Pushing the sturdy yet worn wooden door open, I found myself in a large area, directly beneath Riften’s market. The smell of the Ratway was faint, masked by the unique aroma of Blackbriar Mead. Burning torches lit the area, giving it a warm vibe, merchants quietly bartering while some had begun closing up shop for the night. In the centre, a large murky pool of water, making it difficult to see from a glance how deep it is.
Just as I was losing myself in the scenery, drinking it all in, of where I was, wondering how this place has never been found by Riften or even hinted about at all, a voice spoke, snapping me out of my thoughts.
“Can I help you, stranger?,’
My eyes darting everywhere, searching for where the voice had came from, I quickly reached for my bow, preparing for a possible mugging. “Who are you and what do you want?.’
“Calm down lass. Name’s Brynjolf, I don’t want any trouble,’ stepping out of the shadows just meters from me, a slightly built Nord appeared, hazel hair slightly covering his chiseled face, dark blue eyes sizing me up, and his empty hands raised.
“My name’s Karliah, mind telling me where I am?,’ I asked cautiously, trying to decide what his intentions were, keeping my bow draw and ready.
“Never been here before? This is the Ragged Flagon Cistern, you’re safe, don’t worry. Karliah? I heard about you. I take it you’re looking for Gallus?,’ admiration slightly etched in his tone.
Upon hearing Gallus’s name, a strange feeling began burning inside me. “Aye perhaps, I am. What’s it to you?,’ slowly sheathing my wooden bow, attempting to control my nerves.
“Gallus sent me, the same one you met tonight. If you follow me, I’ll take you right to him, lass.’ he replied. Taking my slight nod as confirmation, I began following him quietly, still expecting an assailant to jump out of the dark shadows.
Walking around the pool, I noticed some merchants were cautiously eyeing me as I went past, glaring at me almost like I was some scum beneath even them, as if I was planning on stealing something there and then. Others quietly acknowledging me, with a slight nod of their head or a change of expression.
“And this is the Ragged Flagon proper, lass’ as we reached an opened tavern area, several patrons spread out, some with cautious expressions, others focusing on their mead, each one wearing similar armor to Brynjolf. “Anytime you want a drink, and you’ve got the coin, Vanir will help you out,’ as Brynjolf gestured an elderly aged Nord behind the bench, curiosity etched in his withered face upon seeing us. Barely speaking a word to us though, as we walked through the Flagon.
Walking through the open tavern, Vanir was quietly wiping down the wooden bench with a dirty damp dishrag, “scanning” our faces closely. Upon seeing Brynjolf, he simply nodded, as if we walked past a guard and were given the “all clear’.
Brynjolf wordlessly opened a wooden door, gesturing me go inside, taking me by surprise - a gentleman down in the slums. As I entered, I saw yet another murky pool of sewer water, with the moonlight slightly reflecting onto it. Old, single beds littered most of the ring along the outside, with several doorways leading into more areas along with an Alchemy Station and Cooking pot.
The real treasure though, was not the beds, nor the several people in similar armor to Brynjolf, nor even the banners, swinging in the slight breeze, with the Thieves Guild Shadowmark.
The real treasure was him. Arms stretched out onto an antique wooden desk, reading what seemed like plans and schematics, quietly discussing it with what seemed to be a Breton his own age. Seeing Gallus once more caused my heart to skip a beat, and that strange yet familiar burning stronger in my stomach.
He must’ve noticed my presence, as he looked up, his piercing emerald green eyes saw me, in my makeshift leather armor just meters from him. Followed by what I could’ve sworn was a smile appearing, and a spark lighting in his eyes quickly replaced with a neutral mask.
“It’s good to see you again Karliah. Didn’t have any trouble getting here I hope? I can tell you've already meet with Brynjolf. This is Mercer, who’ll be shadowing you for your test,” gesturing towards the scrawny middle aged Breton he was speaking to just moments ago.
“Aye, a test. Tonight I saw you clear out most of Riften in a few hours. No easy feat for a thief who just arrived, this time though, I want to test your ability to think on your feet,” Gallus mentioned in a business like tone, no doubt noticing my slight confusion when he mentioned a test.
“The task is simple. Infiltrate Faldar’s Tooth, retrieve a weapon by the same name and return by daybreak. Rules are simple, don’t kill anyone, don’t get caught, and don’t get yourself killed.”
All I could manage was a curt nod and a slight mischievous grin, as my nerves began sparking like a fire along with excitement.
An awkward silence filled the air between us for a few moments, which was quickly broken by Brynjolf for the entrance to the Flagon without a word.
“Care to join me for a drink, Gallus? There’s a few things I want to get your thoughts on before the night is over” Brynjolf enquired, gesturing towards the door.
Simply nodding, Gallus began following Brynjolf but not before looking at me briefly as if to say ‘good luck’.
“Meet me outside the Riften Stables, the sooner you get there, the more time you have left,” Mercer informed me, as I tried taking my eyes off the green eyed treasure walking away.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The clopping filled an uncomfortable silence between us, as Masser and Secunda watched over us, in the starry night sky. Fireflies and Lunar Moths scattered the night air, accompanied by a quiet breeze, as we attempted to circle around to the western side of Faldar’s Tooth.
