Author's Note: ^_^ Hi. I'm back. And so is Markus.

This chapter is mainly in past tense, with a short interlude with Lydia that's in present tense.

Songs referenced are "The Lark in the Morning" by the Dubliners and "Home Again" by Blackmore's Night, respectively. Got a lot of inspiration from these two so check them out if you can!


Markus

It seems to me that there are just some days when everything in the world seems to fall into place, and things that were unknown to you before suddenly become so clear you wonder why you never saw them before.

Today was definitely one of those days for me.

It all started when I woke up this morning to Lydia still sleeping, slumped against my chest with my arm looped around her. The sun was high in the sky, the morning long since started. My arm had begun to prick with nerves, but I couldn't bring myself to move it, because to move it meant to wake her, and that meant she'd draw away from me, either in embarrassment or in nervousness, and then we'd be off again, off on the road to the next town, filled with women who'd flock around me and ask me for pointless stories of dragons and monsters, and as their eyes would be on me, my eyes would be on her.

The strong, stubborn, tough-as-steel brunette Nord that was sleeping peacefully against me.

I held on for as long as I could, bit eventually the tingling on my arm became painful and I had to shift it. And, of course, Lydia woke up and pulled away from me quickly. "Oh," she said as she pushed herself up on her feet, her cheeks turning red, "how long has the sun been up?" she asked quickly as I sighed at the loss of her curves against mine, "We should be on our way." She said, turning away from me when I hadn't answered her.

So we'd set off, just like we always do, with the two of us riding side by side on the road. And, just like always, with her staring straight ahead, alert for any signs of danger and keen to our surroundings. And then there was me, not paying attention to anything besides her.

Every chance I got I looked over at her, and after a while I gave up trying to hide it and plainly rested my elbow against my horse's neck with my chin on my hand and just flat out stared at her.

I don't even know what I was looking for in her- scratch that, yes I do.

I wanted to know what made her different from the rest, I wanted to know why I couldn't stop looking at her. I've been with my fair share of women, some of them virtuous, some…. Less so…

While the ones who were more… experienced always made for better company in bed, they never were very good company anywhere else. Most had bad attitudes and humor that made even sailors gag.

But the virtuous ones…. Well, they couldn't make even an early bird rise, if you catch my meaning. And it wasn't for them being unattractive, they just were too pure and clean, they couldn't understand what a man would want in a bed partner.

Also there was just not much appealing about them, though maybe that was just their constant talk of marriage. They made for good conversation, good company, but companionship? No. Just… no.

These girls were too clean as the chores were too dirty.

Lydia certainly didn't fit in with the 'clean' girls, she's bold and brave and speaks her mind, even though the whole housecarl thing… but she can handle herself and I like it.

But in no way shape or form did she fit with the 'dirty' women, either. Not judging from the way she blushes every time we come in contact, especially when she pinned me to the ground that night, and sat there nervously on top of me with the smallest show of fear in her eyes of what was to follow.

She has the gall of a back alley whore, but the morals and dignity of one of those nobles I used to steal from.

Okay, I'm sure there's a better way to say it, but the gist is there.

But as I looked at her, there was just something… more.

But what?

What could it possibly be that makes her so ignorable? Sure, she's beautiful, really beautiful, and striking and her eyes just kill me every time. But I've seen beautiful women before, I've slept with several and I still didn't feel something so unexplainable when I was with them.

Was it knowing that she could probably kick my ass that made things different?

No, that wasn't it. Vex was just as capable, I never felt this way when I was with her, though.

After a good hour of just staring and thinking to myself, Lydia finally sighed and turned her head to me. "Yes?" she asked, "What do you need?" she sounded annoyed from her tone, so she must've gotten tired of me staring.

I just shrugged and she looked back to the road. But I just kept staring and a few minutes later she turned back to me again, "You've been looking this way for almost an hour Markus, so what is it?" she then ran her fingers through her hair, "I didn't forget to brush my hair this morning, again?"

Her eyes looked at me and once again I'm just left staring, because something in me jumped as she looked at me, even if she was giving me just giving me an annoyed look, it didn't matter.

I dropped my arm and leaned back in my saddle until I was playing flat against my mare's back. "You look fine," I said as I stared up at the sky with my thoughts still racing, "How far to the town now?"

She hesitated before responding, "Not far now, maybe a little less than an hour." Her voice wasn't annoyed anymore, but it wasn't pleasant, either.

I folded my hands under my head, and closed my eyes as I took a deep breath of the day's cool air.

When we got to the town, we went to the stables and set our horses up, and then we went inside the city walls.

