Karliah lingered alone in the shadows near the center of the cave, giving them their space and their moment, but Ginna could feel her watching them. Did their love remind her of the love she’d once shared with Gallus? A love that ended far too quickly and left her feeling empty and forlorn for all those years.
When Ginna turned to look over at her, it broke her heart. She looked so… alone. Reaching down for Brynjolf’s hand, she tugged him forward. As they approached, Karliah spoke without even looking up, murmuring, “I can’t believe it’s really over. Twenty-five years in exile and just like that, it’s done.”
“Are you all right, Karliah?” Brynjolf reached a hand out to rest on her shoulder and she lifted her sad, lavender eyes to meet with his. “Did I hurt you, lass?”
“No,” she shook her head. “I’m fine.”
“I’m so sorry… I don’t know what came over me back there. I could have killed you…”
“It was Mercer’s doing, not yours. Don’t beat yourself up over it. All that matters is that Mercer’s dead.” She turned those eyes on Ginna, and for a moment she saw a flicker of worry in them. “Did you get the Key, Ginna? Please tell me you got the Key.”
Nodding, she unslung the heavy satchel from her shoulder and opened it up in front of them both before reaching in to grab the Skeleton Key and draw it out into the light for them to see. “I also got both Eyes of the Falmer.”
Karliah’s eyes light up, the corner of her soft mouth jerking upright with a grin. “Well done, Ginna. They are yours to do with what you will. And now, all that remains is to ensure the safe return of the Skeleton Key.” Even as the very thought of giving up that key pained her, she held it out to Karliah, but she shook her head. “No, my friend. That task is yours.”
“What do you mean?”
“I can’t bear to face Nocturnal again, not now.” Her gaze lowered again, heavily lidded eyes veiled with shame. “I would ask you to return the Key to the Twilight Sepulcher.”
“All right,” she agreed. “It sounds a simple enough task.”
“I’m afraid it’s not that simple, actually,” she lamented. “When the Skeleton Key was stolen from the Twilight Sepulcher, our access to the Inner Sanctum was removed. The only way to bring it back will be through the Pilgrim’s Path.”
“I take it you’ve never used the Pilgrim’s Path?”
“The Path wasn’t created for the Nightingales. It was created to test those who wished to serve Nocturnal in other ways. As a consequence, I have no knowledge of what you’ll be facing.”
“Whatever the lass has to face, we’ll face it together,” Brynjolf assured them. “All three of us.”
“No, Brynjolf,” she shook her head. “You’ll be needed back at the Thieves Guild to keep order while she’s away. Mercer’s death will be difficult for everyone to face and there is the matter of restoring the Guild.”
“Damn it,” he lowered his head. “The lass is right. The Guild will be in a transitional state of chaos for awhile. They will need me until we can seat you in your rightful place as Guildmaster.”
She still wasn’t sure about the whole Guildmaster thing. Even Maven’s voice in the back of her mind was too distant for her to wrap her head around, but there was still time. There was the matter of restoring the Guild to its former glory and who knew how long that would take.
“I will walk the Pilgrim’s Path alone then,” Ginna sighed. “Though I still don’t understand why you won’t come with me, Karliah.”
“I… I can’t bear to face Nocturnal after my failure to protect the Key. I’m afraid you’ll have to face the end of your journey… alone.”
“Not alone,” Brynjolf insisted. “Rune will accompany you, gladly. In fact, he wasn’t happy at all when I told him he couldn’t come with us to take care of Mercer.”
“Rune is a good friend,” she nodded.
“Here.” Karliah reached over her shoulder and unhooked her bow, drawing it out to hand it over to Ginna. “I want you to take this with you. I’m not certain if it will prove useful to you in the Sepulcher, but I have a feeling you’re going to need it more than I do.”
“Karliah, this is your bow,” Ginna protested. “You… I…”
“You were a friend to me when there was no one else. You trusted me, stood beside me, even when you had doubts. Please take it,” she insisted. “Even this will never be enough to thank you for all you’ve done, my friend. I’ve had this bow almost my entire life, and it’s never let me down. I hope it brings you the same luck.”
“I don’t know what to say.”
She’d never had friends like them before, never had people around her that she’d trust her life with, but she trusted Karliah and Brynjolf, Rune and the others. Even Marcurio, who would never believe the things she’d seen in that old Dwemer ruin.
“Where will you go now, Karliah?”
“I need some time alone, to come to terms with everything, to find peace again, though I’m not sure I will ever know it. But I promise you that we will meet again.” They embraced, and when she drew back, Karliah reached for both of their hands, holding their trinity strong for a silent moment before she said, “It is a rare thing indeed when two of our kind finds what you have together. Take good care of one another. Love and cherish each other always.” She squeezed their fingers inside her own. “Shadows keep you both.”
She walked away, leaving them alone there in the cavern. Ginna didn’t know how long they stood there watching the empty entrance after she walked through it, but her departure left an emptiness behind that Ginna wasn’t sure anything would ever fill again except Karliah’s company.
“Come on, love,” Brynjolf finally said, lowering a gently hand to her shoulder. “Let’s go home.”
“Home,” she liked the sound of that. She’d said it thousands of times in her life. I should go home. You can find me at home. Never had it ever felt as powerful and right as it did when he said it.
His arm dropped to rest against the small of her back as he ushered her out into the oncoming twilight. They’d been inside that hell an entire day, morning come and gone, afternoon dwindling as its final threads dropped away to yield to night. It would be a long journey home. Maybe they could find a couple of horses along the way, or maybe they could take their time—enjoy a few quiet days together, as newlyweds often did after a wedding.
“If I sell even just one of The Eyes of the Falmer, I bet we could buy that house in Markarth,” she noted. “We could use the profit from the other Eye to help get the Guild back on its feet until the jobs start to flow in more smoothly.”
“You’re never going to let go of that bloody house, are you?”
“Probably not,” she shrugged, smiling up at him.
“Markarth isn’t exactly the most pleasant place in Skyrim to live, you know?”
“We don’t have to live there all the time. I like Riften, but that house… I don’t know. I just want it. I want it to be mine and no one else’s.”
Brynjolf laughed, leaning a little closer to her as their staggered steps moved them south toward Winterhold. “You really are a spoiled little princess,” he teased, lowering to kiss the top of her head. “But you’re my spoiled princess and it’s one of the reasons I love you, lass. You remind me why I chose to stick with this profession in the first place, even when it seemed our luck was all but run out.”
“What good is gold if you don’t use it to make a better life for yourself?”
“Aye,” he agreed. “But right now, the only thing I can think of that would make my life better is finding a warm place to lay with my woman.”
“Let’s see what we can do ease your suffering,” she grinned, reaching down to take his hand.
As they traveled, Ginna really did feel at peace, at least as peaceful as she could be still knowing Brutus was out there. His day would come, and when it did it would be her hand that dealt the swift justice he deserved. In the meantime, she had a new life ahead of her as a Nightingale, the Pilgrim’s Path and plenty of other new adventures waiting to be explored and a husband who wanted to take over the world with her.
All in all, she thought she was doing pretty well for herself.
Her father would be proud, she realized. Not the man who’d brought her into the world, but the man who’d raised her. Her Guild-father, who’d instilled his values in her and taught her that without honor, thieves were no better than beggars and no matter where she found herself, she would never forget that.
A/N: There will be more Brynjolf and Ginna to come. I promise. For now, I hope you enjoyed To Catch a Thief. Thank you all for reading and for those of you who take time to comment and let me know you’re enjoying the stories, I appreciate you more than you will ever know.