In a recent thread
, there's been a lot of discussion about what exactly happened with Tiber Septim and the Numidium. I hope to make that clearer here, with one stipulation to appease people who are much too annoyed by Michael Kirkbride to consider whether or not what he says is in line with the tone, themes, and mechanics of the rest of the series. It, as such, is that I can't use any unofficial sources, that is to say no sources from anywhere but Elder Scrolls games and stories put out by Bethesda or Zenimax. To be clear, I think this is generally not a great thing to do, but I'm also not interested in continuing the years-long arguments over what canon is. So for the sake of simplicity, I'm using a more conservative limit.
That said, I think it's important to give a general understanding of what the Numidium is, what it does, why it was made, and how it had been used prior to its acquisition by Tiber Septim.
A Mushroom Cloud and a Perchance Acorn
The Mundus is, to some degree, made constant by the presence of metaphysical constructs called Towers. While much has been written about them outside official sources, their existence and the existence of their power sources(Stones) have been confirmed officially. In Aurbic Enigma 4
, we're given a pretty succinct explanation of how they work. Direnni Tower established the rules for all the Mundus and its Earthbones, and the other Towers were constructed to make more stories with rules building on those set by Direnni. We're also told about an artifact, the Staff of Towers, made to resemble the rules of the Towers in one object.
Before we delve further into the Staff, I think it's important to consider first its creator, King Anumaril. According to The Whithering of Delodiil
, Anumaril was the lord of the city Abargalas and pledged to Molag Bal. It was under him that a siege was to be undertaken against a rival city, Delodiil, which was pledged to Meridia. Anumaril was insulted by the lack of interest the people of Delodiil had in his temple to Molag Bal, so he went to war with Delodiil. He failed, and Abargalas was destroyed.
As worshiping Molag Bal might suggest, Anumaril and Abargalas as a whole gained prominence through domination. Renowned mercenaries populated the city. But domination seeped further into the cultural ethos of the place. Or at least, further into the heart of its lord. Anumaril was a master architect. However, it was even present in his creations, including the Staff of Towers. The Staff was split into segments which bore the stories of the Towers they mimicked, though strangely, there was one fragment that mimicked a Tower that hadn't yet been made. A brass segment was among the other pieces of the staff, for the brass Numidium who was yet to be.
Though, it's not necessarily clear that Anumaril knew about Numidium. Instead, I think it's more likely that Anumaril's combined knowledge of architecture and will to dominate led him to the same place the Dwemer would someday reach. The Aurbic Enigma is useful again here, which I will leave to its own words:
For Anumaril had hoped to convert Green-Sap into White-Gold, and thereby make the Heartlanders' realm anew. However, Anumaril did not know, and was not able to know, why his plan went awry. You see, Ayleid magic is about Will, and Shall, and Must—but under Green-Sap, all is Perchance.
Anumaril was forced to flee with many other Ayleid after Alessia's revolution, and Anumaril trusted other Ayelid with fragments of the Staff of Towers. They took them to the corners of Tamriel. Though his, the White-Gold fragment, was taken with him to Valenwood, where he chose to flee. His goal, as stated in the Enigma, was to force reality to grant him his homeland again, how he wanted it. Where he was at the top. To transcend to a point where no one could deny his will. But the stories were incompatible, and so he sat, arranging his bones into the world he wanted, until the Second Era.
During the Interregnum, his heart was disturbed, and almost used to subjugate minds of the people of Valenwood. These events on their own aren't massively important here, though it shows what the core of Anumaril's spirit was, and why he would make the Staff of Towers to begin with. The Staff would later come into the possession of the Psijics, to keep its power of domination from being used.
Regardless, Anumaril's will endured in others, inspired by the laws dictated by the Towers. And, like Anumaril, some of them realized that to enforce one's will on another is to deny them their own. That is where Numidium was born.
