By Syndro Drelke, 2E 582
In comparison to the other Lords of Oblivion, Clavicus Vile stood out to me in a way. His cocky and boastful attitude seemed to concordant his spheres of mockery and oath-breaking. His followers tend to mimic his narcissistic persona, while keeping to themselves within isolated locations. Many writings about him are fragmented or obscured, making him a mysterious Daedra among his other brethren.
Clavicus Vile, also known as the Wishmaster, Child-God of the Morningstar, the Orator of Oblivion, the Venditabant, the Regem of Mercators, He-Who-Spreads-False-Truths, the Lord of Deals, the Prince of Contracts, the Bringer of Serenity, and the Horned Child, is the Daedric Prince of Wishes, Deals, Bargains, Commerce, Power, and Serenity.
Along with Peryite, Nocturnal, and Vaermina, Clavicus Vile does not appear on any of the Tamrielic pantheons. However, his worship is widespread across Tamriel, especially among the nobility, where he is commonly associated with wealth and power.
Clavicus Vile is known for taking two forms while manifesting on Nirn. The first form recorded by the denizens of Tamriel is a small jovial boy with two, small horns sprouting from his forehead. His second, and perhaps his most known form, is an attractive looking male with lush golden hair, with two enlarged horns on his head. Most statues across Tamriel depict him in this form, where he is seen wearing a toga, and proudly showing off his artifact, the Masque of Clavicus Vile. Also depicted in his shrines is his companion, the shape-shifting Daedra known as Barbas.
While the mortal concepts of “good” and “evil” cannot be fully comprehended by the Daedric Princes, Clavicus Vile is still seen as a malevolent deity by most, and is well known for taking back his deals at the most inopportune times. The most known story of such an incident occurring tells the tale of Avalea, a noblewoman of some renown. As a young girl, she was grossly disfigured by a spiteful servant. Avalea made a dark deal with Clavicus Vile and received the Masque in return. Though the Masque did not change her looks, she had gained the respect and admiration of everyone around her. A year and a day after her marriage to a powerful baron, Clavicus Vile reclaimed the Masque. Although pregnant with his child, Avalea was banished from the Baron’s household. Twenty one years and one day later, Avalea’s daughter avenged her mother by slaying the Baron. With that said, a few of Vile’s followers have said that their Master honors his deals, and balances his rewards quite fairly. You just need to be cautious with that you wish for.
During the days of the Merethic Era, Clavicus Vile was seen as a main patron of the Nedic people, where ancient texts describe him as a merchant god who watched over traders in exchange for offerings. His worship was prominent in Cyrodiil, especially within the Nibenay Basin, where he was worshipped by every major tribe (even lesser races of Man such as the Kothringi held Clavicus in high esteem. And some tribes worshipped him in the late Second Era, until a deadly plague known as the Knahaten Flu systematically wiped out the Kothringi people). During the First Era, worship of Clavicus by the Nedes began to gradually decline as the Ayleid Empire expanded their reach across the Heartland.
When the Ayleids began to enslave the Nedes, worship of the Wishmaster became renowned among the Mer races. Along with the other Princes, Clavicus Vile was practically unknown to the Aldmer and their descendants, likely due to their anuic nature, and worship of the Aedric spirits. Exposure to Nedic culture, and religion resulted in the Ayleids learning about and then incorporating the Prince of Pacts into their mythos. He became a symbol of power and equanimity within the Ayleid government and city-states. However, when Alessia began praying to the Dragon god, Akatosh, for divine help in overthrowing the slave-masters. The Divines took pity on the poor Nedic girl, sending her the aid of the demigods, Pelinal Whitestrake and Morihaus. Alessia then freed herself, and launched what would be known as the ‘Alessian Rebellion’.
Some of the Ayleid kings rebelled against their daedra worshipping brethren, and allied themselves with the Nede uprising and its newfound Nordic supporters. In the aftermath of the Slave Rebellion, entire cities dedicated to the Daedra lords were completely razed and demolished. In the end, the Nedes won against their former masters and drove all hostile Ayleids out of Cyrodiil. With the installation of the Eight Divines (a fusion of the Aldmeri and Nordic pantheons) and the subsequent public banning of Daedra worship, worship of the Wishmaster was completely eradicated, and many statues erected in his honor were destroyed.
