|This is a compilation of books assembled for easier reading.|
- 1 The High Elves
- 2 The Dark Elves
- 3 The Wood Elves
- 4 The Nords
- 5 The Bretons
- 6 The Redguards
- 7 The Khajiit
- 8 The Orcs
- 9 The Argonians
- 10 Imperial Cyrods
- 11 Ancient Elves
- 12 Barbaric
- 13 Primal
- 14 Daedric
- 15 Dwemer
- 16 Glass
- 17 Xivlyn
- 18 Akaviri
- 19 Yokudan
- 20 Dominion
- 21 Ra Gada
- 22 Soul-Shriven
- 23 Harlequin
- 24 Frostcaster
- 25 Tsaesci
This series will provide a survey-level overview of the symbolic and stylistic hallmarks that distinguish the major cultures of Tamriel in their arts and crafts. Our focus will be on the portable durable goods of the various races, that is, their clothing, ornamentation, arms, and armor, as these reliably reflect personal cultural expressions. When completed, this series will support the curricula of the introductory ethnographic courses at the Arcane University.
We begin with the High Elves, the reclusive Altmer of the Summerset Isles, because the argument can be made (and often is, by Elves) that civilization in Tamriel was brought here by the Aldmeri of Old Ehlnofey. Insofar as the Elves of Summerset consciously strive to maintain the heritage of their Merethic ancestors, their traditions are certainly closer to those of pre-First Era society than any other.
This is not to say that, in the thousands of years since the arrival of the first Aldmeri, the culture of the High Elves has not deviated and ramified in many ways, because it has. It is simply that, by viewing modern Altmeri culture with the eye of a historian, we can perceive the outlines of its origins.
In this initial effort I have benefited from the advice of the celebrated Morian Zenas, Professor of Transliminal Studies here at Arcane University. Professor Zenas is the only member of our faculty who has visited the Summerset Isles, specifically Artaeum, with a brief stop in transit at Dusk.
I was a bit intimidated when I first visited Professor Zenas in his house in the Cathedral District, but I found him a charming old gentleman, undeserving of his reputation for peevishness. Morian (for so he asked me to address him) bade me stay for dinner, which was served by his laconic Argonian apprentice, Seif-ij Hidja.
As Morian explained, the High Elves strive for a simple elegance in their designs, in which flowing lines reflect graceful forms from the natural world. More-or-less abstract birds, flowers, and sea shells are common motifs, rendered in rich but muted colors. Armor will be tooled or embossed to represent scales or feathers, and even heavy cuirasses and helmets may sport stylized wings or beaks.
Metallic items are often accented with a translucent greenish material called "glass." This is a sort of jade-like obsidian that Elven smiths have learned to work by secretive processes known only to the Altmer. Though rigid enough to take a superb edge when cool, glass can be made malleable enough to assume almost any form, and the High Elves use it extensively on ornamental arms and armor.
After dinner, over snifters of Cyrodilic Brandy, Morian asked me all sorts of questions about my motifs project, and about myself. It was really very flattering. I must find an excuse to talk with him again.
From the High Elves it is natural to next consider the Dark Elves, as they originated in the Summerset Isles before their migration to Morrowind. Their culture can thus be considered an offshoot of the Altmeri, though in many ways that of the Dunmer is a reaction to that of Summerset rather than an extension.
Also, Morian introduced me to a Dark Elven associate of his, Divayth Fyr, who is helping him on his "transliminal sojourn" project. I don't know what that's all about, but Divayth offered to help me with references on Dunmeri culture, and I accepted.
Elegance is as much a goal for the Dark Elves as it is for the High Elves, but beyond that their styles could not be more different. Morrowind is a far harsher environment than fair Summerset, and that rigor is reflected in Dunmeri designs. The Dark Elves also draw on nature for their inspiration, but in place of avian and floral motifs, Dunmeri artifice draws on the curved and spiky forms of the carapaces of the giant insects that inhabit Morrowind. Elegant these are, but also fearsome, a constant reminder that the Dunmer daily fight for their very existence.
Ebony is the favored metal for Dark Elven heavy armor, but even in their lighter armors and shields, steel and steel alloys are often lacquered in dark tones to appear ebony-like. Clothing, armor included, is often accented by flaring extensions at shoulder, crest, or hip, with overlapping geometric designs that may have been borrowed from Dwarven culture, though Divayth bristled at the idea of any Dwemeri influence on the Dunmer.
In truth, I find the dark sorcerer from Vvardenfell exerts a strangely compelling attraction. He doesn't seem old, but he referred to Morian, who is at least sixty, as a "young man." I wonder how old he really is. In fact, I wonder many things about him. He has those crimson eyes that seem to look right through you. It's a little bit thrilling.
He's offered to take me with him to visit a Bosmeri tavern down on the waterfront. I may do it.
Next we complete our study of the Elves with the Bosmer of Valenwood. Though less influential in the world at large than their cousins the High Elves and the Dark Elves, the Wood Elves outnumber all other Mer in Tamriel, being relatively fecund (for Elves) and more, shall we say, amorously-inclined.
It's a commonplace to point out that the Wood Elves favor natural motifs, but as I learned, there's more to it than that. Their reverence for Y'ffre and the story of the Earth Bones is reflected in the stylized fashion in which these natural motifs are represented. The Bosmer believe that all nature was in chaos before Y'ffre gave all plants, animals, and people their names, which defined the permanent form each species would take. Thus each species is depicted by a particular, idealized motif which represents the ur-form it was given by Y'ffre.
This is reflected in the designs that appear everywhere on Wood Elven arts, crafts, and clothing. These designs are drawn from a large repertoire, as there is a design for each species of plant and animal in the Bosmer's world, but the use and depiction of these designs is culturally prescribed, and there is very little room for variation. Unorthodox usage of these stylized pictograms is considered improper, just plain "wrong."
This may seem paradoxical in a race whose members otherwise seem so carefree and easygoing, but it is so, as I had an opportunity to see for myself. There are quite a few Wood Elves in the Imperial City, enough that there is a small Bosmeri neighborhood down on the waterfront, served by a tavern called the Tipsy Torchbug. Divayth Fyr, the fascinating Dark Elf wizard assisting Morian Zenas in his experiments, had offered to take me there, and I agreed.
When I arrived at Morian's house on the date of our jaunt to the docks the old professor himself answered the door, and I was surprised when he asked me to step into his study for a moment. Also surprising was the way Morian was turned out: in a new silk robe sporting star-sign symbols, hair trimmed and combed, and smelling faintly of lavender. Quite a transformation from the disreputable, singed and stained robes I'd seen him in previously.
It turned out he wanted to caution me about going down to the waterfront with Divayth Fyr. I'm afraid I laughed, at which he reddened, and I then told him I was a grown woman who could take care of herself. He was somewhat abashed and muttered some excuses, from which I gathered that he was more concerned about my spending time with Divayth than going to the docks. I didn't want his feelings hurt, so I complimented his new robe, at which he beamed, and then I went to the parlor to meet Divayth.
I shouldn't ramble on, but we had a wonderful evening. The Tipsy Torchbug was a lively place, and Divayth introduced me to Lady Biniele, the proprietor, who insisted that we share our table. The entertainment was Biniele's Bosmeri Burlesque, which was hilarious, and though I couldn't drink any of the Wood Elves' revolting beverages, I did consent to share a pipeful of bugsmoke with Divayth, which made me feel strangely exhilarated.
It also led to my seeing a prime example of Bosmeri disdain for "improper design" when a Leyawiin sailor, who'd seen me sharing Divayth's pipe, offered to sell me a carved-bone pipe of "genuine Valenwood make." Lady Biniele told me it was a counterfeit and not to waste my money. The sailor protested, but the diminutive Wood Elf woman told him any fool could see the tail was wrong on the Imga carved on the bowl, and he should shove off. Which he did.
Divayth and I shoved off shortly thereafter, and on our way back up to the city gates he pointed to the stars in the brilliant night sky and told me the ancient Chimeri names for the constellations. I must confess, I remember nothing but the warm tones of his resonant voice—and the warm touch of his hand on my arm.
