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Crafting Motif 53: Tsaesci Style

Author: 
Kiasa-Veda

By Kiasa-Veda, the Chronicler of Blades, Dir-Tonenaka

What does "Akaviri" mean? For many generations after the coming of my ancestors to Tamriel in the late First Era, Akaviri meant the people and heritage of the Tsaesci, the most refined and sophisticated civilization on the remote eastern continent of Akavir. As every schoolchild knows, at the beginning of the twenty-eighth century of the First Era, the Tsaesci sent a large and well-armed Fortified Embassage to Tamriel for reasons of mythic import that are not for discussion in a venue such as this. This Tsaesci force met General Reman of Cyrodiil first as an antagonist, and then as an ally. Thereafter General Reman became Emperor Reman I, and the Second Empire was born.

My ancestors were among that Tsaesci force, and indeed, many Imperials could now claim some measure of Akaviri descent, and might well do so—were the name "Akaviri" not tarnished by the recent invasion of the Kamali barbarians, so ill-advised, so abominably led, so resoundingly defeated. But we will speak no more of them.

We will speak, instead, of what may be spoken of the Tsaesci. Much may not be shared outside the true bloodlines, but this was never true of our artisanship, of the Serpentine Ways of Making. These my ancestors freely shared with the People of Reman, and though over time the old styles have become diluted and debased, still pristine examples of the Serpentine Ways can be seen in the Tonenaka at Rimmen, where I am honored to labor as Chronicler.

See our traditional armor, painstakingly crafted of many small rigid plates laced or wired together to form a flexible blade-proof fabric. Note how the most vulnerable areas are protected by several overlapping layers, all hinged to move as the body moves.

Notice our masked helms, each a fierce scowling visage crowned with horns or flaring crests to create an imposing and intimidating silhouette, as of an unstoppable demon warrior.

Admire our katanas in three lengths, dagger, sword, and two-handed sword, narrow blades with a slight curve away from their single edge, superbly designed for quick cutting, though with a point for when a thrust is needed.

Wonder at the beauty of our shields, which, though we rarely use them in combat, are still made and decorated to the most exacting standards passed down from one generation of artisans to the next.

And fear our snake-headed bows, striped red-and-tan to represent the duality of life-and-death and how close to each other the two always are and must be. Even the fletching of our arrows is meticulous.

Would you follow the Serpentine Ways of Making? Then here, armorer, are your models.

Crafting Motif 18: Akaviri

Author: 
Holgunn One-Eye

King Jorunn wants a description of the Akaviri styles of arms and armor written by someone who knows them. I don't think anyone killed more Akaviri than I did during the recent invasion from Kamal, so I guess that makes me an expert in their wares of war. Besides, who else was I going to get to write this? Rigurt?

AXES

Kamal, the region of Akavir where the recent invaders hail from, is said to be icy and snow-covered, so it's no surprise that Kamali axes resemble those made by us Nords of Skyrim. The one-handed weapons, in particular, are clearly descended from the kind of ice-axes we use when crossing glaciers or scaling icy peaks.

BELTS

An Akaviri belt usually sports a prominent boss on its buckle, with an abstract sigil that's probably clan-related. These symbols are always symmetrical, and usually made of interwoven flowing designs. For several years I wore one taken from an officer I slew, and it was strong and well-made.

BOOTS

Boots of the northern Akaviri tend to be simple and utilitarian, for trudging through the deep snows of Kamal. Those of the southern Tsaesci are more elaborate and decorative, with shoes and greaves that look like Imperial sandals, though armored with thick leather or small metal plates.

BOWS

The Akaviri use composite bows with recurved ends made of horn. Though painted with metallic lacquer, don't be fooled: their bows are not made of metal, nor do the Akaviri have the giant's-strength it would take to bend them if they were.

CHEST PIECES

Akaviri chest armor is worked or forged from familiar materials—padding, leather, steel—and usually decorated with a triangular or pyramidal shape, point toward the gorget.

DAGGERS

Akaviri daggers are pretty, but don't be fooled: they're made for killing, and if you get downed on the battlefield, expect to feel one of these in your armpit or groin. As with the swords, the curved ones are Tsaesci, and the straight ones are from Kamal.

GLOVES

Akaviri weapons usually have narrow guards, which leaves hand protection up to their gauntlets. These usually have thick armor on the back of the hand, while leaving the fingers free and open for a solid grip on weapon and shield.

HELMETS

The Tsaesci helmets I've seen in museums, or imitated by Fighters Guild warriors, sport layered neck and side armor, and often have elaborate double crests like horns or antlers. Kamali helmets, in contrast, tend to be simpler, though they also cover the back and sides. Lots of Akaviri helmets of both kinds include visors or some other form of partial face coverage. The troops found some of these unsettling, even creepy.

LEG GREAVES

Akaviri greaves always look like extensions of their sandal-like boots. I could never tell where one ends and the other starts.

MACES

Kamali maces usually have rectangular heads, while those of the Tsaesci are round. Both kinds are studded all round with wicked spikes. They're going to hurt you, even if you're wearing heavy armor.

