Tamriel Infinium: A life lesson in Elder Scrolls Online Morrowind

If you start your Elder Scrolls Online character in the Ebonheart Pact, then you run into the Ashlanders almost as soon as you step off the boat into the mainland of Tamriel. If Elder Scrolls Online were your only interaction with these folks, you might think of them as primitive and unorganized. Unfortunately, as you ultimately learn, that’s because history is usually written by the winners. The history and motivations of the defeated people are usually lost, and many times it’s never truly discovered again.

Thankfully, the writers for the Elder Scrolls really know how to latch onto the nuances of history. I find myself constantly surprised at the world building of Elder Scrolls. Although there certainly is an interesting primary plot for the new chapter of ESO Morrowind, it’s the world tour that truly makes the story interesting.

Too many times in high fantasy, we discover that the good guys are benevolent and fight for what’s right, and the bad guys are selfish and fight for themselves or the destruction of all that the good guys hold dear. Few exceptions existed before Game of Thrones became popular. One of those exceptions was TESIII: Morrowind, with the Ashlanders playing a major part. And just as in the single-player game, the Ashlanders play a major part in the ESO Chapter, too.

At the foot of Red Mountain

Before you read any further, I would like to mention that I will likely spoil a bit of TESIII: Morrowind and small parts of ESO Morrowind that extend beyond the trailers. But don’t worry; I don’t give away anything that might be considered climactic.

Interestingly, in popular culture nomadic tribes are almost always depicted as barbarians or some sort of uncivilized people. The Ashlanders are no exception when we meet them in ESO. But historically, there was a time that the Ashlanders stood as equals to the rest of the people living on Vvardenfell. Before the Battle of Red Mountain, the nomadic Chimer were just as respected as the farming Chimer. They were all followers of Veloth, the prophet who led the Chimer into the land now known as Morrowind.

After the Battle of Red Mountain, it was the nomadic Ashlanders who held onto the history with Veloth the strongest, even calling themselves Velothi after the prophet. The others followed the new and tangible Tribunal of living gods. The Velothi rejected the Tribunal’s divinity and instead continued to worship the Daedric Prince Azura as well as other Daedric Princes. The Tribunal followers tended to stick to the coast of Vvardenfell, while the Velothi remained closer to the Red Mountain in the wild lands, or Ashlands, so-named because of the amount of ash that spewed from Red Mountain.

Azura’s curse

If Vivec’s or Almalexia’s physical appearance is any indication, the classic Chimer were golden-skinned with cooler-colored eyes — blues or grays. After the Battle of Red Mountain — a time that only the gods truly remember in detail — the Chimer were cursed by Azura, turning their eyes to fire and their skin to ash.

According to official Tribunal accounts, the elf called Dagoth Ur was driven mad by the power of the Heart of Lorkhan and consequently mortally wounded the leader of the Chimer, Indoril Nerevar. Nerevar’s council – Almalexia, Vivec, and Sotha Sil – arrived in just enough time to catch his last words and make a vow to him that they would not use the Heart of Lorkhan because of what it did to Ur. Sotha Sil, however, found a way to use the Heart without being driven mad, and the council decided to break their vow to Nerevar. Because of this broken vow, Azura unjustly cursed the Chimer people.

If you ask the Ashlanders what happened after the Battle of Red Mountain, however, they would tell you a slightly different story. They believe Dagoth Ur was driven mad by the Heart of Lorkhan and that he battled Nerevar – they agree with the official account on those notes. However, they maintain that Nerevar emerged from the battle unscathed that the whole War Council, Nerevar included, made a vow to Azura to not use the Heart of Lorkhan. Nerevar wanted to keep that vow, but the rest of the Council rebelled, killing Nerevar in the process. The rest of the War Council used the Heart, turning themselves into gods, so Azura could do nothing to them. But she could curse their people: the Chimer.

