Lore Lapses, Part VI: Ebonarm

  01:39:00 pm, by   , 149 words  
Viewed 3496 times since 01/31/15
Categories: Analysis

Ebonarm does not make sense.

I just finished a long-overdue update to the Necromancy lore page. Many thanks to Legoless, Hargrimm, and others for your help. I'm looking at starting a new project this weekend, so for now, I'll just incorporate my previous rant about Ebonarm into this series.

Long story short, we haven't heard of Ebonarm since TES II: Daggerfall. In The Elder Scrolls Online, in the one context where Ebonarm should've definitely been mentioned, he was omitted. He was likely abandoned without notice in the days of TES III: Morrowind, and ESO simply made it more apparent that he has been written out of official TES lore.

There are more crackpot theories out there regarding what this means, and maybe we'll get some better resolution to this some day, but for now, that does not make sense! If Ebonarm does not make sense, you must acquit!

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Lore Lapses, Part V: The UESP

  03:07:00 pm, by   , 539 words  
Viewed 6249 times since 01/24/15
Categories: Elder Scrolls, Analysis

Okay, I'm putting aside my planned rant to just acknowledge the delightful new entry in the ESO Loremaster's Archive, Moon Bishop Hunal Answers Your Questions. Our very own Legoless, "Doyen of the United Explorers of Scholarly Pursuits", got a question answered on the nature of the dro-m'Athra, the Khajiit's take on the Daedra. For those who don't know and don't like links, the United Explorers of Scholarly Pursuits is the UESP's guild in ESO.

This is actually the second time this has happened. I hadn't noticed until today that "Enodoc Dumnonii, Savant of the United Explorers of Scholarly Pursuits", appeared in High King Emeric's Q&A a couple weeks ago.

Since we've been treating the Loremaster's Archive as essentially the same as in-game texts, it poses an interesting lore question: just what would the United Explorers of Scholarly Pursuits be like in Tamriel? We've apparently already decided against treating the interrogators mentioned in these Q&A's as canonical figures; see here. But if the devs wanted to build upon the idea of the United Explorers of Scholarly Pursuits, I sincerely doubt anyone here would be opposed.

But regardless, here's the headcanon I am adopting for the UESP:

The United Explorers of Scholarly Pursuits, or UESP, was formed pursuant to the Guild Act of 2E 321, with Julianos as their patron. The never-ending goal of the guild is to build a comprehensive and accurate chronicle of Tamriel and beyond, for the edification and good of all. Its membership rely on each other to seek out, find, and share the secrets of the world around them, one discovery and book at a time. This knowledge is generally shared freely, and members pay no dues. Rather, the guild primarily relies on providing advertisements for various merchants for its funding. They also receive donations from many patrons, notably rulers, authors, and booksellers, who often rely on UESP members for information, trade, and shipping needs.

The guild is headed by a Guildmaster, or Doyen, in each of the provinces where it operates. Its ranks includes Officers, Scholars, Explorers, Recruits, as well as Savants, special operatives of great renown. Though the guild has been plagued by thieves, spies, and other villains who wish to destroy or manipulate it, they have risen to every challenge undeterred, and have continued their grand endeavor for centuries.

Now, I didn't say the UESP doesn't make sense at the start, because actually, the United Explorers of Scholarly Pursuits as described would make a whole lotta sense, in my opinion. You see, the Second Era was supposed to be a dark age in Tamriel. But thanks to ESO's retcon, a lot of the known TES texts apparently have their origins in the Second Era, rather than the Third Era. This premise is counter-intuitive - unless, maybe, a group formed in the Second Era which dedicated itself to supporting scholarship across the continent?

But, we're ironically prohibited from concocting our own backstory at this time. Though Zenimax has arguably given us an opening to create our own little place in Tamriel, and we could partially explain an apparent irregularity by doing so, it's just not good scholarship to fabricate facts on our own. Still, for that lack of imagination, I guess this lapse is on us.

