Skyrim – The Dark Brotherhood


The first thing I encountered upon entering Windhelm was a pair of Nords harassing a Dunmer woman. It turns out that the native Nords of Skyrim don’t just want freedom from the Empire, they don’t like anyone who isn’t a Nord either.

Earlier an innkeeper had told me that a child in Windhelm was attempting the Dark Sacrament, the means of contacting the Dark Brotherhood (the guild of assassins last seen in Oblivion). I decided to check this out.

Innocence Lost

The child in question is Aventus Aretino who is (naturally) in the Aretino residence. The door is locked but I picked it and went inside. Aventus was performing the sacrament (which consisted of stabbing a skeleton, apparently) and mistook me for a Dark Brotherhood assassin. (There is no way to correct him of this assumption.) He asked me to go kill Grelod the Kind, the headmistress of the orphanage he had escaped from. The orphanage is in Riften.

I went to Riften and checked out the orphanage. Grelod the “Kind” was there, berating the children as to how worthless they were and how they would never have a family. After hearing her rant (and seeing the child-sized shackles in the closet off the main room) I decided that maybe Aventus had a point. I killed Grelod (to the cheers of the children) and returned to Aventus, who paid me with a family heirloom.

As I left to go about my business, a courier ran up to me with a message. The note was nothing but a drawing of a black hand and the phrase “We know”.

With Friends Like These…

The next time I slept, I awoke to find myself in a shack somewhere. Three bound prisoners knelt at one end of the room, their heads covered, while a woman with a masked face watched.

This turned out to be Astrid, the leader of the Dark Brotherhood. By killing Grelod I had “stolen” a kill from the Dark Brotherhood. To make it up to them, I had to perform a kill for them. I was to interrogate the three prisoners, determine which one was the Dark Brotherhood’s target and kill them.

No one, I was told, was leaving the shack until someone died.

Note that the “someone” can be Astrid. If you kill her you can later get the quest “Destroy the Dark Brotherhood”. Obviously doing so will prevent you from ever joining the Dark Brotherhood or doing their quests.

I talked to the three and eventually killed the Khajiit merchant. Astrid congratulated me and welcomed me to the Dark Brotherhood, telling me where to find their Sanctuary. I asked who the correct target had been an she told me it was none of them! She just wanted to see if I would kill on command. She left the shack, leaving me free to do the same. I found myself on a small island in a swamp more-or-less between Morthal and Solitude. I released the other two prisoners (who made no move to leave the shack) and returned to Whiterun.


I later went to the Dark Brotherhood’s sanctuary, located near Falkreath. Astrid had given me the passphrase for the door; when asked “What is the music of life?” I must respond “Silence, my brother.”

The assassination missions are kind of dubious at best and flat-out murder at worst. If such moral issues bother your character, take the “Destroy the Dark Brotherhood” option mentioned above.

Inside I met Astrid again and she introduced me to the other members of the Brotherhood, including what seemed to be a young girl who was really a 300 year old vampire.

I eventually spent most of my time talking to Nazir. He gave me several assassination assignments which I proceeded to carry out. Returning from one of these I found the entire Sanctuary in an uproar. A strange man dressed as a jester had arrived carrying a coffin. The man was called Cicero and the coffin contained the body of the Night Mother; the “leader” of the Dark Brotherhood. Most of the Brotherhood seemed suspicious of Cicero but he was assigned quarters to care for the Night Mother.

Whispers in the Dark

After a few more missions when I returned to the Sanctuary I was pulled to one side by Astrid. She was becoming more suspicious of Cicero due to his behavior. He was locking himself in his chambers and talking to someone but she did not know who. She asked me to hide in his quarters, inside the coffin of the Night Mother, and find out who he was talking to.

I was dubious but did as requested. After some time in the coffin Cicero arrived and started talking, apparently to the Night Mother herself.

To my surprise, the Night Mother started to glow and she started to speak! To me! She welcomed me as “The Listener” and told me that the Brotherhood had a new contract; I was to locate a man named Amaund Motierre and get the contract from him.

