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Aug 13, 2020 4:18 AM
the dark brotherhood gets a contract on the last dragonborn
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Ena hasn't been here long. Not as most would count it. Especially not as Babette would count it.

(The vampire 'kid' isn't too bad. Veezara's a good companion. She's still unsure on the rest. It's okay. They're not too sure on her.)

She's just entered the Sanctuary, another minor grunt work contract done, when she spots Astrid leaning against the wall outside her room. Ena slows, nods to her current leader. "Everything going okay?" Ena asks, putting a light tone into her voice. She doesn't know if Astrid's fooled by it. She suspects not. 'Stoic and serious' is probably a better mask to go for here...

"Oh, quite wonderful, sister," Astrid purrs. "We've gotten a valuable new contract recently. Nothing we're likely to be sending a rookie on, don't worry, but perhaps you could have some insight for who we do send."

"Oh?" Ena asks, letting her pitch rise a bit and raising one eyebrow. "High profile, then?"

"Yes indeed!" Astrid chuckles. "Lianda, a redguard from Hammerfell. Our contact called her the Last Dragonborn."

Ena smiles. Hides the faint panic stirring in her breast. "An interesting target."

Astrid nods, says, "Your family is waiting," and waives Ena past.

She walks down into the Sanctuary proper, ears tuned to the faint murmur of conversation.

Lianda.

Her little sister.

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The Dark Brotherhood members are apparently all in today, chatting a bit about the new contract. Well, most of them. Arnbjorn is standing off to the side, working on some diagram.

Nazir laughs as she enters, says, "I've heard she's got Meridia's sword, Babette. You might not be the best choice..."

Babette fakes a pout, then turns to Ena, a wicked grin on her lips. "Ena," she sing-songs, "Who do you think we should send? I think I'm our best bet. Our target has - what was it, five little street urchins? Surely room for one more. And poor wittle me all alone in the cold, who just needs a loving family..." She snickers. "This spoilsport thinks Gabriella. In, snipe, out. Or were you arguing Arnbjorn last time? Fake - well, not really fake - a werewolf attack while she's roaming the wilderness?"

Nazir crosses his arms. "They're both valid considerations. But what do you think, Ena? You have good instincts."

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Ena smiles, a bit coy. "Why not Festus Krex or Veezara? Surely their experience and unique skills must count for something."

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Nazir nods. "A good point. They're also less impetuous than Babette. Better at waiting for opportunities."

"Oh come on, I'm not so bad, am I Nazir?" Babette half whines, a glint of mirth in her unnatural eyes.

He shakes his head, and then turns to Veezara, and the conversation winds on.

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Ena settles back to watch, offers neutral suggestions every now and then, but otherwise doesn't make a big deal of herself.

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After a while, Astrid enters and nods to the group. "I've heard all your suggestions, and made my decision. Our Babette will be the one to take point on this mission. The rest of you may help, but it's not required. We've taken tougher targets before."

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Babette cheers, while the others (Ena included) congratulate her.

Then, from Babette: "Now will you tell me where she is, Nazir?"

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That's a very good question, Ena thinks.

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"Last time my contacts saw her? In Solitude, where she usually hovers around, talking about heading to Dawnstar," Nazir says, tapping his chin. "She didn't say why." He grins, somewhat wry. "Of course, even for the fastest couriers, that was over a month ago."

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Babette groans. "Solitude? That's two months away, too. No fair."

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Ena nods, mind spinning. Lianda had mentioned something very similar in her last letter - that she was planning on scouring the frozen wilds around Dawnstar, in an attempt to find something about the recent vampire attacks. Ena's not sure what.

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Nazir chuckles. "We'll provide you with horses, Babette. And possibly a companion - I know Festus Krex has contracts in Solitude - so no one questions a girl on her own. Maybe speed things up a bit."

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"Ugh. Horses. Still, a girl does what she must," Babette says, sighing dramatically.

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Ena snickers with the others, then says, "They're better than ships, at least."

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That sparks a quick discussion of the horrors of horses versus the sea, which Astrid tolerates for quite a while before clearing her throat, and saying, "Do you have an initial plan, Babette dear?"

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Babette hums, rocking in place. "Well, if she's based out of Solitude, she'll come back eventually. Perhaps by the time I arrive. I have patience, you know. That'd give me plenty of time to establish myself in the city. Sniff out a few rumors. See if anyone's seen her fight, though with any luck I can avoid that."

The others take their turns offering advice - keep at a distance if it's a fight, poison's best for this though, you do remember that spell for muffling your footsteps, right, Babette...

Then Babette turns to Ena, and asks, "Well, what's your advice, new eyes?"

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Ena smiles. "Don't underestimate her. She reportedly killed a dragon with a lot less than a daedric artifact, and people speak well of her. While she's away from her allies might be a good time to strike."

And it'd be a good time for Lianda to not feel constrained in what she can do. Or for Ena to swoop in without eyes on her, should it be needed.

