Lord of Souls Lore Notes: Cyrodiil

This page contains lore-relevant quotes and summaries from Lord of Souls, by Greg Keys. Some quotes have been truncated to improve clarity.


There are dolls made in the likeness of Attrebus.

During his childhood, Attrebus had a nurse called Helna who used to tell him stories.

“They were on a high, bare ridge, about thirty feet from the tree line in any direction. The air was clear and visibility good. Up ahead of her, four of Brennus’s fellow sorcerers were doing their mysterious business: chanting, aiming odd devices at the upside-down flying mountain, conjuring invisible winged things she noticed only because they passed through smoke and were briefly outlined. Two others were surrounding their position with little candles that burnt with purple-black flames. They set those up every time they stopped; the candles were somehow supposed to keep all of this conjuring from being noticed by anyone—or anything.”

Soldiers in charge of guarding a cadre of mages know how to form and fight in a phalanx.

Letine Arese has a “small frame, turned-up nose, and short blond hair made her seem almost like a little girl, but he knew her to be thirty-one years of age, and her blue eyes held a cold intensity that was quite un-childlike.”

“Colin Vineben, from Anvil. Your father is dead, and your mother does laundry. You were recommended for and received training for the Penitus Oculatus, and recently were named an inspector in that organization. It was you who discovered the massacre of Prince Attrebus’s personal guard and the apparent murder of the prince, and you who suggested to the Emperor that the prince wasn’t actually dead. Which, as it turns out, you were right about.”

Titus Mede’s personal sigil is a black wolf’s head. A brand of it is worn by those in his innermost circle.

Letine was placed by the Emperor in the office of Minister Hierem, with orders to spy, ten years ago.

“When the Emperor first placed me [Letine Aresse] in the ministry, he didn’t have any particular worries about Hierem, only the sort of general paranoia a successful monarch must have. For most of the past ten years, the minister has been above suspicion, but a year or so ago he began testing me, first subtly, then overtly. It became clear he wanted his own private intelligence and eliminations organization, one not connected to the Penitus Oculatus or known to the Emperor. The attack on Attrebus was—surprising. I didn’t see that coming. It’s only because some of the assassins got greedy that the prince survived. The Emperor isn’t ready to move against Hierem yet because he doesn’t believe we know everything, and because the minister is politically important—very important. The Emperor has survived because he waits until he knows where all the forces are and their strengths before he strikes. Right now, Hierem thinks his actions are invisible. We want to keep it that way a bit longer.

“It had rained, and Talos Plaza was awash in reflected torch and lamplight. The air still smelled clean as Colin stepped through the puddles. A troupe of Khajiit acrobats was performing nearby, gracefully tumbling, forming unlikely structures with their feline bodies, juggling sparkling torches. A crowd clapped and tossed coins at their feet. He passed through a group of kids enthusiastically swinging at one another with wooden swords…”

“Hierem made a secret trip to Black Marsh last year, ostensibly to negotiate with the An-Xileel leaders. He would have had anything suggesting his presence there removed. … He hired a merchant ship and traveled in disguise.” The name of the ship was removed from records, and the Redguard woman who accompanied him, Delia Huerc, was later found dead from what was described in the official report as an illness.

In Delia’s apartment, under a loose baseboard, is a journal. “It was written mostly in Tamrielic, with some asides in Yoku, which [Colin] had passing knowledge of.” Her entries about Black Marsh are towards the end.

Huerc was under the impression that the Emperor was aware of her and the Minister’s trip to Black Marsh, and that the “secrecy and misdirection were to avoid any of the Emperor’s enemies learning what he was about.” Though she did not witness the meeting with the An-Xileel, she “worked out that some agreement had been reached. She’d been led to believe that Hierem was there to propose an alliance against the Thalmor. But he was vague about what the negotiations actually entailed.” In order to seal the agreement, Hierem had to perform some sort of ritual at the city tree (see the Black Marsh section for a description).

Delia’s journal states that they started their journey back to Cyrodiil the day after the ritual with the Hist. Sometime along the journey, she started to suspect that the Emperor did not know of the deal, and resolved to ask him about it. She was feeling sick when she arrived back in the Imperial City.

