This is Sermon 12, the story of how Vivec met the First Corner of the House of Troubles, Molag Bal, the King of Rape. It seems at first glance to be a story of how Vivec was sexually assaulted by a Daedric Prince, but it is actually the introduction to a legend of how Vivec stole the concept of divine royalty, of penultimate golden transcendence. This is a cornerstone to Vivec's mythology, an introduction to the role Vivec plays in the legend of Nirn and the ending of the Kalpic cycle.

In Morrowind, Sermon 12 grants a bonus to the Heavy Armor skill. It is worth 200 Septims and weighs 3 units. A copy can be found in Arano Ancestral Tomb, in the possession of Tonasi Belas in Assarnatamat, and in Zergonipal.

Sermon 29 names this Sermon "The Heavens." Its number is 379, which references the word "him."

One assumes at this point that Nerevar and Ayem are married. And if so, this paragraph raises some interesting questions about all sorts of things. I mean, before we even get into the nature of ALMSIVI as a single organism, or Seht's ability to "divide himself," what do these few lines tell us about Nerevar and Ayem's marriage? For that matter, do they tell us anything at all?

For all we know, open relationships are commonplace in Velothi culture. There's comparatively little information about that sort of thing in Elder Scrolls books. Certainly marriage exists, and some characters seem to have a sort of concept of impropriety.

But there is a counter-argument to this, one that allows for the sense of "oneness" that the Tribunal experiences after the formation of ALMSIVI. As Almalexia says in Sermon Eight, "we are delivered and made whole." Can this be considered anything but the mystery of ALMSIVI interacting with itself?

And apart from literal interpretations, there's also the popular idea that the 36 Lessons conceal the hidden streak of uncharacteristic insecurity in its author. Vivec's mortal past, as we've discussed before, was at best troubled and at worst horrific. And hir distaste for Almalexia is expressed while ze is still a mortal in What My Beloved Taught Me. It's not a huge leap to assume that Vivec's portrayal of Almalexia as an unfaithful wife is actually a glimpse into hir "opinions" of the Mother of Veloth.

It's a good trick. Sotha Sil uses it all the time when he has to change a flat tire. One Sotha to hold the bolts. One Sotha to help lift the spare. One Sotha to worry himself sick about incoming traffic.

A difficult thing for most people to grasp about Vivec is the connection ze makes between Sex and Murder. I've written about this before in Mephala and the Destruction of Terror and Theory, but if you don't want to go through all that, the short explanation is that Sex and Murder seem like opposites, but only if you confuse sex and reproduction. Murder may be the opposite of Conception, but Sex and Conception can be two different things.

In this respect, Vivec does not represent fertility and the reproductive process, but rather the physical arts of sex. Ze has more to do with Dibella than Mara.

In Morrowind, and among the ashlands, large areas of earth are incapable of producing useful crops. The areas known as the "badlands" are characterized by steep rocky elevations and minimal vegetation. According to an early development map of Morrowind, the South-East coast of Vvardenfell are called badlands, so we might expect that this was the region in which Vivec wandered. It is probably no coincidence that the areas to the South-East share much of their names with Molag Bal.

Vivec's "giant form" shows up a number of times in the 36 Lessons. Ze seems to be able to change hir size at will, and apparently up until this point hir mass changed as well, causing issues like leaving footprints embedded in even the hardest of dirt. This is likely why Vivec came to the badlands to practice this form: because it was here that it would do the least amount of damage.

Also you get a lot of Gods changing their sizes in Hindu mythology, so chalk this one up to another Eastern-inspired trait.

Molag Bal's name translates from the Dunmer language as "Fire Stone," which synchronizes well with his presence in the Badlands of South-East Morrowind, which are certainly volcanic and terrible in nature.

While it might seem odd that his name has little to nothing to do with his sphere of influence, it is somewhat telling that this Daedric Prince was invented as far back as Daggerfall, when the specifics of each Daedric Prince had not yet been fully developed. Well, at least not in comparison to what we find in the games that followed.

