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Blackreach: Fictions and Facts


The name is whispered in certain corners of Skyrim. It is spoken of in roadside taverns and trapper camps. Sometimes the word is pronounced with awed reverence. Others spit it out like a terrible curse. Blackreach.

Indeed, Blackreach features prominently in many folktales and superstitions in Tamriel's forlorn north. Many tricksters enrich themselves by selling precious ores and gemstones said to come from the legendary place, while parents frighten children and urge them to behave with threats that the monsters will drag them to Blackreach if they aren't good.

So, what is Blackreach, you ask? A legend, a ghost, a fable? Blackreach is all these things and more. According to the Nords, it's the great expanse that stretches below the ice and snow. An underground land that once belonged to the Dwarves and now sits empty—or worse, has been filled by all manner of myth and monster.

These stories, as with all tales that originate with the common folk, must be viewed with a skeptic's gaze. The lesser-minded often turn to tales of the fabulous and terrifying to justify and rationalize the greater mysteries or tragedies of life. A loved one suddenly falls ill and dies? Poisoned, doubtless, by a miasma seeping up from Blackreach. An enemy enjoys a sudden windfall? He's made a dark bargain with Blackreach's spirits.

Of course, it would be close-minded to simply write off all tales of Blackreach as baseless and without merit. Skyrim's territories teem with subterranean caverns—one need only speak to any of the dozens of adventurers who make their livings delving into such depths. It would take little effort for a peasant to believe these caverns extend deeper, far beyond the ken of any adventurer, into a morass of passages and tunnels lost to time and light. For that is the true reality of Blackreach: a few odd caves and the wild imaginings of some half-drunk farmer.

Do not think me too disdainful, reader, for I do respect this hypothetical lout. From his mind has sprung forth an idea so compelling that it remains a topic of conversation in tavern halls, campfires, and back-alley hovels to this day. I applaud their imagination!

Divines and the Nords

High Priest Ingurt

Nord religion has taken a number of interesting turns over the centuries. Our earliest beliefs were thought to have originated in Atmora and revolved around the worship of animal totems. These animals—Dragon, Hawk, She-Wolf, Snake, Moth, Owl, Whale, Bear, and Fox—seem to correspond to the Eight Divines plus Lorkhan. Later, the Dragon rose to prominence and gave rise to the Dragon Cult. It was either during or soon after the move to Tamriel that the Dragon Cult became more malevolent and forced its will throughout the land. It took the Dragon War to overthrow the Dragons and their priests, but that's a tale for another time.

Eventually, the animal-totem gods transformed into the eight gods we worship today. We call them by their true names: Alduin, Kyne, Mara, Dibella, Stuhn, Jhunal, Orkey, and Shor. We understand that our gods are as cyclical as the world itself, so we also remember the Dead Gods (Shor and Tsun) who fought and died to bring about the current world, the Hearth Gods (Kyne, Mara, Dibella, Stuhn, and Jhunal) who watch over the present cycle, and the Twilight God (Alduin) who ushers in the next cycle. Add to these our so-called Testing Gods, who we do not worship but instead guard against to protect the hearth. These include Orkey, Mauloch, and Herma-Mora.

When the Imperials arrived, they brought with them their southern religion and worked to unify the worship of the Eight Divines. That's how we got this wonderful Temple of the Divines that graces our fair city of Solitude. We agree with the general notion that there are eight gods, more or less, but we view them quite differently and call them by different names. Our temple has adjusted to the needs and desires of the current rulers time and again, yet we have grown used to some of the more prominent Imperial notions and practices even though we no longer find ourselves beholden to the Ruby Throne.

Probably our biggest difference relates to the head of the pantheon. We Nords consider Kyne as the leader of the gods and find the Imperial fascination with Alduin (who they call Akatosh) to be both perplexing and mildly disturbing. We work diligently to keep Alduin asleep, while our southern neighbors try time and time again to get his attention! Which is why I begin every service in the temple with a prayer to praise Alduin (oh great god of time!), followed by a prayer to keep him at bay (may your slumber stretch on for a thousand generations!).

Nord Cuisine: Savory Edition

Gilbard Bacqure

While there have been many accounts detailing the various meads enjoyed by Nords, there is surprisingly little information on their preferences in savory cuisine. While Nord recipes may not be as thrilling or complex as those of some other cultures, I believe them still worthy of note! There are many delicacies to be had on Nord feasting tables. They are a hearty people who drink and eat with more passion and vigor than any others I've met! Tasteless food represents as much an insult to them as cowardice on the battlefield. I shall transcribe my explorations through their cuisine here.

