AN: Who would have thought that there would be another chapter… I'm a little surprised myself. I plan to edit the chapters now and than write further, but I have no idea how long that is gonna take or much time I can spare, so if there is anyone still or again reading: thank you for your patience.

9. Eighth encounter - part 1

With a dull bang a not so small purse landed on the table next to Greta. She had been urgently pushing her few belongings into her bag, preparing to start her journey with Karliah. Now she stopped and looked right, to where the noise had come from. Missy stood in the doorway, fully clad in her Brotherhood armour. If Greta hadn´t known the dunmer women for quite some time now, she would have had an heart attack, but with everything that had happened these last days and basically ever since she joined the guild, Greta felt as if nothing could surprise her anymore.

"What´s in that purse?" she asked faking indifference while turning to her bag again.

Missy watched the young woman in front of her closely for another moment. Something had happened with Greta. This incident had changed her. She really was acting like the thief she was. She had been confronted with cruelty, corruption and conspiracy in the most brutal way. It made Missy think. This cold-hearted, detached behaviour maybe was a necessity in this business. To keep yourself from being disappointed by those around you. Missy would have approved this before, but seeing this girl undergoing the process before her eyes didn´t make her proud or anything. She felt sad, she really would have wished Greta could keep her innocent point of view on the world. Now it was spoilt and nothing could bring it back. Another thing Mercer was to blame for…

After what felt like eternity Missy closed the door behind her, sat on the chair next to the table. Her fingers playing with the clasp of the purse. "I will give you a generous credit" she said.

That moment Greta finally turned her attention to Missy, but when she was just about to say something, Missy rose her arm to silence her. "Let me first explain…"

"You need money to travel to Winterhold. Mercer believes you are dead and we would like to keep it that way. So you can´t raise any attention to yourselves. Thievery that isn´t associated with the guild will do just that. That´s why you need money." She pushed the purse on the table towards Greta, who was standing on the other end. "… and I want you to have a… financial cushion. In case something goes wrong…" Greta weighed the purse in her hand. It was pretty heavy.

She then gave Missy a look that stirred something deep within her. "Thank you" she said with a low voice nearly whispering. Very rarely people had ever thanked Missy and even less times they meant it as earnest as Greta just did. Actually the moment was too much to take.

"Don´t get me wrong" Missy snapped. "I don´t give it to you as a gift. It´s a credit. I expect you to pay it back as soon as Mercer is gone. I expect that in the guild as it will be formed afterwards, you will play an important role. It would be good for the future of our organisations to work together and I´m investing in that."

Greta smiled sarcastically "So I´m basically a business investment…?"

Missy nodded "More or less…" then she looked down and said nearly shy "Also I owe Brynjolf. He would be devastated if you really were dead… As he would be if the guild breaks apart. It is his life and his soul…. So… failure is not an option!"

Greta smiled and acted as if she would be saluting "Yes, ma'am!" Then she grabbed her finally packed bag and went to Missy to give her a long and forceful hug, what surprised the cold hearted assassin so much that she forgot to complain. Still keeping Missy in the embrace, Greta said:
"You know… even though you are making an effort to hide it…. Deep down in your soul, you aren't such a bad person…" Releasing Missy, she went out of the room, never giving the other woman a chance to argue.

Taking a deep breath Missy watched Greta leaving. "Hmpf… I´ll show her how bad I can be…"

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Yall entered the main hall of the sanctuary. Quickly scanning the room, he only found Nazir sitting by the fire. Grabbing an apple he sat down beside him. "Where´s Missy?" he asked.

"Not here…" he got as an answer. He kept starring at Nazir. His eyes were telling that he wasn´t satisfied with this answer. "Well…" the other man finally started, obviously having concluded that Yall wouldn´t go unless he got the information he wanted. "She told me, that she wanted to go to the inn in Dawnstar to talk again with that thief girl she had saved. The girl is about to go. Then Missy herself wanted to go to Riften again… and we hold the fort."