SHIELDS

Shields from Kamal tend to be metal-edged wood from the northern forests, while shields from southern Tsaesci are more likely to be curved sheets of steel. These often sport symbols echoing the crests on the warriors' helms.

SHOULDERS

Unlike the triangular designs on their chest armor, Akaviri pauldrons and shoulder cops are always articulated rectangular or square plates. Why? Who knows?

STAVES

An Akaviri mage prizes his spell staff, and they are often splendid and lavishly decorated, trimmed in gold leaf and sporting great red gems. The hafts of these staves are made of a dense, flexible wood unknown in Tamriel, able to deflect even a great axe.

SWORDS

The Akaviri seem to love their swords almost as much as the Redguards; their long blades are among the finest I've ever seen. When you heft one of the curved Tsaesci swords, you can just feel how it could shear right through a soldier's limbs. And the straight blades of Kamal are no less dangerous.

 

The Proving Festival

Author: 
Laije-Palak Rulician

14th of Hearthfire

Hakoshae is but a pale light compared to the radiance of Imperial City. Our homes are simple, our lives filled with daily toil. My once soft hands are now covered in callouses and dirt. But still, we are safe.

The magnate has even announced that we will be starting the Proving Festival soon. For once in my life, I have no worry about dishonoring my ancestors. I have traveled long and worked hard to help build Hakoshae. I am sure my actions have pleased those who came before me.

18th of Hearthfire

The Proving Festival has begun, though it is laced with a bittersweet taste. I cannot help but remember that a mere three years ago we held this same celebration in our family's beautiful estate. There was feasting, dancing, music and more. A thousand stories were told, a thousand songs were sung, and beautiful decorations covered our home.

The Proving Festival in Hakoshae is a far simpler affair. There are no feasts, for we have little food to sustain us. There are no decorations, for all of our efforts have gone to building the town we now call home. The stories of grand adventures are told by tired elders, the labors of their day clinging heavily to their voices.

But still, I am grateful for the magnate's decision. It is good to feel Akaviri again.

20th of Hearthfire

My sister spoke of a strange noise she heard last night. Slow, stumbling steps near her window. She awoke, but was too afraid to look outside.

I told her that there was nothing to worry about, but my heart is now heavy. Everyone knows that the festival calls upon our ancestors to judge us. Depending on how well we have honored them, they will send us good fortune or bad luck. But to cross over to the realm of the living means that they have been greatly angered.

I only pray that my ancestors were not the ones who visited Hakoshae last night. May they watch over us always, and happily remain within the afterlife.

22nd of Hearthfire

The Proving Festival is complete, and no one has died a horrific death. I now believe my sister's story to be just a dream. Foolish of me to buy into her nightmares.

The closing ceremony had a strange air, however. The magnate, a usually solemn and stern man, seemed even more grim today. He spoke of the festival, and how we had honored our ancestors. A common speech, one that I've heard my own father recite many times.

But then he talked about how our actions every day prove ourselves to our ancestors. That we shouldn't have to beg them for attention, or prove ourselves with silly tasks and meaningless riddles. That just by building and maintaining Hakoshae, we have done more than enough to please those who came before us.

I am unsettled by these statements. It almost sounds as if the magnate does not wish to hold the Proving Festival next year. I sincerely hope this not to be the case, of course. This Hearthfire, we celebrated an important part of Akaviri culture. I would hate for us to give that up, as we have already given up so much.

On Akaviri Burial Rites

Author: 
Lerien Arnese

By Lerien Arnese, Scholar-Emeritus of Ancient Sciences

The mysterious snake-men of Akavir brought many exotic customs to the shores of Tamriel, but none so strange as their burial rites. While the most bizarre traditions fell away quickly, Akaviri-descended Imperials maintained most of the snake-men's more benign rituals. This description is by no means exhaustive, but it should give the junior explorer some sense of what challenges (both scholarly and physical) an Akaviri grave site might present.

Consider the Tomb of the Serpents. Khajiiti architects originally conceived of it as a mausoleum for Rimmenite royalty. But the overthrow of the Akaviri Potentate in the 2E 400s, and the resulting social upheaval in Cyrodiil, displaced thousands of Akaviri-descended Imperials—sending them crashing over the border into Elsweyr. Ever the opportunists, the Rimmenite Khajiit granted these new residents the honor of burying their honored dead in Khajiiti crypts—for a price. In time, Akaviri dead vastly outnumbered those of the native Khajiit, thus prompting the renaming of the structure to the "Tomb of the Serpents."

By all accounts, classical Akaviri burial customs were highly regimented. Snake-men ritualists bound the bodies of their dead in extravagant silken wraps that covered the whole of the body, aside from the face. Upon the face, they placed elaborate masks, often fashioned from silver for high-ranking persons, or tin for their lesser kin. These masks typically bore the ghastly aspect of a serpent, or other such monstrosity—perhaps to ward off evil spirits, or more likely, superstitious grave-robbers. Most importantly, funeral ritualists placed the ancestral armor of the deceased on pedestals near the body. Such armor remains highly sought after. Robbers routinely rifle through urns and overturn sarcophagi searching for breastplates and helmets to sell to wealthy collectors. Even so, there are risks.

