Selene crouched in the shadows outside Maven’s office, cloaked in invisibility, eavesdropping on a conversation. The businesswoman didn’t realize it, but she was being interrogated. The intent was to bring Selene out of hiding and find out what she knew about Mercer and how much she participated.
“You look tired,” she told Brynjolf as he sat down across from her.
“It was a long trip. I have good news and bad news. The good news is we found Selene. She was badly injured, but she has recovered.”
Fear shot into Maven’s scent, her jaw dropped, and her eyes widened until her irises were merely islands of brown amid pools of white. She recovered quickly, at least her manner if not her scent. “So you’ll deal with her, then? After all, she did betray the Guild.”
“Aye, about that. It wasn’t Selene who betrayed the Guild; it was Mercer.”
Maven tried to act surprised, but Brynjolf wasn’t fooled. He used his Nightingale Subterfuge to get into her head. “Come on, Maven,” he said smoothly. “You knew it was Mercer all along, didn’t you?”
Maven stared into his eyes uncertainly and blinked a couple of times, and then her face went blank. “Of course, I did, Brynjolf,” she murmured. Her tone of voice had changed, and she sounded distant, dreamy.
“And you let him get away with it.”
“He made promises. If I would help him build resources offsite, he would give me half his spoils and we would eventually run away together. Of course, I wouldn’t have actually run away with him, but his proposal did sound…seductive.”
“He was stealing from the Guild for years, Maven!”
“Brynjolf, you’re a big lad; you know how these things work. It was nothing personal. It was just business.”
“And telling him to kill Selene?”
“H-how did you know that?”
“It doesn’t matter.”
“Well, she knew too much, didn’t she? She was a danger to everything we had planned for. She had to die.”
“What did you do to help Mercer?”
She looked away. “Oh, I shouldn’t tell you that.”
“Look at me, Maven.” When she looked back, he said, “You really should, and I’ll tell you why. Mercer has gone. He abandoned you just as much as he did the Guild.”
“No. No, he wouldn’t betray me. He knows better.”
“He cleaned out the vault, executed a life-changing heist, and headed for the hills.”
Maven’s eyes narrowed. “He wouldn’t dare. I’ll have his head.”
“Get in line. And don’t go calling on the Dark Brotherhood for this. We’ll handle it internally, but we need your help to find him.”
“How would turning him over to you benefit me, Brynjolf?”
“Don’t you want revenge? He used you and then left you here. He never had any intention of taking you with him. The Maven I know would never let him get away with that.” He stared into her eyes until the blank look returned.
“You’re right, of course. I helped him by using my resources to move goods. He has much of it stored in Irknthamz.”
Brynjolf shook his head. “No, we’ve been there.”
“No, no, Irknthamz. It’s a ruin in the northwest Reach. He planned to make his home—our home—there, as far away from the Guild as he could get and still be in Skyrim.”
“You said much of it. Where’s the rest?”
“I’m not sure. He mentioned someplace in Eastmarch, but I can’t…no, I can’t remember.”
“Maven, we need the name of that place,” Brynjolf prodded.
“I’m sorry, but I don’t believe he told me the name.”
Maven saying she was sorry? Selene thought she might die from shock.
“That’s all right, Maven. If you think of it, you know you can tell me anything, right?”
“Mm-hmm, I can trust you, Brynjolf.”
“And I need to be able to trust you. This conversation stays only between us. Do you understand? I won’t abuse the information you’ve given me, and you’ll be perfectly safe. But I can’t have you using this against me, either.”
Still staring into his eyes, she nodded mutely.
“I’ll see you soon, Maven.” Brynjolf got up and left the room, and Selene sneaked along behind him. When they were outside the Bee and Barb and headed back to Honeyside, she came out of hiding.
“You are one smooth liar, my man,” she remarked. “You almost had me believing Mercer was still alive. Agent of Subterfuge, huh? More like Agent of Mind Control.”
“No, it wasn’t like that. I just convinced her that telling me the truth was the best option.”
“You didn’t see yourself, Bryn. You were staring into her eyes, and she was staring back, and it was as though you were forcing the truth out of her. As though you had drugged her.”
“Hmm. That could be even handier than we thought.”
“It could also be dangerous.” She unlocked the door and stepped into the house. “That’s a lot of power to have over someone.
“Don’t worry, my love. I’ll use it responsibly, and probably not often. It’s draining.”
