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- The Aldmeri Dominion[nb 1] is a relatively recent creation. Formerly divided into the two realms of the Summerset Isles and Valenwood, the Aldmeri Dominion has its origins in CE830, when the heirs of the Camoran Dynasty began to fight over the Valenwood throne. When a faction of the Bosmer (Wood Elves) made overtures of peace to their longtime enemies in West Cyrodiil - territorial concessions in return for Colovian support for the faction's claimant - the Altmer (High Elves) of Summerset invaded the Valenwood Nations. Citing a stewardship clause in a treaty from a thousand years before, the High Elves quickly established a provisional government, the Thalmor, on behalf of their own claimant, Camoran Anaxemes, whose bloodline had struck the pact with the Aldmeri Council in the first place. As the Cyrodilic Empire was still in the shambles of the Interregnum, the Colovians were quickly driven back by the Aldmeri army. The other heirs of the throne were silenced, the Wood Elves thanked their cousins for bringing back stability, and the High Elves reminded Anaxemes the price of Summerset's aid: fifty years' fealty to the King of Alinor. The Aldmeri Dominion was born.[nb 2]
- The Thalmor strengthened its hold on the Valenwood Nations during the foundation of the Third Empire. Savage Bosmer tribes skirmished with the Estates along the River Strid, whipped to a frenzy by their High Elven masters. With the Empire now reunified under Tiber Septim, these attacks have subsided; but encampments wait on either side of the Valenwood border, awaiting a decisive battle. On the occasions when the Elves probe the Empire's defenses, the Legions have sent them back in tatters. Indeed, the Colovians have taken to calling their enemy the "Old Mary" Dominion, for the womanly offensives of its Elven soldiers. The situation at sea, however, is another story, and the Dominion terrorizes the southern waters from the Cape of the Blue Divide to the Topal Bay[nb 3]. Their sorcery has made allies of a few Reachmen, the Maormer of Pyandonea, and, as of this writing, perhaps even the Elsweyr Confederacy. Though no formal declaration of war has been made, Tamriel is divided between the Empire and the Elder Races, and Tiber Septim has made it known to the Thalmor that he is the True Emperor of Cyrodiil, and heir to all of its former holdings. The Elves of Tamriel have yet to answer.
- Considering we have endured their offenses for two thousand years, we know surprisingly little about the Aldmeri. (Only Morrowind, under Skyrim domination during the First Empire, and open to travel and trade during most of the Common Era, is somewhat better known.). The Elves of High Rock and Cyrodiil were either wiped out long ago or displaced into obscurity. As for the Elves of the Dominion, our knowledge of their regions is limited to brief Imperial occupations, or to the translations we have of their literature (see "The Scarcity of Elven Writings").
The Scarcity of Elven Writings
- Much of the blame for this can be laid on the Alessian Order, which was tireless in ferreting out and destroying Elven writings during its long dominance. Today, we are left with the beautiful heresies of the Anuad, surviving only by virtue of their popularity and proliferation, and perhaps a dozen more works of lesser reknown. This, though, does not explain fully the scarcity of Elven letters. We might turn to Dylxexes, an early human scholar, for another answer. After studying the financial records of the Direnni Hegemony, a High Elven merchant family that exploited the human kingdoms of its day, he had this to say: "These [records] may help to explain why so much of Aldmeri literature is forbidden, scorned, or untranslated, for I have seen [their] like before. The Direnni were either exceedingly paranoid or their system of economy so inextricably linked with dangerous theosophist numeral-symbolism that much of what is recorded here requires... sorcerous precautions on the part of the reader. [Hidden magic] is everywhere incorporated in their writings... signs and preternatural runes and [correspondences]... in expenditure columns, even, or margins [that] can be fatal to the uninitiated. Crucial pages were covered with the spittle of the previous translator, who had babbled idiotically over the text for days before catching fire."