Nerevar returned

There are a few things that Ashlander tribes have in common. All are led by an Ashkhan, and all have a spiritual leader called the Wise Woman. Ashlanders deny the true divinity of the Tribunal for obvious reasons, and most are devoted to their Daedric deities called the Reclamations. These Daedric Princes are often called the “good” Daedra, but what that really means is that they aren’t looking to destroy men and mer. The good Daedra include Azura (the goddess of dusk and dawn), Boethiah (Prince of plots), and Mephala (the spider god).

Another sect, called the Nerevarine Cult, is closely tied to the Urshilaku tribe on the western side of Vvardenfell. Just like the other tribes, they follow the Reclamation, but they also believe that Nerevar will return, reincarnated as an outlander, to enact revenge on the Tribunal. He will destroy the Tribunal Temple and put an end to the reign of the false gods.

Ironically, the Ashlanders are very suspicious of outsiders, despite their prophecy stating that an outlander would be the reincarnation of their beloved king, but who said cults had to make sense?

A metaphor for life

The Ashlanders play a major role in the main storyline for ESO Morrowind as well as playing a role in some of the side quests for the new Chapter. Although I don’t necessarily like the Ashlanders, they do add a very interesting perspective on the history of Morrowind. It also serves as a historical metaphor. Perspective plays a major role in world history, and the Ashlander plight reminds me a lot of some of the struggles that we run into in the real world.

A while ago, the Oatmeal released a comic that reminds me a lot of the story in Elder Scrolls. People live in bubbles, and sometimes, we need to step outside of those bubbles to truly understand what other people are going through and what’s important to them. Who knew that life lessons could be taught in video games? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Traverse the troubled land of Tamriel in the Elder Scrolls Online. Larry Everett will be your guide here in Tamriel Infinium every other week as you explore together the land created by ZeniMax and Bethesda. If you have any burning questions, send them his way via email or via Twitter.
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16 Comments on "Tamriel Infinium: A life lesson in Elder Scrolls Online Morrowind"

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Sashaa

Good article. I just finished Morrowind solo content and it is the best ESO DLC (let’s be honest) I’ve played so far. I loved Wrothgar. Morrowind is just many times better…

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Jeff

This is a great article Larry truly…it makes me Miss Morrowind and ESO even more, but I can’t support any developer that rewards Bullying and Harassment, which means FFXIV is the best place for me after all.

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Brother Maynard

Just a side note, Morrowind GOTY is now available on GoG for 3.79
(big sale on Bethesda titles)

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Archebius

Let me start this by saying that Game of Thrones is a well-written, well-conceived series.

But, in my opinion, it’s not a great example of a morally complicated one. I’m sure there are people who can point me to all kinds of tough choices that people have to make (and please do! I haven’t read all the books yet, so it’s possible my judgement on this point is off), but largely it seems to boil down to people either inventing new atrocities to inflict on people, or people trying to get revenge for past atrocities, or psychopaths doing their thing. The most grey it gets is whether people side with possible psychopaths to accomplish their planned atrocities.

So it’s not really different from the usual paradigm – it’s just that there are no good guys trying to save the world. It’s all bad guys.

Except Ned.

Bree Royce
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Bree Royce

And even Ned lied to Cat and the rest of his family for 18 years. :D

I think it gets very grey fwiw. Jaime, Tyrion, and Brienne — not coincidentally the best characters in books (if not so much the show) — are Martin’s favorite tools for demonstrating moral complications that aren’t just about revenge or psychopathy. Book Brienne is the best, but if you’ve not read, I don’t want to spoil you.

Zulika Mi-Nam
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Zulika Mi-Nam

I have not watched the show, but I started reading the series a few months ago after a super cool enhanced version came out on ibooks. This version has a lot of nice little things to assist in keeping track of things/people and provide extra details.

I am now reading the “A Feast with Dragons” combo of the last books currently out, 4 & 5. I am also listening to a podcast covering the chapters as I complete them and I have a reference app that has a spoiler slider based on which book you have read.

