The Other Side of the Coin

“Holy shit,” Vorstag breathed as they entered the hidden cavern. Through the darkness, he could see a glowing ahead; a cloud of startled bats flew around their heads as they walked ahead. “What the hell is that?” he said, pointing to the giant wall with strange markings on it.

“I’ve seen one like that before,” she said, remembering the strange wall in Snow Veil Sanctum. “I don’t know what it is. Weird though. I swear it hums.”

“It hums?” he repeated light-heartedly.

She glanced at him to see the quizzical, but joking, look on his face. “Don’t look at me like that. I’m serious.”

“Okay,” he shook his head. “So, do we know where to find this thing?”

“No. We get to be adventurers.”

“Great,” he sighed. He pointed towards something. “Is that a sarcophagus?”

She nodded. “Are you afraid?”

“Hell no. Just…” he paused then continued, “unprepared.”

She chuckled as they crossed a stone bridge. “That wall is imposing,” she muttered. “Gives me the creeps.”

“You? Weirded out?” It was his turn to chuckle. “Mel, I do believe that that is a first.” He looked at the wall and then back at her a couple of times before finally saying, “I have to see for myself.” He walked ahead of Meliandra toward the wall. As he neared it he could tell what she had meant about the humming. There was a sense of something pulsating and he turned to mention it to her.

Meliandra was bracing herself against the wall, a blank look to her eyes. A moment passed before her eyes cleared, a bead of sweat appearing on her brow. She dropped to her knees and clutched at her head, a silent cry upon her lips. She looked up at Vorstag, visibly shaking. She moved her lips as if to speak, but nothing came forth.

Suddenly there was a loud cracking sound as a cloud of dust and crumbled stoned filled the air. There was a rumbling as the two looked toward the stone sarcophagi to see a draugr climbing out of it. It turned its head toward them, an eerie light emitting from its long empty eye sockets.

“Fuck me!” Vorstag cried out, grabbing his sword. “Mel, whatever the fuck that has gotten a hold of you, you better shake it off and quick-like! I’m not gonna be able to fight this thing by myself!”

The draugr shouted at them, knocking them back. Meliandra climbed to her feet, shaking her head. She drew her sword, snarling. “Well that got me up and moving. Let’s play.”
She charged forward, slashing at the undead once she was within reach. Suddenly Vorstag was in the middle of the fray, attacking the creature with a fierceness. They were relentless in their assault until the draugr crumpled at their feet.

Vorstag looked at her. “What the fuck happened before?”

“I don’t know but it happened last time too. I just thought I was sick.” She shook her head. “Let’s find that tablet and get out of here.”

They began searching through the sarcophagus then the chest. “Hey, Mel,” Vorstag said after a moment of digging around, “this what we’re after?”

She looked over to see him holding a stone tablet with chiseled characters on it. She nodded. “Looks like it.” Taking it from him, she tucked it safely away in her sack and slung that on her shoulder. “Let’s get the fuck out of here. We can stay the night in Riverwood; Gerdur will give us lodging.”

#

They approached the stables outside, weary from the trek north to Whiterun. Her thoughts were on a thick cut of steak and a never-ending supply of mead so when she saw Kematu leaning against the stable wall she was taken by surprise. She stopped, looked at Vorstag and said, “Meet me at Dragonsreach.” He nodded, then continued, leaving Meliandra to speak to the Redguard. She walked over to him, an exhausted look on her face.

“My sweet girl, I was beginning to wonder if I was going to see you or not,” he said as he stroked her cheek. “Don’t forget your promise.”

“I would never forget the oath I made to you, Kematu,” she replied, turning her face into his hand. “I had to fulfill my obligations to Balgruuf. I am still going to bring her to you.”

He leaned forward, lightly placing a kiss on her lips. “Good. See you soon then?”

“I can’t promise how soon; I still have to go give this thing to the court wizard and I’m sure the jarl is going to take his time in forking out the gold for this little venture I made for him. But I promise, you’ll have her.”

He smiled at her, his hand resting along her neck. “I know I will, my sweet girl. Just don’t make me wait much longer.”

She smiled. “Of course not.” She excused herself and headed up the path, her temper beginning to flare. She thought back to the morning after their tryst and how he had managed to get her to do his bidding. She resented being manipulated the way she had been but she saw this as an opportunity to alleviate a problem of her own.

As she made her way to the gates of the city she thought about returning to Riften; she knew that she had to get back to the Guild, there was plenty more that needed to be done to get the Guild on its feet again. She just wanted to avoid having to deal with Vex or Brynjolf. After having to deal with this promise to Kematu, having to deal with that betrayal was not something she was ready to deal with.

She sighed heavily as she approached the gate; her uneasiness seemed to grow with every step she took. Once again, she thought of a little farm that she could call her won, a place to work on her alchemy and be left alone in peace, but that dream was beginning to look just like that, and one that would elude her for the rest of her life. It was beginning to upset her greatly but she boxed it up inside to deal with another day, just like so many other thing she’d already experienced in her short life.

She decided that once Balgruuf paid her and Vorstag for retrieving this tablet and once she lured Saadia out to Kematu, she would hire the carriage and go back to Riften. Once she got the Guild back on their feet, she was going to get on with her life and get as far away from Riften as she could.

#

A dragon had been sighted outside Windhelm. His troops had been delivered a devastating blow when Imperial troops ambushed another detail on their way to strengthen their border. He was considering hiring an assassin to eliminate Appius inside of Castle Dour but knew he needed to find out if anyone else was in on his betrayal and if so, who? What had started as a cause turned into a rebellion and that was having the very lie choked out of it.

Ulfric picked up his tankard and downed its contents, a frown on his face. He looked at his bed at Mila who was sprawled up on it, her naked body entwined with Rory’s once more. He had watched them play again, the two of them indulging every desire they had shamelessly. Rory took a dominant role in their sex-play, often putting the brunette in binds to restrain her as she playfully punished her for some invented slight against her. He would find that his dick got the hardest when one of them was punishing the other, bringing him to the bed to join in the fun. He had attempted to be a part of that fun this past night, but his cock had remained flaccid even when Rory was giving it attention orally. Disgruntled, he had sat back down and began drinking.

His thoughts started to turn dark as they dwelt on the misfortunes he and his men had been experiencing. This darkness was familiar to him, he had known it since he was sent to live among the Greybeards. It was a darkness that had visited him when he received word that his father had died during his imprisonment. It was a darkness that never truly left him, for it lived on the edges of his heart and mind, engulfing him on a whim.

He stood up and walked out of his quarters, leaving the two girls asleep in his bed. He made his way down the passageway and into the main hall of the palace. The flames cast eerie shadows that danced along the walls as he walked to the doors that led outside, the footfalls of his boots echoing throughout the quiet hall. The guards by the doors stood at attention as he exited the palace, and sensing his mood, stood back.

He found his way to Candlehearth, intent on getting his mind off current events. He could hear the drunken voice of Rolff Stone-Fist, Galmar’s good for nothing kid brother harassing one of the elves. As little as he cared about any of the Mer peoples, he did not wish to deal with a ruckus this night. He clapped the younger man on the back, saying, “Rolff! So good to see you! Come, let’s get a tankard at the inn and catch up.” He eyed the elf as Rolff laughed and clapped him on the shoulder in return. Laughing, the jarl continued, “No need to ruin the night with any of this ugliness.”

#

She hadn’t even had the chance to bring the tablet to Farengar before Balgruuf was out of his throne and quickly by her side, sweeping her out of the throne room and into his personal quarters. His hands were quickly removing the clothing that she wore, his lips caressing her neck as his hands found their way around her waist, bringing her body to his. She could feel his erection hard against her body, his kissing igniting a fire of desire within her. The man was proficient in ways that she had not even dreamed possible.

His lips laid feathery kisses down her neck and down her chest, slowly making his way to her stomach; she was leaning back against the wall now as he began to kneel before her, kissing every part of her he could, enjoying the feel of her skin beneath his hands. He wanted to taste the nectar of her and brought his face to the nest of her womanhood.

He stopped and sat back, staring at her hips; the bruises were the perfect imprint of large hands, masculine by the size of them. His eyes burned hotly as he looked up at her. “Who touched you? Who dares touch what is mine?!” he roared.

“Yours?!” she repeated, equally as loud. “You think that because you bedded me that that makes me yours? I belong to no man.” She went to grab her clothes, anger written on her face. She glared at him when he grabbed her wrist; his grip was strong, causing her pain.

“Where do you think you’re going?” he snapped. “I’m not down with you yet.” He spun her around so she was facing him.

“I’m done here,” she snapped back at him, trying to pull her arm away but finding his grip firmer than she had expected.

“You’re done when I say you’re done.” He pulled her to him and glared into her eyes. “While in my city, you belong to me. You will not deny me what you so freely give to others.”

“I give freely to those of my choosing, not those who demand it from me.”

He reached up and grabbed a handful of hair and leaned into her face. “I am the jarl of Whiterun. I don’t have to demand it. I expect it from you.” He paused a moment then continued, “Especially if you don’t want Commander Caius to find out that you were at Helgen not as a passing traveler like you told us but as a prisoner of the Legion.”

Her face paled as she stared back at him. “You know that?”

He frowned at her. “So Irileth was right; you have been lying the entire time.” At her confused look he said, “I didn’t know. But Irileth knew something wasn’t as it appeared with you. Well now I know what it is.”

“So you’re going to blackmail me?”

He stroked her cheek again. “I’d hate to see you taken from my city in chains.”

She looked away for a moment, then returned a resigned look at him. “Fine.”

He smiled, but all warmth from his eyes was gone as he pressed his lips on hers, kissing her roughly. “Good,” he breathed harshly against her face. “Now since you want to be a little slut and fuck whoever, I’m going to treat you just like I would a barwench.” He forced her to her knees then pulled her head back to look up at him. “I’m going to fuck your mouth first for lying to me. Then I’m going to fuck that pussy of yours so hard that it knows who it belongs to even if you refuse to.”

Carnal Desire

They sat amongst the paid bandits and the Alik’r, dining on roasted pheasant and imbibing on endless bottles of mead.  One of the bandits, Rema, had made it her mission that night to be as close to Vorstag as possible while Kematu kept Meliandra within arm’s reach but always watching her.  Meliandra smiled and smiled quite often this night and this made Vorstag happy.  Rema had made herself comfortable next to him, giving him close view of her firm, creamy breasts beneath the hide armor she wore.  It wasn’t long before he felt her hand on his thigh as they ate and drank, the mead and ale seeping into his brain as he looked at her, a smile spreading across his face.

He glanced over at Meliandra across the table from him.  She was smiling and joking with Kematu and the others; they had told stories of their youth, the time that their families lived amongst each other.  He had noticed how the Redguard leader watched her and eyed anyone who approached her with an intensity to his eyes, so it wasn’t a surprise when he saw Kematu whisper in her ear, then lead her out of the large cavern.  Instead he picked up his tankard of ale, took a long swig of it, then looked at Rema and smiled as her hand rested on his thigh, her long slender fingers resting close to his groin.