Lydia was clutching her bandaged stomach under her shirt, but for the most part, she looked like she was fine. I stayed close by her side as we walked deeper into the mess of people passing in the streets. We'd talked some this morning about getting her some new armor before we set off, so we were walking around in search of the blacksmiths, and then people started turning their heads and watching us.

I could hear whispers all around us, each of them all saying something of the dragonborn. "Fuck." I said under my breath before I pulled my hood up over my face. I looked to the right, hoping to see a blacksmith sign.

"There," Lydia said then, she pointed off to the left, "there's black smoke coming from over there, that's our best bet." We had to weave through people who had begun just standing in the street, watching us, and by the time we made it to the blacksmith we had half the town following us at varying distances, and when I reached out for the door and let Lydia in, a man from the group stepped forward and called, "Dragonborn?"

Reflexively, I looked back, which turned out to be a mistake, because when I did the crowd's faces lit up, and I, being still frustrated from the morning's daily bit of brooding, so charmingly greeted the crowd to the sound of a slamming door.

Once inside Lydia rolled her eyes at me, "Smooth." She said sarcastically.

"Well, I try." I retorted. The Blacksmith poked his head in from the back work room and eyed us suspiciously. He was a big burly Nord, the kind you'd expect to find off yodeling, declaring Talos's glory and what not.

"Aye, whatt'ya be needin then?" he asked as he made his way up front to his counter, wiping his soot covered hands on a blacked scrap of cloth.

"Right," I said, walking in toward the counter, "she needs a new set of heavy armor, can you make it?" the man looked at me as if I'd questioned his manhood.

He spit on the ground and walked out from behind the counter and began measuring her up for her armor. In the meantime I wandered around the store, testing blades for their sharpness and nicking my thumb on one of the daggers. As I was sucking the blood from my finger, the blacksmith returned behind his counter, "I'll make the armor for her, but it'll cost a great deal."

I reached to my hip for my coin purse and found it unsettlingly light.

"Of course." I said.

He looked me up and down angrily, "If you can't pay-"

"I can pay." I said bluntly. I turned toward Lydia to talk to her when he cut back in.

"If you can pay then let's see that coin 'a yours." From under my hood, I felt heat in my cheeks rising.

I pushed back my hood and turned back to him, "I'm the fucking dragonborn." I said, his eyes went wide for a moment, though he tried to keep his face straight. "I'll have your shitty money." I turned toward Lydia then, "Let's go see what we can stir up, eh?"

She fought back a smile and nodded, I turned looked over at the blacksmith and asked, "You got a way outta here in the back?" he nodded and pointed toward a door behind him.

Lydia led the way to it, but as we were leaving I give him one final look, "Start making that armor, we'll be back before you know it."

I pulled my hood back over my head and stepped out the back.

Luckily for us, the alehouse was right across the street, and bartenders always know what's happening in town.

So we stopped by, and found out that there was a bounty out for a couple of bandits planted up in a cave a little ways up the hill from the town that were staking out the main roads and stealing from passersby.

Well, the owner of the alehouse had missed several shipments of ale and food from his deliverymen, and was offering a reward for someone to go up and clear the cave out. And since Lydia was out of action for a while, I told her I'd deal with it on my own.

It took me a long time to deal with the argument that followed because she thought without her I'd "probably step on a bear trap and get set on fire," and after that lovely vote of confidence we stood there in the middle of the alehouse arguing over whether or not I could survive one day on my own without her.

And as we were going back and forth, an imperial who had been listening to us stepped forward. His name was Mercrutio, and he offered to go along with me to the cave, for a small cut of the bounty and whatever we found in their loot.

After another half hour of arguing, this time in whispers so Mercrutio wouldn't hear, the wizard and I were on our way up the hill through the forest, and Lydia was probably sitting in the alehouse thinking of all the ways she could ring my neck when I got back.

We'd decided not to use horses since they'd probably just draw attention, so instead we were just walking along. Not having Lydia around was both refreshing and annoying.

I could finally stop worrying about that weird feeling in my gut every time I looked over at her, but she wasn't there at all and that just irritated me. There just really was no winning.

When we reached the edge of the forest around the cave we stuck close to the ground, just observing the entrance and listening to the voices echoing from inside. From what we could hear, there were at least three different voices, but just to be safe we tacked on another three just as a precaution in case there were more of them deeper in.

As we entered, we crouched low and kept quiet, the three we heard were all sitting around a campfire, drinking and arguing which one was better in bed. They were just beginning to come to a way to solve their debate, by hiring a whore and letting her decide, when I crept up behind one of them and alit his throat.

Mercutio took out a dagger and brought lightning into the same hand, spreading the electricity through the metal before it found its mark between the next man's collarbones. The third one jumped up when he realized he was laughing at their solution alone.

