403. Volenfell 5 – Out of tune


I was never comfortable with the theory I was taught concerning the fate of the Dwarves, that all at once they just suddenly disappeared. I’ve always harboured the suspicion due to the misanthropic nature of their automatons, that they were in fact wiped out by the very machines they had created to help sustain them; their bodies being efficiently disposed of in the great kilns and furnaces of their own design.

My campfire theory was thus. All societies, even this totalitarian society of machines, are like music boxes. Each member of the society is expected to take their obedient place and become yet another cog, spring, coil, or pin in the boxes inner workings, letting the mechanism spin them around, passively accepting the compositions and orchestrations handed down to them from their leaders, teachers and preachers; lest they are to become persecuted or ostracised. Because the one universal sin in every society, whether it be a society of men, mer, or machine, is to be different. And the vagaries of the Dwarves from the precision of their automatons may have been such that the machines felt the need to remove them from their music box, in the most efficient way possible.

Yet here in the ruins of Dwarven city of Volenfell, I find my theory about to be rebutted by the automatons themselves. For in these halls known as the Guardian’s Skull which houses yet another of the city’s defensive levers, I come face to face with an aberration from the uniformity. An Unstable Construct, seemingly malfunctioning with charged blue sparks fizzling across its surface, erratic, out of tune, and not at all following the established score. Yet the machines around it do not attack it because it is different and does not fit in with their melody, they try to maintain it, treat it as any other machine, tolerate its idiosyncrasy, and finally, defend it against my blade.

So much for my campfire theories… perhaps I’ll take up the lute instead.


402. Volenfell 4 – Here be monsters


As any who have crossed the Alik’r wastes will tell you, nowhere abandoned in this desert remains forsaken forever. In Volenfell It has been centuries since the Dwemer’s sudden disappearance and in that time many different desert creatures have made the ruins of this once great city their home. But amongst them, there are a few extraordinary creatures that in this isolated ecosystem have grown to monstrous size.

One such creature is a huge Shalk I found living within a large hall my guide called the ‘Guardian’s Helm’. The hall houses a lever that operates the city’s inner defensive gates, which we will need to open if we are to delve deeper into these ruins.

Shalks are native creatures to the volcanic areas of Morrowind where the Ashland tribes reportedly herd them like guar. So just how did this massive Shalk came to be so far from its natural habitat?

Perhaps the Dwemer Rourken clan bought a herd of Shalks with them when they first came east across the provinces of Morrowind, and Cyrodill to make their home in the desert. Could it be that this giant is the last remaining kin of the original Rourken herd, or perhaps it is a descendent of creatures bought here centuries ago for the very purpose of protecting the doorway mechanisms to the inner city.

It is all supposition now best left to the scholars, for I am far too preoccupied trying to avoid its frightful pincers and pernicious bouts of spontaneous combustion.


Once beyond these halls and further into the city I witness a disturbance in the dunes up ahead. When I go to investigate a huge Duneripper bursts from beneath the sands and attacks.

Even a regular sized Duneripper can prove to be a formidable threat, heavily armoured with thick plating from nose to tail, even their necks, usually a point of vulnerability on any armoured opponent, are protected by long sharp spines. This behemoth’s movements are as slow and stiff as you might expect from such a massive reptile, but without due care one might quickly find oneself cornered against the rock face with nowhere left to hide or run.

The beast has terrifyingly long sharp claws like blades on every foot, a thickly muscled tail which it swings like a heavy mace, and massive jaws with teeth like daggers. An unprotected underbelly appears to be the creatures only weakness and the obvious target for any warrior’s blades, whilst for the spell-caster and the archer, the aim must be to keep a constant distance at all times. 


Just remember, never let your back hit the canyon wall.


401. Volenfell 3 – Under an iridescent sky



Deeper into the ruins of Volenfell we delve, the rose-tinted skeleton of this once great Dwemer city refusing to fully surrender to the insatiable voracity of the desert.

We walk down broken pathways covered in brittle slate and ashen sands, past the hollow façades of what may once have been temples, workshops, storerooms and homes. We walk under collapsed columns and crumbling archways, and through halls and corridors built into the canyon walls, littered with metal wheels and cogs belonging to steam machines whose purpose was we know not what.

Back we emerge into the canyon under an iridescent sky, and as we delve deeper still into the bleak ruins my Redguard companions bow their heads in sorrow; perhaps in remembrance of a people lost, or perhaps reminded of their own tomorrow.


400. Volenfell 2 – The ambitions of Quintus Verres


Imperial men like Quintus Verres measure a man’s worth not by his deeds, but by the weight of his ambition; it is the seed from which all his nobleness flowers, and to an ambitious man like Verres, a nobleman without ambition is like a vulture without wings.

But what is ambition but desire, desire for power, for wealth, for knowledge, that same desire that feeds our passions, our greed, our jealousy, and our cruelty. That same desire that led Verres to betray his wife, poisoning her, stealing her notes and journals and leaving her for dead in the desert. That same desire that has led Verres here, to this moment, standing face to face, blade to blade, with a soulless man.


Ambition is not the measure what a man can do, or will do, only what he desires to do, as Quintus Verres is about to learn.


399. Volenfell 1 – The city of eyes


I vaguely recall on my first visit to the Rosy Lion tavern in Daggerfall a Breton minstrel singing the tale of how a great Dwemer chieftain of Morrowind threw his mighty warhammer far, far into the sky and declared that wherever it would fall, there he would settle his clan. Thus the intrepid chieftain led his tribe across the swamps of Morrowind, through the forests of Cyrodiil, and into the southern deserts of Hammerfell, to establish Volenfell, the City of the Hammer.

Despite the harsh desert environment the city grew swiftly and soon became a beacon of Dwemer industry, until that is the sudden disappearance of the Dwarven people, and the city was lost to the sands as quickly as it had risen.

Now however the fabled city has been rediscovered by modern day treasure hunters like the Redguard Tharayya, whose journey I have followed from one end of the desert to the other. Although a rival band led by her estranged husband appears to have made it here first, whilst the notorious Seventh Legion of the now corrupted Empire are not so very far behind.

What the treasure hunters found when they first entered the city though was not the empty carcass they might have expected, but a city full of eyes, all watching them.

Numerous prides of lions watch from beneath the rock walls where they shelter from the burning midday sun, giant assassination beetles watch as they scuttle from rock to rock, huge dunerippers watch from their shallow burrows beneath the sands as they impatiently await to ambush their next meal, and behind every door and every wall watch the heritance of the Dwemer, the automations, working fastidiously to keep their crumbling city breathing still.

But I can’t shake the feeling that the city of Volenfell is itself also watching through the many eyes of the Dwemer faces carved into the façades of every broken building, searching the distant horizon for the return of it’s masters, much like the widow of Northsalt who stares forlornly into the ocean for the lost sail-boat that can never return home.