Historically, Dagoth Ur was born as Voryn Dagoth, at a time when the Chimer political landscape was changing. The traditional system of small, tightly-knit clans was evolving into a more centralized political system consisting of six powerful houses. House Dagoth was one of these houses, and Voryn would eventually become Lord Voryn Dagoth, patriarch and head of the House.
By the time Lord Dagoth had taken over control of the House, he had become close friend and advisor to the head of House Indoril, Lord Indoril Nerevar. Voryn, like many of House Dagoth, was an accomplished warrior and soldier. As House Indoril began to assume the prominent role in leading the Chimer, Nerevar named Voryn as his chief general and second in command of the Chimer armies.
He played a pivotal role in the Battle of Red Mountain, which resulted in the disappearance of the Dwemer and the transformation of the Chimer into the modern Dunmer. He was also responsible for creating the Blight and unleashing Corprus on Morrowind. He lived primarily in the crater of the volcano Red Mountain, which is itself called Dagoth Ur. Local legends referring to "terrible demons of the mountain" probably refer to Dagoth Ur and his cohorts.
Battle of Red MountainEdit
During the lifetimes of Indoril Nerevar and Voryn Dagoth, a tenuous peace existed between the Chimer and the Dwemer. This owed primarily to the amicable relationship between Nerevar and the Dwemer King, Dumac . The two had united their races at approximately 1E 416 to drive the Nords out of their land, and founded the unified kingdom of Resdayn.
However, philosophical differences between the two races would soon bring this peace to an end. The early Aldmer views on the act of creation, which they called The Sundering, was that their immortality had been stolen from them by Lorkhan. They believed that immortality was their birthright, and generally lamented its loss. The Chimer, at the urging of the Daedric Prince Boethiah, had rejected this view as weak. They instead believed that their mortal life, which they called The Testing, was meant to strengthen them in preparation for the afterlife. The Dwemer, however, maintained their belief in their birthright, and as the race progressed in both scientific and arcane craft, certain powerful Dwemer priests began to believe they could restore immortality back to their race.
Sometime between 1E 400 and 1E 700, the Dwemer High Priest Kagrenac built a series of workshops in the caverns beneath Red Mountain. Up to this point, the mountain was not an active volcano, and had never actually erupted. Deep within the heart of Red Mountain, Kagrenac made a critical discovery: the Heart of Lorkhan. The Dwemer believed this artifact to be the true, physical remnant of Lorkhan, taken from him by the Aedra in response to his trickery at The Sundering. At any rate, the object held immense mystical power, and Kagrenac forged a series of tools to aid in working the Heart, which were Keening, Sunder and Wraithguard. He believed that this heart could be used to power a giant golem he had created, called Numidium, and through this golem, allow the Dwemer to achieve god-hood.
Nerevar, upon discovery of this plan, confronted King Dumac and demanded that Kagrenac be stopped. Dumac, either not believing Nerevar or simply not agreeing with him, refused to act, and war broke out between the Dwemer and the Chimer. The war ended badly for the Dwemer, with Nerevar forced to kill Dumac in the final major battle. Nerevar and Voryn then traveled to Red Mountain and fought with Kagrenac's priests, ultimately defeating them. Exactly what occurred in that battle is unclear, but several of its effects are known. Most notably, the Dwemer race disappeared entirely from Tamriel, effectively ending the war. Nerevar was mortally wounded, but had gained control over the tools. Nerevar then left Voryn in charge of guarding the tools (according to some, this was against Voryn's urging to destroy the tools immediately), as he returned to confer with his advisors: Vivec, Almalexia, and Sotha Sil.
There are no completely reliable historical accounts of the following events, and the stories differ depending on which faction is relating the events. What follows is the most commonly accepted version, based on multiple accounts and certain more reliable testimony.
Nerevar ordered Voryn to guard the tools, and not allow anyone to take possession of them. Nerevar returned to his advisors, mortally wounded. Since leaving Red Mountain, Nerevar had determined that the tools were dangerous, and should be destroyed. It is likely that the Daedric Prince Azura even commanded Nerevar not to allow the tools to be used, a possibility that is borne out by subsequent events. In any case, Nerevar extracted an oath from his council that they would not use the tools, just before he died from his wounds.
The council, however, did not abide by their oath. They traveled to Red Mountain to claim the tools, perhaps initially with all intentions of keeping them locked away. When they arrived, Voryn refused to hand the tools over to their control. It is likely that the proximity to the Heart of Lorkhan may have corrupted Voryn's reasoning, or that he had somehow managed to bond with the Heart in the intervening time. Or, he may simply not have believed the council's account of Nerevar's death. The council fought and defeated Voryn, and took the tools for themselves. Sotha Sil spent some time examining them, and ultimately, the three returned to the Heart and used the tools, achieving almost total god-hood. Azura, furious at the oath breaking, or more likely at the violation of her commands, appeared and cursed the Chimer race. She turned their skin dark gray, making them the Dunmer, and also gave the Nerevarine Prophecy that foretold the ultimate downfall of the three, now calling themselves The Tribunal. As a sign of her displeasure, and to seal the prophecy, Azura caused the first eruption of Red Mountain.
