Author: Unknown
Year: Unknown

Some people might recall some momentary buzz caused a couple years ago by a particularly odd Morrowind mod. The filename was jvk1166z.esp. It was never posted on any of the larger Elder Scrolls communities, just smaller boards and roleplaying groups. I know in a few cases that rather than being posted, it was sent via private message or email to a "chosen few." It was only up in most places for a few days, to the best of my knowledge. It caused a buzz because it was a virus, or at least it seemed like it. If you tried to load the game with the mod active, it would hang at the initial load screen for a full hour and then crash to the desktop. If you let it crash on its own, your install of Morrowind and any save files you had would become corrupted. No one could figure out what the mod was trying to do, since the Construction Set didn't recognize the file if you tried to open it there. Eventually, warnings were distributed saying not to use it if you found it, and things died down.

About a year later, in a modding forum I used to frequent, someone popped up talking about that mod again. He said he was messaged by a lurker who deleted his account after the message was sent, and claimed he was advised to try playing the game via DOSbox with the mod active. For some reason, this worked! Well, sort of, anyway. The game was a bit laggy, and a lot of the game's menus - such as Options, Load Game, the console, etc. - crashed the game. Quick Save and Quick Load worked, but that was it. Odd thing is, the Quick Save file couldn't be found after closing the game. Some speculated that the mod caused the game to use an older graphics renderer, making DOSbox necessary, but the game didn't actually look any different than usual.

So, from here, I can speak about this from personal experience. When you start a new game in JVK (as the forum began to call it), once you leave the starting bit in the Census Office and get into the game proper, the first thing that pops up is that "prophecy has been severed" text box. This is because every single NPC having to do with the main quest line is dead, with the sole exception of Yagrum Bagarn, the last of the Dwemer. Their corpses never despawn, so you can go check on all of them. In essence, you begin the game in a world that is doomed to start with. The second thing to notice is that you're losing health for seemingly no reason. It's only a bit, but it keeps happening a little bit at a time. The longer you stand still, the quicker it seems to occur. If you let this health loss kill you, you'll be able to see the cause: a figure most came to call "the Assassin," because he wears what appears to be a retextured version of the Dark Brotherhood armor from Tribunal (strange, as you can only use this mod with the base game). It's all black and completely untextured, like he's a hole in space.

The way he moves is the strangest thing, though... He gave me quite a start the first time I saw him scuttling around my dead body. He crawls inhumanly on his hands and feet, with his limbs splayed out like a spider's. You usually only seem him after you die, crawling around all over your body just before the reload box appears. Occasionally, though, you can catch a glimpse of him darting around corners or crawling on a wall or the ceiling. It made the game very difficult to play at night, as it was very eerie.

Other than that, the only noticeable difference is that at night, at random intervals, every NPC in the game will go outside for a few minutes. During this time, the only they say when spoken to is, "Watch the sky." After that few minutes, they return to their normal behavior and say all the usual stuff, though.

After a while, a player on the board discovered a new NPC named Tieras, a male Dunmer, that hangs around in the temple at Ghostgate. Two things are notable about this NPC: first, his robe is a unique article of clothing that looks lovingly rendered with twinkling stars all across it, looking like a torn-off chunk of the night sky. Second, all of his dialogue, in addition to showing in the dialogue box, is voiced. You can skip it if you wish, but it all sounds like it's in the default male Dunmer voice. Some people said they thought the voice was "slightly" different. Even if it is, it's a very, very good imitation. I won't go into details, but the questline he sends you on has to do with a dungeon referred to as "the Citadel." The point I reached, the quests were all of a very generic "discover the secrets of the ancient" route. The entrance to this dungeon is on a small island far to the west of Morrowind proper. I discovered at some point that if you used a Scroll if Icarian Flight at the westernmost point of the main landmass and jump directly wet, you'd end up almost exactly at the island.

Even though the dungeon is called the Citadel, it goes straight down. It dwarfs any other dungeon both in size and difficulty. From a natural cave area, you'll proceed down into an ancestral tomb-looking area, then a Daedric ruin area, then a Dwemer ruin area. I made it down to the Dwemer Ruins before I quit. The creatures here were strong enough that a level 20 character would have to take care. Since you can't use the console in JVK, getting to level 20 would take quite a while. Since Quick Save and Quick Load are your only options, it's way too easy to get yourself into an impossible situation, too. I did, and just didn't have the energy to start over.

