Amaund Motierre sat cross-legged on the fur covered hay pile, eating roasted chicken and bread; miserable that after over half a year he had received no answer to his prayers to the Night Mother. He had performed the ritual so many times he knew it by heart and could probably perform it in his sleep, the once squeamish reactions he had once had to the flesh and blood now no longer affected him. He had grown tired of the wait and had begun to wonder if the Dark Brotherhood was losing the glory they had once seen centuries previous.
Suddenly a Shout echoed through the tomb, shattering the eerie silence that he and Rex had become accustomed to. The sounds of metal crashing against metal reverberated against the walls, coming closer to their locked chamber. Amaund looked at his bodyguard nervously. Rex set his food down, stood up, then walked toward the door, anxiously waiting.
Silence set in, but it was anything but calm. Amaund became hyper aware of evert sound his ears picked up, his breathing, Rex’s breathing, the sound of his own heartbeat pounding in his chest, the blood rushing in his ears. Then he heard scratching on the door, no in the keyhole. Someone was picking the lock. His heartbeat accelerated; he swore his heart was going to burst out of his chest. The cylinder was turning, he could hear it. Slowly, the sound of creaking continued until it stopped with the audible sound of the door unlocking. Amaund’s heart was now attempting to leap through his throat.
Slowly, the door creaked open.
Ulfric sat at his desk, reviewing reports. More soldiers lost, either killed or captured. More land lost, the Legion occupying more and more of the small villages in the holds supportive of the cause. And although there were more reports of dragon attacks, confirmed sightings of the Dragonborn were far and few in-between. He sighed heavily as he opened a letter, this from a post in Whiterun. He sat up as he read, the corner of his lips turning into a slight smile. A day previous, a courier had arrived with a letter from Solaf reporting that Meliandra had been given his letter. This letter told him that the Breton had been encountered going through the Hold and it was found she was traveling north to Winterhold.
Pouring himself a drink, he began to make plans for the assassin’s arrival. He would have Jorleif prepare the room he had placed her in before, fresh bedding, fresh firewood, a supply of candles and oil for lanterns. Knowing Galmar’s extreme distrust of the woman, he knew he’d have to agree to his demands of a guard posted outside the room with an increase of patrols through these passageways. He glanced across the hall, thinking of the chambers beyond those walls that would soon house a woman whose loyalty, though sworn to him, he did not know if he could put his faith in. She was also a woman he had found himself obsessed with despite his repeated attempts to put his growing feelings for her aside. She intrigued him, fascinated him in a way no woman ever had before. There was a mysterious air about her, it hinted at a life kept secret from others, something she was afraid of, or was it something she was ashamed of?
He drank from his tankard, his thoughts returning to the reports in front of him. He sighed heavily as he picked one up and began to read again.
Meliandra stepped into the dusty chambers, lowered the hood on her cloak, and looked directly at the finely dressed man behind the guard. Tilting her head to the side, she smiled as she said, “You look surprised, Amaund. Did you think the Night Mother has not heard your incessant prayers?”
He laughed as he approached her, ignoring the look of caution on his bodyguard’s face. “Actually, I was beginning to think that the Bark Brotherhood had fallen out of favor with her.”
Meliandra’s smile grew even larger. “Perhaps it is the Motierre family that has fallen out of her favor. It has been quite a while since one of your family served the Night Mother. What is it that you ask of us?”
“I’d like to arrange a contract. Several, actually. I daresay, the work I’m offering has more significance than anything your organization has experienced in, well, centuries.”
Meliandra looked irritated. “Get to it, little man.”
“Please, allow me to state my business. Surely your time is as valuable as mine. As I said, I want you to kill several people. You’ll find the targets, as well as their manners of elimination, quite varied. I’m sure someone of your disposition will probably even find it enjoyable. But you should know that these killings are but a means to an end. For they pave the way to the most important target. The real reason I’m speaking with a cutthroat in the bowels of this detestable crypt. For I seek the assassination of… the Emperor.”
