Elder Scrolls Dark Brotherhood Guide: The Hand of Sithis

When I play through an Elder Scrolls title, one of the things I notice first are the numerous NPCs that populate each area I visit; whether I am playing a character in Morrowind or Skyrim, the people that I encounter are often weathered and beaten down by events simply out of their control.

Numerous times throughout the series, you, as the player, either witness or carry out heinous crimes against these powerless individuals, all under the guise of some great plan or even prophecy at times. 

This sometimes leaves Tamriel feeling cold and hopeless as the strong continue to brutalize the week. However, there is an organization out there that listens to the calls of both nobles and peasants alike with the same caring ear—the Dark Brotherhood. 

Like many others in TES, this guild plays a pivotal role in the world at large, often placing the player character right in the center of the action through various quests and intense storytelling. So, with all this in mind, let’s jump right into the good stuff!

The Morag Tong

Before the Dark Brotherhood was the Morag Tong, a group of empire-founded assassins tasked with killing anyone who got in the way of their colonization of Morrowind.

This group was, at some point, infiltrated and corrupted by the Daedric Princess Mephala. This Daedra, also known as Webspinner, Spinner, Spider, Androgyne, and Plot-Weaver, holds power over the spheres of sex, murder, and secrets. Therefore, she quickly infiltrated and corrupted the Morag Tong, pushing them to ritualize their killings in her name. 

Once the empire found out about this, the group was formally disbanded, plunging their agents and religious beliefs into chaos. However, it was only a short time until this directionless group was harnessed by the entrance of the Night Mother, the lover of Sithis, the void itself. 

The Night Mother, as Sithis’ voice on Nirn, took over the organization, having her agents perform assassinations all across Tamriel while spreading the black sacrament, the ritual that, when performed, allowed the Night Mother to hear their murderous intent. 

The organization, still known as the Morag Tong, was brought together by the Night Mother and Sithis, operating under her command up until 2E 324. During this time, the Night Mother seemingly bore five children to her lover, Sithis, subsequently sacrificing each one of them so that they could join their Dread Father in the void.

Living in Bravil at this time, it was not long until the local residents found out about her heinous crime, subsequently deciding that a woman evil enough to murder her five newborn babes was not worth a trial or hearing, instead they murdered her and burned her house to the ground. 

morag tong
How to Get Morag Tong Armor in Skyrim

The Listener

After the Night Mother’s death, the Morag Tong was forced to disband for good, having nobody to guide their practices or point them toward new contracts. However, after 30 years of silence, a seemingly normal man began to hear voices in his head urging him towards murder and service to Sithis.

The Night Mother had chosen this man and made him the first Listener. Before long, the Dark Brotherhood was formed, committing assassinations across Tamriel under the instruction of the Night Mother via the Listener. Since this time, the Brotherhood has always relied on the Listener for direction, appointing them as their leader. 

Their Role in Morrowind

While the Dark brotherhood was not a joinable faction in Morrowind, they did still feature heavily in the game, with the player feeling their presence throughout.

During the Morag Tong questline specifically, the player must prevent the Dark Brotherhood’s expansion into Vvardenfell. However, regardless of the player’s success, the Brotherhood will still slowly seep into the region,  with members of the Brotherhood popping up throughout the game, especially during the Tribunal expansion, wherein the player must fight several members of the guild.

Joining The Dark Brotherhood

As you might imagine, after the Dark Brotherhood first appeared in TES Arena, players began getting frustrated that they couldn’t join this intensely interesting guild, having been limited to only small interactions throughout the game. However, ever since then, the player has always been able to join and become a powerful guild member. 

In most instances, the player must join the Brotherhood by displaying an aptitude, fondness, or indifference to murder. For instance, when playing TES Oblivion, the player must murder someone the game deems innocent and then sleep.

They will be woken by a member of the Black Hand, the group which controls the Dark Brotherhood. This conversation will result in Lucian telling the player that the Brotherhood adored the player’s ability to kill and yet sleep so soundly. 

However, the path to joining the guild is a little bit more complicated in Skyrim. To join, the player cannot simply kill an innocent person and get automatic membership to a fantastic new club.

No, instead, you must find a young boy and intercept his request to the Dark Brotherhood, murdering the cruel orphanage patron, Grelod The KInd.

Her murder at the hands of an uninitiated member of the guild under their banner will anger the guild into action, forcing their leader, Astrid, to kidnap the player, forcing them to murder. This murder will grant the player entry into the guild. 

joining the dark brotherhood
Skyrim: How to Join the Dark Brotherhood

General Quests

One of the best things about the Brotherhood is that their quests, while mostly the same, revolving around the assassination of particular targets, are often littered with little extra challenges or unique mechanics, making them stand out from the pack. 

