He stared at the numbers on the paper in front of him as he rubbed his forehead, the pressure of setting things with the Guild back on the right path was weighing heavily upon him. Mercer’s pilfering of the coffers throughout the years had hurt them more than he had expected. They needed to regain their footing throughout Skyrim; he knew they had a rough road ahead of them. He took a drink of his ale, his eyes once again resting on the bed Meliandra used at times, the emptiness of it shouting at him.
He could not deny that he still cared the Breton; the idea of Meliandra not being in his life pained him in a visceral way, causing him to feel as if the floor had just disappeared beneath him. No woman had ever laid claim to his heart the way she had, the thought of her wrapped itself around his soul, breathing life into him. Yet the words Mercer spoke ripped into his heart, leaving tattered ribbons of what once was so vibrant and alive. As much as he hated to admit it, he couldn’t fault her for sleeping with the Battle-Born son, he had done similar things as a pad foot himself. It was the innkeeper’s helper that he couldn’t get out of his mind.
He saw Delvin headed toward him, a frown on his face. He took a deep breath and waited for the man to sit by him at the desk. He took another drink as his longtime friend sat down. He looked gloomy; he knew why the meeting had been called. The redheaded Nord looked toward the door then back at Delvin. “Where’s Vex?”
“On her way. She didn’t look happy at having to have this little meeting.”
“Yeah, well that makes two of us. I really don’t care if she’s happy or miserable. We have Guild business to discuss and we need to have some kind of plan in the works for when Meliandra gets back from the Sepulcher; I have yet to hear any kind of news from Karliah about that.”
“How bad off are we, Bryn?”
The Nord grumbled. “Delvin, you know I don’t do the religious stuff but I am really hoping that once the Skeleton Key is returned that things will begin to pick up for us, because if it doesn’t, we are dead in the water.”
“That bad, eh?” At Brynjolf’s nod he asked, “Any ideas of how we can recover?”
At that moment, they saw the busty blonde walk in, heading directing for the two of them. “Give Vex a moment, let me fill her in on things at the same time.” He watched as his former lover made her way over to them. He had given her Mercer’s journal to read, so she could see for herself how she had manipulated by the former Guild Master and how he’d been manipulating her for years. She had since withdrawn into her work.
“Alright, I’m here. Can we get this done with? I’ve got jobs that need getting done.”
Brynjolf nodded, “Good to hear that, we need the coin.” He looked directly at her. “Mercer left us in dire straits, Vex. We need to start pulling some jobs that bring in more coin than the others. That means we need to let people know that we are very much still alive and kicking. Start hitting up some of our old contacts and get ties re-established, let them know we’re under new leadership if you need to.” He looked at Delvin. “I want shopkeepers to know we mean business, I want their books to show more of a profit for us, and dammit, did people forget how to lighten purses without notice around here?”
He turned back to Vex; they had barely spoken to one another since Meliandra had walked in on them and when they had spoken, it was strained. She had reluctantly taken the journal when he told her that she needed to read it; when she returned it to him, she looked upset and had gone off to do a job. “We need to start hitting some of Skyrim’s more wealthiest of citizens; keep an ear open for whose returning from abroad and who’s leaving to go abroad. Now that Gulum-Ei is cooperating with us once again, we can use him to find out whose shipments are containing what. Hit stores, sweep houses and by the Eight, if we need to frame someone for something, fucking do it.”
She nodded, but refused to look at him.
Brynjolf continued discussing with the two how best to restore the Guild; the entire time he just wanted to be out working, making more connections to influential people, anything but being here where he only longed for Meliandra to walk through the doors again. He brought up Meliandra’s refusal and hesitation on accepting the position of Guild Master and they talked about it, with him acknowledging that it was partially because of what was going on between him and her that had caused her to hesitate.
He finally drew the meeting to a close and started to head to the graveyard entrance; he wanted some time to himself, away from the eyes of the Guild. He noticed a moment later that Vex was a few steps behind him; he turned to look at her, an irritated look on his face. “What do you want?”
“Look, Bryn,” she said. “I’m sorry for everything. You were right; I have been very insecure lately. Mercer, that fucking bastard, he had been playing me since day fucking one. I know you know all of this. I just needed to apologize to you. I am really sorry.”
He nodded in acknowledgement. “Thank you, Vex. I know how hard it is for you to admit that you’re wrong and I know how hard it is to even elicit an apology from you, so I know that you’re being completely sincere. I think, though, that your apology need to be given to Meliandra as well.”
