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The Origins of Conjuration


Imperial mages have arguably advanced the study of conjuration magic far more than most, but it first fell to Elven wizards to crack open the door to Oblivion without its screaming horrors spilling uncontrollably into Mundus. Corvus and Calani Direnni and their clan first lit the torch and peered into this unholy darkness, lighting the path for the magical school of conjuration. Their precise binding chants are still used to this day when summoning lesser Daedra.

Nonbelligerent atronachs offered something of a boon to Clan Direnni, acting as protectors and occasionally servants or familiars. Even the naturally mischievous imp was easily coerced into behaving. But one can always count on the natural curiosity, and almost calamitous pomposity, of the Elves, who swung the door open still farther—a door to the Daedric planes that became impossibly difficult to shut.

Late into the First Era, Direnni acolytes first attempted to cajole enthrallment from Greater Daedra. Although the most skillful of conjurers succeeded reasonably against these chaotic agents, some Elves were weak, and the portal to Oblivion can now never be completely sealed. Subsequent catastrophic confrontations with Daedric princes turned our lands to turmoil. Thus, it falls to every mage in Cyrodiil to actively dissuade traffic with the Greater Daedra in the strongest possible manner. Communion with them is strictly forbidden.

Tower of Adamant

Hrerm House-builder, Bard's College, Solitude

There is nothing like the Direnni Tower anywhere in Skyrim, save for High Hrothgar itself. Unlike the great mountain, which is a thing of nature, the tower is a structure—but one not constructed by Men or Mer, if the legends speak true, but by the Aedra themselves.

It rises, stark and sheer, from the high center of Balfiera Island in the Iliac Bay, where it has stood since the dawn of time itself. Adamantine Tower, it is called, for the unknown, ageless material from which it is built, and Tower Zero, as the edifice that predates all other buildings on Mundus.

The Direnni High Elves have ruled Balfiera since the beginning of the First Era. In common parlance the tower bears their name, though they can claim only the construction of the more recent keep that clusters around the tower's base. (Who is responsible for delving the catacombs beneath the keep is a matter of debate with no definitive consensus.)

I have not consulted with the High Elves of Alinor (who has?), but the noble Croiden, Elden Antiquariat of the Direnni, deigned to answer a few questions. According to him, the tower was erected in the Dawn Era when the gods met to decide the fate of Mundus. At its apex, Auri-El, the great god of the Aldmeri, slew the trickster Lorkhan, impaled his heart on an arrow and launched it across the world. The heart merely laughed and lived on.

The Aedra then withdrew from the affairs of Mundus, leaving behind the tower for the Direnni to discover and take for their own. What secrets did they find there? What have they concealed to this day? Whatever the secrets may be, the Direnni didn't reveal them to this humble Nord architect.

However, secrets there must be, for I took sight-and-angle measurements of the Direnni Tower from the eight points of the compass. According to my calculations, and given the known characteristics of all available materials, building an edifice of its proportions should not be possible.


Beredalmo the Signifier

Once, we were great.

Once, our battlereeves were masters of warfare, and our sapiarchs were wise and learned. Once, we ruled all High Rock from the Eltheric Ocean to the mountains of Wrothgar, and the Nedes were our thralls and concubines.

Once, Direnni Cygnus, the Swan of Tyrigel, discovered Balfiera and its Tower and claimed it for her own, decreeing that all of her clan who came after would bear her name.

Once, the art of Alchemy was all but undefined, until Asliel Direnni compiled his "Compendious Almanac of Reagents," and was invited to join the first Psijics on Artaeum.

Once, before Raven Direnni and her "Rules of Eldritch Binding," all Enchanting was unique, and enchantments failed nineteen times out of twenty.

Once, during the Alessian Reforms, Ryan Direnni stood up to the entire Empire. His Breton Legions, armed and commanded by Direnni Elves, controlled all the land as far east as Markarth and Elinhir. The Orc-hold of Orsinium has been sacked many times, but we Direnni sacked it first.

Once, at the Battle of Glenumbria Moors, Aiden Direnni's vastly outnumbered troops routed the entire Alessian Horde, then chased them back to Cyrodiil.

Once, before Corvus Direnni codified the rules of Conjuration, every summoning of even a minor Daedra was an act to be feared and avoided.

Once, Peregrine Direnni drove an entire Ra Gada flotilla back to Sentinel by merging her very will with the waves of the Iliac Bay.