Lore Lapses, Part IV: Morian Zenas

  02:51:00 pm, by   , 1017 words  
Viewed 6846 times since 01/18/15
Categories: Analysis

Morian Zenas, renowned conjurer and author, doesn't make sense.

ESO Disclaimer
This is the first ESO contradiction I'm addressing, so let me point out: the story of ESO isn't finished yet. There are a lot of inconsistencies, a lot of loose ends, but it's heavily suspected many of them are going to be reconciled in future content. Further, a lot of the info already available has not been disseminated yet to folks like me who refuse to pay Zenimax's ransom - er, subscription. There are details of various quests, a lot of new material in updates, and Zenimax seems to be adding new lore content to their official site on a fairly regular basis. There are only so many hours in the day, you know?

This one, though, is basically an overt, as-yet unexplained retcon. Zenimax decided to take many texts from previous games and re-purpose them for ESO. Basically, they chopped out any explicit references to Third Era history and society. References to Tiber Septim and his Empire, for example. I think the example of what they did to The Amulet of Kings epitomizes the degree of care used:



Oblivion and Skyrim text:


ESO text:




I guess they figured that would be sufficient for various books to appear 800 years before they were generally intended to appear in Tamriel's history. They presumably did this to make ESO "feel" like a TES game, and probably also as a matter of convenience. I feel like this was a big mistake, but I digress. Point is, Morian Zenas was one character which they had to substantially change in order to make him fit.

Background
Morian Zenas goes back to the days of TES II: Daggerfall, when we were first introduced to On Oblivion. This quintessential beginner's guide to Oblivion has been a mainstay ever since. This is probably why Zenimax wanted to include it in ESO.

Zenas was supposed to be writing in the late Third Era, during the reign of Uriel Septim VII (3E 368-3E 433). Zenimax retconned it so that Zenas lived and wrote circa 2E 418-2E 431, according to the dates given in Racial Motifs (a love story disguised as a scholarly work of comparative design).

On Oblivion, on its face, didn't need any changing to fit. They made some changes anyway, to correct spelling and grammar (why they felt the need to do so, I have no idea). But you can't throw books roughly 800 years out of their time and place and expect all the details to make sense.

The Doors of Oblivion
The Doors of Oblivion has several references which don't fit in the context of ESO. First introduced in TES IV: Oblivion, the book mentions the Mantellan Crux, Celarus, and has a paragraph related to the events of the game An Elder Scrolls Legend: Battlespire.

The Battlespire thing they took care of. And "by took care of", I mean they just chopped the paragraph out of the book, and I guess we're supposed to act like it never existed (not gonna happen, FYI). The Mantellan Crux, I think, is not necessarily a contradiction, as the Mantella is a subject surrounded by mystery (and might merit an entry of its own one day). But it's certainly eyebrow-raising that Zenas knew of the Mantellan Crux roughly five centuries before Zurin Arctus would use the Mantella itself to power the Numidium. See generally here and here for background.

If we embrace the retcon, and give Zenimax the benefit of the doubt and presume that they purposefully decided to leave in the reference to the Mantellan Crux, it would indicate that the Crux, and thus the Mantella, have a much longer and storied history in Tamriel than we know about. There could be some pretty cool lore planned for it in the future.

Celarus and On Artaeum
As for Celarus, Loremaster of the Psijic Order, The Doors of Oblivion said he was the "leader of the Order", and that Zenas consulted with him. But if Zenas lived in the 2E 400s, neither of those things match up well with established lore. Not only was Celarus not the leader of the Order at the time (as far as we know), but the Psijic Order had disappeared off the face of the planet centuries before, and wouldn't return for centuries to come!

Fragment: On Artaeum, another Daggerfall alum, tells us the Psijic Order disappeared around the time the Mages Guild was founded. There's little info on when exactly that occurred (barring new ESO stuff), but apparently The Daggerfall Chronicles states the first Mages Guild was formed in 2E 230. On Artaeum goes on to say they wouldn't return for five centuries.

