My thanks to Debb, for helping me with my research, checking my story, and for generally putting up with my incoherent ramblings at two o'clock in the morning ;)
Disclaimer: Lucien Lachance, Blanchard, Maria, Mathieu Bellamont, and the Dark Brotherhood belong to Bethesda.
Blood of the Brotherhood
"Damn it mother! Why did it have to be this way? Maria was so beautiful. She was perfect in so many ways."
- Taken from the Traitor's Diary -
There was a figure in front of him. A stocky silhouette of black splashed by stands of moonlight. They were standing next to one of the broken walls of Fort Farragut, as if they were basking in the menacing shadow of the ruin.
Not many people came near Fort Farragut; therefore the figure surprised him, unnerved him, and made him strongly suspicious.
Most people were kept away by the overgrown nature of the area, the sloping ground, and the nonexistent path. It was why he found the place so appealing. While the rumour of Fort Farragut being haunted was worth its weight in Septims. And therefore he encouraged it – whenever possible. After all, it was completely true. For Lucien Lachance was not one to deal in the habit of lies.
As for the undead he shared his abode with, though not the most ideal of neighbours, they proved to be excellent watchmen and fine security. This had been proven on an occasion when one foolish soul had wandered beyond the safety of Cheydinhal. As a result, they had never wandered back.
He chuckled. Whoever they were, he only hoped they were worth his time. And with the ingrained instinct of an assassin, he reached for the silver short sword at his waist.
He rested the leather-gloved fingers of his right hand upon the sword hilt. His hand naturally gripped it as if it were merely an extension of his arm. Out of habit than that of reassurance, he rubbed a thumb against the familiar, raised design. It was an old sword, one that had served him since his first days as a member of the Dark Brotherhood, when he had been a mere Murderer. Since then it had tasted a lot of blood, and he wondered, would it taste more before this night ended?
The figure did not move. But Lucien pulled at the reigns with his left hand regardless, slowing Shadowmere's undaunted gait from a springy trot down to a steady walk. If this person was waiting for him, then he did not wish to be so rash in his approach, lest they suddenly unsheathe a blade and knock him from Shadowmere.
A breeze stirred, rippling Lucien's cloak as well as the figure's. It made the figure look as if they were swaying. But that was still the only movement, and Lucien began to wander if the figure had been a victim of a paralysis spell. Once, when he had been sitting in the corner of a tavern and watching his mark, he had heard the patrons speak of wayward witches that did this. Though they had been known to usually take the victim's clothes.
Lucien observed the figure. He watched them like a prisoner glaring at the key jangling from a jailor's belt. Hoping that, should he watch long and hard enough than the figure, by sheer will power alone, would be compelled to move.
But nothing of the sort happened and Lucien was left to think that, seemingly, the figured was not interested in him.
Content with this, he relaxed into the saddle, deciding to ignore them because he had other important things to do. Seeing Ocheeva about Mathieu Bellamont being one of them.
As they drew closer, Lucien could not help but scrutinise the worn, brown travelling cloak that the figure wore. It appeared to have seen better days. The ends ragged, the fabric worn. Now, seeing the figure in full, he wondered if they were nothing more than a beggar from Cheydinhal who had accidentally strayed from the streets.
Shadowmere skipped over a fallen branch. A lump in Lucien's cloak pocket bounced against the side of his leg. Earlier he had taken a poison apple from the storage barrel back in his abode. He always made a habit of carrying at least one, because he was never sure when one might be needed. Past experience had taught him that a blade was not always suitable for taking down a target, and sometimes all that you needed was poison.
And why not use poison? Though he knew that Gogron would more than likely argue against it (the Orc always preferred strength over stealth). There was a delicate art to poisoning someone. Lucien delighted in it, favouring a silent kill because was not silence an aspect of Sithis himself?
He stared at the figure. Yes. Perhaps he would give them the apple.
They passed. The figure lifted a hand, and Lucien, automatically responding to the fact that he could see no weapon, placed the apple in their palm and, clicking his tongue, urged Shadowmere onwards.
