I’m happy to present another entry in our continuing series of guest editorials covering various aspects of The Elder Scrolls Online. This submission, from community member Potentate, delves into the shadowed past of Mannimarco, King of Worms. ESO will mark the iconic villain’s third appearance in the franchise, and he plays a crucial role in Molag Bal’s plot to enslave Nirn.
In this article I will be talking about the infamous Altmer Lich, Mannimarco, who first made his appearance in Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall as the King of The Necromancers. Mannimarco reprised this role 27 years later in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion as the now-undead leader of the Order of the Black Worm. Elder Scrolls Online marks his third appearance in the TES series, where he serves as the right hand man of Molag Bal, assisting the Daedric Prince in his attempts to subjugate Nirn.
Life in the Order
Before Mannimarco became the King of Worms, he was born and lived on the island of Artaeum which is located in the Summerset Isles. Artaeum is home to the Psijic Order, one of the oldest groups of arcane scholars in Tamriel. The island also features the famous Ceporah Tower, a landmark which predates even the arrival of the Altmer on Summerset Isle.
Details regarding Mannimarco’s childhood are largely unknown, but we can likely assume that he enjoyed a good life style, given the accounts of his remarkable intelligence. His great intellect allowed him to gained entry to the Psijic Order, where he later became a well-respected member. It was during this time as a student of the Psijics that Mannimarco first met Vanus Galerion.
In time Mannimarco and Vanus became good friends and contemporaries as two of the most brilliant young members of the Order. The direction of their studies diverged, however, with Mannimarco developing a fascination for necromancy, and its potential to control death. Over time, Mannimarco developed a new kind of magic, capable of manipulating the souls of both the living and the dead. When Vanus discovered the dark nature of Mannimarco’s studies, he confronted his friend at the Ceporah Tower. Vanus warned Mannimarco that he was following a dark path and should cease his macabre pursuits. Mannimarco dismissed Galerion’s warnings and ignored them as he continued to crave power and control.
The day came when Mannimarco was sent forth from Artaeum by the Psijic Order to carry out a task. It is unknown if the task was real or simply a pretext for banishing him without anyone discovering his dark deeds. Vanus did not approve, because he knew that the Psijics where trying to cover up Mannimarco’s inquests. Vanus believed that Necromancy should be openly condemned, and out of anger at the Psijic’s inaction, he too departed for the continent where he founded the Mages Guild. In the meantime, Mannimarco, too, formed a guild of mages, this one dedicated towards the refinement of the necromantic arts.
The Coronation of a Worm
During the years Mannimarco spent in Tamriel, he grew in strength. Both in his own capability, and the zealous dedication of his quickly growing cult. In time, he perfected his dark and profane power, successfully becoming the first lich in recorded history. The transformation from mortal to lich it is said to have turned Mannimarco into a moving corpse, his blood replaced by acid, possessing the iron strength of necrotic flesh.
Vanus Galerion had formed the Mages Guild with the core purpose of centralizing magic and shielding it away from scattered sects that would not regulate its use. A concurrent purpose of the Mages Guild was to afford the public the ability to purchase magical items like potions and spell tomes. Despite its noble vision, ultimately Vanus grew to loathe the order which he had founded. He decided to depart and pursue his former friend, Mannimarco, calling the Mages Guild a morass and proclaiming how much he hated his once noble order.
In the end, destiny brought the two together, each with their own army of one thousands soldiers atop of a cursed mountain. Mannimarco backed by his cult of necromancers, while Vanus had rallied an army of mages behind the shared threat that the Worm Cult posed to Tamriel. Legend tells that Vanus shouted to Mannimarco, “Worm King, surrender your artifacts and their power to me and you shall live as befits the dead.” Then the hollow laugh of Mannimarco answered: “You die first.” The two armies clashed both locked in arcane struggle. It is said that lightning and frost clashed around them encasing a deadly battle ground. Before the closing moments of the battle, Vanus laid eyes on Mannimarco, perceiving his new form as a lich. Mannimarco’s twisted transformation had granted him near immortality. In the end, the necromancers were no match for the relentless lighting attacks of Vanus’s seasoned battle mages.
As for Vanus Galerion, he gave his life during the battle in a heroic stand that crushed the necromancer’s resistance. He and his army won the day and the legacy of Vanus Galerion would live on as the founder of the Mages Guild, and a great protector of Tamriel. Mannimarco, who now called himself the King of Worms, mysteriously disappeared during the closing stages of the battle, faking his own death. This deception would allow him time to rebuild and infiltrate Tamriel once again, while the Mage Guild celebrated and prospered until his return.
The Elder Scrolls Online
In The Elder Scrolls Online, Mannimarco has formed a pact with the Tharn family, the current Imperial rulers in Cyrodiil. The Tharns, and the empire itself, are weak, so they sought the aid of Mannimarco to strengthen their feeble position. The pact entails that Mannimarco use his dark powers to resurrect the fallen Imperial forces, in exchange he is given a position of great power in the Imperial City. In addition to his agreement with the Tharns, Mannimarco has a more sinister directive. He is operating as the direct agent of Molag Bal, assisting the Daedric Lord in exchange for the promise of even greater power. Molag Bal often sends Mannimarco forth from Cyrodiil to orchestrate his plans for aligning Nirn ever closer with Coldharbour.
The King of Worms and the Lord of Domination
Despite Mannimarco’s evident willingness to assist with Molag Bal’s scheme, it seems somewhat against his character. We know from evidence throughout Mannimarco’s life that he is highly intelligent, selfishly motivated, and easily capable of manipulating others. So why is he helping Molag Bal?
Molag Bal is the Daedric Prince of domination and enslavement, so in the end it is the Daedric Prince’s nature to exploit and betray people. Won’t Mannimarco expect to be similarly discarded once he has served his purpose? In Morrowind, Molag Bal commands the Nerevarine to kill his daughter and her lover so he can punish them for eternity. We must also consider the mythology and nature of the Daughters of Coldharbour. So, once again, why would the King of Worms help him?
Power seems to be the most immediate justification. Mannimarco explains during his confrontation with the hero in TES4: Oblivion, “power my dear friend, I seek power, and so I acquire and study those who have some degree of it”. This sentence clarifies that Mannimarco uses people for what they know about magic, then when there is nothing left to study, he eradicates them. Another possibility is that Molag Bal could grant Mannimarco the power to became a god. Both men and mer can be granted godlike powers, as in the cases of Tiber Septim and Malacath. While this is mere speculation, it could make a good plot twist if Mannimarco does ultimately turn the tables on Molag Bal. More likely is that defeating Mannimarco will be a crucial step in the main quest to prevent Molag Bal’s domination of Nirn.
I’d like to echo a big thanks to Potentate for his thorough and rich analysis of one of the principal villains of Elder Scrolls Online. Let us know what you think about the role Mannimarco plays in Molag Bal’s plans, think he will try to betray the Daedric Prince for his own gain, or is he a willing participant in the Lord of Domination’s scheme? Weigh in with your thoughts in the comments below!