The Dark Heart, also known as the Frightful Heart, is an artifact associated with Namira through some of the cultural interpretations of Lorkhan, specifically Lorkh and Lorkhaj. Physically appearing as a sphere of darkness surrounded by a radiant aquamarine corona, it is a piece of primal Void trapped on Nirn that warps existence around it. According to ancient Khajiit, Namira became a shadowy imitation of Lorkhan's heart, while Reach belief holds that the darkness left his heart after his sacrifice for the creation of the realm of flesh. Regardless, Lorkhan's real heart was flung towards what is now Vvardenfell and created Red Mountain, while the Dark Heart found its way into the depths of Blackreach and remains under the influence of Namira.
Those tied to the heart describe hearing intrusive whispers, and can feel its pulsing and throbbing which "grows stronger as the Heart becomes more powerful". Additionally, the power of the Dark Heart can be drawn from at the risk of being consumed by it. Those tapping into the Dark Heart's power and are overwhelmed undergo horrifying physical side-effects. In the case of the Nighthollow Clan, their vampiric appearance was overwritten with Namira's Bile, which greyed out their skin and produced a black inchor within their eyes. Lady Belain, the Clan's matriarch, developed Void Pathosis, altering her Vampire Lord form with a ink-like texture, which has the potential to hollow a mortal's shell out, and leave behind nothing but a husk.
Both the Reachmen and the ancient Khajiit tell stories detailing the origin of the Dark Heart, and its history may be surmised from these legends.
From the Dark Heart of Lorkhaj was born the Moon Beast, the first of the dro-m'Athra, who lurks at the edge of the Lattice and knows nothing but hunger."
—Amun-dro, the Silent Priest
The Khajiit creation story tells of Fadomai attacked by Ahnurr in his anger. She, fearing for her life and children, fled with them to the Great Darkness and hid, giving birth to her final child, Lorkhaj. Having been born amidst the Great Darkness, the Khajiit believe that Lorkhaj's heart was filled thereby, and thus was the Great Darkness made aware of itself and then known as Namiira.
After Fadomai's death, her daughter Nirni approached Lorkhaj, whom she asked to create for her children a dwelling. He did so, but influenced by the Great Darkness in his heart he deceived his siblings to trap them in the new place with Nirni. Some managed to escape death and become the stars, and those who remained punished Lorkhaj by tearing out his heart and hiding it deep within Nirni, so that he would be with her whom he had done the most harm. Some ancient songs claim Merid-Nunda as convinced the siblings to enact revenge. Texts that predate the Riddle'Thar Epiphany describe Lorkhaj surviving this encounter, fleeing to Azurah with a hole in his chest, where she saw Namiira still dwelling within his wound, keeping him alive and corrupting him by imitating his heart. Azurah cleansed Lorkhaj of the corruption and flung his Dark Heart into the Void, and Lorkhaj perished within Azurah's embrace. From the Dark Heart came the twisted shade of Lorkhaj known as the Moon Beast, the first dro-m'Athra. Thus Lorkhaj represents the duality of Khajiiti souls and their susceptibility to the Bent Dance, which calls them to darkness through the "beating drum of the Dark Heart in [their] moments of deepest sorrow or most anguished regret."
Azurah observed the Dark Heart beat like a drum, with each heartbeat spewing black blood that tapped the floor to form a rhythm. After Lorkhaj's death, the spirit Noctra was born of this black blood at the steps of the Void Gate, evincing her claim to being part of the original void.[UOL 1] The heartbeat of the Dark Heart itself is said to be heard in the Dark Behind the World, which Namiira and her dro-m'Athra dance to.
The Reachmen creation story speaks of Lorkh having an epiphany when he visited the darkness: that nothingness is ripe for possibility. And so Lorkh approached Namira, who ruled the world of spirit. Lorkh convinced her to grant him a place in the infinite void to create a realm for wayward spirits. To make this a possibility, Lorkh sacrificed himself to create a harsh realm, one that is unforgiving and intended to teach through suffering. The Magna Ge fled to Aetherius following Nirn's creation, retreating from the darkness emitted from Lorkh's heart after his sundering. Thus to the Reachmen, Lorkh serves as an example to fight against the darkness in their hearts.
The Dark Heart is said to emit Namira's energy, which can manifest Shades which are dark, hateful, and hungry spirits that have been twisted by being in contact with Namira's energy. The energy from the heart can create dark corruptions known as "voidstuff", which can empower a clan's witch, turning them to Voidmothers, also known as Void Liches, who can consume the souls of their victims. Some Reach clans may look to dark avenues to twist and abuse these dark corruptions to gain power, which when wielded, can cause great calamities.
