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Murkmire Q&A


Lawrence Schick, ESO’s Lead Loremaster, has been in contact via dreamsleeve transmission with his beeko Jee-Lar, an Argonian emigrant from Murkmire. Jee-lar serves Cyrodilic Collections in the capacity of Black Marsh historian, of which he may be the only one—ever. He has kindly consented to provide answers as best he can to some of your questions.

Greetings, dryskins and fellow Argonians, Jee-Lar welcomes you to this inquiry-dance! Studying many things and remembering what I’ve learned is what I do, so I hope to be able to answer your many questions, and that’s a fact!

Does the term "Saxhleel” (a word the Argonians use to describe themselves) also apply to the Nagas? - Legoless

Indeed it does! "Saxhleel” in our Jel language is the term for all the people you dryskins commonly call Argonians. Sometimes other Tamrielic mortals are confused that we come in a variety of shapes, but that is just the will of the Hist, and therefore cannot be otherwise. All humanoid lizard-folk exist due to the gloor, the pervasive will/desire/need of the Hist to engender multiple inevitabilities. Right-right? "Hist gloor, Saxhleel become.” It’s obvious!

Why is Murkmire home to creatures that bear such a close resemblance to Morrowind’s native species? – Zebendal

Good question, but tail-forward! To fix: why are so many Morrowind beasts clearly related to creatures from southern Black Marsh? The answer is outside the realm of the records of history, but consider these general facts and draw your own conclusion. One: many regions of Morrowind, I am told, are damp due to climate and warm due to volcanism, creating a wholesomely muggy environment much like that of our subtropical swamps! Two: for several thousand years the Dark Elves have been raiding our borders for slave labor, and in the process picked up and took with them anything else that was portable and might be valuable, including livestock and critters. Does the picture emerge now from the mist?

I've heard Vicecanon Heita-Meen speaking of Murkmire as being part of the Ebonheart Pact, together with Shadowfen and Thornmarsh. If this is true, why is this small patch of Black Marsh in the far south part of the Pact, while most of the region is not? - Saleel

I cannot speak for the vicecanon, but I would assume her remarks were more aspirational than descriptive, for though there are certainly Pact envoys in Murkmire working to add our region to their confederacy, the area at present remains autonomous, and that’s a fact! The additional fact that Murkmire has no central authority that could sign with the Pact might also have something to do with it.

Has there been a point in history when Argonians were more unified than in the Second Era (given they’re members of the Ebonheart Pact)? - Jeancey

Ah ha, a two-part question! Though the second part isn’t really a question, more of a statement that needs slight correction, so I’ll start with that. Black Marsh is a land of many tribes, mostly self-ruled, and the tribes that have joined the Pact, which are largely in the northern region, are still in the minority. (I think; no one keeps an exact count of these things, you know.)

As to when we Argonians "in history” (ha ha!) have been more unified than now, the answer is never, because we have no "history” as such! That said, there are tales and legends going back to mythic times of the tribes joining together to repel invasions and threats. Some may be true!

I've heard you're rather knowledgeable regarding the Murkmire region of Black Marsh, so I'd like to know where the Lilmothiit are! Or, at least, if there's anything leftover since they supposedly lived in that region? - Ta’asi

Ah, the answer to your question is sad-sad! Our vulpine neighbors the Lilmothiit had been in decline for many of their generations, the closest clans having withdrawn from the coastal areas inland toward the city of Blackrose, just north of Murkmire. Alas, the Knahaten Flu, so dreadful for dryskins, struck the Fox-Folk with near-total lethality. No one I’ve spoken to in Murkmire has seen a living Lilmothiit for many swims.

I am just beginning my adulthood, and I have recently undertaken a foray into the land of my people, Black Marsh. They call me a "Lukiul." I've never tasted the sap of the Hist, and while now I have the opportunity, I find myself frightened by the prospect of coming under the control of a force I do not understand and how it might impact my afterlife. I am told I do not have a soul until I join myself to the Hist. Is this true? When I join the Hist, what will happen to me? Do I lose my individual self? – Echoes-of-Starlight

As a part-time Lukiul myself, it moistens my scales to be able to give a reassuring answer to this one! I was born in the tribe the dryskins call Bright-Throats because of our colorful neck wattles, and communed happily with our Hist since egg-birth. Even when I felt the calling to wander, which would take me beyond daily contact with our Hist, I felt no fear, for I always knew that I would be welcomed whenever I returned—and that’s how it’s been! My wattles may fade when I’m in Cyrodiil for many swims, but they regain their hue once I return to Murkmire.

Now, to your situation: like all Argonians, you are descended from a particular tribe, even if you were born away from that tribe and its Hist. Find out to which tribe your fore-lizards belonged, travel to their domain, and you will be welcomed "home” as if you had never been anywhere else! Unless, of course, your parents were from one of those tribes that abhors Lukiuls and slays them on sight, but there aren’t many of those, so why worry? It just makes your spines droop.

If I understood well, impermanence is a concept that is pervasive in Argonian culture and way of living. How does someone originating from such a culture come to be a historian, whose function is to preserve relics, to extract knowledge from the past, and give it a form of permanence in collective memory? Or do you think your purpose isn’t that? How do you think of the word "historian” itself? Are you a "History-an” or a "Hist-orian”? – Oilbhreis Wind-Hearkener

Ha ha ha! Jee-Lar finds your Tamrielic wordplay amusing, though of course the joke cannot be translated into Jel as our language lacks cognates for the terms in your so-very-funny jest! But the first part of your question is as serious as a fleshfly swarm, so I will address it seriously. Impermanence is pervasive in Argonian culture, and that’s a fact! So pervasive that even impermanence lacks permanence, and Black Marsh will occasionally erupt in phases where certain Saxhleel decide to build in stone or declare inflexible dogma. It happens! And it happens that I am an Argonian of a mindset that perceives patterns of cause and effect and itches to string them together on a timeline, much like my uncle Nomeesh feels compelled to string colored beads on gruntweed fibers to create mosaic shoulder sashes. Right-right?

