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Dunmer (aka Dark elves) are a playable race featured in the Elder Scrolls series. They are a race of dark-skinned elves who are agile, quick, aloof and reserved.
The Dunmer were once the Chimer (Changed Folk, or Changed Ones), who were a people of the Altmeri who had abandoned the ways, customs and laws of the Summerset Isles, and embarked on a great exodus to Morrowind. They followed the Veloth, who spoke to them on behalf of Boethiah, the Daedric Prince of Plots. These teachings spawned a new culture on Tamriel and a new people, even though the Chimer were physically indistinguishable from Altmer. At the time of exodus and until their change, the exiles were known as the Velothi. The term can be used in a general sense for the Dunmer as well, though it carries a specific meaning referring to ex-Ashlanders who abandoned their nomadic societies.
At the time of the Velothi's mass exodus, Morrowind was known as Dwemereth, after the enigmatic Dwemer who already inhabited the region. The exiles settled there and flourished, developing what is now known as Velothi High Culture, based on worship of the three Good Daedra and respect for the House of Troubles and the new customs. The ruins of Velothi Towers that now dot Morrowind are attributed to this period and are only common to tell-tale stories made up of legendary proportion.
Sometime around the rise of the First Empire of the Nords in Skyrim, the Velothi civilization broke down into a relatively primitive collection of clans and tribal warfare. Because of the slave revolt, many Strongholds went into opposition to hide and protect Vvardenfell's borders from the Early Nord Skirmish squads. The so-called Dunmer Strongholds of Morrowind were most likely built at this time, for defense against Nordic raiders and other Chimer too, who did not seek exile with the rest at the time of exodus. Such disunity allowed Skyrim to conquer Morrowind. The Nords ruled Morrowind, now called Resdayn, under the reign of semi-corrupt Nord Tyrants for many years, until fighting of their own (the War of Succession) allowed the Chimer and Dwemer to form an alliance against the vulnerable and rebellious Nords, and oust the occupiers.
Azura's Curse & the Chimer's Transformation
This was the era of the First Council, when the modern Great House system was in productions form but already developing, with Indoril Nerevar Moon-and-Star and his three advisors (the Tribunal; Almsivi) at the fore. This included Almalexia, Vivec the warrior-poet, and Sotha Sil. As every student of eastern history knows, the union did not last long. Around the time the Dwemer dissappeared, these 3 Chimer advisors used the Heart of Lorkhan under Red Mountain to become immortal. At this time the Daedric prince Azura laid her curse upon the already-exiled Chimer for the advisors' sacrilege. The supposed murder of Indoril Nerevar Moon-and-Star by the summoning ritual made by the Tribunal, Azura appeared, with Indoril dead, and her words hissed: ' May the eyes of the Changed Ones be turned as red as this volcanic ash, and may their skin be as blackened as their hearts. The accursed drawn, blood from the master spilled, and a curse shown in the race of these folk, forever-more'. This led to the hiding of Vivec in the Ministry of Truth and the recession of the cultures of the now accursed Chimer. Azura withdrew from the mountain, and there upon the now-Dunmer lay with ashen souls, and would reflect change in the Eras to come.
Migration - Red Mountain Eruption
After the eruption of Red Mountain, many Dunmer fled to Skyrim as refugees. Many eventually settled on the island of Solstheim, which was given to them by the High King of Skyrim at the time. A few took up residence at the College of Winterhold, but many more fled to Windhelm, the seat of the Stormcloaks resistance against the Empire of Tamriel. They live there in the Gray Quarter.
Before the cataclysm that lead to the mass exodus of Dunmer, several of the faithful of Azura received visions of the eruption of Red Mountain. Setting out for Winterhold, these Dunmer built the Shrine of Azura in Skyrim. The only remaining member of this group is Aranea Ienith. Many Dunmer are returning home to rebuild their homeland. A civil war might ensue in future generations between the Dunmer and the Argonians of southern Morrowind however this is yet to be seen if a conflict escalates.
Most Dunmer have red, glowing eyes with skin tones varying from somewhat greenish and the more common gray to the occasional light blue. They are known to be strong, intelligent, and quick, however, are also said to be ill favored by fate. Both male and female Dunmer have a height similar to most of the human races. This means that they are generally taller than their Bosmer cousins and shorter than the Altmer.
Three major cultural groupings have settled Morrowind: the Great House group, the Ashlanders, and the Imperials. The smallest settlements are the Ashlander nomadic camps, comprised of small, portable huts. Recent Imperial colonies, like Pelagiad, display the same half timbered homes and stone castles as might be found in Daggerfall or any other Western province. However, the dominant culture is the Dunmer Great House culture. The Dunmer are grim, aloof, and reserved, keeping to themselves as much as possible. They are just as distrusting and disdainful of other races as they are to other Dark Elves. The Dunmer and their national character embrace these various connotations with enthusiastic behaviors. In the Empire, 'Dark Elf' is the common used term used by any humanoid race, but in their homeland, Morrowind, and among their Aldmeri brethren, they are known as Dunmer.
