Lore:Great Houses

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The Great Houses hate each other -- theft, murder, assassinations, secret raids, standard stuff.
—Hasphat Antabolis

The Great House traditions derive from ancient Dunmer clans and tribes, but now function as political parties.[1] In modern times, Morrowind is ruled by the Grand Council of five Great Houses: House Redoran, House Telvanni, House Sadras, House Indoril, and House Dres. House Hlaalu previously sat on the Council, but lost its seat to House Sadras in the early Fourth Era.[2] Each House governs an eponymous district on mainland Morrowind; Redoran in the northwest, Sadras (previously Hlaalu) in the western-center, Telvanni in the east, Indoril in the central heartlands and Dres in the southeast. Three of the Houses also had interests in the island of Vvardenfell,[3] and identified themselves by their traditional colors: red for Redoran, yellow for Hlaalu, and brown for Telvanni.

Organization[edit]

The five Great Houses gathering together

Dunmer Great House membership is largely a matter of birth and marriage, but outlanders may also become retainers of a Great House, or may be adopted into a Great House. Those seeking to join a Great House are implored to think carefully before choosing, as once one has joined a House, no other House will ever consider them for membership. Loyalty is very important in the Great Houses. When joining, one becomes family, and, by Dunmer standards, it's a matter of blood and kin, and irreversible. Even if one gets kicked out of one house, no other house will have them.[4] Initially an outlander may gain status in a house as an oath-bonded hireling, pledging exclusive loyalty to a single house and forsaking ambitions with all other houses. Later, after faithful service and advancement in lower ranks, an outlander may seek adoption into a Great House. Adoption and advancement to higher ranks in a Great House requires that a Great House councilor stand as sponsor for the candidate's character and loyalty. Finding a councilor to sponsor an outlander often involves performing a great service for the prospective sponsor and the Great House in question.

In times of extreme danger, house councilors may choose to elect a "hortator" who has the ability to make decisions on behalf of the House as a whole. Election of a hortator requires unanimous consent among all councilors. It has been known for a single dissenting councilor to fight a potential hortator candidate in a duel to the death, thus protecting the honor of the councilor if they win or proving the candidate's ability if they lose.

History[edit]

The Great Houses have their origin in the ancient customs of the Chimer, a self-exiled Aldmeri sect who followed their prophet Veloth across Tamriel from the west. They abandoned their former nomadic lifestyle, and divided themselves into political clans,[5] which would become the Great Houses Indoril, Redoran, Telvanni, Hlaalu, Dres and Dagoth. In 1E 416, following almost two centuries of suppression by the ruling Nords, the Chimeri hero Indoril Nerevar united the squabbling Great Houses as Hortator, also making alliance with the Dwemer, their traditional enemies, and succeeded in driving the Nords out of the region. Nerevar and the Dwemer leader Dumac Dwarfking subsequently created the First Council of Resdayn to jointly rule the area as an independent nation.[6] Resdayn flourished for a few hundred years until the War of the First Council broke out between the secular Dwemer and the orthodox Chimer Houses Indoril, Redoran, Dres, Hlaalu, and Telvanni.[7] The role of the sixth House, House Dagoth, is not fully understood. Some Imperial sources claim that they sided with the Dwemer in the war,[7] while other sources, including the Apographa of the Tribunal Temple, claim that they never betrayed their kin.[8] Whatever the case, House Dagoth was thought exterminated following their defeat at the Battle of Red Mountain. After Nerevar's death, three of his associates from House Indoril,[9] Vivec, Almalexia, and Sotha Sil, succeeded to control of the Council, which they renamed the Grand Council of Morrowind.[7]

