Right now, I’m relatively powerful, but I still have trouble killing dragons. I have shiny Dwarven armor, and steel armor everywhere else, and I have a home and hearth for my use.
One of the issues I’ve not grown accustomed to while being in Skyrim is the nature of unintended consequences and everlasting regret. In life, you sometimes make a decision to alter the course of someone else’s fate, for good or ill. The thing is, it’s hard to make recompense for doing so, and harder still when you realize that, by trying to do something good, you’ve gone down a darker path than you would have realized.
In my travels, I had heard about a young man named Aventus Aretino, whom people were saying was disturbed. I hesitate to call him a boy, as he is too far gone in vengeance to be called innocent, and too far hardened to be the type of child who plays in the streets of a simple town.
I sought him out and found him trying to perform a ritual that would summon a dark power to aid him in a simple matter. I stepped in to try to stop him, and was instead mistaken for the dark power he sought.
With hope in his eyes, Aventus begged me to slay the headmistress of the orphanage he was heading to at the end of a week. He said that the headmistress was a cruel woman, and hinted faintly at the abuse of orphaned children.
Dark as his methods were, and strange as his request was, I remained silent, which he took as acceptance of the task. I needed to clear my mind of the darkness, and investigate if his allegations were true.
Heading to the orphanage, I found myself plagued by the thought of a child so warped by sadness and longing that he would drive himself to such dark methods to find peace. I needed to know the truth and let the authorities know of the travesty being committed if it were true.
The orphanage was quaint, but serviceable and, unlike the headmistress, was warm enough for the task of caring for abandoned and orphaned children. When I entered the main room, I heard the headmistress berating the kids and telling them they were unloved and that no one would ever adopt them because she would stop any attempt to do so. It broke my heart to know that Aventus’ claims rang true.
I was about to step back outside when the assistant of the headmistress attempted to talk to me in an attempt to explain the aberrant behavior. I knew she didn’t believe what she was saying, and so I remained silent.
I looked for a constable in that dark night, but none would talk to me about the events I had seen. It was as if the world had abandoned these children for an unknown purpose, and I could not do anything other than choose the happiness of the children and of Aventus with the assistant headmistress or the life of Grelod the “Kind.”
I went back into the orphanage that same evening, sneaking past the sleeping children, and ultimately, sitting behind the headmistress for what seemed like an eternity. Perhaps the unknown purpose the world had left for these children was to take me down a path of sadness as well, but I didn’t know it then. All I knew then was righteous anger mixed with the need to weigh my actions.
In any realm, there is free will that, in hindsight, feels like an illusion. We are bound by our minds to follow the path laid before us by our conscience, and whether we flounder or not in attempting to follow it, that is our path as set by our selves, immutable except through the loss of memory.
I gave up the path of law for the path of righteousness, or so I would have myself believe. I froze Grelod the kind that same night as she slept. I left the house, with no one the wiser. My transgression, I knew, would not be realized by anyone. Only that she had drowned in her sleep, frozen and blackened all over from debilitating frostbite.
The end of Grelod the kind was swift and merciful, I forced myself to think, and no one would know, I reminded myself.
I went back to Whiterun, to my own home, in the light of the morning. A courier had left a message for me as I entered the house.
Someone knew. Someone had come to tell me that they knew, and no amount of sleep or meditation would allow me to forget that like Aventus, I too had begun my way down a dark path.