Horker Soup
There is an abundance of horkers in Skyrim. While they may not look entirely appetizing on the surface, they represent a wealth of untapped delicious potential! And as Nords are wont to do, they've taken a form of sustenance and made a stew out of it. I suppose it only makes sense. A hardy people who live most of their lives in the cold, covered in furs and trudging through snow, would certainly be purveyors of warm meals such as this. Horker soup is uncomplicated, wonderfully salty, and has a thin broth. It's best served with a warm loaf of bread to sop up the last dredges.

Hot Apple Cabbage Stew
This stew is a basic Nord household favorite. Ordinarily, a dish this simple might not be worth mentioning in a book on cuisine. But not in this case! While the recipe for the hot apple cabbage stew is simple, the taste and comfort of consuming such a dish is far from it! For many Nords, this meal reminds them of their youth. Though, there is some debate over the method of cooking the stew, mainly in the use of the apples. A strict divide exists between those who believe in mashing, and those who believe in cutting. I myself have sampled both and found them to be equally delicious. This is not an opinion I would share with a Nord, however. Most favor one over the other, usually to a violent degree.

Mammoth Steak
Those who first looked upon the mammoths of Skyrim and thought 'I think I'd like to eat that!' greatly inspire me. Nord's are known for their staunch bravery. Only a people so averse to cowardice would think to make a meal out of something so colossal. While much of the animal is tough and inedible, the loin is exquisitely tender. Cutting a slice from this impressive part of the beast yields a flank of meat that can be seared or broiled.

Seared Slaughterfish
I do not envy those who venture into murky waters in order to catch the creatures needed to make this meal. I am entirely grateful to them, however, for it is their bravery that allows us to experience the deliciousness of the seared slaughterfish! The proper Nord tradition requires the cook to sear the fish (once picked clean of bones, of course) until the skin is blackened. Some prefer to cook the flesh slowly by wrapping the fish in cabbage leaves, searing the skin as the very last step before consumption. Both methods work equally well, in my opinion.

Nord Cuisine: Sweets Edition

Gilbard Bacqure

While there have been many accounts detailing the various meads enjoyed by Nords, there is surprisingly little information on their preferences in cuisine. While Nord recipes may not be as thrilling or complex as some other cultures, I believe them still worthy of note! There are many delicacies to be had among Nords. They are a hearty people that drink and eat with more passion and vigor than any I've ever encountered! Tasteless food is as much an insult to them as cowardice on the battlefield. I shall transcribe my explorations through their cuisine here.

Sweet Treats

Honey-Dipped Apples
I would be remiss if I did not discuss the tart apples of Skyrim. A staple of Nord households, this fruit is as common in Skyrim as a mudcrab along a riverbank! It can be eaten as nature intended, directly from a tree, or it can be used to enhance stews, meat dishes, or salads. Perhaps the best use is as a dessert. The ingredients for a honey-dipped apple are rather obvious. Simplicity is at the heart of most Nord recipes—the foundations are plain and uncomplicated, but the end result is truly a taste to experience! Apples are either served roasted or raw, then iced with a drizzle of sweet milk and honey. They are sticky, messy, sweet, and tart. And wholly wonderful!

Snowberry Crostata
On their own, snowberries are so tart as to be quite unpalatable. The same cannot be said of a snowberry crostata! Simpler than a pie and yet no less delectable, this pastry perfectly marries the tartness of the berry with the sweetness of the bread to create a truly memorable experience. Enjoy this delicacy after a meal as a treat, or even early in the morning before the common Nord goes about his day. The versatile nature of the flavors make both options equally appealing.

Jazbay Crostata
In contrast, the Jazbay Crostata is strictly a delicacy best enjoyed after a heartier meal. While it is most often used by mages, the distinctive sweetness of these grapes cannot be ignored by any who consider themselves a food connoisseur. The dark, sweet juice of the grape sinks into the dough to create a deliciously moist base, though it's sturdy enough to not be soggy. Some say the sweetness overwhelms, but I say they are absolutely wrong!

Honey Nut Treat
Nords love their honey. It sweetens their mead perfectly, but that's not all! Popular in many a meadery across Skyrim, the honey nut treat is a sweet partner to any kind of drink. While messy, this sticky, nut-studded dough can conveniently be skewered on a stick so you can carry it anywhere. Whether you're traveling long distances or just enjoying a drink by the fire at your favorite inn, the honey nut treat is an enjoyable snack that everyone should try at least once.

