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Crafting Motif 55: Dreadhorn Style

Gherig Bullblood of the Dreadhorn Clan

By Gherig Bullblood of the Dreadhorn Clan [Notes by Rena Hammerhands]

Wayward sons and daughters, set aside your old ways and embrace the Hunt-Father's terrible champion Domihaus! Henceforth, his ways shall be our ways! Listen to these, the new precepts for crafting our arms and armor, and set to work to outfit our reborn clan—as the Dreadhorn!

[Found this in the Forge, instructions for scum on how to make scum-work. Who knew those barbarians could read, let alone write?]


Hew down the trees of Falkreath Hold as you would the Nords who have taken root. Flense the skin until it is ripe and raw as bone. Lash to steel as angular and sharp as the Jerall Mountains and mark it with the creeping vines of the Bloodroot Forge so that it may share your thirst.

[Fit only for brutes, but dangerous enough with some muscle behind it.]


Bind tight your guts with the thick hide and hair of the minotaur and they will not be easily spilled. Pin the girdle with an icon of Domihaus at your core and his great power will stoke your hunger for battle.

[What a load of stinking bull manure! Fool superstitions won't stop pike nor pick, but that suits me just fine.]


Though our feet have been hardened by the pitiless stone of the Jerall Mountains, we will clad them in the unshorn skins of the bulls to keep our blood running hot and ready to stampede alongside the chosen.

[Until they trip over all the loose straps.]


Use the horns of our allies as your guide as you shape the timber of our bows, so they too are shown the Hunt-Father's favor. Twist the fibers of Bloodroot vines tightly to string your bows with their hungry veins. Sharpen the skin of the mountain to give it teeth, and unleash them like the Hounds toward your quarry.

[Stone arrows aren't the match of Nord Steel, but get pelted with enough and their cowardly pecking may strike true.]


Always guard your precious heart with the fruits of the Forge, for that is where it belongs. Remind yourself of this truth with glyphs of curling vines upon the steel. Beneath these Forge gifts, entrust your flesh to the hide, hair, and horn of the bull.

[Their hearts were black and empty before they started replacing them with stone.]


When we offer our prey to the Hunt-Father, it's work best left to a butcher's blade: hefty, to split bone, but kept short and sharp to twist through the joints of your kill. To this end, leave a blunt notch at the base of the blade to hook a finger.

[Some fool knife this is. Too fat for proper skinning. No wonder Reachman leathers look like dog-chewed pizzle.]


Whether the Nirncrux beats in your chest or lays inked in your skin, let the Nords see its power coursing through your sword arms. Bracers of leather, haired hide, and the steel icons of our clan are all the protection you need.

[We'll see how they feel after the might of a true Nord prunes their limbs to the trunk.]


The Hunt-Father has shown us his champion! We shall honor this pact by taking on the visage of the chosen! Hammer a new skull of steel in the likeness of our bull brothers. Adorn it with stud and cap and band, as you would mark your own head, for in battle this shall be your face.

[If I were a filthy, feckless Reach-dog, I'd want to pretend I was something more impressive too.]


We will shield our legs and loins with kilts of leather as has been our tradition, but wear upon them only emblems of the bull and the coiled vine. We are all Dreadhorn now. The old clan colors and glyphs are things of the past.

[Turn enough of these bulls to steers in the fields and they'll soon change their tune about their precious milkmaid skirts.]


The iron hides of the Nords may not be easily cut, but their inner softness can be battered and burst. Waste not your efforts on fanciful construction. A cudgel of four faces delivers a sturdy strike from any angle and its corners will crack even the toughest forged shell.

[Simple design to cover for their lack of skill. Good enough for their berserk flailing.]


Just as the bulls lower their heads for the charge, so too will we raise shields forged in their likeness and take their power as our own. Brand its face in brass and mark it with the glyphs of the Horned Lord's chosen.

[A solid chunk of crude steel can block a fine blade, but that won't matter once they're too tired to bring it to bear.]


