Please read this first.

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!

Friday, June 28, 2013

A Cornered Rat

About halfway through the Thieves Guild questline, I returned to the main quest, now armed with the knowledge of Esbern's whereabouts.  I began my search of the Ratway by dispatching the Thalmor agents who were also looking for the elderly Blade loremaster.  I carefully advanced through the vaults and into the warrens, taking out a few thugs here and there.  I ran into nothing of moral significance until I reached the heart of the warrens, and as I review the events that unfolded there, I'm sure that the dilemma I faced was in no way scripted by the game.

I found that the warrens were occupied by three madmen other than Esbern: Salvianus, the Imperial Legionnaire whom the Great War drove insane; Knjakr, the Sweeney Todd-like chef; and Hefid the Deaf, a poor beggar woman who mutters a kind of OCD litany.  Salvianus, while clearly insane, was a gentle soul who only wanted to try to explain the hopelessness he felt, so I listened to him as long as I could before moving on.  Knjakr attacked me the moment I tried to speak with him, so I had to kill him in self-defense.  Hefid, however, presented me with an unexpected challenge.

When I interrupted Hefid's incessant listing of common objects, she completely freaked out, drew a dagger, and ran away from me.  I would have been happy to let her go, but for one problem: she ran straight to Esbern's door and continued to brandish her weapon no matter what I did.  When I tried to talk, she didn't respond, preferring instead to throw herself at the heavily bolted door to Esbern's room.

I now had a real dilemma on my hands.  Opening Esbern's door (assuming I could do so), would send an armed madwoman into the deadbolted cell of a paranoid ex-Blade.  At best, he kills her, and probably attacks me as an accomplice.  At worst, she kills him, and the last remaining hope to defeat Alduin is gone.  Because I could not think of a scenario which didn't end with her death, I decided to kill her as quickly and mercifully as possible.

After gaining Esbern's trust and hearing his tale, we set out to find Delphine.  We didn't take two steps outside his door before we were set upon by more Thalmor agents.  We killed them, but poor Salvianus got caught in the crossfire -- his worst nightmare finally coming true.  I paid my respects, then escorted Esbern back to Riverwood.

I don't feel good about killing Hefid, but once I had spoken to her, I don't see how I could have avoided it.  A quick FUS might have pushed her aside, but would probably also have provoked her to attack me.  Furthermore, even if she had survived the initial encounter, what would have happened during the fight with the Thalmor?  And, if I'm being completely honest here, what kind of life did she have, tormented by her obsessive list in her dank, dark cell?  Might she be better off dead?
"Knife. Yes. Book. Yes. Bucket. Yes. Inkpot? No."  R.I.P. Hefid the Deaf


  1. I wish you would post more of these. really entertaining.

    1. Thanks! As a teacher, it is difficult for me to find time to post during the school year, but now that summer has come again, I plan to write more frequently...perhaps even catch up to where I actually am in the game.

  2. Will you be doing a post on the whole "Paarthurnax" quest? I mean, I'm curious to see how you handled Delphine outright demanding you to kill him, especially seeing as how, despite Paarthurnax being freakin' awesome, he DID do some things that make one pause, if only for a moment.

    1. fact, I'm working on it at the moment. I've had to divide it into to two parts because, aside from the whole Blades vs. Greybeards problem, Paarthurnax's dialogue opens up a consideration of the role of the Nietzschean "will to power" in the game. I should be done with it before Sunday.

  3. You could use a 'Calm' spell on Hefid. Or you could, as you suggest, try to push her out of the way. Since she's fleeing from you, it may also be possible to position yourself such that 'running away from you' also takes her away from Esbern's door.

    If your equipment and hit point totals are both pretty good, it may also be feasible to just ignore her. Go through the whole scene with Esbern with her still either trying to hide in the corders of the room, or trying to stab you or Esbern or both, and simply don't retaliate at all. She's an untrained, malnourished beggar with a blunt knife - what are the chances that she's going to be able to do you any serious harm? It'd be distracting, and I haven't confirmed that it's possible, but I think I'd give it a try if I found myself in that position.

    1. I wish I had thought of using Calm. That's a strategy (Calm, Battle Cry, Fear -- distraction, basically) that I don't use often enough.

  4. I left Hefid alone before entering Esbern's room, although I watched and listened to her for a bit, and ignored her attempts to stab me. The Thalmor group came into his room while I was browsing Esbern's bookcase, and we killed them. After Esbern, Mjoll and I left his room, the two of them immediately attacked and quickly killed Hefid.

    I've had several situations where a follower has suddenly visciously turned on what I considered a neutral character. At least in this situation Hefid was provoking them. Often, I can see no reason for the sudden change. During a fight, I think followers can become hostile as a result of friendly fire, but other times I can't tell what sets them off.