Once, in a single day, Pelladil Direnni built Blackrose Prison from the scattered rubble of Lilmothiit ruins by summoning an army of Stone Atronachs.

Yes, we were great once. But no matter what our individual achievements, every Direnni since Cygnus has been eaten from within by failure.

Because we cannot solve the mystery of the Zero Stone, and use it to open the Argent Aperture which it wards.

At maturity, every Direnni of high blood is brought into the Tower, conducted to the Foundation Vault, and shown the Zero Stone. We are allowed to touch it—once—so as to feel the transcendent mystical power that courses through it, a power we have never been able to tap. And we are shown the Argent Aperture in the adjacent metallic wall, that door with its lock of thirteen slowly counter-rotating rings, a portal we have never been able to open.

And we console ourselves that if we Direnni have never been able to siphon the Stone or unlock the Aperture, well then certainly, neither could anyone else. We return to the world above, and we do something spectacular—so we will not have to face our failure.

But once, as our lives near their ends, each of us gathers together all our knowledge, the fruits of all our achievements, and once more makes that descent to the Foundation Vault. To try it. Just once.

Most are found within a day or two, dead and horribly distorted. Some, like my darling Heron, live on though terribly disfigured, too brain-blasted to understand what has happened to them.

Me? I keep to our chambers in the Tourmaline Steeple, caring for Heron by day, and translating Ayleid tomes in the library by night. And it's a good enough life, too.

Though sometimes, when working on an ancient grimoire or librus magus I question whether the arcane writings of our long-lost cousins are not better left a mystery.

But then I think, is not all knowledge useful for something? And I think, what might this knowledge be useful for?

And I think I might take that long walk downstairs.

Just once.

The Bretons: Mongrels or Paragons?

Phrastus of Elinhir

That Men and Mer can interbreed has been known since the first humans began arriving on the shores of Tamriel in the middle of the Merethic Era. However, broad intermingling of Elves and humans only occurred in the far northwest of the continent, giving rise to the race of Men known as the Bretons. Given the history of conflict between humans and the children of Aldmeris elsewhere in Tamriel, how and why did this intermingling occur in High Rock?

The answer lies in the peculiar (for Elves) culture of Clan Direnni, the once-dominant Mer of northwest Tamriel. In contrast to the Ayleids of Cyrodiil, who brutally enslaved any humans they came into contact with, the Direnni simply conquered their local Nedes and then ruled them as a caste of nobility. The aristocratic Elves established a system of feudal vassalage over their human subjects, with rights and privileges that included the "Perquisite of Coition" with any human they desired. Sex with attractive Nedes was considered casual recreation, and Direnni nobles competed to have stables of the most desirable human subjects.

The inevitable Half-Elven offspring from these liaisons were not adopted into the families of their Direnni parents, being considered sub-Mer, but were nonetheless often given privileged positions among the subject Nedes. Over time, this led to the establishment of a recognized caste of mixed-blood humans, who were given the name "Bretons" (from the Ehlnofex "beratu," or "half"). The Breton caste was only allowed to marry humans, so over time their Elven blood became more diluted, and the Nedic appearance predominated.

Though they wielded great power for a time in the First Era, even then the Elves of Clan Direnni were never numerous, and as their geographical hegemony expanded administration and rulership was increasingly handed off to the Breton caste. After defeating the invading Alessian Horde in 1E 482 Clan Direnni was scattered and effectively exhausted. As the Elves retreated to central High Rock, then finally Balfiera Isle, the Bretons stepped easily into their shoes, assuming the feudal hierarchy established by the Direnni and simply replacing them with their own noble families.

The Breton nobles, who had been forced to differentiate themselves from the Direnni part of their heritage, justified their new ascension by distancing themselves from Elves and everything Elven—ironically so, as the Elven blood ran strongest in the older noble families. The Direnni were increasingly vilified by their former vassals, and the island clan became ever more insular and isolationist. However, they were still known as powerful magicians, and they were strong enough to repel an attempted Redguard invasion in 1E 907.

The Bretons continued redefining themselves, inventing a myth of a history of noble resistance to Direnni rule, and developing a thriving merchant class that began trading around the coasts of Tamriel. By the time the Empress Hestra and her legions arrived at Bangkorai Pass in 1E 1029, they were ready to join the Empire of Men and embrace the Eight Divines. Under the Remans, High Rock was possibly the most stable and prosperous province in the Second Empire.

