Tsaesci (pronounced Say-es-see or Say-chee) are a race of vampiric serpent folk and/or humans, hailing from the continent of Akavir. They originated from the Wandering Ehlnofey, just as the Atmorans and Yokudans did.
The First Tsaesci Invasion
For thousands of years, the Tsaesci lived, and presumably thrived, on Akavir, without disturbing or being disturbed by Tamriel. Late in the First Era, around 2703, the Tsaesci invaded Tamriel, at a time when the Cyrodilic Empire was still fairly small. This invasion is usually credited with forcing the Colovian Empire to officially join the Cyrodilic Empire, under then-Emperor King Reman I. The invaders managed to fight their way through northern Tamriel, into the Jerall Mountains near Bruma. Reman eventually defeated the Tsaesci, trapping them at Pale Pass and cutting off their supply lines until they died or fled back to Akavir.
After their defeat, the Empire granted amnesty to many of the remaining Tsaesci men, including taking them on in key political and military roles. The Tsaesci presumably bred into the Imperial families, as Tsaesci surnames are now considered a thing of pride among Imperial nobility. There are rumored to be small clans of "true" Akaviri still on Tamriel, though the details are inconsistent. The military prowess of the Tsaesci was one of the key reasons the Empire was able to expand as successfully as it did.
A Serpent King
At the end of the First Era, in 1E 2920, a Tsaesci Potentate named Versidue-Shaie was advisor to Emperor Reman III as part of the emperor's attempt to conquer Morrowind. A theory states that the Potentate was secretly plotting to eliminate the royal family (another possible source of their depiction as "snake-men"), and eventually succeeded. The heirs of Reman III were all killed, in battle or by hired assassins, and eventually Reman himself died without a successor. The Potentate assumed command of the Empire, and ruled for over 300 years before being assassinated by the Morag Tong. His son then ruled for another 100 years, before he was also assassinated and the Elder Council put an Imperial back on the throne. At that point, the Tsaesci and Akavir in general disappeared from historical record, until the time of Uriel V and his Akaviri invasion.
Founder of the Fighters Guild
In 2E 320, a Tsaesci warrior, Dinieras-Ves "the Iron" presented to Potentate Versidue-Shaie, amidst the chaos of constant revolts and financial bankruptcy within the empire a solution to the plaguing issues. He suggested an order of mercantile warriors, named the Syffim, hired by the aristocracy which would serve in place of a standing army, as well as a percentage of the profits being invested back into the imperial treasury, effectively solving two of Versidue-Shaie's biggest issues. Following the Guilds Act, the Syffim was renamed to the Fighters Guild, an already popular name for the organisation and legitimised as an order. Versidue-Shaie's successor, Savirien-Chorak reformed the empire's army, breaking the reliance on the Fighters Guild for military capacities. Following the reforms, the Fighters Guild was reduced to more mercenary based work and Dinieras-Ves disappeared into obscurity.[source?]
Uriel and the Tsaesci
Around 3E 290, near the end of his reign, Emperor Uriel Septim V launched an invasion of Akavir.Uriel had mostly succeeded in stabilizing his empire on Tamriel, including retaking lands recently lost to revolt, and was anxious to focus the might of the Empire outside of itself. Relying primarily on information retained from the First Era Potentates, and extensive reconnaissance of the areas between Akavir and Tamriel, the Emperor launched a military initiative to conquer the small island kingdoms in the Padomaic Ocean, to the east of Morrowind, most notably, Black Harbor, which served as a base for the Imperial navy. When he finally reached Akavir itself (far to the east of Tamriel), he landed in the kingdom of Tsaesci, on the southeastern Akaviri coast.
According to the official record of the invasion, it was initially successful, but primarily due to a lack of Tsaesci resistance. Once the Tsaesci armies decided to put up a fight, the Imperial armies were routed in short order, with nearly the entire invasion force lost. Only a fraction of one naval fleet managed to return across the ocean to safety back home. The Emperor himself was killed before he was able to flee Akavir, and to date there have not been any subsequent attempts to invade the continent. In addition to the obvious military prowess of the Tsaesci, there are persistent rumors that the Tsaesci mages possess very potent abilities, including changing the weather patterns off the Akaviri coast, and large-scale disruption of magical communication lines.
The continent of Akavir, in general, is the least understood of all of Nirn's continents. Only three times in recorded history have inhabitants from the two continents mingled, all three being military invasions, two of which involved the Tsaesci. Thus, the Tsaesci are the only race on Akavir that the majority of Tamriel has even heard of. What little we do know about Akavir's other races mostly derives from accounts related to the Tsaesci Potentates during the late First and early Second Eras.
