The Currency of Secrets

Author: Anonymous
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By Cipher Plautis

When I first came to Apocrypha, I believed I was finally free to follow my passion for researching obscure lore. No longer would I concern myself with questions of how to afford to purchase rare tomes, or how to support myself in my studies without starving. I imagined that Hermaeus Mora had created a paradise for scholars such as me.

Then I learned what true freedom meant. In the Great Eye’s realm, you are free to examine any secret you desire to study, yes. But you are also free to starve, to corrupt your mind with books you should not read, and to languish in the grasp of Daedra who use mortals as playing-pieces in horrible schemes. Even in Apocrypha, one must think about how to survive

I finally found my way to Cipher’s Midden. Famished and desperate, I had nothing but the rags I wore and one battered journal filled with the scribblings of things I’d learned during my first days in Apocrypha. And that was enough. For in Apocrypha, secrets are the currency of the realm.

I traded a few abstruse notes I’d found in the workbook of an Ayleid mage for a meal and a place to sleep. When I woke, I traded a treatise on the shape and function of echatere teeth for new clothes. And so I learned how the Ciphers of the Eye prosper in a place without laws or lords or coin.

A cipher’s wealth and standing are measured by the secrets they know. The value of a secret is measured in two principal ways: exclusivity and power. Things known to few are more valuable in Apocrypha than things known to many. Secrets with great or terrible consequences are more valuable than secrets of trivial importance. And, as you might expect, secrets that are strange, scandalous, or deal with famous people have additional value of their own.

In Cipher’s Midden, the exchange of secrets creates a hidden web of favors and obligations. With these, a cipher can arrange for goods to be transported into Apocrypha and barter them to other ciphers. (Various Hermaeus Mora cults in Nirn are useful suppliers, as are the merchants of the Saraathu Tong and the vendors of Fargrave.) A new cipher can purchase the patronage of an older cipher by promising to share their later findings. Or an older cipher can hire assistants by doling out tidbits of value to those whose studies are just beginning.

Naturally, the value of a secret changes as it is traded. After all, once I tell you something, I have no control over whether you will then tell someone else. A truly rare secret can be ruined through careless repetition. Sometimes unscrupulous newcomers are tempted to trade a recently acquired secret immediately in order to get something for it before its value drops to nothing. But that is a mistake.

You see, every cipher’s favorite secret is who exactly was careless with a valuable secret.

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