Which brings us back to the (deliberately provocative) question of our title: are the Bretons then mongrels, or paragons? The answer, of course, is both (though if you call a Breton a mongrel, he is liable to feed you an inch or two of steel). The passionate race of Bretons embodies the strengths of both Men and Mer—as well as their flaws.

De Rerum Dirennis

Vorian Direnni

I am six-hundred-and-eleven years old. I have never had children of my own, but I have many nieces and nephews and cousins who have been raised with the tales and traditions of our ancient, illustrious, and occasionally notorious clan, the Direnni. Few families in Tamriel can boast so many famous figures, wielding so much power over the fate of so many. Our warriors and kings are stuff of legend, and it is not to dismiss their honor and their achievements to say you have heard quite enough about them.

I myself have never picked up a sword or written an important law, but I am part of a lesser known but still important Direnni tradition: the way of the wizard. My own autobiography would be of little interest to posterity - though my nephew, nieces, and cousins indulge me to tell wild tales of life in the chaotic Second Era of Tamriel - but I have a few ancestors whose stories should be told. They may have changed history as we know it as dramatically as my better known relatives, but their names are in danger of being forgotten.

Most recently, Lysandus, the King of Daggerfall, was able to conquer his ancient enemies of Sentinel in part thanks to his court sorceress, Medora Direnni. Her grandfather Jovron Direnni was Imperial Battlemage to the court of the Dunmer Empress of Tamriel, Katariah, assisting her in creating peace in a time of turmoil. His great great grandfather Pelladil Direnni had a similar role with the first Potentate, and encouraged the Guild Act without which we would not have all the professional organizations we have today. His ancestor, many times back, was the witch Raven Direnni, who with her better known cousins Aiden and Ryain, brought an end to the tyranny of the latter Alessian Empire. Before the Psijics of Artaeum, it is said, she created the art of enchantment, learning how to bind a soul into a gem and use that to ensorcel all manners of weaponry.

But it is the story of an ancestor even more ancient, more distant than Raven I wish to tell.

Asliel Direnni harkens back to the humble beginnings of our clan, in the tiny farming village of Tyrigel on the banks of the river Caomus which was then called the Diren, hence the family name. Like all on Summurset Isle in those days, he was a simple planter of the fields. But while others only grew enough to sustain their immediate kin, even distant cousins of the Dirennis worked together. They would decide as a group which fields were best for wheat, orchard, vine, livestock, or apiary, and thereby always have the best yields of any farm which worked alone, doing the best as it could with what it had.

Asliel had a particularly poor farm for most kind of agriculture, but small herbs found its stony, loamless, acidic soil very comfortable. Out of necessity more than anything else he became an expert on all manners of herbs. For the most part, of course, they were used in flavoring cooking, but as you know, hardly any plant grows on the surface of our world without a magickal potential.

Even so long ago, witches already were in existence. It would be ridiculous for me to suggest that Asliel Direnni invented alchemy. What he did, what we can all be grateful for, is that he formulated it into an art and science.

There were no witches' covens in Tyrigel, and, of course, there would be no Mages Guild yet for thousands of years, so people would come to him for cures. He learned for himself the exact formula for combining black lichen and roobrush to create a cure for all manners of poison, and the amount of willow anther to crush and mix with chokeweed to cure diseases.

There were few much greater threats in Tyrigel in those peaceful days than disease or accidental poisonings. Yes, there were some dark forces in the wilderness, trolls, chimera, the occasional malevolent fairy folk and will-o'-the-wisp, but even the youngest, most foolish Altmer knew how to avoid them. There were, however, a few unusual threats which Asliel had a hand in defeating.

One of the tales told of him that I believe to be true is how he was brought a young niece who had been suffering from an unknown disease. Despite his ministrations, she grew weaker and weaker every morning. Finally, he gave her a bitter tasting drink, and the next morning, ashes were found all around her bed. A vampire had been feeding on the poor girl, but Asliel's potion had turned her very blood into poison, without harming her in the least.

If only this formula had not been lost in the mists of history!

This would have been enough to make him a minor but significant figure in the annals of early Summurset, but at that point in history, a barbarian tribe called the Locvar had found their way down the Diren River, and recognized Tyrigel as a rich target for raids. The Direnni, not being warriors yet but simple farmers, were helpless and could only flee and watch the Locvar take the best of their crops, raid after raid.

