The Reachmen, also known as the Witchmen of High Rock, are a tribal group of primarily Breton descent who inhabit the Reach in southwestern Skyrim and the neighboring Western Reach in the east of High Rock. Their ancestry is not solely Breton, but spreads across many of the known races of Tamriel. Although they share descent, Bretons do not consider themselves kin to the Reachmen, and the Reachmen do not see themselves as Bretons. Their culture is tribal and primitive; they mainly utilize primitive gear and hedge-magic, and typically inhabit makeshift fortresses built into caves and ruins throughout the Reach's battle-scarred landscape. They primarily worship Hircine, the most primal of the Daedric Princes, although some clans are said to also dedicate ceremonies to Molag Bal, Malacath, Mehrunes Dagon, and Namira. Their shamans venerate the Hagraven "matrons", who in turn grant them knowledge of nature magic.
Following the collapse of the First Empire of the Nords, the Western Reach was retaken by the Aldmeri, who slaughtered the majority of Nord colonists; as a result, the Nordic ancestry of the Reachmen is comparatively weak. The proximity of Reachman settlements to Orcish villages meant that the Reachmen frequently traded goods and customs with their mountain neighbors, and it is partly from the Orcs that the Reachmen learned to use hedge-magic.
The Legend of Red Eagle, an ancient tale from Reach folklore, suggests that during the time of the Alessian Empire, the Reach was ruled by ten kings, and that "though men were free, the people were scattered and warred amongst themselves." The legend also makes reference to the Reachman reverence of "the ancient and venerable Hagravens".
The Longhouse Emperors
During the 6th century of the Second Era, the Reachmen seem to have grown particularly powerful, eventually leading to the foundation of a Reachman dynasty in Cyrodiil known as the Longhouse Emperors.
In 2E 541, the first Longhouse Emperor, Durcorach the Black Drake, invaded High Rock and swiftly captured Bangkorai, Evermore and Hallin's Stand. Within days, his army was across the Bjoulsae and bearing down upon Wayrest. Durcorach didn't have siege engines, so after fifty-seven days of besieging Wayrest, he left part of his army around the town's walls and marched off west into Glenumbra. Taken by surprise, the newly-independent city-state of Camlorn fell and was sacked. The Reachmen were defeated near Daggerfall's city gates after being charged from behind by Emeric's Heavy Dragoons, and Durcorach was killed by Emeric himself.
Nevertheless, Durcorach's dynasty continued to rule in Cyrodiil until the reign of Leovic, Durcorach's grandson. In 2E 577, Leovic was overthrown by his erstwhile supporter Varen Aquilarios, the Duke of Chorrol, after he legalized Daedra worship within the Empire. This marked the end of the dynasty of Longhouse Emperors.
After the Soulburst in 2E 579, many Reachmen aligned themselves with Molag Bal, and remained powerful enough to launch attacks on the Ebonheart Pact and Daggerfall Covenant's territories, even attacking as far afield as the Rift and Glenumbra. Concurrently, one clan of Reachmen known as the Winterborn fought a lengthy war with the Orcs for control of Wrothgar after King Kurog gro-Bagrakh reestablished Orsinium in the region. The war finally ended when the last Winterborn warlord, Urfon Ice-Heart, was slain at Frostbreak Fortress.
Battle of Old Hrol'dan
In the 9th century of the Second Era, some Reachmen allied with the Second Aldmeri Dominion. As a people, the Reachmen remained largely independent — although they frequently clashed with the Nords to the east — until the arrival of Tiber Septim at the end of the Second Era. In 2E 852, King Cuhlecain's general successfully broke through the Reachman lines, forcing them to fortify themselves at Old Hrol'dan. The next day he approached the gates of the besieged city, protected by the winds created by a storm following his trail. Reports say that the ancient Nord art of thu'um was used to shout down the walls of Old Hrol'dan, after which the army of Colovian troops and Nord berserkers took the city with relative ease. Markarth and the lands of the Reach were soon occupied by the Nords, while Imperial propaganda branded the Reachmen as rebellious and lawless mongrels.
The Forsworn Uprising
In 4E 174, during the Great War, when the Empire didn't have the resources available to maintain the outer provinces, a group of Reachmen led by Madanach (who would become their king) commenced what would later be known as the "Forsworn Uprising", gaining control of the Reach and creating an independent kingdom. According to Arrianus Arius, they administered the kingdom relatively peacefully, with only a few of the harshest Nord landowners put to death. After two years, their experiment with independence seemed largely successful, and the leaders of the Reachmen were beginning the process of seeking recognition from the Empire. However, in 4E 176, desperate to retake the Reach, and with no Imperial Legions available due to the Great War, Hrolfdir enlisted the aid of a Nord militia led by Ulfric Stormcloak to retake the Reach by promising them free worship of Talos. In that year, the Nord militia successfully drove the Reachmen from the city of Markarth and reclaimed the Reach. The survivors of the uprising fled into the wilds of the Reach and became known as the Forsworn.
