Cerwen Ilötèania, Lux draconis
[The following are the loose pages of a decrepit manuscript, partly torn and burnt in some places, but still mostly decipherable.]Foreword to the Combined Edition of Dragon's Light, 4E 115
This is and has always been, first and foremost, a work of personal interest. In a real sense, I would not be here, had the Crisis never occurred. My father, an Altmeri minor noble, fled the ruins of the Crystal Tower and the rising threat of the Thalmor in Summerset, soon after the end of the Oblivion Crisis in 3E 433, or 4E 1, whichever dating one prefers. He ended up in the Imperial City, where he met my Breton mother. My mother had lost all her kinfolk in the invasion, and that, too, was how she ended up travelling to the City.
I grew to adulthood haunted by the memory of the Oblivion Crisis, hearing of the terrors of the daedric hordes, often awoken late in the night by the screaming nightmares my mother would not admit she had. I still remember the scars of blood and fire on the walls of the City, left untouched for many years as people struggled to rebuild, and how my poor father could not speak of what he had witnessed without trembling, and how he never spoke of the Emperor-saint Martin without the highest inflections of respect, nay, reverence.
As I sit here, writing these words, it so happens to be the 110th Festival of Dragon's Light, which memorialises the sacrifice of the Lost Emperor, Saint Martin. Those of the Imperial City hold his memory in particular reverence, and the Nibenean tendency to celebrate important events and people with festival finds here its fullest expression. Now a massive and colourful affair, the Festival begins with the citizens going into ritual mourning the night before. All work ceases in the afternoon of the eve of the Festival, and the citizens symbolically lock and barricade themselves in their homes, in remembrance of the daedra invading and the brutalities that occurred. The only sounds to be heard are the church bells tolling. No fires except the ones at White-Gold Tower and the rebuilt Temple of the One are allowed during the night. Then on the day itself after remembrances before first light, thanks is given to Akatosh and Talos, for the provision of Martin's sacrifice and the saving of the City: the first light of dawn marks the start of a day long frenzy of celebration.
See now the laughter and gaiety on show today by the common city folk! I still remember when the Festival was a time for reflection, for sobriety and thanksgiving for our continued existence, when it was still known as the Day of Commemoration. Festivals are by their nature exuberant outpourings of joy and goodwill, and yet — sometimes I must fear that the true significance of these celebrations has already been lost. We are a generation of leaves that know not the trees we sprung from. In my own small way, I hope to pass on something of what those times were like, when man and mer, Khajiit and Saxhleel alike stood together against a common foe.
For those wishing to gain a firm grounding in the reality behind the gloss of story in this volume: The life of Uriel VII is ably, if in a rather brief and dry statement of events, chronicled in Rufus Hayn's A Short Life of Uriel Septim VII; Per Vetersen's Daggerfall: A Modern History, Hasphat Antabolis's Life and Times of the Nerevarine in its revised and updated 3rd edition, and the three-volume Biography of Barenziah by Stern Gamboge provide amplification of detail for the later 44 years of Uriel VII's reign, a time that was to see great upheaval politically and socially in various provinces.
This was the period that popular imagination calls the Age of Heroes, so named for the appearance of a succession of men and women of unusual capabilities, seemingly arriving all but miraculously to aid the Empire, as Imperial Cyrod's fortunes ebbed at their lowest. Doubtless many went unknown and unsung, like the mysterious Blades agent who orchestrated the Miracle of Peace, remembered only in the diaries of Uriel VII and a handful of highly classified reports I was privileged to read; but three particular individuals and their deeds stand out in popular imagination: First the Eternal Champion, who freed Uriel VII from his extranirnian imprisonment in a plane of Oblivion, and cast down the perfidious battlemage Jagar Tharn; then the appearance of the Nerevarine Incarnate. I will not enter into a discussion here on the events surrounding the Nerevarine Prophecies, except to note that most Imperial historians agree the appearance of the Nerevarine was heavily influential in ensuring that events surrounding the dissolution of the Tribunal's rule swung in favour of Imperial interests, in tandem with that of the court of Mournhold.
Last of all came the Hero of Kvatch, anon the Champion of Cyrodiil. Here I will attempt to address the numerous criticisms regarding my chosen portrayal of the Champion.
Like the two other heroes listed above, very little is known of the Champion personally. Though I would not presume to call these volumes histories, partaking as they do of more than a little authorial license; I have ventured in my writings to hew as close to the truth that the historical facts allow for, as far as they can be established. As a young maid, I was fascinated by the stories of the Champion. I have devoted most of my career as a historian, some 75 years thus far to researching the tales and sifting them for the truth behind the legend, the facts behind the folk histories of the Crisis.
