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This is a page for listing tropes related to the various factions of the The Elder Scrolls.

For other characters, see The Elder Scrolls Series Character Index.

Note: Elder Scrolls lore is generally not clear-cut. Reasons for this range from biased in-universe sources intentionally only giving you only one side of a story, to sources lacking critical information or working from false information, to the implication that All Myths Are True, despite the contradictions, or that at least all myths are Metaphorically True. Out-of-game developer supplemental texts (frequently referred to as "Obscure Texts" by the lore community) are more trustworthy, but are frequently left unofficial and sometimes later contradicted. Because of this, it is entirely possible for two contradictory statements in the below examples to both be true. (And due to frequent events in-universe that alter the timeline, both may literally be true in-universe.)


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    Alessian Order 

The Alessian Order
Statue of Akatosh constructed by the Alessian Order

"The prophet Marukh's teachings both brought identity to Cyrodiil, codifying the pantheon most civilized Tamriellians worship to this day, and brought conflict due to the more severe strictures he espoused."
Pocket Guide to the Empire, 3rd Edition

Appearances: Historical
Notable Members: Marukh, Fervidius Tharn, High King Borgas
Headquarters: Lake Canulus Monastic Complex (Cyrodiil)

The Alessian Order was a highly influential religious sect in the First Era Alessian Empire which preached radical religious beliefs. Led by the "Monkey Prophet" Marukh, believed to be an Imga (Great Ape) from Valenwood, it was a very solemn, strict, severe, spartan, and sometimes outright cruel theocracy. Rabidly anti-Elven, the Order was nearly as powerful as the Empire at its height.

The Alessian Order is most infamous for two acts in particular — their pogrom against the remaining Ayleids in Cyrodiil (as well as the destruction of Ayleid artifacts and culture) and causing the Middle Dawn, the first and longest Dragon Break on record.

Despite their 2000+ year reign, the gradual weakening of the Alessian Empire along with infighting and uprisings led to the War of Righteousness, a brutal decade-long war which ended with the razing of the Order's headquarters at Lake Canulus, along with their libraries and records. However, their influence can still be felt in the various Cyrodiilic Empires ever since, particularly in the Empire's legal and religious doctrines.

  • Allowed Internal War: Resistance to the Order directly led to the fracturing and eventual downfall of the Alessian Empire.
    • The Order (and the Alessian Empire in general) was dealt a significant blow when the Order-supporting Nordic King Borgas was killed. As Borgas was the last direct descendant of Ysgramor, the Nordic Empire erupted in the War of Succession following his death. Though the Order survived for thousands of years after, the Alessian Empire (and thus the Order) was significantly weakened without their powerful Nordic allies to the north.
    • The Colovian King Rislav started an uprising against the Order. He inspired the Direnni Altmer of High Rock and the High King of Skyrim, Hoag Merkillernote , to fight against the Order as well. Though the Order would survive, they were dealt a crushing blow by the combined forces of their enemies at the Battle of Glenumbria Moors which robbed the Empire of several more supporting nations (including the fracturing of Cyrodiil itself).
    • Internal strife within the Order finally led to its end during the War of Righteousness. Many details of the war have been lost, but it is said that half the population of the Iliac Bay was wiped out during the decade-long war and the Order's headquarters, a monastic complex at Lake Canulus, was razed.
  • Anti-Magical Faction: The Order was hostile to "unsanctioned" magic users, and actively hunted them down in the Burn the Witch! fashion.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: One of their teachings was that of "Ehlnofic Annulment", a means by which a mortal could break the cycle of life and death to ascend to "Proper-Life".
  • Book Burning:
    • They destroyed any Elven writings or cultural items that they could get their hands on.
    • The Order then suffered this as well at the end of the War of Righteousness, which saw their headquarters (along with the libraries and records) destroyed.
  • The Church: They came to be the dominant religious power of the Alessian Empire.
  • The Commandments: They had a set known as the "Exclusionary Mandates":
    The Exclusionary Mandates of Maruhkite Selection: All Are Equal
1: That the Supreme Spirit Akatosh is of unitary essence, as proven by the monolinearity of Time.
1: That Shezarr the missing sibling is Singularly Misplaced and therefore Doubly Venerated.
1: That the protean substrate that informs all denial of (1) is the Aldmeri Taint.
1: That the Prophet Most Simian demonstrated that monothought begets Proper-Life.
1: That the purpose of Proper-Life is the Expungement of the Taint.
1: That the Arc of Time provides the mortal theater for the Sacred Expungement.
1: That Akatosh is Time is Proper-Life is Taint-Death.
  • Deity of Human Origin: They preached that this was the ideal for all mortals to aspire to.
  • Fantastic Racism:
    • Against anything Elven, especially Ayleid. Their rise to power was the death knell for the remaining Ayleids who sided with Alessia during the revolt. They even attempted to purge any trace of Aldmeri influence from the Divines themselves, with nasty consequences.
    • Despite the status of Belharza (the son of St. Alessia and the demi-god Morihaus, believed to have been the first Minotaur) as Emperor and the Minotaur race's loyalty and devotion to the Alessian Empire, the Alessian Order demonized them as well. Minotaurs were reclassified as "monsters" and driven from civilized areas, with whatever culture they had being destroyed.
  • The Fundamentalist: With an extremely strict religious doctrine no less. The demonization of Elves was paramount in their beliefs.
  • The Purge:
    • They sought the elimination of the remaining Ayleids in Cyrodiil, along with destroying any of their writings and cultural items. Essentially, the Order attempted to Unperson the Ayleids.
    • Similarly, they demonized the Minotaur race. The Order reclassified Minotaurs as "monsters", drove them from civilized areas, and destroyed whatever culture the Minotaurs had.
    • The Order had this done to them when Wulfharth became the High King of Skyrim. Wulfharth's first law outlawed the Order within Skyrim, and he ordered the slaughtering the members of the Order within Skyrim's borders and burning their temples to the ground.
  • Reality Is Out to Lunch: They caused what is known as the "Middle Dawn", when the Maruhkati Selectives, an elite sect within the Order, performed a ritual with the intent to purge Akatosh of his Aldmeri aspect, Auri-El. This caused time to break for a period of 1008 years (measured using the moons, which were unaffected). During this time, events as large as wars recorded by one source were said to have never happened according to another. Gods either walked the earth or didn't. People gave birth to their own parents. Even the color of the sun changed depending on the observer. It was said to be a time of "great spiritual anguish" for those who lived it. Even the Elder Scrolls themselves cannot rationalize the conflicting events of the Middle Dawn. When the Scrolls are attuned to that time period, their glyphs are said to simply disappear.
  • Sacred Scripture: The Alessian Doctrines, 77 rules outlining the Order's principles. The nature of the Doctrines has been lost to history, but contemporary accounts describe them as banal, strict, and sometimes outright cruel. One known rule was that "All are guilty until they have proven themselves innocent".
  • Tautological Templar: They taught that resisting the Order was equivalent to resisting the gods themselves.
  • The Theocracy: They were a highly influential religious sect which wielded nearly as much power as the Emperor at its height. They also saw no difference between political and religious matters.
  • Time Crash: Caused what is known as the first Dragon Break, the Middle Dawn described above.
  • Written by the Winners: They intentionally destroyed Ayleid writings and cultural items, making it so that only the Imperial version of events from the Alessian Revolt survived. Further, they demonized all Ayleids, even those who supported Alessia during the revolt and were some of her most powerful allies.


The Blades
A male Blade in characteristic armor with an Akaviri Katana ca. 3E 433

"The Blades were good at keeping secrets. They didn't write down much. They passed information carefully between their spies in every province, to their elite members that protected the Emperors. Even amongst their members, they kept much secret. Most associate the Blades with their ceremonial Akaviri armor and curved longswords. One can trace the Blades back to the fiercest warriors of Akavir, the Dragonguard. It was there, just as they would do in Tamriel, that they protected rulers and their kingdom."
The Rise and Fall of the Blades

Appearances: Daggerfall (not joinable), Morrowind, Oblivion, Skyrim
Notable Members: Brisienna, Caius Cosades, Jauffre, Baurus, Delphine, Esbern
Headquarters: Cloud Ruler Temple (Cyrodiil), Sky Haven Temple (Skyrim)

The Blades were an order charged with the protection and service of the Emperors of Tamriel throughout history. The Blades descend from the Akaviri Dragonguard, a group of ancient dragon hunters who were co-opted by Reman Cyrodiil, the Dragonborn founder of the Second Cyrodiilic Empire. (The Dragonguard considered those who are Dragonborn to be the ultimate dragon slayers, a trait adopted by the Blades.) In addition to serving the Reman emperors as bodyguards, the Dragonguard continued their mission of hunting dragons in Tamriel, driving them to apparent extinction. When the last of the Reman line was assassinated, the Dragonguard officially disbanded, but their members continued to covertly serve the Akaviri Potentates as spies and covert operators.

When Tiber Septim, a new Dragonborn Emperor, rose to power, he officially reestablished the order which became known as the Blades. Over time, the Blades branched out into other areas including espionage and diplomacy. Indeed, while a select few were appointed by the Emperor to serve openly as diplomats or bodyguards, the majority of Blades agents acted covertly as couriers and spies.

Following the demise of the Septim Dynasty, the Penitus Occulatus assumed guardianship of the Emperors, but the Blades continued to serve the Emperors as spies. When they realized the threat the Thalmor posed to Tamriel, particularly their intent to outlaw Talos worship, the Blades used their resources to resist the Thalmor throughout the continent. Without support, however, these efforts could not last forever, and in 4E 171, an Aldmeri ambassador delivered to Titus Mede II the severed heads of every Blades agent in Summerset and Valenwood, sparking the Great War. Devastated during the Great War, the Blades were then officially disbanded by the White-Gold Concordant. The survivors were forced underground to avoid the Thalmor, waiting for a new Dragonborn to emerge.

  • All Monks Know Kung-Fu: Or swordfighting, in this case. Retired or undercover Blades frequently take on the role of Monks.
  • Ancient Order of Protectors: They started as an ancient order of Akaviri dragon hunters, came into the service of Reman Cyrodiil who they recognized to be Dragonborn, served him and the following Imperial dynasties as bodyguards and spies, and then went back to their dragon hunting roots with the return of the dragons in the 4th Era.
  • Badass Bookworm: The Chronicler of the Blades keeps a history of the Blades, often in code in case it falls into the wrong hands. The Chronicler has usually gone through the same training as the other Blades, confirming their badassery.
  • Church Militant: Following Tiber Septim's ascension to godhood as Talos, the Order of Talos formed within the Blades to serve him.
  • The Confidant: Naturally, the Blades, especially their leaders, have served as these to the emperors of Tamriel, in addition to being their Secret Keepers.
  • Creature-Hunter Organization: Their original raison d'etre was hunting dragons. This took a backseat to bodyguarding and spying for the emperors after the dragons had all be killed or went into hiding for the 2nd and 3rd Eras.
  • Culture Chop Suey: The Samurai meet western-style knights meets the CIA/Secret Service. Although they use katanas and their buildings resemble Oriental architecture, they function as a western-styled order of knights, and their uniform resembles a mish-mash of Japanese-style lamellar and Roman lorica segmentata. The helmet is likewise a cross between a Japanese kabuto and a Roman galea (legionnaire helmet).
  • Decapitation Presentation: The Great War began when representative from the Aldmeri Dominion present the severed heads of every Blade operating within Dominion territory to the Emperor of Tamriel.
  • Everything's Better with Samurai: The Blades are essentially an order of western-styled knights with significant Japanese influences, particularly in their armor and favored weapon.
  • Gender Is No Object: The Blades will accept worthy candidates from either gender, with plenty of women serving and even rising through the ranks to Captain, and even Grandmaster.
  • Hypocrite: By the time of the games many of the Blades worship Talos, the ascended god form of Tiber Septim. After training with the Greybeards, Tiber Septim explicitly ordered the Blades to not kill Paarthurnax. However, their hatred for the dragons is so strong that they're literally defying their own god by ordering Paarthurnax's death.
  • Heroes Prefer Swords: An order of bodyguards for the emperors of Tamriel who are almost always found using swords, particularly katanas.
  • Iconic Outfit: In-universe with uniformed Blades in their Akaviri style armor with Akaviri katanas. There is virtually no mistaking them for an average citizen of Tamriel.
  • Katanas Are Just Better: Their iconic primary weapons, inherited from the Akavari Dragonguard.
  • Knight Templar: The Blades may be sworn to serve the Dragonborn, but they consider dragonslaying to be their number one priority. Thus, after a certain point in Skyrim, they refuse to help the Last Dragonborn unless the he/she kills Paarthunax.
  • One-Man Army: Blades training is among the most intense of any group in Tamriel, and their weapons and armor are not too shabby either. Individual or small groups of Blades have done everything from turn the tide of larger battles to slay dragons. In the 4th Era, even the Thalmor are cautious when hunting down Blades, preferring to take them out using overwhelming force wherever possible.
  • The Order: An ancient order of dragonslayers styled as a cross between the Samurai and a medieval European knightly order, with added espionage and covert operation duties.
  • Order Reborn: Under the guidance of Delphine and Esbern, the Last Dragonborn can reform the Blades in Skyrim.
  • Praetorian Guard: To the Reman and Septim Dynasties. They are also supposed to be this to the Last Dragonborn, but not so much in practice.
  • The Remnant: After the Thalmor hunted down and executed every single member of the Blades within their territory, they delivered the decapitated heads of the Blades agents to the Emperor. After the Great War, the Blades were forced to disband and the survivors were forced to go to ground until a new Dragonborn could be found.
  • Sparing the Aces:
    • They opted to spare the dragon Nafaalilargus due to his alliances with mortals. This was fortunate, as he would later come into the service of Tiber Septim.
    • Averted for Paarthurnax, however. Due to the atrocities he committed prior to his Merethic Era Heel–Face Turn, Blades leadership cannot let him live. They ordered the Last Dragonborn to kill him as a result.
  • The Spymaster: Basically any leader of the Blades has qualified throughout history. This was actually the title of the highest ranking Blade in each of the provinces during the height of the 3rd Empire.
  • Secret Police: A generally non-villainous version. In addition to their duties as bodyguards of the emperors, they've long served as essentially the CIA of Tamriel.
  • Warrior Monk: An order of them, given their origins, abilities, and predisposition to Talos worship.
  • Wutai: Heavily influenced by the Akaviri Dragonguard, the Blades have many notable east Asian influences including the Samurai and their architecture styles.

    Clan Direnni 

Clan Direnni
The Banner of Clan Direnni
"Few families in Tamriel can boast so many famous figures, wielding so much power over the fate of so many."
De Rerum Dirennis

Appearances: Historical, Daggerfall (not joinable), Morrowind (mentioned), Oblivion (mentioned), Skyrim (mentioned), Online (not joinable)
Notable Members: Raven Direnni, Aiden Direnni, Medora Direnni
Headquarters: The Isle of Balfiera (Iliac Bay, High Rock)

Clan Direnni is an influential, aristocratic Altmeri family based on the Isle of Balfiera in the Iliac Bay. Originally a farming clan in the Summerset Isles, they became some of the first practitioners of Alchemy in Tamriel which allowed them to become very wealthy. They expanded their influence to High Rock, which the family ruled over for several centuries in the 1st Era, claiming nearly 1/3 of Tamriel's landmass as part of the Direnni Hegemony. Severely weakened during the war with the Alessian Order, the Hegemony was picked apart by the Bretons and Redguards, reducing the clan's holdings to merely Balfiera itself.

