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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19. Sweetest Martyrdom

Even in the Dawnstar Sanctuary, where the ocean outside carried ice to the shore and the corpses of the long-dead had not a patch of rot, the bed in the master bedroom still warmed me like the desert sands. Reaching across the bed, the warmth of last night faded, leaving nothing but a scrap of paper resting on the pillow for me to find.

Gone to get supplies for the journey back to Anequina. Armour’s dry again, both mine and Murder Family. If I’m not by the Khajiit caravans, I’ll be in the Windpeak. This place is creepier than a barrow. Are Sanctuaries haunted? I swear something was watching us last night.
You were beautiful though. Always are, but there’s something particularly beautiful about you falling asleep at my side under the pelts. I felt it back in Hammerfell, but now I can tell you. You are beautiful when you sleep.
I love you.
Vincinere Mallory.

He had to get the Murder Family bit in somehow. Even if he is now one of us, some things will never change. Yawning, I took the note and sat up, pelts tumbling off me as I looked around.

“You will betray us. You have betrayed the Dark Brotherhood.”

He spoke before I could properly see him, perched translucent and shimmering on the stone plinth at the foot of the bed. His face was hidden under his spectral robes, but the mark of the Black Hand still stood out like a wound on his chest. A simple dagger hung at his belt, and his hands were covered in ghostly blood.

“You wish to kill me? Someone has already had that honour. Hah!” He spat as I reached for my bow, drawing out his dagger. “You sleep rather soundly knowing the fate of the Dark Brotherhood rests in your hands!”

I just stayed silent, fingers suspended reaching for my bow, tracking this ghost as he stood up and paced at the foot of the bed. Hawk was right, this place was haunted.

“You prefer silence, then? As do I, my dear child. As do I. For is silence not the symphony of death, the orchestration of Sithis himself? Of course, you would know nothing of Sithis and his true desires. You are betraying us all! Even the Woe in the Forest kept her deception strictly to Skyrim.”

The Woe in the Forest…the Night Mother mentioned her, so he must be… “You’re the Knife in Stone!” I exclaimed.

“I am known by many names, the Knife in Stone being just one. I… am Lucien Lachance. In life, I was but a Speaker for the Black Hand. But you are the betrayer! Your voice speaks that of treachery! I am here to end your miserable life, to… but… I can see the confusion in your eyes.”

Betrayer? “You mean the old Listener. I made her a thrall of the Void.” I replied, and he hissed.

“No, Sharwendy served Sithis until her death. You are Mathieu Bellamont reborn, whether you see it or not. Open your eyes to what is really going on here, betrayer. You are not the Listener, and that voice is not the Night Mother. Wake up and smell the corpses burning!”

He growled and leaned on the foot of the bed, pushing back the hood of his robes. “You know, a good Purification was just what this Sanctuary needed. All but the Keeper. Our Night Mother thanks you for respecting her Dark Child. At least that’s something redeeming about you.”

“The Keeper? The corpse by the coffin? What happened to him then?”

Lucien’s spectre gave a grim smile, eyes boring into me. “The Keeper… he was lucky to have lived so long. The Speaker of the Falkreath Sanctuary ordered his death after she dishonoured the Night Mother. The Listener let him live, but after the Listener’s death, the two remaining members of the Falkreath Sanctuary turned on him.”

He purred, turning for a second to glance over his shoulder. “The blood from the Alik’r, the one like you, and the she-devil child turned on him, put him to the sword and fang. One by one they too joined the Void, and here we come to today. Your thief is returning. He can be trusted, so rare for a thief. Once when I visited Riften, a thief took my purse, so I took his eyes. It was a fair exchange, like the exchange you must make with Sithis if you carry on with your dark deed. Make the right choice, Dark Sister. Do not let the Dark Brotherhood down!”

He faded as the footsteps came down the hall, vanishing into the Void as the door swung open. Hawk had returned with a set of shrouded armour draped over his arm.

