"Yes, children, it is no accident that this land of Tamriel has been called 'The Arena'." The old man altered his position on the large rock that bore his weight, and straightened his long gray robe. Rheumy eyes lost their focus as they gazed out over the sun-warmed valley in the mountains of High Rock. For a moment he saw a vision of ancient horrors instead of the fresh greenery of spring. A chill washed over his aged bones.
"Is this a suitable topic for the young and innocent?" he asked himself. The young must be taught, but must they learn of such things now, when they should be playing in the sunlight? This is a tale for the dreary winter, with the wind howling outside a walled town and the doors and windows closed and bolted against the blast and cold and -- other things.
He glanced with affection at his two grandchildren: the little towheaded boy with a hint of mischief dancing in his eyes even on those rare occasions when sitting quietly, and his older sister. A serene lass, the old man thought. Her hair like a dark flame and her slightly pointed ears were the only obvious signs of elven blood. So like her grandmother, the old man thought. The past is past, and I'shira had brought him so much peace and happiness after a lifetime of battle. He forced his thoughts back to the present.
"Sorry, children. I was remembering things. Old people do that, you know."
"Are you going to tell us the story of Jagar Tharn and the Emperor and the Eternal Champion?" His grandson asked. "That's my favorite!"
"Not exactly, son. They were a part of it, in a way. As are I'ric and Moraelyn and Edward and Reymon and many others. Even the gods play a part. This is a far older story, and even the priests won't tell it my way. They have their own interpretations, and their fears as well. I'm too old and have seen too much to have any fear left, except that our people will forget. And forgetting is dangerous. So I, and a few others, carry this tale and try to spread it among the younger generations. You aren't really old enough to understand it all, but I can feel that my end is not far off. I must ask you to remember anyway. In a few years, perhaps, if I still live, we can discuss it again. If not, well, you must seek out others who know, and compare notes."
"You talk as if you are going to die, Granther," his granddaughter spoke up. "That can't happen. You will live forever!"
Chuckling, "I'm afraid not, dear. But I have a little while left, enough for the story".
The children settled back against the bole of a large oak, knowing that the old man could not be hurried. Leaning forward, he began:
"Long, long ago, before there were any people at all; even before the gods, Tamriel was chosen as a battleground by two -- things. It is difficult to find words that fit them well. I call them the Light and the Dark. Others use different names. Good and Evil, Bird and Serpent, Order and Chaos. None of these names really apply. It suffices that they are opposites, and totally antithetical. Neither is really good or evil, as we know the words. They are immortal since they do not really live, but they do exist. Even the gods and their daedric enemies are pale reflections of the eternal conflict between them. It's as though their struggle creates energies that distort their surroundings, and those energies are so powerful that life can appear, like an eddy in a stream."
"Do demons and trolls come from the Dark, Grandpa?"
"Not exactly, son. The undead evils we know, and the demons that live on Oblivion tend to align with the Dark. Their natures are more akin to it. Humans and the other peoples of Tamriel, even the misunderstood Dark Elves, are more aligned with the Light. Our evils are not always of the Dark, but some are, and these are the truly dangerous ones. Jagar Tharn was almost wholly aligned with the Dark, and that is really why he was so monstrous. It was not because he was a black mage, as some would have it."
"Did his magic come from the Dark, Granther?" The girl's interest was piqued by mention of magic. Her heritage is beginning to show itself, thought the old man.
"No, magic power comes directly from the energies swirling about both entities. These energies are impersonal and all mixed up. Black magic is more a matter of intent than effect. The Mages' Guild holds that a fireball, say, directed against a creature intent on causing harm, is not black magic; but the same spell directed at one seeking peace is. In this, they are right. Destruction of a fire daedra strengthens the Light and weakens the Dark just a little. In the same manner, destruction of a unicorn strengthens the Dark."
"What about the gods? Do they come from the Light?" The boy's eyes were animated, but tinged with apprehension. He adored stories of the gods and goddesses of Tamriel's pantheon, and the heroes who served them.
The old man chuckled. "The gods have an unusual origin, if some of the oldest tales are true. The oldest inhabitants of this world -- no one seems to be sure what race they were -- had a system of myths that they believed in for a thousand years. The people of et'Ada believed for so long and so well, that their beliefs may, just may, have drawn upon the energies surrounding Tamriel to bring the gods themselves into being. If that is so, the conflict between the Light and the Dark provided the energy, and the et'Adans the structure, that created the gods of Tamriel. No one really knows since it was so long ago and so little survives from that time. It no longer matters; the gods have their own existence now, and mostly align with the Light, except for a few who are, shall we say, a little ambiguous."
"Why do we have to remember, Granther? What is the danger you spoke of? If the Light and Dark are so big and powerful, can we influence them? Should we try? What should we fight for?"
"I see that your critical faculties are developing, Solara. That is good. The answer is simple, but quite large enough for mere mortals like us. The Light and Dark are evenly matched, and perhaps will never resolve their conflict. Mortals and the beings of the Aetherius sometimes can perceive traces of them. Therein lies the danger; to most of us the Light is more congenial, even inspiring, and moves us to behavior that we would call good. To creatures like us, the Dark is -- horrible. Those who have visions of it are often driven mad, and the ones who are not would be better dead. The Dark is to us a monstrous emptiness, an emptiness that sucks the soul toward it -- to be twisted, maimed, and ultimately destroyed. What we can see of it seems utterly evil. Perhaps somewhere else this would not be so, but in our world, it is."
The old man paused to gather his thoughts, gazing once more at the fresh new life of spring.
"What we must do is never to forget that the Dark is always there, beckoning to the weak-souled among us. Should it gain ascendancy over Tamriel, through agents perverted by its awful attraction, terrible things could happen. All that we hold beautiful or desirable, even love itself, would be swept away. Peace and hope would be no more. For Tamriel, that would be the worst possible disaster. What I saw during Jagar's reign nearly killed me, almost destroyed my mind. When he was destroyed, I thought the worst was over, but it was not. The forces of the Dark are on the march again, and new heroes must rise to join the Eternal Champion in the fight against them."
The old man and the two children sat in silence for several minutes. Finally, the children assisted their grandfather to his feet, and they walked slowly away. Toward home, and hearth, and lunch.