As glad as Burkswallow was that he'd managed to catch up to the group, and retrieve his sword in the process, he didn't seem too enthused about the prospect of remaining part of the team whilst inside the Imperial Camp.
His first encounter with these Imperials hadn't been a result of a mutual hatred regarding ogres, like the majority of the group: He'd first met Quintus when attempting to retrieve his sword.
That said, he didn't fully begrudge the gentleman that- As Zaveed had said, Burkswallow was a thief that was quite hypocritically indignant about his property being taken- And Quintus had been kind enough not to impale him on the spot for his accusations of theft.
Still, he wasn't all that fond of the circumstances. And so, when the rest of the group went off further into the camp, Burkswallow diverged onto his own path.
... only to be promptly yanked out of sight, and into a space between two fences.
There were a lot of things that went through Burkswallow's mind at that point, most of them curse words and a few of them blasphemies.
But the thing that echoed through his mind loudest was probably "By the nine, I just cannot catch a break."
It wasn't hard to guess what was happening: Nocturnal was working her magic, and now Burkswallow was going to be beaten to death by an orc in a unitard.
Or torn a new one, ripped asunder by an anthropomorphic mudcrab with a vendetta.
All these things and more flashed before his eyes, a million gruesome possibilities about how the (not very) legendary Burkswallow, (not quite the) thief scourge of Skyrim, met his grizzly and untimely end.
With all this on his mind, it was all the more shocking that what he saw wasn't a pleasant surprise: Somebody he knew.
Bethalda Leatherhide had never been a very punctual woman. Nor a very good thief, for that matter. Celebrities, living legends and royalty: She'd been late to rob them all, and had still never reconsidered her career options.
Burkswallow had known Bethalda for as long as he'd been associated with the thieves guild: And that had been a most unfortunate turn of events, because neither of them liked each other very much at all.
Bethalda was the sort of woman you heard of only in tales of woe, told by unhappily married men in The Bannered Mare on a Morndas night: With a stature that could have made a giant blush.
She stood at roughly seven and a half feet tall, and wore but only the very basics of leather armour: A pair of very unrestrained shorts, and a tight leather tunic, through which any careful eye could still make out the outline of her abs.
Her hair was a messy black, greasy and long- And her face covered with mottled scars, the results of jobs that had gone wrong, and bar fights that begun with glass bottles and ended with coffins.
She was also, apparently, an Imperial: However, her incredibly muscular form, and the fact she probably had more facial hair than Burkswallow himself did (a fact he was semi-ashamed to admit), would have suggested she was literally the most Nordic Nord this side of Skyrim.
Had you said that out loud, however, she most likely would have broke your nose- Just as she had Burkswallow's in the past. Quite a few times.
One thing scarier than when Bethalda was angry, however, was when she was happy instead. But there she stood, her hands firmly on Burkswallow's shoulders, grinning at him with those crooked, rotted teeth of hers.
This was going to be fun, alright.
"Burkswallow! Long time, no headbutt."
In a flash, Bethalda had smashed her cro-magnon skull into Burkswallow's, and sent him sprawling. Then, as he was watching the stars spin around his head, she grabbed him by the collar, and pulled him back to his feet.
"Hey Burkswallow! Still there?"
"Steal her? I don't want to steal her, she's awful..." he murmured dreamily, his head spinning and his eyes undilated.
She gave him a gentle shake, and then struck him across the face, bringing him back to his senses.
"Och, damn it! What the hell was that for?!"
"That's for not saying hello."
"Are you crazy?!"
"What's that, you want more? I always had a hunch you enjoyed a little bit of pain, but-"
Burkswallowed raised his hands defensively, "No more, no more! I yield, damn it."
"Good old Burkswallow! I can always rely on you to back down when a woman's involved," she let go of his collar, and he dusted himself off.
"Wait, you're a woman?"
Bethalda snarled and motioned to headbutt him again, but Burkswallow weaved around her, and planted one foot firmly into her back. Then, he toppled her over, and stood on top of her.
"Oh, how the tables have turned."
"By the nine! Get off of me! You're going to break my back!"
"You're one to talk! You could make a mammoth blush."
"If you get off of me right now, I might reconsider breaking your teeth and making you swallow them."
"I don't like those odds," Burkswallow drew his rapier, "I'd much prefer to ensure I didn't get headbutted again."
There was a long silence, and Bethalda sighed heavily, almost causing the ground to rumble with her efforts, "Fine. Get off'a me and I won't attack you."