Combined with our helms, our pauldrons help shape us into the visage of the broad shouldered beasts we march alongside. Craft them of leather or steel, but do not neglect to present the haired hide as your mantle.

[If these savages worshiped wolves he'd be telling them to walk on all fours too.]


Domihaus speaks for this land. Brandish an effigy of the Bloody-Horned and it will have no choice but to obey. Take the branches of our plundered home. Nail to it the face of the Hunt-Father's chosen rendered in steel and this icon will command the elements as he does.

[I don't know what Daedra-bothering creature he's yammering about, but I'd like to put its head on the end of a stick myself.]


The fangs and claws of the Forge are meant to taste blood! Tame the hot metal into a single broad blade with a snarling tooth at its point. Wrap the hilt in leather, and where you see fit to hold the blade, but never forget its thirst when you grasp the reins.

[It's true. The blades crave Reachmen blood as much as ours. Remember that.]

Malacath and the Reach


Orcs often say they are Malacath's children. My tribe would argue. Reachmen are taught that Orcs, ogres, and trolls are merely used by Malacath to test his true chosen race - the people of the Reach.

If you ask me, both are wrong. The Lord of Ash and Bone doesn't care for any of us. This worship of him is folly and will be the ruin of us all.

Take this token, for example, this Vengeful Eye my tribe searches so fervently for in dank tombs. The blood that has spilled needlessly for this meaningless trinket is beyond measure. The feud between the Orcs and my tribe has gone on for centuries. Our shamans claim Malacath demands one of us carry the Eye in his name, but the Orcs claim it belongs to them.

Both sides are blind to the strings that make them dance.

That is all we are to the Daedra. Playthings for their amusement. Their gifts are poisoned. To think otherwise is foolish. Yet we live in a world of fools, each thinking they are somehow different. Somehow special. We kill and we die for this belief while the Daedra smile on.

The Care and Feeding of Briar Hearts


Gull-koo loves her briar hearts! She's an interesting old bird, that hagraven. Since coming to the old Breton fort, my job among the Winterborn has been to assist Gull-koo, doing whatever the hagraven needs in order to make sure the briar hearts grow and thrive. Strange things, those briar hearts. Kind of like large fruits, but also kind of like the heart of some large animal. Or man.

Today I got to see the process up close. It starts with a corpse. The Winterborn prefer to use the corpse of an enemy, but the hagravens have no such compunctions, Any corpse will serve their purposes, whether an Orc, Winterborn, or even a harpy. Once a corpse is procured, it is purified in a strange ritual of the hagraven's own devising and place in a specially prepared plot of soil. Then, with great reverence and fanfare, the hagraven adds the briar heart seed to the planted body.

Spells and blood serve to feed and water the macabre garden, and soon the first sprouts begin to bloom from the corpse. The sprouts quickly grow into saplings, which in turn grow into small trees. These small trees connect through a system of roots back to the large tree the hagravens and tree tenders care for in one of the fort's courtyards. I believe that the sapling trees contribute to the health and overall power of the large tree, but my questions on the subject were ignored by Gull-koo and the other hagravens.

Meanwhile, briar heart fruit blooms on the saplings and the large tree alike, beating a haunting cascade that echoes throughout the fortress. Once the fruit ripens, it is ready to be transplanted. And that's where our own warriors come into the picture. In most cases, when a Winterborn warrior falls in battle, a hagraven can bless the warrior with a ripe briar heart. The magical process plunges the briar heart into the fallen warrior and returns the warrior to life, granting him or her additional strength and fortitude as befits a briar-heart warrior.

Now, I haven't yet been privy to the process, but I believe there's also a way to implant the briar hearts into living warriors. I've seen the cages where some of our most-powerful and loyal warriors have gone to meditate and prepare themselves for elevation to briar-heart warrior status. Perhaps, if Gull-koo agrees, they'll allow me to accept such an honor. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Your sister, writing from Frostbreak Fortress

On the Nature of Reachmen

Arthenice Belloq

February 27, 2015

“Are the Reachmen their own race of man?" – CodyWatsonDCI

Arthenice Belloq says, “If not their own race, the Reachmen are definitely their own breed. In blood they are closest to the Bretons, but with other tribes mixed in, as they will kidnap the children of every mortal race and interbreed with them. This is, perhaps, the only way in which they are tolerant of outsiders."