Everything from this point is based on what those who went further reported. Past the Dwemer Ruins, you find yourself in just about the same type of place, but darker. Rather than the usual bronze, all the surfaces (including those of the creatures) are black. The sounds of machinery are loud here, and grow louder still at rando m. There's also steam (or maybe fog) everywhere, limiting your vision to about ten in-game feet or so. If you can make it through all this, you'll reach a hall that people started to call the Portrait Room. Like the fire in torches or other effects from early 3D games, this room has picture frames that always face directly at you, no matter how you look at them. The images in the frames were always randomly chosen images from your My Pictures folder. On the forum, those who got there had some fun posting screenshots of the Portrait Room with various pictures in the frames (usually porn, of course).

At the end of the hall was a locked door. After admitting defeat and returning to Tieras, everyone just found him saying, "Watch the sky," in his gravelly voice. What's more, no one else in the game would say anything. You'd just get a completely blank dialogue box with no options at all except to leave. They wouldn't even rattle off the usual canned audible greetings. The only exception was at night, when they'd go out for a few minutes and say "Watch the sky." At this point, one of the players - a friend of mine from the forum - noticed that the night sky was no longer the usual night sky of Tamriel. It had changed to a depiction of a real night sky. And it moved, too. A few other people agreed after he pointed it out, so I know it wasn't just him. And from this point on, everything about this mod comes straight from him. He got kicked from the forum, but I kept in contact with him for as long as he responded.

According to my friend, based on the constellations and planets, the sky started around February 2005. If you died, loaded, or went back into the Citadel, it would start over. When the usual day sky graphics took over, the movement would be suspended until the stars appeared again. In the space of a single in-game night, everything would move about two months worth. Since the timescale of JVK was more less that of the standard game, that meant that a bit less than an hour was a 24-hour period. My friend became convinced the door would open based on some kind of celestial event. Of course, waiting for that meant leaving the game running. Of course, that meant the game couldn't be left unattended, thanks to our old friend the Assassin. My friend decided he'd hang out for a whole day, just to see if anything happened. That would be about a year's worth of movement. Here's the post he made at the end of this experiment:

I loaded in Seyda neen, where it all starts. It wasn't too bad, just had to check in now and then to move around and heal to make sure I wasn't dying. But check it out! 24 hours exactly in, and the Assassin learned a new trick! HE SCREAMS!!!! I was reading and all of a sudden, this crazy loud shriek just about makes me crap myself. It's like something out of a horror movie! I look up, and there he is, just crouched down right in front of me. Of course, the second I moved my character, he ran off. When I went back down to the portrait room, the door was still locked. Damn it, damn it, damnit!

A bit later, he came to the decision he needed to wait three days - three years. The message advising us to try DOSbox showed up in February of 2008 was his reasoning, anyway.

After the first shriek, the assassin stops hitting you out of nowhere. Now he'll shriek, and if you don't move for a few seconds after that he hits you. I think whoever made the mod was trying to help. At night, I've got my headphones off and I was just kind of dozing off...when he wakes me up with a shriek. I jiggle the mouse, and I'm good!

That post was two days in, from his laptop. Once it was over...

FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK! FUUUUUUUUUUUUCK! So FUCKING done. So, I wait, the three days, right, and right after the FUCKING Assassin made me jiggle the mouse, he shrieks again. So, I look, and everyone in town is outside. They're all saying "Watch the sky." I don't see anything though. But then the game starts getting dark...like REALLY dark. I turn up the brightness all the way on my monitor and I can still barely see. I can see other people in the game, little figures running around in the distance, just running back and forth. If I try to get close, they run off. Now, I was trying to sleep, so the lights are off, and this kis kind of creepy. I don't want to get up to turn on my light because I don't want to miss anything, but NOTHING fucking happens. Eventually I go back to The Citadel...it's still dark and I gotta swim, and the whole time I can see all these guys swimming all around me, just barely there. I make it to the Citadel and it's normal light inside, and I get worried. Sure enough, the portrait door is STILL FUCKING CLOSED. I go outside and it's ALL STARTING OVER. So that's it. I'm fucking going to bed, and i'm fucking done. The end.

