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https://forums.elderscrollsonline.com/en/discussion/653550/

The Western Reach

Supreme_Atromancer
Supreme_Atromancer
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Here are some musings and interpretations about The Western Reach, as depicted in ESO. I draw primarily on the two Pocket Guides, https://en.uesp.net/wiki/Lore:Pocket_Guide_to_the_Empire,_1st_Edition ; https://en.uesp.net/wiki/Lore:Pocket_Guide_to_the_Empire,_3rd_Edition, and the excellent info from the Improved Emperor's Guide (Northern Bangkorai) https://en.uesp.net/wiki/Lore:The_Improved_Emperor%27s_Guide_to_Tamriel . but also on dialogue and events within the game. Please note that this post will contain speculation based on really old content, and thus might be considered spoilery!

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What is the Western Reach?

While the Hinterlands of High Rock proper are described as bucolic, with gentle, rolling green hills and valleys, the Western Reach, at the furthest region of the province, sequestered away by the looming Wrothgarian Mountains, is described as temperate, but rugged; remote and wild, at the very Realm's End.

In the south, the shallow, stony, unnavigable source-waters of the Bjulsae River cascade down the rocky slopes of the Dragontails, Wrothgarians and Druadachs, and through valleys forested with the twisted, gnarley bows of the ancient Viridian Woods.

The Jehanna Road winds through these ancient woods, and up a high valley pass to the Merchant's Gate, which gives egress to the dramatic cliffs and sheer valley walls of the north. The Wrothgarian Mountains are said to define the western expanse of The Western Reach; depending on how you interpret the words of Forge Mother Alga, then, the slice of land between Western Skyrim and Wrothgar (below) can be considered the northern arm of the Western Reach (therefore forming one contiguous strip of land running north-south from Mournoth towards the Sea of Ghosts).

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The lands now known as the Western Reach were settled early on, along with the rest of High Rock, variously by the earliest of the Atmorans or Nedes; or Aldmeri or Altmeri clans such as the illustrious Direnni. What is agreed upon, is that when the two peoples encountered each other, the Direnni dominated, then formed a ruling caste over the early mannish folk.

This region started to take on a political identity distinct from the rest of High Rock as early as the establishment of the First Empire, when expansionist Nords conquered it from the Elves, defining a new Nordic hold stretching from the Druadachs to the Bjulsae. Although we know nothing of the character of the lines of ancient Jarls who ruled this hold, we can imagine a fascinating glimpse of Nordic High Rock. From where was the Western Reach Hold ruled? Are there still Nordic barrows to be found deep below the earth? Nords were still building the ancient Nordic style tombs at least as late as 1E120 (for instance, the Gauldr and Olaf One-Eye tombs), so its still possible.

A new phase of history was laid down when the Direnni later reconquered the land with a vengeance, and they weren't mucking around this time: it is said that they fashioned the Western Reach into an impregnable bastion against the Nords, and so effective were their defences that this land is notable for being the longest enduring mainland stronghold of the Direnni clan.

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In the early First Era, during the days when the Direnni Hegemony ruled High Rock, a series of watch towers was built along the border with the Reach and Skyrim. Today most of them are nothing more than crumbling ruins.

It is after the Alessian crusades that the Mannish begin to define the story of High Rock. While the generalised situation was of generations of interbreeding between Elves and Nedes giving rise to the Bretons, the routes to self-actualisation were drastically different. In the west, with their greater fecundity and faster lifecycle (relative to the Elves), the Bretons needed only wait. Exhausted by the militaristic exertions of the previous centuries, the Direnni power waned, and the Bretons simply shuffled sideways into the ruling spaces vacated by their former overlords. In the Western Reach, however, freedom was not gained with patience, but wrought in blood.

