Ginna stood on the outskirts of the cemetery, her arms crossed over her chest and her gaze centered on Nura Snow-Shod, who tended daily to the remote statue of Talos behind the city. A chill wind shuddered through the ever-changing leaves of the white-birch that lined the gates like gallant guardians watching over Riften.
It was a beautiful city, a city where she’d known love and family, a Guild to call her own, but Karliah wouldn’t want to spend eternity in the ground there. She would want to be with Gallus; she was already with Gallus, but it should be official.
“I know I should take her to the Twilight Sepulcher right away,” she muttered absently, “but…”
For the first time since she’d met him, Brynjolf spared no expense. He didn’t even flinch as he paid Balimund two thousand Septims to construct a delicate, but sturdy glass coffin to preserve her remains. He wanted to send for an elegant garment from a shop in Solitude, but when Ginna pointed out that Karliah would have been happier in her Nightingale armor, he agreed.
Enthir and the others were transporting her the Twilight Sepulcher, and when the time was right they would meet there. The Nightingales would lay her to rest within its walls and return Nocturnal’s Skeleton Key.
“We will get her there safely,” Enthir promised. “And I will guard her with my life until you arrive.” The Bosmer mage hadn’t met her eyes, not once since he’d arrived in Riften for Karliah’s memorial. She didn’t blame him; she didn’t blame any of them.
No matter how many times he and the others muttered the words, “It wasn’t your fault,” Ginna still felt responsible. Her brother’s darkness was directed at her, and yet somehow everyone she cared about fell into his line of fire. Mallus and Karliah had given their lives for her; Rune and Aventus had nearly lost theirs as well. And the odd thing was, that should have driven everyone in her life as far away as possible, but they all wanted to avenge Karliah.
Everyone in the Thieves Guild wanted Brutus Arenicci dead.
“Thank you, Enthir,” she lowered her head as Brynjolf stepped up behind her and rested a hand on her shoulder.
“Aventus wants to say goodbye to his ma.”
Maven had arranged for a farmer and his wife just outside of Shor’s Stone to take the boy in until things calmed down, and while she knew it was probably for the best, it tore her up inside that she couldn’t keep him safe. What would happen to her child once it was born? Would they have to give their baby away too?
No. She would never give up her baby. She would die to protect it.
“It’s only temporary,” Brynjolf promised when she woke him from troubled sleep that morning with the ragged sound of her sobs. “We’re going to find him and make him pay long before that baby comes. Do you hear me?”
Cynric and Niruin emerged from the cistern to join Enthir on the journey to the western borders of Falkreath, where the Twilight Sepulcher awaited.
“It looks like we’re ready to depart.” Enthir reached across the space between them, his warm hands coming together with hers. For the first time since he’d arrived in Riften, he actually lifted his bright red eyes to meet hers. “We will set up camp outside the Sepulcher and wait for you,” he told her, “however long it takes. We’ll keep her safe, I promise.”
“Thank you, Enthir,” she nodded. “For everything.”
She watched as the three of them carried Karliah toward the southern gate, where the wagon they’d hired was waiting, and then she followed Brynjolf out onto the pier and to Maven Black-Briar’s front door. She opened it up to greet them before they could even knock, ushering them inside where Aventus was already packed and waiting.
He sat sullenly at the table, ignoring the sweet roll on the plate in front of him and absently swinging his legs beneath the chair. He barely looked up when they came in, and when Ginna approached to lower a hand on his shoulder he jerked away from her touch resentfully. Glancing back at Brynjolf, he started toward her to help smooth things over, but then Maven grabbed his shoulder and shook her head before guiding him out of the room so they were alone.
With no choice but to face him, Ginna reluctantly pulled the chair next to his away from the table and sat down. “Your Da said you wanted to say goodbye.”
He swallowed hard, his tight little mouth pinching into a scowl before he muttered, “He lied.”
