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History and Culture of the Direnni

Posted: Tue Sep 25, 2018 5:06 am
by Anumaril
Below is my comprehensive overview of Direnni society, religion, history, and current events based on my own ideas and developed ones here or on Discord. This is little more than a rough draft, so let me know if I've missed something or need to rework or scrap an idea presented. I've created this largely to influence the quest and story direction of the Direnni in HR 427, who I thought had a lot of narrative opportunity given the events of Daggerfall and their history. My overall idea concerning a questline for the Direnni deals with the player assisting the Mistress Castellan in securing alliances across High Rock in order to regain the Mines of Khuras while securing the political stability of Balfiera by contesting the Revivalists, addressing the concerns of subjects, and employing assassination, bribery, or blackmail to ensure a Reformist majority on the Adamant Council.
Society:Show

The Direnni have operated for millenia from the Dellese Isles and its most famous feature, the Direnni Tower, an expansive structure surrounding the original mythic icon of the Iliac Bay, Ada-Mantia. Characterized by their talents in the more numerologically-based magicks, the Direnni were known to be excellent alchemists, enchanters, thaumaturgists, bankers, and merchants. These talents had once led the Direnni to exert their influence over a vast hegemonic empire composing a large portion of northwestern Tamriel, including much of High Rock, northern portions of Hammerfell, and the Western Reach of Skyrim at its height. During their early period of expansion the Direnni gained and maintained power primarily through political machinations, installing favorable figures in influential court positions across the various Altmer colonies of the bay. These quasi-independent kingdoms would be organized into 'Cantons' and set under a kind of soft-occupation by regional Direnni fortresses led by a Canonreeve. These figures would represent their administered regions as members of the 'Adamant Council' who would advise the noble 'Castellan Dirennis' and pass Hegemony-wide law and asses threats when called to assembly. Later expansion eastward would see greater direct rule by these Canonreeves and martially dictated law as they encountered the fiercely independent and decentralized peoples of The Reach, a situation that grew so dire as to see Direnni Battlereeves, general officer figures of the Direnni forces, administer even smaller territories within the eastern Cantons. These various figures would make up the bulk of the Hegemony's aristocracy, alongside the more exceptional merchants or financiers. These latter figures were especially impressive, having divined methods by which to wrap contracts and financial records in numeral-symbolism and hidden sorceries so as to secure their documents from prying eyes or trick the 'unread' into deals whose details were obscured by preternatural subsections or provisions.

While the average Direnni Canton would allow its residents a great degree of freedom compared to other elven tyrannies, inspiring a sense of comradery amongst its mixed human and elven population, power would be maintained in the way of economic, financial, and military reliance on the Direnni. Cultural and religious pressures were exercised on the human population as well, ultimately inspiring the strange pessimism of the Bretons regarding more 'human' deities like Shor. Interbreeding was encouraged as well amongst the lower-classes, no doubt a means of 'uplifting' the human population of the Hegemony, betraying the notion of the Direnni being apathetic to ideas of racial hierarchy. Amongst the upper-classes, these proclivities grew increasingly common as well, with Direnni nobles enjoying the company of human concubines that in many cases would become educated and adept in the arts of statecraft at their master's side. However, this may very well have been their downfall, as the increasingly capable emerging race of Breton peoples and their clever class of nobles would come to inherit territories of the Hegemony upon their collapse, maintaining a great degree of the feudal, monarchical structures introduced by the Altmer to the region. Intent on maintaining their relevancy, the Direnni would continue to exercise predatory economic activities amongst the states of the Iliac and influence the various Bretonic Kingdoms for millenia.