I am become NM, the Denier of World
The Dwemer, delving deep into Red Mountain, found the spot where Lorkhan's Heart had been sunk at Convention. Sacrilegious as their culture was, they began work on utilizing the Heart of the world as a source of power. Faith in what could be wasn't the style in their deep halls. Reason, separating what was and what wasn't to achieve power, was the consensus domain of the Dwemer scholars. And the Heart was
powerful. But the Dwemer, at least on the surface, were not.
The Nords, at this time, had established their First Empire, spanning from High Rock to Morrowind(but not Vvardenfell). Near the end of the First Empire were the days when the Heart project were coming to fruition: the Numidium was created. There are few then who can speak for what things were like for the Dwemer whose words can reach us, though among them is Yagrum Bagarn. Bagarn is a corprus-infected Dwemer who only survived the mysterious fate of his culture through not being present in the Mundus when that fate manifest. He was a master crafter under the architect of the Numidium, High Priest and Magecrafter Kagrenac, and he was involved in the creation of Numidium. On Kagrenac, he has this to say:
I could not match the genius of Lord Kagrenac, but what he could envision, I and my colleagues could build. All of that is gone forever. I still retain my cunning, but my hands and eyes fail me, and my memories have long faded. My only consolation is each day to mock the gods who destroyed my race, and condemned me to this bleak existence.
Kagrenac and his tonal architects, among them Bthuand Mzahnch, believed they could improve the Dwemer race. Others argued that the attempt would be too great a risk. The war with Nerevar and the Dunmer may have led Kagrenac to carry out his experiments prematurely. Although this book argues that nothing disastrous could result, the disappearance of my race argues otherwise.
Kagrenac recorded every step in his manufacture and testing of enchanted items. His journals will record any modifications or enhancements made to his original designs.
Kagrenac carefully planned all his projects in advance. His planbook will have all his original designs. I don't know where the planbook might be.
Lord Kagrenac, the foremost arcane philosopher and magecrafter of my era, devised tools to shape mythopoeic forces, intending to transcend the limits of Dwemer mortality. However, in reviewing his formulae, some logicians argued that side effects were unpredictable, and errors might be catastrophic. I think Kagrenac might have succeeded in granting our race eternal life, with unforeseen consequences -- such as wholesale displacement to an Outer Realm. Or he may have erred, and utterly destroyed our race
This paints an image of a person not unlike that long gone Ayleid king. Someone brilliant enough to replicate the stories that govern the world, down to meticulous detail. Someone who wanted to transcend the limits placed on his people. A thinker few could ever have rivaled in his day, with a will to enact their visions for the world on it. And yet, a failure. Bagarn's hope that he succeeded is betrayed by his grief-filled curses to the gods he and his comrades abandoned.
While it's not too uncommon to hear about Numidium being a Tower, I think it's also important not to neglect its original location. Red Mountain is, itself, another Tower. I doubt this was lost on Kagrenac, and though he didn't have something that could manifest the effects of any Tower at a smaller scale, he did have two proper Towers to himself. One Tower to enforce the story of Resdayn, that the Nords hadn't yet taken from them. And one Tower to deny the Nords, or the Orcs who fought with them, or even the Chimer that helped to defend Resdayn any hold over the fate of the Dwemer. There could be no god to stand in their way, for Kagrenac and the master crafters had made their own god, to deny the power of any and all who could oppose them.
... or at least, that's the common belief. Some might say, perhaps out of spite or maybe out of resistance, that Walk-Brass is not the ultimate denial. Kagrenac's desperate attempt to utilize the Tower to save his people at the eleventh hour, which then seems to have backfired, may not be a direct consequence of the power of Numidium.
I have, in previous discussions, seen people who would like to assume that Numidium does not deny simply because Michael Kirkbride says it does. They say they would like an official source that directly says this is what Numidium does, and when presented with examples that don't directly state this function of the Numidium but do demonstrate it, they deny the source is being interpreted correctly. They are, to put it simply, wrong. There is nothing to help them build their case, and they have nothing but stubborn denial towards some unofficial writings they dislike. So they deny that there could be anything in-line with those writings in canon. I will, however, show that they're wrong.
