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...the Tower

Author: 
Michael Kirkbride

Hasphat Antabolis:

Vehk is it? Well well. Perhaps you better start with a smaller bite than the "true nature of the Psijiics" if we hope to have a complete answer before the Dragon Breaks once and for all. Unless my readings on Dwemer numerology are mistaken, the Psijiic Endeavor touches the heart of most of the mysteries of this world. Ha ha, thankfully I am under no self-imposed obligation to speak clearly!

So, Thief, let us begin with something smaller, but still large enough for those of us still within Time. Tell us of the Psijiics and their relation to the Marukhati Selectives (and, by extension, to the Tower).

"By extension, to the Tower..."?

It extends the other way, I'm afraid. But yes, let's go that way, spinning. I have spoken of this in an earlier life [21].

What is the Tower?

The Tower is an ideal, which, in our world of myth and magic, means that it is so real that it becomes dangerous. It is the existence of the True Self within the Universal Self, and is embodied by the fourth constellation, and is guarded by the Thief, the third. The Thief is another metaphorical absolute; in this case, he represents the “taking of the Tower” or, and sometimes more importantly, the “taking” of the Tower’s secret.

What is the Tower’s secret?

How to permanently exist beyond duplexity, antithesis, or trouble. This is not an easy concept, I know. Imagine being able to feel with all of your senses the relentless alien terror that is God and your place in it, which is everywhere and therefore nowhere, and realizing that it means the total dissolution of your individuality into boundless being. Imagine that and then still being able to say “I”. The “I” is the Tower.

What created the Tower?

The Wheel created it. The Wheel is the structure of this universe, and it is easiest to see it that way: rim, spokes, hub, and all the spaces within and without. I shall take each in turn.

What created the Wheel?

Anu and Padhome, stasis and change, both vast realms sitting in the void, they created it. Not vast, infinite, as the void was infinite. Imagine an infinity enclosed by another; you come away with a bubble. Now watch as the two bubbles touch. Their intersection is a perfect circle of pattern and possibility that we shall call the Aurbis. The Aurbis is the foundation of the Wheel.

What are the spaces within and without of the Wheel?

Outside the wheel is the void, bereft of anything. It cannot be named. If it has more aspects than stasis and change, they are outside of true language. Inside of the Wheel is the Aurbis, as I have explained.

What is the rim of the Wheel?

As the process of subcreation continued, both Anu and Padhome awakened. For to see your antithesis is to finally awaken. Each gave birth to their souls, Auriel and Sithis, and these souls regarded the Aurbis each in their own part, and from this came the etada, the original patterns. These etada eventually congealed.

Anu’s firstborn, for he mostly desired order, was time, anon Akatosh. Padhome’s firstborn went wandering from the start, changing as he went, and wanted no name but was branded with Lorkhan. As time allowed more and more patterns to individualize, Lorkhan watched the Aurbis shape itself and grew equally delighted and tired with each new shaping. As the gods and demons of the Aurbis erupted, the get of Padhome tried to leave it all behind for he wanted all of it and none of it all at once. It was then that he came to the border of the Aurbis.

He saw the Tower, for a circle turned sideways is an “I”. This was the first word of Lorkhan and he would never, ever forget it.

What are the spokes of the Wheel?

For ages the etada grew and shaped and destroyed each other and destroyed each other’s creations. Some were like Lorkhan and discovered the void outside of the Aurbis, though if some saw the Tower I do not know, but I know that, if they did, none held it in such high esteem. In any case, some of those that did see the void created its like inside the Aurbis, but each of these smaller voids sought each other out. Void shall follow void; the etada called it Oblivion. What was left of the Aurbis was solid change, otherwise known as magic. The etada called this Aetherius.

Now Lorkhan had by at this point seen everything there was to see, and could accept none of it. Here were the etada with their magic and their voids and everything in between and he yearned for the return to flux but at the same time he could not bear to lose his identity. He did not know what he wanted, but he knew how to build it. Through trickery (“We have made the Aurbis unstable with the voids”) and wisdom (“We are of two minds and so should make a perfect gem of compromise”) and force (“Do what I say, rude spirit”), he bound some of the strongest etada to create the World.

The spokes of the Wheel are the eight gifts of the Aedra, sons and daughters of Aetherius. The voids between each spoke number sixteen, and their masters are the sons and daughters of Oblivion. The center of the Wheel was another circle, the hub, which held everything together. The etada called this Mundus.

What is the hub of the Wheel?

We are the hub, the Mundus that goes by many names. We are the heart of all creation. What does this mean? Why should we care? Lorkhan created it so that we could find what he did. In fact, and here is the secret: the hub is the reflection of its creators, the circle within the circle, only the border to ours is so much easier to see. Stand in its flux and remain whole of mind. Look at it sideways and see the “I”.

This is the Tower.

Now then, yes, that's a good place to start, I think. Where shall we go from here, endeavor or break or the endeavor to break?

 

Vehk's Book of the Last Hour

Author: 
Michael Kirkbride

"And in those waning days, I decided to go to Cyrodiil with my Water Face, so that I might tell all I met along the way the truth and the truth only. I was then the Thief of the world, and my charges were three (and that being a very significant number to me), one of which was the Tower.

"And it was of the Tower that my emperor wanted to hear. He was dying and I loved him yet. He, too, was a Master and so I knew that he realized just how big a realm that the Tower encompassed. I am sure that when I meet the Warrior and Arctus again, they will have brought similar burdens. My guesses are the Lord and Ritual, but I do not know and would be delighted to be wrong.

"Naturally, many of my acolytes and lovers and assassins want to come with me, and I will not tell them no; the way to the Ruby Throne is long, and I have not taken so long a physical sojourn as this since lending my hands to the Ghostgate. I will enjoy their company and answer their questions, too, and no doubt I will put many to bed with song with the borrowed voice of my sister. Further still, my coming is known and the manner of my coming, and I understand that there are lorekeepers that want my counsel, my explanations, the light of my heaven-seen face. I sent warnings that no riddles will come of it. The lawyers are pouting now.

"Understand that I am a Master and make my own way. For me, Mystery is dead. That is so hard to write. You cannot feel the pause. My brother is dead.

"Anyway.

"So for all these reasons and more, and mostly because there are more mysteries in the Capital that I do not know and shall take the place of those I own, this pilgrimage shall be filled with nothing but untangled truth about the Tower. I can hear him now: what of Auriel's breaking? What of my twinned antecedent? What is the meaning of the endeavor that Artaeum refuses to admit? What, indeed, said the Thief to the Master that mostly knew.

"For my part, I know my own first question: What do you want to hear first?"

--Book of the Last Hour, Vehk and Vehk

 

Vehk's Book of Hours, concerning the Dragon Break

Author: 
Michael Kirkbride

"The middle dawn is an axis for the spirits of the Foretime. As such, many of the beliefs of the primitive psijiics cannot be discounted; here, in this place, are proofs within proofs...

"...Of special note is the Blue Star, which the Alesstics call ‘Mnemoli', that runs through this part of the Aurbis every untime. The psijiics hold it in much reverence, and many of their folk make pilgrimages to Veloth when it appears because a mountain there catches fire at its passing. This mountain is reputed to be one of the last refuges of the Dwemer before they departed from this world...

