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The history of Morrowind dates back to the Merethic Era when both the Dwemer and the Chimer settled the region. Information about the Dwemer's arrival is almost entirely unknown, but the Chimer are a very different story. They were led there by Veloth, who followed Boethiah, Azura, and Mephala, unlike the Orsimer who followed Malacath.
Here the Chimer and Dwemer feuded for decades, until the early Nordic settlers came out of Skyrim and took control of Morrowind, then Dunmereth. In 1E 412, the Chimer and Dwemer united to drive off the human invaders, and named the nation Resdayn. This peace lasted until the War of the First Council.
The Tribunal do not appear in human records until after the first eruption of Red Mountain in Vvardenfell, which resulted in a permanent shift of population south toward the Deshaan Plains. The Tribunal, composed of Vivec, Almalexia, and Sotha Sil, were the advisors of Nerevar Indoril, the first Hortator of the Chimer. They are notable as the immortal gods of the Tribunal Temple, a position to which they ascended using Kagrenac's Tools on the Heart of Lorkhan. Soon, the ancestor worship that had dominated Morrowind since ancient times was overtaken by the monolithic Tribunal Temple, and the worship of the ALMSIVI (ALMalexia, Sotha SIl and VIvec).
Morrowind stayed out of the eye of the rest of the continent for quite some time, except for a few notable episodes, such as the Morag Tong assassination of the last Reman Emperor, which led to the rise of the Akaviri Potentate and the period known as the Interegnum. Morrowind stayed this way until the end of the Second Era, when the new Emperor Tiber Septim set his mind on uniting all of Tamriel. To avoid a costly war, the Tribune Vivec met in secret negotiations with the Emperor, which resulted in Vivec trading the Numidium to the Empire in order for a great deal of independence. Since then, Morrowind has been mostly stable under the stewardship of the humourless and tradition-obsessed Dark Elves, except for an episode involving Dagoth Ur and the fulfillment of the Nerevarine Prophecy.
After this episode, Dagoth Ur, Almalexia, and Sotha Sil were killed. Vivec may or may not still be alive, but this still remains to be confirmed. During this time, Queen Barenziah returned to Morrowind. Her son, Helseth, was made the new King of Morrowind after the sudden death of King Llethan. Helseth outlawed slavery, and reformed the Grand Council, which includes the heads of all great houses. The Great Houses themselves are adjusting to the new powers in the land. Some, like Dres and Hlaalu, appear to be on the rise, reembracing the new traditions while welcoming the return of the old. Others, such as Indoril and Redoran, seem to be waning, unable to change with the times.
Another major event in Morrowind history was The Imperial Invasion of Morrowind.
Morrowind is dominated by the massive volcano of Red Mountain on Vvardenfell Island. On a clear day, (a rare event, given the ash that billows from the cone) it can be seen from the city of Almalexia, two-hundred fifty miles to the south. In the south there are the fertile Deshaan Plains, and to the west the Velothi Mountains, but it is Red Mountain, the tallest peak in Tamriel, for which Morrowind is chiefly remembered. Ecologically, Morrowind is generally considered to be the most unusual place in the known world, featuring an ecosystem of plants and animals which appear nowhere else and which only seem capable of surviving in Morrowind's hellish conditions. From the ground up, Morrowind is a place far unlike any other.
Before the eruption of Red Mountain, Morrowind was fabled to have been a verdant grassland and glade, with a thriving ecology of plants and animals similar to those existent in other parts of the world. At that time, Red Mountain was well over three times its current mass, and the slopes of the mountain began as far away as the outer edge of the Inner Sea which now dominates much of central Morrowind. When the eruption occurred, Red Mountain literally exploded from out of the ground, ejecting perhaps as much as a million tons of material into the atmosphere; throwing off most of the mountain and leaving a blast crater the size of the Summerset Isles. The caldera left by the eruption fell exceptionally below sea level, and the ice waters from the Sea of Ghosts poured in from the north to fill much of the crater, leaving only a large cone, the only remainder of Red Mountain, protruding from the newly formed Inner Sea. This cone is now known as Vvardenfell Island. The ice water rushing into the crater quickly cooled and hardened the subterranean lava which had been uncovered by the blast, meaning that, while the mountain itself was ejected upwards by the pressure, the actual cause of the pressure, the underground magma chamber, remained largely intact and pressurized.