The specifics of Molag Bal's appearance change from game to game, but in general he's rendered as something like the stereotypical "devil" of Western cultures: cloven feet, a draconic head, large horns, a bare chest, etc.

In most Elder Scrolls games the Player can perform a small quest for each of the Daedric Princes in return for a reward. In nearly every one of those games Molag Bal's reward has been the same: the Mace of Molag Bal. The quests change, but most carry a common theme of forcing submission or punishing misbehavior.

Molag Bal's rather controversial domain has garnered quite a bit of discussion in the Elder Scrolls lore community over the years. I have personally suggested a few interpretations of his domain, but as I'm not a cultural studies or psychology major I freely admit to being largely ignorant on the subject. However, for the purposes of this commentary I'm going to proceed with the following supposition:

Molag Bal's domain is one of of cruel and uncontrollable dominance. Molag Bal intends to dominate everything he can in every way imaginable; emotional, spiritual, and physical control are his concerns.

Mehrunes Dagon, the Prince of Destruction, is sometimes confused with Molag Bal but their domains are quite different. Dagon intends to destroy all that he surveys, whereas Bal intends to control the same. The two Princes can be at odds when they desire influence over the same objects.

Facing down a Daedric Prince is an odd time for Vivec to exercise hir fascination with the strange and the anarchistic, but it fits hir modus operandi. As a rather chaotic being, Vivec adores those things that destroy or disrupt establishments, and Molag Bal is all about bending over the status quo. So it stands to reason that Vivec would be attracted to a member of the Four Corners of the House of Troubles, the only Daedric Princes who dedicate themselves to the disruption of the Dunmer.

Feet are mentioned more than a few times in the 36 Lessons, and in general Velothi lore. They're mentioned so often and in such specific ways that it's easy to suspect that there's some deeper meaning to them.

There's no clear real-world connection here, so this is one of those elements of Morrowind lore that isn't directly borrowed from one specific source. If anything, the symbolism of a Dunmer's feet is an amalgamation of numerous real-world religions and cultures, and the final conclusion is relatively intuitive. However, my sources here are so numerous that I've basically given up all hope of listing them directly, and instead I've opted to explain the metaphor in a generalized sense. It's more an in-universe analysis than an external one, but many of the themes are repeated in other real-world religions.

Feet are used to travel through life, to "walk" the path of knowledge and spirituality, or the path of self-improvement. Without feet you cannot walk, and so you cannot move, or run from or into combat. The Velothi marched on their feet in the great exodus that led them to Morrowind. In this respect, a Dunmer's feet are the record of his life, of his skills and accumulated wisdom and knowledge. Feet are what we use when we come into contact with "holy ground," and so we use our feet to walk the holy path of God.

In this chapter, we see Vivec's feet are "crushed" by Molag Bal, rendering hir weakened if not helpless and unable to flee. I'd suggest that it's impossible for Vivec to "will" them back into existence, since hir feet are like the "feet" of the Tribunal Cult, as the feet are the worshippers of the religion which ALMSIVI acts as the "head." Therefore, robbed of the base of hir power, Vivec is unable to resist Molag Bal's force.

After Nerevar's death, his feet are collected by the Tribunal Cult and held as holy relics. This reverence of the Hortator's feet is due to their symbolism of Nerevar's entire life experiences. Nerevar was carried down the path he walked by his own feet, and therefore they are inseparable from his deeds.

I'm not entirely sure where this primordial location is, but I'm willing to bet that it's the Red Mountain. To call it the "Beginning Place" means it is likely considered the "beginning" of Morrowind, sure. But possibly because if its intimate association with Lorkhan and his heart, you could argue that it's the beginning place of all mortal Nirn.

An admirable display of bravado from Vivec in the face of such a fearsome monster.

At first, I wasn't sure what to make of this. It seemed odd that Vivec would insist on something like a marriage ceremony when ze clearly isn't intending to "commit" to a Daedric Prince. Perhaps, I thought, ze's just being ironic, but Molag Bal, in his single-minded stupidity, takes hir seriously.

But really, a "marriage" is exactly what's happening here. Vivec and Molag Bal are about to perform an Enantiomorphic Event.

