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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