"There´s something going on in the guild, he?" Yall asked further not giving up on the conversation even though Nazir didn´t seemed particularly interested. A sigh confirmed that.
"Look, Missy can do whatever she pleases as long as she fulfils her duty as our leader. She definitely does that, so about the rest I don´t care… It´s not my business"

"But you don´t like it…? I mean Missy and the thieves' guild." Yall asked, fully aware that he had caught a delicate topic and that Nazir would have better liked not to talk about that.

Through clenched teeth Nazir admitted: "It would be pretention to tell Missy what she should do and what not…, but I don´t think she should get involved with the guild too much… and this conspiracy… I don´t know… We had dealings with Mercer Frey before. He really is a master of his profession. And this thing proofs it even more. He fooled a bunch of burglars and swindlers… quite impressive, isn´t it?"

"Still it´s bad style betraying you´re own mates…" Yall held against that.

"Won´t argue against that. But who´s to decide that? We´re all no saints… The thing is: With helping that girl, Missy takes sides in this. And I have a feeling that she bets on the wrong horse, if you know what I mean. That girl is cute and everything, surely has good intentions, but can she really take it up with a master thief?"

"You think she is going to fail?!" Yall concluded. "If Missy wouldn´t have been there in the first place, she already would be dead, wouldn´t she? I don´t think she really has a chance…"

Though he had been sitting all relaxed for the whole time, now Yall jumped from his seat. "Then why we´re sitting here? We need to help her!" he yelled to a very surprised Nazir.

"Why? It´s not our business…" he argued. "It´s not ours… directly, but Missy is in this. She is our leader and we trust her judgment, don´t we? And she chose to help that girl for whatever reason. So I say we´re in this too!"

Nazir felt doubts forming in his mind. Yall definitely had a point in this. "And also, when this Mercer guy ever figures out, that it was due to Missy´s help that Greta is still alive, she will be a target of his conspiracy too. Missy´s enemy is our enemy!" the young man went on excited.

Even though Nazir was unimpressed with Yall´s nervous agitation, he felt that he too couldn´t just sit here and let fate happen.

"I still don´t like this, but let´s get going. I´d say that the girl has no chance alone, but then Mercer has no chance alone against the whole Dark Brotherhood…"

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Brynjolf sat in the Ragged Flagon at the bar and nursed his mead. He didn´t know how many he already had, he didn´t even know what time it was or how long he had been sitting here.
And honestly, he didn´t gave damn about it. He just hoped that at some point he would drop down unconscious on the counter. "Another one!" he told Vekel.

The bartender looked at him pitiful and asked "Don´t you think you might had enough…?" Brynjolf until then had been starring at the bottom of his empty mug, but now looked up and gave Vekel an icy glare. He had brushed off all his guild mates, who had tried to console him before and had no interest in having this conversation now with Vekel. "Just thinking… it´s nearly dawn and thought you might appreciate at least some hours of sleep…" the other man went on carefully.

With an annoyed sigh Brynjolf let go of the mug and stood up. The sudden movement made him dizzy for a moment, but he was by far not as drunk as he would have liked to be. Grunting something unintelligible, he went to find an empty bed in the cistern.

When he let himself fall on to one, he already knew that sleep would come easily tonight. The last four days since Mercer had come back without Greta were the worst he ever had. As Mercer had stumbled into the Flagon alone, he had already feared the worst, but when he spoke those 3 words "She is dead" his heart had missed a beat and time seemed to have stopped.

Everything from then on had been a blur. He couldn´t even say he was sad or really mourning. At first he had felt nothing. A big black nothing had spread itself within his soul. Then anger, frustration and disappointment followed. He blamed fate and the world in general to be so unfair.

It should have been him. He was sure about it. Greta shouldn´t have gone with Mercer. She had never been involved in this ordeal with Karliah in the first place. While he sat here warm and spoiled, Greta had died in these ruins. Just as Gallus had. He could never forgive himself that. Even though Greta had been passionate and definitely talented she also had been too young and too unexperienced to go on that mission. He could have prevented this from happening, but he didn´t.