The whole span of The Reach persisted in this aggressive, but free state, despite the ambitions of a chain of would-be conquerors. This unruled, unpacified problem came to the attention of Emperor Reman, who some time after 1E 2704 split The Reach in half along the Druadachs, -defining the Western Reach in the political terms it is understood by today-, in order to defeat the possibility of centralisation, and possibly to facilitate piecemeal colonisation.
The People of the Western Reach

The Bretons - It is said that the only true cities in High Rock are those situated along the Iliac Bay. The trade these cosmopolitan waters bring have provided wealth and prosperity, and its easy to imagine these circumstances have produced the so called high, aristocratic and sophisticated culture of its people. Conversely, those of the Western Reach, removed from such gentrifying circumstances may be a degree less refined:
Striding through the robustly unsubtle but impressive Evermore Palace... These buffoons, and servants of their ilk, had welcomed me to their city with a deference I certainly wasn't shown after leaving Sentinel. When presenting my letters of introduction and Writ of Transit to King Eamond, I found him friendly but soft of voice and timid of countenance - not at all the ruler of the wildlands I was expecting.

To an outsider, from Skyrim, say, or Hammerfell, these people are still distinctly Breton, perhaps: the royal bloodlines are tied tightly to those of the Iliac Bay (Queen Arzhela is the cousin of High King Emeric, for instance), and the distinction of an "Old Blood" population (more on this below) implies a more recent expansion (or intrusion) of "newer" Bretons from the Iliac. Yet the folk of the Western Reach are still a people of the Wilderlands. Parts of the Western Reach are so remote from their Iliac cousins as to be closer (at least, geographically, if not economically) to the cities of Skyrim. It is interesting to imagine how this manifests in the character of such people. While still distinctly Breton- with a natural gravitation towards social stratification, no farmer is also a warrior (such as in Skyrim)- one can imagine gritty knights with none of the ostentatious wealth of their western cousins, but hardened and wizened by many bloody battles against Nords, Orcs and Reachmen.

Whilst far more sparsely inhabited than the populous cities to the west, the the Bretons have established several population centres within the Western Reach. In the south, on the westernmost fringes of the Reach lies Evermore. Built from granite carved out of nearby Markarth, this might city serves as a bulwark against Orcs, Nords, Reachmen, and the Wild Raiders of Northern Hammerfell.

To the North, although we cannot explore it yet, we can surmise the existence of the city of Jehanna, due to the presence of not only the Jehanna Docks (in nearby Wrothgar), but a road that likewise bears its name running northwards, all the way from Evermore.

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It is interesting to speculate about the nature of such a place, so uniquely isolated from the rest of High Rock. In fact, it would seem that the surrender of the entire region of Wrothgar to the Orcs by Emeric would have dramatically exacerbated this isolation. If such a line of imagination is followed through, we might imagine Emeric, described as wily amongst a race known for their intrigues and internecine strife, may have gained significant political power by not only making new friends, but stranding enemies. The nature of such an emnity can only be imagined: perhaps the rulers of Jehanna sided with Ranser during the Rebellion 20 years ago- being of The North, they might have felt a kinship with their cousins in Northpoint. Or perhaps the treasonous acts that have motivated Emeric are completely different.

Conversely, the city's position on the Sea of Ghosts maintains it some degree of connectivity, and, much as with other Breton cities to the south, it may thrive due to a bustling sea trade, providing rare commodities from Haafingar and the northern seas to markets in the south. Does its position on the High Bluffs above the frosty northern waters give it a dramatic aspect? Can we see a trace of its Nordic heritage in its architecture, or its people? Has it tall timeworn Direnni spires, or is it built from the elegant stonework salvaged from the ruins of ancient Snow Elf chanceries?

And finally, who rules it? As the capital of a Kingdom, we can presume it has a King or Queen. But, it is interesting to note that when the Western Reach was first cleaved from its twin to the east, it was placed under the jurisdiction of *Imperial* High Rock, a situation likely difficult to maintain. In the future, the Western Reach will be administered by Imperial Governors drawn from amongst the doughty Colovians. At least as late as the Longhouse Emperors, Markarth was ruled in such a way: Only with the overthrow of that controversial dynasty did Caddach trade governorship for despotism. Is it possible that along with a symbolic Breton ruler, Jehanna has a governor? If so, what does the current framework of power look like? With the fall of Imperial control over much of Tamriel, would such a governor still have any sort of power, or what role would she or he play in Jehanna? What relationship would they have with the natives they were established to rule? I like to imagine a sort of "historical real King Arthur" situation where the governor becomes a Bretonised figurehead around which others have rallied during dark times. Jehanna, the last city in The Reach still remains a mystery, but I dearly hope one day we get to visit it.