#

Kematu led her through the cave, his voice light-hearted as he joked with her.  “I think it’ll be safer for you with me back here; some of my men act like they’ve never seen a woman before.”  He looked back at her and winked before laughing.

“Oh, come on now, I’ve dealt with many ogling eyes.  I am definitely use to it by now,” she responded.

“Really?”  he said but continued.  “This is the last room in this cave we allow the bandits to have access to.”

She looked around, saw some sleeping mats, empty bottles of mead and remnants of half eaten meals.  A couple of bandits sat huddled in the corner, the smell of skooma heavy in the air.  “I see you pay your hired hands well.”

He frowned.  “I pay them enough to do their job.  What they choose to spend that gold on is up to them.  I will not tolerate *my* men using that shit.”

They emerged on a ledge overlooking the area they had been eating and drinking in earlier.  Meliandra looked over the side to see that Rema was now sitting on the table directly in front of Vorstag, her arms draped around his neck as she leaned forward.  She couldn’t help but smile at the sight, and when she saw him reach his arm around her waist and pull her down to him, crushing his lips to hers, Meliandra gave a loud whistle.

Kematu called out to his men below, “You all keep watch.  Tonight, we fest, but tomorrow we have work to do.”  He started to turn to walk away, stopped and looked back over the group.  “And if anyone dares to bother me before sunrise without good reason, they’ll be pulling double duty for at least two months.  If it’s for a good reason, they can go fight a goddamned giant.”

The guys below roared with laughter as the two of them took another passageway further back into the cave.  “Seems like you’ve got a good crew.  What brings you out to Skyrim?”

“You really want to talk business, Meliandra?”  He glanced behind him, chuckling.  “Come on now, relax.  Tonight, nothing exists but you and me, right here, right now.”  At her laugh he continued, “I’m glad you laughed ‘cause you will not be in a moment.”

“What are you – “ she started to say.  Suddenly she found herself being picked up and carried by him, and then she felt the cold water on her backside and let out a surprised yelp.  “Shit!”

He laughed heartily then said, “That’s nothing.  Just wait till we get a little further on.”

Her eyes widened suddenly.  “Do I hear a waterfall?”

Again, he laughed then said, “You might want to get ready.”

“Why?  Do we have to go through it?” At his bigger smile, she slapped his arm.  “You bastard!  Just like –“

“Get ready,” he interrupted.

A moment later they both were drenched as they emerged on the other side of the fall.  He set her down on her feet, then dodged the slap that she went to lay on him.  He laughed as he walked up an incline and toward a barrel.  “Live a little, Meliandra.  It’s okay to play around and have fun.”

“We are not kids anymore, Kematu.”

“Were we ever truly kids?” he asked as he glanced back at her.  “We both saw sides of life we shouldn’t have when we were young.”

“Our childhood consisted of a life among the Aldmeri Dominion,” she said frowning. “There’s not a lot of living and having fun in that kind of setting.”

“But we did manage to have fun,” he chuckled.  He pulled out a belted tunic and a pair of boots then walked back over to Meliandra.  “Here’s some dry clothes; best get those wet things off you before you catch your death in this place.”

“Never had a man use that line to see me naked before,” she said with a raised eyebrow.

His eyes roamed over her body as she stripped off her wet clothes.  “I never had to tell you anything to see you naked before.  And I have seen you naked before.”

“What?!” she cried out.

He chuckled.  “You weren’t very good at knowing when you were being followed, sweet girl.”

She pulled her wet clothes off her, eyeing him.  “Really?  Why were you following me?”

“Because you were the only teenager that travelled with us that wasn’t a Redguard.  You were different.”  He paused as he looked her in the eye.  “I was intrigued by you.”

She sat on a crate, dry clothes in hand.  “Then why were you always giving me a hard time?  I mean, you gave me so much shit growing up.”  She started to pull the tunic over her head, but his hand rested on it, stopping her.  She looked at him, a questioning look upon her face.  “What?”

“I gave you a hard time but we were still friends, weren’t we?”  At her nod he continued, “I gave you a hard time because I didn’t want anyone to know that I wanted to be with you.”

“You wanted to be with me?” she repeated.

“You were forbidden fruit,” he admitted to her, his finger tracing her jawline to her chin.  “Father would not hear of it.”

“Because I wasn’t Redguard?” she asked.  He nodded, his finger now tracing down her chest.  “But that didn’t stop him and my mother…” she trailed off.

He chuckled.  “No, it didn’t stop them from screwing around.  You know as well as I do that they had something going on between them.  We both saw them.  Numerous times.”  He held her eyes as he leaned closer to her.  “Remember, I followed you.”

Her cheeks turned a light shade of pink as she thought of the times she had watched her mother satisfy the carnal needs of Kematu’s father in various ways.  A shy smile touched her lips as she said softly, “Was it as exhilarating for you as it was for me?”

“Do you mean watching them fuck or watching you as you pleasured yourself?”  He breathed heavily as he leaned even closer, their faces nearly touching.

“Well, since you put it that way, perhaps both.”

“Then, yes, it was very…exhilarating.”

“What about now?” she asked in a whisper. “Do I…exhilarate you?”

His voice was thick with lust as he answered, “Very much so.”

“So why don’t you do something about it?”

“I intend to do just that,” he answered, pressing his lips hard against hers, his tongue thrusting into her mouth and instantly entwined itself with hers, demanding that it bend to his dominance.  He reached over, wrapped his arms around her waist and picked her up with ease while her legs clasped around his hips, holding them together tightly.  He carried her to the upper level to where his sleeping mat was.  Kneeling upon the ground, he gently laid her back then removed the last two remaining items of clothing she wore, revealing her succulent breasts and the nest of her womanhood.

He removed his wet tunic, revealing his firm, defined, muscular chest.  She went to run her fingers down his chest, but he grabbed ahold of them and held them above her head; he shook his head as he smiled.  He leaned down and kissed her again  before unwrapping her legs from his waist and standing up to remove his pants.

She watched as he loosened his pants, letting them fall to his feet.  His erection was large; he walked to the edge of the sleeping mat, eyeing the Breton before him.  “Get on your knees,” he demanded, his hand upon his cock.  “That’s a good girl,” he said as she obeyed and got on her knees, kneeling before him.  He rested the tip of his dick on her lips; she flicked her tongue over the head of it.  He cupped her face, stroking her cheek with his thumb, then slid his member into her mouth.

His thickness filled her mouth, as she began to suck on him, eliciting moans of pleasure from the Redguard.  He ran his fingers through her hair, murmuring about how good her mouth was making him feel.  He began rocking his hips back and forth, slowly building up the tempo of his rhythm.  She began to massage his balls, increasing his murmuring.

Suddenly his hands clenched around her head and he rocked his hips faster before going rigid as he came in her mouth, nearly causing her to choke before she swallowed the salty tang of his seed as quickly as it pumped into her mouth.  When she was satisfied that she had swallowed it all she looked up at him, a coy look on her face.  He ran this thumb along her lips, wiping a pearl of cum off her chin before she sucked his thumb clean.  “That’s a good girl,” he said as he gently pushed her onto her back.

His fingers found their way inside of her, while his thumb rubbed the nub of her sex with his other hand.  She bit her lip, enjoying the pleasure he was giving her.  Soon she was dripping with anticipation and begging for him to fuck her.  He stood up and looked at her.  “Get on your hands and knees.”

She obediently turned over and got onto her hands and knees.  She felt his hands on her ass, rubbing it roughly, then she felt the sting of his firm hand on her ass cheek and then again on the other side, then he began to finger her pussy again.  She was rocking herself back and forth on the two fingers he had in her; every so often he’d slap her ass, startling her.  She wanted to feel his dick inside of her but she quickly understood that he was the one in control, not her.

He felt how wet she was getting and it made him crave impaling her on his cock.  He removed his fingers and began to rub his length along her wet slit.  “You’ve been so obedient.  Perhaps I should give you what you want now?”  he asked as he continued to tease her with his organ.

“Please, Kematu,” she begged.  “Please fuck me.”

“If I fuck you, what do I get in return?”  he asked as he slipped the head of his pulsating dick in her pussy.

She gasped as her lips parted for his throbbing penis.  “Anything,” she breathed.  “Anything you want.  Please just fuck me.”

With that, he gave a hard thrust filling her with his immensity; causing her to yelp.  He grabbed her hips as eh built up the tempo of his strokes, enjoying her cry out as her womb adjusted to his size.  “Just as sweet as I imagined your pussy to feel,”  he grunted as he pounded her harder and harder.  “If you feel this good now, I can only imagine how good you felt back then” he continued.  “I wish I could have been the first to fuck you.”  His  breath was coming in fast, short pants as he felt his climax building.

“I’m….going….to….cum…” she panted.

“I haven’t given you permission to cum yet, Meliandra,” he scolded, grabbing her hair tightly as he thrust inside of her, harder.

“May…I…please…cum…Kematu?”

Feeling his own orgasm nearing, he grunted, “Cum for me.”

It took only a couple more thrusts of his thickness for her to climax, her orgasm shuddering through her body as her juices flooded her and seeped out around him, spilling onto his balls as they clapped against her ass.  She cried out as her body trembled beneath his body.  He slammed his cock deep within her as she felt his warm seed spilling into her, his dick pulsating against the walls of her vagina.  His load pumped into her, seemingly endlessly until his legs began to tremble; he pulled out of her and collapsed onto the mat.  He reached over as Meliandra lay next to him and pulled her into his arms, the two of them both slowly catching their breath as their hearts returned to their normal pulses.

She laid her head on his chest and wrapped her arm around his waist while he stroked his fingers down her back.  He laid a kiss on the top of her head, saying “That was better than I had ever imagined it being.  Really wish we had done this back then.”

She chuckled sleepily.  “You wouldn’t have found me to be very cooperative back then.”

He laughed.  “On the contrary, I would have enjoyed the challenge of training you in the art of fucking.”

“I’m sure you can teach me more than what I know already,” she said as a yawn escaped her lips.

“I’m sure I can, sweet girl, “I’m sure I can, darling, I’m sure I can,” he said as he watched her drift off to sleep.

“Sleep well, sweet girl.  I’m going to be taking you up on that deal earlier.  I could use your help in capturing that traitor.”

 

 

An Evening with the Jarl

The cool evening air hit her as she stepped out on the balcony feeling good on her flushed cheeks as she followed the walkway of the balcony around, looking over Whiterun from high above the city.  “No wonder it’s called the Cloud District,” she said breathlessly.

She felt his hand on the small of her back as he said, “I told you it’s a beautiful view.”  He looked down at the young woman, his eyes soft in the glow of the light of the twin moons.  He searched her face for a moment then looked over the city.  He pointed to the left of them and said, “There’s Jorrvaskr, the mead hall of the Companions.  And there’s the Temple of Kynareth.”  Then he pointed further out.  “You can see as far as the eye can see.”