With that he continued on his way out of the Cistern, making his way out of the city walls, no destination in mind, only where his feet took him.
His men were avoiding him; he didn’t blame them, he was livid. A courier had sought him out, he had been paid a good amount of gold to deliver this message with more promised upon receipt of said message. He paid the boy well and sent him off before opening the folded paper. His eyebrow arched when he saw who it was from.
‘It came to my attention that a companion of yours has found his way to Whiterun’s dungeon. Curiosity got the better of me, and I, relying upon the friendship I maintain with a particular guard, was able to gain entry to question the arrested man. What you seek can be found within the city walls, tucked away at the inn. You would find it prudent to enlist the aid of a hired hand to retrieve your prize.
Ever since he had read that message he had been in a foul mood, arguing with anyone who spoke to him. He had finally found out where the traitor was but still face the possibility of returning to Hammerfell empty-handed, and that could mean exile from his family for failing. He could not fail them or any of the other families that had put their faith in him to bring her back for justice.
He finally left his perch beyond the waterfall and left the cave they were camped in, intent on working out his frustrations with a walk, perhaps hunting some deer and rabbits would set his mind at ease so he could figure out a solution to this predicament he had found himself in. He waved off his warriors on his way out, indicating his desire to be by himself.
He walked for some time before he noticed deer tracks; his hunter instincts that had been ingrained in him since he was a young child kicked in. Soon his attention was entirely focused on the tracks before him and the sound of the breeze through the grass.
He lost track of time; the sky was darkening when a voice broke through his concentration. He made his way quietly toward the voice; there were two he noticed after a moment when he heard a female’s voice accompanying a male’s. He stayed hidden in the shadows as he listened to the two travelers converse; he soon realized that they had recently been to Whiterun.
“Mel,” he heard the male say, “why are we going to Bleak Falls Barrow? It’s an old Nord ruin; those things are always crawling with draugr. Do you really want to be crawling around in there and run into a horde of those things?”
“You really did not just ask me that,” came the annoyed response.
“You just crept around in the Twilight Sepulcher, fighting the Sentinels that guard it, sneaking around in the shadows avoiding the light that could kill you, avoiding traps of swinging axes and a battering ram and then that pit that opened up and swallowed you. Shor’s Balls, Mel! How much of this adventure seeking do you need in one week?”
The woman laughed; he crept forward to get a better look at the couple, listening to the banter between the two.
“So absolutely nothing to do with you spending the night with the jarl?”
“You just won’t leave that alone, will you?” Her voice sounded frustrated. “Look, I know what you said about Balgruuf. I still did what I did and I’m not going to complain about it. What’s done is done. Plus, we are getting paid for this little adventure. And no, I don’t care about the walking dead in there.”
“All I know is that the jarl best pay us well for this. My mother told me as a kid to not go exploring in those kind of places, you know?”
Again, the woman laughed; Kematu was sure he knew that laugh. He tried to get a better look at her and crept a little closer, keeping as quiet as he could. The sky was getting darker; heavy cloud cover hid the stars and moons making it harder to see; the woman snapped her wrist and a ball of light appeared above her, illuminating her face. His breath caught. ‘It can’t be,’ he thought to himself, a smile appearing on his face.
“Did you hear that?” the male asked, suddenly when Kematu stepped on a twig.
She stopped beside her ally peering into the darkness. Kematu froze. What if it wasn’t her? It had been so many years, his memory of her might be skewed from the passing of more than a decade. He held his breath, wanting more time to study her to see if it was indeed the young girl he knew many, many years ago.
“Must have been a rabbit or fox,” the man said, continuing to walk towards the south.
“Must have been,” she murmured, slowly following her companion, looking into the shadows as she walked away.
He stood there, holding his breath, unmoving, watching. In the space of a breath he found himself transported back in time to the days of his youth; he recalled nearly every moment he had spent watching her, training with her, growing closer to her.
And then she was gone.
Suddenly a flash of light flew past him, bathing him in its glow briefly. A sword appeared in her hand as her companion snarled, “I knew it!” She advanced on him, her sword at the ready. “If you want to keep breathing, I suggest you come out of the shadows, you coward.”
He stood up straight, walked forward with his hands out, palms in the air to show he was unarmed. He wore a smile on his face as he stared at her. “It’s alright. I mean you no harm. You’ll always be a part of my family.”
She looked at him hard, searching his face until recognition came to her, then her mouth hung open, surprise taking over. “Kematu?”
“Hello, Meliandra. It’s been way too long.”