She exists as an incarnation of the void that is Oblivion, shrouded in enigma and secrecy…she is the Daughter of Twilight, and the Empress of Murk…she is Nocturnal, the one whose sphere of influence is darkness and night.
Nocturnal is the Daedric Prince of mystery. From her realm to her artifacts, she remains forever inscrutable, forever the Unknowable. Reluctant patron to the Thieves Guild, Nocturnal is not only their inspiration, but their strength. She is lady luck, and commands the unseen force we call “chance”.
Those who make their living from the shadows will tell you it would be wise to pay tribute to the Night Mistress. The criminal element on Tamriel hold her in high esteem, and Nocturnal has arguably one of the largest followings of all the Daedric Princes. Most of her followers do not worship her however. Nocturnal is seen more as a motherly figure by her cultists, and she would just as soon punish her children than reward them.
Nocturnal resides in the Evergloam, a place of perpetual half light, also known as the “Cradle of Shadow”. Here, Nocturnal looks out over her plane of Oblivion, and the many pocket realms that reside within it, such as the dreadful Crow’s Wood. Crow’s Wood is an eerie forest locale inhabited by all manner of bestial nightmare creatures and dominated by the Blackfeather Court, a great host of sentient crows who make continual war with the wolves and giant bats that also populate Crow’s Wood. It is unknown at this time what connection if any; the Blackfeather Court has to the speaking ravens that are frequently seen perched on Nocturnal’s shoulders in the various depictions of the Daedric Lord.
Another noteworthy realm of the Evergloam is the Shade Perilous, a place treasured by many Daedric clans for the easily harvested darkling mana found there. It is a place that has been fought over many times over the millennium and its bloody landscape has served as the setting for pivotal points in the history of Nirn including the invasion of the Battlespire during the Imperial Simulacrum. It is believed that the Shade Perilous is no longer accessible by any means to those who would seek it.
Access to the Evergloam is gained by accessing the Ebonmere, a portal that connects Nocturnal’s land to Tamriel. Found deep within the ancient temple of Skyrim known as the Twilight Sepulcher, the Ebonmere is guarded by the lethal, shadowy Nightingales – a trio of deadly operatives who protect the Twilight Sepulcher from the ambitious thieves who attempt to infiltrate the place where Tamriel meets the domain of the revered Mistress of Shadows.
The Nightingales exist to protect not only the Twilight Sepulcher, but the Skeleton Key as well. The Skeleton Key is one the most notable artifacts Nocturnal has bestowed upon the world of man and mer. The artifact has been seen as an actual key, though sometimes it appears to be a lock pick, albeit an unbreakable one. Regardless of its appearance, its actual purpose is a definite and specific one. The Skeleton Key is the only way to unlock the Ebonmere and cross the threshold into Nocturnal’s planes of Oblivion. Without it, even if one could get into the Twilight Sepulcher and past the fearsome Nightingale Trinity, all effort would be for naught. The Skeleton Key itself has the ability to unlock practically anything from conventional door-locks and obscure gateways to magical portals and more. It is so prized a possession among Tamriel’s criminals that many would gladly face the Nightingales for the chance to possess it.
The Skeleton Key is so powerful a Daedric artifact that great wizards of the past have seen fit to place limitations on the various aspects of the Key to avoid its eventual misuse. Its properties have appeared to change with each person who holds it, and will never be held by one person for any length of time, eventually it will move on of its own accord. Perhaps this is why Nocturnal is believed to allow the Skeleton Key to be regularly lost or even stolen, even though she has tasked her Nightingales with protecting the fabled artifact. The Nightingales, who have themselves, bartered their very souls in exchange for the privilege of serving the Night Mistress.
Due to this Daedric Prince’s status among thieves, it comes as no surprise that the greatest accomplishment a thief can aspire to, is to steal the personal items of Nocturnal herself. The Gray Cowl once belonged to the Daedric Prince, and has been repeatedly stolen as a trophy, despite the fact that the Lady of Shadows laid a curse upon it. Anyone who wears the Cowl of Nocturnal is immediately forgotten by history. Inside the hood of the cowl is inscribed the words “Shadow Hide You” which has become a mantra for the Thieves Guild, who continue to worship Nocturnal despite her relative indifference.
Needless to say, the Cowl has become the stuff of legend. One such legend, although most likely fabricated, illustrates the lengths thieves will go to in order to possess Nocturnal’s artifacts. It is the story of a young girl, a thief and a capable one at that, who had been discovered in the home of a master thief. She had come not to steal, she claimed, but to learn from him. The young burglar stole not for need or even want; but solely for the love of stealing, for the thrill and exhilaration of the theft itself. It was a trait that would lead her to her demise.
She scoffed at the master thief, and mocked him for not living up to his reputation before disappearing from sight. Moving swiftly and silently, she made her way back to the room she had bought in a rundown old tavern. When she entered, she was shocked to find the Master waiting for her in the darkness of the empty room. He showed her the method he had used to overtake her without her knowing. He emphasized the fact that distraction would always be the most powerful tool in any thief’s array of talents, no matter how skilled. But the cat burglar challenged him, still dubious of the man and his reputation. When he told her what he had planned for them, all her doubt evaporated. It seemed his reputation for daring had not been exaggerated after all. The two thieves, master and apprentice, were going to attempt to steal that which cannot be stolen. They were going to steal from Nocturnal herself.
On a dark and ominous night, seventeen white robed witches gathered around a tree to perform a ritual of summoning. As they sang the light illuminating them changed, and the color went out of all things that could be seen. As light left the world, Nocturnal stepped out of the all-encompassing darkness. The witches wailed loudly and knelt before the Daedric Lord who smiled, pleased with their song.
Nocturnal shed her cloak of night, and stood naked before her witches who still moaned their devotion to her with all their might.
From the tree, the young burglar reached for the cast off cloak of shadow, still in awe of what it was she was attempting even as her fingertips were close enough to touch the Daedric Prince herself. But something was wrong. Where was her master? Had he meant for her to make the theft all on her own?!
Thoughts raced through her head. Sidetracked, her focus slipped for just a fraction of a moment and she was found out. Hissing with rage the Daedric Lord demanded to know who this girl was. The breath left the girl’s lungs in a shudder as the everlasting coldness engulfed her. In the scant seconds she had left before her demise, the young burglar noticed that the cowl of Nocturnal was gone! With an amused smirk she finally understood what her master had done. The only thing better than talent and skill, was a distraction, and she was the distraction.
Nocturnal continues to be the darkness that hides the secret things and deeds that lie at the shadowed hearts of mortals. She is the eternal cold of nothingness, and the incarnation of the absence of light, the place where unseen things scuttle and flit about. She will always have the devotion of any who operate in shadow, and her Nightingales wait eternally in the dark recesses of the Twilight Sepulcher to challenge any who would dare journey to her dark world. If Nocturnal is the embodiment of darkness, then this next Daedric Prince is the embodiment of light, for she walks in the full and unfettered brightness of the day and the glorious radiance of life. A bitter enemy to all things undead, she has been said to bend and shape the very rays of the sun to her will and to her purpose.
But that- is a story for another day…