“What’s with that? You don’t seem like the killing type’, Mercer asked, cocking a sarcastically inquisitive eyebrow towards me.
“You’d be surprised with the use of a bow besides the usual killing. Plus, it’s saved my life more than a few times,’ answering cautiously, watching his reaction. “It was my mother’s. I don’t know what happened to her, I struck out on my -,’
“Look, we’ve all got stories to tell, some more than others. I’m not your buddy, don’t forget that. Because at the end of the day, the only thing I care about is how much gold I can make. Understood?,’ Mercer replied, cutting me off abruptly, as the lights of Faldar’s Tooth slowly started appearing.
“Anything you can tell me about Faldar’s Tooth then?’ I enquired cautiously, already uncomfortable with the Breton even before his outburst just moments ago.
“The fort or your target? Simply put, the fort has fallen into ruins years ago and is now filled with bandits - so basically like many other forts all over Skyrim. Your target? Faldar’s Tooth is a small dagger. Curved blade is made entirely of dragonbone, if you believe that, with an ebony wood grip. No enchantments or anything funny like that, just razor sharp,’ answering in a business like tone.
“Dragonbone? How do we even know if it exists? For all we know it could be just a damned Horker tusk on a stick,”
“Whether or not it’s truly dragonbone or not, doesn’t matter. Our sources are reliable, besides this is a test of your skills and thinking on your feet in a hostile environment,”
Frustration filled the air between us, as Masser and Secunda slowly started to set. Details of Faldar’s Tooth growing with every passing minute, the lights of the fort ever more visible against the gloomy night with sentries moving to and fro.
Silently, I jumped off my horse tying her to a nearby birch tree. Still frustrated at Mercer, I began surveying the ancient fort for possible entrances as well as paying note to the sentries and their routes.
Time had taken its course upon Faldar’s Tooth, some parts of the fort eroded away from the harsh weather of Skyrim slowly crumbling away. Other parts reinforced by pieces of wood.
Not far from where I stood, happened to be part of the fort that had no doubt eroded away from winds of time but hidden by a some small wooden stairs. Seeing no other way in, and the clock ticking, I took a step back.
Taking a deep breath, calming myself, I dashed across the leaf ridden ground of the Rift, wind blowing past my face. Propelling myself onto a nearby ruin - no doubt a pillar of some sort - I quickly catapulted myself off it towards the fort itself.
Barely making it, I quickly pulled myself up and over the wall. Before I could check my gear to see if anything was broken, I heard footsteps approaching. Hiding as best as I could beneath the stairs, I curled myself into a ball, hoping that the dark texture of my makeshift would blend into the shadows.
“Bloody bullshit. Every son of a bitch gets to celebrate finding that dagger and what am I told to do? Sentry duty! Maybe I should steal it from the boss and his ‘tower’. Yeah, take the Tooth and run,” grumbled a sentry as it walked past, completely oblivious to me.
Silence filled the night air again, barely disrupting it as I quickly came out from under the stairs and hurried to the lone tower. Blending into the cover of night, I ran low across the fort towards my target, completely forgetting to check for any other sentries nearby.
Navigating the ruined fort under the cover of darkness came easy to me, especially considering how I hadn’t had time to scope it out. As I came closer to the main tower, I stumbled across an old weathered tent with a pair of gruff voices coming from within. No doubt the sentries camp or a guardhouse
Noticing that I wouldn’t be able to sneak past without being seen, I considered my options. I decided that I’ve come way too far, after all these years of training myself and meeting Gallus to give up just as my goal was finally on site.
Grabbing my bow, I readied a steel arrow, pulling it as far back as I could.
Focusing on a target in the distance within the fort, out of earshot by the sentry who passed me before but in earshot of the pair inside, I took aim and fired.
As the arrowhead embed itself into the wooden step, it left off an audible yet loud crack. I quickly sheathed my bow and hid in the shadows, pressing myself into the moss covered corner, waiting in the shadows. Fear slowly starting to spark, wondering if they heard the bait.
“Oi, the hell was that? Come on ya ugly bastard, Durgob. Let’s check it out before the boss comes down here and clips us for it,” ordered a female voice, from inside. She was followed by a male Orc grumbling about what sounded like his roast going cold as I watched them leave.
With their footsteps slowly growing distant searching for where the noise came from, I quickly ran towards the tower, fear slightly churning inside me. Upon reaching the tower, a quiet breath of relief came from me that I must’ve been holding the entire time.
Checking the entrance to the tower, I came across a weathered wooden door, yet surprisingly strong, with an equally weathered lock leading into the main tower of Faldar’s Tooth bringing a mischievous smirk on my face.
Kneeling down, pressing myself up against the door to hide myself, I began getting to work. Taking out my makeshift dagger and my lockpick, I slowly started easing the tumblers into place. Knowing the longer I stood there, the more of a chance I’d be noticed merely honed my focus. Barely a few seconds later, I heard a satisfying yet loud click from the tumblers.