She opened a drawer, pulled out her map of Skyrim, and spread it on the table, scanning the northern part of The Reach with her index finger. “Irknthamz…here it is. Up in the mountains. Long trip.”
“Maybe we could make it a honeymoon.”
She looked up at him suddenly. “What?”
“Wait, I’m going to do this right.” He dug into his pocket and pulled out an Amulet of Mara, which he placed around his neck, then dropped to one knee. “I never thought I’d actually say these words, never thought I’d love and trust someone enough to even consider it, but here we are. Selene Stormblade, will you marry me?”
Selene did the math in her head. They had known each other just over three months, and they’d been a couple less than half of that time. Marriage wasn’t something to rush into, especially in their line of work, and even more importantly, in hers. She could go out tomorrow and be killed by a dragon. Even if she didn’t, how could they ever start a family? Raising a child would be a big enough challenge if they were simple merchants or farmers. But thieves? Plus, she was a werewolf. Who knew how that would affect a pregnancy, or if she could even get pregnant? Children hardly even merited consideration. But there was more. In their short time together, there was never any normalcy. It was one vendetta after another, and it still wasn’t over. What happened when things settled down and they had to learn to deal with each other in peacetime? With all that, there was really only one answer she could give him.
With a tear streaming down her cheek, she cried, “Aye! Oh, absolutely!”
With an elated grin, he stood up and wrapped his arms around her, covering her mouth with his in a deep, hungry kiss, and then took her hand and led her to the bedroom.
* * *
Selene wanted to invite her friends from Whiterun and Solitude, so they set the date for the end of the month, which was just over three weeks away, to allow time to send for them. In the meantime, Selene and Brynjolf enjoyed Honeyside and went about setting the Guild back in order, including doing some extra training for the younger footpads and starting to rebuild the stash in the vault. Just because they knew where some of their treasure was didn’t mean they couldn’t accumulate more, and the thieves worked overtime.
After all that had happened with Mercer, the notion that the Nightingales were merely fictitious went out the window, and the trinity agreed that trying to keep it a secret any longer was an exercise in futility. Thus, Selene abandoned the Guild armor and wore the Nightingale gear all the time. Brynjolf and Karliah switched back and forth, depending on the situation.
Throughout the month, Selene made wedding preparations with the help of Karliah and Sapphire. They met with Maramal at the Temple of Mara to set the date and discuss any decorations, which the priest said he would handle. They also bought/stole materials to transform the Ragged Flagon from a trashy, Ratway dive into a party room fit for the wedding of two of the Guild’s elite. Vekel made arrangements for food and drink, Tonilia hired a couple of bards to provide music, and Dirge cleared the Ratway of any unwanted elements that might deter the guests. As the day approached, Selene thought everything was coming along nicely, except that she couldn’t find a suitable dress. She finally talked to the jarl and borrowed one of hers. It wasn’t perfect, but she didn’t have time to have one made or to go to Solitude to buy one.
The day before the wedding, Farkas, Vilkas, Lydia, and Aela showed up at Honeyside. Farkas, as usual, picked her up and swung her around.
“Congratulations!” he bellowed.
“Thank you! Now, put me down.”
“You always say that.”
“If I didn’t, you’d just carry me around.”
Vilkas and Aela hugged her as well, and Lydia held out a large box. “For you from Jarl Elisif.”
Selene took the box and carried it to the bed, but Lydia put an arm out to stop her before she could open it. “Is Brynjolf here?”
“No, he’s working in the Flagon.”
“Okay, then. Go ahead.”
She lifted the lid to find a dress like nothing she had ever seen. The simple gown was made of royal-blue silk, strapless, with a full skirt, decorative black laces up the front of the bodice, and fabric buttons up the back. She gasped. “This is beautiful.”
A note dropped from within the folds of the dress, and she opened and read.
My Dearest Selene,
I was so pleased to hear of your impending nuptials. Unfortunately, due to some issues we have been having with the Stormcloak occupation of my city, it is impossible for Falk and I to attend the ceremony. Please accept the enclosed as my wedding gift to you. I hope it will make your day even more memorable. Best wishes and good luck to both of you from the both of us. We hope to see you soon.
