Crown in the Snow: a History of Winterhold

  • A History of Winterhold in Skyrim
    by Korir the Embittered

    4E 204

    The storied city of Winterhold, once the preeminent economic, cultural and political centre of Skyrim, is today reduced to a ghost of its former glories, befitting the cursed sea it stands beside. In this tome, I chronicle the history of Winterhold, the capital city of Winterhold, northeasternmost hold of Skyrim, with a focus on its history and how it affected Skyrim and the Empire at large.

     

    The settlement of what is today the city of Winterhold traces its roots to Ysgramor himself and the Five Hundred Companions and predates even the First Era. The seas of Hsaarik Head, just north of the city of Winterhold, were the first landing point of Ysgramor and the Five Hundred, and the site of Winterhold was used first as a launching point to retake the ancient city of Saarthal from the witch-elves, then as a port to complement Saarthal, and finally as a great city and bastion of civilisation in its own right. Indeed, while Windhelm has traditionally been regarded as the seat of kings, many of Skyrim's High Kings have claimed Winterhold as the throne of their dominion, including High King Borgas, last of the line of Ysgramor.

     

    Upon High King Borgas' death in the early First Era at the hands of witch-elves, the Moot, at the time a partisan, divided gathering, failed to elect Borgas' successor in Winterhold and the obvious choice for the throne, Jarl Hanse, leading to the War of Succession. Only when Olaf One-Eye led a handful of trusted warriors, including Jarl Hanse himself, to defeat the ancient dragon Numinex atop Mount Anthor in Winterhold, was the War of Succession ended. Olaf was elected High King in deference to his fame and capability, and Jarl Hanse remained King Olaf's trusted friend and confidante until his death.

     

    Winterhold would continue to move from strength to strength, even gaining enough political power to oppose the decrees of incompetent Emperor Kastav in the Imperial City in the waning years of the First Era and fighting off an attack by one of the last dragons in the Second Era. While Skyrim was divided into Eastern and Western Skyrim, Winterhold backed Queen Freydis of Windhelm, High Queen of the legendary Crown of Freydis, and formed a major part of the army led by her descendant, Jorunn Skald-King, to destroy the Akaviri army at Stonefalls. Skyrim would not be reunited until the days of Tiber Septim himself.

     

    Some of the darker times in Winterhold's history follow the end of Tiber Septim's reign, when all of Skyrim was seduced and enthralled by Solitude's Wolf Queen, the arch-necromancer Potema, culminating in the War of the Red Diamond that encompassed all of Tamriel. Winterhold's recovery from the devastating betrayal of Skyrim's leaders would be slow, but unstoppable, and its return to power is exemplified by the crowning of High King Kjarford of Winterhold and Skyrim as Emperor Cephorus II on the Ruby Throne. At this time, the Moot also elected Jarl Ellynde, also of Winterhold, as High Queen and successor to High King Kjarford. Winterhold would continue as the dominant power in Skyrim, rivalled only by Solitude, and during the Oblivion Crisis, it was the bastion of Skyrim against the dark forces of Oblivion.

     

    Winterhold's political power and reputation would continue undaunted through the first half of the Fourth Era, marred only by a single event in the years preceding the Mede dynasty – its inability to prevent High King Torbald, seated in Solitude, from acting unilaterally in ceding the island of Solstheim to Morrowind, an action opposed by the majority of Skyrim, led by Jarl Ollrik the Proven. High King Torbald would eventually be remembered as a weak, impotent king, whose reign was plagued by constant bandit attacks.

     

    Only in 4E 122, during the reign of Jarl Valdimar the Sorrowful, would Winterhold fall from grace, as the College of Winterhold, despite having profited from its proximity to the powerful city, overreacted to the mild, but warranted, distrust that the city had held against mages since the days of the Oblivion Crisis. In an act of supreme betrayal, the College mages raised storms in the Sea of Ghosts, the likes of which had not been seen since the wrathful Sea-Ghosts claimed the life of Yngol, Ysgramor's first-born. The storms battered against the shores of the city for many months, leading to the collapse of much of the great city of Winterhold into the icy waters and claiming an untold number of lives. Despite many great efforts, Winterhold would continue to decline over the next eighty-two painful years.

     

    Thus is the current state of the once-great city of Winterhold, the former seat of power of Skyrim reduced now to a mere shell of what it used to be, populated by mages and those serving them, and led by a magic apologist who insists on denying the truth before his eyes and pandering to the every whim of the College of Winterhold.

    author's notes:

     

    Having an intention to participate in an event is a far cry from having the ability to do so. In particular, for The Story Corner's Book and Terminal Event, inspiration was sadly lacking for much of the two weeks that it was ongoing.

     

    Thus, when Writer's Block was lifted in a glorious veil from before my eyes, I knew I had to buckle down and write. The only problem was that it was 3am, and the event was due to end in two days. Thus, over the course of a entire morning and afternoon, I buckled down, researched, and wrote, and Crown in the Snow was born.

     

    Jarl Korir of Winterhold has always struck me as a particularly poignant figure. I suspect he's not much liked by players of Skyrim. After all, Korir is a man of many faults. He is a small-minded, rather bitter man, railing at his perceived oppressors and longing for the glory days of the past. Perhaps that is why he's backing Ulfric Stormcloak's bid for power - Stormcloak has little patience for mages and outsiders (read as: the Dunmeri who used to live in Winterhold) and, judging by High King Torygg, has great fondness for the old (and violent) ways of the Nords (glory days of the past, which I'm equating to "when Winterhold was a Great City"). I'm not drawing any parallels, here, really! This is just my reading of Ulfric Stormcloak's methods, and why they might appeal to Jarl Korir.

