CHAPTER 16: LOVELY PARTY, PITY I WASN'T INVITED
In which our hero, despite promises to the contrary, gets drunk again.
Previous: Chapter 15, Imperials in the Stormcloak Capitol
So. Back in Riverwood. I'm kind of getting sick of this place. It's easy on the eyes, sure, and a nice quaint little backwoods village is the perfect place to settle down and raise a litter of Death Hounds, but there's just something about this place that rubs me wrong. Some bad memories, maybe. Like, memories of living in Skyrim. Those are usually pretty bad.
Anyway, Delphine jumps on me as soon as I enter the inn, never mind heading through her room and the secret wardrobe entrance down the secret stairs to her secret chamber of secrecy. Apparently, the middle of the inn in the middle of the day when everyone is sitting there in earshot, making a concerted effort to appear not be listening but I know the buggers are hanging on her every word, is a good place to discuss a secret mission to overthrow the Thalmor. Or something like that. I kind of got muddled because I decided I'd take a swig of wine for every five minutes of exposition, and after about hour two my brain sort of shut down.
Well, I guess she updated my journal for me, because it says I've got to go to Solitude, home of the legion and an increasingly headless populace. I've got to meet a Bosmer named something, I forget his name, it won't be important for long, I'm sure... and he's got an invitation to a party for me. The party is being held by Elenwen, the leader of the Thalmor in Skyrim, for her bestest traitorous buddies in the whole west side of the province, but not the east side, because the Stormcloaks know a snake when they see one, and so do I, I'm seeing a lot of snakes, and no wonder, considering the sheer amount of booze I've put in my system, I'm surprised I'm not seeing pink mammoths... though I am seeing the occasional mammoth shooting into the sky and falling back to the ground, so I guess that counts. Havok, God of Physics, strikes again.
So off I go to Solitude, after a quick stop in Whiterun for the shops, to stock up on the very best in protective gear, potions, scrolls, enchantments, and a five-month supply of alcohol that I'm hoping will last me until the end of this sentence, but don't hold your breath.
Once in Solitude, I find Mr. Whoever, who asks me to give him everything I can't live without, which right now means I have to give him my money, clothes, armor, weapons, ingredients, soul gems, torches, keys, food, arrows, jewelry, and a wicker basket I apparently picked up somewhere, but there's no way I'm giving him the remnants of my liquor stash, to which I jealously hold on, wild horses couldn't drag my booze from my grip right now. I need it to stay sharp for this quest. The elf takes my shit and rushes off. I hope he really was my contact and not just some opportunistic thief who took advantage of my inebriation and made off with tens of thousands of gold worth of adventuring gear, plus a wicker basket.
I saunter on down to the stables, which are conveniently located about seventy kilometers from the front gate, and lo and behold there's Delphine, who has an invitation to the party. I'm to strip what's left of my dignity gear and hand it to her, she'll keep it safe, no worries. Unfortunately I can't take my booze with me on this one, so rather than let it fall into the wrong hands (meaning any hands but mine), I quickly down the last few bottles and commence swaying slowly side to side. I am now carrying absolutely nothing except a couple of floating gems, a big white talking rock, a giant's toe, and hagraven feather that will NOT come unstuck. Someday soon I've got to get rid of this shit, even if it means finding Sam the disguised daedra and shoving his magical staff up his backside, then taking this stone to the temple of Meridia and shoving it up her backside, and then (because at heart I'm an even-handed person) finding some miscellaneous object to shove up my own backside. Fair's fair, after all.
Sloshing gently, I listen as Delphine tells me I'll be going in alone, clothed only in an admittedly snazzy set of duds, armed only with my charm, native wit, and a talent for making snarky comments. A few of my brain cells register some doubt at this point, but the rest of them are relaxing in the amber-golden bath of fermented grapes, so I enthusiastically agree, and hop up in the back of the cart.
I must have fallen asleep in the wagon, because next thing I know, I'm up a mountain somewhere, it's snowing, and I'm being accosted by a drunk. Since by now my buzz has worn off and a slight headache has set in, I'm having trouble concentrating on what he's saying, which is okay because I'm sure he isn't saying anything important. The guard at the door stops me and asks for my invitation, which I don't remember getting but sure enough, there it is, here you go ma'am, nice weather we're having here, and can you direct me to where you're keeping your sensitive intelligence data and secret documents?
But no, I have to slog through a party scene first. Once inside, I'm immediately singled out by Elenwen, who is hanging around by the front door, just waiting for everyone to get inside so she can lock it and order her guards to commence the slaughter. At least, that's how I expect this evening to go. Wish I'd brought a weapon other than my body odor, which has to be getting fairly obvious considering the fact that it's been about a week since the last time I was immersed in water, and I haven't seen any bath houses, showers, tubs, or even something as basic as soap since I arrived in Skyrim. The Gods saw fit to include every miscellaneous item conceivable in their world, from pots to buckets to brooms to wooden spoons to wicker baskets, but for the life of me I can't figure out why they didn't include something as basic as a guzunder.
Anyway, once I pass the requisite opening conversation gambits in mine and Elenwen's witty repartee, who should interrupt by my old buddy guy-whose-name-is-just-on-the-tip-of-my-tongue, the guy who walked off with all my gear and had better have it all back or I'm gonna be sick all over his shoes, this headache is really getting bad. Whosit tells me to create a distraction somehow, and he'll take me through the door behind me, which is plot-locked until I create the aforesaid distraction, which seems mighty convenient, but there you go.