In other words, Zenas' encounter with the Psijic Order has now taken place when the Psijic Order wasn't around... so, yeah, bad retcons are bad. Further, it was established in lore that Celarus was not the "leader of the Order" at this time. Galerion the Mystic, another mainstay of the series since Daggerfall, says that as of the early Second Era, Iachesis was "Magister of the Isle". On Artaeum elaborates that Iachesis did not return when the Order did in the Second Era, and no explanation was given for his whereabouts.

Celarus "has presided over the Council of Artaeum for the last two hundred and fifty years", according to On Artaeum. Since the book was published during the reign of Emperor Uriel Septim VII, it suggests Celarus wasn't the leader of the Psijic Order until circa 3E 118. So, to save you the math, Zenas's description of Celarus in The Doors of Oblivion as the leader of the Order is about six centuries premature.

Of course, it seems like Celarus was retconned, as well. They haven't come right and said so, to my knowledge (it's not like they give us patch notes for each retcon), but I assume they've made it so that Celarus took over leadership of the Order directly after Iachesis. Anyway, you throw one person back in time, sometimes it entails throwing a whole network of people back in time. Next week, I guess I'll take a look at another example.

Lore Lapses, Part III: Gaiden Shinji

  12:36:00 am, by   , 195 words  
Viewed 8915 times since 01/10/15
Categories: Elder Scrolls, Analysis

Gaiden Shinji, first Arena Blademaster and hero of the Thirty-Year Siege of Orsinium, doesn't make sense. Check the dates in the images below.

TES: Arena:

TES IV: Oblivion:

TES V: Skyrim:

TES III: Morrowind first introduced Poison Song, a novella series taking place in 1E 675. The characters know of Gaiden Shinji and the Siege of Orsinium, which contradicts the many other sources which trace the siege, and thus Shinji, to circa 1E 950-980.

Considering that we've been given three different dates for Shinji's Credo, and that a couple other related matters don't add up, I can't help but think this has been intentional. And that makes me suspect that this is a joke. Shinji's Credo may have become the developer's tongue-in-cheek way of saying that the details are subject to change, and that we're just going to have to accept that. Or maybe they're building up to something else?

We're still learning more about Shinji in ESO. For all I know, some new quest deals with or will deal with the mysteries surrounding him. Be sure to read The Great Siege of Orsinium for a couple newer insights into Shinji's life. Next week: more timeline problems.

Lore Lapses, Part II: Plitinius Mero

  12:10:00 am, by   , 1122 words  
Viewed 6926 times since 01/05/15
Categories: Elder Scrolls, Analysis

Plitinius Mero didn't make sense.

Background

Once upon a time, Queen Barenziah was a paragon of virtue, bravery, and wisdom, so sweet she gave everyone toothaches. At least, according to the fairy tale that is the Biography of Queen Barenziah.

No one really pays attention to this official biography, except to learn a few extra names and have a chuckle. This is because the "real" story appeared in The Real Barenziah (TRB). Promise of slight pornography: fulfilled.

The author is only given as "anonymous" in the text of TRB, but we know that it was Plitinius Mero who wrote it (although even that name is apparently an alias). He admitted as much in the TES III: Morrowind expansion Tribunal. He was presumably the individual who wrote down Barenziah's "private confessions", as mentioned in the TES II: Daggerfall quest Barenziah's Book. Eventually, someone involved in that quest would set the stories loose. Mero's work was defaming to the queen, threatened the Empire, and was fairly lascivious. So it's no surprise that the public ate it up - at least, they ate up the censored version which was subsequently released. The work was ordered banned, and Mero was ordered to be executed.

But then, Barenziah stepped in, and gave Mero a new identity as a scribe in her employ.

What the hell?

