Silence's Voice

'Other' fanfiction. Category: AT, or Alternate Timeline. Same universe as canon, but a different point in that universe's history.
Just an assassin. Nothing more since fourteen, when the murder of a thieving Wood Elf who got what he deserved ended in recruitment into the shadowy cult of assassins at home in the deep deserts of Anequina. Until she decided to interfere. She decided to ruin everything!

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2. Soundly Asleep

The town of Sakhatennu was pretty large for a Khajiit settlement, even if it was a border town. Besides the usual tents and covered market stalls on the shifting sands, a few stone huts and even a few Imperial buildings had been built up over time. A large pool of water, Lake Sakhat, took pride of place in the town, ringed by sparse palms and prickly grasses, with brightly coloured canopies casting shade over stalls stacked with plump fruits and fresh vegetables.

That wasn’t what I was looking for though, or why I was here. I needed to get to The Sickly Siligonder and meet up with Casona Palgus, preferably without running into anyone who could drop me in it. The pyres stood loud and clear atop the imperial battlements, with stakes pointing up like blackened fingers. I’d escaped them once before, but doing it again was another story.

“Need something, love?” A raspy voice purred, as a golden tail snaked out from the shadows. Two amber eyes blinked in from the darkness, and a familiar flash of purple glass.

“Daro’Rihana, you’re gonna wind up as a fur rug for this! Do you have any idea what the Listener is making me do as you weren’t around?” I hissed, causing the troublesome cat to hiss back.

“Shush, Savil! Guards won’t take kindly to seeing Daro’Rihana in the city. You seem in need of relaxing. Khajiit has something to calm you down. It do Daro’Rihana no harm, so should be good for you too, no?” She hissed, pulling me into the shadows with her. In the darkness with the Khajiit, the black linen of her armour crackled with defensive magic, the red leather protective patches giving off a lethal shimmer in the shadows.

“Daro’Rihana! Why did you wear shrouded garments out on the streets, you stupid cat!” I squealed, before a furry paw clamped itself over my mouth, holding it shut as long whiskers tickled my cheek.

“Shut up! Listen, Daro’Rihana made a few mistakes. Rubbed our Savil Felaano the wrong way a few times. If Daro’Rihana help out Savil, she won’t snitch for her mistakes, yes?”

“Mms, mm-mm.” My muffled reply was stifled by her paw, but I think ‘Yes, ok’ got through pretty clear.

Daro’Rihana took her paw off me. “Good. Now, what did Listener set out, hm? Khajiit may know things that can help.”

“The Listener gave me the contract you were supposed to have. I need to meet with Casona Palgus, in The Sickly Siligonder. You know anything about her?” I whispered.

She purred, nibbling her claws. “The Palgus woman…she used to own Trinkets and Talismans but was sold out by her brother Creric and his family after she went into debt. Daro’Rihana hears talk of this. Perhaps you have target in the family, or in finances. Khajiit would check the shop and play stealthy perhaps.”

Typical. Always thinking like a thief, that one. If I didn’t know she’d rob them blind for a bowl of Moon Sugar, I’d get her in with the Guild. The Shadowmarks are easy enough to remember. “Ok, thanks. Now get back to the sanctuary before you’re spotted out in shrouded garments, and I won’t mention the skooma, ok?”

“Khajiit understands. Hail Sithis.” Daro’Rihana hissed, diving further down the alleyway and vanishing.

Honestly, one of these days, that cat is going to end up as a fur rug. If not from the guards, then anyone she steals from, or maybe the Listener will just get fed up of her. I wouldn’t blame them if they did get fed up, to be honest. Brushing cat fur off me, I readjusted my hood, and skulked my way through the city to The Sickly Siligonder.

It was a pretty well-kept inn overall. The bar was always well wiped down, the tables were always clean, and the fire pit was always crackling with warmth. Often, the innkeeper would give the particularly weary-looking travellers a free mug of mead imported from Skyrim, and sent his assistant Vallieminwe to give anything that needed throwing out to the beggars of the city. It even seemed homely, with the stone walls covered by hanging tapestries, and soft rugs on the floor. The famous stuffed Siligonder, ‘Sickly’, stood pride of place in the centre of the room, and was often decorated with something. Today, it seemed Penncian Julanis had decided Sickly needed to get into the drinking spirit, and stuck two mugs on his pincers.

