The Dark Brotherhood is an organization of highly trained assassins who carry out assassination contracts. The Dark Brotherhood is called upon by those who wish to utilize their deadly services through a ritual called "The Black Sacrament," although to join the organization, one must be contacted directly. They were once the most feared organization in all of Tamriel, but have lost their reputation over time due to the destruction of multiple sanctuaries across Tamriel. At one point, they were governed by The Five Tenets, which set the ground rules for the Brotherhood, but those tenets have long since been abandoned.
The Dark Brotherhood has been operating in Tamriel for many Eras, at one time having many clandestine sanctuaries across the Empire. They revere Sithis, the avatar of entropy and chaos, as well as the Night Mother, who is their spiritual leader.
The Dark Brotherhood has been struggling for survival ever since the end of the Third Era. Due to the events of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, the Dark Brotherhood in Cyrodiil was crippled. They managed to survive until the Great War, when, one after another, each Brotherhood Sanctuary was destroyed. By the end of the war, the Brotherhood was near total destruction once again. Cicero, one of two remaining Dark Brotherhood assassins outside of Skyrim (the other believed to be a deserter), took the Night Mother's corpse from Bravil to the last remaining Dark Brotherhood Sanctuary. In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, the Dark Brotherhood has no listener to hear the Night Mother and thus hears about The Black Sacrament through rumors. This type of life for the Brotherhood continues until the Dragonborn joins them.
Dark Brotherhood Requirements
Any man or woman may join the Dark Brotherhood. Initiates must display the ability to kill mercilessly, without regret or sorrow. As a result, their ranks include vampires, werewolves, bandits, and mages.
A high Sneak skill is recommended before joining the Dark Brotherhood. Jobs done for them often require stealth, to kill an enemy without being detected. A very useful perk for this is Assassin's Blade. To get this, the Dragonborn must have level 50 Sneak (along with the other perks leading up to it). It will allow successful sneak attacks with daggers to do 15 times normal damage.
Using stealth, however, is not the only way to assassinate a target without being noticed or given a bounty. One can use both Destruction and Illusion magic to take down targets. To do this, one has to have the Quiet Casting perk, and at least a Fire Bolt/Lightning Bolt/Ice Spike spell in the Destruction school. With these requirements, while in stealth mode, one can fire a spell at a target to kill them, without receiving a bounty. An alternative way for mages to use magic to kill a target, is, while in stealth mode, cast a Fury spell at one's target in a public place; this way, characters in-game will kill the target and thus no bounty will be received. Also, if the Dragonborn is a werewolf, they can transform, putting themselves into an unidentifiable state; this way, they can kill their target without getting a bounty, but they must transform without being noticed.
Attracting the Dark Brotherhood's attention
The children in the Honorhall Orphanage in Riften will also speak about Aventus' attempts to summon the Dark Brotherhood, which will give the Dragonborn a miscellaneous objective as well. Upon speaking to the children there, they will tell the Dragonborn that Aventus Aretino escaped and has plans to kill their headmistress, Grelod the Kind, by summoning the Dark Brotherhood.
Alternatively, if in Riften, the Dragonborn can speak to a man named Maul. He can usually be found standing against a post off to the left at the entrance of the city. If Maven Black-Briar is Jarl, he will be in Mistveil Keep as her housecarl. After sharing some tough words, he can give information on the Dark Brotherhood - for a price, of course. With a successful intimidation or persuasion, or upon being shown an unusual gem, Maul's information is free.
Speaking with Aventus Aretino in his parent's home in Windhelm initiates the quest "Innocence Lost" and starts the Dark Brotherhood questline. After accepting Aretino's proposal, the Dragonborn is directed to visit Honorhall Orphanage. After killing Grelod, the children will cheer and celebrate her death. No bounty is issued for her death.
Joining or destroying the Brotherhood
Twenty-four hours after Innocence Lost has been completed, a courier will appear to the Dragonborn in any city, with a note saying, "We know." A black hand-print is above the words. After receiving the note, sleeping in any bed for any amount of time will begin the next phase of the quest (the acquisition of this note is optional). While sleeping, the Dragonborn is abducted by a Dark Brotherhood assassin and wakes up in an Abandoned Shack. This is where the decision to join or destroy the Dark Brotherhood must be made.
There, the Dragonborn is asked by Astrid, the Dark Brotherhood assassin, to kill one of three people in the room, initiating the quest "With Friends Like These...." Killing one, two, or even all of the potential victims will earn the Dragonborn an invitation to join the Dark Brotherhood. The Dragonborn may also take the opportunity to destroy the organization by attacking Astrid. This will initiate the quest "Destroy the Dark Brotherhood!." Note that this is the only chance to destroy the Dark Brotherhood, because after joining, the Brotherhood members are otherwise unable to be killed, without the use of console commands.
Dark Brotherhood quests
- Delayed Burial
- Innocence Lost
- With Friends Like These...
- Mourning Never Comes
- Whispers in the Dark
- The Silence Has Been Broken
- Bound Until Death
- Breaching Security
- The Cure for Madness
- Recipe for Disaster
- To Kill an Empire
- Death Incarnate
- Hail Sithis!
