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Witchmen of the Reach

Tags: #Races  #Reachmen 
  • January 28

    Reachmen, Madmen of Reach, Witchmen of High Rock, Forsworn. But who are they? In Skyrim we just meet with a one faction, Forsworn, but they aren't the only representatives of their race. Yes, race. They are similar to Bretons, sharing most of the same blood, but ultimately, they are a mix of plenty of other races.

    “If not their own race, the Reachmen are definitely their own breed. In blood they are closest to the Bretons, but with other tribes mixed in, as they will kidnap the children of every mortal race and interbreed with them. This is, perhaps, the only way in which they are tolerant of outsiders."  Loremaster Archive

    Geography

    But where do they come from? That's an interesting question and I have to admit that I spent some time digging through the maps of Tamriel to pinpoint what exactly is the Reach or the precise territory of the Witchmen. So I took some liberty and drew an easy map that should shed some light on the murky area that is the Skyrim-Hammerfell-High Rock border with all its mountains.

    Here you can see that the Reach is actually quite a large area. The mountains between High Rock and Skyrim are called the Druadach and don't tell me that doesn't sound witchy to you. Witchmen (or Reachmen) are known to be encountered on both sides of these mountains, often clashing with Orcs in Wrotghar as well as in Bangkorai with Bretons near Evermore. They also strike south towards Dragonstar and the Dragontail mountains but how far is very hard to pinpoint. So you can see that in Skyrim we actually see only part of Reachmen territory.

     

    History

    The early society of Reachmen manifested sometime around the First Era, between the collapse of First Nord Empire and the rise of Alessian Empire.

    Ten kings ruled the Reach in those days, and though men were free, the people were scattered and warred amongst themselves. The augurs foresaw the boy's destiny: a warrior without peer, first and foremost Lord of the Reach, chosen to unite all under his name. - Legend of Red Eagle

    Then came Hestra, Empress of the South, who conquered the land along with Reachmen tribes. This is where the Legend of Red Eagle starts, telling of a Reachmen hero who united the tribes against the Empire.  He struck a dark pact with Hagravens that gave him and his rebels power. In two years the foreigners were all but driven from the Reach, but they came back, stronger and put an end to Red Eagle and his rebels, taking the Reach from their hands.

    Another important part of their history are the Longhouse Emperors which was a Reachmen dynasty that ruled Cyrodiil, with the most famous ruler being Durcorach the Black Drake, who was eventually defeated by King Emeric of Wayrest. This dynasty was crushed by Varen Aquilarios before the event known as Soulburst.

    The most recent history comes with the Forsworn who used the advantage of Tamriel being engaged in the Great War and launched a surprise attack on Markarth, effectively retaking Reach and changing it to a Kingdom for two years - two years of relative peace they say.

    In the wake of the aftermath of the Great War, you can imagine the backlog on stately matters the Empire had. Before a peace treaty could be resolved with the Forsworn, a militia led by Ulfric Stormcloak, laid seige to the gates of their capital, Markarth. What happened during that battle was war, but what happened after the battle was over were nothing short of war crimes.

    Every official who worked for the Forsworn was put to the sword, even after they had surrendered. Native women were tortured to give up names of Forsworn fighters who had fled the city or were in the hills of the Reach. Anyone who lived in the city, Forsworn and Nord alike, were executed if they had not fought with Ulfric and his men when they breached the gates. "You are with us, or you are against Skyrim" was the message on Ulfric's lips as he ordered the deaths of shopkeepers, farmers, the elderly, and any child old enough to lift a sword that had failed in the call to fight with him. - The Bear of Markarth

     

    Religion

    I always believed that Reachmen are just weird with all their animalistic fetishism, but it was some time later I realised there is something more to them. They primarily worship Daedric Princes, with each tribe having a preference, but what ultimately makes Reachmen interesting for me was the fact that they worship Malacath. Malacath! No other race beside Orcs worship Malacath, right?