Hierem is wealthy, and uses his money to finance his secret operations.

Delia Huerc’s apartment in the Imperial City is now occupied by a Khajiiti rug merchant named Lwef-Dim. Colin describes it as an “old place, full of shadows, once-weres, and might-have-beens.”

Night sounds outside of Aresse’s apartment in the Imperial City, as described by Colin: “first the swifts, then the fluttering of bats, the lonely imprecation of a barn owl. Tree frogs chirped and insects whirred. A dog barked somewhere in the Market District and was answered nearby, which set off a chorus of canine comment from all quarters of the city. A couple argued not far away about what the proper price of the cockles for dinner might have been, and the strains from a lute drifted along in the breeze.”

Mountain Watch is a small, shabby village in the highlands north of Cheydinhal. Its 10 houses are arranged around a dirt plaza and well. When Mazgar enters it, there are 7 people in outside, including Sariah, “an older Redguard woman with frizzled white hair,” who is the charter-holder. All in all, there are forty people living in Mountain Watch, ranging in age between two months to sixty-something. The village also has six horses and two two-horse wagons.

Due to the wagons and steep roads, it takes just over a day to reach Cheydinhal from Mountain Watch.

“[Mazgar] left her armor in the tent and went outside to stretch, wandering down to the river that flowed through [Cheydinhal]. The sun wasn’t showing over the walls yet, but things were waking up. Wagons of bags and crates made their way across the bridges, pulled by thick, sturdy horses. Across the river, a Dunmer woman was casting a net, which came up wriggling. Mazgar could smell sausage frying somewhere.

“But most of the people she saw were up on the walls.”

“The timbers of most of the structures in town [Cheydinhal] were exposed. In the lower floors they were covered with stone, but the upper ones had plaster between the beams and struts, which were often arranged in whimsical patterns. The roofs were concave peaks, and the shingles looked like scales.” This sort of building is technique is called half-timbering, and is Morrowind architecture.

The cathedral of Arkay is the tallest building in Cheydinhal and can be seen for miles around.

“Inside, the chapel of Arkay was all hush and colored light.” It has at least two spires, and from the tallest “the people on the walls looked small. She gazed first out over the forest, hills, and distant Valus Mountains.”

The Umbriel zombies position themselves a few hundred yards from the Cheydinhal gates, just out of range for ballista and catapults.

Hierem has “been around forever. He had a position in the old Empire—he was an ambassador to Morrowind. He was a minister to Thules the Gibbering, the witch-warrior who ruled what little remained of the Empire before Titus Mede took it from him.”

Thules the Gibbering was not a well-liked ruler, but due to his Nibenese blood, “many on the council favored him over a Colovian usurper.”

“Hierem is from an old Nibenese family, with a lot of connections. He smoothed over the conquest, helped convince the council to accept Mede as a liberator rather than a conqueror. He’s also extremely influential with the Synod. He’s the second most powerful man in the Empire, despite his servile public appearance, and if Mede were to move against him without an unimpeachable reason, it could lead to civil war.” Aresse believes that Mede would win such a war, but at great cost.

“The second time Colin met the Emperor it was in a narrow, unfurnished room. He’d been brought there bound and blindfolded, and he didn’t see a door. The stone was the same color as the interior of the White-Gold Tower, but beyond that he had no clues at all as to where he was.

“This wasn’t court, and the Emperor wasn’t dressed for it. He wore a plain Colovian soldier’s tunic of dark gray wool and leather breeks. His crown was a plain gold circlet. A broadsword in a battered scabbard hung at his side. Two soldiers stood yards away, but Colin suspected that if he tried anything, he would be dead at Mede’s hand before either of them could move.”

Lord Umbriel sent a politely worded letter to Titus Mede, informing him that the citizens are free to leave the Imperial City without being harmed. This offer was to remain until Umbriel arrived.

Umbriel’s armies have besieged every path to the Imperial City from the east, and soon after the meeting between Colin and Titus would hold the western roads as well.

Professor Aronil, a librarian in the Penitus Oculatus library, is a “bent and withered fellow in a burnt umber robe furnished with what was possibly a hundred pockets. His nose took up most of his face, but his keen blue eyes were what drew your attention.”

