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!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Dark Brotherhood, Part 1 (Innocence Lost to Sanctuary) (Katnys)

[Canon violation disclaimer: The Dark Brotherhood questline was one of the primary motivations for my second playthrough.  I therefore needed to balance my eagerness to complete this line with my dedication to authentic role-playing.  In order to achieve this balance, I decided to imagine that when Ulfric gave Balgruuf's axe to Katnys, he told her to hold off on delivering it until he gave the order as a way to maximize the Stormcloaks' readiness in case Whiterun sided with the Empire after all.  This change to the canon allowed Katnys some "breathing room" to complete the Dark Brotherhood quests while maintaining the Civil War as a priority.]

While waiting for Ulfric's order to deliver the axe to Whiterun, Katnys and Jenassa decided to explore Windhelm -- the Gray Quarter in particular.  It was during this "hiatus" that they encountered Grimvar Cruel-Sea and Idesa Sadri discussing the Aretino child, which reminded Katnys to follow up on the rumor she had heard at the Sleeping Giant.  Now that she had some time to kill, she decided to investigate.

Even for someone so young, Katnys had seen a lot, so the sight of Aventus performing the Black Sacrament did not phase her much.  When she heard the orphan's story, however, her nonchalance became a kind of vengeful pity.  Katnys remembered all too well the abuse she suffered at the Imperial orphanage in Anvil, so she gladly borrowed the mantle of the Dark Brotherhood in order to exact some vicarious justice for her and her late sister.  After seeing Grelod's outrageous behavior for herself, Katnys waited for nightfall (no need to traumatize the kids any more than they already had), snuck back into Honorhall, then woke Grelod up; she wanted the hag to be fully awake when she killed her.  Katnys used her Serpent Stone power to paralyze Grelod before driving an arrow in her gut and leaving her for Constance to clean up.  Being able to tell Aventus that his nightmare was finally over gave Katnys a modicum of peace...for a little while anyway.

Shortly after killing Grelod, Katnys received a note from a courier which, if she hadn't been so caught up in both the Civil War and her own orphanage memories, she should have expected.  In fact, the Dark Brotherhood had been in the back of her mind since Riverwood.  From her parents' stories, she knew the Dark Brotherhood, like the Morag Tong, took their kills very seriously, and didn't look kindly on "poachers." 

The next morning, after she and Jenassa spent another night in Candlehearth Hall, Katnys woke up alone and groggy on the floor of an abandoned shack.  The mysterious figure questioning her -- her "host," apparently -- reminded her a bit of Jenassa in the way she spoke so matter-of-factly about killing.  Finally faced with a genuine member of the Dark Brotherhood, Katnys knew she was at a disadvantage, so she listened to Astrid's offer: kill one of the anonymous captives or else...but which one?

Katnys interview Fultheim first.  He reminded her of the kind of mercenary she sometimes encountered with the Alik'r: fighting other men's battles in order to keep food on the table.  By his own admission, he had done some underhanded and cowardly deeds, but was that worth killing?  Next came Alea, the shrew whom Katnys eventually wanted to put out of earshot, but not to death.  Vasha the Khajiit, however, was a different story.  While she could care less about his criminal activities, one phrase he uttered stopped her cold:

Guess which phrase.
After their parents' death, Katnys and Prym encountered more than their share of "defilers of daughters," both in and out of the orphanage.  Normally, she would have shot him right then and there, but having him tied up and helpless like that, she decided to get up close and personal with her dagger.  She wanted him to feel it.

As good as Katnys felt about executing the Khajiit sexual predator, she felt even better when Astrid invited her to join the Brotherhood.  While she had certainly fantasized about assassinating her way through the Imperial Legion, she had not really expected to join the ancient band of killers, nor had she anticipated the stirrings aroused by Astrid's talk of family.  As soon as she left the shack, she rejoined Jenassa, explained where she had been (though Jenassa seemed relatively unfazed by Katnys's disappearance -- her trust in Katnys was sometimes unsettling), and together they traveled to Falkreath.

When they reached the Sanctuary, Katnys was a little put off by the fact that Jenassa was not permitted to enter.  While she understood that she, not Jenassa, had been invited, she had begun to think of Jenassa more and more as her own family.  Still, Jenassa was willing to wait outside while Katnys got to know the Brotherhood.

The first thing she learned was that the Brotherhood clearly lived up to its name.  The Stormcloaks were men and women bound tight by shared beliefs and a common goal, but the Brotherhood acted like a real family -- laughing, teasing, sharing as her own family had done while they lived among the Redguards.  Even Nazir's initial surliness felt familar and avuncular.  She loved this band of misfits and freaks almost immediately and wanted to please them -- anything to stay within the warm embrace of this Brotherhood. 

So, without hesitation, she accepted her first contract.