The Cathay surveyed her surroundings, tasting the air. So far, alone. She squinted her brilliant orange eyes, trying to see through the fog. She noticed a poster on a nearby tree and winced, stepping closer to read it. She let out an angry hiss when she spotted her own name leaping out at her - Jakkuor Meliahk. She'd expected it, of course, but it still sent a trill of fear and anger coursing through her. She tore the poster down, stuffing it in her pocket before continuing on through the woods.
Soon, the familiar walls of Riften loomed out of the fog. Jakkuor paused again, deciding to take inventory before getting any further. Sparing another glance around, ensuring her safety, she slid her pack off of her back and began rummaging through it. Arrows, a new knife maybe, some food that isn't meat... she chewed her lip thoughtfully. Oh! And more bandages, for sure. She repacked her things and straightened up, slinging her bag over her shoulder.
Now, she just had to to get into the city, which was going to be harder than she'd previously anticipated. There had been talk, amongst the caravan she'd semi-joined, about how the 'visitor's tax' to get into Riften increased. And she was poorer than the dirt around her, save for some shiny trinkets she'd gotten her paws on. Mostly legally, of course. But, on the other hand, maybe her ragged appearance would coax some sympathy from the guards. She took a deep breath, steeling herself as she pulled up her hood and started towards the gate.
"Halt!" one of the guards stopped her as she approached. "Before you can enter the city, you have to pay the visitor's tax."
Called it. "H-How much is it?" Jakk couldn't quite meet his gaze, but he was wearing a helmet, so she was sure he wouldn't notice that.
"Three hundred septims."
"I... I don't exactly have any gold-"
"Then you can turn back around and go back to where you came from."
"I do have this," the Cathay pulled a necklace from her pocket. The chain was silver, as was the charm, inlaid with garnets, that hung from it. "Maybe... instead of the gold... you'd like this instead?"
The guard's eyes practically lit up at the jewellery. "I s'pose that'll have to do," he nodded, holding out his hand. Jakkuor dropped the necklace in his hand, watching as he inspected it. "Alright, unlock the door for her," he spoke to his partner, before returning his gaze to Jakk. "And you, keep your nose clean while you're visiting, a'ight? I don't want Maven cutting back my pay 'cause of some cat."
"Yes, sir," Jakkuor nodded, deciding not to comment on the insult.
"In you go."
The Cathay stepped into the city, relieved that he'd accepted the bribe and that she'd been able to remain nameless. Riften was grey and dreary, which made her feel right at home. Most of the buildings were wooden, giving the city an old and run-down feeling. It certainly didn't seem run-down, judging by all the people wandering the streets. No one even looked her way as she walked towards the market. Except for one man - a tall, dark-haired Nord decked out in steel armour, save for the helmet. He leaned against the wall, eyes narrowing as she approached.
"I don't know you. You in Riften lookin' for trouble?" he demanded, staring down at her.
Jakk flinched, having overlooked him, "I-I'm just getting s-supplies..."
"Best keep it that way. The Black-Briars don't need some stranger stickin' their nose where it doesn't belong."
"W-Well, they don't have to worry. I-I'm not staying long."
With that, he stalked off. Probably off to harass someone else... Jakk shook her head and continued on to the market. Her first goal, she knew, was to get her paws on some money. She had a few bits of jewellery left, but they would be impossible to sell. Riften was the city of thieves; who knew whether the goods were legitimate or not? No, she'd have to find another way to get some gold. And she didn't think there'd be anyone interested in giving her a job...
Then again, this was the city of thieves. Jakkuor figured she might be able to steal some gold off someone. There was bound to be at least one person who wasn't local, who didn't have their coinpurse completely secure. She just had to find them. She leaned against a wall, watching as people passed her by, not even glancing her way. The merchants offering their wares in the square was as good a place to start as ever. Though who would be her first target? The grumpy-looking armour-smith or the Argonian jeweller? Or maybe even the redhead offering a 'wonder elixir'? He looked like he could spare a few coins. Or his entire coinpurse, which hung from his belt by a thread.
Jakkuor walked towards him, trying to look casual. No one else seemed very interested in his elixir, leaving him spouting his spiel to empty air. It was certainly starting to sound interesting, seeing as he'd just mentioned something about sabrecats and making love. Interesting and probably very dangerous, Jakk made a mental note to never touch the potion as long as she was in Riften. She glanced around quickly, deciding it safe enough to make a move, and dropped into a crouch.