Since the fall of the Hegemony, the titles and traditions of the Direnni have been largely maintained, though the Adamant Council is now made up of appointees native to the Isles or representative of the Direnni Sovereignties, remnant pockets of Direnni power and Altmer blood affiliated with Balfiera, most maintaining their monopolistic hold on the Adamantium market. However, recent efforts have been taken to reform the structure of Balfieran politics to better reflect the reality of Direnni life in the Third Era, but the unpopular Mistress Castellan Medora Direnni has been met with strong opposition by a new generation of idealistic Mer contemptuous of the old guard and nostalgic for the past glory of the Hegemony. Recent isolationist policies enacted by the Adamant Council as an emergency measure to address the problems facing the Direnni have been reflective of this younger generation's desires, sparking worries from Medora of treacherous and anti-Bretonic sympathies within the council.
Religion:Show

The Direnni revere a largely traditional pantheon of Ancestor-Gods nearly identical to that of Summerset, however their means of veneration and deific hierarchy somewhat differ. These Aedra include: Auri-El, Trinimac, Syrabane, Phynaster, Magnus, Xarxes, Jephre, and Mara. Each of these deities is honored with a dedicated wayshrine on the Dellese Isles maintained by the priesthood of the Direnni Tower, however Phynaster is particularly respected as a patron god of the Direnni and thus is revered at a unique temple complex within the Direnni Tower. While the Direnni, like their Altmeri kinsmer, have largely renounced the worship of their own 'lesser' ancestors in favor the Eight, they do recognize prominent historical figures in the clan's mortal history as spirits associated or 'blessed' by Phynaster and worthy of honoring at this temple. Here too is where the Ecclesiarch Dirennis resides, the high priest of the Direnni cult. While the appointment and removal of the Ecclesiarch has always been a privilege of the Castellan, utilization of this power has proven unpopular amongst both the Direnni and mainland Bretons, who still respect and make pilgrimage to the Temple of Phynaster on Balfiera. In most cases, removal of an Ecclesiarch has been purely out of political necessity, as the Castellans have always considered faith to be as effective a weapon as any other in achieving political dominance. Phynaster in particular has long been utilized as a tool in political outreach amongst the Breton Kingdoms, the objectively elven character of the god affecting Breton sympathies for their elven cousins.
History:Show

1: Exodus

Clan Direnni had its origins in the Summerset Isles, within the village of Tyrigel on the banks of the Diren River, later known as the Caomus. In these days threats both foreign and domestic, as well as the hardships faces by the Altmeri commoner, inspired an uncharacteristic sense of tribal unity amongst the lower Altmer classes. While the Direnni affinity for alchemy and numerology were great, their people had little chance at advancing these interests in Summerset's highly-stratified society. Having studied the voyages of Topal the Pilot, many Altmer clans seeking prosperity, knowledge, or fame would explore and settle various regions of Tamriel, founding tribute-kingdoms of Summerset where they would be free to establish their own means of governance. One later known as 'Cygnus Direnni' would follow suit, sailing from Summerset and laying blood-claim to the Isle of Balfiera and the Tower of Ada-Mantia for all her kinsmer. Flocking to the Isle, the clan would found the city of Culaire and take on the name 'Direnni' in memory of their origins.

2: Hegemony

Having established themselves on the Isle of Balfiera and within the iconic Adamantine Tower, Clan Direnni would claim the neighboring Dellese Isles, where they would construct the city of Adanorne, and engage in all form of economic and political machinations in spreading their influence amongst the various established Altmeri kingdoms of the coast, soon becoming the de facto ruling clan of the bay states. Meanwhile Direnni colonies would be established upon the then-uninhabited shores of northern Hammerfell, supplying much of the raw material that would be utilized in constructing the Direnni Tower around the existing Ada-Mantia, an effort that would see continual expansion until the collapse of the Hegemony. While military subjugation was a less common tactic of the Direnni, conflict with particularly stubborn kingdoms would spur a rapid buildup in Direnni defenses, resulting in the founding of the great fortress of Athcarae and establishment of Adanorne as a center of military-industrial might. Initial expansion eastward would begin up the Bjoulsae, with Direnni colonies establishing themselves upon its shores as far as the Druadach Mountains. Throughout the kingdoms of the Iliac, existing Nedic populations would be integrated into elven society through the lower-classes and interbreeding would see them evolve into the more familiar 'Manmeri' Breton race over time.