A sad smile escaped him, when he remembered those first days she spent with the guild. Her naivety and child-like innocence…. Her resistance to do "bad" things… She only ever needed the money for her grandma. Her grandma? Brynjolf suddenly was wide awake.
By the nine, the old woman must be waiting for her to come back! Greta surely hadn´t told her where she was going and what risk that meant… Someone needed to at least tell her that Greta wouldn´t come back. And that someone had to be him. It was the least he could do.

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Some hours later Brynjolf climbed out of the secret entrance on the Riften cemetery. Eventually sleep had overcome him, but it hadn´t been restful. He still felt exhausted and had dark circles under his eyes. When he stepped out of the crypt, he took a deep breath and stretched. For 4 days he hadn´t have any fresh air and it felt good, though when he took a look around him he thought that the gods must be mocking him. It was the most beautiful spring day he had seen in a while. The sun was shining over Lake Hornrich and birds were singing.

Brynjolf felt completely out of place.

Finding out who exactly Greta´s grandmother was and where she lived wasn´t that much of challenge. Especially not for someone like Brynjolf in a town as small as Riften. When he made his way towards the house, his hands started trembling. What exactly was he going to say? He didn´t want to cast a slur on Greta´s memory… Totally occupied by his thoughts Brynjolf had stopped in front of a small hut just outside the main city. An old woman sat on a bench in front of it, knitting and now looked at him questioningly. "Can I help you, young man?" she asked.

The so called master thief was taken a bit by surprise, but quickly regained his composure. "Actually you can. I would like to know if you are Hekla, grandmother of Greta?" The old woman put away her stuff for knitting and gave him a warm look. "Yes, I am"

"Good, uhm…, I need to talk to you about Greta…" Brynjolf stumbled and felt ridiculous, while the woman interrupted him "Then first I would like to know who you might be"

"Oh, sorry, I forgot" Brynjolf quickly said "My name is Brynjolf. I employed your granddaughter to… run some errands for me and the people I work with." Now Hekla waved her hand mentioning him to come over to her and said "ahh, yes, she actually told me about you. Come and sit with me." And then she patted on the bench next to her. Brynjolf didn´t wanted to be impolite and complied. But still he had no clue what he was going to say, so he just watched his hands.

The old woman didn´t wanted to push him, so she just stated the obvious "Something seems to depress you. Is that why you came here?" Brynjolf took in a deep breath and turned his head to watch Hekla. "Yes… I sent Greta on a quest some days ago. I fear she encountered resistance and it ended badly… She…" Brynjolf himself and troubles acknowledging the truth.

"She is dead" he finally stated. He turned away again, watching his hands. "It really is my fault. I take all the blame. I should have never have sent her on that quest. It was too dangerous and she was too unexperienced…, but, I don´t know…, if you ever need…" Hekla then interrupted him again, lightly touching his shoulder, so he would turn to her again. "Have you seen her? I mean her… body?" she asked sternly.

Brynjolf thought for a moment. "No, I haven´t. The… comrade that was with her told us what happened. He could barely save his own life." The old woman turned away nodding and then asked again "So you have no proof?" - "No" Brynjolf asked truthfully.

Gruffly she shook her head "Really, you should interrogate that comrade again, because I know for sure that my granddaughter isn´t dead!" she claimed. Of all things Brynjolf had expected her to say, this was the least of it. He felt somewhat pitiful for the old woman. "Ma'am, I don´t think such hopes are realistic…"

Slightly angry, Hekla now replied "I appreciate your concerns Mister Brynjolf, but don´t you dare to take me for an old crazy woman. I know that Greta is alive for a fact. She is my own blood and flesh, I know such things. Also I believe that you underestimate her by far. Sure she sometimes acts a bit naïve, but when she´s into something, she is stubborn as hell."

That had Brynjolf chuckle a bit. "Well, I can`t hold anything against that… Though I still feel like I pulled an innocent girl into something that was out of her league. Like I corrupted her and it went terribly wrong. "

"Well, you have quite a reputation in this town." That made Brynjolf raise an eyebrow. "Don´t look at me like that! About everyone here knows that you´re with the guild… And I had my suspicions from the very first day Greta said, that she found a job. I might be old, but not stupid!"