In the south, the Deshaan Plains slope gently into the stinking pits of Black Marsh, where underground gas vents cause the water of some rivers to flow uphill, bringing one of the main supplies of fresh, richly organic water into Morrowind, while allowing the poisonous liquid that flows in Morrowind lakes and rivers to drain into Black Marsh, where innumerable species of bacteria break down the poisons and purify the water. Consequently, Deshaan is a very fertile region and could, to the untrained eye, almost pass for any number of other temperate areas of Tamriel. In the west, the Velothi mountain range (so-called due to the prophet Veloth who led the Chimer to the promised land) highlights the stark distinction between Morrowind and the rest of Tamriel. It is said that one can enter into a snowy mountain pass in Skyrim and emerge into a desolate wasteland of smoke, sulphur and ash. It might be forgiven, within the Empire, for those unaware travellers who cross into Morrowind to believe that they had left Tamriel and entered into a place entirely alien. The native Dunmer, however, will not be so understanding; and many unwary pilgrims have learnt first-hand that in the Land of Ash, fate is often as harsh and unforgiving as the environment.
What today remains of Red Mountain continually vomits lava, along with a lethal supply of rock and ash, into the surrounding province, with the new crater, called Dagoth Ur (after the god said to have lived there before he was supposedly killed by the Nerevarine), acting as a pressure vent to prevent another super-eruption. In the early years after the eruption, the Inner Sea was said to regularly boil, and the sulfurous nature of the water quickly poisoned all the surrounding wildlife within Morrowind province. This situation gave rise to what it is we currently know as Morrowind. The only forms of life to survive the poison atmosphere were the progenitors of those alive today, namely, various harsh species of plants, numerous fungi, insects and of course the Dunmer.
Today, Morrowind is populated mostly by hunters and scavengers; creatures which live in scarcity and feed on death. Insects which survived the new environment have grown to exceptional size, and are largely very docile, having slow metabolisms which make them ideal as herd animals in whatever capacity the native Dark Elves have use of them for. Many types of lizard survive, as well as crustaceans, all of which have grown to enormous size. It is this general tranquillity that allows the shelled and chitinous creatures to support their weights without an exceeding percentage of their mass being devoted to exoskeleton; moving and acting excessively slowly allows brittleness to be overcome in these cases. The rule of law in Morrowind is that the larger a creature is, the less active it is. In fact, the largest creatures verifiably known to have existed in Tamriel, the Emperor Crabs, lived in Morrowind, where they lived most of their long lives in almost total motionlessness, digesting whatever animals mistook their mouths for caves. Numerous mini-volcanoes have sprouted about Morrowind, as secondary means towards ejecting the ever present magma looming just beneath the surface of the province.
The Five Great Houses of Morrowind (Indoril, Telvanni, Redoran, Hlaalu, and Dres), and the Tribunal Temple, are the major political organizations of Morrowind. It is notable that there were once two other Great Houses, for a total of seven, but House Dwemer and House Dagoth died at roughly the same time.
House Indoril makes up the bulk of the Temple Hierarchy and guard forces. Members of other Great Houses are welcome to serve in these positions, but Indorils have always dominated the structure of the Temple, the Tribunal themselves being closely associated with House Indoril. This House was formerly led and probably founded by Lord Indoril Nerevar, possibly with his wife, Lady Almalexia. Before the Armistice between Vivec and Tiber Septim, Indoril was one of the strongest Houses with vast political power and many strong positions, but they have fallen into a steep decline thanks mostly to the nobles who would rather commit suicide than accept the treaty. On Vvardenfell, Indoril's largest holding is the massive city of Vivec, though other Houses have their own respective quarters in the city as well.