Not unlike the Bosmer, the Nords rely heavily on stylized, often interlocking natural motifs in their architecture, crafts, and clothing. However, where the Wood Elves' designs are mainly floral the Nords emphasize animals, in particular the eight "totem" animals of the old Atmoran religion: wolf, hawk, whale, snake, moth, fox, and so forth. They also allow for much more variation of design, to the point where some of the animal motifs are so abstract they are difficult to recognize. Indeed, areas of trim are often filled with interlocking geometric designs that evoke nothing natural at all.
Nord design varies in other ways from that of the Elves as well, in general relying on simple, heavy yet dynamic forms where Elven work would be slender, elegant, and understated. Nothing the Nords make is understated, ever.
The was clear even from outside the Imperial City's Skyrim Embassy, where Morian, Divayth and I had gone to a reception for King Logrolf. The lintel above the embassy doors was crowned with a great iron hawk's-head, its mouth open as if screaming defiance, while the doors were flanked by bas-reliefs of hawks so stylized they looked as much like axes as they did birds. The door itself was dark oak, banded with iron and studded with iron rivets, as if they expected to have to repel an attack.
The inside of the embassy was less martial in appearance, at least once one got past the armed and armored guards inside the door. I wondered if they really needed to wear full helms sporting ram's-horns in order to check the invitations of party guests, but the look in the Nords' eyes didn't exactly invite questions.
The party, as I said, was a reception for King Logrolf, visiting the Imperial City to pay his respects to the Potentate. Morian was there representing the Arcane University; he'd asked me to accompany him and I'd accepted, eager to see our fierce northern cousins in their own environment. When Divayth learned where we were going he'd attached himself to our party, in spite of Morian's baleful glare, but once we were inside the embassy and he was surrounded by loud, boisterous Nords, the Dark Elf wizard seemed to be regretting his decision to join us.
Not so Morian! After he'd downed a flagon of mead, I was suddenly seeing a new Professor Zenas. Attired in his new robe, he positively bloomed, holding forth on the history of magic to an admiring crowd of diplomats, whom he enthralled with tales of the feats of wizardry of the Nord Arch-Mage Shalidor. He seemed twenty years younger, and I suddenly saw him as he must have been in his prime, when he first came to the Imperial City to help found the Arcane University.
Morian even introduced me to King Logrolf, though how he came to know the monarch of Skyrim I have no idea. When I looked around for Divayth, he was nowhere to be seen. Morian and I stayed late at the embassy, quaffing mead and laughing at the Nords' hearty jokes. When we finally left and he walked me home, I thought I could see a new gleam in Morian's eye.
He may have seen the same gleam in mine.
The Bretons were the last major group of humans on Tamriel to free themselves from their Elven overlords, and in many ways their long vassalage to the Direnni defines their culture. They are fiercely autonomous, each kingdom in High Rock jealous of its individual sovereignty, but Breton society retains a feudal structure that hearkens back to the rank-obsessed Direnni Hegemony. The Bretons are nearly as fractious as their cousins the Nords, but their long tutelage under the Elves makes them open to the magical arts, rather than suspicious of them.
How is this reflected in their arts and crafts? Let's look at Breton armor, for example. The gleaming heavy armor of a Breton knight is as tough and practical as that of a Nord housecarl, but its pleasing form exhibits a subtle sophistication that is reminiscent of Elven elegance. One sees the same influence in Breton weaponry, which is beautiful yet undeniably deadly.
It made me think of the differences between Divayth's Elven urbanity and Morian's breadth of knowledge and all-too-human inconsistencies, even peevishness. Apparently the transliminal experiments have not been going well. When I stopped by the townhouse last night, neither Morian nor Divayth were in—Seif-ij, Morian's apprentice, told me they'd quarreled over the appropriate price to pay a transporting entity to ensure safe return from a jaunt to Oblivion, the remarks became personal, and then my name was apparently brought up. There was shouting, and they both huffed their way out of the laboratory and marched off down Divines Street in opposite directions.
This is terrible. Fighting? Over me? I must confess I was so disturbed I blurted out the whole thing to Lady Opel, who was incredibly kind and solicitous. She asked me if I had feelings for either of the two wizards, and I admitted I did, but they were conflicting and confusing. Opel opened a bottle or two of Bangkorai spiced wine, and we got quite confidential with each other as the evening waned. I'm not sure how I got home, and today my head hurts, but it was worth it, as my heart is no longer so heavy.
When I arrived at Morian's townhouse this morning all was sunshine and rainbows—Divayth and the professor were chatting over mugs of chal like best friends, comparing Ralliballah's Eleven Ritual Forms to the Book of Most Arcane Covenants. I reminded Divayth that he'd promised to escort me to the Yokudan Chapel in the Market District, at which Morian's brow clouded over slightly, but then he smiled and said that was fine, as he wanted to test some new hyperagonal media in his laboratory.
(And maybe it was the light, but to me both men looked … younger, somehow. I must keep in mind that they're both highly capable wizards, which I suppose might include knowledge of illusion magic. Or perhaps I flatter myself.)
I met a number of knowledgeable Redguards at the chapel, all exhibiting that dignity and polite reserve I associate with the better-educated members of that people. The Most-Revered Zirumir, a Priest of Tu'whacca (I hope I spelled that right), was particularly helpful.
As Zirumir pointed out, both the Redguards' ancient home of Yokuda and their current province of Hammerfell are (or were, in the case of Yokuda) deserts. To stay cool, and for protection from the elements, Redguard clothing tends to be light, long and flowing, and these flowing curves are carried into their artisanal designs. Their robes and armor are often accented by flared curves at joints and on headgear. Even their swords tend to be curved.
In contrast their architecture appears rather heavy, though on close inspection this is mainly for the purpose of insulation from the desert's extremes of temperature. Zirumir showed me the chapel's clever system of louvered ventilation ducts in the clerestory, designed to catch the slightest breeze and funnel it down into the nave.
After Zirumir was called away to tend to one of his congregation, Divayth and I strolled into the apse to view the eight shrines to the Yokudan Divines. Divayth was explaining that whereas the Forebears of Hammerfell often worship the Cyrodilic Divines brought to them by the Reman Empire, these were the traditional gods worshiped by the more conservative Crown Redguards. Suddenly, behind the beehive shrine to Morwha, he turned to me with those blazing eyes, took my hands between his, and told me he thought me the most brilliant and desirable woman in the Imperial City. My breath caught in my throat, and my heart was hammering. But when he moved as if to embrace me I was suddenly frightened—I backed away, shaking my head, then fled out into the nave. I fear I quite startled a young family of Redguards placing candles on Morwha's altar.
Now what? I'm afraid I must have insulted Divayth terribly. How can I make it up to him? And dare I mention it to Morian? Julianos' little teapot, what a dilemma!
When I went to the professor's townhouse this morning, my first priority was to apologize to Divayth, but Seif-ij told me he was out—he'd gone somewhere from the portal chamber, using an incantation and leaving nothing behind but a burnt smell. Onward, I told myself: work will take your mind off it. So I went looking for Morian.
I found the old dear at breakfast, just finishing his sweet roll and chal. When I entered the kitchen, he nearly knocked over his mug in his haste to stand up and bow! I told him I wanted to make some notes on the Khajiit and asked him if he knew any of the Cat-Folk, as I did not. He said he knew exactly the person I needed and would be delighted to help me, since "that irascible Telvanni" had taken the day off.
I had often passed the seasonal camp of the Baandari Pedlars outside the Market Gate but had never gone in—residual caution from my father's warnings keeping me out, I suppose, as well as the pungent scent. Besides, I've always been a dog person. But Morian plunged right in without hesitation and led me to a pavilion adorned with colorful prayer-flags. I followed Morian into the tent, where he introduced me to Madame Shizahi-jo, whom he said was a Khajiiti sorceress devoted to Azurah and Magrus. Though sitting in lotus position, she bowed politely—the Cat-Folk are lissome—gestured to a pair of seat cushions, and asked how "this one" could be of service.
