Over the weekend I finished the Dark Brotherhood storyline. I’m actually surprised I didn’t finish this storyline first, because the Dark Brotherhood was my favorite part of Oblivion. My best moment in that game was during the mission to assassinate Valen Dreth, the annoying Dunmer who taunts you at the beginning of the game. The reason the memory is so vivid to me is because I always went for the bonuses, which typically involved following a specific order. For that particular mission, the bonus came from not killing any of the guards. And let me tell you, there were a lot. It was at that point that I realized I much more enjoy being sneaky than the run-&-gun type. Nothing could beat the adrenaline rush I got while hiding in the shadows while a guard passed by just inches away. Killing everyone would’ve been easier, but the true test of skill is getting by unnoticed. I literally had to take a break from the game after that mission because my hands were shaking so bad.
I was surprised at how short this quest line actually is, although I suppose it depends on how good your stealth skill is. It’s definitely shorter than the Thieves Guild, but that largely has to do with the fact that there are no Radiant quests to go through until the end.
Why is it I like the disreputable characters better than the honorable ones? I liked my guild mates for the Thieves & Brotherhood better than for the Companions (I haven’t gotten far enough in the other guilds to say). I like that none of them come across as “evil.” Morally questionable, yes, but not evil. Astrid reminds me a lot of Lachance, with her smooth wickedness. Babette is a vampire child a la Claudia from Interview with a Vampire. Nazir is the Redguard second-in-command who supplies you with lesser assassination contracts, & whose “serious” observations never ceased to amuse me (“Can you do something about the dancing?”). Festus, the loveably crumudging old man, & Gabriella, a Dunmer, round out the mages. Shadowscale Veezara was probably my favorite character, because he comes across as a sort of zen assassin… if that phrase makes any sense. The only one I didn’t like was Arnbjorn, Astrid’s husband & a werewolf. He’s a jerk & constantly questioned my abilities as an assassin. Vindication was mine when I had to save him, however. And then there’s Cicero. Poor, mad, jester-clad Cicero. For some reason I was reminded of Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter in the latest Alice movie; normally jovial & obviously off, but randomly switching to sound like he could kill me in my sleep.
I’m not going to go into how you join the Brotherhood because I already talked about it. I’ll just reiterate that “Innocence Lost” was a delightfully wicked quest where I got to corrupt some children that violence solves everything. I have read, however, that you can get a quest before this one by randomly finding Cicero in the wilderness.
Similar to the Thieves Guild, the Dark Brotherhood has fallen on hard times. The sanctuary in Skyrim is the last stronghold. The group has long since abandoned the tenets & strict belief in the Night Mother ever since the last Listener was killed. By the end of the storyline, you’ll correct this, as well as assassinate the most powerful man in Tamriel.
As with my Thieves Guild post, I’m just going to briefly go over my experience with the quests. I’ll also warn when there are spoilers.
After joining the Brotherhood & finding the sanctuary, which is in a surprisingly obvious place, they gave me three easy assassination contracts. Be aware that if you’re caught killing any target, even during the course of a quest, you will get a bounty. The first three contracts were easy. Ennodius was easily killed at his little campsite away from the mill. Narfi was also easy to kill unnoticed by his burnt down house, but be sure to talk to him first to get a quick little quest to find his sister. Beitild was a bit trickier, since she never leaves Dawnstar, but I had little trouble finding a spot where I could shoot her unnoticed.
Upon arriving back from these missions, there’s a very brief quest about Cicero arriving with the Night Mother… or her body, at least. The man is obviously crazy. But then again, if I had to take care of a creepy corpse, I might go mad too. The others don’t seem thrilled to have him, & after his arrival an iron maiden-type coffin takes up residence in the sanctuary.
Mourning Never Comes. The first real assassination mission isn’t really an assassination unless you take the optional add-on. The target is a bandit leader. However, there is an optional point to assassinate a woman in Windhelm. But if you do so before completing “Blood on the Ice,” the quest will be uncompletable. So I didn’t. The client said she was disappointed & didn’t give me whatever the bonus was, but I didn’t care too much.
