He dreads sleeping after a battle, for fear of Her.
He dreads sleep in general, truth be told, dreads half-waking to her cold touch and the cool whispers that creep through him, her chill buried within his bones, but it’s aways especially bad after battles, when death clings to him like a beacon.
He tries to fight it, every time. He heals as many as he can, he scowls and stomps and swears and does everything in his power to be a spark of life and light among the darkness, a healer to fight against disease and wasting and loss, but there’s only so much he can do, and she knows him inside and out.
Most nights, most nights are okay. But after battles, she always comes.
“Lover,” she calls him. “Husband.”
“I’m only one of those,” he says, stiff and frozen and sick, skin crawling, and the flat note of derision in his voice cannot mask the rabbit-fast beat of his heart or the sweat on his palms. “And not by choice.”
“Why do you fight me, love?” she laments. He never sees her, only feels the soft brush of her fingers against his skin, only hears the melody of her voice; and it sounds enticing, sounds kind, sounds hurt, but he knows better. He has seen the bodies of his family and the empty shell of his village; the sight is seared against his eyelids. He feels the ache and sting of the hundred cuts across his arm every time he calls upon the glacial creep of magic that wells deep within him.
He knows her just as she knows him, intimate and raw and open, and he knows he cannot ever trust her, not her sweet words nor her soft touch.
“Leave me in peace, wife,” he snaps, word heavy with hate, and her fingers dig into him, a parody of a loving embrace, life and death entwined in the dark, cold and bitter and sharp.
“As you wish,” she murmurs against his lips, her mouth soft and coaxing, and Kashaw swallows back his revulsion and pushes her away, struggling blindly towards waking while she laughs, the snapping of brittle branches and cracking of ancient ice.
He wakes to sweat-soaked sheets and his own harsh breathing, and knows he will not sleep the rest of the night.
Cagamosis (an unhappy marriage) - this was just too perfect for a Dark Brotherhood story!
Sometimes she wondered when love turned to hate. It happened so slowly, it was almost impossible to pin-point the exact moment when it turned. But the dark, twisting mass of anger and hurt was too much to bear, and she wanted out. She could hear the whispers of the townspeople as she walked through Riften’s busy streets. Her keen, elven ears didn’t miss their whispers of “Poor Nivenor, she must be so embarrassed.”
They were right. She was embarrassed.
For a while, frivolously spending Bolli’s hard earned money was revenge enough. It’s not as if she could stop him from visiting Haelga. It’s not as if she could force him to keep it in his pants. She tried, though. She confronted him about his indiscretions more times than she cared to count, and all he had were half-assed excuses. Eventually, his excuses became accusations. It was her fault, after all. She’s a bad wife. She couldn’t please him the way Halega did.
What an ass.
At least she had the decency to keep her affairs private. No one but her husband knew about the young dock worker she entertained herself with. He was everything Bolli was not. All sun tanned skin and hard earned muscle, and completely enamoured with her. But it wasn’t enough to keep Bolli home. It wasn’t enough to inspire him to claim his wife once more. He simply accepted it as the way things were, and then went crawling back to Haelga.
Nivenor thought about leaving him, but that would be giving him exactly what he wanted, and leaving him meant leaving his money. She wasn’t about to make herself destitute because of him. Nivenor couldn’t live with him, or the shame he brought upon her. But she couldn’t live without his money, either. There was only one way to be rid of him, while keeping a firm hold on his money. She needed to arrange an accident. But, how? She would be caught if she did it on her own, and Nivenor needed to be the very picture of an innocent, grieving widow.
She struggled with the idea for weeks. How do you ask someone to kill for you? And where would she even find such a person? She didn’t have any friends to speak of, and she certainly didn’t have any acquaintances who would do something like that.
The answer to her question came to her when she least expected it; she was glancing through some books for sale at one of the open stalls when she came across it. There, at the bottom of a crate of discount books was an old tome. It was frayed and worn, but the nearly illegible letters of the front title piqued her curiosity. She picked it up and ran her fingers across the embossed text. The gold leaf had worn off years ago, but the leather still held the indentation of the words – A Kiss, Sweet Mother.
Stealing the book was easy, and gathering the materials for the Black Sacrament was even easier. And on a dark night when the moons were new and Bolli was wrapped between another woman’s thighs, Nivenor arranged the deadly offering in the basement of an abandoned house. Human bones, a human heart, candles and nightshade. All innocuous on their own, but together they would carry her prayer to the Night Mother.
Her hands shook violently when she rubbed nightshade petals across the blade of a dagger. Part of her wanted to flee, but she couldn’t return to her unhappy home and her unhappy life. She could no longer bear the shame of an unfaithful husband, nor could she bear the looks the townspeople gave her. She was tired of being pitied. She was tired of being mocked. She was tired of Bolli.
With her mind made up, she held the anointed dagger aloft and whispered her prayer. “Sweet Mother, sweet Mother, send your child unto me–” her voice wavered. She could feel something dark coiling around her heart as the words left her in a rush. But it was too late to stop. She would finish this, even if the dark deed would cost her more than gold in the end. Nivenor stabbed the effigy of her husband, the tip of the dagger splintering the rotten, wood floor. “– for the sins of the unworthy must be baptized in blood and fear.”