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GEN-Coda sign.svg
Release Date 14 February 2014 (script)[1]
Setting The Velothiid, Masser
Time Period 5E 892–5E 911
Author(s) Michael Kirkbride
Illustrators Katy Hargrove
Ksenia Mamaeva
M. C. Barrett
Pages 64

C0DA is an unofficial graphic novel written by Michael Kirkbride[2] and was to be illustrated by various artists, including Katy Hargrove, Ksenia Mamaeva, and M. C. Barrett.[3] While the graphic novel was not produced in full, its script and some artwork was released on Valentine's Day, 14 February 2014.[1]

Set on Masser in a post-apocalyptic Fifth Era, C0DA tells the story of the death and rebirth of the world through the eyes of Jubal-lun-Sul, a Dunmer tasked with killing a Numidium which caused the destruction of Nirn. Described as "the last Morrowind story",[4] C0DA is a conclusion to wider narratives that Kirkbride introduced in The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind and expanded on in further writings. As a work of metafiction, C0DA regularly breaks the fourth wall, such as with figures called "the Digitals", giant hands that interact with characters from outside of the comic's panels; and an embedded narrative section depicted in the form of a superhero comic.

The word coda refers to "an ending part of a piece of music or a work of literature or drama that is separate from the earlier parts" or "something that ends and completes something else".[5]

BackgroundEdit

In 1999, Kirkbride, with Kurt Kuhlmann and Ken Rolston, wrote a fanmade Star Wars television series titled Star Wars: Rebellion,[6][7] the final three episodes of which were titled Sanctuary: Dies Irae,[8] Sanctuary: Stringendo,[9] and Sanctuary: Coda,[10] all of which would later be used as titles for works in Kirkbride's C0DAverse works.[11]

On 11 September 2005, Kurt Kuhlmann's birthday, Kirkbride posted a text to the Bethesda Game Studios forums, Loveletter From the Fifth Era, The True Purpose of Tamriel,[12] establishing the concepts and setting of what would later become C0DA. Building upon ideas he introduced in The 36 Lessons of Vivec (chiefly the Scripture of Love, Sermon 35) and in supplementary writing such as Vehk's Teachings, the Loveletter outlines the concept of the Amaranth, a state beyond mortal death which is achieved through Love. Jubal's opening message in the Loveletter is also featured verbatim in C0DA.

On Kuhlmann's birthday in a subsequent year, Kirkbride posted The Prophet of Landfall,[13] a short text describing a being who intends to spare Nirn from its imminent doom. In 2013, as a prelude to C0DA, Kirkbride released an illustrated digital comic edition of the text,[14] which revealed the Prophet's immediate death by the Numidium. On 17 January 2014, as another prelude to C0DA, Kirkbride posted on Facebook excerpts from a prequel comic titled Landfall: Day One,[15] a science-fiction rendition of Nirn's efforts to defend against the Numidium.

In the lead up to C0DA's release, Kirkbride republished some of his previous works to the C0DA website with new artwork, such as Loveletter from the Fifth Era, KINMUNE, and et'Ada, Eight Aedra, Eat the Dreamer, termed as "lower-case c0das", which were not necessarily related to the graphic novel.[16][4] The C0DA website featured several teaser messages, such as "THE DIGITALS KNOW NOW" and "HIS NAME IS ALANDRO SUL".[17] Kirkbride published the script to C0DA on its website, c0da.es, on 14 February 2014.[1]

36 Lessons of Vivec, Sermon 37, featured in The Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind, refers to the events and setting of C0DA, and contains a message referring to the C0DA website:

Three in sum, the robes of Ayem stretched towards the bright black rim of memory, roping an arc of purchase. This was a new sprinting task. And Seht held his swollen belly to its name, clockmaker's daughter, swimming the dead confession along a century of thread, Naming her, uneaten, a golden cache of Veloth and Velothi, for where else would they know to go?
"Go here: world without wheel, charting zero deaths, and echoes singing," Seht said, until all of it was done, and in the center was anything whatever.

