Forum Scholar’s Guild: Dragon Break at Red Mountain

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This article is part of the Forum Scholar’s Guild: a collection of peer-reviewed original research written by fans about Elder Scrolls lore.

The events of Red Mountain in 1E668 and the Trial of Vivec

Time seems to be the one barrier that we, bound by the laws that are called the Earth Bones, are unable to master. Shackled to our incapable mortal bodies and limited by the inefficiency of our minds, we are literally unable to comprehend what lies beyond the boundaries of Time. This is the sober but undeniable truth behind our power of comprehension.

Yet parallel to our comprehension is an even greater mortal power, that of imagination. Though we may not be able to comprehend the incomprehensible, we can imagine incomprehensible concepts. An example of this that occurs most readily to my mind is the age old question of what happens when an Unstoppable Force meets an Immovable Object – a theoretical event that, though proposed, has no sensible explanation. The possibility even exists that there is no sensible explanation.

This document appeals to both facets of the mortal mind, providing the facts that have been studied and revealed to be incontrovertible, as well as my own interpretations of the yet unproven (or ultimately unprovable) aspects of the mystery of the Dragon Break, and the effects it has had on the history of Nirn.

The Dragon Break at a Glance

It is, logically, impossible to see time itself. However, it is possible to see it in the world around us, in ourselves, and in the things we do as a result of what causes a change in state of anything mortally observable. Success, failure, death and life – all are children of their causes, but the effects of the occurrences themselves are the children of time (If time stopped as a mischievous boy threw a stone at a window, you would not see the window shatter until time started again). Time, in effect, merely reveals occurrences to our temporally ruled minds. Time, therefore, has no effect on causality.

However, causality seems to be able to affect itself. What if, theoretically, you were able to travel back in Time, to change the events (to undo the accuracy of the stone, the presence of the stone, the presence of the boy or the presence of the window)? Time would reveal different circumstances.

This is the Dragon Break.

The Dragon Break seems to defy mortal comprehension, and as such almost nothing is known about it, save for that when it happens, history and reality is altered forever.

The term Dragon refers to Akatosh, the Time Dragon. He is revered as the First God, though He did not bring into being the other et’Ada. He personifies Time.

The term Break refers to a disruption, a shift in Time itself. Although obviously, according to the laws of causality, even across aeons, this disruption must have a source. This source is located further on in Time.

There have been several Dragon Breaks throughout history. There have been no less than two in the past five-hundred years. It took place in the Halls of Colossus in Rimmen, when Tiber Septim, the first Emperor of the Third Empire of Tamriel, assembled the Numidium, and again when the Mantella, the power source of the Numidium, was incorporated into the construct, resulting in the enigmatic “Warp in the West”, when there were purportedly six instances of the Numidium in existence at one time, each under the influence of a different party.

The Warp in the West is probably the most notorious example of the Dragon Break, and the instance with the most wide-reaching effects. As a result of its paradox, the destinies of several were abruptly altered; Gortwog, an Orc of High Rock, was able to found his kingdom of Orsinium against all odds. Zurin Arctus, the Imperial Battlemage whose soul was contained within the Mantella, reclaims his mortality and is able to die a mortal death. The powerplay in the Iliac Bay ends, and balance is brought between the citystates of Sentinel, Wayrest and Daggerfall. It is even believed by some that the Warp reversed the destruction of the Coral Kingdoms of Thras, and that the Sload are no longer extinct.

It has been argued that the manipulation of time is impossible. After all, were you able to travel back in time to prevent the window being broken by the boy’s mischief, you would eliminate the whole reason you intended to alter time in the first place. Therefore, you would not have any reason to travel back in time.

However, according to my as yet successful hypothesis, this is simply not the case with regards to the nature of time.

This is what the Dragon Break is understood to be. Time runs normally until the point marked X, whereupon an exterior event causes a change in events.

However, in order to defeat the argument that time manipulation is impossible, there cannot be only one series of events. There must be two, so that one may be used as a “placeholder”, if you will, that preserves the results:

In this diagram, the series of events is likened to the “direction” of the timeline. Line Y is a reality wherein the window is broken by the stone. Line Z is a reality wherein the window is preserved. When the two lines intersect at the Dragon Break (X), the two timelines “merge”. Line Y inherits the direction (events) of line Z.