It was quiet though, thankfully. An audience was the last thing I needed for this. My hood low, I went up to the bar, and approached the innkeeper.

“Well, a traveller to these parts? Go ahead, sit down. I’ll send Vallieminwe to get you something. What’ll it be? Mead, wine, Cyrodiilic brandy? I even have some flin I managed to get from Morrowind.” Penncian asked, reaching under the bar and bringing out a bottle of Alto wine.

“Thank you, but I’m not here for that. I hear you know where to find Casona Palgus. I need to speak with her.” I replied, looking down at the bar and avoiding exposing too much of my face.

“Casona Palgus, eh?” He began, eyeing Vixen on my back. “She’s currently living in the basement. Poor girl. Lost everything when her little Hasel got Rockjoint and passed away, and then her own brother bought her out and she lost everything. What do you want from her?”

So a death lead to debt, which lead to a betrayal. I think I know exactly where this is going. “It’s a personal call. Just between me and her. Thank you.” Plus the Night Mother, and the Dark Brotherhood.

“I get you. Ask no questions, be told no lies. She’s right down in the basement. You can just walk right in.”

I smiled, leaning off the bar and heading down the stairs. The oak door creaked loudly as I pushed it open, and the room was as dark as soot. The air stank of wood and dust, pierced a bit by what smelled like a leaking wine bottle. As the door shut behind me, I found myself adjusting to the dark, and in the far corner, the familiar glow of candlelight poked out from around a door. Now I’d noticed the light, a faint thumping sound rang out silently, and the metallic scent of blood came to me.

This was definitely the place. Muffled by enchantments, I crept up to the door, and pushed it open.

Casona Palgus jumped up and squeaked, dropping the dagger and bloody remains of the human heart she’d been stabbing. Her formerly neat robes were ragged and torn, stained by dirt and wine. Empty bottles lay scattered around the leather bedroll in the room, and her bare feet poking out were filthy and raw-looking. Her eyes were red-ringed and sore, her light brown hair had straggled out of its low bun, and her hands shook with blood.

“I see you have prayed to the Night Mother, dear lady. Don’t worry, I’m here to help. Tell me, what do you want done?” I purred, my voice already low and raspy enough as it is.

She broke into a grin at my words, getting up and weaving around her Sacrament. The skeleton lay spread-eagled in a circle of candles, with flesh placed on one side, and the mangled heart on the other. A nightshade flower graced the skull, and the dagger was heavily bloodstained. Typical for the Black Sacrament. Yet what wasn’t typical was how the flung her arms around me, clinging tight and weeping into my cover-robes.

“Y-You came. You finally came! Oh please…please you have to help me!” Casona wept, as I guided her to sit down on her bedroll.

“Hold on…first, start from the beginning. Tell me who you want dead, and I’ll sort it out.” I replied, laying my hand on her shoulder as she settled on her heels.

“Well…I want you to kill Ingrid Palgus. My brother’s Nord wife. He ruined my life…he ruined me by stealing the deed for Trinkets and Talismans! He’s going to pay! He’s going to know the agony I felt when Hasel died, and I hope it burns!”

This didn’t make much sense. “You want me to kill Ingrid Palgus. She didn’t do anything though. Seems a little extreme to me.”

“She didn’t…but neither did my Hasel. She didn’t do anything. While still grief-laden, they took the chance to swoop in and steal my home from me. I never wanted to sell Trinkets and Talismans. The deeds were stolen from the safe by my bed. That’s why I want Ingrid Palgus dead. I want to hit my brother where it hurts the most. Then he’ll realise what he did to me, and if not, let him rot.”

“I see,” I began, “and I take it you’ll be paying for this.”

Casona nodded weakly. “I only have a little. Just a few septims I had saved up. It’s not much…but it’s all I have. Please…will you help?”

It felt wrong to deprive her of her last few valuables, but the Listener would kill me if I didn’t bring home payment. “Alright,” I replied, “I’ll kill her.”

