Numidium in Brief
The Numidium is basically a giant Tamrielic robot. That’s about all the commonality you’ll get between the various incarnations of the Numidium, which we’ll get to later. Most of what we’ll be talking about refers to a giant brass figure, built by the Dwemer and intended to become their new god, which may or may not have been meant to be the same thing as them. Ironically, it was never actually used by the Dwemer, but rather by Tiber Septim in his conquest of Tamriel, specifically against Summerset. It was then destroyed following the conquest of Tamriel, by Zurin Arctus. Then it was reassembled by the Blades until it was activated in 3E 417, causing the Warp in the West. From what we can tell, no versions of the Numidium survived that event. A Numidium was also supposedly responsible for the destruction of Nirn and its gods in the events of C0DA.
The Numidium is also considered to be one of the Towers, the Brass Tower, or Walk-Brass. I suppose that it would count as a Merethic Tower, as it was built by the Dwemer, but it doesn’t really fit into the strict categories for Towers, at least considering how it’s mobile and tends to be associated with destruction and negation by fans, rather than necessarily upholding Mundus. However, I’m not sure that’s entirely right. But we’ll get to that.
In this world, the Numidium was originally created as an adjunct to a McGuffin for The Elder Scrolls 2: Daggerfall. The McGuffin itself was the Totem of Tiber Septim, which was used to control the Numidium itself. The Numidium was conceived of as a giant golem, a war machine of sorts or a giant. We have a fusion of both in the introduction to the thing we get in Daggerfall:
Numidium was supposed to be a giant so big his hands could knock the moons from the sky. I do not recall from the stories whether Numidium was supposed to be good or bad, but the legends used to scare me as a child.
and then this outline from The Daggerfall Chronicles:
The Blades are a group of knights who work surreptitiously for the good of the empire all over Tamriel. Their goal is to repair the great iron golem, Numidium, which forcibly pulled the empire together hundreds of years before under the rule of Tiber Septim.
So at this stage we have the idea of the Numidium as a giant golem used to forge Tiber’s empire. However, the connection to the Dwemer wasn’t there. That only gets brought in with The Arcturian Heresy, from The Elder Scrolls 3. It’s not something that particularly has its own will, that’s what the Totem is for.
I think the bridging point between this older genesis and the one that gets made for the Numidium in Morrowind is Skeleton Man’s Interview with the Denizens of Tamriel, where Yul Marshee claims that “Numidium was the prize of all Dwarven war machines, ferreted out by the Blades, they say, and rebuilt in the laboratories of the Battlemages of Cyrodiil” and then dro’Mhakij says that the Hall of the Colossus was “where Big Walker was born”. These two have a fair bit of tension going on, although I think Marshee’s dialogue is the first attempt at establishing a Dwemeri origin for the Numidium.
Later games fill in the Numidium’s creation a lot more – that it was created by the Dwemer, as part of the harnessing of Lorkhan’s Heart by Kagrenac. I’ve talked about Dwemeri philosophy before on this podcast, so if you want the full treatment of how I understand Dwemer philosophy, go back and listen to episode 1 of this podcast. The Interview gives us some more hints about this, particularly the words of Xal, a “human Marukhati” in the Third Era, which should speak volumes for the changes to the lore that were going on in this world at the time.
Bearing that in mind, Xal says this:
The Brass God is Anumidum, the Prime Gestalt. He is also called the divine skin. He was meant to be used many times by our kind to transcend the Gray Maybe.
Do not think as others do that Kagrenac created the Anumidum for petty motivations, such as a refutation of the gods. Kagrenac was devoted to his people, and the Dwarves, despite what you may have read, were a pious lot-he would not have sacrificed so many of their golden souls to create Anumidum’s metal body if it were all in the name of grand theater. Kagrenac had even built the tools needed to construct a Mantella, the Crux of Transcendence. But, by then, and for a long time coming, the Doom of the Dwarves marched upon the Mountain and they were removed from this world.