Driven from Markarth, the Forsworn spread across the Reach, fortifying any defensible spot they could find. In the wilds, the Forsworn function as a terrorist organization; they are composed of a series of cells, usually led by hagraven "matrons" or undead Briarhearts, with their main tactics being caravan raids and attacks on outlying settlements. The ongoing dispute caused consternation for those Reachmen who were not allied with the Forsworn. Native landowners were frequently under duress by both the Nords and the Forsworn, each party thinking the individual was working for the other. Many Reachmen also lamented that so many of their friends and loved ones were fighting and dying in service of a long lost cause.
Known Reachmen Groups
- The Bloodthorn Cult, a group of Reachmen necromancers that attempted to take over Glenumbra in 2E 582.
- The Boneshaper Clan, a clan of Reachmen that invaded The Rift in 2E 582. Their name came from their use of thorny vines that grew through the skeletons of their ritual sacrifices, they also forbade necromancy.
- The Crow-Wives Clan, a nomadic hunting clan that were found in the mountains north of Bangkorai before 2E 582.
- The Dark Witnesses, a group of Reachmen that attempted to reclaim Mournoth in 2E 582.
- The Dragonclaw Clan, a clan of Reachmen that participated in the Dragonstar Arena.
- The Dreadhorn Clan, a clan of Reachmen that attempted and failed to conquer Falkreath Hold in 2E 582.
- The Forsworn, a faction of Reachmen formed following the Markarth Incident in 4E 176.
- The Hearteaters, a group of Reachmen that raided Cyrodiil during the Three Banners War.
- The Rageclaw Clan, a clan of Reachmen that invaded The Rift in 2E 582. They were known to train bears and have an extreme affinity for their young, going to war over the slightest threat to their children. They were also heavily matriarchal.
- The Stonetalon Clan, a clan of Reachmen that invaded The Rift in 2E 582. They were a matriarchal clan, however most of the women in the clan were Hagravens.
- The Winterborn, an ancient clan of Reachmen that were native to Wrothgar before being driven off by the Orcs of the Daggerfall Covenant.
- The Bear of Markarth by Arrianus Arius, Imperial Scholar — An account of Ulfric Stormcloak's short-lived independent reign over the Reach
- The City of Stone by Amanda Alleia — A mercenary's guide to Markarth
- The Legend of Red Eagle by Tredayn Dren — An ancient tale about the invasion of the Reach by the First Empire
- The "Madmen" of the Reach by Arrianus Arius, Imperial Scholar — A defense of the Forsworn
- Clans of the Reach: A Guide by Ehcelmo — A cautionary guide to three Reachmen clans
- Crafting Motif 55, Dreadhorn by Gherig Bullblood of the Dreadhorn Clan [Notes by Rena Hammerhands] — A guide to crafting armor and weapons in the Dreadhorn style
- Pocket Guide to the Empire, 1st Edition: High Rock by Imperial Geographical Society
- A Life Barbaric and Brutal by Arthenice Belloq — The first chapter in an account of abduction and slavery at the hands of the Reachmen
- On the Nature of Reachmen by Arthenice Belloq — An ex-slave's continued account of her time among the Reachmen
- Schemes of the Reachmage by Gabrielle Benele, Wizard — A Mages Guild record of findings on Angof the Gravesinger
A map of Forsworn camps in The Reach in 4E 201
- The "Madmen" of the Reach — Arrianus Arius, Imperial Scholar
- Pocket Guide to the Empire, 1st Edition: High Rock — Imperial Geographical Society, 2E 864
- Aspects of Lord Hircine — Juno Procillus, Academy of Chorrol
- Loading screen in ESO
- The Improved Emperor's Guide to Tamriel: Northern Bangkorai and the Mountains — Flaccus Terentius, 2E 581
- Travails and Triumphs of a Monarch — His Majesty King Emeric
- Events of Elder Scrolls Online
- The Arcturian Heresy — The Underking, Ysmir Kingmaker
- Kibell's dialogue in Skyrim
- The Bear of Markarth — Arrianus Arius, Imperial Scholar
- An Explorer's Guide to Skyrim — Marcius Carvain, Viscount Bruma
- Ainethach's dialogue in Skyrim
- Bothela's dialogue in Skyrim
- A Life Barbaric and Brutal — Arthenice Belloq