In Skyrim, Clavicus Vile is not recognized by the Nords, and most cults established in his name are unknown. However, shrines dedicated to the Lord of Deals have been seen in and around mountainous locations, particularly underground. According to fable, some Jarls have been seen giving praise to Lord Clavicus in a desperate attempt to procure power and influence.
Worship of Clavicus eventually found its way to High Rock, home of the Breton people, where Vile is depicted as a ‘financial banker’ to the ruling kings and queens. The royal families are also rumored to have forged dark pacts with Clavicus in an attempt to usurp each other’s power. Due to their disdain for civilization and the civilized in general, the barbaric Reachman do not worship Clavicus Vile, as they view him as a “sophisticated” deity, along with Sanguine. Subtlety and nuance, they believe, are for the weak.
While the Redguards deny this, ancient Yokudan texts seem to indicate that Clavicus Vile is involved with the region of Hammerfell. When the Forebears became cosmopolitan, they also became open-minded to the worship of Daedra. While the Crowns view Clavicus as an evil trickster demon, the Forebears see him as a peaceful god of trade and bartering.
When the Ayleids fled the onslaught of the Alessian Order, the Wild Elves managed to integrate themselves back into Altmer society. Many of them brought the worship of Daedra with them, but due to the Altmer disdain for the padomaic et’Ada, many cults dedicated to the King of Deals are otherwise obscure, and unknown.
Similar to the Nords, the Bosmer of Valenwood do not acknowledge Clavicus, who is seen as a much more obscure deity to them. However, since the Bosmer are unable to harm the vegetation of their homeland due to an ancient pact with the forest god, Y’ffre. Some legends state that the Bosmer call upon Clavicus during their transactions with the other provinces of Tamriel. Ayleid refugees also brought worship of Clavicus to the province when the Bosmer gave them shelter from the Nede uprising, but most Vile worshippers kept to themselves, and his worship died out when they did.
It is unknown when the Khajiit of Elsweyr were introduced to Vile. But early texts indicate that he is known as Clav’cus, the Serene Cat, “for who is better at bringing serenity than a kitten?”. There is also a merchant cabal in Rimmen known as the Jovial Lambasters who are known for celebrating Clavicus Vile. Not much is known about them, but they are recognized as a peaceful cult by Lady Cinnabar.
While the Argonians of Black Marsh venerate neither Aedra or Daedra (instead, choosing to revere the sentient spore trees known as ‘the Hist’ and the great nothingness known as Sithis), individuals who leave the province are quite capable of doing so. Instead, worship of Clavicus Vile is centralized in the Kothringi tribes. However, with the extinction of the Kothringi people mentioned above, worship of Clavicus has been diminished to almost nothing.
Clavicus Vile by RisingMonster, Deviantart
In Morrowind, the Dunmer have a fascinating background with the Wishmaster. He was one of the ancient spirits that accompanied the Chimer during the Velothi Exodus, albeit overshadowed by the ‘Good Daedra’ (Boethiah, Azura, Mephala). Largely responsible for teaching them the masterful skills of trade and bartering, Clavicus Vile aided the Chimer in establishing trade routes with the other provinces of Tamriel, allowing them to become a prosperous nation. When the Tribunal betrayed Nerevar and became gods, they gave counsel and admonishment to the Daedric Princes. Some (like the three Good Daedra) complied with the will of the False Gods, while others (like the House of Troubles) rebelled. Interestingly enough, Clavicus Vile simply chose to withdraw from the land of the Dunmer entirely. Although, he is still known for granting dark wishes for some minor Ashlander tribes, overall worship of Lord Clavicus was dissolved due to his intentional disregard for the province.
It is unknown if the other denizens of Tamriel (the Imga, Orcs, etc.) give praise to Clavicus in some shape or form. It is often assumed that the Sload of Thras often make dealings with him. With his sphere including arcane pacts, generally associated with vampirism, lichdom, and necromancy, it wouldn’t come as a surprise that the repulsive Sload would venerate Vile.