However, the family continued to influence Tamriellic politics into the 3rd Era as well as maintain a position at the forefront of magical progress. Following the Warp in the West, Balfiera fell under the rulership of the four remaining kingdoms in the region.

  • Alchemy Is Magic: Following the Aldmeri arrival in Tamriel, the Dirennis became some of the first practitioners of Alchemy. This made them very rich and allowed them to expand their influence greatly. This this still a cherished part of the clan's history, and their symbol is an alchemical alembic.
  • Allowed Internal War: The Direnni Hegemony was one of three allied belligerents (along with the Nordic Empire under Hoag Merkiller and the Colovian Kingdoms under King Rislav) who opposed the Alessian Order.
  • Breeding Slave: Under the Hegemony, male Direnni Altmer mated with their Nedic concubines in order to create the Uneven Hybrid Bretons.
  • The Clan: One of the most famous familial clans in Tamriel.
  • The Cycle of Empires: The Hegemony went through it. They started as a farming clan in the Summerset Isles, became wealthy through Alchemy, expanded into High Rock, ruled about 1/3 of Tamriel's landmass, then shrank back to only having the Isle of Balfiera — the Stabilization/Prosperity phases were quite short.
  • Dishing Out Dirt: They famously summoned an army of Stone Elementals in order to build Blackrose Prison in a single day.
  • Enemy Mine: So hated was the Alessian Order that Hoag Merkiller, High King of Skyrim who was so famous for killing Mer that it became part of his name, willingly allied against them with the Direnni Hegemony, a bastion of Merrish might along the border of Skyrim.
  • Formulaic Magic: They were known to use "hidden magic" in the form of signs and runes in their financial reports in order to keep them out of the hands of their competitors. "Sorcerous precautions" were required on the part of the reader, lest these magic numbers prove fatal. Per one text on the subject:
    "Crucial pages were covered in spittle of the previous translator, who had babbled idiotically over the text for days before catching fire."
  • Hellish Horse: The Dirennis were known to be able summon Flame Atronachs in any shape they desired. During the Battle of Glenumbria Moors against the Alessian Order, they famously summoned Flame Atronachs in the shape of horses and rode them into the battle.
  • Mixed Ancestry: They provide the Altmeri genes in the modern Bretons.
  • Racial Remnant: They accepted Laloriaran Dynar, the "last king of the Ayleids", when his people were forced out of Cyrodiil.
  • Summon Magic: The clan is known for their powerful conjurers. In particular, they are known for their summoning of Atronachs of all sorts.
  • The Tower: The Adamantine Tower, created by the Aedra to hold Convention during the Dawn Era, is located on the Isle of Balfiera and has been fiercely defended by the Dirennis for thousands of years. To many around the Iliac Bay, it has become known as the Direnni Tower as a result.
  • Vestigial Empire: As of the late 3rd Era (their last official mention), the Dirennis only control the Isle of Balfiera in Iliac Bay. This is reduced from their height as the Hegemony, where the ruled roughly 1/3 of Tamriel's land mass, including High Rock as well as parts of Skyrim, Hammerfell, and Cyrodiil.

    Cult of the Ancestor Moth 

The Cult of the Ancestor Moth
A Moth Priest in reading an Elder Scroll ca. 4E 201
"Such insight into the inner fabric of reality comes at a price. Each reading of the Elder Scrolls is more profound than the last. Each leaves the priest blind for longer, and longer periods of time. Finally, the last reading achieves a nearly sublime understanding of that scroll's contents, but the priest is left permanently blinded to the light of this world. No longer can he read the scrolls."
Pension of the Ancestor Moth

Appearances: Redguard (mentioned), Morrowind (mentioned), Oblivion (not joinable), Skyrim (Dawnguard) (not joinable), Online (mentioned)
Notable Members: Brother Holger, Dexion Evicus
Headquarters: The Imperial Library (Imperial City, Cyrodiil), Various Remote Sanctuaries

The Cult of the Ancestor Moth is an Imperial cult based around divining the information contained within the Elder Scrolls, using a ritual known as the Ritual of the Ancestor Moth, at the eventual cost of their sight. These "Moth Priests", as they are known, organize and care for the Imperial Library within the White-Gold Tower in the Imperial City, where the Elder Scrolls are traditionally stored. In 4E 175 (26 years before the events of Skyrim), the Scrolls mysteriously went missing from the Library and were scattered across Tamriel. The Order has taken to searching for them ever since.

  • All Monks Know Kung-Fu: Given the value of the Elder Scrolls in their care, the Moth Priests are traditionally capable of defending themselves. Some have been known to train with Akaviri katanas and dai-katanas like the Blades. After the Elder Scrolls went missing from the Imperial Library in 4E 175, the Moth Priests have taken to traveling Tamriel in order to recover them. Given the natural dangers of Tamriel as well as the unrest of the era, being able to defend themselves is paramount.
  • Animal Motifs: Moths, specifically the Ancestor Moths, which considering their origins amongst the Cyro-Nords may be related to Dibella, who is represented by a moth amongst the Old Nordic pantheon, and has the arts under her sphere.
  • Blind Seer: Zig-Zagged by the Moth Priests. The Ritual of the Ancestor Moth grants them special protections which enable them to safely read the Elder Scrolls, but they are struck temporarily blind after each reading. The periods of blindness last longer each time until the Priest's final reading, after which he is struck permanently blind. At this point, they are no longer able to read the Scrolls and are sent into retirement.
  • Great Big Library of Everything: They maintain the Imperial Library within the White-Gold Tower in Cyrodiil, the largest known library on Nirn.
  • Handicapped Badass: Even with their special protective training, repeated readings of the Scrolls will render them blind. Blinded Moth Priests are sent into retirement, but despite this handicap, are still quite capable of defending themselves in combat.
  • Impartial Purpose-Driven Faction: Their loyalty appears to be to the Elder Scrolls themselves, though they have often been co-opted by the leaders of Tamriel (particularly the Tamriellic Empires) to divine the Scrolls for them. After the 4th Era disappearance of the Scrolls, the Moth Priests have taken to searching the far corners of Tamriel to retrieve them, returning to a neutral status.
  • In Name Only:
    • Originally, the Cult was a Cyro-Nordic group that exported ancestor-silks, simple but exotic shawls woven with the silks of the Ancestor Moth and inscribed with the genealogy of the buyer. During the silk-gathering ritual, the singing and hymnal spirits of one's forebears were recorded in the silk. The swishing of the silk material during movement reproduces the wonderful ancestral chorus contained in the silk. At a time lost to history, it was discovered that this same ritual granted the performer special protections which allowed for the (relatively) safe reading of an Elder Scroll. The Cult was co-opted by the various Cyrodiilic Empires to perform this task specifically in service to the Empire ever since. Retired Moth Priests, who have been blinded by repeated readings of the Scrolls, still perform the Order's original task of creating ancestor-silks.
    • The Ayleids also had a group known as the "moth-eyed" who read and interpreted the Elder Scrolls for them. They were a famously Ignored Expert, who warned the Ayleids that their hubris would eventually lead to their downfall. What relation these "moth-eyed" may have had with the Cult beyond their similar function is not known.
  • Macabre Moth Motif: They are associated with both the ancestor moths from which they draw their name and the Tome of Eldritch Lore Elder Scrolls.
  • The Order: One originally dedicated to creating magical ancestor-silks using the Ancestor Moths, which was co-opted by the leaders of Cyrodiil due to their rituals offering some protection against the powers of the Elder Scrolls, allowing them to be read.
  • Seeker Archetype: They seek to study and discern the Elder Scrolls in order to divine the future and assist the Emperor. Since the Elder Scrolls went missing from the Imperial Library in 4E 175, they've been searching for them around Tamriel ever since.
  • Tome of Eldritch Lore: Crossing over with Tomes of Prophecy and Fate. By tradition, the members of the Cult are the only ones allowed to possess and read the Elder Scrolls themselves. They receive extensive protective training (in the form of an ancient ritual) to safeguard their bodies and minds against the power of the Scrolls, but even then, repeated readings will eventually strike them permanently blind.

    Dark Brotherhood 

The Dark Brotherhood
Tapestry of the Black Hand
"Sweet Mother, sweet Mother, send your child unto me, for the sins of the unworthy must be baptized in blood and fear."
The Black Sacrament

Appearances: Daggerfall, Morrowind (not joinable), Oblivion, Skyrim
Notable Members: The Night Mother, The Listener, Lucien Lachance, Astrid
Headquarters: Various Regional Sanctuaries

The Dark Brotherhood is an organization of assassins who operate in service to Sithis, whom they call the Dread Father, and serve the Night Mother, a mysterious female figure related to Sithis. The Dark Brotherhood originally split off from the Morag Tong, a legal and honorable guild of government assassins in Morrowind, though the exact circumstances of the split are lost to history. The two groups are known to be fierce enemies, and members of one caught in the territory of the other may be executed without mercy.

The Dark Brotherhood has been known to operate throughout Tamriel. While technically an illegal operation, their existence has largely tolerated (due to their usefulness) or ignored (out of fear) by rulers and law enforcement. Anyone with the funds to pay for a Dark Brotherhood contract may contact the Dark Brotherhood by performing a ritual known as the "Black Sacrament". The Night Mother, if she chooses to accept the contract, will speak to the Listener, the mortal leader of the Brotherhood, who will then pass the contract down through the ranks for execution. In dire circumstances, the Dark Brotherhood has been known to instead rely on word-of-mouth to find contracts when the Night Mother cannot be contacted.

  • Affably Evil: Some of their members can be downright pleasant people, especially toward other members. They do, however, also murder people for a living.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: How they are seen to outsiders. All members of the Dark Brotherhood are at least deeply amoral and clearly take a sadistic glee in killing, whether it be in honor of Sithis or simply because they like it. When following the Five Tenets, they're close to Lawful Evil, at least toward one another.
  • Ape Shall Never Kill Ape: The Tenets of the Dark Brotherhood forbid any form of betrayal, disobedience, and theft within the Brotherhood, or else incur the Wrath of Sithis. This is obviously relaxed during a Purification.
  • Asshole Victim: Many (but certainly not all) of their targets tend to be these. Logical, because they have to have pissed off someone so much that that person hired assassins to kill them, even if it is possibly disproportionate. Non-assholes rarely draw that drastic of a response.
  • Brotherhood of Evil: "Brotherhood" is half of their name. They murder people for a living and worship a being considered to be evil by most of the rest of Tamriel.
  • Candlelit Ritual: The Black Sacrament is a ritual prayer to the Night Mother to summon the Dark Brotherhood. It involves chanting the prayer within a candlelit circle while stabbing an effigy made of human body parts.
  • Catchphrase: "Hail Sithis" and "Kill well. Kill often".
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: They are perfectly willing to use it and their sanctuaries often have dedicated torture rooms for this purpose.
  • The Commandments: The Five Tenets:
    Tenet 1: Never dishonor the Night Mother. To do so is to invoke the Wrath of Sithis.
    Tenet 2: Never betray the Dark Brotherhood or its secrets. To do so is to invoke the Wrath of Sithis.
    Tenet 3: Never disobey or refuse to carry out an order from a Dark Brotherhood superior. To do so is to invoke the Wrath of Sithis.
    Tenet 4: Never steal the possessions of a Dark Brother or Dark Sister. To do so is to invoke the Wrath of Sithis.
    Tenet 5: Never kill a Dark Brother or Dark Sister. To do so is to invoke the Wrath of Sithis.
  • Dark Is Evil: "Dark" is the other half of their name. They serve the "Great Void" "Dread Father" Sithis and their outfits tend to contain a lot of black. They also kill people for a living.
  • Dragon-in-Chief: Because the Night Mother is the "official" leader of the Dark Brotherhood, the Listener (the one she communicates with from the Void) is in charge of the organization but is technically subordinate to the Night Mother.
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil: As long as you're willing to kill on command and have some skill in doing so, the Dark Brotherhood will welcome you regardless of race or gender.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: When following the Five Tenets, at least toward one another. When completing a contract, there are no standards. If the Night Mother orders a death, that target must be eliminated.
  • Evil Counterpart: To the Morag Tong, whom they used to be part of.
  • Evil Is One Big, Happy Family: They may be assassins, but they do consider themselves family.
  • How the Mighty Have Fallen: By the time of Skyrim, the Dark Brotherhood is down to one sanctuary and has no contact with the Night Mother. They're forced to get their contracts through rumors about the Black Sacrament being performed.
  • If You're So Evil, Eat This Kitten: They look for those who have already committed murder to recruit into their ranks. In Skyrim, they further test potential new members by locking them in a room with three people, then telling the recruit to figure out which one has a contract on their head and kill them. Who the recruit kills is meaningless; what matters is that they're willing to kill simply because they were ordered to do so.
  • In the Hood: Cowls and hoods are traditional attire for Brotherhood members.
  • The Kingslayer: They assassinated Emperor Pelagius in the 3rd Era. They are also rumored to be responsible for the death of Emperor Titus Mede II at the time of the Skyrim Civil War.
  • Laughably Evil: They're an organization that murders people for a living, often taking a sadistic glee in doing so, and worships a being considered to be evil by most of the rest of Tamriel. But however horrifying they are, the Dark Brotherhood is at times downright hilarious.
  • Last of His Kind: The 4th Era Skyrim faction features the last of the Shadowscales — Argonians born under the sign of the Shadow who are sent as hatchlings to the Dark Brotherhood for training.
  • Mercy Kill: There have been instances of people contacting the Brotherhood to perform these, often if the client believes it is for the best but does not want to get their own hands dirty.
  • Mouth of Sauron: The Listener serves in this role, receiving contracts from the Night Mother after clients perform the Black Sacrament. Without a Listener, they can't receive any contracts the normal way, which forces the Brotherhood to rely on word-of-mouth to hear if anyone has performed the Black Sacrament.
  • Murder, Inc.: Above all else, the Dark Brotherhood is group of murders for hire. If you want someone dead, have the cash, and perform the Black Sacrament, you can hire the Dark Brotherhood.
  • Ninja: Though not technically ninjas, the Brotherhood's standard armor and propensity toward stealth and assassination certainly invoke the ninja aesthetic.
  • The Nothing After Death: They believe that they will serve the Dread Father "in the void" after death.
  • Professional Killers: They will kill anyone that they are hired to, provided that the client performs the ritual to call them and can pay the fee.
  • Psycho for Hire: Members of the Dark Brotherhood tend to be sadistic psychopaths who revel in murder. There are even those who choose to dispense with stealth entirely, such as the orc Gogron gro-Bolmog in Oblivion. They do however tend to encourage stealth and subtlety and do offer bonuses to assassins willing to fulfill contracts in a specific manner, often at the behest of the client.
  • The Purge: Purifications, in which all the members of a Sanctuary are to be killed due to betrayal or suspicions of betrayal.
  • Rag Tag Bunch Of Misfits: In addition to the more standard cloak-and-dagger style assassins and poisoners, they count among their ranks vampires, heavily armored and axe wielding Orcs, werewolves, pyromaniac mages who believe in No Kill Like Overkill, and all other manner of misfit. As long as you're willing to kill, you can find acceptance within the Brotherhood.
  • Red and Black and Evil All Over: The traditional Brotherhood attire is black and red in color.
  • Religion of Evil: They worship Sithis, and are all killers for hire.
  • Sycophantic Servant: Most members toward the Night Mother and Sithis.
  • The Unfettered: As long as the Night Mother orders it, they're being paid, and it doesn't violate one of the Five Tenets, they'll kill just about anyone, regardless of age, gender, or social standing.