We had a long and lovely chat. There are superficial similarities between the motifs and designs of the Khajiit and the Redguards, perhaps because they both inhabit hot, arid environments, but where the Redguards favor long, flowing curves, the Cat-Folk are devoted to circular and crescentiform moon-shapes. The shapes of Masser and Secunda in all their phases appear everywhere on Khajiiti clothing and ornaments. The falcate sliver of the crescent moon also brings to mind the Khajiiti claws that spring from pads in their hands and feet, a subtle but ever-present threat to softer folk.
Shizahi-jo made us some tea—sticky sweet, like all Khajiiti food and drink—then asked to see the leaves in the bottom of my cup. She stirred them with her pinky-claw, and said now she saw the object of my concern: I'd let my fear cloud my longing and darken my heart. I blurted something about how Divayth had tried to kiss me, and Morian dropped his cup, splattering poor Shizahi.
I thought he was going to explode in rage, but instead this sad look came over him, and then he began pouring out his heart about his feelings for me. It was so sweet of him. I was really quite moved. The Khajiiti mage made a discreet exit, and we stayed on her cushions, talking, for what seemed like hours.
I saw Divayth last night, briefly, at the Torchbug. I told him I truly cared for him, but that Morian had won my heart. He clouded over like a storm in the Jeralls, but then took a deep breath and managed a dignified exit. Oh, I do hope he'll be all right.
Though I confess, I'm more worried about Morian. His experiments with Divayth are reaching their climax, when Morian will open a gate and personally make a visit to Oblivion. He says he's going to try for Azura's realm of Moonshadow, as he says that ought to be relatively safe. Safe! I'm as anxious as a scrib on a griddle. I dearly want to see Morian before he goes, but he says he must concentrate on mastering the ritual and can't be interrupted.
He did send a note by Seif-ij saying I should take his place representing the University at the Potentate's state dinner for the new envoy from Orsinium. He must really be busy to skip that event, as I know he was keen to go. Well, all the better for my Racial Motifs project, I suppose—work, work, work will take my mind off my worries!
The new province of Orsinium doesn't have an embassy yet, so for the dinner the Potentate's snake-staff set up a row of pavilions on the grounds of the White-Gold Tower. To honor Envoy Thuggikh they were all decorated with authentic Orcish paraphernalia imported from Wrothgar, so I got out my journal and took notes during the interminable speeches.
Strange to think that a folk as brutish as the Orcs seem to be could design and create objects of such sophistication! Of course they're known across Tamriel as fine armorers, but I'd always assumed that was due to their great strength rather than skill. A glance at their arms and armor was enough to show me how wrong my assumption had been. Though never ornate or over-embellished, their metalwork, though even simpler and more utilitarian than the Nords', displays a deep understanding of the laws of proportion, symmetry, and harmonic congruity. An Orcish sword may be a weapon of violence, but to contemplate the dynamic sweep of its blade, visually balanced by its heavy but shapely hilt, obviously molded to flow into the hand of its wielder—why, it's almost restful and reassuring.
Afterwards at the reception I was happy to see somebody I recognized in Lady Opel the Arch-Magister. She greeted me warmly and, over some West Weald wine and Eidar cheese, asked me how things were going with me and my pair of wizards. I told her I thought I'd made a terrible muddle of things, but she assured me everything would work out in the end. She said she's known Morian for ever so long, and he's really quite sensible beneath his fussy old-man ways. She was glad he'd found someone as clever as I to keep him from completely vanishing into his laboratory.
But as far as I'm concerned, that's exactly what he's done. I think I'll go talk to Seif-ij again—maybe he can help me get through to Morian before he leaves.
This morning my maid Dariella came to me all a-twitter with the news that there was a lizard-woman at the door, asking for me and insisting it was urgent. There aren't many Argonians in the City, and it occurred to me this might be a relative of Seif-ij, sent with some dreadful news about Morian, so I donned my University robe and hurried down.
There was indeed a young lizard-woman waiting in the street, clad in a fetching spidersilk jumper adorned with intricate spiral designs. She said her name was Lifts-Her-Tail (which I thought must be a joke, but who can tell, given these reptilians' impassive features), and she'd been sent to bring me to her master, Desh-Wulm the Perspicuous. She said she didn't know what it was about, but it was a matter of some urgency, and she was to lead me to her master immediately. I nodded, nervously, and followed.
The Argonian lass led me out the Temple gate and down to the Docks, far out on the end of which we found a curious old house I'd never before noticed, with a dark sign by the door that read "The Xanmeer"—a word unfamiliar to me. We went inside to find a large house entirely occupied by Argonians, a dozen or so who seemingly lived there using all the rooms in common. Everywhere I looked I saw Argonian hangings, sculptures, and fetishes, all made from natural materials such as shells, bone, and feathers, glowing with bright spiral and geometric designs. If these objects were representative of what the Argonians used in their home regions, then snakeskin, tortoise shell, jagged teeth, turquoise and jade, all of which we would consider exotic materials, must be commonplace in Black Marsh,.
Lifts-Her-Tail led me up a ramp that had apparently replaced the house's staircase. On the upper level she introduced me to a humid room that, to me at least, smelled of decay and mold. Coughing, I entered, discovering a room almost entirely full of potted jungle plants—some of them seemingly long-dead and rotting. I stepped on something that squished beneath my sandal and stepped involuntarily back, but the lizard-lass gently took my hand, drew me past a wall of ferns and into the center of the room.
There, incongruously, I discovered a large porcelain Nibenese bathtub, like the one in my own vanity chamber, though this one was filled almost to the rim with a noisome, greenish mud. And lying in this mud, nose barely above the surface, was the oldest Argonian I'd ever seen.
In fact, the withered and wizened lizard-man looked so much like a mummy I was startled when it opened its mouth and spoke. In a voice like creaking leather, the reptilian slowly said, "I am Desh-Wulm. You are Al-Phid, Brightest Star of the City. You are welcome in my uxith—my nest."
He seemed to be looking someplace over my shoulder, and I saw that the old lizard's eyes were clouded over with an opalescent film—he was blind. This infirmity was somehow reassuring, enabling me to regain my self-possession and fall gratefully into the routines of etiquette. I bowed—though he couldn't see it—and said, "I am honored to be received into your home, venerable Desh-Wulm. How can one such as I be of service to an Elder of Wisdom?"
"You can beware!" he croaked, scaled hands emerging from the mud and levering him up on the rim of the bathtub. "Your dryskin mages—the weft unravels about them," he said, more calmly, making an unfamiliar spiral gesture above the tub. "It is wrong. The Aurbic skeins should not be disjoined with intent of malice."
I had been around wizards long enough to guess at what he meant. "Morian?" I gasped. "And Divayth? They're in danger? What can I do?"
Desh-Wulm clacked his jaws twice, and then said, "You are capable. You must stop them. You will prevail. If not," three sharp spines rose up from his brow, "there will be ill dreams and serration for all who swim the river. Kaoc!" The old Argonian suddenly began thrashing about in the tub, spilling muck over the sides. "Theilul!"
Lifts-Her-Tail deftly picked up a jug that seemed to be made from a single insect's carapace, uncorked it, and poured some brown liquor down the old lizard-man's throat. "Go!" she hissed, pointing toward the door. "Do as he says! Now!"
I turned, ran out of the room, down the ramp, out the door, and back to the Imperial City.
The Imperial City. I used to love it here. When I was young my native town of Skingrad seemed hopelessly provincial to me, and I looked forward all year long to going along with mother on her annual trip to the Heartland. For me, the capital was the epitome of learning, of culture, of everything I held dear.
I walk the avenues now, from district to district. And I look. Skingrad seemed provincial, yes, but it was Colovian: direct, forthright, with clean lines and a certain spare, ascetic look to it. And its people are much the same way.
Like its people. And the people it attracts.
I was too late.
Morian is gone. With the help of Divayth, cursed Divayth, he fulfilled his dream and traveled to Oblivion. According to Seif-ij, he went to Moonshadow as planned, but he didn't stay there. He went on, to Ashpit, to Coldharbour, to Quagmire. To Apocrypha.
And there, in Apocrypha, he stayed.
