User:Likelolwhat/No True Scotsman/Done to Death
Before she was the Hero, she was just Ophelia.
Petty criminal, trespasser, and, apparently, murderer.
I woke groggy and confused. There was someone leaning over me, saying something I didn't understand. "Go 'way, Mama," I whined into the pillow.
"Mama?!" a man's voice barked incredulously. There was a pause, some shuffling, and then the feeling of being watched intensified. "No, I am not your mother. I am someone else. You did sleep well for a murderer, well enough to confuse me for... Ophelia Tacitus, are you listening to me?"
"Mmph," I grunted, finally rolling over and opening my eyes at the sound of my name.
I was not at home.
More importantly, the hooded man in black staring at me was definitely not my mother.
I squeaked, wanting to sit up before I remembered I was in my smallclothes. Instead I backed away, pulling the musty old blanket with me until I bumped into the headboard.
The man rolled his eyes. "I have a proposal for you. Though I wonder if you're at all suited for it, despite your cold-blooded slaying of those... Sirens, was it?"
Oh. I was beginning to see what this was about. Curse my luck to get the guards on my tail the first day back from my soiree in High Rock, even if it was them mistaking me for a do-gooder. I hadn't known they were guards at the time. And how was I supposed to know I couldn't fight back when those ladies attacked me? And now this guy thought I dealt in anything more than petty thievery and drunken brawls too. Perfect.
I still didn't remember where I was or how I had gotten there. It was dark in the room, and the pervasive dust tickled my nose. I guessed, however, that I was in some abandoned house, and I probably hadn't gotten far from Anvil, since I was clearly very much alive. My alcohol-induced blackouts left me more vulnerable to bandits and wild animals than a fresh steak stuffed with rubies left out in the wilderness. So I broke into a house — looked like a mansion from the size of the bedroom and the grand spiral stairs I could just see through the open door — and slept it off? Something like that.
"I am Lucien Lachance, Speaker for the Dark Brotherhood. And you, you are a killer. No, don't look at me like that! You are, I know it."
Okay, this guy is nuts, I thought, apparently unable to keep my skepticism from my face. I believed him when he said he was with the Dark Brotherhood — he was sufficiently creepy and dark — but how he could know about the unfortunate Siren incident so quickly and also have the completely wrong idea was ridiculous.
When I said nothing, Lucien continued. "Your work pleases the Night Mother," he said in a voice that told me he didn't quite believe it himself. "So, I have an offering, an opportunity to join our family."
"Why would I want to join your crazy-ass family—" I blurted out, but he just talked over me, screwing his eyes shut as if he really wanted to shed my blood and was barely restraining himself.
"You will go to the Inn of Ill Omen, on the Green Road north of Bravil. Kill a man named Rufio there, and you will become one of us."
He didn't look very welcoming, but I just quirked an eyebrow and waited for him to depart. The dust was making my eyes itch.
Lucien Lachance — what a pansy name for an assassin — thrust his hand into his robe and drew out a dagger, in a black sheath laid with gold markings. "This blade hungers for blood. Use it well." He tossed it onto the bed by my leg, and I stared at it before raising my eyes to him again.
My green-gold stare might have unnerved him, because he swallowed and clenched his hands for a second, before regaining his composure.
"And, Ophelia? Don't disappoint."
With that ominous, if casual statement, he raised his hand and disappeared in some sort of magic spell. A spell I was immediately insanely jealous for. Whether he had just gone invisible or teleported away, I wanted that spell. Unfortunately, my limited magical knowledge refused to expand no matter how many books I stole on the subject.
"Well," I said to the room. Rays of light were filtering through the dusty window; time for me to vacate my ill-gotten accommodations.
That, naturally, was when the ghosts appeared.
Of course, I couldn't run from my nature forever. Too soon — three weeks after my unfortunate run-in with Anvil's resident spooks, if the innkeeper was correct on the date — I wandered into the Inn of Ill Omen. Purely by chance, mind you. I had been on my way to Bravil, having heard it was a hub of questionable reputations but no actual questions, when I re-discovered that I — being mortal, alas — had to sleep at some point. Luckily, Cyrodiil is full of roadside inns (some in strange places), and I stumbled across one just as I needed it.
I did not look at the sign as I entered. It looked like an inn — if it had been an obscenely large cabin owned by some not-city-dwelling freak I would probably have been in trouble. Well. More trouble.
When the innkeeper announced the name of the establishment in his greeting, I was starkly reminded that a) that was redundant, or would have been if I had read the sign; and b) oh yeah, didn't that guy mention this place? How serendipitous.
