As I ride back to Riften, the sun comes out from behind the clouds, illuminating the forest and chasing away all threat of rain. The soft breeze ruffles my hair almost affectionately, and the blue sky opens above me like a blessing. It’s turning into a beautiful afternoon. Perhaps the Divines have been listening after all.
Approaching Fort Greenwall, I keep to the road, riding my horse straight through and out the other side. One of the soldiers on the ramparts turns in my direction and raises a casual hand in greeting. I grin and wave back. If nothing else, I feel like our time in the Rift has definitely improved the tone of the surrounding neighbourhood.
Leaving my mount with my new friend the Redguard stablehand, I walk through the city gates, noting with satisfaction that there’s no more mention of an entrance fee from the guards. I head down the street, descend the boardwalk stairs down to the canals, and enter the apothecary. This time the older woman is behind the counter. I pull the ore sample out of my backpack and give it to her.
True to her word, she thanks me for my time and hands over a small collection of specialty potions — a Draught of the Defender, a Draught of True Shot, and a Draught of the Warrior. I’m surprised that all of them are actually quite useful. For a short trip to Shor’s Stone and back, I feel as if I’ve gotten the better end of the deal.
My next stop is the inn. I’m hoping to run into the priest again, but as soon as I step inside it’s apparent he’s not there. No big deal — I’ll just ask someone where I can find him, like this guy standing next to the door. But even before I can open my mouth, he approaches me instead.
He tells me a tale about a deal gone sour, since apparently the other party in the deal, Maven’s youngest son, is now rotting in jail. Interesting. Either Maven doesn’t have as much influence in Riften as I was led to believe, or she’s perfectly willing to toss her own son in jail if he displeases her. Since Maven doesn’t seem like the type who would win an award for exceptional parenting, I’m going with Option B.
It appears that Maven’s son promised to sell a thoroughbred horse to this Letrush guy, but before he could follow through, he became unexpectedly acquainted with the interior of a jail cell. Letrush wants me to visit Maven’s wayward son and see what I can do to get the deal back on track. I’m about to refuse, but then I think it over, grin to myself, and decide to go along with it. Call me weak, but I just can’t pass up the opportunity to see a Black-Briar behind bars.
Maven’s son is a real piece of work. Not only did he make a deal to sell a thoroughbred he doesn’t own, but he’s more than willing to let a perfect stranger steal the horse from his mother’s lodge and sell it to Letrush. Clearly there’s no love lost among the Black-Briar family. Even though taking part in this scheme is potentially dangerous, I admit that I’m tempted.
I debate with myself whether I’ll get more personal amusement from selling Maven’s horse out from under her, or watching her face when she learns about her son’s disloyalty. I mention this in a casual sort of way, and her son responds by putting even more on the table to keep me in the game. Works for me.
After we conclude our business, I take my leave of the prison — thus proving that I have a better life than at least one Black-Briar — and head straight for the Temple of Mara. I discovered its location earlier on my way to the Riften jailhouse. I certainly hope I can find the priest at the temple, as it’s now early evening, and I don’t want to get sidetracked any further than I have already. Not that I’m complaining — I could look at Black-Briars behind bars all day. Someone should start a zoo and charge people to see them in their natural environment. They’d make a fortune.
Fortunately the priest is right inside, close to the entrance. I guess they’re about to start evening mass or vespers or whatever. He catches sight of me and beckons to a nearby pew so we can talk quietly without disturbing the service. I take a quick look around, but I have no idea if this is an important ceremony or just a regular sort of gathering for the temple attendants. I don’t personally have much experience with religion — which, come to think of it, sounds a bit silly coming from the Champion of Meridia.
I ask him a few questions about betrothal customs in Skyrim, and he’s very helpful. Good to know that certain sacraments are a relatively simple procedure. I never did see the point in over-complicating matters.
Reassured, I head out of the temple and move ahead with my plan. I’m on my way to the Riften marketplace, seeking a likely merchant for the type of item I want — when I’m stopped in my tracks by someone who deliberately steps right in front of me. Obviously he’s been taking lessons from the guards around here.
Y’know, I’m getting a bit tired of everyone in this city wanting a piece of me. I like attention just as much as the next girl, but there’s a limit.
My new acquaintance keeps talking, trying to encourage me to take part in some sort of scheme against a rival vendor. Sorry mate, but I’m already involved in another plot, not to mention I’m on a personal mission here. I can only spread myself so thin. I’m sure you understand. Now kindly get the hell out of my way.
After looking around the market, I finally spot what I’m looking for — a stand that specializes in jewelry. I take a closer look at the selection, and I’m pleased to see that it all looks quite elegant. I ask the Argonian vendor about his wares, and I can’t help but be impressed when he modestly tells me that it’s all his own work.
He also mentions that he’s been having trouble finding materials due to the civil war interrupting normal supply lines. As I’m picking out a pair of gorgeous gold earrings, I offer to help him out, and he gives me a list of items to look for in my travels. I don’t mind keeping an eye out for raw materials if he can transform them into such beautiful pieces as these. Besides, he’s talented, humble, and polite — a rare combination in Riften.
Now there’s just one more piece of jewelry I have to obtain, but I already know where to look. In fact, I’ve known its exact location ever since Jenassa and I cleared the barrow back in Ivarstead, and I even have a duplicate handy. Leaving the marketplace, I head back through the city gates to the stables and rummage around in my horse’s saddlebags. Bingo.
I ride back through the brilliant woods as the shadows lengthen around me. It’s early evening now, and the sun is just starting to dip behind the hills. The skies have remained clear and there’s still plenty of light, but I encourage my horse to break into a gallop. Suddenly I can’t wait to get back to the ranger cabin — and Jenassa.
As I dismount just in front of the porch, my heart starts fluttering in my chest like a delirious bird. I’m feeling nervous, but also wonderfully exhilarated. Taking a deep breath, I walk up the steps and push open the door.
Jenassa is seated by the fire, but she stands up as soon as she sees me walk in, flashing a dazzling smile in greeting. I smile back, handing her the package containing the golden earrings. She takes it with a questioning look, and I’m about to explain, when she notices something about me that’s a little bit different — the Amulet of Mara.
The next few moments pass in a happy blur. In the space of a few heartbeats, we’ve pledged ourselves to each other and agreed to spend the rest of our lives together. I explain that the earrings are an engagement present, and she throws her arms around me in a loving embrace. Needless to say, we’re a bit too busy to talk for a while after that.
When we finally come up for air, she gives me my marching orders.
I know she isn’t really telling me to do this right away, but my joy gives me an ecstatic burst of energy. I’m walking on air, I feel like the gods themselves are smiling on us — and I want the best part of our lives to start as soon as possible.
I speed out the door and ride like the wind, and I’m back at the city gates just after sunset. The guards let me in, and I dash back to the Temple of Mara. Fortunately the priest is right where I left him, and he warmly congratulates me on my recent betrothal and imminent matrimony.
Even the statue of Mara seems to smile on me. Soon I’m riding back to the cabin, and my horse appears to have grown wings as her hooves barely touch the ground. I inhale delight and exhale gratitude as I ride under a sky full of dancing stars. I can’t believe it. Soon I’ll be married to the most wonderful person I’ve ever met.
No matter the weather, I just know that tomorrow is going to be a beautiful day.