Pushing the door open sent a slight screech throughout the immediate area. Quickly rushing in, shutting the door behind me, I panted heavily, slowly catching my breath. The smell of roast meat and mead lingered through the air, the room gloomily lit by a fire faintly crackling through it’s final death throes.
Paying no mind to the discarded plates of what seemed like a feast and ignoring the growling grumbles of my empty stomach, I began making my way up the Stone staircase. As I slowly made my way up, that same old mead smell, began becoming stronger from upstairs. No doubt, someone sleeping off a night of heavy drinking.
Reaching the top of the stairs, I found myself in what looked like a weathered wooden shack. What stunned me was not the heavy aroma of mead attempting to choke me but the view that lay ahead of me.
For miles, I could see the brown and golden leaves of the Rift swaying in the slight breeze, the hazy lights of Riften to the East along with Lake Honrich in the distance. Before my eyes could begin drinking in the scenery, completely oblivious to the rising dawn, what sounded like a drunken troll somewhere in the shack startled me.
Instantly, I dropped to my knees, sturdy hunting bow in my hands with a steel arrow readied - wondering if it came down to it, could I kill a man?
Honing my focus, my eyes slowly adjusted to the dim light, searching for where the sound had originated from. Empty mead bottles littered the floor, the room was nearly devoid of any furnishing whatsoever. A large figure covered in furs on an old wooden bed, an arm dangling off the side still holding a bottle of mead in his hand.
Content with learning that the figure - no doubt a Nord bandit chief, going off by the locked door and the large amount of empty bottles of mead that could kill a lesser man - was the source of the noise I sheathed my bow, returning my arrow in my quiver.
Quietly, I scoured the room for my prize, Faldar’s Tooth. Seconds later, I saw a unique dagger lying on a wooden table barely a meter from where I was standing.
Taking the dagger, I looked at it closely, curiosity flaring inside me. Akin to an Elven dagger that I used to eye as a teenager, but darker as if it was made of midnight. No bigger than my hand, it’s blade thin, simple adornments down the side of it. The handle bounded in dark cool leather seemed to fit into my small hand as if it were made personally for me.
Feeling the warm rays on my back, sent chills down my spine, I finally realized. The sun was rising, and with it, most if not all of Faldar’s Tooth would rise out from their sleep, others from their drunken stupors and inevitably find me.
Determined not to leave empty handed, I sheathed the dagger into my belt, as well as my bow onto my back, as tight as I could hoping they wouldn’t slip.
Realizing that I couldn’t escape the way I came, I began looking at what my dwindling options were. No doubt, if I was caught I would be killed or worse.
Upon hearing the sound of birds - some waking up to the morning sun, others calling out to each other or singing - an idea came to mind.
Before my nerves got the best of me, I steadily took a few steps back keeping a watchful ear out for any creaking boards. Taking a short breath, I ran towards the makeshift balcony and jumped through over the side.
Weightless in the air, I felt like a bird, no hardships, no missing mother who I yearned to see again, no worries. Time seemed as if it stopped all around me.
Hitting the ground hard, I instinctively tucked and rolled on the balls of my feet, hoping that I wouldn’t break anything or somehow stab myself. Suddenly, I heard a frightening snap, fearing it was a bone I didn’t move, watching the brown and yellow leaves of the Rift flow in the breeze.
“Got the Tooth? More importantly, can you move at all?,” Mercer scolded with greed etched in his tone, with what sounded like amazement along with a touch of admiration.
Feeling as if I had the wind knocked out of me, I raised my arm and gave him the thumbs up, hoping that would please him for the time being while I started getting my breath back. Instead, I felt a small calloused, cold hand wrapped around mine and pull me upwards as I tried screaming in pain.
“You lucky bastard. Look at you, jumped from the second floor building of an ancient fort and barely a scratch on ya,”commenting as his small hands fussed over me roughly starting removing twigs and dirt off me.
“Keep your hands off me, in future - if you plan to keep them,” I replied rather harshly, pushing him/his hands away quickly. Dusting myself off, feeling for anything broken, I found nothing but a plethora of bruises that would make me feel like I was hit by a troll in the next few hours.
Fearing I lost the Tooth, worry started flaring up inside me, stronger than ever before. Only to be quelled for a moment as my hand brushed upon its hilt, still tightly held by my worn leather belt, however I couldn’t seem to find my bow.
Turning around in a frantic rush, searching for it like a mother and her baby I searched high and low in the immediate area, knowing for sure that I had it before I jumped.
Upon the ground though, I saw it. My wooden bow I made myself with my mother, a lifetime ago, snapped in half from the impact and rolling onto it. Feeling Mercer’s eyes drilling into me, I snatched it gently and hurried to our horses.
“Best we leave before they notice anything gone. Plus I’ll need a new bow,” I commented, hastily wiping the tears from my eyes hoping Mercer didn’t notice as the sun slowly began rising from its slumber.
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