She picked the lock and let herself into the room on the top of the Bannered Mare; she gently shut the door behind her and relocked it before making her way to the bed. Ever the thief, she opened the drawer to the end table beside her and began rummaging through it. Picking up a journal, she thumbed through, skimming the entries, entries that backed up Kematu’s story of espionage and betrayal. She put the journal back in the drawer and, finding nothing else of interest nor anything of value, she closed the drawer. She sat on the side of the bed, waiting.
Meliandra was not in a patient mood today. She discovered that Balgruuf revealed the true nature of the beast within him easily once he slipped out from behind the mask of normalcy he wore for all to see. She had seen behavior like his before, but she had not been the target of such behavior back then, merely a frightened observer hurdled in a darkened corner of the room, praying to the Divines for it to be over.
She had watched men who craved power become drunk with it and the drunker they became the more pervasive they grew. Often the ones who bore the brunt of such gross misconduct were the most innocent of all, and they bore scars no one ever saw. Meliandra had long since grown a thick skin that grew over the scars of her childhood, but Balgruuf had been successful in ripping it open, letting all the hurt and pain that had long been in remission come rushing to the forefront of her soul.
She had made up her mind that she was leaving Whiterun as soon as she was done with Kematu and had told Vorstag to be discreetly waiting for her by the Khajiit camp outside the city walls; he had looked relieved to be leaving Whiterun and started to gather their gear as she had headed out of the quarters Balgruuf had Proventus put the Nord in.
She heard steps outside the door then a key being laced into the keyhole followed by the sound of the lock disengaging. She stood up as the door opened and the Redguard stepped through, her head down and unaware of her unexpected visitor. Meliandra thought how easily she cold dispatch this woman; it would resolve so many things, yet Kematu was adamant that she must not be harmed.
A look of surprise appeared on Saadia’s face when she looked up to see the Breton standing there. “Meliandra? What are you doing here? And how’d you get in here?”
Shaking her head, she walked toward her. “Never mind that. You’ve got to get out of Whiterun, Saadia.”
“What?” she cried out. “Are you crazy? This is the only place I’ve been able to hide!”
“And they know that you’re here.” She looked into the woman’s eyes. “I overheard a group of Alik’r talking about a wanted Redguard woman inside Whiterun Hold that they have been hired to bring home. They described you down to your scar,” she responded, running her fingers over Saadia’s scarred cheek. “They’re on their way to arrest you.”
“But, they can’t get into Whiterun! They’re not allowed here!” Her eyes were wide with fear as she tried to comprehend what was being said.
“They found a way in, but I’ve arranged for you to get out of here.”
“But… I’ve nowhere to go!”
“I’ve got a place for you, don’t worry. But I’ve got to get you out of here. There’s a horse I’ve had readied for you down at the stables. Grab what things you cannot go without and let’s go.” She tossed the woman a knapsack and said, “We don’t have much time.”
Saadia took the knapsack and started throwing things in it, including the journal Meliandra had read through earlier; Meliandra made a mental note of everything of value that was being packed, fully intending to relieve her of those possessions once Kematu had custody of her. The look on her face was harried, stressed with a glimpse of fear; Meliandra felt a rush of excitement coursing through her knowing that she was betraying this woman’s trust.
A short time later the two women were walking toward the gates of the city, Meliandra telling her that she was going to join up with her soon. Saadia kept surreptitiously looking around, staying close to the Breton, sure of her protection. Meliandra did everything to assure her that she was safe.
When the stable sign came into view, Meliandra’s heart began to beat faster again, she could feel the adrenaline building as the stables grew larger and larger. She fell a half step behind Saadia, discreetly with drawing her dagger, keeping her hand hidden in the folds of her cloak.
Saadia turned the corner, stopping a few steps later when Kematu turned around and stepped out of the shadows. A smirk appeared on his face as he said, “Sow, we meet at last, my dear lady.”
Saadia took a step back; she felt the blade against her back and looked at Meliandra. “What have you done?”
Meliandra merely smiled and echoed the words of Mercer Frey, “Business is business.”
“I trusted you!” she snapped at the Breton.
“And you trusted the wrong person,” she said matter-of-factly.
