So we meet these two idiots at Nightingale HQ, and Karliah tells us we’re here to “get the edge we need to defeat Mercer Frey”. Now, if you want to defeat Mercer Frey, all you really need to do is challenge him to a contest of not screaming a combat taunt for ten consecutive seconds, but whatever.
In the last segment, the story fell apart for me. This bit is where it pissed me off. We’re going to join the Nightingales.
Dear Bethesda: Do you understand that nightingales are birds, and not usually associated with power, cunning, or even darkness? I mean, I know you’ve got the word “night” in there, but the name actually means “‘night songstress”. As in singing. They are not harbingers of danger, adventure, or secrecy. They’re actually cute, fluffy little birds. It’s a terrible, terrible name for your super-secret cult. You basically named yourselves, “The Adorable Little Songbirds”. It sounds really stupid to hear people talking about “Nightingales” like they’re something insidious, and that’s before we see how completely useless they are. I can’t shake the feeling you were thinking of owls, crows, ravens, or blackbirds.
|A better way to keep the Nightingales a secret would be to just not tell people about it, but I guess the myth thing works too.|
Karliah leads us through the secret entrance and ominously tells us, “This is Nightingale hall. You’re the first of the uninitiated to set foot inside in over a century.”
Sigh. Unless you, Gallus, and Mercer are all over a hundred years old, that can’t be true. Mercer is a human, and he can’t be more than fifty. So the last initiation would have been about, what? Thirty years ago? At most. Now, the Nightingales do have another facility (we’ll get to that later) so you could argue that Mercer’s initiation took place there, but there are only two rooms in Nightingale Hall: The armor room, and the oath room. There isn’t a single desk or bench in the place. What is this place used for, if not initiations? Was anyone paying attention when they wrote this?
The game has you click on the “Nightingale Armor Stone” to receive your armor. A stone. What is this? Is it like, a container? Or does it magically produce armor for anyone who pokes it? You have to put on this armor, and Karliah tells you that “You appear ready for the Oath.”
|Nice! This armor does a great job of completely obscuring all of those character details I fussed with at the beginning of the game, including what race I am. I’m actually a Khajiit (a cat-man) but the mask seems to have mashed my face into human proportions.|
Oath? What is this? What are we doing?
See, this is all some kind of bargain with the goddess Nocturnal. (She’s kind of your go-to deity for thieves, at least for those who have a religious bent.) Step one is putting on this armor. I’ll say now that this armor is not very impressive. If you’ve bothered to level smithing or enchanting, then you probably throw away stuff more useful than the Nightingale armor. It gives bonuses to stamina and one-handed weapons. This is ideal if you’re a warrior type, and useless if you’re, you know, someone sneaky. The bonuses on the armor are almost completely at odds with the secretive nature of this cult. The only useful bit are the boots, which muffle your walking. Nice, granted. (Although I have the exact same bonus on my existing boots, which have about double the armor value.) Okay, the hood makes illusion spells slightly cheaper to cast, but the #1 illusion spell a thief would want is “muffle” and the boots give you a constant muffle spell without you needing to cast it.
And yes, you must wear this armor while taking this oath.
I suppose it looks cool in a kind of conspicuously secretive way, like a guy wearing a “Shhh. I’m a ninja” T-shirt.
So Karliah finally explains things to us. In order to defeat Mercer, we must become Nightingales. Doing so means swearing to serve Nocturnal in this life and the next. You serve her in life, and in death. And in return she gives you… the game never actually says what you’re supposed to be getting out of this. Oh, Karliah acts like we’re getting super powers or something, but in this deal no actual powers are conferred. You might say we’re getting this crappy vendor trash armor in return, but we get that before the oath and it does nothing to help us defeat Mercer. There is no reason to accept this deal except that this idiot questline requires it.
Mercer was able to open the guild vault because he stole the Skeleton Key. It’s an artifact of Nocturnal. It lets you “open any door”. (Of course, when you get it, it does no such thing. It’s just an un-breakable lockpick with no other bonus.) It supposedly allows you to unlock your full potential, which is why Mercer is allegedly powerful. As Nightingales, they swore to protect the key and make sure it’s never used. (Which sort of makes you wonder why it exists in the first place, but whatever – gods don’t really need to make sense the way people do.) Apparently Mercer defiled the temple by stealing this key, which he’s been using to steal from the guild.
Karliah gets all high and mighty about this, but of course she never bothered to check on the key or the temple during her twenty-five year exile. If she did, she wouldn’t have needed to translate Gallus’ stupid journal to figure out that Mercer took the key. Stealing the key brought a curse on the guild, giving everyone bad luck, which is why the guild is supposedly on hard times now.
You do get some (really, really crappy) once-a-day powers as part of becoming a Nightingale, but you don’t get those until after you’ve defeated Mercer.
So then we have this stupid ceremony where we all pledge our eternal souls to Noctural, who manifests as a glowing orb of light with an agonizingly smug voice that makes you want to throttle her disembodied neck. She even says, “Karliah, I’m surprised at you. This deal is clearly weighted in my favor.”
Yeah, I guess it would be, since YOU AREN’T OFFERING ANYTHING.
So now we’re Nightingales, with all the rights and privileges that entails. (None.) Along with the costs. (My soul, apparently.) And we can finally go after Mercer, now that we’ve given him a massive head start. Our team of morons (and we must include the player as one of the morons, since you have to role-play a moron to agree to Nocturnal’s deal) meets at yet another ruin where we hope to corner Mercer Frey.
|Oh, you guys are still wearing that crappy Nightingale armor? I’m sorry. I would have brought you something if I’d realized you didn’t have anything better.|
I meet up with Karliah and Brynjolf. Assuming he’s the slowest man in the world, Mercer should still be inside trying to recover the Eyes of the Falmer. Now we just have to go in and murder him.
Say… I don’t suppose I could talk you two guys into staying behind, could I? No? That’s what I was afraid of.
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