Murkmire Q&A - Part 2


Famed Argoinian “historian” Jee-Lar returns to once again answer your Murkmire-themed questions about the Saxhleel people, their culture, and their history. If you missed it, don’t forget to check out part one of this series as well!

Greetings, dryskins and fellow Argonians, Jee-Lar welcomes you again to the inquiry-dance! Studying many things and remembering what I’ve learned is what I do, so I hope once more to be able to answer your many questions, and that’s a fact!

Since it’s established that the Lamia are intelligent sentient creatures capable of fluent speech and verbal communication, why haven't they established more permanent dwellings? They have hands capable of making and using tools, so what's stopping them from advancing? – Arch Mikem

I’m not sure where in Tamriel you hail from, Beeko Arch, but it must be one of those provincial locales where a temporary economic uptick has resulted in a construction boom, which in turn has led the local mortals to conclude that “building” equals “advancement” of some sort. How wry! How fanciful! Really, I love you dryskins. Anyway, as it happens, you have come to the right Saxhleel with your question, for I once met a lamia on the border of Blackwood and had a long conversation with her, during which many subjects were addressed. I came across her in some Barsaebic ruins where she was drowsing in the sun, belly distended and leisurely digesting—well, I didn’t think it would be tactful to ask what. I asked her why lamias so often resided in ruins, and she flicked her tongue and hissed, “Where else? Are there not more civic scars in Tamriel than solid structures? The humans and Elveses, so silly, they set up city after city, surrender to struggle and discord, and succumb to the scourge of strife. The sequel? Expanses of ruins, all set for snatching. It’s simple! Edifice assembly is for suckers.”

This one holds an artisanal bakery of sweet and sugary specialties and has heard stories about a delicious ingredient from Argonia called “daril.” What is it exactly? Do you know of recipes mixing daril and sugar? Surely there are coins to be made, yes? - Hazazhun-dar the Bittersweet

Ah, daril, so much fun-fun! One drop on a Saxhleel tongue, and vossa-satl tangos taste like peppermint prickly pears, and an egg-sibling can dance all night with a torchbug! But rare, not easy to get, oh no, for you must first catch a moon-adder and express its venom, and then ferment it for many swims in a swamp jelly gas bladder. Also, no-no fun for dryskins because it kills them instantly, so if you have some daril, Baker-Beeko, you should not taste it but instead save it for Jee-Lar. Right?

When I was a hatchling, I played amongst places that often were forbidden by the grownup dull-scales. I remember one time I saw drawings that looked old of half-Saxhleel, half-tree creatures. Was this symbolic to show the bond between us and the Hist, or was there a time when we were of a different form? It is also said that even if a human consumes Hist-sap and grows up with it, that they are also Argonian enough. Are the Hist so generous to all? – Hunts-for-Wisdom

Ah, Hunts-for-Wisdom, it sounds like your youthful self stumbled upon some lithographs of the Parable of Becoming, albeit in a crude and ambiguous depiction, which may be why your elders tried to steer you clear of it. You know the story I mean: the allegory of the Hist perceiving humans and Elves, admiring “their walking legs and clever hands,” and then molding and re-molding the swamp’s Useful Lizards until they found they had made Argonians.

As for the effects of Hist sap on dryskins, I have heard that certain ill-advised High Elves tried to experiment with this but were prevented by Others. Probably for the best, right-right?

What is a name of your Province in Jel? Now it is known as Argonia, or worse, Black Marsh. Both names are alien, and both are given by other races, but then why do all guides and scholarly works use alien names for your beautiful and mysterious land? It is unfair! Therefore, I ask you to write a true name, given by Saxhleel! – Maximus Ferras

That is not as easy to answer as you might think, Maximus! First of all, “province” is an Imperial concept that most Argonians struggle with, though I think I’ve finally got it. I mean, why use a single name to describe so much varied difference? An Argonian’s idea of their home place rarely extends beyond their Hist’s farthest root-hairs. I did hear a Gee-Rusleel once use the wide-swamp gesture along with the term “kronka-thatith,” roughly everything-egg, and that may be as close to a province name as you’re going to get in Jel.

This one hopes you can tell him about the general history between Argonian and its Imperial neighbors, and maybe even between Argonian and its Khajiit neighbors. Are relationships overall good? – Recremen

Alas and woe, we are in sad-sad times, Recremen, because the mild illness we called the Half-Swim Sniffles passed out of our marshes and into the lands of the dryskins, who called the illness the Knahaten Flu and did not find it mild at all, oh, no. Your people, the furred ones who live to our west, were struck particularly hard—perhaps you have been traveling? The Khajiiti folk suffered greatly, and blamed us Saxhleel for inflicting the epidemic upon them. Which is so terribly, terribly unfair! We would never wish such a thing upon our friends the furred ones! The Gray Elves, sure, but that’s different, nobody likes them.

