A thousand words quest

Halcar(FILLED)- High Elf, male, obsessed scholar

Primei(FILLED) – Redguard Female, Halcar’s assistant, conflicted

Ester Maroux – Female, Old, author, race unimportant, haughty

2013-11-27_00006

Did you find it? Tell me you’ve found it!
Wait…you’re not my assistant. Curses! What’s keeping her?

What in Oblivion are you talking about?
The final painting…the one that completes the story. I have to have it!

Slow down. Start from the beginning.
It’s not the beginning I require, damnit! I have to know how this story ends!

This just isn’t your day. Empty your pockets. 
A common thief, are you? Well, that may be just what this situation needs.
I will pay you your gold when the job is finished. Provided I find out how this story ends.

What story are you talking about?
Ester Maroux’s final piece. Surely you’ve heard of her?

No, I haven’t. Why don’t you tell me.
Well, that doesn’t surprise me. It seems a writer’s popularity is directly related to how awful they are.

The name sounds vaguely familiar.
Yes, she wasn’t the most celebrated of writers, but when it comes to celebrity, you must consider the judge.

Yes, Ester Maroux is my cousin.
That would make you very old indeed, given she has been dead for centuries.

walks to painting on the wall

Maroux was a writer of Dwarven stories, and her imagination was limitless.
But she was more than a writer. She was an artist. Maroux predicted that in the future, people would tell stories not with words, but pictures.
That’s why her most famous novel isn’t a novel at all. It’s a series of paintings that tell the grandest of epics.

Is the painting on the wall one of her works?
It is indeed. Part six of seven. The first five I have stored away in my personal chambers.But the entire set is useless without its conclusion! Even a glimpse of it would give me the closure I seek.

What is Maroux’s story about?
It tells the tale of the last Dwemer. He wakes up in an old ruin, with his memory completely erased.
As he travels the sands of the Alik’r, pieces of his past start to arise. At the same time, there are elements in the shadows who want him dead.
The final painting will not only end the story, but provide a clue as to what happened to the Dwemer! Well, at least, Maroux’s interpretation of it.

Where is the final painting?
That is the source of my frustration. I made the purchase through a reliable source weeks ago, and sent my assistant to retrieve it.
Only it appears the deal went sour, as she hasn’t returned.

I’ll see what I can find out. Where was the deal supposed to happen?
Markarth. Evidently it was in possession of the Silver-Blood family. If they’ve double-crossed me, I swear on Zenithar that they will pay.

Well, that’s none of my concern.
I’m aware of that. However, if you find anyone who would be willing to help, point them my way. I will be sure to reward them.

What’s your relationship with Radiant Raiment?
It’s strictly business. Taarie and Endarie have allowed me to stay here for the time being.
In exchange, I plan to exhibit Ester Maroux’s works in their store to attract customers.

Hellos/Goodbyes
I must know how this story ends.
Maroux was the first to realize pictures provide more depth and realism than words ever could.
She isn’t the most skilled painter, of course, but that isn’t the point. Her storytelling shines through.
Find out what happened to my assistant, and you’ll find the painting.

player returns with painting

You’ve returned! What news do you have of Maroux’s painting?

Here. This should complete the story.
Fantastic! Let’s place it on the wall so I can properly interpret it.

Okay, we last left the hero just as he was about to discover what happened to the Dwemer.

And what do we have here? The return of a Dark Elf sister? What? Is Maroux implying our hero is choosing his family ties over his biological ones?
(alternate)And what do we have here? Deathbells? But that would mean…

No…this can’t be right…although it has all the characteristics of a Maroux piece…but this ending…it’s…it’s…

Brilliant?
Satire! Such a ridiculous ending can only be satire! Which yes, now that I think about it, is absolutely brilliant!
It’s the only possible solution to the Dwemer conundrum! Maroux continues to surprise me! Truly an artist beyond her time!

It’s horrible, I know.
Yes…which can only mean…it’s intentional! Maroux is satirizing the traditional narrative, by highlighting its obvious fallacies!

Just be thankful you’re still alive.
Alive? Why wouldn’t I be? I’ve just been privy to one of the greatest pieces of art ever made!
Don’t you see? This wasn’t a story, it was a critique! It’s always been a critique of texts and traditional storytelling!
That’s who she’s satirizing with this final painting!