“It’s breathtakingly beautiful,” she replied, gazing across the sky like an eagle upon it’s aerie perch.

“Like you.”

She turned to look at the jarl, finding him gazing at her intently, his eyes showing a hunger she had seen before, desire to taste her, wholly, savoring every nibble of her skin with his lips.  He reached up, cupping her face with his hands and silenced her unspoken question by placing his lips softly upon hers; she responded instinctively, parting her lips to welcome the probing of his tongue, wrapping her hands behind his neck as he drew her into a tight embrace, pressing her body against his.

After a moment, the jarl huskily breathed against her cheek.  “I will not treat you like a bar wench.”  He then lifted her off the ground, carrying her in his arms as he leaned down to place a kiss softly on her lips.  “Let me make love to you the way a man should.”

He brought her into his room, gently setting her on his bed.  His fingers trailed down the length of her neck to the top of the tunic she wore, then slowly, nimbly, he unlaced the strings that held the bodice together.  Once he had loosened her clothing and removed it, he stood back looking at her.  “You are very beautiful, Meliandra; probably one of the most beautiful women to ever grace Dragonsreach with her presence.”  He began to undress; he watched her watching him, his arousal growing.

He kneeled on the bed, kissing her as he laid her back up on the bed.  He positioned her legs on either side of him, then laid his hands on her chest, feeling the firmness of her still youthful breasts; it had been too long since he had felt a woman’s breasts.  He massaged them before giving them each a playful pinch.  He leaned over and traced the areola and flicked the nipple of one with his tongue before moving onto the other to do the same, but this time he took her breast in his mouth and suckled on it as hungrily as a babe nursing.

Meliandra moaned in pleasure as she felt his hand stroke her side, his touch as light as a feather, so light a slight chill swept across her body.  His hand found its way to the heart of her femininity; her heart accelerated.  His thumb rubbed the nub between her legs; he had stopped giving attention to her breasts and was watching her as he teased her body, building up the anticipation.  Her tongue peeked out, moistening her lips.

He slipped his middle finger into her causing her breath to catch; he began to stroke the insides of her sex.  Soon she began to grind her hips against his hand, her eyes closed, sounds of pleasure coming from her plump lips.  He began to suck on her breast again only this time he tenderly bit her nipple, eliciting a gasp from her.  He slipped his index finger in alongside his other digit and continued stroking her insides.

She gyrated against his hand harder, moaning.  It wasn’t long before she to murmur, “I want you inside me.  Please, I need you in me.”

He stroked her faster and harder, watching her eyes roll back as she bit her lip, her fingers clenching the quilt beneath her as she began to writhe atop it.  He felt her muscles clench around his fingers suddenly, her body arched in the air, completely still for just a moment, then her orgasm exploded, her juices flowing over his fingers and down his hand.  He watched as her body calmed itself, then smiled at her.  He licked his fingers clean then he proceeded to move down to the source of her wetness and began to lick the drenched folds between her legs, causing her to squirm as he made her arousal hungry again.

He sat on his knees before her, her legs spread open, the smell of her climax hanging in the air; his erection was at full attention, throbbing and twitching.  He leaned down, kissing her fully on the mouth, his tongue possessing hers.  He felt the hairs of her womanhood brushing against the tip of his penis; he broke the kiss for a moment, looked in her green eyes and thrust himself into her.

She cried out in pleasure as he filled her with his hardness; she grabbed a hold of his back, clutching it as he sailed her core with his length; first with slow, rhythmic strokes building up to the slamming of his dick like battering ram into her slit.  Her fingernails dug into his back as he drove her to her second orgasm; she left bloody scratch marks down his back as his own climax sent her into spasm again a moment later.

Breathing heavily, he looked down at her, his eyes searching her face before leaning down and kissing her once more.  Her fingers followed an instinctive path up his neck and found their way entwined in his golden hair and stayed there even after the kiss had ended.  “I think I might need some salve on my back,” he chuckled.

“I’m sorry, my Lord,” she smiled shyly.

He slowly pulled out of her then sat at the edge of the bed, looking at her laying beside him.  “First of all, I think we’re past the point of needing to address me by any kind of title.”  He glanced over her nakedness then at his own then back at her.  “Secondly, don’t be sorry.  It’s not like I haven’t had this happen before.”  He smiled.  “I’ll just have to remember that you have claws.”  He stood up and walked to his wardrobe closet, pulling out a very elegant robe; putting it on, he returned to Meliandra’s side on the bed.  Sitting back down, he kissed her before saying that he’d return shortly, then he left his quarters.

#

The door shut as Vorstag examined his surroundings.  As far as castles and palaces went, it wasn’t as drafty as he had expected it would be.  Perhaps it was because this time he wasn’t in the dungeon or jail.  He opened the shutters to the window and gazed out, seeing that his room overlooked Skyrim past the city walls; he could make out Valtheim Tower in the distance.

He looked at the bed in the center of the room and frowned.  He knew that somewhere in the castle Meliandra lay on a bed similar, if not more elegant, her body entwined with that of the widowed jarl; he shook his head.  While he had no notions of any kind of sexual relationship with her, he felt a kind of brotherly concern for her and couldn’t help but feel protective of her at this time.  She carried herself with a certain confidence about herself but he heard her in her sleep.  He heard her calling out one name over and over, pain filling her voice even in the depths of her sleep.

Brynjolf.

#

She woke to the sound of movement in the next room.  Her head felt heavy and she remembered Balgruuf saying that the ale was an imported special brew.  She then remembered what happened after dinner.  Slowly she opened her eyes, glancing around briefly before sitting up, drawing the warmth of the fur blanket up to her chest; she noticed that her clothing had somehow ended up tossed across the room, landing on a dresser.  A slight smile appeared on her face as she thought about the gratification she had felt before falling asleep; the jarl had not disappointed.

“Good, you’re awake,” came Balgruuf’s voice as he walked into the bedroom, wearing a loosely tied robe.  He set a stack of papers on the end table, then went to her and leaning upon the bed, kissed her lips softly.  “It won’t be long until Farengar starts hounding me on when I’m going to bring you to him.”

She raised her eyebrow.  “I’m sorry, who?  And why?”

“My court wizard, Farengar.  He’s in need of something that a person with your particular set of skills can retrieve.”

“My particular set of skills?”  she repeated as she climbed out of bed and gathered her clothes.  “And what skills are we talking about, might I ask?”

“You survived Helgen.”  He paused.  “It’d be easiest for him to explain than for me to even attempt to.  He’s been looking into a matter related to these dragons and rumors of dragons.”

She saw it again in her mind’s eye as she repeated, “Helgen.” The smell of burning flesh, the screams of the people trying to save themselves, the sight of the enormous winged beast, black as pitch with eyes full of fire.  She swore she could still feel the heat from the flames that surrounded her as she landed in the inn after jumping from the keep.  It had been a sea of flames on the ground, everywhere she turned she had seen burnt carcasses, women and children screaming as they searched desperately for an escape route, any escape route, but how does one escape a flying monstrosity?

She nodded as she dressed.  “I’m not sure what help I can offer him, but I’ll see what I can do.”

#

He scratched at his beard lost in thought as he read through a tome on the ancient dragon language.  His interest in these creatures grew immensely when he had heard the news about Helgen, then he had received a message from an old associate and from that point on he became obsessed with the subject, just as he had been as a child when he had first heard the old stories.  How he longed to see one for himself.

He became aware of the jarl’s voice then he heard a woman’s voice responding; they were talking about the destruction of Helgen.  He looked up in time to see the jarl enter with the girl that had survived the dragon attack along with a young Nord male.

“Farengar,” Balgruuf said addressing him, “I’ve found someone who can help you with your dragon project.  Go ahead and fill her in on the details.”

Farengar noticed how the jarl placed his hand on the small of her back and held her close to him.  “So, the jarl thinks you can be of use to me?”  He looked her up and down then glanced at her companion and looked him over.  He addressed the young girl.  “I do need someone to fetch something for me.”  At her look, he said, explaining, “Well, when I say fetch, I really mean delve into a dangerous ruin in search of an ancient stone tablet that may or may not actually be there.”

She shrugged.  “All right.  So where am I going and what exactly am I ‘fetching’?”

“Straight to the point, eh?  No need for tedious how’s and whys?”  he asked, his voice patronizingly.  “I like that.  Leave those details to your betters, am I right?”  Balgruuf glared at him and he hurriedly continued, “I, ah, learned of a certain stone tablet said to be housed in Bleak Falls Barrow – a ‘Dragonstone’, said to contain a map of dragon burial sites.  So, I need you to go to Bleak Falls Barrow, find this tablet – no doubt interred in the main chamber – and bring it to me.  Simplicity itself.”

She nodded.  “Fine.  Bleak Falls Barrow.”  She turned and started to walk away, Balgruuf following, his hand still on her back.  Farengar watched the trio leave then picked up the book on his desk again, found the spot he had been at when he had stopped and resumed his reading.

#

Meliandra walked out of the wizard’s quarters, plotting the route that she and Vorstag were going to take.  At the doors of the palace stood a pair of guards holding a steel plated suit of armor.  She looked at Balgruuf.

The jarl was smiling at her.  “I had the armory find you some proper armor; my gift to you.”  He looked her in the eye and continued.  “This is a priority now.  Anything we can use to fight this dragon, or dragons, we need it.  Quickly, before it’s too late.”  He drew her into an embrace as he said, “Be careful, love, those old Nord ruins hold many surprises within.”  He kissed her, long and deep before biding her goodbye.

She took the armor the guard still held and began to place it over the tunic she wore. She looked at Vorstag who was staring at her, an eyebrow cocked high.  She shook her head and said shortly, “I don’t want to hear it.”

“Uh-huh.”

“Vorstag – “

“I’m not saying anything.”

She glared at him for a moment then sighed.  “Fine.  Then let’s get a move on it.  Daylight’s not gonna last forever.”  With that she threw the leather boots she had been wearing into her backpack and walked out of the palace.

#

 

 

 

Exacting Vengeance

It was the creaking of the door shutting that alerted Mercer that his pursuers had finally caught up to him; he was out of time. He frowned slightly but continued to concentrate on what he was doing. Slowly he continued to chisel at the daub mixture that held the gem in place, working its way loose.

#

Meliandra stared at her former lover as he precariously balanced himself on the side of the giant statue; at one time, she would have lost herself in the sight of Mercer working, imagining the rippling of his muscles as they moved beneath his clothing. Now she watched his movements with bristling contempt as her hand clenched into a fist beside the Nightingale Blade on her hip.

“He doesn’t see us yet,” Karliah whispered. “Brynjolf, watch the door.”

Meliandra saw Brynjolf nod from the corner of her eye. His voice was low and deadly as he said, “Aye, lass. Nothing is getting by me.”