Being a priestess of our loving Mother Mara, I’m trying to find as much information on Tamrielic wedding traditions as I can. However, when I tried to learn about Argonian wedding traditions, I was rather confused after discovering a horrible book! It stated that Argonians don’t have weddings at all, and that mating is a simple call to procreation. Moreover, it said mating is a kind of annual trial event – only trial winners are allowed to mate. I always imagined an Argonian wedding as a complex, delicate, and ethereal ritual. Please, let me know the truth, whatever is it, in name of our loving Mother! – Leonidas Tavicus

Oh, yes, well—“weddings.” We don’t have an exact cognate of that word in Jel, probably because the concept of procreational partnership varies so much from tribe to tribe. There’s, let’s see, “uvastuxith,” nest-becoming, and there’s “tumjum,” or house-weaving, which is more allegorical, and “thtithatei,” which is, er, egg-stomach. And so many more! The gloor of its Hist mandates each tribe’s pattern of affection-sharing and egg-quickening. And as Argonians are adaptable-by-induction to their Hist’s gloor, numerous possibilities eventuate! And as for inter-tribal bonding rites, well, anything can happen! You can believe Jee-Lar when he says that no Saxhleel who reaches the age of interfertility is bored. We have even adopted the dryskins’ quaint custom of gifting each other with Rings of Mara, a practice we find surprisingly moving. Anyway, good question, Leonidas, but I sense my Deer-Naza erecting the spine of… um, must go now! Later! Xuth!

Dradeiva's Journal


I have listened to all the stories, talked to all the tale-tellers and elders. After many seasons of searching and investigation, I have come to the conclusion that the ancestor of my egg family led the Imperial Ninth Legion to the Tsofeer Caverns. That's where they all disappeared into history and became the Lost Legion.

* * *

Many of the stories involving the Tsofeer Caverns mention a massive and powerful voriplasm known as the Wuju-Ka. From what I could ascertain, this huge pool of malevolent slime behaves unlike other voriplasms. It creates extensions of itself, mobile puddles of ooze that remain connected to it in some manner, serving as its eyes, ears, and appendages—its connection to the world outside its spawning pool. The elders I spoke to talked about the Wuju-Ka in reverent terms, but they were also clearly afraid of the creature. They said that in ancient seasons, elders from nearby tribes would go to the Tsofeer Caverns and perform a binding ritual to trap the massive voriplasm and its extensions inside the caves.

The binding ritual hasn't been performed in many, many seasons. Not since a rock slide sealed the entrance to the Tsofeer Caverns. I wonder if that was when the Ninth Legion was lost? Were they somehow trapped inside the caves?

* * *

Here's what I learned about voriplasms. These slime creatures slither through the swamp, consuming whatever gets in their way. To spawn, they either split apart and form new voriplasms, or they turn consumed flesh into voriplasmic corpses. Voriplasmic corpses appear as skeletal bodies, the flesh melted from their bones and replaced with voriplasmic slime. These disgusting, shambling creatures have some connection to the voriplasm that spawned them, but not to the degree associated with the Wuju-Ka.

* * *

One elder was willing to teach me the binding ritual for the Wuju-Ka. At least, she taught me what the elders before her told her. I hope the Wuju-Ka no longer exists, but if it still occupies the Tsofeer Caverns, then I must perform the binding ritual before I leave the caves. I just hope I can also find proof of the Lost Legion and some evidence to exonerate my ancestor and clear the mark of traitor that has sullied my egg-family's name.

Lost Tales of the Famed Explorer

Solis Aduro

"Only three," Matius protested. Three was barely a scouting party, much less a suitable expedition force. "I was promised nine at minimum."

Tana put her feet up on her desk loudly. "Best I could do, Matius. Your name doesn't hold the weight it used to."

Matius knew it was true, but this was the first time one of his own friends had said as much. He noticed how cold Tana had become toward him since he told her he intended to continue his mission. Ten years gone he had been at the head of an Imperial-sanctioned excursion to properly chart the province of Black Marsh. The borders had been defined well enough, but information about the heart of the swamp was scarce and unverifiable. Even the established description disseminated by the Empire to citizens was a stitched together narrative from numerous questionable accounts.

The venture was considered a failure. His crew had dwindled one by one as the expedition stretched on, either through death or desertion. Tana had been the only one to stay with him, but she contracted a disease that made her delirious and unable to remember the last days of their journey.

And so, when Matius had returned to the college speaking of lost cities and ancient civilizations, he found himself against a wall of skepticism with no other witness to verify his claims. His relationship with Tana was never the same after that. The marsh had changed both of them, and the aftermath had not been easy either. He had hoped they could mend old wounds and return together, but Tana had flatly refused him saying she would never return to Black Marsh. She did offer to help him put together a crew, and Matius knew he should be grateful that anyone would help him at all.

"At least tell me they're seasoned." He had to hope for that, if little else.

"You're in luck," Tana said, glancing over some papers. "Well, assuming you can get along with a High Elf. She's a battlemage, so I'm sure you'll find a way. Salara is her name. Never heard of her."

Matius raised a brow. He would be pleased to have such a skilled companion, but something told him to be wary. "Why would a battlemage join me?"

Tana shrugged. "It isn't a sanctioned mission as far as I can tell. My contacts don't know anything about her either. Maybe she wants to go for her own reasons. We can't exactly be particular in this case."

Matius nodded. He would have to keep an eye on this Elf. "And the others?"

"Riffen, a runaway slave. He's a young Nord, but eager. You know how important that will be. Before you argue, he can read and write, and has some skill in hunting and foraging. He survived on his own this long, after all. Give him a chance."

An extra pair of hands was never bad, and the crew would be small enough that the young man couldn't get in the way. Still, Matius felt bad knowing how hard the journey would be on someone unprepared for it. "And the third? You still haven't mentioned a guide. We won't get anywhere without a willing Argonian. You remember that much at least." Matius regretted saying that, but Tana ignored it.

"River-Gills," she said. "An experienced Argonian guide, just like you asked for. And with only one catch."

"There's a catch?" Matius sighed. "You offered him the sum I promised?"

"I did. Try to let me finish." Tana paused, seemingly just to make him wait. "River-Gills will take you part way, at which point he promises to introduce you to someone who can get you where you want to go in half the time."