If you remember the line from the previous Sermon about marriage, however, it shouldn't surprise you when you learn how all this is going to end.

Does this seem like an odd choice of fruit to you? Well, let's talk a bit about pomegranates in real-world cultures, and then you can decide why you think they've been chosen to symbolize this pivotal moment in Vivec's life.

In Greek mythology, Persephone is tricked into eating six seeds from a pomegranate, which traps her in the underworld for six months out of the year. So Pomegranate in the Lessons could equate to a trap, but popular interpretation of the abduction of Persephone is that it symbolizes the fertilization of the earth, leading to the eventual growth and harvest after six months. This, of course, links us thematically to the birth of Vivec's children.

Also the pomegranate is the symbol of Armenia and represents fertility, abundance, and marriage, which is an easy one.

However, Pomegranates have a lot more symbolism than I'd like (because less would make it an easier subject, heh). For example, Christians associate the fruit with Christ and the promise of the resurrection, which ties us into the Christ-like self-sacrifice of Lorkhan.

If you're a fan of numerology (and what 36 Lessons fan isn't?) you'll love knowing that the pomegranate is said to contain 613 seeds, the same number as the number of commandments in the Torah. In fact, the actual number of seeds varies depending on a wide range of factors including age, weight, and region. In short, 613 +/- 200 seeds.

And many bible scholars suspect that early stories of Genesis depict the pomegranate as the forbidden fruit of Eden.

But then consider the Asian cultural view and things get really interesting, and I suspect this is where the 36 Lessons takes its inspiration. Chinese cultures often view the pomegranate as a symbol of fertility, as the symbol for seeds (子) also means "offspring," which is certainly one of the key features of the associated Sermons.

Also just look at that thing and tell me it doesn't remind you of a heart?

Why would Vivec's feet have passages of scripture on them? Remember Sotha Sil's words from Sermon Eight: "Wherever so he treads, there is invisible scripture."

Now consider Vivec's feet in the comments above, when the Daedric Legions crushed them. From what we've learned about feet, it's easy to conclude that these "scriptures" are traces left by the passing of hir holy "base," the fingerprints of hir divine nature, visible evidence left by the impact of Vivec's divinity. Thinking of this scripture as Vivec's fingerprints works well, because just as Vivec's existence is in itself a living embodiment of holy doctrine, hir very DNA are the words of that doctrine.

I'm not entirely sure what specific trouble Vivec could be referring to. It's easy to assume that the political handshakes that brought Resdaynia into existence were not as firm as Vivec would like, but over time it's almost certain that they would have eroded.

It's also worth noting that the TES lore community likes to characterize (with some accuracy) Dwemer culture as resembling a cult. Dwemer are certainly easy to describe as being united under a common cause: the denial of all existence. A culture like that would certainly be heavily influenced by its priesthood.

In case it isn't obvious, Vivec's "lending" his body to Molag Bal, but his head will only be able to stick around for an hour or so before returning to the Hortator. I think it's a bit disturbing that Molag Bal appears to be fine with this arrangement.

Eastern mythologies often use extra or exaggerated features to emphasize a skill or trait. For example, a being with exceptional wisdom might have numerous eyes to represent its ability to see more of reality than an ordinary mortal could. The Goddess Guanyin, for example, was so compassionate that her arms split into a thousand arms in the effort of attempting to bring aid to all mortal creatures.

One of my favorite passages in the Romance of the Three Kingdoms describes Liu Bei as having ears so large that they could touch his shoulders, a trait meant to describe his considerable wisdom and austerity.

In this case, I strongly suspect Molag Bal's numerous arms represent his considerable physical power.

To be decorated in both the runes of seduction and its opposite (rejection or destruction) is another example of power being granted by the combination of opposites. While not everything has to be an enantiomorph, it's certainly plausible to say that the combination of opposite forces is a great way to garner power.

I honestly have no idea what this might mean. For me to write anything at all here requires me to speculate extra hard, so here goes...

Worlds in the Elder Scrolls universe are often other dimensions, like what most mortals call the moons and planets. If they are considered "longer," that could mean both "older," in which they were created or came into being before Nirn, or that they have longer day and night cycles.