Certain vampire clans revere Clavicus as a major patron. This is true for the Vampyrum Order of Cyrodiil. While their origins are a complete mystery, one of the most popular, yet obscure theories concerning their origins, is that sometime during the Merethic Era, one of the major Nedic tribes came into contact with the Bloodmatron, Lamae Bal. Upon being infected with vampirism, this certain tribe forged a contract with Clavicus Vile. In exchange for their utmost loyalty, this tribe gained the ability to mask their vampiric features, and blend into society undetected.
Persecution of Clavicus worshippers is often brought on by followers of Zenithar and Julianos, and it is noted that there is some rivalry between the Wishmaster and the God of Trading. Clavicus-Zenithar aggression seems to date back to the early First Era, although other texts indicate that such aggression did not come to pass until the Second Era. The Wishmaster’s sphere of deals and pacts often interferes with Zenithar’s control over trading and commerce, while his sphere of granting power often interferes with Julianos’ domain over literature and wisdom. While Vile does not have any rivals among the other Daedric lords, Molag Bal and Meridia are often thought to have disdain for the Prince of Contracts. Molag Bal for reasons unknown, and Meridia for granting the Cyrodilic vampires the ability to blend in with mortals without arousing suspicion. With the exception of the Mad God, the Black Knight, Ebonarm, is said to despise all Daedra.
While the true name of Clavicus Vile’s domain in Oblivion is unknown to mortals, most scholars have agreed that it is often thought to be known as Desideratum. The only knowledge of this realm comes from worshippers of Vile who have visited his realm, and the souls of mortals that reside there. Desideratum has been described as an idyllic countryside, dotted with vibrant merchant utopias, leafy green pastures, and woodland meadows. The air is said to smell of wildflowers, while the sky is blue with soft cottony clouds. The realm is also said to have gentle rain, similar to Azura’s Moonshadow. Most inhabitants within this realm are said to be locked in a never-ending cycle of bargaining. Clavicus himself is noted for residing in the Palace of Tranquility, his center of power within Desideratum.
The Daedra that are employed by the Prince of Pacts include Herne, a type of slightly intelligent Daedra that act as hunters, with a possible relation to the common scamp; Skaafin, a type of Daedra that have yellow skin, often vary in size, possess humanoid faces with long white horns, and sometimes have one white eye. Other types of Daedra that are noted within the servitude of the Wishmaster include Dremora merchants, Clannfear that are often used for transportation, Dremora warriors who wear golden armor that changes color when exposed to sunlight, and the wish-granting Daedra known as the Djinn, who are noted for being loyal only to Clavicus, and seem to be the Prince’s most favoured servants. Another type of unique Daedra supposedly encountered in Desideratum is the Djinnkyn, a vestige transmogrification between the warmongering Dremora Knights, and the wish-granting Djinn. What makes these Daedra special is their undying loyalty to Vile. From my recent studies, I’ve been able to deduce that their sole purpose is to serve in Vile’s personal guard, while simultaneously maintaining serenity within the more “essential” merchant cities within his idyllic realm.
Clavicus Vile’s summoning day is the 1st of Morningstar, which could explain why he is known as the “child-god” of this month to the Imperials. Currently, the only known way to summon the Wishmaster is with a bit of coin. It is also said that there is a ritual for opening a portal to the Desideratum. The ingredients are as follows: Orc’s blood combined with amber, Unicorn’s horn mixed with Hist sap, and the heart of a daedra mixed with ectoplasm. Pour the mixture into a certain symbol, and it is said that a portal to Vile’s domain in Oblivion will open. However, this has never been attempted.
As mentioned above, Clavicus Vile has a Daedric companion named Barbas. So far, scholars are still debating his origins, but it has been revealed that Barbas acts as repository for half of all of Vile’s power, and the Wishmaster is notably weaker when they are separated. Some scholars believe that Barbas is also the embodiment of Vile’s own conscious, as the curious Hound influences Vile on the concepts of “right” and “wrong”.
The end of this discourse will now speak of the Masque of Clavicus Vile, Clavicus Vile’s signature artifact. In short, the Masque itself is a helmet which makes the wearer more popular wherever he or she might go. Clavicus is noted for retaining the artifact without warning. Despite this, the Masque is often sought out by politicians and merchants, who value its abilities of persuasion and influence.