I met the Afflicted Refugee very early in my playthough (on my first walk from Riverwood to Whiterun), but I delayed following up on the quest because other matters seemed far more pressing. When I finally got around to tracking down Kesh the Clean, I have to admit that I was a little put off by his fascination with disease; like most of the Daedric cultists I had met, he seemed to harbor an unhealthy zeal for his particular patron. I reluctantly agreed to gather the materials needed to commune with Peryite, mainly because I wanted to get to the bottom of what might be some sort of planned epidemic.
I learned from Peryite that one of his priests, Orchendor, had gone rogue after taking some Afflicted followers down into the Dwemer ruins at Bthardamz. While I was not interested in doing the Daedra’s bidding (a statement that I fear has lost its value through overuse), I did not fancy the thought of a deranged cultist locking a group of plague-ridden worshippers in some underground facility – the situation reminded me too much of Poltergeist to be ignored, and could be a harbinger of some greater disaster.
When I approached Bthardamz, I did without Sneaking; stealthy entrances were for vampire lairs and bandit camps. My two initial encounters with Peryite’s followers suggested that these folks, while perhaps a bit “off,” were not particularly aggressive. Needless to say, I was shocked by the Afflicteds’ stomach-churning attack. I defended myself, of course, but couldn’t help feeling pity for these poor souls.
My misgivings about the quest only increased as I proceeded. Now that I was Sneaking through the Dwemer ruins, I was privy to conversations among the Afflicted. From what I could gather, they were all sick and suffering, but Orchendor was unwilling to let them go, and most of them had already bowed to his will. Clearly, Orchendor needed to be confronted, but what about the Afflicted who had yet to detect me? Based on the reactions of their brethren outside, I knew that they would attack me on site, but that was only a problem for me, not the general public (consider bandits for contrast). As long as they stayed put, they presented no danger to anyone else.
But what if they didn’t stay sealed away? What if Orchendor’s plans were more nefarious? He was in control of a group of bioweaponized zealots, and had clearly lost all sense of balance. And what of the Afflicted themselves? Most of the ones I overheard were desperate for release from their prison, but unwilling to defy their leader. Assuming that I could manage to Sneak past all of them and take out Orchendor silently, what would they do without their leader? Simply stay and waste away? Disperse into the general population and spread their plague?
I decided to take the harsher of the two paths by killing all of the Afflicted as well as Orchendor. I do not feel good about this decision, but in the end, it seemed as though this cult had already passed the point of no return:
- · They attacked me on sight.
- · While Kesh and the refugee were reasonable, the others seemed to be under Orchendor’s control, dying, or wishing they were dead.
- · Killing them was the best way to ensure that they did not spread their disease to non-cultists.
During my post-quest research, I learned that the Afflicted in Bthardamz are always hostile, so that helped me to rationalize my decision, but I still wonder if it might have been more just to try to Sneak past them and take out Orchendor only. Perhaps on another playthrough.