“Night Mother’s coffin’s all ready to go. Even got a carriage from one of the Khajiit merchants. Just gotta get a ship to Senchal.” He purred, draping a set of shrouded armour over the stone plinth where Lucien Lachance’s ghost sat. “What’s up? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.” He chuckled. “You haven’t, have you?”

Guess there’s no point in lying to him. “Well…yeah.”

He went even paler than normal, going from Breton to Falmer in skintone. “Are you serious?” He gasped. “Atronach salts, you are serious! So what did they do?”

He sat beside me, an arm draping around my shoulders. “They were an assassin of old. Served in this Sanctuary under the old Listener.”

“You mean the one you murdered?”

“No, not that one. The one before. Their name has been lost to the tides of History though, so we don’t know much about them. Anyway, the ghost sat there on that plinth. Thanked me for respecting the corpse of the Keeper and told me what happened.”

“The body we buried? What happened to him?”

“The last two members turned on him. Blood of the Alik’r and a she-devil child or something. Put him to the sword and fang.”

“So he wound up dead in here because a Redguard murderer and an undead pre-teen said, 'Fu-' "

"Hawk!"

"'-ck you!' am I right? Anything else?”

Well that’s one way of putting it. Not the most eloquent, but accurate. “Nothing else but his name. Lucien Lachance, the Knife in Stone.”

No point in scaring him by telling him the rest. I need him at full mental capacity, not wrapped up in the threads of fear or doubt, and certainly not getting in the way of what the Night Mother wants from me.

“Lachance? Like what the old Argonian couple serves in the Bee and Barb. Huh, would explain why it’s got nightshade in it if it comes from an assassin. Anyway, come on. There’s a ship in the Dawnstar port to Windhelm. If we keep you hidden, we can be on a boat to Senchal in no time.”

“If you think I’m setting foot anywhere near Windhelm then you can stop right there. I got dragged into the Palace of the Kings rolled up in a rug and broke my leg escaping. They’ll kill me if they see me again.”

“So we won’t let them see you again. Put your armour on and meet me by that big skeleton stained-glass thingy, I’ll show you what I have planned.”

He had this little smirk on his face as he left me to get out of bed and pull on the shrouded armour set. The dip in salt water and night by the fire had left it soft and supple, gliding and flexing as I tested the bite points in the joints. Not bad for aged leather left here to rot. Slipping on the rest of the armour, I seized my bow and her quiver, heading out into the main room where my thief sat waiting.

“You’ll want that hood thing on. This is gonna be a tight fit.” He announced, picking up a set of steel plate armour. “Arms up and inhale now.”

I did as he said, sucking in as he buckled the cuirass over my chest. “Dare I ask what it is you’re planning? And where did you get this thing anyway?” I asked.

“The armour belongs to Jarl Brittilde’s son. He’s got the build and the brains of a frost troll, so it should fit over you with no problems. I stole it from the White Hall so I can disguise you as a man.”

And I thought hiding in a rolled up rug was a stupid idea. “Ulfric Stormcloak doesn’t have a problem with women. He has a problem with Dunmer, which I fail to see this hiding.”

“Ah ah, hear me out. The helmet of this thing is closed-face, meaning nobody can see a thing of what you look like. If you hold still I can slip the gauntlets on over the gloves…like so, and put these steel boots atop yours. There!”

This skin of steel wasn’t anything I’d be comfortable in for a while. The joints pinched, and moving at any speed above walking was nigh-on impossible. “It’s a bit heavy.” I groaned, shifting in the armour and clanking like a gear.

“Well it’ll have to do. Don’t want any Stormcloaks thinking you are what you are. Now breathe in and hold still again. It’ll be a bit of a tight fit.” He replied, before putting the helmet on me.

Tight fit was right. The points of my ears had been pinned against the side of my head, trapping them there as the metal plate pressed against my nose. I had to scrabble underneath the plating to tug down the leather panel of my cowl, gasping for sweet, metallic air as it snapped under my chin.

