Last time on Oblivion Adventures, our morally murky mercenary marksman tried to get a leg up on the competition. It didn’t go so well. Now, a mere, er…eight months later, the story continues…
The Waterfront District of the Imperial City leaked in more ways than one. Beyond the solid stone walls of the district proper, buildings oozed out towards the shore like urban sludge. It wasn’t the only way this shantytown resembled sludge. The living arrangements were only homes by technicality, local vernacular was 90% beatings, and its citizens bathed about as much as they paid rent. But for some unfathomable reason, this wretched hive of scum and villainy had a fairly nice little garden squirreled away between a few of its hovels.
Note I’m using some artistic license here. The GAME calls it a garden. I call it a hilariously tiny backyard without a single god damn plant in it.
It was here that a hooded figure loitered, propped up against the city wall. S’razirr was no stranger to waiting. Epic tales of heroes and vagabonds painted a picture of smooth, continuous action. Non-stop adventures of rescues and battles, close calls and suspense, hedonism and danger. The Khajiit snorted. Even as a child he’d known it was a load of imp’s gall. But exactly how much hadn’t hit him until his first time on all night watch duty in the bowels of a musty tomb. Eventually the boredom gets so oppressive even the threat of hungry undead monstrosities can’t keep you on edge. No, the vast majority of adventuring was dull as mud. It had to be. There were only so many things to kill or be killed by. And even if you knew exactly where and when to find them, everyone needed to sleep.
“Good lord man, when do you sleep?!”
Shush poked his head out from behind de pile a clanky clothes and slashy things. “Sorry, wot were dat? Shush are busy countin up whicha dese rings are magical, and which are super magical.” Shush scrunched up his face in concentration and poked around de pile again. “Hey, wot number come after four?”
De dark elfy guy, Shush think his name were Very More Veins or somethin, looked up from de pile. “I asked if you ever sleep, Shush. This is the third time this week you’ve come in with a veritable mountain of priceless relics!”
“Oh yah, Shush slept a ton dis week. A whole 3 hours!” Very More Veins made a chokin noise when Shush said dat, but Shush kept goin. “So does you got any idea how many shiny coins dis pile are worth yet?”
“Approximately? An incredible amount” said Very More Veins, rubbin his fingers on his head. “Just like the last two times. And unlike the second time, you can’t buy damn near everything in my store to barter. I’m tapped for every last gold piece. You’ll have to sell this elsewhere.”
“Awwww” said Shush. “But you live right across from my house n stuff!”
“I’m aware. And it’s not that I don’t appreciate your business. If I can actually manage to resale the last two batches it’ll single-handedly fund my retirement. But I don’t have an infinite well of gold in my back room. You’ll have to sell somewhere else, end of story.”
There’s actually a bit of artistic license here. Elder Scrolls games have shop keepers with limited amounts of gold they can pay for sold items. In the early game, this isn’t really an issue anywhere except bars. Those have limits around 50 gold (or septims or whatever), but most shops have a cap somewhere between 600 and 1200. In other entries, shops have a set amount of gold to sell that replenishes every few days. They also gain gold when you buy things from them.
You may recognize this as a system both logical and realistic, so of course Oblivion did things differently. In this game shop keepers DO have infinite gold, but can only buy items for less than their gold cap. This lack of bartering means that you’re discouraged from ever buying anything. It also means high level gear is comparatively worthless, as you’ll never find anyone rich enough to pay full price for it. The previous game Morrowind had normal bartering, where you could increase a shop keeper’s gold by buying things. The next game Skyrim ALSO had normal bartering. So this is just another Oblivion system that’s completely unique in its terribleness. Yaaay.
“Alright, so let me reach into my infinite gold vault for the 23rd time today…wait, you said this ring was worth 1000 gold, right?”
“WHAT WELL THAT’S JUST RIDICULOUS I CAN’T POSSIBLY PAY FOR THAT!”
“Alright fine, just take these two rings worth 900 gold each.”
“Pleasure doing business with you!”
Shush grumbled. “Oh fine. See ya later, dark elfy smith!”
