The world of Nirn boasts many gods and demons, fearsome beings capable of levelling mountains, commanding nightmare creatures and harnessing the elemental forces of this world and the next. But if knowledge is power there is one greater than all the gods in existence. Known as the Golden Eye and the Wretched Abyss, he is Hermaeus Mora, and his spheres of dominion encompass the furthest reaches of knowledge and the deepest depths of fate.
Sibling to the Daedric Prince of sex and murder Mephala, Hermaeus Mora presides over the secret knowledge of all the realms as he looks out on Apocrypha, his own plane of Oblivion. It is there that his monstrous Daedric servants known as Seekers protect the arcane information held within from the coveting eyes of mortals. Apocrypha has been described as an infinite library of black covered, featureless books stacked in rows as high as the tentacle filled green sky and bordered with corrosive, acidic waters while random pages and floating tomes move of their own accord through the air of the realm. There are areas of Apocrypha that has been taken by the foulest of darkness, and will kill any who enter on contact. In addition to Seekers, other servants of Hermaeus Mora include the Lurkers who wait beneath the roiling waves to trap the unwary with their monstrous tentacles. Such are the dangers to the eager mortals who wander Apocrypha seeking the powerful revelations contained within the sprawling ruins and immense carvings scattered amongst the endless stacks of books.
Black Books are the most efficient way to enter Apocrypha, but the risk of being driven mad by the unknowable truths contained within the domain of Hermaeus Mora is dangerously high. Such was the fate of Morian Zenas, a powerful magic user who dared explore the various realms of Oblivion. After visiting wondrous and frightening realms such as Azura’s Moonshadow and Malacath’s Ashpit, the mage found himself on the plane of Apocrypha and was seduced by the lure of knowledge that could be had there. Zenas’ mind was quickly consumed by the revelations he found, his entire consciousness devoured by the cosmic truths of all existence; arcane secrets that mortals were never meant to know. It is assumed that Morian Zenas wanders there still, obsessively searching for ever more obscure knowledge to the exclusion of all other things. It is said that should one manage to navigate Apocrypha and return to Nirn with their sanity intact, they will have gained powerful insights, and if so desired can return to Hermaeus Mora’s deadly gauntlet again, searching for the answers to even deeper mysteries.
The most powerful book of knowledge associated with Hermaeus Mora is the artifact known as the Oghma Infinium. It is a twisted book, bound in flesh. Rumor says each scrap of skin was taken from the various elven races. Green for Orsimer, tan for Bosmer, grey for Falmer, yellow for Altmer and darkest gray for Dunmer. The smallest and darkest scrap of skinis speculated to be the skin of a Dwemer! Only rumor though.
Written by the scribe Xarxes, Hermaeus Mora has used the Oghma Infinium as a reward for those who do his bidding, such as during the events of the Warp in the West, where an unidentified agent of the Blades killed a noble who had run afoul of the Daedric Prince.
By plumbing the depths of the three primary sections of the book – the Path of Steel, the Path of Shadow and the Path of Spirit, the reader is granted access to the energy of the artifact and can use that energy to achieve near godlike abilities. Once the Oghma Infinium has been used, it will disappear from the possession of the reader until it is utilized again by the Daedric Prince as a compensation for acting on his behalf. It is believed that by reading Black Books in conjunction with the Oghma Infinium, much more power can be acquired than by simply using either of the powerful tomes on their own.
Hermaeus Mora was once known as Herma-Mora, or in some legends as the Woodland Man, who takes ill-fated villagers who have lost their way in the woods. Hermaeus Mora is said to have almost fooled the ferocious Nords into becoming part of the elven race.
The hunter’s name was Ysgramor, and he was the king of Atmora, the land from whence the Nordic race came to Tamriel. Taking a drink from a nearby fjord, along came a magnificent beast; the White Stag of Forelgrim, who eluded the Atmoran king’s best efforts to bring it down with his mighty bow. After repeatedly tracking and losing the animal Ysgramor’s frustration was great, for he had sworn to fell the Stag no matter where it ran. The huge beast was smart, crafty and very quiet for so massive a creature; it was said to pass as silently over the snow as a mist.
Along came the Hare, who informed the aggravated king of the location of his prey. Ysgramor demanded to know how it was that the Hare could know such a thing. The Hare responded by saying it was by virtue of its long ears that it should be allowed to hear the Great Stag wherever it did go. Impulsively, Ysgramor wished to have ears as long and responsive as that of the Hare. At once, the Hare’s pink nose twitched and Ysgramor’s ears began to grow long and tapered, but before the transformation could be completed, a Fox leapt from a nearby thicket and mercilessly slew the Hare. As breath left the Hare, Ysgramor could feel his ears returning to their original size and shape. The Fox spoke to Ysgramor, informing him that the Hare had in fact been old Herma Mora in disguise, and had nearly tricked Ysgramor into becoming part of Elvenkind. The Fox, warned the king to rely on the methods of Man, and to reject the wiles of the Elves, lest he and his subjects join their ranks. And Ysgramor, suitably chastised, continued on to pursue the great White Stag of Forelgrim with nothing but his wits, his skill and mighty Long-Launcher to serve him.
Like the other Daedric Princes, this fable and many others, suggest he is able to change his appearance at will. Unlike the majority of Daedric Princes however, Hermaeus Mora has foregone a conventional appearance, preferring instead to be seen as a monstrous void, a nightmare emptiness writhing with eyes and tentacles or a creature vaguely resembling a gigantic crab.
From his shrine in Cyrodil, Hermaeus Mora speaks only to those deemed to be the most deserving, straining their sanity with convoluted, horrific impressions of secret knowledge and hidden meaning. Meanwhile, his mortal followers toil endlessly to accrue more information even at the cost of their minds, their lives, or the lives of others. Hermaeus Mora makes allowance for the truly worthy, allowing these chosen few to explore the boundaries of reality, and the pathways of space and time.
Whereas Hermaeus Mora and his followers seek to bring to light the mysteries of the universe with ever increasing knowledge, another Daedric Prince thrives in the emptiness and mystery of the Void. She is the Unknowable, the Mistress of Shadows, and her sphere is darkness itself. Revered by the Thieves Guild yet indifferent to their adoration, she has turned the tide of Tamriel from the shadows- cloaked in the warm embrace of night.
But that- is a story for another day…