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Lore:Pocket Guide to the Empire, 1st Edition/Cyrodiil

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LO-map-Cyrodiil (PGE1).jpg
East (Nibenay)
Colovian Prince with Bodyguard from Rihad
Westerners (Sancre Tor)
LO-misc-PGE1 Cyrodiil.jpg
Cyrodiil, Dragon Empire, Starry Heart of Nirn, and Seat of Sundered Kings... Indeed, if the history of the Nords is the history of humans on Tamriel, then Cyrodiil is the throne from which they will decide their destiny. It is the largest region of the continent, and most is endless jungle. Its center, the grassland of the Nibenay Valley, is enclosed by an equatorial rain forest and broken up by rivers. As one travels south along these rivers, the more subtropical it becomes, until finally the land gives way to the swamps of Argonia and the placid waters of the Topal Bay. The elevation rises gradually to the west and sharply to the north. Between its western coast and its central valley there are all manner of deciduous forest and mangroves, becoming sparser towards the ocean. The western coast is a wet-dry area, and from Rihad border to Anvil to the northernmost Valenwood villages forest fires are common in summer. There are a few major roads to the west, river paths to the north, and even a canopy tunnel to the Velothi Mountains, but most of Cyrodiil is a river-based society surrounded by jungle.
Cyrodilic history truly begins by the middle of the Alessian Reformation (see sidebar, Alessian Order), when civilization and cultivation had allowed the region to emerge as a discernible Tamrielic power. Its culture and military strength centered in the sacred Nibenay Valley, a grassland expanse with a vast lake at its heart. Several small islands rose from this lake, and the capital city sprawled across them, crisscrossed with bridges and gondola ferries. Rivers connected the city-state to both its profitable outlying territories and the friendly inland ports of Skyrim and Pellitine. Rice and textiles were its main exports, along with more esoteric treasure-goods, such as hide armor, moon-sugar, and ancestor-silk. The sheer size of Cyrodiil's physical theater, and frequent intervals of Elven tyranny, made its unification as a whole a slow and oft-interrupted process. At the height of Alessian influence, its western arm enjoyed a brief autonomy as the Colovian Estates, a demarcation that still colors an outsider's view of the Empire today; often, Cyrodiil has two faces, East and West, and any discussion of its later social history must first be tempered with a summary of this early divergence.
Traditionally, the East is regarded as the region's soul: magnanimous, tolerant, and administrative. It was in the rain forests of the Nibenay Valley that the original Cyro-Nordic tribes, the Nibenese, learned a self-reliance that separated them culturally and economically from Skyrim. The Elven harassment of the First Empire gave rise to an elite form of support troop for the Valley armies, the battlemage.[YR 1] By the time the Alessian Doctrines filtered down from the north along the river trade ways, these mages had become the ruling aristocracy. They were quickly superseded by the Alessian priesthood, whose inexplicably charismatic religion found purchase in the lower classes. The traditional Nordic pantheon of Eight Divines was replaced by a baroque veneration of ancestor spirits and god-animals, practices encouraged by the mutable-yet-monotheistic doctrines of the Alessian faith. The doctrines eventually codified nearly every aspect of Eastern culture. Restrictions against certain kinds of meat-eating, coupled with the sentiments of the blossoming animal cults, soon made agriculture and husbandry nearly impossible. Thus, many of the Eastern Cyrodiils were forced to become merchants, which, over time, allowed the Nibenay Valley to become the wealthiest city-state in the region. Yet, under Alessian rule, no matter how rich or powerful the merchant class became it was still a tenanted citizenry, and the tithes they were forced to pay the priesthood were constant reminders of the state's true masters.
The West is respected as Cyrodiil's iron hand: firm, unwavering, and ever-vigilant. The Cyro-Nords that settled it had relinquished the fertile Nibenay Valley long ago, determined to conquer the frontier. Their primitive ferocity was disinclined to magic or the need for industry, preferring bloody engagement and plunder instead. After they had captured the Nedic port-cities of the Strident coast, the Westerners embarked on a mastery of the sea. Their earliest voyages took them as far as the Iliac Bay and the Cape of the Blue Divide, whose ports they annually raided until the (then) superior Yokudan navies arrived, ca. 1E810. By the time of the Alessian Reformation, the Westerners were firmly in a position, both geographically and socially, to resist its doctrines. Hammerfell, its northern border state, was now protected by its own holy-avenging order, the Ra Gada, whose bloody intolerance for foreigners acted as West Cyrodiil's buffer against the Alessian priesthood. The pantheon of Eight Divines, therefore, survived unchecked in Western Cyrodiil, and relations with the increasingly Alessian East became strained. Ultimately, the West isolated itself from the theocratic hegemony of the Nibenay Valley, establishing an autonomous government, the Colovian Estates.
