Skip navigation

obscure texts

ESO - Balac Thurm Main Quest


Rescuing the Moth Priests

"A signet ring the Prophet has carried with him since his days in the Moth Priest's library."

"Greetings, <<1>>. <<2>> told me you're a friend of the Moth Priests. I know you saved him from the cultists in <<3>> and recovered the <<4>> from them. Your arrival is a blessing. The people of Aldcroft are in more trouble than they know."

"First you: then I, then our Titanborn. The Moth Priests shall follow us too. Each and every existence depends upon this moment. This here. This now. Now go!"

"I need to find a Moth priest in Shornhelm and offer my help against the Worm Cult."

"I learned that during the night of the kidnapping, a wagon parked outside the Moth Priests' chapterhouse drove off towards Shornhelm's west gate. I should visit the gate and ask if the wagon was seen there."

"The trail of the wagon led me to a hidden cave tucked away in the mountains west of <<1>>. If the Moth Priests are in here somewhere, I have to rescue them."

"I've found the captive Moth Priests, who were kidnapped by members of the Black Worm Cult. Fortunately one of the priests had a recall stone on him. I can use it to teleport all of us out of the cave to the Ancestor Moth sanctuary, Gudrun's Retreat."

"A mighty Daedra lord is attempting to steal the Amulet of Kings! Sai Sahan and I must stop him before he can break the warding."

"The Daedra lord is defeated. The Amulet of Kings is secure, but it appears drained from the warding spell that it created. I should take it and escape."

"I've escaped the Worm Cultists' cave with the Moth Priests in tow. I should exit the room I'm in and see who else is here at Gudrun's Retreat."

"Welcome to Gudrun's Retreat, <<1>>.Now, I'm curious - why in Shor's name did you bring a Dremora Kynval here?"

"The Kynval was disguised as a Moth Priest. I rescued the priests from a group of Worm Cultists."

What the Balac is and how to fix it.

"I should listen to the Prophet. He has seen a vision in the scrolls regarding how I can repair the Staff of Towers."

"It's a magic staff, wrought by some High Elf ages ago. They say the Balac's bound to the very bones of the world, with power enough to breach the walls of Oblivion. It was taken in battle by the sons of Men, long ago, and hidden. But I know where."

"Can you not sense it, <<1>>? The staff - it is broken, incomplete! The Maruhkites, their Dragonbreak... the Balac that was is no more."

"Very good. Now listen well.\n\nThe Balac was formed from the energies of this world - and from these energies we may draw again, to restore the Balac's power."

"The Codex supposedly contains one of the most dangerous secrets in Tamriel - the location of the Balac. It is the Balac that will allow us to free <<1>> from Molag Bal's cold prison."

"The Balac? By what right do you ask of such things? Only the most exalted brethren even know of its existence. And here you, an intruder, come seeking it for yourself. I think not."

"Well enough, Lyris. Well enough. We have the location of the Balac, do we not? And our foretold friend has arrived! The wheel revolves. We cannot ask for more."

"To restore the Balac, to repair its broken parts, you must undertake a greater journey still. Across Tamriel you will travel, into darkened depths and upon luminous heights. Are you for the task, <<1>>? Are you willing?"

"The Prophet's portal stone will get you to the ruins. From there, you must locate the Balac on your own. Go with caution, <<1>>. Gods only know what else you'll find in there."

"The Mages Guild will get you to the Canulus Refuge, have no doubt. From there you must find the Balac on your own. Now hurry - the Planemeld hastens even as we speak!"

"Back from the Canulus Refuge! And that must be the Balac!\n\nWell go on, I don't know what's to be done with it. Give it to the old man."

"Strangeness surrounds us! It is the Balac you bear, but I expected something... different. Here, give it to me. I must examine the staff."

"The Balac? It is ancient, it is might. It is the work of Gods and mer. It is the staff that beats the Doom Drum! I can say little else. What it does, or from whence it came - such questions are obscured to me."

"I know little enough myself.... It is clear the staff was forged through the land, of Nirn itself - channeled magics wrought material.The Balac is ancient, perhaps beyond time. It has seen and done more than you or I can imagine."


Charging the Balac at each of the Towers

"There are many objects of Divine origin scattered throughout Tamriel with which one might recharge something as powerful as the Amulet of Kings. The difficulty is determining which is the safest and most logical to utilize."

"<<1>> believes the energies of the Crystal Tower can be tapped by the Balac, and will partially return the staff to its former power. The anchor of the Crystal Tower is called Crystal-like-Law; its energies tie the tower to Nirn."

"Charge the Balac within the Adamantine Tower"
"Charge the Balac within the Crystal Tower"
"Charge the Balac within Red Mountain"
"Charge the Balac to the Zero Stone"
"Charge the Balac to Crystal-like-Law"

"You say you are willing. Then let your journey begin. The towers await, their stones laid within. The Balac will be drawn to them, as the light is drawn to the dawn."

"The power to restore the Balac lies within the Anchor Towers of Tamriel. Each tower is laid upon a singular stone,  its essence and foundation, the connection to Nirn. Find the stones, one to each tower, and bolster the Balac upon their energies."

"Do not travel by land to the towers! It is out of the question. The Balac is too precious, and there are many dangers out in the world.Seek the Mages Guild I say, for they are allies still, and know much of the magics of teleportation."

"I am inside the Adamantine Tower. Now I must find a way to the Zero Stone and imbue the Balac with its power."

"The Anchor Towers await - Adamantine, Crystal, Red Mountain. Through they alone can the Balac be restored. Ask now of each tower, and I will tell what I may know."

"Find first the Zero Stone, at the heart of Adamantine Tower. In the halls above and dungeons below Clan Direnni rules. They will despise your intrusion, and guard the Zero Stone ferociously. But you must find it, tap its power, tap its power.

"The Zero Stone will restore the staff. It was laid by the gods themselves, back before the dawn.It's so simple! And yet... I fear the journey will be anything but."

"Your friends in the Daggerfall Covenant would gladly send you to Balfiera Island. They always need more reinforcements for their war. Just ask for a battlemaster in one of your alliance cities."

"In the light of the scrolls, through the veil of permeation, I saw three steps to the end."

"First there is an island of war: the place called Balfiera. You must go there to begin."

"Second: the tower, the one called Adamantine. You must get inside. Through depths and darkness you go, downwards, never up."

"And last, the Zero Stone, the core and foundation. Place the staff upon the stone. Its eternal surface connects to Nirn, to recharge and renew."

Canulus Refuge

"The Alessians took the Balac at Glenumbra Moor. What they did with it none can say. Their last refuge at Lake Canulus fell long ago, but the vaults beneath were never plundered. If the Balac isn't there, some word of where it's hidden will be."

"I found a note indicating that the Balac is being kept in a place called the Archives. I will need to find the Archives if I am to recover the staff."

"<<1>> has sent me in search of a book called the <<2>>.\n\nHe believes it is somewhere inside a ruined monastery in Cyrodiil, a place called the Canulus Refuge. I can use Seagrave's portal stone to travel there instantly."

"I appear to be trapped in some sort of dungeon within the Canulus Refuge. I need to find a way out if I am going to recover the <<1>>."

"I have solved the Maruhkite's riddle, and the barrier is down. <<1>> must be located somewhere beyond it."

"I ventured into the depths of the Canulus Refuge and secured the magical staff known as the Balac. I then returned to Lyris Titanborn's hideout and handed the staff over to the Prophet."

"Not by any road, that's for certain. I've a portal stone a wizard enchanted for me: it will send you all the way to Cyrodiil. Take this ring: it will bring you right back after you're finished."

"Aye, and so we'll begin. It's time we recover the Balac. Thanks to you, we know where the Balac was last kept. But we needed a fast, safe way into the Canulus Refuge. The old man here has solved that problem for us, thanks to his portal stone."

"Ah! Of course! Now listen well: The Balac sits in another's hands, suspended from life, out of place, out of time. Hidden, protected, this defender waits, surrounded by death in the depths of his home - a place once called the Canulus Refuge."

"The Spell of Sheathing. It protected this room, isolating me from the world while my brother Maruhkites were slaughtered by heretics. Now you have broken the Sheath. You must die, and then I shall begin the Order's rebirth."


Puzzles and books in Canulus Refuge

"<This statue bears an inscription.>"I am the champion against tyranny, the liberator of slaves, the destroyer of elves. Who am I?\" <Below, three names glow with the same energy that surrounds the Balac.>"

"<This statue bears an inscription.>"I am the true god of time, free from elven aspect, resplendent fruition of the Dragon Break. Who am I?\"<Below, three names glow with the same energy that surrounds the Balac.>"

"<This statue bears an inscription.>"I am the true prophet, beholder of visions, proclaimer of the faith. Who am I?\" <Below, three names glow with the same energy that surrounds the Balac.>"

"<You read the title page of this venerable tome.>"The Maruhkati Sermons\" "Words and Teachings from the Visionary Maruhk, the Indelible Prophet, the Leader of the Faith\"<The rest of the text has rotted away and is completely illegible.>"

"<You read the title page of this resplendent tome.>"The Supreme Spirit"A Treatise on the Splendor of Akatosh, Dragon God of Time, the One,the Only\""

"<You read from the Trials of St. Alessia.>"Akatosh made a covenant with Alessia in those days. He gathered the tangled skeins of Oblivion and knit them fast with the bloody sinews of his Heart. He gave them to Alessia, saying, 'This shall be....'\""

"<You read the title page of this poetic tome.>"The Song of Pelinal, Volume Three: On His Enemy\""

"<You read the title page of this exhaustive tome.>"The First Empress: An Accounting of the Rise of the Slave-Queen Alessia and the Subsequent Defeat of the Ayleids of Cyrod"Authored by Brenton Mannerly, humble servant of the Alessian Order\""

"<You read the title page of this ponderous tome.>"The Staff of Towers"An Examination of the Fabled Artifact, Its Origins, and a History of Its Activity\""

"<You read the title page of this enigmatic tome.> The Lost Maruhkites: Stories of the Forgotten Sect"

"<You read the title page of this journal-like book.> "Sanctuary and the Staff "Final Confessions of a Maruhkite\""


The Marukhati Selectives

"Fanatics! Devotees, they would say, of the Alessian Order. Supposedly they were wiped out during the War of Righteousness.Ha! Their secrets didn't die so easily."

"Antonius, The fires of righteousness burn around us; the faithless scour the land. But our sacrifice will preserve our legacy -- an Akatosh free from the loathsome aspects of merfolk. In your hands the Balac will be protected. Yours in Faith,\nGalla"

"Galla, The Balac is the map and the path, left for us by the Selective. The Dragon cannot be unbroken. We must realign the Archives to keep it safe -- out of place, out of time. -Antonius"

"Antonius, The way to the Balac is sealed, and only Alessia's faithful shall pass. Pray we slip loose of Arkay's bonds to serve eternally. I taste the lies of the heretics on the wind, like bitter ash. They draw near. Yours in Faith,Galla"

"Daybook of Scorian Antissus, Catechumen of Maruhk - Twelfth of Rain's Hand: Peppered mutton again. No surprise: our cook is a Breton. At least there were grilled leeks to go with it. After dinner, practice for two bells with the Blessed Expungers...."

"\"And so it was ordained, by the glorious spirit of Queen Alessia herself. Let the Elven lie be purged from the Empire, through the doom of its progenitors, the Ayleids, slavers, the original enemy of man.\""

"I have seen your success. It is written in the scrolls. With the Balac in hand you shall triumph, our enemies vanquished, the Planemeld extinguished! Do you understand? The Balac is the key, and you shall find it. Are you willing? Are you ready?"

"We abide in the \"Gray Maybe.\" What can any of us speak but riddles? If our enemies have their way, there will be no more riddles... only the dead and deadly certainty."


The final battle at Adamantine Tower

"The what reveals the where. It is Balfiera Island a rock upon the Iliac Bay. The bickering factions of Tamrial vie for its control. An endless arena of war. The battlemasters of the Daggerfall Covenant will readily send you there to die."

"To Balfiera, the island of war - to Adamantine, the tower's depths - to the foundation the Zero Stone! Upon that timeless stone the staff must be charged."

"There is but one tower on that island - the one named Adamantine. Enter the tower,but go down, not up. In those ancient depths, in the dungeons far below, you will find the foundation - the Zero Stone. It alone can restore the Staff of Towers.”