Many histories speak of armor that rises to defend itself, as if worn by angry spirits. While some dismiss these accounts out of hand, only a great fool would pay them no heed. Remember: in the world of tomb-exploration, a healthy measure of superstition will serve you well.

The Tonenaka Shrine

Author: 
Magnate Feina-Darak

A Study in Akaviri Mystique
By Magnate Feina-Darak

When the Khajiit and Rim-Men of Northern Elsweyr granted asylum to the Akaviri refugees of the fading Potentate, the first of the arrivals were bequeathed the unused crypts west of the capital. In these, they would bury the dead that did not survive the flight from the Imperial City.

The monarchs of the region, King Savlian of Rimmen and Queen Padala of the Anequina Khajiit, decreed that the Akaviri survivors would be resettled within the capital and the fertile hills to the south. They brought with them many of their retainers, full-blooded Imperials who were nevertheless devoted to their former rulers.

Though Rimmen already had an eclectic society as a crossroads of Imperial and Khajiiti trade, the strange aesthetics, culture, and even food of the Akaviri settlers changed the city forever. The most unusual contribution of the Akaviri, if one can call it that, was the construction of the Tonenaka Shrine in the northern district of Rimmen.

Built with Khajiiti stonework influenced by Akaviri architectural styles, the Tonenaka Shrine became something of a cultural touchstone for the remaining Akaviri settlers and their former Imperial subjects. Their patriarchs commissioned the construction of ten thousand statuettes of carved stone, bringing sculptors and engineers from across southern Tamriel to aid in the project.

Indeed, the vast wealth that these Akaviri settlers brought with them to finance the project greatly increased Rimmen's prosperity. However, as the years passed, so few of the Akaviri remained that only five lived to see the Shrine's completion. Most had interbred with the Imperial population or settled farther south in the village of Hakoshae.

When the final statue was placed, these five Akaviri entered the Tonenaka Shrine and sealed its doors behind them, placing powerful wards upon it to prevent entry. This wasn't part of the original agreement between the Rimmen authorities and the Akaviri builders, but with the promise of gold their ire was assuaged.

The Shrine remains sealed to this day, with only occasional work being done to its exterior to prevent degradation of its marvelous stonework. 

Clever Kail-Perwa and the Great Boast

Author: 
Nalae-Polek

As Retold by Nalae-Polek, Poet Laureate to Potentate Versidue-Shaie

Once in the land of Akaviri, there was a clever woman named Kail-Perwa. She was known to spin words the way a spider spins its web, alluring and beautiful. But this clever tongue came with a boastful mouth.

"Living or dead, there are none in Akavir who can match my wit!" Kail-Perwa proclaimed one day.

Though her parents tried to silence her, Kail-Perwa would not take back her words. She repeated them one, twice, thrice. And on that third time, her words were so sure and loud that they echoed all the way into the afterlife.

"There are none so clever as I!"

Though all of Kail-Perwa's ancestors were displeased with her words, one spirit in particular took great offense. It was the spirit of General Haro-Banar, a man who had won many great victories with his cleverness. The general had always been modest about his accomplishments, and was displeased that his descendant did not follow this example.

"Kail-Perwa claims to be more clever than all, living and dead," the general proclaimed. "I shall travel to the world of the living and see if these boastful words hold any truth."

General Haro-Banar was well-honored by the living, and so his spirit was strong enough to leave the afterlife and venture into the mortal realm. He did so now, changing his ghostly appearance into that of a warrior dressed in golden armor. Swift as the wind, he traveled to Kail-Perwa's village and sought her out.

The general found Kail-Perwa in the edge of the village, collecting herbs for her house. For a moment he hesitated, for the general knew his descendant to be as dutiful as she was clever. And so he resolved to give her one last chance to renounce her boastful ways and live modestly.

"I seek Kail-Perwa," said General Haro-Banar, making his presence known. "Be you her?

Kail-Perwa looked up and nodded, wiping the dirt from the palm of her hands. "Yes, I am she."

"It is said that you claim to be more clever than any living or any dead. Be this true?"

Kail-Perwa stood to her full height and gave the general a confident smile. "Yes, it is true. There is none so clever as I."

"That is quite the claim to make," replied the general, his voice growing cold. "After all, how can you prove yourself against the dead?"

Kail-Perwa shrugged. "Should any of the dead take offense from my words, let them prove themselves to me! After all, cannot spirits visit the land of the living?"

"Very well," said the general with a solemn nod. "For the next three nights, you will be visited by the cleverest of your ancestors. Prove yourself to them, and your boast will become truth."

Suddenly, Kail-Perwa was afraid. How could this stranger make such a claim?

"Who are you?" she asked, her voice trembling.

"I am he who will meet you on the third night," said General Haro-Banar, his voice mighty, his gaze unflinching. "I am he who will acknowledge you as cleverest of all, should you prove yourself so. And I am he who will punish you, should your boasts be but clever lies."

And with that, he was gone. 