He stepped back slowly and drew his greatsword. I looked at the shimmering sell for a minute before bringing lightning in my palm. Mephala's marks on my arm grew warm, and hummed with the electricity. I shot the bolt at his sword, and the entire cave was lit for a few moments with a sharp blue light.

His body dropped and spasmed, with foam pouring from his mouth and his skin turning black. Mercrutio looked desperately confused, "How did you –"I push past him deeper into the cave. We walked for a few minutes before coming to a large open space in the cave.

Three more men were inside, carrying barrels toward a large pile that sat in the far back corner of the cave. One man, a skinny orc, tripped and spilled the contents of the barrel, a good distance away from the pile.

The two men turned around and saw the fluid running from the barrel, "Orin, what the fuck!?" one of the men shouted.

"Quit spilling the merchandise! Do you know how many septims one barrel of oil is worth!? That one's coming from your cut!" Mercrutio and I looked at each other then, both of us having the same idea.

As Orin began to stand, I whistled a bird's call. At once, Orin grabbed his mace and took the shield off his back. He waited for the other two to come to his side.

"What was that?" Orin asked as all three of them began to advance, stepping into the thick part of the spill.

We both brought fire into our hands and stood then. Just as the men's eyes went wide with fear, we shot the flames forth and ducked again as the three of them were swallowed up by the fire.

They screamed only for a few seconds before they died, and everything was quiet, save the fire burning itself out. Mercrutio jumped up, and slapped me on the shoulder, "Well, let's go see what they have stashed away."

I sat there for a few minutes, watching the fire, the usual memories rushing through my mind.

I brushed them away and searched the rest of the cave with Mercrutio. We found four good size sacks of gold, we took two each. I found a new dagger with a shining blade, a gold hilt, and a perfectly balanced weight. I looked at the two of my usual daggers, one had always been a bit fancier than the other anyways, so I replaced that one with the gold hilted one and tucked the other in the waist band of my pants.

Mercrutio got excited when he found a new spell tome or something, and I found an ornate chest with several different circlets, necklaces, and rings in it. The chest wasn't terribly big, but it was pretty heavy. I held it in front of me, resting slightly against my stomach as I walked.

On the way out, I eyed the greatsword that laid clenched in the bandit's hand. I set the chest down and picked the sword up after pulling my gloves out of my pocket and pulling them on.

I held it out to Mercrutio, "Here, carry this back for me." Mercrutio eyed it and crossed his arms.

"I am an apprentice wizard, not a pack mule!" I raised my eyebrows at him, wondering if he was serious. He dropped his arms after a few awkward seconds of silent staring between us. "Oh, very well, let's make this quick." He grabbed the sword and pushed forward out of the cave.

I carried the chest back on my right shoulder and when we reached the town there was a large crowd near the entrance. Someone must've seen us leave, or maybe the bartender told that we had gone after the bandits and word got around, who knows?

I'm still confused on how everyone in Skyrim seems to know what I look like and who I am.

"Dragonborn! Dragonborn!" a few children started screaming and running towards me as we walked to the open gate of the town. They surrounded me, making it impossible to move.

I pushed my hood back and looked down at them. One girl asked, "Is it true? Are you really the dragonborn?!" I leaned down and set the chest down on the ground.

"I don't know," I opened the chest and pulled out a sapphire circlet and put it on the girl's head, "what do you think?" she reached up and squealed.

"You must be! You must be the dragonborn!" a girl said next to her. "No one could have taken out those bandits except you!" the girl grabbed a stick from the ground and pretended to fight and invisible bandit, "It must be you!" I smiled and pulled out my old dagger from my pants and handed it to her.

"Others could have done it," I said as the stick in her hand fell to the ground, "it just so happened to be me. Keep this safe, now. It's helped me along the way quite a bit." I gave her a wink and turned to see a very young elven boy, one that was hiding behind what seemed to be his older sister. The two were obviously wood elves, judging by their light brown skin tones and grey-green eyes.

She nervously bit her lip and her brother sucked his thumb. I reached in the chest and pulled out a ruby armlet. I looked at how thin her arm was and bent the two ends so that the armlet was small enough so that it wouldn't slip off her arm.

I took her wrist and slowly eased the armlet over her hand and the girl gave me a great smile. The boy stepped forward to examine his sister's arm. He looked up to me grumpily. "Yes, yes, I have something for you, too."

I reached once again into the chest and wrapped my fingers around the gold chain of an emerald amulet. I slipped the chain over his neck, but almost immediately the chain slipped off his shoulder and fell down to the ground.

