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Father of the Niben

Florin Jaliil, trans.

Father of the Niben

Translated and With Commentary
by Florin Jaliil

Writing the biography of anyone is a challenge. Usually the problem lies in assessing one's sources, comparing the prejudices of one chronicle versus another versus another. Waughin Jarth, I have been told, in writing his well-regarded series on the Wolf Queen of Solitude used over a hundred contemporary narratives. I cannot complain about my task having a similar issue.

There is but one record of the man called Topal the Pilot, the earliest known Aldmer explorer of Tamriel. Only four short verse fragments of the epic "Father of the Niben" have survived to present day, but they offer an interesting if controversial look at the Middle Merethic Era when Topal the Pilot may have sailed the seas around Tamriel.

Though "Father of the Niben" is the only written record of Topal the Pilot's voyages, it is not the only proof of his existence. Among the treasures of the great Crystal Tower of Summerset Isle are his crude but fascinating maps, his legacy to all Tamriel.

The translation of the Aldmeri Udhendra Nibenu, "Father of the Niben," is my own, and I accept that other scholars may disagree with some of my choice of words. I cannot promise my translation lives up to the beauty of the original: I have only strived for simple coherence.

Fragment One:

Second ship, the Pasquiniel, manned by pilot
Illio, was to follow the southern pointing
Waystone; and the third, the Niben, manned
By pilot Topal, was to follow the north-east
Pointing waystone; the orders from the
Crystal Tower, they were to sail forth for
Eighty moons and then return to tell.
Only Niben returned to Firsthold, laden high with
Gold and spice and fur and strange creatures,
Dead and live.
Though, alas, Old Ehlnofey Topal never found, he
Told the tales of the lands he had visited to the
Wonderment of all.
For sixty-six days and nights, he sailed, over crashing
Waves of dire intent, past whirlpools, through
Mist that burned like fire, until he reached the
Mouth of a great bay and he landed on a
Sun-kissed meadow of gentle dells.
As he and his men rested, there came a fearsome howl,
And hideous orcs streamed forth from the murky
Glen, cannibal teeth clotted with gore

For centuries, strange crystalline balls were unearthed at the sites of ancient Aldmer shipwrecks and docks, peculiar artifacts of the Merethic and Dawn Eras that puzzled archeologists until it was demonstrated that each had a tendency to rotate on its axis in a specific direction. There were three varieties, one that pointed southward, one that pointed northeast, and one that point northwest.

It is not understood how they work, but they seemed attuned to particular lines of power. These are the "waystones" of the fragment, which each of the pilots used to point their craft in the direction they were assigned to go. A ship with a name not mentioned in the fragment took his vessel north-west, towards Thras and Yokuda. The Pasquiniel took the southern waystone, and must have sailed down toward Pyandonea. Topal and his north-east waystone found the mainland of Tamriel.

It is clear from this fragment what the three ships were assigned to do - find a passage back to Old Ehlnofey so that the Aldmer now living in Summerset could learn what became of their old homeland. As this book is intended to be a study of Topal the Pilot, there is scarcely room to dedicate to different theories of the Aldmeri exodus from Old Ehlnofey.

If I were using this poem as my only source, I would have to agree with the scholars who believe in the tradition that several ships left Old Ehlnofey and were caught in a storm. Those who survived found their way to Summerset Isle, but without their waystones, they did not know what direction their homeland was. After all, what other explanation is there for three ships heading in three opposite directions to find a place?

Naturally, only one of the ships returned, and we do not know if either or both of the other two found Old Ehlnofey, or perished at sea or at the hands of the ancient Pyandoneans, Sload, or Yokudans. We must assume, unless we think the Aldmer particularly idiotic, that at least one of them must have been pointing in the right direction. It may well have even been Topal, and he simply did not go north-east far enough.

So, Topal setting sail from Firsthold heads north-east, which coincidentally is the longest one can travel along the Abecean Sea without striking land of any kind. Had he traveled straight east, he would have struck the mainland somewhere in what is now the Colovian West of Cyrodiil in a few weeks. Had he traveled south-east, he might have reached the hump of Valenwood in a few days. But our pilot, judging by his own and our modern maps, sailed in a straight line north-east, through the Abecean sea, and into the Iliac Bay, before touching ground somewhere near present day Anticlere in two months time.

The rolling verdant hills of southern High Rock are unmistakable in this verse, recognizable to anyone who has been there. The question, of course, is what is to be made of this apparent reference to orcs occupying the region? Tradition has it that the orcs were not born until after the Aldmer had settled the mainland, that they sprung up as a distinct race following the famous battle between Trinimac and Boethiah at the time of Resdayn.

