Lords, Sheriffs, and other household heads create the atmosphere of Thief’s manor missions. Bafford’s manor is dark and lavish; Ramirez’s is full of secret passages (and burricks). There is one household head unique from the others, whose character creates an entirely different atmosphere: Edwina Moira. She isn’t like Bafford or Ramirez. Those corrupt lords, like most of Thief’s nobility, are as criminal as you are. Stealing their treasures hardly feels unjust; indeed, by doing so you’re righting wrongs. But in Thief: Deadly Shadows’ "Seaside Mansion" mission, the tone contrasts sharply with the other manor missions. Moira’s sorrow trickles down the whole place’s atmosphere, and her character, and the threats she is facing, illustrate her as a sympathetic character.
This is part of a continuous series. Read more about Dark Narrative here.
Garrett seeks entrance into the Moira household because he is after the “Compendium of Reproach,” an ancient golden tome the Keepers want to acquire. It was brought to the estate by Captain Robert Moira, a pirate and husband to Edwina. Robert would soon after, on an ill-fated voyage, die, leaving Edwina a widow.
You start out the mission unlike any other of the series’ manors: disembarking a rowboat at the entrance to a small tunnel. The Moira estate is on an island just off of the City. As you enter the estate, waves crash against the shore. The detached setting creates an atmosphere of isolation that city-bound estates like Bafford’s do not have. Further, it's storming, so thunder booms and rumbles pervade the interior of the house, adding to the level’s loneliness. A couple forlorn piano pieces play, with old sea-sounding instruments mixed in, that strengthen the feel of longing and emptiness. This is the most sorrowful Thief mission there is.
The sorrow is not just in the building, but in the people. Moira’s servants plot against her. Robert Moira apparently kept matters settled and in order via fear and respect. His presence gone, snakes in the grass begin to work their way up. Captain Standish of the household guard, pleased with Robert’s death, is looking for Moira’s savings, all the while continuing to act the role of a dutiful servant. He also gladly wanted to tell Edwina of her husband’s death – all this according to his journal.
Disrespect for the Lady and for the Captain’s legacy is discovered among others. Two guests of the Moira’s, one of them an officer of the law, sneak through the master bedroom looking for a valuable telescope. The Mistress of the house has forbidden any wine be brought to the widow Moira, despite Moira constantly requesting some. When observing the two thieving guests noted above, Garrett even remarks, “Looks like the Widow Moira has more than me to worry about tonight.” There is a distinct break between the head of the house and the house’s serving staff. Only one member, named Curtis, seems to care for the widow's well-being. The rest stand against her, and the widow sits alone.
Garrett can meet with the widow Moira. She addresses him without going on the alert; the only time for this to happen in a mansion mission. You never saw Bafford, and others, like Ramirez or Julian, would have screamed for the guard at first sight of a thief. Moira’s different. She wants wine. I have never been able to trigger a response from Moira when bringing her a wine bottle, but others have. She doesn’t even care that you could be a thief. Gazing out the window atop a tower, Edwina is lost in thought and delusional. She keeps speaking to Robert, asking him to fetch her wine as well. If he had some, she could have a sip – clearly the couple would drink wine together, sitting atop the house. Robert also left a message for Edwina on a victrola, and she refuses to listen to it because Robert should just tell her the message himself. As the waves crash below and Moira talks to herself like this, you realize how the tower she is in embodies her separation from her staff. Down the winding staircase they work against her, while up here, detached, Moira is lost in her own world of grief. You think twice about plundering her house of its trinkets, and would love to conk the scheming staff members over the head. This is the opposite in Bafford’s and similar, in which you feel sorry for the likely abused staff and eagerly rob the rich fat cat of his goods.
At mission’s end, you are given the option of stealing Moira’s life savings. Now, the loot item you must steal, the Compendium, would be useless for the widow, so you may steal it without a guilty conscience. You can then choose to leave the loot she needs. No other manor mission inspires such a choice – you rob the place blind. Again here we see the uniqueness of Moira as a Thief character and the head of one of the game’s manors.
Thief’s cast of nobility, law makers, and other of the rich and famous include scoundrels and fiends whom you don’t have second thoughts about stealing from. Their expensive, lavish, greedy character also pervades the walls of their abodes. The widow Moira stands apart from them all, as a character who cares more about her loved one than her treasures. Her forlornness sets the tone for the mission: a tale of loss, betrayal, and a sympathetic thief who must give pause before employing his trade.