She sat at the bar in the Flagon talking with Vekel about a job she had just done for Delvin, adjusting the figures in the ledger at the trader’s shop in Riverwood. She had visited Gerdur and her family, had seen that Ralof had headed back to Windhelm to rejoin his Stormcloak companions. But it was the local drama there that was fueling the gossip here today. “The bard wanted me to give her this letter he wrote and say it was from the elf.”
“So, what’d you do?” the bartender asked as he cleaned dishes and wiped down the counter.
“I talked to Camilla and told her that the letter was from Sven. She wasn’t happy at all. I could hear her screaming at him as I crossed the bridge on my way out of town.” She took a pull off the bottle of mead before her.
Vekel laughed. “I bet that’s one little bird that’s not singing anymore.” He stopped and looked at her. “It’s good to see you Meliandra; it’s been different the past few weeks without you around.”
She nodded, a shadowed look coming across her face. She had been keeping to work, rarely coming down to either the Cistern or the Flagon; she wasn’t ready to deal with confronting Vex or Brynjolf yet. “Things are…complicated, Vekel.”
He arched his eyebrow. “Hmmmm. I can imagine, one week you’re Brynjolf’s girl, then the next you’re in Mercer’s bed.”
“That’s not fair, Vekel!” she snapped. “If anyone is to blame for that mess it’s Brynjolf and Vex, not me.”
Before Vekel could respond Niruin called out, “Meliandra! You’re needed in the training room, Mercer’s orders!”
Vekel busied himself with wiping the clean counter again. “Better not keep him waiting.”
Meliandra headed to the training room thinking about her exchange with the bartender. She got the impression that there was something that Vekel wanted to say to her but was hesitant to. She shook the thought from her mind as she made her way through the passageway. Mercer had told her last night that they might have a lead on the mystery person behind Honningbrew and Goldenglow; she wondered if this had something to do with it. He had been giving her choice jobs, discussing Guild business with her, something that Brynjolf had never done. The more Mercer and her talked about it she realized that Brynjolf was only holding her back whereas Mercer was intent on teaching her more so she could achieve her goal.
She walked into the training room and saw Mercer practicing with his sword; she stood back for a moment watching him as she had done many times since joining his bed. She knew exactly how his muscles rippled as he swung his sword, she knew how firm those muscles were beneath his clothing as she thought of her fingertips tracing he length of his arms, his chest, his abdomen, his groin. She reached up and toyed with her Amulet of Dibella, a smile touching her lips. “You wanted me, Mercer?” she asked sweetly as she approached him.
He stopped, turned and smiled briefly as he sheathed his sword. “Yes, I did.” He leaned down and gave her a short, but deep, kiss then continued. “We’ve got some information on the name on the Goldenglow bill of sale.” He looked beyond her. “You want to fill her in on the details?”
Meliandra turned around.
He stood there, partially hidden by the shadows. There was no mistaking the broad shoulders, the way the Nord stood, and as he stepped forward she could see the bitterness in his blue green eyes as he stared directly at her. His voice was terse as he said, “It would seem our adversary is attempting to take us apart indirectly by angering Maven Black-Briar. They’re well-funded, patient and have been able to avoid identification for years. But even after all their posturing and planning, they’ve made a mistake. The parchment you recovered mentions a ‘Gajul-Lei’. According to my sources, that’s an old alias used by one of our contacts. His real name is Gulum-Ei. He’s our inside man at the East Empire Company in Solitude. I’m betting he acted as a go-between for the sale of Goldenglow Estate and that he can finger our buyer. We need you to shake him down and see what you can come up with.” He shook his head. “I can’t believe Gulum-Ei’s mixed up in all this; that Argonian couldn’t find his tail with both hands. Don’t get me wrong, he could scam a beggar out of his last septim…but he’s no mastermind.”
“Is he going to give me any kind of trouble?” she asked, slipping into a familiar banter with him.
“Trouble?” he chuckled. “He’s one of the most stubborn lizards I’ve ever met!” He looked at her, a serious look on his face. “You have your work cut out for you.” She could see a hint of a smile in his eyes before they hardened again.
“So how do I get him to talk?”
“You’re going to have to buy him off; it’s the only way to get his attention. And if that fails, follow him and see what he’s up to. If I know Gulum-Ei, he’s in way over his head and you’ll be able to use it as leverage.”
She arched an eyebrow. “I have a feeling that I need to keep him alive?”
He nodded. “It would be a waste to lose a contact at the East Empire Company before we got the whole story.” He looked directly into her eyes as he spoke, holding her gaze for a moment longer and in the space of a heartbeat she thought she saw sadness in his eyes and then he looked back at Mercer. “I’ll be on my way now.”
She watched him leave the training room and for the blink of an eye she wanted to chase after him; there was something final in his departure, something that made her heart break even more. Then she felt Mercer’s hand on her shoulder, firm and reassuring. She looked up at him, his shadowed eyes looked into hers; once again she was frustrated by the lack of emotion in his eyes.
“You okay?” he asked.
She smiled and shrugged. “Yeah, I’m fine.”
“Didn’t mean to spring that on you; neither one of us knew how you were going to react and I have to make sure that my two most trusted people can get along with each other
regardless of their personal feelings.”
She nodded her head absentmindedly. “I should get my pack ready; the sooner I get to Solitude, the sooner we’ll have answers for Maven.” She leaned forward and kissed him before leaving.
Brynjolf walked out of the training room, his thoughts raging as he replayed the image of Meliandra leaning into and kissing Mercer over in his mind. The past few weeks had been torturous for him, seeing Mercer every day, knowing that he had taken Meli to his bed, hearing the hushed whispers concerning him and Vex while catching the wagging of the tongues about Meliandra and the Guild Master. No one spoke directly to him about it but no one was in the dark.
