Signy was used to running. Her life as she knew it was the result of running from one thing or another, never staying in one place for too long. This time, though… nothing she had experienced in her twenty-odd winters could have prepared her for this.
The sun was beginning to rise above Riften, illuminating the city’s walls and glinting off the water from which its residents fished. Signy had never particularly desired to come back here, but now, it was the only place she could think of going.
As she approached the city’s gates, she again mulled over the events of the past few days. Helgen, Whiterun, the call of the Greybeards from High Hrothgar… she had fought a dragon, and won. She had discovered things about herself that she had never thought possible, and it scared the living hell out of her. So she ran, back to the only place that had ever resembled home. A place where she could hide, and forget.
Signy made her way through the city’s gates after dealing with an unsavory guard who wanted money from her. As she looked around, she allowed herself a small grin– the city looked more or less the same as it had when she had been here last, and the guards were still as slimy as ever. She paused for a moment, deciding where to go. She did have a good sum of coin on her person, having hauled bones and scales from the dragon she had killed into Belethor’s shop in Whiterun. There was a nice inn in Riften, she recalled– The Bee and Barb. Moments after Signy began to make her way to the inn, however, she heard a voice beckoning her.
“Never done an honest day’s work in your life for all that coin you’re carryin’, eh, lass?”
Signy whirled around to see the source of the voice. Leaning against a post was a redheaded Nord man, examining her with a glimmer of intrigue in his eyes, and the ghost of a smirk across his face.
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you,” she said, without thinking. Signy wasn’t quite sure why she was engaging the man. She was here to hide, but somehow she knew this man would not hurt her, despite the almost teasing tone of his question. Besides, she thought– it wouldn’t be a bad idea to actually know somebody in Riften. Hiding did not require total isolation, after all.
The man chuckled. “It’s no matter to me, lass. However, I should be straight with you. I’ve got a bit of errand to perform, but I need an extra pair of hands. And in my line of work, extra hands are well paid.”
Signy perked up at the suggestion. She needed money. The gold from the dragon bones wouldn’t last forever. And, having grown up as poor as she had, it was hard to turn down any offer of payment.
“Alright, I’m listening.”
The man explained the process of their little errand to her. He would make a distraction in the marketplace. She was to steal a silver ring from an Argonian named Madesi’s stall, and plant it on another vendor, a Dunmer called Brand-Shei. Although she felt a little nervous energy, Signy was not worried. She had stolen her way through large parts of her childhood. It had been the only way to survive.
Before she knew it, she had crept behind the Argonian’s stall, picked the lock on the strongbox and plucked from it the silver ring, which she then slipped into the Dunmer’s pocket. As the redheaded man’s sales pitch ended, he strode over to her, a coy smile on his face.
“Well, it looks like I chose the right person for the job. Color me impressed, lass. As promised, here’s your payment.” He reached into his pocket and procured a coin purse. He then took her hand, passing her the small burlap satchel surreptitiously. “I’ll tell you what. The group I represent has its home in the Ratway, beneath Riften. A tavern called The Ragged Flagon. Get there in one piece, and we’ll see if you’ve really got what it takes.” He nodded and began to turn to walk away, but he paused. “By the way, lass. What’s your name?”.
“Brynjolf. I’ll see you soon, Signy. I hope.”
The man– Brynjolf– gave her a wink before turning and walking off towards the inn. Signy looked down into her palm, and stared for a moment at the coin purse she held in it. He said that his organization was in the Ratway. Of course. He was with the Thieves’ Guild. Signy should have known. The Thieves’ Guild had practically run Riften when she had lived there as a young girl, although not as much then as they had in the past. Shaking her head, she silently laughed at herself for being so stupid. The money had allured her, and she had been foolish. She couldn’t get involved with the Thieves’ Guild!
Then, a thought struck her, or rather, a memory. She was a young girl, huddled in a corner behind some barrels in the lower level of the city. Shivering and hungry, she sat there, biding her time as she hid from Grelod and anyone who might try to take her back to Honorhall Orphanage. Riften’s winters were typically far milder than those of other cities in Skyrim, but this particular winter was the coldest the city had seen in decades. Food was scarce enough as it was, and Signy was at the bottom of the food chain. She stole scraps, and dug through barrels, hoping to find something, anything to fill her aching belly. She might have been warmer in the Ratway, and maybe even have found more food, but she was terrified, and not without good reason.
She should have died down there, and she probably would have, had it not been for a thief who had stumbled across her one day after emerging from the depths of the Ratway and taken pity on her. She owed her life to that man. Maybe he was still there…
Signy shook herself from her reverie as she sat in The Bee and Barb, eating a hot meal for the first time in what seemed like years. She’d paid for it with money she made running errands for the Thieves’ Guild, and in the past, a man who must have been from the Thieves’ Guild had been kind to her. What was really so bad about getting involved with them?
Then, her thoughts turned to the redheaded man, Brynjolf. Why had he picked her for the job, and who was he? He talked to her like she was just a normal person, and it had been a while since she’d experienced that. Up until recently, she hadn’t been worth anything to anyone, and then, suddenly, she was the most important person in the world. It was nice to have someone who seemed to treat her like a peer.
The choice was strangely clear. Signy was going into the Ratway.