"The Prophet has opened a portal to Balfiera Isle and the Adamantine Tower. I will be bringing the Amulet of Kings with me."

"I must descend into the depths below the tower and locate the Zero Stone, a massive source of Divine power from the Dawn Era."

Abnur Tharn is here, speaking to his Legion soldiers through a magical projection. I should have words with him.

There is a path leading down not far from here. Abnur Tharn's soldiers and Worm Cult agents stand between me and the Zero Stone.

"I've entered into some kind of ancient Ayleid observatory built up around the tower spire. I need to find my way through.

I've reached the Seal of the Stars. I must determine the configuration of constellations that will allow me through.

The way is open. The Zero Stone awaits.

The last of Abnur Tharn's minions stand in my way, hoping to delay me while the Imperial gorges himself on the energy of the Zero Stone.

Abnur Tharn has turned Lyris Titanborn into an undying servant and has set her against me. I must defeat them both to get to the Zero Stone.

Lyris Titanborn is dead, and Abnur Tharn's own demise is little penance for his crime. It is time to empower the Amulet of Kings and find my way, unerringly, to my soul.

I am in some kind of vision. The Amulet is attuning itself to my soul's location.

I will now be able to find my way to wherever my soul is kept, no matter who possesses it. The Prophet has appeared in the flesh through one of his portals. I should speak with him.

The Prophet has asked me to set and light Lyris's funeral pyre.

Lyris has been laid to rest, and her spirit will find its way to the Nord afterlife in Sovngarde. I should finish my business with the Prophet so we can return to the Harborage and prepare for our final task.

"I have entered a twisting descent into the world's heart. The only way forward is down."

"And last1 the Zero Stone1 the core and foundation. Place the staff upon the stone. Its eternal surface connects to Nirn, to recharge and renew."

"I hear it! The Zero Stone echoes from within the staff. You have succeeded. We are one step closer to life, one step further from annihilation."

"I've safely returned to Gudrun's Retreat. I should speak to the Prophet and tell him what transpired beneath the Adamantine Tower."



Translation of Calcelmo's Stone

Kurt Kuhlmann

Ye sa sou meldi calne tarn va nou molagnenseli,ye trumbi nou bala.
And so it was that your people were given passage to our steam gardens, and the protections of our power. (literally “protection of our mathematics”)

Ilpen av sou meldi nagaiale as guntumnia, spantelepe-laelia arani Morae, ye sou liebali racuvane, ye nu rautane sye, ye nu hautalle nou buroi gume sou gravuloi, sa metane sye garlis.
Many of your people had perished under the roaring, snow-throated kings of Mora, and your wills were broken, and we heard you, and sent our machines against your enemies, to thereby take you under.

Frey as gandra dwemera tarcellane sou agea, ye frey as emeratis Avatheledia carelle sou anyamissi bisia silya.
Only by the grace of the Dwemer did your culture survive, and only by the fifteen-and-one tones did your new lives begin.

Nu hecta sou arcten, rias nu nemalauta ge. Nu hecta sou epegandra, rias ne nemalauta ge.
We do not desire thanks, for we do not believe in it. We do not ask for gratitude, for we do not believe in it.

Nu frey sepa sye arcta varlor denai, cullei noue staneia.
We only request you partake of the symbol of our bond, the fruit of the stones around us. [lit. “we only ask you to accept”] (literally “the fruit of our stones”)

Ye ry sou alasil auta, ry loria shanta, abagaiavoy.
And as your vision clouds, as the darkness sets in, fear not.

Malautavoy fey nou darre ye alata nou malae, asma moraga sou anyamis av sercen pado, ye gethena sou wend narilia vey emeratu sou oia bisia.
Know only our mercy and the radiance of our affection, which unbinds your bones to the earth before, and sets your final path to the music of your new eternity.

Lawrence Schick's Posts


Is there a difference between a Senche and a Senche-Tiger? (02/16/15)

Moon Bishop Hulan says, “Many hairless ones are confused by the term ‘senche,’ since we Khajiit use it to mean a variety of things. It is used as ‘senche’ and ‘senche-raht’ to refer to two of the seventeen distinct furstocks, or ‘breeds,’ of Khajiit. The senche-raht, in fact, are the largest of us! But we also use the term ‘senche-tiger’ to refer to our more catlike cousins of lesser sentience. Indeed, depending upon the appearance of these cousins, we might even call them ‘senche-leopards’ or ‘senche-panthers.’ So you see that the term ‘senche’ is very flexible indeed, as changeable as the Moons.”

What is a Daedrat? (03/11/15)

Phrastus of Elinhir says, "Daedrats are vermin from Oblivion that sometimes sneak into Nirn through Oblivion Gates or portals. Dremora think they're kind of cute, so if they catch them they kill them swiftly instead of torturing them, like they do with loose banekin."

Is it proper to drink in a "Temple of the 7 Gods", or is it considered as a desecration, or a very disrespectful behavior? (4/10/15)

Lady Cinnabar of Taneth says, “Context is everything! Drinking in a temple can be completely respectable, especially if part of the drink is poured off as a libation for the Divines. However, drunken misbehavior, unless called for in a specific ritual, should be avoided, lest it give offense to the pious, who may demand that the inebriates be punished for their disrespect.”

What race is Pharstus of Elinhir? What about Lady Cinnabar? (04/28/15)

He's a Cyrodiil; a Nibenese, in fact. Cinnabar is a Redguard.

Do the Vvardenfell vampire clans, like Berne, Aundae, and Quarra, appear on the mainland? (05/08/15)

Divayth Fyr says, “These clans of vampiric pests are native to Vvardenfell, and are rarely encountered on the mainland—if ever.”

Does it snow in Daggerfall? If yes then what celebrations and traditions do they do?

Phrastus of Elinhir says, “Thanks to warm currents to the west in the Eltheric Ocean, it rarely snows in Daggerfall, but the Bretons of that city-state nonetheless celebrate all the winter holidays of the Iliac Basin, particularly the New Life Festival at the turn of the year.”

There are cities in ESO with people and sewers. But never have I found any toilets or anyone who needs them. Where the hell do people do their business? (01/15/15)

Phrastus of Elinhir says, “Many of the urns and receptacles you see in Tamrielic houses are actually chamber pots. But of course you already knew that, so I assume your question is intended as a jest. If so, I must say I find it in questionable taste.”

Where does Cadwell originally come from? (05/28/15)

Cadwell, or as he prefers to be addressed, "Sir Cadwell" (though he is not, nor has he ever been, a knight) was once an Imperial citizen from the town of Chorrol in Cyrodiil. Like the player, he was executed by agents of Molag Bal and became a Soul Shriven slave in Coldharbour, but this happened untold ages ago. Exactly how this happened may never be known because Cadwell was cheerfully, endearingly mad long before his execution. He is almost certainly the oldest of the non-feral Soul Shriven, and he has attained almost legendary status among them. Over the years he's discovered all nooks, crannys, hidden paths, and secret ways through the access tunnels that honeycomb the cliffs of Molag Bal's realm. The Daedra gave up trying to keep him in chains long ago. His madness makes him essentially useless, his cheerful disposition makes him annoying, and his knowledge of Coldharbour makes him impossible to hold captive.

Why are you not arrested for your crimes when you enter Cyrodiil?  (05/28/15)

General Nesh-Tan of the Ebonheart Pact says, “The Province of Cyrodiil is in the grip of all-out war; Imperial jurisprudence there has collapsed. Civil law enforcement cannot be the Pact military’s concern until civil order returns. I can’t speak for the other two alliances, but I’d wager they see it the same way.”

If Upper Craglorn is the "third region of Craglorn", per its promotional materials, that means Lower Craglorn is made up of two regions. Do these two regions of Lower Craglorn have names? (06/10/15)

Phrastus of Elinhir says, “Here in Craglorn, we refer to those areas as the ‘Belkarth Region’ and the ‘Elinhir Region,’ for reasons that should be obvious. Are you in the Elinhir area now? Stop in sometime and buy me a drink!”

Do Khajiit purr? (06/19/15)

Rathuni-la Dawnwhisker, Daughter of Azurah, says, “We Khajiiti come in many forms, many ‘furstocks,’ all of them wonderful—and I assure you, under the right circumstances, all of us purr! Purr-haps you haven’t been treating us as sweetly as you should? Try harder, tiger!”

Eastmarch and Skuldafn appear to be wrong, geographically, in Elder Scrolls Online. (06/19/15)

Phrastus of Elinhir says, “Our latter-day Nords are not well known for the scholarly attainments, and cartography is not one of their strongpoints. On their maps, sites of great importance—to Nords, that is—are often distorted and exaggerated. So it is with the eerie aerie of Skuldafn, which holds great significance for our superstitious northern brethren. They have never been comfortable with the fact that the Dark Elves hold the west coast of the Inner Sea all the way up to Blacklight; in some cases their maps elide that fact entirely. But it is there nonetheless.”

Is it safe for a human to take a bath in the 'waters' of Oblivion? (06/19/15)

Phrastus of Elinhir says, “That depends entirely on where, in the infinite variety of Oblivion, one finds oneself! In Coldharbour, for example, pools of blue fluid are common, but do not mistake it for water: it is Azure Plasm, the chaotic stuff of which Daedra, and their realms, are formed. It’s probably safe to bathe in, but I would hesitate to drink it.”

What does the "Tel Var" in Tel Var Stones stand for? (08/28/15)

Beredalmo the Signifier says, “The name is adapted from the Ayleidoon for ‘silver star’—which is appropriate, as Tel Var Stones are small magically-imbued fragments of the White-Gold Tower splintered from the structure, and the Tower was built by the Ayleids.”

How tall and old is great tree Elden Root at the heart of Grahtwood? And how did it become a city? (08/28/15)

Beredalmo the Signifier says, “The greatest graht-oaks of Valenwood are older than history itself, dating back to the Merethic Era, when the Elves ruled all Tamriel. The mighty walking trees of that time were centers of mystic energy, so the Wood Elves built their settlements among their branches, and were one with the Green.”

We seen Zombie Werewolves but has there been Zombie Vampires? (08/28/15)

Beredalmo the Signifier says, “The former is a case of a lycanthrope becoming a lower sort of undead, which would seem consistent with what I know of necromancy, at least as practiced by the Ayleids, who are my specialty. I would think a Zombie Vampire would be two kinds of undead in one, which sounds impractical.”

Will we see the "rare shaggy giant centipede herdbeast that can live only at high altitudes" in Orsinium that is spoken of in the Pocket Guide to the Empire, 1st Edition/The Wild Region? (09/16/15)

Lady Honnorah af-Lahreq says, “No such beast is mentioned in either De Brazy’s ‘Steeds of Tamriel’ or Luponio’s ‘Mounts of the World,’ so it’s probably safe to regard them as mythical. (I’ve always found the Orcs to be more fanciful than most people think!)"

Who is the king in West Skyrim at the time of Elder Scrolls Online? (09/16/15)

Phrastus of Elinhir says, “Shortly after the Second Empire dissolved into chaos, High King Logrolf of Skyrim was assassinated. The succession was disputed, and the kingdom of the Nords split into East and West Skyrim, with the west being ruled by the Jarls of Solitude. King Svargrim has ruled West Skyrim since 561, and though aging, is still hale, and shows no desire to give up the throne.”

Is Daggerfall invading the west part of the Rift? (09/16/15)

Phrastus of Elinhir says, “Dear me, no—Falkreath is part of West Skyrim, and its jarl owes allegiance to King Svargrim in Solitude. As I can tell you from personal experience, the Covenant soldiers you see near Elinhir are part of that alliance’s expeditionary force to Cyrodiil, and are holding open the supply lines from Cyrodiil to High Rock.”

Are Stranglers & Dryads exempt from the Green Pact if they display aggression toward a Bosmer? (01/15/16)

The Spinner Sandaerion says, “You love your child, but if he misbehaves, do you not punish him? It is even so with the Green. We love our foliage friends, but wrong behavior must be punished.”

Do mead brewers also hold the title of marriage counselors in Nordic society? (01/15/16)

Rigurt the Brash says, “Every Nord is a marriage counselor once you pour enough mead into him!”

In Jackdaw Cove, there is a Glenmoril Wyrd Breton (Wyress Rashan) who has taken wolf form (not werewolf.) Could you explain the lore behind this? (01/15/16)

Lady Cinnabar of Taneth says, “The Glenmoril Wyresses are deep in the mysteries of Hircine, and are known to have access to beast-form magic unavailable to more ‘civilized’ mages.”