For instance, one of my favorite quests in the entire game of Oblivion is the Dark Brotherhood contract quest, A Watery Grave. This is the first quest you receive as a full-fledged member of the Cyrodiil Brotherhood and involves the player entering a pirate ship through one of several creative means and murdering the captain. 

The great thing about this quest is that it perfectly summarizes what a Dark Brotherhood contract will entail going forward. The player will learn through this quest that there are always multiple means to an end, allowing you to choose what type of assassin you wish to play as.

It also shows that you can ask your fellow guild members for advice on completing the mission. During these pieces of dialogue, no matter what Elder Scrolls game you are playing, your guild partner will always give you some help or inkling on how to go about your mission. 

Once the Dark Brotherhood’s main quest is completed, the player can often conduct more contract assassinations for the guild to earn some extra cash. In Skyrim, for example, these contracts, solicited from the Night Mother, are endless, allowing you to commit murder across the Isles of Skyrim indefinitely while you wait for TES 6.

a watery grave
A Watery Grave – The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion Wiki Guide

Brotherhood Ranks

As with any guild in TES universe, the player must join at the bottom, working their way up through a series of ranks before finally reaching the zenith. In the Brotherhood, these ranks, from lowest to highest, are:

  • Murderer
  • Slayer
  • Eliminator
  • Assassin
  • Executioner
  • Silencer
  • Speaker
  • Listener

Brotherhood Peculiarities

The Black Sacrament

The black sacrament is a fundamental ritual of the Dark Brotherhood guild. It is the only way a regular Tamriel civilian can contact a member of the Brotherhood and issue a contract for someone’s assassination. 

When the ritual is completed properly, it forms a link between the Night Mother and the person conducting the ceremony, allowing the Night Mother to hear their contract request. The Night Mother then conveys this message to her Listener, who, in turn, ensures that the contract is completed. 

The ritual itself is very complicated, requiring a lot of things to do properly. Firstly, the person conducting the ritual will need to construct an effigy of their intended victim using a skeleton and actual human body parts.

These body parts must include a heart, skull, bones, and flesh. Once this has been gathered and encircled in candles, the rituals invoker must stab the effigy with a dagger coated in Nightshade while speaking the black sacrament incantation. 

“Sweet Mother, sweet Mother, send your child unto me, for the sins of the unworthy must be baptized in blood and fear.”

Of course, there have been times during the Brotherhood’s operation when the Night Mother has not been able to contact her agents. In times like these, like the beginning of Skyrim, Brotherhood agents must rely on local rumors of the black sacrament to track down new targets.

elder scrolls black sacrament
Queer Kitchen Witch — The Black Sacrament

The Five Tenets

While the Brotherhood may be an organization of ritualistic killers who revel in the beauty of the kill, they are still an organization that cares deeply about their reputation throughout Tamriel and the success of the guild at large. 

Therefore, as the guild expanded under the original Listener’s tenure, and branches of the guild began cropping up all over Tamriel, measures had to be taken to ensure that all Brotherhood members adhered to the same set of values, ensuring that the Brotherhood remained honorable and loyal to the Night Mother and Sithis.

These five tenets are as follows:

  1. Never dishonor the Night Mother. To do so is to invoke the Wrath of Sithis.
  2. Never betray the Dark Brotherhood or its secrets. To do so is to invoke the Wrath of Sithis.
  3. Never disobey or refuse to carry out an order from a Dark Brotherhood superior. To do so is to invoke the Wrath of Sithis.
  4. Never steal the possessions of a Dark Brother or Dark Sister. To do so is to invoke the Wrath of Sithis.
  5. Never kill a Dark Brother or Dark Sister. To do so is to invoke the Wrath of Sithis.

These tenets were followed religiously throughout the history of the Dark Brotherhood, with members and player characters alike being banished from the guild should they infract on even one of the tenets. 

However, by the time the Dragonborn comes along and discovers the Skyrim branch of the Brotherhood, you will discover that their leader, Astrid, has turned away from these tenets, stating that the order’s religious loyalty to these five tenets was the main reason for the guild’s collapse.

Of course, through Skyrim’s Brotherhood quest, we learn that Astrid is no true leader of the Brotherhood as she willingly sacrificed the player, a Dark Brother or Sister. 