As Retold by Nalae-Polek, Poet Laureate to Potentate Versidue-Shaie

Kail-Perwa found it very difficult to sleep that night. The warrior in gold had claimed that she would be visited by three of her cleverest ancestors. Should Kail-Perwa fail to prove her wit to all three of them, she would be punished. But how would she be punished?

Kail-Perwa was clever enough to know that the warrior in gold who visited her was an ancestral spirit. As such, the spirit had the power to grant her both great fortune or misfortune, depending on his ruling. He could even drag Kail-Perwa to the afterlife, should he be truly angered.

Would she be able to pass these three trials? Would she be killed if she failed? Such questions kept Kail-Perwa awake late into the night, until at last she fell asleep.

When Kail-Perwa next awakened, she was not truly awake. She was inside a dream, of this she was sure, but her consciousness had never been so clear and aware in a dream as it was now. Truly, it felt like she had been transported into another realm.

And what a strange realm it was. The land around her was covered in a thin layer of water, cold against her feet. The sky above was an endless white. The only distinguishing feature was a twisted, black tree, jutting out from the water. And next to this tree was a lone woman, dressed in red.

Kail-Perwa instantly knew this was the first spirit to would judge her.

The woman in red smiled. She was young and beautiful with a noble bearing, and when she spoke, her voice was like the wind which foretells a great storm.

"I have come to judge you," said the woman in red, "for you have claimed to be more clever than I. As your ancestor, I bear right to test that cleverness. Do you accept my judgement?"

Kail-Perwa bowed deeply and said, "I do."

"My task is simple, then. You must walk to me. This is all."

Kail-Perwa worried her lip, for she doubted the task was as simple as the woman in red declared. Still, the only action she could take was to move forward. But as Kail-Perwa walked, she quickly found herself moving further and further away. It was if the tree and the woman in red leaned away from her, just as swiftly as she walked forward.

"All is not as it seems," thought Kail-Perwa. "There is a trick to this place that I have yet to see."

So she looked behind her, and saw but endless water. She looked above, and saw but endless sky. But then she looked below, and saw her own reflection. And this reflection, as impossible as it may have been, was facing away from the woman in red.

Kail-Perwa could almost laugh! What a simple trick. As she moved forward, her reflection was moving her away from the woman in red. In order to walk towards the spirit, she must move her reflection in the correct direction, not herself.

And so Kail-Perwa turned away from the woman in red and began to walk. It was an odd sensation, as her steps seemed to pull the land ahead of her further away. Very quickly, she heard a tinkling laugh near her ear. She turned around, now face to face with the mysterious spirit.

The woman in red smiled and said, "Very good, Kail-Perwa. You have solved my task. But tell me, do you realize the lesson learned?"

Kail-Perwa bit her lip and shook her head, for she did not know.

"To go forward, sometimes you must go back," the woman in red gently explained. "Let this lesson be your guiding words, for there are still two trials ahead."

And with that, Kail-Perwa awoke to the morning sun. 

As Retold by Nalae-Polek, Poet Laureate to Potentate Versidue-Shaie

Kail-Perwa basked in her victory like a lizard in the bright sun. Why had she worried? After all, there was none so clever as she! Why concern herself about a punishment that would never come to pass?

There were just two more trials left. If Kail-Perwa succeeded in both, and she was confident that she would, her boast would become a proven truth! Perhaps her ancestors would even reward her for such a victory.

Kail-Perwa found it easy to fall asleep that night.

Just as before, she entered into a dream. Again, the land around her was covered in a thin layer of water, cold against her feet. Again, the sky above was an endless white. But this time there was no black tree or woman in read. Instead, there was black table with two black chairs. Seated at one of the chairs was an elderly man dressed in blue.

Kail-Perwa bowed to the ancestral spirit and politely said, "Greetings, grandfather."

"Ah, Kail-Perwa. You have come at last to meet this old man," the grandfather in blue greeted. "Please, have a seat so we may begin your trial."

With only a moment's hesitation, Kail-Perwa did as she was bid. She found no trickery in her steps this time, and easily found her way to the table where she took a seat.

"Now, as for your trial," the grandfather continued, "It is very simple. We will play a single game of tihasae. Your only goal is to stop my victory. Do you understand?"

Kail-Perwa nodded, though her stomach clenched. She had played tihasae many times, this was true. It was a game which required great cunning to win, and Kail-Perwa won it often. But could she prevail against this elderly spirit, who had both wisdom and cunning on his side?

With a swipe of his hand, the grandfather in blue summoned a tihasae board. The game pieces were bone white, contrasting against the dark browns of the board. He gestured towards Kail-Perwa, inviting her to take the first move. And so the game began.

It was not an easy battle. Kail-Perwa's hands shook as she moved her pieces across the board. Every time she went in for an attack, the grandpa in blue was there with a impassable defense. And when he struck her pieces, he struck mercilessly. Quickly, quicker than Kail-Perwa thought possible, she was on the verge of defeat.

At last, Kail-Perwa found herself one turn from losing. There was no way she could win, no way she could even escape defeat. This, she was clever enough to see.

