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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21. Void

My heart beat louder than anything else. Loud enough to fill the light in front of me. Bright, blinding…but empty…nothingness that flashes with every thud of my heartbeat.

Wait…someone’s there! Pale, they flash in and out with every heartbeat. A man…white hair, old, but his face. His face bears a skull, and as I approached, he frowned.

“I know who you are.” He began. “"You have honoured not the earth itself, nor her creatures and their spirits in life or death.”

That’s…that’s a Command. The Preachers of the Eight Divines repeat them each day. So he’s…he’s…

“Arkay.” I whispered. The Mortal’s God of the cycle of life and death.

He nodded, his skull-like face growing ever brighter. “Under your name, Dunmer, the bounties of the mortal world were left vulnerable, untended, and the spirits of the dead did you profane. So leave this plane, leave my sight, and bow to one that you called a God.”

He vanished with the world of light, blinking into a single star in a midnight sky painted in colour. Above, the Warrior raised his axe in red, pointing down at me with the Mage’s spell in blue. At the side, the Thief drew back her cloak, revealing a dagger coated in green poison for me.

“What brings you, wayfarer grim, to wander here, in Sovngarde, souls-end, Shor's gift to honored dead?”

I turned to face the speaker, spotting the towering warrior. A silver torc wrapped around his neck, and a battleaxe of Godly scale rested sheathed upon his back. He stood as if on guard, a bridge of bones behind him stretching out to a glowing hall.

Sovngarde. Where Huldra and Skogsra would seek to reside had they not accepted the vampire’s gift. They should be here at the guard’s feet, not me. I’m not a Nord, not even human. A mer of my kind cannot be allowed here.

“I’m the Listener. The Night Mother speaks only to me.” I replied, and he drew out his battle axe.

“You trespass here, shadow-walker. Shor does not know you. Perhaps before the end you will earn the right to pass this way. Welcome I do not offer, your errand I will hinder, and my wrath you can never withstand.”

He swung at me and struck my side, sending me flying back as Sovngarde collapsed into nothing but a blue flame. A blue flame that crackled and blazed with screams, laughing as once more I found myself caged in claws.

“And so the ash wretch returns, but she smells of foulest death.” Hissed the Prince, holding me above his gaping maw.

I couldn’t help but squeal, cowering as he hooked me on his pincer-like horns. “No more a place with me shall you find, wretch! Begone! Seek the Spiral Skein where those who stole away with their infernal gift have escaped. Bring their souls to their mortal place at the feet of the Lord of Domination, and may you know the pain of returning.”

Lord Molag Bal flung me away into the dark of Coldharbour’s skies, casting me into the empty blackness that seemed to never end.

It seemed as if I never landed. Just suspended myself in nothing as the world pulsed. My heartbeat thudded deafening in my ears, flooding the world, making the blackness shift in time.

Wait…it’s not empty here. Just at the side, a man cowered. Pale, twitching, he shivered and glanced around, backing away into the darkness.

“Hello? Sir?” My voice left as a whisper, vanishing into the nothingness. His arrived as he looked up, fading into the empty air with a scream.

"No! Please! I didn't mean to do it, you understand me? She struggled! I... I told her to just stay still, but she wouldn't listen! I had no choice!"

The ghost went limp, a hole tearing across his chest as he disappeared. Nothing but a white mist remained in the blackness, shifting and swirling into a woman’s figure right in front of me.

This…she was no ghost. Her skin showed through the dark as peachy as any live Imperial’s, and her black hair had been bound back in a high bun. Her leather armour was covered in aged cuts, and the daedric-looking sword at her side dripped with fresh blood.

Strange, she hid not in transparency like the ghost of the murdered man. “Hello? Ma’am, where am I? What’s going on? Hello?”

She turned to me and hissed, cold fury crossing her face. She seemed to speak like a bard - - was she a bard, from the college in Solitude? - - in rhyme and rhythm.

“I landed in the Void's unreal black cold;
Dark, good death had befallen unto me,
Killed by whose unseen presence in the fold

I was brought before; the Night Mother, she
who gave me life in death and murder fair.
O dark killer, here for all our fold to see!

Pestilence of the Brotherhood, your air
of the betrayal you enacted on us all
does poison the Void, Dread Father's lair.

Thine spinner liar waits for her blood-stained thrall:
'Tis thou! Who lead thine Dark Brothers to death!
Go now, traitor, and heed thy mistress' call!”

She scowled with a whisper of, “Severa Magia” and lay her arms crossed over her chest, falling into the blackness as scarlet blood began to splatter across her face. That…she mentioned the Void! How my betrayal poisons the Dread Father’s lair. She – She must be an assassin. One who wore the Black Hand with pride? Severa Magia, was that her name? One of the old Dark Brotherhood.