"...and so to most , the middle dawn is little more than a undisputable and grandiose display of mystic power, which is to say nonsense, and few regard it as the numinous gateway that it really signifies. Like many things they cannot explain, the middle dawn is merely another excuse to declare good omens and portents, but unto you it should be known as the Hurling Disk, numbered seventeen...

"...according to the texts, Mnemoli is a wayward child of ANU, one of a pantheon of forgotten deities known as the ‘Star Orphans'... a tribe of gods and goddesses that apparently felt abandoned when the Sun Withdrew from the World-Making. Like many of her siblings, Mnemoli is both confused and delighted with the Aurbis, and explores its five quarters as best she can without the help and regulation of worship, which are not needed (by which I mean, always there) during breakings of the sideways wheel...

"...the Hurling Disk, it is conjectured, contains a strange mingling of magic from both the Solar and Lunar spheres. That singular rarity, coupled with the rarity of its presence within the world, has kept it from gaining a strong foothold in the schools of known sorcery. The Selectives claim a similar source of power in their depictions of the Right Reaching, but that has not deterred those magicians which still try to fathom the meaning of the middle dawn and what benefits they may derive from that understanding. Perhaps it is the association of Mnemoli with the vanishing of sequential sensation (and, by extension, the teeth-filled stare of the Alinor Dragon that comes thereafter) that drives seekers of arcane knowledge to pledge their scholarship to the Aetherius rather than dealing with the esoteric teachings of my murder-brother SEHT or her many aspects, who loves the secret tower so much that she trucks with folk that first gave it legs, head, and sexual recepticle...

"...one last note regarding the phenomenon of the middle dawn: it should be mentioned that at least one myth (‘The Blue Bone-Ring of Jyg') suggests a relationship between Mnemolic sorcery and the Void Ghost Eaters, the magic practiced in the countless Trickster cults scattered throughout the Tamri-El."

 

The Tsaesci Creation Myth And we ate it to become it

Author: 
Michael Kirkbride

There was the Striking, and the Egg was split into twelve worlds, one for each serpent who had a name, and the names of the serpents were alive and coiled into themselves and became more eggs, for names are self-maters, and the Naming went and went. According to the calculations, the random sequence learned very cunningly that fragmentation reserved itself to the left eye. Variation realms were the evidence needed.

There was the Biting, which broke the twelve worlds and their name-eggs, and the Biters chewed new names of the lesser serpents until soon death was known to the smallest and your alphabets disappeared but ours did not. The state of rest became worthy of blame, however segmented, so heat was wasted across the right eye. And in mercy we gave to you language that was dead yet walking if you used it, which you did, though transient food-forms became problematic.

There was the Slithering, when scales were now name-bites that moved freely, and the dead language speakers bled out into non-talk, which is egg-naming inverted, which slides into the shedding of more dead, which cannot be redeemed in the hunger quadrant, and now we could no more be detached, for the twelve-to-one only talked unsense except for us, who ate your slithering during trumpet season as the Biters poisoned the random sequence until we came and made of it music, as that is the only thing that might save the prey who wore all shapes of confusion not described yet in the calculations. Some of us discovered honor, though more found the idea of moderation, which turned into the identical selection process and we created our eating that way.

There was the Shedding, who inflated into a sphere of edible communications and this is how the sequence began to find proportion again. The name-eggs that had survived without also turning into calculation powder settled and became dreugh-waters, which was the first thing to finally encompass the risks attempted by the Striking. Stomach signals wrote a complex document of conditions. This was the variation map, called dai.

The Reaching came, where movements of dai progressed across islands of edible communication and food-forms could stockpile. One Reaching unravelled but the Coiling at its belly made a virtual star line, which made eating lucid. We slid to the imago and Named it cunningly. The waters obeyed and dead names took up their place in the random sequence. The first serpents returned to us in transmissions that answered the alphabet-virus which we then consumed at last. By the relative dai, we egg-named it and swallowed all source-information to preserve the virus and became immortal thereby. Past the star line, dead-talking continued.

The Laying then happened, and we moved into forms that had been granted from the source information of the first serpents, which was gold-walking, which is pattern. The scales became intertwined in the random sequence with music that ate forever, which we fed with you. Low forms created a seeking egg but we fed it to the music, too. Then the Biter-Shedding grew sideways into the reception field and knew a Coiling and mastery was ours borne from the calculations. The final name was Tsaescence and we ate it to become it and there are no more variations.

 

Source of Chaos

Author: 
Michael Kirkbride

This particular passage was found by Nohept dir'Kamal among the papers of the Tharnatos, mostly talks about Dark Brotherhood (and Morag Tong).

"...appropriately, Padomay is just as ineffable an entity as Anu. This is how the Psijiic Order treats him, at least. His original (Aldmeris? Ehlnofex?) name is PSJJJJ, which is and was meant to be unpronounceable. The Order was founded and organized to divine Padomay's eternal and ever-changing mystery. "Sithis" is a corruption of "Psijii" which, in turn, was a derivation of the high concept PSJJJJ. Sithis was born when a nihilist sect of the already doom-ridden Chimeri merged (under Mephala’s tutelage) Daedric elements with the Inexpressible Action that was Padomay. In essence they began to revere Padomay's Chaos nature (as opposed to that of Anu, who is Order), and over the years degenerated into a thuggish mystery-cult which wanted to "murder the world." The Dark Brotherhood was born in these times-- which, in Morrowind, is known as the Morag Tong. Some of the higher-level Morag Tong maintain that they predate the Dark Brotherhood (more evidence of this later). That, in fact, they are an organization devoted to playing out the eternal interplay of Nir. Assassination, they say, is the purest celebration of joy or living. Whatever the case, the Padomay of Morrowind (and isolated Dark Brotherhood sects) is not the Padomay of Artaeum...."

 

Fight Six, "The 911th Cow"

Author: 
Michael Kirkbride

These [were the days] of Anna Kuhlsdotter, who once led her cloud-sisters into victorious war against the Skald of Broken Books....

And of the Giants we speak little, even less to strangers, for their history is hidden in long loud power-shouts. At home, it is a pain in the ass to tell their stories and then clean all the things knocked down in the telling... and in a foreign hearth it is [just plain rude]. So we speak of them (for we must-- who does not honor their parents?) under the rim of the sky or, here, written on sheafs of pelt, for such is the mettle of their threat. This is [a song (or dirge, manuscript unclear)], then, of the threat of Giants and, like most, it involves painted cows.

[First, though] let us put two Powers in place, the Dragon and the Dagon, for this is also and foremost a Fight of Theirs Story [so such is proper]... [text lost]... the only one to have occurred on the Demon King's birthday. (No, that inglorious day-month will not be revealed here for it is dangerous and, yes, once, a very long time ago-- ONCE-- we were all tricked into celebrating it in a very big sissy-fuss where we were made to wear special hats.)

Dagon [it can be surmised] found some indefatigable lady-man wizard from the west to love him from [topside(?)] and thus-by work very, very hard in his witch-craft... [the demon lord] making warlock promises and whispering rewards of the unspeakable and mighty... appearing through shade or familiar in guises too small for the Dragon to notice that he was not in his entirety in [the oblivion] where he had been banished beforetimes... and perhaps happy (because birthdays ARE happy) and infectious with it enough to engender great industry, yet profane still in aspect to retain his stature among the eyes of the wicked from whence his followers always come (when they do not come from fools instead).

