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Ebony Helm Daedra Heart Black Soul Gem Centurion Dynamo

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7AtrFrgDaedricRecipe06

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Ebony Sword Daedra Heart Black Soul Gem Centurion Dynamo

10AtrFrgDaedricRecipe09

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Ebony Dagger Daedra Heart Black Soul Gem Centurion Dynamo

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Ebony Ingot Daedra Heart Void Salts Greater Soul Gem Filled

15AtrFrgDaedricRecipe14

Ebony Ingot Daedra Heart Silver Sword Greater Soul Gem Filled

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Human Skull Daedra Heart Beastflesh Beastflesh

17AtrFrgDaedricRecipe16

Human Heart Black Soul Gem

18AtrFrgRecipe00

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32Book02920v7[pagebreak]

Sun's Height Book Seven of 2920 The Last Year of the First Era by Carlovac Townway

[pagebreak]

4 Sun's Height, 2920 The Imperial City, Cyrodiil The Emperor Reman III and his Potentate Versidue-Shaie took a stroll around the Imperial Gardens. Studded with statuary and fountains, the north gardens fit the Emperor's mood, as well as being the coolest acreage in the City during the heat of summertide. Austere, tiered flowerbeds of blue-gray and green towered all around them as they walked. "Vivec has agreed to the Prince's terms for peace," said Reman. "My son will be returning in two weeks' time." "This is excellent news," said the Potentate carefully. "I hope the Dunmer will honor the terms. We might have asked for more. The fortress at Black Gate, for example. But I suppose the Prince knows what is reasonable. He would not cripple the Empire just for peace." "I have been thinking lately of Rijja and what caused her to plot against my life," said the Emperor, pausing to admire a statue of the Slave Queen Alessia before continuing. "The only thing I can think of to account for it is that she admired my son too much. She may have loved me for my power and my personality, but he, after all, is young and handsome and will one day inherit my throne. She must have thought that if I were dead, she could have an Emperor who had both youth and power." "The Prince ... was in on this plot?" asked Versidue-Shaie. It was a difficult game to play, anticipating where the Emperor's paranoia would strike next. "Oh, I don't think so," said Reman, smiling. "No, my son loves me well." "Are you aware that Corda, Raja's sister in an initiate of the Morwha conservatorium in Hegathe?" asked the Potentate. "Morwha?" asked the Emperor. "I've forgotten: which god is that?" "Lusty fertility goddess of the Yokudans," replied the Potentate. "But not too lusty, like Dibella. Demure, but certainly sexual." "I am through with lusty women. The Empress, Rijja, all too lusty, a lust for love leads to a lust for power," the Emperor shrugged his shoulders. "But a priestess-in-training with a certain healthy appetite sounds ideal. Now what were you saying about the Black Gate?"

[pagebreak]

6 Sun's Height, 2920 Thurzo Fortress, Cyrodiil Rijja stood quietly looking at the cold stone floor while the Emperor spoke. He had never before seen her so pale and joyless. She might at least be pleased that she was being freed, being returned to her homeland. Why, if she left now, she could be in Hammerfell by the Merchant's Festival. Nothing he said seemed to register any reaction from her. A month and a half's stay in Thurzo Fortress seemed to have killed her spirit. "I was thinking," said the Emperor at last. "Of having your younger sister Corda up to the palace for a time. I think she would prefer it over the conservatorium in Hegathe, don't you?" Reaction, at last. Rijja looked at the Emperor with animal hatred, flinging herself at him in a rage. Her fingernails had grown long since her imprisonment and she raked them across his face, into his eyes. He howled with pain, and his guards pulled her off, pummeling her with blows from the back of their swords, until she was knocked unconscious. A healer was called at once, but the Emperor Reman III had lost his right eye. [pagebreak]

23 Sun's Height, 2920 Balmora, Morrowind Vivec pulled himself from the water, feeling the heat of the day washed from his skin, taking a towel from one of his servants. Sotha Sil watched his old friend from the balcony. "It looks like you've picked up a few more scars since I last saw you," said the sorcerer. "Azura grant it that I have no more for a while," laughed Vivec. "When did you arrive?" "A little over an hour ago," said Sotha Sil, walking down the stairs to the water's edge. "I thought I was coming to end a war, but it seems you've done it without me." "Yes, eighty years is long enough for ceaseless battle," replied Vivec, embracing Sotha Sil. "We made concessions, but so did they. When the old Emperor is dead, we may be entering a golden age. Prince Juilek is very wise for his age. Where is Almalexia?" "Collecting the Duke of Mournhold. They should be here tomorrow afternoon." The men were distracted at a sight from around the corner of the palace - a rider was approaching through the town, heading for the front steps. It was evident that the woman had been riding hard for some time. They met her in the study, where she burst in, breathing hard. "We have been betrayed," she gasped. "The Imperial Army has seized the Black Gate." [pagebreak]

24 Sun's Height, 2920 Balmora, Morrowind It was the first time in seventeen years that the three members of the Morrowind Tribunal had met in the same place, since Sotha Sil had left for Artaeum. All three wished that the circumstances of their reunion were different. "From what we've learned, while the Prince was returning to Cyrodiil to the south, a second Imperial Army came down from the north," said Vivec to his stony-faced compatriots. "It is reasonable to assume Juilek didn't know about the attack." "But neither would it be unreasonable to suppose that he planned on being a distraction while the Emperor launched the attack on Black Gate," said Sotha Sil. "This must be considered a break of the truce." "Where is the Duke of Mournhold?" asked Vivec. "I would hear his thoughts on the matter." "He is meeting with the Night Mother in Tel Aruhn," said Almalexia, quietly. "I told him to wait until he had spoken with you, but he said that the matter had waited long enough." "He would involve the Morag Tong? In outside affairs?" Vivec shook his head, and looked to Sotha Sil: "Please, do what you can. Assassination will only move us backwards. This matter must be settled with diplomacy or battle." [pagebreak]

25 Sun's Height, 2920 Tel Aruhn, Morrowind The Night Mother met Sotha Sil in her salon, lit only by the moon. She was cruelly beautiful dressed in a simple silk black robe, lounging across her divan. With a gesture, she dismissed her red-cloaked guards and offered the sorcerer some wine. "You've only just missed your friend, the Duke," she whispered. "He was very unhappy, but I think we will solve his problem for him." "Did he hire the Morag Tong to assassinate the Emperor?" asked Sotha Sil. "You are straight-forward, aren't you? That's good. I love plain-speaking men: it saves so much time. Of course, I cannot discuss with you what the Duke and I talked about," she smiled. "It would be bad for business." "What if I were to offer you an equal amount of gold for you not to assassinate the Emperor?" "The Morag Tong murders for the glory of Mephala and for profit," she said, speaking into her glass of wine. "We do not merely kill. That would be sacrilege. Once the Duke's gold has arrived in three days time, we will do our end of the business. And I'm afraid we would not dream of entertaining a counter offer. Though we are a business as well as a religious order, we do not bow to supply and demand, Sotha Sil." [pagebreak]

27 Sun's Height, 2920 The Inner Sea, Morrowind Sotha Sil had been watching the waters for two days now, waiting for a particular vessel, and now he saw it. A heavy ship with the flag of Mournhold. The sorcerer took the air and intercepted it before it reached harbor. A caul of flame erupted over his figure, disguising his voice and form into that of a Daedra. "Abandon your ship!" he bellowed. "If you would not sink with it!" In truth, Sotha Sil could have exploded the vessel with but a single ball of fire, but he chose to take his time, to give the crew a chance to dive off into the warm water. When he was certain there was no one living aboard, he focused his energy into a destructive wave that shook the air and water as it discharged. The ship and the Duke's payment to the Morag Tong sunk to the bottom of the Inner Sea. "Night Mother," thought Sotha Sil, as he floated towards shore to alert the harbormaster that some sailors were in need of rescue. "Everyone bows to supply and demand." The Year is Continued in Last Seed.

33Book0AhzirrTraajijazeri[pagebreak]

Ahzirr Trajijazaeri By Anonymous

[pagebreak]

his is an absurd book. But like all things Khajiiti, as the expression goes, "gzalzi vaberzarita maaszi", or "absurdity has become necessity." Much of what I have to say has probably never been written before, and if it has, no one has read it. The Imperials feel that everything must be written down for posterity, but every Khajiiti kitten born in Elsweyr knows his history, he drinks it in with his mother's milk. Fairly recently, however, our struggles to win back our homeland from the rapacious Count of Leyawiin have attracted sympathetic persons, even Imperials, who wish to join our cause, but, it seems, do not understand our ways. Our enemies, of course, do not understand us either, but that is as we wish it, a weapon in our arsenal. Our non-Khajiiti friends, however, should know who we are, why we are, and what we are doing. The Khajiit mind is not engineered for self-reflection. We simply do what we do, and let the world be damned. To put into words and rationalize our philosophy is foreign, and I cannot guarantee that even after reading this, you will understand us. Grasp this simple truth -- "q'zi no vano thzina ualizz" -- "When I contradict myself, I am telling the truth." We are the Renrijra Krin. "The Mercenary's Grin¸" "The Laugh of the Landless," and "The Smiling Scum" would all be fair translations. It is a derogatory expression, but it is amusing so we have adopted it. We have anger in our hearts, but not on our faces. We fight for Elsweyr, but we do not ally ourselves with the Mane, who symbolizes our land. We believe in justice, but do not follow laws. "Q'zi no vano thzina ualizz." These are not rules, for there is no word for "rules" in Ta'agra. Call them our "thjizzrini" -- "foolish concepts." 1. "Vaba Do'Shurh'do": "It Is Good To Be Brave" We are struggling against impossible odds, against the very Empire of Tamriel. Our cause is the noblest cause of all: defense of home. If we fail, we betray our past and our future. Our dead are "Ri'sallidad", which may be interpreted as "martyrs" in the truest, best sense of that word which is so often misused. We honor their sacrifice and, beneath our smiles, mourn them deeply. Our bravery most obviously shows in the smile that is the "Krin" part of our name. This does not mean that we walk about grinning like the idiotic, baboonish Imga of Valenwood. We simply are entertained by adversary. We find an equal, fair fight tiresome in the extreme. We confidently smile because we know our victory in the end is assured. And we know our smiles drive our enemies insane. 2. "Vaba Maaszi Lhajiito": "It Is Necessary To Run Away" We are struggling against impossible odds, against the very Empire of Tamriel. Honor is madness. Yes, we loved the Renrijra Krin who died in brave battle against the forces of the Empire, but I guarantee you that each of those Ri'sallidad had an escape route he or she failed to use, and died saying, "Damn." When the great Senche-Raht comes to the Saimisil Steppes, he will find himself unable to hunt, unable to sleep, as the tiny Alfiq leap onto his back, biting him, and running off before he has a chance to turn his great body to face them. Eventually, though he may stubbornly hope to catch the Alfiq, the Senche-Raht always leaves. They are our cousins, the Alfiq, and we have adopted their strategy against the great tiger of Leyawiin. Do not ally yourself with the Renrij if you yearn to be part of a mighty army, marching resolutely forth, for whom retreat is anathema. We will laugh at your suicidal idiocy as we slip into the reeds of the river, and watch the inevitable slaughter. 3. "Fusozay Var Var": "Enjoy Life" Life is short. If you have not made love recently, please, put down this book, and take care of that with all haste. Find a wanton lass or a frisky lad, or several, in whatever combination your wise loins direct, and do not under any circumstances play hard to get. Our struggle against the colossal forces of oppression can wait. Good. Welcome back. We Renrijra Krin live and fight together, and know that Leyawiin and the Empire will not give way very soon, likely not in our lifetimes. In the time we have, we do not want our closest comrades to be dour, dull, colorless, sober, and virginal. If we did, we would have joined the Emperor's Blades. Do not begrudge us our lewd jokes, our bawdy, drunken nights, our moonsugar. They are the pleasures that Leyawiin denies us, and so we take our good humor very seriously. 4. "Fusozay Var Dar": "Kill Without Qualm" Life is short. Very short, as many have learned when they have crossed the Renrijra Krin. We fight dirty. If an enemy is facing us, we might consider our options, and even slip away if his sword looks too big. If his back is to us, however, I personally favor knocking him down, and then jumping on his neck where the bones snap with a gratifying crunch. Of course, it is up to you and your personal style. 5. "Ahzirr Durrarriss": "We Give Freely To The People" Let us not forget our purpose. We are fighting for our families, the Khajiiti driven from the rich, fertile shores of Lake Makapi and the River Malapi, where they and their ancestors lived since time immemorial. It is our battle, but their tragedy. We must show them, lest they are swayed by other rhetoric, that we are fighting for them. The Mane, The Emperor, and The Count can give speeches, pass laws, and, living life in the open, explain their positions and philosophies to their people to stave off the inevitable revolution. Extralegal entities, such as the Renrijra Krin, must make our actions count for our words. This means more than fighting the good fight, and having a laugh at our befuddled adversaries. It means engaging and seducing the people. Ours is not a military war, it is a political war. If the people rise up against our oppressors, they will retreat, and we will win. Give to these people, whenever possible, gold, moonsugar, and our strong arms, and though they hide, their hearts will be with us. 6. "Ahzirr Traajijazeri": "We Justly Take By Force" Let us not forget our purpose. We are thieves and thugs, smugglers and saboteurs. If we cannot take a farm, we burn it to the ground. If the Imperials garrisoned in a glorious ancient stronghold, beloved by our ancestors, will not yield, we tear the structure apart. If the only way to rescue the land from the Leyawiin misappropriation is to make it uninhabitable by all, so be it. We want our life and our home back as it was twenty years ago, but if that is not realistic, then we will accept a different simple, pragmatic goal. Revenge. With a smile.

34Book0ArgonianAccountBook1[pagebreak]

The Argonian Account Book One by Waughin Jarth

[pagebreak]

n a minor but respectable plaza in the Imperial City sat, or perhaps lounged, Lord Vanech's Building Commission. It was an unimaginative, austere building not noted so much for its aesthetic or architectural design as for its prodigious length. If any critics wondered why such an unornamented, extended erection held such fascination for Lord Vanech, they kept it to themselves. In the 398th year of the 3rd Era, Decumus Scotti was a senior clerk at the Commission. It had been a few months since the shy, middle-aged man had brought Lord Vanech the most lucrative of all contracts, granting the Commission the exclusive right to rebuild the roads of Valenwood which had been destroyed in the Five Year War. For this, he had become the darling of the managers and the clerks, spending his days recounting his adventures, more or less faithfully... although he did omit the ending of the tale, since many of them had partaken in the celebratory Unthrappa roast provided by the Silenstri. Informing one's listeners that they've gorged on human flesh improves very few stories of any good taste. Scotti was neither particularly ambitious nor hard-working, so he did not mind that Lord Vanech had not given him anything to actually do. Whenever the squat little gnomish man would happen upon Decumus Scotti in the offices, Lord Vanech would always say, "You're a credit to the Commission. Keep up the good work." In the beginning, Scotti had worried that he was supposed to be doing something, but as the months went on, he merely replied, "Thank you. I will." There was, on the other hand, the future to consider. He was not a young man, and though he was receiving a respectable salary for someone not doing actual work, Scotti considered that soon he might have to retire and not get paid for not doing work. It would be nice, he decided, if Lord Vanech, out of gratitude for the millions of gold the Valenwood contract was generating, might deign to make Scotti a partner. Or at least give him a small percentage of the bounty. Decumus Scotti was no good at asking for things like that, which was one of the reasons why, previous to his signal successes in Valenwood as a senior clerk for Lord Atrius, he was a lousy agent. He had just about made up his mind to say something to Lord Vanech, when his lordship unexpectedly pushed things along. "You're a credit to the Commission," the waddling little thing said, and then paused. "Do you have a moment free on your schedule?" Scotti nodded eagerly, and followed his lordship to his hideously decorated and very enviable hectare of office space. "Zenithar blesses us for your presence at the Commission," the little fellow squeaked grandly. "I don't know whether you know this, but we were having a bad time before you came along. We had impressive projects, for certain, but they were not successful. In Black Marsh, for example, for years we've been trying to improve the roads and other routes of travel for commerce. I put my best man, Flesus Tijjo, on it, but every year, despite staggering investments of time and money, the trade along those routes only gets slower and slower. Now, we have your very clean, very, very profitable Valenwood contract to boost the Commission's profits. I think it's time you were rewarded." Scotti grinned a grin of great modesty and subtle avarice. "I want you to take over the Black Marsh account from Flesus Tijjo." Scotti shook as if awaking from a pleasant dream to hideous reality, "My Lord, I - I couldn't -" "Nonsense," chirped Lord Vanech. "Don't worry about Tijjo. He will be happy to retire on the money I give him, particularly as soul-wrenchingly difficult as this Black Marsh business has been. Just your sort of a challenge, my dear Decumus." Scotti couldn't utter a sound, though his mouth feebly formed the word "No" as Lord Vanech brought out the box of documentation on Black Marsh. "You're a fast reader," Lord Vanech guessed. "You can read it all en route." "En route to ..." "Black Marsh, of course," the tiny fellow giggled. "You are a funny chap. Where else would you go to learn about the work that's being done, and how to improve it?" The next morning, the stack of documentation hardly touched, Decumus Scotti began the journey south-east to Black Marsh. Lord Vanech had hired an able-bodied guard, a rather taciturn Redguard named Mailic, to protect his best agent. They rode south along the Niben, and then south-east along the Silverfish, continuing on into the wilds of Cyrodiil, where the river tributaries had no names and the very vegetation seemed to come from another world than the nice, civilized gardens of the northern Imperial Province. Scotti's horse was tied to Mailic's, so the clerk was able to read. It made it difficult to pay attention to the path they were taking, but Scotti knew he needed at least a cursory familiarity with the Commission's business dealings in Black Marsh. It was a huge box of paperwork going back forty years, when the Commission had first been given several million in gold by a wealthy trader, Lord Xellicles Pinos-Revina, to improve the condition of the road from Gideon to Cyrodiil. At that time, it took three weeks, a preposterously long time, for the rice and root he was importing to arrive, half-rotten, in the Imperial Province. Pinos-Revina was long dead, but many other investors over the decades, including Pelagius IV himself, had hired the Commission to build roads, drain swamps, construct bridges, devise anti-smuggling systems, hire mercenaries, and, in short, do everything that the greatest Empire in history knew would work to aid trade with Black Marsh. According to the latest figures, the result of this was that it took two and a half months for goods, now thoroughly rotten, to arrive. Scotti found that when he looked up after concentrating on what he was reading, the landscape had always changed. Always dramatically. Always for the worse. "This is Blackwood, sir," said Mailic to Scotti's unspoken question. It was dark and woodsy, so Decumus Scotti thought that a very appropriate name. The question he longed to ask, which in due course he did ask, was, "What's that terrible smell?" "Slough Point, sir," Mailic replied as they turned the next bend, where the umbrageous tunnel of tangled tree and vine opened to a clearing. There squatted a cluster of formal buildings in the dreary Imperial design favored by Lord Vanech's Commission and every Emperor since Tiber, together with a stench so eye-blindingly, stomach-wrenchingly awful that Scotti wondered, suddenly, if it were deadly poisonous. The swarms of blood-colored, sand-grain-sized insects obscuring the air did not improve the view. Scotti and Mailic batted at the buzzing clouds as they rode their horses towards the largest of the buildings, which on approach revealed itself to be perched at the edge of a thick, black river. From its size and serious aspect, Scotti guessed it to be the census and excise office for the wide, white bridge that stretched across the burbling dark water to the reeds on the other side. It was a very nice, bright, sturdy-looking bridge, built, Scotti knew, by his Commission. A poxy, irritable official opened the door quickly on Scotti's first knock. "Come in, come in, quickly! Don't let the fleshflies in!" "Fleshflies?" Decumus Scotti trembled. "You mean, they eat human flesh?" "If you're fool enough to stand around and let them," the soldier said, rolling his eyes. He had half an ear, and Scotti, looking around at the other soldiers in the fort noted that they all were well-chewed. One of them had no nose at all to speak of. "Now, what's your business?" Scotti told them, and added that if they stood outside the fortress instead of inside, they might catch more smugglers. "You better be more concerned with getting across that bridge," the soldier sneered. "Tide's coming up, and if you don't get a move on, you won't get to Black Marsh for four days." That was absurd. A bridge swamped by a rising tide on a river? Only the look in the soldier's eyes told Scotti he wasn't joking. Upon stepping out of the fort, he saw that the horses, evidently tired of being tortured by the fleshflies, had ripped free of their restraints and were bounding off into the woods. The oily water of the river was already lapping on the planks, oozing between the crevices. Scotti reflected that perhaps he would be more than willing to endure a wait of four days before going to Black Marsh, but Mailic was already running across. Scotti followed him, wheezing. He was not in excellent shape, and never had been. The box of Commission materials was heavy. Halfway across, he paused to catch his breath, and then discovered he could not move. His feet were stuck. The black mud that ran through the river was a thick gluey paste, and having washed over the plank Scotti was on, it held his feet fast. Panic seized him. Scotti looked up from his trap and saw Mailic leaping from plank to plank ahead of him, closing fast on the reeds on the other side. "Help!" Scotti cried. "I'm stuck!" Mailic did not even turn around, but kept jumping. "I know, sir. You need to lose weight." Decumus Scotti knew he was a few pounds over, and had meant to start eating less and exercising more, but embarking on a diet hardly seemed to promise timely aid in his current predicament. No diet on Nirn would have helped him just then. However, on reflection, Scotti realized that the Redguard intended that he drop the box of documents, for Mailic was no longer carrying any of the essential supplies he had had with him previously. With a sigh, Scotti threw the box of Commission notes into the glop, and felt the plank under him rise a quarter of an inch, just enough to free him from the mud's clutches. With an agility born of extreme fear, Scotti began leaping after Mailic, dropping onto every third plank, and springing up before the river gripped him. In forty-six leaps, Decumus Scotti crashed through the reeds onto the solid ground behind Mailic, and found himself in Black Marsh. He could hear behind him a slurping sound as the bridge, and his container of important and official records of Commission affairs, was consumed by the rising flood of dark filth, never to be seen again.

35Book0ArgonianAccountBook3[pagebreak]

The Argonian Account Book Three by Waughin Jarth

[pagebreak]

ecumus Scotti was supposed to be in Gideon, a thoroughly Imperialized city in southern Black Marsh, arranging business dealings to improve commerce in the province on behalf of Lord Vanech's Building Commission and its clients. Instead, he was in a half-submerged, rotten little village called Hixinoag, where he knew no one. Except for a drug smuggler named Chaero Gemullus. Gemullus was not at all perturbed that the merchant caravan had gone north instead of south. He even let Scotti share his bucket of trodh, tiny little crunchy fish, he had bought from the villagers. Scotti would have preferred them cooked, or at any rate, dead, but Gemullus blithely explained that dead, cooked trodh are deadly poison. "If I were where I was supposed to be," Scotti pouted, putting one of the wriggling little creatures in his mouth. "I could be having a roast, and some cheese, and a glass of wine." "I sell moon sugar in the north, and buy it in the south," he shrugged. "You have to be more flexible, my friend." "My only business is in Gideon," Scotti frowned. "Well, you have a couple choices," replied the smuggler. "You could just stay here. Most villages in Argonia don't stay put for very long, and there's a good chance Hixinoag will drift right down to the gates of Gideon. Might take you a month or two. Probably the easiest way." "That'd put me far behind schedule." "Next option, you could join up with the caravan again," said Gemullus. "They might be going in the right direction this time, and they might not get stuck in the mud, and they might not be all murdered by Naga highwaymen." "Not tempting," Scotti frowned. "Any other ideas?" "Ride the roots. The underground express," Gemullus grinned. "Follow me." Scotti followed Gemullus out of the village and into a copse of trees shrouded by veils of wispy moss. The smuggler kept his eye on the ground, poking at the viscuous mud intermittently. Finally he found a spot which triggered a mass of big oily bubbles to rise to the surface. "Perfect," he said. "Now, the important thing is not to panic. The express will take you due south, that's the wintertide migration, and you'll know you're near Gideon when you see a lot of red clay. Just don't panic, and when you see a mass of bubbles, that's a breathing hole you can use to get out." Scotti looked at Gemullus blankly. The man was talking perfect gibberish. "What?" Gemullus took Scotti by the shoulder and positioning him on top of the mass of bubbles. "You stand right here..." Scotti sank quickly into the mud, staring at the smuggler, horror-struck. "And remember to wait 'til you see the red clay, and then the next time you see bubbles, push up..." The more Scotti wriggled to get free, the faster he sunk. The mud enveloped Scotti to his neck, and he continued staring, unable to articulate anything but a noise like "Oog." "And don't panic at the idea that you're being digested. You could live in a rootworm's belly for months." Scotti took one last panicked gasp of air and closed his eyes before he disappeared into the mud. The clerk felt a warmth he hadn't expected all around him. When he opened his eyes, he found that he was entirely surrounded by a translucent goo, and was traveling rapidly forward, southward, gliding through the mud as if it were air, skipping along an intricate network of roots. Scotti felt confusion and euphoria in equal measures, madly rushing forward through an alien environment of darkness, spinning around and over the thick fibrous tentacles of the trees. It was if he were high in the sky at midnight, not deep beneath the swamp in the Underground Express. Looking up slightly at the massive root structure above, Scotti saw something wriggle past. A eight-foot-long, armless, legless, colorless, boneless, eyeless, nearly shapeless creature, riding the roots. Something dark was inside of it, and as it came closer, Scotti could see it was an Argonian man. He waved, and the disgusting creature the Argonian was in flattened slightly and rushed onward. Gemullus's words began to reappear in Scotti's mind at this sight. "The wintertide migration," "air hole," "you're being digested," -- these were the phrases that danced around as if trying to find some place to live in a brain which was highly resistant to them coming in. But there was no other way to look at the situation. Scotti had gone from eating living fish to being eaten alive as a way of transport. He was in one of those worms. Scotti made an executive decision to faint. He awoke in stages, having a beautiful dream of being held in a woman's warm embrace. Smiling and opening his eyes, the reality of where he really was rushed over him. The creature was still rushing madly, blindly forward, gliding over roots, but it was no longer like a flight through the night sky. Now it was like the sky at sunrise, in pinks and reds. Scotti remembered Gemullus telling him to look for the red clay, and he would be near Gideon. The next thing he had to find was the bubbles. There were no bubbles anywhere. Though the inside of the worm was still warm and comfortable, Scotti felt the weight of the earth all around him. "Just don't panic" Gemullus had said, but it was one thing to hear that advice, and quite another to take it. He began to squirm, and the creature began to move faster at the increased pressure from within. Suddenly, Scotti saw it ahead of him, a slim spire of bubbles rising up through the mud from some underground stream, straight up, through the roots to the surface above him. The moment the rootworm went through it, Scotti pushed with all of his might upward, bursting through the creature's thin skin. The bubbles pushed Scotti up quickly, and before he could blink, he was popping out of the red slushy mud. Two gray Argonians were standing under a tree nearby, holding a net. They looked in Scotti's direction with polite curiosity. In their net, Scotti noticed, were several squirming furry rat-like creatures. While he addressed them, another fell out of the tree. Though Scotti had not been educated in this practice, he recognized fishing when he saw it. "Excuse me, lads," Scotti said jovially. "I was wondering if you'd point me in the direction of Gideon?" The Argonians introduced themselves as Drawing-Flame and Furl-Of-Fresh-Leaves, and looked at one another, puzzling over the question. "Who you seek?" asked Furl-of-Fresh-Leaves. "I believe his name is," said Scotti, trying to remember the contents of his long gone file of Black Marsh contacts in Gideon. "Archein Right-Foot ...Rock?" Drawing-Flame nodded, "For five gold, show you way. Just east. Is plantation east of Gideon. Very nice." Scotti thought that the best business he had heard of in two days, and handed Drawing-Flames the five septims. The Argonians led Scotti onto a muddy ribbon of road that passed through the reeds, and soon revealed the bright blue expanse of Topal Bay far to the west. Scotti looked around at the magnificent walled estates, where bright crimson blossoms sprang forth from the very dirt of the walls, and surprised himself by thinking, "This is very pretty." The road ran parallel to a fast-moving stream, running eastward from Topal Bay. It was called the Onkobra River, he was told. It ran deep into Black Marsh, to the very dark heart of the province. Peeking past the gates to the plantations east of Gideon, Scotti saw that few of the fields were tended. Most had rotten crops from harvests past still clinging to wilted vines, orchards of desolate, leafless trees. The Argonian serfs who worked the fields were thin, weak, near death, more like haunting spirits than creatures of life and reason. Two hours later, as the three continued their trudge east, the estates were still impressive at least from a distance, the road was still solid if weedy, but Scotti was irritated, horrified by the field workers and the agricultural state, and no longer charitable towards the area. "How much further?" Furl-of-Fresh-Leaves and Drawing-Flame looked at one another, as if that question was something that hadn't occurred to them. "Archein is east?" Furl-of-Fresh-Leaves pondered. "Near or far?" Drawing-Flame shrugged noncommittally, and said to Scotti, "For five gold, show you way. Just east. Is plantation. Very nice." "You don't have any idea, do you?" Scotti cried. "Why couldn't you tell me that in the first place when I might have asked someone else?" Around the bend up ahead, there was the sound of hoofbeats. A horse coming closer. Scotti began to walk towards the sound to hail the rider, and didn't see Drawing-Flame's taloned claws flash out and cast the spell at him. He felt it though. A kiss of ice along his spine, the muscles along his arms and legs suddenly immobile as if wrapped in rigid steel. He was paralyzed. The great curse of paralysis, as the reader may be unfortunate enough to know, is that you continue to see and think even though your body does not respond. The thought that went through Scotti's mind was, "Damn." For Drawing-Flame and Furl-of-Fresh-Leaves were, of course, like most simple day laborers in Black Marsh, accomplished Illusionists. And no friend of the Imperial. The Argonians shoved Decumus Scotti to the side of the road, just as the horse and rider came around the corner. He was an impressive figure, a nobleman in a flashing dark green cloak the exact same color as his scaled skin, and a frilled hood that was part of his flesh and sat upon his head like a horned crown. "Greetings, brothers!" the rider said to the two. "Greetings, Archein Right-Foot-Rock," they responded, and then Furl-of-Fresh-Leaves added. "What is milord's business on this fine day?" "No rest, no rest," the Archein sighed regally. "One of my she-workers gave birth to twins. Twins! Fortunately, there's a good trader in town for those, and she didn't put up too much of a fuss. And then there's a fool of an Imperial from Lord Vanech's Building Commission I am supposed to meet with in Gideon. I'm sure he'll want the grand tour before he opens up the treasury for me. Such a lot of fuss." Drawing-Flame and Furl-of-Fresh-Leaves sympathesized, and then, as Archein Right-Foot-Rock rode off, they went to look for their hostage. Unfortunately for them, gravity being the same in Black Marsh as elsewhere in Tamriel, their hostage, Decumus Scotti, had continued to roll down from where they left him, and was, at that moment, in the Onkobra River, drowning.

36Book0BlackArrowV1[pagebreak]

The Black Arrow Part I by Gorgic Guine

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was young when the Duchess of Woda hired me as an assistant footman at her summer palace. My experience with the ways of the titled aristocracy was very limited before that day. There were wealthy merchants, traders, diplomats, and officials who had large operations in Eldenroot, and ostentatious palaces for entertaining, but my relatives were all far from those social circles. There was no family business for me to enter when I reached adulthood, but my cousin heard that an estate far from the city required servants. It was so remotely located that there were unlikely to be many applicants for the positions. I walked for five days into the jungles of Valenwood before I met a group of riders going my direction. They were three Bosmer men, one Bosmer woman, two Breton women, and a Dunmer man, adventurers from the look of them. "Are you also going to Moliva?" asked Prolyssa, one of the Breton women, after we had made our introductions. "I don't know what that is," I replied. "I'm seeking a domestic position with the Duchess of Woda." "We'll take you to her gate," said the Dunmer Missun Akin, pulling me up to his horse. "But you would be wise not to tell Her Grace that students from Moliva escorted you. Not unless you don't really want the position in her service." Akin explained himself as we rode on. Moliva was the closest village to the Duchess's estate, where a great and renowned archer had retired after a long life of military service. His name was Hiomaste, and though he was retired, he had begun to accept students who wished to learn the art of the bow. In time, when word spread of the great teacher, more and more students arrived to learn from the Master. The Breton women had come down all the way from the Western Reach of High Rock. Akin himself had journeyed across the continent from his home near the great volcano in Morrowind. He showed me the ebony arrows he had brought from his homeland. I had never seen anything so black. "From what we've heard," said Kopale, one of the Bosmer men. "The Duchess is an Imperial whose family has been here even before the Empire was formed, so you might think that she was accustomed to the common people of Valenwood. Nothing could be further from the truth. She despises the village, and the school most of all." "I suppose she wants to control all the traffic in her jungle," laughed Prolyssa. I accepted the information with gratitude, and found myself dreading more and more my first meeting with the intolerant Duchess. My first sight of the palace through the trees did nothing to assuage my fears. It was nothing like any building I had ever seen in Valenwood. A vast edifice of stone and iron, with a jagged row of battlements like the jaws of a great beast. Most of the trees near the palace had been hewn away long ago: I could only imagine the scandal that must have caused, and what fear the Bosmer peasants must have had of the Duchy of Woda to have allowed it. In their stead was a wide gray-green moat circling in a ring around the palace, so it seemed to be on a perfect if artificial island. I had seen such sights in tapestries from High Rock and the Imperial Province, but never in my homeland. "There'll be a guard at the gate, so we'll leave you here," said Akin, stopping his horse in the road. "It'd be best for you if you weren't damned by association with us." I thanked my companions, and wished them good luck with their schooling. They rode on and I followed on foot. In a few minutes' time, I was at the front gate, which I noticed was linked to tall and ornate railings to keep the compound secure. When the gate-keeper understood that I was there to inquire about a domestic position, he allowed me past and signaled to another guard across the open lawn to extend the drawbridge and allow me to cross the moat. There was one last security measure: the front door. An iron monstrosity with the Woda Coat of Arms across the top, reinforced by more strips of iron, and a single golden keyhole. The man standing guard unlocked the door and gave me passage into the huge gloomy gray stone palace. Her Grace greeted me in her drawing room. She was thin and wrinkled like a reptile, cloaked in a simple red gown. It was obviously that she never smiled. Our interview consisted of a single question. "Do you know anything about being a junior footman in the employment of an Imperial noblewoman?" Her voice was like ancient leather. "No, Your Grace." "Good. No servant ever understands what needs to be done, and I particularly dislike those who think they do. You're engaged." Life at the palace was joyless, but the position of junior footman was very undemanding. I had nothing to do on most days except to stay out of the Duchess's sight. At such times, I usually walked two miles down the road to Moliva. In some ways, there was nothing special or unusual about the village - there are thousands of identical places in Valenwood. But on the hillside nearby was Master Hiomaste's archery academy, and I would often take my luncheon and watch the practice. Prolyssa and Akin would sometimes meet me afterwards. With Akin, the subjects of conversation very seldom strayed far from archery. Though I was very fond of him, I found Prolyssa a more enchanting companion, not only because she was pretty for a Breton, but also because she seemed to have interests outside the realm of marksmanship. "There's a circus in High Rock I saw when I was a little girl called the Quill Circus," she said during one of our walks through the woods. "They've been around for as long as anyone can remember. You have to see them if you ever can. They have plays, and sideshows, and the most amazing acrobats and archers you've ever seen. That's my dream, to join them some day when I'm good enough." "How will you know when you're a good enough archer?" I asked. She didn't answer, and when I turned, I realized that she had disappeared. I looked around, bewildered, until I heard laughter from the tree above me. She was perched on a branch, grinning. "I may not join as an archer, maybe I'll join as an acrobat," she said. "Or maybe as both. I figured that Valenwood would be the place to go to see what I could learn. You've got all those great teachers to imitate in the trees here. Those ape men." She coiled up, bracing her left leg before springing forward on her right. In a second, she had leapt across to a neighboring branch. I found it difficult to keep talking to her. "The Imga, you mean?" I stammered. "Aren't you nervous up at that height?" "It's a cliche, I know," she said, jumping to an even higher branch, "But the secret is not to ever look down." "Would you mind coming down?" "I probably should anyhow," she said. She was a good thirty feet up now, balancing herself, arms outstretched, on a very narrow branch. She gestured toward the gate just barely visible on the other side of the road. "This tree is actually as close as I want to get to your Duchess's palace." I held back a gasp as she dove off the branch, somersaulting until she landed on the ground, knees slightly bent. That was the trick, she explained. Anticipating the blow before it happened. I expressed to her my confidence that she would be a great attraction at the Quill Circus. Of course, I know now that never was to be. On that day, as I recall, I had to return early. It was one of the rare occasions when I had work, of a sort, to do. Whenever the Duchess had guests, I was to be at the palace. That is not to say that I had any particular duties, except to be seen standing at attention in the dining room. The stewards and maids worked hard to bring in the food and clear the plates afterwards, but the footmen were purely decorative, a formality. But at least I was an audience for the drama to come.

37Book0DanceInFireV1[pagebreak]

A Dance in Fire Chapter 1 by Waughin Jarth

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Scene: The Imperial City, Cyrodiil Date: 7 Frost Fall, 3E 397 t seemed as if the palace had always housed the Atrius Building Commission, the company of clerks and estate agents who authored and notarized nearly every construction of any note in the Empire. It had stood for two hundred and fifty years, since the reign of the Emperor Magnus, a plain-fronted and austere hall on a minor but respectable plaza in the Imperial City. Energetic and ambitious middle-class lads and ladies worked there, as well as complacent middle-aged ones like Decumus Scotti. No one could imagine a world without the Commission, least of all Scotti. To be accurate, he could not imagine a world without himself in the Commission. "Lord Atrius is perfectly aware of your contributions," said the managing clerk, closing the shutter that demarcated Scotti's office behind him. "But you know that things have been difficult." "Yes," said Scotti, stiffly. "Lord Vanech's men have been giving us a lot of competition lately, and we must be more efficient if we are to survive. Unfortunately, that means releasing some of our historically best but presently underachieving senior clerks." "I understand. Can't be helped." "I'm glad that you understand," smiled the managing clerk, smiling thinly and withdrawing. "Please have your room cleared immediately." Scotti began the task of organizing all his work to pass on to his successor. It would probably be young Imbrallius who would take most of it on, which was as it should be, he considered philosophically. The lad knew how to find business. Scotti wondered idly what the fellow would do with the contracts for the new statue of St Alessia for which the Temple of the One had applied. Probably invent a clerical error, blame it on his old predecessor Decumus Scotti, and require an additional cost to rectify. "I have correspondence for Decumus Scotti of the Atrius Building Commission." Scotti looked up. A fat-faced courier had entered his office and was thrusting forth a sealed scroll. He handed the boy a gold piece, and opened it up. By the poor penmanship, atrocious spelling and grammar, and overall unprofessional tone, it was manifestly evident who the writer was. Liodes Jurus, a fellow clerk some years before, who had left the Commission after being accused of unethical business practices. [pagebreak] "Dear Sckotti, I emagine you alway wondered what happened to me, and the last plase you would have expected to find me is out in the woods. But thats exactly where I am. Ha ha. If your'e smart and want to make lot of extra gold for Lord Atrius (and yourself, ha ha), youll come down to Vallinwood too. If you have'nt or have been following the politics hear lately, you may or may not know that ther's bin a war between the Boshmer and there neighbors Elswere over the past two years. Things have only just calm down, and ther's a lot that needs to be rebuilt. Now Ive got more business than I can handel, but I need somone with some clout, someone representing a respected agencie to get the quill in the ink. That somone is you, my fiend. Come & meat me at the M'ther Paskos Tavern in Falinnesti, Vallinwood. Ill be here 2 weeks and you wont be sorrie. -- Jurus P.S.: Bring a wagenload of timber if you can." [pagebreak] "What do you have there, Scotti?" asked a voice. Scotti started. It was Imbrallius, his damnably handsome face peeking through the shutters, smiling in that way that melted the hearts of the stingiest of patrons and the roughest of stonemasons. Scotti shoved the letter in his jacket pocket. "Personal correspondence," he sniffed. "I'll be cleared up here in a just a moment." "I don't want to hurry you," said Imbrallius, grabbing a few sheets of blank contracts from Scotti's desk. "I've just gone through a stack, and the junior scribes hands are all cramping up, so I thought you wouldn't miss a few." The lad vanished. Scotti retrieved the letter and read it again. He thought about his life, something he rarely did. It seemed a sea of gray with a black insurmountable wall looming. There was only one narrow passage he could see in that wall. Quickly, before he had a moment to reconsider it, he grabbed a dozen of the blank contracts with the shimmering gold leaf ATRIUS BUILDING COMMISSION BY APPOINTMENT OF HIS IMPERIAL MAJESTY and hid them in the satchel with his personal effects. The next day he began his adventure with a giddy lack of hesitation. He arranged for a seat in a caravan bound for Valenwood, the single escorted conveyance to the southeast leaving the Imperial City that week. He had scarcely hours to pack, but he remembered to purchase a wagonload of timber. "It will be extra gold to pay for a horse to pull that," frowned the convoy head. "So I anticipated," smiled Scotti with his best Imbrallius grin. Ten wagons in all set off that afternoon through the familiar Cyrodilic countryside. Past fields of wildflowers, gently rolling woodlands, friendly hamlets. The clop of the horses' hooves against the sound stone road reminded Scotti that the Atrius Building Commission constructed it. Five of the eighteen necessary contracts for its completion were drafted by his own hand. "Very smart of you to bring that wood along," said a gray-whiskered Breton man next to him on his wagon. "You must be in Commerce." "Of a sort," said Scotti, in a way he hoped was mysterious, before introducing himself: "Decumus Scotti." "Gryf Mallon," said the man. "I'm a poet, actually a translator of old Bosmer literature. I was researching some newly discovered tracts of the Mnoriad Pley Bar two years ago when the war broke out and I had to leave. You are no doubt familiar with the Mnoriad, if you're aware of the Green Pact." Scotti thought the man might be speaking perfect gibberish, but he nodded his head. "Naturally, I don't pretend that the Mnoriad is as renowned as the Meh Ayleidion, or as ancient as the Dansir Gol, but I think it has a remarkable significance to understanding the nature of the merelithic Bosmer mind. The origin of the Wood Elf aversion to cutting their own wood or eating any plant material at all, yet paradoxically their willingness to import plantstuff from other cultures, I feel can be linked to a passage in the Mnoriad," Mallon shuffled through some of his papers, searching for the appropriate text. To Scotti's vast relief, the carriage soon stopped to camp for the night. They were high on a bluff over a gray stream, and before them was the great valley of Valenwood. Only the cry of seabirds declared the presence of the ocean to the bay to the west: here the timber was so tall and wide, twisting around itself like an impossible knot begun eons ago, to be impenetrable. A few more modest trees, only fifty feet to the lowest branches, stood on the cliff at the edge of camp. The sight was so alien to Scotti and he found himself so anxious about the proposition of entering the wilderness that he could not imagine sleeping. Fortunately, Mallon had supposed he had found another academic with a passion for the riddles of ancient cultures. Long into the night, he recited Bosmer verse in the original and in his own translation, sobbing and bellowing and whispering wherever appropriate. Gradually, Scotti began to feel drowsy, but a sudden crack of wood snapping made him sit straight up. "What was that?" Mallon smiled: "I like it too. 'Convocation in the malignity of the moonless speculum, a dance of fire --'" "There are some enormous birds up in the trees moving around," whispered Scotti, pointing in the direction of the dark shapes above. "I wouldn't worry about that," said Mallon, irritated with his audience. "Now listen to how the poet characterizes Herma-Mora's invocation in the eighteenth stanza of the fourth book." The dark shapes in the trees were some of them perched like birds, others slithered like snakes, and still others stood up straight like men. As Mallon recited his verse, Scotti watched the figures softly leap from branch to branch, half-gliding across impossible distances for anything without wings. They gathered in groups and then reorganized until they had spread to every tree around the camp. Suddenly they plummeted from the heights. "Mara!" cried Scotti. "They're falling like rain!" "Probably seed pods," Mallon shrugged, not turning around. "Some of the trees have remarkable --" The camp erupted into chaos. Fires burst out in the wagons, the horses wailed from mortal blows, casks of wine, fresh water, and liquor gushed their contents to the ground. A nimble shadow dashed past Scotti and Mallon, gathering sacks of grain and gold with impossible agility and grace. Scotti had only one glance at it, lit up by a sudden nearby burst of flame. It was a sleek creature with pointed ears, wide yellow eyes, mottled pied fur and a tail like a whip. "Werewolf," he whimpered, shrinking back. "Cathay-raht," groaned Mallon. "Much worse. Khajiti cousins or some such thing, come to plunder." "Are you sure?" As quickly as they struck, the creatures retreated, diving off the bluff before the battlemage and knight, the caravan's escorts, had fully opened their eyes. Mallon and Scotti ran to the precipice and saw a hundred feet below the tiny figures dash out of the water, shake themselves, and disappear into the wood. "Werewolves aren't acrobats like that," said Mallon. "They were definitely Cathay-raht. Bastard thieves. Thank Stendarr they didn't realize the value of my notebooks. It wasn't a complete loss."

38Book0DanceInFireV3[pagebreak]

A Dance in Fire Chapter 3 by Waughin Jarth

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other Pascost disappeared into the sordid hole that was her tavern, and emerged a moment later with a scrap of paper with Liodes Jurus's familiar scrawl. Decumus Scotti held it up before a patch of sunlight that had found its way through the massive boughs of the tree city, and read. Sckotti, So you made it to Falinnesti, Vallinwood! Congradulatens! Im sure you had quit a adventure getting here. Unfortonitly, Im not here anymore as you probaby guess. Theres a town down rivver called Athie Im at. Git a bote and join me! Its ideal! I hope you brot a lot of contracks, cause these peple need a lot of building done. They wer close to the war, you see, but not so close they dont have any mony left to pay. Ha ha. Meat me down here as son as you can. Jurus So, Scotti pondered, Jurus had left Falinesti and gone to some place called Athie. Given his poor penmanship and ghastly spelling, it could equally well be Athy, Aphy, Othry, Imthri, Urtha, or Krakamaka. The sensible thing to do, Scotti knew, was to call this adventure over and try to find some way to get back home to the Imperial City. He was no mercenary devoted to a life of thrills: he was, or at least had been, a senior clerk at a successful private building commission. Over the last few weeks, he had been robbed by the Cathay-Raht, taken on a death march through the jungle by a gang of giggling Bosmeri, half-starved to death, drugged with fermented pig's milk, nearly slain by some kind of giant tick, and attacked by archers. He was filthy, exhausted, and had, he counted, ten gold pieces to his name. Now the man whose proposal brought him to the depths of misery was not even there. It was both judicious and seemly to abandon the enterprise entirely. And yet, a small but distinct voice in his head told him: You have been chosen. You have no other choice but to see this through. Scotti turned to the stout old woman, Mother Pascost, who had been watching him curiously: "I was wondering if you knew of a village that was at the edge of the recent conflict with Elsweyr. It's called something like Ath-ie?" "You must mean Athay," she grinned. "My middle lad, Viglil, he manages a dairy down there. Beautiful country, right on the river. Is that where your friend went?" "Yes," said Scotti. "Do you know the fastest way to get there?" After a short conversation, an even shorter ride to Falinesti's roots by way of the platforms, and a jog to the river bank, Scotti was negotiating transport with a huge fair-haired Bosmer with a face like a pickled carp. He called himself Captain Balfix, but even Scotti with his sheltered life could recognize him for what he was. A retired pirate for hire, a smuggler for certain, and probably much worse. His ship, which had clearly been stolen in the distant past, was a bent old Imperial sloop. "Fifty gold and we'll be in Athay in two days time," boomed Captain Balfix expansively. "I have ten, no, sorry, nine gold pieces," replied Scotti, and feeling the need for explanation, added, "I had ten, but I gave one to the Platform Ferryman to get me down here." "Nine is just as fine," said the captain agreeably. "Truth be told, I was going to Athay whether you paid me or not. Make yourself comfortable on the boat, we'll be leaving in just a few minutes." Decumus Scotti boarded the vessel, which sat low in the water of the river, stacked high with crates and sacks that spilled out of the hold and galley and onto the deck. Each was marked with stamps advertising the most innocuous substances: copper scraps, lard, ink, High Rock meal (marked "For Cattle"), tar, fish jelly. Scotti's imagination reeled picturing what sorts of illicit imports were truly aboard. It took more than those few minutes for Captain Balfix to haul in the rest of his cargo, but in an hour, the anchor was up and they were sailing downriver towards Athay. The green gray water barely rippled, only touched by the fingers of the breeze. Lush plant life crowded the banks, obscuring from sight all the animals that sang and roared at one another. Lulled by the serene surroundings, Scotti drifted to sleep. At night, he awoke and gratefully accepted some clean clothes and food from Captain Balfix. "Why are you going to Athay, if I may ask?" queried the Bosmer. "I'm meeting a former colleague there. He asked me to come down from the Imperial City where I worked for the Atrius Building Commission to negotiate some contracts," Scotti took another bite of the dried sausages they were sharing for dinner. "We're going to try to repair and refurbish whatever bridges, roads, and other structures that got damaged in the recent war with the Khajiiti." "It's been a hard two years," the captain nodded his head. "Though I suppose good for me and the likes of you and your friend. Trade routes cut off. Now they think there's going to be war with the Summurset Isles, you heard that?" Scotti shook his head. "I've done my share of smuggling skooma down the coast, even helping some revolutionary types escape the Mane's wrath, but now the wars've made me a legitimate trader, a business-man. The first casualties of war is always the corrupted." Scotti said he was sorry to hear that, and they lapsed into silence, watching the stars and moons' reflection on the still water. The next day, Scotti awoke to find the captain wrapped up in his sail, torpid from alcohol, singing in a low, slurred voice. When he saw Scotti rise, he offered his flagon of jagga. "I learned my lesson during revelry at western cross." The captain laughed, and then burst into tears, "I don't want to be legitimate. Other pirates I used to know are still raping and stealing and smuggling and selling nice folk like you into slavery. I swear to you, I never thought the first time that I ran a real shipment of legal goods that my life would turn out like this. Oh, I know, I could go back to it, but Baan Dar knows not after all I've seen. I'm a ruined man." Scotti helped the weeping mer out of the sail, murmuring words of reassurance. Then he added, "Forgive me for changing the subject, but where are we?" "Oh," moaned Captain Balfix miserably. "We made good time. Athay's right around the bend in the river." "Then it looks like Athay's on fire," said Scotti, pointing. A great plume of smoke black as pitch was rising above the trees. As they drifted around the bend, they next saw the flames, and then the blackened skeletal remains of the village. Dying, blazing villagers leapt from rocks into the river. A cacophony of wailing met their ears, and they could see, roaming along the edges of the town, the figures of Khajiiti soldiers bearing torches. "Baan Dar bless me!" slurred the captain. "The war's back on!" "Oh, no," whimpered Scotti. The sloop drifted with the current toward the opposite shore away from the fiery town. Scotti turned his attention there, and the sanctuary it offered. Just a peaceful arbor, away from the horror. There was a shudder of leaves in two of the trees and a dozen lithe Khajiit dropped to the ground, armed with bows. "They see us," hissed Scotti. "And they've got bows!" "Well, of course they have bows," snarled Captain Balfix. "We Bosmer may have invented the bloody things, but we didn't think to keep them secret, you bloody bureaucrat." "Now, they're setting their arrows on fire!" "Yes, they do that sometimes." "Captain, they're shooting at us! They're shooting at us with flaming arrows!" "Ah, so they are," the captain agreed. "The aim here is to avoid being hit." But hit they were, and very shortly thereafter. Even worse, the second volley of arrows hit the supply of pitch, which ignited in a tremendous blue blaze. Scotti grabbed Captain Balfix and they leapt overboard just before the ship and all its cargo disintegrated. The shock of the cold water brought the Bosmer into temporary sobriety. He called to Scotti, who was already swimming as fast as he could toward the bend. "Master Decumus, where do you think you're swimming to?" "Back to Falinesti!" cried Scotti. "It will take you days, and by the time you get there, everyone will know about the attack on Athay! They'll never let anyone they don't know in! The closest village downriver is Grenos, maybe they'll give us shelter!" Scotti swam back to the captain and side-by-side they began paddling in the middle of the river, past the burning residuum of the village. He thanked Mara that he had learned to swim. Many a Cyrodiil did not, as largely land-locked as the Imperial Province was. Had he been raised in Mir Corrup or Artemon, he might have been doomed, but the Imperial City itself was encircled by water, and every lad and lass there knew how to cross without a boat. Even those who grew up to be clerks and not adventurers. Captain Balfix's sobriety faded as he grew used to the water's temperature. Even in wintertide, the Xylo River was fairly temperate and after a fashion, even comfortable. The Bosmer's strokes were uneven, and he'd stray closer to Scotti and then further away, pushing ahead and then falling behind. Scotti looked to the shore to his right: the flames had caught the trees like tinder. Behind them was an inferno, with which they were barely keeping pace. To the shore on their left, all looked fair, until he saw a tremble in the river-reeds, and then what caused it. A pride of the largest cats he had ever seen. They were auburn-haired, green-eyed beasts with jaws and teeth to match his wildest nightmares. And they were watching the two swimmers, and keeping pace. "Captain Balfix, we can't go to either that shore or the other one, or we'll be parboiled or eaten," Scotti whispered. "Try to even your kicking and your strokes. Breath like you would normally. If you're feeling tired, tell me, and we'll float on our backs for a while." Anyone who has had the experience of giving rational advice to a drunkard would understand the hopelessness. Scotti kept pace with the captain, slowing himself, quickening, drifting left and right, while the Bosmer moaned old ditties from his pirate days. When he wasn't watching his companion, he watched the cats on the shore. After a stretch, he turned to his right. Another village had caught fire. Undoubtedly, it was Grenos. Scotti stared at the blazing fury, awed by the sight of the destruction, and did not hear that the captain had ceased to sing. When he turned back, Captain Balfix was gone. Scotti dove into the murky depths of the river over and over again. There was nothing to be done. When he surfaced after his final search, he saw that the giant cats had moved on, perhaps assuming that he too had drowned. He continued his lonely swim downriver. A tributary, he noted, had formed a final barrier, keeping the flames from spreading further. But there were no more towns. After several hours, he began to ponder the wisdom of going ashore. Which shore was the question. He was spared the decision. Ahead of him was a rocky island with a bonfire. He did not know if he were intruding on a party of Bosmeri or Khajiiti, only that he could swim no more. With straining, aching muscles, he pulled himself onto the rocks. They were Bosmer refugees he gathered, even before they told him. Roasting over the fire was the remains of one of the giant cats that had been stalking him through the jungle on the opposite shore. "Senche-Tiger," said one of the young warriors ravenously. "It's no animal -- it's as smart as any Cathay-Raht or Ohmes or any other bleeding Khajiiti. Pity this one drowned. I would have gladly killed it. You'll like the meat, though. Sweet, from all the sugar these asses eat." Scotti did not know if he was capable of eating a creature as intelligent as a man or mer, but he surprised himself, as he had done several times over the last days. It was rich, succulent, and sweet, like sugared pork, but no seasonings had been added. He surveyed the crowd as he ate. A sad lot, some still weeping for lost family members. They were the survivors of both the villages of Grenos and Athay, and war was on every person's lips. Why had the Khajiiti attacked again? Why -- specifically directed at Scotti, as a Cyrodiil -- why was the Emperor not enforcing peace in his provinces? "I was to meet another Cyrodiil," he said to a Bosmer maiden who he understood to be from Athay. "His name was Liodes Jurus. I don't suppose you know what might have happened to him." "I don't know your friend, but there were many Cyrodiils in Athay when the fire came," said the girl. "Some of them, I think, left quickly. They were going to Vindisi, inland, in the jungle. I am going there tomorrow, so are many of us. If you wish, you may come as well." Decumus Scotti nodded solemnly. He made himself as comfortable as he could in the stony ground of the river island, and somehow, after much effort, he fell asleep. But he did not sleep well.

39Book0DanceInFireV4[pagebreak]

A Dance in Fire Chapter 4 by Waughin Jarth

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ighteen Bosmeri and one Cyrodilic former senior clerk for an Imperial building commission trudged through the jungle westward from the Xylo River to the ancient village of Vindisi. For Decumus Scotti, the jungle was hostile, unfamiliar ground. The enormous vermiculated trees filled the bright morning with darkness, and resembled nothing so much as grasping claws, bent on impeding their progress. Even the fronds of the low plants quivered with malevolent energy. What was worse, he was not alone in his anxiety. His fellow travelers, the natives who had survived the Khajiit attacks on the villages of Grenos and Athay, wore faces of undisguised fear. There was something sentient in the jungle, and not merely the mad but benevolent indigenous spirits. In his peripheral vision, Scotti could see the shadows of the Khajiiti following the refugees, leaping from tree to tree. When he turned to face them, the lithe forms vanished into the gloom as if they had never been there. But he knew he had seen them. And the Bosmeri saw them too, and quickened their pace. After eighteen hours, bitten raw by insects, scratched by a thousand thorns, they emerged into a valley clearing. It was night, but a row of blazing torches greeted them, illuminating the leather-wrought tents and jumbled stones of the hamlet of Vindisi. At the end of the valley, the torches marked a sacred site, a gnarled bower of trees pressed closed together to form a temple. Wordlessly, the Bosmeri walked the torch arcade toward the trees. Scotti followed them. When they reached the solid mass of living wood with only one gaping portal, Scotti could see a dim blue light glowing within. A low sonorous moan from a hundred voices echoed within. The Bosmeri maiden he had been following held out her hand, stopping him. "You do not understand, but no outsider, not even a friend may enter," she said. "This is a holy place." Scotti nodded, and watched the refugees march into the temple, heads bowed. Their voices joined with the ones within. When the last wood elf had gone inside, Scotti turned his attention back to the village. There must be food to be had somewhere. A tendril of smoke and a faint whiff of roasting venison beyond the torchlight led him. They were five Cyrodiils, two Bretons, and a Nord, the group gathered around a campfire of glowing white stones, pulling steaming strips of meat from the cadaver of a great stag. At Scotti's approach, they rose up, all but the Nord who was distracted by his hunk of animal flesh. "Good evening, sorry to interrupt, but I was wondering if I might have a little something to eat. I'm afraid I'm rather hungry, after walking all day with some refugees from Grenos and Athay." They bade him to sit down and eat, and introduced themselves. "So the war's back on, it seems," said Scotti amiably. "Best thing for these effete do-nothings," replied the Nord in between bites. "I've never seen such a lazy culture. Now they've got the Khajiiti striking them on land, and the high elves at sea. If there's any province that deserves a little distress, it's damnable Valenwood." "I don't see how they're so offensive to you," laughed one of the Bretons. "They're congenital thieves, even worse than the Khajiiti because they are so blessed meek in their aggression," the Nord spat out a gob of fat which sizzled on the hot stones of the fire. "They spread their forests into territory that doesn't belong to them, slowly infiltrating their neighbors, and they're puzzled when Elsweyr shoves back at them. They're all villains of the worst order." "What are you doing here?" asked Scotti. "I'm a diplomat from the court of Jehenna," muttered the Nord, returning to his food. "What about you, what are you doing here?" asked one of the Cyrodiils. "I work for Lord Atrius's building commission in the Imperial City," said Scotti. "One of my former colleagues suggested that I come down to Valenwood. He said the war was over, and I could contract a great deal of business for my firm rebuilding what was lost. One disaster after another, and I've lost all my money, I'm in the middle of a rekindling of war, and I cannot find my former colleague." "Your former colleague," murmured another of the Cyrodiils, who had introduced himself as Reglius. "He wasn't by any chance named Liodes Jurus, was he?" "You know him?" "He lured me down to Valenwood in nearly the exact same circumstances," smiled Reglius, grimly. "I worked for your employer's competitor, Lord Vanech's men, where Liodes Jurus also formerly worked. He wrote to me, asking that I represent an Imperial building commission and contract some post-war construction. I had just been released from my employment, and I thought that if I brought some new business, I could have my job back. Jurus and I met in Athay, and he said he was going to arrange a very lucrative meeting with the Silvenar." Scotti was stunned: "Where is he now?" "I'm no theologian, so I couldn't say," Reglius shrugged. "He's dead. When the Khajiiti attacked Athay, they began by torching the harbor where Jurus was readying his boat. Or, I should say, my boat since it was purchased with the gold I brought. By the time we were even aware of what was happening enough to flee, everything by the water was ash. The Khajiiti may be animals, but they know how to arrange an attack." "I think they followed us through the jungle to Vindisi," said Scotti nervously. "There was definitely a group of something jumping along the treetops." "Probably one of the monkey folk," snorted the Nord. "Nothing to be concerned about." "When we first came to Vindisi and the Bosmeri all entered that tree, they were furious, whispering something about unleashing an ancient terror on their enemies," the Breton shivered, remembering. "They've been there ever since, for over a day and a half now. If you want something to be afraid of, that's the direction to look." The other Breton, who was a representative of the Daggerfall Mages Guild, was staring off into the darkness while his fellow provincial spoke. "Maybe. But there's something in the jungle too, right on the edge of the village, looking in." "More refugees maybe?" asked Scotti, trying to keep the alarm out his voice. "Not unless they're traveling through the trees now," whispered the wizard. The Nord and one of the Cyrodiils grabbed a long tarp of wet leather and pulled it across the fire, instantly extinguishing it without so much as a sizzle. Now Scotti could see the intruders, their elliptical yellow eyes and long cruel blades catching the torchlight. He froze with fear, praying that he too was not so visible to them. He felt something bump against his back, and gasped. Reglius's voice hissed from up above: "Be quiet for Mara's sake and climb up here." Scotti grabbed hold of the knotted double-vine that hung down from a tall tree at the edge of the dead campfire. He scrambled up it as quickly as he could, holding his breath lest any grunt of exertion escape him. At the top of the vine, high above the village, was an abandoned nest from some great bird in a trident-shaped branch. As soon as Scotti had pulled himself into the soft, fragrant straw, Reglius pulled up the vine. No one else was there, and when Scotti looked down, he could see no one below. No one, that is except the Khajiiti, slowly moving toward the glow of the temple tree. "Thank you," whispered Scotti, deeply touched that a competitor had helped him. He turned away from the village, and saw that the tree's upper branches brushed against the mossy rock walls that surrounded the valley below. "How are you at climbing?" "You're mad," said Reglius under his breath. "We should stay here until they leave." "If they burn Vindisi like they did Athay and Grenos, we'll be dead sure as if we were on the ground," Scotti began the slow careful climb up the tree, testing each branch. "Can you see what they're doing?" "I can't really tell," Reglius stared down into the gloom. "They're at the front of the temple. I think they also have ... it looks like long ropes, trailing off behind them, off into the pass." Scotti crawled onto the strongest branch that pointed toward the wet, rocky face of the cliff. It was not a far jump at all. So close, in fact, that he could smell the moisture and feel the coolness of the stone. But it was a jump nevertheless, and in his history as a clerk, he had never before leapt from a tree a hundred feet off the ground to a sheer rock. He pictured in his mind's eye the shadows that had pursued him through the jungle from the heights above. How their legs coiled to spring, how their arms snapped forward in an elegant fluid motion to grasp. He leapt. His hands grappled for rock, but long thick cords of moss were more accessible. He held hard, but when he tried to plant his feet forward, they slipped up skyward. For a few seconds, he found himself upside down before he managed to pull himself into a more conventional position. There was a narrow outcropping jutting out of the cliff where he could stand and finally exhale. "Reglius. Reglius. Reglius," Scotti did not dare to call out. In a minute, there was a shaking of branches, and Lord Vanech's man emerged. First his satchel, then his head, then the rest of him. Scotti started to whisper something, but Reglius shook his head violently and pointed downward. One of the Khajiiti was at the base of the tree, peering at the remains of the campfire. Reglius awkwardly tried to balance himself on the branch, but as strong as it was it was exceedingly difficult with only one free hand. Scotti cupped his palms and then pointed at the satchel. It seemed to pain Reglius to let it out of his grasp, but he relented and tossed it to Scotti. There was a small, almost invisible hole in the bag, and when Scotti caught it, a single gold coin dropped out. It rang as it bounced against the rock wall on the descent, a high soft sound that seemed like the loudest alarm Scotti had ever heard. Then many things happened very quickly. The Cathay-Raht at the base of the tree looked up and gave a loud wail. The other Khajiiti followed in chorus, as the cat below crouched down and then sprung up into the lower branches. Reglius saw it below him, climbing up with impossible dexterity, and panicked. Even before he jumped, Scotti could tell that he was going to fall. With a cry, Reglius the Clerk plunged to the ground, breaking his neck on impact. A flash of white fire erupted from every crevice of the temple, and the moan of the Bosmeri prayer changed into something terrible and otherworldly. The climbing Cathay-Raht stopped and stared. "Keirgo," it gasped. "The Wild Hunt." It was as if a crack in reality had opened wide. A flood of horrific beasts, tentacled toads, insects of armor and spine, gelatinous serpents, vaporous beings with the face of gods, all poured forth from the great hollow tree, blind with fury. They tore the Khajiiti in front of the temple to pieces. All the other cats fled for the jungle, but as they did so, they began pulling on the ropes they carried. In a few seconds time, the entire village of Vindisi was boiling with the lunatic apparitions of the Wild Hunt. Over the babbling, barking, howling horde, Scotti heard the Cyrodiils in hiding cry out as they were devoured. The Nord too was found and eaten, and both Bretons. The wizard had turned himself invisible, but the swarm did not rely on their sight. The tree the Cathay-Raht was in began to sway and rock from the impossible violence beneath it. Scotti looked at the Khajiiti's fear-struck eyes, and held out one of the cords of moss. The cat's face showed its pitiful gratitude as it leapt for the vine. It didn't have time to entirely replace that expression when Scotti pulled back the cord, and watched it fall. The Hunt consumed it to the bone before it struck the ground. Scotti's own jump up to the next outcropping of rock was immeasurably more successful. From there, he pulled himself to the top of the cliff and was able to look down into the chaos that had been the village of Vindisi. The Hunt's mass had grown and began to spill out through the pass out of the valley, pursuing the fleeing Khajiiti. It was then that the madness truly began. In the moons' light, from Scotti's vantage, he could see where the Khajiiti had attached their ropes. With a thunderous boom, an avalanche of boulders poured over the pass. When the dust cleared, he saw that the valley had been sealed. The Wild Hunt had nowhere to turn but on itself. Scotti turned his head, unable to bear to look at the cannibalistic orgy. The night jungle stood before him, a web of wood. He slung Reglius's satchel over his shoulder, and entered.

40Book0ImmortalBlood[pagebreak]

Immortal Blood By Anonymous

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he moons and stars were hidden from sight, making that particular quiet night especially dark. The town guard had to carry torches to make their rounds; but the man who came to call at my chapel carried no light with him. I came to learn that Movarth Piquine could see in the dark almost as well as the light - an excellent talent, considering his interests were exclusively nocturnal. One of my acolytes brought him to me, and from the look of him, I at first thought he was in need of healing. He was pale to the point of opalescence with a face that looked like it had once been very handsome before some unspeakable suffering. The dark circles under his eyes bespoke exhaustion, but the eyes themselves were alert, intense, almost insane. He quickly dismissed my notion that he himself was ill, though he did want to discuss a specific disease. "Vampirism," he said, and then paused at my quizzical look. "I was told that you were someone I should seek out for help understanding it." "Who told you that?" I asked with a smile. "Tissina Gray." I immediately remembered her. A brave, beautiful knight who had needed my assistance separating fact from fiction on the subject of the vampire. It had been two years, and I had never heard whether my advice had proved effective. "You've spoken to her? How is her ladyship?" I asked. "Dead," Movarth replied coldly, and then, responding to my shock, he added to perhaps soften the blow. "She said your advice was invaluable, at least for the one vampire. When last I talked to her, she was tracking another. It killed her." "Then the advice I gave her was not enough," I sighed. "Why do you think it would be enough for you?" "I was a teacher once myself, years ago," he said. "Not in a university. A trainer in the Fighters Guild. But I know that if a student doesn't ask the right questions, the teacher cannot be responsible for his failure. I intend to ask you the right questions." And that he did. For hours, he asked questions and I answered what I could, but he never volunteered any information about himself. He never smiled. He only studied me with those intense eyes of his, commiting every word I said to memory. Finally, I turned the questioning around. "You said you were a trainer at the Fighters Guild. Are you on an assignment for them?" "No," he said curtly, and finally I could detect some weariness in those feverish eyes of his. "I would like to continue this tomorrow night, if I could. I need to get some sleep and absorb this." "You sleep during the day," I smiled. To my surprise, he returned the smile, though it was more of a grimace. "When tracking your prey, you adapt their habits." The next day, he did return with more questions, these ones very specific. He wanted to know about the vampires of eastern Skyrim. I told him about the most powerful tribe, the Volkihar, paranoid and cruel, whose very breath could freeze their victims' blood in the veins. I explained to him how they lived beneath the ice of remote and haunted lakes, never venturing into the world of men except to feed. Movarth Piquine listened carefully, and asked more questions into the night, until at last he was ready to leave. "I will not see you for a few days," he said. "But I will return, and tell you how helpful your information has been." True to his word, the man returned to my chapel shortly after midnight four days later. There was a fresh scar on his cheek, but he was smiling that grim but satisfied smile of his. "Your advice helped me very much," he said. "But you should know that the Volkihar have an additional ability you didn't mention. They can reach through the ice of their lakes without breaking it. It was quite a nasty surprise, being grabbed from below without any warning." "How remarkable," I said with a laugh. "And terrifying. You're lucky you survived." "I don't believe in luck. I believe in knowledge and training. Your information helped me, and my skill at melee combat sealed the bloodsucker's fate. I've never believed in weaponry of any kind. Too many unknowns. Even the best swordsmith has created a flawed blade, but you know what your body is capable of. I know I can land a thousand blows without losing my balance, provided I get the first strike." "The first strike?" I murmured. "So you must never be surprised." "That is why I came to you," said Movarth. "You know more than anyone alive about these monsters, in all their cursed varieties across the land. Now you must tell me about the vampires of northern Valenwood." I did as he asked, and once again, his questions taxed my knowledge. There were many tribes to cover. The Bonsamu who were indistinguishable from Bosmer except when seen by candlelight. The Keerilth who could disintegrate into mist. The Yekef who swallowed men whole. The dread Telboth who preyed on children, eventually taking their place in the family, waiting patiently for years before murdering them all in their unnatural hunger. Once again, he bade me farewell, promising to return in a few weeks, and once again, he returned as he said, just after midnight. This time, Movarth had no fresh scars, but he again had new information. "You were wrong about the Keerilth being unable to vaporize when pushed underwater," he said, patting my shoulder fondly. "Fortunately, they cannot travel far in their mist form, and I was able to track it down." "It must have surprised it fearfully. Your field knowledge is becoming impressive," I said. "I should have had an acolyte like you decades ago." "Now, tell me," he said. "Of the vampires of Cyrodiil." I told him what I could. There was but one tribe in Cyrodiil, a powerful clan who had ousted all other competitors, much like the Imperials themselves had done. Their true name was unknown, lost in history, but they were experts at concealment. If they kept themselves well-fed, they were indistinguishable from living persons. They were cultured, more civilized than the vampires of the provinces, preferring to feed on victims while they were asleep, unaware. "They will be difficult to surprise," Movarth frowned. "But I will seek one out, and tell you what I learn. And then you will tell me of the vampires of High Rock, and Hammerfell, and Elsweyr, and Black Marsh, and Morrowind, and the Sumurset Isles, yes?" I nodded, knowing then that this was a man on an eternal quest. He wouldn't be satisfied with but the barest hint of how things were. He needed to know it all. He did not return for a month, and on the night that he did, I could see his frustration and despair, though there were no lights burning in my chapel. "I failed," he said, as I lit a candle. "You were right. I could not find a single one." I brought the light up to my face and smiled. He was surprised, even stunned by the pallor of my flesh, the dark hunger in my ageless eyes, and the teeth. Oh, yes, I think the teeth definitely surprised the man who could not afford to be surprised. "I haven't fed in seventy-two hours," I explained, as I fell on him. He did not land the first blow or the last.

41Book0MysteryOfTalaraV1[pagebreak]

The Mystery of Princess Talara Part I by Mera Llykith

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he year was 3E 405. The occasion was the millennial celebration of the founding of the Breton Kingdom of Camlorn. Every grand boulevard and narrow alley was strung with gold and purple banners, some plain, some marked with the heraldic symbols of the Royal Family or the various principalities and dukedoms which were vassals of the King. Musicians played in the plazas great and small, and on every street corner was a new exotic entertainer: Redguard snake charmers, Khajiiti acrobats, magicians of genuine power and those whose flamboyant skill was equally impressive if largely illusion. The sight that drew most of the male citizens of Camlorn was the March of Beauty. A thousand comely young women, brightly and provocatively dressed, danced their way down the long, wide main street of the city, from the Temple of Sethiete to the Royal Palace. The menfolk jostled one another and craned their necks, picking their favorites. It was no secret that they were all prostitutes, and after the March and the Flower Festival that evening, they would be available for more intimate business. Gyna attracted much of the attention with her tall, curvaceous figure barely covered by strips of silk and her curls of flaxen hair specked with flower petals. In her late twenties, she wasn't the youngest of the prostitutes, but she was certainly one of the most desirable. It was clear by her demeanor that she was used to the lascivious glances, though she was far from jaded at the sight of the city in splendor. Compared to the squalid quarter of Daggerfall where she made her home, Camlorn at the height of celebration seemed so unreal. And yet, what was even stranger was how, at the same time, familiar it all looked, though she had never been there before. The King's daughter Lady Jyllia rode out of the palace gates, and immediately cursed her misfortune. She had completely forgotten about the March of Beauty. The streets were snarled, at a standstill. It would take hours to wait for the March to pass, and she had promised her old nurse Ramke a visit in her house south of the city. Jyllia thought for a moment, picturing in her mind the arrangement of streets in the city, and devised a shortcut to avoid the main street and the March. For a few minutes she felt very clever as she wound her way through tight, curving side streets, but presently she came upon temporary structures, tents and theaters set up for the celebration, and had to improvise a new path. In no time at all, she was lost in the city where she had lived all but five years of her life. Peering down an alley, she saw the main avenue crowded with the March of Beauty. Hoping that it was the tale end, and desirous not to be lost again, Lady Jyllia guided her horse toward the festival. She did not see the snake-charmer at the mouth of the alley, and when his pet hissed and spread its hood, her charge reared up in fear. The women in the parade gasped and surged back at the sight, but Lady Jyllia quickly calmed her stallion down. She looked abashed at the spectacle she had caused. "My apologies, ladies," she said with a mock military salute. "It's all right, madam," said a blonde in silk. "We'll be out of your way in a moment." Jyllia stared as the March passed her. Looking at that whore had been like looking in a mirror. The same age, and height, and hair, and eyes, and figure, almost exactly. The woman looked back at her, and it seemed as if she was thinking the same thing. And so Gyna was. The old witches who sometimes came in to Daggerfall had sometimes spoke of doppelgangers, spirits that assumed the guise of their victims and portended certain death. Yet the experience had not frightened her: it seemed only one more strangely familiar aspect of the alien city. Before the March had danced it way into the palace gates, she had all but forgotten the encounter. The prostitutes crushed into the courtyard, as the King himself came to the balcony to greet them. At his side was his chief bodyguard, a battlemage by the look of him. As for the King himself, he was a handsome man of middle age, rather unremarkable, but Gyna was awed at the sight of him. A dream, perhaps. Yes, that was it: she could see him as she had dreamt of him, high above her as he was now, bending now to kiss her. Not a one of lust as she had experienced before, but one of small fondness, a dutiful kiss. "Dear ladies, you have filled the streets of the great capitol of Camlorn with your beauty," cried the King, forcing a silence on the giggling, murmuring assembly. He smiled proudly. His eyes met Gyna's and he stopped, shaken. For an eternity, they stayed locked together before His Highness recovered and continued his speech. Afterwards, while the women were all en route back to their tents to change into their costumes for the evening, one of the older prostitutes approached Gyna: "Did you see how the King looked at you? If you're smart, you'll be the new royal mistress before this celebration ends." "I've seen looks of hunger before, and that wasn't one of them," laughed Gyna. "I'd wager he thought I was someone else, like that lady who tried to run us over with her horse. She's probably his kin, and he thought she had dressed up like a courtesan and joined the March of Beauty. Can you imagine the scandal?" When they arrived at the tents, they were greeted by a stocky, well-dressed young man with a bald pate and a commanding presence of authority. He introduced himself as Lord Strale, ambassador to the Emperor himself, and their chief patron. It was Strale who had hired them, on the Emperor's behalf, as a gift to the King and the kingdom of Camlorn. "The March of Beauty is but a precursor to the Flower Festival tonight," he said. Unlike the King, he did not have to yell to be heard. His voice was loud and precise in its natural modulations. "I expect each of you to perform well, and justify the significant expense I've suffered bringing you all the way up here. Now hurry, you must be dressed and in position on Cavilstyr Rock before the sun goes down." The ambassador needn't have worried. The women were all professionals, experts at getting dressed and undressed with none of the time-consuming measures less promiscuous females required. His manservant Gnorbooth offered his assistance, but found he had little to do. Their costumes were simplicity itself: soft, narrow sheets with a hole for their heads. Not even a belt was required, so the gowns were open at the sides exposing the frame of their skin. So it was long before the sun had set that the prostitutes turned dancers were at Cavilstyr Rock. It was a great, wide promontory facing the sea, and for the occasion of the Festival of Flowers, a large circle of unlit torches and covered baskets had been arranged. As early as they were, a crowd of spectators had already arrived. The women gathered in the center of the circle and waited until it was time. Gyna watched the crowd as it grew, and was not surprised when she saw the lady from the March approaching, hand-in-hand with a very old, very short white-haired woman. The old woman was distracted, pointing out islands out at sea. The blonde lady seemed nervous, unsure of what to say. Gyna was used to dealing with uneasy clients, and spoke first. "Good to see you again, madam. I am Gyna of Daggerfall." "I'm glad you bear me no ill will because of the whores, I mean horse," the lady laughed, somewhat relieved. "I am Lady Jyllia Raze, daughter of the King." "I always thought that daughters of kings were called princess," smiled Gyna. "In Camlorn, only when they are heirs to the throne. I have a younger brother from my father's new wife whom he favors," Jyllia replied. She felt her head swim. It was madness, speaking to a common prostitute, talking of family politics so intimately. "Relative to that subject, I must ask you something very peculiar. Have you ever heard of the Princess Talara?" Gyna thought a moment: "The name sounds somewhat familiar. Why would I have?" "I don't know. It was a name I just thought you might recognize," sighed Lady Jyllia. "Have you been to Camlorn before?" "If I did, it was when I was very young," said Gyna, and suddenly she felt it was her turn to be trusting. Something about the Lady Jyllia's friendly and forthcoming manner touched her. "To be honest, I don't remember anything at all of my childhood before I was nine or ten. Perhaps I was here with my parents, whoever they were, when I was a little girl. I tell you, I think perhaps I was. I don't recall ever being here before, but everything I've seen, the city, you, the King himself, all seem ... like I've been here before, long ago." Lady Jyllia gasped and took a step back. She gripped the old woman, who had been looking out to sea and murmuring, by the hand. The elderly creature looked to Jyllia, surprised, and then turned to Gyna. Her ancient, half-blind eyes sparkled with recognition and she made a sound like a grunt of surprise. Gyna also jumped. If the King had seemed like something out of a half-forgotten dream, this woman was someone she knew. As clear and yet indistinct as a guardian spirit. "I apologize," stammered Lady Jyllia. "This is my childhood nursemaid, Ramke." "It's her!" the old woman cried, wild-eyed. She tried to run forward, arms outstretched, but Jyllia held her back. Gyna felt strangely naked, and pulled her robe against her body. "No, you're wrong," Lady Jyllia whispered to Ramke, holding the old woman tightly. "The Princess Talara is dead, you know that. I shouldn't have brought you here. I'll take you back home." She turned back to Gyna, her eyes welling with tears. "The entire royal family of Camlorn was assassinated over twenty years ago. My father was Duke of Oloine, the King's brother, and so he inherited the crown. I'm sorry to have bothered you. Goodnight." Gyna gazed after Lady Jyllia and the old nurse as they disappeared into the crowd, but she had little time to consider all she had heard. The sun was setting, and it was time for the Flower Festival. Twelve young men emerged from the darkness wearing only loincloths and masks, and lit the torches. The moment the fire blazed, Gyna and all the rest of the dancers rushed to the baskets, pulling out blossoms and vines by the handful. At first, the women danced with one another, sprinkling petals to the wind. The crowd then joined in as the music swelled. It was a mad, beautiful chaos. Gyna leapt and swooned like a wild forest nymph. Then, without warning, she felt rough hands grip her from behind and push her. She was falling before she understood it. The moment the realization hit, she was closer to the bottom of the hundred foot tall cliff than she was to the top. She flailed out her arms and grasped at the cliff wall. Her fingers raked against the stone and her flesh tore, but she found a grip and held it. For a moment, she stayed there, breathing hard. Then she began to scream. The music and the festival were too loud up above: no one could hear her - she could scarcely hear herself. Below her, the surf crashed. Every bone in her body would snap if she fell. She closed her eyes, and a vision came. A man was standing below her, a King of great wisdom, great compassion, looking up, smiling. A little girl, golden-haired, mischievous, her best friend and cousin, clung to the rock beside her. "The secret to falling is making your body go limp. And with luck, you won't get hurt," the girl said. She nodded, remembering who she was. Eight years of darkness lifted. She released her grip and let herself fall like a leaf into the water below.

42Book0NightingalesFactOrFiction[pagebreak]

The Nightingales: Fact or Fiction? by Wilimina Roth

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ention the "Nightingale" to any thief worth his salt and he'll laugh in your face. He'll tell you that the supposed avengers of the Daedric Lord Nocturnal are nothing but fictional characters who live nowhere else but within tales designed to scare young footpads into doing what they're told. But are they fictional or simply misunderstood? While it's true that most scholars would scoff at the notion of a holy sect appearing within the normally unethical and unorganized rabble that is the Thieves Guild, evidence suggests that such a group existed at one time within the borders of Skyrim. One hundred and twenty years before the publication of this tome, a corpse was discovered wearing a strange suit of armor that was described as "forged midnight." The tattered armor bore a crest of some sort, the symbol of a bird embracing a circle of undetailed blackness. The remains and the armor was taken to the College of Winterhold for study, but mysteriously vanished only a day after it arrived. The crest from this armor was circulated around Skyrim for years but identification proved almost impossible. Then the most unlikely of sources, a prisoner incarcerated within the mines of Markarth, claimed that it was the mark of a group of thieves who called themselves the Nightingales. When pressed for more information, the prisoner claimed that the Nightingales were warriors of Nocturnal and performed her bidding without question. He claimed his source was someone he knew within the Thieves Guild of Skyrim, but he refused to identify them by name, so his story was quickly dismissed. The second piece of evidence pointing to the existence of the Nightingales exists to this day just outside of Riften. Discovered at the terminus of a short pathway off of the main road stands a stone of unidentified blackened material. Carved into its face is the same avian symbol previously found on the dark suit of armor. To those that subscribed to the existence of the Nightingales, this was thought to be some sort of a meeting place. To others, this symbol was once again dismissed as a hoax or simply a diversion created by the Thieves Guild. The final, and most controversial sample of evidence is a passage found scrawled on the inside of a cell wall in Whiterun. The cell had previously been occupied by a Dunmer named Lorthus was incarcerated for murder and was set for execution. After the deed was performed, and Lorthus's cell was examined, the following was found etched into one of the stone blocks: "Take my hand Lady Nocturnal, for it's my will to serve you. As a Nightingale, I'm born anew. Let my past echo our triumph." This is the first and only time that a solid connection between Nocturnal and the Nightingale has been made. The unusual nature of the passage, the religious connotations towards Nocturnal made by a career criminal, kept discussions lively for years regarding the possibility of this group actually existing. Sadly, since not a single piece of evidence beyond this has surfaced to date, this exciting discovery faded into obscurity and the debate subsided. With these scant samples of evidence, conclusions are difficult to formulate. All we're left with are more questions than answers. Can religion and thievery coexist? Does the Daedric Lord Nocturnal have active agents roaming Skyrim with a no-doubt nefarious purpose? Does the Thieves Guild have extensive knowledge of the Nightingales, but remain sworn to secrecy? Perhaps one day the answers to these questions will be revealed, but at present it falls to you, the reader, to decide whether the Nightingales are fact or merely fiction.

43Book0PallaV1[pagebreak]

Palla Book I by Vojne Mierstyyd

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alla. Pal La. I remember when I first heard that name, not long ago at all. It was at a Tales and Tallows ball at a very fine estate west of Mir Corrup, to which I and my fellow Mages Guild initiates had found ourselves unexpectedly invited. Truth be told, we needn't have been too surprised. There were very few other noble families in Mir Corrup -- the region had its halcyon days as a resort for the wealthy far back in the 2nd era -- and on reflection, it was only appropriate to have sorcerers and wizards present at a supernatural holiday. Not that we were anything more exotic than students at a small, nonexclusive charterhouse of the Guild, but like I said, there was a paucity of other choices available. For close to a year, the only home I had known was the rather ramshackle if sprawling grounds of the Mir Corrup Mages Guild. My only companions were my fellow initiates, most of which only tolerated me, and the masters, whose bitterness at being at a backwater Guild prompted never-ending abuse. Immediately the School of Illusion had attracted me. The Magister who taught us recognized me as an apt pupil who loved not only the spells of the science but their philosophical underpinnings. There was something about the idea of warping the imperceptible energies of light, sound, and mind that appealed to my nature. Not for me the flashy schools of destruction and alteration, the holy schools of restoration and conjuration, the practical schools of alchemy and enchantment, or the chaotic school of mysticism. No, I was never so pleased as to take an ordinary object and by a little magic make it seem something other than what it was. It would have taken more imagination than I had to apply that philosophy to my monotonous life. After the morning's lessons, we were assigned tasks before our evening classes. Mine had been to clean out the study of a recently deceased resident of the Guild, and categorize his clutter of spellbooks, charms, and incunabula. It was a lonely and tedious appointment. Magister Tendixus was an inveterate collector of worthless junk, but I was reprimanded any time I threw something away of the least possible value. Gradually I learned enough to deliver each of his belongings to the appropriate department: potions of healing to the Magisters of Restoration, books on physical phenomena to the Magisters of Alteration, herbs and minerals to the Alchemists, and soulgems and bound items to the Enchanters. After one delivery to the Enchanters, I was leaving with my customary lack of appreciation, when Magister Ilther called me back. "Boy," said the portly old man, handing me back one item. "Destroy this." It was a small black disc covered with runes with a ring of red-orange gems like bones circling its periphery. "I'm sorry, Magister," I stammered. "I thought it was something you'd be interested in." "Take it to the great flame and destroy it," he barked, turning his back on me. "You never brought it here." My interest was piqued, because I knew the only thing that would make him react in such a way. Necromancy. I went back to Magister Tendixus's chamber and poured through his notes, looking for any reference to the disc. Unfortunately, most of the notes had been written in a strange code that I was powerless to decipher. I was so fascinated by the mystery that I nearly arrived late for my evening class in Enchantment, taught by Magister Ilther himself. For the next several weeks, I divided my time categorizing the general debris and making my deliveries, and researching the disc. I came to understand that my instinct was correct: the disc was a genuine necromantic artifact. Though I couldn't understand most of the Magister's notes, I determined that he thought it to be a means of resurrecting a loved one from the grave. Sadly, the time came when the chamber had been categorized and cleared, and I was given another assignment, assisting in the stables of the Guild's menagerie. At least finally I was working with some of my fellow initiates and had the opportunity of meeting the common folk and nobles who came to the Guild on various errands. Thus was I employed when we were all invited to the Tales and Tallows ball. If the expected glamour of the evening were not enough, our hostess was reputed to be young, rich, unmarried orphan from Hammerfell. Only a month or two before had she moved to our desolate, wooded corner of the Imperial Province to reclaim an old family manorhouse and grounds. The initiates at the Guild gossiped like old women about the mysterious young lady's past, what had happened to her parents, why she had left or been driven from her homeland. Her name was Betaniqi, and that was all we knew. We wore our robes of initiation with pride as we arrived for the ball. At the enormous marble foyer, a servant announced each of our names as if we were royalty, and we strutted into the midst of the revelers with great puffery. Of course, we were then promptly ignored by one and all. In essence, we were unimportant figures to lend some thickness to the ball. Background characters. The important people pushed through us with perfect politeness. There was old Lady Schaudirra discussing diplomatic appointments to Balmora with the Duke of Rimfarlin. An orc warlord entertained a giggling princess with tales of rape and pillage. Three of the Guild Magisters worried with three painfully thin noble spinsters about the haunting of Daggerfall. Intrigues at the Imperial and various royal courts were analyzed, gently mocked, fretted over, toasted, dismissed, evaluated, mitigated, admonished, subverted. No one looked our way even when we were right next to them. It was as if my skill at illusion had somehow rendered us all invisible. I took my flagon out to the terrace. The moons were doubled, equally luminous in the sky and in the enormous reflecting pool that stretched out into the garden. The white marble statuary lining the sides of the pool caught the fiery glow and seemed to burn like torches in the night. The sight was so otherworldly that I was mesmerized by it, and the strange Redguard figures immortalized in stone. Our hostess had made her home there so recently that some of the sculptures were still wrapped in sheets that billowed and swayed in the gentle breeze. I don't know how long I stared before I realized I wasn't alone. She was so small and so dark, not only in her skin but in her clothing, that I nearly took her for a shadow. When she turned to me, I saw that she was very beautiful and young, not more than seventeen. "Are you our hostess?" I finally asked. "Yes," she smiled, blushing. "But I'm ashamed to admit that I'm very bad at it. I should be inside with my new neighbors, but I think we have very little in common." "It's been made abundantly clear that they hope I have nothing in common with them either," I laughed. "When I'm a little higher than an initiate in the Mages Guild, they might see me as more of an equal." "I don't understand the concept of equality in Cyrodiil yet," she frowned. "In my culture, you proved your worth, not just expected it. My parents both were great warriors, as I hope to be." Her eyes went out to the lawn, to the statues. "Do the sculptures represent your parents?" "That's my father Pariom there," she said gesturing to a life-sized representation of a massively built man, unashamedly naked, gripping another warrior by the throat and preparing to decapitate him with an outstretched blade. It was clearly a realistic depiction. Pariom's face was plain, even slightly ugly with a low forehead, a mass of tangled hair, stubble on his cheeks. Even a slight gap in his teeth, which no sculptor would surely have invented except to do justice to his model's true idiosyncrasies. "And your mother?" I asked, pointing to a nearby statue of a proud, rather squat warrior woman in a mantilla and scarf, holding a child. "Oh no," she laughed. "That was my uncle's old nurse. Mother's statue still has a sheet over it." I don't know what prompted me to insist that we unveil the statue that she pointed to. In all likelihood, it was nothing but fate, and a selfish desire to continue the conversation. I was afraid that if I did not give her a project, she would feel the need to return to the party, and I would be alone again. At first she was reluctant. She had not yet made up her mind whether the statues would suffer in the wet, sometimes cold Cyrodilic climate. Perhaps all should be covered, she reasoned. It may be that she was merely making conversation, and was reluctant as I was to end the stand-off and be that much closer to having to return to the party. In a few minutes time, we tore the tarp from the statue of Betaniqi's mother. That is when my life changed forevermore. She was an untamed spirit of nature, screaming in a struggle with a misshapen monstrous figure in black marble. Her gorgeous, long fingers were raking across the creature's face. The monster's talons gripped her right breast in a sort of caress that prefaces a mortal wound. Its legs and hers wound around one another in a battle that was a dance. I felt annihilated. This lithe but formidable woman was beautiful beyond all superficial standards. Whoever had sculpted it had somehow captured not only a face and figure of a goddess, but her power and will. She was both tragic and triumphant. I fell instantly and fatally in love with her. I had not even noticed when Gelyn, one of my fellow initiates who was leaving the party, came up behind us. Apparently I had whispered the word "magnificent," because I heard Betaniqi reply as if miles away, "Yes, it is magnificent. That's why I was afraid of exposing it to the elements." Then I heard, clearly, like a stone breaking water, Gelyn: "Mara preserve me. That must be Palla." "Then you heard of my mother?" asked Betaniqi, turning his way. "I hail from Wayrest, practically on the border to Hammerfell. I don't think there's anyone who hasn't heard of your mother and her great heroism, ridding the land of that abominable beast. She died in that struggle, didn't she?" "Yes," said the girl sadly. "But so too did the creature." For a moment, we were all silent. I don't remember anything more of that night. Somehow I knew I was invited to dine the next evening, but my mind and heart had been entirely and forever more arrested by the statue. I returned back to the Guild, but my dreams were fevered and brought me no rest. Everything seemed diffused by white light, except for one beautiful, fearsome woman. Palla.

44Book0RansomOfZarek[pagebreak]

The Ransom of Zarek Ancient Tales of the Dwemer Part I by Marobar Sul

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alemmil stood in her garden and read the letter her servant had brought to her. The bouquet of joss roses in her hand fell to the ground. For a moment it was as if all birds had ceased to sing and a cloud had passed over the sky. Her carefully cultivated and structured haven seemed to flood over with darkness. "We have thy son," it read. "We will be in touch with thee shortly with our ransom demands." Zarek had never made it as far as Akgun after all. One of the brigands on the road, Orcs probably, or accursed Dunmer, must have seen his well-appointed carriage, and taken him hostage. Jalemmil clutched at a post for support, wondering if her boy had been hurt. He was but a student, not the sort to fight against well-armed men, but had they beaten him? It was more than a mother's heart could bear to imagine. "Don't tell me they sent the ransom note so quickly," called a family voice, and a familiar face appeared through the hedge. It was Zarek. Jalemmil hurried to embrace her boy, tears running down her face. "What happened?" she cried. "I thought thou had been kidnapped." "I was," said Zarek. "Three huge soaring Nords attacked by carriage on the Frimvorn Pass. Brothers, as I learned, named Mathais, Ulin, and Koorg. Thou should have seen these men, mother. Each one of them would have had trouble fitting through the front door, I can tell thee." "What happened?" Jalemmil repeated. "Were thou rescued?" "I thought about waiting for that, but I knew they'd send off a ransom note and I know how thou does worry. So I remembered what my mentor at Akgun always said about remaining calm, observing thy surroundings, and looking for thy opponent's weakness," Zarek grinned. "It took a while, though, because these fellows were truly monsters. And then, when I listened to them, bragging to one another, I realized that vanity was their weakness." "What did thou do?" "They had me chained at their camp in the woods not far from Cael, on a high knoll over-looking a wide river. I heard one of them, Koorg, telling the others that it would take the better part of an hour to swim across the river and back. They were nodding in agreement, when I spoke up. "'I could swim that river and back in thirty minutes,' I said. "'Impossible,' said Koorg. 'I can swim faster than a little whelp like thee.' "So it was agreed that we would dive off the cliff, swim to the center island, and return. As we went to our respective rocks, Koorg took it upon himself to lecture me about all the fine points of swimming. The importance of synchronized movements of the arms and legs for maximum speed. How essential it was to breathe after only third or fourth stroke, not too often to slow thyself down, but not too often to lose one's air. I nodded and agreed to all his fine points. Then we dove off the cliffs. I made it to the island and back in a little over an hour, but Koorg never returned. He had dashed his brains at the rocks at the base of the cliff. I had noticed the telltale undulations of underwater rocks, and had taken the diving rock on the right." "But thou returned?" asked Jalemmil, astounded. "Was that not then when thou escaped?" "It was too risky to escape then," said Zarek. "They could have easily caught me again, and I wasn't keen to be blamed for Koorg's disappearance. I said I did not know what happened to him, and after some searching, they decided he had forgotten about the race and had swum ashore to hunt for food. They could not see how I could have had anything to do with his disappearance, as fully visible as I was throughout my swim. The two brothers began making camp along the rocky cliff-edge, picking an ideal location so that I would not be able to escape. "One of the brothers, Mathais, began commenting on the quality of the soil and the gradual incline of the rock that circled around the bay below. Ideal, he said, for a foot race. I expressed my ignorance of the sport, and he was keen to give me details of the proper technique for running a race. He made absurd faces, showing how one must breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth; how to bend one's knees to the proper angle on the rise; the importance of sure foot placement. Most important, he explained, was that the runner keep an aggressive but not too strenuous pace if one intends to win. It is fine to run in second place through the race, he said, provided one has the willpower and strength to pull out in the end. "I was an enthusiastic student, and Mathais decided that we ought to run a quick race around the edge of the bay before night fell. Ulin told us to bring back some firewood when we came back. We began at once down the path, skirting the cliff below. I followed his advice about breath, gait, and foot placement, but I ran with all my power right from the start. Despite his much longer legs, I was a few paces ahead as we wound the first corner. "With his eyes on my back, Mathais did not see the gape in the rock that I jumped over. He plummeted over the cliff before he had a chance to cry out. I spent a few minutes gathering some twigs before I returned to Ulin at camp." "Now thou were just showing off," frowned Jalemmil. "Surely that would have been a good time to escape." "Thou might think so," agreed Zarek. "But thou had to see the topography -- a few large trees, and then nothing but shrubs. Ulin would have noticed my absence and caught up with me in no time, and I would have had a hard time explaining Mathais's absence. However, the brief forage around the area allowed me to observe some of the trees close up, and I could formulate my final plan. "When I got back to camp with a few twigs, I told Ulin that Mathais was slow coming along, dragging a large dead tree behind him. Ulin scoffed at his brother's strength, saying it would take him time to pull up a live tree by the roots and drop it on the bonfire. I expressed reasonable doubt. "'I'll show thee,' he said, ripping up a ten foot tall specimen effortlessly. "'But that's scarcely a sapling,' I objected. 'I thought thou could rip up a tree.' His eyes followed mine to a magnificent, heavy-looking one at the edge of the clearing. Ulin grabbed it and began to shake it with a tremendous force to loosen its roots from the dirt. With that, he loosened the hive from the uppermost branches, dropping it down onto his head. "That was when I made my escape, mother," said Zarek, in conclusion, showing a little schoolboy pride. "While Mathais and Koorg were at the base of the cliff, and Ulin was flailing about, engulfed by a swarm." Jalemmil embraced her son once again. Publisher's Note I was reluctant to publish the works of Marobar Sul, but when the University of Gwylim Press asked me to edit this edition, I decided to use this as an opportunity to set the record straight once and for all. Scholars do not agree on the exact date of Marobar Sul's work, but it is generally agreed that they were written by the playwright "Gor Felim," famous for popular comedies and romances during the Interregnum between the fall of the First Cyrodilic Empire and the rise of Tiber Septim. The current theory holds that Felim heard a few genuine Dwemer tales and adapted them to the stage in order to make money, along with rewritten versions of many of his own plays. Gor Felim created the persona of "Marobar Sul" who could translate the Dwemer language in order to add some sort of validity to the work and make it even more valuable to the gullible. Note that while "Marobar Sul" and his works became the subject of heated controversy, there are no reliable records of anyone actually meeting "Marobar Sul," nor was there anyone of that name employed by the Mages Guild, the School of Julianos, or any other intellectual institution. In any case, the Dwemer in most of the tales of "Marobar Sul" bear little resemblance to the fearsome, unfathomable race that frightened even the Dunmer, Nords, and Redguards into submission and built ruins that even now have yet to be understood.

45Book0Shadowmarks[pagebreak]

Shadowmarks by Delvin Mallory

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eed to know your way around, eh? Don't want to stumble into a necromancer's house or fall into another trap set up by the city guard? Then you need to read this book from cover to cover. Learning to identify the shadowmark can mean the difference between making a fortune and ending up with a blade in your gut. The clever little marks are carved all over Skyrim... mostly on the doorframes or fronts of buildings, but you can find them pretty much anywhere a thief's been. It's the way we talk to each other without talking. Keeps the newer thieves from becoming dead thieves and all that nonsense. There aren't that many of the bloody things, so I don't want to hear any excuses about not having the time to learn them. Anyway, enough of my gabbing. Time to put your wizard's cap on and do a little research. [pagebreak]

Glossary of Shadowmarks

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"The Guild"

This is the symbol for the Guild. This means the place is as safe as the Flagon's cistern. If you see this shadowmark, someone from the Guild is nearby for certain. [pagebreak]

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"Safe"

We usually leave this shadowmark when we've scouted and found a safe way around something, a hallway without traps or maybe a house that's already cleared out. If you see one of these, head the way it's pointing and you'll be fine. [pagebreak]

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"Danger"

If you see this shadowmark, head the other way or take your life in your own hands. It means there's something ahead or beyond that door that wants to turn you inside-out. [pagebreak]

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"Escape Route"

Now, on the rare occasion (it better be a rare occasion if you want to work in the Guild) that you find yourself in jail, look for this little beauty. You see this shadowmark and escape is just a few steps away. [pagebreak]

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"Protected"

We put these shadowmarks on places we don't want you to go. As in stay out of there or there's going to be a boot up the backside. These people are under the Guild's protection and should never be robbed or assaulted. [pagebreak]

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"Fence"

This should quickly become your favorite shadowmark. The person near this mark will buy your... hard-earned stolen goods for a fair price. [pagebreak]

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"Thieves' Cache"

Who says we only take and never give back? If you find this shadowmark near a chest or maybe a hollowed log, you're in for a surprise... a gift from the Guild for the thief in the field. Whoever said membership didn't have its privileges? [pagebreak]

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"Loot"

There's something near this shadowmark worth stealing. Saves you from breaking into a place only to find the people don't even have two septim to rub together. [pagebreak]

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"Empty"

The opposite of the Loot Shadowmark. Pass on this place, there's nothing inside.

