The road started off similar the way it had a couple of days ago, without the Alik’r warriors, and with more wolves which were swiftly dealt with by Sattilde. She rested at Ivarstead once more and made it unharmed to Whiterun by the evening.
She rented the same room as before, but this time, the room felt bigger and the bed softer. With her full belly, she slept soundly. When morning shone through the tiny window, she rubbed her eyes and stretched, the fur blanket that draped across her shoulders sliding down onto the bed. She ran both hands through hair and tossed it a bit, brushing out any knots that formed during her slumber.
After dressing and having a morning cup of First Kiss tea (which was steeped with mint, ginseng, and honey), she returned her bag to her back, placing 10 gold coins upon the counter for the innkeeper’s delicious brew.
There wasn’t a cloud in the heavens and the wind gently brushed Sattilde’s face. She didn’t know why she had been so worried the day before; it had been a smooth journey thus far. She grabbed the straps of her bag and headed for the gate out of Whiterun. Already halfway to Solitude, for once, a city she had yet to visit. It was situated in northwestern Skyrim atop the Great Arch, a cliff overhanging the Karth River that eventually dumped into the Sea of Ghosts.
Solitude, even through the Great War remained as the capital of Skyrim, where High King Torygg and Queen Elisif ruled, until Ulfric defeated Torygg in combat a few days prior. Sattilde remembered the news of the king’s death saddened her greatly, as it did with most of the population of Skyrim. However, Elisif, now widowed, appeared to be running the province smoothly since her husband’s death. Sattilde could only assume she’d make a queen worthy of allegiance in the years to come.
She felt sympathy for Elisif though, to lose a husband so young, and to inherit a world of politics so young, and alone. She could only imagine the stress the young queen was going through in the Blue Palace.
Sattilde glanced over her shoulder; she was well past the watchtower, nearing the first bend in the road that would turn her path towards the northeast. The plains northwest of Whiterun were striped with creeks of water, flowing around the hot springs that dotted the landscape. Sattilde looked to her right as she trodded along and grinned at the sight.
It was so graceful, she stopped to admire a giant wielding a club the same size as her. A couple of chocolate brown mammoths (one with a calf) followed suit, trumpeting their furry trunks as their footsteps vibrated the earth. Sattilde gazed on and finally, not letting her eyes off of them, continued toward Solitude.
When Sattilde had finally scaled the hill and rounded another bend beyod some boulders, she jumped behind a nearby snowberry bush. Where clouds were once absent overhead, grey ones now swirled above a portal that reached up, kissing the sky with violet and gold rays. They intertwined, but never blended, forming a hollow pillar from a dragon burial ground below.
Above this burial site, hovered the Black Dragon, the one Sattilde had seen a couple of nights beforehand. She gasped, ducking down further under the bush. She could faintly hear the Black Dragon Shouting at the mound of dirt, but couldn’t make out the words.
The Black Dragon swooped up to the sky, then circled back around, Shouting more magic at the mound again. Sand and clay burst from the mound, the sheer force knocked Sattilde backwards onto her back. She quickly sat up again and continued to watch as a bony claw revealed itself from within, pulling a dirt stained skeleton behind it from the grave.
The Black Dragon Shouted once more at the dragon skeleton that watched its savior in the sky; what was once a dragon’s breath, turned to scales and skin that attached itself to the resurrected lizard. Blood and heartbeat blanketed the new dragon, giving it life; his eye sockets home to brand new sight, his ribcage home to new lungs.
The dragons spoke their language between each other, but Sattilde was much too far away to overhear their conversation. The Black Dragon tilted his head and Sattilde was certain he had spotted her, but if he did, he didn’t acknowledge her, instead, flapping his great wings and soaring off down the plains to the east.
The new dragon stood on its hind legs, stretching its wings, flapping them a couple of times as a test of strength, and then, aligning his body parallel to the ground, he flapped them even harder and took off, following in the same direction as the Black Dragon.
Sattilde waited until he had disappeared beyond Whiterun before standing and scurrying down the road. It was noon and if she hurried, she could be at Rorikstead by early evening. As she almost ran down the road, she had so many unanswered questions, the main one being why the this dragon was raising others from the dead. For a split second, she wished she had let Brynjolf attend her on the journey. She shook the thought away, knowing that endangering both of their lives would be disasterous for the guild.
Her pace slowed as she began to tire, but her mind somehow wandered further than her legs could travel. She thought about the moment before her departure: that kiss. Her cheeks turned a warm red and she pushed the knuckles of her hand to the spot he had kissed. He had lingered, for what seemed an eternity. Return to me. That’s what he had said.
