brotherhood. Rumor has it she lost it when her apprentice was murdered and hunted down her assassin and killed him, though not before torturing him. Her apprentice was like a daughter to her, she had raised the girl since she was six. Her name was Lylia. No one really knows much more than that, she never talks about it. Perhaps this is an opportunity to find out more. Perhaps I already did and don't remember.
"Perhaps you should just ask me whatever it is you're wondering about instead of just sitting there looking lost." I look up at Kallie, her hazel and gold flecked eyes staring into my amber ones. She smirks, though it's a bit strained. Her head must hurt more than mine, I remember that she drank a bit more than me.
"Why did you join the Brotherhood?" I ask, she looks taken aback by the blunt question. Her surprise fades to sadness that I know has lingered there a long time. I can see her pain and sadness in her eyes, just like she can see mine.
"I found Lyria when she was six. She was so little and she was all alone. She was in the middle of town, sitting in the shadows. She was so tiny, I had to help her. So I took her in, I raised her and taught her how to mix potions and make salves and poultices. She learned well and I treated her like she was my daughter. I loved her like she was my daughter. When she was fourteen, a man came into town. He stopped by the apothecary and asked for a bit of poison. Seemed normal enough as there were some wild animals that wandered near the outskirts of town, so we gave it to him and he left. The next day, I sent Lylia off to go run a few errands… and she never came back." Her eyes water a bit as she talks about Lylia and I can't help but feel bad for her.
"I went out to look for her and soon enough I found her. Atop her mangled corpse lay a note. It said, "You should examine the body a bit more carefully", so I did. He killed her with the poison he bought the other day." Her voice cracks and a single tear falls. I get up and move to sit down beside her. She moves over a bit and I sit.
"I had to avenge her, I couldn't let Lyria's death go unpunished. So I hunted him down. I tracked him for a long time, out of the town and into the next, always a little behind. But eventually I found him, and as he slept, I broke into his room in his house. It took me awhile but I did. He was sound asleep, so I crept over to him and coated my blade in a paralysis poison. I pressed the blade to his neck and he woke with a start, accidentally nicking his own neck. The terror that was in his eyes as he realized who I was…" She smirks, pleased at her vengeance on the wicked man.
"He would have begged for his life if he could speak but the poison did its job well. I wasn't done though, not by a long shot. I started on his left arm, carving Lyria's name into the skin. I worked my way up his arm, carving it over and over again while he sat there and watched in agony, unable to scream. After I finished that arm, I started on the other one, then I did the same to his chest and legs. When I finished, I coated my blade in the poison he used to kill her and carved her name into his forehead. In his dying breath, he sobbed out her name, and then died a slow, painful death. Shortly after I was contacted by the Brotherhood and here we are." I can't help but shudder a bit at her gruesome tale. It was much more twisted than I had previously thought it would be. Right as I'm about to respond, there's a knock at the door. It seems our conversation must wait.
"Lunch is ready and Rasha is making an announcement." I hear Kyterial call through the door. She is one of the assassins from the Sanctuary that joined with ours. She has dark brown hair, forest green eyes and thin lips. Her skin is darkened from the sun and her heritage. She's a beautiful young Redguard, with incredible curves that she modestly hides. I open the door Kyterial's eyes travel from me to Kallie, she arches a thin brow and her eyes return to me. I shake my head slightly and she nods, a mischievous smile on her lips.
As beautiful as Kallie is, Kyterial is somehow prettier. Her young face and high brows give her an innocent, naïve look while her confident smirk says otherwise. Her caramel skin and dark hair contrast perfectly with her enchanting green eyes while a swirling black tattoo that winds from just above her left eyebrow down to just below her cheekbone give her an air of intrigue. The tattoo is simple, just a few thin black lines swirling and intersecting to form a small, simple design that frames her face and captivates me. It's perfect for her, strange yet beautiful, basic yet intricate, plain yet sensual.
"Thanks Kit, we'll be there in a few minutes." Kallie says from behind me. Kyterial nods and turns on her heel, her long, silky brown hair disappearing from view as she rounds a corner and is gone. Kallie gets up, stretching and yawning.
"Hmm, seems like someone's distracted…" I turn to Kallie, who cocks her head to the side and smiles innocently. I roll my eyes at her before responding, "Is it wrong to wonder what Rasha wants that we all need to be present for?" She shrugs and we head out to the main hall. We sit and a few more people walk in, sitting down and talking quietly.
"The Dark Brotherhood is dying. You all know this so there's no point in denying it. We are sending a single member to a small Sanctuary in Skyrim to tell them of what has happened. That member will be staying there to help out, as they are in dire straights as well." At Rasha's unexpected announcement, we all start talking about what this means and who it might be. Rasha clears his throat, demanding silence.
"Kyterial shall go." At that there is silence. She is one of our finest assassins; he can't just send her away like this! Her incredible control of a dagger and sword are a huge asset to the Brotherhood, he can't just send her away! This makes no sense. I look over at Kyterial, who doesn't seem at all perturbed by this announcement and can't help but wonder if she knew. I wait for some sort of protest but there is only a dull murmur, perhaps they just don't care. I guess I should have expected this; it seems no one cares much any more. We're all doomed anyways.
We disperse without so much as a word, simply leaving. I return to my room, alone. It's not long before I hear a knock at the door, and when I walk over to open it, I am surprised by who stands before me.
"Kyterial?" She walks in unbidden and sits down on my bed. For the first time, she seems flustered. She rubs her temples and I close the door behind her. What could be wrong with her?
"Cicero, I asked him to. I asked to leave to go to the Sanctuary. It was all me. I'm sorry! I have to leave here, I can't explain why but I can't stay." She looks up at me sadly, her eyes filled with hope, hope that I will understand and that I won't ask why. I can't just not ask though.
"Why? You can't just leave us here, not now, not like this. You're one of our best assassins." She looks sad and guilty but determined. I know she won't change her mind. I sigh at her determination and hard-headedness.
"I'm sorry Cicero but I can't tell you. I just came here to say goodbye and apologize." I shrug, trying to act nonchalant while inside I feel terribly sad at the loss of such a good assassin, and a friend. Oh well, such is they way of the Dark Brotherhood. We try to be like a family but in the end, something always seems to go wrong. I frown and she stands up. I look into her beautiful green eyes and before I can say a word she wraps me in a tight hug. She smiles sadly and leaves without another word, closing the door behind her. I sigh once more, that seems to be the way of things.
Hello my lovelies! Hope you all enjoyed that chapter as I can honestly say, I enjoyed writing it very much. This story is perhaps my favorite of the ones I am currently writing simply because I really get to play around with their minds. OK, I have a little question for you all! If given the chance to meet anyone in Skyrim, who would you meet? Until next time,