PoTM: Chapter 27, Far From Ourselves

  • Fall From Glory

    by Nithilis Lidari


    The Thieves Guild of Skyrim is something of an enigma. Within the last few decades, their order has gone from one of the largest, most influential criminal organizations in all of Tamriel to a small group of stragglers barely able to wreak havoc in their home city of Riften. Although evidence that could explain this rapid decline has never surfaced, speculation has run rampant.


    One theory holds that the Guild suffered a loss - it's strongly believed that their Guild Master was slain by one of their own. This Guild Master, known only as "Gallus," maintained strong ties with many of the influential families in Skyrim. When he perished, those bonds perished with him. Without these bonds, the Guild could no longer safely operate within Skyrim's holds.


    A second theory suggests that the Guild is experiencing some sort of mystical "curse" causing normal activities for its members to become exceedingly difficult. While there is no solid evidence to support this theory, the last two decades have seen an unusual rise in failed attempts by the Guild to execute highly lucrative heists. Reasons for the presence of this supposed curse is being attributed to everything from the aforementioned murder to divine interference.


    In order to solve this mystery once and for all, I've spent the last two years infiltrating the Thieves Guild. Initially making contact with them in Riften proved difficult, as they're quite wary of outsiders, but through repeated efforts I was able to gain their confidence. It's my hope that once I've gained access to some of the Guild leadership, I can learn more about their decline and publish a second volume of my work.


    Although helping the Guild perform their petty crimes brands me as a criminal, I feel that it's a burden worth bearing. The mystery of the Thieves Guild's fall from power needs to be solved once and for all as a matter of record and as a footnote to Skyrim's history.



    Grulmar opened his eyes only to find himself in Riften's market, people passing him with scowls on their face when they glanced at him. He quickly realized those weren't scowls, their faces were covered with masks which depicted a permanent grimace of contempt. The Orc looked at his hands, noticing how small they were and he frowned.


    “Shit. This again?” He griped.


    “Did you think it would be over?” sounded a voice behind him and he looked over his shoulder, noticing Oghma standing there, the alien eye in her hands sparkling with amusement.


    “Kind of,” he shrugged. “The Mask has been quiet for some time now. Since the new year actually. I would almost say he's afraid of something.” He paused for a second, smirking. “Or someone.”


    “More like...irritated,” she corrected him, looking for the right words. “We will have to wait and see if his assessment of the situation is correct. He has had quite a long time to think about his goals and how to achieve them, after all. Do you think he would not count on the possibility of another Dragonborn?”


    Grulmar cocked his head, frowning. “Another Dragonborn? Wait…he's a Dragonborn too?” He shook his head, narrowing his eyes as he felt the pressure in his head, the Mask trying to invade his dream, to take control. But Grulmar didn't let him, because he had no place in there and certainly not enough power to come in with hostile intentions. Grulmar looked around Riften and snorted. This dream wasn't the Mask's, it wasn't Oghma's. It was Grulmar's, it was his garden, and the only reason why the garden let Oghma in was because she didn't come to control him - no, she came only to observe.


    “Yes, I have come to observe,” she said, reading his thoughts. “But my time here is slowly coming to an end. The corrupted stones are what is allowing me to observe this, but they are also what is keeping the others out of here. Once the stones are cleansed, the others will try to come back. I wonder if you will let them?”


    “Do I have a say in that?”


    “While the garden is not your creation, it is more a part of you than it is a part of them. For them, it is a link to you, but what is it for you?”


    “A nightmare,” he muttered.


    “And as long as you see it that way, they will use that against you,” Oghma tilted her head, a sad smile appearing on her face for a second. She motioned towards the marketplace. “Shall we walk the last part then?”


    “Not yet,” Grulmar shook his head, staring into the eye on Oghma's chest. “What does the Mask want? What is his goal?”


    She sighed and nodded. “You might not realize it, but you two have more in common than you would expect. What does he want? He wants freedom, of course.”