This must be what a Spinner Priestess feels like. Their devotion to the Prince of Murder, Sex, and Secrets goes as far as covering their naked bodies in nothing but a black veil draping fully onto the floor, with only a slit in the thick cloth to see through so their natural form is kept a secret. Mephala’s many hands held me as I peered through the slit between the metal plates, helping to keep my true form, my true race, a secret.

“Perfect, Savil, you don’t look a bit like a Dark elf. Just let me do the talking and we’ll be golden.”

I may not look like a Dunmer, but I felt even more like one. I was a secret down to my very race; a secret that must stay hidden in this armour. Taking his hand, I slung my bow and quiver onto my back, holding the mace of Molag Bal on my free arm so it stayed wrapped in its cloth. Scaring any Stormcloaks, or making them think we were Daedra worshippers, would be a really bad move. The Vampire’s Mace would have to stay hidden away until Windhelm’s chill had long left my ashen bones.

* * *

“Why have we stopped?”

“Shh, don’t talk. Or put on a Nordic accent if you must. We’re just picking up supplies and passengers.”

Condensation dripped off the steel plate on my helmet, soaking my cowl as Hawk peered through the window in our cabin. “Yes, just supplies and a few passengers heading around Morrowind and Black Marsh. Nothing to worry about. Besides, Stormcloaks have no reason to waste their time on passenger ships like these.”

“You sure?” My bow quivered in my hand as he stood on the low table, neck craned to spy through the tiny porthole.

“I’m sure. All the dockworkers are…are…why’re they standing at attention like that? Wait, that’s…Savil, put that bow away! Atronach salts!” He scrabbled and slipped, swearing as he landed and got to his feet. “Atronach salts, I forgot the Stormcloaks have started doing this! Savil, what was the name I gave the sailor on deck for you?”

“Skegor. Skegor Brand-Arrow. What’s going on?”

Hawk was shaking, tearing down the curtain for the porthole and further wrapping the Mace of Molag Bal in it. “Know how I said the Stormcloaks have no reason to waste their time? Well the Stormcloak does. He’s head of what he calls ‘Sootskin Sweep’ here in Eastmarch. I’ll hold this, it’ll look realistic for passenger inspection.”

He clutched the swaddled mace to his chest as my heart sank. I had a feeling this passenger inspection would only end one way, and it involved High King Ulfric doing to me what he couldn’t do when I first arrived in Skyrim.

“Wait…Savil, take the mace and head to the stern. There’s a door that leads to a tiny balcony. Pretend you’re seasick. Ulfric has no reason to check there. I’ll say you’re already seasick in bed.”

I took the mace and did as he said, weaving through the ship as footsteps thudded up on deck. As I reached the door, loud voices rang out like bells. Arguments, protests, barked orders, someone swearing at the clank of soldiers’ boots – what in Oblivion was going on up there!

“Name?”

“Zenia Sornis.”

“Race?”

“Half Imperial, half Breton.”

“Mongrel, you pass. Next! Oho, what’s with the red eyes, sir?”

“I’m a blacksmith, it’s from the ashes.”

“Ashes, eh? Like the ashes of Morrowind? Sir, I got a mongrel one!”

I dropped into a crouch as I pushed the door open, freezing in place as I spotted the figure on the banks. With a fur mantle trailing off his shoulders, High King Ulfric Stormcloak sat astride a grizzled bay horse on the far bank, watching the ship inspection.

“Test him, Galmar! Get Horena Elf-Finder on him!”

“Wait, no! I’m not a Dark elf, I swear! No! NO!”

The blacksmith’s protests turned to screams as the rush and crackle of magefire raged above. King Ulfric grinned and watched from the banks as the gauzy spirals of smoke drifted towards him and the screaming came to a spluttering end.

“False positive, he weren’t a scum-mer!” Galmar yelled back.

