A/N: This is my very first Skyrim fanfic, so I'm still getting a feel for the characters voices and all. So please review and let me know how I'm doing. This story will follow the main Thieves Guild quest line and is largely inspired by unique in-game events. I'll try to keep canon dialogue to a minimum, but there will be some now and then, though I'll be changing it up as well. I'll be adding a lot of my own twists to the plot in my attempt to meld the Thieves Guild and Dragon quest lines. I never thought it was very realistic that the members of the Thieves Guild (or the Dark Brotherhood or the Companions) never acknowledge your character's role as Dragonborn, and are never involved in any aspect of that part of your character's life. In this story I'll be changing that. The Thieves Guild, and Brynjolf in particular, will be much more aware of, and even involved in, Dragonborn related things. As always, I really appreciate reviews that tell me what I'm doing right and what I could be doing better. Thanks for reading!

Disclaimer: Skyrim and all the characters in this story are the property of Bethesda, except for Irina, she's mine.

Chapter One

Ambushed

A thick, cold mist clung to the ground as the stars twinkled in the moonless evening sky. A slight breeze rustled the autumn leaves above her as Irina Coldstorm plodded along wearily. The hike over the pass had been taxing and had taken a lot longer than she originally assumed. She had hoped to make it to Riften before dark, but the last tint of orange had faded from the sky an hour ago and there were still many miles out as far as she could tell.

Irina yawned hugely and rubbed her eyes. The woman walking beside her glanced up.

"Maybe we should have stopped in Iverstead after all," Lydia commented. "We'd be in a nice warm inn right now."

"I was just thinking the same thing," Irina admitted. "Well, it's too late to reconsider, since we're closer to Riften now. It shouldn't be more than another hour or so."

"That's what you said an hour ago," Lydia complained. "I thought you grew up in this area. Don't you remember it?"

"I grew up in the Rift, yes, but it's been years since I've been this far east. Besides, I wouldn't talk if I were you. You grew up in Whiterun and still got us lost up above Dragon Mound. So I think we're even."

"I suppose you're right, my Thane," Lydia said.

Irina rolled her eyes and sighed. "Lydia, stop calling me that."

"But you're my Thane," Lydia argued.

"My name is Irina. Thane sounds like a man's name."

"It's not a…"

Irina chuckled. "Lydia, it was a joke."

Lydia's brow furrowed slightly, but she made no further comment.

"I just don't like the title," Irina explained. "I'd prefer it if you'd just use my name."

"I'll try," Lydia said placatingly.

Both women's attention was drawn to the road ahead of them when several figures began to emerge from the mist, walking toward them. As they drew closer they could tell that the figures were Orcs. There were five of them, all wearing heavy armor.

Lydia instinctively gripped her sword hilt, and Irina took her bow off her back, holding it at her side. They continued on the road at an even pace, and soon they began to pass the Orcs on the road. The two woman kept their gazes forward and their steps sure. The Orcs eyed them closely as they passed.

Irina was about to take a breath of relief when the hair on the back of her neck stood up and goose flesh crawled across her arms. She pulled an arrow from her quiver and nocked it to her bow as she spun around to face the Orc that had rushed up behind her. Lydia drew her sword, and the fight was on.

Two women against five strong Orcs seemed like no contest, but Irina was not one to give up easily, and Lydia was sworn to protect her with her life. Irina's bow sang as she released arrow after arrow, keeping nimble on her feet and out of reach of the Orcs' blades. Each of the Orcs was wearing heavy iron or steel armor that her arrows couldn't penetrate, so she had to aim for heads and necks, which was challenge in the foggy darkness.

After only a few moments Irina and Lydia became separated beyond sight, though Irina could still hear the sounds of Lydia's fighting. One of the attackers, a big, burly male in traditional Orcish armor, came at Irina like a battering ram, determined to do her terrible damage. Irina backpedalled quickly to keep out of reach of his swinging greatsword, but he was very fast. She reached for another arrow and felt there was only one left. She would have to make this shot count.