Karliah addressed Meliandra, “Climb down this ledge and see if you can – “

It was at that moment that Mercer swung down holding the right eye tucked under his arm. The smirk on his face spoke of his self-confidence as he called out, “Karliah, Karliah, Karliah. When will you learn, you can’t get the drop on me?” He placed the large gem in his pack by the head of the statue.

A loud rumble groaned throughout the cavern; the ground shook violently below them as Meliandra found the ledge she stood upon crumbling beneath her, sending her crashing to the floor below. She landed on her left side, hard. Her breath caught as pain screamed its way through her body. She watched as he calmly strode down the steps toward her, stopping at the giant elbow. She got to her feet, biting back the pain coursing through her side.

She looked above her; Karliah and Brynjolf stood on the edge, looking over. “Meli!” he called out, concern riding his voice.

“How sweet,” Mercer said dryly. “Have you little lovebirds kissed and made up?” At Meliandra’s silence he continued, “When Brynjolf brought you before me I could feel a sudden shift in the wind.” He smiled at her, the leer in his eyes revealing the intent of his words. “And what a shift it was.” His eyes followed the length of her body as he said, “Too bad I don’t have enough time to taste you one last time before I take the last breath from you.”

Meliandra heard Brynjolf holler “I’ll kill you before you get the chance!”

Mercer looked up at his former second in command and laughed manically. “Ever the valiant hero! You’ll be too busy dealing with Karliah.” He flicked his hand, a frenzy spell taking affect upon the Nord causing him to draw his daggers and start to attack the Dunmer.

“What?” Brynjolf cried out. “What in Oblivion is happening?” He stared at Karliah as he watched her deflect his attack. “I can’t stop myself!”

“Fight it, Brynjolf!” the Dunmer shouted.

“I’m sorry, lass! I can’t”

Meliandra pulled her mask off and charged toward the older Breton. “Let him go, Mercer!”

He laughed at her. “And you, my little vixen. Do you really think you’re going to be able to save your beloved Brynjolf’s life?” He advanced toward her. “I’ve always known one of us would end up dead at the end of a blade.”

“And it’s going to be you,” she breathed angrily. “And then I’m going to take the Skeleton Key off your fucking carcass.”

He shook his head. “What’s Karliah been filling your head with, Meliandra? Tales of thieves with honor? Oaths rife with falsehoods and broken promises?” He snorted. “Nocturnal doesn’t care about you, the Key or anything having to do with the Guild.”

This time it was Meliandra who laughed; she slowly advanced on him, her voice as measured and deliberate as her steps as she said, “This has nothing to do with Nocturnal.” She sneered at him. “This is personal.”

He arched his eyebrow, a smirk touching his lips. “Revenge? Haven’t you learned anything during your time with us, with me?” He shook his head. “When will you open you damn eyes, child and realize how little my actions differ from yours?” He looked up at Brynjolf above them, still trying to fight the control the spell had on him and then looked back at Meliandra. “You not only fucked the Battle-Born son so you could steal from his home, but you fucked that barmaid whore in Whiterun just for the hell of it! I fuck Haelga for business. I wanted a piece of you and I fucked you for that fucking reason alone, bitch. We both lie, cheat and steal to further our own ends.”

“There’s a difference between us, Mercer. You see, I might lie to people, I might cheat and steal to get what I want and I might fuck people just so I can relieve them of some of their gold. But I still have honor. And that’s something that you’ll never have.”

He shook his head again. “It’s clear you’ll never see the Skeleton Key the way I do… as an instrument of limitless wealth.” He shrugged, a look of false pity upon his face. “Instead you’ve chosen to fall over your own foolish code.”

“If anyone falls, it will be you,” she said through clenched teeth.

“Then the die is cast,” he said, drawing his sword. “And once again my blade will taste Nightingale blood!”

#

From the corner of his eye Brynjolf saw Meliandra draw the Nightingale Blade as she cast a wall of flames toward Mercer, causing the man to fall back from his initial charge. He watched as she opted to rush toward the top of the statue instead of following him around the base of it. His heart raced as he watched this young Breton who had found her way into his heart face her possible death at the hands of the man he had at one time trusted completely. The fact that he was being controlled by the frenzy spell Mercer had cast upon him that prevented him from joining Meliandra wage the Guild’s vengeance angered him; he felt the need to protect her, despite Mercer’s revelation of her own betrayal.

#

Mercer cast an invisibility spell; he had not realized how good Meliandra actually was with a sword. The fact that she had come at him with a wall of flames impressed him; he had not considered the possibility of her using her magic against him in an offensive way. From his position, he watched as she bounded around the shoulders of the statue, planning his next move. Suddenly he heard Meliandra laugh; the sound sent a shiver up his back.

“You’re not getting out of here alive, Mercer. It’s over.”

“You know what your problem is, Meliandra?” he called out. “You’re overly confident of yourself. You set yourself up for failure.” He paused for a moment. “All it took was for me to pull Vex’s strings a little bit to undermine your own confidence in your relationship with Brynjolf.”

#

Meliandra closed her eyes at what Mercer had said. He knew that Vex was a sore spot with her and that he was trying to get her to react on an emotional level; he didn’t know her as well as he thought he did. She would deal with everything else later; she had only one objective at the moment and that was to kill the bastard who caused her so much pain.

She opened her eyes and cast her own spell, seeing his life essence before her eyes. She smiled as she dipped down into a crouch, swiftly reaching into her satchel on her hip and withdrawing a small bottle of invisibility potion, popped the cork, and quickly drank the contents. She inched her way down the path, her muffled steps nimble as she came up behind her one-time lover.

She drew the Nightingale Blade and held it firmly in her grip as she prepared to thrust its blade through Mercer’s back.

#

He pivoted on his foot, bringing himself behind her, grabbing her wrist and forcing her sword away from them as he brought his dagger around her neck, the blade resting on her throat, the steel piercing through her skin; a thin stream of blood appeared along the edge of the blade.

“Meliandra!” came Brynjolf’s petrified shout.

Mercer’s lips grazed her ear as he menacingly said, “Isn’t that just so beautiful, sweetheart? Brynjolf still cares about a whore like you even after finding out about Idolaf and what was her name again? Oh, yes, Saadia.” He looked up at Brynjolf through the corner of his eye and smirked then turned his attention back to his prey. “I must admit, I wish that I had been able to see that; I wish I could have fucked you while you buried that beautiful face of yours in her cunt.” He flicked his tongue alongside her earlobe. “Too bad things went the way they did, darling. I did enjoy shoving my cock deep into you.”

She snorted. “Yeah, you enjoyed it so much you tried to kill me,” she said sardonically.

He nipped her ear with his teeth, his breath hot against her skin; there was no playfulness to his actions. He trailed his lips down her neck, saying softly, “Business is business, Meliandra. You know that.”

He saw her smirk as she said, “Then you’ll understand this, darling.”

#

The flames made Mercer jump back, his pants singed in the groin where Meliandra had been able to focus her spell. His eyes were darkened with rage as he glowered at her. She laughed, a maniacal laugh that echoed in the chasmal room. “Don’t worry, there wasn’t much there to damage.”

“Bitch!”

She conjured a sword with her free hand, a smirk playing upon her lips. “It’s just business, dear.”

#
Brynjolf, growing tired from his frenzy induced attack on Karliah, watched the battle below him from the corner of his eye, his heart heavy with anxiety as he feared he was going to see the one woman who made him feel whole killed before his very eyes. He knew their victory here was dependent upon Meliandra killing Mercer, for if she were to fall to him, Brynjolf would be unable to stop his assault on Karliah, leaving the Dunmer an easier target for Mercer and from there, executing the exhausted Nord.

“Lass,” he breathed heavily as she blocked another blow from him, “you have to kill me.”

“Brynjolf!” Disbelief edged her voice. “No! Fight this! You must!”

“Karliah” he said in a rush, “it’s the only way to finish this.” His breath was ragged. “You need to help her, not be fighting me. He’s tiring us out, lass. We won’t stand a chance against him.”

#

The Blade cut into his shoulder as she brought it slamming down, then she spun on her heel driving her magic sword into his side. He was bleeding profusely now and she could see the shattered bone beneath his flesh from the wound on his shoulder. She felt his blood dripping down her face; she smiled at him, her eyes full of hatred. Her magic sword dissipated as she placed the tip of the Nightingale Blade against his throat.

He felt warmth on his side, she was healing the stomach wound. He glared up at her as he struggled to reach his sword just beyond his reach. She placed her foot on his hand, putting most of her weight on that side and pressed down on the tip of the blade; blood started to well up around it.

“Don’t even think about it, asshole,” she said through gritted teeth.

“What is this?” he asked, looking down at his side. “Compassion? Sympathy? Some pious delusion of benevolence?”

She smiled at him, shaking her head. “Hardly.”

#

Karliah noticed the silence below; Brynjolf’s attacks were weakening. She looked to the side and saw Meliandra standing over Mercer. “Brynjolf! Look!”

The Nord turned his head; he smiled as he saw the young Breton with her sword at Mercer’s throat. “That’s it, lass,” he breathed heavily.

Karliah watched as Meliandra toyed with a wounded Mercer, her face dark and menacing as she cut Mercer deep enough to bathe her in his blood only for her to heal him enough so that he did not die and then she would repeat her actions. “She’s slipped into the darkness of her soul,” she said softly, sorrow touching her voice. “Shadows preserve us.”

#

A scream echoed off the walls as Mercer finally gave in to the pain of the torture he was receiving at the hands of the young woman. Her dagger carved into his chest; she had long ago cut away the leather that clothed him, and having leaned him against part of a collapsed wall. The dagger dug deep into his flesh, the blood spilling out of the wound and down his stomach.

“Now,” she said, dragging the tip across his neck, drawing blood that slowly dripped down, “what was it you were saying before? That I’m overly confident?” She smiled as she twisted the tip of the dagger over his sternum, pressing down firmly as she did so. “Perhaps, but I think you’re wrong about the failure part.” She pressed down harder; a rush of blood spilled out of the hole she was creating. His shoulder was still bleeding but she was controlling the flow of the blood as she would partially heal that.

Mercer snorted as he glared at his former bedmate. “I was wrong about you.” An agonized laugh escaped his lips. “You are a sadistic fucking whore; you should have hooked up with Astrid and her family.”

She smirked. “Sadistic?” She gave a hollow laugh. “Honey, I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface.” With that, she shifted the angle of the ebony dagger she carried with her everywhere, and slipped it between his ribs with a fierce thrust of her hand. She smiled again. “Sorry, dear. It’s just business.”

#

At first, he didn’t feel anything, which struck him as odd; he had always felt the sting of a blade before. Then there was a burning in his lung that seemed to spread through the rest of his chest. He became aware of the pain as he saw the blade exiting his chest, his blood coating it. He barely registered the glint in Meliandra’s eyes as she licked the blood off the dagger, her eyes glimmering contently.

