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Light of Knowledge

Author: 
Lady Nerevar

Sotha Sil

Strange. I spent lifetimes here in the world of tangible-forms, but each time I emerge from the throne, it's like I'm seeing it for the first time.

Broken, impoverished... beautiful.

Vestige

What will you do now?

Sotha Sil

It seems I must delay my work for a time.

When I reclaimed my shadow, I learned a great deal. Daedric plots. Alliances and betrayals. The return of things lost in time... the loss of things the world thought certain. I have much to do.

Vestige

Can I help? What do you need?

Sotha Sil

In the short-term, I need Divayth Fyr. He took his leave to attend to matters outside my fortress. I wish to speak with both of you in a more private setting.

Please, find Fyr and then meet me at the Elegiac Replication.

Vestige

I'll find him and meet you there.

Sotha Sil

We will speak in time. First, find Divayth Fyr. I wish for both of you to meet me at the Elegiac Replication - a memorial south of here.

Our discussion should be away from prying eyes and ears... even those of my own people.

Vestige

Where is Luciana now?

Sotha Sil

You will find her in her retreat, here in the basilica. My factotums tend to her wounds even as we speak. Of course, you already know how this will end. I hope that knowledge brings you some measure of peace.

If the Vestige asked Sotha Sil to save Luciana, they can have the following conversation with her.

Proctor Luciana Pullo

Seht. Sotha Sil. Is he...?

Vestige

He's fine. We did it, Luciana.

Proctor Luciana Pullo

Thank the gears. The people... my people... they're safe.

He knew. He knew this would happen. He said I would shine a light one day... do you see? Everything built to this. Everything every battle... every sorrow. It finally makes sense.

Vestige

You'll see Sotha Sil soon. I asked him to save you.

Proctor Luciana Pullo

You asked him that? After all the impatience I showed you? The bad temper? I guess I shouldn't be surprised. I never met a more altruistic soul.

Still, I'm not sure even Sotha Sil could save me this time. I feel it in my bones. This is how I end.

Vestige

He promised me you will survive this.

Proctor Luciana Pullo

Perhaps you're right.

You know, I asked Sotha Sil to spare someone close to me long ago. He refused. Now I see - I understand. I'll try to make your choice mean something. You have my word.

If the Vestige did not ask for the Proctor's life, they may instead speak to the medical factotum tending to her.

Factotum Medica

Greetings, resident. Please maintain a safe distance. I am still determining the extent of Proctor Luciana's injuries.

Vestige

What exactly happened to her?

Factotum Medica

Lord Seht furnished Proctor Luciana with a wide array of complex enhancements that help sustain and extend her life. These enhancements allow her to wield arcane power inaccessible to most mortals.

Vestige

And?

Factotum Medica

Unfortunately, her struggle against Nocturnal's assault overtaxed the system, resulting in catastrophic damage to all rejection inhibitors and nerve junctions.

It seems her body was incapable of handling the strain.

Vestige

Will she be all right?

Factotum Medica

I lack the requisite data to offer you a definitive prognosis. Initial findings indicate a low probability of survival. I can direct you to a grief specialist if you wish.

Please know that I will continue to execute my duties with all due diligence.

The Vestige can also talk to Varuni, who is watching over Luciana.

Provost Varuni Arvel

I can't stand seeing her like this. I always thought Luciana was, I don't know... indestructible. How could this happen?

Vestige

She held off a Daedric Prince, almost single-handedly.

Provost Varuni Arvel

And the strain was too much. Yes, I've heard. I just thought with you there, and Lord Seht as well... I guess every spring comes unwound eventually, no matter how strong.

Do you think she'll live?

Vestige

I asked Sotha Sil to heal her. She'll live.

Provost Varuni Arvel

You what? And Lord Seht granted you this boon? I'm sorry, I shouldn't seem so shocked. You've done nothing but struggle and sacrifice for us since you arrived.

Thank you, my friend. With Luciana healed, the Clockwork City will flourish.

Vestige

What will you do now?

