Navigating her way to the Ragged Flagon was easy enough for Arbelle. She had spent enough time crawling around down there like a desperate, hungry rat. Returning to this place gave her no pleasure, but the sooner she was done, the sooner she could leave. She was there to ask about Louis Letrush and his whereabouts, and that was it. She didn't want waste any time idling around in a place like this. The journey to Riften from Dawnstar was quite long, but Arbelle didn't even want to spend the night. She wanted to kill this horse thief and take her leave. The Ragged Flagon had picked up in activity in the past few months, as the Thieves Guild had began growing again after quite a long time on the decline. It was actually quite busy, the air thick with alcohol and the regular stench of the sewers. She hoped she wouldn't have to wait to talk to Vex or Delvin, which she knew where the ones to talk to, the ones with the most information. She wondered if either of them would recognize her. She would find out soon enough.
Vex was never the social type. She sat alone, drinking to her hearts content. Not many were stupid enough to bother her, none that knew her, anyway. She looked annoyed, but then again, she always looked annoyed. Arbelle took the seat opposite from her at the table, looking equally as humorless.
"Do I know you?" asked Vex, immediately sensing Arbelle was here to talk, not drink.
"Not really," said Arbelle. "I'm looking for information on Louis Letrush. I was told you might know where he went."
Vex raised an eyebrow. "Why should I tell you anything? I don't know you."
Arbelle's eyes narrowed, her stare becoming harsher. "Because Maven wants his head, that's why."
"Oh, so you're with the Brotherhood. Why didn't you just say so?" asked Vex as she looked Arbelle over, suddenly taking more interest.
"I was trying to be a little subtle," said Arbelle, looking away.
"You must be new," said Vex with a smirk. "They never sent you before."
"Yeah, that's right. Now, do you know anything or don't you? I don't like it here, I don't want to spend a lot of time chatting," Arbelle said bluntly.
"Wait a minute, I recognize you," said Vex, suddenly leaning in closer. "You used to live in the Ratway, didn't you?"
Arbelle looked away with a sigh.
"Yeah, yeah you vanished around the same time as that mage getting killed . . . oh, I see," said Vex, finally coming upon the revelation. "That was you, huh?"
"Yep, so you know where Letrush is or not?" asked Arbelle, wanting to move this along.
"Well, I can't tell you where he is m, because I don't know, but I know he happens to have a hideout in Boulderfall Cave up North. If you're lucky, and he's careless, you might find him there," said Vex with a shrug.
Arbelle reached into her cloak and revealed a map, spreading it out on the table.
"Can you mark it for me?"
Vex complied, finding where the location was roughly on the map and put an "x" on the spot. Arbelle then quickly rolled the map back up and shoved it back in her robe.
"Thanks for the tip. I'm out of here," said Arbelle as she stood up.
"Not a fan of the Flagon, are we?" smiled Vex.
Arbelle looked back to her, looking deadly serious. "If I never have to lay eyes on this shithole of a city again, it'll be too soon. Enjoy your day."
And with that, Arbelle took her leave while Vex let out a few chuckles behind her.
The trek to Boulderfall Cave took around half a day on horseback. She counted herself lucky she came across no problems on the way to the cave. Arbelle hoped that if not for Letrush himself, she would at least find something that led her to him, a clue of some sort. She didn't know much about tracking people, especially not through an untamed wilderness, but would never go back to Gabriella with nothing to show for it. Not after everything Gabriella had done for her. She would find Letrush and take his life, or she would die trying. It was as simple as that.
The cave looked harmless enough, but that was just the view from the outside. Who knew if Letrush had friends that may have been inside as well. Arbelle would have to account for the fact she may be outnumbered when she goes in. She would have to be cautious, but there was no other way inside the caverns then the wooden door built into the side of the rock. She began to prepare offensive scrolls and spells and go over in her head what she would do if she found herself outmatched. Perhaps retreat to the entrance, and then blast it with a fireball as they all came flooding through? As she became engulfed in her thoughts, she failed to recognize the subtle footsteps drawing closer.
"Excuse me, sera," came a sudden voice.
Arbelle jolted forward as if shocked, spinning around and raising her arms to cast a Destruction spell at the man. She saw he was a Dunmer with his open palms above his head, as if to show he meant no harm. He wore a black set of leather armor that if Arbelle was more experienced, she would have recognized immediately.