The Old Blood- In the Murcien's Hamlet objective quest, The Charge of Evermore, we are introduced to the notion that some minority of those who live in the Hamlet are descended from the native Reachfolk. Like Ainathach from Skyrim, they appear to be settled and more-or-less integrated into traditional Breton society. During the events of the quest, it becomes clear that Reachmen raiders will deliberately spare those with heritage, even while they cut down their non-blooded cousins.

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The basis for this mercy is not explored- the villagers are settled, and live a sedentary village life, but we can surmise that those of the Reach have a sense that blood belongs, and outsiders don't. Likewise, it isn't made clear how widespread this Old Blood is throughout Mournoth: one can imagine that other places, such as Northglen and Kerbol's Hollow (which is so remote it is practically in The Reach) have a significant population of second or third-generation settled Reachfolk. Perhaps even in the population centres, such as Evermore and Jehanna, beneath the pomp and stone there is an Old-Blood minority- people who are, for all intents and purposes, thoroughly civilised Bretons, but still spit odd curses when they bump their toes or remember old gran's stories of root and stone.

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Besides the quaint villages we can explore in Mournoth, others are known to exist: From older games, we see such enigmatic places as Raven Spring and Dunlain. Cloud Spring from Arena is referenced on a Crown Store pet (see below), and Azra's Crossing from Shadowkey may very well exist at this time, given the presence of the eponymous mage's book in a quest during Blackwood (as well as the presence of the related Star Teeth, mentioned during Crypt of Hearts). Could these villages and hamlets, populated by the people of the Country- The Old Blood- be found nestled in the hidden valleys or highland hill-top pastures of a future Western Reach zone?

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The Reachfolk - Finally, we come to the people that possibly most define the Western Reach. While later content has allowed us to explore the perspectives of the natives of these lands, opportunities for doing so earlier on were limited. The idea that we might find a Reachfolk relatable was considered laughable:

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Thus, the base-game faction important to the Western Reach, the Dark Witnesses, were almost entirely villainous in nature. Still, if you are inclined enough, it was possible to at least find sympathy in their cause to possess their own lands while you mowed through legions of them on your way to Uela the Hagraven at the heart of their great stronghold at Jackdaw Cove. Having done so, you might even allow yourself a brief moment of wistfulness as they are driven, once and for all, out of their own homeland. But probably not, because they are evil. Probably.

It is interesting to note that Jackdaw Cove, straddling the eastern slopes above Halcyon Lake lies close to where Hag Rock Redoubt would be (which is inhabited by the equally-aggressive, and equally hag-loving Thornroot clan), and even closer to the city of Markarth. It is natural to start to wonder what the political situation would have been between these tribes. The Witnesses were following in the footsteps of the Black Drakes, the scion of which now rules as a Despot over Markarth, is there a connection? And what of the remnants of the Clan? We don't see them during the events of Markarth. Were they absorbed into one clan or another, and now part of Skyrim's Reach? Or were they broken and easy pickings for other tribes?

During Orsinium MQ, the situation improves a bit- there are, in fact, a small number of genuine opportunities to explore the perspective of the Winterborn Clan... as you mow legions of them down on your way to slay Urfon Iceheart for the Orcs and drive them out of Wrothgar. It is arguable, though, that they present a more challenging narrative because if you pay attention its evident that there is no right or wrong side here, but you are facilitating their destruction regardless. Although his screen-time is so brief, Iceheart has been amongst my favourite characters. His lines are insightful, and he's just a generally enigmatic character. I'd love to have learned more about him.

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Cold possesses this place. It strikes to the heart, a freezing chill not just of the world, but of the soul.

Another interesting point is that the territory possessed by the Winterborn represents the largest territory attributed to a Reach Clan - they must have been very powerful. It is also interesting to think about what "driving them back to the Reach" means, and to wonder if, in a future Jehanna chapter, we might see what has become of them.

Is there room to speculate that the tribes of the Western Reach are more aggressive than those on the other side of the The Reach? Interestingly, the fate of the Reachfolk in Skyrim's Reach seems somewhat more secure. Svargrim was able to defend against raids, but was too preoccupied to do much else. Meanwhile, Caddach, as a leader, seems to stabilise the Reachfolk's control of their lands. Remarkably, by the end of the chapter, he is in a position to parley with both extant kingdoms of Skyrim, an extraordinary situation given the deep, enduring enmity between Reachmen and Nord.

