Lore:Loremaster's Archive - House Telvanni< Lore
The questions were originally asked here.
I am Divayth Fyr. Greatest mage of our era, master of extra-planar travel, renowned scholar of Daedric artifacts, and generous patron to the University of Gwylim. I have been asked as part of the University's ongoing series to provide you–the layperson–with knowledge about the wider world. If you are reading this, it is my assumption you have wits enough to understand the import of my words. Settle yourself and attend.
The subject in discussion today is the great House Telvanni. In truth I imagine I was the only individual of any import who deigned to respond to the submitted questions. Take my words as truth, or don't. It matters very little to me.
My only goal in responding to these inquiries is to somewhat lift the veil of secrecy on the greatest of the Great Houses of Morrowind. To prove beyond a shadow of a doubt the primacy, power, and position in the world. House Telvanni stands alone. If you learn nothing else here today, learn that.
Has House Telvanni always controlled the area surrounding Necrom, or has that land changed hands multiple times throughout history? I get the impression the political map of Morrowind is always shifting, with the different Dunmer houses enforcing ancestral claims, purchasing or inheriting land, and finding many ways to manipulate their way to the top. What's the history of this so-called "Telvanni" Peninsula, in that regard?
In reviewing the submitted questions, this issue of geography and politics seemed paramount in importance. It arose in several questions, in various ways. Let's deal with this directly.
Maps are tools. Nothing more. Nothing less. Standing in the Ashlands, a wayfinding map is a tool of survival. Able to assist you in finding your way to safety. Similarly, a ship's map may aid a sailor in finding a calm harbor far from home.
But political maps? Maps that claim to represent the truth of land claimed by force of blade and spell? These maps aren't tools for the reader. They're tools for the mapmakers.
They speak of great strength when perhaps none exists. They speak of boundaries and borders that may exist only in the minds of people burdened by over-heavy crowns. To offer a contemporary example, have you ever seen a map of "the front" in the war between the three alliances? Do you believe that map was accurate for more than a day? At most? And, as always, remember that every written thing you read is subjective. Even the words of Divath Fyr.
This is all context. With that in place, the historian's question is easily answered. The Great Houses have skirmished to claim the length and breadth of the peninsula in the same way they have warred for control of Vvardenfell, or Stonefalls, or Deshaan. Any maps that claim to fully represent political control of a region as heavily contested as Morrowind are guidelines at best. Even today, as the Three Banners war rages, my people continue their great game of strike and counterstrike. Gloved hands grip gilded blades, as the strong vie to rule the weak.
All that said, I would be remiss in not issuing a firm and clear warning. Anyone claiming that the great House Telvanni is not master of its domain is sorely mistaken. It is called "the Telvanni Peninsula," for the house controls the whole of the territory from its base to its tip, crowned by the island palace of Port Telvannis beyond. The city of Necrom, of course, is a somewhat complicated subject which I will address anon.
But if you have reason to fear the great house, do not sail for Firewatch. Stay far from Gorne. House Telvanni's rule within these borders is undisputed. And its reach, its power, its vengeance is a terrible thing to behold.
Why [are] there quite a few Telvanni using the magister title? As the Telvanni title of magister is when you announce you deserve to be archmagister over the current one and there's quite a few Telvanni being called magister like … Dratha, Therana, Gothren, and Shelreni Baro (in the Telvanni Peninsula).
An understandable confusion. Titles in House Telvanni are not inherited. They are not granted, bequeathed, bought, sold, or traded. They are earned. They are taken. And if you do not have the strength, the will, the political acumen to hold that title. Well. There is always another eager house member behind you waiting to claim what is rightfully theirs.
While in the past, claiming the title magister could be seen as a threat (that gilded blade, again), Archmagister Nelos Otheri has actually encouraged the greatest of the house to take on this title if they think they can defend it. Otheri's hand is a steady one upon the great ship that is Telvanni. In this age of three alliances, the great mages of the house have little interest in the ponderous work of politics that the archmagister title would necessitate. In truth Nelos, like all scholars, wishes to be left alone to accomplish his own studies.
Further complicating this is the reality that beneath the Telvanni Council proper a number ofconclaves and assemblies form, regionally, as required. Nothing in the great house can be accomplished without furious debate, after all. And, if needs be, a bit of fire and brimstone to clarify any contentious points.
In short, the magisters are a dangerous, self-selecting nest of snakes that greatly enjoy their station and power. And, nominally, make ready to put forth a new leader should the need arise.
A nest of snakes, I might add, I have no interest in joining. Am I making myself plainly heard, Shelreni Baro?
Two Telvanni walk into a corner club. Are they allowed to stay, or do they get kicked out?
