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Musings on the Clockwork City Story. Beware Spoilers..

  • Member
    November 16, 2017

    Sotha Sil in the Clockwork City DLC just breaks my heart. I'm not sure if the cause and effect was because I visited the Elegiac Replication by chance when I first arrived in the city, or simply because Sotha Sil's subtle and almost hidden tale slowly unravelled throughout the course of the story. In any event, since seeing Sotha Nall's projection in that place and reading the emotional text engraved beneath, indeed all of the texts in that area speak of deep feeling, I felt the need to know more.

    "A soul that deserved transcendence. May her song be heard in the hiss of every piston and the sigh of every spring."

    The best TES stories are like this, woven into the larger tale in the form of books and dialogue, and CWC has such stories in abundance. Who was Nall? I needed to know.

    Another subtle story to grab me was in Proctor Luciana's relationship with the Clockwork God, and as this is linked to my new understanding and interpretation of Sotha Sil, it's probably a good place to start this little review.

    We meet Luciana outside the city where she is pretty scathing towards our companion, Divayth Fyr, who reciprocates that scorn in true-to-form fashion. We learn quite early on in the dialogue with Luciana and even with other NPCs that she was an Imperial bttlemage who came to the Clockwork City after a duel with a Bosmer mage in Valenwood while serving under Reman. The magical fight in which she sundered the elf's staff while he was in the midst of casting a plannar spell sent her, battered and broken, into Seht's creation. There he found her, healed her, augmented her with machine parts, and in the course of doing also saved her unborn son, Marius.

    From Luciana we learn that her devotion is no longer towards to Lord Seht, rather she is intent solely upon her duties. We do learn, both from her journals if discovered or later on in the story, that she had asked Sotha Sil why he had saved her all those years ago. "Because one day you will shine a light" was his reply. This becomes a central theme of the plot, but more than that it underscores the Clockwork God's fatalism. He is absolutely certain of the future to the degree in which he envies those who can say "maybe." For him it's all about cause and effect, an unbreakable chain of choices and actions which lead to each moment and define us only to the extent that we cannot be other than who we are as each moment is already pre-ordained.


    "Why do you think things happen?" he asked. I told him I didn't understand the question.

    "Why are we sitting here talking? Why does young Marius exist? Why do I reign over this place, while you convalesce within it?"

    I sat quiet for a moment, then replied: "Because that's just the way it is."

    His cold face melted into one of his solemn half-smiles. "Exactly." ~ Proctor Luciana's Journal


    I'm skipping ahead. Luciana's son died due to a heart condition. Despite augmentation and his own genius in the field of alchemy - a feat in a city of metal - Marius eventually collapses. She seeks help from the only one who she knows can help. Sotha Sil refuses.


    "I know why you're here," he said.

    I was so naive then, I smiled and rushed toward him like a child. "Good!" I cried. "We have to move quickly. Marius is near to passing."

    But Sotha Sil didn't stand up. He didn't even look me in the eye. "I am sorry," he said. "I cannot give you what you seek."

    I stumbled over my words, trying to understand what he was saying. I just repeated myself like an idiot, thinking perhaps that he hadn't heard me. "Marius is dying. We have to get back to him as soon as possible!"

    He stood up and pursed his lips before speaking. "I'm sorry," was his only reply.

    We stood there in silence for what felt like an eternity. Eventually, I shook my head and whispered, "I don't understand. My body was ruined and you healed me. It's only Marius's heart that needs mending."

    Seht approached, placed a brass hand on my shoulder and said, "You misunderstand. It is within my power to heal Marius, but circumstances make it impossible. I grieve with you, Luciana."

    I looked up and there were tears in his eyes. I felt a great rage rise up within me. I reached for my hammer, and lifted it above my head just before Seht whispered a banishing word and sent me hurtling back toward the surface.

    Marius died two days later. Sotha Sil remains in the Cogitum Centralis to this day.


    Hundreds of Tamrielic years pass in the Clockwork City, a place where time moves differently. The Luciana we meet is hard, uncompromising. The perfect guardian, almost machine-like in her rigidity.