House Indoril, due to their association with Nerevar and the Tribunal, remained the dominant party in the Grand Council right through until the end of the Second Era.[9] Throughout this time, the Grand Council was responsible for local governance in Morrowind, while the land as a whole was ruled indirectly by the Tribunal.[5] In 2E 572, the Kamal of Akavir invaded Morrowind after ravaging Eastern Skyrim. After their defeat in Stonefalls with the assistance of the Eastern Nords and two legions of Argonian Shellbacks,[10] the Great Houses Redoran, Indoril, Hlaalu, and Dres signed the Ebonheart Pact with the Nords of Eastern Skyrim and the Argonians of Shadowfen and Thornmarsh, while House Telvanni abstained from the alliance.[11][UOL 1] The four Great Houses belonging to the Pact donated troops and resources to the Three Banners War a decade later, and vied for control of Cyrodiil and the White-Gold Tower whilst also warring with the First Aldmeri Dominion and the Greater Daggerfall Covenant.[12]

In 2E 896, the Armistice was signed between Tiber Septim and Vivec which saw Morrowind reorganized as a province of the Empire. Hlaalu eagerly accepted this unexpected turn of events, while Redoran, grateful for a graceful excuse to avoid facing the legions unsupported, were the second to accept the treaty, with House Telvanni joining them shortly thereafter. House Indoril and Dres swore they would resist this to death, and the Lord High Councilor of the Grand Council, himself an Indoril, refused to accept the treaty, and refused to step down. He was assassinated, and replaced by a Hlaalu. A number of other Indoril chose to commit suicide.[13] House Hlaalu, who had advocated accommodation to the Imperials since the Legions started massing on the western border, took this opportunity to take over a number of Indoril councils, while House Dres finally agreed with strong provisions protecting the practice of slavery.[13] Their enthusiastic support of the Empire cemented the Hlaalu as the leading Great House throughout the Third Era. Little is known of the Grand Council through the Third Era, but the role of the figurehead Monarch of Morrowind, personally selected by the Emperor, was first filled by Queen Barenziah, a member of clan R'Aathim and thus House Hlaalu.[UOL 2] She was succeeded by her uncle, Athyn Llethan and later her son, King Helseth of House Hlaalu, whom ruled Morrowind at the end of the Third Era. His reformation of the Grand Council was seen by some as a return to more traditional Dunmer ways, although he also managed to persuade both his own House and House Dres to back the abolition of slavery, and carry that policy through the Council.[5]

During the Oblivion Crisis of 3E 433, the Empire pulled the Legions out of Morrowind and the province was left virtually defenseless.[14] While House Redoran succeeded in creating an army, and House Telvanni were able to close some of the Oblivion Gates, the Redoran citadel of Ald'ruhn was destroyed by the Daedric invasion[15], and House Hlaalu was left powerless without the backing of the Empire.[14] Following the eruption of Red Mountain in 4E 5, which obliterated the settlements on Vvardenfell, Morrowind came under siege from the Argonians of Black Marsh; Helseth's abolition of slavery had come too late. House Hlaalu, due to their close ties with the Imperial administration, became the scapegoat for all of the Dunmer people's suffering. As a result, Hlaalu was stripped of its Great House status and dismissed from the Grand Council.[14] House Telvanni, having lost most of their settlements on Vvardenfell to the eruption of Red Mountain, was almost extirpated in the Argonian invasion as well, with at least one report of its destruction when the last mainland settlement also fell to the Argonians. A few survivors escaped in a ship called "The Pride of Tel Vos", which was later found wrecked in Skyrim. The last child of the Telvanni familial line itself was brought up in Black Marsh under the Argonian name of Brand-Shei [16], although some of the House survived to re-found a colony in Solstheim under the aging Master Neloth. Telvanni, in fact, appears to have rebuilt well enough to hold its seat on the Dunmer council, while the previously unknown House Sadras was selected to fill the space left by Hlaalu.[17] House Indoril, meanwhile, had been in decline since the end of the Second Era. The downfall of the Tribunal Temple in the closing days of the Third Era, along with the machinations of King Helseth and his Dres allies,[18] saw the Great House suffer greatly, culminating in the sack of their capital of Mournhold by the invading Argonians.[14] While House Indoril still technically exists and holds a seat on the Council, the priesthood of the New Temple are now considered one and the same with House Indoril, and those who become priests are now considered to have "joined Indoril". The political power of the Indoril has thus passed entirely into the hands of the New Temple.[19] House Dres' modern status is ambiguous, though as the most southerly of the Great Houses and the one most involved in the slave trade, it is likely the Argonian Invasion was devastating. However, the Dres have retained their position on the Grand Council, and are thus known to have survived with a significant portion of their power intact.[17] House Redoran became the eminent power in Morrowind as a result of their distinguished military and domestic leadership during the Oblivion Crisis, Red Year, and Argonian Invasion, taking the position as leaders of the Grand Council. They moved the capital to the Redoran city of Blacklight in the wake of their rise to power and the sacking of Mournhold, where the Grand Council meets within the Rootspire.[20]