"Hmm," I said. The boy reached down and tried to drag it back up. His sister lifted him up and I picked the amulet up again. This time, I looped the chain twice around his neck, so that one loop held comfortably tight to his neck, and the other held the gold encrusted emerald against his stomach.

He lifted the medallion closer to his face and licked it. "No, that's not for eating," I laughed and lifted the closed chest back onto my shoulder.

When I started to walk back toward the gate where most of the townspeople had gathered, the children all ran back to their parents. The girl with the dagger ran to her mother and began pointing wildly at her new weapon. The mother smiled down at her daughter and as I passed them she gave me a smile and a bow of her head.

"That was very kind or you, sir." A man said to my right. I didn't say anything, just slowly waded through them all.

I smiled when I saw Lydia at the very back of the group, just waiting and watching. As I looked at her and we drew closer, I felt the flighty feeling in my gut again, and the small smirk on her face made me grin. "Why do I get the feeling you led them here?" I asked as I brushed past her.

She walked alongside side me and a satisfied grin spread across her face. "That's what you get for leaving me behind," she said and I laughed.

"Still bitter about that, hmm?" she shrugged as we walked on to the blacksmith.

"That was sweet- what you did for the kids, I mean."

"I just slit a man's throat, electrocuted one, and set three more on fire," my smile was gone, and hers was slowly fading, "I figured the least I could do was make it a good day for them." Lydia looked blank for a few moments and looked away.

The chest was on my right shoulder, with my arm looped over it to keep it there, and Lydia was walking on my left side, where my other arm was hanging freely. Next thing I knew, Lydia reached out and took my hand in hers and began talking like it was a normal thing, "I wasn't going to tell them, but they all came into the alehouse after you left, apparently he's the town gossip. Then they all saw me and wouldn't leave me alone because they saw us together earlier. Eventually I just got annoyed and wanted them to go away."

"But you followed them," I said, lacing my gloved fingers through her bare ones.

"I wanted to make sure you didn't 'Thu' um' them into manure." We both laughed for a minute or so, and for a few moments, everything slowed down.

She was smiling and laughing and as beautiful as ever and the feeling in my stomach made me sick. I almost couldn't breathe but I kept smiling. The feeling didn't leave when I looked away, my gut felt twisted and unsettled and my eyes burned from looking away.

So I looked back over again, and the feeling only grew stronger. But each time I looked away, all I wanted was to see her again. I decided then, that maybe this feeling… no matter how annoying and distracting it was…. Maybe it wasn't so bad. Actually, I liked it. A lot.

So we made it back to the blacksmith's, and I set the chest down loudly on the counter, loud enough to send a crash to the back of the shop, and the blacksmith poked his head out with wide eyes. He sighed with both relief and annoyance when he saw it was just me again.

He slowly came to the front just as Mercrutio came in bearing the greatsword on his back. "What's this now?" the blacksmith said, pointing to the chest. I smiled and popped it open.

"This," I said as the man eyes the golden and silver trinkets inside, "is that payment we were discussing." He looked up at me and I winked at him, "I hope you've enough gold on you, now." Mercutio stepped forward and set the greatsword down on the counter next to the chest. The blacksmith just stood there staring before I said, "We'll be needing that gold now, good sir." Only then did the man jump from his daze and headed to the back to fetch his lockbox.

It took us a good while to work out the prices and haggle over each piece of jewelry in the box along with the broadsword, but in the end we had more than enough for the armor and we hadn't yet collected the bounty for clearing the cave.

The blacksmith had already started her armor and was working quickly to finish it by the end of the day. In the meantime Lydia, Mercutio, and I went to the alehouse and collected our bounty. We divided it up and gave Mercutio his half. "It was a pleasure, Dragonborn," he said, "I hope we meet again."

I just nodded and said, "I'm sure we will." By that time it was well into the afternoon, and the people were flooding into the alehouse after a long day of work. The men all gathered around us, with the women hanging back warily, and asked to hear of our encounters along the ways.

I told them of the very first dragon Lydia and I slayed, and after that they asked for another, so I told them about the dragon that took me high into the sky before we managed to kill it.

But all the while I kept looking back to Lydia, and found myself talking more of her actions than my own during the tales. The men drank their mead and laughed when I spoke of how Lydia accidentally shot me during the flight and Lydia blushed, the women sat staring with forced smiles and unconvincing giggles.

Eventually, we said our goodbyes, but not before one of the men stood and raised his mug and held it proudly in the air as he said, "Aye, let us toast, then, to Skyrim, may her winters make you hardy, and her summers make you anew." The men all around raised their voices in an approving roar as mugs were slammed against one another in the room. I turned to Lydia and we hit our mugs together in the same fashion, only my mug broke and spilled all over my arm.

She laughed and took a swig before putting her mug to my lips and tipping it back for me to drink.