    Dragon Cult 

The Dragon Cult
The Mask of a Dragon Priest
"For dragons, power equals truth. They had the power, so therefore it must be truth. Dragons granted small amounts of power to the dragon priests in exchange for absolute obedience. In turn, the dragon priests ruled men as equals to the kings. Dragons, of course, could not be bothered with actually ruling."
The Dragon War

Appearances: Historical, Skyrim, Online
Notable Members: Miraak, the Dragon Priests
Headquarters: Atmora, Bromjunaar (Skyrim)

The Dragon Cult was an Atmoran religious sect led by the Dragon Priests, mortals granted some measure of power and authority by the dragons they worshiped. In Atmora, the Dragon Priests kept peace between the dragons and mankind. However, as more Atmorans migrated to Tamriel, the Cult followed and, for reasons lost to history, became much more malevolent. The Cult's cruelty soon rose to rival that of the dragons themselves, and the Dragon War was fought to defeat both the Cult and Dragons. After Alduin's defeat, the Dragon Cult was driven underground, eventually eliminated entirely, and many cultists were cursed with undeath for their crimes. Following Alduin's return in the 4th Era, the Dragon Cult's followers are rising again, quite literally, just like the dragons themselves.

  • Abusive Precursors: They tormented the early Nords in Skyrim with unrelenting cruelty and malevolence. Eventually, the Nords (with aid from a few friendly dragons) were able to (temporarily) defeat Alduin and brought the Cult down.
  • Dragons Are Divine: The Cult worshiped dragons, creatures they revered above all others and who they treated as god-kings over mankind.
  • Face–Heel Turn: The Cult, and the Dragon Priests in particular, was not always so cruel and evil. In Atmora, they kept the peace between mankind and the dragons. However, during or soon after the Atmoran migration to Tamriel, the Cult became much more malevolent for reasons lost to history, but theorized to be related to Alduin's desire to Take Over the World instead of destroy it.
  • Make Me Wanna Shout: Some of the higher ranking members of the Cult were able to use the Thu'um, and they retain this ability as Draugr.
  • Malevolent Masked Man: Dragon Priests were given powerfully enchanted masks as symbols of authority. Their cruelty and malevolence was second only to the dragons themselves.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: The Dragon Priests when translated from draconic. They include: Hevnoraak (Brutal), Krosis (Sorrow), Morokei (Glorious), Rahgot (Rage Kill), Nahkriin (Vengeance), Volsung (Horror/Air Horror), Vokun (Shadow), Konahrik (Warlord), Ahzidal (Bitter Destroyer), Dukaan (Dishonor), and Zahkriisos (Sword Blood/Finite Kill Blood/Bloody Sword).
  • Not Using the "Z" Word: Those shambling undead corpses that used to be cultists aren't zombies, they're Draugr. The word "draugr" exists in real life languages in northern Europe, and essentially means "undead".
  • Our Liches Are Different: The Dragon Priests after rising from the dead. They're powerful undead magic users with enchanted masks.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: The Draugr, non Dragon Priest cultists, who cross over with elements of Mummies.
  • Power Floats: The Dragon Priests float above the ground and are the most powerful members of the Cult.
  • Religion of Evil: The Cult worshiped the dragons, beings with inherently destructive and domineering natures.
  • Remember the New Guy?: They are a recent addition to the lore for Skyrim, but are stated to have been around since the Merethic Era. Possibly justified; since the Dragons primarily operated out of Skyrim and frequently battled the Ancient Nords, it makes sense that the Dragon Cult was most prominent in Skyrim and just hadn't been seen elsewhere in Tamriel.
  • Rise from Your Grave: Following Alduin's return in the 4th Era, just like the dragons themselves.
  • Sinister Minister: The Dragon Priests were soon on par with the dragons themselves in terms of cruelty. One priest, Rahgot, ordered hundreds of innocent children to commit suicide to ensure he had a ready supply of undead warriors. When one of his alchemists raised objections over this, he had her murdered to silence dissent.
  • The Theocracy: Due to serving as the middlemen to the Dragons' rule over Skyrim, the day-to-day administration was left to its Priests.

    Fighters Guild 

The Fighters Guild
Tapestry Emblazoned with the Fighters Guild Emblem
"Thus, all owe a debt of gratitude to the Fighters Guild — not only its members, but also the people who have been helped by its neutral policy of offering strong arms for a fee within the boundaries of the law. Without them, there would be no guilds of any kind, and it may be argued, no model for even the independent Adventurer."
History of the Fighters Guild

Appearances: Daggerfall, Morrowind, Oblivion, Online
Notable Members: Dinieras-Ves, Sjoring Hard-Heart, Percius Mercius, Modryn Oren, Vilena Donton
Headquarters: Various Regional Guild Halls

The Fighters Guild is an organization of warriors-for-hire who operate throughout most of Tamriel. The Guild is chartered by Empire of Tamriel to provide training and employment to citizens of the martial persuasion. Guild Halls can accept contracts from any citizen of the empire, as long as it does not violate any laws or customs.

The Guild got it start during the reign of the Akaviri Potentate Versidue-Shaie, who dissolved and outlawed the private armies of nobles throughout the Empire. Given that the citizens of Tamriel still had a need for protective services beyond what the Imperial Legions could provide and that there was a need to prevent thousands of unemployed soldiers from straying into brigandry, Dinieras-Ves stepped forward with a host of Akaviri warriors to fill the void. The organization was known as the "Syffim", the Tsaesci word for "soldier". However, the entirely Akaviri Syffim lacked the knowledge of their Tamriellic foes and could not keep up with the demand for their services. Thus, they were forced to accept members from the Tamriellic races. This allowed them to find even greater and wider spread success. This success led Potentate Versidue-Shaie to announce the Guilds Act, allowing for the formation of dozens of Guilds throughout Tamriel, most prominently the Fighters (changing their name officially from the Syffim) and Mages Guilds.

  • Adventure Guild: They take on a wide variety of contracts from the local citizenry, ranging from the standard Rat Stomp to killing bandits to, at the highest ranks, taking on even more supernatural threats like vampires, necromancers, and Daedra worshipers.
  • Bounty Hunter: Many of their contracts involve tracking down (and often executing) a wanted criminal.
  • Dark Age Europe: They got their start at the tail end of the Second Empire under the Akaviri Potentates and then really grew in popularity during the Interregnum, fulfilling many of the duties the Imperial Legions previously performed.
  • Evil Counterpart: The Blackwood Company for a time in the 3rd Era in Cyrodiil. The Blackwood Company was much more ruthless.
  • Hired Guns: As long as it doesn't violate any laws, the Fighters Guild can be hired to do whatever you want them to do.
  • Impartial Purpose-Driven Faction: Technically, they are supposed to be one of these according to their Imperial Charter. They are to offer training and employment in martial matters, but are not allowed to accept any contracts which would violate the laws the Empire.
  • Only in It for the Money: Crossing over with Punch-Clock Hero. Given the nature of the Guild as, essentially "warriors-for-hire", many of their members qualify.
  • Private Military Contractors: Basically what they are. In fact, the Guild was founded in part to keep ex-soldiers from straying into brigandry when the private armies of provincial nobles were outlawed in the 2nd Era.
  • Superman Stays Out of Gotham: They don't operate in Skyrim due to the presence of the Companions, who fill a similar role there.

    Great Houses of the Dunmer 

The Great Houses of the Dunmer
Banners of (top to bottom) House Hlaalu, Redoran, and Telvanni
"The Chimer were, like the Dwemer, descendents of the Aldmer, and had followed their prophet Veloth across Tamriel from the west. Soon, they abandoned nomadic life and divided themselves into what were known as the Great Houses, tight-knit political clans that survive in Morrowind to this day."
Pocket Guide to the Empire, 3rd Edition

Appearances: Morrowind, Skyrim (Dragonborn), Online
Notable Members: King Hlaalu Helseth (Hlaalu), Queen Barenziah (Hlaalu), Duke Vedam Dren (Hlaalu), Voryn Dagoth (Dagoth), Almalexia (Indoril), Lord Indoril Nerevar (Indoril), Divayth Fyr (Telvanni — Retired), Neloth (Telvanni), Athyn Sarethi (Redoran), Lleril Morvayn (Redoran)
House Dagoth: Kogoruhn (now defunct)
House Dres: Tear
House Hlaalu: Narsis (now defunct)
House Indoril: Mournhold
House Redoran: Blacklight (formerly Ald-Ruhn)
House Telvanni: Various

Originally six in number, the Great Houses of Morrowind derive from the ancient clans and tribes of the Dunmer. In their current version, they essentially operate as political parties. They functioned as the government of Morrowind for thousands of years, and kept much of their power after Morrowind joined the Septim Empire as a Voluntary Vassal with exceptionally favorable terms. The original Great Houses consist of:

  • House Hlaalu — A bureaucratic House that has a knack for espionage and trade, with strong ties to the Empire.
  • House Redoran — The "Warrior House", with military stylings and strong ties to the Tribunal Temple.
  • House Telvanni — A House for the magically inclined, ruled by ancient and powerful sorcerers.
  • House Indoril — An orthodox theocratic House so intertwined with the Tribunal Temple that they are nearly impossible to separate.
  • House Dres — A House of traditionalist, agrarian slavers.
  • House Dagoth — An ancient House that was forcibly dissolved after the perceived treachery of their leader, Voryn Dagoth.

Following the events of the Red Year, House Hlaalu lost its seat on the Council and was replaced by House Sandras, a little known formerly minor house.