Seif-ij told me, emotion quivering even in his flat reptilian voice, of how once he entered Oblivion Morian seemed to become more reckless, more enraptured, with each portal to a new plane. How he ignored his assistant's pleas to return. How Apocrypha … entranced him.
Seif-ij Hidja was beside himself, holding his head with its drooping spines, clearly at his wit's-end. It was up to me. I ran to Divayth's room, though Seif-ij said he was gone, hoping he'd left some way to get in touch with him, hoping he would respond to my appeals for help. I found only a book, open on his desk, a book titled "Fragmentae Abyssum Hermaeus Morus." It was open to what seemed to be a summoning ritual for the Daedric Prince Hermaeus Mora, specifying that "whatever price is named shall be met."
A ritual to Hermaeus Mora. The Lord of Apocrypha.
I ran to Morian's laboratory. It was looted, ransacked. The only thing of interest was a crumpled note. It read, "When thou enterest into Oblivion, Oblivion entereth into thee."
Morian is gone. Gone to Apocrypha. Where he stays.
And so I walk, from district to district. Wondering. What price had the Lord of Apocrypha named to Divayth Fyr? What price for the entrancement, the captivity of Morian Zenas?
I walk the streets, the avenues and alleys. Wondering.
Wondering when I, too, will be ready to pay the price.
The master—I mean the Professor, Morian Zenas—is gone. So is Lady Alfidia, though I always addressed her as Doctor Lupus. So, for that matter, is the Telvanni, but he, at least, will not be missed—nasty mer, always making caustic comments about "the scaleskin help" whenever the Professor wasn't around.
No, I am glad the Telvanni is gone. But the others … well.
I will stay on here as long as I may, keeping the Professor's town house in order, organizing his notes and his reagents, dusting his beloved books. I still hope for his return. For now, the University has him listed as "On Sabbatical," and sends his stipend to me so I can maintain his residence and arcane workshop.
It was while in the study, straightening the Professor's desk, that I came across a stack of notes in Lady Alfidia's elegant handwriting, unfinished studies of clothing, arms, and armor in several cultural styles. The river flows slowly these days, so I have decided to organize these style notes in a fashion that (I hope) approximates how the lady doctor would have done so herself.
Though notes about the styles of the leading Elven societies of current-day Tamriel have already been compiled, there is more to say, as the mer, who revere their ancestors and ancestry, have a special regard for the history of Aldmeri culture. The Merethic Era, when Elves first conquered and colonized Tamriel, they regard as a golden age to be emulated. As a result the clothing and armor of that period never really goes out of style, and many Elves still affect the styles and manners of the ancient Aldmeri. It is not at all unusual, even on continental Tamriel, to encounter a High Elf or Dark Elf dressed like an ancient Ayleid or Chimer. The Elves call this practice "draping Ehlnofic," but the rest of us just call it "Ancient Elven" and leave it at that.
(I will add here to the absent lady's notes that I myself, though having lived in the Imperial capital for many long years, have never seen a Wood Elf sporting this Ancient Elven style. But the Bosmer, like we Argonians, seem to prefer to live in the Aurbic Now, showing relatively little regard for the ways of former ages.)
Ancient Elven is different from Elven styles favored by modern artisans of Summerset and Morrowind in that it is somewhat more organic, and yet at the same time more abstract. Flowing floral motifs are common, usually tapering to a sharp point or end, as in the sharp-peaked arches so familiar to the inhabitants of Cyrodiil from our ubiquitous Ayleid ruins. Circles, semi-circles, and arcs abound, often containing the organic tapering tendrils, much as the Aedra (whom the Elves claim as ancestors) were constrained by the creation of the Mundus.
(What? What's that? …It is as if I heard my lady whisper in my ear, "How pretentious, Seif-ij!")
Despite the civilizing influence of our noble Second Empire, Tamriel still has its backwaters and hinterlands inhabited by barbarous tribes. Probably the most familiar to us Cyrodilics are the savage clans of the Reachmen, who dwell in the wild mountains between Skyrim and High Rock, and whose raiders have been seen on the outskirts of Bruma within living memory. But there are also the Ashlanders of Morrowind, the fierce Kothringi of Black Marsh, the Ket Keptu of central Hammerfell, and many others.
It is a strange but undeniable fact that these tribes, farflung across the continent though they are, have strikingly similar tastes in apparel. Why this should be is fodder for another ethnographic study more speculative than this one, which is merely descriptive. (Therefore, on to the description.)
This clannish or tribal style, though commonly known as "Barbaric," is really no less sophisticated than that of other cultures. The so-called barbaric tribes simply disdain all ideas of tasteful restraint, preferring the lurid and bizarre. Bright colors are favored, and materials may be lacquered to almost any hue. Typical accouterments include skulls, antlers, feathers, strings of teeth, accents of beaten copper, and weapons ostentatious in size and number.
(I feel the need to interject here that much of this description could also apply to the styles of my native Black Marsh, a region that could scarcely be described as "barbaric"! Pfui. I shall return to this cultural style another day.)
You might look at the gear sported by a fully-equipped Goblin warchief and think, "What a mismatched conglomeration of primitive paraphernalia." But you would be wrong. Each item that warchief is wearing was carefully selected for its proven utility, and represents a decision backed by millennia of tradition. This is a style of arms and armor we ethnographers call the "Primal," and it is as distinctive and recognizable as any other culture set.
Goblins and other folk who have adopted the Primal style are typically superb scavengers and looters. They seem to have a special sense for where to find the sort of cast-off yet serviceable, even exceptional equipment that will fit the Primal esthetic. And they are as proud of their turn-out as any Imperial centurion.
Recent scholarship by Doctor Intricatus of Gwylim University confirms this, and adds some new information that shows that "primal" is, indeed, the optimal label for this style. His study of the fifty-seven Primal ensembles worn by the massacred Knife-Biter Goblin tribe showed that many of the items found on the corpses were hundreds, if not thousands of years old. Some of the greaves and cuirasses appeared to date from the early First Era, and represented ancient forging techniques that have since been lost to history. Did the Goblins loot these from ancient Cyrodilic ruins, as they've been known to do? Or did they actually pass them down, generation by generation, since time immemorial?
Yes, Professor Zenas, that IS how you spell "immemorial." Wait … what? Professor? Is that your voice?
It is entirely appropriate that this last entry in Doctor Lupus' "Crafting Motifs" series should be about Daedric arms and armor, as it is my belief that the absent Lady Alfidia has somehow journeyed to the Daedric planes of Oblivion in pursuit of my lost Professor Morian Zenas. And as I can now hear the Professor's voice whispering in my ear almost constantly, it is time to conclude these notes and move on to telling the story of his travels through the doors of Oblivion.
The Daedra, as the Professor has so often remarked, are creatures of chaos, entities of great energy and force but entirely lacking in originality. They can imitate, they can exaggerate, and they can corrupt, but they cannot create anything new. That is a capability inherent only in the Aedra, and in we mortals of Nirn, to whom they gave it as a gift. (In Black Marsh we see such things differently, of course, but these are the beliefs of the Professor and Lady Alfidia.)
Thus the armor and weapons of such Daedra as the Dremora, Xivilai, and Golden Saints—what Doctor Lupus calls the "humanoid" Daedra—consist of familiar Tamriel-style cuisses, breastplates, and pauldrons, swords, spears, and bows. They may to our eyes be ornamented with outlandish spikes and melodramatic flourishes, but look inside a suit of Daedric armor and you'll find the familiar padding and straps that enable it to be worn by anyone of conventional shape. Pick up a Daedric sword, and despite its bizarre shape you will find the grip comfortable, the heft well-balanced. Indeed, it is said that the famous Artifacts of the Daedric Princes, such as the Mace of Molag Bal, were mostly made by mortal artisans who were enticed or forced to create them.
Yes, Professor, I believe that is enough—for now, at least. I have done my duty to the good doctor. I am sitting in your study, and I am listening. Tell me again of Moonshadow.
Kireth says I should write down what I've learned about Dwemer artisans and the styles and motifs of their lost civilization.
Dwemeri axe designs reflect the wheels, gears, and cogs that are central to so many devices of the Deep Elves. The haft is surmounted by a round disk resembling the hub of a wheel, from which spokes radiate to the blade or blades, which are like portions of a wheel's outer ring. The blades maintain an edge remarkably well, considering their great age.
