“You sure you haven’t seen her, Keerava?” he rubbed his forehead with his thumb. Brynjolf had spent the past few hours searching the Ratway and the Warrens looking for Meliandra. He had gone to all her usual spots, talked to all the vendors and had even went to the Temple to see if she was there only to come out a few septims lighter with still no answers.
“For the last time, Brynjolf,” the Argonian innkeeper hissed at him, “I haven’t seen her since she came in to extort money from me on your behalf. Hopefully she’s wised up and moved onto a new profession.”
He frowned. “You know, Keervara, one of these days someone’s going to snatch that tail of yours and throw your ass right into Lake Honrich.” He stormed out, ignoring Sapphire’s gaze. By now most of the Guild had heard about what had happened and were giving Brynjolf wide berth. Vex had opted on taking a job herself, leaving Brynjolf alone with his anger and guilt.
He made his way toward the graveyard entrance to the cistern, hoping against hope that he’d find Meliandra in there. As he made his way down the stairs he thought about what had led to today’s events. ‘Vex and her damn insecurities,’ he thought angrily. With the success that Meliandra was having he hadn’t realized that it was making an aging Vex insecure. He thought he could reassure her that Meliandra wasn’t a threat but once again he discovered that he didn’t understand women like he thought he did. After her success at Goldenglow Vex had become increasingly anxious. He had never seen his former lover so distrustful of another guild member.
When she came to him early this morning he thought she was Meliandra returning from Whiterun and climbing into the bed they had started using nearly every night. He was enjoying the attention his cock was receiving as it was stroked and sucked. It wasn’t until he had called her Meli that he found out it was Vex pleasing him. He clenched his fists at the memory.
He saw Mercer at his desk looking over some books, a grim look on his face. He started to turn toward the Flagon entrance when he heard Mercer call him over; he sighed, heading over.
Mercer shut the book he was looking through and growled at the Nord, “Where have you been?”
He ran his hand through his hair. “I’ve been looking for Meliandra.”
The Guild master raised his eyebrow. “She’s on a job for Maven; she left about an hour ago.”
Brynjolf nodded yet averted his eyes. He was relieved that Meliandra hadn’t run off because of walking in on him and Vex; Mercer would not be happy with neither him nor Vex if Meli left the Guild because of a tryst. “Good. I was hoping I would be able to talk to her before she headed out again but apparently, I missed her.”
“Really?” Mercer said pointedly as he sat back in his chair. “The way I hear it, you were balls deep in Vex when Meliandra found you this morning.”
Brynjolf squared his shoulders and looked at his superior. “I don’t need reminding, Mercer. It was a stupid mistake and I need to make things right.”
Mercer’s eyebrow rose. “The way she sees it, there’s nothing to fix.”
“She talked to you about it?”
“She ran into me when she was leaving here. I got her to calm down which is a good thing since she was going to go directly to her job. Do you want her fucking up a job from Maven?”
“Dammit, I never intended for her to find out. Fuck! I didn’t’ even ask for it.” He shook his head. “I’m not going to go into this with you. I need to talk to Meli.”
“I’ll let her know when she gets back. Now to the business at hand. This bill of sale for Golden glow, something about this name sounds familiar, doesn’t it?” He handed the paper to Brynjolf.
He scanned through the contract and found the name, Gajul-Lei; he nodded. “Aye, that it does.” He handed the paper back. “I’ll talk to some of my contacts and see what I can find out.” He started to leave.
“Good. And Brynjolf?” He turned back to Mercer. “I suggest not being the cause if Meliandra leaves our outfit. You assured me she’d be an asset and she has proven herself to be one that we can’t afford to lose. And that goes for Vex as well. Is that understood?”
He took a deep breath and nodded. “Understood.”
Meliandra watched as Commander Caius led Sabjorn out of the meadery, a smirk on her face. “Glad I demanded gold before I started.”
Mallus snorted in agreement. “Be glad you got that out of him. I don’t think that could have gone any better.”
