Lands of Tamriel, an Epic Fantasy
Elsweyr is a region of the continent of Tamriel. It is home to the Khajiit, a catlike, beastial race. It incorporates a desert like badlands to the north, fairly similar to that of Hammerfell, whilst in the south is a variety of dense jungles and woodland. This generally small nation is bordered by both Valenwood & Cyrodiil.
Its location has been fixed since the first entry in the series, Arena, where it was found in the southern half of the continent, bordering Cyrodiil to the north and northeast, Valenwood to the west, and the Topal Sea to the southeast. It is the homeland of the various breeds of the Khajiit race. Elsweyr is primarily a province of “harsh badlands and dry plains,” with fertile growing regions covered in jungle and rainforest to the south. Elsweyr’s society is divided along these lines, with a stratified plantation aristocracy centered on production of the hallucinogenic ‘Moon Sugar’ occupying the southern groves, and a society of nomadic desert tribesmen occupying the badlands and desert. Elsweyr was explorable in Arena, but has not been accessible since. Small elements of Khajiit culture recur in each game. Skooma, a drug processed from Moon Sugar, figures in various plotlines and accompanying lore in Morrowind, acting as real-world drugs would, corrupting society, furthering criminal cooperatives, and demoralizing their users.
According to Khajiiti version of the Monomyth, Khajiit were first envisioned by the ancestral mother, the first cat Fadomai. Fadomai selected her favored daughter Azurah to take one of the already existing races, and refashion them, that they might be the “fastest, cleverest, most beautiful people,” and that they should be called Khajiit. Azurah came down to Nirn, took a forest people torn between man and beast, called them Khajiit, and placed them in the best deserts and forests on Nirn. There she made them of many shapes, and taught them the value of secrets. This account would seem to imply that the Khajiit arose from another race through divine intervention. This race has been linked in other sources to the ancestral Altmeri stock. The Imperial Library’s Tamriel Timeline places these aboriginal beastpeoples in various secluded preliterate communities throughout Tamriel beginning in the Early Merethic Era.
Nothing much is known of the Khajiit in between their settlement of the deserts and forests of Elsweyr and their foundation of a common confederacy. Prior to 2E 309, Elsweyr was almost continuously mired in internal conflict and strife between its tribal factions. Due to its tribal strife, it was incapable of presenting a common force to external enemies, and, in the words of the Pocket Guide to The Empire, “the nearly constant insurrection and tribal warfare among the catmen rarely troubled the stage of history.”5 What is known is that Khajiit have some knowledge of the events at Red Mountain and the War of the First Council, as they have their own name for the eruption at Vvardenfell Mountain, “Sun’s Death.”
Elsweyr established central government in 2E 309, under the guidance of Keirgo of Anequina and Eshita of Pellitine. There is some uncertainty as to the nature of the agreement between the two Khajiit leaders, with the Pocket Guide stating that it was a combining of kingdoms, the Imperial Library’s timeline stating that it was a uniting of tribes, and an email from developer Ted Peterson stating that it was an alliance. In any case, the name ‘Elsweyr’ arose from an old Khajiiti proverb that went along the lines of “perfect society is always elsewhere.” The resultant state caused a great deal of discord amongst the members of the former feudal aristocracy, who, feeling betrayed, chose to rise up in arms against the united state. Keirgo fruitlessly petitioned the Empire of Cyrodiil for aid and was met with failure, for the Cyrodiilic Empire was experiencing its own internal issues. The former capital of Anequia, Ne Quin-al, fell to the rebels. A ceasefire was achieved when the normally nonpartisan spiritual leader Mane Rid-T’har-ri’Datta stepped in to broker talks. A lasting peace ensued, as the tribes and the urbanized elite established terms whereby control of Elsweyr shifted according to the phases of the moons Masser and Secunda. The PGE writes that the two parties to the deal experience only nominal control of Elsweyr, and that true power lies in the Mane, whose government is “secretive” and “despotic.” The PGE doesn’t seem to care much about the events between 2E309 and its own publishing date, 2E864, stating that “Elsweyr has withdrew itself into a secrecy that has scarcely been breached in five hundred years.”
Potentate Versidue-Shaie, a Tsaesci of Akavir , who began the Second Era of Tamrielic history by assassinating the last of the Reman dynasty of Emperors and took up the throne of Cyrodiil, established his palace in the Elsweyr kingdom of Senechal. He was murdered there in 2E340 by assassins, members of the Morag Tong, a religious order from Morrowind.