46Book0WolfQueenV2[pagebreak]

The Wolf Queen Book Two by Waughin Jarth

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From the pen of the first century third era sage Montocai: 3E 82: A year after the wedding of his 14-year-old granddaughter the Princess Potema to King Mantiarco of the Nordic kingdom of Solitude, the Emperor Uriel Septim II passed on. His son Pelagius Septim II was made emperor, and he faced a greatly depleted treasury, thanks to his father's poor management. As the new Queen of Solitude, Potema faced opposition from the old Nordic houses, who viewed her as an outsider. Mantiarco had been widowed, and his former queen was loved. She had left him a son, Prince Bathorgh, who was two years older than his stepmother, and loved her not. But the king loved his queen, and suffered with her through miscarriage after miscarriage, until her 29th year, when she bore him a son. 3E 97: "You must do something to help the pain!" Potema cried, baring her teeth. The healer Kelmeth immediately thought of a she-wolf in labor, but he put the image from his mind. Her enemies called her the Wolf Queen for certes, but not because of any physical resemblance. "Your Majesty, there is no injury for me to heal. The pain you feel is natural and helpful for the birth," he was going to add more words of consolation, but he had to break off to duck the mirror she flung at him. "I'm not a pignosed peasant girl!" She snarled, "I am the Queen of Solitude, daughter of the Emperor! Summon the daedra! I'll trade the soul of every last subject of mine for a little comfort!" "My Lady," said the healer nervously, drawing the curtains and blotting out the cold morning sun. "It is not wise to make such offers even in jest. The eyes of Oblivion are forever watching for just such a rash interjection." "What would you know of Oblivion, healer?" she growled, but her voice was calmer, quieter. The pain had relaxed. "Would you fetch me that mirror I hurled at you?" "Are you going to throw it again, your Majesty?" said the healer with a taut smile, obeying her. "Very likely," she said, looking at her reflection. "And next time I won't miss. But I do look a fright. Is Lord Vhokken still waiting for me in the hall?" "Yes, your Majesty." "Well, tell him I just need to fix my hair and I'll be with him. And leave us. I'll howl for you when the pain returns." "Yes, your Majesty." A few minutes later, Lord Vhokken was shown into the chamber. He was an enormous bald man whose friends and enemies called Mount Vhokken, and when he spoke it was with the low grumble of thunder. The Queen was one of the very few people Vhokken knew who was not the least bit intimidated by him, and he offered her a smile. "My queen, how are you feeling?" he asked. "Damned. But you're looking like Springtide has come to Mount Vhokken. I take it from your merry disposition that you've been made warchief." "Only temporarily, while your husband the King investigates whether there is evidence behind the rumors of treason on the part of my predecessor Lord Thone." "If you've planted it as I've instructed, he'll find it," Potema smiled, propping herself up in the bed. "Tell me, is Prince Bathorgh still in the city?" "What a question, your highness," laughed the mountain. "It's the Tournament of Stamina today, you know the prince would never miss that. The fellow invents new strategies of self-defense every year to show off during the games. Don't you recall last year, where he entered the ring unarmored and after twenty minutes of fending off six bladesmen, left the games without a scratch? He dedicated that bout to his late mother, Queen Amodetha." "Yes, I recall." "He's no friend to me or you, your highness, but you must give the man his due respect. He moves like lightning. You wouldn't think it of him, but he always seems to use his awkwardness to his advantage, to throw his opponents off. Some say he learned the style from the orcs to the south. They say he learned from them how to anticipate a foe's attack by some sort of supernatural power." "There's nothing supernatural about it," said the Queen, quietly. "He gets it from his father." "Mantiarco never moved like that," Vhokken chuckled. "I never said he did," said Potema. Her eyes closed and her teeth gritted together. "The pain's returning. You must fetch the healer, but first, I must ask you one other thing -- has the new summer palace construction begun?" "I think so, your Highness." "Do not think!" she cried, gripping the sheets, biting her lips so a stream of blood dripped down her chin. "Do! Make certain that the construction begins at once, today! Your future, my future, and the future of this child depend on it! Go!" Four hours later, King Mantiarco entered the room to see his son. His queen smiled weakly as he gave her a kiss on the forehead. When she handed him the child, a tear ran down his face. Another one quickly followed, and then another. "My Lord," she said fondly. "I know you're sentimental, but really!" "It's not only the child, though he is beautiful, with all the fair features of his mother," Mantiarco turned to his wife, sadly, his aged features twisted in agony. "My dear wife, there is trouble at the palace. In truth, this birth is the only thing that keeps this day from being the darkest in my reign." "What is it? Something at the tournament?" Potema pulled herself up in bed. "Something with Bathorgh?" "No, it's isn't the tournament, but it does relate to Bathorgh. I shouldn't worry you at a time like this. You need your rest." "My husband, tell me!" "I wanted to surprise you with a gift after the birth of our child, so I had the old summer palace completely renovated. It's a beautiful place, or at least it was. I thought you might like it. Truth to tell, it was Lord Vhokken idea. It used to be Amodetha's favorite place." Bitterness crept into the king's voice. "Now I've learned why." "What have you learned?" asked Potema quietly. "Amodetha deceived me there, with my trusted warchief, Lord Thone. There were letters between them, the most perverse things you've ever read. And that's not the worst of it." "No?" "The dates on the letters correspond with the time of Bathorgh's birth. The boy I raised and loved as a son," Mantiarco's voice choked up with emotion. "He was Thone's child, not mine." "My darling," said Potema, almost feeling sorry for the old man. She wrapped her arms around his neck, as he heaved his sobs down on her and their child. "Henceforth," he said quietly. "Bathorgh is no longer my heir. He will be banished from the kingdom. This child you have borne me today will grow to rule Solitude." "And perhaps more," said Potema. "He is the Emperor's grandson as well." "We will name him Mantiarco the Second." "My darling, I would love that," said Potema, kissing the king's tear-streaked face. "But may I suggest Uriel, after my grandfather the Emperor, who brought us together in marriage?" King Mantiarco smiled at his wife and nodded his head. There was a knock at the door. "My liege," said Mount Vhokken. "His highness Prince Bathorgh has finished the tournament and awaits you to present his award. He has successfully withstood attacks by nine archers and the giant scorpion we brought in from Hammerfell. The crowd is roaring his name. They are calling him The Man Who Cannot Be Hit." "I will see him," said King Mantiarco sadly, and left the chamber. "Oh he can be hit, all right," said Potema wearily. "But it does take some doing."

47Book0WolfQueenV3[pagebreak]

The Wolf Queen Book Three by Waughin Jarth

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From the pen of the first century third era sage Montocai: 3E 98 The Emperor Pelagius Septim II died a few weeks before the end of the year, on the 15th of Evening Star during the festival of North Wind's Prayer, which was considered a bad omen for the Empire. He had ruled over a difficult seventeen years. In order to fill the bankrupt treasury, Pelagius had dismissed the Elder Council, forcing them to buy back their positions. Several good but poor councilors had been lost. Many say the Emperor had died as a result of being poisoned by a vengeful former Council member. His children came to attend his funeral and the coronation of the next Emperor. His youngest son Prince Magnus, 19 years of age, arrived from Almalexia, where he had been a councilor to the royal court. 21-year-old Prince Cephorus arrived from Gilane with his Redguard bride, Queen Bianki. Prince Antiochus at 43 years of age, the eldest child and heir presumptive, had been with his father in the Imperial City. The last to appear was his only daughter, Potema, the so-called Wolf Queen of Solitude. Thirty years old and radiantly beautiful, she arrived with a magnificent entourage, accompanied by her husband, the elderly King Mantiarco and her year-old son, Uriel. All expected Antiochus to assume the throne of the Empire, but no one knew what to expect from the Wolf Queen. 3E 99 "Lord Vhokken has been bringing several men to your sister's chambers late at night every night this week," offered the Spymaster. "Perhaps if her husband were made aware --" "My sister is a devotee of the conqueror gods Reman and Talos, not the love goddess Dibella. She is plotting with those men, not having orgies with them. I'd wager I've slept with more men than she has," laughed Antiochus, and then grew serious. "She's behind the delay of the council offering me the crown, I know it. Six weeks now. They say they need to update records and prepare for the coronation. I'm the Emperor! Crown me, and to Oblivion with the formalities!" "Your sister is surely no friend of yours, your majesty, but there are other factors at play. Do not forget how your father treated the Council. It is they who need following, and if need be, strong convincing," The Spymaster added, with a suggestive stab of his dagger. "Do so, but keep your eye on the damnable Wolf Queen as well. You know where to find me." "At which brothel, your highness?" inquired the Spymaster. "Today being Fredas, I'll be at the Cat and Goblin." The Spymaster noted in his report that night that Queen Potema had no visitors, for she was dining across the Imperial Garden at the Blue Palace with her mother, the Dowager Empress Quintilla. It was a warm night for wintertide and surprisingly cloudless though the day had been stormy. The saturated ground could not take any more, so the formal, structured gardens looked as if they had been glazed with water. The two women took their wine to the wide balcony to look over the grounds. "I believe you are trying to sabotage your half-brother's coronation," said Quintilla, not looking at her daughter. Potema saw how the years had not so much wrinkled her mother as faded her, like the sun on a stone. "It's not true," said Potema. "But would it bother you very much if it were true?" "Antiochus is not my son. He was eleven years old when I married your father, and we've never been close. I think that being heir presumptive has stunted his growth. He is old enough to have a family with grown children, and yet he spends all his time at debauchery and fornication. He will not make a very good Emperor," Quintilla sighed and then turned to Potema. "But it is bad for the family for seeds of discontent to be sown. It is easy to divide up into factions, but very difficult to unite again. I fear for the future of the Empire." "Those sound like the words -- are you, by any chance, dying, mother?" "I've read the omens," said Quintilla with a faint, ironic smile. "Don't forget -- I was a renowned sorceress in Camlorn. I will dead in a few months time, and then, not a year later, your husband will die. I only regret that I will not live to see your child Uriel assume the throne of Solitude." "Have you seen whether --" Potema stopped, not wanting to reveal too many of her plans, even to a dying woman. "Whether he will be Emperor? Aye, I know the answer to that too, daughter. Don't fear: you'll live to see the answer, one way or the other. I have a gift for him when he is of age," The Dowager Empress removed a necklace with a single great yellow gem from around her neck. "It's a soul gem, infused with the spirit of a great werewolf your father and I defeated in battle thirty-six years ago. I've enchanted it with spells from the School of Illusion so its wearer may charm whoever he choses. An important skill for a king." "And an emperor," said Potema, taking the necklace. "Thank you, mother." An hour later, passing the black branches of the sculpted douad shrubs, Potema noticed a dark figure, which vanished into the shadows under the eaves at her approach. She had noticed people following her before: it was one of the hazards of life in the Imperial court. But this man was too close to her chambers. She slipped the necklace around her neck. "Come out where I can see you," she commanded. The man emerged from the shadows. A dark little fellow of middle-age dressed in black-dyed goatskin. His eyes were fixed, frozen, under her spell. "Who do you work for?" "Prince Antiochus is my master," he said in a dead voice. "I am his spy." A plan formed. "Is the Prince in his study?" "No, milady." "And you have access?" "Yes, milady." Potema smiled widely. She had him. "Lead the way." The next morning, the storm reappeared in all its fury. The pelting on the walls and ceiling was agony to Antiochus, who was discovering that he no longer had his youthful immunity to a late night of hard drinking. He shoved hard against the Argonian wench sharing his bed. "Make yourself useful and close the window," he moaned. No sooner had the window been bolted then there was a knock at the door. It was the Spymaster. He smiled at the Prince and handed him a sheet of paper. "What is this?" said Antiochus, squinting his eyes. "I must still be drunk. It looks like orcish." "I think you will find it useful, your majesty. Your sister is here to see you." Antiochus considered getting dressed or sending his bedmate out, but thought better of it. "Show her in. Let her be scandalized." If Potema was scandalized, she did not show it. Swathed in orange and silver silk, she entered the room with a triumphant smile, followed by the man-mountain Lord Vhokken. "Dear brother, I spoke to my mother last night, and she advised me very wisely. She said I should not battle with you in public, for the good of our family and the Empire. Therefore," she said, producing from the folds of her robe a piece of paper. "I am offering you a choice." "A choice?" said Antiochus, returning her smile. "That does sound friendly." "Abdicate your rights to the Imperial throne voluntarily, and there is no need for me to show the Council this," Potema said, handing her brother the letter. "It is a letter with your seal on it, saying that you knew that your father was not Pelagius Septim II, but the royal steward Fondoukth. Now, before you deny writing the letter, you cannot deny the rumors, nor that the Imperial Council will believe that your father, the old fool, was quite capable of being cuckolded. Whether it's true or not, or whether the letter is a forgery or not, the scandal of it would ruin your chances of being the Emperor." Antiochus's face had gone white with fury. "Don't fear, brother," said Potema, taking back the letter from his shaking hands. "I will see to it that you have a very comfortable life, and all the whores your heart, or any other organ, desires." Suddenly Antiochus laughed. He looked over at his Spymaster and winked. "I remember when you broke into my stash of Khajiiti erotica and blackmailed me. That was close to twenty years ago. We've got better locks now, you must have noticed. It must have killed you that you couldn't use your own skills to get what you wanted." Potema merely smiled. It didn't matter. She had him. "You must have charmed my servant here into getting you into my study to use my seal," Antiochus smirked. "A spell, perhaps, from your mother, the witch?" Potema continued to smile. Her brother was cleverer than she thought. "Did you know that Charm spells, even powerful ones, only last so long? Of course, you didn't. You never were one for magic. Let me tell you, a generous salary is a stronger motivation for keeping a servant in the long run, sister," Antiochus took out his own sheet of paper. "Now I have a choice for you." "What is that?" said Potema, her smile faltering. "It looks like nonsense, but if you know what you're looking for, it's very clear. It's a practice sheet -- your handwriting attempting to look like my handwriting. It's a good gift you have. I wonder if you haven't done this before, imitating another person's handwriting. I understand a letter was found from your husband's dead wife saying that his first son was a bastard. I wonder if you wrote that letter. I wonder if I showed this evidence of your gift to your husband whether he would believe you wrote that letter. In the future, dear Wolf Queen, don't lay the same trap twice." Potema shook her head, furious, unable to speak. "Give me your forgery and go take a walk in the rain. And then, later today, unhatch whatever other plots you have to keep me from the throne." Antiochus fixed his eyes on Potema's. "I will be Emperor, Wolf Queen. Now go." Potema handed her brother the letter and left the room. For a few moments, out in the hallway, she said nothing. She merely glared at the slivers of rainwater dripping down the marble wall from a tiny, unseen crack. "Yes, you will, brother," she said. "But not for very long."

48Book0WolfQueenV4[pagebreak]

The Wolf Queen Book Four by Waughin Jarth

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From the pen of the first century third era sage Montocai: 3E 109: Ten years after being crowned Emperor of Tamriel, Antiochus Septim had impressed his subjects with little but the enormity of his lust for carnal pleasures. By his second wife, Gysilla, he had a daughter in the year 104, who he named Kintyra, after his great-great-great grandaunt, the Empress. Enormously fat and marked by every venereal disease known to the Healers, Antiochus spent little time on politics. His siblings, by marked contrast, excelled in this field. Magnus had married Hellena, the Cyrodiil Queen of Lilmoth -- the Argonian priest-king having been executed -- and was representing the Imperial interests in Black Marsh admirably. Cephorus and his wife Bianki were ruling the Hammerfell kingdom of Gilane with a healthy brood of children. But no one was more politically active than Potema, the Wolf-Queen of the Skyrim kingdom of Solitude. Nine years after the death of her husband, King Mantiarco, Potema still ruled as regent for her young son, Uriel. Their court had become very fashionable, particularly for rulers who had a grudge to bear against the Emperor. All the kings of Skyrim visited Castle Solitude regularly, and over the years, emissaries from the lands of Morrowind and High Rock did as well. Some guests came from even farther away. 3E 110: Potema stood at the harbor and watched the boat from Pyandonea arrive. Against the gray, breaking waves where she had seen so many vessels of Tamrielic manufacture, it looked less than exotic. Insectoid, certainly, with its membranous sails and rugged chitin hull, but she had seen similar if not identical seacraft in Morrowind. No, if not for the flag which was markedly alien, she would not have picked out the ship from others in the harbor. As the salty mist ballooned around her, she held out her hand in welcome to the visitors from another island empire. The men aboard were not merely pale, they were entirely colorless, as if their flesh were made of some white limpid jelly, but she had been forewarned. At the arrival of the King and his translator, she looked directly into their blank eyes and offered her hand. The King made noises. "His Great Majesty, King Orgnum," said the translator, haltingly. "Expresses his delight at your beauty. He thanks you for giving him refuge from these dangerous seas." "You speak Cyrodilic very well," said Potema. "I am fluent in the languages of four continents," said the translator. "I can speak to the denizens of my own country Pyandonea, as well as those of Atmora, Akavir, and here, in Tamriel. Yours is the easiest, actually. I was looking forward to this voyage." "Please tell his highness that he is welcome here, and that I am entirely at his disposal," said Potema, smiling. Then she added, "You understand the context? That I am just being polite?" "Of course," said the translator, and then made several noises at the King, which the King reacted to with a smile. While they conversed, Potema looked up the dock and saw the now familiar gray cloaks watching her while they spoke with Levlet, Antiochus's man. The Psijic Order from the Summerset Isle. Very bothersome. "My diplomatic emissary Lord Vhokken will show you to your rooms," said Potema. "Unfortunately, I have some other guests as well who require my attention. I hope your great majesty understands." His Great Majesty King Orgnum did understand, and Potema made arrangements to dine with the Pyandoneans that evening. Meeting with the Psijic Order required all of her concentration. She dressed in her simplest black and gold robe and went to her stateroom to prepare. Her son, Uriel, was on the throne, playing with his pet joughat. "Good morning, mom." "Good morning, darling," said Potema, lifting her son in the air with feigned stain. "Talos, but you're heavy. I don't think I've ever carried such a heavy ten-year-old." "That's probably because I'm eleven," said Uriel, perfectly aware of his mother's tricks. "And you're going to say that as an eleven-year-old, I should probably be with my tutor." "I was fanatical about studying at your age," said Potema. "I am king," said Uriel petulantly. "But don't be satisfied with that," said Potema. "By all rights, you should be emperor already, you understand that, don't you?" Uriel nodded his head. Potema took a moment to marvel at his likeness to the portraits of Tiber Septim. The same ruthless brow and powerful chin. When he was older and lost his baby fat, he'd be a splitting image of his great great great great great granduncle. Behind her, she heard the door opening and an usher bringing in several gray cloaks. She stiffened slightly, and Uriel, on cue, jumped down from the throne and left the stateroom, pausing to greet the most important of the Psijics. "Good Morning, Master Iachesis," he said, enunciating each syllable with a regal accent that made Potema's heart soar. "I hope your accommodations at Castle Solitude meet with your approval." "They do, King Uriel, thank you," said Iachesis, delighted and charmed. Iachesis and his Psijics entered the chamber and the door was shut behind them. Potema sat only for a moment on the throne before stepping off the dais and greeting her guests. "I am so sorry to have kept you waiting," said Potema. "To think that you sailed all the way from the Summerset Isles and I should keep you waiting any longer. You must forgive me." "It's not all that long a voyage," said one of the gray cloaks, angrily. "It isn't as if we sailed all the way from Pyandonea." "Ah. You've seen my most recent guests, King Orgnum and his retinue," said Potema breezily. "I suppose you think it unusual, me entertaining them, as we all know the Pyandoneans mean to invade Tamriel. You are, I take it, as neutral in this as you are in all political matters?" "Of course," said Iachesis proudly. "We have nothing to gain or lose by the invasion. The Psijic Order preceded the organization of Tamriel under the Septim Dynasty and we shall survive under any political regime." "Rather like a flea on whatever mongrel happens along, are you?" said Potema, narrowing her eyes. "Don't overestimate your importance, Iachesis. Your order's child, the Mages Guild, has twice the power you have, and they are entirely on my side. We are in the process of making an agreement with King Orgnum. When the Pyandoneans take over and I am in my proper place as Empress of this continent, then you shall know your proper place in the order of things." With a majestic stride, Potema left the stateroom, leaving the grey cloaks to look from one to the other. "We must speak to Lord Levlet," said one of the grey cloaks. "Yes," said Iachesis. "Perhaps we should." Levlet was quickly found at his usual place at the Moon and Nausea tavern. As the three grey cloaks entered, led by Iachesis, the smoke and the noise seemed to die in their path. Even the smell of tobacco and flin dissipated in their wake. He rose and then escorted them to a small room upstairs. "You've reconsidered," said Levlet with a broad smile. "Your Emperor," said Iachesis, and then corrected himself, "Our Emperor originally asked for our support in defending the west coast of Tamriel from the Pyandonean fleet in return for twelve million gold pieces. We offered our services at fifty. Upon reflection on the dangers that a Pyandonean invasion would have, we accept his earlier offer." "The Mages Guild has generously -- " "Perhaps for as low ten million gold pieces," said Iachesis quickly. Over the course of dinner, Potema promised King Orgnum through the interpreter, to lead an insurrection against her brother. She was delighted to discover that her capacity for lying worked in many different cultures. Potema shared her bed that night with King Orgnum, as it seemed the polite and diplomatic thing to do. As it turned out, he was one of the better lovers she had ever had. He gave her some herbs before beginning that made her feel as if she was floating on the surface of time, conscious only of the gestures of love after she had found herself making them. She felt herself like the cooling mist, quenching the fire of his lust over and over and over again. In the morning, when he kissed her on the cheek, and said with his bald white eyes that he was leaving her, she felt a stab of regret. The ship left harbor that morning, en route to the Summerset Isles and the imminent invasions. She waved them off to sea as she footsteps behind her. It was Levlet. "They will do it for eight million, your highness" he said. "Thank Mara," said Potema. "I need more time for an insurrection. Pay them from my treasury, and then go to the Imperial City and get the twelve million from Antiochus. We should make a good profit from this game, and you, of course, will have your share." Three months later, Potema heard that the fleet of the Pyandoneans had been utterly destroyed by a storm that had appeared suddenly off the Isle of Artaeum. The home port of the Psijic Order. King Orgnum and all of his ships had been utterly annihilated. "Sometimes making people hate you," she said, holding her son Uriel close, "Is how you make a profit ."

49Book0WolfQueenV5[pagebreak]

The Wolf Queen Book Five by Waughin Jarth

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From the pen of Inzolicus, Second Century Sage and Student of Montocai: 3E 119: For twenty-one years, The Emperor Antiochus Septim ruled Tamriel, and proved an able leader despite his moral laxity. His greatest victory was in the War of the Isle in the year 110, when the Imperial fleet and the royal navies of Summerset Isle, together with the magical powers of the Psijic Order, succeeded in destroying the Pyandonean invading armada. His siblings, King Magnus of Lilmoth, King Cephorus of Gilane, and Potema, the Wolf Queen of Solitude, ruled well and relations between the Empire and the kingdoms of Tamriel were much improved. Still, centuries of neglect had not repaired all the scars that existed between the Empire and the kings of High Rock and Skyrim. During a rare visitation from his sister and nephew Uriel, Antiochus, who had suffered from several illnesses over his reign, lapsed into a coma. For months, he lingered in between life and death while the Elder Council prepared for the ascension of his fifteen-year-old daughter Kintyra to the throne. 3E 120: "Mother, I can't marry Kintyra," said Uriel, more amused by the suggestion than offended. "She's my first cousin. And besides, I believe she's engaged to one of the lords of council, Modellus." "You're so squeamish. There's a time and a place for propriety," said Potema. "But you're correct at any rate about Modellus, and we shouldn't offend the Elder Council at this critical juncture. How do you feel about Princess Rakma? You spent a good deal of time in her company in Farrun." "She's all right," said Uriel. "Don't tell me you want to hear all the dirty details." "Please spare me your study of her anatomy," Potema grimaced. "But would you marry her?" "I suppose so." "Very good. I'll make the arrangements then," Potema made a note for herself before continuing. "King Lleromo has been a difficult ally to keep, and a political marriage should keep Farrun on our side. Should we need them. When is the funeral?" "What funeral?" asked Uriel. "You mean for Uncle Antiochus?" "Of course," sighed Potema. "Anyone else of note die recently?" "There were a bunch of little Redguard children running through the halls, so I guess Cephorus has arrived. Magnus arrived at court yesterday, so it ought to be any day now." "It's time to address the Council then," said Potema, smiling. She dressed in black, not her usual colorful ensembles. It was important to look the part of the grieving sister. Regarding herself in the mirror, she felt that she looked all of her fifty-three years. A shock of silver wound its way through her auburn hair. The long, cold, dry winters in northern Skyrim had created a map of wrinkles, thin as a spiderweb, all across her face. Still, she knew that when she smiled, she could win hearts, and when she frowned, she could inspire fear. It was enough for her purposes. Potema's speech to the Elder Council is perhaps helpful to students of public speaking. She began with flattery and self-abasement: "My most august and wise friends, members of the Elder Council, I am but a provincial queen, and I can only assume to bring to issue what you yourselves must have already pondered." She continued on to praise the late Emperor, who had been a popular ruler, despite his flaws: "He was a true Septim and a great warrior, destroying -- with your counsel -- the near invincible armada of Pyandonea." But little time was wasted, before she came to her point: "The Empress Gysilla unfortunately did nothing to temper my brother's lustful spirits. In point of fact, no whore in the slums of the city spread out on more beds than she. Had she attended to her duties in the Imperial bedchamber more faithfully, we would have a true heir to the Empire, not the halfwit, milksop bastards who call themselves the Emperor's children. The girl called Kintyra is popularly believed to be the daughter of Gysilla and the Captain of the Guard. It may be that she is the daughter of Gysilla and the boy who cleans the cistern. We can never know for certain. Not as certainly as we can know the lineage of my son, Uriel. The eldest true son of the Septim Dynasty. My lords, the princes of the Empire will not stand for a bastard on the throne, that I can assure you." She ended mildly, but with a call to action: "Posterity will judge you. You know what must be done." That evening, Potema entertained her brothers and their wives in the Map Room, her favorite of the Imperial dining chambers. The walls were splashed with bright, if fading representations of the Empire and all the known lands beyond, Atmora, Yokunda, Akavir, Pyandonea, Thras. Overhead the great glass domed ceiling, wet with rain, displayed distorted images of the stars overhead. Lightning flashed every other minute, casting strange phantom shadows on the walls. "When will you speak to the Council?" asked Potema as dinner was served. "I don't know if I will," said Magnus. "I don't believe I have anything to say." "I'll speak to them when they announce the coronation of Kintyra," said Cephorus. "Merely as a formality to show my support and the support of Hammerfell." "You can speak for all of Hammerfell?" asked Potema, with a teasing smile. "The Redguards must love you very much." "We have a unique relationship with the Empire in Hammerfell," said Cephorus's wife, Bianki. "Since the treaty of Stros M'kai, it's been understood that we are part of the Empire, but not a subject." "I understand you've already spoken to the Council," said Magnus's wife, Hellena, pointedly. She was a diplomat by nature, but as the Cyrodilic ruler of an Argonian kingdom, she knew how to recognize and confront adversity. "Yes, I have," said Potema, pausing to savor a slice of braised jalfbird. "I gave them a short speech about the coronation this afternoon." "Our sister is an excellent public speaker," said Cephorus. "You're too kind," said Potema, laughing. "I do many things better than speaking." "Such as?" asked Bianki, smiling. "Might I ask what you said in your speech?" asked Magnus, suspiciously. There was a knock on the chamber door. The head steward whispered something to Potema, who smiled in response and rose from the table. "I told the Council that I would give my full support to the coronation, provided they proceed with wisdom. What could be sinister about that?" Potema said, and took her glass of wine with her to the door. "If you'll pardon me, my niece Kintyra wishes to have a word with me." Kintyra stood in the hall with the Imperial Guard. She was but a child, but on reflection, Potema realized that at her age, she was already married two years to Mantiarco. There was a similarity, to be certain. Potema could see Kintyra as the young queen, with dark eyes and pallid skin smooth and resolute like marble. Anger flashed momentarily in Kintyra's eyes on seeing her aunt, but emotion left her, replaced with calm Imperial presence. "Queen Potema," she said serenely. "I have been informed that my coronation will take place in two days time. Your presence at the ceremony will not be welcome. I have already given orders to your servants to have your belongings packed, and an escort will be accompanying you back to your kingdom tonight. That is all. Goodbye, aunt." Potema began to reply, but Kintyra and her guard turned and moved back down the corridor to the stateroom. The Wolf Queen watched them go, and then reentered the Map Room. "Sister-in-Law," said Potema, addressing Bianki with deep malevolence. "You asked what I do better than speaking? The answer is: war."

50Book0WolfQueenV7[pagebreak]

The Wolf Queen Book Seven by Waughin Jarth

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From the pen of Inzolicus, Second Century Sage: 3E 125: The exact date of the Empress Kintyra Septim II's execution in the tower at Glenpoint Castle is open to some speculation. Some believe she was slain shortly after her imprisonment in the 121st year, while others maintain that she was likely kept alive as a hostage until shortly before her uncle Cephorus, King of Gilane, reconquered western High Rock in the summer of the 125th year. The certainty of Kintyra's demise rallied many against the Wolf Queen Potema and her son, who had been crowned Emperor Uriel Septim III four years previously when he invaded the under-guarded Imperial City. Cephorus concentrated his army on the war in High Rock, while his brother Magnus, King of Lilmoth, brought his Argonian troops through loyal Morrowind and into Skyrim to fight in Potema's home province. The reptilian troops fought well in the summer months, but during the winter, they retired south to regroup and attack again when the weather was warm. At this stalemate, the War lasted out two more years. Also, in the 125th year, Magnus's wife Hellena gave birth to their first child, a boy who they named Pelagius, after the Emperor who fathered Magnus, Cephorus, the late Emperor Antiochus, and the dread Wolf Queen of Solitude. 3E 127: Potema sat on soft silk cushions in the warm grass in front of her tent and watched the sun rise over the dark woods on the other side of the meadow. It was a peculiarly vibrant morning, typical of Skyrim summertide. The high chirrup of insects buzzed all around her and the sky surged with thousands of fallowing birds, rolling over one another and forming a multitude of patterns. Nature was unaware of the war coming to Falconstar, she surmised. "Your highness, a message from the army in Hammerfell," said one of her maids, bringing in a courier. He was breathing hard, stained with sweat and mud. Evidence of a long, fast ride over many, many miles. "My queen," said the courier, looking to the ground. "I bring grave news of your son, the Emperor. He met your brother King Cephorus's army in Hammerfell in the countryside of Ichidag and there did battle. You would be proud, for he fought well, but in the end, the Imperial army was defeated and your son, our Emperor, was captured. King Cephorus is bringing him to Gilane." Potema listened to the news, scowling. "That clumsy fool," she said at last. Potema stood up and strolled into camp, where the men were arming themselves, preparing for battle. Long ago, the soldiers understood that their lady did not stand on ceremony, and she would prefer that they work rather than salute her. Lord Vhokken was ahead of her, already meeting with the commander of the battlemages, discussing last minute strategy. "My queen," said the courier, who had been following her. "What are you going to do?" "I'm going to win this battle with Magnus, despite his superior position holding the ruins of Kogmenthist Castle," said Potema. "And then when I know what Cephorus means to do with the Emperor, I'll respond accordingly. If there's a ransom to be paid, I'll pay it; if there's a prison exchange needed, so be it. Now, please, bath yourself and rest, and try not to get in the way of the war." "It's not an ideal scenario," said Lord Vhokken when Potema had entered the commander's tent. "If we attack the castle from the west, we'll be running directly into the fire from their mages and archers. If we come from the east, we'll be going through swamps, and the Argonians do better in that type of environment than we do. A lot better." "What about the north and south? Just hills, correct?" "Very steep hills, your highness," said the commander. "We should post bowmen there, but we'll be too vulnerable putting out the majority of our force." "So it's the swamp," said Potema, and added, pragmatically. "Unless we withdraw and wait for them to come out before fighting." "If we wait, Cephorus will have his army here from High Rock, and we'll be trapped between the two of them," said Lord Vhokken. "Not a preferable situation." "I'll talk to the troops," said the commander. "Try to prepare them for the swamp attack." "No," said Potema. "I'll speak to them." In full battlegear, the soldiers gathered in the center of camp. They were a motley collection of men and women, Cyrodiils, Nords, Bretons, and Dunmer, youngbloods and old veterans, the sons and daughters of nobles, shopkeepers, serfs, priests, prostitutes, farmers, academics, adventurers. All of them under the banner of the Red Diamond, the symbol of the Imperial Family of Tamriel. "My children," Potema said, her voice ringing out, hanging in the still morning mist. "We have fought in many battles together, over mountaintops and beach heads, through forests and deserts. I have seen great acts of valor from each one of you, which does my heart proud. I have also seen dirty fighting, backstabbing, cruel and wanton feats of savagery, which pleases me equally well. For you are all warriors." Warming to her theme, Potema walked the line from soldier to soldier, looking each one in the eye: "War is in your blood, in your brain, in your muscles, in everything you think and everything you do. When this war is over, when the forces are vanquished that seek to deny the throne to the true emperor, Uriel Septim III, you may cease to be warriors. You may choose to return to your lives before the war, to your farms and your cities, and show off your scars and tell tales of the deeds you did this day to your wondering neighbors. But on this day, make no mistake, you are warriors. You are war." She could see her words were working. All around her, bloodshot eyes were focusing on the slaughter to come, arms tensing around weapons. She continued in her loudest cry, "And you will move through the swamplands, like an unstoppable power from the blackest part of Oblivion, and you will rip the scales from the reptilian things in Kogmenthist Castle. You are warriors, and you need not only fight, you must win. You must win!" The soldiers roared in response, shocking the birds from the trees all around the camp. From a vantage point on the hills to the south, Potema and Lord Vhokken had excellent views of the battle as it raged. It looked like two swarms of two colors of insect moving back and forth over a clump of dirt which was the castle ruins. Occasionally, a burst of flame or a cloud of acid from one of the mages would flicker over the battle arresting their attention, but hour after hour, the fighting seemed like nothing but chaos. "A rider approaches," said Lord Vhokken, breaking the silence. The young Redguard woman was wearing the crest of Gilane, but carried a white flag. Potema allowed her to approach. Like the courier from the morning, the rider was well travel-worn. "Your Highness," she said, out of breath. "I have been sent from your brother, my lord King Cephorus, to bring you dire news. Your son Uriel was captured in Ichidag on the field in battle and from there transported to Gilane." "I know all this," said Potema scornfully. "I have couriers of my own. You can tell your master that after I've won this battle, I'll pay whatever ransom or exchange --" "Your Highness, an angry crowd met the caravan your son was in before it made it to Gilane," the rider said quickly, "Your son is dead. He had been burned to death within his carriage. He is dead." Potema turned from the young woman and looked down at the battle. Her soldiers were going to win. Magnus's army was in retreat. "One other item of news, your highness," said the rider. "King Cephorus is being proclaimed Emperor." Potema did not look at the woman. Her army was celebrating their victory.

51Book1CheapBiographyofBarenziahvI[pagebreak]

Biography of Barenziah Volume One by Stern Gamboge Imperial Scribe

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ate in the Second Era, a girl-child, Barenziah, was born to the rulers of the kingdom of Mournhold in what is now the Imperial Province of Morrowind. She was reared in all the luxury and security befitting a royal Dark Elven child until she reached five years of age. At that time, His Excellency Tiber Septim I, the first Emperor of Tamriel, demanded that the decadent rulers of Morrowind yield to him and institute imperial reforms. Trusting to their vaunted magic, the Dark Elves impudently refused until Tiber Septim's army was on the borders. An Armistice was hastily signed by the now-eager Dunmer, but not before there were several battles, one of which laid waste to Mournhold, now called Almalexia. Little Princess Barenziah and her nurse were found among the wreckage. The Imperial General Symmachus, himself a Dark Elf, suggested to Tiber Septim that the child might someday be valuable, and she was therefore placed with a loyal supporter who had recently retired from the Imperial Army. Sven Advensen had been granted the title of Count upon his retirement; his fiefdom, Darkmoor, was a small town in central Skyrim. Count Sven and his wife reared the princess as their own daughter, seeing to it that she was educated appropriately-and more importantly, that the imperial virtues of obedience, discretion, loyalty, and piety were instilled in the child. In short, she was made fit to take her place as a member of the new ruling class of Morrowind. The girl Barenziah grew in beauty, grace, and intelligence. She was sweet-tempered, a joy to her adoptive parents and their five young sons, who loved her as their elder sister. Other than her appearance, she differed from young girls of her class only in that she had a strong empathy for the woods and fields, and was wont to escape her household duties to wander there at times. Barenziah was happy and content until her sixteenth year, when a wicked orphan stable-boy, whom she had befriended out of pity, told her he had overheard a conspiracy between her guardian, Count Sven, and a Redguard visitor to sell her as a concubine in Rihad, as no Nord or Breton would marry her on account of her black skin, and no Dark Elf would have her because of her foreign upbringing. "Whatever shall I do?" the poor girl said, weeping and trembling, for she had been brought up in innocence and trust, and it never occurred to her that her friend the stable-boy would lie to her. The wicked boy, who was called Straw, said that she must run away if she valued her virtue, but that he would come with her as her protector. Sorrowfully, Barenziah agreed to this plan; and that very night, she disguised herself as a boy and the pair escaped to the nearby city of Whiterun. After a few days there, they managed to get jobs as guards for a disreputable merchant caravan. The caravan was heading east by side roads in a mendacious attempt to elude the lawful tolls charged on the imperial highways. Thus the pair eluded pursuit until they reached the city of Rifton, where they ceased their travels for a time. They felt safe in Rifton, close as it was to the Morrowind border so that Dark Elves were enough of a common sight.

52Book1CheapBiographyofBarenziahvII[pagebreak]

Biography of Barenziah Volume Two by Stern Gamboge Imperial Scribe

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he first volume of this series told the story of Barenziah's origin-heiress to the throne of Mournhold until her father rebelled against His Excellency Tiber Septim I and brought ruin to the province of Morrowind. Thanks largely to the benevolence of the Emperor, the child Barenziah was not destroyed with her parents, but reared by Count Sven of Darkmoor, a loyal Imperial trustee. She grew up into a beautiful and pious child, trustful of her guardian's care. This trust, however, was exploited by a wicked orphan stable boy at Count Sven's estate, who with lies and fabrications tricked her into fleeing Darkmoor with him when she turned sixteen. After many adventures on the road, they settled in Riften, a Skyrim city near the Morrowind borders. The stable boy, Straw, was not altogether evil. He loved Barenziah in his own selfish fashion, and deception was the only way he could think of that would cement possession of her. She, of course, felt only friendship toward him, but he was hopeful that she would gradually change her mind. He wanted to buy a small farm and settle down into a comfortable marriage, but at the time his earnings were barely enough to feed and shelter them. After only a short time in Riften, Straw fell in with a bold, villainous Khajiit thief named Therris, who proposed that they rob the Imperial Commandant's house in the central part of the city. Therris said that he had a client, a traitor to the Empire, who would pay well for any information they could gather there. Barenziah happened to overhear this plan and was appalled. She stole away from their rooms and walked the streets of Riften in desperation, torn between her loyalty to the Empire and her love for her friends. In the end, loyalty to the Empire prevailed over personal friendship, and she approached the Commandant's house, revealed her true identity, and warned him of her friends' plan. The Commandant listened to her tale, praised her courage, and assured her that no harm would come to her. He was none other than General Symmachus, who had been scouring the countryside in search of her since her disappearance, and had just arrived in Riften, hot in pursuit. He took her into his custody, and informed her that, far from being sent away to be sold, she was to be reinstated as the Queen of Mournhold as soon as she turned eighteen. Until that time, she was to live with the Septim family in the newly built Imperial City, where she would learn something of government and be presented at the Imperial Court. At the Imperial City, Barenziah befriended the Emperor Tiber Septim during the middle years of his reign. Tiber's children, particularly his eldest son and heir Pelagius, came to love her as a sister. The ballads of the day praised her beauty, chastity, wit, and learning. On her eighteenth birthday, the entire Imperial City turned out to watch her farewell procession preliminary to her return to her native land. Sorrowful as they were at her departure, all knew that she was ready for her glorious destiny as sovereign of the kingdom of Mournhold.

53Book1CheapBiographyofBarenziahvIII[pagebreak]

Biography of Barenziah Volume Three by Stern Gamboge Imperial Scribe

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n the second volume of this series, it was told how Barenziah was kindly welcomed to the newly constructed Imperial City by the Emperor Tiber Septim and his family, who treated her like a long-lost daughter during her almost one-year stay. After several happy months there learning her duties as vassal queen under the Empire, the Imperial General Symmachus escorted her to Mournhold where she took up her duties as Queen of her people under his wise guidance. Gradually they came to love one another and were married and crowned in a splendid ceremony at which the Emperor himself officiated. After several hundred years of marriage, a son, Helseth, was born to the royal couple amid celebration and joyous prayer. Although it was not publicly known at the time, it was shortly before this blessed event that the Staff of Chaos had been stolen from its hiding place deep in the Mournhold mines by a clever, enigmatic bard known only as the Nightingale. Eight years after Helseth's birth, Barenziah bore a daughter, Morgiah, named after Symmachus' mother, and the royal couple's joy seemed complete. Alas, shortly after that, relations with the Empire mysteriously deteriorated, leading to much civil unrest in Mournhold. After fruitless investigations and attempts at reconciliation, in despair Barenziah took her young children and travelled to the Imperial City herself to seek the ear of then Emperor Uriel Septim VII. Symmachus remained in Mournhold to deal with the grumbling peasants and annoyed nobility, and do what he could to stave off an impending insurrection. During her audience with the Emperor, Barenziah, through her magical arts, came to realize to her horror and dismay that the so-called Emperor was an impostor, none other than the bard Nightingale who had stolen the Staff of Chaos. Exercising great self-control she concealed this realization from him. That evening, news came that Symmachus had fallen in battle with the revolting peasants of Mournhold, and that the kingdom had been taken over by the rebels. Barenziah, at this point, did not know where to seek help, or from whom. The gods, that fateful night, were evidently looking out for her as if in redress of her loss. King Eadwyre of High Rock, an old friend of Uriel Septim and Symmachus, came by on a social call. He comforted her, pledged his friendship-and furthermore, confirmed her suspicions that the Emperor was indeed a fraud, and none other than Jagar Tharn, the Imperial Battlemage, and one of the Nightingale's many alter egos. Tharn had supposedly retired into seclusion from public work and installed his assistant, Ria Silmane, in his stead. The hapless assistant was later put to death under mysterious circumstances-supposedly a plot implicating her had been uncovered, and she had been summarily executed. However, her ghost had appeared to Eadwyre in a dream and revealed to him that the true Emperor had been kidnapped by Tharn and imprisoned in an alternate dimension. Tharn had then used the Staff of Chaos to kill her when she attempted to warn the Elder Council of his nefarious plot. Together, Eadwyre and Barenziah plotted to gain the false Emperor's confidence. Meanwhile, another friend of Ria's, known only as the Champion, who apparently possessed great, albeit then untapped, potential, was incarcerated at the Imperial Dungeons. However, she had access to his dreams, and she told him to bide his time until she could devise a plan that would effect his escape. Then he could begin on his mission to unmask the impostor. Barenziah continued to charm, and eventually befriended, the ersatz Emperor. By contriving to read his secret diary, she learned that he had broken the Staff of Chaos into eight pieces and hidden them in far-flung locations scattered across Tamriel. She managed to obtain a copy of the key to Ria's friend's cell and bribed a guard to leave it there as if by accident. Their Champion, whose name was unknown even to Barenziah and Eadwyre, made his escape through a shift gate Ria had opened in an obscure corner of the Imperial Dungeons using her already failing powers. The Champion was free at last, and almost immediately went to work. It took Barenziah several more months to learn the hiding places of all eight Staff pieces through snatches of overheard conversation and rare glances at Tharn's diary. Once she had the vital information, however -- which she communicated to Ria forthwith, who in turn passed it on to the Champion-she and Eadwyre lost no time. They fled to Wayrest, his ancestral kingdom in the province of High Rock, where they managed to fend off the sporadic efforts of Tharn's henchmen to haul them back to the Imperial City, or at the very least obtain revenge. Tharn, whatever else might be said of him, was no one's fool-save perhaps Barenziah's -- and he concentrated most of his efforts toward tracking down and destroying the Champion. As all now know, the courageous, indefatigable, and forever nameless Champion was successful in reuniting the eight sundered pieces of the Staff of Chaos. With it, he destroyed Tharn and rescued the true Emperor, Uriel Septim VII. Following what has come to be known as the Restoration, a grand state memorial service was held for Symmachus at the Imperial City, befitting the man who had served the Septim Dynasty for so long and so well. Barenziah and good King Eadwyre had come to care deeply for one another during their trials and adventures, and were married in the same year shortly after their flight from the Imperial City. Her two children from her previous marriage with Symmachus remained with her, and a regent was appointed to rule Mournhold in her absence. Up to the present time, Queen Barenziah has been in Wayrest with Prince Helseth and Princess Morgiah. She plans to return to Mournhold after Eadwyre's death. Since he was already elderly when they wed, she knows that that event, alas, could not be far off as the Elves reckon time. Until then, she shares in the government of the kingdom of Wayrest with her husband, and seems glad and content with her finally quiet, and happily unremarkable, life.

54Book1CheapBriefHistoryoftheEmpirev1[pagebreak]

A Brief History of the Empire Part One by Stronach k'Thojj III Imperial Historian

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efore the rule of Tiber Septim, all Tamriel was in chaos. The poet Tracizis called that period of continuous unrest "days and nights of blood and venom." The kings were a petty lot of grasping tyrants, who fought Tiber's attempts to bring order to the land. But they were as disorganized as they were dissolute, and the strong hand of Septim brought peace forcibly to Tamriel. The year was 2E 896. The following year, the Emperor declared the beginning of a new Era-thus began the Third Era, Year Aught. For thirty-eight years, the Emperor Tiber reigned supreme. It was a lawful, pious, and glorious age, when justice was known to one and all, from serf to sovereign. On Tiber's death, it rained for an entire fortnight as if the land of Tamriel itself was weeping. The Emperor's grandson, Pelagius, came to the throne. Though his reign was short, he was as strong and resolute as his father had been, and Tamriel could have enjoyed a continuation of the Golden Age. Alas, an unknown enemy of the Septim Family hired that accursed organization of cutthroats, the Dark Brotherhood, to kill the Emperor Pelagius I as he knelt at prayer at the Temple of the One in the Imperial City. Pelagius I's reign lasted less than three years. Pelagius had no living children, so the Crown Imperial passed to his first cousin, the daughter of Tiber's brother Agnorith. Kintyra, former Queen of Silvenar, assumed the throne as Kintyra I. Her reign was blessed with prosperity and good harvests, and she herself was an avid patroness of art, music, and dance. Kintyra's son was crowned after her death, the first Emperor of Tamriel to use the imperial name Uriel. Uriel I was the great lawmaker of the Septim Dynasty, and a promoter of independent organizations and guilds. Under his kind but firm hand, the Fighters Guild and the Mages Guild increased in prominence throughout Tamriel. His son and successor Uriel II reigned for eighteen years, from the death of Uriel I in 3E64 to Pelagius II's accession in 3E82. Tragically, the rule of Uriel II was cursed with blights, plagues, and insurrections. The tenderness he inherited from his father did not serve Tamriel well, and little justice was done. Pelagius II inherited not only the throne from his father, but the debt from the latter's poor financial and judicial management. Pelagius dismissed all of the Elder Council, and allowed only those willing to pay great sums to resume their seats. He encouraged similar acts among his vassals, the kings of Tamriel, and by the end of his seventeen year reign, Tamriel had returned to prosperity. His critics, however, have suggested that any advisor possessed of wisdom but not of gold had been summarily ousted by Pelagius. This may have led to some of the troubles his son Antiochus faced when he in turn became Emperor. Antiochus was certainly one of the more flamboyant members of the usually austere Septim Family. He had numerous mistresses and nearly as many wives, and was renowned for the grandeur of his dress and his high good humor. Unfortunately, his reign was rife with civil war, surpassing even that of his grandfather Uriel II. The War of the Isle in 3E110, twelve years after Antiochus assumed the throne, nearly took the province of Summurset Isle away from Tamriel. The united alliance of the kings of Summurset and Antiochus only managed to defeat King Orghum of the island-kingdom of Pyandonea due to a freak storm. Legend credits the Psijic Order of the Isle of Artaeum with the sorcery behind the tempest. The story of Kintyra II, heiress to her father Antiochus' throne, is certainly one of the saddest tales in imperial history. Her first cousin Uriel, son of Queen Potema of Solitude, accused Kintyra of being a bastard, alluding to the infamous decadence of the Imperial City during her father's reign. When this accusation failed to stop her coronation, Uriel bought the support of several disgruntled kings of High Rock, Skyrim, and Morrowind, and with Queen Potema's assistance, he coordinated three attacks on the Septim Empire. The first attack occurred in the Iliac Bay region, which separates High Rock and Hammerfell. Kintyra's entourage was massacred and the Empress taken captive. For two years, Kintyra II languished in an Imperial prison believed to be somewhere in Glenpoint or Glenmoril before she was slain in her cell under mysterious circumstances. The second attack was on a series of Imperial garrisons along the coastal Morrowind islands. The Empress' consort Kontin Arynx fell defending the forts. The third and final attack was a siege of the Imperial City itself, occurring after the Elder Council had split up the army to attack western High Rock and eastern Morrowind. The weakened government had little defence against Uriel's determined aggression, and capitulated after only a fortnight of resistance. Uriel took the throne that same evening and proclaimed himself Uriel III, Emperor of Tamriel. The year was 3E 121. Thus began the War of the Red Diamond, described in Volume II of this series.

55Book1CheapBriefHistoryoftheEmpirev2[pagebreak]

A Brief History of the Empire Part Two by Stronach k'Thojj III Imperial Historian

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olume I of this series described in brief the lives of the first eight Emperors of the Septim Dynasty, beginning with the glorious Tiber Septim and ending with his great, great, great, great, grandniece Kintyra II. Kintyra's murder in Glenpoint while in captivity is considered by some to be the end of the pure strain of Septim blood in the imperial family. Certainly it marks the end of something significant. Uriel III not only proclaimed himself Emperor of Tamriel, but also Uriel Septim III, taking the eminent surname as a title. In truth, his surname was Mantiarco from his father's line. In time, Uriel III was deposed and his crimes reviled, but the tradition of taking the name Septim as a title for the Emperor of Tamriel did not die with him. For six years, the War of the Red Diamond (which takes its name from the Septim Family's famous badge) tore the Empire apart. The combatants were the three surviving children of Pelagius II-Potema, Cephorus, and Magnus-and their various offspring. Potema, of course, supported her son Uriel III, and had the combined support of all of Skyrim and northern Morrowind. With the efforts of Cephorus and Magnus, however, the province of High Rock turned coat. The provinces of Hammerfell, Summurset Isle, Valenwood, Elsweyr, and Black Marsh were divided in their loyalty, but most kings supported Cephorus and Magnus. In 3E127, Uriel III was captured at the Battle of Ichidag in Hammerfell. En route to his trial in the Imperial City, a mob overtook his prisoner's carriage and burned him alive within it. His captor and uncle continued on to the Imperial City, and by common acclaim was proclaimed Cephorus I, Emperor of Tamriel. Cephorus' reign was marked by nothing but war. By all accounts, he was a kind and intelligent man, but what Tamriel needed was a great warrior -- and he, fortunately, was that. It took an additional ten years of constant warfare for him to defeat his sister Potema. The so-called Wolf Queen of Solitude who died in the siege of her city-state in the year 137. Cephorus survived his sister by only three years. He never had time during the war years to marry, so it was his brother, the fourth child of Pelagius II, who assumed the throne. The Emperor Magnus was already elderly when he took up the imperial diadem, and the business of punishing the traitorous kings of the War of the Red Diamond drained much of his remaining strength. Legend accuses Magnus' son and heir Pelagius III of patricide, but that seems highly unlikely-for no other reason than that Pelagius was King of Solitude following the death of Potema, and seldom visited the Imperial City. Pelagius III, sometimes called Pelagius the Mad, was proclaimed Emperor in the 145th year of the Third Era. Almost from the start, his eccentricities of behaviour were noted at court. He embarrassed dignitaries, offended his vassal kings, and on one occasion marked the end of an imperial grand ball by attempting to hang himself. His long-suffering wife was finally awarded the Regency of Tamriel, and Pelagius III was sent to a series of healing institutions and asylums until his death in 3E153 at the age of thirty-four. The Empress Regent of Tamriel was proclaimed Empress Katariah I upon the death of her husband. Some who do not mark the end of the Septim bloodline with the death of Kintyra II consider the ascendancy of this Dark Elf woman the true mark of its decline. Her defenders, on the other hand, assert that though Katariah was not descended from Tiber, the son she had with Pelagius was, so the imperial chain did continue. Despite racist assertions to the contrary, Katariah's forty-six-year reign was one of the most celebrated in Tamriel's history. Uncomfortable in the Imperial City, Katariah travelled extensively throughout the Empire such as no Emperor ever had since Tiber's day. She repaired much of the damage that previous emperor's broken alliances and bungled diplomacy created. The people of Tamriel came to love their Empress far more than the nobility did. Katariah's death in a minor skirmish in Black Marsh is a favorite subject of conspiracy minded historians. The Sage Montalius' discovery, for instance, of a disenfranchised branch of the Septim Family and their involvement with the skirmish was a revelation indeed. When Cassynder assumed the throne upon the death of his mother, he was already middle-aged. Only half Elven, he aged like a Breton. In fact, he had left the rule of Wayrest to his half-brother Uriel due to poor health. Nevertheless, as the only true blood relation of Pelagius and thus Tiber, he was pressed into accepting the throne. To no one's surprise, the Emperor Cassynder's reign did not last long. In two years he joined his predecessors in eternal slumber. Uriel Lariat, Cassynder's half-brother, and the child of Katariah I and her Imperial consort Gallivere Lariat (after the death of Pelagius III), left the kingdom of Wayrest to reign as Uriel IV. Legally, Uriel IV was a Septim: Cassynder had adopted him into the royal family when he had become King of Wayrest. Nevertheless, to the Council and the people of Tamriel, he was a bastard child of Katariah. Uriel did not possess the dynamism of his mother, and his long forty-three-year reign was a hotbed of sedition. Uriel IV's story is told in the third volume of this series.

56Book1CheapBriefHistoryoftheEmpirev3[pagebreak]

A Brief History of the Empire Part Three by Stronach k'Thojj III Imperial Historian

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he first volume of this series told in brief the story of the succession of the first eight Emperors of the Septim Dynasty, from Tiber I to Kintyra II. The second volume described the War of the Red Diamond and the six Emperors that followed its aftermath, from Uriel III to Cassynder I. At the end of that volume, it was described how the Emperor Cassynder's half-brother Uriel IV assumed the throne of the Empire of Tamriel. It will be recalled that Uriel IV was not a Septim by birth. His mother, though she reigned as Empress for many years, was a Dark Elf married to a true Septim Emperor, Pelagius III. Uriel's father was actually Katariah I's consort after Pelagius' death, a Breton nobleman named Gallivere Lariat. Before taking the throne of Empire, Cassynder I had ruled the kingdom of Wayrest, but poor health had forced him to retire. Cassynder had no children, so he legally adopted his half-brother Uriel and abdicated the kingdom. Seven years later, Cassynder inherited the Empire at the death of his mother. Three years after that, Uriel once again found himself the recipient of Cassynder's inheritance. Uriel IV's reign was a long and difficult one. Despite being a legally adopted member of the Septim Family, and despite the Lariat Family's high position -- indeed, they were distant cousins of the Septims -- few of the Elder Council could be persuaded to accept him fully as a blood descendant of Tiber. The Council had assumed much responsibility during Katariah I's long reign and Cassynder I's short one, and a strong-willed "alien" monarch like Uriel IV found it impossible to command their unswerving fealty. Time and again the Council and Emperor were at odds, and time and again the Council won the battles. Since the days of Pelagius II, the Elder Council had consisted of the wealthiest men and women in the Empire, and the power they wielded was conclusive. The Council's last victory over Uriel IV was posthumous. Andorak, Uriel IV's son, was disinherited by vote of Council, and a cousin more closely related to the original Septim line was proclaimed Cephorus II in 3E247. For the first nine years of Cephorus II's reign, those loyal to Andorak battled the Imperial forces. In an act that the Sage Eraintine called "Tiber Septim's heart beating no more," the Council granted Andorak the High Rock kingdom of Shornhelm to end the war, and Andorak's descendants still rule there. By and large, Cephorus II had foes that demanded more of his attention than Andorak. "From out of a cimmerian nightmare," in the words of Eraintine, a man who called himself the Camoran Usurper led an army of Daedra and undead warriors on a rampage through Valenwood, conquering kingdom after kingdom. Few could resist his onslaughts, and as month turned to bloody month in the year 3E249, even fewer tried. Cephorus II sent more and more mercenaries into Hammerfell to stop the Usurper's northward march, but they were bribed or slaughtered and raised as undead. The story of the Camoran Usurper deserves a book of its own. (It is recommended that the reader find Palaux Illthre's The Fall of the Usurper for more detail.) In short, however, the destruction of the forces of the Usurper had little do with the efforts of the Emperor. The result was a great regional victory and an increase in hostility toward the seemingly inefficacious Empire. Uriel V, Cephorus II's son and successor, swivelled opinion back toward the latent power of the Empire. Turning the attention of Tamriel away from internal strife, Uriel V embarked on a series of invasions beginning almost from the moment he took the throne in 3E268. Uriel V conquered Roscrea in 271, Cathnoquey in 276, Yneslea in 279, and Esroniet in 284. In 3E288, he embarked on his most ambitious enterprise, the invasion of the continent kingdom of Akavir. This ultimately proved a failure, for two years later Uriel V was killed in Akavir on the battlefield of Ionith. Nevertheless, Uriel V holds a reputation second only to Tiber as one of the two great Warrior Emperors of Tamriel. The last four Emperors, beginning with Uriel V's infant son, are described in the fourth and final volume of this series.

57Book1CheapBriefHistoryoftheEmpirev4[pagebreak]

A Brief History of the Empire Part Four by Stronach k'Thojj III Imperial Historian

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he first book of this series described, in brief, the first eight Emperors of the Septim Dynasty beginning with Tiber I. The second volume described the War of the Red Diamond and the six Emperors who followed. The third volume described the troubles of the next three Emperors-the frustrated Uriel IV, the ineffectual Cephorus II, and the heroic Uriel V. On Uriel V's death across the sea in distant, hostile Akavir, Uriel VI was but five years old. In fact, Uriel VI was born only shortly before his father left for Akavir. Uriel V's only other progeny, by a morganatic alliance, were the twins Morihatha and Eloisa, who had been born a month after Uriel V left. Uriel VI was crowned in the 290th year of the Third Era. The Imperial Consort Thonica, as the boy's mother, was given a restricted Regency until Uriel VI reached his majority. The Elder Council retained the real power, as they had ever since the days of Katariah I. The Council so enjoyed its unlimited and unrestricted freedom to promulgate laws (and generate profits) that Uriel VI was not given full license to rule until 307, when he was already 22 years old. He had been slowly assuming positions of responsibility for years, but both the Council and his mother, who enjoyed even her limited Regency, were loath to hand over the reins. By the time he came to the throne, the mechanisms of government gave him little power except for that of the imperial veto. This power, however, he regularly and vigorously exercised. By 313, Uriel VI could boast with conviction that he truly did rule Tamriel. He utilized defunct spy networks and guard units to bully and coerce the difficult members of the Elder Council. His half-sister Morihatha was (not surprisingly) his staunchest ally, especially after her marriage to Baron Ulfe Gersen of Winterhold brought her considerable wealth and influence. As the Sage Ugaridge said, "Uriel V conquered Esroniet, but Uriel VI conquered the Elder Council." When Uriel VI fell off a horse and could not be resuscitated by the finest Imperial healers, his beloved sister Morihatha took up the imperial tiara. At 25 years of age, she had been described by (admittedly self-serving) diplomats as the most beautiful creature in all of Tamriel. She was certainly well-learned, vivacious, athletic, and a well-practised politician. She brought the Archmagister of Skyrim to the Imperial City and created the second Imperial Battlemage since the days of Tiber Septim. Morihatha finished the job her brother had begun, and made the Imperial Province a true government under the Empress (and later, the Emperor). Outside the Imperial Province, however, the Empire had been slowly disintegrating. Open revolutions and civil wars had raged unchallenged since the days of her grandfather Cephorus II. Carefully coordinating her counterattacks, Morihatha slowly claimed back her rebellious vassals, always avoiding overextending herself. Though Morihatha's military campaigns were remarkably successful, her deliberate pace often frustrated the Council. One Councilman, an Argonian who took the Colovian name of Thoricles Romus, furious at her refusal to send troops to his troubled Black Marsh, is commonly believed to have hired the assassins who claimed her life in 3E 339. Romus was summarily tried and executed, though he protested his innocence to the last. Morihatha had no surviving children, and Eloisa had died of a fever four years before. Eloisa's 25-year-old son Pelagius was thus crowned Pelagius IV. Pelagius IV continued his aunt's work, slowly bringing back under his wing the radical and refractory kingdoms, duchies, and baronies of the Empire. He exercised Morihatha's poise and circumspect pace in his endeavours-but alas, he did not attain her success. The kingdoms had been free of constraint for so long that even a benign Imperial presence was considered odious. Nevertheless, when Pelagius died after a notably stable and prosperous twenty-nine-year reign, Tamriel was closer to unity than it had been since the days of Uriel I. Our current Emperor, His Awesome and Terrible Majesty, Uriel Septim VII, son of Pelagius IV, has the diligence of his great-aunt Morihatha, the political skill of his great-uncle Uriel VI, and the military prowess of his great grand-uncle Uriel V. For twenty-one years he reigned and brought justice and order to Tamriel. In the year 3E389, however, his Imperial Battlemage, Jagar Tharn, betrayed him. Uriel VII was imprisoned in a dimension of Tharn's creation, and Tharn used his sorcery of illusion to assume the Emperor's aspect. For the next ten years, Tharn abused imperial privilege but did not continue Uriel VII's schedule of reconquest. It is not yet entirely known what Tharn's goals and personal accomplishments were during the ten years he masqueraded as his liege lord. In 3E399, an enigmatic Champion defeated the Battlemage in the dungeons of the Imperial Palace and freed Uriel VII from his other-dimensional jail. Since his emancipation, Uriel Septim VII has worked diligently to renew the battles that would reunite Tamriel. Tharn's interference broke the momentum, it is true -- but the years since then have proven that there is hope of the Golden Age of Tiber Septim's rule glorifying Tamriel once again.

58Book1CheapCombatTips[pagebreak]

Killing - Before You're Killed by Eduardo Corvus

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've seen many a man rush headlong into battle only to have their life cut short in an instant. I've been a trainer of the warrior arts for many spans - cut from the cloth of a great lineage of knights, Blades and even a distant sellsword or two. It's with this knowledge that I'll try to pen a brief treatise on the subtle art of war. Not mage fire, not archery or criminal throat-slitting. But war. Man on man with nothing but a fine bit of steel between them. The first thing you'll need to learn is how to block. The best way not to get killed is not to let the other man hit you. Use a shield, use it well. Now, you'll get tired from this. You may even get a little hurt. But a blocked blow is much better than a landed one. Over time you'll get better, eventually shrugging off even the mightiest of hits. But beware - your foes, if they're not base cur bandits, will know how to counter you. They'll hit you with everything they've got in, order to open you up, and keep on hitting. So watch for these powerful attacks. While it's still better to absorb the impact with a quarter inch of steel, it's best to try to just step out of the way. Remember, against spells your blocking is useless until you're trained. So get up on mages quickly and let them eat steel. Deserves them right for using a witch weapon. You can also block without a shield as well - just cross that blow with your sword, though this isn't nearly as effective. And if you decide you're fancy and want to wield two blades, you can't block at all, so don't even try. Without both hands on the hilt you just won't have the strength to counter blows. But, with a weapon in each hand you are much more likely to take your opponent down quickly. The best defense, some say. To wield the blade there are some fundamentals. Quick strikes are always good, but can be repelled, so watch for your opponent's own defensive postures. Wait for an opening, or create one with your own heavy attacks. Hammers hit hardest but are slow. Same with maces and all blunt weaponry. Axes are a nice middle ground, while swords are the quickest but won't stagger your opponent as efficiently with the hard hits. Keep an eye not to get too exhausted - always try to save a little of your strength to counter blows, or even run! Keep moving during a fight. Never let yourself get cornered or surrounded. Pick your threats - weak spellcasters that can hurt you quick are the first things I fell. The shield is not only a defensive tool. Put your shoulder into it and bash your opponent. This sends them flying and opens them up for quick counter assaults. Even better, put extra weight into it and power bash your opponent. If they're small this will put them on their knees. Bigger opponents cannot be staggered by heavy attacks. Only the power bash will really knock them around and create openings for you to exploit. So again - block, counter, bash! Hit them when they're down! They'll show no mercy, so why should you? Battle is about the offense, about catching your foe early and never relenting. Keep moving, keep swinging. If you consider yourself overly powerful, pick up a two-handed weapon and see your foes fall before you like wheat stalks. They're slow and unwieldy, but they shatter bones and cleave flesh better than anything. The graves are filled with many a mediocre swordsman. If you don't have the stomach for war, try a monk's work. But if you do travel the path of the warrior, learn the basics and keep your head firmly planted on your shoulders - or someone's bound to lob it off.

59Book1CheapHorkers[pagebreak]

Surviving A Horker Attack by Heidmir Starkad

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n my travels through Skyrim I have run into many northern fisherman and hunters with intriguing tales of their encounters with horkers. The stories are varied, ranging from deadly attacks to a girl who claims she was saved from drowning. I have taken it upon myself to compile some of these for those who journey along the frozen coast. Our first tale is of a hunter named Gromm. He claims that one night while turning in after a long day of trapping, he saw a great shadow cast on the wall of his tent. Did he get the horker or did the horker get him? Gromm was a great trapper working in the frozen tundra collecting fox pelts but as he was about to fall asleep one night, he heard some noises coming from outside of his tent. His first instinct was to remain calm and see if the beast would pass, but after some threatening roars, Gromm slowly made for his axe. The creature detected his movement and began to thrash around using its great tusks to shred the hunter's tent and knocking the hunter off balance. As he stumbled Gromm was able to use a frost spell scroll but the ice magic seemed to have diminished effect on the horker. That tidbit may be of use to someone out there. After recovering from the stagger, Gromm was able to steady himself and with a few great cleaves killed the horker. Though his camp was in ruins, Gromm was lucky to walk away with only a slight goring to his left thigh.

Drawing of Horker Tusks

Gromm's parting comment was that if you do encounter a horker, remain calm and remember that if you survive, the meat and tusks will fetch a nice bit of gold at market.
60Book1CheapKolbAndTheDragon[pagebreak]

Kolb & the Dragon An Adventure for Nord Boys

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1

Kolb was a brave Nord warrior. One day his Chief asked Kolb to slay an evil dragon that threatened their village. "Go through the mountain pass, Kolb", his Chief said. "You will find the Dragon on the other side."

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2

Kolb took his favorite axe and shield and walked to the pass, where he found a cold cave, a windy cave, and a narrow trail. Enter the cold cave (17) Enter the windy cave (8) Walk up the trail (12)

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3

Kolb stepped onto a rocky hill. He could see the dragon sleeping below, and a tavern off a road nearby. Climb down (16) Visit tavern (14)

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4

Following the stench, Kolb found a filthy orc! The orc snarled and charged Kolb with his spiked club. Raise Shield (9) Swing Axe (13)

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5

Treading through the marsh, Kolb discovered a wailing ghost blocking his way. Attack Ghost (15) Give Gold (10)

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6

The head of the axe lodged itself in the tough, scaly neck of the beast. It wailed and thrashed, but Kolb held on and eventually sawed through the neck, killing the beast. Kolb returned home victorious, and his village was never bothered by the dragon again. THE END

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7

Leaving the marsh behind him, Kolb could see the dragon's lair nearby, as well as a small, welcoming tavern. Go to the Lair (16) Go to Tavern (14)

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8

A strong gust of wind blew Kolb's torch out, and knocked him into a pit where split his head and died. THE END

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9

The orc cackled as his club splintered Kolb's shield and smashed into his face. There Kolb died, and the orc had soup from his bones. THE END

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10

Kolb remembered a story his Gran told him and tossed two gold chits for the ghost, and it faded away, allowing him to pass. Turn to Page (7)

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11

Kolb crept towards the belly of the beast, but no sooner had he taken his eyes off the head of the beast than it snapped him up and ate him whole, axe and all. THE END

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12

Climbing up, Kolb found a camp. He met a wise man who shared bread and showed two paths to the dragon's lair. One went through the hills, the other through a marsh. Take the hills (3) Take the marsh (5)

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13

Before the orc could strike, Kolb swung his mighty axe. The orc's head and club fell uselessly to the floor. Turn to Page (3)

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14

Kolb stopped at the tavern to rest before fighting the dragon. High elves ran the tavern, however, and poisoned his mead so they could steal his gold. THE END

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15

Kolb swung his axe as hard as he could, but the ghost hardly seemed to notice. The ghost drifted into Kolb, and a deep sleep took him over, from which he never awoke. THE END

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16

Kolb found the lair where the dragon slept, tendrils of smoke wafting from it's nostrils. The air made Kolb's eyes sting, and he nearly slipped on the bones of men, picked clean. The beast lay on its side, the throat and belly both waiting targets. Strike the Neck (6) Strike the Belly (11)

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17

Kolb stepped into the frozen cave, but his Nord blood kept him warm. A smelly tunnel climbed ahead of him, and wind howled from another to his left. A ladder was nearby as well. Take the smelly tunnel (4) Take the windy tunnel (8) Climb the ladder (12)

61Book1CheapNineHolds[pagebreak]

The Holds of Skyrim: A Field Officer's Guide For Use by Officers of the Imperial Legion

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elcome, loyal officer of the Empire. You have been given this guide to help you, and those men under your command, better understand the geography of Skyrim. Since you will be serving in Skyrim for a lengthy period of time, this information should prove invaluable. Skyrim is organized into nine holds. A hold is a large area of land roughly equivalent to a county in Cyrodiil. Each hold is governed by a Jarl who maintains his court in the hold's capital city. Four of these holds are fairly small and sparsely populated. As a result, the capitals are little more than towns. The five major cities of Skyrim act as capitals for the larger holds. Following is a detailed review of each hold. EASTMARCH Located in the eastern reaches of Skyrim, Eastmarch shares a common border with Morrowind. Jarl Ulfric Stormcloak rules from the ancient city of Windhelm, and he and his followers should be considered your most serious threat. Do not tread lightly in Eastmarch, for the Stormcloaks are at their strongest and most organized in these lands. As an Imperial soldier, you will find few friends here. HAAFINGAR Solitude, the seat of High King of Skyrim and the capital of Haafingar hold, has always welcomed the Empire with open arms. Much commerce flows along the rivers here, and you will find the folk of this hold to be among the most hospitable in Skyrim. As you venture forth in your campaigns, be sure to maintain a secure supply line back to Solitude. The Empire maintains ample provisions in Castle Dour, from which General Tullius commands all the legions stationed in Skyrim. HJAALMARCH This hold is divided evenly between wind-swept tundra dotted with farms and a huge, stinking salt marsh. There is little of interest here, save perhaps for the hold's capital, Morthal. Jarl Idgrod Ravencrone has been cooperative enough with the Empire in the past, but will ultimately look out for her own iterests if put in a difficult position. While the hold offers minimal strategic value to the Empire, it would make an ideal staging ground for a Stormcloak siege of Solitude, and so must be held against the enemy. THE PALE The Pale is a barren realm covered by vast fields of ice and snow. Its boundaries stretch from the center of Skyrim all the way to its northern coast. Here, at the capital city of Dawnstar, can be found one of the busiest ports in the province. With access to the coastal waterways of Skyrim, Dawnstar could prove vital in the war effort. Should the Stormcloaks choose to attack Solitude from the river, this port would make a tempting target due to its close proximity. THE REACH Dominating the western border of Skyrim, the Reach is made up almost entirely of steep, craggy mountains. Little grows in this forbidding realm, but the capital city of Markarth is a nigh-impregnable stone fortress that would make an excellent defensive position for either side in the war. Be aware that this dangerous region of Skyrim is home to the Forsworn, the rebellious natives of the Reach. They know the terrain, can strike without warning, and count the Empire as an enemy. If they attack, you must neither give nor expect any mercy. THE RIFT This hold occupies the southeast corner of Skyrim, and much like the Reach in the west, is dominated by tall mountain peaks. The climate in the Reach is milder than in the northern holds, and there is more vegetation to be found here. Farming thrives as a result. A word of warning about Riften, the hold's capital city. Our agents have reason to suspect that the Thieves' Guild makes it home here, though it is now much diminished from its strength of previous years. Nevertheless, mind that your men keep an eye on their coin purses should they have reason to spend any length of time in the city. WHITERUN This central hold is characterized by wide, grassy plains that are home to numerous farms. Many roads pass through Whiterun, joining the more distant holds together. The hold's capital city, also called Whiterun, sits high on a rocky promontory amid a large, flat swath of scrubland. Among the wealthiest cities of Skyrim, Whiterun has usually proven friendly to the Emperor's soldiers. WINTERHOLD This bleak, snow-blown hold in the northeast corner of Skyrim is utterly inhospitable. Perhaps the mages at the College of Winterhold chose to make their home there because they knew they would be left largely alone. As with Whiterun, the name Winterhold describes both the hold and its capital city, though the word "city" hardly applies. The hold capital is a meager village built near the mages' college. Few other noteworthy settlements exist in this frozen waste, and it is unlikely to play any significant part in the war.

62Book1CheapNordsArise[pagebreak]

Nords Arise! by Anonymous

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ords Arise! Throw off the shackles of Imperial oppression. Do not bow to the yoke of a false emperor. Be true to your blood, to your homeland.

The empire tells us we cannot worship holy Talos. How can man set aside a god? How can a true Nord of Skyrim cast aside the god that rose from our own heartland? Mighty Tiber Septim, himself the first emperor, conqueror of all Tamriel, ascended to godhood to sit at the right hand of Akatosh. Tiber Septim, a true son of Skyrim, born in the land of snow and blood, bred to the honor of our people, is now Talos, god of might and honor. The Empire has no right to tell us we cannot worship him.

Our own high king, Torygg, betrayed us to the empire. He traded our god for peace. He agreed to a pact with the Thalmor signed by an emperor in a foreign land. Are we to be beholden to such a pact? No! A thousand times no.

Do not let the lessons of history go unheeded. The Aldmeri Dominion and its Thalmor masters made war upon men, just as the elves made war upon Ysgramor and our people in ancient times. Shining Saarthal was burned to the ground, reduced to ruins and rubble in their treacherous assault. But Ysgramor and his sons gathered the 500 Companions and made war upon the elves, casting them out of Skyrim. In the Great War fought by our fathers, the elves again betrayed men by attacking us unprovoked. The Dominion and the Thalmor cannot be trusted!

Like Ysgramor, Ulfric Stormcloak is a true hero of Skyrim. His name will ring in Sovngarde for generations to come. Only he had the courage to single out King Torygg and challenge him to trial by arms. Ulfric's thu'um, a gift from Talos himself, struck down this traitorous ruler. And by his death we are now free of our Imperial shackles and the Thalmor overlords that darken the Imperial throne.

The Empire has sent its Legions to govern us. They have enlisted our own countrymen to their cause. They have set brother against brother, father against son. They have caused Skyrim to battle itself in their name, for their cause. Do not let them divide us. Do not let them conquer us! Reject the Imperial law that forbids the worship of Talos. Join Ulfric Stormcloak and his cause!

63Book1CheapOlafAndTheDragon[pagebreak]

Olaf and the Dragon by Adonato Leotelli

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ne of the more colorful legends in Nord folklore is the tale of Olaf One-Eye and Numinex. Long ago in the First Age, a fearsome dragon named Numinex ravaged the whole of Skyrim. The dreadful drake wiped out entire villages, burned cities and killed countless Nords. It seemed that no power in Tamriel could stop the monster. This was a troubled time in Skyrim's history, for a bitter war of succession raged between the holds. The Jarls might have been able to conquesr the beast if they had worked together, but trust was in desperately short supply. A skillful warrior named Olaf came forward and promised to defeat the beast. In some accounts, he is the Jarl of Whiterun. In other versions of the legend, Olaf promises the people of Whiterun that he will capture the monster if they will name him Jarl. At any rate, Olaf ventures forth with a handful of his most trusted warriors and seeks the beast out, eventually finding Numinex in his lair atop Mount Athor. Needless to say, it's an epic battle. First, Olaf comes at the dragon with his axe and his shield. Some variants of the legend say that Olaf and the beast battled with blade and claw for days, but were too evenly matched for either to gain an advantage. Most accounts hold that Olaf, perhaps frustrated that his weapons are completely ineffectual against the dragon, finally casts them aside. Giving voice to the rage that has been building within him, Olaf unleashes a terrible shout. Here again, the stories diverge. Many accounts hold that Olaf did not realize he possessed the power of Dragon-speech, while others suggest that he had long possessed this gift, but wished to test himself against the dragon in martial combat first. Virtually all variations of the legend, however, agree on what happened next. Using the awesome powers of the Dragon language, Numinex and Olaf engage in an epic shouting duel atop Mount Athor. So forceful are their words, they are said to shatter the stone and split the sky. Finally, Numinex collapses from a combination of injury and sheer exhaustion. Somehow - and this detail is conspicuously absent in virtually every account - Olaf manages to convey the dragon all the way back to the capital city of Whiterun. The people of Whiterun are suitably impressed with Olaf's hostage. They build a huge stone holding cell at the rear of the palace, which they rename "Dragonsreach". This enormous cell serves as Numinex's prison until his death. Olaf himself eventually becomes the High King of Skyrim, putting an end to the war of succession. Presumably, his great deed made him the only leader upon whom all the people could agree, and so the land once again has peace. As a visitor to Skyrim, I find this tale both fascinating and highly entertaining. It is one the most celebrated legends of the Nords, and one can easily understand why. It's a story of surpassing heroism, in which a resourceful and worthy Nord does battle with a truly terrifying adversary and emerges victorious by yelling him into submission. The only way in which this could have been even more of a Nordic tale would be if Olaf beat Numinex in a drinking contest. The legend is not without its doubters, however. The bard Svaknir, who lived during Olaf's reign, wrote and performed an alliterative verse that challenged Olaf's version of events. Enraged, the High King threw the rebellious bard in prison and destroyed all written copies of the verse. How I would love to lay hands on a copy of that verse! I admit, I am immensely curious to know what assertions Svaknir made about how Olaf really defeated Numinex. There are a few ancient bard texts that provide one possible answer. These tomes suggest that Numinex was particularly foul-tempered because he was extremely old. In these accounts, the dragon spends his final years terrorizing the country side before flying off to the top of Mount Athor to die in peace. When Olaf finds Numinex, the dragon is too weak to defend himself. Olaf and his men capture the beast without effort, but decide to take advantage of the situation by fabricating a heroic tale. It is worth noting that all of Olaf's warriors who were said to witness the shout duel went on to become wealthy leaders during Olaf's reign as High King. However, it is equally likely that Svaknir had some grudge against Olaf, and his scandalous verse was an attempt to damage the High King's reputation. Alas, we will never know. I leave you now, good reader, with this gentle reminder: A good historian must remain impartial, and consider all points of view. Time has a way of distorting our record of events, so the closer you can get to the original sources, the better!

64Book1CheapReportDisasterIonith[pagebreak]

Report of the Imperial Commission on the Disaster at Ionith by Lord Pottreid, Chairman

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Part I: Preparations he Emperor's plans for the invasion of Akavir were laid in the 270s, when he began the conquest of the small island kingdoms that lie between Tamriel and Akavir. With the fall of Black Harbor in Esroniet in 282, Uriel V was already looking ahead to the ultimate prize. He immediately ordered extensive renovations to the port, which would serve as the marshalling point for the invasion force and as the main supply source throughout the campaign. At this time he also began the construction of the many large, ocean-going transports that would be needed for the final crossing to Akavir, in which the Navy was previously deficient. Thus it can be seen that the Emperor's preparations for the invasion were laid well in advance, before even the conquest of Esroniet was complete, and was not a sudden whim as some have charged. When Prince Bashomon yielded Esroniet to Imperial authority in 284, the Emperor's full attention could be devoted to planning for the Akaviri campaign. Naval expeditions were dispatched in 285 and 286 to scout the sea lanes and coastlands of Akavir; and various Imperial intelligence agents, both magical and mundane, were employed to gather information. On the basis of all this information, the kingdom of the Tsaesci, in the southwest of Akavir, was selected as the initial target for the invasion. Meanwhile the Emperor was gathering his Expeditionary Force. A new Far East Fleet was created for the campaign, which for a time dwarfed the rest of the Navy; it is said to be the most powerful fleet ever assembled in the history of Tamriel. The Fifth, Seventh, Tenth, and Fourteenth Legions were selected for the initial landing, with the Ninth and Seventeenth to follow as reinforcements once the beachhead was secured. While this may seem to the layman a relatively small fraction of the Army's total manpower, it must be remembered that this Expeditionary Force would have to be maintained at the end of a long and tenuous supply line; in addition, the Emperor and the Army command believed that the invasion would not be strongly opposed, at least at first. Perhaps most crucially, the Navy had only enough heavy transport capacity to move four legions at a time. It should be noted here that the Commission does not find fault with the Emperor's preparations for the invasion. Based on the information available prior to the invasion, (which, while obviously deficient in hindsight, great effort had been made to accumulate), the Commission believes that the Emperor did not act recklessly or imprudently. Some have argued that the Expeditionary Force was too small. The Commission believes that on the contrary, even if shipping could have been found to transport and supply more legions (an impossibility without crippling the trade of the entire Empire), this would have merely added to the scale of the disaster; it would not have averted it. Neither could the rest of the Empire be denuded of legions; the memory of the Camoran Usurper was still fresh, and the Emperor believed (and this Commission agrees) that the security of the Empire precluded a larger concentration of military force outside of Tamriel. If anything, the Commission believes that the Expeditionary Force was too large. Despite the creation of two new legions during his reign (and the recreation of the Fifth), the loss of the Expeditionary Force left the Empire in a dangerously weak position relative to the provinces, as the current situation makes all too clear. This suggests that the invasion of Akavir was beyond the Empire's current strength; even if the Emperor could have fielded and maintained a larger force in Akavir, the Empire may have disintegrated behind him. [pagebreak] Part II: The Invasion of Akavir The Expeditionary Force left Black Harbor on 23rd Rain's Hand, 288, and with fair weather landed in Akavir after six weeks at sea. The landing site was a small Tsaesci port at the mouth of a large river, chosen for its proximity to Tamriel as well as its location in a fertile river valley, giving easy access to the interior as well as good foraging for the army. All went well at first. The Tsaesci had abandoned the town when the Expeditionary Force approached, so they took possession of it and renamed it Septimia, the first colony of the new Imperial Province of Akavir. While the engineers fortified the town and expanded the port facilities to serve the Far East Fleet, the Emperor marched inland with two legions. The surrounding land was reported to be rich, well-watered fields, and meeting no resistance the army took the next city upriver, also abandoned. This was refounded as Ionith, and the Emperor established his headquarters there, being much larger than Septimia and better-located to dominate the surrounding countryside. The Expeditionary Force had yet to meet any real resistance, although the legions were constantly shadowed by mounted enemy patrols which prevented any but large scouting parties from leaving the main body of the army. One thing the Emperor sorely lacked was cavalry, due to the limited space on the transport fleet, although for the time being the battlemages made up for this with magical reconnaissance. The Emperor now sent out envoys to try to contact the Tsaesci king or whoever ruled this land, but his messengers never returned. In retrospect, the Commission believes that valuable time was wasted in this effort while the army was stalled at Ionith, which could have been better spent in advancing quickly while the enemy was still, apparently, surprised by the invasion. However, the Emperor believed at the time that the Tsaesci could be overawed by the Empire's power and he might win a province by negotiation with no need for serious fighting. Meanwhile, the four legions were busy building a road between Septimia and Ionith, setting up fortified guard posts along the river, and fortifying both cities' defences, activities which would serve them well later. Due to their lack of cavalry, scouting was limited, and communication between the two cities constantly threatened by enemy raiders, with which the legions were still unable to come to grips. The original plan had been to bring the two reinforcing legions across as soon as the initial landing had secured a port, but the fateful decision was now taken to delay their arrival and instead begin using the Fleet to transport colonists. The Emperor and the Council agreed that, due to the complete abandonment of the conquered area by its native population, colonists were needed to work the fields so that the Expeditionary Force would not have to rely entirely on the fleet for supplies. In addition, unrest had broken out in Yneslea, athwart the supply route to Akavir, and the Council believed the Ninth and Seventeenth legions would be better used in repacifying those territories and securing the Expeditionary Force's supply lines. The civilian colonists and their supplies began arriving in Septimia in mid-Hearthfire, and they took over the preparation of the fields (which had been started by the legionnaires) for a spring crop. A number of cavalry mounts were also brought over at this time, and the raids on the two Imperial colonies subsequently fell off. Tsaesci emissaries also finally arrived in Ionith, purportedly to begin peace negotiations, and the Expeditionary Force settled in for what was expected to be a quiet winter. At this time, the Council urged the Emperor to return to Tamriel with the Fleet, to deal with many pressing matters of the Empire while the army was in winter quarters, but the Emperor decided that it would be best to remain in Akavir. This turned out to be fortunate, because a large portion of the Fleet, including the Emperor's flagship, was destroyed by an early winter storm during the homeward voyage. The winter storm season of 288-289 was unusually prolonged and exceptionally severe, and prevented the Fleet from returning to Akavir as planned with additional supplies. This was reported to the Emperor via battlemage and it was agreed that the Expeditionary Force could survive on what supplies it had on hand until the spring. [pagebreak] Part III: The Destruction of the Expeditionary Force The winter weather in Akavir was also much more severe than expected. Due to the supply problems and the addition of thousands of civilians, the Expeditionary Force was on tight rations. To make matters worse, the Tsaesci raiders returned in force and harried any foraging and scouting parties outside the walls of the two cities. Several watch forts on the road between Septimia and Ionith were captured during blizzards, and the rest had to be abandoned as untenable. As a result, communication between the two cities had to be conducted entirely by magical means, a continuing strain on the legions' battlemages. On 5th Sun's Dawn, a large entourage of Tsaesci arrived at Ionith claiming to bring a peace offer from the Tsaesci king. That night, these treacherous envoys murdered the guards at one of the city gates and let in a strong party of their comrades who were waiting outside the city walls. Their clear intention was to assassinate the Emperor, foiled only by the vigilance and courage of troopers of the Tenth who were guarding his palace. Once the alarm was raised, the Tsaesci inside the city were hunted down and killed to the last man. Needless to say, this was the end of negotiations between the Emperor and the Tsaesci. The arrival of spring only brought worse troubles. Instead of the expected spring rains, a hot dry wind began to blow from the east, continuing with varying strength through the entire summer. The crops failed, and even the river (which in the previous year had been navigable by small boats far upstream of Ionith) was completely dried up by Sun's Height. It is unknown if this was due to a previously unknown weather pattern unique to Akavir, or if the Tsaesci manipulated the weather through magical means. The Commission leans towards the former conclusion, as there is no direct evidence of the Tsaesci possessing such fearsome arcane power, but the latter possibility cannot be entirely ruled out. Due to prolonged bad weather, the supply fleet was late in setting out from Black Harbor. It finally left port in early Second Seed, but was again severely mauled by storms and limped into Septimia eight weeks later much reduced. Because of the increasingly desperate supply situation in Akavir, the Emperor dispatched most of his Battlemage Corps with the fleet to assist it in weathering the storms which seemed likely to continue all summer. At this time, the Council urged the Emperor to abandon the invasion and to return to Tamriel with the Expeditionary Force, but he again refused, noting that the fleet was no longer large enough to transport all four legions at once. The Commission agrees that leaving one or more legions behind in Akavir to await the return of the fleet would have damaged Army morale. But the Commission also notes that the loss of one legion would have been preferable to the loss of the entire Expeditionary Force. It is the unanimous opinion of the Commission that this was the last point at which complete disaster might have been averted. Once the decision was made to send the fleet back for reinforcements and supplies, events proceeded to their inevitable conclusion. From this point on, much less is known about what transpired in Akavir. With most of the battlemages assisting the fleet, communication between the Expeditionary Force and Tamriel was limited, especially as the situation in Akavir worsened and the remaining battlemages had their powers stretched to the limit attending to all the needs of the legions. However, it appears that the Tsaesci may also have been actively interfering with the mages in some unknown manner. Some of the mages in Akavir reported their powers being abnormally weak, and the mages of the War College in Cyrodiil (who were handling communications for the Council) reported problems linking up with their compatriots in Akavir, even between master and pupil of long training. The Commission urges that the War College make a particular study of the arcane powers of the Tsaesci, should the Empire ever come into conflict with Akavir again. What is known is that the Emperor marched out of Ionith in mid-Sun's Height, leaving only small garrisons to hold the cities. He had learned that the Tsaesci were massing their forces on the other side of a mountain range to the north, and he intended to smash their army before it could gather full strength and capture their supplies (of which he was in desperate need). This rapid advance seems to have taken the Tsaesci by surprise, and the Expeditionary Force crossed the mountains and fell on their camp, routing the Tsaesci army and capturing its leader (a noble of some kind). But the Emperor was soon forced to retreat, and the legions suffered heavily on their retreat to Ionith. The Emperor now found himself besieged in Ionith, cut off from the small garrison at Septimia which was also besieged. By this time, it seems that the efforts of the few remaining battlemages were devoted entirely to creating water to keep the army alive, a skill not normally emphasized at the War College. The fleet had arrived safely back to Black Harbor, thanks to the Battlemage Corps, but all attempts to return to Akavir were frustrated by a series of ever more savage storms that battered Esroniet throughout the rest of 289. The Council's last contact with the Emperor was in early Frostfall. By Evening Star, the Council was extremely worried about the situation in Akavir and ordered the fleet to sail regardless of the risk. Despite the continued storms, the fleet managed to press on to Akavir. Hope was raised when contact was made with the Emperor's battlemage, who reported that Ionith still held out. Plans were quickly laid for the Expeditionary Force to break out of Ionith and fall back on Septimia, where the fleet would meet them. This was the last direct contact with the Expeditionary Force. The fleet arrived in Septimia to find its garrison under savage assault from a large Tsaesci army. The battlemages with the fleet threw back the enemy long enough for the survivors to embark and the fleet to withdraw. The few survivors of the Expeditionary Force who reached Septimia told how the Emperor had led the army out of Ionith by night two days earlier, succesfully breaking through the enemy lines but then being surrounded by overwhelming forces on the road to Septimia. They told of a heroic last stand by the Emperor and the Tenth Legion, which allowed a remnant of the Fourteenth to reach Septimia. Two survivors of the Tenth arrived in Septimia that night, having slipped through the enemy lines during their undisciplined victory celebration. These men confirmed having seen the Emperor die, cut down by enemy arrows as he rallied the Tenth's shield wall. [pagebreak] Part IV: Conclusion The Commission believes that the invasion of Akavir was doomed from the start for several reasons, none of which could have been foreseen beforehand, unfortunately. Despite extensive intelligence-gathering, the Expeditionary Force was clearly unprepared for the situation in Akavir. The unexpected weather which plagued the army and navy was particularly disastrous. Without the loss of a majority of the Far East Fleet during the campaign, the Expeditionary Force could have been withdrawn in 289. The weather also forced the Emperor to assign most of his Battlemage Corps to the fleet, leaving him without their valuable assistance during the fighting which soon followed. And of course the unexpected drought which struck Ionith during 289 dashed the hopes of supplying the army locally, and left the Expeditionary Force in an untenable situation when besieged in Ionith. The Tsaesci were also much stronger than intelligence reports had suggested. Information on the size of the army the Tsaesci were eventually able to field against the Expeditionary Force is vague, as the only serious fighting took place after regular communications were cut off between the Emperor and the Council. Nevertheless, it seems likely that the Tsaesci outnumbered the Emperor's forces by several times, as they were able to force four crack legions into retreat and then keep them under siege for several months. As was stated previously, the Commission declines to criticize the initial decision to invade Akavir. Based on what was known at the time, the plan seemed sound. It is only with the benefit of hindsight does it become obvious that the invasion had very little chance of success. Nevertheless, the Commission believes several valuable lessons can be taken from this disaster. First, the Tsaesci may have extremely powerful arcane forces at their command. The possibility that they may have manipulated the weather across such a vast region seems incredible (and it should be noted that three Commissioners strongly objected to this paragraph even being included in this Report), but the Commission believes that this matter deserves urgent investigation. The potential danger is such that even the slight possibility must be taken seriously. Second, the Tsaesci appear to possess no navy to speak of. The Expeditionary Force was never threatened by sea, and the Far East Fleet fought nothing but the weather. Indeed, initial plans called for a portion of the Fleet to remain in Akavir for use in coastal operations, but in the event there were very few places where the large vessels of the Fleet could approach the land, due to the innumerable reefs, sandbars, islands, etc. that infested the coastal waters north and south from Septimia. Due to the utter lack of trees in the plain around Septimia and Ionith, the Expeditionary Force was unable to build smaller vessels which could have navigated the shallow coastal waters. Any future military expeditions against Akavir would do well to consider some way of bringing a means for inshore naval operations in order to exploit this clear advantage over the Tsaesci, an advantage that was sadly unexploited by the Expeditionary Force. Third, much longer-term study needs to be made of Akavir before another invasion could even be contemplated. The information gathered over the four years prior to the invasion was extensive, but clearly inadequate. The weather conditions were completely unexpected; the Tsaesci much stronger than expected; and the attempted negotiations by the Emperor with the Tsaesci a disaster. Akavir proved alien beyond expectation, and the Commission believes any future attempt to invade Akavir should not be contemplated without much greater knowledge of the conditions, politics, and peoples of that continent than presently obtains. Finally, the Commission unanimously concludes that given what we now know, any attempt to invade Akavir is folly, at least in the present state of the Empire. The Empire's legions are needed at home. One day, a peaceful, united Empire will return to Akavir and exact severe retribution for the disaster at Ionith and for our fallen Emperor. But that day is not now, nor in the foreseeable future.

65Book1CheapSheogorathMyths[pagebreak]

Myths of Sheogorath by Mymophonus

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Sheogorath Invents Music

n the earliest of days, in a time when the world was still raw, Sheogorath decided to walk amongst the mortals. He donned his guise of Gentleman With a Cane, and moved from place to place without being recognized. After eleven days and eleven nights, Sheogorath decided that life among mortals was even more boring than his otherworldly existence. "What can I do to make their lives more interesting?" he said to himself. At that same moment, a young woman nearby commented wistfully to herself, "The sounds of the birds are so beautiful." Sheogorath silently agreed with her. Mortals could not make the beautiful and inspired calls of birds. Their voices were wretched and mundane. He could not change the nature of mortals, for that was the purview of other Daedric Princes. However, he could give them tools to make beautiful sounds. Sheogorath took hold of the petulant woman and ripped her asunder. From her tendons he made lutes. From her skull and arm bones he made a drum. From her bones he made flutes. He presented these gifts to the mortals, and thus Music was born. [pagebreak]

Sheogorath and King Lyandir

King Lyandir was known to be an exceedingly rational man. He lived in a palace that was a small, simple structure, unadorned with art and ugly to look upon. "I do not need more than this," he would say. "Why spend my gold on such luxuries when I can spend it on my armies or on great public works?" His kingdom prospered under his sensible rule. However, the people did not always share the king's sense of practicality. They would build houses that were beautiful to look upon, although not necessarily very practical. They devoted time and energy to works of art. They would celebrate events with lavish festivals. In general, they were quite happy. King Lyandir was disappointed that more of them did not follow his example and lead frugal, sensible lives. He brooded on this for many years. Finally, he decided that his subjects simply didn't understand how much more they could accomplish if they didn't waste time on those frivolous activities. Perhaps, he reasoned, they just needed more examples. The king decreed that all new buildings must be simple, unadorned, and no larger than was necessary for their function. The people were not happy about this, but they liked their king and respected the new law. In a few short years, there were more plain buildings than ornate ones. The citizens used the money saved to make and buy even more lavish art and hold even more excessive celebrations. Once again, King Lyandir decided to provide them a strict example of how beneficial it would be to use their time and resources for more practical purposes. He banned all works of art in the city. The people were quite put out by this, but they knew that their king was doing what he thought was best for them. However, human nature is not so easily denied. In a few more years the city was filled with plain, simple buildings, and devoid of any sort of art. However, the people now had even more money and time to devote to their parties and festivals. With a heavy heart, King Lyandir decided that his people were to be treated like children. And like all children, they needed rules and discipline laid down by great figures of authority to make them understand what was truly important in life. He decreed that there should be no revelry in the city. Singing, dancing, and music were all banned. Even food and drink were limited to water and simple foodstuffs. The people had had enough. Revolt was out of the question, since King Lyandir had a very well trained and equipped army. They visited the shrines and temples in droves, praying to all the gods, and even to some of the Daedric Princes, that King Lyandir would revoke these new, oppressive laws. Sheogorath heard their pleas and decided to visit King Lyandir. He appeared to the king in his dreams as a field of flowers, each with arms instead of petals and the face of the Madgod in the center. "I am Lord of the Creative and Lord of the Deranged. Since you have no use for my gifts of creativity, I have decided to bless you with an abundance of my other gift." From that day forward, every child born in the city was born into madness. Since infants do not reveal illnesses of the mind, it was several years before this was realized. The king's own son was among the victims, suffering from seizures and delusions. Yet, King Lyandir refused to change his ways. When his son, Glint, was 12 years old, he stabbed his father while Lyandir was sleeping. With his dying breath, King Lyandir asked, "Why?" His son replied, "It is the most practical thing I could do." The new, young king ordered all the palace servants slaughtered. He ordered a grand festival to celebrate his new reign and the repeal of Lyandir's laws. He served the crowds a stew made from the carcasses of the palace servants. He ordered the east facing walls of every building painted red, and the west facing walls painted in stripes. He decreed that all citizens wear ornate masks on the backs of their heads. He then burned down the palace and began construction of a new one. In the new palace, the young king ordered his personal chambers to not have any doors; for fear that small woodland creatures would attack him. He ordered that it have no windows for fear that the sun and moon were jealous of him and plotting his death. And thus ended the line of King Lyandir. The people of the city returned to their grand works of art and raucous celebrations. They talked and acted as if they still had a living king, and even kept up the palace, using it to house and care for their mad children. Sheogorath was mightily pleased with this outcome. From that day forward the city was blessed with more than the normal number of gifted artists and deranged citizens. [pagebreak]

The Contest of Wills

A mighty wizard named Ravate once walked the Winds of Time to find Lord Sheogorath. His intent was to win a favor from this most capricious of the Daedric Princes. Upon finding Sheogorath, Ravate spoke humbly to him, "Lord Sheogorath, I beg a favor of you. I would gladly drive a thousand men mad in your name if you would but grant me the greater magical powers." Fortunately for Ravate, Sheogorath was in a playful mood. He proposed a game, "I will grant your wish, if you are still sane in three days. During that time, I will do my utmost to drive you mad. It shall be great fun." Ravate was not so certain that he liked this new deal. He had been really looking forward to driving a thousand men mad. "Lord Sheogorath, I regret having disturbed you with my shallow, selfish request. I withdraw my unfortunate plea and will humbly leave this place." Sheogorath just laughed, "Too late, mighty Ravate. The game is afoot, and you must play." Ravate fled, only to find that all exits from the Daedric realm were now sealed. He wandered aimlessly, constantly looking over his shoulder, jumping at every noise. Each moment brought new terror as he waited for Sheogorath to begin. After three days, Ravate was convinced that every plant and animal was a tool of Sheogorath. He hadn't eaten or drunk for fear that Sheogorath had poisoned the food or drink. He hadn't slept for fear of Sheogorath invading his dreams. (Which was foolish, as dreams are the domain of Vaermina, may She grant us Restful Sleep.) It was then that Sheogorath appeared to him. Ravate cried out, "You have set the whole world to watching me! Every creature and plant are doing your bidding to drive me mad." Sheogorath replied, "Actually, I have done nothing. You have driven yourself mad with your fears. Your delusions prove that you are truly deranged, and therefore I win. While you wanted to make a thousand men mad, I only wanted to break one man's mind, yours." From that day forward Ravate served Sheogorath's every whim. Whenever daring travelers try to approach Sheogorath, Ravate warns them, "Sheogorath is already inside each of us. You have already lost."

