Loremaster’s Archive: Tamriel’s Dungeons

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Author (in-game): Dhulef

Librarian Note:

Originally published 08/24/2022, see the original here. This Loremasters Archive was not accompanied by a book.


Dhulef of the Mages Guild answers your questions surrounding the many varied and dangerous dungeons found during Tamriel’s Second Era.

Hey there, mates! It’s an honor and a pleasure to answer questions about my recent adventures at Graven Deep and some of the more notable ruins across Tamriel. I’ve borrowed an enchanted dictation quill from the Mistress of Incunabula to make this whole thing that much easier. It’s scribbling away as I talk. Easy as can be, but also a bit ridiculous.

Hah, sure as sand. It writes everything I say. Bollocks. Soggy sea snails. Treasure hunting turncoats.

Enough of that. The name’s Dhulef. I’ve been with the guild for a fair few years now and I’ve all sorts of tales to tell. It almost makes me laugh. No one ever just wants to talk to me about magic. They want to hear about how I got my scars, how I watched a man swallow an eel whole, or that time I wrestled a tuna the size of a duneripper.

But there I go again, spinning yarns instead of telling truth. Let’s get to the questions!


Guildmate Dhulef,

Rumors abound of an underwater observatory built by the Dwemer at Graven Deep. Was this the work of Rourken’s clan? What business did the Dwarves have with the ocean floor?

—Legoless, Tiger-Doyen of the United Explorers of Scholarly Pursuits

Friend, I have to be honest. My time at Graven Deep was not spent overly admiring the etching on the constructs. That said, I’d say your guess here’s a good one. The purpose of Graven Deep, as best we could tell, was some kind of localized weather manipulation. Magic to set the seas aright, like pirate stories of the old Gloomlantern. The motivations of the Dwemer, as always, are about as clear as squid ink. To me at least. Luckily, the guild is full of folk ready and willing to bend your ear about this lost and ancient culture.

What they had to say was darned interesting stuff! Clan Rourken is famous for ranging across the continent, right? Some of the most far-flung Dwemer constructs are a result of their pilgrimage after Volendrung. Look at where they ended up: the deserts of Hammerfell, the high mountains of Wrothgar. Some pretty damned inhospitable terrain for a Dwemer. If I were a muckity muck in the clan and wanted to get some clout, maybe I’d try my hand at making things a little more friendly for my clan elders. “Hey there, papa Dwemer, enjoy this warm sun instead of bitter cold and snow.”

As for the location on the ocean floor, I almost feel like it’s an issue of pride. We’ve found Dwarven ruins beneath volcanos, split between Nirn and Oblivion realms, frosted over in glaciers and teetering across impossible chasms. I’ve even heard stories about Dwemer armor made to explore Daedric realms and sea-bottom trenches. We forget sometimes, because of all the whirling gears and fancy brass, but at their heart the Dwemer are still Mer. It’s like that old High Elf saying: “If you’ve got the coin, show the coin.”

I hope your exploration of Graven Deep to investigate the Druids of Galen’s voyage bears fruit. I’ve heard they were the Nedic inhabitants of High Rock during the Merethic Era, but how much had their intermingling with Elves transitioned them into Bretons by the time their exodus occurred circa 1E 330? I ask as there’s documents describing Bretons existence which are dated as early as 1E 20 and 1E 200, but were these encounters truly of the modern Breton race we know of today?

—Aliyavana

Mate, I think your course is true even if the waters we’re in are a bit choppy and hard to navigate. It’s like this: what makes a “race”? Nowadays we talk about how “Bretons” tend to be, to distinguish how “Nords” and “Imperials” and even we “Redguard” tend to be, but as many a book from the University of Gwylim will attest, we’re kinda splitting hairs, aren’t we?

Regions and cultures and people aren’t as easy to categorize as “this here’s a sail for a cutter” and “this here’s a sail for a schooner.” Right? At the end of the day we’re all just folks. The ways we choose to talk about the groups of people that live near the north side of Iliac Bay vs. the south side has as much to do with the person talking, the place they’re talking, and the time they’re talking as anything else.

