Brynjolf listened to Karliah and Meliandra talk as they made their way through Nightingale Hall, watching Meliandra’s movements as she walked in front of him. He noticed she favored her left side and Mercer’s words of leaving her to bleed out came to his mind; he admired her drive and strength even more now.
“Were they a part of the Thieves Guild?” Meliandra was asking about the Nightingale Trinity.
“Indirectly, yes. The Trinity is usually selected from the ranks of the Guild although it’s existence is a closely-guarded secret.”
“So, what’s their purpose?”
“Well,” Karliah responded, “the Nightingales protect the temple of Nocturnal, a place known as the Twilight Sepulcher.”
Meliandra’s response was dry. “I never met a thief who worshipped anything.”
Karliah began to explain how Nocturnal influenced their luck and that in return she demanded payment. It made Brynjolf think of Delvin’s constant comments about the Guild being cursed. He shook his head as he thought about what Delvin’s reaction would be if he were hearing this they’d probably never hear the end of it.
His mind drifted to conversations that he had had with Karliah in the past day. While he had made amends with her on the Guild’s behalf, he had also expressed to her his angst over his situation. He had shown her Mercer’s journal that had gone into great detail about how he was manipulating both Vex and Meliandra to get the Breton to rely solely upon him. It was the Dunmer that told him that Meliandra was driven by the desire to bring Mercer to his death, that there was something deep within the young woman that had birthed a hatred so large for the traitorous guild master that she feared Meliandra might slip into a dark place in her soul, one that would entrap her there; Brynjolf was determined to prevent that.
“Religion and thieves make odd bedfellows,” the Breton was saying.
Karliah shook her head. “This isn’t about religion or destiny. This is nothing more than a business transaction between yourself and Nocturnal. Consider this an extremely risky job but with a massive potential for profit, and you’ll do fine.” She smiled.
Brynjolf looked around, saying, “So, this is Nightingale Hall. I heard about this place when I joined the Guild, but I never believed it existed.”
The thief chuckled. “The assumption that the Nightingales were just myths was seeded within the Guild on purpose. It helped avert attention from our true nature.” She paused a moment, a smile upon her lips. “What’s wrong, Brynjolf? I can almost hear your brow furrowing.”
Meliandra snorted as she glanced behind her, a hint of a mile to her eyes. Brynjolf caught sight of this and smiled to himself. He looked back to Karliah. “I’m trying to understand why I’m here. I’m no priest, lass, and I’m certainly not religious. Why pick me?”
She took a deep breath. “This isn’t about religion, Brynjolf… it’s business.”
She spread her hands out to show the room they stood in. There were cobwebs everywhere among furniture that had not been used in decades. “This is Nightingale Hall. You two are the first of the uninitiated to set foot inside in over a century. Now, if you’ll both proceed to the armory to don your Nightingale armor, we can begin the oath.”
Brynjolf took the armor that Karliah handed him once they got to the armory and begun to change, calling out to Karliah in the next room, “Okay, so we’re putting these get-ups on. What next?” He looked down at himself and sighed. He preferred his normal attire.
He turned the corner to see the two women in their Nightingale attire. He looked over Meliandra, appreciating the way the material hugged her form. He listened as Karliah explained to both him and Meliandra that in order to have Nocturnal’s blessing they’d have to come to an arrangement with the deity. He reluctantly agreed and followed her as they walked into a large room. He listened as the Dunmer petitioned Nocturnal and struck the deal that endowed her blessings upon them. His gaze kept going to his former lover and his thoughts dwelt upon Mercer’s words about her that he had written. And knowing that Mercer had been playing Vex against Meliandra from the beginning only infuriated him more. While the women were being played, he had been the only one in that triangle that wasn’t and he still managed to screw things up between himself and Meliandra.
“Now that you’re transacted the Oath, it’s time to reveal the final piece of the puzzle to you; Mercer’s true crime. Mercer could unlock the Guild’s vault without two keys because of what he stole from the Twilight Sepulcher… the Skeleton Key. By doing this, he’s compromised our ties to Nocturnal and in essence, caused our luck to run dry.” She went on to explain what this key could do beyond its physical capabilities. The more he heard the angrier he got.
“If the key isn’t returned to its lock in the Twilight Sepulcher,” Karliah was saying, “things will never be the same for the Guild. As time passed, our luck would diminish to the point of non-existence. And whether you know it or not,” she glanced at Brynjolf, “uncanny luck defines our trade.”
“Yeah,” Meliandra stated slowly, “first time I’ve ever set out to return something.”