Even though the Tsaesci are the best known of Akavir's inhabitants, very little is known about them, and much of it is contradictory or cryptic. Within the current lore of Tamriel, there are two quite different depictions of the Tsaesci. Some evidence seems to indicate that they are humans, much like the Nords and Redguards from their respective continents. Other evidence, however, paints a much stranger picture, as vampiric snake-like creatures that feed on humans. One source says that the serpentine beings are tall and beautiful with golden scales.
Early depictions of the Tsaesci almost invariably describe them as having the upper body of a man but the lower body of a snake. The most direct evidence of these "snake folk" comes from Mysterious Akavir, which claims that the vampire snakes of Tsaesci ate all of the humans that once lived on Akavir. The reputability of this book is frequently questioned, however, as few of its other claims have been independently verified. A much more reliable source is the series of 2920 books that describe the events that ushered in the Second Era. One of the key elements of this series is the plot by the Tsaesci Potentate, a close adviser to Emperor Reman III, to have the king and his heirs assassinated, and assume the throne in his place. Though the books are written in a narrative, as opposed to a historical style, they are extensive, detailed, and the author is considered to be quite credible. These books explicitly describe the Tsaesci Potentate, and his son, in serpentine terms (as "eels", moving by "slithering", etc.) An obscure text known as "And We Ate It To Become It" purporting to be the Tsaesci's version of the creation myth, is strongly steeped in snake-like and reptile-like symbolism and phraseology.[UL 1]
In The Elder Scrolls Online, a reward for a quest in Stonefalls to bless the bones of those who died in the Second Akaviri Invasion has the following description: "These gauntlets were designed to choke the scaled throats of the Akaviri invaders." More evidence of this serpentine physiology comes from veterans of the Second Akaviri Invasion: Fedrasa Andrethi, who has become terrified of any reptile she sees since the war, especially lizards, and Denskar Earth-Turner, who refers to the Akaviri as "the Snakes." It is also supported by Priestess Brela, who states the Akaviri were "Snake men."
Other written accounts of the Tsaesci seem to contradict the popular legend, however. A religious text on the Imperial creation myth, The Annotated Anuad, lists the Tsaesci alongside the Redguard and Nedes as one of the races of men. A detailed report of Uriel V's invasion of Akavir, which first attempted to conquer Tsaesci, describes them as mounted men, and makes no mention of snake-like qualities.
In addition, the Tsaesci had a very strong influence on Imperial culture dating from the early Second Era, including being the genesis for the Fighter's Guild and Imperial Blades. Despite this, there are no pictorial depictions, or any other physical evidence, that would indicate that the Tsaesci were anything other than human. The question has been further complicated by a recent re-discovery of a Tsaesci fortress, deep in the Pale Pass on the Cyrodiil - Skyrim border. The remains of the Tsaesci found inside, including the apparition of a Tsaesci officer, all appeared entirely human. The Tsaesci also interbred heavily with the aristocracy of the time. Modern-day nobles consider it a high honor to possess a Tsaesci surname and facial features.
During one of the invasions, the Akaviri built Sky Haven Temple as explained by Esbern during the events of Skyrim. And inside the Temple lies Alduin's wall, built during their occupation of Skyrim. In the third panel, the Akaviri are kneeling before the Dragonborn and are depicted as humanoid figures which may mean they are human.
There are a variety of theories that attempt to explain this contradiction. The most clear-cut are simply that one or the other of these conflicting images of the Tsaesci are simply wrong. Many scholars have attempted to reconcile the contradiction in a more practical manner. Some of the better-known theories are:
- The Tsaesci are entirely human, as noted above.
- The Tsaesci are entirely snakes, but have enslaved the humans on their continent (instead of eating them) and use the humans to make up the bulk of their armies. Goblins were also said to be the slaves of the Tsaesci. As political savants, the Tsaesci were wise enough to limit their direct interaction with humans from other lands to only high-ranking nobles of both races. In this case, both the snake people and their human slaves would be considered Tsaesci, with the humans being able to blend in with Imperial society. Since the invading armies of the Tsaesci were more often referred to as "Akaviri" instead of "Tsaesci", it would seem the invasions mainly consisted of human Akaviri footsoldiers, with the Tsaesci only being present as high-ranking officers. This also puts a slightly different spin on the "amnesty" granted by Reman I -- it may have been more of an asylum for the human slaves against their Tsaesci masters.