But must she win? Suddenly, Kail-Perwa's eyes opened wide. The grandfather in blue said to stop his victory. If this was truly a simple task, did she truly need to win against him?

Without another thought, Kail-Perwa swiped her hand across the board. The tihasae pieces scattered into the water with soft plops, sinking further and further than should have been possible. With that simple action, there was no way for the game to conclude. There was no way for either competitor to win.

The grandfather in blue chuckled and said, "Very good, Kail-Perwa. With one move, you have stopped my victory. Simple, was it not?"

Kail-Perwa panted, her breaths ragged and short. She had nearly failed the trial, and it was very possible that such a failure could have resulted in her death.

"And now a lesson for you," the grandfather in blue continued, nodding his head. "Seek what is true, not what is obvious. Let this lesson be your guiding words, for there is still one trial ahead."

And with that, Kail-Perwa awoke to the morning sun. 

As Retold by Nalae-Polek, Poet Laureate to Potentate Versidue-Shaie

Kail-Perwa despaired all day. She had come so close to losing her second trial, and now she was to face a third. Failure to pass this last trial would result in a grave punishment. Perhaps even her death.

She thought of all of her options. Was there was a priest could protect her from the spirits? A potion that would let her stay awake forever? But the more she thought, the less realistic each idea became.

So afraid was Kail-Perwa, she did not fall asleep until well until the night.

She awoke into a dream once more. Again, she was greeted by a land of endless water and a sky of endless white. But this time, the warrior in gold stood before her in all his glory. In his hands was a mighty black sword, so large that Kail-Perwa could never hope to lift it.

"You have passed two trials," said the warrior in gold, his voice as proud and strong as his bearing. "But you have yet to pass mine. Do you accept my judgment, descendant?"

Kail-Perwa nodded quickly, just once. She knew it would be useless to object.

"You have proven to be clever twice through your actions," continued the warrior in gold as he slung his mighty sword across his shoulders. "But how clever are your words? This will be your last trial, Kail-Perwa. Convince me that you are more clever than all living and all dead."

For the first time in her life, Kail-Perwa did not know what to say. What words could she weave to convince this spirit of such cleverness?

"To go forward, sometimes you must look back," the woman in red had told her.

"Seek what is true, not what is obvious," the grandfather in blue had said.

Kail-Perwa closed her eyes and thought. She had overcome two trials to prove herself more clever than any other. But was that truly the purpose of her hardships? Using all of her cleverness, using all of her wit, she thought about what she had learned and what she must do.

When next her eyes opened, Kail-Perwa knew she had found the truth.

"I can't," she told the warrior in gold, her hands trembling slightly. "I can't convince you that I'm more clever than all living and all dead."

"Oh?" asked the warrior in gold, his voice even. "And why is that?"

"Because I'm not," answered Kail-Perwa. "If I was truly so clever, I would never make such a boast. There are many I have never met, and many I will never meet. And to condemn them to be less clever than I is foolishness."

"I see," said the warrior in gold, his face revealing nothing. "And is this all you have to say?"

Kail-Perwa bowed deeply, her head hung in shame. "I know now that such boasts are an insult our family's good name. I apologize."

And with this, the warrior's face broke into a grin. His armor transformed into noble robes, his face growing a long, full beard. And that was when Kali-Perwa realized that the spirit before her was none other than General Haro-Banar, the most honored of her ancestors.

"You have humbled yourself before me, despite risk of punishment," said General Haro-Banar. "And for that, I will forgive your transgressions. Live modestly, my descendant, for there are none so clever as those who realize their own limitations."

"Thank you, General Haro-Banar," said Kail-Perwa, her heart filled with gratitude. "That is a lesson I shall never forget."

And so Kail-Perwa finally awoke to the wisdom of her ancestors, and all was well. 

From Argonian to Saxhleel

Author: 
Vicecanon Heita-Meen

Misunderstanding and oppression have poisoned Black Marsh for centuries. My egg-siblings have endured subjugation by the Empire and slavery at the hands of the Dunmer. Armored boots tread on our traditions and culture. We are fortunate to have the Marsh. Without its perils to deter hapless dryskins, our ways might have already crumbled to dust. Despite our troubles, the Hist guides us still. And for the first time in memory, we have the chance to break the cycle.

I spent my young life as a slave. An angry one. It cannot have been easy to become recognized for cruelty among the tyrants of House Dres, but Councilman Glathis Dres managed it. After I was beaten to unconsciousness for seating the guests at a banquet out of order, I could take no more. When I was able to work the saltrice fields again, I waited for an opening, overwhelmed the drunken guards, and escaped with my fellow slaves.

We fled into the Thornmarsh. When we crossed paths with a troop of Argonians, we realized too late they were traitors, Archein tribe scum in the employ of House Dres. Hungry and exhausted, we were easy to capture. The sun abandoned my sky. Looking back, though, I see the subtle work of the Hist’s will. In the Archein village, a vision came to me. Their Hist tree spoke, showing me blood and horror—the Akaviri invasion, Nords and Dunmer falling like dead leaves.

