Ulfric sat at his desk in his quarters, lost in thought. He knew he was taking a risk with the Breton thief. He realized quickly that she was by far not the naïve victim he had assumed she was when he saw her at Helgen nearly a year ago. Instead, he found her to be difficult, headstrong, overly self-confident, dangerous. Yet at the same time he found her confidence intriguing, her stubbornness he saw as determination, and the danger that she possessed was alluring to him. He sensed something about her that was raw and powerful, and he knew that she could be molded to do his bidding, but only if done right. And he still had to establish if he could even trust the thief.
He sent a spy of his own to shadow her, to see if she would do his bidding of if she would tuck tail and run away, hoping to never cross the jarl’s path again. The spy had orders to eliminate her if she failed to go to Castle Dour. He had no time for people who could not keep their word, even less for thieves. The Breton was lucky he had even given her the opportunity to redeem herself. He honestly hoped that she would not throw that gift away.
“I love you, Meli.”
Hours later those four words echoed in her mind.
She had been drifting to sleep when Brynjolf’s words had made their way to her ears but had found herself suddenly wide awake. She laid there frozen, stuck in the moment. She had listened to him as he fell asleep, his rhythmic breathing accompanied by the occasional snore, his arm still draped across her waist. His words circled around her mind continuously, as if they were caught in an emotional whirlpool. A tear escaped her eyelid and spilled down her cheek as the conflicting emotions churned through her.
She finally got out of the bed, quietly dressed and slipped out the door without disturbing the sleeping Nord. The Cistern was quiet save for the sounds of members sleeping as she made her way to the entrance.
She needed to think about things. She had been ignoring all the feelings she had been experiencing except for the hurt and anger. She didn’t want to acknowledge that the mere sight of Brynjolf made her heart skip a beat or that every time she was close to him she swooned at his voice. She wanted to remember that he had betrayed her trust but her heart kept reminding her of how he had stolen her love. And now to add to her turmoil, she was dealing with him successfully breaking down that wall she had erected around her as well as his admittance of love. Her world was changing faster day by day and she could feel herself slipping further and further into her anger.
She stepped out into the graveyard, intent on spending some time in meditation in the Temple of Mara. Instead she turned directly into the oncoming path of Vex. They stared at each other a moment, neither one looking happy to see the other. Meliandra moved to walk around her when Vex broke the silence.
“Running off, are we?”
Meliandra turned and faced her. “Who says I’m running off? Or is that just what you’re hoping that I’ll do?”
“My concern is Brynjolf,” Vex replied flatly.
“Of course it is, Vex. That’s why you were a thorn in my side before and I completely believe you will always be a thorn in my side. It doesn’t matter if I’m the Guild Master or not. You do not like me. You never have and never will.”
The blonde tilted her head to the side. “I don’t know what Brynjolf sees in you, but he sees it,” she said crossly. “And because he feels the way he does for you, I’ll just have to put my own feelings about you aside.”
“Your feelings about me?” Meliandra repeated. She emphasized her words as she spoke harshly, “What about your feelings about Brynjolf? Have you ever thought that maybe, just maybe, he doesn’t want to reciprocate your feelings?”
“I am very aware of what feelings he has for me and yes, I am very aware that they are not of the romantic kind in nature. It’s obvious he has those kinds of feelings for you.” She chuckled. “After last night, I think the entire Guild sees who has his undivided attention.”
“And that must drive you mad with jealousy, doesn’t it, Vex?”
The older thief shook her head. “You don’t have an inkling of a clue as to what my relationship with Brynjolf is and nothing you say or do will ever change that.” She straightened her back and glared at her. “Go ahead and run away, Meliandra. And don’t try to tell me that you’re not because I can see it written all over your face. Just next time you decide to announce to the entire Guild that you and Brynjolf are fucking, I’d advise you to not go sneaking off in the middle of the night leaving him to wake to find you missing in the morning.”
Then the blonde thief turned on her heel and walked past her, headed for the secret entrance to the Thieves Guild.
She bypassed the Temple and walked around Riften, her mood dark. Vex’s words echoed in her ears, taunting her. What irritated her the most was that she knew Vex was right. She had not planned on returning to the bed that Brynjolf slept in now and there was a high probability that she was not going to be returning to the Cistern at all before she left for Solitude. But now, now she knew that she couldn’t. There was no way that she was going to allow Vex to be right about this.
She just needed to clear her head.
She made her way up the stairs from the lower level of the fishing town, emerging by the orphanage. He thought about Aventus Aretino in Windhelm and what he had said about the old lady that ran the place. She stood at the door for a moment, thinking about it. She shook her head, thinking that the boy just didn’t want to be in an orphanage and turned to walk away. Then her sensitive ears picked up a youthful sob coming from the fenced in yard. She crept forward and upon finding a foothold, she scaled the wall and watched through the spiked railing. In a darkened corner of the yard sat a young boy trying to treat what appeared to be bloody lacerations on his back.
