The carriage pulled up to the gates of Riften, Yosa'Min and the others climbing off it. Vex aided the redguard down, Lydia close behind her. They entered the city without a word, simply moving along on one last mission. After they'd entered though at the late hour, moon high in the sky and clouds no where to be seen, Brynjolf suggested they go straight to the Guild.
Nodding their heads in agreement, the four started towards the Guild entrance that was above ground. Yosa'Min was like a ghost, simply following along to their commands and wishes. As they got into the more open area where the bridges started, Yosa'Min turned her head at the sound of a familiar voice that had her heart aching. Whirling to look, Yosa'Min was stunned to see the shape of the woman she had just lost standing outside a building.
Mjoll looked as terrible as she did, hair messy, garbed in her miner styled clothes, as if she couldn't have the will to get dressed for adventure. Without a will of her own. Yosa'Min reached out for the woman who was bathed in the light coming out of the building, talking to someone. "Mjoll..." She whispered brokenly.
Vex turned her head, catching what was about to happen and swiftly grabbed Yosa'Min's arm, pulling her back. "Vex no!" Said Yosa'Min a bit louder, struggling against her, trying to run to Mjoll.
"Don't do it, you'll only get hurt even worse," Vex advised, practically dragging her along.
Blue eyes widened, the redguard turning and trying to break free until Lydia took hold of her other arm, and aided Vex in taking her away. "She's right my thane, please, listen to her," Lydia said.
"I don't want to listen, I want Mjoll back."
"She's not going to come back, at least not now. The pain for her is as fresh as it is for you, give her time."
Yosa'Min went limp, giving up, allowing the duo to lead her to the Guild. They were right, but it didn't stop the pain in her chest. Her heart was wrenching and twisting, screaming for her to fight them and run to the nord who had just entered the building. It was too late. She hadn't even known they'd been there.
"Lady Mjoll, he's upstairs," the nord woman said, Haelga watching the Lioness cautiously. After what had happened last time, one couldn't exactly blame her.
"Thank you, I promise things will be more civilized this time," Mjoll said. Haelga nodded her head, and then turned to address her niece who stood a bit away. Swallowing her fear, the nord woman walked up the stairs to where the beds were in the building.
She hadn't taken three steps before Aerin's voice came, shocked and surprised. "Mjoll? What are you doing here?"
Mjoll turned to face him, her imperial friend sitting down on a chair with a book open. He had been munching down some bread, but that was quickly forgotten. He rose to his feet, look at her with conflict spreading across his face. Before he could say or do a thing, the nord took him by the shoulders and pulled him into a hug. He tensed a bit, until relaxing and returning the gesture in full.
Tears worked their way back to her eyes, Mjoll shaking with grief as she began to sob. "Aerin, I'm sorry for everything I said. I was wrong."
"Wrong?" He patted her back comfortingly.
"About Yosa'Min, about everything with her. She- She was lying to me," Mjoll said brokenly.
The imperial frowned deeply, not wanting to say he'd told her so, but he certainly hadn't been betting on their relationship going anywhere good. "I'm sorry to hear that," he said.
"I should have listened to you, I should have believed you. I'm so sorry I didn't Aerin, you were only looking out for me and I was too dumb to see it."
Aerin pulled her back slightly from the hug, staring into her eyes and then shook his head. "You're a nord, you're stubborn is all," he smiled, making her laugh and shake her head. A small smile had spread across her face, but it soon faded as her mind went to the redguard.
"Stubborn is right, too stubborn to see the signs, to realize where things were going," she glumly said.
"You were in love?"
Mjoll nodded her head, "Very much so. Aerin, I wanted to... I wanted to be with her, I wanted to live with her, I wanted her always there with me. And now, it's gone." Tears welled in her eyes once more. Fingers curled into fists, the woman stepping back from him and turning to face the wall. She clenched her teeth, eyes shut as she tried not to cry so terribly but she couldn't stop it. Tears started to flow down her dirtied face.
She had wanted to live with that woman until she died and went to Sovngarde. Every time she'd nearly lost her felt like she had nearly died herself. Every tender moment they'd spent suddenly tasted like bitter poison on the back of her throat. The images of them together, in the woods, in the inn, every single kiss and sweet touch, made her want to puke. It revolted her, but all at the same time she missed it so terribly. Grieving for what she had rejected because she had had enough.
Never in her life had she thought something like this could happen, never did she imagine she could have fallen so hard for someone, and then lose them just as painfully. She wanted to scream and cry and beat the earth in until her knuckles bled. Her mind flicked images of the redguard before her, from when she'd first met her to her face as she screamed out in pleasure. The time they spent at the College, and their discussion on the bridge flooded and filled her mind.
Her heart screamed as her mind tortured herself, reminding her of everything she'd just thrown away. But she kept telling herself that she didn't have a choice. She couldn't be with someone who would do so much to her, who would lie so constantly, who would pretend and jump around the truth and think it would be all right.
