On the Rise: Chapter Four

Chapter Four: Meeting the Family 

The nightmares that often plagues Arbelle's sleep had mercifully relented, at least that night. For the first time in a very long time, the young Breton had slept well, and awakened fully rested. She had almost forgotten what a good night's rest felt like. She almost expected to wake back up in Riften's Ratway, the past week or so only a mere dream that was far too good to be true. She had almost forgotten where she was, at least at first. Sketchy, scattered images of a broken dream soon faded into her subconscious as the world came back into focus. When she laid eyes on the unmistakable Black Hand banner, it all came flooding back to her in a matter of seconds.

She rose from her bed with an audible yawn, almost instantly feeling an empty, aching feeling in her stomach. Surely there had to be something to eat somewhere. A quick look around revealed there wasn't anyone around to ask, so she'd have to do a bit of exploring. She most definitely didn't know her way around yet, so her getting lost at some point was almost inevitable. It wasn't long before she realized she wasn't even sure where to find Gabriella, but she supposed she'd run into her eventually. She retraced the steps her and Gabriella had taken the previous night as best she could. It was certainly cold, the sanctuary being in Dawnstar and all, but Arbelle knew better than to complain about it.

She made her way past the practice room and into the dining hall. What lied in wait for her seemed to defy all and any explanation. In the dining room was but one soul, quietly enjoying her breakfast. She hadn't seemed to notice Arbelle yet, but Arbelle had certainly taken note of her. Unless her eyes were deceiving her, or this was some sort of elaborate illusion, there sat a small child, a girl, no older than ten or eleven. In the Dark Brotherhood Sanctuary. A guild of killers and cutthroats. Arbelle couldn't even process what she was looking at, so she just stood there, unsure of what to do or say. She thought a jester was strange, but a child? Was this girl a daughter of another member? Eventually, the girl noticed another presence in the room, turning in Arbelle's direction.

"Ah, my newest sister. Arbelle, isn't it? I was wondering when you'd wake up. Come on, don't be shy, you must be hungry," the child offered with a welcoming smile.

It was then Arbelle saw the child's eyes, their glowing, inhuman nature. A hunger that could only be described as predatory. This was no normal little girl.

"What are you?" Arbelle asked bluntly, approaching cautiously.

"Ah, you're more observant than most. You realized something was wrong right away," the child said, clearly impressed. "Believe it or not, but I'm most likely the oldest living being you've ever spoken to. I haven't really been a little girl since I was bitten by a vampire, over 200 years ago."

"A child vampire? Really?" Arbelle inquired, for she had never heard of such a thing before, not that she had ever met any vampires herself.

"That's right, the name's Babette. If you're ever in need of ingredients or potions, I'm the one to see. If I don't have it on hand, I'm sure I can make it for you, for a price that is. Potions, poisons, whatever your wicked heart desires."

An interesting proposal indeed. Certainly something to keep in mind.

"But never mind all that for now, please take a seat. You must be hungry," Babette offered, gesturing to the table. "And I suppose I wouldn't mind learning more about you. Gabriella has told me quite the tale already."

Babette had read Arbelle's mind, for she was positively famished. Thankfully, Babette had already made up some freshly cooked food Arbelle imagined was far too much for someone of her size, as if she had anticipated Arbelle's company. She couldn't imagine this kind of treatment among comrades who barely knew each other in say the Thieves Guild, for half the time it seemed they treated their own members poorly. Arbelle helped herself to a piece of bread and some cooked meat. She wasn't even sure what meat it was, and frankly she didn't care. Babette let Arbelle eat a bit before inquiring further.

"So, Gabriella tells me you're quite the talented mage. Killed three Thalmor agents with one fireball, isn't that right?" Babette asked once Arbelle had settled herself.

"I suppose I did," Arbelle replied, still rather amazed at the deed herself. "Still doesn't seem real to me."

"I'm not going to ask how you wound up in such a desperate position, we all have pasts we're not proud of. I just hope that one day you'll—."

"Babette! Where are you, you little she devil?" came a sudden, ornery voice.

Arbelle and Babette both turned to see an elderly Breton man enter the room, followed quickly by an audible sigh from Babette. It seemed as if she had seen this coming.

"Good morning, Festus."

The man called Festus disregarded her sarcastic greeting, at the same time paying no attention to Arbelle.