She smiled. “Leaders rise and fall. Business is business.”
“You don’t know how happy I am to hear you say that. So much has led to this day. So much planning, and maneuvering. Now you’re here, as if the very stars have finally aligned. But I digress. Here, take these. They need to be delivered to your, um, … superior. Rexus.” He motioned for his bodyguard. “The items.”
The man approached cautiously, handing over a sealed letter with a fine pouch. She accepted them without taking her eyes off the man.
“The sealed letter will explain everything that needs to be done. The amulet is quite valuable – you can use it to pay for any and all expenses.”
She nodded and slipped the letter and amulet in her pouch on her hip. Turning on hr heel, she exited the dusty chamber, continuing on her journey.
General Tullius sat at the table in his rooms at Castle Dour, eating his evening meal as he read reports from his men in the field, his frustrations growing. While the Empire was reclaiming lands that the rebels had claimed or taken, support for the traitorous murderer grew. The soldiers they captured refused to speak even under the most intensive torture and many were sent to be held by the Thalmor, never to be seen or heard from again; Tullius asked no questions.
He opened a sealed letter and began to read, his anger began to rise as he read the report of yet another one of his men being found in their tents or in a room at a local inn, their necks cut open. In each scenario, there was one common factor, the men had taken a whore to bed. Only one report had come with a vague description of the wench, a black-haired woman, short of stature. He was intent on finding this harlot who bedded his men then deprived them of their lives; he would exact punishment, one that would ensure that no rebel dared try to execute his men ever again.
The wind was frigid, numbing her face; the snow fell fast and so thick she could barely see. She would have liked to have stayed at the inn there in Winterhold, but since she had nearly been caught after killing her target, she knew it to be prudent of her to get out of town and to do so quickly. She had misestimated when the snowstorm would come on shore and that was going to delay her arrival in Windhelm greatly.
She sought out shelter, straining to see in the whiteout conditions, knowing that a cave must be around here somewhere. Her Breton blood did not agree with these freezing temperatures and she cursed the Stormcloak leader for calling for her during the colder months of the year.
Her thoughts drifted to the jarl of Windhelm as she made her way through the snowstorm; the blue of his eyes as he looked into hers, the feel of his hands as he cupped her face before kissing her. She closed her eyes briefly, trying to rid the image from her mind. She also tried to forget that she had reciprocated his kiss, that she had even been thrilled by it. The man was dangerous and getting involved with him was a mistake she had known she was making but had also known that there really had been no choice for her in the matter.
She saw a cave through the blowing snow and headed toward it. She hoped that she would be able to gather enough firewood to build a fire; she was cold and hungry. Baring there were no wolves or bears or even trolls in the cave, she would be happy, but the odds of the cave being empty were not in her favor. She readied herself and entered the cave.
It was dark as she ventured further in; she cast a detect life spell and searched for the visual aura of any living creature she’d see. Slowly she made her way through the cave, casting her spell every so often. Suddenly, she stopped. She glanced around cautiously; then, muffling her steps, she crept along. The smell of cooked meat hung heavy in the air, making her stomach grumble in protest. By the smell of a freshly extinguished fire, she knew someone else was in the cave somewhere.
She made her way through the last passage in the cave, weapon in hand. Quietly, she cast another detect life spell and saw the aura just beyond the cave wall. Slowly, she snuck through, listening intently. The smell of roasted meat grew stronger; she tightened her grip on her weapon.
In the darkness she saw a figure sitting on a boulder, their back to her. She assumed the unknown person was male, something about the broad shoulders and arms seemed masculine to her. She tried to see if he had any weapons around him, but even her exceptional eyes could not make out much in the darkness. She approached slowly, watching him for any movement. The silence was broken, and she froze in place as his words reached her ears.
“Why don’t you put that dagger away and have an ale with me, lass?” Brynjolf’s lilting voice asked.