    “Freedom?” the Orc narrowed his eyes. “That means he's trapped. Controlled.” He then cocked his head. “By you.” He surprised himself with how calmly he stated that, because the realization should make him angry and he would be right to be. Because if these strange dreams were doings of the Mask, the power that controlled the people through the stones, it was because Oghma allowed it. “But no. You are just an observer, aren’t you?” he grimaced. “You are just letting him do what he has to do, because you want to see the outcome. You want to see who wins, don’t you?”


    “History likes to repeat itself and that, exactly, is why the strands of fate are not so difficult to follow and predict the outcome. And yet, while I know these particular strands are meant to clash, I cannot predict their outcome which is what makes it so curious,” she explained, turning her head away from him, but the eye still watched him. She then turned back to him, her lips tightly pressed together, creating a straight line. “Just as I cannot predict the outcome of your struggle. So I am here to observe, to understand. Because you are striving for freedom too.”


    Grulmar frowned. “And this is what makes me and the Mask similar?” He snorted and shook his head. “Do you see me controlling people in their sleep? Do you see me building shrines so that I could...what? Become a god and control everyone?”


    She waved with her hand, gesturing towards the Riften's marketplace. “This is some time after you escaped from the orphanage is it not? How old you were? Fourteen? A fourteen years old Orc alone in the streets of Riften, sleeping in the trash and stealing food just to survive. You escaped and gained freedom, but what were you able to do with it?”


    Grulmar bared his tusks at the woman, but he didn't answer.


    “Only now, after all these years, you understand that the only true freedom comes through power. Is it not what you are trying to achieve as well? The one you call ‘Mask’, is he that different from you because he took it one step further? That he found a way to break all the shackles?” She shook her head and the eye seemed to blink even though it lacked eyelids. “One day, you will be facing the same choice. And when that time comes…will you make it? Or you will not? To us, it does not matter, yet we will be watching nonetheless, with curiosity and amusement, because this never stops to amuse us. How you all struggle to gain your freedom, trapped in the eternal cycle. And when the World-Eater shows up to end the cycle, you shake your fists in outrage and denial. Why?”


    Grulmar clenched his jaws. “We are done here,” he growled.


    “Is the truth making you angry, little Orc? Just remember these words when the time comes. Remember these words as you relive the moment the king of curses began shaping you,” Oghma said at the marketplace.


    “Let's call things by their true names, shall we?” the Orc clenched his hands into fists. “You are no longer welcome here. I banish you, Hermaeus Mora!”


    And with those words Oghma began fading, her form dissipating in strands of darkness and smoke until only the eye remained, hovering in the air. “We will see each other again, Grulmar gro-Trinimac,” the eye said, painfully slow before finally disappearing.


    Grulmar was left there alone - among the people walking past him going about their daily routines, with their petty dreams and lives - with the last words hanging in the air, seeping deep into Grulmar's soul. He suspected Mora for a very long time, but this was a definite confirmation that he wasn't losing his mind, that the feeling that his life was guided by an invisible hand wasn't completely crazy. But the truth was actually slightly more complicated. It wasn't one hand. The Tall Man and the Green-Eyed Bitch… he knew who they were. But what exactly did they want?


    He then felt something push against him and he realized it was the dream, it wanted to happen and it was angry he delayed it for so long. He had no other choice but to follow it now, his thoughts drowning in the memories of his past self.


    The young Orc had escaped from the orphanage, finding himself a place on Riften's streets. And the streets were teaching him how to survive. He understood that he wasn't strong enough to take what he wanted and so he knew he had to be smarter. Faster. He learned how to be unseen, become one with the crowd, how to open pouches and packs without being noticed. All that to survive, to get food to keep him alive.


    And that day he was ‘fishing’ among the people in the market, where one could easily disappear in the crowd. He made a mental note of the guards’ at the edge of the market, two by the bridge leading to Jarl's palace, one leaning against the wall of the Bee and Barb and one stationed near the wall leading to Riften's docks.


    And then he noticed his potential target. He was huge, clad in leather armor with chainmail pauldrons, two axes at his side and by the look of them, they were made of orichalcum. He was talking with Grelka, his broad back turned to Grulmar, his head hidden under a leather hood, but Grulmar already guessed his target was an Orc. A huge, dangerous looking Orc.