Regardless of Astrid’s later actions, one can easily see that these five tenets would not have been responsible for the guild’s collapse; after all, they simply state that you must be a loyal guild member.

five tenets
Five Tenets by Deerwolf

The Black Doors

Another key feature that one would have to inform the builders about when constructing a new Brotherhood sanctuary is the Black Door. These doors serve as the entrances to sanctuaries across Tamriel and the first line of defense against potential intruders. 

All these doors are enchanted, allowing them to speak to the player when they try to gain access. Each sanctuary door will say something different, asking the player a question that requires a specific answer that one could only know if told by another Brotherhood member.

Therefore, in each TES game, should the player approaches one of these doors without first acquiring the passcode, the correct dialogue option will not appear for the player, forcing the door to remain shut.

The Black Door in Oblivion’s Cheydinhal sanctuary will ask the player, “What is the color of Night?” when you first walk up to it. The correct answer is: “Sanguine, my brother.” In Skyrim, however, the Black Door in Dalkreath will ask the player, “What is the music of life?” The correct answer to this question is: “Silence, my brother.”

The enchantment that operates these Black Doors is unknown and completely unique to Brotherhood entranceways. If you stand by one of these doors, you will also hear a faint but heavy breathing sound, along with a heartbeat, as if the door itself is alive and trapped in place. 

sanctuary door
A screen shot of the Dark brotherhood sanctuary door

Important Brotherhood Sanctuaries


Oblivion is the first time that a player can actually become a member of the Dark Brotherhood. Therefore, the Cheydinhal sanctuary is the first Brotherhood location we can truly call home.

Located in the city of Cheydinhal, just east of the Great Chapel, you will find this sanctuary in the basement of an abandoned building. Inside, the sanctuary has everything a ritualistic murderer could ever need, including a training room and living quarters.

Throughout your membership, the player must enter and exit the sanctuary via the Black Door. However, once the rank of Eliminator is reached, you will be given a key to the nearby well, which acts as a quick entryway.

dark brotherhood sanctuary ambiance
Oblivion – Dark Brotherhood Sanctuary Ambiance (skeleton, white noise, torches)


This sanctuary, found in Skyrim, is completely unlike the one found in Cheydinhal; instead of an underground vault, we are greeted by a hollowed-out cave, completely devoid of lush creature comforts. Located just outside Falkreath, southeast of the Roadside Ruins.

Inside, you will find everything you could need, including training and living quarters, a full alchemy lab, an anvil, grindstone, and other crafting machinery.


While this is not a common part of Brotherhood quest lines, the Dragonborn, as part of the main Brotherhood Skyrim quest, will receive 20’000 gold for assassinating the emperor, Titus Mede.

This massive monetary reward will come just in time for the player, as you and the surviving members of the Falkreath sanctuary have to move down to Dawnstar after the fire. 

This money allows the player to incrementally upgrade the Dawnstar sanctuary, creating the perfect home for the Skyrim branch of the Dark Brotherhood. If you choose to upgrade the sanctuary fully, you will need to spend 19’000 gold. These upgrades include:

  • The master bedroom.
  • Torture chamber, complete with victims that you can torture for locations of hidden treasure.
  • Secret entrance.
  • Alchemy lab, including a poison garden.

Unique Items

One of the best things about the Dark Brotherhood is the rewards you will get for completing their quests. A lot of these items are unique. Let’s take a look at some of the best items the player can get their hands on through the Brotherhood in TES franchise.

Cruelty’s Heart – The Assassinated Man Quest: When the player completes The Assassinated Man quest without killing the paid hitman, Hides-His-Heart, the player will be given Cruelty’s Heart as a reward. This item will give the player a base stats improvement of plus three strength and willpower points when you are wearing the necklace. 

Night Mother’s Blessing – Whodunit? Quest: This is easily one of my favorite quests in Oblivion. It features the player going into a house with many strangers and systematically murdering them one by one. If the player manages to kill everyone without anyone seeing, they will be rewarded with the Night Mother’s Blessing magic effect. This effect will grant the player a permanent two-point bonus to five core skills.

Blade of Woe – Oblivion, Skyrim, and ESO: The Blade of Woe is one of the key weapons that the player will receive by playing through the Dark Brotherhood quest line in these games. This dagger is as much a symbol of the Brotherhood as the shrouded armor that members wear. 

Lucien Lachance first gave the dagger to a player character during TES Oblivion. This unique ebony dagger was then taken from the player and enchanted by the Night Mother. In the fourth era, the dagger is found in the hands of Astrid, who gives the player the dagger as a quest reward. 