On the other side of the Druadachs, its clear things aren't so rosy. By the end of both Mournoth's questline and the first act of Orsinium's, the clans are being driven out, by the Bretons and the Orcs, respectively. There is no such parley with the Kingdoms to the West. Why would Caddach represent the Reach to the East, but not that to the West?

The Reachmen found no towns or cities, but small camps can be found throughout the Western Reach. They can sometimes be found in caves (such as at Coldperch Cavern on the western slopes of the Wrothgarians). Their strongest redoubts are (or were) at Jackdaw Cove in Mournoth, and Frostbreak Fortress in Wrothgar.

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So that just about wraps up our tour of The Western Reach- at least until one day, where we hopefully finally get to explore the gap between Wrothgar and Western Skyrim. Hopefully on that day, we will get to explore the fabled city of Jehanna, and perhaps discover the nature of the people of the Western Reach, including stories about everyday Bretons living in a remote world, about the peasants and the Old Blood in the towns and rural villages of Dunlain, Azra's Crossing and Raven Spring. And about the nature of the relationship between Western Reachfolk and whatever power structure may lead them.

If ever we do get a development revisit of base game zones, I'd love to see Mournoth, for instance, be retouched to look at least a little more like The Reach we can see in the DLC zone from 2020. The first shot I posted above, I had to search for for quite some time to get something that would be able to capture the feel of something Reachy. Meanwhile, in any content developed after Launch, its hard to turn in any random direction and not be faced with some photogenic vista.

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And the Viridian Wood- such a defining element of The Western Reach- could look fantastic rendered with the same aesthetic as we see in places like Glemyos' Glade (complete with prancing Fauns) in High Isle. Evermore, as the less than fancy, but doughty Shield of Bangkorai crafted from assets that actually look like Markarth granite would give it so much unique character. Direnni fortresses, such as Viridian Watch might look more like the Direnni Timeworn architecture we see in Summerset. And given that Halcyon lake feeds a stony, narrow and un-navigable mountain stream (which makes sense given the region), it would be great to lose the inexpliccable sunken galley in the middle of the lake! The landscapes of Wrothgar and base game Rivenspire, feel like *ancient* landscapes to me, with their neolithic stone structures, and passage graves, and define, for me, a distinct side of High Rock that I could also help to define the Western Reach in a more evocative way.
Edited by Supreme_Atromancer on November 30, 2022 1:20PM
  • KingArthasMenethil
    KingArthasMenethil
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    I'd add that the Western Reach goes into Wrothgar which is why there's a Reachmen presence the Orcs are removing.

    Lorewise I'd imagine Jehanna was founded by Nords in the early days of the "First Empire of the Nords" (Cyrodiilic propaganda name) when they were pushing into the Nedic and Altmer lands of High Rock (Jehanna is one of the old Nordic Kingdoms they lost and tried to reclaim in the Third Era). Direnni presence is unknown given how ZoS doesn't seem to like them and replaced them with the Ayleid Empire which doesn't look to be changing since they added yet another Ayleid ruin with that Silver Rose dungeon.

    There would be an major Orc presence there probably trying to destroy the weak Jehanna just as Malacath wants of his Orcs as well something has to explain why Jehanna the Kingdom and City do not come up at all in ESOs histories for the Daggerfall Covernant, Orc history of Wrothgar and Western Skyrims history.
    EU 2000+ CP
    Characters
    Gaius Sulla 50 Cyrodiil DragonKnight.
    Livia Sulla 50 Cyrodiil Nightblade.
    Divayth-Fyr 50 Dunmer Sorcerer.
    Ragnar Shatter-Shield 50 Nord Dragonknight.
    Selvia Sulla 50 Cyrodiil Templar.
    Attrebus Mede 50 Cyrodiil Warden.
    Zirath Urivith 50 Dunmer Dragonknight.
    Dame Edwinna Gelas 50 Breton Dragonknight.
    Agrippina Tharn 50 Cyrodiil Necromancer.
    Bedal Dren 50 Dunmer Dragonknight.
  • Supreme_Atromancer
    Supreme_Atromancer
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    I'd add that the Western Reach goes into Wrothgar which is why there's a Reachmen presence the Orcs are removing... There would be an major Orc presence there probably trying to destroy the weak Jehanna just as Malacath wants of his Orcs as well something has to explain why Jehanna the Kingdom and City do not come up at all in ESOs histories for the Daggerfall Covernant, Orc history of Wrothgar and Western Skyrims history.

