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Argonians or Saxhleel are an oviparous race of reptilian people native to the large and marshy province known as Black Marsh, a region of Tamriel. They can be found in smaller numbers throughout the continent.
Argonians are one of the few races completely unrelated to men and mer, being descended directly from the Hist. Enigmatic and intelligent, the Argonians are experts of guerrilla tactics, and their natural abilities suit their swampy homeland.
They have developed immunities to diseases that have plagued many would-be explorers in the region, and they are capable of easily exploring underwater locations due to their ability to breathe water. Argonians make proficient thieves, due to their superb lockpicking and sneaking skills. They are also very capable warriors and archers due to their constant use of guerrilla warfare against Warring Tribes or Dunmer slavers.
Argonians start out in life as eggs; when a clutch of Argonian eggs is laid, they are placed near Hist trees in areas known as hatching pools. When the eggs hatch, they form a connection to the Hist. If, for whatever reason, this connection to the Hist is not present or is severed, the unborn within the eggs die. This was used to terrible effect during the Three Banners War, when an Altmer alchemist named Ruuvitar nearly succeeded in wiping out an entire generation of unborn Argonians using a relic called the Mnemic Egg but was thwarted by the Vestige, though not before most of the Shadowfen eggs were destroyed.
After being born, Argonian hatchlings drink the sap of the Hist and continue doing this through their infancy. According to them, the sap of the hist tree, when drank, gives a hatchling its soul. When that Argonian dies, his soul travels back to its Hist tree and is stored until another hatchling drinks that Hist. Thus, the Hist is giving it a soul, and so the cycle repeats. It is unknown if a hatchling would really have a soul of its own without receiving one from the Hist.
Because of the birthing rituals in Black Marsh and the hatchlings' dependency on the Hist, it is considered rare for a hatchling to be born out of the province and away from the connection of the trees: but it is possible. One Argonian, named Ja-Reet, was born into slavery in the province of Morrowind, and was deprived of the Hist as a hatchling, but eventually returned to Black Marsh with a Dunmer woman that he had married. Although able to function in other societies, he was described as "disadvantaged" in Argonian society and unable to understand Argonian social cues and body language; this of course was blamed on his lack of connection to the Hist.
How Argonians go through maturity is rather debated and poorly understood; sometimes it is stated that when an Argonian grows through infancy the Hist sap that it licks from the tree determines its gender and appearance. Ja-Reet's case somewhat renders this mute: as he was born away from the trees and matured without the sap, becoming an adult male without the influence of the Hist.
Argonians have gills on their necks and are covered in scales. This gives Argonians the ability to breathe underwater, which has proven to be an advantage in combat with other races, especially in the swamps of Black Marsh. Argonians are trained in guerilla warfare and drown their enemies by dragging them to the water and holding them under. Soldiers walking alongside rivers, travelling on ships in the ocean or barges along the rivers have been attacked by Argonians that ambushed them from the water where they lay in wait. They then either kill them or they are forced to flee back into the water and vanish into the depths. Either way it is an effective strategy as they cannot be followed into the deeper oceans and rivers.
During their war with the Reman Empire, some Argonians built headquarters and camps on the bottom of lakes and rivers to guarantee safety. Even if they could be reached, the Argonian gills, fins, propelling tails, sharp teeth, claws, and underwater sight mean that fighting one in the water would be nothing short of suicide.
Argonians have very sharp reptilian teeth lining their mouths, which, if they are unarmed, can be used as an effective weapon. If an Argonian becomes a vampire, it appears to age tenfold and its eyes turn light red and nearly blank, though their pupils are still clearly visible. Argonians are the only playable race aside from the Khajiit to have tails. When swimming they use their tails to propel themselves as they glide through the water. An Argonian's tail is also used for balance which gives them an extra advantage in certain situations. This is one of the many reasons Argonians are effective as thieves and assassins. Female Argonians are also portrayed to have breasts, despite the fact that reptiles do not lactate.
Argonians have a wide variety of cranial features such as fins, feathers, ridges, spines, spikes, or horns. Female Argonians have been known to pierce their cranial features.