The coffin then flew open and I fell into the room. Cicero was at first angry that I had “defiled” the coffin but he became quite excited when I told him the Night Mother had spoken to me and he welcomed me as the Listener. I told him and Astrid of the Night Mother’s instructions but Astrid was suspicious and told me to ignore Amaund Motierre for now.

The Silence Has Been Broken

After a few more assassinations Astrid pulled me aside again. She still wasn’t sure what was going on but thought I should probably follow up on what I was told by the Night Mother. I was to find Amaund Motierre in the crypt of Volunruud.

I journeyed to the crypt and after dispatching several Dragur found the room where Motierre and his assistant were waiting. Motierre did indeed have an assignment for the Dark Brotherhood. We were to kill several people, with the last target being the Emperor of Tamreil himself! He gave me a sealed letter and an amulet to take back to Astrid.

Astrid was incredulous when I told her of Motierre’s request but seemed certain that the Night Mother would not mislead the Brotherhood. She sent me to Riften to contact the Thieves Guild to find a fence for the amulet while she followed up on the contents of the letter.

In Riften I found the Thieves Guild in a series of tunnels under the city known as the Ratway, though I had to kill several bandits and squatters before getting to their headquarters; a hidden tavern known as the Ragged Flagon. There I met with their fence, a Nord named Delvin Mallory.

Mallory was stunned when he saw the amulet. Apparently it was the symbol of a member of the Emperor’s inner council. He asked who we had killed in order to get it then quickly said he didn’t want to know. It would take him a while to find a buyer but in the meantime he gave me a letter of credit to take back to Astrid.

Astrid was pleased when I returned and told me to find some nice clothes. Apparently I was headed to a wedding.

Bound Until Death

Apparently a niece of the Emperor was getting married in Solitude. The Emperor would not be attending but we needed something to bring him to Skyrim. Therefore, I was to kill the bride, Vittoria Vici, at her wedding, preferably while she was addressing the guests after the ceremony.

I received various suggestions from the other members of the Brotherhood as to how I should proceed before leaving for Solitude but the one I chose involved a statue on a balcony over the courtyard where the bride would be speaking to the guests. After arriving at the Temple of the Divines in Solitude I simply climbed to the balcony while the ceremony was underway. I hid myself then, when the bride started her speech, simply pushed the statue onto her. In the confusion that followed I was able to sneak away without being spotted.

After returning to the Sanctuary I was congratulated for not only completing the assignment but also by doing it in such a public manner. I was rewarded with a spell that would allow me to summon the spirit of the legendary assassin Lucien Lachance to assist me in the future.

Breaching Security

With Vittoria Vici dead the Emperor was now coming to Skyrim. We now needed to determine his schedule and what security arrangements were being made.

This information was being carried by the courier Gaius Maro, a member of the Emperor’s guard, the Peniutus Oculatus. I would need to first travel to the Peniutus Oculatus outpost in Dragon Bridge to get the courier’s schedule then locate and assassinate him. I would then plant documents on him to make it appear that he was working with the Thalamor. This would force the Peniutus Oculatus to change their security. For this reason, I also needed to make sure I killed him inside of a city to insure that the body would be found.

Getting the schedule was a simple matter of breaking and entering. I then started following Maro around Skyrim but had trouble finding him when he was not surrounded by witnesses. I eventually trailed him to Whiterun where he took a room in the Bannered Mare. I waited until he had retired to his room for the evening then picked the lock on the door and killed him in his sleep. I planted the false documents on him then returned to the Sanctuary.

The Cure for Madness

When I arrived I was told to report to Astrid immediately. There were signs of a fight everywhere and Astrid told me that Cicero had gone insane, attacked everyone in the Sanctuary then fled. She asked me to search his rooms for clues as to where he may have gone.

I was able to find a volume of Cicero’s journal where he mentioned a second Dark Brotherhood Sanctuary, this one near Dawnstar. Astrid asked me to go there immediately and take care of Cicero. To allow me to get there more quickly she gave me her demonic horse Shadowmere.