    I love this idea. Orcs are not great friends of the Breton people, and the feeling is mutual. While the Daggerfall Covenant provides enough benefit to forgetting this for a little while, I imagine there is no " " Friendship " " Gate towards Breton Jehanna if the latter is not part of The Covenant, to put it mildly. If Jehanna is the centre of a region not in Emeric's good books (a possible explanation for your point on unknown presence), the High King might be both snubbing the region, and being less than motivated to use his weight in the Covenant to discourage orc raids. Perhaps he even covertly supports it? It feels interesting and Bretony to handle things this way, to me.
    Lorewise I'd imagine Jehanna was founded by Nords in the early days of the "First Empire of the Nords" (Cyrodiilic propaganda name) when they were pushing into the Nedic and Altmer lands of High Rock (Jehanna is one of the old Nordic Kingdoms they lost and tried to reclaim in the Third Era). Direnni presence is unknown given how ZoS doesn't seem to like them and replaced them with the Ayleid Empire which doesn't look to be changing since they added yet another Ayleid ruin with that Silver Rose dungeon.

    I agree about Jehanna's founding. Perhaps this could have even been the seat of the Nordic Western Reach hold before the Direnni pushed them back.

    Regarding the Ayleid thing, I tend to agree that it would be better for zos to move beyond "Ayleid High Rock"- the lore is explicit on the fact that the Ayleids required Direnni permission to come to High Rock, and that the Direnni absorbed the Aleyids, and not the other way round. I think a lot of the people who know their lore feel the same as us, going off of discussions hosted here and on various other fora. And while they *could* explain it away in various ways, I really hope they resist the temptation to do so, because its likely to feel contrived to explain a mistake away. I'm of the opinion that using lore to handwave cheapens that lore and should be used minimally.

    Where does that leave us? The developers have expressed that they would absolutely love to redo base game stuff, given how far they've come. They probably feel the same way we do then. Given the gorgeous work they've done since launch, its a very exciting prospect. The problem is that as it currently stands, they need to ask the question how you get the time to do that? Does it come at the expense of other stuff? If they ever find a way to answer that question (if a good answer even exists), maybe there's hope. I absolutely love the idea, and I'll keep hoping, but wont hold my breath.

    Then you'd have to ask what they could change. It would depend on the scope of the changes. Perhaps they'd just go in and update textures, or use their newer ones. Personally, me with big wishes, would love to see them go in and literally redo so much: High Isle is beautiful, for instance. The world artists have, as always, done a magnificent job rendering it. I feel like giving the Iliac Bay the same slight aesthetic hints of Mediterranean hinterlands (sans the tropical rainforest and lava stuff) would be super appropriate. Mournoth could be done to look somewhat more like the Reach, but if I was King of Worldbuilding, I'd make it distinct by rendering the Viridian Woods as this dark, north-western European fairy-tale forest. Ephesus I would change to make it feel like the Dragontails- more like Upper Craglorn, with which it is contiguous and in my best estimation seems to be what it would make sense to be. Wrothgar, I wouldn't change a thing. The landscape itself *feels* ancient, and would make a beautiful contrast to Sunflower-and-Limestone Iliac- kinda like two distinct but defining sides of the same High Rock coin.

    I'd personally change a good number of the Ayleid ruins. Let's ignore the work it would take for a second, and then I can say I'd be happy to see them done in the ancient Alinor style, because the world (as presented in Summerset chapter) tells us this is how the Direnni build. But then, also, there's some of the structures with baked in Ayleid lore. Bisnensel in Mournoth is a good example of this. It was built by the Last Ayleid King, apparently. Now I'd be absolutely 100% A-OK if they retconned that, but I'm sure not everyone feels exactly the same, and I'm not King of Worldbuilding. As such, its just interesting to dream about.

