Second Era onwards
The Dark Brotherhood is a guild of assassins who are willing to assassinate virtually anyone as long as the contractor pays enough for their service. They are a perverted offshoot of the "legal" assassins guild, the Morag Tong, who are primarily based in the province of Morrowind; while the Morag Tong were a respected, if feared member of Morrowind society, the Dark Brotherhood are a secretive underground cult that worships Sithis, the avatar of evil and the void.
When a person commits murder in warm/cold blood, it is likely that the Night Mother has been watching from the shadows. The next time the murderer sleeps in a location deemed to be secure, a Speaker will approach the murderer and ask them to join the Brotherhood, and if the offer is accepted the murderer will then be given a specific target to kill. Secondly, when an Argonian from Black Marsh is born under the sign of the Shadow, he/she is trained by an order known as the "Shadowscales", and pending the end of their training, transferred to the Dark Brotherhood. Additionally, the Dark Brotherhood has been known to recruit through proxy. When a spate of murders is committed in cold blood and without an arrest, the Brotherhood instigates an investigation. Usually the serial killings must only go on so long as it takes the Brotherhood to discover the identity of the killer, at which point they dispatch a courier with a letter requesting the murder of a specific person. Once this murder has been carried out, another letter is dispatched requesting the secret murder (i.e. a murder which is untraceable) of another specific person. If this is accomplished to satisfaction, the Brotherhood dispatches a third courier to provide contact information.
How to join
When the player kills an innocent NPC, a message will be displayed stating that "Your killing has been observed by forces unknown..." The next time the player sleeps in a safe place Lucien Lachance, a Speaker for the Black Hand, will visit the player and give the quest A Knife in the Dark as well as the Blade of Woe. The player is then tasked with the killing of an angry old man known as Rufio who lives in the ironically named Inn of Ill Omen. Once he is dead the player must sleep, even in Rufio's bed, and Lucien Lachance will visit the player and offer a membership. When killing him, if he is asleep, along with anyone else who sleeps, you can pickpocket him and get more gold than if you just kill him. Also after you have pickpocketed him a simple knife to the back will kill him.
- Kill Agronak gro-Malog, after completing his quest
- Kill a useless npc, someone who isn't quest related, such as S'rathad in the Talos district.
- Kill someone who needs to be murdered in a later Dark Brotherhood quest.
- Kill a town guard if you don't mind a 1000 gold bounty.
- Kill Falcar in the second-last mage guild quest.
- Kill your doppelgänger as part of the Shivering Isles quest Symbols of Office
- Do Mephala's quest.
A member of the Dark Brotherhood must follow 5 rules known as 'The Five Tenets'. If they break one, they will need to defeat "The Wrath of Sithis" to return to the Dark Brotherhood. The five tenets are:
- Never dishonor the Night Mother. To do so is to invoke the Wrath of Sithis.
- Never betray the Dark Brotherhood or its secrets. To do so is to invoke the Wrath of Sithis.
- Never disobey or refuse to carry out an order from a Dark Brotherhood superior. To do so is to invoke the Wrath of Sithis.
- Never steal the possessions of a Dark Brother or Dark Sister. To do so is to invoke the Wrath of Sithis.
- Never kill a Dark Brother or a Dark Sister. To do so is to invoke the Wrath of Sithis.
A number of books are found describing these tenets within the sanctuary. Breaking these results in the A Dark Exile quest being initiated, in order to get back into the Dark Brotherhood.
A member undertaking the Ritual of Purification is not beholden to any of the Five Tenets, and may violate any of the Tenets without invoking the Wrath of Sithis. This may apply to members holding the ranks of Silencer or above.
It should be noted that, within the boundaries of the games' programming, Tenets 1-3 are impossible for the player to break. Dishonoring the Night Mother is very ambiguous, and is very difficult to pin-point. The player is never given an option to tell any outside source about the Dark Brotherhood (which appears to only be possible through communication), and if the player declines a quest offered to him by Vicente or Ocheeva, that superior will humbly accept your desire to not accept the mission, and that mission will be available for you to do for the rest of the game.
Many members of the Brotherhood are also vampires, and feeding on fellow members is not considered illegal within the guild.
Sithis the Dread Father
Sithis is referred to as the dread Father and is the patron being of the Dark Brotherhood. According to the Brotherhood's belief, every soul murdered by a Dark Brother or Sister joins Sithis in "The Void". His bride is the Night Mother who serves as grandmistress of the Dark Brotherhood.
Whenever a member breaks one of the five tenets of the Dark Brotherhood, a spirit called the Wrath of Sithis will attack that person in his or her sleep. The Dark Brother or Sister must defeat this ghost in order to gain re-admission into the Dark Brotherhood. It is unknown whether this spirit is actually from or related to Sithis, or if it is merely a tool used by the Brotherhood to keep members in line.