[And the warlock-in-love]... [text lost]... made a mad dance of it all as in the manner of the magic arts of the west [and] summoned his infernal master on this very auspicious day through crazed and love-wrought wizardry [that went beyond the mandate] of right summonings... whereupon the Dagon popped out of a blueberry pie.

"I didn't think that would work AT ALL!" he said, that old Lord of Misrule, and he began to praise the baker's craft in such great cackle and length that [the warlock he had taken as paramour] became jealous in the way of wolf-headed women (you know the ones).

"Pssh," Dagon said, "I, the Lord of Razors and Red-drink, King of Terrible Intent, Mehrunes the Prince of Four Dooms and One Paradise, I Who Commandeth 88 Legions Daedric... I just came out of a PIE, you swooning harpy! That is totally bat-*** insane!"

Whereafter he bit out the neck of the spurned warlock and played in the blood.

(This is why all bakeries in our village make "Shake the Dagon Out" part of their flour-whistling.)

Now the Dragon's role here is more subtle, and existed really only in the fear of a little farm girl in the highlands of Newkreath. For who does not fear Alduin the World Eater, and especially children, who always think they are the last to come for they are the newest to be? (And children, BEING special, perhaps are right and maybe it is only through their fears that [this kalpa] still survives, so we will not question it.)

Anyhow, her name was Aless (her father was fond of the South, and Ald Cyrod, and knew the stories of their famous and ancient Queen), and she had such a fear that any day now the Dragon would awake to eat up everything she ever knew that she became determined to do all she could [to protect it]. Naturally, she began to paint many, many cows.

Here is why: the Giants came from Old Atmora, up there across the Northern Ice back in the gone-to-twilight-now age of myth... and settled here in the Skyrim, and all along the mountain ranges of our coasts. (Yes, they are our true ancestors-- do not believe your aunt from the university-- and, yes, we were once as big as them-- as tall as THIS-- but that is another story)... [text lost]... and after [the Great Calamity] happened [the clan-things (peoples? tribes? Text seems to indicate mankind as a whole, though that is debateable)]... we were of a kind disrupted... and we Nords fell into fighting and drove our Giant-kin up unto the mountaintops [and we were a wicked-folk for many years]... [until all] things had changed forever. Once the Moot resumed [(unspecified) years later] things got back to a new semblance of normalcy and borders were redrawn and agreed with in beer-talk, and raidings of the merethlands took everyone's mind off old feuds, and pretty soon (well, not pretty soon but whatever) the Giants began to come down from the mountains again. And they were a bit different than we Nords remembered, or perhaps we had forgotten much, but they would not speak to us anymore-- they would only smile in their lazy way, stomp over, and take our stuff.

If we fought them, they roared louder than the Tongues of High Hrothgar, and brave steads would be blasted whole into so much paste, [chickens and all (?)]... [and] eventually we learned that if we left stuff out for the Giants, and painted this stuff brightly and with swirls (they love swirls) and stuck big signs up pointing to it all, they would simply take THAT stuff and not anything else and no fighting would be have to be done (not that what I have described was really fighting-- no one fights the Giants is the point). And that explains the Painting The Cows tradition, for as lazily-smiled as they are, so much that they seem that they wouldn't hurt a soul (ha!), the Giants eat meat and lots of it. Aless (remember her still?) thought to herself, "I am so, so afraid the Dragon will awake and eat the world-- ANY DAY NOW-- that I will paint every cow I see so as to summon all the Giants I can to beat up old Scaly Face, and beat him up really, really hard-- hard enough to knock him out and back to sleep!" (Aless had heard, as you have now, that "no one fights the Giants" and took it a little bit too much to heart.)

She began with her stead's herd, some four-dozens strong [with] two bulls (the old one broken off in a separate cattle-gate to stomp out his last days in complaint-- and Aless made her father swear not to kill this old bull for she loved him in the way children love the things others see as useless or spent) ...and yet by the seventh cow Aless had run out of paint. "I shouldn't have done so many swirls," she said, sighing. And that is when he appeared, the Dagon, drawn up in the stolen Nordskin of a Clever Man, come from the west by side-stepping [through the real].

"No," he said through his impressive bead-knit beard, "You did well. If I were a giant, these would be mighty fine looking cows to take. But why paint so many? [One a season per stead] is the norm."

Aless frowned up at Dagon-turned-Clever, and with no suspicion, for she was a child and they are taught to respect our [magic-men]. "Because I hate the Dragon," she admitted, immediately fearing admonishment. (It is not very wise to talk ill of Alduin at any time, especially in the presence of the Very, Very Wise.) She corrected herself: "Well, more like I hate the fear of him. I'm sorry for saying the thing before."

"Hmm," Dagon said, "Your fear is well-founded. The Time Eater comes soon."

"WHAT I SO KNEW IT" Aless said, grabbing her paint buckets and brushes [in a scramble], intent on going back to her hearth to get her play-dolls and kid-shields to sell them for more supplies. "I gotta go, mister, I need to summon the Giants REAL FAST and A BUNCH."

"Child," Dagon laughed, "You will never paint so many as that, given your little power. But, aye, your plan is a good one. Many Giants, really fast. Yes. That's smart. Now come with me. Kyne--" and at this name of the Sacred, the demon almost choked, "--she lends me the winds and I can walk us from one to another. And Tsun--" and at this Name Dagon finally did choke, coughing harshly but hiding it as age, "--he grants my craft-wit with provisions from the aether. You will have all the paint you need, and be swift enough to swirl every cow from here to Windhelm."

"That is SO cool!" Aless said, jumping. But by speaking of so many Gods [and the Heavenly Halls in which they live], Dagon had brought a horrible scratch to his throat. He coughed again, and at length, finally doubling over. Aless frowned again, this time with what looked like pity, and put her hand on his back. "You okay, mister? I believe you about all your magic, but maybe you should just rest. I can sell my play-dolls and get paint and just, like, run fast--"

"I'm fine, dear," Dagon said, waving her off, too harshly, and then [realizing he was frightful] found a composure, "And I am sorry myself for scaring you just then. It is only because I can feel the Age turning, and so am sick with the impending death of the World."

"Um," Aless said. "You're still being scary."

"Then paint the rest of these and let us move. You are brave, and worthy, but cannot run so fast as we need. We have cows to swirl and Giants to bring down from the mountains. Through their might only can we make the Dragon retreat back into slumber and thereby save all that we know." And soon then did the Dagon and the girl step into a wind [and disappear].

[Now] it can be guessed that Dagon was a lying sack of ****-- the Dragon wasn't coming at all and would be asleep til...[text lost]...which is far from now. But the Lord of Razors has ever hated the North, for it was here that he was born (after a fashion), and it was here he was cursed, and so on this, his birthday, he had determined that he would destroy all of the Skyrim and all the Nords in it. He indeed needed his little cow-painter to draw down the Giants (or maybe it only amused him to use one of our own, we cannot say), and so he [played her fear] for a fouler purpose: he knew that so many Giants come down from the mountains would cause the High King to think it war, and muster. And any war with the Old Fathers would undo us.