Casona leapt up at that, pulling me into a tight hug. “Oh thank you!” She wept, soaking my over-robes in tears. “Divines praise you…divines praise your kind soul in every way. Please…if it helps…I still have my copy of the key. It’ll get you into the basement. From there, you can wait until nightfall, and kill her.”

She pressed the chunk of iron into my hand, holding on with her hand trembling like a weak netch. “It shall be done. Now I’d get rid of all this before anyone sees it. The penalty for the Black Sacrament is death, remember.”

“Oh…oh of course. Don’t worry, I’ll get rid of it. Leave it all out in the desert and let the hyenas have it. Thanks again, and Divines bless you, fair assassin.”

I left her to clear away the sacrament and headed back into the sun-baked city, tucking the key into her pocket. Trinkets and Talismans shut at eight, and from checking the city clock, I had six hours in which to get into position. Being out in public was particularly dangerous, as the Cathay-Raht would be taking their form, and the Aldmeri bilge-lickers would be around en masse, eager to…well, adopt is what they say, but those battle cats would certainly make a fearsome addition to their front lines.

Thalmor bastards. Hope they enjoy the Void. I know they certainly didn’t enjoy my presence, so I had to make myself scarce before any of them recognised me. It was risky, but could mean getting my kill in earlier. Creeping down the dark passage between shops, I crept into a shadow, shed my over-robes, pulled my cowl over the bridge of my nose, and lowered myself through the newly-unlocked basement trapdoor.

The basement of Trinkets and Talismans was nothing like the Imperial-styled basement of The Sickly Siligonder. This place stank of earth, with pinkish walls made of the sun-baked dirt that showed through under the sand in places. Down here, light barely filtered in through small slits in the walls up by the ceiling, and the floor was rough from being pounded by countless feet and paws over time. In the furthest corner from the rough-constructed ladder, clay steps lead up to a rough-hewn entrance blocked off by strings of wooden beads, through which the main shop floor was barely visible. Upstairs, the chatter of voices sounded as a melody over the creak of floorboards, and the jangle of coins and jewellery. The muffling enchantment on my boots would be crucial in this place, even though I’d be sneaking around the massive stacks of chests, crates, and strongboxes down here, and on almost every shelf. Only the topmost shelves remained bare of any stock.

It would certainly not be an easy feat to assassinate Ingrid Palgus. In here, it was too closely packed to get a good shot off with Vixen. On the shop floor, there would be too many witnesses, and I’d be discovered in a flash. I probably wouldn’t even be able to get into the attic bedrooms and wait there for Ingrid Palgus without being noticed and arrested.

No, my only option was to wait until dark, when the shop was shut. Skulking around a few crates, I scaled my way to the top of a set of shelves, and settled myself up there with Vixen in my lap. Her quiver pressed against the wall, I slipped my gloves on, and began to wait.

* * *

It seemed like I’d waited forever when the clunk of a door bar being lowered thudded from upstairs, alongside the jangle of keys. The light leaking through had been fading from buttery yellow to a deep, blazing orange, and now had died out like burning embers into a deep black. Night was falling in Anequina, and my time had come. The creaking of floorboards had silenced to only a few stray footsteps, and the gushing chatter had dwindled to a trickle. Now, I’d only have one witness to worry about, and he would be too easily dealt with.

My knees clicked stiffly as I stood up, replacing Vixen in her holder as I climbed down from the shelves. My breath reflected back off the mask of my cowl, hotter than ash, as I slunk over to the steps in a crouch. The glow of torches being lit poked through gaps and knot holes in the wooden ceiling, and the chatter of voices carried on upwards with the clunk of footsteps. Aside from that, the whole place was immersed in stony silence, like the grave.

They’d gone upstairs, to the private attic. Great. This made things a lot more difficult than if Ingrid Palgus chose to nip into the basement. The shop floor meant less hidey-holes, and passing through the screen of door beads that would rattle like a merchant caravan’s cart.

Curse this, I was bound to get caught. Why did they have to put bead ropes over the door? Why not just a normal wooden door, with a lock that could be picked?

Mentally complaining about the beads wouldn’t get rid of them though, so I had to work around it. My thighs already complaining from the strain of crouching, I began skulking up the steps on all fours, before balancing lightly on the balls of my feet, and slowly slipping a gloved hand through the middle of the beads, grasping hold of three strands.

