A bright sun shone through a deep blue sky on an idyllic, Cyrodilic stretch of country road. Shafts of light trickled through the trees onto vivid seas of multi-colored flowers, casting a dreamy glow on the scene as insects chirped and butterflies fluttered past. Birds were softly singing, grass was swaying in the breeze, and mudcrabs were keeping to themselves far away from the worthwhile species of the world. All in all, it was a peaceful scene on a perfect day.
And then the flowers gave a muted “splat” as they were pelted with what looked like the fragmented remains of an eyeball.
“Have you ever considered using a less...messy weapon?” asked Martin as he gingerly stepped around the pooling blood of the seventh wolf corpse today.
“Nah” said Shush as he wrenched his hammer outta de chest cavity an shook off de matted, sticky red fur. “Shush could never figure out how ta work one a dose slicey flat bladey tings.”
“They’re really not hard to understand.”
Shush shrugged. “Shush always wanted to use de smashy weapons, on account of dem bein a real orcy ting ta do. Den Shush got all gud wit dem from lotsa practice. Sides, dere isn’t no reason to switch ta blades, is dere?”
“Well they tend to be less, ah, explosive than hammers” Martin murmured, rubbin de back of his neck. “At least hammers you use...”
Shush and Martin walked without speakin for a bit, but den Shush remembered a ting he was s’posed to be doing. Shush started jumpin up an down along de path next ta Martin. Martin slowed down an looked at Shush.
“Um...” Martin said.
Shush kept jumping.
“Yeh?” Shush kept jumping, an Martin jogged over ta keep up.
“Are you...why are you jumping over and over?”
“Oh dat. Well, Shush had a thought dat he remembered, which was dat Shush needed ta get better at jumpin. So now Shush is practicin dat.”
“You’re trying to get better at jumping by hopping up and down repeatedly? Wouldn’t it be better to visit an acrobatics instructor?”
Or as they’re colloquially known: Medieval parkour experts.
“Nah, dis is how Shush gets better at all de tings! When Shush was gettin better at sneakin he tried to move around without people findin him for a few days. An when Shush wanted to get better at not gettin hurt by stuff he found a weak wolf an let him bite him over an over until it was dark. Dat one was real smart cause Shush could practice gettin better at healin himself at de same time!”
Martin was yawnin in place again. “I’m not sure what question to ask first...how long did you say you were fighting that wolf?”
“Well it weren’t really a fight, Shush just walked around collectin plants while it bit him. Shush dunno how long it were, like however much times it is between lunch an when it gets all dark out.”
“How on Mundus could you deal with that for so long? Don’t you ever get tired?!”
“Nope!” said Shush. “Well, not much at least. Shush got dis condition wit his brain place. De doctors used a buncha fancy words Shush didn’t understand about it an den gave up figurin it out. Prob’bly cause Shush kept tryin ta bite em. Shush were a great biter when he was small. So yah, Shush don’t need sleep except for every couple weeks or somethin. Shush doesn’t actually know how long he can go without it. But it means Shush can spend lots more time trainin stuff! So when Shush wants to get better at tings, he just does dem over an over until he gets ta be de bestest at dem!”
Martin went quiet den, an de only sound for a bit was Shush’s clanky clothes jingling as he jumped. Eventually, Martin shook his head an looked back at Shush.
“The stupidest part about what you just explained,” said Martin, “was that it made perfect sense.”
“Did you hear that?!” said Martin.
“Yeh” said Shush, distracted on account of tryin to pull out de flower-y part of a flower. “Sounds like de people at Way-none Prairie are havin fun.”
“That’s Weynon Priory?! We have to hurry!”
“Okey but hang on until I can get this-“
“QUIT picking flowers and let’s go!”
When Shush an Martin ran over to de buildin a dark elf ran up from de other direction. Dere were a buncha screamy noises comin from his mouth, which he didn’t close de whole way up de path.
“Help! You must help! They’re killing everyone at the Priory!” said de dark elf.
“Oh dat’s bad! Even Joffers?”
“J-Jauffre? I don’t know. He was in the chapel praying. I-I need to get out of here. Prior Maborel is dead! I think they’re right behind me!”
“Oh don’t worry, dark elf guy! Shush is real gud at smashin tings. Just stick around an Shush is sure to protect-“
“Help with wot? Oh.”
“Dere ya go! Shoulda told me about dat sooner Marty.”
“I DID tell you.”
“Well next time say somethin so I can tell ‘simportant. Like, uh, ‘Shush, Bad guys and stuff!’”
Martin frowned but ran ahead to de tiny church anyway. Shush followed after him. As de door opened Shush saw Joffers surrounded by a few guys wit does weird scrunched-up metal faces. Dey all turned to de door when it opened an Joffers yelled out.
“Don’t worry about me! I’ll hold them off, get out of here! Save yourse-“
*CRACKEK* *PCHUNK* *DOING* *THUMP*
“Oh. Um...that works too.”