  • Animal Motifs: House Dagoth had a beetle as their symbol.
  • Back from the Brink: House Redoran was almost completely destroyed during the Oblivion Crisis after they rallied to defend against the invading Daedra. Dragonborn reveals that Redoran has recovered quite well in the 200 years that followed, organizing most of the relief efforts following the Red Year and raising a standing army to fight back against the Argonian invasion. Now, they're the current leaders of the Dunmer Council and their city of Blacklight has become the capital of Dunmer controlled Morrowind following the Argonian sacking of Mournhold.
  • Badass Army: Even before the events that would lead to Morrowind's downfall, House Redoran was considered an honorable and formidable fighting force. When the legions under Tiber Septim were threatening to invade Morrowind, the Redorans were planning to defend Morrowind on their own after every other Great House chose to capitulate to the empire or remain neutral. (The armistice was signed between Septim and Vivec before the war accelerated, however.) Following the Oblivion Crisis and Red Year, they managed to raise an army to defend what little the Dunmer had left and became the most powerful Great House as a result. While much of Morrowind was sacked by the Argonian invasion, House Redoran was able to drive them back and retake several of the captured cities.
  • Benevolent Mage Ruler: Typically averted for Great House Telvanni. Though a Magocracy through and through, their accepted practice of Klingon Promotion and belief that Might Makes Right turns the majority of their rulers in Evil Sorcerers or, at best, Pragmatic Villains whose benevolence stems only out of self-interest. Master Aryon from Morrowind provides a Downplayed example in line with the latter statement.
  • Break the Haughty:
    • House Hlaalu had the closest ties to the Empire and, as a result, were the most powerful and wealthy Great House during Morrowind's time in the Third Empire. Many of the more conservative Dunmer, especially Houses Redoran and Dres, hated this fact and held House Hlaalu in contempt as traitors to the Dunmer traditions. When the Empire withdrew during the Oblivion Crisis, House Hlaalu was left without their strongest ally and fell well behind the other Houses in terms of power and prestige. But things got especially bad for the House following the Red Year and the subsequent Argonian invasion, as many Dunmer felt that the Empire had failed them in their hour of need, and unable to take their anger out on the Empire itself, they instead decided that House Hlaalu made for a nice target for Revenge by Proxy, and so stripped them of the vast majority of their holdings and booted them off of the Dunmer Council all together. Nowadays, the House is but a pale shadow of its former self, and their remaining members are frequently targets for assassination at the hands of the other Houses.
    • House Redoran had very close ties to the Tribunal Temple, as well as the xenophobia and dogmatism that came with it. During the Oblivion Crisis, the Redorans were the hardest hit, having their capital city completely destroyed and much of their land razed. And that's before the Argonian occupation. They seemed to have learned some humility, however, and reformed to become the strongest of the Great Houses and leader of the post-Red Year Dunmer Council.
    • House Indoril, in its heyday, wielded immense political power thanks to its close ties with the Tribunal Temple, as well as being the House of Almalexia and (by marriage) Indoril Nerevar. Their influence began to wane when Morrowind signed a treaty with the Empire, as House Indoril had always been and would continue to be a staunch and verbal opponent of the Empire. King Helseth, in an alliance with houses Hlaalu and Dres, used his cunning and considerable political power to reduce House Indoril to a shadow of its former glory near the end of the 3rd Era, and the collapse of the Tribunal and rise of Reclamations worship among the Dunmer finished off what little influence they still held. It's said that many prominent members of House Indoril now serve as priests in the New Temple.
    • At its height, House Dres was a wealthy and xenophobic faction that made its name and riches in slavery, kidnapping or purchasing Argonians and Khajiit to put to work on their plantations or sell to other Dunmer. The armistice with the Empire did not abolish slavery in Morrowind, but made no efforts to help enforce it, and King Helseth eventually outlawed the trade completely. After the eruption of Red Mountain, Argonians invaded the southern border of Morrowind en masse, and House Dres was both the closest and most reviled target. House Dres still exists in 4th Era, but it's safe to assume that they paid dearly for centuries of Argonian enslavement.
  • The Clan: Originally family based, they are now a combination of blood relatives and adopted members. They've expanded over time to allow outsiders to join freely, though few ever rise to the highest ranks. Those with ties to the original families are considered the equivalent of Dunmer nobility, and are fast-tracked for leadership positions.
  • Church Militant: House Redoran had strong ties to the Tribunal Temple, and as such shared much of its intolerance and bigotry, though not nearly to the extent of the House Indoril Ordinators. With the fall of the Tribunal and the rise of the "New" Temple in the 4th Era, this seems to have subsided.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: House Redoran was noted for being especially aggressive in law enforcement, especially over minor infractions and religious disputes. One letter from a House Hlaalu trade deputy complained that Redoran guards were scaring away trade and investment due to their zealous enforcement, noting an example where the Redoran guards arrested a Breton investor who had stepped over a low fence and then had him interrogated and beaten by the Ordinators for three hours.
  • Duel to the Death: Great House culture is steeped in formalized, honorable duels, some of which determine succession. House Redoran in particular is known to practice this at the highest levels. Even assassinations through the Morag Tong are a version of this, as if the target manages to kill or at least survive against a Tong assassin team until the contract's conclusion, the Tong will end the contract and let the target live. Downplayed by the more modern, practical Hlaalu, who prefer to take down their opponents with bribery or blackmail, but will still resort to this.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Great House Telvanni. Though you don't have to be "evil" to join, as a Magocracy where Might Makes Right and Klingon Promotion are official policies, those types tend to thrive there.
  • Grey and Gray Morality: Each Great House has their lighter and darker sides. The conflicts between them are typically political in nature rather than "good vs. evil" affairs.
  • How the Mighty Have Fallen: House Hlaalu was once the most powerful of the Great Houses. Following the events of the Red Year and the withdraw of Imperial influence from Morrowind, they were reduced to becoming the weakest House and even lost their seat on the council.
  • Hufflepuff House: Morrowind and Dragonborn offer an up-close look at most of the Great Houses; however, in each one, House Dres (and Sandras in Dragonborn) get very little interaction and what we know of them comes from in-game books and comments.
  • Irony: In Morrowind, House Hlaalu was one of the strongest political factions due to their strong ties with the Empire. By the time of Dragonborn, they are now the weakest House, for exactly the same reasons.
  • Klingon Promotion: Played straigh by the cutthroat Telvanni, who think nothing of backstabbing or outright murdering political opponents. In their philosophy, killing someone over a disagreement proves your argument by default.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: The post-Red Year invasion of Morrowind by the Argonians is a result of the Dunmer's own centuries of raiding Black Marsh for slaves. Admitted to by a member of House Telvanni in a posthumous letter to his son:
    Lymdrenn Tenvanni: The irony of our demise glows brighter than Masser on the summer solstice. We brought this upon ourselves; the Argonians simply answering a rallying cry incited by a millennia of suffrage imposed by my kind.
  • Murder, Inc.: The Great Houses do not get along so well, to the point where they will resort to violence against one another. Since open warring between the Great Houses would weaken the Dunmer overall, the Morag Tong was sanctioned as the solution. (See below for more details on the Morag Tong.) Whenever someone with enough wealth to hire the Morag Tong wants someone dead, an "Honorable Writ of Execution" will be created for that person and a Tong assassin will be dispatched to kill them. The threat of being legally assassinated helped to keep the Great Houses more in line.
  • Mushroom House:
    • In Morrowind, the nobles of House Telvanni reside in magically-grown giant mushrooms in which rooms and corridors are hollowed out, essentially forming giant fungal Mage Towers. The commoners live in smaller mushroom houses, the size of a cottage. If you join House Telvanni, you are eventually allowed to grow your own giant mushroom to live in, Tel Uvirith.
    • The Skyrim DLC Dragonborn allows you to visit Tel Mithryn, one of the last surviving mushroom strongholds of a Telvanni noble, located on the isle of Solstheim.
  • Proud Merchant Race: House Hlaalu. It was the most "imperialized" house, with strong ties to the Empire, and thus all of the trade opportunities that provided. Corrupt Corporate Executive-type leaders thrived in the house and Chronic Backstabbing was common.
  • Proud Warrior Race: House Redoran. It is actually called "The Warrior House" and they have martial prowess as one of their core tenets. They are the Dunmer's first line of defense and even draw near universal in-universe praise for their fighting skills. Even the soldiers of the Imperial Legion stationed in Morrowind have more respect for House Redoran than for House Hlaalu.
  • The Quisling: House Hlaalu was this from the perspective of the other Great Houses when Tiber Septim was threatening to invade. Even before Vivec agreed to the armistice, the Hlaalu advocated joining the Empire. As a result of their cooperation with the Imperials, House Hlaalu experienced an unprecedented surge in power and influence, politically and economically, throughout the 3rd Era. They had their members placed as the Imperial Puppet King of Morrowind, saw their faction leaders named to various high-ranking Imperial stations (such as Duke of Vvardenfell), and were awarded the vast majority of the lucrative Ebony mining contracts and other trade deals in their homeland. However, this came back to bite them following the Oblivion Crisis in the early 4th Era, where a series of catastrophes left Morrowind devastated and they saw their Imperial allies abandon them as a lost cause. Meanwhile, the other Great Houses, specifically the Redorans, took charge and helped the Dunmer people move on and rebuild. As a result, Morrowind declared its independence and House Hlaalu was unceremoniously stripped of all its power and turned into a scapegoat for all the Dunmer people's suffering.
  • Religious Bruiser: Houses Redoran and Indoril were closely tied to the old Tribunal Temple and were quite powerful as a result.
  • The Remnant: House Indoril following the fall of the Tribunal Temple. While still better off than the Hlaalu, they are one of the weakest Council Houses as of the Fourth Era.
  • The Theocracy:
    • House Indoril. They were so aligned with the Tribunal Temple that it was hard to tell where one stopped and the other started, and were considered the strongest of the Great Houses as a result until Morrowind was forced to join the Empire and they were surpassed by the Imperial-aligned House Hlaalu. Following the Red Year and fall of the old Tribunal Temple, they were left rather toothless (though still better off than the Hlaalu).
    • House Redoran as well, were very aligned with the Tribunal Temple during its heyday, though their approach was slightly different than House Indoril, approximating the real-world differences between Catholics and Protestants. However, House Redoran was willing to ultimately embrace the Nerevarine Prophecy, and had their Proud Warrior Race and code of honor that existed aside from their devotion to the Temple, allowing them to preserve their identity after the fall of the Temple.

    Imperial Legion 

The Imperial Legion
Banner of the Imperial Legions, ca. 4E 201
"The most disciplined and effective military force in history, the Imperial Legions preserve the peace and rule of law in the Empire. At need, the legion garrisons can be swiftly mobilized to protect against invasions or internal disorders."
Ordo Legionis

Appearances: Arena (mentioned), Daggerfall (mentioned), Battlespire (mentioned and technically joined), Redguard (not joinable), Morrowind, Oblivion (not joinable), Skyrim, Online
Notable Members: General Warhaft, Varus Vantinius, Adamus Phillida, Hieronymus Lex, General Tullius
Headquarters: The Imperial City (Cyrodiil)

The Imperial Legion has been the primary fighting force of the Cyrodiilic Empires dating back to the founding of the First Empire, and operates under the direct authority of the Emperor. During times of war, the Legion operates as an invading and occupying force. During times of peace, the Legions serve as a garrison force with many law enforcement duties, especially within Cyrodiil itself. Thanks to its vast numbers, quality training, discipline, and versatility, the Legion is considered to be one of the greatest and most successful fighting forces in the history of Tamriel.

The Legion is divided into structured and disciplined military units; the primary, and largest, of which are the Legions, which are further divided into Cohorts. Legions are numbered for identification, and each possesses a proud history and sub-culture. Tying into the Legion's versatility is its non-discriminatory policy of recruitment. The Legion recruits individuals of all races into its ranks and benefits from the diversity of skills they all bring (although Imperials still make up the vast majority of the Legion).

  • Animal Motifs: Represented by the Imperial Dragon symbol, which they Sigil Spam all over their equipment and banners.
  • Badass Army: The Imperial Legion is perhaps the best professional army in the history of Tamriel, and has aided in taking over most or all of Tamriel three times. It's seen considerable decline by the 4th Era, but it's still got enough spirit left to fight off the Dominion and keep Skyrim from fully seceding.
  • Badass Creed: The oath to join the Legion.
    Legion Oath: Upon my honor I do swear undying loyalty to the Emperor and unwavering obedience to the officers of his great Empire. May those above judge me, and those below take me, if I fail in my duty. Long live the Emperor! Long live the Empire!
  • Bling of War: The armor of high ranking legionaries can get downright absurd in terms of bling.
  • Boring, but Practical: While they do employ all sorts of specialists, the bulk of the Legion is made up of Imperials with simple swords, shields, armor, and lots of discipline. While they lack the flashiness or raw strength of many other races, there is a good reason why they've been able to forge several Empires.
  • Call That a Formation?:
    • Averted. While individually inferior warriors compared to, for instance, the Nords or Redguards, Imperial Legionaries have a focus on tactics and collective martial prowess which has allowed them to take over the continent.
    • Interestingly, their formation tactics were adopted from the Akaviri, as prior to the Akaviri invasion the human armies of Tamriel often fought in looser, less disciplined formations, relying on individual skill and prowess to overwhelm enemies. This was entirely ineffective against the Akaviri's disciplined and tight formations and organization, and after Reman Cyrodiil defeated them, he recruited the Akaviri to reform his Legions into disciplined and organized formation-fighters.
  • City Guards: During peacetime, the Legion serves as a garrison force and the soldiers pull duty as city guards within Cyrodiil, as well as in Imperial settlements in the provinces.
  • Combat Medic: The Legion has long employed Healers in this role. Battlemages are also trained for the duty, as seen during the invasion of Akavir, but are used only as a last resort as their Magicka is better spent offensively.
  • Cool Sword: Imperial Swords, based on the Roman gladius. (Though in practice and appearance, they come closer to the Roman spatha instead).
  • Evil Colonialist: Not quite evil, but some of their more traditionalist vassals view them as this for imposing their own culture at the cost of the local one. This comes to a head in Skyrim with the outlawing of Talos sending the country into open civil war.
  • Fantastic Rank System: While the Legion proper generally uses real-world ranks (recruits, troopers, sergeants, commanders, captains, centurions, legates, generals), if not always in the exact same way as in the real world, during the late Third Era the upper ranks of the Legion were dominated by knightly orders to the point that their fantastical ranks (knight errant, knight bachelor, Knight of the Garland, Knight of the Imperial Dragon) were used more often than the actual Legion rank to refer to officers.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Of the Roman Legions, naturally. It is divided into numbered Legions and further into cohorts, and it practices a very Roman-like fighting style (stabbing sword, shield, heavy armor, focus on discipline) and tactics (collective martial prowess, shield walls). Like Rome at its height, the Legion is primarily made up of people from the Empire's home province, but is supplemented by specialists from the provinces.
  • Forest Ranger: The Imperial Legion Forresters, complete with bows, who double as scouts during wartime.
  • Frontline General: Along with Risking the King. Several Emperors have served on the front lines, including Reman Cyrodiil, Tiber Septim, and Titus Mede II.
  • Gender Is No Object: Both men and women are permitted to serve in the Legion.
  • Jack-of-All-Stats: Specialists aside, the bulk of the Legion is made up of Imperial soldiers. They lack the magical prowess of the Altmer or Bretons, the physical strength of the Nords or Orcs, the propensity for stealth of the Khajiit, the propensity for marksmanship of the Bosmer, and the strength in guerilla warfare of the Argonians. However, the Legion also lacks the weaknesses of those other races as well. The only one that compare to the adaptability of the Legion are the Dunmer, who lack the unity and sheer numbers possessed by the Legion.
  • Last Stand: During the Great War, the Eighth Legion fought a final stand to defend the Imperial City's walls while Emperor Titus Mede II took the majority of troops from the city to regroup with reinforcements from Skyrim, High Rock, and Hammerfell. This last stand bought Mede the time needed to escape and then turn around and crush the main Dominion army and force a peace treaty.
  • Lost Roman Legion: The 10th Legion is said to have been completely wiped out during Emperor Uriel Septim V's failed invasion of Akavir, along with Uriel V himself.
  • Military Mage: Imperial Battlemages have been part of the Legion since its inception. They blend combat prowess with immense magical skill.
  • Multi-Melee Master: Depending on the time period and the location, legionaries have been trained in numerous weapon types including swords, maces, polearms, and bows.
  • Multinational Team: While the Legion has mostly been made up of Imperials since its inception, they actively recruit the other races to gain the benefits from the diversity of skills they bring. To note:
    • The hardy Colovian Imperials initially made up bulk of the legions, while the cosmopolitan Nibenese Imperials made for the first Battlemages.
    • Nords have been a part of the Legion since the time of Alessia, who allied with the Nordic Empire during the Alessian Revolt. They tend to be used as heavy hitters, especially Berserkers, making for some of the finest warriors in Tamriel.
    • Upon joining the Empire, Bretons were favored for recruitment thanks to their magical abilities. They have long served as Battlemages and Healers.
    • The Bosmer are revered for their skills as marksmen, and the Legion has used them as skirmishers.
    • Redguards, while highly disciplined Master Swordsmen, have fierce, independent spirits which make them rather ill-suited for standard Legion duty. However, they are instead used as fast and hard-hitting scouts.
    • After their failed invasion of Tamriel, Reman Cyrodiil accepted the defeated Akaviri forces into his own. Not only did they provide an immediate boost to his own forces, they left a lasting impact in terms of tactics and inspired the the Blades.
    • Orcs were recruited heavily by the Legion during the Septim Dynasty. They were favored for their skill as Armorers and as heavily-armored, Berserker shock troops.
  • Real Men Love Jesus: Stendarr is the patron deity of the Imperial Legion, and since his apotheosis, Talos is immensely popular in the Legion as well.
  • Soldier Versus Warrior: The Legion falls heavily on the "Soldier" side, especially in comparison to the less disciplined but individually superior "Warriors" of the Nords and Redguards.
  • Vestigial Empire: By the 4th Era, the Legion is in considerable decline, along with the Empire it serves.
  • We Have Reserves: While the Legion is hardly made up of Cannon Fodder, their sheer numbers are one of their greatest strengths.
  • Won the War, Lost the Peace: Despite the decline in both the quality and quantity of the Legion, they actually achieved their objective during the Great War. After initially withdrawing from the Imperial City, the Legion met with Nord reinforcements, recaptured the city, and successfully repulsed the Dominion invaders. However, believing that pushing for total victory would be too costly, the Emperor settled for the White-Gold Concordat, leading directly into the unrest that would follow (including the Skyrim Civil War).

    Mages Guild 

The Mages Guild
Tapestry Emblazoned with the Mages Guild Emblem
"When Vanus Galerion, a Psijic of Artaeum and student of the famed Iachesis, began collecting magic-users from around Summerset Isle, he attracted the animosity of all. He was operating out of the urban center of Firsthold, and there was a common (and not entirely unfounded) attitude that magical experiments should be conducted only in unpopulated areas. Even more shocking, Galerion proposed to make magical items, potions, and even spells available to any member of the general public who could afford to pay. No longer was magic to be limited either to the aristocracy or intelligentsia."
Origin of the Mages Guild

Appearances: Arena (not joinable), Daggerfall, Morrowind, Oblivion, Online
Notable Members: Vanus Galerion, Shalidor, Trebonius, Hannibal Traven
Headquarters: The Arcane University (Imperial City, Cyrodiil), Various Regional Guild Halls

The Mages Guild was a professional organization for the magically inclined with a presence across all of Tamriel at their height. They offered training and magical services in dedication to the study and application of magicka.