He stood by the graveyard entrance, opened a bottle of mead and drank it quickly. His emotions had thrown him every which way when he was in the same room as Meliandra as if he had been on the deck of a ship in a turbulent storm. The young Breton had grabbed a hold of him and wouldn’t let go. Try as he might he couldn’t be angry at her; he knew that he was to blame for sending her running.
He grabbed another bottle and began to drink that one as well. He heard the sound of pebbles being crushed into powder underneath boots that walked toward him, stopping just on the outside of the passageway. He turned around to find himself staring into the green eyes of the object of his agony. He lowered the bottle, but kept a hold of it. “Leaving so soon?” he asked, bitterness edging his voice.
She narrowed her eyes. “Yes, I wouldn’t want to intrude on your private time with Vex,” she snapped as she went to walk past him.
He grabbed her arm, firmly but not tightly. His eyes burned hot with pain and anger as he said, “This coming from the woman who pays for a room at the inn to rendezvous with her lover away from prying eyes. Tell me, Meliandra, does Mercer pay you like he does Haelga?”
She pulled her arm angrily from him but said nothing as she climbed the ladder out of the cistern. He watched as she left, the sneer leaving his face once she was out of sight. He punched the cupboard against the wall, angry at himself. The only thing that had mattered at that moment was to cause he the pain she had caused him when he saw her leaving the room at the inn. Now that he had caused her pain, and he had indeed seen the pain flash in her eyes before she pulled up those emotional walls, he felt as if he had just crawled away from a giant clubbing g him into a tree. He turned and walked back through the cistern towards the Flagon.
The door slammed behind him as he walked into the open room where everyone congregated and talked about their latest jobs. He felt the stares upon him as he strode through, intent on exiting through the Ratway. He drank more of his mead as he reached for the door handle only to have it open from the other side, the tall blonde thief walking in.
“Whoa, Bryn, where’s the fire?” she asked as she backed out of his way.
His eyes narrowed. “You know, Vex, there wouldn’t be any damn fire to be running from if you hadn’t freaked out over a recruit,” he snapped angrily.
“I didn’t see you complaining when we were screwing around; in fact, I seem to recall you being more than willing to fuck around. You are as much to blame as I am.”
He watched his former lover stalk away then walked into the Ratway, drinking the last of his mead then throwing the empty bottle against the wall, the sound of shattering glass only aggravating him further. He had picked up a job from Delvin that took him out to Falkreath; he knew the time away from here was going to do him good, he just worried about what everything was going to be like when he got back.
Vex stormed up to Mercer’s desk and pulling out her dagger, stabbed it through the book he was reading. “What the hell are you doing, Mercer? Damn near the entire guild wants to crucify Brynjolf and I because of that little upstart. The way you talked if Meliandra and Brynjolf stopped seeing each other you weren’t going to worry about Bryn being distracted. Now he’s distracted, angry and worthless as fuck!”
“I didn’t tell you to come in between them; all I wanted was for my second in command to get his mind back on the Guild and not on his little plaything.” Mercer glared at her as he pulled the dagger out, handing it back to her with a frown on his face. “I didn’t want a wedge between them. While you may not like Meliandra, she has skills that make her as valuable of an asset to the Guild as you are. I’m not about to let her slip through our fingers.”
Vex snorted. “Of course, you were right there to rescue her when she walked in on Brynjolf and I. Now she sleeps in your bed instead of his.” She shook her head. “That hasn’t helped this situation at all.”
A smirk appeared on his face. “I did what I had to do.” He looked directly in her eyes. “Meliandra and I, we’re alike. We want the same thing and we both will do whatever we need to to get it.” He sat back in his chair. “Perhaps it’s better this way; it seemed like Brynjolf was stifling her with small jobs.”
“You know, Mercer, seems like you just wanted Meliandra all to yourself the entire time.”
He smiled at her. “And what if I did?”
“You’re a pig.”
She turned and walked out, unable to shake the feeling that she had been some pawn in a game she was unknowingly a part of.
Mercer watched Vex leave the cistern with interest. He had known pulling her strings was going to be risky but it was a risk he was more than willing to take. He had been planning this job for years; he just needed to clear up a few loose strings and he’d be able to leave this city for good. He picked up his journal and looked at the pages; thankfully Vex hadn’t destroyed anything but he made a mental note to leave it at Riftweald from now on.
As he closed the book and headed to leave, he once again gave thought to if he wanted to bring Meliandra with him or not when he left. It had always been his intention to leave alone but he could not deny the benefits if she went with him. They were indeed like-minded, they both did anything they needed to get by and survive, he knew her to be a skilled marksman and Brynjolf had bragged of her alchemy and enchanting skills, plus he had sparred with her enough times to know she was a very capable fighter. He smiled as he thought to himself, ‘She’s a great fuck too.’
He walked into the midday sun, chuckling as Vex’s words calling him a pig echoed in his ears. He had managed to screw her once but he had taken advantage of her in a drunken state. She had been a new recruit, still green behind the ears. He had desired her from the moment he had seen her and despite all of her protests, he had managed to land her beneath him, panting like a bitch in heat; he always got what he wanted.
He could feel the desire building in his groin again as he made his way to Riftweald. The more he thought of his past exploit with the blonde thief, the more he wished Meliandra hadn’t left for Solitude. He walked toward the room he occupied when he did stay here. He saw one of the hired thugs he employed to stay here and guard the home, a brute of a woman. “You,” he said to her, “come with me.” She immediately followed him.
He shut the door behind them, tossed his book on the end table and began to undress. He dropped his pants, his throbbing manhood standing at attention; he stroked his cock as he looked at the woman. “How do you feel about making some extra gold?”