The Void pulsed with my heart still, blackness parting to show another ghost flanked by two assassins. A Dunmer, but his spectre seemed broken. Hiding behind bars. Either side, the Breton woman in old shrouded armour and the Khajiit in mage robes seemed to laugh with each other and watch as the ghost yelled in vain.

“I'll remember that when I'm lying on the beaches of Summerset Isle with your wife, you Imperial pig!” The ghost barked, gripping the unseen bars and rattling at his cage. “You'll see, you Imperial dog! When I get out of here, all of Tamriel will know my name! Valen Dreth! Valen Dreth!”

The assassins in a pair simply laughed more, sharing delight at his plight as the ghost of Valen Dreth turned to face me. “Wait, I know you... You... You're the one! That day the Emperor was killed! They went through your cell! You lucky bastard! But... You came back? Come on, you've got to help me! Let old Valen Dreth out of this cell! You've got your freedom, now give me mine! What do you say, huh? Come on, friend! The Night Mo... No! No! Guards! Guards! Help me! Somebody help! Assassin!”

He screamed as an arrowhead pierced through his throat, tearing it open as he vanished and the assassins turned to face me. Both had eyes that blazed with wrath, but the blonde Breton woman was quicker. She lunged upon me and struck me from my perch in the nothingness of the Void, her blade pressed to my throat.

“Thou speaks pure poison with thine every breath!
Cold like rain-soaked streets, empty like the Void
is thine presence here where you know not death.

Soot-skin, the Dark Brotherhood you have destroyed,
for the spider's skein you wove, you pulled, thanks
for ensnaring family Dark! Paranoid

the threat did come from deep within our ranks;
the new Bellamont walks among us now,
sending arrows into her Dark Brothers' flanks!”

With a shriek she vanished into the Void’s blackness; a slash appeared at her throat as her arms crossed over her chest. The whisper of, “Antionetta Marie” pierced the heartbeats of the Void, and the snarls of the Khajiit rang in my ear as he closed his paws around my throat.

“The wretch does walk aside the dead somehow!
Shrouds of life do cling to her dark, singed soul
and yet thine soul does Night Mother allow

to walk in the Void, yet still thou is whole
in body and in mind, which is not yours.
As how could you betray with no control?

You are the same filth as Dibella's whores
yet you spread deciet and spin a web of lies
perfect for your dark Spinner's waging wars!”

He growled, ears flattening against his head as his paws left my neck and crossed over his chest. “M’raaj-Dar” the Void sighed as the Khajiit faded into black, letting me stand up once more to face two more ghosts.

Both men seemed to be bickering, the Nord and the Redguard raging at each other without reaching for weapons. “So, Nord, if you find the gold what will you spend it on? Wait, let me guess - - a sleazy whore and a nice new battleaxe. Am I right?” The Redguard snapped.

“I'm going to open a tavern. Not that I'd welcome your patronage. No pigs allowed inside, you see. You Legion types tend to stink up a place.”

“A tavern! Oh I should have known! Leave it to a barbarian to spend an entire chest full of gold on beer and mead. How pathetic.”

“You can call me a barbarian. It's true and I'm proud of the fact. But you call me pathetic again and I'm going to show you just how barbaric I am.”

The Nord went down first. Cut clean through the back like the Redguard through the gut, as if the assassin who slayed them pierced them both through with a single arrow. As they faded, blackness seemed to envelop me once more. Ever beating, the heartbeat of the Void seemed forced, pushed to beat again and again though it just wanted to disappe-

The arrow struck out of nowhere, piercing me through the chest and forcing me back. The Void itself seemed to tremble, shaking as the figure with a bow leapt and lunged on top of me.

A Bosmer. A cockroach poisoning the Void! Her beady, black eyes stared right into mine as she drew out another arrow.

“You wield the weapon at our hunters' cores
and yet no forest of death do you know
or seek it thriving. Covered in wet sores

the branches bow down. The ostinato
of betrayal came again and again, yet
it fell on deaf ears; deceit was your beau.

Now meet your mistress! We shall not forget
your name, your face; you tore out her own heart.
Weep now, Dark Brothers, our fate has been set.”

She let the arrow fly into nothingness as her arms crossed over her chest and she fell backwards into the Void’s forever-surrounding nothing. “Telaendril”, the Void whispered, before unleashing two creatures upon me.

Argonians, the pair of them. Male seizing my throat from the front, female forcing twin blades of Black Marsh into my back. Both hissed, both raged, but the male was first to speak.

“And so enters her; she plays the main part
in this fair tragedy set to play out
from now until the end of days. The heart

of Spring lays cut, bloody like her own plump pout,
staining blossoms with colours of betrayal.
Summer's eye-ponds flood, tears of fear spill out

to soak the cut stumps. Oh Autumn's portrayal
of her own fair self did always show her end;
Winter's widowed winds, for grief do they wail.”