The Naga were a breed of Argonian who resembled puff adders with legs and arms and whose height ranged from seven to eight feet tall. They had black scales, black eyes, and large mouths full of fangs. They generally lived in the inner swamps of Black Marsh and had very little contact with the Imperials and other races that were not native to Black Marsh.
When an Argonian dies, their soul travels into the Hist trees, thus they pass on their memories to each new generation. However, it was shown that the memories can be lost in the "river's current", the passage of time, but if the knowledge is vital it will be recovered by the Hist. This is shown when the Hissmir Hist shows the inhabitants how to use Hist Amber to power the city's defenses against a Dominion attack. However, it is unknown what happens if an Argonian dies not in proximity to a Hist, if they still travel to the closest Hist, or if they simply cease to be, their memories lost forever.
Very little is known about the Argonian culture as of the Fourth Era. The difficult terrain within the Black Marsh, coupled with the apparent isolationist policies of the Argonians, renders this largely a mystery. It is known that great emphasis is placed upon the Hist, the strange trees that are abundant in the Marsh. Even what little is known about the Hist is the subject of much rumor and speculation. It is believed that the Argonians are somehow co-dependent upon the trees, and that the Hist forms some sort of hive-mind.
Marital customs among the Argonians is one of the few widely-known aspects of Argonian life. Unlike the citizens of Skyrim who prefer to marry using an Amulet of Mara, some Argonians adhere to their native marriage traditions. In Black Marsh, it is customary to present a lover with an Argonian Wedding Band, which is crafted by the courting member. Each ring is unique and has personal meaning to the creator and the recipient. The actual ceremony of marriage is very long and complex, and involves unique rituals, spoken in the native language of the Argonians.
However the part of their culture which is fully known to any outsider of Black Marsh, is the Argonian's expertise in Guerrilla Warfare. Centuries of cruel Dunmer slavery has caused the Argonians to rebel many times. Though Argonia as a whole throughout most of its history could never enter a full war with the Dark Elves. Instead they have mastered the way of ambushes and hit and run tactics to achieve their political aims.
Argonian culture in Black Marsh is not fully understood. Some evidence suggests that, like the Khajiit, the Argonian lifestyle is tribal. However, considering references to the Royal Court of Argonia and the existence of the Shadowscales, the presence of some form of organized Argonian government is very likely. In the past, the Argonians had a large and powerful enough civilization to build large, intricate pyramid structures called xanmeers. Yet because of the enslavement of most of their peoples by the Dunmer, they came to building small villages with mud huts. The xanmeers are left as uninhabited ruins scattered throughout Black Marsh.
The Argonians are a very insular people. This is due to the nature of their homeland, but also because Men and Mer typically view them as little more than beasts. Their long history of being captured as slaves has made Argonians very distrustful of strangers, but when an Argonian has made a friend, they will fight to the death to defend that friend.
The Argonians have no true allies among the other races of Tamriel. Most relations are neutral, with Argonians not really caring about the affairs of other races or nations. The only clear relations they have are negative, falling on the Dunmer and the Khajiit. The long history of being forced into slavery by the Dunmer, and lives spent in harsh treatment on their plantations in Morrowind have left most Argonians with a deep cultural hatred of the Dark Elves - a hatred which later led them to attack and occupy the weakened Morrowind during the Fourth Era.
An uneducated person would expect that the Argonians and the Khajiit would be the closest of allies, given their unique status as Beastfolk and their similar histories of being used as slaves. However, the Argonians despise the cat-men of Elsweyr, just as the Khajiit, in turn, hate the Argonians. The roots of this animosity can be traced to the Khajiit belief that an Argonian shaman was responsible for creating the Knahaten Flu which plagued the species and it's infrastructure. Each race sees the other as vastly inferior to themselves, and if it were not for the Imperial ruled Niben Bay separating the two provinces, it is likely that they would have gone to war long ago.