"You've been borrowing more of my ingredients again without asking, haven't you? I distinctly remember having some vampire dust stored away. Now it's gone, and I certainly didn't use it!"

"I ran out and I needed some to complete my concoction. I was going to tell you, I swear. I'll give you the gold as soon as I'm done here, and I'm sure Gabriella has some lying around," Babette said in her own defense.

Festus was the first person Arbelle had met so far who didn't seem to be immediately friendly, but perhaps he was just in a sour mood.

"Perhaps I should throw you in the fire pit and collect what's left of you! That would certainly solve my problem, for all the good you do around here," Festus grumbled before turning towards the stairs.

"Uh, Festus, we have a new sister, in case you haven't noticed," Babette said to his back, finally drawing attention to Arbelle.

"Hm?" Festus asked, turning to see Arbelle, who had been so far been silent. "Oh yes, yes, the newest member of the family. Tell you what, girl, if you're still alive in a month, maybe we'll have something to talk about. Until then, don't bother me," Festus said grumpily, before huffing back off in the direction he came, lowly mumbling to himself.

"That was Festus Krex. Think of him as the angry grandfather of our little family," Babette said, turning back to Arbelle with a bit of a tired look. "Don't mind his attitude, he doesn't mean anything by it. It's just how he is. He's a brilliant destruction mage, so I'd figure he could teach you a thing or to when he finally warms up to you, assuming of course you live that long."

"Krex, you say?" Arbelle echoed his last name, for it rang a faint bell in her foggiest memories, but a clear image was just out of reach. "Why does that sound so familiar?"

"Have you read the Tenets yet?" Babette asked, cutting off Arbelle's train of thought. "Every new member needs to learn them, now that we'll enforcing them again."

"Gabriella said something about that, but it slipped my mind," Arbelle said honestly, giving up on trying to remember where she had the name "Krex."

"I could tell you them, if you want. There's only five of them after all, and they're rather straightforward, but it is important you know them."

"Alright, sure," Arbelle said, listening intently.

Babette had memorized the Tenets long ago, and simply had never forgotten them. She was able to recite each and every one like it was her own name.

"Tenet one, never dishonor the Night Mother. Don't ever question her will, never insult her, don't defile her remains, none of that," Babette claimed, before taking a sip of water to refresh her throat. "Second, pretty easy one. Never betray the Brotherhood or its secrets. If you screw that one up you were never much of a Dark Sister to begin with. Three, never disobey an order from a superior, and to you that means just about everyone. Four, never steal from a member of the Brotherhood, and five, never kill a member of the Brotherhood. All these offenses invoke the Wrath of Sithis, which is something you certainly don't want to do."

"What's the Wrath of Sithis?" Arbelle inquired, knowing by its ominous name it could be nothing good.

"A dark, vengeful spirit. A relentless force of otherworldly origins. If you break any of these rules, you will be banished from the Brotherhood, and you won't be allowed back in until you vanquish the spirit. It's not a position you ever want to put yourself in."

"I see," Arbelle said, trying to take that all in.

She still wasn't exactly sure what the Wrath of Sithis was based on that description, but she was sure she never wanted to find out. She certainly hadn't planned on being disloyal, but now she had some incentive to be extra careful. After Arbelle had eaten her fill of food, she remembered she couldn't sit around and socialize with Babette all day long, for her new mistress was expecting her.

"As much as I would love to stay and chat, I think Gabriella is waiting for me," Arbelle announced, before rising up to begin her departure. "Any idea where she might be?"

"Upstairs, to the left, sitting by the garden. You can't miss her. So long, sister. Have fun on your next contract, and try not to die," Babette said with a cheery, yet unnerving smile.

"Thanks," Arbelle said, brushing off the rather ominous goodbye.

With that, Arbelle left Babette alone in the dining room, making her way up the nearby staircase and leaving the vampire child behind. Halfway up the steps she could already hear voices. Two, a male and female. One was Gabriella's, but the other was unknown to her.

"So, you're sure about this girl?" came the man's sharp, raspy voice.

"Quite sure. She may lack experience, but it's been a long time since I've witnessed such raw magical power from someone who's little more than a novice. I do believe she is quite the prodigy, although I have to say, she's not very subtle," came Gabriella's softer, smoother voice, standing in a very sharp contrast to her companion.