What do we know for certain about the Champion? What were they before fate called them to a higher destiny and the salvation of Tamriel? The yarns and fireside tales of the grandmothers answer, "Warrior, mage, merchant, fisherman… Thief, murderer, assassin." Whatever their profession was before remains mostly a mystery, an unimportant one to many who tell the stories of the Champion.
Emperor-saint Martin, in a passage from his diaries gives us this rare quote, ostensibly straight from the Champion's mouth, which I find apropos to ths situation: "He [Emperor Uriel] said, "As for what you have done, or have not done, it does not matter, not now." Indeed, what does it matter now?
Other entries in Emperor-saint Martin's diaries, as well as the precognitive visions recorded by the Emperor Uriel VII, offer further tantalising glimpses into the Champion's life before their calling by the gods. If these records are to be believed, as the Blades archivist who provided me access to these materials assured me they were, the Champion was an adventurer who bent the letter but not the spirit of the laws, a warrior and scholar, all traits that stood them in good stead for what they were needed to accomplish in the Crisis.
Folk narratives claim variously that the Champion was a woman, a man. The Champion was an Altmer, a Breton, Nord, Imperial, Dunmer… there are at least as many candidates for the identity of the Champion, as there are races in Tamriel. The various extant records do not refer to the Champion by name; all we have to go on is an initial, 'A.'. Nearly all the primary sources, save one, are almost uniformly vague as to whether they were man or woman, or even of what race — frustrating for the historical writer searching for facts to go on!
[Text lost here- several pages are missing and the remnant burnt beyond saving.]
The substance of the Champion's heroic deeds is disputed: Not a corner of Cyrodiil exists that does not bear some folk tale or legend of deeds imputed to the Champion. For instance, in Anvil, where one of the best known tales of the Champion originates, it is told how the Champion routed a great band of thieves, said to be completely female in their membership, and that the Champion variously slew anywhere between 10 to 50 of them at once in open combat. I believe that this incident, while likely rooted in some vestige of historical fact, is highly coloured by wishful thinking and much exaggeration; it is not necessarily factual or even linked to the Champion of Cyrodiil. Here I have attempted to bring the better known legends and those that various sources have indicated contain more than a grain of credibility together into a cohesive whole; I fear however, that as others have rightly charged, such an attempt must necessarily retain more than a few awkward corners.
[Though stricken out by Imperial Censors, the text is still decipherable behind the lines of red ink.]
What then, in the end, do we know for certain about the Champion's life and deeds? That they were instrumental in helping Saint Martin end the Oblivion Crisis cannot be denied; the means he or she employed are shrouded in mystery still impenetrable, more than a century later. We roughly know the when of events, and the why is well known — what student of history has not by now a passing acquaintance with the Mythic Dawn and its goals? What is truly missing is the 'how': the full story of the struggles of these two intriguing personages, perhaps the most important people in Tamriel at the time, and how they finally succeeded in turning back Mehrunes Dagon's invasion, will likely never be known, nor the ultimate fate that overtook them in that last blaze of "bright light which came from the heart of Cyrodiil, blazing across the land that was seen from Winterhold to Summerset across the four corners of Tamriel."
I only seek to offer a vision of how it might have gone; and if it has proved entertaining of a while, I shall call myself content.
Cerwen of Ilötèa
30th of Rain's Hand, 4E 115, Imperial City
Note from the Imperial Bureau of Approved Writings
Given this day 18th Midyear, 4E 115
To Inspector Gracchus, greetings.
Having reviewed the contents of this volume as well as its previous editions, we have noted a dangerous amount of Septimate and Blades propaganda present in its contents, unfavourable to the stability of the Empire, and in particular the reign of Her Cyrodiilic Majesty and Imperial Splendour, the Empress Morihatha II Mede, Blessed of Heaven, Empress, and Mother and Daughter of Emperors, Inspiration of Faith and Safeguard of Justice All the Gods be with Her.
Suggest substantial revisions immediately, as well as full censure and sanctions of the publisher and author. Also, whoever passed this previously as nihili obstat is to be found and interrogated thoroughly on their subversive activities.
Yours in service under the Penitus Oculatus,
Quarternary Censor Ordinarius of the Imperial Bureau of Approved Writings
Note from a Thalmor Justiciar to Eranel, Ambassador to Imperial Cyrodiil
27th Last Seed, 4E 175
Upon reviewing the contents of this volume, I found myself disgusted and absolutely consternated by its contents, which absolutely reek of Talos worship, glorification of that false god and propaganda favouring the Blades, along with incitement to false belief in Mannish superiority. I had to stop to purify my thoughts not once, but thrice in reading this… thing.
With this amount of objectionable material, I would recommend the immediate suppression of the book throughout the Dominion's sphere, as well as detainment of the author, if the creature can be found. Such abasement of pure Altmeri blood should never have been countenanced in the first place!