66Book1CheapTheCityofStone[pagebreak]

The City of Stone: A Sellsword's Guide to Markarth by Amanda Alleia Mercenary

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f you're cutting your coins across Skyrim, you'll want to point your blade towards Markarth, the capital city of the Reach. There's no end of trouble in the City of Stone, and that means plenty of ways for you to earn your supper. Your sellsword instincts should point you towards the wealthiest patrons with the fattest purses to work for, but you need to mind yourself during your resting hours. Markarth isn't like your Whiterun, where mercenary companies like the Companions make a sellsword an honored professional. No, Markarth has its own rules, rules the natives aren't going to just tell you. Lucky for you, old Ms. Alleia is here to shine the torchlight over your thick skulls. First thing you'll notice in the City of Stone is... the stone. They say dwarves cut out the city from the mountain, and maybe they did by the look of it. But what it really means is that the whole place is vertical, and the streets are really cliffs. Long story short, be careful when you've got a bellyful of mead. When you enter the city proper, you'll immediately hit the market. The merchants usually sell food and jewelry on the streets. Meat is the preferred ration, the craggy rocks in the area make for poor farming land, and silver is what's used to make most all the rings and necklaces you might by, thanks to the large silver mine in the city (we'll get to that in a bit). Whatever you do, don't ask the Markarth city guard about anything. They're about as helpful as an angry Frostbite Spider while you're caught in its web, and if you mention anything about the Forsworn to them they might spit in your eye. Speaking of the Forsworn, these wildmen and women will be your main source of income while you're in Markarth. The Jarl almost always has a bounty on some Forsworn leader or another, and if you don't mind going blade-to-axe with someone two septims short of a pint of ale, it's steady work. The Silver-Blood Inn is where you want to head into after seeing the market. The drinks are, as usual, watered down (and judging by the metallic taste, with water from the rivers that run through the city's smelter district). What's important here is getting a room to stay in. You won't find any friendly faces to con your way into a cheap place to stay in Markarth. The natives don't trust strangers, so save yourself the trouble and put down your coin to rent a real room. After you've spent a day recovering from travel, you'll see that Markarth is divided in two sides by the big crag in the center. The part with the big river running through it is called the Riverside, and the other is called the Dryside. The Riverside is where the smelter and native workers live, so don't bother going there. Instead, head directly to Dryside and talk to the local Nord nobles and see what problems you can start solving (at the highest rate). Two major places to see are the Temple of Dibella and Cidhna Mine. The temple rests on the top of the central crag. A good place to go if you're on good terms with the Divines, but be warned, the Priestesses of Dibella don't allow men into their Inner Sanctums, so don't go crashing down in there uninvited unless you want a short trip to a long fall. Cidhna Mine is the place where all the silver comes from that I mentioned before. But it's also the jail. Markarth uses prisoners to mine the ore, and there's a lot of it, so don't get caught doing something illegal in the city or you'll be hauled down there to dig. Apparently, the whole place is owned by one of the big families in the city, the Silver-Bloods (notice the inn is named after them? Always keep your sellsword eye open for hints like that). I tried meeting with the head of the Silver-Blood family to see if they had any work, but guarding their mines isn't the blood-rush I become a mercenary for. Something to keep in mind for yourself if you're thinking of staying a few months. The final place I'll talk about here is Understone Keep, the home of the Jarl in Markarth. It's a fancy palace like any other (assuming your palace is built underground), but what you need to know is the city underneath the keep. That's right, there's another city below Markarth. One of those old dwarven ruins. They sometimes have expeditions in the ruins that makes for a good job, guarding the scholars and maybe lifting a few stones here and there. If you're lucky, you might come across one of those old dwarven machines, and you can bring back a souvenir after you're done breaking it apart. All right, Ms. Alleia's hand is getting tired and that means this guide is done. Last piece of advice, don't cause trouble in Markarth. Don't start fights. Don't stop fights. Don't stick your head anywhere without someone from the city paying you for it, because believe me, no one in Markarth wants you there. Make your gold, drink your mead, see what's there to see, and move on. Nothing changes in the City of Stone, and that's just fine.

67Book1CheapTheCodeofMalacath[pagebreak]

The Code of Malacath: A Sellsword's Guide to the Orc Strongholds by Amanda Alleia Mercenary

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"No one bests an Orc." don't need you to guess how many times I've heard that boast in some dingy tavern or screamed at the top of the lungs by some fellow sellsword with too much fire in him. But I'd be lying if I said the Orc Strongholds don't take those words as law. There are few places where Ms. Alleia would tell you that "tradition" and the "old ways" makes for a better fighter, but with Orcs it seems like staying true to your ancestors is the path to victory. Let me start a few steps back. The Orc Strongholds have existed as long as the Orc race has, according to them. They're armored camps in the least, and fortresses at the most. Every man, woman, and child inside the walls is trained from birth to defend it. All their weapons and armor are smithed right there in the stronghold, all the food is hunted down by Orc warriors and brought back to be eaten by everyone who lives there. They follow no laws, save their own, an unwritten set of rules called "The Code of Malacath," named after one of their gods, who is sometimes called Mauloch. Most of it's pretty simple, don't steal, don't kill, don't attack people for no reason (although there seems to be a big list of exceptions). But Orcs in the stronghold don't have jails for their criminals. They have Blood Price. You either pay enough in goods for your crimes, or you bleed enough that the victim is satisfied. And Orcs, I don't need to tell you, have a lot of blood. The Code also sets up who runs the stronghold. The toughest male is usually the Chief and makes decisions and decides when the Code of Malacath has been satisfied. All the women are either the Chief's wives or his daughters, with the exception of the wise woman, who handles all the spiritual matters and healing needs. Matters of grave dispute are handled with short but violent fights, and those who don't get along with the Chief are usually forced out of the stronghold to live among the rest of us. An Orc grows up being told to fight for everything, that if something is not worth fighting for it is beneath the Code. Orc Strongholds don't like strangers, used to living on their own like they do. Ms. Alleia knows what she does because so many Orcs leave the strongholds to become sellswords or soldiers, and a few pints of mead gets them talking about home. I hear that sometimes an Orc will make a non-Orc a "Blood-Kin" and that person is then allowed to live in the stronghold as one of the clan, but I've never heard of that actually happening. For all their strange rules and traditions, the Code of Malacath does breed a culture of determined warriors. They're focused in ways that the average sellsword isn't. They don't hesitate to draw weapons and settle matters openly, and I think that's the real difference between the stronghold Orcs and the city Orcs. Imperial Law allows you to settle fights through the Emperor's men, but the Code of Malacath demands you settle your problems yourself, a fine way of thinking if you're leading the mercenary's life.

68Book1CheapTheYellowBookofRiddles[pagebreak]

The Yellow Book of Riddles

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or earnest pleasure, and the strengthening of the mind, the author here collects all that he has learned of the art of riddling, by dint of diligent study, and through years of discourse with others of similar inclination. The posing and puzzling of riddles is a convention of polite aristocratic Western society. Nobles and social aspirants collect books of riddles and study them, hoping thereby to increase the chances of their appearing sly and witty in conversation. A metal neither black nor red As heavy as man's golden greed What you do to stay ahead With friend or arrow or steed daeL :rewsnA ehT A man says, "If you lie to me I will slay you with my sword. If you tell me the truth, I will slay you with a spell." What must you say to stay alive? .drows a htiw em yals lliw uoY :rewsnA ehT A Bosmer, was slain. The Altmer claims the Dunmer is guilty. The Dunmer says the Khajiit did it. The Orc swears he didn't kill the Bosmer. The Khajiit says the Dunmer is lying. If only one of these speaks the truth, who killed the Bosmer? crO ehT :rewsnA ehT

69Book1CheapUncommonTaste[pagebreak]

Uncommon Taste by The Gourmet

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ongratulations! By opening this volume you have taken the first step on a truly epic journey, a voyage through the vast landscape of Breton food and its myriad joys and wonders. You will explore scents, flavors and textures so exquisite, they will seem impossible. But they are more than possible! Indeed, by following the carefully selected recipes presented in this cookbook, you will prepare extraordinary dishes with such ordinary ease, those around you will suspect sorcery. But the only magic is that which exists in your own heart, the passion you possess for creating delicious, amazing food that can be prepared easily, and enjoyed endlessly. Start here, and some day, you too can be a Gourmet! [pagebreak] Sunlight Souffle' Ingredients - 2 1/2 Ounces Cow's Cheese - 1 Ounce Butter - 1 Ounce Flour - 9 Ounces Milk - A Dash of Salt - A Dash of Pepper - A Cupful of Ground Nutmeg Recipe - Stoke the flames of your oven, and achieve a moderate heat. - Grate the cheese into thin shavings by running a finely honed elven dagger over the block. - Separate the egg whites from the yolks, and beat the whites vigorously until they thicken. - Begin preparation of the signature Sunshine Sauce - melt the butter, and add in the flour while stirring continuously until well blended. Move the mixture to a smaller flame and begin gently stirring in the milk. It is crucial that you do not stop stirring! Continue to do so for ten minutes, until the mixture thickens. Then, and only then, will the Sunshine Sauce be considered ready. - Add the salt, pepper and nutmeg, and remove from the flame. - Add in the grated cheese, and then the egg yolks. Stir well until fully blended. Then, gently add in the egg whites with a spoon made of carved hickory wood. - Gently pour the mix into four stonework souffle' dishes, filling each nearly (but not quite!) to the top. - Put the dishes in your moderately hot oven and shut that door! Keep sealed for 25 minutes, or your scrumptious suns will rise, only to fall down flat into the oven's abyss. - Remove after 25 minutes, and serve immediately. Behold, the brilliance of the sun, and the exquisite flavor of the Sunshine Souffle'! [pagebreak] Potage le Magnifique Ingredients - 4 Cups Chicken Broth - 4 Cups Beef Broth - 2 1/2 Ounces Butter - 1 Wooden Flagon of Flour - 1 Cup Diced Carrots - 1/2 Cup Diced Onions Recipe - Stoke the flames of your open-pit fire, and achieve a low heat. - Combine all ingredients into a large soup pot. - Stir vigorously! - Once hot, pour into earthen soup bowls immediately! Behold, the Gourmet's signature dish - the Potage le Magnifique! But wait. I know what you're wondering. "That's it? Is that all there is to it? What's the secret of the Gourmet?" Do you really expect me to give away the secret to my most popular dish? Well guess what? I will! For that secret, my friends, is YOU! That's right, the Potage le Magnifique is delicious, and extraordinary. Using just the simple ingredients listed, you will create a potage that is both hearty and delicious. But in order to make the Potage le Magnifique truly magnificent, it takes the imagination of a truly inspired chef. Do you have that gift? I have served bowls of the Potage le Magnifique that have caused grown men to weep with with joy. Can you guess what I added? Can you create... magic?

70Book1CheapWhiterun[pagebreak]

A Gentleman's Guide to Whiterun by Mikael the Bard

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elcome, good sir, to this indispensible guide. Within these pages, I, your humble author and guide, will describe to you the great city of Whiterun, the Jewel of the North. Whiterun offers numerous diversions for the man in search of adventure, fortune and companionship, whether for a night or for a lifetime. The city is graced with not one, but two worthy taverns and there are maids and wenches aplenty. The city is located rather centrally in Skyrim, and this is well, for it is not far from anywhere. Perched high upon a rocky hill, Whiterun dominates the grassy plains that surround it. High wooden walls protect its denizens from the wolves, mammoths, bandits and other dangers lurking beyond. When you first enter through the city's main gate, you will find yourself in the Plains District. This is so named because it is the lowest of the city's three neighborhoods. Ah, but here can be found the Bannered Mare, which I count among the finest taverns in all Skyrim. The scenery within is quite compelling, if you have an eye for the fairer sex. A stout lass named Hulda tends the bar. Don't let that stony Nord exterior fool you, for she is possessed of that same fiery passion that all Nord women try so hard to conceal. Saadia, the barmaid, is an exotic Redguard beauty. She is quite mysterious, and your humble author is determined to learn her secrets. Outside the Bannered Mare is a modest marketplace, and here is where I found true love. Though I would never deter a fellow hunting hound from the chase - for indeed, why should I author these tomes, if not to provide guidance in this very matter? - I must ask that you do me this one kindness. Her name is Carlotta Valentia, and she is a magnificent beauty who makes a modest living selling bread and produce in the daylight hours. By the gods, I will make that feisty beauty mine someday! And of course, there are other services to be found in the Plains district. Belethor's General Goods offers various and sundry wears for the adventurous traveler, and Arcadia's Cauldron offers what tonics and herbs one would expect from an apothecary's shop. Arcadia herself is an amiable sort. I often visit her to make conversation, as she is a fellow Imperial far from home. She is, however, a bit old for my taste. A gentleman of advanced years might find in her a worthy companion. Should you need your blade sharpened or your armor hammered, Warmaiden's offers smithing services very near the main gate. The smith is a pretty Nord named Adrianne Avenicci, but she is married to a great hulking brute named Ulfberth War-Bear. Adrianne is quite fair, but I should not want to find myself being introduced to the keen edge of that husband's war-axe. If married ladies are your preferred sport, then have at, but don't say that you weren't warned! Near to the smith is the Drunken Huntsman. Here, some of the wealthier gentlemen gather to share both drink and rumors of the wide world. If you prefer a more distinguished class of company while you sip fine wine, you'll be well at home here. Of the Wind district I have little to say. Most of the buildings in this second tier of the city are residences, though there is also a Temple of Kynareth and Jorrvaskr, the mead hall of the Companions. There are some intriguing prospects to be found in the mead hall should you favor a strong and fearless warrior-woman. You will find little game at the temple, however. The priestess, Danica Pure-Spring, is interested almost exclusively in spiritual matters. At last we come to the Cloud District, exclusive domain of the Jarl's castle. I have had some merry adventures within the stone walls of Dragonsreach, let me tell you. The serving girls are most easily impressed by a well-spoken Imperial. After all, the nights in Skyrim do grow quite cold, if you take my meaning. And I will not deny that I have visited the town's jail once or twice, which can be found in the lower levels of the palace. As for the Jarl and his court, take pains to avoid them. I find that they lack any sense of humor or appreciation for the Imperial culture. Besides which, they are all wealthy men and so must be viewed as your most serious competition. These Nords are simple folk, after all, and too easily swayed by the sight of fine clothes and a purse full of septims. Now I will conclude this work by wishing you great success in your pursuits of women and wine. Spare a moment in your revels to think of me, your humble author, and the risks I have taken to bring you this most thorough report on all thing of interest to the discerning gentleman in the grand city of Whiterun. Ah, but I will not lie and say that it was all a hardship. After all, who could want to sleep alone in such a cold and hard land as this? Not I!

71Book2CommonAlduinEntAkatosh[pagebreak]

Alduin is Real, and He Ent Akatosh by Thromgar Iron-Head, prowd Nord

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s my da used to say - Imperials are idiutts! That is why I am riting this book. I ent never rote a book before, and I do not reckon to rite one agenn, but sometimes a man must do what a man must do. And what I must do is set the recerd strate about the god called Akatosh and the dragon called Alduin. They ent the same thing, no matter what them Imperials mite say, or how thay mite wish it to be so. My da was never one for the gods, but my ma was. She wershipped all the Divines, and tot me lots of things. So I noe a thing or two about Akatosh. Just as much as any Imperial. I noe he was the first of all the gods to take shape in the Beginning Place. And I noe he has the shape of a dragon. My da even told me the story of Martyn Septim, and the things what happened when the gates to Oblivion opened. Septim turned into the spirit of Akatosh and killed Mehrunes Dagon. Now I dont noe about you, but any dragon that fites the Prince of Destruction is okay by me. Now I hope you understand the problim. Akatosh is good. Everyone, from Nord to Imperial, noes that. But Alduin? He ent good! He's the oposit of good! That Alduin is evil thrue and thrue. So you see, Akatosh and Alduin cant be one and the same. Growing up as a lad in Skyrim, I herd all the stories. Told to me by my da, who was told by his da, who was told by his da, and so on. And one of those stories was about Alduin. But see, he was not Akatosh. He was another dragon and a real wun at that. Akatosh is some kind of spirit dragon I think, wen he bothers to be a dragon at all (and not a god livin in sum kind of god plac like Obliviun). But Alduin is a real dragon, with flesh and teeth and a mean streak longer than the White River. And there was a time when Alduin tried to rool over all of Skyrim with his other dragons. In the end, it took sum mitey strong heroes to finally kill Alduin and be dun with his hole sorry story. So I got to ask - does that sound like Akatosh to you? No, frend. No it do not. And so I, Thromgar Iron-Head do firmly say, with the utmost connvicshun, that Alduin is real, and he ent Akatosh!

72Book2CommonAMinorMaze[pagebreak]

A Minor Maze: Shalidor & Labyrinthian

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Labyrinthian's modern notoriety was gained in the early part of the Third Era. Part of the Staff of Chaos was recovered from the Labyrinthian, which became instrumental in the overthrow of Jagar Tharn, ending the Imperial Simulacrum. The site has since become embedded in the minds of all subjects of the Empire, and the ruins are occasionally visited by Loyalist pilgrims, re-tracing the steps of the Eternal Champion. The namesake of Labyrinthian is somewhat less commonly known, however. The foreboding ruins were originally built as a temple to the Dragons. This grew into Bromjunaar, a great city of that era. Bromjunaar is believed by some to have been the capital of Skyrim at the height of the Dragon Cult's influence there. Little historical record exists to verify or refute this, but it is known that the highest ranking Priests of the Cult met at Labyrinthian to discuss matters of ruling. [pagebreak] Bromjunaar crumbled, however, along with the rest of the Dragon Cult, and the site lay abandoned for many years, a deteriorating reminder of those benighted days for the Nords. Not until the days of Shalidor would the ruins come into use again. Shalidor the Archmage was famous for his exploits in the First Era. Various tales tell of him battling Dwemer legions single-handedly, building the city of Winterhold with a whispered spell, stealing the secret of life from Akatosh, or constructing Labyrinthian himself. While many Shalidor legends are hyperbole or outright fabrication, we can discover some truth behind his involvement with Labyrinthian. Shalidor stood at the forefront of a movement to enact higher standards among mages, and to discourage spell-use among the common castes. This effort is dubiously credited with the original organization and formation of the schools of magic and the foundation of the College at Winterhold. Consistent with this mentality, Shalidor constructed his Labyrinth deep within the ruins of Bromjunaar to test new Archmages. While navigating the destroyed city itself was not explicitly a part of the test, many candidates did not survive the journey. Shalidor valued both academic knowledge as well as practical skill, and simply getting to the Labyrinth required the latter. [pagebreak] [pagebreak] Shalidor's Labyrinthian is actually two intersecting mazes, in an hourglass pattern. One maze could not be completed without exiting the other first, which makes the only existing instruction for the test especially mysterious:

Enter Twice - Exit Only Once Alteration will lead you to Destruction Only Illusion shows the way to Restoration Conjure not, but be conjured instead

We can only guess at what the solution to the test may have been, as Labyrinthian became notorious not only for the number of potential archmages who died there, but for the intense secrecy of those who succeeded. Labyrinthian eventually ceased to be used, and is regarded as a symbol of a more brutal age by modern institutions for magical studies. The ruins lay empty again, overrun with wild animals and avoided by travelers. The long history and legacy of this place, however, seems as likely to be erased from our minds as the ruins themselves are likely to sink into the sea.

73Book2CommonAntecedentsofDwemerLaw[pagebreak]

Antecedents of Dwemer Law

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This book is a historical account of the development of Dwemer law and custom from its roots in High Elven culture. [pagebreak] n short, so far as I am able to trace the order of development in the customs of the Bosmeri tribes, I believe it to have been in all ways comparable to the growth of Altmeri law. The earlier liability for slaves and animals was mainly confined to surrender, which, as in Sumerset Isles, later became compensation. And what does this matter for a study of our laws today? So far as concerns the influence of the Altmeri law upon our own, especially the Altmeri law of master and servant, the evidence of it is to be found in every judgment which has been recorded for the last five hundred years. It has been stated already that we still repeat the reasoning of the Altmeri magistrates, empty as it is, to the present day. And I will quickly show how Altmeri custom can be followed into the courts of the Dwemer. In the laws of Karndar Watch (P.D. 1180) it is said, "If one who is owned by another slays one who owns himself, the owner must pay the associates three fine instruments and the body of the one who his owned." There are many other similar citations. And the same principle is extended even to the case of a centurion by which a man is killed. "If, at the common workbench, one is slain by an Animunculi, the associates of the slain may disassemble the Animunculi and take its parts within thirty days." It is instructive to compare what Dhark has mentioned concerning the rude beasts of the Tenmar forests. "If a marsh cat was killed by an Argonian, his family were in disgrace till they retaliated by killing the Argonian, or another like it; but further, if a marsh cat was killed by a fall from a tree, his relatives would take their revenge by toppling the tree, and shattering its branches, and casting them to every part of the forest."

74Book2CommonBeggarPrince[pagebreak]

Beggar Prince The story of Wheedle and his gifts from the Daedric Lord Namira

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e look down upon the beggars of the Empire. These lost souls are the poor and wretched of the land. Every city has its beggars. Most are so poor they have only the clothes on their backs. They eat the scraps the rest of us throw out. We toss them a coin so that we don't have to think too long about their plight. Imagine my surprise when I heard the tale of the Beggar Prince. I could not imagine what a Prince of Beggars would be. Here is the tale I heard. It takes place in the first age, when gods walked like men and daedra stalking the wilderness with impunity. It is a time before they were all confined to Oblivion. There once was a man named Wheedle. Or maybe it was a woman. The story goes to great lengths to avoid declaring Wheedle's gender. Wheedle was the 13th child of a king in Valenwood. As such Wheedle was in no position to take the throne or even inherit much property or wealth. Wheedle had left the palace to find independent fortune and glory. After many days of endless forest roads and tiny villages, Wheedle came upon a three men surrounding a beggar. The beggar was swaddled in rags from head to toe. No portion of the vagabond's body was visible. The men were intent on slaying the beggar. With a cry of rage and indignation, Wheedle charged the men with sword drawn. Being simple townsfolk, armed only with pitchforks and scythes, they immediately fled from the armored figure with the shining sword. "Many thanks for saving me," wheezed the beggar from beneath the heap of foul rags. Wheedle could barely stand the stench. "What is your name, wretch?" Wheedle asked. "I am Namira." Unlike the townsfolk, Wheedle was well learned. That name meant nothing to them, but to Wheedle it was an opportunity. "You are the Daedric lord!" Wheedle exclaimed. "Why did you allow those men to harass you? You could have slain them all with a whisper." "I am please you recognized me," Namira rasped. "I am frequently reviled by townsfolk. It pleases me to be recognized for my attribute, if not for my name." Wheedle knew that Namira was the Daedric lord of all thing gross and repulsive. Diseases such as leprosy and gangrene were her domain. Where others might have seen danger, Wheedle saw opportunity. "Oh, great Namira, let me apprentice myself to you. I ask only that you grant me powers to make my fortune and forge a name for myself that will live through the ages." "Nay. I make my way alone in the world. I have no need for an apprentice." Namira shambled off down the road. Wheedle would not be put off. With a bound, Wheedle was at Namira's heel, pressing the case for an apprenticeship. For 33 days and nights, Wheedle kept up the debate. Namira said nothing, but Wheedle's voice was ceaseless. Finally, on the 33rd day, Wheedle was too hoarse to talk. Namira looked back on the suddenly silent figure. Wheedle knelt in the mud at her feet, open hands raised in supplication. "It would seem you have completed your apprenticeship to me after all," Namira declared. "I shall grant your request." Wheedle was overjoyed. "I grant you the power of disease. You may choose to be afflicted with any disease you choose, changing them at will, so long as it has visible symptoms. However, you must always bear at least one. "I grant you the power of pity. You may evoke pity in anyone that sees you. "Finally, I grant you the power of disregard. You may cause others to disregard your presence." Wheedle was aghast. These were not boons from which a fortune could be made. They were curses, each awful in its own right, but together they were unthinkable. "How am I to make my fortune and forge a name for myself with these terrible gifts?" "As you begged at my feet for 33 days and 33 nights, so shall you now beg for your fortune in the cities of men. Your name will become legendary among the beggars of Tamriel. The story of Wheedle, the Prince of Beggars, shall be handed down throughout the generations. It was as Namira predicted. Wheedle was an irresistible beggar. None could see the wretch without desperately wanting to toss a coin at the huddled form. However, Wheedle also discovered that the power of disregard gave great access to the secrets of the realms. People unknowingly said important things where Wheedle could hear them. Wheedle grew to know the comings and goings of every citizen in the city. To this day, it is said that if you really want to know something, go ask the beggars. They have eyes and ears throughout the cities. They know all the little secrets of the daily lives of its citizens.

75Book2CommonBookofDaedra[pagebreak]

The Book of Daedra [pagebreak]

[pagebreak] zura, whose sphere is dusk and dawn, the magic in-between realms of twilight, known as Moonshadow, Mother of the Rose, and Queen of the Night Sky. [pagebreak] oethiah, whose sphere is deceit and conspiracy, and the secret plots of murder, assassination, treason, and unlawful overthrow of authority. [pagebreak] lavicus Vile, whose sphere is the granting of power and wishes through ritual invocations and pact. [pagebreak] ermaeus Mora, whose sphere is scrying of the tides of Fate, of the past and future as read in the stars and heavens, and in whose dominion are the treasures of knowledge and memory. [pagebreak] ircine, whose sphere is the Hunt, the Sport of Daedra, the Great Game, the Chase, known as the Huntsman and the Father of Manbeasts. [pagebreak] alacath, whose sphere is the patronage of the spurned and ostracized, the keeper of the Sworn Oath, and the Bloody Curse. [pagebreak] ehrunes Dagon, whose sphere is Destruction, Change, Revolution, Energy, and Ambition. [pagebreak] ephala, whose sphere is obscured to mortals; known by the names Webspinner, Spinner, and Spider; whose only consistent theme seems to be interference in the affairs of mortals for her amusement. [pagebreak] eridia, whose sphere is obscured to mortals; who is associated with the energies of living things. [pagebreak] olag Bal, whose sphere is the domination and enslavement of mortals; whose desire is to harvest the souls of mortals and to bring mortal souls within his sway by spreading seeds of strife and discord in the mortal realms. [pagebreak] amira, whose sphere is the ancient Darkness; known as the Spirit Daedra, ruler of sundry dark and shadowy spirits; associated with spiders, insects, slugs, and other repulsive creatures which inspire mortals with an instinctive revulsion. [pagebreak] octurnal, whose sphere is the night and darkness; who is known as the Night Mistress. [pagebreak] eryite, whose sphere is the ordering of the lowest orders of Oblivion, known as the Taskmaster. [pagebreak] anguine, whose sphere is hedonistic revelry and debauchery, and passionate indulgences of darker natures. [pagebreak] heogorath, whose sphere is Madness, and whose motives are unknowable. [pagebreak] aernima, whose sphere is the realm of dreams and nightmares, and from whose realm issues forth evil omens. [pagebreak] [Especially marked for special interest under the heading "Malacath" you find a reference to SCOURGE, blessed by Malacath, and dedicated to the use of mortals. In short, the reference suggests that any Daedra attempting to invoke the weapon's powers will be expelled into the voidstreams of Oblivion.] "Of the legendary artifacts of the Daedra, many are well known, like Azura's Star, and Sheogorath's Wabbajack. Others are less well known, like Scourge, Mackkan's Hammer, Bane of Daedra...." "...yet though Malacath blessed Scourge to be potent against his Daedra kin, he thought not that it should fall into Daedric hands, then to serve as a tool for private war among caitiff and forsaken. Thus did Malacath curse the device such that, should any dark kin seek to invoke its powers, that a void should open and swallow that Daedra, and purge him into Oblivion's voidstreams, from thence to pathfind back to the Real and Unreal Worlds in the full order of time."

76Book2CommonButcherofMarkarth[pagebreak]

The Bear of Markarth The Crimes of Ulfric Stormcloak by Arrianus Arius Imperial Scholar

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lfric Stormcloak is considered a hero by many for his part in quelling the Forsworn Uprising. It is said that when the Empire abandoned Skyrim, and the natives of the Reach rebelled (undoubtedly due to the Nords poor treatment of them), Ulfric Stormcloak and his militia was there to retake "their" land from the Forsworn. In all the bravado and epic yarns the skalds compose of his exploits, you would think Ulfric to be a giant of a man, equal to that of Tiber Septim in his cunning, leadership, and decisive actions. But the truth is far more revealing. Yes, from 4E 174-176, the Forsworn did in fact rule over the Reach as an independent kingdom from Skyrim. Yes, this was accomplished while the Empire was beset by Aldmeri Dominion forces and could not send the Legion to re-establish order. And yes, Ulfric Stormcloak did quell the rebellion without Imperial assistance. That much is true, but what the bards often fail to tell in their stories is that the Forsworn Kingdom was quite peaceful for those 2 years they were in power. True, some crimes were committed against former Nord landowners (often those accused of being the harshest towards their native workers), but on the whole the Forsworn ruled their lands fairly, and were making overtures to be recognized by the Empire as a legitimate kingdom. In the wake of the aftermath of the Great War, you can imagine the backlog on stately matters the Empire had. Before a peace treaty could be resolved with the Forsworn, a militia led by Ulfric Stormcloak sieged the gates of their capital, Markarth. What happened during that battle was war, but what happened after the battle was over is nothing short of war crimes. Every official who worked for the Forsworn was put to the sword, even after they had surrendered. Native women were tortured to give up names of Forsworn fighters who had fled the city or were in the hills of the Reach. Anyone who lived in the city, Forsworn and Nord alike, were executed if they had not fought with Ulfric and his men when they breached the gates. "You are with us, or you are against Skyrim" was the message on Ulfric's lips as he ordered the deaths of shopkeepers, farmers, the elderly, and any child old enough to lift a sword that had failed in the call to fight with him. So when a "grateful" Empire accepted Ulfric's victory and sent soldiers to re-establish the rule of law in the Reach, it was no surprise that he would demand to be allowed to worship Talos freely before the Legion could enter. With chaos running through the streets of Markarth and the reports of deaths rising every day, the Empire had no choice but to grant Ulfric and his men their worship. We allowed them to worship Talos, in full violation of the White-Gold Concordat with the Aldmeri Dominion (which recognizes the elven belief that Talos, as a human, cannot be one of the Divines). In jeopardizing the treaty that so many sacrificed for during the Great War, the Empire was wrong. But what choice did they have, I ask you? Against the Bear of Markarth, Ulfric Stormcloak, "no" is not an answer.

77Book2CommonCabinInTheWoods[pagebreak]

The Cabin in the Woods Volume II As Told By Mogen Son of Molag

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ate one night a few seasons ago, a soldier was returning home after several bloody battles. He decided he would save some gold and decided to cross the pine forest on foot. The first day of his journey was rather uneventful, the soldier stuck to the main path and kept a brisk pace. When it started getting dark he setup his bedroll, built a small fire and cooked up some rabbit he had caught. "A fine day indeed" he thought to himself as he fell asleep. Partway through the evening the soldier was woken up by soft sobbing in the distance. He grabbed his sword assuming it to be a bandit trick, but pretended to sleep so he could get the jump on them. After a few minutes the sobbing started moving away from his camp until he could no longer hear it. For the rest of the night slept with one eye open. Day two the soldier awoke from what rotten sleep he could catch and started off through the forest at a quicker pace, intending to put distance between himself and whatever he had heard last night. As the day went on it began to rain heavy so the soldier built himself a little shelter for the evening so he could remain dry while he slept. It took him a little longer to fall asleep with thoughts of the previous night fresh in his mind but he eventually slept. This time he awoke to sobbing that sounded like it was right outside his shelter. The soldier grabbed his sword and crawled out of the shelter. In front of the fire he saw the back of a ghostly woman sobbing into her hands. The soldier mustered his courage and asked her what was wrong. No answer. He began to slowly approach but before he could reach her she turned and screamed at him. The ghostly woman raised an axe and began to run at the soldier, disappearing before she made contact. The soldier took off into the night with just his sword in hand. He ran until the first light of dawn where he started down the road again, as fast as he could move. The third day was bright and sunny, but the soldier, rattled and sleepless, didn't even notice. He moved as fast as he could trying to get through the forest before nightfall. As darkness began to fall he saw a cabin just off the road and thought to himself it would be a good place to hunker down for the night. After arriving at the cabin he spent some time blocking the doors and windows, nothing would get in. Despite his preparations, he could not sleep. He sat in what used to be the cabin's bedroom staring at the barricaded door shaking. Eventually he could keep his eyes open no longer and fell asleep. This time he awoke to laughing on the other side of the barricaded door. It sounded like the woman from before, but he refused to believe it was her. The soldier burst through the barricaded door into the main room to find the ghostly woman from the night before staring at the ground laughing hysterically with axe in hand. He began to relentlessly attack the ghostly woman but he could feel his strikes were less effective. He used a scroll of firebolt which drew a scream from her and she exploded, disappearing. The ordeal was over, the ghost was gone. The soldier slept well that night and the next day made excellent distance through the woods. As the sun began to set he came out on the other side of the forest and looked back, remembering the days before. As he turned and started walking away from the woods he could swear he heard the sobbing again.

78Book2CommonCakeandTheDiamond[pagebreak]

The Cake and The Diamond by Athyn Muendil

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was in the Rat and the Pot, a foreigner cornerclub in Ald'ruhn, talking to my fellow Rats when I first saw the woman. Now, Breton women are fairly common in the Rat and the Pot. As a breed, they seem inclined to wander far from their perches in High Rock. Old Breton women, however, are not so migratory, and the wizened old biddy drew attention to herself, wandering about the room, talking to everyone. Nimloth and Oediad were at their usual places, drinking their usual stuff. Oediad was showing off a prize he had picked up in some illicit manner -- a colossal diamond, large as a baby's hand, and clear as spring water. I was admiring it when I heard the creaking of old bones behind me. "Good day to you, friends," said the old woman. "My name is Abelle Chriditte, and I am in need of financial assistance to facilitate my transportation to Ald Redaynia." "You'll want to see the Temple for charity," said Nimloth curtly. "I am not looking for charity," said Abelle. "I'm looking to barter services." "Don't make me sick, old woman," laughed Oediad. "Did you say your name was Abelle Chriditte?" I asked, "Are you related to Abelle Chriditte, the High Rock alchemist?" "Closely related," she said, with a cackle. "We are the same person. Perhaps I could prepare you a potion in exchange for gold? I noticed that you have in your possession a very fine diamond. The magical qualities of diamonds are boundless." "Sorry, old woman, I ain't giving it up for magic. It was trouble enough stealing this one," said Oediad. "I've got a fence who'll trade it for gold." "But your fence will demand a certain percentage, will he not? What if I could give you a potion of invisibility in exchange? In return for that diamond, you could have the means to steal many more. A very fair exchange of services, I would say." "It would be, but I have no gold to give you," said Oediad. "I'll take what remains of the diamond after I've made the potion," said Abelle. "If you took it to the Mages Guild, you'd have to supply all the other ingredients and pay for it as well. But I learned my craft in the wild, where no Potion-makers existed to dissolve diamonds into dust. When you must do it all by hand, by simple skill, you are blessed with remnants those fool potion-makers at the Guild simply swallow up." "That sounds all very nice," said Nimloth, "But how do we know your potion is going to work? If you make one potion, take the rest of Oediad's diamond, and leave, we won't know until you've gone whether the potion works or not." "Ah, trust is so rare these days," sighed Abelle. "I suppose I could make two potions for you, and there'd still be a little bit of the diamond left for me. Not a lot, but perhaps enough to get me to Ald Redaynia. Then you could try the first potion right here and now, and see if you're satisfied or not." "But," I interjected. "You could make one potion that works and one that doesn't, and take more of the diamond. She could even give you a slow-acting poison, and by the time she got to Ald Redaynia, you'd be dead." "Bleedin' Kynareth, you Dunmer are suspicious! I will hardly have any diamond left, but I could make two potions of two doses each, so you can satisfy yourself that the potion works and has no negative effects. If you still don't trust me, come along with me to my table and witness my craft if you'd like." So it was decided that I would accompany Abelle back to her table where she had all her traveling bags full of herbs and minerals, to make certain that she was not making two different potions. It took nearly an hour of preparation, but she kindly allowed me to finish her half-filled flagon of wine while I watched her work. Splintering the diamond and powdering the pieces required the bulk of the time; over and over again, she waved her gnarled hands over the gem, intoning ancient enchantments, breaking the facets of the stone into smaller and smaller pieces. Separately she made pastes of minced bittergreen, crushed red bulbs of dell'arco spae, and driblets of ciciliani oil. I finished the wine. "Old woman," I finally said with a sigh. "How much longer is this going to take? I'm getting tired of watching you work." "The Mages Guild has fooled the populace into thinking alchemy is a science," she said. "But if you're tired, rest your eyes." My eyes closed, seemingly of their own volition. But there had been something in that wine. Something that made me do what she asked. "I think I'll make up the potion as cakes. It's much more potent that way. Now, tell me, young man, what will your friends do once I give them the potion?" "Mug you in the street afterwards to retrieve the rest of the diamond," I said simply. I didn't want to tell the truth, but there it was. "I thought so, but I wanted to be certain. You may open your eyes now." I opened my eyes. Abelle had made a small presentation on a wooden platter: two small cakes and a silver cutting knife. "Pick up the cakes and bring them to the table," said Abelle. "And don't say anything, except to agree with whatever I say." I did as I was told. It was a curious sensation. I didn't really mind being her puppet. Of course, in retrospect, I resent it, but it seemed perfectly natural at the time to obey without question. Abelle handed the cakes to Oediad and I dutifully verified that both cakes were made the same way. She suggested that he cut one of the cakes in half, and she would take one piece and he'd take the other, just so he would know that they worked and weren't poisoned. Oediad thought it was a good idea, and used Abelle's knife to cut the cake. Abelle took the piece on the left and popped into her mouth. Oediad took the piece on the right and swallowed it more cautiously. Abelle and all the bags she was carrying vanished from sight almost instantly. Nothing happened to Oediad. "Why did it work for the witch and not for me?" cried Oediad. "Because the diamond dust was only on the left-hand side of the blade," said the old alchemist through me. I felt her control lessening as the distance grew and she hurried invisibly down the dark Ald'ruhn street away from the Rat and the Pot. We never found Abelle Chriditte or the diamond. Whether she completed her pilgrimage to Ald Redaynia is anyone's guess. The cakes had no effect, except to give Oediad a bad case of droops that lasted for nearly a week.

79Book2CommonCatsOfSkyrim[pagebreak]

Cats Of Skyrim A Report By Aldetuile

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have been sent to this frigid wasteland to catalogue and study any of its indigenous cats, which has so far been uneventful. After months of wandering I have so far only encountered some variations of the same basic species. In my travels I have encountered several khajiit outcast from their clans that have taken up residence in Skyrim. They have been most unhelpful, probably for fear I'd expose their locations. I can't say I'm surprised that there are few khajiit here, it's cold and unwelcoming. Sabrecats are basic giant cats that have evolved two dangerously sharp front teeth. The average sabrecat has a reddish brown fur which it uses to blend into grassy regions, but I have observed them skulking and sleeping on rocks so I don't believe the fur is for camouflage. The primary attacks of the sabrecat are its biting attack, but it can also briefly rear up to attack with its front claws. I have also seen it pounce forward on its prey in a particularly powerful attack. The snowy version of the sabrecat has spotted white fur which I believe it uses more for stalking more than its cousin in the plains. The tooth of the cat is rumored to be useful in potions that restore the imbibers stamina as well as a potion that will temporarily give a more keen eye for smithing. An skillful hunter can usually salvage the pelts and teeth of their kill, but report that the meat is tasteless and not fit to eat.

80Book2CommonChancesFolly[pagebreak]

Chance's Folly by Zylmoc Golge

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y the time she was sixteen, Minevah Iolos had been an unwelcome guest in every shop and manor in Balmora. Sometimes, she would take everything of value within; other times, it was enough to experience the pure pleasure of finding a way past the locks and traps. In either situation, she would leave a pair of dice in a prominent location as her calling card to let the owners know who had burgled them. The mysterious ghost became known to the locals as Chance. A typical conversation in Balmora at this time: "My dear, whatever happened to that marvelous necklace of yours?" "My dear, it was taken by Chance." The only time when Chance disliked her hobby was when she miscalculated, and she came upon an owner or a guard. So far, she had never been caught, or even seen, but dozens of times she had uncomfortably close encounters. There came a day when she felt it was time to expand her reach. She considered going to Vivec or Gnisis, but one night at the Eight Plates, she heard a tale of the Heran Ancestral Tomb, an ancient tomb filled with traps and possessing hundreds of years of the Heran family treasures. The idea of breaking the spell of the Heran Tomb and gaining the fortune within appealed to Chance, but facing the guardians was outside of her experience. While she was considering her options, she saw Ulstyr Moresby sitting at a table nearby, by himself as usual. He was huge brute of a Breton who had a reputation as a gentle eccentric, a great warrior who had gone mad and paid more attention to the voices in his head than to the world around him. If she must have a partner in this enterprise, Chance decided, this man would be perfect. He would not demand or understand the concept of getting an equal share of the booty. If worse came to worse, he would not be missed if the inhabitants of the Heran Tomb were too much for him. Or if Chance found his company tiresome and elected to leave him behind. "Ulstyr, I don't think we've ever met, but my name is Minevah," she said, approaching the table. "I'm fancying a trip to the Heran Ancestral Tomb. If you think you could handle the monsters, I could take care of unlocking doors and popping traps. What do you think?" The Breton took a moment to reply, as if considering the counsel of the voices in his head. Finally he nodded his head in the affirmative, mumbling, "Yes, yes, yes, prop a rock, hot steel. Chitin. Walls beyond doors. Fifty-three. Two months and back." "Splendid," said Chance, not the least put off by his rambling. "We'll leave early tomorrow." When Chance met Ulstyr the next morning, he was wearing chitin armor and had armed himself with an unusual blade that glowed faintly of enchantment. As they began their trek, she tried to engage him in conversation, but his responses were so nonsensical that she quickly abandoned the attempts. A sudden rainstorm swelled over the plain, dousing them, but as she was wearing no armor and Ulstyr was wearing slick chitin, their progress was not impeded. Into the dark recesses of the Heran Tomb, they delved. Her instincts had been correct -- they made very good partners. She recognized the ancient snap-wire traps, deadfalls, and brittle backs before they were triggered, and cracked all manners of lock: simple tumbler, combination, twisted hasp, double catch, varieties from antiquity with no modern names, rusted heaps that would have been dangerous to open even if one possessed the actual key. Ulstyr for his part slew scores of bizarre fiends, the likes of which Chance, a city girl, had never seen before. His enchanted blade's spell of fire was particularly effective against the Frost Atronachs. He even saved her when she lost her footing and nearly plummeted into a shadowy crack in the floor. "Not to hurt thyself," he said, his face showing genuine concern. "There are walls beyond doors and fifty-three. Drain ring. Two months and back. Prop a rock. Come, Mother Chance." Chance had not been listening to much of Ulstyr's babbling, but when he said "Chance," she was startled. She had introduced herself to him as Minevah. Could it be that the peasants were right, and that when mad men spoke, they were talking to the daedra prince Sheogorath who gave them advice and information beyond their ken? Or was it rather, more sensibly, that Ulstyr was merely repeating what he heard tell of in Balmora where in recent years "Chance" had become synonymous with lockpicking? As the two continued on, Chance thought of Ulstyr's mumblings. He had said "chitin" when they met as if it had just occurred to him, and the chitin armor that he wore had proven useful. Likewise, "hot steel." What could "walls beyond doors" mean? Or "two months and back"? What numbered "fifty-three"? The notion that Ulstyr possessed secret knowledge about her and the tomb they were in began to unnerve Chance. She made up her mind then to abandon her companion once the treasure had been found. He had cut through the living and undead guardians of the dungeon: if she merely left by the path they had entered, she would be safe without a defender. One phrase he said made perfect sense to her: "drain ring." At one of the manors in Balmora, she had picked up a ring purely because she thought it was pretty. It was not until later that she discovered that it could be used to sap other people's vitality. Could Ulstyr be aware of this? Would he be taken by surprise if she used it on him? She formulated her plan on how best to desert the Breton as they continued down the hall. Abruptly the passage ended with a large metal door, secured by a golden lock. Using her pick, Chance snapped away the two tumblers and bolt, and swung the door open. The treasure of the Heran Tomb was within. Chance quietly slipped her glove off her hand, exposing the ring as she stepped into the room. There were fifty-three bags of gold within. As she turned, the door closed between her and the Breton. On her side, it did not resemble a door anymore, but a wall. Walls beyond doors. For many days, Chance screamed and screamed, as she tried to find a way out of the room. For some days after that, she listened dully to the laughter of Sheogorath within her own head. Two months later, when Ulstyr returned, she was dead. He used a rock to prop open the door and remove the gold.

81Book2CommonDarkestDarkness[pagebreak]

Darkest Darkness by Anonymous

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n Morrowind, both worshippers and sorcerers summon lesser Daedra and bound Daedra as servants and instruments. Most Daedric servants can be summoned by sorcerers only for very brief periods, within the most fragile and tenuous frameworks of command and binding. This fortunately limits their capacity for mischief, though in only a few minutes, most of these servants can do terrible harm to their summoners as well as their enemies. Worshippers may bind other Daedric servants to this plane through rituals and pacts. Such arrangements result in the Daedric servant remaining on this plane indefinitely -- or at least until their bodily manifestations on this plane are destroyed, precipitating their supernatural essences back to Oblivion. Whenever Daedra are encountered at Daedric ruins or in tombs, they are almost invariably long-term visitors to our plane. Likewise, lesser entities bound by their Daedra Lords into weapons and armor may be summoned for brief periods, or may persist indefinitely, so long as they are not destroyed and banished. The class of bound weapons and bound armors summoned by Temple followers and conjurors are examples of short-term bindings; Daedric artifacts like Mehrunes Razor and the Mask of Clavicus Vile are examples of long-term bindings. The Tribunal Temple of Morrowind has incorporated the veneration of Daedra as lesser spirits subservient to the immortal Almsivi, the Triune godhead of Almalexia, Sotha Sil, and Vivec. These subordinate Daedra are divided into the Good Daedra and the Bad Daedra. The Good Daedra have willingly submitted to the authority of Almsivi; the Bad Daedra are rebels who defy Almsivi -- treacherous kin who are more often adversaries than allies. The Good Daedra are Boethiah, Azura, and Mephala. The hunger is a powerful and violent lesser Daedra associated with Boethiah, Father of Plots -- a sinuous, long-limbed, long-tailed creature with a beast-skulled head, noted for its paralyzing touch and its ability to disintegrate weapons and armor. The winged twilight is a messenger of Azura, Goddess of Dusk and Dawn. Winged twilights resemble the feral harpies of the West, though the feminine aspects of the winged twilights are more ravishing, and their long, sharp, hooked tails are immeasurably more deadly. Spider Daedra are the servants of Mephala, taking the form of spider-humanoid centaurs, with a naked upper head, torso, and arms of human proportions, mounted on the eight legs and armored carapace of a giant spider. Unfortunately, these Daedra are so fierce and irrational that they cannot be trusted to heed the commands of the Spinner. As a consequence, few sorcerers are willing to either summon or bind such creatures in Morrowind. The Bad Daedra are Mehrunes Dagon, Malacath, Sheogorath, and Molag Bal. Three lesser Daedra are associated with Mehrunes Dagon: the agile and pesky scamp, the ferocious and beast-like clannfear, and the noble and deadly dremora. The crocodile-headed humanoid Daedra called the daedroth is a servant of Molag Bal, while the giant but dim-witted ogrim is a servant of Malacath. Sheogorath's lesser Daedra, the golden saint, a half-clothed human female in appearance, is highly resistant to magic and a dangerous spellcaster. Another type of lesser Daedra often encountered in Morrowind is the Atronach, or Elemental Daedra. Atronachs have no binding kinship or alignments with the Daedra Lords, serving one realm or another at whim, shifting sides according to seduction, compulsion, or opportunity.

82Book2CommonDreamOfSovngarde[pagebreak]

A Dream of Sovngarde

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n a few hours, I will likely be dead. My men and I, Nords of Skyrim all, will soon join with the Emperor's legions to attack the Imperial City. The Aldmeri are entrenched within and our losses will be severe. It is a desperate gambit, for if we do not reclaim the city, we will lose the war. Last night I prayed to mighty Talos for courage and strength in the battle to come. In these last cold hours before the sun rises, I sit down to write this account of a dream I had not long after. I believe this dream was the answer to my prayers, and I would pass along the wisdom it contained to my kinsmen, for the battles they will fight in the years after my passing. In the dream, I walked through mists toward the sound of laughter, merriment and the songs of the north. The mists soon cleared, and before me lay a great chasm. Waters thundered over its brim, and so deep it was, I could not see the bottom. A great bridge made all of whale-bone was the only means to cross, and so I took it. It was only a few steps onto the bridge that I encountered a warrior, grim and strong. "I am Tsun, master of trials," he said to me, his voice booming and echoing upon the walls of the high mountains all around us. With a wave, he bade me pass on. I knew in my heart that I was granted passage only because I was a visitor. Should the hour come when I return here after my mortal life, the legends say that I must best this dread warrior in single combat. Beyond the bridge, a great stone longhouse rose up before me, so tall as to nearly touch the clouds. Though it took all my strength, I pushed open the towering oaken door and beheld the torch-lit feast hall. Here were assembled the greatest heroes of the Nords, all drinking mead poured from great kegs and singing battle-songs. Suckling pigs turned on a long iron spit over a roaring fire. My mouth watered at the smell of roast meat, and my heart was glad to hear the songs of old. "Come forth!" cried out a hoary man who sat upon a high wooden chair. This I knew to be Ysgramor, father of Skyrim and the Nords. I approached and knelt before him. "You find yourself in Sovngarde, hall of the honored dead. Now, what would you have of me, son of the north?" he bellowed. "I seek counsel," said I, "for tomorrow we fight a desperate battle and my heart is full of fear." Ysgramor raised his tankard to his lips and drank until the cup was empty. Then he spoke once more. "Remember this always, son of the north - a Nord is judged not by the manner in which he lived, but the manner in which he died." With that, he cast aside his flagon, raised his fist in the air and roared a great cheer. The other heroes rose to their feet and cheered in answer. The sound still rang in my ears when I awoke. I gathered my men and told them of my vision. The words seemed to fill their hearts with courage. The horns are blowing, and the banners are raised. The time has come to muster. May Talos grant us victory this day, and if I am found worthy, may I once again look upon that great feast hall. - Skardan Free-Winter

83Book2CommonDunmerOfSkyrim[pagebreak]

The Dunmer of Skyrim by Athal Sarys

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unmer. That is our name. Yet you deny us even this courtesy. You, the white-skinned, jaundice-haired apes of this godsforsaken frozen wilderness. To you Nords, we are the gray ones, the ashen-skinned, the "dark elves" of Morrowind who have as much place in your land as an infection in an open wound. Oh yes, we have read your great cultural work, "Nords of Skyrim," in which you extol the many virtues of your people and province, and invite any visitors to come experience your homeland for themselves. Well come we did, Nords, and the reception was less than was promised - but exactly what we expected. So I, Atal Sarys, Dunmer and immigrant to Skyrim, have decided to answer your beloved book with a work of my own. And let all who read it know that Nords are not the only race to reside in this cold and inhospitable realm. For we dark elves have come, and little by little, shall claim Skyrim as our own. But where, you may ask, have we taken up residence? Why none other than the ancient city of Windhelm, once the capital of the First Empire. Yes, Nords, in the shadow of your own Palace of the Kings, where the Nord hero Ysgramor once held court, we now thrive. Oh yes. Your beloved Five Hundred Companions may have driven our ancestors from Skyrim, but that was then. This is now. Indeed, one might be surprised as to just how well we've settled into Windhelm. The district once known as the Snow Quarter is thus named no more. Now, they call it the Gray Quarter, for such is the reality of the Dunmer occupation. The district is now populated entirely by my kind, a victory not lost on its residents. Oh, but the peaceful occupation goes even further. Thirsty? You'll find no Nord mead hall in the Gray Quarter. But the spirits flow well enough in the New Gnisis Cornerclub. Seeking a respected family? You'll find no Gray-Manes within these walls. But perhaps you'd like to pay a visit to the home of Belyn Hlaalu, descendant of one of the most noble houses in all of Morrowind. Ah, but no. You Nords don't come to the Gray Quarter, do you? You fear our streets as you fear our skin. So now, "children of Skyrim," you have the truth of it. You may call this province home, but you can no sooner claim to own it than a cow can claim to own its master's field. You are just another breed of domestic animal, grazing stupidly while higher beings plot your slaughter.

84book2CommonDwarvenArchitectureVolI[pagebreak]

Dwemer Inquiries Vol I Their Architecture and Civilization by Thelwe Ghelein, Scholar

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In the Deep Halls, far from Men Forsaken Red Mountain, Twisted Kin Hail the Mind, Hail the Stone Dwarven Pride, Stronger than bone t has been my life's work to investigate the Dwemer, their dubious history and mysterious banishment. My goal with this text is to share my findings and conclusions based on eighty years spent studying their unique architectural remains. The Migration of the Deep-Elves from their ancestral Dwemereth, now Morrowind, is a generally accepted fact. Recorded history supports this, specifically mentioning the Rourken Clan's refusal to join King Dumac in the forming of the First Council, and their subsequent exodus to Hammerfell. The architectural premise is also sound, as the building habits of the Dwarves adapted and changed, albeit slowly and in subtle ways, over time and land. I propose that some of these differences are stylistic as well as practical. Traditional viewpoints suggest that the Vvardenfell Dwemer were the most prolific of their kind. Based on my excavations throughout Skyrim, Morrowind and High Rock, I am not sure that this is the case. While Vvardenfell is almost cluttered with dwarven ruins poking through the surface of the landscape, the construction of those ruins is fundamentally different from the majority of what I've observed elsewhere. Further, as we delve into Vvardenfell ruins, we notice that their internal structure is quite different. While major civic and operational chambers are found near the surface in a Vvardenfell Ruin, that is not typically the case on the Mainland. Minor passageways and storehouse rooms are near the surface, but more important locations don't occur until we explore much deeper. Because such major locations are well-hidden in Dwemer Ruins outside of Morrowind, many scholars believed they were in fact not present in ruins outside that province. This premature conclusion led some to believe such sites to be mere outposts. My research has shown this not to be the case. There are a few theories that may explain this difference. Perhaps Clan architects simply had their own styles and preferences when it came to civic planning. This seems only somewhat likely, as Dwarven techniques were based on empirical study, there was likely little room for creative interpretation when it came to building technique. Geological makeup of the terrain almost certainly played a role, especially in a region like Northern Skyrim where the ground near the surface is very rocky and often frozen, versus the volcanic substratum common in Vvardenfell or the ubiquitous aquifers found in Hammerfell. It's possible that Dwarven architects in the North were not even able to excavate larger structures until reaching more pliable stratum. This scholar would like to suggest, however, that many structures west of Morrowind were built after 1E420. When the Clan Rourken left Vvardenfell, it seems evident that several clans broke off to create their own settlements, and chose to live in greater isolation than their Eastern brethren. This theory is particularly fascinating, because it leads me to believe that Dwarven architects may have developed even more elaborate methods of hiding their strongholds over time. This opens the distinct possibility that undisturbed dwarven archaeological sites exist throughout Tamriel, even in southern areas like Cyrodiil or Black Marsh where Dwarves are not believed to have ever had a significant presence. Though we ought not get carried away on flights of fancy, one could extrapolate this logic to suggest that some Dwarven Clans were living among us for much longer than previously believed, perhaps well beyond the disappearance during the War of the Red Mountain in 1E700.

85book2CommonDwarvenArchitectureVolII[pagebreak]

Dwemer Inquiries Vol II Their Architecture and Civilization by Thelwe Ghelein, Scholar

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In the Deep Halls, far from Men Forsaken Red Mountain, Twisted Kin Hail the Mind, Hail the Stone Dwarven Pride, Stronger than bone The limited written record supports the perception of the Deep Elves as culturally revering the pursuits of logic and science. This stands in stark contrast to the belief system of most other mer cultures. When we imagine a society structured around such a central ideology, it seems reasonable that prolific scholars, especially in fields such as mathematics, metallurgy or architecture, would be elevated to social status like that of clergy in a more mystically-inclined culture. The idea is supported by a fragment of Dwemeris text recovered from a colony in Skyrim - Irkgnthand - which I believe to be associated with the Clan Rourken. The original Dwemeris and my translation Follow: Risen by order cousin-of-privilege Cuolec of Scheziline privileged duties. Clanhome building Hoagen Kultorra tradition to Hailed World shaper" "To raise granted-cousin Cuolec of privilege with duties for family-home building Hoagen Kultorra tradition to father Mundus shaper" Some scholars interpret this as evidence of Dwemer worship of Mundus, but I do not agree. My translation of this passage suggests that a respected Dwemer by the name of Cuolec was promoted to a civic position, probably tonal architect. The latter half of the fragment suggests that Cuolec's position requires him to build in a specific style. The term Hoagen Kultorra has thus far eluded me, but I believe it may be the name of such a style. It's possible there were several styles, differing in their construction principles and typical structures. One earmark of what I believe was the prevalent Dwemer style among Northern clans was a feature I call the Deep Venue. Deep Venues are often characterized as being made up of one or more expansive natural caverns in which several other structures will occur. Structures within the Venue may be carved from the stone itself, or freely erected upon the cavern floor. The largest and most impressive Venues, such as that found in Bthardamz, may even feature roads wide enough for ten large men to walk shoulder-meets-shoulder along it. Arcanex are typically smaller structures. Very few have been properly studied before disruption by grave-robbers or greedy adventurers, but those few undisturbed sites have contained a surprising collection of magical objects such as soul-gems, alchemical concoctions and magical texts. Some scholars take these as evidence that the Dwemer did, in fact, dabble in the magical arts. Based on what we know of their culture, as well as the fact that most arcanex are minor structures compared to other common fixtures, I would suggest that these were centers of study and nothing more. Perhaps the Dwarves established these Halls as a means to study men and mer, who surely seemed as alien to them as the Dwemer seem to us today? Great Animoculotories can be found in many Dwarven strongholds. These were the factories where the centurions and various other constructs were built. I have hoped to study these chambers for clues as to the means by which those mysterious automata are given life, but those same guardians make these especially difficult and dangerous areas to explore.

86book2CommonDwarvenArchitectureVolIII[pagebreak]

Dwemer Inquiries Vol III Their Architecture and Civilization by Thelwe Ghelein, Scholar

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In the Deep Halls, far from Men Forsaken Red Mountain, Twisted Kin Hail the Mind, Hail the Stone Dwarven Pride, Stronger than bone My studies, and this text, have focused heavily on the fact that Dwemer archaeological sites west of Vvardenfell seem to be built at much greater depths than their counterparts near the Red Mountain. I believe there was a specific threshold to which Dwarven excavators would dig before the construction of vital structures would begin. I have referred to this threshold as the "Geocline," but I have found that to often be redundant with the Deep Venue of a colony. Still, there is some variation in the actual depth of a Deep Venue, whereas the Geocline is always the marker where I reason the City proper begins. Tunnels and chambers at more shallow depths, while often grand in their architectural style, appear to have served little in the way of critical civic purpose. Surplus stores of food, warehouse chambers that may have been used in trading with nearby surface settlements, or barracks for topside patrols are common above the Geocline. These tunnels, I have observed, can meander in a seemingly more random pattern than those planned structures beneath. I hypothesize that this may be due to the unpredictable nature of any excavation, even to a race as clever as the Dwemer. Surely unexpected deposits of stone or geological events could make the effort difficult, and I think that these haphazard tunnels are often the result of the search for suitable substratum to build within. I have found in a small number of ruins reference to a geological anomaly or place known as "FalZhardum Din" . This is intriguing because the term not only appears in a few tablet fragments, but very specifically on ornate metal frames in the deepest reaches of the Strongholds Alftand, Irkgnthand and Mzinchaleft of Skyrim. I have yet to decipher the meaning of these elaborate carvings, but consider it highly strange that they occur in the deepest part of each of these ruin. Risen by order cousin-of-privilege Cuolec of Scheziline privileged duties. Clanhome building Hoagen Kultorra tradition to Hailed World shaper" The most reasonable translation of "FalZhardum Din" I have managed to decipher is "Blackest Kingdom Reaches", but I cannot imagine what that means. I suspect there may be some pattern I am failing to notice. This creeping doubt has haunted my career in recent years, and I have begun to doubt if I will unravel some grand secret of the Dwarves in my lifetime, though it lies just under my nose - or indeed, under my feet.

87Book2CommonExplorersGuideToSkyrim[pagebreak]

An Explorer's Guide to Skyrim by Marcius Carvain, Viscount Bruma

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ar too often, noble visitors from Cyrodiil see little more of Skyrim than the view from their carriage. To be sure, this coarse, uncivilized province is far from hospitable, but it is also a place of fierce, wild beauty, with grand vistas and inspiring natural wonders awaiting those with the will to seek them out and the refinement to truly appreciate them. If you are of a mind to see Skyrim for yourself, I recommend beginning your adventure as I did, by seeking out Stones of Fate. No doubt you are taken aback by the name, as I once was. The provincials and village folk have all manner of dark tales about these ancient monuments. Stories of necromantic rituals and fell spirits, of great and terrible powers conferred on any who dare to touch them. The stories are, as Jarl Igrof once told me, "A load of mammoth dung." A bit uncouth, but you get the point. To be sure, keep your guards with you at all times - brigands and wild animals are never to be taken lightly. But the stones themselves are nothing to fear. Quite the contrary, their proximity to cities and roads makes them ideal destinations for the novice explorer, and many boast spectacular views that make the journey well worth the effort. To whet your appetite, here are four such locations: Most travelers enter Skyrim by way of Helgen, "Gateway to the North." If you find yourself in this backwater hovel, consider taking an afternoon's ride to the north, keeping to the road as it winds down the cliffs at the eastern end of Lake Ilinalta. Just off the path, on a small bluff, lie the three Guardian Stones, the greatest concentration of standing stones in all Skyrim. The view of the lake here at sunset is simply sublime. Visitors from Cheydinhal will pass through Riften, city of intrigue and larceny since Tiber Septim's day. If you seek adventure in the Rift, leave the city by the southern gate and cast your gaze upon the bluff that rises to the south. Atop it sits the Shadow Stone, a fitting symbol for the city of thieves. Whiterun is the heart of Skyrim, its towering palace rivaling even the great castles of Cyrodiil. But should you tire of the Jarl's hospitality, another adventure awaits a few hours to the east of the city, along the road that rises above White River Gorge. The Ritual Stone can be found atop the lone hill that rises on the north side of the road, set into an ancient monument. Take time to soak in the incredible view of Whiterun, the tundra, and the gorge from this unique spot. More seasoned explorers may wish to visit Markarth, the ancient city of stone far to the west. The recent Forsworn Rebellion has made travel in the Reach perilous, but for those determined to seek adventure no matter the cost, another stone can be found to the east of the city, perched on the mountain above Kolskeggr Mine. Though the climb is difficult, reaching the summit is a milestone any explorer could be proud of. There are other Stones of Fate to be found in Skyrim - I myself have seen several more, perched on the most remote mountain peaks, or wreathed in fog amid the northern marshes. But the true joy of exploration is in the discovery, and so I leave the rest to you. May the Eight guide your steps.

88Book2CommonFallFromGlory[pagebreak]

Fall from Glory by Nithilis Lidari

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he Thieves Guild of Skyrim is something of an enigma. Within the last few decades, their order has gone from one of the largest, most influential criminal organizations in all of Tamriel to a small group of stragglers barely able to wreak havoc in their home city of Riften. Although evidence that could explain this rapid decline has never surfaced, speculation has run rampant. One theory holds that the Guild suffered a loss - it's strongly believed that their Guild Master was slain by one of their own. This Guild Master, known only as "Gallus," maintained strong ties with many of the influential families in Skyrim. When he perished, those bonds perished with him. Without these bonds, the Guild could no longer safely operate within Skyrim's holds. A second theory suggests that the Guild is experiencing some sort of mystical "curse" causing normal activities for its members to become exceedingly difficult. While there is no solid evidence to support this theory, the last two decades have seen an unusual rise in failed attempts by the Guild to execute highly lucrative heists. Reasons for the presence of this supposed curse is being attributed to everything from the aforementioned murder to divine interference. In order to solve this mystery once and for all, I've spent the last two years infiltrating the Thieves Guild. Initially making contact with them in Riften proved difficult, as they're quite wary of outsiders, but through repeated efforts I was able to gain their confidence. It's my hope that once I've gained access to some of the Guild leadership, I can learn more about their decline and publish a second volume of my work. Although helping the Guild perform their petty crimes brands me as a criminal, I feel that it's a burden worth bearing. The mystery of the Thieves Guild's fall from power needs to be solved once and for all as a matter of record and as a footnote to Skyrim's history.

89Book2CommonFirstHoldRevolt[pagebreak]

The Firsthold Revolt by Maveus Cie

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ou told me that if her brother won, she would be sister to the King of Wayrest, and Reman would want to keep her for the alliance. But her brother Helseth lost and has fled with his mother back to Morrowind, and still Reman has not left her to marry me." Lady Gialene took a long, slow drag of the hookah and blew out dragon's breath, so the scent of blossoms perfumed her gilded chamber. "You make a very poor advisor, Kael. I might have spent my time romancing the king of Cloudrest or Alinor instead of the wretched royal husband of Queen Morgiah." Kael knew better than to hurt his lady's vanity by the mere suggestion that the King of Firsthold might have come to love his Dunmer Queen. Instead he gave her a few minutes to pause and look from her balcony out over the high cliff palaces of the ancient capitol. The moons shone like crystal on the deep sapphire waters of the Abecean Sea. It was ever springtide here, and he could well understand why she would prefer a throne in this land than in Cloudrest or Alinor. Finally, he spoke: "The people are with you, my lady. They do not relish the idea of Reman's dark elf heirs ruling the kingdom when he is gone." "I wonder," she said calmly. "I wonder if as the King would not give up his Queen for want of alliances, whether she would give herself up out of fear. Of all the people of Firsthold, who most dislikes the Dunmer influence on the court?" "Is this a trick question, my lady?" asked Kael. "The Trebbite Monks, of course. Their credo has ever been for pure Altmer bloodlines on Summurset, and among the royal families most of all. But, my lady, they make very weak allies." "I know," said Gialene, taking up her hookah again thoughtfully, a smile creeping across her face. "Morgiah has seen to it that they have no power. She would have exterminated them altogether had Reman not stopped her for all the good they do for the country folk. What if they found themselves with a very powerful benefactress? One with intimate knowledge of the court of Firsthold, the chief concubine of the King, and all the gold to buy weapons with that her father, the King of Skywatch, could supply?" "Well-armed and with the support of the country people, they would be formidable," nodded Kael. "But as your advisor, I must warn you: if you make yourself an active foe of Queen Morgiah, you must play to win. She has inherited much of her mother Queen Barenziah's intelligence and spirit of vengeance." "She will not know I am her foe until it is too late," shrugged Gialene. "Go to the Trebbite monastery and bring me Friar Lylim. We must strategize our plan of attack." For two weeks, Reman was advised about growing resentment in the countryside from peasants who called Morgiah the "Black Queen," but it was nothing that he had not heard before. His attention was on the pirates on a small island off the coast called Calluis Lar. They had been more brazen as late, attacking royal barges in organized raids. To deliver a crushing blow, he ordered the greatest part of his militia to invade the island -- an incursion he himself would lead. A few days after Reman left the capitol, the revolt of the Trebbite Monks exploded. The attacks were well-coordinated and without warning. The Chief of the Guards did not wait to be announced, bursting into Morgiah's bedchamber ahead of a flurry of maidservants. "My Queen," he said. "It is a revolution." By contrast, Gialene was not asleep when Kael came to deliver the news. She was seated by the window, smoking her hookah and looking at the fires far off in the hills. "Morgiah is with council," he explained. "I am certain they are telling her that the Trebbite Monks are behind the uprising, and that the revolution will be at the city gates by morning." "How large is the revolutionary army in contrast to the remaining royal militia?" asked Gialene. "The odds are well in our favor," said Kael. "Though not perhaps as much as we hoped. The country folk, it seems, like to complain about their queen, but stop short of insurrection. Primarily, the army is composed of the Monks themselves and a horde of mercenaries your father's gold bought. In a way of thinking, it is preferable this way -- they are more professional and organized that a common mob. Really, they are a true army, complete with a horn section." "If that doesn't frighten the Black Queen into abdication, nothing will," smiled Gialene, rising from her chair. "The poor dear must be beside herself with worry. I must fly to her side and enjoy it." Gialene was disappointed when she saw Morgiah come out of the Council Chambers. Considering that she had been woken from a deep sleep with cries of revolution and had spent the last several hours in consultation with her meager general force, she looked beautiful. There was a sparkle of proud defiance in her bright red eyes. "My Queen," Gialene cried, forcing real tears. "I came as soon as I heard! Will we all be slaughtered?" "A distinct possibility," replied Morgiah simply. Gialene tried to read her, but the expressions of women, especially alien women, were a far greater challenge than those of Altmer men. "I hate myself for even thinking to propose this," said Gialene. "But since the cause of their fury is you, perhaps if you were to give up the throne, they might disperse. Please understand, my queen, I am thinking only of the good of the kingdom and our own lives." "I understand the spirit of your suggestion," smiled Morgiah. "And I will take it under advisement. Believe me, I've thought of it myself. But I don't think it will come to that." "Have you a plan for defending us?" asked Gialene, contorting her features to an expression she knew bespoke girlish hope. "The king left us several dozen of his royal battlemages," said Morgiah. "I think the mob believes we have nothing but palace guards and a few soldiers to protect us. When they get to the gates are greeted with a wave of fireballs, I find it highly likely that they will lose heart and retreat." "But isn't there some protection they could be using against such an assault?" asked Gialene in her best worried voice. "If they knew about it, naturally there is. But an unruly mob is unlikely to have mages skilled in the arts of Restoration, by which they could shield themselves from the spells, or Mysticism, by which they could reflect the spells back on my battlemages. That would be the worst scenario, but even if they were well-organized enough to have Mystics in their ranks -- and enough of them to reflect so many spells -- it just isn't done. No battlefield commander would advise such a defense during a siege unless he knew precisely what he was going to be meeting. And then, of course, once the trap is sprung" Morgiah winked. "It's too late for a countering spell." "A most cunning solution, your highness," said Gialene, honestly impressed. Morgiah excused herself to meet with her battlemages, and Gialene gave her an embrace. Kael was waiting in the palace garden for his lady. "Are there Mystics among the mercenaries?" she asked quickly. "Several, in fact," replied Kael, bewildered by her query. "Largely rejects from the Psijic Order, but they know enough to cast the regular spells of the school." "You must sneak out the city gates and tell Friar Lylim to have them cast reflection spells on all the front line before they attack," said Gialene. "That's most irregular battlefield strategy," frowned Kael. "I know it is, fool, that's what Morgiah is counting on. There's a gang of battlemages who are going to be waiting on the battlements to greet our army with a barrage of fire balls." "Battlemages? I would have thought that King Reman would have brought them with him to fight the pirates." "You would have thought that," laughed Gialene. "But then we would be defeated. Now go!" Friar Lylim agreed with Kael that it was a bizarre, unheard-of way to begin a battle, casting reflection spells on all one's troops. It went against every tradition, and as a Trebbite Monk, he valued tradition above every other virtue. There was little other choice, though, given the intelligence. He had few enough healers in the army as it were, and their energies could not be wasted casting resistance spells. At dawn's light, the rebel army was in sight of the gleaming spires of Firsthold. Friar Lylim gathered together every soldier who knew even the rudimentary secrets of Mysticism, who knew how to tap in to the elementary conundrums and knots of the energies of magicka. Though few were masters of the art, their combined force was powerful to behold. A great surge of entangling power washed over the army, crackling, hissing, and infusing all with their ghostly force. When they arrived at the gates, every soldier, even the least imaginative, knew that no spell would touch him for a long time. Friar Lylim watched his army batter into the gate with the great satisfaction of a commander who has counteracted an unthinkable attack with an outrageous defense. The smile quickly faded from his face. They were met at the battlements not by mages but by common archers of the palace guard. As the flaming arrows fell upon the siegers like a red rain, the healers ran in to help the wounded. Their healing spells reflected off the dying men, one after the other. Chaos ruled as the attackers suddenly found themselves defenseless and began a panicked, unorganized retreat. Friar Lylim himself considered briefly holding his ground before fleeing himself. Later, he would send furious notes to Lady Gialene and Kael, but they were returned. Even his best secret agents within the palace were unable to find their whereabouts. Neither had, as it turns out, much previous experience with torture, and they soon confessed their treachery to the King's satisfaction. Kael was executed, and Gialene was sent back with escort to her father's court of Skywatch. He has still to find a husband for her. Reman, by contrast, has elected not to take a new royal concubine. The common folk of Firsthold consider this break in palace protocol to be more of the sinister alien influence of the Black Queen, and grumble to all who will listen.

90Book2CommonFjoriAndHolgeir[pagebreak]

Of Fjori and Holgeir

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n her 29th summer of life, Fjori the huntress met the warlord Holgeir on the field of battle. None remember what they fought over, for their love to come was so great it overshadowed all rivalries or disputes. They fought to a standstill, as their followers looked on - till her sword broke his axe and his shield dulled her blade and all could see that they were equals. As the Eagle finds its mates, so too did Fjori find hers in Holgeir, and a time of peace came to the clans of the forest. But as the summer's warmth gives way to winter's chill, so too would this peace pass. But the Snake came and bit Holgeir, its venom seeping deep into the wound. A Whale greeted Fjori's view as she came over the snow-covered mountains to the coast. She obtained an elixir from the Akavir and returned to the forest in haste. Though Holgeir could smell the winds of Sovngarde, she gave him the elixir and he was cured in an instant. But the Snake bit Fjori as she poured the last drop into Holgeir's mouth, and fatigued from her journey, she joined the ancestors immediately. Holgeir's grief was such that he built a tomb and upon completion, took his own life that he might rejoin her.

91Book2CommonFrontierConquest[pagebreak]

Frontier, Conquest and Accommodation: A Social History of Cyrodiil

University of Gwylim Press 3E 344

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istorians often portray the human settlement of Tamriel as a straightforward process of military expansion of the Nords of Skyrim. In fact, human settlers occupied nearly every corner of Tamriel before Skyrim was even founded. These so-called "Nedic peoples" include the proto-Cyrodilians, the ancestors of the Bretons, the aboriginals of Hammerfell, and perhaps a now-vanished Human population of Morrowind. Strictly speaking, the Nords are simply another of these Nedic peoples, the only one that failed to find a method of peaceful accommodation with the Elves who already occupied Tamriel. Ysgramor was certainly not the first human settler in Tamriel. In fact, in "fleeing civil war in Atmora," as the Song of Return states, Ysgramor was following a long tradition of migration from Atmora; Tamriel had served as a "safety valve" for Atmora for centuries before Ysgramor's arrival. Malcontents, dissidents, rebels, landless younger sons, all made the difficult crossing from Atmora to the "New World" of Tamriel. New archeological excavations date the earliest human settlements in Hammerfell, High Rock, and Cyrodiil at ME800-1000, centuries earlier than Ysgramor, even assuming that the twelve Nord "kings" prior to Harald were actual historical figures. The Nedic peoples were a minority in a land of Elves, and had no choice but to live peacefully with the Elder Race. In High Rock, Hammerfell, Cyrodiil, and possibly Morrowind, they did just that, and the Nedic peoples flourished and expanded over the last centuries of the Merethic Era. Only in Skyrim did this accommodation break down, an event recorded in the Song of Return. Perhaps, being close to reinforcements from Atmora, the proto-Nords did not feel it necessary to submit to the authority of the Skyrim Elves. Indeed, the early Nord chronicles note that under King Harald, the first historical Nord ruler (1E 113-221), "the Atmoran mercenaries returned to their homeland" following the consolidation of Skyrim as a centralized kingdom. Whatever the case, the pattern was set -- in Skyrim, expansion would proceed militarily, with human settlement following the frontier of conquest, and the line between Human territory and Elven territory was relatively clear. But beyond this "zone of conflict," the other Nedic peoples continued to merge with their Elven neighbors. When the Nord armies of the First Empire finally entered High Rock and Cyrodiil, they found Bretons and proto-Cyrodiils already living there among the Elves. Indeed, the Nords found it difficult to distinguish between Elf and Breton, the two races had already intermingled to such a degree. The arrival of the Nord armies upset the balance of power between the Nedic peoples and the Elves. Although the Nords' expansion into High Rock and Cyrodiil was relatively brief (less than two centuries), the result was decisive; from then on, power in those regions shifted from the Elves to the Humans.

92Book2CommonFrostbiteSpiderVenom[pagebreak]

Harvesting Frostbite Spider Venom

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y reserves of frostbite spider venom are nearly depleted. The injuries I suffered in my last encounter with these deadly arachnids prevent me from undertaking the task myself, which is why I've hired you. Collecting the venom of the frostbite spider is not a complicated task, but there is some risk involved. I've written this brief guide in the hope that you'll be able to avoid making some of the mistakes that I've made. Frostbite spiders most often make their lairs in caves. These creatures do not shun the icy climes of the north, for as their name implies, they are largely immune to the cold. When food is especially scarce, a spider will venture out to hunt prey in the wilderness. Usually, however, the eight-legged devils prefer to ambush those unfortunate creatures who venture into their caverns seeking shelter. The easiest way to locate a nest of frostbite spiders is to search for their large webs. Just take care not to get caught in one, for these webs are strong enough to trap a full-grown man. Once any part of you touches the sticky threads, it's nearly impossible to get free without help. Also, keep a watchful eye toward the ceiling. The frostbite spider is as stealthy as it is swift, and can drop down onto your head and have its fangs in your back before you can scream. As long as you find the frostbite spider before it finds you, collecting the venom should be a simple matter. Because they rely on their webs to immobilize their prey, the creatures are not that difficult to kill in open combat. If you're inclined toward the arcane arts, don't bother with ice spells. Fire magic will serve you far better. With that, I will say farewell and good hunting. Remember, any loot that you find in the spider's web is yours to keep. [pagebreak] The larger the hole, the larger the spider.

93Book2CommonGalerionTheMystic[pagebreak]

Galerion The Mystic by Asgrim Kolsgreg

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uring the early bloody years of the Second Era, Vanus Galerion was born under the name Trechtus, a serf on the estate of a minor nobleman, Lord Gyrnasse of Sollicich-on-Ker. Trechtus' father and mother were common laborers, but his father had secretly, against the law of Lord Gyrnasse, taught himself and then Trechtus to read. Lord Gyrnasse had been advised that literate serfs were an abomination of nature and dangerous to themselves and their lords, and had closed all bookstalls within Sollicich-on-Ker. All booksellers, poets, and teachers were forbidden, except within Gyrnasse's keep. Nevertheless, a small scale smuggling operation kept a number of books and scrolls in circulation right under Gyrnasse's shadow. When Trechtus was eight, the smugglers were found and imprisoned. Some said that Trechtus's mother, an ignorant and religious woman fearful of her husband, was the betrayer of the smugglers, but there were other rumors as well. The trial of the smugglers was nonexistant, and the punishment swift. The body of Trechtus' father was kept hanging for weeks during the hottest summer Sollicich-on-Ker had seen in centuries. Three months later, Trechtus ran away from Lord Gyrnasse's estate. He made it as far as Alinor, half-way across Summerset Isle. A band of troubadours found him nearly dead, curled up in a ditch by the side of the road. They nursed him to health and employed him as an errand boy in return for food and shelter. One of the troubadours, a soothsayer named Heliand, began testing Trechtus' mind and found the boy, though shy, to be preternaturally intelligent and sophisticated given his circumstances. Heliand recognized in the boy a commonality, for Heliand had been trained on the Isle of Artaeum as a mystic. When the troupe was performing in the village of Potansa on the far eastern end of Summurset, Heliand took Trechtus, then a boy of eleven, to the Isle of Artaeum. The Magister of the Isle, Iachesis, recognized potential in Trechtus and took him on as pupil, giving him the name of Vanus Galarion. Vanus trained his mind on the Isle of Artaeum, as well as his body. Thus was the first Archmagister of the Mages Guild trained. From the Psijics of the Isle of Artaeum, he received his training. From his childhood of want and injustice, he received his philosophy of sharing knowledge.

94Book2CommonGiantsAndMammoths[pagebreak]

Ode To The Tundrastriders

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h mighty tundrastrider! How you and your mighty tusked beast silhouette against the great orange expanse. Thundering footsteps herald your herd. Man and beast blazing trail together. One in nature, each relying upon the other, more than just man and beast, but equals who need one another to survive. How I long to run across the tundra in their mighty wake. That would truly be my greatest honor. The morning would be spent gathering dyes to paint our mammoths and then carve the fiercest images into their tusks. Then it would be time for the skeever hunt. Our clubs would rain down upon the rat pests smashing the life out of them. In the evening could sit around the campfire and I would regale those nearby with songs of their majesty and grace. They would let me sample of the mammoth's cheese. A food so foul yet with healing properties so great. We'd snack on the roasted skeever we'd freshly caught that day before laying under the stars to sleep. I'd slowly fade to dream nested in the radiating heat of mammoth fur. It's cold resisting properties keeping me snug. What a grand time we would have.

Unknown

95Book2CommonGreatWar[pagebreak]

A Concise Account of the Great War Between the Empire and the Aldmeri Dominion by Legate Justianus Quintius

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Author's Note: Much of what is written in this book is pieced together from documents captured from the enemy during the war, interrogation of prisoners, and eyewitness accounts from surviving soldiers and Imperial officers. I myself commanded the Tenth Legion in Hammerfell and Cyrodiil until I was wounded in 175 during the assault on the Imperial City. That said, the full truth of some events may never be known. I have done my best to fill in the gaps with educated conjectures based on my experience as well as my hard-earned knowledge of the enemy. [pagebreak] The Rise of the Thalmor lthough it is not well known, Summerset Isle suffered from the Oblivion Crisis as much as Cyrodiil did. The elves made war upon the Oblivion invaders, occasionally even crossing over to close down Oblivion gates. As a nation they had more successes than Cyrodiil did, although the limitless daedric hordes made the outcome a foregone conclusion. The Thalmor had always been a powerful faction within Summerset Isle, but had also always been a minority voice. During the crisis, the Crystal Tower was forced to give the Thalmor greater power and authority. Their efforts almost certainly saved Summerset Isle from being overrun. They capitalized on their success to seize total control in 4E 22. They renamed the nation Alinor, which hearkens back to an earlier age before the ascendency of man. Most people outside of the Aldmeri Dominion still call it Summerset Isle, either out of peevishness or ignorance. In 4E 29, the government of Valenwood was overthrown by Thalmor collaborators and a union with Alinor proclaimed. It appears that Thalmor agents had formed close ties to certain Bosmeri factions even before the Oblivion Crisis. The Empire and its Bosmer allies, caught completely off guard, were quickly defeated by the much-better prepared Altmer forces that invaded Valenwood on the heels of the coup. Thus was the Aldmeri Dominion reborn. Shortly afterward the Aldmeri Dominion severed all contact with the Empire. For seventy years they were silent. Most scholars believe there was some sort of internal strife in Alinor, but very little is known of the factional struggles that went on inside the Dominion while the Thalmor consolidated its power in Summerset and Valenwood. In 4E 98, the two moons, Masser and Secunda vanished. Within most of the Empire, this was viewed with trepidation and fear. In Elsweyr it was far worse. Culturally the moons are much more influential to the Khajiit. After two years of the Void Nights, the moons returned. The Thalmor announced that they had restored the moons using previously unknown Dawn Magicks, but it is unclear if they truly restored the moons or just took advantage of foreknowledge that they would return. Regardless of the truth of the matter, the Khajiit credited the Thalmor as their saviors. Within fifteen years, Imperial influence in Elsweyr had so diminished that the Empire was unable to respond effectively to the coup of 4E 115 which dissolved the Elsweyr Confederacy and recreated the ancient kingdoms of Anequina and Pelletine as client states of the Aldmeri Dominion. Once more the Empire failed to stop the advance of Thamor power. When Titus Mede II ascended the throne in 4E 168, he inherited a weakened empire. The glory days of the Septims were a distant memory. Valenwood and Elsweyr were gone, ceded to the Thalmor enemy. Black Marsh had been lost to Imperial rule since the aftermath of the Oblivion Crisis. Morrowind had never recovered fully from the eruption of Mount Vvardenfell. Hammerfell was plagued by infighting between Crowns and Forebears. Only High Rock, Cyrodiil and Skyrim remained prosperous and peaceful. Emperor Titus Mede had only a few short years to consolidate his rule before his leadership was put to the ultimate test. [pagebreak] The War Begins On the 30th of Frostfall, 4E 171, the Aldmeri Dominion sent an ambassador to the Imperial City with a gift in a covered cart and an ultimatum for the new Emperor. The long list of demands included staggering tributes, disbandment of the Blades, outlawing the worship of Talos, and ceding large sections of Hammerfell to the Dominion. Despite the warnings of his generals of the Empire's military weakness, Emperor Titus Mede II rejected the ultimatum. The Thalmor ambassador upended the cart, spilling over a hundred heads on the floor: every Blades agent in Summerset and Valenwood. And so began the Great War which would consume the Empire and the Aldmeri Dominion for the next five years. Within days, Aldmeri armies invaded Hammerfell and Cyrodiil simultaneously. A strong force commanded by the Thalmor general Lord Naarifin attacked Cyrodiil from the south, marching out of hidden camps in northern Elsweyr and flanking the Imperial defenses along the Valenwood border. Leyawiin soon fell to the invaders, while Bravil was cut off and besieged. At the same time, an Aldmeri army under Lady Arannelya crossed into western Cyrodiil from Valenwood, bypassing Anvil and Kvatch and crossing into Hammerfell. Smaller Aldmeri forces landed along the southern coastline of Hammerfell. The disunited Redguard forces offered only scattered resistance to the invaders, and much of the southern coastline was quickly overrun. The greatly outnumbered Imperial legions retreated across the Alik'r Desert in the now-famous March of Thirst. [pagebreak] 4E 172-173: The Aldmeri Advance Into Cyrodiil It appears now that the initial Aldmeri objective was in fact the conquest of Hammerfell, and that the invasion of Cyrodiil was intended only to pin down the Imperial legions while Hammerfell was overrun. However, the surprising initial success of Lord Naarifin's attack led the Thalmor to believe that the Empire was weaker than they had thought. The capture of the Imperial City itself and the complete overthrow of the Empire thus became their primary objective of the next two years. As we know, the Thalmor nearly achieved their objective. It was only because of our Emperor's determined leadership during the Empire's darkest hour that this disaster was averted. During 4E 172, the Aldmeri advanced deeper into Cyrodiil. Bravil and Anvil both fell to the invaders. By the end of the year, Lord Naarifin had advanced to the very walls of the Imperial City. There were fierce naval clashes in Lake Rumare and along the Niben as the Imperial forces attempted to hold the eastern bank. In Hammerfell, the Thalmor were content to consolidate their gains as they took control of the whole southern coastline, which was in fact their stated objective in the ultimatum delivered to the Emperor. Of the southern cities, only Hegathe still held out. The survivors of the March of Thirst regrouped in northern Hammerfell, joined by reinforcements from High Rock. The year 4E 173 saw stiffening Imperial resistance in Cyrodiil, but the seemingly inexorable Aldmeri advance continued. Fresh legions from Skyrim bolstered the Emperor's main army in the Imperial City, but the Aldmeri forced the crossing of the Niben and began advancing in force up the eastern bank. By the end of the year, the Imperial City was surrounded on three sides - only the northern supply route to Bruma remained open. In Hammerfell, Imperial fortunes took a turn for the better. In early 4E 173, a Forebear army from Sentinel broke the siege of Hegathe (a Crown city), leading to the reconciliation of the two factions. Despite this, Lady Arannelya's main army succeeded in crossing the Alik'r Desert. The Imperial Legions under General Decianus met them outside Skaven in a bloody and indecisive clash. Decianus withdrew and left Arannelya in possession of Skaven, but the Aldmeri were too weakened to continue their advance. [pagebreak] 4E 174: The Sack of the Imperial City In 4E 174, the Thalmor leadership committed all available forces to the campaign in Cyrodiil, gambling on a decisive victory to end the war once and for all. During the spring, Aldmeri reinforcements gathered in southern Cyrodiil, and on 12th of Second Seed, they launched a massive assault on the Imperial City itself. One army drove north to completely surround the city, while Lord Naarifin's main force attacked the walls from the south, east, and west. The Emperor's decision to fight his way out of the city rather than make a last stand was a bold one. No general dared advise him to abandon the capital, but Titus II was proven right in the end. While the Eighth Legion fought a desperate (and doomed) rearguard action on the walls of the city, Titus II broke out of the city to the north with his main army, smashing through the surrounding the Aldmeri forces and linking up with reinforcements marching south from Skyrim under General Jonna. Meanwhile, however, the capital fell to the invaders and the infamous Sack of the Imperial City began. The Imperial Palace was burned, the White-Gold Tower itself looted, and all manner of atrocities carried out by the vengeful elves on the innocent populace. In Hammerfell, General Decianus was preparing to drive the Aldmeri back from Skaven when he was ordered to march for Cyrodiil. Unwilling to abandon Hammerfell completely, he allowed a great number of "invalids" to be discharged from the Legions before they marched east. These veterans formed the core of the army that eventually drove Lady Arannelya's forces back across the Alik'r late in 174, taking heavy losses on their retreat from harassing attacks by the Alik'r warriors. [pagebreak] 4E 175: The Battle of the Red Ring During the winter of 4E 174-175, the Thalmor seem to have believed that the war in Cyrodiil was all but over. They made several attempts to negotiate with Titus II. The Emperor encouraged them in their belief that he was preparing to surrender; meanwhile, he gathered his forces to retake the Imperial City. In what is now known as the Battle of the Red Ring, a battle that will serve as a model for Imperial strategists for generations to come, Titus II divided his forces into three. One army, with the legions from Hammerfell under General Decianus, was hidden in the Colovian Highlands near Chorrol. The Aldmeri were unaware that he was no longer in Hammerfell, possibly because the Imperial veterans Decianus had left behind led Lady Arannelya to believe that she still faced an Imperial army. The second army, largely of Nord legions under General Jonna, took up position near Cheydinhal. The main army was commanded by the Emperor himself, and would undertake the main assault of the Imperial City from the north. On the 30th of Rain's Hand, the bloody Battle of the Red Ring began as General Decianus swept down on the city from the west, while General Jonna's legionnaires drove south along the Red Ring Road. In a two-day assault, Jonna's army crossed the Niben and advanced west, attempting to link up with Decianus's legions and thus surround the Imperial City. Lord Naarifin was taken by surprise by Decianus's assault, but Jonna's troops faced bitter resistance as the Aldmeri counterattacked from Bravil and Skingrad. The heroic Nord legionnaires held firm, however, beating off the piecemeal Aldmeri attacks. By the fifth day of the battle, the Aldmeri army in the Imperial City was surrounded. Titus II led the assault from the north, personally capturing Lord Naarifin. It is rumored the Emperor wielded the famed sword Goldbrand, although this has never been officially confirmed by the Imperial government. An attempt by the Aldmeri to break out of the city to the south was blocked by the unbreakable shieldwall of General Jonna's battered legions. In the end, the main Aldmeri army in Cyrodiil was completely destroyed. The Emperor's decision to withdraw from the Imperial City in 4E 174 was bloodily vindicated. Lord Naarifin was kept alive for thirty-three days, hanging from the White-Gold tower. It is not recorded where his body was buried, if it was buried at all. Once source claims he was carried off by a winged daedra on the thirty-fourth day. [pagebreak] The White-Gold Concordat and the End of the War Although victorious, the Imperial armies were in no shape to continue the war. The entire remaining Imperial force was gathered in Cyrodiil, exhausted and decimated by the Battle of the Red Ring. Not a single legion had more than half its soldiers fit for duty. Two legions had been effectively annihilated, not counting the loss of the Eighth during the retreat from the Imperial City the previous year. Titus II knew that there would be no better time to negotiate peace, and late in 4E 175 the Empire and the Aldmeri Dominion signed the White-Gold Concordat, ending the Great War. The terms were harsh, but Titus II believed that it was necessary to secure peace and give the Empire a chance to regain its strength. The two most controversial terms of the Concordat were the banning of the worship of Talos and the cession of a large section of southern Hammerfell (most of what was already occupied by Aldmeri forces). Critics have pointed out that the Concordat is almost identical to the ultimatum the Emperor rejected five years earlier. However, there is a great difference between agreeing to such terms under the mere threat of war, and agreeing to them at the end of a long and destructive war. No part of the Empire would have accepted these terms in 4E 171, dictated by the Thalmor at swords-point. Titus II would have faced civil war. By 4E 175, most of the Empire welcomed peace at almost any price. [pagebreak] Epilogue: Hammerfell Fights On Alone Hammerfell, however, refused to accept the White-Gold Concordat, being unwilling to concede defeat and the loss of so much of their territory. Titus II was forced to officially renounce Hammerfell as an Imperial province in order to preserve the hard-won peace treaty. The Redguards, understandably, looked on this as a betrayal. In this, the Thalmor certainly achieved one of their long-term goals by sowing lasting bitterness between Hammerfell and the Empire. In the end, the heroic Redguards fought the Aldmeri Dominion to a standstill, although the war lasted for five more years and left southern Hammerfell devastated. The Redguards say that this proves that the White-Gold Concordat was unnecessary, and that if Titus II had kept his nerve, the Aldmeri could have been truly defeated by the combined forces of Hammerfell and the rest of the Empire. The truth of that assertion can, of course, never be known. But the Redguards should not forget the great sacrifice of Imperial blood - Breton, Nord, and Cyrodilic - at the Battle of the Red Ring that weakened the Dominion enough to allow the eventual Second Treaty of Stros M'kai in 4E 180 and the withdrawal of Aldmeri forces from Hammerfell. There can be no doubt that the current peace cannot last forever. The Thalmor take the long view, as is proved by the sequence of events leading up to the Great War. All those who value freedom over tyranny can only hope that before it is too late, Hammerfell and the Empire will be reconciled and stand united against the Thalmor threat. Otherwise, any hope to stem the tide of Thalmor rule over all of Tamriel is dimmed.

96Book2CommonHagravens[pagebreak]

Herbane's Bestiary: Hagravens

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5 Sun's Dawn I have heard a tale most bizarre- a beautiful young woman cast out of town by the thrown stones of accusers for giving in to the dark arts. They say she fled into the Reach and never reappeared, and justly so because they say the devilry of her magic had grown stronger with each new day. Shortly after, a witch of half woman and half bird had been sighted deep in the mountains, and as the sightings increased the young women began to disappear. This tale has brought me to the Reach, where this witch they call a Hagraven makes it home. With sword and shield at the ready, for I must see this creature and I must slay it. 24 Sun's Dawn The stomach of an average man would turn at the cruelty set before me- I first saw the thatch and bone, the human skulls, the dead goat heads mounted on pikes, filthy animal pelts, loose entrails, and feathers matted in blood. I had heard that Forsworn revere and protect these Hagravens, and all around were their small, crude trinkets and alters to these witches on which sat dull, empty soul gems. What vile creature would live where all things are dead? Deeper into the lair, I heard it first- an unsteady shuffling, followed by a heaving, unforgettable stench. I thrust the torch in front of me and waited for my eyes to adjust to the tunnel of darkness ahead of me. I saw the silhouette of what I thought to be a frail woman on an awkward gait, but the light of the torch revealed something else. This Hagraven was horrifying, almost human but more an abomination of woman and creature fused together, nothing more than a husk of humanity surrendered in exchange for possession of the powers of dark magic. This magic corrupted her greatly, and her dull, glass eyes stared with hate from the visage of an old crone sat atop the body of a contorted, misshapen human body adorned with black feathers. It bristled as it let out a piercing scream, and as a vivid red light began to form in the palm of its talons, it was all I could do to raise my shield in defense of magic most foul. I fought through devilry that seemed to snatch life from me, and the thought that this thing was once a woman seemed to play on my nerves. Most men would have crumbled, but I do not bend. The Hagraven is a most repulsive creature, and deserving of its fate and its claws that are my trophy will tell the story of Herebanes triumph. I have naught but to continue my travels and my conquests, for I have yet to see what would make me tremble.

97Book2CommonLegendofRedEagle[pagebreak]

The Legend of Red Eagle by Tredayn Dren Archivist of Winterhold

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his tale was transcribed from the memory of Clarisse Vien, student of Winterhold. Elements of the legend suggest a date c.1E 1030, though as with any oral tradition, much of it is likely a later anachronism. Curiously, stories of a similar king and his legendary blade appear in other ancient myths of the Reach. [pagebreak] Long ago, a child was born in the Sundered Hills. They named him Faolan, which means 'Red Eagle' in the tongue of the Reach, for the screeching bird-call that greeted his birth, and the crimson blooms on the autumn hills. Thus began his legend: Reach-child, born under auspicious skies, his very name the color of blood. Ten kings ruled the Reach in those days, and though men were free, the people were scattered and warred amongst themselves. The augurs foresaw the boy's destiny: a warrior without peer, first and foremost Lord of the Reach, chosen to unite all under his name. Faolan grew in years and strength, and it seemed the prophecy would be fulfilled. The banner of the Red Eagle was raised along the cliffs of the Reach, and his people prospered. Then came Hestra, Empress of the South, riding to war. One by one, the kings stood before her. One by one, they fell aside, bending knee in Imperial bargains or slaughtered on the battlefield. Her legions came at last to the Sundered Hills, and envoys were sent to bargain for their surrender. Faolan refused to yield the freedom of his people, but the elders were afraid, cast him out, and accepted the Imperial yoke. Thus was stolen by the foreign invaders: his land, his people, his very name. In the years that followed, Red Eagle became known as the untamed spirit of the Reach, unbowed, unbroken, stained by the blood of his foes. [pagebreak] He gathered loyal Reachmen to himself, those who clung to the old ways, who yearned for freedom, and forged a new nation. Together, they fell upon the occupiers and the traitors by night, disappearing into the cliffs and caves each morn, evading capture. It was not enough. For every Imperial patrol and garrison they wiped out, yet more seemed to march from the green south to replace them. [pagebreak] One night, under a cloud-choked sky, the men of the Red Eagle warmed themselves over damp fires of smoldering moss. A huddled, shambling figure came to them, cloaked in rags, face cowled. Though his men mocked and cast stones at the stranger, Faolan sensed something, and beckoned. The cowl was thrown back in the dim light, and she revealed herself to be one the ancient and venerable Hagravens. She offered power, for a price, and a pact was made. Thus was brokered to the witch: his heart, his will, his humanity. From that day forth, his was a spirit of vengeance, pitiless and beyond remorse. The rebels grew in strength and numbers, and none could stand against them. Faolan's eyes burned coldly in those days, black opals reflecting a mind not entirely his own. Two years passed, and the foreigners were all but driven from the Reach. Such peace could not last, however, and a great host fell upon them, a swift army of invaders unlike any before. For a fortnight, Hestra's generals laid siege to Red Eagle's stronghold, till he himself came forth for battle, alone and robed in nothing but his righteous fury. A thousand foreigners fell before his flaming sword, and the enemy was routed. Yet, when night fell, so too did he. The warriors who came to him said Faolan's eyes were clear again on that final night. He was taken to the place prepared for him, a tomb hidden deep within the rock. With his remaining strength he presented his sword to his people, and swore an oath: Fight on, and when at last the Reach is free, his blade should be returned, that he might rise and lead them again. Thus was given for his people: his life, his dream, his sword. But when every debt is repaid in blood, these he shall reclaim once more.

98Book2CommonMadmenoftheReach[pagebreak]

The "Madmen" of the Reach: A Cultural Treatise on the Forsworn by Arrianus Arius Imperial Scholar

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ince the legendary victory of Tiber Septim over the "barbarian natives" in the Battle of Old Hroldan, Imperial and Nord scholarship has cast the people of the Reach as little more than savages, prone to irrational fits of violence, worshipping old, heretical gods, and fetishizing beasts and nature spirits that any civilized person would best well avoid. In truth, these accounts are little more than "victor's essays," a perspective narrowed by the Empire's constant strife with the ancient, proud people that lived in this land far before Tiber Septim walked the soil of Tamriel. In light of this, I hope to create a more complete, accurate, and fair assessment of a group that has long suffered under the role of "enemy," "troublemakers," and "them." Let us begin with the Forsworn, the so-called "madmen" of the Reach. The Imperial Legion classifies them as little more than brigands, noting their constant raids and ambushes within the Hold. But none of their military reports asks the question of "why?" If they were merely a group of bandits, surely they would be focused on acquiring gold and minimizing deaths among their own. But the opposite is true in Forsworn attacks. Large sums of coin are often left behind, and their fighters easily throw away their lives rather than risk capture by Imperial soldiers. It is this incongruity that led me to Markarth, the capital city of the Reach, in search of answers. There, I met one of the native peoples, an old woman who preferred to not be named in my writings. She told me of her family's long history. How she believes they originally came from High Rock, home of the Bretons (which would explain the similar faces and stature of the two peoples). How the Nords came and took their lands, their gods, and their culture from them. When asked about the Forsworn, the old woman would say that they are the "real" men and women of the Reach: those that refused to give in to the Nords. Those that still practiced the ancient traditions that the rest of their people had abandoned in exchange for peace. In time, I was able to create trust with many more natives in my search that corroborated the old woman's story. By chance, one of them arranged a meeting between myself and what I thought was an elder member of his village. I was shocked to find that I was led to a camp, filled with the animal skulls, severed heads, and still beating hearts that I had read about from the military reports back in the Imperial City. There, I met Cortoran, a Forsworn, who seemed amused at the prospect of me writing down his story. Which I quote in full below: "You want to know who the Forsworn are? We are the people who must pillage our own land. Burn our own ground. We are the scourge of the Nords. The axe that falls in the dark. The scream before the gods claim your soul. We are the true sons and daughters of the Reach. The spirits and hags have lived here from the beginning, and they are on our side. Go back. Go back and tell your Empire that we will have our own kingdom again. And on that day, we will be the ones burying your dead in a land that is no longer yours."