3: Collapse

In 1E 358 a combined Nordic and Imperial assault under Emperor Ami-El and King Vrage of Skyrim would see the Direnni pushed back down the Bjoulsae. Having encountered the half-elven Bretons within the Reach, King Vrage of Skyrim had made the liberation of these subjugated men a priority for his empire. Despite his efforts, Direnni opposition only grew the further west he conquered, alarmed and unprepared for the more integrated Bretonic peoples' willingness to defend their elven masters, and was ultimately pushed back to the end of the Bjoulsae. With the rise of the Alessian Order in Cyrodiil in 1E 361, an influx of Ayleid fleeing the Empire would migrate to the Hegemony, bolstering the Direnni forces and strongly influencing their studies of magic. Upon the outbreak of the War of Succession in 1E 369, the Direnni would attack the Nords in the Western Reach, regaining all their territory lost to Skyrim and more by 1E 477, pushing as far as Markarth Side and constructing a great network of impregnable fortresses throughout the region to defend against Nordic retaliation.

With the resistance of the Colovian States of Skingrad and Kvatch as well as King Hoag Merkiller of Skyrim to the Alessian Order, Ryain Direnni would outlaw the Alessian Doctrines in 1E 479 across his holdings. Kingdoms refusing to abandon the Doctrines were crushed by the Direnni, advocates of the Doctrines were put to death or expelled, and bordering Imperial holdings would be harassed by Direnni proxy-states. War would break out one year later between the Direnni and Alessians, a result of continued westward expansion by the Empire toward High Rock. Daggerfall at this time became a minor base of operations for the Direnni and their allies, with Raven Direnni becoming the first occupant of Castle Daggerfall. Here she is said to have created the modern art of enchantment, binding the first soul into a gem and utilizing this technique to further empower Direnni weapons. Prince Aiden Direnni would slow the Alessian advance in a number of battles, but it wasn't until the Battle of Glenumbra Moors in 1E 482 that the Alessians would be outright defeated by the joint forces of Skyrim and the Direnni, whose prowess, enchanted weapons, and vengeful Ayleid allies would win them the day.

Despite their victory, the conflict with the Alessians would prove to have fatal consequences for the Direnni, whose sphere of influence would rapidly dissolve under the emerging nobility of Greater Bretony until 1E 498, when all but the Dellese Isles and isolated pockets of influence would be taken under local revolt and absorbed by these Bretonic Kingdoms. In the Western Reach, the Direnni bastion held out for some time isolated from the Iliac, however crippled supply lines and an exhausted military force would leave the great bastion that once defended against Skyrim practically defenseless against the native Reachmen, who revolted against their elven overlords mercilessly, leaving few alive to account the tragedy. Later in the Era, repeated Ra Gada invasions would see their holdings in northern Hammerfell fall. Repelling an ill-fated attack on Balfiera in 1E 907 by these invaders, Peregrine Direnni weaponized the waves of the Iliac, securing their holdings in the Dellese and spawning cautionary tales across the Iliac preventing another invasion attempt for millenia. Throughout the collapse, the majority of the Direnni would relocate to the Dellese Isles and a few Altmer-dominated settlements still loyal to the clan.

4: Aftermath

Clan Direnni would continue to operate from an influential position throughout the Second Era and into the Third, despite the fall of the Hegemony. Although much of the High Rock peasantry remained distrustful of the Direnni and avoided contact with their kind, largely on account of their predatory magically-binding loaning practices, the abilities and intelligence of the clan made them popular advisors and court-wizards among the Breton nobility and beyond High Rock. Jovron Direnni, the grandfather of Medora, would stand as Imperial Battlemage in the court of Empress Katariah I, and his great-great-great grandfather Pelladil Direnni would hold a similar role for the first Potentate, Versidue-Shaie. During this period, Pelladil encouraged the Guild Act, codifying the practice of guilds across the Second Empire, for which many guilds of the Empire still hold the Direnni in high esteem for. Although prominent among the kingdoms of the Iliac, Balfiera would remain a neutral power during the many wars fought between the Bretonic Kingdoms, becoming utilized almost by tradition as a neutral site for diplomatic negotiation and treaty signing.

