User:Daric Gaersmith/TES Fan Fiction Collection/Gaersmith Legacy/Prologue
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he loose floorboard in the wine cellar had seen plenty of use lately. It was almost noticeable in the pale yellow flicker of the horker-oil lamp that hung beside the doorway. Sorian knew he would soon need to find a better hiding place for his shrouded armour and weapons dedicated to the service of Sithis. Either that, or waste time and drakes haggling with the merchants of the main street markets to purchase one of those overpriced authentic imitation Akaviri rugs which they seem to have permanently on “special”. A shudder crept down Sorian's spine at the thought. He hated dealing with merchants; didn't trust a-one of 'em.
As he lifted the plank, the glint of smooth polished steel caught his eye in the lamplight as it had so many times before, and he was mesmerized by it briefly. This time, he knew, those blades would be put to use for his own evil purposes. There was no contract. It was the first time he had ever donned the armour and cowl of the Dark Brotherhood without one. As he lifted the twin daggers from their hiding place atop his armour, he tested the edges on his thumb reflexively, going through the motions that he would have, had this been a sanctioned hit. The traditional invocation to Sithis rose in his throat like bile, but he held it back. This time there would be no blessing from the Dread Father upon his blades. He dropped his regular garb to the floor in an untidy pile and slipped into the tight-fitting yet supple black and red leather. With nimbleness that comes only of practice, he deftly hitched the straps despite the shadow he cast with his back to the lamp. Shadow is his natural and comfortable environment.
Once his feet and face were similarly adorned in the garments from their concealed repository, Sorian slipped the two steel daggers with their intricately carved bone handles into their fitted leather sheaths on either side of his armour, and replaced the floorboard. He was ready. There was no purification ritual, no final checking of the contract's details, nothing further to prepare. He had been preparing for this night for a long time, and no prayer to Mephala about circumstance or happenstance could cause his plans to be any more perfect. The sounds and smells of Sentinel night life, and the sea beyond, touched his senses as he slipped out of the side door of his small home and into the alleyway. Keeping to the deepest shadows, he made his way noiselessly up the street towards the edge of town.
Timing would be everything for the success of this mission, and he was confident that the last sliver of Secunda would disappear over the horizon before he arrived at his destination, giving him plenty of time in the darkest of night to complete this transformation. The noise of the late-night revelers in the centre of the city was waning behind him. It may be some time before Sorian again heard the rousing choruses of drunken sailors in his home town. He had told what few friends he had in the city that he would be traveling to the tomb of his grandmother in Cyrodiil to pay his respects, so they would not miss him. But in truth, this journey would take him much further, clear across to the other side of Tamriel. He had journeyed abroad alone before, in the service of Sithis, but this was to be his longest trek ever. And no-one could ever know about it.
As the city gave way to rural settings, finding the path of the shadow became easier, and he was able to pick up the pace a little. For a man about to travel such a distance, he was anything but encumbered, he thought amusedly. Ahead, down the dusty, rutted path, he could make out movement across the faint glow of a torch. The plan was falling into place, exactly as he had known it would. Sorian left the darkened side of the path and crossed the road fleetingly, the only time he might be spotted by an observant onlooker. He followed the same track he had taken numerous times over the last few months of observing his target. The farm stall ahead of him posed the final hurdle before his destination. One restless chicken could spell the end of his quest even before it had begun. But when you have walked the web of Mephala so many times before, as he had, you get to know which strands are safe to step upon. Passing the stall, he silently liberated a shovel from where a farm-hand had leaned it against a paling.
Having reached the spot from which he had spent so much time over the last few months observing his quarry, he felt elated that this would be the last time he had to contend with the foul smell of the eyeless, rotting carcasses that shared his lonely vigil in the farm's former offal pit. It was the perfect place to remain unobtrusive for long hours, as none of the farm workers had reason, or the inclination, to visit it. The new offal pit had been dug the week before Sorian began his surveillance of the mark, and the lazy farm hands had only given the old pit a perfunctory covering of loose soil to ward off the worst of the stench of decomposition. Having no time to bathe after this visit, and a long journey ahead of him, Sorian was keen to not spend too much time in his fetid home-away-from-home this night.