By this account, the Numidium was created as part of the Dwemer’s goal to transcend the limits of mortality, via the creation of a new god. There is a line in Dagoth Ur’s Plans that I think is at least the Temple’s perceptive on what the Numidium was supposed to be:
Establish a theocracy in Morrowind based on the worship of the new-born god Akulakhan [Second Numidium] to be created by Dagoth Ur from the heart of Lorkhan and a body constructed according to the principles and rituals pioneered by the Dwemer Kagrenac. Establish the ancient heirs of House Dagoth as the god-priests of Akulakhan, and the Sixth House of Dagoth Ur as the dominant political power in Morrowind. Through charismatic conversion, unite the Dunmer under the guidance of Dagoth Ur to battle against the foreign animals who hold Morrowind in subjection. [Note: Dagoth Ur has apparently adopted the views and motivations of the Dwemer High Craftlord Kagrenac. In effect, he recapitulates the ancient blasphemous folly of the Dwemer.]
This implies that the original purpose of the Numidium was something around a traditional god, in the sense of being worshipped, and being a vessel for “transcendence” of the Dwemer race. It wasn’t necessarily to combine all of the souls of the Dwemer at once in order to allow them to re-ascend. However, Baladas Demnevanni talks about “generations of ritualistic ‘anti-creations’”. If that’s true, it means that the Dwemer could have been using a partially-assembled to Numiduim to process their souls, and the final activation was just the capstone achievement. However, that does contradict some of the rumours we hear swirling about the Dwemer. The idea that they were making themselves gods is present in quite a few sources, but this also may have hints of making themselves immortal. Nerevar at Red Mountain states this outright:
House Dagoth had discovered the source of the profane and secret power of the Dwemer: the legendary Heart of Lorkhan, which Dumac’s people had used to make themselves immortal and beyond the measure of the gods. In fact, one of the their [sic] high priests, Kagrenac, was building a New God so that the Dwemer could claim Resdayn for their own.
The new god is, of course, Numidium. The key here is that they had used the Heart of Lorkhan to make themselves permanent, going against the idea of “ritualistic anti-creation” that Demnevani talks about. So they wouldn’t need the Numidium to make them gods; it’s explicitly linked to conquest. It’s a war machine, to the Ashlanders, similar to the original stories in Daggerfall. It’s just a thing to destroy all before it, rather than a machine to transcend.
Numidium and Transcendence
However, I’m inclined to go with the idea of it being a thing to transcend, an ascension machine, and most of the community have. The most obvious way of going with this is to think that the Dwemer were trying to become a new god, as stated in several sources. This is achieved by in Baladas Demnevanni’s words directly:
It was unfashionable among the Dwemer to view their spirits as synthetic constructs three, four, or forty creational gradients below the divine. During the Dawn Era they researched the death of the Earth Bones, what we call now the laws of nature, dissecting the process of the sacred willing itself into the profane. I believe their mechanists and tonal architects discovered systematic regression techniques to perform the reverse — that is, to create the sacred from the deaths of the profane.
This is the biggest clue that the act that made the Dwemer disappear was not an accident. In taking all the remaining Dwemer at once, it is melding them together into something sacred. Demnevanni also describes the book Divine Metaphysics as a book about “how the Dwemer tried to make a new god, Anumidium, using Kagrenac’s tools and the sacred tones on Lorkhan’s Heart.” Piecing those two things together, we can see that Demnevanni believes that Kagrenac was looking to make the Numidium into a god using tonal architecture and the souls of the Dwemer to do so, going back up from mortals to divines, reversing what had been done before.
Numidium and Dragon Breaks
It’s possible that this is achieved by the use of dragon breaks, which I think is the simplest answer. The Numidium is a dragon break machine; whenever it is turned on, there is a dragon break. There’s only one confirmed dragon break that happens in the series that didn’t involve Numidium being turned on, the Middle Dawn. Even that has some measure of being used for transcendence. Where Were You When the Dragon Broke? has Mannimarco claim that he “learned [his] mystery” from the Middle Dawn, when the Selectives broke the dragon by dancing on the Tower. Similarly, Vivec became a god in the possible dragon break at Red Mountain.
However, I’m not sure this is something that was necessarily an intended consequence of the Numidium’s design. We have this comment from MK that was made on the forums at one point:
It’s not the Brass God that wrecks everything so much as it is all the plane(t)s and timelines that orbit it, singing world-refusals.