House Wars[edit]

By the immemorial customs of Dunmer society, a House may challenge the honor of another House in the person of one of the House's ranking nobles. The ranking noble of the impugned house is marked for death -- in ancient times, actually formally marked with a black banner, but in modern times, served with a formal written public announcement. If within the year of the challenge, the marked noble still lives, the challenging house must publicly forgo any further complaint or scandal on the matter.[21]

In pre-Tribunal Morrowind, feuding was carried out with open warfare. This was forbidden by the Tribunal,[9] and only a ranking challenging noble or a Morag Tong assassin could attack the marked noble. Houses routinely engage the Morag Tong, taking out regulated contracts called Writs. This custom permitts Houses to hassle one another on a small scale without threatening public peace and rule of law. Codes of behavior under House Wars are complex and subtle, and the Morag Tong specializes in the honorable and legal prosecution of these factional vendettas. House Wars are expensive, dangerous, and disruptive to all Houses involved. On the island of Vvardenfell alone, a dozen or more Marked Challenges were being prosecuted at any one time.[21]

Current Great Houses[edit]

House Redoran[edit]

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House Redoran is one of the five remaining Great Houses of the Dunmer. It governs the Redoran District of northwestern Morrowind from the city of Blacklight, close to the border with Skyrim. In the District of Vvardenfell, the House's council seat was located in Balmora as of 2E 582 and Ald'ruhn as of 3E 427. In the latter, all councilors lived in the hollowed shell of a colossal prehistoric Emperor Crab, in the district known as Ald'ruhn-under-Skar. Other Redoran-dominated towns on the mainland included Cormaris View and Silgrad Tower, as well as Khuul, Maar Gan and Ald Velothi in Vvardenfell.

In the mid-Second Era, House Redoran also controlled the settlements of Balmora, Suran, and Gnisis. The Redoran also maintained a garrison in Molag Mar and, in 2E 582, maintained a strong military presence in the nascent Vivec City. In later years, prior to its destruction in 4E 5, House Redoran would instead hold an eponymous canton in Vivec City. House Redoran holdings on the mainland included Tal'Deic Fortress, the village of Serkamora, and the Darkshade Caverns kwama mines. Despite House Dres rule, House Redoran Sentinels patrolled the streets of Old Ebonheart during the Daggerfall Covenant's invasion of Stonefalls.

The main focus of House Redoran is maintaining the traditions of the settled Dunmer and, more specifically, the way of the warrior. As a result, House Redoran has long served as Morrowind's de-facto military. Due to the House's emphasis on tradition and piety, the Tribunal Temple was a natural ally, with the majority of Vivec's Buoyant Armigers hailing from the House. House Redoran maintained strained relationships with the ashlander tribes of Vvardenfell, the Morag Tong, House Hlaalu, and House Telvanni. They held respect for House Indoril, and were willing to fight alongside House Dres. During the Third Empire's reign over Morrowind, the Redoran also held mutual respect for the Fighters Guild and Imperial Legion. They didn't hold other Imperial institutions (such as the Mages Guild, the Thieves Guild, and the Imperial Cult) in such high esteem. Like the other Great Houses, House Redoran loathed the cultists of the Sixth House and the vampires of Vvardenfell, and disapproved of the Camonna Tong's illegal activities.