"Thank you, Speaker," the figure said. "And may the Night Mother always watch over you."
Lucien pulled on the reigns. Shadowmere halted.
"Although, I do not think I shall be eating it." The hood of the cloak titled downwards, presumably to gaze at the apple. And in a voice hinted slightly with distaste it said, "I do not think it would agree with me."
Lucien looked over his shoulder, dug his left heel into Shadowmere's side, and urged her to turn. "Blanchard?" A smile of recognition crossed his face.
Lifting both hands, Frand Blanchard gently peeled back the hood, allowing his scruffy brown hair to spill out upon his shoulders.
"Lucien," he said, and bowed his head. "Speaker. Hail Sithis."
"Hail Sithis, Silencer. You caught me unaware, Blanchard," Lucien said. "Your 'inconspicuous' appearance here at Fort Farragut – " His words were hinted slightly by the tinge of irony.
Blanchard took a step closer to Shadowmere. "Speaker," he said. "Please." He lifted his head and looked up at Lucien through dark lidded eyes. And in the flickering moonlight, Lucien could see the true state of his Silencer's appearance. The early signs of Porphyric Haemophilia marred his skin, making it look as if it had been ripped from his face only to be reapplied haphazardly over his skull.
Blanchard, Lucien noted, was beginning to resemble what Vincente liked to regard as a 'social pariah'. He wondered. Was Blanchard drinking the blood he required to be able to stay in the sunlight? Or had his stubborn ambition made him latch onto the idea of increasing his vampiric powers.
Lucien liked the ambition that Blanchard displayed. For Lucien, ambition was something to be admired. It was the reason why he had chosen Blanchard to be his Silencer. The reason why he had made Ocheeva matron of the Cheydinhal Sanctuary, and the reason why he had taken Mathieu Bellamont into the folds of the Brotherhood without little thought. All of them were ambitious, each one ruthless in their own unique way, and he dearly loved each and every one of them because of it.
But like most things, he also noted that ambition was something that should be watched. Checked. Ambitious people could also be reckless. Blanchard though a good assassin, could often be rash. A strong Silencer with increased vampiric power was indeed an asset to the Brotherhood. But Lucien also needed a Silencer who could move through the day and was not just bound to the night.
"You know the rule. As my Silencer I communicate to you via the dead drops." Beneath him, Shadowmere shifted, stamping her hooves upon the uneven ground. "My door is only open to those I summon. It isn't to be approached whenever you wish."
"Which is why I remained here and waited for you." Blanchard bowed his head again. "Speaker." His words were tense, grave.
The thoughts of Blanchard's ambition stayed at the forefront of Lucien's mind. It was important that his Silencer remained fully functional. For a Speaker without a Silencer is like a finger without a nail.
The reigns rattled in Lucien's hands, and the bit jangled as Shadowmere tugged on it. It was as if she grew bored with standing still. He smiled, removed a leather glove, and patted the side of her neck, allowing his fingers to run through her mane.
Blanchard glanced over his shoulder, concern in his eyes. "I would not have come, but it is with great importance that I speak with you."
Curious to see what Blanchard might be looking at, Lucien placed weight upon the stirrups and rose in the saddle. He followed Blanchard's gaze, attempting to pierce the shade and shadows.
Silhouettes of trees waved in the darkness, their skeletal branches scratching at the sky. In the distance the faint torchlight at the town gates of Cheydinhal flickered. Small beacons of light in the enveloping darkness, lit in hope of warding off all those who took the Dread Father by hand and led him through the streets. Or so Lucien fancied.
The faraway sound of a wolf call was carried over the treetops by the stirring breeze. Lucien tilted his head to one side. A creature in a nearby bush treaded softly away, whilst the callout of a guard of Cheydinhal declaring the time and that 'all was well' echoed in the valley.
Lucien settled himself back in Shadowmere's saddle, removed his gaze from the landscape and looked down at Blanchard. Whilst the guard at Cheydinhal had assured the populace that everything was on form, Lucien was not sure if the same could be said about his Silencer.
"You appear to be unnerved, Blanchard. Is something… amiss?"
