Sotha Sil…Almalexia…Vivec… powerful, immortal deities born not of celestial providence, but of flesh and blood and pain.
Much has been written of the Tribunal, and how three mere mortals dared reach out and grasp the power of gods with an act so brazen they transformed the world of Tamriel forevermore. Most of it is conjecture, if not outright fabrication; campfire stories meant to titillate and unnerve, or heroic anecdotes with agendas concealed behind their sweeping words. I would have you know factual knowledge as only the Guild would possess, for before you can bend the powers unseen to your will, you must first understand their origins.
To understand the Tribunal with perfect fullness, one name must resonate at the very core of your being. One name, forever tied to the destiny of Tamriel with bonds of blood and magic, must be known intimately to any who would seek to know the Tribunal… Indoril Nerevar.
Many know of The Nerevarine, the prophesied reincarnation of Indoril, who rose to battle the insane man-god Dagoth Ur, crushing House Dagoth and rescuing Morrowind from Soul Sickness and the Blight Storms in the name of most blessed Azura, may she live forever. But few know the man who came before, the very man whose orders Dagoth Ur claimed to be following; and it is there that the story of the Tribunal must begin.
The time of Nerevar was one of great conflict; a time when two races of Mer, the Dwemer and the Chimer waged war based on theological differences. The Chimer had wandered many years, sustained by the worship of their ancestors and barbaric traditions of supplication and sacrifice. All accounts indicate they fared poorly, particularly in relation to the cold and clinical Dwemer, who focused on science and engineering, discarding omens and superstitions in favor of empirical knowledge and technological innovation. The Dwemer had known great prosperity to the Chimer’s displeasure, yet it was not from there that the strife between the two factions stemmed. The Chimer were outraged at what they saw as sacrilege from the Dwemer and would engage in raids intended to punish blasphemers.
Only General Nerevar of the Chimer was able to foster a peace between the two. After he and General Dumac Dwarfking of the Dwemer joined forces to drive the invading Nords from Resdayn, the two created a truce that would last hundreds of years. It was a treaty built upon deep friendship, but the harmony wouldn’t last. Nerevar’s Queen, and his two most trusted advisors all foretold the failure of the treaty and unavoidable war between the two races.
Their prediction would change the destiny of Nirn. They were respectively, Queen Indoril Almalexia, Sotha Sil and Lord Vivec the Poet.
It was Kagrenac…KAGRENAC!! May his wretched name be cursed for all time! High Priest and advisor to Dumac Dwarf-Orc, he discovered the fabled Heart of Lorkhan within the bowels of Red Mountain. Kagrenac recognized the fearsome potential in the Heart, and had created means to use the sacred artifact to create a mechanical god, The Numidium. Kagrenac intended the Dwemer to bow down before the obscenity, believing worshipping it would lead to a deeper enlightenment and further prosperity. It also held the capacity to be a powerful weapon. In all, it was an act of utter defilement, and intensely profane to the fundamentalist Chimer. When Lord Voryn Dagoth discovered the plan and informed the First Council, word spread rapidly amongst the Dunmer people. Outrage and offense ran alongside superstition and the Chimer’s own secular concern, for if such an abomination were to actually exist, would not the Dwemer use it to conquer the other races of Mer? Had there not been rumors of ghastly automatons built by the Dwemer? Tales of soulless things that knew neither mercy nor fear; grotesque mechanical parodies shaped vaguely like living creatures, but that never bled and never grew tired?
The First Council decided to send Nerevar, as Hortator of the Five Houses of the Dunmer, to stop the Dwemer and their infernal creation. General Indoril however, was a calculating man who would not move against his longtime friend without first hearing the words from Dumac’s own mouth. He approached the Dwemer commander intending to avert bloodshed, but to no avail. High Craftlord Kagrenac was haughty and indignant, demanding to know how it was that Nerevar dared question the actions of the intellectually superior Dwemer. Dumac remained stoic, clearly weighing his options even as they rapidly dwindled to naught. It is believed that Dumac’s silence masked great shock, for his High Priest’s actions had been unknown even to the very chieftain of the Dwemer people.
Still Nerevar, against all advice, strived to make peace. He journeyed to Holamayan; to the temple of sacred Azura, may her light shine even unto eternity and beyond. His supplication to the Goddess revealed a vison; the Dwemer were indeed attempting to create a new god and Kagrenac himself had crafted Sunder, Keening and Wraithguard for the purpose of harnessing the power of the Heart of Lorkhan. Nerevar was to prevent the success of the Dwemer at all costs. When Nerevar returned with the edict upon his lips, the First Council and all of his advisors again insisted upon military sanction against the Dwemer.
