Fair warning, there are to be some spoilers in this blog. If, for whatever reason, you have not completed the Dark Brotherhood quest chain, you have been warned.
I was going over some threads recently and came to realization that many people seem to not understand how side quests and faction quests work in regards to the next chapter of the series. I understand that probably a third, if not half, of the current TES fans are Skyrim Starters, so allow me to use the Dark Brotherhood as an example - also this will allow me to air some theories I have.
In the primary Dark Brotherhood quest line you are offered an initial choice of killing one of three captured victims after you are taken away by Astrid in your sleep. She offers you the option of killing one of them to make up for the death you stole (Grelod the Kind) and in turn allows you to join the Dark Brotherhood. As you progress through the chain you begin to see that Astrid hasn't been quite living up to the old ways of the Brotherhood, and feels threatened when Cicero makes an appearance with the Night Mother. Cicero promises to return the Dark Brotherhood to it's former glory and ensure that a Listener - that'd be you - is chosen. Blah, blah, blah, you can either kill Cicero or let him live, ultimately a large portion of the guild dies off and you are left to see the Brotherhood to it's rightful place in the dark shadows of history. Astrid ends up dead, sacrificing herself in an awkward Black Sacrament ritual and the chain moves forward.
Now, backing up to the shack where you were kidnapped and offered the choice of killing someone. You can, in fact, choose not to kill either of the three and take out Astrid instead. This starts a whole new quest chain that allows you to take out the whole Dark Brotherhood. You get orders from some Penitus Oculatus captain, end up heading in to the Sanctuary and killing everyone there. This includes everyone excpet Cicero, the Night Mother, and Babette - the little Vampire girl. Now the latter of the three most explain away as being a child, and Bethesda doesn't let you kill children. This is true. The majority of people will aslo explain away the two former by saying that Cicero is either still sitting on the road with a broken wheel, or just hasn't made it to the Sanctuary yet. Both good options, very plausible.
Allow me to take you into the mind of the PsijicThief for a moment, this is where opinion and conjecture (and several years of TES playing) come into play. What if it wasn't just that the vampire was a child? They could have made the vampire any age, but they chose specifically for her to be a little girl. They chose that knowing that you were going to have the option to walk in and kill everyone. Also, in the main questline she is one of the two that escapes with you to the new Sanctuary in Dawnstar. She helps rebuild it in the primary chain of events. What is to stop her from doing so in the secondary? Nothing, that's what. You don't see Cicero, you don't see the Night Mother, and you don't see Babette. I believe this is because the two of them (Cicero and Babette) are escaping to Dawnstar to begin rebuilding.
One might think this is against canon or against the way that you play the game, but there are some things that must be understood. First and foremost, side quests and faction chains are always moved forward by the use of rumors and the like. So by the time chapter seven of TES comes around we'll have no idea who did what in the world of the Dark Brotherhood. We will simply have the basic, underlying details.
- A bunch of people died in the last Sanctuary of Skryim
- A few escaped and met back up in Dawnstar to rebuild
- A champion, of sorts, was involved in the move and climb back to glory
- The Penitus Oculatus were invovled in the downfall and massive killing
Something that we don't know for sure about is the Emperor's death. We do know that it happened in the primary quest chain, we can assume that those events happen for the Dark Brotherhood no matter what. So just because you don't see something happen, or you don't make it happen yourself, doesn't mean it isn't going on. Tamriel is a violent and turbulent place, never disregard a possibility. I think that the Emperor is dead by the hands of the Dark Brotherhood, he seemed to know it was coming and had no problems with it occuring. Titus Mede II saw his place in history and new it had to end, moreover he knew how it had to end. The man that started the contract and series of events that led to all the problems the Brotherhood faced was very wealthy and persistent. He wanted it all to happen. One can safely presume that it was going to happen no matter what the Hero did in our story. Babette may have gotten the contract, Cicero might have done it, some unnamed assassin that took your place probably killed Titus.
Ultimately, the point boils down to this; Make no mistake, the Dark Brotherhood will return. They won't let the Morag Tong take over all of Tamriel, and they sure as hell won't be shown up by some new upstart group . . . look for them in TES: VI.