TESO:Special Lore Master Interview with Lawrence Schick

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By ZeniMax Online Studios, 26/07/2016


On July 26, 2016, ESO-RP, a weekly podcast from op-cast.com, released the second of two interviews conducted with Lawrence Shick, Loremaster of ZeniMax Online Studios, by hosts Morriel, Nights Knight, and Gwynara. A transcript of the interview is provided below for convenience. The interview features Lawrence Schick answering questions as the in-game scholar Phrastus of Elinhir. Bracketed words indicate missing words, notes on pronunciation or context, or words where the proper spelling is uncertain.

A transcript of the first interview, with Schick and Community Manager Jessica Folsom, can be found here.

Interview with Phrastus of Elinhir

Morriel: We are calling forth Phrastus of Elinhir.

Phrastus: What? What?! Wait! What's going on here? What... Wow! What are there swirling stars and... Oh, I shouldn't have drunk that now, should I?

Morriel: Hello, Phrastus.

Phrastus: Oh, no! It's you Daedric fellows again.

Nights Knight: Nice to see you again.

Phrastus: Ah, well. I wish I could say the same. So... What is it that you want this time?

Morriel: Well, we have a couple more questions we wanted to ask you. We've been trawling through the Dreamsleeve and we've found things we wanted answered.

Phrastus: Are you familiar with my rates?

Morriel: Hmmmm. Don't know, don't care? If you want to get out of here you answer our questions?

Phrastus: Oh, but that's against the guild! The guild principles! I have to charge the regular rates or I'll be uh... I'll be thrown out of the guild. That's alright, isn't it? I mean uh... You know. You just conjure up some...some gold or some uh... You know, convenient gems. That will be fine.

Morriel: Fine. *snaps fingers* Nights. Give the man some gold.

Nights: *sighs* Alright. And some gems from Gwynara over here. We can give you some of those.

Gwynara: Oh, my gems? Out of all of these gems you have to take mine?

Nights: Yours are the shiniest!

Gwynara: Well, I guess I'm sort of flattered.

Phrastus: Oh, these are twinkly. Yes! This will do perfectly fine. Very well, I deem this acceptable, and I'm prepared to answer a certain number of your questions as long as they are posed in a suitably respectful fashion.

Morriel: Well, alright.

Gwynara: I can assure you they are, they are. Most certainly.

Phrastus: Very well, let's get this over with then. Proceed.

Morriel: Right! I'll start. So, it has been some months since we've gone into the Gold Coast. I see a lot of different adventures have gotten there. There's this research individual named Hundolin Dorn'ke who's been exploring a hidden library of the Alessian Order and I managed to go into his mind and get a little bit of what he had there. So, here are the thoughts that came from his mind. It's been about four months, he's not aware of what books have been published regarding this matter, but what are the birth dates of Count Carolus, Governor Fortuna[sic] and the missing Emperor Varen Aquilarios?

Phrastus: Ah, well, those are relatively simple. I've got that kind of information right here. Varen Aquilarios was born in the Second Era year 536, his nephew Carolus was born in 550. Information on the so called "Governor" Fortunata ap-Dugal is more difficult to obtain as her birth is not recorded on the Naming Scrolls of Imperial Nobility, but she was probably born around 542.

Morriel: I see. Well, this certain individual also wanted to know about the Anvil Castle. We don't know...We know very little of its origins other than its original fortification grew over time, but was it present when Bendu Olo began reign over the city or only after the hero conquered the Sload of Thras? And how often was it that the Longhouse Emperor Leovic visited the castle? Every year, or simply a few summers?

Phrastus: Well, as to Admiral Olo, it was after his victory over the Sload that the conquering hero returned to Anvil and he began converting what was then known as the Anvil Fortress into the Anvil Castle we know today. According to local records, the castle hosted Emperor Leovic and his court four times during the late 560's. Leovic however was an ungenerous man and was not well liked by the free-spirited citizens of Anvil. After the so-called "Anvil Commotion" of Mid Year 569 he and his court never returned to the Gold Coast again.