It soon dawned upon Arbelle that the pair were speaking of her and her abilities. Gabriella continued to praise Arbelle, a generosity the woman herself still wasn't quite sure she deserved. She pressed on, although a bit more hesitant and cautious than before. Reaching the top of the stairs, she turned the corner to see Gabriella sitting at a small table by the garden, while a tall Imperial stood a few feet away. Her presence was noticed immediately.

"Ah, here she is now. Arbelle, come closer sister, I'd like you to meet someone," Gabriella beckoned, extending her hand towards the young Breton.

Arbelle approached slowly, keeping her eyes on the unknown Imperial, who stared back intently, as if analyzing her from top to bottom.

"Arbelle, this is Cassius, the Listener of the Dark Brotherhood. Our esteemed leader, and the Night Mother's only connection to our mortal world," Gabriella claimed, now looking to the Imperial. "Cassius, this is Arbelle Fane, our newest initiate. I found her rotting away in the Ratway of all places. Incredible what little treasures you'll find in the most unlikely of places."

"Yes, one can hardly imagine," Cassius concurred, not taking his eyes off the young mage.

"It's an honor to meet you, Listener," Arbelle said simply, unsure if there was some physical etiquette like bowing, or something similar.

"I can hear your heart beating from here, girl. Calm down, you're one of the few people on this earth with no reason to fear me."

"Sister, the Listener is the head of our family, second only to the Night Mother herself, so make sure to heed his every word," Gabriella explained.

"What about Sithis?" Arbelle inquired, looking a bit puzzled.

"Sithis is not a single, sentient being. He does not lead us directly, although we do believe the Night Mother's will is his own."

"I'm afraid I don't follow, what exactly is Sithis?" Arbelle asked, still frustratingly lost.

"You're asking for a clear image of a formless being," Cassius interjected, quickly drawing Arbelle's attention. "The question you ask has no one answer, for Sithis is both everything and nothing. He dwells inside all of us. He is the last breath your victims take before they leave this life. He is the gleam in your eye when you strike a soul down in his name. He is the silence that fills the air after a fresh kill. That is Sithis. Understand?"

Arbelle gave an anxious nod, for she hadn't anticipated coming face to face with the highest ranking member of the whole Brotherhood. She didn't want to appear weak, but to stand in the presence of such an imposing figure would be daunting to any soul. From what she had just heard, Sithis was the most abstract, vague being she had ever heard of, but she dared not doubt a word of it. She had no reason not to believe it. Clearly, there were greater powers at play in this society. She merely wished to better understand the Brotherhood's beliefs, not question or doubt them.

"I'm sorry, Listener. I meant no offense."

"None taken sister, and Cassius will do just fine," the man said, turning to Gabriella once more. "Well, I'm afraid I must be off. I'm a very busy man. You've done an admirable job so far, Gabriella. I trust you'll keep up the good work."

Gabriella merely nodded, wearing a satisfied smile due to her efforts being recognized.

"And you," Cassius turned back to Arbelle suddenly, startling the young mage a bit. "Gabriella has put quite a lot of faith you. Don't disappoint her, or me."

Arbelle remained silent as the Listener turned away towards the exit.

"Sithis guide you, sisters."

"Sithis guide you, brother," Gabriella repeated the phrase, watching her leader depart the sanctuary. "Well done, sister. I think he likes you," Gabriella claimed, looking back to her new initiate.

"Really? How can you tell?" Arbelle asked, for the man seemed near impossible to read.

"I know him well enough. He's a subtle man, but I can tell when he's pleased and when he's not. Anyway, enough about Cassius, you'll have plenty of time to get to know him later. Sit down, sister. We have much to discuss."

Now feeling a bit more relaxed, Arbelle took a seat opposite to Gabriella at the small table. Gabriella reached into her robe, taking out a moderately large sack of gold, and placed it on the table in front of Arbelle. The young Breton looked at the sack quizzically, then back to her mistress.

"What's that?"

"Your pay, of course. For assassinating Rolff Stone-Fist?" Gabriella reminded her with that knowing smile of hers.

"Oh, right. Of course," Arbelle said back.

Honestly, she wasn't expecting to get a reward for her initiation. She was happy enough to be in the family at all.

"The contract on Rolff was three-hundred septims. It's not much, but what do you expect for such an insignificant worm?" Gabriella said, nudging the sack of gold in Arbelle's direction. "Take it, it's yours. It's a decent enough start, I suppose."

