Elder Scrolls Lore Report - Dunmer Defenders, Argonian Aggressors, and the Hold of Mourning

Continuing our theme of the Oblivion Crisis and its aftermath, though this is slightly removed, we have had a request for the Accession War – specifically, the Sacking of Mournhold, though that is a small piece of the invasion of Morrowind.



(the city of Mournhold before its destruction)


Following the Red Year, which itself was thought, at least in part, to have been caused by the Oblivion Crisis – the eruption of Red Mountain and the subsequent dumping of ash and soot across Solstheim and some of contiguous Morrowind – the Dunmer had become scattered and weakened, suffering from the long year of banding together to survive. Immediately following the aftermath, the Argonian An-Xileel waged a huge war against the Dunmer – who, up to then, had been enslaving the Argonians.


More commonly referred to as the Argonian Invasion, the Accession War devastated most of southern and eastern Morrowind, including the capital city of Mournhold, which was entirely destroyed and almost led to the complete eradication of the entirety of House Telvanni and a temporary occupation of Morrowind. When the dust settled, the political dynamics of Morrowind were entirely changed and led to House Redoran becoming the dominant seat of power.


In order to delve into the Accession War, we need understand the relationship between the Dunmer and the Argonians.



(the Blackrose Prison in the city of Murkmire, as seen in a datamined loading screen from The Elder Scrolls Online)


In the early First Era and for millennia, the Chimer and their Dunmer descendants had enslaved the native Argonians of Black Marsh for use in trade and as a form of cheap labor, frequently raiding the swamps in the province. It was tradition in Dunmer society to go on at least one raid in life and dates back to the time of the Chimer and later guaranteed by the Treat of the Armistice. House Dres in particular had cemented themselves as the kingpins of the Argonian Slave Trades, though Telvanni, Hlaalu, and Indoril also kept and traded numerous slaves. The Telvanni actually outright refused to be a part of the Ebonheart Pact as protest against the abolition of Argonian slavery.


However, before we dive into the machinations that would coalesce into the Ebonheart Pact, let us continue the path of animosity between the Dunmer and the Argonians.


When the Reman Dynasty began to crumble, the Argonians seized the opportunity to become sovereign once again, becoming self-governed. Dunmer gaze once again turned south towards a swampy region ripe with potential slaves. As aforementioned, the Dunmer (and Chimer before them) had been raiding the region for thousands of years prior to 2e 582, taking everything of value that was feasibly transported – including livestock. They took entire tribes, depositing them in Stonefalls, Vvardenfell, and Deshaan. When Thalthil Dres raided the city of Thorn, one of the major cities of Black Marsh, he cemented House Dres’ place as one of the Great Houses of Morrowind, becoming the primary providers of the slave trade.


11026733279?profile=RESIZE_710x(a pre-Duskfall Argonian)


In 2E560, the Argonians are thought to have created the Knahaten Flu, originating from Stormhold and spreading through the empire like a plague. Though there is no evidence to support the claim that the Argonians created it, their sole immunity to the flu led the other races to act as if they had. The belief is an unknown Argonian shaman manipulated the Hist into creating the plague as a retaliation against the constant oppression of their people. In addition to being immune, they were also believed to be carriers of the flu, leading to an overall souring of Tamrielic opinion of the Dunmer.


The Second Era also saw the birth of Keshu the Black Fin, who, during her travels, would befriend then-Prince Jorunn. She was humbled and disheartened by the slavery she witnessed and would form the Black Fin Legion that waged war against House Dres – a war in which she was mostly successful. As the Black Fin Legion’s reputation began to spread across Tamriel, cultural relations with the Argonians from all except the Dunmer slowly stabilized, until the Akaviri Invasion began, forcing the response that would become the Ebonheart Pact.




So what was the Ebonheart Pact? It was an alliance of the Great Houses of Morrowind – Dres, Hlaalu, Indoril, and Redoran – as well as the kingdoms of eastern Skyrim and the tribes of the Shadowfen and Thornmarsh in Black Marsh. It was formed during the Interregnum to fight against the Aldmeri Dominion and the Daggerfall Covenant for control over the Ruby Throne in Cyrodiil, though that wasn’t its initial purpose.


When the Akaviri first invaded Tamriel, they landed in Morrowind – this is somewhat disputed; check out the report on the Kamal for more information – and the Ebonheart Pact was first formed in defense of Morrowind and north-eastern Skyrim. Then, again, during the Soul Burst when daedric forces led by Molag Bal invaded Mundus, the Ebonheart Pact once again defended Morrowind from the hordes of daedra. They were represented by the military leaders of Skyrim and the houses of Morrowind, a council known as the Great Moot, but were almost unanimously led by Jorunn the Skald-King and the Living Tribune – the Almsivi, Almalexia the Mother-Queen, Sotha Sil the Clockwork God, and Vivec the Warrior-Poet.


As for the Argonians role in the Ebonheart Pact? It’s often disputed, but it is believed when the Akaviri invaded, the Hist urged the Argonians of Murkmire led by Vicecanon Heita-Meen to join the Shadowfen and Thornmarsh. However, Murkmire is the southern coast of Black Marsh, centered around Lilmoth. The Dunmer protest that though they sent convoys to Murkmire, the region was too far to be swayed by the Pact. Alternatively, some sources incorrectly label Gideon as Murkmire. Gideon was a city in which the surrounding region was part of the Pact. It is entirely plausible Heita-Meen’s claim of Murkmire was actually a claim of Gideon.



