The Races of TESO: Argonians
by Merari, Contributor — Category: Lore Articles
With The Elder Scrolls Online approximately one year away from release, TESOF has decided to educate fans of the game on the playable races in TESO, so you can have a good idea of their backgrounds before you dive into the game. Today we'll be continuing with the Argonians.
Keep an eye peeled on the Articles section for more articles related to the races of TESO!
The Argonians are an amphibious race of reptillian humanoids inhabiting the province of Black Marsh. In their native tongue, Jel, they call themselves the Saxhleel, which means people of the root.
Very little is known about the Argonians, they are a private race and Black Marsh is an inhospitable land to outsiders. As such there are few accounts of their customs and culture.
The Argonians worship a species of tree called the Hist, with whom they share a symbiotic relationship.
Hist-sap is used in ceremonies and has a profound effect on the minds and bodies of the Argonian. It is said that their final shape is determined by how many times they 'lick the tree'.
In TES3: Morrowind, the Argonian Travelling-New-Woman gives some insight into naming ceremonies as well as coming of age:
"My parents told me not to lick the Hist tree until my Naming Day, so I did. My parents caught me and a boy from my nest in a soft-leaf patch right before the naming ceremony. I feared I'd get more of a licking from my parents than I gave the tree... So I ran as fast as I could through the swamp and into the rest of the kids waiting for their naming ceremony. Everyone had a good laugh and the name stuck."
Argonians are amphibious and able to move about and breathe as well under water as on land. Agile and hardy, they are resistant to poison and disease and can make adept mages, as well as stealthy warriors.
Argonians can reproduce both by laying eggs or bearing live young.
In a safe environment, close to the Hist and surrounded by the security of Black Marsh, they will lay eggs.
In hostile climates however they will gestate internally and produce milk, so the offspring has a better chance of survival.
There are several subtypes of Argonian, notable are the serpentine Nagas, the toad-like Paatru, the slave-trading Archeins and the 'winged' Sarpa. Innermost Argonia is rumoured to have needle-faced Agacephs who guard the Hist
It is impossible to discuss the Xaxhleel without mentioning the Hist.
Legend has it that after the War of the Twelve Worlds in the Dawn Time the only survivors were the Ehlnofey and the Hist.
It is said Nirn was made of remnants of the shattered Twelve Worlds and that the Ehlnofey spread and changed. Hist are by their nature immobile and unchanging.
The Ehlnofey are the ancestors of every living thing on Tamriel, except for the Hist.
Early explorers, having never seen a Hist-tree and relying on tales alone, thought the Argonians were describing a sub-species of themselves and it took a long time for outsiders to realise that these 'venerated elders' were indeed the trees.
The Hist do not perceive time as linear and share a hive-mind through their roots. It is possible though for an individual Hist to break free of this and 'go rogue'. Hist appear to worship or to at least acknowledge Sithis.
Hist-tree as seen in TES4
Argonians believe their souls are gifts from the Hist and will return to them when they die. This soul is then put into a new body by the Hist.
History of Black Marsh
Due to the inaccesibility of the marshlands there has never been much exploration of the geography and cultures of Black Marsh.
The earliest description of the region is made in the epic poem, Father of the Niben, about the early Aldmeri explorer Topal the Pilot, who sailed past the province in the middle Merethic Era.
Apparently he did not venture far inland, as the poem heralding him explains:
" The fetid, evil swamp lands and their human lizards
Retreated to the east, and Topal and his men's
Hearts were greatly gladdened by the sight of
Diamond blue, pure, sweet ocean."
Despite the harsh conditions of Black Marsh there are early accounts of varying tribes of man, mer and beastfolk calling it their home, from the silver-skinned Kothringi to the fox-like Lilmothiit and even Ayleid (Who founded the cities of Stormhold and Gideon) and Velothi.
These days most of these races are known or presumed to be extinct, the Argonians however still thrive.
During the first Era bandits, brigands and outlaws were attracted to the southern swamplands of Black Marsh, an area inaccessible enough to hide in yet close enough to the borders of the Empire to launch devastating raids.
This led to Empress Hestra demanding the head of a famous bandit leader, 'Red' Bramman, in 1E1033.
After many unsuccessful battles in the Topal Bay the Imperial Navy discovered the narrow river which allowed the pirate-king escape.
The Imperial Fleet followed this river and captured Bramman near the city of Blackrose.
They also provided the first reliable accounts of the Argonians.
The Argonians met the Imperials with distrust. Their only experience with outside races had been with the outlaws, rapists and brigands and as such they associated Imperials with pillaging and slavery.
As the Imperials pushed deeper inland to deal with the outlaws, they met with increasing resistance from the locals.
Once the pirate menace was dealt with, the First Empire was glad to leave inland Argonia to the natives.
During the Second Empire Black Marsh was conquered for the first time.
Though it officially became a part of the Empire after the Battle of Argonia in 1E2811, the Empire never had much influence outside of the relatively accessible coastal areas by the ocean and major rivers going inland.
This land was used by the Empire to imprison criminals and undesirables and from a haven for outlaws the region became a prison state.
One famous prisoner was the wife of the last Reman Emperor, Shavia.
The Second Era brought chaos with it and a return of banditry and slavers in Black Marsh. The Dunmer house Dres in particular raided the northern borders extensively in order to capture slaves for their plantations.
Former Imperial officials in the region became warlords and gained a reputation for cruelty and tyranny.
Just before the events of TESO a great plague ravaged Black Marsh and beyond.
Rumoured to have been unleashed by a vengeful Argonian shaman, the Knahaten flu was one of the most deadly diseases ever to scourge the face of Tamriel. Though its final death toll is unknown the effects were devastating. Entire races likely became extinct, such as the Lilmothiith and the Kothringi.
One Kothringi vessel, the Crimson Ship, left the shores of Black Marsh only to be turned back at any port they tried to dock.
Eventually they reached Hammerfell and having nowhere else to go, they turned west across the seas, never to be seen again. The 20th of Rains Hand is remembered in Hammerfell as the Day of Shame.
The plague started in the Argonian city of Stormhold in 2E560 and lasted for forty-three years, reaching as far as Morrowind, Valenwood, Cyrodiil and Hammerfell, but was prevalent the most in Black Marsh.
Virtually no-one survived those years in that region, save for the Argonians, who were immune.
Recently the dominant tribes have found it advantageous to join with tentative allies to the north in order to repel a greater threat to the west.
As always their greater motives are alien and unknowable but it can be presumed the Hist and Argonians see at least a temporary gain in the Ebonheart Pact.
The most south-eastern region of Tamriel, Black Marsh is where several mainland rivers find their bogs, quagmires and winding marshes before they reach the ocean.
Imperial and Dunmer invaders have tried to clear and drain parts of the swamp to make way for farmland but these attempts have failed and the farms have since settled back into the bog.
Home to the enigmatic Hist-trees about which much is rumoured but very little known the land has resisted all attempts at cultivation by its sheer inhospitability.
Dangerous animals, plants, an outright hostile environment and the noxious atmosphere are reasons for why there has never been any substantial penetration of inland Argonia.
The native Saxhleel inhabiting this land fiercely defend their Hist and resist all outside influence. No invading force has ever been able to venture deep into the province and one has to wonder if these Argonians are protected because they are isolated or if they are isolated as a means of protection.
2012, written by Merari with thanks to Tecca and Deveron for editing and images
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