After a few moments of watching the boy and reliving abuses she suffered at the hands of her own father, she made her way back down the wall and snuck into the orphanage, shutting the door quietly behind her. She cast a muffle spell and made her way into the orphanage, past the children sleeping in their beds and into a room in the back.
She looked around the room in horror. There were shackles attached to the walls. There were bloodied belts and whips. She clenched her hands into fists as she made her way into the other back room and saw the old woman asleep in bed. Shutting the door softly, she slinked forward, every movement measured to avoid any sound. She perched herself atop the edge of a chest at the foot of her bed.
The old woman must have been a light sleeper because her eyes opened and focused on the intruder above her. “You’ve no business here. Get out before I call for the guards!” she spat out, her voice riddled with hate.
“I’m just here to deliver a message, old woman.” She gave the elderly woman a taunting look as she paused.
“A message? From whom?” she asked suspiciously.
“From Aventus Aretino, of course.”
“Aretino?” she hissed. “That little bastard!” She wagged her finger at the Breton. “You tell him I’m coming to get him! And when I find him, it’ll be the beating of his miserable life!”
“You won’t be laying a finger on him.”
“I’m not scared of you, girl.”
Meliandra smiled icily as she said, “You ought to be.” In the Breton’s hands appeared a pair of swords. “Aventus wishes you a good journey to the Void.” She then flipped the swords around, blades down and drove them deep and hard into the woman’s chest. A scream ripped forth from the woman’s lips as she felt the coldness of the magic blades slam into her body.
“That… ungrateful… little… bastard…. “ She coughed then her head lolled to the side, her eyes unfocused and empty.
Suddenly she heard a scream behind her. She spun around to see Constance Michel standing in the doorway, staring at the sight before her. “It’s alright, you’re okay,” Meliandra tried to reassure her but the woman screamed again.
“Shit,” Meliandra grumbled, knowing that the screams were going to alert the guards outside. She ran out of the room and towards the entrance to the orphanage but suddenly stopped short as a city guard turned the corner and came rushing at her with his sword drawn. She dodged his blow as she ran for the door that led to the yard she had seen the boy crying in earlier, pushing her way through the door. She scrambled her way up the aspen tree and launched herself over the wall only to find more guards rushing toward the orphanage.
“Fuck me,” she mumbled as she broke into a run and rushed through the city gate, leaving Riften behind her.
The Nord watched the Breton thief run out the city gate. He held back for a moment before he made his own way out of the city. Using the skills, he had learned as a young boy out hunting with his father, he tracked the thief. He watched as she waited for some time by the standing stone outside the city. After a while he saw her walk down to the road and flag down a passing traveling merchant; she handed him something then he headed toward town. Sometime later the Breton’s two companions appeared on the road and walked directly to the standing stone. After a few moments, the trio set out on the road.
The spy Ulfric sent out to watch the thief shadowed the group as they headed away from the Rift, eventually finding themselves on a path that would lead them to Solitude and Castle Dour.
Before his eyes opened, Brynjolf knew something was amiss.
It was quiet, too quiet for Meliandra to still be in the room with him. He sat up and looked around, finding emptiness around him. He rubbed the sleep from his eyes, then stretched widely, working the tightness out of his aging muscles. As he dressed, he tried to not think the worst of finding Meliandra gone from the room. He refused to allow the thought that she ran away after what had happened between them. He wanted to believe that reconciliation was possible.
He made his way to the Flagon where he knew that Vekel would have an ample amount of Nordic coffee over the fire. As he walked in he noticed a pause in conversations as members turned to look at him. Recalling that Meliandra had been screaming out last night, he shrugged it off. He sat down at the counter; Vekel placed a mug of hot Nordic coffee in front of him. “What’s the word, Vekel?”
The bartender shook his head. “Slow morning. Sapphire headed up to the Bee & Barb a little while ago to hear the scuttlebutt around town.”
The Nord nodded, turned and scanned the room.
“She’s not here,” came Vex’s voice from his side.
He glanced to his right to see the blonde emerging from the shadows. “Didn’t see you over there, Vex. And… what are you talking about?”
She stood next to him. “Meliandra. I saw her leaving in the middle of the night.”
He nodded, solemnly. “Do you know where she went?”
Vex shook her head. “No, sorry.” She hesitated then continued. “Look, I know I’m to blame for this. There’s got to be some way- “
“I don’t want to hear it, Vex,” he said flatly. He looked at her, his eyes narrowed. He ran his hand over his chin, frustrated. “This time it’s on me.” He set his mug down and walked out, thinking himself a fool for admitting his love to the Breton.