This is more in line with the Numidium’s description in C0DA, where those plane(t)s do make an appearance, more than anything in the games. So I’m not totally sure that this was an intentional part of the Numidium’s design by the Dwemer. However, I know MK considered that the Dwemer engaged in the “heroic abrogation of everything”, which may be a philosophy that encourages world-refusal. It certainly sounds like it.
This is also part of where the Numidium being associated with negation and NO come from; that philosophy of world-refusal. This isn’t simple nihilism or solipsism; the Dwemer (and by extension the Numidium) don’t simply believe nothing matters or nothing else is real. They deny reality, but also their own existence. That puts both of those options off the table. The Numidium also seems to function as an escape of something, which implies that there is some level of escape from something. Scourgicus has posited that the Dwemer were attempting to use Numidium to achieve a form of collective amnesia, and both obliteration would serve that same function.
Numidium as a Walking Way
We don’t know much about how the Numidium was supposed to function as an ascension tool, even for something that causes a lot of dragon breaks. I’ve seen in the community that the Numidium was an expression of a possible Walking Way, most usually soul-stacking. This is got at through Sermon 36 of the 36 Lessons of Vivec, which says this:
Each of the aspects of the ALMSIVI then rose up together, combining as one, and showed the world the sixth path.
This has a particularly poetic twist as this action is part of defeating the Numidium, in the Lessons’ narrative. The Numidium being defeated by its own method of godhood. It’s also backed up to a degree by this passage from the Loveletter from the Fifth Era:
You in the Fourth Era have already witnessed many of the attempts at reaching the final subgradient of all AE, that state that exists beyond mortal death. The Numidium. The Endeavor. The Prolix Tower. CHIM. The Enantiomorph. The Scarab that Transforms into the New Man.
The most common interpretation of this list is that they are the Walking Ways. It’s also neat that there are six of them, in line with the “Six are the walking ways, from enigma to enemy to teacher” of Sermon Six of the 36 Lessons. However, I’m not sure this is the comprehensive list. Most particularly as the Psijic Endeavour is noted as a way to achieve CHIM by Michael Kirkbride in a forum post, rather than a distinct Walking Way in itself. I think it’s cooler if it’s its own thing, but it’s possible that it’s not.
There is also this line from Sermon Six:
There is a fourth kind of philosophy that uses nothing but disbelief
This has been taken as a possible thing that the Dwemer used or followed, because they’re the “atheists in a world where gods definitely exist”. Some people take this to be a Walking Way, although this does moderately contradict MK’s assertion that “the Stormcrown manted [sic] by way of the Fourth”, with reference to Tiber’s ascension via mantling. Either way, it’s possible that the Numidium was created with the intent of leveraging a Walking Way to ascend to godhood.
Numidium as a Crux of Transcendence
Or maybe something deeper is going on with how the Numidium was being used; that it’s not a Way in itself, but the gateway to a Way, or something similar. This comes from some ideas that were present around the time between TES2 and TES3. There were several ideas surrounding the Numidium and the concept of a Mantella at this time, with the Mantella of TES2 only being one example. In particular, we have it called a “Crux of Transcendence” in both Skeleton Man’s Interview. Exactly what this means is unclear, until we look at Made-Up Word Round Up, which is an old forum thread where a bunch of concepts got explored. In the Round Up, we have this:
We know Kagrenac made the tools to create a mantella, a Crux of Transcendence. (For those who don’t read the Tarot, the Hanged Man in Tarot symbolizes the Crux of Transcendence, suffering to gain transcendence: Jesus on the cross, Odin hanging from the tree to gain wisdom, etc.)
As well as echoing Lorkhan’s suffering in order to create Mundus, this may hint at the ultimate fate of the Dwemer, and the purpose of the Numidium. In putting the Dwemer through some form of suffering, Kagrenac may have made them into the Numidium in order to make them suffer. The word “mantella” now effectively means the big green gem that Tiber Septim used to power the Numidium during his wars of conquest, but if we take this broader meaning into account, we have some other more funky things going on with regard to the Numidium’s creation.