House Telvanni[edit]

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House Telvanni is one of the Great Houses of Morrowind. It governed the Telvanni District of eastern Morrowind, and administered the eastern portion of the Vvardenfell District from its council seat in Sadrith Mora. The house is comprised primarily of highly egocentric and ambitious mages, and is known to many as the house of the master wizard. Here, it was common to rise through the ranks by eliminating or otherwise 'indisposing' other members. Of the Telvanni lords, only Master Aryon of Tel Vos seemed able to look beyond the end of his own nose and at the concerns of other people; the rest wanted little more than to be left alone to their research and ambitions. The other members were similarly isolationist in outlook and did not intend to be presided over by any of the other institutions, predominantly the Guild of Mages.

The Telvanni, in general, did not interact with other Houses or Guilds, nor did they have many enemies save for Abolitionists and the Imperial Mages Guild. In the Second Era, they refused to join the Ebonheart Pact, much to the chagrin of the other houses. On the other hand, the Telvanni did not have the usual hatred of vampires that most other factions had, and some of their lords and Mouths were willing to speak to them; wizards did not fear vampires nearly as much as others did.

House Indoril[edit]

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Founded early in the First Era, House Indoril has always been a political powerhouse. Orthodox and conservative in our beliefs and outlooks, we have always been firm proponents of traditional Dunmer customs and practices. For House Indoril, religion stands as our most cherished institution. We revere our blessed ancestors. We honor the Good Daedra, specifically Boethiah, Mephala, and Azura. And we celebrate the saints, including Veloth and Aralor. House Indoril believes that Dunmer culture must be preserved at all costs. Change is the enemy of tradition, and it will weaken our strong foundation if we allow it to take root.Understanding House Indoril

House Indoril is one of the five Great Houses of the Dunmer. It governs the Indoril District in the heartland of Morrowind from their historic ancestral capital city of Mournhold, also the capital of Morrowind until the Fourth Era. The Indoril District comprises the east-central lands south of the Inner Sea, including large swaths of eastern Stonefalls and Deshaan, as well as the eastern coast and isle of Gorne. Aside from Mournhold, House Indoril also controlled the holy city of Necrom and its City of the Dead. Another Indoril settlement of note was the port city of Davon's Watch. House Indoril has never claimed land on the island of Vvardenfell, though ancestral tombs for Indoril families may still be found on the isle, such as those of the Aran, Ieneth, Raviro, Salothran, and Verelnim families.

The Indoril were orthodox and conservative supporters of the Tribunal Temple during its millennia-long reign over Morrowind. Claiming kinship with the Tribunal themselves and boasting such ancient heroes as the Hortator, Indoril Nerevar, House Indoril has dominated Temple authority since time immemorial. They have always held prominent positions within the Temple hierarchy, and throughout history the fates of House Indoril and the Temple have been closely linked. Through the Temple, House Indoril's influence was felt across Morrowind, even beyond their traditional borders.

House Dres[edit]

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House Dres is an agrarian agricultural society, and its large saltrice plantations rely completely on slave labor for their economic viability. Always firm Temple supporters, House Dres is hostile to Imperial law and culture, and in particular opposed to any attempts to limit the institution of slavery.Great Houses of Morrowind

House Dres is one of the Great Houses of Morrowind, with presence only on the mainland. It governs the Dres District of southeastern Morrowind from its ancestral capital city of Tear, also called 'Dres' and noted for its proximity to Black Marsh. The district included parts of the fertile Deshaan plain, and bordered the Indoril District, Hlaalu District, and the swamps and marshes of the Black Marsh regions of Shadowfen and Thornmarsh. In the mid-Second Era, House Dres also controlled the cities of Ebonheart and Kragenmoor in central Morrowind. House Dres has never claimed land on the island of Vvardenfell, though ancestral tombs for Dres families may still be found on the isle. Among them is the ancient Dreloth clan, a cadet branch of the Great House, as well as the Maren, Othrelas, Serano, and Velas clans. It was formally established as a Great House before the middle of the First Era by Grandmaster Thalthil Dres after a slave-raid over Thorn.