Provost Varuni Arvel

I'll remain here a while longer. I should stay at her side at least until the factotum shares its test results. We'll meet again soon, I'm sure.

On the way to find Fyr, the Vestige spoke to several other citizens of the Clockwork City to see what they had to say about the recent events.

Meder Nerethi

The factotums didn't even flinch at the alarms. Just going about their duties. I aspire to such efficiency.

Vilia Laetonius

I don't buy it. It would take an army to break into the Cogitum Centralis, and we've seen no sign of attack. Probably a wayward skeevaton clogging the vents again.

Vincebald Farro

Slag it. I still feel like I should be doing something to help.

The Vestige also overheard a conversation between a local and the stranded Hlaalu retainer they saw earlier.

Sarvlos Velar

You'll tell me this instant if there's truth to these rumors!

Ajunct Rizma

I have nothing to say on the matter, auxiliary.

Sarvlos Velar

You will tell me if this portal exists! This could be my one chance to get home!

Ajunct Rizma

This is your home now. I suggest you find your place in it.

The Vestige found Fyr on a bridge overlooking the city.

Divayth Fyr

Ah, my erstwhile companion. You look remarkably ... coherent. Most mortals caught in a Daedric tempest would suffer some lasting effects.

I'm impressed. Baffled, but impressed.

Vestige

Sotha Sil asked me to find you.

Divayth Fyr

Already? I expected him to wait at least a week before summoning me. Sil's concept of time bears only a faint resemblance to our own.

You should set out. I'll be along shortly.

Vestige

Where were you? Luciana and I nearly died fighting the Shadow.

Divayth Fyr

You didn't though. Bully for you.

In truth, I sought an alternate route to the throne—through the Evergloam. Unfortunately, Nocturnal detected my presence immediately. One of the few burdens of near-divine power. I'm difficult to miss.

Vestige

So she trapped you?

Divayth Fyr

Trapped? No. Impeded, perhaps.

Fortunately, Nocturnal's attention turned to you and the good proctor when you defeated the Shadow. It gave me the opportunity to pinpoint the object of her fury. You. I followed her to the throne. The rest is history.

Vestige

Fine. So, what are you doing out here?

Divayth Fyr

Taking it all in, I suppose. Surely, you won't begrudge me a moment of vulnerability.

This place ... it is something. I sense that I won't return anytime soon—if at all. When you've lived as long as I have, that actually starts to mean something.

Vestige

What's to keep you from coming back?

Divayth Fyr

One can only marvel at a rival's triumphs for so long before that awe turns to resentment, and I have no time for petty jealousy.

I have plans of my own, and countless realms to explore. I can't afford to linger anywhere for long.

The Vestige then headed for the Elegiac Replication, where they met Fyr and Sil.

Sotha Sil

Thank you both for coming.

Divayth Fyr

Of course, old friend. You seem troubled. More troubled than usual, I mean.

Sotha Sil

Perceptive, as always. I do not wish to diminish your achievement, but Nocturnal's defeat here will be short-lived.

What's more, she does not act alone. A third enemy looms at the edge of my sight.

Their covetous eyes are now fixed on the Summerset Isles.

Divayth Fyr

Then we should inform the rest of the Psijics. They'll need to prepare.

Sotha Sil

I will inform them personally. I have a separate task for you, Divayth.

Take the Skeleton Key. Keep it hidden for as long as you can. I trust that this task pleases you? After all, your love of such trinkets is what brought you here in the first place.

Divayth Fyr

Sometimes I wonder if you see too much. I will keep it safe.

Sotha Sil

Farewell, Divayth Fyr. We will not meet again.

Divayth Fyr then disappeared into a portal, leaving the Vestige alone with Sotha Sil.

Sotha Sil

I haven't visited this memorial for centuries. But even I need reminders every now and again.

Do you like this place? It took me the better part of a decade to perfect it. Every stone and flower tells a story. Tales of how things were... how they ought to be.

I thought about destroying it on more than one occasion. I'm glad I didn't.