Brynjolf now smiled for the first time in these last days. He concluded that he liked the old woman and would make sure that she had everything she needed. "Would it help you to know that she was very reluctant to join? She never really came to terms with this whole thievery thing. Only did it, because she needed the money to take care of you." He explained.

Upon hearing that Hekla rolled her eyes. "This girl is too good for this corrupted world, I tell you. I might be the one thanking you for teaching her something about the world… and some life lessons."

"I don´t think that is necessary. Really, it was nice having someone well-bred with us. You tend to lose the right perspective when you only deal with people in this kind of business." Greta could have really been a great asset to the guild. People had already started to change their behaviour around her and not for the worse. Brynjolf was sure indeed that her death was a tremendous loss for the guild.

Hekla gently patted his shoulder and smiled lightly at him "Stop being so sad. She will come back eventually. Only the gods know what had happened and where she´s now, but I tell you, young man. She is far from dead." Brynjolf still couldn´t believe her and didn´t understood where her firm confidence came from. "If only I had your optimism…" he told her.

"Nah… but you really seem devastated by… let´s call it rumours. May I ask you something?"

"Sure" Brynjolf answered interested. "Have you been sleeping with my granddaughter?" Hekla asked totally serious, when it was Brynjolf`s turn to smile.

"Interesting enough, you´re not the first one to ask, but no, I haven´t. I´m quite taken by another woman. Ever since I met her, I haven´t been really paying attention to any other woman. Greta was my… fledgling. Like a little sister who needed to be taught about the world." Thinking of Missy Brynjolf hoped that at least she was doing well. He hadn´t heard of her since she left Riften, but then that wasn´t so long ago…

"I´m not sure if I should be sad or relieved now… You seem like a good man to me. I hope your girlfriend appreciates your affections?" she asked and Brynjolf didn´t know how to answer.

"Well, it´s complicated…" he tried and actually thought that it described his relationship with Missy fairly good. But Hekla was having none of it. "Nonsense! Let me tell you a story…" she started. "When I was young, which is really a long time ago, I fell in love. With one of you thieves. He really was a hunk of a man. And charming, I tell you…" The memory produced a faint smile on the old woman´s face. "But then he still was a thief. My mother wasn´t impressed…, but I brushed her off. I was young and in love… He even took me with him. I remember it just like yesterday. We went to Whiterun. I had never been further away from home. But when I got that glimpse and it really was just that, of the life he led, I got doubts. He just lived from day to day. It wasn´t the life I had imagined for myself, with a small farm and children and so on… and I figured that he could never give me that. So I broke up the affair we had. He accepted it without complaining, but nowadays I think I hurt him deeply. Quickly afterwards he left Riften and I never saw him again." Now, Hekla folded her hands and didn´t said anything for some time, lingering in her memories. Brynjolf had been listening closely, but wasn´t really getting the point why she had told him this story. Finally she snapped out of her thought and patted Brynjolf forcefully on his knee.

"The thing is. I got this good stable life that I wished for. Found myself a nice honest husband, may the gods rest his soul! But even after all this time I wonder how my life could have been… what adventures I could have experienced… and sometimes I regret it. That I gave up this man so easily…"

"So, you tell me not to give up so easily, even if it´s complicated?" Brynjolf asked and Hekla nodded.

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Yall was a real nord man. From head to toe. Nord man didn´t freeze. But even he couldn´t help and hop from one foot to the other, when he was waiting impatiently outside the inn just in front of the college of winterhold in that damn cold wind.

They had decided that it was safer for Nazir to follow the two women inside as he had never had the chance to encounter Greta conscious, while Yall had been in Riften once. Following them hadn´t been that difficult in the mountain range. But they had concluded that it was better to stay hidden. It was their preferred way of acting after all and there had been too much attention on the brotherhood lately anyway. It was better to keep their involvement in this as secret as possible even from the thieves themselves.

After what felt like eternity, both women left the inn, looking sourly and went to the stables, where they talked with the cart owner.

"Hey!" Nazir said and snapped Yall out of his thoughts. He pulled him behind the building, so they wouldn´t be seen. "What´s going on?" Yall asked.