Things persisted in this vein until the Thrassian Plague of 1E2200 (see Free Regions- Thras), which decimated more than half of Tamriel's population, particularly the western coastlands closest to Thras. After Bendu Olo, the Colovian king of Anvil, led the All Flags Navy to victory over the slugfolk of Thras, the glory of the Cyrodilic people became known throughout the world. The Colovian Estates began to overshadow the richer, more populous East then, which eventually lead to the War of Righteousness that ended Alessian rule. Control of the Nibenay Valley reverted to a mercantile-magocracy that was still far too arcane for Western tastes to entertain a reunification of Cyrodiil. Four hundred years would pass before that would happen, when Reman I, another proud son of the West, rallied the Valley's army to join his own and fight the Akaviri Invasion of 1E2703. The Cyrodilic forces engaged the Akaviri in every region of the north, eliciting their surrender at last in the Pale Pass of Skyrim. By war's end, the Cyrodiils found themselves not only united as a nation, but, too, responsible for the further protection of the northern human kingdoms at large. When the Elves of the Summerset Isles took umbrage at what they perceived as a renewed human imperialism, Reman was forced to prove them right. In order to prevent the Elves from attacking[YR 2] the already weakened northern kingdoms, he offered the captive Akaviri Horde amnesty in his future dominions if they would serve as the nucleus of the Army of the Second Empire of Men. Reman's own dynasty lasted for two hundred years, and in that span it conquered all the kingdoms of Tamriel except for Morrowind. Indeed, the Dark Elven Morag Tong were the doom of Reman's heirs, and the death of the last true Cyrodilic Emperor heralded the beginning of the Common Era.
The Cyrodilic Empire endured for another four hundred years under the auspices of the Akaviri Potentate (see sidebar, The Second Empire), fell, and suffered a similar span of years in the insurrections, misrules, and loss of power known as the Interregnum. Yet, the remnants of the Cyrodilic Empire refused to die, even though both East and West had become fragmented beyond measure. A petty king of the Colovian Estates, Cuhlecain, came to power and appointed an Atmoran as General of his legions. General Talos had studied in Skyrim, and used the thu'um. He could rout armies with his battle-cry and shout lesser men off their feet. A year later more than half of the Cyrodilic Empire was reclaimed or consolidated, and Cuhlecain saw fit to move into the Nibenay Valley, capture the capital city, and proclaim himself Emperor. By this point, High Rock and Skyrim, which bitterly opposed a return to Cyrodilic rule, gathered their armies for a joint invasion of the Colovian West. Talos met them on the field of Sancre Tor. The Nords that had come to cripple the Empire soon joined the General's forces, for when they heard his thu'um they realized he was Skyrim's Son and the Heir to the Empires of Men. The Bretons were sent back to High Rock with tales of Cuhlecain's new General, where they decided to combat the Emperor's sorcery with their own. In CE854, a nightblade from the Western Reach made his way to the Imperial Palace at Nibenay. There, the Witchman assassinated the Emperor, caught the Palace on fire, and slit the throat of General Talos. "But from the smoldering ruin he came, one hand to his neck and with Cuhlecain's Crown in the other. The legions wept at the sight. His Northern magic had saved him, but the voice that led them would be more silent from that night on. His word could no longer rout an army with a roar, but he could still command one with a whisper. He took for himself a Cyrodilic name, Tiber Septim[YR 3], and the Nordic Name of Kings, Ysmir, the Dragon of the North. And with those names he took, too, the Red Diamond Crown of the Cyrodiils, and became their True Emperor." Thus was born the Third Empire of Men.
Cyrodiil in the Third Empire is the young, vital embodiment of its ancient heritage. Internally, it has undergone an incredible restoration-- reconstruction of the ruined sections of the Imperial City is nearly complete, roads and cities destroyed in the Interregnum have been rebuilt, East and West are unified for the first time in four centuries. Cyrodiil's present stability and strength have not been seen since the Reman Dynasty; indeed, they were born under similar circumstances - a Westerner winning the Eastern throne, forging them both into the greatest power in Tamriel. And now, in but twenty years time, Tiber Septim has secured Imperial authority in High Rock, Skyrim, and Hammerfell. Every human region stands with him against the Elven menace.[YR 4] The Emperor has gracefully attributed his success to his peoples, the Colovians and the Nibenese, whose cultures we shall now treat in their current incarnation.[YR 5]
The Colovians today still possess much of the frontier spirit of their ancestors. They are uncomplicated, self-sufficient, hearty, and extremely loyal to one another. Whenever the East would tremble under the weakness of a leader, the Colovians would withdraw unto themselves, always believing they were keeping the national spirit safe until the storm passed. They realize that the Nibenay Valley is the heart of the Empire and the cultural center of its civilization, but it is a fragile center that only can be held together by the strength of character of its Emperor. When he falters, so do the Colovians. Yet when he is mighty, like Tiber Septim, they are his legions. Today, West Cyrodiils make up the majority of the soldiers in the Ruby Ranks. The Colovian nobility, all officers of the Imperial Legions or its West Navy, do not allow themselves the great expenditure of courtly life as is seen in the capital city. They prefer immaculate uniforms and stark standards hanging from the ceiling of their austere cliff-fortresses; to this day, they become a little perplexed[YR 6] when they must visit the grandly decorated assault of color that is the Emperor's Palace.[YR 7]
By contrast, the Eastern people of Cyrodiil relish in garish costumes, bizarre tapestries, tattoos, brandings, and elaborate ceremony. Closer to the wellspring of civilization, they are more given to philosophy and the evolution of ancient traditions. The Nibenese find the numinous in everything around them, and their different cults are too numerous to mention (the most famous are the Cult of the Ancestor-Moth, the Cult of Heroes, the Cult of Tiber Septim, and the Cult of Emperor Zero). To the Colovians, the ancestor worship and esoteric customs of the East can often be bizarre. Akaviri dragon-motifs are found in all quarters, from the high minaret bridges of the Imperial City to the paper hako skiffs that villagers use to wing their dead down the rivers. Thousands of workers ply the rice fields after the floodings, or clear the foliage of the surrounding jungle in the alternate seasons. Above them are the merchant-nobility, the temple priests and cult leaders, and the age-old aristocracy of the battlemages. The Emperor watches over them all from the towers of the Imperial City, as dragons circle overhead.

