Despite the guards keeping so many potential visitors to Riften out of the city, some folk managed to slip through the gates – be it the jingle of gold, an iron fist or a honeyed tongue, there were ways to make the guards look the other way as one slipped in. It was only mildly surprising then, that the city was so busy some nights.
And where would visitors flock to on their first night in the small settlement, but the local tavern – The Bee and Barb. It was as good a place as any for Brynjolf to stake claim to the pockets of the newcomers. His guild…the Thieves Guild…was in a hard way – anything extra he could conveniently slip from the pouch of an unsuspecting visitor and into his own could do nothing but help. Financially, and as a reminder of who ran the show.
He typically found a shady corner in the tavern – and of that, there were many – and observed.
He watched those that were regulars enter…find their usual spots…and drink their sorrows away for the night. They were easy picking by the end of their tenure in the tavern – it was just a matter of helping them out of the door as they swayed uneasily on their intoxicated feet. Or perhaps a quick nudge, followed by an “Oh, pardon me, lad…didn’t see you there…”. They never failed to resurface the next night, back for more mead to forget their troubles.
And there were his fellow guild members as well. They’d come and go, looking to slip a hand into a robe pocket…or to cut the purse strings of a passerby. Amateurs.
But it was always the newcomers who were the most satisfying. With little knowledge of the guild’s presence in the tavern – and sometimes even the city itself – there was any number of ways that a thief as gifted as Brynjolf could swindle a newcomer out of something they probably forgot they even carried. A friendly drink with a fellow Nord traveller was one way. Sweet talking his way into the bed of a young lass for the night was another. The latter was rather one of his favourites.
He leaned back in his chair, a bottle of mead in hand, and watched. This night was unfortunately slim of opportunities for fishing it seemed. A few regulars, but they gathered in small groups. It was often more difficult to get one of them alone when they were fully intoxicated. He prepared himself to be resigned to the fact that this night would be suitable merely for a couple of drinks, and then home to bed – pockets empty.
That was, until the tavern door opened revealing the most beautiful sight he had ever seen – two young women…ripe for the picking. Why, it looked as though he might even be able to bed one or the other…both if he played his cards right. And he’d not complain for one moment while he did.
He eyed them both carefully. The first, obviously a Nord by her stature, carried a sword and shield. She’d likely give him more trouble, though a few well-placed compliments could turn the tide in his direction. The other was small – obviously no Nord – but until she removed her hood, he’d had no idea she was Breton. They had several packs with them – they’d easily be missed when they turned their backs. The women both scanned the room before choosing a table off to the side of the tavern; darkly lit, away from others…perfect. Suddenly, Brynjolf had a good feeling that he’d not be leaving this night empty-handed after all.
As the Nord settled at the table, the Breton headed across the room towards the bar, where Keerava, the tavern’s Argonian innkeeper sold her food and drink. She walked gracefully without the weight of all her baggage. He hadn’t realized how closely he’d been looking at her until she turned around with several bottles of mead in hand and caught him doing so. She quickly turned away when their eyes met, but the seed had been planted. Brynjolf would certainly have the young lass that night.
When she reached her table and sat down, he was slightly relieved that the other woman had chosen the chair facing him – for the Breton would be suspicious had she caught him eyeing her again. As the two clanged their bottles together, Brynjolf noticed a familiar face at a table beyond them. It was Sapphire, one of his fellow guild members. She was fixated on the two women as well, but he caught her eye and shook his head at her. She frowned, knowing that these targets belonged to him that night and she’d be forced to back off and look elsewhere.
Several rounds of mead later, the women still sat at their table, chatting and laughing together. A couple of Nords from across the room had pulled up to the table next to them; constantly trying to get their attention. Yet the women ignored them as best they could. They were attractive enough – it was likely they were harassed in this manner whenever they found themselves in a tavern such as this.
The Nord woman stood up, conferred with her friend for a moment and then headed towards the counter once more. He noticed Sapphire was still in the room and nodded to her, indicating that she was welcome to try her luck with the warrior. She smiled slyly and sauntered over to the woman at the bar. Knowing Sapphire, she’d chat the woman up – successfully as she always did – leaving the Breton helpless and alone…ready to be preyed upon.
Brynjolf took a gulp of his mead, finishing off the bottle and stood ready to approach the young woman across the room. As he took his first step, he watched her carefully as she slid her chair out slightly to have a look on the shelf next to her. And damn if she didn’t reach for something on the shelf and quickly slide it under the table, ready to pocket it without anyone being the wiser. He smiled. Perhaps this one would be more difficult to get to than he suspected.
