The Colo-Nordic Nobility is the ruling faction of the western highlands. They are the generals of Cyrodiil, directing the Imperial Legion in wars of conquest and defense in service to the Emperors. They trace their ancestry to Nordic pioneers who received their mandate from the hands of the holy Empress Alessia herself. The Colo-Nords rule most of northwestern Cyrodiil, from the western Gold Coast to the Jerall Mountains. Their strongholds are the ancient cities of Kvatch, Sarchal, Skingrad, Chorrol, and Bruma, from where the deposed Colo-Nordic kings once governed their estates.
The Colo-Nords consider themselves guardians of Cyrodiil: firm, unwavering, and ever-vigilant against provincial threats. Though they acknowledge the Heartlands as the center of Imperial culture and civilization, they consider them weak and effete, incapable of maintaining the Empire on their own. Historically, the Colo-Nords tend to isolate themselves from the east in times of political turmoil, guarding the national spirit from foreign and domestic corruptions until such a time that a strong warlord from their own ranks can rise to restore order in the lowlands. As a result, the role of the Colo-Nords in the Empire is strongly influenced by the character of the Emperor: when he is a strong ruler, they are his loyal soldiers; when he appears weak, they retreat into their highlands cliff-fortresses.
The Colo-Nords are currently plagued by their weak position in the Empire and internal divisions. A number of authority figures have fallen away: the Emperor is weak, the Duke of Colovia is sick and dying, and the influential Count of Skingrad has isolated himself. In their absence, the isolationist faction has grown stronger, eventually manifesting as the Free Estates Movement. This faction seeks to split from the eastern Empire and return to the romanticized era of the Free Estates, when Colovia governed itself and was free of foreign corruptions. While the faction's leadership are still loyalists, many of the lesser lords in the hinterland are starting to support the isolationists. In more general terms, the Colo-Nords suffer from a lack of money and manpower: they are overshadowed by the wealthy Imperial Curia and the Nibenese Hierophants, who grow fat on taxes and trade. The Colo-Nords' blood politics is also a problem: insistence on purity of Nordic blood has weakened most families, and obligatory service in the Legion takes a toll on each generation. This has necessitated the practice of “adopting” fresh blood into the families.
While most Ayleid power was broken during the Alessian Rebellion, a number of peripheral city-states still stood after the war's conclusion. The western forts, built to repel foreign invasions, proved highly resistant. Alessia was reluctant to send her main force away from the fledgling Empire, and, since the Highlands were not part of the old Niben-Nedic tribelands, decided to grant them as fiefdoms to her Nordic mercenary allies. These Nords conquered the frontier, aided by a cohort of tribeless Nedes. They subjugated the remaining Ayleid states, conquered the free Nedic cities of the Strident Coast, and settled into several small kingdoms.
The Colo-Nords set up a segregated system in which only those of Nordic blood could be rulers, warlords, landowners, or take part in the ruler-cults. The Cyro-Nedic caste served as laborers, farmers, and cannon fodder in the frequent conflicts between the kingdoms or in the annual raids on Breton and Bosmer ports. The lowest caste were the western Nedes, Orc-bloods, and the remaining Ayleid. The social and geographic isolation of the Highlands allowed the Colo-Nords to resist the influence of the eastern Marukhati, though they remained subordinate to the Alessian Empire. The rival kingdoms eventually fell into an uneasy truce, spurred by the threat of the Marukhati and the Redguard invasion in the west.
The Estates would know their finest hour after the devastating Thrassian Plague. Unlike their neighbors, the isolated Colovian cities weathered the plague well and took the initiative in the war against Thras, gaining international respect and a large war bounty. Bendu Olo, the baron (later king) of Anvil and leader of the All Flags Navy, founded the short-lived Oloman Confederacy, formally declaring the independence of the Free Estates from the weakened eastern regime. The following War of Righteousness saw the fall of the Marukhati priesthood and the First Empire.
For four hundred years the Colo-Nordic kings ruled over the Free Estates in complete isolation. It would take the threat of the Akaviri to re-unite the west under the leadership of Reman I, who used their power to conquer most of Tamriel. Under Reman, the Colo-Nords assumed their modern role as the Empire's officer class. While the Estates continued to exist, the Colo-Nordic kings swore absolute fealty to Reman, renouncing their political autonomy.
After the death of the last Reman, the Colo-Nords considered their oaths void, and began to withdraw from the Empire. The situation degenerated during the late Potentariat and the Second Interregnum, when most Estates again assumed factual independence. This period of independence is not remembered as fondly due to the misrule and degeneration of this era.
This was to continue until the rise of Cuhlecain, king of the small Colovian kingdom of Falkreath. Cuhlecain, intent on restoring order to the warring Cyrodiilic states, appointed an Atmoran general called Talos as head of his armies. Together, they reunited the Colovian Estates and captured the Imperial City. After Cuhlecain's murder, Talos declared himself Emperor Tiber Septim, and went on to conquer the whole of Tamriel.
This was to be the undoing of the royal houses of Colovia. Deemed insufficiently loyal, many royal lines were replaced by Septim's faithful and obedient generals. The reforms of the peerage removed the rank of king, demoting the Estates to counties and baronies.