I stepped up to the bar, trying to remember the target's name. Lucius? Rodney? Ruffian? I was getting close... "I'd like a room, please." I dug in my pocket, pulling out a silver candlestick before I realized I had the wrong pocket and stuffed the item back in. I had no idea where to find any fences around here and thus my pockets were full of ill-gotten goods. I needed to turn it into coin soon or I'd be, effectively, broke.
The innkeeper stared at me when I smiled sweetly up at him, but he accepted the coin I counted out and pointed me to the trapdoor without a word.
I felt his eyes, as well as those of the other visible patron, on my back as I went over, so I put a bit of sway into my hips. As I shut the trapdoor above my head, I heard the Redguard woman's muffled laughter, then the grumbles of the inkeeper, and grinned. I knew I was a scrawny thing. You tend to look that way when you lead my life without the protection of the Thieves Guild.
Hearing snoring from the second room down the hall, I tried the handle on the first and found that it was open. I didn't know quite what I'd do with Lachance's proposal yet, but I could always decide tomorrow.
It was my mantra in life. You can always decide tomorrow.
The next morn, I decided to find out more about my target. I questioned the owner, Manheim, about his business and he mentioned a man named Rufio (Yes! That was his name!) who lived downstairs in the room next to mine. Then he droned on and on about Minerva, the Redguard woman, and I decided I really did not need to know what the color of her eyes reminded him of. They reminded me of horse manure. I slipped away while they flirted.
The door to Rufio's room was open, so I stood in the threshold and watched the man pace agitatedly inside. He didn't seem to notice I was there at all. He was muttering to himself, wringing his hands. I braced myself on the doorframe and cleared my throat.
He whirled immediately, raising his fists. "Who are you? I ain't done nothin'!"
Psh, like I could believe that. The man was dodgy, even moreso than I knew I was. An older Breton man, with a tonsure like a monk, but this was no holy man of the Divines. His eyes constantly flicked about, like he was afraid of his own shadow jumping up and accusing him of violating the law. In addition, he smelled. Of old sweat (and fresh sweat), not guilt or anything. But I imagined guilt smelled a lot like his reek.
I wrinkled my nose. "Uh... Sure you haven't." Bathed in ages, I added in my head.
His eyes widened so far that I nearly burst into laughter from how stupid he looked. But the words he blabbered then were far from funny. "You— How could you know about her? I didn't mean to do it! I told her not to struggle, but she— she— just wouldn't take it! I had to, she would've reported me..." he trailed off, staring into my eyes as if he could not believe what he had just said. To me.
Oh gods. This man had—
He tried to dart past me, but a thief has reflexes like you wouldn't believe, and I caught him by the neck. He collapsed under me, taking me with him. We struggled on the floor, him trying desperately to keep my dagger away from his throat. I didn't even remember drawing it.
She just wouldn't take it...
I drew back slightly — just enough so his hands slipped away from mine — and thrust forward, slicing his right thumb clean off and burying my dagger into his throat up to the hilt. His severed thumb went flying, and Rufio expired with a gurgle.
Blood — more blood than I thought could fit inside an old balding Breton — covered me as I staggered upstairs. My face, my ragged hair, my arms and hands, my dagger hanging loosely from my hand. Minerva and Manheim were snogging by the fire, him in her lap, when I emerged. The trapdoor fell with a thunk behind me, and they jumped apart like a mage had just cast Shock on their asses.
Minerva saw me first, gasping and drawing back, then Manheim turned and roared a challenge, shoving Minerva behind him and readying his warhammer in a protective stance. "Murderer!" he shouted, and the Imperial legionnaire who'd been outside — oh gods how could I have been so stupid — burst in and was on me in a flash, wrestling me to the floor. My face smashed against the hardwood, and the forester's knee crunched my hand into fragments.
He hadn't needed to do that. I would have let the dagger go had he asked me, but instead I wound up with my own blood on me as well as Rufio's, my ruined hand bound behind my back and agony lancing up my arms with every bump of the cart that transported me — and two others, both Skooma dealers from Bravil — up the Green Road and into the Imperial City, where I would rot in the most secure prison in Tamriel for the rest of my days.
Or so I believed. As luck and a particular Daedra would have it, I had a larger part to play in the history of the world than I ever thought possible.
Being a Hero is something that you either grow into, or you don't. Those that cannot adjust to the will of the Gods are swept aside, replaced, forgotten. I had never been on good terms with the Divines, but I didn't have to be.
I just had to be flexible.