99Book2CommonManualMixedUnitTactics[pagebreak]

Mixed Unit Tactics in the Five Years War Volume One By Codus Callonus

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he Legions could learn from the unconventional tactics used by the Khajiit in the Five Years War against Valenwood. I was stationed at the Sphinxmoth Legion Fort on the border near Dune and witnessed many of the northern skirmishes firsthand. The war started with the so-called "Slaughter of Torval." The Khajiit claim that the Bosmer invaded the city without provocation and killed over a thousand citizens before being driven off by reinforcements from a nearby jungle tribe. The Bosmer claim that the attack was in retaliation for Khajiti bandits who were attacking wood caravans headed for Valenwood. In the spring of 3E 396 the war moved closer to Fort Sphinxmoth. I was posted on lookout and saw parts of the conflict. I later spoke with both Khajiit and Bosmer who fought in the battle, and it will serve as an excellent example of how the Khajiit used a mixture of ground and tree units to win the war. The Khajiit began the fight in an unusual way by sending tree-cutting teams of Cathay-raht and the fearsome Senche-raht or "Battlecats" into the outskirts of Valenwood's forests. When word reached the Bosmer that trees were being felled (allegedly a crime in the strange Bosmeri religion), a unit of archers were dispatched from larger conflicts in the south. The Bosmer were thus goaded into splitting their forces into smaller groups. The Bosmer archers took up positions in the remaining trees whose branches were now twenty or more feet apart, allowing some light into the forest floor. The Bosmer bent the remaining trees with their magics into small fortifications from which to fire their bows. When the tree-cutters arrived the next morning, a half dozen Khajiit fell to the Bosmer arrows in the first volley. After that the Khajiit took large wooden shields from the backs of the Senche-raht and made a crude shelter. The Khajiit, even the enormous Senche-raht, were able to hide between this shelter and one of the larger trees. When it became apparent that the Khajiit would not leave their shelter, some Bosmer chose to descend and engage the Khajiit sword-to-claw. When the Bosmer were nearly upon the shelter, one of the Khajiit began playing on a native instrument of plucked metal bars. This was a signal of some kind, and a small group of the man-like Ohmes and Ohmes-raht emerged from covered holes on the forest floor. Although outnumbered, they were attacking from behind by surprise and won the ground quickly. The Bosmer archers in the trees would have still won the battle were they not having troubles of their own. A group of Dagi and Dagi-raht, two of the less common forms of Khajiit who live in the trees of the Tenmar forest, jumped from one tree to another under a magical cover of silence. They took up positions in the higher branches that could not hold a Bosmer's weight. When the signal came, they used their claws and either torches or spells of fire (accounts from the two survivors I spoke with vary on this point) to distract the archers while the battle on the ground took place. A few of the archers were able to flee, but most were killed. Apparently the Dagi and Dagi-raht have more magical ability than is widely believed if they were able to keep themselves magically silenced for so long. One of the surviving Bosmer told me that he saw a few ordinary cats among the Dagi and even claimed that these ordinary cats are known as 'Alfiq' and that they were the spellcasters, but Bosmer are almost as unreliable as the Khajiit when it comes to the truth, and I cannot believe that a housecat can cast spells. At the end of the day the Khajiit lost perhaps a half-dozen fighters out a force of no more than four dozen, while the Bosmer lost nearly an entire company of archers. The survivors were unable to report back before a second company of archers arrived and this strategy was repeated again, with similar results. Finally, a much larger force was sent and the Bosmer won that battle with the help of the native animals of Valenwood. That third skirmish and the Khajiti response I will discuss in the second volume of this series.

100Book2CommonMysteriousAkavir[pagebreak]

Mysterious Akavir

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kavir means "Dragon Land". Tamriel means "Dawn's Beauty." Atmora means "Elder Wood". Only the Redguards know what Yokuda ever meant. Akavir is the kingdom of the beasts. No Men or Mer live in Akavir, though Men once did. These Men, however, were eaten long ago by the vampiric Serpent Folk of Tsaesci. Had they not been eaten, these Men would have eventually migrated to Tamriel. The Nords left Atmora for Tamriel. Before them, the Elves had abandoned Aldmeris for Tamriel. The Redguards destroyed Yokuda so they could make their journey. All Men and Mer know Tamriel is the nexus of creation, where the Last War will happen, where the Gods unmade Lorkhan and left their Adamantine Tower of secrets. Who knows what the Akaviri think of Tamriel, but ask yourself: why have they tried to invade it three times or more? There are four major nations of Akavir: Kamal, Tsaesci, Tang Mo, and Ka Po' Tun. When they are not busy trying to invade Tamriel, they are fighting with each other. Kamal is "Snow Hell". Demons live there, armies of them. Every summer they thaw out and invade Tang Mo, but the brave monkey-folk always drive them away. Once Ada'Soom Dir-Kamal, a king among demons, attempted to conquer Morrowind, but Almalexia and the Underking destroyed him at Red Mountain. Tsaesci is "Snake Palace", once the strongest power in Akavir (before the Tiger-Dragon came). The serpent-folk ate all the Men of Akavir a long time ago, but still kind of look like them. They are tall, beautiful (if frightening), covered in golden scales, and immortal. They enslave the goblins of the surrounding isles, who provide labor and fresh blood. The holdings of Tsaesci are widespread. When natives of Tamriel think of the Akaviri they think of the Serpent-Folk, because one ruled the Cyrodilic Empire for four hundred years in the previous era. He was Potentate Versidue-Shaie, assassinated by the Morag Tong. Tang Mo is the "Thousand Monkey Isles". There are many breeds of monkey-folk, and they are all kind, brave, and simple (and many are also very crazy). They can raise armies when they must, for all of the other Akaviri nations have, at one time or another, tried to enslave them. They cannot decide who they hate more, the Snakes or the Demons, but ask one, and he will probably say, "Snakes". Though once bitter enemies, the monkey-folk are now allies with the tiger-folk of Ka Po' Tun. Ka Po' Tun is the "Tiger-Dragon's Empire". The cat-folk here are ruled by the divine Tosh Raka, the Tiger-Dragon. They are now a very great empire, stronger than Tsaesci (though not at sea). After the Serpent-Folk ate all the Men, they tried to eat all the Dragons. They managed to enslave the Red Dragons, but the black ones had fled to (then) Po Tun. A great war was raged, which left both the cats and the snakes weak, and the Dragons all dead. Since that time the cat-folk have tried to become the Dragons. Tosh Raka is the first to succeed. He is the largest Dragon in the world, orange and black, and he has very many new ideas. "First," Tosh Raka says, "is that we kill all the vampire snakes." Then the Tiger-Dragon Emperor wants to invade Tamriel.

101Book2CommonNordsOfSkyrim[pagebreak]

Nords of Skyrim

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ords of Skyrim - My People, My Pride Respected reader. My name is Hrothmund Wolf-Heart, and I am a Nord. But, more importantly, I am a Nord born and raised in the land of Skyrim. I write this volume in the desperate hope that the rest of Tamriel can come to know my people as they deserve to be known, and understand this province for what it truly is - a place of uncontested beauty and culture. Some of what you know is undoubtedly true. Physically, we Nords are an impressive, often imposing sight - tall of stature, strong of bone, and thick of muscle. Our hair is often fair, and worn braided, as has been the custom for generations. Often we are swathed in the hides of beasts, for such creatures are abundant in Skyrim, and we would be foolish not to take advantage of such an available resource. Having read this far, you may be shocked at the strength of my words, and the literacy of a northern "savage." Aye, many Nords can both read and write. My father began my instruction in the way of letters when I was but a bairn, as did his father, and his father before him. But the accomplishments of the children of Skyrim are multitude, and go beyond mere wordcraft. For we are artisans as well, and through the ages have learned to manipulate steel the way a sculptor would clay. Indeed, I have seen with mine own eyes, visitors from High Rock and Cyrodiil weep in disbelief as they beheld the blades wrought in the fires of the Skyforge, and honed to beautiful deadliness by the gods-touched hands of Clan Gray-Mane. But how can this be true, you ask? How are such achievements possible from a people who have yet to emerge from the muck and snow? Again, provincial bias clouds the truth. The cities of Skyrim are a testament to Nord ingenuity and craftsmanship. Chief among them are Solitude, seat of the High King and capital of the province; Windhelm, ancient and honored, a jewel in the snow; Markarth, carved into the living rock itself, in ages long since past; Riften, nestled in the golden shadows of the Fall Forest, whence comes delicious fish and mead; and Whiterun, built around the hall of Jorrvaskr, home of the most noble Companions and revered Skyforge. And now, respected reader, you have the full measure of it. We Nords are everything you imagined - and so much more. But let not this work be your only gateway to the truth. Book passage on carriage or vessel, and make the journey north. See Skyrim with thine own eyes. See Skyrim as have the Nords, since the gods first shaped the world.

102Book2CommonOblivionCrisis[pagebreak]

The Oblivion Crisis by Praxis Sarcorum Imperial Historian

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t the turning of the Fourth Age, in the year 3E 433, the Emperor Uriel Septim VII was assassinated and the Amulet of Kings was destroyed. This set in motion a chain of events that would bring down an empire and change forever the relationship between man and the gods. The assassins first attacked the Emperor in the White Gold Tower. While the Blades held them back, the Emperor made his way down to the dungeons, to a secret escape route built into one of the prison cells. For reasons known only to himself, the Emperor pardoned the fortunate prisoner in that cell. Some say the prisoner reminded him of a childhood friend. Others say it was a moment of prophecy. Whatever the case, the prisoner came to play a fateful role in the history of the Empire and Tamriel - surely a sign that the gods themselves were at work. The pursuing assassins killed the Blades bodyguards in a relentless series of sneak attacks. Eventually they struck down the Emperor himself. Before he fell, Uriel Septim VII gave the Amulet of Kings to the prisoner, who somehow made it out of the Imperial sewers and into the light of day. The assassination is now known to have been the work of a group of daedric cultists known as the Mythic Dawn. (Those who still suspect the Dark Brotherhood should consider two facts: first, they would have only needed a single assassin, not a small army of them; second, the Dark Brotherhood would never be so foolish as to effectively declare war on the Empire and thus ensure their complete destruction. Witness the eventual fate of the Mythic Dawn.) The Amulet of Kings next surfaced at Weynon Priory near Chorrol. Jauffre, secret Grandmaster of the Blades and head of the priory, took possession of the amulet. The messenger was sent off to Kvatch to find a lowly priest named Martin. Unbeknownst even to himself, Martin was the bastard son of Uriel Septim VII, and the last heir to the Ruby Throne. He alone could use the Amulet of Kings to light the Dragonfires that wards the barrier between Tamriel and Oblivion, and save the world from the Mythic Dawn plot. The prisoner arrived at Kvatch to find it overrun by daedra that had poured in from a newly-opened Oblivion Gate, the start of the Empire-spanning devastation of the Oblivion Crisis. How the prisoner closed the gate is not recorded. Once closed, Martin and the surviving Kvatch guardsmen drove back the daedra. Now known as the Hero of Kvatch, the prisoner and Martin returned to Weynon Priory, only to find the priory sacked and the Amulet taken. Jauffre survived the attack, however, and the three of them made their way to Cloud Ruler Temple, bastion of the Blades. This secret fortress in the mountains outside Bruma is where Martin was held safe while the Hero of Kvatch searched for the lost Amulet. Knowing only that a mysterious group called the Mythic Dawn was behind the assassination and theft of the Amulet, the Hero of Kvatch was sent to locate the cult. With the help of Baurus, a Blade in the service of the Emperor, they somehow used the Commentaries on the Mysterium Xarxes, esoteric works by the madman Mankar Camoran, to direct them to the Mythic Dawn's secret lair. Scholars familiar with the Commentaries claim the location is not directly mentioned in them. How they did this remains a mystery. No official records exist of how the Hero of Kvatch penetrated the Mythic Dawn's lair near Lake Arrius. There is a bardic tale that claims the Hero used trickery and disguise, but that is just speculation.What was discovered there is that Mankar Camoran was behind the Mythic Dawn, and that the group worshiped the daedric prince Mehrunes Dagon. Mankar Camoran believed himself to be a direct descendant of the Camoran Usurper, the infamous pretender to the throne of Valenwood. Somehow the Hero escaped with the Mysterium Xarxes itself, the holy book of the Mythic Dawn cult. Mankar Camoran fled to Oblivion with the Amulet of Kings. With some effort and great risk to his sanity, Martin deciphered the Mysterium Xarxes and intended to use it to open a gateway to Mankar Camoran in order to recover the Amulet of Kings. Before Martin could perform the ritual to open the gateway, Mehrunes Dagon opened an Oblivion Gate outside Bruma. The Hero of Kvatch saved the city and Martin by entering the gate and closing it before a daedric siege engine could destroy Bruma and Cloud Ruler Temple. Many songs and stories have been told of this battle and I will not retell them here. The Hero of Kvatch was now also known as the Savior of Bruma. With the city and Cloud Ruler Temple safe, Martin opened the portal to Mankar Camoran's "Paradise". The details of what transpired in this place have not been recorded. All that is known is that the Savior of Bruma travelled to this Paradise, killed Mankar Camoran, and returned with the Amulet of Kings. With the Amulet in hand, Martin Septim presented himself to the Elder Council to be crowned Emperor of all Tamriel. Once crowned he planned to relight the Dragonfires and seal Tamriel from Oblivion. In a last-ditch attempt to stop him, Mehrunes Dagon launched an assault on the Imperial City, opening several Oblivion Gates within the capital itself. Uncrowned, Martin joined the battle in the city streets. Mehrunes Dagon himself left Oblivion and entered Tamriel, breaking the covenant. Only the unlit Dragonfires allowed this to be possible. Now that the barrier was ripped asunder, it was too late to relighting the Fires. Martin Septim chose to make the ultimate sacrifice - he shattered the Amulet of Kings to become the avatar of the god Akatosh and do battle with Mehrunes Dagon. Records of this battle vary wildly. What we do know is that Mehrunes Dagon was defeated and sent back to Oblivion. The avatar of Akatosh was turned to stone and can be seen to this day in the Temple of the One in the Imperial City. With the Amulet gone, the Dragonfires quenched, and the last Dragonblood Emperor dead, the barrier to Oblivion is sealed forever.

103Book2CommonOnIceWraiths[pagebreak]

Herbane's Bestiary: The Ice Wraiths

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17 Last Seed When winters chill descended upon me as I traveled further north through the frozen plains and mountains, I settled in at the inn at Dawnstar for a moment of respite and a warm meal. Another traveler there told me to be cautious, that there are creatures who settle into the powder white of the snow with nary a clue to the careless, until it is too late. He went on and on, with wild gestures and fantastic tales of entire merchant expeditions being killed by the beasts. His stories frightened the other inn patrons, but I will not be turned by a coward's tale, I will see these for my own eyes, for those icy caves and snow capped peaks of the north are exactly the type of places that call to an adventurer like me. It did not take me long to find what I sought. These Ice Wraiths are lucid, serpentine creatures of magic, as if conjured from the frozen tundra and glaciers of Skyrim itself. At one with an environment that makes them nearly invisible, these ethereal apparitions are the death of many Nords, if not by their sudden, unholy strike that casts their entire body through their target, then by the malady of Witbane, a curse of infection that dulls the intellect and makes the target even more the victim. As deadly as they are, Ice Wraiths are simple minded in their determination, and combat is a straight forward affair and brute force and a sharp blade are enough to fell these savage creatures. Only the heartiest of men would hope to survive just one of these beasts, but I have slain two with general ease. It's good that I've found I can make decent coin selling the Ice Wraith's teeth, as they are a prized ingredient in alchemical potions. That will continue to afford me the opportunity to search these lands for a challenge worthy of story, for I have yet to see what would make me tremble.

104Book2CommonOverviewofGodsandWorship[pagebreak]

An Overview Of Gods and Worship In Tamriel by Brother Hetchfeld

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Editor's Note: Brother Hetchfeld is an Associate Scribe at the Imperial University, Office of Introductory Studies. [pagebreak] ods are commonly judged upon the evidence of their interest in worldly matters. A central belief in the active participation of Deities in mundane matters can be challenged by the reference to apparent apathy and indifference on the part of Gods during times of plague or famine. From intervention in legendary quests to manifestations in common daily life, no pattern for the Gods of Tamriel activities is readily perceived. The concerns of Gods in many ways may seem unrelated or at best unconcerned with the daily trials of the mortal realm. The exceptions do exist, however. Many historical records and legends point to the direct intervention of one or more gods at times of great need. Many heroic tales recount blessings of the divinity bestowed upon heroic figures who worked or quested for the good of a Deity or the Deity's temple. Some of the more powerful artifacts in the known world were originally bestowed upon their owners through such reward. It has also been reported that priests of high ranking in their temples may on occasion call upon their Deity for blessings or help in time of need. The exact nature of such contact and the blessings bestowed is given to much speculation, as the temples hold such associations secret and holy. This direct contact gives weight to the belief that the Gods are aware of the mortal realm. In many circumstances, however, these same Gods will do nothing in the face of suffering and death, seeming to feel no need to interfere. It is thus possible to conclude that we, as mortals, may not be capable of understanding more than a small fraction of the reasoning and logic such beings use. One defining characteristic of all Gods and Goddesses is their interest in worship and deeds. Deeds in the form of holy quests are just one of the many things that bring the attention of a Deity. Deeds in everyday life, by conforming to the statutes and obligations of individual temples are commonly supposed to please a Deity. Performance of ceremony in a temple may also bring a Deity's attention. Ceremonies vary according to the individual Deity. The results are not always apparent but sacrifice and offerings are usually required to have any hope of gaining a Deity's attention. While direct intervention in daily temple life has been recorded, the exact nature of the presence of a God in daily mundane life is a subject of controversy. A traditional saying of the Wood Elves is that "One man's miracle is another man's accident." While some gods are believed to take an active part of daily life, others are well known for their lack of interest in temporal affairs. It has been theorized that gods do in fact gain strength from such things as worship through praise, sacrifice and deed. It may even be theorized that the number of worshippers a given Deity has may reflect on His overall position among the other Gods. This my own conjecture, garnered from the apparent ability of the larger temples to attain blessings and assistance from their God with greater ease than smaller religious institutions. There are reports of the existence of spirits in our world that have the same capacity to use the actions and deeds of mortals to strengthen themselves as do the Gods. The understanding of the exact nature of such creatures would allow us to understand with more clarity the connection between a Deity and the Deity's worshipers. The implication of the existence of such spirits leads to the speculation that these spirits may even be capable of raising themselves to the level of a God or Goddess. Motusuo of the Imperial Seminary has suggested that these spirits may be the remains of Gods and Goddesses who through time lost all or most of their following, reverting to their earliest most basic form. Practioners of the Old Ways say that there are no Gods, just greater and lesser spirits. Perhaps it is possible for all three theories to be true.

105Book2CommonPensionOfAncestorMoth[pagebreak]

Pension of the Ancestor Moth

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To be read by all novitiates of the Temple: he Order of the Ancestor Moth is as ancient as it is noble. We nurture and celebrate our beloved ancestors, whose spirits are manifest in the Ancestor Moths. Each moth carries the fjyron of an ancestor's spirit. Loosely translated as the "will to peace," the fjyron can be sung into the silk produced by the Ancestor Moths. When the silk is in turn spun into cloth and embroidered with the genealogy of the correct Ancestor, clothing of wondrous power can be made. Adepts of our order are gifted with prescient powers. The wisdom of the ancestors can sing the future into the present. For this reason, our order and our order alone has been given the privilege to interpret the Elder Scrolls. These writings exceed even the gods, both aedra and daedra. Such insight into the inner fabric of reality comes at a price. Each reading of the Elder Scrolls is more profound than the last. Each leaves the priest blind for longer, and longer periods of time. Finally, the last reading achieves a nearly sublime understanding of that scroll's contents, but the priest is left permanently blinded to the light of this world. No longer can he read the scrolls. This Monastery is dedicated to the service of these noble members of our order. They now live out their lives with the Ancestor Moths that they so love. Their underground demesnes are well suited to the moths. They raise and nurture the fragile creatures, singing to them constantly. They harvest the silk and spin it into bolts of cloth. They weave the cloth, embroidering it with the genealogies and histories of the ancestors that spun the silk. This is their new life. As they tend the Ancestor Moths, so we tend the blind monks. While they toil in dark, we serve in the light. They need food and water. We provide. They need tools and furniture. We provide. They need secrecy and anonymity. We provide. They need purveyors to sell the fruit of their labors. We provide. At one time, we also provided protection. Many generations ago, Gudrun came to our temple. Newly blinded by visions of what was to be, she brought with her new teachings. The visions of the ancestors foresaw the need of the monks to defend themselves. They train and practice the teachings of Gudrun constantly. They are masters of the sword of no sword, the axes of no axe. As a novitiate, you will learn the teachings of Gudrun. You will learn the way of the peaceful fist. You will learn to serve the blind monks. You will learn to provide. In time, you may attain the peace and insight of the Ancestor Moths.

106Book2CommonPirateKing

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Velehk Sain Pirate King of the Abecean

Poke out your eyes lad, pour lead in your ears Those sails portend madness, dark horror and fear Abandon your lasses, your ship and your gold Blood on the water, Velehk this way comes A noose from the rigging, a plank from boards Do yourself in, don't try at crossing swords Mercy's not a shipmate among that heartless horde Blood on the water, the Pirate King comes Stout Empire Galleon or Swift Elven Skiff They every one splinter and just as soon sink But only after crew and captain have their fun Blood on the water, your days are done He'll tear your gut and he'll eat your heart raw His eyes gleam red, his heart will never thaw Mark well these words, you quaking babes Blood on the water follows Captain Velehk Sain

107Book2CommonRealBarenziahV1[pagebreak]

The Real Barenziah Volume One by Anonymous

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ive hundred years ago in Mournhold, City of Gems, there lived a blind widow and her only child, a tall, strapping young man. He was a miner, as was his father before him, a common laborer in the mines of the Lord of Mournhold, for his ability in magicka was small. The work was honorable but paid poorly. His mother made and sold comberry cakes at the city market to help eke out their living. They did well enough, she said, they had enough to fill their bellies, no one could wear more than one suit of clothing at a time, and the roof leaked only when it rained. But Symmachus would have liked more. He hoped for a lucky strike at the mines, which would garner him a large bonus. In his free hours he enjoyed hoisting a mug of ale in the tavern with his friends, and gambling with them at cards. He also drew the eyes and sighs of more than one pretty Elven lass, although none held his interest for long. He was a typical young Dark Elf of peasant descent, remarkable only for his size. It was rumored that he had a bit of Nordic blood in him. In Symmachus' thirtieth year, there was great rejoicing in Mournhold-a girl-child had been born to the Lord and Lady. A Queen, the people sang, a Queen is born to us! For among the people of Mournhold, the birth of an heiress is a sure sign of future peace and prosperity. When the time came round for the royal child's Rite of Naming, the mines were closed and Symmachus dashed home to bathe and dress in his best. "I'll rush straight home and tell you all about it," he promised his mother, who would not be able to attend. She had been ailing, and besides there would be a great crush of people as all Mournhold turned out to be part of the blessed event; and being blind she would be unable to see anything anyway. "My son," she said. "Afore you go, fetch me a priest or a healer, else I may pass from the mortal plane ere you return." Symmachus crossed to her pallet at once and noted anxiously that her forehead was very hot and her breathing shallow. He pried loose a slat of the wooden floor under which their small hoard of savings was kept. There wasn't nearly enough to pay a priest for healing. He would have to give what they had and owe the rest. Symmachus snatched up his cloak and hurried away. The streets were full of folk hurrying to the sacred grove, but the temples were locked and barred. "Closed for the ceremony," read all the signs. Symmachus elbowed his way through the mob and managed to overtake a brown-robed priest. "After the rite, brother," the priest said, "if you have gold I shall gladly attend to your mother. Milord has bidden all clerics attend-and I, for one, have no wish to offend him." "My mother's desperately ill," Symmachus pled. "Surely Milord will not miss one lowly priest." "True, but the Archcanon will," the priest said nervously, tearing his robe loose from Symmachus' desperate grip and vanishing into the crowd. Symmachus tried other priests, and even a few mages, but with no better result. Armored guards marched through the street and pushed him aside with their lances, and Symmachus realized that the royal procession was approaching. As the carriage bearing the city's rulers drew abreast, Symmachus rushed out from the crowd and shouted, "Milord, Milord! My mother's dying-!" "I forbid her to do so on this glorious night!" the Lord shouted, laughing and scattering coin into the throng. Symmachus was close enough to smell wine on the royal breath. On the other side of the carriage his Lady clutched the babe to her breast, and stared slit-eyed at Symmachus, her nostrils flared in disdain. "Guards!" she cried. "Remove this oaf." Rough hands seized Symmachus. He was beaten and left dazed by the side of the road. Symmachus, head aching, followed in the wake of the crowd and witnessed the Rite of Naming from the top of a hill. He could see the brown-robed clerics and blue-robed mages gathered near the highborn folk far below. Barenziah. The name came dimly to Symmachus' ears as the High Priest lifted the swaddled babe and proffered her to the twin moons on either side of the horizon: Jone rising, Jode setting. "Behold the Lady Barenziah, born to the land of Mournhold! Grant her thy blessings and thy counsel, ye kind gods, that she may ever rule well over Mournhold, its ken and its weal, its kith and its ilk." "Bless her, bless her," all the people intoned along with their Lord and Lady, hands upraised. Only Symmachus stood silent, head bowed, knowing in his heart that his dear mother was gone. And in silence he swore a mighty oath-that he should be his Lord's bane, and in vengeance for his mother's needless death, the child Barenziah he should have for his own bride, and that his mother's grandchildren should be born to rule over Mournhold. [pagebreak] After the ceremony, he watched impassively as the royal procession returned to the palace. He saw the priest to whom he'd first spoken. The man came gladly enough now in return for the gold Symmachus had, and a promise of more afterward. They found his mother dead. The priest sighed and tucked the pouch of gold coins away. "I'm sorry, brother. It's all right, you can forget the rest of the gold, there's aught I can do here. Likely-" "Give me back my money!" Symmachus snarled. "You've done naught to earn it!" He lifted his right arm threateningly. The priest backed away, about to utter a curse, but Symmachus struck him across the face before more than three words had left his mouth. He went down heavily, striking his head sharply on one of the stones that formed the fire pit. He died instantly. Symmachus snatched up the gold and fled the city. As he ran, he muttered one word over and over, like a sorcerer's chant. "Barenziah," he said. "Barenziah. Barenziah." [pagebreak] Barenziah stood on one of the balconies of the palace, staring down into the courtyard where soldiers milled, dazzling in their armor. Presently they formed into ordered ranks and cheered as her parents, the Lord and Lady, emerged from the palace, clad from head to toe in ebony armor, long purple-dyed fur cloaks flowing behind. Splendidly caparisoned, shining black horses were brought for them, and they mounted and rode to the courtyard gates, and turned to salute her. "Barenziah!" they cried. "Barenziah our beloved, farewell!" The little girl blinked back tears and waved one hand bravely, her favorite stuffed animal, a gray wolfcub she called Wuffen, clutched to her breast with the other. She had never been parted from her parents before and had no idea what it meant, save that there was war in the west and the name Tiber Septim was on everyone's lips, spoken in hate and dread. "Barenziah!" the soldiers cried, lifting their lances and swords and bows. Then her dear parents turned and rode away, knights trailing in their wake, until the courtyard was nearly emptied. [pagebreak] Sometime after came a day when Barenziah was shaken awake by her nurse, dressed hurriedly, and borne from the palace. All she could remember of that dreadful time was seeing a huge shadow with burning eyes filling the sky. She was passed from hand to hand. Foreign soldiers appeared, disappeared, and sometimes reappeared. Her nurse vanished and was replaced by strangers, some more strange than others. There were days, or it may have been weeks, of travel. One morning she awoke to step out of the coach into a cold place with a large gray stone castle amid empty, endless gray-green hills covered patchily with gray-white snow. She clutched Wuffen to her breast in both hands and stood blinking and shivering in the gray dawn, feeling very small and very dark in all this endless space, this endless gray-white space. She and Hana, a brown-skinned, black-haired maid who had been traveling with her for several days, went inside the keep. A large gray-white woman with icy gray-golden hair was standing by a hearth in one of the rooms. She stared at Barenziah with dreadful, bright blue eyes. "She's very -- black, isn't she?" the woman remarked to Hana. "I've never seen a Dark Elf before." "I don't know much about them myself, Milady," Hana said. "But this one's got red hair and a temper to match, I can tell you that. Take care. She bites. And worse." "I'll soon train her out of that," the other woman sniffed. "And what's that filthy thing she's got? Ugh!" The woman snatched Wuffen away and threw him into the blazing hearth. Barenziah shrieked and would have flung herself after him, but was held back despite her attempts to bite and claw at her captors. Poor Wuffen was reduced to a tiny heap of charred ash. [pagebreak] Barenziah grew like a weed transplanted to a Skyrim garden, a ward of Count Sven and his wife the Lady Inga. Outwardly, that is, she thrived -- but always there was a cold and empty place within. "I've raised her as my own daughter," Lady Inga was wont to sigh as she sat gossiping when neighboring ladies came to visit. "But she's a Dark Elf. What can you expect?" Barenziah was not meant to overhear these words. At least she thought she was not. Her hearing was keener than that of her Nordic hosts. Other, less desirable Dark Elven traits evidently included pilfering, lying, and a little misplaced magic, just a small fire spell here and a little levitation spell there. And, as she grew older, a keen interest in boys and men, who could provide very pleasant sensations -- and to her astonishment, gifts as well. Inga disapproved of this last for reasons incomprehensible to Barenziah, so she was careful to keep it as secret as possible. "She's wonderful with the children," Inga added, referring to her five sons, all younger than Barenziah. "I don't think she'd ever let them come to harm." A tutor had been hired when Jonni was six and Barenziah eight, and they took their lessons together. She would have liked to train in arms as well, but the very idea scandalized Count Sven and Lady Inga. So Barenziah was given a small bow and allowed to play at target shooting with the boys. She watched them at arms practice when she could, sparred with them when no grownup folk were about, and knew she was good as or better than they. "She's very... proud, though, isn't she?" one of the ladies would whisper to Inga; and Barenziah, pretending not to hear, would nod silently in agreement. She could not help but feel superior to the Count and his Lady. There was something about them that provoked contempt. Afterward she came to learn that Sven and Inga were distant cousins of Darkmoor Keep's last titled residents, and she finally understood. They were poseurs, impostors, not rulers at all. At least, they were not raised to rule. This thought made her strangely furious at them, a good clean hatred quite detached from resentment. She came to see them as disgusting and repellent insects who could be despised but never feared. [pagebreak] Once a month a courier came from the Emperor, bringing a small bag of gold for Sven and Inga and a large bag of dried mushrooms from Morrowind for Barenziah, her favorite treat. On these occasions, she was always made to look presentable-or at least as presentable as a skinny Dark Elf could be made to look in Inga's eyes-before being summoned into the courier's presence for a brief interview. The same courier seldom came twice, but all of them looked her over in much the same way a farmer would look over a hog he is readying for market. In the spring of her sixteenth year, Barenziah thought the courier looked as if she were at last ready for market. Upon reflection, she decided she did not wish to be marketed. The stable-boy, Straw, a big, muscular blond lad, clumsy, gentle, affectionate, and rather simple, had been urging her to run off for some weeks now. Barenziah stole the bag of gold the courier had left, took the mushrooms from the storeroom, disguised herself as a boy in one of Jonni's old tunics and a pair of his cast-off breeches... and on one fine spring night she and Straw took the two best horses from the stable and rode hard through the night toward Whiterun, the nearest city of any importance and the place where Straw wanted to be. But Mournhold and Morrowind also lay eastward and they drew Barenziah as a lodestone draws iron. In the morning they abandoned the horses at Barenziah's insistence. She knew they would be missed and tracked down, and she hoped to throw off any pursuers. They continued on foot until late afternoon, keeping to side roads, and slept for several hours in an abandoned hut. They went on at dusk and came to Whiterun's city gates just before dawn. Barenziah had prepared a pass of sorts for Straw, a makeshift document stating an errand to a temple in the city for a local village lord. She herself glided over the wall with the help of a levitation spell. She had reasoned-correctly, as it turned out-that by now the gate guards would have been alerted to keep an eye out for a young Dark Elven girl and a Nordic boy traveling together. On the other hand, unaccompanied country yokels like Straw were a common enough sight. Alone and with papers, it was unlikely that he would draw attention. Her simple plan went smoothly. She met Straw at the temple, which was not far from the gate; she had been to Whiterun on a few previous occasions. Straw, however, had never been more than a few miles from Sven's estate, which was his birthplace. Together they made their way to a rundown inn in the poorer quarters of Whiterun. Gloved, cloaked, and hooded against the morning chill, Barenziah's dark skin and red eyes were not apparent and no one paid any heed to them. They entered the inn separately. Straw paid the innkeeper for a single cubicle, an immense meal, and two jugs of ale. Barenziah sneaked in a few minutes later. They ate and drank together gleefully, rejoicing in their escape, and made love vigorously on the narrow cot. Afterward they fell into an exhausted, dreamless sleep. [pagebreak] They stayed for a week at Whiterun. Straw earned a bit of money running errands and Barenziah burgled a few houses at night. She continued to dress as a boy. She cut her hair short and dyed her flame-red tresses jet black to further the disguise, and kept out of sight as much as possible. There were few Dark Elves in Whiterun. One day Straw got them work as temporary guards for a merchant caravan traveling east. The one-armed sergeant looked her over dubiously. "Heh," he chuckled, "Dark Elf, ain'tcha? Like settin' a wolf t'guard the sheep, that is. Still, I need arms, and we ain't goin' near 'nough Morrowind so's ye can betray us to yer folk. Our homegrown bandits would as fain cut yer throat as mine." The sergeant turned to give Straw an appraising look. Then he spun back abruptly toward Barenziah, whipping out his shortsword. But she had her dagger out in the twinkling of an eye and was in a defensive stance. Straw drew his own knife and circled round to the man's rear. The sergeant dropped his blade and chuckled again. "Not bad, kids, not bad. How are ye with yon bow, Dark Elf?" Barenziah demonstrated her prowess briefly. "Aye, not bad, not bad 'tall. And ye'll be keen of eye by night, boy, and of hearin' 'tall times. A trusty Dark Elf makes as good a fightin' man as any could ask for. I know. I served under Symmachus hisself afore I lost this arm and got invalided outter the Emp'ror's army." "We could betray them. I know folk who'd pay well," Straw said later as they bedded down for their last night at the ramshackle lodge. "Or rob them ourselves. They're very rich, those merchants are, Berry." Barenziah laughed. "Whatever would we do with so much money? And besides, we need their protection for traveling quite as much as they need ours." "We could buy a little farm, you and me, Berry -- and settle down, all nice like." Peasant! Barenziah thought scornfully. Straw was a peasant and harbored nothing but peasant dreams. But all she said was, "Not here, Straw, we're too close to Darkmoor still. We'll have other chances farther east." [pagebreak] The caravan went only as far east as Sunguard. The Emperor Tiber Septim I had done much in the way of building relatively safe and regularly patrolled highways. But the tolls were steep, and this particular caravan kept to the side roads as much as possible to avoid them. This exposed them to the hazards of wayside robbers, both human and Orcish, and roving brigand bands of various races. But such were the perils of trade and profit. They had two such encounters before reaching Sunguard -- an ambush which Barenziah's keen ears warned them of in plenty of time for them to circle about and surprise the lurkers, and a night attack by a mixed band of Khajiit, humans, and Wood Elves. The latter were a skilled band and even Barenziah did not hear them sneaking up in time to give much warning. This time the fighting was fierce. The attackers were driven off, but two of the caravan's other guards were slain and Straw got a nasty cut on his thigh before he and Barenziah managed to gash his Khajiit assailant's throat. Barenziah rather enjoyed the life. The garrulous sergeant had taken a liking to her, and she spent most of her evenings sitting around the campfire listening to his tales of campaigning in Morrowind with Tiber Septim and General Symmachus. This Symmachus had been made general after Mournhold fell, the sergeant said. "He's a fine soldier, boy, Symmachus is. But there was more'n soldiery involved'n that Morrowind business, if y'take my meanin'. But, well, y'know all 'bout that, I 'spect." "No. No, I don't remember," Barenziah said, trying to sound nonchalant. "I've lived most of my life in Skyrim. My mother married a Skyrim man. They're both dead, though. Tell me, what happened to the Lord and Lady of Mournhold?" The sergeant shrugged. "I ain't never heard. Dead, I 'spect. 'Twas a lot of fightin' afore the Armistice got signed. It's pretty quiet now. Maybe too quiet. Like a calm afore a storm. Say, boy, you goin' back there?" "Maybe," Barenziah said. The truth was that she was drawn irresistibly to Morrowind, and Mournhold, like a moth to a burning house. Straw sensed it and was unhappy about it. He was unhappy anyway since they could not bed together, as she was supposed to be a boy. Barenziah rather missed it too, but not as much as Straw did, seemingly. The sergeant wanted them to sign on for the return trip, but gave them a bonus nonetheless when they turned the offer down, and parchments of recommendation. Straw wanted to settle down permanently near Sunguard, but Barenziah insisted on continuing their travels east. "I'm the Queen of Mournhold by rights," she said, unsure whether it was true -- or was it just a daydream she had made up as a lost, bewildered child? "I want to go home. I need to go home." That at least was true. [pagebreak] After a few weeks they managed to get places in another caravan heading east. By early winter they were at Riften, and nearing the Morrowind border. But the weather had grown severe as the days passed and they were told no merchant caravans would be setting forth till mid-spring. Barenziah stood on top of the city walls and stared across the deep gorge that separated Riften from the snow-clad mountain wall guarding Morrowind beyond. "Berry," Straw said gently. "Mournhold's a long way off yet, nearly as far as we've come already. And the lands between are wild, full of wolves and bandits and Orcs and still worse creatures. We'll have to wait for spring." "There's Silgrod Tower," Berry said, referring to the Dark Elven township that had grown up around an ancient minaret guarding the border between Skyrim and Morrowind. "The bridge guards won't let me across, Berry. They're crack Imperial troops. They can't be bribed. If you go, you go alone. I won't try and stop you. But what will you do? Silgrod Tower is full of Imperial soldiers. Will you become a washing-woman for them? Or a camp follower?" "No," Barenziah said slowly, thoughtfully. Actually the idea was not entirely unappealing. She was sure she could earn a modest living by sleeping with the soldiers. She'd had a few adventures of that sort as they crossed Skyrim, when she'd dressed as a woman and slipped away from Straw. She'd only been looking for a bit of variety. Straw was sweet but dull. She'd been startled, but extremely pleased, when the men she picked up offered her money afterward. Straw had been unhappy about it, though, and would shout for a while then sulk for days afterward if he caught her at it. He was quite jealous. He'd even threatened to leave her. Not that he ever did. Or could. But the Imperial Guards were a tough and brutal lot by all accounts, and Barenziah had heard some very ugly stories during their treks. The ugliest of them by far had come from the lips of ex-army veterans around the caravan campfire, and were proudly recounted. They'd been trying to shock her and Straw, she realized-but she also comprehended that there was some truth behind the wild tales. Straw hated that kind of dirty talk, and hated it more that she had to hear it. But there was a part of him that was fascinated nevertheless. Barenziah sensed this and had encouraged Straw to seek out other women. But he said he didn't want anyone else but her. She told him candidly she didn't feel that way about him, but she did like him better than anyone else. "Then why do you go with other men?" Straw had asked on one occasion. "I don't know." Straw sighed. "They say Dark Elven women are like that." Barenziah smiled and shrugged. "I don't know. Or, no ... maybe I do. Yes, I do know." She turned and kissed him affectionately. "I guess that's all the explanation there is.

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The Real Barenziah Volume Two by Anonymous

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arenziah and Straw settled into Rifton for the winter, taking a cheap room in the slummier section of town. Barenziah wanted to join the Thieves Guild, knowing there would be trouble if she were caught freelancing. One day in a barroom she caught the eye of a known member of the Guild, a bold young Khajiit named Therris. She offered to bed him if he would sponsor her membership. He looked her over, grinning, and agreed, but said she'd still have to pass an initiation. "What sort of initiation?" "Ah," Therris said. "Pay up first, sweetness." [This passage has been censored by order of the Temple.] Straw was going to kill her, and maybe Therris too. What in Tamriel had possessed her to do such a thing? She cast an apprehensive look around the room, but the other patrons had lost interest and gone back to their own business. She did not recognize any of them; this wasn't the inn where she and Straw were staying. With luck it'd be a while, or never, before Straw found out. [pagebreak] Therris was by far the most exciting and attractive man she had yet met. He not only told her about the skills she needed to become a member of the Thieves Guild, but also trained her in them himself or else introduced her to people who could. Among these was a woman who knew something about magic. Katisha was a plump and matronly Nord. She was married to a smith, had two teenage children, and was perfectly ordinary and respectable--except that she was very fond of cats (and by logical inference, their humanoid counterparts the Khajiit), had a talent for certain kinds of magic, and cultivated rather odd friends. She taught Barenziah an invisibility spell and schooled her in other forms of stealth and disguise. Katisha mingled magical and non-magical talents freely, using one set to enhance the other. She was not a member of the Thieves Guild but was fond of Therris in a motherly sort of way. Barenziah warmed to her as she never had toward any woman, and over the next few weeks she told Katisha all about herself. She brought Straw there too sometimes. Straw approved of Katisha. But not of Therris. Therris found Straw "interesting" and suggested to Barenziah that they arrange what he called a "threesome." "Absolutely not," Barenziah said firmly, grateful that Therris had broached the subject in private for once. "He wouldn't like it. I wouldn't like it!" Therris smiled his charming, triangular feline smile and sprawled lazily on his chair, stretching his limbs and curling his tail. "You might be surprised. Both of you. Pairing is so boring." Barenziah answered him with a glare. "Or maybe you wouldn't like it with that country bumpkin of yours, sweetness. Would you mind if I brought along another friend?" "Yes, I would. If you're bored with me, you and your friend can find someone else." She was a member of the Thieves Guild now. She had passed their initiation. She found Therris useful but not essential. Maybe she was a bit bored with him too. [pagebreak] She talked to Katisha about her problems with men. Or what she thought of as her problems with men. Katisha shook her head and told her she was looking for love, not sex, that she'd know the right man when she found him, that neither Straw nor Therris was the right one for her. Barenziah cocked her head to one side quizzically. "They say Dark Elven women are pro-- pro-- something. Prostitutes?" she said, although she was dubious. "You mean promiscuous. Although some do become prostitutes, I suppose," Katisha said as an afterthought. "Elves are promiscuous when they're young. But you'll outgrow it. Perhaps you're beginning to already," she added hopefully. She liked Barenziah, had grown to be quite fond of her. "You ought to meet some nice Elven boys, though. If you go on keeping company with Khajiits and humans and what have you, you'll find yourself pregnant in next to no time." Barenziah smiled involuntarily at the thought. "I'd like that. I think. But it would be inconvenient, wouldn't it? Babies are a lot of trouble, and I don't even have my own house yet." "How old are you, Berry? Seventeen? Well, you've a year or two yet before you're fertile, unless you're very unlucky. Elves don't have children readily with other Elves after that, even, so you'll be all right if you stick with them." Barenziah remembered something else. "Straw wants to buy a farm and marry me." "Is that what you want?" "No. Not yet. Maybe someday. Yes, someday. But not if I can't be queen. And not just any queen. The Queen of Mournhold." She said this determinedly, almost stubbornly, as if to drown out any doubt. Katisha chose to ignore this last comment. She was amused at the girl's hyperactive imagination, took it as a sign of a well-functioning mind. "I think Straw will be a very old man before 'someday' comes, Berry. Elves live for a very long time." Katisha's face briefly wore the envious, wistful look humans got when contemplating the thousand-year lifespan Elves had been granted by the gods. True, few ever actually lived that long as disease and violence took their respective tolls. But they could. And one or two of them actually did. "I like old men too," Berry said. Katisha laughed. Barenziah fidgeted impatiently while Therris sorted through the papers on the desk. He was being meticulous and methodical, carefully replacing everything just as he'd found it. They'd broken into a nobleman's household, leaving Straw to hover outside as lookout. Therris had said it was a simple job but very hush-hush. He hadn't even wanted to bring any other Guild members along. He said he knew he could trust Berry and Straw, but no one else. "Tell me what you're looking for and I'll find it," Berry whispered urgently. Therris' night sight wasn't as good as hers and he didn't want her to magick up even a small orb of light. She had never been in such a luxurious place. Not even the Darkmoor castle of Count Sven and Lady Inga where she had spent her childhood compared to it. She'd gazed around in wonder as they made their way through the ornately decorated and hugely echoing downstairs rooms. But Therris didn't seem interested in anything but the desk in the small book-lined study on the upper floor. "Sssst," he hissed angrily. "Someone's coming!" Berry said, a moment before the door opened and two dark figures stepped into the room. Therris gave her a violent shove toward them and sprang to the window. Barenziah's muscles went rigid; she couldn't move or even speak. She watched helplessly as one of the figures, the smaller one, leaped after Therris. There were two quick, silent stabs of blue light, then Therris folded over into a still heap. Outside the study the house had come alive with hastening footsteps and voices calling out in alarm and the clank of armor hurriedly put on. The bigger man, a Dark Elf by the looks of him, half-lifted, half-dragged Therris to the door and thrust him into the waiting arms of another Elf. A jerk of the first Elf's head sent his smaller blue-robed companion after them. Then he sauntered over to inspect Barenziah, who was once again able to move although her head throbbed maddeningly when she tried to. "Open your shirt, Barenziah," the Elf said. Barenziah gawked at him and clutched it closed. "You're a girl, aren't you, Berry?" he said softly. "You should have stopped dressing as a boy months ago, you know. You were only drawing attention to yourself. And calling yourself Berry! Is your friend Straw too stupid to remember anything else?" "It's a common Elven name," Barenziah defended. The man shook his head sadly. "Not among Dark Elves it isn't, my dear. But you wouldn't know much about Dark Elves, would you? I regret that, but it couldn't be helped. No matter. I shall try to remedy it." "Who are you?" Barenziah demanded. "Ai. So much for fame," the man shrugged, smiling wryly. "I am Symmachus, Milady Barenziah. General Symmachus of His Awesome and Terrible Majesty Tiber Septim I's Imperial Army. And I must say it's a merry chase you've led me throughout Tamriel. Or this part of it, anyway. Although I guessed, and guessed correctly, that you'd head for Morrowind eventually. You had a bit of luck. A body was found in Whiterun that was thought to be Straw's. So we stopped looking for the pair of you. That was careless of me. Yet I'd not have thought you'd have stayed together this long." "Where is he? Is he all right?" she asked in genuine trepidation. "Oh, he's fine. For now. In custody, of course." He turned away. "You ... care for him, then?" he said, and then suddenly stared at her with fierce curiosity. Out of red eyes that seemed strange to her, except in her own seldom-seen reflection. "He's my friend," Barenziah said. The words came out in a tone that sounded dull and hopeless to her own ears. Symmachus! A general in the Imperial Army, no less--said to have the friendship and ears of Tiber Septim himself. "Ai. You seem to have several unsuitable friends--if you'll forgive my saying so, Milady." "Stop calling me that." She was irritated at the general's seeming sarcasm. But he only smiled. As they talked the bustle and flurry in the house died away. Although she could still hear people, presumably the residents, whispering together not far off. The tall Elf perched himself on a corner of the desk. He seemed quite relaxed and prepared to stay awhile. Then it occurred to her. Several unsuitable friends, had he said? This man knew all about her! Or seemed to know enough, anyway. Which amounted to the same thing. "W-what's going to happen to them? To m-me?" "Ah. As you know, this house belongs to the commander of the Imperial troops in this area. Which means to say that it belongs to me." Barenziah gasped and Symmachus looked up sharply. "What, you didn't know? Tsk, tsk. Why, you are rash, Milady, even for seventeen. You must always know what it is you do, or get yourself into." "B-but the G-guild w-wouldn't ... wouldn't h-have--" Barenziah was trembling. The Thieves Guild would never have attempted a mission that crossed Imperial policy. No one dared oppose Tiber Septim, at least no one she knew of. Someone at the Guild had bungled. Badly. And now she was going to pay for it. "I daresay. It's unlikely that Therris had Guild approval for this. In fact, I wonder--" Symmachus examined the desk carefully, pulling out drawers. He selected one, placed it on top of the desk, and removed a false bottom. There was a folded sheet of parchment inside. It seemed to be a map of some sort. Barenziah edged closer. Symmachus held it away from her, laughing. "Rash indeed!" He glanced it over, then folded and replaced it. "You advised me a moment ago to seek after knowledge." "So I did, so I did." Suddenly he seemed to be in high good humor. "We must be going, my dear Lady." He shepherded her to the door, down the stairs, and out into the night air. No one was about. Barenziah's eyes darted toward the shadows. She wondered if she could outrun him, or elude him somehow. "You're not thinking of attempting to escape, are you? Ai. Don't you want to hear first what my plans for you are?" She thought that he sounded a bit hurt. "Now that you mention it--yes." "Perhaps you'd rather hear about your friends first." "No." He looked gratified at this. It was evidently the answer he wanted, thought Barenziah, but it was also the truth. While she was concerned for her friends, especially Straw, she was far more concerned for herself. "You will take your place as the rightful Queen of Mournhold." [pagebreak] Symmachus explained that this had been his, and Tiber Septim's, plan for her all along. That Mournhold, which had been under military rule for the dozen or so years since she had been away, was gradually to be returned to civilian government--under the Empire's guidance, of course, and as part of the Imperial Province of Morrowind. "But why was I sent to Darkmoor?" Barenziah asked, hardly believing anything she had just been told. "For safekeeping, naturally. Why did you run away?" Barenziah shrugged. "I saw no reason to stay. I should have been told." "You would have been by now. I had in fact sent for you to be removed to the Imperial City to spend some time as part of the Emperor's household. But of course you had, shall we say, absconded by then. As for your destiny, it should be, and should have been, quite obvious to you. Tiber Septim does not keep those he has no use for -- and what else could you be that would be of use to him?" "I know nothing of him. Nor, for that matter, of you." "Then know this: Tiber Septim rewards friends and foes alike according to their deserts." Barenziah chewed on that for a few moments. "Straw has deserved well of me and has never done anyone any harm. He is not a member of the Thieves Guild. He came along to protect me. He earns our keep by running errands, and he ... he ..." Symmachus waved her impatiently to silence. "Ai. I know all about Straw," he said, "and about Therris." He stared at her intently. "So? What would you?" She took a deep breath. "Straw wants a little farm. If I'm to be rich, then I would like for one to be given to him." "Very well." He seemed astonished at this, and then pleased. "Done. He shall have it. And Therris?" "He betrayed me," Barenziah said coldly. Therris should have told her what risks the job entailed. Besides, he'd pushed her right into their enemies' arms in an attempt to save himself. Not a man to be rewarded. Not, in fact, a man to be trusted. "Yes. And?" "Well, he should be made to suffer for it ... shouldn't he?" "That seems reasonable. What form should said suffering take?" Barenziah balled her hands into fists. She would've liked to beat and claw at the Khajiit herself. But considering the turn events had taken, that didn't seem very queenly. "A whipping. Er ... would twenty stripes be too many, do you think? I don't want to do him any permanent injury, you understand. Just teach him a lesson." "Ai. Of course." Symmachus grinned at this. Then his features suddenly set, and became serious. "It shall be done, Your Highness, Milady Queen Barenziah of Mournhold." Then he bowed to her, a sweeping, courtly, ridiculously wonderful bow. Barenziah's heart leapt. [pagebreak] She spent two days at Symmachus' apartment, during which she was kept very busy. There was a Dark Elven woman named Drelliane who saw to her needs, although she did not exactly seem a servant since she took her meals with them. Nor did she seem to be Symmachus' wife, or lover. Drelliane looked amused when Barenziah asked her about it. She simply said she was in the general's employ and did whatever was asked of her. With Drelliane's assistance, several fine gowns and pairs of shoes were ordered for her, plus a riding habit and boots, along with other small necessities. Barenziah was given a room to herself. Symmachus was out a great deal. She saw him at most mealtimes, but he said little about himself or what he had been doing. He was cordial and polite, quite willing to converse on most subjects, and seemed interested in anything she had to say. Drelliane was much the same. Barenziah found them pleasant enough, but "hard to get to know," as Katisha would have put it. She felt an odd twinge of disappointment. These were the first Dark Elves with whom she'd associated closely. She had expected to feel comfortable with them, to feel at last that she belonged somewhere, with somebody, as part of something. Instead she found herself yearning for her Nordic friends, Katisha and Straw. When Symmachus told her they were to set out for the Imperial City on the morrow, she asked if she could say good-bye to them. "Katisha?" he asked. "Ai. But then ... I suppose I owe her something. She it was who led me to you by telling me of a lonely Dark Elven girl named Berry who needed Elven friends -- and who sometimes dressed as a boy. She has no association with the Thieves Guild, apparently. And no one associated with the Thieves Guild seems to know your true identity, save Therris. That is well. I prefer that your former Guild membership not be made public knowledge. Please speak of it to no one, Your Highness. Such a past does not ... become an Imperial Queen." "No one knows but Straw and Therris. And they won't tell anyone." "No." He smiled a curious little smile. "No, they won't." He didn't know that Katisha knew, then. But still, there was something about the way he said it ... Straw came to their apartment on the morning of their departure. They were left alone in the salon, although Barenziah knew that other Elves were within earshot. He looked drawn and pale. They hugged one another silently for a few minutes. Straw's shoulders were shaking and tears were rolling down his cheeks, but he said nothing. Barenziah tried a smile. "So we both get what we want, eh? I'm to be Queen of Mournhold and you'll be lord of your own farmstead." She took his hand, smiled at him warmly, genuinely. "I'll write you, Straw. I promise. You must find a scribe so you can write me too." Straw shook his head sadly. When Barenziah persisted, he opened his mouth and pointed at it, making inarticulate noises. Then she realized what it was. His tongue was gone, had been cut off. Barenziah collapsed onto a chair and wept noisily. [pagebreak] "But why?" she demanded of Symmachus when Straw had been ushered away. "Why?" Symmachus shrugged. "He knows too much. He could be dangerous. At least he's alive, and he won't need his tongue to ... raise pigs or whatever." "I hate you!" Barenziah screamed at him, then abruptly doubled over and vomited on the floor. She continued to revile him between intermittent bouts of nausea. He listened stolidly for some time while Drelliane cleaned up after her. Finally, he told her to cease or he would gag her for her journey to the Emperor. They stopped at Katisha's house on their way out of the city. Symmachus and Drelliane didn't dismount. All seemed normal but Barenziah was frightened as she knocked on the door. Katisha answered the knock. Barenziah thanked the gods silently that at least she was all right. But she'd also obviously been weeping. In any case, she embraced Barenziah warmly. "Why are you crying?" Barenziah asked. "For Therris, of course. You haven't heard? Oh dear. Poor Therris. He's dead." Barenziah felt icy fingers creeping round her heart. "He was caught stealing from the Commandant's house. Poor fellow, but that was so foolish of him. Oh, Berry, he was drawn and quartered this very dawn by the Commandant's order!" She started to sob. "I went. He asked for me. It was terrible. He suffered so before he died. I'll never forget it. I looked for you and Straw, but no one knew where you'd both gone to." She glanced behind Barenziah. "That's the Commandant, isn't it? Symmachus." Then Katisha did a strange thing. She stopped crying and grinned. "You know, the moment I saw him, I thought, This is the one for Barenziah!" Katisha took a fold of her apron and wiped it across her eyes. "I told him about you, you know." "Yes," Barenziah said, "I know." She took Katisha's hands in each of hers and looked at her earnestly. "Katisha, I love you. I'm going to miss you. But please don't ever tell anyone else anything about me. Ever. Swear you won't. Especially not to Symmachus. And look after Straw for me. Promise me that." Katisha promised, puzzled though willing. "Berry, it wasn't somehow because of me that Therris was caught, was it? I never said anything about Therris to ... to ... him." She glanced over at the general. Barenziah assured her that it wasn't, that an informant had told the Imperial Guard of Therris' plans. Which was probably a lie, but she could see that Katisha plainly needed some kind of comfort. "Oh, I'm glad of that, if I can be glad of anything just now. I'd hate to think-- But how could I have known?" She leaned over and whispered in Barenziah's ear, "Symmachus is very handsome, don't you think? And so charming." "I wouldn't know about that," Barenziah said dryly. "I haven't really thought about it. There've been other things to think about." She explained hurriedly about being Queen of Mournhold and going to live in the Imperial City for a while. "He was looking for me, that's all. On orders from the Emperor. I was the object of a quest, nothing more than some sort of... of a... goal. I don't think he thinks of me as a woman at all. He said I didn't look like a boy, though," she added in the face of Katisha's incredulity. Katisha knew that Barenziah evaluated every male she met in terms of sexual desirability, and availability. "I suppose it's the shock of finding out that I really am a queen," she added, and Katisha agreed that yes, that's true, that must've been something of a shock, although one there was no likelihood of her experiencing firsthand. She smiled. Barenziah smiled with her. Then they hugged again, tearfully, for the last time. She never saw Katisha again. Or Straw. The royal party left Rifton by the great southern gate. Once through, Symmachus tapped her shoulder and pointed back at the portals. "I thought you might want to say good-bye to Therris too, Your Highness," he said. Barenziah stared briefly but steadily at the head impaled on a spike above the gate. The birds had been at it, but the face was still recognizable. "I don't think he'll hear me, although I'm quite sure he'll be pleased to know I'm fine," she said, seeming to sound light. "Let's be on our way, General, shall we?" Symmachus was clearly disappointed by her lack of reaction. "Ai. You heard of this from your friend Katisha, I suppose?" "You suppose correctly. She attended the execution," Barenziah said casually. If he didn't know already, he'd find out soon enough, she was sure of that. "Did she know Therris belonged to the Guild?" She shrugged. "Everyone knew that. It's only lower-ranking members like me who are supposed to keep their membership secret. The ones higher up are well known." She turned to smile archly at him. "But you must know all that, shouldn't you, General?" she said sweetly. He seemed unaffected by this. "So you told her who you were and whence you came, but not about the Guild." "The Guild membership was not my secret to tell. The other was. There's a difference. Besides, Katisha is a very honest woman. Had I told her, it would have lessened me in her eyes. She was always after Therris to take up a more honest line of work. I value her good opinion." She afforded him a glacial stare. "Not that it's any concern of yours, but do you know what else she thought? She also thought I'd be happier if I settled down with just one man. One of my own race. One of my own race with all the right qualities. One of my own race with all the right qualities, who knows to say all the right things. You, in fact." She grabbed the reins preparatory to assuming a brisker pace--but not without sinking one final irresistible barb. "Isn't it odd how wishes come true sometimes--but not in the way you want them to? Or maybe I should say, not in the way you would ever want them to?" His answer so took her by surprise that she quite forgot about cantering off. "Yes. Very odd," he replied, and his tone matched his words exactly. Then he excused himself and fell behind. She held her head high and urged her mount onward, trying to look unimpressed. Now what was it about his response that bothered her? Not what he said. No, that wasn't it. But something about the way he said it. Something about it made her think that she, Barenziah, was one of his wishes that had come true. Unlikely as this seemed, she gave it due deliberation. He had found her at last, after months of searching, it seemed, under pressure from the Emperor, no doubt. So his wish had come true. Yes, that must be it. But in a way, apparently, not altogether to his liking.

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The Real Barenziah Volume Three by Anonymous

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or several days, Barenziah felt a weight of sorrow at her separation from her friends. But by the second week out her spirits began to rise a little. She found that she enjoyed being on the road again, although she missed Straw's companionship more than she would have thought. They were escorted by a troop of Redguard knights with whom she felt comfortable, although these were much more disciplined, and decorous, than the guards of the merchant caravans she had spent time with. They were genial but respectful toward her despite her attempts at flirtation. Symmachus scolded her privately, saying a queen must maintain royal dignity at all times. "You mean I'm never to have any fun?" she inquired petulantly. "Ai. Not with such as these. They are beneath you. Graciousness is to be desired from those in authority, Milady. Familiarity is not. You will remain chaste and modest while you are at the Imperial City." Barenziah made a face. "I might as well be back at Darkmoor Keep. Elves are promiscuous by nature, you know. Everyone says so." "'Everyone' is wrong, then. Some are, some aren't. The Emperor -- and I -- expect you to display both discrimination and good taste. Let me remind you, Your Highness, that you hold the throne of Mournhold not by right of blood but solely at the pleasure of Tiber Septim. If he judges you unsuitable, your reign will end ere it begins. He requires intelligence, obedience, discretion, and total loyalty of all his appointees, and he favors chastity and modesty in women. I strongly suggest you model your deportment after our good Drelliane. Milady." "I'd as lief be back in Darkmoor!" Barenziah snapped resentfully, offended at the thought of emulating the frigid, prudish Drelliane in any way. "That is not an option. Your Highness. If you are of no use to Tiber Septim, he will see to it that you are of no use to his enemies either," the general said portentously. "If you would keep your head on your shoulders, take heed. Let me add that power offers pleasures other than those of carnality and cavorting with base company." He began to speak of art, literature, drama, music, and the grand balls thrown at the Imperial Court. Barenziah listened with growing interest, spurred on not entirely by his threats. But afterward she asked timidly if she might continue her study of magic while at the Imperial City. Symmachus seemed pleased at this and promised to arrange it. Encouraged, she then said that she noted three of their knights escort were women, and asked if she might train a little with them, just for the sake of exercise. The general looked less delighted at this, but gave his consent, though stressing it would only be with the women. The late winter weather held fair, though slightly frosty, for the rest of their journey so that they traveled quickly over firm roads. On the last day of their trip, spring seemed to have arrived at last for there were hints of a thaw. The road grew muddy underfoot, and everywhere one could hear water trickling and dripping faintly but steadily. It was a welcome sound. [pagebreak] They came to the great bridge that crossed into the Imperial City at sunset. The rosy glow turned the stark white marble edifices of the metropolis a delicate pink. It all looked very new and grand and immaculate. A broad avenue led north toward the Palace. A crowd of people of all sorts and races filled the wide concourse. Lights winked out in the shops and on in the inns as dusk fell and stars came out singly then by twos and threes. Even the side streets were broad and brightly illuminated. Near the Palace the towers of an immense Mages Guildhall reared toward the east, while westward the stained glass windows of a huge tabernacle glittered in the dying light. Symmachus had apartments in a magnificent house two blocks from the palace, past the temple. ("The Temple of the One," he identified as they passed it, an ancient Nordic cult which Tiber Septim had revived. He said that Barenziah would be expected to become a member should she prove acceptable to the Emperor.) The place was quite splendid--although little to Barenziah's taste. The walls and furnishings were done in utter pristine white, relieved only by touches of dull gold, and the floors in dully gleaming black marble. Barenziah's eyes ached for color and the interplay of subtle shadings. In the morning Symmachus and Drelliane escorted her to the Imperial Palace. Barenziah noted that everyone they met greeted Symmachus with a deferential respect in some cases bordering on obsequiousness. The general seemed to take it for granted. They were ushered directly into the imperial presence. Morning sun flooded a small room through a large window with tiny panes, washing over a sumptuously laden breakfast table and the single man who sat there, dark against the light. He leapt to his feet as they entered and hurried toward them. "Ah, Symmachus our most loyal friend, we welcome your return most gladly." His hands held Symmachus' shoulders briefly, fondly, halting the deep genuflection the Dark Elf had been in the process of effecting. Barenziah curtseyed as Tiber Septim turned to her. "Barenziah, our naughty little runaway. How do you do, child? Here, let us have a look at you. Why, Symmachus, she's charming, absolutely charming. Why have you hidden her from us all these years? Is the light too much, child? Shall we draw the hangings? Yes, of course." He waved aside Symmachus' protests and drew the curtains himself, not troubling to summon a servant. "You will pardon us for this discourtesy toward yourselves, our dear guests. We've much to think of, though that's scant excuse for hospitality's neglect. But ah! pray join us. There's some excellent nectarines from Black Marsh." They settled themselves at the table. Barenziah was dumbfounded. Tiber Septim was nothing like the grim, grey, giant warrior she'd pictured. He was of average height, fully half a head shorter than tall Symmachus, although he was well-knit of figure and lithe of movement. He had a winning smile, bright -- indeed piercing -- blue eyes, and a full head of stark white hair above a lined and weathered face. He might have been any age from forty to sixty. He pressed food and drink upon them, then repeated the question the general had asked her days ago: Why had she left home? Had her guardians been unkind to her? "No, Excellency," Barenziah replied, "in truth, no -- although I fancied so at times." Symmachus had fabricated a story for her, and Barenziah told it now, although with a certain misgiving. The stable-boy, Straw, had convinced her that her guardians, unable to find a suitable husband for her, meant to sell her off as a concubine in Rihad; and when a Redguard had indeed come, she had panicked and fled with Straw. Tiber Septim seemed fascinated and listened raptly as she provided details of her life as a merchant caravan escort. "Why, 'tis like a ballad!" he said. "By the One, we'll have the Court Bard set it to music. What a charming boy you must have made." "General Symmachus said--" Barenziah stopped in some confusion, then proceeded. "He said -- well, that I no longer look much like a boy. I have... grown in the past few months." She lowered her gaze in what she hoped approximated maidenly modesty. "He's a very discerning fellow, is our loyal friend Symmachus." "I know I've been a very foolish girl, Excellency. I must crave your pardon, and that of my kind guardians. I... I realized that some time ago, but I was too ashamed to go back home. But I don't want to return to Darkmoor now. Excellency, I long for Mournhold. My soul pines for my own country." "Our dear child. You shall go home, we promise you. But we pray you remain with us a little longer, that you may prepare yourself for the grave and solemn task with which we shall charge you." Barenziah gazed at him earnestly, heart beating fast. It was all working just as Symmachus had said it would. She felt a warm flush of gratitude toward him, but was careful to keep her attention focused on the Emperor. "I am honored, Excellency, and wish most earnestly to serve you and this great Empire you have built in any way I can." It was the politic thing to say, to be sure -- but Barenziah really meant it. She was awed at the magnificence of the city and the discipline and order evident everywhere, and moreover was excited at the prospect of being a part of it all. And she felt quite taken by the gentle Tiber Septim. [pagebreak] After a few days Symmachus left for Mournhold to take up the duties of a governor until Barenziah was ready to assume the throne, after which he would become her Prime Minister. Barenziah, with Drelliane as chaperone, took up residence in a suite of rooms at the Imperial Palace. Several tutors were provided her, in all the fields deemed seemly for a queenly education. During this time she became deeply interested in the magical arts, but she found the study of history and politics not at all to her preference. On occasion she met with Tiber Septim in the Palace gardens and he would unfailingly and politely inquire as to her progress -- and chide her, although with a smile, for her disinterest at matters of state. However, he was always happy to instruct her on the finer points of magic, and he could make even history and politics seem interesting. "They're people, child, not dry facts in a dusty volume," he said. As her understanding broadened, their discussions grew longer, deeper, more frequent. He spoke to her of his vision of a united Tamriel, each race separate and distinct but with shared ideals and goals, all contributing to the common weal. "Some things are universal, shared by all sentient folk of good will," he said. "So the One teaches us. We must unite against the malicious and the brutish, the miscreated -- the Orcs, trolls, goblins, and other worse creatures -- and not strive against one another." His blue eyes would light up as he stared into his dream, and Barenziah was delighted just to sit and listen to him. If he drew close to her, the side of her body next to him would glow as if he were a smoldering blaze. If their hands met she would tingle all over as if his body were charged with a shock spell. One day, quite unexpectedly, he took her face in his hands and kissed her gently on the mouth. She drew back after a few moments, astonished by the violence of her feelings, and he apologized instantly. "I... we... we didn't mean to do that. It's just -- you are so beautiful, dear. So very beautiful." He was looking at her with hopeless yearning in his generous eyes. She turned away, tears streaming down her face. "Are you angry with us? Speak to us. Please." Barenziah shook her head. "I could never be angry with you, Excellency. I... I love you. I know it's wrong, but I can't help it." "We have a consort," he said. "She is a good and virtuous woman, the mother of our children and future heirs. We could never put her aside -- yet there is nothing between us and her, no sharing of the spirit. She would have us be other than what we are. We are the most powerful person in all of Tamriel, and... Barenziah, we... I... I think I am the most lonely as well." He stood up suddenly. "Power!" he said with sublime contempt. "I'd trade a goodly share of it for youth and love if the gods would only sanction it." "But you are strong and vigorous and vital, more than any man I've ever known." He shook his head vehemently. "Today, perhaps. Yet I am less than I was yesterday, last year, ten years ago. I feel the sting of my mortality, and it is painful." "If I can ease your pain, let me." Barenziah moved toward him, hands outstretched. "No. I would not take your innocence from you." "I'm not that innocent." "How so?" The Emperor's voice suddenly grated harshly, his brows knitted. Barenziah's mouth went dry. What had she just said? But she couldn't turn back know. He would know. "There was Straw," she faltered. "I... I was lonely too. Am lonely. And not so strong as you." She cast her eyes down in abashment. "I... I guess I'm not worthy, Excellency--" "No, no. Not so. Barenziah. My Barenziah. It cannot last for long. You have a duty toward Mournhold, and a duty toward the Empire. I must tend toward mine as well. But while we may -- shall we share what we have, what we can, and pray the One forgives us our frailty?" Tiber Septim held out his arms -- and wordlessly, willingly, Barenziah stepped into his embrace. [pagebreak] "You caper on the edge of a volcano, child," Drelliane admonished as Barenziah admired the splendid star sapphire ring her imperial lover had given her to celebrate their one-month anniversary. "How so? We make one another happy. We harm no one. Symmachus bade me be discriminating and discreet. Who better could I choose? And we've been most discreet. He treats me like a daughter in public." Tiber Septim's nightly visits were made through a secret passage that only few in the Palace were privy to -- himself and a handful of trusted bodyguards. "He slavers over you like a cur his supper. Have you not noticed the coolness of the Empress and her son toward you?" Barenziah shrugged. Even before she and Septim had become lovers, she'd received no more from his family than bare civility. Threadbare civility. "What matter? It is Tiber who holds the power." "But it is his son who holds the future. Do not put his mother up to public scorn, I beg you." "Can I help it if that dry stick of a woman cannot hold her husband's interest even in conversation at dinner?" "Have less to say in public. That is all I ask. She matters little, it is true -- but her children love her, and you do not want them as enemies. Tiber Septim has not long to live. I mean," Drelliane amended quickly at Barenziah's scowl, "humans are all short-lived. Ephemeral, as we of the Elder Races say. They come and go as the seasons -- but the families of the powerful ones live on for a time. You must be a friend to this family if you would see lasting profit from your relationship. Ah, but how can I make you see truly, you who are so young and human-bred as well! If you take heed, and wisely, you and Mournhold are like to live to see the fall of Septim's dynasty, if indeed he has founded one, just as you have witnessed its rise. It is the way of human history. They ebb and flow like the inconstant tides. Their cities and dominions bloom like spring flowers, only to wither and die in the summer sun. But the Elves endure. We are as a year to their hour, a decade to their day." Barenziah just laughed. She knew that rumors abounded about her and Tiber Septim. She enjoyed the attention, for all save the Empress and her son seemed captivated by her. Minstrels sang of her dark beauty and her charming ways. She was in fashion, and in love -- and if it was temporary, well, what was not? She was happy for the first time she could remember, each of her days filled with joy and pleasure. And the nights were even better. [pagebreak] "What is wrong with me?" Barenziah lamented. "Look, not one of my skirts fit. What's become of my waistline? Am I getting fat?" Barenziah regarded her thin arms and legs and her undeniably thickened waist in the mirror with displeasure. Drelliane shrugged. "You appear to be with child, young as you are. Constant pairing with a human has brought you to early fertility. I see no choice but for you to speak with the Emperor about it. You are in his power. It would be best, I think, for you to go directly to Mournhold if he would agree to it, and bear the child there." "Alone?" Barenziah placed her hands on her swollen belly, tears forming in her eyes. Everything in her yearned to share the fruit of her love with her lover. "He'll never agree to that. He won't be parted from me now. You'll see." Drelliane shook her head. Although she said no more, a look of sympathy and sorrow had replaced her usual cool scorn. That night Barenziah told Tiber Septim when he came to her for their usual assignation. "With child?" He looked shocked. No, stunned. "You're sure of it? But I was told Elves do not bear at so young an age..." Barenziah forced a smile. "How can I be sure? I've never--" "I shall have my healer fetched." The healer, a High Elf of middle years, confirmed that Barenziah was indeed pregnant, and that such a thing had never before been known to happen. It was a testimony to His Excellency's potency, the healer said in sycophantic tones. Tiber Septim roared at him. "This must not be!" he said. "Undo it. We command you." "Sire," the healer gaped at him. "I cannot... I may not--" "Of course you can, you incompetent dullard," the Emperor snapped. "It is our express wish that you do so." Barenziah, till then silent and wide-eyed with terror, suddenly sat up in bed. "No!" she screamed. "No! What are you saying?" "Child," Tiber Septim sat down beside her, his face wearing one of his winning smiles. "I'm so sorry. Truly. But this cannot be. Your issue would be a threat to my son and his sons. I shall no more put it plainly than that." "The child I bear is yours!" she wailed. "No. It is now but a possibility, a might-be, not yet gifted with a soul or quickened into life. I will not have it so. I forbid it." He gave the healer another hard stare and the Elf began to tremble. "Sire. It is her child. Children are few among the Elves. No Elven woman conceives more than four times, and that is very rare. Two is the usual number. Some bear none, even, and some only one. If I take this one from her, Sire, she may not conceive again." "You promised us she would not bear to us. We've little faith in your prognostications." Barenziah scrambled naked from the bed and ran for the door, not knowing where she was going, only that she could not stay. She never reached it. Darkness overtook her. [pagebreak] She awoke to pain, and a feeling of emptiness. A void where something used to be, something that used to be alive, but now was dead and gone forever. Drelliane was there to soothe the pain and clean up the blood that still pooled at times between her legs. But there was nothing to fill the emptiness. There was nothing to take the place of the void. The Emperor sent magnificent gifts and vast arrangements of flowers, and came on short visits, always well-attended. Barenziah received these visits with pleasure at first. But Tiber Septim came no more at night -- and after some time nor did she wish him to. Some weeks passed, and when she was completely physically recovered, Drelliane informed her that Symmachus had written to request she come to Mournhold earlier than planned. It was announced that she would leave forthwith. She was given a grand retinue, an extensive trousseau befitting a queen, and an elaborate and impressive ceremonial departure from the gates of the Imperial City. Some people were sorry to see her leave, and expressed their sadness in tears and expostulations. But some others were not, and did not.

110Book2CommonRealBarenziahV4[pagebreak]

The Real Barenziah Volume Four by Anonymous

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verything I have ever loved, I have lost," Barenziah thought despondently, looking at the mounted knights behind and ahead, her tirewomen near her in a carriage. "Yet I have gained a measure of wealth and power, and the promise of more to come. Dearly have I bought it. Now I do understand better Tiber Septim's love of it, if he has often paid such prices. For surely worth is measured by the price we pay." By her wish, she rode on a shiny roan mare, clad as a warrior in resplendent chain mail of Dark Elven make. As the days slowly slipped by and her train rode the winding road eastward into the setting sun, around her gradually rose the steep-sided mountain slopes of Morrowind. The air was thin, and a chill late autumn wind blew constantly. But it was also rich with the sweet spicy smell of the late-blooming black rose, which was native to Morrowind and grew in every shadowy nook and crevice of its highlands, finding nourishment even in the stoniest banks and ridges. In small villages and towns, ragged Dark Elven folk gathered along the road to cry her name or simply gape. Most of her knightly escort were Redguards, with a few High Elves, Nords, and Bretons. As they wove their way into the heart of Morrowind, they grew increasingly uncomfortable and clung together in protective clusters. Even the Elven knights seemed wary. But Barenziah felt at home, at last. She felt the welcome extended to her by the land. Her land. [pagebreak] Symmachus met her at the Mournhold border with an escort of knights, about half of whom were Dark Elven. In Imperial battle dress, she noted. There was a grand parade of entry into the city and speeches of welcome from stately dignitaries. "I've had the queen's suite refurbished for you," the general told her later when they reached the palace, "but you may change anything not to your taste, of course." He went on about the details of the coronation, which was to be held in a week. He was his old commanding self -- but she sensed something else as well. He was eager for her approval of the arrangements, was in fact fishing for it. That was new. He had never required her commendation before. He asked her nothing about her stay in the Imperial City, or of her affair with Tiber Septim -- although Barenziah was certain Drelliane had told him, or earlier written him, everything in detail. The ceremony itself, like so much else, was a mixture of old and new -- parts of it from the ancient Dark Elven tradition of Mournhold, the others dictated by Imperial decree. She was sworn to the service of the Empire and Tiber Septim as well as to the land of Mournhold and its people. She accepted oaths of fealty and allegiance from the people, the nobility, and the council. This last was composed of a blend of Imperial emissaries ("advisors" they were called) and native representatives of the Mournhold people, who were mostly elders in accordance with Elven custom. Barenziah later found that much of her time was occupied in attempting to reconcile these two factions and their cronies. The elders were expected to do most of the conciliating, in light of reforms introduced by the Empire pertaining to land ownership and surface farming. But most of these went clean against Dark Elven observances. Tiber Septim, "in the name of the One," had ordained a new tradition -- and apparently even the gods and goddesses themselves were expected to obey. The new Queen threw herself into her work and her studies. She was through with love and men for a long, long time -- if not forever. There were other pleasures, she discovered, as Symmachus had promised her long ago: those of the mind, and those of power. She developed (surprisingly, for she had always rebelled against her tutors at the Imperial City) a deep love for Dark Elven history and mythology, a hunger to know more fully the people from whom she had sprung. She was gratified to learn that they had been proud warriors and skilled craftsmen and cunning mages since time immemorial. Tiber Septim lived for another half-century, during which she saw him on several occasions as she was bidden to the Imperial City on one reason of state or another. He greeted her with warmth during these visits, and they even had long talks together about events in the Empire when opportunity would permit. He seemed to have quite forgotten that there had ever been anything between them more than easy friendship and a profound political alliance. He changed little as the years passed. Rumor had it that his mages had developed spells to extend his vitality, and that even the One had granted him immortality. Then one day a messenger came with the news that Tiber Septim was dead, and his grandson Pelagius was now Emperor in his place. They had heard the news in private, she and Symmachus. The sometime Imperial General and now her trusted Prime Minister took it stoically, as he took most everything. "Somehow it doesn't seem possible," Barenziah said. "I told you. Ai. It's the way of humans. They are a short-lived people. It doesn't really matter. His power lives on, and his son now wields it." "You called him your friend once. Do you feel nothing? No grief?" He shrugged. "There was a time when you called him somewhat more. What do you feel, Barenziah?" They had long ago ceased to address each other in private by their formal titles. "Emptiness. Loneliness," she said, then she too shrugged. "But that's not new." "Ai. I know," he said softly, taking her hand. "Barenziah..." He turned her face up and kissed her. The act filled her with astonishment. She couldn't remember his ever touching her before. She'd never thought of him in that way -- and yet, undeniably, an old familiar warmth spread through her. She'd forgotten how good it felt, that warmth. Not the scorching heat she'd felt with Tiber Septim, but the comforting, robust ardor she somehow associated with... with Straw! Straw. Poor Straw. She hadn't thought of him in so long. He'd be middle-aged now if he were still alive. Probably with a dozen children, she thought affectionately... and a hearty wife who hopefully could talk for two. "Marry me, Barenziah," Symmachus was saying, he seemed to have picked up her thoughts on marriage, children... wives, "I've worked and toiled and waited long enough, haven't I?" Marriage. A peasant with peasant dreams. The thought appeared in her mind, clear and unbidden. Hadn't she used those very same words to describe Straw, so very long ago? And yet, why not? If not Symmachus, who else? Many of the great noble families of Morrowind had been wiped out in Tiber Septim's great war of unification, before the treaty. Dark Elven rule had been restored, it was true -- but not the old, not the true nobility. Most of them were upstarts like Symmachus, and not even half as good or deserving as he was. He had fought to keep Mournhold whole and hale when their so-called counselors would have picked at its bones, sucked them dry as Ebonheart had been sucked dry. He'd fought for Mournhold, fought for her, while she and the kingdom grew and thrived. She felt a sudden rush of gratitude -- and, undeniably, affection. He was steady and reliable. And he'd served her well. And loved her well. "Why not?" she said, smiling. And took his hand. And kissed him. [pagebreak] The union was a good one, in its political as well as personal aspects. While Tiber Septim's grandson, the Emperor Pelagius I, viewed her with a jaundiced eye, his trust in his father's old friend was absolute. Symmachus, however, was still viewed with suspicion by Morrowind's stiff-necked folk, chary at his peasant ancestry and his close ties to the Empire. But the Queen was quite unshakably popular. "The Lady Barenziah's one of our own," it was whispered, "held captive as we." Barenziah felt content. There was work and there was pleasure -- and what more could one ask of life? The years passed swiftly, with crises to be dealt with, and storms and famines and failures to be weathered, and plots to be foiled, and conspirators to be executed. Mournhold prospered steadily. Her people were secure and fed, her mines and farms productive. All was well -- save that the royal marriage had produced no children. No heirs. Elven children are slow to come, and most demanding of their welcome -- and noble children more so than others. Thus many decades had come to pass before they grew concerned. "The fault lies with me, Symmachus. I'm damaged goods," Barenziah said bitterly. "If you want to take another..." "I want no other," Symmachus said gently, "nor do I know for certain that the fault is yours. Perhaps it is mine. Ai. Whichever. We will seek a cure. If there is damage, surely it may be repaired." "How so? When we dare not entrust anyone with the true story? Healer's oaths do not always hold." "It won't matter if we change the time and circumstances a bit. Whatever we say or fail to say, Jephre the Storyteller never rests. The god's inventive mind and quick tongue are ever busy spreading gossip and rumor." Priests and healers and mages came and went, but all their prayers, potions, and philtres produced not even a promise of bloom, let alone a single fruit. Eventually they thrust it from their minds and left it in the gods' hands. They were yet young, as Elves went, with centuries ahead of them. There was time. With Elves there was always time. Barenziah sat at dinner in the Great Hall, pushing food about on a plate, feeling bored and restless. Symmachus was away, having been summoned to the Imperial City by Tiber Septim's great-great-grandson, Uriel Septim. Or was it his great-great-great-grandson? She'd lost count, she realized. Their faces seemed to blur one into the next. Perhaps she should have gone with him, but there'd been the delegation from Tear on a tiresome matter that nevertheless required delicate handling. A bard was singing in an alcove off the hall, but Barenziah wasn't listening. Lately all the songs seemed the same to her, whether new or old. Then a turn of phrase caught her attention. He was singing of freedom, of adventure, of freeing Morrowind from its chains. How dare he! Barenziah sat up straight and turned to glare at him. Worse, she realized he was singing of some ancient, and now immaterial, war with the Skyrim Nords, praising the heroism of Kings Edward and Moraelyn and their brave Companions. The tale was old enough, certainly, yet the song was new ... and its meaning ... Barenziah couldn't be sure. A bold fellow, this bard, but with a strong, passionate voice and a good ear for music. Rather handsome too, in a raffish sort of way. He didn't look to be well-off exactly, nor was he all that young. Certainly he couldn't be under a century of age. Why hadn't she heard him before, or at least heard of him? "Who is he?" she inquired of a lady-in-waiting. The woman shrugged and said, "Calls himself the Nightingale, Milady. No one seems to know anything about him." "Bid him speak with me when he has done." The man called the Nightingale came to her, thanked her for the honor of the Queen's audience and the fat purse she handed him. His manner wasn't bold at all, she decided, rather quiet and unassuming. He was quick enough with gossip about others, but she learned nothing about him -- he turned all questions away with a joking riposte or a ribald tale. Yet these were recounted so charmingly it was impossible to take offence. "My true name? Milady, I am no one. No, no, my parents named me Know Wan -- or was it No Buddy? What matters it? It matters not. How may parents give name to that which they know not? Ah! I believe that was the name, Know Not. I have been the Nightingale for so long I do not remember, since, oh, last month at the very least -- or was it last week? All my memory goes into song and tale, you see, Milady. I've none left for myself. I'm really quite dull. Where was I born? Why, Knoweyr. I plan to settle in Dunroamin when I get there ... but I'm in no hurry." "I see. And will you then marry Atallshur?" "Very perceptive of you, Milady. Perhaps, perhaps. Although I find Innhayst quite charming too, at whiles." "Ah. You are fickle, then?" "Like the wind, Milady. I blow hither and yon, hot and cold, as chance suits. Chance is my suit. Naught else wears well on me." Barenziah smiled. "Stay with us awhile, then ... if you will, Milord Erhatick." "As you wish, Milady Bryte." [pagebreak] After that brief exchange, Barenziah found her interest in life somehow rekindled. All that had seemed stale became fresh and new again. She greeted each day with zest, looking forward to conversation with the Nightingale and the gift of his song. Unlike other bards, he never sang her praises, nor other women's, but only of high adventure and bold deeds. When she asked him about this, he said, "What greater praise of your beauty could you ask, Milady, than that which your own mirror gives you? And if words you would have, you have those of the greatest, of those greater than my callow self. How should I vie with them, I who was born but a week gone by?" For once they were speaking privately. The Queen, unable to sleep, had summoned him to her chamber that his music might soothe her. "You are lazy and a coward, sera, else I hold no charm for you." "Milady, to praise you I must know you. I can never know you. You are wrapped in enigma, in clouds of enchantment." "Nay, not so. Your words are what weave enchantment. Your words... and your eyes. And your body. Know me if you will. Know me if you dare." He came to her then. They lay close, they kissed, they embraced. "Not even Barenziah truly knows Barenziah," he whispered softly, "so how may I? Milady, you seek and know it not, nor yet for what. What would you have, that you have not?" "Passion," she answered back. "Passion. And children born of it." "And for your children, what? What birthright might be theirs?" "Freedom," she said, "the freedom to be what they would be. Tell me, you who seem wisest to these eyes and ears, and the soul that knits them. Where may I find these things?" "One lies beside you, the other beneath you. But would you dare stretch out your hand, that you might take what could be yours, and your children's?" "Symmachus..." "In my person lies the answer to part of what you seek. The other lies hidden below us in these your very kingdom's mines, that which will grant us the power to fulfill and achieve our dreams. That which Edward and Moraelyn between them used to free High Rock and their spirits from the hateful domination of the Nords. If it be properly used, Milady, none may stand against it, not even the power the Emperor controls. Freedom, you say? Barenziah, freedom it gives from the chains that bind you. Think on it, Milady." He kissed her again, softly, and withdrew. "You're not leaving... ?" she cried out. Her body yearned for him. "For now," he said. "Pleasures of the flesh are nothing beside what we might have together. I would have you think on what I have just said." "I don't need to think. What must we do? What preparations must be made?" "Why -- none. The mines may not be entered freely, it is true. But with the Queen at my side, who will stand athwart? Once below I can guide you to where this thing lies, and lift it from its resting place." Then the memory of her endless studies slid into place. "The Horn of Summoning," she whispered in awe. "Is it true? Could it be? How do you know? I've read that it's buried beneath the measureless caves of Daggerfall." "Nay, long have I studied this matter. Ere his death King Edward gave the Horn for safekeeping into the hand of his old friend King Moraelyn. He in turn secreted it here in Mournhold under the guardianship of the god Ephen, whose birthplace and bailiwick this is. Now you know what it has cost me many a long year and weary mile to discover." "But the god? What of Ephen?" "Trust me, Milady heart. All will be well." Laughing softly, he blew her a last kiss and was gone. [pagebreak] On the morrow they passed the guards at the great portals that led into the mines, and further below. Under pretence of her customary tour of inspection, Barenziah, unattended but for the Nightingale, ventured into cavern after subterranean cavern. Eventually they reached what looked like a forgotten sealed doorway, and upon entering found that it led to an ancient part of the workings, long abandoned. The going was treacherous for some of the old shafts had collapsed, and they had to clear a passage through the rubble or find a way around the more impassable piles. Vicious rats and huge spiders scurried here and there, sometimes even attacking them. But they proved no match for Barenziah's firebolt spells or the Nightingale's quick dagger. "We've been gone too long," Barenziah said at length. "They'll be looking for us. What will I tell them?" "Whatever you please," the Nightingale laughed. "You are the Queen, aren't you?" "The Lord Symmachus--" "That peasant obeys whoever holds power. Always has, always will. We shall hold the power, Milady love." His lips were sweetest wine, his touch both fire and ice. "Now," she said, "take me now. I'm ready." Her body seemed to hum, every nerve and muscle taut. "Not yet. Not here, not like this." He waved around, indicating the aged dusty debris and grim walls of rock. "Just a little while longer." Reluctantly, Barenziah nodded her assent. They resumed walking. "Here," he said at last, pausing before a blank barrier. "Here it lies." He scratched a rune in the dust, his other hand weaving a spell as he did so. The wall dissolved. It revealed an entrance to some ancient shrine. In the midst stood a statue of a god, hammer in hand, poised above an admantium anvil. "By my blood, Ephen," the Nightingale cried, "I bid thee waken! Moraelyn's heir of Ebonheart am I, last of the royal line, sharer of thy blood. At Morrowind's last need, with all of Elvendom in dread peril of their selves and souls, release to me that guerdon which thou guardst! Now I do bid thee, strike!" At his final words the statue glowed and quickened, the blank stone eyes shone a bright red. The massive head nodded, the hammer smote the anvil, and it split asunder with a thunderous crash, the stone god itself crumbling. Barenziah clapped her hands over her ears and crouched down, shaking terribly and moaning out loud. The Nightingale strode forward boldly and clasped the thing that lay among the ruins with a roar of ecstasy. He lifted it high. "Someone's coming!" Barenziah cried in alarm, then noticed for the first time what it was he was holding aloft. "Wait, that's not the Horn, it -- it's a staff!" "Indeed, Milady. You see truly, at last!" The Nightingale laughed aloud. "I am sorry, Milady sweet, but I must leave you now. Perhaps we shall meet again one day. Until then... Ah, until then, Symmachus," he said to the mail-clad figure who had appeared behind them, "she is all yours. You may claim her back." "No!" Barenziah screamed. She sprang up and ran toward him, but he was gone. Winked out of existence -- just as Symmachus, claymore drawn, reached him. His blade cleaved a single stroke through empty air. Then he stood still, as if taking the stone god's place. Barenziah said nothing, heard nothing, saw nothing... felt nothing... [pagebreak] Symmachus told the half dozen or so Elves who had accompanied him that the Nightingale and Queen Barenziah had lost their way, and had been set upon by giant spiders. That the Nightingale had lost his footing and fallen into a deep crevice, which closed over him. That his body could not be recovered. That the Queen had been badly shaken by the encounter and deeply mourned the loss of her friend, who had fallen in her defense. Such was Symmachus' presence and power of command that the slack-jawed knights, none of whom had caught more than a glimpse of what happened, were convinced that it was all exactly as he said. The Queen was escorted back to the palace and taken to her chamber, whereupon she dismissed her servants-in-waiting. She sat still before her mirror for a long time, stunned, too distraught even to weep. Symmachus stood watching over her. "Do you have any idea at all what you have just done?" he said finally -- flatly, coldly. "You should have told me," Barenziah whispered. "The Staff of Chaos! I never dreamed it lay here. He said-- he said-- " A mewling escaped her lips and she doubled over in despair. "Oh, what have I done? What have I done? What happens now? What's to become of me? Of us?" "Did you love him?" "Yes. Yes, yes, yes! Oh my Symmachus, the gods have mercy on me, but I did love him. Did. But now... now... I don't know... I'm not sure... I..." Symmachus' hard-lined face softened slightly, and his eyes glittered with new light, and he sighed. "Ai. That's something then. You will become a mother yet if it's within my power. As for the rest -- Barenziah, my dearest Barenziah, I expect you have loosed a storm upon the land. It'll be a while yet in the brewing. But when it comes, we'll weather it together. As we always have." He came over to her then, and stripped her of her clothing, and carried her to the bed. Out of grief and longing, her enfeebled body responded to his brawny one as it never had before, pouring forth all that the Nightingale had wakened to life in her. And in so doing calming the restless ghosts of all he had destroyed. [pagebreak] She was empty, and emptied. And then she was filled, for a child was planted and grew within her. As her son flourished in the womb, so did her feeling toward patient, faithful, devoted Symmachus, which had been rooted in long friendship and unbroken affection -- and which now, at last, ripened into the fullness of true love. Eight years later they were again blessed, this time with a daughter. [pagebreak] Directly after the Nightingale's theft of the Staff of Chaos, Symmachus had sent urgent secret communiques to Uriel Septim. He had not gone himself, as he would normally have, choosing instead to stay with Barenziah during her fertile period to father a son upon her. For this, and for the theft, he suffered Uriel Septim's temporary disfavor and unjust suspicion. Spies were sent in search of the thief, but the Nightingale seemed to have vanished whence he had come -- wherever that was. "Dark Elf in part, perhaps," said Barenziah, "but part human too, I think, in disguise. Else would I not have come so quickly to fertility." "Part Dark Elf, for sure, and of ancient Ra'athim lineage at that, else he would not have been able to free the Staff," Symmachus reasoned. He turned to peer at her fixedly. "I don't think he would have lain with you. As an Elf he did not dare, for then he would not have been able to part from you." He smiled. Then he turned serious once more. "Ai! He knew the Staff lay there, not the Horn, and that he must teleport to safety. The Staff is not a weapon that would have seen him clear, unlike the Horn. Praise the gods at least that he does not have that! It seems all was as he expected -- but how did he know? I placed the Staff there myself, with the aid of the ragtail end of the Ra'athim Clan who now sits king in Castle Ebonheart as a reward. Tiber Septim claimed the Horn, but left the Staff for safekeeping. Ai! Now the Nightingale can use the Staff to sow seeds of strife and dissension wherever he goes, if he wishes. Yet that alone will not gain him power. That lies with the Horn and the ability to use it." "I'm not so sure it's power the Nightingale seeks," Barenziah said. "All seek power," Symmachus said, "each in our own way." "Not I," she answered. "I, Milord, have found that for which I sought."

