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After a recent discussion with a self-proclaimed “priest and scholar” of the Tribunal Temple, I find myself shamed (as I often am), but not surprised (as I never am) by the gross misunderstandings of the nature of the Daedra that “adopted” our ancestors. It seems that our priests these days are trained in little more than bland recitations and methods for parting pilgrims from their gold, a significant and disappointing departure from their traditional functions. Some may consider this blasphemy. I invite them to challenge me to debate—or magical contest, if they prefer. Though I do not often concern myself with society, someone must battle the tide of ignorance.
I do not expect every Dunmer to attain understanding comparable to my own. Indeed, the common Elf has his place minding the mundane details of our race's day-to-day survival. Even so, laziness in any respect is abhorrent, and intellectual complacency cannot be permitted even among the lower echelons. Allow me to provide an accessible examination of the Good Daedra, beginning with the most easily misunderstood: Mephala.
“Good” is an ill-suited descriptor for any Daedric being, and it is unfortunate it has come into casual use. As absolute expressions of their respective spheres, the Daedric Princes do not share our moral categorizations for behavior. The Daedra simply are. Mephala, Boethiah, and Azura have done much for the interests of the Dunmer, and in that sense they may appear to be good, but their motivations and goals (and the consequences of achieving them) are not known to us.
There's a reason Mephala is referred to as the “Webspinner,” though modern Dunmer seem to ignore this appellation and instead project the sympathetic qualities they associate with Vivec—art in violence, cunning, enlightened poetry—back onto the Daedric being that “anticipated” him. This tendency serves to conceal much of Mephala's nature, which is exactly what the Prince would desire.
Mephala taught our ancestors the ways of secret murder, to be used against our enemies and even against our own in the place of all-out war, certainly “good” for our predecessors as they migrated across Tamriel and came into often-fractious contact with the Nords and Dwemer. We learned meticulous plotting and how to lie, ways to lure and trap our foes, how to manage complexity and predict outcomes. But few ask why this Daedric Prince would champion our people. The gullible fancy us chosen for our superior qualities and the cynical believe us a mere amusement for the Daedra, but these are both woefully simple-minded theories.
We must keep in mind that the Daedra are incapable of creation. They can only imitate, manipulate, and exaggerate. Some of them do perceive mortals as mere playthings, but I do not suspect this of Mephala. She does nothing without purpose, perceives all of Aurbis as an interconnected system of action and consequence, and employs herself in spinning new threads to influence outcomes.
To what end? That you must work out for yourself (as I have). Do you think me fool enough to reveal the secrets of the Prince of Secrets?