Jhunal the Rune God


It is impossible to discount the wisdom and power of Jhunal. We in Skyrim are often seen by the rest of Tamriel as drunken oafs, or barbarians with little thought in their minds other than an eagerness for battle. Most forget that their favored Julianos was first a Nord god, one that valued wisdom, intelligence, and the pursuit of knowledge above all else.

We true Nords have not forgotten Jhunal. There are still those among us that enjoy scholarly pursuits and the broadening of our minds. Perhaps we are but a token few these days, but hope is not lost. Nords must remember that they are called to a higher purpose than the brandishing of swords. We should be pursuing matters that enrich our lives, not risk them. Things such as scholarship, history, reading, and invention.

If you turn up your nose while reading this, take comfort in knowing that you are not alone. There are many Nords who feel the same way. Jhunal wavers in favor because of a foolish notion that the pursuit of knowledge is somehow beneath us. That anything that doesn't make us stronger or display our courage for everyone to see is worthless. But I beseech you to abandon those notions. They have been learned, which means they can be unlearned. We need not do away with our strength as warriors in order to bolster our minds. In fact, doing both in conjunction can only improve both aspects of our beings.

To be an excellent warrior, you must also have a strong mind and the knowledge to carry you through battle, wouldn't you agree? If the importance of learning is not enough to entice you, let that be your motivation instead. Jhunal is still ours, and Skyrim is still a land of warriors who are enriched by knowledge as well as combat.

Do not turn up your nose at such pursuits! If we turn a blind eye to Jhunal and his teachings, then we are doomed as a people.

Enduring Nord Society

Nevil Hleran

If, like the unfortunate author of this text, you have the displeasure of being required by your House to interact with our Nord "allies" and "trade partners" on a regular basis, you'll quickly discover that Nord social interactions are far removed from our complex and dignified Dunmeri culture. My frequent exposure to their habits and behaviors has made me something of an authority on avoiding physical harm when in the company of Nords, and I hope it may assist you, the reader, in the same.

With Nords, insults are not always insults—unless they are. When conversing among themselves, references that might otherwise seem offensive (like "you old horker's arse") might, in fact, be familiar terms of endearment. One should avoid chiming in with similar epithets unless quite familiar with the Nords in question. Keep in mind, even then, that insulting a Nord's strength, bravery, or honor in any way almost inevitably leads to violence as the offended party attempts to prove otherwise.

Never turn down a drink. You must become an expert at discreetly emptying your sixth or seventh cup of mead underneath the table (don't worry, there will be plenty of spillage already present; no one will notice). Refusing a drink is seen as an admittance of weakness and is a sure way to alienate yourself from those you have been forced to work alongside.

My last bit of advice is to attempt to speak in the simplest terms possible. Nords, while they do love absurd stories, do not appreciate the finer arts of conversation, and become suspicious of those who speak in elaborate language. A suspicious Nord is a dangerous Nord, likely to go off and begin yelling and throwing accusations that you're deliberately being confusing and must be lying. Keep it simple and you'll avoid bruises.

Good luck, reader. You will need it as you attempt to cooperate with these brutish Men.

Ysmir the Forefather, Volume IV


At the end of his life, Ysmir, who had ruled the peoples for over a thousand years in the time before history, the time of myth, sought a burial place and death befitting a king of men and dragons.

He summoned his champions and men-at-arms and asked them: "Where can I find a burial place and death befitting a king of men and dragons?"

The first housecarl stepped forward and said "Go East, where the ocean touches the sky."

The second bowed humbly and said "Go West, where the sun kisses the earth."

And again the third said "North to the very frozen tips of Nirn, to a tomb of ice."

And the fourth, "South to the pillars of smoke and fire."

But Ysmir. king of men and dragons, whose greatness preceded time, despaired and said "I have traveled the whole of Mundus and conquered many peoples, but where will I rest my head? If I rest to the East or the West or the North or the South, it will only cause division.

"The local peoples will claim my tomb as their own. They will say, 'Ysmir is our king, for he rests among us.' And my children will fight amongst themselves and divide my body among them, sending my head one way, my hands another, and my feet, and my mighty heart."

From among his thanes and housecarls, a young man, not more than a boy, whom none of them had seen before, then dared to speak. Bowing low, he said "Then do not go anywhere on Nirn, but go to the sky, where you can watch over all your peoples."

Ysmir king of men and dragons liked this idea. He said, "But boy, how would I reach the sky? Is there a mountain, or a ladder built by men that can reach so high?"