    Orcs often say they are Malacath's children. My tribe would argue. Reachmen are taught that Orcs, ogres, and trolls are merely used by Malacath to test his true chosen race - the people of the Reach. Malacath and the Reach

    So they believe that Orcs are nothing but an obstacle in their way. Interesting. But what other Princes are worshipped?

    “The clan that held me, the Crow-Wives, are primarily worshipers of Namira, though I sometimes heard them utter oaths naming other Daedra Lords. The only active reverence I witnessed among the Reachmen was for Daedric Princes. That said, the clan did possess other strange totems, ancient fetishes I couldn't identify. They were never named within my hearing, and I never asked about them."

    “I believe the Reachmen associate the Princes with nature because they are tribal barbarians, and brute nature is all they know. They disdain civilization and the civilized, which I think is why they have no use for the more 'sophisticated' Princes such as Sanguine and Clavicus Vile. Subtlety and nuance, they believe, are for the weak." - Loremaster Archive

    So we know about Namira, then there is also Molag Bal and apparently, mainly Hircine. But here is the interesting part, that thing about the Princes being associated with nature. Namira is associated with decay, Molag Bal with domination, and Hircine with the hunt. Now tell me that isn't tied to nature. It's all just there.

    "Like the fingers of your hand, like the clutch of the hagraven, like the arrows to kill a bear, Five are the Aspects of Lord Hircine. You may meet any of the Five. All are true and right and death-in-the-woods. All are worthy of reverence.

    "You may meet the Hunter, who is invoked as Alrabeg. He bears the Spear of Bitter Mercy. He comes here from the Hunting Grounds to hunt new prey, or he brings prey native to the Hunting Grounds, like the Unicorn, to hunt in new forests. If he brings not prey, then woe betide you who meet him, for he may dub you the Hare. Then you must flee as best you can, though you will not escape.

    "You may meet the Manbeast, who is invoked as Storihbeg. He wears the Wolf Skull Totem and his growl is like a landslide in the Karth Gorge. He comes here to hunt with his children the Skinshifters, or to adopt new children and turn them pelt-side-out. His howl will freeze your inwards like a pond in Evening Star at midnight—you will see your death approach, but be unable to flee.

    "You may meet the Great Stag, who is invoked as Uricanbeg, and whose hooves drum the Blood Summons. He comes to mate with the hinds, and may transform a comely woman for that purpose, or to cull the herd of the weak. Those who hear his drumbeat are doomed to run with the herd, and may follow him back to the Hunting Grounds where they will be chased and unmade."

    "You may meet the Quick Fox, who is invoked as Gulibeg, and who wields the Wand of Bone. He comes here to confound mortal hunters, to run them in circles until they are so plexed and wildered that they follow him over a cliff or into a trackless mire. He may fill you with such fury you can do naught but pursue him, or he may note you as clever and teach you his tricks.

    "You may meet the Mighty Bear, who is invoked as Hrokkibeg. He embodies the Totem of Claw and Fang, and comes here seeking solitude, peace from labors, and renewal of the Burning Spirit Within. Beware, for if you rouse him and disturb his serenity you will be torn asunder. But if you approach him with deference and an offering of honey-sweet mead, he may grant you the power of the Bear-Heart in your next fight.

     

    Society

    If you want to know about Reachmen, know that they most certainly are not a misunderstood and secretly noble people. They don't even want to be left alone—they want to attack, enslave, and conquer. Has everyone already forgotten the slaughter committed by Durcorach as he cut his way through High Rock, murdering and defiling as he went? Sometimes the history books do not lie, and I can assure you they don't exaggerate the cruelty of the Reachmen. On the Nature of Reachmen

    "You want to know who the Forsworn are? We are the people who must pillage our own land. Burn our own ground. We are the scourge of the Nords. The axe that falls in the dark. The scream before the gods claim your soul. We are the true sons and daughters of the Reach. The spirits and hags have lived here from the beginning, and they are on our side. Go back. Go back and tell your Empire that we will have our own kingdom again. And on that day, we will be the ones burying your dead in a land that is no longer yours." - The "Madmen" of the Reach

    Reachmen are for all intensive purposes, savages that revel in raiding, plundering, massacring and enslaving the people of the lowlands. We know that they live in smaller tribes all over the Reach, with shamans and chieftains leading the tribes. But what else is there?