As the Orc left the building, balancing a pile of swords and skulls, Veral Morvayn sighed. He leaned back in his chair and looked out the window at the rising moon. He had heard of Shush some days before the Orc barged into his shop. Everyone in Anvil had, by that point. Even if he hadn’t solved several odd problems around town as violently as possible, his exploits in Kvatch were big. It wasn’t every day that the town down the road burned to a crisp. It was a chillingly brutal attack by a force as mysterious as it was powerful, and yet apparently this one person cleared the whole place out.
Morvayn hadn’t believed it then. But now? He twirled one of the seven enchanted daggers he’d received on Shush’s last visit. There was a lot he didn’t know, but one thing was for certain: That Orc was something else.
Looking out at the reflection of the rising moon in the water, S’razirr thought back to his leg. It wasn’t something he wished to linger on, but he didn’t have much choice. Even now it twinged periodically, paced with enough irregularity that he could never get used to it. S’razirr supposed this was bound to happen eventually, given the type of work he frequented. Really, he was lucky to be alive at all. That Orc was something else.
He’d never expected to see him again. And yet there he was less than a week later, in the very cave S’razirr’s crippled ass had been dragged into. The Khajiit was doubtful that fate was a real force in Mundus. He found it preferable to believe it didn’t exist, because if it did it was a massive asshole. But if he had ever seen evidence towards fate existing, this was it.
Lost in thought, he pulled an arrow from his quiver and absentmindedly rolled it between his fingers. A silver lining to seeing that hideous orange tornado in action again was assurance that S’razirr’s case was not unusual. His professional pride still stung, but losing to the kind of monster that could tear open an entire cultist compound was less embarrassing than getting tossed down a hill by some random bumpkin. Small consolation, but the Khajiit had to take what he could get. By this point he knew from experience: Against some people, there was simply no winning.
S’razirr’s musing were interrupted by the faint sound of distant footsteps. He cocked his head to get a better angle on the nearby alleyway. On the other end a pool of soft orange light was approaching from the city gates. The torch-bearer walked into view, a Redguard and in dirty leather armor. S’razirr’s contact had arrived. As the man walked down the alley and straight for the garden, the Khajiit casually stepped away from the wall and met him halfway.
"Not here. The Garden of Dareloth, on the Waterfront. Midnight. Be there."
S’razirr blinked. He looked back behind him at the garden, several feet away and in plain view. He looked up at the moon, now high in the sky. He gave the Redguard a sideways glance. Then he stepped to the side and let him pass him. The man took several steps forward into the garden and stopped.
Quest triggers can be rather PRECISE in this game.
“Right then,” said S’razirr, “this one shall cut to the chase. I have heard from certain sources that you may know a thing or two about…the Thieves Guild?”
"Be patient and wait for the others. I need both the Wood Elf and the Argonian before I can begin."
“Oh. There are other interested parties? And they’re to appear this same night? That seems…exceedingly rare, yes? This one cannot imagine an organization such as yours gets much space on the job boards.”
The Redguard simply stared ahead with a neutral expression. S’razirr shrugged and leaned back against the wall. After about a minute of the two standing in silence, the Khajiit spoke up again.
“So. Do you, uh, frequently bring a lit torch to your clandestine meetings in a public garden?”
I mean mood-lighting is great and all, but it’s kind of ridiculous that one of the only NPCs to carry a torch at night is a master thief.
"Be patient and wait for the others. I need both-”
“Yes yes, fine.”
The opening to this quest is a little awkward, just waiting for everyone to show up to this “secret” meeting. Y’know what would make it even more awkward? If the game bugged out and one of the quest-relevant characters never showed up! After a few minutes of real time waiting I realized something was wrong. I decided to just pull a mulligan and wait until tomorrow night for everyone to appear. But once again, the last thief was a no-show. Only after reloading a save did they remember they had an appointment they were missing.
I don’t know why the thief didn’t make it. It’s probably something mundane like getting caught on scenery, but I’m going to instead assume it was something impossibly ridiculous. Y’know, like staying at an inn and getting kidnapped by pirates. Something that could absolutely never happen.
There were several more awkward minutes of waiting before the next arrival slithered onto the scene. He was an Argonian named Amusei, and S’razirr thought of him as slithering not because of his reptilian nature, but because his walking patterns were erratic and if he were slouched and lower to the ground he’d be playing reverse limbo. One glance was all S’razirr needed to write the man off as someone who would never accomplish anything important.