Just as he was about to walk up to her, the drunken boor at the table next to her slithered his chair close to hers as his mates goaded him on. He saw the man say something to her, his hand sliding up on to her upper thigh, making its way over to slip in between her legs. In an instant, the flash of a blade caught his eye as it was drawn across the man’s throat, a whisper away from slicing it open. Her other hand hovered above the table and was pointed in the direction of the other two men, sparks flickering off her palm and dancing through her fingers. Brynjolf raised an eyebrow as the man closest to her immediately released her leg and backed away. A mage at that…
As he continued over to her table stealthily, he saw her sheathe the weapon in her hand, and the sparks faded away. When he was nearly beside her, he stopped.
“Boys giving you trouble, lass?”
She jumped in her seat, startled at the voice behind her. She spun around and looked up at him, her dark eyes surrounded by the markings on her face. He stepped towards the empty chair that her companion had vacated and slipped into it; all the while, her suspicious eyes never left him.
“That chair is taken,” she spat, obviously annoyed by his presence. “My friend will be—”
“Your friend,” he began, interrupting her, “seems to be a wee bit busy at the moment.” He nodded in the direction of the bar, where Sapphire stood close to the Nord, her fingers softly running down the woman’s cheek.
She sighed. “I guess I’ll be getting the next round after all.”
He smiled at her and stood up, turning towards the men who had pestered her those few moments prior. He reached down and grabbed four bottles of mead that they had stockpiled at their table.
“Consider it payment for the harassment,” he growled at them, and they said nothing when he turned away from them and returned to his seat.
Something flickered in her eye as she looked at him. The faintest of smiles ghosted upon her lips briefly.
“Here, lass,” he said, handing her a bottle. “You shan’t miss out on some good mead because your friend has…better things to do.”
“Thank you,” she said quietly, sipping the mead. She breathed a deep breath and looked back towards her friend.
“No need to look so wistful, lass,” he said.
“Why do you keep calling me that?” she asked.
“Because that’s what you are,” he replied. “Well, that and I don’t know your name.”
“Ah,” she replied. “Marieka.” She stuck her hand out across the table to shake his. But he did not shake her hand – instead, he took it and brought it up to meet his lips, kissing the tops of her fingers softly.
“Marieka. A beautiful name for a beautiful lass.”
Her cheeks tinged red as she pulled her hand back the second he released it.
“I…” she began, unable to finish her thought. Instead, she brought the bottle to her lips and gulped hard. “And you are…?”
“My name is Brynjolf,” he replied with a smile.
“Well then Brynjolf. Exactly what is it that you are bothering me for?” she asked.
Mockingly, he placed his hand over his heart and threw his head back. “The lass wounds me!”
When he looked back at her, she was not amused.
“You’re a tough nut to crack, lass.”
Again she turned in the direction of her companion.
“I hope I have not offended,” he said. “I’ll not lie to you. I had every intention of robbing you blind this eve.”
Well…that certainly got her attention…
She slowly turned her head back to face him, her eyes narrowing at him. “Is that so?”
“It is,” he replied. “You see, it’s one of my talents.”
“Oh?” she smirked. “And how are you at having your throat slit?” He saw her reaching for the dagger at her waist once more and grabbed her arm tightly.
“Now, lass…let’s not fight. After all, I said I had every intention. I no longer do,” he said.
She relaxed slightly and he released her arm. “What changed your mind?”
“One of my other talents is being able to recognize when another has my first talent,” he replied. “And you, my dear, just may.”
She raised an eyebrow at him.
“I have…a bit of a job that I’d like to throw your way,” he said. “Test the waters, so to speak. Interested?”
He explained to her the details of the job through gulps of mead. It was simple enough – break into a lockbox and steal a ring. In the market. In the middle of the day.
He saw her hesitation initially. “Don’t worry lass…I’ll be providing a distraction to keep everyone’s eyes on me and off of you.”
She swallowed hard and sat motionless for a moment. She looked back up at him after some time had passed. “Agreed.”
“Good…very good,” he said. “Meet me in the market tomorrow during the day. Once you’ve shown up, you’ll complete your task, and we’ll move on from there.”
He got to his feet and pushed the chair back in to the table.
“You’re leaving?” she asked.
“Ah, now you’re interested in having me stay?” he teased her. “Yes, lass…I’m leaving. But I’ll see you tomorrow in the market. Don’t forget.”
“I won’t,” she said, as something of a grin crossed her face.
“And perhaps when you’re done with that, I can give you a demonstration of another one of my talents,” he said slyly. “Coincidentally, something else I had fully intended doing to you tonight.”
As her jaw dropped, he turned around and continued on his way with a smile. His assessment was right earlier in the evening – he’d not be going home empty-handed with this one…