    The story then begins in earnest as we're swept up in discovering what's wrong with Lord Seht and why is he behaving so weirdly, what's with his instructions that all lights be switched off when he enters a room, and why is he now very active after so long in isolation. We get to experience the City and meet new people, learn of the unique culture of its inhabitants. The Apostles strive to unravel mysteries, their desire to emulate their god is present in every aspect of their lives, even their manner of speech which is full of machine and "great gear" metaphors. They can be cold and aloof, the plight of the poor and needy passes them unnoticed. One of the oddities, though, is why the ubiquitous Factotums which carry out almost every conceivable task remain something of a mystery.

    Indeed, it's not long before we start wondering what gives when we hear them speak, why are they all female, and why they say something bizarre and out of place like, "dreaming... overturned jar... dreaming" before providing an answer in a normal voice.

    When faced with a query that requires higher cognition, factotums often recite a non sequitur in two parts - brief statements that have a loose connection to one another but no discernible connection to the larger conversation. These non sequiturs (also known as "verbal artifacts") tend to be simple recitations of household "scenes." They refer to overturned pots, rain on glass, boots by the fire, and so on. Occasionally they stray into more personal terrain, like the complexion of an old woman's hands, or the sound of someone weeping. Then, once in a very great while, they will say something genuinely troubling statements like "burning beds - screaming" or "collapsed roof - crushed child." ~ The Factotum's Secret Voice

    This mystery unravels as we play, providing subtle clues to those who join the dots. One of the biggest dots occurs in the Mnemonic Planisphere, a location that is incredibly interesting and visually stunning. There we get to make choices and discover the importance of Seht's memories to the beings who are seeking to overthrow him. Our hands aren't held here, we're simply exposed to soundbites of seemingly-random memories of dialogue. We hear Divayth Fyr reference Sil's resistance to Azura's Curse, Indoril Nerevar before Red Mountain, Sil himself talking about Kagrenac, and amidst all that we hear Sotha Nall.

    "You're overthinking this. We sneak out, we sneak back in, and no one will ever be the wiser." "What, are you afraid of Nanny finding out? You're an adult now!" "No one will even realize we're missing. Besides, what's the worst Mother can do? A scolding?"


    So. Nall, the "soul deserving of transcendence," was Sil's sister. The picture is becoming more complete.

    As everyone knows, the False Prince called Mehrunes Dagon, destroyed Sotha Sil's ancestral home of Ald Sotha when our lord was still a youth - leaving him as the sole survivor. Scenes of fire and death may well have been Sotha Nall's final and most traumatic memories. ~ The Factotum's Secret Voice

    Because of Sil's experiments on the Saints, we are aware of his successes and failures in creating eternal life. We could probably say that Nall represents a certain success.

    Back to the more mundane, we continue through the story, moved by Provost Aruni Arvel who is an absolute sweetheart in a place of mostly uncaring apostles. Her simple desire to see a real, live bird is endearing, as is her belief that she never will as her place is in the City. The crows from Crow's Wood make for amusing moments when they start to overrun the city, behaving as crows do by stealing shiny things and leaving droppings all over the place. Finding poetry for the Knight of Marrow to recite to Lady Blightwing is a lol moment among many such smile-worthy scenes. Luciana's deadpan attitude just makes it even funnier when we're tasked to scare of the rival Exarchs of Dross. These crows always have something to say. "Take one step closer, I dare you!" When you do dare and they fly off in fear, we hear another say, "why do you always dare them?!"

    The story now hurtles towards a conclusion and we're confident we know how it will end. Luciana is indeed called upon to "shine a light" in order to help us get to the Cognitum Centralis and to save Lord Seht himself, sacrificing her own life for one she hates. A final battle and the use of a powerful artifact which up until now has been used in the most mundane of ways by TES games sees Sotha Sil reach up and reclaim his own soul in what is possibly the most breathtaking scene in the game.

    Then we're hit with a choice. Death and grief can only be deferred, delayed, Sil tells us. Yet he will ensure the Proctor lives if we ask him to. I did, and in speaking to her after we finally understand why Seht never saved her son. "Because one day you will shine a light." In making the hard choice and letting a young man die and ruining the life of his mother, Sotha Sil saved untold millions. Such is the love and the burden of God. Luciana finally understands too.

    Seht tells us at the end:

    "The truth is my actions both good and evil are inevitable, locked in time. Determined by chains of action and consequence. May I confess something to you? I suffer from a peculiar ailment. Shall I describe it? I bear the cruel weight of certainty. Total, absolute and relentless certainty. People rarely comprehend the luxury of doubt... The freedom that comes with indecision. I envy you. This city serves a noble goal. The redemption of Tamriel. The unification of competing forces. The destruction of the Daedra. Unfortunately it is an endeavor built upon a lattice of corpses. Betrayal. Untold horrors. Do you understand?"