In keeping with this policy of neutrality and peace-keeping, as the War of Betony broke out in 3E 402, the Castellan of Balfiera and mistress to King Lysandus of Daggerfall, Medora Direnni, urged her love to cease the senseless conflict with Sentinel. However, the King objected, and would be apparently killed at Cryngaine Field; but as Medora knew, the King had been assassinated elsewhere, having swapped places with a noble in order to forsake his kingdom and meet the Mistress Castellan at Tamarilyne Point, where he'd abscond to Balfiera with her. Queen Mynisera of Daggerfall would discover the affair and banish Medora from court, the distressed Mistress Castellan returning to Balfiera where she would attempt to conjure Lysandus' spirit. In attempting this, she resurrected the dead across the Isle, but to no avail. Although Medora would work alongside the Emperor's Agent to put Lysandus' soul to rest, she would play no part in the activation of the Numidium.

The Direnni were hit considerably hard by the 'Warp in the West', and unlike the other powers of High Rock, gained nothing from the chaos. With the consolidation of the forty-four territories into the various dominant kingdoms, the Direnni found that courts they once held sway over were made irrelevant and debts owed to the elves were either forced to be forgiven or inherited by the emergent Breton Kingdoms, the sheer mass of which causing once-receptive states to develop an aversion to diplomacy and trade with Balfiera. Daggerfall was among the exceptions, having their debt entirely forgiven, as the Mistress Castellan saw fit to restore her reputation with the court after the 'Direnni Scandal' as her relationship with Lysandus would come to be known. This became easier with the death of Mynisera and the rise of Lysandus' son Gothryd to the throne, who had been sympathetic with his father's wish to abscond with Medora. While Balfiera withstood the catastrophic natural and magical disasters that racked havoc on much of the Iliac Bay during the Warp, an entire generation of precious Direnni wizards having sacrificed themselves performing a rite at Ada-Mantia, the other islands of the Dellese did not fare so well. Notably the settlement of Adanorne, a large portion having been consumed by the titanic waves of the bay. In addition to these disasters, Wayrest took control over the Mines of Khuras amid the events of the Warp, threatening the vital Direnni monopoly on the Adamantine trade in Tamriel.

5: At Present

Operating from the Dellese Isles, Mistress Castellan Medora Direnni is currently seated at the throne of Direnni Tower on the Isle of Balfiera. While the influence of her clan has degenerated greatly from their once-great Hegemony during the First Era, and further following the Warp in the West, they still maintain loose affiliation with a number of Altmer-dominated settlements along the Iliac coast. Their clan continues to command a degree of respect and influence across High Rock, owed to their famous capabilities as court-wizards and advisors, though many of their kin in these positions have become disconnected from the power structure of Balfiera and operate on their own accord. Having yet birthed no heir, engaged in a scandalous relationship with King Lysandus of Daggerfall, ignored the potential of influencing the Emperor's Agent, and allowed the crucial Adamantium monopoly of the Direnni to be threatened, Medora has become a controversial figure not only amongst her own clan.

Among the most vehement of the Mistress Castellan's opposition are the Direnni Revivalists, a loose coalition of the Adanorne youth nostalgic for the military tradition of their families, recent Direnni arrivals from the Sovereignties, and purebred Altmer immigrants and students to the College of Battlereeves from Summerset. Despite the fact that few upon the island are of pure elven stock, the Revivalists are outspoken racialists and clearly hold some influence over members of the Adamant Council, whose voiced support for increased Altmeri immigration, encouraged breeding with these immigrants, and isolationist policies enacted toward the Breton Kingdoms upsets what the old guard surrounding Medora would call Direnni tradition. This abandonment of political marriages and materialism for more traditional Altmeri breeding practices and idealism marks a major shift in the Direnni way of life, one considered appalling by those who wish to preserve the old ways of the clan and by the watchful Breton Kingdoms who recognize the threat of a resurgent Hegemony. With a vacuum of power having been created by the recent death of two members of the Adamant Council, the Mistress finds herself cornered by political hard-liners and under threat should these seats be taken by Revivalists or their sympathizers. It may take the help of such unscrupulous characters as the Lyrezi to guarantee her security and support from the Council.