Douglas Goodall's Morrowind plugin AFFresh adds a recipe for "Coda Soup", a dish calling for leaves from the Coda Flower and "whatever you're a fan of", an apparent nod to the ethos and commentary surrounding C0DA (see Themes and symbolism).[18]

Related worksEdit

According to Kirkbride, C0DA was intended to be part of a wider project—referred to as C0DAverse[19]—consisting of its prequels and supplementary works. These works are (ordered by their place in the narrative timeline):[20]

  • DIES IRAE (illustrated by Misha Pabor)[11]
  • Prelude to C0DA: The Prophet of Landfall[21]
  • STRINGENDO

Loveletter From the Fifth Era, The True Purpose of Tamriel would theoretically be set after the C0DAverse comics. DIES IRAE and STRINGENDO were conceptualized as companion volumes of C0DA and of similar scale,[11] while the intervening preludes were to be collectively published as SLIPPETS.[11] Unlike C0DA and its preludes, DIES IRAE and STRINGENDO were never written,[22] with only some concepts and story elements pertaining to DIES IRAE revealed by Kirkbride.[23][24] By 2015, work on these projects was no longer in progress.[25]

Plot summaryEdit

In the Fifth Era, Nirn has been destroyed by the cataclysmic return of the Numidium, annihilating the planet in an event known as "Landfall". In this apocalyptic timeline, populations of Dunmer and Khajiit have survived by settling on Masser, the Dunmer having built a civilization, the Velothiid, within great underground Worm tunnels. During Landfall Season, a period when the conditions on the lunar surface are tolerable, Dunmer are permitted to pilgrimage there to observe the ruins of Nirn, but most choose not to for the dangers involved. As a result, many have forgotten their people's original home.

Jubal-lun-Sul is a noble of House Sul, a family of salt merchants known for making peace with the Worm. He narrates his ambition to bring a great thing to the Dunmer people, and has not forgotten their history. He recalls his journey to the surface in the 88th Landfall Season some years before, where he and his wealthy friend Hlaalu Hir witnessed what is left of destroyed Nirn: rocky debris and the planet's underlying skeleton of ghostly gears, the Wheels of Lull. Jubal prepares to ask Memory a question.

In the present day, Jubal tells Hir with elation that the High Alma of House Jaroon has accepted his proposal to marry his daughter. When Hir notes the disparity in caste between House Sul, a family of salt merchants; and House Jaroon, a family of warriors; Jubal admits the engagement is on the condition that he first kill a Numidium to prove his name—a seemingly impossible task, as no one who does battle with one survives. Jubal asks Hir to find him Khajiit who can help him, and Hir reluctantly agrees despite the cost involved with Jubal's apparent plan. The two smoke skooma and take an unsanctioned trip to the surface to see Nirn while intoxicated by the drug and Jubal sees eyes within the gears of the ruins.

Hir takes Jubal to a shady marketplace where he can find a Khajiit to help him, but they are interrupted by the Digitals, giant ghostly fingers which point accusingly at Jubal from outside of the comic's panels. Vivec comes to the rescue, and Jubal relates to the reader stories he knows of Vivec's life. He describes the Tribunal using the Heart of Lorkhan to gain powers which Vivec used to protect Morrowind, and tells the story of Nerevar recruiting a young Vivec into his House's army.

Deciding on which story describes Vivec best, Jubal settles on a popular story that all Dunmer know. The genre of the comic changes in conveying this story: In a hypercommercial steampunk world, Vivec (along with Sotha Sil, Almalexia, Molag Bal, and Dagoth Ur) is a member of the superhero team, Pseudo-6th-House. The city of Tomorrowind is under attack by Yagrum Bagarn, here a supervillain known as "The Intellective", who has infected citizens by replacing their heads with televisions blaring advertisements. Alandro Sul, a newspaper photographer, is almost caught by aggressive "television set heads" when Vivec rescues him. They join the rest of Pseudo-6th-House in entering The Intellective's "videoverse", an alternate dimension of infinite television channels which intermingle and stream information at all times, where they do battle against the Numidium. Alandro Sul affirms his confidence that the superheroes will "somehow punch everything back to normal", and Jubal ends his story stating that he shares this confidence of his ancestor.