If the Numidium was meant to be a crux of transcendence, a place to put the Dwemer through suffering to gain transcendence, that puts a very different spin on things compared to the idea of simply smashing all the Dwemer back together and they then become some sort of divine brass Voltron. Maybe it’s not in becoming the Numidium itself that the Dwemer are intended to become a god or gods, but instead through the suffering inflicted on them by becoming the Numidium.
Whatever the Dwemer were trying to accomplish with the Numidium, it’s clear that the Numidum didn’t “activate”. I’ve seen it suggested that the Numidium has ended up as “Dwemeri hell”, in an interesting piece by Scourgicus, and this agrees with that in broad terms. However, while Scourgicus’ piece suggests that the Numidium is seeking self-annihilation (and through that the annihilation of the Dwemer) in order to forget that they do not really exist, I’m going to take a slightly different tack.
It’s not precisely “Dwemeri hell”, but rather “Dwemeri purgatory” – the souls of the Dwemer exist in Numidium for the purpose of cleansing their souls for their eventual transcendence. In this, they’re acting a little like Daedra who are bound into ebony to form Daedric weapons and armour, who apparently suffer in the process; according to Garothmuk gro-Muzgub in TES3:
Daedric weapons are made from raw ebony which has been refined using the craft and magical substances of the lesser minions of Oblivion. The process is not a pleasant one for the Daedra involved, and the weapons retain echoes of preternaturally prolonged suffering endured during manufacture.
If the process of the creation of the Numidium is the same for the Dwemer, I think it certainly qualifies as suffering, through which they can achieve transcendence. Or maybe it is something more akin to Vivec’s time with Molag Bal during the Pomegranate Banquet, that it is through being used by others that the transcendence is achieved.
Numidium as a Tower
Regardless of its relation to the Walking Ways, the Numidium is definitely referred to as a Tower, which can associate it with deeper magic in some ways, and probably transcendence if you handwave things. Numidium is the Brass Tower, or Walk-Brass. It’s also slightly odd as a Tower, because for one thing it’s mobile, but for another it’s often talked about as a thing destroying the world, while Towers are explicitly linked with maintaining the world.
It fits if we consider a Tower (or at least Merethic Towers) to be things that point towards their culture’s view of transcendence and godhood; Crystal-Like-Law is a remembrance of the Aldmer, Green-Sap remembers the possibilities and mutabilities of the Dawn, Red-Heart… isn’t such a great fit, but it could be a link to Lorkhan’s original plan and the Tri-Angled Truth (it certainly becomes that with Dunmeri theology), and White-Gold strives to imitate and manipulate the entire Aurbis. Numidium fits into that mix by being an expression of the Dwemer denying the world and recombining to become a god again. That doesn’t fit if you consider Towers to be imitations of Ada-Mantia and its purpose of commemorating the mortal plane, because Numidium is an escape route from that, but there is one source that strongly implies this about the Numidium. That source is The Truth in Sequence.
The Truth in Sequence describes Numidium like this in volume 5:
But most profane is this: the walking horror that bears the Name, NM. The Brass Tower of Vanity. The mindless guardian of the Nirn-Prior. The Antipodal-God-Thing that reigns on the darkest pole of the sacred Nirn-Sphere. Of all the threats to Tamriel Final, NM is the greatest. Anuvanna’si. The Daedra can be banished in thought, but NM must be sundered on Nirn. It is the welded knot at the center of Anu that must be untied. The God-Puzzle.
This describes the Numidium as both a Tower, and the keeper of what came before. This runs counter to the idea that the Numidium is meant to move beyond Mundus, and that it is meant to destroy things. Unless it’s an echo of things to come in C0DA, where the Numidium destroys things enough that the world of Nirn remains as a lifeless husk, without the ability to move forward. This would both preserve the world and destroy it, in a sense.
