Skyrim: Week of Madness, Day 3: The Dovahkiin Riften Deserves, Not The Hero It Needs

Richard Cobbett


Every day this week, we'll be visiting a version of Skyrim unlike any you've ever seen before - a world thrown into anarchy and chaos by Sheogorath, God of Madness, and the assistance of over 200 blindly-installed mods. In our third part, Skyrim's nastiest town has no idea what kind of carnage is about to be unleashed, and Compass finds inspiration in insanity from a most unusual source.

Catch up on the adventure: Day 1 , Day 2

Riften. The city. My city. I heard it scream. I saw it bleed. It cried out for a saviour. It demanded a... better class of criminal. I brought it both. As I look down on it now, I hear my people's words. I shall tarry a while, to listen....

Did you hear? Did you hear of she who walks in crimson blood and blackest night? They say she destroyed the Thieves Guild in under two minutes! They say when they tried to arrest her, the dragons themselves swooped down to intervene!

They say her calling card was found in Clavicus Vile's treasure room, just to prove she could get in there if she chose! They say she's the illegitimate daughter of Nocturnal, blessed at birth by the Madgod himself!

The deluded masses. They know of me. But they cannot ever know me . Their hopes, their fears... in this place, at this time, I must be both. For I am the hero of prophecy; the thief of the night. I am she who walks upon the edge of chaos. I am...



Three Days Earlier...

Having skimmed around lots of the world, I decide it's time to focus a little more tightly on a specific hold - ideally finding one completely rebuilt or something, but even if not, to focus more on mechanics than surface-level additions like Solitude's weird statue or Whiterun's nasty flooding problems.

A guild then. I consider signing up with the Companions because - spoiler - werewolves, but there's a fair chunk of game before you get those powers, and I've already beaten enough people up to know that with my random mod mix at least, there's really not that much different there except for more blood and some death animations. The wizards? Nah. Theirs is a highly-scripted kind of life - an okay bit of the game, sure, but not one I see offering much variety regardless of anything added on.

The Thieves? They have possibilities, and personally speaking are more interesting since I largely avoided their questline on roleplaying grounds when I first played Skyrim. Here as elsewhere, it seems odd to be the hero who both rescues old ladies' cats for XP and knocks over their houses while they sleep. That said, the first thing I did in Skyrim was try to figure out how to join the Dark Brotherhood and blaze through their bloody, murderous questline with intense glee, so what would I know?

To Riften then. To Riften, gold and probably very little glory...

Why am I dressed up like this again?

Remember how you spent the last few days torturing me with embarrassing outfits?


And how you ended that week of hell and humiliation by giving me a far more powerful weapon and stronger armour than anything you yourself have right now?


Right. This is what we in the NPC business like to call 'payback'. You can have your own clothes back on Fredas, and not a minute before.

If you die, do I just get a new Housecarl automatically, or is there some kind of form to fill in? Asking for a friend.

I arrive on a cold, grey morning, and on the outside at least, nothing seems different - beyond the now familiar giant trees everywhere. As usual, I'm greeted by the world's lamest shakedown attempt.

Hey, you have to pay the visitor's tax.

Oh, is this one of those shakedown things?

Aaargh! Sorry! If you hurt me, not the face! Punch my balls, I'm not using them! I'll let you in if you promise not to tell anyone I just peed my armour a little!

Truly, Riften is the Sin City of Skyrim.

Inside though, it's a little cheerier than I remember - not a redesign, but definitely more colourful. That seems the wrong way to go, really - I always though Riften should be darker rather than lighter. It just doesn't have any sense of danger to it, from the hilariously open shakedowns to the way the Thieves Guild approach you with work. I'd say that the Elder Scrolls series just isn't that good at danger, but... well... the Dark Brotherhood does just fine. Riften just doesn't have any oomph.

I check inside a few buildings before kicking off the Thieves' Guild storyline, but nothing exciting pops up. Knowing that stealth is going to be an issue though, and I'm already pretty bad at it, I decide I should probably do something with Lydia before making my mark on the criminal underworld.

Welcome to Haelga's Bunkhouse, now piss off and die. No, really. There is no room here for you. If I gave you an apple, it would be full of maggots and streaked with the brown of my own scented arse-crack. Incidentally, apple?

If we can't get a room, can my Housecarl stand quietly in the corner for the next few days without food, water or sleep as a polite reminder of who her boss is?


Sure, whatever. By the way, I apparently have insane mood swings now. Want this free spell tome for no apparent reason?

Only because it would be impolite to refuse.

The Thieves Guild questline kicks off with a guy called Brynjolf recruiting you to steal something from one of the vendors in Riften's market and plant it on another. It's pretty easy, with a little light lockpicking but no actual challenge. It's the perfect crime. An idiot could pull it off without a hitch.

