Picked up Raven, a pretty blades archer (because she had their armor) near Windhelm to clear the nearby lowlands and she was put to work early with a blood dragon and a Shadow Nightingale coming out of nowhere to attack us! The Nightingale was damned tough and when we finally killed her she vanished into a puff of black smoke. I'm beginning to think the thieves guild is on to me if they're sending assassins now, so I went directly to them while playing "dumb" to see if anything was amiss and sure enough there were strange things afoot. Brynjolf was too busy to talk to me, Delvin began talking about a contract at Solitude mentioning the name "Erikur" as the contact but the quest never generated, nor did he ever speak of it again, and the task I did get was to chase a khajit caravan far away. Sure felt like they didn't want me around.
I let it slide for now and decided to clear out another cave full of conjurers I stumbled across. Seemed like the whole conclave came at us at once, and a master wizard zapped Raven to death in the battle. Decided to pick up my Windhelm housecarl Calder who was getting bored of sitting at home and growing his enormous sideburns. First stop was a dwemer ruin high in the Eastern mountains. The initial, empty hall turned out to be an elaborate pit trap that nearly killed Calder in the fall. Couldn't help but wonder if the nightingales were behind it as we fought our way out of the falmer infested caves back up.
Hoofed it across the map and finally cought up with the khajit caravan I was tasked to deliver drugs to. Seems that for a small amount of catnip these furry traders were willing to smuggle stuff for the guild, and not just this caravan - all of them! Damnit, I like the khajits - but criminals do not deserve jail; they deserve death. And that is exactly what I gave him and his friends.
Obey or die.
After fighting a giant we stopped by Morthal since I was in the area and the entire guard contigent decided to fight me for killing their previous leader. Idiots. The ancient dragon that showed up midway through actually helped me out quite a bit. When the streets were littered with the dead and dragon bones we pushed on to Solitude where I found out from Njada and Jordis that "Erikur" was a thane of the local court. They had also been doing research on a bunch of stones Vex was looking for and gave me a list of where I could possibly find them. The only catch was I had most of them already (missing only 4) and I had forgotten where I got them.
This meant I simply had to visit each and every spot on the list, the first being the Blue Palace itself, so we marched straight back in there and slaughtered this Erikur person. No upstanding citizen would contact the thieves guild anyway, and the guy was a bit of a douche. Nice to see all the dead bodies still in the basement where I left them too - but the stone here was already gone (in my pack). More disturbing, Jarl Bossman who was one of the survivors from my previous rampage here, was nowhere to be found.