The Dres have a mainly rural but still very wealthy agrarian agricultural society, maintaining vast saltrice plantations on the plains and marshes surrounding Tear. The Dres were also the Dunmer who shipped the majority of slaves to the other Great Houses, keeping thousands of captives, mostly Argonians and Khajiit in their infamous slave-pens of Tear and the surrounding plantations. The Dres are also known among the Great Houses for maintaining a persistent tradition of Daedra worship and ancestor reverence, their staunch support of unity between the Great Houses, and their emphasis on inter-House relations and the improvement of Dunmeri society as a whole.

House Sadras[edit]

House Sadras is one of the five Great Houses of Morrowind. At the beginning of the Fourth Era, following the Oblivion Crisis of 3E 433 and the eruption of Red Mountain in 4E 5, House Hlaalu was stripped of its Great House status and removed from the Grand Council of Morrowind. House Sadras, whose prior status and holdings are unknown, was selected to fill the fifth seat on the Council.

Former Great Houses[edit]

House Hlaalu[edit]

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As a result of its close relationship with the Imperial administration, House Hlaalu has emerged as politically and economically dominant among the Great Houses of Vvardenfell and Morrowind. Hlaalu welcomes Imperial culture and law, Imperial Legions and bureaucracy, and Imperial freedom of trade and religion. Hlaalu still honors the old Dunmer ways -- the ancestors, the Temple, and the noble houses -- but has readily adapted to the rapid pace of change and progress in the Imperial provinces.Great Houses of Morrowind

House Hlaalu was one of the five traditional Great Houses of the settled Dunmer. It governed the Hlaalu District of western-central Morrowind from its ancient capital of Narsis. During the Second Era, House Hlaalu's presence on the island of Vvardenfell was limited to the port town of Seyda Neen; but by the late Third Era the house had a council seat located in Balmora, with other Hlaalu-run towns at Suran, Hla Oad and Gnaar Mok. House Hlaalu could be characterized as adaptable and opportunistic, and any morals they might have had came second to business. It is said that much of the Hlaalu's success as a Great House in the late Third Era is attributed to the earnings of one, Hlaalu Pasoroth, the great-grandfather of Hlaalu Helseth. Early in the Fourth Era, soon after the Empire released Morrowind, anti-Imperial sentiment and House Hlaalu's association with them among the Dunmer led to the stripping of its position as a Great House, and House Hlaalu was removed from the Grand Council of Morrowind. Their position on the council was filled by House Sadras.

The House was largely concerned with business and diplomacy, seeking to strengthen ties with at times unconventional allies such as the Empire, and although profit was often a primary objective, traditional Hlaalu practice recognized the value of a good reputation over money. This was their great strength - they were fast talkers and intelligent traders - and their great liability; most Hlaalu were bribable, either with gold or with other favors, with their leaders as no exception. House Hlaalu retainers were also masters of thievery, sneaking, lock-picking, blackmailing and backstabbing, both literal and metaphorical. While some councilors were honest and fair, others were more under-handed and corrupt. However, House Hlaalu's most distinguishing characteristic was its willingness to live in harmony with the other races, setting it apart from the other, occasionally xenophobic, Dunmer Great Houses.

House Dagoth[edit]

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'Pity Dagoth Ur and the Sixth House. All they do, all they are is foul and evil, but they began in brightness and honor, and the cause of their fall was their loyal service to you, Lord Nerevar.' — Peakstar

House Dagoth or simply the Sixth House is the defunct sixth Great House of the Chimer led by Voryn Dagoth, later known as Dagoth Ur. All records of the house's existence were destroyed following the Battle of Red Mountain and its members were either killed or absorbed into the remaining houses. Unbeknownst to all, Lord Dagoth had survived and spent centuries slowly building his strength and influence from within Red Mountain. This culminated with Dagoth's attempt to re-create the Dwemer god-construct Numidium in order to overthrow the Tribunal and conquer Morrowind. In 3E 427 Dagoth Ur was slain and his plans halted with the destruction of the Heart of Lorkhan by the Nerevarine.