In any case, I want to thank you. Taarie and Endarie will have their painting, but you deserve a reward.
This is one of Maroux’s earlier works. A priceless artifact, but long since surpassed by the work you see before you.
Still, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it all the same. Until we meet again.

Scene

Master Halcar, I’ve got some bad news. I’m afraid the painting’s been stolen.

Nonsense, it’s right here. Where it should have been days ago.

But that’s impossible…whoever brought it to you must be the thief!

Does a thief return things to their rightful owner? I’ve heard enough of your excuses. If I wasn’t in such a good mood, I’d fire you right here.

Master, I swear by the Eight, I was only trying to help you!

Then fetch me a quill. We have much work to do.

Post-Quest Hellos
Thank you for delivering Maroux’s piece. As for my assistant, I will reprimand her later.
The book I gave you was my first introduction to Maroux. Take good care of it.
A grand epic with a satirical ending…I never would have guessed. It’s brilliant, absolutely brilliant.

********

2013-11-27_00010

What am I gonna do…

Is something the matter?
Yeah. Something is.
Let’s say, just for argument’s sake, that you were in possession of something amazing. A true work of art.
Only the problem is, it’s also extremely dangerous. What do you do with it? Do you hide it? Destroy it?

You use it to kill your enemies.
It’s not a weapon though. As in, it was never designed to be dangerous. 

Destroy it. Nothing stays hidden forever.
I know but it’s not that easy. This is one of the most important works of our time. Destroying it feels…wrong.

Hide it. If the responsibility is too much, let fate decide.
That’s what I was leaning toward. But part of me still feels guilty for even thinking it.

If you’re talking about skooma, then you share it.
Skooma? No, this isn’t anything like that. I told you, it’s a work of art.

What exactly are we talking about here?
(Sigh) I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to tell you. It’s a painting. The last known work of Ester Maroux.

How is a painting dangerous?
I don’t expect you to believe me, but history doesn’t lie. The painting is death itself.

It’s a painting of Sithis?
No, but it’ll deliver you to him. Maroux’s husband was the first to view the last painting, and died not long after.
The next one to die was an art collector who gathered all seven works, along with everyone in his household.
The trail continues in this manner. Ledgers that show the purchases, followed days later by notices of death.

At least you die knowing how the story ends.
That’s what Master Halcar would say. It’s all he cares about. And it’s why talking to him about it is useless.
He’d rather die than not finish this story.

Sounds reasonable. I’ve seen plenty of things that make me want to kill myself.
As have I. The difference is we didn’t actually die. Maroux’s husband did.
Art collectors, thieves, even a wizard who thought the paintings were magic. They’re all dead.

Tell me more about Ester Maroux.
Some say she was a recluse. Others say she was a necromancer. But everyone agrees the woman was strange.
Now, I don’t know about spells and witchcraft and all that. What I do know is the history of that painting.

If the painting is a death sentence, how are you still alive?
I haven’t had the courage to look at it. If I die, there’ll be no one to spread the word about its dangers.

What if I were to look at the painting and describe it to you?
Do you realize what you’re asking me to do? I can’t send you to your death.

Just give me the sodding painting already.
No, I can’t. And roughing me up won’t do you any good. It’s locked up in the Treasury House safe.

Anyone who tries to steal it will end up in Cidhna Mine.

If you’re worried it will kill me, don’t. I’ve endured worse.
I appreciate you trying to help, but it’s too risky. We’re dealing with forces beyond our understanding.

That’s why I had the painting stored in the Treasury House. At least, until I decide whether or not I want it destroyed.

Hold that thought, I’ll be back.
All right.

What if we hired an artist to make an alternate ending?
Master Halcar is an expert on Maroux. He’d spot a forgery almost immediately.
No, there’s no other option but to hide it, or destroy it. At least I know it’s safe in the Treasury House for now.

Hellos/Goodbyes
The security at the Treasury House is pretty good. They hired an extra bodyguard to help.

I trust the Silver-Bloods more than I trust the guard here. 
The painting is a priceless work of art. I can’t just remove it from this world without considering the consequences.

after player steals painting

Scene

Master Halcar, I’ve got some bad news. I’m afraid the painting’s been stolen.

