Consider this an Elder Scrolls version of “Where are they now”, or something like the Resurrection Event. This will probably be the first a small series (I have 3 planned), focused on infamous Morrowind characters and what might’ve happened to them following the Red Year, the Great War, etc.
Today, we focus on Uncle Crassius Curio, of House Hlaalu. Those not versed in Morrowind lore can skip to the bottom for a brief overview in the section “Background Lore”.
They said our hearts were with the Imperials, that we housed the corrupt and power-hungry. They said that because we were not all ashen-skinned and red-eyed we held no loyalty to Morrowind. We were said to have betrayed the Dunmer for thirty pieces of silver.
In the wake of the Oblivion Crisis, the Telvanni rose as heroes as they closed the Gates, the Redoran were adored as they formed the army. But as heroes rise, their enemies fall. The House War escalated and eventually the councillors of Hlaalu were assassinated in the name of Mephala, and Lleril Morvayn betrayed my trust as a friend. Even if we belonged to different Houses, I thought he would conduct his business with more grace than this.
When the smoke of Red Mountain cleared, our banners were burned and what remained of the House was stripped of all titles and lands. And now all Morrowindians need us more than ever. They need Hlaalu to make peace with the men, to commune with the Thalmor, to broker with the Empire who hates us as much as we hate them. If you were born on the ashy soil of Morrowind, it doesn’t matter if your skin is grey, brown or white, or furry or scaly. This is something the Dunmer fail to realize.
Race : Imperial Vampire.
Stats : 1 / 1, a vampire build without any magic, truly a novelty these days. Blocking and close combat eat up both stats like nobody’s business.
Standing Stone : Thief -> Atronach / The Lady. Both stones help vampires, the Atronach helping with the weakness to fire by absorbing magic, and The Lady for regeneration of daywalkers. Console players and those without the Unofficial Patch, be warned that the Atronach Stone may absorb the sneak perk “Shadow Warrior”.
Shouts : Slow Time, Disarm, Drain Vitality, Elemental Fury
Photo edit credit to Miraak!
Primary . These are perked heavily and used on a regular basis.
Speech : House Hlaalu favoured both Mercantile and Speechcraft skills, giving them the upper hand in business of all sorts, going up both sides of the tree.
One Handed : Short Blades and Daggers are Hlaalu’s choice of weaponry and, when combined with his shield, Curio might not be able to chop people’s head off, but he sure can poke them full of holes. Since we don’t use power attacks, only Armsman is taken.
Sneak : Generally, the Councillors preferred others to do their dirty work, but with the House all but annihilated and with his vampiric talents Curio can be his own agent in Skyrim.
Secondary . These are used frequently and rarely perked.
Light Armor : It provides a quick and lithe defense, from soft stealthy leather to hardened Vvardenfell glass. Training with Grelka and our massive fortune will make up for its slow leveling.
Block : The most surprising skill I found in Uncle Crassius’s arsenal, Block was his third highest skill (after Merchantile and Speechcraft) and can provide a nice amount of protection.
Archery : Another favoured skill of Hlaalu, Curio was completely crap at it (having a skill level of 7 at level 21), but there’s always potential for growth. Also, he wouldn’t survive in Morrowind or Skyrim without a ranged skill.
Keep to the shadows and wait. Curio takes no pleasure in killing. If you’re sure the denizens of the dungeon are worth killing, a shout of Drain Vitality can slowly eat away at them while we sneak back into the shadows as they search. It also negates regeneration, and can completely devour most enemies’ stamina pool, which doesn’t allow power attacks or even sprinting, which should make them easy targets if you are forced into open combat. The standard combination of sneak attacks with bows or dual-daggers can fell even the heartiest of foes otherwise.
A bow can come out for those enemies who are more difficult to reach (dragons, distant assassinations, irritating falmer who won’t stand still), but it won’t see a lot of use and we instead rely on enchantments to boost it, since it will level more slowly.
We can hold our own in open combat. Slow Time gives us more opportunities to nick our opponents, while a solid Block skill will keep damage at bay. Enchantments and speed can make up for the fact that we’re using a dagger, rather than a proper sword. Disarm is my new favourite shout and very useful for those bandit berserkers. Make them stumble, grab their weapon, and watch as the mightiest bandit chief resorts to his humble fists.
Oh, how the ladies fall! Drain Vitality can be less impressive at higher levels or difficulties, but the additional 20% damage buff can be beautiful to behold, whether Shouting or stabbing.
Never wanting for any goods, pilfered or bought, the Vengeance makes the world more accommodating to whatever business he needs to conduct, as he slips into the shadows to recharge.
Seeing his foe muster the strength for a powerful blow, Crassius uses his insanely high Agility to leap out of the way as he summons the power of Oblivion and turns into a slim hurricane of flashing steel.