The birth of Dagoth UrEdit
Somehow, Lord Dagoth survived the battle with the Tribunal, and remained in Red Mountain near the heart. He, and the sparse remains of his house, all now powerful ash vampires, began to rebuild a base of power in Red Mountain, plotting their revenge. Dagoth appears to have bonded directly to the Heart of Lorkhan, possibly due to having been in such proximity to it before his defeat, as he was able to tap into its powers without needing any of Kagrenac's tools. At intervals, the Tribunal was forced to travel to the Heart with the tools to renew their power, and Lord Dagoth, now calling himself Dagoth Ur, took the opportunity to strike. In 2E 882, when the Tribunal arrived, they were driven off by Dagoth Ur and his brethren.
Dagoth plotted to take control of Morrowind from the Tribunal, whom he saw as a corrupting force. His primary goals were:
- The abolition of the Tribunal
- Return to the tribal clan system
- Return to ancestor/Daedra worship
- Rejection of the Imperial Treaty and withdrawal from the Empire
- Elimination of all non-Dunmer from Morrowind.
To this end, Dagoth began using his growing powers to build an army outside of the Ghostfence. Dagoth first brought up powerful ash storms and various blight diseases from out of the volcano, forcing the Tribunal to expend their power erecting and maintaining the Ghostfence. Next, he introduced a bizarre, flesh-deforming disease called Corprus that causes those infected to develop huge cancerous growths, and in many cases, go insane. The disease was incurable, but not always fatal: those who "survived" to later stages become Corprus Stalkers, foot soldiers in Dagoth Ur's army. One side effect of Corprus, possibly the intended one, was that sufferers of the disease are open to receive visions or dreams directly from Dagoth Ur. He used this connection to plant suggestions in the minds of Dunmer across Vvardenfell, creating an extensive Sixth House Cult to help overthrow the Tribunal.
The Tribunal's declineEdit
Dagoth Ur's plans continued to grow for approximately the next 450 years, while the Tribunal's power diminished. The Tribunal continued to make attempts to reach the Heart, but were constantly beaten back. Finally, late in the third age, Sotha Sil and Almalexia made an all-out assault on Red Mountain, trying to drive Dagoth Ur out and regain control of the Heart. They took with them two of the tools, but were defeated (and barely escaped, with Vivec's help), leaving the tools in the hands of Dagoth Ur. At this point, they are on the verge of losing the war for control of Morrowind.
Soon after being cut off from the Heart, the Tribunal was still powerful enough to aid Tiber Septim in unifying Tamriel, with the aid of Kagrenac's golem (with a much less potent power supply), and usher in the third era. By 3E 427, however, with the lack of Kagrenac's tools and access to the Heart, the Tribunal's power had waned significantly. Sotha Sil and Almalexia have gone into isolation, and Vivec rarely left the temple in Vivec City. Corprus and the blight sickness was spreading rapidly, and the Sixth House Cult was steadily growing in political power.
The Nerevarine ProphecyEdit
Late in the Third Era Emperor Uriel Septim VII, a devout student of history and prophecy, notices that one of his minor prisoners appears to fit many of the criteria for Azura's Nerevarine Prophecy. Uriel actually believes that the prophecy is about to be fulfilled, though he initially claims that he is merely interested in using the appearance of the prophecy for political gain. The prisoner is sent to Vvardenfell, where one of Uriel's Blades guides him through the initial stages of fulfilling the prophecy.
Eventually, the prisoner visits a shrine to Azura and the truth is revealed—he is the rebirth of Nerevar, the Nerevarine, and is destined to defeat Dagoth Ur. Dagoth attempts to persuade the Nerevarine to his side, and eventually reveals the core of his plan. Dagoth has created a second golem, the Akulakhan (the first Numidium was destroyed in Daggerfall), with the purpose of conquering all of Tamriel and infecting everyone with Corprus. He believes that Corprus is the final stage in the Testing of the Dunmer, and those who survive will have successfully achieved godhood.
The Nerevarine rejects Dagoth Ur's offer, and instead of trying to defeat him or the golem, uses Kagrenac's tools to overload and destroy Lorkhan's Heart itself. Once the heart is gone, Dagoth Ur has nothing to sustain his life, and he and the remainder of his ash vampires die. Similarly, the Tribunal loses most of their god-like powers, and become mortal, as Vivec explains when the Nerevarine returns to him.
Note on name usageEdit
In The Elder Scrolls: Arena, a simple map of the continent of Tamriel is shown, including the island of Vvardenfell. The center of this island is a volcano which is referred to only as Dagoth Ur. However, in The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, the volcano is referred to by its inhabitants almost exclusively as Red Mountain. This appears to be a continuity error on the part of Bethesda, once they decided upon the back story for Morrowind. Within the context of the game, this discrepancy is explained by the fact that Dagoth Ur resides inside of Red Mountain for most of his life. Thus, in local legend the mountain takes on his identity, and is sometimes referred to incorrectly by this name.
It is commonly accepted that the name Dagoth Ur should properly be used only to refer to the person, and the volcano should be referred to only as Red Mountain.