“I’ve got to get a look at Sabjorn’s books.”
He nodded. “Maven wants to hunt down Sabjorn’s private partner, huh?” He handed her a key. “You’re welcome to take a look around Sabjorn’s office. He keeps most of his papers stashed in his desk.”
She took the key and thanked him, making her way up to Sabjorn’s bedroom. She wanted to hurry and get out of Whiterun, but she wasn’t in that much of a hurry to get back to Riften. She would have to deal with Brynjolf and Vex sooner or later, especially if she were going to stay in the Guild, like Mercer wanted her to, but in her heart, she still longed for her farm. Maybe her mother was right, maybe her wanting a quiet life was just a dream, and one she would never achieve.
She shook her head at the thought of her mother. The woman had loved her, but Meliandra always felt that her mother was overprotective, always moving around, afraid her father would find them. A life began in near captivity to a life on the run made for a bitter young woman; her mother’s death at the hands of the Forsworn when she was fourteen only made her more bitter.
She unlocked the desk and rifled around looking for anything that might help Maven. There in the corner of the drawer was folded piece of paper; she opened it and read:
Within the enclosed crate, you’ll find the final payment As we discussed, Honningbrew Meadery should now begin brewing mead at full production. In regards to your concerns about interference from Maven Black-Briar, I can assure you that I’ll do everything in my power to keep her assets and her cronies at bay. This is the beginning of a long and successful future for both of us.”
She frowned as she folded up the promissory note and slipped it inside the folds of her tunic and turned to walk out to find Mallus in the doorway. “So, with Sabjorn out of the picture, what do you plan on doing?”
“Start changing it over to Black-Briar Meadery West as soon as possible. That was Maven’s part of the deal. She’s put me in charge of keeping the wine flowing, so that’s exactly what I’m going to do.” He walked with her back down the stairs. “If you’re in the area and you’re ever need anything fenced, you just let me know,” he continued with a wink and a smile.
“Tell me something, Mallus. What the fuck was up with that deranged lunatic down there? A little warning about that would have been appreciated. Damn lucky I was quick on casting a ward.”
“Look, sorry about that but I couldn’t risk you backing out of this if you knew about Hamelyn and his skeevers. That’s why I left him out of our previous discussion. But on the plus side, you’ve done Maven a favor getting rid of him and you saved me the coin on hiring someone else to do it later.” He smiled at her.
She frowned at him. “You’re fucked up, Mallus. I’m remembering this, don’t you doubt that.” She took her leave and headed back to Riften, climbing on the back of a horse she had taken off a bandit. As she rode she found herself thinking about the promissory note. There was that funny little symbol again, too, the same one from the bill of sale on Goldenglow. She didn’t believe in coincidences.
Some hours into her ride back she decided to rest and eat something. She tethered the horse to a tree near the creek she was by, the white and black stallion, drank some water and began to graze on the grass as Meliandra splashed water on her face. She opened her pack and pulled out a chunk of hard day old bread, a wedge of cheese and a small flask of mead, and began to eat. She scanned the horizon, watching the brush sway in the breeze. Her thoughts went to Brynjolf again; she took a long pull off her flask. A fool, that’s what she was, just a fool. She was just a child in his eyes; why would he be serious about her? An image of Brynjolf behind Vex flashed through her mind; she took another long pull off the bottle.
Her ears picked up the snapping of a twig a moment before she felt the sting of the arrow in her shoulder. She conjured a sword quickly as she leapt to her feet, spinning to see a masked Khajiit in black and red rushing forward. “Damn it,” she swore under her breath, recognizing the clothing of the Dark Brotherhood. The feline assailant already had dropped his bow and his claws were extended; if Meliandra didn’t watch it, her skin would be ripped to shreds by them.