However, despite all that's stacked against her, the Mistress Castellan works tirelessly to restore her clan to prominence among the powers of the Iliac, and will stop at nothing to legitimize her rule over the remnant Direnni. Already finding her way back into the graces of Daggerfall, the Mistress has her sights set on Evermore as the next target of influence, who have long sought a relationship with the popular Direnni. Not only this, but in considering more unpredictable allies, the Mistress has her eyes on Orsinium, whose Trinimac faithful inhabitants have long begged to visit the Dellese shrine to the Aedra and learn means of veneration from Direnni priests free of the corruptive influence of Malacath. This move, however, may prove to be the tipping point for the already unstable domestic situation among the Direnni.
The Factions:Show

The Adamant Council:

Advisors to the throne and senators with limited powers traditionally appointed by the Castellan, the Adamant Council has been empowered to block appointments by the Castellan since the fall of the Hegemony. While this action has been taken infrequently over the course of Direnni history, the controversial Medora Direnni has faced strong opposition to her attempted appointments in filling the vacuum left by two recently deceased council members. With a strong contingent of Revivalists or their sympathizers allegedly seated amongst the council, the appointment of another of these hard-liners may tip the scales against the Castellan and destroy her efforts of reforming and strengthening Clan Direnni.

Direnni Reformists:

The Direnni Reformists are made up largely of the old guard, seated on the Adamant Council for decades or even centuries, and younger Direnni conservatives unwilling to upset the status quo. While both parties have their gripes with the rule and actions of Medora, her political realism and dedication to long-desired reform of Balfieran politics to something suitable of the post-Hegemony age is admired by the old guard as well as their younger counterparts.

Direnni Revivalists:

The Direnni Revivalists consist largely of Adanorne youth, recent arrivals from the even less opulent Direnni Sovereignties, and immigrants from Summerset. Nostalgic for the days of the Hegemony, they scorn their ancestors who made little attempt in reclaiming what they consider their birthright. Their contempt is most vehement for the generation before them, who they accuse of having betrayed the clan by not utilizing the events leading up to the Warp in the West to Direnni advantage. They seek to upset the status-quo of Balfiera and prevent reform of the Isles' politics at all cost.

Lyrezi Bloodline:

Having operated in secret as spies and assassins for the Direnni since the Hegemony, the Lyrezi Order long enjoyed an opulence and influence most vampire clans could never imagine. However, as the Hegemony collapsed and Direnni political reach dramatically decreased, the necessity for this order of vampiric agents declined. While a contingent of these assassins are rumored to still reside within their old sealed wing in Athcarae at the discretion of the Castellan, the Order itself broke apart with many abandoning the Direnni for greater opportunities amongst the human kingdoms of the Iliac.
Notable Locations:Show

Note: I've disregarded Daggerfall location names in favor of giving the Dellese Isles a more 'elven' character. I personally can see something like 'Upvale' regarded as Breton slang for Culaire or a name for the upper-class portion of the city, but not something characteristic of the Direnni.

Direnni Tower:

Constructed shortly after Culaire and the Direnni's landing upon Balfiera, Direnni Tower is an impressive structure built around the base of the existing icon of Ada-Mantia, complimenting the structure in form and allegedly in function. Home to the Direnni Temple, Council, Prison, Palace, and Tombs, the tower contains all the central functions of Balfiera and once, the Hegemony. Within its Tourmaline Steeple is the greatest single library of surviving Ayleid tomes on Tamriel, the extent of which still have not been entirely studied by the Antiquariat of the tower. Beneath is a complex system of catacombs pre-dating the Direnni arrival, the bottom of which has not been reached by any surviving explorer. Having once been under constant expansion upward and outward during the Hegemony, the great complex that is Direnni Tower appears to have reached its final stage of development. Amongst its many floors and myriad of magically-secured vaults resides the members of the Adamant Council, Antiquariat, Accountancy, and Ecclesiarchy.