Morriel: And I suppose this "Anvil Commotion" was a riot of some sort over him?

Phrastus: Something of that sort. I think his courtiers were known for their arrogant behavior and it did not go down well with the Anvil citizenry.

Morriel: Well that's unsurprising considering who he is. That's my question.

Nights: That was very interesting. Now, I do hope that my Bravil accent doesn't come on too strong this time around, but a fellow has a certain question for you. Seems he has a researching partner...They are inquiring into the history of the Alessian [Elysian] Empire kept within the classified records of the Alessian Order tome.

Phrastus: A-less-ian, of course.

Nights: Alessian, I apologize. Mortals and their weird words. It has been discovered that Emperor Ami-El, Belharza's successor, may have been poisoned by his own daughter. Of course you won't find this in any public writing as the Order did its best to keep this dark secret hidden. The question is, what the Dark Brotherhood relations would be to this matter?

Phrastus: Hmm. Well, you know, the origin and history of the Dark Brotherhood are detailed in no known history or chronicle. There's no written references on those sort of things, so it's a kind of a question a scholar like myself can't even begin to answer without doing basic direct research. That would be by interviewing members of the Brotherhood itself, and considering the organization murders all those who reveal any of its secrets, such research is at best impractical and at worst, suicidal!

Nights: Interesting, and there was a second question as well. What year was the Brotherhood formed, exactly? A number of books say it was a number of years after the death of the Akaviri Potentate, but it's hard to pinpoint an exact time. For clarification, the one we got this question from desired to know what year two assassins worked together to murder in the name of Sithis and the Night Mother, not in the name of Mephala, like the Morag Tong.

Phrastus: Well, of course, the same applies. I would have to do research with members of the Brotherhood to go into these things. And they do consider them dark secrets indeed! So this is not something that I can address effectively.

Nights: Fair enough. Secrets are secrets after all. And the last question from this fellow, what is the, and this is typical of mortals, how would the Dark Brotherhood go about murdering an Emperor? The Morag Tong did this and it's outlawing and annihilation outside Morrowind led to its devastating decline, giving rise to the Brotherhood.

Phrastus: Well, you know, even to one with no actual expertise in such matters, it would seem to me that the elimination of anyone so well guarded as a Cyrodiilic Emperor would require that it be, in some regard, an "inside job", as I believe they are called. So I think they are probably aware of that themselves and that there's probably things like infiltrations going on and sleeper agents being put in place, all that sort of thing that you read about in the novels of intrigue.

Nights: Makes sense. We'll let Hundolin Dorn'ke in on this information we gathered from you today.

Gwynara: Yes, so I'd like to direct you attention to something kind of...different. I managed to pull something from some Argonian scholar on the matters of racial differences, it appears. Is there any way you can distinguish a Colovian form a Nibenese based on how they look physically.

Phrastus: Well, between Colovians and Nibenese, any physical, or you might think of them as tribal differences if you go back far enough, such differences in appearance were erased by intermarriage long ago. Culturally, however, they are still somewhat distinct. Colovians tend to dress with a simple or martial severity while Nibenese are known for clothing that's both more comfortable and more stylish and sophisticated. Such as my own robes that I'm wearing.

Gwynara: Oh, yes. Of course.

Phrastus: So you have to pretty much go by dress.

Morriel: Well, I see. And by the way, Nights, I wouldn't feel too bad about not being able to pronounce some words. Your mouth does split into six pieces.

Nights: Such is the life of a Daedric Prince.

Morriel: So, I have another question in this little competition of ours. It is a question I plucked from the mind of some Redguard sister from the Sisterhood of Ra-Yoku'Iquizzi, or whatever they're called, I can never remember what those people call their things. But she had some questions concerning Gold Coast relations with the other regions of Tamriel. Of course, the Gold Coast maintains its relationships with what remains of Cyrodiil, but what are its relationships with the other three alliances of Tamriel? Now, due to the Gold Coast border with Valenwood, specifically with Malabal Tor, usually you'd imagine they would have some trade with Velyn Harbor and Vulkwasten and all those other ones, but what are its other political ties?

Phrastus: Well, you know, Anvil is the home of the famous - or notorious, depending on who you ask - the Gold Coast Trading Company, a merchant corporation with business connections all across Tamriel and they officially try to stay as neutral as they can in the Alliance War. Almost every major port has its warside GCTC warehouse and their money, not their competition, is welcome everywhere. They have a strong presence all around the Abecean Sea, of course, which includes Velyn Harbor and Abah's Landing, so you'll see those fellows all over the place as sort of the unofficial merchant ambassadors of the Gold Coast. The Gold Coast has a wide reach indeed.

Morriel: Even to the other alliances?

Phrastus: Indeed, yes.

Morriel: Interesting. I have a second question regarding the Gold Coast, specifically it's the Ayleid cities that are found in the area and I quite like Ayleids and their propensities for certain creations so I'm interested in this as well. So, there are a couple of ruins, Garlas Agea, Beldaburo and Garlas Malatar. Which Ayleid clans built these three cities and which gods did they worship?

Phrastus: Well, of course, few Ayleid records survived the anti-elven pogroms of the Alessian fanatics, so our knowledge of their society is fragmentary at best. Garlas Malatar is, as you say, traditionally associated with the worship of Meridia, and unconfirmed legends associate dark Garlas Agea with the worship of Molag Bal, but it's said that the inhabitants of Beldaburo also worshipped the Daedra, but no one knows which Prince they venerated anymore, there's just simply no way to tell.

Morriel: It's about lined up with what I thought. Night, I think you have another question?

Nights: Yes. This one comes from an Imperial scholar of sorts. This question concerns Varen Aquilarios' rebellion against the Longhouse Emperor Leovic. It's well know that Varen based his rebellion in Kvatch, behind the so called Varen's Wall that still surrounds the Gold Coast. The citizens of Kvatch are well known to devoutly follow the teachings of the Eight Divines and it is therefore not surprising that support for the rebellion against a Daedra worshiping Emperor was strong there, but support for Varen can hardly have been as strong everywhere. I therefore ask you the following questions: Where was support for Varen' s rebellion the strongest and where was it the weakest?

Phrastus: Well, Varen, of course, drew his strongest support from the Colovian Estates, especially the old nobility of the Kvatch, Chorrol and Skingrad counties, but by the time of the uprising, Leovic was broadly unpopular and Varen found a number of allies among Heartland and Nibenese families as well. Most of the Longhouse Emperors adherence had been clustered in and around the Imperial City itself, where it was easiest to exert and maintain control over the fractious Cyrodiils, so their reach didn't really extend all that far from Lake Rumare and Varen was able to find allies in the hinterlands with relative ease.

Nights: The factions in the hinterlands are those the ones who helped Varen take the Ruby Throne from Leovic?

Phrastus: Yes.

Nights: Okay, thank you.

Gwynara: And it appears we have another Dark Brotherhood inquiry. Very well. It says here that as most of any intelligence are aware, there are multiple stories regarding the split between the two murderous organizations, but no definite answer. Despite both guilds lacking any honor or morals, many still find themselves agreeing with the Tong's purpose within Dunmeri society, so in short, this person bring you two questions: When and what caused the split between the Brotherhood and the Morag Tong, and how much would it cost to have a political figure assassinated by the Tong? And this person also says that, "not that I have any intentions of doing so".

Phrastus: Ah, yes. Very prudent. Well, as I mentioned earlier the history and origin of both the Dark Brotherhood and the Morag Tong are deep mysteries, unknown outside their own membership. A situation they maintain by terror and murder, and now, the tacit tolerance of the Morag Tong in Dunmer society goes back a long way, but it was badly injured by their campaign of assassination against Tamriel's rulers that brought down the Potentates, and really they're only now said to be recovering their legitimacy in Morrowind, mainly through their efforts on that bizarre island of Vvardenfell, but we'll have to see how their new "charm campaign" develops and if it is successful, particularly among your questioner's stiff compatriots in House Redoran.

Gwynara: Oh, yes. Certainly.

Morriel: Nights, it's interesting how we keep getting questions on how do you assassinate the Emperor? How do you assassinate this person? Almost as if they really want to be able to do that.

Phrastus: Not that any of them are planning to do so, as they point out carefully.

Morriel: Haha. Yeah, no. Certainly. But you'll know how you mortals are. Well, I have a question from a bard in the Dibellan faithful of Anvil called Tyrus. I had a lot of fun with this one. So, this person has been a citizen of Anvil for nearly a decade but they have always had a hard time understanding politics, and it's one of the things that drew me to their thoughts in the Dreamsleeve. They recently returned from a long trip to Hew's Bane, to find the Gold Coast split between the control of Governor Fortunata and her trade company in Anvil and Count Carolus, who's a nephew of late Emperor Varen Aquilarios, of Kvatch. So his question to you is this, or the question I'd like to present to you: Are there any other powerful figures that lay claim to the Gold Coast or hold power there, or nobility, or otherwise recognized legions, or do these rulers rule absolutely without the assistance of lesser political stations?

Phrastus: Well, as to Anvil, before the arrival of Governor Fortunata, rule of that city was roughly divided between the leadership of the three main Merchant Houses, but with her strong arm tactics, the Governor has forced them all to swear fealty to her for the time being at least. Now, in Kvatch, of course, as you mentioned Count Carolus is the nominal ruler of that county, but the Chantry of Akatosh has long held almost equal sway there with rulers of Castle Kvatch. Though in these dark times, even the sermonizers of Akatosh seem to have come under some kind of shadow, but they still have a powerful militant arm in the Order of the Hour, their knightly order, and that gives them the ability to, to help either maintain or to, I imagine, shake it up, should they so desire.

Morriel: Very well, that was a good question.

Nights: And I have another dark question for you. Seems to be a running theme here. This is by a fellow named Feynn. Most Dark Magic spells seem to involve the use of some kind of dark crystals, but why? And what are those crystals, are they created by the mage or are they summoned from the Void? What is their purpose and their composition? And what exactly is inherently dark about Dark Magic? Is it just its lethal uses? If so, wouldn't he magic of the Resolutes of Stendarr be just as dark if used to take an innocent's life?

Morriel: Wasn't this from that Dark Brotherhood initiate that you found?

Nights: Oh, him, yes. I already forgot about him.

Morriel: I see.

Phrastus: Well, hmm. I'm not myself a mage, of course, but I do make my home in Elinhir, which is a veritable city of mages, so I'm cheek by jowl with wizards and sorcerers on a daily basis, and it's my observation that the outer trappings of magic largely consist of rituals that enable spellcasters to visualize and focus the flow of magicka they are controlling. The mage in essence creates a magical tool of force, which responds to the spellcaster's will and enables a local transmogrification of reality. If for clarity and ease of use, these rituals are organized into thematically similar schools or disciplines. A good analogy might be different styles of music. I mean, all music employs the same notes and sounds, but musicians learn specific styles they can use to create and extemporize tunes that sound right within the context of their style, so it is I deem it with spellcasting as well, and the Dark Magic you questioner referred to is a style of visualization that enables those mages who perform it to express their will upon reality in a coherent and replicable way. It gives them a way to extend what they already know in a style that's familiar to them.

Nights: Thorough.

Gwynara: Aha. It appears we have encountered a question from a crazed Argonian by the name of Pandorian, and he wishes to know about mudcrabs. Apparently, he thinks that they keep trying to hurt the sand. And he was wondering why? He apparently doesn't want them to go further inland and start hunting dirt. Also, he has seen very big beasts with horns wandering around the island and was wondering what they were called and why they seem so protective of the land? Are they also protecting the dirt from the mudcrabs or is it something more-ah this question is so, so silly.

Phrastus: Ah, it's always so refreshing to encounter the innocent ignorance of the average tribal Argonian. The manbeasts with horns, of course, are called "minotaurs", a once fearsome race now in decline in Tamriel's heartland. And as to mudcrabs, well, who can plumb all the mysteries of those curious creatures? So widespread, so various, so easily vexed, so very...So cliquey, you know?

Gwynara: Yes. It is another matter entirely, Imperial remnants. In Cyrodiil, are there any Imperial remnants like, let's say for example, the Shadow Legion? [unintelligible]

Phrastus: Well, certainly, in his youth it's well known that the esteemed Abnur Tharn, Chancellor of the Elder Council, received training as an Imperial battlemage from whatever tradition remains in the Imperial City since the fall of the Potentates. And there may be other holdovers from the glories of the Second Empire, from groups such as the Dragon Guard or the aforementioned Shadow Legion or even the mysterious Imperial Mananauts, maintaining and passing on their traditions through new names and guises. But my guess is they're all keeping their heads down until we see a conclusion to this ruinous and destructive Alliance War.

Gwynara: I understand. And next off, we move over to a wizard named Solinar of [???] and he asks that during his tour of Kvatch, they were surprised to find the city did not have a Mages Guild or a Fighters Guild presence in any way and they have speculated that the presence of the Order of the Hour in Kvatch had something to do with that, especially since the city was not to their knowledge under the jurisdiction of the Tharn regency when they had the Mages Guild [sharpen the votes?]. So do you know if there is a reason for this and perhaps if the other guilds will be allowed to establish standing orders one day?

Phrastus: Well Kvatch of course is one of your very old, and very traditional Colovian cities. And as far as the gentle folk of Kvatch are concerned, the Mages Guild and the Fighters Guild – which are only a few generations old – would be relative newcomers, parvenus. They might not be immediately granted the respect that they might think they would deserve. Now of course I'm not a member of either the Mages or Fighters Guild, but it seems to me that the presence of guildhalls for both organizations in nearby Anvil may be regarded as serving the needs of their members for the entire Gold Coast. That would be my guess, anyway.

Gwynara: Yes, well how many guilds-

Morriel: Especially for a region as small as the Gold Coast.

Gwynara: Yes.

Phrastus: How many mages can there be there, after all?

Morriel: Ones not employed as pirates, at least. So I have a question by an individual called Crumon Tatillierre, and this individual had the most interesting dream of Herma-Mora. So, in his slumbering thoughts he wished to know if Herma-Mora was the most powerful of all beings throughout the entirety of creation that has ever existed. And he posited that this might be possible, for it is said that Herma-Mora knows everything, the weakness of everyone, the knowledge to overcome any foe. To know everything about everyone would allow him to be in turn more powerful than them. Not through strength, but through the power of one's mind's eye. What do you feel on this topic?

Phrastus: You know, the credulity of the average citizen, when it comes to claims about the powers of the Daedric Princes, is rather a pet peeve of mine. Those who make the mistake of worshipping these malicious and mendacious demons invariably inflate their abilities to make them omniscient or all-powerful in some way, doubtless as a means of flattering themselves for being clever enough to revere whatever dark Daedra they've chosen to placate. Feh! And if Hermaeus Mora knew everything, why would he need worshippers to dig up secrets for him, eh? Really. Daedra worshippers can be such mallet-heads.

Morriel: That's a good point!

Nights: Very good! This next question comes from a...elusive Khajiit by the name of Ras'ka. Now this Khajiit has stumbled upon the minotaurs down on the Gold Coast, wonders why they are so aggressive? Why they attack anyone who nears them without warning or pause? Why? Do they not have a village of their own? Why do they stay where they do, and where did they come from? And why have they not tried to make peace with the people of Anvil and Kvatch yet?

Phrastus: Well, uh, if Imperial pedants such as Nonus Caprenius are to be believed, the minotaurs are a remnant of the ancient days of Saint Alessia, when demigods strode the face of Tamriel and interbred with mortals. Caprenius asserts that, on some racial memory level, those minotaurs recall the glories of the Empire's foundation, and their part in its mighty deeds, and therefore revere and protect those ruins that hearken back to those legendary times. But just between you and me, Caprenius is one of those sad scholars who becomes obsessed with a single idea and thereafter sees support and validation for it in story and tale, no matter how wild and unsupported. Before the Alliance War, I saw a minotaur fight in the Imperial City's Arena, and it just looked like a big, brutal manbeast to me.

Morriel: Well I suppose you're right there. Some of these theories I've seen in the minds of mortals are just a bit...ridiculous.

Phrastus: It's the kind of battle I have to fight every day! [Editor's note: lol]

[muffled giggling]

Morriel: For instance, there is this individual who believes that in historical record it shows that in the early years of the Alessian Empire, the minotaur lived along with humanity in peace. That Queen Alessia even bore a minotaur heir to the Ruby Throne, that they were intelligent and cultured creatures, the sons and daughters of Morihaus. However, obviously, something must have changed about the minotaurs. Their relationship with humanity, at some undetermined time, the humans-the Cyrodiils-cast the minotaurs out of their society like some kind of chaff and removed all references of minotaurs from their history. The minotaurs also apparently began regressing intellectually after this point and culturally deteriorating into the beasts we know today. Meaning that, these people believe that historical records are unclear on which event came first, and thus it's the sort of mystery has consumed some scholars' entire career.

So, this scholar wishes to know that-they've long speculated that humanity itself is the cause for the minotaur's regression through some bygone curse or ancient Ayleid ritual, but they never found some kind of evidence to support this.

Phrastus: Most likely because there isn't any! And I believe this person should probably get to know my friend Nonus Caprenius, whom I mentioned earlier in regard to his very similar obsession with the-said to be divine origin of these now degraded minotaurs. Why, they could probably trade wild theories long into the night, I'm sure, embroidering upon them with scraps of myth and legend until they've quite persuaded themselves they've uncovered some deep historical truths. Yes, hm, scholarly careers have certainly been built on less. Look at Lady Cinnabar of Taneth, for example.

Nights: Oh yes, I remember your rivalry with her.

Phrastus: It's not a "rivalry" because she is not my "peer". But, move along.

Nights: All right, I have a question from a Dunmer from the Great House Telvanni, Wandras, the question is as follows: Do the cities of Anvil and Kvatch communicate with the rest of Colovia? Granted, the Colovian Highlands in the West Weald are rural, though the city of Skingrad has stood for countless years. I suspect hostility, though there is room for me to be surprised at a little Imperial cooperation. My final question is this: Kvatch once hosted the Worm Cult over a century ago. What do we know of their time in the city prior to the Order of the Hour's involvement?

Phrasuts: Hmm, um, well, heh. The Colovians might seem exotic and interesting to someone from far-off Morrowind, but that in turn seems exotic to a simple Cyrodiilic from the heartland and um...wait, I've got my sentence all tangled. But anyway, Colovians! They may seem interesting to you, but I find them narrow-minded and tedious, and always self-righteously prating on about "propriety" and following the precepts of the Eight Divines, which they interpret in a fashion I consider over-strict and stultified. The Alliance War may be making traffic between Kvatch, Skingrad, and Chorrol more difficult these days, but I assure you, when it comes to matters of priggish and petty order and decorum, the folk of the Colovian Estates are still united in their opposition to all forms of inquiry and celebration. And of course, impropriety, such as necromancy would be involved, so that may have been technically legalized by the folk who rule the Imperial City these days-or did-but that of course was not the case in Kvatch, and those fellows were roundly turned out on their ears.

Nights: Interesting. Gwynara: I recently amused myself by prying into the mind of an archaeologist and they wonder what Sithis is to the Argonians of Shadowfen and, what can we best guess? Obviously they are some sort of protector or guide for the Hist, but how can we relate it to our own? Is their Sithis much like that of the Dark Brotherhood, with the Night Mother and their curious desire for souls for the Void? Or is their beliefs more that of the Aldmeri, as an omnipresent force beyond the Mundus? Perhaps devoid of consciousness much like Anuiel? What can your sources gather on how Sithis fits into all of this?

Phrastus: Yes, well...The theological beliefs of the Argonians are, in the main, primitive and animistic. But, what would you expect from lizard people who worship trees? TREES, I tell you! What more need be said? Sithis, of course, is our word for "the Void", for eternal nullity, for the force that is no force at all. It's no surprise that primitive minds cannot approach this concept without personifying it, to somehow put a faith on the Void, to familiarize it and make it less terrifying. I can only imagine that the Dark Brotherhood-just between ourselves, after all a society of sociopathic murderers has similarly deified this dark force so as to personify their own nihilism-give it a shape, as it were, to what is inherently shapeless. In both cases, we are not exactly dealing with logical and civilized thought processes, so it's probably best not to afford them too much interest lest it legitimize these outlandish notions.

Nights: I have one that may top that archeological memory you found, dear...

Gwynara: Oh, me?

Nights: Yes, you see I found the dreams of someone of the Imperial Geological Survey, a Getur Atul. This individual was excavating an area in Blackwood, actually, and what they found there is what they claim is evidence of a severe geological destruction event regarding the endemic flora and fauna of Black Marsh. Now, they actually recently went within a goblin-infested cave in Blackwood, and their contractors cleared that out. And they found in there Hist sap, in Blackwood. Now, they believe that means evidence is overwhelming that there is a strong support for the theory that Blackwood was once a part of the "Hist Realm" of old Nedic texts that ramble on about that, much like the swamps of Deshaan. That it's possible colonizers terraformed the once Hist-protected region to its current shape. Of course, Ayleid ruins dot the region, they're a strong contender, but Ayleid texts are rare and it's hard to find out if that was actually true or not. So they are wondering, and I am wondering now, what is your opinion? Could Blackwood have once been a part of Black Marsh? Possibly Deshaan as well?

Phrastus: Well, hm, the nightmarish and seething swampwoods of Argonia are best likened to a sort of spreading rash that infects the skin of southeast Tamriel, a corruption that seeps across the borders into the clean, idyllic woodlands of Cyrodiil, tainting them with the cancerous growths of deepest Black Marsh. Oh, for generations, the noble Nibenese of Blackwood have fought back against these encroaching tendrils of darkness with fire and sword, uprooting and expunging the invasive species and driving them back to their forbidden fens. If as a result of the distraction of the Alliance War, Argonia is enabled to spread its tainted roots into the lands of the lower Nibenay like Blackwood, it may take many more generations before that land can be cleansed again! Or so I'm told. Never been there myself.

Morriel: Well I will take that opinion under consideration, at least.

Nights: This is actually...I found a letter in one of the homes of the Dark Brotherhood admirers that we had questioned earlier but on it they write, they want to leave the Dark Brotherhood to pursue other ventures. They want to know: What are their retirement and severance options? No pun intended. And, they seem to recall something mentioned about an island? What if they prefer to travel or settle elsewhere in Tamriel?

Phrastus: Yes, yes, yes. Very humorous. In every group of Legitimate and Scholarly lore inquiries, we find these so very humorous little joke questions. Retirement and severance options from the Dark Brotherhood? Yes, very funny indeed. Look to the cemetery there, my over-clever friend, that's what I would tell him.

Nights: Very well!

Gwynara: Oh and here we have a curious cartographer...about the Colovian West, and he would like to know: What is the state of the manor homes and farms between Varen's Wall and the war-ravaged heartlands. The aptly-named Colovian Estates, as it were? And second: What is the state of Skingrad and the West Weald? I've heard foul rumblings [something] troops from the West Weald [something else] and was quite curious about the political situation there? And then finally, the cartographer asks: Why is there a monolith memorial to Rislav Larich, fabled King of Skingrad, sitting in the walls of Kvatch? Is it related to his marriage to King Justinius's daughter Belene?

Phrastus: Well, as for the Colovian Estates beyond the wall, until you get into the area of the Alliance War I think are still relatively intact. Now the current count of Skingrad-I think his name is Calantius-is a canny opportunist who kept his city just out of the current chaos of warfare engulfing most of Cyrodiil, but he still rules a military-minded people and he himself is ambitious. So he's taken advantage of this power vacuum to his south to send a legion of mercenaries to plunder or even annex the border city of Arenthia. As for that memorial in Kvatch, it is due to the fact that Rislav, also called "the Righteous", though born in Skingrad did become Count of Kvatch upon his marriage to the lady Belene of that city. Thus the memorial.

Morriel: Well that's at least interesting, I didn't know that. I have one last question for you...

Phrastus: That's very good, because I have appointments to get to. I'm a busy man, you know.

Morriel: Well if you keep up that sort of attitude I don't think I'll ever let you leave here!

Nights: It is quite painful to leave one realm.

Morriel: Well I might as well just get this over with then, since you're going to take that attitude with me. Mortals. Anyway, while I was trawling through Black Marsh for that scholar on Blackwood I found this other Argonian called Learns-From-Current, and in his dreams he was curious about the practices of Dunmer. He was examining the cultural differences between the Great Houses of Morrowind, and it came to his attention that he honestly knew very little on the marriage practices of Dunmer when it comes to inter-house marriage. And I suppose that means two Dunmer from two different Great Houses marrying each other. Does one join the House of the other, or do they stay separate, and if one does join the House of the other, how do they determine who's the one who changes Houses?

Phrastus: Well, I'm no expert on the social intricacies of Morrowind's Great Houses, but I never let that sort of thing stop me from expressing opinion! The Houses of the Dark Elves are organized with rigid hierarchies as you may know, each House Dunmer occupying a specific rank, from hireling at the bottom all the way up to Grand Master or Grand Mistress at the top of the House. Now when two Dunmer from different Great Houses marry, the spouse of lesser rank joins the House of the spouse of higher rank. It makes it simple, of course. But if the two should be the same rank, they perform some sort of complicated negotiation to resolve their House membership. Now there, I am unclear on the details, but it may have something to do with dowries and relative financial assets. The Dunmer are, in their own way, a very practical people.

Morriel: The More You Know! Well, I think that is actually all the questions that we had gleaned from the minds of mortals for you, wasn't it?

Nights: I believe so.

Gwynara: Yes.

Nights: Now I think it's time to send Phrastus here back until next time.

Morriel: Do we have to? Can we just keep him here?

Nights: Well if we keep him, then how are we ever going to learn anything else? [exasperated sigh]

Morriel: That's true.

Nights: Rejoice mortal, you get to go home.

Phrastus: Oh, uh, well then, on with it. I'll be much more useful to you Daedric fellows out there doing my researches. No point keeping me around here, no no no!

Morriel: Well all right, here's your gold. Don't mind the fact that being sent from here feels like having your soul eviscerated down to its very core essence. That will fade. Eventually.

Nights: Yes, my favorite part of sending someone back.

Morriel: Bye bye!

Phrastus: [screaming]

Morriel: You know what's gonna be great is that fact that he doesn't realize that gold we gave him was fake.

Nights: Oh yes! [laughter]