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Guide to Solstheim

Author: 
Brian
"Welcome to Solstheim, jewel of absolutely nowhere."-Basks-In-The-Sun
To the northwest of Vvardenfell lies the island of Solstheim, an Imperial Territory disputed by Morrowind and Skyrim. To most it is a far-off, mysterious wasteland, an unimaginable destination, and a frozen hell that is as familiar as Dwemer Animunculi or the 36 Sermons of Vivec. Behind fear and mystery, Solstheim possesses hidden beauty and splendid culture. I hope with this guide I can ease one's travels, forsaken as they are, to the Solstheim Isle.
Geography and Landscape
Solstheim can be split into four basic geographical regions, which are explained in detail below. In general, Solstheim bears many Vvardenfellian traits, the jagged landscape, and pointed, standing rocks reminiscent of the Azurian Coast or Sheogorad. One might easily assume it is part of the ejecta from the meteor which gave birth to Vvardenfell and its respective volcano. The landscape of Skyrim is very unknown to me, and comparison to it is unfortunately unavailable, however. The somewhat square-shaped island is rather small, comparable in size to the main isle in Lake Rumare.

Hirstaang Forest

The Hirstaang forest is a region of spruce trees and rolling hills in the south and southwest corner of the island. It's boundaries can roughly be marked by Thormoor's Watch and Brodir's Grove in the north, and the Iggnir River in the east. It is, unlike most of the island, not always snow-covered, which is not to say a blizzard in the Hirstaang isn't just us debilitating. It is unarguably the most hospitable section of the island, and of no mere coincidence the Imperial settlements are built here. Of note in the region is Brodir's Grove, a peculiar set of standing stones in the north of the forest.
 
The Hirstaang Forest

Isinfier Plains

These plains are sandwiched in the west-central of Solstheim, marked by mountains to the north and Lake Fjalding and the Iggnir to the west. It is an icy display of flatland, sparsely covered in trees, not as forested as the Hirstaang yet not as barren as the other regions. Of note in the region is the 'Altar of Thrond,' an arrangement of standing stones west of the Harstrad river. The aforementioned Lake Fjalding is a breeding ground for the local creatures called horkers. It is frozen year round, the ice being thick enough to traverse upon, and is known to have a cave system below it where Draugr Lord Aesliip lives (or rather, lived). [Note the picture below is of the lake during the Bloodmoon Prophecy; see Skaal below]
The Insifer Plains

Felsaad Coast

The Felsaad Coast is the name of the eastern coastline of the island, which sticks out with its awkward topography. It is dotted with barrows and haphazard hills. It bears some traits of each of the other regions along their respective latitude. It is here Skaal and Thirsk are found; The region is unsurprisingly rather unexcitable otherwise, with travel difficult and weather often extremely fierce.
The Felsaad Coast

Moesring Mountains

In the northwest corner of Solstheim is the treacherous region known as the Moesring Mountains. They are jagged, nearly impassable, and almost always in a snow storm. Few people or settlements are present, and only the most rugged of creatures take refuge here. The region also entails the barren ice-plains in the far northwest. The region is, however, home to various intriguing geographical structures. The Mortrag Glacier spans a large section in the far northwest corner. Near the Isinfier plains lies Hrothmunds' Bane, a collection of rocks. that when seen from above, are shaped like a wolf. Hvitkald Peak, the highest mountain on the isle, is located in the Moesrings.
The Moesring Mountains

Settlements

Fort Frostmoth

The Fort on Solstheim is the largest settlement and structure on the island. It is of course an Imperial Fort, and manned by the Imperial Legion. The post is a strong one, and has only once been breached/damaged. Inside you may find an Imperial Cult Shrine, a plentiful Armory, and General Quarters for the soldiers. The fort is seen by most as a punishment, and they are constantly complaining of the cold and snow. As the Fort Quartermaster Zeno Faustus says "Join the legion, see the world, freeze your arse!" The Fort has a peculiarly large armament, bearing more weapons and armor than most of the Imperial forts on Vvardenfell. Since an attack by werewolves, and the expulsion of the oppressive alcohol ban, little fate is known of Frostmoth other than the Nords are looking to drive it, the Imperials, and their respective presence off Solstheim for good.
Fort Frostmoth

