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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).

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Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Whispering Door


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.

8 comments:

  1. The one thing that really bothers me about this quest is the back story. If you read on the wiki, the designers had originally intended for Mephala to eventually corrupt all the kids into killing their father. Also, the quest makes it seem that Mephala will get more powerful by opening the door. Not only that, but the lore behind the ebony blade makes me even less inclined to finish it.

    That being said, apparently you can power the blade by killing the dark brotherhood. Some interesting irony there.

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    1. I'm really glad they abandoned that storyline. Imagine the sucker punch as you take the Blade, hoping to keep it safe or dispose of it (as several other commenters have done), only to inadvertently bring about the patricide of one of the best and most noble NPCs in the game. I would feel betrayed -- I mean, when you agree to bring Logrolf back to Molag Bal, you are actively choosing to do something dark, but unless Bethesda wrote some way out, you'd have no control over what Balgruuf's kids do it him.

      As for Mephala getting stronger by opening the door, I don't see it. It seems as though her power is tied to the Blade itself, which is why Nelkir drawn to the door in the first place. Locking it away somewhere inaccessible still seems like the best bet.

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  2. A bit late but I only got Skyrim at the New Years Sale and found this blog just now so I'll hope you forgive me.

    One important thing I can state about the Ebony Blade is that you can charge it up by killing the Dark Brotherhood with it. Which quite frankly made the Lore-fan in me squee as the Mephala founded the Morag Tong and the Dark Brotherhood and Morag Tong are arch enemies / rivals.

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    1. That's really cool! And no forgiveness needed -- two years in, and I'm still playing and writing, so there's no rush.

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  3. This quest is so much anoying. I don't want do the killing especially to those kind gentleman

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  4. Is it bad if I skipped the quest, and just used a wooden plate by accident? I wanted to be a good thief, and realized it was locked, so I started walking, when a plate flew into the wall. I went to pickup the plate, and I glitched inside the room. I also lost all respect for the daedra, when I found out what "she" really was, better yet her intentions

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  5. I was annoyed that you didn't have the option to tell Balgruuf what was going on, once you found out, as he asked you to.

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  6. That p***ed me off as well! I wanted to finish it at least to a degree that helped him with his kids more!

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