The hustle and bustle of the main farm house at such a late hour would seem incongruous to the average passer-by, but Sorian was well aware that the owner of the farm was preparing for a long, lonesome journey, to depart at first light the next morning. Sorian's left hand shifted to the handle of one of his daggers, touching it lightly, caressing it. “Soon you will have your fill”, he whispered soundlessly.
t didn't take long before the remainder of the seeds and cuttings were stowed on the cart. Juncan was somewhat surprised by the number of his former farm workers that had turned up for the overtime, despite the ill will he had created recently by letting most of them go, due to his upcoming excursion. In his extended absence, the farm would only need a couple of hands to feed the remainder of the animals and tend the seed heads for future seasons. The crops had all been left fallow after the last harvest, and the paddocks were already starting to greenen with the bulk of the herd having been sold. By the time he returns from Black Marsh the pastures will look more like the rolling hills of Cyrodill, clothed in wild flowers, than the edge of the Alik'r desert, he mused.
Few in Hammerfell could match the prowess of Juncan the agricultural economist of Sentinel when it came to coaxing life from the arid plains on the edge of the great desert. Over the years, his little farm had birthed pedigrees of exotic species that were hard enough to grow in their native lands, but had thrived and been promulgated all across Hammerfell, making him a tidy sum on the way. His fame had finally extended beyond the reach of his homeland, penetrating to the heart of the Empire. He had been summoned to Black Marsh by the Building Commission, to weave his particular magic on the crops there. Juncan had successfully grown Dragon's Tongue and Somnalius Fern in the perfectly balanced loam of his garden at the farm, but he wasn't sure how introduced species would fare in the reeking swamps of Black Marsh.
The ropes criss-crossing the cart were still as taught as they had been five minutes ago, but he checked them again anyway, before counting out Septims for his workers and sending them on their way. If he were fortunate enough, he may get some sleep yet before the first rays of sunlight announce the beginning of his long journey. The farm homestead seemed particularly empty, tired almost, as he padded across the creaking floorboards towards his bedroom. Before crawling into bed, he laid out his clothes for the morning, draping them across the arm of a wooden chair. He tucked a small package of documents inside a pocket of the breeches. It slumped, causing the trew to fall to the floor. Juncan ignored the portent. No ill omen can halt his departure at first light. Whatever else may happen on the morrow, he must not forget those letters of introduction.
Juncan blew out the candle, and he was dead before he had even crossed the room to his bed. The twin razor-sharp blades passed over his head and sliced simultaneously from both sides of his neck to his throat, cutting with precision through skin, muscle, and cartilage. Although his hands instinctively went to his throat, trying to hold back the torrent of hot wet blood gushing through his fingers, nothing could prevent the inevitable.
orian stepped back as the lifeless body slumped to the floor in front of the bed, a large pool of red forming around it. He leaned down and wiped his blood-soaked blades on the back of his victim's night-shirt and returned them to their sheaths. The bedclothes, thrown back to welcome the agricultural economist into their warm embrace briefly before he was to depart for Black Marsh, would now serve as his grave shroud, soaking up his lifeblood as Sorian hefted the corpse to the offal pit. The body would never be found amongst the stinking morass, and the assassin asserted to himself that it was his civic duty to shovel all the remaining soil over the gaping maw of the pit, sealing away the foul stench forever.
Returning to the farmhouse, Sorian cleaned the remainder of the blood from the floor of the bedroom and placed fresh bedclothes on the bed. Stripping off his shrouded armour, he bundled it up, with the daggers still in their sheaths, and hurriedly dressed in the dead man's clothes. With a final check to ensure the farmhouse appeared to have been recently vacated by its owner, who was known to be departing for a long journey, Sorian took his bundled Dark Brotherhood armour under his arm, picked up his boots, and exited the building. He stowed his armour under the seat of the well-packed cart, hitched up the horses, and started off for Black Marsh just as the horizon was starting to lighten. For now, Sorian Lannus would cease to exist. For all intents and purposes, he was now Juncan the agricultural economist of Sentinel, en route to Black Marsh, and in possession of a package of documents of introduction, signed by the Building Commission in the Imperial City, which would grant him safe passage all the way to Black Marsh, and into the presence of Her Imperial Majesty, Empress Katariah, who would be visiting the region at the time.