A sensible person would walk away from this, Matius thought, but he knew he couldn't. He had waited a decade for another chance, slim as it might be. Matius had heard there were more secretive tribes in the swamp that knew hidden paths, and the idea of making safe contact with them was enticing enough to embolden him.

"Very well," Matius said. "Thank you, Tana." He turned to leave, but stopped short of the door. "Is there truly nothing I can say to make you come with me? It should be the both of us."

"I told you. I wouldn't return to Black Marsh for all the gold in all the known worlds, Matius. And I wish there was something I could say to make you stay."

The sun was still high as they at last reached a suitable clearing for a camp. They could continue on, but many an expedition had become lost thinking they could chase the last bit of light. Early morning was the best time to travel. The swamp was sleepy and full come dawn. Matius set to gathering what he would need for a fire, taking care to stay near his companions. He decided to look for sticks and ferns as well. They could be used to hide the light, which Matius knew was a wise thing to do this deep in the marsh. He chose to say nothing of this to his new companions, who were as tired as they were bored.

"They say the ancient Argonians had golden scales that could blind lowly men and mer." Matius hoped reminding the crew of the significance of their mission would raise their spirits. And the embellished version always made for a better campfire tale. "They built their greatest city higher and higher until they reached the sun."

"What happened then?" young Riffen asked.

Matius had to admit he enjoyed the young man's curiosity. He intentionally held his answer, half-hoping River-Gills would volunteer his own. Everything Matius knew of these legends had been the work of other Imperial explorers and scholars. He had never managed to get an Argonian to speak of it.

River-Gills simply sat basking in the sun as if he wasn't listening at all. As far as Matius could tell, the Argonian was asleep.

"Some say it destroyed them," Matius continued, dropping off a bundle of sticks. "Others say they cracked it open like an egg and became gods."

The Elf Salara scoffed. "That's ridiculous," she said. "Everyone knows the sun isn't an egg." Thus far Matius had learned little of the battlemage other than she was wholly committed to her own beliefs, most of which he recognized came from Guild teachings.

"What is it then?" Riffen asked.

"A hole."

Riffen scrunched his nose and looked up. "That's supposed to be a hole?"

"Don't stare at it." Matius sighed.

"Do you not believe in the golden city, Lady Salara?" Riffen asked. "A sailor told me it was just a story."

"She needs to be sure," Matius offered. Salara had refused to give her personal reasons for joining the expedition, so he guessed.

Salara turned away from them and stared into the brush. She took out a broken compass and held it tightly.

"I expect something of value could still be learned," Salara answered. "Even if everything they believed is wrong."

River-Gills opened his eyes.

For three days they traveled by water, and at night River-Gills would show them where it was safe to stop and rest.

On the first day, River-Gills made them stop under a rocky outcropping on the river bank for several hours without ever saying why. Matius passed the time teaching Riffen about many of the strange plants and animals that occupied the swamp. He was far more interested in those he could not name, but he would not let himself be distracted by thoughts of trapping them for study. There were many-colored birds, giant beetles with shells the size of boulders, and scaled hounds that roamed in packs and fed on the carcasses of gray behemoths. Matius could think of no names for any of them.

By the time they resumed the journey, night was falling. River-Gills assured them this was the time to travel despite protests from the rest of the group. Matius made the call to trust their Argonian guide, and so down the river they continued. Even Salara joined them in gazing into the swamp, as it was now alight with strange luminescent jellies that passed mournfully through the trees.

On the second day, Riffen spotted something and called out, "Look!"

Salara gasped. Matius turned to look and was stricken as speechless as the others. Rising from the mire were great wings of metal, like the wings of a moth. Even through the moss and muck, Matius could make out the twin domes of layered glass eyes. He wondered how magnificent such a thing must have looked whole, whatever it was.

River-Gills did not turn his gaze from the winding river before them. The fins on his head vibrated so quickly they made a low hum.

"We have to stop. I must see this." Salara's voice carried a tremor. She held a hand out to River-Gills.

"We cannot stop," River-Gills said patiently. "A leviathan has been trailing us for some time now."

Salara paused for only a moment, and then jumped from the raft, causing the rest of them to struggle to keep their footing.

"Salara!" Matius yelled out as he tried to shift his weight and balance the raft. "River-Gills, slow us down."

"We cannot stop," said River-Gills.

Salara moved as quickly as she could through the muck, ignoring the protests of the crew. She unfastened her cloak and let it fly free so she could move more easily. She flailed and splashed as she made for the strange moth.

"Lady Salara! Come back!" Riffen yelled.

She trudged slowly now, struggling in the mire. She stopped and began to whisper words of power Matius assumed would aid her movement. He saw she had the broken compass in her hand.

Suddenly, it was as if the swamp itself dragged her down and swallowed her up. She disappeared without making a sound and never resurfaced. Matius could just barely make out the shape of something huge moving through the water. He noticed that even the insects had gone quiet.

Salara's cloak drifted listlessly, the clasp of her order the only thing remaining of her story.

"We cannot stop," said River-Gills.

No one argued. In fact, they did not speak again that day. At night, they slept in a tree the size of a village.

The next morning, Matius woke to find Riffen was gone. He had left a note saying he had seen the torchlight of a nearby settlement from and was going to see if they could help him get back to civilization. He apologized for abandoning them. Matius knew the young man was already dead. River-Gills made no comment when Matius said they were now simply two.

That day they finally returned to hiking, and though it was difficult terrain Matius found he preferred it. Still, his thoughts were troubled by memories of his previous expedition as they traveled. River-Gills would not take him much further, and Matius had no idea what to expect from the next guide. He remembered what it was like to be afraid and alone in Black Marsh.