Asliel, however, had been experimenting with the vampire dust, and brought his cousins to him with a plan. The next time the Locvar were sighted on the Diren, the word went out and all the most able-bodied came to Asliel's laboratory. When the barbarians arrived in Tyrigel, they found the farms deserted, and assumed that all had fled as usual. As they set about stealing the bounty, they suddenly found themselves under attack by invisible forces. Believing the Direnni farms to be haunted, they ran away very quickly.

They attempted a few more raids, for their greed would always eventually overpower their fear, and each time, they were set upon by attackers who they could not see. As barbaric as they were, they were not stupid, and they changed their mind about the source of their defeat. It could not be that the farms were haunted, because the crops were still being tended and harvested, and the animals seemed to show no fear. The Locvar decided to send a scout to the farm to see if he could spy their secrets.

The scout sent word back to the Locvar that the Direnni farms were populated with flesh and blood, entirely visible Altmer. He continued to watch as his barbarian cohorts moved down the river, and he saw the elderly and children flee for the hills, while the able-bodied farmers and their wives went to Asliel's laboratory. He saw them go in; he saw no one come out.

As usual, the Locvar were repelled by invisible forces, but their scout soon told them what he saw happening in the laboratory.

The next night, two of the Locvar approached Asliel's farm very stealthily, and managed to kidnap him without alerting the rest of the Direnni. The Locvar chieftain, knowing that the farmers could no longer count on the alchemist to make them invisible, considered an immediate attack on the farms. But he was a vengeful sort, and felt he had been humiliated by these simple farmers. A crafty plan emerged in his mind. What if the Direnni, who always saw his barbarian tribe coming, for once did not? Imagine the slaughter if no one even had a chance to flee.

The scout had told the chieftain that Asliel had used the dust of a vampire to make the farmers invisible, but he was not sure what the other ingredient had been. He described an incandescent powder that Asliel had mixed into the dust. Asliel, of course, refused to help the Locvar, but they were experts in torture as well as pillage, and he knew he would have to talk or die.

Finally after hours of torture, he agreed to tell them what the incandescent powder was. He did not know the name, but he called it "Glow Dust," the only remains of a slain will-o'-the-wisp. He told them they would need a lot of it if they wanted to turn the whole tribe invisible for the raid.

The Locvar grumbled that not only did they have to find and kill a vampire to attain his dust, but find and kill several will-o'-the-wisps to get theirs. In a few days time, they came back with the ingredients the alchemist asked for. The chieftain, not being a complete idiot, made Asliel taste the potion first. He did as he was told and turned invisible, demonstrating that it did truly work. The chieftain put him to work creating more. No one apparently noticed that while he did, he was nibbling on black lichen and roobrush.

The Locvar took the potion as he doled it out, and soon, but not too soon that they didn't suffer, they were all dead.

The scout who had seen Asliel mixing the invisibility potion had apparently mistook the glow of the candlelight in the laboratory for an incandescence which the second ingredient of the invisibility potion did not possess. The second ingredient was actually dull, simple redwort, one of the most common herbs in Tamriel. When they had insisted during torture that Asliel tell them what the incandescent powder was, Asliel remembered that he had once experimentally mixed glow dust and vampire dust together once and created a powerful poison. It was simple enough to steal a little redwort from the barbarian's camp, mix that with the vampire and glow dust mixture, and create a potion that was in fact an invisibility poison. After curing himself, he gave the poison to the barbarians.

The Locvar, being dead, never again raided the Direnni farms, and having no other enemies, they were able to grow more and more prosperous and powerful. Generations later, they left Summurset and began their historic adventures on the Tamriel mainland. Asliel Direnni, because of his excellence as an alchemist, was invited to Artaeum and became a Psijic. It is not known how many more of the common formulas we know today were invented by him there, but I have no doubt, the science and art of alchemy as we know it today would not exist without him.

But that is all in the distant past. Asliel's innovations, like my modest ones, like the achievements of the Dirennis throughout history, are but a stepping stone to the wonders which will come in the future. I wish I could be there to witness them, but if I can only share some of the past with the children of Direnni and the children of Tamriel, then I will consider my life well spent.

The Sons and Daughter of the Direnni West: High Rock

Imperial Geographical Society

Map of High Rock

High Rock, the westernmost province on the mainland of Tamriel, is a land of temperate climates and soft rolling hills, split in half by the towering Wrothgarian Mountains. The quaint charm of its hamlets and austere grandeur of its cities speak of a gentle life, something that was only a distant dream for most of the long, peculiar history of the Bretons.