There are alot of callbacks and pointers in the details across books and also across character’s viewpoints. These can give you a different outlook on what you previously thought about many people & events as you progress.

Reading all of the books back-to-back in this format makes these ties easier to see for me. There are so many events and people to keep track of in this series, even those who have already read the series once or twice find new things on re-reads.

Tyrion for President 2020 !!!

Bree Royce
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Bree Royce

Oh that’s cool! I didn’t know that existed. I’ve always wanted to try a reread of 4&5 since I liked 4 but not 5.

Zulika Mi-Nam
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Zulika Mi-Nam

There is also a combo of 4 & 5 called “Boiled Leather”, but I went with Feast since the podcasts I use went that route.
http://afeastwithdragons.com/
http://asoiaf.westeros.org/index.php?/topic/139540-a-feast-with-dragons-combined-reading/ – with chapter #s

For any that don’t know, the reason for the combos are because 4 & 5 was supposed to be one book but grrm got carried away. The events in the 2 books happen concurrently and these combos lay out the reads of events more sequentially than how they were released.

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Ariel Domen

The writers and devs behind ESO Morrowind are RPG veterans, recently they showed up in an ESO live. I’ve played the quest in the expansion, most of them are superb, and respectful to TES III.
I always sided with the Ashlanders and Azura in TES III, but recently I’m having a mental crisis… why did Azura opposed the Tribunal becoming gods? After all, they did good things. Maybe she was just jealous. What did Azura do? She only cursed the chimer. I’m no expert but… after playing this expansion, I’m feeling more sympathetic towards Vivec. So I’d say that the devs do an amazing work making you doubt your alignment. :D

Bree Royce
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Bree Royce

If my memory of the lore is right, Azura was (rightly) pissed that Vivec/Almalexia/Sotha Sil 1) broke their oath not to use the heart, whose use had just wiped the Dwemer race from existence, and 2) murdered Nerevar for objecting to their breaking their oath. Wasn’t about jealousy.

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Ariel Domen

Thank you , yes you are right about the dwemer wipe. I still think that Vivec is not “the bad guy” as I once thought, Azura is not a great god either, why curse an entire race for the sins of 3, even the Ashlanders got the curse. And that’s the beauty of it for me, as the article says.

Theryl
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Theryl

Your memory is correct. In addition, Azura is a very Old Testament kind of god, “Obey me and I will bless you, disobey and I will curse you to the seventh generation.”

Karma_Mule
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Karma_Mule

I didn’t want to read the middle section of the story to avoid spoilers, but judging from reading the first few paragraphs and the last I agree that ESO (and the single player games) create rich worlds that few other games can rival.

Yes there are the still too common Kill X of Y and fetch quests in ESO, but there are also recurring themes that show a world with a rich variety of perspectives. Not only do each of the modern factions distort and misrepresent the worldview of the others, but throughout Tamriel’s history there are groups and factions that never come to see the others in unbiased ways, and their histories and writings pass along these skewed perspectives.

One way that manifests is in the interplay of the numerous books you can find in the game. One will sound like an authoritative and scholarly treatment of some historical event or personage, but later you can stumble on another that refutes that supposed history and has its own unique perspective on the same subject. Which is right? Which is wrong? What was actually history like?

As a player of earlier TES games that take place in the future, it’s also enjoyable to meet people who are treated as legends in those games, but you get to see their faults and follies as much as their brilliance or heroism. (Pompous Shalidor being one of my favorites)

I also appreciate that each faction storyline has some characters that follow along in your hero’s wake, and if you seek them out as you progress through the main story you can see how they’re being affected: loved ones are lost or dead, idealistic children run off to join the war and the terrified parent is left worrying about them, etc etc.

If you peer beyond the standard MMO tropes there’s a rich and interesting world that players willing to poke into corners and look at the details can dive into.

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