Under the moonlight of Masser and Secunda, the many creatures and people of Skyrim took to their beds to retire for the night as the shining stars of Nirn shined down upon them. Up on the north-most coastline, the city of Solitude was quiet, very quiet, as the twilight crept overhead, the only source of light emitting from a lone guard's lantern as he leaned against the outer stone wall, keeping a lazy eye on the courtyard outside the inn and main square. For a Sundas night, this was unusual as had barely reached two in the morning, however the inn was empty, it's light out and it's bar empty.
All was not well and the guard by the gate seemed to sense this. He pushed himself off the wall with one foot and drew his Imperial sword, his lantern held high in his free hand, sending long shadows dancing across the cobblestone ground. He stepped forward, his steel imperial boots making a sharp noise against the hard ground as he edged towards a darkened corner.
Finally, light hit the dark collection of shadows near the executioner's platform and he relaxed, seeing nothing but old stone and moss. He sheathed his sword and gave a sigh of relief, only to be suddenly grabbed from behind, a knee shoved into his back and his neck snapped with an almost-silent and quick crack.
His body fell to the ground without a noise and his hooded assailant smirked under her hood, noticing how the blood ran into his uniform and was barely noticeable. The corpse was then shoved into the dark corner, his lantern extinguished and his valuables stripped from him.
The unknown assassin seemed to sneer even wider as she sneaked into the shade and effortlessly climbed up to the awning of the Radiant Raiment before making her way up to the titled rooftop. Her black and red robe-like armour was shining like freshly-polished steel in the moonlight, and her ebony dagger and dark-coloured bow seemed to do the same. The assassin, an Argonian judging by her dark brown tail that whipped out behind her as she ran across the rooftop, suddenly stopped and watched as a second guard left his guard post by the blacksmith shop to wander down the sloped path towards the temple. Down he went too; an ebony arrow slicing through his armour like it was nothing but parchment. Such shoddy workmanship, the assassin mused as she made her way en route towards the higher class area of the city. She knew the guard would be dead, as the arrow had been laced with a deadly poison.
There, amongst the rich folk of Solitude, laid her target, so unsuspecting and so peaceful. Soon he would be with Sithis... Soon he will be in the Void and his soul will be claimed. And her master's wish would be fulfilled and her contract completed.
Another guard soon met his end by her hand as he patrolled by the lower-class houses. The dagger slipped through his scaled guard armor so easily, it was laughable. Not just only once, but twice was his ribs pierced by the dark and deadly blade before he was declared dead. Ironically enough, a collection of Nightshade flowers was nearby. The Argonian assassin smiled a sinister and toothy grin to herself again as she dragged the fallen guard's body into the shade of a building before picking the Nightshade petals to use as alchemy ingredients.
And finally, she was there. The home of Thane Erikur stood imposing and grand against the moonlight, and not a soul in sight. The assassin slipped across the cobblestone path, only stopping briefly to glance up and down at the Blue Palace and Castle Dour to check for more guards, before she entered the small walled yard.
Amongst pretty flowers and ivy-covered stone walls lay a simple door of reinforced metal, one that only the rich could afford. It was locked, of course, but no lock was impossible to crack. The Argonian knelt down on one knee and place a small iron pick into the lock, as well as another bit of metal to act as a dagger. The lock was hard and of reasonably good quality, but then the satisfying click rang through the night and the assassin pushed the metal door open slowly.
The entrance hall was bleak and cold, with no sound was being made throughout the home. She dropped into a crouch and stalked through the room and up into the stair well, slowing down to only snatch a coin purse from an end table to stow in her armor. After all, why just kill someone and leave their home untouched, when you could plunder everything they owned from within it?
The assassin reached the second floor and paused, her instinct telling her something was wrong. She drew her both hands up and held them flat, suddenly concentrating hard. A swirling vortex of purple-blue energy formed a ball of magicka in the palms of scaled hands. She raised them to chest-height and the incantation moulded together into a single ball of energy as she simultaneously casted the spell.