With its fertile soils and generally clement weather, it is little wonder that the region that is now known as High Rock has attracted many cultures throughout history. The Gods were the first of these. The Adamantine Tower, in a little island in the middle of the Iliac Bay, is widely considered to be the oldest structure in Tamriel. If the ancient tales are to be believed, it was crafted in the Dawn Era by the Gods themselves to have a place for meeting and deciding what would be the fate of Nirn. Perhaps this is merely a myth, but it is true that when the earliest Aldmer came to the region, the Tower was already standing.

Breton RaceThere is evidence that early beast men of one variety or another may have been the original inhabitants of High Rock, but the Aldmer coming from Summerset Isle were the first to settle and form permanent communities. The early Nedic people who arrived next were stumbling upon a highly sophisticated culture, and were quickly overwhelmed and absorbed. One of the earliest tales of Khosey describes a Nord raiding party attacking a group of what they presumed to be Aldmer, but who were, on closer inspection, a mongrel race between elf and human, the remnants of the earlier lost Nedic tribe. They were somewhat awkwardly called "Manmeri," but we know them today as Bretons.

It took many centuries for the Bretons to become the dominant force in High Rock. For most of the First Era, the elves kept their hold on the land, with the Nords founding fortified towns along the coasts to support their pillaging parties, such as Daggerfall, which as a kingdom would have a profound influence on High Rock in years to come.

Of all the families of Aldmer who colonized High Rock, none did it so successfully as the Clan Direnni. So dominant were they that by the middle of the First Era, the whole of High Rock was commonly called "The Direnni Hegemony." As an economic and military power, they were formidable enough to pose a continued threat to the battle-hardened Nords and the nascent Alessian Empire of Cyrodiil. Taking advantage of the internal strife in Skyrim, the Hegemony began taking land north and south of High Rock, claiming portions of Skyrim and Hammerfell. At the peak of their power, they controlled nearly a quarter of Tamriel. But they had overextended their reach, and slowly, year by year, they lost all that they had gained, falling back to their fortress in Balfiera, the Adamantine Tower, now called the Direnni Tower.

The Bretons were operating beneath the eyes of history, and their rise in High Rock was through commerce and the foundation of small villages in well-chosen positions, such as the sleepy fishing hamlet of Wayrest on the coast between the Bjoulsae River and the Iliac Bay. Daggerfall, Camlorn, Reich Gradkeep, and many other Nordic cities became Breton not by any act of war, but simply by being assimilated by them. By the end of the First Era, High Rock was the land of the Bretons, and would be so ever after.

But High Rock was never a single cohesive Breton nation. The power vacuum left by the decline of the Dirennis fractured High Rock into a hundred fiefdoms of small, walled city-states. This has often left the Bretons at the mercy of the larger powers of Tamriel, but has also made High Rock surprisingly resilient during the times of chaos following the fall of the great empires.

Scarcely had the rule of the Dirennis passed into history before two new powers arrived in the region. The Redguards of Yokuda began their conquest of Hammerfell in the 808th year of the First Era, largely displacing beast folk in their attacks, but also supplanting Breton settlements along the southern Iliac Bay. The two cultures warred over dominance in the Bay, until they were faced with a common enemy in the Orcish kingdom of Orsinium.

The rise and fall and rebirth of Orsinium is detailed in a larger section, but suffice it to say for now that the discovery of the "monstrous" kingdom of the creatures, as they were regarded, was a very unpleasant surprise to both the Redguards and Bretons. An alliance between Daggerfall and the new kingdom of Sentinel led to the long war known as the Siege of Orsinium. The humans eventually prevailed: Orsinium was destroyed and the Orcs dispersed far and wide across Tamriel.

High RockHigh Rock fared relatively well during the long interregnum following the fall of the Cyrodilic Empire, but its multitude of fractious kingdoms were easily conquered by Tiber Septim. Indeed, many Bretons welcomed the rebirth of the Empire. Still, some of them managed to unite to stop the encroachment of the Camoran Usurper in his destructive march northward from Valenwood in 3E 267. With a weak Emperor on the Imperial throne, and no clear leadership from the usual powers of the west, the Usurper may have swept over High Rock had the smallest of regions of the Iliac Bay not banded together under the Baron of Dwynnen to defeat him. Once again, an overwhelming force had underestimated the Bretons, and been defeated.