It is possible that the tradition is wrong. Perhaps the orcs were an aboriginal tribe predating the Aldmeri colonization. Perhaps these were a cursed folk -- "Orsimer" in the Aldmeris, the same word for "Orc" - of a different kind, whose name was to be given the orcs in a different era. It is regrettable that the fragment ends here, for more clues to the truth are undoubtedly lost.

What's missing between the first fragment and the second is appreciable. It must be more than eighty months that have passed, because Topal is on the opposite side of mainland Tamriel now, attempting to sail south-west to return to Firsthold, after his failure at finding Old Ehlnofey.

Fragment Two:

No passage westward could be found in the steely cliffs
That jutted up like giant's jaw, so the Niben
Sailed south.
As it passed an sandy, forested island that promised
Sanctuary and peace, the crew cheered in joy.
Then exultation turned to terror as a great shadow rose
From the trees on leathered wings like a unfurling Cape.
The great bat lizard was large as the ship, but good pilot
Topal merely raised his bow, and struck it in its Head.
As it fell, he asked his Bo 'sun, "Do you think it's dead?"
And before it struck the white-bearded waves, he
Shot once more its heart to be certain.
And so for another forty days and six, the Niben sailed south

We can see that in addition to Topal's prowess as a navigator, cartographer, survivalist, and raconteur, he is a master of archery. It may be poetic license, of course, but we do have archeological proof that the Merethic Aldmer were sophisticated archers. Their bows of layers of wood and horn drawn by silver silk thread are beautiful, and still, I have heard experts say, millennia later, very deadly.

It is tempting to imagine it a dragon, but the creature that Topal faces at the beginning of this fragment sounds like an ancestor of the cliff-racer of present day Morrowind. The treacherous cliff coastline sounds like the region around Necrom, and the island of Gorne may be where the nest of the "bat lizard" is. No creatures like that exist in eastern Morrowind to my knowledge at the present day.

Fragment Three:

The fetid, evil swamp lands and their human lizards
Retreated to the east, and Topal and his men's
Hearts were greatly gladdened by the sight of
Diamond blue, pure, sweet ocean.
For three days, they sailed in great cheer north-west
Where Firsthold beckoned them, but hope died
In horror, as land, like a blocking shield rose
Before them.
Topal the Pilot was sore wroth, and consulted he
The maps he had faithfully drawn, to see
Whether best to go south where the
Continent must end, or take the river that
Snaked through a passage north.
"North!" cried he to his sad men. "North we go
Now! Fear not, north!"

Tracing Topal's movements, we see that he has skirted the edge of Morrowind and delved into southern Blackmarsh, seemingly determined to follow his waystone as best as he can. The swamp he is leaving is probably near present day Gideon. Knowing what we now know about Topal's personality, we can understand his frustration in the bay between Black Marsh and Elsweyr.

Here is a man who follows his orders explicitly, and knows that he should have been going south-east through river ways to reach Firsthold. Looking at his maps, we can see that he attempted to find passages through, as he has mapped out the Inner Sea of Morrowind, and several of the swampy tributaries of Black Marsh, no doubt being turned away by the disease and fierce Argonian tribes that dissuaded many other explorers after him.

With a modern map of Tamriel in hand, we can see that he makes the wrong choice in electing to go north-east instead of pushing southward. He could not have known then that what he perceived to be the endless mainland was only a jutting peninsula. He only knew that he had traveled too far southward already, and so he made a smart but incorrect decision to go up the river.

It is ironic that this great miscalculation would today bear his mark of history. The bay he thought was an endless ocean is now known as Topal Bay, and the river that took him astray shares the name of his boat, the Niben River.

Fragment Four:

The cat demons of four legs and two ran the river's
Length, always keeping the boat in their
Green-eyed sight, hissing, and spitting, and
Roaring with rage.
But the sailors never had to brave the shores, for
Fruit trees welcomed them, dropping their
Arms down to the river's edge as if to
Embrace the mer, and the men took the
Fruit quickly before the cats could pounce.
For eleven days, they traveled north, until they came
To a crystalline lake, and eight islands of
Surpassing beauty and peace.
Brilliant flightful creatures of glorious colors
Greeted them in Aldmeri language,
Making the mer wonder, until they
Understood they were only calling back
The word they were speaking without
Understanding it, and then the sailors
Topal the Pilot was enchanted with the islands
And the feathered men who lived there.
There the Niben stayed for a moon, and the bird
Men learned how to speak their own words,
And with taloned feet, to write.
In joy for their new knowledge, they made Topal
Their lord, giving him their islands for the
Topal said he would return someday, but first he
Must find the passage east to Firsthold, so
Far away.

This last fragment is bittersweet for a number of reasons.