    I don't see them doing a Western Reach zone any time soon, unless they are doing something completely different with it. But in the future, if we get to return to it, I think it would make a lot of sense for such a zone to feature some Direnni worldbuilding.
    Edited by Supreme_Atromancer on December 5, 2022 5:13AM
  • Supreme_Atromancer
    Supreme_Atromancer
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    If I was going to imagine Jehanna for ESO, firstly, I'd find it irresistibly tempting to draw parallels between this remote, cold, Breton city close to the Nordic world, and medieval Scotland. Its particularly tempting if you keep the parallels between real world people like the Highlanders and Picts with Tamriel's reachfolk. Besides, if Sheogorath is a Breton Gentleman, he must have gotten his accent from somewhere! I imagine Jehanna like medieval Glasgow or Edinburgh, a place where they're all civilized, educated, connected and Bretonised, but share an old heritage. I imagine, in its own dialect, its called something like Dunn Sehannach (like gaelic se- would be renedered sh-) easily Bretonised as Jehanna.

    The city itself could be, as maps suggest, just west of Solitude, and given ESO's map, maybe high on a plateau between Mt Sorrow and Mor Kazgur. The Jehanna docks being a little way off then makes sense. Alternatively, just for something a bit more interesting, it could be that while this is the position in the 3rd era, maybe changing sea levels (or some magical catastrophe) have changed the shape of the coast, stranding Jehanna from the mainland, and necessitating the so-called Jehanna Docks we see in Wrothgar.

    I think it would be interesting if the people of Jehanna were every bit as wily, creative, clever and educated as their southern cousins. In contrast to their ancestral kin living in the reach proper, they have a level of sophistication. They have sharp minds and are known for their quick wit and perceptiveness. Because we haven't really seen the magical side of urban Bretons yet, I can imagine that the city was not only known for the number of powerful mages the city has produced, but perhaps even its rival colleges of magic and learning. I picture, to make the city distinct, and fun to explore, a few low-key magical infrastructure-type things: nothing to totally dominate- perhaps magical streetlights, (mostly because I love the idea of magical lights in a snowy, winter-wonderland Breton city)- or perhaps a giant Barrier or Hardened Ward spell- maintained by a cadre of dedicated sorcerers- that protects the city from the worst of the northern elements (though still lets a light snowfall through, of course!).

    For a unique look for the city, but still fitting within what might be considered Breton, I'd be tempted to borrow from pictures of those medieval scandinavian cities such as Copenhagen or Stockholm.

    If I wanted to lean into some darker themes, I'd love Jehanna to be the opportunity to explore the lore behind Breton's particular aptitude for Conjuration, that we've seen described in the mainline games mechanically, but never had explored. I love the idea that, as opposed to elven destruction, a lot of Breton's magical (and maybe even political) power comes from bargains made with powerful spirits or daedra. Not so much Daedric Princes, per se; they've been done. We can rather imagine ranks directly below- not canonised in any lore yet, but that surely exist, ripe for the unwise to meddle with- the names and identities of which are known only to those who delve deeply into the esoteric lore of Oblivion- power-brokers and deal-makers from the deepest darknesses.

    I'm inspired by Moorcockian demonic house patrons, perhaps a little of WoT's Forsaken, and can imagine the grey morality feel that this would leverage for stories about those who dabble, questing for secret grimoires in ancient ruins to summon particularly useful demons, for wealth and power. When that power comes in the form of political maneuvering, I can imagine a completely new dimension to the so-called "thronesian" interplay said to be characteristic of the Bretons. Finally, it would be fun to tap into the sort of Lovecraftian, sinister, "price of knowledge" kind of thing, too. I just think its a shame to have this fascinating hook for the Bretons (aptitude for conjuration), and not do anything with it.

    Anyway, just some ideas. It'd be amazing to visit Jehanna one day- I've wanted to see this place since 2012 when I played Skyrim, and I think if nothing much has been done with it yet, there's lot's of ideas that spring to mind that could give it a unique aesthetic and quality so that they aren't treading and re-treading over stuff they've already done.
    Edited by Supreme_Atromancer on December 19, 2022 1:46PM
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