Dwarven belts are typically made of overlapping metal links of a repeated geometric shape, such as squares or circles. Their length is easily adjusted by the addition or subtraction of a few links. The tensile strength of such a belt is without peer, many times that of an equivalent length of steel chain.
Dwarven boots are sturdy, but not as heavy as they look. Though they have accents of Dwarven metal, they are mainly constructed of a flexible material that resembles leather, but either it is some sort of manufactured imitation, or the Dwemer had beasts with incredibly smooth and homogenous hide. Knee-high Dwarven boots often incorporate built-in greaves over the shins.
Dwarven recurved bows are powerful and can drive an arrow through an oaken board. Though they appear to made of metal, they are not; the strong yet flexible material they are made from is otherwise unknown, and cannot be duplicated by modern bowyers.
All Dwarven chest armor consists of metal plates of various sizes affixed to a leather cuirass' thin, flexible leather with a few small plates in the case of light armor, the leather becoming thicker and the plates larger and more numerous as the armor gets heavier. The plates are typically geometric in shape and ornamentation.
A Dwarven dagger typically has a broad and heavy triangular blade, as suitable for chopping as for stabbing. In fact, they resemble tools as much as they do weapons.
Dwarven gloves were always made of fine and flexible leather or pseudo-leather, reflecting their wearers' need for fine manipulation of their devices. Only the heaviest gauntlets sported metal ribs, typically tessellated splints protecting the back of the hands.
Dwarven helmets of all kinds famously cover the entire face with a face-shaped visor, curiously bisected down the center by a sort of metal keel. This keel reappears atop the helmet as a crest, which may be modest or bizarrely exaggerated. A line of Dwemer troops, all wearing helmets with identical, impassive visages, must have struck terror into the Deep Elves' enemies.
The leg protection of the Dwemer typically consisted of geometric plates or cylinders of metal, mounted on the same thick yet flexible material used for their boots. The armor was particularly thick over the knee.
Dwarven maces have heavy and blunt geometrical heads, without flanges, spikes, or pointed finials. The two-handed maces are outweighed only by Orcish skull-crushers, and can bend and batter plate armor as if it was foil.
Dwarven shields come in many shapes, but all echo the geometric forms seen on Dwemer armor, albeit writ large. They are formed from relatively thin plates of Dwarven metal, and are much lighter and wieldier than they appear.
Dwarven shoulder pauldrons were usually made of thick and inflexible metal, mounted on cops of heavy "leather." The pauldrons of heavier armor sometimes sported metal keels echoing the crests seen atop their helmets.
Even the most elaborate Dwarven staff has a utilitarian look about it, as if it was going to be used with a paddle to draw a loaf of bread from an oven. The haft is made of some close-grained substance that looks like wood but is not, circled with rings of Dwarven metal. The finials are circular or fan-shaped, and usually modest in size.
Dwarven swords look like mere extensions of their daggers, featuring the same broad, triangular blades with both point and edge. Their cross-guards are slender to almost nonexistent, which argues that Dwemer swordplay did not rely much on thrusting.
During the recent strife in Firsthold, certain reference works were lost from the great library, so His Excellency Kinlord Rilis has asked the leading experts of Auridon to replace them with new accounts. For the definitive description of the Glass crafting style, naturally our wise sovereign turned to me.
The avian motif typically of the Glass style is particularly prominent in the axe designs, where the glass-edged blades are crafted to resemble the wings of a bird of prey. The blades' feathered appearance is strictly cosmetic; the scoring that produces the feathered look is too shallow to weaken the blade, but is deep enough to create blood gutters.
The belt on a suit of glass armor is usually a single cincture of some exotic leather, adorned with glass bosses in rhomboid or pentagonal shapes. Geometrical tassets depend from either hip, and there may be a chevron-shaped fauld in front to protect the groin.
Elegant footwear indeed! These vary from sturdy leather moccasins with glass toe-guards with light armor, up to steel-and-glass sabatons with heavy armor. Flexibility is paramount, as Elven soldiers favor agility over thickness of plate.
Glass-style bows are compound and recurved, with a wooden grip and limbs of horn. The front of the curve and back of the recurve are faced with glass for maximum power. Non-glass parts of the bow are often painted with a metallic lacquer, so that a flash of reflected sunlight ripples along the line as a troop of archers raises their bows for a volley.
The downward-pointing chevrons on Glass cuirasses evoke the deep-muscled chests of great flying creatures, and indeed the chest plates are often adorned with images of eagles, dragons, or cliff racers. They are constructed of leather, steel, and glass, with as much additional glass trim as the buyer can afford.
A Summerset glass dagger is the finest fighting knife there is. The glass on a Glass-style dagger is usually confined to the point and edge, with accents on the pommel; the tang, guard, and core of the blade are of steel. They are capable weapons, equally useful for slashing, stabbing, or parrying.
Glass-style gauntlets typically feature thin, flexible leather gloves, with glass strips protecting the back of the hand and the forearms. The elbows are covered by triangular glass-faced cowters that echo the shape of the pauldrons above.
Glass-style headpieces extend the winged motif of the cuirasses and pauldrons upward; they often have armored crests, cheek-wings, and winged cranium caps. Glass, polished to a glossy sheen, trims every edge. A fine glass helmet is a sight to behold.
Whether light, medium, or heavy, all greaves in this magnificent style are constructed of sturdy but flexible leather faced with glass. The main difference is the amount and thickness of the glass banding, and the size of the shield-shaped glass poleyns that protect the knees.
Glass-style maces and hammers feature elegant but heavy steel heads with glass-tipped studs and spikes. The hafts are made of a dense but flexible wood such as ash, faced with steel languets and ending in a steel roundel heavy enough to partially offset the weight of the head. That enables these long-hafted weapons to be whirled almost like quarterstaves.
For a shield that is nearly all metal, glass shields are remarkably light, precisely because they're mostly glass plates held in a slender matrix of steel. Two broad glass wings, usually avian-themed, flare out from central steel ribs to broad "feathered" edges.
The Glass-style pauldrons are integrated with the shapes of the chest pieces, extending the winged motif onto the shoulders and down into the upper-arm rerebraces. The marine version of this style resembles breaking waves rather than wings.
A staff in the Glass style is many a wizard's proudest possession. The long wooden shaft, sheathed in steel languets to protect it while parrying, is simple enough; it's the elaborate winged finial that is the glory of a glass staff. The steel head, often set with large turquoises, unfolds on either side into a pair of exquisite glass wings, evoking birds, bats, or Dragons. The entire finial seems to glow with inner fire.
A Glass sword is a cunning combination of steel core and tang with a glass point and edges. The blade may be quite broad near the tip, and even "feathered" with shallow blood gutters. Despite their size, the blades are light, favored by sword-fighters for their ease of use and battlefield durability—for a glass sword will hold its edge long after a steel or alloy sword has gone dull.
The Master's new Xivkyn Honor Guard must be outfitted in a manner that will bring glory to mighty Molag Bal and fear to his enemies. The following stylistic requirements must be adhered to without deviation! See to it, or face the consequences in the scathe-rings.
A Xivkyn's one-handed axe shall have a blade like a headsman's axe and a narrow back spike with a slight downward curve. The two-handed axe shall have two headsman's blades. Both shall have metal spike-wings clustered just below the head or heads.
A Xivkyn's belt shall have a geometric abdominal buckle large enough to cause discomfort when the Daedra bends forward. The medium and heavy girdles shall have sharp, interlocking diamond-shaped plates, so as to cause pain when the belts are used to bind captives.
A Xivkyn's boots shall have heavy metal toes to optimize the brutal kicking of downed opponents. These plates shall be articulated to allow the feet to flex without compromising protection or weaponization.
A Xivkyn bow shall be faced with flaring metal spike-wings to enable the archer to parry blows. A Xivkyn archer's quiver shall be protected by thin armor plates held on with an excessive quantity of rivets, because who doesn't like lots of rivets?