He leant forwards in his saddle, leaning so that his face was level with Blanchard's. The Silencer did not shy away, but instead returned Lucien's searching gaze. Despite the darkened circles around his eyes, they were vivid and more alive than ever. Pupils slit like a feline, an indication of the predator that skulked beneath his skin.
It was tempting to reach out and place a finger upon Blanchard's skin. Lucien marvelled at how ashen it was, translucent almost. True enough, he had been in Vincente's company a plenty. But Vincente was three hundred years old, and Lucien had never before been witness to the first stages of Porphyric Haemophilia.
It fascinated him. Blanchard should have been dead, his body ravaged by a merciless disease. Yet here he stood. It was as if he had been given a gift by the Dread Father. A gift that allowed him to be dead, and yet still exist outside the void.
"All is well with yourself?" Lucien pulled tight on the reigns to stop Shadowmere from jigging about. "No 'unforeseen' difficulties, dilemmas, problems with your condition?" Watching Blanchard closely, he awaited any flicker in his Silencer's demeanour that might indicate that Blanchard, whatever his answer, was lying.
Blanchard continued to stare back. Determination was clear on his face. "No Speaker." He shook his head. "This has nothing to do with being a vampire. Vincente Valtieri has been a good mentor. I have been following his advice closely."
"This is good to hear," Lucien said, his voice was dry. Serious. "Continue."
"I have come about Maria."
Ah yes. Maria.
x x x
Why did they keep mentioning her name? Maria. Maria. He wanted to rip Blanchard's tongue out. Maria had betrayed him, but even so, her name did not deserve to be spoken and tarnished by the tongues of these curs. He gripped the knife he carried so tightly that the blade began to cut into the palm of his hand. He ignored the pain, only taking partial notice instead of the sensation of blood trickling down his fingers.
After seeing Blanchard at the Sanctuary conversing with the abomination that was Vincente Valtieri, he had followed Blanchard up the hill to Fort Farragut, intent on slitting his throat and getting rid of the meddling fool once and for all. And just when he had been considering it the most ideal moment to strike, Lachance had appeared.
Lachance, one of the Night Mother's pets. He loathed him, but he could not be foolish in thinking that he could take on both Silencer and Speaker at the same time. Whilst he was certain he would be able to take out Blanchard, Lachance was another matter entirely. Lachance may have been a fool, but he was not weak.
It was by no accident that Lachance had been made one of the Speaker's of the Dark Brotherhood, but by skill, cunning and determination alone. They were all elements that the Night Mother was supposed to favour in her children. And all the elements, that he knew he possessed too.
The rough texture of the tree was uncomfortable against his back. Yet it was a reassuring shield against the gaze of both Lachance and Blanchard. Lachance had nearly noticed him in his previous spot – a giant overgrown bush close to where Blanchard was standing. Deeming it no longer a safe place to hide, he had waited, and when Lachance's gaze had been diverted he had crept off (deciding to hide behind a tree instead).
He saw the apple in Blanchard's hand and longed to shove it down his throat. A sense of delight coursed through him as he imagined Blanchard choking and then dropping down dead.
But he knew he had to restrain himself. He would take one step at a time. "You can't run before you can walk," his mother had often said.
Plan thwarted he decided to head back to the Sanctuary. Now was not the time to strike. Ahead of him he heard the guard shout out the time, and cursed under his breath. He had promised to attend to something for Ocheeva, and he knew he had better see to it.
Regrettably, he left Lachance and Blanchard behind him. Alive.
x x x
Pulling his leather glove back onto his hand, Lucien glanced downwards and avoided his Silencer's gaze. "There is nothing new to speak about in regards to Maria," he said. His voice was somewhat short, and he berated himself for sounding so impatient. But in regards to the Imperial girl who had gone missing, there was nothing new to say that had not been said one hundred times before.
He should have guessed that this conversation had nothing to do with Blanchard's illness but everything to do with the girl. Whilst he too was concerned about what had happened to her, Lucien also understood that he could not forget his duties. He had a role to uphold, a service to play out. To not do this would anger the Night Mother, and to anger the Night Mother was to invoke the Wraith of Sithis. He was starting to worry that Maria's disappearance was beginning to affect the work of his Silencer.