Historic Houses[edit]

House Dwemer[edit]

Little is known of the faction referred to by some as House Dwemer. During the time of the First Council, Resdayn was united by the Chimer hero Nerevar and the Dwemer king Dumac. According to some Imperial texts and Tribunal Apographa, the Dwemer of Resdayn were considered a Great House.[7][22]

House Mora[edit]

House Mora was a minor political House of Dark Elves from the province of Morrowind. They are known to have human ancestry in their blood. House Mora is known to include the Ra'athim Clan, a noble family from the city-state of Ebonheart that served the High Kingship throughout Morrowind's history.

House Ra'athim[edit]

House Ra'athim was an influential family from the city-state of Ebonheart. They were known for being miners of mithril. Some of the most notable Ra'athim are Katariah and Moraelyn.[23][24]

House Salothan[edit]

House Salothan is a little-known lineage that died out simultaneously in a monumental battle, during the time of Chimer. They have an Ancestral Tomb in the northern West Gash, near the township of Gnisis.[25]

House Sotha[edit]

House Sotha was a minor House with holdings in the homestead of Ald Sotha, considered an unremarkable town belonging to an unremarkable family.[26] The only known members were Sotha Sil, a future member of the Tribunal, and his older sister Sotha Nall.[27] It is said that Vivec rescued Sotha Sil, the only surviving member of the House, from Ald Sotha when the town was destroyed by Mehrunes Dagon.[28]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Great Houses of Morrowind
  2. ^ History of Raven Rock, Vol. IIILyrin Telleno
  3. ^ A Short History of MorrowindJeanette Sitte
  4. ^ Generic Dialogue regarding Choosing a Great House in Morrowind
  5. ^ a b c Pocket Guide to the Empire, 3rd Edition: The Temple: MorrowindImperial Geographical Society, 3E 432
  6. ^ Pocket Guide to the Empire, 3rd Edition: All the Eras of Man, A Comprehensive History of our HistoryImperial Geographical Society, 3E 432
  7. ^ a b c d The War of the First CouncilAgrippa Fundilius
  8. ^ Nerevar at Red Mountainthe Tribunal Temple
  9. ^ a b c Pocket Guide to the Empire, 1st Edition: MorrowindImperial Geographical Society, 2E 864
  10. ^ The Second Akaviri InvasionYngmaer Raven-Quill, Historian Royal of the Bards' College, Solitude
  11. ^ Pact Pamphlet: Congratulations!
  12. ^ The Time of the Ebonheart PactAlla Llaleth
  13. ^ a b On MorrowindErramanwe of Sunhold
  14. ^ a b c d Adril Arano's dialogue in Dragonborn
  15. ^ History of Raven Rock, Vol. ILyrin Telleno
  16. ^ Lymdrenn Tenvanni's JournalLymdrenn Tenvanni
  17. ^ a b Lleril Morvayn's dialogue in Dragonborn
  18. ^ Rumors in Oblivion
  19. ^ The ReclamationsThara of Rihad
  20. ^ Cindiri Arano's dialogue in Dragonborn
  21. ^ a b Dialogue of Savants in Morrowind
  22. ^ The Lost ProphecyGilvas Barelo
  23. ^ King Edward
  24. ^ The Madness of PelagiusTsathenes
  25. ^ Ivulen Andromo's dialogue in ESO Morrowind
  26. ^ A Brief History of Ald SothaVarlinsi Arandu, Apostle of Sotha Sil
  27. ^ The Factotum's Secret VoiceLector Tidras Dran, Clockwork Apostle
  28. ^ Tholer Saryoni's dialogue in Morrowind

Note: the following references are not from official sources. They are included to provide a rounder background to this article, but may not reflect established lore.

  1. ^ ZOS Correspondence
  2. ^ Interview With Three Booksellers at The Imperial Library