111Book2CommonRealBarenziahV5[pagebreak]

The Real Barenziah Volume Five by Anonymous

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s Symmachus had predicted, the theft of the Staff of Chaos had few short-term consequences. The current Emperor, Uriel Septim, sent some rather stiff messages expressing shock and displeasure at the Staff's disappearance, and urging Symmachus to make every effort to locate its whereabouts and communicate developments to the newly appointed Imperial Battlemage, Jagar Tharn, in whose hands the matter had been placed. "Tharn!" Symmachus thundered in disgust and frustration as he paced about the small chamber where Barenziah, now some months pregnant, was sitting serenely embroidering a baby blanket. "Jagar Tharn, indeed. Ai! I wouldn't give him directions for crossing the street, not if he were a doddering old blind sot." "What have you against him, love?" "I just don't trust that mongrel Elf. Part Dark Elf, part High Elf, and part the gods only know what. All the worst qualities of all his combined bloods, I'll warrant." He snorted. "No one knows much about him. Claims he was born in southern Valenwood, of a Wood Elven mother. Seems to have been everywhere since -- " Barenziah, sunk in the contentment and lassitude of pregnancy, had only been humoring Symmachus thus far. But now she suddenly dropped her needlework and looked at him. Something had piqued her interest. "Symmachus. Could this Jagar Tharn have been the Nightingale, disguised?" Symmachus thought this over before replying. "Nay, my love. Human blood seems to be the one missing component in Tharn's ancestry." To Symmachus, Barenziah knew, that was a flaw. Her husband despised Wood Elves as lazy thieves and High Elves as effete intellectuals. But he admired humans, especially Bretons, for their combination of pragmatism, intelligence, and energy. "The Nightingale's of Ebonheart, of the Ra'athim Clan - House Hlaalu, the House of Mora in particular, I'll be bound. That house has had human blood in it since her time. Ebonheart was jealous that the Staff was laid here when Tiber Septim took the Horn of Summoning from us." Barenziah sighed a little. The rivalry between Ebonheart and Mournhold reached back almost to the dawn of Morrowind's history. Once the two nations had been one, all the lucrative mines held in fief by the Ra'athims, whose nobility retained the High Kingship of Morrowind. Ebonheart had split into two separate city-states, Ebonheart and Mournhold, when Queen Lian's twin sons -- grandsons of the legendary King Moraelyn -- were left as joint heirs. At about the same time the office of High King was vacated in favor of a temporary War Leader to be named by a council in times of provincial emergency. Still, Ebonheart remained jealous of her prerogatives as the eldest city-state of Morrowind ("first among equals" was the phrase its rulers often quoted) and claimed that rightful guardianship of the Staff of Chaos should have been entrusted to its ruling house. Mournhold responded that King Moraelyn himself had placed the Staff in the keeping of the god Ephen -- and Mournhold was unarguably the god's birthplace. "Why not tell Jagar Tharn of your suspicions, then? Let him recover the thing. As long as it's safe, what does it matter who recovers it, or where it lies?" Symmachus stared at her without comprehension. "It matters," he said softly after a while, "but I suppose not that much. Ai." He added, "Certainly not enough for you to concern yourself further with it. You just sit there and tend to your," and here he smiled at her wickedly, "embroidery." Barenziah flung the sampler at him. It hit Symmachus square in the face -- needle, thimble, and all. [pagebreak] In a few more months Barenziah gave birth to a fine son, whom they named Helseth. Nothing more was heard of the Staff of Chaos, or the Nightingale. If Ebonheart had the Staff in its possession, they certainly did not boast of it. The years passed swiftly and happily. Helseth grew tall and strong. He was much like his father, whom he worshipped. When Helseth was eight years old Barenziah bore a second child, a daughter, to Symmachus' lasting delight. Helseth was his pride, but little Morgiah -- named for Symmachus' mother -- held his heart. Sadly, the birth of Morgiah was not the harbinger of better times ahead. Relations with the Empire slowly deteriorated, for no apparent reason. Taxes were raised and quotas increased with each passing year. Symmachus felt that the Emperor suspected him of having had a hand in the Staff's disappearance and sought to prove his loyalty by making every effort to comply with the escalating demands. He lengthened working hours and raised tariffs, and even made up some of the difference from both the royal exchequer and their own private holdings. But the levies multiplied, and commoners and nobles alike began to complain. It was an ominous rumble. "I want you to take the children and journey to the Imperial City," Symmachus said at last in desperation one evening after dinner. "You must make the Emperor listen, else all Mournhold will be up in revolt come spring." He grinned forcibly. "You have a way with men, love. You always did." Barenziah forced a smile of her own. "Even with you, I take it." "Yes. Especially with me," he acknowledged amiably. "Both children?" Barenziah looked over toward a corner window, where Helseth was strumming a lute and crooning a duet with his little sister. Helseth was fifteen by then, Morgiah eight. "They might soften his heart. Besides, it's high time Helseth was presented before the Imperial Court." "Perhaps. But that's not your true reason." Barenziah took a deep breath and grasped the nettle. "You don't think you can keep them safe here. If that's the case, then you're not safe here either. Come with us," she urged. He took her hands in his. "Barenziah. My love. Heart of my heart. If I leave now, there'll be nothing for us to return to. Don't worry about me. I'll be all right. Ai! I can take care of myself -- and I can do it better if I'm not worrying about you or the children." Barenziah laid her head against his chest. "Just remember that we need you. I need you. We can do without the rest of it if we have each other. Empty hands and empty bellies are easier to bear than an empty heart." She started to cry, thinking of the Nightingale and that sordid business with the Staff. "My foolishness has brought us to this pass." He smiled at her tenderly. "If so, 'tis not so bad a place to be." His eyes rested indulgently on their children. "None of us shall ever go without, or want for anything. Ever. Ever, my love, I promise you. I cost you everything once, Barenziah, I and Tiber Septim. Ai. Without my aid the Empire would never have begun. I helped its rise." His voice hardened. "I can bring about its fall. You may tell Uriel Septim that. That, and that my patience is not infinite." Barenziah gasped. Symmachus was not given to empty threats. She'd no more imagined that he would ever turn against the Empire than that the old house wolf lying by the grate would turn on her. "How?" she demanded breathlessly. But he shook his head. "Better that you not know," he said. "Just tell him what I told you should he prove recalcitrant, and do not fear. He's Septim enough that he will not take it out on the messenger." He smiled grimly. "For if he does, if he ever harms the least hair on you, my love, or the children -- so help me all the gods of Tamriel, he'll pray that he hadn't been born. Ai. I'll hunt him down, him and his entire family. And I won't rest until the last Septim is dead." The red Dark Elven eyes of Symmachus gleamed brightly in the ebbing firelight. "I plight you that oath, my love. My Queen ... my Barenziah." Barenziah held him, held him as tight as she could. But in spite of the warmth in his embrace, she couldn't help shivering. [pagebreak] Barenziah stood before the Emperor's throne, trying to explain Mournhold's straits. She'd waited weeks for an audience with Uriel Septim, having been fobbed off on this pretext or that. "His Majesty is indisposed." "An urgent matter demands His Excellency's attention." "I am sorry, Your Highness, there must be some mistake. Your appointment is for next week. No, see..." And now it wasn't even going well. The Emperor did not even make the slightest pretence at listening to her. He hadn't invited her to sit, nor had he dismissed the children. Helseth stood still as a carven image, but little Morgiah had begun to fuss. The state of her own mind didn't help her any. Shortly upon arrival at her lodgings, the Mournholdian ambassador to the Imperial City had demanded entry, bringing with him a sheaf of dispatches from Symmachus. Bad news, and plenty of it. The revolt had finally begun. The peasants had organized around a few disgruntled members of Mournhold's minor nobility, and were demanding Symmachus step down and hand over the reins of government. Only the Imperial Guard and a handful of troops whose families had been retainers of Barenziah's house for generations stood between Symmachus and the rabble. Hostilities had already broken out, but apparently Symmachus was safe and still in control. Not for long, he wrote. He entreated Barenziah to try her best with the Emperor -- but in any case she was to stay in the Imperial City until he wrote to tell her it was safe to go back home with the children. She had tried to barge her way through the Imperial bureaucracy -- with little success. And to add to her growing panic, all news from Mournhold had come to a sudden stop. Tottering between rage at the Emperor's numerous major-domos and fear of the fate awaiting her and her family, the weeks had passed by tensely, agonizingly, remorselessly. Then one day the Mournholdian ambassador came calling to tell her she should expect news from Symmachus the following night at the latest, not through the regular channels but by nighthawk. Seemingly by the same stroke of luck, she was informed that same day by a clerk from the Imperial Court that Uriel Septim had finally consented to grant her an audience early on the morrow. The Emperor had greeted the three of them when they came into the audience chamber with a too-bright smile of welcome that nonetheless didn't reach his eyes. Then, as she presented her children, he had gazed at them with a fixed attention that was real yet somehow inappropriate. Barenziah had been dealing with humans for nearly five hundred years now, and had developed the skill of reading their expressions and movements that was far beyond what any human could ever perceive. Try as the Emperor might to conceal it, there was hunger in his eyes -- and something else. Regret? Yes. Regret. But why? He had several fine children of his own. Why covet hers? And why look at her with such a vicious -- however brief -- yearning? Perhaps he had tired of his consort. Humans were notoriously, though predictably, inconstant. After that one long, burning glance, his gaze had shifted away as she began to speak of her mission and the violence that had erupted in Mournhold. He sat still as stone throughout her entire account. Puzzled at his inertia, and vexed no end, Barenziah stared into the pale, set face, looking for some trace of the Septims she'd known in the past. She didn't know Uriel Septim well, having met him once when he was still a child, and then again at his coronation twenty years later. Twice, that was all. He'd been a stern and dignified presence at the ceremony, even as a young adult -- yet not icily remote as this more mature man was. In fact, despite the physical resemblance, he didn't seem to be the same man at all. Not the same, yet something about him was familiar to her, more familiar than it should be, some trick of posture or gesture... Suddenly she felt very hot, as if lava had been poured over her. Illusion! She had studied the arts of illusion well since the Nightingale had deceived her so badly. She had learned to detect it -- and she felt it now, as certainly as a blind man could feel the sun on his face. Illusion! But why? Her mind worked furiously even as her mouth went on reciting details about Mournhold's troubles. Vanity? Humans were oft as ashamed at the signs of ageing as Elves were proud to exhibit them. Yet the face Uriel Septim wore seemed consistent with his age. Barenziah dared use none of her own magic. Even petty nobles had means of detecting magicka, if not actually shielding themselves from its effects, within their own halls. The use of sorcery here would bring down the Emperor's wrath as surely as drawing a dagger would. Magic. Illusion. Suddenly she was brought to mind of the Nightingale. And then he was sitting before her. Then the vision changed, and it was Uriel Septim. He looked sad. Trapped. And then the vision faded once more, and another man sat in his place, like the Nightingale, and yet unlike. Pale skin, bloodshot eyes, Elven ears -- and about him a fierce glow of concentrated malice, an aura of eldritch energy -- a horrible, destructive shimmer. This man was capable of anything! And then once again she was looking into the face of Uriel Septim. How could she be sure she wasn't imagining things? Perhaps her mind was playing tricks on her. She felt a sudden vast weariness, as if she'd been carrying a heavy burden too long and too far. She decided to abandon her earnest narrative of Mournhold's ills -- as it was quite plainly getting her nowhere -- and switch back to pleasantry. Pleasantry, however, with a hidden agenda. "Do you remember, Sire, Symmachus and I had dinner with your family shortly after your father's coronation? You were no older than tiny Morgiah here. We were greatly honored to be the only guests that evening -- except for your best friend Justin, of course." "Ah yes," the Emperor said, smiling cautiously. Very cautiously. "I do believe I recall that." "You and Justin were such friends, Your Majesty. I was told he died not long after. A great pity." "Indeed. I still do not like to speak of him." His eyes turned blank -- or blanker, if it had been possible. "As for your request, Milady, we shall take it under advisement and let you know." Barenziah bowed, as did the children. A nod from the Emperor dismissed them, and they backed away from the imperial presence. She took a deep breath when they emerged from the throne room. "Justin" had been an imaginary playmate, although young Uriel had insisted a place be set for Justin at every meal. Not only that, Justin, despite the boyish name, had been a girl! Symmachus had kept up the joke long after she had gone the way of imaginary childhood friends -- inquiring after Justin's health whenever he and Uriel Septim met, and being responded to in as mock-serious a fashion. The last Barenziah had heard of Justin, several years ago, the Emperor had evidently joked elaborately to Symmachus that she had met an adventurous though incorrigible Khajiit youth, married him, and settled down in Lilandril to raise fire ferns and mugworts. The man sitting on the Emperor's divan was not Uriel Septim! The Nightingale? Could it be...? Yes. Yes! A chord of recognition rang through her and Barenziah knew she was right. It was him. It was! The Nightingale! Masquerading as the Emperor! Symmachus had been wrong, so wrong... What now? she wondered frantically. What had become of Uriel Septim -- and more to the point, what did it mean for her and Symmachus, and all of Mournhold? Thinking back, Barenziah guessed that their troubles were due to this false Emperor, this Nightingale-spawned glamour -- or whatever he really was. He must have taken Uriel Septim's place shortly before the unreasonable demands on Mournhold had begun. That would explain why relations had deteriorated for so long (as humans reckoned time), long after her disapproved liaison with Tiber Septim. The Nightingale knew of Symmachus' famed loyalty to, and knowledge of, the Septim House, and was effecting a pre-emptive strike. If that were the case, they were all in terrible danger. She and the children were in his power here in the Imperial City, and Symmachus was left alone to deal with troubles of the Nightingale's brewing in Mournhold. What must she do? Barenziah impelled the children ahead of her, a hand on each shoulder, trying to stay cool, collected, her ladies-in-waiting and personal knights escort trailing behind. Finally they reached their waiting carriage. Even though their suite of rooms was only a few blocks from the Palace, royal dignity forbade travel on foot for even short distances -- and for once, Barenziah was glad of it. The carriage seemed a kind of refuge now, false as she knew the feeling must be. A boy dashed up to one of the guards and handed him a scroll, then pointed toward the carriage. The guard brought it to her. The boy waited, eyes wide and shining. The epistle was brief and complimentary, and simply inquired if King Eadwyre of Wayrest, of the Province of High Rock, might be granted an audience with the famed Queen Barenziah of Mournhold, as he had heard much of her and would be pleased to make her acquaintance. Barenziah's first impulse was to refuse. She wanted only to leave this city! Certainly she had no inclination toward any dalliance with a dazzled human. She looked up, frowning, and one of the guards said, "Milady, the boy says his master awaits your reply yonder." She looked in the direction indicated and saw a handsome elderly man on horseback, surrounded by a half dozen courtiers and cavaliers. He caught her eye and bowed respectfully, taking off a plumed hat. "Very well," Barenziah said to the boy on impulse. "Tell your master he may call on me tonight, after the dinner hour." King Eadwyre looked polite and grave, and rather worried -- but not in the least lovestruck. At least that was something, she thought pensively. Barenziah stood at the tower window, waiting. She could sense the familiar's nearness. But though the night sky was clear as day to her eyes, she could not yet see him. Then suddenly he was there, a swift moving dot beneath the wispy night clouds. A few more minutes and the great nighthawk finished its descent, wings folding, talons reaching for her thick leather armband. She carried the bird to its perch, where it waited, panting, as her impatient fingers felt for the message secured in a capsule on one leg. The hawk drank mightily from the water till when she had done, then ruffled its feathers and preened, secure in her presence. A tiny part of her consciousness shared its satisfaction at a job well done, mission accomplished, and rest earned ... yet beneath it all was unease. Things were not right, even to its humble avian mind. Her fingers shook as she unfolded the thin parchment and pored over the cramped writing. Not Symmachus' bold hand! Barenziah sat slowly, fingers smoothing the document while she prepared her mind and body to accept disaster calmly, if disaster it would be. Disaster it was. The Imperial Guard had deserted Symmachus and joined the rebels. Symmachus was dead. The remaining loyal troops had suffered a decisive defeat. Symmachus was dead. The rebel leader had been recognized as King of Mournhold by Imperial envoys. Symmachus was dead. Barenziah and the children had been declared traitors to the Empire and a price set on their heads. Symmachus was dead. So the audience with the Emperor earlier that morning had been nothing but a blind, a ruse. A charade. The Emperor must have already known. She was just being strung along, told to stay put, take things easy, Milady Queen, enjoy the Imperial City and the delights it has to offer, do make your stay as long as you want. Her stay? Her detention. Her captivity. And in all probability, her impending arrest. She had no delusions about her situation. She knew the Emperor and his minions would never let her leave the Imperial City, ever again. At least, not alive. Symmachus was dead. "Milady?" Barenziah jumped, startled by the servant's approach. "What is it?" "The Breton is here, Milady. King Eadwyre," the woman added helpfully, noting Barenziah's incomprehension. She hesitated. "Is there news, Milady?" she said, nodding toward the nighthawk. "Nothing that will not wait," Barenziah said quickly, and her voice seemed to echo in the emptiness that suddenly yawned like a gaping abyss inside her. "See to the bird." She stood up, smoothed her gown, and prepared to attend on her royal visitor. She felt numb. Numb as the stone walls around her, numb as the quiescence of the night air... numb as a lifeless corpse. Symmachus was dead! [pagebreak] King Eadwyre greeted her gravely and courteously, if a bit fulsomely. He claimed to be a fervent admirer of Symmachus, who figured prominently in his family's legends. Gradually he turned the conversation to her business with the Emperor. He inquired after details, and asked if the outcome had been favorable to Mournhold. Finding her noncommittal, he suddenly blurted out, "Milady Queen, you must believe me. The man who claims himself the Emperor is an impostor! I know it sounds mad, but I -- " "No," Barenziah said, with sudden decisiveness. "You are entirely correct, Milord King. I know." Eadwyre relaxed into his seat for the first time, eyes suddenly shrewd. "You know? You're not just humoring someone you might think a madman?" "I assure you, Milord, I am not." She took a deep breath. "And who do you surmise is dissembling as the Emperor?" "The Imperial Battlemage, Jagar Tharn." "Ah. Milord King, have you, perchance, heard of someone called the Nightingale?" "Yes, Milady, as a matter of fact I have. My allies and I believe him to be one and the same man as the renegade Tharn." "I knew it!" Barenziah stood up and tried to mask her upheaval. The Nightingale -- Jagar Tharn! Oh, but the man was a demon! Diabolical and insidious. And so very clever. He had contrived their downfall seamlessly, perfectly! Symmachus, my Symmachus...! Eadwyre coughed diffidently. "Milady, I... we... we need your aid." Barenziah smiled grimly at the irony. "I do believe I should be the one saying those words. But go on, please. Of what assistance might I be, Milord King?" Quickly the monarch outlined a plot. The mage Ria Silmane, of late apprenticed to the vile Jagar Tharn, had been killed and declared a traitor by the false Emperor. Yet she had retained a bit of her powers and could still contact a few of those she had known well on the mortal plane. She had chosen a Champion who would undertake to find the Staff of Chaos, which had been hidden by the traitorous sorcerer in an unknown site. This Champion was to wield the Staff's power to destroy Jagar Tharn, who was otherwise invulnerable, and rescue the true Emperor being held prisoner in another dimension. However, the Champion, while thankfully still alive, now languished in the Imperial Dungeons. Tharn's attention must be diverted while the chosen one gained freedom with Ria's spirit's help. Barenziah had the false Emperor's ears -- and seemingly his eyes. Would she provide the necessary distraction? "I suppose I could obtain another audience with him," Barenziah said carefully. "But would that be sufficient? I must tell you that my children and I have just recently been declared traitors to the Empire." "In Mournhold, perhaps, Milady, and Morrowind. Things are different in the Imperial City and the Imperial Province. The same administrative morass that makes it near impossible to obtain an audience with the Emperor and his ministers also quite assures that you would never be unlawfully imprisoned or otherwise punished without benefit of due legal process. In your case, Milady, and your children's, the situation is further exacerbated by your royal rank. As Queen and heirs apparent, your persons are considered inviolable -- sacrosanct, in fact." The King grinned. "The Imperial bureaucracy, Milady, is a double-edged claymore." So. At least she and the children were safe for the time being. Then a thought struck her. "Milord King, what did you mean earlier when you said I had the false Emperor's eyes? And seemingly, at that?" Eadwyre looked uncomfortable. "It was whispered among the servants that Jagar Tharn kept your likeness in a sort of shrine in his chambers." "I see." Her thoughts wandered momentarily to that insane romance of hers with the Nightingale. She had been madly in love with him. Foolish woman. And the man she had once loved had caused to be killed the man she truly did love. Did love. Loved. He's gone now, he's... he... She still couldn't bring herself to accept the fact that Symmachus was dead. But even if he is, she told herself firmly, my love is alive, and remains. He would always be with her. As would the pain. The pain of living the rest of her life without him. The pain of trying to survive each day, each night, without his presence, his comfort, his love. The pain of knowing he would never see his children grow into a fine pair of adults, who would never know their father, how brave he was, how strong, how wonderful, how loving... especially little Morgiah. And for that, for all that, for all you have done to my family, Nightingale -- you must die. "Does that surprise you?" Eadwyre's words broke into her thoughts. "What? Does what surprise me?" "Your likeness. In Tharn's room." "Oh." Her features set imperturbably. "Yes. And no." Eadwyre could see from her expression that she wished to change the subject. He turned once again to their plans. "Our chosen one may need a few days to escape, Milady. Can you gain him a bit more time?" "You trust me in this, Milord King? Why?" "We are desperate, Milady. We have no choice. But even if we did -- why, yes. Yes, I would trust you. I do trust you. Your husband has been good to my family over the years. The Lord Symmachus--" "Is dead." "What?" Barenziah related the recent events quickly and coolly. "Milady... Queen... but how dreadful! I... I'm so sorry..." For the first time Barenziah's glacial poise was shaken. In the face of sympathy, she felt her outward calm start to crumble. She gathered her composure, and willed herself to stillness. "Under the circumstances, Milady, we can hardly ask--" "Nay, good Milord. Under the circumstances I must do what I may to avenge myself upon the murderer of my children's father." A single tear escaped the fortress of her eyes. She brushed it away impatiently. "In return I ask only that you protect my orphaned children as you may." Eadwyre drew himself up. His eyes shone. "Willingly do I so pledge, most brave and noble Queen. The gods of our beloved land, indeed Tamriel itself, be my witnesses." His words touched her absurdly, yet profoundly. "I thank you from my heart and my soul, good Milord King Eadwyre. You have mine and m-my children's e-everlasting g-gra -- grati -- " She broke down. [pagebreak] She did not sleep that night, but sat in a chair beside her bed, hands folded in her lap, thinking deep and long into the waxing and waning of the darkness. She would not tell the children -- not yet, not until she must. She had no need to seek another audience with the Emperor. A summons arrived at first light. She told the children she expected to be gone a few days, bade them give the servants no trouble, and kissed them good-bye. Morgiah whimpered a bit; she was bored and lonely in the Imperial City. Helseth looked dour but said nothing. He was very like his father. His father... At the Imperial Palace, Barenziah was escorted not into the great audience hall but to a small parlour where the Emperor sat at a solitary breakfast. He nodded a greeting and waved his hand toward the window. "Magnificent view, isn't it?" Barenziah stared out over the towers of the great city. It dawned on her that this was the very chamber where she'd first met Tiber Septim all those years ago. Centuries ago. Tiber Septim. Another man she had loved. Who else had she loved? Symmachus, Tiber Septim... and Straw. She remembered the big blond stable-boy with sudden and intense affection. She never realized it till now, but she had loved Straw. Only she had never let him know. She had been so young then, those had been carefree days, halcyon days... before everything, before all this... before... him. Not Symmachus. The Nightingale. She was shocked in spite of herself. The man could still affect her. Even now. Even after all that had happened. A strong wave of inchoate emotion swept over her. When she turned back at last, Uriel Septim had vanished -- and the Nightingale sat in his place. "You knew," he said quietly, scanning her face. "You knew. Instantly. I wanted to surprise you. You might at least have pretended." Barenziah spread her arms, trying to pacify the maelstrom churning deep inside her. "I'm afraid my skill at pretence is no match for yours, my liege." He sighed. "You're angry." "Just a little, I must admit," she said icily. "I don't know about you, but I find betrayal a trifle offensive." "How human of you." She took a deep breath. "What do you want of me?" "Now you are pretending." He stood up to face her directly. "You know what I want of you." "You want to torment me. Go ahead. I'm in your power. But leave my children alone." "No, no, no. I don't want that at all, Barenziah." He came near, speaking low in the old caressing voice that had sent shivers cascading through her body. The same voice that was doing the same thing to her, here and now. "Don't you see? This was the only way." His hands closed on her arms. She felt her resolve fading, her disgust at him weakening. "You could have taken me with you." Unbidden tears gathered in her eyes. He shook his head. "I didn't have the power. Ah, but now, now...! I have it all. Mine to have, mine to share, mine to give -- to you." He once more waved his hand toward the window and the city beyond. "All Tamriel is mine to lay at your feet -- and that is only the beginning." "It's too late. Too late. You left me to him." "He's dead. The peasant's dead. A scant few years -- what do they matter?" "The children--" "Can be adopted by me. And we'll have others together, Barenziah. Oh, and what children they'll be! What things we shall pass on to them! Your beauty, and my magic. I have powers you haven't even dreamt of, not in your most untamed imaginings!" He moved to kiss her. She slipped his grasp and turned away. "I don't believe you." "You do, you know. You're still angry, that's all." He smiled. But it didn't reach his eyes. "Tell me what you want, Barenziah. Barenziah my beloved. Tell me. It shall be yours." Her whole life flashed in front of her. The past, the present, and the future still to come. Different times, different lives, different Barenziahs. Which one was the real one? Which one was the real Barenziah? For by that choice she would determine the shape of her fate. She made it. She knew. She knew who the real Barenziah was, and what she wanted. "A walk in the garden, my liege," she said. "A song or

112Book2CommonRiftenOfCrossedDaggers[pagebreak]

Of Crossed Daggers: The History of Riften by Dwennon Wyndell

[pagebreak]

ituated on the eastern banks of Lake Honrich, the city of Riften serves as a reminder of a bygone era. The once-proud streets and buildings have vanished and been replaced with a collection of wooden structures and rough stonework shrouded in a permanent fog-like mist. In order to understand how such a large city became nothing more than a glorified fortress, one need only look to the history books for answers. Riften was a major hub of activity for trade caravans and travellers to and from Morrowind. Fishing skiffs could be seen dotting the lake at all hours of the day and the bustling city was alive with activity at night. The city guard was formiddable and maintained a tight grasp on its populace, keeping them safe from harm. The marketplace in Riften was also quite a draw, containing numerous stands offering wares from across Tamriel. In 4E 98, amidst the confusion of the Void Nights, Hosgunn Crossed-Daggers was installed as Jarl when the previous Jarl had been assassinated. Although many believe that Hosgunn was responisble, and cries of protest filled the streets of Riften, the Jarl took the throne and immediately took action to protect his station. Using the city guard, he had the streets cleared of protesters and initiated a curfew. Any caught breaking the curfew was immediately jailed without process or executed if it was a repeat offence. For over 40 years, Hosgunn ruled Riften with a black heart and an iron fist. He imposed ridiculous taxes upon his subjects and any merchants that wished to sell their wares within the city walls. Hosgunn kept most of the coin for himself, using it to construct a massive wooden castle with unecessarily lavish quartering within. The castle took seven years to build, and became a visual reminder of the people's oppression which earned it the nickname "Hosgunn's Folly." Towards the end of his reign, the streets of Riften became littered with refuse and it's people plagued by disease and hunger. Then, in 4E 129, the people had finally had enough. With their numbers, they were able to temporarily overhwhelm the city guard long enough to set Hosgunn's Folly on fire with the greedy Jarl still within. As the fighting recommensed, the fire spread through the city unchecked. By the morning, the people had emerged victorious, but not without great cost. Most of the city was now in ruins and many had died. It took five years to rebuild Riften into the smaller city that it is today. And even though over fifty years had passed since then, it still has yet to fully recover. Some believe it will never achieve the level of affluence it saw at the beginning of the Fourth Era, but there are a few who still hold on to the hope that Riften can return from the ashes and become a center of commerce once again.

113Book2CommonRisingThreatV1[pagebreak]

Rising Threat, Vol. I by Lathenil of Sunhold

[pagebreak]

The following is the account of Lathenil of Sunhold, an Altmer refugee from Summerset Isle who came to Cyrodiil in the early years of the Fourth Era. According to Lathenil, he did not flee the aftermath of the Oblivion Crisis in Summerset - rather he fled "the darkening shadow of the Thalmor upon my beloved homeland." Lathenil had a very intense presence, to put it politely, and some of his accusations of Thalmor involvement border on madness. This may be why his fervent warnings and outspoken criticisms of the Thalmor and the Aldmeri Dominion went unheeded, but history has at least partially vindicated Lathenil's claims. Praxis Erratuim, Imperial Historian [pagebreak] was barely more than a child when the Great Anguish fell upon us. The very air was torn asunder, leaving gaping, infected wounds that spewed daedra from the bowels of Oblivion. Many flocked to the shores, seeking escape from Dagon's murderous host - but the seas betrayed our people, raising up to smash our ships and our ports, leaving us to fates so vile and wicked that death would seem a mercy. The Crystal Tower stood as our last bastion of hope, in both the literal and figurative sense. Refugees filled the Crystal Tower until it could hold no more. I could taste the fear hanging in the air; feel the pall of despair suffocating us. We could see the daedra moving through the trees in the distance, but they did not come. Days passed, and still the daedra would not approach within arrow-shot of the battlements. Hope began to grow. "They fear us," some would say, "even a daedra knows not to trifle with the wisdom and magicks of the Crystal-Like-Law!" It was as if the foul denizens of Oblivion had been waiting for this very spirit to stoke our hearts before they acted. As we slept, innumerable legions of daedra amassed around us... and they were not alone. Hundreds of Altmer prisoners were gathered with them. As dawn broke, we were awoken by their screams as the daedra began to flail them and flay them. We watched in abject horror as our kinfolk were defiled completely... carved up and eaten alive, impaled on their depraved war machines, and worried apart as meals for their profane beasts. This bloodletting was only a prelude to whet their appetites. Once the daedra finished with our kinfolk, they turned their eyes to the Crystal Tower. Our great and noble bastion proved as much of an impediment as a mighty oak to a landslide - standing tall for but a few moments, appearing almost able to ride the tide of destruction around it, but ultimately being swept away. Our exalted wizards decimated the fiends, roasting them by the dozens. Archers were finding the narrowest of chinks in their daedric armor at over a hundred paces, felling their captains and commanders. The might and skillfulness of our heroic defenders was astonishing to behold, but it was not enough. The daedra clambered over the corpses of their cohort. They marched headlong into death and destruction that would make the mightiest armies in all of Tamriel quake with fear. When they breached the walls, I fled along with the other cowards. I take no pride in that act. It has haunted my existence ever since, and I burn with shame to admit it, but it is truth. We fled in mindless panic - abandoning those stalwart Altmer who held the line against the onslaught, to preserve and defend our illustrious Crystal Tower. We raced through cleverly concealed passageways and emerged well away from the chaos that had descended upon the tower. That is when it happened. It started like a gust rustling through the leaves of a dense forest, but the sound did not taper off. It rose into a roar as the very ground on which I stood began to shudder. I turned to look, and the world held its breath... I stood transfixed as the heart of my homeland was torn as if from my own breast. The unthinkable, the incomprehensible... the tower of Crystal-Like-Law cast to the ground, with all the dignity of a beggar meeting an iron-clad fist. An eternity I watched, trying to reconcile what I knew with what I saw. Sobs racked my chest, and weeping filled the air around me as the spell loosened its hold and I realized where I was. There were scores of other refugees mesmerized by the horror that had likewise ensorcelled me. "Go," I croaked out as my heart - the heart of my land - shattered. No one moved, not even me. I mustered what will I could and bellowed all the fear and hatred and agony at what had just happened, turning the word into a mindless shriek: "GO!" I ran then, feeling more than seeing that the others had followed.

114Book2CommonRisingThreatV2[pagebreak]

Rising Threat, Vol. II by Lathenil of Sunhold

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The following is the account of Lathenil of Sunhold, an Altmer refugee from Summerset Isle who came to Cyrodiil in the early years of the Fourth Era. According to Lathenil, he did not flee the aftermath of the Oblivion Crisis in Summerset - rather he fled "the darkening shadow of the Thalmor upon my beloved homeland." Lathenil had a very intense presence, to put it politely, and some of his accusations of Thalmor involvement border on madness. This may be why his fervent warnings and outspoken criticisms of the Thalmor and the Aldmeri Dominion went unheeded, but history has at least partially vindicated Lathenil's claims. Praxis Erratuim, Imperial Historian [pagebreak] hat happened after the tower of Crystal-like-law fell was a daze. It was as if my mind simply... stopped. Instinct took over, as my every thought sank into a black abyss of despair. Time lost all meaning, and to this day I know not how long I was in this state. Eventually a conscious thought managed to break my fugue: the daedric horde had vanished! Gone as suddenly as they had come.

Before my numbed mind could comprehend the tumult that consumed my beloved Summerset Isle, before I could formulate the question "how?" they were there, dripping honeyed poison in our ears: the Thalmor. They were the ones that saved us, they claimed, working deep and subtle magicks. It was their efforts, their sacrifices that delivered the Altmer from extinction.

Oh, what fools we were. We wanted so desperately someone to thank for ending our tribulations, we lavished it upon the first to step up and claim the glory. With that simple act of gratitude, we allowed a vile rot to seep into our homeland, to putrefy our once noble and distinguished civilization.

It was months before I began to suspect the error we had made. Small twinges of unease would vex me, but each one alone was easy enough to disregard and push aside. The exile of the great seer-mage Rynandor the Bold was the final doubt that I could not ignore. You see, Rynandor was one of the very few who survived the collapse of the Crystal Tower - I saw some of his bravery and heroics with my own eyes. It was his leadership and sorcery that made the daedra pay such a high price for their destruction of the Crystal Tower.

The Thalmor besmirched his name when he had the audacity to publicly doubt and question their role in ending the Oblivion Crisis on Summerset Isle. Rynandor made the mistake of ignoring the consensus gentium, trusting instead to logic and facts. The shrewdness of the Thalmor, however, was not such to allow something as trivial as the truth stand in their way. As soon as they shifted the collective opinion ever so slightly against Rynandor, they had him sequestered and intensified their efforts to tarnish his reputation. Unable to mount any sort of defense to the Thalmor's attacks, Rynandor was quickly denounced and exiled.

115Book2CommonRisingThreatV3[pagebreak]

Rising Threat, Vol. III by Lathenil of Sunhold

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The following is the account of Lathenil of Sunhold, an Altmer refugee from Summerset Isle who came to Cyrodiil in the early years of the Fourth Era. According to Lathenil, he did not flee the aftermath of the Oblivion Crisis in Summerset - rather he fled "the darkening shadow of the Thalmor upon my beloved homeland." Lathenil had a very intense presence, to put it politely, and some of his accusations of Thalmor involvement border on madness. This may be why his fervent warnings and outspoken criticisms of the Thalmor and the Aldmeri Dominion went unheeded, but history has at least partially vindicated Lathenil's claims. Praxis Erratuim, Imperial Historian [pagebreak] ver so cautiously, I formed a cabal made up of others who distrusted the motives and methods of the Thalmor. Over several months, I liquidated my ancestral holdings and took whatever inheritance I could without raising any suspicions. I would follow after Rynandor and help him restore his reputation and status. We would then return to best the Thalmor at their own game and win back the mores and morals of the Altmer! The rest of my cabal would stay on Summerset Isle and win the trust of the Thalmor on whatever level best suited each of them, sending clandestine missives to me when possible.

After weeks of painstaking investigations and exorbitant bribes, I was able to learn that Rynandor was placed on a ship to Anvil. I booked my own passage to Anvil. My search almost ended there, for Rynandor had never arrived in Anvil Harbor. My instinct that Rynandor met a duplicitous end was confirmed when I sought out several of the deckhands who were reported to be aboard Rynandor's vessel. All died under mysterious and violent circumstances.

The first of many attempts on my life occurred soon after. Needless to say, I survived, but my grand plan to stymie the Thalmor fell apart without an esteemed leader to rally behind. I went into hiding, waiting anxiously for word of the Thalmor's activities back on Summerset Isle.

Over the following years, I tried to bend the ear of the Empire through various avenues and warn them of the Thalmor's doings. The Empire, however, was having enough troubles dealing with the aftermath of the Oblivion crisis within its own borders without seeking trouble in far away Summerset. With the assassination of Emperor Uriel Septim VII and his heirs, and the self-sacrifice of Martin Septim (the true savior of Summerset Isle and the rest of Tamriel!) the Empire's leadership was left defunct.

High Chancellor Ocato convened the full Elder Council in an unsuccessful bid to select a new Emperor. Without an Emperor, the Empire beyond the reach of Cyrodiil began to splinter. Ocato reluctantly agreed to become the Potentate under the terms of the Elder Council Charter until Imperial rule could be reestablished, but a reluctant leader is rarely a strong leader.

Potentate Ocato made admirable efforts to rein in the bedlam that threatened to rip the Empire apart, and was even making headway when Red Mountain erupted and destroyed much of Vvardenfell (likely from Thalmor tampering, but I have yet to find proof of their misdeeds in this). What was left of Morrowind was thrown into absolute chaos. The effects of the eruption were felt even in Black Marsh, destroying roads and cutting off the Imperial garrisons there.

None were prepared for what happened next.

116Book2CommonRisingThreatV4[pagebreak]

Rising Threat, Vol. IV by Lathenil of Sunhold

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The following is the account of Lathenil of Sunhold, an Altmer refugee from Summerset Isle who came to Cyrodiil in the early years of the Fourth Era. According to Lathenil, he did not flee the aftermath of the Oblivion Crisis in Summerset - rather he fled "the darkening shadow of the Thalmor upon my beloved homeland." Lathenil had a very intense presence, to put it politely, and some of his accusations of Thalmor involvement border on madness. This may be why his fervent warnings and outspoken criticisms of the Thalmor and the Aldmeri Dominion went unheeded, but history has at least partially vindicated Lathenil's claims. Praxis Erratuim, Imperial Historian [pagebreak] hile Morrowind and the Imperial forces in Black Marsh were still reeling from the consecutive catastrophes of the Oblivion Crisis and the destruction of Vvardenfell, the Thalmor incited the Argonians to mount a massive uprising. Black Marsh and southern Morrowind were completely lost to the Argonians, but luckily the Thalmor too lost what influence they had over the reptilians.

All the while, the Thalmor consolidated their hold over my beloved homeland. It took almost a decade before my own machinations put me into contact with Ocato. He seemed more interested than most in what I had to say about the Thalmor, maybe because he was himself an Altmer and recognized the threat they represented. It wasn't long before the Thalmor had Ocato assassinated.

Potentate Ocato's murder began the Stormcrown Interregnum. The Elder Council fractured, leading into years of ruthless in-fighting, plots and backstabbing. Many tried to claim the Ruby Throne. Most were pretenders to the crown, a few had legitimate claims, others still were little more than brutal dullards who thought mere strength of arms was all the entitlement they needed. Violent, unnatural storms lashed the Imperial City several times during this anarchy, always with the eye of the storm looking directly down upon White-Gold Tower, as if this was the judgment of the Nine Divines.

With the Empire submerged in this mayhem, the Thalmor were quick to act. They overthrew the rightful Kings and Queens of the Altmer. I remember the revulsion and horror that took hold when word reached me - that this dementia had gripped my homeland. Once so proud and majestic, many of our great race actually embraced this insanity!

Then the first of many pogroms descended on Summerset Isle. They slaughtered any who were not "of the blood of the Aldmer". A fine excuse to purge the dissidents, as well - the Thalmor have never been ones to waste such an opportunity.

After seven long, bloody years the Stormcrown Interregnum was ended when a Colovian warlord by the name of Titus Mede seized the crown. Whether he had rightful claim or not is moot. Without Titus Mede, there would not be an Empire today. He proved a shrewd and capable leader, such that Skyrim endorsed him as Emperor.

With the Empire stabilizing under the auspicious efforts Emperor Titus Mede, I resumed my efforts to warn them of the Thalmor threat. Again, the Thalmor remained a step ahead. Before my efforts could come to fruition, the Thalmor struck: another coup, this time in Valenwood. The Empire was not prepared for the Thalmor's subterfuge and stratagem.

There are those who claim the combined Altmer and Bosmer forces greatly out-matched the Empire, but this is a farce. This short, savage campaign was won by the Thalmor even before first blood was drawn. They waited and watched their enemy, they chose where and when they would attack. The Thalmor were able to bring the full fury of their small contingent of Altmer and Bosmer to any of several Imperial strongholds.

Contrary to the posturing of the Empire's generals, the Thalmor did not command greater numbers. They had better spies and greater mobility, and knew how best to use them. This is the menace that the Thalmor represent! They are cruel and merciless, but they are no fools! They are devious and subtle, and so very patient.

In one fell stroke, the Thalmor took a strategic foothold on the mainland of Tamriel and prevented any significant attempt the Empire could have made to invade Summerset Isle and depose the tyranny of the Thalmor. At the same time, they took a better vantage to continue to watch the Empire and wait. In so doing, they also revived the Aldmeri Dominion with their alliance to the Bosmer of Valenwood!

Over the decades, the Thalmor have grown quiet - but this is not the end. It has only just begun. They merely consolidate their power and tighten their grip on the hearts and minds of the Altmer. The Empire may wish to forget the wounds its pride has suffered at the hands of the Thalmor, but they are still out there. Plotting. Watching. Waiting.

While the Empire is content to secure inconsequential corners of its vast holdings, the threat of the Thalmor continues to rise. Not since Potentate Ocato has anyone in the Empire listened to me. I beseech any and all citizens of this renowned Empire to heed my words! The Thalmor must be stopped, before it is too late.

***

Soon after Lathenil of Sunhold commissioned to have these volumes printed and distributed far and wide in the Empire with his own coin, he himself met a violent end. In light of the events that followed his death, we must consider that he may very well have been murdered by Thalmor assassins.

-- Praxis Erratuim, Imperial Historian

117Book2CommonRuinsofKemelZe[pagebreak]

The Ruins of Kemel-Ze by Rolard Nordssen

[pagebreak]

ith the acclamations of the Fellows of the Imperial Society still ringing in my ears, I decided to return to Morrowind immediately. It was not without some regret that I bade farewell to the fleshpots of the Imperial City, but I knew that the wonders I had brought back from Raled-Makai had only scratched the surface of the Dwemer ruins in Morrowind. Even more spectacular treasures were out there, I felt, just waiting to be found, and I was eager to be off. I also had before me the salutary example of poor Bannerman, who was still dining out on his single expedition to Black Marsh twenty years ago. That would never be me, I vowed.

With my letter from the Empress in hand, this time I would have the full cooperation of the Imperial authorities. No more need to worry about attacks from superstitious locals. But where should I look next? The ruins at Kemel-Ze were the obvious choice. Unlike Raled-Makai, getting to the ruins would not be a problem. Also known as the "Cliff City", Kemel-Ze lies on the mainland side of the Vvardenfel Rift, sprawling down the sheer coastal cliff. Travelers from the east coast of Vvardenfel often visit the site by boat, and it can also be reached overland from the nearby villages without undue hardship.

Once my expedition had assembled in Seyda Neen, with the usual tedious complications involved in operating in this half-civilized land, we set out for the village of Marog near the ruins, where we hoped to hire a party of diggers. My interpreter, Tuen Panai, an unusually jolly fellow for a Dark Elf who I had hired in Seyda Neen at the recommendation of the local garrison commander, assured me that the local villagers would be very familiar with Kemel-Ze, having looted the site for generations. Incidentally, Ten Penny (as we soon came to call him, to his constant amusement) proved invaluable and I would recommend him without hesitation to any of my colleagues who were planning similar expeditions to the wilds of Morrowind.

At Marog, we ran into our first trouble. The hetman of the village, a reserved, elegant old fellow, seemed willing to cooperate, but the local priest (a representative of the absurd religion they have here, worshiping something called the Tribunal who they claim actually live in palaces in Morrowind) was fervently against us excavating the ruins. He looked likely to sway the villagers to his side with his talk of "religious taboos", but I waved the Empress's letter under his nose and mentioned something about my friend the garrison commander at Seyda Neen and he quieted right down. No doubt this was just a standard negotiating tactic arranged among the villagers to increase their pay. In any event, once the priest had stalked off muttering to himself, no doubt calling down curses upon the heads of the foreign devils, we soon had a line of villagers eager to sign on to the expedition.

While my assistant was working out the mundane details of contracts, supplies, etc., Master Arum and I rode on to the ruins. By land, they can only be reached using narrow paths that wind down the face of the cliff from above, where any misstep threatens to send one tumbling into the sea foaming about the jagged rocks below. The city's original entrance to the surface must have been in the part of the city to the northeast - the part that fell into the sea long ago when the eruption of Red Mountain created this mind-bogglingly vast crater. After successfully navigating the treacherous path, we found ourselves in a large chamber, open to the sky on one side, disappearing into the darkness on the other. As we stepped forward, our boots crunched on piles of broken metal, as common in Dwarven ruins as potsherds in other ancient sites. This was obviously where the looters brought their finds from deeper levels, stripping off the valuable outer casings of the Dwarven mechanisms and leaving their innards here - easier than lugging the intact mechanisms back up to the top of the cliff. I laughed to myself, thinking of the many warriors unwittingly walking around Tamriel with pieces of Dwarven mechanisms on their backs. For that, of course, is what most "Dwarven armor" really is - just the armored shells of ancient mechanical men. I sobered when I thought of how exceedingly valuable an intact mechanism would be. This place was obviously full of Dwarven devices, judging from the litter covering the floor of this vast chamber - or had been, I reminded myself. Looters had been working over this site for centuries. Just the casing alone would be worth a small fortune, sold as armor. Most Dwarven armor is made of mismatched pieces from various devices, hence its reputation for being bulky and unwieldy. But a matched set from an intact mechanism is worth more than its weight in gold, for the pieces all fit together smoothly and the wearer hardly notices the bulk. Of course, I had no intention of destroying my finds for armor, no matter how valuable. I would bring it back to the Society for scientific study. I imagined the astonished cries of my colleagues as I unveiled it at my next lecture, and smiled again.

I picked up a discarded gear from the piles at my feet. It still gleamed brightly, as if new-made, the Dwarven alloys resisting the corrosion of time. I wondered what secrets remained hidden in the maze of chambers that lay before me, defying the efforts of looters, waiting to gleam again in the light they had not seen in long eons. Waiting for me. It remained only to find them! With an impatient gesture to Master Arum to follow, I strode forward into the gloom.

Master Arum, Ten Penny and I spent several days exploring the ruins while my assistants set up camp at the top of the cliff and hauled supplies and equipment from the village. I was looking for a promising area to begin excavation -- a blocked passage or corridor untouched by looters that might lead to completely untouched areas of the ruins.

We found two such areas early on, but soon discovered that the many winding passages bypassed the blockage and gave access to the rooms behind. Nevertheless, even these outer areas, for the most part stripped clean of artifacts by generations of looters, were full of interest to the professional archaeologist. Behind a massive bronze door, burst from its hinges by some ancient turmoil of the earth, we discovered a large chamber filled with exquisite wall-carvings, which impressed even the jaded Ten Penny, who claimed to have explored every Dwarven ruin in Morrowind. They seemed to depict an ancient ritual of some kind, with a long line of classically-bearded Dwarven elders processing down the side walls, all seemingly bowing to the giant form of a god carved into the front wall of the chamber, which was caught in the act of stepping forth from the crater of a mountain in a cloud of smoke or steam. According to Master Arum, there are no known depictions of Dwarven religious rituals, so this was an exciting find indeed. I set a team to work prying the carved panels from the wall, but they were unable to even crack the surface. On closer examination the chamber appeared to be faced with a metallic substance with the texture and feel of stone, impervious to any of our tools. I considered having Master Arum try his blasting magic on the walls, but decided that the risk of destroying the carvings was too great. Much as I would have preferred to bring them back to the Imperial City, I had to settle for taking rubbings of the carvings. If my colleagues in the Society showed enough interest, I was sure a specialist could be found, perhaps a master alchemist, who could find a way to safely remove the panels.

I found another curious room at the top of a long winding stair, barely passable due to the fall of rubble from the roof. At the top of the stair was a domed chamber with a large ruined mechanism at its center. Painted constellations were still visible in some places on the surface of the dome. Master Arum and I agreed that this must have been some kind of observatory, and the mechanism was therefore the remains of a Dwarven telescope. To remove it from ruins down the narrow stairway would require its complete disassembly (which fact no doubt had preserved it from the attention of looters), so I decided to leave it in place for the time being. The existence of this observatory suggested, however, that this room had once been above the surface. Closer examination of the structure revealed that this was indeed a building, not an excavated chamber. The only other doorways from the room were completely blocked, and careful measurements from the top of the cliff to the entry room and then to the observatory revealed that we were still more than 250 feet below the present ground level. A sobering reminder of the forgotten fury of Red Mountain.

This discovery led us to focus our attentions downward. Since we now knew approximately where the ancient surface lay, we could rule out many of the higher blocked passages. One wide passage, impressively flanked with carven pillars, particularly drew my interest. It ended in a massive rockfall, but we could see where looters had begun and then abandoned a tunnel through this debris. With my team of diggers and Master Arum's magery to assist, I believed we could succeed where our predecessors had failed. I therefore set my team of Dark Elves to work on clearing the passage, relieved finally to be beginning the real exploration of Kemel-Ze. Soon, I hoped, my boots would be stirring up dust that had lain undisturbed since the dawn of time.

With this exciting prospect before me, I may have driven my diggers a bit too hard. Ten Penny reported that they were beginning to grumble about the long days, and that some were talking of quitting. Knowing from experience that nothing puts heart back into these Dark Elves like a taste of the lash, I had the ringleaders whipped and the rest confined to the ruins until they had finished clearing the passageway. Thank Stendarr for my foresight in requisitioning a few legionnaires from Seyda Neen! They were sullen at first, but with the promise of an extra day's wages when they broke through, they soon set to work with a will. While these measures may sound harsh to my readers back in the comforts of civilization, let me assure you that there is no other way to get these people to stick to a task.

The blockage was much worse than I had first thought, and in the end it took almost two weeks to clear the passage. The diggers were as excited as I was when their picks finally broke through the far end into emptiness, and we shared a round of the local liquor together (a foul concoction, in truth) to show that all was forgiven. I could hardly restrain my eagerness as they enlarged the hole to allow entry into the chamber beyond. Would the passage lead to entire new levels of the ancient city, filled with artifacts left by the vanished Dwarves? Or would it be only a dead end, some side passage leading nowhere? My excitement grew as I slid through the hole and crouched for a moment in the darkness beyond. From the echoing sounds of the stones rattling beneath my feet, I was in a large room. Perhaps very large. I stood up carefully, and unhooded my lantern. As the light flooded the chamber, I looked around in astonishment. Here were wonders beyond even my wildest dreams!

As the light from my lamp filled the chamber beyond the rock fall, I looked around in astonishment. Everywhere was the warm glitter of Dwarven alloys. I had found an untouched section of the ancient city! My heart pounding with excitement, I looked around me. The room was vast, the roof soaring up into darkness beyond the reach of my lamp, the far end lost in shadows with only a tantalizing glimmer hinting at treasures not yet revealed. Along each wall stood rows of mechanical men, intact except for one oddity: their heads had been ritually removed and placed on the floor at their feet. This could mean only one thing -- I had discovered the tomb of a great Dwarven noble, maybe even a king! Burials of this type had been discovered before, most famously by Ransom's expedition to Hammerfell, but no completely intact tomb had ever been found. Until now.

But if this was truly a royal burial, where was the tomb? I stepped forward gingerly, the rows of headless bodies standing silently as they had for eons, their disembodied eyes seeming to watch me as I passed. I had heard wild tales of the Curse of the Dwarves, but had always laughed it off as superstition. But now, breathing the same air as the mysterious builders of this city, which had lain undisturbed since the cataclysm that spelled their doom, I felt a twinge of fear. There was some power here, I felt, something malevolent that resented my presence. I stopped for a moment and listened. All was silent.

Except... it seemed I heard a faint hiss, regular as breathing. I fought down a sudden surge of panic. I was unarmed, not thinking of danger in my haste to explore past the blocked passage. Sweat dripped down my face as I scanned the gloom for any movement. The room was warm, I suddenly noticed, much warmer than the rest of the labyrinth thus far. My excitement returned. Could I have found a section of the city still connected to a functioning steam grid? Pipes ran along the walls, as in all sections of the city. I walked over and placed my hand on one. It was hot, almost too hot to touch! Now I saw that in places where the ancient piping had corroded, small jets of steam were escaping -- the sound I had heard. I laughed at my own credulity.

I now advanced quickly to the far end of the room, giving a cheerful salute to the ranks of mechanical soldiers who had appeared so menacing only moments before. I smiled with triumph as the light swept back the darkness of centuries to reveal the giant effigy of a Dwarven king standing on a raised dais, his metal hand clutching his rod of office. This was the prize indeed! I circled the dais slowly, admiring the craftsmanship of the ancient Dwarves. The golden king stood twenty feet tall under a freestanding domed cupola, his long upswept beard jutting forward proudly as his glittering metal eyes seemed to follow me. But my superstitious mood had passed, and I gazed benevolently on the old Dwarven king. My king, as I had already begun to think of him. I stepped onto the dais to get a better look at the sculpted armor. Suddenly the eyes of the figure opened and it raised a mailed fist to strike!

I leaped to one side as the golden arm came crashing down, striking sparks from the steps where I had stood a moment before. With a hiss of steam and the whir of gears, the giant figure stepped ponderously out from under its canopy and strode towards me with frightening speed, its eyes tracking me as I scrambled backwards. I dodged behind a pillar as the fist whistled down again. I had dropped my lantern in the confusion, and now I crept into the darkness outside the pool of light, hoping to slip between the headless mechanisms and thus escape back to the safety of the passageway. Where had the monster gone? You would think that a twenty-foot golden kind would be hard to miss, but he was nowhere to be seen. The guttering lamp only illuminated a small part of the room. He could be hiding anywhere in the gloom. I crawled faster. Without warning, the dim ranks of Dwarven soldiers in front of me went flying as the monstrous guardian loomed before me. He had cut off my escape! As I dodged backwards, blow after blow whistled down as the implacable machine followed me relentlessly, driving me into the far corner of the room. At last there was nowhere left for me to go. My back was to the wall. I glared up at my foe, determined to die on my feet. The huge fists lifted for one final blow.

The room blazed with sudden light. Bolts of purple energy crackled across the metal carapace of the Dwarven monster, and it halted, half-turning to meet this new threat. Master Arum had come! I was about to raise a cheer when the giant figure turned back to me, unharmed by the lightning bolt hurled by Master Arum, determined to destroy this first intruder. I shouted out "Steam! Steam!" as the giant raised his fist to crush me into the floor. There was a hiss and a gust of bitter cold and I looked up. The monster was now covered with a shell of ice, frozen in the very moment of dispatching me. Master Arum had understood. I leaned against the wall with relief.

The ice cracked above me. The giant golden king stood before me, the shell of ice falling away, his head swiveling towards me in triumph. Was there no stopping this Dwarven monstrosity?! But then the light faded from his eyes, and his arms dropped to his sides. The magical frost had worked, cooling its steam-driven energy.

As Master Arum and the diggers crowded around me, congratulating me on my narrow escape, my thoughts drifted. I imagined my return to the Imperial City, and I knew that this would be my greatest triumph yet. How could I possibly top this find? Perhaps it was time to move on. Recovering the fabled Eye of Argonia... now that would be a coup! I smiled to myself, reveling in the glory of the moment but already planning my next adventure.

118Book2CommonScourgeoftheGrayQuarter[pagebreak]

Scourge of the Gray Quarter by Frilgeth Horse-Breaker

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he tragedies befalling Morrowind do bring forth pity from even the stoutest Nordic heart. The dark elves deserve our condolences, but thus far they do not show themselves deserving of the simplest acts of charity. There are very different approaches to how to deal with the imminent problem of Morrowind, and I offer two options as seen in practice in Skyrim. One should serve as an exemplar, the other a cautionary tale. Consider Riften, which shares a border with the ruined province. A number of the dark elves have made their homes there, but they are expected to earn their livelihoods as is any other citizen of the great city. They ply trades as merchants, work in the temple, and serve in the keep. Honest labor, to be admired from a race that was so recently in such dire straits as to even warrant this discussion. Today the city still has its share of problems, but they are not traceable to any influx of outsiders in their presence. In short, the dark elves have properly assimilated themselves into the Skyrim way of life, to be expected from any newcomer to these lands. For an alternative approach, we only have to look at the once-proud city of Windhelm to see what can happen when our arms are cast too wide open in welcome. To think that the city of Ysgramor, whose very name was made in driving out the elves from our sacred home, would open itself as a welcome destination for any refugee from the smoking sulphur, is a disgrace to the very idea of being a Nord. And what has become of this? Predictably, the lazy, discontented rabble has descended into squalor in an area now delicately referred to as "the Gray Quarter" of the city. They were not expected to contribute and so have not. That they attempt to make over a proud Nord city into a little pocket of Morrowind is insulting enough, but the amount of unrest they have provoked even within the proper city walls should give any other Jarl reason to fear. The Nords I talk to in the city speak of constant strife and crime coming from the Gray Quarter, with no respite in sight. The city guard barely patrol there, leaving the dark elves to mete out whatever passes for justice in their native customs. The respectable families of the city, the Cruel-Seas and Shatter-Shields, speak with an almost parental affection of the Argonians in their employ, but the dark elves have made no effort to ingratiate or assimilate themselves to the proper city-dwellers. There is cause for optimism, though, as Jarl Ulfric is not nearly so tolerant of these substandard beings as his fathers were. Indeed, the soft hand of Hoag can be seen in the cities Argonian population as well; the fish-men, at least, have learned how to best contribute to their new home. They have proven themselves as models, toiling at the docks with utmost efficiency and bright smiles. It would do the dark elves well to pay heed to their scaly cousins. I would expect in due course that they will find themselves either contributing more directly or once again wandering the land in search of roof and warmth.

119Book2CommonShortLifeUrielSeptim[pagebreak]

A Short Life of Uriel Septim VII by Rufus Hayn

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3E 368-389: Strategist and Conciliator The early decades of Emperor Uriel's life were marked by aggressive expansion and consolidation of Imperial influence throughout the empire, but especially in the East, in Morrowind and Black Marsh, where the Empire's power was limited, Imperial culture was weak, and native customs and traditions were strong and staunchly opposed to assimilation. During this period Uriel greatly benefitted from the arcane support and shrewd council of his close advisor, the Imperial Battlemage, Jagar Tharn. The story of Uriel's marriage to the Princess Caula Voria is a less happy tale. Though she was a beautiful and charming woman, and greatly loved and admired by the people, the Empress was a deeply unpleasant, arrogant, ambitious, grasping woman. She snared Uriel Septim with her feminine wiles, but Uriel Septim thereafter soon regretted his mistake, and was repelled by her. They heartily detested one another, and went out of their ways to hurt one another. Their children were the victims of this unhappy marriage. With his agile mind and vaunting ambition, Uriel soon outstripped his master in the balanced skills of threat and diplomacy. Uriel's success in co-opting House Hlaalu as an advance guard of Imperial culture and economic development in Morrowind is a noteworthy example. However, Uriel also grew in pride and self-assurance. Jagar Tharn fed Uriel's pride, and hiding behind the mask of an out-paced former master counselor, Tharn purchased the complete trust that led finally to Uriel's betrayal and imprisonment in Oblivion and Tharn's secret usurpation of the Imperial throne. [pagebreak] 3E 389-399: Betrayed and Imprisoned Little is known of Uriel's experience while trapped in Oblivion. He says he remembers nothing but an endless sequence of waking and sleeping nightmares. He says he believed himself to be dreaming, and had no notion of passage of time. Publicly, he long claimed to have no memory of the dreams and nightmares of his imprisonment, but from time to time, during the interviews with the Emperor that form the basis of this biography, he would relate details of nightmares he had, and would describe them as similar to the nightmares he had when he was imprisoned in Oblivion. He seemed not so much unwilling as incapable of describing the experience. But it is clear that the experience changed him. In 3E 389 he was a young man, full of pride, energy, and ambition. During the Restoration, after his rescue and return to the throne, he was an old man, grave, patient, and cautious. He also became conservative and pessimistic, where the policies of his early life were markedly bold, even rash. Uriel accounts for this change as a reaction to and revulsion for the early teachings and counsel of Jagar Tharn. However, Uriel's exile in Oblivion also clearly drained and wasted him in body and spirit, though his mind retained the shrewd cunning and flexibility of his youth. The story of Tharn's magical impersonation of the emperor, the unmasking of Tharn's imposture by Queen Barenziah, and the roles played by King Eadwyre, Ria Silmane, and her Champion in assembling the Staff of Chaos, defeating the renegade Imperial Battlemage Jagar Tharn, and restoring Uriel to the throne, is treated at length in Stern Gamboge's excellent three-Volume BIOGRAPHY OF BARENZIAH. There is no reason to recount that narrative here. Summarized briefly, Jagar Tharn's neglect and mismanagement of Imperial affairs resulted in a steady decline in the Empire's economic prosperity, allowed many petty lords and kings to challenge the authority of the Empire, and permitted strong local rulers in the East and the West to indulge in open warfare over lands and sovereign rights. [pagebreak] 3E 399-415: Restoration, the Miracle of Peace, and Vvardenfell During the Restoration, Uriel Septim turned from the aggressive campaign of military intimidation and diplomatic accommodation of his earlier years, and relied instead on clandestine manipulation of affairs behind the scenes, primarily through the agencies of the various branches of the Blades. A complete assessment of the methods and objectives of this period must wait until after the Emperor's death, when the voluminous diaries archived at his country estate may be opened to the public, and when the Blades no longer need to maintain secrecy to protect the identities of its agents. Two signal achievements of this period point to the efficacy of Uriel's subtle policies: the 'Miracle of Peace' (also popularly known as 'The Warp in the West') that transformed the Iliac Bay region from an ruly assortment of warring petty kingdoms into the well-ordered and peaceful modern counties of Hammerfell, Sentinel, Wayrest, and Orsinium, and the colonization of Vvardenfell, presided over by the skillful machinations of King Helseth of Morrowind and Lady Barenziah, the Queen-Mother, which brought Morrowind more closely into the sphere of Imperial influence. [pagebreak] 3E 415-430: The Golden Peace, King Helseth's Court, and the Nine in the East Following the 'Miracle of Peace' (best described in Per Vetersen's DAGGERFALL: A MODERN HISTORY), the Empire entered a period of peace and prosperity comparable to the early years of Uriel's reign. With the Imperial Heartland and West solidly integrated into the Empire, Uriel was able to turn his full attention to the East -- to Morrowind. Exploiting conflicts at the heart of Morrowind's monolithic Tribunal religion and the long-established Great House system of government, and taking advantage of the terrible threat that the corrupted divine beings at the heart of the Tribunal religion presented to the growing colonies on Vvardenfell, Uriel worked through shadowy agents of the Blades and through the court of King Helseth in Mournhold to shift the center of political power in Morrowind from the Great House councils to Helseth's court, and took advantage of the collapse of the orthodox Tribunal cults to establish the Nine Divines as the dominant faiths in Hlaalu and Vvardenfell Districts. Hasphat Anabolis's treatment of the establishment of the Nine in the East in his four-volume LIFE AND TIMES OF THE NEREVARINE is comprehensive; however, he fails to resolve the central mystery of this period -- how much did Uriel know about the prophecies of the Nerevarine, and how did he learn of their significance? The definitive resolution of this and other mysteries must await the future release of the Emperor's private papers, or a relenting of the Blades' strict policies of secrecy concerning their agents.

120Book2CommonSolitude[pagebreak]

Walking the World Volume XI: Solitude by Spatior Munius

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elcome, friend. In our latest volume, we cover Solitude. Spatior could not be more pleased to be at the very seat of Imperial power in Skyrim. In the course of our tour, you'll see that Solitude's riches extend from her people to the history and architecture that make up the city itself. As ever, we begin our journey outside the city walls, this time at the bottom of the hill that ascends all the way to Solitude's massive gates. Solitude's Surroundings Before scaling the hill to the city, you should be sure to take in the sights. Wander the track that leads down to the docks, and you can stop to enjoy one of the best views of the Great Arch. Originally serving as both a landmark and windbreak for Solitude's port, the easily-defended Great Arch also provided an ideal building site for the ancient Nords. The city gradually grew to extend across the entire length of the arch. This growth culminated in the building of the Blue Palace, home of the High Kings and Queens of Skyrim. We will visit the palace later. The Gates of Solitude Entrance to Solitude is guarded by two gates and three towers. The first of these towers, situated at the crossroads, is Sky Tower. It's mostly a lookout, although in times of war, barricades are erected across the nearby road to act as a first line of defense. The second tower and first, smaller gate are collectively known as the Squall Gate. Here, attacking armies meet their first real resistance. Last and certainly most impressive is the Storm Gate. While Castle Dour, found just within the city's main gate, has always been a massive walled structure, Solitude's outer walls and gates were not added until shortly after the coronation of High King Erling. Looking up and to the left of the main gate, you can see a small hint of Erling's preference for a more rounded style of architecture that we will see later in the Castle Dour extension, as well as the interior arch and the windmill. Now we pass through the gates and enter the main shopping district of Solitude. The Well District Stepping inside Solitude's gates, you get your first view of the city itself. Rising tall and proud before you, banners waving from its crown, is the Emperor's Tower. Home to the Kings of Haafingar before the consolidation of Skyrim and the creation of the Blue Palace, the Emperor's Tower is now used exclusively as guest quarters for Emperors who come to visit the city. To your left and right are Solitude's inn and shops. Here can be found some of the finest imported goods in Skyrim. After all, Solitude is a wealthy city with ready access to the major shipping lanes of Tamriel. Continuing ahead, you'll come to the ramp that takes you up to Castle Dour. From here, you can truly feel the weight of this stone bastion's looming presence. The left-most tower, topped by the pointed roof of Erling's extension, was once the castle barracks and jail. Today, the tower is the center of military power here in Solitude. Looking right past the looming Emperor's tower, you can glimpse Solitude's natural bridge arcing gracefully over to the windmill. Built during High King Erling's day, the bridge was said to be used used to discretely allow Captain Jytte, the famous privateer, to enter Castle Dour. Some historians claim that she and the High King were simply attempting to keep their business dealings quiet. Others believe the Jytte and Erling were involved on a more personal level. At the end of the bridge is the windmill. The tower and the windmill serve as one of Solitude's most recognizable man-made landmarks. The Windmill's power was once used to open the gates to what is now the East Empire Company Warehouse, but today that task falls to the strong backs of the dock workers. In the shadow of the windmill you'll find the outdoor market and the well. Here, you can buy a number of local delicacies including the famous spiced wine made exclusively in Solitude. From here we'll travel up the ramp and into Castle Dour Courtyard. Castle Dour As you enter the courtyard of Castle Dour, you are confronted with the banner of Solitude hanging over the door to what is now Castle Dour proper. At the far end of the courtyard stands the impressive Temple of the Divines. The founders of Solitude were deeply devout and Solitude is the only place in Skyrim where all of the divines are worshiped in a single temple. All three of the buildings here are well worth taking a look inside, but only the Temple and Castle Dour's military wing are open. If you do venture inside the temple, take special note of the alcoves at the front. You can see the empty alcove that once held the shrine of Talos before Talos worship was outlawed. From the courtyard, travel out the exit between Castle Dour and the Temple and you'll get your first sight of the Blue Palace. Along the way, be sure to stop outside the Bards College, a large building on your left marked by the Flame of Callisos burning beside the steps. Named for a famous bard, it is said that as long as the flame burns, the college will stand. The Bards College Looking up from the Bards College steps, you can see that the college stands taller than the Blue Palace itself. The bards who train here can be heard throughout Skyrim, singing songs that capture the history of the ages. If you get a chance you should be sure to catch the Burning of King Olaf, an ancient festival where "King Olaf" is burned in effigy. Continue up the road from the college and you'll reach the courtyard of the Blue Palace, our final destination. The Blue Palace The Blue Palace is home to the Jarls of Solitude, who for centuries have also served as the High Kings and High Queens of Skyrim. The northeast wing, on your left as you enter, holds the living quarters of the Jarl and her court on the top level and various servants below. The southwest wing, known as the Pelagius Wing, has fallen into a state of disrepair. Named for the famous High King, Pelagius the Mad, the wing is rumored to be haunted by the king's ghost. The wing has been locked and left alone since shortly after Pelagius's death. You should be sure to venture inside the Blue Palace. The grand atrium and court chambers are a sight not to be missed. Other Points of Interest Spatior has shown you Solitude in all its grandeur, but there are a few places more to see. The walls of the city are easily accessible and well worth climbing for the remarkable view. The Solitude Docks are also worth a visit, as they are the largest in Skyrim. That's all for Walking the World Volume XI. Spatior does not know his next destination yet, but you can be sure that where he does go he will leave you a record of the best things to see. Spatior Munius, World Traveler

121book2CommonSongAskeldeMen[pagebreak]

Song of the Askelde Men (Nord/Traditonal) Translation 3E213 Atheneum Monks at Old Anthel

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Fifty Nights from home I last awoke upon a sky-flung cliff in Hjaalmarch Hold Though my flesh had died and gone to ground My Vision went on, from body unbound Winking there in the vale whence I came This dead man's eyes saw pale flame Where men the same who took life away Sung high their battle-glory and praise Wafting went I, a shade or a wight Through stoic pines, pitched ink of night Ere I came upon the pyre-burning throng I heard carried on wind's wing their song "Sing high and clear, bandsmen born of sky Let Sovngarde hear and join our cry" "These honored dead shed blood upon the fen Ending Orc and Elf and traitor men." "Your spirit went unto and filled their heart You sped them to glory, Hail Spirit Wulfharth" Then oil from urns fed greedy flames burning what few my legion and I slayed Wordlessy they chanted then until dawn Every flake of ash gathered ere they marched on Swept along unseen, so too went I Meekly haunting these Children of the Sky Tireless they went, over hearth and hill Exhaustion seemed only to spur them still Unflagging they went, a whorl of rage Soon finding our camp, bloated with prey My dead heart ached for I knew men within Doomed, never knowing how close was their end Again the Nord chests swelled up in refrain I screamed unheard. I wept with horror plain "Hear us, our ancestor, Ash King, Ysmir Honor this warband as we to glory repair" "Those dead to whom you spoke and heard We bear them upon us, Your valor conferred" And so it was, to the man each was smeared With ash of a Brother's bone, blood and beard These ashen brutes, the Askelde Men Set to a gruesome task, each bowstring bent I bellowed then, a cry of desperate rage A futile howl among those men, an empty page Yet one elder turned and unblinking, stared into the vapor-soul of me, his nostrils flared He bellowed ancient words, his beard aflame And my vision fell away, Peace at last came

122Book2CommonSongOfReturnV19[pagebreak]

SONGS OF THE RETURN Volume 19 The Second Tale of the Ylgermet

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hen that final battle at the barren pass was completed, and the melting snow carried elf-blood back to the sea, the crew of the Kaal Kaaz, the Sadon Reyth, and the most exalted crew of our lord's ship, the Ylgermet, at last parted ways, never to join shields again. They drew apart in that form which is not a loss, but a gain in knowing one's heart can be carried in the chests of others. So great was the love that those first of the Five Hundred had for each other, and most especially for the great Ysgramor, harbinger of us all. They pressed eastwards, seeking the sea, when they came upon the barrow of Yngol, the mighty Ysgramor's son who had fallen to the whims of Kyne rather than the treachery of the elves. Our lord had not expected to lay eyes upon it again so soon, and his grief flowed anew at the sight of it, as a reopened wound will bleed as it did when first received. His eyes turned to the south, where a river met the sea, and decreed that there would he and the crew of the Ylgermet create a great city, in monument to the glories of mankind, that from his palace he might always look upon the hill of his dear son's resting place, and feel that his line would know peace in this new home that was never known in Atmora. The elven captives were set to work, bringing forth stone to build in their conqueror's fashion. As many elves died in the building of the city as had the crew of the Ylgermet slain while on way to its site, and Ysgramor drove the wretches ever more, to build higher, to lay a claim to the river so that none might pass into the interior of this land without first showing due respect to its rightful claimant. Thus was the great bridge constructed, forever striding the river that no elf might sneak through to avenge his devious cousins. As the bridge was built long, so too was the palace built high, spires reaching the sky to show dominion even over the very winds that had brought forth such a grief. In the deep hollows beneath the city, a great tomb was prepared for the day when lord Ysgramor, harbinger to us all, would be called home to glory in Sovngarde. But as we know, he chose instead to be buried on the shore, facing towards Atmora, that though his heart lived and died in this new land, it would forever yearn for the beauties of still-green Atmora, before the freezing took it. Thus was founding of Windhelm, the city of Kings, though her history is long and her glories did not end with her founder.

123Book2CommonSongOfReturnV2[pagebreak]

Songs of the Return Volume 2 The First Tale of the Darumzu

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ur great lord Ysgramor, the harbinger of us all, did then send forth his two beloved sons (with him the only other survivors of the brutalities of Saarthal) to seek out the bravest warriors of the land and mount the great return. Yngol and Ylgar, they were called, and they were known among Atmora as fine warriors with bright eyes and dawning futures. Yngol, the elder, was the brave strategist, bringing his learnings to bear on the battlefield that his enemies would be defeated before they even know the battle had begun. Ylgar, the younger, was possessed of an unwavering spirit that drove his singular prowess to overwhelming feats in war. Together, the mind and the arm, they were capable of sowing a destruction most thorough and glorious to any foe who stood before them. Before they parted ways to gather their crews, the two clasped arms and necks in the old fashion and laughed at the heavens for their stories to come. Young Ylgar then took to the massive shipyards of Jylkurfyk at the southern point and commissioned two ships for himself and his brother. He would command the Darumzu, and his brother the Harakk, thus carrying the names of the two favored stars of their heavens. The shipmakers spirits had been suitably filled by Ysgramor's tales of the savage elves, and they set about to birth ships that befit their noble homeland. Arrangements having been made, Ylgar set forth to the academies of honored soldiers, seeking out his most trusted friends and advisors to join him on the venture of the Return. By now the stories of the new land to the south were spreading before him, and the mere emergence of his presence was enough to cause the finest warriors to lay down their present undertakings and follow him. So was he able to call to his side the great Shield-Sisters, Froa and Grosta (who thought and spoke as one), and they brought with them the wise war-teacher Adrimk, who first taught them to dance among the blades. She, in turn, mustered all the students at her command, whose names were not yet made, but some of whom would one day be known: Hermeskr (Who Threw His Shield), Urlach (Who Breathed Fire), Ramth the Greater, Merkyllian Ramth, and the Far-Sighted Uche, who would see the first of many dawns. On the Day of Final Passage, when the many-oared fleet would last see the distant green summers of Atmora, the brothers were near in their father's wake as the freshly joined Five Hundred would eagerly press onwards towards Tamriel. Ylgar could see his well-minded brother smiling from afar across the waves, and they shouted war-cries to each other, longing for the soon-day when their assembled crews would draw the treacherous elf blood into the ground which they would now claim for their own rights. But Kyne's ministrations are not to be taken lightly, and though her blessings gave wind to drive those brave sailors to their destiny, so too did her mighty tears fall, to drive them apart. When the Storm of Separation first arose, young Ylgar had no fear, for his crew was strong and able, and their ship drove true through the forest of swells as though pulled by the rope of fate. When the skies cleared, and Ylgar glimpsed again, with new eyes, the land of his past and future home, he knew his brother's vessel was not within his horizon. The Darumzu, arriving late, drew forth onto the sands and Ylgar rushed to his father to seek word of his brother. The great Ysgramor, harbinger of us all, wept for his lost son, and sought comfort in the arms of his only remaining joy. The crew of the Harakk became the first deaths among the Five Hundred, and Ylgar so enraged with love for his brother that his crew would soon be counted as first among the many noble and honored names in the Companions.

124Book2CommonSongOfReturnV56[pagebreak]

Songs of the Return Volume 56 The Final Tale of the Chrion

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he Songs of the Return are eternal and numerous, for those first Five Hundred, those Companions of Ysgramor who cleared the way for mankind's rightful habitation, burned with a fire not seen since those days long passed. Each ship carried a crew that performed legendary feats that could feed the pride of any nation for a thousand years. And during this time of the broadening, scores of Companions wandered the land, bringing the light of the proper gods to the heathen land of elves and beasts. They were but mortal, though, and in time, all would taste the glories of Sovngarde. It was in one of the uncounted years after the retaking of Saarthal that the crew of the Chrion was declaring their fortunes in the eastern lands near the Red Mountain. They were encamped, surrounded by bodies of murderous elves who had attempted to make them believe they held peace in their hearts. The shrewd Rhorlak was the Chrion's captain, though, and would show no quarter to the liars of the southlands, as had been commanded by his lord Ysgramor, harbinger of us all. It was in this state of carousing that they were approached by a young and breathless messenger of their sister crew from the Kaal Kaaz. The boy (Asgeir, as his name is now sung) had ran unimaginable distance at breakneck speed from the blood-stained fields of the Clouded Sun, to deliver the news to all who would hear. When he reached their camp, he bellowed a great sob before relieving his heart with the news that the mighty Ysgramor had breathed his last. Asgeir continued his swift run, to inform the other crews as quickly as they could be found (for there were many now crawling the land, rendering our legacy from their deeds), and the camp of the Chrion descended into a mourning of the most forlorn sort. Among these fires sat the bravest men and fiercest women who have ever graced the dirt of this land, and they were brought low by such a notion. While we in the day-shine know only Ysgramor's glory as it gleams through history, these Companions knew his might with their own eyes, and such a loss hangs so heavily on the heart that mere words cannot express the altering of their world. For indeed the stories tell that Rhorlak, the most battle-hardened and unflinching of all captains, did collapse with grief, and never lifted again his mighty axe. And all around Tamriel, as the news spread as a dark cloud washes from horizon to horizon, did brilliant lights go out in silent honor of their fallen general and war-leader. So ended the period of the Return, and the original glories of the Five Hundred Companions of Ysgramor, harbinger of us all.

125Book2CommonSongOfReturnV7[pagebreak]

Songs of the Return Volume 7 The Tale of the Jorrvaskr

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hen at last the rightful claim of Saarthal had been retaken, driving the murderous elves back to their lofty cities, did great Ysgramor turn and let loose the fearsome war cry that echoed across all the oceans. The Five Hundred who yet stood joined in the ovation for the victory and the lament for their fallen peers. It was said to be heard on the distant and chilling green shores of Atmora, and the ancestors knew their time had come to cross the seas. As the reverberations echoed out and drowned to silence, all looked to Ysgramor, who bore the blessed Wuuthrad, for his next commandment. With his lungs that bellowed forth the fury of humanity, he bade them to continue their march, that the devious Mer might know the terror they had brought on themselves with their trickery. "Go forth," he roared. "Into the belly of this new land. Drive the wretched from their palaces of idleness. Oblige them to squalor and toil, that they would see their betrayals as the all-sin against our kind. Give no quarter. Show no kindness. For they would not give nor show you the same." (Our great forebear gave this order as he did not yet understand the prophecy of the Twin Snakes, that he would be fated to die before seeing the true destiny of his line.) Hearing this, the Circle of Captains gathered each their crews unto themselves. From here, they decreed, we will go forth. Let each ship's band make its own way, seeking their fates to the open sun. A night spent in feasting, the Oath of the Companions was sworn anew, with each of the Five Hundred (so they still named their count, in honor of the shields that were broken at Saarthal) swearing to act as Shield-Brother and Shield-Sister to any of the Atmoran line were their fates to ever again entwine. As the red hands of dawn stretched from the east, so broke the Five Hundred Companions of Ysgramor, setting about their journeys, sailing now across the land with waves of stone and crests of trees flowing under their footed hulls. The first to break from the grounded fleet was the crew of the Jorrvaskr, who had been formed of Ysgramor's closest friends. Their captain was known as Jeek of the River, so called by the Harbinger himself from their youths passed in glory. When assembling their glistening hull, he sought out the labors of Menro and Manwe, who now bore the native timbers across this new land of Tamriel. Among their fiercest were Tysnal (Who Was Twice-Named), and Terr, his twin and Shield-Brother whose girth was never spoken of to his face. There were others, too, in their band -- Meksim the Walker, Brunl (Who Fought with his Off-Hand), and Yust the Smiler. These and others were sworn to Jeek, and they pushed forth into the shadows where yet the sun had not reached. Southwards they went, by beast and by foot. Elves they found, though none remain to tell what those battles entailed. The numbers of the Jorrvaskr never faltered, so shrewd were they in battle, with minds as sharp as their blades. Once, as the sun beat from its high-home, Jonder the Tiny, the one who ran ahead, came over the hill to tell what was seen. Amidst a vast plain his eyes had met a monument of a bird, whose eyes and beak were opened in flame. When his brothers and sisters crested the hill, they too saw its glory, but they were afraid for no elven settlement could be seen to the horizon. "But this is not seemly," said Kluwe, who went by Loate when hiding his face. "Is not this wide land fit for harvest? Why have not the elves, vile to their core, seen to exploit and tame it?" They asked of their elven captives (for they had many) what they found unfit about these plains. Yet even the captives who still bore their tongues could say nothing of the valley. They looked with fear at the winged colossus, and from their babblings did the warriors of the Jorrvaskr learn that it was older than even the elves themselves. Of those who wrought it solid from its mother-stone, nothing could be said, but it was known to drive a magic almost as old as Nirn itself, some remnant of the gods' efforts to render a paradise in Mundus before the shattering of Lorkhan. This first of many, this crew of the Jorrvaskr, heathens and ancestors to us all, feared no stories or gods. Indeed, if there was something the elves feared, they would have it for their own. Thus began the labors, once more, of Menro and Manwe, whose eager hands again laid to the Atmoran wood which had born them all across the sea, and what was their ship became their shelter as this valley became their purview until the end of all their days. Thus began the building of the Great City, circled by the running of the White River, as brought forth by these beloved of Ysgramor, yet but twenty-two of the glorious Five Hundred Companions.

126Book2CommonTheArcturianHeresy[pagebreak]

The Arcturian Heresy by The Underking Ysmir Kingmaker

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ith his god destroyed, Wulfharth finds it hard to keep his form. He staggers out of Red Mountain to the battlefield beyond. The world has shaken and all of Morrowind is made of fire. A strong gale picks up, and blows his ashes back to Skyrim. Wulfharth adopts and is adopted by the Nords then. Ysmir the Grey Wind, the Storm of Kyne. But through Lorkhan he lost his national identity. All he wants the Nords for is to kill the Tribunal. He raises a storm, sends in his people, and is driven back by Tribunal forces. The Dunmer are too strong now. Wulfharth goes underground to wait and strengthen and reform his body anew. Oddly enough, it is Almalexia who disturbs his rest, summoning the Underking to fight alongside the Tribunal against Ada'Soom Dir-Kamal, the Akaviri demon. Wulfharth disappears after Ada'Soom is defeated, and does not return for three hundred years. It is the rumbling of the Greybeards that wake him. Though the Empire has crumbled, there are rumors that a chosen one will come to restore it. This new Emperor will defeat the Elves and rule a united Tamriel. Naturally, Wulfharth thinks he is the figure of prophecy. He goes directly to High Hrothgar to hear the Greybeards speak. When they do, Ysmir is blasted to ash again. He is not the chosen one. It is a warrior youth from High Rock. As the Grey Wind goes to find this boy, he hears the Greybeards' warning: remember the color of betrayal, King Wulfharth. The Western Reach was at war. Cuhlecain, the King of Falkreath in West Cyrodiil, was in a bad situation. To make any bid at unifying the Colovian Estates, he needed to secure his northern border, where the Nords and Reachmen had been fighting for centuries. He allies with Skyrim at the Battle of Old Hrol'dan. Leading his forces was Hjalti Early-Beard. Hjalti was from the island kingdom of Alcaire, in High Rock, and would become Tiber Septim, the First Emperor of Tamriel. Hjalti was a shrewd tactician, and his small band of Colovian troops and Nord berserkers broke the Reachman line, forcing them back beyond the gates of Old Hrol'dan. A siege seemed impossible, as Hjalti could expect no reinforcements from Falkreath. That night a storm came and visited Hjalti's camp. It spoke with him in his tent. At dawn, Hjalti went up to the gates, and the storm followed just above his head. Arrows could not penetrate the winds around him. He shouted down the walls of Old Hrol'dan, and his men poured in. After their victory, the Nords called Hjalti Talos, or Stormcrown. Cuhlecain, with his new invincible general, unifies West Cyrodiil in under a year. No one can stand before Hjalti's storms. The Underking knows that if Hjalti is to become Emperor of Tamriel, he must first capture the Eastern Heartland. Hjalti uses them both. He needs Cuhlecain in the Colovian Estates, where foreigners are mistrusted. It is obvious why he needs Ysmir. They march on the East, the battlemages surrender before their armies, and they take the Citadel. Before Cuhlecain can be crowned, Hjalti secretly murders him and his loyalist contingent. These assassinations are blamed on the enemies of Cuhlecain, which, for political reasons, are still the Western Reach. Zurin Arctus, the Grand Battlemage (not the Underking), then crowns Hjalti as Tiber Septim, new Emperor of All Cyrodiil. After he captures the Imperial Throne, Septim finds the initial administration of a fully united Cyrodiil a time-consuming task. He sends the Underking to deal with Imperial expansion into Skyrim and High Rock. Ysmir, mindful that it might seem as if Tiber Septim is in two places at once, works behind the scenes. This period of levelheaded statesmanship and diplomacy, this sudden silence, heretofore unknown in the roaring tales of Talosian conquest, are explained away later. (The assassination story is embroidered -- now it is popularly Talos' own throat that was cut.) The human kingdoms are conquered, even Hammerfell, whose capture was figured to be an arduous task. The Underking wants a complete invasion, a chance to battle their foreign wind spirits himself, but Tiber Septim refutes him. He has already made a better plan, one that will seem to legitimize his rule. Cyrodiil supports the losing side of a civil war and are invited in. Finally, the Empire can turn its eyes onto the Elves. The Underking continues to press on Tiber Septim the need to conquer Morrowind. The Emperor is not sure that it is a wise idea. He has heard of the Tribunal's power. The Underking wants his vengeance, and reminds Tiber Septim that he is fated to conquer the Elves, even the Tribunal. Arctus advises against the move but Septim covets the Ebony in Morrowind, as he sorely needs a source of capital to rebuild Cyrodiil after 400 years of war. The Underking tells him that, with the Tribunal dead, Septim might steal the Tribunal's power and use it against the High Elves (certainly the oldest enemies of Lorkhan, predating even the Tribunal). Summerset Isle is the farthest thing from Tiber Septim's mind. Even then, he was planning to send Zurin Arctus to the King of Alinor to make peace. The Ebony need wins out in the end. The Empire invades Morrowind, and the Tribunal give up. When certain conditions of the Armistice include not only a policy of noninterference with the Tribunal, but also, in the Underking's eyes, a validation of their religious beliefs, Ysmir is furious. He abandons the Empire completely. This was the betrayal the Greybeards spoke of. Or so he thinks. Without the Underking's power, all ideas of conquering Tamriel vanish. Would've been nice, Septim thinks, but let's just worry about Cyrodiil and the human nations. Already there is a rebellion in Hammerfell. Pieces of Numidium trickle in, though. Tiber Septim, always fascinated by the Dwarves, has Zurin Arctus research this grand artifact. In doing so, Arctus stumbles upon some of the stories of the war at Red Mountain. He discovers the reason the Numidium was made and some of it's potential. Most importantly, he learns the Underking's place in the War. But Zurin Arctus was working from incomplete plans. He thinks it is the heart of Lorkhan's body that is needed to power the Numidium. While Zurin Arctus is raving about his discovery, the prophecy finally becomes clear to Tiber Septim. This Numidium is what he needs to conquer the world. It is his destiny to have it. He contacts the Underking and says he was right all along. They should kill the Tribunal, and they need to get together and make a plan. While the Underking was away he realized the true danger of Dagoth-Ur. Something must to be done. But he needs an army, and his old one is available again. The trap is set. The Underking arrives and is ambushed by Imperial guards. As he takes them on, Zurin Arctus uses a soulgem on him. With his last breath, the Underking's Heart roars a hole through the Battlemage's chest. In the end, everyone is dead, the Underking has reverted back to ash, and Tiber Septim strolls in to take the soulgem. When the Elder Council arrives, he tells them about the second attempt on his life, this time by his trusted battle mage, Zurin Arctus, who was attempting a coup. He has the dead guards celebrated as heroes, even the one who was blasted to ash... He warns Cyrodiil about the dangers within, but says he has a solution to the dangers without. The Mantella. The Numidium, while not the god Tiber Septim and the Dwemer hoped for (the Underking was not exactly Lorkhan, after all), it does the job. After its work on Summerset Isle a new threat appears -- a rotting undead wizard who controls the skies. He blows the Numidium apart. But it pounds him into the ground with its last flailings, leaving only a black splotch. The Mantella falls into the sea, seemingly forever. Meanwhile, Tiber Septim crowns himself the First Emperor of Tamriel. He lives until he is 108, the richest man in history. All aspects of his early reign are rewritten. Still, there are conflicting reports of what really happened, and this is why there is such confusion over such questions as: Why does Alcaire claim to be the birthplace of Talos, while other sources say he came from Atmora? Why does Tiber Septim seem to be a different person after his first roaring conquests? Why does Tiber Septim betray his battlemage? Is the Mantella the heart of the battlemage or is it the heart of Tiber Septim? Tiber Septim is succeeded by his grandson, Pelagius I. Pelagius is just not of the same caliber. In truth, he's a little nervous with all these provinces. Then an advisor shows up. "I was friends with your grandfather," the Underking says, "He sent me to help you run the Empire."

127Book2CommonTheFirmament[pagebreak]

The Firmament by Ffoulke

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he Stars of Tamriel are divided into thirteen constellations. Three of them are the major constellations, known as the Guardians. These are the Warrior, the Mage, and the Thief. Each of the Guardians protects its three Charges from the thirteenth constellation, the Serpent. When the sun rises near one of the constellations, it is that constellation's season. Each constellation has a Season of approximately one month. The Serpent has no season, for it moves about in the heavens, usually threatening one of the other constellations. [pagebreak] The Warrior The Warrior is the first Guardian Constellation and he protects his charges during their Seasons. The Warrior's own season is Last Seed when his Strength is needed for the harvest. His Charges are the Lady, the Steed, and the Lord. Those born under the sign of the Warrior are skilled with weapons of all kinds, but prone to short tempers. [pagebreak] The Mage The Mage is a Guardian Constellation whose Season is Rain's Hand when magicka was first used by men. His Charges are the Apprentice, the Golem, and the Ritual. Those born under the Mage have more magicka and talent for all kinds of spellcasting, but are often arrogant and absent-minded. [pagebreak] The Thief The Thief is the last Guardian Constellation, and her Season is the darkest month of Evening Star. Her Charges are the Lover, the Shadow, and the Tower. Those born under the sign of the Thief are not typically thieves, though they take risks more often and only rarely come to harm. They will run out of luck eventually, however, and rarely live as long as those born under other signs.
[pagebreak] The Serpent The Serpent wanders about in the sky and has no Season, though its motions are predictable to a degree. No characteristics are common to all who are born under the sign of the Serpent. Those born under this sign are the most blessed and the most cursed. [pagebreak] The Lady The Lady is one of the Warrior's Charges and her Season is Heartfire. Those born under the sign of the Lady are kind and tolerant. [pagebreak] The Steed The Steed is one of the Warrior's Charges, and her Season is Mid Year. Those born under the sign of the Steed are impatient and always hurrying from one place to another. [pagebreak] The Lord The Lord's Season is First Seed and he oversees all of Tamriel during the planting. Those born under the sign of the Lord are stronger and healthier than those born under other signs. [pagebreak] The Apprentice The Apprentice's Season is Sun's Height. Those born under the sign of the apprentice have a special affinity for magick of all kinds, but are more vulnerable to magick as well. [pagebreak] The Atronach The Atronach (often called the Golem) is one of the Mage's Charges. Its season is Sun's Dusk. Those born under this sign are natural sorcerers with deep reserves of magicka, but they cannot generate magicka of their own. [pagebreak] The Ritual The Ritual is one of the Mage's Charges and its Season is Morning Star. Those born under this sign have a variety of abilities depending on the aspects of the moons and the Divines. [pagebreak] The Lover The Lover is one of the Thief's Charges and her season is Sun's Dawn. Those born under the sign of the Lover are graceful and passionate. [pagebreak] The Shadow The Shadow's Season is Second Seed. The Shadow grants those born under her sign the ability to hide in shadows. [pagebreak] The Tower The Tower is one of the Thief's Charges and its Season is Frostfall. Those born under the sign of the Tower have a knack for finding gold and can open locks of all kinds.

128Book2CommonTheHopeoftheRedoran[pagebreak]

The Hope of the Redoran by Turiul Nirith

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ne of the few magical arts the Psijics of Artaeum have kept to themselves, away from the common spells and schools of the Mages Guild, is the gift of divination. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, omens and prophesies abound in Tamriel, some of substance, others of pure folly, and still others so ambiguous as to be unverifiable. There are still other prophesies kept secret, from the prophesies of Dro'Jizad in Elsweyr and the Nerevarine in Morrowind, to the Elder Scrolls themselves. The Nord nobility have a tradition of having omens read for their children. In general, these readings are of the obscure variety. One of my acquaintances told me that her parents were told, for example, that their daughter would have her life rescued by a snake, and so gave her the name Serpentkin in a special ceremony. And this young lady, Eria Valkor Serpentkin, was indeed saved by a snake many years later, when an assassin creeping on her stepped on a danswyrm viper. Occasionally, omens seem to be almost purposefully misleading, as if Boethiah had crafted them as traps. I recall one particularly. Many, many years ago, a male child was born into House Redoran. It was a very difficult birth, and the mother was delirious and near death by the time it was over. She chanted just as her son came into the world and she passed from it. Fortune has smiled this day not frowned My child will be mighty in mind and in arm He shall bring hope to House Redoran Neither spell nor blade shall hurt the man Nor illness nor poison cause any harm His blood shall never drop on the ground The boy, named Andas, was indeed extraordinary. He never was ill and never suffered so much as a scratch all through his childhood. He was also quite intelligent and strong, which, combined with his invulnerability, caused many to call him, after his mother's omen, the Hope of the Redoran. Of course, any one who is called the Hope of the Redoran will eventually develop some taint of impertinence, and it wasn't long before he had enemies. His worst enemy was his cousin Athyn, who had borne much abuse at the hands of Andas. Primary among the grudges was that Athyn had been sent to Rihad to complete his education at Andas's insistence. When Athyn returned from Hammerfell, it was because of the death of his father, who had also been a councilor of the House. Athyn was old enough to take his seat in the Council, but Andas claimed the seat as well, saying that his cousin had been gone too long from Morrowind and didn't understand politics as he did. The majority of the House agreed with Andas, wanting to see the Hope of Redoran rise quickly. Athyn exercised his right to combat his cousin for the seat. No one thought he had any chance of winning, of course, but the battle was scheduled to commence the following morn. Andas whored and dined and drank with the councilors that night, confident that his place in the House was secured and the hopeful new dawn of House Redoran was rising. Athyn retired to his castle with his friends, Andas's enemies, and his servants he had brought from Hammerfell. Athyn and his friends were discussing the duel morosely when one of his old teachers, a warrior called Shardie, came into the hall. She had grown quite proud of her student over the years in Hammerfell, proud enough to accompany him across the Empire to his family's lands, and wanted to know why they had so little confidence in his odds in the battle. They explained to her Andas's uncommon blessings and the nature of his mother's omen. "If he can't be harmed by disease, poison, magicka, and his blood can never be spilled, what hope have I of ever besting him?" cried Athyn. "Have you remembered nothing I taught you?" replied Shardie. "Is there no weapon you can think of that will slay without blood? Are swords and spears and arrows the only items in your arsenal?" Athyn quickly realized the weapon Shardie was speaking of, but it seemed absurd. Not only absurd, but pathetic and primitive. Still, it was the only hope he had. All that night, Shardie trained him in the art and techniques, showing him the various swings and stances her people had developed in Albion-Gora; counter-attacks, feints, and blocks imported from Yokuda; the classic one and two-handed grips for the most ancient weapon in history. The cousins faced one another the next morning, and never have two combatants looked so unevenly matched. Andas's entrance brought a great cheer, for not only was he much beloved as the Hope of the Redoran, but as his victory was a foregone conclusion, most wanted to be in good standing with him. His shining mail and blade drew admiration and awe. By contrast, Athyn drew a gasp of surprise and only a smattering of polite applause. He appeared costumed and armed like a barbarian. As Shardie had suggested, Athyn allowed Andas to attack first. The Hope of the Redoran was eager to finish the battle and take the power he deserved quickly. The blade pushed by Andas's mighty arm slashed across Athyn's chest, but shallowly, and before it could be counterswung, Athyn knocked it back with his own weapon. When Athyn attacked and wounded Andas, the Hope of the Redoran was so surprised by being hurt for the first time in his life, he dropped his sword. The less said about the end of the battle, the better. Suffice it to say that Athyn, wielding a simple club, battered Andas to death without spilling a drop of blood. Athyn took his father's seat as councilor, and it was then said that the hope in the omen referred to Athyn, not Andas. After all, had Andas not tried to take the councilor seat away from his cousin, Athyn, being not very ambitious, might have never tried to get it. It can certainly be argued that way, I suppose.

129Book2CommonTheWispmother[pagebreak]

The Wispmother: Two Theories by Mathias Etienne

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mong the folk tales from the northern reaches of Skyrim, few subjects are as popular as the Wispmother: ghostly women who lure unsuspecting travelers to their doom, steal children, and takes vengeance on those who wronged them in life. Similar tales exist throughout Tamriel: The Melusanae of Stros Mkai, who lure ships to wreck on jagged shoals, then consume the souls of those aboard. The serpentine Chalass of Black Marsh. The Amronal of Valenwood. But unlike these mythic creatures, most scholars concede that Wispmothers actually exist. Though rare, credible reports of their sightings are simply too frequent to be ignored. Herein, a synopsis of what can be gleaned from provincial legends, and the dominant theories on what they may actually be. [pagebreak] Wispmothers Most tales agree on only a few basic facts about Wispmothers. They are always female. They take the form of human (some say Elven) spirits, wreathed in mist and decaying rags. They have an affinity for frost magic, rarely appearing in more temperate climes. But beyond that, the tales differ wildly. Some say they are ghosts, waiting to be laid to rest. Others, that they are all that remains of the Snow Elves who once ruled Skyrim. Some say they are native to Hjaalmarch (or the north more generally), but other tales mention them in forgotten places, on mountaintops as far away as the Jeralls. Most reputable scholars dismiss these stories, preferring instead to focus on the few documented sightings from recent years. From these, two dominant theories have emerged: Based on his extensive research into necromancy and Cyrodiil's Ayleid culture, Master Sadren Sarethi posits that Wispmothers are a necrologic state, a type of lich-dom developed by a now-forgotten First Era culture. Under his theory, these are no mere ghosts - they are a cult of powerful sorceresses who achieved eternal life through undeath. Alternately, Lydette Viliane of the Synod contends that Wispmothers are not undead at all, but rather elemental manifestations arising out of Nirn itself. By noting several similarities to Spriggans and Ice Wraiths, she contends that the Wispmothers are essentially elemental personifications of snow or mist, innately wielding the power of their element, instead of manipulating it through conventional sorcery. [pagebreak] Wisps In most accounts, the victim is initially drawn to the Wispmother by glowing, ghostly lights. Although initially passive, these creatures later attack in tandem with her, distracting the victim and draining their energy. Popular legend holds that these are the spirits of the Wispmother's previous victims. These spirits strengthen her, so anyone hoping to destroy her must first release the souls of those she has killed. To scholars, this description immediately recalls the Will-o-the-Wisp, a rare and dangerous swamp denizen of southern Tamriel. Oddly, Cyrodillic legends invariably refer to Wisps as lone predators, while these appear to exist in some sort of symbiotic relationship with others of their kind. Viliane argues that these Wisps are a sub-species of true Wisps, scavengers that lure prey to the Wispmother and share in the psychoetherial energy released by her kills. As co-dependent scavengers, they most likely lack the formidable defenses of their predatory cousins, rendering them far more vulnerable. [pagebreak] Alternately, Sarethi posits that these "Wisps" are merely emanations or conjurations of the Wispmother, and not free-living creatures. This is supported by one incident in which an adventurer reportedly killed a Wispmother directly, only to observe the remaining Wisps immediately perish as well, though the source is considered highly unreliable. [pagebreak] In summary, scholarly opinion about Wispmothers and Wisps is sharply divided, and is likely to remain so for some time. But all sources agree on one crucial point: these are highly dangerous foes, and should be avoided at all costs.

130Book2CommonThiefOfVirtue[pagebreak]

Thief of Virtue

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et me tell the tale of the Thief of Virtue. In the land of Hammerfell in the city of Sutch there lived a Baron who was quite wealthy. He was a noted collector of rare coins. The Baroness Veronique found the whole thing quite tedious. However, she did appreciate the lifestyle that the Baron's wealth provided. Ravius Terinus was a noted thief. He claimed to be a master thief in the mythical guild of thieves. However, that was most likely just braggadocio. The only known Thieves Guild was wiped out over 450 years ago. Ravius decided that the Baron should share his wealth. Specifically he should share it with Ravius. The wily thief crept into the Baron's castle one night intending to do just that. The walls of the castle were noted for their height and unscalability. Ravius cleverly used an Arrow of Penetration to affix a rope to the top of the battlements. Once on the battlements, he had to evade the Baron's guards. By hiding in the shadows of the crenelations, he was able to work his way to the keep undetected. Entering the keep was child's play for a thief of his caliber. However, a cunning lock with no less than 13 pins protected the private quarters of the Baron. Ravius broke only 9 lockpicks to open it. Using only a fork, a bit of string, and a wineskin, he disabled the seven traps guarding the Baron's coin collection. Truly Ravius was a master among thieves. With the coins safely in his grasp, Ravius began his escape only to find the way blocked. The Baron had found the opened door and was raising the guard to scour the castle. Ravius fled deeper into the castle, one step ahead of the questing guards. His only way out led through the boudoir of Baroness Veronique. He entered to find the lady preparing for bed. Now it should be said at this point that Ravius was noted for his handsome looks, while the Baroness was noted for her plainness. Both of these facts were immediately recognized by each of the pair. "Doest thou come to plunder my virtue?" asked the lady, all a tremble. "Nay, fair lady," Ravius said, thinking quickly. "Plunder be a harsh term to ply upon such a delicate flower as your virtue." "I see thou hast made off with mine husbands precious coins." Ravius looked deeply into her eyes and saw the only path by which he would escape this night with his life. It would require a double sacrifice. "Though these coins are of rarest value, I have now found a treasure that is beyond all value," Ravius said smoothly. "Tell me, oh beauteous one, why doest thy husband set seven deadly traps around these tawdry coins, but only a simple lock upon the door of his virtuous wife?" "Ignace protects those things that are dearest to him," Veronique replied with ire. "I would give all the gold in my possession to spend but a moment basking in your radiance." With that Ravius set down the coins he had worked so hard to steal. The Baroness swooned into his arms. When the captain of the guard asked to search her quarters, she hid Ravius most skillfully. She turned over the coins, claiming the thief dropped them when he fled out the window. With that sacrifice made, Ravius steeled himself for the second. He robbed the lady Veronique of her virtue that night. He robbed her of it several times, lasting well into the wee hours of the morning. Exhausted, yet sated, he stole away in the pre-dawn hours.

131Book2CommonThirdEra[pagebreak]

Third Era An Abbreviated Timeline The Last Year of the First Era by Jaspus Ignateous

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t has been said that "citizens of the Empire who make the same mistakes as their forebears deserve to suffer the same fate." And while this may be true, it's hard to deny that the Empire's history is so long, and our forebears have made so many mistakes, it's sometimes hard to keep track. This work is meant to serve as a concise compilation of the Empire's most recent events, in this, our current age - what we refer to as the Third Era. It is a period of time that has as yet comprised less than five hundred years. But it should at least serve as a starting point for those who wish to study our Empire's vast and varied history. And maybe, just maybe, prevent the repeat of a previous disaster. It is also worth noting that when viewed in such a succinct structure, one truly gets a sense of just how often our great Empire has changed leadership. Indeed, it can be argued that much of the Empire's history in these past five centuries is the changing rule of that very Empire itself. First Century - 3E 0 - Beginning of Third Era, when all province in Tamriel are unified - 3E 38 - Death of Emperor Tiber Septim, and crowning of Emperor Pelagius - 3E 41 - Assassination of Emperor Pelagius, and crowning of Empress Kintyra - 3E 48 - Death of Empress Kintyra , and crowning of Emperor Uriel I - 3E 64 - Death of Emperor Uriel I, and crowning of Emperor Uriel II - 3E 82 - Death of Emperor Uriel II, and crowning of Emperor Pelagius II - 3E 99 - Death of Emperor Pelagius II Dies, and crowning of Emperor Antiochus Second Century - 3E 110 - War of the Isle - 3E 111 - Knights of the Nine founded by Sir Amiel Lannus - 3E 114 - Reported death of Empress Kintyra II - 3E 119 - Birth of Pelagius III - 3E 121 - Uriel III Proclaimed Emperor - 3E 121 - War of the Red Diamond - 3E 123, 23 Frostfall - Actual death of Empress Kintyra II, in captivity, in secret - 3E 127 - Death of Emperor Uriel III, and crowing of Emperor Cephorus I - 3E 137 - Death of Potema, the Queen of Solitude - 3E 140 - Death of Emperor Cephorus I, and crowning of Emperor Magnus - 3E 145 - Death of Emperor Magnus, and crowning of Emperor Pelagius III - 3E 153 - Death of Emperor Pelagius III - 3E 153 - Katariah takes throne from husband Pelagius, becoming Empress Third Century - 3E 200 - Death of Empress Katariah, and crowning of Emperor Cassynder - 3E 202 - Death of Emperor Cassynder, and crowning of Emperor Uriel IV - 3E 247 - Death of Emperor Uriel IV, and crowning of Emperor Cephorus II - 3E 249 - Invasion of the Empire by the lich, Camoran Usurper - 3E 253 - Camoran Usurper controls the Dwynnen Region with "Nightmare Host" - 3E 267 - Defeat of Camoran Usurper Defeated - 3E 268 - Crowing of Emperor Uriel V - 3E 271-3E 284 - Various Conquests of Emperor Uriel Septim IV - 3E 288 - Invasion of Akavir by the forces of Emperor Uriel Septim IV - 3E 290 - Death of Emperor Uriel V, and crowning of Emperor Uriel VI Fourth Century - 3E 307 - Uriel VI gain full power as Emperor - 3E 320 - Death of Uriel VI, and crowning of Empress Morihatha - 3E 331 - Publication of the second edition of "A Pocket Guide to The Empire" - 3E 339 - Assassination of Empress Morihatha, and crowning of Emperor Pelagius IV - 3E 389 - Jagar Tharn betrays Emperor Uriel Septim VII - 3E 396 - Regional Wars Throughout Tamriel - 3E 396 - The Arnesian War - 3E 399 - Defeat of Jagar Tharn - 3E 399 - The founding of Orsinium Fifth Century - 3E 403 - Assassination of Lysandus, the King of Daggerfall - 3E 414 - Vvardenfell Territory opened for settlement - 3E 417 - The "Warp in the West" occurs - 3E 421 - Greywyn founds the Crimson Scars. - 3E 427 - Beginning of the Blight Curse in Vvardenfell, and arrival of the Nerevar - 3E 427 - The Bloodmoon Prophecy comes to pass, on the isle of Solstheim - 3E 432 - Publication of the third edition of "A Pocket Guide to The Empire" - 3E 433 - Assassination of Emperor Uriel Septim VII - 3E 433 - The "Oblivion Crisis" - 3E 433 - The Knights of the Nine are reformed

132Book2CommonTrollSlaying[pagebreak]

Troll Slaying by Finn

[pagebreak]

ello, fellow traveler, and welcome to this guide! Within these pages, I will explain everything you need to know about fighting trolls, including how to negate their amazing healing powers and how best to take advantage of their natural love of cold. I'll even share with you my tried-and-true secret for killing trolls. Intrigued? I hope so! Troll fat is a valuable commodity and there's fortune and glory to be made for the ambitious troll hunter. Onward, then! [pagebreak]

Chapter I: I Just Saw A Troll!

