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WiP Story: Kriiahmik, Chapter 1

  • Member
    March 27, 2022

    Warning: This story contains foul language and Foul Murder. You've been warned!


    -Chapter 1: A Normal Day, Mostly


    Dark Brotherhood Sanctuary, The Pale, Skyrim


    The little girl was not right. Her cheeks were sunken, her skin was pale as frost, her eyes burning with hatred and knowledge; too much for anyone at her age. The grin she flashed was more that of a feral animal than a guileless child, fanged and wide as it was. And when she spoke… Oh, it was the voice of youth, but not the tones; this was the voice of someone who’d seen far more than ten years. “Oh, you spoil me! Not that I’m complaining… I was about to find some hapless idiot for my meal.” she hissed, before her sharpened fangs sunk into the human heart before her; spattering blood across her face and hands.


    “Damn it Babette, can’t you eat like… Like a civilized person?” asked the other child, rubbing her forehead in mild exasperation. The air of mild dread was shattered like glass. Though visibly older--fourteen--this young lady was definitely the age she appeared. She wasn’t, after all, a two-hundred old vampire. “I go through all the trouble of cutting out that guy’s heart, least you could do is not go at it like a ripe fruit.”


    Babette grinned, her skin regaining some of her normal complexion; pale, but not overtly so. In a voice sweet enough to stop the heart of a pastry chef, she pleaded: “Sorry Runa, I was just really hungry. Could you forgive me~?”


    “Oh don’t you dare give me the damned puppy-eyes, you… Crone! Rotting corpse! Old, dust-minded--”




    Runa Fair-Shield sighed in defeat. “I can’t decide if you’re cheating with illusion spells or not when you do that.” she grumbled.


    Babette chuckled, the sugary tones dropping to her usual tone of dry wit. “Truthfully, I’m not certain myself. I’m the first to admit that I don’t quite know all the intricacies of my condition.” She cheerfully resumed eating the heart, her pace more sedate. Far too casual for a vampire eating someone’s body part, Runa thought. She snorted eloquently, and looked about herself; a sort of communal bedroom, stone walls that seemed permanently covered in ice and frost, with torch sconces bravely fighting the cold. Usually, living in a literal cave would never be something she’d consider, but then she never expected she’d make the cut.


    Runa had to laugh aloud at this last thought, ignoring her companion’s quirked brow. She’d made the cut alright. Various cuts, actually. That’s how she’d gained entry into the Dark Brotherhood. She’d been wanting to for years, of course; ever since that foul woman at the orphanage was murdered. Most of the other children at Honorhall were simply elated at being freed from Grelod’s wrath; Runa was the only one to take any interest in the killing itself. It was artistic, in a sense--Grelod had left to sleep, and was found the next day, smothered to death. Perfect entry, perfect exit, no evidence (not that anyone wanted to spend the effort to actually investigate that hag’s death)... 


    She’d grow to enjoy learning what she could about this mystery killer--because she was certain, even then, that they were the same one the papers and the criers were mentioning months later. Amidst the talk of the civil war and the dragon attacks, they always seemed to be lurking in the shadows, ready to continue whatever mission they were on. Sometimes their victims were almost random; an Orcish bard, a miner in Dawnstar, a fishwife or a gravedigger. Then there were the kills that still reverberated today when mentioned--Victoria Vicci of the East Empire Company, a Commander of the Penitus Oculatus... the Emperor of Cyrodiil. And it was only on the last that a scrap of parchment was left behind; a black hand drawn in ink, and the phrase ‘We listen.’. 


    The other children; hell, most of the people of her home city Riften, they were all busy gushing and singing praises to the ‘Dragonborn’; a man like any other in body, but with the voice of dragons, and the heart of such famous heroes as Tiber Septim or the Eternal Champion. While few knew the specific details--actually, Runa was certain no one but the man himself did--they say he’d traveled to the after-life to slay an evil dragon named Alduin. Certainly, after the man resurfaced, the other dragons had been content to not fly around killing people anymore, and supposedly this was due to Alduin being dead. Or close enough to it, depending on who you asked. 


