The Black Hand is the ruling council of the Dark Brotherhood. It is made up of one Listener (the leader), and four Speakers, each responsible for a separate group of Brotherhood members in a Dark Brotherhood Sanctuary. Each Speaker has an assistant known as a Silencer, a personal assassin who handles that Speaker's most dangerous contracts. The Hand operates in secrecy, and the Silencers will likely only know the identity of their particular Speaker. Lucien Lachance describes the Hand as having "Four fingers and a thumb, if you will". The Silencers are described as "nails" or "talons".
The Listener of the Black Hand visits the statue of the Lucky Old Lady in Bravil at regular intervals. This statue is the hidden entrance to the crypt of the Night Mother. Here, the Listener receives a list of those people who have prayed to the Night Mother for murder, and passes these contracts on to the Speakers, who visit the worshipper concerned, arrange the details of the contracts, and pass the orders on to their respective Sanctuaries. For a particularly dangerous contract or mission, a Speaker might deploy his Silencer.
If the Black Hand suffers a crisis and is left leaderless, it will appeal to the Night Mother. She will offer her guidance and appoint a new Listener.
The membership of the Black Hand changes significantly during the course of the Dark Brotherhood questline. This section lists all people who are identified as Black Hand members at any point during the game; details are provided in the history section. These identifications are all based solely upon game lore; as mentioned in the notes the game does not actually define a Black Hand faction.
History of the Black Hand
At the time of Oblivion, the Black Hand appears to operate well with Ungolim as its Listener, living in Bravil, and its various Speakers and Silencers strategically scattered across Cyrodiil. However, as the player may learn if they join the Brotherhood, all is not as well as the "family" would like to admit. Brotherhood members have been found murdered, and some suspect an "assassin amongst assassins". This rot is gradually traced to the Cheydinhal Sanctuary, under Speaker Lucien Lachance. The culprit is a highly ambitious family member by the name of Mathieu Bellamont, who before the game begins is promoted to the rank of Silencer under Speaker Blanchard (whom he later kills), and thus leaves the Sanctuary.
Ignorant of this, the Black Hand narrows down the betrayal to this Sanctuary and decides to eliminate the traitor by using drastic measures. Lucien orders the player to carry out the Purification whereby everybody in the Sanctuary is killed, hopefully including the traitor. The player becomes Lachance's new Silencer, receiving "dead drop orders" from the Black Hand. However Bellamont tracks down one or more Lucien's dead drop locations and begins switching the orders with contracts of his own.
Through these orders, the player kills off Shaleez and Havilstein Hoar-Blood, two Silencers, J'Ghasta and Alval Uvani, two Speakers, and Ungolim, the Listener. The Black Hand, now only consisting of Arquen, Banus Alor, Belisarius Arius and Mathieu Bellamont, kills Lucien Lachance, believing him to be the traitor, and promotes the player to a Speaker in Lucien's stead, establishing a council of five. Arquen then leads the Hand to the Night Mother in search of a new Listener. In the ensuing skirmish as the Mother reveals the traitor's identity, Banus Alor, Belisarius Arius, and the traitorous Mathieu Bellamont are killed, and the player is appointed Listener. The Black Hand regroups with the player as the Listener, and Arquen as Cheydinhal Speaker.
- There is no Black Hand faction defined in the Construction Set. Most of the members are simply members of the Dark Brotherhood faction, generally with much lower ranks than suggested by their Black Hand affiliation. There is a Dark Brotherhood Elite faction that contains only the Black Hand silencers. The summary tables on the NPC pages and the Dark Brotherhood membership table all provide the official Construction Set rank of the characters, because those are the ranks that determine NPC behavior (see Factions for details).
- The name of the council, "The Black Hand", is of historical significance.