Just one sailor’s way to look at it. Let’s use that spyglass to look at the origin of the Bretons, though, eh? I sat down with Druid Laurel to chat about her people’s past, and it was a damned interesting conversation. If you’ve never met her, she has an easy way of making complex things a little more approachable. Extremely helpful for an old sea dog like myself.

According to her, we know that the Bretons were “Breton-y” by the time the druids set sail for the Systres around 1E 330. You have to figure, then, that the Direnni and the Nedic folk of the region were probably intermingling for centuries as the Merithic ended and the First Era began. With a couple of uh, Red Mountain-related exceptions, we don’t have a lot of examples in history of a whole new cultural group springing up or disappearing overnight. So documents suggesting there were Bretons around hundreds of years before the time of Druid King Kasorayn make a lot of sense to me. Druid Laurel had the same thought, that localized groups of the culture—maybe even large ones—might have been around and causing trouble for the Direnni long before we think of them as coming to blows.

Just keep in mind that when you read historical texts (even well-researched ones), there’s still just a person like you or me on the other side of the quill. Enchanted or otherwise. And try to keep it in context.

Why did Meridia leave half the Wrathstone laying around? It’s not like the thing could unleash a horde of vampires, and last I heard, she didn’t give a broken scale about Dragons one way or another.

—Away-From-Keyboard

Away, if I could understand the mind of Meridia, I would not be an ex-pirate now-mage riding research vessels into the unknown. I’d be—I don’t know—maybe some kind of island baron? A daydream for another day.

Availing myself of some tattered, ancient journals in the guild archive suggests that the elves of Garlas Malatar considered safeguarding their half of the stone a kind of sacred honor. By the time Meridia passed it along, they already had Men aplenty rattling their gates and slaughtering their kin in nearby cities. Some Ayleids even sought out a piece of the artifact, hoping it would make a difference when their former slaves came calling. For the Sunfire’s faithful, keeping true to Meridia’s teaching and accepting her vision of the future must have been hard. But sure as the sea always wins, Daedric princes always have a plan.

What if, sail with me now, Meridia saw the Wrathstone as dangerous. Yes, as you say, she didn’t give a dog’s ear about Dragons. But the threat it presented, and so soon after the death of her champion, might have been too much for her to bear. So what if she “entrusted” this relic to the elves of Garlas Malatar knowing that they’d take her at her word. And then, she says, “Hey there mates, your kingdom’s about to fall.”

An entire city of potential lustrants, from King Narilmor on down, ready and willing to sacrifice themselves to keep this dangerous weapon out of the hands of Men? Sounds like quite the tale, eh? But then, Daedric Princes have been known to do much, much stranger.

To Dhulef of the Mages Guild,

As a member of the Undaunted, I hear tales of valor often, and the Crypt of Hearts happened to catch my attention. I’m aware of the legendary Star Teeth held within. So I wonder, do you have any idea if the original shadow-mage Azra Nightwielder has any connection to the Crypt?

Yours truly,

Alexis Ashwing, Shadowmage & Undaunted

Seas and seas, it took some considerable digging to find that name in the archives. Crypt of Hearts, check. Star Teeth, scary! But check. Can you imagine sailing the skies as easily as a cutter moves across the waves? Incredible.

But Azra Nightwielder? Best I could find is some references to a powerful mage from some ways back. Relicmaster Glenadir of the Psijic Order owed me a favor, and I reached out hoping he’d have more for you. This is what I got back.

“Sir,

While your request is most out of character for our order, you have our appreciation and respect for the matter you helped to resolve a few months ago. So I have done what I could mystically and organizationally to answer your question.

Our texts say the man known as Azra Nightwielder was born somewhere near the border between Craglorn, Bangkorai, and the Reach early in the Second Era. A proficient spellcaster, he apparently took a great interest in the manipulation of what we might today call “shadow magics;” esoterica related to the schools of Illusion and Mysticism. The claims made regarding what this “Nightwielder” was capable of are outlandish in the extreme. But most accounts agree he met his end in a confrontation with Redguard mercenaries sometime around the formation of the Mages Guild.

