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Theory: our character was split on many personalities and the Light of Meridia doesn't work right

Treshcore
Treshcore
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One Tamriel... The days before it were bound in chains, but put in a right order. After Tamriel was completely opened and people from all the alliances started to travel to their enemies' lands... Timeline has fallen, making a big riddle - hard even for a Dwemer. And there was a hero... A strange one. His or her story is both known and unknown. We know the events, but not the dates or motives. But what can definitely be said is that the rules of nature and time were broken around this one. It was this hero's blessing and curse...

Hi there. The problem of The Elder Scrolls Online's timeline is following my thoughts for around two weeks. I've already made a few topics about it, tried to highlight this problem and asked for fixes. If you didn't know about them, there is a small (but big enough to put it in spoiler) summary of what's going on:
After One Tamriel update, you can visit all the alliances' lands and complete their quests without any restrictions. This broke the game's timeline and logical connections. There are few examples of it.
  • It feels like two of the Main quests, "Messages Across Tamriel" ("MAT") and "Weight of Three Crowns" ("WoTC"), are completely torn from any progress you could've achieved while travelling across ALL the Tamriel, not only your alliance. For example, if I play as an Ebonheart Pact warrior, but have completed other alliances' questlines too BEFORE starting "MAT", there are strange things going to occur: your friends, other alliances' leaders, won't recognize you for no reason. Also, if you start their alliances' quests AFTER "MAT" and "WoTC", they won't recognize you as other alliance's greatest champion as well.
  • After "MAT" and "WoTC" you find yourself in Coldharbour, meeting characters from different alliances, primary from Daggerfall Covenant. Yes, I'm talking about Darien Gautier and Gabriel Benelle. The problem here is similar: if you meet this characters BEFORE Coldharbour, they won't recognize you in there, and if you meet them AFTER Coldharbour, they won't recognize you as well. They just won't say anything like "Oh hey, I know you, we met in Coldharbour" or "Hey, we defeated this Angof guy!". The only thing that Darien can say is "It's good to see you again, my friend!" in "WoTC", but it's all... And there's probably a lore-wise reason for it.
  • You see, Darien... This guy is special. He disappears in the end of Coldharbour storyline and for a good reason. However, if you decide to complete Daggerfall Covenant story quests after Coldharbour, you will see him in a good shape and won't even ask him where he was gone. But then, he appears in Summerset chapter, where he finally can be asked where did he disappeared after Coldharbour. Also, Gabrielle can reflect on the events of Coldharbour and be told about Summerset events in Western Skyrim.
  • On the tip of this mountain, it should be said that we can always leave one region for another and meet the same characters in both regions... Who may even refer to events of the regions, which were "before" the region you are in. Especially if we're talking about Aldmeri Dominion, it's Queen's brother and his wife.
Since I don't own any DLCs or chapters (I bought TESO before it started to include Morrowind chapter), I can't really say much about contradictions of the base game with them.
All these things show that there are few major questions to TESO timeline:
  1. Who our character truly is, so he or she is recognizable at some moment and unknown to the other one?
  2. What is the right order our characters' adventures and travels?
  3. How does Meridia's light truly works and does it work at all?
All these questions would've never appeared if not One Tamriel. I don't want to say that this is a bad thing, but it definitely left these riddles I'll try to answer. Also, please don't think that I try to command you the way you should think of your characters' past and future: I simply try to suggest an answer to these questions (even though I feel that it's incomplete) and would love to see your explanations :).

Who is our character and what was the order of his/her travels across Tamriel?
Our character is... Multiple characters, as the title of this post says. However, it's not that bad... And not good either.

Basically, our characters' story starts with their soul captured by Molag Bal's cultists and they thrown into prison in this beast's plane. This is how The Vestige was born. After being released by Lyris, this hero arrives in one of their alliances' territory. Inspired by people of these lands, they decide to fight for it, becoming their alliance's great patriot.
The Vestige fights through all their alliances' lands, facing the true danger of Molag Bal's Planemeld. The only way to resolve this problem is to unite. This is why The Vestige calls all of three Alliances' leaders to meet on the Island of Stirk. Even though negotiations were bad, they went even worse with the direct arrival of Molag Bal's forces.
After this fight, our hero and their companions found themselves in Coldharbour. They gained forces to fight Molag Bal's army. In the end, they finally won, even though King Laloriaran Dynar died and Darien Gautier disappeared.
Then, it was a moment for The Vestige to finally fight Molag Bal in a direct combat. They fight this daedra, slicing this monster into two pieces... And then it's time for The Vestige to stop being Vestige. Meridia catches their soul, allowing the Soulless one become truly alive again.
And this is the moment where things start to get strange...

