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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.

Rilaso's Guide to Tamriel, Ch. 21


Chapter 21: Surviving the Rift

The key to surviving the Rift is to never go there. The Rift is no place for anyone but Nords. If you're not a Nord and you end up in the Rift, you will die in a horrible fashion.

If you don't freeze to death or get lost and fall off a cliff, you're going to be killed by wild animals. Bears and sabre cats are only too happy to eat you. Mammoths go out of their way to step or sit on travelers. Giants will kick you into the highest reaches of the nearest tree.

But for my money, the Nords are the most dangerous part of the Rift. They have hair-trigger tempers, an enormous capacity for mead, and very sharp weapons that they swing around constantly.

If they don't drink you to death or choke you with their noxious bodily odors, they'll chop off your head. You'll be in a tavern, say the wrong thing to a Nord, and next thing you know, your head will be flying through the air, spraying another layer of blood over the already gore-caked walls.

So, don't go to the Rift

Temples of the Dragon Cult


In the distant reaches of Skyrim, beyond the remote farming communities and hunter shacks, you may stumble over a broken stone, half buried and covered in moss and ivy. Look closer, in case these are effigies to animal gods, worshiped by Ysgramor's primitives. The deification of the bear, dragon, fox, moth, owl, snake, whale, and wolf have all been recorded by our field agents, and many believe these totems stand as sentinels over lost ruins. These tumbledown temples, guarded by half-woken draugr and worse, are from a time when the Dragon Cult supposedly ruled this province.

While no modern Tamrielan need believe these hopelessly fanciful fables, the Nords' simple-minded veneration for these places betokens their fear of the return of the Dragon Priests. During the worship of Akatosh (the dragon) as god-kings over men, these priests were the conduit through which dragons spoke, made laws, and were honored with grand and elaborate temples. When Alduin, Akatosh's firstborn, was defeated atop the Throat of the World during the mythical Dragon War, the cult that sprang up around these dragon guardians soon receded into the soil, buried among dragon mounds with the remains of these beasts. They were finally vanquished in the Rift mountains by High King Harald in 1E 140. The veneration of animal gods was soon replaced by the Eight Divines.

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.

Thenephan's Mysteries of Mead


There's a reason I was kicked out of Daggerfall, chased out of Elden Root, and banned from Mournhold. I've tried every variety of intoxicant, wine, ale, and Argonian swill this world has to offer. I've sampled skooma with Khajiit, licked an Argonian Hist Tree, and hunted "magical" toads with the Bosmer.

None of that compares to Nord mead. There's nothing like it.

The purest stuff is made in Nord villages, but we're at war with the Nords, and a Breton has no guarantee of surviving a trip like that. Leave that sort of thing to the professionals. There is still hope, however. If you're ever at a tavern, and there's a cask of Nord mead, you'd be a fool to pass it up.

Mead is made by fermenting honey and water (though a few recipes call for molasses). Sometimes, you add grain mash and strain it, but that isn't necessary. Some of the High Elves call it "honey wine," but mead needs more than good honey. Every meadery has its own recipes. After you drink enough mead, you learn the names of the brewmasters who create them. A drunk Nord will gladly punch another in the face over the honor of a good brewmaster. Then again, a drunk Nord will punch anyone for just about anything.

Every brewmaster has a distinct blend of spices, fruit, and sometimes hops (which makes a mead bitter, which makes some Nords bitter, too.) I've even heard tales of mead mixed with the blood of heroes, allegedly granting them the words of a poet or skald. I'd like a mead named after me, but I'm not going to bleed for it.
An Altmer once told me that brewing is the basis of all culture. It's why our ancestors started farming and forming cities. It's what we do when we've got too much wheat and barley and hops and we're sick of farming. The culture of drinking seems to be what keeps Nords together.

Nords must be really sick of farming, because they brew and drink prodigious amounts of mead. Whenever a cask of really good mead is opened, Nords gather round because they know that cask won't last long. But if you don't know how to behave in the Nord drinking culture, you'll end up broke, broken, hungover, and helpless. I found out the hard way.

Nords love to drink. But more than that. Nords respect those who can endure adversity. I know that sounds flowery for explaining why two drunk Nords would have a "hit-me-hard-in-the-face" contest, but really, that's why their culture celebrates getting drunk.

A Nord can gain respect by consuming more mead than anyone else, just as he's respected for surviving a blizzard or killing a bear with a sharp stick. "Nord honor" is something they talk about endlessly when they're drunk, and even more when they're sober. So the first thing you learn about Nords is if you want their respect, never turn down a drink. It's a test. If you can't handle that next drink, leave. Otherwise you'll wake up somewhere they find hilarious, but you won't be laughing.

Nords also love their skalds. Songs and stories go over well with a drunk audience, once they've had enough of brawling, boasting, and throwing axes at each other. Their songs are all about how they're better than everyone else at everything. They've all heard these over and over again, so bring some of your own. They're desperate to hear something new.