Whispers in the Dark. Another short quest. Astrid starts to believe Cicero is plotting something. I actually suspected he was really talking to the Night Mother. Crazy people do these types of things. But Astrid wouldn’t be dissuaded. Instead, she asked me to hide inside the Night Mother’s coffin to eavesdrop on him. “Great,” I thought. “I don’t see how this could possibly go wrong.” Upon opening the coffin I’m greeted to the Mother’s twisted form. Even thought I’m sure it counts as desecration, inside I hide & a cutscene activated. I half listened to Cicero talking to the Mother (as I suspected) but the whole time I was thinking, “Can’t I move the camera around so I don’t have to stare at the corpse. If you’ve played the previous quest line, I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say the Night Mother spoke to me & said I was her Listener.
Unimpressed by the new turn of events, Astrid sent me to Nazir for more targets. There were two this time. One was the “worst bard in Skyrim,” who was easy to kill while he was sleeping. The second was a vampire pretending to be a human at a mill. I honestly don’t know if there’s a way to do this one stealthy. Since he & his companion are both vampires, they don’t sleep, & I couldn’t find a place to snipe him unnoticed. *Tip* An easy way around this is to talk to him & tell him you know he’s a vampire. Then they’ll attack & you can kill them outright with no worry of breaking the law.
The Silence Has Been Broken. Another simple quest that, at the barest minimum, requires only one killing. (It’s a skeleton at the beginning of the dungeon. It was kinda funny for me, because it’s sitting on a throne & I didn’t realize it was an enemy at first until I punched it with my bow. Then he came to life, but only for a few seconds before Lydia & I killed him again.) Realizing that it might not be a good idea to tick off the Night Mother, Astrid finally let me seek out the contact she’d given me previously. The man was in a burial mound. The man, Motierre, is down the far left corridor after you make it down the first set of stairs. There is another quest available here after you pick up a journal at the very start of the dungeon. It’s pretty simple & not too long, plus it yields some very nice loot & part of the Aura Whisper shout, so it’s definitely worth doing. Motierre tells you he wants to assassinate the Emperor. That’s right, the Emperor! It kinda sucked for me with my whole grand plan of strengthening the Empire. But what are ya’ gonna do? I also got to talk to Delvin again, & it seems that he & Astrid have had… relations. Don’t let the werewolf know.
Before picking up the next quest from Gabriella, I picked up three targets from Nazir. One was the meat shop owner in Whiterun, who was easy to kill while he’s sleeping in his brother’s store (be sure to use the back entrance to stay unnoticed). But even though I was undetected, somehow his brother knew it was me & now gives me lip every time I talk to him. Oh well… The second was an Argonian in the far northern frozen wilderness. Once I found a place to shoot him undetected I took him out & then stole all of his stuff (he has a lot of valuable gems). The third was a Khajiit caravan mage. He was trickier. I took him out as he was crossing a bridge. Again, even though I was undetected, his partners knew it was me & attacked me. So I was justified in killing them.
Bound Until Death. Time to be the ultimate wedding crasher. And by crash, I mean kill the bride. You’ll get a bonus in this if you kill her while she’s giving her speech (& trust me it’s worth it). I haven’t mentioned this yet, but be sure to ask the others for advice on contracts. They’ll give you useful hints. For example, here Babette told me of a loose statue over the balcony. However you do it, getting away is the tricky part. Even if you go undetected & get no bounty, all of the guests psychically know it was you so you have to escape. But at least the guards won’t attack. Here’s a tidbit of advice during these parts, as they happen a few times: being invisible doesn’t help much. It prevents you from being attacked, but enemies will still follow after you. Fortunately, they don’t leave the city, so once you get out, you’re home-free. The best part about this quest is the bonus: a spell to summon a spectral assassin. But who is this assassin? It’s Lachance! That’s right, the Speaker who was wrongfully murdered is back. And he’s a really good summon. He won’t disappear until he’s defeated by an enemy, & he’s pretty strong. He doesn’t seem to sneak, but I don’t know if enemies detect him the same as they do me. There have been several times I’ve just sat back & let him take out enemies on his own. I think he even has the same voice, which I adore (I have a thing for voices, if you can’t tell). You can’t talk to him directly, but don’t worry. He talks. A lot. Maybe too much. There were several times I was in a conversation with an NPC & I could hear him blathering in the background. I wanted to turn around & tell him, “Lachance, shut up.”