House Telvanni is the House closest in ideals to the god Sotha Sil; profane, inquisitive, xenophobic, it is usually neutral on most issues, including the matter of the Empire in Morrowind, although they strongly disdain outlanders. They also produce Telvanni Bug Musk, a perfume and aphrodisiac highly sought after throughout the Empire, which may sell for up to 160 septims to the .12 Fl. Oz. vial, depending on where it is being purchased. The House is almost absurdly individualistic, with the focus being unequivocally on individual advancement. There are no rules or laws within House Telvanni, and a common phrase within the House is that, "Our laws supersede Tribunal law." The essence of this philosophy is that, if you can get away with it, you deserve to be able to do it, and if you are caught, you deserve whatever punishment is meted out to you. Blackmail, theft and murder are all commonplace amongst the Telvanni, inasmuch as those who are successful at these activities are successful amongst the Telvanni, and those who fail are killed without the blink of an eye. The House holds itself together on the basis of deterrence; the idea that anything you can do will have repercussions of some kind, either originating from within the House (vendetta) or without it (arrest). The leading members of the House are all ancient wizarda, all of them obscenely wealthy; who live secluded in personal strongholds, otherwise populated by a host of personal bodyguards bordering in size on a private army (usually purchased as mercenaries from Redoran), and generally surrounded by slave villages whose purpose is to make revenue through activities such as farming or mining Kwama eggs. House Telvanni is the number one purchaser of slaves from any source in all of Tamriel (House Dres produces slaves through secret mass abductions held across the known world, especially in Black Marsh, home of the Argonians.) The House emphasizes wisdom and knowledge, and personal empowerment; but mostly the freedom to pursue these states in ones own way. As such, taboos which are omnipresently observed throughout Morrowind and greater Tamriel are routinely flaunted, such as the black arts of Necromancy and Daedra worship. Similarly, Vampires are often accepted by the Telvanni, either as members and leaders, or associates, and it is not uncommon for Vampire valets to serve and protect Telvanni nobles who are willing to pay in drakes or slaves. House Telvanni's many wizard towers are situated all along the eastern coast of the province, but their Vvardenfell council is held in the city of Sadrith Mora.
House Redoran, the one closest to the values of Vivec, is the most warlike House, its members renowned for their skill in battle. It, along with House Dres, is regarded as the most traditional of the Great Houses. Redoran is geographically located along the western flank of Morrowind, behind the shield wall of the Velothi mountain range. It is from this vantage point that they guard against the ever present threat of reinvasion by their ancient enemies, the Nords. Redoran is also one of the most aristocratic of the Houses, with members aspiring to the height of their potential in all their pursuits. Respected membership and leaders are often expected to hone their skill with weaponry, as well as to conduct academy-style training in combat and the art of war. Furthermore, they are often expected to produce literature, from poems about love and war, to epic accounts of fictional or factual happenings of great scope and daring adventure; while Redoran nobles of a more intellectual inclination may conduct research or collect rare historical artifacts and produce peer-reviewed reports on various subjects of interest to the scholarly community. "An officer and a gentleman," is a phrase which quite neatly sums up the Redoran view of their role within Dunmeri society. Redoran nobles are to be well versed in etiquette and capable of conforming to strict rules of protocol when the occasion requires. Strict rules govern the internal acceptability of behavior on the part of both members and non-members, often going above and beyond those of broader Tribunal law. House Redoran reserves the right to personally execute those who offend against Redoran traditions, though membership is held to a higher standard and non-members are often "let slide". An omnipresent requirement for nobility among the Redoran is a pedigree of war, although this can be flexible for those commoners who show definite promise; it is often said that "Noble families start somewhere." Notable features of House Redoran are their extremely strict observance of traditional Dunmeri burial practices and the time-honored continuity of ancestor worship. They are also known, on the whole, to be enamored with the symbolism of the delicate wild black roses which grow exclusively in Morrowind and which are highly prized for their savage beauty and rarity by outlanders, and it is quite common for Redoran coats-of-arms to in some way involve the rose as a symbol of the beauty and romance which the House stands for. House Redoran's main building is set in Ald'ruhn, a city located in the Ashlands west of Red Mountain.