“It was as if she knew I didn’t have a proper wedding dress,” she mused. “But my shoulder—”
“Brynjolf’s scars are on his face,” Lydia reminded her. “Besides, your shoulder has never looked as bad as you believed. If it bothers you that much, you can use all that hair you refuse to cut to cover it up.”
“Try it on,” Aela encouraged her.
Selene turned to the men and pointed to the door. “I know you’ve both seen me naked, but still—out.”
Lydia couldn’t suppress a chuckle as the twins left the house, grumbling about the cold weather.
“Cold weather?” she called after them. “That’s all you’ve got?” She started pulling off her armor, and Aela admired the unusual material.
“What is this?” she asked.
“It’s leather treated with void salts. I don’t know what enchantments are on it to make the leather harden and soften like that.” She slipped the gown over her head, and Lydia helped her with the buttons.
“It brings out your eyes,” Aela noted as she stood back, nodding approvingly.
“I have a circlet that will match, too.”
Farkas stuck his head in the door. “Can we come in now?”
She waved them in, then posed, her arms out to the sides. Vilkas’s reaction was hard to miss, and Selene was glad Lydia didn’t have the enhanced senses of a werewolf.
“You look lovely,” Farkas told her. Vilkas didn’t say a word, just stared at her.
“So where is Saadia?” Selene asked Farkas.
“She still doesn’t feel safe traveling. Sometimes I think she never will. But she did send her best.”
“Is that why you haven’t married her? Can’t get her to Riften?”
He shrugged and grunted but didn’t really reply. But Aela’s scent changed, and Selene looked up at her sharply.
“Speaking of marriage…” Vilkas began, nodding to Lydia.
“I don’t want to steal your thunder,” her housecarl said, “but Vilkas and I are going to talk to the priest of Mara while we’re here.”
Selene’s face lit up, and she hugged Lydia first, then Vilkas. “I’m so happy for both of you.” She regarded Vilkas earnestly. “All I ever wanted was for you to be happy.”
“I am,” he assured her, looking over at Lydia. “I am.”
“Let me change out of this dress, and I’ll take you out to celebrate. We’ll go to the Bee and Barb for dinner, and then the Ragged Flagon for drinks. The Bee has better food than the Flagon, but if you tell Vekel I said that, I’ll deny it.”
* * *
Selene’s wedding day dawned bright, sunny, and unseasonably warm. She awoke next to Karliah; Brynjolf had stayed in the cistern for the night due to some long-forgotten superstition about not seeing the bride before the wedding. She sat up in bed, looked at her dress, which was hanging from the wardrobe, and thought, Oh, sweet Mara, what have I gotten myself into? What in the void was she thinking, agreeing to marry Brynjolf?
Next to her, Karliah stretched and yawned. “Are you ready for your big day?” she asked sleepily.
“Um, no, I don’t think I am. Karliah, this is a terrible idea.”
“Nonsense. You just have cold feet. It’s going to be the best day of your life.”
“I’m not so sure.”
“Do you love him?”
“Of course I do.”
“Do you think he can make you happy?”
Selene actually stopped and thought about that one before answering. He had certainly made the nightmare surrounding Mercer Frey more bearable, and having him in her home—and in her bed—nonstop for the past few weeks definitely made her happy. But long-term? What about five years from now? And could she make him happy?
She sighed and smiled at her. “Of course he can make me happy. You’re right—I’m just nervous, and today’s going to be wonderful.”
Sapphire and Tonilia came in while they were eating breakfast, and Lydia and Aela showed up a few minutes later. They spent the morning getting ready, talking about the men, telling naughty tales and gossip, and giggling a lot, even Aela, who was approaching forty years old, and Karliah, who hadn’t seen forty in a century.
When the hour finally approached, Selene asked the others for some quiet time, and all but Karliah headed to the temple. As the elf busied herself by straightening up the kitchen, Selene sat on the bed and closed her eyes, finding her center, calming herself. She had never been one to get overly excited or anxious, and she was going to find serenity if it killed her. She wasn’t nearly as calm as she would have cared to be when Karliah poked her head in and said it was time to go.
A chill wind blew off the lake, and Selene rubbed her bare arms. She probably should have put on a cloak for the walk through town. It was warm for Morning Star, but it was still the middle of winter. As they walked through Riften toward the Temple of Mara, Selene listened to the sounds of the city. Guards gossiped, and the vendors in the marketplace hawked their wares. The sound of Balimund’s hammer was noticeably absent, however, and she hoped it was because he was at the temple. As she turned from the walkway toward the steps leading up to the temple, the icy wind gave way to a warm breeze, and she thought it was nice of Kynareth to attend her wedding. With the balmy air wafting across her shoulders, she finally found her calm. It lasted just long enough for Karliah to open the door.