Therefore we might presume that Molag Bal is displaying his extensive knowledge of events that occur on worlds other than Nirn.

I don't see why this has to be a metaphor for anything. When Molag Bal spoke, tiny copulating creatures dribbled from his tongue. Seems about right.

I think this is an interesting insight into Molag Bal's personality, and indeed the psychology of dominance, that Molag Bal sees Vivec not as either a mortal or a god but an object. The targets of Molag Bal's lust are not worthy of consideration. This caustic form of objectification is so commonly discussed in real life that I probably don't need to expand on it here, but it goes a long way to explain why Molag Bal is one of the Four Corners of the House of Troubles instead of a more kind-hearted, if not tolerant or at least sane Daedric Prince: he's either incapable or unwilling to empathize with anyone but himself.

Roughly "I am the utility / tool of the Hands of Change." In other words, Vivec is of vital importance to the Hortator.

Well this is one of the most contentious and misunderstood concepts in Elder Scrolls lore. I give it a brief explanation in the Introduction, but the truth is that CHIM is a concept that can be explored for long hours before it even threatens to run dry.

CHIM is called the "secret syllable of royalty" because that is (more or less) what it means: royalty. But like all Ehlnofex, to accurately define the word requires a very broad and complicated interpretation.

In Ehlnofex it seems that CHIM can represent the concept of a "king" or leader, but also the penultimate or "ideal form" of a thing.

If a real-world example would help, consider the use of the Japanese word "shin," or しん, which means a wide range of things including "god," "soul," "truth," or even "new."

So now it seems that Vivec's marriage with Molag Bal was not by chance, nor a matter of convenience, but rather a ploy for secret wisdom. Of course, it's easy to see why Vivec the Thief would take every opportunity to steal something.

But why did Vivec need, or even benefit from the addition of the Sigil of Royalty? The string of Ehlnofex it was added to was "AE ALTADOON GHARTOK PADHOME," or "I am the utility of the Hands of Change." We probably see the completed phrase in Sermon 15: "AE GHARTOK PADHOME [CHIM] AE ALTADOON." I say "probably" because the syntax has changed somewhat by that point, which makes me wonder if the meaning is altogether different. I'll discuss that later in Sermon 15, but for now let's talk about the addition of CHIM.

When Vivec describes hirself as the Utility of Padhome's Hands, ze is exercising a little bit of authorial privilege. By declaring the spell, Vivec becomes that which ze declares hirself to be. And ze is capable of that declaration because ze is who ze says ze is. In other words, to be the Hortator's teacher, Vivec has to declare hirself the teacher, and in so doing ze gains the power and ability to make the declaration.

This seems like circular logic, but that's because it is. This kind of self-validation and paradox is pretty common in metaphysics and magical systems in general. "I become a God because I say I am, and I can say I am a God because I am a God."

Therefore by adding CHIM to the Ehlnofexian equation, Molag Bal enables Vivec to both become Royalty, and by extension to utilize hir Royalty.

Oh, on the other hand, the phrase could also mean that the GHARTOK PADHOME, or the Hortator, is now Royalty. But I'll deal with that in Sermon 15.

There are more than a few ways to explain why only one poem is listed here. It could be because Vivec chooses, out of a sense of intimacy or respect, not to reveal the second. It could also be because the Tribunal Cult has removed that poem for political reasons. But I don't think we'll ever know for sure.

Of these demons, only a comparative few will be featured in the 36 Lessons. We'll talk about their significance individually, but I'll summarize their importance later, in the commentary for Sermon 18, when we discuss Vivec when ze is whole.

Unfortunately most of these words do not appear in any other document other than the 36 Lessons, to the best of my knowledge. It's possible to propose that this string of words probably best interpreted as the mightiest child's proper name. This name is written in Ehlnofex as a result or indication of the child's intense power. This would make this child's name more than just a label but a utility in itself, a seven syllable spell.