A Xivkyn's chest armor shall bear a pattern of overlapping metal scales, said pattern to evoke the general awe-inspiring shape of our Dread Lord's mighty skull without actually depicting it. The cuirass will give an impression of great weight, to convey the power and physical strength of the wearer.
The Xivkyn's dagger shall have a broad blade, so as to inflict wide wounds that shed blood copiously. Their hilts shall be flaring spike-wings, and their pommels shall be sharp so that at need the Xivkyn can stab back-handedly.
The Xivkyn's gauntlets shall have articulated metal sheaths to protect the fingers, augmented by steel talons that extend the reach of the warrior's claws. One size shall fit all.
A Xivkyn's helm shall protect the warrior's cheeks as well as her crown. It shall be studded and horned, and yet its visage shall evoke a terrible death-mask in the eyes of Molag Bal's enemies.
A Xivkyn's greaves shall appear to be a continuation of the articulated plates on the warrior's boots, with spiked poleyns to protect the knees.
A Xivkyn's mace shall have a heavy octagonal head, with sharp, spiked flanges protruding from its faces. It shall look as if it had but to drop on an enemy's skull to crush it in.
A Xivkyn's shield shall be roughly kite-shaped, but with a flaring spike-wing design on its face. It shall have cut-outs for thrusting on the upper corners on both sides, for convenience of both the left- and right-handed. Once again, do not stint on the rivets.
A Xivkyn's pauldrons or spaulders shall flare both upward and downward, to protect both the shoulders and the sides of the neck. They shall be accented with a dull red the color of mortals' dried blood.
Spellcasting Xivkyn shall be provided with staves with finials like flared spike-wings; they shall look as if the mage could use them to disembowel an opponent if necessary. Within the three spike-wings, each finial shall have a central pointed metallic stone that will emit the staff's spell-energy. At a pinch, a Xivkyn staff can be placed in a floor-stand and used as a convenient torchiere.
Like the dagger, a Xivkyn's sword shall have a broad blade, so as to inflict terrible wounds on those insolent enough to defy the will of Molag Bal. This double-edged blade shall be kept razor sharp at all times. Flaring spike-wings shall cluster around the hilt.
King Jorunn wants a description of the Akaviri styles of arms and armor written by someone who knows them. I don't think anyone killed more Akaviri than I did during the recent invasion from Kamal, so I guess that makes me an expert in their wares of war. Besides, who else was I going to get to write this? Rigurt?
Kamal, the region of Akavir where the recent invaders hail from, is said to be icy and snow-covered, so it's no surprise that Kamali axes resemble those made by us Nords of Skyrim. The one-handed weapons, in particular, are clearly descended from the kind of ice-axes we use when crossing glaciers or scaling icy peaks.
An Akaviri belt usually sports a prominent boss on its buckle, with an abstract sigil that's probably clan-related. These symbols are always symmetrical, and usually made of interwoven flowing designs. For several years I wore one taken from an officer I slew, and it was strong and well-made.
Boots of the northern Akaviri tend to be simple and utilitarian, for trudging through the deep snows of Kamal. Those of the southern Tsaesci are more elaborate and decorative, with shoes and sabatons that look like Imperial sandals, though armored with thick leather or small metal plates.
The Akaviri use composite bows with recurved ends made of horn. Though painted with metallic lacquer, don't be fooled: their bows are not made of metal, nor do the Akaviri have the giant's-strength it would take to bend them if they were.
Akaviri chest armor is worked or forged from familiar materials—padding, leather, steel—and usually decorated with a triangular or pyramidal shape, upper point toward the gorget.
Akaviri daggers are pretty, but don't be fooled: they're made for killing, and if you get downed on the battlefield, expect to feel one of these in your armpit or groin. As with the swords, the curved ones are Tsaesci, and the straight ones are from Kamal.
Akaviri weapons have narrow guards, which leaves hand protection up to their gauntlets. These usually have thick armor on the back of the hand, while leaving the fingers free and open for a solid grip on weapon and shield.
The Tsaesci helmets I've seen in museums, or imitated by Fighters Guild warriors, sport layered neck and side armor, and often have elaborate double crests that look like horns or antlers. Kamali helmets, in contrast, are simpler, though they also cover the back and sides. Lots of Akaviri helmets of both kinds include visors or some other form of partial face coverage. The troops found some of these unsettling, even creepy.
Akaviri greaves always look like extensions of their sandal-like boots. I could never tell where one ends and the other starts.
Kamali maces usually have rectangular heads, while those of the Tsaesci are round. Both kinds are studded all round with wicked spikes. They're going to hurt you, even if you're wearing heavy armor.
Shields from Kamal tend to be metal-edged wood from the northern forests, while shields from southern Tsaesci are more likely to be curved sheets of steel. These often sport symbols echoing the crests on the warriors' helms.
Unlike the triangular designs on their chest armor, Akaviri pauldrons and shoulder cops are always articulated rectangular or square plates. Why? Who knows?
An Akaviri mage prizes his or her spell staff, and they are often splendid and lavishly decorated, trimmed in gold leaf and sporting great red gems. The hafts of these staves are made of a dense, flexible wood unknown in Tamriel, able to deflect even a great axe.
The Akaviri seem to love their swords almost as much as the Redguards; their long blades are among the finest I've ever seen. When you heft one of the curved Tsaesci swords, you can just feel how it could shear right through a soldier's limbs. And the straight blades of Kamal are no less dangerous.
Stored here in the Seeker's Archive are much of the lost history and wisdom of Yokuda, in books and scrolls brought here by the first of the Ra Gada. It will take many lifetimes to catalogue it all, so we shall start simply, with references to the characteristics that make the Yokudan motifs unique and distinctive, such as the so-called "broad arrowhead" design.
Though the Yokudans were dedicated to the sword above all, they recognized the utility of other weapons as well; their axes, for example, were both beautiful and formidable. They often had long, curved cutting edges, giving them some of the virtues of swords.
Yokudan belts tended not to be elaborate, because what mattered was what hung from them: the all-important sword or other weapon, as well as tassets for hip protection. The buckle was usually a strong and simple geometric design.
Yokudan boots were made for combat, of heavy leather with strategically-placed metal plates for protection. But they were also flexible and rugged for marching across the harsh Yokudan terrain.
The Yokudans had little esteem for archery, deeming it less honorable than melee combat, and their gallants and grandees left it to the common foot soldier. A Yokudan archer or light skirmisher was usually armed with a simple self bow adorned with modest metal facings.
For Yokudans, the art of weapon combat was profoundly athletic, so while their cuirasses offered solid central protection for the chest and back, the arm, shoulder, and waist areas were covered with flexible leather for maximum agility.
A Yokudan dagger just looks like a smaller version of a Yokudan sword, and indeed they tended to be large, approaching short swords in size. A large dagger in the off hand was a common choice for Yokudan dual wielders.
Yokudan warriors emphasized sword fighting above all other weapon styles, and in swordplay the hands are always under threat, so Yokudan gauntlets were heavy and multi-layered, with flaring upper sleeves to protect the forearms.
Yokudan helm designs are clearly descended from the turbaned hats of ancient pastoral nomads. They typically had aventails to protect the back of the neck, full visors covering the face, and even horns on the forehead or crest.
Yokudan chausses were strong to protect against low cuts in swordplay, often with metal plates covering both the shin in front and the calves in back, to prevent hamstringing attacks. Pointed knee poleyns were common as well.
The Yokudans were so attached to the idea of edged blades that they even mounted them on the heads of their maces, where you might find spikes or flanges in another crafting style. Some of these edged blades even came to points in the "broad arrowhead" design.
Yokudan shields might be round, oval, or kite-shaped, but all were fitted with blade-turning metal plates around their edges, and round central bosses featuring geometric designs. They appeared to be entirely metal, but were actually made of metallic plates riveted to wooden frames.
Though the shoulders themselves were sheathed in flexible leather to enable acrobatic swordplay, above that the joints were protected by sharp and often elaborate pauldrons, cops that flared at the top to guard the side of the neck.
The rare Yokudan war-wizards employed staves designed to resemble melee weapons to borrow some of the prestige of hand-to-hand combat. Their metallic finials might be round, flared, or pointed in the "broad arrowhead" design.