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Babette nods. "I'll consider it. I'm more of an opportunities while they're hot kind of girl, but maybe..." She shrugs. "I'll head out later today. Camp in the wilderness, don't spend too long in the little villages. What're you going to be doing, Ena? Any exciting new contracts?"

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She laughs and shakes her head. "You know very well Nazir's still got me on everyone else's dregs. I might see if those little dregs can get me your way for a bit, though. Wouldn't want to miss this."

And 'what will she do' is a very interesting question, indeed.

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Ena's first, and most immediate thought, is she really, really doesn't want to confront her sister directly. She doesn't want Lianda to know about this - if she can help it. She'd rather not send a warning, especially given the possibility Lianda will see through it to the author. She'd strongly rather Lianda not know she's an assassin.

They haven't met face to face in three years.

Ena's fine keeping it that way.

But Lianda's an idiot. Prone to blundering in where the Divines themselves would hesitate to go. Stupid, self-sacrificing, protective of random strangers...

And Ena's not sure she can safely follow Babette, not without getting caught. The girl looks like a kid, but she's older - and better - than any of the rest of them combined.

Which means following Lianda around. Simple enough.

As for what else to do, because Ena doesn't want to leave it at that...

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She has options.

She could kill Babette. But the Brotherhood would just send another assassin - or several - and Ena does, actually, like the squirt somewhat. Not enough to save her life at Ena's expense, but enough she'll shelve murder for later.

She could kill Astrid. The woman's - 'this is a Family, and we are your Family' grates on Ena. She didn't take that shit from her mother. She's not taking it from some near stranger. It'd be somewhat of a final option. That'd be hard to get away with. She might end up with the entire Dark Brotherhood after her. It'd stop them in their tracks, though, and might dissolve the organization...

Though she does like this line of work. It'd be harder, riskier on her own.

She could sabotage the mission, as subtle as possible. Risks exposing her, but less directly than killing someone does. It'll be hard, given Babette's experience, but possible. Lay a false trail. Spread contradictory rumors. She's already started on 'giving bad advice.' Make sure Babette's horse throws a shoe. The possibilities are nearly endless.

She lets the conversation drift away from her while she thinks. No real point attempting to tag along with Babette. Ena doubts she's that good a liar. No, she's going to try to get ahead of them - Babette's headed for Solitude, which means west around Lake Ilinalta and then up past Rorikstead most likely. Ena will swing around the other way, past Whiterun up to Dawnstar, then cut over - probably at the Hall of the Vigilants, she's heard some vague rumor they'd suffered a defeat but if Lianda's looking for vampires she'll start there, nevermind the bad blood between the Vigilants and anyone with a daedric weapon, let alone the title of 'Champion.'

She talks to Nazir, turns in her completed contracts, gets another batch, and retires to her room while Babette, Festus, and Nazir make arrangements for the departure.

She doesn't want to leave too close to them, unfortunately. It'll mean losing a day at least, but it's better than either experienced assassin growing suspicious of her.

The big problem with killing Astrid is the woman almost never leaves the Sanctuary, and doesn't tell the others when she does. She's paranoid about her food and drink, and probably immune to most poisons anyways. Walking up to her and stabbing her would get Ena caught, and would probably fail miserably. Ena's not good enough at magic for an option in that category.

In the end, she decides to try and sabotage Babette. It's easy enough to slip something into the horses' feed - not enough to kill them, or be obvious, but it'll slow them down and hopefully make them irritable.

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Ena leaves the next day, after having a light chat with Veezara about two targets of hers, one in Whiterun, one in Dawnstar. (She won't bother picking them up on the way, but maybe later.) She needs speed - Babette's got a longer route, assuming she doesn't just stay in Solitude to wait, but she's got enough horses to move quickly, and a companion to make the road safer.

Ena, obviously, needs a horse.

The one problem with that is she has all of a hundred thirty nine septims to her name.

Well. She's never been a horse-thief before, but how hard can it be?

She'll go for one horse, just for caution's sake, even though it's likely to be a bit slower.

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Falkreath has a stable, if a small one, with a horse for sale - scrawny thing, looks like some wagon-master's reject. A bit skittish.

This'll be fun.

It's still the early hours, before anyone wakes up, when she reaches Falkreath. She observes the paddock, picks the lock, and then -

Tries to catch a horse.

...Horses, it turns out, aren't too fond of her, and this one really likes running.

Still she's fairly sure the stable-hand didn't get a good enough look at her for a bounty when she galloped off, and the horse is a good sport about being led off road and told to lie down while Ena hides from the guards.

Possibly this used to be a show horse.

The horse keeps attempting to either eat or nuzzle her hair, she's not sure which, as she leads it around Falkreath's borders, in the opposite direction she fled, and sets out towards Lake Ilinalta. She'll avoid the village there - and most of civilization anywhere within a few day's ride - but she has enough supplies to camp for a while.

...Hopefully the horse can eat grass.

She might have to buy feed in Whiterun.