Back before that Red Day, for centuries, Tamriel had entered an extremely unstable period. Southward, particularly in Cyrodiil, a singularity of thought had gained prominence in the Alessian Empire and was enforced brutally. This singularity of thought was embodied in the beliefs of the monotheist Alessian Order. While many of their individual doctrines are unknown to us, we do know that there was thorough anti-mer sentiment to them. A particularly highly ranked faction within the Order, the Marukhati Selective, became particularly concerned with this. Their Exclusionary Mandates
, co-equal principles that governed their order, describe opposition to their ideals as Aldmeri. And to expunge the meri influence from their one god, Akatosh, who revealed himself to Alessia, they broke the bindings on him.
This was the start of the Middle Dawn. The thought of the Selective was that Akatosh had been sullied and corrupted into Auri-el, a blight on the world made manifest in every elf. Their chants
make clear their thought on what is to be done about elves.
The Archimonk's Dream
To sleep, to dream, of Tamriel
Unsullied by Anui-El.
Man-ape, tell us.
Maruhk, guide us.
What child of Man could fail to be
In bliss if Nirn were Elven-free?
Man-ape, tell us.
Maruhk, guide us.
We willing march to heed your call,
Devoted, pious, one and all.
Man-ape, tell us.
Maruhk, guide us.
Your mandates we embrace.
And in another, they unify around their sacred hatred.
My very inner organs swell
When I am called upon to tell
Of glory in expunging Taint
In honor of our blessed Saint
Alessia, all praise to her
Who freed Men from the hated Mer.
Thrice-bless'd are those who emulate
Her sanctified, uplifting hate.
This, this, never that.
This, this, never that.
To deny mer the chance to ever, in their minds, taint the world, the Selective began a Dragon Break. An Arch-Prelate of the Selective justifies doing so in his Vindication for the Dragon Break
. Using the Staff of Towers, they began a one thousand eight year long Dragon Break, or one whose boundaries are at least that far apart. But why would they use such an object to cause a Dragon Break?
Each Tower corresponds with the story of the area around it, and Direnni the story of the world. With the brass segment, they could push at each story. This, this, never that. Men are freed from the hated mer. Woven into the story of the world, that there would be bliss if men were free. This, this, never that. The Dragon Akatosh, pure and untainted, free to run as he will until all time is expunged of the elves.
The Numidium was activated just before this period. Given the manifold stories about what occurred in that Red Moment, I think it's clear that the Numidium caused another Dragon Break, which may have influenced the one caused by the Selective. The wish of the Dwemer to deny their own mortality and their subsequent disappearance would be a strong validation to the Selective that all mer could be denied a place in the creation of Shezzar. Eventually, the Brass Tower was silent, and its fragment scattered from the complete Staff along with the others. The Order fell, and the Dwemer were gone. Both denied a place in the world they tried to make, and denied the power they sought over it, just as Anumaril had been so long before.
To Put an End to War
The First Era ended, in blood and death. And in blood and death the Second Era was born. The Reman Dynasty, and then the Akaviri Potentate, had both ended and rid Tamriel of the Second Empire. But many, especially those in the West of Tamriel, thought to install a new Empire, and brought the continent to its knees in the conflict. As ever, the people of Tamriel fought one another instead of unifying to oppose the invasion of Molag Bal, who tried to force the Mundus into himself. But these and other trials were eventually ended. A new star was rising.
Regardless of his history and historicity, someone who eventually became Tiber Septim swept through the continent and subdued most of its peoples under him in rapid succession. But eventually, his sights set on Morrowind, which at the time was experiencing some political issues that would be easy for the Emperor to turn in his favor. But instead of doing so, the Tribunal signs the Treaty of the Armistice, admitting Morrowind as a province of the empire with self-governance in exchange for the Numidium.