There are spells that allow one to see if an object is touched and by whom. These spells are used on the books in the library of the Penitus Oculatus.

Hierem is one of the few people not belonging to the P.O. who is allowed to use their library. Aronil describes him as the “second most powerful man in the Empire.”

Hierem was the only person in 20 years to touch a book on Alessian Oder Daedra summoning. According to Aronil, he “has a curiosity for knowledge of that era.”

The main tunnels of the Imperial City sewers were secured during the approach of Umbriel to prevent entrance into the city. At least one passage was left open because it seemed to be a dead end (but in truth contained a secret door). Secret doors and passages in the sewers appear to be alarmingly common.

Underneath of the ministry, off one of the main tunnels, is a 100 foot passage with low ceilings (people have to walk crouched over) leading up to a recess in the wall with a hidden mechanism that opens up a large chamber. The chamber is “decorated in ghoulish splendor; furniture adorned in grinning, gold-leafed skulls and articulated vertebrae, velvet upholstery figured with obscene rituals of sex and death.” This room was “a sort of warren” for Julius Primus, a theatrical wannabe King of Worms type from 20 years ago. He was “moderately clever at hiding and being a nuisance” before the Penitus Oculatus took care of him. The room is not on any maps but the Penitus Oculatus’, and isn’t connected to any other structures.

“Mazgar watched Umbriel pass, running the battle back through her head: the mad charge with the Cheydinhal guard, breaking the wormies’ line. That hadn’t been so bad. But then they had to set up their own lines on either side of the gate as Cheydinhal evacuated, and that hadn’t been so much fun. It took hours, and the wormies didn’t rest, didn’t retreat or regroup. They just kept coming, wave after wave of them. In the end their line had been rolled up, and Falcus gave the command to fall back and regroup on the Blue Road—just before he took a spear in the throat. She and Brennus had been driven miles from the road, and now here they were.”

Mazgar is rescued from wormies by about twenty Knights of the Thorn, led by Ilver Indarys. All are wearing heavy armor, and most are riding barded horses.

Most, if not all, of Cheydinhal’s population was evacuated and traveled along the Blue Road, just ahead of the wormies, towards the Imperial City.

When Attrebus is teleported back to Tamriel from Clavicus Vile’s realm, he lands near “a large stone statue of Clavicus Vile with a dog at his side, albeit a much larger animal than the one they’d just encountered. A clearing surrounded the statue, but gave way to forest pretty quickly in every direction. He had heard rumors that there was a shrine to Vile somewhere west of the Imperial City, not far from the Ring Road. If this was it—and that made a certain amount of sense—then they didn’t have too far to go. … Dark things were supposed to happen at places like this, and even though the daedra himself had sent them here, that didn’t mean they were safe from his followers.”

From the shrine, “Attrebus reached the road more quickly than he thought he would, an hour or so before sundown. Lake Rumare was the most beautiful thing he had seen in a long time, its familiar waters turning coral as the evening deepened. The familiar cries of curlews and coots were music to him. And then there was the Imperial City itself, standing proud and strong on its island, the White-Gold Tower at its center like a pillar holding up the heavens—as some claimed it actually did.”

“It still wasn’t dark when he saw a small fishing settlement, built on an old stonework that probably dated back to Ayleid times. [Attrebus] was vacillating about checking to see if they had any sort of healer when he thought he heard something odd behind him.”

“When Secundus rose, he could see the waterfront not far ahead. It was on an island, separated from the city, with the harbor facing inward. The old stone buildings formed a semicircle enclosing the harbor, and he was coming up from behind. In the pale light he could see the hundreds of shacks, shanties, and lean-tos that crowded between the wall and the water, and in fact many were built raised up from the water. He smelled the stink of it already, the various stenches of human waste, rotting fish and offal, cheap beer. He thought about going around, but it was a long way and he was tired of rowing, so he passed as noiselessly as possible through the stilts and ladders of the outer houses.