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With the day's delay from avoiding the guards, she gets to Whiterun eight days after she left, around midday of the 26th of Last Seed. She's made decent time so far, and buying further provisions is painless - she just barely makes up for the cost by liberating a few careless idiots of their money purses. Gets a few extra septims out of it, but only eleven - she's not willing to linger long enough to make a serious earning.

It's another three days into the foothills of the mountains between Whiterun and Dawnstar. It's cold enough she grudgingly gives up on camping and enters a tiny little mountain village - there's a tavern (really the great room of someone's house) willing to let her sleep on their floor for two septims.

She's woken in the night by a roar, and a rush of air like a bonfire, and a scream.

Ena bolts up and outside - that sounds like a dragon, she does not want to be caught in a burning wooden building - and tries to find her horse.

The villagers are probably screwed if this thing's serious and not just after their cattle and a bit of sport.

She might be too.

She thinks she can get away on her horse, but it'll be risky - the dragon might chase her, and then she'll be alone fighting it. The villagers have bows, and are already organizing into a militia and a bucket brigade.

Which begs the question.

Should she stand and fight, or should she run?

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Ena, after a long, frozen moment of consideration, decides to fight.

It's risky.

But taking the chance of fighting a dragon alone is riskier.

She leaps over the fence around the little paddock her horse is in, retrieves her gleaming dwarven bow, strings it, hooks the quiver around her waist, and grabs another cluster of arrows to hold in her hand, then runs to where she'll have a clear shot but the dragon will have to go past the militia to get a clear run at her.

The villagers clearly aren't used to turning their bows to anything greater than an elk, and there's clear fear on many faces, but one bowman is barking orders and they seem to fear or respect him more.

The dragon twists, flares its wings as it swoops down for another pass.

Ena releases her bow at the same time as many of the villagers. Her shining arrow flies true, cutting through even the fierce winds around the dragon's wings - not so for many of the wooden arrows wielded by the villagers. Most of them are blown away. Many bounce uselessly off the scales. A few scratch or even pierce the wings - where she's aiming.

The dragon shrieks as their arrows tear through its hide, and twists, sending a blast of flame at the bulk of the archers, who scatter. A few are burned, but no one looks dead so far.

Ena keeps shooting, bow twanging rapidly - she hasn't done this properly in a while, assassination rarely calls for hordes of arrows, but she shot competitively in Hammerfell, and when the dragons returned she decided it was a good hobby to keep up. She falls into a familiar meditative trance as she fires, first the arrows in her hand, then dipping into those in her quiver -

She rolls just in time as the dragon strafes her. Fire roars through the alleyway she'd been crouching in, setting aflame both buildings. Her side is painfully hot, and a few burning embers land on her exposed skin. She brushes them off as she gets to her feet, sprinting for new cover, before turning her bow back.

The dragon's wings are tattered, now, and her next arrow must sever a tendon because one wing falters. The dragon dips, wobbles, and then crashes in a barren field outside the village. The lead bowman redirects the archers to cover a charge by a few hunters with boar spears - idiots - while Ena moves, lines up a new shot -

And while the dragon is reared back to take a bite out of one moron with a spear, she puts an arrow through the roof of its mouth. It thrashes, gushes flame - a few hot rocks hit her as they fly past, cutting thin lines - and then a hunter gets a spear in its neck, cutting off the escaping flame. The dragon's belly bloats out, it half-screams -

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And then dies.

Ena almost drops her bow.

Now that her adrenaline's fading, she's able to realize her burns are worse than she thought. She crouches, trying to breath through her mouth, trying not to throw up -

Someone runs up to her. "Hey! Hey, stranger," he calls. His voice sounds young. "You did a lot of good - come on, we have healing, our priest's pretty good - "

Gentle hands help her stand, and support her as she joins the injured stumbling towards the temple. It was among the burned, but any flame has since been put out. Still, all the injured are being directed to stay out of the building, and are instead being tended to out in the open.

"We think a lot of stuff's not safe to go in, lotsa the roofs flared up," her helper babbles. "'s not good with the cold, but the grain's okay and the animals aren't too injured - " There's indeed a cow among the triaged people. Thankfully put after any serious cases. "We're tryna get enough blankets - you did a lot of good, everyone saw you with that fancy bow - "

She nods, tries sluggishly to think of how she can twist that to her advantage, and accepts the healing when it comes. Their priest, an old wood elf, isn't as good as the healers she would've had access to in her mother's house (and why is she thinking of that...), but he's good enough that she shouldn't have more than a few small scars that'll fade soon anyways.

She tiredly thanks him, which he waves off before moving down the line.

Her helper's been talking to - probably the closest they have to a guard captain, or a lead hunter - and he then returns to hand her blankets and help her into one of the cleared houses. Apparently she's being given something resembling preferential treatment - most of the others they're insisting on shelter for are old, young, sick, pregnant, or worse off than her. She doesn't have the pride to protest it more than is demanded by politeness. Sleeping somewhere warm is fine by her.

(She does insist on keeping her bow with her. Unstrung, of course. The boy nods.)

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