The Elder Scrolls

The Dichotomy of Shadowscales

I've been thinking about the murder lizards recently and I've come to realize something kind of annoying. When a Shadowscale comes of age, they can choose to either stay with the Dark Brotherhood or return to Black Marsh. And there seems to be a pretty striking difference in not just attitude and conduct, but philosophy between the two groups.

So far, we've only gotten to interact with 4 Brotherhood Shadowscales to my knowledge. Ocheeva, Teinaava, Veezara, and Green-Venom-Tongue (I haven't played the DB expansion in ESO yet so it's possible I'm missing some from there). They are, without fail, incredibly bright and cheery despite being contract killers. They don't treat their job like it's a joke, but they're eerily causual about it and a bit hypocritical (Ocheeva can describe hacking at someone's neck tendons like it's nothing, but sounds super distressed when discussing Brotherhood assasins being killed?) They're like psychopaths written by someone who doesn't know what a psychopath is. But mental states aside, they come off more as enjoying murder for the sake of murder than any actual idealogy pertaining to Sithis. The closest we get is Teinaava and Ocheeva demanding Scar-Tail be killed for trying to run from being a Shadowscale, and the occasional vague speech about Sithis when prompted.

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But then in ESO, we get to meet a ton of native Shadowscales, and suddenly it's waaaaay different. They're more like peacekeepers than hitmen. Extremely violent, forceful peacekeepers, but peacekeepers nonetheless. There's rhyme and reason to their actions, and they ultimately work for the greater good of Black Marsh (or at least they think so.) They seem to have a greater understanding and actual commitment to Sithis, as opposed to just "Sithis lets me kill people hell yeah." And although they aren't all doom and gloom, they're not as absurdly lighthearted as their Brotherhood counterparts. There's an air of solemnity to them, one that makes sense for someone who was literally inducted into a cult and trained to kill people from birth. It makes them feel more genuine, like there's a depth to their thought process absent from contract assasins.

I think the difference can be more concisely summed up by two quotes, one from each.

"It's not that I don't have the utmost respect for Sithis, and the Night Mother, and the ancient ways. I do. But I've never been much for religion. I kill because it's what I've been trained to do. It's all I know. So long as Astrid is happy, I'm happy."

-Veezara, a Brotherhood Shadowscale

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"It seems the midge dislikes my judgement. Weeds choke the garden, and so they are uprooted. The limb begins to wither, and so it is cut away. A sacrament is uttered, and so a life is taken. That is the will of Sithis."

-Sulahkeesh, a Native Shadowscale

In fact, Sulahkeesh has a great deal of insightful quotes about Shadowscale philosophy, but I chose this one specifically because it demonstrates a quality not shown by the Brotherhood. Sulahkeesh is so devout that she will literally holier-than-thou you regardless of if you criticize or praise her decisions.

"But I act from the Will of the Dread-Father, and he alone. Your words hold no weight."

Ocheeva, Teinaava and Veezara all respect Sithis, but they're not driven by their faith to him. Rather, Sithis is just a supporting party to the things that do drive them (being incredibly selective sadists for profit). I can't speak much for What's-his-face as I could only skim his dialogue page to get an idea without spoiling myself super hard, but from what I've gathered he's the same.

And y'know what bothers me most about this? Veezara used to serve Black Marsh before coming back to the Brotherhood. But for some reason his faith is shallow as of Skyrim. It makes me wonder, what causes this contrast?

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Are the Brotherhood Shadowscales just not as well edcuated on Sithis? Do those who tend to favor murder for the sake of murder naturally choose the Brotherhood over Argonia? Is it just several different teams of writers with different interpretations? Am I looking into this way too hard?

Probably all of the above, in all honesty. But I think about it a lot regardless. Go do Sulahkeesh's quest in Murkmire if you haven't, it's great.


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