January 29, 2016

The Thief in the Snow - Entry XVI: Depraved City

The Thief in the Snow
Entry XVI: Depraved City
Location: Riften, The Rift
Date: Turdas, 28th of Last Seed, 4E 201

I was forced to take my time traveling to Riften for the Bone Break Fever I had contracted from the Bear’s bite was slowing me down considerably. It was early morning and the air was calm as I followed the Treva River until it met Lake Honrich. From there, I travelled along the main road straight to the gate of the capital city. I was once again barred from entering the city because of my race. ‘These Nords,’ I thought to myself, ‘I should unleash a Shout upon them all.’ I knew that trying to break in with violence would get me nowhere, so I was forced to try a different tactic. The Guard was unwilling to allow me entrance into Riften without paying a ‘tax.’ Though my title of Whiterun’s Thane did little to help me, I was able to persuade the Guard to let me in for free, with promises that I would bring him back some well aged Nord Mead. As the large wooden gates of Riften opened, I reminded myself that I was now deep within Stormcloak aligned territory and touting my exploits from Whiterun would only hinder me here.

As I entered Riften, I could feel the uneasiness of the city; it was as if the city’s very foundation was on edge. The guards and citizens only glared at me as I walked down the main street towards the city’s center. As I tried not to draw too much attention to myself, I overheard a conversation between a Nord warrior and her Imperial friend. She lamented that Riften was being infected by the Thieves Guild and that someone must do something to stop the troublesome group. The Imperial warned her not to engage the Guild for they were supported by Maven Black-Briar. The way he said the name made me think that this Black-Briar was a powerful figure here in Riften. I approached the pair and inquired about the Thieves Guild and its activities in the city. The Nord introduced herself as Mjoll the Lioness and answered by relating to me all the problems the Guild had caused recently. It seemed that no house was safe from the Thieves Guild, except the Black-Briars’ of course. I asked who Maven was and the Imperial, Aerin, provided the answer. She owned Black-Briar Meadery and was essentially in control of Riften. While not the Jarl, her money and power ran so deep in the Rift and her connections to the Thieves Guild gave her eyes and ears everywhere, that no one could challenge her authority. I thanked Mjoll and Aerin for their time and decided to try the local inn for more information.

Before I could travel any further, an imposing Nord approached me. I saw him when I first entered the city and he had been watching my conversation with Mjoll and Aerin. His dark hair, piercing eyes, and muscular arms made it very apparent that he was not afraid to get into a fight. He challenged my presence in Riften, demanding that I cause no trouble. His name was Maul and he appeared to be Maven Black-Briar’s right-hand man. He threatened to break both my arms if I did anything against Maven’s family but I assured him that I wanted no trouble. I was even able to smooth talk my way into gaining information from him. He told me about the local orphanage, Honorhall, and a boy named Aventus Aretino who ran away to Windhelm. Rumor had it that Aretino was trying to perform the Black Sacrament to summon the Dark Brotherhood. Then we switched to the topic of the Thieves Guild. I lightly hinted that I may wish to contact them and Maul pointed me towards the Bee and Barb, the local inn. There, he said, a Nord named Brynjolf might be able to help me contact the Guild. I thanked him for the information and reaffirmed that I would not cause any trouble for the Black-Briars during my stay in Riften. He only shooed me away as he turned his gaze towards the main gate, readying to ‘greet’ any other newcomers.

As I reached the city’s center, I overheard a Nord woman shaking down a Redguard. She did not look too imposing, quite beautiful in fact, but her posture conveyed that she was not someone to be trifled with. The Redguard, I think his name was Shadr, was terrified of her. After she left, I approached the shaken Redguard and asked if he was alright. Shadr was grateful for my concern and informed me that he had borrowed money from the Nord. Her name was Sapphire and she was a member of the Thieves Guild. ‘Hmm, just the person I was looking for.’ I thought to myself. Shadr had used the money to ship goods into Cyrodiil to sell but unfortunately the caravan had been raided and he had lost everything. To make matters worse, he found out that Sapphire was behind the raid but she was still demanding that he pay back his debts. I told Shadr not to worry and that I would talk to Sapphire on his behalf. He thanked me for my help and told me to meet him at the Riften Stables after I had resolved the matter.