The Mages Guild was formed by Vanus Galerion in the Second Era as a counterpart to the Psijic Order; Galerion believed that all people of Tamriel should be able to have access to magic, instead of concentrating it in the hands of a select few. The guild collapsed at the beginning of the 4th Era following years of infighting, the Empire enacting a blanket ban on necromancy and a general distrust of magic users by the citizens of Tamriel following the Oblivion Crisis. The Synod and the College of Whispers rose up as alternatives, as well as regional versions such as the College of Winterhold.

  • Adventurer Archaeologist: Frequently engaged in this. Doubling as the guild for scholars and historians, members would plumb the depths of dangerous ancient ruins looking for the artifacts and arcane knowledge within.
  • The Arch Mage: The overall leader of the guild held the title of Arch-Mage.
  • Ban on Magic: Banned Necromancy late in the 3rd Era. The resulting schism eventually led to the Guild's collapse.
  • Due to the Dead: Necromancy was originally practiced within the Guild in accordance with the local laws and customs. At the end of the 3rd Era, Arch-Mage Hannibal Traven outlawed the practice, which led to a significant schism and the Guild's eventual downfall.
  • For Science!: Members of the Guild have a habit of putting themselves and others in danger through the reckless research and testing methods they use to study their fields. Summoning creatures and then losing control of them is a common example. Ironically, one of the reasons Galerion founded the Guild was to provide a safe place for magical experimentation.
  • Functional Magic: The Mages Guild was founded in dedication to the study and application of magicka, and with the idea that all people in Tamriel should have access to magical training and services. The Mages Guild also first codified and popularized the idea of the "Eight Schools" of magic (though by the 4th Era, Thaumaturgy and Mysticism would be absorbed by the other schools, and many of the individual spells would be re-classified between schools even before then):
    • Alchemy, the study of the magical virtues of different forms of matter, their effects, combinations, and recombinations. To include the concoction of potions, elixirs, and magical draughts.
    • Alteration, the distortion of local reality through direct imposition of the mage's will. To include spells of paralysis, levitation, jumping, water breathing, water walking, locking, lock opening, feather, burden, and personal elemental shields such as flame cloaks.
    • Conjuration, the summoning and binding of spirits from Oblivion or Aetherius. To include soul trapping, spells that conjure Daedra or other creatures, spells to banish same, summoning of bound weapons and armor, as well as (for classification purposes) the forbidden necromantic arts of reanimation, conjuration, and manipulation of the undead.
    • Destruction, the splintering of material bonds by the direct application of force, typically elemental in nature. To include damaging spells of flame, frost, shock, and disintegration, as well as magic that drains essence or personal attributes.
    • Illusion, the altering of perception in oneself or others. To include spells of light, invisibility, fear, frenzy, and silence, as well as magic that affects morale and obedience.
    • Mysticism, the class of spells used to alter the nature of magic itself. To include effects that dispel or absorb both spells and the magicka that feeds them, teleportation, as well as telekinesis (which fits here as well as anywhere).
    • Restoration, the opposite of destruction, magic that resists damage or restores wholeness by reknitting the damaged material. To include wards, healing, curing of disease and poison, physical fortification, and the turning of undead (a forced purification effect).
    • Thaumaturgy, the magic that affects the will and personal state of mind. To include spells that calm or charm others.
  • Impartial Purpose-Driven Faction: Technically, they are supposed to be one of these according to their Imperial Charter. They are to offer training and employment in magical matters, but are not allowed to accept any contracts which would violate the laws the Empire.
  • Item Crafting: Specifically, the enchanting of items, which uses the power of souls to permanently imbue items with magical effects. It is one of the main services of the Guild to provide the citizenry of Tamriel with a means to enchant items.
  • Magical Society: The Mages Guild was founded to offer training and services to the magically inclined throughout Tamriel. Anyone is permitted to join as long as they follow the Guild's rules.
  • Magic Is Mental: Doubled as a guild for scholars and historians.
  • The Peter Principle: Unfortunately common within the Guild. Being skilled with magic does not automatically translate to being a skilled administrator, leading to many Pointy Haired Bosses in high-ranking positions within the Guild. (The Absent-Minded Professor nature of many skilled mages also does not help the situation.) When they became detrimental, they'd either be Kicked Upstairs and/or Reassigned to Antarctica to keep them out of them way.
  • Spell Crafting: One of the main services of the Guild is to provide the citizenry of Tamriel a means to combine spell effects to create their own spells.
  • Wizarding School: Played with. While the Guild was an organization of magical learning and its headquarters were known as the "Arcane University", it was more a collective of users who wanted to learn together than a mandatory school.

    Morag Tong 

The Morag Tong
A Morag Tong Banner
"The Morag Tong executes writs and performs special duties as the ruling houses direct. Guild members never harm or steal from any brother or sister — regardless of rank. Never betray our secrets or our identities."
Grandmaster Eno Hlaalu — Morrowind

Appearances: Morrowind, Oblivion (not joinable), Skyrim (Dragonborn) (not joinable), Online
Notable Members: Eno Hlaalu, Ravyn Imyan, Naryu Virian
Headquarters: Vivec, Morrowind
The Morag Tong is a Dunmer organization of assassins that revere the Daedric Prince Mephala, who taught the ancient Dunmer the techniques of stealth and assassination. They were officially sanctioned by the Dunmer government as an alternative to destructive open warfare between the Great Houses. After aiding in the assassination of Reman Cyrodiil III, the Morag Tong was outlawed everywhere except for Morrowind. The Dark Brotherhood, which began as a splinter organization of the Morag Tong, quickly rose to prominence as they filled Tamriel's void for professional assassins.

The Morag Tong maintain a strict policy of impartiality, accepting any job provided it is proposed in the correct manner and with the proper payment. Because of its official sanction, the guild has the authority to print legal bills known as Honorable Writs of Execution, which excuse a Tong agent of all legal misgiving associated with any Tong related business. As such, Morag Tong executioners are expected to give themselves up immediately following an execution even if the death itself would have remained a mystery, in order to legally absolve themselves and avert any possible long-term ramifications.

Following the events of the Red Year, the Morag Tong officially disbanded. However, there is evidence of their continued activities well into the 4th Era.

  • Above Good and Evil: Both the Morag Tong itself and the Dunmer Great Houses consider them to be this. The Tong has a set of strict rules and a code of honor in terms of performing executions, maintaining a policy of impartiality.
  • Allowed Internal War: As open warfare between the Great Houses is destructive, disruptive, expensive, and weakens the Dunmer overall, the Morag Tong was sanctioned by the Dunmeri government specifically to avert this trope. The threat of having legal assassins sicced against you mostly keeps the Great House leaders in line.
  • Breaking the Fellowship: According to Ravyn Imyan, a former Morag Tong assassin who joined the Thieves Guild in Skyrim, the Morag Tong was forced to "scatter to the nine winds" after the eruption of Red Mountain. They made a pact to reunite one day, but Imyan believes that time is a long way off.
  • Challenging the Chief: Per their traditions, the old Grandmaster is to be honorably executed by his replacement.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: The Morag Tong are highly respected by the Dunmer, but are more or less abhorred by the rest of Tamriel. (Playing a part in assassinating Reman Cyrodiil III doesn't help.)
  • Double Speak: They insist that they do not perform "assassinations", rather, they perform "honorable executions". Given that they are the high-class, honorable, and legal assassins in contrast to the gangly, thuggish Cammona Tong and the Psycho for Hire Dark Brotherhood, they do manage to keep a higher moral ground.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Though a guild of assassins, they are sanctioned by the Dunmer government and have very strict rules they must abide by. For example, if a target of an assassination kills the Morag Tong kill squad, or otherwise evades the assassins until the period of the contract has passed, then the Tong will declare the contract complete regardless of success or failure. This strict adherence to standards is why the Morag Tong are allowed to exist and play their part in inter-House politics in the first place; if they behaved more like the Dark Brotherhood, Dunmer society would regard them instead as criminals to be exterminated.
  • The Extremist Was Right: Legal assassination certainly seems like an extreme solution to any problem, but the Morag Tong keeps the Great Houses of Morrowind from starting an all-out war by confining the conflicts in a much smaller scale. The threat of being legally assassinated keeps the Great House leaders in line and prevents significantly greater death and destruction from happening.
  • Interplay of Sex and Violence: As devout followers of Mephala, members of the Morag Tong are encouraged to mix sex, betrayal, and murder together. This makes them excellent Femme Fatale and LadyKiller assassins.
  • The Kingslayer: Much of their notoriety outside of Morrowind comes from the part they played in assassinating Emperor Reman Cyrodiil III.
  • Murder, Inc.: A highly professional and honorable one, and legal within their home country of Morrowind.
  • Non-Indicative Name: Their name, translated into Tamriellic, means "Foresters Guild". They have nothing to do with maintaining forests.
  • Not So Different: The Tong sees the Dark Brotherhood as its Arch-Enemy, but it is theorized that the Night Mother, who the Brotherhood venerates, is actually an aspect of the Daedric Prince Mephala, the patron deity for the Morag Tong.
  • Out with a Bang: One of their favorite techniques is to seduce a target and murder them in bed.
  • Overt Operative: By the Second Era, the Morag Tong became far too brazen for their own good. When the Tong assassinated Versidue-Shaie, the Akaviri Potentiate who took over after they assassinated Reman Cyrodiil III (and who had hired the Tong in the first place to kill the Emperor), the Morag Tong wrote their name in his blood on the walls of the Imperial Palace. The rest of the nobility of Tamriel promptly made it their top priority to wipe the cult out for fear that they would fall victim to the same fate, and destroyed all but a small presence in Morrowind itself.
  • Professional Killers: Highly professional, with a strict set of rules and traditions. Even if one of their agents could get away without getting caught following an assassination, they are still encouraged to turn themselves in and present their Honorable Writ of Execution to ensure that everything remains above board.

    Order of the Black Worm 

The Order of the Black Worm (AKA The Cult of the Black Worm, the Worm Cult, the Fellowship of Anchorites)
Tapestry Emblazoned with the Emblem of the Order
"Mannimarco then set about spreading his blasphemous lore, enlisting unscrupulous mages, outcast witches, and vile Reachmen into his necromantic network. He dubbed his new cult the Order of the Black Worm, in emulation—or perhaps mockery—of the monastic orders of the Divines."
The Order of the Black Worm

Appearances: Daggerfall (not joinable), Oblivion (not joinable), Online (not joinable)
Notable Members: Mannimarco, Abnur Tharn
Headquarters: Scourg Barrow (Hammerfell), Echo Cave (Cyrodiil)

The Order of the Black Worm is a cult of necromancers who serve Mannimarco, the King/God of Worms. Referring to themselves as the Fellowship of Anchorites, Mannimarco formed the cult in direct opposition to the fledgling Mages Guild in the 2nd Era, deliberately recruiting outcasts from the Guild as well as other rogue magic-users.

The Order played a part in the events leading up to the Warp in the West, and later achieved infamy throughout Tamriel for their widespread attacks on the Mages Guild during the Oblivion Crisis.

  • The Dark Arts: They tend to practice the darkest parts of Necromancy, already considered a type of Black Magic though technically legal in the 3rd Empire. They focus on the definitely illegal parts, such as trapping and using sapient souls and the reanimation of unwilling participants.
  • Deadly Upgrade: Some of the Order's most senior members have chosen to follow in Mannimarco's footsteps by becoming Liches or another form of undead themselves.
  • Due to the Dead: They seek out ways around the natural laws which govern the souls and bodies of sapient beings.
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil: When initially forming the Order, Mannimarco sought out Mages Guild defectors, witches, Reachmen, Daedra worshipers, various other rogue magic users, and even attempted to ally with the Sload of Thras.
  • Evil Counterpart:
    • To the Mages Guild, as well as being an Arch-Enemy. Mages Guild Arch-Mages Galerion and Shalidor have both personally led crusades against the order, hunting their members and destroying their cells wherever they are found.
    • Also toward "non-evil" necromancers in general. Necromancy being a legal practice with restrictions during the Third Empire, there were some who argued that necromancy, if practiced within certain reasonable confines, can be quite useful. Naturally, the actions of the Order harm the arguments of other necromancers.
  • Geometric Magic: A black pentagram is a common symbol of the Order, representing the "damnation of their souls". Members are forced to get one tattooed onto their bodies.
  • Magical Society: A secretive and more malevolent version than the Mages Guild.
  • Necromancer: An entire order of them focusing on the darkest parts of the art.
  • The Order: A villainous order, and far more secretive than the Mages Guild, with their members operating in cells and sworn to secrecy on pain of Undeath.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: The Order has long been able to forge connections with people in positions of power. Empress Clivia Tharn allowed the Order to practice freely in Cyrodiil during the Planemeld, and the Order forged connections with Lord K'avar and Princess Morgiah leading up to the Warp in the West. When that failed, the Order simply resorted to bribery or threats.
  • Your Soul Is Mine: They are credited for the proliferation of Soul Gems and soul-trapping, which were previously entrusted only to the most experienced members of the Mages Guild due to their potential for abuse. Later, following the Warp in the West, the Order found a way to convert Grand Soul Gems into Black Soul Gems, capable of trapping sapient souls.

    Psijic Order 

The Psijic Order
Quaranir, a member of the Psijic Order, as seen in the 4th Era
"The earliest written record of Psijics is from the 20th year of the First Era and tells the tale of the renowned Breton sage and author Voernet, traveling to the Isle of Artaeum to meet with Iachesis, the Ritemaster of the Psijics. Even then, the Psijics were the counsellors of kings and proponents of the "Elder Way", taught to them by the original race that inhabited Tamriel. The Elder Way is a philosophy of meditation and study said to bind the forces of nature to the individual will. It differs from magicka in origin, but the effects are much the same."
On Artaeum

Appearances: Daggerfall (mentioned), Morrowind (mentioned), Oblivion (mentioned), Skyrim (not joinable), Online (joinable)
Notable Members: Iachesis, Celarus, Sargenius, Sotha Silnote , Divayth Fyr, Urvwen, Quaranir, Nerien
Headquarters: Artaeum (Summerset Isles)

The oldest monastic group in Tamriel, the Psijic Order (sometimes spelled "Psijiic", and originally "PSJJJJ") is a secretive magical society founded during the ancient times by an Aldmeri sect who rejected the transition to Aedra worship from ancestor worship, known to them as the "Old Way" or "Elder Way". They settled on the island of Artaeum, the third largest island in the Summerset Isles, which has been known to disappear for centuries at a time for reasons only known to the Order. Throughout history, they have variously served as advisors to royalty or have withdrawn completely from outside affairs, depending on the political climate at the time. By the 4th Era, Artaeum has once again disappeared and the Order has once again withdrawn almost completely from the rest of the world. Both the Mages Guild and the Order of the Black Worm were founded by former Psijics. While primarily made up of Altmer, they have been known to include magically adept members of other races as well.