Arbelle hastily took the bag from the table, as if Gabriella would snatch it away. Arbelle had been absolutely destitute for a long time, and it showed. To her, 300 septims was a fortune. The idea that she was actually holding that amount in her hands was almost unbelievable to her, and to just about anyone else, it would be a moderate sum at best.

"You have no idea how much this means to me," Arbelle said, and she absolutely meant it.

She had never been this thankful for something in her entire life. The amount of kindness she had received from the Dark Brotherhood so far, especially Gabriella, was nothing short of a miracle for her. And for that kindness to come from the Dark Brotherhood of all people? These murderers and cutthroats had treated her far better than any so called "upstanding citizen."

"It's just three-hundred septims, nothing but a pittance compared to what you'll be earning if you do well here," Gabriella said back, looking a bit puzzled at Arbelle's reaction.

"Not the gold, just . . . this. All this. This opportunity. This home you've given me. Gabriella, I owe you everything. Truly," Arbelle confessed, sincerely as she could possibly muster.

Gabriella looked a bit stunned, for she hadn't expected such a vocal outburst. She took a short moment before replying, leaving Arbelle a bit worried. Had she taken it the wrong way?

"Really, you couldn't possibly understand what this means to me, I—."

"But I do understand," Gabriella said, interrupting her initiate. "I understand more than you could ever know. We're far more similar than you realize, sister."

Gabriella's response was vague, yet telling at the same time. Gabriella's comforting smile was absent, instead replaced with a prolonged, unfocused stare, as if she had been reminded of something deeply troubling. Arbelle's words had triggered something within her, but what? Arbelle found herself wanting to know more, but Gabriella had other matters on her mind.

"Your debt is to the Dark Brotherhood, not to me, sister. The best way you can repay that debt is by sending as many souls to Sithis as you can."

Arbelle could tell there was something Gabriella wasn't telling her, but she wasn't going to push. Not yet anyway. Gabriella hadn't saved her just to gain a new initiate that was certain.

"Now, lest we grow sentimental, we have business to discuss. It's time for your first real contract, a true test of your skills. This one will be more a challenge than simply scorching an old, pathetic drunk in the middle of the street. I hope you're ready, sister," Gabriella said, looking quite serious now.

"Anything you require, Mistress. Whatever the deed is, it will be done," Arbelle said with a new found confidence.

"Very well. I won't lie, this is going to be a bit tricky, but I have full confidence in your abilities. The target is a horse thief by the name of Louis Letrush who stole Frost, Maven Black-Briar's most prized stallion."

"Maven Black-Briar?" Arbelle repeated in astonishment, for of course she knew the name very well.

Gabriella only nodded. "Normally we don't reveal the identity of our clients, but Maven has an arrangement with us that's rather permanent. You could say she's our best customer," Gabriella said, her witty smile finally returning. "A woman like Maven is in a powerful, yet precarious position. If it gets out people can steal from her and get away with it, well, that spells disaster for her. And, of course, the horse is of great value."

"I see," Arbelle said, trying to keep herself contained. "How dangerous is Letrush?"

"Combat-wise? Not very, but be warned, he's an exceptionally devious man, and there's another complication. His location is unknown, which means you'll have to track him down. After Frost's theft, he disappeared from Riften and has gone into hiding."

"So how am I supposed to find him?"

"You'll have to do some detective work, sister. Before fleeing Riften, Louis stayed a bar in Riften called the Bee and Barb, which I imagine you're familiar with. Go there, ask around the bar. See if you can figure out where he went. The Ragged Flagon may also be worth investigating, simply because of all the information that passes through there," Gabriella instructed, knowing this would be a challenging assignment, but hardly impossible.

"You want me to go back to Riften? That damnable place?" Arbelle sighed, clearly dismayed at the news. "And here I thought you liked me."

"I know the location brings up bad memories, but going to places you don't want to go is part of the job at times. Besides, the Dark Brotherhood and the Thieves Guild have a standing relationship. Those fools can't look down on you any longer. Besides, look at this way, you're an agent of Maven Black-Briar's will. They'll be forced to help you in any way they can. Now you hold power over them."

Arbelle had to admit, that did sound rather appealing. Her most spiteful, hateful desires were finally coming to the surface.

"Alright, fine. Anything else?"