In effect, the course of events itself is not changed; it is the Universe itself that is changed. One version of the Aurbis, in which the window is broken, is displaced and enveloped by a version in which the window is not.

This theory is supported by the testimony of Vivec in his Trial:

But when Vehk the mortal reached into the Heart, he ceased to be anything except for what he wished to be. The axis erupted. There was an exact cracking, an instant of pure Aurbis, his hands burnt black by that ever-nil of static change, and Vivec the god who had never been had always been. A whole universe swelled up to legitimize his throne… as the old universe, where Vehk the mortal still lapped up Godsblood, warped itself to accept its new equivalent. And like all things magical it simply could not happen, could not Be. Red Mountain was the intersection of the Is-Is Not as it was of old, its center point, and it did not hold. And so the Dragon, having broken, saw fit to heal, turning into the world you know.

However, very few people have noticed the instance of the Break that has, according to my research, has had the greatest influence on the province of Morrowind. This instance of the Break took place in the 700th year of the First Era, at the culmination of one of the most turbulent periods in Morrowind’s history: the Battle of Red Mountain.

The Disappearance of the Dwarves

Sometime between the 401st and 415th years of the First Era, the leaders of the two dominant races in the land of Velothi, Indoril Nerevar of the Chimer and Dumac Dwarfking of the Dwemer, united their races to face a common foe after a long period of enmity. The Dwemer and Chimer made war on the Nords, who had ruled Velothi since its subjugation in 1E240, and drove them from the land in 1E416.

With Velothi reclaimed from Nordic rule, the Chimer-Dwemer nation of Resdayn was founded. The new nation was governed by the First Council, which comprised of the chief Chimer clans of Indoril, Dres, Telvan, Hlaalu, Redoran and Dagoth, and the various Dwemer clans. An exception is made in the case of the Rourken, a clan of dwarves that left Resdayn soon after its founding, presumably due to disillusionment with their race’s association with the Chimer. Indoril Nerevar and Dumac Dwarfking were elected as the leaders of the First Council, the two Hai Resdaynia. A long period of prosperity followed.

Then, in 1E668, the heart of the trickster-god Lorkhan was unearthed beneath Red Mountain, where it had been hurled by the vengeful et’Ada after Lorkhan had deceived them into creating Nirn, to their detriment. After studying the Heart, Kagrenac, a Dwemer magecrafter, planned to use its divine power to imbue spirit into the Numidium, a gigantic construct fashioned by the Dwemer, thus animating it with divine power and in so doing creating a new God and a powerful weapon for the Dwemer.

Nerevar, bidden by Azura, protested this, but after two failed attempts at negotiation, the First Council is sundered and the friendship of Dumac and Nerevar broken. The two races go to war.

The war culminates in the Battle of Red Mountain. The Dwemer, aided by Nordic and Orcish mercenaries, and in some accounts by House Dagoth, clash with the Chimer houses. Nerevar breaks away from the battle, goes with his advisors Vivec and Sotha Sil and his wife Almalexia to the summit of Red Mountain, and enters the citadel of Bthuangthuv.

It has been said that the Dwemer were the most enigmatic race in Nirn with regard to their beliefs, known for being so unconventional as to be incomprehensible to other races. Blessed with incredible intellects, the Dwemer researched the taboo and the blasphemous: They sought to bend the laws of the Earth Bones, and to be able to transcend the barrier between the mortal and the immortal. Since none can know the minds of the Dwemer, their motives for this are unfathomable, but we may always presume.

It has been said that the Dwarves were godless. This may or may not have been so, but they were almost certainly not without philosophy, most likely centered around the acquisition of knowledge and of understanding the machinations of the Aurbis. Perhaps they sought to use the tools not just or even not at all for the power, but for the knowledge itself. Perhaps the Heart of Lorkhan was just another experiment.

Then there is the more mortal of motives: Eternal life. It is believed by some that the magecrafter Kagrenac sought to grant the Dwemer life everlasting and to elevate them to godhood, or something similar. As fear of death and lust for power is an accepted fact in mortal life, this theory seems to hold more weight, but as the Dwemer possessed an unknowable system of values, we will never know if it is was actually so.

However, regardless of cause or motive, Kagrenac’s Tools are employed upon the Heart deep within the bowels of Red Mountain, and the Dwarves disappear utterly from Nirn.