- The final theory is that there were two races of beings, one human and one snake-like. It is worth noting that the humans are never directly referred to as "Tsaesci" but usually as "Akavir". This supports the idea of two different races. During the two invasions the human Akavir still lived but sometime after the Empire's failed invasion, they were wiped out by the snake-men, the Tsaesci. Thus today there are no humans on Akavir.
Regardless of which of the views of the Tsaesci people are correct, there is a good bit of information available on their culture, dating from the time of their first invasion. They were known as powerful warriors, especially when mounted, and are very disciplined soldiers. Their battle prowess made them ideal as guardsmen, and by the Third Era, the descendants of Akaviri men were training nearly the entire Imperial Army, Imperial Guard, and made up the bulk of the Fighter's Guild and the Emperor's personal guard. The Emperors of Cyrodiil also traditionally kept a Tsaesci advisor, or Potentate, on hand.
The Tsaesci fought with daikatana blades, and wore dragonscale armor, their army gear became the source of most of the traditional raiment and banners of the Blades. They also apparently had tamed, and perhaps even rode, the Akaviri dragons in battle. The red dragon was eventually adopted as the main symbol of the Imperial Septim Dynasty. Of particular note, Reman I was the Emperor who instituted the tradition of lighting the dragonfires and was ruling Cyrodiil at the time of the Tsaesci invasion.
In addition to being powerful individual warriors, the Tsaesci are very potent as a unified military force. A relatively small invasion force managed to fight its way through all of Skyrim, and into the northern Jerall Mountains, before ultimately being stopped only by the combined armies of Cyrodiil, Colovia, and their allies. When Uriel V invaded Akavir, with as large an army as he dared pull out of Cyrodiil, he was soundly defeated by a Tsaesci army that, by all reports, was barely even seen before they struck. The military prowess of the Tsaesci so impressed Reman I that he granted amnesty to any Tsaesci left on Tamriel after their failed invasion and promoted a Tsaesci adviser to the high political office of Potentate.
They seem to make buildings of stone as evidenced by Cloud Ruler and Sky Haven Temple. They have blood seals that can only be triggered by a specific kind. The Tsaesci appear heavily based on both Imperial China and feudal Japan. The Chinese influence in the Tsaesci culture can be seen from their architectural style as well as their status as the most powerful kingdom in Akavir, which reflects pre-modern China's traditional status as the most powerful kingdom in East Asia. The Japanese influence can be seen from their weapons, the katanas, and dai-katana, which are traditional Japanese weapons, as well as their armor designs. They use hieroglyphic-like murals for story telling. In a book called Annals of the Dragonguard, a map with their written language can be seen.
Not much is known regarding the Tsaesci's lifespan, but a member of the race, Versidue Shaie, was known to have been alive from at least 2E 1–2E 324 until his assassination. This lifespan is irregularly long for the Tsaesci and was said to be prolonged by magic, although exactly how long the regular Tsaesci lifespan is remains unknown. According to some sources, the Tsaesci are in fact immortal.
- Versidue Shaie – Potentate (not to be confused with an Emperor) for three centuries after the death of the Reman Bloodline
- Savirien Chorak – Versidue's son and potentate for around a century following his father's death
- Dinieras-Ves – The founder of the Fighters Guild
- Sidri-Ashak – An advisor and potentate to Brazollus Dor who managed the emperor's affairs
- Ancient Dragonguard Burial Mask in The Elder Scrolls Online
- Grommok's Journal
- ESO Live, Episode 15 (April 10th, 2015)
- Mysterious Akavir
- The Annotated Anuad
- Akaviri Diary Translation
- Report: Disaster at Ionith
- Against the Snakes
- Dialogue with Priestess Brela
- Events and dialogue in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
- Quote by Avita Pitio in The Elder Scrolls Online: Elsweyr
- History of the Fighters Guild
|Humans||Akaviri • Atmorans • Bretons • Imperials • Keptu|
Kothringi • Nedes • Nords • Orma • Redguards
|Mer||Aldmer • Altmer • Ayleids • Bosmer • Chimer • Dunmer|
Dwemer • Falmer • Maormer • Orsimer • Sinistral Elves • Snow Elves
|Beast||Argonians • Imga • Khajiit • Lilmothiit • Sload • Giants|
|Akaviri||Ka Po' Tun • Kamal • Tang Mo • Tsaesci • Dragons|
|Et'Ada||Aedra • Daedra|