This was going to take a lot of precision. My hand trembled as I extended a few fingers and ensnared two more strands, clutching them tightly. A few at a time, I moved my hand to the side, tangling more and more bead strands in my grasp and holding them tight. Slowly, a gap formed, just big enough for me to slink through, and enter the main shop floor.

I’d been in Trinkets and Talismans many times before, as Skogsra Bronze-Heart’s always looking for new things to enchant, but after dark, it became a completely different building. The jewels, necklaces, and rings laying in their velvet display cases no longer twinkled with light, but instead shone like eyes in the darkness, watching my every move as I slowly began letting go of the bead strands. Gently, so they wouldn’t swing into each other and rattle. The counter rose proudly out from the wooden floor, in black oak for me to dive behind if needed, and the clay steps to the attic were across the room. Shadows flickered from the two torches either side of the main door, and the embers in the fire still had the glow of Oblivion in them. A glow that bounced off the shrine in the corner to the Eight Divines.

This might be easier than I imagined. It was dark enough for me to skulk in the shadows undetected, and from the low conversation above, my target was right above me. Taking Vixen into my hand, I held the dark elven bow close and horizontal, with the string touching the back of my glove. Creeping across the floor, I scaled up the steps to just below the attic floor, and peered over.

There she was. Ingrid Palgus. She stood in front of a plain oak dresser, folding clothes and putting them away. Her husband, Creric Palgus, sat with his back to the steps at his desk, with quill in hand at the business ledger. He wasn’t important though. What was important was Ingrid. The Nord woman with her blonde hair in a single braid down to her back, in fine ochre-toned robes of what looked like silk, trimmed with gold at the wrists, hem, and square neckline. A steel amulet of Zenithar hung around her neck, and a gold ring adorned with a haughty ruby encircled her finger. She probably creamed the most profits from Trinkets and Talismans. I wouldn’t be surprised if the strongbox by the bed was hers, and was crammed full of stock that wound up as lavish gifts.

All that finery wouldn’t matter where she was going. The Dread Father cares not for sparkles and baubles. Unsheathing an arrow, I slotted it into Vixen. Her string sang its groaning song as I pulled it back, taking aim at Hulder’s back, and paused.

“Do you think we could import any Vvardenfell Glass for jewellery? The armour of the Thalmor troops are made of it, and it looks so fine.” She purred, looking over her shoulder at her husband, moving out of shot. Her voice sounded odd for Anequina, with more of a purr than a rasp than others. Her pronunciation was off too, saying ‘the Thalmor’ like ‘te Talmor’ and rolling her ‘r’s around in her mouth like boiled crème treats before getting them out. She couldn’t have grown up in Anequina, that’s for sure.

She must be a genuine Nord of Skyrim. It would explain her strange way of speaking. Even if she was a genuine Nord of Skyrim, it wouldn’t be Sovngarde that welcomed her. That strange voice of hers would soon be screaming as she tumbled into the Void. Repositioning my aim, I pulled Vixen’s string back a little further, and let go.

It was a quick shot, piercing Hulder’s back and forcing out a guttural scream of death from her. She flew forward until she hit the wooden frame of their lavish four-poster, but her soul was already in the Void by then. It was a flash kill, quick and clean. Ingrid never even knew what hit her, and was dead before the blood blossom could flower.

I didn’t have time to recover my arrow or search her body, as her husband Creric had scrambled up from his desk by then, knocking jet ink over everything including himself. The steel mace at his hip glinted lethally in the low light, with each spike eager to tear at my flesh.

No, I could get more arrows later if I paid Effe-Zeeis. He was a skilled fletcher as well as a killer, and could make me plenty more in a matter of days. That arrow would just have to be forgotten. Slotting Vixen back into position, I raced back downstairs, setting the beaded curtain rattling louder than Creric’s yell of rage and loss above. Quickly gathering the over-robes and hood from earlier, I barely set a foot on the ladder as I shot out of the trapdoor, and onto the moon-bathed streets.