It’s this sort of juxtaposition that has led several fans to consider the Numidium to be Anuic, that is a force for stasis in the Elder Scrolls universe. The fans tend to associate the Numidium with NO, with negation, mostly thanks to its portrayal in C0DA. That sense of stasis-as-preservation may well be what Deldrise is driving at, although it would be a change in tone from the rest of the text, because The Truth in Sequence generally considers “Anuic unity” to be a good thing. It’s possible that this is a cultural hangover of a hatred of the Dwemer, but I think it’s more than that. It’s that the Numidium won’t be ending the world to bring about something better, it’s possible that it would end the world to bring about nothing. That certainly fits with the more nihilistic interpretations of Dwemer philosophy, but that’s only one perspective on it. It’s one I share, as I think one way to get to the unity and parity that the Dwemer crave is to annihilate all other perspectives (if you want to see more on what my reasoning for that is, give The Many-Faceted Pool a read), but I’m aware that this isn’t the only answer out there, particularly given how varied the uses and reinterpretations of Numidium has had throughout its history.Numidium and Others
With that, it’s probably time that we talked about the Numidium being used by others, because the Dwemer have been far from the only ones to use this behemoth throughout its history.
Numidium & Mannimarco
I also want to clear up a quick misconception about using the Numidium to achieve godhood. Some people will claim that Mannimarco used the Numidium to become a god. That’s not entirely correct. What actually happens at the end of The Elder Scrolls 2: Daggerfall if you give the Totem of Tiber Septim to Mannimarco is this:
The Mantella is hurled from Aetherius. Although drawn to the empty chest of great Numidium, the will of the King of Worms commands it to his side. With its power the King of Worms leaves his mortal frame and joins the ranks of the Gods of Oblivion.
This isn’t Mannimarco using the Numidium, as some might talk about (I may have been one of them at some point or another). Having the Toten allowed Mannimarco to restrain Numidium in order to be able to claim the power of the Mantella, not the Numidium, in order to become a god.
Numidium & Tiber Septim
Tiber Septim used the Numidium in what is possibly the most boring way you could use a metal god-thing; he used it to lay siege to Alinor and conquer Tamriel. The majority of it was secured in the Armistice that was signed with the Tribunal in order to end the Four Score War, but from some of the language in The Arcturian Heresy, I think it’s possible that other parts were secured from somewhere else; that text says that “Pieces of Numidium trickle in, though”, which implies that he didn’t get it all in one lump. Exactly where else the other bits of it went I have no idea, seeing as it wasn’t exploded or anything during the Battle of Red Mountain. Maybe bits of it were stolen over the years? It’s not exactly clear.
However the Numidium was sourced, Tiber re-assembled it in the Halls of the Colossus, which one sources claims were built for the purpose, but quite obviously exist during the Interregnum in Elder Scrolls: Online gameplay. Again brushing the uncertainty aside, it seems that turning it on made Rimmen radioactive. The Khajiit dro’Mhakij says this about its activation in Skeleton Man’s Interview:
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.
That sounds a lot like the Numidium’s activation also produced the magical equivalent of a nuclear wasteland. In addition to this, it caused a dragon break. In Where Were You When the Dragon Broke, the Tender to the Mane says this:
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.
We’ll get to the Numidium and dragon breaks in detail a little later, but I want to make a note of it here, because it’s part of Tiber’s involvement. Not only is it a war golem now, it’s very explicitly a nuclear weapon within Tamriel’s context. The parallels are a little on-the-nose in this case, but it applies elsewhere as well. And yes, we’ll get to those.
There was also some other tampering that seems to have gone on with the Numidium at this point, because its activation and control mechanism changes. The events of The Elder Scrolls 2 are not around the recovery of the Numidium itself, but its “control rod”, the Totem of Tiber Septim. This was a thing that could only be used by Tiber, his descendents or powerful mages to control the Numidium. We have no evidence of any such control rod outside of The Elder Scrolls 2, so I’m inclined to think it’s something that Zurin Arctus retrofitted into the Numidium during its rebuilding in the Hall of Colossus. This also implies that, when it was originally conceived, the Numidium was meant to be self-directing. Probably. Although whether it was meant to derive its motive force from the Dwemer that combined with it or the motivations of the Heart of Lorkhan is an open question. There’s a rich vein of speculation centred around the Numidum’s link to the Heart that essentially says that the Dwemer were somehow co-opted, imprisoned or otherwise sucked away by Lorkhan because of the presence of the Heart in its construction, but we have very little evidence to support this. However, I think given that the Mantella was used to activate it and Zurin Arctus exercised very little control over the Numidium when it was activated, that Lorkhan’s motivations may not have featured heavily in the Dwemer’s intentions for the Numidium.
