Vilkas huddled in the shadows under one of the stone walkways in Markarth. From where he was standing he had a clear view of the magnificent entrance of the Treasury House – the property of the Silverbloods, the richest family in the Reach. The reason for his casual surveillance was that he was waiting for the younger brother, Thonar, to make an appearance.

A Breton, who refused to reveal his name, had shown up in Jorrvaskr, asking for assistance, claiming that the Silverbloods had something to do with the recent attacks from the Forsworn in the city of Markarth. When it became clear that the Breton wanted the Companions to spy on Thonar Silverblood, Vilkas had almost thrown the man out. The Companions were honorable warriors, not simple thieves or spies! The man had broken down then, sobbing and mumbling about corruption, murders and guards looking the other way. The Circle, especially Farkas, had taken pity on the Breton, and when he promised them 800 septims for their troubles, the agreement was made. Since Kodlak's death, offers of missions had been scarce for the Companions. It seemed that most of their reputation stood and fell with the former Harbinger.

Aela had seemed like the obvious choice for the mission – however, as the full moon was almost upon them, the huntress was more than a little on edge these days. Farkas was surprisingly stealthy for being such a big man, but Vilkas had worried that his twin wouldn't be able to think fast enough in case he was caught, so Vilkas had reluctantly volunteered himself. There was no way one of the whelps would hear about this dishonorable request, he decided.

Suddenly, the doors of the Treasury House opened and Thonar – flanked by a burly Nord, almost as big as Vilkas, and a smaller Imperial, dressed in fine clothes – stepped out. Vilkas gave them a few seconds of head start, and then discreetly started to follow the three men. However, discreet wasn't exactly the warrior's forte. Clad in a simple tunic and trousers, he blended in easily with the civilians. His usual armor had been left behind, as it was too heavy and too easily recognizable. He'd been unable to part with his weapon however, and kept a hand on the hilt of the one-handed sword at his waist. Still, he felt naked and defenseless without the familiar weight of the wolf armor. At times like these he wished he still had the beast blood. Being able to hear a man's heartbeat, sensing the very vibrations of someone's steps had saved his life many times in the past.

The three men ahead of him were walking at a slow pace – most likely headed to the inn, Vilkas thought. As he neared the market, the big Nord man walking with Thonar turned around, lifting one hand to the big war axe on his back. Vilkas cursed inwardly and headed straight for the nearest market stall, turning his back on his intended target. Shor's balls, that was close! He tried to glance behind him and saw that Thonar had disappeared but the Nord mercenary was still there– looking right at him with narrowed eyes. Vilkas attempted to look innocent and feigned an excessive amount of interest in the trinkets before him. He could hear heavy footsteps coming closer. Shit! Any second now… Suddenly, someone grabbed his arm and forced him to turn. Vilkas was surprised by the warm brown eyes that curiously peered up at him and he forced himself to loosen his grip on the hilt of his sword.

"Honey! There you are," the young woman holding his arm said with a relieved smile.

Behind her he could see the mercenary had stopped in his pace and was interestedly eyeing the couple. Either the girl had mistaken him for someone else, or she was trying to help. Either way, Vilkas saw his chance and took it, wrapping his arm around her and smiling back.

"Well, yes, I got caught up trying to buy you a little present," he said and her smile brightened even further. The Redguard woman behind the stall sensed a potential customer and started prattling about the various items on display. While his "lover" listened with interest, the Companion chanced a quick look backward. Damn, he's still watching.

"Oh! Look at this, sweetie. Isn't it just gorgeous?" The dark-haired Nord woman held up a silver chain. The pendant was silver, encircling three flawless amethysts. It was rather attractive, Vilkas thought.

"I want to see how it looks. Help me put it on," the woman said, handing him the necklace.

She turned around with her back to him and swept her long dark locks to one side. He put the thin chain around her neck and fiddled with the clasp a few times before he was able to close it, accidentally brushing her nape, which induced a small shiver from the woman.

"There," he said and she turned back to him, smiling brighter than ever with a mischievous glint in her dark eyes. He could see the saleswoman nodding approvingly.

"Oh, honey. Can I have it? Please?"

"How much?"

"Oh, only 300 septims. A special price, for you and your wife!"

Vilkas paled at the mention of the price. No way was he paying that much for a piece of ordinary jewelry – especially not for a stranger! The young woman at his side sensed his hesitation. She brought her face closer to his, stopping only when their lips were a mere inch apart. He could feel her warm breath on his lips, her fingers playing with the hair at his neck.

"I promise I'll make it up to you later tonight," she whispered suggestively. He blushed furiously at her implication, turning even more crimson when she closed the space between them and put her mouth close to his ear.

"He's still watching," she breathed.

Who? Vilkas was thoroughly confused for a few seconds. That was not the kind of dirty talk he'd been expecting. Oh right, the mercenary. Focus Vilkas!

He turned to the Nord and lightly kissed her. He forced himself to pull away and not linger on her soft lips. Inwardly laughing at her startled expression he turned to the saleswoman and handed her his coin purse.

"Then how can I say no? 300 septims it is," he said, feeling both furious and extremely smug.

The girl squealed happily and hugged him tightly. When they turned to leave, he dared to glance back again, noticing that the guard had finally decided to leave him be and gone after his superior into the Silverblood Inn.

Vilkas wrapped his arm around the woman, leading her to a less crowded area, while she chatted excitedly about pointless nothings the whole way. When he felt certain that they were no longer visible from the market area, he quickly dragged her into the very same alleyway he had started from only ten minutes earlier. Talos, it felt like longer.

He pushed her up against the wall – maybe a little rougher than what was necessary – and her whole demeanor changed from sweet and innocent to something a little, well, darker. Her expression turned impish and a challenging smile was present on her lips.

"Well, you're certainly lucky I came to your rescue, Companion. If not, you'd probably be in some basement strung up by your ankles right now. Or even better, wasting away in Cidhna Mine" she said.

"Thank you. Even if your methods were quite unconventional, your quick thinking was really – hang on. How do you know who I am?" Vilkas was stumped; he thought he had taken great care to conceal his identity before following his target.

She tilted her head and studied him for a few seconds before producing a small note from one of her pockets. Vilkas instantly recognized it as the letter his Breton employer had supplied at their first contact.

"Where did you get that!?" he said angrily, trying and failing to take it from her. She slid away from his grasp as quickly and nimbly as a cat.

"You'd think a Companion would notice when he's being pickpocketed. Well, if that's all, then I should be going." She turned to leave.

"Wait!" Vilkas said. "The necklace."

The woman looked at him curiously. "It was a gift, you said," she stated.

"Yes, and you said you'd make it up to me later tonight, but that's not going to happen, so…" he stretched out his right hand, palm facing up.

She smiled that playful smile again. "You never know, someday I just might. But for now, this is goodbye," she said and turned to leave again. The warrior grasped for his sword, only to find his scabbard empty and his weapon in the hand of the woman opposite him, pointing at his exposed throat, her hand steady and unwavering.

"This is Skyforge Steel, isn't it? Another giveaway – only the Companions of Jorrvaskr carry nice weapons such as this. Now, please don't follow me, because I'd rather not hurt you. Oh, and thank you for the gift," she smiled. Then she was gone, having disappeared into the shadows without a trace.

Vilkas was left standing alone in the dark passage, utterly confused. There was no denying it, he had blown the mission. The only sensible thing was to return to Jorrvaskr. Yet, he hesitated. Embarrassing as it was, Farkas wouldn't blame him for failing the mission, while Aela would be annoyed. But how in oblivion would he explain to them that he got robbed?


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