She refused to.
Aerin watched her for a moment, and then walked over and tenderly rubbed circles into her back. The sobbing continued, Mjoll shaking with grief. The nord shuddered and cried, and swore up and down. Aerin watched her, saddened himself but at the same time relieved. She'd come to him, she'd sought him out. He still mattered.
After she'd stopped, her body drained and tired, Mjoll pushed off the wall and looked at him. "Thank you Aerin, for always being there for me even when I thought I didn't need you. Even after the things I'd done to you."
A sad smile crossed his face, the imperial shrugging, "It's what happens when you're in love. I guess you know just as much as I do that it doesn't always work out the way you'd wanted."
Mjoll nodded her head, a wet laugh escaping her. "I guess, we'll have to rebuild your home," she said after a moment.
"We'll have to rebuild our place. And this time, how about we have a bit more space upstairs?" He suggested, smiling to her, trying to make her cheer up. Truth be told, he was a happy man, his friend was back and he had hope for a better future.
Mjoll smiled faintly at him, and held out her hand. He accepted it, and the nord shook it quickly, pulling him in to a hug shortly after. "I promise, I'm going to be a better friend. You've done so much for me, I need to start repaying you properly for it."
"You don't have to repay me for anything Mjoll," he argued.
"Please, just let me," she said tenderly, "I've lost so much, don't let me loose my purpose too."
Aerin was silent for a few moments, and then nodded his head. "All right."
"Thank you," she brokenly whispered.
Vex walked strongly into the Cistern, her head held high and chin tilted upwards. She'd cleaned up, and Karliah, Brynjolf and she had changed back into their Thieves Guild armor. Yosa'Min wore leather armor, and Lydia was dressed the same besides them. Considering all that had happened, Vex had decided to grant the housecarl entrance just this once to witness what was to happen.
As the imperial crossed to the center of the cistern, standing proud on the circle, she smirked at the thieves who were watching her curiously. "Brynjolf, go get everybody, and I do mean everybody, out of the Flagon and bring them here," Vex ordered, the nord nodding his head and moving swiftly on her word. "I want everyone to hear this!" She said louder, voice echoing off the curved walls of the cistern.
Quickly, members of the Guild began to trickle in, Sapphire, Cynric, Etieene and Niruin being among the first, standing near the archway to the training rooms. Rune, Thrynn and Vipir the Fleet lingering by the secret entrance, standing about a few feet away from where Lydia, Yosa'Min and Karliah were watching. Brynjolf brought along the others, Delvin, Dirge, Tonilia, and Vekel the Man standing by that entrance with him. Vex smiled as she took in her Guild, because in a moment it truly would be her Guild. The thought made her heart race with pride.
It wasn't too well off just yet, but soon enough she would have it back on its feet and ruling the province once more. The smile grew as she cleared her voice and addressed the band of thieves and one extra onlooker, "Mercer is dead."
Instantly they began to cheer, Sapphire calling out praise while a few of the men began to jostle each other in celebration. Delvin tipped his head back in approval, locking eyes with the imperial who was obviously intending on saying more. The breton arched a brow at her, curiously egging her on. For once, his antics didn't infuriate Vex, and instead she simply smirked back at him.
"We tracked him down to a dwarven ruin called Irkngthand, where deep within beyond the tunnels was a grand statue. The Eyes of the Snow Elves resting within," Vex pulled the twin gems out from the satchel she'd taken up there with her. Instantly the thieves around them began to voice their approval, 'awing' at the gleaming jewels she held, one in each hand. Vex smiled at the response.
She'd practiced what she would say a thousand times down from the ruins. The carriage ride had been difficult, and not just because it rained most of the way down once they'd left the snowier areas. Vex had to watch Yosa'Min struggle right there besides her, hiding beneath a cloak to try to gain some sort of privacy. The redguard's sobbing could easily be heard over the rain, Vex sitting besides her and holding her hand every so often. Lydia had sung a few bard tales she was familiar with that she claimed Yosa'Min enjoyed, but they did nothing to lift the Dragonborn's mood.
So instead, Vex had been forced to listen to Brynjolf and Karliah politely talk to her about her duties as a Guildmaster and what would need to happen in the ceremony. After they told her they wanted her to be the one to tell everybody Mercer was dead, she had quickly pictured addressing the Guild for the first time with true authority, not just her own initiative. It wasn't like she wasn't unfamiliar with talking to them all at once, she did so a few times before after all. But, it felt weird to actually have the right to do so.
It had wrenched her heart to see the reddened eyes of Yosa'Min whenever she had peaked out from under the cloak, mostly to see just where they were or when someone had addressed her directly enough to bring her out of her silence. It was plain to see she had been holding back much of her grief, the audience about her removing the chance of her just letting out her sorrow. A cloud had hung around everybody on the carriage.