While this blade appears in multiple games, its appearance changes dramatically between Oblivion and Skyrim. The enchantment also changes between the two games, with the Oblivion version of the dagger attacking an enemy’s health, Magicka, and willpower while also demoralizing them.

However, the Skyrim version only absorbs 10 points of health from an enemy atop a base damage rating of 12. 

blade of woe
Blade of Woe Revision at Skyrim Special Edition Nexus

Ancient Shrouded Armor

In both Oblivion and Skyrim, the player is gifted a set of Shrouded robes or armor that hold base enchantments to help with your assassination contracts. However, it is not until you progress through the Brotherhood’s Skyrim questline that you truly get some great Brotherhood armor. 

To gain this armor, the player must complete the optional side quest, Locate the Assassin of Old. This quest is given to the player by Olava the Feeble, and you will need to head to Hag’s End to acquire the set from the dead assassin located there. 

Each piece of this ancient armor will give the player a unique enchantment that is vastly superior to the standard Brotherhood armor’s enchantment. The boots, for example, will muffle the player’s movements, allowing you to move silently. The cowl grants a 35% bonus to damage done by bows. 

The entire set gives the player a base armor rating of 72 while only weighing 7.5 in total. This entire set is worth 2346 gold when all added together.  


While it pains me to include Shadowmere in this section, the dark horse does not fit anywhere else. 

Firstly, Shadowmere, if you didn’t know, is a female horse that first appeared in TES franchise in Oblivion. The horse is gifted to the player in both Skyrim and Oblivion as a reward for continued service to the guild. Shadowmere is given to the player by Lucien Lachance after the hero completes the purification of the Cheydinhal sanctuary. 

Shadowmere is quicker and stronger than every normal horse in Skyrim and Oblivion while also exuding a dark purple glow alongside bright red eyes. In Oblivion, Shadowmere is virtually unkillable; however, this was changed in Skyrim, making the horse much more killable for some reason.

If the player summons Lucien Lachance as the Spectral Assassin in Shadowmere’s presence, Lachance will great Shadowmere, calling her an “Old friend.”

Shadowmere – The Elder Scrolls V

Important Members Throughout the Ages

Lucien Lachance

When the Hero of Kvatch eventually commits their first cold-blooded murder and sleeps through the night like a babe, Lucien Lachance, the Speaker of the Black Hand, the organization which controls the Brotherhood, will visit the player as they slumber. He will subsequently invite the player into his dark family and give the hero their first contract. 

Throughout the entire game, Lucien spends most of his time in Fort Farragut; however, as the player progresses through the Brotherhood quest line, Lucien learns that a renegade member of the Brotherhood, his very own Silencer, has begun systematically killing members of the Black Hand.

Chasing this member down, he soon realizes that both he and the Silencer had been tricked into serving the real traitor, whose identity was still unknown. 

Eventually, Lachance is tracked down by the other members of the Black Hand. His fellow members have come to the conclusion that he is the real traitor and, therefore, put him to death in a brutal manner. 

Throughout his life and death, Lachance was a loyal servant of the Night Mother and Sithis. Therefore, he is remembered fondly within the guild and is commonly accepted to be the epitome of guild loyalty and service. To this end, Lachance can appear in Skyrim as the Spectral Assassin, a spell that calls forth a servant of Sithis to help the player in times of need.

lucien lachance dark brotherhood oblivion
The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion – The Story of Lucien Lachance

Vicente Valtieri

For me, Vicente was my first experience of vampirism in TES. In fact, I didn’t actually know about the existence of the curse in Tamriel until I saw his red eyes. Vicente was turned into a vampire 300 years before he met the Hero of Kvatch, having lived in hiding for 100 of those years until the Night Mother recruited him.

After this, he served the guild honorably, never allowing his vampiric needs to corrupt his commitment to the five tenets. Of course, the hero eventually ended his long life during the cleansing of the Cheydinhal sanctuary.


The leader of Skyrim’s arm of the Brotherhood is a complicated figure. You first meet her after you complete a murder contract originally intended for the Brotherhood. As punishment for pretending to be one of her members, she kidnaps the player and forces them to murder one of the three hostages. 

Throughout the game, Astrid appears to strain against the rules of the Brotherhood, clearly disliking the Night Mother’s entrance into the guild during the quest line. I think she did not want her authority over the guild questioned or superseded. 

In the end, Astrid attempts to betray the Dragonborn and Listener of the Brotherhood by snitching to Imperial guards about the player’s mission to assassinate the emperor. This plan ends horribly as she is double-crossed and murdered by these same imperial agents. 