Early promotional materials mentioned that Queen Ayrenn "suffered personally at the hands of Abnur Tharn," but that isn't followed up in game. What happened? (01/15/16)

Aicantar of Shimmerene says, “Since the ascension of our queen to the Throne of Alinor, it is inappropriate to delve too deeply into indignities she might have suffered before her coronation. But rest assured that all is known, and nothing is forgotten.”

What are Lustrants?  (01/15/16)

Doctor Rhythandius says, “As I understand it, ‘Lustrant’ is a term used by Molag Bal’s Dremora minions to refer to the followers of Meridia—that is, when they’re not calling them ‘Glow ***.’”

Can a female Orc warchief have multiple wives and/or multiple husbands? (01/15/16)

Curator Umutha of the House of Orsimer Glories says, “The situation you describe is not unheard-of, but marriage traditions vary from clan to clan, and have even been known to change over time. Orcish cultural institutions are ancient and strong, but history is rife with occasions when powerful chiefs bent the rules to suit their own wills.”

Why can a non-vestige character (created in the ESO:Morrowind tutorial) use the wayshrine system? (04/20/17)

Here you see a symptom of a dilemma that exists for ESO that was never an issue for the single-player games. A packaged single-player game is by its nature a self-contained fire-and-forget product—it may have retcons in it, but in the end it says what it says and it’s graven in stone, no matter what devs and players may have to say about it later. An MMO is a different animal: it’s a live game that evolves over time, changing due to both player feedback and the need to issue new content to keep it fresh. Everyone on this forum loves Elder Scrolls lore, and we do too, but every Elder Scrolls title is designed first as a game, and then lore is created to support its game-ness. New lore is ideally consistent with pre-existing background, but the lore has to support the game rather than the reverse. With ESO we have the unprecedented issue of having to write lore that supports a game that can then FUNDAMENTALLY CHANGE in response to player feedback and external market forces. Before One Tamriel, you could look at ESO and say, “Okay, geography equals history, and where the player is on the map is where they are in time.” That no longer applies, and lore created to support the mechanics of the game at launch is now out of step with the observable world of the ongoing game. ESO: Morrowind, with its new non-Vestige tutorial, shakes that up even further. We have some ideas about how to explain these revisions to reality within the context of existing mythic structure … but since you brought it up, we’d love to hear YOUR ideas on how ESO’s current take on Nirn “makes sense” according to pre-existing lore. All right, the Vosh Ball is in your court—have at it!

On the name of Firemoth Island in the 2nd era, prior to Imperial occupation (04/20/17)

Our assumption is that the later Imperials of the Third Empire didn’t name the island after their fort, they named their fort after the pre-existing name of the island.

Vivec City and Baar Dau - what came first? (05/27/17)

Archcanon Tarvus preaches: “Long and long has the Palace stood where Lord Vivec decreed its erection. Pilgrims come to wonders, wonders come to the Poet, yea, even from the void, and yet more pilgrims come to wonder at the wonders. A Temple canton is built to receive them, visitation drives trade, trade drives construction, the Twin Saints arise in Ascadia! The Poet sees it is good, and calls for Warriors to tame the land for pilgrim protection. Redoran responds with righteous strength, plans are laid for ever-greater glories, Hlaalu comes with coin and cleverness, and greatness grows on the Inner Sea. All in the Shadow of Wonders. Do you see, O Faithful? Do you see?”

Are marketing materials part of lore? (06/09/17)

Unless it's credited to a Tamrielic source, e.g., "According to Beredalmo the Signifier...", marketing copy should not be considered to represent in-world lore. Safety first!

On Elder Scrolls Online's use of a wolf as Indoril's sigil (06/15/17)

Early in ESO's development, like nine years ago, well before we had any lore-checking processes in place, the wolf got picked for the Indoril banner based on the stylized wolf-head that appeared on Mehra Drora's gorget in TES3. This got promulgated onto some other assets, and it didn't get spotted until ESO: MW was in PTS testing. We're gradually sorting it out, but doing that kind of thing means diverting resources from the next DLC, so corrections don't always happen instantly.

On the appearance of Imperial currency (08/29/17)

Imperial gold coins had dragons on them long before Tiber Septim.


What My Beloved Taught Me

Michael Kirkbride

A Personal View of Chimeri Culture

Who are you?

A gutter-get, a daggerlad, a netchiman’s son. I have my own gang. Get away from me or they’ll stare.

Who are we?

‘We’..? You mean ‘you’. You, sera, wear the namesake of a tramp’s house and your sandals are dusty. I’d guess you the guard of some canvasari, if I had to, and your lordship if you paid. Come now. A six-bitten dram and I’ll touch. A scrib-roll and we’ll have candles. Closer and in your ear: I was born a whelp-wench in my under, if that suits you.

What makes us great?

For true, you ask me this? I see only a sandal-foot sword in love with Mephala's teachings, and Veloth's. Won’t you love me, too? Or does his lordship want it Saliache, weeping and weak-kneed with their lisp, their lilt, as I can do that, too.

Where do we live?

Eh? This is the Mourning Hold, you may keep what inn you need. As for me, I call these alleys home, or the under-docks, and mark my only-known days with sores. You tilt your head in a way that I do not like.

How do we live?

You? You seem to live no life that I can match, and seem to do it from behind a mask. Drinksweat tubes beneath, if I’m no mistake. Fair, then: you have riches and a good master. So pay now or move on. I live by gutting those that would estimate me as some other worth; higher, lower, base, or dumb beast.

What is important in my life?

That’s for yourself to esteem. By now, and little offense, but you’ve set me bored. Have you brought a skoomerpipe with you, or flin? I’d show you a roof where we could look on this poor country of ash-woven outcasts and share sigils. Share spears.

Who rules us?

That bitch-whore of a storm that runs The Orphanage, if the writs be read. And I’ve yet to learn that bit of tradecraft. I see now only in the sigils, and yours are recognizable enough. Would you let me wear that mask, if only for a minute?

What makes a Chimer great?

Making sure the other dies before you.

What is the difference between men and women?

There is no difference in me, milord. Come: rooftop. Bring your money.

What is evil?


What is my lot in life?

A sixth-dram dropped, and you flinch from my hand. Good, muthsera. Good for you. I have the third’s eye fire and can tell you the story of your house. In the all honest Vel, I’d rather have that than your hand. It has the ghartoki on it. Hold now, they both do. Who are you, sandal man?

How do we deal with others?

For you, I would shave this head. It would not do that your new friend shook an inconstant kwam-lice from it. I'd take the sigil of Vel, the V, and wear it twice. And I would be new, and believe in the one moon and star as your banner does. I’d make a legend of this netch longhook. Make no frown that this will be my weapon in your guard, however low its station. We all drink from the milk of our fathers. I’d learn to read and then write so that I could see right your name forever. And I would clean your feet so that the next time you made treaty it would be with an assured step.

Who are our enemies?

He that says your name wrong, in sky beard, or fourth corner, or the mock-walkers of our cousins, the tunnelers. This, too: the bitch-whore of storm if she does not take your hand when you ask it. And I see this idea behind that mask of yours already. You aim to take the land anew. You aim to wake the old sleeper. You aim to make the sky red. You have a name for it already.

Who are our gods?

Old things. Leftovers. We left them all behind with the weepers. Their names now are only numbers. I’ll become good with those, my Grace. Trust me. The ending of the words is HORTATOR.


Kurt Kuhlmann's Posts

Kurt Kuhlmann

On the origin of Nedes, as Hasphat Antabolis

The usual Imperial arrogance. The hoary old "Out of Atmora" theory has been widely discredited (no reputable archaeologist would publicly support it these days), but the Imperial Geographers continue to beat the drum of the Nordic Fatherland in the best tradition of the Septim Empire. They seem to think that the imprimature of officialdom gives their outdated scholarship added weight -- which, unfortunately, it appears to in the eyes of the ever-gullible public which continues to snap up the latest Pocket Guides along with the rest of their Imperial Certified pablum.


On the usage of -mer and -meri suffixes in the 3rd era (08/17/99)

"[x]mer" Can stand for either singular and plural. It is confusing, but is an artifact of the oral form.

"[x]meri" The adjectival. So a High Elven dagger is an Altmeri dagger. EXCEPT in the case of proper names, in which it can be all three, adjectival, singular, and plural. Example: He is a Direnni, they are the Direnni, that looks of Direnni manufacture.

IN FACT, the current third era proper name usage is an artifact of all previous era's usages. To whit, the Pocket Guide to the Empire, which uses [x]mer and [x]meri (and all their usages) interchangeably.

THAT, my friends, is why, when Slave Queen Alessia overthrew the Ayleids (Wild Elves, don't ask) and established Slave's Cant (eventual Cyrodilic) as the lingua franca, Cyrodiil c. 1E240, she said: "Enough of this! He's an Elf, they are Elves, and their Elven tyranny is over!"


On the Maormer, as Hasphat Antabolis (02/23/02)

What's in the PGE is the long and short of it. I was overcome by a brief flirtation with the cultures of the Maomer after a colleague of mine on the mainland sent me a collection of jelly-stones he found in an abandoned water-mock temple of the original Aldmeri shore-tower masons. The stones were possessed of a remarkable aftertone process, whose tendencies ran towards the sorrow spectrum, not unlike those mentioned in the minutes of the Orgnum conference during last year's Moth Assembly. Where was I..?

How I do miss Cyrodiil. I have been too far away; even the skooma visions have lost their power (though none of their degenerative effects on my tuning bone) to help me remember those lovely lads in the Two Tibers Make Something of It Phalanx or the bug-bearded creation shepherd who headed the research department.

Mm, we were talking about the chimeric Maormer, weren't we? I'm sorry, my native belly-guest has arrived with snakes in her mouth. Whatever could that mean?

Was Vvardenfell at one point connected to the Morrowind mainland? As Hasphat Antabolis. (03/06/02)

While I would of course defer to my esteemed colleague Prof. Ghan in all matters geologic, I may perhaps contribute my own small mite to this discussion.

In my research in the very oldest Nord records, I found ancient maps which showed no island in the north of modern Morrowind -- just a region labeled "Dwemereth" which encompassed the island of Vvardenfell as we know it as well as a rather wide swath of what is now the mainland. Indeed, as best as could be made out from the rather crude map, the coastline once extended some distance further north than Vvardenfell does now.

I defer to my more learned colleagues to determine the process of formation of the geologic structures of present- day Morrowind, but I have no doubt that in ancient times Vvardenfell was part of the mainland.

Did the Amulet of Kings exist prior to Alessia? (09/24/05)

From the timeline (apologies to the moth-priests who would have us blanketly dismiss them-- I wonder if they would if certain of elements contained therein supported their case):

"1E266 Shezarr, the missing sibling god of the Eight Divines, arrives at the White Gold Tower in the Imperial City and transforms the dying Alessia into the first of the Cyrodilic saints. Thus Empress Alessia becomes the first gem in the Cyrodilic Amulet of Kings. The Elder Council elects Belharza the Man-Bull as the second Emperor of Cyrodiil."

Emphasis my own, but let us not think that the Chim-el Adabal came after its "first gem".

The meaning of Chim-el Ada-bal (09/24/05)

Chim: in this case, 'royalty'.

El: 'high'

Ada: 'spirit'

Bal: 'stone'

So, "the spirit stone of high royalty."

When the Amulet of Kings is called the Chim-el Adabal, it is never meant as a literal translation. Intent is key. While it is, in a sense, a surrogate name, the speaker is instead using it when being especially reverent, referring to the amulet's ancient ties to the power of White-Gold Tower.

Michael Kirkbride's influence on Skyrim (10/08/11)

We all try not to take it to heart that only MK can save Skyrim from the trash heap - but I can say that even without directly writing any books, I'd say there's more of his influence on Skyrim than Oblivion. Probably a lot more - if you look at the chapter from the PGE on Skyrim, (pretty sure that was one of his - I can't remember any more who wrote which one, it's Bilbo and Strider all over again), and that chapter is the foundation for the whole setting. And if you look really hard, you might even find a painted cow. (No comment on flying whales.)

Painted cows in Skyrim (14/11/11)

It's a damn shame the Civil War mission to befriend a giant by bringing him a painted cow didn't survive... but at least the painted cow got into the game.