As soon as Selene saw Brynjolf, her heart started to flutter again. As she walked up the aisle, she was vaguely aware that there were other people in the room, but she only had eyes for the gorgeous man standing at the altar, wearing a new quilted surcoat and Chillrend on his hip, his emerald eyes gleaming as he watched her approach. When she was close enough, he reached out and took her hand, and together they turned toward Maramal, who waited on the opposite side of the altar.
“Welcome, friends, and thank you for joining us on this glorious day!” the priest emoted, his palms raised toward the heavens and his eyes on the congregation. “It was Mara that first gave birth to all of creation and pledged to watch over us as her children. It is from her love of us that we learned to love one another and learned that a life lived alone is no life at all. We gather here today under Mara’s loving gaze to bear witness to the union of two souls in eternal companionship. May they journey forth together in this life and in the next, in prosperity and poverty, and in joyfulness and hardship. When Selene and Brynjolf came to me but a few weeks ago and asked me to preside over their wedding, they told me a story of adventure and heroics, of war, danger, and uncertainty, and of a man and a woman who wanted nothing more than to love each other and stand together against the trials and tribulations they are faced with. Join me now in asking Lady Mara to bless this union and give them the strength and wisdom to love and care for each other, to shoulder all of life’s burdens together as fully as they share its joys and mysteries.”
He turned his gaze from the crowd and spoke to the groom. “Brynjolf, do you agree to be bound together with Selene in love, now and forever?”
“Aye,” Brynjolf replied softly, his eyes meeting Selene’s, “now and forever.”
“And Selene, do you agree to be bound together with Brynjolf in love, now and forever?”
Any nerves she had experienced before were gone now as she gazed at his handsome face. “I do. Now and forever.”
“Then by the authority of Mara, Divine of love, I declare you to be married. I present you with these matching rings blessed by Mara’s divine grace. May they protect each of you in your new life together.”
Brynjolf placed the ring on Selene’s finger, then lifted her hand to his lips and brushed them across it tenderly. Selene did the same to him, and then he pulled her into his arms and bent his head to hers. The congregation applauded as they kissed.
* * *
The Ragged Flagon was busier than it had been in years. Thieves, Companions, and townspeople celebrated together, eating, drinking and dancing, and occasionally clanging their cups together to urge the happy couple to kiss for the crowd. Jarl Laila Law-Giver sat in earnest conversation with Vilkas and Karliah, while Lydia and Farkas attempted to drink Delvin and Vex under the table, and Aela shared a dance with Balimund. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves, even Maven Black-Briar, whose presence Selene could have done without but whom they had felt they had to invite in order to keep up appearances.
“I love you, wife,” Brynjolf purred to Selene when they had a moment to themselves. “Are you happy?”
“I am. You?”
“More than I could have imagined.” He leaned in to kiss her but stopped and rolled his eyes as Maven’s haughty voice and shrill laugh rang across the Flagon. “The bitch owns a meadery; you’d think she could hold her liquor better.”
“That woman really needs to die.”
“I’m not so sure about that.”
“I’ve been thinking about it. I’ve thought of many creative ways to end her. I even pictured this gratifying scenario of executing her in the cistern in front of the entire Guild so they would know what would happen if they betrayed us. The thing is, I wouldn’t be surprised if she has all sorts of contingencies in place in the event of her untimely death. Killing her might just come back to bite us on the arse. Besides, hurting her would be worse. But trust me love I want her brought down as much as you do. I made one vow today; now I’ll make another. Maven will pay.”
“You have something in mind?”
“Indeed, I do. I don’t want to talk about it here and now, but before we leave for Irknthamz, I want to meet with Karliah. Between the three of us, I believe we can pull off a scam that will make Maven Black-Briar wish she was never born.”
“Can I kill her after that?”
Brynjolf chuckled and kissed her cheek, then took her hand and led her out onto the dance floor.
A/N: Selene and Brynjolf’s wedding outfits are from the Ashara Romantic Outfits mod, found here: http://skyrim.nexusmods.com/mods/5577