We know that this strange, friendly feathered people the Pilot encounters will be lost - in fact, this poem is the only one where mention is made of the bird creatures of Cyrodiil. The literacy that Topal gives them is evidently not enough to save them from their eventual fate, likely at the hands of the "cat demons," who we may assume are ancient Khajiiti.

We know that Topal and his crew never find a route from the eight islands which are the modern day Imperial City through to the Iliac Bay. His maps tell the tale where this lost poem cannot.

We see his hand as he traces his route up the Niben to Lake Rumare; and, after attempting a few tributaries which do not lead him where he wants to go, we can imagine Topal's frustration -- and that of his long-suffering crew -- as they return back down the Niben to Topal Bay.

There, they evidently discovered their earlier mistake, for we see that they pass the peninsula of Elsweyr. Eventually they traveled along its coastline, past the shores of Valenwood, and eventually home. Usually epic tales end with a happy ending, but this one begins with one, and the means to which it was accomplished is lost.

Besides the extraordinary bird creatures of present day Cyrodiil, we have caught glimpses of ancient orcs (perhaps), ancient cliff-racers, ancient Argonians, and in this fragment, ancient Khajiit. Quite a history in a few lines of simple verse, all because a man failed to find his home, and took all the wrong turns to retrace his steps back.

Before the Ages of Man

Aicantar of Shimerene

Timeline Series - Vol 1

Before the Ages of Man

Aicantar of Shimerene


Before man came to rule Tamriel, and before the chronicles of the historians recorded the affairs of the rulers of Tamriel, the events of our world are known only through myths and legends, and through the divinely inspired teachings of the Nine Divines.

For convenience, historians divide the distant ages of prehistory into two broad periods of time -- the Dawn Era, and the Merethic Era.

* The Dawn Era *

The Dawn Era is that period before the beginning of mortal time, when the feats of the gods take place. The Dawn Era ends with the exodus of the gods and magic from the World at the founding of the Adamantine Tower.

The term 'Merethic' comes from the Nordic, literally, "Era of the Elves." The Merethic Era is the prehistoric time after the exodus of the gods and magic from the World at the founding of the Adamantine Tower and before the arrival of Ysgramor the Nord in Tamriel.

The following are the most notable events of the Dawn Era, presented roughly in sequence as it must be understaoo by creatures of time such as ourselves.

The Cosmos formed from the Aurbis [chaos, or totality] by Anu and Padomay. Akatosh (Auriel) formed and Time began. The Gods (et'Ada) formed. Lorkhan convinced -- or tricked -- the Gods into creating the mortal plane, Nirn. The mortal plane was at this point highly magical and dangerous. As the Gods walked, the physical make-up of the mortal plane and even the timeless continuity of existence itself became unstable.

When Magic (Magnus), architect of the plans for the mortal world, decided to terminate the project, the Gods convened at the Adamantine Tower [Direnni Tower, the oldest known structure in Tamriel] and decided what to do. Most left when Magic did. Others sacrificed themselves into other forms so that they might Stay (the Ehlnofey). Lorkhan was condemned by the Gods to exile in the mortal realms, and his heart was torn out and cast from the Tower. Where it landed, a Volcano formed. With Magic (in the Mythic Sense) gone, the Cosmos stabilized. Elven history, finally linear, began (ME2500).

* The Merethic Era *

The Merethic Era was figured by early Nord scholars as a series of years numbered in reverse order backward from the their 'beginning of time' -- the founding of the Camoran Dynasty, recorded as Year Zero of the First Era. The prehistoric events of the Merethic Era are listed here with their traditional Nordic Merethic dates. The earliest Merethic date cited by King Harald's scholars was ME2500 -- the Nordic reckoning of the first year of time. As such, the Merethic Era extends from ME2500 in the distant past to ME1 -- the year before the founding of the Camoran Dysnasty and the establishment of the White Gold Tower as an indepenent city-state.

According to King Harald's bards, ME2500 was the date of construction of the Adamantine Tower on Balfiera Island in High Rock, the oldest known structure of Tamriel. (This corresponds roughly to the earliest historical dates given in various unpublished Elvish chronicles.)

During the early Merethic Era, the aboriginal beastpeoples of Tamriel -- the ancestors of the Khajiit, Argonian, Orcish, and other beastfolk -- lived in preliterate communities throughout Tamriel.

In the Middle Merethic Era, the Aldmeri (mortals of Elven origin) refugees left their doomed and now-lost continent of Aldmeris (also known as 'Old Ehlnofey') and settled in southwestern Tamriel. The first colonies were distributed at wide intervals on islands along the entire coast of Tamriel. Later inland settlements were founded primarily in fertile lowlands in southwest and central Tamriel. Wherever the beastfolk encountered the Elves, the sophisticated, literate, technologically advanced Aldmeri cultures displaced the primitive beastfolk into the jungles, marshes, mountains, and wastelands. The Adamantine Tower was rediscovered and captured by the Direnni, a prominent and powerful Aldmeri clan. The Crystal Tower was built on Summerset Isle and, later, White Gold Tower in Cyrodiil.