Skyrim: 10 Things That Make No Sense About Astrid


One of the more interesting members of the Brotherhood throughout the franchise has to be Cicero, the crazy assassin who walks around in jester’s clothing. 

His official role in Skyrim is the Night Mother’s keeper, a very esteemed position within the guild. However, before he assumed his new role, he took on one last contract – to kill a court jester.

Throughout this contract, it seems that Cicero lost a piece of his mind, becoming obsessed with the jester, and adopting his mannerisms and flamboyant dress sense. 

When he arrives in the Falkreath sanctuary, the player can tell he wants nothing more than to be the next Listener as he routinely speaks to the Night Mother in private, hoping she will speak to him. 

This obsession with serving the Night Mother came to a head during the quest, The Cure for Madness. Apparently, after hearing Astrid challenge the Night Mother’s authority over the guild, Cicero flew into a rage, wounding several members of the guild before fleeing to the Dawnstar sanctuary.

The player is then given the choice of killing or sparing the jester.

cicero skyrim
Cicero – The Elder Scrolls V

Downsides of The Darkbrotherhood

While there are not many obvious downsides to joining the Dark Brotherhood, there are a couple that you should be aware of. 

Firstly, at no point in any Elder Scrolls game will a membership with the Brotherhood prevent the player from doing any other quest; the developers want the player to play through the massive amount of content they commit to the Brotherhood.

However, after you join, NPCs around the region of Tamriel you are currently living in will start mentioning your membership to the guild, calling you many undesirable things. 

This, combined with the rather evil nature of the guild, might clash with players looking to RP as a certain kind of character. After all, if you are playing as a chivalric knight, being a ritualistic cutthroat might not fit. 

Lastly, since the contracts the Brotherhood gives the player must end in the death of an NPC, you run the risk of killing a merchant or bard that you may have grown particularly fond of throughout your travels. 

Radiant Quests

After the player completes the Brotherhood’s main quest line, becoming the Listener and, therefore, the leader of the guild, you will gain access to the radiant quests. These quests repeat throughout the rest of your playthrough, allowing you to continually feel a part of the Brotherhood long after the main quest is completed.

In Skyrim, this quest is called The Dark Brotherhood Forever. The main aspects of the quests always remain the same:

  1. Approach the Night Mother and receive the name of a target.
  2. Kill this target.
  3. Report back to the Night Mother and receive your reward.

This quest target is always randomly generated upon approaching the Night Mother. However, there is a set list of contract target types that are randomly selected from.

In Oblivion, the quest Whispers of Death can be activated after Brotherhood completion. This quest is a lot more boring than its Skyrim equivalent as it involves reporting to the Lucky Old Lady statue in Bravil, receiving a target name, who always resides outside of Cyrodill, and then bringing this target’s name to Arquen in the Cheydinhall Sanctuary for a 200 gold reward.

Elder Scrolls Dark Brotherhood: FAQs

Question: How do I Join the Dark Brotherhood?

Answer: If you are playing Oblivion, simply kill an innocent person and proceed to sleep in a bed. The player will then be visited by Lucien Lachance, who will offer the player a contract to join the Brotherhood. If you are playing Skyrim, joining is a little more complicated. You will have to travel to Windhelm and find the home of Aventus Aretino.
From him, you will receive the quest to kill Grelod the Kind. Once this assassination is completed, you will be kidnapped and invited into the Dark Brotherhood.

Question: What is the Dark Brotherhood?

Answer: The Dark Brotherhood is a dark organization of elite contract killers who serve the Night Mother and Sithis. The Brotherhood can be contacted through the black sacrament ritual.

Question: Who Betrays the Dark Brotherhood?

Answer: During TES 4: Oblivion, you will find out that one of the speakers, Mathieu Bellamont, has betrayed the Brotherhood, almost bringing about the guild’s end. In Skyrim, you could argue that Astrid betrays the Brotherhood by constantly breaking the five tenets. 
So, there you have it, a complete guide and overview of one of the major factions that persists throughout the Elder Scrolls franchise.
For me, the Dark Brotherhood is probably the coolest side faction that the player can join because they completely challenge the morality system that RPGs such as Skyrim or Oblivion constantly enforce, allowing the player to RP as something much more sinister. This gives the game a much-needed tone change at times, lifting the game’s overall experience.
I really hope that you enjoyed this guide and found it informative and useful. To that end, I wish you luck with your next contract and hope to see you again soon. 

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