    "Maybe. The word I covet above all others. Hold onto that word, my friend. And never let it go."

    Sotha Sil's enigma, his mystery and his distance all provide for his people the word he doesn't have. To a being for whom there are no mysteries, his greatest gift is to provide them and let each person determine their own fates. It was Aruni Arvel who drove it home, though. She gets the last word and her resolution to see a bird in Tamriel for herself hit home the the point with the greatest accuracy.

  • November 16, 2017

    It's interesting to see their portrayal in ESO, knowing what will happen to them in Tribunal. 

    The tough decisions that come with that knowledge. I wonder if they regret what they did to get it. 

  • Member
    November 16, 2017

    At the end, if you answer "yes" instead of "maybe", he responds "Then I pity you" :P

  • Member
    November 16, 2017

    The Long-Chapper said:

    It's interesting to see their portrayal in ESO, knowing what will happen to them in Tribunal. 

    The tough decisions that come with that knowledge. I wonder if they regret what they did to get it. 

    It is interesting, and with Sil who pretty much knows the outcome, it lends a sort of resignation to his character. He goes on at some length about Vivec and Almalexia, asserting that it will not end well.

    He does mention his and Vivec's shared regret, and in the Elegiac Replication which is like a memorial garden there are a few holographic statues. One is of Nerevar the Captain, the description beneath reads: "Captain and King. Friend, Student, and Hortator. May we ever seek his wisdom. And his forgiveness."

    Overhate said:

    At the end, if you answer "yes" instead of "maybe", he responds "Then I pity you" :P

    Ha! And he'd be right to. Did you feel sad for him too?

  • Member
    November 22, 2017

    I don't know about "sad" but the conversations with him in this quest did change my opinion of him a lot; I now find thim the most interesting of the Tribunal.

  • Member
    November 23, 2017

    That's a good thing! A story that has genuine impact and changes perspectives is one that has done its job well. In retrospect, Almalexia has had the worst deal. The quality of writing has increased tenfold since the base game, and even though I enjoyed her quests in Mournhold, I feel as though she needs her time to shine like Vivec and Sotha Sil have.

    We witnesssed Vivec's vulnerability followed by the sheer power of his divinity in ESO Morrowind when he kept the moonlet in the sky with just a sliver of life in him. We saw Sil reach up like a boss and claim his shadow, and witnessed the evidence of the anticipated of Azura in his foresight.

    In the main game, though, we see Almalexia... lose her temper and be pretty useless. But she isn't! This is what we need to see, with added emphasis on the rending of clothes:

    Rising from the ground like foundry-smoke, the Tribunes confronted the Prince of Disasters. Ayem's voice like a screeching steam-whistle, and Sotha Sil's like a lurching engine.

    "ERAM VAR AE ALTADOON!" they cried, rending their garments and donning their killing masks. Ayem drew her bright Hopesfire and skipped over the flames like a river-stone. With a mighty scream, she plunged the blade deep into Dagon's breast and turned it like a jailer's key. Scorching blood spewed out of the wound, scalding her hands and face. As she fell, the Divine Metronome chiseled a thought-rune of infinite angles. Do you remember how the veins of tin, copper, and orichalc erupted from the depths to break our mother's Fall? Through His will alone, Mighty Seht wound the veins into god-bronze whips, and lashed the Prince pitilessly. Dagon hissed and tumbled backward. His otherworldly flesh fell like chaff before the scythe. Alas, a Sarmissonays'um ghoul-thing emerged from every chunk.

    A multitude of the creatures gathered around Ayem, fiery tar oozing from their mouths and open sores. They groaned and retched, speaking only Dagon's name as they fell upon her. The Warden hissed thrice, took up her blessed sword, and smote the beasts by the score. She severed head from neck and arm from shoulder, cleaving sin from virtue and shouting old-oaths of banishing. Do you remember how the beasts fell To her on that red day?

    You must recall the howls of Madness! How Dagon foamed and snarled beneath the lash of Sotha Sil! "Behold!" cried the Divine Metronome as He smashed the Prince to splinters. "Behold the wrath of lost Ald Sotha! Know death at my hands, false-son of a false-father! KAER PADOHME VIE ALTADOON!"