“Very true. In our line of work, it’s quite rare we set out to return a stolen item to its rightful owner.” She held her hand out as Meliandra went to follow her out. “Meliandra, before we head out, Brynjolf has some business to discuss.” She spoke sternly. “I suggest you listen to him.” She turned and walked out.
Meliandra turned and looked at him, her face questioning. She stayed standing where she was so he approached her, stopping an arm’s length away. “Listen, Meli. There’s one last piece of business we need to settle before we go after Mercer… the leadership of the Guild.”
“Why discuss this with me? I won’t give you any flack, alright?”
He shook his head. “That’s not what I’m saying, lass.” He looked at her, a lump in his throat. “Look, Karliah and I had a long discussion before you arrived here. Thanks to your effort, Mercer’s treachery has been exposed. After we deal with him, all that remains is restoring the Guild to its full strength.” He paused. He wasn’t sure how she was going to react and he was nervous. “As a result, we both feel that you’ve got the potential of replacing Mercer as leader of the Thieves Guild.”
“Me?” Shocked filled her face. “What the hell? Why not you?”
He smiled as he answered, “I’ve been at this game for a long time, sweetheart. A very long time. I’ve stolen trinkets from nobles and have framed priests for murder. I’m good at what I do, maybe even one of the best.” He shrugged. “But it’s all I know. I’ve never been one to lead.” He gave a shake of his head. “Never desired it, never cared for it. Don’t want it.”
“Don’t toy with me, Bryn. Is this some way of trying to make things right with me? If so, it’s not working. Forget the fact that you were screwing Vex while lying to me that there was nothing to worry about. You believed the lies Mercer told you. You were willing to kill me because of those lies. You think offering me Guild Master is going to make everything okay? Dream on.” She spun on her heel and stalked off.
Karliah led the way to Irkngthand, while Brynjolf took the rear as they made their way to the dwarven ruins that they believed the Eyes of the Falmer were in. She had surmised that Brynjolf’s offer hadn’t gone over will by the strained responses they both gave when either was asked anything. She knew this would prove to be troublesome in the future but was unsure how to even approach the situation.
Suddenly she heard sounds of a fight, then Meliandra shouting for him to stop. She turned, her bow in hand and rushed back to the side of the road where Brynjolf had a familiar looking man on the ground, his dagger at the man’s throat. “Brynjolf, it’s fine. He’s a friend of Meliandra’s,” she said as she returned her bow to its place. She looked at the
Breton. “You take care of this.” She took the Nord by the arm and led him away.
Brynjolf removed his hood, his eyes angry as he stared at Meliandra as she spoke to the man. “Who is he?” he demanded.
Karliah shook her head. “I don’t know. I saw him with Meliandra when we were in Winterhold, then again at Riften. That’s all I know.”
He looked at her, his eyes pained. “Is there anything that I can do to make this right? Anything I can do to get her back?”
Karliah’s only response was to sigh and look away.
“What the fuck are you doing here?” Meliandra snapped at Vorstag.
He picked himself up off the ground, looking off the path where his attacker stood and shook his head. “I told you, you hired me to fight by your side. I’m not about to let you go off without my blade by you.”
“Well, this is a fine show of your ability now, isn’t it?” she snapped.
He looked down sheepishly, then looked back up at her. “How’d he hear me? I’m wearing those boots you gave me, I don’t have anything on me but my shield and sword.”
She sighed, “Because he’s a thief and has been at this a very long time; he knows exactly how to listen for sounds of others approaching.” She shook her head. “Divines preserve us. Fine. You feel like you’ve got to watch over me, fine. You can tag along until we get to Irkngthand, then you gotta wait for me. Swear to me, you won’t follow.”
He sighed. “I swear.”
She shook her head again, told him to wait and then walked back to Brynjolf and Karliah and explained to them what the plan was. Brynjolf’s pursed lips was the only sign of disapproval she saw; at one time, she would have given it more than a passing thought, but now it was nothing to her. She returned to Vorstag and they began to walk to Irkngthand in silence, her thoughts on Mercer and her revenge.
Balgruuf listened to the impassioned argument his court wizard made even if he didn’t follow everything the man said. His mind wandered as he half listened, thinking of the demands Farengar asked of him, especially on his research on dragons. Ever since the dragon attack on Helgen the wizard had been nearly unbearable. Now he was asking for someone to hunt down some artifact related to the dragons. Then he thought of something. He sat up at his desk in his quarters. “Farengar, what was the name of that survivor from Helgen?”
Balgruuf scowled at him. “That young lady, yes. What was her name?”
“Mel something. Why?” The wizard looked bored as he started to make small bursts of flame appear above his hands.
Evenly the jarl said, “Because she survived a dragon attack. If we can find her perhaps she’ll go searching for this artifact that you’re seeking.”
