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).

PLEASE NOTE: HERE BE SPOILERS!

If you have visited this blog before, thanks and welcome back!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

In My Time of Need (Katnys)

Regular readers will remember that In My Time of Need was the quest that initially prompted me to begin this blog.  The question at its center -- whom should you believe? -- is what transformed an entertaining video game into a moral sandbox for me.  As I pointed out earlier, I created Katnys as a moral agent who would choose differently from her predecessor, and this is one of the quests that I had in mind when I started thinking about alternate moral choices.  In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit to "stacking the deck" for this quest in order to ensure that choosing Kematu over Saadia made sense for this new PC.  The Alik'r feature prominently in Katnys's backstory in part because I wanted to give this moral agent who values relationships over principles a reason to not only side with Kematu, but also to care about the dilemma at hand.

When Katnys returned to Whiterun after the revelations at Kynesgrove and High Hrothgar, she sought out the Alik'r warriors whom she had seen arguing with the town guard.  Earlier, she had avoided them because she was too focused on the task at hand, but now she felt the need to reconnect with something familiar.  Although she did not know these particular Alik'r, she had heard the warriors with whom she and Prym lived talk of Kematu with pronounced respect.  She was therefore more than happy to help them track down their target.

Once she found Saadia, Katnys listened to her side of the story, which actually cemented her original decision.  Saadia, who has no idea who Katnys is in relation to the Alik'r, refers to them as cowardly assassins, which is a gross mischaracterization -- something only one who had spent time with them would know.  There were some other points to consider:

  • Even beyond the "assassins" reference, Saadia's side of the story didn't ring true to Katnys's ears.  She knew first hand that Hammerfell resisted the Dominion on its own well after the Empire abandoned the province and acquiesced to the Thalmor.  Although there was no way she could know the details of the Second Treaty of Stros M'Kai, it was clear that the Dominion had sought terms while the Redguards were ready to fight to the bitter end.  It was therefore highly unlikely that a Redguard noblewoman would be pursued by her kinsmen for speaking out against the Dominion.
  • Furthermore, the treaty stipulated the removal of all of the Dominion's forces from Hammerfell.  Who, therefore, would care if a Redguard noblewoman was speaking out against them?  It's not as though the Thalmor were roaming free as they were in Skyrim.
  • The Alik'r wanted Katnys to help them capture Saadia, whereas Saadia wanted Katnys to kill Kematu.  The former is the request of men doing their job, whereas the latter is the request of someone who is comfortable betraying her own countrymen -- which is exactly what Saadia was accused of.
  • Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, Katnys knew the Alik'r (if not these Alik'r), but she had no idea who Saadia was.  There was little chance she was going to trust a stranger over people she knew.
Still, Katnys wanted a little more insight into the situation; after all, when the Aldmeri Dominion is involved, there is always the possibility of deception and political intrigue.  She therefore followed up with the Alik'r prisoner in Dragonsreach, whose story confirmed her earlier suspicions.  Far from being a "hired gun," this warrior was a man of honor and loyalty, which seriously undermined the validity of Saadia's claims.  Katnys and Jenassa set out for Swindler's Den.

That Kematu had used bandits as cover neither surprised nor offended Katnys.  He had a job to do for his people, and the bandits provided necessary protection and camouflage.   As they meant nothing to him or to Hammerfell, they were expendable.  Furthermore, Kematu had no way of knowing who Katnys was and what her intentions were.  Had he really wished to kill her, he would not have stayed the hands of his men.  After her parley with Kematu, Katnys promised to deliver the traitor outside the Whiterun stables.  Kematu, true to his word, captured Saadia without violence; Katnys, for her part, was glad to have helped pay the Alik'r back, at least in some small way.

4 comments:

  1. I wish I had helped capture her instead of saving her after reading this! Awesome job on your blog, it's great.

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  2. Thanks for reading, and thanks for your kind words!

    What's great about this game is that you can complete many of the quests in multiple ways in order to see how each one "feels." In case you didn't follow the link in this post, I suggest you read through the comments on my write-up of my first playthrough of this quest. A number of readers proposed alternate analyses and a handful of intriguing "third option" solutions.

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  3. It just occurred to me that the Second Treaty of Steps M'Kai might have been a merchant accord thing, not a truce concession like the Concordat. The Hammerfell navy and pirates are formidable both, with distinct strategies, and we know that the waters Hammerfell can control are important for merchants of High Rock. The Treaty may well have been signed because Hammerfell threatened the Dominion and the Empire's naval mercantile trade route, especially since Skyrim is in a civil war and High Rock needs the merchant ports open and safe enough for commerce...

    ReplyDelete
  4. It just occurred to me that the Second Treaty of Steps M'Kai might have been a merchant accord thing, not a truce concession like the Concordat. The Hammerfell navy and pirates are formidable both, with distinct strategies, and we know that the waters Hammerfell can control are important for merchants of High Rock. The Treaty may well have been signed because Hammerfell threatened the Dominion and the Empire's naval mercantile trade route, especially since Skyrim is in a civil war and High Rock needs the merchant ports open and safe enough for commerce...

    ReplyDelete