When talking about Tiber, it can be difficult to figure out what is fact and what is legend. While I have some reservations about The Arcturian Heresy
, I think there are some important things it touches on that are worth looking at. From the Heresy
The Underking continues to press on Tiber Septim the need to conquer Morrowind. The Emperor is not sure that it is a wise idea. ...The Underking wants his vengeance, and reminds Tiber Septim that he is fated to conquer the Elves, even the Tribunal. Arctus advises against the move but Septim covets the Ebony in Morrowind, as he sorely needs a source of capital to rebuild Cyrodiil after 400 years of war. The Underking tells him that, with the Tribunal dead, Septim might steal the Tribunal's power and use it against the High Elves (certainly the oldest enemies of Lorkhan, predating even the Tribunal). Summerset Isle is the farthest thing from Tiber Septim's mind. Even then, he was planning to send Zurin Arctus to the King of Alinor to make peace. The Ebony need wins out in the end. The Empire invades Morrowind, and the Tribunal give up. When certain conditions of the Armistice include not only a policy of noninterference with the Tribunal, but also, in the Underking's eyes, a validation of their religious beliefs, Ysmir is furious.
Pieces of Numidium trickle in, though. Tiber Septim, always fascinated by the Dwarves, has Zurin Arctus research this grand artifact. In doing so, Arctus stumbles upon some of the stories of the war at Red Mountain. He discovers the reason the Numidium was made and some of it's [sic] potential. Most importantly, he learns the Underking's place in the War.
While Zurin Arctus is raving about his discovery, the prophecy finally becomes clear to Tiber Septim. This Numidium is what he needs to conquer the world. It is his destiny to have it. He contacts the Underking and says he was right all along. They should kill the Tribunal, and they need to get together and make a plan.
To summarize, Tiber's interest in the Numidium grows as he discovers more about it, and he supposedly sets it up such that Wulfharth thinks he'll use it as revenge on the Dunmer for Red Mountain. However, I'm not sure that whose soul is used for fueling the Mantella actually matters here, so I won't touch on it.
Zurin Arctus was able to learn about Numidium, and raved about why it exists to Tiber Septim. We don't see anything here about the Staff of Towers, but the brass fragment likely exists for the same mythopoeic reason as the Brass Tower. This is huge for Tiber, as he's in a very similar place to both the Alessian Order and the Dwemer.
First, in the case of the Order, there's a pretty major similarity: Tiber Septim worshiped their god. In The Real Barenziah
, we learn that Tiber Septim restored their temple to the One, their version of Akatosh, and was a believer in him. I'm not sure if that necessarily means he bought into all of their perspectives on mer(especially considering his relationship with Barenziah), though the First Edition of the Pocket Guide to the Empire
claims that his racism towards Orcs was pretty famous. I doubt that Tiber didn't at least buy into some of their claims, considering he specifically worshiped the One rather than the more cosmopolitan Akatosh who had developed by his time. As for more obvious similarities that are maybe less major, he had a pretty significant, mostly human(at this point) empire. He wanted to expand it, and his hegemony, making the Numidium an appealing prize.
Second, for the Dwemer, Tiber himself as mentioned as having a fascination with them and their craft. Maybe he felt like a kindred spirit? Surrounded by enemies, left only to transcend through his cunning and craft, which even the Greybeards were said to admire, a brilliant strategist... The man might have made a good scholar if he'd been dealt different cards. But he wasn't, and Zurin was the one who got to have fun taking apart and putting back together the big metal man instead. The passion in Zurin's explanation of the purpose and design of the automaton weren't lost on Tiber, even if he didn't have time to enjoy them himself.
So, knowing how the Brass Tower could deny his foes a world in which they would prevail him, and knowing his only foes left were the nearest to the epitome of the people his religious predecessors wanted to see gone from the world, Tiber's goal was clear.
A Weapon in the Arsenal of Righteousness
In Where Were You When the Dragon Broke?
, several accounts of the Middle Dawn are provided. However, there's one account mentioning the Dragon Break we'll soon be discussing, as well as one further ahead. This account is given by R'leyt-harhr, a tender of the Mane.
