“Sweet Mother, sweet Mother, send your child unto me, for the sins of the unworthy must be baptized in blood and fear.”
In Windhelm, Aventus Aretino is reciting this innocuous chant. However, locals fear that he is trying to contact the Dark Brotherhood. As an adventurer, it’s up to the player to investigate these rumors. Idesa Sadri tells Grimvar Cruel-Sea that what is going on inside of the Aretino Residence is pure evil. Heading into the house, the truth is far more sinister…
Aventus Aretino is a child.
Aventus’ mother died a year prior due to illness. The Jarl sent him to Honorhall Orphanage in Riften, which is run by an elderly woman known as ‘Grelod the Kind.’ According to Aventus, Grelod is anything but kind, and the children in her care despise her. The citizens of Riften look at her as being a running joke.
If we travel to the orphanage, we hear Grelod yelling at the orphans, telling them all that no one will ever adopt them. When we approach her, she tells us that she will not be intimidated by anyone. She is a despicable woman. She is cruel and abusive. We, the players, are incentivized to kill this stranger. How could we not? However, when we kill the old crone, the children rejoice at her demise. It is very unsettling to see children, virtual or not, celebrate death.
The Dark Brotherhood
As I mentioned in the introduction for the Thieves Guild, writing about Skyrim is something of a challenge. Pulling yourself away from the game is difficult. Sometimes there are natural stopping points, such as an unexpected and unfair occurrence—like executing your companion instead of your enemy, or a sudden twist in the plot that is stupid and doesn’t make sense. Other times, the game just keeps going, enticing you to keep playing and watch as the story unfurls. The latter is the case with the Dark Brotherhood.
It’s easy to write about the Thieves Guild because there is so much wrong with it and many areas where it can be improved. As people, we’re hard-wired to notice the negatives—that which bothers or frustrates us—much more readily than we notice the positives. It is easier to criticize the negatives than it is the positives. Worse, we focus on discussions about the negatives and let positive discussions slip by—we crave drama, in other words. That’s why you’re more likely to read a scathing review about the latest movie or a rant about bad customer service.
I mention this because writing about the Dark Brotherhood has been very difficult. The plot isn’t stupid and progresses logically. The writers use foreshadowing effectively—hell, they use foreshadowing, which is more than can be said about the Thieves Guild. The quests embrace Skyrim‘s updated mechanics, rather than hope the player uses them. The dungeons and quest spaces are laid out logically. So much of the Brotherhood works, and that makes it really hard for me to discuss it.
However, just because the Dark Brotherhood is good does not mean it is perfect. While the major plot points are well crafted, the minor plot points are irrelevant. While the updated mechanics are embraced, they are not conveyed well. While the quest spaces are laid out logically, they are also very simple in their construction.
So, pull up a seat and join me as I criticize the Dark Brotherhood, won’t you?