This was an opportunity. A turning point. But how could I take advantage? We were taken back to Thorn, now nearly empty as the Dunmer answered Almalexia’s call to battle. For my transgression, I was to be whipped by Glathis himself. In the courtyard, Glathis struck his first lash. I grabbed his whip and strangled him with it. I’ll never forget the look he gave me as the light drained from his eyes.

Wasting no time, I challenged the centurion of the Archein guards for her position by right-of-combat. She could not refuse and maintain any respect from her cohort. The duel was brief. I assumed command and advanced on Stormhold to do the same there. I am thankful that I did not need to shed any further Saxhleel blood. Walks-in-Ash, who met us as we approached, was able to convince Stormhold’s Shellbacks to join our command.

I revealed my plan. We would march to Morrowind, into Stonefalls, and engage in battle—with the Akaviri. We would defend the Dunmer and turn the tide. To say some disagreed with my strategy would be quite an understatement. I told of my vision from the Hist, and let any who wished to return to the Marsh do so. Still strong in numbers, we marched.

When we arrived in the chaos of battle, there was fear on the faces of the Dunmer, who saw armed slaves charging towards them. The fear turned to shock as we joined their ranks, our Shellbacks providing enough muscle to overpower the invaders and force them to flee.

And now, we are recognized. We have allies, not overlords, for the first time in memory. We are free under the law, and we are taking back our villages and strengthening our traditions. There is still bitter blood flowing between many Saxhleel and our new allies, and not every tribe has joined us—only those of Thornmarsh, Shadowfen, and Murkmire. This is not a surprise. I hope that they will, in time, and realize that this opportunity we have been given to cultivate the understanding will allow us to preserve our way of life.

Second Invasion: Reports

Author: 
Anonymous

7 Sun's Height
The Akaviri land their ships in force. Several have been turned away or sunk, but more slip past our guard. Our forces move forward to meet them on the cliffs above the beaches, where we hold the high ground.

From our vantage point, the queen watches their approach. She will get to see firsthand the ferocity and strength of the Blood Claws!

8 Sun's Height
The Akaviri ships have dropped anchor back from the beach. Perhaps they fear our blades. I say let them starve themselves in their ships, but Princess Nurnhilde believes they plot, rather than cower. She is wiser than I, so I have sent scouts to find and foil any cowardly, underhanded tactics they might be ready to deploy.

19 Sun's Height
More than a week, and still the Akaviri do not attack. The soldiers grow restless, and Princess Nurnhilde broods. Scouts have returned without any information. Still, I continue to send them out day after day. None have spoken against me, but I see their looks as I order yet another patrol along the beaches.
The Blood Claws were made for slaughter, not waiting.

22 Sun's Height
Arguments and fighting in the camp, and the Akaviri still wait with their fleet, just beyond of our grasp. We've heard reports of attacks north and south of us, along the coast, even as far south as the Dark Elf lands. The troops wonder why we wait when fighting takes place elsewhere. And wonder begins to turn to anger.
Princess Nurnhilde insists that this is their main fleet, and that they are trying to lure us away from our position. When she speaks, the soldiers become calm and thoughtful. She cuts right through their anger and bitterness. I wish she would address them more often.

26 Sun's Height
An Akaviri ship landed today. It hit the beach in the darkness just before morning. Our soldiers surrounded it, expecting a hail of arrows from within, but none came. It was odd that such a large ship beached itself, but the troops were bored and hungry for blood. The magical traps on the ship claimed the lives of seven warriors.
I have never seen the troops so angry. Even the Princess had trouble calming them. When the Akaviri land, they will be torn to shreds. If we don't tear ourselves apart first, that is.

29 Sun's Height
Reports of the Dark Elf lands being overrun. There is little love lost between Nords and Dark Elves, but at this moment we share the frustration they must feel. The report talks of Akaviri in their fields, and our warriors hunger for combat.

I spoke with the Princess. I told her this news may have pushed the Blood Claws to a new level of rage. She said nothing, only pressed her lips together. She's always several steps ahead of the rest of us, and I fear she has seen something I have yet to notice.

2 Last Seed
The Akaviri landed this morning, a massive wave of destruction crashing upon the beach. Our soldiers were whipped into a frenzy as the call to arms rang out. They were reckless, and the first rush was cut down by archers before a proper line could be formed. Our recklessness cost us the beach, and the invaders now have a foothold in our land.

3 Last Seed
We had to fall back. Fighting was too intense and Princess Nurnhilde ordered the troops back to Windhelm. We'll fight from the walls and use the strength of the city to crush the invaders once and for all!

4 Last Seed
Tension runs high tonight, as we wait for the Akaviri to press forward. I saw Nurnhilde donning armor. The Blood Claws will follow her, listen to her orders like the voice of the Dragon itself, but the risk is so great. Word has come to us the princes are nearby, fighting their way to the city. I pray they arrive in time to help.

7 Last Seed
Queen Mabjaarn and Princess Nurnhilde are dead. Nurnhilde led the Blood Claws into combat when the gates of Windhelm fell. They fought like I have never seen anyone fight before, raging in perfect coordination. When the queen went down, the rage took over, though Nurnhilde donned the crown and try to restore order to our lines. The Akaviri were driven from the city. They thought to goad us, and they did, but the beast they awoke was more than they could handle.