I was truly starting to feel the effects of Bone Break Fever and located the Temple of Mara in hopes of curing my ailment. The temple was simple but quite beautiful with intricate patterns engraved in the high wooden beams. The altar was a little more elaborate than ones I had seen in the past; I had heard this temple often performed marriage ceremonies here. I approached the altar and offered a prayer to Mara and asked for her healing touch.

I whispered softly, “Come to me, Mara, for without you, I might forget the ways of our fathers, and preening by the light of latest fashion, my words might tremble like the tin reeds of novelty in the tempest of enthusiasms.”

I suddenly felt my strength return to me and could tell that I had been cured of Bone Break Fever. I offered a tithe of five Septims and turned to leave when I was greeted by a priestess named Dinya Balu. She and fellow priest, Maramal, were the primary caretakers of the temple. She was surprised to see a Khajiit inside the walls, stating that the caravans rarely came this far south due to the strong pro-Nord affiliations in the area. I made a scoffing sound at this statement and she quickly apologized for she meant no offence to me and affirmed that Mara loved all of Tamriel’s inhabitants. Dinya proceeded to ask me if I was with a caravan or had any family in Skyrim. I explained that I was alone here and while I had people I could call family when I was a child, I had been on my own for many years now. She expressed sorrow at hearing this and told me that everyone should have a place to call home with someone they loved waiting for them there. I could only shrug and excuse myself, telling her I had business to attend to but as I left I couldn’t help but ponder her words. ‘A home? Family?’ I asked myself, ‘I am not sure what that would even be like. To feel like I belonged and had people who accepted me for who I am…’ I could not fathom that.

Riften was buzzing with activity when I left the Temple of Mara. I came across a Dunmer merchant named Marise Aravel. She made her living selling meat to the citizens of Riften but had difficulty obtaining Ice Wraith Teeth to keep her food cool and fresh. I told her that I often encountered the annoying little bastards and would be happy to bring her as many as I could next time I was in the area. She laughed and thanked me for her assistance. I asked her where I could find the Bee and Barb and she pointed me in the right direction. On my way there, I met a beggar named Snilf and gave him a few coins if he could keep an eye out for Brynjolf and let me know when he saw the Thieves Guild contact. He gave me a slight nod and told me that he would help me if he could.

I entered the Bee and Barb and was met by a rude Argonian running the bar. I could not even get her name let alone any information on Brynjolf unless I paid a hefty fee of Septims. Argonians, I hated dealing with those lizardfolk. Some would think that the Khajiit and Argonians would get along since we were both beastfolk but I have never found a more contemptible race in all of Nirn. I turned to the other patrons and hoped I would have better luck. I spied Sapphire sitting at a table that was tucked away in the corner of the room. I approached and told her that Shadr had asked that I speak to her. Immediately, she was on the defensive but I was able to persuade her to forgive his debt, telling her that she would be seen as the one with true power. After all, thugs can shake down people for money but those in control have the power to forgive debts. She agreed and I was pleased that I had accomplished this for Shadr. I tried to change topics and inquire about the Thieves Guild but Sapphire made it very clear that she was done dealing with me.

I next spoke to Svana Far-Shield, who was the niece of Haelga of Haelga’s Bunkhouse. Haelga managed the boarding house and Svana acted as maid though she told me that she was more like her aunt’s personal slave. Svana shared her disgust of Haelga, saying the woman was foul and coldhearted. She then confided to me that her aunt had been sleeping around with three different men; some were even married, and was taking her worship of Dibella too seriously. Svana asked me to steal the tokens Haelga gave each one of her ‘suitors’ to use as leverage so that Svana could blackmail her. I quickly waved my hands, mumbling about helping Shadr at the stables and the work Aravel commissioned me for. I tried to leave the inn, telling Svana that I was only in town for a little while and I had just been cured of Bone Break Fever so it was best that I did not overexert myself. She would not let me leave the Bee and Barb until I promised that I would help her if I got the time. As I rushed out of the inn, I could not help thinking, ‘Klimmek was right, Riften was a depraved city.’