The unity was lost when the threat was removed, and for the next one hundred and fifty years, internal and external conflicts continued. In the east, the Nords reclaimed some of their old kingdoms in the War of the Bend'r-Mahk. In the west, the War of Betony, though ostensibly between Daggerfall and Sentinel, spilled into Daggerfall's neighboring kingdoms. In the center, Orsinium reappeared as the home of the Orcs, threatening once again the fortunes of Wayrest. In the year 417, however, the province redefined itself in a most mysterious way.

They call the even the Miracle of Peace. On the 10th of Frostfall, a strange force exploded over the Iliac Bay, displacing armies and decimating whole territories. Though its nature is still unknown, most Bretons believe it was the ancient Gods who had once made High Rock their home scouring the land, making it whole once again. Though it was a painful process for most - the Miracle is sometimes spoken of as the Warp in the West - the result of it is a province that is more unified than it has ever been in modern history.

Where once there were a hundred small squabbling kingdoms, today, just two decades after the Miracle, there are five.

Current Events

Battle-weary, the kingdoms of High Rock have eschewed violence recently in favor of diplomatic solutions. This is not to say that there have been no tensions over the new borders between Daggerfall and Wayrest, or between Camlorn and Northpoint and Evermore, but they are localized skirmishes, and have yet to explode into war, as they might have done in the past. The royal family of Daggerfall has recently celebrated the marriage of their son Camaron to Lady Kelmena, the daughter of Duke Senhyn of Camlorn, suggesting a possible unified kingdom along the western coast of Tamriel. King Gothryd and Queen Aubk-i's own marriage twenty years before had cemented relations and formed the basis of the peace between Daggerfall and Sentinel, which continues to this day.

Northpoint and Evermore were not directly affected by the Miracle of Peace, but took advantage of it, swallowing up their small neighbors in the chaos of its aftermath. Far enough west to avoid the predations of Skyrim in the Bend'r-Mahk, and far enough north not to be targeted by Daggerfall and Wayrest, they have been quiet of late, watching their neighbors distrustfully.

The Queen of Wayrest, Elysana, is considered by many to be the most feared ruler in the West. It is hardly surprising, considering that in order to achieve the throne, she had to outmaneuver and defeat her stepbrother, Helseth, a man now renowned in the East for his cunning, as well as his mother, Barenziah. With her consort, Elysana continues to control and dominate politics in High Rock, and her recent alliance with Wayrest's old enemies, the Orcs of Orsinium, has many observers wondering what her next move will be.

High Rock

Imperial Geographical Society



High Rock encompasses Greater Bretony, the Dellese Isles, the Bjoulsae River tribes, and, by tradition, the Western Reach. Its various peoples are called Bretons for the sake of convenience only, as the endless multitude of city-states, principalities, baronies, duchies, and kingdoms that make up High Rock has, until recently, resisted all attempts at centralization into a single culture or government. The Nords of the First Empire never conquered the whole of High Rock; the Cyrodiils ruled it, but failed to stamp out its virulent sectarianism, which sprang up again with renewed fury during the Interregnum. It is only now, under the guidance of the Third Empire, that High Rock is finally tasting the fruits of peace and unity, although a few Bretons still chafe under Tiber Septim's firm hand. Aside from Imperial rule, Bretons are connected only in their language, geographic location, and the ancient rift that separated them from their Nordic progenitors, the Night of Tears.

Khosey, in his 'Tamrilean Tractates (sic),' transcribes a firsthand account of the "discovery" of the Bretons by a Nordic hunting party. The Bretons, in ten generations of Elven intermingling and slavery, had become scarcely recognizable as humans. Indeed, the hunting party attacked them thinking they were some new strain of Aldmeri, halting their slaughter only when one of the oldest began to wail for his life, a shrieking plea that was spoken in broken Nordic. When word of this reached Windhelm, the Nords reasoned that the "Manmeri" beyond the Reach were, in fact, descended from human slaves taken during the Elven destruction of Saarthal. King Vrage made the first priority of his Empire the liberation of his long-tormented kinsmen in High Rock. His initial onslaught took him as far as the Bjoulsae, but beyond that the First Empire never established a lasting presence; the crafty Elves were too strong in their magic, and many of the Bretons aided the Elves against their would-be liberators. Ironically enough, it took the tyranny of the Alessian Order to finally free High Rock from Elven dominion. Although the Alessians were crushed at the Battle of Glenumbria Moors, this costly victory so weakened Aldmeri power that the Elves could no longer challenge the emerging nobility of Greater Bretony, who seized power throughout most of High Rock within two decades of the Alessian defeat.