After that we headed back to the blacksmith and Lydia put on her new armor, which was probably the most impressive metal work I've ever seen. The metal was a darkened gray, almost like charcoal, but the edging of it was lined perfectly with intricate weaving lines that all wound together. Her helmet made two archways above her eyes that dipped into a long piece of metal that came down to cover her nose.

She said the entire set was much lighter than the steel she'd had before, and the blacksmith said it would prove to be much, much tougher as well. I was staring at the armor when a little face peeking from the back room caught my eye.

I looked to see it was the elven girl from before, she smiled widely at me and pointed to her armlet, which was snug on her wrist. I stood there for a minute, just appreciating the difference between the life of a Halfling in Valenwood to that of one here, in Skyrim.

The song echoed in my head.

"So here's to you boys, now take my advice,

To Skyrim I'll have you not be going,

There's nothing there but war and the murderin' armies' roar"

It took me a long time to stop that song from echoing in my head. After thanking the blacksmith and giving him some extra septims for the quickness and craftsmanship, we back out on the town streets. But as we were talking on what to do next, I kept thinking back to the half elf girl and her younger brother, and that made me remember Valenwood, and my uncle.

A pain cut through me thinking about it, and I cursed myself for always turning him away when he offered me help. I'd have to find who killed him, I knew that much for certain. And now that I had my amulet back I could think back to the woods surrounding his cottage and refresh my memory and hope for anything to set me in the right direction. Something about the Thalmor boot tracks was off, and I didn't trust it. There was something more, I could feel it.

But there was something I had to do even before that, and that was to go back to Riften, and back to the guild. Brynjolf would be worrying himself sick looking for us, I've known him long enough to know that.

Lydia seemed to agree with that, and neither one of us felt tired, so we'd decided to set off right away. And so we went to the stables and collected our horses and set off once again, this time we were bound for Riften.

We weren't so far from Riften, a few hours of a ride at most.

When we arrived, we set our horses up and headed straight for the graveyard. After letting ourselves in through the secret entrance. Once in the ratways, we could hear music and cheering echoing through the darkened tunnels, so we followed the noise. We could see that across the bridge, where the bar and usually empty tables were.

Except tonight they weren't empty, instead people were scattered everywhere. Some were dancing off to the right in a messy jumble to the bards who were playing joyfully in the corner, others surrounded the bar, handing a satisfied Vekel their coin in exchange for mead and spirits.

Throughout the crowd were members of the guild, and at the back table, sat Vex. I searched the crowd as we approached the mob, hoping to find Brynjolf. No such luck.

I sighed and realized what I had to do.

I asked Lydia to hang back and she unhappily agreed. I sighed and walked toward Vex, who leaned back in her chair by the water and steeled her face when I pulled up a chair. I just looked at her for a few moments, and I saw her jaw go rigid with anger.

"How've you been, Vex?" I asked, seeing the differences in her from the last time I saw her. Her face was older, not in the way of wrinkles, but what little baby fat used to be there was gone now, replaced with high cheekbones and an experienced glitter in her eyes.

She just stared coldly at me. "Brynjolf's been searching everywhere for you." she said. I almost sighed in relief that she'd let me just skip the whole disastrous conversation that would no doubt unfold.

I cleared my throat and wetted my lips as I glanced around the room once more, "Do you know where he is?" I asked.

She took a deep breath, "BRYNJOLF!" She screamed, cutting off the music and laughter like a knife. Her scream sent my ears ringing, and her voice echoed harshly throughout the high ceilinged room. All the people turned and looked at us, but Vex paid them no mind.

I, on the other hand, awkwardly smiled and gave a dry laugh and a wave. "Seriously, Vex?" I asked bitterly.

Within a minute, Brynjolf appeared from a back room with a wrinkled brow. The crowd turned to him then and he also smiled awkwardly at them. I stood up at the sight of him and he smiled when he saw me.

He quickly crossed the room and we grabbed each other's hands and he patted my shoulder happily. "Aye," Vekel said, if you two are done….?" We suddenly realized the entire room was still watching us. A few women giggled and the men stood with questioning brows.

Brynjolf laughed and nodded to the bards to begin again. I waved over to Lydia to join us. Brynjolf led us back to Vex's table, which was the only one with open seats. Not surprisingly, as soon as we sat down, she excused herself.

Brynjolf watched her go, but said nothing of it, "Now, was my hospitality so poor that you ran off without even a warning? What happened, Markus?"

I bit my lip before starting, "Mephala found me, she threatened my uncle, all but straight out said he'd die. I uh, I went out to his cabin, but he was…"

Brynjolf's eyes grow with sadness, "Terran? Dead?" I just noded. "Did she kill him?"