Her vision grew cloudy and grey but she did not fear it. Lit by a bright red aura of life were two figures in two separate rooms. The first one was asleep in a bed, several paces away but on the upper and final floor. The other was much closer and in the hall near her, standing up and guarding the stairs, probably suspicious on anyone who dated to enter at this time of night.
The Argonian sneered under her hood and stopped casting, as her magicka reserves were almost dry, before she lowered her hands and closed her palms. Silently, she drew her ebony dagger from its sheath and opened her free hand up, a second spell forming in the palm, pale green this time.
She slipped to the corner closest to the guard (probably the housecarl, she figured), as silent and careful as a curious mouse. She could hear his breath by the stairwell, sharp and ragged. A strong smell of mead wafted over the hall and she wrinkled up her pale yellow nose, disgusted. Finally, she heard his footsteps slowly turn away and that is when she struck.
She streaked from the corner, firing off the Calm spell as she did. It hit the tall Nord square in his back, and green particles began to orbit around his body. He did not stop walking, and continued towards the stairs, completely unaware of his fate. But then she was on him, yanking down on his shoulders and jumping up his back, before drawing her dagger across his neckline, right where his steel armor did not quite cover. The spell broke, and he clutched at his bleeding throat with a soft gurgle erupting from his gullet before her weight sent him toppling down.
The assassin rolled off him when he crumpled to the ground, chuckling slightly when she landed, before she glanced up the stairs. She ascended quickly and with no more distractions apart from an unlocked strongbox (which she helped herself to, of course), the Argonian found herself outside her target's door. It was locked, but no lock could keep her from doing her duty. She forced it open with ease, and she pushed the creaky door back to allow entry the master bedroom.
However, her target, Erikur, was nowhere to be seen. A large bed laid neat, tidy and empty, all the windows closed and locked despite the slightly warm night, and the room looked virtually untouched, as if there was never a resident here. The only clue to that a life once was here was a half-open chest that sat at the foot of the bed, a collection of books inside.
The Argonian swore a vicious swear under her breath in Jel and crept in closer, looking for clues. There had been someone here, yes, but where were they now?
Something sharp suddenly jabbed into her back then, and light flickered across the dark room, as a cold voice broke the silent night. “It's rude to snoop, scaleback.”
A hand reached forward and roughly tugged her hood down, revealing dark brown scales and pale yellow markings across her young face with bright golden eyes. One of her horns, which pointed in a backwards 'V' shape from her head and usually long for a female Argonian, was grabbed and held tight by a bare fist.
One of these eyes, with slitted pupils like a snake's, shifted its gaze to the shadow illuminated on the floor and she spoke for the first time that night, a crooked smile forming on pale lips. “Good evening, Erikur,” she murmured politely.
Her voice had a distinct hiss to it, like all Argonians, but it appeared it was not harshly scarred by the poison of skooma like other female Argonians he had met. Erikur was slightly surprised at the softness it contained, as if it was a shy young girl's, but the burly and grey-haired Nord contained himself. He readjusted his grip on his steel sword and poked it harder into her back.
“What are you doing here?!” he demanded. “Why did you kill my housecarl?”
The assassin turned her head ever so slightly, feeling his hand tightened its grip on her horns. “He wasn't meant to die,” she answered softly, almost in an apologetic voice. “But he was in the way. A loose end. My only target for this evening is you, Thane of Solitude.”
There was a shocked silence at this statement, but then there was a sudden loud tramping of footsteps ringing through the building. Two imperial legion soldiers appeared behind Erikur, both wearing light cuirasses of leather with chainmail accents on the skirts. In their hands, they each grasped a long, wide steel blade with a kite-shaped wooden shield held loosely at their sides, the raised wood embellishing painted to resemble the imperial dragon symbol. They appeared young, but already had battle scarred faces underneath their simple leather helms.