On the third night River-Gills expanded his fins and began to hiss, and then bade Matius to take shelter in a cave.

River-Gills remained outside, and for the remainder of the night Matius could not sleep. All through the night he swore he could hear chanting and the hissing of snakes. The Argonian reappeared in the morning as if nothing had happened.

"N'buta will see you now," River-Gills said, and when he left he never returned.

Gloop Gloop.

There was the sound again. Matius waved his torch fruitlessly. He could see nothing in the choking mist. He held his cloak to his mouth with his free hand and ran deeper into the cave.

Gloop Gloop.

He caught sight of the creature's shadow, massive and bulbous. It was following him. He ran on and on, gasping for breath.

Gloop Gloop.

He heard an echo of belching laughter. It went on until Matius thought he must be going mad. Then he heard the crunch of bones under his feet. The mist cleared and he found himself standing in a chamber lined with skulls of all shapes and sizes. Bones of things he didn't recognize littered the floor. He thought of the vile voriplasm, said to eat creatures whole and spit out their bones. "That will be my end," he breathed. He should have known the Argonian was lying.


Matius felt the air in the chamber change. There came a stench so foul that it burned his nostrils.

A voice bellowed. "Another fleshling come to deal with N'buta? Speak in whole before I swallow."

In the dim torchlight Matius could just barely make out the grotesque creature's form. This was no plasm, though it glistened with a disgusting wetness. It was some kind of giant toad with a rotund belly and a squished, slug-like face. The eyes were the worst of all, and in them Matius saw forbidden knowledge and boundless horrors. He steeled himself as the creature's throat bulged. Forbidden knowledge was why he came to this decrepit place, after all. The creature swallowed, and suddenly it was looming over him. Nauseating fumes trailed from its nostrils.

"I seek the path to the golden stair," Matius spat out. He was not proud of how his voice cracked.

The creature reared back and either choked or laughed. It belched after, Matius knew, for he nearly fainted.

"I can show you," the slug-thing croaked. "For a price."

"Of course, good Lord of Muck," Matius said, wishing he hadn't. He knew better than to think he could appease this thing with flattery. Best to just stick to business. "What will this information cost me?"

Fat arms reached into a pocket. Matius had not even noticed the creature was wearing tattered robes of green and brown. Nubby wet fingers produced a sparkling yellow gem set into an ornate golden amulet. It was flawless and gleaming, but Matius was no novice to cursed relics or strange gems. He drew his sword and waited. His heart raced, though whether with fear or excitement he couldn't tell. Was this a relic of old Argonia? The creature's chin wiggled grossly as it laughed.

It draped the amulet across the horned skull of some ancient beast, leaving it dangling there, glinting in the torchlight. "You will take this to the golden city for N'buta. That is the price."

Matius furrowed his brow. "And what am I to do with it once I get there?"

"You will know," N'buta whispered. Matius's skin crawled at the way the words tickled the inside of his ear. "Just before you die."

For a moment Matius thought the creature was right beside him, but he blinked and saw it had not moved. "Tell me the way," he managed to say.

"You cannot get there from here," said the Lord of Muck. "You must go as deep as the roots-in-water, down and around and between places even your gods have never seen." Matius found himself unable to speak as the creature burped and finished. "I will take you as far as Xul-Axith."

Matius breathed despite the stench and sheathed his blade. He stepped forward and picked up the golden amulet. It felt warm. "I don't plan on dying," he said, slipping the amulet into his pack. "I hope that won't disappoint you."

The creature's belching laughter echoed until Matius found himself standing alone, the light of his torch nearly burnt out.

Matius retched, either from the stench of his traveling companion or from slipping upside down through the marsh again.

The slug-thing N'buta laughed. "Now you see, little fleshling. This realm is deeper than it is wide."

Matius didn't see at all. It was the third time they had slipped into the river, as N'buta called it, and each trip only made him more disoriented. This last time he could have sworn he was watching himself drown.

"It felt like I was dreaming," Matius said. He coughed up a mouthful of sticky water.

"You were."

The Lord of Muck offered nothing more, just pointed a stubby finger. Matius followed it and saw an archway of black stone above a clear path through the surrounding swamp. The archway was carved with the image of snakes and roots twisting around each other, and at its top was a skull with a forked tongue. He realized he would have to continue the journey alone from here, and his guide was unlikely to give him further aid. They reached the gates of Xul-Axith. He feared it wouldn't prove close enough.

Matius had an idea. He took out the golden amulet N'buta had given him. "You have honored your word, Lord of Muck," Matius said. "And I will keep mine. I will see this gem returned to the golden city, if I ever find my way."

N'buta burped and growled. Its strange eyes considered the amulet for a moment. "Stay on the path until you see a temple that bleeds shadows. It is a place of death. Do not enter it. When you stand before it, find the sun in the sky and walk that way. You will know when you are there."

Matius was about to protest when the Lord of Muck suddenly slithered back into the river and was gone. For a moment, Matius felt panic grip his chest. His companions had deserted the journey one by one, and suddenly he wondered if they had been right. He considered abandoning his mission for the briefest of moments before realizing his only path forward was the one of black stone. The river had dried up under his feet.

Matius gathered his courage. The amulet was warm in his hand. He stepped under the archway and onto the path.

The ancient Argonian strode toward Matius then, screeching in some guttural tongue. It was two heads taller than an average Saxhleel, with golden scales, bright feathers of red and purple and green, and great curving horns. Over its head was a mask of gold carved in the visage of a bird. It wore feathered robes and golden bangles, and when it spread its arms it appeared to have wings. Matius could hardly tell where the creature ended and its ornamentation began.

He had no time to ponder it, as the golden terror raked at him with painted talons. It roared a curse, though Matius could only translate three of its words: Sun, Fire, Death.