"Yes, actually. Sometimes, a contract will have certain bonus conditions. If you meet them, you'll earn yourself an extra reward. This is one of those contracts. Obviously, Maven wants her horse returned to her. If you can manage to both end Letrush and secure Frost, you'll receive a bonus to your pay."

"What kind of bonus?" Arbelle asked, her curiosity peaked.

"In addition to your pay, bonuses tend to be powerful artifacts or weapons. I'll find something special, just for you, provided you meet the conditions, of course," Gabriella smiled, knowing full well of Arbelle's magical pursuits. "Trust me, it's not something you'd want to pass up. Bonuses are almost always worth the hassle. Now, Maven isn't the type of person to be kept waiting, so I suggest you leave sooner rather than later."

Arbelle was a bit upset that she had to hurry out of her new home almost as quickly as she came in, but she knew better than to complain. The sanctuary wasn't going anywhere.

"Alright, I'll leave as soon as I'm able."

"That's what I like to hear, sister. One more thing before you go," Gabriella said, rising to her feet and walking away for a moment, fetching an item essential to any self-respecting Dark Brotherhood agent.

Gabriella soon returned carrying with her a finely crafted, enchanted garment. Powerful, wicked, and black as the Void.

"A parting gift, from me to you. Shrouded robes fo the Dark Brotherhood. You'll find your destruction spells considerably easier to cast while wearing them," Gabriella explained placing the cloth in front of Arbelle. "I wouldn't wear them in broad daylight, however. Might attract the wrong kind of attention, which is any kind, really."

"I won't disappoint you, Mistress. Louis Letrush is as good as dead. I swear it," Arbelle claimed, finding more conviction running through her than ever before.

"I have not a shred of doubt in my heart, sister." Gabriella said, looking upon her initiate with an unmistakable sense of pride.

Already, she could tell this young mage was destined for great things. Wicked things, but great things nonetheless.

"Go now, and may Sithis's whisper be upon you, sister."


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  • I'd just like to make something clear in case it wasn't already. Cassius is NOT the Dragonborn. 

  • I must say Im very pleased you've kept most if not all the members of the Dark Brotherhood alive. The group just isnt the same with just Nazir, Babette, and a pair of initiates. Probably the best part of the chapter was how you portrayed the Listener. Such a dark and imposing figure, one can almost feel Arbelle's apprehension as she converses with him. Very well done on this chapter. I cant wait to see the havoc Arbelle wreaks on this next contract. 

    P.S. There's a typo in the paragraph where Babette explains the five tennents. I think you meant to write steal rather than still. 

    • While all the members are still alive, Nazir, Veezara, Arnbjorn, and Astrid are still at the Falkreath Sanctuary. They'll appear eventually, but the assassis present at Dawnstar will be more major in this story. 

  • I’m loving this so far - found a few typos but nothing major - which said typos I lost.. I really like how you captured Krex and Babette as well as the Listener.

    Reading the 5 Tenets gave me a thought, if say a Dark Brotherhood member ordered Arbelle to steak from another - who is in the wrong? Much like if (somehow) a contract is on a Dark Brotherhood member - what happens? Is it null and void? If it’s completed especially if it came from the Night Mother, does it invoke the Wrath of Sithis? Things that came to mind reading it :P

    • I would imagine that the Dark Brotherhood members are off limits to any contract, and that any member who orders a lesser to break the rules would just be suspended frmo the Brotherhood. I mean if Festus just ordered Arbelle to steal from Babette, she could just refuse because that's a blatant violation of the rules. 

      • Hmmm, that’s a fair point there. Kinda of hit me before so aye. Perhaps we might see a similar case of it, maybe a prank? (In TES 6)

        • What do you think of Arbelle's first official contract?

          • As I mentioned earlier I think it’s a great choice for Arbell’s first contract. Assuming she does end up gathering information from the thieves guild, I look forward to seeing how they will react to her new found position. 

          • Aye, apologies about that. As for her first contract, I’m curious how she’ll go. Without a doubt, (at least by the looks of it), she’ll have to interact with the Thieves Guild at some point - and who else would know about a stolen horse better than the Thieves Guild themselves?

            Either way, it’ll be interesting to see how she’ll find Letrush and it’s mentioned he’s devious. Curious indeed. Can’t wait to read the next chapter 

            • Hey guys, after a lengthy hiatus I'm working on this story once more! Hope you'll give it a read 

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