Given how long she had spent yearning for Mercer's death, once he had fallen and the dust had settled, Karliah felt surprisingly empty. Perhaps she had hoped to feel some great sense of peace with his end, and while there was a small sense of that, ultimately, Karliah just felt as though another day had gone by. It was disappointing. Worst still, now that she had fulfilled her vendetta, she wasn't sure what she should do next. In hindsight, she hadn't thought she would ever see this through simply because she figured she would have probably died trying to accomplish it. A fate far less crueler than agonizing years over your fallen beloved.
She wasn't dead, however, and that felt wrong somehow. Selfish, even, if she were to jest about it.
Brynjolf had explained the true events of that fateful day twenty five years ago to the others in the Guild and with some hesitation, she was welcomed back into their ranks. It was nice to be part of the Guild again; to be part of civilization at all, not just the seedy outskirts of it. But there had been too much time gone past for the Guild's embrace to feel as warm and secure as it once had so Karliah continued to spend more time within the Nightingales' Hall. There she felt warm and secure; at home.
Many nights, Kelle would come to check on her under the guise of taking a break from her duties as the new Guildmaster. Karliah had been uncertain of Kelle at first, even after saving her from Mercer's attempt at her life. The Bosmer hadn't exactly been bubbling with gratitude after Karliah had fixed her up, but all things considering, at least she gave Karliah the chance to explain her side of the story. She was eternally grateful for that.
In time, they had built a fairly stable friendship, albeit wrought within a short time and with the possibility of failure to Mercer looming over their heads throughout. Kelle, while a bit of a loner, was fairly easy to get along with. Though she often pushed away from Brynjolf and Karliah whenever things felt more family than friends, which was often. Somehow, Brynjolf had taken up a fatherly stance toward Kelle, which was fun to see from the outside, especially when Kelle would use her smaller stature to her advantage to take off quickly from him when he tried to give her unwanted advice.
It did put Karliah in a slightly awkward position though. She felt a special bond with Kelle, one that went deeper than their Nightingale alliance. It felt sisterly at times but rarely. Quick to sense whatever it was as well, Kelle often made an excuse to leave from Karliah's presence for a day or two. The nights she would visit Karliah in the Hall seemed extra special to the Dunmer.
"You seem weary tonight," Karliah said, sitting across from Kelle at a table in the more cavenous part of the Hall. "Have you been hiding from Bryn again?"
Tucking a short strand of auburn hair behind her ear, Kelle shook her head. "I was up late last night on a fishing job for Vex. Haven't slept yet."
Karliah raised an eyebrow at this but let it slide. "I see," she said simply. "Have you heard of the dragon attack at Markath?"
This piqued Kelle's attention - she had the oddest fascination with these rumors. Well, rumors in that Karliah had yet to see a dragon and it had been three months easy since the murmur of a dragon attack at Helgen.
Though she was interested by the rumor, Kelle lapsed into silence. A touch of her shoulder jolted her - Karliah was confused by this.
"What?" she queried.
Drinking deeply from her flagon, Kelle grimaced against the taste of the ale. On more than one occasion the Bosmer had expressed her dislike of alcoholic beverages but she always forced a flagon down, just to be courteous.
"It's nothing," Kelle answered when the flagon was empty.
"I thought we were on more comfortable terms and past this avoidance of things." Karliah paused. "You've seen one, haven't you? A dragon."
Dark eyes flickered toward Karliah, then quickly away. It was evident that Kelle struggled with a respectable answer. Karliah drank from her own flagon, keeping an eye on the other woman, and waited patiently for an answer.
"I was in Helgen when the dragon attacked," she finally said. She fell silent afterward, Karliah releasing a frustrated breath. "I came to Riften after I escaped," Kelle offered, enigmatic to the bitter end.
"So the rumors are true?" Kelle nodded, taking a piece of cheese with her dagger.
The knife was crafted from glass, its blade nearly transparent in its thinness with an emerald inlay crafted into its handle - only the soft red glow about the blade hinted at its true danger. The blade melted the cheese slightly, leaving a clean cut in its wake. Karliah once tried to imagine the blade's effect on flesh but the thought unnerved her--Kelle never used it on anyone, at least not yet in front of Karliah.
The blade, like its owner, was mysterious and dangerous, but fascinated Karliah to no end.
"Yes, dragons have returned to the land," the Bosmer answered before slipping the bit of cheese into her mouth. Chewing slowly, she waited until she had swallowed the bite to add, "The end times are near - just when Brynjolf was finally getting the hint about what he could do with his advice."
Although she smiled, Karliah felt uneasy.