Places of Note:

The Imperial City
Refayj's famous declaration, "There is but one city in the Imperial Province,--" may strike the citizens of the Colovian west as mildly insulting, until perhaps they hear the rest of the remark, which continues, "--but one city in Tamriel, but one city in the World; that, my brothers, is the city of the Cyrodiils." From the shore it is hard to tell what is city and what is Palace, for it all rises from the islands of the lake towards the sky in a stretch of gold. Whole neighborhoods rest on the jeweled bridges that connect the islands together. Gondolas and river-ships sail along the watery avenues of its flooded lower dwellings. Moth-priests walk by in a cloud of ancestors; House Guards hold exceptionally long daikatanas crossed at intersections, adorned with ribbons and dragon-flags; and the newly arrived Western legionnaires sweat in the humid air. The river mouth is tainted red from the tinmi soil of the shore, and river dragons rust their hides in its waters. Across the lake the Imperial City continues, merging into the villages of the southern red river and ruins left from the Interregnum.
The Emperor's Palace is a crown of sun rays, surrounded by his magical gardens. One garden path is known as Green Emperor Road-here, topiaries of the heads of past Emperors have been shaped by sorcery and can speak. When one must advise Tiber Septim, birds are drawn to the hedgery head, using their songs as its voice and moving its branches for the needed expressions.[YR 8]

Alessian Order

This monotheistic religion was once very popular, but today only remnants of its faith remain. It started in the coastal jungle of what is now the Colovian west, where a prophet named Marukh, who had spoken to the "Enlightened One," Saint Alessia, began to question the validity of Elven rule. These sentiments led to an increasingly abstract and unknowable depiction of a Single God. The Alessians were wise enough to realize that they had to incorporate the ancient polytheistic elements into their new religion for it to find a wide acceptance. The divine aspects worshipped by the various humans and Aldmeri were recognizable in the guise of the myriad saints and spirits of the evolving Alessian canon. It wasn't long before the Order was the authority on every religion in Tamriel, and their power grew to earthshaking proportions. Nearly a third of the First Era passed under their theocratic rule. When its priesthood had become too widespread to support itself, the Order began to fight among itself. With the severance of the territories of West Cyrodiil from the Empire, too much money and land had been lost. The War of Righteousness broke out, and the Order which had almost ruled the world undid itself in a ten year span.

The Second Empire

The Second Empire is divided into two stages: the Reman Dynasty and the Akaviri Potentate. As mentioned in the text, after the Akaviri raiders had been defeated, Reman recruited many of them into his service. Later Cyrodiils traditionally kept a House Guard of Akaviri, and the Emperor's chief advisor, the Potentate, was usually of Akaviri descent. Other Akaviri slaves played a significant part in establishing the administrative structures of the Second Empire, as well as in the training of its military. The restructured Imperial legions, which learned an unparalleled measure of coherence, logistics, and discipline from the Akaviri, began to easily overwhelm the other regional armies; soon every region in Tamriel belonged to Cyrodiil except for Morrowind. After the assassination of Reman's last heir by the Dark Elven Morag Tong during the disastrous Four Score War, control of the Empire reverted to the Akaviri Potentate. They have left a visible mark on the Empire of today. The high crafts of daikatanas and dragonscale armor came from Akavir, as did the banners and military dress of Septim's shock troops, the Blades. The Red Dragons that have come to represent the Empire and the Imperial City were originally Akaviri war mounts. Akaviri surnames are rare and prized possessions among the Cyrodilic citizenry of today, and there are trace facial features of the Akaviri in many distinguished Cyrodilic families. Some colonies of "true Akaviri" still exist in both the Empire and its border regions, but they are named so only for their practices and customs than for the purity of their blood.

