Seems like the Nine Divines were praticularly benevolent today with all this new Skyrim news. IGN posted an article about their first encounters with the Dark Brotherhood.
MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD. IF YOU DON'T WANT TO LEARN ANYTHING ABOUT SKYRIM'S DARK BROTHERHOOD, LEAVE NOW. DON'T SAY WE DIDN'T WARN YOU. Nightime. Alone. Snow crunching underboot, winter gnashing its teeth in swells through the thick air. I'm not hunting dragons or chasing butterflies, I'm tracking a guild of killers - Skyrim's Dark Brotherhood - across a continent.
Heading up through a set of frozen peaks, I smell blood. I pause the game for a moment and turn on The Sword's "Gods of the Earth". Much better.
A shortcut through Bleak Falls Barrow turns savage as I engage bandits, goring them atop an ancient stone shrine like Rasputin gone feral in a Frank Frazetta painting come to life. I heave billows of hot breath into the screaming wind after the kill, picking through their armor and weapons for worthy spoils. The sentries had stood guard over a giant set of doors at the base of the structure, which ostensibly leads to a dungeon. I don't investigate, moving on. I'm on a grave mission, after all.
Down the backside of the mountain, a trail leads past a small hovel-like settlement called Secunda's Kiss (low level characters, be wary of giants). Finally, I arrive at Falkreath, a mid-sized town straddling a hill, gorged with houses and an assortment of stores, and of course, a tavern. I eventually run into a roaming peasant who speaks of evil things in hushed tones. With some coaxing, she mutters a clue: Aventus Aretino, in the city of Windhelm.
The Brotherhood, Bleak Falls Barrow, Windhelm and More I could have trudged my way there, but thanks to a handy carriage system (think the stagecoaches in Red Dead Redemption), I hop a quick ride to the frigid maze of structures and passageways that make up the appropriately-named town. Inside, homeless folks, blacksmiths and guards - Windhelmsmen, all - co-mingle in the snow-torn concourses. Discussion of trade and war gradually gives way to a growing concern over a troubling series of murders (are there really any other kind?). Yes, a serial killer has moved into Windhelm. Perfect.
It takes some time to orient myself in the city, what with its multiple levels of buildings stacked upon themselves within its high stone walls. Eventually the Aretino home presents itself around a corner I must have turned past 10 times before. One picked lock later and I'm inside, standing in front of something I wasn't expecting: a small boy. Next to a dead body. And candles in a pentagram arrangement. He is Aventus Aretino, boy ritual killer.
Before I can speak to him, I notice he's talking to himself.
"They have to come, I know they will. They'll come, they will."
On and on. He notices me, gulping his breath, and lights up...
"You've come, I knew the Dark Brotherhood would come! You have to kill her. You have to kill Grelod. Grelod the Kind."
I'm paraphrasing, but it turns out little Aventus has far run away from Honorall Orphange because this Grelod person, the headmistress of the children's home, wasn't all too kind. Aventus spills the beans on his orphan-hood, and his concern for the well-being of the kids he left behind after his escape. He wants Grelod dead. Toward that end, he's apparently made a sacrifice of the poor soul on the floor of his living room.
And all at once, it becomes clear. Deep breath.
This boy thinks I'm with the Dark Brotherhood. He killed this person to invoke their one-of-a-kind services. He must know the legends.
HE THINKS I KNOW.
I immediately realize Skyrim just cast me into the role of the Brotherhood messenger and avenger. And look at me, with nary a note or black ink in hand.
I know what I must do: I must kill Grelod the Kind, and I couldn't be happier about it.
I could go into great detail on the next series of events, but let's stop for now. Rest assured, as you unfold the plot and you progress a ways further, it isn't long before you get one of these:
Dead by Dawn To me, the notion of playing messenger to Aventus' deadly act upends Oblivion's established Dark Brotherhood conventions, and stands out as a guiding design principle of the first Act of Skyrim's Dark Brotherhood questline: subversion. I hope it will inform Skyrim as a whole. The reintroduction of the beloved messenger concept, but tweaked, improved and re-purposed, will no doubt feel fresh yet relevant to a newcomer to the series, while still providing juicy appeal to longtime fans in ways even I didn't expect, no small task.
This nuancing, this rejiggering, this reimagining of core tenants in the Elder Scrolls, this is Skyrim.
This I know.