She began to parry the swiping, sharp claws deflecting them with the magical barrier of the sword. She had sparred with a Khajiit friend years ago, but had never fought with one before. Hew sword cut through the material, quickly bringing a sharp hiss from the attacker as the fabric darkened with blood. Her feet began to dance as she lunged and blocked, weaving her way around until she found her chance. She conjured a second sword as she pirouetted around the feline assassin, kicking her foot out against the lower back of the Khajiit, knocking him off balance. Flipping the swords upside down, she drove the blades deep into his back, one on each side of his spine.
She knew he was dead; she saw it in the dullness of his eyes. She kicked the body in anger and grumbled at him, “Who sent you, you fucking bastard?” She kicked him again before leaning down and searched the corpse; she found fifty pieces of gold, some food, a couple potions and a contract on her life. She threw the crumbled paper on the body and in a moment of rage, she set the corpse on fire. She stood there for a moment before looking at her hands and clothing. Damn cat fur,” she mumbled as she turned to leave.
She found Maven in her usual spot upstairs at the inn, looking impatient as ever. “I trust you have good news for me?” came the icy voice. She handed the woman the paper saying, “Job’s finished, here’s the information you requested.”
Maven took the paper and read it; she frowned as she said, “This doesn’t tell me much. The only thing that could identify Sabjorn’s partner is this odd little symbol.”
Nodding her agreement, Meliandra said, “Yes; I’ve seen that symbol before.”
Maven raised an eyebrow. “Well, whoever this mysterious marking represents, they’ll regret starting a war with me.” She handed the letter to Meliandra. “You should take this information to the Thieves Guild immediately. There’s also the matter of your payment. I believe you’ll find this more than adequate for your services.” She handed her a coin
purse, heavy with gold.
Meliandra nodded and took her leave of the powerful woman. She went to the room she had rented from Keervara and laid back on the bed, waiting for Mercer, as planned. He felt it was best if she put some distance between herself and Brynjolf for a while. Finally, able to rest, she drifted into a fitful sleep.
Brynjolf had heard the whispers that Meliandra had made it back but he had not seen her. He was determined to make things right, if she would just hear him out. He sat at a table downstairs at the Bee & Barb, hoping Meliandra would come in here. Sapphire had seen him walk in, then she turned to leave, a look on her face that he thought was pity, but he knew Sapphire’s heart was cold and she felt no pity. Talen-Jei brought him a drink telling him it was on the house. He almost choked on the concoction; spitting it across the table. “What in Oblivion is this? Skeever piss?”
The Argonian looked insulted. “It ought to be for what you and your crew have done to Keervara.”
Brynjolf watched as the lizard walked back to the bar; he grumbled to himself, his foul mood deepening the furrow of his brow. He thought about what he wanted to tell Meliandra, how he knew that he made a mistake and that he didn’t deserve forgiveness, that he only wanted a chance to make amends. This young woman had nestled into his life and now the idea of her not being there anymore frightened him. He ran his hand through his hair and sighing, made to get up to leave. That’s when he saw Mercer and Maven speaking by the stairs. Maven looked pleased, a hint of a smile on her lips. They appeared to be discussing the job that Meliandra had done for her; Brynjolf held a brief smile as he told himself that Meliandra was indeed a valuable asset to the Guild as he had believed.
He watched as Maven left and Mercer headed upstairs. After a moment, he headed up behind him. He sat at the table and waited for Mercer. He knew the guild master knew where Meliandra was. He wasn’t going to play this; he wanted his partner back. He could Mercer’s muffled voice talking what seemed like business, but he couldn’t make out the other voice. After a while it got quiet save for the distinctive sound of the bed hitting the wall as Mercer and his companion had their tryst.
Brynjolf decided he’d wait for Mercer back at the Flagon but before he stood from his chair he heard a woman cry out from Mercer’s room; he froze in place. Something told him to wait.
Sometime later he watched Mercer leave the room alone; still he sat and watched the door; anxiety wrenching through him, waiting for what seemed like an eternity for the door to open. And when it did his heart froze in place as he watched his young Breton over emerge, her face still flushed with the sex she had had with Mercer.