He knew it was late, how late he wasn’t sure, but late enough that Vekel would be complaining about how many bottles of mead were gone. Brynjolf drained another bottle as he thought about the conversation he had had with the Stormcloak soldier about Meliandra and he thought about his own conversation with the Guild Master about the Guild’s neutrality in this war. As he uncorked another bottle, he recalled the last time she had been at the Cistern, making love to her and how she had disappeared into the night. The more be thought about it, the more he recalled little details about her return, how she had Ulfric’s signet ring, how she had told him that she had a lot going on but wouldn’t go into detail even though he had offered to help her, how she had been distracted the entire time. He should have pressed for more information, but he had had other things on his mind at the time.
“Ah, Meli,” he said drunkenly to himself, “what kind of trouble did ya get yourself into?”
“Nothing I can’t handle, Bryn.”
From his spot on the floor, he looked up, the bottle in his hand almost slipping from his grip as he blinked his eyes, sure the alcohol was playing tricks on him. He reached for the edge of the counter to pull himself up, but his drunken state refused to cooperate with him as his fingers slipped off the counter edge, making him fallback. He rubbed his eyes, his vision refusing to un-blur itself. “Meli?” he slurred.
She shook her head and went around the bar saying, “Vekel’s going to charge all of this to the Guild, you do realize this, right?”
He glanced down where Meliandra was looking and saw almost a case of mead laying scattered across the floor, all empty. He looked back at the Breton. “Aren’t you supposed to be missing?”
She reached her hand down to help him home. “Missing? Why would I be missing?”. She pulled the inebriated man to his feet, steadying once he was upright.
“Stormcloak soldier was looking for you, said something about you doing a job for Ulfric?”
She blanched and attempted to keep her face a blank. “Oh, really? That’s good to know. Did they say anything in particular?”
He looked at her and for a moment he felt like everything was right, that Meliandra had come back home, that she had come back k to him. Then he saw the worry in her eyes. “You are in trouble, aren’t you, lass?”
She smiled at him as she replied, “It’s nothing I can’t handle, Bryn. Now, let’s get you to bed so you can sleep off the drink, alright?”. She started to lead him away from the counter when he stopped, staring at her. She could see the thoughts churning in his eyes and sighed. “Bryn-”
“No, Meliandra,” he snapped as he interrupted her. “What the fuck has been going on?” His voice began to betray the anger and frustration that had been building up within him. “You’re here for less than a night, just long enough to check in, fuck me, and then you disappear in the middle of the night with no clue as to where you have gone to.”. He slammed his fist onto the counter. “Dammit, what in Oblivion is going on with you?”
“Can we talk about this tomorrow when you’ve slept this off?”
“You mean so you can sneak off again? Fuck no. We’re having this discussion right here, right now, lass.”
She took a deep breath. “Fine. I’ll tell you. Just lower your voice, alright?” He crossed his arms, waiting. “When I picked up that job in Windhelm from Delvin, I let my curiosity get the better of me and checked out what the locals were saying was a haunted house. Turns out the townspeople we’re hearing a kid praying to the Night Mother for the Dark Brotherhood.”. She noticed how his eyes went large at the mention of the Brotherhood; she glanced at the floor for a moment, then looked back up at him. “I didn’t intend to steal the contract. I was going to ignore it.”
“Oh no, Meli,” the Nord breathed softly, worry edging his voice and creasing his brow.
“The night I came back here… You were asleep and I had a few things on my mind. I decided to take a walk to try and clear my head, to try and sort things out. Well, I was passing Honorhall and heard a child trying not to cry aloud.”
Brynjolf closed his eyes as he said, “You killed Grelod.”
She nodded, her voice barely a whisper as she answered, “Yes; the guards saw me.”
“And that’s why you ran off.” When she nodded he asked, “So where have you been?”
“You asked me before what I did to get my freedom from Windhelm’s jail.” Brynjolf nodded, his eyes questioning. “I agreed to do a job for him, something he needed done but had yet to get someone who was able to actually get the job done. I was heading to the job from here, my intention was to leave the next day. Having the guards see me after killing the old lady…well, I had to leave town and lay low for a bit.”
“So this job for Stormcloak, you’ve finished it?” he asked.
“Yes and no.” At his confused look, she explained. “In the process of ringing back this prisoner Ulfric wanted, I discovered another player in a this conspiracy against Ulfric. I don’t know who this other person is and before Ulfric could find out from the prisoner, the guy killed himself. Since I’m the only person that has seen or heard this other conspirator, Ulfric has not released me from this debt.” She pulled her hair back as she rolled her head from side to side, relieving some of the strain in the muscles in her neck.
“What the hell?” Brynjolf snapped suddenly.
“What?” A confused look appeared on Meliandra’s face.
He reached toward her and, taking her chin in his hand, turned her head to reveal a large bruise on her neck in the shape of a handprint. “Did he do this to you?” he demanded, his anger flashing in his eyes.
“What are you talking about?”
“The bruise on your neck! He choked you, didn’t he? I’ll kill, jarl or not, I’ll fucking kill him!”
“No,” she answered calmly. “Ulfric did not choke me.”
He stared at her, his eyes looking her over. He no longer to be drunk, his anger seemingly sobering him up. He sneered suddenly. “Oh, I see. I know you, Meliandra. You’re a hellion, wild and untamed. You quickly give control to whoever it is you’re fucking.”. He let go of her chin, a look of disgust coming over him. “You let that bastard fuck you, you fucking whore.”
This time Meliandra snapped. “I didn’t fuck Ulfric and even if I had it would have been my choice. I don’t fucking answer to you, Brynjolf.”
“No, but if you’ve dragged us into this god forsaken war, you will be answering to the Guild.” He shook his head. “I don’t know what happened but you’re not the same, lass.”
“You’re right, Bryn, I’m not the same. Mercer made sure that the Meliandra you met at the Bee and Barb was dead; his blade might have only pierced this mortal coil, but it found it’s mark inside of me, killing the person I was ready to become.” She shook her head. “You’ll never understand.”
“It’s not for lack of trying, that’s for sure, Meli,” he snapped back. “It’s not like I haven’t tried to talk to you since we discovered Mercer’s betrayal.”
“What is there to talk about, Brynjolf? You and Vex? Me and Mercer? Me and anyone I’ve bedded? What more is there to say between us?”
Brynjolf shook his head, resigned. “You’re right, Meli. There’s nothing left for us.” He turned and walked towards the Cistern. “Finish the job for Stormcloak, do whatever it is you’re gonna do, I won’t stand in your way.”
Meliandra started at him, her emotions churning inside of her. How did things go from alright to horrible in such a short amount of time? Her plans had been to right her wrongs, instead everything disintegrated in front of her. As she watched him walk away she felt the coldness returning to her, hardening her heart again. “Good,” she said icily. She turned on her heel and headed out in the opposite direction, saying loud enough for him to hear, “It’s not like you love me or anything.”