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Shadow Keep You

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Looking back on this, Karliah would remember this day in all its glorious details.


The act itself was spontaneous. Her and Gallus had been together for quite some time already, keeping their relationship a secret from the rest of the Guild, from Mercer. Not for any reason in particular, just that it wasn’t anyone’s business. And being two thieves - and Nightingales besides - it wasn’t too hard to sneak off together. For years now, since the beginning of their relationship, everything about it and them had been shrouded in secrecy. It seemed only appropriate, after all.


So when, one night, after one of their many trysts, it came as a surprise when Gallus looked over at her and asked, “Karliah, would you marry me?”


One of her slender eyebrows raised, she asked, “Why do you ask?”


Turning toward her, she felt his fingers ghost over her cheek as he said, “I don’t know, really, I just … I want us to be tied together in every possible way.”


She chuckled. “You don’t trust in Nocturnal’s binds?”


Shaking his head, he replied, “It’s not that.” He sighed as he rolled onto his back once more. “Never mind.”


Shuffling close to him, she turned his head so he was looking at her once more as she purred, “If this would make you happy, beloved, then I will be your bride.”


The smile that spread across his face was all the confirmation she’d needed to know she’d made the right decision. She never regretted it, not for a moment.


They still told no one of their plans, wanting to keep their secret all their own. It was like a precious rare gem, something special between the two of them, something that only they had. As a result, they had to be very careful about how they went about this. In Skyrim, marriages were performed by a priest of Mara, and while there was one in Riften, it was a little too close to the Guild for comfort. Too many eyes, too many chances of getting caught. Though there was no consequences for their relationship, they still preferred things the way they were, and doing this in Riften practically guaranteed them being seen. The only solution, then, was to go to Solitude and have it performed at the Temple of the Divines. That involved a little more finagling on their part, needing to excuse both of their absences at the same time, but they managed it as only two Nightingales could.


Karliah arrived in Solitude early, just as the sun was beginning to crest over the horizon. She tipped the carriage driver well and walked into the city, her pack in hand. Renting a room at the local inn, she was able to go ahead and prepare. Not that there was much she needed to prepare for. Despite the venue, their ceremony was going to be low-key, the better to not draw potential attention toward them. Gallus had already been in contact with the priest, all of the arrangements had been taken care of. They just needed to show up. And so Karliah unwrapped the luxurious dress, her fingers sliding over the silk and velvet that adorned it. She wasn’t normally one to submit to such luxury - and she would likely sell it for the gold after the ceremony - but coming in dressed in normal street clothes would potentially cause more questions by the priests and priestesses. Questions that could turn into rumours. Rumours that could get back to our Guild. No, it was best to be inconspicuous as possible. And as much as she loved the idea of getting married while wearing their Nightingale regalia, it seemed somehow blasphemous to wear the gift of a Daedric Prince while being bonded in matrimony by one of the Aedra. And if Gallus wanted this, then Karliah would go all out.


After bathing, she combed out her hair and set it in braids to dry as she pulled on the dress, taking the time to appreciate the feel of the rich material against her skin. She had nicked it from a noblewoman in Windhelm, one who was of a similar enough height and build so that she didn’t have to have it adjusted and tailored. The layers were light and the skirt portion swirled around her legs in a way that she was utterly unfamiliar with, but that spoke to her on some deep level. It was out of the norm for her, sure. But it was still nice. The dark, rich red offset her blue skin perfectly, contrasting in a beautiful way that she knew Gallus would appreciate. And, while she might not admit it out loud, she did as well. For years, ever since she was a child, she was never one of those girls who fantasised about her wedding or getting married. It just wasn’t something that interested her. And if anyone else had asked her, Karliah would have soundly refused. But Gallus … there was just something unique about him, something that made her realise that she didn’t mind being bound to someone after all … it just had to be the right person.


Gallus arrived in Solitude in the late afternoon, slipping into her room and wrapping his arms around her from behind. Karliah was one of the few people he could never sneak up on no matter how he did it, but she allowed him to all the same. His lips ghosted over the shell of her elongated ear as he murmured, “You look beautiful.”


She chuckled. “Well, I figured if I was getting married, I might as well do it properly.”


He beamed at her. “Just give me time to bathe and dress, then we’ll head over to the Temple.”


Karliah nodded, putting in the order for the bath before undoing the braids and letting loose the waves in her hair that had developed as it dried. She fluffed it and combed through it as Gallus bathed and dressed in the velvet and silk clothes that he had procured all his own. He told her he’d “found” them in a nobleman’s house in Whiterun, similar to her own dress, and they laughed as they wondered how long it would take the original owners to even realise they were missing. Karliah figured her dress would likely be missed before Gallus’ clothes, but they both reckoned that with the lack of holidays and special events coming up, they likely wouldn’t even realise it until after they had both been fenced.


They met with the priest in the Temple of the Divines at twilight, smiling at each other as they both understood the significance. As they held hands and said their vows and exchanged the rings, they could almost feel their souls intertwining with each other’s. Before Gallus, the prospect of being so connected to someone, mind, body, spirit, was terrifying. But she felt nothing but peace and happiness. After the priest finally pronounced them legally married, Gallus swept her into a kiss that took her breath away, his eyes shining and sparkling in excitement, echoing the similar sentiment felt by Karliah.


Celebrations after the ceremony were minimal. They didn’t want to attract attention, obviously, bu they did indulge in some quality food and drink at The Winking Skeever, and upon hearing about their new marriage, the innkeeper even bestowed them with a special dessert, free of charge, and a few other patrons bought them drinks before they finally retired for the night, enjoying each other in holy matrimony in every sense of the word.


The next morning, they both woke slowly, entangled in each other, the happiness from last night still thrumming through them. They spent a couple of hours simply enjoying each other before they even rose, kissing and caressing and expressing their love for each other. Karliah didn’t think she could ever be happier than she was in that moment, and nobody could take that away. That morning was a memory that she would always hold dear, something that she would hold onto in darker times.


As the day fully developed, Gallus stared at her sadly. “I’m afraid I have to leave soon.”


Karliah was not thrilled. “Why?”


He sighed. “Mercer wants me to meet him in Snow Veil Sanctum.”


“Snow Veil Sanctum? Whatever for?”


“He didn’t say, only that it was urgent Guild business.”


Her eyebrows furrowed. “I don’t like the sound of that.”


“Truth be told, neither do I. You know how suspicious he’s been acting …”


She laid a hand on his shoulder. “Then don’t go. Don’t fall for this trap.”


“I have to go. I’m Guildmaster, and if I don’t go then he’ll know I’m onto him.”


“He might know already. Remember?”


Gallus nodded, biting his lip. “I know.”


“And you’re still going to go?”


He nodded, leaning over to brush his lips against hers. “I have a feeling I’m not going to get another chance for a private confrontation.”


She sighed. “Do what you must, then. Just be careful.”


“I will, I promise.”


Karliah stayed in bed as he readied for the journey, watching him move, appreciating the fine lines of his body. As he leaned over to bid her goodbye, she pulled him into a longer, lingering kiss. “Shadow keep you.”


He smiled gently as he returned the sentiment, “And you as well, until I return.”


And then he was gone. If only Karliah had known what awaited him, perhaps she would have insisted she accompany him, perhaps she would have gone against his wishes and followed him. There were so many things she could have done that she didn’t, and she would regret each one until the day she died. But marrying Gallus? Officially? Legally? That was not one of them.