So I get into the habit of locating the nearest Oblivion Gate, sprinting inside, running the gauntlet of towers and lava, and stealing the magical stone that holds the gate open so that when I escape it closes behind me. Then I walk into the town and speak to the mayor, enjoying a hero's welcome even though I'd never been directly assigned the task of closing the gate.
This works just fine until I enter the city of Bravil.
I've already closed the Oblivion gate that was making ominous vacuum-cleaner noises from the top of a nearby hill, so I run past the guards and inside the city, looking for the mayor. Bravil is a port city, crammed with houses made of unpainted, sun-bleached wood, but the mayor lives in a large building made of stone, which is pretty conspicuous. The door to the main hall is unlocked, so I stride confidently into the throne room to receive my congratulations. But the throne is empty. Oh yeah, it's two in the morning. He's probably asleep in his chambers.
I break left and leap up the stairs, and arrive at a landing with doors on either end. In what has got to be the most asinine posting of guards I've ever seen, this one 50-foot landing is being patrolled by three guards. So you can walk right through the front door of the mayor's house undetected, but woe betide you if you're a criminal trying to steal a landing.
Both doors are locked, so I need to unlock one in order to get to the mayor who I presume is sleeping in a room somewhere beyond. My skill at picking locks is poor, but I know a magical unlocking spell that I can cast from a distance.
Now, guards are usually not the most observant types, but these fellows must be lifted right out of a Terry Pratchett novel, because they clearly aspire to great heights of selective obliviousness. I cast the unlocking spell at the door right next to me, then turn around and cast it again, sending a little glowing projectile of "unlocking" magic floating down the length of the landing, past all three guards, unlocking the door at the opposite end with a loud "zap!" sound and a flashy spectral glow. They don't even blink.
I decide to start at the far door, so I walk over to it. As I pass the first guard, he bellows "HELLO THERE!!!" The second guard says, "You look like you're swung a mace or two in your time!" The third guard just grins ear-to-ear.
Beyond the first door is a hallway with three rooms attached. In the first room is a lady asleep fully-clothed on a bed. When I walk in, she stands up, congratulates me for closing the gate (she must have had a dream about my heroics), introduces herself as the secretary to the mayor, and then gets back onto the bed. Conversation over.
In the second room is a fellow named Drels Theran, who also sleeps in the traditional Oblivion custom, fully clothed on top of the bed. He gets up when I approach, and introduces himself as special consulate to the Krel guerillas or something. He, too, is pleased that I've closed the gate. News travels fast.
Since I haven't found the mayor, I decide to try the large room at the end of the hall. When I enter it I think to myself, "this has got to be the place", since it's much larger and better furnished than the other two rooms. I walk from a foyer to a dining area to a sleeping area, but when I get close to the bed, the fellow sleeping on it leaps up and shouts, "YOU CANNOT ESCAPE THE MASTER'S VIGILANCE!". He casts a spell covering himself from head to toe in magical armor, and draws an ugly-looking mace from behind his back.
"Whoah, whoah there," I shout, and back off. I don't want to get into a brawl with the mayor, even if he is in service to some dark lord or whatever. I enter a defensive, yielding position, but he keeps wailing on my shield with his mace, driving me into a wall, so I turn and flee from the room. He follows me out into the hall, screaming.
I turn right, dodging into the room where Drels Theran is sleeping. Perhaps Drels will recognize his own employer and do something to mollify him. Instead, he swings out of bed and shouts "Die you swine!", dashes up to the mayor - or at least, I assume he is the mayor, but now I am having some doubts - and begins punching him in the head.
The mayor turns away from me and begins swinging his sword at Drels Theran, but Drels charges, shoving him into a corner behind a few large barrels. Drels takes a few heavy slices from the mayor's sword, and I fear for his safety, but since I don't want to directly attack the mayor, I summon Daedroth instead. He's the big honking man-lizard I always use as a combat assistant. "If Daedroth doesn't attack the mayor," I think, "then I'll know something's wrong here, and I should probably flee the premises."
But referee Daedroth immediately roars, does his little I'm-armoring-myself disco-boogie magic dance, and then tears into the mayor with both claws. Wedged in a corner, trying to fight two foes at once, the mayor is overwhelmed and catches a nasty blow to the chest, and falls down dead, out of sight behind the barrels. His work finished, Daedroth stands in place making his hideous alligator-breathing noises, and Drels Theran walks casually back over to his bed. I clamber over the barrels to loot the mayor's body.
On his person I find a pair of cheap leather boots and a castle key. I also observe that the game's label for this man is "Hans Black-Nail". Who the hell is this, if he isn't the mayor? Have I forgotten something about this town? Some unfinished side-quest perhaps? I'm standing there pondering my next move, when Drels Theran walks back over to me from his bed, and shouts: "I'm warning you for the last time, get out of here!!" Apparently his very flexible sense of privacy has finally been breached. (I blame Daedroth.)
So I stumble out into the hallway, with the castle key. The corpse I assumed was the major is still heaped in Drel's room. That's fine; he can explain it to the guards then. On my way out to the main hall I discover a third door I hadn't seen before. The guards had been standing in front of it. I bust into the hallway beyond, and see a guard running towards me in the distance. I attempt to jump over his head, but he starts a conversation with me in mid-leap, so I hang suspended in the air while we talk. "It seems you're in a bit of trouble," he says. "Don't worry. Since you're my friend I'll take care of that for you."
He ends the conversation and I fall to the floor, narrowly missing his head. Apparently busting into the hall made me guilty of trespassing, which put a bounty on me - of about two dollars. Good heavens.
At the end of the hall is another door, and beyond that is another man in bed. I jab him and he stands up. Ah hah, THIS is the major. Mystery ... solved? He congratulates me on closing the gate and pledges to send some troops in defense of the kingdom. Then he lies back down again.
I have no idea who that other fellow was. I may never know. But at least now I have a skeleton key to the castle.