     

    For all his faults, though, I feel that Jarl Korir really wants what's best for Winterhold. He doesn't look eighty years old. Maybe forty. That means he was born in the days of Winterhold's decline, possibly the son of Jarl Valdimar, who had to deal with the Great Collapse; possibly his grandson. In either case, Korir is helmsman of a slowly sinking ship, with - apparently - nothing that he can do to fix it. All he can do is watch his city, the city he was born to take care of, flounder. Every year, he watches as his people become less. Someone else leaves the city, or is killed by a Snow Bear attack while trying to make a living, and he fails again at upholding his oath to take care of his citizens. And in the meantime, the villains he views as the perpetrators of this cruel disaster, the College of Winterhold, stand aloof in their building, the only thing to survive the Collapse. And everyone who comes to his city is now only there for the College. The College which caused the Great Collapse, which poisoned his now slowly suffocating city, and which even now does not offer any aid to his city, any help in rebuilding it.

     

    If I were Jarl of Winterhold, I'd be bitter too. And yet, Korir, for all his bitterness, hatred, and small-mindedness, seems determined to steer his ship as best as he can, loyal to his fallen city, doing what he feels is the best by his dwindling townsfolk.

     

    There is something to be admired in that, I think.

     

    Crown in the Snow, in case you missed it, is authored by Korir after the Civil War in Skyrim has concluded in favour of the Imperials. Before you ask, any event mentioned was ripped from UESP, so they probably happened. Whether or not they are depicted accurately here... well, I made up a lot of stuff.

Comments

8 Comments   |   Mega-Dragonborn-of-Doom (1921) and 5 others like this.
  • Paws
    Paws   ·  August 30
    This is good, Soly, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's nicely biased like any good TES history book, the authors motives nicely veiled but not unseen. Awesome :) Definitely write more! 
    • soly
      soly
      Paws
      Paws
      Paws
      This is good, Soly, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's nicely biased like any good TES history book, the authors motives nicely veiled but not unseen. Awesome :) Definitely write more! 
        ·  August 31
      Thank you! I'm actually ridiculously proud of the amount of bias I managed to write in, from the obvious (College of Winterhold), to the slightly less obvious (I made up that thing about Jarl Hanse being King Olaf's trusted friend), to what I hope was qui...  more
  • Sotek
    Sotek   ·  August 30
    It's not often we get to read about Winterhold. It's often forgotten While the Mage College takes all the limelight. An interesting piece and one with plenty of history. In particular, I enjoyed the final phase the most. The attempted destruction of Winte...  more
    • soly
      soly
      Sotek
      Sotek
      Sotek
      It's not often we get to read about Winterhold. It's often forgotten While the Mage College takes all the limelight. An interesting piece and one with plenty of history. In particular, I enjoyed the final phase the most. The attempted destruction of Winte...  more
        ·  August 31
      Thank you Sotek! It's always a pleasure to hear from you.

      If you send me an image of the book spine I can put together the picture myself. I have the images saved anyway.
      • Sotek
        Sotek
        soly
        soly
        soly
        Thank you Sotek! It's always a pleasure to hear from you.

        If you send me an image of the book spine I can put together the picture myself. I have the images saved anyway.
          ·  August 31
        Awwwooo Soly.
        Sorry no... you will have to put up with my crappy artwork like everyone else....
        Haha  just pulling your tail.
        below the title of the TSC event you'll see two spines. These are what I've been using. Once it's done, ...  more
  • Mega-Dragonborn-of-Doom (1921)
    Mega-Dragonborn-of-Doom (1921)   ·  August 30
    Ah, wow that really was enjoyable Soly. I have to be honest but I completely forgot who Korir was, I tend to completely forget that Winterhold even has a Jarl because he was never that memorable to me, and it always kind of felt like there was so little t...  more
    • soly
      soly
      Mega-Dragonborn-of-Doom (1921)
      Mega-Dragonborn-of-Doom (1921)
      Mega-Dragonborn-of-Doom (1921)
      Ah, wow that really was enjoyable Soly. I have to be honest but I completely forgot who Korir was, I tend to completely forget that Winterhold even has a Jarl because he was never that memorable to me, and it always kind of felt like there was so little t...  more
        ·  August 31
      I actually really like Jarl Korir for some reason, I don't know why (actually I do know why). Objectively, he's not very likeable, of course, but I always get a little bit sad when I take Winterhold for the Imperials. His replacement, some guy named Krald...  more
      • Mega-Dragonborn-of-Doom (1921)
        Mega-Dragonborn-of-Doom (1921)
        soly
        soly
        soly
        I actually really like Jarl Korir for some reason, I don't know why (actually I do know why). Objectively, he's not very likeable, of course, but I always get a little bit sad when I take Winterhold for the Imperials. His replacement, some guy named Krald...  more
          ·  August 31
        Kraldar...Honestly you could've just put in any name there and I'd have to believe you :P I do quite like Winterhold, I feel like it's one of the three really unique seeming towns (with Markarth and Solitude being the other two) because of the way it's be...  more