After that, two things happened. First, another of the people who got to the Portrait Room claimed the Assassin was showing up in his regular Morrowind game. Quick explanation here: if you reinstalled Morrowind to a different folder, you could have a normal Morrowind installation along with JVK. Anyway. He chalked it up to an overactive imagination at first, but he reported a couple of really big scares with the black figure crawling right at him, or seeing it waiting for him just around a corner before scuttling off. Another of those who reached the Portrait Room started a regular Morrowind game, but never for sure saw him. It was just a couple of maybes, late at night, always at a distance. The second is that my friend started getting really abusive and short-tempered on the board, though he stopped talking about JVK entirely. It got so bad that he was banned. I didn't hear anything from him for a couple weeks after that, so I sent him an email. This was part of his reply.

I know I shouldn't, but with classes out I've got some time, so I started JVK up again. It's almost 2011 and I think I've got the sleep madness! But stuff is happening! It's still dark...once it gets dark, it never gets lighter, it stays like that. The people moved a few months ago... Everyone in Seyda went to that little bandit cave and moved in. They killed the bandits inside and now they're just standing around. They don't say anything anymore and don't do anything when you click on them. I quicksaved and killed one, and he just stood there until he died without fighting back! It's like that everywhere! You have to walk, since the quick travel people are all in caves now too, but all the cities and towns are just deserted. All the people are in caves and tombs. Everyone in Vivec is down in the sewers. I'm going to Ghostgate next... I want to see if Tieras is still there. I"ll tell you what he says when I get there!

I replied and said I wanted to see what he said, too, and waited a day. When I didn't get a reply, I emailed him again. A couple hours later, he responded.

Sorry I totally forgot. So it's 2014 now...since it's always night, the stars are always moving. The whole screen is dark but you can still see the brightest stars moving around. Tieras was gone. Everyone in ghostgate was gone. I don't know where they went. They're not in any of the nearby caves. But there's new stuff....people still don't say anything, but their eyes are bleeding. It's so dark that even with a light spell you have to get right up against them to see, but there they are, little dark streaks coming down from their eyes. I think I gotta be getting close. I know it's stupid and there's no way the pay off is going to be worth it, but I just want to be able to say I stuck it out!

I got that one during the day. Later that night, I got a follow up email.

Some of the planets aren't moving right. It's pissing me off...if this keeps up, I won't be able to keep track anymore. It's almost 2015 now, I think. Fuck. You know I just noticed there aren't any monsters anymore either. I'm completely alone outside now. The main quest peoples bodies are still laying around, though. i went to check on them. I don't need headphones anymore, so I leave them off. When he shrieks, it's like he's screaming right into my ear. I think I even kinda anticipate it. He's around a lot more now, a lot closer. He's different from the other people who started showing up, remember? They keep running around, just where i can barely see them. I have to admit, it's kind of creepy at night. Sometimes when I go to the bathroom or whatever, I swear I can see something out of the corner of my eye. I'm keeping all the lights on now.

I sent him a response, jokingly telling him to get some real sleep, and left it at that. Two days later, I found this in my email. It was the last thing I got from him. After this, he stopped responding completely.

I just got up from a fucked up dream I think. The assassin shrieked at me and when I opened my eyes, he wa right there crouching over me. His arms and legs were longer, more like a spider's. I tried to push him away, but when I touched him my hands went inside and I couldn't get them loose again, like he was made of tar or something. Then I woke up, I thought. He was gone, but when I looked at the monitor i wasn't where I was. I was in the Corprusarium, with Yagrum. For once, the light was okay, and I could see him all bloated on those mechanical spider legs. I sat down at the computer and he started talking to me. Not in a box, but really talking to me in Tieras's voice. He knew things about me. He told me things I never told anyone, some things I totally forgot about. He told me almost nobody had made it that far and the door would open up soon. I just had to hang on a little while longer. He said i'd know when it was time. He said I might be the first one to see what was inside. I woke up for real after that but I was at the computer. I still wasn't where I was. I'm swimming out to the Citadel Island. I can hear this tapping. It's at my window. Its' over on the left, so I'm sending you this because I left my laptop on my bed, to the right. Just a little taptaptaptap....like he's knocking his finger against the glass. I might still be dreaming now.

So I guess that's the end of the story. I know there are a few other stories floating around about the mod, but this is the only one I know as true, as far as it goes. I deleted my copy of JVK pretty much right after I gave up, but I'd like to get the mod again if anyone still has the file. I'd like to see some of this for myself.