Ysgramor is a dragon? As Hasphat Antabolis. (08/03/12)

An interesting theory. But as usual, the credulous minds gravitate to the most outlandish theories.

If Ysgramor was indeed a "dragon", most likely he was a Dragon Priest - in the Late Merethic Era, it would be unlikely for a leader of Ysgramor's reported stature to be unconnected to the Dragon Cult. But connecting the Nord hero Ysgramor with the now-reviled Dragon Cult is of course anathema to those who favor chauvinism over historical truth.

Other possibilities are that Ysgramor was not an individual but an amalgamation of several people - his reported exploits encompass an unreasonable amount of time for a single individual. At the time, anyone of high stature or great prowess in battle would have been considered a "dragon" (the highest compliment imaginable). This does not mean that Ysgramor was in fact an actual dragon, but I have no doubt that the literal-minded among us will not hesitate to jump to the most obvious conclusions. True scholars will of course be more circumspect.  -Hasphat Antabolis


Foul Murder

Michael Kirkbride


Tiber Septim’s Sword-Meeting with Cyrus the Restless

Michael Kirkbride, Lady Nerevar, Adanorcil

“How did I get here?”

“The guards, Cyrus, you don’t remember? You left plenty on the stairwells, in my hall here, and all over the courtyard. And then there’s the matter of a Battlespire stuck into the southern side of the moon, as if Masser were about to play the flute. But that’s not the real question, Redguard. The question is: why are you here in the first place?”

“Oh, it’s you. Took long enough.”

“You made sure it was loud enough again. And this time you didn’t run.”

“No, I ran. You just have too many guards.”

“Can I really have too many? Get back to the question, please.”

“You know the answer. You got pretty loud yourself.”

“I’m sorry about your friend. I am. Tell me that’s not why you’re really here. He hated you, he said.”

“He did. Things got bad. Doesn’t change anything.”

“Ah. Your famous honor. And here I figured you were going to steal something.”

“Yeah, that’s still part of the plan. Now unlock me. And a sword would be nice.”

“Maybe in a little while, just let me have a word. The way you handled the Altmer was impressive. I could always use a good general these days. Or an admiral, even, if you’re better at sea. According to this, you know all about my admirals.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me.”

“I’m not. I would give your honor a better place and this I swear. Mine is the Voice of the Emperor.”

“That’s exactly what I came to steal.”


Tiber Septim’s Sword-Meeting with Cyrus the Restless


Phynayesteryear 4558 SIY, 3E_____ CIY, all reckonings/refractions in sorted order, en masse obliged in hope, re: the Incident of the Sura-hoon Maneuver in the Masser, and of the treaties broken there and the treaties thereafter having needs to be reinstated with new addenda, namely: the Get Out of His Way lash-tag v.2.4245, recognized now both in ThirdEmpireMen (hereafter TEM) and ThalmorEmissariesMasser (hereafter TEM), unless should there be Opportunity by One or the Other Power to capture/ kill/ interrogate-from-crew (presently, the “Carrick”) without breaking those measures now writ in the aforementioned reworked accords, on threat of annulment from the TEM, and taken from that first voidship present at Incident, these the annals-at-panel of the Alinor Sunbird SMIS Longbow, may they not rest in peace, 187 souls aboard in sum.

The mirror-make of the SMIS Longbow started up, spinning in glass collectors set to catch the sun’s warnings of threat. Its bridge unfolded, and the high elves of its helm folded out from their collective to panel stations, lathered in micro-seconds by their protocolinachs in the filaments of emergency varliance to protect their skins and uniforms from immediate death by aetherfire.

The First of First Mates slotted into his harvester and barked the obvious. “Lower the sun song fifty, or we’ll feel the singe. Rotate our prayers and bring her up. What have we got?”

The Master of Lillandrils-at-Void went to rote, his teeth a cricket quick-click sound, “Helm crew unfolded none have perished give utmost thanks to the filaments solar wings sectored out and pulling towards starboard their ‘ractals math’d and working the bridge is stage set safe for the Aldmerality talk-box if need with the mirror-make uncracked keeping luck where it should be our sunbird is a go.”

“All hands, all hands, this is the First of First Mates, Terror Thought, and we are now at full sail. Salute me and begin. Turn the Mirror and show us.”

The mirror-make’s nymic was pronounced by the helm in unison, going Logician. The Mirror, nautical once more, became pleased with itself, purring. It zoom shunted monocles on to the fifty-plus bridge crew members with its blowgun-like pneumatic brass-glass branches. Those that weren’t ready or properly trained fell screaming or in silence from shards to face or mouth. Terror Thought shook his head. “I will have to fill out forms for that! Ancestry for the fallen, though it does us no favor! Mirror on the deck.”

The Mirror blurred, warbling the Longbow for a moment. A few more were lost to nausea and the filaments ate their glands for restoration. Sectoring out further toward the upper and outer bulkheads, the Mirror made windows. “We are awake and knowing. Void-eyes on. Stare between Oblivion and Aetherius with a purpose. An unknown vessel is detected on the changewinds of our charter.”

“That’s not possible,” typed the Scribe, young by Alinor standards, never-year’d now in this, her first protector ticket across the moons. “Septim promised us no tricks.”

“It’s not Septim. Let the Lillandris bring it up on Mirror.”

Another warbling and it was spotted, the vessel that woke the sun threats at the start. Terror Thought looked, thought, and then said aloud: “What the hell is that? It looks like... Scribe, describe it for the record and then suggest.”

“Permission to talk without sense for the moment, but the vessel is mundrial, sir, wood with canvas sails, no void stones to engine it out here at all. It’s only seaworthy by every account and yet their course seems set for Masser.”

The Mirror shunted again, retracting off the monocles of those that needed to say a prayer to keep their belief-of-self intact. “What should really trouble you, Terror Thought, is that they are waving at us.”


The Scribe lightly coughed for effect and cocked her head. “I don’t understand how they’re doing it, sir, but they’re sailing through the void and flying their colors on a wind that they seem to have brought from Mundus. And by waving at us, the Mirror means their flag. It bears a strange mark, seemingly scribbled in a language I can’t translate, but I infer it’s intended for Longbow. In short, they want to be seen by us, sir.”

The First of First Mates then cocked his own head, his eyes flitting bird-like from one window to another, scanning them, moving inside his own known senses.

“Hold! I see its reflection now. Give me another salute, for we are about to make history.”

“That’s a wonderful thought, sir,” the Scribe typed. “I never thought I would live to see a chapter mark. Priming the cannon; our sunbeam is already up. I will footnote now my request: your consideration for breeding with me after our triumph.”

The bridge moved across plates so that all still alive could witness the answer to the engagement. The talk-box erupted with excited chatter and the placement of bets in the engine room. Terror Thought sighed and pressed his heel, moving the plates back to their proper panels. Monocles socketed back in.

“I recognize the language of their rags, everyone. It’s a Yoku dare: ‘May the Devil Take the Hindmost.’ Very well, all other Thalmoric prism mandates go into crystal for the moment. Hit the solar twelvewind and give chase. We have ourselves some pirates!”


“That wasn’t funny, Coyle,” Cyrus said, folding his telescope. The rest of the Carrickers were at their stations, ready to scramble at moment’s notice. The young Yokudan glanced over at his captain, smiling.

“Fornower’s idea, really,” he said. “And we had spare paint. I wonder if they notice that our flag is an Imga cape.”

Cyrus stared at him hard. “You see their sunbeam? You can’t miss it, Coyle, spyglass or not. I’m still seeing double. That thing can--”

“Good. Then you won’t know which Coyle to punch. C’mon, cap, it’s Old Mary. They’re no better at catching us here than they were in the Divide.”

Cyrus grabbed his vest from the rail, shaking his head while buttoning it. He laughed a little.

“You’re an idiot, boy” he said. “But you’re probably right. And it was smart to have them follow us.”

“I know.”

“Don’t get cocky. Go on and have the men beat the sloadbags. We need the speed. You’ve given me an idea.”

“Aye-aye, sir.”

Coyle made motion and joined the scramble himself, taking up the cattle-prods that Gar had reworked with enchantments. The crew carefully speared the fleshy spores attached to the sides of the Carrick and hissing sounds followed.

Thras gas steered them into a new wake, and Cyrus watched his men with something akin to pride on his face. It lasted but a moment, when the sunbeam of Longbow fired, a length of fire splitting the void behind him. Thorpe moved to look for scorches.

“M’sorry, Cy, the lads were just having their fun. It’s your own fault, you know, getting them all riled up and fearless, their eyes on a prize you challenged them to be impossible.”

There’s a fine line between madhouse and mutiny, Cyrus thought, but this isn’t one of them. The old scrub was right. I wonder if I’ve been with them too long now, changing their heads like this over and over again.

“Tobias,” he said. Thorpe heard him, thinking it a call for order, realizing it wasn’t. The captain was acting right weird these days, but some might just argue it was the void. It had a tendency to drive men to questioning.


Ach, get out from there, laddie. You’re under the cat’s clamdesk again. Thorpe’s just near the same out in the alley. Chamberpotted him to wake up, so I’ve got none for you. We need to move. Dunmereth’s a long way from here and I’ve decided not to use the Pass. We’re going through it up the gut instead. I’m not taking any chances, even if it means lizards.


“I remember Tobias when he made a mistake in front of all of us,” Cyrus said to Thorpe, “I left him then, thinking him old, and, worse, over. What am I talking about?”

“Nothing, sir, you was just askin’ if the timbers were blackened and none are so no worry.”

“Right. Thank you, Thorpe.”

Cyrus then undid the buttons again, noting how most of his vest’s velvet filigree had long gone into the way of leathered smudge.

“Cy, find your head. Look at them, the apes you’ve made that love you. Now, look at that beast that follows, its crew o’ wrong-eyed alien murderthirst that we’ll never understand.”

Cyrus looked up, tongued the tooth that was still moveable since he and Borden disagreed on this journey and its end heist. “Nord had knuckles, I’ll give him that,” he said.

Thorpe tossed his sponge and Cyrus caught it without thinking. The scrub was angry. “Lookee now, I remember Tobias, too, but which set of knuckles are ye talkin’ yer teeth about here?”

“My whole life is a fight--”

“Some of them didn’t stay, some of ‘em looked on ya like ye were gone too mad, but yet-so get over it. If ye start to forget why we’re here, beatin’ mast to make the moon, we’ll shipwreck on a whim of yours made under blue an’ proper skies.”


All right, people, some of them didn’t stay. It’s Morrowind, after all. But eyes to the sand. Look. Best as I can make, this is their layout. It’s a bug-camp, though, so expect it to be wrong when we get in. Timbalt, you and your boys are shoot duty. Itu, Naddock, Mal, Thorpe? You’re with me. Frigar, you’re watching those hornet-riders; memorize their patterns if they got one, shout ‘em down if you figure we’re in there fighting, it’ll be obvious. Cyrus, the cats are held captive here, here, there, and most likely there, too. They look thin, but they’re jits, so they’ll come out fighting if this all comes to trouble. And that would be a mistake.


“I’m sorry, Thorpe, you mistake me. We’re not being chased like you think. I was trying to say--”

“Hell we’re not, and now yer actin’ nostalgic, an’ getting’ yer brawls past and present all mixed up. Making peace with your old captain is yer own lug-weight, Cy, and now’s not really the proper clock.”

“Shut up, Thorpe, that’s not you talking. It’s this sail. And call it a whim one more time and I’ll have you. Now watch if you won’t listen. See our chaser’s cannon all moved out and forward? They’re about to fire and I haven’t set to order our move to change course.”


I told you, Frigar had the hornets! Ach, look, cat, I appreciate the help but I’ve got this. Cyrus, stop staring at the sky and look at me. At which point did you decide to change course? Change course? That hornet had you pinned. Is that your view from the top, now, laddie? I was staying my head down and waiting for our shooters. No, this was a fight and I just won it for you. When I’m down, you get to make that call. Looked plenty down to me. That jaw just won’t stop now, will it? We’ll collect our drake and be done with it. I’m through protecting you. You never did, Tobias. You just had the boat and a face I remembered.


Cyrus looked to Thorpe. “Wait for it.”


