Having been the primary smuggler for the Wycome thieves’ guild for two years, Lywc enjoyed a bit of prosperity even under such illegitimate means. She was good at it, even if she didn’t always enjoy it, but still managed to take some pride in her abilities and skills. It was a means to an end, and she could push down the mild moral upset she had more easily over time. The guild was good to her, Iona stepping in to fill a parent-like role that she’d never had in her life, and she hadn’t lived in squalor for nearly a decade. Life was good, even a little predictable.

       Life, such as it was, never stayed too predictable for long.

       When she wasn’t running a smuggling route or helping train newer initiates, Lywc sometimes liked to sit near the main square of Wycome’s bustling market and people watch. It always amused her to see how they interacted with one another, and she felt she learned much from her observations, just as she used to follow and watch the wild horses when she was younger. One day, she was idly working on repairing a tunic that had caught the ragged edge of a crate and torn a few days prior, but her eyes were mostly on the people. She worked slowly, enjoying the steadiness of the needle and thread, when a familiar man caught her eye. Unable to immediately place him, she stared until it dawned on her why his features were familiar–it was Bryn, the boy of the alchemist she learned from as a child and had fallen in love with, all grown up.

       Immediately, she went to him, surprised and delighted and curious why he wasn’t wearing a Templar uniform. When she asked if he was off duty–was there an off duty for Templars?–he told her he wasn’t with the Order; it turned out not to be a good fit, so he left. Crestfallen for him, knowing it had been a dream of his for so long and something he’d worked so hard toward, she pressed gently as to how it wasn’t a good fit. He didn’t answer her at first, looking pained, but then eventually met her gaze and told her they they required he take a vow of celibacy, to never marry, and he still wanted to keep his promise to her. She meant more to him, he told her, than his desire to be Templar. So he’d actually been looking for her–he heard she’d left for Wycome after he went to start his training, and so with that as his only lead, he figured he’d start there.

       She was moved by this–a life with her meant more to him than his own dream as a Templar? He still thought of her as she did him even after ten years? It seemed like a fairy story come to life, and Lywc was ecstatic to accept him back into hers.

       Bryn hadn’t been in Wycome long, so he had little to move from his room at an inn to her apartment, and awkwardly suggested the idea of opening an alchemy shop together. She was hesitant–she knew well the few in the city that she supplied by way of the guild’s networking, and knew how easy it was to fall into black market dealings, but… She knew that world, too, and had been moving through the black market for years now. With her subtle guidance, she was certain she’d be able to steer Bryn clear of the underworld–and of encroaching upon any territory already occupied by the existing alchemists. She could help make it work–no, she would make it work. They both had more than enough knowledge between them from the years spent under his mother’s tutelage, bolstered by the considerable amount more she’d acquired with the guild.

       To Iona’s great disappointment, Lywc left the guild to pursue that. It wasn’t the most amicable of departures, but it wasn’t solely on sour terms, either. After she left, Lywc did some of her own networking to get in touch with the more legitimate supply chains than she’d dealt with previously to help them get started. They needed certain reagents and component bases to begin the foundation for making more complex compounds, and she wanted to do better than she’d been doing, legally, from the beginning. It wasn’t long after Lywc started this process that Bryn told her he had some contacts he found through the bit of Templar training he’d completed that would be able to provide them with superior quality ingredients, but he was worried that she wouldn’t agree because they were, well, slightly below board.

       It took some time, but Bryn eventually convinced Lywc to trust him and ignore her reservations. To ease her mind, he suggested she be the one to deal with his suppliers, so that she might see for herself that they were not putting themselves are unnecessary risk. Lywc agreed to this, and stepped in to transport supplies for Bryn’s endeavor just as she had with the guild, though that operation had been on a much larger scale.

       After the first several transactions went completely smoothly and everything that should have been there was, Lywc relaxed quite a bit and felt guilty for not trusting him more. This was Bryn, her childhood friend and sweetheart, now back in her life because he still cared so much he’d sacrifice his dream to build a life wth her. How could she have mistrusted him? Perhaps she’d just grown too used to being paranoid from her years in the guild–yes, that was it. This would be a good change for her, she just knew it.

       Months went by without a hitch. Bryn relied on her entirely to transport shipments in and out as he worked tirelessly to build up their stores. When she asked him one day if they should start looking to buy a store front and invest in the permits and everything else that went along with owning a shop, he told her that he wasn’t ready yet. They needed to build up enough stock, he said. But he’d been working night and day for months, she protested–long after she’d go to bed, he was still up, working. And wouldn’t let her help. He gathered her into his arms and told her she did so much already getting them supplies, how could he ask her to do more? Reluctantly, she conceded to him, and pushed back down her rising misgivings again for the time being.

       She wasn’t able to continue to do so for long.

       The seeds of doubt nestled too firmly in her mind, and more it more it felt to her like he just wanted her to run transport–to smuggle for him. Her instincts told her something wasn’t right, that there was something not right with the shipments, but time and again she ignored them. She had to trust him; he was her Bryn. She had to trust that he knew what he was doing, and what he was doing was for them.

       One day, six months in, Bryn came to her and told her he needed to handle a delicate shipment personally, that he would be traveling to take a particularly finicky batch of reagents to their destination. Despite him never making any drops before–with any kind of finished or unfinished concoctions, both volatile and not–Lywc didn’t argue, didn’t stop him. Despite warnings going off in her head louder than ever before.

       After he left, Lywc found herself at a loss of things to do with herself for the first time in a while, and so poked about in the workroom Bryn used. It’d been some time since she last worked on anything alchemical, with Bryn doing all that for them, and she didn’t want her skills to grow too rusty. Even though she wasn’t doing anything wrong, it still niggled at her that she felt like she was snooping into his business. Shaking her head at herself, she pushed those guilty feelings aside–it was theirbusiness, wasn’t it? That included her; she had every right to be here and blend as much as he did.

       Soon, she fell back into the joy she knew in creating potions and extracts and tinctures, and barely noticed the ours of the day slip by. When the candleclock she’s lit finally popped with eleven short bursts, marking the late hour that had come upon her, only then did she set down her tools and clean the space she had been working on. Pleased that her skills had not become rusty even with as little as she’d used them the last several months, Lywc retired to the bedroom feeling more satisfied than she had for a long while.

       So distracted was she in her contentment that she didn’t noticed there was someone else in the room with her until they purposefully shifted, making the boards of the floor creak softly beneath them, alerting her of their presence.

       Whirling in surprise, she grew even more so upon finding it was one of the guild’s men–a man named Theo whom she had dallied with for a short while over the last few years before Bryn’s reappearance in her life. Upon her demand of what he was doing there, he told her that Bryn is creating supply for black market alchemy–primarily lyrium draughts. He told her for her sake, for the sake of old times between them, she needs to un-involve herself if she wanted to stay safe. Or convince him to start a legitimate operation, as what he’s been doing has been rubbing the already established black market alchemists and suppliers very much the wrong way, and they were starting to plan retaliations. He tried to tell her that Iona isn’t coming after her right away for their past friendship, but all she heard was black market.

       Bryn couldn’t be part of the black market–she’d worked in that world for years, and in this very city. She’d recognize the signs, the people; she would know. He couldn’t be part of it. Theo looked at her like she’d just told him she was the Queen of Rivain and flat out asked her who she thought all those dwarves she got Bryn’s supply caches from were–part of the Carta. Just because she didn’t recognize them didn’t make it any less true, he insisted.

       He leaves her still trying to deny that her Bryn would have a hand in any such thing, that he would lie outright and so often to her, and trying to reconcile everything in her mind keeps her from sleep the rest of the night.