She felt foolish smiling at her own thoughts, no one around to share in her amusement. She ran her fingers over her cheek, remembering how soft his lips and how prickly his chin had felt against her soft skin. She replayed his words in her head, repeating them over and over until she had finally reached Rorikstead.
It wasn’t much to look at, just a tiny farming community with a couple of gardens and fenced in pasture for cattle. Two little girls skipped down toward Sattilde, passing her as they giggled together. It was early evening and Sattilde knew there would be no more stops until Dragon Bridge, which was miles away. She turned her attention to the wooden building, straw and wooden planks formed the roof, a rectangular porch barely able to keep the chairs set out on its planks, seemed to invite Sattilde’s weary feet inward.
A chimney puffed smoke from the center of the roof, catching on the wind and fading into nothing. Sattilde approached the Frostfruit Inn, opening the door gingerly and when she heard no chatter, she entered, shutting the door behind her with no regard to the noise she would make. She wasn’t greeted by anyone, so she set her bag down, once again, finding her way to the darkest corner of the room and pulling out her provisions she had packed.
Vekel had baked her a beef and beets pasty; its buttery crust flaked away as she tore off a bite to taste. It was crispy and melted in her mouth. He had outdone himself this time. She picked it up in both hands and bit down, pulling out meat and vegetables. Her mouth watered at the savory beef packed inside, mixed with the sweetness of the beets, each bite seemed better than the last, and pretty soon, it was completely gone.
She wiped her hands on her legs, dusting off any fallen crumbs. After gathering her bag, she approached the counter to a full bodied Nord, who had started to lose his hair. “A room, if you don’t mind.” Sattilde placed 5 golden Septims on the counter.
“It’s 10 gold coins.” Mralki folded his arms.
He stared at Sattilde, not budging.
“I’m just trying to get to Solitude before the week’s end and you’re here heckling me for gold.” Sattilde leaned on the counter. “C’mon! Just this once.” She begged.
Mralki was unmoved, stoically returning Sattilde’s stare. Sattilde didn’t give in either however, and finally, he let out and exasperated sigh. “Fine, Sattilde, but just this once. No more favors for you! Not after last time.” He said and then added, “And I wasn’t heckling you.”
“It was a night to remember, and you can’t deny that.” Sattilde winked, but Mralki was unamused. She had, after all, gotten drunk, broken the dresser, and left empty wine bottles strewn about in her room. She didn’t even bother cleaning up the mess.
“You’re not allowed to buy alcohol from me.” Mralki scolded.
“That’s fair.” Sattilde nodded. “Thank you for the room.” She shut the door, not letting Mralki say another word. She tossed her bag into the armchair in the corner. There were no windows in this room of the inn, but it was no matter to Sattilde. There were plenty of candles that could be lit for light. On the back wall, an elk head which Sattilde hadn’t seen before, was mounted above a dresser.
She walked over to the dresser and jiggled it. Mralki had apparently repaired the dresser after she had somehow managed to get a shard of glass stuck between the frame of the dresser and one of the drawers. She turned her attention to the closet next to the armchair. She flung the cabinet doors open and dug through the clothes hanging within, finding a couple of gold coins in the pockets. After she shut the closet, she wandered over to the bed and looked underneath.
No… too easy. She stood up and scratched her head. Then it came to her.
She turned and faced the elk head. She repositioned the armchair from the floor, placing it near the dresser, then climbed into the cushion of it. She lifted the heavy deer head from its mounts and behind it, found a small 4×4 inch square cut into the wall. Two holes were cut vertically on the left side, and one hole opposite on the right side had a thin piece of twine laced through it, tied in a knot so as it make it easy to open. She tugged on the twine and it swung open, held on by the thicker twine in the two holes that were tied to the wall. Inside, a leather pouch greeted her, plump with gold coins.
Sattilde carefully cradled the pouch in her hand, lifting it from its hiding spot and then eased herself down out of the chair. She found her bag and shook it a bit, so it sounded as if she were rummaging through her supplies, as she tossed in the gold.
Once she had closed the little square door and replaced all the furniture, she lay in bed, feeling somewhat unfulfilled. Most amateur thieves wouldn’t have even been able to get the elk head down without making a terrible racket and getting caught; she didn’t understand why she felt as if she hadn’t accomplished much.