Every Great House has a good side and a bad side. At their worst, Hlaalu were corrupt, underhanded, money-hungry bastards who stooped to murder and smuggling to get coin. At their best, the Hlaalu kept peace in the Imperial/Dunmer struggle, kept Morrowind a wealthy nation, conducted business with honour and dignity, obeyed the laws and looked out for their own, devout to the House and Morrowind.
Crassius Curio was the better side of Hlaalu and desires to build up their prestige and wealth again by making allies and coin in Skyrim. We don’t know his personal backstory, so I took the liberty of making one: He was born in Morrowind to an Imperial noble family and rose through House Hlaalu, due to his ambition and devotion to his House and the people of Morrowind. Basically, he’s not an outlander.
Religion. He never mentions anything about the Tribunal or the Divines, so it’s up to you, but I liked the idea of an Imperial Morrowindian, who loved his land and House as much as any Dunmer. Boethia, Azura, and Mephala all have quests that can be completed and their artifacts kept sacred in your manor. Certain other daedra, like Sanguine, fit Crassius perfectly, while the House of Troubles (Sheogorath, Mehrunes Dagon, Molag Bal, Malacath) are to be avoided. Since it is Crassius, a former Medieval porn author, I also felt the need to complete Dibella’s quest.
Black Books. Hermaeus Mora isn’t discussed in the Dunmeri parthenon of heroes and saints, and isn’t in the House of Troubles or one of the Good Daedra. I considered him neutral and used the following abilities: Secret Servant (for those long hauls), Lover’s Insight (what else!), Seeker of Shadows (no brainer), Secret of Strength (occasionally dual-wielding, this is excellent).
The fabulous manor. Even though Curio’s lovely manor in Vivec was vaporized, we can rebuild in Skyrim with one of the Hearthfire houses. I chose Lakeview and added the Bedrooms, the Library, and the Trophy Room. If you prefer, Proudspire Manor is an acceptable option. Don’t adopt kids. What goes on in those bedrooms is not for the underage. If you can, build the other manors across Skyrim and set up followers to conduct your business and join Hlaalu.
Thanehood. Another position of power and influence, in all the holds of Skyrim. Gaining the favour of Skyrim’s nobility could allow the Hlaalu to rise again, much like the Redoran gained Solstheim.
Vampirism. The desperate actions of a losing man, choosing to become a vampire was probably the lowest point in Crassius’ life and not something he takes any pride in. That being said, vampirism has served its purpose of keeping him alive, allowing him to stealthily evade the Morag Tong and even the death of a mortal man, and now gives him the opportunity to take revenge. I suggest feeding on random NPCs, definitely not people he knows, and never using the vampiric powers (other than the epic stealth bonus).
Reclaiming trade in Skyrim. Hlaalu’s power comes from trade and business relationships that grant them influence. We have a large amount of influence in the corrupt underworld through the Thieves Guild, and some political power as a thane, but we don’t have much social or business power. When we start to amass an incredible fortune, invest in as many strategic businesses you can. For those you hate (those racist Nords, political enemies), feel free to weaken their business (rob them blind) and sell it off to your partners. The “Master Trader” perk is really the peak of showing Hlaalu’s influence in Skyrim’s economy.
Dawnguard. I undertook this a little later, seeing random vampire attacks as bad for business and trade. Auriel’s Bow is nice, but we really want the two words of Drain Vitality. You can choose which side to join, but be warned that you will have to cure yourself repeatedly to complete the Dawnguard side. Curio mainly pursued vampirism for immortality and toughness, so feel free to get it again after the questline is over.
Thieves Guild. House Hlaalu was once affiliated with the dirtiest crime syndicate in Tamriel’s history, the Camonna Tong, the Kingpin of the Tong having two of the five Councillors in his pocket. Though disapproving of crime, Curio recognises his vulnerable position in Skyrim and covets allies. Rise to be the Grandmaster and reform the Guild to House Hlaalu’s desires. “The Numbers Job” (changing business ledgers) and “The Shill Job” (planting false evidence) from Delvin and Vex fit Hlaalu the best.
Dark Brotherhood. Previously, the Great Houses could call on the Morag Tong for assassinations, but they’re sort of out of commission. Combined with the Thieves Guild, Curio can have his own secret service, which puts him on more equal footing with Redoran. How far you go with it, if you decide killing the Emperor is a strategic move or not, will depend on how dark you personally want him to get. Also, if you want him to Listen for the Night Mother or not. I decided against it, dismissing it the same way I dismissed being Dragonborn.
Lights Out! A perfect quest to show how Hlaalu takes care of business.
Tel Mithryn. While the Great Houses don’t always like each other, desperate times call for desperate measures. Aside from being a powerful wizard, Neloth is also an ancient Master of House Telvnani, was around even in your time, and has as much to profit from you as you do from him. Allies in Dunmer politics are always useful.