The actual, literal truth surrounding Sithis is very difficult for the player to interpret, as virtually everything said about Sithis is allegorical. He has been defined as definitely not a god, but rather, something "else". He has been compared to an extremely cold, cloudless midnight, as well as the state of mind involved in the act of cold-blooded murder. He has been associated with Dagoth Ur of Morrowind, and an in-game book within the video game Daggerfall describes Sithis as a twisted corruption of the concept of the "void", viewed as peaceful, safe, and holy by the Altmer. Due to this high level of ambiguity, it could be postulated that perhaps this is an actual aspect of Sithis. Though he is spoken of as an actual entity, he could, in theory, be merely an anthropomorphic interpretation of unconscious, non-sentient thoughts, emotions, or phenomena, as is the case in certain interpretations of several Hindu deities in the real world. He is also called the "Serpent God of Death", and is associated by some scholars with the constellation of The Serpent. Additionally, some players have noted the similarities between some of his alleged features and the Egyptian demon Apep. It is unknown how or even if Sithis fits in with the religious chaos/order dualism featured throughout The Elder Scrolls.
In the in-game book, "The Definitive Guide to Daedra", Sithis is described as the state of Nothingness before the creation of Nirn. However, Vincente Valteri, a member of the Dark Brotherhood in the game Oblivion, claims Sithis is 'No Daedra'.
In the book "The Annotated Anuad", it describes a series of events in which creation began. Anu and Padomay were the first "beings", being Stasis, and Change respectively. The book is highly allegorical, though it is possible that it may be literal. In it, Anu creates a perfect, unchanging universe. Padomay, seeing this and hating it, attacks Anu. A fight ensues, and the blood spilled by the two mixed and created the Aedra and Daedra. As, the book is quite ambiguous in itself, being more of a children's story book, it is unknown what actually happened to Padomay and Anu, but many believe that Padomay, who represents change, is also Sithis. This would imply that Sithis is not only NOT the "God of Death" that the Dark Brotherhood so reveres, but is rather the creator of the life of Tamriel as we know it today. This is backed up by the book "Sithis," found in the official "Vile Lair" expansion, which more or less explains that Sithis is the creator of all life. Obviously, this book is a bit biased as it seems to be written by the Brotherhood, but it would seem that this is not far from the truth. Whether or not Sithis/Padomay is an actual entity as opposed to a concept is unknown, but he is revered by human kind, who's philosophy generally sticks with the idea that their own life is a gift, because without Padomay, they would never have existed in the first place. The Elves, on the other hand, seem to despise this idea, seeing it instead as an act of sabotage, with Sithis having stolen the immortality that Anu had bestowed upon his perfect creation.
To put it simply, Sithis is everything that "isn't," or the void, as it is put in the game itself. To describe him as a being may very well be incorrect, due to his nature. Since all of his primary characteristics seem to be in some sense antithetical, it may be more useful simply to avoid rigorously dogmatic pronouncements about him, as many of his own followers seem to do.
Ranks within the Brotherhood
The Night Mother
At the real "head" of the Dark Brotherhood hierarchy is the Night Mother, an immortal spirit who is revered and worshiped by the Brotherhood. She is only ever met face-to-face in very exceptional circumstances.
When a person prays for the death of another, the Night Mother hears, and passes on the details of the prayer to her Listener. At this point, the Listener informs a Speaker, who then goes to meet the hiring party in order to draw up a contract. It is said that the Night Mother and her five children were the first sacrifices to Sithis many years ago, and that she now guides her Listener through the Statue of the Lucky Old Lady in Bravil.
In the book FIre and Darkness: The Brotherhoods of Death, the Night Mother is identified with the Daedra Lord Mephala. While in another book titled "Sacred Witness: A True History of the Night Mother", the Night Mother is identified as a former thieves guild member.
The Listener is the highest ranked member of the Dark Brotherhood, second only to the Night Mother herself. The Night Mother speaks directly to the Listener, informing him/her of the names and locations of those who have prayed to the Night Mother for a murder to be carried out. The Listener then gives these names to a Speaker.
The Black Hand
Beneath the Night Mother are five elite members of the Brotherhood, known as the Black Hand. The Black Hand is made up of four Speakers and one Listener, representing the four fingers and the thumb of the Black Hand. Each of the Speakers gets his/her personal assassin, known as 'Silencers'.
When a Speaker has received a name from the Listener, the Speaker must then seek out that individual to work out the details of the assassination. It is also the responsibility of the Speakers to recruit new members into the Dark Brotherhood.
Outside of the Black Hand itself, the rank of Silencer is virtually unknown by other members. Each Speaker has his or her Silencer, a personal elite assassin employed to carry out the Speaker's personal 'business'. The Silencers represent the "talon/nail" of each finger of the Black Hand.
