gro-Dahl wrote: Painted Peoples: Tattooing Across the Empire
by Vantis Orvilius
Tarei, ex-Legionary, The Reach
(author’s note: I met this man in a meadhouse in Markarth. I was drawn to him not just for the strange spiderweb traceries across his face, but also because of the way the Nords muttered to one another when their gaze fell upon him)
When my brother inherited the family farm, there was nowhere for me to go. So I joined the Legion, like many a likely lad. I became a battlemage- here on my forearm, you see this blue diamond with a crescent moon? That’s the emblem of the Dog’s Tooth Legion. Every recruit gets one- they say it fosters brotherhood but I think it makes it easier to tell apart bodies on the battlefield.
The Legion has a roster, with the central archives in the Imperial City. And do you know what they listed me as? A Breton! Over and over, no matter what I said. Some of my comrades joked that I was small for a Nord too, sometimes. My people lived and loved in the Reach long before the Nords came, but that meant nothing to the grinding bureaucracy of the Empire. I was an aberration, a fluke.
When I got word that my brother was dead I mustered out of the Legion, and reclaimed the old farmstead outside Markarth. The first thing I did when I was home was get myself marked, my skin etched with the old patterns passed down since the era of the gods. Elf, Orc, Breton, Nord… I am all of these and none, and I color my face with the symbols of a hundred generations of Reachmen so that no one will ever mistake me again.
Arvayne Hleroth, Hlaalu Oathman, Narsis
(Dark elves take offense easily, and it was not easy to persuade one to speak with me. I must thank my local guide for introducing me to this haughty and beautiful daughter of Morrowind)
When our ancestors first came to Resdayn, it was at the end of a long and painful journey. The land they found themselves in was harsh, yes, but it was paradise for those wearied by wandering. The Chimer wept tears that carved golden channels into their ash-stained faces, and when I became an adult grown I drew the path of those tears on my own face. We Dunmer are not separate from our ancestors; we feel the pain of their struggle and the joy of their deliverance as though we had experienced these things for ourselves. We adorn ourselves with the scars and marks of our forebears so that nothing of their lives is forgotten.
Only a few of the Dunmer choose to wear the past so openly on their faces, but we all bear something of our ancestors. Like most of my kin I have had the soles of my feet tattooed with secret holy words, so that every step I take is a prayer. Walk in grace, sera.
Valdi the Fearless, Nord Elder, Uld Vraech
(I came to Uld Vraech to see the famous war tattoos of the Nord menfolk, but I found them to be chaotic and frankly dangerous company. Valdi was, I think, grandmother to one of these warriors- a little less raucous but I suspect no less dangerous when angered. I took care to be courteous)
Long ago, when I was just a girl, I went into the wilderness to hunt my first predator, and prove myself a worthy daughter of Skyrim. The kill was not the hardest part. I felled a nix hound, but in the chase I had become hopelessly lost. I knew some entrail-lore even back then, and the hound’s gore told me a fierce devil-snow was soon to blow from the Red Mountain. I had a day at most to find my village or I would be lost to the elements.
It was then that I saw it; a lone hawk wheeling in the distant sky. A rare sighting in Morrowind- the racers rule the skies here. Of course I took it as an omen, Kyne being the patron of my mother’s clan. I headed towards it, and after wearying hours I came to a clearing with an ancient waystone, hidden so well it had not been profaned by the elves. On it was carved the hawk totem of Kyne, and when I clambered to the top of the stone I saw the lights of my village in the distance.
When I returned a woman, I had the spread wings of the hawk inked on to my hands, so that all would know I owed my life to Kyne’s guidance. Later, after I had fought in battle against men and stranger things, I got the same design across my back. After that, no enemy was able to sneak up on me, as Kyne saw them and whispered warnings in my ear!
Sola Shaxhaal, Cultist, Bravil
(This young woman heard of my studies and approached me, apparently eager to speak her piece. In her I document what I fear may be a tradition in decline. Cyrodiil has changed so much since I was a youth like her, and not entirely for the better)
When you look at me, you see what makes Nibenay great. There are half a hundred cults along the banks of the river, both great and small. I follow the Cult of the Smiling Potentate, and we are, perhaps, not as great as we once were. All across my arms and legs you see the golden coils of the serpent, its head against my belly to speak wisdom to any child I might bear. It is my face that people notice, though. The writing is Akaviri, and no, I will not tell you what it means. All cults must have their secrets, no?
Foreigners who are used to the stern, plain Colovians of the Legion are surprised when they see me with my tattoos and my cloak of bells, but In the green lands of the Niben we delight in announcing ourselves, and making a scene. Every faith and cult and personal superstition is a work of art, and we wear our faiths on our sleeve for all to see, in a riot of color and form. Nibenay is the most beautiful land in the Empire, the beating heart of Tamriel, and its people are like no other.
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This text comes courtesy of TR's gro-Dahl.
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