Since then, the Colo-Nordic nobility has been on a slow decline. Though they remain influential in the Legion's officer corps, the Colo-Nords are overshadowed by their rival factions in Heartlands politics. Their local economies are weak, founded on failing mines and an agricultural sector which is secondary to the Niben's rice plantations and foreign imports. They also suffer from internal division caused by a strong subfaction called the Free Estates Movement, intent on breaking away from the ailing Empire.
The Colo-Nords defer to authority, and largely respect the formal hierarchy of the nobility. All Colovian nobles answer to the Duke of Colovia, though most actual power is held by the Counts, based in major cities. Below them are various Baronies who hold more or less power depending on the strenght of the Count. The lowest rank of the formal nobility are the Knights or Lords, who hold lesser estates or small settlements. Additionally, the Colo-Nords retain a large army of intendents and hirelings to act on their behalf. On occasion, one of these mercenaries can be adopted into the nobility proper, though this is rare.
The current ruler of the faction is Haderus Goldwine, Duke of Colovia, Protector of the Highlands, Honorary Admiral of the West Navy, Exalted Chevalier of the Circle of Saint Periv, Knight of the Imperial Dragon, Principal Elector of the Choir of Swords and Honorable Member of the Elder Council, Hero of the Second Siege of Rihad, Iron Fist of the Emperor, etc, etc. Haderus is old and senile, and hasn't left his palace for over two years. He is expected to die before the end of the year. He has two sons intent on replacing him: Aethelstan, a Septim loyalist, Count of Kvatch and an officer in the Imperial Legion, and Barilus, a ringleader in the Free Estates Movement. Most practical concerns are overseen to by Haderus' nephew, Ormellius Goldwine, who represents him in the Elder Council. In the absence of strong leadership, the rest of the faction has turned to internal strife and competition.
Arriana Valga, Countess of Chorrol, has control over the north and is currently the most powerful Colovian ruler. While she is a loyalist and opposes the Free Estates Movement, Valga is also one of the favorites to claim the throne should the Septim dynasty fall: she has a distant blood claim to the succession, and the military and political might to take the Imperial City should it become necessary. In support of her claim, Valga is making connections with both the Legion and the eastern Hierophants: rumor claims she is negotiating a marriage between her daughter and Count Caro of Lleyawiin.
Count Janus Hassildor of Skingrad was once a close confidant and councilor of the Emperor, but has recently disappeared from the public eye. In his absence, the local lords have become unruly. Prime among them is Baron Trifon Mede, ruler of Sarchal. Like Valga, he also has a claim on the throne, based on his blood ties to Cuhlecain.
Count Remon Naskav of Bruma has mostly ignored the political squabbles of his peers. he is preoccupied with incidents interrupting the Pale Pass trade road, and attempts to replace him by a Hierophant plot led by Narina Carvain, a minor noble of Akaviri descent.
Other lords and barons play minor parts in the faction's main questline.
The faction maintains good relations with the Imperial Legion: people of Colo-Nordic descent dominate the Legion's officer class. They are negative towards their political enemies: the Imperial Curia and the Hierophants. The Colo-Nords consider both to be avaricious and dishonorable, though they have a special loathing for the Curia, whose titles of nobility they consider illegitimate. The Colo-Nords worship in the Imperial Cult, the Emperor Zero Cult, or their own internal Shor Cult. They are indifferent to other religions, save for the informal circles dedicated to the founder saints. The Colo-Nords approve of the Fighters and Mages Guild, considering them both trustworthy servants of their interests. They are naturally opposed to the Thieves Guild. Most Colo-Nords have a distaste for mercantile interests, though they tolerate the merchant factions in return for high tolls on the trade roads.
QUESTS & PLOT
The Colo-Nordic questline focuses on the conflict between the conservative, loyalist group favored by the faction's rulers, and the radicalized isolationist faction bankrolling the Free Estates Movement, mostly consisting of minor barons and lords. This conflict centers around the quarrel between the sons of the Duke of Colovia, Aethelstan and Barilus, who both seek to succeed their father.
The player initially starts out as a low-ranked hireling to one of the lesser Colovian lords, and can later distinguish themselves in combat/service to this lord: fighting bandits, opposing interference of the Curia, gaining support among local Saintly Circles, etc. They are promoted to higher ranks and sent out to serve under different lords, eventually coming to the attention of powerful faction ringleaders like Countess Valga and Ormellius Goldwine, who have their own goals: Valga needs them to make surreptitious contacts with potential supporters among the legion, while Ormellius is playing his own angle on the conflict between his relatives, the Goldwine brothers.
As the player becomes more essential to the faction, they are “adopted” by one of the families in a blood-ritual of the Shor Cult. The player eventually gains an estate of their own, which they can build up similar to the House strongholds of Morrowind. In later phases of the questline, the player most choose sides in the loyalist-isolationist schism, and go to war against the enemy subfaction. In the end, both Goldwine brothers are dead and succeeded by Ormellius Goldwine, who names the player a Scion of Colovia and makes them his representative in the Elder Council.