Written by Atticus Plinius on the 2nd of Frostfall, 4E201.
Greetings! My name is Atticus Plinius. I'm sure you've heard of the Plinius family; a wealthy, highly educated family of Imperial nobles. Though my family has close ties to the Synod, any members of the College of Whispers need not be uncomfortable in my presence, as I've sought a different occupation: that of the travelling scholar. I do receive a small allowance, but in all other matters, I may as well have left the family.
The ultimate purpose of this letter is to ask what is required to join the Tamriel Guild of Scholars. Need I attend often, or pay some sort of dues? Due to my vocation, I am not entirely sure if I shall often be present. I do hope for your correspondence.
In addition, I have a certain text that I would like to share. It is a particularly rare book titled Discourse on the Animunculi. The author, one Davyn Llervi, went into seclusion soon after publishing the first copies of this book. He published the first copies sometime around 4E 122, but abandoned his work when he discovered that his wife had died in the Great Collapse.
The text is as followers:
During my studies of the Dwemer in Morrowind and Skyrim, I have been left with two great, unanswered questions regarding Dwemer centurions, or Animunculi: What fuels their steam-powered engines, and what lends them their basic intelligence?
Animunculi function on steam-based power, yet no possible fuel for the reaction has yet been suggested. There is also the issue of how they obtain water to use in their processes; on that matter, I speculate that the Animunculi gather condensation, which is easily found in the damp, subterranean environments that many Animunculi reside in.
Animunculi certainly possess some measure of intelligence. They possess the knowledge to fight, and are able to ‘learn’ in the short term (for instance, remembering the presence of a nearby enemy). In addition, some Animunculi, such as the spider centurions native to Skyrim, are known to possess more than mere basic intelligence: they are known to possess cunning, stalking intruders and waiting for the perfect moment to strike. Both the core power source and the intelligence of the Animunculi are rarely remarked upon by experts, who simply ignore the subject and attribute it to the superior technology of the Dwemer. I, however, have found a possible explanation for both questions. I posit that both issues are resolved by the soul gems found in the Dwemer centurions native to Skyrim. It has been established that the souls trapped within soul gems retain a shadow of the intelligence they possessed in life; I believe that Dwemer technology taps into that shadow and turns it into the ‘brain’ of a given centurion. In addition, I propose that the magical power of the soul gem is slowly siphoned off to fuel the steam processes.
Even if my proposition is correct, there remains the question of how Animunculi lacking soul gems function, such as those found in Morrowind. It should be noted that I have no experience with the Dwemer ruins and technologies found in Hammerfell, and as such I cannot even begin to speculate about the functions behind Animunculi native to that area. It should also be noted that the following thoughts regarding Morrowind’s Animunculi are mere speculations that, unlike my conclusions regarding Skyrim’s centurions, are not entirely based in personal research in the field (rather, they are drawn from clues found in the teachings of my deceased colleague Edwinna Elbert, and in the published works of other experts of the Dwemer). It has been observed by associates of mine from my time in the Mages Guild that when transported outside of Morrowind, Animunculi native to the area deactivate, and when returned to Morrowind, they reactivate. Some experts have suggested that there may be a ‘signal’ of sorts that keeps the Animunculi active. I have expanded upon that thought; perhaps the signal sends the intelligence, power, or both to the Animunculi. The source of the signal is a central location somewhere in Vvardenfell; it is therefore likely that the source of the signal is housed nearby Red Mountain. I further speculate that perhaps the Heart of Lorkhan is involved with the signal, and that although the Nerevarine removed the Heart, the signal continued in the years after as an echo. Today, with Vvardenfell an unsurvivable wasteland, it is impossible to tell if the signal has faded or remained.
If my speculations regarding the Vvardenfell signal hold true, there remains the question of why the Dwemer of Skyrim did not employ such a signal. I have three responses that answer that question, at least in part. #1: The Dwemer of Skyrim did not possess such a power source as the Heart of Lorkhan, and thus they could not create such a signal. #2: Even if #1 is inaccurate, the Dwemer of Skyrim would not employ such a signal because they were divided city-states rather than a united nation. Essentially, if they were to create a single powerful signal like the one in Vvardenfell, the city-state that claims control of the signal could set opposing city-states’ Animunculi on the people of the opposing city-states. If multiple signals were present, the signals would likely have shorter ranges (making the Animunculi inefficient in some scenarios) and there would be the possibility of signal hijacks, in which warring factions would attempt to steal one another’s Animunculi by introducing entirely new signals. #3: The Blackreach is known to house rich deposits of soul gems, and the Falmer were slaves of the Dwemer for many years. The Dwemer of Skyrim had a steady supply of both the soul gems and souls needed.
Now, as Llervi rightly admits, many of these statements are heavily indulgent of speculation. However, the subject has piqued my interest, and I would enjoy your correspondence regarding the book just as much as your correspondence regarding my potential recruitment.
The Tamriel Guild of Scholars is no exclusive institution. We ask for only a small donation of sorts, if you can spare it, and presence is not explicitly required. I, personally, would be honored to maintain some correspondence regarding studies of the Dwemer Automatons, and I am sure that our scholarly community here would greatly appreciate anything you have to offer.