He laid in bed, his eyes staring at the ceiling but not really seeing anything. He had opted to sleep in one of the rooms instead of out with the others. With so much on his mind as of late he had very little desire to join them in his down time. They were slowly refilling the vault but they had a long way to go until they regained the former glory that they had once known. Mercer had effectively dismantled the Guild’s connections from within. The more Brynjolf had reached out to all their old connections, the more he realized just how much Mercer had screwed them over.
Brynjolf ran his hand down his face, slowly preparing himself to face the day. He had slept little that night, nor the night before, nor the night before that. In fact, he wasn’t exactly sure when the last night he had not had any trouble sleeping was but he was very sure that it was when Meliandra had laid beside him.
That was something else that Mercer had destroyed, the ebb and flow of the internal workings of the Guild by sowing seeds of distrust and jealousy among its members. Everyone felt the tension between Vex and Brynjolf and avoided being around when the two of them had to have dealings with each other. He sighed, wishing things would just get back to normal.
He climbed out of bed, silently groaning at the increasing need to relieve himself. A few minutes later he was pulling on his boots, intending to go up to the market and looking for some easy marks. He walked down the passageway and into the Cistern. He could hear the unmistakable sounds of Vipir’s snores echoing off the stone walls and shook his head as he thought about the irony of such a noisy sleeper being as quiet as a mouse when he was sneaking through a mark’s house.
He stopped short as he saw the raven-haired woman sitting at the desk, her head bent down as she read through the Guild’s ledger. He stood there, not believing his own eyes as he watched her run her fingers through her hair, pulling it to the back as she did so, showing her face. She looked deep in thought, every so often taking the quill, dipping it into the inkwell and writing something on a piece of paper, tapping her thumb against the desk every so often. He smiled when he saw her biting her lip the way she did whenever she was thinking a problem through.
As much as he wanted to stand there and watch her from afar, he knew that he could not. Business needed to be attended to and he was the one with the task of showing Meliandra the ropes of running this hodgepodge of thieves. Taking a deep breath, he walked towards her.
She looked up when her ears picked up footsteps approaching. She sighed as she laid her eyes upon Brynjolf. One of the moments she had been dreading was finally here. She sat back in the chair, her eyes set in a firm gaze as she prepared herself for whatever her former lover had to say. “Yes, Brynjolf? Something I can help you with?”
“When’d you get in, lass?” he asked, smiling.
She sighed. “A couple hours ago I guess it was. It was quite the trip from Whiterun.” She paused to see what kind of reaction would appear on his face; his jaw set suddenly, his eyes got hooded and when he spoke, his voice was flat and strained.
She smiled to herself as she answered, “Picked up a job for the jarl there. Well, to be more exact, for his court wizard.”
Brynjolf arched his eyebrow. “Really? A job for the court wizard?” He raised his eyebrow. “And what was that?”
She heard the light-heartedness in his voice and took it as a good sign; she began to relax. “He wanted some old artifact up in Bleak Falls Barrow.”
He nodded. “Hope you were paid well.” He pulled a chair up to the desk and sat across from Meliandra.
She studied him for a moment. His green eyes stared back at her, his smile touching them. His voice was light, the way it would be when they would talk before… before Vex. She reminded herself of that as she answered, saying, “Yes, I received a good amount of gold in payment.” She smiled as she picked up the bottle of mead that sat next to the ledger and took a drink. She swirled the contents of the bottle around, staring at the bottle before looking back at him out of the corner of her eye. “I’ve already put a portion of that in the vault; Delvin was still awake when I got here and we opened it up.”
“So,” he started as he leaned back in the chair, “are you ready to accept that you’re the new Guild Master now?”
She sighed. A hint of resentment rode her voice as she replied to him, “You know, Bryn, I still don’t understand why none of you have stepped up to the position instead. I don’t have the experience that any of you guys do. For fuck’s sake, I’m still a padfoot.”
He chuckled. “Lass, this organization needs a fresh face at the helm, one with young ideas. You’ve proven yourself, Meli, more than any padfoot ever did. There’s absolutely no one more deserving than you, love.”
“I guess it’s something I will have to get used to.” She tapped the ledger with her index finger. “I see we’ve been getting some jobs done still between Delvin and” she hesitated for half a breath “Vex. What’s the word through Tonila and Vekel’s connections.”
“Just the regular news. The war going on isn’t helping us any. More and more patrols, increased guards in the major cities, and it doesn’t matter which side is doing the checking. And we don’t dare align ourselves with either side”
She shook her head, agreeing with him. “No, we don’t. We’ve got enough problems on our hands; we don’t need any war profiteering to be added into the mix.”
He leaned forward, a twinkle in his eye. “So, what do you propose we do to start bringing in more gold to the Guild, Boss?”