Although most sources will say Tiber only deployed the Numidium against Summerset, we have this from the introduction to The Elder Scrolls 2 that suggests it was used not only to crush multiple opponents, but also to quell rebellions that arose after Tamriel was conquered:
The Mantella was infused with the life force of Tiber Septim’s Imperial Battlemage, and with it, Septim crushed all who stood in his way. After the complete and total defeat of all his opponents, Septim began using Numidium to crush the neutral royal families of Tamriel so that he could enthrone only persons he knew to be loyal.
Were it not that this was the reason that is given for Zurin Arctus destroying the Numidium, I really want to ignore this. Not because I want to paint Tiber as more saintly, but simply because it feels so mundane. You have a god-mecha at your command, and you use it to stamp out rebellions? I guess at this point it was just a giant stompy robot and not a god-mecha, but still, it bothers me.
We have a hint of this, or something like this, in volume 2 of The Real Barenziah, which says this:
The little girl blinked back tears and waved bravely with one hand, her favorite stuffed toy animal, a gray wolf cub she called Wuffen, clutched to her breast with the other. She had never been parted from her parents before and had no idea what it meant, save that there was war in the west and the names Tiber Septim and Symmachus were on everyone’s lips, spoken with hate and dread*.*
“Barenziah!” The soldiers cried, lifting their lances and swords and bows. Then her dear parents turned and rode away, soldiers trailing in their wake until the palace was near emptied.
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*.*
I wanted the whole of that passage because it helps us situate when this is happening. This is when Tiber Septim first comes to Mournhold, that is when he first conquers it. If this was happening after Mournhold was conquered, then the names wouldn’t be new, or as dreadful, in my view. There are other hints, when Tiber Septim speaks to Barenziah of a united Tamriel, that that vision hadn’t been realised yet.
The last section is what I want to focus on, though; that huge shadow and those burning eyes. That sounds like an Elder Scrolls 2-era description of the Numidium to me. Nothing else Tiber had at his command was that big, or that ominous. However, it was used to attack Mournhold. This isn’t possible if Tiber only gets the Numidium after the Armistice. There is a possibility that my assumptions about the timing of Numidium’s attack are wrong, and this was part of the subjugation of disloyal nobles, but I don’t think the rest of the narrative of The Real Barenziah supports that. It would be the cleanest way to deal with the inconsistency, though.
We have very few details of what happened at the Siege of Alinor from in-universe sources, we do have this little nugget from one of MK’s forum posts:
The Surrender of Alinor happened in one hour, but Numidium’s siege lasted from the Mythic Era until long into the Fifth. Some Mirror Logicians of the Altmer fight it still in chrysalis shells that phase in and out of Tamrielic Prime, and their brethren know nothing of their purpose unless they stare too long and break their own possipoints.
Given that the Numidium caused a dragon break when it was switched on, this seems perfectly plausible to me. However, we see no trace of this in Elder Scrolls: Online, so it may not have happened that way. It’s another part of the nuggets that build the picture of the Numidium as a dragon break machine, which could also result in multiple Numidiums. It almost has to for the rest of what happens to the Numidium to make sense if the Siege of Alinor continues until the Fifth Era, because stuff happens with the Numidium after the Tiber Wars.
The Numidium gets destroyed after Tiber’s initial wars of conquest, by Zurin Arctus. The Arcturian Heresy says this:
After its work on Summerset Isle a new threat appears — a rotting undead wizard who controls the skies. He blows the Numidium apart. But it pounds him into the ground with its last flailings, leaving only a black splotch. The Mantella falls into the sea, seemingly forever.