Skaal

The Skaal Village is located in the far northwest corner of the island, devoid of Imperial law or custom. It is a collection of traditional Nordic halls, founded long before Imperial occupation. In Skaal you can find the shaman Korst Wind-Eye, the smith Snedbrir, and the Chieftain himself, whose position has since been empty. The village is guarded by "Skaal Honor Guards," clad in rare, traditional armor. The Skaal people are not very friendly at all to outsiders, so do not expect a warm welcome.
Skaal

Thirsk

This modest mead hall is located near Lake Fjalding, in east-central Solstheim. Thirsk was founded a hundred years ago by Skaal who were disgruntled towards the strict beliefs and customs, thus they left and built their mead hall further south. Thirsk has a tradition that, as Thirsk, a History (which I recommend for further reading on this hall) puts it, "any warrior, regardless of race or sex, could claim leadership of the mead hall by displaying the most impressive battle trophy on the great hall's pedestal. So long as the spirit of Hrothmund the Red consented, that warrior would be named chieftain." Rumor has it that the Nerevarine was the latest Chieftain of Thirsk. The Chieftain maintains a sort of absolute power within Thirsk, which is not to say it is a monarchical chaos. The Nords there are friendly, happy to share a bed or a tankard.
Thirsk Hall

Raven Rock

Eastward up the coast from Fort Frostmoth is Raven Rock, an ebony mining company for the East Empire Company. It started as but a simple mine, but grew to a village of considerable size, the biggest on the island. At its peak it held a mine, tavern/inn, miners’ quarters, several other residences, and either a smithy or a general store. The uprising was not without its troubles, however. The colony leader, Falco Galenus, and the Factor Leader for the East Empire Company ebony deal on Solstheim, Carnius Magius, were bitter enemies, to the point that violence was used between them. It has since been settled, but former workers at the mine have stated Raven Rock was abandoned.
Raven Rock

Other Settlements

Many Nords have taken up shelter in the many icy caves on the island. Most of them remain friendly, and should typically allow you to enter and speak with them. Many of them are Nords who once inhabited Thirsk. To the north, where two rivers meet, lives Graring, and his companions in a modest home. Just north of Fort Frostmoth is the residence of a maddened alchemist by the name of Uncle Sweetshare. In the far northwest, near the Mortrag Glacier, is Castle Karstaag, a monstrous ice castle standing very tall in the snow. Legend claims it is inhabited by the frost giant Karstaag, whose origins are unknown.

Inhabitants

Imperial Presence

The Imperial occupation on the island is not at all unlike that of anywhere else. By this, they have made fierce enemies with the locals. They are either affiliated with the East Empire Company, the Imperial Legion, or the Imperial Cult. Unsurprisingly, the local Imperialized inhabitants rarely leave Frostmoth or Raven Rock, not risking an excursion into the wild interior of the island.

Fryse Hags

Dotting the wilderness of the island are dangerous witches who are called Fryse Hags. They violently and strictly follow the teachings of the goddess Kyne, who is the Goddess of Storm and the teacher of the thu'um. They will attack anyone on sight, seeing them as a threat to their beliefs. Fryse Hags are often found with animals by their sides, making them even more deadly than before.

