For the aspiring zoologist there is much to learn. Tamriel, as a continent, is filled with dazzling and mysterious creatures. Many, such as faeries, are born from local superstition. All attempts to find these elusive ‘Fey Folk’ have always turned out to be fruitless. Of all the species of beasts that inhabit our world, there is much to discover and to marvel at.
Therefore, it is prudent to ask the question: why when we are surrounded by fantastical flora and fauna do we strive to create our own through the telling of myths and legends? Is it because we covet the occult or the mysterious, often realising the hunt is more enjoyable than the capture? Or do we secretly know that the myths we tell are false and in knowing this do we master our own fear? I am no illusionist and so I cannot tell you the reason for our actions (if there even is one). But sometimes, very rarely, myth and legend can tell us of things which we had forgotten. I shall relate one such occurrence.
On a research trip through the Jerall Mountains in search of the elusive Uderfrykte, I had occasion to rest in the northern city of Bruma. The weather is cold and it snows often. There is little to do in the city discounting participation in the local Mages’ and Fighters’ Guild. I was then but a lowly student at the Arcane University, following up on the Magister’s theory. He had taken ill and was in no condition to travel. At the time, I was earning a meagre wage categorizing and indexing the university’s charters and correspondences. It was an unenviable task as many of the documents were so old that they could not be physically touched lest they disintegrate. Thus, I was hired to order the documents using telekinesis to move them. Seven hours each day was spent painstakingly and meticulously organizing everything at a snail’s pace in case I should make a disastrous (and costly!) mistake.
Therefore, when the opportunity to finally do some fieldwork arose, I grasped it with both hands (a rare pleasure for me!). The other magisters were not pleased with my ‘abandoning’ my duties, but they thought it better that I went, failed to find anything, and disgraced my Magister. For they had never particularly liked either of us, me on account of my novice’s skill and he because of his ‘absurd and disgraceful’ theories. In any case, the Arch Mage signed my expedition papers and I was off. I heard they gave my old job to an aspiring Psijic who was trying to get funding for a trip to Artaeum. I don’t know if he ever got a chance, as when I returned he had gone: vanished into thin air some said!
The journey to Bruma was uneventful but my excitement filled me with joy at every foreign site I set my eyes upon. I had been given a small stipend to cover any travel expenses which I used to purchase a room at the local inn. It was here that everything changed.
The inn was noisy with the hustle and bustle of its patrons, drunk Nords and rowdy Dunmer. Amidst the din, in a chair next to the fireplace, sat an old Nord man, a long white beard graced his chin. None of the patrons seemed to notice him or he them. As I made my way inside, shutting the heavy oaken doors after me, he beckoned me with a long, wrinkled finger to sit beside him in the empty chair opposite. He asked my name and I his, to which he replied “Olaf Forkbeard”, and I bought him a local favourite, a flagon of mead. This done, he began to tell me a story of the local area, figuring me for a fur trapper or some other such hunter. When I told him I was a zoologist, he just laughed and made a strange gesture with his hand (what I later discovered was a sign to invoke Shor and Kyne’s protection against Herma Mora’s Evil Eye). I don’t think he really understood my profession but I listened intently as he told his tale.
[What follows is my relation of the Old Nord’s Tale. His language was difficult to translate but was surprisingly eloquent for people so often considered brutish and uncultured. I have endeavoured to record all he told me, exactly as it was delivered to me. Alas, if only I had a tok-stone or some other recording device available to me!]
In days past, all of Nirn was land, there being no seas or water at all. In this state, no humans could exist for water is life and life was not on Nirn. For the world was of spirit but Humans are bound by flesh and flesh cannot survive in the barren wastes of void. But then one day, when Mother Kyne saw the betrayal and sundering of her beloved husband, Shor, she wept tears of mournful grief. A great torrent issued from the Heavens and the whole world was plunged beneath her liquid sorrow, lost to the memory of the earliest deceit known to this kalpa (a Nord term for the space between eras).
In these days, Nirn was scarcely sheltered by the cloak of Magnus, his rays of warmth could not penetrate Oblivion’s frigid expanse. There was no horizon because there was no division between land and sea. The Sky was the Sea and the Land was Water from the Heavens. For the Sky had not yet formed, as Kyne, bitter from the Gods’ betrayal, could not quiet her miserable Heart. Thus, the Lords of Misrule being led by the Demon Herma Mora, his vast Golden Eye piercing the limen of the Mundus, joined together in an unholy conflagration of forms, creating the myriad tapestry of the atmosphere. In mockery of Magnus’ Children, they became Un-Stars and voids of cruelty, shining with malevolence upon the New kalpa.