During the Middle Merethic Era, Aldmeri explorers mapped the coasts of Vvardenfel, building the First Era High Elven wizard towers at Ald Redaynia, Bal Fell, Tel Aruhn, and Tel Mora in Morrowind. It was also during this period that Ayleid [Wild Elven] settlements flourished in the jungles surrounding White Gold Tower (present day Cyrodiil). Wild Elves, also known as the Heartland High Elves, preserved the Dawn Era magics and language of the Ehlnofey. Ostensibly a tribute-land to the High King of Alinor, the Heartland's long lines of communication from the Summerset Isles' sovereignty effectively isolated Cyrodill from the High Kings at Crystal Tower.

The Late Middle Merethic Era is the period of the High Velothi Culture. The Chimer, ancestors of the modern Dunmer, or Dark Elves, were dynamic, ambitious, long-lived Elven clans devoted to fundamentalist ancestor worship. The Chimer clans followed the Prophet Veloth out of the ancestral Elven homelands in the southwest to settle in the lands now known as Morrowind. Despising the secular culture and profane practices of the Dwemer, the Chimer also coveted the lands and resources of the Dwemer, and for centuries provoked them with minor raids and territorial disputes. The Dwemer (Dwarves), free-thinking, reclusive Elven clans devoted to the secrets of science, engineering, and alchemy, established underground cities and communities in the mountain range (later the Velothi Mountains) separating modern Skyrim and Morrowind.

The Late Merethic Era marks the precipitous decline of Velothi culture. Some Velothi settled in villages near declining and abandoned ancient Velothi towers. During this period, Velothi high culture disappeared on Vvardenfell Island. The earliest Dwemer Freehold colonies date from this period. Degenerate Velothi devolved into tribal cultures which, in time, evolved into the modern Great Houses of Morrowind, or persisted as the barbarian Ashlander tribes. The only surviving traces of this tribal culture are scattered Velothi towers and Ashlander nomads on Vvardenfell Island. The original First Era High Elven wizard towers along the coasts of Tamriel were also abandoned about this time.

It was in the Late Merethic Era that the pre-literate humans, the so-called "Nedic Peoples", from the continent of Atmora (also 'Altmora' or 'the Elder Wood' in Aldmeris) migrated and settleed in northern Tamriel. The Nord culture hero Ysgramor, leader of a great colonizing fleet to Tamriel, is credited with developing a runic transcription of Nord speech based on Elvish principles, and so Ysgramor is considered the first human historian. Ysgramor's fleet landed at Hsaarik Head at the extreme northern tip of Skyrim's Broken Cape. The Nords built there the legendary city of Saarthal. The Elves drove the Men away during the Night of Tears, but Ysgramor soon returned with his Five Hundred Companions.

Also during the Late Merethic Era the legendary immortal hero, warrior, sorceror, and king variously known as Pelinal Whitestrake, Harrald Hairy Breeks, Ysmir, Hans the Fox, etc., wandered Tamriel, gathering armies, conquering lands, ruling, then abandoning his kingdoms to wander again.


Imperial Geographical Society

Virtually nothing is known of the elven homeland. Its location, its environment, its politics, its religion, even its current existence are the stuff of conjecture. Translation from the ancient tapestries and texts in the Crystal Tower of Summerset have yielded only the barest of sketches of a beautiful but very strange land. In no representation of Aldmeris are there any trees or life but the Aldmer themselves. It appears always as an endless city, built upon itself over and over again, until no nature remains at all. The highest towers are reserved for interring the dead, a tradition continued on the Crystal Tower itself.

What had happened in Aldmeris since the elves who settled in Tamriel left is perhaps the oldest of all mysteries. For countless centuries, adventurers have sought "Lost Aldmeris," only to return disappointed, if they return at all. Some say that Aldmeris was sunk into the sea by the angry gods of the Aldmer. Others claim that the elven homeland has left Mundus, and will only return when the races of mer are united as one.

The Blessed Isle: Alinor and The Summersets

Imperial Geographical Society

Map of Summerset Isle

Not a single isle at all but an archipelago of two major islands and a dozen smaller ones, the land called Summerset is the birthplace of civilization and magic as we know it in Tamriel. On its idyllic sea-kissed shores live the Altmer, the High Elves.