Culaire:

The primary trading port of the Direnni and means of entry upon the main island, Culaire is an old but lively city appearing right out of the days of the Hegemony but with all the luxuries of the modern Iliac. Unlike the rest of the Dellese Isles or within the Direnni Tower, Culaire is home to a population mixed largely of Altmer and Breton stock, the former inhabiting far more positions of power. While usually a prosperous and peaceful city regarded as the 'Little Jewel of the Bay', Culaire has recently fallen upon difficult times both due to the Adamantium crisis and the rise of the Direnni Revivalists, openly hostile and sometimes violent toward the Breton inhabitants of the city. Not only threatening the stability of the island, but the relationship of the Direnni with their neighbors, the Culaire guard has stepped up patrols and cracked down on the Revivalists with mixed results. With the situation growing more dire, it may not only be the Revivalists who lose confidence with the Castellan, but her Breton subjects and allies as well.

Athcarae:

First of the old Direnni fortresses and the last to be manned, albeit by a skeleton crew, Athcarae stands upon the cliffs east of Direnni Tower, facing Wayrest. It once stood as the headquarters of the Direnni forces and their myriad of unsavory mercenaries and assassins. Having secured many of their impressive magical armaments over the course of the Hegemony's collapse, the Direnni stores these munitions throughout the fortress, stacked in every hall, chamber, and lavatory. Despite its impressive defenses, the lack of stationed guards and sheer firepower hidden within makes Athcarae a tempting target for threats both foreign and domestic.

Adanorne:

Situated upon the second-largest of the Balfieran Isles, Adanorne is a modest town once serving as an impressive shipyard during the days of the Hegemony, but whose industry has since collapsed alongside the Direnni empire. Home to the old College of Battlereeves, the town still manages to get by thanks to the occasional business of attendees from Culaire and as of recently, regions beyond Balfiera. Once dedicated to training specialized generals and naval captains for the Direnni military forces, the College of Battlereeves is now a dedicated school of magic specializing in spells derivative of the old art of Thaumaturgy. Left defenseless during the Warp in the West, Adanorne was hit particularly hard by the disasters entailed, with a portion of the town collapsing into the sea. With the economic strain put on the Direnni by the loss of the Mines of Khuras, and the primacy of Culaire as the trading hub of Balfiera, Adanorne has particularly struggled in recent years. Consequently, the town has become a seedbed for Revivalist activity, influenced strongly by the nostalgia that comes with a long military tradition amongst the families of Adanorne and Altmeri arrivals to the college unflinching in their Merish pride.

Darkivaron Mausoleum:

Upon the Isle of Balfiera lies the Darkivaron Mausoleum, a place of burial for the Breton subjects of the Castellans. While the Altmeri Direnni are ceremonially interned within the Direnni Tower, the Bretons have always preferred exercising their own burial practices, even when the more notable figures among them have been offered a place of rest in the tower.
Note on Thaumaturgy:Show

Thaumaturgy was an art of magick widely used across the Direnni Hegemony, requiring a mathematical preciseness characteristic of this clan of elves, who were instrumental in the development of many of its uses and applications. While the effects of Thaumaturgy were largely incorporated into the more utilitarian schools of magic as the Mages Guild simplified and spread them throughout their expansion in the Second Era, the practical application differed with these reengineered spells. Unlike schools like Alteration, whose exercise is bound to natural laws, or Mysticism, which focuses on utilizing magical channels to bypass natural structures; Thaumaturgical magic seeks to manipulate the fundamental laws of the world, elevating the effects of spells whose uses are otherwise crippled by the opposition of natural forces like gravity upon their effects. While a spell of levitation may be effectively the same between schools, it’s the application of said spell and the philosophy behind its use that determine the end result. For instance, Thaumaturgical levitation allows one to negate gravity, floating through the air like a weightless eagle, while levitation as practiced by Alterationists merely allows one to walk upon air as if it were land. By the Third Era, much in the way of Thaumaturgical study was lost, with the reformed Direnni College of Battlereeves at Adanorne being among the few institutions which still recognized and taught the distinction between this sorcerous philosophy and its 'children' Alteration and Mysticism. Among the more mysterious of its applications are the variety of instruments, weapons, and financial record-mazes created during the time of the Direnni Hegemony, which are regarded as among the more dangerous antiquities to be found across Tamriel on account of their principles being antithetical to the reality of one uninitiated in advanced Thaumaturgy, and sure to cause anything from brain-blasting and spontaneous combustion to wholesale negation or banishment of one's soul.