Long before the conquests of Mer and Nords in the Karth region, human tribes dwelled within the caves in the Druadach Mountains. Among them would be the ancestors of the Ghostsong clan, who inhabited caves now hidden under the Nordic barrows known as Lost Valley Redoubt. Deep within the caverns lay a deep pit known as the Dark Descent, where the realms of flesh and spirit are said to intersect. There, the first Ghostsong witch made a bargain with Namira. From then on, the clan was deeply intimate with the Spirit Queen, and would pass the Prophecy of the Dark Heart through the generations of the Ghostsong. At the end of all days it will beat again, reawakened by feeding on the deaths of mortals, and its darkness will spread from its depths to consume everything, sparing only Namira's faithful.
Sometime between the Merethic Era, and the second century of the First Era,[nb 1] Molag Bal created the first vampire out of a Nedic women in the wilds of Skyrim. The first vampire clans would later emerge within the province and go beneath the surface to establish their own empires within Blackreach. One of these clans was the Nighthollow, whom discovered the Dark Heart. They become reliant on its void energy for sustenance, and consequently became unable to gain nourishment through blood. They ruled the Reach above from the depths of Blackreach, and were dubbed the Night Lords by the ancestors of modern Reachfolk,
In the years following the death of King Harald in 1E 221, the Dwemer city-states of Arkngthamz, Bthar-Zel, Mzulft, and Raldbthar, (and possibly Nchuand-Zel) formed an alliance to oversee the extraction, processing, and study of the arcane mineral known as Aetherium. This alliance eventually discovered the Dark Heart, and stole it from the Nighthollow Clan. They created various apparatuses to study and control the heart's power. They opted to create the Library of Arkthzand, A place to share knowledge amongst the clans, and built an orrery within it to chart the Void using cosmic forces (aetheric, kinetic, and tonal), using the Dark Heart to chart the Void. Eventually internal disputes would occur over Aetherium, and the precious material would lend its name to the Aetherium Wars, which led to the collapse of Skyrim's Dwarven city-states, and resulted in the Library of Arkthzand's abandonment. Although the Dark Heart lay dormant, empty pockets known as void portals would continue to form around the library,
Despite its abandonment, the Library of Arkthzand remained sealed, and without its Keystone, the Nighthollow were forced to utilize their thralls to dig tunnels leading from their keep to the Library. They eventually broke through to the caverns underneath the orrery, and reclaimed the Dark Heart. Unfortunately for the Nighthollow, the Dwarves depleted most of its energy, leading to the inner circle to keep the remaining scraps for themselves. Their underlings were left to starve. or at worst devolve into husks. Lady Belain, seeing her clan slowly reduce into a shell of its former self, eventually took it upon herself to reserve the rest of the Heart's power to herself, even from her inner circle. She believed that the remaining energy would sustain her for long enough to discover a means of restoring the Heart's power. The Nighthollow Clan, in time, lost their power and influence, and were reduced to mere bedtime stories for the dwellers of the Reach.
During the Interregnum, Rada al-Saran was looking to obtain the Dark Heart to sever his Gray Host's contract with Molag Bal, which sentenced them to eternal damnation to Coldharbour upon their deaths. The Gray Host encroached on the Reach looking for the Dark Heart, slaughtering any Reach clans that stood in their path. Seeking to revitalize her Nighthollow clan, Lady Belain, who had made a pact with Rada centuries before, joined al-Saran. She was planted as an advisor to Ard Caddach and convinced him to encourage the fearful Reach clans to take refuge in Markarth. This was, in actuality, a ploy to gather mortals to be sacrificed to fuel the reawakening of the Dark Heart.
After being discovered as an ally of Rada by The Vestige and House Ravenwatch, Lady Belain hurried to rally the Ghostsong Clan to enact the Prophecy of the Dark Heart. Those who deserted the clan were quickly killed, while the willing were sacrificed to the Dark Heart. Arana, a dissident of the Ghostsong clan, aided the hero in discovering the Ghostsong's hideout, and discovered that Nathari had primed the reawakining of the Heart. Many shades came forth, and Nathari herself was transformed to a voidmother and was slain. The victory brought the Heart to a temporary stasis.
House Ravenwatch then assaulted Lady Belain's Nighthollow Keep under Blackreach, and discovered the Heart deep within the keep's depths, as well as the ongoing ritual to fully reawaken it. It was too late, and the Heart was reawoken, pulling the souls of Markarth's denizens into it, and resurrecting the Nighthollow clan from its ashes. Lady Belain unsealed the doors of Nchuand-Zel, catching those at Understone Keep off guard and almost killing Ard Caddach. The Vestige followed Arana into the Nchuand-Zel, and recovered the keystone within the ruin's depths to gain access to the Orrery of Arkthzand, which al-Saran required to harvest the Heart's power to its full potential. There, Lady Belain teleported the intruder's to the Dark Heart's chambers, and bathed in its power. Despite this, Namira intervened through Arana, and gave her the strength to press on despite her wounds. Together, the duo slew Belain, striking another blow against Rada, though Arana succumbed to her wounds after the battle.