“Meliandra,” he attempted to say but found his words being choked by the rising blood in his trachea; it was then that he realized that she had punctured his lung. Blood spilled from his mouth, he began to cough as his blood filled his airway, slowly suffocating him. His eyes grew wide as he saw death coming for him, an ending to his life he had never foreseen. He was Mercer Frey no one bested him. Yet, here he lay, propped up against a fallen chunk of marble, choking on his own blood; his imminent death at the hands of the one lover he had misread was, in his opinion, fitting. Like he had told her, he had known it would end with one of them on the receiving end of a blade held by the other.
He looked at his executioner, his eyes pleading for a quick death; fear set in as she stood back and laughed.

“You want Oblivion?”

His eyes grew wide as he saw her hands glow with the healing spell again. He tried crying out as she lifted her hands toward him.

“Meliandra!” came Brynjolf’s commanding voice. “Finish him!”

Meliandra looked up to see the Nord finally free from Mercer’s spell. She sighed as she looked at the former Guildmaster again, a smile spreading across her face.

He closed his eyes.

#

Brynjolf watched as Meliandra quickly drew the Nightingale Blade that once belonged to Gallus, and with barely a glance, swung the Blade through Mercer’s neck, decapitating the traitorous thief. He watched as the young Breton sank to her knees as the headless corpse fell over, showering her in his blood. He saw as she appeared to start sobbing; he scurried his way down to her, dodging marble blocks falling around them.

“Damn!” cried Karliah. This place is coming down! Quick, Meliandra! Get the Skeleton Key and the Eyes and let’s get out of here!”

Brynjolf grabbed Meliandra by the shoulders. “You did it, lass. Now let’s go.” His eyes were gentle, but urging.

She nodded and reached into Mercer’s pouch, found the Key and stood up. She grabbed the sack with the Eyes that had fallen during one of the many quakes that plagued this place, slung it over her shoulder and started to climb the sides of the wall, heading toward Karliah.

“Shit!” hollered the elf. “Something must have fallen on the other side! It’s not moving!”

“We’re gonna have to find another way out of here before this place fills with water,” Meliandra said as she pointed to the bursting pipes and the quickly raising water.

Soon they found themselves treading the rising water, avoiding the crumbling walls as they tumbled deep beside them. Suddenly Meliandra pointed to the ceiling, calling their attention to were an opening had been created; they could see rays of sunlight filling the opening. They swam to beneath the opening, hoping the water would raise high enough that they would be able to climb out of here, praying this would not become their watery tomb.

#

Rocks gave way beneath her feet but she was back on solid ground. She let go of Brynjolf’s helping hand and looked past him to Karliah who sat on a boulder, her mask in her hand saying how it was finally over. She looked back at Brynjolf, his mask also now in his hand. A storm raged in his eyes as he stared at her in silence. She met his gaze, coolly, unsure of anything but not giving much thought to anything but what had just happened.

After a moment Brynjolf said, “You aren’t finished yet. There’s still the matter of returning he Skeleton Key. Karliah will have to help you on that.” He looked at her, but it seemed as if he was looking through her. “The Guild needs its leader and whether you like it or not, lass, the Guild has chosen you.”

She shook her head. “It’s not right, Brynjolf. It’s not you. Why not Delvin? Why do you insist on it being me?”

“Because you’ve proven yourself to all of us,” he snapped. He took a breath and continued, his voice level. “Despite everything that happened, you kept working for the good of the Guild.”

She arched her eyebrow. “Despite everything?” She snorted. “You mean despite me walking in on you fucking the bitch you said I had nothing to worry about, right? Because I was ready to do that job for Maven out in Whiterun and be done with the Guild for good.”

Brynjolf’s temper flared. “Couldn’t wait to get back into Battle-Born’s bed is what I’d guess.”

“Fuck you. That was for the job.”

“And the barmaid?” She looked away. “Yeah, I thought so.” He took a deep breath, his eyes ablaze with his anger. “I’ll take care of things back home until your return, boss.”

He turned and walked out of the cave.

The Chase

Brynjolf saw Mercer sneaking up on the Falmer down below the three of them; he felt his anger boil almost instantly. He started looking for a way directly down to the traitor he had once called brother, saying, “Damn it! There’s no way through!” They watched in horror as Mercer took his sword and drove it into the unsuspecting Falmer. Mercer glanced up at the trio before turning and heading out a door.

“He’s toying with us,” Karliah realized aloud. “He wants us to follow.”

“Aye, lass, that we will.” He sneered. “And we will be ready for him.”

#

Mercer saw the three hooded figures and smirked.

Of course, Karliah was up there and from the broad shoulders of the one it appeared Brynjolf had transacted the Oath with Nocturnal. The third one he assumed was Meliandra, which was the reason behind his smirk.

He was looking forward to killing her again.

#

Meliandra thrust her sword upwards into the Falmer’s side; she saw the tip of the blade puncture through his ribcage. She put her foot upon the dead body and shoved the corpse off her blade, immediately seeking out her companions as they fought a pair of Falmer. She watched as Brynjolf’s dagger pierced the skull of one as Karliah’s arrows pinned another to the wall. She sheathed her sword and waited by the passageway further into the ruins.

Her ears picked up the soft sounds of pebbles cascading down the ruin walls and held her hand up, signaling the others to keep quiet. She crept forward, her steps measured and soft. They turned a corner and saw a Falmer tent among toppled Dwarven towers. She looked around, trying to discern the best path that they should take.

Brynjolf’s voice was right behind her as she heard him whisper, “Looks like we can take the low road,” he said as he pointed to a path through the center, “or we can take the high road to get across this chamber,” and he pointed to some paths along the side that brought them high above the expanse. “Your choice.”

She nodded to Brynjolf as she silently reached around to her back and took ahold of her bow. She took an arrow and nocked it into place, drawing it back slowly as she aimed for the Falmer that she had seen coming out of one of the tents. The arrow whistled through the air as it raced to the middle of the twisted creature’s back, causing him to fall forward. A moment later an arrow landed by her feet. Karliah’s arrow found the perched Falmer above them and a hard thud soon echoed in the chamber.

They made their way through, picking off the accursed descendants of the Snow Elves one by one. Each swing of her sword raised her irritation. She wanted Mercer on the receiving end of her sword. She wanted to see his blood dripping off her blade as he bled out beneath her feet. Partially through, a loud rumbling echoed through the chamber as the floor beneath them shook. They dodged falling chunks of marble as more towers fell and parts of the wall rained down around them. They finally found their way through a door out of the chamber and away from the crumbling structure.

Karliah looked at the two of them as she shut the door behind her. “The only reason to collapse the tower would be to block pursuit. It has to be Mercer.”

“Aye,” came Brynjolf’s reply. “Let’s find him before he brings this whole place down.”

Further in they ventured, an eeriness settling throughout these Falmer infested Dwarven ruins. Death permeated the air as they came across the bloody path Mercer had left behind. They avoided the bear traps he seemingly left along the way, barely missing the first few ones.

Before them was a monstrosity of a Dwarven construct, the sight alone made Meliandra gasp in shock. “Fuck! What in Oblivion is that?!”

The Dwarven gold glinted in the light of the fires as Falmer bustled around it. In the distance, she made out the form of a chaurus hunter and swore under her breath. She still bore the scar from a run-in with the winged creatures as a youth, one she only escaped because of her mother and the Redguard family they were traveling with. She swallowed nervously.

“It’s a Dwarven Centurion,” Karliah answered. “Very tough and very deadly.”

“We can take the beast on or sneak around,” Brynjolf said. “It’s your call, Meli. We’re right behind you.”

“Let’s try and sneak past,” she said as bravely as she could. She drew her sword, “Karliah, cover me with your bow; Bryn, you cover Karliah.”

She began to creep forward.

#

Brynjolf nodded as he drew his sword and proceeded to guard Karliah as they made their attempt to cross the expanse of this chamber without waking up the Centurion. He heard the false bravado in Meliandra’s voice, he hoped she wasn’t going to break. Suddenly he heard the sound of hissing steam and metal upon metal moving as the Centurion moved its long idle joints, stepping outside of its housing unit. This alerted the Falmer that something was amiss. “By the Eight,” he muttered as Karliah released the arrow nocked in her bow at an advancing Falmer. What followed was chaos.

From the corner of his eye he saw his companions fighting off multiple enemies. Seemingly out of nowhere Meliandra had a second sword and was dancing her way through the throng, circling around their attackers, bringing her swords crashing down upon them, spraying her in their blood.

He found the Falmer were easily taken care of as he flung one into the path of an attacking chaurus hunter, impaling it upon the stinger. Suddenly blood and guts sprayed across Brynjolf as Meliandra brought her swords down in a crisscross motion upon the flying beast.

All that remained was the Centurion. Brynjolf rushed towards the automation, both his blades drawn. The three of them attacked with a renewed vigor and such strength that in no time they had brought the thing crashing down. He leaned against the giant arm, catching his breath. He suddenly felt warmth on his side where a Falmer’s sword had cut into him; his eyes snapped open to see Meliandra, mask less, crouched next to him and casting a healing spell on him. Soon the blood had stopped and the skin was quickly stitching itself back together. He started to thank her but she walked away, dropping into a crouch as she neared the tent off in the distance. He sighed as he stood up and joined Karliah in following the Breton.

After killing a pair of skeevers, they continued their journey. Climbing a set of stone steps, they looked around, trying not to alert any Falmer that might still be around. Just as Brynjolf realized where they were standing, Karliah mentioned that Mercer must be close. They made their way through, killing a few frostbite spiders and a couple more Falmer until they came to the doors that they had seen Mercer go through. Taking a deep breath, Brynjolf opened the doors and walked through.

#

He pulled his sword out of the accursed creature, a sneer on his face. As he sheathed it, he looked at the head of the statue of the Snow Elf high above him, one giant gem still glinting in the light of the fires around the room. His sneer grew into a smirk as he made his way to claim the right eye.

He worked quickly, knowing that the bear traps he had left along the way would only slow down his pursuers for so long before they made their way here. He planned on being out of here by then.

#

Karliah slinked her way through the timeworn ruins, watching for any sign of a trap or any tripwires. She had not forgotten Mercer’s ways; she had not let twenty-five years dull her memory of her former partner’s techniques and his cloak and dagger ways. She had planned her revenge carefully all this time, her anticipation of Mercer’s death was building. She would see Mercer pay for murdering her beloved Gallus and for framing her as his murderer.

“The stench,” Brynjolf coughed out from in front of her, “this place reeks of Falmer.”

She nodded in agreement. “This must be their hive. We’ll have to keep silent if we want to avoid drawing their attention.”

Slowly she moved on, her steps muffled by the enchantment on her boots. She glanced behind her to see the Breton inching her way through, making sure no one came up from
behind, catching them off guard. The young woman’s hatred for Mercer was her drive, she could see that but she could not place why. She looked back ahead and followed Brynjolf’s lead.

She watched as the Nord dispatched a dwarven spider that had crawled out of its hibernation chamber. She heard him say, “Didn’t even break a sweat.” She chuckled to herself as they walked further in.

