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Lore:The Spires of the 34th Sermon

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The Spires of the 34th Sermon
Collected by Zamshiq af-Halazh, University of Gwylim
A story of a Dunmer journeying to Vivec to learn the truth behind the thirty-fourth sermon

Note: These scrawled and unattributed recollections were found in a water-soaked and torn journal in the back streets of Necrom. It's unclear when this account was written, but the language used marks it as old. An associate in the city bought it from a Dead Keeper for a few coins, and I include it here as an ancillary to this month's folkloric publication for posterity. The poignant experiences of this supplicant are worth remembering, I feel. Tall Papa watch over all who seek truth in faith.

Zamshiq af-Halazh, University of Gwylim

* * *
I stood in the Necrom courtyard and lifted my gaze to the heavens. My eyes were wet with tears and my father's ashes still fell from my hair. We had always stared in wonder at the spurs of rock, he and I. Was it real? Was the monster there, before us, just as the thirty-fourth sermon proclaimed?

There was nothing left for me here, the House had turned its back. Mother had long been in the crypts. And I know I should have felt relief. Relief that his pain has ended. That he stood with mother and my ancestors and would await my own arrival at their side. I still had his knuckle bone in my pocket, ready to add to the shrine at home, ready to join the pantheon of our own vaunted dead.

* * *
I took a ferry for Vivec City. I would ask the master. Surely they will answer a grieving son.

* * *
I arrived on a Middas. The queue was long and the standing arduous. I was used to the comfortable pillows, the flickering candle light, the scratch of a quill nib. All the coin in my purse went to alms, to food for myself and the other penitents, to the clergy who assured me they could get me in to see the master all the faster. Their smiles were so bright, I remember. Their teeth so white.

* * *
I could not recall how long I waited, how long before the alms had given way to a fast. If I had wanted a simple prayer, I was told, it would be a matter of hours. No, I said, I must ask them a question. Ask the poet about his art. It will be a long while, they said. Days, they said. It didn't matter, I said. I needed the truth.

* * *
It was a Loredas when I knelt by the master's side. I kept my head down, as I had been told, but I could feel the heat of his gaze as he sat—floated—before me. I do not know how long I had been waiting for this moment, but the water I sipped from the ladle was clean and cool. The wickwheat crisps were like a feast. I had tried to speak but only rasps emerged. I could feel the master's patience, strong and deep, and the passage of time. I had so little time.

When I finally felt I could say what I came to say, I raised my head. A muttered oath from the clergy behind me, but the face of the master did not change. They waited.

"I have waited a long time, lord, and come far. I, and my father, and his father, and his father before him write the scrolls of the dead for those who come to Necrom. My family has stood in the city courtyard for centuries now, and looked to the spires. We wondered and talked and recited the thirty-fourth sermon because your words moved us so. And in particular my father, who went to join his ancestors just a short while ago."

This was the most I had spoken in many days, and I needed a moment to recover. The master's face did not shift or twitch, not a jot, as they continued to watch me.

"I must ask you, master, for my father and my family. So that I may return to Necrom and say to the people of the city what is true and what is poetry. Are the spires that rise above the city the bones of Gulga Mor Jil? Is it true he was a son of Molag Bal? That you met him at the village by the sea where the beast sat with its legs in the ocean and a troubled look on its face? That it went willingly to its death at the end of Muatra and now lies beneath the city that is my home?"

The Mother-Father of Monsters, the Master of Morrowind, and the Lord Vivec sat and gazed upon me for so long that I thought I had died. I felt my body fall away from my mind and a corona of light bloomed about the torches that lit the room. I wept—

* * *
"But why, master? Why use words such as these when one would mean so much to a mortal that loves you?"

They shook their head, a small movement that tousled my hair and caused the archcanon by the door to faint.

"You want unambiguous truth where none exists. You want me to solve a mystery that exists within a metaphor, when that is not my role at all." The master's face was almost sad as they spoke.

"Daughter-Son of Ash, last of your line, not all the things in the world are for you to know. The Sermons do not care if you understand them, any more than I. Who told you this thing, that the world must make sense? That a thing must be either true or not, that there exists nothing in between?"

* * *
I could not bear to hear another word, but the master spoke again. "I can see that this answer does not please you. That you feel your time here misspent. But a life cannot be misspent. A life is not the arc of a moon soaring through the heavens or the line of an arrow seeking the throat of a guar." They leaned down and I could feel the divine breath upon my face.

The last thing they said to me before they gestured and light left the room, before I was alone, truly and completely alone, was this. "Your life is nothing more or nothing less than a series of events from which you learn a lesson. Or you do not. And the choice of that truth is yours and yours alone."