Back in the main story, Vivec teleports Jubal away from the Digitals, then disappears after Jubal complains that he isn't meant to see Vivec yet. From his home, Jubal summons Hir, who brings along the Khajiiti sugar-surgeons Jubal was seeking, and it is revealed he intends to have them amputate both of his hands. Hir warns Jubal that the wedding isn't worth it, but Jubal proceeds. Following this operation, a bachelor party is held for Jubal, and with time being broken, all manner of gods and monsters of history attend. After Jubal drunkenly has a verbal altercation with Talos and angrily calls him a "virus", Kyne chastises Jubal and asks him to apologize. Late in the night, Jubal and Talos reconcile and travel together to the surface, where Jubal reflects that he does not blame Talos for the path he took. Jubal says that he does not understand why Mundus was created, but Lorkhan—who has appeared in Talos' place—corrects him that he does understand, or he would not have cut off his hands. Talos/Lorkhan admits he took the "easy way out", and Jubal apologises for calling him a virus earlier. He sits to meditate for his confrontation with the Numidium, and Lorkhan draws a circle around him.

The Numidium appears before Jubal, who engages it in conversation rather than combat, but Numidium only returns empty speech balloons. He recites from Sermon 11 of the 36 Lessons of Vivec, explaining the removal of his hands:

"According to the Codes of Mephala, there is no difference between the theorist and the terrorist. Even the most cherished desire disappears in their hands. This is why Mephala has black hands. Bring both of yours to every argument. The one-handed king finds no remedy. When you approach God, however, cut both of them off. God has no need of theory and he is armored head to toe in terror."

He criticizes the Numidium's philosophy, likening it to an "entitled teenager" without purpose, before asking what motivates it to keep returning. The Numidium concedes that it simply wanted to win, and pleased that they are finally speaking the same language, Jubal decapitates the Numidium with an empty speech balloon of his own. The Digitals point to Jubal from outside of the panel, declaring "NO MORE WHEEL".

On Jubal's wedding day, Hlaalu Hir solemnly confronts him with Morag Tong assassins, and realizing Hir's treachery, Jubal surmises that the cost Hir was concerned about all this time was not the price of his amputation but his assassination. As Jubal effortlessly dispatches the assassins—his missing hands now replaced with ghostly ones identical to the Digitals—Hir reveals his anguish that Jubal never told him the answer to the question he asked on the surface, years prior. In a flashback to the 88th Landfall Season, Jubal's conversation with Memory is revealed, where she tells Jubal that she is leaving and will not tell anyone else. Back in the present day, Jubal is aided in his fight with the assassins by the Digitals themselves, which poke them from outside of the comic panel. Jubal chokes Hir to death with his ghostly hands, declaring his contempt for the compliant and materialistic House Hlaalu, and that Hir does not deserve to know what Memory said.

At the Under-Temple of the Velothiid, the entire Dunmer race is present to witness the wedding of Jubal and the High Alma's daughter, who is revealed to be Vivec. The presiding priest is Lorkhan, and as the couple share their vows, the hole in Lorkhan's chest changes from a cage for Akatosh—a dragon eating his own tail—to being fully healed.

On the final pages, an infant made of flowers looks outward to something beyond the reader.

Themes and symbolismEdit

"As for canon, it's really all interactive fiction, and that should mean something to everyone. That said, I appreciate and understand the stamp of "official", but I think it will hurt more that it will help in the long run.
TES should be Open Source. It is for me."
Michael Kirkbride in 2013[26]

