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Welcome! This blog is devoted to considerations of morality in the The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim by Bethesda. Rather than a fansite, review, or walkthrough, it is a serious attempt to examine the game through a moral lens. Please note that the purpose of this blog is to discuss morality within the context of the game, not to determine whether playing the game is immoral in and of itself; the latter type of "discussion" tends toward tedium and inhibits, rather than promotes, a meaningful conversation.

If you have not visited this blog before, it might be helpful to read the posts labeled "Orientation," most of which are the first few entries in the blog archive (see right). These posts include a short introduction to this project, a content-specific author bio, and a few other pieces that explain key concepts relevant to this study. These posts are of particular use to those readers less familiar with Skyrim (or video games in general).


If you have visited this blog before, thanks and welcome back!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Forsworn Conspiracy

This quest and its "sequel," No One Escapes Cidhna Mine, represent some of the most morally and politically complex gameplay in Skyrim. For the sake of clarity and efficiency, I am going to focus on the issues at play in these quests, rather than on a blow-by-blow plot summary. If you would like more information on the individual steps of the quest that I might gloss over, please consult the wikis in the right-hand column.

I had encountered some Forsworn before this quest began.  They behaved in an manner indistinguishable from bandits: immediately, unrelentingly, inexplicably hostile.  I therefore assumed that, while there might be more to their story (as the in-game book The "Madmen" of the Reach insists), it would add up to something no more complex than a network of Hagraven devotees. I could not have been more wrong.

After Weylin's obviously political assassination of Margret in the Markarth marketplace, and the subsequent failed cover-up, I spoke to one of the other bystanders, Eltrys, who suggested that we should meet later at the now-abandoned Shrine of Talos to discuss the day's events.  I complied, and he revealed that he knows that the Forsworn murdered his father, a mine owner, for reasons he could never figure out, and that these Forsworn attacks have been going on for years, but no one ever does anything about it. He asked me to investigate both Margret and Weylin in order to get to the truth.  As usual, I agreed.

As a result of my nosing around Markarth, I discovered that nothing was as it seemed.  Margret, as it turned out, was an Imperial agent sent to investigate the Silver-Bloods, the family that owns a profitable silver mine (and half of Markarth, according to some townspeople).  Weylin the miner was in fact a Forsworn sleeper, assigned to kill Margret by Nepos -- a Forsworn operative with ties to the Silver-Bloods.  When I confronted him, he admitted that he takes his orders from Madanach, the Forsworn leader imprisoned in Cidhna Mine, which is owned by the Silver-Blood family and acts as the main prison of The Reach.  I found the final missing piece when I spoke to Thonar Silver-Blood, though not the way I intended.

Thonar was not at all interested in speaking to me and kicked me out of the Treasury House moments after I met him.  As I was leaving, one of the Treasury House employees, yet another Forsworn attacked and killed Thonar's wife; in the ensuing skirmish, the attacker was killed along with several of Thonar's personal servants.  Shaken by his wife's sudden, violent death, Thonar confessed that he has been using Madanach and his men for his own personal gain.  Apparently, when the Silver-Bloods needed someone to disappear, Thonar employed Forsworn to carry out the deed in order to prevent suspicion from falling on his family.  Now, however, the arrangement seemed to be coming apart.

Having connected all of the dots, I returned to the Shrine of Talos to report my findings to Eltrys.  Unfortunately, I discovered Eltrys lying dead at the feet of three Markarth Guards, who promptly informed me that my sniffing around had won me a trip to Cidhna Mine on a murder charge.  Normally, I don't fight Guards, as they typically represent law and order in the game.  In this case, however, they were operating in direct contradiction to their duty as well as to any acceptable moral code: 
Clearly, we're past "No lollygaggin'" here.
Furthermore, I suspected that Eltrys might be carrying important information himself, so I attacked the guards, quickly looted Eltrys's body, then yielded to the reinforcements who rushed into the shrine in response to the attack.  Thus began No One Escapes Cidhna Mine.

On the surface, the moral concerns of this quest seem simple; I was trying to uncover the truth in a town run by a powerful and corrupt family, so all of my sneaking, stealing, and brawling served a just purpose.  Even killing the "dirty" Guards seems defensible as they had framed me for a murder they had committed themselves. The wild card was Madanach, the "King in Rags."  Getting to him and hearing his story seriously complicated this two-part quest.


  1. note that when the forsworn escape from Cidhna mine they wreak havoc across tamriel. especially since Madanach is back out, they could probably take markarth and morthal in that week.

    1. …and yet, they don’t. As I’ve said elsewhere, I’m really conflicted about the Forsworn. Their methods are abominable, but their cause has merit. They’ve been mistreated by the Empire in general, and Ulfric in particular, which does not excuse their actions, but it does suggest that the negotiating table might be a better place for them than prison.

  2. the foresworn reminded me of the native folks of america.. they lived there before... the Stormclokes them self, who came after the foresworn would have lesser right on the land and as well the imperials of course.. it was one of the reasons i decided to close up with the Imperial.. even if they remind me a lot of the roman empire and there intriges,,,