And the boy said "There is no such thing, neither mountain nor ladder nor staircase. But I know of a place, a single stone. This is the path to Aetherius."

"Where can I find this stone?" cried the king of men and dragons, intent on ascending to the sky.

"Follow me," the boy beckoned.

And Ysmir summoned all of his champions and housecarls and told them how he was intent to end his life by ascending to the sky. And all of them, every one, agreed to follow him to the place where the boy led.

And when they reached the place, they found as the boy promised, a single stone. And Ysmir, who was by now very old, laid at the foot of the stone and was taken up into the stars.

The champions and housecarls looked up into the heavens and saw their king, the great Warrior, riding across the sky. And he was accompanied by three servants, a Lord, his Lady, and his mighty Steed.

And the champions and housecarls all pledged to guard the valley and the way to Aetherius. But when they looked for the boy who had shown them the way, he was nowhere to be found.

Arms and Armor of the Nordic Champion, Skegglund Stormcloak

Longinus Attius

One of the veteran guards in the walled city of Windhelm, Skegglund suffers neither fools nor trolls gladly. He hunts in furs and leathers; he donned his heaviest armor for this display of brutality in honor of Kyne the Sky Goddess.

Though a Nord may share his complexion and traits with a Breton, he tends to shun a refined and delicate battle attire; instead he favors a more stark and furrowed appearance—not quite the look of a man dragged through a bramble hedge, but almost as unkempt. The Nord warrior is proud of his fierce independence, hardy in the thankless severity of his lands, and comfortable with appalling violence as a daily occurrence. His armor and weaponry reflects this boisterous fury, but may also be revered as part of a family's trappings. For the Nord is a warrior race, and all from the goat farmer to the Skald King own an armament of some kind.

Under the braids and beard, but resting on the woad tattoo, lies a Nord's armor. Usually lined with fur (to help contain heat and prevent nasty chafing), and with leather trim work with steel plates attached to the top, the results are weighty and foreboding. Clash with a Nord  in his heaviest armor, and your fears of intimidation are realized. Since the time of King Harald, horkers, mammoths, wolves, and great cats have been sacrificed to provide undergarment protection, with thousands of forges throughout the six holds of Skyrim crafting fine plate for a race perpetually at war.

Weapons are thick and practical, with strong oak hafts favored for the hand axe, mace, or staff, sometimes wrapped in a leather grip. Usually, swords are formed from steel, with stocks cross guards, sometimes adorned with runes or the fabled knot work also found carved into windswept longhouses across this realm. Strange, glaring semblances of bears, eagles, or elk may stare out from a Nord's shield, but others robust rivulets hammered into wood, with concentric or reflective patterns, like the cross of Ysgramor. A Nord's weapon is seemingly an extension of his arm, and he usually only stops wearing it during his (frequent) bouts of revelry, where it is replaced by a jug of four-eye grog or rum posset.

From the fiendish toothpick to the elaborately rune-encrusted great sword, Nord weaponry has a rugged but exceptional quality, thanks to the heat of their forges and the competence of their red-faced blacksmiths.

Wuunding and Tumult

Recorded by Vothel Bethalas

The following are two tales of the Nord hero Wuunding and his hammer, Tumult. Every town I come across seems to have another legend about him, and every Nord I've met swears up and down that they're all true. Their fascination with these exaggerated heroes is charming, in a way, and I've found it an entertaining diversion to set some of the tales to paper, as I've never seen them preserved elsewhere.

Wuunding and the Mountain

Mighty Wuunding desired to pass into the high mountains, for he had heard rumors of a powerful troll lord he wished to fight. The slopes were steep and the snow was thick, and he found it harder and harder to plow his way through. At last, he had enough of digging and struggling. He shouted at the mountain as loud as he could, asking it to shed its snow, but the mountain was stubborn and would not listen.

Frustrated, he cleared the snow from a rock and used Tumult to strike it with all his might. The mountain rumbled with pain, and all the snow rushed past him into the valley so that he could pass. The mountains remember that pain to this day, so you must be careful when shouting at them. Not all can stand against an avalanche.

The Melting of the March

In the old days, a great frozen Daedra made its home in Eastmarch, slaughtering Nords and conjuring an unending blizzard. Like any good Nord, Wuunding hated Daedra, and he sought to free the land and return it to its people. When he tried to venture into the heart of the storm, he found that his body began to freeze, and he was forced to turn back.