“Where do the hagravens come from? Are they, too, a twisted descendant of Aldmer?" – p4r4digm

Arthenice Belloq says, “The hagravens are abominations. Their eyes are flat and dead, and they live only for injury and domination. The Reach clans do not revere them so much as placate them, and they are hated even by their hag-husbands. Where do they come from? They come from our worst nightmares."

“A fellow Breton seeks knowledge from one who has undergone a harrowing experience and come out victorious. Your account and others mention the Reachmen's wanton veneration of demented Daedra lords like Hircine and Namira, but I've also heard references to 'Old Gods,' and have heard rumors that the Reachmen sometimes keep amulets or statues depicting the Divines. Did you personally witness any instances of Reach religious practice that didn't involve veneration of Daedra or human sacrifice, or is it just the hopeless romantic in me grasping to find some humanity and nuance in the tribes of the Reach? Divines keep you, kinswoman." – Bardon of Clan Crimthann, hamlet of Stokmarket, Kingdom of Wayrest

Arthenice Belloq says, “The clan that held me, the Crow-Wives, are primarily worshipers of Namira, though I sometimes heard them utter oaths naming other Daedra Lords. The only active reverence I witnessed among the Reachmen was for Daedric Princes. That said, the clan did possess other strange totems, ancient fetishes I couldn't identify. They were never named within my hearing, and I never asked about them."

“The Reachmen seem to view the Daedra, specifically the Daedric Princes, as the 'Old Gods' and therefore revere them while scorning the Aedra, which are almost demonic in their eyes. These Old Gods are also associated with their chaotic nature magic, which I have always found interesting while studying them in my travels. They especially venerate Molag Bal, Namira, and Hircine among others. Why are the Princes so associated with nature for the Reachmen? And what about their view for other ones such as Peryite, Nocturnal, and Vaermina?" – Eis Vuur Warden, Wayward and Contract Scholar

Arthenice Belloq says, “I believe the Reachmen associate the Princes with nature because they are tribal barbarians, and brute nature is all they know. They disdain civilization and the civilized, which I think is why they have no use for the more 'sophisticated' Princes such as Sanguine and Clavicus Vile. Subtlety and nuance, they believe, are for the weak."

On the Nature of Reachmen

Arthenice Belloq

When I wrote the story of my enslavement at the hands of the Crow-Wives, “A Life Barbaric and Brutal," I didn't expect anyone would read or care. It caught me quite off guard when I started receiving letters—and even visits—from scholars, historians, mages, and others of that sort. It seems that the tome I left with the Master of Incunabula at the Mages Guild in Wayrest had been requested frequently, and that several copies were created.

Apparently there is a shortage of information about the Reachmen and their practices. As you can imagine, most people they enslave aren't as resourceful (or lucky) as I was, and the clans aren't exactly keen on letting outsiders visit for a sip of tea and a little chat about their wicked magics or Daedra-worship. While I'm happy to help preserve knowledge and the like, I have to admit that I'm getting a little tired of all the intrusions, so let me clear the air on some of the silly speculations I've heard (as if my first book wasn't clear enough).

If you want to know about Reachmen, know that they most certainly are not a misunderstood and secretly noble people. They don't even want to be left alone—they want to attack, enslave, and conquer. Has everyone already forgotten the slaughter committed by Durcorach as he cut his way through High Rock, murdering and defiling as he went? Sometimes the history books do not lie, and I can assure you they don't exaggerate the cruelty of the Reachmen.