So I approach the one person in the whole building whom I can trust, the fellow drunk Razelan, and ask him to create a distraction, for the mere price of a single bottle of wine, which I pick up from whoever-he-is, along with a dozen or so more because I'm really needing a hair of the dog right about now, because this is possibly the most tedious gathering of smarmy rich bastards that has ever existed. Razelan accedes to my request gracefully, and proceeds to draw the attention of everyone in the room, myself included, and it's only because of my sheer dedication to duty that I remember to go back to the elf dude and continue on my current quest.
The Bosmer takes me through the kitchens, threatening an innocent cook on the way, and shows me a chest where he put all my shit. I quickly sift through the stash, biting my lip and frantically searching for that most treasured of possessions that I had given the dude, and I breathe a sigh of relief when I find it - the wicker basket. After a moment's consideration, I also put on the armor and draw my axe. The basket is imperative, but you'll never know when the armor and weapon will come in handy. From here on out, I'm on my own, surviving on my wits, skills, heavy armor, a big axe, and whatever potions and gear I brought with me or can scrounge up from a richly appointed mansion. I stop behind a door and listen to a couple of guards talking, something about animated robes marching around that morning, that'd be a sight to see, pity I missed it.
Now I know this is supposed to be a clandestine operation, but I'm not exactly the sneaky type. I'm more the push-fist-through-face type. My axe and I rip through the place like a... like a... well, like a big Nord warrior with a great axe rips through a Thalmor embassy, is what it's like. The clang of metal on metal, battle yells, the loud buzz of lightning magic, and the screams of the dying apparently don't penetrate the walls of the embassy, because by the time I'm done wiping my ass with the last Thalmor's robe, the party is still going strong on the other side of the wall. Either that, or Thalmor parties usually end up with most of the guests decapitated. How should I know? I've never been to a Thalmor party before.
I find my way outside, kill a few more guards, including one wizard who actually puts up something of a fight, and into another building, where I quickly slaughter more Thalmor, pick up a couple of intelligence documents, one of which is something Delphine needs to see, about an old Blade hidden in Riften, and prepare to free a prisoner... wait, what was that I just read? Something about Ulfric Stormcloak...
Oh. Oho. Ah ha ha ha ha. Yeah, I should have seen that coming. Ulfric Stormcloak, a sleeper agent for the Thalmor. Can't wait to show this to someone. Anyone who sees this will be shocked, I'm sure. Now this can be interpreted one of two ways - one, Ulfric is willingly, nay, enthusiastically, engaged in an attempt to destroy the empire at the behest of the Thalmor, and the other is that he is unknowingly working for them. Either way, I've just got to show this to Ulfric as soon as possible. Option 1, I kill him then and there, and option 2 is he ceases his rebellion and rejoins the empire. Of course, knowing the intelligence of the average Nord, there is undoubtedly a third option, where he just disregards this information and continues in his madness, but I'm sure that won't crop up.
But first, I've got to rescue this prisoner. He tells me that there's a quick exit down a trash chute that the Thalmor sometimes throw live prisoners down, and I tell him that there's no fucking way I'm treating a sewer tunnel as an exit. Before I can make my case clear to the idiot, though, more Thalmor come in, with Mr. Noname, and fighting breaks out between the well-armed, armored, and professionally trained Thalmor soldiers on one side, and an unarmed wood elf most known for his skill at mixing drinks and a highly inebriated Nord on the other, which can only end one way... the Thalmor dead and the Bosmer and I almost completely unscathed. Why not?
So, we can't get out the way we came in for some reason. The only way out is through the trap door where healthy people go to die. At first I'm not sanguine about our chances, but I and the nameless one quickly dispatch the dread guardian of the alternate exit - a lone troll. Outside, whatever and Etienne quickly run off for gods-know-where, and I briefly entertain the notion of heading back to the embassy and killing Elenwen for her evil crimes, but I quickly realize the futility of such a course of action, considering that the place is probably crawling with hostile guards now, not to mention the fact that I can't really find my way back up there again, so fuck it all, I'm going back to... (sigh)... Riverwood to give Delphine the good news. Or the news, at any rate.
Once back at the inn, Delphine has hidden herself cunningly in her basement again, overlooking the fact that the room door and wardrobe are wide open for anyone who wants to look in, but I don't even give a shit anymore. Let the bitch blow her own cover. She reacts with shock to the possibility that another Blade is still alive, not just her, apparently because she thinks she's the goddess of hiding herself I guess, open doors and shouting voices notwithstanding. She ignores what I'm trying to tell her about Ulfric being a sleeper agent, but I guess she's got bigger problems, what with the dragons and all, so I let this one slide. She tells me to go to Riften and find him. Armed with a secret code phrase that will immediately cause Esbern to drop his guard and open his door to me as if the possibility of Delphine's capture, torture, and interrogation were impossible, I step outside, ready to head to Riften.
But you know what? I think I'll let Esbern stew for a while. First I'm going to go respond to this letter from the Jerk of Falkreath... I mean, Jarl of Fuckreath... The Furl of Jerkwad... Flibbertigibbet... goddamn it... I'm going to Dawnstar. The wicker basket's coming too.