- "You think you lose, you die, and that's the end. It's not." - Clavicus Vile, Redguard
Clavicus Vile is the Daedric Prince whose sphere is the granting of power and wishes through ritual invocations and pacts. Vile has a companion named Barbas. While capable of selective shapeshifting, the form it assumes most of the time is that of a dog. Vile himself is depicted as a small jovial fellow with horns protruding from his forehead. He is aptly described as a Daedra who likes souls for the sake of having them.
Vile's plane of Oblivion is an unnamed, tranquil countryside populated by deadly yellow Daedra. His enemy is Ebonarm and his summoning day is the New Life Festival. The relic Bittercup is associated with the Prince. Vile is famous (or perhaps infamous) for his widespread meddling in mortal affairs and in the past has worked through mortal representatives to gain what he desires. It is possible, though by no means certain, that Clavicus Vile assisted Jagar Tharn in his temporary procurement of the Imperial throne. Clavicus Vile purportedly granted the Cyrodiil Vampyrum Order the ability to blend into mortal society undetected.
Not all of Vile's machinations are necessarily insidious; he often rewards followers who, at his direction, eliminate threats to the general public. However, he is certainly self-serving. When Cyrus the Redguard came to him seeking his sister Iszara's soul, Vile kindly gave him an opportunity to have it—the two gambled, Vile wagering the soul of Iszara, and Cyrus wagering his own.
Barbas is the Hound of Clavicus Vile. He is a shapeshifting Daedra, although he most commonly takes on the form of a dog. Barbas acts as a repository for half of Vile's power. According to Vile, he likes being a dog—as well as many other things—on sunny days. "When he's like this, I think he's somewhere else. It's all quite significant, of course... But who knows what it means." Although Vile is always depicted along with Barbas, the Prince often grows tired of him and abandons him. While Barbas seems to be subservient to Clavicus Vile, he also often warns people against Vile's plots, suggesting he has some discretion and free will. He sometimes takes the form of a musically talented scamp merchant named Creeper.
In 2E 582, a novice Altmer mage named Pircalmo was hired by the Bosmer inhabitants of Willowgrove to clear the nearby forest. However, Pircalmo's ability with magic was limited by his constant mistakes. Before attempting to cast his spell, the mage wished for it to "work well". Unbeknownst to him, his wish was granted by Vile, who had an ancient and forgotten altar inside a nearby cavern. Pircalmo's spell "worked" in that it summoned a horde of dangerous atronachs to burn down the forest. Having seemingly failed the contract, Pircalmo's wife was duly taken by the local Bosmer to be killed and eaten. Fortunately, the Soulless One discovered the altar, which Barbas had been inexplicably bound to due to the mage's wish. The Soulless One then smashed the altar, freeing Barbas and dispelling the atronachs before Pircalmo's wife could be harmed. That same year, Barbas appeared as Creeper when an Orc merchant named Zagrugh summoned a scamp to act as his assistant. Zagrugh ran a general store beneath the city of Mournhold, in a Dunmeri ancestral crypt which had been taken over by outlaws. He had hoped that a summoned Daedra would be more loyal than his previous assistants, who had all stolen from him. Mysteriously, Zagrugh was later found dead, and Creeper stepped in to manage the store.
When Cyrus visited Vile's realm in 2E 864, Barbas showed a fondness for the Redguard and shapeshifted his face to imitate Cyrus'. Circa 3E 427, Barbas took on the form of Creeper to live and trade with a group of Orcs in Caldera, Morrowind. In 3E 433, Vile tasked the Champion of Cyrodiil with recovering the Umbra Sword. Barbas foresaw the ruin that the sword would bring to Vile's realm of Oblivion, and left Vile's side to manifest as a dog statuette. Through the statuette, Barbas communicated with the Champion in an attempt to dissuade the Champion from bringing Vile the sword, although this attempt proved futile. Umbra later stole much of Vile's power and created Umbriel, leaving the Prince's realm crippled. When Sul and Prince Attrebus Mede visited Vile's realm circa 4E 40 to bargain with the Prince, Barbas helped in negotiations.
By 4E 201, Vile had forsaken Barbas out of annoyance. Barbas, in the form of a dog, was left wandering the Pine Forest of Skyrim. This limited the Prince's power, making it so that he could only manifest in Tamriel close to one of his shrines. Residents of Falkreath took notice of the stray mutt, and when the Last Dragonborn approached him, Barbas revealed his identity and asked the Dragonborn to help him reconcile with Clavicus. The two journeyed to the Prince's shrine in Haemar's Shame. After killing off the vampire worshippers, Vile had the Dragonborn retrieve the Rueful Axe, an artifact of the Prince. Vile then presented the Dragonborn with a choice: keep the axe and kill Barbas in his mortal form, banishing him for a few centuries and allowing Vile to use his full power; or continue with the original deal, forcing the Prince to take both the axe and Barbas back. It is unknown which option the Dragonborn chose.