Many mages I've spoken to ask me about the magic of the Reachmen. I can't say I know much about it, but I can say with authority that it is not the “mostly benign form of nature magic" suggested by a few of these individuals. I tried to avoid the tribe's shamans as much as possible. They were constantly covered in spiders and other filthy creatures, muttering to themselves as they squatted over foul alchemical brews. And it's an obvious fact that the gravesingers are necromancers!

I don't know how typical the Crow-Wives were of Reachmen clans. I do know that they were deeply involved in Daedra-worship of the foulest kind. I was forced to witness horrible rituals, from live burnings and literal blood baths to raucous dismemberments, all in the presence of that horrible Ever-Oozing Altar. I'll never be able to forget the writhing masses of centipedes, roaches, and squirming horrors that formed a thick carpet on the ritual hut's floor when the tribe called out to Namira. The clan often ate these, still alive, right off the ground during worship.

Besides the evil magic and abominable Daedric rituals, the Crow-Wives engaged in plenty of run-of-the-mill barbarism. Kloavdra, the hagraven, seemed to think pranks (especially those that ended in someone getting hurt) were hilarious, and encouraged all sorts of bullying. She rewarded the clever and nasty and punished the meek. Children deemed too weak were sacrificed to Namira in addition to regular random sacrifices. And, of course, there were the raids. Whether they were on other tribes or small villages, they were always brutally violent affairs, sneak attacks designed to catch the targets off-guard and completely dominate them.

So, there, my second book, with as much as I can remember about their horrid practices. Now I'd appreciate it if you'd all let me continue with my life!

The Feral Reachman Barbarian, Cagarach

Longinus Attius

The weightiest armor is skinned creature pelts, tanned and pounded into extremely rough hides, then strengthened with boiled resin and, occasionally, hag magic.

Caught along the western edge of Whiterun Hold by our Nord friend Skegglund Stormcloak, this caged blight on the provinces of Skyrim and Wrothgar is an unwashed mongrel brute and known bedfellow of hagravens. Praying to Daedra and Witchmen, scarred by infected tattoo and ritual markings, Cagarach was ready and willing to accept a knot of poisoned briars for a heart, in order to master  invincibility in battle. Yet here he sits, spitting at us and wallowing in his filth. The smell from the armor would make a troll's eyes water. But the clan makings and primitive stitching require further inspection.

Aside from the feet, which Reachmen sometimes leave exposed to aid in their movement across scree and down ravine, even the weightiest armor is skinned creature pelts, tanned and pounded into extremely rough hides, then strengthened with boiled resin and, occasionally, hag magic. Bones are sharpened to ensure even a glance from a shoulder plate or fan plate results in a deep slash to the victim, the most hapless of which are pierced to the skull. Helms are twisted bone or pointed antlers. Weaponry is bear, wolf, or found carrion bone, or sharp-edged flint for an axe, woven with leather strips, spittle, and other, less savory, bindings. Black briar thorn arrowheads with raven-feather tails fly from their bows, drawn on strings made of the guts of the recently slain. A mocking grave singer, soon to be put to the sharp end of my sword.

Treaty of the Three Clans


Let it be known that the most committed warriors of the Reach gathered here on the 3rd day of Frostfall to put aside their differences and join together against their shared enemy, the Ebonheart Pact.

These clans were represented:

Rageclaw, Boneshaper, Stonetalon

A Life Barbaric and Brutal

Arthenice Belloq

Chapter One: Abducted by the Reachmen

I was born in Murcien's Hamlet, just north across the Bjoulsae from Evermore. My mother was a weaver, and my father was a boat-builder who made small fishing smacks and coracles for the river trade. I remember my youth as a happy one, playing around the docks where Father worked, or hunting through the near woods for entoloma caps and hickory nuts.

It was while doing the latter one day that I strayed a bit farther from the hamlet than usual, pushed my way through a briar thicket … and suddenly found myself staring at a pair of human skulls. Startled, I shrieked and dropped my basket of nuts. By the time I realized that what I'd seen was a skull on a staff next to a woman's face painted like a skull, I'd been knocked down, bound, and thrown over her shoulder.