After Daggerfall, if you were told that the personal friend of Barenziah who wrote TRB would appear in the next TES game, you would've expected to find that person on a rack somewhere. Maybe there would be a quest where you'd save him from indescribable, endless torture, or perhaps kill him yourself. But no, you find him in the courtyard of the royal palace, with nothing but good things to say about his employer, the Queen Mother of Morrowind. I say again: what the hell?

According to Mero, "She knew my work to be true, and I believe she felt a sense of amusement, if not satisfaction, at the tale's telling. She protected me from the Imperial family, and spread the word of my demise at her guards' hands. Since then, I have traveled with her under this name, acting as her scribe, her advisor, and dare I say...her friend."

I call bull****. Even if you (for some reason) want to believe Barenziah was a compassionate and innocent figure, this is not how rulers react to betrayals of their confidence. I don't care if she'd known Mero since he was born; he doesn't just get a pass for endangering her and her family, especially not with the Empire calling for blood. If that's all there was to their relationship, then this just doesn't make sense.

So, why did Bethesda even introduce Mero into Tribunal in the first place? He played no meaningful part in quests. He foreshadowed an expanded biography of Barenziah which never materialized. For nine years in total, he was just a big, fat loose end. TES fans were left to do what they do best: speculate rampantly. Mero reeked of "to be continued", but no one could be sure what the rest of the story would be.

The rest of the story

Finally, in TES V: Skyrim, we were introduced to The Nightingales (TN), and suddenly Mero's place in the grand scheme of things became clearer. If you take TN as substantively true, then the release of TRB was damage control, not damage. Knowingly or not, Mero was Barenziah's chief propagandist.

That was why Barenziah gave these "private confessions", why an edited version was eventually allowed into circulation, and why she spared Mero. And while this can easily be dismissed as a game limitation, it would also explain why Mero is apparently willing to tell his tale to any doofus who wandered through the courtyard: regardless of whether he's a naive patsy or a trusted and loyal servant, Mero was affirming the story that Barenziah wanted people to believe. Or at least, the story she could tolerate them believing, as it was just damaging enough that apparently no one suspected that it was covering up more embarrassing truths.

There's still room to believe what you want, and even synthesize your own story surrounding Barenziah, Mero, etc., however you wish. There's a myriad of ways to speculate on the truth of Barenziah's life, but Mero's place in it circa 3E 427 has the benefit of being witnessed in-game. Almost everything else we know is just words on a page, but any theory on the truth behind Barenziah's life must be squared somehow with her unusual relationship with Mero. The Nightingales is the only stated version of the story which at least begins to explain Mero, who had been begging for an explanation for nine years.

Wrap-up

Now, these last two topics, arguably, depend upon the eye of the beholder. Look at them a certain way, and there's no inconsistency at all. Maybe in this case, for example, Barenziah was really just that nice of a person, that she forgave Mero his transgression and, at a time when she was at her weakest politically, she went out of her way to keep him safe. All out of the goodness of her heart. In which case, Barenziah's story was all wrapped up with a nice bow, and TN was just unnecessary retconning a decade after the fact. Well, I don't know what Disney games you've been playing, but in TES, someone that compassionate is like a unicorn: extremely rare, pretty much doomed to die within a minute of being discovered, and though you can change that fate if you really want to, it's not worth the effort.

The Barenziah which I perceive wouldn't bother to save Mero just for the hell of it. The only way reason she would save him is if Mero was an asset to protect. Maybe if he was an adopted son or something akin to that, that would be another motivation to consider, but I haven't read that story. Maybe it's on its way, but for now, we're left with TN, and TN gives the only credible hint on why Mero was still alive and in one piece when he appeared in Tribunal.

But there's room for doubt, I admit. As I alluded to last week, TES is so full of powerful plot devices and gray areas that you can't be sure of anything. So a "Lore Lapse" will not always be some irreconcilable contradiction. It will often be a topic of the lore where a source, on its face, is simply hard to reconcile with the others.

Next week's topic, though, is particularly hard to reconcile, and is not in the eye of the beholder. It's straight numbers, and they don't add up. Should be short and sweet. ;)