But then they came back. Now Queen Nurnhilde is dead. I should have been able to command my warriors, control them. It should have been me, not her. The responsibility for their deaths is mine, and I will explain that to the princes personall

The Rise and Fall of the Blades

Author: 
Anonymous

There are many that still remember the Blades. There are fewer that can pass down their stories, their origins and their downfall. My father could. In his proudest moments he said to me, "You keep secrets like the Blades."

The Blades were good at keeping secrets. They didn't write down much. They passed information carefully between their spies in every province, to their elite members that protected the Emperors. Even amongst their members, they kept much secret.

Most associate the Blades with their ceremonial Akaviri armor and curved longswords. One can trace the Blades back to the fiercest warriors of Akavir, the Dragonguard. It was there, just as they would do in Tamriel, that they protected rulers and their kingdom. But recent discoveries show it to be much more than that.

Many classic texts tell us of adventures to Akavir, known as the dragon lands of the east. Many from Tamriel have attempted to conquer it, most famously Emperor Uriel V and his Tenth Legion in 3E288 as documented in the Imperial dispatch "Disaster at Ionith." Dragons have long been legend in Akavir, and many believe that their brief appearance in Tamriel's history are those that escaped Akaviri, for it was there they were hunted and killed off by the Dragonguard. The Dragonguard would follow those that fled to Tamriel in the late 1st Era.

Invading from the north, the Dragonguard met not only dragons, but the men of Skyrim, who don't meet invasions with pitchers of mead. The Dragonguard cut a path through Skyrim, and it was not until they were stopped by Reman Cyrodiil during the battle at Pale Pass that the invasion came to an end. It was Reman who united the human lands of Cyrodiil and defeated the Akaviri invaders.

Reman is one of the first documented, and widely accepted, of the mythic Dragonborn; those anointed by Akatosh and Alessia themselves. "Born with the soul of a dragon" is what his followers would say. Reports differ widely on the nature of the battle at Pale Pass. But the end result is the same, that the remaining Dragonguard, upon hearing the voice of Reman Cyrodiil, knelt and swore their lives to him, their conqueror and savior. Fragments of from late 1st era texts refer to the warriors dropping to their knees saying "we were not hunting" (or "did not intend", author - rough translation), continuing "we have been searching, for you."

They protected Reman with their lives, as well as his descendants, as the Reman Dynasty ushered in Tamriel's 2nd era. It was through these years that their reach extended, and their order grew to become the Blades. Their conquest of the dragons complete, they only sought to protect the Dragonborn, and through him, the Empire.

They reached their height late during the 3rd era under the rule of the Septim emprors. Despite their numbers, they kept their secrecy. The most visible and well documented were the members who personally guarded the Emperor, still wearing the original Akaviri armor. But that was the just the tip of the spear, for the Blades were a larger organization, stretching to every corner of Tamriel. These agents were of every race. They were merchants, thieves, craftsman, mages, and warriors, all acting as spies, protecting the Empire as needed, and operating in secret. They often acted alone, but some fragments speak of them meeting in secret fortresses across the continent. The most famous being Cyrodiil's Cloud Ruler Temple, where they hung the swords of those slain protecting the Dragonborn. Other maps speak of Wind Scour Temple under the great expanse of Hammerfell's Alik'r desert, Sky Haven Temple in the mountains of Skyrim, and Storm Talon Temple east of Wayrest.

They were known to have a "Grandmaster", who often lived amongst the people, unknown to others. The nature of their communications, meeting places, and missions were known to only a few elite members. The only two to know all were the Grandmaster himself and the Chronicler, whose only job was to make sure the group's mission was never known, but never lost.

With the death of Uriel Septim VII and his son, Martin, the 3rd era came to a close with the Blades fortifying themselves deep within Cyrodiil's Cloud Ruler Temple, as they waited for a Dragonborn to return when they would be called upon again.

The Empire of the 4th era no longer saw the Blades openly protecting it, or the Emperors. That role is now filled by the Penitus Oculatus, a purely Imperial organization. But the Blades continued their secret work, to watch for the Dragonborn and guard against future enemies. The Blades were among the first to see the signs that the Thalmor of the Aldmeri Dominion would not remain isolated within their borders forever. They could do what the Penitus Oculatus, servant to Imperial policy, could not, and thus earned the lasting hatred of the Thalmor.

The warnings of the Blades were proved right, as is well known to all. The Great War between the Empire and the Thalmor consumed the Empire and nearly destroyed it. Emperor Titus Mede II eventually brokered peace with the Thalmor, but at a price many of us still bear.

The reach and destructive nature of the Thalmor is known to many (author's note - in my family firsthand). They are not fools. They knew early on that the Blades were an enemy. So they hunted them throughout the Great War. Some were killed defending their Temples, others as they slept in their hideaways, alone. Some fought, some ran, some hid. But the Thalmor found them all.