The Aldmer, the progenitor races of all elves, arrived in Tamriel from their original home in Aldmeris or Old Ehlnofey in ancient times. We don’t know what precipitated this exodus or even the location of Aldmeris if it still exists today. Most scholars believe that the Aldmer settled Summerset first, and then spread out across the rest of Tamriel, but there is some evidence to support the theory that Summerset was only one of several initial settlements of the earliest Aldmer. In any case, Summerset became one of the earliest centers of Aldmer civilizations, which developed over thousands of years into the Altmer of historical times.

Altmer RaceWhat creatures and prehistoric civilizations these Aldmeris refugees faced have largely been lost in the mists of time. Cloudrest, atop Eton Nir, the highest mountain in Summerset, is a decidedly odd mixture of architectural styles, with buildings like strangler vines, built on top of other, older structures. The oldest of all ruins there, and in a few isolated spots throughout the island, are made of coral, which must have been carried many, many miles away from the sea. The material and the style of the ruins strongly suggest that the Sload may have once counted Summerset as a part of their kingdom of Thras. More evidence of this may be found in the section on Thras in this Pocket Guide.

The treasury of the Crystal Tower and the private collections in Summerset offer suggestions of other creatures the early Aldmer may have met in their new home, portrayed in sculpture and tapestry. Some of the beasts are surely (and hopefully) the work of the artist’s imagination, but others appear with such regularity, it can only be that they once existed, as bizarre as they seem. Though no one alive has ever seen them, they have names out of legend: Gheatus, a man or a group of men who are formed by the earth itself; the Welwa, strange, holy beasts of horns and savage teeth, depicted as ravagers and saviors of the land; the Ilyadi, giants taller than trees, with eyes that cover their head. These extinct monsters, and others like them, had to be defeated by the Aldmer in the days of yore.

Early Aldmer society was agricultural and politically egalitarian. A system of ancestor worship had been exported whole from Aldmeris, and it brought with it a communal spirit that served the early settlers of Summerset well. When the Aldmer came together as a people to create the Crystal Tower, it was not a monument to any king or god, but rather to the spirit of the elven people, living and dead. Within the glittering walls of the Tower are housed the graves of the early Aldmeri settlers, preserved forever as a lasting symbol of the power of the people for that brief moment in history, fully unified.

Gradually, as the society grew, social stratification increased. A hierarchy of classes began to form, which is still largely enforced in Summerset to this day. At the top are the Wise, teachers and priests, followed by the Artists, Princes, Warriors, Landowners, Merchants, and Workers. Below Workers were the beasts, such as the enslaved goblins, who the Aldmer used to perform the jobs beneath the dignity of the very least of them. The religion of the people also changed because of this change in society: no longer did the Aldmer worship their own ancestors, but the ancestors of their "betters." Auriel, Trinimac, Syrabane, and Phynaster are among the many ancestor spirits who became Gods. A group of elders rebelled against this trend, calling themselves the Psijics, the keepers of the Old Ways of Aldmeris. With their mystical powers, they were able to settle in Arteaum, away from what they considered the corruption of their society. They continued to return to the land to act as advisors, but never again would they call Summerset home.

It was about this time that many Aldmer left Summerset to settle the mainland of Tamriel. There was probably no single reason for this second exodus of the Aldmer, but some evidence, such as the famed Ramoran Tapestries - the very ones that show some of the creatures mentioned above - show how untouched and beautiful the mainland was considered to be by the Aldmer. Expeditions, such as those taken by Topal the Pilot and others, had painted an image in their minds of a great land where even workers, at the lowest end of the Summerset hierarchy could live as kings. The Prophet Veloth was among those who led a group of discontented Aldmer away from Summerset to a new promised land.

According to the traditions of Summerset, the Aldmer who went to be free on the mainland became all the disparate elven folk of history: Chimer, Bosmer, Ayleid. The ones who stayed behind became the Altmer. Even the earliest records of Summerset, however, shed no light on the origins of the Dwemer, who already occupied the northeast of Tamriel when Veloth and his people arrived there.

The history of the Summerset Isle in the First Era and most of the Second is very much removed from the rest of mainland Tamriel. The rise and fall of Empires, the battles between man and mer, none of these touched the Altmer as a society. Internal conflicts between Skywatch and Firsthold, and between Alinor and Lillandril, often sparked into full war, but far deadlier were the repeated attempts at invasion from the alien lands of Thras and Pyandonea.

The Sloads of Thras, as we have mentioned earlier, may have been original inhabitants of Summerset, and so their repeated attempts to take the islands could be regarded sympathetically, if not for their methods. Physically unable to fight due to their massive girth, the Sload used necromantic magic and infernal machines to attack the Altmer. Though they never succeeded in reclaiming Summerset, if that was even their goal, they visited horrors upon the land which are still remembered today: the Sack of Skywatch in 1E 1301 and the War of the Uvichil from 1E 2911 to 1E 2917 are surely among the most terrible events in Tamriel’s history.