    Even then, at the end, the Prince of Destruction did not relent. With the last of his four great arms, Dagon dragged the last of his four great razors across the Watchmaker's jaw. Tasting the blood on His tongue, our Father of Mysteries whispered a final chrononymic death-word, and Dagon exploded throughout all time. The earthbones quaked and the All-Axle shook. From this word of sundering, Truth took root.

    Mehrunes's ruin slithered between the cracks of Nirn and Oblivion, shrieking curses like a petulant child. The Mainspring Ever-Wound tightened His brass-wrought fist and slammed the gap shut - another small step toward Tamriel Final. Anuvanna'si. So ends the true account of Mournhold's fall. Remember this tale always.

    By the word, I wind the gears. ~ The Truth in Sequence Vol 8

  • Member
    November 24, 2017

    By the way, in the epilogue of the Clockwork City main quest Sil does a pretty objective and revealing description of both his siblings.

    Regarding Vivec he says (I even have it as a screenshot in my ESO album here):

    Vivec craves radical freedom - the death of all limits and restrictions. He wishes to be all things at all times. Every race, every gender, every hero, both divine and finite...but in the end he can only be Vivec.

    which he describes as Vivec's despair.

    I don't have the exact quote for Almalexia but it was something in the lines of - that Vivec fantasizes of himself but he knows the boundary between reality and fantasy, even if just to cross it sometimes, while Almalexia actually believes in her fantasies which Sil predicts will be her undoing.

  • Member
    November 24, 2017

    He can't see it ending well for any of them, which admittedly it doesn't. He describes Almalexia as an even greater lier than Vivec, as she herself believes all of her lies and stories.

    What intrigues me the most about that conversation is that he claims Vivic's understanding of reality and fiction are so great that he is able to break the boundery between the two and exist both in reality and his own stories and yet at the same time know that the stories are just that.

  • Member
    November 24, 2017

    I remember the screenshot, Overhate :D It made me smile at the time because we can see examples of that in her quests in Mournhold. I took a screenie at the time as I found it chuckle-worthy, but just can't find it - only her first appearence and last is all I have here. But in her quest she needs you because, embarrassingly, she's been caught flat-footed. The idea that she is seen as something other than she is or weaker than she allows people to see is inconceivable to her.

    You're a god. What can I do that you can't?"You shall hear, though you shall never speak of it.This enemy uses guile and subterfuge. I need time to understand the threat they pose. My divine defenses have been breached and the Temple has been invaded. I cannot be seen to fail!"Why do you care about appearances?"Appearances are everything! They feed opinion and belief, and such matters are important to me.But enough questions! Save the Temple and you will be renowned among mortals and favored by gods."

    There's another quest where the Lady of Mercy sentences a traitor to death, an act which drives the the dude's mother nuts and turn against the Tribunal, which in turn is connected to the whole plague business that is part of the faction's story. She is surrounded by a web of fiction, much like Vivec. The difference is that Vivec writes and lives it, but knows it's all horseshit. Ayem believes her own horseshit and hates it when she is forced to smell it. Eventually, of course, she does get a noseful and it drives her nuts.

  • Member
    November 24, 2017

    Golden Fool said:

    He can't see it ending well for any of them, which admittedly it doesn't. He describes Almalexia as an even greater lier than Vivec, as she herself believes all of her lies and stories.

    What intrigues me the most about that conversation is that he claims Vivic's understanding of reality and fiction are so great that he is able to break the boundery between the two and exist both in reality and his own stories and yet at the same time know that the stories are just that.

    Yeah... I thought long and hard on that one. See, because the Battle of Red Mountain and their use of the Heart is a Dragonbreak, the fiction of Vivec is also a truth. The shit he writes in his 36 Lessons is as true as the reality of what happens.

    In short, the Dragon breaks, history is re-written (by Vivec), and when Time snaps back together, it incorporates all those realities into one whole. So up until CWC, Vivec was born from an egg on a mountaintop, son of Ayem and Seht, and yet also this street kid-turned councilor-turned god who bit a Demon's spear and fought the Ruddy Man in another kalpa and any number of other brain-twisting fuckery.

    Or such was my understanding.

    That one sentence turns it on its head. Or maybe doesn't, rather confirms it yet spins it in yet another way. Either way, I found it extremely entertaining :D