- Of particular scarcity is information about either the High Elves or the Summerset Isles. During the Second Empire ambassadors were allowed only in the capital of Alinor[nb 4], and thus any description of the Altmeri homeland is confined to that city alone, and elsewhere (see Places of Note- Alinor). Furthermore, we can offer only this brief but reliable account of the High Elven people. It comes from the journals of Eric of Guis, Reman's emissary to the Altmer[nb 5], who lived among them ca. 1E2820:
- "High elves consider themselves to be the only perfect race. Over hundreds of generations they have bred themselves into a racially pure line, and are now almost identical to one another in appearance. The theory that the High Elves do not reproduce as quickly or as often as humans is false. Rather, and to my horror, they kill nine out of ten babies born to them in their obsession for purity.
- "The Altmer despise other Elves as unsophisticated churls and barely consider the non-Aldmeri races at all. They pay their Imperial tithes, I'm sure, not for fear of war with the humans but rather to keep an invasion from "infecting" their islands.
- "Breeding outside the pure line is a terrible, unthinkable crime, and taken as prima facia evidence of the tainted blood of the individual in question- if they were, they wouldn't have the impulse to do it. Exile to the mainland is regarded as equivalent to a death sentence, since there is no purpose in living outside their ideal society.
- "They have a high regard for order and gravitate naturally towards wearing uniforms and speaking in formal patterns. Their trees and their livestock have been bred to be as standard and ideal as they are. They have no real names of their own, only combinations of numbers that, when spoken aloud, sound to human ears as such. They feel no real tenderness for one another and have no concept of compassion.
- "They are decadent and self-obsessed, and prize form and their own brand of manners or style as their main value. Aware of their aristocratic position, they surround themselves with riches and treasures, the works of great artists and the finest of everything, but have no real appreciation for any of these things. Each of them is concerned solely with himself, and as a result they do no real socializing; they meet and hold courts only to demonstrate their importance and power to each other. Rarely do they speak to the human ambassadors of Cyrodiil; when they do, their speech is full of riddles, or spell-words that enchant one to a satisfied madness."
- Valenwood was claimed as a wasteland province of the Second Empire, and its geography is partially described in several Imperial surveys. Valenwood is noteworthy in that it has no cities or townships built by the Wood Elves themselves. Their strict "Green Pact" prohibits the use of wood or other vegetable derivatives as building materials, and they are too improvident to learn the use of stone. The Wood Elves permitted a few roads to be built by the Second Empire, but neglect their maintenance, as the Bosmer do not need roads to move easily through the thickest forest; these roads would be now overgrown were it not for the High Elves of the Thalmor, who have repaired and widened them for rapid passage of their arms to and from the coast. Much of the region is impenetrable mangrove and coastal rain forest, with few grasslands or glade areas until further north near the Strident Coast. Many of the human trading posts established by the Second Empire have been abandoned or claimed by the beastfolk - Centaurs, Orcs, and Imga - that share the forests with the Bosmer tribes. Humans, in general, have learned not to intrude in the forests of Valenwood. While they once depended entirely on the annual Stridmeet caravans of the Colovian West, the Wood Elves now rely entirely on the sea piracy of the Dominion for whatever they require from the outside world.
- Concerning the Wood Elves as a people, we must again turn to the prolific Eric of Guis. After a grateful dismissal from the Court of Alinor, he stayed with the Bosmer for a time at the capital city of Falinesti, during its summer migration. As the city strode along the coastal region of the Cape, Eric of Guis recorded much about Valenwood culture:
- "No less abhorrent are the Bosmer than their kin at Summerset, but they are far more cooperative. The Wood Elves love the current human activity because it makes them feel important.
- "They are exclusively and religiously carnivorous. They cannot, or will not, eat anything that is plant-based. They eat game, beastfolk, each other, or meats imported from other regions. This part of the Green Pact is known as the Meat Mandate, and, among its other rules, it requires that a fallen enemy must be eaten completely before three days pass. The family members of the warrior that slew the enemy may help him with his meal. Needless to say, the Wood Elves do not like to engage in large battles if they have not undergone a suitable starvation period.
- "Though they are excellent archers, the Green Pact forces their bowyers and fletchers to use bone or similar materials, or to buy bows and arrows from other cultures. The use of woodcrafts created by another race is not forbidden, nor is the sale of their own Valenwood timber as long as it is collected by a non-Bosmeri.
