The ancient elven race known to many as the Ayleids, Wild Elves, or Heartland High Elves, were descendants of the Aldmer, the original race of elves who fled their homeland of Aldmeris. The Ayleids were a cruel and power hungry folk, making pacts with Daedra and enslaving those they considered beneath them. Eventually defeated by the Slave-Queen Alessia, the ruins of their civilization are spread across Cyrodiil and remain as haunts for dangerous creatures and treasure hunting grounds for adventurers.
[ Homeland ]
The homeland of the Ayleids was Cyrodiil, now commonly known as the Imperial province. Cyrodiil lies at the heart of Tamriel and is a fertile, temperate land of lush plains, hills and forests, split by the blue waters of the Niben river and partially surrounded by rugged and often inhospitable mountains. It has been reported to have once been covered by thick jungle, but this has mostly been cleared, probably due to farming and warfare. The crown jewel of Cyrodiil is Lake Rumare, which surrounds an island at the centre of which sits the Imperial City. At the centre of the city, lording over all other structures in the land stands the prestigious White-Gold Tower, one of the most captivating buildings in all of Tamriel and the seat of the Ayleids’ supremacy. Originally built by the Aldmer and called the Temple of the Ancestors, it currently serves as the Imperial Palace and is rumoured to be a point of stability to prevent Mundus (the mortal plane) from dissolving back to Oblivion.
[ Culture ]
The society of the Ayleids was an empire (the first in Tamriel in fact), and was made up of several separate kingdoms all united under one overall leader. Beginning their reign before the First Era began, they ruled over what is now Cyrodiil for hundreds of years. Leading them as their champion was Umaril the Unfeathered, a mighty sorcerer-king who was believed to be half-elf, half divine. Blessed by Meridia, he was imbued with immortality so that even when his physical body was slain when the Ayleids were finally overthrown, his spirit would live on and eventually return. Clad in spiky, gold armour and wielding a massive sword, he resembled a large version of Meridia’s Daedric servants, the Aurorans.
As slave-masters, the Ayleids used slaves for a number of purposes: agriculture, construction, maintaining their empire’s communications and, disturbingly, for entertainment. Their art-tortures ranged from “wailing wheels,” “gut gardens,” and “flesh sculptures,” as well as forced ingestion of hallucinogenic drugs and night time “tiger-sports” which involved the despicable practice of burning children. Understandably, the Ayleids’ dire amusements turned the minds of many humans against elves, and ever since Altmer and Bosmer have suffered due to the unfair discrimination. It should also be noted that similar to any other race, the Ayleids would have had all sorts of characters amongst their number; thus it is incorrect to assume that all Ayleids were inherently callous individuals and followed the same line of thinking. The Ayleids’ civil war proves this, although the details about why they were fighting are unknown. Furthermore, the Alessian Slave Revolt was in fact assisted by many Ayleid Lords.
The other most common association with the Ayleids is their willingness to make deals with Daedra, employing Daedric armies in order to subjugate and enslave the humans of Cyrodiil and enforce their will upon the land. Although demonized as Daedra worshippers, it is more likely that the Ayleids were in fact followers of the Aedra, merely using Daedra for their own purposes but not worshipping them as such. The Ayleids honoured and respected their ancestors, and the meaning of Aedra is “ancestor”. Also, the Ayleids had an obsession about the number eight, and there were eight Aedra who would later be known as the Eight Divines. Magnus, the god of magic and an Aedra, was venerated in Ayleid society, the Ayleids being adept with magic. In addition, Cyrodiilic slaves became Aedra worshippers after embracing the traditions and religion of their Ayleid masters. There is also evidence in the Ayleid statues scattered across Cyrodiil: that of an eagle lifting up a figure armed with a bow and shield. The bow and shield are associated with another Aedra: Auri-El, the elven version of the Aedra known as Akatosh who is now worshipped as one of the Eight Divines. And amongst the Altmer, the eagle represents the Aedra. It makes sense that the humans, in the wake of their rebellion against their former masters, have sought to tarnish the culture of the ancient Ayleids.