I made my way to Dawnstar and from there soon found the entrance to the Sanctuary, on a beach on Skyrim’s northern coast. I found the injured Arnbjorn lying in front of it. He told me that he had fought Cicero and injured him but that he had escaped inside. I sent him back to the main Sanctuary then followed Cicero into this one.

I fought my way through waves of undead and a troll and passed through several traps. Along the way I summoned Lucien Lachance to assist me and he offered his thoughts on this Sanctuary and on Cicero. He felt that I shouldn’t slay Cicero as the position of the Keeper was highly regarded by the Brotherhood and by Sithis.

I kept this in mind when I finally confronted the “injured” Cicero (I’m pretty sure he was faking most of it) deep within the Sanctuary. He defended his actions by saying that he thought that under Astrid the Brotherhood had lost its way. Secretly I thought he was right and we quickly reached an agreement. I would tell Astrid that he was dead and he would agree to leave the Brotherhood alone. He trusted me as the listener and agreed.

I returned to the Sanctuary and told Astrid that Cicero was dead. She accepted this without question then said that we were ready for the next stage of our plans against the Emperor.

Recipe for Disaster

The Brotherhood had discovered that the famous chef known as “The Gourmet” would be preparing a meal for the Emperor while he was in Skyrim. Since no one knew who the Gourmet really was, it would be simple for me to impersonate him. The only problem was that I would have to find the Gourmet myself so I could get his pass.

Fortunately one of the Brotherhood knew of someone who knew who the Gourmet was. I left for Markarth.

There, I found Anton Virane inside of Understone Keep. Virane indeed knew who the Gourmet was; he even had an autographed book from him. I threatened him until he revealed the Gourmet’s identity, then was forced to kill him to keep the Brotherhood’s plan a secret.

The Gourmet turned out to be an orc named Balagog gro-Nolob who was staying at the Nightgate Inn. I found him alone in the basement, making it easy to kill him and hide the body behind some crates. Taking the Writ of Passage from his body I returned to the Sanctuary.

To Kill an Empire

Back at the Sanctuary Astrid welcomed me and told me that as a reward for all I had done I would be the one to kill the Emperor. I would go to Castle Dour in Solitude where, disguised as the Gourmet, I would prepare a poisoned meal for the Emperor. To this end, she gave me a Jarrin Root, a deadly poison I could use in preparing his last meal.

Arriving at Castle Dour I was stopped by Commander Maro, the leader of the Peniutus Oculatus, who was surprised when I presented him with the Gourmet’s Writ. He directed me to the kitchen where I met the chef’s assistant, Gianna She too was surprised at who she thought was the Gourmet but quickly recovered and suggested I put on a chef’s hat and start preparing the meal.

We made the dish for the Emperor with me adding various random ingredients to try to live up to the “Gourmet’s” eccentricities. I made sure to add the Jarrin Root to the mix. Gianna and I then proceeded to the dining room, Gianna carrying the dish. I hung back near the door as she presented it to the Emperor.

The Emperor took one bite of his meal and immediately fell over dead. The guards grabbed Gianna and started towards me, but I bolted out the door and up the stairs.

I made my way along my escape route, only to find it blocked by Commander Maro and three of the Peniutus Oculatus. He mockingly told me that the man I had killed was only a decoy. He had known of this assassination attempt as he had made a deal with Astrid. He would get me and in exchange he would leave the Dark Brotherhood alone. But he intended to break his end of the deal and wipe out the Dark Brotherhood once and for all.

The guards attacked me. I was able to defeat them and flee the city (though with a bounty on my head in Solitude). Commander Maro had disappeared so I headed back towards the Sanctuary, partly to confront Astrid over her treachery and partly to warn them of what was about to happen.

Death Incarnate

The game seems to assume that you are going to rush to the Sanctuary and attempt to save the Dark Brotherhood, but given that you were just betrayed by them there isn’t a good reason why you shouldn’t just help the Peniutus Oculatus to finish them off. (Beyond the fact that they attack you on sight too, of course.)

