The Elder Scrolls Online

Loremaster’s Archive: Words and Power

Telenger the Artificer presents his unusual theory and answers your questions about Enchanting.

Time to dust off another tome from the archives! Today, Telenger the Artificer wishes to share with you his latest theory, which is sure to get you thinking about the power of language. He discusses how Enchanting ties into his postulations and answers a few of your questions on the topic.

Madam Firilanya, who you might already know, will be here next week. Send your questions about the clothier profession, dyes, or any Elder Scrolls lore topic to community@elderscrollsonline.com.


Words and Power

By Telenger the Artificer

Are languages in Tamriel more than a convenient means of communication? Throughout my studies, particularly in my ongoing research of the mysterious runestones, a theme of language explicitly interconnected with magic has surfaced with frequency that cannot be ignored. Is the very act of casting ideas into words an invocation? I present here evidence that may just support this admittedly radical position, which I hope the sapiarchs of the Crystal Tower will be enticed to expound upon or refute.

Let us begin with the runestones of Enchanting. Each is marked with a symbol consisting of syllables arranged together. Alone, a rune is inert, but magical potential is unleashed when combined with others in the appropriate syntax. The full form, the complete expression, conveys magic. One does not even need to fully understand the language to unlock the power it contains—not enough words exist or are known to truly speak it, but by studying glyphs and combining runestones, it is possible to grasp enough of the raw concepts to utilize it. The language itself is undeniably connected in a fundamental way to magical energies, though its origin remains a mystery.

As an aside for prospective students of Enchanting, do not become discouraged when you encounter a rune you are unable to decipher. Only through repetition of words and phrases you have learned and the extraction of runes from glyphs will you obtain the knowledge you need to master more difficult runes. Be patient and work with other students to create and deconstruct glyphs to gain more insight into their interplay and true meaning.

Language, specifically the written word, is also of critical importance to the Altmer. Not only does it preserve our history, but it captures and defines our auspicious lineage and ensures that every Mer knows his or her place in the hierarchy. It is no accident that Altmeri society is the most orderly and structured in Tamriel—it is the will of Xarxes himself. The scholar-priests of the divine scribe, secretive though they are, are said to preserve an ancient tongue long forgotten to any but their order. In Helaameril’s “Conversations with the Etymon-Binders,” an anonymous scribe hints at tomes capable of producing tastes, smells, and dancing images, and texts that can be read by any gazing upon them—even the unlettered. Another form of word-magic, if Helaameril is to be believed.

Consider even what may seem mundane: the speech of a great general upon the morn of battle that rouses his troops to perform incredible deeds, the songs of a master bard that inspire emotion, the calming tone of a mother to her child. Are there traces of magic in everyday exertions of will through speech or writing? It seems possible that some remnant of ancient pre-Dawn power lingers on here, though it has grown faint. There is even more evidence to support this throughout the history of Tamriel—far too much to detail here—and I look forward to debating this theory among my peers.


Telenger the Artificer answers your questions:

I have always been fascinated by enchanting and soul gems in particular. Is it possible to utilize the souls in Soul Gems in other ways than powering enchantments and spells? Could one extract the soul and manipulate it outside of the gem? Surely it is the intent of Molag Bal to use the power of soul magic—so why can we not do the same? – Araeynir Fireheart

Telenger the Artificer says: “Though there is currently a great deal of investigation into soul-trapping and soul-manipulation occurring on continental Tamriel, as an Altmer I cannot in good conscience condone such experiments, which in the Summerset Isles would be rightfully banned as darkest necromancy. I advise you to turn the fire in your heart to other, brighter pursuits.”


I am a humble Breton battlemage who has only recently started learning the art of Enchanting. My search for runes is slow going, even with the assistance of a hireling. I find I am often lacking in aspect runes. On the opposing side of the spectrum, I have an over-abundance of essence runes. I have a number of potency runes, but they are beyond my level of comprehension. Have you any recommendations for learning this art more quickly? – Marola Eponine

Telenger the Artificer says: “Ah, you young Bretons – sometimes talented, but always hasty! My advice is to seek out the companionship of others with the same interests to form a society of mutual support – an enchanters’ guild, if you will. In this way, you will be able to pursue different approaches simultaneously, and all will benefit from the resulting knowledge. You will also be able to trade runes amongst yourselves.”


I read with great interest your volume on the "Enigma of the Runestones," certainly the most comprehensive account to date on this fascinating topic. I would be interested in knowing more about the words associated with the runestones. What language are they? I am aware of the theory proposed by Nolin the Many-Hued, according to which runestones would be the result of an Ayleid wizard's experiment. And yet the Ayleid word for "fire" is "molag," whereas the essence runestone associated with fire is "rakeipa." And what is your personal opinion on the origin of runestones? – Salagar Feynn, Evermore Mages Guild

Telenger the Artificer says: “A fascinating question, which I myself have spent some time researching. Study of the runes shows that they are made of repeating figures, each of which is expressed as a verbal syllable: thus ‘Jora,’ the trifling rune that translates as ‘develop,’ combines the two angled slashes that we know as ‘jo’ and ‘ra.’ When ‘je’ is added, the result is ‘Jejora,’ the slight rune that means ‘raise.’

“So the rune names clearly form a language that is coherent and consistent, if limited. The question is, What language is it? This is where we begin to run out of answers, as the rune-language seems to derive from no known historic or pre-dawn culture. My personal best guess is that it is a language that was entirely invented by some Dawn Era enchanter or school of enchanters who left no other record of their existence than the spread of runestones across Tamriel.”


Further Reading:

Enigma of the Runestones

By Telenger the Artificer

The origin of the mystic runestones found scattered across Tamriel is obscure and uncertain. Even their nature and material composition is a matter of hot debate among the sages of the Crystal Tower. The Venerable Ancirinque, Sapiarch of Mythohistory, holds that certain difficult passages in Torinaan's Journal indicate that runestones were already here when the Foresailor arrived from Old Aldmeris. However, Nolin the Many-Hued, Sapiarch of Enchantment, contends that they date from the early Merethic Era, and are the unintended consequence of an Ayleid wizard's experiment gone awry.

Whatever the truth of their origin, after generations of study by the finest magical minds in the Summerset Isles, their various properties have nearly all been identified, and their uses in the enchantment of arms, armor, and ornaments are well understood. For general classification they fall into three categories, which we latter-day mages have dubbed Potency, Aspect, and Essence.

For enchantment purposes these three types of runestones can be understood as mystically complementary, for only by combining one of each category can the enchanter create a "glyph," our term for the magical substance we use to endow an item with sorcerous power.

However, though we know how to use runestones to create magical items, the enigma remains: what are they? We have named their three standard categories Potency, Aspect, and Essence—but what does that mean? Even the great Phariiz the Antic, who gave them these names, even he, when asked what they meant, merely shrugged and replied, "Those are the names that feel right to me."

Even the fact that there are three kinds of runestones generates debate, as it seems to contradict the Anu-Padu Theorem, which posits that duality is the foundation of the Aurbis. Camilonwe of Lillandril asserted that it was impossible that there were only three types of runestones, and spent the last two hundred years of his life searching for a fourth, convinced that proper classification called for such entities to appear in dual pairs. He never found this "quartonic runestone," which he dubbed Celerity, but he insisted until the end that his theory was sound.

Was Camilonwe right? Do Celerity runestones exist, but in some state of reality that makes them imperceptible to normal mortals? That is a question that is, so far, unanswerable.


Discuss this on the official ESO forums.