Now Dagon-as-Clever did as he said, wind'ng Aless from stead to stead, watching over her as she painted the cows at each, summoning [snow-fogs to hide her quickened labors], from Newkreath to Gant and the Uttering Hills of Jarlmung County, filling her buckets [in fast conjurations] and even blessing each cow in Kyne's name alongside her, coughing each time. By the 400th cow, his beard was hack-stuck [with sickness]. By the 650th cow, he would speak no more names wrought by the Gods. And it was by the 700th cow that the Dagon noticed that Aless was painting the swirls [in a different fashion], to which she explained, "Each county has a different Lookit Me Stamp," and frowning at him she asked, "But you know that, right?"

"Oh, right, right, indeed," he said, "Blame my ailment and our hasty mission. It has left me with a perplextion of the brain. Stamp away!" to which Aless smiled, "No problem, I'm getting tired, too. There, seven hundred and fifty-two! How many do you think we'll need?"

"At least nine hundred and ten," Dagon said, "That is a lucky number." (This is true.) And then they vanished [into the wind] again, coming out into Windhelm, fortress-lands of the High King. "We'd better hurry here," Dagon advised.

"Why?"

"Why what?"

"Why hurry here? You mean more than seven hundred and fifty-two cows in five hours hurry?"

"Um," Dagon said, feigning more sickness, "Because these are the king's cows and we have not the Special Royal Cow Painting Permits, nor the time to explain [the turning of the Age]. The Dragon is coming too soon for parley such as that."

And just as she started swirling these new cows (under cover of snow-curtains and in the shadow of the Thaneswall) Aless asked, "But why doesn't the High King know this already? Doesn't he have Clevermen advisors and Witching Wives to tell him? And the Queen, doesn't she have that six-pair of Scrying Eyestalks of Old Man Mora?"

"Who knows the way of kings and queens, little farm girl," Dagon countered, beginning to lose his temper and seeing now this always-questioning Aless as a turkey-leg in his stomach. But no, he thought, I can wait. [I can wait.]

Aless shrugged, painting the cows in what Dagon assumed was [the manner] of Windhelm now, and saying only, "I guess you're right, mister. But I'm named after a queen, a really pretty one, the books say." And [at this] Aless spoke of South Cyrod and its tales of mereth-kill by Men and heroes sent by the Gods, and Dagon's head began to swim with it, wind to wind and herd to herd in the Windhelmlands with the girl always talking and talking, for the demon hated the [lands of the Aleshut-tribes] nearly as much as our own but for different reasons, and just as he was about to let loose his rage (for that was his Base Nature), Aless spoke up, giggling with victory, "Nine hundred and ten with paint to spare!"

At which point, Dagon thought the deed to be done, and he began to grow fangs behind his beard.

"Holy crap!" Aless said, looking at her paint-covered dress. "We totally forgot the signs!"

"Huh?"

"In all of this crazy fast painting, mister, we forgot to stick up the Look Over Here signs! The Giants won't know to come! We really screwed this up!"

Dagon slid his fangs back in, for what she spoke was [true]. He sighed, "Yes. The signs. Totally forgot them. Crap."

"Tell you what," Aless said, "Take me back home. We can grab the signs I've made there and you can Tsun-them-up and make more and zip everywhere we've been to everywhere ELSE we've been putting them all up. And meanwhile I'll paint ONE MORE COW to make it nine hundred and ELEVEN. That's gotta be luckier than lucky, right?"

Dagon-as-Clever now frowned, for he wanted war soon, and said, "I suppose so. Really, what's one more cow going to hurt?" And [they stepped back] through the wind to Aless' own stead, whereupon she ran to the sign-sheds and retrieved as many as she could carry, dumping them nearly on Dagon's foot. Oh by the sixteen hells I'm going to eat this dumb girl, he thought, with WASABI! But he picked up the Look Over Heres and multiplied them unto a bigger bundle, shouldering them all.

"Night is falling fast, mister, you better hurry!"

And Dagon faded into the winds, dizzy with his plannings and smirkings and thinkings, stamping sign after sign at each herd of cows from Newkreath to Windhelm and all the places between, wishing himself another warlock-bite for all this trouble, finally growing out his four arms to make the goings-on faster, wind-step to sign-post, dreaming of [a tide] of Giants come down from the peaks of Skyrim to blast the Northmen away for all time, and time it was he lost track of, until he finally arrived back at the stead of Aless the Dragon Hater.

"Hi," she said, seeing Dagon's true form, "You totally forgot we painted every cow here at the beginning of all of this, you big dummy. So I painted this old bull instead."

And it was true, Aless had taken from its cattle-gate the bull she had begged her father not to kill and to which her father had agreed, and instead of swirls, she had painted [wings on it]. Before the Dagon's eyes this bull [transformed itself as in the manner of god-guiser magic] into Mor, the Bull of the South, Son-of-Kyne, and demiprince of All Winds.

Mor snorted through the hoop of his nose-ring and greeted the [King of Razors]. "Hello, Dagon. The prayers of children very seldom go unnoticed."

Aless said, "That means me."

Mor continued: "You are trespassing outside your mandated day of summoning, Lord Daedroth. Heaven is not happy of it."

Aless smiled and lifted up one finger, "One, you're NEVER supposed to badmouth Alduin in front of a Clever Man. And YOU didn't berate me." She lifted up a second. "Two, you can't even speak the names of the Gods without choking, and every Clever Man has wind enough in his throat to revere them without censure, involuntary or not." Three fingers, now four; five, and six with a second hand. "Then of course the swirls, which we Nords paint the same no matter whichever clan we belong to, because the Giants speak only ONE language and it's in our best interest to talk straight with them. I could mention several others, but you've guessed them all: the spell you suffered at the mention of my ancient namesake, whose story I peppered with sayings that are supposed to be repeated by any that are near as in the hymnal halls, and the Eyestalks of Say What Huh? that don't even EXIST which you just nodded your fake Clever head to, and--"

"I think, little namesake," Mor bellowed, "That he gets the point."

Dagon was fuming now, snow melting around his new-wrought hooves, stretching up and out into demon-skin, red like terror, ebon-armed and frothing. Aless stood her ground. Mor stamped twice, an [approval and a threat].

"You would have made my beloved proud with your courage," the Bull said to Aless, and to Dagon: "Stand down, Demon King, and go down. You will not win this day, even though it is crowned with the power of your first coming."

"WHAT NOW," Dagon roared, sending them both back with a [bellows-fire], "YOU ARE NOTHING TO ME, MORIHAUS HALF-SPIRIT! THE DAGON FIGHTS NOT THE SONS OF HEAVEN'S CONCUBINES BUT HEAVEN'S KING ITSELF."

"Yeah, sure," Aless giggled, "And how does that work out for you? Every single fight you have with the Dragon ends up with you losing, King Chump. And it will always be like that. Here, there, then, now, or in the future: the Dragon wins over you, as he wins over us all. I'm not afraid of that anymore. More importantly, I'm not afraid of YOU."

Dagon stepped forward, crackling now [with flame and old woe]. Mor bent his horns to the ready. Aless stayed where she was.

"I wouldn't do that, mister" she said. "Those swirls that I started painting as soon as we went a-wind'ng? They weren't Giant-Come-Shiny Swirls but hearth-warnings... that YOU were here. In the language of each clan, on all the cows they're looking at RIGHT NOW since you put all those signs up. That you're here-- right here, right where I asked you to return. I think pretty soon you'll start to hear the horns. And even you can't take on all the Sons and Daughters of Kyne, you *******."

