Prologue: Riften

I'll never get tired of Riften at night.
Previously: The Widow Velethi

The mists of the Rift were so thick Katarinya had no idea if it was morning, afternoon, or evening once she crossed the borders. The skies were so overcast she couldn't pinpoint the sun's place. Not that she was complaining; the sunless skies of Riften were perhaps its one saving grace.

She typically entered a city by carriage to sell her character, even though she despised the smell of horse and driver. Covered carriages had windows and drapes, the better to keep out the sun, so she knew it was best to suck it up.


A slow smile spread across Katarinya's dark painted lips as one of the Riften gate guards approached her carriage. He ignored the driver and came straight to knock on her window. She pushed the woolen drapes aside, and opened the wooden shutters.

"Yes, sir?" she greeted him calmly, politely. He looked her over for a moment, as though trying to figure her out. She was Redguard obviously, with smooth dark brown skin, black hair in long braids, and grayish silver eyes. But it was her accent which seemed to puzzle him, for she had the crisp, precise speech of a High Elf.

"You have to pay to the enter the city," he told her, his own accent thick and Nordic from beneath his helmet.

Riften's guards were infamous for charging travelers a "tax" to enter the city. Most people tried to talk their way out of it, to minimal success. Katarinya, however, had no intention of talking her way out of anything.

"How much?" she asked.

"Two hundred and ninety-six septims," he told her without blinking.

"I'll give you fifty," she smiled, much more broadly now.

"Done," he nodded briskly.

She counted the gold coins and handed them over. He accepted them wordlessly, going over to unlock the gate.

"To the nearest inn," she instructed her driver. She hadn't been in Riften in quite some time; she couldn't remember what the inn was called.

"No carriages in the city," the guard stopped her. He finally addressed her driver. "You can park the carriage here and get a stall at the stable."

"I guess I'm on my own," Katarinya sighed, gathering her belongings.

"I can help," the guard offered, probably hoping to earn an additional "tax" along the way.

The wooden double gates parted. The city--if you could call it that--was a haven of Skyrim's riffraff, home to assassins and thieves. Their ill nature appeared to have manifested around themselves, infecting the old wood and stone, shrouding their world in a fog of lies. Tattered purple banners swayed on the cool breeze; they matched the faded embroidered tunics of the city guards.

Riften smelled of mountain, mist, and river, but also torches, sweat, aged wood, and a blacksmith's forge. Katarinya's felt a sudden rush of excitement of being back in a real city; she could smell roasted meat, fine wine, fresh mead, and even temple incense on the wind. Every walk of life milled in the streets and walkways, from wretched, bony beggars to armed sellswords in leather, to laborers and merchants busy at the work, to even a few nobles strolling in their fine wools and furs. The only thing all these people seemed to have in common was the dark look of the city haunting their eyes.

One might assume no one would miss a body or two here, but Katarinya was wiser than that; the only people in the world more paranoid than the elite were the scum.

She took a room at the Bee and Barb, a well-lit tavern run by an Argonian couple. She paid for the most expensive room and requested a hot bath be brought up to her, knowing this would attract attention. And as she soaked in the steamy water, she plotted her next move.

There will be questions.

There would always be questions wherever she went, no matter what. A beautiful woman traveling alone often drew questions. A Redguard's presence in Skyrim almost definitely drew questions. The wealthy always drew questions.

They'll want to know about the money.

Disguising wealth was the most annoying part of crafting a story. Money would always be missed; even stolen coins had a trail. Her accent would help a bit in that department, though she'd have to be careful. The last thing she wanted was to craft story that was easily investigated.

In the old days, she would have either kept to the wild or traveled as a peasant, but once she got the taste of finer things, there was no going back. It was as all the bards sang: more money, more problems.

I'll have to make them my accomplices.

Contrary to popular belief, the quickest way to silence people about gold was to simply share it. In a city, and especially during a war, there was no shortage of people needing gold.

Next: Mistveil


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