She draped an arm across her chest. Maybe the Jarl was right and she should go to High Hrothgar. Maybe her destiny lied with fulfilling her duty as Dragonborn after all. She thought back to the agreement she made with Brynjolf, however, and how she told him she’d stay with the guild until the buyer they were after had been stopped. This put her restless mind at ease, so she turned on her side and found herself enjoying a peaceful sleep.
The day started off well enough: a hearty breakfast of meat and fruit from Mralki and a shot of goat’s milk. Sattilde paid him and was back on the road before the late morning sun. She hadn’t much further to travel as she would be there by the end of the day. Her legs were starting to ache and her feet were pulsing with aches, but she was almost there.
Around the bend, Sattilde spotted a hillside to her right. She had never been to Skyrim’s great capital before and scaled the grassy hillside that rose far above Rorikstead. She could see Solitude, far on the horizon, the Sea of Ghosts sparkling against the bright sun’s rays.
As she was enjoying the view, an arrow zipped by, so close to her head that felt the light touch of the feathers attached to it against her cheek. She spun her shoulder to the right, turning as the arrow collided with a rock and then bounced to the ground. She peered over the hillside’s edge where a dropoff met up with the road, below, she saw a couple of men pointing arrows up to the sky. She threw herself backwards, avoiding their shots just in time.
“Bandits.” she said aloud. Sattilde army crawled down the opposite end of the hill and when she was sure she would be out of sight, she stood and leaped over a rock, falling flat on her stomach as she did, holding her breath as she listened for the imminent footsteps that would be searching for her.
“Where’d she go?” one of the men shouted.
“Shut up! Do you want her to hear you?” this hushed voice sounded clearly Khajiit.
Sattilde rolled onto her back and withdrew a dagger. She looked to her left: more boulders were spread through the grass. She looked to right right where the hill sloped back down to the road; there wasn’t a place to hide on that side. Sattilde gradually let out her breath, calming herself before she made her bold decision.
Gripping her dagger tightly so she wouldn’t drop it, she pushed herself up from the ground and then with her feet, launched herself forward, rolling toward the safety of the rocks.
“There she is!” The Khajiit cried to his comrade. Arrows plinked against the rock she had chosen for her safety.
“Get her!” the other bandit cried.
She could feel their feet in the earth, pounding toward her in a sprint. She glanced at her dagger and waited. She readied herself, and when she heard they were just a couple of feet beyond the rock, she scaled it in one swift movement, just enough to see their position. She took her dagger, making the risky choice of throwing it like a knife at the man.
Her aim was perfect and it stuck in the man’s stomach. He doubled over with a painful cry, hovering his hands over his wound. The Khajiit turned back for the slightest second and that’s when Sattilde pulled herself on the top of the rock and pounced on the Khajiit. As he squirmed between her powerful legs, she held him down with her arm, grabbing her second dagger and finishing him.
The Breton still hollering in agony, she walked over to him with her bloodied dagger and cut him down, removing her first knife from his side and after wiping the blood on his corpse, replaced them at her sides and then started downhill on the path again.
Highwaymen weren’t uncommon in Skyrim, and on more than one occassion Sattilde had dealt with them. Most were after unsuspecting travelers’ gold, but there were some who had, in their own twisted thinking, claimed certain territories such as roads or outposts.
None of them were as ruthless as the Forsworn though; natives of the Reach, Sattilde had only run into them once before, and never wished to again. All of their weapons were barbed with animal bones, they were pelts of wolves for armor, deer antlers as headdresses. They claimed they owned the Reach, the land near Markarth in the southeast, and had camps spreading out from the hold. They were technically a political movement, not just a ragtag group of bandits.
The year Sattilde was born, Ulfric drove them out of the city of Markarth using his Voice, in an attempt to allow the people to secretly worship Talos. Their leader was captured and held in Cidhna Mine (the prison of Markarth) to as leverage for control over the Forsworn. The Thalmor however, learned of the worship of Talos, and demanded Ulfric Stormcloak’s arrest, but Jarl Igmund allowed him to leave. The Markarth Incident, as it soon became known as, was just a spark that ignited the Stormcloak Rebellion.
Sattilde grew up in the civil war; she had known nothing but Imperials and Stormcloaks and Thalmor. Her parents however, reminded her that there was a time of peace before the fighting. When the Nords used to be a united front, but, the rebellion caused a rift, turning sons against fathers, mothers against daughters, brothers against sisters. The war seemed pointless to Sattilde. She knew why it had started. She knew why the Empire drew up the treaty, she knew why Ulfric started the rebellion, but what she didn’t understand is why they didn’t join forces and wipe the Thalmor out.