“He’d been to the shantytown before, when he was fifteen, curious to see the poorest and most dangerous part of the city and attracted by its reputed vices. He didn’t remember it being this silent—even at night there was usually drunken singing, screams, fighting. Now it was as still as the village he’d taken the boat from. Had the people here also fled Umbriel’s hosts?

“He slowed his approach, squinting to make out if anyone was on the shore.

“The boat rocked, gently, then more forcefully. He looked back to see what he’d bumped and saw a hand gripping the hull. For an instant he just stared at it, but then it was joined by another, and another, as decaying limbs rose from the water and gripped the gunnels. With a shout he drew his sword and began chopping at them. They came off easily, but he felt the boat rise and realized there were more of them—many more—beneath, lifting the vessel. He leaned over and tried to cut at them, but he couldn’t get a good angle, and the boat continued to ascend as its bearers took it ashore. Desperate, he tried to get Sul on his back, planning to fight through them. If he could get around to the harbor, it might still be manned by Imperial guards.”

[Attrebus] “woke up to the smell of cinnamon tea and a face with eyebrows like fuzzy caterpillars perched over calm blue eyes. It was a very familiar face.
“Hierem!” he exclaimed. He looked around. They were in a sort of parlor, decorated in odd alchemical devices and Ayleid curiosities. Attrebus was in an armchair.”

When it becomes clear that the group of soldiers escorting the Cheydinhal refugees isn’t going to make it to the Imperial City before Umbriel overtakes them, Arges, the commander, split them into two groups: one north and one south of the Blue Road. This srategy seems to work – Umbriel goes strait past, only sending out minor parties to “harass” the two groups.

The Wormies did not occupy Cheydinhal after the siege.

Although most refugees wanted to circle back and return to Cheydinhal, they were unwilling to risk the trek without a protecting army.

Colovia has a distinct accent.

After the death of Falcus, Mazgar is in charge of leading the army guarding the refugees. She is then relieved by Commander Prossos, from Colovia, and promoted to captain to act as his second in command.

Commander Prossos takes the army north. Mazgar is given a party and tasked with ensuring that the south hill is free of wormies. During this, General Takar is to engage the wormies a few miles in the west, avoiding entangling the civilians.

General Takar, one of Mede’s most trusted generals, is from Hammerfell. “He’d fought against the Empire, before Titus Mede won him over—supposedly through personal combat,” though Mazgar doubts that this is the truth.

“Takar had about five thousand men with him, mostly mounted infantry and mages. [Mazgar] could see them formed up in a huge field, along with some eight large wagons that might be siege engines of some sort.

“[…] Less than an hour later the legion met its counterpart as the shadow of Umbriel moved toward them. For whatever reason, the wormies had constricted their range, marching more tightly beneath the flying mountain than they had in the countryside.

“Mazgar heard the distant shock as the front lines met a few seconds after it actually happened, and for a while that was the last time she watched the ground battle—because the air war had begun. Half of the legion suddenly left the ground, along with the wagons, and flew toward the city. […]

“When they got near Umbriel, she saw something coming to meet them. She had seen them before; they looked like birds, at least from a distance. They would drop down and then appear to dissolve, turning into trails of smoke. Brennus told her that they were the spirits that took over the bodies of the newly dead, and lost corporeal form when they passed through the rim of the bubble of Oblivion the city traveled in.

“But the Imperials were now apparently inside that bubble, and the bird-things were smashing into them in swarms. Lightning and flame seemed to fill the sky, and the soldiers with her cheered. But their cheers dropped away when it became clear that most—if not all—of the bodies dropping wore Imperial colors.
It was over in less than an hour; one of the wagons made it as far as the rim, but none of the others even got close, at least not that she saw.”

“Viewed from atop the walls, the vast waters of Lake Rumare were perfectly turquoise, the Heartlands beyond verdant with field and forest.”

Emperor Mede could not be convinced to evacuate the Imperial City, and instead chose to send general Takar with a legion to strike at Umbriel. “The Synod managed to spell almost three thousand of them airborne, but some sort of flying daedra killed them all in short order. Other magicks were tried—I’m told over a hundred—with no result. As if they knew in advance what we were going to do and were prepared for it.”

“The woman [Letine Arese] was a pretty blonde, the man [Colin] rather nondescript, with brown hair and green eyes.”