I specify ‘our texts’ because every single reference to the man I could find in our archive has been tampered with. By shadow magic.

I advise you inquire no further on this matter, and I do hope you will consider my debt to you abrogated.

—Glenadir, Master of Relics for the Profound Order of Psijic Scholars, Artaeum”

So! Make of that what you will.

Dear Dhulef,

A question regarding alchemical lycanthropes. I know alchemical vampires are a thing—vampires created outside the means of Daedric methods. But I have yet to see a full lycanthrope created through alchemical means, like I have vampires. The alchemical lycanthropes created by Arkasis seem to just grant a temporary form. Would it be possible to create an actual lycanthropic condition through just alchemy?

—From an Undaunted Scholar

Tu’whacca’s kneecaps, you don’t ask the easy ones. Do you? This was a bit outside my harbor, but I think I’ve got some good answers for you from the archives. Amazing what they’ve got down in the stacks. Ah, but I’m straying off course.

Let’s start with some broad facts. The mortals we call vampires are people who are infused with Daedric energy of a very specific type. Pure-bloods get it straight from the Prince himself. Some steal the power from another. But most, we could say, are afflicted with a type of disease that acts as a bridge or proxy into the mortal’s soul. The result, regardless of the origin point, is a “vampire” of one stripe or another. Blood hungry, hates the sun, etc., etc. Yes, some are made alchemically. We’ll get back to that.

What’s a lycanthrope? If I was writing a paper for Gwylim, I’d be tossed like a dog if I said “the same as a vampire but the Daedric power comes from Hircine.” Lucky for this sailor, I’ve got all the publishing aims of a common daedrat. They’re damned similar, don’t you think? Local varieties, different legends, but all have an underlying similarity. Be they Werewolf Lords or Valenwood Werevultures!

So let’s circle back to vampires. What if that alchemical concoction you’re referring to is just another metaphorical bridge to access the Daedric source of vampirism? An artificially created one, sure. But just as potent as good old Noxiphilic Sanguivoria. Seas and seas, scholar, what if Sanguivoria’s not even a naturally occurring disease? But! That’s not what we’re here to talk about.

As you said, Arkasis didn’t quite get all the way to an “artificial true werecritter.” And yet I’d bet a ship’s hold full of coin that alchemical lycanthropy is not only possible but someone’s already done it. I don’t have a stack of tomes in front of me to back that up. But just look at the long, weird history of Tamriel. Almost anything’s possible.

Friend Dhulef,

A compatriot of mine told me of Daedric corruption afflicting mortals—High Kinlord Rilis, members of the Silver Rose—corruption so strong they appeared to become Daedra themselves. Is there any way to cleanse such lost souls of Daedric influence? Were all lesser Daedra mortals who were afflicted in such a manner?

—Khayrat al-Cheydinhal, Priest of the Eight

If you’re asking because you have friends who have found themselves in just this state, Khayrat, I have some calm seas to sail you toward. We can cleanses this type of metaphysical corruption. I personally had a mate that used to be a cultist in Eastmarch, infused by the power of Molag Bal. Now he sells toffees and sweets in the markets of Riften. Happy as can be.

There are two broad kinds of Daedric corruption. I’ll call them internal and external. External corruption’s the kind you’re referring to, where an artifact or entity magically changes the personality or outlook of a mortal. The power, the temptation, of this kind of energy is hard to resist. We can cleanse external corruption through ritual and alchemical treatment; even little things like your diet can be redirected to get you back on the right course.

The other type of corruption, internal, is much harder to deal with. That stems from the long-term invitation of a Daedric presence into your mind and soul. This is the kind of corruption Daedric Princes love to create, opening a door into the heart of the desperate through bargains, bids, and blackmail. While some guildmates told me it’s theoretically possible to cleanse that kind of foothold, it almost never works. To be cleansed, one must want to be free of the touch of the Daedra. And these poor damned dogs want to be the way they are.