House Hlaalu is regarded to be the most powerful of the Great Houses, mostly because of its strong acceptance of the Empire's presence in Morrowind. Hlaalu receives much criticism from other Dunmer, mostly House Redoran, because of their distance from traditional Dunmer values and beliefs. Hlaalu values wealth and property, and most members are very open to new ideas. Treachery is not uncommon in the ranks of this House; the Hlaalu as a whole are notoriously unscrupulous. The figurehead ruler of Morrowind is almost always from House Hlaalu, especially so recently, as the Empire are on better terms with the Hlaalu. They are perhaps the most liberal and open-minded of the Great Houses; this is nowhere better expressed than in their acceptance of the Cyrodiil. They are based in the city of Balmora along the Odai River. This places it directly on the heart of the silt strider routes and the Ebonheart-Hla Oad shipping lanes. However, it is not a port in the game; presumably the Odai is too shallow and narrow for it to be convenient for ships. Oddly, not one of the Hlaalu councilors reside in Balmora; all five are found in the city of Vivec or the Ascadian Isles surrounding it. They seem to have obtained the best land on Vvardenfell, as compared to the unfertile hills and ashlands of the Redoran or the barren coastline of the Telvanni.
House Dres is infamous outside of Morrowind, as it is the one which is the most ardent defender of slavery in Morrowind. Its livelihood is almost entirely based on the slave trade; and the great plantations, manned by hundreds of thousands of slaves, both men and elves, are rightfully feared throughout the empire. A certain amount of their revenue comes from the farming of various substances found only in Morrowind, such as Barrowroot and Ash Fungus (more than just a delicacy), as well as the tending of large insect herds, including but not limited to Netch and Silt Striders, who are sold for leather and transportation respectively. However, the main source of income for Dres is the selling of slaves, usually to the other Houses, although it is not unknown for Altmer to purchase a shipment of cheap Argonian labor. Nevertheless, it is a well established fact that only Dark Elves can and should feel truly safe from their lightning slave raids. It is generally regarded as the most traditional of the Great Houses and is based in Tear, near the Black Marsh border.
The Tribunal Temple is essentially the government of Morrowind; although there is a figurehead King, he has little power. The Temple, whose higher ranks are controlled primarily by Indoril, has gradually lost power against the burgeoning houses Hlaalu and Telvanni. The Temple is of course based around worship of the three man-gods: Vivec the Warrior-Poet, Almalexia the Bride of Nerevar, and Sotha Sil the Wizard and Tinkerer. Although all of the Great Houses use their own versions of the generic Bonemold armor, the Temple's guards (called Ordinators) customize their own version of this chitinous bug shell armor with special gold leaf in-lay and elaborate designs such as a face and a large mohawk on the helm. This armor is often called Indoril (for most Ordinators come from House Indoril), and it is considered sacred among the Ordinators. So sacred that anyone not in the ranks of the Ordinators may be killed on sight if seen wearing it.
Located in the center of Almalexia, the largest city in Morrowind. While the entire city of Almalexia is sometimes called Mournhold, this is incorrect: in fact, only the walled “city-within-a-city” at the center is correctly called Mournhold. The goddess Almalexia resides in the Temple in Mournhold. Built on the site of the ancient Dwemer ruin of Bamz-Amschend, it has been rebuilt once, after its destruction during the battle with Mehrunes Dagon. The Palace of the King of Morrowind is here, as is the Plaza Brindisi Dorom, a marvelous open space with a grand statue of the climactic battle between Almalexia and Mehrunes Dagon.
The home of Vivec, and the greatest city on Vvardenfell island, Vivec is composed primarily of eight huge buildings known as Cantons, one for Hlaalu, Redoran, and Telvanni houses, as well as two Cantons for traders and more shady folk, a Canton for foreigners, the great High Fane of the Tribunal Temple, and the Palace of Vivec. Floating above is the Ministry of Truth, a great moonlet kept from destroying the city by the power of Vivec; heretics are taken here by the Tribunal priests of Indoril and tortured excessively into belief in the Tribunal.
The enigmatic clockwork city of Sotha Sil, the exact location of this place is unknown; some report it to be deep below the Black Marsh, some say it is high in the Velothi Mountains, while still others maintain that it is kept in a bottle on Almalexia's mantle. Whatever the case, very few have visited it, and fewer still desire to.