The Skaal

These reclusive Nords are a peculiar bunch, with attitudes and religions differing drastically from contemporary Nords. They, in particular, pique my interest more than anything on this forsaken island.
They are very tradition and honor bound, and take offences against their members very, very seriously. Punishments for serious crimes can be either exile or being subjected to the wolves. The Skaal see the latter as more merciful, that the perpetrators soul is given another chance in another life. Tradition has it only one who is Skaal-born can become a Chieftan. The Skaal will not easily talk with a typical outsider.
Their religion is centered around nature and "The All-Maker." They hold the All-Maker with very high regard, and see all natural things of the island, plants, animals, even the land and the weather. Any act of using the land recklessly, they see as a disruption of the "Oneness" of the land blessed to them by the All-Maker. The Greedy Man, also known as the Adversary or Thartaag the World-Devourer. In the book Aevar the Stone-Singer the Skaal beliefs are elaborated upon, and tells the story of Aevar, who visited various standing stones representing one of the All-Makers gifts, performing acts to restore the Oneness lost. The stones still stand today, and legend has it the Nerevarine performed the very same rituals to restore the gifts which were upset by Imperial presence.
Sun Stone
The Skaal hold a fearsome prophecy, which is said to have come true towards the end of the Third era, called the Bloodmoon Prophecy. Three signs proceed the coming of the Bloodmoon prophecy: Fire From the Eye of Glass (A mysterious flame on Lake Fjalding), Tide of Woe (The shores being filled with dead horkers), and the Bloodmoon, when the little moon itself literally turns red. During the Bloodmoon, Hircine takes people to participate in his Hunt, pitting them against each other for the chance to fight against an aspect of him.

Falmer

Called "Snow Elves" by the men, the Falmer are a sect of the Aldmer who broke off and settled in the frozen regions of Northern Tamriel. This also, of course, means Solstheim, where they lived and fought against the native Nords. Their time on Solstheim ended in the epic story told about in the book The Fall of the Snow Prince. The Falmer, led by the elusive Snow Prince, battled the Nords at the slopes of the Moesrings, and the battle saw its end with the Snow Prince being stabbed by a child who witnessed her parents death at his hand. His remains were buried honorably, and his armor was recently found in Jolgeirr Barrow.

Flora

Belladona

Belladonna

The Belladona plant is relatively common on Solstheim, and is a staple of the indigneous diet. The plants themselves are mainly found in the forest and plains. The stalks are about shin-high, bearing light green leaves, blue-ish flowers, and a dark green stem. The plants are valuable for their berries, which are worth five septims and can be used in alchemy for Resist Magicka, Restore Magicka, Fortify Magicka, Drain Magicka effects. Unripened plants are far more common, and if one finds both they can create a potion with them together, as they bear all the same effects.

Holly Bush

Holly Bush

Holly Bushes are one of the most common plants of the island. They grow about as tall as a man, and a meter or so wide. From their dark green stems surrounded by slender, rounded leaves are the bright red berries which are of most value. They can be sold for five gold and can be used in potions for Resist Frost, Frost Shield, Frost Damage, and Weakness to Fire effects.

Wolfsbane

Wolfsbane

Wolfsbane is the rarest plant on the island, as only one documented sample has been found growing in the wild (on top of Mount Hvitkald to be specific). Only one other instance of its petals are present on the isle. One wonders what has driven this hardly valuable plant into such rarity. Its stem and leaves are a very dark green, with the leaves bearing an oak-like appearance. The flowers are what make this plant truly stand out, for they are a bright purple, and obviously stand out against the bleak Moesring Mountains where it grows. The petals are also worth only five septims, and can be used for Restore Intelligence, Invisibility, Drain Endurance, Drain Magicka effects in alchemy.

Pine Tree

Pine Trees

The most recognizable feature of the island is its pine trees, which stretch out in all directions, creating an amorphous blanket of needles. The trees are of course rather tall and just like their mainland cousins in Tamriel, and most common in the Hirstaang Forest. Farther north, and in snow covered regions of Solstheim, their branches are covered in a coat of snow.
 
Fauna
Note: This is revised and expanded upon from the existing Solstheim bestiary found in the Imperial Library. Refer to it for illustrations.

Bears

A common, infamous foe of many a traveler to the frozen isle is the bear, obviously not native to Vvardenfell below. They are present almost everywhere, but mostly are found in the south; the Hirstaang Forest and Isinfier Plains. The typical brown bear is more or less the same species which can be seen in Cyrodiil; it is aggressive, strong, and typically resides by itself. Bears often carry plagues and disease, so be weary when approaching one which looks sickly. A much rarer variation of the common brown bear is the snow bear. The snow bear has a coat of fur that is pure white, and possesses magical powers which can be infused to make powerful, yet expensive armor. Their pelts will sell for about two septims, and can be used alchemically for Drain Fatigue, Fortify Strength, Resist Disease, and Night Eye.