Nonsense, it’s right here. Where it should have been days ago.

But that’s impossible…whoever brought it to you must be the thief!

Does a thief return things to their rightful owner? I’ve heard enough of your excuses. If I wasn’t in such a good mood, I’d fire you right here.

Master, I swear by the Eight, I was only trying to help you!

Then fetch me a quill. We have much work to do.

Scene 

player steals real painting, Halcar dies.

No…you fool! I warned you what would happen! 

By Arkay…he’s dead.

Post QUest hellos

(Halcar lives)
I can’t believe how foolish I was. A painting can’t kill a man.
The ending to Maroux’s work is rather strange. Master Halcar says it’s satire, but I don’t know. It doesn’t fit.

(Halcar dies)
Get away from me. As far as I’m concerned, you killed him.
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when player enters painting.

So you’ve come to hear the end of my story. It’s not something I’m prepared to tell.
Because the questions will always be more interesting than the answers.
And the best ending, the perfect ending, will always be the absence of one.

There’s no ending?
Unfortunately, no. I once sought the perfect ending to my story, only to find the words eluded me.
So I tried to frame it not with words, but pictures, but even then, I failed.
That is, until the day I met a wanderer, who kept a dog as his companion. He offered me a proposition.

What sort of proposition?
He would grant me what I desired most, but asked nothing in return. He took pleasure in knowing that perfection would provide its own disappointment.
Because to maintain its secret, the painting required a protector. And so here I am, guardian of my own shame.

clavicus is claa-vi-cuss

What is this painting?
The wanderer I spoke of was none other than Clavicus Vile. I asked him for the perfect ending, and this is his answer.
The painting itself is proof that such an ending exists. And the death of its owners ensures it will never be known.

Who are the corpses on the floor?
They, like you, are curious souls who sought the ending to my story. And when given the chance, they have all chosen to keep it.

Why do you think you had so much trouble with the ending?
It is the paradox of any mystery. The answers will never satisfy your curiosity. They are only varying levels of disappointment.

That’s an excuse. You just lack the skill to create a suitable ending. 
I disagree. If you are satisfied with an ending, it only means you were never all that curious to begin with.

What about an ending based on actual Dwemer theories?
Because if those theories are wrong, the entire story will fall apart once the truth is revealed.

True, there’s really no satisfying way to finish a story about the Dwarves.
Yes, save for the one. That is what the wanderer meant when he called it the “perfect ending.”

Why not end on a cliffhanger?
Because then my motives would be transparent. And delaying the end is just as damaging to the narrative as a poor one.

What happens now?
You have a choice. You may choose to adhere to my wishes and die by my hand, or you may take the painting behind you to serve as the new ending.

What’s the painting depict?
It’s drivel. The worst kind of ending imaginable. It will ensure that no others follow this path, at the cost of my personal legacy.

Why would you damage your own legacy?
Simple. By giving you a choice, I allow you to affirm or deny the ending I chose. If you choose the cliche, then as a writer, I have already failed.

What happens if I vanquish you?
I haven’t the faintest idea. None have succeeded so far. On the other hand, none of your predecessors have ever fought back.

What happens now?
Very well. Take the painting, or take up arms. But I warn you, I will not go down easily.

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2 thoughts on “A thousand words quest”

  1. I thought killing the woman would prevent anymore deaths! But when I showed him the painting, he died anyway… Now I wish I had just taken the fake one. :( Please post the steps of the quest so we can use the setstage command. I want to force the happy ending.

    (The new website doesn’t allow comments! I read others commends to help me in the quests! Plus, this website has more detail… I like it better.)

  2. I found a way around it! I typed “help maraux” into the command console, then saw the ID for maraux’s faux painting. I used player.placeatme ### and picked up the faux painting. Then I spoke to Halcar. I had both paintings in my inventory, but only the deathbell one was a quest item. At first he commented that the painting was a Deathbell, and I quickly took the deathbell painting off the wall before he could finish examining it. Then he suddenly switched dialogue to discuss the faux painting. He lived! Oddly, after that, his assistant ran up and told him the paining had been stolen… not sure if she meant me taking it off the wall, or me taking it from markarth..

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