I was being borne away to the north, away from my home and into the mountains. I began to kick and scream, at which the woman threw me down, bound me tighter, and gagged me into the bargain. Then she resumed carrying me off into the wild. Eventually I passed out from sheer exhaustion.

When I awoke it was dark, but I could see forms in the dance of firelight, silhouettes sporting horns, bones, spikes, feathers. Reachmen. I closed my eyes and tried to wake up, but it was no nightmare: when I opened my eyes they were still there.

My gag was gone, so I cried out for water. The skull-faced woman, whom I later learned was named Voanche, brought me a cup. She checked my bonds, and where I winced in pain, she actually loosened them a little. This surprised me, as I'd always heard that the Reach Clans were barbarians, wicked Daedra-worshipers who reveled in cruelty. Maybe, once they realized how distressed I was, they would set me free and send me home.

It was a false hope: I was to be the captive of the Crow-Wife Clan for the next eight years. The Reachmen were far more complex than I had been led to believe in my Breton home, but in one thing we were right: barbarism and cruelty are everyday facts of life in the Reach. Voanche was a horse-breeder who had abducted me because she needed a slave to tend to her livestock, since her former thrall had died of a kick to the head. She had given me water and loosened my bonds solely out of concern for the condition of her new possession.

Voanche's clan was ruled by a hagraven named Kloavdra, a claw-fingered crone who was a witch-shaman of considerable power. She was a priestess of Namira the Spirit Daedra, the lady of ancient darkness who commands repulsive vermin such as spiders, insects, slugs, and serpents. Because Namira is the mistress of small pests, the Reachmen call her "the Children's God" (they are not without humor, though their jests are always malicious). At every two-moons'-dark Kloavdra would draw lots at random from the children of the clan, both Reach and slave, to select a sacrifice to the Goddess of the Dark. The chosen child would end up on the Ever-Oozing Altar where Kloavdra would cut out its heart as an offering to Namira. Every time I was sure it would be me, but the name-feather drawn was always of another.

Kloavdra's hag-husband was a crude and vicious man named Cointthac. He was a gravesinger, a witchman shaman who could command the dead—in our land we'd call him a necromancer. He was always looking sidewise at Voanche and licking his lips, as at a savory roast fowl. Though he had power in the clan and was feared by all, Voanche treated him with disdain, which would sometimes provoke him into sending hoot-haunts into her tent at night, or hexing the horses' oats with writheworm. Voanche never turned a hair, just threatened to complain about Cointthac to his hag-wife Kloavdra, which always sent him packing.

Life was hard in the Reach. Crow-Wife was a hunting clan, so our life was following the herds across the wastes. It was a rugged and perilous existence, where life could be snuffed out in a heartbeat by the antlers of an elk buck or the fangs of a sabre cat. But what I feared most were the semi-annual crossings of the Karth River in the wake of the tundra herds. It was my job to help Voanche and her useless daughter swim the horses across the ice-cold, swirling current, and every time I was certain would be my last. How I wished I had learned to swim in the Bjoulsae, like my two brothers, whenever the Karth had me in its grip!

Occasionally during a crossing one of the horses would panic and break free of us, which usually meant drowning and death for it. Then Voanche and I would search far downstream until we found where its body had washed up, so we could skin and unmake the dead horse for its valuable fat, flesh, and bones. Nothing was wasted among the Reachmen.

It was during my sixth summer as a slave of the Crow-Wives—I had crossed the hated Karth eleven times!—that I began to attract the unwanted attentions of Aiocnuall, the loutish son of Kloavdra and Cointthach. He expressed his attraction by pushing me into mud puddles or putting dead voles in my stew. He was a year younger than me, but soon I knew he would want me to the object of more than just practical jokes. As the son of the hagraven he could do pretty much whatever he wanted with impunity, and Voanche couldn't protect me by complaining to Kloavdra—the old virago would just cackle and wave her away.

So at night, when I should have been sleeping in my pile of furs, I started making a spear.