The quest began when I agreed to clear out Markarth's Hall of the Dead at the request of Brother Verulus, a Priest of Arkay; apparently, some of the bodies had been partially eaten, which offends both the Divine and the loved ones of the deceased. I suspected draugr when I entered, so I was surprised when this happened:
Clearing out the cave was challenging, but not unduly so. The interesting part happened after I defeated the boss draugr. Eola thanked me, then told me that, for my initiation into the coven, I would be required to bring a fresh kill back to the cave -- Brother Verulus, specifically. There were, of course, two obvious problems with that idea: 1.) I did not plan to become a cannibal anytime soon, and even if I did, 2.) I was not going to murder someone in order to do it. As strange as this may sound, it was not the prospect of eating human flesh that troubled me most; after all, what is Christian Communion other than an image of cannibalism? It was the second part -- murder -- that tore it for me. There was no way that I was going to trick a decent man, a man who had been nothing but good to me, a man who had trusted me with the cleansing of his Hall of the Dead, into being the main dish at a cannabal pot-luck.
Nevertheless, I decided to go along with Eola's plan; I wasn't going to let anything happen to Brother Verulus, but I wanted to see who else was in this coven. As it turned out, this Cult of Namira comprised a veritable cross-section of Markarth society, including a shopkeeper, Lisbet, for whom I was in the middle of a minor miscellaneous quest:
|Lisbet's not getting her stupid statue back.|
Throughout most of this quest, I had been considering what I should do with these cannibals. If they were simply eating the bodies of the dead, I'm not sure what I would have done; necrophagy alone is offensive, but does it warrant extermination? In this case, however, there was no doubt that these cultists were willing to kill innocent people in order to satisfy their twisted hunger. Therefore, at the moment I was to sacrifice Brother Verulus, I turned my weapons on the "diners" and killed every single one of them -- including Lisbet (I'm now stuck with the statuette I had agreed to retrieve for her).
Morally speaking, this was a thorny scenario. Because there was no "go to the authorities" option for this quest, my choices were to participate in the ritual, ignore the ritual and walk away, or kill everyone at the feast. Clearly, I wasn't going to participate, but walking away would be almost as bad; how could I turn a blind eye to this outrage? Killing the cultists was the option most in line with my moral outlook. The nagging misgiving I have about my actions, however, arises from the manner in which dealt with the cannibals. First, I purposely deceived Eola and her friends in order to kill them. Second, I used Brother Verulus in order to gain the trust of the cult; although he lives through the experience, he is a changed man afterwards. The question that follows: even in a game like this one, in which fights to the death are common, how dark will I get in order to maintain my sense of moral justice?
I should also point out that this was the first quest I purposely failed. Had I killed Verulus and fed on him, I would have gained another Daedric artifact. Not only did I lose out on a powerful item, I am also now unable to unlock the "Oblivion Walker" achievement. Sometimes, playing with attention to moral agency has a gameplay price.