While visiting the Bannered Mare between quests, I heard a rumor about Jarl Balgruuf’s son – something about his behavior becoming rather dark, especially for a child. Given my fondness for Balgruuf and my disturbing encounter with Aventus Aretino, I was eager to see if I could help. Balgruuf was, as usual, very candid with me about his son Nelkir; he blamed himself for the boy’s distress, which he believed originated from the fact that he has a different mother than his other kids. He then invited me to talk to him myself.
Being the issue of the Jarl’s dalliance may have accounted for some of Nelikir’s insolence, but when I spoke with him in depth, it became clear that something much darker was at work. He eventually admitted to speaking with the “Whispering Lady” in the basement, which suggested some kind of Daedric entanglement.
|Finally...a daedra who's pickin' up what I'm puttin' down!|
My suspicions were confirmed when I spoke to the “Lady” herself. Nothing good was going to come from a manipulative voice behind a locked door, so I resolved to pickpocket the key from Farengar and open the door. I was pleasantly surprised to find no immediate threat inside the room, so I listened to what the “Lady” – who, as it turns out, is Mephala, Daedric Prince of Secrets and Betrayal – had to say, and set about examining the Ebony Blade and its accompanying book, thus completing the quest.
Given Lothar’s moral profile, there was no way I was going to use the Ebony Blade for its intended purpose. I had a hard enough time finding someoneworthy of selling out to Boethiah, so there was precious little chance that I would be able to justify the use of this particular Daedric artifact.
There remains, however, the moral compromise involved in picking an ally’s pocket. I would argue that that the petty crime in this case is far outweighed by the greater good. Despite Balgruuf’s and Farengar’s noble intentions, Mephala was still able to secure an unhealthy influence on Nelkir. Furthermore, like Mehrune’s Razor, the Ebony Blade is far too dangerous to simply lock in a storeroom. Better that it be guarded by the Dragonborn himself.
As a side note, I should point out that this is the easiest Daedric quest in the game. I have to assume that any potential challenge comes after one decides to use the Ebony Blade on one’s allies. In order to use this artifact with any sort of moral agency, one would have to construct a moral system that can justify not only murder, but wholesale treachery as well. An evil or amoral character could certainly use it, but I’m not sure how a character whose actions are driven by moral compass of any kind could bring the ‘Blade to full power. Perhaps one could construct a genocidal Dovahkiin who has pronounced judgment on the entire Altmer (or Dunmer or Nord or whatever) race could use it, but the question of deception versus honorable battle would remain.
If only the Forsworn were a joinable faction.