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 did not 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 flooded the plains, reflecting on the snow, and also 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 was not 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 would also endure staying with cats in order not to get colder!"
He realized only in that moment he had spoken out loud.
"Well..." he began, to justify himself, "well, this is not the best night, anyway. It is 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 could not afford to make mistakes, or else the Dark Brotherhood could’ve stopped to give him contracts. The Night Mother would’ve no longer trust 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 was reminded of the joke of the horker, and that was enough to make him laugh, cheering him up.
He had to wait only a few minutes, 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 did not 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 only 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 himself only in his mind. He laughed at the naivety of people, but restrained himself. Only a few minutes, the usual road... were always those little securities to cheat 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 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 scheduls 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 led the girl to her horse, a sturdy, dark stallion. It was similar to Shadowmere, except for the eyes, far less demonic and more common. The farmer was leading her like a child, actually. Cicero wondered why. Instinct of protection? Maybe he just wanted to be helpful to lie with her.
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 away 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. It could not be true.
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 spoke?" the young woman asked, in a tone halfway between the alarmed and the menacing. She clearly wanted to look braver than she was. Actually, her breath trembled.
"Oh... no one..." Cicero tried to compose himself, understanding that she was just a blind woman.
The girl's thin, clear lips widened, undecided, in a broken smile.
"No one? It seems to me that there is 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, let's be more detailed. A man. An Imperial, judging from the name. I hear bells... are you a bard? A jester? And I smell alchemy, oils. An Imperial bard dealing with magic, who probably enchants his instruments. Was I close?"
Cicero remained with a frozen smile, without knowing what to say. He was in part amazed by the intuition of the blind girl, and in part he was wondering why the hell did she stopped 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 have appreciated. In any case, the killer could not think 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 hates bards. All day long strumming, singing out of tune, and when asked to give a speech, they cannot even say their names. They learn everything by heart, they have nothing original. Don’t you agree?"
"Aye, it's true, they're almost all idiots. But I like to hear the ballads."
"Cicero instead likes to break 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-the-bards. Now I have to go. I wish you to find your mother, or anyone you were looking for out here. Goodbye."
She smiled one last time and, with a heel, spurred on her horse to resume his 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.