After the completion of The Silver Hand, I went out on two more simple radiant quests as a Companion. Eventually, Kodlak Whitemane took me aside and expressed his concern about our actions against the Silver Hand. He then revealed the origin of the Circle’s lycanthropy and its potential cure. Unlike Aela, Kodlak viewed the Beast Form as a generational curse that consigned the afflicted to an eternity in the Hunting Grounds of the Daedric Prince Hircine, rather than in Sovngarde (the Skyrim version of Vanhalla). Because the curse/gift had originally been brought on by a pact a former Harbinger had made with the Glenmoril Witches, Kodlak asked me to obtain one of their heads to use in a purification ceremony. I agreed to help, and set out for the Glenmoril Coven.
The first and easiest moral facet of this quest (called Blood’s Honor) is the killing of the witches. As it turns out, the witches are, in fact, very hostile Hagravens, and therefore fair game. While collecting their heads may seem macabre, it is a necessary act to fulfill Kodlak’s wish, which engages the other moral issue in the quest.
Kodlak’s desire to rid himself of lycanthropy arises more from a longing for Sovngarde than from any compunctions about his own actions during transformation. Hircine’s Hunting Grounds is not a Hell of tormented souls; rather, it is a plane of constant struggle between predator and prey. For someone like Aela, whose fondness for hunting borders on obsession, an eternity in Hircine’s realm would be a just and welcome reward. Kodlak, however, is a true Nord son of Skyrim, and as such, aspires to a place among the honored dead in Sovngarde. He believes that his status makes him ineligible for his rightful place, and the thought of an eternal hunt depresses him. Even though I had enjoyed being a werewolf so far, I sympathized with Kodlak’s plight, and agreed to help him cure himself. The salient point is that lycanthropy is a gift to those who welcome it and a curse to those who don’t, which makes it a morally neutral state.
Unfortunately, I did not get to inform Kodlak of my success; I returned to Jorrvaskr to find that the Silver Hand had retaliated against the Companions for our earlier raid. Not only had Kodlak been killed in the attack, but all of the fragments of Wuuthrad had been stolen…thus began The Purity of Revenge. This next quest was ethically simple; we were avenging our fallen Harbinger and reclaiming our rightful property. Once again, I felt it fitting to kill the Silver Hand leader while in Beast Form. Viklas didn’t seem to mind.
After completing The Purity of Revenge, The Companions gathered at the Skyforge for Kodlak’s funeral. I have to say, this was one of the most moving moments in the game so far. Aside from the pathos of the funeral itself, I was struck by the tragedy of Kodlak’s eternal fate; just when I had made it possible for him to be cured of his “curse,” he was struck down and therefore prevented from entering Sovngarde. Still, I hoped against hope that Kodlak’s assumptions about the afterlife were mistaken; after all, he had no real proof that he would automatically be consigned to Hircine’s Hunting Grounds.
|Manly tears were shed.|
Following the funeral, Eorland White-mane used the Skyforge, which had just been used to cremate Kodlak’s remains, to re-forge Wuuthrad. The Circle (of which I was now a part) gathered in the Underforge to mourn Kodlak’s fate. Of note is the fact that, even though many of them did not agree with “the old man’s” stance on lycanthropy, they truly lamented the possibility that he had missed out on Sovngarde. This sympathy really impressed me; even Aela was able to put aside her enthusiasm for “hunting” and observe that Kodlak deserved better. Fortunately, Eorland appeared and informed the Circle that it was not too late. If we took the re-forged Wuuthrad to Ysgramor’s Tomb, we would be able to perform a purification ritual that would cleanse Kodlak’s spirit, even after death. Once more, it should be noted that the Circle immediately agreed to risk their own lives in order to fulfill Kodlak’s final wish – a wish they themselves rejected.
This quest, Glory of the Dead, posed a few minor ethical issues. Ysgramor’s Tomb contains the ghosts of former Companions who, according to Viklas, are there to test the courage of anyone who would dare enter. Because the ghosts were “in the family” and the battles were part of a warrior’s test, I was able to overcome my misgivings about fighting the spirits of fellow Companions. Once we reached the burial chamber, we encountered Kodlak’s spirit, warming his hands at the Flame of the Harbinger. Sadly, Kodlak had been right all along; he was indeed trapped in Hircine’s realm, constantly pursued by the Daedric Lord of the Hunt. According to his wishes, I threw the head of a Glenmoril Witch into the Flame, which sundered the wolf spirit from Kodlak. A brief fight ensued, and after I defeated the wolf, Kodlak thanked me for freeing him. Before he passed on to Sovngarde, Kodlak named me his successor as Harbinger of the Companions, which the rest of the Circle accepted.
Even though the quest was complete, I had a few decisions to make. First, because I still had four Glenmoril Witch heads, I could have cured myself of the curse that had tormented my predecessor. I decided that, since I had suffered no ill effects and that I was no more inclined to immoral behavior than I was before, I would remain a werewolf, at least for the time being. Second, as I left the tomb, I had the option of taking Wuuthrad, which had already served its function of opening the burial chamber, back from Ysgramor’s Tomb. On the one hand, it rightfully belongs to Ysgramor and should be left with him as a prized possession in accordance with Nord burial traditions. On the other hand, it is a powerful weapon designed to be used against elves, not to sit forever as a decoration. As the new Harbinger, and therefore a successor to Ysgramor himself, I felt justified in keeping the battleaxe in order to continue my private war against the Thalmor.
When I returned to Jorrvaskr as the new Harbinger, I explored Kodlak’s bedchamber further (I had been in the room earlier to retrieve a Wuuthrad fragment for Eorland). In it, I found and read Kodlak’s journal, in which he described not only his sadness over his condition, but also his increasing admiration for me and his confidence that I would be the new Harbinger. For the second time in this questline, I cried.