There are those that say the Blades still exist around us, in hiding from the Thalmor. Waiting as they have done time and time again, for a Dragonborn to return. For one to protect, for one to guide them.

Book of the Dragonborn

Author: 
Prior Emelene Madrine

The Book of the Dragonborn

by
Prior Emelene Madrine
Order of Talos
Weynon Priory

Year 360 of the Third Era,
Twenty-First of the Reign of
His Majesty Pelagius IV

Many people have heard the term "Dragonborn" - we are of course ruled by the "Dragonborn Emperors" - but the true meaning of the term is not commonly understood. For those of us in the Order of Talos, this is a subject near and dear to our hearts, and in this book I will attempt to illuminate the history and significance of those known as Dragonborn down through the ages.

Most scholars agree that the term was first used in connection with the Covenant of Akatosh, when the blessed St. Alessia was given the Amulet of Kings and the Dragonfires in the Temple of the One were first lit. "Akatosh, looking with pity upon the plight of men, drew precious blood from his own heart, and blessed St. Alessia with this blood of Dragons, and made a Covenant that so long as Alessia's generations were true to the dragon blood, Akatosh would endeavor to seal tight the Gates of Oblivion, and to deny the armies of daedra and undead to their enemies, the Daedra-loving Ayleids." Those blessed by Akatosh with "the dragon blood" became known more simply as Dragonborn.

The connection with the rulers of the Empire was thus there from the beginning - only those of the dragon blood were able to wear the Amulet of Kings and light the Dragonfires. All the legitimate rulers of the Empire have been Dragonborn - the Emperors and Empresses of the first Cyrodilic Empire founded by Alessia; Reman Cyrodiil and his heirs; and of course Tiber Septim and his heirs, down to our current Emperor, His Majesty Pelagius Septim IV.

Because of this connection with the Emperors, however, the other significance of the Dragonborn has been obscured and largely forgotten by all but scholars and those of us dedicated to the service of the blessed Talos, Who Was Tiber Septim. Very few realize that being Dragonborn is not a simple matter of heredity - being the blessing of Akatosh Himself, it is beyond our understanding exactly how and why it is bestowed. Those who become Emperor and light the Dragonfires are surely Dragonborn - the proof is in the wearing of the Amulet and the lighting of the Fires. But were they Dragonborn and thus able to do these things - or was the doing the sign of the blessing of Akatosh descending upon them? All that we can say is that it is both, and neither - a divine mystery.

The line of Septims have all been Dragonborn, of course, which is one reason the simplistic notion of it being hereditary has become so commonplace. But we know for certain that the early Cyrodilic rulers were not all related. There is also no evidence that Reman Cyrodiil was descended from Alessia, although there are many legends that would make it so, most of them dating from the time of Reman and likely attempts to legitimize his rule. We know that the Blades, usually thought of as the Emperor's bodyguards, originated in Akaviri crusaders who invaded Tamriel for obscure reasons in the late First Era. They appear to have been searching for a Dragonborn - the events at Pale Pass bear this out - and the Akaviri were the first to proclaim Reman Cyrodiil as Dragonborn. In fact it was the Akaviri who did the most to promote his standing as Emperor (although Reman himself never took that title in his lifetime). And of course there is no known hereditary connection between Tiber Septim and any of the previous Dragonborn rulers of Tamriel.

Whether there can be more than one Dragonborn at any time is another mystery. The Emperors have done their best to dismiss this notion, but of course the Imperial succession itself means that at the very least there are two or more potential Dragonborn at any time: the current ruler and his or her heirs. The history of the Blades also hints at this - although little is known of their activities during the Interregnum between Reman's Empire and the rise of Tiber Septim, many believe that the Blades continued to search out and guard those they believed were (or might be) Dragonborn during this time.

Lastly, we come to the question of the true meaning of being Dragonborn. The connection with dragons is so obvious that it has almost been forgotten - in these days when dragons are a distant memory, we forget that in the early days being Dragonborn meant having "the dragon blood". Some scholars believe that was meant quite literally, although the exact significance is not known. The Nords tell tales of Dragonborn heroes who were great dragonslayers, able to steal the power of the dragons they killed. Indeed, it is well known that the Akaviri sought out and killed many dragons during their invasion, and there is some evidence that this continued after they became Reman Cyrodiil's Dragonguard (again, the connection to dragons) - the direct predecessor to the Blades of today.

I leave you with what is known as "The Prophecy of the Dragonborn". It often said to originate in an Elder Scroll, although it is sometimes also attributed to the ancient Akaviri. Many have attempted to decipher it, and many have also believed that its omens had been fulfilled and that the advent of the "Last Dragonborn" was at hand. I make no claims as an interpreter of prophecy, but it does suggest that the true significance of Akatosh's gift to mortalkind has yet to be fully understood.

When misrule takes its place at the eight corners of the world

When the Brass Tower walks and Time is reshaped

When the thrice-blessed fail and the Red Tower trembles

When the Dragonborn Ruler loses his throne, and the White Tower falls

When the Snow Tower lies sundered, kingless, bleeding

The World-Eater wakes, and the Wheel turns upon the Last Dragonborn.