There was a chill in the night air and the smell of an oncoming rain shower over the town of Riften. The rain would be a welcome occurrence to the green and blue Argonian if not for the promise it would be freezing. He growled as the first few drops plopped onto his scaly head, signaling the real storm was not too far away. His shredded clothing wasn't going to keep him safe from the elements much longer; he required a new set if he wished to face the approaching storm. That, a good meal and a few fat coin purses to keep himself going for a while longer. Lifting items had become difficult in the homeland of the Nords, especially without a guild to fall back on, but since his ordeal in Solitude, he had no desire to seek out the one of Skyrim.
Walks-Without-Noise's stomach twisted and gurgled in hunger, prompting him to continue his search for a suitable house from which to "borrow" a few things. He shied away from the homes closer to the temple and Keep, not wishing to invoke the wrath of a god or a jarl. One closer to the entrance would be better in case he needed to make a quick escape. A loud burst of thunder rolled across the sky before it opened up and began pouring sheets of rain, soaking the Argonian. Shivering and hissing at the sky in retaliation to the gods' neglect, Walks crept to the front door of a house sprinting distance away from the main gate. The lock gave a satisfying little click after a few tries at picking it, much to the green and blue Argonian's delight.
He suppressed a smile as he entered the dark house. The glow of a fire slowly dying in the hearth was the only light source Walks could see; he carefully stuck to the corners of the room to avoid detection. Golden eyes quickly scanned the interior for anything of use and landed on a rather large pot. It must've been the remains of the night's dinner, for the hungry Argonian could whiff something like a stew from it. His stomach gurgled loudly and for a moment he froze, frightened that someone might have heard it. When no one came, he crept over to the pot and peered in. A few glorious bowlfuls were still left, and Walks-Without-Noise didn't bother to stop drooling as he started lapping them up.
Stendarr be praised, he prayed inwardly, happy for once for his luck. Though it seemed rather pitiful finding a nearly empty soup pot was the extent the god of mercy had aided him in the weeks after prison, Walks would debate it later. His belly was beginning to fill, and that as all that mattered at the moment.
Now, where's the wine? Walks-Without-Noise questioned while licking the last dregs off his snout and glancing about the room again. Opening a few cabinets, he soon found one nearly empty wine bottle and a few blue bottles of mead. He took one off the shelf, uncorked it, sniffed and recoiled at the odor. Black-Briar. It wasn't the blue and green Argonian's first—or last—choice of drink, but downed the piss-water anyway. Thirst and hunger satisfied, the thief slowly sneaked up the stairs, stepping over a few warped boards. All he needed to find were some new clothes, a few bags of gold, and then leave. There was no need to overstay his welcome, he reasoned. The homeowner had been gracious enough to leave food out for him, so he wouldn't give into the temptation of lifting other valuables if he came across them.
Two rooms greeted him on the second level, one even with the door ajar. He peeked through the crack, finding a young man snoring away on a small bed. Walks was beginning to think his luck was indeed improving while he slipped into the room and began rifling through a large dresser. As much as his hands itched to take a few of the finer garments, he needed something that wouldn't get him robbed on the city streets. Walks spied a coarse shirt buried in the drawer and slung it over his shoulder before turning to the bedside table. He had a good guess of what shiny objects might lie inside. The man wasn't facing it. The thief took the chance.
Its small drawer thankfully slid open without much fuss. Another smile crept onto his face as three coin purses greeted his eyes in the darkness. It quickly vanished when gold pieces fell out of the rip in the bottom of one he picked up. Startled, he threw shaking hands over the drawer to muffle the clatter but only managed to amplify it. Walks quickly turned his head and met the eyes of the now-awake and angry Imperial.
"Mjoll!" the man shouted as he lunged for the reptile. The Argonian jumped back but the Imperial managed to snag him around the waist and floor him. Walks-Without-Noise fought to get up while the man struggled to keep his hold until recieving a clawed foot in his groin. The man howled in pain and released the struggling reptile; Walks scrambled to his feet with the shirt still clutched in hand and bolted for the stairs.
The second door swung open just as he reached the first step. The young thief whirled to see the other being and caught his foot on one of the bent boards, sending him tumbling down the staircase. Walks rammed his scaly head against a cupboard as he reached the main floor; he lay there, stunned, with every limb aching while a thin line of blood trickled from his bruised nose.
"By the Hist," he groaned while trying to roll onto his back. A strong hand suddenly gripped his throbbing shoulder and hauled him up, bracing him against the cupboard. The irate Nord woman scowled at him as she pressed the tip of her glass sword to his chest; Walks tried to pull away from the bite of the weapon but his squirming only made her grip tighten. When the sword drew blood, he froze and stared at her with wide, fearful eyes. The food hadn't been worth this.
"You picked the wrong house to steal from, thief," she growled, her expression made worse by the dim lighting. A groan sounded from the top of the stairs, making them both look up to find the man slowly descending to where they were. "Aerin, are you badly hurt?"
The Imperial shook his head. "It's nothing, Mjoll. The lizard kicked me, that's all. Should I call the guards?"
"Yes," she replied, turning her gaze back to Walks. "Tell them we have a member of the Thieves Guild restrained."
The Argonian trembled as he watched Aerin head for the door. Desperate, he started to fight to get free from Mjoll's grasp and cried, "No no no please, don't! I'm not one of them, and I haven't taken anything of value! I swear by the Hist I haven't!"
"And you won't," the Nord reassured him, easily keeping him braced against the cupboard. The Imperial's hand grasped the door handle and turned it.