Again, I can't fight the urge to analyze this from a psychological perspective. Assuming of course that this event actually happened, and that it isn't some work of fiction intended to reinforce Vivec's image as a flawless and confident hero, was Vivec's bravado in this chapter an attempt to cover up hir actual terror and trauma?

It might seem unexpected that Molag Bal would be the character that delivers this incredible sacred knowledge to Vivec. Of course, a boring and therefore wrong explanation is that Molag Bal knew of CHIM's sigil but did not fully comprehend its importance. And I'll say it even though it should go without: the act of being raped by Molag Bal did not in any way contribute to Vivec's divinity.

The explanation I personally prefer is outlined in my essay Vivec, Amaranth, Life, but just to make sure I get the point across I'll rephrase it here.

In essence, the key element in Molag Bal's nature is dominance. And while I may detail this a little more in Sermon 31, Vivec learned a great deal about self-control when he "submitted" to Molag Bal in this Sermon. That act of submission is incredibly important in many real world religions. In fact, some religious scholars maintain that the correct root word for Islam is "al-Silm," which means "surrender" or "submission." And many Christians are familiar with the concept of submission to Jesus Christ. This key concept of submission requires that a person learn to control the "sin" of distrust or fear of other people by practicing service with the goal of helping other people. This release of fear and the sense of harmony that comes from trust brings feelings of elation and unity, but also develops a person's self control as that person learns to suppress or remove altogether the negative emotions of fear and distrust that cause misanthropy and paranoia.

In the terms we learned in Sermon 10, submission and unity are the weapons with which we can destroy our Houses and defeat the force of SITHISIT. In short: ignoring your own needs and serving the needs of others teaches humility and trust, both of which are key to the elimination of the ego and the collective spirit of harmony.

Lesson Twelve

Synopsis | Narration

As the Hortator pondered the first lesson of ruling kings, Vivec wandered into the Mourning Hold and found that Ayem was with a pair of lovers. Seht had divided himself again. Vivec then leapt through into their likenesses to observe, but he gained no secrets that he did not already know. He left a few of his own behind to make the journey worthwhile.

Then Vivec left the capital of Veloth and wandered far into the ash. He found a span of badlands to practice his giant-form. He made of his feet a less dense material than the divine to keep from falling waist-deep into the earth. At this point the First Corner of the House of Troubles, the Prince Molag Bal, made his presence known.

Vivec looked on the King of Rape and said:

'How very beautiful you are, that you do not join us.'

And Molag Bal crushed the warrior-poet's feet, which were not invulnerable, and had legions cleave them off. Mighty fires from the Beginning Place were brought like nets to hold Vivec and he let them.

'I would prefer,' he said, 'some kind of ceremony if we are to be married.'

And the legions that took the feet were summoned again and ordered to begin a banquet. Pomegranates sprang from the badlands and tents were raised. A throng of Velothi mystics came, reading the passages of the severed feet on the ground and weeping until the scriptures were wet.

'We must love each other briefly,' Vivec said, 'if at all. I am needed to counsel the Hortator in more important matters because the Dwemeri high priests stir up trouble. You may have my head for an hour.'

Molag Bal rose up and extended six arms to show his worth. They were decorated in runes of seduction and its reverse. They were decorated in the annotated calendars of longer worlds. When he spoke, mating monsters fell out.

'Where must it go?' he said.

'I told you,' Vivec said, 'I am meant to be the teacher of the king of the earth. AE ALTADOON GHARTOK PADHOME.'

With these magic words, the King of Rape added another: 'CHIM,' which is the secret syllable of royalty.

Vivec had what he needed from the Daedroth and so married him that day. In the hour that Bal had his head, the King of Rape asked for proof of love.

Vivec spoke two poems to show him such, but only the first is known:

I'm not sure just how much glass it took to make your hair

Twice as much, I am sure, as the oceans have to share

Hell, my sweet, is a fiction written by those who tell the truth

My mouth is skilled at lying and its alibi a tooth

The sons and daughters of Vivec and Molag Bal number in the thousands. The name of the mightiest is a string of power: GULGA MOR JIL HYAET AE HOOM.

The ending of the words is ALMSIVI.