The trio found themselves in a large open room; a metallic tang hanging heavily in the air. Brynjolf and Karliah started down the steps but Meliandra stopped them, motioning to them that she saw two Falmer creeping around down below. She pointed to the lever in front of some fencing and made pulling motions. Karliah, having already learned to trust Meliandra’s hunches, tip-toed her way to the lever and pulled it.

They saw giant blades appear from a slot in the floor, he blades spun around swiftly. A fresh spraying of blood coated the walls as the blades sliced through the creatures.

Karliah pulled the lever again and watched as the deadly blades returned to their housing unit, hidden beneath the floor. They made their way down below, taking a moment to look at the carnage around them. Blood soaked rags littered the table and floor along with bloodied tools of all kinds. “Even the Falmer don’t deserve the pain these implements must have inflicted. The dwarves were a cruel race.”

A male corpse lay strapped to a torture rack, a crumbled paper clutched in his death grip. She worked the paper free and read it.

‘Nobody thought they were real, but I’ve seen them.

‘The Eyes of the Snow Elves!

‘The Dwarves thought they took them from the Falmer, but they themselves were fooled. A statue, built in secret by the slaves, the eyes burn into you, and I see them even
now. S’raffa escaped through the collapsing tunnel, but he’ll never escape what we’ve seen. Men will never believe him, and he’ll be driven mad by the knowledge that he’ll
never see them again. But I may yet see them again before I die.’

She handed the paper to Brynjolf, saying, “Appears we’re on the right track.”

Brynjolf nodded as he read the note. “Aye, lass, seems like we are.” He turned to Meliandra, an arm’s length beside him and handed her the note.

Karliah watched the two; she could feel the tension between them. She tried to ignore it as best as she could, she didn’t want any distractions when it came to making Mercer pay for all that he had done to her and the Guild. She glanced down the dim passageway and cast a detect life spell; shaking her head she looked back at the estranged couple.

“There’s a mass of Falmer in this chamber. We can sneak through or take them down… I don’t care. As long as we get to Mercer.”

Brynjolf nodded and turned his attention to Meliandra. “Aye. Whatever you want to do, we’re with you.”

Meliandra hmphed as she took the lead from Brynjolf. “Let’s get through here as quietly as we can.”

#

Meliandra eased her way around the corner, her steps silent on the ground. She held no weapons in her hands, her bow sat upon her back. If she needed to draw a weapon, she would conjure her swords again. Behind her, Brynjolf followed soundlessly, his daggers at the ready. Despite the anger she felt about him, she was comforted by his presence behind her. She feared he would be a distraction though when it came to confronting Mercer; she had seen the vengeance in his own eyes.

But he did not seek the vengeance she did.

Suddenly from behind she heard Karliah cry out, “I will claim your soul for Nocturnal!”

Meliandra spun on her heel, casting her spell without hesitation. The Gloomlurker was rushing toward her, its barbed and menacing sword drawn and at the ready. As he lunged at her, she thrust both her swords up into its belly and lifted the contorted creature off the ground; blood spilled down over her hands. She pulled back her swords, dropping the twisted elf to the ground with a thud. She looked to her companions.

“You just made the last mistake of your life!” Brynjolf hollered as his blades found their way across the Falmer’s throat.

Beyond him she saw Karliah had brought out her sword and was taunting an attacker saying, “I’ll bury my blade in your heart!”
Meliandra drew her bow and, nocking an arrow, took aim at the Falmer running toward Karliah. The arrow sang as it sailed through the air, the tip embedding itself soundly in the throat of the creature, stopping him in his tracks. Karliah, now in front of the wounded attacker, drove her sword through his head. “The afterlife will bring you darkness,” she breathed as she sheathed her sword.

The trio looked around and continued on. They made their way through a chaurus nest noiselessly, treading as softly as possible through the ebbing darkness. They saw a passageway lit by a growth of glowing mushrooms and made their way to it. They left each other to their own thoughts, each one wanting to exact vengeance on the former guild master.

The silence was broken by a muted roar above them. The Dunmer looked up and said softly, “I can hear water rushing through these pipes. We must be beneath a lake.”

They continued walking on, taking care of more Falmer along the way. Meliandra’s anxiety was building by the minute as they crept along. The frostbite spiders they encountered were slaughtered quickly, with both Karliah and Meliandra taking a moment to harvest their venom.

They trudged through, eliminating a nest of chaurus reapers and a few more Falmer along the way. They jumped off a ledge and slowly made their way through the cavern. They pushed open a gate to see a door down a path.

Meliandra’s heart accelerated. She felt her palms get clammy.

“He’s close. I’m certain of it,” Karliah said. “We must prepare ourselves.”

Meliandra didn’t hear her. She walked up to the door and without a moment’s hesitation, walked through.

Offerings

Brynjolf listened to Karliah and Meliandra talk as they made their way through Nightingale Hall, watching Meliandra’s movements as she walked in front of him. He noticed she favored her left side and Mercer’s words of leaving her to bleed out came to his mind; he admired her drive and strength even more now.

“Were they a part of the Thieves Guild?” Meliandra was asking about the Nightingale Trinity.

“Indirectly, yes. The Trinity is usually selected from the ranks of the Guild although it’s existence is a closely-guarded secret.”

“So, what’s their purpose?”

“Well,” Karliah responded, “the Nightingales protect the temple of Nocturnal, a place known as the Twilight Sepulcher.”

Meliandra’s response was dry. “I never met a thief who worshipped anything.”

Karliah began to explain how Nocturnal influenced their luck and that in return she demanded payment. It made Brynjolf think of Delvin’s constant comments about the Guild being cursed. He shook his head as he thought about what Delvin’s reaction would be if he were hearing this they’d probably never hear the end of it.

His mind drifted to conversations that he had had with Karliah in the past day. While he had made amends with her on the Guild’s behalf, he had also expressed to her his angst over his situation. He had shown her Mercer’s journal that had gone into great detail about how he was manipulating both Vex and Meliandra to get the Breton to rely solely upon him. It was the Dunmer that told him that Meliandra was driven by the desire to bring Mercer to his death, that there was something deep within the young woman that had birthed a hatred so large for the traitorous guild master that she feared Meliandra might slip into a dark place in her soul, one that would entrap her there; Brynjolf was determined to prevent that.

“Religion and thieves make odd bedfellows,” the Breton was saying.

Karliah shook her head. “This isn’t about religion or destiny. This is nothing more than a business transaction between yourself and Nocturnal. Consider this an extremely risky job but with a massive potential for profit, and you’ll do fine.” She smiled.

Brynjolf looked around, saying, “So, this is Nightingale Hall. I heard about this place when I joined the Guild, but I never believed it existed.”

The thief chuckled. “The assumption that the Nightingales were just myths was seeded within the Guild on purpose. It helped avert attention from our true nature.” She paused a moment, a smile upon her lips. “What’s wrong, Brynjolf? I can almost hear your brow furrowing.”

Meliandra snorted as she glanced behind her, a hint of a mile to her eyes. Brynjolf caught sight of this and smiled to himself. He looked back to Karliah. “I’m trying to understand why I’m here. I’m no priest, lass, and I’m certainly not religious. Why pick me?”

She took a deep breath. “This isn’t about religion, Brynjolf… it’s business.”

She spread her hands out to show the room they stood in. There were cobwebs everywhere among furniture that had not been used in decades. “This is Nightingale Hall. You two are the first of the uninitiated to set foot inside in over a century. Now, if you’ll both proceed to the armory to don your Nightingale armor, we can begin the oath.”

Brynjolf took the armor that Karliah handed him once they got to the armory and begun to change, calling out to Karliah in the next room, “Okay, so we’re putting these get-ups on. What next?” He looked down at himself and sighed. He preferred his normal attire.

He turned the corner to see the two women in their Nightingale attire. He looked over Meliandra, appreciating the way the material hugged her form. He listened as Karliah explained to both him and Meliandra that in order to have Nocturnal’s blessing they’d have to come to an arrangement with the deity. He reluctantly agreed and followed her as they walked into a large room. He listened as the Dunmer petitioned Nocturnal and struck the deal that endowed her blessings upon them. His gaze kept going to his former lover and his thoughts dwelt upon Mercer’s words about her that he had written. And knowing that Mercer had been playing Vex against Meliandra from the beginning only infuriated him more. While the women were being played, he had been the only one in that triangle that wasn’t and he still managed to screw things up between himself and Meliandra.

“Now that you’re transacted the Oath, it’s time to reveal the final piece of the puzzle to you; Mercer’s true crime. Mercer could unlock the Guild’s vault without two keys because of what he stole from the Twilight Sepulcher… the Skeleton Key. By doing this, he’s compromised our ties to Nocturnal and in essence, caused our luck to run dry.” She went on to explain what this key could do beyond its physical capabilities. The more he heard the angrier he got.

“If the key isn’t returned to its lock in the Twilight Sepulcher,” Karliah was saying, “things will never be the same for the Guild. As time passed, our luck would diminish to the point of non-existence. And whether you know it or not,” she glanced at Brynjolf, “uncanny luck defines our trade.”

“Yeah,” Meliandra stated slowly, “first time I’ve ever set out to return something.”

“Very true. In our line of work, it’s quite rare we set out to return a stolen item to its rightful owner.” She held her hand out as Meliandra went to follow her out. “Meliandra, before we head out, Brynjolf has some business to discuss.” She spoke sternly. “I suggest you listen to him.” She turned and walked out.

Meliandra turned and looked at him, her face questioning. She stayed standing where she was so he approached her, stopping an arm’s length away. “Listen, Meli. There’s one last piece of business we need to settle before we go after Mercer… the leadership of the Guild.”

“Why discuss this with me? I won’t give you any flack, alright?”

He shook his head. “That’s not what I’m saying, lass.” He looked at her, a lump in his throat. “Look, Karliah and I had a long discussion before you arrived here. Thanks to your effort, Mercer’s treachery has been exposed. After we deal with him, all that remains is restoring the Guild to its full strength.” He paused. He wasn’t sure how she was going to react and he was nervous. “As a result, we both feel that you’ve got the potential of replacing Mercer as leader of the Thieves Guild.”

“Me?” Shocked filled her face. “What the hell? Why not you?”

He smiled as he answered, “I’ve been at this game for a long time, sweetheart. A very long time. I’ve stolen trinkets from nobles and have framed priests for murder. I’m good at what I do, maybe even one of the best.” He shrugged. “But it’s all I know. I’ve never been one to lead.” He gave a shake of his head. “Never desired it, never cared for it. Don’t want it.”

“Don’t toy with me, Bryn. Is this some way of trying to make things right with me? If so, it’s not working. Forget the fact that you were screwing Vex while lying to me that there was nothing to worry about. You believed the lies Mercer told you. You were willing to kill me because of those lies. You think offering me Guild Master is going to make everything okay? Dream on.” She spun on her heel and stalked off.