The next participant was a different story. The Wood Elf Methredhel had sharp eyes and an eager smile. She held herself with confidence and had a smug smile plastered onto her face. Though S’razirr doubted an entry level thief could give him any trouble, she was definitely someone to keep an eye on.
The Redguard glanced at each of them. “Everyone is here. Let’s begin.”
“Each of you is seeking membership in the Thieves Guild. The Thieves Guild is not a myth. We are followers of the Gray Fox, and I am his Doyen. Merely by finding me, you have passed the first test. It’s unusual to have three potential recruits at the same time. Rather than the normal test of skill, I’m going to make this a contest.”
“Why?” said S’razirr.
“Why make this a contest? Do you have a membership cap or something? What if all of us are exemplary, or to be fair, all of us awful? We’re all just looking to make money. Doing things this way seems somewhat arbitrary.”
“Look, you can back down if you want, but if you want in I suggest you suck it up and play the cards you’re dealt.”
S’razirr raised his hands in a placating gesture. “Certainly, I meant no offense.”
“As I was saying, I’m going to make this a contest. Methredhel, you know the rules.”
“She does?” said S’razirr. “I thought you said this was an unusual occurrence.”
“Not that unusual. Quit your whining already. As I was saying: Here are the rules for the rest of you. Whoever brings me the diary of Amantius Allectus, without killing him, will be invited into the guild. It’s somewhere in the Imperial City. The beggars will help you locate it, for a price. I can sell you lockpicks if you-”
“Okay I really need to speak up again.”
“Do you really?”
“Methredhel knows the rules.”
“Yes, we went over this.”
“And the task is to steal a specific person’s diary.”
“Something wrong with your ears?”
Pictured: The Elven Gardens district, where the diary is stolen from. Note it has this thing the Garden of Dareloth lacks, oh what’s the word, on the tip of my tongue, oh right: PLANTS.
“So first of all: Do you just steal the same diary over and over? What, do you sneak in and return it later?”
“So what if we do?”
“Don’t question the methods of the Thieves Guild!”
“Alright, fine! This one can accept that much. But half the challenge here is finding the diary. And it’s a race.”
“Yes, quit repeating what I’ve already told you.”
“But Methredhel already knows where the damn thing is!”
“What’s your point?”
S’razirr stared for a moment…then sighed. “Nevermind.”
“Alright. Well if you’re done whining, the race can begin.”
Methredhel grinned and ran off in a random direction. With a baleful glance at the Redguard, S’razirr started limping after her.
This quest is stupid.
It doesn’t make sense logically and doesn’t really have a good reason for being this way. My guess is just that they wanted an initiation quest at some point and wanted a thieving competition at another and just mashed the two together with no thought towards the logic of the situation. It’s not very interesting to play either. Methredhel guns it straight for the target, and the only way to beat her to it is to run next to her and pull ahead at the last second. What a great start to our career of stealthy espionage.
In general, the Thieves Guild is a decent quest chain with some interesting bits later on. But it definitely starts on the wrong foot. Its one saving grace is that it isn’t near as bad as the Skyrim Thieves Guild opening.
In the “hidden” mountain stronghold of the blades, Martin Septim was once again up late. Sitting at his usual table in the spacious grand hall, bags under his eyes and books plastered across every available surface. Jauffre, the leader of the Blades, walked into the room and, completely silent, handed the future emperor a cup of tea.
“Ah, midnight already?” said Martin weakly, grasping the cup.
“You really could stand to get more sleep, my lo – Martin.”
“Afraid I won’t be getting it, no matter where I put my head. The dreams are getting worse, Jauffre.”
The balding old warrior grimaced. “I see. I admit, even I have trouble sleeping these days. There’s something in the air.”
“Whatever Dagon and his minions are planning, it’s fast approaching. I only wish there was something I could do about it. But without the amulet, or more information…”
Jauffre nodded. “It’s a shame that Shush has disappeared. I wonder if he ever even found Baurus?”
On the other side of the room, the giant temple doors slowly boomed open. A figure stepped inside, accompanied by swirling winds and silhouetted by the light of the moon. They raised their head.
“I think I can answer that” said Baurus.
A few minutes later, the three were gathered round the table, which had been brushed clear of all books save one.
It seems like a rollicking good read.
“And you’re sure this is it?” said Martin. “This is really the Mysterium Xarxes?”