As for lesser Daedra being afflicted mortals, that’s not quite how that works. Ruptga forgive me, it’s a bit confusing, but this is how I understand it. All Daedra are by definition, not mortals. Nor have they ever been. Daedra are Daedra, large or small. A Dremora (for example) has always been that way, and always will be. In fact, you could say that their immutability is one of the Daedra’s defining traits.

Now, sometimes a Daedric Prince will give a mortal who’s proven useful the seeming and powers of a Daedric underling as a kind of dark gift. But even that transformation from mere mortal to “mock-Daedra” is about as mortal as can be. That’s what makes us stand out, sure as sand on a beach. We mortals can change. Daedra can’t. And as an ex-pirate who’s done and said some things he regrets, it’s a distinction I’m damned grateful to have going for me.

To the Honorable Adept Dhulef,

Has the Mages Guild discovered any leads as to the whereabouts of Clivia Tharn, now that it is known that the woman in the Imperial City was a Daedric impostor?

Kindest Regards,
First Emissary Rohais, Craglorn Embassy

This is a bit embarrassing, but I got my ears boxed like a naughty puppy when I went looking into this. I’ll just include the letter I got here, and we can all agree it’s best that ex-pirate now-mages don’t try to answer political questions like this one.

“For Dhulef, Care of the Mages Guild, Gonfalon Bay

Stop asking about the Tharns. They’re graveyard dead, buried in the ground. We have enough unquiet corpses in the world. Why go making more?

Let it go. Just like we did. With that thing, from the place, with the bonfire that one time?

King’s Favor,
—Copper, Wayrest”

Greetings Dhulef,

I am a Warden of the frost who is a fellow member of the Mages Guild. I had some inquiries about the druids of the Systres in regards to the mysteries of my order. Druids seem to have similar practices to us Wardens. Are Wardens related? I don’t know much of our order’s history and have been looking for leads on the order’s creation.

—Rime Frostwar

Zeht’s Tears, that’s a question as tall as the seas around Graven Deep. And I’ll note, unrelated to dungeons or whatnot, but I couldn’t help it. As I myself was curious, I looked into your question. What “everyone knows” about Wardens could fit in a two-page pamphlet. They draw their powers from the Green. They command animals, sling the frost of the north like it’s cod at a High Isle fish market, and channel nature to heal wounds both fair and foul. That’s what a Warden is. But in between your words, this salty dog sees the same question I have.

Why are there Wardens? What is it about this particular grouping of mystical skills that drew the first Warden from the woods? Is it Y’ffre themselves, some personification of the Green, or ancient rituals? Or what? This is well beyond the taverns I usually tread, so I reached out again to Druid Laurel and some members of the Guild (like you, some of them Wardens) to see if we could come to some kind of an agreement.

Rime, I’ve had more luck making dunerippers dance on their tails. All we got were arguments, agitation, and some torn up Tribute cards. So I’m just going to make my best guess here, and Ruptga forgive me if I’m completely wrong about this.

I think Wardens are the Green fighting back. Tamriel’s an ancient place, by all the stories, and there have been cities and civilizations stretching back well beyond when we started writing things down. But all you have to do is look at an isle like Galen, where the druids have kept most of the wild spaces wild, to see that the world’s not “meant” to be that way. Things like forest wraiths and phoenix moths are echoes of a time long before even the first Ra Gada, when the trees were taller than the spires of Wayrest and magic was wilder than even what the Psijics could imagine.

Do I think Wardens and druids are related? Yeah, I do. But down below the ground, or in the heart, where it matters. Rather than up in the mortal mind. Druids use the True way to guide their magics. Wardens feel Nirn calling to them in their gut.

What I think is that Wardens are a way for the old world to walk tall in the new. But that’s just this old dog’s outlook.

I think that’s all I’ve time for today, mates. I hope I covered some interesting, quirky, weird, strange, and mysterious dungeon-related ephemera for you. Perhaps, good weather and better sailing provided, we can do this again sometime.

Luck and clear seas to you all!

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