Matius staggered back, unable to draw his sword as the creature bore down on him. It was clawing desperately at the yellow gemstone around his neck. Matius fell backward and managed to pull out his sword just as the bird-lizard fell atop him, screeching. He stabbed blindly at it with one hand while pressing against the creature's throat with the other, trying desperately to keep its claws from shredding him. Again and again it scratched at the amulet, trying to tear it from his neck.

Matius heard the gemstone break. Yellow dust floated through the air.

The Argonian was very still then. Matius breathed a sigh of relief that he had killed it at last. His arm was tired.

Suddenly, it moved again with blinding speed. Clawed hands shot out and cupped his face. He half expected to hear the snapping of his own neck, but it just held him in a vice grip. The golden mask slipped from one side of the creature's face.

Now it was not a bird or a lizard, but a snake. He saw that its scales were not gold but painted, and the mask had worn away some of the paint. The scales were black and white and mottled, falling away from a dead thing. Its eyes were hollow sockets, but the dust flowed into them until they were yellow.

Out of fear or courage, Matius struck once more, plunging his sword into the snake. At the same time, the golden mask slipped off and clanged to the floor. There was blood on the inside. Matius saw the snake's face was changing over and over again. Twelve times it changed before it was a snake again.

He had forgotten about killing this creature, forgotten about fighting for his own life, even forgotten why he had come to Black Marsh in the first place. All Matius knew then was terror.

He was falling, then flying. The world rushed up to meet him, all fire and glory and madness. He felt a current on wings he did not remember having and he soared. He flew over cities of gold and cities of black stone. They were endless, like the Hist that cradled them. The sky was aflame and the sun was a pit. Still he flew, for he had not the strength to do more than let the current carry him.

He came upon a tower. It was tall and vast and many trees grew from its many layers of marsh. Creatures lived and died without ever knowing of a world outside the tower. At its top was a tree that bled fire. Other winged things that looked like him circled it. They cried out in words he understood but didn't know. He felt a deep sadness as the tower fell away.

He looked up and saw other worlds and other towers. They were spinning wheels and they crashed into each other, and their spokes got tangled up and they broke each other. And he saw that his world was breaking, too, but quick as a snake a shadow came and swallowed up the roots of the tower so they would not break.

Still he flew. There was only fire and darkness then, and so much noise, but he was too tired to be afraid. And so Matius slept, and drifted away into a black sun.

Letter to Septimius

Junia Severa

Brother Septimius,

Since you took me as your pupil, I have learned many things. The most important lesson, for me, was finally having someone tell me to be reckless. Like you, I have a curious soul. I could not have lived a normal life. You told me to let my curiosity get me killed if I had to. You gave me a list of mysteries to solve and sent me into Black Marsh. You taught me not to fear Argonia. You kept me afloat, and I had not realized it until I received word of your failing health.

We have shared many discoveries through our correspondence over the years. I truly believe I will complete the list one day. Assuming, that is, I can ever return to Black Marsh. Yes, Brother Septimius, even though you bade me not to worry, I have set out for Cyrodiil. I will be at your side through this. Until then, I will put personal matters aside and give you something to read while you are abed.

You placed the most difficult mystery at the top of the list, no doubt hoping it would scare me off. What is the nature of the Hist?

I do not have the answer. I do not even have many statements to make about this subject I would consider fact. I only hope you will still enjoy my conjecture.

They are merely trees say some skeptical people. Trees grown by the lizard folk of Black Marsh so they can drink of the sap. They all remember Topal's description of a fetid and evil place, and they naturally draw wary conclusions. Legions came back speaking of venomous plants, poisonous bogs, and strange defenders that attack with fury one day and ignore invaders the next. And when even the more "civilized" lizard folk cannot seem to provide answers that assuage their fears, well, it is no surprise these so-called learned scholars have come to fear Argonians and their strange trees.

Those in our circle would add that these trees are sentient, and it may be that they are the ones that grew the lizard folk. I had hoped to prove or disprove this by careful study of the birth cycle of the Saxhleel. Unfortunately, as you know, every answer was another question. I can only say with certainty that every interview I have been able to conduct about this topic resulted in the conclusion that the Saxhleel cannot fathom the idea of one coming before the other. I will not digress into further discussion about the way this fascinating culture views linear events, as you have asked me not to do so every time I write.

But I can tell you this, old friend, the Hist are not simply trees, regardless of sentience. It is true that the trees are impressive and demand a certain respect when you stand beneath them, but I have always found the roots most fascinating. If only I could properly describe the things I have seen, Brother Septimius. Beneath the swamp the roots grow deep and spread so wide it is impossible to know which tree they originated from. In a way, I believe, the roots are the marsh. The roots hold it all together, and they determine when it changes.

I know we have spoken of this before, and you posited that the chaotic nature of the marsh is simply a result of a type of magic similar to what we have seen from the Elves of Valenwood. I cannot refute the claim and I see the logic in it, but I do not believe it to be true.

I have seen skilled trackers foiled by this land on a whim. I cannot say I have ever seen it move, but I have picked up a good enough sense of navigation in my time to know when I am being led in circles. And that is without going into more questionable theories of relative space. I believe like the Saxhleel change to accommodate their environment, the roots change Black Marsh in a way that it sees most fit.

I tell you, Brother Septimius, the province of Black Marsh has never once been close to conquered. The borders can barely even be considered Argonia. The maps cannot be correct. The roots grow too deep and too wide for us to know the true Argonia.

All of academia has been too focused on the sap. Is it not the Wood Elves I just wrote of who call themselves the Tree-Sap People?

The Saxhleel are the People of the Root, and that is where I will find the answer to your most challenging mystery.