Aside from telling "the last story of [Morrowind's] people",[27] C0DA was intended to promote the message that corporate designations of "canon" do not have bearing on the communal enjoyment of the world and lore of The Elder Scrolls.[28] Kirkbride's view was that such terms are oxymoronic with regards to fictional storytelling, and he invited fans to enjoy The Elder Scrolls independently of these labels,[29] stimulating conversations within the community of how canon should be regarded in relation to The Elder Scrolls lore.[30] Kirkbride likened this approach to open source code,[31] free association,[29] and "Yes, and..." thinking.[32] Kirkbride stated that people within Bethesda Game Studios shared this view,[33] and that the reveal of Vivec's Antlers (an apparent reference to Kirkbride's online aliases "Vehk" and "Merry Eyesore the Elk"), just days after C0DA's release, was a signal from those inside production of The Elder Scrolls Online that they also acknowledged C0DA.[29] In an AMA promoting The Elder Scrolls Online, then-lead writer Lawrence Schick stated that C0DA was "thought-provoking and a hell of a lot of fun", but noted "we don’t really touch much on that sort of meta-lore [in ESO].[34]

Kirkbride explained that the "Tomorrowind" section of the story, wherein Jubal's relation of a tale of the Tribunal is characterized by a marked departure in tone and genre, is intended to evoke one's first experience of The Elder Scrolls , it being Jubal's own "one unassailable place where nothing should be allowed to change".[35] Kirkbride also suggested that Hlaalu Hir is a form of Vivec,[36][37] and indicated that the Worm and Tunnel are representative of Muatra.[36][38] Kirkbride endorsed—though did not confirm—a reading of C0DA which interprets the Numidium as emblematic of a non-contributor who simply rejects the ideas of active participants (such as fans who share and collaborate on new ideas) and who ultimately only wants to "win" the argument, with Jubal's removal of his hands representing his rejection of arguing at all, leading to the unity in the story's conclusion.[39]