    Funny, that Runa’s mystery killer was the same person, as it turned out. And, after she’d proven her long-practiced skill with knives on that idiot at the docks, he’d been happy to accept her into his Family, the Dark Brotherhood of assassins. 


    Blinking out of her reverie, Runa glanced at Babette, who was licking the remaining blood off her fingers like glaze from a sweetroll. Creepy. “Ay, Babs.” Runa asked, in her usual tough voice (she was tough, she thought with a stab of anger; she wasn’t a faker, Nazir could jump in a river), “Where’s the boss-man at?”


    Babette flashed another fanged grin. “Don’t let Cicero hear you call him that. He’s a traditional sort; if you call him anything other than ‘Listener’ he might carve you up in the middle of the night.”


    Runa glowered, unfazed. “You’re bluffing, cut the crap.”


    “Only kind of, actually~! Anyhow, he’s following up on the information we, uh, extracted from my last snack’s owner; thanks for that, by the way, it was really filling. The Listener left to tackle some bandit fort or something.” Babette chirped.


    Runa let the silence drag on for a bit, to let the un-child stop joking around. “You’re… You’re not serious.”


    “Of course I am, Runa! Just the right blend of fear and pain, still fresh with the juices it pumped in life--”


    “No, dumbass, about the ‘Listener’! He’s not seriously assaulting a whole keep of bandits alone!?”


    Babette smiled in mock-patronage; Runa was sorely tempted to punch the kid, undeath be damned. “I keep forgetting you’re still rather new here; this is normal for Flynnach. This is the kind of thing he does for fun. Business, in this case, is a nice bonus.” 


    Runa whistled, disregarding her annoyance in favor of being impressed. “Is it true that he can speak a magic language, to use the powers of dragons? Because I could see a bandit fort falling to dragonfire, even if it comes from some bloke.” She blinked, then smirked. “Actually, which parent do you think was the dragon? And will his kids breathe fire?”


    Babette giggled, and tried her damndest not to. “Oh, Cicero is going to hate you. You’ll fit right in… Anyways, yes he can use the Voice; as far as I can tell, the Dragonborn are just naturally good at it. As for his family, er, mechanics, I don’t know. And I probably don’t want to.”


    “Neither of his parents are dragons.” came a new voice--from the ceiling. “And neither of us know if Dragonblood is hereditary, though I certainly hope any future kids don’t breathe fire…” Runa jumped a bit (and noted that Babette did not), and looked up to see a short woman, in Brotherhood armor, with messy brown hair. And hanging upside down from a rock on the wall with a book in her hands.


    At that moment, Runa decided to well and truly settle on the entire Dark Brotherhood being not only killers, but insane. “Oh, hey Muiri.” Babette chirped, as if this was a normal thing that normal people did. “What’s with the hanging? Trying to be an echkin or something?”


    ‘Muiri’ grinned wildly. “Nope! I’m trying to see if I can read books upside-down. It’s difficult! I’ve always wondered if I could. Surprised neither of you noticed me, really.”


    “I can hear heartbeats, Muiri.” Babette said breezily. “But if you wanted to try that, couldn’t you… I dunno, turn the book upside down?”


    There was a pregnant pause, followed by Muiri acrobatically dropping while pivoting to land on her feet. “I am not here. You cannot see me. I am hiding behind a wall of shame.”


    Runa cleared her throat, mostly to move the conversation away from sheer lunacy. “Muiri, was it? Another Sister, I take it. Name’s Runa.” she gruffly stated.


    Muiri did not laugh, but her eyes said she really wanted to. It was only due to this restraint that she didn’t get punched in the face (which Runa was rapidly proving adept at). “You’re the new one? Nice to meet you. I’m… Not really part of the Brotherhood, but well-”


    Babette cut in suddenly, her voice sharpening. “No, Muiri. We’ve gone over this; you’re not just Flynnach’s bunk warmer. You’re a damn good healer, a damn good apothecary, and push comes to shove you’re a damn fierce fighter. You may not be good at murders, but you make sure the rest of us can do our jobs. You. Are. Important.”