Bonewolves

Found in the many ancient Nordic barrows alongside other undead (mostly the Draugrs), these vicious hounds are but usual dogs or wolves, but dead, stripped of skin, and reanimated to guard the tombs for eternity. One can retrieve the same bonemeal found on other common undead creatures from the bonewolves as well.

Draugrs

These brownish, zombie-esque creatures are horrific to see, and even more so to fight. They also are typically in the barrows and caves of the island, and will use their rotting fists and feet to crush a weak opponent. They are said to have once been Nords, but were corrupted by magic to live undead in another life. One Draugr Lord has been sighted, his name being Aesliip and his place of residence being underneath Lake Fjalding in the caverns therein. Should you kill one or find one dead, the latter probably being more likely, you can pick up a rare alchemical ingredient called Gravetar. Gravetar is light, costs five septims, and can be used for Resist Frost, Drain Health, Fortify Fatigue, and Drain Luck.

Grahl

The Grahl are gigantic, rare, Solstheim ice trolls, who reside in the icy caves of the isle. They are marked by their alien appearance: tusks protruding from their mouths, long arms ending in awkward hands with voracious claws, and their glowing red eyes overshadowed by spiny growths from their head. They can use weak magic to restore their health in combat. The eyeballs of the Grahl can be harvested from their giant corpses; they are worth 15 septims and can be used for Resist Frost, Night Eye, Drain Magicka, and Fortify Strength.

Horkers

Undoubtedly the Horkers are some of the most obscurely fascinating creatures of Solstheim. They appear to be semi-aquatic mammals. All horkers have an off-white color, though one black horker has been documented before the Bloodmoon came about, for it led the Neravarine to an underground cavern to fulfill he Ritual of the Water Stone. Horkers waddle around with their two front flippers, but are effective swimmers. They are very docile creatures, provided you don't encounter them at their breeding grounds at Lake Fjalding. Their mouths are funnel-shaped, holding three odd tusks. These tusks can be collected and either sold for five septims or used in alchemy for Drain Alteration, Fortify Intelligence, Fortify Maximum Magicka, and Detect Animal.

Rieklings

A great nuisance of the isle are the blue, grunting creatures called Rieklings. the debate over the origin of the Rieklings has been already mentions, so going into it here is not necessary. They are far shorter than even a Bosmer, but bear the characteristic pointy ears. They are intelligent enough to craft themselves clothing and weapons; Rieklings shields and swords made from wolf heads are often found on Rieklings, along with their usual crude suit of furs. Sometimes they are found together, but typically alone. They become especially dangerous when they mount the wild boars of the island (see 'Tusked Bristleback' below) and use them not only to ride, enhancing their slow pace on foot, but also to attack. These Rieklings are called Raiders, and are to be avoided at all costs. Rieklings do not carry any alchemical ingredient, but often have gold and other small loot along with their equipment.

Spriggans

The obscure tree-folk of Solstheim (more or less identical to their Cyrodiilic cousins) are indeed a bane upon anyone. They are found in the forests, and are known to draw their power from the trees themselves. what makes them the most dangerous is their regenerative abilities; spriggans do not die once, but three times until they are fully defeated, meaning one spriggan is actually like fighting three, making them a horrid pest in groups. The Cyrodiilic variation does not bear this trait, luckily for the Imperials. Spriggans will typically drop Ripened Belladona Berries (5 gold, Resist Magicka, Restore Magicka, Fortify Magicka, Drain Magicka) and sometimes Heartwood (15 gold, Restore Magicka, Fortify Agility, Drain Strength, Weakness to Fire).

Tusked Bristlebacks

Bristlebacks are fierce wild boars, who bear a deafening squeal and the chops to back it up; probably one of the toughest Solstheim creatures to kill. Their fur is brown and white, and their rows of sharp teeth and completed by tusks as long as their heads. They, luckily, are found by themselves, and occasionally with Fryse Hags. They inhabitant most of the north, and won't usually be seen in the Hirstaang Forest. Their leather isn't very valuable at about two septims, but can be used for Blind, Frost Damage, Resist Frost, and Recall effects.