There was a loud rapping on his door that brought him out of his sleep. He threw his cloak on, walked to the door and threw it open, his eyes ablaze with heated anger. The guard just on the other side wore a full faced helmet, but his discomfort was noticeable in his voice as he reported that a scout had returned to the palace early, and that he had some information to tell the jarl and the jarl alone. Ulfric sighed deeply as he looked at the man crossly before turning around and put his pant and a tunic on. A scout in the middle of the night that refused to speak to anyone but him made him slightly uneasy. He started to exit his room when he decided to take his axe from its place on the wall, just in case. He proceeded to head down the stairs, his thoughts scattered.
He entered the war room, a young man who had probably not yet seen twenty winters sat at the table by the entrance. When he saw Ulfric coming through the door, he stood very quickly, his back ramrod straight and his arms at his side. “You have something you want to tell me?” came Ulfric’s calm, commanding and authoritative voice.
The scout nodded, his voice rushed. “I was in Whiterun Hold, approaching the Western Watchtower when a dragon attacked it. The dragon was killed but it’s what happened after the beast was slain that made me turn around and return here, my Lord. The dragon’s soul… it was taken by one of the fighters.”
Ulfric’s eyebrow rose. “Its soul was…taken? Like the stories of old?”
The man nodded his head fervently. “Just like the stories of the Dragonborn, sir.”
“Were you able to get a look at this person?”
He shook his head, a frown on his face. “I’m sorry, my Lord, not a good one. All I could tell was that it was a woman.”
The older man nodded, stroking his chin thoughtfully. “Get yourself down to the barracks, get some food and rest. You can set back out tomorrow, but come see my steward before you leave.” With that, he dismissed the scout. He began pacing the room, his thought churning as he realized what this meant. Helgen’s destruction by a dragon had been a blessing, if it hadn’t have been for the beast all of them would be a head shorter.
Suddenly the thoughts flowed through his mind like a stream which burst its banks after a winter storm. A warrior such as the Dragonborn would make a formidable ally, one that would make the Empire take a step back and rethink continuing this unnecessary bloodshed. But he had to ensure that the Dragonborn would ally herself to him. He needed to find the Dragonborn and convince them to join his fight.
The day had been long; Meliandra was tired. She had started to turn in using the bed she often had slept in by herself when Brynjolf had stopped her. “No, lass. You should have some privacy tonight,” he had said softly, resting his hand on her shoulder. She had protested but he was insistent on ignoring them. They had had a good day, finding themselves able to be at ease together enough that they had spent part of the evening laughing at each other’s joke and light-hearted jabs. And protest as much as she did, she knew that he was right, she needed some privacy so she could have a decent night’s sleep.
She was quiet as they walked to a room in the back where she could sleep without being disturbed; Brynjolf wondered what was on her mind but respected her silence. He opened the door for Meliandra then followed her in, leaving the door slightly ajar. “Meli,” he spoke softly “we need to talk about us, about what happened.”
She looked at him, her eyes darkened as her voice went cold. “Why did you have to go and bring that up?” She paused. “And there is no ‘us’.”
He sighed; he had feared she would react like this. “Meli, we can’t go on ignoring what happened. You’ve got to give me a chance to explain.”
“What do you need to explain?” she snapped. “I don’t care what you have to say. You made the choice to fuck her. You betrayed me, Bryn. End of story.”
“You’re right,” he snapped back at her. “I had the choice and I made the wrong decision. Oh boy, did I ever make the wrong decision. I wasn’t thinking too clearly at that point in time, I’d like to add in my defense, not that it’s gonna matter to you; I can tell that already. But dammit, lass. I never wanted to hurt you.” He reached up to stroke her cheek, but she pulled away; he let his hand drop with a sigh. “I’m sorry, Meliandra. If I could erase the hurt I caused, I would do so without hesitation. All I ask is for a chance to make things right.”
She looked at him, a look of confused astonishment upon her face. “Make things right?” she repeated, incredulously. “You were ready to kill me because of Mercer and his lies. You believed those lies, Brynjolf. How are you going to make things right with me about that?”
“How was I supposed to know that Mercer had lied? That he had tried to kill you to save his own skin? That he had set you up? Shor’s Balls, Meli, for twenty-five years we all thought that Karliah had murdered Gallus. And we were all ready to kill her.” He ran his hands through his hair, his eyes closed. “I’m sorry I brought it up, lass. Forget I said anything.” He turned to walk out of the room before stopping at the door. He turned to look at her, a sadness touching his eyes. “I hope one day we can get past this.”
He walked out, shutting the door behind him. As he looked up he saw Vex just steps away, a look of remorse shadowing on her face. Before he could say anything, she turned and walked away.