The Mad God Sheogorath dislikes Barbas, and may have plans to kill him with hemlock.
The Bittercup, or the Bitter Cup, is an artifact sacred to Clavicus Vile, and thus is highly prized by the followers of that Daedric Prince. The Cup was lost in ancient Chimeri ruins on an island in the Sheogorad region of Vvardenfell before it was recovered by the Nerevarine in 3E 427.
Masque of Clavicus Vile
The Masque of Clavicus Vile is a helm which makes the wearer more popular wherever he or she might go. Much like other Daedra and their artifacts, Clavicus seems to retain ultimate control of the Masque and may recall it without warning.
The best known story of the Masque tells the tale of Avalea, a noblewoman of some renown. As a young girl, she was grossly disfigured by a spiteful servant. Avalea made a dark deal with Clavicus Vile and received the Masque in return. Though the Masque did not change her looks, suddenly she had the respect and admiration of everyone. A year and a day after her marriage to a well connected baron, Clavicus Vile reclaimed the Masque. Although pregnant with his child, Avalea was banished from the Baron's household. Twenty one years and one day later, Avalea's daughter claimed her vengeance by slaying the Baron.
The Hero of Daggerfall received the Masque in exchange for assassinating a rogue werewolf. A decade or two later, in 3E 427, the Masque was in the hands of Sorkvild the Raven, a Nord sorcerer who had been terrorizing the village of Dagon Fel in Morrowind. The Nerevarine purportedly claimed it from Sorkvild's corpse. At the time of the Oblivion Crisis several years later, the Masque was offered up by Clavicus to the Champion of Cyrodiil in exchange for finding and returning the sword Umbra. The last known time Vile offered up the Masque, it was to the Last Dragonborn two hundred years later.
The Umbra Sword was a Daedric artifact designed with the sole purpose of the entrapment of souls. The ancient witch Naenra Waerr created the sword at the request of Clavicus Vile, who wanted the sword as a tool of mischief which would send him souls from the mortal realm. Naenra created the sword, but it was unstable. Vile gave the witch a piece of his power to be imbued in the sword, which stabilized the weapon. However, Naenra (sometimes accredited with being Sheogorath in disguise) supposedly tricked him, as the piece of Vile's power imbued in the sword became a sentient being which called itself Umbra. Naenra was executed for her evil creation, but not before she hid the sword. The sword took on a life of its own, remaining hidden until a worthy wielder was found. Umbra would then slowly take control of the wielder. The Umbra Sword had the ability to change shape, but it was always in the form of a bladed weapon. It has been reported as a black and silver claymore, a jet black longsword and as a black sword emblazoned with red markings.
In 3E 427, an Orc warrior who went by the name of his sword, Umbra, was spotted in the mountains outside the settlement of Suran on the island of Vvardenfell. The Orc's only desire was to die in battle, but no foe could defeat him. At his request, the Nerevarine bested the Orc in mortal combat and claimed the Umbra Sword. The sword came into the possession of Torasa Aram later that year, and was put on display in her museum in Mournhold.
Sometime after the events of 3E 427, the sword was discovered by a Bosmer named Lenwin, from the small settlement of Pell's Gate in the Heartlands of Cyrodiil. She became bloodthirsty, and began calling herself Umbra after the sword. In 3E 433, Clavicus Vile sent the Champion of Cyrodiil to retrieve the Umbra Sword. Barbas, Vile's Hound, advised the Champion against bringing him the sword, foreseeing that it would bring ruin to the Prince. Despite the warning, the Champion tracked down and slew Lenwin in the Ayleid ruin of Vindasel and gave the sword to Vile in return for his Masque.
Once the sword arrived in Vile's realm, Umbra escaped and cut away some of the Prince's power for itself. Umbra took the form of a dark being, in the shape of a man but with eyes like holes into nothing. The Prince did not want Umbra to escape with his power, so he changed the walls of his realm, essentially trapping Umbra there. Using his stolen power, Umbra was able to conceal himself in one of the cities at the edge of Vile's realm, fearing that Vile would return him to the sword. In the early Fourth Era, Umbra was attracted to the influx of souls coming from the rift in the realm caused by the first ingenium, which held Baar Dau aloft above Vivec City. Casting a fortune, Umbra learned that the rift would one day become wide enough to throw the Umbra Sword through, lessening the threat posed by Vile. That day came when the ingenium was destroyed; Umbra threw the sword to Mundus, while at the same time Sul and Vuhon, two Dunmer responsible for the ingenium, were sucked through into Clavicus Vile's realm.