Revenge. This isn’t just some vague revenge for the destruction of his House, it’s a very personal betrayal. The Aranos were the very first Dunmer to accept Curio and show him kindness (as is seen in the Folio copy of The Lusty Argonian Maid), but some bad blood can’t be washed clean. This is the first character I’ve played where going into “Destroy All the Guards” mode is RP-friendly. Raven Rock has a lot of nice hiding spots you can snipe from, I learned. I also undertook it with a crew of mercenary followers, though the Dark Brotherhood Initiates are also suitably disposable and can assassinate people if you order them to. The only thing I have to say is this: Don’t let innocents get caught in the crossfire. Most of them are Dunmer refugees, holding little loyalty to Redoran. When the Councillors are crawling on their knees and most of their guard is assassinated, feel free to relax in Tel Mithryn with your new business partners.
I feel obligated to mention that I played most of this with a mod that deleveled enemies, and therefore their loot, so my enchantments might be more powerful that what’s available to you.
Click to enlarge !
Guild Master’s Armor – Fortify Carry Weight 50
Ancient Shrouded Gloves – Backstab
Ancient Shrouded Boots – Muffle 0.5, alternatively Nightingale Boots (Muffle 35)
Ancient Shrouded Cowl – Fortify Archery 35%
Nightweaver’s Band – Fortify Sneak 10% / Ring of Major Blocking – Fortify Block 25%
Necklace of Dwindling Flames – Resist Fire 40% / Necklace of Remedy – Regenerate Health 20%
Nightingale’s Bow – Frost Damage 10pts, Shock Damage 5pts
Blade of Woe – Absorb Health 10pts / Steel Dagger of Binding – Soul Trap 7sec
(Also, unenchanted Glass Dagger for Elemental Fury)
Elven Shield – unenchanted
Glass Armor of Regeneration – Regenerate Health 40%
Glass Gauntlets of Extreme Wielding – Fortify One Handed 35%
Glass Boots of Eminent Sneaking – Fortify Sneaking 30%
Glass Helmet of Extreme Archery – Fortify Archery 35%
Ring of Renewal – Regenerate Stamina 50% / Ring of Revival – Regenerate Health 50%
Necklace of Extreme Haggling – Prices 22% Better / Necklaces of Fire/Frost/Shock Abatement – Elemental Resistance 60%
Elven Bow of Immobilizing – Paralyze 4sec / Ebony Bow of the Inferno – Fire Damage 30pts
Blade of Woe – Absorb Health 10pts / Elven Dagger of Malediction – Soul Trap 15sec
(Also, unenchanted Ebony Dagger for Elemental Fury)
Glass Shield of Extreme Blocking – Fortify Block 35%
House Hlaalu is mentioned in the Dragonborn DLC and features in the quest “Served Cold”, where the player disturbs an assassination plot on the Redoran councillor of Solstheim. In Morrowind, they were one of the three Great Houses (Telvanni, Redoran, Hlaalu) who could be joined by the Nerevarine and each correspon ded to a particular fantasy archetype. The Telvanni were the mad wizards, Redoran the religious warriors, and Hlaalu the unscrupulous merchants and rogues. The Great Houses were always at a political war with each other (which is part of the reason the Morag Tong kept in business), and Hlaalu had the most influence and money, due to their willingness to “get with the times” and welcome the Imperials and outlanders. This made them particularly hated. When outlanders (even men!) joined House Hlaalu, things got worse and this culminated with the aftermath of the Oblivion Crisis and the Red Year. The Imperials pulled out during the Crisis, leaving Morrowind without a standing army. Redoran marshalled their own House to beat back the forces of Oblivion and the Telvanni managed to battle the Gates with their own crazy, weird magic. Without the Imperials, Hlaalu lost a lot of influence and were more vulnerable to House Warfare. Redoran played dirty (just like the Hlaalu) and got their archrivals kicked out. The Hlaalu we see in Skyrim are farmers, practically beggars in Windhelm. A far cry from the wealth and power their House once held.
A minor legend from Morrowind, Crassius Curio is the perfect one to take revenge for House Hlaalu, from a roleplaying perspective. Most characters in Morrowind are brain-numbingly dull, but Crassius had personality. He was fabulous, flirtatious, and took great pride in his own prestige without being arrogant or unlikeable (for the most part). He fought against the corruption amongst the Hlaalu Councillors and imprisoned some of the House’s own members for conducting illegal or unfair business. He was Vivec’s most infamous playwright and penned The Lusty Argonian Maid, among other filthy pieces. But what would he be like if he was kicked out of the only home he’s ever known? Where would all that spirit go? A middle-aged Imperial with fairly crap combative skills, he would hardly survive 200+ years, let alone the Great War and the Morag Tong. At least, not without help.