He let go of my throat with the whisper of “Teinaava”, crossing his arms over his chest and fading. Still at my back, the female hissed, thrashing her tail as she dug her blades ever deeper into my back.

“Of course she comes, she feigns a hand to lend
but it's dressed in blood and dresses each wound
caused by her own wicked game of pretend.

The Void screams words unknown, silence consumed
that fair murder which cannot be unseen.
Great Illusion was in you we presumed

but were wrong; darkness fathomed daylight's dream.
Assassin, bring the blight upon our clan
and let us rest in death with one last scream.”

She too screeched, crossing her arms over her chest with a wail of “Ocheeva” as darkness claimed her. Still, ever thumping, the heartbeat of the Void seemed to echo and ring out from behind me. Thumping, clanking, ringing out a heartbeat like footsteps until the battle axe cut through my spine and sent me flying through the nothingness.

I barely noticed the ghost. The old woman cowering, wringing her hands, before turning with a leap and a scream. “Oh, thank goodness it's you, sweetie! Please, don't wander too far away. I feel safe with you.” She coos, before a scream and a bloodstain pierced her heart, leaving her floundering as she dissolved into the nothingness surrounding the Orc in Daedric armour.

“You! The Dark Brotherhood's death was your plan!
Your bow, arrows, and a target - our backs,
and you were prepared through your whole lifespan.

The babe with sand between her toes; the sacks
full of hard earned gold the elf child would rob
for her Doyen. Until he got the axe.

So many will you kill. And you do not sob?
No tears of regret for your cruelest acts?
Through your heart the Dark Brotherhood does throb.”

He got in a swing before his arms crossed his chest, embedding his axe in the nothingness at my side. “Gogron gro-Bolmog” whispered the Void, taking him into its ever-pounding heartbeat.

So many assassins once bore the Black Hand. Now they rest here forever, servants of the Void. Surrounded by the souls of what I’d assume are victims of our family. Two even formed ahead of me. Dunmer and Imperial, female and male, together yet split apart.

“Can I be honest with you, my friend? I find Dovesi... captivating. She possesses a beauty beyond compare. Maybe you could do me a favour? If you speak with her, put in a good word for me, would you? I would be forever in your debt.” The Imperial begs, seemingly leaping for joy before a slash pierces his abdomen. He lay there limp, a ragdoll at the Dunmer’s feet as she squealed like womanhood had not yet met her.

“Oh, you think so? I mean, it is rather forward, but I like it! All right then, I'll wait for him in his room upstairs! Oh, thank you, thank you!”

She turned to run, a lover’s blush blooming red on her cheeks. Redder than the flower of blood on her back as she screamed and fell atop the Imperial. Dovesi and her Imperial sweetheart, a love that could never be. Together they were taken into the blackness of the Void with a hiss of death.

That was no sound of the Void. Nothing but a beating heart did echo through the nothingness. I turned and felt the cold embrace of death as he pinned me to the wall. With eyes aglow with the Prince’s flames, he sniffed at my neck, then hissed a low, long hiss through his bared fangs.

“So through the Dark Brotherhood did you wax
until your own Listener did prove a threat
and became just one more of your contracts.

You laid with vampires' Prince, and you don't fret
in the presence of his blood who escaped
the pungent poison. You are brave and yet

it was your people who the poisoner raped.
Do you find it savoury to be here?
Straight through your neck - your blood - my fangs have scraped.”

The Breton hissed and bit down, fangs tearing through my neck as his arms crossed his chest and he fell back into nothing. “Vicente Valtieri” the Void hissed, closing around the starved vampire with the bloody fangs as the nothingness opened up for the black-robed Imperial.

That…that was… “You’re Lucien Lachance! You came to me as I slept!” I exclaimed, standing to face him as he bowed his head.

“You slept in peace and never showed me fear
though murder your hand knows; if another
you were, I know your conscience would be clear.

Once I knew the saviour of our Night Mother,
who killed Bellamont - the traitor who struck
and killed many a Dark Sister and Dark Brother.

Like the traitor, you too did run amok
and think you were blessed. That you may be, for
you have gifts of the Thief, but not The Luck.”

With his speech complete, he bowed to me, letting blood soak his robes from everywhere. A slash cut through his eye as his arms crossed over his chest; his neck spurted blood as he fell back with his name. “Lucien Lachance” whispered the Void, and the nothingness took him into its fold.

He warned me. Others spoke of my betrayal and he warned me that was the act I committed. Had…what in Oblivion went on? What…how did I betray the Dark Brotherhood? The Night Mother said she wanted to be reunited with the father of her children, Sithis.