Before the Vestige was born, there was another hero. A simple Adventurer, who lived their life in their homeland, training to become a mercenary. When the War of Three Banners raged, this hero became, for an unknown reason, ignorant to it's homeland and alliance, but found an opportunity to travel around the world. They used their skill to help people from all the Tamriel, to experience new lands and cultures.
This hero's braveness was infinite and power was endless... But the Worm Cult tricked this Adventurer. Only once, but it was fatal. Worm Cult captured Adventurer's soul and put the hero into the cell.

Since this moment, it was a completely different person. For some reason, maybe even because of Meridia's secret influence, people of Tamriel stopped seeing an Adventurer in the Vestige - this hero was just gone for some time.

When The Vestige has finally reclaimed this Adventurer's soul, their memories were combined and even a bit messed, making a new, complete hero - Savior of Tamriel.
This means, that this hero's alliance story was a "present" thing while other alliances' stories was their past. That The Vestige is a patriot of their alliance and Adventurer is just a traveler of their own business.
The Savior of Tamriel is a combined version of both of them, capable to make their own decisions without being manipulated by any of the alliances. This is why our hero decides to move on and travels these lands that are even less involved in war: starting from Orsinium and finishing, by now, with Blackwood.
What about other characters? All of them see the Savior of Tamriel as a hero of their own vision. All the alliances' leaders recognize their own champion, completely ignoring that they fought and maybe still fight for the other sides. There is an aureole of universality around our hero... But their true motives aren't completely known even to themselves.

As the result, true order of our characters' adventures is like that: other alliances (as an Adventurer) -> their own alliance (as the Vestige) -> DLC regions (as the Savior of Tamriel). This is the order when their story feels more complete and have less contradictions. As I told earlier, this order is imperfect, but I find it the best explanation since One Tamriel was implemented.
However, if this explanation it's really well, all the adventures of The Vestige can be described as somebody's stories that were told by a slightly incompetent storyteller, maybe like the Prince from Prince of Persia: Sands of Time.

What about the Light of Meridia which appears in Harborage after the Main Quest?
This question is even more complicated and it's answer looks more like a conspiracy theory. Since Meridia is known to be a huge trickster, it makes sense, but all in all, it's explanation is more like... trying to make things fit the theory I explained before. I don't like it, but after One Tamriel arrived, the Light of Meridia in Harborage has lost any sense, giving us space to think about it differently.
In my opinion, the Light of Meridia from Harborage didn't really put our hero into the sea, but in a random location which can be considered as a safehouse. On a bed, right. However, it made us experience our travels once again, making us say like we "travelled the world" to Cadwell.
Why does Meridia need it? She's a god! How can you understand a god? Maybe she's collecting your data, maybe she's providing you with information... Anyway, her Light doesn't work as she told it is - it's definitely.

Conclusion
Of course, it's bad that we must make theories about a complete product just because somebody didn't overseen something wrong with it's timeline. When Morrowind was released, Bethesda Game Studios made the greatest piece of The Elder Scrolls lore, creating Dragon Break, making Numidium cause it and even making Dagoth Ur repairing Akulakhan - the second version of this time-shattering machine. I think that TESO deserves something like this as well. The Elder Scrolls Online has a potential to be the most meta-physical game of the series and this potential should definitely be used.
However, by now, it's fun to create theories that somehow explain all the inconsistencies of the timeline. I hope that at some point we will know the truth, will be officially and in-game guided through these stories... But now the only way to explain this is making theories.
Thank you for your attention!
Edited by Treshcore on May 10, 2021 1:33PM
Even though TESO is a great game, it suffers from continuity issues that may hurt narrative experience and confuse lore-caring players. If we want TESO to be a decent exemplar in The Elder Scrolls series, these problems need to be fixed. Please, acknowledge with this information more in this thread. Thank you.
  • Treshcore
    Treshcore
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    By the way... How do you feel about Zero Numidium in one of the TESO chapters which will become a huge resolving of all these timeline riddles?
    Even though TESO is a great game, it suffers from continuity issues that may hurt narrative experience and confuse lore-caring players. If we want TESO to be a decent exemplar in The Elder Scrolls series, these problems need to be fixed. Please, acknowledge with this information more in this thread. Thank you.
  • Darkstorne
    Darkstorne
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    @Treshcore this was an awesome post, and it's a shame it's been completely ignored! Loved the write-up.