Umbra took them captive, and in return for his life Vuhon promised to build a new ingenium, which would tear a piece of Vile's realm away and let Umbra "escape", in a sense. Umbra agreed, and the two created Umbriel, a floating city powered by souls. Umbra fused with Vuhon and placed their joined soul into the new ingenium. Vuhon then began to call himself Umbriel, and ruled the floating city. The city of Umbriel was called to Tamriel circa 4E 40 by Chief Minister Hierem and the An-Xileel, who had gotten in touch with the city via the Hist, who in turn had made contact with the related sentient trees which ran the ecosystem on Umbriel. Hierem had promised use of the White-Gold Tower to separate Umbriel from Vile's realm, but Vuhon first went north to the ruins of Vivec, fearing that the Umbra Sword may be used to trap Umbra.
However, when Sul and Prince Attrebus Mede arrived at Scathing Bay on Vvardenfell in search of the Umbra Sword, it was nowhere to be found. The sword had already been retrieved by the minor House Sathil eight years previous. Without Umbra stabilizing the sword, it drove whoever touched it insane. Elhul Sathil had been the one to recover it, and had been driven into a killing frenzy. He was chained down and brought back to Castle Sathil on Solstheim. Once there, he regained possession of the sword and would not relinquish his grip. His father, Lord Hleryn Sathil, constructed a dungeon to hold his son until a cure could be found. Elhul stopped eating after the first year, and his father spent years reading up on the sword. Sul and Attrebus Mede eventually tracked down the sword, and were locked in Elhul's prison by Nirai Sathil, who feared the sword. The two defeated Elhul, who had become skeletal and impervious to pain, and used the sword to teleport to Vile's realm.
With his power stolen by Umbra, Vile and his realm were weakened. The Prince tried to take the sword, but he couldn't handle it without Umbra stabilizing it. Attrebus negotiated with Vile, and agreed to free his lost power in return for passage to the Imperial City. Sul and Attrebus found their way into Umbriel, and Sul wielded the sword in battle against Vuhon. It had no effect on him, as his soul was in the ingenium. In a final battle beside the ingenium, Attrebus was forced to wield the Umbra Sword and plunged it into the machine. This separated Umbra from Vuhon, trapping Umbra in the sword and mortally wounding Vuhon. With the veil over Umbriel destroyed, Clavicus Vile could enter. The Prince possessed Attrebus and used the Umbra Sword to stab Sul. Sul punched Attrebus and returned him to normality, before jumping on the orb of the ingenium with the sword still embedded in his chest. This turned his body and the Umbra Sword to smoke, likely destroying the artifact for good.
The Rueful Axe
The Rueful Axe is a Daedric artifact created by the Daedric Prince Clavicus Vile. It takes the form of a large iron battleaxe engraved with images of werewolves, although it is actually made of ebony. The axe is very heavy, and has a wicked blade that looks sharp enough to cut through a god. It is enchanted to magically fatigue anyone that it strikes.
The axe was created by Vile for Sebastian Lort, a powerful Breton conjurer. Sebastian's daughter was a worshipper of Hircine, and was cursed with lycanthropy. Sebastian prayed to Vile to cure his daughter, and, in response, the Prince gave him the axe, giving the mage a means of "curing" his daughter by slaying her (which was no cure at all as Hircine still claims the souls of lycanthropes).
In 4E 201, Vile tasked the Last Dragonborn with retrieving the axe from Sebastian, who was residing in a cave named Rimerock Burrow in Haafingar, Skyrim. In return, the Dragonborn requested that Vile would forgive Barbas, who he had banished to Tamriel. Vile gave the Dragonborn the option of keeping the Rueful Axe and using it to slay Barbas and temporarily vanquish him to the Void, or going through with the original deal, in which Vile would take the axe and Barbas in return for the Masque of Clavicus Vile. It is unknown which option the Last Dragonborn chose.
As seen in Daggerfall
As seen in Redguard
Clavicus Vile's statue in Oblivion
Clavicus Vile's statue in Skyrim
Clavicus Vile's statue in ESO
The Masque of Clavicus Vile in Oblivion
The Masque of Clavicus Vile in Skyrim
The Bittercup in Morrowind
An emblem representing Clavicus Vile