As far as Sattilde could see, the Stormcloaks were, albeit inexperienced, but skilled band of warriors. The divide that had been caused always seemed to have a common denominator and it was the Thalmor. Nords were stubborn though, and whenever they had been spoonfed an ideology by a charming and convincing leader such as Ulfric, it was hard to change their thinking. It would take something monumental to bring Skyrim back together.
Sattilde had crossed through the stream that would eventually connect to the Karth river, further north. Sattilde saw the bandit camp just beyond the bridge, and had to choose between getting her armor a little wet or getting attacked, so she chose the former. By the time she had neared Dragon Bridge, her clothes were just damp, and by the time she finished her lunch at the inn, her clothes were completely dry. She only had a couple of miles left before she would reach the city, and wasted no time getting there either.
Beyond the slope, peering out from behind a couple of evergreens, Sattilde could see the fortified walls of the city. The stables down below, nestled on the cliffside, in the east. She had almost made it; a new city, unfamiliar territory. She braced herself as she went down a long slope and then made her climb up the steep road that led to the city gates.
Wine red banners displayed a symmetrical wolf face in front of a shield, the symbol of the city. Much like the profile of the horse represented Whiterun and crossed daggers represented Riften. She had finally reached the entrance at early evening, and waited for the guards above to open the doors.
“Gate!” she heard and the doors peeled back, revealing a crowd massed together in front of her. The white bricks that made up the streets of Solitude led in between the shops of the marketplace. Most had stone foundations and concrete walls, braced with wood and hanging moss. The roofs were much different from Whiterun, as most buildings had deep mahogany roof, with square shingles, sloping for the downpour of rain. Stretching above the street, latched to the sides of the shops, were triangle banners, colored red, blue, and yellow, gently bouncing in the breeze. A cluster of flowers divided the street in the middle, and then reformed again, leading away, past some market stalls under a guard bridge of stone.
Beyond that is where the homes of the people stood side by side, forming a lane, which if followed to the right, led to the Blue Palace where Jarl and Queen Elisif sat upon her throne, but if followed to the left, one would be directed to the temple and Castle Dour. Following through the courtyard, one would end up above the main street, at the blacksmith’s forge, and then after following the zig zag slope down, would end up back at the beginning under the colorful banners.
Sattilde, however, was much more distracted with the crowd, facing the eastern side of the city, where a stone terrace jutted out from the wall. Staged on the platform were two guards, one holding a Nord in burlap cloth, his hands shackled together, by the arm. The other guarding the steps so no one could reach them.
“King killer!” a woman shouted from the crowd.
“Traitor!” a man booed.
Sattilde found her way into the mass, squeezing through for a better view. They had an execution block set on the stage, and that’s when she noticed the headsman with his sharpened steel axe, resembling something of death in his black hood.
“Papa!” Sattilde heard a gentle voice behind her, a little girl. “They can’t hurt Uncle Roggvir. Tell them he didn’t do it!”
The man she was tugging at didn’t have time to answer when a witchy old lady interrupted with coldness in her voice, “You should tell her that her uncle is a traitor who murdered the High King. Best she know the truth, Addvar.”
“You’re all heart, Vivienne.” Addvar replied with equal judgement.
“Roggvir,” there was a fourth man, at the left of Roggvir, who Sattilde had just noticed above the heads of the people in front of her. His face donned a thick black beard, his eyes and forehead wearing many years of war, and his arms bulging; Sattilde wagered he was a two-handed weapon man. “You helped Ulfric Stormcloak escape this city after he murdered High King Torygg. By opening that gate for Ulfric, you betrayed the people of Solitude!” Captain Aldis’s voice boomed through the crowd.
Roggvir looked out to the people awaiting his death, “There was no murder!”
“He doesn’t deserve to speak!” a man shouted.
Roggvir continued, “Ulfric challenged Torygg. He beat the High King in fair combat!”
The people erupted with, “Boooooo!”
“Cut em down!” Vivienne demanded.
“Guard. Prepare the prisoner.” Sattilde almost couldn’t hear this order the crowd was in such an uproar over Roggvir’s speech.
“I don’t need your help.” Roggvir snarled, kneeling behind the block.
“Very well, Roggvir.” Aldis sounded despondent. Sattilde could tell he knew Roggvir personally. “Bow your head.” he almost sounded as if it were a suggestion rather than an order.
The executioner approached the block where Roggvir’s neck was in perfect positioning for the cut.
The crowd had died down some, watching with scowls and turned up noses.