  • Arch-Enemy: The Order and the Thalmor have an extreme mutual hatred for one another. The second disappearance of Artaeum in the 4th Era is believed to be directly related to the rise of Thalmor influence in the highest levels of the Aldmeri Dominion government.
  • Bizarrchitecture: Artaeum, along with elements of Alien Geometries and, to a degree, being an Eldritch Location. It shifts continuously either at random or by decree of the Council. It can also be made to disappear entirely from Mundus.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: To Buddhist monks in South Asia, they are often isolated to achieve enlightenment similar to the practice of Nirvana, their beliefs of the world are more philosophical than the other religions in Tamriel, they often detach materialism and outside relationships (although if a couple wishes to join and both are accepted, they can continue the relationship), and they do have somewhat of a misunderstood relationship with the outside world, particularly with Summerset Isles.
  • The Good Chancellor: They serve as advisors to the leaders of Tamriel and consider it a sacred duty which they call "seliffrnsae", meaning "grave and faithful counsel".
  • Greater-Scope Paragon: Though typically aloof, they are ultimately the closest to a force of good on Tamriel next to the Empire.
  • Ignored Expert: While serving as advisors to the Septim Empire, Emperor Uriel V ignored their warnings and led a disastrous failed invasion of Akavir. Afterward, the Order withdrew from serving in this position and became so suspect in the eyes of the Empire that their ambassadors were barred from entering the Imperial City.
  • Impartial Purpose-Driven Faction: They explicitly do not intervene in the affairs of other groups save for giving counsel (a sacred duty they call "seliffrnsae"), preferring to let events play out from afar. The few times they've violated this have been to avert events with The End of the World as We Know It level consequences. At various times in history, they have caused their home island to disappear from the face of Nirn completely, with it being speculated that this is the order's defense against groups who would seek to use the Order's powers for ill (such as their Arch-Enemy, the Thalmor-led Aldmeri Dominion).
  • Magical Society: The oldest, most mysterious, and perhaps the most powerful in Tamriel. They are secretive, with few outsiders ever being allowed to visit Artaeum, and selective, with even fewer permitted to join the Order.
  • The Magocracy: On their home island of Artaeum. They are governed by a magical council led by the Ritemaster (or Loremaster in some sources).
  • My Species Doth Protest Too Much: Along with elements of Stop Being Stereotypical, the Order is like this toward the Thalmor. The Thalmor also throw this back at the Order, though with less justification that makes them seem like The Resenter.
  • Mysterious Backer: During the College of Winterhold questline in Skyrim they take this role for the Dragonborn, offering information and clues on how they should deal with the Eye of Magnus, although this advice tends to be highly cryptic.
  • Non-Indicative Name: The Psijic Order doesn't actually have anything to do with the "Psijic Endeavor", which is a specific process of ascending to divinity championed by the Chimeri/Dunmeri figures Veloth and Vivec. The Psijic Order does not believe that there really is a fundamental difference between ancestor spirits and gods in the first place, and ascending to divinity has never been mentioned as a motivation of theirs.
  • Omniscient Council of Vagueness: In Skyrim, they don't explicitly tell the Dragonborn what they need to do to prevent disaster with the Eye of Magnus. However, it's also shown that they aren't omnipotent, as they don't know how to find the Augur of Dunlain.
  • The Order: The oldest monastic order in Tamriel which, long ago, rejected the transition to Aedra worship from ancestor worship, known to them as the "Old Way" or "Elder Way". Thousands of years later, they are now more well known as a reclusive order of immensely powerful magic users.
  • Our Gods Are Different: Preferred ancestor worship over Aedra worship. Gets a little strange when you remember that "Aedra" is Aldmeris for "our ancestors", however, the Psijics explain the Aedra to be nothing other than exceptional spirits who attained great power in the afterlife.
  • Physical God: They once counted the Dunmeri Tribunal God Sotha Sil as a member, or at least a prominent associate. He served as an instructor to young initiates during the late 1st Era.
  • Portal Door: On Artaeum, they have what is called the "Dreaming Cave", which is a portal to Oblivion.
  • Prime Directive: They do not intervene in the affairs of other groups save for giving counsel, preferring to let events play out from afar. The few times they've violated this have been to avert events with The End of the World as We Know It level consequences.
  • Reality Warper: It is believed that the abilities of the Psijics come from their manipulation of nature itself ("The Old Ways") rather than through the application of Magicka, like standard magic. However, the end result is largely the same.
  • Renowned Selective Mentor: Many magically adept prospective students seek to join the Order from all over Tamriel, but very few are ever accepted. It is said that the Psijics use a "complex, ritualized method" for selecting initiates that is "not understood by the common man". In the roughly 500 years between Artaeum's reappearance in the 2nd Era until 3E 430, only 17 initiates were taken on by the Order. However, from 3E 430 to 3E 432, leading up to the Oblivion Crisis, the Order accepted an unheard of 30 initiates.
  • Screw You, Elves!: The Psijic Order has this attitude towards the Thalmor, with both sides accusing the other side of not acting like a "true" Altmer.
  • Sufficiently Analyzed Magic: Through thousands of years of intensive study in the nature of magic, they have become able to utilize it in ways (and on a scale) that the rest of Tamriel is unable to match. Their many magical feats include making their home island disappear without a trace (twice), summoning a storm to swallow the Maomer fleet whole, using various forms of teleportation and Astral Projection, telepathy, and there are even reports that they possess a limited form of clairvoyance and sight into future events. No group (save for perhaps the extinct Dwemer) can match these abilities.
  • Telepathy: It is rumored that they have a means of communicating over great distances without actually speaking. The Dwemer were said to have the same ability, referred to as "the Calling".
  • Time Stands Still: They have demonstrated the ability to freeze individuals around them in this fashion.
  • The Tower: The Ceporah Tower on Artaeum. Older than any of the other metaphysical towers save for the Adamant Tower itself, it is said to have been built by an unknown civilization predating the Aldmeri arrival in the Summerset Isles. The ancient and magically powerful Tower is used by the Psijics in certain rites and rituals. It was under the Ceporah Tower where Galerion confronted Mannimarco about his practice of The Dark Arts, leading to the founding of both the Mages Guild and the Order of the Black Worm.
  • The Unpronounceable: The Order's original name, "PSJJJJ", is deliberately unpronounceable. "Psijic" is merely a phonetic transcription of non-Psijic's attempts to pronounce it, which seems to have been adopted by the Psijics themselves, at least when speaking to non-Psijics.
  • Weirdness Coupon: Being the most powerful Magical Society in Tamriel and being able to have your home island disappear off the face of Nirn gives you major advantages, such as being able to stand up to even the Thalmor.
  • The World Is Not Ready: Their philosophy toward magic, initially, believing that the world must learn magic slowly, at a safe rate. They still maintain this attitude toward certain magical artifacts, such as the Eye of Magnus.


The Thalmor
Ondolemar, a Thalmor Justicar as seen in the 4th Era
"With the Empire submerged in this mayhem, the Thalmor were quick to act. They overthrew the rightful Kings and Queens of the Altmer. I remember the revulsion and horror that took hold when word reached me — that this dementia had gripped my homeland. Once so proud and majestic, many of our great race actually embraced this insanity!"
Rising Threat

Appearances: Historical, Skyrim (not joinable), Online (not joinable)
Notable Members: Elenwen, Ondolemar, Ancano
Headquarters: Alinor (Summerset Isles), Various Provincial Embassies

Founded in the 1st Era by the First Aldmeri Dominion as an Altmeri council tasked with preserving Altmeri heritage, the Thalmor have subtly, and at times significantly, influenced the Altmeri government ever since. The initial incarnation of the Thalmor grew to include members of each of the races that made up the Dominion, and only became a militant force when the Dominion was under threat during the events of the Planemeld. After the old Aldmeri Dominion was crushed by Tiber Septim, the Thalmor quietly waited out the Third Empire and reformed following the Oblivion Crisis, rising to the highest positions of power within the Dominion. Following the Great War with the Empire, the Thalmor were granted the right to patrol the territories of the Empire and enforce the mandates of the White-Gold Concordat, particularly the ban on Talos worship and the dissolution of the Blades. The 4th Era incarnation of the Thalmor is founded on beliefs of racial supremacy and are fanatical followers of the old Aldmeri religion — their ultimate goal is to escape Lorkhan's "prison" by bringing about the end of the world.