And that's when they did hear [the horns of all clans], and the closest was as like a stormsong of thundernachs, for Mor was near, and he [was the issue of the Greater Sky]. And Dagon knew that where the horn soundings landed, the Tongues of High Hrothgar could step, and, when together, the greybeards could breathe unto being the ghost of Shor, which lay all Powers low [even in half-death].

"A curse on the house of Alessia," Dagon muttered before summoning himself a Gate to [the oblivion], for he knew his works were all undone, "And eight more on the Men of the Dragon. There will be an hour when--"

Aless leaned against her bull.

"Hey, Coughy," she said, "Shut up and go already. It's way past my bedtime."

And he did, missing the arrival of the hosts of Hrothgar and Newkreath, and the runners of nearby [Hjaalmarch], and, of course, the thanes of Aless' own stead, which included her father, all of which saw the farm girl in her messy dress leaning against the [Bull of Heaven], glorified in story and song since the days of our first dawn, and all afit for battle and confused [that it would not be met] and more still overcome with the blessings of the Skyrim by the Gods we hold aloft.

To which Aless could only answer: "It's a really long story, guys."

 

Fight Three, "The Snow Whale and the Dirtbird"

Author: 
Michael Kirkbride

These were the days of Reddotter, who surpassed her father in shield-biting...

[And it came to pass that] a strange thing happened: Alduin the World-Eater, who sleeps between the [kalpas], had a disturbing dream, and he roused slightly, but not enough to bring ruin, and, heavy-lidded, he went back to the [age-wait]. But he yawned just slightly beforeso, which he had never done. And thus was born the Dirt Patch Which Does Not Gather Snow.

Now this place cannot be found on any map of Skyrim, and not because we Nords are shoddy in our cartography (we crossed the Cape of Tears, after all, and marked the passages, which even the Devils in the east use still)…for you see, it is a thing that should not be, a small world-destruction that is more hiccup than intent, and so the Dirt Patch moves about, which caused all manner of trouble (and everyone knows that story) until Fjork Beard-to-Toes of Throat Mountain used a [voice spell] to contain its jumping around mainly to the west.

(Which still sometimes causes trouble for the farmers of the Reachmen, ha ha ha.)

Anyway, after many years, and like all things, some animal life decided that they liked to live best of all in a particular place at the expense of all other places, and some chose the Dirt Patch, and these were birds. (Who can tell why birds do anything?) We do not know where they came from, but came they did, and always, always they managed to find the Dirt Patch and make their homes in it, burrowing down deep in its soft earth, where they made their nests…. (This is not normal bird behavior, I know, but who can tell why birds do anything?) [Only] to get up and out and fly again when the Dirt Patch vanished to go find it once more. (This is why when you see a dirtbird flying north you turn south.)

Now one day one of the Dumbest Things Ever happened: the Dirt Patch ended up in the sky! Right over a mountain range! (No one can remember exactly where, but it happened.) And the dirtbirds made for it anyway, and began to dig their nests down into the hovering earth, only to fall out with consternation before flying up and around the Dirt Patch [to try again]. Pretty soon they found that they just could not build their nests (and one would think that something that makes no sense, like a big stretch of dirt in the sky, would even be recognized as nonsensical by animals that really make no sense, like birds, but there you have it) and they began a’chirping away all as one in a terrible and irritating lament.

So of course they attracted the snow whales.

Snow whales have been in Skyrim since [the return of Man], living at the tops of the highest mountains, singing in magic tones, jumping from peak to cloud and back again, spreading their joy-snow in horn-like triumph from blowholes. We used to hunt them, our best climbers braving the rocks and ice-sheets, carrying rope and hooked spears. They had much meat, these whales, and blubber, and fluids that made paint and rosewater for our women. The earliest hunters had no luck; spouts of joy-snow [from the whales above] would drift down from the clouds and turn the men goofy. They would laugh like happy babes, some getting so tickled that they’d roll back down the mountainside in big flumphs—which only begat more guffaws-- or begin to pat each other on the back or hug in the masculine style to reaffirm their affections and camaraderie; in essence, the joy-snow got in their heads and they just forgot what they were doing. Eventually, Huggert the Wrinkled Unto Unreadable, one of our Clever Men, made sure that the hunters remembered to occasionally hit one another out of the blue, or make lewd jokes of their respective wives or mothers or sons that had not yet shown promise, and steal and hide the shoes of their fellows, and to line the rims of their shields with wasabi so that, when they bit them, that they might ignore all happiness in fits of burning nose and choked throat. All of these measures availed them not, for the potency of the joy of the snow whales remained [unhindered by any attempt at anger], and its powder would inevitably reduce our hunters again to snickering children, who, when they saw themselves so war-laden in this state, made them chortle and jest all the more.

Lesson learned. We left the snow whales alone.

The dirtbirds, though, in their present bothersome sorrow, all trilling and chak chak chak, brought a herd of snow whales up and out of the mountain peaks, looking to see what the fuss was about. They were as surprised as anyone to find a plain of earth suspended in the sky, and soil–breasted birds flitting amok in hysterical despair all around it.

"Holy crap," one said, "I have never seen something this dumb." And thus the snow whales crooned to each another in their way, and some, driven to pity, spat great gales of joy at the dirtbirds to remove their dirge. But just as the Dirt Patch had been misenchanted to gather no snow, so were the fowl that had inherited it similarly immune. The feathered raucous went unabated.

One of the snow whales, a young bull that had only recently grown his mottles, jumped from summit to cloud and back again, twirling so that both of his eyes might see this unholy mess of things. And he snorted, and he remarked, "What we see here, my kin, is no doubt the insalubrious work of the Dagon."

Now one of the dirtbirds, a young maiden, heard this declaration and took pause from her horrible wailing and flew to the great eye of the bull and said, "What now is this about the Lord of Tumult and Foul Tempers, who is known far and wide as the mucker-upper of all things in this world, and whose treachery runs even unto the sons and daughters of the Tava?" (Tava is a heathen god. Of birds, no less.) But the bull whale splashed into the ice-covered precipice of the nearest mountain, ignoring her. However, since ice is harder than snow, the wide fan of his tail stuck out for a second longer than normal, and, unanswered, the dirtbird dived down and grabbed it with her beak. And this is how she followed the snow whale into [the oblivion].

The Clever Men say the realms of [the oblivion] are many, though some [limit] this number to sixteen. And there is not one that can count the endless avenues that run from one realm to another, for they change, and often, for they are as capricious in their natures as the demons that run through or rule them. Nevertheless, there is a strand to Coldharbour, which is the province of Molag Bal, and most icy beasts have touched or traveled it once, if only in nightmare, and it is perhaps by this and the will of the Gods that the snow whale navigated himself through the void that lay beyond the real world, the dirtbird behind him clamping her beak down hard and her shutting her eyes tight to the visions of evil around her.

