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One-Who-Knows-Tones

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11 Sun’s Height, 1E 648

The Naming Ceremony was one of the few special occasions that the Dwemer observed. Some of the more religious peoples might call it a holiday, and indeed, there were similarities. It was an event observed—celebrated, even—throughout the people, a life-cycle event with great cultural significance. But it also differed from holidays as understood by non-Dwemer. It honored no gods, nor spirits, only mortals. And it was not held cyclically, but rather when it was deemed necessary by a quorum of department chiefs.

The purpose of the Naming Ceremony was simple enough to the Dwemer, although it always seemed to confuse outsiders. It was a meeting at which Dwemer citizens were given the names that would define them for the rest of their lives. Of course, young Dwemer had “names” even before they were honored at a Naming Ceremony, but these were children’s names, given by their parents and designed to lack any true meaning. Names given at the ceremony were selected by the community leaders to reflect the person’s true nature. The newly Named Dwemer would leave their birth name behind as part of the process of taking on their more personalized identity.

The upcoming Naming Ceremony was drawing more attention than usual from the general public. One of the mer to be Named was a mere thirty-eight years old. She was to graduate from the Academy the week before the ceremony with a degree in tonal architecture. That alone was unusual—most graduates from the Academy were at least forty, and students of tonal architecture were often even older. But even then, it was usually a number of years before a graduate was formally Named. Most Dwemer had to wait until close to the end of their first century; being Named before even age fifty was all but unheard of.

Rumors surrounding this mer swept throughout the underground of Vvardenfell like messenger spiders. Some people knew of her or her work personally. Others knew only of second- or third-hand accounts. The one thing they could all agree on was that there was something special about her.


The young mer woke up from restless sleep on the morning of the Naming Ceremony. She bathed in cleansing vibrations and then donned the ornate robes that had been provided for her just days earlier. Turning to the mirror, she proceeded to work on her hair. Normally, she tied it back—it was easy to get it stuck in machinery otherwise. Today, however, she decided to let the purple locks flow freely down past her shoulders. It was a special occasion, after all. Of course, the color would serve to highlight her young age, but she allowed herself the indulgence. It wasn’t as if she would fool anyone if she let it return to its natural coppery brown, anyway, especially since her beard—also purple, of course—was not even long enough to braid. Once she was satisfied with her formal attire, she headed for the presentation hall where the ceremony would be held.

She stood on the dais of the presentation hall with the rest of the mer to be Named while the Chief Archivist, Thumzac, introduced the ceremony. He went on and on about what an honor it is to receive one’s Name, how the department chiefs put great thought into each Name and only bestowed one when the person was ready, how these mer were standing on the threshold of actualization…every Dwemer in attendance had heard it all countless times.

Finally, Thumzac explained the actual process of the ceremony. Each mer to be Named would be called up to the front of the dais, accompanied by the department chiefs who were most involved in selecting their Name. Those chiefs would make a brief introduction and then present the mer with a mantle with their new Name inscribed on it. The Named mer would then put on the mantle and introduce themselves by name to the audience.

With the explanations concluded, the ceremony began. One by one, the mer were brought to the front and mantled with their new Name. Most were accompanied by one or two chiefs whom they had served before. When the young mer with the purple hair was called to the front, two chiefs rose to join her. The first was Nchuanac, the Chief Scholar and head of the Academy from which she had just graduated. That much was expected. But her heart skipped when she saw that the other was the Chief Tonal Architect, Kagrenac.

Of course, she had always hoped that she might one day have the honor of meeting Kagrenac—as a student of tonal architecture, she looked to Kagrenac as a role model. But to think that the Chief Tonal Architect not only knew who she was, but had taken on the responsibility of Naming her? It was more than she had ever dared to dream.

Nchuanac and Kagrenac spoke of the mer’s accomplishments thus far. They told of the advancements she had made in tonal architecture, the work she had published, how she had graduated at such a young age, and how they were excited to see her grow into her newly refined identity. Then they each took hold of the mantle and presented it to the mer.

“In the presence of the community,” they said in practiced unison, “we name you Bthunkagr.”

“Bthunkagr,” she repeated quietly as she accepted the mantle. She stood processing it for a moment. Any Name with bthun—“know”—was a high honor indeed, if she understood correctly. The murmurs throughout the audience, carried to the dais by the hall’s acoustics, provided support for her suspicion. The morpheme was only ever given to scholars who showed great aptitude in their area of study. In fact, as far as she was aware, there had never been a Bthunkagr before. If that was how they saw her, then she realized it made perfect sense for the Chief Tonal Architect to participate in the Naming of the One-Who-Knows-Tones.

She put on the mantle. It was heavier than she expected, but that felt appropriate. She was now realizing that there was a great weight to both the honor and the responsibility that came with her new Name. Before today, she had never understood why people seemed nervous before their Naming. Now, seeing the expectations that came with her Name, she understood very well.

Facing the audience, she raised her voice and said, “I am Bthunkagr.”