    I think you raise some great questions, and I think Meridia definitely has a lot more going on than she's currently revealing. The writers have hinted at that much multiple times now, so it will be interesting to see where they take things.

    I also think ESO's writers and lore team are absolutely phenomenal at their jobs, and while in any other MMO having all these Alliance war stories, Chapter stories, Q4 stories, all be playable in any order, all happening in exactly the same in-game year, happening at the same time, not happening at all, happening before each other, and happening after each other, all being true and false at once, would be easily dismissed as "that's just the result of the game design." In The Elder Scrolls, with the lore team ZOS have, there's no way they aren't aware of that issue, and there's no way they aren't deliberately playing with it.

    I'm pretty sure the events of the Planemeld, or Meridia's influence in reaction to it, or something else happening on the sidelines, or all of the above, have created a dragon break that we're experiencing together right now. Which is why all of these events are happening at the same time, and simultaneously haven't happened yet. Why the Vestige is every single one of our characters, and simultaneously also a character that hasn't even been created yet. Why there are multiple different emperors of Cyrodiil from different alliances, and an empty throne, at the exact same time (depending on which server/campaign you're looking at).

    In a very weird way, it makes me really excited to see how ZOS closes out ESO with its final Chapter, because they have some insanely fun material to work with here.
  • Jaimeh
    Jaimeh
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    Treshcore wrote: »
    As the result, true order of our characters' adventures is like that: other alliances (as an Adventurer) -> their own alliance (as the Vestige) -> DLC regions (as the Savior of Tamriel). This is the order when their story feels more complete and have less contradictions. As I told earlier, this order is imperfect, but I find it the best explanation since One Tamriel was implemented.
    However, if this explanation it's really well, all the adventures of The Vestige can be described as somebody's stories that were told by a slightly incompetent storyteller, maybe like the Prince from Prince of Persia: Sands of Time.

    One Tamriel was like a 'poetic license' the devs had to make in order to have all areas accsessible to players. You can try coming up with ways that it can fit the Vestige's journey, but it becomes extremely convoluted, inevitably with some more 'licenses' made along the way, because it's incompatible. The best way for new players is to follow the original timeline to avoid contradictions that they have to justify in roundabout ways, but if they do them out of order, then they could roleplay from the point of view of a dragon break, so time doesn't function in a linear way, and things like metting characters who don't remember you makes sense.

    Treshcore wrote: »
    The problem here is similar: if you meet this characters BEFORE Coldharbour, they won't recognize you in there, and if you meet them AFTER Coldharbour, they won't recognize you as well. They just won't say anything like "Oh hey, I know you, we met in Coldharbour" or "Hey, we defeated this Angof guy!". territory.

    Cadwell explains when you start silver that you will experience other lands but you won't be recognized as a hero, and even friends will see you as a souless person. So that's how they justified that, but the timeline (Darien was lost in Coldharbour but you meet him in Rivenspire, etc) makes sense again only from a non-linear perspective.
  • Sinlar
    Sinlar
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    This one likes to blame Abnur for breaking time again, mostly because it amuses Khajiit.

    As several have stated at various points though "What is time to a Daedra?"
    When you consider what we have become as the Vestige, the combining of a high Anuic valence from the remnants of the Aedra, with a form composed of Padomaic creatia.

    Then the result is more akin to an immortal being that is capable of free agency within a physical form. One that has already surpassed the limitations of physical mortality.
    Death to the Vestige after all, is at worst an inconvenience.
    This one wonders if perhaps something similar was Lorkhaj's actual intention for mortals, the true test of transcendence as it were.

    Before whatever sort of betrayal occurred.
    *Looks suspiciously in the direction of the Magna Ge*
  • PrayingSeraph
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    Interesting read!

    Regarding how I feel about the Numidium being added into a chapter...I'm fine with it as long as it doesn't get too meta and nonsensical. That would alienate more than it attracts.

    The writers should keep the style of MK fanon away from canon lore.
    Edited by PrayingSeraph on August 12, 2021 7:20AM
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