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Father of the Niben
Fragments of a journal of Topal the Pilot

Fragment One

Introduction:

Writing the biography of anyone is a challenge. Usually the problem lies in assessing one's sources, comparing the prejudices of one chronicle versus another versus another. There is but one record of the man called Topal the Pilot, the earliest known Aldmeri explorer of Tamriel. Only four short verse fragments of the epic "Father of the Niben" have survived to present day, but they offer an interesting if controversial look at the Middle Merethic Era when Topal the Pilot may have sailed the seas around Tamriel.

Though "Father of the Niben" is the only written record of Topal the Pilot's voyages, it is not the only proof of his existence. Among the treasures of the great Crystal Tower of Summerset Isle are his crude but fascinating maps, his legacy to all Tamriel.

The translation of the Aldmeri Udhendra Nibenu, "Father of the Niben," is my own, and I accept that other scholars may disagree with some of my choice of words. I cannot promise my translation lives up to the beauty of the original: I have only strived for simple coherence.

Fragment One:

Second ship, the Pasquiniel, manned by pilot
Illio, was to follow the southern pointing
Waystone; and the third, the Niben, manned
By pilot Topal, was to follow the north-east
Pointing waystone; the orders from the
Crystal Tower, they were to sail forth for
Eighty moons and then return to tell.
Only Niben returned to Firsthold, laden high with
Gold and spice and fur and strange creatures,
Dead and live.
Though, alas, Old Ehlnofey Topal never found, he
Told the tales of the lands he had visited to the
Wonderment of all.
For sixty-six days and nights, he sailed, over crashing
Waves of dire intent, past whirlpools, through
Mist that burned like fire, until he reached the
Mouth of a great bay and he landed on a
Sun-kissed meadow of gentle dells.
As he and his men rested, there came a fearsome howl,
And hideous Orcs streamed forth from the murky
Glen, cannibal teeth clotted with gore

For centuries, strange crystalline balls were unearthed at the sites of ancient Aldmeri shipwrecks and docks, peculiar artifacts of the Merethic and Dawn Eras that puzzled archeologists until it was demonstrated that each had a tendency to rotate on its axis in a specific direction. There were three varieties, one that pointed southward, one that pointed northeast, and one that point northwest. It is not understood how they work, but they seemed attuned to particular lines of power. These are the "waystones" of the fragment, which each of the pilots used to point their craft in the direction they were assigned to go. A ship with a name not mentioned in the fragment took his vessel northwest, towards Thras and Yokuda. The Pasquiniel took the southern waystone, and must have sailed down toward Pyandonea. Topal and his northeast waystone found the mainland of Tamriel.

It is clear from this fragment what the three ships were assigned to do—find a passage back to Old Ehlnofey so that the Aldmer now living in Summerset could learn what became of their old homeland. As this book is intended to be a study of Topal the Pilot, there is scarcely room to dedicate to different theories of the Aldmeri exodus from Old Ehlnofey. If I were using this poem as my only source, I would have to agree with the scholars who believe in the tradition that several ships left Old Ehlnofey and were caught in a storm. Those who survived found their way to Summerset Isle, but without their waystones, they did not know what direction their homeland was. After all, what other explanation is there for three ships heading in three opposite directions to find a place?

Naturally, only one of the ships returned, and we do not know if either or both of the other two found Old Ehlnofey or perished at sea or at the hands of the ancient Pyandoneans, Sload, or Yokudans. We must assume, unless we think the Aldmer particularly idiotic, that at least one of them must have been pointing in the right direction. It may well have even been Topal, and he simply did not go northeast far enough.

So, Topal setting sail from Firsthold heads northeast, which coincidentally is the longest one can travel along the Abecean Sea without striking land of any kind. Had he traveled straight east, he would have struck the mainland somewhere in what is now the Colovian West of Cyrodiil in a few weeks. Had he traveled southeast, he might have reached the hump of Valenwood in a few days. Our pilot, judging by his own and our modern maps, sailed in a straight line northeast, through the Abecean Sea, and into the Iliac Bay, before touching ground somewhere near present-day Reich Gradkeep in two months' time.

The rolling verdant hills of southern High Rock are unmistakable in this verse, recognizable to anyone who has been there. The question, of course, is what is to be made of this apparent reference to Orcs occupying the region? Tradition has it that the Orcs were not born until after the Aldmer had settled the mainland, that they sprung up as a distinct race following the famous battle between Trinimac and Boethiah at the time of Resdayn.

Fragment Two


The rolling verdant hills of southern High Rock are unmistakable in the previous verse (Fragment One), recognizable to anyone who has been there. The question, of course, is what is to be made of this apparent reference to Orcs occupying the region. Tradition has it that the Orcs were not born until after the Aldmer had settled the mainland, that they sprung up as a distinct race following the famous battle between Trinimac and Boethiah at the time of Resdayn.
It is possible that the tradition is wrong. Perhaps the Orcs were an aboriginal tribe predating the Aldmeri colonization. Perhaps these were a cursed folk—"Orsimer" in the Aldmeris, the same word for "Orc"—of a different kind, whose name was to be given the Orcs in a different era. It is regrettable that the fragment ends here, for more clues to the truth are undoubtedly lost.

What's missing between the first fragment and the second is appreciable. It must be more than eighty months that have passed, because Topal is on the opposite side of mainland Tamriel now, attempting to sail southwest to return to Firsthold, after his failure at finding Old Ehlnofey.

Fragment Two:

No passage westward could be found in the steely cliffs
That jutted up like giant's jaw, so the Niben
Sailed south.
As it passed a sandy, forested island that promised
Sanctuary and peace, the crew cheered in joy.
Then exultation turned to terror as a great shadow rose
From the trees on leathered wings like a unfurling Cape.
The great bat lizard was large as the ship, but good pilot
Topal merely raised his bow, and struck it in its head.
As it fell, he asked his bosun, "Do you think it's dead?"
And before it struck the white-bearded waves, he
Shot once more its heart to be certain.
And so for another forty days and six, the Niben sailed south

We can see that in addition to Topal's prowess as a navigator, cartographer, survivalist, and raconteur, he is a master of archery. It may be poetic license, of course, but we do have archeological proof that the Merethic Aldmer were sophisticated archers. Their bows of layers of wood and horn drawn by silver silk thread are beautiful, and still, I have heard experts say millennia later, very deadly.

It is tempting to imagine it a Dragon, but the creature that Topal faces at the beginning of this fragment sounds like an ancestor of the cliff-racer of present day Morrowind. The treacherous cliff coastline sounds like the region around Necrom, and the island of Gorne may be where the nest of the "bat lizard" is. No creatures like that exist in eastern Morrowind to my knowledge at the present day.