The traditional answer to this joke inside the great house is "They stay. They buy the building, everyone inside, and work the loudest of the lot to death." I think it's rather quite funny.
It is something of an open secret that there are a great number of downright heretical members of House Telvanni who spurn the Tribunal. How does the house keep themselves from the ire of the Ordinators?
Heresy is in the eye of the beholder. Do you think the Master of Morrowind is kept awake at night by the thought members of House Telvanni do not worship at his feet? In truth, the Ordinators are welcome within Telvanni lands, as long as they are on official business. No one can truly know the mind of a god, not even one such as myself, but I believe the respect the great house has for the Tribunal is reciprocated.
Or, to borrow a phrase I heard from my groundskeeper the other day: We tend our stalks and they tend theirs.
Honor to your house, Ser. A week ago, I met a mage of your house from Sadrith Mora who rode one of the strangest beasts I've ever seen. It looked like a horse, those mammals from the west, but it was made from spores and fungi, and as much as that is puzzling itself, I'm curious why one would shape it after that instead of something belonging to our own great fauna such as guar, nix-ox or a silt hopper?
—Redoran Naver Avelas
One of the privileges of being Archmagister is that you need not explain yourself. I was in the room when Nelos himself outlined the specifications of this creature to his coterie of mycoturges–the best in Morrowind. Based on my limited knowledge of the Archmagister's past, I would hazard he took a liking to the horse during one of his sojourns to Wayrest, Sentinel, or High Isle.
As an aside, I have never met a person who more enjoyed Twenty-Four Raven pie. His ability to dismantle a whole serving with merely his fingers and a fork speaks to an impressive understanding of transfiguration magics.
With Necrom being one of the holiest cities in Morrowind … where is the presence of Indoril said to closely be tied to the Temple and therefore Necrom? Has the land around Necrom always been Telvanni or has it passed hands over the centuries?
An excellent question, and an amusing name. We have already discussed the quixotic nature of political control in the region. I will not rehash that subject. But Necrom is a unique situation worth elaborating on. As part of the great House Telvanni's choice to reject the Ebonheart Pact (a choice I was consulted on, naturally), the issue of Necrom was immediately dealt with.
Necrom has stood as the spiritual heart of regional ancestor worship since before the houses were formed. It has been claimed in campaign after campaign over the centuries, a worthy prize to any that could hold it. The Council understood that the new reality of House Telvanni's extraterritoriality would not withstand the cultural need for my people to visit their honored dead. And so one of the first sessions arranged between the barristers of the Pact and the barristers of the great house was dedicated to Necrom's nominal independence.
Necrom is held in trust by the Keepers of the Dead, the vigilant attendants to the city and the Necropolis beneath. Any who wish to honor their ancestors are welcome there: be they Indoril, Redoran, or otherwise. The great House Telvanni recognizes the important cultural significance of the city, and it's with great pride that we ensure safe passage for any penitents seeking to reach the City of the Dead.
I know that Dunmer inter their remains in ancestral family tombs, or in a city of the dead like Necrom, where they can later be summoned to communicate with their descendants. But do non-Dunmer people who, say ... got married into a Dunmer House, be also afforded these privileges, and also communicate with their descendants even though they are not Dunmer themselves?
Ah. A progressive. As with so many things in the Ashlands, the answer to this question depends on where and when you ask it. Traditionally, smaller communities maintain a hard-and-fast rule against non-Dark Elves being interred within family crypts. Larger cities like Mournhold or Ebonheart are more open-minded, but even in those cosmopolitan communities you're unlikely to find more than a handful of foreign names on the plaques beside a tomb. I'm unfamiliar with how the Keepers of the Dead feel about such arrangements. But having had the displeasure of speaking with one of their Curates, who had the imaginative function of a particularly slow-witted guar, my guess is they're not thrilled.
I support whatever choice a venerated family might make, of course. I'd suggest asking ancestors directly what their opinion might be. After all, a prospective outlander addition to the family crypt is joining an august and revered congregation, one which might have strong feelings on the matter.
I am curious as to the Telvanni traditions and ceremonies of the remains of members of the house. Do they differ from the practices of the other houses? What is the Telvanni belief if the remains of their dead are not interred properly? Are the spirits of their dead able to move on if their remains are intentionally held away from said tombs? I'm just a curious, law-abiding Argonian.
—Not a Shadowscale.
How droll. I will be speaking tersely with University editors about the propriety and framing of these questions going forward.
The great house sits in a position of primacy regarding Dark Elf funerary traditions. Some elders within the house claim that their observances predate the Battle of Red Mountain, and in fact are a pure distillation of Chimeric ancestor worship with only slight adaptations for this modern era.