    Muiri snorted at this tirade. “You do realize you’re a better alchemist than me, right? You can do everything I do, and you can tear out the throats of creepy old men.”


    “That sounds suspiciously like an actual thing that happened.” Runa interjected, mostly to try and not be a part of an argument as to whether or not this mystery madwoman was ‘deserving’ to be here. “Babette, have you actually gone and torn out the throats of creepy old men?”


    Babette blinked. “...They’re my primary food source. Well, that and idiots on the road. But yes, sucking off old men is my usual Sundas evening.”


    Runa snickered. So did Muiri. Babette quirked a brow, muttered the sentence again to herself, and then she promptly hissed. Eyes burning, fangs showing... Like a gods-damn animal. Runa was tough, but she’d admit that she was immediately reminded to be terrified of the ancient vampire. Muiri was likewise not smiling, though she just seemed embarrassed. “Now that I’ve reminded you to respect your elders…” Babette growled, before flicking her internal lever to the usual snarky child, “I’m gonna go see with Nazir about when the Listener is coming back. Bye~!”


    She walked off. Runa and Muiri sat there for a little while, silently commiserating over Babette being really scary and the weirdness of this whole ordeal. Finally, Runa broke the silence. “Hey, Muiri… Um, not trying to be rude, but are you and Flynnach actually… Y’know…”


    Muiri smirked in a rather bizarre, lopsided way. “Makes visiting the in-laws an experience. Ever gotten relationship advice from a Hagraven?”


    Yep, that settled it. Not only killers, the Dark Brotherhood was--to a man-- completely insane. 

    Sanctuary Kitchen


    “And I’m tellin’ ye,” Hrottogahr said passionately, “this Glovid fellow hasn’t got the balls Mede had. He couldn’t lead a horse to water, let alone head the damned Empire. Loathe as I am ta’ say it, Ulfric’s won already!”


    Aerva clucked and shook her head, stirring a delicious-smelling pot of… something. A soup of some sort? Babette had no need of actual food anymore, of course, but there was nothing stopping her from having food. And Aerva, consistently, was very good at making her want to have food. “Hrotto, calm down, or no soup for you.” she said, as Babette entered the kitchen proper. “You haven’t been with the Empire for three years; you’re a Dark Brother. No need to get so… Worked up about it.”


    Hrottogahr nodded briefly at Babette, then turned his attention back to Aerva. “Aerva, we joined at the same time, no need ta’ remind me! And don’ get me wrong, I’ll behead the whole damned Legion if tha’s what our Mother wants. But it’s still a damned shame–I could respect Titus Mede. Hell I still do; the way the Listener described him facing death is downright bard-worthy. But Cassynder Glovid!?” he suddenly began shouting–Babette winced a bit–”He’s a witch-assed mammothfucker! If the Stormcloaks somehow don’ have Skyrim by next year, the Thalmor will!”


    “I’m serious Hrotto, shut up.” Aerva snapped, annoyed, as she moved the pot off the fire. “You’re my brother by blood and by Sithis, but you’re an asshole when you’re worked up. I’m not serving soup to you when you’re like that.”


    “Thank Sithis.” Babette sighed, as Hrottogahr raised his hands in mock-peace. “I hate it when he shouts like that… Do you know where Nazir is? I want to ask him about Flynnach.”


    “Oh, you haven’t heard?” Aerva asked, spooning out soup into various sturdy bowls. “Flynnach is on his way back already. Sent a letter and everything, and he said the whole Family’s getting together soon–hence, the soup.” She hummed to herself. “As for Nazir, I don’t have a clue where he is.”


    “Smells great.” Runa grunted,  having walked in with Muiri. Babette had to hide her grin–Runa was trying far too hard to be ‘tough’, and it was hilarious. But she was a good kid–bright future if she was lucky. Babette stopped that train of thought before it led her down the path of old friends–she didn’t need to mope about those who’d been gone for two hundred years. “It really does~!” she chirped at Aerva. “If you could spare another portion, I’d appreciate it.”