- Where You Hang Your Enemy's Head
- The Dark Brotherhood Forever
- Honor Thy Family
When completing quests in the Dark Brotherhood, the Dragonborn can obtain three armor sets, and three clothing sets.
- Ancient Shrouded Armor – obtained from the Assassin of Old at Hag's End, during the side quest "Locate the Assassin of Old."
- Shrouded Armor – obtained from Astrid at the beginning of "With Friends Like These..."
- Worn Shrouded Armor – found in the Dawnstar Sanctuary after purchasing various upgrades during "Where You Hang Your Enemy's Head." This variation of Shrouded Armor possesses no enchantments of its own.
- Cicero's Outfit – obtained if Cicero is killed during "The Cure for Madness." As of a recent patch update, Cicero's Outfit now appears on a table in the Dawnstar sanctuary if he is spared.
- Jester's Outfit – found on the table in the Dawnstar Sanctuary during "The Cure for Madness." This variation is weaker statistically than Cicero's Outfit.
- Shrouded Outfit – found in the Falkreath Sanctuary, located on the shelves in the first room upon entrance. It can also be obtained from the corpse of Gabriella during "Death Incarnate" or Destroy the Dark Brotherhood!.
After Astrid betrays the brotherhood to Commander Maro and the Penitus Oculatus during the first assassination attempt against Emperor Titus Mede II, the Penitus Oculatus ravage the Falkreath Sanctuary, killing all but Nazir and Babette. During the attack, the Night Mother hides her Listener within her coffin, to protect them from the invaders and the fires they ignited in the sanctuary. The Listener awakens in the Sanctuary, safe and sound. The Listener then is told by the Night Mother that Astrid is still alive in the temple and must be located. She is burnt badly. She admits to betraying the Brotherhood and hands the Listener the Blade of Woe with which to kill her.
Refurnishing the sanctuary
Nazir sends the Listener to Delvin Mallory in The Ragged Flagon for assistance with refurbishing the sanctuary. The total upgrade of the sanctuary costs 19,000 . The 20,000 reward given by Amaund Motierre for killing the Emperor can cover this entire expense.
Afterwards, the Listener may report back to Nazir, who effectively serves as a Speaker for additional contracts that do not have significance to the faction's storyline. The Night Mother can be approached an unlimited number of times for more radiant quests, rewarding 500–1200 per assassination. If Cicero was spared earlier in the questline, he returns to the sanctuary and becomes available as a follower.
After every possible upgrade has been purchased for the Sanctuary, Dark Brotherhood Initiates will be in the Sanctuary. They are available as followers.
- Arnbjorn – A Nord member of the brotherhood. Husband of Astrid, and also a werewolf.
- Astrid – The leader of the brotherhood.
- Babette – A vampire with a child's body.
- Cicero – An Imperial jester, Keeper of the Night Mother's coffin.
- Festus Krex – An elder member of the brotherhood.
- Gabriella – A Dunmer assassin and a member of the brotherhood.
- Lis – Gabriella's pet spider.
- Nazir – A Redguard member of the brotherhood that administers contracts to the Dragonborn throughout the questline.
- Veezara – An Argonian member of the brotherhood.
- Dark Brotherhood Initiate – Skilled assassins that show up in the Dawnstar Sanctuary after the Dragonborn successfully murders Titus Mede II and speaks to Delvin Mallory about repairs.
- Dark Brotherhood Assassin – Assassins may appear as random encounters when traveling in the wilds.
- Normally the Dark Brotherhood will not attack the Dragonborn if attacked first. However, if the Dragonborn reverse pickpockets a fellow member, all members will attack.
- If the Dragonborn joins the Dark Brotherhood, passing guards may sometimes say: "Psst... I know who you are. Hail Sithis!" or "It's not true what they say about you and... and the Dark Brotherhood, is it?"
- The Dragonborn can kill Grelod before speaking with Arentino. The Dark Brotherhood will not visit the Dragonborn until Arentino has been informed and the reward collected, though.
- Astrid's last words if she is killed in the Abandoned Shack are "Well done..."
- It is not possible to sacrifice an Initiate as the victim in Boethiah's Calling, nor can they be used to charge the Ebony Blade.
- A werewolf can still sleep in a bed and become a member.
- With Dragonborn, members of the Morag Tong, who are bitter enemies of the Dark Brotherhood, will make random assassination attempts on the Dragonborn if a member of the Brotherhood.
- If a contract target is killed prior to receiving the contract (when possible), the respective quest will be completed automatically upon receiving it, with the option to turn it in immediately available. However, Nazir does not offer any special dialogue.
- The Dark Brotherhood will send out Assassins after the Last Dragonborn in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim prior to the Dragonborn joining them. They always carry the Dark Brotherhood Assassin's Note.
- The Dark Brotherhood Initiates, unlike some other followers, are essential. They can also not be married.
Achievements and trophies
| With Friends Like These…|
Join the Dark Brotherhood
| Bound Until Death|
Complete "Bound Until Death"
| Hail Sithis!|
Complete "Hail Sithis!"