And the cricket-click went: “Sunbeam charge reroute to main engine move to intercept the remains of our prey they are glass’d for cannon fire what was that eruption report”


The Carrickers hit the deck when the SMIS Longbow exploded, a small warp of the Lords of Misrule clamoring for the creatia they might claim for their own. Daedric servitorslips blinked into view around the Alinor Sunbird’s last moment. A small Oblivion war happened in the space that was not.

Cyrus looked at Thorpe, who was on the floor in brave panic. “There. Is everyone’s head on straight yet? Should be, because look at that.”

A massive shape moved across the silver disc of Masser on the fore. Gar started to shake some magic from his hands, but Fornower put them down. “It won’t help. That’s the Imperials.”

Cyrus heard this from high up and nodded. “Yes,” he called to the crew. “Yes, it is. Now I’ve only seen these on blueprints and in books, but it’s one of their void-castles. It’s them that fired. That’s why we’re still sailing. Stay good.”

Thorpe, eyeing the shape, a collection of towers on a upturned crag of rock, immense in its entire, red loops shining like earrings along its flanks, cooling from the blast they sent towards the Altmer ‘bird, and said, “A Battlespire. Godsblood, Cy, I see now why Borden set to knock you on yer head.”

Cyrus was smiling. “Borden was short-sighted. So are you. The prize we seek is just behind that beast, on those lunar breaks you can make out just there. See?”

“You just started a war, dummy. That’s all I see.”

“No, I just made sure the elves chased us too far. There’s a treaty out here on the edge of nothing between men and mer, just like back home. The Carrick, she’s a Wayrest boat, easy on their eyes and less threatening to boot. We were just the bait. And now we switched.”

Thorpe made a sound through his lips. “We’ve got bleedin’ sload bumps for gas and a sphere o’ anti-madness that’s barely held, cap. What exactly did we switch up to?”



To Provisional Governor of the Reach, Contested High Rock, Titus Alorius, Knight-Commander of the Estates, Duke of Esteem in unified Colovia, Blade-Seneschal of the Emperor Tiber Septim, etc., etc., etc.

Whereas the Master of the TEM Battlespire Honor Before Glory, Celeus Fallbright, Knight-Commander of the Ruby Armada, Admiral of the Dragon Banner at Void and Commander in Chief of His Majesty's Ships and Vessels employed and to be employed in the Lanes Aetherial & Mnemolic, etc., etc., etc.,

--is now dead without recourse to doctrined revivication, set out by the Elder Council, the Congress of the Eight, and the Chamberlains of the College of Imperial Magic--

You are now appointed as the new commander of the TEM Battlespire Utmost Triumph to secure in irons real and unreal, the vagrant Redguard terror Sura-do-Hega, 'Cyrus' in the Cyrodilic, 'The Maverick King of the Alk'r' in quarters vulgar, base, and tavern-fanciful--

--and all hands of his vessel the Carrick, for questioning by an appointed emissary of White-Gold, and to do so without delay.

Be advised, if reports are true, the Carrick and its captain have destroyed both the TEM Honor Before Glory and TEM Longbow, Sunbird of Alinor. While vox-enabled memospores seem to indicate that the TEM Longbow was taken unawares and easily bested, defeat of the TEM Honor Before Glory appears to have been the work of subterfuge. Proof-transmission follows:

Archimandrite-at-Ready: “Hailing the captain of the vessel flying the Imga cape. We can’t hear you. We see you cupping your hands. Please try to yell louder.”

Cyrus: “Get out of my way!”

Archimandrite-at-Ready: “Halt and present yourselves for inspection. We apologize for the Altmeri transgression. This is friendly void.”

Cyrus: “Last chance!”

Archimandrite-at-Ready: “Lanes to Imperial Masser are closed to the citizenry. Turn back or we will fire upon you in majestic ways.”

Cyrus (muffled): “Coyle, pull her up and over eight degrees moon-by-moon-north. Haekele, cut the lashes and launch our slug. Thorpe? On my mark, full spin to stop, and drop cargo. This is why I paid a ransom in salt.”

Visuals can verify that the Carrick was somehow sailing via sload-clusters, barnacled to its sides, but this is common for Abecean liners at mundrial sea. What is most asuredly not common is a fully-grown specimen of Thras held by ropes beneath the beam, and launched like some ad-hoc torpedo.

With the application of salt, the crew initiated hitherto unforeseen peristaltic vibrations within said specimen, propelling it forwards and into a landing bay of the TEM Honor Before Glory. Considerable Thrassian flatulence resulted, sending the incapacitated vessel spiraling towards the side of the moon.

Its impact into the Colony proper was ameliorated by orbital moth-mirage and screening flak, yet its bulk cratered itself nearby, no souls surviving.

P-G Titus Alorius, report to the nearest Weir Gate, show arms, take teleport, and make haste for Masser.

Given on board the TEM Warspore Tiberia,
at aetherial anchor, 26th Last Seed, 3E____
Praeceptor Superior Erramanwe


Fornower was in the ropes, using a trumpet from Pyandonea to sound the moonfall.

“Prepare for landing! Everyone in their suits and everyone watching the others. If one of us can’t remember how, another of us grabs their straps and buckles ‘em tight. We’re the Carrickers and none forget.”

Dust washed across the eyelets of their helmets and the keel made a sound that Cyrus frowned at, but his ship set even well enough, its crew pushing the sloadbags down by pole-struts to serve as landing bladders. Haekele grabbed at the glimmerwelts that rose up, and the captain had no heart to tell him that these things were a compost of a sort and nothing to make one rich.

“On my lead,” Cyrus said, jumping over the side, “I’ve been here before.”

Those in the reaving party jumped, too, no nations now in their tatter-suits, leaping in arcs for the youngest or the wild, or careful hops into the silver dust for those between both, and all of them looking around through the eyelets of their helmets which were bulging out now with breath, like speckled, half-dumb tubers taking the measure, and fat-fingered gloves pointing up from the south towards the Imperial walls of the Colony.

Cyrus started running. Coyle hit beside him already at full gait, saying “For you, cap! For Hayle!” before leaping again off a lip of a crater to disappear behind the small dust plume of his own making. The boy let go the flag-cape of the Imga which he had re-stolen just for this moment and it raised up to hang in the air and his shipmates saw the dare.

And Chemli remembered her nation then, shouting, “SPRINT!” and blowing off the front of her helmet off with power. She panicked for a second, but Fornower landed beside her, his hair tangled in glimmerwelt (he couldn’t figure out the pockets of his suit) and he had left his helmet long behind.

“It’s okay, we can breathe here! Just learn how!” Evidently, for some, it was by licorice straw; Fornower was using one as a reed. His hair, what was left of it, it still was left, and she could imagine it combed, but stop thinking about that and run.

“Quit being stupid,” Cyrus grunted, nearing the crater’s edge.

“Right,” barked a voice, which issued from the suit that was marked as Haekele’s, and was prancing, “Hearken to your captain! Here be dragons! Let no Devil--”

A tuber floated slow, then hit the surface with certitude. Cyrus sheathed his saber, having none of the strain the others did with the tatter bulk. When Haekele’s suit fell, it leaked gems. Then the scamp showed itself, its mouth sewn shut so that the voice just heard became a wonder, and Cyrus shook his head. An arrow found the scamp’s eye, and Jill, one of the cautious, refolded her bone bow eighteen paces back.

“What was that, Sura?” someone asked. Not many were running now.

The gems were Haekele’s favorite prize from Cold Harbour. The scamp was just a letter sent by its master. Cyrus wouldn’t take his helmet off to answer Jill. She just might see Borden in his eye. Hell, she might even see S’rathra.

“We’re being chased,” he said by way of explanation. “Enemies front and behind now. Don’t despair.”

“That’s no answer, Cap.”

“What did I miss?” This yelled from Coyle, on the other edge of the crater, the Colony barely framed behind him, its description changing as the moths remade it according to some Imperial command.

Dumb to let him keep those, if you don’t mind me saying. My boat, Borden, and they make him happy. Well, yeah, all shiny from the dwimmerdark makes ye happy, sir, but that’s the point. Just tell the boy to sell ‘em when next we make port. Let a merchant deal with, y’know, Him. No. They’re Haekele’s spoils, and he won them fair. He won them fair from Molag Bal! Shh. They can hear their names, Borden. Wait, yer lettin’ on to him that this is a raga thing, aren’t you? No. Not really. But you are! You are! And what a raga wins, a raga deals with, am I right? Just... just grab the maps, Borden, and plan with me the job. Hell no, yer makin’ us all bait! I’ll have none for it! Put the sword down and get serious. Not a chance. Put. The. Sword. Everybody get down here, they’re killing each other!

“What would you do with it, if you had it?”

“What you won’t.”

“That’s too broad a view, Cyrus. And it smacks of desperation.”

“I’m chained to a wall. Thought the tone might fit.”

“Ah, then tones it is. Hear mine: WULDVOKEIN!”



“Quit... talking in hurricane.”

“Your ears are bleeding. And I swore to us both no torture. You’ve made me change my mind. I do that.”

“How long did Tobias last against this?”

“I am the future, Redguard. And you’re still blaming me for it.”

“Yeah, well, probably. I do that. But you’re forgetting something. You always do.”

“And what would that be? I really am listening.”

“Your past. Our past. You shout so far forward that your own history has to be rewritten.”

“In my mind, this conversation wasn’t so tiresome. In the end, you are nothing more than a terrorist. I should not have to walk you through your dead. Your ransack of the Colossus Halls. The whole of the Renewed All Flags Navy in the Set only three years past. The mock-duel with your wife that ended the Rift and gave her a grave of snow. Proud yet? Pride is something I can admire and have done, but I don’t let boys paint it for me and then run under guns they don’t understand.”

“Keep talking. It works. They said it would. Was hoping it did.”

“Dragging the Lame Cat of Wayrest to the docks while he was still on fire, one of your own make when you found he had finally sold your name? ‘Come at the Alik’r, you best not miss, boys.’ Those were your words, then, yes?”

“More or less. Yeah.”

There was a shiver, from one the veterans. Cyrus shifted, making the chains clank to cover more noise, and glanced sideways. I swore I taught them better. They’d kept hidden in the three-flu marshes for days, and with less threat than now. Remember your cover, people, or he shouts for real. The Emperor kept to his admonishments, though, and gave no glance.

“And the Hist now twice shamed, though I suppose I should thank you for that, at least. The one version of this place where you did cut the atomos to make my friend look foolish? You don’t even remember that because I had to make it right again. I am tired of always standing against breakers of worlds with a grudge to fulfill. You are not a myth. You are not a story.”

“True. And that’s what needs a good rewrite. Everyone ready? Go.”

The chains fell. Cyrus caught his saber with his left hand. Jill’s stomach made a sound; she’d been eating the dead again as in the way of the Green-Sap. Those Carrickers that had survived, they had the Emperor already in ropes and gagged with glimmerwelt. Fornower shook the rest of the compost from his hair. Tiber Septim remained stoic.

Thorpe, straightened to a tallness he hadn’t possessed since Tear, and said, “Fine, so it worked.”

Gar was saying, “Who always appears as a great bearded king, had powers innumerable and echoing.”

Jill said, “What now? Mind if I find His Majesty’s other throne? Swallowed a jaw, I think.”

Cyrus tongued his tooth again. “Go ahead, there’s no one else here. Just stop eating everyone. Give us some room.”

The Carrickers moved back, and Cyrus sabered the ropes. He let its edge linger a bit too long on the Emperor’s left eye. It had always been a good sword, this one.

“Cy, stop,” Thorpe reminded him. “Fair fight or we don’t win.”

“Winning is relative.”

“When did you decide to change course, Cy, am I right? No more time for that. Here, boy, hand it over.”

“No more time. Take it.”

“Good, thanks. Now everyone get a bit better back.”

“What, no one’s gonna mention that, for once, his mouth is actually full of--”

Gar was saying, “He was grim and dark and the most silent of the invading chieftains, though when he spoke villages were uplifted and thrown into the sea.”

“Fornower, we get the joke. Go ahead and spit, Tiber, we’re almost done.” The Emperor coughed the compost from his mouth. Three windows were blasted into the courtyard as he rose. Someone heard a thunderclap just before Cyrus elbowed him in the throat.

Gar was saying, “The Hoon Ding fought him unarmed, grabbing the Dragon's roars by hand until Ysmir's power throat bled.”

“No more time,” he said again. “Fight’s on. And quit calling me that.”

Gar was saying, “These roars were given to Gar to bind into an ebony listening frame, which the warrior-poet placed on Ysmir's face and ears to drive him mad and drive him away.”