It will have to wait until I return. I will see you soon and we will get you on the path to healing.

With love,
Junia Severa

A History of Blackrose Prison

Tyrrya Len

By Tyrrya Len, The Wayrest Wanderer

Blackrose Prison, named after the infamous city of Blackrose, is said to have been built in a single day. Whether such an account is mere exaggeration or a spectacular truth, no one is certain. What is certain, however, is that Potentate Versidue-Shaie ordered the prison's construction, and Pelladil Direnni dutifully—or boastfully—fulfilled the order by summoning an army of stone atronachs to perform the labor.

Though often thought to be built adjacent to the city, the prison's location is actually a day's march south, within the dangers of the swamp but accessible from the coast. This isolated location was specifically chosen to deter prisoners from escaping its confines. Few non-natives have been known to successfully traverse the dangers of Murkmire, especially those as ill-equipped as escaped prisoners would be.

Imperial prisoners were sent to Blackrose Prison only for the most heinous or politically charged crimes. This was where men and mer alike were sent when the reigning power wished to never see them again. As such, the accountability of the prison staff was near non-existent. The brutality and cruelty that these prisoners faced was, by all accounts, particularly horrid.

Given its convenient location, all Murkmire natives who conflicted with Imperial power would wind up within Blackrose Prison as well. Nagas in particular were apt to find their way here, given their rebellious nature against Imperial oppression. Even among their fellow prisoners, Nagas were treated with particular disdain, most likely provoked by their aggressive culture and drastic appearance. It is theorized that an increase in the Naga prisoner population, as well as a decline in Imperial power in the region, led to the mass riots that eventually forced Blackrose Prison to be abandoned.

In the years following its abandonment, the prison was taken over by the very prisoners who were rumored to liberate it. Reclaiming that which once imprisoned them, they swore to eradicate any Imperials who dared to threaten their homeland. They called themselves the Blackguards, and swore loyalty to none but themselves.

This claim was not well received by the surrounding tribes, who believed that such values went against the very cornerstones of their culture. One Argonian I spoke to had this to say on the matter: "The Blackguards, they have stone hearts and sour bellies, hiding from change within their stone nest. Always they look back, never forward. It is because of this that the tribes would not support them. And now they are little more than bandits."

Indeed, no matter how heroic their original ideals might have been, the Blackguards are now known as the largest crime organization within Murkmire. Within the last decade, they have even begun to allow non-Argonian members in their ranks; including, yes, the very Imperials that they once so adamantly fought against.

Unfortunately, I will not be able to write of the current condition of Blackrose Prison, due to the dangers the Blackguards present. An unfortunate circumstance, due to the rich history such a visit would offer.

A History of Lilmoth

Tyrrya Len

By Tyrrya Len, The Wayrest Wanderer

Lilmoth: the Festering Jewel of Black Marsh. Murkmire's southernmost port and entryway to the wild swamps that lie beyond. Merchants and travelers alike walk its muddy streets, the rampant humidity causing sweat to pearl against their skin. In all of Black Marsh, you will find no town quite so cultivated.

In fact, you are unlikely to come across a town at all, as decades have passed since the time of Imperial occupation. One sees only shadows of the Empire's influence now, such as when visiting Old Imperial Lilmoth. There you will find a gallery of half-sunken villas, covered in moss and decay. The swamp has indeed reclaimed this place, just as the Argonians reclaimed Black Marsh.

Scaly hands, however, did not lay out the foundation of Lilmoth. You can immediately see this in its distinctive name, which refers to the vulpine race that founded the town. Unfortunately, you will find no Lilmothiit in Lilmoth now, as the Knahaten Flu killed off all such inhabitants. Merchants from all over Tamriel, as well as Argonian travelers from nearby tribes, now occupy the town.

Given the lack of a proper power structure, a council of highly influential merchants tends to most of the town's affairs. They see to the port tariffs and hire guards to patrol Lilmoth's streets. They also dispense justice to all non-natives, using an informal court system. It is well known, however, that a well-placed bribe is likely to settle matters far quicker than a well-spoken defense.

Murkmire natives have a less structured system of justice. While tree-minders and war chiefs tend to settle most conflicts within the surrounding tribes, Lilmoth has no such legal system in place. In my year in Lilmoth, I have noticed that many Argonians defer to an elderly Argonian by the name of Sulahkeesh. What her role in their society is, I am uncertain, though it appears that the native population sees her as a well-respected arbitrator.

Though still a bit rough around the edges, Lilmoth has come far from its origins as a den of war, piracy, and political struggle. You will find it now to be a lovely destination for all who wish to sample Murkmire's exotic mystery without risking the dangers of its expansive swamps. It's a must-see location for any who are fascinated with the eccentricities of Argonian culture, such as myself.

Scaly Steeds of Black Marsh


By Ukaspa, Lilmoth Stablemaste

I have noticed that many dryskins are emotionally attached to their hairy mounts, although they aren't actually related. (The exception may be our neighbors the Khajiiti, who tell us all cats are their relatives. It might even be true, but who can read a Khajiit's facial expression, all whiskers and twitching ears? No wonder nobody trusts them.) Anyway: dryskins ride their beloved furry mounts into Black Marsh and then their steeds disappear into sudden-sand, or catch sloughskin from the fleshflies, or eat a spotted toadstool, and sploosh! They're dead, and the dryskins leak water from their eyes.

Yes, a terrible situation for the sad beek-ojel, and one so easily avoided! For almost every stablemaster of the Marsh has fine, scaly lizard mounts available for purchase in various forms, all familiar to dryskins but specifically adapted to deep swamp conditions! So convenient, our lizard-steeds, so scaly and personable. Who would not want one? Or even several?