Do you mean, where were the Khajiit when the Dragon Broke? R'leyt tells you where: recording it. 'One thousand eight years,' you've heard it. You think the Cyro-Nordics came up with that all on their own. You humans are better thieves than even Rajhin! While you were fighting wars with phantoms and giving birth to your own fathers, it was the Mane that watched the ja-Kha'jay, because the moons were the only constant, and you didn't have the sugar to see it. We'll give you credit: you broke Alkosh something fierce, and that's not easy. Just don't think you solved what you accomplished by it, or can ever solve it. You did it again with Big Walker, not once, but twice! Once at Rimmen, which we'll never learn to live with. The second time it was in Daggerfall, or was it Sentinel, or was it Wayrest, or was it in all three places at once? Get me, Cyrodiil? When will you wake up and realize what really happened to the Dwarves?
Now, R'leyt-harhr doesn't specifically say that the Numidium was used at Rimmen by Tiber Septim, though there's no other point in what he says where it could be used. Of the three and maybe one more Dragon Breaks we know of, three are mentioned in this passage. So it's pretty clear, at least to me, that when R'leyt-harhr says Rimmen will never learn to live with what happened there involving Numidium, he's referring to what Tiber Septim used it for: the Siege of Alinor. In line with this thriving grief in Elsweyr, the Third Edition of the Pocket Guide to the Empire
says this of Summerset:
The conquest and assimilation of Summerset into the Empire is remembered by many a living Altmer with horror only partially diminished by time.
It's unclear exactly what Tiber Septim did with Numidium that would allow him to stage it in Rimmen and attack in Summerset, though conventionally stomping on boats with the big robot is probably out of the question. Numidium is big, but it's not that big. This attack, to me, seems to have been one at a much less physically violent level. Every challenge to the Aldmer was wrapped up in this attack. The Nedic slaves rising, and then trying to unravel the Aldmer from time. The Dwemer throwing off the shackles of the ancestors and trying to steal heaven with a god made in their image. The man who would take the place of misguided Shezzar in the Imperial Pantheon as Champion of Men, and of the Empire he spawned. All aligned with their sights on the Isles.
Certainly, the pride of the people has never recovered.
Proud Altmer, inventors and patrons of the arts, of governance, of architecture, of magic? Or snobs, who look down on everyone else as lesser imitators, who wouldn't know real
culture if it bit them on the ass? I think this line from the Pocket Guide, paired with the sentence before it(here also quoted before it) unintentionally touches on what Tiber's attack was and did. Altmeri culture was thoroughly destabilized, almost to the point of nonexistence, by Numidium. But the Altmer hold on for dear life, quietly and proudly refuting the NO that thrums in the Mundus, washing against their shores even into the Third Era. The cling to their achievements, which the Numidium would have ripped away from them completely if they hadn't surrendered to Tiber Septim.
Several cultures in Tamriel have had journaling as an important aspect of daily life. In The Onus of the Oghma
, Xarxes as stated as saying:
As ye are true Children of the et'Ada, thou shalt honor us by honoring thy own lives. For in each of you is housed the Divine Spark, and thus the record of thy actions is a sacred duty. Keep, therefore, each and every one of you, an Oghma, an everscriven scroll which shall memorialize thy brief lives. Thus in at least this way shalt thy Spark be Immortal.
The text ends with the rather ominous warning:
So, students, do not groan and complain of the burden, carping and caviling when your parents and teachers ask if you have written today in your journal. Because to do so is a right for which your ancestors paid in blood.
Now, this text is from prior to the Tiber's attack, so the last bit doesn't refer to that directly. But by that point, recording one's life so that it might live on was a common enough thing in Altmer culture that parents and teachers would make sure young people did it. So, when Tiber eventually did attack, the people of the Isles tried to make Tamriel into their Oghma. To make sure everyone would know of their accomplishments, of the fact that they existed and would continue to exist despite the Brass Tower trying to make no place for them, or the gods and principles they believed in, or their (at least, spiritual) resistance to the Empire.
