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Skyrim players explain the mystery of a failed Dark Brotherhood assassination

Skyrim
(Image credit: Bethesda)

The Skyrim community has been outlining a mystery surrounding the murderous Dark Brotherhood.

In a recent post on Reddit, user upzylon says they found a skeleton behind a locked door in the basement of the Black-Briar mansion in Riften. Surrounded by candles, anyone familiar with the Dark Brotherhood questline will likely recognise the performance of the Black Sacrament, but a letter accompanying the body makes this a slightly more complex case. 

In Elder Scrolls lore, The Dark Brotherhood is guided by the Night Mother, a mummified corpse capable of speaking telepathically to her Listener. If someone wishes to have someone killed, they perform the Black Sacrament as a prayer in order to communicate their desire to the Night Mother, who informs the Listener, who sends a Brotherhood assassin to perform the hit.

In Skyrim, we learn that the Night Mother has gone without a Listener for several years, but the Dark Brotherhood is still performing assassinations in the region, relying on word of mouth to discover when someone has performed the Sacrament and act accordingly. The most well-known example in the game is that of orphan Aventus Aretino, whose performance of the Sacrament is a commonly-heard rumour throughout Skyrim, and who helps kick off the entire Dark Brotherhood questline.

In this case, however, Maven Black-Briar - one of the most influential characters in her town of Riften - appears to have been somewhat more subtle. Clearly she hasn't told anyone about her Sacrament, which she's performed behind a locked door in her basement, preventing news of her deed from spreading to the Brotherhood. With no Listener, the cabal of assassins has no way of knowing that Maven wants someone killed, prompting the somewhat terse letter written to Dark Brotherhood leader Astrid - although presumably none of the Brotherhood ever learn of that, either.

While the Sacrament itself doesn't appear to be successful, the community thinks that Maven might have eventually gotten her mark anyway. In Maven's home in Riften, players can find a letter from a character named Christophe Bartlett, apologizing to Maven for a mistake he made that apparently cost her quite a lot of money, and telling her he's staying in the Bannered Mare inn in Whiterun. If they head there, players can find a letter from Maven to Christophe, which says that she's sending someone to bring him to Riften that evening. Unfortunately for Christohpe, that someone might have been an assassin rather than a traveling companion - not too far from the inn, under the bridge by Dragonsreach keep is a skeleton that the community believes belongs to Maven's unfortunate business partner.

A game as deep as this one can yield some tricky situations, as one Skyrim player who broke their whole game thanks to a sneak exploit recently discovered. 

Ali Jones

I'm GamesRadar's deputy news editor, working with Ben T across our gaming news articles. I started my journalistic career while getting my degree in English Literature at the University of Warwick, where I also worked as Games Editor on the student newspaper, The Boar. Since then, I've run the news sections at PCGamesN and Kotaku UK, and also regularly contributed to PC Gamer. As you might be able to tell, PC is my platform of choice, so you can regularly find me playing League of Legends or Steam's latest indie hit.