If you think you've seen a troll, remain calm and slowly back away. The wise hunter knows that preparation is the key to success, and you certainly don't want to hunt any trolls unprepared! Ah, but is it really a troll that you've spotted? The first step in your hunt is the proper identification of your quarry. Trolls are roughly man-shaped, with lengthy, muscular arms that end in claw-tipped fingers. The creature's large mouth is filled with jagged teeth, all the better to crunch the bones of foolish hunters who didn't purchase my book. Without a doubt, the troll's most distinctive and unusual feature is the third eye nestled in the center of its forehead. A troll's hide is covered in thick, shaggy fur. The coloration of this fur varies by region. Cave troll fur is brownish in color, while a frost or snow troll will have a white coat. [pagebreak]

Chapter II: Stop Healing Yourself

So, you've properly identified a troll and now you're stalking the beast, ready to strike. You're in for a challenging battle, but a profitable one, assuming you survive. The first thing you'll notice is that trolls are incredibly fast and strong for their size. A troll likes to pummel its prey into submission with powerful arm strikes and claw attacks. For this reason, I strongly recommend a shield. If you're brave enough -- or foolish enough -- to fight a troll without using a shield, then you'd better be an expert at parrying with whatever weapon you've got. Trolls also have the ability to rapidly heal from their wounds. As such, you do not want to get into a prolonged fight with one. Speed and aggression are the key to beating a troll, because there is no creature in Tamriel that can outlast one. Of course, speed and aggression will only take you so far against an angry troll. This is where my secret weapon comes in. [pagebreak]

Chapter III: Finn's Secret Weapon

Fire, my friend. Say the word and commit it to memory, for fire is the troll-hunter's ultimate weapon. I can not overstate the importance of fire in battling a troll. Even trolls that don't dwell in cold climates are vulnerable to fire. If you're unable to use fire magic, carry a weapon enchanted with arcane flames. Why is the troll vulnerable to fire? Rumor holds that the troll's regenerative abilities are less effective at healing burns. I don't really know the answer, but I can promise you this - fire works against trolls. This has been proven time and again. [pagebreak]

Chapter IV: Trimming The Fat

The troll might be dead, but your job isn't finished just yet. Let the flames die down and then examine the troll's corpse. If you're lucky, you'll find some fat deposits that will fetch a good price in an apothecary's shop. In fact, if you've got a knack for alchemy yourself, you can boil the fat down for use in all manner of potions and tonics. If you can find it, be sure to check the troll's den as well. Perhaps you'll find the remains of some foolish adventurer who was too cheap-minded to purchase this book. No doubt you can put his coin to wiser use. Now you know everything that you need to make a living as a wealthy and reputable troll hunter. Go on, then! Get out there and find yourself some trolls!
133Book2CommonVernaccusandBourlor[pagebreak]

Vernaccus and Bourlor by Tavi Dromio

[pagebreak] allgerd walked into the King's Ham that Loredas evening, his face clouded with sadness. While he ordered a mug of greef, his mates Garaz and Xiomara joined him with moderately sincere concern. "What's wrong with you, Hallgerd?" asked Xiomara. "You're later than usual, and there's a certain air of tragedy you've dragged in with you. Have you lost money, or a nearest and dearest?" "I haven't lost any money," Hallgerd grimaced. "But I've just received word from my nephew than my cousin Allioch has died. Perfectly natural, he says, just old age. Allioch was ten years younger than me." "Aw, that's terrible. But it goes to show that it's important to savor all of life's possibilities, 'cause you never know when your time is coming," said Garaz, who had been sitting at the same stool at the smoky cornerclub for the last several hours. He was not one cursed with self-awareness. "Life's short all right," agreed Xiomara. "But if you'll pardon a sentimental thought, few of us are aware of the influence we'll have after our deaths. Perhaps there's comfort there. For example, have I told you the story about Vernaccus and Bourlor?" "I don't believe so," said Hallgerd. Vernaccus was a daedra (said Xiomara, throwing a few dribbles on flin on the hearth to cast the proper mood), and though our tale took place many, many years ago, it would be fair to say that Vernaccus still is one. For what after all is time to the immortal daedra? "Actually," Garaz interrupted. "I understand that the notion of immortality--" "I am trying to offer our friend an inspirational tale in his hour of need," Xiomara growled. "I don't have all bloody night to tell it, if you don't mind." You wouldn't have heard of Vernaccus (said Xiomara, abandoning the theme of immortality for the time being) for even at the height of his power and fame, he was considered feeble by the admittedly high standards of the day. Of course, this lack of respect infuriated him, and his reaction was typical of lesser daedra. He went on a murderous rampage. Soon word spread through all the villages in the Colovian West of the unholy terror. Whole families had been butchered, castles destroyed, orchards and fields torched and cursed so nothing would ever grow there again. To make things even worse for the villagers, Vernaccus began getting visitations from an old rival of his from Oblivion. She was a daedra seducer named Horavatha, and she delighted in taunting him to see how angry she could make him become. "You've flooded a village and that's supposed to be impressive?" she would sneer. "Try collapsing a continent, and maybe you'll get a little attention." Vernaccus could become pretty angry. He didn't come very close to collapsing the continent of Tamriel, but it wasn't for lack of trying. A hero was needed to face the mad daedra, and fortunately, one was available. His name was Bourlor, and it was said that he had been blessed by the goddess Kynareth. That was the only explanation for his inhuman accuracy with his bow and arrow, for he never missed a target. As a child he had driven his marksmanship tutors wild with frustration. They would tell him how to plant his feet, how to nock a bolt, the proper grip for the cord, the best method of release. He ignored all the rules, and somehow, every time, the arrow would catch a breath of wind and sail directly to his target. It did not matter if the quarry was moving or still, at very close range or miles away. Whatever he wanted to strike with his arrow would be struck. Bourlor answered the call when one of the village mayors begged him for help. Unfortunately, he was not as great a horseman as he was an archer. As he rode through the forest toward the mayor's town, a place called Evensacon, Vernaccus was already murdering everyone there. Horavatha watched, and stifled back a yawn. "Murdering a small town mayor isn't going to put you in famous company, you know. What you need is a great champion to defeat. Someone like Ysgramor or Pelinal Whitestrake or--" she stared at the figure emerging from the forest. "That fellow!" "Who's he?" growled Vernaccus between bites of the mayor's quivering body. "The greatest archer in Tamriel. He's never missed." Bourlor had his bow strung and was pointing it at the daedra. For a moment, Vernaccus felt like laughing -- the fellow was not even aiming straight -- but he had a well-honed sense of self-preservation. There was something about the man's look of confidence that convinced the daedra that Horavatha wasn't lying. As the bolt left the bow, Vernaccus vanished in a sheet of flame. The arrow impaled a tree. Bourlor stood and stared. He had missed a target. In Oblivion, Vernaccus raged. Fleeing before a mortal man like that -- not even the basest scamp would have been so craven. He had exposed himself for the weak, cowardly creature he was. As he considered what steps to take to salvage the situation, he found himself face-to-knee with the most fearsome of the Daedra Princes, Molag Bal. "I never thought anything much of you, Vernaccus," the giant boomed. "But you have more than proven your worth. You have shown the creatures of Mundus that the daedra are more powerful than the blessings of the Gods." The other denizens of Oblivion quickly agreed (as they always did) with the view of Molag Bal. The daedra are, after all, always very sensitive about their various defeats at the hands of mortal champions. Vernaccus was proclaimed The Elusive Beast, The Unpursuable One, He Who Cannot Be Touched, The Bane of Kynareth. Shrines devoted to him began to be built in remote corners of Morrowind and Skyrim. Bourlor meanwhile, now found flawed, was never again called to rescue a village. He was so heartbroken over his failure to strike his target that he became a hermit, and never restrung his bow again. Some months later, he died, unmourned and unremembered. "Is this really the tale you thought would cheer me?" asked Hallgerd incredulously. "I've heard the King of Worms told more inspirational stories." "Wait," smiled Xiomara. "I'm not finished yet." For a year's time, Vernaccus was content to watch his legend grow and his fledging worship spread from his home in Oblivion. He was, in addition to being cowardly and inclined toward murderous rages, also a very lazy creature. His worshippers told tales of their Master avoiding the bolts of a thousand archers, of moving through oceans without getting wet, and other feats of avoidance that he would rather not have to demonstrate in person. The real story of his ignominious retreat from Bourlor was thankfully forgotten. The bad news, when it came, was delivered to him with some relish by Horavatha. He had delighted in her jealousy at his growing reputation, so it was with a cruel smile she told him, "Your shrines are being assaulted." "Who dares?" he roared. "Everyone who passes them in the wilderness feels the need to throw a stone," Horavatha purred. "You can hardly blame them. After all, they represent He Who Cannot Be Touched. How could anyone be expected to resist such a target?" Vernaccus peered through the veil into the world of Mundus and saw that it was true. One of his shrines in Colovian West country was surrounded by a large platoon of mercenary soldiers, who delighted in pelting it with rocks. His worshippers huddled inside, praying for a miracle. In an instant, he appeared before the mercenaries and his rage was terrifying to behold. They fled into the woods before he even had a chance to murder one of them. His worshippers threw open the wooden door to the shrine and dropped to their knees in joy and fear. His anger melted. Then a stone struck him. Then another. He turned to face his assailants, but the air was suddenly filled with rocks. Vernaccus could not see them, but he heard mercenaries in the woods laugh, "It's not even trying to move out of the way!" "It's impossible not to hit him!" guffawed another. With a roar of humiliation, the daedra bounded into the shrine, chased by the onslaught. One of the stones knocked the door closed behind him, striking him in the back. His face broke, anger and embarrassment disappearing, replaced by pain. He turned, shaking, to his worshippers who huddled in the shadows of the shrine, their faith shattered. "Where did you get the wood to build this shrine?" Vernaccus groaned. "Mostly from a copse of trees near the village of Evensacon," his high-priest shrugged. Vernaccus nodded. He dropped forward, revealing the deep wound in his back. A rusted arrowhead buried in a whorl in the wood of the door had jolted loose in the assault and impaled him. The daedra vanished in a whirlwind of dust. The shrines were abandoned shortly thereafter, though Vernaccus did have a brief resurgence as the Patron Spirit of Limitations and Impotence before fading from memory altogether. The legend of Bourlor himself never became very well known either, but there are still some who tell the tale, like myself. And we have the advantage of knowing what the Great Archer himself didn't know on his deathbed -- his final arrow found its target after all.
134Book2CommonWabbajack[pagebreak]

Wabbajack

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ittle boys shouldn't summon up the forces of eternal darkness unless they have an adult supervising, I know, I know. But on that sunny night on the 5th of First Seed, I didn't want an adult. I wanted Hermaeus Mora, the daedra of knowledge, learning, gums, and varnishes. You see, I was told by a beautiful, large breasted man who lived under the library in my home town that the 5th of First Seed was Hermaeus Mora's night. And if I wanted the Oghma Infinium, the book of knowledge, I had to summon him. When you're the new king of Solitude, every bit of knowledge helps. Normally, you need a witches coven, or a mages guild, or at least matching pillow case and sheets to invoke a prince of Oblivion. The Man Under the Library showed me how to do it myself. He told me to wait until the storm was at its height before shaving the cat. I've forgotten the rest of the ceremony. It doesn't matter. Someone appeared who I thought was Hermaeus Mora. The only thing that made me somewhat suspicious was Hermaeus Mora, from what I read, was a big blobby multi-eyed clawed monstrosity, and this guy looked like a waistcoated banker. Also, he kept calling himself Sheogorath, not Hermaeus Mora. Still, I was so happy to have successfully summoned Hermaeus Mora, these inconsistencies did not bother me. He had me do some things that didn't make any sense to me (beyond the mortal scope, breadth, and ken, I suppose), and then his servant happily gave me something he called the Wabbajack. Wabbajack. Wabbajack. Wabbajack. Wabbajack. Wabbajack. Wabbajack. Wabbajack. Wabbajack. Wabbajack. Maybe the Wabbajack is the Book of Knowledge. Maybe I'm smarter because I know cats can be bats can be rats can be hats can be gnats can be thats can be thises. And that doors can be boars can be snores can be floors can be roars can be spores can be yours can be mine. I must be smart, for the interconnective system is very clear to me. Then why, or wherefore do people keep calling me mad? Wabbajack. Wabbajack. Wabbajack.

135Book2CommonWatcherofStones[pagebreak]

Watcher of Stones by Gelyph Sig Thane of Bjorin

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ong have I waited at the Guardians. I must know: are the stories true? Surely you've heard them. Tales of the stones granting powers to Heroes of old, those special few being able to choose any stone to rewrite his fate. Of course you've heard them, that's why you touch the stones as you pass by. You've heard they bring luck, or a sign from the gods. But you think little of the action. It has no true meaning for you. I see it in your eyes as you pass. You do not believe. But I have always believed. Always felt that I was one of the few whose fate was not sealed at birth by the stars overhead. One of the few who could use these stones, draw on the power of the gods to change my life, change my future. I have always felt it. I have done much in my years. Fought battles, defended villages, quested and adventured throughout Skyrim. I have bested the Companions of Whiterun in combat, and performed deeds worthy of everlasting praise in song from the Bards College. No task was too small or great if it could bring me honor, glory, proof that I was worthy of the stones' power. And yet, nothing. I have found many of these accursed stones in my travels, and none have responded to my touch. With each new feat I would return to the Guardians, wondering if the gods finally deemed me worthy. But now those days are gone. I am an old man, with no fight left in me. And so here I sit, watching the faces of those who pass by on their daily errands, their mundane travels from one city or town to another. Most of you do not even give the stones a passing glance. You have never heard their call, you will never feel drawn to them. Some days, I envy you that. Long will I wait at the Guardians, for I must know. Are the stories true?

136Book2CommonWindhelmLetters[pagebreak]

The Windhelm Letters

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The following transcribed letters were recovered from a strongbox found after a fire consumed a house in Solitude in the early part of the 3rd Era. Nobody by the addressed name lived at the home, and it is unknown how long the family had owned the strongbox. The letters are believed to have been written during the reign of Jarl Elgryr the Unminded, who ruled Windhelm in the Second Era and about whom few other records are extant. [pagebreak] y dearest Thessalonius, I hope this letter reaches you, and finds you well. It is getting more difficult to find paper within the city, but I still save the scraps sent by the city's tax agents. I hope you don't mind a household reckoning on the reverse of this. Windhelm remains as cold as ever, but nothing compared to the heart of her king. Smoke and revelry rise from the palace daily, while we have little wood or coal to keep the chill off. I fear for the little ones, but they're so brave, having never known any other kind of life. We all speak of you daily, and hope that we may come to see you soon. Yours, Reylia [pagebreak] ear Thessalonius, Your last message arrived safely, but the promised gold mentioned within did not. When I mentioned this to the courier, she shrugged and turned to the door with no other word. While hearing from you brings joy to us all, I would caution you to not trust that particular woman again. The minds of the city grow numb with cold and silence. We starve, and the unminded one makes no appearance, no speech, nothing to succor his people. His wizard has been seen walking the streets of the city at odd hours, visiting homes. I saw him paint some horrid symbol on one door -- it dripped like blood before vanishing like sand in the wind. The next dawn, nobody who lived there still drew breath. I am a friend to one of the scullery maids who was sent to clean out the house. She described the most horrible things to me and the children, but I will spare you the details. The worst of it is, that was a house that supported the king. If that's what happens to his friends, what will be the fate of the rest of us? But don't let this shift your mind from its important tasks. We all know you work to free us, and pray for your success and swift return. Love, Reylia [pagebreak] This next letter was scribbled onto a piece of cloth with what appears to be charcoal. Thess., I hope you didn't actually ... [illegible] ... efforts are important, but our sufferings must remain ... [illegible] ... retaliation can be swift and terrible. If you no longer care for me, at least think of your ... [illegible] .... Love always, R [pagebreak] ear Thessalonius, Weeks go by and we have no word from Solitude. I tell the children that you're simply very busy, but it's getting harder to make excuses for you. If you can no longer send money (and I understand, smuggling anything of value into the city has become a fool's errand), at least send word that you still live and work for the freedom of Windhelm. As regards your issue that I mentioned previously, worry not. With food shortages being what they are, I have removed it from my concerns. Always yours, Reylia [pagebreak] y dearest Thessalonius, It was good to hear from you at last. Please forgive the rantings of a starving mind. We have at last depleted the basement stores of food, even with the strictest rationing. I see the little ones' faces growing thin and my heart weeps for them. They are, in some ways, brave. I think they're looking after me moreso than I them. Please come home. I strongly desire to look upon your face. -- R [pagebreak] Papa, Ma said to write you, so we love and miss you. Ma is tired a lot, but has lots of visitors, so we are being good and helpping. Love, Stessl and Shapl [pagebreak] hessalonius, I don't have much time. The city has finally broken. The gates of the palace will not keep us out. The storming begins soon. I have gathered those who still have a spirit to live, and we are taking our own fortunes to hand. I hope to see you on the other side of this. Pray for us as we once prayed for you. Your Reylia

137Book2CommonWoodcuttersWife[pagebreak]

The Woodcutter's Wife Volume 1 As Told By Mogen Son of Molag

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egend tells of a woodcutter who built a shack deep within the pine forest. There, he hoped to live in peace with his family. The woodcutter's family lived well for a time, but without warning, the weather turned bitterly cold and spoiled the harvest. Before long, with their meager supply of food all but gone, the family was starving. Late one snowy night, a traveler knocked on the cabin door seeking shelter from the biting cold. Always generous of heart, the woodcutter welcomed the stranger into his home, apologizing that he had no food to offer. With a smile, the traveler cast off his cloak to reveal the garments of a mage. As the woodcutter and his family looked on, the mysterious visitor reached into his satchel and withdrew a scroll tied with a silver ribbon. No sooner had the wizard unfurled the scroll and read the words aloud, when a great feast appeared from out of thin air. That night, nobody in the woodcutter's cabin went hungry. Day by day, the snow piled up. Every night, the mage produced another scroll from his bag and read the words, each time summoning a new feast. On the fifth night, the woodcutter's wife awoke her husband to confess her mistrust of their magical guest. Surely, she argued, there was some price to pay for the magical feasts that everyone enjoyed night after night. The woodcutter would have none of it. After nearly dying from the lack of food, his family was eating well. The divines had sent them a gift, he explained, and it was foolish to question their wisdom. But the woodcutter's wife would not be persuaded. Every night, she grew more fearful and more desperate. She was certain that the family had entered into a devil's bargain, and the time would soon come when the mage would ask for something unspeakable in return for his gifts. While everyone in the cabin slept, the woodcutter's wife snuck out of bed and took her husband's axe in hand. She crept into the traveler's room and with one swing, lopped off his head. Suddenly, the wizard's disembodied head awoke. His eyes opened wide and when he beheld his maimed body, he let forth a terrible cry. Awakened by the horrified scream, the woodcutter and his children rushed into the room and gasped at the terrible sight of the decapitated mage. With his last gasp of breath, the traveler laid a fearful curse on the woodcutter's wife. After her mortal death, she was damned to rise once again and walk the woods alone only to burn at the rising of the sun. To this day, those who walk the pine forest late at night tell tales of a weeping woman glimpsed between the trees. She carries a bloody axe, the stories say, and is terrifying to behold.

138Book2CommonYngolLore[pagebreak]

Yngol and the Sea-Ghosts

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asser and Secunda passed over Ysgramor's people as their fellowship landed in long-boats upon the rocky shores of Hsaarik Head on their journey from Atmora to Mereth. Boats littered the coast, but Ysgramor did not count his kin, Yngol's among them. Ysgramor commanded the sea-ghosts to surrender his kin, and a great gale darkened the sky. The seas thrashed and churned, and a wrathful storm appeared. Ysgramor took up the oars and rowed into the storm alone. Upon the Sea, Ysgramor wrestled the sea-ghosts, and the storm carried him along the jagged coast. Two fortnights passed without relief, until finally the storm broke. Come the next dawn, Yngol's long-boat was found in the icy surf, but the vengeful sea-ghosts had already taken Yngol and his clansmen. In his terrible grief, Ysgramor slew a dozen dozen beasts and burned them in honor of his fallen kinsman. A barrow-hill was dug in the Atmoran tradition, and Yngol was laid to rest with rites and honors among his clansmen far below the rocky face of Hsaarik Head, the first Children of the Sky to perish in Tamriel.

139Book2ReligiousAedraandDaedra[pagebreak]

Aedra and Daedra

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he designations of Gods, Demons, Aedra, and Daedra, are universally confusing to the layman. They are often used interchangeably. "Aedra" and "Daedra" are not relative terms. They are Elvish and exact. Azura is a Daedra both in Skyrim and Morrowind. "Aedra" is usually translated as "ancestor," which is as close as Cyrodilic can come to this Elven concept. "Daedra" means, roughly, "not our ancestors." This distinction was crucial to the Dunmer, whose fundamental split in ideology is represented in their mythical genealogy. Aedra are associated with stasis. Daedra represent change. Aedra created the mortal world and are bound to the Earth Bones. Daedra, who cannot create, have the power to change. As part of the divine contract of creation, the Aedra can be killed. Witness Lorkhan and the moons. The protean Daedra, for whom the rules do not apply, can only be banished.

140Book2ReligiousAKissSweetMother[pagebreak]

A Kiss, Sweet Mother

[pagebreak]

o you wish to summon the Dark Brotherhood? You wish to see someone dead? Pray, child. Pray, and let the Night Mother hear your plea. You must perform that most profane of rituals - the Black Sacrament. Create an effigy of the intended victim, assembled from actual body parts, including a heart, skull, bones and flesh. Encircle that effigy with candles. The ritual itself must then commence. Proceed to stab the effigy repeatedly with a dagger rubbed with the petals of a Nightshade plant, while whispering this plea: "Sweet Mother, sweet Mother, send your child unto me, for the sins of the unworthy must be baptized in blood and fear." Then wait, child, for the Dread Father Sithis rewards the patient. You will be visited by a representative of the Dark Brotherhood. So begins a contract bound in blood.

141Book2ReligiousAlduinAkatoshDichotomy[pagebreak]

The Alduin/Akatosh Dichotomy Book Seven of 2920 The Last Year of the First Era by By Alexandre Simon High Priest of the Akatosh Chantry, Wayrest

[pagebreak]

s High Priest of the Akatosh Chantry, I have dedicated my life to the service of the Great Dragon. He who was first at the Beginning. He who is greatest and most powerful of all the Divines. He who is the very embodiment of infinity. I am, quite obviously, a man of deep and unwavering faith. But not blind faith, for I am also a man of scholarly endeavors, and have always valued education and the pursuit of truth, in all its forms. And so, I have had the honor and privilege of making it my life's work to discover the truth about Akatosh, in all of our beloved Divine's incarnations. Throughout the civilized world (and I refer not only to the Empire, but to every nation on great Nirn that has embraced the virtues of learning and letters), the Great Dragon is worshipped. Usually, the highest of Divines is referred to as Akatosh. But what some may not be aware of is that he is occasionally referred to by two other names as well. The Aldmer refer to Akatosh as Auri-El. The Nords call him Alduin. These names come up repeatedly in certain ancient texts, and in each one, it is clear that the deity in question is none other than he whom we call Akatosh. Yet there are those who believe, even in this enlightened age, that this is not so. That the regional interpretations of Akatosh are not interpretations of Akatosh at all. Rather, they are references to altogether different deities, deities who may or may not share the same aspects or be the Great Dragon at all. Many Altmer of Summerset Isle worship Auri-El, who is the soul of Anui-El, who in turn is the soul of Anu the Everything. But if you ask the high elves themselves (as I did, when I traveled to Summerset Isle to continue my research), the majority will concede that Auri-El is but Akatosh with a different name, colored by their own cultural beliefs. So maybe it comes as no surprise that the real theological dissention lies in Skyrim, among the Nord people - renowned as much for their stubbornness as they are their hardiness and prowess on the fields of valor. When I journeyed to the stark white province, I was surprised to find a people whose views on Akatosh are almost diametrically opposed to those of the Altmer. The majority of Nord people seem to believe that their Alduin of legend is not Akatosh, but another deity entirely. A great dragon, yes, but not the Great Dragon. Determined to get to the heart of this matter, I consulted with several Nords, chief among them an old and respected clan chief by the name of Bjorn Much-Bloodied. And what surprised me most about those I talked to was not that they believed in Alduin instead of Akatosh, but that they recognized Alduin in addition to Akatosh. In fact, most children of Skyrim seem to view Akatosh in much the same way I do - he is, in fact, the Great Dragon. First among the Divines, perseverance personified and, more than anything, a force of supreme good in the world. Alduin, they claim, is something altogether different. Whether or not he is actually a deity remains in question, but the Alduin of Nord folklore is in fact a dragon, but one so ancient, and so powerful, he was dubbed the "World Eater," and some accounts even have him devouring the souls of the dead to maintain his own power. Other stories revolve around Alduin acting as some sort of dragon king, uniting the other dragons in a war against mankind, until he was eventually defeated at the hands of one or more brave heroes. It is hard to deny that such legends are compelling. But as both High Priest and scholar, I am forced to ask that most important of questions - where is the evidence? The Nords of Skyrim place a high value on their oral traditions, but such is the core of their unreliability. A rumor passed around the Wayrest market square can change so dramatically in the course of a few simple hours, that by the end of the day, one might believe half the city's residents were involved in any number of scandalous activities. How then is an educated, enlightened person possibly supposed to believe a legend that has been passed down, by word of mouth only, for hundreds, or even thousands of years? The answer to such a question is simple - he cannot. And so, it is my conclusion that the Alduin of Nord legend is in fact mighty Akatosh, whose story grew twisted and deformed through centuries of retelling and embellishment. Through no real fault of their own, the primitive peoples of Skyrim failed to understand the goodness and greatness of the Great Dragon, and it was this lack of understanding that formed the basis of what became, ironically, their most impressive creative achievement - "Alduin," the World Eater, phantom of bedtime stories and justification for ancient (if imagined deeds).

142Book2ReligiousAncestorsandtheDunmer[pagebreak]

Ancestors and the Dunmer

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Ghosts Walk Among Them The departed spirits of the Dunmeri, and perhaps those of all races, persist after death. The knowledge and power of departed ancestors benefits the bloodlines of Dunmeri Houses. The bond between the living family members and immortal ancestors is partly blood, partly ritual, partly volitional. A member brought into the House through marriage binds himself through ritual and oath into the clan, and gains communication and benefits from the clan's ancestors; however, his access to the ancestors is less than his offspring, and he retains some access to the ancestors of his own bloodline. The Family Shrine Each residence has a family shrine. In poorer homes, it may be no more than a hearth or alcove where family relics are displayed and venerated. In wealthy homes, a room is set aside for the use of the ancestors. This shrine is called the Waiting Door, and represents the door to Oblivion. Here the family members pay their respects to their ancestors through sacrifice and prayer, through oaths sworn upon duties, and through reports on the affairs of the family. In return, the family may receive information, training, and blessings from the family's ancestors. The ancestors are thus the protectors of the home, and especially the precincts of the Waiting Door. The Ghost Fence It is a family's most solemn duty to make sure their ancestor's remains are interred properly in a City of the Dead such as Necrom. Here the spirits draw comfort from one another against the chill of the mortal world. However, as a sign of great honor and sacrifice, an ancestor may grant that part of his remains be retained to serve as part of a ghost fence protecting the clan's shrine and family precincts. Such an arrangement is often part of the family member's will, that a knucklebone shall be saved out of his remains and incorporated with solemn magic and ceremony into a clan ghost fence. In more exceptional cases, an entire skeleton or even a preserved corpse may be bound into a ghost fence. These remains become a beacon and focus for ancestral spirits, and for the spirit of the remains in particular. The more remains used to make a ghost fence, the more powerful the fence is. And the most powerful mortals in life have the most powerful remains. The Great Ghost Fence created by the Tribunal to hold back the Blight incorporates the bones of many heroes of the Temple and of the Houses Indoril and Redoran who dedicated their spirits to the Temple and Clan as their surrogate families. The Ghost Fence also contains bones taken from the Catacombs of Necrom and the many battlefields of Morrowind. The Mortal Chill Spirits do not like to visit the mortal world, and they do so only out of duty and obligation. Spirits tell us that the otherworld is more pleasant, or at least more comfortable for spirits than our real world, which is cold, bitter, and full of pain and loss. Mad Spirits Spirits that are forced to remain in our world against their will may become mad spirits, or ghosts. Some spirits are bound to this world because of some terrible circumstances of their death, or because of some powerful emotional bond to a person, place, or thing. These are called hauntings. Some spirits are captured and bound to enchanted items by wizards. If the binding is involuntary, the spirit usually goes mad. A willing spirit may or may not retain its sanity, depending on the strength of the spirit and the wisdom of the enchanter. Some spirits are bound against their wills to protect family shrines. This unpleasant fate is reserved for those who have not served the family faithfully in life. Dutiful and honorable ancestral spirits often aid in the capture and binding of wayward spirits. These spirits usually go mad, and make terrifying guardians. They are ritually prevented from harming mortals of their clans, but that does not necessary discourage them from mischievous or peevish behavior. They are exceedingly dangerous for intruders. At the same time, if an intruder can penetrate the spirit's madness and play upon the spirit's resentment of his own clan, the angry spirits may be manipulated. Oblivion The existence of Oblivion is acknowledged by all Tamriel cultures, but there is little agreement on the nature of that otherworld, other than it is the place where the Aedra and Daedra live, and that communication and travel are possible between this world and Oblivion through magic and ritual. The Dunmer do not emphasize the distinction between this world and Oblivion as do the human cultures of Tamriel. They regard our world and the otherworld as a whole with many paths from one end to the other rather than two separate worlds of different natures with distinct borders. This philosophical viewpoint may account for the greater affinity of elves for magic and its practices. Foreign Views of Dunmeri Ancestor Worship and Spirit Magic The Altmeri and Bosmeri cultures also venerate their ancestors, but only by respecting the orderly and blissful passage of these spirits from this world to the next. That is, wood elves and high elves believe it is cruel and unnatural to encourage the spirits of the dead to linger in our world. Even more grotesque and repugnant is the display of the bodily remains of ancestors in ghost fences and ash pits. The presentation of fingerbones in a family shrine, for example, is sacrilegious to the Bosmer (who eat their dead) and barbaric to the Altmer (who inter their dead). The human cultures of Tamriel are ignorant and fearful of dark elves and their culture, considering them to be inhuman and evil, like orcs and argonians, but more sophisticated. The human populations of Tamriel associate Dunmeri ancestor worship and spirit magic with necromancy; in fact, this association of the dark elves with necromancy is at least partly responsible for the dark reputation of Dunmer throughout Tamriel. This is generally an ignorant misconception, for necromancy outside the acceptable clan rituals is a most abhorrent abomination in the eyes of the Dunmer. The dark elves would never think of practicing sorcerous necromancy upon any dark elf or upon the remains of any elf. However, dark elves consider the human and orcish races to be little more than animals. There is no injunction against necromancy upon such remains, or on the remains of any animal, bird, or insect. Imperial Policy officially recognizes the practices of Dunmeri ancestor veneration and spirit magic as a religion, and protects their freedom to pursue such practices so long as they do not threaten the security of the Empire. Privately, most Imperial officials and traders believe dark elf ancestor worship and displays of remains are barbaric or even necromantic. Telvanni "Necromancy" The Telvanni are adept masters of necromancy. They do not, however, practice necromancy upon the remains of dark elves. Sane Telvanni regard such practices with loathing and righteous anger. They do practice necromancy upon the remains of animals and upon the remains of humans, orcs, and argonians -- who are technically no more than animals in Morrowind. [pagebreak] Publisher's Note This book was written by an unknown scholar as a guide for foreign visitors to Morrowind shortly after the Armistice was signed. Many of these practices have since fallen into disfavor. The most obvious changes are those regarding the practice of Necromancy and the Great Ghostfence. Dunmer today regard Necromancy upon any of the accepted races as an abomination. The Ghostfence has forced many changes in the practice of ancestor worship. With the vast majority of ancestors' remains going to strengthen the Great Ghostfence around the mountain of Dagoth Ur, there are very few clan ghost fences in Morrowind. The Temple discourages such practices among the Houses as selfish. The upkeep of family tombs and private Waiting Doors has also fallen into disfavor, as very few remains have been buried in these tombs and shrines since the Armistice. In recent years most Dunmer venerate a small portion of their ancestor's remains kept at a local temple.

143Book2ReligiousChildrensAnuad[pagebreak]

A Children's Anuad: The Anuad Paraphrased

[pagebreak]

he first ones were brothers: Anu and Padomay. They came into the Void, and Time began. As Anu and Padomay wandered the Void, the interplay of Light and Darkness created Nir. Both Anu and Padomay were amazed and delighted with her appearance, but she loved Anu, and Padomay retreated from them in bitterness. Nir became pregnant, but before she gave birth, Padomay returned, professing his love for Nir. She told him that she loved only Anu, and Padomay beat her in rage. Anu returned, fought Padomay, and cast him outside Time. Nir gave birth to Creation, but died from her injuries soon after. Anu, grieving, hid himself in the sun and slept. Meanwhile, life sprang up on the twelve worlds of creation and flourished. After many ages, Padomay was able to return to Time. He saw Creation and hated it. He swung his sword, shattering the twelve worlds in their alignment. Anu awoke, and fought Padomay again. The long and furious battle ended with Anu the victor. He cast aside the body of his brother, who he believed was dead, and attempted to save Creation by forming the remnants of the 12 worlds into one -- Nirn, the world of Tamriel. As he was doing so, Padomay struck him through the chest with one last blow. Anu grappled with his brother and pulled them both outside of Time forever. The blood of Padomay became the Daedra. The blood of Anu became the stars. The mingled blood of both became the Aedra (hence their capacity for good and evil, and their greater affinity for earthly affairs than the Daedra, who have no connection to Creation). On the world of Nirn, all was chaos. The only survivors of the twelve worlds of Creation were the Ehlnofey and the Hist. The Ehlnofey are the ancestors of Mer and Men. The Hist are the trees of Argonia. Nirn originally was all land, with interspersed seas, but no oceans. A large fragment of the Ehlnofey world landed on Nirn relatively intact, and the Ehlnofey living there were the ancestors of the Mer. These Ehlnofey fortified their borders from the chaos outside, hid their pocket of calm, and attempted to live on as before. Other Ehlnofey arrived on Nirn scattered amid the confused jumble of the shattered worlds, wandering and finding each other over the years. Eventually, the wandering Ehlnofey found the hidden land of Old Ehlnofey, and were amazed and joyful to find their kin living amid the splendor of ages past. The wandering Ehlnofey expected to be welcomed into the peaceful realm, but the Old Ehlnofey looked on them as degenerates, fallen from their former glory. For whatever reason, war broke out, and raged across the whole of Nirn. The Old Ehlnofey retained their ancient power and knowledge, but the Wanderers were more numerous, and toughened by their long struggle to survive on Nirn. This war reshaped the face of Nirn, sinking much of the land beneath new oceans, and leaving the lands as we know them (Tamriel, Akavir, Atmora, and Yokuda). The Old Ehlnofey realm, although ruined, became Tamriel. The remnants of the Wanderers were left divided on the other 3 continents. Over many years, the Ehlnofey of Tamriel became: - the Mer (elves), - the Dwemer (the Deep Ones, sometimes called dwarves), - the Chimer (the Changed Ones, who later became the Dunmer), - the Dunmer (the Dark or Cursed Ones, the dark elves), - the Bosmer (the Green or Forest Ones, the wood elves), and - the Altmer (The Elder or High Ones, the high elves). On the other continents, the Wandering Ehlnofey became the Men -- the Nords of Atmora, the Redguards of Yokuda, and the Tsaesci of Akavir. The Hist were bystanders in the Ehlnofey war, but most of their realm was destroyed as the war passed over it. A small corner of it survived to become Black Marsh in Tamriel, but most of their realm was sunk beneath the sea. Eventually, Men returned to Tamriel. The Nords were the first, colonizing the northern coast of Tamriel before recorded history, led by the legendary Ysgramor. The thirteenth of his line, King Harald, was the first to appear in written history. And so the Mythic Era ended.

144Book2ReligiousSongofPelinalV1[pagebreak]

The Song of Pelinal Volume 1: On His Name [pagebreak]

[Editor's Note: Volumes 1-6 are taken from the so-called Reman Manuscript located in the Imperial Library. It is a transcription of older fragments collected by an unknown scholar of the early Second Era. Beyond this, little is known of the original sources of these fragments, some of which appear to be from the same period (perhaps even from the same manuscript). But, as no scholarly consensus yet exists on dating these six fragments, no opinions will be offered here.] [pagebreak] hat he took the name "Pelinal" was passing strange, no matter his later sobriquets, which were many. That was an Elvish name, and Pelinal was a scourge on that race, and not much given to irony. Pelinal was much too grim for that; even in youth he wore white hair, and trouble followed him. Perhaps his enemies named Pelinal of their own in their tongue, but that is doubtful, for it means "glorious knight", and he was neither to them. Certainly, many others added to that name during his days in Tamriel: he was Pelinal the Whitestrake because of his left hand, made of a killing light; he was Pelinal the Bloody, for he [drank] it in victory; he was Pelinal Insurgent, because he gave the crusades a face; he was Pelinal In Triumph, as the words eventually became synonymous, and men-at-arms gave thanks to the Eight when they saw his banner coming through war; he was Pelinal the Blamer, for he was quick to admonish those allies of his that favored tactics that ran counter to his, that is, sword-theory; and he was Pelinal the Third, though whether this was because some said he was a god guiser, who had incarnated twice before already, or that, simpler, he was the third vision given to Perrif, anon Alessia, in her prayers of liberation before he walked among the quarters of rebellion, is unknown.

145Book2ReligiousSongofPelinalV2[pagebreak]

The Song of Pelinal Volume 2: On His Coming [pagebreak]

[Editor's Note: Volumes 1-6 are taken from the so-called Reman Manuscript located in the Imperial Library. It is a transcription of older fragments collected by an unknown scholar of the early Second Era. Beyond this, little is known of the original sources of these fragments, some of which appear to be from the same period (perhaps even from the same manuscript). But, as no scholarly consensus yet exists on dating these six fragments, no opinions will be offered here.] [pagebreak] [nd then] Perrif spoke to the Handmaiden again, eyes to the Heavens which had not known kindness since the beginning of elven rule, and she spoke as a mortal, whose kindle is beloved by the Gods for its strength-in-weakness, a humility that can burn with metaphor and yet break [easily and] always, always doomed to end in death (and this is why those who let their souls burn anyway are beloved of the Dragon and His Kin), and she said: "And this thing I have thought of, I have named it, and I call it freedom. Which I think is just another word for Shezarr Who Goes Missing... [You] made the first rain at his sundering [and that] is what I ask now for our alien masters... [that] we might sunder them fully and repay their cruelty [by] dispersing them to drown in the Topal. Morihaus, your son, mighty and snorting, gore-horned, winged, when next he flies down, let him bring us anger." ... [And then] Kyne granted Perrif another symbol, a diamond soaked red with the blood of elves, [whose] facets could [un-sector and form] into a man whose every angle could cut her jailers and a name: PELIN-EL [which is] "The Star-Made Knight" [and he] was arrayed in armor [from the future time]. And he walked into the jungles of Cyrod already killing, Morihaus stamping at his side froth-bloody and bellowing from excitement because the Pelinal was come... [and Pelinal] came to Perrif's camp of rebels holding a sword and mace, both encrusted with the smashed viscera of elven faces, feathers and magic beads, which were the markings of the Ayleidoon, stuck to the redness that hung from his weapons, and he lifted them, saying: "These were their eastern chieftains, no longer full of their talking."

146Book2ReligiousSongofPelinalV3[pagebreak]

The Song of Pelinal Volume 3: On His Enemy [pagebreak]

[Editor's Note: Volumes 1-6 are taken from the so-called Reman Manuscript located in the Imperial Library. It is a transcription of older fragments collected by an unknown scholar of the early Second Era. Beyond this, little is known of the original sources of these fragments, some of which appear to be from the same period (perhaps even from the same manuscript). But, as no scholarly consensus yet exists on dating these six fragments, no opinions will be offered here.] [pagebreak] elinal Whitestrake was the enemy of all elfkind that lived in Cyrod in those days. Mainly, though, he took it upon himself to slay the sorcerer-kings of the Ayleids in pre-arranged open combats rather than at war; the fields of rebellion he left to the growing armies of the Paravania and his bull nephew. Pelinal called out Haromir of Copper and Tea into a duel at the Tor, and ate his neck-veins while screaming praise to Reman, a name that no one knew yet. Gordhaur the Shaper's head was smashed upon the goat-faced altar of Ninendava, and in his wisdom Pelinal said a small plague spell to keep that evil from reforming by welkynd-magic. Later that season, Pelinal slew Hadhuul on the granite steps of Ceya-Tar, the Fire King's spears knowing their first refute. For a time, no weapon of the Ayleids could pierce his armor, which Pelinal admitted was unlike any crafted by men, but would say no more even when pressed. When Huna, whom Pelinal raised from grain-slave to hoplite and loved well, took death from an arrowhead made from the beak of Celethelel the Singer, the Whitestrake went on his first Madness. He wrought destruction from Narlemae all the way to Celediil, and erased those lands from the maps of Elves and Men, and all things in them, and Perrif was forced to make sacrifice to the Gods to keep them from leaving the earth in their disgust. And then came the storming of White-Gold, where the Ayleids had made pact with the Aurorans of Meridia, and summoned them, and appointed the terrible and golden-hued "half-Elf" Umaril the Unfeathered as their champion... and, for the first time since his coming, it was Pelinal who was called out to battle by another, for Umaril had the blood of the 'ada and would never know death.

147Book2ReligiousSongofPelinalV4[pagebreak]

The Song of Pelinal Volume 4: On His Deeds [pagebreak]

[Editor's Note: Volumes 1-6 are taken from the so-called Reman Manuscript located in the Imperial Library. It is a transcription of older fragments collected by an unknown scholar of the early Second Era. Beyond this, little is known of the original sources of these fragments, some of which appear to be from the same period (perhaps even from the same manuscript). But, as no scholarly consensus yet exists on dating these six fragments, no opinions will be offered here.] [pagebreak] elinal drove the sorcerer armies past the Niben, claiming all the eastern lands for the rebellion of the Paravania, and Kyne had to send her rain to wash the blood from the villages and forts that no longer flew Ayleid banners, for the armies of Men needed to make camps of them as they went forward. ...[and] he broke the doors open for the prisoners of the Vahtache with the Slave-Queen flying on Morihaus above them, and Men called her Al-Esh for the first time. He entered the Gate at ... to win back the hands of the Thousand-Strong of Sedor (a tribe now unknown but famous in those days), which the Ayleids had stolen in the night, two thousand hands that he brought back in a wagon made of demon-bone, whose wheels trailed the sound of women when ill at heart... [Text lost]... [And after] the first Pogrom, which consolidated the northern holdings for the men-of-'kreath, he stood with white hair gone brown with elfblood at the Bridge of Heldon, where Perrif's falconers had sent for the Nords, and they, looking at him, said that Shor had returned, but he spat at their feet for profaning that name. He led them anyway into the heart of the hinterland west, to drive the Ayleids inward, towards the Tower of White-Gold, a slow retreating circle that could not understand the power of Man's sudden liberty, and what fury-idea that brought. His mace crushed the Thundernachs that Umaril sent as harriers on the rebellion's long march back south and east, and carried Morihaus-Breath-of-Kyne to Zuathas the Clever-Cutting Man (a nede with a keptu name) for healing when the bull had fallen to a volley of bird beaks. And, of course, at the Council of Skiffs, where all of the Paravania's armies and all of the Nords shook with fear at the storming of White-Gold, so much so that the Al-Esh herself counseled delay, Pelinal grew furious, and made names of Umaril, and made names of what cowards he thought he saw around him, and then made for the Tower by himself, for Pelinal often acted without thought.

148Book2ReligiousSongofPelinalV5[pagebreak]

The Song of Pelinal Volume 5: On His Love of Morihaus [pagebreak]

[Editor's Note: Volumes 1-6 are taken from the so-called Reman Manuscript located in the Imperial Library. It is a transcription of older fragments collected by an unknown scholar of the early Second Era. Beyond this, little is known of the original sources of these fragments, some of which appear to be from the same period (perhaps even from the same manuscript). But, as no scholarly consensus yet exists on dating these six fragments, no opinions will be offered here.] [pagebreak] t is a solid truth that Morihaus was the son of Kyne, but whether or not Pelinal was indeed the Shezarrine is best left unsaid (for once Plontinu, who favored the short sword, said it, and that night he was smothered by moths). It is famous, though, that the two talked of each other as family, with Morihaus as the lesser, and that Pelinal loved him and called him nephew, but these could be merely the fancies of immortals. Never did Pelinal counsel Morihaus in time of war, for the man-bull fought magnificently, and led men well, and never resorted to Madness, but the Whitestrake did warn against the growing love with Perrif. "We are ada, Mor, and change things through love. We must take care lest we beget more monsters on this earth. If you do not desist, she will take to you, and you will transform all Cyrod if you do this." And to this the bull became shy, for he was a bull, and he felt his form too ugly for the Parvania at all times, especially when she disrobed for him. He snorted, though, and shook his nose-hoop into the light of the Secunda moon and said, "She is like this shine on my nose-hoop here: an accident sometimes, but whenever I move my head at night, she is there. And so you know what you ask is impossible."

149Book2ReligiousSongofPelinalV6[pagebreak]

The Song of Pelinal Volume 6: On His Madness [pagebreak]

[Editor's Note: Volumes 1-6 are taken from the so-called Reman Manuscript located in the Imperial Library. It is a transcription of older fragments collected by an unknown scholar of the early Second Era. Beyond this, little is known of the original sources of these fragments, some of which appear to be from the same period (perhaps even from the same manuscript). But, as no scholarly consensus yet exists on dating these six fragments, no opinions will be offered here.] [pagebreak] nd it is said that he emerged into the world like a Padomaic, that is, borne by Sithis and all the forces of change therein. Still others, like Fifd of New Teed, say that beneath the Pelinal's star-armor was a chest that gaped open to show no heart, only a red rage shaped diamond-fashion, singing like a mindless dragon, and that this was proof that he was a myth-echo, and that where he trod were shapes of the first urging. Pelinal cared for none of this and killed any who would speak god-logic, except for fair Perrif, who he said, "enacts, rather than talks, as language without exertion is dead witness." When those soldiers who heard him say this stared blankly, he laughed and swung his sword, running into the rain of Kyne to slaughter their Ayleid captives, screaming, "O Aka, for our shared madness I do this! I watch you watching me watching back! Umaril dares call us out, for that is how we made him!" [And it was during] these fits of anger and nonsense that Pelinal would fall into the Madness, where whole swaths of lands were devoured in divine rampage to become Void, and Alessia would have to pray to the Gods for their succor, and they would reach down as one mind and soothe the Whitestrake until he no longer had the will to kill the earth in whole. And Garid of the men-of-ge once saw such a Madness from afar and maneuvered, after it had abated, to drink together with Pelinal, and he asked what such an affliction felt like, to which Pelinal could only answer, "Like when the dream no longer needs its dreamer."

150Book2ReligiousSongofPelinalV7[pagebreak]

The Song of Pelinal Volume 7: On His Battle with Umaril and His Dismemberment [pagebreak]

[Editor's Note: Volumes 1-6 are taken from the so-called Reman Manuscript located in the Imperial Library. It is a transcription of older fragments collected by an unknown scholar of the early Second Era. Beyond this, little is known of the original sources of these fragments, some of which appear to be from the same period (perhaps even from the same manuscript). But, as no scholarly consensus yet exists on dating these six fragments, no opinions will be offered here.] [pagebreak] [And so after many battles with] Umaril's allies, where dead Aurorans lay like candlelight around the throne, the Pelinal became surrounded by the last Ayleid sorcerer-kings and their demons, each one heavy with varliance. The Whitestrake cracked the floor with his mace and they withdrew, and he said, "Bring me Umaril that called me out!" ... [And] while mighty in his aspect and wicked, deathless-golden Umaril favored ruin-from-afar over close combat and so he tarried in the shadows of the white tower before coming forth. More soldiers were sent against Pelinal to die, and yet they managed to pierce his armor with axes and arrows, for Umaril had wrought each one by long varliance, which he had been hoarding since his first issue [of challenge.]... [Presently] the half-Elf [showed himself] bathed in [Meridian light] ... and he listed his bloodline in the Ayleidoon and spoke of his father, a god of the [previous kalpa's] World-River and taking great delight in the heavy-breathing of Pelinal who had finally bled... [Text lost] ... [And] Umaril was laid low, the angel face of his helm dented into an ugliness which made Pelinal laugh, [and his] unfeathered wings broken off with sword strokes delivered while Pelinal stood [frothing]... above him insulting his ancestry and anyone else that took ship from Old Ehlnofey, [which] angered the other Elvish kings and drove them to a madness of their own... [and they] fell on him [speaking] to their weapons... cutting the Pelinal into eighths while he roared in confusion [which even] the Council of Skiffs [could hear]... [Text lost] ...ran when Mor shook the whole of the tower with mighty bashing from his horns [the next morning], and some were slain-in-overabundance in the Taking, and Men looked for more Ayleids to kill but Pelinal had left none save those kings and demons that had already begun to flee... It was Morihaus who found the Whitestrake's head, which the kings had left to prove their deeds and they spoke and Pelinal said things of regrets... but the rebellion had turned anyway... [and more] words were said between these immortals that even the Paravant would not deign to hear.

151Book2ReligiousSongofPelinalV8[pagebreak]

The Song of Pelinal Volume 8: On His Revelation at the Death of the Al-Esh [pagebreak]

[Editor's Note: Volumes 1-6 are taken from the so-called Reman Manuscript located in the Imperial Library. It is a transcription of older fragments collected by an unknown scholar of the early Second Era. Beyond this, little is known of the original sources of these fragments, some of which appear to be from the same period (perhaps even from the same manuscript). But, as no scholarly consensus yet exists on dating these six fragments, no opinions will be offered here.] [pagebreak] nd left you to gather sinew with my other half, who will bring light thereby to that mortal idea that brings [the Gods] great joy, that is, freedom, which even the Heavens do not truly know, [which is] why our Father, the... [Text lost]... in those first [days/spirits/swirls] before Convention... that which we echoed in our earthly madness. [Let us] now take you Up. We will [show] our true faces... [which eat] one another in amnesia each Age."

152Book2ReligiousSpiritofNirn[pagebreak]

Spirit of Nirn

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orkhan is the Spirit of Nirn, the god of all mortals. This does not mean all mortals necessarily like him or even know him. Most elves hate him, thinking creation as that act which sundered them from the spirit realm. Most Humans revere him, or aspects of him, as the herald of existence. The creation of the Mortal Plane, the Mundus, Nirn, is a source of mental anguish to all living things; all souls know deep down they came originally from somewhere else, and that Nirn is a cruel and crucial step to what comes next. What is this next? Some wish to return to the original state, the spirit realm, and that Lorkhan is the Demon that hinders their way; to them Nirn is a prison, an illusion to escape. Others think that Lorkhan created the world as the testing ground for transcendence; to them the spirit realm was already a prison, that true escape is now finally possible.

153Book2ReligiousTalosWorship[pagebreak]

The Talos Mistake by Leonora Venatus Imperial Liaison to the Aldmeri Dominion

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s citizens of the Empire, all are of course familiar with the deeds of Emperor Tiber Septim. But it is the Emperor's ascent to godhood, as Talos, that is the subject of this work. Until Tiber Septim's death, there had been but Eight Divines: Akatosh, Dibella, Arkay, Zenithar, Stendarr, Mara, Kynareth, and Julianos. These gods were, and are, worshipped throughout the Empire. And while some may have different names in the varying provinces (for example, Akatosh is known as "Auri-El" to the Aldmer; and Arkay is sometimes known as "Ar'Kay"), all are recognized and revered by all races and cultures of Tamriel. But when Tiber Septim passed to Aetherius, there came to be a Ninth Divine - Talos, also called Ysmir, the "Dragon of the North." The man who was so loved in life became worshipped in death. Indeed, it can be argued that Talos, the Ninth Divine, became even more important than the Eight that had preceded him, at least to humans. For he was a god who was once just a man, and through great deeds actually managed to ascend to godhood. And if one human could achieve such a feat - couldn't it be done again? Couldn't all humans aspire to achieve divinity? So we thought, we humans. And so we continued to worship Talos, and revere him as the ultimate hero-god. But that was then. This is now. And now, we know the truth: We were wrong. As citizens of the Empire, we all experienced the horrors of the Great War. And it was not until the signing of the White-Gold Concordat, the treaty between the Empire and the Aldmeri Dominion, that we once again knew peace. One of the most important stipulations of that treaty, as every Imperial citizen is well aware, is that Talos can no longer be worshipped as a god. This edict shook the very foundations of the Empire. There were those who rebelled against the law. Indeed, some still do. But the citizens of the Empire must know this: the Emperor did not agree to outlaw the worship of Talos because it was demanded by the Thalmor, the ruling body of the Aldmeri Dominion. The Emperor agreed to the outlaw of the worship of Talos because it was the right thing to do. Today, the Emperor, and indeed the Empire itself, recognizes that allowing the worship of Talos was a mistake. For by doing so, by allowing the worship of Talos as a Divine, the Empire actually did its people a great disservice: for this only succeeded in weakening the memory of the man Tiber Septim and his many extraordinary (though mortal) deeds; and pushing people away from the Eight Divines, the true gods, who do deserve our love and reverence. And so, the Empire admits it was wrong. The Talos Mistake will not be repeated. May we find centuries of peace and prosperity with our new Thalmor friends, and continue to share a spirituality that binds together all the cultures and races of Tamriel.

154Book2ReligiousTheAmuletofKings[pagebreak]

The Amulet of Kings by Wenengrus Monhona

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n the first years of the First Era, a powerful race of Elves called the Ayleids, or the Heartland High Elves, ruled central Tamriel with an iron hand. The high and haughty Ayleids relied on their patrons, the treacherous Daedra Lords, to provide armies of daedra and dead spirits; with these fearless magical armies, the Ayleids preyed without mercy upon the young races of men, slaughtering or enslaving them at their whim. On behalf of the suffering human races, St. Alessia, the first in the line of Cyrodiils, sought the aid of Akatosh, the Dragon God of Time, and ruler of the noble Aedra. Akatosh, looking with pity upon the plight of men, drew precious blood from his own heart, and blessed St. Alessia with this blood of Dragons, and made a Covenant that so long as Alessia's generations were true to the dragon blood, Akatosh would endeavor to seal tight the Gates of Oblivion, and to deny the armies of daedra and undead to their enemies, the Daedra-loving Ayleids. In token of this Covenant, Akatosh gave to Alessia and her descendants the Amulet of Kings and the Eternal Dragonfires of the Imperial City. Thus does Alessia become the first gem in the Cyrodilic Amulet of Kings. The gem is the Red Diamond in the middle of the Amulet. This is the Symbol of the Empire and later taken as the symbol of the Septim line. It is surrounded by eight other gems, one for each of the divines. So long as the Empire shall maintain its worship of Akatosh and his kin, and so long as Alessia's heirs shall bear the Amulet of Kings, Akatosh and his divine kin maintain a strong barrier between Tamriel and Oblivion, so that mortal man need never again fear the devastating summoned hosts of the Daedra Lords. But if the Empire should slacken in its dedication to the Nine Divines, or if the blood of Alessia's heirs should fail, then shall the barriers between Tamriel and the Daedric realms fall, and Daedra-worshippers might summon lesser Daedra and undead spirits to trouble the races of men.

155Book2ReligiousTheMonomyth[pagebreak]

The Monomyth

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"In Mundus, conflict and disparity are what bring change, and change is the most sacred of the Eleven Forces. Change is the force without focus or origin."-Oegnithr, Taheritae, Order of PSJJJJ [pagebreak] imply put, the schism in the Human/Aldmeri worldview is the mortal's relationship to the divine. Humans take the humble path that they were created by the immortal forces, while the Aldmer claim descent from them. It doesn't seem like much, but it is a distinction that colors the rest of their diverging mythologies. All Tamrielic religions begin the same. Man or mer, things begin with the dualism of Anu and His Other. These twin forces go by many names: Anu-Padomay, Anuiel-Sithis, Ak-El, Satak-Akel, Is-Is Not. Anuiel is the Everlasting Ineffable Light, Sithis is the Corrupting Inexpressible Action. In the middle is the Gray Maybe ('Nirn' in the Ehlnofex). In most cultures, Anuiel is honored for his part of the interplay that creates the world, but Sithis is held in highest esteem because he's the one that causes the reaction. Sithis is thus the Original Creator, an entity who intrinsically causes change without design. Even the hist acknowledge this being. Anuiel is also perceived of as Order, opposed to the Sithis-Chaos. Perhaps it is easier for mortals to envision change than perfect stasis, for often Anuiel is relegated to the mythic background of Sithis' fancies. In Yokudan folk-tales, which are among the most vivid in the world, Satak is only referred to a handful of times, as "the Hum"; he is a force so prevalent as to be not really there at all. In any case, from these two beings spring the et'Ada, or Original Spirits. To humans these et'Ada are the Gods and Demons; to the Aldmer, the Aedra/Daedra, or the 'Ancestors'. All of the Tamrielic pantheons fill their rosters from these et'Ada, though divine membership often differs from culture to culture. Like Anu and Padomay, though, every one of these pantheons contains the archetypes of the Dragon God and the Missing God. [pagebreak] The Dragon God and the Missing God The Dragon God is always related to Time, and is universally revered as the "First God." He is often called Akatosh, "whose perch from Eternity allowed the day." He is the central God of the Cyrodilic Empire. The Missing God is always related to the Mortal Plane, and is a key figure in the Human/Aldmeri schism. The 'missing' refers to either his palpable absence from the pantheon (another mental distress that is interpreted a variety of ways), or the removal of his 'divine spark' by the other immortals. He is often called Lorkhan, and his epitaphs are many, equally damnable and devout. Note that Tamriel and the Mortal Plane do not exist yet. The Gray Maybe is still the playground of the Original Spirits. Some are more bound to Anu's light, others to the unknowable void. Their constant flux and interplay increase their number, and their personalities take long to congeal. When Akatosh forms, Time begins, and it becomes easier for some spirits to realize themselves as beings with a past and a future. The strongest of the recognizable spirits crystallize: Mephala, Arkay, Y'ffre, Magnus, Rupgta, etc., etc. Others remain as concepts, ideas, or emotions. One of the strongest of these, a barely formed urge that the others call Lorkhan, details a plan to create Mundus, the Mortal Plane. Humans, with the exception of the Redguards, see this act as a divine mercy, an enlightenment whereby lesser creatures can reach immortality. Aldmer, with the exception of the Dark Elves, see this act as a cruel deception, a trick that sundered their connection to the spirit plane. [pagebreak] The Myth of Aurbis Subtitled "The Psijiic Compensation," "Mythic Aurbis" was an attempt by Artaeum apologists to explain the basics of Aldmeri religion to Uriel V in the early, glorious part of his reign. It quietly avoided any blame or bias against the Lorkhan-concept, which was still held in esteem by the Cyrodiils as "Shezarr", the missing sibling of the Divines. Despite this, the Psijiici still give a nice summary of the Elder view, and it will serve our purposes here. This version comes from the archives of the Imperial Seminary from the handwritten notes of an unknown scribe. [pagebreak] Mythic Aurbis exists, and has existed from time without measure, as a fanciful Unnatural Realm. 'Aurbis' is used to connote the imperceptible Penumbra, the Gray Center between the IS/IS NOT of Anu and Padomay. It contains the multitude realms of Aetherius and Oblivion, as well as other, less structured forms. The magical beings of Mythic Aurbis live for a long time and have complex narrative lives, creating the patterns of myth. These are spirits made from bits of the immortal polarity. The first of these was Akatosh the Time Dragon, whose formation made it easier for other spirits to structure themselves. Gods and demons form and reform and procreate. Finally, the magical beings of Mythic Aurbis told the ultimate story -- that of their own death. For some this was an artistic transfiguration into the concrete, non-magical substance of the world. For others, this was a war in which all were slain, their bodies becoming the substance of the world. For yet others, this was a romantic marriage and parenthood, with the parent spirits naturally having to die and give way to the succeeding mortal races. The agent of this communal decision was Lorkhan, whom most early myths vilify as a trickster or deceiver. More sympathetic versions of this story point out Lorkhan as being the reason the mortal plane exists at all. The magical beings created the races of the mortal Aurbis in their own image, either consciously as artists and craftsmen, or as the fecund rotting matter out of which the mortals sprung forth, or in a variety of other analogical senses. The magical beings, then, having died, became the et'Ada. The et'Ada are the things perceived and revered by the mortals as gods, spirits, or geniuses of Aurbis. Through their deaths, these magical beings separated themselves in nature from the other magical beings of the Unnatural realms. The Daedra were created at this time also, being spirits and Gods more attuned to Oblivion, or that realm closer to the Void of Padomay. This act is the dawn of the Mythic (Merethic) Era. It has been perceived by the earliest mortals many different ways, either as a joyous 'second creation', or (especially by the Elves) as a painful fracturing from the divine. The originator of the event is always Lorkhan. [pagebreak] Lorkhan This Creator-Trickster-Tester deity is in every Tamrielic mythic tradition. His most popular name is the Aldmeri "Lorkhan," or Doom Drum. He convinced or contrived the Original Spirits to bring about the creation of the Mortal Plane, upsetting the status quo much like his father Padomay had introduced instability into the universe in the Beginning Place. After the world is materialized, Lorkhan is separated from his divine center, sometimes involuntarily, and wanders the creation of the et'Ada. Interpretations of these events differ widely by culture. Below are some of the better known: Yokudan, "Satakal the Worldskin" "Satak was First Serpent, the Snake who came Before, and all the worlds to come rested in the glimmer of its scales. But it was so big there was nothing but, and thus it was coiled around and around itself, and the worlds to come slid across each other but none had room to breathe or even be. And so the worlds called to something to save them, to let them out, but of course there was nothing outside the First Serpent, so aid had to come from inside it; this was Akel, the Hungry Stomach. Akel made itself known, and Satak could only think about what it was, and it was the best hunger, so it ate and ate. Soon there was enough room to live in the worlds and things began. These things were new and they often made mistakes, for there was hardly time to practice being things before. So most things ended quickly or were not good or gave up on themselves. Some things were about to start, but they were eaten up as Satak got to that part of its body. This was a violent time. "Pretty soon Akel caused Satak to bite its own heart and that was the end. The hunger, though, refused to stop, even in death, and so the First Serpent shed its skin to begin anew. As the old world died, Satakal began, and when things realized this pattern so did they realize what their part in it was. They began to take names, like Ruptga or Tuwhacca, and they strode about looking for their kin. As Satakal ate itself over and over, the strongest spirits learned to bypass the cycle by moving at strange angles. They called this process the Walkabout, a way of striding between the worldskins. Ruptga was so big that he was able to place the stars in the sky so that weaker spirits might find their way easier. This practice became so easy for the spirits that it became a place, called the Far Shores, a time of waiting until the next skin. "Ruptga was able to sire many children through the cycles and so he became known as the Tall Papa. He continued to place stars to map out the void for others, but after so many cycles there were almost too many spirits to help out. He made himself a helper from the detritus of past skins and this was Sep, or Second Serpent. Sep had much of the Hungry Stomach still left in him, multiple hungers from multiple skins. He was so hungry he could not think straight. Sometimes he would just eat the spirits he was supposed to help, but Tall Papa would always reach in and take them back out. Finally, tired of helping Tall Papa, Sep went and gathered the rest of the old skins and balled them up, tricking spirits to help him, promising them this was how you reached the new world, by making one out of the old. These spirits loved this way of living, as it was easier. No more jumping from place to place. Many spirits joined in, believing this was good thinking. Tall Papa just shook his head. "Pretty soon the spirits on the skin-ball started to die, because they were very far from the real world of Satakal. And they found that it was too far to jump into the Far Shores now. The spirits that were left pleaded with Tall Papa to take them back. But grim Ruptga would not, and he told the spirits that they must learn new ways to follow the stars to the Far Shores now. If they could not, then they must live on through their children, which was not the same as before. Sep, however, needed more punishment, and so Tall Papa squashed the Snake with a big stick. The hunger fell out of Sep's dead mouth and was the only thing left of the Second Serpent. While the rest of the new world was allowed to strive back to godhood, Sep could only slink around in a dead skin, or swim about in the sky, a hungry void that jealously tried to eat the stars." [pagebreak] Cyrodilic ""Shezarr's Song"" "This was a new thing that Shezarr described to the Gods, becoming mothers and fathers, being responsible, and making great sacrifices, with no guarantee of success, but Shezarr spoke beautifully to them, and moved them beyond mystery and tears. Thus the Aedra gave free birth to the world, the beasts, and the beings, making these things from parts of themselves. This free birth was very painful, and afterwards the Aedra were no longer young, and strong, and powerful, as they had been from the beginning of days. "Some Aedra were disappointed and bitter in their loss, and angry with Shezarr, and with all creation, for they felt Shezarr had lied and tricked them. These Aedra, the Gods of the Aldmer, led by Auri-El, were disgusted by their enfeebled selves, and by what they had created. 'Everything is spoiled, for now, and for all time, and the most we can do is teach the Elven Races to suffer nobly, with dignity, and chastise ourselves for our folly, and avenge ourselves upon Shezarr and his allies.' Thus are the Gods of the Elves dark and brooding, and thus are the Elves ever dissatisfied with mortality, and always proud and stoic despite the harshness of this cruel and indifferent world. "Other Aedra looked upon creation, and were well pleased. These Aedra, the Gods of Men and Beast Folk, led by Akatosh, praised and cherished their wards, the Mortal Races. 'We have suffered, and are diminished, for all time, but the mortal world we have made is glorious, filling our hearts and spirits with hope. Let us teach the Mortal Races to live well, to cherish beauty and honor, and to love one another as we love them.' Thus are the Gods of Men tender and patient, and thus are Men and Beast Folk great in heart for joy or suffering, and ambitious for greater wisdom and a better world. "Now when the Daedra Lords heard Shezarr, they mocked him, and the other Aedra. 'Cut parts of ourselves off? And lose them? Forever? That's stupid! You'll be sorry! We are far smarter than you, for we will create a new world out of ourselves, but we will not cut it off, or let it mock us, but we will make this world within ourselves, forever ours, and under our complete control.' "So the Daedra Lords created the Daedric Realms, and all the ranks of Lesser Daedra, great and small. And, for the most part, the Daedra Lords were well pleased with this arrangement, for they always had worshippers and servants and playthings close to hand. But, at the same time, they sometimes looked with envy upon the Mortal Realms, for though mortals were foul and feeble and contemptible, their passions and ambitions were also far more surprising and entertaining than the antics of the Lesser Daedra. Thus do the Daedra Lords court and seduce certain amusing specimens of the Mortal Races, especially the passionate and powerful. It gives the Daedra Lords special pleasure to steal away from Shezarr and the Aedra the greatest and most ambitious mortals. 'Not only are you fools to mutilate yourselves,' gloat the Daedra Lords, 'But you cannot even keep the best pieces, which prefer the glory and power of the Daedra Lords to the feeble vulgarity of the mush-minded Aedra.'" [pagebreak] Altmeri "The Heart of the World" "Anu encompassed, and encompasses, all things. So that he might know himself he created Anuiel, his soul and the soul of all things. Anuiel, as all souls, was given to self-reflection, and for this he needed to differentiate between his forms, attributes, and intellects. Thus was born Sithis, who was the sum of all the limitations Anuiel would utilize to ponder himself. Anuiel, who was the soul of all things, therefore became many things, and this interplay was and is the Aurbis. "At first the Aurbis was turbulent and confusing, as Anuiel's ruminations went on without design. Aspects of the Aurbis then asked for a schedule to follow or procedures whereby they might enjoy themselves a little longer outside of perfect knowledge. So that he might know himself this way, too, Anu created Auriel, the soul of his soul. Auriel bled through the Aurbis as a new force, called time. With time, various aspects of the Aurbis began to understand their natures and limitations. They took names, like Magnus or Mara or Xen. One of these, Lorkhan, was more of a limit than a nature, so he could never last long anywhere. "As he entered every aspect of Anuiel, Lorkhan would plant an idea that was almost wholly based on limitation. He outlined a plan to create a soul for the Aurbis, a place where the aspects of aspects might even be allowed to self-reflect. He gained many followers; even Auriel, when told he would become the king of the new world, agreed to help Lorkhan. So they created the Mundus, where their own aspects might live, and became the et'Ada. "But this was a trick. As Lorkhan knew, this world contained more limitations than not and was therefore hardly a thing of Anu at all. Mundus was the House of Sithis. As their aspects began to die off, many of the et'Ada vanished completely. Some escaped, like Magnus, and that is why there are no limitations to magic. Others, like Y'ffre, transformed themselves into the Ehlnofey, the Earthbones, so that the whole world might not die. Some had to marry and make children just to last. Each generation was weaker than the last, and soon there were Aldmer. Darkness caved in. Lorkhan made armies out of the weakest souls and named them Men, and they brought Sithis into every quarter. "Auriel pleaded with Anu to take them back, but he had already filled their places with something else. But his soul was gentler and granted Auriel his Bow and Shield, so that he might save the Aldmer from the hordes of Men. Some had already fallen, like the Chimer, who listened to tainted et'Ada, and others, like the Bosmer, had soiled Time's line by taking Mannish wives. "Auriel could not save Altmora, the Elder Wood, and it was lost to Men. They were chased south and east to Old Ehlnofey, and Lorkhan was close behind. He shattered that land into many. Finally Trinimac, Auriel's greatest knight, knocked Lorkhan down in front of his army and reached in with more than hands to take his Heart. He was undone. The Men dragged Lorkhan's body away and swore blood vengeance on the heirs of Auriel for all time. "But when Trinimac and Auriel tried to destroy the Heart of Lorkhan it laughed at them. It said, "This Heart is the heart of the world, for one was made to satisfy the other." So Auriel fastened the thing to an arrow and let it fly long into the sea, where no aspect of the new world may ever find it."

156Book2ReligiousTrialsofStAlessia[pagebreak]

Trials of St. Alessia

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katosh made a covenant with Alessia in those days so long ago. He gathered the tangled skeins of Oblivion, and knit them fast with the bloody sinews of his Heart, and gave them to Alessia, saying, 'This shall be my token to you, that so long as your blood and oath hold true, yet so shall my blood and oath be true to you. This token shall be the Amulet of Kings, and the Covenant shall be made between us, for I am the King of Spirits, and you are the Queen of Mortals. As you shall stand witness for all Mortal Flesh, so shall I stand witness for all Immortal Spirits.' [pagebreak] nd Akatosh drew from his breast a burning handful of his Heart's blood, and he gave it into Alessia's hand, saying, 'This shall also be a token to you of our joined blood and pledged faith. So long as you and your descendants shall wear the Amulet of Kings, then shall this dragonfire burn -- an eternal flame -- as a sign to all men and gods of our faithfulness. So long as the dragonfires shall burn, to you, and to all generations, I swear that my Heart's blood shall hold fast the Gates of Oblivion. [pagebreak] o long as the Blood of the Dragon runs strong in her rulers, the glory of the Empire shall extend in unbroken years. But should the dragonfires fail, and should no heir of our joined blood wear the Amulet of Kings, then shall the Empire descend into darkness, and the Demon Lords of Misrule shall govern the land.' -- from the liturgy of the Re-Kindling of the Dragonfires

157Book3Valuable2920v11a[pagebreak]

Sun's Dusk Book Eleven of 2920 The Last Year of the First Era by Carlovac Townway

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2 Sun's Dusk, 2920 Tel Aruhn, Morrowind "A man to see you, Night Mother," said the guard. "A Kothringi tribesman who presents his credentials as Lord Zuuk of Black Marsh, part of the Imperial Garrison of Gideon." "What makes you think I'd have even the slightest possible interest in seeing him?" asked the Night Mother with venomous sweetness. "He brings a letter from the late Empress of the Cyrodilic Empire." "We are having a busy day," she smiled, clapping her hands together with delight. "Show him in." Zuuk entered the chamber. His metallic skin, though exposed only at his face and hands, caught the light of the fireplace and the lightning of the stormy night from the window. The Night Mother noted also that she could see herself as he saw her: serene, beautiful, fear-inspiring. He handed her his letter from the Empress without a word. Sipping her wine, she read it. "The Duke of Morrowind also offered me an appreciable sum to have the Emperor murdered earlier this year," she said, folding the letter. "His payment sunk, and never was delivered. It was a considerable annoyance, particularly as I had already gone to the trouble of putting one of my agents in the palace. Why should I assume that your more-than-generous payment, from a dead woman, will arrive?" "I brought it with me," said Zuuk simply. "It is in the carriage outside." "Then bring it in and our business is complete," smiled the Night Mother. "The Emperor will be dead by year's end. You may leave the gold with Apaladith. Unless you'd care for some wine?" Zuuk declined the offer and withdrew. The moment he left the room, Miramor slipped noiselessly back from behind the dark tapestry. The Night Mother offered him a glass of wine, and he accepted it. "I know that fellow, Zuuk," said Miramor carefully. "I didn't know he worked for the old Empress though." "Let's talk about you some more, if you don't mind," she said, knowing he would, in fact, not mind. "Let me show you my worth," said Miramor. "Let me be the one to do the Emperor in. I've already killed his son, and you saw there how well I can hide myself away. Tell me you saw one ripple in the tapestry." The Night Mother smiled. Things were falling into place rather nicely. "If you know how to use a dagger, you will find him at Bodrum," she said, and described to him what he must do. [pagebreak] 3 Sun's Dusk, 2920 Mournhold, Morrowind he Duke stared out the window. It was early morning, and for the fourth straight day, a red mist hung over the city, flashing lightning. A freakish wind blew through the streets, ripping his flags from the castle battlements, forcing all his people to close their shudders tightly. Something terrible was coming to his land. He was not a greatly learned man, but he knew the signs. So too did his subjects. "When will my messengers reach the Three?" he growled, turning to his castellan. "Vivec is far to the north, negotiating the treaty with the Emperor," the man said, his face and voice trembling with fear. "Almalexia and Sotha Sil are in Necrom. Perhaps they can be reached in a few days time." The Duke nodded. He knew his messengers were fast, but so too was the hand of Oblivion. [pagebreak] 6 Sun's Dusk, 2920 Bodrum, Morrowind orchlight caught in the misting snow gave the place an otherworldly quality. The soldiers from both camps found themselves huddled together around the largest of the bonfires: winter bringing enemies of four score of warring close together. While only a few of the Dunmer guard could speak Cyrodilic, they found common ground battling for warmth. When a pretty Redguard maiden passed into their midst to warm herself before moving back to the treaty tent, many a man from both army raised their eyes in approval. The Emperor Reman III was eager to leave negotiations before they had ever begun. A month earlier, he thought it would be a sign of good will to meet at the site of his defeat to Vivec's army, but the place brought back more bad memories than he thought it would. Despite the protestations of Potentate Versidue-Shaie that the rocks of the river were naturally red, he could swear he saw splatters of his soldier's blood. "We have all the particulars of the treaty," he said, taking a glass of hot yuelle from his mistress Corda. "But here and now is not the place for signing. We should do it at the Imperial Palace, with all the pomp and splendor this historic occasion demands. You must bring Almalexia with you too. And that wizard fellow." "Sotha Sil," whispered the Potentate. "When?" asked Vivec with infinite patience. "In exactly a month's time," said the Emperor, smiling munificently and clambering awkwardly to his feet. "We will hold a grand ball to commemorate. Now I must take a walk. My legs are all cramped up with the weather. Corda, my dear, will you walk with me?" "Of course, your Imperial Majesty," she said, helping him toward the tent's entrance. "Would you like me to come with you as well, your Imperial Majesty?" asked Versidue-Shaie. "Or I?" asked King Dro'Zel of Senchal, a newly appointed advisor to the court. "That won't be necessary, I won't be gone a minute," said Reman. Miramor crouched in the same rushes he had hidden in nearly eight months before. Now the ground was hard and snow-covered, and the rushes slick with ice. Every slight movement he made issued forth a crunch. If it were not for the raucous songs of the combined Morrowind and Imperial army gathered about the bonfire, he would not have dared creep as close to the Emperor and his concubine. They were standing at the curve in the frozen creek below the bluff, surrounded by trees sparkling with ice. Carefully, Miramor removed the dagger from its sheath. He had slightly exaggerated his abilities with a short blade to the Night Mother. True, he had used one to cut the throat of Prince Juilek, but the lad was not in any position to fight back at the time. Still, how difficult could it be to stab an old man with one eye? What sort of blade skill would such an easy assassination require? His ideal moment presented itself before his eyes. The woman saw something deeper in the woods, an icicle of an unusual shape she said, and darted off to get it. The Emperor remained behind, laughing. He turned to the face of the bluff to see his soldiers singing their song's refrain, his back to his assassin. Miramor knew the moment had come. Mindful of the sound of his footfall on the icy ground, he stepped forward and struck. Very nearly. Almost simultaneously, he was aware of a strong arm holding back his striking arm and another one punching a dagger into his throat. He could not scream. The Emperor, still looking up at the soldiers, never saw Miramor pulled back into the brush and a hand much more skilled than his slicing into his back, paralyzing him. His blood pooling out and already crystallizing on the frozen ground, Miramor watched, dying, as the Emperor and his courtesan returned to join the camp up on the bluff. [pagebreak] 12 Sun's Dusk, 2920 Mournhold, Morrowind gout of ever-erupting flame was all that remained of the central courtyard of Castle Mournhold, blasting skyward into the boiling clouds. A thick, tarry smoke rolled through the streets, igniting everything that was wood or paper on fire. Winged bat-like creatures harried the citizens from their hiding places out into the open, where they were met by the real army. The only thing that kept all of Mournhold from burning to the ground was the wet, sputtering blood of its people. Mehrunes Dagon smiled as he surveyed the castle crumbling. "To think I nearly didn't come," he said aloud, his voice booming over the chaos. "Imagine missing all this fun." His attention was arrested by a needle-thin shaft of light piercing through his black and red shadowed sky. He followed it to its source, two figures, a man and a woman standing on the hill above town. The man in the white robe he recognized immediately as Sotha Sil, the sorcerer who had talked all the Princes of Oblivion into that meaningless truce. "If you've come for the Duke of Mournhold, he isn't here," laughed Mehrunes Dagon. "But you might find pieces of him the next time it rains." "Daedra, we cannot kill you," said Almalexia, her face hard and resolute. "But that you will soon regret." With that, two living gods and a prince of Oblivion engaged in battle on the ruins of Mournhold. [pagebreak] 17 Sun's Dusk, 2920 Tel Aruhn, Morrowind "Night Mother," said the guard. "Correspondence from your agent in the Imperial Palace." The Night Mother read the note carefully. The test had been a success: Miramor had been successfully detected and slain. The Emperor was in very unsafe hands. The Night Mother responded immediately. [pagebreak] 18 Sun's Dusk, 2920 Balmora, Morrowind otha Sil, face solemn and unreadable, greeted Vivec at the grand plaza in front of his palace. Vivec had ridden day and night after hearing about the battle in his tent in Bodrum, crossing mile after mile, cutting through the dangerous ground at Dagoth-Ur at blinding speed. To the south, during all the course of the voyage, he could see the whirling red clouds and knew that the battle was continuing, day after day. In Gnisis, he met a messenger from Sotha Sil, asking him to meet at Balmora. "Where is Almalexia?" "Inside," said Sotha Sil wearily. There was a long, ugly gash running across his jaw. "She's gravely injured, but Mehrunes Dagon will not return from Oblivion for many a moon." Almalexia lay on a bed of silk, tended to by Vivec's own healers. Her face, even her lips, was gray as stone, and blood stained through the gauze of her bandages. Vivec took her cold hand. Almalexia's mouth moved wordlessly. She was dreaming. She was battling Mehrunes Dagon again amid a firestorm. All around her, the blackened husk of a castle crumbled, splashing sparks into the night sky. The Daedra's claws dug into her belly, spreading poison through her veins while Almalexia throttled him. As she sank to the ground beside her defeated foe, she saw that the castle consumed by fire was not Castle Mournhold. It was the Imperial Palace. [pagebreak] 24 Sun's Dusk, 2920 The Imperial City, Cyrodiil winter gale blew over the city, splashing the windows and glass domes of the Imperial Palace. Quivering light rays illuminated the figures within in surreal patterns. The Emperor barked orders to his staff in preparations for the banquet and ball. This was what he enjoyed best, more than battle. King Dro'Zel was supervising the entertainment, having strong opinions on the matter. The Emperor himself was arranging the details of the dinner. Roast nebfish, vegetable marrow, cream soups, buttered helerac, codscrumb, tongue in aspic. Potentate Versidue-Shaie had made a few suggestions of his own, but the tastes of the Akaviri were very peculiar. The Lady Corda accompanied the Emperor to his chambers as night fell. The Year is Concluded in Evening Star.

158Book3Valuable2920v12a[pagebreak]

Evening Star Book Twelve of 2920 The Last Year of the First Era by Carlovac Townway

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1 Sun's Dusk, 2920 Balmora, Morrowind he winter morning sun glinted through the cobweb of frost on the window, and Almalexia opened her eyes. An ancient healer mopped a wet cloth across her head, smiling with relief. Asleep in the chair next to her bed was Vivec. The healer rushed to a side cabinet and returned with a flagon of water. "How are you feeling, goddess?" asked the healer. "Like I've been asleep for a very long time," said Almalexia. "So you have. Fifteen days," said the healer, and touched Vivec's arm. "Master, wake up. She speaks." Vivec rose with a start, and seeing Almalexia alive and awake, his face broke into a wide grin. He kissed her forehead, and took her hand. At last, there was warmth again in her flesh. Almalexia's peaceful repose suddenly snapped: "Sotha Sil --" "He's alive and well," replied Vivec. "Working on one of his machines again somewhere. He would have stayed here too, but he realized he could do you more good working that peculiar sorcery of his." The castellan appeared in the doorway. "Sorry to interrupt you, master, but I wanted to tell you that your fastest messenger left late last night for the Imperial City." "Messenger?" asked Almalexia. "Vivec, what has happened?" "I was to go and sign a truce with the Emperor on the sixth, so I sent him word that it had to be postponed." "You can't do me any good here," said Almalexia, pulling herself up with effort. "But if you don't sign that truce, you'll put Morrowind back to war, maybe for another eighty years. If you leave today with an escort and hurry, perhaps you can get to the Imperial City only a day or two late." "Are you certain you don't need me here?" asked Vivec. "I know that Morrowind needs you more." [pagebreak] 6 Sun's Dusk, 2920 The Imperial City, Cyrodiil he Emperor Reman III sat on his throne, surveying the audience chamber. It was a spectacular sight: silver ribbons dangled from the rafters, burning cauldrons of sweet herbs simmered in every corner, Pyandonean swallowtails sweeping through the air, singing their songs. When the torches were lit and servants began fanning, the room would be transfigured into a shimmering fantasy land. He could smell the kitchen already, spices and roasts. The Potentate Versidue-Shaie and his son Savirien-Chorak slithered into the room, both bedecked in the headdress and jewelry of the Tsaesci. There was no smile on their golden face, but there seldom was one. The Emperor still greeted his trusted advisor with enthusiasm. "This ought to impress those savage Dark Elves," he laughed. "When are they supposed to arrive?" "A messenger's just arrived from Vivec," said the Potentate solemnly. "I think it would be best if your Imperial Majesty met him alone." The Emperor lost his laughter, but nodded to his servants to withdraw. The door then opened and the Lady Corda walked into the room, with a parchment in her hand. She shut the door behind her, but did not look up to meet the Emperor's face. "The messenger gave his letter to my mistress?" said Reman, incredulous, rising to take the note. "That's a highly unorthodox way of delivering a message." "But the message itself is very orthodox," said Corda, looking up into his one good eye. With a single blinding motion, she brought the letter up under the Emperor's chin. His eyes widened and blood poured down the blank parchment. Blank that is, except for a small black mark, the sign of the Morag Tong. It fell to the floor, revealing the small dagger hidden behind it, which she now twisted, severing his throat to the bone. The Emperor collapsed to the floor, gasping soundlessly. "How long do you need?" asked Savirien-Chorak. "Five minutes," said Corda, wiping the blood from her hands. "If you can give me ten, though, I'll be doubly grateful." "Very well," said the Potentate to Corda's back as she raced from the audience chamber. "She ought to have been an Akaviri, the way the girl handles a blade is truly remarkable." "I must go and establish our alibi," said Savirien-Chorak, disappearing behind one of the secret passages that only the Emperor's most trusted knew about. "Do you remember, close to a year ago, your Imperial Majesty," the Potentate smiled, looking down at the dying man. "When you told me to remember 'You Akaviri have a lot of showy moves, but if just one of our strikes comes through, it's all over for you.' I remembered that, you see." The Emperor spat up blood and somehow said the word: "Snake." "I am a snake, your Imperial Majesty, inside and out. But I didn't lie. There was a messenger from Vivec. It seems he'll be a little late in arriving," the Potentate shrugged before disappearing behind the secret passage. "Don't worry yourself. I'm sure the food won't go bad." The Emperor of Tamriel died in a pool of his own blood in his empty audience chamber decorated for a grand ball. He was found by his bodyguard fifteen minutes later. Corda was nowhere to be found. [pagebreak] 8 Sun's Dusk, 2920 Caer Suvio, Cyrodiil ord Glavius, apologizing profusely for the quality of the road through the forest, was the first emissary to greet Vivec and his escort as they arrived. A string of burning globes decorated the leafless trees surrounding the villa, bobbing in the gentle but frigid night breeze. From within, Vivec could smell the simple feast and a high sad melody. It was a traditional Akaviri wintertide carol. Versidue-Shaie greeted Vivec at the front door. "I'm glad you received the message before you got all the way to the City," said the Potentate, guiding his guest into the large, warm drawing room. "We are in a difficult transition time, and for the moment, it is best not to conduct our business at the capitol." "There is no heir?" asked Vivec. "No official one, though there are distant cousins vying for the throne. While we sort the matter out, at least temporarily the nobles have decided that I may act in the office of my late master," Versidue-Shaie signaled for the servants to draw two comfortable chairs in front of the fireplace. "Would you feel most comfortable if we signed the treaty officially right now, or would you like to eat something first?" "You intend to honor the Emperor's treaty?" "I intend to do everything as the Emperor," said the Potentate. [pagebreak] 14 Sun's Dusk, 2920 Tel Aruhn, Morrowind orda, dusty from the road, flew into the Night Mother's arms. For a moment, they stayed locked together, the Night Mother stroking her daughter's hair, kissing her forehead. Finally, she reached into her sleeve and handed Corda a letter. "What is it?" asked Corda. "A letter from the Potentate, expressing his delight at your expertise," replied the Night Mother. "He's promised to send us payment, but I've already sent him back a reply. The late Empress paid us enough for her husband's death. Mephala would not have us be greedy beyond our needs. You should not be paid twice for the same murder, so it is written." "He killed Rijja, my sister," said Corda quietly. "And so it should be that you struck the blow." "Where will I go now?" "Whenever any of our holy workers becomes too famous to continue the crusade, we send them to an island called Vounoura. It's not more than a month's voyage by boat, and I've arranged for a delightful estate for your sanctuary," the Night Mother kissed the girl's tears. "You meet many friends there, and I know you will find peace and happiness at last, my child." [pagebreak] 19 Sun's Dusk, 2920 Mournhold, Morrowind lmalexia surveyed the rebuilding of the town. The spirit of the citizens was truly inspirational, she thought, as she walked among the skeletons of new buildings standing in the blackened, shattered remains of the old. Even the plantlife showed a remarkable resilience. There was life yet in the blasted remains of the comberry and roobrush shrubs that once lined the main avenue. She could feel the pulse. Come springtide, green would bolt through the black. The Duke's heir, a lad of considerable intelligence and sturdy Dunmer courage, was coming down from the north to take his father's place. The land would do more than survive: it would strengthen and expand. She felt the future much more strongly than she saw the present. Of all the things she was most certain of, she knew that Mournhold was forever home to at least one goddess. [pagebreak] 22 Sun's Dusk, 2920 The Imperial City, Cyrodiil he Cyrodiil line is dead," announced the Potentate to the crowd gathered beneath the Speaker's Balcony of the Imperial Palace. "But the Empire lives. The distant relatives of our beloved Emperor have been judged unworthy of the throne by the trusted nobility who advised his Imperial Majesty throughout his long and illustrious reign. It has been decided that as an impartial and faithful friend of Reman III, I will have the responsibility of continuing on in his name." The Akaviri paused, allowing his words to echo and translate into the ears of the populace. They merely stared up at him in silence. The rain had washed through the streets of the city, but the sun, for a brief time, appeared to be offering a respite from the winter storms. "I want to make it clear that I am not taking the title Emperor," he continued. "I have been and will continue to be Potentate Versidue-Shaie, an alien welcomed kindly to your shores. It will be my duty to protect my adopted homeland, and I pledge to work tirelessly at this task until someone more worthy takes the burden from me. As my first act, I declare that in commemoration of this historical moment, beginning on the first of Morning Star, we will enter year one of the Second Era as time will be reckoned. Thus, we mourn the loss of our Imperial family, and look forward to the future." Only one man clapped at these words. King Dro'Zel of Senchal truly believed that this would be the finest thing to happen to Tamriel in history. Of course, he was quite mad. [pagebreak] 31 Sun's Dusk, 2920 Ebonheart, Morrowind n the smoky catacombs beneath the city where Sotha Sil forged the future with his arcane clockwork apparatus, something unforeseen happened. An oily bubble seeped from a long trusted gear and popped. Immediately, the wizard's attention was drawn to it and to the chain that tiny action triggered. A pipe shifted half an inch to the left. A tread skipped. A coil rewound itself and began spinning in a counter direction. A piston that had been thrusting left-right, left-right, for millennia suddenly began shifting right-left. Nothing broke, but everything changed. "It cannot be fixed now," said the sorcerer quietly. He looked up through a crick in the ceiling into the night sky. It was midnight. The second era, the age of chaos, had begun.

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First Seed Book Three of 2920 The Last Year of the First Era by Carlovac Townway

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15 First Seed, 2920 Caer Suvio, Cyrodiil rom their vantage point high in the hills, the Emperor Reman III could still see the spires of the Imperial City, but he knew he was far away from hearth and home. Lord Glavius had a luxurious villa, but it was not close to being large enough to house the entire army within its walls. Tents lined the hillsides, and the soldiers were flocking to enjoy his lordship's famous hot springs. Little wonder: winter chill still hung in the air. "Prince Juilek, your son, is not feeling well." When Potentate Versidue-Shaie spoke, the Emperor jumped. How that Akavir could slither across the grass without making a sound was a mystery to him. "Poisoned, I'd wager," grumbled Reman. "See to it he gets a healer. I told him to hire a taster like I have, but the boy's headstrong. There are spies all around us, I know it." "I believe you're right, your imperial majesty," said Versidue-Shaie. "These are treacherous times, and we must take precautions to see that Morrowind does not win this war, either on the field or by more insidious means. That is why I would suggest that you not lead the vanguard into battle. I know you would want to, as your illustrious ancestors Reman I, Brazollus Dor, and Reman II did, but I fear it would be foolhardy. I hope you do not mind me speaking frankly like this." "No," nodded Reman. "I think you're right. Who would lead the vanguard then?" "I would say Prince Juilek, if he were feeling better," replied the Akavir. "Failing that, Storig of Farrun, with Queen Naghea of Riverhold at left flank, and Warchief Ulaqth of Lilmoth at right flank." "A Khajiit at left flank and an Argonian at right," frowned the Emperor. "I never do trust beastfolk." The Potentate took no offense. He knew that "beastfolk" referred to the natives of Tamriel, not to the Tsaesci of Akavir like himself. "I quite agree your imperial majesty, but you must agree that they hate the Dunmer. Ulaqth has a particular grudge after all the slave-raids on his lands by the Duke of Mournhold." The Emperor conceded it was so, and the Potentate retired. It was surprising, thought Reman, but for the first time, the Potentate seemed trustworthy. He was a good man to have on one's side. [pagebreak] 18 First Seed, 2920 Ald Erfoud, Morrowind ow far is the Imperial Army?" asked Vivec. "Two days' march," replied his lieutenant. "If we march all night tonight, we can get higher ground at the Pryai tomorrow morning. Our intelligence tells us the Emperor will be commanding the rear, Storig of Farrun has the vanguard, Naghea of Riverhold at left flank, and Ulaqth of Lilmoth at right flank." "Ulaqth," whispered Vivec, an idea forming. "Is this intelligence reliable? Who brought it to us?" "A Breton spy in the Imperial Army," said the lieutenant and gestured towards a young, sandy-haired man who stepped forward and bowed to Vivec. "What is your name and why is a Breton working for us against the Cyrodiils?" asked Vivec, smiling. "My name is Cassyr Whitley of Dwynnen," said the man. "And I am working for you because not everyone can say he spied for a god. And I understood it would be, well, profitable." Vivec laughed, "It will be, if your information is accurate." [pagebreak] 19 First Seed, 2920 Bodrums, Morrowind he quiet hamlet of Bodrum looked down on the meandering river, the Pryai. It was an idyllic site, lightly wooded where the water took the bend around a steep bluff to the east with a gorgeous wildflower meadow to the west. The strange flora of Morrowind met the strange flora of Cyrodiil on the border and commingled gloriously. "There will be time to sleep when you've finished!" The soldiers had been hearing that all morning. It was not enough that they had been marching all night, now they were chopping down trees on the bluff and damming the river so its waters spilled over. Most of them had reached the point where they were too tired to complain about being tired. "Let me be certain I understand, my lord," said Vivec's lieutenant. "We take the bluff so we can fire arrows and spells down on them from above. That's why we need all the trees cleared out. Damming the river floods the plain below so they'll be trudging through mud, which should hamper their movement." "That's exactly half of it," said Vivec approvingly. He grabbed a nearby soldier who was hauling off the trees. "Wait, I need you to break off the straightest, strongest branches of the trees and whittle them into spears. If you recruit a hundred or so others, it won't take you more than a few hours to make all we need." The soldier wearily did as he was bade. The men and women got to work, fashioning spears from the trees. "If you don't mind me asking," said the lieutenant. "The soldiers don't need any more weapons. They're too tired to hold the ones they've got." "These spears aren't for holding," said Vivec and whispered, "If we tired them out today, they'll get a good night's sleep tonight," before he got to work supervising their work. It was essential that they be sharp, of course, but equally important that they be well balanced and tapered proportionally. The perfect point for stability was a pyramid, not the conical point of some lances and spears. He had the men hurl the spears they had completed to test their strength, sharpness, and balance, forcing them to begin on a new one if they broke. Gradually, out of sheer exhaustion from doing it wrong, the men learned how to create the perfect wooden spears. Once they were through, he showed them how they were to be arranged and where. That night, there was no drunken pre-battle carousing, and no nervous neophytes stayed up worrying about the battle to come. As soon as the sun sank beneath the wooded hills, the camp was at rest, but for the sentries. [pagebreak] 20 First Seed, 2920 Bodrum, Morrowind iramor was exhausted. For last six days, he had gambled and whored all night and then marched all day. He was looking forward to the battle, but even more than that, he was looking forward to some rest afterwards. He was in the Emperor's command at the rear flank, which was good because it seemed unlikely that he would be killed. On the other hand, it meant traveling over the mud and waste the army ahead left in their wake. As they began the trek through the wildflower field, Miramor and all the soldiers around him sank ankle-deep in cold mud. It was an effort to even keep moving. Far, far up ahead, he could see the vanguard of the army led by Lord Storig emerging from the meadow at the base of a bluff. That was when it all happened. An army of Dunmer appeared above the bluff like rising Daedra, pouring fire and floods of arrows down on the vanguard. Simultaneously, a company of men bearing the flag of the Duke of Mournhold galloped around the shore, disappearing along the shallow river's edge where it dipped to a timbered glen to the east. Warchief Ulaqth nearby on the right flank let out a bellow of revenge at the sight and gave chase. Queen Naghea sent her flank towards the embankment to the west to intercept the army on the bluff. The Emperor could think of nothing to do. His troops were too bogged down to move forward quickly and join the battle. He ordered them to face east towards the timber, in case Mournhold's company was trying to circle around through the woods. They never came out, but many men, facing west, missed the battle entirely. Miramor kept his eyes on the bluff. A tall Dunmer he supposed must have been Vivec gave a signal, and the battlemages cast their spells at something to the west. From what transpired, Miramor deduced it was a dam. A great torrent of water spilled out, washing Naghea's left flank into the remains of the vanguard and the two together down river to the east. The Emperor paused, as if waiting for his vanquished army to return, and then called a retreat. Miramor hid in the rushes until they had passed by and then waded as quietly as he could to the bluff. The Morrowind army was retiring as well back to their camp. He could hear them celebrating above him as he padded along the shore. To the east, he saw the Imperial Army. They had been washed into a net of spears strung across the river, Naghea's left flank on Storig's vanguard on Ulaqth's right flank, bodies of hundreds of soldiers strung together like beads. Miramor took whatever valuables he could carry from the corpses and then ran down the river. He had to go many miles before the water was clear again, unpolluted by blood. [pagebreak] 29 First Seed, 2920 Hegathe, Hammerfell ou have a letter from the Imperial City," said the chief priestess, handing the parchment to Corda. All the young priestesses smiled and made faces of astonishment, but the truth was that Corda's sister Rijja wrote very often, at least once a month. Corda took the letter to the garden to read it, her favorite place, an oasis in the monochromatic sand-colored world of the conservatorium The letter itself was nothing unusual: filled with court gossip, the latest fashions which were tending to winedark velvets, and reports of the Emperor's ever-growing paranoia. "You are so lucky to be away from all of this," wrote Rijja. "The Emperor is convinced that his latest battlefield fiasco is all a result of spies in the palace. He has even taken to questioning me. Ruptga keep it so you never have a life as interesting as mine." Corda listened to the sounds of the desert and prayed to Ruptga the exact opposite wish. The Year is Continued in Rain's Hand.

160Book3ValuableAmongstTheDraugr[pagebreak]

Amongst the Draugr by Bernadette Bantien College of Winterhold

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t wasn't until my seventh month with the creatures that they seemed to accept me. Well, "accept" isn't really the proper word, but they seemed to have decided that I posed no threat to them and gradually ceased their attacks. Though more than capable of fending them off (a combination of fire and turning spells are generally sufficient), I admit that I tired of having to be ever vigilant in their presence. I'll never know whether there was some sort of agreement communicated among them, for the only utterances they make seem to be in that heathen tongue that I can't even pronounce, much less transcribe. In time, I learned more of their intentions towards me from their general movements and tones rather than specific words. Hostility in any creature is easily read, but in these most peculiar of the living dead, with such variations in gait and speed, what amounts to a hostile charge in one may simply be casual movement in another. The eyes seem to be key to their intent, and I will confess to more than one dream haunted by the glowing pinpoints in the darkness. I had always wondered why the ancient priests of the dragon cult insisted that their followers be buried with them. It seems the height of pagan vanity to drag your conscripts to their death along with you, but as I integrated into their presence, I began to observe the reasons. Every day, a different set of draugr would awaken, shamble their way to the sarcophagus of their priest, and prostrate themselves before it. Several hours of this, followed by a meticulous cleaning of the area. It would appear that the adherents of the dragon priest continue their worship of him in death, which would also explain the ferocity with which they defend his chambers. It took several weeks before I felt comfortable approaching the dragon priest's resting place, myself. Inch by inch, until the snarling draugrs around me seemed to tire of fending off my timid presence. I was able to set some simple scrying spells around the tomb, that I might get a sense of what magical energies resided there. When the next group of draugr came to pay homage to the priest, I noted a sort of transferal happening. A distinct flow of life force between the adherents and the master. It was here that I finally understood the dragon cult's notion of resurrection. The second eternal life was only promised to those who ascended to the priesthood, but the lesser functionaries contributed their life force to sustaining them for eternity. I don't know what sort of eternal wellspring they draw from, but it's clear that each draugr carries only the barest whisper of life in it, and rekindles it nightly while resting in its niche. I now believe that the grotesque forms that we see in the barrows were, in fact, buried fully as men and women, and only over the thousands of years that have passed withered into the wretched things we know. If we had visited a barrow directly after its construction, we might not have even known any of its inhabitants were dead! These discoveries and extrapolations excite me, and my mind aches to return to the barrows. I have only paused here at the College to transcribe these notes and gather further supplies for a more extended stay. My new hope is to learn some rudimentary way of speaking to them, for imagining what they could tell us of the early mists of time is staggering.