"Wait," Lydia started, "you know about Mephala?" she asked Brynjolf, "You told him before you told me?"

Brynjolf gave me the 'ooohh you're in trouble' look, and I had to resist slapping it off his face. "Lyd, I was kinda busy." Lydia got up from the table and disappeared into the crowd. "Shit."

"Well, I can tell you that you're not exactly a ladies choice right now." I rub my forehead.

"Gee, what makes you say that?" I ask sarcastically.

"Oh, nothing, just the fact that Vex is in the corner over there with some lizard, letting him slither his tongue down her throat and Lydia-"

"Wait, what?" Brynjolf pointed to where Vex was standing up against a wall with an argonian, the two of them obviously enjoying each other. I closed my mouth and it formed a straight line, but my eyes stared rather widely at them.

And then, Vex peeked over at us, and smirked against his…. Lips? Scaly excuses for lips? Shit, I don't even know. Point is, she did it on purpose and for a reason. "An argonian?" I asked, turning back to Brynjolf angrily, "She couldn't find a Breton or redguard or something? It had to be a lizard?"

"Seems to me she's trying to make you jealous," I looked at him with feigned shock, "also seems like it's working. Talk to her, Markus, she won't stop until you do."

"We're getting off track," I said. "We have a problem," I rolled up my sleeve then and brought frost into my palm, and the blackened marks turned an icy blue and glowed brightly under the dim lights. A light caught my eye to the side, and I looked over to see Nocturnal's stone statue's eyes were glowing a faint purple.

The glow disappeared and I looked at Brynjolf as he ran his fingers up my arm, "Oh, lad," he whispered sadly, "what did you do?"

"Mephala, she was going to kill Lydia unless I agreed to give her the dragon souls, when I did, she bit into my arm and left me with this, it makes my magic easily six fold stronger, I can't explain it, Bryn."

Brynjolf shook his head, "This is no gift, Markus, this is dark magic, not the sort to be messin' with." I stopped the frost magic and the marks returned to black.

"I know, Bryn."

"Did she really kill your Uncle?" I shrugged.

"I don't think so, his throat was slit, not really something a daedric prince would do… I'm going to find out who's responsible, and I will make sure justice is done, you know I will. Brynjolf just shook his head.

"Aye, I know lad."

I glanced back over at Vex, who was still in the corner with the lizard, "First, though, I think I need to go put an end to that. I'll catch up with you later tonight; we still have a lot to talk about." Brynjolf agreed and I set off, wading through the crowd and edging closer to Vex.

As I walked up to the two, Vex caught sight of me and pushed her leg up on the argonian's hip. I considered using the Thu' um on them, but thought it'd be better to avoid splattering them on the wall. I walked up and grabbed his shoulder and hauled him backwards.

"Put some ice on it," I said to him with my eyes locked on her, "I have to talk to her."

"What the fuck-" He started.

"Go on, then." She waved him off. He stood there looking between us in obvious anguish.

I turned to him then, "GO." I said. He finally gave up and moved on, back to the bar.

For a minute we just stared at each other, she then motioned her head towards the back rooms and walked off down the hallway. I followed her into the back, and then into her room. I closed the door behind me and then yet another thing was made clear to me this day.


Lydia

I watch as Markus follows Vex into the back, and I nearly black out with rage. I look over and see Brynjolf still sitting at the table and I march over to him and ask furiously, "Where are they going?!"

"They're just going to talk, lassie-"

"Right, just going to 'talk'."

"No, really, girl, they're just talking, Markus and Vex have a great deal of history between them that they need to set right, for the good of the guild."

"Fuck your guild." I spit at him as I push drunkards out of my way in pursuit.


Markus

I locked the door and turned to see her sitting at the edge of her bed, legs crossed, leaning back on her arms. I leaned back against the door with my legs and arms crossed. I sighed, "What're you doing, Vex?"

"Not everything is about you, Markus, why don't you just run on back to your little whor-"

"Finish that sentence and I'll walk out of here right now." She closed her mouth. "Fuck, Vex." I said, frustrated with how after all this time, she could still get under my skin so easily.

"Why didn't you just come with me all those years ago?" she finally asked, "I've learned so much, more than you have, I bet. I'm a better thief than I ever could have been in Cyrodiil; I'm a master, Markus, can you say the same?"

"I'm good, you know that."

"No, you were good, back in Cyrodiil you were good, but now," she laughed bitterly "you couldn't even touch me if you wanted to; I'm that damn good."

"That's not what this is about and you know it." I said, looking away from her venomous stare. "I'm sorry, Vex."

"What?" she asked, hesitating slightly.