White-Gold Tower was the heart of the Ayleids’ power and the keeping place of ten sacred statues known as the Ten Ancestors. These statues were made from meteoric iron and glass and were moved to other Ayleid cities whilst the White-Gold Tower was under siege during the Alessian Slave Rebellion, but were eventually lost to them, only being reunited long after the Ayleids’ defeat. The Imperial city, built from the same whitish rock as White-Gold Tower, was also built by the Aldmer who would become the Ayleids and is one of the most beautiful cities in Tamriel, regardless of the relatively primitive additions the Imperials have made. Ayleid cities were brilliant achievements in structural design, the Imperial city being the prime example; but the ruins scattered across the province reveal massive, labyrinthine, subterranean networks of expertly designed and constructed passageways and chambers. With elaborate archways, stairwells, columns and spires, it can certainly be said that the Ayleids were master architects and builders.
The Ayleids were masters of not only construction, but also of magic. Magic was an integral part of Ayleid society, with the Ayleids believing that Nirn was made up from four basic elements: air, earth, water and light, with fire believed to be a weak and corrupt form of light. Starlight was the greatest form of light, as the stars are the link between Mundus and Aetherius, the immortal plane. The starlight was harnessed and captured in receptacles forged from meteoric iron fallen from the heavens, in order to create energy; this energy could then be used by the Ayleids. Also known as Ayleid Wells, the receptacles can still be used today to replenish a sorcerer’s Magicka, as the wells capture more starlight each night at midnight and turn it into energy. Often built in isolated, wilderness locations, the wells are believed to have some sort of religious and ritual significance but why they were built in such places is a mystery. So far there are thirty five known to exist. In addition to the wells, the Ayleids used shards of meteoric glass to store magical energy. These are known as Welkynd and Varla Stones, otherwise called Star Stones. The Ayleids were also responsible for creating what would later be formalized as the school of magic known as Alteration, being masters of shape-shifting and levitation.
[ History ]
The Ayleids first settled in what was to become Cyrodiil in the mid Merethic Era, establishing a number of kingdoms all owing allegiance to the High King of Alinor on the Summerset Isles. When and why they split from Summerset is unknown but it is thought to be sometime early in the First Era, during when the Ayleids grew increasingly independent from Alinor. Eventually, White-Gold Tower became an independent state and the Ayleids gained a new and fearsome leader named Umaril the Unfeathered. For hundreds of years they ruled Cyrodiil, enslaving beastfolk, and the ancient Nedic peoples who would later become the Imperials.
In the First Era year 242, the Slave-Queen Alessia inspired an uprising known as the Alessian Slave Rebellion. This was to be the doom of the Ayleids. Alessia chose her time well, since a civil war was raging between opposing factions of the Ayleids, and consequently many Ayleid lords joined forces with Alessia and helped to overthrow their compatriots. The Nords of Skyrim, led by the winged man bull Morihaus, also assisted in the rebellion. Assaulted on three sides, the fall of the Ayleids’ empire was inevitable. Umaril the Unfeathered was slain in battle by the warrior Pelinal Whitestrake at White-Gold Tower. Pelinal himself did not survive; he was trapped and slain immediately after by the Ayleids’ sorcery, and his body was cut into eight pieces. With the Ayleids defeated, White-Gold Tower became the centre of Alessia’s new kingdom.
Although the Ayleids had been conquered and the ruling of Tamriel had changed hands from elves to men, the Ayleids still inhabited Cyrodiil for many years. Some of the Ayleid cities remained as client-states to the new Alessian Empire and many of the Ayleids who had assisted Alessia in the defeat of their kin were granted new lands. However, the humans were bitter at the presence of the Ayleids. Many Ayleid settlements in human ruled lands were destroyed, and with the rise of the Alessian Order founded by Marukh, the Ayleid lordships were eventually abolished in 361. The last of the Ayleids abandoned Cyrodiil, travelling to the provinces of High Rock and Valenwood where they joined the elven populations there.
Remembered throughout Tamriel as arrogant Daedra lovers and tyrannical overlords, the Ayleids were also talented builders and gifted in the arcane ways of magic. Their impact on the world lives on in the form of White-Gold Tower, which has become a symbol of both Imperial authority and magical beauty, and in the veneration of their ancestors, which translates today as the worship of the Aedra, the Eight Divines.
[ Further Reading ]
Andy Lex Bain is a 31 year old writer who resides in Tasmania. He enjoys writing, reading, writing video game reviews, gaming, writing fiendish campaigns for his roleplaying club "The Blades of Valour", cosplaying, bushwalking and watching movies, DVDs and anime. He aspires to be a full-time published author and basically spends his days slaving away at his computer, ShadowLord.