This rebellion was not a coordinated effort, however, and while most of High Rock was freed from Elven tyranny by 1E500, parts of the province remained under Elven rule for much longer. The Western Reach, paradoxically, was one of the last bastions of the Aldmeri in High Rock, the legacy of which is still apparent today (see below). Bretons have fought on both sides of most of the great conflicts of Tamrielic history, including Glenumbria Moors; the memories of these victories and defeats continues to taint relations between the many factions of this divided people. The burghers of Anticlere, for instance, still noisily commemorate the Battle of Duncreigh Bridge, the "famous victory" of their Duke over the neighboring hamlet of Sensford in 1E 1427 (a battle which apparently achieved nothing, as each village continues to boast its own ruling family of antique lineage), by marching each year down Sensford's main street, a progress that results in numerous injuries on both sides even when it does not provoke a brief war between the "knightly orders" of the two villages.

Today, the social structure of the Bretons has divided itself into a poor middle class and destitute peasantry, a magical elite separate from their squalor, and an often incoherent jumble of nobility and ruling families above them all. It is beyond the small ambition of this pamphlet to address the latter in any better terms, for even the natives have difficulty distinguishing their leaders from one another. Indeed, it is an old joke among the Bretons: "find a new hill, become a king," and many have taken it to heart. Youths of all professions and trades in High Rock spend their free time in knightly pursuits, real and imagined, performing good deeds and the like for all and sundry, in oft-vain efforts to achieve, one day, a noble status. This "quest-obsession," more than anything, has served as High Rock's sense of national identity, a peculiar form of altruism and mutual reliance that binds its people together.

The geography of High Rock is as varied as its people. The forested peaks of the Wrothgarian Mountains, occupied only by herders and the occasional dismal hamlet, divide the Western Reach from more heavily settled west of High Rock. The only true cities lie along the Iliac Bay, where several small kingdoms prospered from the trade that flowed through the Bay to the Bjoulsae River. Inland, the land rises to the windswept plateau of North Kambria, with many small towns tucked into the folds and valleys that wind their way down to the northern coast. This bucolic landscape is marred by the grim fortifications that perch atop every hill and crag, a reminder of the constant warfare that has been the scourge of the province. In the past, each petty lord, secure in his castle, enriched himself with tribute from all who traversed his domain, a circumstance clearly incompatible with the free flow of commerce. Now Tiber Septim has begun a program of demolition of these myriad fortresses, a wise policy that should facilitate prosperity while removing a potential refuge for subversives.

Although the Bretons are divided into numerous mutually antagonistic factions, to the outsider a singular uniformity in dress, architecture, and customs prevails throughout the land. Bretons are not an imaginative people, a legacy of the Elves, perhaps, and traditional ways are not lightly abandoned. Their villages are pleasant collections of half-timbered structures of one or two stories, with the rustic inn, a shop or two, and perhaps a lordly manor completing the picture. The traveler need not visit more than a handful of Breton communities before satisfying himself that he has captured the flavor of the whole. The people, too, despite their cherished particularism, are remarkably similar in name, accent, and dress throughout the province. It may be that this unacknowledged homogeneity bodes well for the future harmony of High Rock.

Most Bretons share an affinity for magic wrought, no doubt, by their lamentable intermingling with the Elves. This talent manifests itself in High Rock's pocket cultures in various ways. In the richer, more urban centers of the Iliac Bay, it has been systematically organized along the hierarchical lines of the Mages Guild. Children are tested for their magical potential at an early age, and those who pass enter apprenticeship programs funded by the Guild itself, or through independent sponsorship. In more remote regions, such as Glenpoint and the Wrothgarian Mountains, witches and medicine men, barely distinguishable from Orcish shamans, hold sway over the superstitious peasants with feats of untutored, but often impressive, magical ability.