“On this day,” Roggvir said softly, “I go to Sovngarde…”
The headsman lifted the hefty axe far above his head and Sattilde followed it as it fell, she could hear the whoosh of the wind against the blade, and then the crack of Roggvir’s head being severed from his body. Blood spattered and his head landed into a broken crate. Some of the crowd has shielded their eyes, others like Vivienne continued to stare, as if to be sure he was really dead.
After the executioner returned to his position, the citizens returned to their everyday life, most not giving the execution another thought. Sattilde turned, facing the boulevard between the shops as most people headed home. Even though she was a Nord, sometimes she didn’t understand the Nord ways. They loved so passionately, it would overflow, but they could burn with a hatred so intense too. There was no luke warm with them.
Sattilde found her way to the building closes to the entry, the Winking Skeever, an inn and tavern. That’s where she was to meet Gulum-Ei the Argonian. She entered upon a dark room, an oven to the right, a centerpoint for the entire dining room. Square tables and wooden chairs surrounding the warm flame as bread baked over it’s firewood. Straight ahead, a man was wiping the counter of food droppings, he smiled briefly and invited her in, “Welcome! Take a seat by the fire or maybe you’d like a room?”
“I’ll find my way, thanks.” Sattilde smiled back to let him know his offers were appreciated. At the left, in a recessed wall, an Argonian was sipping out of a pewter mug, wearing a cotton shirt and ragged breeches. His boots pulled up to his calves and his tail wrapped around the back leg of the chair. He took notice of Sattilde immediately and set his mug down.
“Gulum-Ei, is it?” Sattilde pulled out a chair and sat in front of the lizard. His scales the color of cooked spinach and his eyes widely set on his head, a piercing hawk eye yellow. He flicked his tongue as she took her place in the chair.
“Go away.” he hissed. “I don’t like strangers and I have no business with you.”
“That’s where you’re wrong.” Sattilde pulled her seat closer to him.
“Hmm.” He sniffed the air. “By your scent, I’d say you were from the Guild.” He looked up in a fake ponder, “But that can’t be true because I told Mercer I wouldn’t deal with them anymore.” He seemed to be talking to himself.
“Quit the games, Gulum-Ei. Tell me what you know about the sale of Goldenglow.” She demanded.
Gulum-Ei looked back at Sattilde, squinting with annoyance, “I don’t deal in land or property.” He took a swig from his mug, “Now,” he swallowed, “If you’re looking for goods, you’ve come to the right person.”
“Oh really, Gujul-Lei?”
His eyes sparked, “Oh, wait… did you say Goldenglow Estate? My apologies.” he set his mug back down, “I’m sorry to say I know very little about that…” He flicked his tongue.
“Quit the act, Gulum. I read the bill of sale. You acted as a broker for its new owner.” Sattilde had him cornered and yet he refused to give up any information. Whoever was involved must be paying him a hefty sum to keep his lips sealed this tight.
“Maybe I did, maybe I didn’t. I can’t expect to remember every deal I handle.” He shrugged.
“If you identify the buyer, I’m sure the guild can work out a better deal, and we’ll even forget what we know about this unfortunate… misunderstanding.”
“Your guild is dying. You don’t have the gold to match.” He took another swig and then broke off a chunk of bread from his plate, tossing it into his mouth. Frustrated, Sattilde resorted to threatening the only thing the lizard really cared about:
“Talk, Argonian, or I’ll slit your throat.”
Gulum cracked a laugh, “You’re in the Thieves Guild and that would be explicity against their code.”
Sattilde had him, she smirked, “Yes, but the Dark Brother hood is a different story.” she nonchalantly traced the wood grain on the table.
Gulum-Ei sat for a minute, considering his options and finally said, “All right, all right, had I known the deal would bring me this much trouble, I never would have accepted the gold.” He leaned in close, whispering, “I was approached by a woman who wanted me to act as the broker for something big.” he paused as a Nord walked by to the counter, then continued, “She flashed a bag of gold in my face and said all I had to do was pay Aringoth for the estate.”
He leaned back in his chair, still speaking lowly, but more audible, “I brought him the coin and walked away with her copy of the deed.” He chugged his mead, wiping his slick scales of the liquid.
“Any idea as to why?”
“Not at all!” Gulum-Ei raised his hands, “I tend not to ask too many questions when I’m on the job. I’m sure you understand.” Sattilde knew in that moment he was lying and glanced a couple of daggers his way, “However!” he had noticed her glare, “She seemed quite angry, and it was being directed at Mercer Frey.”
