Fates Ignored - Interview with a Dunmer (Interlude)

  • 3 Evening Star, 3E 427

    This is my how my interview with Velneryn went:

    "For the record, please state your name," I asked him, dipping the quill into ink and setting it to the parchment.

    "Velneryn," he replied, then adding, "Presumably of House Redoran."


    "Yes, I have been away for a while, but before I left, I know that the motion for my formal adoption was to be put forward. I shall be visiting Ald'ruhn soon to find out for sure."

    "Oh. What is your rank in the Mages Guild?"

    "Conjurer," he answered.

    "How long have you been a member of the Guild?"

    "I have been a formal member of the guild for five months."

    "Five months!?! And you're already a Conjurer?!?" I exclaimed, fighting hard to decide whether it would be incredulity or jealousy that dominated my emotions.

    "I am a Dunmer, Seidvala. I guarantee that I am older than I look, and I was not exactly ignorant before I joined. Outside of that, I suppose I am as surprised as you are. Since I have been in Vvardenfell, certain things just seem to come naturally to me. It is like waking up from a dream I didn't even know I was having."

    "I, ah... I see."

    "If you say so." Apathetic, as though he'd long since given up trying to explain himself to others.

    "What is your rank or position within the Tribunal Temple?" I continued.

    "I am currently a Disciple of the Tribunal Faith. I owe my rapid rise there to politics, I sadly admit. An outlander, a traveling inquisitor risking life and limb to bring the light of Almsivi to the dark corners of Vvardenfell that have forgotten them. It sounds good on paper. Not that I haven't worked or studied hard. Studying in the Mages Guild may have woken my mind, but studying the precepts of the Faith has woken my soul."

    "And you mentioned that you are also of House Redoran?"

    "As I said, yes. I was to be formally adopted before I became ill and had to take my leave for a time."

    "You were ill?"

    "I choose not to discuss that matter any further." His face an unreadable mask. I couldn't tell if this was my normal difficulty at reading the faces of Dunmer, or if he was being deliberately opaque.

    "Oh, that's fine," I finally said, after a hesitation that stretched just over to the wrong side of awkward. "Is there any truth to the rumors that you have links to the assassin's cult, the Morag Tong?" I pressed, perhaps jumping to a conclusion based on rumors from Sadrith Mora.

    "Is that part of the interview?" he asked in return.

    "It could help clarify your credentials, if my research is challenged," I insisted, though I felt that it was just about confirmed that he had least considered joining the group. My blood chilled slightly at the thought that I could be sitting face-to-face with a worshiper of the Androgyne, nothing between us but a few feet of empty space and one corner of a narrow table.

    He paused moment, perhaps noticing my sudden tensity.

    "Hm. I am not presently connected to the Morag Tong. It would be dishonorable to fulfill writs or take part in any House Wars when I am attempting to seek adoption into one of the Great Houses."

    "But at one time, you were?" I inquired, trying to keep any hint of panic out of my voice as I prepared for... for what, I still don't know. I was reacting poorly, I admit. As far as I knew, I had never met anybody who actually worshiped the daedra, despite my work in Conjuration.

    "I cannot answer that question without breaking oaths I have taken."

    I attempted to calm myself. He claimed to be a follower of the Temple. I would have to rely on his word, and Dorian's to keep me safe if something odd were to happen.

    "Huh. Never mind, then. Now, what can you tell me about the Tribunal Temple?"

    "That is a very broad question."

    Get it back together, Seidvala. 

    "Sorry, let me see if I can narrow it down. How did you, an outlander, come to join it?" Better.

    "That's easier. I spent my youth in Cyrodiil. I never knew my parents. You may not understand what that means to a Dunmer: even in Cyrodiil, our heritage is everything to us. I have been an orphan for as long as I can remember, with no knowledge of who my parents may have been, nor any knowledge of anybody who might be able to tell me. Because of that, I have always felt the part of the outlander, isolated from those around him - somebody who has ever known their parents cannot relate."

    I can relate plenty.

    "When I came to Vvardenfell--"

    "Pardon the interruption," I cut in, curious, "but how did you come to be in Vvardenfell?"

    "I choose to not answer that question." His face unreadable.

    More secrets.

    "As I was saying," he continued, "when I came to Vvardenfell, I felt even more alone. One day-- it was here in Balmora in fact-- I wandered my way to the Temple. In there, I found a place where everybody shared ancestors: the greater and lesser Saints, all organized under the benevolent rule of the Living Ancestors, the gods we call the Tribunal. It almost did not matter that I did not know who sired me, or who gave birth to me only to play no further role in my life. I was Dunmer, and so eligible for the protection and guidance of the greatest ancestors of my people. It was... comforting."

    "What about non-Dunmer?" A hint of steel in my voice, memories of the slave markets of Sadrith Mora surfacing.

    "What about them?" he asked.

    "Do your gods and saints watch over them, too?"

    "That is a tricky subject. The gods and saints are the ancestors of my people. By definition, I suppose that means that, say, you are not given the same favor in their eyes as I am. This may explain some traditionalist opinions on topics like slavery. Nevertheless, the Patriarch of the Faith on Vvardenfell has publicly stated that outlanders, regardless of race, may know the blessings of Almsivi if they are willing to cast aside their belief in the spirits not worthy of worship, and proclaim the Triune their only gods."

    "Does the Temple have an official stance?" Easy now, you don't want this to become hostile.

    "I beg your pardon?"

    "On slavery, I mean." I still don't know why I wanted to know so badly.

    "The official stance of the Temple is that, as part of our heritage, and as promised to the people of Morrowind in the Armistice, the practice of slavery is the guaranteed right of the Dunmer."

    "And you agree with that?"

    "My opinions on the matter are my own."