Taking "C0DA" as hexadecimal values C0 and DA , they convert to 192 and 218, which Kirkbride pointed out correspond to "The Captive Sage" and "The Prison Shirt" in Vivec's Scripture of the Numbers when 1 is removed.[40]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c Kirkbride, M. [MKirkbride]. (14 February 2014). Comment on "C0DA". Reddit.
  2. ^ Kirkbride, M. (14 February 2014). C0DA. Archived from the original on 18 June 2016.
  3. ^ [ladynerevar]. (6 April 2015). Comment on "Is MKs C0DA script ever going to be turned into a comic?". Reddit.
  4. ^ a b [ladynerevar]. (4 November 2013). Comment on "C0DA?". Reddit.
  5. ^ Coda Definition & Meaning. Encyclopædia Britannica.
  6. ^ Star Wars: Rebellion. c0da.es. Archived from the original on 18 October 2014.
  7. ^ Kirkbride, M. [michaelkirkbride]. (21 February 2014). "Star Wars: Rebellion, written by Kurt Kuhlmann and...". Tumblr. Archived from the original on 8 July 2015.
  8. ^ Kirkbride M., & Kuhlmann K. "Star Wars Rebellion—Sanctuary: Dies Irae". Archived from the original on 27 October 2016.
  9. ^ Kirkbride M., & Kuhlmann K. "Star Wars Rebellion—Sanctuary: Stringendo". Archived from the original on 27 October 2016.
  10. ^ Kirkbride M., & Kuhlmann K. "Star Wars Rebellion—Sanctuary: Coda". Archived from the original on 27 October 2016.
  11. ^ a b c d Kirkbride, M. [/u/MKirkbride]. (2 March 2014). Comment on "The Asymptotic Kalpa: A Retrospective: Divinity, Landfall, and the Land of the Red King Once Jungled". Reddit.
  12. ^ Loveletter From the Fifth Era, The True Purpose of Tamriel, The Imperial Library
  13. ^ Michael Kirkbride's Posts, The Imperial Library
  14. ^ Kirkbride, M. [Merry Eyesore the Elk]. (20 November 2013). "The Prophet of Landfall", Illustrated". Bethesda Softworks Forums. Archived from the original on 30 December 2015.
  15. ^ [mojonation1487]. (18 January 2014). "C0DA Preview". Reddit.
  16. ^ Kirkbride, M. [MKirkbride]. (4 November 2013). "I am Michael Kirkbride. Ask Me Anything." Reddit.
  17. ^ [Attentiongrab]. (13 February 2014). "C0DA Secrets Dump Merged Similar Topics". Bethesda Softworks Forums. Archived from the original on 18 February 2020.
  18. ^ Coda SoupRaril Giral
  19. ^ Kirkbride, M. [MKirkbride]. (27 March 2014). Comment on "Does anyone have any ideas on what Tamriel and Morrowind would have been like just prior to Landfall and the exodus to the moon?". Reddit.
  20. ^ Kirkbride, M. [MKirkbride]. (27 March 2014). Comment on "Does anyone have any ideas on what Tamriel and Morrowind would have been like just prior to Landfall and the exodus to the moon?". Reddit.
  21. ^ [ladynerevar]. (20 November 2013). "The official prelude to C0DA.". Tumblr.
  22. ^ [ladynerevar]. (21 December 2020). Comment on "What is "The Abortion or the Black One"". Reddit.
  23. ^ Kirkbride, M. [MKirkbride]. (9 March 2014). Comment on "Would it be possible for someone to develop a shout in another language and have the same power as a dragon shout ?". Reddit.
  24. ^ Kirkbride, M. [michaelkirkbride]. (9 March 2014). "DIES IRAE - WRATH CAME TO RED MOUNTAIN Before the...". Tumblr. Archived from the original on 14 April 2016.
  25. ^ [ladynerevar]. (6 November 2015). Comment on "Any new on Cyrus's sword meeting with Tobias?". Reddit.
  26. ^ Kirkbride, M. [MKirkbride]. (4 November 2013). Comment on "I am Michael Kirkbride. Ask Me Anything." Reddit.
  27. ^ Kirkbride, M. [michaelkirkbride]. (30 July 2014). "C0DA cover by Ksenia Mamaeva. Based on the first...". Tumblr. Archived from the original on 13 June 2015.
  28. ^ Kirkbride, M. [MKirkbride]. (15 February 2014). Comment on "C0DA". Reddit.
  29. ^ a b c Kirkbride, M. [MKirkbride]. (22 February 2014). Comment on "C0DA - Co-Existence (Ping from ESO)". Reddit.
  30. ^ Chan, K. H. (26 November 2016). "The battle to control what's fact and fiction in the elder scrolls' lore". PC Gamer.
  31. ^ Kirkbride, M. [MKirkbride]. (15 February 2014). Comment on "C0DA Lore Discussion". Reddit.
  32. ^ Kirkbride, M. [MKirkbride]. (29 December 2014). Comment on "The extent of C0DA?" Reddit.
  33. ^ Kirkbride, M. [MKirkbride]. (25 February 2014). Comment on "Question about "open source lore"". Reddit.
  34. ^ Schick, L. [ZOS_LawrenceSchick]. (10 September 2014). Comment on "AMA With The ESO Writing Team". Reddit.
  35. ^ Kirkbride, M. [MKirkbride]. (18 March 2014). Comment on "C0DA". Reddit.
  36. ^ a b Kirkbride, M. [Merry Eyesore the Elk]. (15 February 2014). Comment on "C0DA Lore Discussion". Bethesda Softworks Forums. Archived from the original on 13 February 2020.
  37. ^ Kirkbride, M. [Merry Eyesore the Elk]. (15 February 2014). Comment on C0DA Lore Discussion". Bethesda Softworks Forums. Archived from the original on 13 February 2020.
  38. ^ Kirkbride, M. [MKirkbride]. (17 February 2014). Comment on "In C0DA, what does "Registered by C0DA" refer to?". Reddit.
  39. ^ Kirkbride, M. [Merry Eyesore the Elk]. (15 February 2014). Comment on "C0DA Lore Discussion". Bethesda Softworks Forums. Archived from the original on 17 February 2020.
  40. ^ Kirkbride, M. [Merry Eyesore the Elk]. (20 January 2012). Comment on "What is C0DA". Bethesda Softworks Forums. Archived from the original on 13 February 2020.