Of course, it was Astrid who betrayed you, not the Dark Brotherhood as a whole, but still…

I found the Sanctuary under attack from Peniutus Oculatus agents. I slew those outside the entrance then went inside.

The agents had set the Sanctuary ablaze and fire was everywhere. I killed ever agent I came across but found nothing but the bodies of my fellow members of the Brotherhood until I reached a room where Nazir was still fighting for his life. I came to his aid and finished off the last of the Peniutus Oculatus.

By this point the spreading blaze had cut off our escape. The two of us made our way to the room holding the Night Mother and I heard her voice telling me to embrace her. I entered her coffin, which closed behind me, and Nazir shoved it through the glass window behind it. All of us fell into the pool below and I passed out.

I awoke when Nazir opened the coffin. The fire was out, we having survived in the pool. The vampire child Babette had also returned but it seemed the three of us were the last of the Dark Brotherhood. Acting on instinct, I moved deeper into ruined Sanctuary towards Astrid’s room.

I found her lying on the floor, hideously burned, and discovered that she had performed the Dark Sacrament.

On herself.

She saw me and admitted what she had done. She had betrayed the Dark Brotherhood and would soon have to answer to Sithis for her betrayal. But, as a last act of redemption, she had performed the Sacrament. The target was herself. She asked me to take her blade and end her life, becoming the leader of the Dark Brotherhood myself.

Without a word, I did as she asked.

After I was done I turned to see both Nazir and Babette watching. I told them that this Sanctuary was destroyed, but that we would move to the Dawnstar Sanctuary and rebuild. I also told them that we had been given a contract and that we would complete what we had started.

The Emperor would die.

Hail Sithis!

Leaving Nazir and Babette to handle clearing the last of the old Sanctuary, I took Shadowmere and returned to Whiterun. Amaund Motierre was at the Bannered Mare and was both surprised to see that I was still alive and that the Dark Brotherhood was still determined to complete its contract.

According to Motierre the Emperor, the real Emperor, was on the ship the Katariah, currently anchored off of Solitude. I left for there at once.

Arriving in Solitude I was almost immediately stopped by a guard who wanted to arrest me for the killing of the Peniutus Oculatus agents during my escape. The fine was steep but I could not be delayed and paid it.

I made my way to the docks where I saw Commander Maro! Hiding behind some crates, I loaded one of my poisoned arrows and let fly. He fell into the water without a sound and no one seemed to notice me or his demise. I made my way to the end of the dock and swam out to the Katariah.

I found my way on board through a cargo hatch and started making my up through the ship. I killed several guards while avoiding others and eventually found my way to the Emperor’s cabin. I had found the key on a guard earlier and let myself in.

The Emperor was waiting.

He was surprisingly calm. He knew who I was and why I was there and seemed accepting of it. Such is the way of assassins and emperors, he told me. He only asked one thing of me; that I kill the one behind all of this. Not a contract, he said, just the last request of an old man.

He then turned his back to me and looked out the window and over the sea. A single thrust with my blade ended it.

I left the cabin quietly and returned the way I had come it. I swam to the shore near Solitude where Shadowmere found me at my call. I then returned to Whiterun.

I found Amaund Motierre still in his room at the Bannered Mare. I let myself in and told him that the contract was complete. He was pleased and told me that our payment would be found in the crypt where we first met. He then started to prepare for bed but stopped when he realized that I had made no move to leave. He asked why I was still there.

“The last request of a good man.” I told him. I killed him before he could react.

I stopped at Volunruud long enough to collect our payment then went to the Dawnstar Sanctuary. Nazir and Babette had settled in there and Nazir had even found a few new recruits. Oddly, Cicero had also returned and was again happily taking care of the Night Mother. Nazir commented in passing that he knew I hadn’t killed him.

With the money from the assassination of the Emperor we would be able to rebuild this Sanctuary and restore the Dark Brotherhood. Delvin Malloy would be able to help us there. In the meantime, I wondered what a member of the Blades would think if she knew I was the one who killed the Emperor. With the Dark Brotherhood once again safe, I decided it was time to pay Delphine another visit to find out more about this “Dragonborn”.

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