161Book3ValuableArgonianAccountBook2[pagebreak]

The Argonian Account Book Two By Waughin Jarth

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ecumus Scotti emerged from the dirt and reeds, exhausted from running, his face and arms sheathed in red fleshflies. Looking back towards Cyrodiil, he saw the bridge disappear beneath the thick black river, and he knew he was not getting back until the tide went down in a few days' time. The river also held in its adhesive depths his files on the Black Marsh account. He would have to rely on his memory for his contacts in Gideon. Mailic was purposefully striding through the reeds ahead. Flailing ineffectually at the fleshflies, Scotti hurried after him. "We're lucky, sir," said the Redguard, which struck Scotti as an extraordinarily odd thing to say, until his eyes followed where the man's finger was pointing. "The caravan is here." Twenty-one rusted, mud-spattered wagons with rotting wood and wobbly wheels sat half-sunk in the soft earth ahead. A crowd of Argonians, gray-scaled and gray-eyed, the sort of sullen manual laborers that were common in Cyrodiil, pulled at one of the wagons which had been detached from the others. As Scotti and Mailic came closer, they saw it was filled with a cargo of black berries so decayed that they had become hardly recognizable... more a festering jelly than a wagonload of fruit. Yes, they were going to the city of Gideon, and, yes, they said, Scotti could get a ride with them after they were finished unloading this shipment of lumberries. "How long ago were they picked?" Scotti asked, looking at the wagon's rotten produce. "The harvest was in Last Seed, of course," said the Argonian who seemed to be in charge of the wagon. It was now Sun's Dusk, so they had been en route from the fields for a little over two months. Clearly, Scotti thought, there were problems with transportation. But fixing that, after all, was what he was doing here as a representative of Lord Vanech's Building Commission. It took close to an hour of the berries rotting even more in the sun for the wagon to be pushed to the side, the wagons in front of it and behind it to be attached to one another, and one of the eight horses from the front of the caravan to be brought around to the now independent wagon. The laborers moved with dispirited lethargy, and Scotti took the opportunity to inspect the rest of the caravan and talk to his fellow travellers. Four of the wagons had benches in them, fit for uncomfortable riders. All the rest were filled with grain, meat, and vegetation in various stages of corruption. The travellers consisted of the six Argonian laborers, three Imperial merchants so bug-bitten that their skin looked as scaly as the Argonians themselves, and three cloaked fellows who were evidently Dunmer, judging by the red eyes that gleamed in the shadows under their hoods. All were transporting their goods along this, the Imperial Commerce Road. "This is a road?" Scotti exclaimed, looking at the endless field of reeds that reached up to his chin or higher. "It's solid ground, of a sort," one of the hooded Dunmer shrugged. "The horses eat some of the reed, and sometimes we set fire to it, but it just grows right back up." Finally, the wagonmaster signalled that the caravan was ready to go, and Scotti took a seat in the third wagon with the other Imperials. He looked around, but Mailic was not on board. "I agreed to get to you to Black Marsh and take you back out," said the Redguard, who had plumped down a rock in the sea of reeds and was munching on a hairy carrot. "I'll be here when you get back." Scotti frowned, and not only because Mailic had dropped the deferential title "sir" while addressing him. Now he truly knew no one in Black Marsh, but the caravan slowly grinded and bumped forward, so there was no time to argue. A noxious wind blew across the Commerce Road, casting patterns in the endless featureless expanse of reeds. In the distance, there seemed to be mountains, but they constantly shifted, and Scotti realized they were banks of mist and fog. Shadows flitted across the landscape, and when Scotti looked up, he saw they were being cast by giant birds with long, saw-like beaks nearly the size of the rest of their bodies. "Hackwings," Chaero Gemullus, an Imperial on Scotti's left, who might have been young but looked old and beaten, muttered. "Like everything else in this damnable place, they'll eat you if you don't keep moving. Beggars pounce down and give you a nasty chop, and then fly off and come back when you're mostly dead from blood loss." Scotti shivered. He hoped they'd be in Gideon before nightfall. It was then it occurred to him that the sun was on the wrong side of the caravan. "Excuse me, sir," Scotti called to the wagonmaster. "I thought you said we were going to Gideon?" The wagonmaster nodded. "Why are we going north then, when we should be going south?" There was no reply but a sigh. Scotti confirmed with his fellow travellers that they too were going to Gideon, and none of them seemed very concerned about the circuitous route to getting there. The seats were hard on his middle-aged back and buttocks, but the bumping rhythm of the caravan, and the hypnotic waving reeds gradually had an effect on him, and Scotti drifted off to sleep. He awoke in the dark some hours later, not sure where he was. The caravan was no longer moving, and he was on the floor, under the bench, next to some small boxes. There were voices, speaking a hissing, clicking language Scotti didn't understand, and he peeked out between someone's legs to see what was happening. The moons barely pierced the thick mist surrounding the caravan, and Scotti did not have the best angle to see who was talking. For a moment, it looked like the gray wagonmaster was talking to himself, but the darkness had movement and moisture, in fact, glistening scales. It was hard to tell how many of these things there were, but they were big, black, and the more Scotti looked at them, the more details he could see. When one particular detail emerged, huge mouths filled with dripping needle-like fangs, Scotti slipped back under the bench. Their black little eyes had not fallen on him yet. The legs in front of Scotti moved and then began to thrash, as their owner was grabbed and pulled out of the wagon. Scotti crouched further back, getting behind the little boxes. He didn't know much about concealment, but had some experience with shields. He knew that having something, anything, in between you and bad things was always good. A few seconds after the legs had disappeared from sight, there was a horrible scream. And then a second and a third. Different timbres, different accents, but the same inarticulate message... terror, and pain, horrible pain. Scotti remembered a long forgotten prayer to the god Stendarr and whispered it to himself. Then there was silence... ghastly silence that lasted only a few minutes, but which seemed like hours... years. And then the carriage started rolling forward again. Scotti cautiously crawled out from under the carriage. Chaero Gemullus gave him a bemused grin. "There you are," he said. "I thought the Nagas took you." "Nagas?" "Nasty characters," Gemullus said, frowning. "Puff adders with legs and arms, seven feet tall, eight when they're mad. Come from the inner swamp, and they don't like it here much so they're particularly peevish. You're the kind of posh Imperial they're looking for." Scotti had never in his life thought of himself as posh. His mud and fleshfly-bespeckled clothing seemed eminently middle-class, at best, to him. "What would they want me for?" "To rob, of course," the Imperial smiled. "And to kill. You didn't notice what happened to the others?" The Imperial frowned, as if struck by a thought. "You didn't sample from those boxes down below, did you? Like the sugar, do you?" "Gods, no," Scotti grimaced. The Imperial nodded, relieved. "You just seem a little slow. First time to Black Marsh, I gather? Oh! Heigh ho, Hist piss!" Scotti was just about to ask Gemullus what that vulgar term meant when the rain began. It was an inferno of foul-smelling, yellow-brown rain that washed over the caravan, accompanied by the growl of thunder in the distance. Gemullus worked to pull the roof up over the wagon, glaring at Scotti until he helped with the laborious process. He shuddered, not only from the cold damp, but from contemplation of the disgusting precipitation pouring down on the already nasty produce in the uncovered wagon. "We'll be dry soon enough," Gemullus smiled, pointing out into the fog. Scotti had never been to Gideon, but he knew what to expect. A large settlement more or less laid out like a Imperial city, with more or less Imperial style architecture, and all the Imperial comforts and traditions, more or less. The jumble of huts half-sunk in mud was decidedly less. "Where are we?" asked Scotti, bewildered. "Hixinoag," replied Gemullus, pronouncing the queer name with confidence. "You were right. We were going north when we should have been going south."

162Book3ValuableArgonianAccountBook4[pagebreak]

The Argonian Account Book Four By Waughin Jarth

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ecumus Scotti was drowning, and he didn't think much of it. He couldn't move his arms or his legs to swim because of the paralysis spell the Argonian peasant had lobbed at him, but he wasn't quite sinking. The Onkobra River was a crashing force of white water and currents that could carry along large rocks with ease, so Scotti tumbled head over heels, spinning, bumping, bouncing along. He figured that soon enough he would be dead, and that would be better than being in Black Marsh. He wasn't too panicked about it all when he felt his lungs fill with water and cold blackness fell upon him. For a while, for the first time in some time, Decumus Scotti felt peace. Blessed darkness. And then pain came to him, and he felt himself coughing, spewing water up from his belly and his lungs. A voice said, "Oh bother, he's alive, ain't he, now?" Scotti wasn't quite sure if that were true, even when he opened his eyes and looked at the face above him. It was an Argonian, but unlike any he had seen anywhere. The face was thin and long like a thick lance; the scales were ruby-red, brilliant in the sunlight. It blinked at him, its eyelids opening and closing in vertical slits. "I don't suppose we should eat you, should we now?" the creature smiled, and Scotti could tell from its teeth that it was no idle suggestion. "Thank you," said Scotti weakly. He craned his head slightly to find out who the "we" were, and discovered he was on the muddy bank of the still, sludgy river, surrounded by a group of Argonians with similarly needle-like faces and a whole rainbow of scales. Bright greens and gem-like purples, blues, and oranges. "Can you tell me, am I near - well, anywhere?" The ruby-colored Argonian laughed. "No. You're in the middle of everywhere, and near nowhere." "Oh," said Scotti, who grasped the idea that space did not mean much in Black Marsh. "And what are you?" "We are Agacephs," the ruby-colored Argonian replied. "My name is Nomu." Scotti introduced himself. "I'm a senior clerk in Lord Vanech's Building Commission in the Imperial City. My job was to come here to try to fix the problems with commerce, but I've lost my agenda, haven't met with any of my contacts, the Archeins of Gideon..." "Pompous, assimiliated, slaver kleptocrats," a small lemon-colored Agaceph murmured with some feeling. "...And now I just want to go home." Nomu smiled, his long mouth arching up like a host happy to see an unwanted guest leave a party. "Shehs will guide you." Shehs, it seemed, was the bitter little yellow creature, and he was not at all pleased at the assignment. With surprising strength, he hoisted Scotti up, and for a moment, the clerk was reminded of Gemullus dropping him into the bubbling muck that led to the Underground Express. Instead, Shehs shoved Scotti toward a tiny little raft, razor-thin, that bobbed on the surface of the water. "This is how you travel?" "We don't have the broken wagons and dying horses of our brothers on the outside," Shehs replied, rolling his tiny eyes. "We don't know better." The Argonian sat at the back of the craft and used his whip-like tail to propel and navigate the craft. They traveled quickly around swirling pools of slime that stank of centuries of putrefaction, past pinnacled mountains that seemed sturdy but suddenly fell apart at the slightest ripple in the still water, under bridges that might have once been metal but were now purely rust. "Everything in Tamriel flows down to Black Marsh," Shehs said. As they slid through the water, Shehs explained to Scotti that the Agacephs were one of the many Argonian tribes that lived in the interior of the province, near the Hist, finding little in the outside world worth seeing. He was fortunate to have been found by them. The Nagas, the toad-like Paatru, and the winged Sarpa would have killed him on the spot. There were other creatures too to be avoided. Though there were few natural predators in inner Black Marsh, the scavengers that rooted in the garbage seldom shied away from a living meal. Hackwings circled overhead, like the ones Scotti had seen in the west. Shehs fell silent and stopped the raft completely, waiting for something. Scotti looked in the direction Shehs was watching, and saw nothing unusual in the filthy water. Then, he realized that the pool of green slime in front of them was actually moving, and fairly quickly, from one bank to the other. It deposited small bones behind it as it oozed up into the reeds, and disappeared. "Voriplasm," Shehs explained, moving the boat forward again. "Big word. It'll strip you to the bone by the second syllable." Scotti, desirous to distract himself from the sights and smells that surrounded him, thought it a good time to compliment his pilot on his excellent vocabulary. It was particularly impressive, given how far from civilization they were. The Argonians in the east did, in fact, speak so well. "They tried to erect a Temple of Mara near here, in Umpholo, twenty years ago," Shehs explained, and Scotti nodded, remembering reading about it in the files before they were lost. "They all perished quite dreadfully of swamp rot in the first month, but they left behind some excellent books." Scotti was going to inquire further when he saw something so huge, so horrifying, it made him stop, frozen. Half submerged in the water ahead was a mountain of spines, lying on nine-foot-long claws. White eyes stared blindly forward, and then suddenly the whole creature spasmed and lurched, the jaw of its mouth jutting out, exposing tusks clotted with gore. "Swamp Leviathan," Shehs whistled, impressed. "Very, very dangerous." Scotti gasped, wondering why the Agaceph was so calm, and more, why he was continuing to steer the raft forward towards the beast.. "Of all the creatures in the world, the rats are sometimes the worst," said Shehs, and Scotti noticed that the huge creature was only a husk. Its movement was from the hundreds of rats that had burrowed into it, rapidly eating their way from the inside out, bursting from the skin in spots. "They are indeed," Scotti said, and his mind went to the Black Marsh files, buried deep in the mud, and four decades of Imperial work in Black Marsh. The two continued westward through the heart of Black Marsh. Shehs showed Scotti the vast complicated ruins of the Kothringi capitals, fields of ferns and flowered grasses, quiet streams under canopies of blue moss, and the most astonishing sight of Scotti's life -- the great forest of full-grown Hist trees. They never saw a living soul until they arrived at the edge of the Imperial Commerce Road just east of Slough Point, where Mailic, Scotti's Redguard guide, was waiting patiently. "I was going to give you two more minutes," the Redguard scowled, dropping the last of his food onto the pile at his feet. "No more, sir." The sun was shining bright when Decumus Scotti rode into the Imperial City, and as it caught the morning dew, it lent a glisten to every building as if they had been newly polished for his arrival. It astonished him how clean the city was. And how few beggars there were. The protracted edifice of Lord Vanech's Building Commission was the same as it had always been, but still the very sight of it seemed exotic and strange. It was not covered in mud. The people within actually, generally, worked. Lord Vanech himself, though singularly squat and squinty, seemed immaculate, not only relatively clean of dirt and scabs, but also relatively uncorrupt. Scotti couldn't help but stare at him when he first caught sight of his boss. Vanech stared right back. "You are a sight," the little fellow frowned. "Did your horse drag you to Black Marsh and back? I would say go home and fix yourself, but there are a dozen people here to see you. I hope you have solutions for them." It was no exaggeration. Nearly twenty of Cyrodiil's most powerful and wealthiest people were waiting for him. Scotti was given an office even larger than Lord Vanech's, and he met with each. First among the Commission's clients were five independent traders, blustering and loaded with gold, demanding to know what Scotti intended to do about improving the trade routes. Scotti summarized for them the conditions of the main roads, the state of the merchants' caravans, the sunken bridges, and all the other impediments between the frontier and the marketplace. They told him to have everything replaced and repaired, and gave him the gold necessary to do it. Within three months, the bridge at Slough Point had disappeared into the muck; the great caravan had collapsed into decrepitude; and the main road from Gideon had been utterly swallowed up by swamp water. The Argonians began once again to use the old ways, their personal rafts and sometimes the Underground Express to transport the grain in small quantities. It took a third of the time, two weeks, to arrive in Cyrodiil, none of it rotten. The Archbishop of Mara was the next client Scotti met with. A kindhearted man, horrified by the tales of Argonian mothers selling their children into slavery, he pointedly asked Scotti if it were true. "Sadly, yes," Scotti replied, and the Archbishop showered him with septims, telling the clerk that food must be brought to the province to ease their suffering, and the schools must be improved so they could learn to help themselves. Within five months, the last book had been stolen from the deserted Maran monastery in Umphollo. As the Archeins went bankrupt, their slaves returned to his parents' tiny farms. The backwater Argonians found that they could grow enough to feed their families provided they had enough hard workers in their enclave, and the buyers market for slaves sharply declined. Ambassador Tsleeixth, concerned about the rising crime in northern Black Marsh, brought with him the contributions of many other expatriate Argonians like himself. They wanted more Imperial guards on the border at Slough Point, more magically lit lanterns posted along the main roads at regular intervals, more patrol stations, and more schools built to allow young Argonians to better themselves and not turn to crime. Within six months, there were no more Nagas roaming the roads, as there were no merchants traveling them to rob. The thugs returned to the fetid inner swamp, where they felt much happier, their constitutions enriched by the rot and pestilence that they loved. Tsleeixth and his constituency were so pleased by the crime rate dropping, they brought even more gold to Decumus Scotti, telling him to keep up the good work. Black Marsh simply was, is, and always shall be unable to sustain a large-scale, cash-crop plantation economy. The Argonians, and anyone else, the whole of Tamriel, could live in Black Marsh on subsistence farming, just raising what they needed. That was not sad, Scotti thought; that was hopeful. Scotti's solution to each of their dilemmas had been the same. Ten percent of the gold they gave him went to Lord Vanech's Building Commission. The rest Scotti kept for himself, and did exactly nothing about the requests. Within a year, Decumus Scotti had embezzled enough to retire very comfortably, and Black Marsh was better off than it had been in forty years.

163Book3ValuableAShortHistoryofMorrowind[pagebreak]

A Short History of Morrowind by Jeanette Sitte

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[from the Introduction] ed by the legendary prophet Veloth, the ancestors of the Dunmer, exiles from Altmer cultures in present-day Summerset Isle, came to the region of Morrowind. In earliest times the Dunmer were harassed or dominated by Nord sea raiders. When the scattered Dunmer tribes consolidated into the predecessors of the modern Great House clans, they threw out the Nord oppressors and successfully resisted further incursions. The ancient ancestor worship of the tribes was in time superseded by the monolithic Tribunal Temple theocracy, and the Dunmer grew into a great nation called Resdayn. Resdayn was the last of the provinces to submit to Tiber Septim; like Black Marsh, it was never successfully invaded, and was peacefully incorporated by treaty into the Empire as the Province of Morrowind. Almost four centuries after the coming of the Imperial Legions, Morrowind is still occupied by Imperial legions, with a figurehead Imperial King, though the Empire has reserved most functions of the traditional local government to the Ruling Councils of the Five Great Houses.... [pagebreak] [on Vvardenfell District] n 3E 414, Vvardenfell Territory, previously a Temple preserve under Imperial protection, was reorganized as an Imperial Provincial District. Vvardenfell had been maintained as a preserve administrated by the Temple since the Treaty of the Armistice, and except for a few Great House settlements sanctioned by the Temple, Vvardenfell was previously uninhabited and undeveloped. But when the centuries-old Temple ban on trade and settlement of Vvardenfell was revoked by King of Morrowind, a flood of Imperial colonists and Great House Dunmer came to Vvardenfell, expanding old settlements and building new ones. The new District was divided into Redoran, Hlaalu, Telvanni, and Temple Districts, each separately administered by local House Councils or Temple Priesthoods, and all under the advice and consent of Duke Dren and the District Council in Ebonheart. Local law became a mixture of House Law and Imperial Law in House Districts, jointly enforced by House guards and Legion guards, with Temple law and Imperial law enforced in the Temple district by Ordinators. The Temple was still recognized as the majority religion, but worship of the Nine Divines was protected by the legions and encouraged by Imperial cult missions. The Temple District included the city of Vivec, the fortress of Ghostgate, and all sacred and profane sites (including those Blighted areas inside the Ghostfence) and all unsettled and wilderness areas on Vvardenfell. In practice, this district included all parts of Vvardenfell not claimed for Redoran, Hlaalu, or Telvanni Districts. The Temple stubbornly fought all development in their district, and were largely successful. House Hlaalu in combination with Imperial colonists embarked on a vigorous campaign of settlement and development. In the decades after reorganization, Balmora and the Ascadian Isles regions have grown steadily. Caldera and Pelagiad are completely new settlements, and all legion forts were expanded to accommodate larger garrisons. House Telvanni, normally conservative and isolationist, has been surprisingly aggressive in expanding beyond their traditional tower villages. Disregarding the protests of the other Houses, the Temple, the Duke, and the District council, Telvanni pioneers have been encroaching on the wild lands reserved to the Temple. The Telvanni council officially disavows responsibility for these rogue Telvanni settlements, but it is an open secret that they are encouraged and supported by ambitious Telvanni mage-lords. Under pressure from the Temple, conservative House Redoran has steadfastly resisted expansion in their district. As a result, House Redoran and the Temple are in danger of being politically and economically marginalized by the more aggressive and expansionist Hlaalu and Telvanni interests. The Imperial administration faces many challenges in the Vvardenfell district, but the most serious are the Great House rivalries, animosity from the Ashlander nomads, internal conflicts within the Temple itself, and the Red Mountain blight. Struggles between Great House, Temple, and Imperial interests to control Vvardenfell's resource could at any time erupt into full-scale war. Ashlanders raid settlements, plunder caravans, and kill foreigners on their wild lands. The Temple has unsuccessfully attempted to silence criticism and calls for reform within its ranks. But most serious are the plagues and diseased hosts produced by the blight storms sweeping out from Red Mountain. Vvardenfell and all Morrowind have long been menaced by the legendary evils of Dagoth Ur and his ash vampire kin dwelling beneath Red Mountain. For centuries the Temple has contained this threat within the Ghostfence. But recently the Temple's resources and will have faltered, and the threat from Red Mountain has grown in scale and intensity. If the Ghostfence should fail, and hosts of blighted monsters were to spill out across Vvardenfell's towns and villages, the Empire might have no choice but to evacuate Vvardenfell district and abandon it to disease and corruption.

164Book3ValuableAzuraandtheBox[pagebreak]

Azura and the Box Ancient Tales of the Dwemer Part XI by Marobar Sul

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chylbar had enjoyed an adventurous youth, but had grown to be a very wise, very old Dwemer who spent his life searching for the truth and dispelling superstitions. He invented much and created many theorems and logic structures that bore his name. But much of the world still puzzled him, and nothing was a greater enigma to him than the nature of the Aedra and Daedra. Over the course of his research, he came to the conclusion that many of the Gods were entirely fabricated by man and mer. Nothing, however, was a greater question to Nchylbar than the limits of divine power. Were the Greater Beings the masters of the entire world, or did the humbler creatures have the strength to forge their own destinies? As Nchylbar found himself nearing the end of his life, he felt he must understand this last basic truth. Among the sage's acquaintances was a holy Chimer priest named Athynic. When the priest was visiting Bthalag-Zturamz, Nchylbar told him what he intended to do to find the nature of divine power. Athynic was terrified and pleaded with his friend not to break this great mystery, but Nchylbar was resolute. Finally, the priest agreed to assist out of love for his friend, though he feared the results of this blasphemy. Athynic summoned Azura. After the usual rituals by which the priest declared his faith in her powers and Azura agreed to do no harm to him, Nchylbar and a dozen of his students entered the summoning chamber, carrying with them a large box. "As we see you in our land, Azura, you are the Goddess of the Dusk and Dawn and all the mysteries therein," said Nchylbar, trying to appear as kindly and obsequious as he could be. "It is said that your knowledge is absolute." "So it is," smiled the Daedra. "You would know, for example, what is in this wooden box," said Nchylbar. Azura turned to Athynic, her brow furrowed. The priest was quick to explain, "Goddess, this Dwemer is a very wise and respected man. Believe me, please, the intention is not to mock your greatness, but to demonstrate it to this scientist and to the rest of his skeptical race. I have tried to explain your power to him, but his philosophy is such that he must see it demonstrated." "If I am to demonstrate my might in a way to bring the Dwemer race to understanding, it might have been a more impressive feat you would have me do," growled Azura, and turned to look Nchylbar in the eyes. "There is a red-petalled flower in the box." Nchylbar did not smile or frown. He simply opened the box and revealed to all that it was empty. When the students turned to look to Azura, she was gone. Only Athynic had seen the Goddess's expression before she vanished, and he could not speak, he was trembling so. A curse had fallen, he knew that truly, but even crueler was the knowledge of divine power that had been demonstrated. Nchylbar also looked pale, uncertain on his feet, but his face shone with not fear, but bliss. The smile of a Dwemer finding evidence for a truth only suspected. Two of his students supported him, and two more supported the priest as they left the chamber. "I have studied very much over the years, performed countless experiments, taught myself a thousand languages, and yet the skill that has taught me the finally truth is the one that I learned when I was but a poor, young man, trying only to have enough gold to eat," whispered the sage. As he was escorted up the stairs to his bed, a red flower petal fell from the sleeve of his voluminous robe. Nchylbar died that night, a portrait of peace that comes from contented knowledge. [pagebreak] Publisher's Note: This is another tale whose origin is unmistakably Dwemer. Again, the words of some Aldmeris translations are quite different, but the essence of the story is the same. The Dunmer have a similar tale about Nchylbar, but in the Dunmer version, Azura recognizes the trick and refuses to answer the question. She slays the Dwemer present for their skepticism and curses the Dunmer for blasphemy. In the Aldmeris versions, Azura is tricked not by an empty box, but by a box containing a sphere which somehow becomes a flat square. Of course the Aldmeris versions, being a few steps closer to the original Dwemer, are much more difficult to understand. Perhaps this "stage magic" explanation was added by Gor Felim because of Felim's own experience with such tricks in his plays when a mage was not available. "Marobar Sul" left even the character of Nchylbar alone, and he represents many "Dwemer" virtues. His skepticism, while not nearly as absolute as in the Aldmeris version, is celebrated even though it brings a curse upon the Dwemer and the unnamed House of the poor priest. Whatever the true nature of the Gods, and how right or wrong the Dwemer were about them, this tale might explain why the dwarves vanished from the face of Tamriel. Though Nchylbar and his kind may not have intended to mock the Aedra and Daedra, their skepticism certainly offended the Divine Orders.

165Book3ValuableBlades[pagebreak]

The Rise and Fall of the Blades by Anonymous

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here are many that still remember the Blades. There are fewer that can pass down their stories, their origins and their downfall. My father could. In his proudest moments he said to me, "You keep secrets like the Blades." The Blades were good at keeping secrets. They didn't write down much. They passed information carefully between their spies in every province, to their elite members that protected the Emperors. Even amongst their members, they kept much secret. Most associate the Blades with their ceremonial Akaviri armor and curved longswords. One can trace the Blades back to the fiercest warriors of Akavir, the Dragonguard. It was there, just as they would do in Tamriel, that they protected rulers and their kingdom. But recent discoveries show it to be much more than that. Many classic texts tell us of adventures to Akavir, known as the dragon lands of the east. Many from Tamriel have attempted to conquer it, most famously Emperor Uriel V and his Tenth Legion in 3E288 as documented in the Imperial dispatch "Disaster at Ionith." Dragons have long been legend in Akavir, and many believe that their brief appearance in Tamriel's history are those that escaped Akaviri, for it was there they were hunted and killed off by the Dragonguard. The Dragonguard would follow those that fled to Tamriel in the late 1st Era. Invading from the north, the Dragonguard met not only dragons, but the men of Skyrim, who don't meet invasions with pitchers of mead. The Dragonguard cut a path through Skyrim, and it was not until they were stopped by Reman Cyrodiil during the battle at Pale Pass that the invasion came to an end. It was Reman who united the human lands of Cyrodiil and defeated the Akaviri invaders. Reman is one of the first documented, and widely accepted, of the mythic Dragonborn; those anointed by Akatosh and Alessia themselves. "Born with the soul of a dragon" is what his followers would say. Reports differ widely on the nature of the battle at Pale Pass. But the end result is the same, that the remaining Dragonguard, upon hearing the voice of Reman Cyrodiil, knelt and swore their lives to him, their conqueror and savior. Fragments of from late 1st era texts refer to the warriors dropping to their knees saying "we were not hunting" (or "did not intend", author - rough translation), continuing "we have been searching, for you." They protected Reman with their lives, as well as his descendants, as the Reman Dynasty ushered in Tamriel's 2nd era. It was through these years that their reach extended, and their order grew to become the Blades. Their conquest of the dragons complete, they only sought to protect the Dragonborn, and through him, the Empire. They reached their height late during the 3rd era under the rule of the Septim emprors. Despite their numbers, they kept their secrecy. The most visible and well documented were the members who personally guarded the Emperor, still wearing the original Akaviri armor. But that was the just the tip of the spear, for the Blades were a larger organization, stretching to every corner of Tamriel. These agents were of every race. They were merchants, thieves, craftsman, mages, and warriors, all acting as spies, protecting the Empire as needed, and operating in secret. They often acted alone, but some fragments speak of them meeting in secret fortresses across the continent. The most famous being Cyrodiil's Cloud Ruler Temple, where they hung the swords of those slain protecting the Dragonborn. Other maps speak of Wind Scour Temple under the great expanse of Hammerfell's Alik'r desert, Sky Haven Temple in the mountains of Skyrim, and Storm Talon Temple east of Wayrest. They were known to have a "Grandmaster", who often lived amongst the people, unknown to others. The nature of their communications, meeting places, and missions were known to only a few elite members. The only two to know all were the Grandmaster himself and the Chronicler, whose only job was to make sure the group's mission was never known, but never lost. With the death of Uriel Septim VII and his son, Martin, the 3rd era came to a close with the Blades fortifying themselves deep within Cyrodiil's Cloud Ruler Temple, as they waited for a Dragonborn to return when they would be called upon again. The Empire of the 4th era no longer saw the Blades openly protecting it, or the Emperors. That role is now filled by the Penitus Oculatus, a purely Imperial organization. But the Blades continued their secret work, to watch for the Dragonborn and guard against future enemies. The Blades were among the first to see the signs that the Thalmor of the Aldmeri Dominion would not remain isolated within their borders forever. They could do what the Penitus Oculatus, servant to Imperial policy, could not, and thus earned the lasting hatred of the Thalmor. The warnings of the Blades were proved right, as is well known to all. The Great War between the Empire and the Thalmor consumed the Empire and nearly destroyed it. Emperor Titus Mede II eventually brokered peace with the Thalmor, but at a price many of us still bear. The reach and destructive nature of the Thalmor is known to many (author's note - in my family firsthand). They are not fools. They knew early on that the Blades were an enemy. So they hunted them throughout the Great War. Some were killed defending their Temples, others as they slept in their hideaways, alone. Some fought, some ran, some hid. But the Thalmor found them all. There are those that say the Blades still exist around us, in hiding from the Thalmor. Waiting as they have done time and time again, for a Dragonborn to return. For one to protect, for one to guide them.

166Book3ValuableCharwichKoniingeLettersBookI[pagebreak]

The Charwich-Koniinge Letters Book I

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6 Suns Height, 3E 411 Kambria, High Rock My Dear Koniinge, I hope this letter reaches you in Sadrith Mora. It's been many weeks since I've heard from you, and I hope that the address that I have for you is still up-to-date. I gave the courier some extra gold, so if he doesn't find you, he is to make inquiries to your whereabouts. As you can see, after a rather tedious crossing, I've at long last made my way from Bhoriane to my favorite principality in High Rock, surprisingly literate and always fascinating Kambria. I at once ensconced myself in one of the better libraries here, becoming reacquainted with the locals and the lore. At the risk of being overly optimistic, I think I might have struck on something very interesting about this mysterious fellow, Hadwaf Neithwyr. Many here in town remember him, though few very fondly. When Hadwaf Neithwyr left, so too did a great plague. No one thinks it a coincidence. According to my contacts here, Azura is not his only master. It may be that when he summoned forth the Daedra and accepted her Star, he was doing so for someone named Baliasir. Apparently, Neithwyr worked for this Baliasir in some capacity, but I never could find out from anyone exactly what Baliasir's line of business was, nor what Neithwyr did for him. Zenithar, the God of Work and Commerce, is the most revered deity in Kambria, which served my (that is to say our) purposes well, as the people are naturally receptive to bribery. Still, it did me little good. I could find nothing specific about our quarry. After days of inquiry, an old crone recommended that I go to a nearby village called Grimtry Garden, and find the cemetery caretaker there. I set off at once. I know you are impatient when it comes to details, and have little taste for Breton architecture, but if you ever find yourself in mid-High Rock, you owe it to yourself to visit this quaint village. Like a number of other similar towns in High Rock, there is a high wall surrounded it. As well as being picturesque, it's a remnant of the region's turbulent past and a useful barrier against the supernatural creatures that sometimes stalk the countryside. More about that in a moment. The cemetery is actually outside of the city gates, I discovered. The locals warned me to wait until morning to speak to the caretaker, but I was impatient for information, and did not want to waste a moment. I trekked through the woods to the lonely graveyard, and immediately found the shuffling, elderly man who was the caretaker. He bade me leave, that the land was haunted and if I chose to stay I would be in the greatest danger. I told him that I would not go until he told me what he knew about Hadwaf Neithwyr and his patron Baliasir. On hearing their names, he fled deeper into the jumble of broken tombstones and decrepit mausoleums. I naturally pursued. I saw him scramble down into an enormous crypt and gave chase. There was no light within, but I had planned enough to bring with me a torch. The minute I lit it, I heard a long, savage howl pierce the silence, and I knew that the caretaker had left quickly not merely because he feared speaking of Neithwyr and Baliasir. Before I saw the creature, I heard its heavy breath and the clack of its clawed feet on stone moving closer to me. The werewolf emerged from the gloom, brown and black, with slavering jaws, looking at me with the eyes of the cemetery caretaker, now given only to animal hunger. I instantly had three different instinctive reactions. The first was, of course, flight. The second was to fight. But if I fled, I might never find the caretaker again, and learn what he knew. If I fought, I might injure or even kill the creature and be even worse off. So I elected to go with my third option: to hold my ground and keep the creature within its tomb until the night became morning, and the caretaker resumed his humanity. I've sparred often enough unarmored, but surely never with so much at stake, and never with so savage an opponent. My mind was always on danger not only of injury but the dread disease of lycanthropy. Every rake of its claw I parried, every snap of its foaming jaws I ducked. I sidestepped when it tried to rush me, but closed the distance to keep it from escaping into the night. For hours we fought, I always on the defense, it always trying to free itself, or slay me, or both. I have no doubt that a werewolf has greater energy reserves than a man, but it is a beast and does not know how to save and temper its movements. As the dawn rose, we were both nearly unconscious from fatigue, but I received my reward. The creature became a man once again. He was quite considerably friendlier than he had been before. In fact, when he realized that I had prevented him from going on his nocturnal rampage through the countryside, he became positively affable. Here's what I learned: Neithwyr never returned to High Rock. As far as the old man knows, he is still in Morrowind. I visited the gravesite of his sister Peryra, and learned that it was probably through her that Neithwyr first met his patron. It would seem that she was quite a well-known courtesan in her day, and very well traveled, though she chose to return home to die. Unlike Neithwyr, Baliasir is not far away from me. He is a shadowy character, but lately, according to the caretaker, he has been paying court to Queen Elysana in Wayrest. I leave at once. Please write to me as soon as possible to tell me of your progress. I should be in Wayrest at the home of my friend Lady Elysbetta Moorling in a week's time. If Baliasir is at court, Lady Moorling will be able to arrange an introduction. I feel confident in saying that we are very close to Azura's Star. Your Friend, Charwich

167Book3ValuableCharwichKoniingeLettersBookII[pagebreak]

The Charwich-Koniinge Letters Book II

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3 Last Seed, 3E 411 Tel Aruhn, Morrowind My Good Friend Charwich, I only just last week received your letter dated 6 Sun's Height, addressed to me in Sadrith Mora. I did not know how to reach you before to tell you of my progress finding Hadwaf Neithwyr, so I send this to you now care of the lady you mentioned in your letter, the Lady Elysbetta Moorling of Wayrest. I hope that if you have left her palace, she will know where you've gone and can send this to you. And I hope further that you receive it in a timelier manner that I received your letter. It is essential that I hear from you soon so we may coordinate our next course of action. My adventures here have two acts, one before I received your letter, and one immediately after. While you searched for the elusive possessor of Azura's Star in his homeland to the west, I searched for him here where we understood he conjured up the Daedra Prince and received from her the artifact. Like you, I had little difficulty finding people who had heard of or even knew Neithwyr. In fact, not long after we parted company and you left for the Iliac Bay, I met someone who knew where he went to perform the ceremony, so I left at once to come here to Tel Aruhn. It took some time to locate my contact, for he is a Dissident Priest named Minerath. The Temple and Tribunal, the real powers of Morrowind, tend to frown on his Order, and while they haven't begun so much of crusade to stamp them out, there are certainly rumors that they will soon. This tends to make priests like Minerath skittish and paranoid. Difficult people to set appointments with. Finally I was told that he would be willing to talk to me at the Plot and Plaster, a tiny tavern without even a room to rent. Downstairs, there were several cloaked men crammed around the tavern's only table, and they searched me to see if I had any weaponry. Of course, I hadn't. You know that isn't my preferred method of doing business. When it decided that I was harmless, one of the cloaked figures revealed himself to be Minerath. I paid him the gold I promised and asked him what he knew about Hadwaf Neithwyr. He remembered him well enough, saying that after he received the Star, the lad intended to return to High Rock. It seemed he had unfinished business there, presumably of a violent nature, which Azura's Star would facilitate. He had no other information, and I did not know what else to ask. We parted company and I waited for your letter, hoping you had found Neithwyr and perhaps even the Star. I confess that as I lingered in Morrowind and never heard from you, I began to have doubts about your character. You'll forgive me for saying so, but I began to fear that you had taken the artifact for yourself. In fact, I was making plans to come to High Rock myself when your letter came at last. The tale of your adventure in the cemetery at Grimtry Garden, and the information you gathered from the lycanthropic caretaker inspired me to have another meeting with Minerath. Thus began the second act of my story. I returned to the Pot and Plaster, reasoning that the priest must frequent that area of the city to feel so comfortable setting clandestine meetings there. It took some time searching, but I finally found him, and as luck would have it, he was alone. I called his name, and he quickly drew me to a dark alleyway, nervous that we would be seen by a Temple ordinator. It is a rare and beautiful thing when a victim insists on dragging his killer to a remote location. I began at once asking about this fellow you mentioned, Neithwyr's mysterious patron Baliasir. He denied ever having heard the name. We were still in that easy, fairly conversational state when I attacked the priest. Of course, he was completely taken by surprise. In some ways, that can be more effective than an ambush from behind. No matter how many times I've done it, no one ever expected the friendly man they're talking to grip them by the neck. I pressed hard against my favorite spot in the soft part of the throat, just below the thyroid cartilage, and it took him too long to react to my lunge and try pushing back. He began to lose consciousness, and I whispered that if I released my grip a little so he could talk and breath, but he tried to call for help, I would snap his neck. He nodded, and I relaxed the pressure, just a bit. I asked him again about Baliasir, and he shook his head, insisting that he had never heard the name. As frightened as he was, it seemed most likely that he was telling the truth, so I asked him more generally if he knew anyone else who might know something about Hadwaf Neithwyr. He told me that there was a woman present also during the ceremony, someone he introduced as his sister. I remembered then the part of your letter about seeing the grave of Neithwyr's sister, Peryra. When I mentioned the name to the priest he nodded frantically, but I could see that the interrogation had reached an ending. There is, after all, something about being throttled that causes a man to answer yes to every question. I snapped Minerath's neck, and returned home. So now I'm again unsure how to proceed. I've made several more inquiries and several of the same people who met Neithwyr remember him being with a woman. A few recall him saying that she was his sister. One or two believe they remember her name as being Peryra, though they're not certain. No one, however, has heard of anyone named Baliasir. If I do not hear word from you in response to this in the next couple of weeks, I will come to High Rock, because it's there that most people believe Neithwyr returned. I will only stay here long enough to see if there are other inquiries I can make only in Morrowind to bring us closer to our goal of recovering Azura's Star. Your Friend, Koniinge

168Book3ValuableCharwichKoniingeLettersBookIII[pagebreak]

The Charwich-Koniinge Letters Book III

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13 Last Seed, 3E 411 Wayrest, High Rock My Dear Koniinge, Please forgive the quality of the handwriting on this note, but I have not long to live. I can only reply in detail to one part of your letter, and that is that I fear Baliasir, contrary to what you've heard, is very much real. Had he been but a figment of that caretaker's imagination, I would not be feeling life ebb from me as I write this. Lady Moorling has sent for healers, but I know they won't arrive in time. I just need to explain what happened so that you'll understand, and then all my affairs in this world will be ended. The one advantage of my condition is that I must be brief, without my habitually ornamental descriptions of people and places. I know that you will appreciate that at least. It started when I came to Wayrest, and through my friend Lady Moorling and her court connections was introduced to Baliasir himself. I had to proceed carefully, not wanting him to know of our designs on Azura's Star which I presumed he possessed, given to him by his servant Hadwaf Neithwyr. His function in Queen Elysana's court seemed to be decorative, like so many of her courtiers, and it was not hard to differentiate myself from the others when we began conversing on the school of mysticism. Many of the other hangers-on at the palace can speak eloquently on the subject of the magickal arts, but it seemed that only he and I had deep knowledge of the craft. Many a nobleman or adventurer who aren't mages by profession learn a spell or two from the useful schools of restoration or destruction. I told Baliasir quite truthfully that I had never learned any of that (oh, but I wish I knew some healing spells of the school of restoration now), but that I had developed some small skill in mysticism. Not enough to be a Psijic, of course, but in telekinesis, password, and spell reflection I had some amateur ability. He responded with compliments, which allowed me to segue into the topic of another spell of mysticism, the soul trap. I told him I was unlearned but curious about that spell. And very naturally and comfortably, I was able to bring up the subject of Azura's Star, the endless well of souls. Imagine how I had to hold back my excitement when he leaned in and whispered to me, "If that interests you, come to Klythic's Cairn west of the city tomorrow night." I couldn't sleep at all. The only thing I could think of was how I would get the Star when he showed it to me. I still knew so little about Baliasir, his past and his power, but the opportunity was too great to let pass. Still, I must admit that I held hopes that you would arrive, as you threatened you might in your letter, so I might have someone of physical strength to aid me in my adventure. I am growing weaker and weaker as I write this, so I must proceed with the basic facts. I went to the crypt the following night, and Baliasir led me through the maze of it to the repository where he kept the Star. We were talking quite casually, and as you've so often said, it seemed an excellent time for an ambush. I grabbed the Star and unsheathed my blade in what I felt was amazing speed. He turned to me and I suddenly felt that I was moving like a snail. In a flash, Baliasir changed his form and became his true self, not man or mer, but daedra. A colossal daedra lord who swiped back the Star from my grasp and laughed at my sword as it thudded against his impenetrable hide. I knew I had been beaten, and I threw myself towards the corridor. A blue flash of energy coursed through me, flung by Baliasir's claws. At once, I began to feel death. He could have smote me with a thousand spells, but he chose the one where I could lie down, and suffer, and hear him laugh. At the very least, I did not give him that pleasure. Already struck, it was too late for me to cast a counterspell of mysticism, one to dispel the magicka, reflect it or absorb it as my own. But I did still know how to teleport myself, what mystics term 'Recall,' to whatever place I'd last set a spiritual anchor. I confess that at the time, I didn't remember where that would be. Perhaps in Bhoriane when I arrived in the Iliac Bay, or in Kambria, or in Grimtry Garden where I met the caretaker, or my hostess's palace in Wayrest. I prayed that I had not set the anchor last when I was with you in Morrowind, for it said that if the distance is too great, one can be caught between dimensions. Still, I was willing to take that chance, rather than being the plaything of Baliasir. I cast the spell and found myself back on the doorstep of Lady Moorling's palace. To be out of the crypt and away from the daedra was a relief, but I had so hoped that I had been smart enough to cast an anchor near a Mages Guild or a temple where I could find a healer. Instead, knowing I was too weak to walk far, I beat on the door and was taken here, where I write this letter, lying in my bed. As I wrote those words, dear Elysbetta, Lady Moorling, came in, quite tearfully and frantic, to tell me the healers should be hre withn but a few minute. But I wil be ded ere they arrve. I know thes are m last wors. Der frend, stay away frm this cursd place. Yr Frend, Charwich

169Book3ValuableChaurusPie[pagebreak]

Chaurus Pie: A Recipe

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f I have to hear one more time about that famous gourmet who wrote that recipe book, I'll hack off my own ears with a blunt axe. Sure, he can cook up some dishes fit for them stodgy Imperials and them poncy Bretons, but real Nords want real Nord food, and my chaurus pie is just that. I guess I been complaining a lot about it, cause Susanna was yelling at me. Nils, she says, if your chaurus pie is so good, you should write down the recipe. Well, I ain't good with my letters and I got no talent for writing, but I thought why not give it a go? So this here's my first ever recipe that I wrote down and I hope you like it. First thing you'll need is some chaurus meat and that ain't easy to come by. Chauruses mostly live in caves, and as like as not they share them caves with other nasty things. If you go hunting for chaurus meat to make some dinner with, make sure you don't end up as dinner yourself. Haha. Anyway, like I was saying, get yourself some good armor and a nice big sword, and if you've got some stout men who won't run off at the first sign of trouble - in other words, not like one of them poncy Bretons - then go looking in caves and you'll find a chaurus sooner or later. They look like big bugs the size of really big dogs, and mind you watch out for that acid they spit. That'll ruin your armor pretty quick. Now once you got some chaurus meat, you got to put it on a spit. Make sure you get that white, thick meat from the midsection. Don't use that yellow meat from the head or legs, because that's got poisonous acid in it and if you eat it, you'll probably die. So you cook up your chaurus on the spit. And you want to baste it with sauce. To make that, grind up some tomatoes into pulp and then mix that with water, peppers, honey and salt. And then you have to boil it all together. I wouldn't use too many peppers, but you want a few spoons of salt. How much honey you use is up to you. Depends on how sweet you want it. When the chaurus is done and you've basted it enough, then you want to bake it in a pie with some potatoes, carrots and apples. And put the rest of that sauce you made in there, too. If you want turnips, sometimes those are good. Depends on what you're in the mood for. Then you cook that for awhile. Look for the top to be light brown, that's when you know it's done. And that's it. Easy as pie. Haha.

170Book3ValuableDeathOfAWanderer[pagebreak]

The Death of a Wanderer

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he last time I saw the old Argonian, I was taken by how alive he seemed, even though he was in the throes of death. "The secret," he said, "of staying alive... is not in running away, but swimming directly at danger. Catches it off-guard." "Is that how you managed to find this claw?" I asked, brandishing the small carving as if it were a weapon. I had found it among his possessions, which I was helping him to divvy amongst his beneficiaries. "Should it also go to your cousin? Dives-From-Below?" At this, his mouth widened, exposing his fangs. If I hadn't known him as long as I had I would think he was snarling, but I knew that to be a smile. He croaked a few times to attempt laughter, but ended up wheezing and coughing, his rancid blood spraying across the bedsheets. "Do you know what that is?" he asked between coughing fits. "I've heard stories," I answered, "the same as you. Looks like one of the claws, for opening the sealing-doors in the ancient crypts. I've never seen one myself, before." "Then you know I would only wish that thing upon a mortal enemy. Giving it to my cousin would just be encouraging him to run into one of those barrows and get split by a Draugr blade." "So you want me to have it, then?" I joked. "Where did you even get this?" "My kind can find things that your people assumed were gone. Drop something to the bottom of a lake, and a Nord will never see it again. Amazing what you can find along the bottoms." He was staring at the ceiling now, and but the way his fogged eyes darted around, I could tell he was seeing his memories instead of the cracked stone above us. "Did you ever try to use it?" I whispered to him, hoping he could hear me through his fog. "Of course!" he snapped, suddenly lucid. His eyes widened and fixed on me. "Where do you think I got this?" he barked, tearing his tunic open to show a white scar forming a large star-shaped knot in the scales beneath his right shoulder. "Blasted Draugr got the drop on me. Just too many of them." I felt awful, since I knew how much he hated talking about the battles he had been in. To him, it was enough that he had survived, and any stories would amount to boasting. We both sat quietly for several minutes, his labored breathing the only sound. He was the one to break the silence. "You know what always bothered me?" he asked. "Why they even bothered with the symbols." "The what?" "The symbols, you fool, look at the claw." I turned it over in my hand. Sure enough, etched into the face were three animals. A bear, an owl, and some kind of insect. "What do the symbols mean, Deerkaza?" "The sealing-doors. It's not enough to just have the claw. They're made of massive stone wheels that must align with the claw's symbols before they'll open. It's a sort of lock, I suppose. But I didn't know why they bothered with them. If you had the claw, you also had the symbols to open the door. So why..." He was broken up by a coughing fit. It was the most I had heard him speak in months, but I could tell how much of a struggle it was. I knew his mind, though, and helped the thought along. "Why even have a combination if you're going to write it on the key?" "Exactly. But as I lay bleeding on that floor, I figured it out. The Draugr are relentless, but far from clever. Once I was downed, they continued shuffling about. To no aim. No direction. Bumping against one another, the walls." "So?" "So the symbols on the doors weren't meant to be another lock. Just a way of ensuring the person entering was actually alive and had a functioning mind." "Then the doors..." "Were never meant to keep people out. They were meant to keep the Draugr in." And with that, he fell back asleep. When he awoke several days later, he refused to talk about the Draugr at all, and would only wince and clutch his shoulder if I tried to bring them up.

171Book3ValuableDragonborn[pagebreak]

The Book of the Dragonborn by Prior Emelene Madrine Order of Talos Weynon Priory Year 360 of the Third Era, Twenty-First of the Reign of His Majesty Pelagius IV

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any people have heard the term "Dragonborn" - we are of course ruled by the "Dragonborn Emperors" - but the true meaning of the term is not commonly understood. For those of us in the Order of Talos, this is a subject near and dear to our hearts, and in this book I will attempt to illuminate the history and significance of those known as Dragonborn down through the ages.

Most scholars agree that the term was first used in connection with the Covenant of Akatosh, when the blessed St. Alessia was given the Amulet of Kings and the Dragonfires in the Temple of the One were first lit. "Akatosh, looking with pity upon the plight of men, drew precious blood from his own heart, and blessed St. Alessia with this blood of Dragons, and made a Covenant that so long as Alessia's generations were true to the dragon blood, Akatosh would endeavor to seal tight the Gates of Oblivion, and to deny the armies of daedra and undead to their enemies, the Daedra-loving Ayleids." Those blessed by Akatosh with "the dragon blood" became known more simply as Dragonborn.

The connection with the rulers of the Empire was thus there from the beginning - only those of the dragon blood were able to wear the Amulet of Kings and light the Dragonfires. All the legitimate rulers of the Empire have been Dragonborn - the Emperors and Empresses of the first Cyrodilic Empire founded by Alessia; Reman Cyrodiil and his heirs; and of course Tiber Septim and his heirs, down to our current Emperor, His Majesty Pelagius Septim IV.

Because of this connection with the Emperors, however, the other significance of the Dragonborn has been obscured and largely forgotten by all but scholars and those of us dedicated to the service of the blessed Talos, Who Was Tiber Septim. Very few realize that being Dragonborn is not a simple matter of heredity - being the blessing of Akatosh Himself, it is beyond our understanding exactly how and why it is bestowed. Those who become Emperor and light the Dragonfires are surely Dragonborn - the proof is in the wearing of the Amulet and the lighting of the Fires. But were they Dragonborn and thus able to do these things - or was the doing the sign of the blessing of Akatosh descending upon them? All that we can say is that it is both, and neither - a divine mystery.

The line of Septims have all been Dragonborn, of course, which is one reason the simplistic notion of it being hereditary has become so commonplace. But we know for certain that the early Cyrodilic rulers were not all related. There is also no evidence that Reman Cyrodiil was descended from Alessia, although there are many legends that would make it so, most of them dating from the time of Reman and likely attempts to legitimize his rule. We know that the Blades, usually thought of as the Emperor's bodyguards, originated in Akaviri crusaders who invaded Tamriel for obscure reasons in the late First Era. They appear to have been searching for a Dragonborn - the events at Pale Pass bear this out - and the Akaviri were the first to proclaim Reman Cyrodiil as Dragonborn. In fact it was the Akaviri who did the most to promote his standing as Emperor (although Reman himself never took that title in his lifetime). And of course there is no known hereditary connection between Tiber Septim and any of the previous Dragonborn rulers of Tamriel.

Whether there can be more than one Dragonborn at any time is another mystery. The Emperors have done their best to dismiss this notion, but of course the Imperial succession itself means that at the very least there are two or more potential Dragonborn at any time: the current ruler and his or her heirs. The history of the Blades also hints at this - although little is known of their activities during the Interregnum between Reman's Empire and the rise of Tiber Septim, many believe that the Blades continued to search out and guard those they believed were (or might be) Dragonborn during this time.

Lastly, we come to the question of the true meaning of being Dragonborn. The connection with dragons is so obvious that it has almost been forgotten - in these days when dragons are a distant memory, we forget that in the early days being Dragonborn meant having "the dragon blood". Some scholars believe that was meant quite literally, although the exact significance is not known. The Nords tell tales of Dragonborn heroes who were great dragonslayers, able to steal the power of the dragons they killed. Indeed, it is well known that the Akaviri sought out and killed many dragons during their invasion, and there is some evidence that this continued after they became Reman Cyrodiil's Dragonguard (again, the connection to dragons) - the direct predecessor to the Blades of today.

I leave you with what is known as "The Prophecy of the Dragonborn". It often said to originate in an Elder Scroll, although it is sometimes also attributed to the ancient Akaviri. Many have attempted to decipher it, and many have also believed that its omens had been fulfilled and that the advent of the "Last Dragonborn" was at hand. I make no claims as an interpreter of prophecy, but it does suggest that the true significance of Akatosh's gift to mortalkind has yet to be fully understood.

When misrule takes its place at the eight corners of the world

When the Brass Tower walks and Time is reshaped

When the thrice-blessed fail and the Red Tower trembles

When the Dragonborn Ruler loses his throne, and the White Tower falls

When the Snow Tower lies sundered, kingless, bleeding

The World-Eater wakes, and the Wheel turns upon the Last Dragonborn.

172Book3ValuableDragonLanguage[pagebreak]

Dragon Language: Myth no More by Hela Thrice-Versed

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ragon. The very word conjurs nightmare images of shadowed skies, hideous roaring, and endless fire. Indeed, the dragons were terrifying beasts that were once as numerous as they were deadly. But what most Nords don't realize is that the dragons were in fact not simple, mindless beasts. Indeed, they were a thriving, intelligent culture, one bent on the elimination or enslavement of any non-dragon civilization in the entire world. It therefore stands to reason that the dragons would require a way to communicate with one another. That they would need to speak. And through much research, scholars have determined that this is exactly what the dragons did. For the mighty roars of the beasts, even when those roars contained fire, or ice, or some other deadly magic, were actually much more - they were words. Words in an ancient, though decipherable, tongue. Nonsense, you say? Sheer folly on the part of some overeager academics? I thought precisely the same thing. But then I started hearing rumors. The odd snippet of a conversation from some brave explorer or gold-coveting crypt diver. An always, always, it was the same word repeated: Wall. So I listened more. I began to arrange the pieces of the puzzle, and slowly unravel the mystery. Spread throughout Skyrim, in ancient dungeons, burial grounds, and other secluded places, there are walls. Black, ominous walls on which is written a script so old, so unknown, none who had encountered it could even begin its translation. In my heart, I came to know the truth: this was proof of the ancient dragon language! For what else could it possibly be? It only made sense that these walls were constructed by the ancient Nords, Nords who had lived in the time of the dragons, and out of fear or respect, had somehow learned and used the language of the ancient beasts. But at that point, all I had was my own gut instinct. What I needed was proof. Thus began the adventure of my life. One spanning 17 months and the deaths of three courageous guides and two sellsword protectors. But I choose not to dwell on those grim details, for the end result was so glorious, it made any hardship worth it. In my travels, I found many of the ancient walls, and every suspicision proved true. It did in fact appear as if the ancient Nords had copied the language of the dragons of old, for the characters of that language very much resemble claw marks, or scratches. One can almost envision a majestic dragon using his great, sharp talons to carve the symbols into the stone itself. And a human witness - possibly even a thrall or servant - learning, observering, so that he too could use the language for his own ends. For as I observed the walls I found, I noticed something peculiar about some of the words. It was as if they pulsed with a kind of power, an unknown energy that, if unlocked, might be harnessed by the reader. That sounds like nonsense, I know, but if you had stood by these walls - seen their blackness, felt their power - you would understand that of which I speak. Thankfully, although entranced, I was able to retain enough sense to actual transcribe the characters I saw. And, in doing so, I began to see patterns in the language - patterns that allowed me to decipher what it was I was reading. For example, I transcribed the following passage: HET NOK YNGNAVAR G1F KOD1V WO DR1 Y4 MORON AU FROD DO KROSIS NUZ SINON S3V DINOK 4RK DUK1N Assigning those scratchings to actual Tamrielic langauge characters, I further translated what I saw into this: Het nok Yngnavar Gaaf-Kodaav, wo drey Yah moron au Frod do Krosis, nuz sinon siiv dinok ahrk dukaan. Which translates into the Tamrielic as follows: Here lies Yngnavar Ghost-Bear, who did Seek glory on the Battlefield of Sorrows, but instead found death and dishonor. Then, in another crypt, I encountered a wall with this transcription: HET NOK KOPR1N DO IGLIF 3Z SOS WO GRIND OK OBL1N NI KO MOROK2 VUK2N NUZ 4ST MUNAX H1LVUT DO L3V KRAS1R Which translates into: Het nok kopraan do Iglif Iiz-Sos, wo grind ok oblaan ni ko morokei vukein, nuz ahst munax haalvut do liiv krasaar. Which ultimately translates into the Tamrielic as: Here lies the body of Iglif Ice-Blood, who met his end not in glorious combat, but at the cruel touch of the withering sickness. And there you see the pattern. The repeated words "Here lies" - which could only mean one thing: those walls marked actual ancient Nord burial grounds. You can imagine my nearly uncontainable excitement. It all started to make sense. The anicent Nords used the dragon langauge for these walls for very specific reasons. One of them was obviously to mark the grave of some important figure. But what else? Were they all graves, or did they serve other purposes as well? I set off to find out, and was well rewarded for my efforts. Here is what I discovered. This passage: HET M4 T4ROD3S TAF3R SKORJI LUN SINAK WEN KLOV GOV9 N1L RINIK H4KUN ROK TOG1T W4 G4ROT Translates into this: Het mah tahrodiis tafiir Skorji Lun-Sinak, wen klov govey naal rinik hahkun rok togaat wah gahrot. Which in Tamrielic translates into this: Here fell the treacherous thief Skorji Leech-Fingers, whose head was removed by the very axe he was attempting to steal. So here we see a wall that marks the spot where some significant ancient Nord died. This passage: QETHSEGOL V4RUKIV D1NIK F4L3L K3R DO GRAV5N FROD, WO BOVUL KO M1R NOL KINZON Z4KR3 DO KRUZ3K HOKORON Translates into this: Qethsegol vahrukiv daanik Fahliil kiir do Gravuun Frod, wo bovul ko Maar nol kinzon zahkrii do kruziik hokoron. Which in Tamrielic translates into this: This stone commemorates the doomed elf children of the Autumn Field, who fled in Terror from the sharp swords of the ancient enemy. This wall seems to commemorate some ancient, long-forgotten event in Tamrielic history. Whether that event occurred on or near the place where the wall was erected, we will probably never know. And finally, this passage: AESA W4L1N QETHSEGOL BR3N43 V4RUKT THOHILD FIN T8R WEN SMOL3N AG FRIN OL S4QO H2M Which translates into this: Aesa wahlaan qethsegol briinahii vahrukt, Thohild fin Toor, wen smoliin ag frin ol Sahqo Heim. Which in Tamrielic translates into this: Aesa raised this stone for her sister, Thohild the Inferno, whose passion burned hot as the Red Forge. This wall (and I encountered quite a few like this) was obviously commissioned or built by a specific person, to honor someone important to them. What was the significance of the location? Was it important to the person who died? Or is it the actual location of that person's death? Again, those answers are probably lost to time, and will never be know. And so you see, the ancient dragon language is, indeed, myth no more. It existed. But better yet, it still exists, and probably will until the end of time, thanks to the ancient Nords and their construction of these many "word walls." But don't take my word for it. For the walls are there for the discovering, in Skyrim's dangerous, secret places. They serve as a bridge between the realm of the ancient Nords, and our own. The dragons may never return to our world, but now we can return to theirs. And someday, someday, we may even unlock the strange, unknown power hidden in their words.

173Book3ValuableDwarvenAutomatons[pagebreak]

Herbane's Bestiary: Dwarven Automatons

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9 Hearthfire The Dwarves have been extinct for many an age, and perhaps for the best. To see men and women the size of large children, all with beards, would be a most disturbing sight. Still, whatever wrath the Dwarves brought from the gods that consumed an entire civilization surely must have been an awe-inspiring thing to witness. The remnants of their civilization lie buried in the hearts of mountains, and scholars and thieves the world over descend on the skeletal remains of dwarven cities like vultures, to scrape clean the bones of the past, old knowledge waiting to be exhumed and treasures to be discovered. But many men lay murdered in those halls of the damned, because those dwarven ruins do not release their treasures without a fight. My kin would tell the stories long ago, when I was just a child, about how adept the Dwarves were at building machines. They would say that before our time, dwarves harnessed the power of the earth, and wielded fire and hammers to reshape steel and bronze with a mechanical brilliance that breathed life into these now ancient constructs of metal and magic. In the dark halls and chambers amid the ceasless droning of grinding gears and venting steam, they lie in wait to confound or destroy would-be plunderers of the dwarven sanctums, as the grim watchmen of the last vestiges of culture from a dead race. I descended into the humid darkness of Mzulft. The slow hiss of steam, creaking of metal and the rattle of old gears powering an empty city would unnerve most men. I could hear things in the darkness, skittering across the floor just out of sight and as I stepped over the bodies of plunderers or scholars who had not made it far, I knew it was not rats wandering these halls. Small mechanical spiders set upon me with rapid movements, and machines sprouted from the walls and uncurled from spheres into contraptions that rolled on top of gears for legs and crossbows for arms. I could not help but marvel at these single purpose machines built for the murder of men. My sword and my shield are my strength and I am undeterred by such things because I had heard of greater things that roam these depths, and indeed something else in these chambers stirred, and it echoed with massive weight. As it lumbered closer, its feet struck the ground as if walking on massive pistons and as it loomed out of darkness, I could see it clear for the first time, axe for one hand, hammer for the other, as tall as five men, made of dull bronze with a face molded in the image of its masters. A Steam Centurion. The stories were true, these were the guardians of the greatest dwarven treasures. We fought, and the dwarves must truly be extinct because our battle was surely booming enough to wake the dead. It came at me with hammer and axe, inhuman strength and great fortitude, and a purpose of nothing but murder. I dodged as it crushed the stone around me with futile strikes and I thrust and slashed at it with my blade and took every opening afforded as we shook the halls with violence. I refuse to be undone by a machine. Where the average man would be long dead, I stood over the husk of this dead automaton, its steam escaping like a final gasp. I could have taken the dwarven artifacts and metal but left them there for others, for I would not hex my journey with the possessions of dead men and maybe that is where countless others go wrong. I will continue to my journey across the lands, And perhaps one day Herebane will meet a worthy challenge, for I have yet to see what would make me tremble.

174Book3ValuableDwarvesI[pagebreak]

Dwarves The Lost Race of Tamriel, Volume I Architecture and Designs by Calcelmo Scholar of Markarth

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et me begin by correcting a common misconception. The proper term to use when referencing the ancient lost race of Tamriel is "Dwemer." It is a word whose meaning is roughly translated to "people of the deep" in the common tongue, and whose use has been widely replaced by the more ubiquitous nomenclature, "dwarves." I would like stated that I use the name "dwarves" in lieu of the more accurate term in these books out of sympathy for my readership, whom I can safely assume does not have the breadth of scholarship that 200 years of study has given me. With that small point finished, let us begin our discussion on the dwarves by focusing on the indisputable artifacts they have left behind: their architectural and cultural designs. Unlike the more controversial areas of dwarven scholarship, the construction of dwarven cities and relics are well-founded due to the plethora of samples taken from the ruins these peoples have left behind. My own home city, Markarth, was originally one such ruin, and I can state from first-hand experience that all dwarven designs share a set of common principles that we can use to determine true artifacts from fakes and delineate patterns and methodologies that were important to their craftsmen. First of all, we can say for certain that dwarven artisans favored stone, at least as far as their buildings were concerned. This is no surprise. With notable exceptions, the vast majority of dwarven architecture is found underground or carved out of mountains. It is possible, although only theoretically, that the dwarves first mastered masonry as a race quite early, and later examples of metalwork were added on to much earlier stone designs as the dwarves began to master more complex tools. Regardless, the foundation of all known dwarven ruins is built on stonework, and the structure of dwarven stonework is sharp, angular, and intensely mathematical in nature. By a simple count, there are hundreds if not thousands of samples of dwarven buildings made of precise square shapes, and far fewer examples of discretely rounded or curved stonework, leading us to believe that early dwarves favored trusted, well-calculated designs based on angled lines rather than riskier, more imprecise calculations based on arcs and curves. This comparatively simple tradition of stonecutting has nevertheless resulted in buildings that are as structurally sound today as they were thousands of years ago, making the works of our most skilled masons today seem like child's play in comparison. Metalwork as far as we know is the primary method used to make almost all dwarven crafts. We cannot, however, discount more easily destructible materials such as clay, paper, and glass from outside the scope of dwarven craftsmanship, but given the tendency of dwarven design to favor the long-lasting over the fragile, we can safely assume that at the very least metal was a heavy preference. And the metal used in all so-far-discovered dwarven relics is entirely unique to their culture. No other race has replicated whatever process was used to create dwarven metal. Although it can be easily mistaken for bronze -- and in fact many forgers of dwarven materials use bronze to create their fake replicas -- it is most definitely a distinct type of metal of its own. I have personally seen metallurgists attempt to combine several different types of steel and common and rare ores in order to imitate dwarven metal's exclusive properties, but the only method that has been successful is to melt down existing dwarven metallic scraps and start over from there.

175Book3ValuableDwarvesII[pagebreak]

Dwarves The Lost Race of Tamriel, Volume II Weapons, Armor and Machines by Calcelmo Scholar of Markarth

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n our previous discussion on the dwarves (or "Dwemer" in the more correct, scholarly terminology), we looked into the properties of dwarven architecture and metallic crafts. In this continuing discussion of Tamriel's Lost Race, we shall examine the ways in which dwarves waged war and kept out trespassers. Unlike many other cultures still existing today, the dwarves built and relied on increasingly complicated machines for a wide variety of martial tasks, and weapons and armor created solely for the purpose of being wielded by dwarven warriors show remarkably fewer points of progress beyond the basic designs. Let us begin by analyzing those basic weapons and armors. Anyone who has held a dwarven axe or worn a dwarven helmet can testify as to the ancient, ever-lasting quality of dwarven craftsmanship. Weapons do not deviate too greatly from their base function. Dwarven swords pierce through light armors with incredible effectiveness, owing primarily to the remarkable sharpness of tempered dwarven metal, and owing to a far lesser extent to its simple, double-edged design. Compare and contrast a sharp, angular dwarven dagger to a curved elven blade, and it becomes a small logical leap to say that dwarven weaponsmiths relied almost exclusively on creating quality materials first, and merely allowed the form of those materials to flow from the method that weapon was intended to kill people. As a culture that built almost exclusively underground, it's no surprise that dwarven armors are built to withstand incredibly heavy blows. Again, the fact that they are also resistant to being pierced by arrows or small blades is more of a testament to superior dwarven metallurgy over superior dwarven armorsmithing, but it would be erroneous to thus conclude that dwarven smiths did not take the manufacture of their weapons and armor very seriously. Every piece of war crafts I have examined show a remarkable amount of unnecessary detailing and personalization that is just as evident today among the most ardent blacksmiths. A dwarven smith probably came from a long tradition that distinguished itself in way that, say, the grip of a mace would feel, or the design of the head of individual arrows. Although, due to the paltry lack of any cultural artifacts outside the weapons and armors themselves, this is only mere speculation. The last, but probably most important discussion in this volume, pertains to the existence of dwarven machinery. Dwarves created and manufactured on a very broad scale thousands of mechanical apparatuses of varying complexity. The most simple of which is the standard "arachnid" design used to ward off trespassers. We are so far uncertain as to how the dwarves were able to bring to life these remarkably intelligent machines, but I have witnessed one stalk a highly trained thief for several hours, only to ambush him as he was dealing with a lock to some room or treasure trove -- I admit to have forgotten the details past the point at which it began spouting lightning at him. Dwarven military machines also range from the human-sized "Sphere" warrior, which patrols the interiors of the ruins as a harmless ball only to emerge from it as a fully armed and armored automaton fighter, to the justly feared "Centurion" whose height ranges from twice to several hundred times human size depending on which reports you believe.

176Book3ValuableDwarvesIII[pagebreak]

Dwarves The Lost Race of Tamriel, Volume III Culture and History by Calcelmo Scholar of Markarth

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n this final volume on our discussion on the dwarves (again, see the term "Dwemer" for references using the more scholastic name), we will attempt an examination into the distinct culture and history of Tamriel's Lost Race. We must, however, begin such a discussion with a warning. Despite what certain academic circles would like people to believe, there is so far no evidence that verifies any claim as to the dwarves' particular customs, morals, myths, legends, laws, systems of governance, or involvement in major historical events outside of those few examples that remain indisputable. For instance, while we can say with absolute certainty that the disappearance of the entire dwarven race happened very suddenly, only the laziest of junior scholars would say that this event happened in the same day or even the same hour. There is simply no proof to dispute the theory that perhaps the dwarves disappeared from Tamriel gradually over the course of several years or indeed several decades. There is also nothing that disproves the source of this disappearance as being attributable to mass deaths, plagues, magical contamination, experiments into the nature of Aetherius gone wrong, or even race-wide teleportation into one of the planes of Oblivion. There is simply too little that the dwarves left behind that points to the nature of their great vanishing act, and this same frustration applies to all aspects of their social structure and history. What we know then can only be inferred by the writings of the other races which made contact with the dwarves before they left Tamriel. The dark elves ("Dunmer") for example teach that their great prophet Nerevar helped unite the dwarves and the elves in Morrowind against occupying Nord armies from Skyrim in the First Era, but Nord and Orc writings also indicate that the dwarves were also allied with them at various points and in various legendary battles of theirs. Unfortunately, none of these legends and folk lore make an effort to describe the dwarves in great detail, only that they were a secretive people and that an alliance with them was unusual enough to warrant crafting a story around. And past the First Era, no race makes note of encountering any living dwarves at all. This is further confounded by the fact that so many of the dark elven writings on their relationship with the dwarves were lost during the tragic eruptions of Vvardenfell during the Oblivion Crisis nearly 200 years ago. What secrets they could have revealed about the Lost Race are now buried behind layers of molten earth along with so many unfortunate dark elven people. Thus, we conclude our discussion on the dwarves on a somber note. As with all scholarly endeavors, we are left with more questions than we have answers, and the proof we so desperately search for is so often out of reach, denied even to the most fervent effort. The mysteries the dwarves have left us with could easily warrant another century or so worth of personal examination from me, and quite possibly even several millennia of excavation of even one dwarven ruin would be insufficient to paint a complete picture on them. But what we can see from our threadbare tapestry of dwarven artifacts is a careful, intelligent, industrious, and highly advanced culture whose secrets we as students and teachers of their works can only hope to uncover some day.

177Book3ValuableDwemerHistory[pagebreak]

Collected Essays on Dwemer History and Culture Chapter 1 Marobar Sul and the Trivialization of the Dwemer in Popular Culture by Hasphat Antabolis

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hile Marobar Sul's Ancient Tales of the Dwemer was definitively debunked in scholarly circles as early as the reign of Katariah I, it remains one of the staples of the literate middle-classes of the Empire, and has served to set the image of the Dwemer in the popular imagination for generations of schoolchildren. What about this lengthy (but curiously insubstantial) tome has proved so captivating to the public that it has been able to see off both the scorn of the literati and the scathing critiques of the scholars? Before examing this question, a brief summary of the provenance and subsequent career of Ancient Tales would be appropriate. First published around 2E670, in the Interregnum between the fall of the First Cyrodilic Empire and the rise of Tiber Septim, it was originally presented as a serious, scholarly work based on research in the archives of the University of Gwylim, and in the chaos of that era was taken at face value (a sign of the sad state of Dwemer scholarship in those years). Little is known of the author, but Marobar Sul was most likely a pseudonym of Gor Felim, a prolific writer of "penny dreadful romances" of that era, who is known to have used many other pseudonyms. While most of Felim's other work has, thankfully, been lost to history, what little survives matches Ancient Tales in both language and tone (see Lomis, "Textual Comparison of Gor Felim's A Hypothetical Treachery with Marobar Sul's Ancient Tales of the Dwemer"). Felim lived in Cyrodiil his whole life, writing light entertainments for the elite of the old Imperial capital. Why he decided to turn his hand to the Dwemer is unknown, but it is clear that his "research" consisted of nothing more than collecting the peasants' tales of the Nibenay Valley and recasting them in Dwemer guise. The book proved popular in Cyrodiil, and Felim continued to churn out more volumes until the series numbered seven in all. Ancient Tales of the Dwemer was thus firmly established as a local favorite in Cyrodiil (already in its 17th printing) when the historical forces that propelled Tiber Septim to prominence also began to spread the literature of the "heartland" across the continent. Marobar Sul's version of the Dwemer was seized upon in a surge of human racial nationalism that has not yet subsided. The Dwemer appear in these tales as creatures of fable and light fantasy, but in general they are "just like us". They come across as a bit eccentric, perhaps, but certainly there is nothing fearsome or dangerous about them. Compare these to the Dwemer of early Redguard legend: a mysterious, powerful race, capable of bending the very laws of nature to their will; vanished but perhaps not gone. Or the Dwemer portrayed in the most ancient Nord sagas: fearsome warriors, tainted by blasphemous religious practices, who used their profane mechanisms to drive the Nords from Morrowind. Marobar Sul's Dwemer were much more amenable to the spirit of the time, which saw humans as the pinnacle of creation and the other races as unenlightened barbarians or imperfect, lesser versions of humans eager for tutelage. Ancient Tales falls firmly in the latter camp, which does much to explain its enduring hold on the popular imagination. Marobar Sul's Dwemer are so much more comfortable, so much friendlier, so much more familiar, than the real Dwemer, whose truly mysterious nature we are only beginning to understand. The public prefers the light, trivial version of this vanished race. And from what I have learned in my years of studying the Dwemer, I have some sympathy for that preference. As the following essays will show, the Dwemer were, to our modern eyes, a remarkably unlikeable people in many ways.

178Book3ValuableFalmer[pagebreak]

The Falmer: A Study by Ursa Uthrax

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have studied, and traveled, and explored, and observed, and my hypothesis has finally been confirmed: that the twisted Falmer that inhabit the darkest depths of Skyrim are indeed the snow elves of legend. No one really knows when the story of the snow elves began, but the ancient work "Fall of the Snow Prince," which is an account of the Battle of the Moesring as transcribed by Lokheim, chronicler to the chieftain Ingjaldr White-Eye, gives a rather vivid account of its ending. According to this eyewitness account, the great Falmer leader known only as the Snow Prince died in glorious battle, and was buried with honor by his Nord slayers. The remaining snow elves were scattered or slain, and were never heard from again. Or so many thought. But where the story of the ancient snow elves ends, that of the current-day Falmer begins. For when the snow elf host was shattered on that fateful day, it did not simply disperse - it descended. Into the earth, deep underground. For the Falmer sought sanctuary in the most unlikely of places - Blackreach, far beneath the surface of Skyrim, in the legendary realm of the Dwemer themselves. Yes, Blackreach exists. I have been there, and unlike most of those who have witnessed its terrible glories, I have returned. And I now know the truth about the Falmer. After their defeat by the Nords, the dwarves of old agreed to protect the Falmer, but at a terrible price. For these Dwemer did not trust their snow elf guests, and forced them to consume the toxic fungi that once grew deep underground. As a result, the snow elves were rendered blind. Soon, the majestic snow elves were rendered powerless. They became the dwarves' servants... and then their slaves. But the Dwemer's treachery was so deep, so complete, that they made the fungi an essential part of the Falmer's diet. This guaranteed the weakness of not only their current Falmer thralls, but their offspring as well. The snow elves, for time eternal, would be blind. But as is always the story with slaves and their masters, the Falmer eventually rebelled. Generations after they first sought solace among the dwarves, and experienced bitter betrayal, the Falmer rose up against their oppressors. The overthrew the dwarves, and fled even further down, into Blackreach's deepest, most hidden reaches. For decade upon decade, the two sides waged a bitter conflict. A full-fledged and bloody "War of the Crag" that raged deep below Skyrim's surface, completely unbeknownst to the Nords above, a war whose battles and heroes must forever remain lost to our knowledge. Until one day, the war ended. For on that day, the Falmer went to meet their Dwemer foes in battle, only to find that the entire race had... vanished. Finally free from the threat of their Dwemer overlords, the Falmer were able to spread freely throughout Blackreach. But years of fighting the dwarves had left them bloodthirsty and brutal. Feeling the need to conquer, to kill, they began mounting raids to the surface world. And so the legends began. Of small, blind, goblin-like creatures who would rise from the cracks of the earth, in the dead of night, to slaughter cattle, attack lonely travelers, and steal sleeping babes from their cribs. In recent years, however, the sightings of these creatures have become more and more frequent. Their raids, more organized. Their attacks, more brutal. In fact, one might even come to the conclusion that the Falmer are ready to change once again. Could it be true? Are the snow elves of ages past ready to reclaim their long-forgotten glory? Are they ready to surge to the surface, and make war upon the "light dwellers"? If that happens - if the Falmer are indeed planning on reconquering Skyrim - I fear a horror neither man nor gods could possibly stand against.

179Book3ValuableFeyfolkenI[pagebreak]

Feyfolken Book One by Waughin Jarth

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he Great Sage was a tall, untidy man, bearded but bald. His library resembled him: all the books had been moved over the years to the bottom shelves where they gathered in dusty conglomerations. He used several of the books in his current lecture, explaining to his students, Taksim and Vonguldak, how the Mages Guild had first been founded by Vanus Galerion. They had many questions about Galerion's beginnings in the Psijic Order, and how the study of magic there differed from the Mages Guild. "It was, and is, a very structured way of life," explained the Great Sage. "Quite elitist, actually. That was the aspect of it Galerion most objected to. He wanted the study of magic to be free. Well, not free exactly, but at least available to all who could afford it. In doing that, he changed the course of life in Tamriel." "He codified the praxes and rituals used by all modern potionmakers, itemmakers, and spellmakers, didn't he, Great Sage?" asked Vonguldak. "That was only part of it. Magic as we know it today comes from Vanus Galerion. He restructured the schools to be understandable by the masses. He invented the tools of alchemy and enchanting so everyone could concoct whatever they wanted, whatever their skills and purse would allow them to, without fears of magical backfire. Well, eventually he created that." "What do you mean, Great Sage?" asked Taksim. "The first tools were more automated than the ones we have today. Any layman could use them without the least understanding of enchantment and alchemy. On the Isle of Artaeum, the students had to learn the skills laboriously and over many years, but Galerion decided that was another example of the Psijics' elitism. The tools he invented were like robotic master enchanters and alchemists, capable of creating anything the customer required, provided he could pay." "So someone could, for example, create a sword that would cleave the world in twain?" asked Vonguldak. "I suppose, in theory, but it would probably take all the gold in the world," chuckled the Great Sage. "No, I can't say we were ever in very great danger, but that it isn't to say that there weren't a few unfortunate incidents where a unschooled yokel invented something beyond his ken. Eventually, of course, Galerion tore apart his old tools, and created what we use today. It's a little elitist, requiring that people know what they're doing before they do it, but remarkably practical." "What did people invent?" asked Taksim. "Are there any stories?" "You're trying to distract me so I don't test you," said the Great Sage. "But I suppose I can tell you one story, just to illustrate a point. This particular tale takes place in city of Alinor on the west coast of Summurset Isle, and concerns a scribe named Thaurbad. This was in the Second Era, not long after Vanus Galerion had first founded the Mages Guild and chapter houses had sprung up all over Summurset, though not yet spread to the mainland of Tamriel. For five years, this scribe, Thaurbad, had conducted all his correspondence to the outside world by way of his messenger boy, Gorgos. For the first year of his adoption of the hermit life, his few remaining friends and family -- friends and family of his dead wife, truth be told -- had tried visiting, but even the most indefatigable kin gives up eventually when given no encouragement. No one had a good reason to keep in touch with Thaurbad Hulzik, and in time, very few even tried. His sister-in-law sent him the occasional letter with news of people he could barely remember, but even that communication was rare. Most of messages to and from his house dealt with his business, writing the weekly proclamation from the Temple of Auri-El. These were bulletins nailed on the temple door, community news, sermons, that sort of thing. The first message Gorgos brought him that day was from his healer, reminding him of his appointment on Turdas. Thaurbad took a while to write his response, glum and affirmative. He had the Crimson Plague, which he was being treated for at considerable expense -- you have to remember these were the days before the School of Restoration had become quite so specialized. It was a dreadful disease and had taken away his voicebox. That was why he only communicated by script. The next message was from Alfiers, the secretary at the church, as curt and noxious as ever: "THAURBAD, ATTACHED IS SUNDAS'S SERMON, NEXT WEEK'S EVENTS CALENDAR, AND THE OBITUARIES. TRY TO LIVEN THEM UP A LITTLE. I WASN'T HAPPY WITH YOUR LAST ATTEMPT." Thaurbad had taken the job putting together the Bulletin before Alfiers joined the temple, so his only mental image of her was purely theoretical and had evolved over time. At first he thought of Alfiers as an ugly fat sloadess covered with warts; more recently, she had mutated into a rail-thin, spinster orcess. Of course, it was possible his clairvoyance was accurate and she had just lost weight. Whatever Alfiers looked like, her attitude towards Thaurbad was clear, unwavering disdain. She hated his sense of humor, always found the most minor of misspellings, and considered his structure and calligraphy the worst kind of amateur work. Luckily, working for a temple was the next most secure job to working for the good King of Alinor. It didn't bring in very much money, but his expenses were minimal. The truth was, he didn't need to do it anymore. He had quite a fortune stashed away, but he didn't have anything else to occupy his days. And the truth was further that having little else to occupy his time and thoughts, the Bulletin was very important to him. Gorgos, having delivered all the messages, began to clean and as he did so, he told Thaurbad all the news in town. The boy always did so, and Thaurbad seldom paid him any attention, but this time he had an interesting report. The Mages Guild had come to Alinor. As Thaurbad listened intently, Gorgos told him all about the Guild, the remarkable Archmagister, and the incredible tools of alchemy and enchanting. Finally, when the lad had finished, Thaurbad scribbled a quick note and handed it and a quill to Gorgos. The note read, "Have them enchant this quill." "It will be expensive," said Gorgos. Thaurbad gave Gorgos a sizeable chunk of the thousands of gold pieces he had saved over the years, and sent him out the door. Now, Thaurbad decided, he would finally have the ability to impress Alfiers and bring glory to the Temple of Auri-El. The way I've heard the story, Gorgos had thought about taking the gold and leaving Alinor, but he had come to care for poor old Thaurbad. And even more, he hated Alfiers who he had to see every day to get his messages for his master. It wasn't perhaps for the best of motivations, but Gorgos decided to go to the Guild and get the quill enchanted. The Mages Guild was not then, especially not then, an elitist institution, as I have said, but when the messenger boy came in and asked to use the Itemmaker, he was greeted with some suspicion. When he showed the bag of gold, the attitude melted, and he was ushered in the room. Now, I haven't seen one of the enchanting tools of old, so you must use your imagination. There was a large prism for the item to be bound with magicka, assuredly, and an assortment of soul gems and globes of trapped energies. Other than that, I cannot be certain how it looked or how it worked. Because of all the gold he gave to the Guild, Gorgos could infuse the quill with the highest-price soul available, which was something daedric called Feyfolken. The initiate at the Guild, being ignorant as most Guildmembers were at that time, did not know very much about the spirit except that it was filled with energy. When Gorgos left the room, the quill had been enchanted to its very limit and then some. It was virtually quivering with power. Of course, when Thaurbad used it, that's when it became clear how over his head he was. And now," said the Great Sage. "It's time for your test." "But what happened? What were the quill's powers?" cried Taksim. "You can't stop the tale there!" objected Vonguldak. "We will continue the tale after your conjuration test, provided you both perform exceptionally well," said the Great Sage.

180Book3ValuableFeyfolkenII[pagebreak]

Feyfolken Book Two by Waughin Jarth

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fter the test had been given and Vonguldak and Taksim had demonstrated their knowledge of elementary conjuration, the Great Sage told them that they were free to enjoy the day. The two lads, who most afternoons fidgeted through their lessons, refused to leave their seats. "You told us that after the test, you'd tell us more of your tale about the scribe and his enchanted quill," said Taksim. "You've already told us about the scribe, how he lived alone, and his battles with the Temple secretary over the Bulletin he scripted for posting, and how he suffered from the Crimson Plague and couldn't speak. When you left off, his messenger boy had just had his master's quill enchanted with the spirit of a daedra named Feyfolken," added Vonguldak to aid the Great Sage's memory. "As it happens," said the Great Sage. "I was thinking about a nap. However, the story does touch on some issues of the natures of spirits and thus is related to conjuration, so I'll continue. Thaurbad began using the quill to write the Temple Bulletin, and there was something about the slightly lopsided, almost three-dimensional quality of the letters that Thaurbad liked a lot. Into the night, Thaurbad put together the Temple of Auri-El's Bulletin. For the moment he washed over the page with the Feyfolken quill, it became a work of art, an illuminated manuscript crafted of gold, but with good, simple and strong vernacular. The sermon excerpts read like poetry, despite being based on the archpriest's workmanlike exhortation of the most banal of the Alessian doctrines. The obituaries of two of the Temple's chief benefactors were stark and powerful, pitifully mundane deaths transitioned into world-class tragedies. Thaurbad worked the magical palette until he nearly fainted from exhaustion. At six o'clock in the morning, a day before deadline, he handed the Bulletin to Gorgos for him to carry to Alfiers, the Temple secretary. As expected, Alfiers never wrote back to compliment him or even comment on how early he had sent the bulletin. It didn't matter. Thaurbad knew it was the best Bulletin the Temple had ever posted. At one o'clock on Sundas, Gorgos brought him many messages. "The Bulletin today was so beautiful, when I read it in the vestibule, I'm ashamed to tell you I wept copiously," wrote the archpriest. "I don't think I've seen anything that captures Auri-El's glory so beautifully before. The cathedrals of Firsthold pale in comparison. My friend, I prostrate myself before the greatest artist since Gallael." The archpriest was, like most men of the cloth, given to hyperbole. Still, Thaurbad was happy with the compliment. More messages followed. All of the Temple Elders and thirty-three of the parishioners young and old had all taken the time to find out who wrote the bulletin and how to get a message to congratulate him. And there was only one person they could go through for that information: Alfiers. Imaging the dragon lady besieged by his admirers filled Thaurbad with positive glee. He was still in a good mood the next day when he took the ferry to his appointment with his healer, Telemichiel. The herbalist was new, a pretty Redguard woman who tried to talk to him, even after he gave her the note reading "My name is Thaurbad Hulzik and I have an appointment with Telemichiel for eleven o'clock. Please forgive me for not talking, but I have no voicebox anymore." "Has it started raining yet?" she asked cheerfully. "The diviner said it might." Thaurbad frowned and shook his head angrily. Why was it that everyone thought that mute people liked to be talked to? Did soldiers who lost their arms like to be thrown balls? It was undoubtedly not a purposefully cruel behavior, but Thaurbad still suspected that some people just liked to prove that they weren't crippled too. The examination itself was routine horror. Telemichiel performed the regular invasive torture, all the while chatting and chatting and chatting. "You ought to try talking once in a while. That's the only way to see if you're getting better. If you don't feel comfortable doing it in public, you could try practicing it by yourself," said Telemichiel, knowing her patient would ignore her advice. "Try singing in the bath. You'll probably find you don't sound as bad as you think." Thaurbad left the examination with the promise of test results in a couple of weeks. On the ferry ride back home, Thaurbad began thinking of next week's temple bulletin. What about a double-border around the "Last Sundas's Offering Plate" announcement? Putting the sermon in two columns instead of one might have interesting effects. It was almost unbearable to think that he couldn't get started on it until Alfiers sent him information. When she did, it was with the note, "LAST BULLETIN A LITTLE BETTER. NEXT TIME, DON'T USE THE WORD 'FORTUITOUS' IN PLACE OF 'FORTUNATE.' THE WORDS ARE NOT, IF YOU LOOK THEM UP, SYNONYMOUS." In response, Thaurbad almost followed Telemichiel's advice by screaming obscenities at Gorgos. Instead, he drank a bottle of cheap wine, composed and sent a suitable reply, and fell asleep on the floor. The next morning, after a long bath, Thaurbad began work on the Bulletin. His idea for putting a light shading effect on the "Special Announcements" section had an amazing textural effect. Alfiers always hated the extra decorations he added to the borders, but using the Feyfolken quill, they looked strangely powerful and majestic. Gorgos came to him with a message from Alfiers at that very moment as if in response to the thought. Thaurbad opened it up. It simply said, "I'M SORRY." Thaurbad kept working. Alfiers's note he put from his mind, sure that she would soon follow it up with the complete message "I'M SORRY THAT NO ONE EVER TAUGHT YOU TO KEEP RIGHT-HAND AND LEFT-HAND MARGINS THE SAME LENGTH" or "I'M SORRY WE CAN'T GET SOMEONE OTHER THAN A WEIRD, OLD MAN AS SCRIBE OF OUR BULLETIN." It didn't matter what she was sorry about. The columns from the sermon notes rose like the massive pillars of roses, crowned with unashamedly ornate headers. The obituaries and birth announcements were framed together with a spherical border, as a heartbreaking declaration of the circle of life. The Bulletin was simultaneously both warm and avant-garde. It was a masterpiece. When he sent it off to Alfiers late that afternoon, he knew she'd hate it, and was glad. Thaurbad was surprised to get a message from the Temple on Loredas. Before he read the content, he could tell from the style that it wasn't from Alfiers. The handwriting wasn't Alfiers's usual belligerent slashing style, and it wasn't all in Alfiers's usual capital letters, which read like a scream from Oblivion. "Thaurbad, I thought you should know Alfiers isn't at the Temple anymore. She quit her position yesterday, very suddenly. My name is Vanderthil, and I was lucky enough (let me admit it now, I begged pitifully) to be your new Temple contact. I'm overwhelmed by your genius. I was having a crisis of faith until I read last week's Bulletin. This week's Bulletin is a miracle. Enough. I just wanted to say I'm honored to be working with you. -- Vanderthil." The response on Sundas after the service even astonished Thaurbad. The archpriest attributed the massive increase in attendance and collection plate offerings entirely to the Bulletin. Thaurbad's salary was quadrupled. Gorgos brought over a hundred and twenty messages from his adoring public. The following week, Thaurbad sat in front of his writing plank, a glass of fine Torvali mead at his side, staring at the blank scroll. He had no ideas. The Bulletin, his child, his second-wife, bored him. The third-rate sermons of the archbishop were absolute anathema, and the deaths and births of the Temple patrons struck him as entirely pointless. Blah blah, he thought as he scribbled on the page. He knew he wrote the letters B-L-A-H B-L-A-H. The words that appeared on the scroll were, "A necklace of pearl on a white neck." He scrawled a jagged line across the page. It appeared in through that damned beautiful Feyfolken quill: "Glory to Auri-El." Thaurbad slammed the quill and poetry spilled forth in a stream of ink. He scratched over the page, blotting over everything, and the vanquished words sprung back up in different form, even more exquisite than before. Every daub and splatter caused the document to whirl like a kaleidoscope before falling together in gorgeous asymmetry. There was nothing he could do to ruin the Bulletin. Feyfolken had taken over. He was a reader, not an author. Now," asked the Great Sage. "What was Feyfolken from your knowledge of the School of Conjuration?" "What happened next?" cried Vonguldak. "First, tell me what Feyfolken was, and then I'll continue the story." "You said it was a daedra," said Taksim. "And it seems to have something to do with artistic expression. Was Feyfolken a servitor of Azura?" "But the scribe may have been imagining all this," said Vonguldak. "Perhaps Feyfolken is a servitor of Sheogorath, and he's gone mad. Or the quill's writing makes everyone who views it, like all the congregation at the Temple of Auri-El, go mad." "Hermaeus Mora is the daedra of knowledge ... and Hircine is the daedra of the wild ... and the daedra of revenge is Boethiah," pondered Taksim. And then he smiled, "Feyfolken is a servitor of Clavicus Vile, isn't it?" "Very good," said the Great Sage. "How did you know?" "It's his style," said Taksim. "Assuming that he doesn't want the power of the quill now that he has it. What happens next?" "I'll tell you," said the Great Sage, and continued the tale.

181Book3ValuableFeyfolkenIII[pagebreak]

Feyfolken Book Three by Waughin Jarth

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haurbad had at last seen the power of the quill," said the Great Sage, continuing his tale. "Enchanted with the daedra Feyfolken, servitor of Clavicus Vile, it had brought him great wealth and fame as the scribe of the weekly Bulletin of the Temple of Auri-El. But he realized that it was the artist, and he merely the witness to its magic. He was furious and jealous. With a cry, he snapped the quill in half. He turned to finish his glass of mead. When he turned around, the quill was intact. He had no other quills but the one he had enchanted, so he dipped his finger in the inkwell and wrote a note to Gorgos in big sloppy letters. When Gorgos returned with a new batch of congratulatory messages from the Temple, praising his latest Bulletin, he handed the note and the quill to the messenger boy. The note read: "Take the quill back to the Mages Guild and sell it. Buy me another quill with no enchantments." Gorgos didn't know what to make of the note, but he did as he was told. He returned a few hours later. "They wouldn't give us any gold back for it," said Gorgos. "They said it wasn't enchanted. I told 'em, I said 'What are you talking about, you enchanted it right here with that Feyfolken soul gem,' and they said, 'Well, there ain't a soul in it now. Maybe you did something and it got loose.'" Gorgos paused to look at his master. Thaurbad couldn't speak, of course, but he seemed even more than usually speechless. "Anyway, I threw the quill away and got you this new one, like you said." Thaurbad studied the new quill. It was white-feathered while his old quill had been dove gray. It felt good in his hand. He sighed with relief and waved his messenger lad away. He had a Bulletin to write, and this time, without any magic except for his own talent. Within two days time, he was nearly back on schedule. It looked plain but it was entirely his. Thaurbad felt a strange reassurance when he ran his eyes over the page and noticed some slight errors. It had been a long time since the Bulletin contained any errors. In fact, Thaurbad reflected happily, there were probably other mistakes still in the document that he was not seeing. He was finishing a final whirl of plain calligraphy on the borders when Gorgos arrived with some messages from the Temple. He looked through them all quickly, until one caught his eye. The wax seal on the letter read "Feyfolken." With complete bafflement, he broke it open. "I think you should kill yourself," it read in perfectly gorgeous script. He dropped the letter to the floor, seeing sudden movement on the Bulletin. Feyfolken script leapt from the letter and coursed over the scroll in a flood, translating his shabby document into a work of sublime beauty. Thaurbad no longer cared about the weird croaking quality of his voice. He screamed for a very long time. And then drank. Heavily. Gorgos brought Thaurbad a message from Vanderthil, the secretary of the Temple, early Fredas morning, but it took the scribe until mid-morning to work up the courage to look at it. "Good Morning, I am just checking in on the Bulletin. You usually have it in on Turdas night. I'm curious. You planning something special? -- Vanderthil." Thaurbad responded, "Vanderthil, I'm sorry. I've been sick. There won't be a Bulletin this Sunday" and handed the note to Gorgos before retiring to his bath. When he came back an hour later, Gorgos was just returning from the Temple, smiling. "Vanderthil and the archpriest went crazy," he said. "They said it was your best work ever." Thaurbad looked at Gorgos, uncomprehending. Then he noticed that the Bulletin was gone. Shaking, he dipped his finger in the inkwell and scrawled the words "What did the note I sent with you say?" "You don't remember?" asked Gorgos, holding back a smile. He knew the master had been drinking a lot lately. "I don't remember the exact words, but it was something like, 'Vanderthil, here it is. Sorry it's late. I've been having severe mental problems lately. - Thaurbad.' Since you said, 'here it is,' I figured you wanted me to bring the Bulletin along, so I did. And like I said, they loved it. I bet you get three times as much letters this Sundas." Thaurbad nodded his head, smiled, and waved the messenger lad away. Gorgos returned back to the Temple, while his master turned to his writing plank, and pulled out a fresh sheet of parchment. He wrote with the quill: "What do you want, Feyfolken?" The words became: "Goodbye. I hate my life. I have cut my wrists." Thaurbad tried another tact: "Have I gone insane?" The words became: "Goodbye. I have poison. I hate my life." "Why are you doing this to me?" "I Thaurbad Hulzik cannot live with myself and my ingratitude. That's why I've put this noose around my neck." Thaurbad picked up a fresh parchment, dipped his finger in the inkwell, and proceeded to rewrite the entire Bulletin. While his original draft, before Feyfolken had altered it, had been simple and flawed, the new copy was a scrawl. Lower-case I's were undotted, G's looked like Y's, sentences ran into margins and curled up and all over like serpents. Ink from the first page leaked onto the second page. When he yanked the pages from the notebook, a long tear nearly divided the third page in half. Something about the final result was evocative. Thaurbad at least hoped so. He wrote another note reading, simply, "Use this Bulletin instead of the piece of trash I sent you." When Gorgos returned with new messages, Thaurbad handed the envelope to him. The new letters were all the same, except for one from his healer, Telemichiel. "Thaurbad, we need you to come in as soon as possible. We've received the reports from Black Marsh about a strain of the Crimson Plague that sounds very much like your disease, and we need to re-examine you. Nothing is definite yet, but we're going to want to see what our options are." It took Thaurbad the rest of the day and fifteen drams of the stoutest mead to recover. The larger part of the next morning was spent recovering from this means of recovery. He started to write a message to Vanderthil: "What did you think of the new Bulletin?" with the quill. Feyfolken's improved version was "I'm going to ignite myself on fire, because I'm a dying no-talent." Thaurbad rewrote the note using his finger-and-ink message. When Gorgos appeared, he handed him the note. There was one message in Vanderthil's handwriting. It read, "Thaurbad, not only are you divinely inspired, but you have a great sense of humor. Imagine us using those scribbles you sent instead of the real Bulletin. You made the archbishop laugh heartily. I cannot wait to see what you have next week. Yours fondly, Vanderthil." The funeral service a week later brought out far more friends and admirers than Thaurbad Hulzik would've believed possible. The coffin, of course, had to be closed, but that didn't stop the mourners from filing into lines to touch its smooth oak surface, imagining it as the flesh of the artist himself. The archbishop managed to rise to the occasion and deliver a better than usual eulogy. Thaurbad's old nemesis, the secretary before Vanderthil, Alfiers came in from Cloudrest, wailing and telling all who would listen that Thaurbad's suggestions had changed the direction of her life. When she heard Thaurbad had left her his quill in his final testament, she broke down in tears. Vanderthil was even more inconsolable, until she found a handsome and delightfully single young man. "I can hardly believe he's gone and I never even saw him face-to-face or spoke to him," she said. "I saw the body, but even if he hadn't been all burned up, I wouldn't have been able to tell if it was him or not." "I wish I could tell you there'd been a mistake, but there was plenty of medical evidence," said Telemichiel. "I supplied some of it myself. He was a patient of mine, you see." "Oh," said Vanderthil. "Was he sick or something?" "He had the Crimson Plague years ago, that's what took away his voice box, but it appeared to have gone into complete remission. Actually, I had just sent him a note telling him words to that effect the day before he killed himself." "You're that healer?" exclaimed Vanderthil. "Thaurbad's messenger boy Gorgos told me that he had just picked up that message when I sent mine, complementing him on the new, primative design for the Bulletin. It was amazing work. I never would've told him this, but I had begun to suspect he was stuck in an outmoded style. It turned out he had one last work of genius, before going out in a blaze of glory. Figuratively. And literally." Vanderthil showed the healer Thaurbad's last Bulletin, and Telemichiel agreed that its frantic, nearly illegible style spoke volumes about the power and majesty of the god Auri-El." "Now I'm thoroughly confused," said Vonguldak. "About which part?" asked the Great Sage. "I think the tale is very straight-forward." "Feyfolken made all the Bulletins beautiful, except for the last one, the one Thaubad did for himself," said Taksim thoughtfully. "But why did he misread the notes from Vanderthil and the healer? Did Feyfolken change those words?" "Perhaps," smiled the Great Sage. "Or did Feyfolken changed Thaurbad's perceptions of those words?" asked Vonguldak. "Did Feyfolken make him mad after all?" "Very likely," said the Great Sage. "But that would mean that Feyfolken was a servitor of Sheogorath," said Vonguldak. "And you said he was a servitor of Clavicus Vile. Which was he, an agent of mischief or an agent of insanity?" "The will was surely altered by Feyfolken," said Taksim, "And that's the sort of thing a servitor of Clavicus Vile would do to perpetuate the curse." "As an appropriate ending to the tale of the scribe and his cursed quill," smiled the Great Sage. "I will let you read into it as you will."