[Thus it was that] the young bull made his way to the frozen court of the King of Rape, crushing up through the very fountain of Bal's courtyard, shattering the lewd ice sculptures that crowned it in the coldest of lusts. And before the soldiers could [muster a defense against] the snow whale, a brassy sound regaled through the court and covered it all in a fog of joy, which set them all to laughing, and it was hideous to hear. And by this sound did Molag Bal deign to rise from his throne and enter the courtyard, to confront the audacity of the bull of the northern clouds. "And just what the **** do you want?" he asked.

The bull eyed the Prince, and gave a bow as the older cows taught him, and started to say, "Mighty Lion of Evening, Vulgar and Low, Keeper of Coldharbour since the fall of Lyg, Destroyer of the Hearts of Men, I have come to--" but he was interrupted by the chirping and relentless admonishment of his stowaway, who had left his tail and flown directly into the Prince’s face. The dirtbird maiden’s angry diatribe is [too heinous and nasty] to even repeat here, but more or less she said, “"ne of your **** kin evidently **** our **** Dirt Patch, which is the only **** place where my people can build their **** nests and since it’s floating in the **** sky that’s **** impossible now, see, and so we cannot lay our **** eggs this season because of such an unnatural **** calamity and so we’ve been forced to wail and **** wail, you ****!"

To which the snow whale assented was the truth, adding only, "Which is, of course, annoying as hell to the rest of us up there."

The King of Rape took pause. It had been eons since anyone had spoken to him this way, and it had never, ever been a bird of all things. Bal thought for a second, and finally frowned, shrugging. "Well, first of all, what the **** is a Dirt Patch?"

And by turns the snow whale and the dirtbird told the story, and its details, and in his magnificence did Molag Bal know that this was indeed the dream-work of Mehrunes Dagon, his brother of razors, the only Prince who dared trouble the sleep of the dragon-eater, Alduin. But while loyalty between the rulers of [the oblivion] is tenuous, Bal saw no profit in upsetting the ways of his brother, and told his visitors so, adding a threat of terrible censure on them if they did not turn back immediately and without further insult. The dirtbird remained unsatisfied and (remember that birds make no sense) began to peck furiously at the Prince’s head, rebuking him and all his kind and the mischief they wrought.

Perhaps the snow whale misinterpreted this foolishness for bravery, or perhaps he admired that the dirtbird had come unbidden into the realms of the damned, or maybe it was an admixture of the two with a smidgen of the fondness that all flying things share for one another, but the bull knew that, at this point, he loved the foul-mouthed, unclean, imprudent dirtbird with all of his considerable heart. Before the King of Rape could swat her dead, he trumpeted the courtyard again with joy powder, hoping to send Molag Bal into a handicap of bliss so that they both might escape.

"Ho ho ho," Molag Bal roared, smiling, though none of it with joy. His aspect became so fierce that even the dirtbird maiden stopped pecking at his head, and she flew behind the bulk of the snow whale in sudden fright. The Prince of Coldharbour spoke: "You silly little snow whale, do you not know that there can be no joy for me? That long ago I gave up such things to the betterment of my rage? And while I recognize love between creatures that are unalike, I have built a bulwark against its joy and--"

"Wait wait wait," the dirtbird interrupted. "What’s all this about love between creatures unalike?" And if a snow whale could blush, [that is surely what] the bull did now. Even Molag Bal was taken aback, for he was sure in his heart that any maiden that would follow a man into hell did so only by token of love. For her part, the dirtbird left her hiding place and flew back into the demon prince’s face.

"Huh?" he said, blinking. "You two aren’t an item?"

"I’m a DIRTBIRD, genius," she answered, "And he’s a **** SNOW WHALE, get it? This isn’t above love, it’s about not being able to lay eggs in a floating stretch of earth, and it’s about your brother being a complete **** who needs to make things right. Or else."

To which the King of Rape merely raised an opulent eyebrow.

The snow whale cleared his throat [in earnest]. "Or else..." he started, unsure of himself. "... or else I will gather all of my kin," and at this he found his courage, "All of them, down to the last newborn cow, from all the mountaintops of Skyrim, and the clouds above it, and from every opening of snow there is in that land, and we will leave it. Forever."

Which was a confusing thing to Molag Bal, a Prince of Misrule, whose hatred was as bellows in his belly, and who had long since kept his delight of any form of joy under lock and key. And even the dirtbird turned from him to look on the bull, and she, too, simply did not get it.

Bal spoke, "And what would that matter to me?"

Now the soldiers of the Prince of Coldharbour had shaken off their fits of laughter, and took up their pikes again, and remembered their stations and their vileness, and they surrounded the fountain that the bull used as his threshold. And the snow whale’s blowhole was empty, leaving him defenseless to their approach, and maybe one could read this in his eyes, for Molag Bal began to smile wickedly, and the dirtbird gulped with fear.

"It matters to you," the bull said, "Mighty Lion of Evening, Vulgar and Low, Keeper of Coldharbour since the fall of Lyg, Destroyer of the Hearts of Men... it matters to you because my kin bring joy to the upper world, who have not yet given up such a thing for the betterment of their rage, and who welcome love and happiness and good cheer… as much as they fear the coming of ruin, or the color of betrayal, or the visitations of demons. These last are the tools of [the oblivion], and your lifeblood, and it is only through joy that the devices of your dubious employ are the more sweeter to you, yet which are nothing if visited upon those who know nothing but despair in the first place. It matters to you, Lord Bal, for how can you destroy the hearts of men when those hearts are already empty?"

And, with that, the snow whale sank back into the fountain from whence he came, but he left the wide fin of his tail up out of it for a second longer than normal. And the dirtbird took it within her beak.

When they returned to Skyrim, bursting out of the zenith snow, the snow whale and the dirtbird were met with only silence. Their kin were gone, both kinds, and with them, the noise of crooning and the cacophony of bird-lament. But the maiden felt the tug of the Dirt Patch in her senses, and she sensed that it was southward, and low, and she knew that things had been more or less put back right. She let go of the bull’s tail and flew up to his eye. "It has worked," she said, "Bal has talked sense into his brother, the Dagon. I can feel it in my breast."

"I suppose so," the bull said, "And I can hear my herd jumping this way through mountaintop and blue." And perhaps when she knew that the snow whale would soon be gone, having rejoined his kin, and perhaps because he had shown her a courage that was unalike as hers but as powerful, or maybe it was an admixture of the two with a smidgen of the fondness that all flying things share for one another, but the dirbird knew that, at this point, she loved the noble, unwieldy, ridiculous snow whale with all of her tiny heart.

"Where I live the snow cannot gather," she said in the lowest of voices. To which the bull nodded, and said, "And there is, of course, the difference in size." And, at that they smiled, and flew away from one another, and were welcomed back by their kin in songs of praise.

(And this is why when you see a dirtbird heading north that you stop... and look up at the sky before turning south. Sometimes, if you are lucky, you can see him, the bull of the northern clouds, looking for her, the maiden beloved of Tava, a heathen god that we begrudgingly admit is all right from time to time.)

 

Fight Two, "How Herkel the Fool Became a Clever Man"

Author: 
Michael Kirkbride

These were the days of Ysgrim... [whose] breath was weighted with power sounds....

...[after] many nights, the destruction of Sarthaal finally saw fit to stop in its burning and the snows were happier. [Ysgrim] shook his head, saying to his thanes and war-wives, "And once it is buried again, who will remember its halls and mighty sights, like the fountain of voices or the tusk-house where Jarl the Tongue shot from his mother's womb yelling profanities that only adults should know? Who would stop the snows?" (For no one can stop the snows.)