  • 0% Approval Rating: The 4th Era Thalmor are widely despised by everyone else, even other Altmer. Killing them in Skyrim generally gets you a slap on the wrist. This didn't apply early on when the Thalmor first took power, however; in that case, it was close to 100% Adoration Rating.
  • Agent Provocateur: They are known to use these throughout Tamriel in order to incite infighting in their enemies wherever possible. Most notably, they used these to goad Argonia into ceceding from the Empire then invading a Red Year-weakened Morrowind, depriving the Empire of two provinces at once.
  • All Germans Are Nazis: Averted as a fictional equivalent, not all Altmer (nor all who serve the Aldmeri Dominion) are Thalmor. Non-Thalmor Altmer are usually quick to point this out, and the famous line "the first country the Thalmor took over was their own" (or a variation) appears in-universe.
  • All There in the Manual: It's only vaguely stated in-game that the Thalmor wish to bring about the end of the world. Their actual plan to do so comes from "Obscure Text" writings by a former developer, and there is plenty of supporting evidence in-game suggesting this to be the case. Most fans have adopted this plan as official lore as a result.
  • Anti-Human Alliance: The Thalmor are the leaders of the 4th Era Aldmeri Dominion.
  • Arch-Enemy: To the remnants of the Septim Empire, especially the Blades, and to the Psijic Order.
  • Blatant Lies: The Thalmor took credit for ending the Oblivion Crisis, garnering them enough political support within their homeland to take over the Altmeri government and reestablish the ancient Aldmeri Dominion. Later, they took credit for restoring the moons to the sky which gained them great favor with the Khajiit, getting them to join the Dominion peacefully as vassals.
  • Blue and Orange Morality: In the context of the old Aldmeri religion, their actions make perfect sense. (Mundus is a prison which forces limitation on their immortal souls and destroying it would, theoretically, return their souls to pre-creation stasis.) To just about every other mortal on Nirn, this idea is inherently and irredeemably evil.
  • Canon Immigrant: While the Thalmor themselves were first briefly mentioned in the 1st Pocket Guide to the Empire, their motivations were originally stated in an "Obscure Text" writing by former developer Michael Kirkbride. Though only vaguely stated, there is evidence in Skyrim that this is indeed correct.
  • Can't Argue with Elves: An extremist and highly Altmer-supremacist sect, who follow the old Aldmeri belief that Mundus is a horrible, forsaken prison of suffering and limitation, and that the creator(s) of it did so out of malice. The Thalmor thus wish to destroy Mundus so that the Altmer, the only beings who are truly descended from the Aedra according to their logic, can have their immortal souls freed once again. (What makes it crazy is they're not exactly wrong per se, if the most common versions of the events of creation are to be believed. However, there is also evidence that the true stasis of pre-creation can never again be achieved, even if Mundus is destroyed.)
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Big fans of it, whether to extract information or merely to send a message.
  • Divide and Conquer: A favored tactic of the Thalmor is to incite two rival nations to attack one another. It worked when they incited Argonia to attack Morrowind following the Red Year, and again by manipulating events to launch the Skyrim Civil War.
  • Divine Assistance: It is implied here and there that the reason why the Thalmor had relatively good luck in the Great War, especially in its early stages, was because the weakening of the Empire at large was necessary to set the stage for the Prophecy of the Dragonborn to come to fruition.
  • The Empire: The Aldmeri Dominion under the Thalmor in the 4th Era is probably the single straightest example of this trope in the series. Ironically, their greatest rivals have been the various Cyrodiilic Empires, which, despite the name, typically better qualify as The Good Kingdom.
  • Enslaved Elves: While it may not be full blown slavery, the Bosmer of Valenwood are treated as second-class citizens to the Altmer under the Thalmor-led 4th Era Aldmeri Dominion. Even other Altmer are seen as beneath them if those Altmer do not subscribe to the beliefs of the Thalmor. Though it is not quite as at the forefront, the Thalmor also harbor a similar dim view of the Dunmer.
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil: While genocidally racist, the Thalmor have very liberal views on gender equality. The post-Great War Thalmor ambassador to Skyrim is a woman, and there are plenty of female Thalmor warriors/mages/justicars to be found. They also seem to have no qualms about employing other Dominion races, as many Bosmer and Khajiit can be found working for the Thalmor.
  • Evil Counterpart: To the Blades and the Psijic Order. The Aldmeri Dominion under Thalmor rule is also one to the Cyrodiilic Empire.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Or Fantasy Counterpart Political Faction, rather. As has already been made clear, they map very cleanly onto the Nazis.
  • Fantastic Racism: The Thalmor are Altmer supremacists. And even then, only Altmer who support their cause. Other Mer are beneath them, and the races of Men are even worse.
  • Feeling Oppressed by Their Existence: The Thalmor play up the Aldmeri belief that the creation of the mortal world was a cruel trick that robbed the Elves of their pre-creation divinity. Former developer supplemental writings reveal that the Thalmor want to not just Kill All Humans, but to eradicate even the very possibility of humanity, since the very idea of humanity inherently stabilizes the Mundus.
  • A God Am I: Their traditional religion teaches that they are divine spirits trapped in mortal forms by Lorkhan. In order to escape this "prison", they need to bring about the end of the world.
  • God Needs Prayer Badly: One of the motivations behind the Thalmor outlawing Talos worship. The stated reason for this is that the Thalmor refuse to accept that a human could achieve godhood, although it is suggested that destroying Talos by depriving him of worship is one stage in the Thalmor's grand plan to destroy Mundus and Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: They are the mutual and greater enemy of both the Imperials and the Stormcloaks in the Skyrim Civil War, although the two sides are at war over how to best deal with them. The Thalmor, meanwhile, hope to prolong the war and drain both sides to make them easier to conquer in the inevitable second Great War. Crosses over with The Good, the Bad, and the Evil, with each side believing themselves to be the good and the other bad, but both agreeing that the Thalmor are the evil.
  • Hate Sink: The Thalmor are "Nazi Elves" which seemingly everyone (outside of their organization) in-universe and out loves to hate.
  • Humanity Is Infectious: They consider the fact that they aren't clearly superior to the races of Men (and "lesser" Elves) as a form of "degeneration" in line with this trope.
  • Illegal Religion: The White-Gold Concordat between the Dominion and the Empire declares Talos worship to be this. The Thalmor are given free reign within the territories of the Empire to enforce it.
  • In Name Only: The Thalmor encountered in the 4th Era bear very little resemblance to the original Thalmor who were part of the Dominion in the 1st Era. The original Thalmor were created to protect the culture, heritage, and history of the Altmer people and only became a militant force when Molag Bal threatened Mundus during the Planemeld. By contrast, the 4th Era Thalmor are racist, totalitarian fascists who are out to dominate the world and, eventually, end it altogether.
  • Kill All Humans: Their religious doctrine not only calls for the eradication of the races of Men, but to eradicate the possibility of the very idea of Men so that the world can be unmade.
  • Kill the God: The Thalmor are attempting to do this to Talos, though not in the typical "kill his physical form" sense. By banning his worship, they are hoping to destroy him as a god and thus, unmake the mortal world. Their religious beliefs state that Lorkhan really screwed their divine ancestors over when creating the mortal world and that they should work to destroy that world to restore the divinity they had before it existed.
  • The Kingslayer: Assassinated Potentate Ocato, who served as High Chancellor and Imperial Battlemage to the latter Septim Emperors. Ocato proved effective in holding the Empire together following the Oblivion Crisis, and as an Altmer, he would was a very effective opponent as he knew how they operated, so the Thalmor assassinated him hoping to destabilize the Empire. It worked, as no one was able to hold the crumbling Empire together again until the Medes took power by force, and afterward the Mede Empire treated the Thalmor as a serious threat.
  • Let No Crisis Go to Waste: They pull this off in the 4th Era, exploiting the destabilzation of the Septim Empire following the Oblivion Crisis. In short order they have Potentate Ocato assassinated, secede from the Empire, reform the Dominion, annex Valenwood, convince Elsweyr to join with Blatant Lies, and use subversive tactics to convince Black Marsh to secede while also waging war on Morrowind, costing the Empire two more provinces. Though they fail to crush the more-resiliant-than-expected Vestigial Empire, they at least manage to force highly favorable treaty terms onto them while costing them another province (Hammerfell who secedes due to those terms) while causing Skyrim to erupt into Civil War.
  • Magic Knight: Most of their forces are capable warriors in addition to being proficient in Destruction magic.
  • Manipulative Bastard: They've been manipulating events since the Oblivion Crisis in order to establish the Thalmor-led Aldmeri Dominion as the most powerful force in Tamriel. First, they took credit for ending the Crisis which brought them fame and power in their homeland. They had Potentate Ocato assassinated to further destabilize the Empire 10 years after the Crisis. As provinces started to secede, they annexed Valenwood in order to reform the Dominion of old and give them a buffer state between their homeland and Cyrodiil. They took credit for resolving a crisis with the moons that brought them Elsweyr as a client state. They goaded the Argonians into invading Morrowind following the Red Year, essentially depriving the Empire of two more former provinces. They imposed the ban on Talos worship which, in addition to their torture of Ulfric Stormcloak during the Great War, led to strife and eventually civil war in Skyrim. Essentially, they've spent two centuries devastating the Empire with their machinations while building up their own strengths in order to deliver the final blow to the Empire.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: Replace "Thalmor" with "Nazi" in the entries on this list and you have most of an entry for Nazi Germany. Religiously and racially intolerant? Check. Social Darwinist and Übermensch type beliefs? Check. Annexing more peaceful neighbors and then breaking up opposing nations by force? Check. Wandering "Justicars" given free reign to murder undesirables? Check. Even their military record in the Great War echoes the Nazis, in particular their campaigns on the Eastern Front. Initially they launched a series of extremely successful surprise attacks on the unprepared and disorganized Empire, seizing a ton of territory and inflicting terrible casualties on their Legions in a very short span of time. However, they quickly began to overextend themselves due to conquering too much too quickly, and were drawn into an unwinnable war of attrition against a numerically superior foe. They were unable to stop the Legion from regrouping, defeated in a decisive battle at the Imperial City, and forced to retreat from Cyrodiil in a rout. All of this closely mirrors the Nazis' own failure in Operation Barbarossa, with the important caveat that the Thalmor were still able to achieve a favorable outcome in the war after this. (Unlike Nazi Germany, they didn't have a "second front" to deal with.)
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: As part of the White-Gold Concordat to end the Great War with the Cyrodiilic Empire, the Thalmor successfully got the Empire to place a ban on Talos. As it turns out, this ban led to an increase in Talos worship in the Empire's remaining provinces, especially Skyrim, essentially as a way to say Screw You, Elves! on a large scale. This is obviously the opposite effect that the Thalmor hoped to have with the ban.
  • Non-Action Guy: For all of their lethal effectiveness as spies, assassins, and manipulators, the Thalmor are less effective in open warfare and direct combat than their enemies.
    • While they achieved initial victory in the Great War due to surprise assaults that scattered the Imperial Legions, and even captured the Imperial City, doing so severely overextended their available forces and committed all of their reserves. Titus Mede II was able to rally reinforcements from High Rock, Skyrim, and Hammerfell and crush the main Dominion army in Cyrodiil by trapping them between three massive Imperial armies. This bled the Thalmor so badly that they were unable to hold on to what they'd taken in Hammerfell even when they were only fighting the Redguards.
    • In Skyrim the Thalmor are only dangerous as long as no one directly stands up to them. Their reaction when the dragons start to show up is quiet panic and assuming the Blades are responsible (or at least know what's causing it). When the Dragonborn crosses blades with them, the Thalmor are just mooks to be slaughtered, and they're effectively a non-entity in the Civil War itself, to the point that they can be kicked out of the peace summit without any real consequences beyond costing the Imperial side a miniscule amount of standing.
  • Omnicidal Maniac: The long term plan of the Thalmor is to destroy the mortal world by "killing" Talos, the last thing they believe is keeping Mundus extant. In doing so, they believe that it will return their spirits to a state of pre-creation divinity (and there is evidence that there is some truth to this belief).
  • Our Elves Are Better: Something they genuinely believe, at least about the Altmer, and consider the fact that it is not explicitly so to be a problem in need of solving.
  • Professional Killer: The Thalmor have their own assassination squads, typically used to silence dissenters and eliminate threats to the Dominion. Within the boundaries of the Empire, they are mostly used to hunt down the remaining Blades and to silence Talos worshipers.
  • The Purge: First, it was all of the Blades agents within Dominion territory. Then it grew to be any Altmer or Bosmer dissidents within the territory. Following the Great War and the White-Gold Concordat, they can now extend this to anyone from those groups (as well as Talos worshipers) within the territory of the Empire as well.
  • Putting on the Reich: The Thalmor robes, their standard uniform. They're designed to look more like a longcoat than a robe, and are are actually unable to closed in the front.
  • The Resenter: A major reason for the Thalmor's hatred of the Psijic Order, as the Order is an Aldmeri organization with immense magical knowledge but one that absolutely will not tow the Thalmor line or share that knowledge. Also part of their reason for enforcing a ban on the worship of Talos, as the idea of a human ascending to godhood doesn't sit well with their philosophy of elven superiority.
  • Scary Dogmatic Aliens: The fantasy equivalent, blending the "Aliens as Nazis" and "Aliens as Religious Fundamentalist" variants.
  • Screw You, Elves!: Frequent recipients. They also dispense this to any other elves who do not support their cause, including other Altmer.
  • The Social Darwinist: They play the Altmer belief in this Up to Eleven. They believe that they descend from the Aedra, and that the diversity of all other Elven races are the result of "degeneration". They actively try to breed themselves back into their ideal, including killing undesired progeny. And don't even try to bring up the races of men around them...
  • State Sec: The Thalmor, on a basic level, are essentially a militarized, radical political party with extremist religious and Secret Police elements. Even outside of the Dominion, the White-Gold Concordant gives them the right to patrol Imperial lands in order to enforce the Concordat's provisions, including the ban on Talos worship and dissolution of the Blades. They also use the opportunity to eliminate any Altmeri or Bosmeri defectors/dissidents who have fled to the Empire.
  • Stealing the Credit: A major part of their increase in popularity in the 4th Era stems from their claims of resolving the Oblivion Crisis. Later, they once again claimed credit for resolving a crisis with the moons that won them the support of the Khajiit, to whom the moons are sacred.
  • Stop Being Stereotypical: Other Altmer to the Thalmor, who embody the worst stereotypes of the Altmer people in general, including haughtiness and extreme racism.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: The Altmer were always haughty, but under the Thalmor, they've taken this to the extreme.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: The Altmer race has a low birthrate offsetting their long lifespans, making them vulnerable in drawn out wars of attrition. This in turn drives the Thalmor's preference for Divide and Conquer tactics; if you can get your enemies to fight each other, you do have to waste manpower fighting them yourself.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Along with Villain Has a Point. If (and that is a big "if") they were to actually succeed in their plan of "killing" Talos by depriving him of worship and causing Mundus to fall apart, it is possible that the souls of mortals would return to a state of pre-creation divinity, free from all the mortal suffering, loss, and limitation of Mundus. It is also possible that this is impossible, as due to the actions of Lorkhan, there can presumably never again be the true stasis of pre-creation again. There is also the belief that this state of divinity is actually the "prison", and Mundus was the escape from that, which would make them more of a Not-So-Well-Intentioned Extremist.
  • Written by the Winners: They took credit for ending the Oblivion Crisis which brought them great support in their homeland, enabling them to infiltrate the highest levels of the Altmeri government. After assassinating Potentate Ocato, which irreparably destabilized the Empire, they seceded and annexed Valenwood to reform the Aldmeri Dominion of old. Later, they would take credit for resolving a crisis with the moons, which brought them Elsweyr as a client state.

    Thieves Guild 

The Thieves Guild
Banner of the Skyrim Thieves Guild, ca. 4E 201
"Many investigators have attempted solve the riddle of the Thieves Guild. Despite repeated proofs that no viable Thieves Guild exists, the rumors persist. Whenever historians search for evidence of this shadowy organization, nothing is found. Witnesses know nothing. Safe houses are empty. Fences turn out to be simple businessmen."
Myth Or Menace?

Appearances: Daggerfall, Morrowind, Oblivion, Skyrim, Online
Notable Members: Barenziah, Gentleman Jim Stacey, the Gray Fox, Corvus Umbranox, Mercer Frey, Brynjolf, Karliah, Zeira
Headquarters: Various Regional (Unofficial) Headquarters

The Thieves guild is a loose organization of thieves and fences who operate throughout Tamriel. Though illegal by its very nature, the Guild has been tolerated by authorities throughout the centuries for its role as a "crime regulator". Each province appears to have its own chapter of the Guild, though there is only loose association at best between these chapters as each has their own rules and regulations. The Guild is known to venerate the Daedric Prince Nocturnal, though it stops short of full blown worship.

  • Affably Evil: How they prefer to be presented. Whether they play it straight depends on how individual members act.
  • Blackmail: One of the Guild's preferred methods of keeping the authorities off their backs. Steal an incriminating item (like a pornographic book or a business ledger showing corruption) then use it to manipulate the target.
  • Did You Just Scam Cthulhu?: Despite being the Guild's rather unofficial patron Deity, members just can't help themselves when it comes to stealing from the Daedric Prince Nocturnal. Both the Gray Cowl and the Skeleton Key are artifacts of Nocturnal which have been stolen by Guild members, the latter directly leading into a sharp decline for the Guild.
  • Easily Forgiven: While they prefer that you not get caught, the Guild has contacts who can, for a substantial fee (though usually less than the actual fine) make your bounty disappear. Additionally, if you break a rule of the Guild itself and get kicked out, you merely need to make financial restitution to get back in.
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil: The Guild does not discriminate based on race or gender. If you're a capable thief and are willing to follow the Guild's rules, you're welcome to join.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: They may be thieves, but they're not murderers. Pragmatic Villainy plays into this as "a half-dead man can still make his payment, while a dead man pays no gold". Frequently, they reduce the rewards, if they pay out at all, to any of their agents who kills their target.
  • Evil Counterpart: The native Dunmeri Cammona Tong, mob-styled xenophobic thugs and drug traffickers, was this to the fledgling, more honorable Morrowind branch of the Thieves Guild.
  • Five-Finger Discount: Pickpocketing and shoplifting are major parts of their operation.
  • Friend in the Black Market: The Guild acts as a friend in the black market for hire to the citizens of Tamriel. For a fee, they'll *ehem* acquire certain goods, perform shakedowns, run protection rackets, and have members who can clear bounties with law enforcement.
  • Gentleman Thief: Something to aspire to. However, the 4th Era Skyrim chapter seems to have their standards loosened.
  • Honor Among Thieves: Strongly believed in and actively practiced by the Guild. Stealing from the Guild or your fellow members is a major offense, and killing outside of all but the most extreme circumstances is forbidden. An in-game book detailing the guild's rules and philosophy actually has this as the title.
  • How the Mighty Have Fallen: Like the Dark Brotherhood, the 4th Era Skyrim chapter has suffered a strong decline over the years thanks to Guildmaster Mercer Frey's stealing of the Skeleton Key leading to Nocturnal cursing the Guild with bad luck.
  • Just Like Robin Hood: All incarnations are this, especially the ones based in Morrowind and Cyrodiil. The Skyrim guild however has fallen on hard times and so been forced to resort to more unsavory tactics such as extortion and racketeering, simply to stay afloat. They've even relaxed their rules so that murder is a last resort option, only avoided because it costs money to bribe guards, which is money they don't have to spare.
  • King of Thieves: Each regional branch of the Guild is run by the Master Thief, who is essentially the best thief of the region.
  • Known Only by Their Nickname: Extremely common in the Guild, for obvious reasons.
  • Legacy Character: The Gray Fox, leader of the Cyrodiil branch of the guild for centuries, was revealed to be this. Due to a curse, anyone who dawns the Gray Cowl of Nocturnal has their identity erased and replaced with that of the Fox. The guild has been led by several people wearing the mask for at least three centuries before the curse is finally broken around the time of the Oblivion Crisis.
  • Legitimate Businessmen's Social Club: For obvious reasons, the Thieves Guild doesn't have open guild halls like the Fighters or Mages guilds. Instead, they tend to operate out of various taverns and clubs in major cities. These are something of an Open Secret to create plausible deniability, since their guild halls actually being secrets would be bad for business.
  • Master of Unlocking: Naturally, the Guild employs some of the best lockpickers in Tamriel.
  • Minored in Ass-Kicking: Though the Guild enforces that murder is a last resort only, members are still expected to be capable of defending themselves. Guild members often offer training in Cloak & Dagger style combat skills, such as bladed weapons, light armor, and marksmanship.
  • Mob War: The Morrowind branch was involved in a war with the native, much more ruthless, thuggish, xenophobic Camonna Tong.
  • The Mole: They've been known to place agents undercover within enemy organizations.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Most of their rules exist to prevent behaviors that would be bad for business.
  • Shrouded in Myth: The Guild itself, which is just how they like it. Between the shadowy nature of their operation and well-placed bribes/threats to authority figures, the Guild isn't even officially acknowledged to exist.
  • Thieves' Guild: A prominent example. They've also had rival factions attempt to step in on their territory, such as the Camonna Tong in Morrowind and the Summerset Shadows in Skyrim.
  • Thou Shall Not Kill: This is a major rule of the Guild, not from morality (usually), but because it just makes things more complicated. However, the Guild in Skyrim maintain business connections with the Dark Brotherhood and guild member Delvin Mallory is implied to have done some work for them in the past. note 

    Vigil of Stendarr 

The Vigil of Stendarr
A Vigilant in standard garb, ca. 4E 201
"Our order was founded after the Oblivion Crisis. We dedicate our lives to facing the threat of Daedra wherever they appear...And any other abominations that prey on mortals. Vampires. Werewolves. Witches. But the Daedra are the worst. Their callous disregard for our lives is abhorrent in the eyes of the God of Mercy."
Vigilant Dialogue in Skyrim

Appearances: Skyrim (not joinable)
Notable Members: Keeper Carcette, Isran (formerly)
Headquarters: Hall of the Vigilant (Skyrim)

The Vigil of Stendarr is an order of priests and paladins dedicated to hunting down and destroying supernatural threats to mortal life, including Daedra, Daedra worshipers, vampires, lycanthropes, and others. The Vigilant formed in the wake of the Oblivion Crisis with the goal of preventing any similar incidents. They serve in the name of Stendarr, the Aedric Divine of Mercy, Justice, Compassion, and Charity.