The thwack came from behind me as I mused. The ghost woman stood tall, steadfast, like a jailor, with a cane in her hand like a battleaxe. “Those who shirk their duties will get an extra beating. Do I make myself clear!?” She barked, pausing to swish the cane in front of her as if inspecting troops.

The cane seemed to snap on thin air as she paused, glaring at nothing. “And one more thing! I will hear no more talk of adoptions! None of you riff-raff is getting adopted. Ever! Nobody needs you, nobody wants you. That, my darlings, is why you're here. Why you will always be here, until the day you come of age and get thrown into that wide, horrible world.”

She looked up, a snarl blending into her wrinkles as nothing stood in front of her. “Aretino? Why that little bastard! You tell him I'm coming for him! And when I find him, it will be the beating of his miserable life!”

The cane vanished from her hand and reappeared as a stripe across her face, carving a trench as she screamed and fell back. The Void swallowed her in its heartbeats; the old hag’s soul giving life to two figures in shrouded robes. A Dunmer woman and a wizard aged beyond any recognition. Yet they…they didn’t attack. Just remained still, solemn, almost pitying in how they glanced and sighed as if as one.

The Dunmer broke the silence, solemn beneath her hood. Her eyes showed no tears in the red, and her hands dealt no wrath.

“I knew of my death, but not the hour, nor
what the Dark Brotherhood would become.
A traitor we assassins do abhor,

but here you are, the unforeseen outcome
of whom the bloated Spinner has employed.
Look all around us, you will notice some

whom at traitor's hand their lives were destroyed.
You shall no more sleep in life. Death is but
the time to sleep forever, in the Void.”

She sighed, spiderwebs appearing on her robes and dragging her back as her arms crossed her chest. “Gabriella” the Void hissed, engulfing her in the heartbeats of the nothingness beyond. Now alone, the wizard stood with flames aplenty in his hands. He showed no anger in his form, just a dull acceptance of his fate.

“You have the fire within it seems. A cut
above your kind of mer, yet you used flame
to destroy us, you sealed the Black Door shut.

You should be frozen from within, your shame
will spark sky's wrath, and then justice will serve
you as a corpse, a mage's thrall. No name

but you shall be known for scars on every nerve.
This necromage pierced through in death, will give
you the painful end that you do deserve.”

He refused to cross his arms. Just held those flame-wielders up in scared defence as a volley of arrows pierced him clean through. “Festus Krex” the heartbeats named him, before dark nothing enraptured the wizard’s Void-bound soul.

Yet nothingness refused to greet me. Instead, a woman with eyes tear-stained and flowers aplenty in her arms. She seemed frozen, chilled from within, ever-watching for a glimpse of hope.

“Muiri? I can't believe my family trusted that backstabbing little strumpet. You tell her she's dead to us. You hear me? Dead! I have nothing to say to you. Just leave me alone.” She wailed, her heart erupting from her chest in a volley of blood bound to be bottled. Bottled it was too, in a spectral glass at the lips of a woman too similar looking to be all but her mother.

“Friga…now Nilsine…I’m sorry. I’m coming.” She whimpered, necking the bottle in one. Her body shivered, trembled to the core, before she too tumbled over in death with nothing but a loose note at her hand.

At her tears came laughter, a snickering from my side. At my right hand the lizard stood in shrouded armour with daggers two. He turned to face me, wearing a wicked grin as his forked tongue poked through and tasted the air.

“In one you know, my life I do relive.
Hatching to death, and yet his back you stabbed
in a sin the god of ours can't forgive

nor forget. It was your own whom you grabbed
by the neck and threw in fire with the might
of a warrior. At the blood you dabbed

when it stained your skin as sanguine as night;
fitting warpaint for this dark bowmaiden
and her perfect crime: all shared the same plight.”

The Argonian chuckled, his arms crossing his chest. Still he laughed as the heartbeat of nothing took him in. “Veezara” the Void laughed as it spoke, naming the titterer who found mirth in such death. Laughing still, the Void echoed with the heartbeats, chuckling as the ghost appeared.

An Orc, clutching a lute, singing and laughing and playing a tune. “What's the matter, friend? Khajiit got your tongue? Maybe you need a little ditty to loosen your gob, hmm? There once was a stranger, with eyes full of danger, he spoke not a word, but his meaning was heard... Sing on, sweet Lurbuk, sing on!”

The slash drew across his throat and the lute strings snapped as he collapsed atop his instrument. The dead Orc’s voice was on par with Effe-Zeeis when he gives his vocal chords some exercise. Even the two assassins seemed joyful at his demise, cracking a smile as the music stopped.

The Redguard kept his smile as he stared at me, drawing his scimitar and stroking it. At the end, a chip had snapped off, but still he admired the sharp edge. At his side a little girl, her eyes aglow in fire as her fangs grew in her mouth.