And so his Host moved east and north and east again, a long traveling, and passing Hrol'Dan (the first one) there was an idea that came to Herkel the Shield-Fed. "Lord, I have thought of an idea that might keep our memory of Sarthaal and its mighty sights alive, and not only in song. Would it suit your purpose, though we can never rebuild it, that if a Nord could say a small prayer then the gods would reveal the city in its former glory?"

Now Herkel [had] never been a Clever Man, so Ysgrim looked at him cockeyed. What Herkel was saying was magic talk but sometimes ideas grow where there has never been soil before. (This is a gift of Kyne called [inspiration].)

Finally, Ysgrim said, "You may speak, Herkel, and we shall listen."

And now all the shield-thanes and war-wives were looking at Herkel, for all of them would indeed like to see lost Sarthaal again and its mighty sights, if only by an illusion brought by prayer. So Herkel began:

"Well, Sarthaal was destroyed all right, the elves made sure of that!" (Here everyone present made the customary curses.) "And even though I threw up ancient shields from my gut like hurling discs that killed their first rank and Eriksdotter here danced the icicle-curtain dance and killed their second rank and Broga here mountain-farted and killed their third and fourth ranks (that was funny) and Vjevaka here rolled auspicious numbers on rune bones and killed their fifth rank and Haljor here... [at this point Herkel recites a deed for each of the "six hundred and some odd" Nordic warriors that were assembled]... and you, my king, even though you killed by yourself the five-thousandth rank with Olendrung, even after all of these things, the elves still kept coming! And, yes, we lost in the end and that losing cost of our dearest of cities and this is how come we are freezing our asses off on this long traveling...."

Now at this point, Herkel the Shield-Fed had talked so long that he needed to stop. It was a [great thing] that he had talked so long at all in all the cold, but his belly was on fire [from even just reciting all their deeds], and so he was able to almost complete his thought. But look! The other Nords had frozen to death while he was talking. (This is why it is now polite to interrupt whenever you are cold.)

"Oh crap!" Herkel said, "I have talked so long I have killed all of my fighting friends and even my king! [They were] bound by oaths to hear me out and now the destruction of Sarthaal is truly complete! Oh, I am a fool to think myself a Clever Man full of magic talk! See what talking too much does?"

But sure enough Dagon (who had heard his name) showed up and that old Lord of Misrule laughed and said, "What a grand, grand f**k up you are, Herkel Shield-Fed! See now, you have done what whole endless legions of elves could not, and by that I mean to destroy utterly the Host of Hoary King Ysgrim!"

And Herkel began to weep and supplicated himself before Lord Dagon, saying, "O Ruler of the Firestorm and the Howling Winds, O Gigantic Prince of All Things Harmful, O Dagon the Wicked One Who...hey, wait a minute! How are you even here? This is not one of your summoning days!"

And Dagon laughed again, saying, "No sh*t, Herkel, but all that bloodletting and fire at Sarthaal was enough for me [to pierce the veil of the oblivion]! All that whispering into elvish ears sure did the trick!"

Herkel Shield-Fed now looked at Dagon cockeyed and said, "Wait, it was you who sent that horde of elves who, though pierced to their five-thousandth rank, would not be stopped?" to which Dagon responded, "Of course! Though it was easy, as they hated you anyway, but yes, yes, it was I who stoked the fire in grim dreams and mirrors, which has only now saw fit to stop burning! Oh well, now I'm off to enjoy my stay! Who knows how long I have before Alduin notices that I've escaped his trap again?"

But while Dagon had been saying all this, Herkel had broken [the hammer] Olendrung off of frozen Ysgrim's belt. And filled with renewed anger he struck the Lord of Misrule upside the head. Dagon fell over into the snow with a great flumph, unconscious. And Herkel was about to bash the devil's brains out when he thought: "Wait a minute! Killing the kings of [the void] never really lasts forever and I'm not sure if even Olendrung could do more than knock him out! Oh, Dagon will be so mad when he wakes up and destroy even more now! I must find a way to get out of this mess! What can I, a fool as can be determined by recent events, do now to put two and two together?"

Herkel then had an idea and began to drag the frozen bodies of his king and his fighting friends back to the ruins of Sarthaal west and south and west again. He had to carry them in twos for they were stiff as ice and would not bend for easy lifting, so everytime he came back for another pair of them Herkel hefted Olendrung and smacked Dagon back to sleep. Finally, after all of these labors (three hundred and some trips back to Sarthaal), Herkel dragged Dagon to the edge of the ruins. Dagon was still out like a light, so Herkel had time to complete his plan.

He prayed to Alduin the dragon of time, who was the greatest enemy of men, for he ate the world everytime he woke up. But Herkel knew that Dagon was a greater enemy to the dragon, so he put that in his prayer, saying, "Mighty time-eater, I am Herkel the Fool, and I am truly a fool. But I fought bravely at the fall of Sarthaal which lay now at my feet, as does the one responsible for its destruction. I do not ask you to wake up, Alduin, for that would ruin more than Dagon will (and that's a lot now that I keep hitting his head)! And I do not ask you to bring my fighting friends and king back to life, for that is the province of your brother and even I'm not foolish enough to ask all that! And I do not ask you to turn back time, for that is against the laws of all the gods! But I do ask you for a little help, even though...." (And here he kept praying.)

And Dagon woke up with a hideous headache to look down on Sarthaal and look! It was not destroyed at all! There were its mighty sights, its halls, its fountain of voices, and the tusk-house of Jarl the Tongue! And arrayed before it was the Host of Hoary Ysgrim all lined up for war!

"Oh crap!" Dagon said, shaking his hurt, hurt head, "I have come too early, for the destruction of Sarthaal has not occured, for I see the army of King Ysgrim waiting for the elves that I am sending. What could I be thinking, to come before the veils are pierced? Even the laws of trickery would not help me if I did that!"

So Dagon vanished back to his prison [in the void]. And, with him, so did the glamour of old Sarthaal vanish, for it had been brought only by a prayer of Herkel the Fool, who stood among the frozen warriors lined up as if for battle. His plan had worked, though it did little to comfort him, and he said goodbye to his fighting friends and his king and as the snow came in to bury Sarthaal forever, Herkel climbed the steps of High Hrothgaar, where he became at last a Clever Man.

(And this is why sometimes if you pray hard enough, you can still see Sarthaal outside of only memory and in its fullest glory.)

 

Fight One, "The Eating-Birth of Dagon"

Author: 
Michael Kirkbride

These were the days of Hoag the Greater, born in a boot...[Long after] the two bells [of the All-Maker's Goat] rang out their clamouring, calling the end of days again in Sarthaal and the world, and Alduin's shadow was cast like carpetflame on east, west, south, and north...[he was] epoch eater. For as far as any man's eyes, only High Hrothgaar remained above the churning coils of dragon stop.

And Alduin said, "Ho ha ho."

But, look! Seven more mountains remained through Mereth like Hrothgaar and the Leaper Devil King (a kindly leaper demon, to be sure, but their king) jumped across the nilphony swirl. He came to Alduin (who always eats Nords first) and said, "Wait, wait, wait! Wait! It is not time to destroy the world yet!"