    We know that Reachmen have their own magic, sometime called hedge-magic. The sources of this magic varies though. Some say that it is given to them by Hagravens, some say that they've learned it from Orcs, but all accounts agree that their magic is the foulest of all. Necromancy, blood magic and daedra summoning isn't anything strange when it comes to Reachmen.


    Many mages I've spoken to ask me about the magic of the Reachmen. I can't say I know much about it, but I can say with authority that it is not the “mostly benign form of nature magic" suggested by a few of these individuals. I tried to avoid the tribe's shamans as much as possible. They were constantly covered in spiders and other filthy creatures, muttering to themselves as they squatted over foul alchemical brews. And it's an obvious fact that the gravesingers are necromancers! On the Nature of Reachmen

    And apparently, slavery isn't uncommon among Reachmen either.

    It was a false hope: I was to be the captive of the Crow-Wife Clan for the next eight years. The Reachmen were far more complex than I had been led to believe in my Breton home, but in one thing we were right: barbarism and cruelty are everyday facts of life in the Reach. Voanche was a horse-breeder who had abducted me because she needed a slave to tend to her livestock, since her former thrall had died of a kick to the head. She had given me water and loosened my bonds solely out of concern for the condition of her new possession. A Life Barbaric and Brutal

    And now if we just look at their apparel, we'll see how actually close to the nature they are. You won't see many metal weapons among Reachmen, mostly just bone or flint, crude weapons with crude intentions of the most bloody slaughter.

    Aside from the feet, which Reachmen sometimes leave exposed to aid in their movement across scree and down ravine, even the weightiest armor is skinned creature pelts, tanned and pounded into extremely rough hides, then strengthened with boiled resin and, occasionally, hag magic. Bones are sharpened to ensure even a glance from a shoulder plate or fan plate results in a deep slash to the victim, the most hapless of which are pierced to the skull. Helms are twisted bone or pointed antlers. Weaponry is bear, wolf, or found carrion bone, or sharp-edged flint for an axe, woven with leather strips, spittle, and other, less savory, bindings. Black briar thorn arrowheads with raven-feather tails fly from their bows, drawn on strings made of the guts of the recently slain. A mocking grave singer, soon to be put to the sharp end of my sword. - The Feral Reachman Barbarian, Cagarah

     

    Hagravens

    “The hagravens are abominations. Their eyes are flat and dead, and they live only for injury and domination. The Reach clans do not revere them so much as placate them, and they are hated even by their hag-husbands. Where do they come from? They come from our worst nightmares." Loremaster Archive

    We still have no idea how Hagravens are created, though we have heard theories that they are born when a Hagraven has sex with a Reachman, so called hag-husband. But we actually haven't seen proof that a Hagraven would come out of that union. There's mention of a son of Hagraven and hag-husband, who is normal, so maybe it happens only when a daughter is born?

    It was during my sixth summer as a slave of the Crow-Wives—I had crossed the hated Karth eleven times!—that I began to attract the unwanted attentions of Aiocnuall, the loutish son of Kloavdra and Cointthach. He expressed his attraction by pushing me into mud puddles or putting dead voles in my stew. He was a year younger than me, but soon I knew he would want me to the object of more than just practical jokes. As the son of the hagraven he could do pretty much whatever he wanted with impunity, and Voanche couldn't protect me by complaining to Kloavdra—the old virago would just cackle and wave her away. A Life Barbaric and Brutal

    There is also the event of Darklight Tower in Skyrim, where a coven of witches is holed up. Illia's mother is looking for a human sacrifice to conduct a ritual that would transform her into Hagraven. But because we never see the result it's just another possible theory of how Hagravens come to be.