“Did she give you her name?” Sattilde was so close. If he released her name, she could go back home.
“In this business,” Here he went again, another lie. “We rarely deal in names; our identity comes from how much coin we carry.”
“I’ve been in the same business as you, Gulum, for years. Give me her name or I’ll call Sithis to take you.” she growled in a low voice.
“Look, that’s all I know. I never promised you I’d have all the answers.” He grabbed the bread and stuffed it in his pocket, “Now, since our transaction is done.” he walked over to the innkeepr, tossing a few gold coins onto the counter and then turning back to Sattilde, “I’ll be on my way.”
Sattilde waited until he had shut the door of the inn before looking behind her; no one was watching, so she stood and opened the door. Gulum-Ei was headed outside the city.
“Gate!” the guard called.
She slipped outside the inn, following close against the wall, and after he passed beyond the city wall’s, she crouched, quickly slipping through the door just as it was closing. She slid across the door front, hiding under the doorframe, in the shadow. The sun was setting, so it would be harder for Gulum to see her. She watched him start in a sprint downhill, glancing over his shoulder as he went, but he didn’t see her.
Once he reached the bottom, she followed close by as he passed the stables and followed the curving path down to the docks. Sattilde watched from behind the horse stables on the right of the path. He danced down the steps to the ships that wavered in the saltwater. She saw him reach the port and then after another glance upward toward the stables, he turned left, disappearing beneath the cliffside.
Sattilde rushed down, following his path and then when reaching the waters below, she leaned over the path, and saw Gulum enter a door beneath the city. There were guards pacing up and down the water walkway. Sattilde figured it must be the East Empire Company, the merchant organization that controlled a multitude of imports and exports throughout Tamriel. She saw a sign, bolted into the rock wall that read “East Empire Company Warehouse.”
That’s odd… I thought pickings were slim, according to Gulum-Ei. One of the guards started toward her, a key jangled from a ring strapped to his waist. The knot that tied it was loose and could easily be pulled away. She walked up to one of the open storehouses used for loading cargo and leaned against the frame of it. She waited until he had passed, nodding at the suspicion in his eyes.
She pretended to have dropped something and as he continued by her, she went to pick up the invisible object, she gingerly, with her gloved index and thumb, pulled on the string. It came loose and with her outstretched hand, she caught the falling key before it hit the planks below.
“Ah, found it.” she couldn’t contain herself; it was her most clever move yet. She pretended to pick up her dropped posession and waited until the second guard had preoccupied himself in the storehouse. Then she slipped inside the warehouse, keeping the key for any future endeavors she might have at the Company.
“Wow… amazing.” she whispered to herself. The warehouse had been hollowed out beneath the precipice, water had flown in, most likely during the excavation, but a pier had been built above it, wrapping around the perimeter of the cavern. Lined with shelves of barrels, crates, foods, weapons, and so, so many more items that were ripe for the taking. It was gold mine to a thief’s eye; so many valuables, all in one central location. Sattilde had to resist every fiber in her being to not fill her pack to the brim with stolen commodities. At the far end of the warehouse, she spotted Gulum, still glancing over his shoulder, but had slowed his pace. Guards were patrolling the merchandise, wielding torches.
Sattilde stayed close the door, moving closer to the ledge into the darker area, as she surveilled Gulum making his way to the other side of the room. He disappeared behind a shelf of kegs. Sattilde squinted, and saw what looked like a door opening and then shutting. He didn’t reappear, so Sattilde knew she had to get on the other side of the water.
Sattilde decided the safer route was to swim across, but she would have to leave her pack behind. No, that wouldn’t do, she would have to go around somehow, but she couldn’t risk being seen. She examined her options, eyeing the shelves of goods.
She looked past them; a guard was coming. She had to act. She scrambled up the shelf, putting her at least 10 feet above the guard’s head. He would have to look up to notice her perch. She followed the maze of shelves, squeezing between barrels, crawling over crates, and almost knocking over a tower of cheese wheels, which she grabbed hold of before it tumbled off the shelf.
She walked some thin lumber planks to the next set of shelves, now on the opposite side of the room from the door, she continued to follow it until she reached the barrels where Gulum-Ei’s secret door beckoned Sattilde.
Another patrollman was walking from Sattilde, lighting the path as he went; Sattilde figured she could stay close to him and he’d never see her. She crept out of hiding, following so close to the guard that if he made a sudden stop, she would bump into him. As soon as he passed the doorway, she broke away from the trail and entered the secret room.