    Let it go. "Fair enough," I said, changing direction as I started on a new piece of parchment. "Can you give me an overview of the main precepts of the Temple's faith? What do you worship?"

    "Would you care for the history-lesson version, or should I keep it short and simple?"

    "Short and simple, please."

    "Very well. Three beings, born as mortal mer, ascended to become living gods to guide and protect their people by living lives that were purest examples of the highest virtues - Mercy, Mystery, and Mastery. You might not comprehend the weight of this; tell me, are you religious?"

    "I worship the Nine Divines, lords and creators of the Mundus." An automatic answer, but I still knew it to be true.

    "And tell me, have you ever seen your gods? Have you spoken to them? Do they walk with you, guide you face-to-face?" He leaned in closer, meeting my eyes as he asked.

    "Of course not!"

    "The Dunmer people have, and do, and until very recent times, our gods did in fact walk with us," he stated. Although his voice was calm and rational, I still felt that he put great weight in those words. It was apparently very important to him.

    "How recently did they stop? And why?"

    "It has only been a few decades. The Tribunal still speak with the highest of their priests, but their eternal struggle with the Devil Dagoth Ur demands much of their attention. They are not required to appear before us, as though they were performers in a circus. Surely you have heard of the cultist attacks, whispers of the return of a 'Sixth House'?"

    "And the spreading of the Blight, and of mutated beasts roaming the countryside, of course," I said, repeating a few lines from the local tavern gossip.

    "These are all signs of the Devil's power. The Temple claims that the faith of the people has grown weak, and these are symptoms of the greater problem. Spiritual weakness has empowered Dagoth Ur."

    "You mean to say that babbling lunatics murdering outlanders in the streets is because you people aren't attending your sermons?" I asked, a little more harshly than was probably strictly necessary.

    "I am saying that if it were not for the benevolence of the Tribunal, things would be much worse." Once again, I found myself wishing he was easier to read.

    "Okay then. So the Tribunal are your gods. And you pray to saints, as well?"

    "The saints, exemplars of the Faith, intercede on behalf of the faithful, yes."

    "What about ancestor worship? Do the Temple beliefs include that?" I think that he could tell this particular question was more important to me than many of the previous ones. Perhaps it was the way I made sure the quill had plenty of ink. And maybe I did lean forward just a little, eager to know his response.

    "We venerate and honor our ancestors, it is true. The Dunmer have no need to actually worship our forefathers, due to the presence of Almsivi on Nirn. In ages long since past, we did literally worship our ancestors, yes; the greatest of our ancestors, the three Good Daedra - Boethiah, Mephala, and Azura - were given the most esteem, but they were fickle and often harmed their followers as much as helped. The Temple teaches that their roles were fulfilled when they moved aside to make room for the Tribunal. We call them the Anticipations, for each member of our pantheon took up the roles held by one of these three daedra. There is a book on the topic, if you'd like to know more. Titled 'The Anticipations', appropriately enough."

    "I'll look into it," I claimed, unsure if I actually would. Conjuration may be my specialty, but I was still a Chapel-going Nord; the Princes of Oblivion themselves were only important when and if I needed to know about them for a summoning.

    "The Ashlanders still worship the ancestors and the Good Daedra, denying the divinity of the Tribunal. It might benefit you more to learn about them, if you wish to know more of Dunmeri ancestor worship," he pointed out.

    "Thank you, I shall take your recommendation into consideration. Just a few more questions, if that's alright?" I got another sheet of parchment ready.

    "That is fine."

    "Can you tell me a little bit about some of the binding practices used? Ancestral tombs are guarded by the bound spirits of a family's relatives, aren't they?"

    "Ah, here we are then," he said calmly, sitting back in his chair. "You aren't planning on taking up graverobbing, are you Seidvala?"

    "What? No!"

    "It was a joke," he remarked before leaning back in closer. "If I may ask in earnest though, what is your purpose in wanting to know?"

    "It's the main focus of my research, if I'm completely up-front," I confessed. "My specialty is the School of Conjuration. There isn't much recorded about how the Dunmer perform the rituals, and I was hoping that a priest in the Temple, such as yourself, might have some experience in the matter. As an outlander, and a fellow member of the Guild, I'd hoped you may share."

    "I see nothing inherently wrong with sharing what knowledge I have on the topic. It will take time, though, if you seek in-depth knowledge. Before I agree to anything, I have another question for you: what do you know of necromancy?"

    "I'm not sure what you're implying. I am a devout worshiper of the Nine Divines, and would never violate Arkay's holy laws. This is purely scholarly interest." Does he know you don't believe in his gods, even for a second? That you hope to expose at least a fraction of his beliefs as highest hypocrisy, all for a pat on the back and a spot in the Arcane University?

    "I was not implying anything, Journeyman. If you are willing to swear an oath on my gods and yours that you will respect the sanctity of the souls of living and dead, I will teach you. I will not show, mind you, but the rites of mourning and duty are not exactly apocryphal."

    "I am willing," I replied, the weight of his request making me a little nervous.

    A ghost of smile might have crossed his face. "Good. It is late and, as I said, I have been away for some time. I have matters to attend to out-of-town, but I will be back here in Balmora in no longer than one week's time. If you are not otherwise preoccupied then, I will gladly set aside some time to explain and help record some of the rituals of my people."

    I was disappointed at having to wait, but knew that I had little choice. This might be my one chance to learn first-hand how the Dunmer treated their dead - mistreated, in my nonacademic opinion. I nodded mutely, and he stood up from his chair.

    "I will be seeing you then, Journeyman Seidvala," he said, his fingers curling into the sign of Recall. The light dimmed for a moment, causing me to blink. When I opened my eyes he was gone.


1 Comment
  • Paws
    Paws   ·  April 4, 2013
    I was eagerly awaiting this interview, it didn't disappoint!