Titus Mede went along with Hierem’s plan to “groom [Attrebus] as a sort of boy hero” because he had no idea what to do with him and was “relieved to have some sort of direction. It was a way to keep an eye on [Attrebus] and keep you entertained at the same time.” The plan was easy to maintain while Attrebus was young, but once he got older it was too far to drop. Mede planed to draw Attrebus out gradually and prepare him for throne and marriage.

The Imperial City is huge.

“The White-Gold Tower is an echo of the ur-tower, the first object of our reality the gods created. It’s one of the axes of creation.” Umbriel wishes to use it to “emancipate” himself from Clavicus Vile, but Hierem, and later Aresse, wish to use it to gain power.

“[Mazgar] had started the day with five hundred soldiers. Their job was to cross Lake Rumare from the north, there to join with a massive push toward the northwest side of the city. That’s where the enemy was massed most deeply, and lately had begun actively trying to break through the gate that led to the Imperial prison. It was also where Umbriel would arrive, if it continued on the course it was presently following.

“Now she stood with something between two and three hundred comrades. They looked to be lined up against three times that.

“Still, they gained ground steadily. The land was pretty flat here, and the archers who had plagued them earlier either seemed to have been dealt with or more likely couldn’t make decent shots with ranks so close. As they pushed forward, their line formed a wedge, to prevent the wormies from outflanking them with their numbers and rolling them up. After that, they settled into a bloody pace. Someone off to her left starting bellowing “General Slaughter’s Comely Daughter” a little off-key, and a few heartbeats later the whole cohort was shouting the response, and it started to feel like a party.”

The Imperial Legion made two more unsuccessful tries to invade Umbriel by air. These are supposed to be kept secret, though word has gotten out.

Anvil during “autumn evenings, when the sun painted the sky red and gold and the waves seemed to murmur in a melancholy but somehow contented way.”

When Colin was five, he made a little boat of reeds whose cracks were sealed with pine resin.

In Anvil, there is a stream that winds its way through the willows towards the sea.

Colin’s grandmother was a devout follower of Dibella.

“Letine must have known or guessed where the stairs were—they hadn’t been on [Colin’s] map. He doubted it was a coincidence that the steps began at a hidden door in Hierem’s chambers; the minister must have been thinking about this moment for a long time. Colin guessed the secret stairway was hidden just below the much broader, higher staircase that led up from the Emperor’s quarters to the summit of the White-Gold Tower.”

After ascending the stairs, Colin “expected to be on the summit of the tower, but instead saw a large, low-ceilinged room. Signs and sigils were painted all over the floor, familiar to him from the diagram he’d seen in Hierem’s chambers. Fires of strange colors flickered on some, while arcane objects of various size were on others. Letine stood in the center of the room, what was probably the very axis of the tower. Beyond her, a long, broad window showed him a little sky but mostly a vast rocky surface that resembled a mountain [Umbriel] —except it was moving, steadily growing in size.”

At the battle for the walls of the Imperial City, “the wormies were throwing themselves on the wall, building ladders with their bodies. Above, the sky was bright with eruptions and incandescences, making a strange semblance of daylight that revealed the rotting faces leering at her, making colored jewels of their filmed eyes.
Another wave of wormies hit, and [the defending soldiers] were pushed back almost to the wall itself, and more of them were ignoring [Mazgar] completely now as they tried to join their comrades in their insane climb.”

Some time after Umbriel disappears, “Attrebus tapped his fingers on the sill of a high, narrow window in time to the jubilant music drifting up from below. The streets were filled with color and life, the air with delicious scents of roasted meat, fried fish, and pastry. In the wake of the vacance of Umbriel, his father had thrown open the storehouses, flooding the city with food and wine. Across town the arena hosted spectacle after spectacle, and tonight everything would culminate in the Emperor’s appearance and the presentation of the heroes.”

“The elder Mede hadn’t yet changed into his formal costume, but wore a simple robe over shirt and breeches”

“Annaïg twitched the reins of her dappled gray mare and enjoyed the play of light and shadow in the forest around her. Attrebus rode a few feet away.”

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