  • Bullying a Dragon: Though it's set to never happen in the vanilla game, data exists where if the player character is carrying a Daedric artifact, they may attempt to confiscate it under threat of violence. They will attempt this even if the player character is a legendary hero who has single-handedly fought, defied, and/or allied with multiple Daedric Princes, Divines, and Alduin himself.
  • Carry a Big Stick: Maces are the favored weapon of the Vigil.
  • Church Militant: Along with Warrior Monk, the Vigil are Paladins in the service of Stendarr, the Aedric Divine of Mercy, Justice, Compassion, and Charity. And they serve vigorously.
  • Creature-Hunter Organization: Primarly Daedra and Daedra worshipers. This extents to other supernatural creatures as well, such as vampires and lycanthropes (considering that they are associated with the Daedric Princes Molag Bal and Hircine, respectively, they still fall within the sphere of the Vigil).
  • Do Not Taunt Cthulhu: The Daedric Princes, even the less outright malevolent ones, can be a very vindictive and vengeful bunch. Harassing/killing their followers and confiscating their artifacts counts as full blown taunting for the Vigil. It shouldn't come as a surprise then when they are almost entirely wiped out (by vampires, who are associated with Molag Bal, naturally the nastiest of the bunch).
  • Everyone Has Standards: As dedicated to exterminating monsters as they are, the Vigilants found Isran to be too extreme for them and kicked him out. He would later go on to form the Dawnguard, who would turn out to be much more effective against (at least) the vampire menace.
  • Good Is Not Nice: The Vigilants are very much a force for the greater good, but they have no qualms with brutally killing any worshippers of malicious Daedra. They were also to forcibly take Daedric artifacts and readily kill anyone who refuses to hand them over, even those artifacts associated with the less malicious Daedric Princes, though this was Dummied Out, so it won't happen without mods.
  • Fantastic Racism: They frown upon Dunmer and Orsimer, for their worship of and connection to Daedric Princes, although they never attack them outright. That said, it is possible to encounter Dunmer Vigilants.
  • Hero Antagonist: If the Dragonborn is connected to a Daedric Prince and carrying their artifacts, the Vigilants will be very insistent that you hand them over, and will start reaching for their maces if you refuse. This can extend to the artifacts of the more benevolent Daedra, like Meridia or Azura.
  • Hypocrite:
    • They're not very quick to extend mercy to anyone who catches their ire, despite invoking Stendarr's name.
      Vigilant: Stendarr have mercy, for the Vigil has none to spare.
    • Some can be found carrying Daedric weapons, despite doing so going against everything they say and do regarding Daedric objects, though it's worth noting that the creators of the Unofficial Skyrim Patch consider this a bug.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: For all their Knight Templar tendencies, they do have a valid point about containing Daedric artifacts and destroying Daedric influence, considering both Molag Bal's Planemeld and Mehrunes Dagon's Oblivion Crisis came very close to destroying all of Tamriel. Furthermore, following Martin's heroic sacrifice, the only way most Daedric entities now have of interfering with Tamriel is through the direct action of their mortal followers, meaning purging Daedric worshipers is the most effective way to mitigate their influence. Additionally, even the "benevolent" Daedric Princes like Meridia and Azura are incredibly dangerous and alien beings who will destroy any number of mortals to advance their particular spheres of influence, so seizing their artifacts to limit their influence is entirely reasonable.
  • Killed Offscreen: The Skyrim chapter's headquarters gets slaughtered early on in the Dawnguard expansion by the Volkihar vampire clan, although this doesn't stop their operations in the province.
  • Knight Templar: Whether or not they are viewed as one depends on the individual; to the average man or mer they're genuinely benevolent, as they fight monsters and cultists and heal diseases, but for Dunmer and Orsimer they come off as rude, threatening jerks, and of course for anyone who is actually a vampire, lycanthrope, or Daedra worshipper, they're a straight example of this trope. Additionally, they may attempt to confiscate any Daedric artifacts the player is carrying under the threat of violence, even if they are artifacts from the more benevolent Princes such as Azura and Meridia. Borders on Tautological Templar, since the Vigil believe that what they doing is for the greater good. To resist them is to be against them.
  • Magic Knight: Vigilants typically wield maces and are capable of using a number of spells, particularly Restoration spells.
  • The Medic: They will be happy to cure any diseases you're carrying for no charge if you meet them on the road.
  • The Order: Dedicated to Stendarr, the Vigil is an order dedicated to purging supernatural (primarily Daedric) threats to mortal life.
  • The Remnant: After the Volkihar vampire clan destroys their headquarters, the wandering Vigilants and the ones stationed at Stendarr's Beacon are the only ones to remain in Skyrim.
  • Underestimating Badassery: The Vigil, despite their best efforts, are often unprepared for just how nasty their enemies can get. The Vigilant investigating a cultist's house in Markarth is dominated and driven to murderous violence by Molag Bal, and the entire Hall of the Vigilant in Skyrim is wiped out by the Volkihar vampire clan.
  • We Help the Helpless: What the Vigil believes itself to be doing, and for the most part, this is accurate. They'll cure disease free of charge and work to eliminate supernatural threats to mortal life.

    Vampire Clans 

Vampire Clans

And so; Lamae, (who is known to us as blood-matron) imprecated her foul aspect upon the folk of Tamriel, and begat a brood of countless abominations, from which came the vampires, most cunning of the night-horrors. And so was the scourge of undeath wrought upon Tamriel, cruelly mocking Arkay’s rhythm of life and death through all the coming eras of the et'Ada, and for all his sadness, Arkay knew this could not be undone.
Opusculus Lamae Bal ta Mezzamortie

Appearances: Arena, Daggerfall, Morrowind, Oblivion, Skyrim, Online
Notable Members: Lamae Beolfag (Lamae Bal), Lord Harkon, Count Ravenwatch, Count Montclair, Movarth Piquine, Arch-Curate Vythur
Headquarters: Coldharbour (Lamae Bal), Castle Volkihar (Clan Volkihar), Ravenspire (Count Ravenwatch)

Though not truly a single organization, the myriad vampire clans throughout Tamriel are often a regional threat or power bloc, particularly in Cyrodiil and High Rock. Stemming from their progenitor, Lamae Beolfag, who was turned into the first vampire after being raped by the Daedric Prince Molag Bal, the vampires slowly spread across the continent, mutating and changing over the generations into a vast array of unique bloodlines, each with their own particular powers, temperaments, and methods. Most vampire clans operate covertly, and are averse to overt risk and danger, as those who do begin to act more openly find various forms of opposition, such as vampire hunters, crusaders of the Divines, champions of Meridia, and in Morrowind, agents of the Tribunal.

For tropes relating to the vampiric races as a whole, see the Other Races page.

  • Affably Evil: The more reasonable vampires come off as this, particularly the Order in Cyrodiil, the "civilized" clans in High Rock, and the Volkihars in Skyrim.
  • Deal with the Devil: Willingly becoming a vampire without being infected involves forming one of these with Molag Bal. In addition, many vampire lines, clans, and individuals often make deals and bargains with Clavicus Vile, most notably the Order in Cyrodiil. Some benefit from these deals, with the Order being able to control their hunger and remaining hidden through their bargains. Others, like one clan encountered in Skyrim who wanted to be cured of their curse, will find themselves indeed being cured of their vampirism... via being visited by vampire-hunters. Many vampires will also make deals with the Ideal Masters of the Soul Cairn, which also often ends poorly.
  • Evil Is Deathly Cold: While all the vampire varieties are cold-resistant, the Skyrim Volkihar variant favor the ice heavily, being apparently able to freeze victims with their breath and reach up through ice sheets to pull down victims.
  • Fantastic Racism: Vampire clans often do not get along with one another for this reason; ask any vampire clan and they'll say they are the true form of vampirism and will try to subjugate and kill other clans they encounter. High Rock in particular has the most vicious vampire-on-vampire rivalry and racism. It goes without saying that most vampire clans view mortals as prey to also be hunted and subjugated. Interestingly, while vampires aren't particularly partial toward werewolves, they don't outright despise them like they do with mortals or other rival vampire clans.
  • Friendly Neighborhood Vampire: Though rare, certain vampires have been able to control their hunger and live among mortal races, most notably the vampires clan under Count Ravenwatch in the Ravenspire region of High Rock, the Order on Cyrodiil and Serana from the Volkihar clan.
  • Fur Against Fang: Lycanthropes and vampires do not hate one another, but the curses/blessings of Hircine and Molag Bal will purge the other's from the blood of those who receive it. Lord Harkon of Clan Volkihar even declares that the lycanthrope's blood is "filthy" and that purging it is a great blessing. In addition, the two are opposed thematically; the vampires are devoted to domination and control over their victims, while the lycanthropes are more devoted to the idea of the worthy hunt, in which the prey can easily turn on and slay the predator without warning.
  • Glamour Failure: Certain vampires are exposed by particular means. For example, the Bonsamu vampire clan in valenwood look like any other Bosmer unless exposed to candlelight.
  • Horror Hunger: Coming standard with being vampires, nearly all vampire lines have a thirst for the blood (and the entire bodies) of mortals. Some vampire lines absolutely must feed, and will go dormant and be driven mad without blood to sustain them. Others greatly desire to feed and must do so to maintain an appearance that resembles a mortal. Still others can get by without feeding for prolonged periods due to various factors, such as deals with Daedric Princes in the case of the Order, or simply being from a pureblooded line like the Volkihar.
  • I Hate You, Vampire Dad: Though some individual vampires may hate their progenitors, many vampire lines despise Molag Bal for various reasons, with Lamae Beolfag's bloodline being particularly strong in their hatred for the Daedric Prince.
  • Kill and Replace: Valenwood vampires, particularly the Telboth line, hunt by killing and eating Bosmeri children and taking their place until they have a chance to prey upon the rest of the family while they're vulnerable.
  • The Masquerade: Most vampire clans try to maintain one; those who live among mortals work carefully to keep their true nature hidden, only feeding in secret and if possible on a willing victim or imprisoned "cattle". Those vampires that don't or cannot hide themselves well tend to be killed in short order, or retreat to hidden fortresses and lair in the wilderness in between attacks. One of the reasons why Valerica opposed Lord Harkon's plot in Dawnguard was because he risked a Broken Masquerade in which all of Tamriel would unite on a crusade to stamp out the vampire clans.
  • Necromancer: Aside from being undead in and of themselves, vampires' connections to Molag Bal mean that they have powerful conjuration at their disposal, and as a result vampires are often accompanied by some forms of undead servants, such as zombies, skeletons, death hounds, and other conjured constructs. Many vampires also form bargains with the Ideal Masters to learn greater and more powerful forms of conjuration magic.
  • No Name Given: The sole Cyrodiilic vampire clan has no name, only calling themselves "the Order". They prize secrecy, wealth, and power above all else and are sworn to never reveal themselves or the Order, and have no true organization beyond this.
  • No Ontological Inertia: Several Vampire bloodlines in the Iliac Bay region are known to have this as a weakness. If their progenitor is killed or cured, the other vampires of the bloodline will lose their powers as well. This is said to include Rapid Aging as well, and for those who have been alive longer than their natural lifespans, leads to death.
  • The Order: The Cyrodiilic bloodline has formed one, known as the "Cyrodiil Vampyrum Order", or simply "Our Order" to its members. The Order's bloodline are masters of concealment, able to blend in seamlessly with mortals if well-fed. They are also known to be able to control their blood lust to a far greater degree than other bloodlines, rarely killing their victims outright. The Order has exterminated every other bloodline within Cyrodiil, and does not tolerate rogue Vampires within Cyrodiil's borders. Their membership is typically well-placed in Cyrodiilic society, able to manipulate local politics to their benefit.
  • Our Gods Are Different: Vampires are known to generally venerate Molag Bal, being the patron of all Vampires and the originator of the disease itself. Some outright worship Molag Bal and form cults in his service. Clavicus Vile, the Daedric Prince of Bargains and Wishes, is also venerated for, according to some sources, giving them the ability to blend in with mortals.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: The sheer number of vampire clans is staggering, and every line has unique abilities.
    • High Rock alone has the Anthotis, Garlythi, Haarvenu, Khulari, Lyrezi, Montalion, Selenu, Thrafey, and Vraseth bloodlines at the tme of Daggerfall. There was also the Ravenspire and Montclaire vampire clans. Broadly-speaking, the High Rock vampire lines had the same appearances and general abilities associated with classic vampires, with minor differences such as magical resistance.
    • Skyrim's vampires are primarily the Volkihar variant, who use ice-based abilities. The "pure-blood" clans have the power to transform into Vampire Lords, while lesser vampires of the line lack many of those myriad abilities.
    • The vampires of Morrowind come in several types: The Quarra, which are aggressive and brutal, the Berne, who are quieter and more stealthy, and the Aundae, who are mages who use their magic to trap their prey. There are also "ash vampires" but these are bound to House Dagoth and have nothing to do with Molag Bal's creations.
    • Cyrodiil has the secretive Order vampires, who amass wealth and power but do not operate openly.
    • Black Marsh has the Whet-Fang vampires, a secretive order that traps victims in comas and feeds on them at their leisure. Due to their secrecy and stealth, they're one of the few vampire clans that the Cyrodiilic Order respects and thus considers a real threat.
    • Valenwood features several vampire clans, including the Bonsamu, who resembled Bosmer until seen in candlelight, the Yekef, which swallow victims whole, the Keerilith, who turn into mist, and the Telboth, which prey upon and take the place of children.
  • Religion of Evil: Most vampire clans revere Molag Bal as the source of their blessings. Others despise him, particularly Lamae Bal's bloodline. Those who do not worship Molag Bal often instead follow Clavicus Vile.
  • Religious Vampire: The ones that reject outwardly evil Daedra turn to the more "benevolent" ones like Azura, such as the ones seen in her Oblivion quest.
  • The Renfield: Vampires often use powerful Charm-like spells to enthrall mortals into their service. Other mortals willingly serve Vampires, typically hoping to become Vampires themselves.
  • Vampires Are Sex Gods: Generally averted; with rare exceptions, vampires are never presented as beautiful beings or particularly sexy. The sole exception appears to be certain members of Clan Volkihar, such as Serana.
  • Vampire Refugee: Many who become Vampires did not do so by choice, leading to this. Accidental Vampires are often shunned by Vampire clans and in many cultures, the infected is no longer welcome at best (or outright killed on sight at worst). Many spend their time seeking a cure.
  • Vampire Variety Pack: Due to the many different vampire bloodlines with differing appearances and abilities, this trope is in full effect.
  • Weakened by the Light: Most vampire clans suffer painful burns under the light of Magnus, due to a combination of the powers of Aetherius and Meridia's assocaition with light and color. Clan Volkihar is one of the few exceptions; while the light weakens them, it won't burn and kill them like it does other vampires. Those who can ignore the effects of daylight often enjoy attacking in daytime, just to drive home the point of how powerful they are.


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