    “Oh, don’t you worry Babette, there’s enough for everyone. Even my ear-bursting brother.” Aerva said kindly–almost motherly, Babette had to refrain from pointing that out. Let the young have their fun or whatnot. “You’d think he’d have learned that the Thu’um isn’t about volume.”


    “Oy, this has nothin’ ta do with Dragon Shouting! But I’m a Nord man, a warrior and a killer, and damn it all, I ain’ ashamed of it!”


    Aerva snorted, handing a bowl to him. “Hrotto, we’re both Nords in case you forgot. And I’ve not known a single man, from here to Summerset, that loves his voice like you do.”


    “You’ve been to the Isles?” Muiri asked eagerly. “I thought the Aldmeri Dominion barred anyone not an elf.”

    “Oh, they downright kill people for trying to get into Alinor.” Aerva replied breezily, handing another bowl towards Runa. “But some of the other islands are open for visit–Silatar, Calluis Lar, Auridon. We’re confined to major cities, but I managed to sneak out to the countryside anyways.”


    “Why’d ya do that? Not interested in a bunch of fancy knife-ears’ idea of culture?” Runa asked, sipping her soup and barely controlling her delight.


    Aerva froze momentarily, then handed a bowl to Muiri. “Not… Quite. I had a specific reason to visit the Isles, and the service I required wasn’t… Available in settled areas.” Before Runa could ask, Aerva fired a brief but potent glare at her. “And I’m not going to elaborate further.”


    To Babette’s surprise, Runa acquiesced. She had to remember to ask Aerva to teach her how to glare like that, it was useful. Suddenly, as she moved to sit down at the spacious table everyone was at–she’d had a bowl placed at her usual spot–she was shoved from behind. A familiar growl filled her ears as she fell over, followed by the unsettling feeling of being licked.


    “What the Atmoran fuck is that!?” Runa screeched.


    Babette shoved the over-eager monstrosity, and he obligingly allowed her to get up. “This is Gnaw.” she explained, petting the frightening beast. It was two-legged, with a gaping maw filled to the brim with sharp fangs, white-scaled and bearing the eyes of a predator; it looked like a mouth on legs and the nightmare of children. And he was Babette’s baby. “He’s a wickeder; they’re related to the kagouti of Morrowind, but they trade raw strength for a paralytic bite. Isn’t that right, Gnaw~?” she cooed to her baby horror, who flopped down so Babette could pet his head (she couldn’t reach it otherwise). “Who’s a good monstrosity? You are!”


    “And… And he just hangs out here? Like a puppy?” Runa asked, still unnerved.


    “Sure; actually, having a pet is sort of a Brotherhood thing in general.” Muiri piped in. “Over in Mathiisen they have a sea serpent hatchling, and Flynn says there was a frostbite spider in the previous Skyrim Sanctuary.”


    “Technically she was a familiar of one of our mages.” Babette clarified. “But basically yes, Liz was the old pet.”

    “Huh. What… Happened to the last Sanctuary, anyhow?” Runa asked. A heavy sort of silence descended on the table at that point; even Hrottogahr bowed his head. “Oh… Shit, bad topic?” she quickly asked, trying to lighten the suddenly downcast mood.


    “Quite, but you didn’t know. Couldn’t know.” Aerva replied softly. “The Sanctuary near Falkreath was raided three years ago by the Penitus Oculatus; only Babs, Nazir and the Listener survived, and Cicero wasn’t present at the time. Shortly after that was when they completed that branch’s last mission, to kill the Emperor, and then they moved here to Dawnstar. Hrotto and I joined then, followed by Muiri and then you.”


    “And we got our sweet vengeance on the Penitus too, let me just say.” a new voice rang out. The tall, dark-skinned visage of Nazir sauntered up to the table. “I don’t think they found all the pieces of that Commander Maro.” He sat down at his ‘usual spot’, to the left of where Flynnach usually sat, and immediately began digging into the bowl of soup placed there.


    Hrotto frowned. “I thought our leader took on that mission by his lonesome. Why were you there?”