The Dwemer were not slaughtered to the last man as one account of Red Mountain suggests. Even if they had been, the Rourken Clan in Hammerfell would have remained. All other accounts end in the Tools of Kagrenac being employed upon the Heart of Lorkhan.

Whoever used the tools (accounts range from Nerevar, to Dumac, to Kagrenac himself), something happened beneath Red Mountain to unmake, destroy, or banish the Dwemer from the Mundus.

Some time ago, I was studying various texts on the subject of the Dragon Break. One book, and one paragraph in particular, caught my eye. The excerpt, being the testament of a Tender to the Mane of Elsweyr on the origin of the Break, follows:

“Do you mean, where were the Khajiit when the Dragon Broke? R’leyt tells you where: recording it. ‘One thousand eight years,’ you’ve heard it. You think the Cyro-Nordics came up with that all on their own. You humans are better thieves than even Rajhin! While you were fighting wars with phantoms and giving birth to your own fathers, it was the Mane that watched the ja-Kha’jay, because the moons were the only constant, and you didn’t have the sugar to see it. We’ll give you credit: you broke Alkosh something fierce, and that’s not easy. Just don’t think you solved what you accomplished by it, or can ever solve it. You did it again with Big Walker, not once, but twice! Once at Rimmen, which we’ll never learn to live with. The second time it was in Daggerfall, or was it Sentinel, or was it Wayrest, or was it in all three places at once? Get me, Cyrodiil? When will you wake up and realize what really happened to the Dwarves?”

I would draw your attention to the last line in particular. Apparently, a Dragon Break is to blame for the removal of the Dwemer from the Mundus. The revelation brought by this sentence eventually led to the line of study through which I present this treatise.

According to Divine Metaphysics, there were Dwemer, such as Bthuand Mzahnch, who were against the idea of manipulating the Heart, with good reason; when mortals seek to use the power of the Divine, the consequences are at best unpredictable and at worst cataclysmic. Dwemer such as Mzahnch were the advocates of caution in the construction of the Anumidium and the use of the Heart of Lorkhan as its source of power. Nonetheless, the wayward Kagrenac proceeded to experiment the Heart, allegedly without the blessing or the knowledge of Dumac Dwarfking. In so doing, Kagrenac provoked the Chimer into war with the Dwemer.

I quote Lord Vivec from his conversations with the Nerevarine on the Dwemer:

“I have no idea what happened to the Dwemer. I have no sense of them in the timeless divine world outside of mortal time. And, in fact, if I did believe they existed, I would be in no hurry to make contact with them. They may, with some justice, hold the Dunmer race responsible for their fate. My intuition is that they are gone forever — and that is perfectly fine with me.”

Evidently, Lord Vivec cannot detect whatever may remain of the Dwemer, even with his expanded immortal faculties and extradimensional consciousness.

What exactly he may have meant by the timeless divine world outside of mortal time is unclear. It is unknown whether the planes of Oblivion and Aetherius share the same time as the Mundus. This may also be said of the Eight plane(t)s that orbit Nirn and participated in its creation. Therefore, one may assume that Vivec implied that he could not sense them in the immediate, physical cosmos around our world.

I call now upon a source that some may call questionable. It was unearthed by a Khajiiti bookseller within the holy city of Vivec some time after the Incarnate’s defeat of Dagoth Ur. Since then, its validity has been the subject of much debate, and it has opened up its cryptographical messages to those who chose to pay it heed. It is known as Sermon Zero, allegedly either an Apographal text or a lost Sermon of Vivec.

The style of the text is instantly familiar to those who have read and studied the Thirty-Six Lessons, although the content is understandably held as profane by the church of the Tribunal. Its secrets were first uncovered by a custodian of the Imperial Library, a figure who prefers to be known by his initial, B. Upon noticing the word “aminraeV”, and recognising it to be the name of the Daedric Prince Vaernima spelled backward, and began to analyse the entire text in the same manner. And, sure enough, B discovered an encoded message within the “Thrice Secret Word” near the end of the passage, by reading the letters spelled in lower case back to front. The message reads:

“to the dwemer and oblivion belong this treasure and they are there dead”

This statement is enforced somewhat by an observation I have made while visiting one of the many Daedric ruins that are scattered across Vvardenfell. I noted that the guardian of the shrine, a Dremora Lord that appeared to confront me upon inspecting the altar, wielded a weapon of distinctly Dwarven manufacture. The logical assumption as to where a Dremora, fresh from the womb of Oblivion, acquired such a weapon was a simple one to make; I theorise that the Dragon Break that was caused by the use of the Tools on the Heart relocated the Dwemer race in its entirety to the home plane of the Daedra, where they likely perished after coming into contact with its inhabitants or the inhospitable environment of Oblivion.