182Book3ValuableFinalLesson[pagebreak]

The Final Lesson By Aegrothius Goth

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"It is time for you to leave your apprenticeship here," said the Great Sage to his students, Taksim and Vonguldak. "So soon?" cried Vonguldak, for it had been but a few years since the training began. "Are we such poor pupils?" "We have learned much for you, master, but you have no more to teach us?" Taksim asked. "You have told us so many tales of great enchanters of the past. Can't we continue to learn until we have reached some level of their power?" "I have one last story for you," smiled the Great Sage. Many thousands of years ago, long before the Cyrodilic Dynasty of Reman and even longer before the Septim Dynasty ruled Tamriel, and before there was a Mages Guild, and when the land called Morrowind was known as Resdayn, and the land of Elsweyr was called Anequina and Pellitine, and the only law of the land was the cruel ways of the Alessian Doctrines of Marukh, there lived a hermetic enchanter named Dalak who had two apprentices, Uthrac and Loreth. Uthrac and Loreth were remarkable students, both equally assiduous in their learning, the pride of their Master. Both excelled at the arts of the cauldron, mirror castings, the infusion of spiritas into mundus, and the weaving of air and fire. Dalak was very fond of his boys, and they of him. On a springtide morn, Dalak received a message from another enchanter named Peothil, who lived deep in the forests of the Colovian heartland. You must remember that in the dark days of the First Era, mages were solitary practitioners with the only organized consortium being the Psijics of Artaeum. Away from that island, mages seldom saw one another and even more rarely corresponded. Thus, when Dalak received Peothil's letter, he gave it his great attention. Peothil was greatly aged, and he had found the peace of his isolation threatened by the Alessian Reform. He feared for his life, knowing that the fanatical priests and their warriors were close at hand. Dalak brought his students to him. "It will be an arduous and perilous journey to the Colovian Estates, one that I would fear partaking even in my youth," Dalak said. "My heart trembles to send you two forth to Peothil's cave, but I know that he is a great and benevolent enchanter, and his light must continue to burn in the heart of the continent if we are to survive these dark nights." Uthrac and Loreth pled with their teacher not to order them to go to Peothil. It was not the priests and warriors of the Alessian Reform they feared, but they knew their Master was aged and infirm, and could not protect himself if the Reform moved further westward. Finally, he relented and allowed that one would stay with him, and the other would journey forth to the Colovian Estates. He would let them decide which of them would go. The lads debated and discussed, fought and compromised, and at last elected to let fate make the choice. They threw lots, and Loreth came up short. He left early the next morning, miserable and filled with fear. For a month and a day, he tramped through the forests into the midst of the Colovian Estates. Through some planning, some skill, and much assistance for sympathetic peasants, he managed to avoid the ever-tightening circle of the Alessian Reform by crossing through unclaimed mountain passes and hidden bogs. When at last he found the dark caverns where Dalak had told him to search for Peothil, it was still many hours before he could find the enchanter's lair. No one appeared to be there. Loreth searched through the laboratory of ancient tomes, cauldrons and crystalline flutes, herbs kept alive by the glow of mystic circles, strange liquids and gasses caught in transparent membranes. At last, he found Peothil, or so he presumed. The desiccated shell on the floor of the study, clutching tools of enchantment, scarcely seemed human. Loreth decided that he could do nothing further for the mage, and began at once the journey back to his true master Dalak and his friend Uthrac. The armies of the Reform had moved quickly since he passed. After more than one close near encounter, the young enchanter realized that he was trapped on all sides. The only retreat that was possible was back in the caves of Peothil. The first thing to be done, Loreth saw, was to find a means to keep the army from finding the laboratory. That, he found, was what Peothil himself had been trying to do, but by a simple error even an apprentice enchanter could recognize, he had only succeeded in destroying himself. Loreth was able to take what he had learned from Dalak and apply it to Peothil's enchantments, quite successfully. The laboratory was never found or even detected by the Reform. Much time passed. In the 480th year of the First Era, the great Aiden Direnni won many battles against the Alessian horde, and many passages and routes that had once been closed were now open. Loreth, now no longer young, was able to return to Dalak. When at last he found his way to his Master's old hovel, he saw candles of mourning lit in all the trees surrounding. Even before he knocked on the door and met his old fellow student Uthrac, Loreth knew that Dalak had died. "It was only a few months ago," said Uthrac, after embracing his friend. "He talked of you every day of every year you were away. Somehow he knew that you had not preceded him to the world beyond. He told me that you would come back." The gray-haired men sat before the fire and reminisced of the old days. The sad truth was that they both discovered how different they had become. Uthrac spoke of carrying on the Master's work, while Loreth described his new discoveries. They left one another that day, each shaking his head, destined to never see one another again. In the years ahead, before they left the mortal world to join their great teacher Dalak, they both achieved their desires. Uthrac went on to become respected if minor enchanter in the service of Clan Direnni. Loreth took the skills he had learned on his own, and used them to fashion the Balac-thurm, the Staff of Chaos. My boys, the lesson is you have to learn from a teacher to avoid those small but essential errors that claimed the life of such self-taught enchanters as Peothil. And yet, the only way to become truly great is to try all the possibilities on your own.

183Book3ValuableForgeHammerAndAnvil[pagebreak]

Forge, Hammer and Anvil by Adolphus Eritius

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hese notes were found in ruins near Old Hroldan. As best I can tell, they were written by Thorbald, a rather infamous smith who died shortly before Tiber Septim's reign. He was rumored to illiterate, and given that these notes are obviously written by an assistant, that rumor is likely true. I have made no attempt to correct the texts themselves as they may have historical value. Without further ado, the ramblings of Thorbald: This ain't no book for how to be a grayt smith. So if you're reeding this, stop. It's just me own notes cawse I'm getting old and cranky and don't rember stuff. These be me own methods for makin things. Iron armor and weapons. Lots of Iron ingots and some leather strips. Steel armor and weapons. Lots of Steel ingots, a little iron, and some leather strips. Cept for Steel Plate. It needs some Corundum too. Leather armor and weapons. Who'd be stupid enuf to make leather weapons? Leather armor needs leather. Big peeces and little peeces. Just like Hide armor. And studded armor. Scaled armor too. Well, that needs some steel also. And Curundum. Can't make Scaled armor without Corundum. That would be dum. Dwarfen armor and weapons. Dwarfen scrap metal, some iron, and some leather strips. I'm gonna stop sayin leather, cawse it's always used. Are you writin what I jus said? You idiot! Jus do it, don't rite it. (Thorbald is old and fat) Elven armor and weapons. Elves and dwarfs didn't get along. Bet you didn't know that. Elven stuff needs Moonstone and a little bit of iron. Except for that Gilded stuff. Gotta add Quicksilver if you wanna make Gilded Elven armor. Orcish armor and weapons. Use Orichalcum and a bit of iron. (Thorbald doesn't like Orcs) Ebony armor and weapons. Takes only Ebony. No iron. Not even a little. You'll want to, but don't. Glass armor and weapon. Need Malachite and sum Moonstone. Nasty stuff, workin' with Malachite. Daedric armor and weapons. Hah! Like I'd rite that down. (He uses daydra hearts. I don't know whare he gets 'em) That's all. You can stop writin now. I said stop! Postscript - The last page had a large streak of ink an a few splatters of blood. It would be a fair conclusion that Thorbald beat his assistant. We have no way of know if Thorbald ever discovered the extraneous comments added to his script. -- Adolphus Eritius

184Book3ValuableGhostsInTheStorm[pagebreak]

Ghosts in the Storm by Adonato Leotelli

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or many years now, I have traveled the length and breadth of Skyrim, writing of my experiences and my adventures. I have seen many wondrous sights and many strange creatures in my travels, but one encounter remains fixed in my memory, though I wish it were not. I had taken up traveling with one of the Khajiit trade caravans that crisscross Skyrim, peddling their wares outside the gates of the large cities. We were nearing Windhelm when the storm struck. It was a violent and terrible gale, one of the very worst I have seen in all my long years. The winds howled like all the daedra of Oblivion, and the driving snow made us blind to the world. Ri'saad called a halt and we staggered from the road, our hands held over our faces to ward off the stinging pellets of ice. We huddled together in the shelter of a copse of pines. There was no hope of raising our tents - the wind would tear them from our hands the moment we unpacked them. They struck at the height of the storm. There were perhaps half a dozen of the creatures. It was difficult to say, as the blowing snow and howling wind overwhelmed our sight and our hearing. They were roughly man-sized, but hunched over and ugly. For garments, they wore only rags and leathers. They were armed with daggers and swords or various kinds, no doubt scavenged from their previous victims. They had no noses to speak of, only long slits for nostrils. Their ears were sharply pointed, suggesting a distant kinship with the elves. With their pallid skin and lifeless black eyes, they seemed like something out of a nightmare. Bhisha saw them first, but too late to save herself. So loud was her death-cry, we heard it over the roaring winds. That cry saved us all. Alerted to the presence of our foes, the Khajiit drew their blades and formed a circle, facing outward. The white fiends were too few to surround us completely, and the Khajiit fended off each attack. After three of the snow-devils had fallen, the rest fell back and did not come at us again. The storm abated and we arrived in Windhelm the next morning. I have taken up residence in Candlehearth Hall and I find I am quite comfortable behind the towering stone walls of the city. Comfortable, at least until I go to sleep and visions of those awful creatures return to haunt my dreams.

185Book3ValuableGreatCollapse[pagebreak]

On the Great Collapse

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o the esteemed Jarl Valdimar of Winterhold, First, please allow me to offer my most sincere condolences. I understand that you, like many others, have lost family and you have my deepest sympathies. I also understand that some on your council have placed the blame for this horrible disaster on my colleagues at the College. While I can certainly appreciate the shock at the scope of recent events, and the desire to comprehend what has happened, I must strongly urge you to consider the full situation. You know as well as any the College's history and reputation in Winterhold. It has long been a source of pride for your city, a unique fixture in Skyrim. Some of the greatest wizards have studied here, and the College has always promoted positive relations with the other provinces of Tamriel. It is well-known that those relations have been, shall we say, strained over the last few decades. After the Oblivion Crisis, it was only natural that the people of Skyrim showed a distrust for mages, even though the vast majority of us actively worked to counter the actions of the Mythic Dawn cult. The College expected such a reaction, and hoped that distrust would fade over time. And then, the Red Year. No one foresaw the explosion of Red Mountain, or the devastating effect it would have on the Dunmer culture. Your predecessor was kind enough to welcome many of the refugees, particularly those who could contribute to the College's studies. We were quite grateful. When Solstheim was generously offered to the Dunmer as a new home, I was as surprised as any. I did not, however, share the apparent expectation that all dark elves would leave Skyrim. It did not go unnoticed that many in Winterhold were unhappy at how many mages chose to stay at the College rather than relocate. And now, the storms that have wracked the coast of Skyrim for close to a year have finally broken, but at great cost to us all. This great collapse that has devastated Winterhold was unexpected, I assure you. That the College has remained unaffected is only a testament to the protective magicks placed around it so long ago. It in no way implies that we were somehow prepared specifically for this event, and is certainly no indication that the College was somehow responsible. I certainly would never hold you accountable for the gossip spread amongst the people of Winterhold. I would urge you, though, to not allow that gossip to take root and become a commonly held belief. I do not wish to see our relationship crumble like Winterhold has, as I assure you the College will remain here a very, very long time. Your persistent advocate, Arch-Mage Deneth

186Book3ValuableGreatHarbingers[pagebreak]

Great Harbingers of the Companions

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his history is recorded by Swyk the Long-Sighted, of the Circle of Jorrvaskr in the 3rd era. While I am not gifted with a sharp gift of words, I have learned the stories of the Companions before me, and set to record them that they might not be lost when I am. Hereafter is the list of notable Harbingers of the Companions, those who lead us through the darkness to glories in Sovngarde. [pagebreak] Notes on the Harbinger: the Companions have never had a true leader since Ysgramor -- none have been mighty enough to corral the great hearts that beat within Jorrvaskr. While others like mages and thieves need the blessings of their hierarchy to know how to dress, we Companions are capable of leading our own destinies to glory. The Harbinger advises, resolves disputes, and helps to clarify when questions arise of the nature of honor. In the thousands of years the Companions have held at Jorrvaskr, there have been Harbingers both terrible and brilliant, those known for their arm, those for their hearts, and those for their minds. Here are listed some of the most gloried Harbingers, who inspire song and deed. [pagebreak] Ysgramor: the first Harbinger, the first Man, the bringer of Words, and the one who first bound the Companions to honor in that far off land of long ago. Better people have written of him, so I will not attempt to meet their words. Jeek of the River: Captain of the Jorrvaskr during the Return, discoverer of the Skyforge, founder of Whiterun, and keeper of the original oath of the Companions, now lost to time. While other crews sought glory in conquest, his was the first to settle and serve as protector for the less war-gifted in the land as they came behind. Mryfwiil the Withdrawn: Several hundred years after the death of Ysgramor, the Companions as we now know them were soldiers for hire, little better than mercenaries. Our services could be purchased for the fighting of wars, but the commitment to individual honor meant that often Shield-Brothers would be forced to face each other on the field of battle. The bonds of honor which bind the Companions threaten to break, until Mryfwiil, in his wisdom, decreed that we would no longer be party to any war or political conflict of any kind. Because of his steady hand, the Companions today are known as impartial arbiters of honor, in addition to their glories on the field of battle. Cirroc the Lofty: The first Harbinger to not be of ancestral Atmoran blood. This was around the time that the Nords began to think of themselves as such, and there were great disputes about purity and the legacy of Ysgramor. Cirroc first came to Jorrvaskr as a servant, but the Redguard quickly proved his mettle when treated disrespectfully by one of the less honor-bound warriors of the time. Granted the stature of an honorary Companion after saving the life of Harbinger Tulvar the Unmentioned, he became known as the most capable of Shield-Brothers in the hall, with speed and cunning surpassing any of the old Atmoran stock. His time as Harbinger was short-lived, but it is said that his field knowledge of bladework continues to pass to every new Companion through their training. Henantier the Outsider: The first elven Harbinger. Like Cirroc before him, he was initially subject to ridicule when arriving at Jorrvaskr, for this was the time (near the closing of the first era) when elves were not permitted to be full Companions, and few were even allowed to see the inside of the hall. Henantier was humble in the daylight hours, performing any task asked of him. At night, he trained fiercely in the outside yard, allowing himself only minutes of sleep before resuming his servant duties the next day. So he toiled through several Harbingers, never resting, never complaining, and always keeping his mind and body sharp. Given his long life, he came to be trusted by the new Companions as the one who them learn the ways of honor. When one such pupil had aged into an old man and become Harbinger himself, Henantier was the one at his deathbed. With all Companions assembled, he named Henantier as his successor, saying "even an elf can be born with the heart of a Nord sometimes." There were some number of Companions who laid down their weapons that day, but those who remained knew the truth of honor, and it is their legacy we continue to bear. Macke of the Piercing Eyes: A Harbinger known for her great beauty, but any who underestimated her on account of it would never make the mistake again. Was said to have once stared down half an opposing army, then slaughtered the remainder single-handedly. Her disappearance in her 8th year as Harbinger has never been explained, though many slanderous lies claim to make accountings for it. Kyrnil Long-Nose: After the dark periods in the late second era, when a string of false and dishonorable Harbingers laid claim to Jorrvaskr, it was Kyrnil Long-Nose who gathered the true hearts of the Companions in the wilds and stormed Jorrvaskr itself, killing the usurpers and returning honor through blood, in the old ways. He began the tradition of trusted advisors called the Circle (after our great lord Ysgramor's council of captains) who would serve as examples to the younger, newer Companions. By ensuring that the notions of honor can have an unbroken string of tradition, he steadied the course of the Companions and restored our destinies to that of Ysgramor's, pressing ever onwards to Sovngarde.

187Book3ValuableLostLegends[pagebreak]

Lost Legends of Skyrim by Talsgar the Elder Archivist of Winterhold

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he history of Skyrim is vast, predating even the most ancient records of man and mer. Much has been lost, fallen to the ravages of war or the turning of the ages. But nothing is ever truly forgotten. Where no records exist, legends and folk tales offer us a key to the past, a way to piece together truths half-remembered in the minds of men. [pagebreak] For generations, the people of Morthal have told whispered tales of the Pale Lady, a ghostly woman who wanders the northern marshes, forever seeking her lost daughter. Some say she steals children who wander astray, others that her sobbing wail strikes dead all those who hear it. But behind these tales may lie a kernel of truth, for ancient records speak of 'Aumriel', a mysterious figure Ysgramor's heirs battled for decades, and finally sealed away. Reachmen tell the story of Faolan 'Red-Eagle', an ancient king who rallied his people and drove back the armies of Cyrodiil with a flaming sword. Though accounts vary, they too seem to be based on an underlying truth: the imperial chronicles of Empress Hestra mention a rebel leader of that era who was eventually cornered and slain in battle, at the cost of a full legion of men. But some tales prove far harder to analyze. Among scholars, perhaps the best known is the 'Forbidden Legend' of the Archmage Gauldur. In the dawning days of the First Era, the story goes, there lived a powerful wizard by the name of Gauldur. Wise and just, he was well-known in the courts of King Harald and the jarls of Skyrim, and his aid and counsel were sought by man and mer alike. And then he was murdered. Some say one of his sons killed him, others that King Harald, jealous of his power, gave the order. But Gauldur's three sons fled into the night, pursued by a company of Harald's best warriors and the Lord Geirmund, the king's personal battlemage. [pagebreak] A great chase ensued, from the wilds of the Reach to the glacial north. One brother is said to have perished in the ruins of Folgunthur, at the foot of Solitude. The others were run to ground soon thereafter. And once it was done, King Harald ordered every record of their murders destroyed, and Gauldur's name and deeds were struck from the rolls of history. [pagebreak] Even today, few sources remain, and no bard will tell the tale. But perhaps the truth yet remains in some ancient ruin, waiting to be unearthed. For nothing is ever truly forgotten.

188Book3ValuableLustyArgonianMaidVol01[pagebreak]

The Lusty Argonian Maid Volume 1 By: Crassius Curio

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Act IV, Scene III, continued Lifts-Her-Tail Certainly not, kind sir! I am here but to clean your chambers. Crantius Colto Is that all you have come here for, little one? My chambers? Lifts-Her-Tail I have no idea what it is you imply, master. I am but a poor Argonian maid. Crantius Colto So you are, my dumpling. And a good one at that. Such strong legs and shapely tail. Lifts-Her-Tail You embarrass me, sir! Crantius Colto Fear not. You are safe here with me. Lifts-Her-Tail I must finish my cleaning, sir. The mistress will have my head if I do not! Crantius Colto Cleaning, eh? I have something for you. Here, polish my spear. Lifts-Her-Tail But it is huge! It could take me all night! Crantius Colto Plenty of time, my sweet. Plenty of time. END OF ACT IV, SCENE III

189Book3ValuableLustyArgonianMaidVol02[pagebreak]

The Lusty Argonian Maid Volume 2 By: Crassius Curio

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ACT VII, SCENE II, CONTINUED Lifts-Her-Tail My goodness, that's quite a loaf! But how ever shall it fit my oven? Crantius Colto This loaf isn't ready for baking, my sweet. It has yet to rise. Lifts-Her-Tail If only we could hurry that along. How would I accomplish such a task? Crantius Colto Oh, my foolish little Argonian maid, you must use your hands. Lifts-Her-Tail You wish me to kneed the loaf? Here? Crantius Colto Of course. Lifts-Her-Tail But what if the mistress catches me? Your loaf was meant to satisfy her appetite. Crantius Colto Don't fret, my delicate flower. I'll satisfy the mistress's cravings later. Lifts-Her-Tail Very well, but I'm afraid my oven isn't hot enough. It could take hours! Crantius Colto Plenty of time, my sweet. Plenty of time. END OF ACT VII, SCENE II

190Book3ValuableMadnessofPelagius[pagebreak]

The Madness of Pelagius by Tsathenes

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he man who would be Emperor of all Tamriel was born Thoriz Pelagius Septim, a prince of the royal family of Wayrest in 3E 119 at the end of the glorious reign of his uncle, Antiochus I. Wayrest had been showered by much preference during the years before Pelagius' birth, for King Magnus was Antiochus' favorite brother. It is hard to say when Pelagius' madness first manifested itself, for, in truth, the first ten years of his life were marked by much insanity in the land itself. When Pelagius was just over a year old, Antiochus died and a daughter, Kintyra, assumed the throne to the acclaim of all. Kintyra II was Pelagius' cousin and an accomplished mystic and sorceress. If she had sufficient means to peer into the future, she would have surely fled the palace. The story of the War of the Red Diamond has been told in many other scholarly journals, but as most historians agree, Kintyra II's reign was usurped by her and Pelagius' cousin Uriel, by the power of his mother, Potema -- the so-called wolf queen of Solitude. The year after her coronation, Kintyra was trapped in Glenpoint and imprisoned in the Imperial dungeons there. All of Tamriel exploded into warfare as Prince Uriel took the throne as Uriel III, and High Rock, because of the imprisoned Empress' presence there, was the location of some of the bloodiest battles. Pelagius' father, King Magnus, allied himself with his brother Cephorus against the usurper Emperor, and brought the wrath of Uriel III and Queen Potema down on Wayrest. Pelagius, his brothers and sisters, and his mother Utheilla fled to the Isle of Balfiera. Utheilla was of the line of Direnni, and her family manse is still located on that ancient isle even to this day. There is thankfully much written record of Pelagius' childhood in Balfiera recorded by nurses and visitors. All who met him described him as a handsome, personable boy, interested in sport, magic, and music. Even assuming diplomats' lack of candor, Pelagius seemed, if anything, a blessing to the future of the Septim Dynasty. When Pelagius was eight, Cephorus slew Uriel III at the Battle of Ichidag and proclaimed himself Emperor Cephorus I. For the next ten years of his reign, Cephorus battled Potema. Pelagius' first battle was the Siege of Solitude, which ended with Potema's death and the final end of the war. In gratitude, Cephorus placed Pelagius on the throne of Solitude. As king of Solitude, Pelagius' eccentricities of behavior began to be noticeable. As a favorite nephew of the Emperor, few diplomats to Solitude made critical commentary about Pelagius. For the first two years of his reign, Pelagius was at the very least noted for his alarming shifts in weight. Four months after taking the throne, a diplomat from Ebonheart called Pelagius "a hale and hearty soul with a heart so big, it widens his waist"; five months after that, the visiting princess of Firsthold wrote to her brother that "the king's gripped my hand and it felt like I was being clutched by a skeleton. Pelagius is greatly emaciated, indeed." Cephorus never married and died childless three years after the Siege of Solitude. As the only surviving sibling, Pelagius' father Magnus left the throne of Wayrest and took residence at the Imperial City as the Emperor Magnus I. Magnus was elderly and Pelagius was his oldest living child, so the attention of Tamriel focused on Sentinel. By this time, Pelagius' eccentricities were becoming infamous. There are many legends about his acts as King of Sentinel, but few well-documented cases exist. It is known that Pelagius locked the young princes and princesses of Silvenar in his room with him, only releasing them when an unsigned Declaration of War was slipped under the door. When he tore off his clothes during a speech he was giving at a local festival, his advisors apparently decided to watch him more carefully. On the orders of Magnus, Pelagius was married to the beautiful heiress of an ancient Dark Elf noble family, Katariah Ra'athim. Nordic kings who marry Dark Elves seldom improve their popularity. There are two reasons most scholars give for the union. Magnus was trying to cement relations with Ebonheart, where the Ra'athim clan hailed. Ebonheart's neighbor, Mournhold, had been a historical ally of the Empire since the very beginning, and the royal consort of Queen Barenziah had won many battles in the War of the Red Diamond. Ebonheart had a poorly-kept secret of aiding Uriel III and Potema. The other reason for the marriage was more personal: Katariah was as shrewd a diplomat as she was beautiful. If any creature was capable of hiding Pelagius' madness, it was she. On the 8th of Second Seed, 3E 145, Magnus I died quietly in his sleep. Jolethe, Pelagius' sister took over the throne of Solitude, and Pelagius and Katariah rode to the Imperial City to be crowned Emperor and Empress of Tamriel. It is said that Pelagius fainted when the crown was placed on his head, but Katariah held him up so only those closest to the thrones could see what had happened. Like so many Pelagius stories, this cannot be verified. Pelagius III never truly ruled Tamriel. Katariah and the Elder Council made all the decisions and only tried to keep Pelagius from embarrassing all. Still, stories of Pelagius III's reign exist. It was said that when the Argonian ambassador from Blackrose came to court, Pelagius insisted on speaking in all grunts and squeaks, as that was the Argonian's natural language. It is known that Pelagius was obsessed with cleanliness, and many guests reported waking to the noise of an early-morning scrubdown of the Imperial Palace. The legend of Pelagius while inspecting the servants' work, suddenly defecating on the floor to give them something to do, is probably apocryphal. When Pelagius began actually biting and attacking visitors to the Imperial Palace, it was decided to send him to a private asylum. Katariah was proclaimed regent two years after Pelagius took the throne. For the next six years, the Emperor stayed in a series of institutions and asylums. Traitors to the Empire have many lies to spread about this period. Whispered stories of hideous experiments and tortures performed on Pelagius have almost become accepted as fact. The noble lady Katariah became pregnant shortly after the Emperor was sent away, and rumors of infidelity and, even more absurd, conspiracies to keep the sane Emperor locked away, ran amok. As Katariah proved, her pregnancy came about after a visit to her husband's cell. With no other evidence, as loyal subjects, we are bound to accept the Empress' word on the matter. Her second child, who would reign for many years as Uriel IV, was the child of her union with her consort Lariate, and publicly acknowledged as such. On a warm night in Suns Dawn, in his 34th year, Pelagius III died after a brief fever in his cell at the Temple of Kynareth in the Isle of Betony. Katariah I reigned for another forty six years before passing the scepter onto the only child she had with Pelagius, Cassynder. Pelagius' wild behavior has made him perversely dear to the province of his birth and death. The 2nd of Suns Dawn, which may or may not be the anniversary of his death (records are not very clear) is celebrated as Mad Pelagius, the time when foolishness of all sorts is encouraged. And so, one of the least desirable Emperors in the history of the Septim Dynasty, has become one of the most famous ones.

191Book3ValuableMagicFromTheSky[pagebreak]

Magic from the Sky by Irlav Jarol

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he ancient Ayleids believed that Nirn was composed of four basic elements -- earth, water, air, and light -- and of these four elements, they believed the most sublime form of light was star light. The stars are our links to the plane of Aetherius, the source of all magical power, and therefore, light from the stars is the most potent and exalted of all magical powers. From time to time, fragments of Aetherius fall from the heavens. The people know these fragments as 'shooting stars', and from time to time, such Aetherial fragments are found on Nirn. The most common varieties are known as 'meteoric iron'; this metal is prized by armorers and enchanters for its properties in the forging of enchanted weapons and armors. This meteoric iron is also the primary component in 'Ayleid Wells,' ancient enchanted artifacts found throughout Cyrodiil. Another, rarer form of Aetherial fragment is called 'meteroic glass'. It is from such fragments that other rare Ayleid enchanted artifacts are crafted -- Welkynd Stones and Varla Stones. Ayleids Wells are scattered across Cyrodiil's landscape. Their siting is a mystery; they are not associated with any known Ayleid cities or settlements. It is presumed that, in some manner, they harvest magical power from starlight. It is also suggested, without evidence or support, that they are located at the meeting points of ancient lines of magical power; however, modern arcane arts have discovered no perceptible evidence of such lines of power. Those with magical talents can draw magicka from Ayleid wells to restore their own reservoirs of magical power. No ritual or arcane knowledge is necessary, suggesting that these wells were designed to serve persons not skilled in the magical arts. Once drained, the wells replenish again only at magical midnight. Once recharged, they appear to radiate magical power back into the sky, which prompts some to theorize they are also objects with religious or magical ritual significance -- perhaps a means of offering magic back to the heavens. Welkynd Stones [Aldmeris - "sky stone," "heaven stone"; literally, "sky child"] are pieces of cut and enchanted meteoric glass which apparently act as storage devices for magical power. A magical talent can restore his reseroirs of magicka from such stones. Alas, the means of restoring power to these stones may have been lost with the Ayleids. Currently, these objects simply crumble to dust after they have been used. Great Welkynd Stones are exceptionally large pieces of enchanted meteoric glass. Scholars believe that at the heart of each ancient Ayleid city, a Great Welkynd Stone was the source of the settlement's magical enchantments. It may be that these great stones were linked to the lesser stones, restoring and maintaining their power. In any case, research on these Great Welkynd Stones is impossible, since all the known Ayleid ruins have been looted of their great stones, and no examples of these great stones are known to survive. Another rare enchanted item found in Ayleid ruins is called a Varla Stone [Aldmeris - "star stone"]. Varla Stones are remarkably powerful, enabling untrained users to restore magical energy to any number of enchanted items. Because of their great value and utility, these items are also extremely rare, but since they are small and easily concealed, diligent explorers may still occasionally come across them in any Ayelid ruin. Ayleid Wells. Welkynd Stones. Varla Stones. Consider, then, these marvels of magical enchantment. Are we then to conclude that the Ayleids were a superior race and culture? Did they so exceed us in art and craft that they mock the feeble powers of Third Era Wizards? Never! The Ayleids were powerful, yes, and cunning, but they were neither good nor wise, and so they were struck down. Their works have passed from Nirn, save these rare and sparkling treasures. Their ancient cities are dark and empty, save for the grim revenants and restless spirits condemned forever to walk the halls, keeping their melancholy vigils over bones and dust.

192Book3ValuableOnOblivion[pagebreak]

On Oblivion by Morian Zenas

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t is improper, however customary, to refer to the denizens of the dimension of Oblivion as "demons." This practice probably dates to the Alessian Doctrines of the First Era prophet Marukh -- which, rather amusingly, forbade "trafficke with daimons" and then neglected to explain what daimons were. It is most probable that "daimon" is a misspelling or etymological rendition of "Daedra," the old Elven word for those strange, powerful creatures of uncertain motivation who hail from the dimension of Oblivion. ("Daedra" is actually the plural form; the singular is "Daedroth.") In a later tract by King Hale the Pious of Skyrim, almost a thousand years after the publication of the original Doctrines, the evil machinations of his political enemies are compared to "the wickedness of the demons of Oblivion... their depravity equals that of Sanguine itself, they are cruel as Boethiah, calculating as Molag Bal, and mad as Sheogorath." Hale the Pious thus long-windedly introduced four of the Daedra lords to written record. But the written record is not, after all, the best way to research Oblivion and the Daedra who inhabit it. Those who "trafficke with daimons" seldom wish it to be a matter of public account. Nevertheless, scattered throughout the literature of the First Era are diaries, journals, notices for witch burnings, and guides for Daedra-slayers. These I have used as my primary source material. They are at least as trustworthy as the Daedra lords I have actually summoned and spoken with at length. Apparently, Oblivion is a place composed of many lands -- thus the many names for which Oblivion is synonymous: Coldharbour, Quagmire, Moonshadow, etc. It may be correctly supposed that each land of Oblivion is ruled over by one prince. The Daedra princes whose names appear over and over in ancient records (though this is not an infallible test of their authenticity or explicit existence, to be sure) are the afore-mentioned Sanguine, Boethiah, Molag Bal, and Sheogorath, and in addition, Azura, Mephala, Clavicus Vile, Vaernima, Malacath, Hoermius (or Hermaeus or Hormaius or Herma -- there seems to be no one accepted spelling) Mora, Namira, Jyggalag, Nocturnal, Mehrunes Dagon, and Peryite. From my experience, Daedra are a very mixed lot. It is almost impossible to categorize them as a whole except for their immense power and penchant for extremism. Be that as it may, I have here attempted to do so in a few cases, purely for the sake of scholastic expediency. Mehrunes Dagon, Molag Bal, Peryite, Boethiah, and Vaernima are among the most consistently "demonic" of the Daedra, in the sense that their spheres seem to be destructive in nature. The other Daedra can, of course, be equally dangerous, but seldom purely for the sake of destruction as these five can. Nor are these previous five identical in their destructiveness. Mehrunes Dagon seems to prefer natural disasters -- earthquakes and volcanoes -- for venting his anger. Molag Bal elects the employment of other daedra, and Boethiah inspires the arms of mortal warriors. Peryite's sphere seems to be pestilence, and Vaernima's torture. In preparation for the next instalment in this series, I will be investigating two matters that have intrigued me since I began my career as a Daedra researcher. The first is on one particular Daedroth, perhaps yet another Daedra prince, referred to in multiple articles of incunabula as Hircine. Hircine has been called "the Huntsman of the Princes" and "the Father of Man-beasts," but I have yet to find anyone who can summon him. The other, and perhaps more doubtful, goal I have is to find a practical means for mortal men to pass through to Oblivion. It has always been my philosophy that we need only fear that which we do not understand -- and with that thought in mind, I ever pursue my objective.

193Book3ValuableOpusculusLamae[pagebreak]

Opusculus Lamae Bal ta Mezzamortie A brief account of Lamae Bal and the Restless Death Mabei Aywenil, Scribe Translation by University of Gwylim Press; 3E 105

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s brighter grows light, darker becomes shadow. So it passed that the Daedra Molag Bal looked on Arkay and thought the Aedra prideful of his dominion o'er the death of man and mer, and it was sooth. Bal, whose sphere is the wanton oppression and entrapment of mortal souls, sought to thwart Arkay, who knew that not man, nor mer, nor beastfolk of all Nirn could escape eventual death. The Aedra was doubtless of his sphere, and so Molag Bal set upon Nirn to best death. Tamriel was still young, and filled with danger and wondrous magick when Bal walked in the aspect of a man and took a virgin, Lamae Beolfag, from the Nedic Peoples. Savage and loveless, Bal profaned her body, and her screams became the Shrieking Winds, which still haunt certain winding fjords of Skyrim. Shedding a lone droplet of blood on her brow, Bal left Nirn, having sown his wrath. Violated and comatose, Lamae was found by nomads, and cared for. A fortnight hence, the nomad wyrd-woman enshrouded Lamae in pall for she had passed into death. In their way, the nomads built a bonfire to immolate the husk. That night, Lamae rose from her funeral pyre, and set upon the coven, still aflame. She ripped the throats of the women, ate the eyes of the children, and raped their men as cruelly as Bal had ravished her. And so; Lamae, (who is known to us as blood-matron) imprecated her foul aspect upon the folk of Tamriel, and begat a brood of countless abominations, from which came the vampires, most cunning of the night-horrors. And so was the scourge of undeath wrought upon Tamriel, cruelly mocking Arkay's rhythm of life and death through all the coming eras of the et'Ada, and for all his sadness, Arkay knew this could not be undone.

194Book3ValuablePallav2a[pagebreak]

Palla Book II by Vojne Mierstyyd

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alla. Pal La. The name burned in my heart. I found myself whispering it in my studies even when I tried to concentrate on something the Magister was saying. My lips would silently purse to voice the "Pal," and tongue lightly flick to form the "La" as if I were kissing her spirit before me. It was madness in every way except that I knew that it was madness. I knew I was in love. I knew she was a noble Redguard woman, a fierce warrior more beautiful than the stars. I knew her young daughter Betaniqi had taken possession of a manorhouse near the Guild, and that she liked me, perhaps was even infatuated. I knew Palla had fought a terrible beast and killed it. I knew Palla was dead. As I say, I knew it was madness, and by that, I knew I could not be mad. But I also knew that I must return to Betaniqi's palace to see her statue of my beloved Palla engaged in that final, horrible, fatal battle with the monster. Return I did, over and over again. Had Betaniqi been a different sort of noblewoman, more comfortable with her peers, I would not have had so many opportunities. In her innocence, unaware of my sick obsession, she welcomed my company. We would talk for hours, laughing, and every time we would take a walk to the reflecting pond where I would always stop breathless before the sculpture of her mother. "It's a marvelous tradition you have, preserving these figures of your ancestors at their finest moments," I said, feeling her curious eyes on me. "And the craftsmanship is without parallel." "You wouldn't believe me," laughed the girl. "But it was a bit of scandal when my great grandfather began the custom. We Redguards hold a great reverence for our families, but we are warriors, not artists. He hired an traveling artist to create the first statues, and everyone admired them until it was revealed that the artist was an elf. An Altmer from the Summurset Isle." "Scandal!" "It was, absolutely," Betaniqi nodded seriously. "The idea that a pompous, wicked elf's hands had formed these figures of noble Redguard warriors was unthinkable, profane, irreverent, everything bad you can imagine. But my great grandfather's heart was in the beauty of it, and his philosophy of using the best to honor the best passed down to us all. I would not have even considered having a lesser artist create the statues of my parents, even if it would have been more allegiant to my culture." "They're all exquisite," I said. "But you like the one of my mother most of all," she smiled. "I see you look at it even when you seem to be looking at the others. It's my favorite also." "Would you tell me more about her?" I asked, trying to keep my voice light and conversational. "Oh, she would have said she was nothing extraordinary, but she was," the girl said, picking a flower from the garden. "My father died when I was quite young, and she had so many roles to fill, but she did them all effortlessly. We have a great many business interests and she was brilliant at managing everything. Certainly better than I am now. All it took was her smile and everyone obeyed, and those that didn't paid dearly. She was very witty and charming, but a formidable force when the need arose for her to fight. Hundreds of battles, but I can never remember a moment of feeling neglected or unloved. I literally thought she was too strong for death. Stupid, I know, but when she went to battle that -- that horrible creature, that freak from a mad wizard's laboratory, I never even thought she would not return. She was kind to her friends and ruthless to her enemies. What more can one say about a woman than that?" Poor Betaniqi's eyes teared up with remembrance. What sort of villain was I to goad her so, in order to satisfy my perverted longings? Sheogorath could never have conflicted a mortal man more than me. I found myself both weeping and filled with desire. Palla not only looked like a goddess, but from her daughter's story, she was one. That night while undressing for bed, I rediscovered the black disc I had stolen from Magister Tendixus's office weeks before. I had half-forgotten about its existence, that mysterious necromantic artifact which the mage believed could resurrect a dead love. Almost by pure instinct, I found myself placing the disc on my heart and whispering, "Palla." A momentary chill filled my chamber. My breath hung in the air in a mist before dissipating. Frightened I dropped the disc. It took a moment before my reason returned, and with it the inescapable conclusion: the artifact could fulfill my desire. Until the early morning hours, I tried to raise my mistress from the chains of Oblivion, but it was no use. I was no necromancer. I entertained thoughts of how to ask one of the Magisters to help me, but I remembered how Magister Ilther had bid me to destroy it. They would expel me from the Guild if I went to them and destroy the disc themselves. And with it, my only key to bringing my love to me. I was in my usual semi-torpid condition the next day in classes. Magister Ilther himself was lecturing on his specialty, the School of Enchantment. He was a dull speaker with a monotone voice, but suddenly I felt as if every shadow had left the room and I was in a palace of light. "When most persons think of my particular science, they think of the process of invention. The infusing of charms and spells into objects. The creation of a magickal blade, perhaps, or a ring. But the skilled enchanter is also a catalyst. The same mind that can create something new can also provoke greater power from something old. A ring that can generate warmth for a novice, on the hand of such a talent can bake a forest black." The fat man chuckled: "Not that I'm advocating that. Leave that for the School of Destruction." That week all the initiates were asked to choose a field of specialization. All were surprised when I turned my back on my old darling, the School of Illusion. It seemed ridiculous to me that I had ever entertained an affection for such superficial charms. All my intellect was now focused on the School of Enchantment, the means by which I could free the power of the disc. For months thereafter, I barely slept. A few hours a week, I'd spend with Betaniqi and my statue to give myself strength and inspiration. All the rest of my time was spent with Magister Ilther or his assistants, learning everything I could about enchantment. They taught me how to taste the deepest levels of magicka within a stored object. "A simple spell cast once, no matter how skillfully and no matter how spectacularly, is ephemeral, of the present, what it is and no more," sighed Magister Ilther. "But placed in a home, it develops into an almost living energy, maturing and ripening so only its surface is touched when an unskilled hand wields it. You must consider yourself a miner, digging deeper to pull forth the very heart of gold." Every night when the laboratory closed, I practiced what I had learned. I could feel my power grow and with it, the power of the disc. Whispering "Palla," I delved into the artifact, feeling every slight nick that marked the runes and every facet of the gemstones. At times I was so close to her, I felt hands touching mine. But something dark and bestial, the reality of death I suppose, would always break across the dawning of my dream. With it came an overwhelming rotting odor, which the initiates in the chambers next to mine began to complain about. "Something must have crawled into the floorboards and died," I offered lamely. Magister Ilther praised my scholarship, and allowed me the use of his laboratory after hours to further my studies. Yet no matter what I learned, Palla seemed scarcely closer. One night, it all ended. I was swaying in a deep ecstasy, moaning her name, the disc bruising my chest, when a sudden lightning flash through the window broke my concentration. A tempest of furious rain roared over Mir Corrup. I went to close the shutters, and when I returned to my table, I found that the disc had shattered. I broke into hysterical sobs and then laughter. It was too much for my fragile mind to bear such a loss after so much time and study. The next day and the day after, I spent in my bed, burning with a fever. Had I not been a Mages Guild with so many healers, I likely would have died. As it was, I provided an excellent study for the budding young scholars. When at last I was well enough to walk, I went to visit Betaniqi. She was charming as always, never once commenting on my appearance, which must have been ghastly. Finally I gave her reason to worry when I politely but firmly declined to walk with her along the reflecting pool. "But you love looking at the statuary," she exclaimed. I felt that I owed her the truth and much more. "Dear lady, I love more than the statuary. I love your mother. She is all I've been able to think about for months now, ever since you and I first removed the tarp from that blessed sculpture. I don't know what you think of me now, but I have been obsessed with learning how to bring her back from the dead." Betaniqi stared at me, eyes wide. Finally she spoke: "I think you need to leave now. I don't know if this is a terrible jest --" "Believe me, I wish it were. You see, I failed. I don't know why. It could not have been that my love wasn't strong enough, because no man had a stronger love. Perhaps my skills as an enchanter are not masterful, but it wasn't from lack of study!" I could feel my voice rise and knew I was beginning to rant, but I could not hold back. "Perhaps the fault lay in that your mother never met me, but I think that only the caster's love is taken into account in the necromantic spell. I don't know what it was! Maybe that horrible creature, the monster that killed her, cast some sort of curse on her with its dying breath! I failed! And I don't know why!" With a surprising burst of speed and strength for so small a lady, Betaniqi shoved herself against me. She screamed, "Get out!" and I fled out the door. Before she slammed the door shut, I offered my pathetic apologies: "I'm so sorry, Betaniqi, but consider that I wanted to bring your mother back to you. It's madness, I know, but there is only one thing that's certain in my life and that's that I love Palla." The door was nearly shut, but the girl opened it crack to ask tremulously: "You love whom?" "Palla!" I cried to the Gods. "My mother," she whispered angrily. "Was named Xarlys. Palla was the monster." I stared at the closed door for Mara knows how much time, and then began the long walk back to the Mages Guild. My memory searched through the minutiae to the Tales and Tallows night so long ago when I first beheld the statue, and first heard the name of my love. That Breton initiate, Gelyn had spoken. He was behind me. Was he recognizing the beast and not the lady? I turned the lonely bend that intersected with the outskirts of Mir Corrup, and a large shadow rose from the ground where it had been sitting, waiting for me. "Palla," I groaned. "Pal La." "Kiss me," it howled. And that brings my story up to the present moment. Love is red, like blood.

195Book3ValuablePhysicalitiesOfWerewolves[pagebreak]

Experimentation in the Physicalities of the Werewolf by Reman Crex

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ar too many books such as this one begin with some sort of justification. Some reason for study is concocted, in the hopes that the writer's obsession will be seen in a more noble light. I make no such pretensions. No werewolf killed my family, none ever threatened me personally, nor even an acquaintance of mine. My obsession is borne out of simple curiosity, with a strong dose of hatred for the unnatural. Is it possible to hate something without having been done harm by it? I am no philosopher, and thus here ends my introduction. On with my studies. I have endeavored, over the course of several decades, to perform a complete study of the physical nature of the creatures we call werewolves. I overlook entirely the origins of this plague, whether it is acquired voluntarily or inflicted, and how one might be cured. Such matters are filled with too much guesswork and rambling second-hand inanities from farmhands. [pagebreak] Subject A Captured: in Morrowind, while in beast form Makeup: Male, Breton in his true form Notes: Subject shows an unusually high degree of control over his transformations. Experiment 1 -- Subject's bodily proportions were thoroughly measured before, during, and after the transformation. As expected, the proportions were identical while in true form, but some minor swelling of the head was observed immediately after the return. Changes observed during transformation: 23% increase in shoulder width 17% narrowing of hips 47% lengthening of arms 7% increase in finger length (not accounting for claws) As for the legs -- the lengthening of the foot to several times its normal length seems to account for the otherwise negligible changes in the thigh region. Experiment 2 -- Subject was coerced into changing as rapidly and as frequently as possible, at various times and at various levels of duress. Transformation times and effects were not viewed to change notably. Subject expired, concluding tests. [pagebreak] Subject B Captured: in Cyrodiil, already imprisoned by local authorities, in true form Makeup: Female, Nord in her true form Notes: Subject's large size in both true and transformed forms makes an excellent fit for vivisection I believe I may have been the first to witness a werewolf transformation ply its effects on the internal workings of a creature. The heart is the first thing to swell, long before the lungs or bones shift to accommodate it. This may account for the intense chest pains that some of the afflicted report directly before their changes. More interesting were the changes observed in the muscles of the legs. I had expected a strengthening, as the beasts are known for great power and speed, but they also seemed to change color into a dusky brown. This could also be attributed to blood loss from the procedures. Before the subject expired, I worked applying some known "remedies" for the disease directly to internal organs. Wolfsbane petals applied to the bones seemed to render them brittle, and the ribcage nearly collapsed at the touch. The juice of ripened belladonna berries was pressed directly into the veins, and they could be seen to shrivel behind the flow as it moved through the system. Upon reaching the heart, the major vessels pulled away completely, and subject expired within minutes.

196Book3ValuablePrincessTalaraV5[pagebreak]

The Mystery of Princess Talara Part V by Mera Llykith

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y what right do you arrest my father?" cried the Lady Jyllia. "What has he done?" "I arrest the King of Camlorn, the former Duke of Oloine, by my right as an Imperial Commanding Officer and Ambassador," said Lord Strale. "By the right of law of the Emperor of Tamriel which supercedes all provincial royal authority." Gyna came forward and tried to put her hand on Jyllia's arm, but she was coldly rebuffed. Quietly, she sat down at the foot of the throne in the now empty audience chamber. "This young lady came to me, having completely recovered her memory, but the story she told was beyond incredible, I simply couldn't believe it," said Lord Strale. "But she was so convinced of it, I had to investigate. So I talked to everyone who was here at the palace twenty years ago to see if there could be any truth to it. Of course, at the time of the King and Queen's murder, and the Princess's disappearance, there was a full inquiry made, but I had different questions to ask this time. Questions about the relationship between the two little cousins, Lady Jyllia Raze and the Princess." "I've told everyone over and over again, I don't remember anything at all about that time in my life," said Jyllia, tears welling up. "I know you don't. There has never been a question in my mind that you witnessed a horrible murder, and that your memory lapse and hers," said Lord Strale, gesturing toward Gyna "Are both very real. The story I heard from the servants and other people at the palace was that the little girls were inseparably close. There were no other playmates, and as the Princess's place was to be close to her parents, so the little Lady Jyllia was always there as well. When the assassin came to murder the Royal Family, the King and Queen were in their bedroom, and the girls were playing in the throne room." "When my memory came back to me, it was like opening a sealed box," said Gyna solemnly. "Everything was so clear and detailed, like it all happened yesterday not twenty years ago. I was on the throne, playing Empress, and you were hiding behind the dais, pretending you were in a dungeon I had sent you to. A man I had never seen burst into the room from the Royal bedchamber, his blade soaked in blood. He came at me, and I ran for my life. I remember starting to run for the dais, but I saw your face, frozen in fear, and I didn't want to lead him to you. So I ran for the window. "We had climbed on the outside of the castle before, just for fun, that was one of the first memories that came back to me when I was holding onto that cliff. You and I on the castle wall, and the King calling up to me, telling me how to get down. But that day, I couldn't hold on, I was trembling so much. I just fell, and landed in the river. "I don't know if it was entirely the horror of what I had seen, or that combined with the impact of the fall and the coldness of the water, but everything just went blank in my mind. When I finally pulled myself out of the river, many miles away, I had no idea who I was. And so it stayed," Gyna smiled. "Until now." "So you are the Princess Talara?" cried Jyllia. "Let me explain further before she answers that, because the simple answer would just confuse you, as it did me," said Lord Strale. "The assassin was caught before he managed to escape the palace - in truth, he had to know he was going to be caught. He confessed immediately to the murders of the Royal Family. The Princess, he said, he had thrown out the window to her death. A servant down below heard the scream, and saw something fly past his window, so he knew it to be true. "It was not for several hours that little Lady Jyllia was found by her nursemaid Ramke hiding behind the dais, coated with dust, shivering with fear, and unable to speak at all. Ramke was very protective of you," Strale said, nodding to Jyllia. "She insisted on putting you to your room right away, and sent word the Duke of Oloine that the Royal Family was dead, and that his daughter had witnessed the murders but survived." "I'm beginning to remember a little of that," said Jyllia, wonderingly. "I remember lying in bed, with Ramke comforting me. I was so muddled and I couldn't concentrate. I remember I just wanted it all to be play time still, I don't know why. And then, I remember being bundled up and taken to that asylum." "It'll all come back to you soon," Gyna smiled. "I promise. That's how I began to remember. I just caught one detail, and the whole flood began." "That's it," Jyllia began to sob in frustration. "I don't remember anything else except confusion. No, I also remember Daddy not even looking at me as I was taken away. And I remember not caring about that, or anything else." "It was a confusing time for all, so particularly so for little girls. Especially little girls who went through what you two did," said Lord Strale sympathetically. "From what I understand, as soon as he received the message from Ramke, the Duke left his palace at Oloine, gave orders for you to be sent to a private sanitarium until you'd recovered from your ordeal, and set to work with his private guard torturing the assassin for information. When I heard that, that no one but the Duke and his personal guard saw the assassin after he gave his initial confession, and that no one was present but the Duke and his guards when the assassin was killed trying to escape, I thought that very significant. "I spoke with Lord Eryl, who I knew was one of those present, and I had to bluff him, pretending I had more evidence than I did. I got the reaction I was hoping for, though it was a dangerous gambit. At last he confessed to what I already knew to be true. "The assassin," Lord Strale paused, and reluctantly met Jyllia's eyes, "Had been hired by the Duke of Oloine to kill the Royal Family, including the Princess as heir, so that the crown might be passed to him and to his children." Jyllia stared at Lord Strale, aghast. "My father -" "The assassin had been told that once the Duke had him in custody, he would be paid and a prison break would be arranged. The thug picked the wrong time to be greedy and try to get more gold. The Duke decided that it would be cheaper to silence him, so he murdered him then and there, so the man would never tell anyone what really happened," Lord Strale shrugged. "No tragic loss as far as murders go. In a few years' time, you returned from the sanitarium, a little shaken but back to normal, except for a complete absence of memory about your childhood. And in that time, the former Duke of Oloine had taken his brother's place as the King of Camlorn. It was no small maneuver." "No," said Jyllia, quietly. "He must have been very busy. He remarried and had another child. No one ever came to visit me in the sanitarium but Ramke." "If he had visited and seen you," said Gyna. "This story might have turned out very differently." "What do you mean?" asked Jyllia. "This is the most amazing part," said Lord Strale. "The question has long been whether Gyna is the Princess Talara. When her memory returned, and she told me what she remembered, I put several pieces of evidence together. Consider these facts. "The two of you look remarkably alike now after twenty years of living very different lives, and as little girls and constant playmates, you looked nearly identical. "At the time of the assassination, the murderer who had never been there before, only saw one girl on the throne, who he assumed to be his quarry. "The woman who found Lady Jyllia was her nursemaid Ramke, a creature of unstable mind and fanatical devotion to her charge - the type would never accept the possibility that her beloved little girl had been the one who disappeared. The nursemaid was the only single person who knew both Princess Talara and the Lady Jyllia who visited you while you were in the sanitarium. "Finally," said Lord Strale, "Consider the fact that when you returned to court from the sanitarium, five years had past, and you had grown from a child to a young lady. You looked familiar, but not quite the same as your family remembered you, which is only natural." "I don't understand," cried the poor girl, her eyes wide, because she did understand. Here memory was falling together like a terrible flood. "Let me explain it like this," said her cousin, wrapping her in her arms. "I know who I am now. My real name is Jyllia Raze. That man who was arrested was my father, the man who murdered the King - your father. YOU are the Princess Talara."

197Book3ValuableSaarthalNotes[pagebreak]

The Fall of Saarthal by Heseph Chirirnis, Mages Guild Scholar Assigned to Imperial Archaeologist Sentius Floronius

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et it be known that the esteemed archaeologist has chosen to focus his boundless talents on the cooking and baking habits of early First Era Nords. While this work will no doubt bring great glory and benefit to the Empire, it is clear that my limited expertise is of no use to this effort. I have instead been using my considerable free time to investigate a particular avenue of study, namely that of the Fall of Saarthal. Every child of the Empire knows what happened here; that the first city of Man on Tamriel was sacked by the elves, jealous and fearful of the threat men posed to them. Relations have obviously improved considerably since then, but to be able to see the results of the destruction first-hand, it is quite striking to note the degree of effort that went into the venture. The first task before me was differentiating between areas of original architecture and those that were rebuilt after Ysgramor retook the city with his five hundred companions. Initially relying heavily on the expertise of archaeologist Floronius, my ability to discern the difference for myself improved over time. Indeed, I was surprised to find that many areas of the city, far more than I would have believed, retained much of the original stonework. Work was clearly done to remedy the effects of the city being burned after the elves' assault, but I suspect they underestimated the durability of Nordic craftsmanship. Or rather, that is what I initially thought. Perhaps it was a mistaken sense of pride in the accomplishments of these early men, or perhaps it was just my inexperience that led me to this conclusion. Something was amiss, though. Repeated attempts to consult the exceedingly perceptive archaeologist were unfruitful, often digressing into lectures on the bathing habits of Saarthal residents, or the average number of potted plants in homes. I was again forced to rely on my limited powers of observation and deduction. And so I have no conclusive results to report at this time. I can say with certainty that the initial attack on Saarthal seems to have been very focused, and does not appear to correlate to any locations that have been established as points of defense or importance. While the eminent scholar Sentius has yet to examine my findings, or indeed show any interest in them, my inclination is to suggest that not only did the elves know the apparent layout of the city, but that their assault was based on a specific directive and perhaps a singular goal. My humble investigations shall continue as time permits.

198Book3ValuableShezarr[pagebreak]

Shezarr and the Divines by Faustillus Junius Subcurator of Ancient Theology and Paleonumerology Imperial Library

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he position Shezarr enjoys in Cyrodilic worship if often misconstrued. He, and a thousand other deities, have sizeable cults in the Imperial City. Shezarr is especially venerated in the Colovian West, though he is called Shor there, as the West Kings are resolutely, and religiously, Nordic. The haziness of Shezarr's relationship to the Divines (he is often called their 'Missing Sibling') begins with St. Alessia, the so-called 'Slave Queen of Cyrodiil, the founder figure of the original Cyrodilic Empire. In the earliest Cyro-Nordic stories of the Heartland, Shezarr fought against the Ayleids (the 'Heartland Highelves') on mankind's behalf. Then, for some unknown reason, he vanishes from the stage (presumably to help other humans elsewhere), and, without his leadership, the Ayleids conquer the humans and enslave them. This slavery lasts for generations. The isolated humans eventually begin to venerate the pantheon of their masters, or at least assimilate so much of High Elven religious practices into their native traditions that the two become indistinguishable. In 1E242, under the leadership of Alessia, her demigod lover, Morihaus-Breath-of-Kyne, and the infamous Pelinal Whitestrake, the Cyrodilic humans revolt. When Skyrim lends its armies to the Slave-Queen of the South, the revolution succeeds. The Ayleid Hegemonies are quickly overthrown. Shortly thereafter, White Gold Tower is captured by Alessia's forces, and she promptly declares herself the first Empress of Cyrodiil. Part of the package meant that she had to become the High Priestess of Akatosh, as well. Akatosh was an Aldmeri god, and Alessia's subjects were as-yet unwilling to renounce their worship of the Elven pantheon. She found herself in a very sensitive political situation. She needed to keep the Nords as her allies, but they were (at that time) fiercely opposed to any adoration of Elven deities. On the other hand, she could not force her subjects to revert back to the Nordic pantheon, for fear of another revolution. Therefore, concessions were made and Empress Alessia instituted a new religion: the Eight Divines, an elegant, well-researched synthesis of both pantheons, Nordic and Aldmeri. Shezarr, as a result, had to change. He could no longer be the bloodthirsty anti-Aldmer warlord of old. He could not disappear altogether either, or the Nords would have withdrawn their support of her rule. In the end, he had become "the spirit behind all human undertaking." Even though this was merely a thinly-disguised, watered-down version of Shor, it was good enough for the Nords. As for why Tiber Septim has not attempted to 'revitalize' Shezarr during his wars against the Aldmeri Dominion, we can only speculate that, at this time, memories of the Alessian Order's follies (the Dragon Break, the War of Righteousness, the defeat at Gelnumbria Moors) would only damage his campaign for the Imperial Crown.

199Book3ValuableSkyrimRuleOutsiderView[pagebreak]

Skyrim's Rule: An Outsider's View by Abdul-Mujib Ababneh

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n my travels, and they have been many, I have encountered many strange peoples and cultures, in many different provinces of the Empire. And in each, I have found a method of governing and customs of leadership unique to that particular province. In Black Marsh, for example, the Argonian King relies upon his Shadowscale Assassins to eliminate threats secretly, without the common knowledge of his people. In the Imperial Province of Cyrodiil, the Emperor may rule directly, but the power granted to his Elder Council cannot be understated. During a recent journey to Skyrim, that harsh, frozen realm of the Nords, I was able for the first time to witness the unique manner of rule of this strong, proud people. It would appear that the entire province of Skyrim is separated into territories known as "holds," and each hold finds its seat of power in one of the great, ancient cities. And in each of those cities, there rules that hold's king, known as a Jarl. The Jarls of Skyrim are, as a whole, a fierce sight indeed. Sitting on their thrones, ready to administer justice, or send their forces out to quell some local threat, be it a pack of feral wolves or a terrifying giant that has wandered too close to a settlement. In observing these Jarls, I found each to of course have his or her own unique personality and leadership style. But what I perhaps did not expect - especially considering the Nord leaders' unfair reputation as barbarians or uncivilized chieftains - was the formal structure of each Jarl's court. For while that hold's leader may be the one to sit on the throne, there is also a collection of functionaries who serve very specific and important roles. The court wizard counsels the Jarl in all matters magical, and may even sell services or spells to the keep's visitors. The Steward is the Jarl's primary advisor, and generally takes care of the more mundane aspects of running the keep, the city, or even the hold, depending on the situation. And woe is the fool who defies the Housecarl - a personal bodyguard who rarely leaves the Jarl's side, and has pledged to sacrifice his or her own life to save that of their honored leader, if ever the need should arrive. But as mighty and influential as each individual Jarl is, Skyrim's true power comes from the strength of its High King. The High King is ruler above all, and is always one of the Jarls, selected by a body called the "Moot" - a specially convened council of all the Jarls, who meet with the express purpose of choosing Skyrim's High King. Or so it is, in theory. The reality, however, is that the High King swears fealty to the Emperor, and as Solitude is the city most directly influenced by Imperial culture and politics, the Jarl of Solitude has served as High King for generations. The Moot, therefore, is more formality and theater than anything else. But as I prepared to leave Skyrim, I could feel a change in the air, sense the trepidation of some of the good Nord people. Many seemed unhappy with the Empire's continued presence in their land. And the outlawing of the worship of Talos as the Ninth Divine - a stipulation of the White-Gold Concordat, the peace treaty between the Empire and Aldmeri Dominion - has only strengthened that division. So while the Jarls of Skyrim still control their holds, and those Jarls are ruled over by their Imperial-sanctioned High King, will there come a day when the Moot convenes to select a new High King - one that is not, as many would say, the Emperor's "Solitude puppet"? If that day comes, I will be thankful to be far away from Skyrim, in my own home of Hammerfell. For such a decision could well mean civil war, and I fear that such a conflict would tear the fierce and beautiful Nord people asunder.

200Book3ValuableSnowPrince[pagebreak]

Fall of the Snow Prince

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An account of the Battle of the Moesring as transcribed by Lokheim, chronicler to the chieftain Ingjaldr White-Eye rom whence he came we did not know, but into the battle he rode, on a brilliant steed of pallid white. Elf we called him, for Elf he was, yet unlike any other of his kind we had ever seen before that day. His spear and armor bore the radiant and terrible glow of unknown magicka, and so adorned this unknown rider seemed more wight than warrior. What troubled, nay, frightened us most at that moment was the call that rose from the Elven ranks. It was not fear, not wonder, but an unabashed and unbridled joy, the kind of felicity felt by a damned man who has been granted a second chance at life. For at that time the Elves were as damned and near death as ever they had been during the great skirmishes of Solstheim. The Battle of the Moesring was to be the final stand between Nord and Elf on our fair island. Led by Ysgramor, we had driven the Elven scourge from Skyrim, and were intent on cleansing Solstheim of their kind as well. Our warriors, armed with the finest axes and swords Nord craftsmen could forge, cut great swaths through the enemy ranks. The slopes of the Moesring ran red with Elf blood. Why, then, would our foe rejoice? Could one rider bring such hope to an army so hopeless? To most of our kind, the meaning of the call was clear, but the words were but a litany of Elven chants and cries. There were some among us, however, the scholars and chroniclers, who knew well the words and shuddered at their significance. "The Snow Prince is come! Doom is at hand!" There was then a great calm that overcame the Elves that still stood. Through their mass the Snow Prince did ride, and as a longboat slices the icy waters of the Fjalding he parted the ranks of his kin. The magnificent white horse slowed to a gallop, then a trot, and the unknown Elf rider moved to the front of the line at a slow, almost ghostlike pace. A Nord warrior sees much in a life of bloodshed and battle, and is rarely surprised by anything armed combat may bring. But few among us that day could have imagined the awe and uncertainty of a raging battlefield that all at once went motionless and silent. Such is the effect the Snow Prince had on us all. For when the joyous cries of the Elves had ended, there remained a quiet known only in the solitude of slumber. It was then our combined host, Elf and Nord alike, were joined in a terrible understanding -- victory or defeat mattered little that day on the slopes of the Moesring Mountains. The one truth we all shared was that death would come to many that day, victor and vanquished alike. The glorious Snow Prince, an Elf unlike any other, did come that day to bring death to our kind. And death he so brought. Like a sudden, violent snow squall that rends travelers blind and threatens to tear loose the very foundations of the sturdiest hall, the Snow Prince did sweep into our numbers. Indeed the ice and snow did begin to swirl and churn about the Elf, as if called upon to serve his bidding. The spinning of that gleaming spear whistled a dirge to all those who would stand in the way of the Snow Prince, and our mightiest fell before him that day. Ulfgi Anvil-Hand, Strom the White, Freida Oaken-Wand, Heimdall the Frenzied. All lay dead at the foot of the Moesring Mountains. For the first time that day it seemed the tide of battle had actually turned. The Elves, spurred on by the deeds of the Snow Prince, rallied together for one last charge against our ranks. It was then, in a single instant, that the Battle of the Moesring came to a sudden and unexpected end. Finna, daughter of Jofrior, a lass of only twelve years and squire to her mother, watched as the Snow Prince cut down her only parent. In her rage and sorrow, Finna picked up Jofrior's sword and threw it savagely at her mother's killer. When the Elf's gleaming spear stopped its deadly dance, the battlefield fell silent, and all eyes turned to the Snow Prince. No one that day was more surprised than the Elf himself at the sight that greeted them all. For upon his great steed the Snow Prince still sat, the sword of Jofrior buried deeply in his breast. And then, he fell, from his horse, from the battle, from life. The Snow Prince lay dead, slain by a child. With their savior defeated, the spirit of the remaining Elven warriors soon shattered. Many fled, and those that remained on the battlefield were soon cut down by our broad Nord axes. When the day was done, all that remained was the carnage of the battlefield. And from that battlefield came a dim reminder of valor and skill, for the brilliant armor and spear of the Snow Prince still shined. Even in death, this mighty and unknown Elf filled us with awe. It is common practice to burn the corpses of our fallen foes. This is as much a necessity as it is custom, for death brings with it disease and dread. Our chieftains wished to cleanse Solstheim of the Elven horde, in death as well as life. It was decided, however, that such was not to be the fate of the Snow Prince. One so mighty in war yet so loved by his kin deserved better. Even in death, even if an enemy of our people. And so we brought the body of the Snow Prince, wrapped in fine silks, to a freshly dug barrow. The gleaming armor and spear were presented on a pedestal of honor, and the tomb was arrayed with treasures worthy of royalty. All of the mighty chieftains agreed with this course, that the Elf should be so honored. His body would be preserved in the barrow for as long as the earth chose, but would not be offered the protection of our Stalhrim, which was reserved for Nord dead alone. So ends this account of the Battle of the Moesring, and the fall of the magnificent Elven Snow Prince. May our gods honor him in death, and may we never meet his kind again in life.

201Book3ValuableSongsOfSkyrim[pagebreak]

Songs Of Skyrim Compiled by Giraud Gemaine Historian of the Bards College Solitude

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agnar the Red is a traditional song of Whiterun. Despite the grim final image the song is generally regarded as light and rollicking and a favorite in inns across Skyrim.

Ragnar The Red There once was a hero named Ragnar the Red, who came riding to Whiterun from ole Rorikstead! And the braggart did swagger and brandish his blade, as he told of bold battles and gold he had made! But then he went quiet, did Ragnar the Red, when he met the shieldmaiden Matilda who said... Oh, you talk and you lie and you drink all our mead! Now I think it's high time that you lie down and bleed! And so then came the clashing and slashing of steel, as the brave lass Matilda charged in full of zeal! And the braggart named Ragnar was boastful no moooooree... when his ugly red head rolled around on the floor!

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The Dragonborn Comes has been handed down from generation to generation of bards. The Dragonborn in Nord culture is the archetype of what a Nord should be. The song itself has been used to rally soldiers and to bring hope.

The Dragonborn Comes Our hero, our hero, claims a warrior's heart. I tell you, I tell you, the Dragonborn comes. With a Voice wielding power of the ancient Nord art. Believe, believe, the Dragonborn comes. It's an end to the evil, of all Skyrim's foes. Beware, beware, the Dragonborn comes. For the darkness has passed, and the legend yet grows. You'll know, You'll know the Dragonborn's come.

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The Age of Oppression and The Age of Aggression are variants of one song. It isn't known which of the two was written first but the tune, with loyalty appropriate lyrics, is quite popular on both sides of the war.

The Age of Oppression We drink to our youth, and to days come and gone. For the age of oppression is now nearly done. We'll drive out the Empire from this land that we own. With our blood and our steel we will take back our home. All hail to Ulfric! You are the High King! In your great honor we drink and we sing. We're the children of Skyrim, and we fight all our lives. And when Sovngarde beckons, every one of us dies! But this land is ours and we'll see it wiped clean. Of the scourge that has sullied our hopes and our dreams. The Age of Aggression We drink to our youth, to days come and gone. For the age of aggression is just about done. We'll drive out the Stormcloaks and restore what we own. With our blood and our steel we'll take back our home. Down with Ulfric the killer of kings. On the day of your death we'll drink and we'll sing. We're the children of Skyrim, and we fight all our lives. And when Sovngarde beckons, every one of us dies! But this land is ours and we'll see it wiped clean. Of the scourge that has sullied our hopes and our dreams.

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The following is an ancient song we've only recently been able to translate. Without a tune or a sure pronunciation the song is lost to time. It's included here to show the deep history of song here in Skyrim. The original version...

Dovahkiin, Dovahkiin, naal ok zin los vahriin, wah dein vokul mahfaeraak ahst vaal! Ahrk fin norok paal graan fod nust hon zindro zaan, Dovahkiin, fah hin kogaan mu draal! Huzrah nu, kul do od, wah aan bok lingrah vod, Aahrk fin tey, boziik fun, do fin gein! Wo lost fron wah ney dov, ahrk fin reyliik do jul, voth aan suleyk wah ronit faal krein! Ahrk fin zul, rok drey kod, nau tol morokei frod, rul lot Taazokaan motaad voth kein! Sahrot Thu'um, med aan tuz, vey zeim hokoron pah, ol fin Dovahkiin komeyt ok rein! Ahrk fin Kel lost prodah, do ved viing ko fin krah, tol fod zeymah win kein meyz fundein! Alduin, feyn do jun, kruziik vokun staadnau, voth aan bahlok wah diivon fin lein! Nuz aan sul, fent alok, fod fin vul dovah nok, fen kos nahlot mahfaeraak ahrk ruz! Paaz Keizaal fen kos stin nol bein Alduin jot, Dovahkiin kos fin saviik do muz!

And the translation...

Dragonborn, Dragonborn, by his honor is sworn, To keep evil forever at bay! And the fiercest foes rout when they hear triumph's shout, Dragonborn, for your blessing we pray! Hearken now, sons of snow, to an age, long ago, and the tale, boldly told, of the one! Who was kin to both wyrm, and the races of man, with a power to rival the sun! And the Voice, he did wield, on that glorious field, when great Tamriel shuddered with war! Mighty Thu'um, like a blade, cut through enemies all, as the Dragonborn issued his roar! And the Scrolls have foretold, of black wings in the cold, that when brothers wage war come unfurled! Alduin, Bane of Kings, ancient shadow unbound, with a hunger to swallow the world! But a day, shall arise, when the dark dragon's lies, will be silenced forever and then! Fair Skyrim will be free from foul Alduin's maw, Dragonborn be the savior of men!

202Book3ValuableSongsOfSkyrimRevised[pagebreak]

Songs Of Skyrim Revised Edition Compiled by Giraud Gemaine Historian of the Bards College Solitude

[pagebreak]

agnar the Red is a traditional song of Whiterun. Despite the grim final image the song is generally regarded as light and rollicking and a favorite in inns across Skyrim.

Ragnar The Red There once was a hero named Ragnar the Red, who came riding to Whiterun from ole Rorikstead! And the braggart did swagger and brandish his blade, as he told of bold battles and gold he had made! But then he went quiet, did Ragnar the Red, when he met the shieldmaiden Matilda who said... Oh, you talk and you lie and you drink all our mead! Now I think it's high time that you lie down and bleed! And so then came the clashing and slashing of steel, as the brave lass Matilda charged in full of zeal! And the braggart named Ragnar was boastful no moooooree... when his ugly red head rolled around on the floor!

[pagebreak]

The Dragonborn Comes has been handed down from generation to generation of bards. The Dragonborn in Nord culture is the archetype of what a Nord should be. The song itself has been used to rally soldiers and to bring hope.

The Dragonborn Comes Our hero, our hero, claims a warrior's heart. I tell you, I tell you, the Dragonborn comes. With a Voice wielding power of the ancient Nord art. Believe, believe, the Dragonborn comes. It's an end to the evil, of all Skyrim's foes. Beware, beware, the Dragonborn comes. For the darkness has passed, and the legend yet grows. You'll know, You'll know the Dragonborn's come.

[pagebreak]

The Age of Oppression and The Age of Aggression are variants of one song. It isn't known which of the two was written first but the tune, with loyalty appropriate lyrics, is quite popular on both sides of the war.

The Age of Oppression We drink to our youth, and to days come and gone. For the age of oppression is now nearly done. We'll drive out the Empire from this land that we own. With our blood and our steel we will take back our home. All hail to Ulfric! You are the High King! In your great honor we drink and we sing. We're the children of Skyrim, and we fight all our lives. And when Sovngarde beckons, every one of us dies! But this land is ours and we'll see it wiped clean. Of the scourge that has sullied our hopes and our dreams. The Age of Aggression We drink to our youth, to days come and gone. For the age of aggression is just about done. We'll drive out the Stormcloaks and restore what we own. With our blood and our steel we'll take back our home. Down with Ulfric the killer of kings. On the day of your death we'll drink and we'll sing. We're the children of Skyrim, and we fight all our lives. And when Sovngarde beckons, every one of us dies! But this land is ours and we'll see it wiped clean. Of the scourge that has sullied our hopes and our dreams.

[pagebreak]

The following is an ancient song we've only recently been able to translate. Without a tune or a sure pronunciation the song is lost to time. It's included here to show the deep history of song here in Skyrim. The original version...

Dovahkiin, Dovahkiin, naal ok zin los vahriin, wah dein vokul mahfaeraak ahst vaal! Ahrk fin norok paal graan fod nust hon zindro zaan, Dovahkiin, fah hin kogaan mu draal! Huzrah nu, kul do od, wah aan bok lingrah vod, Aahrk fin tey, boziik fun, do fin gein! Wo lost fron wah ney dov, ahrk fin reyliik do jul, voth aan suleyk wah ronit faal krein! Ahrk fin zul, rok drey kod, nau tol morokei frod, rul lot Taazokaan motaad voth kein! Sahrot Thu'um, med aan tuz, vey zeim hokoron pah, ol fin Dovahkiin komeyt ok rein! Ahrk fin Kel lost prodah, do ved viing ko fin krah, tol fod zeymah win kein meyz fundein! Alduin, feyn do jun, kruziik vokun staadnau, voth aan bahlok wah diivon fin lein! Nuz aan sul, fent alok, fod fin vul dovah nok, fen kos nahlot mahfaeraak ahrk ruz! Paaz Keizaal fen kos stin nol bein Alduin jot, Dovahkiin kos fin saviik do muz!

And the translation...

Dragonborn, Dragonborn, by his honor is sworn, To keep evil forever at bay! And the fiercest foes rout when they hear triumph's shout, Dragonborn, for your blessing we pray! Hearken now, sons of snow, to an age, long ago, and the tale, boldly told, of the one! Who was kin to both wyrm, and the races of man, with a power to rival the sun! And the Voice, he did wield, on that glorious field, when great Tamriel shuddered with war! Mighty Thu'um, like a blade, cut through enemies all, as the Dragonborn issued his roar! And the Scrolls have foretold, of black wings in the cold, that when brothers wage war come unfurled! Alduin, Bane of Kings, ancient shadow unbound, with a hunger to swallow the world! But a day, shall arise, when the dark dragon's lies, will be silenced forever and then! Fair Skyrim will be free from foul Alduin's maw, Dragonborn be the savior of men!

[pagebreak]

Tale of the tongues is a newer song. One that has come in to favor since the Dragonborn put down Alduin. It actually describes the events of the first battle against the dragons.

Tale of the Tongues Alduin's wings, they did darken the sky. His roar fury's fire, and his scales sharpened scythes. Men ran and they cowered, and they fought and they died. They burned and they bled as they issued their cries. We need saviors to free us from Alduin's rage. Heroes on the field of this new war to wage. And if Alduin wins, man is gone from this world. Lost in the shadow of the black wings unfurled. But then came the Tongues on that terrible day. Steadfast as winter, they entered the fray. And all heard the music of Alduin's doom. The sweet song of Skyrim, sky-shattering Thu'um. And so the Tongues freed us from Alduin's rage. Gave the gift of the Voice, ushered in a new Age. If Alduin is eternal, then eternity's done. For his story is over and the dragons are... gone.

203Book3ValuableSovngardeReexamination[pagebreak]

Sovngarde: A Reexamination by Bereditte Jastal

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Speculation regarding Sovngarde, the Nordic Hall of Valor eath. It is something we all face. Or do we? Just ask the nearest Nord what he thinks of the end of life, and you'll likely be treated to a horrific story of blood, bone and viscera, of courageous deeds and heartbreaking sorrow. Carnage notwithstanding, there may be even more to death than the average Nord warrior realizes. New evidence suggests a life beyond the battlefield, where a valiant Nord may live forever, downing mead and engaging in contests of strength and skill. But in order to fully understand the possibility of a Nord's eternal life after death, one must first reexamine the legends surrounding that most wondrous of warrior's retreats - Sovngarde. According to the ancient writings and oral traditions of the Nords, going back as far as the Late Merethic Era, there exists a place so magnificent, so honored, that the entrance lies hidden from view. Sovngarde, it is called, built by the god Shor to honor those Nords who have proven their mettle in war. Within this "Hall of Valor" time as we know it has no meaning. The concepts of life and death are left on the doorstep, and those within exist in a sort of self-contained euphoria, free of pain, suffering and the worst malady a Nord could suffer - boredom. But just how well hidden the entrance to Sovngarde is has been a matter of much scholarly debate, and there are those who believe Shor's great hall is just a myth, for there are no actual accounts from Nords who have experienced the wonders of Sovngarde then returned to tell the tale. Not that this has stopped anyone from looking. Some Nords spend a lifetime searching for the mysterious hidden entrance to Sovngarde. Most return home sad and broken, their hearts heavy with failure. They'll never know the pleasure of a mead flagon that never empties, or a wrestling tournament without end. What, some may ask, does the entrance to Sovngarde have to do with death? Everything, according to a series of ancient parchments recently discovered in the attic of a deceased Nord's home in Cyrodiil. What at first seemed to be a series of love letters was later found to be a correspondence between one Felga Four-Fingers, a medium of some note, and the ghost of a Nord warrior named Rolf the Large. According to the parchments, Rolf had spent his entire life searching for the entrance to Sovngarde, without success. He was returning home to his village of Skyrim when he was waylaid by a band of giants. Rolf fought bravely, but was quickly killed, and the giants proceeded to play catch with his head. Amazingly, all of this was seen by Rolf in ghostly form as he drifted away from the scene, soaring upwards into the heavens, where he finally arrived... in the magnificent hall of Sovngarde! Rolf could not believe his good fortune, and his foolishness for not having realized the truth so many years before. For death was the entrance to Sovngarde. So he was told by Shor himself, who greeted Rolf the Large as a brother, and personally handed him a leg of roast mutton and the hand of a comely wench. Sovngarde, Shor told him, can be entered by any Nord who dies valiantly in honorable combat. It is time for Nords to learn the truth. Eternal life can be theirs, without the need to spend an entire mortal life in vain pursuit of something completely unattainable. In the end, all valiant Nords can enter Sovngarde. Dismemberment, decapitation or evisceration seems a small price to pay for the chance to spend an eternity in Shor's wondrous hall.

204Book3ValuableSteppingLightly[pagebreak]

On Stepping Lightly: The Nordic Ruins of Skyrim by Sigilis Justus

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otting the landscape of Skyrim, the ancient Nordic Ruins are a testament to the ingenuity of the Nordic people of the past. When constructing the final resting places of their noble class, these supposedly "barbaric" people proved quite the opposite; developing some of the most sophisticated and clever defenses ever encountered. Coupled with the presence of the fearsome draugr, these tombs have become quite a challenge for the would-be treasure hunter. The most often-overlooked obstacles are the abundance of traps spread throughout the tombs. Ranging from simple tripwire-activated rock falls to complex pressure plate-triggered dart traps, the Nords utilize these devices abundantly. Most of the traps can be avoided by simply looking for the trigger mechanism and avoiding them. Since they are most often placed in areas where distractions abound, remember to keep your eyes to the floor. One of the keys to survival in a Nordic Ruin is through the clever use of these traps to gain an upper hand against its denizens. In many cases, it's trivial to lure them across the triggering mechanism in hopes that they'll fall victim to the trap's effect. This advantage can come heavily into play when encountering an oil trap. Using a ranged attack, lure your victim onto the oil and then loose an arrow at the fire pot hanging above. The moment the fire pot shatters, the entire pool of oil will ignite and engulf the enemy. Just be certain that you're standing clear of the oil yourself, or else this trick could end your expedition in an untimely manner. Perhaps one of the most amazing engineering marvels of all to be found in the ruins has little to do with the traps designed to kill. Utilizing all manner of pull chains, levers, switches and pressure plates, some of the most frustrating obstacles can occur in the form of puzzles that could threaten to block your progress. Watch for the telltale signs of these barriers: groups of levers in a single place, rotating pillars with carvings on all faces and even large arrays of pressure plates covering the floor of a room. In most cases, the puzzle might take experimentation, in others the solution could actually be present elsewhere in the complex. It's recommended to keep a writing implement and a journal handy in the latter case. Although Nordic Ruins are commonly infested with vermin such as skeever and spiders, these creatures pale in comparison to the mighty draugr. These horrific, animated dead beings are commonly found as guardians in most of the tombs and will defend them mercilessly. Since the draugr tends to lay dormant until someone happens upon their resting place, it's advisable to keep an eye on any niches or sarcophaguses that you encounter. These undead beings animate rather rapidly and silently, so always watch your back - any remains you may have passed could suddenly animate and set upon you without warning. The perils of the Nordic Ruin are not without reward. The burial chambers in some of the larger complexes have been known to contain all manners of riches, from gold coins to even the occasional enchanted weapon or armor. Never dismiss the small ceremonial urns that dot the ruins, they are commonly filled with ancient offerings of great value. There are rumors that most, if not all of these ruins contain large walls with magical inscriptions upon them, but these have yet to be confirmed. While this might seem like comprehensive guide to the ruins, there are certain to be dangers lurking within that remain undiscovered. Just be sure to always enter these tombs with plenty of equipment and a good, solid weapon by your side. With a bit of patience, a keen eye and a light step, the Nordic Ruin can bring you great wealth - do without these simple safety measures and you risk becoming a permanent resident like many before you.

205Book3ValuableTaleOfDroZira[pagebreak]

The Tale of Dro'Zira Transcription and Commentary by Sonia Vette

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The following is a tale overheard, as told by a Khajiit father to his cub, while making camp with one of their caravans. I have attempted to transcribe it as he told it, for the Khajiit do not often speak of their history to outsiders. In truth I do not believe he would have spoken at all, but for the vast helping of Moonsugar he had consumed that night. [pagebreak] ome and warm your fur by the fire, Ma'rashirr, and I will tell you of how our Dro'Zira came to be the greatest of all Kahjiit! (ed: Dro'Zira I took in this case to be an honored ancestor) The ancient Khajiit heard the great roar of Alkosh the Great Cat King of Time (ed: known as Akatosh in the empire, and Alduin in Skyrim) and raced to his Voice. In three days' time they crossed the whole of Tamriel, resting not even for the moonsugar, for such was the speed of Khajiiti then. They joined with the pride of Alkosh and were his strongest warriors. Lorkhaj, (ed: Shor in the Nordic) however, chose to give his roar to the Ra'Wulfharth to spite the Khajiiti warriors, for he was jealous of their devotion to Alkosh. Seeing the ferocity of the Khajiiti warriors, Ra'Wulfharth could not bring himself to put them to death. Using the roar that Lorkhaj had given him, he spoke to Masser and Secunda, to move to their fullness in the sky. The Khajiiti warriors became Senche, but Lorkhaj stripped from them all reason. When Ra'Wulfharth returned to sink his fangs into the Red Mountain, he called upon his people to aid him. Dro'Zira was the only among the "Rhojiit" who still remembered, and so was the only one who answered the summons. But these Nord bards are (expletive removed) and do not sing of how the great Ash King rode Dro'Zira up the Red Mountain itself to strike at the heart of the Dunmer. Never is it mentioned how Dro'Zira pounced atop Dumalacath, the Dwarf-Orc, when he had his blade to the throat of the Ash King so that he could not speak. Nor do they sing of how Lorkhaj returned Dro'Zira from the lands of Sheggorath for his bravery and for saving the Ash King! So when you find a bard who speaks ill of the Khajiit, you be sure to leave him an iron claw in the back to remind him who saved Skyrim. As for the rest of the "Rhojiit" They grew small and lost their cunning altogether, which is why you should not hesitate to strike them down when they approach the wagons. So it was told by my father, and so I tell it now to you. Now, be a good cub and go fetch me some more moonsugar for these sweet cakes. [pagebreak] Much of the tale seemed to me, little more than a boast, but certain facts do seem to line up with what we believe is the truth behind the legends. It does raise questions as to why we do not know more about history of the Khajiit and what parts they have played that might not have been recorded by our written histories.

206Book3ValuableThalmor[pagebreak]

Flight from the Thalmor

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Dearest reader: The work you are about to experience has been copied and duplicated, so that the story it relates can be spread throughout the Empire. But make no mistake - this is not a work of fiction. The events chronicled in this account are all true, were originally documented in a private journal (which now remains safely guarded in the House of Quills in Hammerfell) and occurred not more than a year before this book was printed. - Ashad Ibn Khaled, High Scribe, House of Quills, Hammerfell [pagebreak] t's been nine days. Nine days since I slipped my bonds. Nine days since I strangled my captor with my own chains. And nine days since I rushed headlong into the night, always listening, but never looking back. But in order to understand my current predicament, one must first understand where I came from, and just where this story began. My name is Hadrik Oaken-Heart, and I am a proud Nord of Skyrim. I am a skald by trade, and received my formal training at the Bards College in Solitude. For years, I made my occupation as a traveling musician and minstrel, and even served several stints as war-bard in service to the armies of the various Jarls. And it's fairly safe to say that if I weren't a bard, I never would have gotten into this mess to begin with. My troubles began when I first started singing about Talos, the Ninth and greatest Divine, beloved of the people of Skyrim. Turns out, he's not so beloved by the Thalmor. Ah yes, the Thalmor. As common as a head cold in Skyrim these days, and just as annoying. Or so I thought at the time, before their true power and inlfuence made itself known. For those not in the know, the Thalmor are Skyrim's recently honored "guests" - high elves of the Aldmeri Dominion who were gracious enough not to wipe us all out during the Great War. But, as every Nord of Skyrim knows, Thalmor graciousness comes at a terrible price. One of the stipulations of the White-Gold Concordat - the peace treaty between our peoples - was the abolishment of Talos worship. A man ascend to godhood? Preposterous, claim the Thalmor. And so, the open worship of Talos has been outlawed in Skyrim, and actively enforced in those cities where the Thalmor have a tangible presence. Cities, I might add, in which the Empire has the most secure foothold. It was in one of these cities - Markarth, to be exact - where I made the conscious decision to defy the ban on Talos worship. And my defiance came in the form of - what else? - a song. For what bard who has spent time writing and rehearsing an original work can possible refrain from performing it? So perform it I did. Not once, not twice, but seven times. Once a day, for an entire week. Now here's something most of my kinsman are unaware of: not all Thalmor in Skyrim are equal in station, or purpose. In fact, there is one group in particular that operates secretly, in the shadows - watching and waiting for those Nords who break the law, and continue their worship of almighty Talos. These are the Justiciars, and it is their job to enforce this, the most terrible of conditions of the White-Gold Concordat. And so, I would have performed my song for an eighth time had I been given the opportunity. Sadly, I was not. For the Justiciars had been watching, had been waiting. Instead, I received a black sack over my head in the wee hours of the morning, a dreadfully uncomfortable wagon ride, and sinister promises that I would enjoy my "new home," which I came to realize was some sort of secret Thalmor prison or detention camp. One I was certain I would never leave alive. It was at that moment I realized I needed to make my escape. No matter what - even if I died in the attempt - I had to slip the grasp of my captors. Better that than rot in some godsforsaken Thalmor jail until the end of time. I finally got my chance when the wagon stopped, and we made camp for the night. One of my two Thalmor guards set off into the forest to hunt, leaving me alone with the other. And so, my account comes full circle. It is now nine days later, and in that time, I have realized the true extent of my foolishness. I couldn't have sung the song just once? Or maybe twice? Or not at all? I couldn't have swallowed my stubborn Nord pride and realized just how much power and influence the Thalmor truly have over the Jarls? No. I could not. So now I run. Like a hare from the hound, I run. Always moving, rarely resting, never sleeping. But the Thalmor dog my every move. Where will I go? How will I escape their grasp? I honestly don't know. The only thing I now understand for certain is this: if the agents of the Aldmeri Dominion cannot have your soul, then they will take your very life. My name is Hadrik Oaken-Heart, and I am a proud Nord of Skyrim. Remember me. For soon I will be dead.

207Book3ValuableTheApprentice[pagebreak]

The Apprentice's Assistant Advice from Valenwood's most prestigious spellcaster

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o doubt you have heard tales of my adventures. Stories carried from province to province, all of Tamriel in awe of my feats of magical prowess. More than once, I am sure, you have thought "if only I had Aramril's ability. Then I too could seek fame and fortune in magic duels!" It is true, of course. Great fame and limitless fortune await those who are successful. But to be successful, one needs to learn from the best. That is why you have purchased this book, so that I may teach you. I am, of course, the best. Here, then, is my advice. Follow it, and you too can make a name for yourself throughout Tamriel. 1. To know your opponent is to know his weakness. Infinitely more versatile than a simple blade of steel, a good mage has a wide array of spells at her disposal. More than that, she knows when to best use them. She knows that frost spells can stop a charging beast, or keep a savage brute from swinging his sword. She knows that shock spells can drain her opponent's magicka. She knows that illusion spells can set a group of enemies against each other (should she find herself in a less than fair fight, an all-too-common reality when her opponents know they cannot win in single combat) and that there are spells that can save her in a moment when all seems lost. 2. To know yourself is to know your limits. Even the best mage has a finite reserve of magicka; none born yet have been graced with Magnus' infinite reserves of power. And so a good mage does not over-extend herself. She makes sure she always has enough magicka to keep herself safe. Failing that, she makes sure she has a sizable supply of potions at the ready. Failing that, she makes sure she always has an escape route. Not that the Great Aramril has ever fled a fight, but of course you do not necessarily share her superb natural ability. That is why you must practice. 3. Wards can kill (you) There is no question that wards are an essential tool of any aspiring mage. They can block incoming spells, negating your opponent's attack and wasting his magicka. A good mage knows, however, to not rely too heavily on her ward. Keeping a ward readied for too long will leave a caster drained of magicka, unable to retaliate, and at worst unable to maintain the ward and therefore completely defenseless. 4. Two hands are not always better than one Any advanced spellcaster has learned to cast spells with both hands, dealing more damage. There are certainly times when this is to your advantage, such as when an opponent is already weakened, or when it is likely to draw a bigger reaction from the crowd that has no doubt gathered to watch you. It is not always the best strategy, however. Concentration spells, for example, can often be used on the ground when an opponent is especially nimble. In that instance, using both hands independently can cover more ground at the same time. A mage throwing fireballs with both hands cannot immediately raise a ward to defend herself, or heal while she continues to attack. 5. Always rise to a challenge, especially when you know you can win Remember that your first priority is, of course, to stay alive. Following closely behind, though, is your need to please the crowd. You are, after all, depending on their generosity to fund your adventures. Here, then, more than magic comes into play. If you can gain a sense of your opponent's ability before the duel begins, you can enter into the event with confidence. Knowing that you outclass your opponent is of great importance, as it means you can confidently give the crowd a better show. Likewise, knowing ahead of time that you could very well lose a duel, you are afforded an opportunity to suddenly find yourself engaged elsewhere, and be unable to attend the event. (By no means do I suggest that I have ever done such a thing; I simply find that my great fame occasionally means I am unable to respond to every single request for a duel) Keep these few things in mind, keep your wits about you, and you too can make a name for yourself by putting on great displays of magical prowess. Take care, though - for if you become successful enough, you may find yourself facing a challenge from me!

208Book3ValuableTheDowry[pagebreak]

The Dowry Ancient Tales of the Dwemer Part X by Marobar Sul

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naleigh was the wealthiest landowner in Gunal, and he had over the years saved a tremendous dowry for the man who would marry his daughter, Genefra. When she reached the age of consent, he locked the gold away for safe-keeping, and announced his intention to have her marry. She was a comely lass, a scholar, a great athlete, but dour and brooding in aspect. This personality defect did not bother her potential suitors any more than her positive traits impressed them. Every man knew the tremendous wealth that would be his as the husband of Genefra and son-in-law of Ynaleigh. That alone was enough for hundreds to come to Gunal to pay court. "The man who will marry my daughter," said Ynaleigh to the assembled. "Must not be doing so purely out of avarice. He must demonstrate his own wealth to my satisfaction." This simple pronouncement removed a vast majority of the suitors, who knew they could not impress the landowner with their meager fortunes. A few dozen did come forward within a few days, clad in fine killarc cloth of spun silver, accompanied by exotic servants, traveling in magnificent carriages. Of all who came who met with Ynaleigh's approval, none arrived in a more resplendent fashion that Welyn Naerillic. The young man, who no one had ever heard of, arrived in a shining ebon coach drawn by a team of dragons, his clothing of rarest manufacture, and accompanied by an army of the most fantastical servants any of Gunal had ever seen. Valets with eyes on all sides of their heads, maidservants that seemed cast in gemstones. But such was not enough with Ynaleigh. "The man who marries my daughter must prove himself a intelligent fellow, for I would not have an ignoramus as a son-in-law and business partner," he declared. This eliminated a large part of the wealthy suitors, who, through their lives of luxury, had never needed to think very much if at all. Still some came forward over the next few days, demonstrating their wit and learning, quoting the great sages of the past and offering their philosophies of metaphysics and alchemy. Welyn Naerillic too came and asked Ynaleigh to dine at the villa he had rented outside of Gunal. There the landowner saw scores of scribes working on translations of Aldmeri tracts, and enjoyed the young man's somewhat irreverent but intriguing intelligence. Nevertheless, though he was much impressed with Welyn Naerillic, Ynaleigh had another challenge. "I love my daughter very much," said Ynaleigh. "And I hope that the man who marries her will make her happy as well. Should any of you make her smile, she and the great dowry are yours." The suitors lined up for days, singing her songs, proclaiming their devotion, describing her beauty in the most poetic of terms. Genefra merely glared at all with hatred and melancholia. Ynaleigh who stood by her side began to despair at last. His daughter's suitors were failing to a man at this task. Finally Welyn Naerillic came to the chamber. "I will make your daughter smile," he said. "I dare say, I'll make her laugh, but only after you've agreed to marry us. If she is not delighted within one hour of our engagement, the wedding can be called off." Ynaleigh turned to his daughter. She was not smiling, but her eyes had sparked with some morbid curiosity in this young man. As no other suitor had even registered that for her, he agreed. "The dowry is naturally not to be paid 'til after you've wed," said Ynaleigh. "Being engaged is not enough." "Might I see the dowry still?" asked Welyn. Knowing how fabled the treasure was and understanding that this would likely be the closest the young man would come to possessing it, Ynaleigh agreed. He had grown quite found of Welyn. On his orders, Welyn, Ynaleigh, glum Genefra, and the castellan delved deep into the stronghold of Gunal. The first vault had to be opened by touching a series of runic symbols: should one of the marks be mispressed, a volley of poisoned arrows would have struck the thief. Ynaleigh was particularly proud of the next level of security -- a lock composed of blades with eighteen tumblers required three keys to be turned simultaneously to allow entry. The blades were designed to eviscerate any who merely picked one of the locks. Finally, they reached the storeroom. It was entirely empty. "By Lorkhan, we've been burgled!" cried Ynaleigh. "But how? Who could have done this?" "A humble but, if I may say so, rather talented burglar," said Welyn. "A man who has loved your daughter from afar for many years, but did not possess the glamour or the learning to impress. That is, until the gold from her dowry afforded me the opportunity." "You?" bellowed Ynaleigh, scarcely able to believe it. Then something even more unbelievable happened. Genefra began to laugh. She had never even dreamed of meeting anyone like this thief. She threw herself into his arms before her father's outraged eyes. After a moment, Ynaleigh too began to laugh. Genefra and Welyn were married in a month's time. Though he was in fact quite poor and had little scholarship, Ynaleigh was amazed how much his wealth increased with such a son-in-law and business partner. He only made certain never to ask from whence came the excess gold. [pagebreak] Publisher's Note: The tale of a man trying to win the hand of a maiden whose father (usually a wealthy man or a king) tests each suitor is quite common. See, for instance, the more recent "Four Suitors of Benitah" by Jole Yolivess. The behavior of the characters is quite out of character for the Dwemer. No one today knows their marriage customs, or even if they had marriage at all. One rather odd theory of the Disappearance of the Dwarves came from this and a few other tales of "Marobar Sul." It was proposed that the Dwemer never, in fact, left. They did not depart Nirn, much less the continent of Tamriel, and they are still among us, disguised. These scholars use the story of "Azura and the Box" to suggest that the Dwemer feared Azura, a being they could neither understand nor control, and they adopted the dress and manner of Chimer and Altmer in order to hide from Azura's gaze.

209Book3ValuableTheDragonBreak[pagebreak]

The Dragon Break Reexamined by Fal Droon

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he late 3rd era was a period of remarkable religious ferment and creativity. The upheavals of the reign of Uriel VII were only the outward signs of the historical forces that would eventually lead to the fall of the Septim Dynasty. The so called "Dragon Break" was first proposed at this time, by a wide variety of cults and fringe sects across the Empire, connected only by a common obsession with the events surrounding Tiber Septim's rise to power -- the "founding myth," if you will, of the Septim Dynasty. The basis of the Dragon Break doctrine is now known to be a rather prosaic error in the timeline printed in the otherwise authoritative "Encyclopedia Tamrielica," first published in 3E 12, during the early years of Tiber Septim's reign. At that time, the archives of Alinor were still inaccessible to human scholars, and the extant records from the Alessian period were extremely fragmentary. The Alessians had systematically burned all the libraries they could find, and their own records were largely destroyed during the War of Righteousness. The author of the Encyclopedia Tamrielica was apparently unfamiliar with the Alessian "year," which their priesthood used to record all dates. We now know this refers to the length of the long vision-trances undertaken by the High Priestess, which might last anywhere from a few weeks to several months. Based on analysis of the surviving trance scrolls, as well as murals and friezes from Alessian temples, I estimate that the Alessian Order actually lasted only about 150 years, rather than the famous "one thousand and eight years" given by the Encyclopedia Tamrielica. The "mystery" of the millennial-plus rule of the Alessians was accepted but unexplained until the spread of the Lorkhan cults in the late 3rd era, when the doctrine of the Dragon Break took hold. Because this dating (and explanation) was so widely held at the time, and then repeated by historians down through today, it has come to have the force of tradition. Recall, however, that the 3rd era historians were already separated from the Alessians by a gulf of more than 2,000 years. And history was still in its infancy, relying on the few archives from those early days. Today, modern archaeology and paleonumerology have confirmed what my own research in Alessian dating first suggested: that the Dragon Break was invented in the late 3rd era, based on a scholarly error, fueled by obsession with eschatology and Numidiumism, and perpetuated by scholarly inertia.

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The Dragon War by Torhal Bjorik

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n the Merethic Era, when Ysgramor first set foot on Tamriel, his people brought with them a faith that worshipped animal gods. Certain scholars believe these primitive people actually worshipped the divines as we know them, just in the form of these totem animals. They deified the hawk, wolf, snake, moth, owl, whale, bear, fox, and the dragon. Every now and then you can stumble across the broken stone totems in the farther reaches of Skyrim. Foremost among all animals was the dragon. In the ancient nordic tongue it was drah-gkon. Occasionally the term dov-rha is used, but the language or derivation of that is not known. Using either name was forbidden to all except the dragon priests. Grand temples were built to honor the dragons and appease them. Many of them survive today as ancient ruins haunted by draugr and undead dragon priests. Dragons, being dragons, embraced their role as god-kings over men. After all, were they not fashioned in Akatosh's own image? Were they not superior in every way to the hordes of small, soft creatures that worshipped them? For dragons, power equals truth. They had the power, so therefore it must be truth. Dragons granted small amounts of power to the dragon priests in exchange for absolute obedience. In turn, the dragon priests ruled men as equals to the kings. Dragons, of course, could not be bothered with actually ruling. In Atmora, where Ysgramor and his people came from, the dragon priests demanded tribute and set down laws and codes of living that kept peace between dragons and men. In Tamriel, they were not nearly as benevolent. It's unclear if this was due to an ambitious dragon priest, or a particular dragon, or a series of weak kings. Whatever the cause, the dragon priests began to rule with an iron fist, making virtual slaves of the rest of the population. When the populace rebelled, the dragon priests retaliated. When the dragon priests could not collect the tribute or control the masses, the dragons' response was swift and brutal. So it was the Dragon War began. At first, men died by the thousands. The ancient texts reveal that a few dragons took the side of men. Why they did this is not known. The priests of the Nine Divines claim it was Akatosh himself that intervened. From these dragons men learned magics to use against dragons. The tide began to turn and dragons began to die too. The war was long and bloody. The dragon priests were overthrown and dragons were slaughtered in large numbers. The surviving dragons scattered, choosing to live in remote places away from men. The dragon cult itself adapted and survived. They built the dragon mounds, entombing the remains of dragons that fell in the war. They believed that one day the dragons would rise again and reward the faithful.

211Book3ValuableThereBeDragons[pagebreak]