When you start playing Elder Scrolls Online you are greeted by Lyris one of the five original companions, who assists you espacing Coldharbour. And you later meet each of these companions in some way. But who are they? The short answer is the five members of the last Emperor Varen Aquilarios’ inner circle. Who attempted to help him locate the Amulet of Kings, and use it in a ritual to make Varen into a Dragonborn. Which would legitimize his claim to the Ruby Throne. But what the rest of the group didn’t know, is that it was a trap set up by the dark necromancer Mannimarco to destroy the veil between Nirn and Oblivion to allow Molag Bal to merge Nirn with Coldharbour by using the Dark Anchors. Which are a vast network of interplanar machines designed to move entire worlds. This event would be later known as the Soulburst, and heralded the beginning of the Planemeld.
But who are these individuals and what is their background?
She is the first companion that you meet on your quest to regain your soul from Molag Bal. Lyris is part Nord and part giant. She points you towards the Prophet who is actually Varen Aquilarios, which you learn later on in the game.
Lyris was born to Gjalder, a Nord man who was a descendant of giants. Due to Lyris’ giant blood, she was a considerably large infant and her mother died in childbirth as a result. Lyris was raised by her father in Skyrim, who believed his wife’s death was on his hands, but loved Lyris dearly none-the-less. Lyris later left for Cyrodiil and enlisted in the Imperial Legion, enduring constant harassment from her fellow soldiers during her training due to her height. Lyris rose up through the ranks and eventually became one of Emperor Varen Aquilarios’ most trusted advisors, forming the Five Companions with him, alongside Councillor Abnur Tharn, Dragonguard leader Sai Sahan, and Battlemage Mannimarco. The Companions set out to find the Amulet of Kings between 2E 580 and 582, as Varen believed it to be the key to legitimizing his rule as Emperor. When they located the Amulet, the Companions initiated a ritual upon the Dragonfires to proclaim Varen as a Dragonborn. However, they were tricked my Mannimarco during the ritual, who used the Amulet to extinguish the Dragonfires and cause a tear between Mundus and Oblivion in an event known as the Soulburst, allowing his master Molag Bal to invade Tamriel and begin his Planemeld. Bal captured Lyris and Sai Sahan, keeping them prisoners in Coldharbour.
This is the second companion that you meet though he is referred to as The Prophet for many hours of gameplay until you learn that he is truly the Emperor in the tale. Varen is an Imperial sorcerer, Moth Priest, and the former Emperor of Cyrodiil.
Varen was born in 2E 536 as the son of a Colovian Duke, and later became the Duke of Chorrol. He had an unknown sibling whose son, Carolus Aquilarios, in turn being Varen’s nephew, viewed him as a role model. When Leovic, third of the short-lived Reachman dynasty known as the Longhouse Emperors, assumed the Ruby Throne, he legalized Daedra worship across the Empire. This outraged much of the population, and prompted Varen to spark a rebellion. He left his homefront, the Gold Coast, in the hands of his nephew Carolus. Using large amounts of stone, Varen contructed a wall spanning around the Gold Coast, later dubbed “Varen’s Wall”, in order to protect the region should Leovic’s forces arrive.
In 2E 576, Varen and his army stormed the Imperial City, before breaking into the White-Gold Tower and driving his sword into Leovic’s heart at the foot of the Ruby Throne, thus instantly killing him, and immediately declaring himself Emperor. For Abnur’s loyalty and assistance in the rebellion, Varen agreed to take Leovic’s widow, Clivia Tharn, as his bride. Due to the mass amount of casualties during the uprising, Varen converted the Market District of the Imperial City into the Memorial District, filling it with mass graves.
Varen’s rule went mostly without problems, but he was constantly worrying about him being an illegitimate ruler as he was not Dragonborn. Believing that only a Dragonborn can rightfully take the Ruby Throne, in 2E 577, he formed the Five Companions to find the Amulet of Kings after the Altmer sorcerer Mannimarco convinced him that he knew a ritual that would allow Varen to become Dragonborn. After hearing of this, he set out on a two-year quest to find the Amulet with his Five Companions: Varen himself, the half-giant warrior Lyris Titanborn, the sorcerer Mannimarco, Sai Sahan, a Redguard blademaster and the captain of his personal Dragonguard, and Elder Chancellor Abnur Tharn.
The Five were able to recover the Amulet and begin the ritual in 2E 579. They gathered at the Temple of the One in the Imperial City and began to perform the ritual. While Tharn held the Amulet, Varen asked Akatosh to rightfully grant his claim as emperor by making him a Dragonborn. At that moment, Mannimarco immobilized everyone present and revealed his true intentions; he was an agent of Molag Bal, and the ritual did not reignite the Dragonfires, but in fact did the exact opposite, destroying the ancient barriers shielding Mundus from the forces of Oblivion and thus allowing Molag Bal to begin the Planemeld, a forceful attempt to drag Nirn out of Mundus and into his own realm of Coldharbour. This event was known as the Soulburst, and it shook every corner of Tamriel.
