ESO Lore Overhaul: Stonefalls, Part Two (and a Half)

Why the funny name to this? I posted Part Two without putting much content into it, as work was calling. This finishes out that post, covering the content of Fort Arand and the nearby Emberflint Mine.

For the reasons and rules for this series, see my first blog:

For other posts in this series, see the below link(s):

Let's Put an Army Here, Just Because!

The Issue: The Covenant are just outside Fort Arand, again with no clear explanation of how they got to the other side of the continent without being stopped by a Pact patrol.

The Proposal: The easiest fix here would be mentioning how this is a splinter force of the Covenant troops who attacked Davon's Watch, and, if we assume the Davon's Watch force got into Morrowind via teleportation, then maybe their main staging grounds. However, putting your camp right on the front doorstep of a hostile enemy fortress in the middle of enemy territory is a pretty stupid thing to do, so unless Fort Arand was not originally a defensive fort (see next entry), I think this instead may be a missed opportunity for a "devil-in-the-details" scenario. The Covenant outside Fort Arand are parked right next to some old Daedric ruins. Considering the Planemeld is going on, and assuming the Covenant might have gotten here through teleportation magic, it could be that the local Daedric ruin messed up the mages' teleportation spells, throwing off their estimates of where they were "landing" due to some alternate-dimension timey-wimey shenanigans, thus pulling this group of Covenant away from their target location near Davon's Watch like steel to a lodestone. Making this change would be as simple as scattering around some journals or notes from the mages worrying over the phenomenon.

Overall, I think this would add more tension to the Covenant's story in Stonefalls, making Morrowind seem a hostile place not just because of the bristling Pact, but also because of the land and the Dunmer's Daedric heritage, as it was in TES3. It would also turn this questline into something more intriguing than a generic break-the-siege event like the ones I see every day in Cyrodiil PvP, and make the Pact look more competent. I mean, I'm pretty sure the local troops would have an attack from such an isolated army well in hand and not need the help of a random adventurer, unless they're just totally inept. (Then again, they didn't notice the Covenant sailing through to reach Davon's Watch, so maybe they really ARE just inept...)

Let's Put a Fort Here, Just Because!

The Issue: Captain Hjom says in his dialogue that he doesn't understand why Dunmer built a fort in the middle of the mountains (meaning Fort Arand), and frankly, I agree with him. Though Captain Llari later talks about how the fort was an ancient prison for Daedra, to me this is lazy writing and shallow worldbuilding. Am I to assume this fort was for the Brothers of Strife, who already had their imprisonment covered by Mavos and his fire atronachs? Or should I assume that Dunmer frequently imprisoned the very beings they revered as gods and honored ancestors? Surely there's a better reason for Fort Arand than just rehashing Stonefalls' storyline again or yet another Daedra-are-evil plot, and surely Zenimax didn't just plop the fort down there as an artifical quest hub to deal with the Covenant attacking a land they shouldn't be able to reach anyway? No, wait, that's probably exactly what happened...

The Proposal: Give some backstory to the original purpose of the fort--a better, more thought-through purpose instead of misunderstanding the Dunmer's Daedric religion or not taking the opportunity to put in some narratives unrelated to the main Stonefalls questline. As one suggestion, maybe this fort was originally built as a pilgrimmage site or a kind of "hotel" for traveling merchants. This is why the old Velothi forts in Vvardenfell were built after all: they were not literal forts to defend the local area, but rest stops for travellers. Since we now have the assets for old Velothi fortresses, we may even be able to replace Fort Arand with the Velothi architectural set from Vvardenfell. Put in some Dunmer historian grumbling about ancient Velothi forts frequently being mistaken for military forts, even though a cursory glance at their architecture would make it obvious how unsuited for actual defense they are, just for giggles.

Alternatively, Fort Arand might belong to an Indoril noble who donated his land to the Pact cause, and so the Pact have built training grounds around his manor, and the troops have been calling it "Fort Arand" in honor of the Lord Arand who lives there. This would allow for more questing opportunities in and around Fort Arand to deal with local Pact politics and how the alliance is (or isn't) going well, not just dealing with Covenant troops who logically shouldn't be able to get this deep into Morrowind territory to effectively lay siege. The Covenant's presence here could be another nod to the fact that Fort Arand may not have been a fort at all originally: the Covenant may have seen Arand's manor on an old map, assumed they could just come in and subdue the family and force them to supply their army with food and lodgings while they launched their attacks on the rest of Morrowind, only to find that--oops--things have changed since then, and the Indoril have more teeth than expected.