“Pitch him, who’s next?” Ulfric barked, before the burnt corpse of the blacksmith plunged overboard, still being licked by the flames as I set down the mace and drew out an arrow.

“Name and race?”

“Vincinere Mallory, Breton.”

I could do it. Right here, right now, before he spots the Dunmer clad in steel plate armour that probably weighs more than her. Just draw back, aim, and let her fly true.

“Thought as much. Pale skin, snotty expression, and you better keep them sparkly parlour tricks to yourself! Start one of your court intrigues and you’ll wish you could magic yourself away. So where’s your partner? He’s on the passenger list.”

It was then that I noticed the shadow of grey and worn blue hunched by a snow-capped rock just down the path from Ulfric. Her sleeves had been torn off and she’d torn a slit up the side of her skirt, exposing scars and torn skin that bubbled like she’d bathed in the Red Mountain. As scarred and wounded as she seemed, her eyes shone like coals when they met mine. ‘Please, let me’ they seemed to plead, blinking back the fire and ash that every elf of Morrowind knows and embraces in birth and death.

“Skegor’s having a lie down. Seasick.”

She had to have the honour. Her scars told the story of what she’d been through at the hands of High King Ulfric Stormcloak. The fires set in the Gray Quarter, the guards stationed outside, and the screams through the night meant she needed to be the one to cause his death. She needed it like a kid needs a mother’s cuddle after falling over and scraping their knee. Nocking in an arrow, I drew back the string and took aim, giving her the satisfaction as I let the arrow soar free into the horse’s thigh.

It screamed, bucking and rearing up as the arrowhead tore up the muscles in its thigh, bolting down the path towards where the Dunmer crouched. As it passed, she leapt out, seizing hold of a leg and pulling the beast over just as the last echo of a Thu’um escaped its rider.

“KAAN DREM OV!”

Too little, too late. Though somehow in a state of peace, the horse still tumbled over, landing atop High King Ulfric and the Dunmer who threw herself in the way. Her bare arm lay stretched out from behind the creature; blood had been splattered over her ashen skin, pooling in the palm of her hand like the centre of a flower.

It was done. The blood oozing out from under the horse’s corpse meant the start of a new era in Windhelm. Victims of the Gray Purge may not be able to be brought back now, but those refugees from the remains of Morrowind now have a sanctuary in the east of Skyrim.

I sheathed my bow and dashed back inside as the first scream rang out on deck, Molag Bal’s mace a dead weight in my hand as I tucked myself behind a stack of barrels reeking of fish and meats. Though my arrow never struck the High King, I still caused his death and could be held accountable if found.

I’d barely settled behind the barrels when the muffled thuds of someone running in leather boots came through the mid-deck. They dashed past me as I hunkered down, drawing back into the shadows as they wrenched open the door to the stern balcony. Must be panicking, what with how they’re gasping for breath, whispering, muttering, and searching for someone. A woman.

“Where is she…please tell me that wasn’t her? By the Gods, where is she?”

Wait, that’s him! “Hawk! Oi, pickpocket!” I hissed, peering out from behind the barrels as he spun around. “Back here!”

It took barely a second for him to notice me and pull me out from behind the barrels and straight into his arms. “I thought you were dead!” He gasped, winding his arms tight around the steel plate cuirass. “The Stormcloaks said a Dunmer woman killed the High King. Threw herself under his horse when it bolted.”

“I know, I saw her do it. I shot his horse in the thigh so she could kill him.”

He sighed, letting go of me. “I’ll never understand your people, will I?”

“Considering that my people are as we are mostly due to Prince Boethiah, do you even want to?”

“Now you mention that, not really. Come on now, the Stormcloaks will clear off soon to honour their dead High King. We’ll be in Senchal before you know it, and nobody will be any the wiser.”

Nobody will be any the wiser. Well, except for the Night Mother. She has the soul of a High King of Skyrim headed her way, gift wrapped by the martyr of the Gray Purge.

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