(Dwemer Architects concept art)
The Dwemer, A History
I will be roughly detailing some neat-o information about the Dwemer in this little article, but I will be mainly focusing on their disappearance.
(Dwemeri Merethic Marks)
So, to start things off, we should make an effort to understand who the Dwemer were.
Dwemer, descendants of the Aldmer – I will touch more on this at some point, just not in this article – derive their very name, the very core of their own beings, from the idea that magic mixed with science is the truth of the world. Meaning “People of the Deep”, they were also called Deep Elves, preferring to live underground in massive, carved cities. Hailing from Dwemereth – which, to be sure, is little more than modern-day Morrowind now – the Dwarves were a very secretive and antisocial people.
(Region of Dwemereth)
Some time during the Merethic Era, during which Elves were the primal species in Tamriel, the Dwarves disassociated themselves with the Aldmer, and the other descendants – the Altmer, the Falmer, the Bosmer, and the Chimer – though little is known about when or why. Much of their early recorded history in the First Era details only events of conflict and struggle, whether between themselves or others, and, unfortunately, the account of timelines appear to vary so much as to be unprecise.
(Dwarven Plate Armor vs Dwemer Sphere Centurion)
In the middle-to-late Merethic Era, the Dwemer settled in what is now Morrowind and founded Dwemereth. When the Chimer – their gold-skinned cousins – arrived looking to also settle in Dwemereth, the two races clashed over land and resources and religions. During this time period, it is believed some Dwemer sailed to Skyrim, and the founding of the Dwemer in Skyrim began.
(Saint Almalexia the Lover, Lady of Mercy; Chimer, just for reference, though she was good friends with Dwemer King Dumac)
Though King Harald was credited with driving out the “last of the Elves” from Skyrim, it is believed they only meant the Falmer, for the Dwemer still inhabited their underground kingdoms, such as Raldbathar and Bthardamz.
(King Harald Haradrada, the Last of the Vikings, on whom Skyrim High King Harald is based)
(However, with the release of Dawnguard, we know better.) Turns out, the Falmer weren’t driven out of Skyrim. They instead sought refuge underground, with their less appreciated cousins, the Dwemer, but I’m not going into detail about the Falmer.
During their time in Skyrim, they often clashed with the Nords, though it never truly arose to war until the 1E ~300, long after King Harald had died. The armies of High King Gellir experienced unexpected victories over the Dwemer and succeeded in capturing many Dwemeri city-states.
(Concept art of Dwemer Ruin for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim)
Some few years, or perhaps decades, before this point, the four great kingdoms in Skyrim – Arkngthamz, Raldbathar, Mzulft, and Bthar-zel – formed an alliance over the mining and production with the crystal, Aetherium. This, however, proved to be so successful as to be a failure, as Raldbathar held most of the Aetherium, as well as a majority of the mining processes. This led to the alliance’s eventual shatter, and the four kingdoms waged heavy wars that became to be infamously known as, the Aetherium Wars. During this time, the seal to the forge was broken and scattered among the four cities, and the location of the Aetherium Forge itself was lost.
(Map of the Four Great Kingdoms and the rumored location of the Aetherium Forge)
During King Harald’s quest to wipe out the Falmer, the Snow Elves sought sanctuary from the Dwemer, who relented under certain conditions. Forced into slavery without any other option beyond extinction, the Falmer were tortured and oppressed by the Dwarves, who, using an unknown poison, blinded the Falmer. Eventually, the Falmer rebelled, and managed to slaughter many of their captors, escaping in Blackreach – Fal’Zhardum Din, or Kingdom of Blackest Reaches in Dwemeris, the Dwemer language – and thus began the War of the Crag, which was fought between the Falmer and Dwemer for several decades, all the way up until the Dwemer disappearance in 1E 700. (Finally on to the point of this article.)
(Fal'Zhardum Din, or Blackreach, in the common tongue)
While all this fun stuff was happening in Skyrim, life for the Dwemer in Dwemereth was…a struggle. Constant clashes with the Chimer made it difficult for the Dwemer to do as they pleased. The disorganization in Morrowind led to an eventual Nord invasion in 1E 416. The Dwemer and Chimer had wisdom to recognize the greater threat, and formed an alliance, creating the First Council. The combined might of the Dwemer and Chimer armies easily smashed the Nordic armies, and sent them back into Skyrim.