Stopping was not an option now, as through the glassless windows of Trinkets and Talismans, Creric’s warning cry now echoed out, stirring the nearby citizens, the city guard, and the Thalmor soldiers from their own idle thoughts. “Assassin.” He cried. “Assassin! The Dark Brotherhood has killed my Ingrid!”

I had to really flee now. Flee for my very soul. The rule for the guards when it came to the Dark Brotherhood was ‘kill on sight’, and for the Thalmor soldiers it was the same. With the alleys no longer my friends, the only option I had left for a place to hide was the sprawling desert of Anequina. Outrunning the guards was a possible feat, but to risk luring the guards and Thalmor to the Black Door and the Summerstrider Oasis Sanctuary was fatal.

No, I had to get away another way. Stealth would be the only way I could get back to the Sanctuary before the first hour of dawn. Stealth, cunning, and of course, a little jolt of what my kind have been known for centuries.

The explicit disregard for other races that Dunmer wore with pride. Tensing my thighs so they felt like springs, I peered out at the arrangement of steps, rooftops, and walls that made up Sakhatennu’s slums. Wooden shacks, earth walls, cloth shelters, and a perfect escape route. With the guards now rallied, I had to move quickly, and I had to get this just right, and could not stop. My thighs burning, I lined up, and ran.

“Ha, there you are!” A guard cried, as I leapt up from a crate to a wall, then pulled myself up to the wooden roof of a shack. A quick sprint and a leap later got me from one roof to another, and using a slanted lean-to as a ramp got me to another. Against waxing Masser and waning Secunda high above me, I stood out way too much. The lone Dunmer assassin, leaping from rooftop to rooftop, pausing to pull herself over a high wall, and to leap off into what seemed like the great beyond.

Yet it wasn’t so. I landed lightly, caught by the canopy on the rooftop below, and supported as I crawled off onto the baked earth rooftop. My thighs screamed in agony, my lungs burned, and my throat groaned in pain from breathing in the razor blades of the cool night air. The mask of my cowl stuck to me, suffocating me as I stood up. Too tight…the next rooftop seemed miles away, and the jump between, wider than the wingspan of a wicked Winged Twilight. I can’t go on…I can’t go further…I have to…no, I can’t! I must…I can’t…

I saw it sat on the low table when I climbed off the canopy, and now it was irresistible. A small bottle, about the same size as a sujamma bottle, but a bright spring green in colour. It would only cost about thirty septims at Cure Anything, so the owner could easily buy another. I definitely needed the potion way more than they did, that’s for sure. Pulling down the mask of my shrouded cowl, I uncorked the small potion bottle, and downed it in one.

The coldest thing I’d ever tasted before was a dip in the sanctuary pool when I swallowed some of the water. This was far colder, yet zinged with brightness at the same time. Like biting into an apple that had been chilled for hours beforehand. It burned in my throat and made ice in my stomach, yet filled me with a new sense of vibrancy and vitality. I could run and jump and fire arrows endlessly. Or at least that’s how it felt.

The high-pitched whistle and thunk of an arrow at my side jolted me back. It was slim and pure white, aside from the coal-black feathers at the end. A Justiciar’s arrow...the Thalmor were after me now too, and they could see me well enough to take a shot. Quickly, I cast down the empty potion bottle, pulled the mask of my cowl back up over my nose, and broke back into a flat-out run, letting the chilling effect of the stamina potion get to work on me.

I lunged over a gap between buildings, landing silently then leaping up to pull myself up onto a higher level, then bounding over a narrow ledge and bolting off on a long straight path of houses so tightly packed in together that the wooden rooftops overlapped to make one huge communal roof. It gave me plenty of space to break into a wild sprint, building up the speed needed to launch myself off the roof, step onto a balcony, launch up to grab a higher rooftop ledge, and carry on sprinting non-stop towards the final house. After that, nothing but pure desert and rocks lay ahead for a good few miles until I would reach the Summerstrider Oasis, weave through a narrow and twisting gorge in the baked sandstone, and get to the Black Door.

That would be if I got to it without being made into something that resembled one of the spiky bushes surrounding Lake Sakhat. I leapt over a narrow gap, breaking into a flat-out sprint for the edge…and froze.