Summerset IsleThe Maormer of Pyandonea (described more fully in a later section of this Guide) were even more relentless in their drive to conquer Summerset. The chronicler can scarcely find a year throughout the First or Second Eras when the Maormer did not ravage the coastlines of the Altmer. As terrible as it was, it did force the Altmer to build a great navy to defend itself, and to this day, it is on the seas that the High Elves excel in combat. There are villages in the central valleys of Summerset that have never seen battle, but so much blood has been spilled along the coasts, it is a wonder it is not stained permanently crimson.

The formation of the Aldmeri Dominion in the Second Era is discussed in the section on Summerset’s ally, Valenwood. For Summerset, the kings of Colovia were no threat, but the Dominion allowed them to eliminate the Maormer outposts that had been established along the western coast of the mainland. Thus, the Dominion thrived until the coming of Tiber Septim.

The conquest and assimilation of Summerset into the Empire is remembered by many a living Altmer with horror only partially diminished by time. Certainly, the pride of the people has never recovered. During the War of the Isle in 3E 110, the Maormer of Pyandonea were very nearly successful in conquering their ancient enemy, and the Altmer had to call upon the aid of the Psijics and the Empire to help defend themselves. Even as recently as twenty years ago, during the Imperial Simulacrum, when the Altmer invaded Valenwood, their former allies in the Dominion, Summerset was only successful in capturing a small sliver of the coastline that used to be theirs. It is hardly surprising that to many in Summerset, particularly the young, it is time to reinvent what it is to be a High Elf.


Current Events

In the last few years, Summerset Isle has been at peace with its neighbors. To all outward appearances, it has returned to its normal state of unchanging tranquility. In fact, the Altmer are perhaps the most bitterly divided society in the Empire. The war in the province today is a cultural one, which has its origins with the surrender to Tiber Septim four centuries ago which shook Altmer society to its foundation. While in Skyrim and Morrowind more blood has been shed in recent years, this struggle between the old and the new may have even more radical end results. The very future of the oldest province in the Empire of Tamriel is at stake.

For thousands of years, the Altmer have implicitly believed in their superiority to all other races and cultures in Tamriel. For much of this time, they may have been right. But after the incorporation of Summerset into the Empire, doubts began to creep in. With the insularity of the Summerset decisively broken, many Altmer, particularly the young (which among the High Elves is a fairly loose term), began to take a more critical view of the rigid hierarchy of Altmer society and its strict cultural xenophobia. While there had always been discontent on the fringes of Altmer society, which was traditionally resolved by exile of the malcontents, for the first time a significant element of Altmer began to agitate for social change.

This nascent revolution in the Summerset Isle has taken many forms. Most constructive, surely, is the acceptance of new cultures and races onto its shores, some occupying positions that would have been forbidden just a century ago. The Queen of Firsthold, for example, is the Dunmer Morgiah, daughter of Barenziah and sister of the King of Morrowind, Helseth. Her children, Goranthir and Rinnala, though half-Altmer, are fully Dunmer in appearance, and stand to inherit the throne.

A darker side of this movement, however, is exhibited by a shadowy group who call themselves the Beautiful. Originally a salon for artists with the reasonable philosophy that Summerset must let go of its past in order to move forward, the Beautiful became a revolutionary gang dedicated to the destruction of the greatest monuments of Altmer civilizations. The Crystal Tower was naturally an early target, and fortunately attempts against it have failed, but many other great, ancient sculptures and emblems of the past have been vandalized. Lately, the Beautiful have turned their attention to living symbols of the Isle, the royalty of Summerset. The particularly gruesome murder of the daughter of the King of Shimmerene has horrified and outraged the public.

Finally, some of Summerset’s youth are rebelling against the present, ironically, by embracing the past. The Imperial Geographical Society is not allowed to visit Artaeum to survey and document it, but there is little doubt that the Psijic Order is increasingly popular among the young, and is willing to exploit this. Over the past thousand years, only seventeen new initiates were brought into the order. In the past two years, however, another thirty have joined. Thirty new members of an Order may not be enough to be a surprising trend in most circles, but to the tradition-bound graycloaks of Artaeum, it raises many questions. What the Psijics’ aim in this recent recruitment, however, is anyone’s guess at this time.

All the Eras of Man, A Comprehensive History of Our History

Imperial Geographical Society

What follows is only a brief overview of what has preceded this time, for those who lack even a basic knowledge of the prehistory and history of Tamriel. Those who find their appetites whetted will be no doubt avail themselves of the many fine works of history in the libraries and bookshops of the Empire

The Elder Wilds

Eras of ManHistory, of course, begins with creation. Sadly, all the objectivity and solid evidence we require of other events in our records must be dismissed at this early point. Within each province, each culture, each religion, each family there exists a different understanding of how this world came to be. It defines us, this belief in where we came from, and the Imperial Geographic Society prefers to leave that to you, gentle reader.

