|“||Sweet Mother, sweet Mother, send your child unto me, for the sins of the unworthy must be baptized in blood and fear.||„|
|~ A prayer of the Night Mother.|
The Night Mother is a central mythological/historical figure in the Elder Scrolls video game series as the founder and head of the Dark Brotherhood.
There are a few different claims about the Night Mother, the most well known is the fable of how she gave immaculate birth to five children curtsey of the Dread Father Sithis and shortly after the birth she killed them all one by one as tribute to Sithis which granted her the ability to communicate with Sithis directly, this was the start of the Dark Brotherhood. The Night Mother founded the Dark Brotherhood as a league of elite assassins run like a cult rather than a mercenary troop. The Dark Brotherhood praise the Night Mother as it's messiah and Sithis as it's God who transcends all other supposed divinities and daedra as the one true supreme entity. The dogmatic style combined with the high quality training made the members of the Dark Brotherhood assassins without equals as contracts were not just completed out of greed or duty but because the assassins themselves believed it was their purpose in life to send souls to the void of Sithis and that contracts were agreements with the Night Mother appointing specific souls.
According to the Dark Brotherhood Sithis is the embodiment of primordial nothingness. The Brotherhood lives under the assumption that Sithis is constantly hungry for souls and watches each of them waiting for tribute. There is however some disagreement on the validity of this amongst academics. While many scholars keep the hushed whispers of the infamous brotherhood's beliefs alive, as lore, one book, The Night Mother's Truth by Gaston Bellfort, instead offers records that place the Night Mother as a follower of Mephala, the daedric prince of murder and secrets. According to Bellfort the woman now called the Night Mother saw the effectiveness of her fellow murderers and psychopaths structured by their faith as some of the best killers in the world and came up with the idea to start her own murder cult with her as the idol. According to the book the Night Mother, being a religious supplicant of Mephala for a long time, knew better than to subvert a daedric prince directly and instead set up Sithis as patron god instead of herself or Mephala, which ensured she would hold complete power over her followers without offending the daedric prince by declaring herself a god. With the fabricated figure of Sithis as a proxy the Night Mother simply claimed herself as the sole person able to interpret the will of Sithis as his messiah. The powers of Sithis have been witnessed at various times through-out the games, however if Bellfort's account is true this means that such acts are simply the Night Mother's magics dressed up to seem as divine retribution, in essence making the Night Mother a con-woman keeping her con alive from beyond the grave. Regardless of the validity of Sithis, the Night Mother herself is very real, as her ghost not only exists but constantly watches over the Dark Brotherhood.
Despite being an organization of psychopaths the Dark Brotherhood has a sophisticated hierarchy. The Night Mother speaks to only one member of the Dark Brotherhood, this person is titled "Listener". The Listener has four other trusted colleagues called "Speakers" to assign the contracts and so the Listener is not easily targeted or even identified. The Listener and each Speaker have a personal bodyguard called "Silencer"; all of the individuals are titled as the "Black Hand" and referred to metaphorically as "Four Fingers and a Thumb, each with a nail.". There are Dark Brotherhood headquarters all over Tamriel in various secret locations, these headquarters are referred to as "Sanctuaries" and sealed by Sithis' blessing- or perhaps just the Night Mother's enchantments. Each sanctuary has a leader who is beholden to the Black Hand but maintains free autonomy over his or her sanctuary to run as they wish as long as the contracts assigned get completed. Naturally each sanctuary employs numerous assassins as local enforcers of the Dark Brotherhood. Most members of the Brotherhood only interacts with their sanctuary leader to receive orders, rarely if ever is a Speaker seen on sanctuary grounds by anyone but the sanctuary leader.
The basic function of the Dark Brotherhood, like any other assassination guild, is to murder people for their clients. The client in question must preform a ceremony called the Black Sacrament, the sacrament requires a dagger, nightshade, bones and blood followed by a short prayer, though the prayer may need to be repeated, presumably the more it is repeated the more the contract is indicated to be important. The Black Sacrament is heard by the Night Mother, who tells her Listener, who tells one of the Speakers, who receives the contract. Once the Speaker meets the client and negotiates payment he or she leaves to assign the kill to the closest sanctuary, the leader of the sanctuary assigns the contract to whoever he or she feels is the best suited to the specific contract. The gold payed is split among the Listener, involved Speaker, and sanctuary leader but with the specific assassin sent keeping the bulk of the reward.
The game Elder Scrolls II: Daggeerfall has shown that the term "Night Mother" was a title for chapter-heads of the Dark Brotherhood matriarchs, however this practice seems to have been discontinued since then. Why the Night Mother title stopped being used/passed on is unknown but it may have been considered blasphemous over time if at some point one of the "Night Mothers" did not do the original proud. Whatever the case there has never been any ambiguity among the Dark Brotherhood as to who the true Night Mother was or the infamy she wielded.