     

    Briar-Hearts

    The thing that is unique to Reachmen are the so called Briar-Hearts, undead warriors brought back to life with their hearts replaced by strange vines called Briar Hearts. But where do those come from?

    Today I got to see the process up close. It starts with a corpse. The Winterborn prefer to use the corpse of an enemy, but the hagravens have no such compunctions, Any corpse will serve their purposes, whether an Orc, Winterborn, or even a harpy. Once a corpse is procured, it is purified in a strange ritual of the hagraven's own devising and placed in a specially prepared plot of soil. Then, with great reverence and fanfare, the hagraven adds the briar heart seed to the planted body.

    Spells and blood serve to feed and water the macabre garden, and soon the first sprouts begin to bloom from the corpse. The sprouts quickly grow into saplings, which in turn grow into small trees. These small trees connect through a system of roots back to the large tree the hagravens and tree tenders care for in one of the fort's courtyards. I believe that the sapling trees contribute to the health and overall power of the large tree, but my questions on the subject were ignored by Gull-koo and the other hagravens.

    Meanwhile, briar heart fruit blooms on the saplings and the large tree alike, beating a haunting cascade that echoes throughout the fortress. Once the fruit ripens, it is ready to be transplanted. And that's where our own warriors come into the picture. In most cases, when a Winterborn warrior falls in battle, a hagraven can bless the warrior with a ripe briar heart. The magical process plunges the briar heart into the fallen warrior and returns the warrior to life, granting him or her additional strength and fortitude as befits a briar-heart warrior. The Care and Feeding of Briar Hearts

    Growing trees out of dead bodies and then putting the fruits into another corpse's chest...now that's sick. But no one can deny it's very effective, making Reachmen even more formidable warriors. Briar-Hearts warriors are not your regular mindless undead, they have all their memories, all their skills still at their disposal. For all intensive purposes they are alive, being really brought back to life and are now even harder to kill. You cut one of them down and he just gets back on his feet even with missing limbs.

     

     

    So these are the Madmen of Reach. Don't be foolish enough to underestimate them and if you ever ran into dozens of them...run.

    The Feral Reachman Barbarian, Cagarah, Loremaster Archive, On the Nature of Reachmen, A Life Barbaric and Brutal, Malacath and the Reach, The Care and Feeding of Briar Hearts, Triumps of a Monarch, Forsword Missive, Legend of Red Eagle, The Bear of Markarth, The "Madmen" of the Reach, The City of Stone, Nepo's Journal, Thonar's Journal, Herbane's Bestiary, Aspects of Lord Hircine







  • Member
    January 28

    Man, that picture Karves. Having difficulty focussing on the words :P

    Awesome sauce dude. The first proper Reachmen lore article here!

  • Member
    January 28

    Some very interesting insights into Reachmen culture Karve, like it a lot.

    Although something rather troubling crept up in one of your quotes:

    He comes to mate with the hinds, and may transform a comely woman for that purpose

    Try keeping that in mind when hunting in Skyrim: that big white stag you murder for Sinding has been going around transforming beautiful woman into deers and fucking them... Which looking at your deer kill count, you probably killed just after the act was completed. Yay, Dragonborn I guess.

     

  • January 28

    Teineeva said:

    Some very interesting insights into Reachmen culture Karve, like it a lot.

    Although something rather troubling crept up in one of your quotes:

    He comes to mate with the hinds, and may transform a comely woman for that purpose

    Try keeping that in mind when hunting in Skyrim: that big white stag you murder for Sinding has been going around transforming beautiful woman into deers and fucking them... Which looking at your deer kill count, you probably killed just after the act was completed. Yay, Dragonborn I guess.

    Well, it is interesting, because that is actually one of the rare books that directly portrays people´s image and belief of Hircine. So here we are, among these savages, who prescribe five different aspects to Hircine, more than just werewolves (which are bad) and hunt, but very metaphysical tie to the nature, with all its fuckery imagery. It´s very strange and I doubt it´s literal, but more of an allegory - which is really strange because apparently it is written by Reachmen. It is almost like something written by Native Americans. The question is: What is behind these allegories? What do they mean?