Kematu chuckled. “Oh, come now. You didn’t really expect to manipulate people forever, did you?” He said, approaching her and then stroking her cheek when he stood before her. “Your luck had to run out sometime.”
She spat on him.
Meliandra moved to strike her but Kematu stayed her hand. “Keep that rebellious spirit up, traitor. The houses will take it into consideration.” With that he cast a spell upon her, paralyzing her as she collapsed onto the ground. “Now,” he said as he gave the signal for his warriors to emerge from their hiding places, “time to take our friend here back to Hammerfell where she will pay the price for her treason.” He reached into his bag and pulled out a coin purse, heavy with gold. “As for you, sweet girl. I owe you a portion of the reward, don’t I?”
He approached Meliandra, the coin purse in his outstretched hand. As she took it from him he reached out and pulled her to him. “Spend it wisely. And, Meliandra, don’t allow yourself to be fooled by a pretty face. You’re better than that.” He kissed her deeply before letting her go and walking off to join the others, never looking back.
She picked up the bag Saadia dropped then headed towards the tents off to the side. She approached Vorstag to see that he was haggling the price of a new sword with the feline trader. She listened to the two go back and forth until she finally spoke up asking what the Khajiit was wanting for it. Upon hearing the price, she opened her coin purse and dumped a handful onto the rug next to the trader. “We good?”
“Khajiit accepts your gold. May you walk on warm soil.”
She nodded and began to walk back toward the road to wait for Vorstag. She shook off the disgust she felt over Kematu’s kiss, his words cutting her as she knew that he had taken full advantage of her, putting her on the spot and reminding her that his father had given her and her mother sanctuary all those years before.
The crunching of rock behind her spoke of Vorstag’s approach and Meliandra turned to face him. She was beginning to appreciate his companionship, not just because he was a decent fighter but because she was beginning to consider him a friend. “You ready to get out of here?” she asked, a faint smile on her lips.
“More than ready,” he answered. He tapped the scabbard on his hip, the shine of the new sword, dwarven in design, glinting in the sun. “Thanks for this.”
She nodded, saying, “Consider it a bonus for this last job. Let’s get out of here. I want to get back to Riften as soon as we can.” They began to walk toward the carriage just beyond the stables. She could almost smell the musky stagnant waters below the city and for a moment she felt homesick. She approached the carriage driver and began to speak to him when she heard a guard holler, “Meliandra! By order of the jarl, I order you to stop!”
Balgruuf paced the floor above the throne room, his anxiety and fear evident in his face. The look of terror on his guard’s face spoke of the nightmare he had seen before he had begun to run as fast as he could to Whiterun to warn the jarl. Balgruuf had feared something like this ever since Meliandra had brought the news of Helgen. Now he only hoped that his city would be spared and not laid to a fiery waste like the small little wooded town was.
“Sir,” came a deep voice from the stairwell just beyond him.
He turned to see the young Breton standing beside one of his guards, a look of anger on her face. “Thank you, you’re dismissed.” The guard turned, leaving while Balgruuf walked toward the woman, a look determination on his face. He began to speak but was cut off by Meliandra.
“This had better be goddamned important, Balgruuf! On what grounds do you detain me?!”
“Don’t make me remind you how easy it is for me to notify the Legion of an escaped criminal,” he snapped at her in an authoritative voice.
She sneered at him. “What are you detaining me for?” she repeated through clenched teeth.
“I am not detaining you!” he yelled at her. “You survived Helgen. You are the only person in this entire city who has any kind of experience with a dragon attack.”
She arched her eyebrow suspiciously. “What are you getting at?”
He took a breath and stared at her. “A dragon has attacked the Western Watchtower. A guard managed to make his way here during the attack to warn us. Irileth is mustering a contingent of soldiers to assess the situation and, if need be, engage the dragon.”
Meliandra stared at him, her eyes narrowing. “What does this have to do with me?”
“I need you to join Irileth and her men. You and you alone are the most knowledgeable of dragon attacks.”
“Are you out of your goddamn mind?!” she cried? “I only survived Helgen due to luck! All I did was find my way beneath the own and escape! I didn’t do anything that the other survivors didn’t do!”
“This is not a request, Meliandra,” he demanded. “You’re going to help Irileth. End of discussion.”