“Shush took it straight off of Mankar Cameron’s pulpit” said Baurus.
“It’s a shame that he couldn’t reach Cameron in time” said Jauffre. “We may not know the specifics, but the Amulet of Kings is clearly integral to their plan. And now there’s no way to reach it.”
“Well” said Martin, eyeing the book with reluctance. “That may not be true. What do you know about this book?”
“Not much” said Baurus with a shrug. “It’s daedric, it’s important, probably dangerous, no one can read it, and it hurts to look at. That about covers it.”
“The Mysterium Xarxes” said Martin, finger tapping the table, “is said to be written by the daedric lord Mehrunes Dagon himself.”
“Oh” said Baurus. “That’s uh. Wow. He would be the one currently trying to destroy the world, yeah?”
“Precisely. It’s an incredibly powerful and dangerous artifact. From what Jauffre and I have gathered, Mankar Cameron has used this book to create an entire miniature plane of existence for himself and his followers. He calls it Paradise, and from what you’ve told me, it’s where he’s hiding right now.”
“And the amulet is in there with him” said Baurus. “Which means our best bet is to find a way inside by unraveling this accursed thing.”
Martin nodded. “I’m trained well enough that I may be able to read it without physical harm. But it isn’t going to be easy. I’d guess some fairly rare components will be necessary to enter Cameron’s Paradise. We’re breaking into a pocket dimension, after all.”
The priest-turned-king sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Though he could often be…difficult to deal with, it’s a shame we don’t have Shush on hand right now. I’m assuming once your work was done, he wandered off to do whatever struck his fancy?”
“As a matter of fact, no” said Baurus with a grin. “I figured we could still use someone of his, er, talents. I told him to meet us back at the temple.”
Martin grimaced. “You didn’t use a phrase like ‘as soon as possible’, did you?”
“No sir, nipped that in the bud as well. Shush said he had things to do. But in light of his attention issues, I told him he absolutely must get back here within one week’s time.”
Jauffre clasped Baurus on the shoulder. “Well done, Baurus! Shush may not be the most focused individual, but he has always been accommodating at doing what’s asked of him. With any luck, you’ll ensure he stays on task for once.”
Martin folded his arms and gazed up at the rafters. “Luck is the operative word here. We have better hopes than we thought, thanks to you. But Shush staying on task?” He shook his head. “I’ll believe it when I see it.”
“Shh! We can’t speak outside the meeting place!”
S’razirr rolled his eyes and took two steps forward into the garden.
“Greetings, potential recruit. Do you have the diary?”
S’razirr held out his hand. The Redguard grinned.
“That’s Amantius Allectus’ diary, alright. Congratulations, you’re now a member of the Thieves Guild.”
“Excellent. Now if you could just direct this one to one of your fences…”
“Hold on now. I appreciate your eagerness, but first thing’s first. We need to lay down the ground rules of the guild.”
“Rules? You’re thieves, what rules could you possibly need?”
“We are not some collection of common cutpurses. As I said, we are followers of the Gray Fox. We operate a specific way, and that’s what you signed up for.”
“I signed up for the only known fences in the country” mumbled S’razirr.
“What was that?”
“Ah, nothing. What were those rules?”
I’ve always disliked how the only way to sell stolen goods is to be part of the Thieves Guild. It’s annoying enough that you have to put up with a nonsense intro quest to gain access to fences. But what particularly bugs me is that the Thieves Guild always has a very specific agenda. In this case they’ve altruistic Robin Hood types who protect the poor and work for the enigmatic Gray Fox. I’m not saying this flavor shouldn’t exist. For the purposes of keeping a quest chain interesting, it’s a good hook. The problem is that not everyone who wants to sell stolen goods fits the bill.
It’s all very well to say “This isn’t the Dark Brotherhood”. But you could be talking to the literal leader of the Dark Brotherhood.
Much like real life, a lot of the players robbing places for money aren’t the greatest people. One of the common ways to find stolen goods is vacating the premises by way of violent murder. Yet as we’ll soon find out, this is directly against Thieves Guild rules. Thankfully they have no way of enforcing this on independent jobs, only during their specific quests. But they don’t fit very well if you want to play a different kind of character, and you can’t access better fences without putting up with their nonsense. On the whole, I think things would be better off if you had ways of finding fences on your own, separate from the Thieves Guild questline.