A seized portion of Elsweyr was made the assemblage site of the Dwemer artifact known as the Numidium. Popular rumor suggests that the Numidium was part of a gift from Lord Vivec to Emperor Tiber Septim in exchange for the lenient treaty incorporating Morrowind into the Cyrodiilic Empire. The land was taken by a contingent of the Emperor’s elite guard, the Blades, and forcibly cleared of its native Khajiit population. Upon that land the Halls of the Colossus were built. Imperial Engineers under the Battlemage Zurin Arctus then assembled the machine. “Official Imperial records merely state that Arctus sacrificed his heart to be infused into a gem called Mantella, and later to be implanted into the Numidium to make it fully operational.” Native Khajiiti inhabitants record that a Dragon Break occurred during the assemblage process, which led to continuing health issues for generations onward. An opposing account, contained in the Arcturian Heresy, states that the soul contained in the Mantella belonged to the Underking previously known as King Wulfharth of Skyrim. An anonymous letter sent to the player character in the early stages of TES: Daggerfall writes that the Numidium was “a thousand foot tall automaton, a golem or an atronach of sorts” The Numidium enabled Tiber Septim to destroy his last opponent, the Aldmeri Dominion, finish his conquest of Tamriel in the year 2E 896, and commence the The Third Age of Tamriel. The official record also records that the Numidium was used again to destroy the unallied royal families of Cyrodiil, giving Tiber Septim absolute authority over issues of succession. The Numidium was lost in a battle with Arctus, wherein both were destroyed, and the Numidium was scattered across Tamriel. The Empire seems to have deliberately obfuscated the story surrounding the Numidium, trying to place the location of the Halls of the Colossus in Cyrodiil, and creating an alternate history for the halls, wherein they were built by giants.
Following the tumultuous history of the Numidium, which only touches on Elsweyr briefly, surviving literature records no event in Elsweyr until 3E 394, when the Five Year War began. The war began following an event the Khajiit call the “Slaughter of Torval.” The Khajiit claim that over a thousand Khajiti citizens were killed by an invading Bosmeri force from Valenwood without provocation, while the Bosmer claim that the attack was in retaliation for the disruption in trade resultant from Khajiti raids on Valenwood’s wood caravans. The war ended in 3E399, with a Khajiti victory, following tactical and strategic moves by Khajiit tribesmen that were seen as impressive both by foreign commentators and the tribesmen themselves.
The effects of the Great War of the 4th Era on Elsweyr are unrecorded, save for the verbal explanations of members of trade caravans. Many caravan leaders will say that they are only in Skyrim because they view it as a vast business opportunity, though this is only a reference to the civil war, and not the Great War.
The Khajiiti religion, while quite different from that of the men or mer, is still clearly derived from the old Aldmeri pantheon. The Khajiit creation myth includes references to powerful ancestor cats with strikingly familiar names. Their legends start with the original litter mates, Ahnurr and Fadomai (Anu and Padomai). These two gave birth to all of the great spiritual children, including Alkosh the first cat (Akatosh), Khenarthi (Kynareth), Magrus (Magnus), Mara, and S’rendarr (Stendarr). A second litter of children soon followed, including Merrunz (Mehrunes Dagon), Mafala (Mephala), and Sangiin (Sanguine), among others. Ahnurr did not want further children, but Fadomai was presuaded by her elder children to birth one more litter, this final group containing Azurah, Nirni, and the moons. At this, Ahnurr became angry at Fadomai, who fled to the void, and birthed one last child, Lorkhaj. Fadomai knew she was dying, her life having been drained by her birth, but she gave to Nirni a gift, that she would birth children of her own.
Nirni went to Lorkhaj, asking him to form a dwelling place for her children. This he did, but he tricked his siblings, forming the mortal plane and trapping many of them there with him. Most of Fadomai’s first litter were trapped, while her second litter saw the danger and fled. Into this dwelling, Nirni birthed many children, the various human and mer races of Tamriel. However, one of Fadomai’s children, Azurah, had also been given a gift by their mother. She was given permission to take one of Nirni’s children, and reshape them to her own liking, so long as she made them the fastest, cleverest, and most beautiful of all creatures. Azurah chose a group of forest dwellers among Nirni’s children, and from them, she formed the Khajiit. Nirni was furious at this, and ask her sibling Y’ffer to punish the Khajiit. He did this by turning their grasslands into a dry desert, and their forests into poisonous marshes. The Khajiit, however, were protected by Azurah, who taught them the secret of the moons (the Lunar Lattice in Khajiiti terms), and how to change their shapes to survive. Those forest dwellers who stayed true to their mother, Nirni, were turned into the Bosmer, and given the lush forests of Valenwood as their home.