I unfolded my arms and walked toward her, "I'm sorry for not coming with you," I said, kneeling down in front of her, her eyes welled up with long concealed tears. "But I don't regret it."

My words were harsh, but Vex deserved the truth, without a filter. She reached out and slapped me, turning my head to the side with its force. "How can you say that? We would've been happy!"

I shook my head, "You just walked away, Markus, you just left . Just like that!"

"I wasn't the one who left, Vex!" I said as I pushed myself off the ground paced towards the door, "I walked away but I never left. I let you go because you wanted to go, that wasn't me leaving, that was you."

I was reaching towards the door when I realized it.

How could Vex have ever moved on, when I never officially ended it?

All this time she was probably waiting, hoping that I'd change my mind and come to Skyrim, that I'd just show up one day and everything would be like it used to be.

And then for me to finally come here, with another woman… it must've torn her up bad.

I turned around to see her holding her head in her hands. "Vex," I said, turning and walking back, "Vex, I'm sorry." She stood up then, wildly clawing at my armor and frantically pushing me back.

"YOU SON OF A BITCH! YOU STUPID HALFLING PRICK!" I let her claw at me for a few moments before I caught her wrists and held them tightly. She broke down and her knees buckled beneath her. I slowly followed her as she sank to the floor.

She stopped fighting me and rested her head against my shoulder as sobs shook her body, "I loved you," she whispered, "I loved you so much."

I kissed her forehead and soothed my hand over her hair. "I know," I said as I kissed her head, "I loved you too. I missed you, Vex."

"I missed you too." She said. We sat like that until she had stopped crying, she pushed herself up and reservedly withdrew from me and walked to her bed, "I want to be alone for a while." She said, I pushed myself up and nodded. I unlocked the door but before I opened the door I heard her whisper, "I'm sorry Markus."

I closed the door behind me, and heard the sound of heavy metal plates next to me. I looked and saw Lydia, trying to hide in a sip in the wall. "Shit," she said when she saw me.

"Were you just..?' She nodded regretfully.

"I thought you and she were…"

"Oh," I said, taking her hand and motioning toward the joyful music, "we'd better be making our way back, then." I turned to leave, but her hand pulled me back.

"Actually, I'm rather tired, help me find that spare room Brynjolf offered?" I nodded my head.

"Alright then." We walked along until we reached an empty room, with nothing in the room to say it belonged to anyone. As she walked past me into the room she turned back.

"I'm sorry I was spying on you." she said. I leaned my arm against the door frame and she edged forward towards me.

"That's alright," I said, "when you're as famous as I am, I wouldn't blame you for wanting to keep an eye on me."

"You mean infamous, right 'sweet thief'?" I leaned in closer, and we were just a breath away, and I could see her eyes drift to my lips, then back to my eyes.

"Well, there is one sweet thing I want to take right now." I said as I closed the distance and met her lips in a short, light kiss. I opened my eyes, checking to make sure she wanted this, too. When I saw her eyes were closed, I leaned back in, more forcefully this time.

I pressed my hand to the back of her head and laced my fingers through her hair; that twist in my gut was gone, and all I could feel was her soft lips and all I could taste was her sweetness. It all went by in a blur, all I knew was that I've never been kissed like that; a kiss that had real meaning behind it, and sent a fire through me that extended my entire body.

When we pulled away, both of us were out of breath. I kept my eyes closed and the next thing I knew, I heard her say nervously, "Goodnight." And when I opened my eyes, the door was closed.

I laughed, knowing that was confirmation that she'd felt it too.

I walked back out to find Brynjolf and found him at the bar, ordering a drink and singing along with the bards and the men around him. I walk up and pat him on the shoulder and join in.

"The lark in the morning she rises off her nest
She goes home in the evening with the dew all on her breast
And like the jolly ploughboy she whistles and she sings
She goes home in the evening with the dew all on her wings

Oh, Roger the ploughboy he is a dashing blade
He goes whistling and singing over yonder leafy shade
He met with pretty Susan, she's handsome I declare
She is far more enticing then the birds all in the air

The lark in the morning she rises off her nest
She goes home in the evening with the dew all on her breast
And like the jolly ploughboy she whistles and she sings
She goes home in the evening with the dew all on her wings

One evening coming home from the rakes of the town
The meadows been all green and the grass had been cut down
As I should chance to tumble all in the new-mown hay
Oh, it's kiss me now or never love, this bonnie lass did say

The lark in the morning she rises off her nest
She goes home in the evening with the dew all on her breast
And like the jolly ploughboy she whistles and she sings
She goes home in the evening with the dew all on her wings

When twenty long weeks they were over and were past
Her mommy chanced to notice how she thickened round the waist
It was the handsome ploughboy, the maiden she did say
For he caused for to tumble all in the new-mown hay