“Er... Th-The Captain sent us, um, sir,” the Nord on the left with a squashed nose and boyish looks stuttered. “T-T-There were, um, disturbances all around the city. Y-Your safety is top priority.” The other solider, a slightly older and darker Imperial, nodded in agreement.
“Of course it is, you fool,” snapped Erikur. “I'm a thane. Now arrest this assassin!”
“Y-Yes, sir!” the solider practically squeaked in response. Erikur made an impatient noise, and the hand holding the assassin’s horns back released its grip and the sword was removed from her back. But, as Erikur moved to let the guard's take over her capture, that single moment there was the one where it all ended for the thane.
She threw her head back harshly, colliding with someone and her horns impaled harshly into soft flesh. A howl of pain, followed by a quiet squelching noise, told her that she had hit her mark directly and she pushed off with a violently kick at whoever was behind her, before landing ahead and spinning around to face her foes.
Erikur was holding his face with both hands, blood trickling down and through his fingers. The guards both had surprised expressions but immediately held their shields up in a defensive manoeuvre. “Under Imperial law you are under arrest for attempted assassination, trespassing and murder!” The older Imperial with a lined face and dark beard called. “Come quietly and--”
But his next words were drowned out by the rich thane's frantic screeching yell. “Kill her! She took my eye, take her life! I don’t care what your orders are, but just kill her!” He staggered out of the room between them and the Argonian was faced with the young guards.
Their time in the legion had served them both well but that was useless here. They were outmatched and outsmarted by a single formidable assassin. The first solider, the youngest, had barely stepped forward to attack her before the Argonian drew her curved long sword, a shiny katana with a dark handle wrapped in blue cloth and gold-tipped accents, and thrust it harshly at his shield.
He staggered, his footing failing, and he threw his unguarded arm up to defend himself. The assassin withdrew her sword from the shield and sliced quickly twice, cutting deep into his bracer and arm. The solider forced himself up off the floor, blood dripping from his forearm and swung his sword at her. She parried it, deflecting the blow away from her before spinning, ducking and slicing through his knee. He howled in pain, and was sent down to the ground, but not before he threw his sword out once more. With another block, she deflected the inadequate blow and swiped across his neckline. For a second, the Imperial shrugged it off, but then he grasped at it, spluttering as blood dripped from the deep slice, trying desperately to fix an impossible wound. He was slowly suffocating to death on his own blood.
At first, the Argonian ignored him, planning on taking on his comrade, but his splutters were rather distracting. With a look of sheer annoyance, looking like she was telling off a irritant child then slaying an enemy, she kicked him over onto his back before plunging her sword deep down into his chest. With one now down, she turned to his friend.
He put up a better fight, knowing when and how to block properly, and even managed to get a well-aimed strike at her side with his shield. The assassin was surprised at this skill but never showed it on her face, fighting back with both unlimited grace and formidable strength. She never ever changed her look of determination and hatred, not even when she plunged her sword right down into the side his neck. This fight was as short as the last solider, but this time, one now no longer had a head.
A whimpering from a far corner in the next room caught her attention and the assassin turned from admiring her handiwork in the doorway to see Erikur huddled in it, a healing spell in one of his hands. His eye had stopped bleeding but the wound was far too great for a novice spell to heal. What remained now in his socket now was a dark mass of what could only be describes as dried blood and soggy mutilated flesh.
Erikur stood up when he saw her look, and began edging towards the door. The assassin walked calmly towards him, sheathing her sword and putting her hood back up. “Running won't save you, Thane,” she purred. “I can find you.”
Erikur froze, his back to the door. “I-I-I have money! I'll pay you twice what you've been offered, assassin. I can make you rich.” His good eye gleamed, as if he dared to hope she would accept it.