#

Karliah led the way to Irkngthand, while Brynjolf took the rear as they made their way to the dwarven ruins that they believed the Eyes of the Falmer were in. She had surmised that Brynjolf’s offer hadn’t gone over will by the strained responses they both gave when either was asked anything. She knew this would prove to be troublesome in the future but was unsure how to even approach the situation.

Suddenly she heard sounds of a fight, then Meliandra shouting for him to stop. She turned, her bow in hand and rushed back to the side of the road where Brynjolf had a familiar looking man on the ground, his dagger at the man’s throat. “Brynjolf, it’s fine. He’s a friend of Meliandra’s,” she said as she returned her bow to its place. She looked at the
Breton. “You take care of this.” She took the Nord by the arm and led him away.

Brynjolf removed his hood, his eyes angry as he stared at Meliandra as she spoke to the man. “Who is he?” he demanded.

Karliah shook her head. “I don’t know. I saw him with Meliandra when we were in Winterhold, then again at Riften. That’s all I know.”

He looked at her, his eyes pained. “Is there anything that I can do to make this right? Anything I can do to get her back?”

Karliah’s only response was to sigh and look away.

#

“What the fuck are you doing here?” Meliandra snapped at Vorstag.

He picked himself up off the ground, looking off the path where his attacker stood and shook his head. “I told you, you hired me to fight by your side. I’m not about to let you go off without my blade by you.”

“Well, this is a fine show of your ability now, isn’t it?” she snapped.

He looked down sheepishly, then looked back up at her. “How’d he hear me? I’m wearing those boots you gave me, I don’t have anything on me but my shield and sword.”

She sighed, “Because he’s a thief and has been at this a very long time; he knows exactly how to listen for sounds of others approaching.” She shook her head. “Divines preserve us. Fine. You feel like you’ve got to watch over me, fine. You can tag along until we get to Irkngthand, then you gotta wait for me. Swear to me, you won’t follow.”

He sighed. “I swear.”

She shook her head again, told him to wait and then walked back to Brynjolf and Karliah and explained to them what the plan was. Brynjolf’s pursed lips was the only sign of disapproval she saw; at one time, she would have given it more than a passing thought, but now it was nothing to her. She returned to Vorstag and they began to walk to Irkngthand in silence, her thoughts on Mercer and her revenge.

#

Balgruuf listened to the impassioned argument his court wizard made even if he didn’t follow everything the man said. His mind wandered as he half listened, thinking of the demands Farengar asked of him, especially on his research on dragons. Ever since the dragon attack on Helgen the wizard had been nearly unbearable. Now he was asking for someone to hunt down some artifact related to the dragons. Then he thought of something. He sat up at his desk in his quarters. “Farengar, what was the name of that survivor from Helgen?”

“That girl?”

Balgruuf scowled at him. “That young lady, yes. What was her name?”

“Mel something. Why?” The wizard looked bored as he started to make small bursts of flame appear above his hands.

Evenly the jarl said, “Because she survived a dragon attack. If we can find her perhaps she’ll go searching for this artifact that you’re seeking.”

“Ah,” comprehension flashed upon his face as he extinguished his spells and stood up. “Very well. Thank you, Jarl Balgruuf. I’ll return to my research.”

The jarl watched with slight irritation as the other man left; if it wasn’t for the fact he knew the wizard had expressed an interest in the widow Carlotta he would have believed that the man was a monk, possibly a eunuch. He thought a moment. ‘Mel? Melanie? Melody? Fuck, what was her name?’ He could see her raven hair, her hazel eyes, her shapely frame and once again he was reminded of his loneliness as he dwelled on the image of her in his mind. He rubbed his temples with his thumbs and closed his eyes.

It had been seven winters since his wife died, six since his youngest child’s mother was taken during child birth. Nelkir, the youngest, was a dark child and it worried him. His worrisome nature over his son is what had kept him alone all these years, not making the same mistake he had before by bedding the wet-nurse who cared for his children. Six years of living celibate was wearing thin on him but women believed him to be cursed by Mara for his infidelity.

“Sir?”

He opened his eyes and saw his longtime friend, his Dunmer housecarl, Irileth. He gave a smile. “I’m fine. Just trying to remember the name of that survivor from Helgen.”

“I remember her,” came the cool response. “Her name was Meliandra. She never did tell you why she was at Helgen.”

He smiled at his housecarl’s concern; she worried about him too much, he knew. “Yes, that was it. Meliandra. And maybe you’ll get your answer when she answers the summons I’m sending to her.”

“Farengar needs something found. She came to mind.”

“Hmmmm.”

“Send me a courier please, Irileth,” he said as he set about to writing to the young Breton asking her to come to Whiterun. He noted to himself the Dunmer’s disapproval but decided to ignore it. He sealed the paper with wax, applying his personal signet ring to the wax as it cooled.

A courier entered, young, not more than a teen, not quite a man. Balgruuf handed him the letter and, describing the Breton, told him to deliver it to her and only her. He stood and stretched, a yawn escaping his lips. Seeing that the sun had set and the moons were illuminating the dark sky he made his way to his children’s quarters. He could hear his daughter complaining again; the thought crossed his mind once more how much like her mother she was and he frowned.

“Father!” came Dagny’s voice as he walked in. She immediately started voicing her displeasure over a myriad of inconsequential inconveniences that occurred in her day; he nodded as he listened to her, assuring her that he’d make everything right.

He spoke to Frothar next, his oldest. The boy reminded him of himself, always wanting to fight. While he was old enough to practice with a sword, he worried that the darkness that had touched the boy’s mother would touch him. They spoke of his day which he had spent watching the guards train in the yard. Frothar wanted to be a soldier; Balgruuf feared he might if the Empire did not quell Ulfric’s rebellion soon.

Finally, he approached his youngest, Nelkir. As he did with the others, he sat on the edge of the bed and rested his hand on his son’s shoulder. “Son?” He knew the boy was awake, he was not snoring like he did when he did sleep, but still he laid facing the wall, his back to his father. After a moment, the jarl stood up, bid his children good night and left their quarters, closing the door behind him. He nodded to the guard and retired to his own quarters, closing and locking the door behind him.

He removed the circlet from his head and put it on the end table. Removing his cloak and beginning to undress, he stared at the now long empty spot on his bed, his loneliness setting back in. He laid upon the furs and closed his eyes. His thoughts found their way to the Breton again; his mind began to wander with the image of her. He found the more he saw her in his mind’s eye, the more aware he became of his growing frustrations. His hand found its way to his groin, his male member still flaccid but hardening. He began to stroke himself, undressing the woman in his mind, imagining what her young body looked like beneath the clothing she wore. He pictured her raven hair drenched in sweat as she rode atop of him; in his mind, he watched as her breasts bounced in time with his strokes. He imagined his name spilling of her lips as she moaned in pleasure as his dick filled her inside; his pulse began to race as he stroked harder and faster. In his mind’s eye, he saw her tilting her head back, a passion filled scream passing her lips as her body shuddered in a powerful orgasm, a pool of her juices flooding over him. He gave a couple hard pulls on himself and cum exploded from the head of his shaft; his body was racked with spasms as he came like a geyser.

He laid there in his bed, his breath coming in short ragged breaths slowly leveling off to normal; his once racing heart now returned to its normal pulse. He hated this being alone. He longed for the warmth of a woman beside him, he yearned to fall asleep with a woman in his arms.

He sighed as he opened his eyes, getting up from his bed, he walked over to his washbasin and began to clean himself off. He smiled as he thought ‘And dammit, it’d be a lot nicer to feel a woman around my dick than my own damn hand.’

 

Vindication

The three of them stood just inside the passageway from the Flagon to the Cistern. They had been alert ever since Brynjolf had come back late last night after his run in with Meliandra; he had come back to discover Mercer was nowhere to be found, a fact that disturbed him more than he cared to admit. Delvin, Vex and himself had positioned themselves here with orders to Dirge, Vekel and Tonila to let Karliah and Meliandra through but to prevent them from leaving. Now, hours later they heard the handle on the door, pulled their weapons and waited as the door opened.

He saw the face of his one-time friend, Karliah; his anger started to rise. This woman had taken the life of the only man who had been like a father to him. Then he saw Meliandra walking in behind her. While his pride was still wounded from the previous night’s encounter, he had locked his feelings for her away.

“I told you that you couldn’t trust her,” came Vex’s voice from behind him.

He shot a glance to the blonde then turned his attention back to Meliandra. “You better have a damn good reason to be here with that murderer.”

Karliah held both her hands out, empty. “Please,” she said softly, “lower your weapons so we can speak. I have proof that you’ve all been misled.”

Brynjolf looked at the Dunmer then back at Meliandra. She held her hands out to show that they, too, were empty. “No tricks, Karliah, or I’ll cut you down where you stand.” His eyes drilled into the Breton’s then he looked back at the elf. “now what’s this ‘so-called’ proof you speak of?”

“I have Gallus’s journal. I think you’ll find its contents disturbing.”

“Let me see.” She handed him a pelt wrapped book; he recognized the pelt as being one Meliandra carried with her in her belongings, one she considered very valuable. She wouldn’t wrap just anything in this pelt. He glanced briefly at her, pulled the journal out and begun skimming through the pages, paying attention to the translated words before him. As he read he could not believe what he was seeing. He shook his head. “No, it… it can’t be. This can’t be true.” He looked at the two women before him, a look of disbelief upon his face. “I’ve known Mercer too long….”

“It’s true, Brynjolf,” Karliah said. “Every word. Mercer’s been stealing from the Guild for years, right under your noses.”

He shook his head. “There’s only one way to find out if what the lass says is true. Delvin, I’m gonna need you to open up the Vault.” He headed toward the large bolted doors on the other side of the Cistern. Vex fell into step behind him followed by Delvin.

“Wait a god damned blessed minute, Bryn. What the fuck is in that book? What the bloody hell does it say?”

“It says Mercer’s been stealing from our vault for years. Apparently, Gallus was looking into it before he was murdered.”

“How can Mercer open up a vault that needs two keys?” Delvin asked incredulously. “it’s impossible. Could he pick the lock?” He looked at Vex.

She snorted as she glared at Meliandra. “That door has the best puzzle lock money can buy. There’s no way it can be picked open.”

“He didn’t need to pick the lock,” Karliah said matter-of-factly.

Delvin looked over at Brynjolf, confused. “What’s she on about?”

Brynjolf looked back at Karliah and Meliandra and shook his head. “Use your key on the vault, Delvin.” He narrowed his eyes at the two accused slightly. “We’ll open this bitch up and find out the truth.”

Delvin nodded and walked up to the door, took out his key and unlocked his lock. He tried the door. “There. I’ve used my key, but the vault is still locked up tighter than a drum. Use yours, Bryn.”

Brynjolf approached the vault door and unlocked his lock; he opened the vault. “By the Eight!” he shouted. “It’s gone! Everything is gone!” He stood in the middle of the vault looking around him. “Get in here. All of you!”

Delvin was the first to walk in, his face in complete shock. “The gold; the jewels. It’s…it’s gone.”