Chemli said, “Listening frame. Did we forget that bit?”

Gar put his book away and took Haekele’s helmet out, tossing it to the captain.

“Nope. We’re the Carrickers and none forget.”

You’re letting him actually beat you. I have a bag around my head with your enchantments still swirling about, Bal. No, I get that, but I mean he’s actually beating on you while you’re talking to me. I’m wearing the Word, it doesn’t hurt all that much, but I need you out of my eyes, you already have the boy. I had the boy the moment the Sura-Hoon made his bargain. You have nothing to really offer, until you do. Until I do. Until you do. You took his shape? Yes. And you did nothing but make a joke? Slow day. He’s not big time like you are. Granted, he’s whipping you across the jail bars, case you didn’t notice. What do you want? Doesn’t work that way. I always want. I’ll give you ten years under my name, but not this skin. Deal. That skin is looking pretty haggard, anyway. Now get up and fight, dummy, we’re all counting on you. Thank you, Bal, I won’t forget this.

Tiber Septim looked to Cyrus. “Ready now, Redguard.”

Bounding towards the Colony, in that mad rush he can name now if he would let himself:

“You know, cap, this’ll sound funny, but I could swear this crater looks fresher than the rest.”

“You’re a sailor, Coyle, and as far as they go you were always pretty level-headed. Don’t go superstitious on me now. Everything here is dead. Nothing fresh ab--”

The ground tore open before them. A wave of pressurized phlogiston washed over the reaver party, making the air crackle with potential it hadn’t known in ages.

“Gunnery fire!”

Pretty soon there was no space between the rounds. Sky and floor were the same thing: a bloomfire spread of insect wings and math-flak. “Incoming numer-nomials now!” Gar warned.

“CHEMLI YOU HAD ORDERS!” Cyrus roared, looking for her through possipoints. He had to blink between blinks to get rid of the snapshots.

Chemli was already shouting the warheads down from the firmament whenever she could. The crew couldn’t hear her above the clamor, and every new shelling took a different shape. She almost fell to another sleeved-manticore scream-angling in on some kind of delight-death trajectory with names of its summoners written in cursive. Chemli thought, it’s getting personal to them, and sprint-shouted blind, caught by her captain.

“Good girl,” Cyrus said, nodding, “You’re good now.” Good crew. Stupid, but good. Trench warfare. Been awhile. “Regroup!”


“What happened?” From Chemli, taking the scrub’s shoulder.

“It’s just him being loud,” Cyrus said, sliding down the crater’s rim. “The Emperor. He’s scared. He can't bend this place to his will. Death doesn’t work right here. Coyle, how is everyone doing?”

“All heads counted, cap, and the Imps, they’re finally reloading. Get a breath and start moving again.”

“Good plan, but where are you?”

Gar pointed to Coyle’s suit up on the further rim above them. It had no midsection.

“Don’t go superstitious on me now,” Coyle said.

“If he talks again, burn him.” Please stay quiet, Coyle. Just this once.

They climbed past the body and moved north.

All right, people, some of them didn’t stay. It’s Masser, after all. But eyes to the dust. Look. Best as I can make, this is their layout. It’s an Imperial Reclaim, though, so expect it to be wrong when we get in. Jill, you’re the only shooter we really have, do the boat proud like. Coyle, Fornower, Gar? You’re with me. Chemli, you’re watching those gun batteries; memorize their patterns if they got one, shout ‘em down as we charge. Thorpe, the Emperor is either here, here, there, and or even there, even if that altitude makes no sense. He looks good on the drake, and the stories are true, so he’ll come out fighting if this all comes to trouble. And that’s no mistake.

Scene: The Womb of the TEM Warspore Tiberia, 30th Last Seed, 3E____ . P-G Titus Alorius, recently ported from Weir Gate fv.4.5, addresses the Morbâd Obesse as they study gel screens held aloft by red silk ribbons. Praeceptor Superior Erramanwe remains silent in sleep throughout the proceedings.

Titus Alorius: No fully supplied ground stations, you say?

The Morbâd Obesse: One way to put it.

Titus Alorius: Put it another way.

The Morbâd Obesse: Well, as far as numbers 'n' statistics go, we're looking at the set of halfway functional Imperial garrisons on that big rock and the set of things that absolutely don't exist. You'll find the two have quite the overlap.

Titus Alorius: Improvise then. Optimize troop distribution. Set course for the surface and drain all available hands from this vessel. Cover as much... ground as possible with as few 'nauts as possible. I don't know where this rover could be headed, but we will make sure he doesn't get there

The Morbâd Obesse: Eh, listen, son. Sir. I don't think you understand. See that little dot down there? Or up there, who knows. That is the Imperial Reclaim of The Greater whatever they call it these days. That is our turf. We got one docking station and the good fortune none of it seems to rust. Seven men, sir. Seven men. Hrolbedamned, we still send the relief in some threadbare hiatopod. There's no provisions for 'spores this size to touch ground there. In one piece, anyway.

Titus Alorius: Poor humor. Still, I'll grant, the logistic status of the Demalion is not exactly as advanced as I was led to believe. I did not expect this.

The Morbâd Obesse: Think I'd have come if I had been properly informed? You'll understand I'm a bit out of the loop here, but allow me to do some guesswork. Postulate one: name's Alorius, right? Big name. Moving up in the world, no doubt. Postulate two: You've been posted about as far from fair Niben as they could throw you, with a big situation on your hands to boot. Ergo: You were in someone's way. Who put your name in? Was it Cormades? All those years and that ruthless bastard is still playing chess with the Empire's finest? It was Cormades, wasn't it?

Titus Alorius: Enough. You are speaking far above your station. I have been thinking. What you are saying does not make sense. The crown nigh emptied the coffers of reunited Cyrodiil to reclaim our holdings here. The pinnacle of the orbital fleet patrols this sector, until recently with unerring efficiency. Why would the Emperor apply all these resources to a domain he shows no interest in?

The Morbâd Obesse: Now you're asking a different question. The Empire has little relevance here. Doesn't have the means to. But the Emperor, well, I think he is rather fond of the place. On a personal sort of level, I mean. As if it's more his than ours. The boys at the station, they joke they see him out there sometimes, you know. Just out and about, strolling. That's the drink talking, of course. That, and staring into the dark too long. The big black puts funny ideas in a man's head. Take no notice.

Titus Alorius: I didn't. Regardless of Septim's opinion of this province, I will have this gaffe dealt with, Cormades be damned. If our own troops do not suffice, then we find help elsewhere. I have been given a lavish budget to stop Sura-hoon and I will not hesitate to use it. Bend time and get to a possipoint close enough to when it happened. Send out a message on all aetherial frequencies, even the deprecated ones. Someone will listen; everything can be negotiated. If you catch a void-fibril, tell the Hist Cyrus is on the loose again. They don't need more convincing. If some cat floats by, tell them we can make their sugar invisible in return for a favor to the Empire. Establish a corridor to Misrule if you must, but mind who you're dealing with. Report to me. Dismissed.


Hist super-liner slip seed stalkstrum builtgrown wash branched out in snapthorn belly bass crawler phloematic thornplex virsliclk-ix-that’ls its thatls riggered out scale calyx critical sepals critical corolla critical stemens engage floodbogmud lignicore pasted drowned thing. It made a sound.

“That what I think it is?” Jill asked, looking up at it, sitting eastward watch between them and the last lunar break to the Colony proper.

“Most like,” Thorpe said. The scrub had been there, had held the Eye for a week as they ran through the stone-stalks, lathered from the flu in skooma.

Cyrus stared. “I think so. But we were all out of our minds then, though. Can’t be them. They never leave the Marsh.”

“Lots of running with you lot,” Chemli said. Her voice was sore.

Thorpe was showing signs of fibril now, throwing off a glove and seeing the roots take twine.

“Outta our minds just about now, boss. It’s them. Give the word and we’ll shake this all.”

“Not yet.”

“I’m sproutin’ flowers here, make it soon.”

Fornower was glad now he had his glimmerwelt. “I’m fine. Lizards don’t seem to want to lace around my head at all. Now who’s laughing?”

Why aren’t we remembering our dead, Chemli wondered, and then petals. “Petals,” she said.

“It’s all in our heads,” Cyrus said. “Stay good.”

“Oh,” Thorpe smirked, licking a mushroom knuckle, “Forgot about that. Treaties and all. The Hist just broke it, right? Easy enough. Petals.”

They were losing it. Commands were needed.

“You’re losing it, Thorpe,” Cyrus said, “Trees aren’t dumb enough to fall into a sunbird’s wake sitting on the edge of the Accord. Unless.”

“Unless there’s no more Accord,” Gar finished. “Yessir, look, the stars are moving, meaning the constellations went wet again.”

Cyrus started jogging towards the Colony, westward in berth, hoping the others would know best to follow. They did, Thorpe trailing a visible lily scent.

“Went wet? How do you mean?” Jill asked. She ran fast even as she studied the new plant life above her.

“Sorry, I forget you’re young to the Carrick. By ‘wet’ I mean they slid off our maps. Only the Emperor can do that, change which stars mean what. What it really means is that the birth signs are even getting out the way.”


“Yeah, that’s the short version.”


Duadeen wondered if the pirate could give any kind of version at all now. Every time the Emperor shouted, things went violent and awkward. One shout after another. Even the snow looked a different color, gone a bit brown from the dirt stirred up underneath, or the sweat which all of them contributed to, the animals as well, as the horses had never liked it, this shouting and those Imperial aurochs, snorting their bellows-hearted move to go, but all including the moons made to look by the red diamond men and small militia, even Duadeen’s own small contribution, professional scofflaws and hard men of worth; their retainers were exceeding high to the robber-baron of the Way Rest, but probably nothing in contrast, not even worth a spoken well-done, to this new and two-headed crown in at least many ways reborn. I have no idea what this person naming himself the Septim is anymore, Duadeen thought. All my records were roach in their wrong.

He was not stupid, Duadeen. No one this far west could be to get this ahead. He had gambled with gold and bought a gelding enchanted for this night, the catching night, where Tobias Hold-None would be riding with a small but fierce bodyguard that Duadeen had already studied and found battle faults for weakness to the Emperor’s ease; this horse, which had on its ledger a fancy name, and the promissory note that read it would know no fear in violence. It wasn’t a lie, it was just facing, like him, a new, small frantic now with the frame of night gone a bit pink from all the blood. Or maybe it was just the echo in everything’s ears, thundercracked by thoom.

He said he wouldn’t resort to this, Duadeen would never remember later. Grammar itself was turning into a landslide.

It was a strange color now, the floor of the earth under this corner of the world, under these trees in the woods of New Falkreath, a mixed color ones of station had only ever seen in the pigments of the more modern painters of Tamriel, proud in their new Era, a real color, they proposed, one that’s antique but avoided for perhaps it was too easy not to think about how hard: the true color of men when they are determined to uncover mysteries at any cost.

“Captain Tobias,” the Emperor said, sitting his bat-horse on a branch of oak jutting from a nearby hill. “I pray thee stop again, this unwillingness on your part, this bleak and farrow insolence. I call you Nord now whatever your mixed ancestry, for I have as like. I call you a man, too, because I’ve seen so little of them. Don’t make me shout again. Not in front of these others.”

When did I think meat-eating bulls would be part of my resume, Duadeen asked himself. No one could ever answer that.

“Hey right, I’ll do that,” the pirate said, crawling to lean with his back turned on a mound of what might be horse meat and toppled tree, with roared metal broken and thrown by voice into shards into all of it. The ambush had been a terrible thing and so utterly sudden that it was hard to remember that all of this had once been a normal woodside pass because it stank now. It stank of gods when as boys, stank of the idea of gangs. Was the tilt of the crown really so endangered as this?

“I’ll do just that once I catch my breath.”

“I need to catch mine, too,” the Emperor said. There were legionnaires that sighed then, Duadeen knowing them each now to have been hand-picked from times in battle where they had already seen the likes as this. Which must mean they knew how these things went. And by sighing, it was clear enough that they were never still with it in heart. No one moves through such a landscape without hoping never to do again.

The pirate put his knees up, using a helmet to prop his broken one, yelling pain with the effort, a caught proud creature against ruin, a caught proud creature knowing ash was come. Like most in these moments, he laughed after yelling, but sunk his head to his chest. “I hate him, too, milord Hjalti,” he snorted, “But you fear him. He would’ve liked that. He will like that. No, no, no.”:

“He’s gone ill-brained,” Duadeen said, glancing at the bat. “I can purchase us another way. I will use my own gold.”