This is strongly implied in the Heresy’s narrative to be the Underking, Zurin Arctus. By this account, the Numidium is destroyed for personal reasons. Revenge against Tiber Septim, or a failed attempt to reclaim his soul being the most likely ones in my opinion. The motivations presented in The Elder Scrolls 2 itself are somewhat different. The player’s initial correspondent states that:
After the complete and total defeat of all his opponents, Septim began using Numidium to crush the neutral royal families of Tamriel so that he could enthrone only persons he knew to be loyal. His Imperial Battlemage was furious at this use of his creation, and fought to reclaim the Mantella. In the ensuing battle, both the created and the creator were vanquished: the heart they shared blown out of this reality into the netherworld they call Aetherius. Numidium’s body was scattered throughout Tamriel and the Imperial Battlemage, without his life force went into a semi-slumber in a subterranean vault.
This puts the disagreement between Tiber and Zurin as one of principle. It’s essentially like Tiber pointing a nuke at his subject peoples and telling them to behave, which Zurin doesn’t think should happen. However, for this to be true, it seems like there should be some evidence that it was deployed against Tiber’s new empire. Even the correspondence doesn’t actually detail any deployments, so I’m not sure what to make of it.
Numidium & the Iliac Bay
The key takeaway here is that the Numidium is destroyed. After that, the Blades then spend a bunch of time gathering up the pieces to reassemble it, and we get the plot of The Elder Scrolls 2. The end result being that the Numidium is activated again, and causes a dragon break. This was the original dragon break in terms of the series’ ideation; the concept of dragon breaks was invented after The Elder Scrolls 2 to reconcile the multiple possible endings to the game. I’ve covered dragon breaks themselves in one of the first episodes of this podcast, if you want to check out the concept in more detail.
In essence, the dragon break meant that all possible factions in the Iliac Bay got to use the Numidium at once, establishing themselves as a dominant player in the region. This was the Warp in the West, or to use another term for it, the Miracle of Peace. This is where the comparison between the Numidium and nuclear weapons gets its second wind – that peace was brought by the deployment of a destructive force not seen on Tamriel for many ages. Like the use of nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which has, in theory at least, brought about peace between the world’s various nuclear powers. You’ll notice that, following the Warp in the West, no single power dominates the Iliac Bay, despite what actually happens at the end of the game. Their mutual use of the Numidium holds each other in check. Much like the theory of nuclear peace.
After the Warp in the West, the Numidium is destroyed again, as the timelines all converge once more. We don’t know precisely how, but there’s no mention of the Numidium being present after that point.
Numidium & Dagoth Ur
Despite this, we get a version of Numidium surfacing again in The Elder Scrolls 3, and Dagoth Ur constructing Akulakhan, called a “second Numidium” in a few places. According to Dagoth Ur’s Plans, Akulakhan was “constructed according to the principles and rituals pioneered by the Dwemer Kagrenac”, although quite what that means I’m not sure. When we see Akulakhan in the game it’s built around the Heart of Lorkhan, presumably in the same way that the original was. However, we get no indication that it was using pieces of the original, and from what we can see, Akulakhan looks much more organic than the Numidium; there’s actual bone-like ribs and a spine that we can see when the Nerevarine is in the Heart Chamber. This is probably because it’s using whatever materials that Dagoth Ur had to hand which, I guess, was the malleable form of corprus monsters more than it was the metal of the Dwemer’s original construction.
That means that the “principles” of the Numidium’s construction may well be as much philosophical as anything else, if we are to believe the opinion of the Tribunal Temple on the matter. I know that’s a very questionable thing to do, so I don’t lay a huge amount of stock in it, but if that’s the case then Akulakhan would have been a reiteration of the philosophy that led to the original Numidium. Or maybe a changing up of it; Dagoth Ur’s goal of subsuming everything within the Blight seems quite different from the Dwemer’s intent with the Numidium. That is, assuming that the Numidium was a transcendence device. If the Numidium was intended as a simple war machine, then it could be in line with it, given that Dagoth Ur says that:
“Akulakhan will serve three purposes. First, it will be the champion of my armies, liberating first Vvardenfell, then Morrowind, and then, perhaps the rest of Tamriel. Second, it will serve as a sower and cultivator of the divine substance derived from the Heart. Three, it will serve as the prominent banner and symbol of our cause — to defy the Empire, to liberate mortals from ancient superstitions, and to glorify our crusade against the gods.”
