When their lives changed, it was almost the end of Sun’s Dusk. I cannot tell the year. I never know the years. I only know it was cold, and one of them suffered more than the other. I know it was snowing, it seemed to never stop. I know that the trees had long since stripped of their leaves, remaining dark and thin, like the skeletons that inhabit the crypts and scream their lamentations, not aware of being dead. I know that, at times, the northern lights lit up the night. I know he saw them, he liked the red ones, and she didn’t see them at all. I know what was happening in the world, in short. Not because I was there, but because thus I wanted to happen. It was the moment I had designated. It was right.
It was on a similar night that they met the first time. The wind was lashing cold, moving away from the ground, in a thousand volutes, the snow just fallen. The northern lights were gleaming over the plains, reflecting on the snow, and on the two moons of Nirn, Masser and Secunda. One of the brightest nights of the last eras, which was later remembered as The Sunny Night.
Cicero, lurking outside the hut, clutched in his clothes, trembling. He wasn’t in a good mood, and it was rare for him.
"Horrible… horrible… cold! Yes, yes, horrible cold! Cicero wants to return to Cyrodiil. Or… Cicero wants to go to Elsweyr! Die burned in the desert. He’d bear staying with cats just to not get colder!"
He realized just in that moment he had spoken out loud.
"Well..." he began, to justify himself, "well, this isn’t the best night, anyway. It’s not a murderer's night. No! Cicero... Cicero can speak as much as he wants. Nothing can be done tonight. What a place, Skyrim!"
He had already decided he would’ve given up a quick killing. The contract would’ve had to wait, at least another day. Even if it was a simple job, killing a lonely girl, he didn’t want to run the risk of making a mistake. After all, it was the first contract since... how long? Twenty years? He couldn’t afford to make mistakes, or else the Dark Brotherhood could’ve stopped giving him contracts. The Night Mother would’ve no longer trusted him. No, it was better to wait. No matter how easy it was, and no matter how much he wanted to kill someone... it was better to wait. Better.
He even decided to come out and wait more comfortably, instead of huddling up behind the branches. He sat down on a boulder, on the side of the road, and crossed his legs. He thought of the joke of the horker, and that was enough to make him laugh, cheering him up.
He didn’t have to wait long, anyway. Soon, in fact, something started moving inside the farm. Noises, laughter. Then, suddenly, the front door opened, dividing the porch in half with a beam of light.
Two people came out, whom from that distance Cicero couldn’t see well. Surely they were a man and a woman, though.
"Are you sure?" he was saying, in a deep, gentle voice, "it's late, I don’t trust you to go alone."
"Don’t worry, it's just a few minutes walk. Garulf knows the way."
"Eh, yes, dont’ worry... just a few minutes... hm... what could ever happen?" thought Cicero, this time careful to express only in his mind. He laughed at the naivety of people, but restrained himself. Only a few minutes walk, the usual road... those were the little details that cheated them. If people had always done different and longer ways, the Brotherhood would’ve had very little to live with. And yet, those things, the same things that ended up killing them, reassured the victims. He wondered why.
"Ok, as you prefer. Be careful."
"Aye, Loreius. Meet me on Fridas at the inn."
Oh no, they probably wouldn’t have met each other in two days at the inn. The next night, at most, Cicero would’ve done his job. A bright night could stop him for a few hours, but not forever. Time to stalk her, understand who she was, what time schedules she had, find her alone once in the dark, and then the end. Welcome, Void. Welcome, Sithis.
"Wait, I'll help you up."
The man lended her his horse, a sturdy, dark stallion. It was similar to Shadowmere, except for the eyes, far less demonic and more common.
When the girl was on the back of the horse, she finally left, and spurred her mount towards Whiterun. The stallion seemed to go by itself. She didn’t even hold the reins, her hands wearily resting on the saddle, close to her own lower abdomen.
Wrapped in a cloak, on her dark horse, she approached, and Cicero stood still. He would’ve let her pass. He would’ve walked behind her, far enough to not arouse suspicion. He would’ve followed her at home, and there he would’ve...
Cicero's thoughts suddenly stopped. The girl, now that she was close enough, looked nothing like a normal, young Nord. Indeed, she was like Cicero had always imagined... another person.
"Mother? Is it… is it you?"
The girl, with a feline snap, stiffened, and turned to the source of the voice. She grabbed the reins and blocked the horse. Now, the more he looked at her, the more breathless he was. A vision. She couldn’t be real.
A young girl, dark, severe and melancholic. Cloaked in black, the hair, long, of the same non-color. The light skin, brighter than usual, perhaps, only thanks to the orange reflection of the northern lights. But above all, the eyes... the white eyes, without irises, without pupils. Flat, without expressiveness. What could those be, if not the earthly representation of the Void? If not the eyes of the Mother?
"Who’s there?" the young woman asked, in a tone halfway between alarmed and menacing. She clearly wanted to look braver than she was. Actually, her breath was trembling.
"Oh... no one..." Cicero tried to compose himself, understanding that she was just a blind woman. He knew it, he knew he had to look for a blind girl, but… he hadn’t expected such eyes.
The girl's thin, clear lips widened, undecided, in a broken smile.
"No one? It seems to me that there’s someone, down there. On the roadside. A man."
Cicero laughed. That crazy laugh, however, surrounded by a sarcastic accent.
"A man, um? What a great intuition! It takes more to amaze Cicero..."
"All right, then. A few more details, perhaps? A man. An Imperial, judging from the name. You speak in the third person, some bards do it. Are you a bard, then? And I smell alchemy, oils. An Imperial bard dealing with magic, who probably enchants his instruments. Were I close?"
Cicero remained with a frozen smile, without knowing what to say. Partly he was amazed by the intuition of the blind girl, and partly he was wondering why the hell did she stop to talk with him. Shouldn’t she have gone straight home? Being careful? Which sane young woman stops talking at night with strangers out of town? Well, maybe she wasn’t sane at all... a quality that Cicero would’ve appreciated. In any case, the killer couldn’t understand how she could still be alive. Or untainted. Apparently she didn’t care much about life or virginity.
"Well, you were close. But never call Cicero a bard!" he pronounced cheerfully, trying to take up the reins of the situation. Perhaps she trusted him for his playful manners. He had that effect on many people. Women trusted him, men underestimated him, everyone thought he was nice and crazy, and the result was always the same: easy victims.
"Aren’t you a bard?"
"Cicero is a jester, he hates bards, they’re a sort of low grade competition. All day long strumming, singing out of tune, and when asked to give a speech they can’t even say their names. They learn by heart, they have nothing original. They don’t know the art of improvisation and have no sense of humor, they take everything personal. Don’t you agree?"
"Aye, it's true, they're almost all idiots. But I like to hear their ballads."
"Cicero instead likes to split lutes, and maybe even the noses of their masters. This is all that he has to do with bards."
The young girl laughed. She leaned her head back slightly, and her empty eyes reflected the red of the sky. Cicero could have sworn to see even the two moons in there, well outlined. Those eyes looked like the painting of the world.
"Did you confuse me with your mother, before?" the young woman asked, once she had finished laughing.
"Oh... no... not the mother of Cicero... maybe... the cold is making him crazy. Well... more than he already is."
The girl laughed again, shaking her head in denial.
"Well, you must excuse me, Cicero-who-hates-bards. Now I have to go. I wish you to find your mother, or whoever you were looking for out here. Goodbye."
She smiled one last time and, with a heel, spurred on her horse to resume the path.
"Oh... goodbye..." Cicero murmured, thinking only for a moment that, when he would’ve had gone into the Void, he would’ve liked to see her again.