The storm drove Brynjolf into the first cave he had come across. He had found a part of the cave off from the rest of it that was dry and had apparently been home to a hunter or nomad at one time evidenced by the cooking pots he had discovered in the ashes of a long cold fire pit. He found plenty of dry wood and began to build a fire. He reached into his pack and found the dried meat and bread he had packed before leaving Riften and began to eat. He was not fond of traveling up north; Nord or not, he was no fan of the snow and cold.
A scuttling sound caught his attention as he turned to look around his little section of this cave. He slowly drew his dagger as his eyes adjusted to the dim light revealing a plump rabbit sitting amongst the grass. He looked at the meat in his hand then back at the rabbit and smiled. His dagger flew from his hand smoothly, the blade embedding itself in the rabbit’s chest, a squeak dying as quickly as the rabbit did. Moments later, his skilled hands were skinning the creature and getting it ready to be put on a makeshift spit; his mouth was watering as he thought of freshly killed rabbit being his meal for the night.
As the rabbit cooked over the fire, he found himself thinking about the things he had learned in the past week and once again he found himself at a loss, his mind tormented with the endless what ifs and if onlys that come with the many regrets of life. He thought of Meliandra, the young Breton who had unexpectedly stolen his heart before he had made a complete mess of things because of an insecure Vex. Though he had wanted to make things right, had even tried to, they both had seemingly left that relationship deeply scarred.
In the silence, the sound of rocks skittering down the slight incline beyond this room of the cave was noticeable. He quickly extinguished the campfire and pulled back into the shadows, watching the entrance for the coming movement he knew he would see shortly.
His breath caught as he recognized the raven-haired intruder; she looked as beautiful as she did the day he met her. The months he had not seen her had changed her slightly; there was a darkness about her that he had glimpsed all those months ago when she killed Mercer Frey. He sat on the log by the fire again, placing his back to her; his thoughts were racing.
He picked out an ale from his pack and held it for a moment, staring at it as he grappled with his emotions. Her steps got closer, he swore he could smell the floral perfumes she liked to wear; he swallowed the lump that had appeared in his throat, and held the ale out to the side and said, “Why don’t you put that dagger away and have an ale with me, lass?”
The silence echoed off the stone walls before he heard her steps approaching him. From the corner of his eye, he saw Meliandra sit on the log next to him; he glanced over as she slipped the ebony dagger back into its sheath then placed it in her pack which she had set down next to her. A guard look in her amber eyes, she met his, bringing the painful memory of the last time that they had seen other to his mind. Knowing what he knew now, he wished he could take back those words he had spoken.
“You know me too well, Bryn,” she said with a small smile.
“I oughtta know you that well; you’ve held that very blade to my own neck before.”
Her smile turned into a smirk as she remembered, turning to face him again. “You were ready to kill me. You may very well would have if you didn’t let your feelings get in the way.”
He nodded in agreement. Aye, that I did, lass. But I don’t think you have that much of a problem with that though.”
Chuckling, she agreed. She took the ale from him and began to drink. She motioned to the extinguished fire and rabbit, asking, “So, you going to finish cooking that thing or are you just going to let the smell torment our stomachs?”
“Oh, so you think you can barge on up into my cave and then you expect me to cook you something?” he teased. “What, you think that because you’re the Guild Master you can just expect that of me?”
He was rewarded with a laugh and a smile, which he discovered that he had missed greatly. He gestured to the campfire and asked, “Perhaps you’d like to oblige us both with starting the fire with a bit of your magic?”
“Are you becoming lazy in my absence?” she asked as she cast a flame spell into the ashes, reigniting the embers and bringing the fire roaring back to life.
“Lazy?” he repeated, a laugh hidden in his voice. “No, definitely not lazy, Meli.”
“Of course not,” she answered, a look of avoidance to her eyes. “How’s the Guild doing?”
He nodded as he answered, telling her of the growth they had seen with new recruits and even new merchants setting up shop in the Ragged Flagon. As they spoke, he realized how much he had missed her and resisted his desire to tell her as much; he doubted that she’d even want to listen to anything he had to say about their relationship, both the past one and this strained estrangement they found themselves in.
