Alice’s Adventures In The Shivering Isles: Part 5
The Duchess & The Duke
In part four of this diary Alice met a lizard who was obsessed with collecting forks and became a dungeon master for a day. It’s difficult to say which experience was stranger. Then she met the Knights of Order, who were less friendly than the chessboard knights she’s used to, and returned to the palace to report back to Sheogorath, god of madness.
We’re back at court, and Haskill the steward is covering up how excited to see us he is by pretending to be bored. Sheogorath is more demonstrative when he finds out we’ve done his bidding.
Wonderful! Time for a celebration… Cheese for everyone!
But we don’t get cheese as a reward for our quest. Instead Alice is taught a spell that will allow her to summon Haskill for advice. Now we can magically teleport him to wherever we are in the Isles whenever we want to pester him. Haskill does not seem thrilled by this.
Sheogorath stops being thrilled as well when he hears about the Knights of Order. He explains they’re part of something called the Greymarch, which is a campaign launched by the god of order to clean up the Shivering Isles and make them less bafflingly insane. He’s launched Greymarches before and they’ve all been pretty nasty, because the god of order is not a nice god. Not like Sheogorath, who only occasionally threatens to have us executed or lies about cheese.
By the way, the god of order is named Jyggalag. You’d think the god of madness would be the one with the silly name.
Now Sheogorath has another quest for his new champion, which is to introduce ourselves to the Duchess of Dementia and the Duke of Mania and ingratiate ourselves with them. I’m not sure how that will help with this imminent Greymarch thing, but expecting the tasks the god of madness gives you to make sense is perhaps a little ambitious.
The two nobles are the heads of rival houses who compete for Sheogorath’s favour. First we meet Syl, the charming Duchess of Dementia.
Why do you approach the Duchess of Dementia? Do you seek death?
I’d prefer cake. Is cake an option?
The Duchess suffers from paranoia. She believes there’s a conspiracy out to get her, but because Alice is a stranger to court Syl thinks she can trust us not to be in on it – infallible logic – which is why the Duchess instantly dubs Alice her Grand Inquisitor, lends the aid of her torturer, and sends us off to expose the plot that might only exist in her head.
The torturer has the ability to fry people with magic lightning if they won’t talk, by the way.
I’d like you to imagine a montage at this point of Alice and her lightning buddy wandering through the streets of Crucible cheerily zapping anyone who won’t answer their questions, all with the blessing of the court. Sunny music and claps on the back and bolts of electricity for the deserving.
Eventually, somebody screams out the truth. A local named Ma’zaddha has been having secretive meetings with one of the Dark Seducer guards named Nelrene. We must investigate. Alice sends the torturer back to the palace and finds a vantage point to spy on one of these meetings. Whee! I’m a detective!
That sounds like definite plotting, the two scheming to assassinate Syl “for what she’s done.” The Duchess was right – just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not after you.
Alice confronts Ma’zaddha after the meeting ends. He pleas for his life, insisting that there’s a further fiend orchestrating the whole plot. He doesn’t know who it is, but promises he can find out if we spare his life. A meeting is arranged for later that night.
While killing time in Crucible, Alice meets another of the stray cat people who infest the place, stinking it up with their furballs and sidquests. This one wants us to help her prepare for the end of the world – she insists it’s coming and, based on how ominously Sheogorath explained the Greymarch, it may not just be the crazy talking. Perhaps Yngvar the Shirtless Doomsayer was right.
This cat lady is hoarding magical protection in anticipation, and there are a few trinkets she’d still like help gathering.
I still need the Amulet of Disintegration, the Ring of Dessication, and, of course, the Calming Pants. Must have the Calming Pants.
You’re mad as a shoe, aren’t you?
Later that evening, we arrive for the meeting with our informant, Ma’zaddha. It could go better, to be honest. If he was alive when we arrived for instance, that would be an improvement.
Fortunately, he left behind a note implicating someone named Muurine before the other conspirators got to him. Muurine lives right here in Crucible so we pay her a visit, at which point things get chaotic. Muurine, as it happens, keeps a pet zombie in her house. Alice over-reacts, slightly.
I see dead people. Then I stab them, as a rule.
Before Alice manages to stab the zombie, Muurine explains that he is actually her Uncle Leo, who is perfectly harmless. Oh, well that’s all right. In the same calm tone as she explains why her dead uncle is still bumbling around the house dropping skin when he should be in the grave, Muurine explains why she’s been plotting against the Duchess of Dementia. Duchess Syl has been consorting with someone from Mania, and that’s a no-no. The two sides of the Isles do not get along, despite being ruled by the same god-king. I know, who makes up these rules?
Treason like this is also against the rules, so when we report it to Syl, she has Muurine executed. It would be easier to feel sorry for her if she wasn’t a freaky-looking necromancer.
As a reward for exposing this conspiracy, Duchess Syl decides not to have Alice killed. Oh, and she makes her an official courtier and gives her a magic bow.