Places of Note:


One of the oldest and largest cities of High Rock, Daggerfall has long considered itself the capital of High Rock, by virtue of its antiquity, prominence, and prosperity. All three of these qualifications may seem fanciful to the outsider, in comparison to Cyrodiil, Windhelm, or even Sentinel across the Iliac Bay. But Daggerfall was one of the largest kingdoms in High Rock before its accession to the Empire, and retains the right to maintain its royal court according to Cyrodilic tradition. Although few buildings of any age survive, Bretons being unsentimental about their history, Daggerfall is of considerable antiquity, founded originally by the Nords as a coastal foothold during the heyday of the First Empire. The city's fortunes have waxed and waned over the years; during the Alessian period it was of considerable importance, but it suffered greatly in the Thrassian Plague and is only now beginning to recover. The rise of Wayrest has lessened Daggerfall's importance as a trading port, although it should benefit from the opening of trade with the interior of the province.


Wayrest has always seen itself as the rival of Daggerfall, but continues to suffer from an inferiority complex that is evident in the ostentatious display of its ruling house. Daggerfall was already a well-established kingdom when Wayrest was merely a collection of rude huts at the mouth of the Bjoulsae River. But Wayrest prospered mightily after the Fall of Orsinium when the commerce from the whole of Tamriel began to flow past its gates, and today it boasts the largest and richest population in High Rock. The merchants of Wayrest have welcomed the arrival of the Empire, particularly the Navy's Northwest Fleet, which has made suppression of the notorious pirates of the Iliac Bay its top priority.


Isle of Balfiera

This island in the Iliac Bay has been used for centuries as a neutral meeting place for diplomatic negotiations and treaty signings by the kingdoms of High Rock. It is also famous for the enigmatic structure known as Direnni Tower, a circular tower soaring hundreds of feet into the sky. The traditional ruler of the island is known as the Castellan of Balfiera, perhaps reflecting his original role as commander of Direnni (or Balfiera) Tower, which was used as a fortress, prison, and palace by the infamous Direnni Hegemony. Even more curiously, the hereditary Castellans are High Elves, the only known Elven ruling family remaining in human lands. The Castellans continue to reside in the Tower, although its true provenance and purpose remains a mystery. A recent archaelogical study, using the latest techniques of divination and sorcery, has pushed the Tower's construction date back to around ME2500, making it by far the oldest known structure in Tamriel. Although it has been much modified and added on to over the years, its core is a smooth cylinder of shining metal; the Tower is believed to extend at least as far beneath the surface as is now visible above, although its deepest bowels have never been systematically explored.

The Western Reach

The Western Reach is actually the easternmost section of the Breton lands; its name derives from its location on Skyrim's western border. During the First Empire, it was incorporated as one of the Holds of Skyrim, and many Nords settled in its rolling hills and pleasant valleys. But they paid a terrible price during the Dissolution of Skyrim's Empire; the Aldmeri retook the Western Reach with a vengeance, slaughtering the Nord colonists to a man; precious little Nord blood flows in the veins of today's Reachmen. As a hedge against future incursions from Skyrim, the Aldmeri fashioned the Western Reach into an impregnable bastion. Thus, the Western Reach remained under Elven rule the longest of any part of High Rock, and the legacy of this dark sojourn can still be seen today.

The Reachmen are a mongrel breed, even for Bretons. Descended originally from one of the earliest Atmoran tribes to settle Tamriel, their lineage now partakes of nearly every race imaginable. The uprising that finally "freed" the Western Reach ended in the extermination of the Aldmeri overlords, but Elven blood still flows strong in the Reachmen, and they share the secretive, haughty demeanor of that race. In later years, they traded and exchanged customs with the Orcish villages that shared their mountains, and eventually learned much of the beastfolk's magic. Reach-magic is still widely studied, although it is banned by the Mages Guild (who fear it as dangerous and wild hedge-wizardry), and the Reachmen are often referred to as the "Witchmen of High Rock."

Banditry and lawlessness continue to plague the region, and it remains under the direct rule of Provisional Governor Titus Alorius1. Travelers are advised to avoid this region until the present disturbances are quelled-- a state of affairs, however, that is likely soon to be rectified. The benefits of membership in the Empire are so patent, and the resistance of the rebellious Reachmen so futile, that it is to be expected that the Western Reach will soon join the rest of High Rock in the new era of peace and prosperity wrought by the tireless efforts of Tiber Septim and his loyal companions. We can only hope that this comes to pass without further useless effusion of blood.


Annotations by YR:

1. "Colovian officers have traditionally been appointed as provincial governors to the human regions of the Empire, as these often need the most forthright of the Emperor's men ~"