More than once I have been asked by inquisitive beek-ojel, "Ukaspa, why are your lizard-steeds shaped like mounts from other parts of Tamriel? Why are there horse-lizards, camel-lizards, and senche-lizards? Why aren't your so-very-handsome mounts shaped like, well, lizards?" These are good questions, and I, Ukaspa, will answer them, except for the parts that are a Big Mystery.

You know that we Saxhleel are different from you dryskins because we are the children of the Hist, right? But what, you wonder, does that mean, since the Hist are trees and we are clearly not saplings? Well, the Hist are much-more-than-trees, they are the wisdom with roots! They grow tall, wide, and very, very wise, but must stay where they grow, which is sometimes inconvenient. But the Hist see humans and Elves with their walking legs and clever hands, and wisely think, oh, good idea! Now, scurrying over their roots and everywhere in the Marsh are the kind of lizards we call "useful." And a happening happens where the Hist take the kind of lizards we call "useful" and make from them the kind of people you call Argonians.

You see where the current is taking us, do you not? The Hist have Argonians who are their children of the walking legs and clever hands, and they are the best people ever because they lack all the flaws of humans and Elves. But sometimes they want to travel a long way for a long time, and how do people-shaped-people do that? On mounts! And so useful lizards happen to become lizard-steeds of proven shapes, and then Argonians can ride, tall in the saddle and proud!

But I know you beek-ojel, you always want to know more, as if knowledge moistens the scales (it does not, by the way). Knowing that useful lizards happen to become children of the Hist and also lizard-steeds is not enough, you want to know all the details, especially if they are what dryskins call "sexy." However, that is where Ukaspa cannot help, because all of that is a Big Mystery. Oh, not from Argonians of the Hist, because how could it be a Big Mystery to us, who know All the Clues? But you have no clues, because you are not our egg-siblings. Sorry? Anyway, that's what I can tell you about lizard-steeds, so you can go now. Wallow with joy, stay moist, and don't wander around loose in the deep swamp like fools, all right?

Urgent Letter [1]


Sap. That is what these thin-shelled fools call it. As if such a substance could ever be compared to Nirn-tainted resin. No, it is much more than sap.

"Amber Plasm." That is what one of the scholars called it before I fed him to Mighty Chudan. He said that it was like the chaotic creatia of Oblivion—leaking into Mundus through our Hist like blood from a wound. These dry-tongues and their airs—as if anyone could know the secrets of the Hist better than I!

The plasm has accumulated at the roots of the Tsono-Xuhil since before the Saxhleel could lift a spade, but only I have discovered its secrets. Drinking it or bathing in it can drive a Saxhleel mad. But through alchemical study, and the Hist's guidance, I have learned to harness its power. This was no small feat. The creatia is a thing of chaos. The call to Sithis is in its nature. But we must remain deaf to his commands. Those Saxhleel who call him father languish in mud huts and eat old fish from wooden bowls. The Xit-Xaht hear the call to order, and shall dwell in a shining city forever more!

If properly manipulated, the Amber Plasm can grant a worthy Saxhleel great speed and strength. I am proof of its efficacy. Soon, my brew will be ready to distribute to all Xit-Xaht sons and daughters. Then Mazzatun will be a rival even to the Imperial City! The People of the Root will rule Black Marsh first, then all of Tamriel!


Drenidisa Vedran


To understand Mazzatun, you've got to understand Argonians, all right? And no one understands the Argonians. The Argonians don't even understand the Argonians. So it's hardly worth the effort. But I can tell you're keen to learn all you can, so here goes.

Mazzatun is a puzzle, all right? It's a ball of yarn. A tangled, crumbling mess that contradicts every architectural theory on record. I was like you once, you know? I spent the better part of a year interviewing Argonians from surrounding tribes, trying to get some sense of where the ruins came from, how they were built, and why they were built. The best answers I got were half-hearted shrugs and warnings to avoid the ruins entirely. “It's the Hist," they'd say. “The Hist is crazy."

After the Knahaten Flu broke out, a detachment from House Redoran drove into Mazzatun and cleared the place out. They thought that the ruins' inhabitants, the Xit-Xaht tribe, might have been responsible for the plague, you see? I seized the opportunity and joined the expeditionary force—keen to finally see the “Puzzle City" with my own eyes. After the raid was complete, I spent days sketching, measuring, and mapping. I explored every forgotten nook and every hidden cranny. And after all that, I can say with total honesty that I still have no idea what these lizards were thinking.

Nothing in Mazzatun makes sense. It's a jumble of twisting hallways, random alcoves, and hundreds of dead ends. Weathered staircases lead straight into ceilings. There are walls that are hewn to look like doors, and doors that are hewn to look like walls. There are tiny windows into rooms that are too small to enter. And everywhere … everywhere, corpses--desiccated skeletons crushed under collapsed masonry, or left to starve in rooms with no doors. I tell you, it was like peering into Sheogorath's broom closet. Utter madness. It's damn near a miracle that I found my way out.

Mazzatun's only consistent feature is its deviant Hist. Wherever you go, that crazy tree looks down on you. Judging you, you know? Its roots span the entirety of the ruins—pushing through stonework and scaffolding like massive, gnarled tentacles. And all around these huge supports, pools of glowing amber goo bubble up out of the ground like water from a cursed spring. I couldn't begin to tell you what that fluid is, but the Argonians that wallowed in it were frothing mad. Barking and hissing like wild animals. Chilled me to the bone.

I hear that the Xit-Xaht have returned to the Puzzle City. If that's true, take my advice and leave it alone. There's nothing more to learn--no secret treasures or arcane mysteries. The only things you'll find in Mazzatun are madness, misery, and death. Like I said, no one understands the Argonians. Believe me when I say that it's likely to stay that way.