Burkswallow grinned, and re-sheathed his sword before jumping off of her back, "I bet you say that to all the boys."
"Only the ones I don't hate. And you."
"So, me and your husband, then?"
"Who said I didn't hate my husband?"
"You're a real compassionate woman, Bethalda. Real compassionate."
"Well, we can't all have your sleazy charms, Burkswallow."
"It's called the gift of the gab, and if you had half an inkling as to how a real thief operates, you'd use it."
"Are you calling me a bad thief?"
"You rob people by holding them at knife point, Bethalda."
"... yeah, alright."
Slowly, Bethalda got to her feet, and clearly considered attacking Burkswallow for a moment, before her shoulders sagged in defeat, and she folded her arms expectantly.
"Okay. What the bloody hell are you doing outside of Skyrim, for one? Spying?"
"The guild hasn't received any updates since you left Anchor. They sent me to make sure you didn't Burk it up."
Burkswallow put a hand to his chest, clearly offended, "Is 'Burking it up' a thing, now?"
"Oh yeah, definitely. If anybody is incompetent lately, we say they Burked it up."
"Incompetent? I'm a damned good thief, tree trunk arms!"
"Well, you did let somebody ransack your entire home for all of it's valuables."
"Yeah, you guys, you guys did that. My friends robbed me blind."
"Wow, that's terrible. You shoulder consider getting new friends."
"Believe me, I'm working on it. Now, what do I have to say to make you go away and leave me alone?"
"Well... what happened? Our informant in the the Imperial City hasn't gotten back to us on you."
"Ah, right. Yeah, he's probably dead."
"Oh, well that's perfectly reason- What?"
"It's a long story involving dwemer and my incredible heroism. The stories Sweeps-Much-Dust would tell you-"
"Sweeps-Much-Dust? The argonian Sweeps-Much-Dust?"
"... well, it's hardly a Nord name-" Burkswallow covered his face protectively, "Imperial! I meant Imperial name!"
"You met Sweeps-Much-Dust? What the hell happened, where is she?"
"Why the hell do you care?"
"She's a wanted argonian, Burkswallow! The guild wants her head on a platter."
"What? Why? Isn't that the Dark Brotherhood's routine?"
Bethalda looked around awkwardly, "It's because of her dad, Steals-The-Nails. He-"
"That is an awful name."
"... He made bad enemies in the guild. He used to be a pretty spectacular thief, but then he tried to steal the crown of Barenziah right out from beneath our noses. We killed him, and his family is marked- Anyone related to him has to die, they could already know where we're hiding, where the crown is."
"Where is she? Did she escape?"
Burkswallow hesitated, and then put on his best face of remorse, "She... died. We tried escaping from a sewer and it collapsed on her. She didn't make it."
Pausing for a moment, Bethalda put her hands on her sides, "That simple huh? Well. I guess you're the man who finished off Nails' line- I'm betting the guild will have something lovely and shiny for you to take home with the rest of your stuff."
"Yeah. Anyway, since we're done with the... pleasantries, will you leave me be?"
Bethalda paused, and then shrugged, "Sure. My carriage is waiting nearby anyway."
"You stole a carriage?"
"What? No. The guild supplied me with it. Why?"
"I got a horse on it's last legs and you got a carriage?"
"Well, of course! They weren't gonna make me walk after sending me over here on that lovely little ship."
"I had to hide in a cargo crate for days, and you got a ship ride?!"
Bethalda blinked, "Wow. We really screwed you, didn't we?"
"Get outta here! Out, shoo!"
Burkswallow made a shooing gesture, and managed to get Bethalda out of their little gap between the tents. Then, he slumped against one of them with his arms crossed, and murmured bitterly to himself.
"When I get back to Skyrim I'm going to burn her house to the ground."
The tent he was leaning on let out a groan, and so Burkswallow instantly straightened up, only to have a cleverly stashed purse of septims fall from the tent's roof, and hit him in the head.
He winced, "Damn it, Nocturnal!"
Grumbling, he looked down, before beaming and picking the purse up. He weighed it in his hands, and then threw a thumbs up to the sky, "Oh hey, you're cutting me some slack! I knew you weren't all bad..."
Slowly, he opened the purse- and then tossed it to the side just as quickly, as a dying slaughterfish slipped out, and bounced around, heaving it's last breaths and snapping violently at the closest thing it saw- In this case, a tent pole.
Burkswallow grunted, and winced as he climbed out of the little gap and back into the camp, "Who would even keep one of those?"