(Pact-occupied Cyrodiil)


(Developer Note: In truth, Murkmire was originally going to border Gideon, but production of the city was delayed during development and it was moved to southern Black Marsh, near Lilmoth)


Despite a mutual need to defend each other and potential battle-born bonds, the Ebonheart Pact lasted only a little less than two decades, being dissolved due to the unquenchable history of animosity between the three races. In truth, the alliance was little more than a truce; the fact it lasted as long as it did was more likely a testament of faith to Jorunn and the Tribunal than anything else.


Though in truth the Ebonheart Pact bears little merit to the Accession War, it does provide stable ground upon which the relationship between Dunmer and Argonian cultures begin to clash again, though the how is less known. Sometime between the Ebonheart Pact’s dissolution in 2E 589 and the conception of the Tiber Wars in 2Ec850, Dunmer animosity towards Argonians had resumed in full and they had begun Saxhleel enslavement once again. For the Dunmer, it was just back to business as usual, but for the Argonians, they felt betrayed. What had seemed the beginnings of an at least not hostile relationship jumped right back to full oppression, without a second’s hesitation.


11026734500?profile=RESIZE_400xAs the Third Era began, the outer borders of Black Marsh were held by Imperial rule as strategic costal focal points while the heart of Black Marsh remained unannexed and independent. The region itself continued to function mostly as a prison state – Imperial Law forbade the enslavement of sentient races, though the Dunmer seemed still able to enslave Argonians from an uneasy treaty with the Armistice. During the Simulacrum of 3E396, some slaves of House Dres revolted in the south and eventually escalated into war between Morrowind and Black Marsh, the Arnesian War. A Dunmer trader named Roris was captured by Argonians and, when he refused to denounce his people, he was tortured and murdered. When news of his death reached Morrowind, war began. Roris was later immortalized into sainthood by the Tribunal Temple.


Despite the ferocity of the Argonians, the Dunmer ultimately defeated the lizardfolk and captured much territory and many slaves, expanding further than ever into the swamps. However, the Dunmer would spend the next almost two decades rebuilding Black Marsh and slowly fostering a peaceful relationship with the Argonians which came to almost fruition when King Helseth Hlaalu formally outlawed slavery in Morrowind. Despite this, even with the beginnings of peace springing forth, the Argonians still fought almost vehemently to reclaim their stolen lands.


True change – and true peace, ironically – would not come about until the Oblivion Crisis. Just before the Gates of Oblivion swarmed Tamriel, the Hist called all Argonians back to Black Marsh, foreseeing the nightmare. Altered by the Hist to be better, faster, stronger, and more durable, they smashed the Daedra who invaded and actually counter invaded the Dying Lands. The sheer might of the united Argonians proved too much for the Daedra to handle and they were forced to close their gates in Black Marsh or risk being overrun. This left the Argonians more united than they had ever been in their history – and much more powerful, to boot – particularly when compared to the other races that were smashed by Dagon.


And so we come to the Accession War.


The Argonians were among the first to secede from the slowly crumbling Empire, alongside the Khajiit. Shortly after the eruption of Red Mountain left Morrowind scattered and weakened, devastating Vvardenfell, the Argonians took advantage of the chaos and invaded Morrowind in an event that became known as the Accession War. Some claim the Thalmor instigated it, but the most widely accepted cause was revenge against their thousands of years of oppression – and perhaps to take back their lands that had been lost during the Arnesian War.


11026735882?profile=RESIZE_710x (the Scathing Bay, what became of Vivec City and the surrounding region after it was destroyed)


In any event, the Argonians found much success, raiding and pillaging much of southern Morrowind, including Mournhold, and even made it as far as the ruins of Vivec City. By the middle of 4E6, the Argonians were deep in Telvanni territory and almost completely eradicated the once Great House. It wasn’t until House Redoran regrouped their army that the Argonians were finally halted. They mounted a serious defense and repelled the Argonians from advancing any further. The only region known to have been reclaimed by the Dunmer is Mournhold in 4E151 – the status of the rest of the lands the Argonians plundered remains a mystery. The Argonians are known to have patrols as far north as the border of Skyrim and claim areas as far inland as Scathing Bay – the ruins of Vivec City – which lead many to doubt House Redoran’s claim of total victory.




11026736858?profile=RESIZE_400xThe precise end of the war isn’t known, but sometime after 4E6 up to 4E8, House Redoran turned the tide of the war and began to reclaim some of what they had lost. Since the invasion ended, the Argonians have made no attempts to invade further and seem content with proving to the Dunmer, once and for all, they are not only a threat, but a comparable species.


As for Mournhold, it was so utterly destroyed that when House Redoran claimed power in the Grand Council, one of their first acts was to move the capital of Morrowind to Blacklight – after expelling House Hlaalu and incorporating House Sadras. Mournhold wouldn’t be completely rebuilt until 4E201, but it was never again the same City of Light and Magic. The mourning hold, indeed.



(bonus of Vicecanon Heita-Meen in Loriasel with the Mnemic Egg, a report for another time...)

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Fimvul is the current master of the Skyforge Library. Interested in the Elder Scrolls from a young age, he has been diving headfirst into the richer aspects of the lore of the series for over a decade. With years of experience and research under his belt, he hopes to enlighten his readers with the wondrous mystery that surrounds the Elder Scrolls universe.

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