“That son-of-a-bitch!” Vex stared at the complete emptiness of the vault, her voice echoing against the stone walls. “I’ll kill him!” Her hand held her dagger before anyone realized it.

“Vex!” Brynjolf snapped. “Put it away!” At her hesitation, he demanded, “Right now. We can’t afford to lose our heads… we need to calm down and focus.”

Delvin looked at his partner. “Do what he says, Vex. This isn’t helpin’ right now.”

The blonde reluctantly sheathed her dagger. “fine. We do it your way. For now.”

Brynjolf spoke firmly and sternly, the weight of the Guild’s future resting on his shoulders. “Delvin, Vex… watch the Flagon. If you see Mercer, come tell me right away.”
Delvin nodded; Vex balked but followed. Karliah walked out of the vault while Meliandra began to follow. Brynjolf’s heart sank as his words to her came back to him. “Meli,” he called out softly. She hesitated, then turned to him. Her eyes were cold and hard as she looked at him. He slowly approached her, waiting for them to be alone. “He said he killed you.”

“He tried.” Her voice was bitter. “If it weren’t for Karliah, he would have succeeded.”

He reached for her arm but drew back at her withering look. “I’m sorry, Meli.” He swallowed. “Look, before I have you help track mercer down, I need to know what you learned from Karliah.” He met her eyes. “I mean everything.”

“Karliah was behind Goldenglow and Honningbrew,” she said flatly.

“Trying to make Mercer look bad in front of Maven, eh? Clever lass. Anything else?”

She nodded. “Mercer killed Gallus, not Karliah.”

He nodded. “Aye. I figured that was the case. From that last entry in Gallus’s diary, it looks like he was getting close to exposing Mercer to the Guild.” He paused. “Is that it?”
The Breton sighed and shook her head, hesitating. “Meli, tell me.”

“Look, there are things Karliah spoke to me that were said in the strictest of confidence.” She looked down for a moment then directly in his eyes. “Gallus, Karliah, and Mercer were Nightingales.”

He blinked. “Excuse me? What? Nightingales?” He ran his hand through his hair. “I always assumed they were just a tale… a way to keep the young footpads in line.” He smiled at the thought. “Is that everything?”

She nodded.

“Meli, I’m sorry but there’s something I need you to do.” She looked at him, her eyes narrowed, her jaw set. “I need you to get into Mercer’s house and search for anything that could tell us where he’s gone.”

“Mercer’s house?”

He nodded. “Aye. Riftweald.”

“Riftweald is his house?” she asked, surprised.

Brynjolf looked to the side, his eyes downcast as he said, “So, you have been there then.”

She stared at him. “Yes, I have. You don’t think we screwed only at the Bee and Barb now did you?” she snapped.

“Dammit, Meli,” he snapped back. “This isn’t the time to throw shit at each other.” She looked away. “Look, this is the last place I want to send you, lass. Just find a way in, get the information and leave. And you have permission to kill anyone that stands in your way.”

She turned and started to walk away. “Whatever. I’ve got this.”

#

She worked quickly, picking the lock to gain entrance to Riftweald. The detect life spell she had cast moments before told her that Vald was on the side of the steps. She slowly made her way across the yard, her dagger in hand. His back was turned to her; her hand clamped over his mouth as she drew her blade across his neck, severing the jugular and spraying blood across the wall.

She removed the key from Vald’s pocket; then fired off a shot from her bow to collapse the ramp so she could get inside. She took a deep breath and crept into the house. She muffled her steps and made her way to the door to the rest of the house, listening to one of the bandits singing a raunchy ballad. She drew an arrow and slowly opened the door; once she had the singing bandit in her sight, she released the arrow. He slumped forward against the bench in front of him. ‘Some people should not attempt to sing,’ she thought to herself.

She heard grumbling, “…lyin’ little harlot… that brat ain’t mine… could be anyone’s… won’t get one rusty septim from me.” She snuck her way to the bedroom on the right. The bandit sat in front of the fire, drunk and oblivious to his comrade’s death outside this room. She drove her dagger into the base of his skull; his body immediately slumped as the blade cut through muscle, bone and tissue, severing the connection from his brain to his body. She wiped the blade clean on the corpse and headed to the one part of the house
Mercer had never brought her to, the bottom floor.

She knew she had heard lots of noises from down here at times when she had been with Mercer. She’d wake and find him coming up these stairs and he’d turn her away from there as he would hurry away. She paid no mind to the barred door but headed for the room, the area she had heard most noises coming from. She tried the door to find it unlocked. She walked in and looked around in confusion. A table laden with food sat in the middle of the room. She picked up a piece of paper on the table and read it. The paper fluttered down as she dropped it, its contents unimportant. She started opening drawers and searching when she heard a faint scratching sound from the closet. She cast a detect life spell and saw that there was something just behind the door. She drew her dagger again and opened the closet door.

It was empty save for an old worn out pair of fur shoes. She heard the faint sound of scratching still then heard a slight whistling coming from the back of the closet. She pressed her ear to the back of the wood paneling only to have it start to move. Startled she stood back, then smiled as she saw the hidden room beyond. She stepped through, swiping away the cobwebs that hung off the walls by her face, watching her steps as she kept an eye open for traps. She found herself in tunnels like the Ratway; this bothered her for some reason.

She started to step across the threshold into a large room when she realized the room was tiled completely in pressure plates; upon closer inspection, she could see where the piping was that flames would shoot forth from. She smiled remembering the games she played as a child; she sheathed her dagger and examined the floor and its patterns.

Taking a deep breath, she darted across the plates, her feet hitting them softly.

She shook her head as she looked at her surroundings. Another pressure plate in front of her, stagnant water beneath her feet, the stench of dead and rotting skeevers. To her side, she saw a freshly killed rodent, the scorch marks evident; it must have been the source of the scratching.

Eventually she found herself in front of swinging blades and a log that sung down like a battering ram and reset itself to do it all over. “Yeah,” she said under her breath, “fuck you too, Mercer.” She watched for the pattern to the movements and was soon maneuvering her way through these defense mechanisms the master thief had laid out. Standing at the far end of the passageway she paused to take a drink of mead. She saw the steps going down and shook her head. This bastard better have left us something to find him by,” she mumbled. She put the empty bottle on a barrel and went down the stairs.

She saw the trap lock as she reached for the handle of the door at the bottom of the steps. Se smirked; she knew the answers lay just beyond this door. Once she disabled the trigger, she carefully opened the door. Her eyes grew wide as she looked at the gems and gold, the weapons, the treasures stored in here. She noticed the bust of the Grey Fox in the corner; she remembered Delvin saying something about it recently. She approached the table, saw a map with notes on the side and a circle drawn over a location. She rolled up the map and slipped it into her satchel. She picked up the Grey Fox bust and followed the corridor off the side, curious to see where it led. At a dead-end there was only one way to go, down about eight feet. She braced herself for the fall.

She recognized the Ratway Warrens immediately and headed for the Flagon entrance. Delvin looked over at her in surprise as she walked through; she shook her head at him and asked where Brynjolf was. She made her way to the desk in the Cistern where the redhead was looking through journals Mercer had left on the desk.

At her approach, he looked up closing the journal in front of him. The words he read swam in front of his eyes as he gazed at the woman he had loved and lost. “We secured the town and I’ve spoken to every contact we have left. There’s been absolutely no sign of Mercer. Any luck on your end?”

She nodded as she opened her satchel and retrieved the map. “He wasn’t there, but I found these plans.”

Brynjolf took the map and looked it over; his eyes continued to grow large as he did. “Shor’s beard! He’s going after the Eyes of the Falmer?!” At her confused look, he explained,
“That was Gallus’s pet project.” He shook his head. “If he gets his hands on them, you can be certain he’ll be gone for good and set up for life.”

“Then we stop him,” she said flatly.

He nodded. “Agreed. He’s taken everything that the Guild has left, and to go after one of the last greatest heists is just adding insult to injury. I’ve spoken with Karliah and have made amends for how the guild has treated her. She wants to speak to the both of us.” He came around the corner of the desk and put his hand on her shoulder. She quickened her step-in response. “Let’s go; we don’t have any time to lose,” he said as he dropped his hand.

They saw Karliah mixing potions at the alchemy table and walked over to her in strained silence. He wanted to make his own amends to her but he got the impression that it was going to take a lot of time and patience to win her love back, but he was determined to do so.

Karliah looked at the former couple, thinking about what Brynjolf had told her of what happened between them and was saddened. She, too, believed that it was going to take a while for the Nord to gain her trust again. “Brynjolf,” she said as she corked a potion, “the time’s come for Mercer’s fate to be decided. Until a new Guild Master is chosen, the decision falls to you.”

The Nord sat on the bed by the table and looked at the two women. “Aye, lass and I’ve come to a decision.” He paused as Mercer’s written words filled with hate and greed came to mind. He looked at Meliandra as he said, “Mercer tried to kill both of you, he betrayed the Guild, murdered Gallus and he has made us question our very future.” He paused and looked at Meliandra again. “He needs to die.”

Meliandra’s eyes remained cold and hard as she listened to Mercer’s fate be discussed. All she wanted was for his blood to drip from her blade.

Karliah’s voice was cautionary as she said, “We have to be careful, Brynjolf. Mercer is a Nightingale, an Agent of Nocturnal.”

His eyebrow arched. “Then it’s all true…everything I heard in the stories. The Nightingales, their allegiance to Nocturnal and the Twilight Sepulcher.”

The Dunmer nodded. “Yes. That’s why we need to prepare ourselves and meet Mercer on equal footing. Just outside Riften, beyond the Southeast Gate is a small path cut up the mountainside. At the end of that path is a clearing and an old standing stone. I’d ask for you both to meet me there.”

#

Meliandra went to the Bee and Barb to the room she had rented for herself and Vorstag. As she emptied her pack of unnecessary items she explained to him what was happening.

“I don’t like the sound of this,” he grumbled when she told him she was going to be leaving. She had offered to pay for him to stay at the inn until she returned. “I’d prefer to go along with you.”

She looked at him confused. “Why? We’re going after someone who tried to kill me and who killed the previous Guild Master. This is Thieves Guild business.”

“I don’t care if it were Dark Brotherhood business, Meliandra,” he said pointedly. “You hired me to be a sword at your side and now you want me to sit around while you meet your possible death?”

She eyed Vorstag. “Careful. It’s starting to sound like you actually might like me.”

“Divines forbid someone actually like you.” He smiled at her. “Meliandra, are you that scarred that you cannot let anyone become a friend?”

She looked down at her pack, now only filled with soul gems and potions and sighed. “I’ve come to realize that when people become friends they hurt you more.”

He sat down next to her and said, “You’re not cursed, Mel. I don’t know why you believe you’re somehow doomed to walk this world alone but I know you’re not tainted by something evil.”

She looked at him and gave a slight smile. “It’s nice to know that you think that. You can believe it for the both of us.”