They were the ones! The assassin of old in the Dawnstar Sanctuary, they killed him! The vampire child had drained him dry, and the Redguard’s scimitar had broken mid-stab. They seemed to know that I recognised their act, and the Redguard stepped forth with a grin.

“Here we find the slave master. Our backs laden
with the sands of toil, she laughs and watches
as her servants break. 'It's time to trade in

the old for new!' she thought. Ragged swatches
of sacred garb, she set alight! No care
nor shame. Slaves sold and the whip carved with notches

marking each deal done. The buyer beware!
The killers bought belong to Dread Father
and his Unholy Bride once heard your prayer.”

His scimitar slid into its sheath and his arms crossed across his chest. “Nazir” spoke the Void, blood springing up in many wounds across his body, taking him into nothingness and leaving the child vampire behind.

“I thought t'was I that did decieve but rather,
the Dark Elf here does chasten all my guile.
As her Dark Family's souls she did gather

for the Dread Father? No. She used her wile
to wrap them in gossamer. So cruel
to betray those who gave a friendly smile

and refuge from death under Thalmor rule.
Yes the Void knows of your life, Dunmer shrew,
you must know Sithis can't be made a fool.”

She seemed to glow, pierced by light, cowering and trembling as the sun’s blades pierced her through. She burned and sizzled as her arms folded across her chest, crackling into flames as the Void’s heartbeat whispered “Babette”.

The two betrayers who turned upon their fellow killer. Like me then. I betrayed the Dark Brotherhood. Still, how? How did I betray them? The Night Mother wanted this! Sithis wanted this!

He wanted this like he wanted the souls of the ghosts that called here home. Like the bride in garlands of white roses and a dress of silk so fine. She stood up there, flickering on a balcony, waving and smiling as she gave her speech.

“Good people of Solitude. I just wanted to take this time to thank you all for being here. To thank you for sharing this wonderfully happy day with myself, and my new husband.”

She never saw it coming. The weight from above crushing the blushing bride, turning the white of her gown the red of love. A bloody mess she was, reeking of blood and begging for wild beasts to feed on her as her soul disappeared. I could almost hear the snarls, the breathing, and the drawn-out howl in the heartbeat.

I could hear it. The howl as the beast leapt from nowhere, pinning me down as it sniffed me then growled. Werewolf! Lycanthrope! Hircine’s hound had escaped the Hunting Grounds stalked the Void for prey. A drawn-out howl escaped the beast, before he leaned close to me and spoke.

“My bride's betrayal, of that I never knew,
but yours has a scent so strong I can taste
it in the air. If only someone slew

the living lambshank. You would be erased
before you could draw out your fragile bow
if I still lived. Go to your "God" with haste

but listen to me, make sure that you know
that I would rip you in two where you stand,
tidbit; Sithis wishes you pain and woe.”

He howled and vanished, collapsing in a puddle of blood as the Void drew him back. “Arnbjorn” it howled with him, emptying the Void once more with nothing but a heartbeat and a soul left alone.

The Redguard woman admired her cutlass, one eyebrow arched at nothing at all. “Sithis? Let me guess: "In the Void!" By the gods, you Dark Brotherhood are a predictable lot, aren't you? Okay, here's how this works. You try to assassinate me, and I kill you. Horribly. I have done this dance before, you know.” She chuckled, beginning the first sword swing.

The arrow struck her from nowhere. Pierced her spine and flung her to the feet of the assassin in shrouded armour. Her skin scorched red, she shed no tears, just looked at me and sighed as if the guilt was too much to bare.

“So you're the one who shares my bloodstained hand
with Bellamont; the Trinity of Lies
we do form. Such murder does seem so grand

if it were done in sight of prying eyes.
The band of outcasts does accept those who
can serve as killers darkest and as spies.

Vampires, werewolves and mages are not new
but you will find the welcome we offer
for those cast out does not extend to you.”

She folded her arms, a single wound blossoming above her heart. “Astrid” the Void named her, dragging her in with a thousand screams and the thuds of the beating heart.

The laughter though. The laughter came from nowhere. Whooping and shrieking and chuckling from deep within the Void. My silent footsteps echoed with each heartbeat as the sound drew nearer, ever nearer, glowing like the assassin and the spirits all around.

Five of them, glowing Dunmer sat in a circle around the assassin as he danced for them. None looked to be older than two cycles of the moons, but all seemed in awe of their caretaker. A strange character…red haired, pale, Imperial-looking but shorter. Almost Bosmer-height. His dancing stopped as he saw me though, and with a banshee scream he lunged upon me and pressed his glowing dagger to my neck.

“There you are, witch! Join the laugher and scoffer
in all your hateful mirth! Oh, sweet Mother
if I lived, I'd tear the flames right off her!