Anywhere you go, drinking is also a good way to redress a mistake or make an apology, and it's the same with Nords. If you lose a contest, you need to buy a drink. If you make a mistake or offend someone, you need to buy a drink. If you're insulted, stand there and take it, then you need to buy a drink.

You don't have to be the best brawler around to survive a room full of drunken Nords. You can also impress them by being clever or by being talented, but you better be really good. When it's time to take a punch in the face, you better be ready for a punch in the face. If you don't like getting punched, there are some things you should never talk about, like politics, who's the best brewmaster, and who punches the hardest. And never demand to know why someone just punched you in the face.

If you want to hear more, buy me a drink the next time I'm in Daggerfall. I'll tell you a story.

The Wandering Skald


Every library holds musty old tales
Carried through rain and snow
But a Nord skald gladly regales
What the poets all sang long ago
Every book has its title and name
But its pages soon turn to dust
A poem we sing will live on in fame
From a history all of us trust
Old tales come down from long ago
With inflection and meter and verse
Soon the skald's audience will hap'ly know
"Yes, this life could be worse."
And the kings know that truth,
Is better than sword and shield
Taught from their distant youth
Skald Kings have wisdom to wield
So welcome me as a friend
For the poems I sing tonight
Will last for nights without end
From first mead to dawn's early light!

The Stormfist Clan

Thora Far-Wanderer

The clans of the Nords spread across Skyrim like herds of mammoths, though their numbers and influence upon the land are far greater. Each clan, however, makes its mark in a different way. Some clans are known for their hunting skills, or their forestry, or their crafting. Some clans are large, others small. Some take a prominent role in government and community. And then there are the dark clans. The clans no one deals with or even speaks of. One such clan is the infamous Stormfists of Whiterun Tundra.

The clan traces its lineage to Ogra Stormfist, the powerful matriarch who founded the clan and ruled over it for almost fifty years. Highly regarded for their combat skills and armor crafting, the Stormfist clan played pivotal roles in numerous conflicts over the centuries, including the Battle of Whiterun Hold, the Massacre at Dialmarch, and the Siege of Windhelm. It was the last engagement, however, that led to the clan's fall from favor and marked it as anathema.

Prior to the Second Akaviri Invasion, Fildgor Strong-Prince, son of Queen Mabjaarn of Eastern Skyrim, went on a pilgrimage to the west to see the land and meet the people. He fell in with young men and women from the Stormfist clan and forged friendships and bonds that would serve him well in the coming years. When Fildgor was ready to move on and perform his coming-of-age trials, an entourage of Stormfist clan members decided to go with him. They became known as the Stormfist Brigade, and even though he wasn't a member of the clan by birth, Fildgor became their de facto leader.

If the Stormfist clan had a reputation prior to this, it paled in comparison to the legend that grew around the Stormfist Brigade. They were ferocious warriors, setting off for adventure in the most hostile and isolated areas of the kingdom. With Fildgor leading the way, they routed bandits, uncovered treasure, and slew monsters. When the Akaviri invaders arrived in force, Fildgor led the Brigade into the thick of battle. They eventually fought their way to Windhelm to join forces with Queen Mabjaarn and the main army.

Although they weren't able to stop the fall of Windhelm or save the queen, the Stormfist Brigade was nonetheless instrumental in helping to route the invading army. They marched as part of the combined Nord forces that eventually joined with the Dark Elves and Argonians to defeat the Akaviri. But then the fateful decision was made. When Fildgor declared his intention to ascend the throne left empty by his sister Nurnhilde's death, the Stormfist clan was among his most vocal backers. You know how that story ends. Jorunn and Fildgor met in single combat, and Jorunn won the throne. Fildgor was exiled, and he departed Skyrim with a promise to one day return.

The Stormfist clan, loyal to Fildgor to the end, refused to bow before Jorunn or acknowledge his authority over them. They returned to their holdings to the west, and King Jorunn, tired of all the fighting, let them go. To this day, the Stormfist clan remains isolated, rarely venturing out of its domain or taking part in the larger Nord community. What will happen if the clan ever decides to to leave its tundra-lands and reassert its place among the other clans is anyone's guess. Especially if Fildgor ever makes good on his promise.

The Crown of Freydis

Taleon Mythmaker

The Crown of Freydis, worn by our beloved Queen Mabjaarn, has a long history. Many know of the crown's famed beauty, but few know the true intent of the crown and why it was created—and that it was even worn by other monarchs before Queen Freydis.

The Crown of Freydis is actually the second royal crown of Skyrim. The fabled Jagged Crown holds the distinction of being the first. The Jagged Crown was forged by Harald, first king of the Nords, from the bones of dragons. Legend has it that the Jagged Crown disappeared with the death of Harald's final descendant King Borgas in The Wild Hunt of 1E 369. The death of childless King Borgas, last of the line of Ysgramor, triggered an internecine conflict known as the War of Succession.

The War of Succession raged for more than fifty years before Olaf One-Eye became the new High King of Skyrim. Olaf was elected to the position primarily due to the renown he garnered subduing the dragon Numinex, and not for any benevolence or statesmanship on his part. The rule of Olaf One-Eye was a time marked by great strife and division among the Nords. When he also died without a clear heir, it was decided that a new manner be employed for choosing a new High King.