But the Argonian only gave a tittering laugh. “You are a fool, Erikur. Do you think I not have done my research on you? I know you are going broke because neither the Imperials refuse to use your shoddy imported weapons. I know your ties to the Thieves Guild have been severed for the same reason. You only live here because Thane Bryling bought out your home and allows you to stay here. And...” she paused, “You could never afford to pay me what I am gaining, because it is not gold I want. It is your blood on my blade.”
She pulled out her dagger and spun it in her hand, seeing a look of fear cross the thane's face, and she moved on in for the kill. He gave a frightened yelp, not unlike that of a cornered animal, before forcing the door open behind him to squeeze out and escape.
Or so he thought. The Argonian calmly hurried after him, resheathing her dagger. A smile of mild amusement crossed her face as she watched him stagger into a stone pillar outside his home. But she also noticed that, for a half-blind man, he was awfully fast. He reached the road and began to pick up a stumbling gait along it. And boy, was he loud too.
“ASSASSIN! THERE'S AN ASSASSIN ON THE LOOSE!” he bellowed as he half-ran, half-stumbled towards the Castle Dour courtyards. Lights were flickering on in adjacent buildings as their residents awoke to the Nord’s hollering call. A few even threw open windows to look at what was causing the commotion below, some with curious looks and other's with annoyed glares.
But Erikur's escape was not to last. He had barely reached the fork in the road between the hill up to Castle Dour or to go around to the market place before an arrow was fired with deadly precision into the back of his right knee. He collapsed straight onto his face with a pained cry as the Argonian gazed down coldly at him from her perch on a nearby balcony. She clutched her bow tightly, a beautiful black Dwarvern-made one, before she leapt off the awning of the Bard's Collage and walked over to where the injured not-so-noble man lay still. Breathing, but still as a rock.
A harsh kick was delivered into his ribs, causing him to curl up and yelp in severe pain, as a crack echoed around them. The assassin coldly reached down and pushed the arrowhead deeper into his leg, before pulling it out and replacing it back into her quiver. Erikur gave another noise of agony, a pitiful whimper, as the Argonian leant over him, leering with bared, sharp teeth. She grabbed his hair and pulled back, exposing his throat to the Ebony Dagger now residing dangerous close to it. One dark boot was placed against his spine, restraining him completely immobile.
“Your first mistake was when you attempted to restrain me,” she began, her voice losing its polite, sweet tone and gaining an icy chill that made the Nord’s spine tingle. “Your second was when you ordered you pitiful guards to kill me.”
There was a pause and Erikur knew his time was up. He began to mumble prayers to Akatosh and the other Divines, straining against the scaly hand holding him back.
The Argonian laughed and smacked him hard in the cheek with the hilt of her dagger. “Stop it, that never helped anyone.”
“Who are you?” The thane demanded, quivering under her hands. “At least give me a name to curse when I die.”
The assassin smiled. “My name? I am Climbs-Many-Trees, a Speaker for the Black Hand of the Brotherhood, the last Shadowscale, and forever in servitude to Sithis.”
Erikur could only chuckle back at her. “I will go to Sovengarde, Climbs-Many-Trees. I will be welcomed there, like my forefathers and my brothers before I.” His eyes glanced towards the barracks, as the light from two guard's torches grew closer, and a feeling of hope swelled in his chest.
Climbs-Many-Trees smiled sweetly down at him. “Oh no, that is where you are wrong Erikur.”
“Your soul will belong to Sithis and you will spend an afterlife of solitude to my dark master. He's very hungry for souls, you see. And that brings me to your third mistake... That mistake was attempting to flee. The Dark Brotherhood never fails, thane of Solitude. It's time you learnt that lesson.”
And with those words, she tugged back harshly on his hair before throwing his forehead into the cobblestone ground with a sickening crack, and Thane Erikur moved no more.
Footsteps grew louder as two guards bolted towards the scene, swords drawn. But all they saw was the Argonian assassin standing above the thane's body, a wicked smirk crossing her lips and a purple ball of magicka in each hand. She crouched down, casting the spell before disappearing into the night in a flash of purple light.