Not much specific information is known about the Argonian religion. However some knowledge about these unique beliefs are known to non-Argonians. The most important thing to understand about their religion is the close bond between the odd Hist tree and the Argonians. The Hist is a unique type of tree that grows all around Black Marsh and is looked highly upon by the inhabitants. This tree, according to the Argonians, is intelligent and fully conscious. It produces a special sap that gives Argonians visions and enlightenment to their souls. In fact, Argonian hatchlings drink the sap of the Hist at birth and infancy. According to them, the sap of the hist tree, when drank, gives a hatchling its soul. When that Argonian dies, his soul travels back to its Hist tree and is stored until another hatchling drinks that Hist. Thus, the Hist is giving it a soul, and so the cycle repeats. The Hist tree can telepathically talk to the Argonian that has drank the sap.
It also should be noted that the Hist and Argonians acknowledge Sithis as their master. Along with worship of the Hist, the Argonians believe that Sithis is the original, the creator, and the father. The Hist, in their eyes, is much like the Night Mother is to the Dark Brotherhood. To show respect and full loyalty to Sithis, since they worship the Hist as their god, every Argonian born under the sign of The Shadow is given to the Dark Brotherhood at birth and trained under the art of stealth and assassination. Therefore, one day, that Argonian can earn the rank of Shadowscale who serve Argonia as spies and assassins.
Some Argonians may break away somewhat from their common beliefs and worship the Divines as evident by Talen-Jei planning a marriage with Keerava under Maramal (a Priest of Mara). Another example would be Shahvee, who worships Zenithar.
Little is known of the ancient history of the Argonians during this Era, following the events of the Dawn Era, though this was thought to be the time when the Hist supposedly created the race. Largely removed from Tamriel's history during the Merethic Era, Argonian society was supposedly at its height during this time period; having an advanced civilization that built the great Xanmeer pyramids of Black Marsh. Mysteriously, sometime near the First Era, the Xanmeer society was wiped out from unknown causes. Possible blame for this may rest with the Ayleids' incursion into the region, or the catastrophic events of the Aldmeris war, which sank a large region of the Hists' domain into the sea and made Black Marsh as we know it today, but no one really knows.
Little is known about what occurred in Argonia or Argonians in general during much of the First Era, as the few Argonians that left the province were very rare and they themselves didn't talk about their history and preferred to integrate themselves into the larger Tamrielic cultures. The region and, by extension Argonians themselves, stayed independent of the Tamrielic Empire until the twenty-ninth century of the First Era.
It is known that there was a very successful enterprise of bandits and thieves that had long been exploiting the swampland of southeastern Tamriel, which was lead by most infamous of the brigadiers, "Red" Bramman. The coastline along the east of Topal Bay had become notorious for acts of piracy because of these Bandits and thieves, and in 1E 1033, the Empress Hestra demanded the head of Bramman.
After many an unsuccessful battle in the Bay, the Imperial Navy discovered the pirate-king's means of escaping capture: a narrow, winding river which emptied into the Bay near Soulrest, its mouth was screened by dense thickets of mangroves. The Imperial Fleet followed the course deeper into the heart of Black Marsh than any non-Argonian had ever been before. They eventually caught Bramman in his bandit kingdom not far from what is now called Blackrose, and took his head for the Empress.
The Argonians were defeated by the Reman Empire in 1E 2811 at the Battle of Argonia. Following this defeat, the Argonians retreated to Helstrom, where the Imperials would not follow them. Slave traders exploited the Argonians, and "entire tribes of Argonians were dragged in chains" to the Dunmer land. Warlord dynasties were formed by former Imperial officers, who "earned a reputation for tyranny even in those dark times".
The land that had once been a haven for Tamriel's criminals became its greatest prison state. Anyone considered too dangerous to hold in "civilized" dungeons in other Provinces was sent to Black Marsh.
Even less is known about Argonian history in the Second Era. The only known recorded event occurred in 2E 560, when the Argonians responded against their tyrannical oppressors with the Knahaten Flu. Whether the terrible Khahaten Flu arose from natural causes, or was created by an Argonian shaman in retaliation for his people's oppression is still a matter of debate, but its result is clear. The plague began in Stormhold in 2E 560, and quickly spread to every corner of Black Marsh, killing all those not of reptilian stock. For over forty years, it held the Province in its grip, destroying entire cultures, (notably, the Kothringi), and driving outsiders from the land.