The Emperor looked over and frowned. “One’s illusions are usually more discreet.” Tiber Septim dismounted but no one saw. The next moment he was simply crawling up in the new, cold colors to his prey, a strange beast movement now, and an auroch ate a man. “It’s simple to step aside all of that. Just don’t have any illusions. We don’t, do we, Captain Tobias?”

The pirate took his face from his knees and looked, lips and eyes gone mongrel, his lower left jaw just showing bone and burnt, black attachments. “No, no,” Tobias’ skull tried to say, forcing it finally out, “No. He won’t like it one godsbitten bit, and your monster thought revels in this already. You’re just making us all words to him, you’re thinking. You’ve gone different now, milord, you’ve gone proper insane.”

The Emperor was gutting him with a broken but serviceable dagger, up, left, and to the sternum, but the pirate still talked. “Proper insane in proper redwork. You’ve gone Hircine. You’ve gone and got my belly out. You’ve gone and kept me alive through this all with that devil’s wind of yours in my own lungs, just to anger him.”

“Yes. I prayed you to stop. You wouldn’t. Now I’m working.”

“He set the cat on fire, milord. He was telling you right then that he doesn’t fear you. I’ve hated that bit of him, the cocksure until it kills the rest. But look who’s winning now? Who’s so cocksure that they’re bent like a hagraven at a beggar’s last delight?”

The Emperor stopped the talking, stabbing up until the pirate’s whole dead half-skull was his on a hilt. Duadeen vomited when he saw Septim continue the conversation in two voices.

“You’ve won this one,” the Emperor said as himself.

“I’m a puppet head,” the Emperor said in the imitation of the dead pirate’s voice.

“I’m a puppeteer.”

“You move my head back and forth on this metal stick and talk to yourself as someone you remember.”

“Look, I can make you nod with your own head. You’re starting to rot too fast.”

It was the giggling that made most everyone perish. Torches dropped as the legionnaires stopped in their lives. Snow if it could be called that pounded up when horses hit. The aurochs belched out all of their eating and their gorge made pea-green steam of the world around, buckling down in death, while the Emperor on all fours except for his right hand holding up the pirate’s head to his own giggling out some theatrics that made sense to him alone, saying, “I’ll leave you in ash, sweet Captain, and they’re all dead now save for us.”

Tiber Septim stood up, dropping everything he held. Tobias’ head fell back to his chest, propped up now for a slight by the dagger hilt before lolling to this way and that, for all the mad moving to and fro had broken all his neck bones.

“It looks now like you’ve had a right good fight, maybe even near the victor, as it’s only me now that escaped, an ambush that went nearly wrong, and again my enemies will think me possible to take down, if dangerous to try. And that’s how I will win.”

The Emperor shouted and the whole of the wood forgot what was said.


Magne-Ge Pantheon

Michael Kirkbride

Here is the pantheon of the Magne-Ge, as documented by the ancient Master Redshift, the first of its denizens who persisted enough with fitness to map the in-between heavens. This pantheon is made up of the Filters, Chromes, Penumbras, and Capricious Glows that influence the day-by-may fortunes of the myriad creatures that play among the Magne-Ge’s many-and-shattered floating untimes. All of them are days that may.

Every spectrum in the Magne-Ge, large or small, abides by Redshift’s teachings and his Catalog of Radiance. Moreso, the packets of the Magne-Ge regard these beings, in optic, as a framework by which to measure their own perhaps-it-mays in the Grand Schism of Things. Who can blame them, really, after the Breaking changed everything except for the suns?

Long ago, the cultures of the Magne-Ge gave these heavenly heroes and miscreants a stewardship over their own fates and fortunes: as constellations and birth signs that would inspire their actions and true accordance evermore.

Thus does this pantheon affect all of the Untime Folk, from the Blue Mountain to the Vapor Lamp to the Wiggle-room Convene and even the Multimund beyond.

The one exception to this tradition comes from the Tsaesci, whose subdermal culture enjoys no birth sign, an issue that will be touched upon never.

C Signs
The Spirits of C, for reasons lost to us now, share the traits of disaster and displacement. The Breaking is central to the tales told of them, when Merid Herself held fast against the erasure of the Magne-Ge without success.

Those born under the Signs of the C are rigid in their thinking and cautious in all approach. Their constellations are dim and indistinct.

Bare Bone (C Sign) – Before the Breaking, Bare Bone was a Handmaiden of great Merid Who Held the Whole of the Blackblock Under Her Hood. Bare Bone’s provinces were agriculture and the cultivation of the good soil. But then the Thermal-Talk came, bringing the War of C and M, its aftermath resulting in the taint of all Y. Bare Bone vanished just after the War ended, abandoning the surface worlds and going underground.

Nil-Bright (C Sign) – Proud, stubborn Nil-Bright the Nix watches over the borders of Y, snort-and-fiber-ready to do combat with those powers that would wish it further ill. This has been his domain ever since the Breaking. Others whisper that Nil-Bright had a different station before now, as a misguided Crusader of the Chrome Device, but these accusations have been dismissed by lay and learned alike. Nil-Bright is the twin of AgNil-Bright of K and the father of Nil-Nthi, a Color Spirit of The Pigment Truce.

Wode-Rub (C Sign) – A compound Color of rare aspect, the Wode-Rub is now synonymous with the doom of Newish Ideas. Before the Dawning, Merid attempted to fuse the carnivorous and herbivorous principles into one, so that the Harmony might always dwell in the cultures of the Magne-Ge. This particular idea could not last long, biting and running from itself in near-constant conflict. In the end, the Spirit of the Wode-Rub was condemned, downward, into the depths of the utter black by the Harmony, frozen in an eternal, hungry struggle. The highly-prized color called W is all that remains.

Pigmius (C Sign) – Scant moments before the Y Blur, Merid commanded that a great Border be fashioned from the Blackblock. Pigmius was the result. In his right hand, he held the Canvas of his sister Mnethm; in his left hand he refused to hold anything except the Lens in his finger veins. Pigmius could not hold back the Monster Legions of the Chrome Device and the foul enchantments of the Y. He was finally undone by the Fiberings of Nana Null. His legacy and promise can still be reclaimed in the gathering and refinement of the Pigment.

The Spirits of Blend are on the rise. The heavens swirl around them now for reasons unknown. Though the invisible Lens Spirits are more vibrant, in contrast to all others connected to the Blackblock, it is Blend that enjoys the most prosperity and affluence in these days.

The birth signs of Blend are the eldest in the known spheres. Those born under their mark are nomadic, whimsical, and greatly given to freaking out.

Their constellations are difficult to process in manner of movement, triangulation, and high frequency.

Scintil (Blend Sign) - Before the Breaking, Scintil was the Messenger of great Merid Who Held the Whole of the Blackblock Under Her Hood. Though impulsive as an adolescent, and much given to traveling only at night, Scintil nevertheless guided all the Spirits of the Magne-Ge in their various trials, imparting her divide-the-line wisdom wherever she could. After the devastation wrought by the War of C and M, and its aftermath, the Y Blur, Scintil withdrew from her station, taking a hammock into the unfettered eddies of the Blend. She eventually became a Color of The Pigment Truce.

Caker King (Blend Sign) – The savannahs and jungles of Ut Cyr are lost to us now by the machinations of unknown Towers. Caker King was a mighty Tiger in those days. As such, he ruled a Principality that invited the rest of the Great Cats into the Den of the Hiss-and-Bite-Accord, a tradition now copied to different effect by the similarly-vanished March of Snakes. The royal stations of Great Cats have long-since become lost in the annals of celestial treaty. Caker King’s Tiger aspect is today only fashioned as a Stone-Leap of his last majestic hunting.

Swath (Blend Sign) – Her original name hidden in mystery, Swath is the Blend Spirit of merry-making and the hallucinogenic admixture of sensations found in the esoteric realm of synesthesia. Swath governs the domains of eccentric artisans, painters, and blind musicians. Those born under her sign are often freckled or greatly given to checkered patterns in their cloth. Her demimemberdress daughter, Nelley-Bright the Princess of Kflies, does not yet enjoy a place among the Magne-Ge pantheon, but the Wise say that her inconstant lantern-lights will usher in a new and more beautiful order.

Daubella (Blend Sign) – The youngest (or oldest) of the Blend Signs and the one most likely given to aid newcomers because of it, Daubella is more of a concept than a Color proper. It should be known that this assertion has come under attack by the fault-philosophers of the Magne-Ge. Some say that Daubella is the most important constellation of all, at least for now; that her issue includes Grey Could, Mud That Might, and the Non-Nymic That Helps. Others declare that the Magne-Ge lay under a spell of Daubella’s own invention, with her true role being merely another avatar of Nana Null.

K Signs
The Spirits of K are young and ferocious. They have not yet understood their place in the Magne-Ge. That last statement is not entirely correct. There are reports, fortified by Redshift’s own findings, that some K Spirits actually enjoyed an existence prior to the current forms; more so, that these Spirits harbor secrets that they are still unwilling (or plainly refuse) to paint of.

Those born under the Signs of K are spontaneous and gleeful in the face of danger. Their constellations are the brightest ever to be found in the firmament, ablaze with vigorous, if dangerous, purpose.

Thermallélé (K Sign) – The tale of Thermallélé is a strange one. Redshift’s records of this Spirit are incomplete. It has taken many names across many Patterns. It was once the Thermalu, the wicked Spirit of Blend, who sent perplexing messages to all other wheels for agendas unknown. It has also been called ThermalThermalThermalbok, the malignant Spirit of M that ate Folk at ley-tide. Most famously, Thermallélé was once Thermal-Talk, the fiery and palette-fearing Spirit of C that chased away Bare Bone, the Spirit of agriculture and cultivation. In every single manifestation, the Thermal Spirit seems bent on trickery and deception. The Wise say that Thermallélé, in whatsoever form, is always the current antithesis of Progress, its wiles and wherefores sent by the Chrome Device and, by extension, Nana Null.

AgNil-Bright (K Sign) – AgNil-Bright is the Fearless K, who burns against all Monsters and associated Powers that would threaten any of the Untime Folk. AgNil-Bright is a younger Spirit, and much given to reckless abandon. Often, he burns the belongings of those he has sworn to protect in his fighting, and is always sorry for it. He is the twin of Nil-Bright of C and uncle to Nil-Nthi, Color Spirit of The Pigment Truce.

Clan Box (K Sign) - Before the Breaking, Clan Box was the Court Jester of great Merid Who Held the Whole of the Blackblock Under Her Hood. His sphere today is as the Fickle K, who changes minds and moods in erratic fashion. More importantly, Clan Box habitually misdirects those ideas too soon coming to fruition. His son is Clan Box 2, the Emission Color of The Pigment Truce.

Mnethm (K Sign) – Mnethm is the Fortified K, the fount of inspiration. Why her temples are found mostly underground is a riddle for the Sep Thing. Mnethm governs the domain of motivation, especially in engineering and scientific discovery. In this role, she finds herself regularly contested by the Thermal Spirit, who would halt all ideas of Progress, and Clan Box, who manically scrutinizes Mnethm’s inventions for any potential buzz-kill to the Magne-Ge’s effervescent frolicking.

M Signs
The Spirits of M were once willful but rash, and in the whole they were almost always irresponsible. They could bend all other Patterns, save for the invisible Powers of Lens, to their relentless lines and dreams and form-felts, though it might take an eruption or three.

Merid stopped such bullishness when she was cast out by the Chrome Device Her Father. To the surprise of many, the M Spirits were glad to alter their ways. In the words of Redshift, “The vagaries of the M-bound immortals seem to strive only on a single principle: to run as they wilt, and know no change save for change itself.”

Those born under the Signs of M are both odd and silly, as are their Patterns. Their constellations every so often… ripple.

Merid (M Sign) – Merid is special. Before the Breaking, her teeth, claws, and benevolent whimsy reached into every quarter of the Magne-Ge. Her present aspect is regularly depicted in Brush form-- a creature associated Triple-wise with the Mountain, Y, and M-- a trick of the Chrome Device that has snared Her real role in history into a faint remembrance. It was Merid that foretold the Breaking and attempted to prevent it; who tried to stymie the War of C and M; who desperately fashioned warriors to stand against the Y Blur. Of all of the Greater Spirits, it is Merid that we should most revere. For what if she forsakes us?

