They were the first. The first to sit upon the Ruby Throne. The first to call the White Gold Tower home.
They were the first to raise a mighty Empire, but after rebellion would soon retire
Much like their lost Dwemer cousins, the Ayleids were a magnificently sophisticated race who cradled their civilization, only to have it ripped away from them, leaving Tamriel to pick up the pieces. Many have forgotten that it was the Ayleids who laid the groundwork for the great Empires raised throughout Tamriel’s history.
Though not as technologically advanced as the Dwemer, culturally the Ayleids were well ahead of their time. The Ayleids, with their many diverse kingdoms, were the first to dream of unity. While the young, savage races of men, were still huddled around campfires, Ayleid ingenuity had erected vast cities, towering moments, and their society was the envy of the Nine Provinces.
In ancient times the Ayleids dominated Tamriel’s central-most province of Cyrodiil, and so they are given the name “Heartland High Elves”, “High Elves” because like all elves on Tamriel, the Ayleids came out of the High Elves of the Summerset Isles. Thanks to their high born ancestry the Ayleids boast big intellects and agile frames like the rest of their race. As for their appearance, like all elves, they were thin and lean with pointed ears and angular facial features.
“From fire, life, from light, magic.”
To say the Ayleids were gifted in the arcane arts is a bit of an understatement. This conclusion can be drawn from many of their ancient cities, that still dot Cyrodiil’s landscape today. Their ruins contain stones filled with magicka essences. Upon further study, scholars have been able to gather that the Ayleids found a way to harvest magical energy from the stars themselves; a process that hasn’t been replicated since. Using these magical stones Ayleid mages could replenish their magical energy, making them last longer in confrontations. With enough stones an Ayleid mystic could cast spells unhindered by the limitations of their mortal body.
On the note of harvesting magical energy, a visitor to Cyrodiil will often stumble across great white basins called Ayleid Wells. These wells are unlike anything found in the Nine Provinces, and possibly beyond. They are known to passively harvest magical power from starlight. Those with the skill can draw magicka from Ayleid Wells to restore their own reservoirs of magical power. A mage that has been exhausted of his or her energy needs only to seek out these wells. You can see how beneficial this could be, both in everyday activity, as well as in the defense of Ayleid settlements. Once drained, Ayleid Wells replenish again at midnight, when the nighttime sky is at it’s height of influence.
Another magical feat of strength attributed to the Ayleids was the creation and maintaining of Varla Stones. Varla Stones are remarkably powerful devices that enabled the Ayleids to restore magical energy to enchanted items. An enchanted sword for instance can wield enchantments of fire, ice, and lightning; and a Varla Stone keeps these enchants at maximum power by continuously feeding the enchant with magicka require to maintain itself. Because of their great value and utility, it is assumed Ayleid soldiers carried these stones onto the battlefield. Since Varla Stones are relatively small and easily concealed, you could see how an Ayleid infantryman could carry them on their person. A sword that slashes and pierces is good, a sword that melts armor is better.
On top of these incredible accomplishments of arcane enginuity, Tamriel credits the Ayleids for developing what came to be called the school of Alteration. The race as a whole was particularly gifted at levitation and shapeshifting. Alteration also helped keep Ayleid battlemages safe with powerful defensive wards.
As you’ve probably noticed by now, as a race, the Ayleids weren’t afraid to tap into the more supernatural mysteries of Tamriel, in order to gain an edge. Magic was a revered part of their society, and it bled through into their religion.
In accordance with High Elf religion, the Ayleids believed the earth was composed of four basic elements: earth, water, air, and light. The most spiritual form an element could take was starlight, as the stars were the link between Mundus and Aetherius. Mundus being our mortal plane of existence, and Aetherius being the immortal plane of the Aedra. Among the mortal races, the Aedric spirit Magnas is credited for bringing magic to Tamriel and Mundus. When Magnas left Mundus to pass into the Aedric realm of Aetherius, he is said to have torn a veil between the two realms giving us the sun and stars, enabling mortals to draw magic from the heavens. This is why when you see an Ayleid well, or other basin of magical energy it appears to be reaching out toward the sky.
The Ayleids recognized the Aedra’s role in giving them their magical abilities, and so as a people, these Heartland High Elves worshipped the Aedra. On this note, you might find it interesting that Tamriel has all but forgotten the original purpose of the iconic White Gold Tower. The tower wasn’t originally built for Kings and Emperors. The tower was built by the Ayleids, as a monument to Aedra. In ancient times the White Gold Tower was called the Temple of the Ancestors, referring to the ancestors of the elves, the immortal Aedra.
For most of the other races on Tamriel worship stops at the Aedra or the Daedra, but for the Ayleids, power meant these lines had to be crossed. Instead of limiting themselves by worshipping one side over the other, the Ayleids chose to praise the Aedra while conspiring with the Daedra, a most interesting choice considering the two immortal groups are always at odds. The Heartland High Elves built great monuments to the Aedra in hopes of peace in the next life, while openly bargaining with the Daedra for more power in this life. So great became the influence of Daedra on Ayleid culture, that the Heartland Elves commanded massive armies of Daedric minions. Wielding both the power of the Daedra through powerful armies, and the power of the Aedra through magical prowess, the Ayleids brought an entire province under their control by enslaving the races of Men residing in it. A sin they would one day pay greatly for.