The Dark Heart remained a lingering threat, as it was awakened but not at full capacity, and Arkthzand's orrery remained charged with Void energy. With the heart's newfound power quickly draining, time was of the essence for Rada, and he conducted a meeting with some of the other leaders of the Gray Host north of Markarth, near the Druadach Mountains. Although Belain was gone, she managed to buy time for Rada to tie the heart's energy to the Gray Host, further laying down the foundations for his plans. After intercepting a letter at the Gray Host's meeting place, the Vestige learned of Rada's intent. The letter was written as a final act of desperation, and written on it was Rada's plea for Verandis to rejoin his Gray Host, and House Ravenwatch would come to realize Rada's plan in full. Rada had opened a gateway into his sanctuary realm of Grayhaven, using the Orrery as a map, and the Dark Heart as a power source and gateway for this endeavor. Grayhaven itself is "a piece of land sundered from the Reach" during the Planemeld, and is caught in the Void "between Mundus and Oblivion". Using the Dark Heart, they could anchor their souls to this sanctuary realm, leading to their contract to be severed with Molag Bal. Additionally, "Death [would] become as much a petty inconvenience to them as to any Daedra", thus the Gray Host could potentially go on never ending conquests.
While House Ravenwatch were at his doorstep, Rada was inside his sanctuary realm, conjuring an apocalyptic storm from within known as the Darkstorm that would consume all the souls in the Reach to complete his goals. Despite Rada's skill with the Shehai, and his mastery over his Vampire Lord form, Verandis outwitted him and turned the power of the Dark Heart against him.
Verandis stayed behind to manipulate the Dark Heart's power, returning the souls such as Arana's back to their proper place. With the Heart's power fading away, it pushed Verandis outside of the realm instead of entrapping him. Verandis became bound to its power, and would become its guardian, ensuring both that it would never be used again, and that both he and the heart would fade into obscurity. The last known location of the Dark Heart was in the Orrery within the Library of Arkthzand, where it remained in a calm state.
- Trail and Tide — Moon-Bishop Hunal
- Count Verandis Ravenwatch's dialogue in ESO
- The Favored Daughter of Fadomai — Amun-dro, the Silent Priest
- Great Spirits of the Reach: Volume 5 — Vashu gra-Morga, Chief Daedrotheologist at the University of Gwylim
- Nchuand-Zel's loading screen in ESO
- Before the Ages of Man — Aicantar of
- Arana's dialogue in ESO
- Count Verandis Ravenwatch's dialogue during the quest The End of Eternity in ESO
- Gwendis' dialogue during the quest The Dark Heart in ESO
- Ja'darri's dialogue in ESO: Dragonhold
- Nighthollow Clan and various other's abilities in ESO
- Nighthollow Clan's use of Namira's Bile in ESO
- Lady Belain's use of Void Pathosis in her Vampire Lord form in ESO
- Words of Clan Mother Ahnissi — Clan Mother Ahnissi
- The Adversarial Spirits — Amun-dro, the Silent Priest
- The Sky Spirits — Amun-dro, the Silent Priest
- The Dark Spirits — Amun-dro, the Silent Priest
- Epistle on the Spirits of Amun-dro Vol 1 — Thava-ko
- Adara'hai's dialogue in ESO
- The Dark Descent's loading screen in ESO
- Ardanir's dialogue in ESO
- Rites Matron's dialogue in ESO
- Gwenyfe's dialogue on Voidmother Elgroalif related quests in ESO
- Lost Valley Redoubt's loading screen in ESO
- Frontier, Conquest — University of Gwylim Press, 3E 344
- Opusculus Lamae Bal ta Mezzamortie — Mabei Aywenil, Scribe
- Gwendis's dialogue during The Dark Heart in ESO
- Count Verandis Ravenwatch's dialogue in ESO
- Reach Bedtime Stories — Isa Truiand, Teller of Tales
- The Aetherium Wars — Taron Dreth
- Legend of Arkthzand — Neramo, Scholar of Extraordinary Merit
- Lord Idrisin's dialogue during the events of the The Dark Heart in ESO
- The Library of Arkthzand — Pentarch Cievernes
- Void Portals — Pentarch Cievernes
- Lady Belain's dialogue in ESO
- Nighthollow Shade's dialogue in ESO
- Nighthollow Husk's appearance in ESO
- Events of The Despot of Markarth in ESO
- Events of The Awakening Darkness in ESO
- Events of The Dark Heart in ESO
- Events of A Feast of Souls in ESO
- Events of The End of Eternity in ESO
- Events of Kingdom of Ash in ESO
- Events of Second Chances in ESO
Note: the following references are not from official sources. They are included to provide a rounder background to this article, but may not reflect established lore.
- Imperial Census of Daedra Lords — Imperial Geographic Survey