At least... normally. Unlike the regular game though, the guards are rather more attentive now. Pull a sword or start sneaking and they rush up to you and tail you relentlessly. I try a couple of times, but there's no way I can get away with the crime. I humbly pay my fine and head back to Brynholf. Luckily, he's still a moron and decides I have the 'spark' his organisation needs, and I get the invite to the secret underground Thieves Guild headquarters anyway. This explains a lot about Riften.

To get to the Guild, you have to go through a set of underground tunnels called the Ratway. Unfortunately, you're not the only one down there, and the company is immediately hostile. This isn't a problem when you're armed to the teeth. It's a little trickier when you're only wearing a jester suit.

But! Who says you have to play fair? Time to even the odds a little.

Running around without armour down here? Not smart, girlie!

Who's running round without armour? Spellcasting - STRIP!

Yes, it's not just about fan service! When you strip an NPC, it also gets rid of their weapons and armour, leaving them with just their fists and hopefully easy them easy picking for- Oh crap.

That didn't do anything, did it? Just a flash of light and all my magicka is gone.

Ah. You fell for Haelga's scam, right? Ah, the fun we have, watching horny kids running round town every night, flashing away in increasing desperation. Good times. Good times. As an amusing side-note, you die now.

Bug or just a clashing mod, I don't know. Pulling out my scimitar and a hand of magic death, I still manage to take them down thanks to my fast-recharging magicka and lots of convenient corridors. It's a close thing though, and I'm pretty metaphorically bloody by the time I get to the Thieves Guild.

Everyone's gathered together in an underground tavern called The Ragged Flagon - a merry band of crooks, thieves, bounders and cads. Obviously, being a stranger, I do my best to fit in by casually stealing all their stuff. They react just as hardened criminals naturally would.

You must really need that.

I suppose that's yours now.

I'll look the other way this time.


Aaargh! You are the wussiest Mafia ever!

Their badass credibility isn't exactly helped by the first mission - to go shakedown some merchants. Everyone makes it clear that the Thieves Guild is all talk, to the point of not so much being shocked when I do things like threaten their families as just a little surprised. Brynholf admits this, but says it's all in order, and everything will become clear after I speak with their leader, Mercer Frey.

Mister J is here?!

Uh, no. Frey . Mercer Frey.

Oh. Right. Sorry. Not... what were we talking about again?

Frey assigns my first task for the Guild - to go and burn some beehives on behalf of the town matriarch, who runs a brewery and is involved in all kinds of complicated stuff. Mission assigned, I'm asked if I have any questions - and seeing the state of the place... one whose inner circle operates out of a cistern in the middle of the city's sewers no less.. one minor one does rather spring to mind.

Hypothetically, if I wanted to run this place and make it into something that doesn't diminish the entire concept of crime by its mere existence, how long would it likely take to rip your job out from under your flabby arse?

What? Only the most trusted, experienced thief can even dream of thinking to aspiring of running this most esteemed guild! Do you even know of our patron, Nocturnal?

Sure. Daedric Prince of Cleavage.

She also does Night! Only through worship and sacrifice and skill and-

Just ballpark it for me.

Ten missions, maybe eleven.

Yeah, no. As a more competent criminal than you might say: "This is a nice Thieves Guild you've got here. Be a shame if anything happened to it."

Normally of course, this would be a pretty empty threat. Plot critical NPCs are immortal, and even if not, you don't generally survive long by walking up to one and biffing them in the face while dressed as Harley Quinn. Now though, I'm pretty sure everyone in Skyrim can be taken down, with the possible exception of the kids. Mercer is a bit weird because attacking him doesn't actually count as attacking a member of the Guild, so everyone just ignores you if you start fighting to the death. The other heads of this idiotic group of fools and morons also have to be cleansed to consider the job done though - to say nothing of all those layabouts sitting around and farting in the Flagon - so never mind.

Not only can I wipe them all out right now though, I can do it without even even officially being responsible. How? Because of this guy, who I met in Whiterun a while ago....

He's a newly added Ambassador from the Shivering Isles - Sheogorath's realm - with a bag full of toys to play with. Most are unsurprisingly goofy and pointless, like a fork that gives you meat when you hit people, or a blunted sword. He also has a ungodly powerful spell though: "Conjure Plague".

What does this do? Initially, or judging from the spell description, not very much.

Oh no. A single solitary rodent. I am most terrified. Please do not mind my screams as I go to find my +2 Boots Of Much Stomping to deal with this, the greatest threat I have ever faced. Oh no, oh no, please get my mummy.

Wait for it... ideally down there, while I climb onto this handy cupboard...

Yep. Rats- eroids. And you can keep casting it...

There's only one real downside to the Create Plague spell, though it's a big one - that while everything will attack and thus aggro it, the summoned rat defaults to to targeting you until then. In short, it's effective, but you absolutely have to get some height/distance on enemies before casting - unless you're shooting a quick video, of course - or you just get caught in the fur.

But if you want to clean a room and walk away karmically pure? There's no better way.