And again Nerevar, though ridiculed by his own wife and advisors; even by the always loyal Voryn Dagoth, for his blind trust and naiveté, held out hope that diplomacy could avert war between the Great Houses and the Dwemer. And yet again, Nerevar’s efforts were stymied by the obstinate Kagrenac who would not allow the two warriors a chance to circumvent the horror to come, instead choosing to drive the wedge between them deeper still. Kagrenac held General Dumac’s ear, even while Dumac and Nerevar argued. Kagrenac further stoked their ire with his subtly venomous words, and with the final breakdown of communication between Dumac and Nerevar…the War of The First Council did commence.
It was brutal and gruesome. United under the First Council, all the might of the Dunmer, even with the help of the ferocious Ashlander warriors, was no match for the metal Dwemer automatons that had been designed for the sole purpose of rending flesh. It was even worse than the rumors suggested. The things were fast, merciless and practically indestructible. They fell upon the Dunmer with hellish clanking and demonic hissing, and where they passed…no life remained. The most potent lightning magicks the wizards of the Five Houses could muster barely held the line against the Orcs and Nords who battled on the side of the Dwemer, and were reinforced by the mechanical devils.
Nerevar was rewarded for his masterful strategies and ferocity in battle with full command over the massed forces of the Great Houses and the savage Ashlanders. He had successfully driven the Dwemer back on more than one occasion using the desert barbarians in two pronged assaults that left Dumac’s forces cut off, broken and in disarray. He led them to Red Mountain and lay siege upon Dumac’s Citadel, attacking the Dwemer stronghold with the bulk of his forces and led by his generals. Simultaneously, Indoril himself led his most elite warriors through a narrow and virtually unknown passage that went almost directly to the chamber where the Heart of Lorkhan lay, and where Indoril knew Dumac would be.
With Lord Voryn Dagoth at his side, Nerevar confronted Dumac Dwarfking and Kagrenac.
Whatever final words were spoken between those two men has been lost to Time. No record at all remains. What is believed is that on that dark and terrible day two old friends slew each other and that upon the death of his master Dumac, the fool Kagrenac in his grief and fear and rage did attempt to use the profane Tools he had created. Wearing Wraithguard, and wielding Sunder and Keening, Kagrenac struck the Heart of Lorkhan and at that very instant, every Dwemer on Nirn…vanished.
Every. Single. One.
No Dwemer was ever seen or heard from again.
Nerevar lay mortally wounded, yet conscious in the chamber of the Heart of Lorkhan. Furious, Lord Dagoth seized the Tools of Kagrenac and demanded they be destroyed immediately by hurling them into the molten core of the Red Mountain. But Nerevar would hear counsel from his Queen, Sotha Sil and Vivec before deciding what to do with the diabolical instruments. After being carried back to the surface and meeting with his counselors, he decided the Tools would be preserved, in secret, should the Dwemer return to wage war against the Five Houses again. Further, they all swore before Azura to never use the Tools for any purpose akin to what the Dwemer had intended. Nerevar was quickly dying, and would have all involved take the oath, including Voryn Dagoth. But when Nerevar and his retinue returned to the chamber, Dagoth had changed. He was frenzied, wild eyed and rambling about how only he could wield the Tools and that only House Dagoth could house them.
It was clear that whatever madness had gripped Kagrenac now infected Dagoth. With the last of his strength Nerevar dealt Dagoth a grievous injury and then expired at the site of his greatest victory. Nerevar’s attack weakened the traitorous noble enough for Nerevar’s forces to wrest the Tools from Dagoth, who hastily made his escape.
With Nerevar dead, his advisors ascended to the highest ranks of the First Council, renaming it the Grand Council. For many years Vivec and Almalexia mourned Nerevar, and leaned on one another for support. Sotha Sil however, unbeknownst to the other members of the Council continued to plumb the eldritch secrets of Kagrenac’s Tools. Ultimately, Sotha Sil approached Almalexia who still bitterly grieved her Lord, even as she assumed the thankless mantle of governing the Dunmer. Sotha Sil knew of Almalexia’s anguish, and swayed her with visions of a utopic Dunmer empire, with themselves as benevolent deities who would usher in the greatest era of prosperity ever known. Almalexia, in her emotional vulnerability, followed Sotha Sil, who had, it is assumed, succumbed to the very evil that had led the entire Dwemer race to extinction. Sotha Sil seduced Almalexia that day, and she in turn persuaded Vivec that they should renounce their oaths to Nerevar and to Azura, and then committed sacrilege far greater than that of the Dwemer. Making pilgrimage to Red Mountain, the three did take up the Tools of Kagrenac and each in turn struck Lorkhan’s Heart.
And thus, the great and powerful Tribunal came to be. But the new man-gods had broken their vows to divine Azura, and her rage was boundless. She was furious at their insolence, and it was the Dunmer who would bear the mark of her wrath.
But that- is a story for another day…