“You!” Gulum-Ei gasped, standing in the middle of a cavern, surrounded by chests of treasures, golden statuettes, ingots of gold and silver. “Now,” he used a calming voice, pushing his hands out in front of him, “there’s no need to do anything rash… this isn’t as bad as it seems.”
“You told Mercer there wasn’t much gold to be made with the East Empire Company.” Sattilde raised an eyebrow, keeping a steady hand on her dagger for safety.
“I was going to tell Mercer about everything, honestly!” he collapsed to his knees, shaking his clasped hands at Sattilde, “Please! He’ll have me killed!”
Sattilde sighed her aggravation away, “Give me the information I know you have and I won’t tell Mercer anything.”
“Yes, thank you! The name of the person you want is Karliah.” he said with a shakey voice.
“You say that name like I should know it…”
Gulum-Ei returned to his feet with a puzzled face, “Mercer never told you about her?”
Sattilde started to shake her head, but then remembered, that bit of information when she first joined, about Gallus, about his murder.
“Karliah is the thief responsible for murdering the previous guildmaster. Now she’s after Mercer!”
Sattilde couldn’t believe Gulum’s betrayal, “Then why did you help her?!”
“Help…? No, no!” he shook his head, “Look, I didn’t even know it was her until after she contacted me. Please, you have to believe me!”
“Okay, okay. Just calm down.” Sattilde thought for a moment, “Where is Karliah now?”
“I don’t know.” Gulum shook his head, “When I asked her where she was going, she just muttered ‘Where the end began.'”
“What does that mean?”
“I don’t know! Honest! Here,” He reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out a crisp, folded piece of parchment. “take the Goldenglow Estate deed as proof.”
Sattilde quickly read the insides and confirmed it was indeed the bill of sale for the estate. She tucked it away into her own pocket.
“Remember, tell Mercer I’m worth more alive!” Gulum-Ei called as Sattilde pushed by him up a ladder that led to the surface, outside of the warehouse. She had returned to the road, just a bit beyond the stairs down to the pier. She climbed out and shut the trap door, replacing the debris over the lid. She found her way back into the city, trying to make sense of what “Where the end began” could mean.
The second time she entered the Winking Skeever, she agreed to the only bed available, costing her 45 gold, but in that moment, she didn’t feel like bargaining the price. She needed some sleep and she needed to get back to the guild. She arrived at her bedroom; quite spacious compared to her last sleeping places. A full bed was pushed against the back wall, to the right of it, a window that would let in the rising sun’s light. There was a futon and coffee table basking in the moonlight against the wall. A shelved partition was placed in the middle of the wall, separating a dining area and the futon. A quaint wardrobe decorated the wall nearest the entryway at her right, topped with sprigs of lavender in a porcelain vase.
She entered the fragrant bedroom and shut the door behind her. She put her bag down on the futon and gazed out the second story window, watching as people blew out the candles of their shops to head home for the night. She collapsed on her bed, the bed piled with soft blankets to form a mattress and topped with a soft fur comforter.
She pressed her hand into one of the pillows, “Feathers.” she smiled. It had been a while since she had rented a room so luxurious. She usually didn’t splurge with her gold, saving it for emergencies mostly, or to upgrade her equipment, or buy supplies for business trips. She began to mull over the fate of the guild; trying to piece together why this “Karliah” would want Mercer and Gallus dead. A red-handed person would obviously never be able to take over the guild. A red-handed person would never be allowed into the guild if she wanted to steal from them; not that Karliah would be able to, the vaults were locked tightly and required three keys to open the doors.
Sattilde adjusted, placing her head upon the marshmallow of a pillow, and flinging the blanket over herself. It felt as if she had melted into the bed and pretty soon, she had melted into sleep.
* * *
“Thanks once again.” Sattilde paid Mralki, having slept the night at Rorikstead. She would be home by sunset tomorrow, and she was eager to return to Riften. She wouldn’t be able to make it there though on this day; she would have to stay in Whiterun instead.
As she set off down the road, she checked her supplies: five healing potions, one healing salve, two invisibility elixirs, and two days worth of food. She would be able to stock up on those when she reached Whiterun.
A few hours of walking put her back at the western watchtower where guards were steadily rebuilding what the dragon had knocked over. It was early evening once more and she had almost returned to Whiterun. The stables were in sight when a thunderous noise shook her off her feet.
“DO VAH KIIN!” She fell forward, catching herself with her hands.
After the shaking subsided, she glanced around, “What in Oblivion…” She wiped the pebbles from her palms and then hastily made her way into Whiterun’s safe walls. There were murmurings around town about the noise.