Soak her through, stamp them down, I'd smother
the cruel fire that burned you through! Sweet offspring
of our lady fair. I'm not your Dark Brother

Witch! You killed Cicero's mother! I sing
a tale of warning, and mourning, and all
for the witch I'll stab, for her neck I'll wring!”

He cackled like a hag, bowing down and…licking my face? The cold scrape up my left cheek sent a shudder of pain through me as I saw the knife drip with blood. A hand closed around my throat, and as the glow began behind him, he licked the blood off the short blade.

There she was! The Night Mother! I knew I’d done as she asked! Her black hair still covered her Dunmer-grey skin to her ankles, and her eyes still glowed red. Chains slinked up her arms, and her skeleton threatened to push through her skin.

At her appearance, the assassin leapt away, bowing at her feet as she smiled and patted his head. An icy grin played upon her bony lips, and she seemed to laugh to herself as she watched me struggle to my feet.

“Stay calm, Cicero, she came at Sithis' call,
and at Mephala's name does her Guild fall.”

Mafala? Still the assassin Cicero laughed, skipping as the Night Mother extended her cold hands and cupped my face in them. “Yes, you did your job well, little daughter. You acted in my name, and I’ll reward you in your true form.”

She blinked and her eyes turned black and glassy. She smiled and fangs grew in her jaw. As she laughed she threw back her head and glided arms spreading and splitting clean in two, ripping the rags of her dress as her second pair of arms formed. Four skeleton arms stretched out, dispelling the nothingness with a spider’s web stretching out to trap all. Shuddering, she jerked her head forward, and eight, blinking, black eyes stared down at me above poison-dripping fangs. The bloated spider-woman grinned down at me, one pair of arms seizing me in their grip.

“I am honestly trying to consider what to say to you that wouldn't come off as cliche, or gloating.” Mafala hissed, extending a wicked web to catch and hold me in front of her. “The little Dunmer girl thinks she’s doing the right thing for her family, when really she’s serving them all up to the Lady of Whispers.”

I froze, and she laughed more. “What did you do to the Void?”

She tittered and extended a hand down, cupping Cicero in it and bringing him up to her. “The Void still exists, far out of reach of man and mer who know not the assassin’s blade or cloth. The Night Mother’s voice now remains there, unable to speak to anyone now. All because of you.”

“The assassins…” I began. Mafala clicked her fingers and they appeared around us like corpses. All of them: Severa Magia, Antoinetta Marie, M’raaj-Dar, Telaendril, Teinaava, Ocheeva, Gogron gro-Bolmog, Vicente Valtieri, Lucien Lachance, Gabriella, Festus Krex, Veezara, Nazir, Babette, Arnbjorn, Astrid, and Cicero in her palm. All laying back but the jester, laying eyes closed, arms crossed over their chests, the wounds of their killing blows dripping blood into nothingness.

“The Void calls them home. For those you met know not of mortal life. Everything you’ve seen has been a lie.”

Once more she clicked and they came awake, but six, seven, eight hair-covered legs sprouted fourth from their bodies, and venomous fangs grew in place. The Spider Daedra scuttled free, no longer in the guise of assassins any more. Their real form could come through now, and with horrific screeches the nothing fell apart into tangles of wicked webs. Fat corpses wrapped in gossamer hung down from the roof, and as one fell down from the ceiling, a Spider Daedra dived upon it and drained it clean of blood.

Bile rose in my throat, threatening to spill out as my knees gave out. “I…I just…”

“You just lied, and deceived, and betrayed everyone that you cared about. You spun yourself a web of lies in my name, and for that, you’ve earned your reward.”

She took it from her back. A blade like Goldbrand but all in black that crackled with evil in every way. Red light gleamed on the ebony handle, and it welded itself to my skin as Mafala pressed it into my hands.

“You’ve earned it, my little spinner. You’ve earned your own needle with which to stitch your own tangled tapestries. Now go. Tell the Mallory’s child that he has more to fear than you ever will.”

“You stay away from Hawk!”

Mafala laughed once more, plucking at the web stringing me up. “I don’t need to lay a hand on him. Now watch your threads break.”

She swiped through the gossamer, severing it in two and letting me plunge through the webs. Though I screamed, no sound came out. Just the heartbeats forever thumping –

Wait, that’s Daro’Rihana! Her fur’s singed in places and the rest is stood on end, but it’s her! As I fell towards the Khajiit, she looked up and hissed, ears flattening  and turning spectral as I drew nearer. “Savil has betrayed Daro’Rihana. Betrayed us all!” She wailed, cowering as a Spider Daedra approached.

It leapt upon her as I fell through, tumbling past as Rosette appeared in the darkness with nightshade in her hair, catching Belle and holding her to her transparent chest as the Spiderlings closed in. “Why, sister…you did this! Why!?” She wailed, holding her daughter to her chest as she wept, crying ghost tears for her father.