As he wandered the edge of the storm, he prayed to Kyne for help. Before long, he came upon a shack where an old woman lived. She invited him in, and upon hearing his tale, she produced a small flask. "This will help you reach the Daedra," she said, "but do not drink too much at once." The mead, the sweetest he ever tasted, burned in his belly, and he set off right away, immune to the magical blizzard.

When he found the Daedra at last, they battled all across the land. The magical cold was like nothing he'd faced before, and he felt his strength failing. Without regard to the woman's warning, he downed the whole flask. He burned with a fire so powerful that Tumult roared with flames. The Daedra melted more and more with each strike, leaving steaming pools behind. In the end, nothing was left of the Daedra but the stinking puddles, and Wuunding and Tumult were consumed by the flames. The pools remain even now, a reminder of Wuunding's heroism.

Varieties of Faith: The Nords

Brother Mikhael Karkuxor of the Imperial College

The Eight

Kyne (Kiss at the End):
Nord Goddess of the Storm. Widow of Shor and favored god of warriors, she is often called the Mother of Men. Her daughters taught the first Nords the use of the Thu'um or "Storm Voice."

Mara (Goddess of Love):
For the Nords, Mara is a handmaiden of Kyne and concubine of Shor. As the goddess of fertility and agriculture, she's sometimes associated with Nir of the "Anuad," the female principle of the cosmos that gave birth to creation.

Dibella (Goddess of Beauty):
Popular god of the Eight Divines. She has nearly a dozen different cults, some devoted to women, some to artists and aesthetics, and others to erotic instruction.

Stuhn (God of Ransom):
Nord precursor to Stendarr, brother of Tsun, shield-thane of Shor. Stuhn was a warrior god who fought against the Aldmeri pantheon. He showed Men how to take (and the benefits of taking) prisoners of war.

Jhunal (Rune God):
God of knowledge and hermetic orders, precursor of Julianos. Never very popular among the mercurial and warlike Nords, his worship is fading.

Shor (God of the Underworld):
The Nord version of Lorkhan, Shor allied with Men after the creation of the world. Foreign gods (that is, Elven ones) conspired against him and brought about his defeat, dooming him to the afterlife, Sovngarde. Atmoran myths depict him as a bloodthirsty warrior king who led the Nords to victory over their Aldmeri oppressors time and again. Before his doom, Shor was the chief of the gods. He is sometimes called the Children's God (see "Orkey.") Considered a "dead god," Shor has no priesthood and is not actively worshiped, but he is frequently sworn by.

Orkey (Old Knocker):
God of mortality, Orkey combines aspects of Mauloch and Arkay. He is a "loan-god" for the Nords, who seem to have taken up his worship during Aldmeri rule of Atmora. Nords believe they once lived as long as Elves until Orkey appeared; through heathen trickery, he fooled them into a bargain that "bound them to the count of winters." At one time, legends say, Nords only had a lifespan of six years due to Orkey's foul magic. Then Shor showed up and, through unknown means, removed the curse, throwing most of it onto the nearby Orcs.

Alduin (The World-Eater):
Alduin is the Nord variation of Akatosh. He only superficially resembles his counterpart in the Imperial Eight Divines. For example, Alduin's sobriquet, "the World Eater," comes from myths that depict him as the horrible, ravaging firestorm that destroyed the last world to begin this one. Nords therefore see the god of time as both creator and harbinger of the apocalypse. He is not the chief of the Nord pantheon (in fact, this pantheon has no chief; see "Shor") but its wellspring, albeit a grim and frightening one.

Alduin destroyed the last world to enable the creation of this one, and he will destroy this one to enable the next. Alduin was once worshiped by the long-dead Dragon Cult, but that has been outlawed for centuries, so Alduin has no admitted worshipers.

Testing Gods

Herma-Mora (The Woodland Man):
Ancient Atmoran "Demon of Knowledge" who nearly seduced the Nords into becoming Aldmer. Most Ysgramor myths are about escaping the wiles of old Herma-Mora. Unlike his Bosmeri adherents, the Nords don't deny his Daedric nature.

Mauloch (God of Orcs, "Mountain Fart"):
Clearly identified for the Nords with the Daedric Prince Malacath, Mauloch tests them through warfare. Mauloch troubled the heirs of King Harald for a long time. Fleeing east after his defeat at the Battle of Dragon Wall, ca. 1E 660, his rage was said to fill the sky with his sulfurous hatred, earning that year the sobriquet "Year of Winter in Summer."

Dead God

Extinct Nord god of trials against adversity. Died defending Shor from foreign gods.