In both proposals, the dungeon done up in the Daedric style for the Ahknara could be explained as either the Velothi or the Indoril lord's old shrine to the Daedra, because you know, Dunmer did that sort of thing way back when.

Not My Circus, Not My Ahknara

The Issue: Captain Llari gives a detailed explanation about who Ahknara is and how Redguards and Altmer fought all the way back in Hammerfall. This is more of a case of poor writing than poor lore: I find myself questioning why I care, and why this is news across the continent. Was this originally supposed to be a quest for the Dominion? Maybe that'd explain why the Covenant got put out here, and why the Dunmer feel like prissy Altmer who build entire fortresses as prisons for magical entities (Banished Cells anyone?) instead of the survivalist and gritty Dunmer who are unashamed of their Daedric leanings.

The Proposal: I would propose lifting this backstory out and putting it somewhere in the Dominion or Covenant quests, where it has more relevance. Maybe you don't get the backstory of the commander leading the Covenant here, but again, why would you need it, and how would the Dunmer know about it anyway?

Revenge of the Daedra

The Issue: Neposh is an Argonian outside the Emberflint Mine who asks the player to help free Argonians from some rogue Dunmer slavers and their Daedric servants. The Argonians are trapped in soulgems and must be freed by pouring Argonian firegel on the gems, which breaks them open. Neposh later reveals he was the one to summon the Daedra, not the Dunmer, so that he could get back at the slavers. Though I don't have an issue with Neposh's story here, the way this is carried out is a mess. Why is the firegel just conviently sitting around in the camp? Why did the slavers put the Argonians in soulgems, or was it Neposh who did this? Can soulgems even be used in this way, considering that (1) mortals cannot typically be put in soulgems due to the protection of Arkay (2) black soulgems, which can trap sentient beings, are relatively rare, being invented by Mannimarco (3) soulgems are classically understood as capturing the animus of a soul, not the whole thing, while the rest of the soul goes to the Soul Cairn, so a sentient creature probably can't just pop out of them fully-formed once a soulgem is broken, and (4) once again, Argonian souls are not like the souls of other mortals, so it's possible Argonians can't be soultrapped, period.

The Proposal: While an interesting mechanic, freeing the Argonians from the soulgems brings up way too many lore complications, and should probably be taken out. The story would then revolve around Neposh, who summoned Daedra to get back at the Stonefire slavers, and the player is freeing the other Argonians from where they are pinned in the cave by Neposh's snarling Daedra, instead of from inside some soulgems. Clear cut, but with a twist.

Alternatively, instead of being generic slavers, perhaps these Stonefire Dunmer are actually cultists of Molag Bal. (I can't help but think this is probably not a coincidence, given that Molag Bal literally translates to "stone fire".) The cultists are the ones putting the workers at Emberflint mine into soulgems, to give over to Molag Bal for use in his Planemeld. To sidestep the issue of whether Argonians can be classically soultrapped, I wouldn't specify the race of these workers. I also wouldn't make it possible to free them, partially because this may not be possible given Nirn's metaphysics, and partly because it adds more punch to the storyline, that these souls are gone for good or well on their way to becoming Soul Shriven. Neposh's part in the plot then becomes unimportant; he is the questgiver, a miner concerned for his fellow workers, and that is all. The player gathers soulgems and gives them to Neposh to dispose of, or helps him kill the Stonefire Dunmer in revenge (or both). Keeping the losing-control-of-Daedra component, while a nice twist, would muddy up the story too much in what is supposed to be a quick one-and-done quest, in my opinion.

Honorable Mentions:

  • In her voiceover, Captain Llaari says "Dumac take those fetchers" like she's ordering a soldier to haul some fetchers down to the supply depot, rather than the fervent curse this should be.
  • Strikes-From-Shadows says that Ahknara used a flask of blinding light to stun him. Wasn't that what the player was using? Is this a mistake, or are these flasks that common? Or did Ahknara steal a stash of them from the Dunmer? More information, plox.