Subsequently, Lyris was captured and brought into Coldharbour. Sai Sahan fled with the Amulet and managed to hide it in Sancre Tor before also being captured later on. Mannimarco summoned his Worm Cult and turned the Temple of the One into a sacrificial ground where dozens of souls were harvested and brought to Coldharbour, and Abnur joined him in order to gain his trust and spy on him. Varen, however, disappeared.
After the Soulburst, Varen woke up weak and near death at the Abbey of the Moth Priests, with no memory of his past life as Emperor. The Moth priests took pity on him, assuming he was a lost vagabond, and gave him shelter within their establishment.
It was there where he set his eyes on the Elder Scrolls, mysterious artifacts of immense knowledge and power. He began to study and read the scrolls in order to learn the events of Tamriel which have happened and have yet to happen, including his life as Emperor and his destiny with the Vestige. The priests were shocked to discover how quickly he managed to read the scrolls, believing it to be a prophetic sign from the Eight Divines. As a result of continuously reading the scrolls, Varen gradually lost his eyesight. He carved himself a staff which he also used as a walking stick. Blinded, Varen still continued to study the scrolls in his mind’s eye, and foresaw the events to come in Tamriel’s future.
Word of Varen’s prophecies began spreading across the land, eventually reaching the Imperial City. When Mannimarco discovered this, he arrested the Prophet under the grounds of rumor-mongering and treason. The King of Worms had the abbey and its contents burned to the ground, and transferred Varen into the custody of Molag Bal. Bal then initiated the Planemeld upon Nirn, and had Varen imprisoned in The Wailing Prison.
In 2E 582, a mortal was captured and sacrificed by Mannimarco. Their soul was brought to the Wailing Prison in Coldharbour. After being transported to Coldharbour, a projection of Varen, using the pseudonym “The Prophet”, appeared before them, giving the mortal the name of Vestige and telling them to find Lyris Titanborn. At the time, Lyris was unaware that The Prophet was her fellow Five Companions member Varen.
The Vestige journeyed through the prison with Lyris after she freed them. They struck down several of Molag Bal’s minions before arriving at the courtyard and destroying a Sentinel, a minion made to stop prisoners from escaping. They find that Varen’s cell is warded off, so they seek Cadwell for help, whom directed the two to the Undercroft.
Once Lyris and the Vestige reach Varen’s cell, Lyris tells the Vestige that the only way to free Varen is for Lyris to take his place. Lyris then chants for her to take Varen’s place in the cell, freeing Varen but imprisoning Lyris. Varen, still concealing his identity, and the Vestige journey to a portal out of Coldharbour. They strike down the Guardian of the portal, and Varen restores the Vestige’s corporeal form before they both return to Tamriel in different locations.
He is the third companion you meet in the game and is father to Clivia Tharn, the Empress Regent of Tamriel. Abnur is known as High Chancellor, Overlord of Nibenay, and Imperial Battlemage of the Elder Council. Abnur is 164 years old with at least 16 children, though it is unknown why he is still living since Imperials often die earlier from old age.
He is a decisive man, and is part of a line of secret Daedric worshippers, which is just one more reason why the Alliances wish to dispose of him. His family is working with the Necromancer Lord Mannimarco in order to combine Nirn with Coldharbour, Molag Bal’s Daedric Realm, after realizing the threat posed by the Ebonheart Pact, Aldmeri Dominion and Daggerfall Covenant. However, Abnur, despite sharing his family’s traditions of Daedra worship, despises Mannimarco due to his involvement in the Soulburst. He is known to have personally tortured Ayrenn prior to her becoming queen, and this is one reason for the Aldmeri Dominion deciding to try and conquer Cyrodiil. He is the ancestor of Third Era Imperial Battlemage, Jagar Tharn, the progenitor of the Imperial Simulacrum who ruled the Empire for 10 years before the Eternal Champion freed Uriel Septim VII from Jagar’s prison.
He is the son of Nazir Itaf Sahan of Bangkorai, was a Redguard noble, martial artist, master swordsman, and leader of the Imperial Dragonguard. Sai is also a Grandmaster of the Order of the Blades and was the head of the security detail of the then-incumbent Emperor Varen.
Sai learned much from his mentor and friend Kasura in the ways of the ancient Yokudan sword-saints during his childhood in the Valley of the Blades. He promised himself to revive these martial traditions, but when he failed to do so he shaved his head and served as a warrior in Tamriel’s battlefields until he met Varen Aquilarios, a powerful Colovian military leader.