(King Dumac and Indoril Nerevar and Lady Almalexia [pre-transcendence], Heads of State of the First Council)
(Lord Tonal Architect Kagrenac, pictured below)
Sometime after this, it is unrecorded exactly when, Dwemer miners discovered a rare artifact, deep in the tunnels beneath Red Mountain. It was eventually identified as the Heart of Lorkhan by Chief Tonal Architect Kagrenac. The Tonal Architects under Kagrenac began studying and researching it, and determined it seemed to operate in a manner similar to soul gems, and thus could potentially be used to power a construct of magnificent power. Kagrenac created the three tools, Sunder, Keening, and Wraithguard. Sunder meant to focus and extract volume of power in specificity. Keening meant to focus the power extracted. Wraithguard meant to protect against the power of the Heart.
However, Voryn Dagoth of the Council, a Chimer, discovered what the Dwemer were up to, and warned Nerevar of the Dwemer’s treachery, that they intended to use the power of the Heart to force the Chimer out of Morrowind through the construct, Numidium.
Numidium, also called the Brass God, was a massive Dwemer Golem constructed by Chief Tonal Architect Kagrenac in late-First Era. Designed to be powered by the Heart of Lorkhan, it was said to be so big its hands would knock the moons from the skies.
Using the Heart of Lorkhan, the Dwemer intended on powering Numidium, and conquering…well, who knows? The records are unsure specifically when the Dwemer intended with it, and whatever it was, it never happened.
Thus began the War of the First Council. Nerevar, along with his greatest Lieutenants, Almalexia and Vivec, led the Chimer armies to an assault of the Red Mountain. From here, accounts vary as to how the battle proceeded. Some say the Chimer were nearing victory until Kagrenac activated Numidium. Some say the Dwemer armies were on the brink of shattering the Chimer when Kagrenac accidentally activated Numidium. They all, however, agree that Kagrenac did use the three tools on the Heart of Lorkhan, and infused its power into Numidium.
(Heart of Lorkhan)
(Tools of Kagrenac, Wraithguard, Keening, and Sunder)
(Akulakharn, Dagoth Ur's version of Numidium)
(Alduin vs Numidium concept art)
From here, it is all conjecture and theory, but there are two theories I find both believable and logically plausible as to what happened after this, exactly.
(Ruins of Mzandchend)
Theory 1, by Luagar Anulam: Ascension to Godhood
The first theory suggests that, when Numidium was activated, almost every single Dwemer on Tamriel was instantaneously absorbed by the Brass God to fuel its might, by which the Dwemer and Numidium itself became a God. It is believed it worked like one massive Soul Gem. The Heart of Lorkhan was the Soul Gem, and the entirety of the Dwemer people, the soul, and Numidium, the receptacle. This theory is based off the text from Yagrum Bagarn, the last living Dwemer – who only survived because, at the time, he was in Oblivion – encountered in TES III: Morrowind.
“Lord Kagrenac, the foremost arcane philosopher and magecrafter of my era, devised tools to shape mythopoeic forces, intending to transcend the limits of Dwemer mortality. However, in reviewing his formulae, some logicians argued that side effects were unpredictable, and errors might be catastrophic I think Kagrenac might have succeeded in granting our race eternal life, with unforeseen consequences – such as wholesale displacement to an Outer Realm. Or, he may have erred, and utterly destroyed our race”
(Yagrum Bagarn, the Last Living Dwemer, as seen in The Elder Scolls III: Morrowind)
“displacement to an Outer Realm” is what drives this theory. This Outer Realm is believed to be the Soul Cairn, which explains the theory that the Heart of Lorkhan operated like a giant Soul Gem and the Dwemer now live inside Numidium.
Theory 2, by Redditor McGravin: Punishment
The second theory suggest that, when Numidium was activated, the creation of an artificial god instead led to the entire race of Dwemer undergoing their own version of the Psijic Endeavor – another time; suffice to say it is a belief by which one can transcend mortality and achieve what is called CHIM, or royalty, and ascent above even the planes of Oblivion, and shape the Aurbis – but failed to achieve CHIM and were instead zero-summed and erased from reality. This theory is supported by the fact that, after the Dwemer disappearance, the Almsivi used the Heart of Lorkhan to ascend to godhood and that Vivec is one of only two known individuals to have actually achieved the CHIM.
Now, as for what truly happened to the Dwemer, only Bethesda can say, but I believe these two theories are the most likely explanations, and both are supported by already existing lore – and, in fact, the support for the first theory also supports the second theory, validating it even more.
So what happened to the Dwemer? Until we get an official response, who knows? The closest we got was in TESV: Skyrim, when Arniel Gane, a scholar at the College of Winterhold, tapped into ancient knowledge of the Dwemer and attempted to contact them, through which he believed they existed in another plane – which supports the first theory – but ended up miscalculating and disappearing himself. However, his use of soul gems further supports the first theory.
(Dwemer Spider Centruion concept art for The Elder Scrolls V: Skywind)
And that, ladies and gents, is the History and Disappearance of the Dwemer.
(Dwemer Sphere inside Dwemer Ruins)