"No news from the Black Hand, do they know what has happened to her?"
A frown crossed Lucien's face. He turned on his Silencer, shifting quickly in the saddle. This was not a conversation they should be having where there were no walls to contain the words. He felt his temper flair like a fire being stoked with fresh fuel.
"This is not the time child, need I remind of your job? That you are in service to me? You," he pointed at Blanchard. "Have a job to do. Your contract on Bernard Belrose still stands."
Inhaling the night air, he took a deep breath and calmed himself, masking his sudden outburst of emotion behind a cold mask of calm. "Whilst I don't doubt that you'll see to it immediately I am somewhat… concerned."
He did not want to be too harsh on Blanchard; after all he was only showing concern for a fellow member of the Brotherhood. And with good reason, for Maria was not the only one to have… Lucien shook his head. He did not wish to dwell on these thoughts any longer than he needed to.
"Before Maria left to complete a contract for Ocheeva, she told me about Bellamont. He worries her, he will not leave her be." There was anger in Blanchard's voice, strong and prominent. It surprised Lucien. Blanchard was usually better composed.
He listened to Blanchard's words, thinking but saying nothing. He was already aware of how Mathieu Bellamont made Maria uncomfortable. She had spoken to Ocheeva about it, and in return Ocheeva had mentioned it to him. It was one of the reasons why he now rode to Cheydinhal, because he had a proposition for Bellamont. A proposition that would cater for Bellamont's ambitious streak and also remove him from the Cheydinhal Sanctuary, and away from Maria (should she ever return).
"We shall speak of this another time," Lucien said. "There are other things that need my attention. But know this, the Black Hand has not overlooked Maria's disappearance. But –" He held out a hand and raised a finger in warning. "For now, this conversation has ended."
Blanchard raised a hand and scratched at the scar beneath his left eye – the remnant of an assassination attempt that had turned into quite a fight, or so Blanchard had told him.
"You may keep the apple," Lucien said, as Blanchard held it out to him. "It might prove useful in your next task. Take this." From the pocket inside his robes he pulled out a piece of sealed parchment. Then he lifted the poison apple from Blanchard's hand, placed the parchment onto his palm, and placed the apple back on top. "Your next orders. I was going to leave them at the dead drop, but as you are here…" He waved a hand dismissively. "Don't make a habit of it."
Again, he reached into his robes, but this time he pulled out a small vial of blood, corked at the end.
"A gift," he said. "A small token. The last client I went to see offered me his brother in payment for our services. I slit his brother's throat, and as the blood spilled over my blade, I thought of you. I considered it a shame to let it go to waste."
Looking somewhat calmer, Blanchard pocketed what he had been given. "And is there a bonus should I complete these assassinations in a quick and efficient manner, Speaker?"
"Lucien raised an eyebrow. "The vial of blood was your bonus."
Smirking, his Silencer nodded and pulled the hood back over his head. "Anything else that I should know, Speaker?"
"You have your orders. And remember the rule about trying to find me."
"Do not look?"
"Exactly. I shall come to, or summon you should I deem it necessary for us to speak. Remember that, Child of Sithis. Now, your orders, Blanchard." He dug his heels into Shadowmere, and happily, she sprang forwards. "See to it that they are fulfilled. Go please Sithis."
x x x
Being a child of the Night Mother, nothing much ever disturbed Lucien Lachance, but this whole scenario was becoming worrisome. It was not uncommon for an assassin to loose their life when trying to take another's. It was one of the hazards of serving the Night Mother. And, Lucien would have argued, one of the things that made it exciting.
Maria's disappearance however, was puzzling. The Black Horse Courier had reported no news of an attempted assassination, and no body had been found.
Shadowmere trotted onwards. Cheydinhal rose out of the darkness. The Chapel of Arkay's spire touched the night sky.
A guard glared in his direction.
Maria was not the first member of the Dark Brotherhood to have gone missing in suspicious circumstances. And this troubled Lucien. Greatly.