- "The Wood Elves, of course, cannot smoke anything of a vegetable nature. Bone pipes are common, however, and are filled with caterpillars or tree grubs.
- "For a brief time the Colovian armies used Wood Elf archers, as in the War of Rihad two years past. The Bosmer proved to be too undisciplined and prone to desertion for further use. They would sometimes walk into the shade of a single tree and vanish. Their forest-coupling skills are remarkable. The title of their most famous poem, the Meh Ayleidion, means "The One Thousand Benefits of Hiding."
- "At the trading posts of the Empire, the Wood Elves become very happy. Some creations of carpentry delight them to no end. Most of it has never occurred to them. They bring their own trade items: hides, river pearls, finger-bone charms made from the still-magically-charged hands of their dead wizards. They often buy woodcrafts that they have no use for or whose use they never bother to find out. Some of the bravest Wood Elven warriors use wagon wheels as shields, or as (they think) impressive headgear.
- "While sometimes amusing, the Bosmer have a bestial side. They can resort to animal shapes if they need to, or water. Their most dreaded transformation is the Wild Hunt, which killed King Borgas for the "iniquities" of his Alessian faith. The Wild Hunt is a pack of shifting forest-demons and animal-gods, thousands strong, which sweeps through the countryside killing everything its path. The Wood Elves do not like to talk about the Hunt, and I gather they do not feel proud of this power at all-Gomini, my Bosmer companion of late, tells me that the Hunt is used for justice, but that also, "every monster in the world that has ever been comes from a previous Hunt. Those Bosmer that go Wild, they do not return."[nb 6]
- The traveler is advised to avoid the lands of the Aldmeri Dominion. Though the Thalmor have representatives at the Imperial City, and the Cyrodilic Grand Vizier Zurin Arctus is meeting with the King of Alinor, contact with the Bosmer and Altmer are often disagreeable to the common Imperial citizen. Avoid their books and magic. Wear the permitted weaponry when near their borders. If you are manly and able, apply for service in the Legions.
The Great Apes of Valenwood
- The Great Apes, or Imga, are native beastfolk of Valenwood. They see the High Elves as their lords and masters, and as a portrait of an ideal, civilized society. Great Apes go to desperate measures to emulate the High Elves: they wear capes, practice with the dueling sword, and attempt to speak with perfect enunciation and courtly manners despite their gravelly, baritone voices. Each Imga bears some kind of title, be it Baron, Duke, Earl, or the like, which they use when addressing the members of the Thalmor (needless to say, there are no landowning Great Apes). More extreme Great Apes shave their bodies and powder their skin white to seem more like the High Elves. They often cut themselves in the process, creating the truly pathetic picture of a naked white Ape, skin dotted pink with blood, strutting around the trading posts of Valenwood with mock nobility. The Imga feel that humans are beneath them as lesser beastfolk, and pretend to find their smell exceedingly offensive - a Great Ape holds a perfumed corner of his cape to his nose when Men are around.
Places of Note:
- A forbidden city for nearly fifty years, Alinor is both capital of the Summerset Isles and the heart of the Aldmeri Dominion. Human traders were only allowed at its ports, and they described the city as "made from glass or insect wings." Less fantastic accounts come from the Imperial emissaries of the Reman Dynasty, which describe the city as straight and glimmering, "a hypnotic swirl of ramparts and impossibly high towers, designed to catch the light of the sun and break it to its component colors, which lies draped across its stones until you are thankful for nightfall."
- The walking city of the Bosmer king, Falinesti is south in the summer and north come Hearth Fire. It is the largest of Valenwood graht-oaks, whose magic was invoked at the dawn of recorded history. The Camaron throne is somewhere in the highest branches, as are numerous other natural dwellings. Wood Elves climb about its surface like termites, or carefully swing from level to level by means of thorny vines. Humans have generally been too unsettled by the city to stay there long, though Great Apes and Orcs are common. The Thalmor has decided to change the capital of Valenwood from Falinesti to Elden Root for the duration of the Aldmeri Dominion.
- These footnotes represent the underlined margin scribbles and remarks that appeared over the original guide, written by an elf known only as "YR".