    Normally, Grulmar wouldn't even pick a target like that, but something in him had the urge to rob the Orc, to take revenge on his own race. Plus, the young Orc was confident he could do it because by the look of the colossus, he wasn't expecting much speed from him. He would just cut his pouch and make a run for it.


    He made his way in between the people, a fourteen years old Orc, with long and skinny limbs, covered in something that once resembled clothing. They always threw him a disgusted glance and then quickly looked away because that was the way of people: They didn't want a reminder of poverty and all the ugliness that was the world around them. No, they prefered to look the other way, pretending it wasn't there. And that was perfect for Grulmar.


    He was now standing behind the huge Orc and he pulled out his knife. It used to be a knife for gutting fish, which he stole from the fishery, and he sharpened the thing against a rock until it was so sharp he could have shaved with it - perfect for cutting off pouches.


    Grulmar quickly extended his arm, gently touching the pouch so that he could slip the knife behind the leather straps holding it and-


    The Orc turned so quickly he became a blur, his hand grabbing Grulmar's wrist in a bone crushing grip. The Orc pulled him closer and then just lifted him off the ground by the wrist, looking him straight into eyes. People around started backing away, disturbed by the whole scene.


    And Grulmar froze. It was almost as if he was looking into a mirror. Red eyes. The black tattoo of an exile. Bone protrusions sticking out from the prominent brow, but also from the forehead. Big long tusks. And Grulmar realized he knew that face.


    “Stupid little runt,” the Orc growled into his face, pulling him closer, sniffing. “You're not from the Guild are you? Because if you were, you'd knew better than-” His eyes then narrowed, almost in recognition, making him pause for a second. “Do I know you, runt?”


    “You're Lorbulg,” the young Orc said, trying to sound as calm as possible.


    “And you wear the mark of a Largashbur exile,” the big Orc observed. “You're Yamarz's runt, aren't you? That little tusker who pulled himself between the bars back when I captured you.”


    “Is there a problem?” one of the guards came closer to investigate and Lorbulg looked at the guard, then back at Grulmar, revealing his tusks in a vile grin.


    “No,” he murmured. “Me and my nephew were just playing a game.”



8 Comments   |   Meli and 8 others like this.
  • Caladran
    Caladran   ·  March 17
    These dreams returns and Lorbulg! It's a long time since then  we saw him.
  • Paws
    Paws   ·  December 27, 2017
    I'd almost forgotten this element of the tale, Grulmar's dreams and the story of his younger days. This is woven in very nicely and,  after the tension of the last chapter, feels like a pause for breath. 
  • Hworra
    Hworra   ·  November 27, 2017
    I always like it when Lorbulg shows up. And Grulmar being a proper badass here, just telling Mora to his face to tusk off XD
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  November 27, 2017
    I always love Lorbulg stuff. 
  • Santa-Pocky-Hah!
    Santa-Pocky-Hah!   ·  November 27, 2017
    Man, if banishing a Daedric Prince was that easy, I would've done it years ago. But experience had taught me otherwise. Looking at you Vehlek Sehk...
    • Shadow Arm
      Shadow Arm
      Man, if banishing a Daedric Prince was that easy, I would've done it years ago. But experience had taught me otherwise. Looking at you Vehlek Sehk...
        ·  November 27, 2017
      Vehlek Sehk?
      And trust me, it ain't that easy as it looks :D
      • Santa-Pocky-Hah!
        Shadow Arm
        Shadow Arm
        Shadow Arm
        Vehlek Sehk?
        And trust me, it ain't that easy as it looks :D
          ·  November 27, 2017
        Vehlek Sehk. Daedric pirate trapped in the Midden. You get a choice to banish him or free him.
        • Shadow Arm
          Shadow Arm
          Vehlek Sehk. Daedric pirate trapped in the Midden. You get a choice to banish him or free him.
            ·  November 27, 2017
          Ah! You mean "Velehk Sain"! Yeah, that guy rocks. Did you know the guy can be met in ESO defending Dark Anchors? Like many other Daedra we have met, for example Dark Seducers from Shivering Isles.