Author's Note: Ok, this chapter starts a little slow, but I promise it's worth it. Please review and enjoy.

A Cool Head

"It's nice to see you again lass, up early I see," Brynjolf greeted me.

The smirk on his face seemed to say that he had always been more certain of this outcome than me. I took a few moments to get a good look at him that I hadn't in the weeks I'd been here. I had always thought the vender very charismatic whenever I entered the market place and I had thought more than once of befriending him, thinking he was just the sort that people told all their secrets too. I figured he was in his late twenties and that he'd look just as comfortable in his armor as he did in his wealthy street clothes.

His stance was confident but relaxed, not unapproachable as so many Nords in Skyrim came off to be who were skilled in their craft. His green eyes seemed to examine everything he looked at, quietly reflecting, but they also seemed playful and inviting. His red hair was clean and bright, which was refreshing considering the layer of dirt and snow that seemed to seep into everything in this foreign land. His arms were crossed and I got the impression that he was ready to break into dance or rob me blind, whichever he preferred at the time.

I couldn't help being annoyed at his appearance the night before. But despite that and what our meeting here now meant for me (and the fact that I was still not comfortable with it), I couldn't help liking him. Which of course irritated me further.

"You want me to join the Thieves' Guild," I stated, getting right to the point once I'd evaluated him.

"Yes, I think you'd be an asset."

"I will join, on one condition."

"Aye, and what would that be?" Brynjolf asked, eyebrow raised.

"I want help finding out about my past. I want someone to work with me and help me find out answers. It's only fair. I do what you request, and you help me find the answers I need," I said.

"Seems reasonable. I can't promise you there is any information now, but if there is some, we're the ones to find it."

"Fine, so now what?"

"Meet me in the Ragged Flagon at noon."

"So do you keep the crazy people for decorative purposes or do you just enjoy the company?" I asked, annoyed at my trip to the underground thieves' den. A trip I had supposed would take ten minutes had stretched an hour.

"Didn't give you any trouble did they?" Brynjolf asked. He smiled at me and I wasn't sure if it was from amusement at my troubles or because I had made it despite the best effort of some madmen wielding fists and knifes.

I snorted. "I'm here aren't I? Now what?"

"You've got fire," Brynjolf admired. "I like that. And now lass, I'm going to introduce our newest member to Mercer Frey, our leader."

I nodded and followed him. Eyes followed me as I left, somewhat disinterested. I wondered how many new recruits made it this far, and how many of them had died before their presence here was ever missed. In the short time I had been in Riften three thieves had been killed on botched jobs and it seemed that the talk I had encountered entering had confirmed as much bad luck.

"About my…request," I began as we left the underground tavern.

"Yes lass?"

"I would prefer if that was kept quiet. How many people know why I'm here?"

"Just me, and anyone you've told," Brynjolf said. He turned back to me after opening a secret passage. "You know this means you'll be working with me, a lot lass, do you think you can handle that?"

He winked at me and I laughed. "I think you're the one who should be answering that question."

"Aye, perhaps you're right. Ok lass, a few things about the guild before we meet Mercer Frey," Brynjolf said as he continued to lead me. "One, don't get caught. Two, we have arrangements with some of the guards so if you do get caught, you might get a break, maybe. Three, no killing. We're not the Dark Brotherhood."

I consciously kept my breathing steady. "Makes sense," I said, inwardly wondering if he already knew about Grelod and if he didn't, how long it would be before he knew, and what he would do when he did.

"Now, about Mercer, he's a bit…gruff, but he's the best lockpick in Skyrim, probably in all of Tamriel. Also he's wicked with that blade of his. You'll probably not want to get on his bad side but depending on his mood that might be hard not to do."

"Sounds like the beginning of a wonderful partnership," I said lightly, joking but I could feel my nerves rising as he opened the door to the headquarters. I still wasn't sure I was ready for this even if I needed to know more about who I was.

Brynjolf held the door open for me and grabbed my arm as I entered. "Don't be nervous. I get that this is new to you lass, but you have to be able to keep a cool head. It's key to this life, and they'll respect you for that," Brynjolf said surprisingly gentle.

"Thanks."

As Brynjolf led me through the room no one seemed to be paying any attention to Brynjolf or me. Despite this, I knew they were, just much more discretely than most were capable of. I wondered if they too were calculating how long my life would be now that I was one of them, if I had any potential.

"Mercer, I have someone I'd like you to meet," Brynjolf called as we approached.

The man who had been hunched over some papers looked up. The penetrating look caught my eyes first, as if he was seeing things none of us could see, seeing right through us to some unknown danger. Then he straightened and his glare focused first on Brynjolf and then on me. His eyes widened by the smallest fraction and the set of his mouth faltered, loosened, opened just slightly. The look was gone almost as soon as I had noticed it.

"This better not me a waste of time Brynjolf," Mercer growled. Without allowing Brynjolf a moment to say anything. "What's your name and why are you here? This is no place for a foreigner now or haven't you heard?"

"Everlee and I would assume the reason I'm here, in the Thieves' Guild Headquarters, would be obvious," I said, my voice oddly calm despite my anger.

"Don't play coy with me. I don't know a sane Breton or half Breton that would travel to the land of the Nords in the middle of war," Mercer retorted.

"You're a Breton," I said.

"I was born here. This isn't about me child, it's about you. I'm the one in charge here and I'd like to know why a new recruit with little to no experience being a thief would come to Riften and then join our little Guild. For all I know you could be a spy and you've been asking around town about rumors. So, why are you really here, Everlee," he sneered.

"I am no spy though my real reasons for coming to Riften are my own, Frey. Right now I made a choice to come here and join so you can either accept me into your "little" Guild or I can be on my way. That is your choice Mercer," I replied.

"I don't think we have room for Half-Breton trash who can't hold their tongues when talking to authority," Mercer said.

Instantly my sword was drawn and at his throat, his sword was out too but he hadn't had time to raise it.

The entire room had quieted except for the sound of a half-dozen thieves unsheathing weapons.