The Song of Tiber Septim

From the Odes: "He was born in Atmora as Talos, 'Stormcrown' in the language of the ancient Ehlnofey, and it was from that shore he sailed. He spent his youth in Skyrim among the Nords. There he learned much from the Tongues and their chieftains and their ways of war. At twenty he led the invasion of Old Hrol'dan, taking it back from the Witchmen of High Rock and their kinsmen.
"Soon the Greybeards made known that they were restless. Already the storms had begun from their murmurs. The Greybeards were going to Speak. The surrounding villages were abandoned as the people fled the coming blast.
"The villagers warned Talos to turn back, for he was marching to the mountain where the Greybeards dwelt.
"Inside he went, and on seeing him they removed their gags. When they spoke his name the World shook.
"The Tongues of Skyrim told the son of Atmora that he had come to rule Tamriel and that he must travel south to do so.
"And it is true that Talos did come to Cyrodiil shortly after the Battle of Old Hrol'dan.
"And it is true that a great storm preceded his arrival."[YR 9]

The Cult of the Ancestor-Moth

For long the Cyro-Nordics had exported ancestor-silks to other regions, simple yet exotic shawls woven from the silks of an indigenous gypsy moth and inscribed with the requisite genealogy of its buyer. Under the Cult, however, ancestor and moth became synonymous: the singing and hymnal spirits of one's forebears are caught in a special silk-gathering ritual, the resource of which is used to create any manner of vestment or costume. The swishing of this material during normal movement reproduces the resplendent ancestral chorus contained therein-it quickly became a sacred custom among the early Nibenese, which has persisted to the present day. Monks of the higher orders of the Cult of the Ancestor-Moth are able to forego the magical ritual needed to enchant this fabric, and, indeed, prefer instead to wear the moths about the neck and face. They are able to attract the ancestor-moths through the application of finely ground bark-dust gathered from the gypsy moth's favorite tree, and through the sub-vocalization of certain mantras. They must chant the mantras constantly to maintain skin contact with the ancestor-moths, a discipline that they endure for the sake of some cosmic balance. When a monk interrupts these mantras, in conversation for example, the moths burst from him in glorious fashion every time he speaks, only to light back upon his skin when he resumes the inaudible chant.

The Cult of Emperor Zero

This cult, started by Tiber Septim himself, was established in the honor of Cuhlecain, the Emperor Zero. Though Cuhlecain did not technically recapture all of Cyrodiil's holdings during his time, he is worthy of worship for the wisdom he showed in appointing Talos as his General, and the bravery he showed when retaking the Imperial City, two events that were crucial in restoring the glory of the new Cyrodilic Empire. He is therefore to be remembered in our prayers. The topiary-mages have begun to shape his aspect in the Palace gardens, where in the future Cuhlecain may share his insights with Tiber Septim in the same manner as the rest of the blessed hedgery heads of Green Emperor Road.

Annotations left by "YR", an elven traveler sending this pamphlet to his uncle, are as follows:
  • 1.^  Our old students forget themselves
  • 2.^  Ha!
  • 3.^  Even those humans who revile Talos as a traitor, oathbreaker, and scoundrel pay homage to his skill in obtaining his ends without resort to warfare
  • 4.^  Truly, a doubtful statement.
  • 5.^  An observation: Colovians feel superior to the Nibenese as a people, yet, because the East is the Empire's "heart", the Westerners are often neglected in Cyrodiil—Even though the throne is taken continually by Kings from the West, the Nibenese quickly assimilate into their ranks
  • 6.^  Author oddly sympathetic to the West—a Colovian scribe, perhaps?
  • 8.^  Of course no mention of the Aldmeri Citadel the capital city was built upon—or the crimes perpetrated there in the previous era....
  • 9.^  It is certain that the tale of Talos' conquest of the Cyrodiil through use of his voice is not literally true—that kind of thu'um is now forbidden. This is all obviously a poetic reference, crafted to satisfy the popular human lust for blood and magic. This young myth is perhaps inspired by Talos' reputation for shrewd diplomacy, attested by even his greatest critics, which permitted him to scheme and bargain his way into the capital city—which he lacked the armies or funds to conquer by dint of force.
These comments only appear in a pre-release version of the text provided to The Imperial Library:
  • 7.^  Colovian officers have traditionally been appointed as provincial governors to the human regions of the Empire, as these often need the most forthright of the Emperor's men.