What we see in most of the games from many Altmer then, is a group of people facing a unique challenge in a way that makes them come off as arrogant and snide. Many probably are arrogant and snide. Though the pressures on Altmer that have developed over the course of the Third Era are ones of grave import to their culture: be thoroughly destroyed by imperialism, or be hated even at a cosmic level for your insistence that you are and you have done things. It's the struggles of a people stuck in a Dragon Break, trying to solidify a steady progression of events for themselves while the rest of the world only gets a hint at the horror.
A Tragedy to Never Be Repeated
The rest of the world, however, hadn't ever had to experience Numidium in the same way. Sure, the Khajiit would have to deal with the after effects of it being used there, but even those long lasting effects are nothing compared to what the Altmer probably still have to do to survive. But, as they have before, upstart lords think themselves capable of taming the automaton. And so, the Warp in the West occurs.
Somehow, several kingdoms in the Illiac Bay, Orsinium, and Uriel Septim VII all simultaneously use the Numidium to crush one another, while the Underking takes back the Mantella and Mannimarco uses it to become a god. As has happened before, a Dragon Break occurs. This one is much more localized, and also lasts for much less time. My suspicion is that this is the case because the Numidium probably hasn't been receiving much maintenance since Zurin fixed it up back in the day, and so has deteriorated in a way other Towers don't seem to. As for why or how this occurs, I have no idea, and I don't know that anyone could have an idea right now if we're only allowed to use official sources. Nonetheless, we get to something here that has been fairly elusive up until now: direct confirmation of something being erased as a result of the Numidium breaking the Dragon.
A collection of reports from the Blades called The Warp in the West
(hereafter the Reports, so as not to confuse them with the event) describe the clearest scene of the effects of Numidium's usage we've been presented with in the series. 10 Frostfall 3E 417 seems to have been erased in the Illiac Bay. In the style of King Crimson from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Vento Aureo, only the effects of that day remain. The mutually exclusive, yet simultaneous events that would have happened on that day disappeared, leaving only their aftermath. A Blades agent remarks on it.
There had been an attack, but no one had seen it, only the invasion that followed it. The soldiers of Queen Akorithi of Sentinel refused to be interviewed about how they had accomplished this sneak attack, but I came to learn that the whole of northern Hammerfell now belonged to them. Even stranger, I discovered that my walk from sunrise to sundown had not taken me not one day, but two. It was now the 11th day of the month, not the 10th. I had lost a day somewhere, and so apparently had everyone else... except Akorithi's soldiers, who somehow were aware of the correct date.
The beginning of the Reports, which provides some smaller background, also says that mass disappearances were common during the Warp. The Numidium is capable of erasing time and people, and did both during the Warp in the West.
Fortunately, at least it would seem fortunate, the Numidium disappeared after the Warp in the West. For the near future, it would seem that no other fools could use it to take hold of power they would be better off never knowing. Kirkbride's writings are less optimistic, unless Landfall is averted, though of course it's unclear what Bethesda and Zenimax have planned for Numidium(if anything) going forward.
Miracle of Peace, or tl;dr
So, at the end of this series of horrible events, how can we summarize the deal with the Numidium and what Tiber did with it? Well, the Numidium is a Tower whose rule is to deny, as demonstrated most clearly for us in the Warp in the West. It's based on Ayleid and Dwemer architecture and Tower manipulation, and generally tends to be used by people who want to actively deny power to others for their own power. Tiber Septim was one of these, and used it to cause a Dragon Break that almost denied the existence of the Altmer. The effects of his usage of the Numidium remained in only tangentially-effected areas as late as the Third Era, if not later, so it's likely that time still hasn't fully settled back into linear flow in the Summerset Isles(which was directly effected) for at least as long. The Numidium disappeared after the Warp in the West, sparing Tamriel of its horrors. We don't know if it will ever come back in official material.