"Who the Oblivion are you?" demanded Arbelle, taking a few steps back. "Are you with Letrush?"
"Fear not, I come in peace, sera. You are a dark sister, are you not?"
"Who wants to know?" said Arbelle, not lowering her hands, for she was still not convinced he was not a threat.
"My name is Endrol Nolavo. I come from Morrowind. I too serve the Night Mother."
The man looked aged, probably well-traveled, showing obvious wrinkles on his blueish, coarse face. His voice was deep and gravelly, like he had been breathing in smoke his whole life.
"What?" asked Arbelle with a confused face. "How do I know that? How do I know who you say you are?"
"Is the armor not enough?" he asked her, not daring to come closer.
"You could have stolen it off a corpse," countered Arbelle.
"I supposed I could have," he admitted with a nod. "Very observant and cautious of you, your sect of the Brotherhood is clearly very careful, but then how could you not be? You did assassinate the Emperor, after all. I assure you, my words are sincere. Would you like for me to recite the Five Tenets?"
"Well, yes, I suppose that'll do," she said back.
The man went on to name all the tenets and the repercussions for breaking them, making sure to mention the Wrath of Sithis would be incurred each time.
"Alright, fine, let's say I believe you," said Arbelle, hesitantly lowering her hands. "What do you want with me? I'm quite busy here. Come to think of it, how did you find me?"
"I followed you here from the Ragged Flagon. I've been on your tail for quite some time. I'm a master tracker, you see. Trained quite vigorously in the arts of stealth. Very few could hope to detect me," the man explained, as respectfully as he could.
"Okay, now why?"
"Your Sanctuary is not the only remaining sect of the Brotherhood, but with the Listener having been killed, and the Black Hand dissolved, every surviving Sanctuary became isolated and cut off from the others. For years we operated with the knowledge we may be the only group left. When we heard about the Emperor's assassination, we knew we not alone after all. My superiors sent me to establish contact with the Skyrim Brotherhood, and I've been following leads ever since. I heard the Flagon was the place to go for such information, and I've been loitering around there for days. I happened to overhear your conversation with the grumpy woman, and here I am," Endrol explained in detail. "I've come to reconnect our families and merge them into one."
"Well, that's all very interesting and compelling, and I'm sure my Mistress would be happy to discuss it with you later, but right now I'm busy with a contract," said Arbelle.
She was still caught quite off guard. This was a lot take in.
"Yes, of course, my apologies. Tracking a horse thief, are you not? Perhaps I can assist you in this matter to prove my intentions are genuine."
"You want to help me on a contract? Is that allowed?" asked Arbelle, for she was unsure.
"Of course. As long as the soul is sent to Sithis, it matters not how many are involved. You can keep all the contract money, for I have no need of it."
"Well, I suppose I could use the help," Arbelle admitted, becoming more comfortable. "Between you and me, this is my first official contract."
"Yes, I could tell you are of little experience, yet you are not foolish, or reckless. I would be happy to assist a Dark Sister and show you some of the tricks of the trade."
This guy is almost too polite, thought Arbelle. This all felt very strange to her, but she had no reason to doubt his story. It seemed unlikely that he would be able to make up such a tale, and for what purpose would he have to do such a thing? She just hoped she wasn't making a mistake.
"Before we begin, however, I have a question to ask," said the assassin, stepping closer.
"I have heard rumors that there is a new Listener, that the Night Mother has chosen a new mouthpiece. Please tell me, are these stories accurate?"
"Uhh, yes. There is a new Listener now. An Imperial named Cassius."
"Incredible, simply incredible," said Endrol in awe. "This opens up so many new possibilities! The Dark Brotherhood can finally return to its former glory!" he said, looking as giddy as a somber Dunmer assassin can manage to look.
Arbelle sighed, "Save the celebrations until after Letrush is dead, please. I really need this to go well," she said, turning towards the cave.
"Yes of course, the task at hand," nodded Endrol with an eager grin. "Let us proceed. What's your name, sister?"
"Arbelle Fane. I'm a Breton."
"Pleasure to meet you."
"You go first," said Arbelle, gesturing towards the door. "I still don't totally trust you."
"Understandable," he said as he took the lead, heading towards the door. "If something goes wrong, I shall take the blame. I did interrupt you after all."
"You're really trying hard to get on my good side, aren't you?" said Arbelle, almost growing tired of his niceties.
