I gulped as Fenia pushed me through the rasping door. There were lanterns and torches hung from the walls, and a pair of stone steps led downward.
When we reached the landing with a table, a door, and another flight of stairs leading down, I saw a dark-haired woman with the same bright green eyes as Fenia, dressed in assassin armor. She stared at us for a moment, and then smiled—warmly, but mysteriously.
“Hello, Fenia. Arnbjorn. And you must be Astrid.”
Fenia strode forward to give her sister a quick hug, their golden and dark brown hair mingling. “How are you, Lisyna?”
“Bloodthirsty. Assassin-ish. The usual.”
Fenia and Lisyna both laughed at this. It was clearly a joke between them.
I felt my head drop, avoiding the assassin leader’s gaze.
“Ah, Astrid. From what I hear, you made a great kill of your uncle.” She smiled coldly. “I can’t wait to see you spill more blood.”
I forced myself to meet her eyes. “Yes. I think… I think I’m excited for my first job. I think I like killing.”
Lisyna laughed a high and strange tinkle. “Of course you do. I understand if you’re nervous, of course.”
“Fenia, you’ve brought in enough recruits for now. Want to stay for a while?”
Fenia’s eyes gleamed. “Of course.”
Arnbjorn had awkwardly settled himself against the wall, his injured leg stretched out. He now cleared his throat. “Um… Lisyna…”
“Oh! Arnbjorn. You may now have your first contract. You have proven yourself to be worthy of it.”
Lisyna slipped a piece of paper into his hand. “The details are all there, darling. Read away.”
Arnbjorn’s face, eager and determined, absorbed huge chunks of writing. I uncomfortably sat on the ground, just as a middle-aged man with a staff came up the second flight of steps that lead deeper down.
“This is Festus Krex. He’s a senior member, and a mage. Say hello.”
As we greeted the older assassin, Arnbjorn finished reading the contract. He grinned. “So, I’ll have a partner? Any partner?”
“Yes. Choose now, please.” Lisyna gestured around the room.
Arnbjorn thought for a moment. “Astrid…?”
I jumped. I had thought he would choose someone he knew more, trusted more, had trained and fought with more…
“Um… sure…” I blushed.
“Then it’s settled.” Lisyna beamed at us. “Off you go! Kill well—and often.”
As Arnbjorn dragged me towards the door, I heard Fenia exclaim, “They’re so cute together!”
When we passed through the door, I asked Arnbjorn if I would ever get to see the Sanctuary. “Um… right now, if you want to, but… I’m really excited.”
I smiled. “I can wait, then.”
“Well, they want us to kill a Housecarl—Junio Dez. It’ll be difficult, I know, but it would be harder any other day! There’s an official and formal party in Windhelm, the city he serves, three nights from now, so we could try an ambush then.
“How will we look presentable enough to be at a formal party?” I asked, surprised.
Arnbjorn blinked at me. “We’ll buy outfits when we get there, of course.”
And Arnbjorn dragged me off to go kill an official in a busy city.
We traveled for the next day, seldom stopping unless we were both exhausted. I hadn’t put down my bag of money and food in the Dark Brotherhood Sanctuary, so we still had that.
I felt myself grow weary of traveling so much. I became grumpy and serious, snapping at Arnbjorn whenever he tried to make small talk.
“Where are you from?”
“Dawnstar, like you didn’t already know that…” I snarled crankily, my eyes flashing. That shut him up, for a few minutes, at least.
After him attempting conversation and me acting mean for a day, he stopped.
When we approached Windhelm, my mood improved a lot. I smiled as Arnbjorn glowered at me.
My happiness evaporated when I saw the glare of his eyes, fixed on my face. “Look, Arnbjorn… I’m sorry. So much has happened in the last couple weeks, and I wanted to tell you that you’re a good friend.”
I gave him a tentative hug, which he solemnly returned.
When we pulled away from each other, my Dark Brother was grinning.
“Let’s go kill.”