So that’s the House of Dementia dealt with. Next, we visit the House of Mania in the other wing of the palace, where Duke Thadon is relaxing in his conservatory. By relaxing, I mean he is dancing like a maniac.
Thadon is a talkative Duke. Within minutes of meeting Alice, he opens up to her about an inadvisable affair he had with someone from the court of Dementia. Although he doesn’t name names, the implication is obvious. The reason there was a plot against Syl was that she’d been fraternising with someone from Mania, and now we discover it was the Duke himself. Saucy.
It was passion, it was forbidden. Oh, the things that would be said if word got out. That made it all the more delicious.
I have no idea what you’re talking about. In addition, EWWW.
During the short-lived affair Thadon foolishly gave the Duchess a gift, something called the Chalice of Reversal, which he would like back both because it’s evidence of the affair and because its enchantment makes it safe to drink a dangerously addictive substance called Felldew. It’s true what they say – narcotics and loose living lead to the evils of dancing.
Sheogorath did command us to help this goofball though, and we wouldn’t want to disappoint a god.
Syl’s people took the chalice to a place called Dunroot Burrow, which can only be entered while ‘tripping balls’, as the young people say, on Felldew. You see where this is going? Alice is going to have to run an entire dungeon while doped to the gills so that she can find the antidote for the very thing she’s high on. Did I mention that Felldew is harvested from giant bugs named Elytra? And that Dunroot Burrow is their hive? And that they’re spiny and homicidal?
Dunroot Burrow is kind of a blur. I kill an Elytra, harvest Felldew from its body, then drink the stuff. For the first 45 seconds after a dose Alice becomes stronger, but then her abilities take a dive and continue worsening until the next hit. I ration out the supply while stumbling through the tunnels, blurrily waving sharp steel at spiny monsters.
Syl’s agents are keeping the chalice in a tower on top of Dunroot Burrow, probably so she can use it to blackmail Thadon later. I say probably because whatever the original plan was they’ve clearly been abusing the heck out of some substances, and are now even more dew-addled and crazed than I am. They can’t be reasoned with, so Alice uses the bow that Syl gave her to deal with them with the maximum amount of irony.
That bow is called Ruin’s Edge, and it turns out to be magical. Which is nice. Its effect is randomly determined each time you shoot someone with it. The first addict Alice targets is hit with magical frenzy, making him turn on his allies while Alice grabs the chalice and makes her escape.
Drinking from the Chalice of Reversal cures Alice of her addiction, but outside the burrow we see a strange, glowing obelisk that might be a leftover hallucination.
We summon Haskill just like Sheogorath taught us to ask if he can see this too, and also in the hope that he might mention how pretty we look in this dress. He doesn’t, but he does point out that the obelisk is teleporting in Knights of Order who seem to be displeased about something.
They can be overloaded and rendered inert by placing the crystalline hearts of the Knights into the obelisk itself.
Yes, but do you notice anything different about me?
The Knights of Order bark grinding metallic noises as they charge, so Alice’s inept flirting will have to wait until after we can use Dawnfang to hack their hearts out. The knights continue appearing until three of their hearts have been crammed into the obelisk, which deactivates it. By this point Haskill has vanished back to the palace, so we trudge home to New Sheoth to return Duke Thadon’s chalice
In New Sheoth we see our old friend Big Head, the lizardy chap who was looking for his Fork of Horripilation, which we’ve been carrying around in our pocket forever. It’s probably time to give it back. In return for his Fork, Big Head promises to teach Alice a ‘secret’ that will help her learn a skill. Let’s go with the Alchemy secret, for no other reason than because Alchemy is one of Alice’s minor skills.
“Poison” is “potion” spelled differently. Both come in bottles, but one is good to drink! Singing potions! Ringing potions!
Big Head’s secret actually does improve Alice’s Alchemy skill. Admittedly she didn’t know much about Potions to begin with as she only went to Hogwarts in some embarrassing fanfiction. Before Big Head can celebrate the return of his fork, one of the city’s Golden Saints shouts “Halt!” and begins chasing him through the streets. He’s so fixated on forks that he steals them whenever he sees one anywhere in Bliss, and must have been spotted pinching someone’s silverware earlier in the day, marking him as a criminal. He runs and the Saint pursues and Alice follows to see what happens.
This isn’t a scripted event, it’s just part of the way Oblivion’s AI works. It’s great at modelling the behaviour of crazy people.
When Alice catches up to them, Big Head is dead; cut down in the street. Justice is harsh in New Sheoth. A little glum about that, she goes to the palace to give Duke Thadon back his chalice and collect the reward she was promised.
Which was nothing.
Well, you have a silly hat. So there.
Come back soon for part six, in which a battle is fought, a magical flame is lit, and a hat is acquired.
Part 1: We’re All Mad Here
Part 2: Splitsville
Part 3: The Fork Of Horripilation
Part 4: New Sheoth, The Town So Nice They Named It Once
Part 5: The Duchess & The Duke
Part 6: A Question Of Eating & Drinking
Part 7: Putting Him Together Again
Part 8: End At The Ending