Breaching Security. Time to stalk & kill a soldier. This quest is very open in terms of how you go about the actual assassination. You get a bonus if you kill Gaius in a major city rather than when he’s on the road. To make things easier on yourself, steal his schedule. It’s not hard to do. The outpost isn’t restricted to you, so as long as no one sees you take it you’re okay. Gaius visits several cities in turn, so there’s a lot of openings to kill him. I did it at the Bannered Mare in Whiterun while he was asleep. The bonus is a token for a fortune-telling. Unfortunately, I forgot about this until after I’d completed the storyline, so I missed out on some things. It seems to relate to the Brotherhood story. She did tell me about an old assassin bequeathing something to me, but I haven’t checked it out yet to say what it is.
The Cure for Madness. More betrayal. I won’t say who, but someone attacked your mates & you have to track him down. Since they hurt Veezara (who I mentioned was my favorite) I was out for blood. Just a side note, you only have to read the final journal to track the traitor down, but I suggest reading them all. It’s interesting to see the character progression. Also, Astrid gives you Shadowmere for this quest, & you’ll get to keep him afterwards. My reaction when Shadowmere formed from the puddle outside was a very un-assassin-like, “Aww, look at the horsey with the pretty glowing red eyes!” I don’t think Shadowmere’s immortal like in Oblivion, but he’s supposed to be more resilient. This is also the quest where I got the satisfaction of saving Arnbjorn. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to lord it over him. I don’t want to spoil anything, but you can decide whether or not to kill the traitor. If you don’t, they’ll become a follower when the storyline is done. For the record, I didn’t kill them.
Recipe for Disaster. A pretty straightforward quest. Track down the target & kill him. You’ll get a bonus if you hide the body. *Tip* Wait for the target to go outside to the lake to kill him. Loot, then either drag the body or use a spell/shout that ragdollizes people. The bonus gets you a ring that lowers the cost of Destruction spells.
At this point, it’s hard to talk about the quests without giving things away, so I’ll just say: SPOILER WARNING! READ ON AT YOUR OWN DISCRETION!
To Kill An Empire. This is the big one. The target: the Emperor. The first part was really fun, in my opinion. I got to impersonate the last target to concoct a poison stew. You can tell the cook to add whatever you want to the stew. At the end, you can choose whether to add the poison herb Astrid gave you or not, but there’s no reason not to. It’s easier, & I think more fun that way. But things don’t go as planned…
Death Incarnate. Why!? Why does Bethesda have to kill off the people I love in their games!? I mean, I know they’re assassins, but do they have to die!? And even then, I couldn’t be too mad at Maro. I did kill his son. And I couldn’t even get mad at the person who set me up. In the end, Maro betrayed them too, even if they should’ve expected it. At least they tried to redeem themselves by “praying” to the Night Mother, which saved me. I wasn’t too keen on having to climb in her coffin again. *Tip* Save before entering the coffin. I had a glitch that appears to be common where the cutscene after falling asleep doesn’t trigger properly. Reloading the save fixed it. And hey, not everyone died this time! I guess that’s something.
Hail Sithis. This is it. The final job. And after what just went down, you’d better believe I took the optional part to kill Maro. Poor git didn’t even see me coming. Maybe next time you’ll make sure I’m dead. (Seriously, why do people never check these things? If I had a big enough grudge against someone that I was going to kill them, you’d better believe I’d be there to personally make sure they were dead.) Truthfully, I did feel a bit bad for having to kill the Emperor. You get the chance to talk to him before you finish the job, & he seems like a pretty cool character. It’s too bad this is the only time I got to see him. He seemed to know I was coming. Maybe becoming Emperor gives you ESP? He accepted it & didn’t try to fight back. At least I honored his last request by killing Motierre… after getting the location of my fee, of course. What? Did you think I was going to let you become Emperor?
And that’s it. There are a few smaller things you can do for the Brotherhood after the last mission. I still have some contracts to take care off, & there’s an unlimited number of contracts you can get from the Night Mother (Radiant Story). You can also speak to Delvin about upgrading the new sanctuary. It’s a pretty big place, & the upgrades are pretty nice. Banners, poisoner’s station, master bedroom complete with a weapon stand, secret entrance (which I haven’t been able to find yet, it’s so secret) & a torture station where you can harass prisoners for the location of caches. The upgrades total to 19000 gold, but you get 20000 for killing the Emperor, so there’s no reason not to do it. Plus, you get two new initiates who can be followers.
But what will the Empire do now? I’m interested to see if this will affect my Legion quests.