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Systres History: Volume 4

Author: 
Trilam Heladren

By Trilam Heladren, Associate Dean of Eltheric History, University of Gwylim

After signing the Concordat of Fraternity, the remaining captains and crews of the All Flags Navy returned to their own lands, save for a few from High Rock and Colovia. Those who stayed behind were mostly engineers and laborers tasked with the construction of a monument to commemorate the fleet's triumph over the Sload. This grand edifice took more than twenty years to complete. In that time, many of the Breton workers brought their families to High Isle and set roots in the villages surrounding the shipyards—primarily in Gonfalon Bay. Despite the increasing Breton influence on the island, it remained an Imperial holding—claimed by Bendu Olo himself as an extension of Colovia. Relations between the Bretons and the Alessian Empire turned sour in the years leading up to High Rock's secession in 1E 2305, throwing the archipelago's future into doubt.

Rather than casting the Bretons out as the emperor demanded, the Colovians demurred, insisting that the costs of removal were prohibitive. In truth, the Colovians were simply biding their time—preparing for their own chance to assert their independence.

Emboldened by the Legion of Faith and Piety's failure to recapture High Rock, and the continued encroachment of Alessian clergy into western affairs, the Colovian Estates finally revolted in 1E 2321, initiating the War of Righteousness.

To the great relief of all Systreans, the battle lines never stretched beyond the shores of Tamriel proper. The costs of the war, however, swelled beyond what even the wealthiest Colovians could afford. While High Rock could rely on the Dragontail Mountains, the Druadachs, and the arid wastes of Hammerfell to defend them from Imperial aggression, the highlands of Colovia afforded little in the way of natural barriers. Both the Alessians and the Colovians emptied their treasuries in a desperate scramble to gain a materiel advantage over the enemy. By 1E 2326, the Estates' wealth was completely exhausted. To raise additional capital, Colovian kings began selling non-essential territory, including the Systres Isles. A consortium of High Rock coin-barons, led by Duchess Martinne Guimard, purchased the archipelago for an undisclosed sum in 1E 2327.

Duchess Guimard was unquestionably the canniest ruler of her day. Described as cold and imperious by her contemporaries (common invective for powerful women of the era), she amassed vast wealth not through marriage and diplomacy, but through the markets—specifically, a combination of shrewd lending, smuggling, land acquisitions, and draconian tax policy.

Acquiring the Systres Archipelago made Duchess Guimard's star rise higher at court than even she had hoped. In a letter to her cousin, Marq Guimard, she stated, "The houses are greatly pleased—both ally and rival. Indeed, it is as if I traded a handful of grain for the whole of Tamriel!"

House Guimard sought ownership of the Systres to exploit the islands' natural resources, but they quickly learned that the true value of the archipelago was cultural. Despite being administrated by the Empire, the islands' thriving labor-communities were thoroughly Bretonic—in language, culture, and custom. This population dynamic, combined with the discovery of druidic ruins on High Isle, Galen, and Y'ffelon, fixed the Systres in High Rock's collective imagination—an untouched cradle of Breton history, occupied by Bretons and now owned by Bretons.

Guimard, along with several of her contemporaries visited the Systres in 1E 2328 for an official induction ceremony and dubbed the largest island "High Isle," in honor of the Bretons' ancestral homeland, High Rock—a name that remains in place to the current day.