The lark in the morning she rises off her nest
She goes home in the evening with the dew all on her breast
And like the jolly ploughboy she whistles and she sings
She goes home in the evening with the dew all on her wings

Here's a health to y'all ploughboys wherever you may be
That likes to have a bonnie lass a sitting on his knee
With a jug of good strong porter you'll whistle and you'll sing
For a ploughboy is as happy as a prince or a king

The lark in the morning she rises off her nest
She goes home in the evening with the dew all on her breast
And like the jolly ploughboy she whistles and she sings
She goes home in the evening with the dew all on her wings"

Brynjolf and I laughed with the men before we waded back to the table to talk more. "Aye then, how did it go with Vex?"

"Surprisingly well, really." I said, a wide grin on my face.

"Aye," he said again, "and why is there a grin as wide as the North sea on yer face?"

That's when I revealed yet another realization I had that day, "Lydia," I said, "I think I- I think I love her." Brynjolf burst out in a drunken laughter full of joy.

"I can barely believe mine ears," he burst out laughing again.

"I know," I looked down at my hands on the table, laughing to myself. And then I noticed something; not only was I laughing to myself, I was laughing by myself. I looked up and saw Brynjolf wasn't there anymore.

No one was there anymore.

I looked at Nocturnal's statue, and saw blazing purple eyes staring back.

I stood and slowly backed away. I turned around and was met with Nocturnal's hooded frame staring at me. "Foolish boy." She snarled as she launched me back. I hit against the table and it gave way to my weight.

"I TOLD YOU TO STAY IN RIFTEN!" A deep, male voice screamed, the voice pouring from her lips. Pain coursed up my back as I tried to push myself up. A force slammed me back down.

"She-she k-killed him," I barely managed to spit out, "what was I s-supp-"

"SHE didn't kill him!" she hissed. "Let's see it then." She said, her normal voice returning. She walked to me and a crow came out of nowhere and landed on my shoulder. It suddenly began tearing furiously at my armor with jagged, unnaturally sharp claws.

She didn't seem to care that the bird tore deeply into my skin and sent blood flying. I tried to keep the sounds of my pain inside, but the claws seemed to burn against my flesh as it was torn away.

"You pathetic fool." She said her voice alarmingly calm all of a sudden. "There is so little I can do for you now." She sounded almost saddened. "I wonder, do you even know what you've done?" Her hood rose from looking at my arm to looking at me, I just stared back, a sweat breaking out over me from the pain in my arm.

"Please," I all but gurgled up at her, "who- who killed him?"

She shook her head, "You mortals have such limited conscience."

"Please," I said again as everything went hazy and dark.

Suddenly, my body felt different, I was… sitting, and a blurred image of Brynjolf sat across from me. Her voice whispered to me, "Don't you know?" she said, her voice slipping away, "It was the Stormcloaks."

The sound of the people slowly creeped back in, "It was Ulfric." she finished.

It's amazing what you can realize on those clear days, what things you can learn, what feelings can be uncovered, what truths might be told, it really is breathtaking.

So now I sit here, as those around me rejoice and sing along to songs and drink mead.

And in my head all I can think of is revenge.

Revenge and the blood of Skyrim's little false king.

Skyrim's 'great war' is coming. And I already know which side I'm playing on.

But for now the songs around me go on.

"I've been many places
I've travelled 'round the world
Always on the search for something new
But what does it matter
When all the roads I've crossed
Always seem to lead back to you...

Old familiar faces
Everyone you meet
Following the ways of the land
Cobblestones and lanterns
Lining every street
Calling me to come home again

Dancing in the moonlight
Singing in the rain
Oh, it's good to be back home again
Laughing in the sunlight
Running down the lane
Oh, it's good to be back home again

When you play with fire
Sometimes you get burned
It happens when you take a chance or two
But time is never wasted
When you've lived and learned
And in time it all comes back to you...

Dancing in the moonlight
Singing in the rain
Oh, it's good to be back home again
Laughing in the sunlight
Running down the lane
Oh, it's good to be back home again"


Author's Note: Okay, I'm really sorry if it was bad, I'm still trying to get back in the swing of it after such a long writer's block issue. Let me know what you think! Oh, and a HUGE thank you to my sister, who pretty much made this chapter happen by all but locking me in my room to write it.

Also thank you all so much for being so patient, I know I get annoyed when there hasn't been an update in a while with stories I follow so I feel your pain. I'm not going to neglect this story anymore, though I might need some time to get over my writer's block issues, I promise not to let it go so long without an update ever again.

Thanks again everyone! Oh, and Happy late New Year!