There are five known ranks outside of the Black Hand. Upon entering the Dark Brotherhood, the new recruit has the rank of "Murderer", the lowest of the Brotherhood ranks.
- Murderer (gained after a knife in the dark)
- Slayer (gained after accidents happen)
- Eliminator (gained after the assassinated man)
- Assassin (gained after permanent retirement)
In Cyrodiil, at least four Dark Brotherhood sanctuaries (a kind of chapter house and place for members to unwind and gain new orders except for Dead Drop Orders) are known to exist in the cities of Cheydinhal, Bruma, Leyawiin and Chorrol, however, by the time of Skyrim, 200 years after the events in Cyrodiil, all of the Dark Brotherhood sanctuaries except the Falkreath Sanctuary, and later the Dawnstar Sanctuary, have been eliminated. The Cheydinhal sanctuary is under the leadership of Speaker Lucien Lachance. Other people of interest there include:
- Alval Uvani
- Antoinetta Marie
- Banus Alor
- Belisarius Arius
- Gogron gro-Bolmog
- Havilstein Hoar-Blood
- Lucien Lachance
- Mathieu Bellamont
- Vicente Valtieri
Several of the Dark Brotherhood quests are unique in that they offer bonus rewards if the quest is completed in a certain way. These generally make the quest more difficult, but at the same time more rewarding. Some bonuses require a certain method of execution (death by stuffed animal head included), while others promote heightened secrecy (such as in the case of a certain skooma addict). Vicente Valtieri (starting with Accidents Happen) and Ocheeva offer quests with bonus rewards.
- A Watery Grave
- Blood of the Damned
- Accidents Happen
- No Rest for the Wicked
- Scheduled For Execution
- To Serve Sithis
- The Assassinated Man
- My Brother's Keeper
- The Lonely Wanderer
- Enter the Eliminator
- Bad Medicine
- The Night Mother's Child
- The Assassin's Gambit
- Permanent Retirement
- Of Secret and Shadow
- Affairs of a Wizard
- Next of Kin
- Broken Vows
- Final Justice
- A Matter of Honor
- The Coldest Sleep
- A Kiss Before Dying
Expulsion from the brotherhood
While beneath the rank of Silencer in the guild you will be bound by The Five Tenets. If you break any of these tenets you will immediately be removed from the guild. The only way to gain re-entrance into the guild is by defeating the Wrath of Sithis, an extremely powerful spirit that visits you when you first sleep after committing the offense you were expelled for.
- Note that it is only possible to break the fourth and fifth Tenets, as there is no way (through actions or dialogue) to break the first three.
Bug: There is reports of a bug stopping people with the Xbox 360 Classic edition of the game having trouble with the NPCs in the Dark Brotherhood. A player would break one of The Five Tenets which would lead to them being expelled from the Dark Brotherhood. After killing the Wrath of Sithis they would return to the Dark Brotherhood only to be attacked by all the NPCs when leaving the Dark Brotherhood they find the guards acting strangely, taking out their weapons but not attacking anything and not interacting with the player. Also the player cannot fast travel anymore and a message will appear on the screen stating "You cannot fast travel when enemies are nearby," even when there is no one near them.
Tips for defeating the Wrath of Sithis
- Since this spirit is extremely powerful, it may be difficult to defeat if you are a sneaky character. The best course of action is to run. The spirit cannot move very fast, so simply out-run it. Make sure you have a silver, magic, or daedric weapon in order to damage it. Then you can come back to wherever you left the spirit and effectively sneak up on it and force the combat in your style. The spirit uses a Dagger of Discipline and attacks mostly in melee, so if you can attack at a distance consider finding a nice rooftop nearby before engaging the spirit (Bravil maybe a good choice of city to fight the spirit on range as the roofs are easy to reach).
- If the above tactic does not work, you may seek refuge in taking the difficulty slider down to 0, fighting the ghoul, then returning the difficulty slider to its default position. For the most part, the spirit should be an easy kill as long as your character has plenty of restore health potions.
- It cannot go in water, so if you sleep in an area near water such as a bedroll in Cheydinhal or the bed outside of Dzonot Cave, then you can just run into the water and heal while it basically just waits for you.
- If you have the Wizard's Fury spell from the Mage's Guild, you can quickly dispatch of him.
- If you sleep in any mages/fighters guild, other guild members will assist you in defeating the ghoul.
- The Elder Scrolls: Arena (First appearance)
- The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall
- The Elder Scrolls III: Tribunal
- The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
- The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim  
- Fire and Darkness
- Sacred Witness
- The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
- The Five Tenets
- The Brothers of Darkness
- The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind