I’ve been getting an awful lot more reviews and comments than I have been recently. So thank you ever so much for all your kind words. Thank you, particularly to ArcticJew666, danngar00, Wheels and TheWanderingBard for your kind words and iTunes reviews. And thank you ever so much for the shout outs that I’ve been getting from the Loreseekers Podcast and Tales of Tamriel. I really loved the work that you guys are doing, and thank you for welcoming me in the #ESOpodcastfam.
Another quick before we begin, the usual disclaimer that this is my own understanding of the idea and not necessarily the whole truth of the matter, although I’ll do my best to bring in other viewpoints as well. If you have other ideas, I’d absolutely love to hear them. Please leave a comment below, or join the conversation at the Written in Uncertainty Discord. I’ll also be linking all sources I’m quoting, so please go through and read the sources that I’m linking rather than just taking what I say at face value.
What are Dragon Breaks?
Dragon breaks are time stops working properly, becomes totally non linear, and you get chains of events and causalities that don’t really make sense. You have some of the sources talking about people giving birth to their own grandfathers, with events don’t necessarily need to have a cause. This means that you can get multiple contradictory outcomes from a single event, and people’s perception of what’s going on is even more unreliable than usual. There are a few caveats to this, which I’ll get to as we go through, but that’s basically what a dragon break is. It’s where time goes completely out the window, everything happens in a totally unregulated order, and pretty much anything can happen.
Why is it like this? it’s because of the nature of time. In The Elder Scrolls universe, Akatosh is the time god and you’ve got several sources saying that Akatosh is the cause for of time. The Monomyth says, “when Akatosh forms, time begins”. Before the Ages of Man has, “Akatosh (Auriel) formed and Time began”. There’s this inherent link in the Elder Scrolls between the time god and time itself, that isn’ really there in most other fantasy or real world religion and mythology. And this means that because the Elder Scrolls is so reliant on entities on things, and personalities for its time, that it can be broken, you can push things to the point where Akatosh can’t handle what’s going on anymore, and time goes completely out the window. That’s what dragon breaks are.
One thing that they aren’t, is alternative timelines. They are duration without time, it means that you don’t need to have a full chain of cause and events, it doesn’t mean that you’ve got everything happening in a logical order in a different way, all next to each other in parallel worlds and that sort of thing.
Dragon Breaks and the Aurbis
The Elder Scrolls themselves, the actual physical scrolls within The Elder Scrolls universe, are connected to this, maybe we’ve got a quote from Where were you when the Dragon Broke, which says:
Even the Elder Scrolls do not mention it — let me correct myself, the Elder Scrolls cannot mention it. When the Moth priests attune the Scrolls to the timeless time their glyphs always disappear.
So dragon breaks are something that is inherently unresolved that you can’t even think about in terms of the very fuzzy nature of prophecy as you get put forward with the Elder Scrolls, it’s a total blank and there’s no rules at all.
I think we get some really decent insight into what that means and the consequences of that by looking at particular name that dragon breaks have been given both Vivec and the Marukhati Selectives: the Hurling Disc, which has interesting implications. If you think about the structure of Mundus as a Wheel and the eight Aedra, or the Gift-Limbs, as Vivec calls them, as the things that hold Mundus together, those eight formal spokes of the wheel.
A disc is a wheel without spokes. So it’s a breaking of the Aedra and how they work, which should be total suspension or physics. It’s almost more than “just” breaking the dragon if you think about that, and you can do various things with that the Marukhati Selectives say
in On the Detachment of the Sheath from the Integuement:
Upon intercourse with the star-orphan, the Beseeching Alesstic performs eversion of the organ of thought, an employment of the Hurling Disk that recapitulates the truth that a circle turned sidewise is a Tower.
Remember that this is a nod to the fundamental structure of the Aurbis, and is potentially therefore a Walking Way. The core realisation of CHIM for example, is that the Wheel is the Tower and is therefore “I”; it’s that sort of thing. If you want a bit more on my thoughts on the Tower and the Wheel etc, please go back and look at my podcast on CHIM.
What Causes Dragon Breaks?
Continuity After The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall
Dragon breaks were initially devised to solve a canonicity problem that happened after The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall. Because you can have multiple endings to that game, they had the question of which ending to canonise, and they didn’t really want to nullify player experiences; they didn’t want to say that if anyone played the game any particular way they’re playing it “wrong”. So Bethesda decided to make all endings to Daggerfall the canon ending. So they come up with the idea that, when the Numidium was reactivated at the end of the game it broke time, and all of the endings were possible.
An Alessian Timeline Mistake
I also think that it was also used to cover up a continuity error that Bethesda didn’t really want in there. I don’t know for sure about this, but it feels that way. If you look at the dates of when the Alessian Order rule to Tamriel, they don’t match up. You’ve got some that say it was that over a thousand years, and you’ve got some that say it was a matter of a few hundred. The key source for this and how the error first happened, I think, was the First edition of the Pocket Guide to the Empire, which says this in its section on Cyrodiil:
Nearly a third of the First Era passed under [the Alessian Order’s] theocratic rule. When its priesthood had become too widespread to support itself, the Order began to fight among itself. With the severance of the territories of West Cyrodiil from the Empire, too much money and land had been lost. The War of Righteousness broke out, and the Order which had almost ruled the world undid itself in a ten year span.
If you look at the history of the first era, which lasted 2920 years, and founded by Alessia herself started in 1E 242, making a timespan of So you’re looking at a time span around 973 years or so. Which would put us to something like 1E 1215. But, towards the end of that section of the Pocket Guide, we have this:
Things persisted in this vein until the Thrassian Plague of 1E2200 (see Free Regions- Thras), which decimated more than half of Tamriel’s population, particularly the western coastlands closest to Thras. After Bendu Olo, the Colovian king of Anvil, led the All Flags Navy to victory over the slugfolk of Thras, the glory of the Cyrodilic people became known throughout the world. The Colovian Estates began to overshadow the richer, more populous East then, which eventually lead to the War of Righteousness that ended Alessian rule.
so you’ve got Alessian rule ending sometime after the year 2200, which means that the Alessian Order has to have been some centuries distant from the original Alessian rebellion. And then we’ve also got texts like Rislav the Righteous, which is a book that first appeared in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, which has this:
There is a brief reference to him, together with his family, as part of the rolls of honor during the coronation of the Emperor Gorieus on the 23rd of Sun’s Dawn 1E 461.
and then concludes with:
It was the beginning of the end of the Alessian hegemony. The Kings of the Colovian West joined with Kvatch and Skingrad to resist Imperial incursions. The Clan Direnni under Ryain was inspired to outlaw the religion of the Alessian Reform throughout his lands in High Rock, and began pushing into Imperial territories. The new High Chief of Skyrim, Hoag, now called Hoag Merkiller, though sharing the Emperor’s official xenophobia, also joined the resistance. His heir, King Ysmir Wulfharth of Atmora, helped continue the struggle upon Hoag’s death in battle, and also insured his place in history.
Remember that the Alessian rebellion that began the First Empire only happened in 1E 242, so you’re getting the beginnings of the end of the Alessian Order here close to 461, which then ended fully in a 10 year span as per the Pocket Guide, you’re looking at much less than the the thousand-year rule of the Alessian Order. It’s only a matter of a few centuries here at most.
So that’s one of the reasons for the mess up, I can’t find the original source where the mistake was made, the only references I can find to the shorter period of the Alessian Order’s rule is in Rislav the Righteous which doesn’t appear until The Elder Scrolls IV, so it’s a little unclear as to how this was originally brought about, but I I feel like that was probably the reason that it was done.
There was also a nod to this in-universe, with in the text The Dragon Break Re-examined by Fal Droon, which points out that the Dragon Break in the First Era, incidentally also called the Middle Dawn, was down to a scholarly error in transcription and misunderstanding of how the Alessian dating system worked. So in fact, they would have had only a few hundred actual years, whereas the 1,008 that is claimed was actually a cycle of how the different priests were appointed.
However, there’s a gag in this one, in that Fal Droon’s book appears in The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, which is set in 3E 427, some years before it ended with the Oblivion Crisis. However, the book itself starts off with this:
The late 3rd era was a period of remarkable religious ferment and creativity. The upheavals of the reign of Uriel VII were only the outward signs of the historical forces that would eventually lead to the fall of the Septim Dynasty.
And at the end of book it says:
Today, modern archaeology and paleonumerology have confirmed what my own research in Alessian dating first suggested: that the Dragon Break was invented in the late 3rd era, based on a scholarly error, fueled by obsession with eschatology and Numidiumism, and perpetuated by scholarly inertia.
That’s a little weird, if you think about the context in which the book is supposedly published. We don’t know the exact date of publication when we read it in The Elder Scrolls III, but it may well have been around for a few years before we find it. But it’s already talking about the fall of the Septim Dynasty as if it’s already happened, and the events of the late third era like it’s a time period from long ago, with a lot of history has been talked about and discussed. But we’re in the Third Era in The Elder Scrolls III, and the Septim Dynasty hasn’t ended yet. So this book comes from somewhere else, likely from the future. Which means that there’s been some bending of time in order for it to be here in the first place, so it’s likely arrived as the result of a dragon break, so it’s central claim is very obviously false. Then you’ve also got the fact that if you take Fal Droon’s name; it’s an anagram of “darn fool”. It’s not meant to be something that is taken as the truth or a serious argument at all. It’s very presence in the game refutes itself. But it’s a little bit less apparent in the time of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim when it appears, because the Third Era ended some time ago, we would have expected these this kind of tone of writing about the “late Third Era”, and the end of the Septim dynasty to have been something in Skyrim‘s time, but not in Morrowind. So it’s quite plainly not scholarly error, or simple, magic, or misperception.
When it happens in-universe, they almost always happen because of the Numidium, in some way. We’ve only got one example of a confirmed dragon break that didn’t involve the Numidium, which is the Middle Dawn in the First Era with the Marukhati Selectives. And we’ll go through the examples of the known dragon breaks that we have in a second. But I just wanted to flag that when these things happen, and potentially as a cause for them.
Why do people break the Dragon?
In quite a few of their cases, dragon breaks are used as a tool for apotheosis and change how the world works. It’s often something that’s deliberately done. We have a quote from the Commentaries on the Mysterium Xarxes that acknowledges this as it talks about the Mnemoli:
That is your ward against the Mnemoli. They run blue, through noise, and shine only when the earth trembles with the eruption of the newly-mantled.
We know elsewhere from various sources, primarily things that Michael Kirkbride has written, that the Mnemoli only appear during dragon breaks. So why would Camoran call something the “eruption of the newly mantled” to refer to dragon breaks unless it’s to do with the creation of gods? Mantling itself is a process where mortals can become gods in the Elder Scrolls, which I will talk about it in a future episode. But why would they talk about the newly mantled at all unless the dragon breaks themselves were used as a tool to become gods? I’ll talk through some examples of the dragon breaks that we know about now, so you can see how they’ve been used in that way.
Known Dragon Breaks
The Middle Dawn
The Middle Dawn is the first dragon break chronologically, if such a word can be used to talk about dragon breaks. This is the Dragon Break; it’s remembered by every culture on Tamriel, and affected everyone if we are to believe Where were you when the Dragon Broke. We have this quote from it:
Every culture on Tamriel remembers the Dragon Break in some fashion; to most it is a spiritual anguish that they cannot account for. Several texts survive this timeless period, all (unsurprisingly) conflicting with each other regarding events, people, and regions: wars are mentioned in some that never happen in another, the sun changes color depending on the witness, and the gods either walk among the mortals or they don’t. Even the ‘one thousand and eight years,’ a number (some say arbitrarily) chosen by the Elder Council, is an unreliable measure.
Whether or not the secret masters of the Maruhkati Selective were successful is unknown, and any records of their survival were destroyed by the War of Righteousness that ended the Alessian Order a hundred years later.
So even here, we’ve got confusion around quite when the Order ended. It sounds from this like they’re suggesting that the order ended 100 years after the Dragon Break, which feels very strange.
This dragon break was done by the Marukhati Selectives, which were a group of fanatical model a touristic worshippers or avatar in order to change the nature of actors according to Where were you when the Dragon Broke. To quote again:
A fanatical sect of the Alessian Order, the Maruhkati Selective, becomes frustrated by ancient Aldmeri traditions still present within the theological system of the Eight Divines. Specifically, they hated any admission that Akatosh, the Supreme Spirit, was indisputably also Auriel, the Elven High God.
Newly invented rituals were utilized to disprove this theory, to no avail. Finally, the secret masters of the Maruhkati Selective channeled the Aurbis itself to mythically remove those aspects of the Dragon God they disapproved of. A staff or tower appeared before them. The secret masters danced on it until it writhed and trembled and spoke its protonymic.
The tower split into eight pieces and Time broke. The non-linearity of the Dawn Era had returned.
Now it’s one thing to note from this is that it again equates the eight pieces of staff with spokes of the Aedra, and non-linearity with non-reality in a way. If I was to put my tinfoil hat on here, it’s potentially saying that the nature of the Aurbis is unreal in itself, that the way that the Aurbis exists at the moment is a lie is not the truth. This is hinted at in the 36 Lessons of Vivec, and The Truth in Sequence. The 36 Lessons talks about “Anu and his double, which Love knows never really happened”, and The Truth in Sequence talks repeatedly about Anu being the only real reality and Padomay is a lie. We have something similar from the Alessian Order themselves from the Selectives themselves, in Vindication for the Dragon Break, that kind of states their purpose for breaking the dragon here:
It is the first of the Exclusionary Mandates that the Supreme Spirit Akatosh is of unitary essence, as is inconclusively proven by the monolinearity of Time. And clearly, the Arc of Time provides us with the mortal theater for the act of Sacred Expungement. Thus it is our purpose upon Mundus to reverse the error of Sanctus Primus and restore Ak-at-Osh to humanadic purity. To say otherwise is vain and empty persiflage.
So for the Marukhati, that one humanity, or that one truth, is that humans are supposed to dominate, or humans are the single truth of the world. This is a little weird, given that Marukh himself is an Imga, an ape-man rather than an actual human.
The middle Dawn is also referred to as the Selectives “dancing on the Tower. There’s a question of which Tower; it’s not like they were dancing on the Staff of Towers itself, it’s a little tricky to dance as a group on an object like that. So the basic assumption is that they used an actual tower as part of this, and that was the only real answer for what for a while.
It’s commonly thought that given the focus of the Alessian Empire in Cyrodiil, those that the tower they used was White-Gold, which, as we discussed in the episode on the Towers, is probably the best one to do this sort of thing with its built with the wheel of the Aurbis as part of its structure. So you can start using it as a fetish to adjust how things happen within the Aurbis.
We have a bit more on the Staff of Towers from The Elder Scrolls: Online; we’ve learned in
ESO: Summerset, that the staff towers was built by the Ayleids, who also built the White-Gold Tower. It’s very in keeping with what we know of the Ayleids as a people and how they thought about the world. They were very aware of the nature of Towers as things to use to dominate and control particular areas of Tamriel, so it’s fitting that they would build a staff to do something similar.
I also like the symbolism that the Staff of Towers has gained through ESO. There’s a quote from the Loremaster’s Archive which talks about it like this:
The greatest of these threats was a fanatical schism of the Alessians called the Marukhati Selective. Arch-Prelate Fervidius learned that the zealots of the Selective were scheming to bring about some sort of mystical re-engineering of the Aurbis by finding and combining the eight parts of an artifact called the Staff of Towers. These segments had been deliberately separated and hidden early in the First Era due to the threat posed by the complete Staff.
If you think about the eight pieces being the eight Aeda, the Staff of Towers is a mirror of the Hurling Disc itself; you combine the eight parts of the staff into one, you break the dragon like if you combine all of the eight spokes of the wheel of the Aurbis into one you have the Hurling Disc, which is a dragon break. It’s quite possible that this is why the Middle Dawn is the only dragon break that we know of that doesn’t involve the Numidium; the Staff of Towers itself was something that was to do that, and the Numidium was possibly built to serve a similar function later. I’m not so sure it was its absolute intent in the way that it seems to be for the Staff of Towers, but I also don’t think it’s entirely a happy accident. If you want to hear more and my thoughts on how and why the Numidium was built, I talked about that in the cast which talks about what happened to the Dwemer.
The Red Moment
The next dragon break that we know of is one that’s come to be called the Red Moment, which is a name for the dragon break that happened at Red Mountain during the Battle of Red Mountain in 1E 700. The term the Red Moment is generally one that’s been coined by fans, and it’s been that way for several years, although it has been referred to in that way by Sermon 37 of the 36 Lessons of Vivec.
This particular dragon break was used by the Tribunal to make themselves gods or at least in theory. We have a fantastic phrase from the Trial of Vivec, a forum role-play that was done by several members of the community and several developers in 2004 on the official Bethesda forums. In it, we have Vivec saying this:
As Vehk and Vehk I hereby answer, my right and my left, with black hands.
Vehk the mortal did murder the Hortator.
Vehk the God did not, and remains as written.
And yet these two are the same being. And yet are not, save for one red moment.
That came to be used as the term for the dragon break at Red Mountain, which was a way for people to explain the many in various accounts of the battle of red mountain that exist.
So we have what appears to be an admission by Vivec that ze used a dragon break in order to become become a god.
This is a little odd in that it doesn’t really seem to tally with what we know of how the Tribunal entirely became gods. The conventional understanding is that they used Kagrenac’s on the Heart of Lorkhan, but we’ve also got accounts that say that that happened several years after the Bottle of Red Mountain. And that means that the Red Moment extended quite a way beyond the actual battle itself, which doesn’t really feel right to me. However, it does match up with the dissenting heterodox accounts that we get such as Nerevar at Red Mountain that talk about the Tribunal becoming gods at Red Mountain, and then the Chimer becoming the Dunmer and so on and so forth.
As a result of that we’ve also got Sermon 37, which talks an awful lot about when “the light bent”, and then presents quite a series of potential alternative timelines for how Vivec’s life could have unfolded had it not been for becoming a god. This presents lots of possible alternatives and multiple timelines which gets a bit more into the multiverse things that ESO seems to be driving for with how it presents Crystal-Like-Law rather than strictly a dragon break, unless you want to start considering Vivec’s whole life a dragon break which seems a little bit of a stretch.
But whenever it actually happened I think what from what we can see from the Trial of Vivec is that the Red Moment is intended to be the moment of the Tribunal’s apotheosis where you’ve got Vivec the mortal and Vivec the god being in the same place at once. This is explicitly put forward and another point in the Trial, which says that:
But when Vehk the mortal reached into the Heart, he ceased to be anything except for what he wished to be. The axis erupted. There was an exact cracking, an instant of pure Aurbis, his hands burnt black by that ever-nil of static change, and Vivec the god who had never been had always been. A whole universe swelled up to legitimize his throne… as the old universe, where Vehk the mortal still lapped up Godsblood, warped itself to accept its new equivalent. And like all things magical it simply could not happen, could not Be. Red Mountain was the intersection of the Is-Is Not as it was of old, its center point, and it did not hold. And so the Dragon, having broken, saw fit to heal, turning into the world you know. Except now Vivec the God was alive before his own birth, which had, in fact, really happened in the death of the last universe.
This passage is beautiful because it has an awful lot of stuff about how Vivec sees hirself becoming a god and how that was, how it felt, but it also to me brings up a concept that’s quite central to how ritual is understood in anthropology. This concept is called liminality. It’s something that gets invoked when there’s boundaries to be crossed, and people move from one life stage to another. Birth is a liminal state, coming of age is a liminal state, and then marriage than death. They’re all times in one’s life where you cross from being one thing to being another; a child to an adult, a single person to a married person, and from being a live person to being a dead person.
It’s liminal events, and little rituals bring things into an in-between space, where they can transition, and you have quite a bit of literature talking about how that “in-between”, threshold space is managed and presented, and that’s what Vivec’s talking about here. It’s using the dragon break as a liminal space, where it’s not definitely one thing it’s not definitely another and so you can bridge the bits between mortals and gods. We have a good quote on this from the third volume of the Commentaries on the Mysterium Xarxes:
The Tower touches all the mantles of Heaven, brother-noviates, and by its apex one can be as he will. More: be as he was and yet changed for all else on that path for those that walk after. This is the third key of Nu-mantia and the secret of how mortals become makers, and makers back to mortals.
That phrasing is very liminal; the Tower (which if we go back to the thoughts on the staff of towers and the wheel, the hurling disk) is constructed as a place where mortals become can become makers (gods) and makers become mortals. And if you think about how the Mundus was created, you had to have that space where the gods could step down to become the Ehlnofey, become mortal. That all happened as part of the fallout from the Dawn Era, which is that liminal in-between space as well.
So you can see that if you start to break time, if you break causality, you can make things flex, and then they won’t snap back into place as they were before that you can make yourself into something much greater because you are going back to a state of pre-Mundus, back to the intersection of the IS-IS NOT and meddle with the MAYBE in a way that you can’t when time is running normally, and make yourself into something else.
The Tiber Wars
The next dragon break was the activation of the Numidium by Tiber Septim as part of his conquest of Tamriel. We really don’t have a lot about the effects of this. In the books that we have we know that the Numidium was used by Tiber as part of his conquests of Tamriel, most typically when he attacked Summerset, but the actual dragon break itself we know very little about the consequences of. The Armistice with the Dnumer, getting the Numidium and then the unification of Tam real is quite well documented, but the dragon break itself isn’t. I can only actually find two sources on it. The first and most comprehensive, if you can really call it that, is Where were you when the Dragon Broke which has a Khajiit talking to an imperial Blades agent about what happened during the Warp in the West:
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?
The reference to Daggerfall, Sentinel and Wayrest is the Warp in the West, the ending of The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall, but the mention of Rimmen is what I want to talk about here. It’s where the bits of in the Numidium got taken and then assembled prior to Tiber using it to conquer Tamriel. It was done in the Hall of the Colossus, from what we can tell, and is talked about in those terms in Skeleton Man’s Interview
Don’ let Marshee lie to you about Big Walker. The Blades took It from here, sure, but they din’ take It back to Cyrodiil and rebuild the thing. Talos, he “annexed” a swath of our bounty-land in Ana’quinal and cleared the Khajiiti out by force. There’s where he built the Hall of Colossus—a mighty name for a secret testing warehouse—and that’s where Big Walker was born. And that’s why that part of our Elsweyr is still poisoned glow-rock, where no cats go.
Aside from having the really interesting image that the assembly and activation of the Numidium creates Tamriel’s equivalent of a nuclear wasteland, this also shows us that something very serious went down when the Numidium was turned on, and it’s been acquainted with a dragon break by the speaker here.
This is to an extent expanded on by Michael Kirkbride when he talks about the Siege of Alinor and how that was in the same time resolved in our and also going on for centuries afterwards. He puts forward some very cool ideas about the use of different types of magic by the Altmer to try and combat the Numidium and how they can carry on fighting for that long against such a big and imposing thing.
There’s also part of me that thinks this is potentially another another cover up that there was a continuity slip between Daggerfall and the rest of the games. Part of Tiber’s conquest is described in The Real Barenziah Part Two, which talks about how Mournhold was attacked by the Empire:
Some time after came a day when Barenziah was shaken awake by her nurse, dressed hurriedly and carried from the palace. All she remembered of that dreadful time was seeing a huge shadow with burning eyes that filled the sky.
That doesn’t fit with the general account of how Morrowind was incorporated into the Empire, either the official way of putting it and pretty much every other kind of narrative at all, which say that Morrowind was incorporated into the Empire by treaty, and that the Empire never actually invaded. So we have this just this one reference of the Numidium potentially being used on Morrowind as well which is very very weird (particularly as Tiber didn’t have it at this point, because he’s given it by the Tribunal. Thanks ever so much to Syfri for pointing this bit out to me; it’s easy to miss if you look at the text and carry on focusing on the narrative rather than what all the little details might mean.
So it’s possible that the new medium was used elsewhere other than Summerset, and then retroactively only used against Summsert in some way, shape or form. It’s a very difficult to get hold of dragon break to think about how the Numidium was used and when because everything is so swept up in the narrative of Tiber’s triumphant conquest of Tamriel and how everything’s wonderful now.
The Warp in the West
This is the one that caused them all, the end of The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall, and as I’ve already said it was a way to make all of the endings of that game true without the need for a single specific canon ending. It was another one caused by the Numidium’s activation, and we have quite a few instances apotheosis off the back of it; we have Mannimarco becoming the Necromancer’s Moon, stalking Arkay across the stars and doing all sorts of terrible nasty things to him, I’m sure. We also have the appearance of Talos after this event, which was potentially a result of the Warp in the West. This is again another potential retcon in how it’s been dealt with; Talos wasn’t mentioned at all before Daggerfall and not really much mentioned in Daggerfall itself either, or at least not as a god.
And so this has been concocted as a way to think that Talos was assembled out of several different parts following the Warp in the West. One of the endings is to reunite all the various bits of Zurin Arctus’ soul, and the Underking becomes one whole person again. That compilation completes the triumvirate that is Talos in The Arcturian Heresy, and so with those three now potentially able to be together again you can get all three bits of the Talos oversoul smash together to be a god in the way that it wasn’t before.
And this dragon break is also one of the reshaping kingdoms bits. In the same way that it was used in the Tiber wars, it was used by every single political faction that was trying to create a space for itself around the Iliac Bay, and so you had everyone grabbing it and smashing against the others, probably against another Numidium coming the other way. So you get everyone expanding out and eventually settling down into much more stable kingdoms because everyone wins in that sense.
Are there any others?
Have there been any other dragon breaks that we know of in Tamriel? There’s the potential cop out answer here that records aren’t really straight in dragon breaks, they can’t be made straight, and so any potential instance where we’ve got conflicting records we’ve got a potential dragon break. However, the amount of power that you need to be able to make a dragon break happen means that I think that’s very unlikely. We’ve got two possible instances of dragon breaks, one of which I think is more likely than the other.
The Time Wound?
We’ve got from Alduin’s first banishment, his being flung forward through time by the use of an Elder Scrolls to 4E 201. And that’s been called a dragon break by some fans because it’s stuff being disrupted and the normal flow of time being disrupted. I don’t really think so, because it’s just Alduin disappearing and later he appears again. Between those two points we’ve got fairly consistent records, and a regular flow of causality. So unless dragon breaks can only affect particular bits of people and particular parts of the world, then I don’t think this particularly works as a dragon break. Our other examples, particularly the Middle Dawn and the Warp in the West, affected whole kingdoms. These are big events, and I don’t think that they’re particularly easily contained in the way that this particular theory would suggest. But it is a possibility, although the fundamental nature of Alduin’s displacement through time doesn’t really feel quite right to me in the context of what a dragon break is.
Elder Scrolls: Online?
The events of The Elder Scrolls Online, particularly some dialogue from the Prophet strongly implies this:
“It’s good to see you again. And I do see you, in my own way. You are a wound in time, a tear in reality that shouldn’t exist and cannot long endure.”
Now that that feels to me like a good way of describing a dragon break. The specifics of The Elder Scrolls V’s time wound aside, wounded time is a really interesting way of thinking about what a dragon break is, it’s where time can’t function properly, where time is damaged, and the nature of ESO as an MMO, something where you’ve got multiple players doing lots of different things over and over again, and interacting with each other in a way that wouldn’t really be possible. If it was just one particular narrative that was happening one particular time, feels very like a dragon break.
It’s also a way that Bethesda can potentially use to explain the lack of any reliable records from or about the Alliance war in previous games. It’s one of those areas where a dragon break can be used to fill potholes. And you can also look at various other bits, I’ve seen some bits from Dovahsebrom on The Elder Scrolls Wiki pointing out that prior to the events of The Elder Scrolls Online, we’ve got accounts of different people summoning Wulfharth in order to help with the Akaviri invasion. This would ordinarily be something I would chalk up to inaccurate records or people trying to take credit things where credit where credit is a good thing to have. But in this case, because Wulfharth is such a singular figure and such a nationalistic figure in some ways, I think a dragon break almost fits here because you’ve got Almalexia summoning him to help out, and then you’ve got Jorunn summoning him with the help of the Greybeards, so it’s potentially a fore-tremor maybe of the dragon break that happens around the Alliance war and the Planemeld and everything else that that went on throughout the events of The Elder Scrolls Online.
It could almost work with the timeline of the Soulburst being the catalyst for that the events in Oblivion and all things that Mannimarco is up to during the Soulburst that could almost work. Either way, it would be a really good way of explaining why we’ve got different people summoning Wulfharth at various points. I particularly don’t see any reason for these characters, their chroniclers or wherever they heard the message from to be lying about it in this instance.
What are the Mnemoli?
The Mnemoli are associated with the Magna-Ge, and are potentially Magna-Ge. They only appear during dragon breaks. We have this from the Exegesis of Merid-Nunda:
The best-known of these Star-Orphans is probably Mnemoli the Blue Star, who is associated with un-time events, and was said to be visible even in the daytime sky at the time of the Dragon Break.
The Mnemoli are another signifier here of whether a dragon break is happening; if you can see a blue star in the sky it’s definitely a dragon break. It also potentially links dragon breaks to Atherius as a place; the Magna-Ge escape to Atherius, and if the Mnemoli is or are more on the plural vs singular thing later) a Magna Get , and they have some association with Dragon breaks, then you can say that dragon breaks are linked to Atherius in a way that normal time isn’t.
We also have an invocation of the Mnemoli as part of the ritual to break the dragon in On the Detachment of the Sheath. There is an invocation of the Mnemoli as part of what the Selectives were up to. Whether that means that they form a constituent part of a dragon break I’m not totally sure because we don’t have much information on that at all, but it’s an interesting little thought.
We also have a few comments from Michael Kirkbride on these that he’s made on forums to elaborate on what they are and how they can exist, and we have this:
Mnemolic magic is related to the “Star Orphans”, gods and heroes and demons that live between creations, which can include those reality-bending burps known as Dragon Breaks. Think of them as the all-stars between kalpas, if that helps.
If the Mnemoli are things that exist between times and can act as a way of compiling and telling stories in those between times, than the Mnemoli can potentially be the things that we talked about earlier, the threshold things you need to have on your side if you want to change things over from one thing to another, maybe. That’s purely my thoughts on them being used as the “champions” of dragon breaks in how Kirkbride describes them here.
We’ve also got him describing them as the “keepers of the Elder Scrolls” in an IRC chat that he did some years ago. I’m not sure to be honest, because the dragon breaks of places where the Elder Scrolls don’t work. So there’s obviously some link between time and dragon breaks and the elder scrolls and how they function, but I don’t think we know enough to make anything definite about them at this point and how they function there. However, it’s an interesting note to think that the the Mnemoli are the keepers of the Elder Scrolls because that then associates The Elder Scrolls a bit more with the fundamental structures of Mundus and Magnus. It’s something that is then outside of and beyond Akatosh, beyond that split of the eight that we saw earlier. It’s part of that “one”, so you have the Elder Scrolls as a distinct thing existing before you get to the eight Aedra, before you get to the earthbones and Gods as a fundamental part of how Mundus works, or before you get to Mundus even.
There’s one final note about the Mnemoli want to make, and that is they’re also called the Blue Star in some cases. Mnemo-Li is called a single being in the Exegesis of Merid-Nunda, and they also get talked about as multiple things; in those quotes we mentioned earlier “star orphans” (plural) and Kirkbride consistently refers to them as “they”.
I’m not sure that the distinction is too important, but I think that they could potentially be both. If you think about the Mnemoli as functioning as something during the dragon break, they can then navigate un-time, they can do an awful lot of things without cause and effect so they can do a lot of things at once. So you get even singular beings being functionally multiple beings within a dragon break because they can do many things “at once”. So the Mnemoli could be one thing, they could be many, we don’t really know and I’m not sure it really matters.
What are the Jills?
The Jills are also beings associated with dragon breaks. the most comprehensive statements that we have about them comes from one of MK’s forum posts and which describes them as:
A ‘jill’ is an archaic term for a female dragon. The minute-menders would take on a suitably draconic form
Minute-menders is the key phrase here; the jills are the things that knit time back together and keep it running on a steady course. So dragon breaks are in a way events where the jills let things get out of hand, where they can’t keep up and they can’t keep stitching everything together.
That’s also potentially a reason why dragon breaks don’t last forever; that you’ve got the chills working in the background, doing all the work to tie all the timelines back together, make everything into singular causal entities again, and that’s why dragon breaks come to an end. The end of On the Detachment of the Sheath says that “the absence of duration may render even eventuality moot”. If you think about that, then one potential result of the Middle Dawn is that time could be broken completely, that could be absolutely no return to linear time. So the Jills could potentially be a reason why dragon breaks go back towards linear time; they are the ones kind of pulling everything back together.
That’s pretty much all that we know about the jills. There’s not a lot of text about them and what we do know about them a generally snippets from Michael Kirkbride comments in forums, and here in the in here in there, so exactly what they do is very uncertain, which is also very fitting for how dragon breaks work, I suppose.
That’s pretty much it for this episode. If you haven’t already, please subscribe to this podcast with your favourite podcast catcher, and if you fancy a chat please join the discussions on the Written in Uncertainty Discord. Next time having discussed what happens when the dragon breaks. I’ll be discussing what happens when the dragon eats itself. Next time we’ll be asking what are kalpas, and where did the Redguard come from anyway?
Until then, this podcast remains a letter written in uncertainty.
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