But now, she wasn't going to let anything cloud her mind. She had to make a strong entrance as the new Guildmaster, she had to prove she was here to stay. And unlike her predecessor, she wasn't going to lead them to ruin. "These gems right here, are going to make us rich," Vex said loudly, "But we're not going to stop there, we're going to reclaim our glory and our wealth! We're going to cover this province with our mark, and no one will ever question if we even exist again! Every thief will know who we are, and wish to join us. The Flagon, the Cistern, the entire Ratways will be a glorious sight to behold once more!"
Cheers rose up all around, the thieves reveling in her speech, in the hope she brought, in the flame flickering back to life in their hearts. Until Sapphire frowned faintly, and stepped forward, "Vex, how are we going to do all this without a Guildmaster?" She asked the question on everybody's lips.
A smirk crossed Vex's face, the woman allowing herself to become smug and confident like she was around them once more. She was the Third in this Guild, and now she was to become the master. "Simple, I will be the Guildmaster."
Shock crossed several faces, Vex staring directly into the bald breton's widened eyes. And then that same smile crept across Delvin's face, and the breton walked up onto the circle, Brynjolf and Karliah even joining the imperial in the center. Vex's heart was racing, a smile across her face as they each looked at her, and then smiled at her back.
"I approve," Delvin said, the senior thief granting his voice.
"As do I," Brynjolf smiled.
"There is no one better for the job," Karliah said.
"Vex, do you accept?" Brynjolf asked.
"I do," the imperial smirked. She'd been shocked, and even a bit resentful when they first suggested she become the Guildmaster. But standing there, she knew this was what was meant for her. This Guild was her family, her life, she wasn't going to let anyone hurt it ever again.
"Then you have it everybody, Vex is the new Guildmaster!" Announced Brynjolf loudly. The short ceremony was followed by a loud eruption of cheering, smiles plastered across all but a single face in the Cistern. Yosa'Min was watching Vex, trying her hardest to pull a smile of some sort across her face, but her heart just wouldn't allow it. So when the imperial's gaze flickered over to her as the celebrations picked up, Vekel announcing free drinks for everybody, Yosa'Min nodded her head to the imperial.
Vex handed the Eyes over to Karliah and Delvin, and then walked quickly over to where Yosa'Min and Lydia stood. The nord gave a smile of congrats to Vex, though she wasn't one for the crime she could understand that Vex had just become a very important person, and departed to speak with Brynjolf. Vex took hold of Yosa'Min's hand gently, and walked back to where the ladder to their tomb entrance was, a bit of privacy from everyone else as song and merriment moved towards the Ragged Flagon.
Amber eyes moved all across Yosa'Min's face, trying to read her, trying to understand. She knew exactly why the woman was so silent and so downcast, she'd just lost the woman she loved, and guilt rose in Vex's chest at the reaction from the Dragonborn. Not too long ago, she'd have rejoiced at them being torn apart, but now, she felt horrid. "If you want to stay in the Guild, I'd understand," she tenderly said, one hand resting on Yosa'Min's shoulder as she gave their clasped hands a squeeze. She smiled slightly, trying to comfort her.
Blue eyes were glassed with pain, looking up at her for only a moment before dropping to the ground beneath them. She and Mjoll had ended things about a day ago now, and the woman had hardly spoken since Vex had talked with her on the ice. For a few moments, Vex thought she might actually say something, until the redguard simply stepped forward and rested her head against Vex's shoulder, tears welling in her eyes once more.
The imperial thought for a moment of how she had treated Yosa'Min in Markarth, constantly bickering with her and pushing, hostile and haughty like she was with most anyone. In the inn after the kiss, she had tried to be sympathetic, but only ended up growing frustrated and angry with the redguard, turning back into a rude and cold woman. But now, a single cruel world might set the redguard reeling deeper into sorrow.
So she would play nice, and try to comfort her, and speak softly with the woman when they were in private. It wasn't like she couldn't do it, she just wasn't used to it. And certainly she had to be careful about who saw them like this, even more so as Guildmaster.
"I'm happy for you," suddenly said Yosa'Min, her eyes stuck on the ladder, head unmoving from her shoulder.
"Thanks," Vex replied, waiting a few moments in silence before she spoke. "I'm worried for you."
"Can I help you any? I..." Vex trailed off, uncertain what to say. She'd never tried to help put someone back together before.
"You don't want me unhappy," she quoted the woman from a long time ago, "I know." Yosa'Min moved back slightly, and looked the imperial in the eye. "I... appreciate everything you're trying to do. I just..." Blue eyes lowered to the ground in shame.