Curse it! Sithis’ Wrath curse it! All there was leading down was one narrow beam, barely as wide as my arm, which stretched up from deep within a dune a good few hundred metres away to smack into the corner of the building.

A loud thunk from just behind me sent ice through my spine, as the Justiciar’s arrow stuck into the wooden rooftop, pointing out at an angle. Sithis curse it, I doubt I had enough power within me to do it, but it was my only hope of avoiding a brutal death on the point of a Thalmor n’wah’s sword. Extending my hands above my head, I let the crackling power race through into my palms, summoning the glowing crystals. Both blue and purple yet encasing a red spark, they sat weightless in my hands surrounded by the red wisps of magic that never left them.

It was a draining spell, but a very useful one for moments like this. Holding the crystals up, I forced my energy into them, and let them explode into a mass of bluish-purple swirls draping themselves around me like the swirls surrounding Dibella in her temple statue. When they touched me, they settled with a cushioning feeling as light as silk and a sound like the fizzing sparks leaping around void salts, surrounding me with the spell made for quick getaways.

Invisibility. Now hidden from view, I began precariously inching my way down the beam, as the mutters of confusion began to arise from nearby. Sliding my way down, I crouched low, letting the rush of cooling air whistle past me. I only had a good minute before I became visible again, so I had better make it worthwhile. Skidding down the beam, I tensed my thighs up, leaping off just as I reached the end and landing with a loud whumph in the sand dune at the end. Scrambling up, I forced myself into another run, thrashing and swaying as the sand slipped out from under my feet. I was still moving though, and that was most important. I was still running, uninjured, and out in the open desert with nothing but a long stretch ahead of me that I could run in no time.

Well, half-run half-wade through the shifting sand. My thighs yelping in pain from every movement, my left side felt like it was being tied in knots, and still I had far to go.

“Ha, found you!” Someone yelled, before the scrape of weapons being drawn rang out. Damn, the spell must have worn off! The familiar tingly-sparkling feeling of magicka dancing through my veins was barely there, and invisibility required a lot of it.

There was nothing else for it. Just flat out run, and maybe take out one or two pursuers with a few shots. That was all I could do. Sheathing the crystal spell, I began a flat-out sprint into the desert, as the high-pitched whistling of arrows being fired chorused behind me and sank into the sand with several hissing whispers.

The pounding of footsteps behind me thudded louder once I dropped from a sprint into plain running. Peering over my shoulder, the glint of glass blades eager to slice Dunmer flesh shone in the moonlight, backed up by the nodding peacock-blue plumes of the city guard’s helmets. Damn…I must have got the whole town guard and every Thalmor operative after me. The city’s thieves must be having a field day now.

A field day at my expense. Taking Vixen into my hand, I loaded her with an arrow, turned around, and fired a wild shot at my pursuers, hoping to strike at least one. A fatal shot would be impossible without proper aim, but maybe I could at least incapacitate one of my pursuers and get away faster.

The guttural scream of pain came first, as I turned back around and carried on running. Then, the first thud, the yelp of shock, and the second thud. Looks like my shot was better than I’d expected, even if it was just a stall, and not a kill. Stepping up onto a rocky ledge, I scrambled up, reloaded Vixen, and turned around to take another shot.

That one definitely killed, as the familiar blossom of blood came into flower on a Thalmor’s neck, splattering their black robes with our sanguine calling card. Loading another arrow into Vixen, I took another quick shot, turned around, and just ran at full power to the edge of this rocky outcropping. Did I hit? I didn’t care. I just had to get enough power building up in me to get up to the edge…and…jump!

It was a few metres drop, but the sand would cushion my fall. The air whizzed past me, pulling at my armour and snatching at my cowl. My arms spread wide, Vixen tight in my hand, and my knees pulled themselves up into my chest, before I leaned forward, and just let the ground take my fall, rolling forward once, twice, three times before landing on my back.

I can’t stop though. A steel arrow, feathers the colour of rust, vanished into the sand inches from my chest as I scrambled up, replacing Vixen into her place and taking off running, the sand stinging and burning any part of me it could get to. The mask of my cowl was suffocating, choking, and drenched with sweat from the heat of my own breathing. My lungs started to burn again, and my thighs started to seize up again. The rusty-coloured haze in the distance seemed miles away, tucking away the Black Door in the gorge within the cliffs.

