"I'm telling you, this one is different," said Brynjolf.

Delvin chortled into his tankard. "Right. And so was the last one. And the one before..."

"Shut up, Del, would you?" Vex snapped, then turned to Brynjolf. "He's got a right to laugh, though. The last two saps you recruited never even made it to the Flagon."

"This lass will. I reckon they don't call her 'Swiftknife' for nothing, eh?" said Brynjolf.

Delvin shrugged. "From the way you described her, she seemed ready enough to gut you herself. Not exactly a thief's way of thinkin'."

"That's not important right now," said Brynjolf. "What matters is that she stole the ring and planted it on Brand-Shei without a single soul noticing. Our client is satisfied, we got some gold flowing, and everyone's happy."

"Well, hopefully this one's got the skill to make it here in one piece," Vex muttered. "That alone would be—"

Suddenly, the door to the Flagon creaked open. All three thieves whipped their heads around in surprise. A woman entered the room, looking haggard and irritated but otherwise unharmed. Her hood was down, revealing uncharacteristically dark hair for a Nord. It fell past her shoulder blades, with a single braid winding through the front. She had a Nord's height and pale skin, but lacked the brawny muscles most of her kin possessed. Frown lines were etched into her forehead, giving her the appearance of a permanent scowl.

"Is that her?" Delvin whispered to Brynjolf. He nodded. Delvin whistled, earning an elbow in the gut.

"Sorry I couldn't be here sooner," said Alora. She flicked crimson blood droplets off of her dagger and sheathed the weapon. "I wasn't expecting a welcoming committee."

Delvin snorted, and Vex actually laughed. "Well, we weren't exactly expecting to see you," she mused.

"Yeah," Delvin added. "Maybe dead, but certainly not alive."

Brynjolf hushed them with a glare, then faced his newest recruit. "Well, you've met Delvin and Vex. They're third in command around here. If you're looking for some extra coin, or need a little training, talk to them. If you decide to stay with us, that is."

"I ain't trainin' you until you've proven yourself," said Delvin. "Goodness sakes, Bryn. She ain't part of the Guild yet. Not till Mercer says, anyway." Vex nodded in silent agreement.

"I don't think she'll have any problem proving herself to Mercer," Brynjolf stated.

"Wait—I'm not even in the Guild yet?" Alora asked, affronted. "I planted the ring on that stupid elf. I nearly died on my way in here. Yet there's more I must do? And who's this Mercer?"

"Don't get so angry, lass. We all had our trials," Brynjolf said calmly. "Mercer's the Guildmaster. He decides who stays and who goes. I just reel in the recruits."

"You probably won't have any trouble getting in," Delvin said. "What with the way things have been going..."

"She'll be fine," said Brynjolf. "Come on, lass. I'll show you where you can eat and rest."

Over the next hour, Brynjolf gave Alora a tour of the Cistern. He gave her permission to use any of the Guild beds and eat from their food supply for as long as she stayed. He showed her the training room, and pointed out areas for honing her lockpicking, archery, and melee fighting skills.

"If you don't want to train with Delvin or Vex, feel free to use this room by yourself," said Brynjolf. "But I would talk to them if I were you. I know they're a bit mouthy, but the more coin you earn, the more they'll warm up to you. I promise, lass."

After Brynjolf and Alora disappeared into the Cistern, Vex turned to Delvin. "I'll give her two weeks, max. Bryn's recruits rarely make it to the Flagon, and when they do, they're gone once they realize there's barely any coin coming in."

Delvin took a long draught of mead. "Who's to tell? She surprised us once. Maybe she'll surprise us again."