"I only came here to find food and clothing!" Walks-Without-Noise shouted. He was nearly surprised when Aerin turned to look at him. Even Mjoll's expression softened a bit. "I don't have a septim to my name and would have starved if I hadn't broken in! I wanted to take the gold so I could buy food and a few nights at the inn." He went still again, but his fear was still evident. "Please, let me explain myself." The Nord pulled the sword back slightly before her gaze fell on the crumpled shirt at their feet, then to the two empty mead bottles still sitting on the table to their right. Mjoll turned her eyes back to his and, for a long moment, held his gaze. She finally sheathed her glass sword--much to his relief--but kept a firm grip on his shoulder.
"We're going to sit down at the table," she began slowly, "and you and I are going to have a discussion."
"Mjoll, you can't be serious," Aerin reasoned, coming to her side. "Even if he is telling the truth, he stole from us. And what if he's lying? This could be a disguise so he can buy his way out of jail."
"I will hear what he has to say," the Nord stated as she tugged the Argonian to the bench. "We will decide what to do with him after he has had a chance to speak." Walks did as he was instructed and remained seated. He knew not to look a gift horse in the mouth, but wanted to make sure it didn't bite him first. Mjoll and Aerin took the bench across from him. "Alright, Argonian, explain yourself," she instructed. Walks-Without-Noise held back a few nervous chuckles; his luck was riding a levitation spell gone awry this rainy night. Still, he held back on prayer as he began his story.
"I came here from Cheydinnhal five years ago," he explained in an even tone, trying to hide how nervous he was. He stopped, remembering his bruised nose and wiped the blood away before continuing. "A few friends and I moved up here to try our luck at finding fortune. As you can tell," he gestured to his tattered clothes, "it didn't work out the way we thought it would. Our coin quickly vanished along with our morale, and after two years I was the only one still living in the province. I had hoped that perhaps if I stayed a while longer, I could find what I was looking for. The only thing I found was a cold, damp gutter in Solitude."
"You weren't able to find work?" Aerin questioned.
"If I looked like you, maybe I would have had better odds," Walks responded. His tone softened when he saw the glare return on the Imperial's features. "It's difficult to find work in a land that doesn't take very well to outsiders. I wasn't going to break my back for those who saw me as nothing more than slave labor, so I began taking what I needed to survive. Food, coin, clothing, anything that would keep me alive for another day. My actions didn't go unnoticed; eventually I was approached by another Argonian named Gulum-Ei and offered work." The blue and green reptile chuckled bitterly at the memory. "It felt like a blessing at first, finally being able to not worry where I was going to get my next meal. It was a simple job at the docks helping him and a few other associates…move cargo, as he put it. Turned out most of his "clients" were connected to the Thieves Guild, but a job's a job and I paid it little mind."
"You worked for those cutthroats?" Mjoll questioned angrily, rising from her seat. The Argonian quickly held up his hands in defense.
"Out of necessity, yes," he explained hurriedly. "I was good at stealing things and needed work, and he needed someone with my skills and had the wages. But as time went on, I found we didn't see eye to eye very well. His…less than honorable business practices were something I could no longer stomach. I confronted him, told him I wanted to leave, and he obliged, but not before sending me on one last errand." A terse hiss escaped the young Argonian's throat as he growled, "He set me up. He wanted to show me who I was dealing with, what the Guild and its associates were capable of. The damn snake landed me in Solitude's dungeon for almost six months. I was released only a few weeks ago, back to scrounging and stealing to live."
Aerin snorted. "And you came here, the headquarters of the Thieves Guild? Trying to make amends for the past?"
Walks-Without-Noise's eyes narrowed slightly. "I came here to get as far away from Skyrim's Imperial City as I could. Four years ago I might have considered joining up with those sewer-lurkers, but not anymore. I've seen what they can do and I want no part in it." His gaze turned to the Nord sitting across from him. Her brow was knitted as if in thought while she gave the young thief a hard, long look. Something in him couldn't bear the stare and he turned away after a moment, uncomfortably shifting on the bench. Walks heard her stand and begin walking to the stairs.
"Stay with him, Aerin," she instructed the Imperial as she disappeared into the upper level of the house. The two shared a brief bewildered look before the reptile spied the door. He could run for it if he wanted to. Just leap over the table, dodge the human and get out of the house. Try another house the next night and not get caught, simple. The Argonian's muscles tensed in preparation for the escape, but instead launched him a few inches out of his seat in surprise when a coin purse was tossed onto the table. He looked up and found Mjoll standing at his side, her expression still stern.
"Go to the Bee and the Barb to rent a room," she explained. "There should be enough gold here to get you a meal and some new clothes in the morning. The Pawned Prawn should have a few things you could wear." Walks blinked. The woman had just given someone who had broken into her house a bag of gold. This wasn't how things normally went. Of course, normally people didn't let him sit at their table and allow him to defend himself, either.
"I…thank you," he replied, though he didn't know what possessed him to utter the next two words, "but why?"
"If you are the thief of necessity you spoke of in your story," Mjoll began evenly, "then this should be what you need to stay out of homes and strongboxes. I'm doing you a favor so you don't sit in a cell for six more months. But know this is as far as my generosity to a thief will go; if we meet again in these circumstances, I will not be as forgiving." She motioned for him to follow her to the door and he did so, the bag of gold gripped tightly in his hand. Walks-Without-Noise stopped in the doorway and glanced at the Nord, then to his gift.
"Thank you," he uttered sincerely. Mjoll offered him a nod and a small smile as she shut the door behind him. Once again, he was out in the freezing rain and chilled wind. The Argonian snorted and looked up at the pouring heavens.
"You have an odd way of showing mercy, you know?" he grumbled. A flash of lightning lit up the sky in response. Walks-Without-Noise shook the cold rain from his head and made his way to the inn, hoping that his luck had turned around for the better.