Nazir sighed "I´m not sure what they wanted here in the first place, but the person they talked with obviously couldn´t provide it. He sent them to Markarth." A moment of silence passed and it was Yall´s turn to sigh. "That´s like on the complete other end of skyrim…" Nazir could only nod.

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Missy sat on Shadowmere deliberately making her way towards Riften. She had taken a different route, not going with the other two women, so no one would see them together in public. Even a chance meeting watched by the wrong person could start rumours and put unwanted attention on Missy. As soon as Mercer was going to be exposed there would be a lot of fuss anyway, at least by those people how cared and of those there would be quite some as nosey enough to ask what Missy could have known or maybe even should have known… This was going to be complicated.

As she headed straight southwards, she had to travel through Falkreath, which meant that she came dangerously close to the old sanctuary. Even thinking of the gutted place made her shudder. It was a rude reminder what conspiracy could cause. And here she was, again, in the middle of the same damn thing!

Am I to act as if I don´t know anything? As if I´m completely oblivious to things going on in the guild? Missy asked herself, chewing on her lip. She concluded that probably no one would buy that. As the leader of the dark brotherhood, she must have heard something. Even more so with her more or less unwanted insight in the guild. But what about Brynjolf? She could fake indifference with others, but not with him. Maybe it hadn´t been such a good idea to go Riften just now… even so, imaging Brynjolf at his lowest made Missy´s heart break. She growled, that was exactly why you shouldn´t get attached to someone in this business!

Suddenly Shadowmere stopped dead and Missy snapped out of her thoughts. She looked around, but couldn´t see anything that would have caused that. They were in the middle of a forest, smoke was on the horizon, probably from the chimneys of Helgen, which couldn´t be so far.

"What´s up?" Missy asked the horse, who hadn´t moved ever since. Shadowmere nickered and scraped the ground with his hooves. From what experience she had with him, she could tell, the horse was annoyed. He seemed to say to her: 'look, if you don´t want to go to Riften, we don´t go to Riften!'

"It´s not that easy!" Missy tried to defend her indecisiveness. "I can't…, well, … I don't want to leave Brynjolf alone in this, but I can't tell him that she is alive!" The horse snickered again and shook his head. "Why? Because than he would be torn between me and his guildmaster…" She paused. "And I think that might not end in my favour… I know that whatever we have, for him the guild will come first. Just like the brotherhood will always be my priority." Shadowmere nodded approvingly. "I have a brotherhood to run. This is none of my business, I shouldn't even be here… argh!" Now Missy jumped down from the horse and ran up and down the road agitated. Shadowmere watched here calmly. "I'm a bad leader, am I not?" she asked him lost in her own frustration. While the horse gave her no answer, he came to her up close and started licking her face, where one small tear had escaped Missy's eye. That had her smiling again, if only a slightly. She took a deep breath and when she calmed down a bit, the horse looked at her observantly.

"Alright!" She took another deep breath
"I need to solve this now. Crying isn't going to get me anywhere!"

Within the moment she said that, Missy felt as if something had hit here. When she had been a little more than a foolish girl, her mentor had said the same thing to her. 'When you're out there, you will have to make decisions. No one will help you and no one will tell you what to do. So, get yourself together and stop crying!' he had said and Missy remembered the exact moment all those years ago. It had been the moment she had stopped being an apprentice and actually became an assassin.

"All emotions aside" she said calmly and pondered her options, while Shadowmere still watched her without any reaction. "I'm first of all the head of the dark brotherhood in Skyrim. This isn't my business theoretically, and as I'm interested in a good relationship with the thieves guild. They should know of my involvement in this as little as possible. This will strengthen Greta and Karliah when they can prove the guildmaster's treachery."

"So…" Missy concluded "I won't tell Brynjolf anything. I will go there as his friend or you-know-what, I will comfort him, but because it is better for the both of us, I won't tell him what happened." Finally, Missy climbed on top of Shadowmere again and they resumed their journey.

"I just hope, that he will understand if he's going to find out"