Vex frowned, her grip on Yosa'Min's hand tightening slightly. "Listen to me Yosa, she is not worth all this." A dark brow knitted together, Yosa'Min going to speak but the imperial swiftly stopped that. "No, don't you fucking dare argue with me." She gritted, anger rising inside of her body. "Mjoll? That hypocritical bitch isn't worth you moping around and being broken over. Now, I understand that your breakup was messy and horrible and intense, and I know that I am to blame for some of it, but she is not fucking worth it."
"Is going to get over it, as will you. She doesn't define you, and you don't define her," Vex refused to hear a defense for that nord. "She didn't say a word, she just left, and I don't blame her one bit. You were horrible to her, I was horrible to her, and she was horrible right back. You ended all the madness, and how does she repay you? By trying to kill me."
Yosa'Min frowned, trying to step away from Vex but the woman had stopped being tender, she was going to try to talk some sense into her before it was too late. Before she had allowed all those thoughts to settle. "Listen to me Yosa. I'm not saying that the way you two felt for one another wasn't real, I'm not saying that you didn't struggle or fight or go through some serious shit to be together. What I am saying is that it was too much, and feeling sorry for what happened isn't going to do you any good. You're the fucking Dragonborn, you're a damn good thief, and I'll be damned to Oblivion if I see you throw that all away over a woman."
"Vex I," Yosa'Min croaked tears welling in her eyes once more, "I'm sorry."
"Don't be," Vex said far more gently, wiping her eyes as they began to overflow with tears. "You have a heart, and sometimes it isn't your friend. You can have a family here, the Guild, we can and will be here for you. You're still one of us so long as you want to be." The imperial offered, trying to keep her one last time. The thought of her leaving the Guild was actually terrifying. It made Vex want to scream.
Going on missions with her had been some of the best moments in her life, had made her remember what a glory it was to be a thief again. Even with Nocturnal now there guiding her, and the Skeleton Key resting in her pocket, she didn't want to imagine what it would be like without the redguard at her side like it was before. No one had ever become so important to the woman before so quickly, but Yosa'Min certainly had.
"Thievery is a bit of good therapy you know," she joked.
Yosa'Min shook her head, "I've been down this road before Vex. It's how I met you even. Stealing out of depression, trying to find a purpose."
"Where better to find one then among the ranks of your brothers and sisters?" Vex smiled, "Would you rather drown yourself in drink trying to find purpose at the bottom of a bottle, or out in the world, stealing and breaking into places you shouldn't be? That sensation as you run from the guard, that excitement?" Vex gave a wide smile, knowing just the right words to try to convince her to stay. There was a warm feeling in her chest, a certainty of her actions. "Don't tell me you don't love that voice in the back of your head that's saying you're going to be caught and then you prove it wrong? The shrieks of someone when they discover a thief?
"I do it's just... I tried to stop once, I promised I would get clean for Mjoll," Yosa'Min weakly said.
"And does that promise matter anymore?" Vex asked with a tender tone, lifting the redguard's chin so that she couldn't avert her eyes. "Does it matter as much as you having a reason for your actions. You're a thief Yosa'Min," Vex said with conviction, "don't deny it."
Yosa'Min opened her mouth, closed it, and then nodded her head. "You're right," Vex smiled widely with relief, "I am a thief." The redguard managed a smile as she continued, "And there is no use in denying it."
Vex grinned back at her, squeezing her hand encouragingly. "Let's go join the celebration then huh?"
The redguard struggled to keep the smile across her face at first, but as they started towards the others, Vex comfortingly letting go of her hand and instead wrapping an arm over Yosa'Min's shoulders, the redguard started to laugh. Lydia glanced at her, confused but relieved with the change in her thane, watching the imperial lead her to the Flagon for Gods knew how many drinks. The nord quickly shuffled after, joining in the revelry with strangers.
Quickly Yosa'Min was handed a flagon of mead, the redguard tipping it back and gulping it down quickly. When it hit the bar counter with a resounding thump, the redguard smiled widely, the others cheering. Her heart still ached, still burned and hurt and screamed out in anguish. But maybe, with a family like this, she would make it. And who knew? Maybe they were right and in time Mjoll would be ready to give her another chance.
Yosa'Min could only hope.
The Legend of Yosa'Min will continue in the upcoming sequel "At Dawn's Light".
AN: So first up, let me just say, phew. I've been writing this story for over a year, and I am beyond a doubt completely proud of Two Thieves and a Lioness. It's been my biggest project, and my most successful one too. Thank you everyone who has been reading it, be it from September of last year, to now, I cannot thank you enough. Every review, every favorite, every follow, it makes me want to write more and more.
Yosa'Min's story will continue, and we'll see plenty of familiar faces in the upcoming story. I've been excited and eager to write it for months now, and have already done work on the plot and such so it shouldn't been too long of a wait between Two Thieves and At Dawn's Light.
Thanks again to everyone, and please, I'd absolutely love to hear what you think of the ending in a review.