Didn't last long, though. Meeko was vulnerable to friendly fire, so I guess I killed him without noticing. This normally wouldn't be such a problem since I could easily reload a previously saved game and restart the battle. However, I didn't know he'd died so I advanced through the mission with Barbas -- and didn't save at the right time. So Meeko is irrevocably lost :'(
You'd think I have learned my lesson about saving the game, but no. When I finished Barbas' quest, his owner gave me a choice of reward, but both options contingent on either returning Barbas, or killing him with the axe I retrieved for him. But again, because of not saving at the appropriate time, Barbas is also lost to me (I opted to return him rather than chop him to death). If I hadn't been so keen on finishing his quest, he could have been with me till the end. Sigh.
If Barbas' choice was untenable, the deeper you get into Skyrim, the less palatable your quest options become. Especially when completing quests for Draedic entities, it usually entails some unsavory actions. It's one thing to beat up on things intent on eviscerating you first chance they get, but these types of quests turn you into the malevolent one -- out to harm others who mean you no harm.
You have a choice, of course: neither accept nor complete the quest for no penalty; or complete the quest for the reward of a unique in-game item.
Often, these choices are like a psychological experiment. Would you torture and/or kill an innocent because 1) you have been told to 2) for the promise of a substantial reward, 3) knowing that you are "just playing a game", and therefore 4) comforting yourself that you wouldn't make such a decision in "real life"?
What does it say about me that I was willing to torture a helpless victim to death, even though I felt really bad about it while I was doing it? I could have just walked away with no real consequence... but I didn't. What was more important for me was to finish a narrative I'd started, regardless of how it was going to end. *Shudders.
What makes Skyrim a great game? That it can make you see how easy it is for someone who thought he was going to be the hero so easily slip into becoming a monster.