The high scream of an arrow being fired behind me spurred me on, forcing me to run further and faster than the sore knotting feeling in my thighs wanted. They begged me for rest, respite, and better treatment, yet I forced them on, weaving from side to side as arrows wailed their mournful screams behind me, vanishing into the sand in shame of missing their target.

The gorge started to become visible in the rust-toned rock, as a narrow black ribbon. Arrows still continued to fly into the sand either side of me as I ran further and quicker. By now, some of the tougher guards and Thalmor Justiciars would be climbing down the rock face after me, so I had to keep going. I had to keep widening the distance gap between me and then. That was key.

Wait no, shelter was key. Getting to the Black Door and getting through was key. The Black Door meant shelter, safety, and respite. No guard nor Thalmor n’wah could harm me in there, and I could give my complaining body a rest. Until then, I just had to run. Run fast, and run far.

Something smacked into my back with the force of a shield charge, sending me tumbling over, letting the sand scrape and burn at me, snatching at my cowl and threatening to pull it off. Yet no pain came to me. No ache of being pierced. Shocked and winded, struggling for breath, I scrambled up, tugging my cowl back into position and flat out sprinting. My thighs can rest later. Air is an unaffordable luxury. All that mattered now was getting home to the sanctuary, and finally being safe there. Then, and only then, could I even consider stopping to breathe and rest.

The narrow gorge was a welcome sight, as I ran into it. It was a good few miles high, with the stars visible from above. The walls were rough and ragged, and the gorge in total was just a tiny bit wider than my arm span. Just wide enough to get a horse down it.

Though I slipped in and snaked around the first corner, I wasn’t out of the woods yet. I had to get in there and stay safe. Approaching the Black Door, I leaned my hand on its surface, gasping for breath. My desperate panting seemed to synchronise with its disembodied breathing, and it chilled me as I touched my hand to the handprint.

“What is the garment of innocence?” The Door whispered, as the handprint glowed a deep red against my hand, shining lightly through my glove.

“Shrouds, my brother.” I gasped, the air burning my lungs but at the same time chilling them.

“Welcome home.” It hissed, swinging open into the sanctuary.

I slammed the Black Door shut behind me, listening to the crackle of the magical lock activating and sealing the door against anyone not of the family. I was safe now. Worn out, sore, gasping for breath, and barely able to stand, but I was safe. Pulling off my cowl, I let my hair spring free, and took a deep, nurturing breath.

Home.

I took off Vixen and her quiver, pulling out the Justiciar’s arrow that had pierced the black leather, and headed down to the armoury with her. Repairs could wait until tomorrow, along with collecting payment for the kill. Hanging Vixen and her quiver up on an empty weapon rack, I shed my armour and hung it up, dragging on my loose set of shrouded robes. That was definitely a stressful assassination. Chased by guards and shot at by the Thalmor all in one contract.

Next time that lazy cat Daro’Rihana skives off getting a contract, if I get it instead, I’m handing it right over to her and telling the Listener about her problem with skooma and Moon Sugar. Maybe that will get her to actually pull her weight around here. Maybe it’ll get Their Greatness to leave me alone too, as they’ll have someone else to vent any frustrations on, and send out on countless contracts.

I couldn’t be asked to berate Daro’Rihana now though. It was late, and my eyelids were feeling heavy. Soon, our more…long-toothed family members would return from their hunt, and a new day would begin. Barefoot, I staggered slowly to the chamber I shared with Camena, passed the sleeping Altmer in her bed, and sat down on my own, lightly rubbing the amulet around my neck. Warm from wear yet still smooth, the three gems tingled as I touched them all individually, laying down with it in my hand.

The Listener would kill me if they knew I wore it. It was easy to hide though, as the circular, amulet fit perfectly under my armour. Just a simple silver necklace, with three triangular gems. A flawless sapphire, flawless ruby, and a flawless onyx.

I don’t know how long I lay looking at it for, but soon, my vision faded. The amulet slipped back under my robes, and I drifted off to sleep at last.

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