Joffers slid de corpses outta de way wit his foot an cleared his throat.
“Thank you. We need to get back to the Priory building, quickly!”
So den we ran across from de tiny church into de bigger buildin. Joffers ran up de stairs into a room wot was behind a bookshelf. De guys had left de door to de room open, which was real polite of dem.
“No, no it can’t be!” said Joffers, lookin all around de room an throwin stuff out of his way. “They’ve taken it. They’ve taken the amulet! I’ve failed! All hope is lost!”
Joffers fell onto a chair an put his head in his hands. Shush walked up to him.
“Soooo, Shush found dat guy you asked him ta find.”
“What?” said Joffers, raisin his head. “You found the heir?”
Martin stepped forward, clearin his throat an holdin out his hand. “Hello there. My name is Martin.”
“Talos be praised! So things have not all gone against us. Greetings, Martin!” Joffers stood up an shook Martin’s hand all firm-like. “When it took so long for Shush to return I had almost given up hope. I can only assume you were delayed by our foes.”
“Yah dat one” said Shush, noddin over an over. “Dat is definitely de only reason it took so long. Demons an stuff. Yup.”
“Well we can’t stay here long” said Joffers as he started walkin downstairs. “The enemy will be back as soon as they find that Martin is alive. We’ll need someplace safe to stall for time. I must ask that you accompany me to Cloud Ruler Temple. It’s the hidden fortress of the Blades, in the mountains near Bruma. A few men can hold it against an army.”
“Oh boy! Shush gets ta go on another road trip!”
“Well, considering the alternative is getting captured and ripped apart by crazed cultists...” Martin looked over at Shush an sighed. “Lesser of two evils” he said all quiet to himself.
De ride to de cloudy place was mostly de same as de last road trip, except for dat Joffers was wit us an we was on horses. Shush’s didn’t like him ridin wit all his clanky clothes on, but Shush just shouted words of encouragement at its face until it started goin faster. Joffers an Martin didn’t want to talk much on de ride. Shush thinked dat dey meybe needed more of dat sleep ting dat all dose other people liked. Dey still talked when Shush got off his horse to pick flowers doe. Dey talked real loud for dat.
It’s been a while since I’ve stepped in to have a chat. Let’s talk about horses, shall we? There are only two occasions in the game where I’ve bothered to use horses. One is during this quest, where you get a free one to ride along with Martin and Jauffre. The other occasion was stealing one as a getaway vehicle from the guards. It was dumped a matter of seconds after I was clear of actively being shot at. Do you know why?
Because horses in Oblivion SUCK.
So majestic. So magnificent. So marvelously useless.
To get a horse, normally you have to pay for it. Then you walk up to it and perform a sloooow animation of getting on its back. You can then pilot these equine transports with all the subtle grace and beauty of a shopping cart with donuts for wheels. Every time you get off the horse, you perform a slow animation stepping off it. This wouldn’t be such a big deal, but here is a comprehensive list of all the things you can do in Oblivion while riding a horse:
1. Move, so long as its outdoors, the incline isn’t too steep, and you don’t need to jump.
2. Get off of a horse.
You can’t pick plants while riding a horse. In fact you can’t loot any items at all. You can’t move your camera all the way around on a horse. You can’t enter towns while on a horse. You can’t enter dungeons on a horse. You can’t attack enemies while on a horse. This is an especially annoying issue, since random enemies will attack you riding the roads of Cyrodil approximately once every thirty seconds. I sincerely don’t know if that’s exaggerating, it sounds about right to me. Having to constantly stop along your travels before doing anything really breaks the flow of the experience. On top of all that, your horse can die! The likelihood of this is increased by the fact that no one wants to stop for every wolf and bandit you pass, since dismounting is such a hassle. So you just let them take a chunk out of your noble steed as you speed by, hoping that this isn’t the time Epona collapses underneath you for good.
And the benefit for all this bother? Completely negligible! Remember this is a game with an extremely generous fast travel system. So long as you’re outdoors you can instantly teleport to any location in the world you’ve visited before, at absolutely no cost. The game even lets you teleport to any major city from the get-go. At best, a horse will occasionally save you a couple minutes of walking, while at the same time costing you money, stopping you from gathering ingredients, restricting your movement, making fights frustrating, and generally being a nuisance.
And then there’s this...
There was a somewhat infamous debacle back in the day where Oblivion tried to sell people horse armor for real money. Downloadable content was fairly new at the time and people were insulted that they were asked to pay actual cash for such a small thing. But I don’t think that’s the main reason this deal was silly. I don’t think it was because it was a small, paltry visual addition. I don’t think it was because it offered no gameplay advantages beyond a slight health boost. I don’t think it was because people were worried about pay-to-win situations. Those were certainly factors, but the real reason this was mocked: Because it was about horses. And anyone who pays real money to increase the time they spend riding Oblivion horses has weighed the pros and cons as well as a one-armed scale buried in bricks of lead.