Vestige

I have questions.

Sotha Sil

I know. Ask, and I will answer truthfully. Just know that the truth often fails to satisfy.

Vestige

Who are you really?

Sotha Sil

You expect something grand, but I promised you the truth.

I am only what time and circumstances made me. Son of a lost house. Friend to a fallen king. Some will tell you that we are the product of our choices. I've never found that to be the case.

Vestige

But you're supposed to be a god, right?

Sotha Sil

I am whatever the people need me to be. A guardian. An oppressor. For some, too distant. For others, too meddlesome. I am the canvas upon which they paint their dreams and resentments. A vessel for their hopes and doubts.

A mirror. Nothing more.

Vestige

If you believe that, why even call yourself a god?

Sotha Sil

I don't.

But my companions, Vivec and Almalexia see their divinity as essential. Godhood brings them joy and purpose. They find meaning in the theatrical. Who am I to deprive them of that?

Vestige

What are your feelings on Almalexia?

Sotha Sil

Almalexia defies simple analysis. I doubt she could even describe herself accurately.

To understand Almalexia, you must first understand the value of fiction. Vivec fancies himself the poet, but in truth, Ayem is the greater storyteller.

Vestige

How so?

Sotha Sil

Vivec knows the boundaries that separate fact from fiction. He knows them so well that's he's learned how to break them. He exists inside his verse, but recognizes the lies. The contradictions.

He both does, and does not believe his own tales.

Vestige

How is Almalexia different?

Sotha Sil

She believes her tales implicitly. As does everyone else. Her capacity for deception appears limitless. She sows lies like a master gardener sows seeds, and the harvest of trust and adulation is breathtaking in scope.

Vestige

Does that bother you?

Sotha Sil

Not in the slightest.

As I said, we are, all of us, bound by our nature. Almalexia does what she does because she cannot do otherwise. It will not end well. But then, even the best endings rarely bring joy.

Vestige

What do you think of Vivec?

Sotha Sil

Vivec is my brother. He knows my struggles and I know his. That knowledge makes our relationship... complicated. To truly know someone is as much a curse as it is a blessing.

Vestige

What are his struggles?

Sotha Sil

Regret. We are bound by that at least.

He also suffers a kind of enslavement. Not unlike my own, in fact. Beauty holds the keys to his shackles. Beauty, and a love of great works. Great heights. His appetites are insatiable, thus his despair.

Vestige

Despair?

Sotha Sil

Yes. A poet's despair.

Vivec craves radical freedom - the death of all limits and restrictions. He wishes to be all things at all times. Every race, every gender, every hero, both divine and finite... but in the end, he can only be Vivec.

Vestige

And that's not enough? To be a god hero?

Sotha Sil

Not even remotely.

Vestige

What is all this for? The Clockwork City.

Sotha Sil

I sometimes ask myself the same thing.

May I confess something to you?"

Vestige

Of course.

Sotha Sil

I suffer from a peculiar ailment. Shall I describe it?

I bear the cruel weight of certainty. Total, absolute, relentless certainty. People rarely comprehend the luxury of doubt... the freedom that comes with indecision. I envy you.

Vestige

Didn't you just say that you question whether the City is worth the effort?

Sotha Sil

Indeed. But such questions are flaccid - cursory indulgences that come and go in an instant.

The truth is that my actions, both good and evil, are inevitable. Locked in time. Determined by chains of action and consequence.

Vestige

So... you were forced to build the Clockwork City?

Sotha Sil

Compelled.

This City serves a noble goal. The redemption of Tamriel. The unification of competing forces. The destruction of the Daedra. Unfortunately, it is an endeavor build upon a lattice of corpses. Betrayal. Untold horrors. Do you understand?

The Vestige can respond in one of three ways.

Vestige

Maybe?

Sotha Sil

Maybe. The word I covet above all others.

Hold to that word, my friend, and never let go.

Vestige

Yes.

Sotha Sil

Then I pity you.

Vestige

No.