“Rule number one: Never kill anyone on the job. This isn’t the Dark Brotherhood. Animals and monsters can be slain if necessary. Rule number two: Don’t steal from the poor. The peasants and beggars are under the personal protection of the Gray Fox, particularly here on the Waterfront. And finally, rule number three: Never rob or harm another member of the guild.”
S’razirr looked off to the side and cleared his throat. “Ah. So when you say harm, do you mean murder?”
“No, I mean any sort of physical harm. Assaulting other guild members will not be tolerated.”
“Right right, of course. And, purely so this one understands the rules, what should happen if you break any of them?”
“You will promptly be expelled from the guild and no longer have access to any of our jobs or fences.”
“Understood. So speaking of: Where are these fences?”
“The best fences are only available to higher ranked members in the guild. As a new recruit, your only option is Ongar the World-Weary in Bruma. Here, I’ll mark his house on your map.”
“Excellent. This one will get to work on providing him with merchandise right away.”
The Redguard nodded. “Good. We can provide you with specific jobs, but only after you’ve fenced enough first.”
“Yes, uh, this one will definitely be back for those. That is a thing that shall happen soon, most definitely. Now if you’ll excuse me…”
S’razirr wandered out of the garden and around the corner, then broke into a hobbling jog as soon as he was out of sight. With any luck, he could take a horse to Bruma and sell his stolen goods before any other Thieves Guild members followed him. Because it wouldn’t be long before they found Methredhel, who S’razirr left bound and gagged in an alleyway with an arrow in her leg.
Shush were stayin real on task right now.
Normally Shush did whatever Shush wanted, which were usually smashin stuff for shiny gold an other cool junk. But Boar-ass had been real specific when tellin Shush wot ta do. Shush needed ta get back to him an Marty at de big secret castle in de mountain place, an he only had a week ta do dat. So Shush were runnin all over de country finishin up stuff people asked Shush ta do for em.
Shush were almost done, an had just stopped in de big city to sell a buncha junk, on account of all de shops in de coast city near Shush’s house had no more monies left. Shush decided dat while he were here, he were gonna make some more o dem custom spells at de mage-y school place. So Shush headed down dere and were walkin through de entrance when suddenly someone started shoutin at Shush.
Shush turned an saw a mage-y guy walkin towards him all angry lookin. Shush think it were de same mage-y guy wot had made Shush a super mage after Shush had got all dem wreck-a-man-date-shins. Shush think his name were Ram-a-bus Pole-bus or something. Shush waved.
Picture this, but much angrier.
“WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?!”
“Oh, lotsa places. First, Shush were born in de town of-”
“I MEANT RECENTLY! It’s been a WEEK since you said you’d ‘be back soon’. You left to practice new spells and never came back!”
“Oh, dat’s right, you were gonna give Shush more mage-y things ta do. Whoops, Shush got distracted wit a buncha fun stuff.”
“Well I hope you’ve had fun COMPLETELY neglecting your duties.”
“Haha yup, Shush had lotsa fun. First Shush got a swirly brick in some ruins an den Shush got ambushed by a Merry Cloud an den Shush took a goofy hair elf into some more ruins an fought a whole buncha skeletons an den Shush met dis guy who Shush knew from dat time Shush were in jail an he helped Shush kill some cultist guy an den Shush went to da library an found de big cultist headquarter place an dis guy ran into a glowy portal ting and Shush killed a buncha guys an a statue collapsed an den Shush went other places an sold a buncha loot for lotsa shiny coins.”
“It have been a fun week for Shush.”
“Well, uh, okay then. But listen, there’s no time for that now! We need the assistance of every able-bodied mage we can muster, right now.”
“Aw, does Shush have to? Shush only have like five more days before Shush gotta go to dis place in de mountains, only Shush can’t tell you where on account of it’s a secret.”
“I don’t care if the fate of Mundus rests on your shoulders, we need you right now.”
“Well dat’s actually a funny ting ta say because-”
“Are you going to help or not?!”
“Shush dunno. Wot are so important dat you need Shush right away?”
“The Mage’s Guild is being invaded by necromancers!”
“Oh! Dat are important.”
Next time: The Mage’s Guild is being invaded by necromancers!