To which Alduin roared and laughed and said, "King of Leapers, you always bounce up to me around this time (for you are one of the only spirits that can last til my last bite) and shout, 'Wait!', but I never do and I will not now. Leap up to Hrothgaar's top and wait awhile longer in little dignity. The two bells have went 'Gong! Gong!' and that means the kalpa has turned."

The Leaper Demon King knew all this was true but still he said, "Wait, first and last of spirits, the kalpa-turning is brought too soon and I can prove it! Look over there on top of Red Mountain. See the Greedy Man waving his arms?"

Alduin swallowed more of Mereth (this was the destruction of Njorvela and Teed County) and looked over. Indeed the Greedy Man was waving his arms as if to tell the time-eating dragon to stop. Alduin snorted gruffly (a few farms shot out of his nose but he caught them with his tongue and pulled them back into his mouth, for he eats it all) and said, "And the Greedy Man always waves his arms about around this time as if to stop me just like you. It is almost as if you two work together to delay me. Is that what this is? Is some other low spirit hiding portions of the world while you two do this thing? Is this why the kalpa-feast always takes a little longer than it did the previous time?"

And then Alduin looked hard into the eyes of both the Greedy Man (far away) and the Leaper Demon King (close up), one of them for each eye of his own, and he knew it was so. These two spirits gulped big, and were caught.

"Oh crap," the Greedy Man said, "He knows my bargain with the king of leapers, I'd better hide under my mountain!" but he thought and said all this too fast and, without thinking, hid under his mountain even though its base had already been eaten and so it wasn't all still there. (This is how the Greedy Man became trapped both in and outside of kalpas.)

"Oh crap," said the Leaper Demon King, "You have found us out, World-Eater! Yes, just after the two bells of the All-Maker's Goat sound the Greedy Man and I and our servants hoard bits and bobs of the world so you can't eat it all. And when the world comes back we sort of just stick these portions back on and so that's why it is all bigger and bigger for you to eat each time. But it wasn't my idea! The Greedy Man hates you so much and it was his idea to finally trap you one kalpa when it was all much too big and so you would explode out from your belly and die so that the world would never have to die again!"

Alduin (whose stomach was hurting because it was a little too stretched, which had never happened before, and now he knew why) grew furiously angry and boomed out, "You stupid little f*cker, do you even know what would HAPPEN if that happened, my dying and being unable to eat and the kalpa left to run forever? Why do I even ask, you who are a little low spirit whose only real power is jumping around? It is the Greedy Man I should really be mad at!"

And the Leaper Demon King saw a possible way out of this mess for himself but he nodded too eagerly, saying "Yes, yes, yes! Yes!" and the dragon knew that any mercy he might give to this little demon would not result in any true learning. So he cursed the king of the leapers, calling him Dagon, saying:

"The Greedy Man has already f*cked himself up good, hiding inside something that didn't exist anymore, but you: you I curse right here and right now! I take away your ability to jump and jump and jump and doom you to [the void] where you will not be able to leave except for auspicious days long between one and another and even so only through hard, hard work. And it will be this way, my little corner cutter, until you have destroyed all that in the world which you have stolen from earlier kalpas, which is to say probably never at all!"

Dagon (no longer a Leaper Demon King) screamed, "Please no! We have stolen from you so much and crammed it all back on in the craziest of places that it will take forever for me to regain my jumping kind of happiness! Especially if I can only come back to this world through auspicious days long between one and another that also require rituals! I beg you not to do this, O Aka! I beg you one hundred thousand and eight times!"

Dagon did as he said, begging Alduin Time-Eater to reverse his decision one hundred thousand and eight times, and halfway through this number Dagon shut his eyes tight to really mean it and then three-quarters through this number he began to shout his beggings to really, really, really mean it, but when he was done begging Alduin was not near the mountaintop he stood on.

In fact, after many looks east, west, south, and north, and seeing only the churning dragon stop around him, Dagon realied that at some point when he was begging with his eyes closed that Alduin had eaten him, mountaintop and all, and he had not heard the big chomp because he had been begging too loud. And he knew that the last world had been eaten entirely, except for its stolen portions, and that when the new kalpa began to form The Greedy Man (who never stayed trapped for long) would begin sticking these stolen portions back on in the craziest of places, and that he himself could never jump again until all was put back right.

He also knew that the name of "Dagon" would no longer be that of a kindly leaper demon but one who would destroy and destroy and destroy whenever he could find some small escape [from his home in the oblivion]....

 

Shezarr and the Eight Divines

Author: 
Michael Kirkbride

You (understandably) misconstrue the position Shezarr enjoys in Cyrodilic worship. He, and a thousand other deities, have sizeable cults in the Imperial City. Shezarr is especially venerated in the Colovian West, though he is called Shor there, as the West Kings are resolutely, and religiously, Nordic.

The haziness of Shezarr’s relationship to the Eight Divines (he is often called their ‘Missing Sibling’) begins with St. Alessia, the so-called ‘Slave Queen of Cyrodiil’, the founder figure of the modern Empire. In the earliest Cyro-Nordic stories of the Heartland, Shezarr fought against the Ayleids (the ‘Heartland Highelves’) on mankind’s behalf. Then, for some unknown reason, he vanishes from the stage (presumably to help other humans elsewhere), and, without his leadership, the Ayleids conquer the humans and enslave them.

This slavery lasts for generations. The isolated humans eventually begin to venerate the pantheon of their masters, or at least assimilate so much of High Elven religious practices into their native traditions that the two become indistinguishable.

In 1E242, the Cyrodilic humans, under the leadership of Alessia and her demigod lover, Morihaus-Breath-of-Kyne, revolt. When Skyrim lends its armies to the Slave-Queen of the South, the revolution succeeds. The Ayleid Hegemonies are quickly overthrown. Shortly thereafter, White Gold Tower is captured by Alessia’s forces, and she promptly declares herself the first Empress of Cyrodiil. Part of the package meant that she had to become the High Priestess of Akatosh, as well.

Akatosh was an Aldmeri god, and Alessia’s subjects were as-yet unwilling to renounce their worship of the Elven pantheon. She found herself in a very sensitive political situation. She needed to keep the Nords as her allies, but they were (at that time) fiercely opposed to any adoration of Elven deities. On the other hand, she could not force her subjects to revert back to the Nordic pantheon, for fear of another revolution. Therefore, concessions were made and Empress Alessia instituted a new religion: the Eight Divines, an elegant, well-researched synthesis of both pantheons, Nordic and Aldmeri.

Shezarr, as a result, had to change. He could no longer be the bloodthirsty anti-Aldmer warlord of old. He could not disappear altogether either, or the Nords would have withdrawn their support of her rule. In the end, he had become “the spirit behind all human undertaking.” Even though this was merely a thinly-disguised, water-downed version of Shor, it was good enough for the Nords.

As for why Tiber Septim did not somehow ‘revitalize’ Shezarr during his wars against the Aldmeri Dominion, we can only speculate that, by his time, memories of the Alessian Order’s follies (the Dragon Break, the War of Righteousness, the defeat at Gelnumbria Moors) would have only damaged his campaign for the Imperial Crown.

Michael Kirkbride,
Officer of Paleonumerology,
Hla Oad, Vvardenfell