It is possible that the Dwemer intended the Numidium to be a war golem, but we have little indication of that. Dagoth Ur’s dialogue also indicates that while he does intend the Numidium to be a disperser of the Blight, whicht makes his view much broader than that of the Dwemer. Dagoth’s intentions for the Blight are this:
I will continue to broadcast divine power upon the blight winds, so that it will touch each soul in Vvardenfell, and then more broadly, across the waters to the rest of Morrowind and Tamriel. In time, every mortal in Tamriel shall feel the liberating contact with the divine.
This is essentially saying he’ll spread the Blight, that is corprus, to everyone on Tamriel. For the original Numidium, we only have indications that it was meant to be used on and by the Dwemer. Akulakhan was thus intended to be a more universal form of ascension, if I can put it that way, than the Dwemer’s original designs. I don’t think the Dwemer ever meant for the rest of Mundus to join them in becoming a god.
Numidium & Itself (C0DA)
It’s fitting, then, that the final iteration of Numidium is one where it stands more or less alone. That final iteration, as far as I’m concerned, is C0DA. In C0DA, the Numidium has destroyed Nirn. It doesn’t seem to have any connection to anything other than itself; the Numidium seems to have its own motive power, and not be reliant on anything much to do with the Dwemer. It’s also seemingly got a bunch more in the way of “powers”, with the ability to delete whole ancestral lines from existence, if we take the Ancestroscythe as a literal weapon. I guess this was derived from the Numidium’s ability to cause dragon breaks? It essentially makes it possible to delete whole genealogies. When you can break time at will, you can potentially do things to those beings subject to it.
This is where most of the stuff about the Numidum being associated with negation comes from, with the NO of Numidium emerging in the build-up to C0DA among the fandom, particularly the Prophet of Landfall. The Numidium takes on the role of the Nothing, which isn’t necessarily the same thing as being a void. Bear in mind that Nirn in C0DA is clockwork, not an absence of things altogether.
This kind of reminds me of how ancient cosmologies see a pre-order Cosmos (full credit to Bible Project for this illustration, by the way); they didn’t conceive of the pre-Creation order as a space with literally nothing in it, as the modern secular mindset would have it. For them (“them” being ancient Babylonians, Egyptians and the Hebrews), pre-creation disorder is symbolised by an ocean, which the chief deity brings order to in various ways. I’m wondering if the Numidium’s NO could be something similar, an infliction of a “nothing” that is different to our concept of nothing. I’ve also seen it mentioned in programming language terms, that “nothing” can be rendered as both 0 and NULL, which are different things.It’s possible that there’s an “end of line” hint here too, if we take a look at the metatextual meaning of the Numidium in C0DA. In one of the original C0DA discussion threads from 2014, Toesock states this, as part of a statement which was approved of by MK, so I’ll claim some degree of author approval, or possible intent:
Numidium represents the non-contributor who sits back and nay-says everyone else’s ideas intead [sic] of inventing their own Tamriel.
This reinforces that notion of the “end of the line”, but not necessarily in a programming sense. It’s the “end of discussion” because, in the Anuic sense, if everything is set in stone nothing can move. Nothing can be expressed. The Numidium’s world-refusals become refusal of everyone else’s worlds, everyone else’s Tamriel. It also seems that those refusals may have become its undoing, as Jubal used its own lack of speech, its own NO, to destroy it.
The Numidium’s association with Anu has led to a possible other name for Numidium, which was expressed as a rephrasing of its name in Skeleton Man’s Interview: Anumidum. This has been picked up and run with by fans, as a hint towards the stasis that Anu represents. This, via wordplay like matching Numidium with “new medium” has led to some interesting thoughts about Numidium’s position as a possible reflection of Anu. We’ve already discussed a bit about Numidium’s relationship to stasis, but that naming convention makes it explicit.Rather ironically, I think this should finish on the reflection that there are several different Numidiums (Numidia?). Thanks to it being rebuilt, reused, repurposed, imitated and resurrected, the thing that stands for annihilation, nothingness and similar concepts, has become something with myriad ends and purposes. I think the only real constant is that Numidium is used as a tool of control, either by itself or others. The supreme irony being, maybe, that it hasn’t been able to control itself.
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