Soon, they had eaten the rabbit, washed down with bottles of ale they both had in their packs. They talked into the night and into the early hours of morning, as they often had when they had first become lovers. Soon, he became aware of the Breton’s head resting on his shoulder and looked down to see that she had fallen asleep next to him.
He smiled slightly as he kissed the top of her head, whispering, “Always and forever, lass, always and forever.”
“What do you mean she has to go? You going to banish her from the family?”
Astrid laughed, bitterly. “You would like that. You’d prefer that, wouldn’t you?”
“I’d prefer what? And to what?” He paused then stared at her in disbelief. “To her being dead? Is that what you’re getting at, Astrid? You want Meliandra dead?”
“We are in the business of death, Arnbjorn.”
The coldness of her words took him aback, so shocked was he at the depth of his wife’s hatred for the recruit she had brought in. “You would break our own code to rid yourself of her?” His words echoed off the walls of their room, the closed door giving them privacy.
“You would keep her here amongst us?”
“We don’t have any say in the matter, wife.”
“Says who?” she retorted.
Shaking his head, Arnbjorn walked out of their room, his thoughts angry. He ignored the Argonian assassin as he stormed out of the Sanctuary, shifting into a werewolf as he took off in an angry run.
Galmar had watched as Jorleif made the preparations to the chambers Ulfric had seen fit to provide Meliandra with; his distrust of the Breton thief was well known by those close to Ulfric and many had chosen to stay clear of the general when they learned that Meliandra was returning to the Palace. Ulfric had willingly agreed to his demands of more patrols and a guard posted by Meliandra’s door though once again he refused to assign an escort to the woman.
He walked around the room, looking for any way the trained thief and assassin could get out of the palace unbeknownst to anyone on the inside. While Ulfric leaned to trusting her, Galmar felt the jarl’s view was biased because of his attraction to the woman. Galmar saw her as untrustworthy, especially because of her apparent successes where the enemy was concerned, but Ulfric put more faith in her than Galmar believed he should.
Satisfied for the moment, the general turned, leaving the chambers behind.
She awoke to the sound of Brynjolf humming some song she wasn’t familiar with, the words of the chorus seemingly the only part he vocalized. She smiled as she lay on the hay pile she found herself on as recollections of nights wrapped in the Nord’s warm embrace as he softly sang to her. She laid there for a while, enjoying the moment while forgetting the things that weighed heavily upon her mind and soul. She let her mind wander with thoughts of a different life, one that had her living happily with a husband and child on a small farm where she could grow what crops she needed for her potion making.
The parchedness of her throat drove her to finally sit up, her eyes opening to see the redheaded thief sitting on the log an arm’s length away from her. He smiled at her softly as he said, “Morning, sunshine. Hungry?” he held a plate toward her with cooked salmon.
Her taste buds immediately salivated as her stomach gave a grumble. “Where’d you get the fish?” she asked as she made her way to the log, picking up the tankard of water along the way.
“Stream outside, not far from the cave; I was following it yesterday when the storm hit. I knew that rabbit last night wouldn’t be enough to hold either one of us too long this morning so I went out and caught a few.”
“How’s the storm?” she inquired as she took a bite of the flaky fish, savoring the taste of the fish.
“Died down to nothing sometime this morning; was calm outside when I ventured out to get us some fish.” He cleared his throat then said, “You never said where you were headed, lass.”
“Windhelm,” she replied flatly.
He nodded. “Job for Stormcloak?”
She shrugged. “Not sure; he sent a letter via courier requesting met o return, he didn’t go into detail.”
“Be careful going up there, Meli. The Empire isn’t playing around with this rebellion of his.”
She smiled at her former lover, knowing that he still cared greatly for her. “I will,” she promised him before changing the subject. “What about you? What are you doing up this way?”
“Winterhold; going to pay a visit to Enthir about some Guild matters, nothing serious, though, so no need to worry.”
They sat there, talking for a bit, both having business to take care of but neither wanting to leave the company of the other. It was Brynjolf who finally began getting his things together to leave. Taking her cue from him, she began to get ready as well and soon they were exiting the cave together and biding each other farewell. As they parted ways, she found herself once more thinking of that family she always wanted, and more and more, she found herself wishing it would be Brynjolf that she settled down and built a family with.