Each of Skyrim's holds sent a mage to a convocation called specifically to craft a magical artifact that would test the worth of potential candidates for High King. To this end, they created the Crown of Verity. Crafting the artifact in the shape of a crown was a brilliant innovation. With the loss of the Jagged Crown, Olaf had worn no mark of recognizable rulership. They felt that a new crown would help unify the realm behind a new king after the relative instability of Olaf's rule. The timing of the crown's creation proved to be auspicious.

The Moot selected a tribal chieftain named Asurn Ice-Breaker to be the next High King of Skyrim. Asurn was a mighty warrior of unmatched skill in the vein of Olaf One-Eye, though he never defeated a dragon. Before he assumed the role, however, he had to don the newly-forged Crown of Verity. That's when the true power of the artifact became apparent.

The crown rejected Asurn. It literally refused to be placed upon his head. In a rage, Asurn summoned his loyal followers and threatened to kill every member of the Moot if they didn't name him as the rightful king. He refused to be rejected by a crown. A soft-spoken member of the council rose from his chair. He challenged Asurn to combat, according to the law. The battle was short and to the point: Asurn was struck down. When the soft-spoken man took the rown and placed it easily upon his own head, a new High King of Skyrim was born. That was how Kjoric the White rose to power.

To this day, the Crown of Freydis has been passed down from High King to High King. It is used as a tool by the Moot to ascertain the worthiness of any candidate for the throne. Since the day Asurn was struck down, no one has challenged the validity of the Crown or its powers—until 2E 431, when the Reman Empire fell asunder, and King Logrolf was assassinated.

Jarl Svartr of Solitude claimed that Logrolf's daughter, Freydis, was illegitimate, and therefore a Moot was required to choose a successor. Though Freydis, wearing the Crown of Verity, was named High Queen in Windhelm, a partial Moot in Solitude chose Svartr as High King. Thereafter the West Kingdom was ruled by Svartr and his successors, while the East Kingdom was ruled by the heirs to Freydis, who renamed the Crown of Verity in her honor.

Clans of Eastmarch: The Direfrost


The lineage of the Direfrosts goes back to a time before recorded history. The most accurate recorded accounts reveal a lineage stretching into the past for at least thirteen generations to the earliest known patron, Hroldin Direfrost, who settled in northern Eastmarch and became lord of the surrounding villages.

The Direfrosts have a reputation as kind and gentle rulers, except in cases involving practitioners of witchcraft. In such cases, Direfrost intolerance is notorious. Over the centuries they have participated in the execution of hundreds of citizens found guilty of witchcraft.

Castle Direfrost is located within Eastmarch bordering on the mountains. The cold northern winds are said to be held at bay by the hearthfire that ever burns in the meadhall of Direfrost.

There have been no known insurrections against their rule.

Spirits of Skyrim

Isstille the Scholar

A wide variety of spirits roam the lonely paths of Skyrim. Some are fierce and terrible, hateful and jealous of mortal creatures. Others are simply mischievous, full of playful wickedness that can turn dangerous if the target isn't completely aware of what's happening. A few can be benevolent, but even these can turn hostile if the proper decorum and respect aren't adhered to. These spirits range from free-roaming Daedra to the mortal dead to nature personified, though such distinctions may not matter much if you become embroiled in a haunted encounter. What do you care if the spirit harassing you is a marauding Daedra or the lingering shade of a village peasant? It's still just as insubstantial. It's still just as dangerous.

The Haunted Wood, far to the south of Windhelm, has long been a place of mystery and danger. A multitude of stories describe how sparkling lights or compelling whispers lure travelers deep into the forest. Of even local farmers and loggers who should know better falling victim to strange sounds and even stranger sights that can occur when the sun rides high in the sky or when darkness covers the land.

One such spirit is a guardian spirit tied to a specific natural landmark, such as a lake, a hill, or a copse of woods. The guardian spirit haunts the area it is connected to, and cannot abandon or wander far from the location. A guardian spirit might take on a mortal shape when appearing before mortal creatures, but make no mistake: these spirits were never mortal and are as different from the mortal world as the residents of Oblivion. They might imitate mortal behavior, but they neither understand it nor have any but the most tenuous connection to it.

A guardian spirit might get bored with its routine. It might become curious about new creatures wandering into its environment. It might even become angry at a presumed slight by a mortal visiting its realm. Any or all of these situations might draw the attention of a guardian spirit upon you. Or it might be something else entirely that draws them to you. Who can tell what motivates these strange entities?

The guardian spirit associated with the Haunted Wood tends to be curious and mischievous, but has rarely shown outright hostility to mortal visitors. Stories abound of missing objects, strange appearances, and playful teasing, but there are few accounts of the forest turning against mortal visitors. It seems that, for this spirit at least, some kind of connection is trying to be made. Or, perhaps, this too is a misinterpretation of intent. Perhaps this guardian spirit is simply attempting to lull visitors into letting their guard down. And then the spirit will pounce.