She released the arrow, watching as it sang through the air and struck the Orc's sword hand. He roared with rage as his blade clattered the ground, but he paused only a moment to recover his wits; to her dismay, he was now twice as angry and three times as deadly. His uninjured fist found Irina's jaw and she saw stars. . . and then tasted dirt.

She laid there for a moment, her head spinning. But the urgency of her situation never left her. She forced her vision to clear enough so she could stand, but by then the Orc was on her again. Irina reached for her sword as the Orc took a swipe at her with a long dagger. She jumped back, only to trip over a clump of tree roots, as she realized that she was now quite a ways from the road. Flailing her arms in a desperate attempt to catch her balance did her no good; she fell backwards anyway, landing hard on her rear.

The Orc was on her in seconds, slashing with his wicked knife as Irina scrambled away from the monster. The blade found the flesh of her thigh, slicing a deep gash just above her knee. The white hot pain of it was almost enough to cause her to swoon, but she forced her head to stay clear. Or at least she tried to. She was disoriented enough that her movements were considerably slowed. She managed to draw her sword and block the next two swings of the Orc's dagger, but she had no presence of mind to use the weapon beyond that.

When the Orc kicked her in the side, she doubled over. Grabbing her by the hair, he pulled her up enough so that his swiftly traveling fist sent her flying. The next thing Irina knew, she was face-first on the ground and all air had left her lungs. The world drifted away, swallowed by a silent darkness that was even blacker than the foggy night.

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When Irina finally came to herself, sunlight filtered down through the leaves above her. She blinked her eyes and held up a hand to block the glare. Even that small movement made her body scream in rebellion. It hurt to move, hurt to breathe. But she knew she had to move. She had to find out where she was, what had happened. Where was Lydia?

She forced herself into a sitting position, her head spinning. She sat for a moment and took stock of her situation. The road was nowhere in sight, and from the looks of things, she had fallen off a short embankment near a stream. That must have been what nocked her out. That or the fist of the Orc, or both. Her leg was drenched in dirt-encrusted blood from the knee down. The wound itself was a sticky, oozy mess, the sight of which made Irina's head swim even more. She forced herself to look away from her leg and focus on her surroundings instead.

She found her sword lying in the dead leaves a couple feet away, but there was no sign of her bow. She had to find it; that bow was the only thing she possessed that she really cared about. But first she had to find Lydia, if she was still alive.

Irina slowly pulled herself to her feet, pausing a moment to catch her balance before limping in the direction she hoped was the road and back up around the embankment she had fallen down last night. Or at least she thought it was last night. It could have been two or three nights ago for all she knew. Judging from the sun's position in the sky it was late afternoon, maybe two or three of the clock. She would be best off making for Riften before darkness descended upon her again. She needed to get some help before she bled to death or caught some sort of infection.

As she stumbled along she scanned the ground for her bow, trying to retrace her steps from the night before. But it had all been a crazy, adrenaline filled blur in the dark, and she couldn't even recall from which direction she had come, or exactly when her bow had left her hand. She called Lydia's name a few times, but received no answer. If Lydia was still alive she would head to Riften, and would probably marshal the entire city guard to come out and look for her. Lydia was as loyal as an old hound and twice as protective. Irina finally made it to the top of the embankment where she saw signs of her struggle with the Orc in the disturbed leaves and grass.

And there, lying atop the damp ground, was her bow.

Irina moaned with relief as she snatched it up, examining it for any damage; thankfully, the sturdy elven design was still in perfect condition. She hoped she didn't meet with any more enemies before reaching Riften, for she was completely out of arrows, and her pack was also missing—along with all her supplies and most of her coin. She had a few septims in her pocket, but it was barely enough to pay for a room at an inn. The worst part was she had no potions. Her urgency to reach Riften doubled. She needed to get help, and she needed to find Lydia. That was all that mattered right now.