Sotha Sil

Good. I pray you never do.

The rest of the conversation happens regardless of the Vestige's response.

Vestige

What did you want to talk to me about?

Sotha Sil

I instructed Divayth to run from the battle that is to come. Now, I urge you to run toward it.

Long ago, I brokered a truce with the Princes of Oblivion. This pact bound eight Princes to an oath - that they would never again set foot on Tamriel.

Vestige

If that's true, how did Nocturnal attack us in the Cogitum?

Sotha Sil

Nocturnal was not present when the Princes signed the Coldharbour Compact. Thus she flouts its restrictions. Now, this is important - Nocturnal does not act alone. Two other Princes lie in wait. Clavicus Vile and Mephala.

Vestige

Who are Clavicus Vile and Mephala?

Sotha Sil

Schemers. A Prince of foul bargains, and a Prince of lust and conspiracy. They pose a significant threat to mortals when they act alone. When they act in concert, especially with Nocturnal present, the threat becomes existential.

Vestige

So what should we do?

Sotha Sil

I have preparations to make outside my Clockwork realm. You must stay vigilant. Take heed of any Daedric incursions and stand ready to fight.

The Prisoner wields great power, making reality of metaphor. We will need you before the end.

Vestige

Why do you keep calling me the Prisoner?

Sotha Sil

A fool's hope, perhaps. I should explain.

Look around you. All of this exists because it must exist. I stand here, in this place, in this moment, not because I wish to, but because I have to. A result of action and consequence.

Vestige

So wouldn't that make you the prisoner?

Sotha Sil

Clever... but incorrect.

The Prisoner must apprehend two critical insights. First, they must face the reality of their imprisonment. They must see the determinative walls - the chains of causality that bind them to their course.

Vestige

You haven't done that?

Sotha Sil

I have. But I fall short of the second insight.

The Prisoner must see the door to their cell. They must gaze through the bars and perceive that which exists beyond causality. Beyond time. Only then can they escape.

Vestige

You don't see the door?

Sotha Sil

I see only unsteady walls.

If the people of Tamriel must exist inside this cell. I will make sure that the walls are stable, the gaps are sealed, and all who remain stay safe within it.

Vestige

I have no other questions.

Sotha Sil

I've met few heroes like you. Very few. I take this matter of the Triad upon myself, but in truth, you may be the one that saves us. The Prisoner who frees the world.

We shall see. Farewell.

With that, Sotha Sil faded out. On their way out of the memorial, the Vestige ran into Varuni.

Provost Varuni Arvel

He's gone, isn't he?

Vestige

Sotha Sil? Yes.

Provost Varuni Arvel

I knew it.

I never got to speak to him. Can you believe that? A hundred years of loyal service and then, poof. Gone.

Vestige

What would you have said to him?

Provost Varuni Arvel

Ha. You know, I spent years rehearsing exactly what I would say. I stood in front of the mirror, saying it over and over. Lord Seht, I stand before you as your loyal servant. Prayers of thanks, supplications... on and on.

Vestige

And now?

Provost Varuni Arvel

Now? Now I have nothing but questions.

Why do we study in the basilica while people struggle in the streets? Why can't we have birds like the exodromals? How could Daedra break through our unbreakable walls? Why can't we leave?

Vestige

Do you think he'd have answers for you?

Provost Varuni Arvel

I did yesterday. Today? I'm not so sure.

I have a lot of thinking to do. A lot of assumptions to challenge. Who knows... maybe that's what Seht wanted all along. I owe all this uncertainty to you.

Vestige

You're welcome?

Provost Varuni Arvel

You have my gratitude. Truly.

Uncertainty feels... it feels liberating. The world's never seemed so open. So fresh, you know? I sense a new adventure just beginning. Thank you, my friend, and farewell.

I think I'll visit the memorial for awhile. It seems as good a place as any to be alone with my thoughts.

The city was saved. Varuni lost her faith, while Luciana regained it. The Vestige was once again free of existential burdens... at least for the time being.