Disclaimer: All characters, besides my OC, belong to Bethesda, as does the Thieves Guild questline.

It was a cold Frostfall evening. The sky was clear and alive with thousands of celestial fires, laced with bands of eerie green light. Few people were awake at this hour, and those that were had gone to the Bee and Barb for food and drink. All was quiet.

A lone Nord woman emerged from the shadows. At her waist was a dagger, and on her back she carried a bow and quiver. At first glance, she appeared to be nothing more than a simple wanderer, making a living off of bounty quests and random jobs. And that's exactly what she led people to believe.

She had slipped into Riften just that morning, the shady city being one of the few places in Skyrim she had yet to visit. Upon her arrival, the man guarding the gate demanded that she pay a visitor's tax. In response, she threatened to let the real guards know what he was: a thief. She knew he was a thief. The way he spoke, the way he carried himself. If he had been a more practiced larcenist, perhaps she would have paid the sum. But she had dealt with thieves all her life, and because of this, she had walked through the gates without a hitch.

After renting a room at the Bee and Barb, she lurked about the city until nightfall, scoping out shops and stands. She kept an eye on guard activity and noticed the somewhat lazy nature of the town's sentries. Riften had the highest crime rate in all of Skyrim, and she could tell by the blank stares and shirked watches of the guardsmen that there wasn't much they could—or would—do about it.

Still, she would be careful. She was always careful.

Using the shadows of buildings as a source of concealment, she made her way to the town marketplace. Sliding against the stone wall, she crouched behind a wooden stand that an Argonian had been selling jewelry at all day. After drawing a lockpick from her pocket, it was a matter of seconds before the tumblers fell into place and the strongbox clicked open.

That lizard was a fool to leave his jewels so loosely locked up, she thought. Especially in a town like this.

The contents of the strongbox were not plentiful, but it would be enough to get her by for a few weeks. She should have known that the Argonian would have exaggerated the descriptions of his wares. After pocketing seventy-five septims, two amethysts, a flawless ruby, and a silver ring, she slipped out from behind the stand and back into the shadows.

She was halfway back to the Bee and Barb when a hand touched her shoulder.

"I saw what you did, lass," said the stranger.

Instinctively, she yanked her dagger from its sheath and whirled around to face the man. "And you'll keep quiet, if you know what's good for you."

To her surprise, the man smiled, and a flicker of amusement danced in his eyes. "Oh, there's no need for that, lass. I'm not here to turn you in. I'm here to recruit you for a...particular errand."

She didn't know whether or not to trust this man. He seemed honest enough, but then again, Riften wasn't exactly known for its honest and well-rounded citizens. "And just what kind of 'errand' are we talking about?"

She had run "errands" for people before. People who wanted to steal the possessions of another, but didn't have the stomach to do it themselves. She didn't like performing these tasks, but if she wanted coin in her pocket and bread in her stomach, she had to.

The man looked her over, eying the dagger in her hand and the pack at her waist. "You've never done an honest day's work in your life, have you, lass?"

She met his eyes with a guarded glance. "And how could you possibly know that?"

"You mean, besides the fact that I just watched you loot Madesi's stall?"

That was the other question: how had he seen her? She always made doubly sure no guards or townsfolk were around when she performed a robbery. The only way he could have seen, was if he had been watching her all day.

"Have you been following me?" she demanded.

The stranger smiled. "Aye, lass. I've had my eye on you. It's my job to keep an eye out for thieves."

"But you're not a guard," she said matter-of-factly.

"You're right, I'm not. I don't look for thieves so I can turn them in. I look for recruits."

"Recruits? What for?"

"Haven't you ever heard of the Thieves Guild, lass?"

Now she understood. This man had watched her pillage the Argonian's stand, simply to see if she had the skill to be part of his faction. "Of course I have. And I'm guessing you'd like me to give up my freedom and join your little club?"

The man shook his head. "No, lass. It isn't like that. You see, my outfit has run into a bit of rough patch lately. We need people like you to help the Guild get back on its feet. No one will force you to stay if you don't find it to your liking, but I have a feeling you will. Why not give it a chance?"

She considered his offer. Well, I haven't got much to lose, she thought. If this turns out to be a ruse, I'll just leave Riften.

"Alright. One chance," she said with a tone of finality. "Is this where that 'errand' comes in?"

The man seemed pleased with her response. "Aye. And frankly, you've already made it easier for yourself."

"How is that?"

"Well, there's someone in town that wants the Dunmer, Brand-Shei, put out of business for good. I was going to have you steal Madesi's silver ring, but since you've already got that covered, it's only a matter of reverse pickpocketing," he explained.

"You mean, framing the elf."

"If you want to put it that way, yes."

A reverse pickpocketing, she thought. She'd had plenty of experience pickpocketing in the traditional manner, so how different could it be the other way around? "Okay. I'm in," she said.

"Excellent. I'll be here tomorrow morning at eight. Talk to me then and we'll get started." He reached his hand out. "I'm Brynjolf, by the way. What do they call you?"

She grasped his hand and shook it. "I'm Alora. Alora Swiftknife."