“It’s the Greybeards!” Mikael the bard was discussing with some of the patrons.
“The Greybeards?!” The conversation broke away into whispers as people discussed amongst themselves. Sattilde felt sick, so she took a seat at the counter and asked for a drink of water.
“Pft, the Greybaards this, the Greybaards that.” A man Sattilde didn’t recognize scoffed. “Who cares? If the Dragonburn wanted to answer their summonsss, they would have dun’it when Helgen got burned.” Sattilde could tell the man was intoxicated, but his words cut deep. She looked away in shame. “The Dragonborn isn’ta hero. He’sa cowurd!” He words slurred by the mead. “You git what I’m sayin’, right?”
Sattilde didn’t look up. A coward? Did people really think that of her? She looked toward the front of the inn, out the window, where the sun had already set, crickets had started chirping along to Mikael’s lute. She couldn’t depart now, she’d have to wait until morn. She offered Hulda her usual payment for the night, and returned to the room with the tiny window, taking a seat on the edge of the bed. She checked the window once more; the time obviously had not changed, even though she desperately wished for it to be daylight outside.
The man’s words echoed in her head. She had never really thought about how her ability would affect others, only herself. She threw herself backwards on the bed, covering her face with her hands. She had been so selfish; of course it affected others. She was the first to help take down a dragon and actually win the fight. She finally understood: she had to help end the dragon attacks.
She sat back up, a look of determination plastered across her face, “Alright. I’ll do it.” she said aloud to herself. “I’ll climb the 7,000 Steps.”
* * *
Sattilde felt empowered by the trip to Ivarstead that morning. She paid 20 gold for a carriage, to allow her legs to rest. She had refreshed her food supply and a waterskin full of fresh spring water, she approached the foot of the mountain and tilted her head to the peak.
The mountain towered so high, it stretched into the clouds, fading away to the heavens. She took in a deep breath, facing the path ahead. The steps had been forced into the mountain path, winding upward and wrapping around the mountainside. Sattilde could hear her heart thumping in her chest. She didn’t know how long it would take to get to High Hrothgar, the monastery where the Greybeards awaited her arrival.
She finally set her foot upon the first of the many steps she’d have to take to reach the top. The path at the bottom was much easier to trek, but as she continued to climb, the steps became slippery and more often than not, she found herself losing her balance. The higher she went, the more snow that threatened her path. She trudged through the blankets of frozen rain, pacing herself so as not to tire too quickly before the top.
Around late noon, she stopped to rest and eat in front of an ancient stone tablet. She pulled out some cold bread and her waterskin, examining the tablet as she ate:
Man prevailed, shouting Alduin out of the world
Proving for all that their Voice too was strong
Although their sacrifices were many-fold
She munched on the bread loaf and then gazed out at the land before her. The wind tossed her hair about as she admired the majesty of her homeland from a vantage point she had yet to behold. She approached the edge and leaned over; Ivarstead had become nothing more than small dots. She tossed her bread over the side, watching it soar in midair before shrinking so tiny that couldn’t even see it make it touch ground.
She picked up her bag and after chugging some water, she continued onward, up another set of icy steps between a couple of jagged rocks, curving to the left, and wrapping around another ancient tablet to the right, she could finally see High Hrothgar at the end of of the road. The climb had taken several hours, but she had made it unscathed.
The historical building had a central tower, two staircases leading up on either side, a chest decorated with a floral design for offerings, welcomed visitors, but the solid metal doors seemed to drive visitors away. The cinder blocks that formed the barrier and tower were cracked, fading in color from the sunlight. The top of the abbey coated in white snow, more fell from the clouds, like flecks of dust, sticking to whatever ground they could find.
Sattilde could hear the flow of the air rushing through the paneless windows and beneath the massive doors. She used her entire body just to push them open enough for her to slip inside. She leaned back against it to seal it again. The mostly stone building had little light despite the many windows lining each wall. In the center of the room, in the middle of the concrete floor, was a tiled diamond. Jugs and urns were clustered near another staircase split in two, leading up to an even darker portion of the room, and to similarly designed doors, but not as giant.
She approached the diamond in the floor. There was no one present. She leaned forward, peering into the side rooms, but saw no one.
“Hello?” she called out, an echo was her only responder.
From the shadows, elderly men, cloaked in grey, beards of grey emerged, four of them, two on each side of the diamond. “Uh… hi.” Sattilde smiled nervously, backing away cautiously.