She silently moved closer, tail twitching nervously. She held her breath as she approached, reaching out to grab the purse. With a single claw, Jakk cut through the thread holding it to his belt, very carefully holding her prize in both hands. She could barely contain her excitement, she'd actually-
"And what are you doing, lass?" the redhead raised an eyebrow, staring down at her.
"I-I was just... U-Um..." Jakkuor straightened up, fumbling over words. "...Bye?" She turned tail and ran, knocking over a barrel as she went. Cabbages spilled onto the ground, rolling into the path of her victim. She silently thanked her clumsiness before diving through (yes, through) one of the merchant's stalls, narrowly missing the wall on the other side as she fell face-first into a pile of leaves.
Jakk scrambled to her feet, spitting out a leaf as she took off again. She dashed across one of the small bridges, heading towards the orphanage. She figured if she climbed onto its roof, she would lose her pursuer. She increased her pace, slipping the purse between her teeth as she clambered up the wall. She ran a little ways along the roof, glancing over her shoulder. The redhead didn't seem to be following her. Forgetting the coinpurse in her mouth, she let out a breath of relief.
The pouch dropped, rolling along the slant of the roof. Rolling right towards the edge.
"No!" Jakk yelped, practically diving for it. She was too late. The coinpurse fell, into the murky water below. Never to be seen again or, at least, not by Jakkuor. She cursed, straightening up. Looks like I have to try again-
"You outta watch your tongue, lass." The Nord she'd robbed, apparently, was just as good at climbing as she was.
"I-I-!" the Cathay yelped, instinctively backing away, the fact that she was on the edge of a roof over a lake slipping her mind.
The redhead grabbed her by the front of her armour, keeping her from plunging into the water, "And where d'ya think you're going, hm?"
Jakkuor scrambled to get her feet planted firmly back on the roof, but only managed to get the tips of her boots there, "I-I'm sorry, p-please don't hurt me..." She gripped the redhead's arm like it was a lifeline, hands shaking like leaves in the wind.
"There was quite a bit of coin in there, lass," he continued. "I'm afraid I need it paid back now."
"I-I... I haven't g-got any m-money," Jakk stammered, ears flicking back. "I-I'm really s-sorry..."
The Nord loosened his grip ever so slightly, "Maybe I oughta get you to fish it out of the lake, then."
"N-No!" she yelped, nearing tears. "P-Please, I'll do a-anything, just don't drop me!"
Jakk swallowed hard, "A-Anything but go into th-the lake..."
The redhead set her back on the roof gently, a glint in his eye, "Well, that sounds good to me." And that was when Jakkuor realized she might've made a mistake in trying to rob him. "Name's Brynjolf, by the way. and I'm gonna need to know who I'm talking to before we get started." He gave her a pointed look.
Jakkuor chewed on her lip, staring down at her boots for a long moment before pulling back her hood to reveal choppy, dark hair that didn't even reach her shoulders. It was immediately obvious to Brynjolf that this girl had been through some rough times, what with the scars that criss-crossed over her face and the small chunk missing from her ear. His eyes were drawn to hers; unnatural bright orange that stood out against her brown fur and the darker striped markings around her face. She didn't quite meet his gaze, fidgeting nervously.
"So... What d'you need me to do...?" she looked up at him.
"Well, telling me your name would be a good start. Can't call you 'lass' forever now, can I?"
"Ja- J'zuri. I'm J'zuri."
Brynjolf raised an eyebrow, noticing how she'd stumbled over her own words, "And your real name?"
"I-I- That is-"
"Look, lass, I wasn't born yesterday."
"I-is this really necessary...?"
The Cathay closed her eyes, taking a deep breath. If she told him the truth, she might wind up turned in and she couldn't let that happen. But, if she didn't... She ran the risk of being thrown in the canal for real. She hated taking chances like this, but she didn't seem to have any other option.
"I'm Jakkuor," she finally said, fearfully awaiting his reaction.
"Jakkuor, eh? Seems kinda familiar," Brynjolf seemed to weigh the word. Jakk's eyes widened, the fur on the back of her neck lifting. She couldn't stay here, not if he knew… "Have we met before?"
"I... I don't think so..."
"Hm. Yeah, I don't think so either. I'd definitely remember eyes like yours," he winked at her. "Now, shall we get to it?"
"U-Uh, what is it exactly?"
"You paying me back, of course."