Though the curved Yokudan swords weren't elaborately embellished, they nonetheless represented the apogee of Yokudan weapon-making, having been forged and re-forged in a long process designed to make them unbreakable and invincible. Yokudan warriors regarded their swords as extensions of their essential selves.
- Attention smiths, forgers, weapon-masters, and arms crafters: the following are the specifications for all work to be done for the Aldmeri Dominion military. We expect the finest workmanship in every piece, for those of Aldmeri heritage can do no less, but deviation from these norms is not acceptable. I have heard some commentary to the effect that the Aldmeri Eagle is overused in these designs. Such remarks are contrary to Praxis.
- Do it right. Do it well. Do it to honor the Ancestors.
- What could be more natural than that the unfurled wings of the Aldmeri Eagle should become the razor-sharp blades of our warriors' axes? Long may they lop, and ever may they sever!
- Many pieces of a Dominion warrior's armor are intricately embellished, but the cincture that supports the soldier's weapons and tasset-plates has too much humble work to do to carry much in the way of decoration. A simple Aldmeri Eagle belt-buckle will suffice.
- The toes of Dominion soldiers, the most elegant in Tamriel, are protected by reinforced points on the Aldmeri trooper's sabatons. At need, our warriors' very boots can serve as weapons!
- The Dominion longbow may look too slender to be able to drive an arrow through armor, but look again: its winged limbs are forged of a supple alloy known as Lillandril Steel, as durable as it is ductile. Our enemies have learned to fear these bows' deadly darts!
- As an eagle's plumage has layers, from down to flight feathers, so are our cuirasses made of layers of metal plate over a leather aketon both thick and flexible. On the plastron, the Aldmeri Eagle soars over an abstract world below.
- A Dominion dagger is essentially smaller versions of our sword: a double-edged blade that broadens toward the tip before it narrows to a point, with the wings of the Aldmeri Eagle as serving as the crossguard.
- Dominion gauntlets are of soft kid leather, so as not to compromise our nimble Aldmeri fingers. For protection our warriors rely on broad vambraces that shield the forearm, and also provide a prominent place for military unit insignia.
- Aldmeri flesh can be sensitive to overexposure to sunlight, so it's as well that we wear full helms with full-face visors. Our helmets' steel caps are surmounted by golden eagles' wings, the very symbol of the Dominion!
- A Dominion soldier's greaves are worked in metallic patterns that represent the flow of wings under the wings of a soaring eagle. Actual Aldmeri Eagles should not appear on the poleyns that protect the knees, as it is not appropriate for a warrior to kneel upon the sacred symbol of our alliance.
- A Dominion warrior's mace has a tripartite head of three heavy eagle's wings: one for each of the Aldmeri races in our alliance! The sharpened wings can slash as well as bludgeon, and as they are made of a dense ebony-steel alloy, they are heavier than they appear.
- The shining shield of the Dominion is worked with an intricate design that combines both the eagle of Summerset and the graht-tree of Valenwood, thus commemorating the historic alliance between our two Elven races!
- The eagle-winged pauldrons of Dominion armor not only provide practical protection to our warriors' shoulders, they also provide a convenient location for insignia of rank.
- With their flaring winged heads, the weapons of Dominion spellcasters almost look more like pole-axes than magical staves—and indeed, many an arcane warrior has used them as such when in a tight spot.
- Dominion swords are long, straight, and powerful, edged on either side, and with a blade that widens toward the tip before ending in a point. The eagle's-wing crossguards are sturdy enough to trap an opponent's blade on a parry and, with a twist, perform a disarming maneuver.
- The Ra Gada or "Warrior Wave" of settlers from Yokuda actually occurred in four successive waves in the First Era's ninth century. This catalogue focuses on the second, or "Tavan" wave, so-called because it was spearheaded by the Hattu Metropoles brigade, which revered holy Tava, Lady of the Air. Thus the Tavans' arms and armor are replete with bird imagery. This second wave primarily settled on the southern coast of Hammerfell, and almost three millennia later their structures can still be found jutting from the coastal dunes. And one doesn't have to look far to see the influence of these ancient settlers on modern Redguard society.
- Axe-wielders among the Tavans were taught with an emphasis on the "Singular Cleave" attack, intended to cleave a target in twain with a single blow. That's why these Ra Gada axes feature one large, heavy blade.
- The belt is the central cincture of a much broader girdle, which provided an extra layer of protection to the Ra Gada's abdomen and lower back. The large, round buckle is embossed with air-current symbols.
- Ra Gadan boots are cobbled from heavy leather, usually camel hide, with thick soles as insulation against hot sand and stones. The traditional turned-up toes conceal metal caps to protect the soldier's vulnerable feet.
- Aggressively avian in design, the bow of the Ra Gada is faced with two brazen ibis-heads that can be employed as parrying edges in the heat of melee. It's a compound bow, and the entire front is faced with horn, often painted a metallic color.
- The Ra Gada were sword-fighters, and their cuirasses were solid and sturdy to enable their wearers to withstand blows in close melee. They are covered with swirling air-current symbols, and most feature the distinctive Tavan bird-wing back banners.
- The daggers of the Tavan Ra Gada echo the scimitar-like curve of the second-wave sword blades. The Tavans didn't use daggers for parrying, preferring to use shields on their off-arms, so their daggers lack crossguards. They are, however, weighted for throwing.
- Ra Gada warriors, particularly those wielding two-handed weapons, were trained to parry with their heavily-armored forearms rather than with their weapons' crossguards. Their gloves, therefore, are basically reinforced upper gauntlets that leave the fingers free for deft weapon manipulation.
- The Tavan Redguards' headgear was typically a turban wound around a sturdy steel cap, usually embossed with the near-universal wind-current symbols. Most of the face was concealed by mouth and cheek guards, as much to intimidate foes as to keep out blowing dust and sand.
- Stiff and sturdy armor to protect the front of the lower legs was standard gear for the second-wave Ra Gada, echoing the form and function of the reinforced gauntlets on the forearms. Layers of heavy hide covered the back of the calves.
- Ra Gada maces were made to deal with well-armored opponents, their heads heavy and spiked for crushing and puncturing their targets. The weight of these bludgeons necessitated development of the "Terminal Blow" style, similar to the "Singular Cleave" used by Tavan axe-wielders.
- Ra Gada shields were wide and heavy to provide maximum coverage, not just to the bearer but also, at need, to his nearest ally. Besides the usual embossed wind-current symbols, the bottom of the shield was wrought to resemble a hawk's broad tail.
- The so-called "pagoda pauldrons" of the Ra Gada are quite distinctive, but the three layers of cops are not as rigid as they appear: they are articulated underneath, allowing the cops to swivel to follow the warrior's arm movements.
- Ra Gada spellcasters often tipped their staves will finials in the shape of Tu'whacca's sacred ibis, as the Tricky God was (and is) the patron of mages. Nowadays being suspicious of magic is regarded as a hallmark of Redguard culture, but this was not always so pronounced.
- The Tavans came from the Yokudan sword tradition that called for edging only one side of the blade, so the backing can be thicker and stronger. This gives the curved Ra Gada swords, both one- and two-handed, the weight to hack through a target in one slash-and single-move attacks have always been celebrated by Redguards as the epitome of fencing elegance.
Here in Coldharbour we have people who've come from every corner of Tamriel. And who can blame them? This realm is a virtual paradise! And also, now that I think of it, a victual paradox. I mean, we Soul-Shriven live, but we do not eat. I can't remember the last time I've felt even a bit peckish. Curious, isn't it? I wonder how that works?
But never mind that. On to the matter at hand: style! Soul-Shriven style, to be precise. It's the style that has no style, because it draws from every style! It's got the best of everything, doesn't it?