The Dunmer carefully edged upon the door without a sound and slipped inside, giving enough room for Arbelle to let herself in as well. She followed cautiously, stepping inside the dark cave. The torches on the cave wall were unlit, so it was unlikely anyone was home. Endrol lit one of the torches and took it off the wall, delving further down into the cave with his weapon drawn and Arbelle close behind. They soon came to a small room carved out from the stone. In the room was a table with not a whole lot on it. A few loose items lay around the cave. Looked like someone had picked up and left in a hurry.
"He was here not long ago. We just missed him," he said, studying the surroundings.
"How can you tell?" asked Arbelle, stepping inside.
"These tracks are fresh," he said, kneeling down on the cave floor, his eyes on the ground.
Arbelle went to the table, looking over anything Letrush left behind. Most of it was just garbage. Empty potion bottles, spare keys, that kind of junk. However, a loose piece of paper caught her eye, scrawled up and discarded on the ground. She bent down and uncrumpled the note, reading it over.
"What's that?" asked Endrol, looking over to her.
"Looks like a list. Mead, Dwemer sword, pearls," Arbelle trailed off as she read through the other items. "Looks like a list of things to sell. Maybe he's headed into a town."
"Where's the closest town?" Endrol asked.
"Shor's stone, but he wouldn't go there. It's too close to Riften. Maybe Ivarstead?"
"And which way is Ivarstead?"
"Due west from here," said Arbelle, lifting her head from the sheet of paper and meeting Endrol's glowing red gaze. "Just head towards the mountains."
"We'll find out which way he went soon enough. Follow me," he said, heading out of the room and back outside, staying on Letrush's trail. Arbelle nodded and kept close behind. When they emerged from the dark cavern, Endrol knelt down once more, and after a few seconds looked to the West.
"It appears you were correct, Arbelle. The tracks lead West."
Arbelle's eyes gleamed with renewed confidence, her lips curling into an eager, sinister smile.
"Let's go hang a horse thief."
Louis Letrush sat at a campfire well off the beaten trail, trying to avoid detection. His prize, Frost the horse, stood nearby. He had successfully evaded Maven and her enforcers. All he had to do now was make it out of the Rift and lay low for a while. He had robbed Maven Black-Briar and had gotten away with it, or so it appeared, anyway. He kept his eye on the tree line, carefully examining the woods for any sudden movement or sound. Then he heard a snap in the distance behind him, maybe just an animal stepping on a twig. Maybe not. He stood up, taking hold of a loaded crossbow next to him, and pointing it in the direction of the disturbance.
"Who's there? Cone out, now!" he demanded, his finger almost hugging the trigger.
No answer. He waited nearly a minute, then spun around, making sure no one had crept up behind him. Nothing. Now convinced he was alone, he lowered his crossbow and placed it down on the ground once more. If he had waited a few seconds longer, he may have had a chance.
Arbelle appeared before him out of nowhere with her open hand outstretched, as if she had phased into existence from nothing at all.
"A sorcerer? No!"
Those would be Letrush's last words uttered on the mortal plane. The next second a bolt of lightning shot from her fingertips and fried the thief alive. The shock blew him clear across the field, his body colliding against a sturdy tree with a sickening crack as his spine was shattered. The horse, Frost, reared up in a startled fright. Arbelle shifted her attention to the spooked animal, doing her best to calm the creature while Endrol revealed himself from the tree line. It was he who had made the sound, purposely stepping on the branch to draw attention away from Arbelle as she approached from the front. It was her contract, after all. The kill was rightfully hers.
"Expertly executed, sister. Well done," he said as he approached.
"You see how he flew across the field, and then crashed into the tree? What a sight that was!" said Arbelle, feeling the rush flow through her veins. "You think he's dead for sure?"
"Unless he's a Daedra in disguise, he's not getting up from that," chuckled Endrol. "You did very well today."
"Thanks! I feel so alive! Like my purpose in this life is finally realized!" she hastily climbed up on the stolen horse, her adrenaline still going absolutely crazy. "Thanks for your help. I have to deliver this horse back to Maven before I head back to the Sanctuary. You wanna come or meet me there?"
"Seeing how I am a foreigner in this land, I think it's best if I stuck with you."
"Then hop on," she said with a jerk of her head. "I owe you a drink anyway."
Endrol took his place on the horse behind her, and the two took off in the direction of Riften, leaving the broken, lifeless corpse of Louis Letrush to be picked apart and devoured by wild animals.