There is some speculation as to how accurate this creation myth truly is. What is known is that Khajiit were present on Tamriel when the Ayleid first explored the region, presumably long before there was any established Bosmer kingdom. What is not known is how long those Khajiit were in the area, nor how many other meri expeditions landed on Tamriel prior to the Aldmeri immigration (evidence suggests at least one other mass immigration of elves to Tamriel, resulting in the Dwemer of Morrowind). Some Imperial scholars believe the Khajiit evolved naturally from non-sentient cats, much like they believe the Argonians evolved from non-sentient lizards. Topal described the Khajiit as two and four legged cats with only primitive behaviors, and no clear signs of intelligence. However, Ayleid legend tells of bartering ownership of the forests of Cyrodiil from the Khajiit in exchange for the secrets of literacy, and Pelinal Whitestrake, early in the First Era, claims to have fought and killed thousands of clearly organized, sentient Khajiit warriors, believing them to be Aldmeri.
Elsweyr is a harsh expanse of badlands and dry plains; only in the south, near the oceans, does the land become somewhat fertile. Rainforests cover this area, and various crops, such as sugarcane or the semi-illegal moon sugar.
The most northern town in Elsweyr is Riverhold. The town is built along a waterfall going down a rather steep hill into a water basin below. During an attack they would burn the rope bridges and stairs to stop the invaders from passing. Further west is the town of Dune, another hill based town in the harsh Anequina desert. The Palace there is often home to political disputes. The town is also prone to many sandstorms and droughts. The savannas are home to many small villages and various Khajiit tribes.
Further south are the towns of Orcrest and Corinth. Orcrest is home to a massive Orc population. Within its walls it holds many different types of beast races, Orcs, Argonians and Minotours. The most southern town is Senchal, which is the largest sea port in Tamriel own by Empire. It is also the main ecomonic trading source in Elsweyr.
Contained within the harsh deserts are the burried remains of Dwemer cities, long forgotten and unexplored due to the difficulty involved in gaining entry. Dig sites to entrances can be covered overnight by the fierce sand storms in many of the central regions. After the disappearance of the Dwemer, over many years the Khajiits used these as tombs for ritual burials of their kind. Those who do come arcoss these sites are often lost to the mummified undead inhabitants when awakened.
Unlike most cities under the Empire, Daedra worship is more accepted in the public as it has major influence on the Khajiit religions and customs.
The Khajiit are ruled by the Mane, a spiritual leader of the Khajiit, who, in ancient times, remained neutral in conflicts. The Mane is different from other Khajiit, although he is not a breed – simply different. The Mane is born during the alignment of Masser and Secunda (the two moons), and when another rarely seen moon is visible. It is said that there can only be one mane at any one time, although whether this is magical, or the result of the Mane eliminating competition is unknown. However, it is most likely that it’s due to the very specific conditions regarding the alignment of the moons that have to be present at his birth.
When Elsweyr was independent it was known as “The Elsweyr Confederacy.”
There was a time when Khajiit would weave their own manes into braids for the Mane to wear; however, with the burgeoning population of Elsweyr, this has become impractical. Although the Mane continues to wear the manes of his tribe and honor guard (the weight of which force him to travel in a palanquin), he does not wear those of most Khajiit.
The Treatise on Lycantrophy records that cursed Khajiits called Werelions, a “vile presence,” inhabit Elsweyr, as well Black Marsh and southern Cyrodiil.
The herb and alchemical ingredient Nightshade is native to Elsweyr, and is reputed to be quite poisonous. Despite that, the Khajiit cherish the Nightshade, attributing magical powers to it and hiding it in “their armor to increase their abilities to skulk, hide and become invisible.” The plant is also to be found in Western Cyrodiil, surrounding Skingrad, but also in lesser quantities around Bravil in the Nibenay Basin and Cheydinhal in the Northeast. Nightshade, properly processed, damages health and luck, burdens, and fortifies magicka. As no further effects are registered, it could be presumed that the Khajiit habit remains a bit of superstition.
Moon sugar grows here, which the Khajiit process in order to create skooma, which is a popular drug amongst the Khajiit. Skooma is addictive and illegal in most provinces. It’s smuggled at sea by pirates to all shores and can be found in skooma dens.
The Khajiit Caravans are run by Khajiit citizens who wish to make profit from selling goods and traded items. They travel to all provinces by road or by sea. Crossing the large deserts of Elsweyr or Hammerfell require sturdier mounts such as camels or elephants for transporting large amounts of cargo. Many foreign buyers have suspicions when dealing with the caravans as they have a reputation for not having honest merchants and few ties with the Thieves Guild.