"Justice is ephemeral. Duty is slavery. Trade and culture are ash in the bonfire of history. Binding yourself to these ephemeral concerns is false honor, false faith.
Those who came before us gave all that they were to carve a path with their bones and their blood. Our ancestors demand we rise above temporal concerns to take power in our grasp. And continue the long march of destiny.
Your prayers mean nothing. Your offerings mean nothing. It is the forceful expression of will that gives true honor to the Ancestors."
—Saint Vorys the Immolant
A bit direct for my liking. But you cannot deny the truth in his words.
There are a series of tomes mentioned to be in the vaults of the city of Necrom called the Indigo Scrolls. Is there anything you can share on the knowledge contained within these tomes?
For centuries, knowledge that the Indigo Tomes even existed was a closely held secret. Their offhanded mention by that imbecile Tanion in his propagandist work of fiction has caused the Keepers of the Dead a small amount of grief, but as always the great house stands ready to assist Necrom with any security issues it might encounter.
I would have ignored this question entirely, but an apprentice I'm working with seeks veneration within the house by means of far-scrying divinatory magics. I thought it might prove an interesting challenge–I am a harsh master but a fair one, and their failure would have resulted in only a minor punishment.
Happily, they succeeded. I look forward to addressing your inquiry with a personal conversation. Please let this be a lesson that an unembellished pen name will not save you from House Telvanni.
If the original vvardvarks are collectively a failed result of a Telvanni experiment gone awry, what was the intended outcome? What chimeric disaster were they expecting to make?
It is my understanding that Magister Varkenel was attempting to create a kind of domesticated predator. Initial trials were aimed at using Ashlands stock to transfigure something similar to the small felines found in households across the western part of the continent. Further experimentation would have increased its size and ferocity in an effort to create a novel kind of warbeast.
Varkenel's failure is no doubt one of the most successful accidents in the history of the great house. The Archmagister at the time gave the doting father the honor of expanding his experimentation to allow for a proper breeding program. And of course to expand the vvardvark line with additional colorations and configurations. I believe they have even developed large-scale beasts suitable for acting as pack animals or riding mounts, though I'm unsure of where in the process that effort might be.
The Telvanni are known for their talented mages, and perhaps most powerful among them is Divayth Fyr, who is compared to the likes of Shalidor and Vanus Galerion. Do you know of any figures from my Breton race that I can look up to that measure up to their power and/or accomplishments, perhaps even within Great House Telvanni?
—Lady Allene Ashcroft
First and foremost, you have my compliments for choosing such an appreciative way to request this information, Lady Ashcroft. Your fellow question writers could have taken a page from your tome, contextualizing your true goals within the framework of charming obsequiousness.
The comparison to Arch-Mage Galerion is apt, but short-sighted. The Mages Guild is a halfway house for those with the mystical aptitude to slowly float a quill over a parchment, or light the lanterns in Wayrest with incantations a Dark Elf child masters before their tenth year. In short: lackwits. That a talent like Vanus Galerion has shackled himself to that sprawling edifice to mediocrity proves that wisdom is no requirement for arcane power.
Your touchstone to Shalidor is more complimentary, but still flawed. The master of the Labyrinthian ultimately fell victim to short-sighted sentimentality. I do share agreement with some of his older writings about the role of spellcasters in civilized society, however. He also has the dubious distinction of owing me more outstanding favors than half of House Telvanni combined. I will eventually come to collect, old man. Count on it.
You Bretons have a reputation for mystical aptitude, but I would argue that the cost of that success has been a lack of lasting impact on the greater magical community. I could find numerous instances of Mage So-And-So making a splash with war magics for a few decades, and then dying. Or a great divinator prognosticating portentous events, and then dying. Breton mages burn brightly but briefly, I suppose, a sad commentary on the lifespan your uncaring gods have gifted your people.
A gift, then, for you and the rest of your Covenant kin seeking validation in the wider world. Research Sage Voernet, a scholar of the First Era who has come down to you as little more than a footnote but was a keen and masterful manipulator of the magical arts in his time. The adventures and prominence of the man known to history as "Gyron Vardengroet" (that was not his true name) are vastly overblown by tale-telling, but speak to a powerful and wise Breton mage. And while I find the ethos of the druid cult to be pedestrian in the extreme, the Druid King Kasorayn was as powerful a spellweaver as any to be found in the Direnni culture his people fled from.
This will have to satisfy for now. Please direct any follow-up correspondence to the University in my care. Perhaps if you found this educational, another exchange might be possible again in the future.
If I can leave readers with a word of advice, it's this: I have lived for thousands of years without melancholy or misanthropy because I have always found something to engage my keen mind. Find hobbies. Engage your faculties. Stay curious.
And never, ever cheat a Telvanni.