During the war with the Longhouse Emperors before Varen became Emperor of Cyrodiil, Sai rode at the head of a column of mercenary soldiers tasked by Varen to assist in the liberation of Leyawiin. It turned out that then-Emperor Leovic employed those mercenaries as double agents. When Sai came before the gates of Leyawiin with the mercenaries, they turned on him, hoping to deliver the severed head of Varen’s legendary Dragonguard Commander to Emperor Leovic. Rumors say Sai cut through two armies of the would-be assassins bent on killing him. When he returned to Varen’s rebellion base at Bruma weeks later, he did so with the scalps of eighty-six men and the news that Leyawiin had been freed.
After Varen deposed Leovic and proclaimed himself as Emperor, Sai Sahan helped him to find the Amulet of Kings for a ritual to make Varen into a Dragonborn, thus fully legitimizing his claim to the throne. However, the ritual was actually a dark trick by Mannimarco used to weaken the veil between Nirn and Oblivion, and thus begin the Planemeld. In the chaos after the ritual, Sai took the Amulet of Kings and fled, managing to hide it in the depths of the ancient, ruined city of Sancre Tor, only to be captured and brought to the Halls of Torment in Coldharbour later on.
Lord Mannimarco is an Altmer Necromancer and Molag Bal’s main agent on Tamriel. He was stripped of his companionship after he betrayed the original Five Companions by using the Amulet of Kings to create the Soulburst, which would weaken boundaries between Nirn and Oblivion enough to allow Molag Bal’s followers to use the Dark Anchors to try to merge Nirn into Coldharbour in an event known as a Planemeld. He worked with the Chancellor of the Elder Council, Abnur Tharn, after the latter pledged loyalty to him shortly after the soulburst occurred. He is also mentioned in the book Mannimarco, King of Worms in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.
Born on the isle of Artaeum, Mannimarco was an aspiring and intelligent Altmer mage who, along with his contemporary, the Mages Guild founder Vanus Galerion, entered into the prestigious Psijic Order of mystics. While Vanus was a good person, Mannimarco was described to have a dark demeanor, and this eventually led him down the path of necromancy.
In reality, Mannimarco had no intention of remaining Molag Bal’s servant; he intended to use the Amulet of Kings to trap the Daedric Prince and absorb his essence over time, eventually taking his place as the Lord of Brutality and Domination. To this end, he required the Amulet of Kings.
After the Soulburst ritual, Sai Sahan fled the Imperial City with the Amulet and hid it in the catacombs of Sancre Tor. He was captured shortly after and imprisoned in the dungeons beneath the Imperial City. After Mannimarco concluded he needed a better place to break the descendant of Yokuda he sent Sahan to the Halls of Torment in Coldharbour, where the Duchess of Anguish tortured him mentally and physically for years. During this time, Mannimarco placed an enchantment upon Sahan in the event that he escaped. This proved wise, as the Vestige was able to rescue him.
Mannimarco was eventually betrayed by Abnur Tharn, who was rescued from the Castle of the Worm by the Vestige and Lyris Titanborn. The two mages fought a magic duel which Mannimarco lost when the Vestige struck him from behind, breaking his concentration and allowing them to escape.
During Sahan’s torture, Mannimarco learned that Sai would require the Ring of Stendarr’s Mercy to retrieve the Amulet from its hiding place. The King of Worms dispatched a Daedric Titan to the ring’s location, the Abbey of Blades in Hammerfell. The Vestige, Lyris Titanborn, Abnur Tharn and Sai Sahan arrived shortly after and were able to dispatch the beast, though not before it destroyed most of the abbey and killed most of the students. The leader of the abbey, Kasura, had hid the ring in the nearby catacombs which housed the remains of Sai’s ancestors. Mannimarco appeared in the catacombs and raised the dead within in an attempt to stop the Vestige, to no avail.
Mannimarco continued to monitor Sai’s movements through his enchantment. Eventually the Five Companions went to Sancre Tor to retrieve the Amulet, and the King of Worms traveled there himself and revealed his plan for Molag Bal to them, explaining that the wards of Stendarr Sai had placed on the chamber containing the Amulet would hide him from Molag Bal’s sight until he was ready to strike. Mannimarco then tried to slay them by resurrecting the dead within. The Vestige was able to confront Mannimarco and kill him, yet his spirit survived and promised death would not slow him for long.
At that moment, Molag Bal appeared in Sancre Tor and seized Mannimarco’s spirit, revealing he had known of his impending betrayal and dragged him screaming into Coldharbour. There he was tortured relentlessly by undead in Heart’s Grief, the seat of Molag Bal’s power in Coldharbour.
When the Five Companions arrived in Heart’s Grief to perform the ritual with the Amulet of Kings, they found Mannimarco magically shackled to a stone table. The Vestige is then given the choice to free him or leave him to his grim fate. If he is freed, Mannimarco vanishes from Coldharbour, claiming future generations would curse the Vestige for their decision