“You said daddy would be waiting for us. Where’s daddy? Savil, what have you done to my daddy?” She sobbed, clinging to her mother’s skirts.

“I-” I fell through the gossamer before I could answer, grabbing onto thin air as Effe-Zeeis materialised and drew spectral daggers. “I thought I could trust you. We could trust you. You destroyed us, Savil! Everyone’s dead because of you!”

He lunged as the web broke and I fell through, turning his blades on a Spider Daedra as it birthed a brood of Spiderlings.

Everyone was dead? Daro’Rihana, Rosette and her little girl, Effe-Zeeis…was…no, Mafala wouldn’t bring them to death! She had no reason to, nor any desire. Mafala would rather they lived void of purpose with the remains of their lives falling apart around them.

“I thought you were different!” The Altmer wailed, struggling against gossamer threads holding her back. Her robes were torn almost clean off her, the transparent scars where her breasts should be inflamed and sore in spectral form. “You betrayed me. You betrayed all of us. I thought you were different, Savil. You’re just another Calion. Just another Charmaine stabbing their family in the back.”

Camena didn’t even try to scream. Just cowered where she stood, rocking on the balls of her feet as the Spider Daedra descended around her on threads of silk. She never even made a sound when one bit into her, tearing her spirit from its gossamer prison as I fell even further, tumbling into the approaching blackness as the vampire appeared in spectral form.

She was at peace until she opened her eyes, arms spread wide as if welcoming death. Yet when she saw the Spider Daedra and their webs stretching all around, all she did was scream. A cry of pain and loss and betrayal that rang out throughout Mafala’s realm of Oblivion; it drowned the heartbeatsthat thundered away, filling my head and ringing, ringing, invading as hot air clinging to my skin and forcing itself deep within my lungs. The Webspinner’s realm was being sliced apart, cut with a blade of light ever widening in white sunlight and blue skies behind black shadows.

The black shape moved, bowed over me and pinching my nose as he breathed deep into my lungs for me. “Come on, wake up! Breathe for me, killer!” He hissed, letting go to press his cool hands on my bare chest and push down, pressing on my chest again and again, making me draw in a breath.

It choked me. The harsh, rough air made me retch and splutter, coughing up the smoky air and getting him off me. “Easy now, breathe. Don’t rush yourself. You gonna be ok?”

Hawk…he’s ok! I grabbed him and pulled him close, clinging tighter as he tried peeling me off him. “Easy, Savil. Just wait here, I’ll be back in a second, I promise. There’s others in the Sanctuary still, I gotta get them out.”

Clinging, I yelped, “No!” and seized him around the waist. “They’re dead. They’re all dead, Vincinere!”

I sobbed and held tight, gripping him and breathing in the smell of singed leather. “Mafala…Mafala…everyone’s dead. They’re all dead and it’s all my fault.”

He just stopped, taking my hands and making me let go. “What? Savil, no, there’s some left, I can tell. Wait here, I gotta get them.”

“They’re all dead!” I screeched. “I saw them. Everyone’s dead but us and it’s all my Gods-damned fault!”

He stopped in front of the gorge, turning back to me as thick, acrid-smelling smoke tumbled out of the secret crevice. “You…you couldn’t have seen them. You were out cold when I dragged you out and got you breathing again.”

“I died, Vincinere.” I sobbed, easing myself up on the hot sand. “I died…I went to the Void, but it wasn’t the Void. It was hers…she lied to me. It’s all my fault!”

He was blurring around the edges as I stood fully, looking past him at the smoke leaking from the gorge. “Everyone’s dead.”

My armour clung to me like the second skin it was permitted to be, pushing past Hawke as the smoke assaulted my eyes. They watered like fountains as the Black Door drew closer. Smoke gushed around the cracked door like tears. Flames still crackled low in the embers of my family’s dead bodies. The smell of burning flesh thick and poisonous in the air.

Now I’m alone in the burning shell of the Anequina Sanctuary, surrounded by death and choking on fire. Hawk can’t follow me in here or he’ll suffocate on the smoke. I’m all alone.

“Everyone’s dead.”

Camena nearly made it out. She could have lived if she weren’t an Altmer. If she weren’t so much weaker to every single type of magic – frost, shock, fire – she’d have gotten out, not be laying in the entrance halfway up the stairs with her skin burned off. Silk fibres stick to her charred remains. Blackened at the tips, they fade to soft teal. Teal…she’d changed. Shed the Thalmor ballgown that disguised her as one of them.

“Everyone’s dead.”