...why? Why did you do this?

Why do people climb mountains? Because **** mountains! By the way, this is my badass calling card.

As for the Flagon folks, they're unfortunately smart enough to hang out in a room with no big stuff to climb on, and it turns out that Brynholf is God. Well, immortal, anyway. No matter how often he gets chewed, he just keeps on ticking. I opt for the "Mummy" strategy of dealing with an immortal - filling the room with plague rats, then locking all the doors with a magical locking spell I found. He'll probably be back in two thousand years to wreak vengeance in one decent movie and several shitty sequels, but that's something for a future hero of Tamriel to worry about.

And so was the hostile takeover of the Thieves Guild complete, lacking only a few minor things from the official route - the missions, the money, the items, the option to wander off with Nocturnal's Skeleton Key and any in-game recognition of the victory. Still, deep in their code, I'm sure the NPCs know. Why, as I head to my room in the tavern, I'm sure they're talking about their saviour even now...

Wake up, lass. We NEED to TALK!

Oh, glee. Sheogorath, Daedric Prince of Not Being Half As Funny As He Thinks. How did you get into my room, and does it work in reverse?

Maybe you're just DREAMING, lass. Maybe I be more cheese than CHEESY. Or maybe it was the CONSOLE summoned me here for the sake of an IMPLIED NARRATIVE in an otherwise disconnected SERIES OF EVENTS!

How undelightfully meta. Well, goodnight. I've got a busy day tomorrow and as head of the Thieves Guild, everyone will be much better off if I get my beauty sleep.

Ah, but will they? You've seen them! The MORTALS! They see you walk past, but what do they really see? Nothing! NOBODY! Doesn't that drive you... insane?

Pffft. Everyone's talking about me out there.

Are they, lass? ARE THEY? Wibble wibble flashback effect flashback effect flashback effect flashback effect flashback effect flashback effect flashback effect...

Riften. The city. My city. I heard it scream. I saw it bleed. It cried out for a saviour. It demanded a... better class of criminal. I brought it both. As I look down on it now, I hear my people's words. I shall tarry a while, to listen....

Boring generic NPC dialogue! Boring generic NPC dialogue! Get your boring generic NPC dialogue here! Free sweetroll with every two lines of boring NPC dialogue!

What's... what's going on?

Is it not clear, lass? You're going MAD! Mad as a hat wearer! And why not? Only SANE RESPONSE if you ask me! And I'm Sheogorath. I eat BANANAS!

Please stop shouting in my ear. You spit. A lot.

Face it. This town is WORTHLESS! Criminals UNWORTHY of you. A people that will never RESPECT or truly FEAR you. You have only ONE PATH with meaning, and I shall show you the way. I give you the POWER to make the world BURN...

This is a penis.

Nay, lass. 'Tis WABBAJACK, my-

It is a penis.

Alright, so I'm not sure what happened there. Still! WAVE it at these corrupt, ignorant mortals, HO-HO, and WONDERS shall come flying out-

I am not making anything come from your penis.

Fine. Here's a Spell Tome version, you prude. Go! Sow madness in your path! Just promise to use it UNWISELY, and but ONCE! For twice would be BORING! HA! I'm so endearingly wacky and I'm like this ALL THE TIME!

Yes, it's a bit of an indulgence - but there are a few items in Skyrim that seemed an obvious fit for someone's modding efforts, and Wabbajack was top on the list. Cue a trip to the console to get hold of it, followed by immediately wishing I'd phrased that differently. Only one question remains - is the population of Riften corrupt enough to deserve being wiped off the face of Tamriel?

Yes, obviously. And you know the best thing about the Wabbajack spell? Dual-wielding.

My Thane, I heard noises from outside! Is everything okay? Did something happen? Did you do something?

Absolutely not! And for reasons totally unrelated to me or any atrocities committed by person or persons unknown, we can NEVER RETURN HERE EVER AGAIN.



...and when I woke up after a night in the inn, everyone in town had gone to sleep, quite a few in puddles of ketchup. Weird place, Riften. Which reminds me - is it Fredas yet? Can I get out of this damn clown suit already?

Yes, my Thane. Honour is satisfi-

Good. Come, Housecarl! I have a new destination in mind - one nobody in this world has ever seen! Let us away, before the authorities arrive.

Wait! My Thane, you forgot-


...oh, nothing. Never mind.

Tomorrow! A mysterious dungeon beckons! Everyone finally gets actual armour with protection and everything! What awaits in the Madgod's lair? In memory of Riften. Never forget.

Skyrim: Week Of Madness

The insanity continues... come along for the ride...

Day 1: The World According To Sheogorath

Day 2: Quest For Dignity - The Housecarl Chronicles

Day 3: The Dovahkiin Riften Deserves, Not The Hero It Needs

Day 4: Yet There Is Method In It, And Also Cheese

Day 5: The Life And Deaths Of Compass Meridian

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