    Nazir chuckled darkly. “Don’t get me wrong; Flynnach was more than capable of doing it all on his own. But I am, at the end of the day, a simple man. If someone wrongs me, I retaliate. With violence.”


    Runa was about to make some disparaging comment–Nazir delighted in teasing the youth, and Runa was rapidly learning to fire back properly–when Gnaw decided to introduce himself to her. His massive fanged visage, tusked and ominous, flopped onto the poor girl’s lap, and a low growl that sent Babette’s undead bones shaking emanated from him. “Uh. This is… He’s being friendly, yeah?” Runa asked shrilly. 


    “Yes, Princess, the mouth on legs just wants pettings.” Nazir piped in.


    Runa glowered at him, quickly ignoring the beast starting to drool on her. “Oy, fuck you, Mister Sandpaper!”

    Nazir grinned evilly. “Ah, of course, how could I forget you hate that name! Perhaps another would be better? Maybe ‘shrimp’? Or ‘rat’?”


    “Bite me, asshole! You ain’t a Redguard, you’re a Deadguard!”


    “Oh, such wit! Clearly, you’re more of a ‘skeever’. Apologies~”




    “You’d have to actually beat me first, child. Or even be able to reach the swords.”


    “At least I still know how to use a damn sword! You’ve gone fucking senile, ya geezer!”


    “Aha, is it to be a contest, then?”


    “Your mother was a contest!”


    Nazir’s grin widened, and in a first he raised his hands in mock surrender. “Aha, the low-hanging fruit of repartee. Still, I applaud your spirit, so… Consider this a victory.”


    Runa snorted. “Yeah, yeah, good game, old man.” She had actually started to pet Gnaw without really realizing it, and though she’d taken notice by now she’d internalized that the behemoth brute was just a large baby. For obvious reasons, Babette could not have children, nor did she want to have children–motherhood was one of the very few concepts she still feared. But Gnaw was her baby, and that was widely accepted. 


    “So, Nazir, where’n the Blasphemies is the Listener at?” Hrottogahr asked after a lull. 


    “I told you, Hrotto, he’s on his way.” Aerva cut in, annoyed. 


    “Actually… He’s here.” a new voice said. A whisper that somehow carried across rooms. Flynnach himself promptly appeared from somewhere–the man was both exceptional at remaining unseen and unmatched in his flair for showmanship. Combine that with a clean-shaven, boyish face, slick hair, and bright blue eyes, and one would never suspect this man killed dragons and emperors alike. Intricate war-paint surrounded his right eye; it marked him as being of the Reachfolk, and he bore it with pride.


    He was still, alas, a dramatic son of a bitch. 


    “Oh hi honey~!” Muiri chirped.


    “Hi honey.” Flynnach replied, grinning. He took his usual seat at the head of the large onyx table, eagerly smelling the bowl of soup. “Delightful, Aerva. Is everyone here, then?”


    “Everyone except Cicero.” Aerva said, shrugging. 


    “Ah, I already filled him in.” Flynnach replied casually. “Well then, I’ll cut to the heart of it. Brothers, we may have a new… Project, in the works.”


    “Project? Like, ‘killing an Emperor’ project!?” Hrotto exclaimed.


    “At the risk of sounding hyperbolic… Quite possibly.” Flynnach replied. But behind the usual milking of any semblance of dramatic tension that he usually had, Babette sensed he was actually telling the truth.


    And while she should have felt excited, or bloodthirsty, or some other emotion worthy of the Dark Brotherhood, Babette could only think of how the last one cost her most of a Family. And suddenly, she was afraid.


    ----Author's Notes----

    -So, I am not dead! Surprisingly.

    -Kriiahmik (Killing Servant, or more literally Kill-Serve in the dragon tongue) is first in a series of 'post Skyrim' stories; exploring various takes on the Dragonborn and what happened to them after the events of the game. This one will follow a Dark Brotherhood Dovahkiin.

    -Very much a WiP, obviously, and am looking for feedback.

    -Thanks for reading, and I hoped you liked it!