Even when the land became habitable again, fear of the disease kept most outsiders away. House Dres of Morrowind continued to send slavers into the north, but few others saw any reason to trouble themselves with the land. Even Tiber Septim, it was said, thought twice before conquering Black Marsh for his new Empire. The borders of the province fell easily to his forces, but he wisely decided to avoid strategically unimportant inner swamps, and thus met with little resistance.
By the Third Era most of Argonia had been assimilated into the empire with the exception of Helstrom. Helstrom is in the center of "Murkwood", an area of marsh in the center of Argonia where it is almost impossible for non-Argonians to travel, so is the center of non-Imperial Black Marsh. This is also where the Arnesian War uprising, (which took place during the Imperial Simulacrum), saw the Argonians extract revenge for the slavery that they suffered from House Dres.
In approximately 3E 200, during the reign of Katariah, there was a massacre at the village of Armanias due to a lack of sufficient armor.
In the 398th year, Decumus Scotti was a senior clerk at Lord Vanech's Building Commission. He was tasked with improving trade in the region of Black Marsh.
It is believed that the Hist were able to prophesy the coming of the Oblivion crisis and were able to call the "people" back to Black Marsh. Furthermore, they were able to coordinate the defense of Black Marsh and defeated the forces of Mehrunes Dagon.
During the Oblivion Crisis, a faction known as the An-Xileel (an Argonian political faction comprised of several powerful clans, including the Scale-Song) rallied the Argonians against the Daedra after the Battle of Kvatch. When the Oblivion Gates opened in Black Marsh, the Daedra didn't so much flood into Argonia as the Argonians did into Oblivion. The natives fought and defeated the Daedra on their own turf, doing so with such success that the Dremora lieutenants actually closed their Gates themselves to prevent being overrun, an occurrence unheard of in the other provinces. Thus, the An-Xileel held Black Marsh until Martin Septim ended the Oblivion Crisis and closed the Gates forever. They also made Black Marsh the first province to secede from the Empire after the Crisis ended.
After the Oblivion Crisis, Argonia seceded from the Empire, making Black Marsh into an independent province. In the aftermath of the Red Year (4E 6), the Argonians invaded Morrowind, in an event called the Accession War. The war was used by the Argonians both to exact revenge on the Dunmer for their past enslavement of Argonians, and to conquer territories lost in the Arnesian War. The Argonians were repelled; however they were able to conquer most of southern Morrowind. They appear to be neutral to the ongoing hostilities between the Empire and the Third Aldmeri Dominion.
Black Marsh, (also known as "Argonia"), is one of the nine Provinces of Tamriel and the homeland of the Argonians. The Argonians are perfectly adapted to these swampland rainforests. The province is filled with "great inland waterways and impenetrable swamps". The dense forests, swampy inland rivers, and mangrove thickets make it nearly impossible to reach the interior of Black Marsh, unless an Argonian. Many explorers who are not Argonian usually end up dead either killed by the native fauna of Black Marsh or killed by disease and the Argonians. Because of this only the native Argonians can successfully travel the province.
The Dunmer of neighboring Morrowind have made a practice of raiding the region for slaves, and this is particularly practiced by members of House Telvanni.
- There are rumors of Argonians that have contracted a unique form of lycanthropy, and rather than becoming werewolves upon transformation, become creatures known as Werecrocodiles. They lurk in isolated swamps and spread the disease.
- There is an Argonian political faction called the An-Xileel, but there is little information about them, except they're composed entirely of Argonians, and that they pushed back Mehrunes Dagon's forces during the Oblivion Crisis in Black Marsh.
- The "Black Marsh" was the name given to the portion of Argonia that was conquered by the Imperial Empire in the First Era. Like Morrowind, it was "never successfully invaded, but instead, peacefully incorporated."
- The Hist, also known as the Trees of Argonia, are apparently co-dependent with the Argonians, with many examples of both relying on one another.
- The Shadowscales are Argonian assassins, born under the sign of The Shadow in Black Marsh. They are trained from childhood in the art of stealth and combat. They have historically been used by the King of Argonia as a means to end/prevent conflicts without major bloodshed, and without the general populous knowing.