The Sky was filled with the Blood of Misrule, the constellations known to us now did not yet shine in glory. For Magnus and his Children, their promise broken and oaths desecrated, could not reach back into this world, severed from their kin. Herma Mora saw an opportunity to make life hard for Nirn and so became the sun in the Sky. But he, being a Demon, was incapable of the glorious light of Magnus and so shone with cold-fury and whispered secrets of the Beginning Place. As an orphan of Magnus, Herma Mora despised his father-creator and sought to punish the nephews and nieces of Magnus’ people. He nourished the land with pestilential heat, stirring the frozen waters to action. His malignant power melted the glacial seas and set the tides in Motion. Some say that Herma Mora-as-the-Sun was a benevolent god, giving the land only the light it needed, enough to melt the seas but not too much as to boil them. Yet, there were no Men-of-Flesh at this time so how could anyone know?
Herma Mora and his Demon family swelled the Sky with Daedric effluence, ravaging Magnus’ last and parting gift. At the Beginning Time, when this Kalpa was still young, Heat and Warmth were precious and unknown to the Seas of Grief. Kyne, still weeping for her beloved, peered down from her Celestial Seat and saw what Herma Mora had wrought. And then she Knew, really and Truly Knew, that Herma Mora was He-of-Tides-And-the-Coveted-Whisper. Knowing this as a weapon, for Knowledge in skilled hands is sharper than any blade, she sought to teach old Mora a lesson. Taking a big breath, inhaling deeply until the entire Sky filled her Lungs, she exhaled, and spat a tornado of wind at the Lords of Misrule. She understood that although the Lords were wicked, they were creation-and-spirit-sprung from the Blood of Aurbis, and so their works could be turned against Herma Mora’s evil.
Using these wicked instruments, Mother Kyne melted fully the glacial Seas of Grief, depriving Mora of his joy. At her Shout, the seas disappeared, lost to the memory of another Age. Some believe that at this time, the only things able to survive were the Hist, alien trees from beyond this Age or Kalpa. At Kyne’s bellow, they drank in the grief-laden, joyless seas and sent her Tears to the Void between all Worlds. For the Hist, not being native to this new kalpa, could not be harmed by the frigid seas or Mora’s tricks.
Now that there were no seas, Herma Mora grew bored with this world, the Tides being his domain and passion. Out of this boredom grew a great fury which threatened to destroy the Aurbis entire. But Mother Kyne, emboldened by the removal of the Grief Sea and Demon Sky, saw that there was now Land, unchanging and warm. She looked to the Heavens once more and saw that the Lords had fled. In this moment, sensing a New Thing was to be brought into this world, she Shouted again and Summoned Magnus’ Cloak back to the World. His light and heat gilded the land with golden rays of majesty, making Nirn Home for the first time.
Next, Kyne saw that, unlike the Frozen Seas, land was good for life and could be a place of Action. Remembering Magnus’ Children and her promise to her husband that they would birth a great multitude and a race which would be their Pride, in Her Hawk-Form she grasped the land in her talons and dragged it into the Sky. However, Land was made from Gods’ Death and Kyne wanted her People to be of Life. Knowing that Breath had melted the seas and driven Mora away, she Breathed upon the peak, a Breath so large she had to open her beak as wide as the Mundus. The first Nords were birthed on that Mountain, which is called the Throat of the World. For all Nords leapt fully formed from Mother Kyne’s Throat and before this there had been No World to speak of.
Yet, Herma Mora, whilst knowing the Tides, did not give up his foolish Works. Reckoning that Kyne would be protective of her Breath-Kin, he decided to make all manner of mischief for her. He grew jealous of Her children and sought to equal them with his own abominations, simulacra of life. In all this, he thought himself a Clever Eye, seeing what others could not.
Whatever his thoughts, he had to admit to himself that he had no idea how he came into being and so had no idea how to create Life. For Magnus had laid Mora’s plans in haste and he had fled before he could be completed and taught his purpose. Being composed of Original Ideas, Mora thought that the problem could not elude him forever. He was Clever enough to know that the Aurbis was a Song, sung from the interplay of Anu and Padomay, all the way through to the Convention and beyond into Mortal History. He reasoned that before Kyne had made Flesh, the Mundus had been populated with Spirit. But Mora did not want to create more Ada, more Lords of Misrule to hinder his designs. Thus, he severed the Music, cutting and excising Notes here and there and perverting them to his purpose.
If the Nords could be born from Kyne’s Breath, already infused with Tones and Music, his creations would be the Music, capable of being both Flesh and Spirit. They would be able to manipulate the Music beyond even Kyne’s capabilities. But, being an orphan himself, he did not Know what it was to Have or Be a Father. When he formed his Children, his Tone-kin, it was not from Love or Mercy, but Hunger and Jealousy of Secrets-Yet-to-Be-Known. They emerged in this world, protean and cacophonic, unsure of their purpose or Life.
The Old Nord spoke many more things, insisting that breath was the tool to create music and indeed the whole world was but a harmony of tones and musical notes. He promised me that he would tell me more if I bought another round. Of the Tone-kin, he spoke at length. Alas, this tale must wait for another day! But fear not, we shall continue to learn about the Tone-kin and Kyne’s children.
“Wisp Portrait” | Illustration by Ray Lederer