Players of The Elder Scrolls Online were treated to the release of Dragonhold this week, the conclusion of the year-long “season of the dragon” that has been releasing bit by bit over the course of 2019. One of the plot points introduced with the Elsweyr chapter and continuing with this release revolves around a mysterious ancient order of warriors called the Dragonguard. But who were these mysterious champions of yore? Where did they come from, and what was their role in Tamrielic history?Opinions vary on how exactly the Tsaesci were serpent-like. I prefer to think that they were humanoid in form with snake-like features instead of slimy, slithery invertebrates. In addition to sounding quite nasty, the snake-people must have been incredibly fearsome on the battlefield. Some accounts have the Tsaesci ‘devouring’ or ‘consuming’ the men of Akavir to extinction. Whether this is a literal devouring with respect to their vampiric tendencies, or a consuming in the sense of absorption of people groups and cultures, there doesn’t seem to be complete agreement.
Whatever the case, once the men of Akavir had disappeared the Tsaesci got bored and decided to turn their attention to their fiery, scaly draconic neighbors.
Current Elder Scrolls players know dragons as the terrible bellower of the fus-ro-dah shout. But in ancient Akavir, it was the Tsaesci who struck fear into the dragons. They enslaved entire breeds and eventually hunted them nearly to extinction, causing the dragons to flee continent for the land of Tamriel. The obsessed Tsaesci, not being content to have rid their own continent of dragons, felt compelled to follow.
Just to be clear, they really liked killing dragons.
In the first era 2703, the Tsaesci (known in Tamriel as the Akaviri) arrived in Tamriel and continued practicing their dracocide as they marched through Skyrim and Morrowind like a hot knife through butter. So fearful were the dragons that they continued their retreat across the continent.
As the Akaviri moved southward, they eventually encountered the armies of the Reman Cyrodiil I in the Pale Pass of the Jerall Mountains, which border Skyrim to the south and Cyrodiil to the north. The Akaviri must not have been hungry that day because instead of wiping out the forces of Reman, they surrendered after a short battle.
Some accounts say that the Akaviri heard Reman’s voice and recognized him as the Dragonborn, the one they had been searching for. That makes you wonder, if they were searching for a Dragonborn, shouldn’t they have just asked the dragons instead of killing them? Seems like they prolonged their own search with their unbridled aggression.
Other accounts mention that the Akaviri were searching for leadership, and Reman provided the kind of structure they sought. Leadership for what? It seems that they were accomplishing all of their goals just fine without bringing in an outside consultant.
Yet another count, by the Imperials, claims that the Akaviri were soundly defeated at the Battle of Pale Pass, which seems a little far-fetched considering the battle prowess of the dragon-slayers.
At any rate, the Akaviri saw fit to join forces with Cyrodiil and became known as the Dragonguard. This battle marked the beginning of the Reman Dynasty.
Perhaps it was during this timeframe that the Tsaesci-derived Akaviri began to lose their supposed snakelike features, as they lived among and fought beside the armies of Cyrodiil. The joined forces swept across much of Tamriel, allowing Remen I to eventually conquer enough peoples to found the Second Empire, also known as the Cyrodilic Empire.
The Dragonguard were loyal more to the emperor than to the empire. Apparently, their loyalty was rewarded because they were given leeway to continue hunting down the remaining dragons in Tamriel. But perhaps they should have stayed home and concentrated a little more on guarding the emperor, since on their watch, Emperor Remen III was assassinated by the Morag Tong in 1E 2920. The Drangonguard felt pretty bad about messing up their one job and eventually voted to disband in shame.
Some of the Akaviri moved on fairly quickly, though. Potentate Versidue-Shaie, the closest advisor to Remen III, assumed leadership of the empire in the absence of an emperor. His reign was *checks notes* fraught with war, devastation, violence, uncontrolled spending and an eventual empty victory for the empire that led to a poor, lawless continent. But other than that, he did a pretty good job! In an effort to help bring order to the land, Versidue-Shaie agreed to the formation of the Fighters Guild (then called the Syffim) which was composed largely of Akaviri ex-Dragonguard. The Syffim spread quickly throughout the land, and its success eventually led to the official sanctioning of other guilds that the potentate viewed as beneficial to the empire.
As the second era dawned, the ex-Dragonguard who did not become Fighters Guild mercenaries struck out on their own, scattering across the region and preserving the mystical Akaviri arts. They became known as Dragon Knights, mysterious beings who derived their power from dragons and were deft at manipulating fire. Considering the events of the Elder Scrolls Online, we suspect these Dragon Knights must have been quick to teach their skills to all manner of race and people in Tamriel.
In subsequent eras, the Dragonguard was re-formed; under the rule of Emperor Varen Aquilarios, it was captained by the legendary (and decidedly not snakelike) Sai Sahan, member of the Five Companions. During this time, the Dragonguard was composed of all races found in Tamriel. This order persisted until the last known member was assassinated in Elsweyr by the order of Euraxia Tharn, who had allied herself with dragons in her pursuit of conquering the province.
It is speculated, however, that some members of the original Akaviri Dragonguard went underground in search of another Dragonborn who was worthy of the Ruby Throne. They found one in the form of Tiber Septim, and under his rule re-emerged as a protector and advisor to the emperor using a new name: The Blades. Must have been time for a re-brand.
Certainly, the Dragonguard has had quite an impact on the history of Tamriel. From the virtual extinction of the dragons to the advisement of emperors, to the formation of the Fighters guild, Dragon Knights and the Blades, the Dragonguard, and its offshoots, seem to always be at the heart of major events in a continent from which they did not even originate.