Further down, almost in the main hall, Effe-Zeeis had burned fighting. What daggers had he chosen? Oh, the Daedric set, of course. Blades that simply looked evil were his favourites, but no knife can stop the all-consuming flame. With his daggers still in his hands he lay curled up at the bottom of the stairs.

“Everyone’s dead.”

Then across was perhaps the first to die. The Khajiit with sugar on her lips must have heard the burning and come to see. The fire wave must have hit her first and burned the fur right off her skin. The leather on her armour stayed though, shrivelling but resisting and concealing a bound book tucked down the front. A gift? No, a return on the secret pact held with Orion to keep the magic of kindly spriggans and children’s bedtime stories alive for his daughter.

“Everyone’s dead.”

There she was as if waiting to catch her. To catch the nice lady spriggan her father trained to write for her. At least between leaving septims under her pillow for her baby teeth. Her mother’s there too. A fire wave must have caught them both as they left the tomb. Rosette died mid-leap, diving forward to catch her daughter and hold her to her chest. Belle died cowering, afraid, thinking the bad golden elves who hurt Camena and killed daddy had come to burn them all too. As hard as her mother tried to shield her eyes when going to Restoration class, she’d still seen the bad elves hurting others. Seen the tar smeared on their skin to be set alight so they die in pain. Sometimes seen them break away with hands bound, diving onto the braziers below so they burn themselves instead of being burned. Suicide is noble when it compares to death by those of Altmer kind, or at least that’s what the races of men say. Rosette was one of those races. Breton, like Vincinere, but her sacrifice so her daughter could run away was a noble death for beast, mer, and man.

“Everyone’s dead.”

If only she’d made her little Belle run. Had she ran to the Sanctuary tomb she’d have been safe, out of the burning that stopped at the entrance where a pile of vampire dust lay. Skogsra must have been the last. In the tomb she was safe. The earth of the cave was damp by her sister’s urn, keeping the flames at bay. Yet she must have heard the crackle, the screaming. All pyromancers know the smell of scorched flesh. Why’d she leave? It was safe here. Fire can’t pass over damp earth.

“Everyone’s dead.”

By Huldra’s urn, there’s my answer. Written in the earth with the vampire’s finger. A speech her sister could never hear, a message she could never read. In her final minutes Skogsra had written a suicide note in the earth. All the reasoning, all the questions, were answered in, ‘I’m coming, Huldra’. When she walked into the flames, how was she to know it was not to be? How could she know everyone had been deceived many times over?

“Everyone’s dead.”

Now I’m alone in the burning shell of the Anequina Sanctuary, surrounded by death and choking on fire. Hawk can’t follow me in here or he’ll suffocate on the smoke. I’m all alone.

“Savil, what do you think you’re doing! It’s not safe here!”

He followed. The idiot followed when he knew that he could choke to death on the smoke. “Hawk, get out!” I yelled, but he just seized me in his arms and crushed my struggling against him. “It’s not safe, let me be. Let me bury the dead.”

He shook his head and held me tight. “I’m not letting you go again. Once the dead had been laid to rest, you’re coming with me and I’m keeping you safe.”

Deep in his chest, I could feel the pain. Trying not to cough or choke on the ash. “Mephala…Mephala said…”

“I don’t care what the daedra said. I don’t care if that one’s sacred to you. That Prince manipulated you, and it ruined everything. We are nothing but pawns to their plans, and nothing is sacred – even what you call sacred – to their meddling. So I don’t care what you or that Daedra says. Once we’ve buried the dead, you’re coming with me and I’m keeping you safe.”

“You…you don’t…”

“I’ve seen many be manipulated by the Daedra before. You’re not the first and you won’t be the last. Come on, I’m gonna take you back to Skyrim with me. The Gods know you could use somewhere different. Let us make our destinies together, come on.”

He…after the lies, deception, murder, and betrayal…he didn’t care? “You’re…you’re just gonna…”

“I know the effects of Daedric manipulation. Seen it myself a few times. You can’t resist it. Nobody can. Especially not when a Prince that gets right inside your head is the one doing it. There was nothing you could do.”

He pulled me from the tomb entrance to the very back. “Vincinere…I wanna make an ancestral tomb for everyone here. I can’t make it like how the Temple of the Reclamations does with all their ashes, but I can collect parts of their lives and entomb them in like a chest or small urn. Can make a little shrine to their souls, and maybe a Waiting Door. Then…they’re not Dunmer but maybe they can still come through. They are family after all.”

He sighed but didn’t make any stupid remarks. “What would you take for the tomb?” He asked. Hawk may not understand most of my traditions, but at least he’ll let me follow them and do his best to help out.

“I don’t know. I…I guess I’ll find a few things. Come on, Hawk. The dead must rest.”

Together, with the hot winds of the Ne’Quin-Al desert whispering through every hairline crack of the Sanctuary, we began preparing the dead for the grave.

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