Cracking Skyrim’s Biggest Skyrim’s Dark Brotherhood is best remembered for sending us on an elaborate heist to slit the emperor’s throat (or Fus Ro Dah him into the wall while repeatedly spamming icicles, like the good little assassin we are).
The ramifications on the broader politics of Tamriel are as fascinating as the outcome of the civil war, but what puzzles us more than anything are the quests that have less of an impact on the wider world.
Cracking Skyrim’s Biggest Unsolved Mystery
Narfi is a beggar living in a rundown house in Ivarstead, who we’re paid to kill by Talos knows who for Talos knows what reason, and I can’t get him out of my head.
Like every other miscellaneous contract, we can find Narfi long before we even step foot into the Dark Brotherhood sanctuary. And if you do seek him out, he has a quest—he wants to know what happened to his sister, Reyda.
She’s been missing for a while now, and based on the quest name ‘The Straw that Broke’, it’s clear that her disappearance was the catalyst for Narfi’s downfall.
His home is in ruins, falling apart as the walls and roof collapse in on themselves, and there are empty bottles of Nord mead scattered around the tattered remains.
Narfi is left a beggar and a drunk, and everyone in town ignores him, never even stopping to mention his little shack across the river. The only one who acknowledges Narfi’s mere existence is the innkeeper Wilhelm, who told him
that his sister will be coming home soon, but Wilhelm tells us a different story—he thinks Reyda is dead. And he’s right. We find her skeleton in the river surrounded by arrows, with nothing but a necklace to identify her. Wilhelm may know more than he’s letting on, and may even be behind it, but what’s his motive?
It’s easy to assume Wilhelm is one of the few to take pity on Narfi, and that’s why he told her Reyda is coming home soon. After all, if we say the same after investigating her disappearance, Narfi’s entire demeanour changes.
He becomes happier, sleeping easily as he awaits her return. But there’s another, lesser-known quest involving Wilhelm that puts everything into a new light—if you go to the Black-Briar Meadery in Riften and speak to
Romlyn Dreth, he will ask you to smuggle a case of mead to Wilhelm’s inn, putting the two at risk of angering the richest family in Skyrim
It’s possible that Reyda caught them in the act one day, smuggling stolen Black-Briar mead, and fear of her ratting them out led the two to kill her. There are a couple of holes in this theory,however—if they’re fine killing Reyda themselves, they would likely be willing and able to do the same to Narfi without asking for the Dark Brotherhood’s help.
But smuggling Black-Briar mead doesn’t appear to have huge ramifications, anyway, as turning in Romlyn to the Black-Briars doesn’t see him killed, tortured, or in any way stripped of rank. In fact,
he still sells us stolen mead “under the table” while working at the meadery in Riften. All the while, nothing happens to Wilhelm.
So, Wilhelm probably didn’t kill Reyda, but there are two more convincing theories as to who did. The first is simple—Draugr from the local tomb or the fake ghost hiding out in Shroud Hearth Barrow killed her while she was out gathering alchemical ingredients, and her body floated downstream.
This is the theory I believe most. The other is that Narfi is a werewolf. He rewards us with human flesh and hearts (something in-game werewolves are known to drop) while making strange comments about the moon;
“If you see Reyda, tell her that Narfi misses her and to come home soon… very soon. Soon… soon, like the moon!” It’s possible he blacked out and attacked her,
but this doesn’t explain the arrows found by her body, so it’s safe to say this is again unlikely. Narfi being a werewolf is important, however.
Reyda’s death sent Narfi into a drunken spiral, his home now in ruins while he aimlessly wanders his side of the bank. If he is a werewolf, Wilhelm wanting him to stay happy and placid is understandable.
He doesn’t want Narfi’s anger to bleed through into his werewolf transformation, possibly putting the entire town at risk. This means every single person in the village has a motive for killing Narfi
, out of fear and pity. His life is now an endless wait for his dead sister to never return, and at any moment, he could cross the river and attack Ivarstead, slaughtering entire families while completely unconscious.
Any one of them, or even all of them as a collective, may have hired the Dark Brotherhood to ease their own minds, and this could be why nobody but Wilhelm so much as mentions Narfi.
There are other possibilities. He may be a vampire thrall gone astray, he could just be a hapless beggar who Wilhelm pities, and it might even be that Narfi put the hit on himself, exhausted by waiting for Reyda’s return—hence
the human flesh and heart, two ingredients needed for the Dark Brotherhood ritual. Skyrim doesn’t tell us. The quest is to find his dead sister and decide whether to finally unveil the truth or perpetuate Wilhelm’s lie, leaving behind a mystery with countless possible answers, all of which are as feasible as the last.
To me, Narfi was a werewolf the town feared, but to you, he might be nothing more than a drunk beggar who Wilhelm couldn’t bring himself to kill.
Any answer would rip away the years of speculation that have made Narfi so interesting, and by leaving it so open-ended, Skyrim has turned a quick-fire miscellaneous quest into one of its most intriguing.