A Brief History
“The foaming wave, so thunderous, so mighty, heralds the lordly Elves.”
The story of the Ayleids is one of migration, domination, and ultimately self-destruction. Like all Tamrielic elves, the story of the Ayleids starts on the mysterious continent of Aldmeris. From Aldmeris the ancient Aldmer migrated to the Summerset Isles. Why the Ayleids eventually broke off from their elven brethren is unknown to us, but we can assume this division occurred for the same reason the Dark Elves found themselves in Morrowind, because worship of the Daedra was not tolerated in Summerset. Regardless of how they came to be there, the Ayleids would find themselves in Cyrodiil in a time before the First Era.
How the Ayleids came to rule all of Cyrodiil can be attributed to their incessant need for power. It was this ambition that drove these elves to do truly magnificent, and truly terrible things; all in the name of progress. The Ayleids of this ancient Era saw breakthroughs, and rose structures that baffles scholars in the modern Era. The Heartland High Elves produced wonders, such as the Welkynd Stone, that Wizards today can’t reproduce. Given all their skills and feats though, the Ayleids craved more. They went on to employ entire armies of Daedra to conquer, subjugate, and enforce their rule in Cyrodiil. At first the Men of Cyrodiil managed to resist the Ayleids, but they could not withstand their Daedric allies. Through their pact with the Daedra the Ayleids dominated and enslaved the Men of Cyrodiil. They rose their great Temple, and ever since, the White Gold Tower has stood as a symbol of dominance in Cyrodiil. He who holds the tower, holds the reins of the province. The First Empire Tamriel had ever seen was claimed in the name of the Ayleids.
Slaves were utilized by the Ayleid Empire for a variety of purposes, but their main purpose was the building and maintenance of their empire’s infrastructure. The Men of Cyrodiil had the Elves to answer to, and the Elves had to answer to the Daedra. Daedric masters demand many things in exchange for power, chief among them, sacrifices. According to legend, some Ayleids turned cruelty into an art form. Various Ayleid settlements became famous for their elaborate methods of torturing their slaves. One such method involved the setting ablaze of human children.
The Heartland High Elves ruled Cyrodiil for many generations, and although their power was absolute they did not know contentment. For reasons now lost to us, the Ayleids took to fighting amongst themselves, in a civil war that would one day spell their races downfall. You see, civil war left the Ayleids weak, and word had reached the slaves in Cyrodiil about the events taking place in Skyrim.
At this time Skyrim had emerged from a war of it’s own. The race of Men who called themselves Nords had overthrown the Snow Elves who once ruled the province of Skyrim. The stories up north inspired the slaves now serving under an Elven Empire at war with itself.
Skyrim lent aid to their enslaved relatives under the Ayleid Empire, and in only a year the Slave Queen Alessia, stood outside of the White Gold Tower with an army at her back. After millennia of rule the Ayleid Empire fell, giving way to the Alessian Empire, securing the shift of power from Elves to Men on Tamriel henceforth.
The story of how the Daedra-loving Ayleids fell to their human slaves is one that has been retold time and again. It has served as a kind of rallying cry for the Nords, Imperials, and other races of Men on Tamriel. A story of how the oppressed can overthrow his oppressor, even if the oppressor is a High Born elf. The story that isn’t often told, is the one of how the Ayleids actually assisted Man in their quest for freedom.
Not every Ayleid was the pompous power-hungry elf the stories would have you believe. As a matter of fact, there were whole Ayleid settlements that had no part in the Ayleid Empire. When the human slaves of the Ayleid Empire rebelled, many Ayleid Lords pledged their swords in support of the Slave Queen, and they died on the battlefield fighting side-by-side with Men.
By the end of the slave rebellion the Ayleids were far from the “extinct” race they are today. As as a matter of fact, the Ayleid Lords that assisted in the rebellion were integrated into the newly formed Alessian Empire as Vassals and Royal Advisers to the Queen and the new human nobility. This arrangement only made sense, seeing as who, if not the Ayleids, knew the logistics of maintaining an Empire. History has failed us, because it has mostly forgotten that the first human Empire was one comprised of both Man and Elves.
Despite these truths, bad feelings and resentment would ultimately determine the fate of the Ayleid race. Alessia’s passing marked the rising of a religious group called the Alessian Order, and they had strong opinions about the old Ayleid masters. It’s Doctrines called for the expulsion of the entire elven race. The Ayleid lordships were abolished, and feeling no welcome to stay in Cyrodiil, the remaining Ayleids left the province upon their own free will. Now driven from the land they had resided in for generations, the Ayleids were a people without a home. Once the very beacon of civilization on Tamriel, the other mortal races now call the Ayleids “Wild Elves”, because they are without a home.
Although their race hasn’t been seen for centuries, it’s possible the Ayleids are still out there- somewhere. Besides, whether the Imperials will admit to it or not, their ancient legacy lives on through them. Although we have no “pure” Ayleids left in civil society, their bloodlines carry on. After the Wild Elves left Cyrodiil, some of them found solace in the province of High Rock. There they are only assumed to have intermingled with the humans who called High Rock home. The Bretons are, after all, part elf and particularly gifted in the ways of magic. But that, is a story for another day.