The Udyrfrykte

This strange, troll-like, black beast is of great fear to the indigenous population. It lives in its cavern home near Lake Fjalding, kept trapped year round by the ice magic of Eldrid Ice-Light. Unfortunately for Thirsk, the Udyrfrykte awoke during the Bloodmoon when magical fire on the lake thawed him out, and he attacked the mead hall just as he did during its christening after the Skaal schism. Thankfully the Nerevarine resurrected the hall and returned it to its former glory.
Recently, in Cyrodiil, the remains of Svenja Snow-Song were found, when she was supposedly killed by the mother of the Udyrfrykte, the Udyrfrykte Matron. Her lover, Chieftain Agnar, tracked the beast into northeastern Cyrodiil, where he too eventually died. The Udyrfrykte Matron, oddly enough, resembled not her son, appearing as but a typical Cyrodiilic troll with invisibility.

Werewolves

Solstheim is infamous for the bastardized corruption of man and beast, the lycanthrope, the werewolf. Werewolves are, as you likely know, normal men who have contracted Sanies Lupinius, causing them to turn to wolf-like beats at night, who hunger for blood. Should you come across one in the wild, which is unlikely, it would be wise to know they are susceptible to silver weapons

Wolves

Wolves are a very common occurrence on the island, and are the main antagonist/grumbling-fodder of the Imperials present. Most wolves are black, smaller than a nix-hound, and beara a full rack of razor-sharp teeth, ready to strike out at anyone who dares come near them. What makes the wolves truly dangerous is that they are often found in packs of three of more, where their true killing potential is unleashed. Wolves do often carry diseases, and take on a brownish, sickly appearance when plagued. Like bears, a white variation exists. The snow wolf is far more rare and dangerous, said to posess a magical attack, using frost to cripple enemies. The snow wolves reside in the northern reaches, but if found, the pelt can be used to make powerful magical armor to protect against frost and the unforgiving blizzards of Solstheim. Wolf pelts sell for two gold, and oddly have the same alchemical properties as bear pelts do.

Miscellaneous

Stahlrim

Found in the many burial chambers of Solstheim is Stahlrim, a mysterious, super hard substance used to encase bodies and protect them from raiders. It is impossible to penetrate Stalhrim without the proper tools, Ancient Nordic Pick Axes to be specific. When harvested, Stahlrim is highly valuable, and can be sold for thirty septims. Also, it can be used to make powerful weapons, and even strong suits of Medium Armor.

The Airship

In the Moesring Mountains, near Hrothmund's Bane, lie the wreckage of what at first glance looks like a normal boat, but is actually the 'Airship' of the ill-fated Breton by the name of Louis Beauchamp. He created the ship using a typical vessel seen in many Morrowind ports, scraps of Dwemer steam technology, and enchantments. The airship got caught in a sudden blizzard, several Solstheim inhabitants noted this, and crashed before successfully reaching its goal of retrieving the fabled 'Amulet of Infectious Charm' in the crypt of Hrothmund's Bane. All aboard the ship perished, including an Argonian who was thrown overboard. Beauchamp now, however, has the amulet, and despite sickness is enjoying allegedly good luck with the ladies.

Current Events

A collection of known events on Solstheim since the end of the Bloodmoon: a) As learned by miners now living in the Waterfront District of the Imperial City, the Raven Rock ebony-mine village has been disbanded due to a lack of funds b) The Nerevarine left his/her position as the Chieftain of Thirsk, which was taken up by Agnar the Unwavering, husband of Svenja Snow Song. Agnar has since been reported dead and the leadership of Thirsk is unknown c) reports have it a movement is being amassed by “the Nords” to claim Solstheim removing foreign occupation. One can only assume it is the Skaal who are revolting, given their hatred for Imperials.
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All photo credits besides Flora go to Ironed Maidens.
Flora photos by Laria.