That said, one persistent story that is accepted by many cultures is that as the world congealed into reality, the Gods made a great tower to discuss how best to proceed with the making of Mundus. The physical, temporal, spiritual, and magical elements of Nirn were set at this Convention, and the tower itself remained behind even as some of the Gods disappeared into Aetherius. Today it is the Adamantine Tower on the little island of Balfiera between High Rock and Hammerfell in the Iliac Bay. That such a humanoid structure remains the sole footprint of the Aedra speaks perhaps of the essentially mortal nature of our world.

It is generally understood that neither proto-elves, or Aldmer, nor the proto-men, or Nedics, lived in Tamriel during the earliest years of creation. The Hist trees of Black Marsh, most say, were the original life forms on our continent, followed by the progenitors of the modern Khajiit, the modern Argonian, the modern Sload, the modern Dreugh, and other "beast folk," some now gone our land, some so shy or rare that their presence is seldom detected.

In what historian called the Merethic (or Mythic) Era, the years before formal historical reckoning, the Aldmer came to Tamriel from the legendary mysterious land called Old Ehlnofey or Aldmeris. They settled in Summerset Isle, and then began to spread out eastward. The Nedic people meanwhile came from the frozen land of Atmora to the north to what is today Skyrim. Where elves and men met, inevitably, there was hostility.

The Aldmer changed over time culturally according to their new environments, being at first temperamentally and then physically very distinct "races" separate from one another. The ones who stayed in Summerset became known as the Altmer; in Valenwood, Bosmer; in Morrowind, Chimer and Dwemer; in Cyrodiil, Ayleid; and in High Rock, a mix between Nedic and Aldmer birthed the Bretons. The Orsimer or Orcs were also created at this time; Altmer warped by the destruction of their leader Trinimac, who it is said became the Daedra Prince Malacath. This disparate chorus may have been crafted consciously by the Daedra or by the shifts of the earthbones, but the reason why is not necessary for this history. Change they did.

The Nedic people also changed over the centuries of their invasion from Atmora. The original Nedics of Skyrim are known as the Nords. The ones who crossed west to High Rock, as we have said, interbred with the aldmer there to create the Bretons, who are most commonly considered men, not mer. The Nedics who crossed south became the Cyrodiils, eventually the prisoners and slaves of the bellicose Ayleids of that region.

The First Era

The First Era

We begin counting time forward at the founding of the Camoran Dynasty in Valenwood. It is perhaps an arbitrary starting date, but Dynasty (discussed in the section on Valenwood below) and King Eplear himself were visionaries of the civilizations to come. In the center of Tamriel, the Ayleids were creating an empire of their own with Cyrodilic slaves; while to the north, the Nords began to unite into a common whole that was to be called Skyrim.

The Nordic influence on their southern cousins was equally dramatic, inspiring the Cyrodiils to revolt against their Ayleid masters, under the banner of Alessia, former slave turned queen. The Alessian Empire of Cyrodiil was born in 1E 243. The expansionist Nord also harried the kingdoms of the Dwemer and Chimer in Resdayn, which is today called Morrowind. Eventually, in response, the embattled clans formed their own alliance with the Dwemer king Dumac and the Chimer king Nerevar ruling jointly in 1E 416.

In a few hundred years, however, the alliance between Dwemer and Chimer disintegrated into bloody battle, the War of the First Council. The aftermath of the war is legendary: the Dwemer were vanquished into extinction, and the Chimer were transformed into the red-eyed dark-skinned Dunmer.

Together with the Nords, the Alessians turned their eyes west towards the fertile land of High Rock, ruled by the hated elves. For much of the First Era, the west was disputed land, until the Bretons rose as the empires, too extended, fell back.

The Ra Gada, or "Warrior Wave," from Yokuda arrived in Volenfell to the west in 1E 808, conquering the land and renaming it Hammerfell. Once settled, the Ra Gada, or Redguards, joined with the Breton kingdoms in destroying an empire in its infancy, the Orcish homeland of Orsinium.

As the various Tamrielic cultures battled one another, there were threats beyond its shores. The Thrassian Plague from the Sloads washed over the land, decimating the population from coast to coast. The Tsaesci of Akavir preferred a more straightforward attack, invading Tamriel in 1E 2703, only to be defeated by the Cyrodilic emperor Reman I.

The death of the Emperor Reman III in 1E 2920 left the Cyrodilic Empire with no heirs. The reigns of power were ably taken up by Reman's Akaviri chancellor, whose ancestors had entered the Imperial service after their defeat by Reman I. Thus began the line of Akaviri Potentates at the opening of the Second Era, who continued to rule the Cyrodilic Empire until its demise more that four centuries later.