“Ah,” comprehension flashed upon his face as he extinguished his spells and stood up. “Very well. Thank you, Jarl Balgruuf. I’ll return to my research.”
The jarl watched with slight irritation as the other man left; if it wasn’t for the fact he knew the wizard had expressed an interest in the widow Carlotta he would have believed that the man was a monk, possibly a eunuch. He thought a moment. ‘Mel? Melanie? Melody? Fuck, what was her name?’ He could see her raven hair, her hazel eyes, her shapely frame and once again he was reminded of his loneliness as he dwelled on the image of her in his mind. He rubbed his temples with his thumbs and closed his eyes.
It had been seven winters since his wife died, six since his youngest child’s mother was taken during child birth. Nelkir, the youngest, was a dark child and it worried him. His worrisome nature over his son is what had kept him alone all these years, not making the same mistake he had before by bedding the wet-nurse who cared for his children. Six years of living celibate was wearing thin on him but women believed him to be cursed by Mara for his infidelity.
He opened his eyes and saw his longtime friend, his Dunmer housecarl, Irileth. He gave a smile. “I’m fine. Just trying to remember the name of that survivor from Helgen.”
“I remember her,” came the cool response. “Her name was Meliandra. She never did tell you why she was at Helgen.”
He smiled at his housecarl’s concern; she worried about him too much, he knew. “Yes, that was it. Meliandra. And maybe you’ll get your answer when she answers the summons I’m sending to her.”
“Farengar needs something found. She came to mind.”
“Send me a courier please, Irileth,” he said as he set about to writing to the young Breton asking her to come to Whiterun. He noted to himself the Dunmer’s disapproval but decided to ignore it. He sealed the paper with wax, applying his personal signet ring to the wax as it cooled.
A courier entered, young, not more than a teen, not quite a man. Balgruuf handed him the letter and, describing the Breton, told him to deliver it to her and only her. He stood and stretched, a yawn escaping his lips. Seeing that the sun had set and the moons were illuminating the dark sky he made his way to his children’s quarters. He could hear his daughter complaining again; the thought crossed his mind once more how much like her mother she was and he frowned.
“Father!” came Dagny’s voice as he walked in. She immediately started voicing her displeasure over a myriad of inconsequential inconveniences that occurred in her day; he nodded as he listened to her, assuring her that he’d make everything right.
He spoke to Frothar next, his oldest. The boy reminded him of himself, always wanting to fight. While he was old enough to practice with a sword, he worried that the darkness that had touched the boy’s mother would touch him. They spoke of his day which he had spent watching the guards train in the yard. Frothar wanted to be a soldier; Balgruuf feared he might if the Empire did not quell Ulfric’s rebellion soon.
Finally, he approached his youngest, Nelkir. As he did with the others, he sat on the edge of the bed and rested his hand on his son’s shoulder. “Son?” He knew the boy was awake, he was not snoring like he did when he did sleep, but still he laid facing the wall, his back to his father. After a moment, the jarl stood up, bid his children good night and left their quarters, closing the door behind him. He nodded to the guard and retired to his own quarters, closing and locking the door behind him.
He removed the circlet from his head and put it on the end table. Removing his cloak and beginning to undress, he stared at the now long empty spot on his bed, his loneliness setting back in. He laid upon the furs and closed his eyes. His thoughts found their way to the Breton again; his mind began to wander with the image of her. He found the more he saw her in his mind’s eye, the more aware he became of his growing frustrations. His hand found its way to his groin, his male member still flaccid but hardening. He began to stroke himself, undressing the woman in his mind, imagining what her young body looked like beneath the clothing she wore. He pictured her raven hair drenched in sweat as she rode atop of him; in his mind, he watched as her breasts bounced in time with his strokes. He imagined his name spilling of her lips as she moaned in pleasure as his dick filled her inside; his pulse began to race as he stroked harder and faster. In his mind’s eye, he saw her tilting her head back, a passion filled scream passing her lips as her body shuddered in a powerful orgasm, a pool of her juices flooding over him. He gave a couple hard pulls on himself and cum exploded from the head of his shaft; his body was racked with spasms as he came like a geyser.
He laid there in his bed, his breath coming in short ragged breaths slowly leveling off to normal; his once racing heart now returned to its normal pulse. He hated this being alone. He longed for the warmth of a woman beside him, he yearned to fall asleep with a woman in his arms.
He sighed as he opened his eyes, getting up from his bed, he walked over to his washbasin and began to clean himself off. He smiled as he thought ‘And dammit, it’d be a lot nicer to feel a woman around my dick than my own damn hand.’