     

  • Member
    February 11

    Ok Karves, I have decided I want to do something with this going forward if it is ok with you. For a long time I have wanted to explore the witchcraft aspect of Nocturnal's sphere but haven't been able to figure out how to implement it. Do you think that if I took the Ice Queen from The Interrogation of Henghild and  used the Song of Hrormir, adapting them slightly to fit the Hagravens and Reach culture that there would be mileage?

    I mean, have you come across anything linking the Reachmen to Nocturnal directly? I know there's scope for interpretation but if there is a source mentioning such a link I would be delighted.

  • Member
    February 11

    Dat ass. Finest Hagraven I've ever seen. ;)

  • Member
    February 11

    Why can't the hagravens in the game look like that? In fact does anyone know of a mod...

  • Member
    February 11

    ....Aaaaand... now I have the words "Sexy hagraven mod" in my search bar history. My IT dept is gonna love that. The things we do for our friends. :P Enjoy it, Golds! Go nuts.

  • Member
    February 11

    I found that one as well, unfortunately it's a follower and not a replacer... but it shall be bookmarked for research purposes :D

  • Member
    February 12

    Phil said:

    Ok Karves, I have decided I want to do something with this going forward if it is ok with you. For a long time I have wanted to explore the witchcraft aspect of Nocturnal's sphere but haven't been able to figure out how to implement it. Do you think that if I took the Ice Queen from The Interrogation of Henghild and  used the Song of Hrormir, adapting them slightly to fit the Hagravens and Reach culture that there would be mileage?

    I mean, have you come across anything linking the Reachmen to Nocturnal directly? I know there's scope for interpretation but if there is a source mentioning such a link I would be delighted.

    Scratch that. I have forgotten now more than I know.

    We still have no idea how Hagravens are created, though we have heard theories that they are born when a Hagraven has sex with a Reachman, so called hag-husband. But we actually haven't seen proof that a Hagraven would come out of that union. There's mention of a son of Hagraven and hag-husband, who is normal, so maybe it happens only when a daughter is born?

    So I now recall asking a question of the Librarians at TiL last year when I first read Kyne's Challenge:

    This glen had been further polluted by a hagraven, a fiend forsaking Kyne herself and a creature I’d been hoping to face since the Reachmen captured one of the monsters that rampaged through Skyrim during the Wild Hunt back in 1E 369.

    The implication I took from that passage was that the Hagravens are creatures of the Wild Hunt, abominations of Daedric Magic which corrupts rather than creates. The book also gives me my connection to Nocturnal I had forgotten:

    “This one runs with the wolves,” remarked an older crone, manhandling Fenrig’s arm as she prodded his muscles with a filthy finger. A ripped and sagging shawl hung from her emaciated arms; it was sometimes hard to tell which was flesh and which was cloth. Dying hair hung limply either side of a wizened face. She was hanging skin, curved bone, and a hunched back with strange grasses and shelf mushrooms growing out from her shoulders and down her green-tinged body. Oddly fleshy sacks hung from her waist, as did a bloodied hatchet. Her staff was adorned with a cluster of small skulls (too small to be adult) at the crown.

    What was in this tea again?

    “Does not the Song of Hrormir… describe Nocturnal as one of your kin…?” Ingjard asked, her voice trailing off to a slur. Her tea was finished (as was her trust, it soon transpired). She fell forward, now in a stupor. The tea had been dosed, as had the food on offer, and our Argonian friend was flat on his back, sleeping like the dead. We weren’t about to join him. The hag untied her hatchet, her eyes strangely smoking with an unnatural purple vapor, and approached Ingjard’s body. “The first sacrifice to Mother Murk!” The forfeit of reason and higher functions in the pursuit of dark power always results in such devious repugnance.

    So I am tuskin' set!