“Don’t,” his dark eyes shot up to meet hers. “Don’t tell me this is for my own good because it’s a lie. If you didn’t want me in the first place…”
“Aventus, we do want you,” she insisted, reaching for his hand, but he wrenched it away just as quickly as he had his shoulder when she touched him. “I want you. I know we haven’t had enough time together for you to really understand just how much I care for you, but I do. And the fact that I care about you puts you in danger. Don’t you understand? He will do anything to hurt me, kill everyone I love if I don’t stop him. If anything ever happened to you…”
“I can take care of myself.” He tried to sound tough, but there was a soft squeak in his voice that betrayed his insecurity. “I called upon the Dark Brotherhood. Why can’t you just do that too? The Night Mother listens to me. I’ll call on her right now, just please, give me a chance. I’ll protect you, Ma.”
“I wish this were as easy as calling upon the Dark Brotherhood,” she lowered her head. “Believe me, if it were, I would call them myself, but Brutus is tied to a powerful Daedric Lord. I don’t think the Dark Brotherhood could touch him, even if they tried.”
“But you’re tied to a Daedric Lord too. Nocturnal is your mother. I heard you talking about it when we were at the sanctuary. Isn’t she powerful too? Can’t she help you?”
“I don’t know, Aventus. All I do know is that I have already lost enough of the people I love to this monster. If anything ever happened to you… No, this is the best thing for you. I promise. You’ll be safe there and as soon as all this is over we will come back for you.”
“I won’t stay there,” he changed the subject. “I’ll run away and you can’t stop me.”
“No, you’re right. I can’t stop you, but I can beg you not to.” She blinked against the tears threatening to spill down her cheeks. “I know you think I don’t love you, and that’s why I’m sending you away, and it’s wrong of me to ask you not to be selfish. I know that, but Aventus, please listen to me…” Reaching across the table to lift his face so he had no choice but to look at her even as he struggled, she said, “If you ever loved me, even just a little, do this thing for me. As long as I know you are safe I can concentrate on putting an end to this so we can live out the rest of our lives together as a family. A real family.”
“I’ll never have a real family,” he scoffed, finally managing to wrench his face from her grip.
“That’s not true,” she shook her head. “And I’m going to need you when this is done. My baby is going to need a big brother to look after him… or her.”
“Y—your baby? You’re going to have a baby?”
“I…” she glanced toward the empty doorway, could just make out Brynjolf’s shadow near the distant wall. “I think that’s a conversation for another time, maybe when you’re a little bit older, but for now please think about that. Whenever you feel alone, or you feel like running away to try and make it on your own, know that your family needs you. I need you, Aventus, and I will come for you as soon as it’s safe.”
He never promised he wouldn’t run away, but he did hug her after that. She’d be lying if she said she felt better about it though, and when Maven took him away, Ginna found herself standing on the pier just watching them go.
She felt numb, every part of her turned off so she couldn’t feel anymore; maybe that was for the best.
The words Brutus said to her resonated deep inside her. Thieves weren’t supposed to have feelings, and as much as she hated every emotion she felt just then, she knew he was wrong.
Being a thief didn’t make her inhuman. And that was the lesson Severus worked so hard to impart to both of his children all their lives.
“One must turn her conscience off before she reaches into someone else’s pockets,” he told her once when she was young, and then with a gracious smile he added, “but she must always remember to turn it back on again when she withdraws her hand.”
The numbness departed, and she felt it all. Every stab of anguish, every insecurity and fear, every bit of helplessness. She let the tears fall, and Brynjolf put an arm around her, laying her head to rest upon his shoulder.
“All right, lass?”
Reaching up to brush the tears from her face, a meek nod followed as she backed away. “He’ll be okay.”
“Aye,” he agreed. “He’s a tough one.”
“But not too tough,” she realized.
“Come on.” He steered her toward the Temple of Mara so they could slip into the hidden crypt’s entrance. Rune and Vipir were waiting for them in the Cistern, and they fell in line behind them as Brynjolf stalked toward the Ragged Flagon with a purpose. “We’ve got a lot of planning to do.”
A/ N: This part of the story is finished, but there will be a third and final installment to come. More details about that will be available very soon. I hope you enjoyed the story. Thank you to everyone whose been reading. I am forever grateful for your thoughts and feedback, even when you get mad at me for killing characters.
P.S. I am still organizing everything, so hopefully I will get a banner pic added to this epilogue soon.