The Crimes of ALMSIVI

In 3E 427. Thousands of years of religious dogma were laid bare. With the coming of the prophesied Nerevarine, the Tribunal Temple’s suppression of the Nerevarine Cult and the Dissident Priests was revealed to be part of a much greater conspiracy, rooted in the ancient history of Vvardenfell and hidden from the people of the province for generations. But the revelation was oddly ambiguous: The people of Morrowind were now wiser to an extent about the history of their nation and the natures of their Gods, but some questions remain yet unanswered.

After the events of 3E 427, the people of Morrowind – especially the devout and members of the Temple – were aghast at learning of the deceit of the Tribunal and its champions. Angry, frustrated, and shaken at the deaths of Almalexia and Sotha Sil, the people demanded answers. This eventually led to Vivec’s willing participation in his Trial. The trial concludes in the Hogithum Hall in Cyrodiil City, and is presided over by the judges Allerleirauh, Hasphat Antabolis and Nigedo.

From the court transcript of the Trial of the Warrior-Poet:

“Except now Vivec the God was alive before his own birth, which had, in fact, really happened in the death of the last universe. Hard to grasp in three-dimensional thought? Why, of course it is. And so that is why some semblance of my anguished personal reconciliation found its way into my own scripture. Why did I leave the Nerevarine two accounts of his death, one that I could have easily erased from the minds of my own people? Because he is Hortator, GHARTOK PADHOME AE ALTADOON DUNMERI, my lord and king in this world and the last, and as Vehk and Vehk I murdered him, then raised him, then taught to him to know, and so would I have it when he came to me at last that he decide. I give you this as Vivec… But I gladly – no, delightfully – admit to stealing my bridge to godhood! Let the court record I would do it again and again. Moreover, I’ve left instructions for others to do the same, and look more pretty than I did doing it!… What we did was far more calculated, precise in accordance with laws set down in ancient days. Unfortunately I cannot present you with the drafts of Magnus we worked from. I love you too much… Without the Heart, the glory of the Dunmer would have never grown as radiant… I am the Thief of this World, with stars, and by my Charges I put you down.”

Thus, Vivec willingly confesses to murdering Indoril Nerevar, and states with no reservations that he was not born a god; having broken their oath to Azura, the Tribunal used the tonal tools of Kagrenac and elevated themselves to Godhood. As he wore his Water Face, the truth of this testament is doubtless.

These are very grave crimes indeed – However, they cannot be explained as simply as that. While the fact that the Tribunal murdered Nerevar is logically indisputable, the question remains whether they are one and the same with the beings we know today.

Thus, in the “last universe,” as Vivec calls it, Nerevar was the Hai Resdaynia, the joint ruler of Morrowind, and Vivec, Almalexia and Sotha Sil were his counsels and mortal in every conventional sense of the word. In the universe current, the Tribunal are divine and were born so, and Nerevar was the Hortator and was never ruler of Morrowind.

We, as mortals, can only see one face of the Tribunal, the one we have known for thousands of years. However, there is a second side separate from the first that is removed from our universe by something far beyond conventional space and time. Only the gods themselves – including the Tribunal and the Sharmat Dagoth Ur – who are linked to each other by Mantellian chains and the nexus known to us as Lorkhan’s Heart could see the ground between.

And what of Vivec? After the scandalous events at Hogithum Hall, concluding in his attack on Azura and her banishment from the Mundus, Vivec was said to vanish. Myself, I think that Vivec’s time on the physical plane had merely come to an end, and that his divine essence has returned to the Aetherius, to join again with Anu the Everything. The Loveletter from the Fifth Era seems to indicate that his influence will be felt far into the future, and it is possible that whatever remains of his consciousness watches over the events of the final years of the Third Era even now.

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