The Second Era

The Second Era

The Cyrodilic Empire continued to be a force of great power for the first four hundred and thirty years under the rule of the Akaviri Potentates. Though alien to our culture, they established some of the great traditions of our land, granting charters to organizations such as Mages and Fighters Guilds. Another sign of peace and prosperity occurred in the year 2E 309, when Elsweyr was created by the unison of two Khajiit tribelands, Anequina and Pellitine.

When the last Potentate, Savirien-Chorak, was assassinated in 2E 430, leaving no heirs, the great Empire was finally destroyed. Black Marsh forcibly split from the lands of men, as the Knahaten Plague made the land uninhabitable by all but the Argonians themselves. Akavir once again invaded Tamriel, barely rebuffed after attacking Morrowind in 2E 572. From one end of the continent to the other, war and rebellion struck at the heart of every great tradition of the land.

The first sign of reunification occurred in the west. The Altmer of Summerset, long concerned with their own wars with other island kingdoms, allied with Valenwood to form the Aldmeri Dominion for their common good. Still greater, however, was the force that rose from the ancient seat of emperors, Cyrodiil. A great general, Talos, liegeless after his lord's assassination, began his career as the greatest conqueror in the history of the land.

Better known by his Cyrodilic name, Tiber Septim and his armies conquered all of Tamriel, creating the Empire that bears name even today, and ushering in the Third Era.


The Third Era

The Third Era

Mountain TowerFor thirty-eight years, the Emperor Tiber Septim reigned, bequeathing the throne of Tamriel to his grandson Pelagius on his deathbed. The Septim family, occasionally inclusive of adopted and married members, has ruled ever since.

Within a few generations, however, the family had begun to develop rivalries and jealousies which exploded into a civil war in the year 3E 120. The War of the Red Diamond ended with the death of Uriel III and his mother Queen Potema of Solitude, but its reverberations may still be felt today. The unity of Empire was never again to be assumed.

The Emperors who followed, such as the Sheogorath-kissed Pelagius III, yielded to the authority of the Elder Council to keep some semblance of order in the land. It was only too evident what occurred when the Empire was without a strong leader. In the most horrible example, the people of Valenwood, the Colovian West, and Hammerfell suffered under the depredations of the Camoran Usurper, who ravaged their land with unded and Daedric hordes for nearly twenty years before his defeat in 3E 267.

Beginning with the Empress Morihatha, however, the rulers of Tamriel have been extraordinarily strong and capable. This has not meant that the last one hundred and twenty years have been the most peaceful in Tamriel's history, utterly devoid of bloodshed, merely that the wars and troubles of our recent past are a pale imitation of what has occurred before.

The most famous trouble of recent years came early in the reign of our current emperor, Uriel Septim VII. By wile and sorcery, his trusted battlemage Jagar Tharn imprisoned and impersonated his liege. The ten years that Tharn reigned, the so-called Imperial Simulacrum, was a time when old troubles resurfaced, forgotten grudges rekindled, and wars flared throughout the land. In the east, Morrowind attacked Black Marsh in the Arnesian War; in the north, Skyrim battled High Rock and Hammerfell in the War of Bend'r-Mahk; in the south, Elsweyr took arms against Valenwood in the Five Year War; in the west, Valenwood also lost land to its old ally Summerset in the War of the Blue Divide.

Yet all these troubles, and the even more recent bizarre circumstances in the Iliac Bat and Morrowind, paint only a picture with blood. In the year 3E 432, the year of this Guide's publication, the Empire stands strong and united. In the chapters that follow, a more detailed portrait of the history and current events of each Province is presented.

On Aldmeri Ancestor Worship

Michael Kirkbride

Ancestor worship is the common center of all Aldmeri religions. The application of that worship is an entirely different thing, and the designs of the Order have nothing to do with the Endeavor, though they may have inspired some to take that road.

The arbitrary and the motivated in regarding one's divine ancestors: ignoring a manifest concern for belief in them as us, instead we concern ourselves with intensity and its relationship with action, valorizing ‘little narratives’ and proliferation of narratives in our native cultures to the point that there is no perch from extraneous content. Pure subjectivity is no longer possible; instead it becomes akin to sensory deprivation, yet without the fear, for we sense things that remind us of the dawn: the sacrifice into the stabilizing bones, new-built towers with broken intentions, and first metals gone blue from exposure to the long sun. The quest toward the ur-you for certainty and foundations is not innocent. However, it is an honest vindication for truth and superhuman ideals, which means it should be regarded as such by our own sense of fault: we made this, we dreamed this, we made it viable by voting with our seductions, we will live again to show our genuine applause.