I mean, just look at our weapons! A veritable bounty of battle-ready Khajiit! The mace: a clonking good morning-star, all spiky and everything, from freshly Soul-Shriven Orcs! The swords: real katanas from real Akaviri, those snaky Tsaesci, not those chilly Kamali with their silly straight swords! And the axes: nasty-looking things with scythe-blades ... genuine scythe-blades from ... well, truth be told, I've no idea where they come from, but someplace fun, almost certainly!and pointed pain-sticks. The dagger: a wavy kris from Soul-Shriven
And have a look at our armor! Go on! I've never seen its like, but I like what I see. It's all ... how should I say it? Rather mixed up and confusticating, isn't it? Cobbled together with bits and bobs from all over—a bit like a flesh atronach, but far more comfortable to wear, and not nearly as pungent.
So, if you give a tinker's damn about style, why not consider crafting Soul-Shriven weapons and armor for all of your madcap adventuring needs? They're quite fetching, and not at all dodgy. Not too dodgy, at any rate.
GRIM HARLEQUIN STYLE
By Chamberlain Haskill
My Lord Sheogorath has directed me to compile a guide for those seeking to create "Grim Harlequin" arms and armor, so that the Mad God's mortal servants may have a way to make all their equipment look the same. Of course, this standardization runs counter to all other cult practices, and is insane on the face of it. (Ahem.) Milord has probably already forgotten he asked me to do it, but what better do I have to do with my time than write manuals for mortals?
Actually, almost anything, now that I think about it.
Curved crescent axe blades are specified, with edges of varying depth, and a complicated cluster of sharp, curved … somethings … at the haft. You know: what-you-may-call-ems. Also, grinning skulls. Put those on everything.
The belts shall be made of one, two, three, or four leather straps, of tanned Human or Elf skin, where possible. A grinning skull for the buckle, of course, Hip tassets may also sport skulls, wearing fool's caps and with tongues extended. The extended tongue is very important—a stylistic hallmark, really.
Pointed toes are required. This is not negotiable. Uppers may be of dark quilted motley, as you like. But nobody will be looking past the pointed toes: do that right, and the rest is gravy. Note: not actual gravy. Gravy may be implied, but is never stated.
Now isn't this a pretty thing: seed pearls on the facing, and swooping recurved limbs that terminate in finials curled 'round large, lovely milk pearls. An instrument of death, but ornamented with nacreous excretions: simply splendid. Don't you think?
Straps, straps, straps, and many layers—but not too rigid, not to confining, we do not wish to make it impossible to somersault. A Grim Harlequin must somersault, after all. As appropriate. (You'll know when.) Also: grinning skull sternum cameo. Very important!
What we want here is more or less a curved poniard. Pointed, of course, but with a definite crescent edge, so that it matches the swords and axes. The serrated back edge is handy for cleaning fish or grating cheese. A bastard to keep clean, though.
His Derangement has decreed that the fashion in Grim Harlequin gauntlets this season shall be for half-fingered gloves—the upper half. The lower digits shall remain nimble and free, so they can, as Milord Madness puts it, "Dance like little rabbits from blade to bow and back again." The metaphor is strained, but you get the point, do you not?
Let your headgear be a cunning cowl that simultaneously evokes both a fool's cap and an executioner's hood—jolly but gruesome is the goal here, mortal. And there's nothing to lose by adding a mummy-wrap bandit's mask to the lighter sets, or a skull visor to the heavy.
These should match the boots. I suppose. Just between you and me, to be quite candid, I have had no instruction from The Avuncular One in the matter of graves or schynbalds. Not a peep. It's as if he didn't care what you put on your lower legs. Make of that what you will.
The Grim Harlequin mace head is a grinning skull (naturally) wearing a fool's cap, with a long extended tongue that wraps right 'round the top of the haft. It's quite cunning, really. If I were a mortal, I'd want both the one-handed and the two-handed versions. But I'm not.
Grinning skulls, fool's-capped jester faces, diamond quilting, those curving sharp what-you-may-call-em motifs: the Grim Harlequin shield has it all, really. Strap this on your off-arm, and they'll get out of your way in the grocery store, believe me.
For your left pauldron? A grinning, grimacing jester-face with an upturned spade beard, of course. Oh, and another one on the right. Assuming symmetry is your goal. Who knows—it might be!
I already effused about the fool's-capped grinning skull on the mace head, doing so again about the same motif on the finial of the Grim Harlequin staff would be just rather tedious. I would prefer not to.
The swords should be long, curved single-edged blades—almost scimitars, really. The crossguard is another one of those clusters of curving overlapping sharp whatevers, you'll recognize it when you see it. And there, that's the Grim Harlequin guide, for what it's worth, which fortunately is not up to me.
STALHRIM FROSTCASTER STYLE
(Previously unpublished notes by Doctor Alfidia Lupus, Imperial Ethnographer)
…After meeting King Logrolf, I took the time to examine a display of clothing from the many subcultures of Skyrim, which it seems is home to other peoples than just those mainstream Nords so well-known across northern Tamriel. Some of these cultures still wallow in barbarism, such as the clans of the Reachmen, famous—or rather infamous—for their savage raids over the northern borders. But I also came across the clothing of a culture previously unknown to me, that of the Skaal, who inhabit an island in the Sea of Ghosts named Solstheim (I hope I've spelled that right—my notes were taken in haste).
Unlike the Reachmen, racially the Skaal are Nords, but they differ from their continental cousins, who were among the first foreigners to adopt the worship of the Eight Divines, in that the Skaal still cling to a primitive monotheism, venerating a single creator they call "the All-Maker." At least some of the shamans of this ancient faith specialize in Frost Magic, and are called "Frostcasters." (All this is according to the information inscribed on a tablet next to the clothing display.)
The most curious aspect of this Frostcaster clothing was its extensive use of an unfamiliar translucent blue-white material labeled "Stalhrim," a sort of crystalline metal unlike anything I've ever seen. It was so strange that, after checking to make sure no one was paying any attention to what I was doing, I laid hands upon it, rubbing and tapping. It was rigid, faceted yet smooth, and gave off a distinct chill, despite the heat from the Embassy's roaring log fires. I was fascinated, and went so far as to try to scratch this with a nail file from my clutch—to no effect whatsoever. And this gave me pause: for could a culture described as being "barbaric" have produced an armor material that even steel couldn't scratch?
What does "Akaviri" mean? For many generations after the coming of my ancestors to Tamriel in the late First Era, Akaviri meant the people and heritage of the Tsaesci, the most refined and sophisticated civilization on the remote eastern continent of Akavir. As every schoolchild knows, at the beginning of the twenty-eighth century of the First Era, the Tsaesci sent a large and well-armed Fortified Embassage to Tamriel for reasons of mythic import that are not for discussion in a venue such as this. This Tsaesci force met General Reman of Cyrodiil first as an antagonist, and then as an ally. Thereafter General Reman became Emperor Reman I, and the Second Empire was born.
My ancestors were among that Tsaesci force, and indeed, many Imperials could now claim some measure of Akaviri descent, and might well do so—were the name "Akaviri" not tarnished by the recent invasion of the Kamali barbarians, so ill-advised, so abominably led, so resoundingly defeated. But we will speak no more of them.
We will speak, instead, of what may be spoken of the Tsaesci. Much may not be shared outside the true bloodlines, but this was never true of our artisanship, of the Serpentine Ways of Making. These my ancestors freely shared with the People of Reman, and though over time the old styles have become diluted and debased, still pristine examples of the Serpentine Ways can be seen in the Tonenaka at Rimmen, where I am honored to labor as Chronicler.
See our traditional armor, painstakingly crafted of many small rigid plates laced or wired together to form a flexible blade-proof fabric. Note how the most vulnerable areas are protected by several overlapping layers, all hinged to move as the body moves.
Notice our masked helms, each a fierce scowling visage crowned with horns or flaring crests to create an imposing and intimidating silhouette, as of an unstoppable demon warrior.
Admire our katanas in three lengths, dagger, sword, and two-handed sword, narrow blades with a slight curve away from their single edge, superbly designed for quick cutting, though with a point for when a thrust is needed.
Wonder at the beauty of our shields, which, though we rarely use them in combat, are still made and decorated to the most exacting standards passed down from one generation of artisans to the next.
And fear our snake-headed bows, striped red-and-tan to represent the duality of life-and-death and how close to each other the two always are and must be. Even the fletching of our arrows is meticulous.
Would you follow the Serpentine Ways of Making? Then here, armorer, are your models.