“Must you stop so often? We could have pursuers right behind us, Shush!”
“Just a sec Joffers, deres a lotta pretty flowers by dis bandit corpse.”
Martin didn’t even yell at Shush dis time, he was just starin out down de mountain towards de city. It was real easy ta see from here, wit de big pointy tower an everyting.
You aren’t often high up enough to see the city from this angle. I think the city is disappointingly small, repetitive in architecture, and stuck in the middle of generic fantasy landscape. But even saying that, it DOES look pretty nice.
“The Imperial City...” said Martin, leanin forward on his horse. “I’ve only passed through a couple times, always overwhelmed by it. It looks so small from here.” He turned to Jauffre. “Is it true? Am I really...Emperor, of all this?”
Joffers nodded. “I understand if it’ll take some time to accept. But I was there when the Uriel Septim delivered you to be sent away. When we have some time at Cloud Ruler Temple, I can tell you anything you want about it.”
“I’d like that” said Martin.
De wind shook some leaves from de trees as Shush was wrenchin de last of some tangled vines offa a rock. Shush turned back to de others. Joffers was starin at Martin an Martin was starin out at de city.
“All done!” said Shush.
Shush an his friends kept ridin. De road kept gettin rockier, de air kept gettin colder, an de path kept gettin steeper. Dere were less plants on de ground for Shush to pick, just snow. Shush didn’t know if snow was a gud ingredient for alchemocley. It prob’bly wasn’t doe, so Shush didn’t bother gatherin stuff. Joffers an Martin seemed to yell at Shush less durin dis part of de trip. Shush wasn’t sure why. Eventually dere was a big stone city up de path.
“Hey” said Shush. “‘sdat Broom-ha?”
“That’s Bruma, yes” said Martin.
“So Shush was thiiiinkin dat meybe he could just-“
“Absolutely not. We’re not stopping this time.”
After just a bit more ridin our horsies we got to da cloudy place. It was big.
Cloud Ruler Temple, in all its secretive glory.
As a quick aside, that line about this being the “hidden fortress” of the Blades is ripped straight from the game. We are actively trying to hide from a near omniscient lord of demons here. Yet it doesn’t look particularly hidden, does it? This is a massive stone citadel placed on the top of a large hill. It’s less than a minute walk to a highly populated city. This place sticks out more than a linebacker at an anime convention. I’d expect a hidden fortress to be on the other end of a cave, or at least in a valley. But no, it’s just sitting there. They didn’t even put out the giant fires in the courtyard.
Also, they’re trying to hide the Emperor in the biggest fortress of the Blades. Y’know, the organization that exists solely to guard the Emperor. If anything, I’m disappointed in our cultist buddies for taking so long to figure out we’re here.
De gates opened when Shush got close, an a guard guy ran up to Joffers. Dey took our horses an led us inside. Shush looked around while dey were talkin. De stairs went real high, but not so high dat it would make Shush go splat. So Shush decided to practice jumpin by throwin himself down dem a few times. Some of de guards looked at Shush funny, prob’bly cause dey hadn’t thought of wot a gud workout it was until now. Martin was lookin up at de sky as he passed Shush on de stairs.
A buncha guard people came out of de buildin to say hello. Joffers introduced Martin an asked if he wanted to say anything. After thinkin for a second, Martin started talkin.
“Jauffre. All of you. I know you all expect me to be Emperor. I’ll do my best. But this is all...”
Shush got bored at dat point so he wandered over to de wall ta look over de side. It seemed like a super long way down.
Shush leaned over de wall an spit a big loogie offa it. Shush listened real close, an in a second he heard a soft “pat”. So dat was pretty tall den. Shush were about to spit a second one ta make sure when he heard shoutin behind him.
“ALL HAIL MARTIN SEPTIM! ALL HAIL THE EMPEROR!”
“All hail synchronized cheering classes!”
Fun fact: A bunch of guards shout this at once. Well, less shout and more “speak slightly louder than usual with a stilted lack of enthusiasm”. The worst part? At least one of these NPCs has the same voice actor. You can hear the voice in a weird echo.
Shush figured de shoutin meant dat de speech was over, so he wandered back. De guards were leavin, but Joffers and Martin were still dere talkin. Dey turned when Shush walked up.
“So what does Shush hafta do now?”
“Have to? Well, you don’t have to do anything now, Shush” said Joffers. “You’ve certainly proven your worth. If you want to help our cause, I have another mission you can assist. But if you wish to leave, you can. You can even stay here, if you want.”
Martin musta bit his tongue or sometin, because he inhaled between his teeth real sharp.
“Pardon me, Jauffre,” he said, “but would this mission happen to involve...smashing cultists?”
Jauffre nodded. “Almost certainly.”