Caller (M Sign) – A demimemberdress Shine who arrived from The Mural to teach his kindred how to adapt to a Magne-Ge Untime of varying reasons. Divine contests between Caller and Mnender-Foil, involving in the main the catching of fish, whether by day, season, or special festival, are many, enjoyed at our hand-camps at the end of every arm.

Leλ (M Sign) – Leλ descended to the Magne-Ge at the behest of Merid during the War of C and M. He attempted to halt it, but was mightily unsuccessful. Known in other spheres as the Burping Ambassador, Leλ served only a fortnight in that conflict before becoming trapped in tone. Those Wise more given to compassion say that it was Leλ’s continual belching that gave the Y Blur pause enough for Merid to bring in others better-suited to fight against the Monsters of Nana Null.

Phophec (M Sign) - Before the Breaking, Phophec was a Knight of great Merid Who Held the Whole of the Blackblock Under Her Hood. He is famous for many things except for his prowess at arms, an unfortunate deficiency from which filter jokes are born. Phophec is recorded as the laziest Knight in the land, having only armed and armored once, during the Y Blur. Phophec is also known to have disappeared for a time prior, in the tumult of the War of C and M, “which he would have none of such nonesuch.” To his credit, Phophec the Scope did bend the Thermal Spirit over his knee, giving it a Mighty Spanking, which we will still enjoy a good laugh over. His daughter is Daytime-Adapted of The Pigment Truce.

Y Signs
The Spirits of Y are endangered. Their whims, sketches, and may-wights have been tainted ever since the Y Blur brought on by the Chrome Device. They have been cursed, even unto their make, in a similar manner as the Dawns of Mnumbrial, a cure and redemption still beyond our means.

Those born under the Signs of the Y once knew the harmony of the blessed Magne-Ge Mnemoli; today, however, their heart-strings are as conflicted as their Patterns. They need an unwavering architect to purify their station.

Their constellations are therefore wild things, running amok in the heavens as if itchy with poison ivy, and it will take a true unknown to find the salve that will finally calm them.

Mnumbrial (Y Sign) – Mnumbrial was once revered as the mightiest of the Y-spec Spirits. Then her issue, the Dawns, succumbed to the Critic Mark, a curse of Nana Null that has yet to be lifted. The Untime Folk still propitiate Mnumbrial, depicting her as a gigantic Mother Dawn holding an urn of endless M that feeds into any nearby sliver, wake, or dream. The Wise say that this M is a symbol of the loss Mnumbrial feels for failing her children… and a perhaps even as a path to curing them.

Mnender-Foil (Y Sign) – These days, Mnender-Foil the Amazing is more renowned than his truly-divine mother, Mnumbrial. In truth, the mighty Mnender-Foil is oft-regarded as only a demimemberdress of pop culture importance, an image thread in tapestries and way posts. Some say, however, Mnender-Foil will come as a herald of terrible and hopeful aspect, roaring in the return of the Dawns in proper, all of them rid forever of the Critic Mark.

Scarab-Framer (Y Sign) - Before the Breaking, Scarab-Framer was an Alchemist of great Merid Who Held the Whole of the Blackblock Under Her Hood. Since untime immemorial, it was Scarab-Framer that not only set into motion the growth of M-Nulls but also their prosperity. He is the Fore-Dawn and watcher of the Y. That their resiliency has been tampered with since the Blur is a curse that has vexed his mind into near-immobility. If Scarab-Framer could achieve the insight that escapes him still, the Y might repopulate itself, free of all evil.

Threadwright (Y Sign) – The malicious Spirit of Fibering, Threadwright was the War-Leader of the Y Blur. He is a manifestation of the tainted magic that affects the M-Nulls and the reach-roots of Magnu, and is feared by all of the Untime Folk as a servant of the Chrome Device and Nana Null. Those creatures born under the birth sign of Threadwright take great pains to hide that fact, but with little luck: green fields, shames, and other institutes frequently become Fibered in their passage.

The Song of Return: Skyrim, a Preamble

Michael Kirkbride

To properly understand Skyrim, which one must do if they are to take on the burden of describing it for the layman, its geographies, its histories, its peoples, and its myths must be perceived as an aggregate. The Northlanders and their environs are the most variegated simplicity on this earth, with their heroic narratives serving as a record of all events leading to the present day. Which is a long way of saying that the land and the legendry of Skyrim is of a cycle not quite recognizable as prudent to the rest of the Empire’s Mannish kingdoms, since the Cyrodilic south prefers some coherence in their Fatherland’s fancy and it will give them none. Perhaps in this way, the Sons and Daughters of Kyne are more akin to the mytho-genealothosphy of the modern Mer, but attempts to find common purchase in this matter is always met with the shaking, frostbitten beards of those that hold most dear the Nordic faith.

With that preamble sitting precariously on a precipice (an idea that the Nordic Greybeards study themselves with an almost reverent amusement), let us just say here that Nordic faith is complicated. It is decentralized by the inevitable embellishment and narrative entanglement of millennia of oral tradition. Most Nordic myths contradict each other, using anachronisms or elements co-opted from other cultures, or repeat themselves under different guises. Sometimes they do all of this, and purposefully so.

Indeed, the Nords freely admit their mythic haberdashery, and take great delight in mish-mashing their legends together (and the legends of others, even their historic enemies, the Aldmer and Orsimer) into “whatever just tells a good story at feast time.” As their Clever Men are fond of saying, “The snows melt and then freeze again and in the end it is all still so much water. Legends are the same.”

It is almost palpable here, the wondering anticipation of the reader how these ideas might apply also to (indeed be part and parcel of) the very ostensibly empirical observations of Skyrim’s history and geography. There is no better rendition of this seminal through-line of the Nordic comprehension of this kalpa than their most famous tradition, the annual reckoning of the Thirteenth of Sun's Dawn Feast for the Dead, “The Five Hundred Mighty Companions or Thereabouts of Ysgramor the Returned”, a song so delicately exquisite that the throats of every hallskald worthy of becoming hoarse in its telling proudly tells it at knife and mead point, relishing in the danger closeness of both.

Fight Four, "The Tenpenny Winter...Again”

Michael Kirkbride

These were the days of Rebec the Red, she-captain of the longboat Nail-Knock, whose Reaver-Husbands were [long loved] by High King Ysgrim [Shorebreaker] and all the Sons and Daughters of Kyne...[and so great was their renown] that grim-bearded Shor himself shouted his lamplight back into some of their hearth-fallen after the Sack of Sarthaal from [his Ten Tusk Chair (?)] in faraway Svongarde.

And these Returned were as ash, [and impaired] against the Winds at times, [so they were] specially armored to vouchsafe their old forms, wearing hang-wigs for beards built by the [War Wives of Clan (unspecified)] for theirs had blown away in the gust of the Tenpenny Winter wrought by the Fool of New Kreath, his Cleverness cut into throat-ribbons for his trespass into climate magic [and whose] neck-remains became a meat-string game for all the children of Rebec the Red…[text lost]…and still yet for the eight Returned, they lived their [Again Chance(?)] as best they could, and made manly unmention of their ash-make, and instead were properly grateful…[for] in those days, [in that kalpa], the skies of the Rim were plagued by dragons, and so many of their countrymen had suffered Burning but [they] were not by their individual glory similarly Returned.

Three god-guisers came to the ice-lined shoreline of Rebec’s holdings, to see these ashen stalwarts of the Nords, all dress-fleshed in Greybeard aspect. The first of them was tall and long of limb, whose [flanks] could not fully hide the scale-bright hide of his true celestial station. He was the Aka-Tusk, a somewhat foreign spirit (yeah, right) from the Totem Wars, and known mainly in the tongue of Men as the enemy-brother of Shor, and he said, “Look on them, my friends, and how the North has gone insane with the beating and beating of the Doom Drum, whose father they fool-talk call their All-Maker.”

The second was full-bound in furs, [his bulk] so great that he looked more like the shaggy centipedes the Orc Tribes herd than a true Greybeard…[he needed so many furs] because he refused to surrender his second set of war arms even in this preset parley (plus he was just plain cold) and [nor did he undo his horns, despite] the [text lost] advice of his companions…but the legendry fatness and odd-wrought shape of Merry Eyesore the Elk, the Greybeard Deer (what, you thought animals couldn’t join the Men of the Throat?), was his hope for excuse should he be seen by the shield-thanes or warriors of the icy shore holds of Rebec the Red. And the Dagon said, “Who gives a ****? I’m FREEZING out here, and see no lesson to be learned that really I care about at all. Aka, while my exile in the utter dark is no fun either, pray send me back to [the oblivion] if all you’ve done is bring us here to lament [the Silver (?) Convent]. Yet again.”

And the third, who looked akin to a Karstaag-man, [gigantic], and adorned in storm cloud and endless, endless yellowtooth… [he] was Alduin the World-Eater, and he only said, "Ho ha ho."

“You will eat nothing here, aspect Ald,” said the Aka-Tusk, sensing trouble. “Do not forget that it was Heaven itself that shed you from me.”

“Who cares,” the World-Eater said, “You speak of the Prolix Laws, which do not bind me if you strain our kinship. You awoke me. That bell-sound has consequence. And the Dagon here, well, he’s going to tell me right now where he’s hidden all the additions to the World he has hoarded in the long aeons of salmon-leap which he calls his own survival.”

“I am no salmon!” Dagon said. “I’m just smarter than either of you. If that grants me an association with the ineffable ocean, I’ll take any weirding I can, and in red. The ocean, in the end, will avail us no answers we can acceptably parse. Bring it, big man.”

Now [what] hasn’t been said up until now is that a very bored Nord was listening to all of this, Korl-jkorl the Pity Husband of Rebec, whose clan was destroyed at Sarthaal and, unbrave, he was not one of the Returned but [rather] one of the Running instead. (A tally has always been kept of Those That Ran from the Sack, mind you. Sometimes our memories won’t let things go, even if thinking on the same thing too much risks a frozen thought-set. Anyhow.)

Most of those that are Pitied accept their station. These are those Nords who, for various sanctioned reasons (Orc rape, unforeseen winter-taking, ashamed-but-acquiescent affiliation with the Borgas Clan when Wufharth Roared most of them straight past the Underworld into [Hell])…these are wed to their new Wives or Husbands in the special traditions of Mara, the Handmaiden of Kyne, whose pity is endless and especial.

Korl-jkorl had been spared because of [it doesn’t matter], but he had never been comfortable with his taking of the saving-ring from Rebec the Red (though he probably should have been), and so often wandered mooncalf-fashion to the extents of her holdings, thinking his [hope-to-finally-thaw (?) thoughts]. This day, though, and his arbitrariness interrupted, Korl-jkorl watched the three Powers [of the Around Us] bicker, lament, and tummy-rumble their various agendas and he found himself most upset. This was god-talk, and we Nords have always felt nuisance with that. We blame having to live in the here and now for the most part for the most for that.

So Korl-jkorl revealed himself, saying, “Get off this hilltop, all three of you; [your intrusions] have only ever caused upset and you full well know it. What authority do you have to observe the lands of Rebec the Red with such potent intent that has yet to be decided among any of you?” And then, like most Nords when they are ready to settle matters, he brandished a weapon, that Nordic gesture which really translates to “I don’t really care your answer to my question.”

Alduin said, “Oh ho, good. A fight. Finally.”

The Aka-Tusk straightened, surprised that their guises had been so easily [seen through], and purposely sighed enough to let [dragonfire] out to perhaps frighten the mortal standing before them. But, as has been said, dragons were at flight in the skies in these days, and this type of fear, if even halfheartedly divinely-wrought, didn’t work on Korl-jkorl. “Wait,” Aka said, and those around him felt his hold on Time. “We came merely to look upon your allies in ash, fallen in a place you regard in glory and that the Drummer has seen fit to--”

“No, we didn’t,” the Dagon said, shifting in his furs. “Who knows why we came, except at your summons. And if this Northman wants to fight, I agree with Old Ald here: good.” And the Lord of Tumult and Foul Tempers then shed his guise, and held weapons and High King heads in each of his fists.

“Come then, little Nord, let me beat you dead into the snow with the brainpans of your ancient forebears.”


I'll finish this one, I pinky swear. Oh right, the +.