The Tribunal Temple
The religion of the 5 Great Houses consists of the worship of three gods (who in reality are Dunmeri that got immense power from the Heart of Lorkhan, look at the "Dagoth Ur" page for more details) known as "the Tribunal", although immortal, the Tribunes are still no more than Dunmer in essence, and thus they still walk Nirn in a fixed corporeal form. To an outsider, the priesthood of the Tribunal seems to be the true power in Morrowind. Each Tribune, who go by the names of Almalexia, Sotha Sil, and Vivec, has an eponymous city dedicated to its worship, and a palace/temple within each city where the god resides. The priests of the Tribunal Temple are omnipotent in Morrowind; strange processions of fantastically garbed priests roam the land, selecting new candidates to serve the Tribunal, who are seized without resistance and never seen again.
Only the highest of the Tribunal priests, or people of spiritual greatness chosen by a Tribune him/herself, come into contact with these revered figures. Tribunal temples are in every native Morrowind city, generally in circular shaped buildings, and the religious organization centered around the Tribunal is often referred to as just the Temple. The Temple is spread to all Great Houses and is the religion practiced by all native Dunmer, excluding the Ashlanders which the Temple looks down upon because of their worship of the 3 Daedric Lords; Boethia, Azura, and Mephala. These Daedric Lords were the main deities of the Dunmer before the Tribunal arose to power, and thus they are seen with animosity and hesitation by Sotha Sil, Almalexia and Vivec.
Worshipers must go on a quest to many pilgrimages to become full, respected members of the Temple, many of these involving offerings to shrines. The Tribunal is worshiped at three-sided shrines which offer healing and blessings to the followers with the proper offerings as necessary. The Temple has strict rules, being a formidable power in Morrowind, and it is dangerous to attack it in anyway, verbally or physically; they also make strong campaigns against Vampires, Daedra worship, and Necromancy.
Each god is a distinct figure to temple members. Vivec the Poet is known for his generosity and skill in battle, and a patron for rogues and artists. Almalexia is known for her kindness and healing nature. Sotha Sil is best known for his skill in wizardry and mechanics. A book series has been written about the events that transpired around these gods and is called 2920, The Last Year of the First Era and also a book in a religious series entitled 36 Lessons of Vivec. Being the previous 3 deities of the Dunmer, The Daedric Lords (Azura, Mephala, and Boethiah) are regarded as the "anticipations" of the Tribunes, as if they were less important beings who, in a way, "paved the way" for Sotha Sil, Almalexia and Vivec; however, this still does not make Daedra worship be seen as acceptable by the Temple.
The Ashlanders live isolated from the rest of Morrowind, and thus their beliefs have always remained quite stagnant. While the 5 Great Houses embraced the Tribunal as their new deities, the Ashlanders remained worshipers of the Daedric Lords Boethia, Mephala, and Azura; this has, as expected, caused many conflicts between the Temple and the Ashlanders. Another core facet of their belief system is the prophecy involving the Nerevarine, that is meant to save the native Dunmer from outlanders (including the Empire who at the time wished to convert the Dunmer to the belief in the Nine Divines). The prophecy was announced by Azura when the Tribunes betrayed Narevar and used the Heart of Lorkhan to gain power, this is yet more reason for the Temple to loathe the Ashlanders.
Daedra Worship after the of Fall of Tribunal Temple
Sotha Sil, Almalexia, and Vivec lost most of their power; their current location and status is unknown. As the three Tribunes fell, the Temple went back to worshiping the Daedric Lords Boethiah, Mephala, and Azura, as the Dunmer had done back when they still were the Chimer. In the Fourth Era, the Temple scorns the Tribunes, whom they consider villainous charlatans, and instead worships the three Daedric Lords; they are now the "Reclamations," as they have reclaimed their place in the hearts and minds of the Dunmer.
The Ashlanders, who were previously seen as heretics, are now regarded as a wise people who knew the truth about the Tribunal all along. It is now not uncommon for Dunmer to make lengthy and dangerous pilgrimages to the lands of the Ashlanders in order to get council from their wise women.
Outsiders, particularly Nine Divine worshippers, generally view Daedra cultists as barbaric and sinister, mainly due to the more chaotic nature of most Daedra when compared to Aedra, and while the three "Reclamations" are mainly worshiped by the Dunmer, people of all races are known to worship Daedra.
Recognizable Daedra Lords include: Mephala, Azura, Boethiah, Clavicus Vile, Nocturnal, Vaermina, Sheogorath, Mehrunes Dagon, Malacath, and Molag Bal. Daedric Lords in Morrowind are worshiped at giant, easily recognizable citadels that are dedicated to specific Lords.
Trivia & Notes
(To Be Added)