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!

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Dark Brotherhood, Part 3 (Mourning Never Comes) (Katnys)

Unfortunately, Katnys was not going to get time to reflect on the new direction her life had taken.  Almost as soon as Katnys had returned from completing the first three contracts, Astrid presented her with two new developments.

First, the Keeper from the Dark Brotherhood sanctuary in Cheydinhal, an odd, harlequinesque little man named Cicero, had arrived with a coffin carrying the vaunted Night Mother of Brotherhood lore.  As she listened to Astrid's impatience with the "jester," she was relieved that her leader was not a real devotee of the Night Mother.  Religious zealots made Katnys nervous; tradition should be honored, of course, but this Cicero character seemed as though he might become a disruptive and divisive force in Katnys's newly-adopted family.  She much preferred Astrid's no-nonsense approach -- especially as she explained the second development.

Apparently, Katnys had proven her worth to the Brotherhood to the degree that Astrid now offered her her first major contract.  An apothecary's assistant in Markarth had performed the Black sacrament in hopes of eliminating a former lover, and Astrid wanted Katnys to handle it.  Eager to please the Brotherhood, Katnys collected Jenassa and set off for The Reach.

Markarth turned out to be more dangerous than she anticipated; within minutes of entering the city, she witnessed a murder in the marketplace in broad daylight -- perhaps pulling off this assassination might be a little easier in this environment.  Regardless, Katnys had a job to do, and she was not about to let Astrid down, so she had to ignore the apparent chaos of the city and find Muiri. 

Her meeting with the client added some depth to her understanding of the Brotherhood, but also presented her with a new dilemma.  While readying herself to kill Narfi, she had thought quite a bit about the Black Sacrament, and had begun to believe that those who undertook this ritual only did so when they were at their wits' end, like the Aretino boy.  Muiri's heartbreaking story confirmed this belief, and helped Katnys make peace with her new role as an assassin.  After all, wasn't she in the same position as these clients?  She had no legal access to justice for her sister, so she was forced to seek vengeance in alternate, more brutal ways.  Katnys's and Muiri's stories, while different in the details, shared the same tragic rage.

But then, Muiri added an new rider to her contract -- one that challenged Katnys's already shifting moral code.  After requesting the death of the scoundrel Alain Dufont (an easy kill to justify), Muiri then asked Katnys to kill Nilsine Shatter-Shield as well, as an act of vengeance against the Shatter-Shield family for kicking her out:

Killing a man who used Muiri's naivete and the Shatter-Shields' grief for his personal gain was one thing, but killing a young woman who was only looking out for her family -- a family who had already lost one daughter to a serial killer -- was another matter entirely.

The conflict for Katnys boiled down to choosing between families: her own, and one who had been wronged.  The Shatter-Shields, while nothing to Katnys personally, were experiencing the same kind of impotent grief she knew too well herself.  How could she be the cause of further pain for them?  Still, Astrid had said how important it was to the Brotherhood for her to satisfy this client:

Given the choice between letting down her new family and murdering a young Nord to whom she had no ties, Katnys reluctantly chose the former.  While she felt sympathy for the Shatter-Shields, her loyalty to the Brotherhood outweighed all other considerations.  Therefore, after gleefully slaughtering Alain Dufont and his men, Katnys traveled to Windhelm and waited until nightfall.  Asking Jenassa to wait outside the Shatter-Shield house, Katnys sneaked inside and dispatched Nilsine while she slept; there was no reason to be cruel.

Whatever conflict Katnys may have felt evaporated soon after her return to the Sanctuary.  Astrid was very pleased with Katnys's work, which helped to assuage any guilt she may have felt about Nilsine, then informed Katnys of a potential threat to the Brotherhood in the form of the newly-arrived Keeper, Cicero.  Helping Astrid to protect the family put the Shatter-Shields out of her conscience permanently.  Or so she thought.