You could certainly call it a wasteland. Rocks and sand as far as the eye can see. It’s hard to believe anything could live here, it’s harshness has been readily compared to the treacherous swamps of Black Marsh. Hammerfell is the barren scab of Tamriel. An unforgiving place that seems to want to kill anything living in it. It’s dry climate, and sparse vegetation makes it home to only the fittest. Poisonous snakes, troublesome goblins, and scorpions the size of horses roam the Alik’r desert killing anything the land hasn’t already claimed. Why would anything want to live here? How could anything live here?
There are a people that not only survive in the lands cruel embrace, they thrive on it. The Redguards didn’t originate on Tamriel, and yet they were the ones who tamed Hammerfell.
And who else if not the Redguards? Their dark complexion, agility, athletic frame, and curved swords are tailored for survival. Along with the Nords and Orcs, they are more muscular than the other mortal races, which has in no small part, lent itself on the battlefield. They are considered by most to be the most naturally talented warriors in Tamriel. Their pride and fierce independence is on par with that of the Dark Elves. This outlook on life makes the Redguards excellent scouts and skirmishers.
The great battles throughout Tamriel’s checkered past has proven that the Redguards excel the most when they fight in smaller groups, rather than large standing armies. The rest of Tamriel recognizes this, and Redguards are some of the most well employed mercenaries in the Nine Provinces.
The Redguards have claimed military superiority on land, as well as sea. Like every civilization, the Redguards have been shaped by their homeland. Their seafaring heritage has made their navy into a force to be reckoned with. Their naval prowess has made the Redguards the undisputed rulers of the sea. Even the Empire’s best armadas have proved no match for the Yokudan fleet.
As a race of sailors and adventurers the Redguards don’t typically limit themselves to one armor style or dress, although their desert environment has them sporting their distinctive headdress. No, as travelers the Redguards prefer to experience all the world has to offer. They have a cultural affinity for many weapon and armor styles. Since many of them freelance as sellswords, it isn’t an uncommon thing to see a Redguard dressed head to toe in many different armor sets from many different cultures.
Culture & Society
Their culture does have it’s own unique style as well. Braided hair, tattoos, war paint, and piercings are commonplace amongst the Redguards. They decorate their bodies almost as much as their lavish palaces.
Yokudan architecture is some of the most ornate you’ll find on Nirn. If you’re going to call a place home, might as well spare no expense. That is, for the people who can afford it. Like most societies, the Redguards have a class system, however it is distinctively unique in it’s own foreign way.
Ever since the Second Empire Redguard society has been formally divided into two political groups, who formed due to their places in society. The Crowns, and the Forebears. The Crowns are descended from the High King and nobility who ruled back in the Redguard homeland of Yokuda. They hold their old Yokudan tradition in high esteem, and greatly dislike foreigners. The Forebears are descended from the Ra Gada warrior class. They are the keen edge of the blade, the hardened warriors who cleared the way for Redguard civilization. Battle with the other Provinces has exposed the Forebears to other warrior cultures, such as the Nords. This exposure has made the Forebears more progressive than the Crowns, and thus, more accepting of other cultures into society.
Thanks to the Forebears, Redguard society is built on martial discipline. Every Redguard, no matter your station in life, is expected to have a grasp of basic weaponry and combat. The nobility are expected to also have a mind for strategy and military tactics. Only the strongest, fastest and most cunning Redguards are then accepted into one of Hammerfell’s many knightly orders.
They might have an affinity for the martial arts, but generally speaking the Redguards of Hammerfell shun the use of specific schools of magic. The practice of eastern magic is greatly frowned upon by both the Crowns and Forebears. Any foreigner using magic within Hammerfell’s borders could easily become the subject of persecution. Many of the Redguards believe magic is for the weak and wicked.
In their ancient lore, they have cautionary tales of Wizards who plague Nirn, stealing souls to store into gems, and tampering with minds, making brother fight against brother. In their eyes such magic has no place in civil society.
Now that’s not to say Redguard society is entirely civil itself. As we will learn, their history has been greatly influenced by their belief that violence is not only a fact of life, but a necessary means for growth.
A Brief History
The story of the Redguards is one of invasion, assimilation, and eventually expulsion. Though they most closely resemble the other races of Men, the Redguards have no ancestral ties with the Imperials of the Empire or the Nords of Skyrim. Nor does any Elven blood flow through their veins. No, the Redguards are something entirely different. Theirs is a story that begins on the lost continent of Yokuda, in an age lost in the sands of time.
Yokudan society was very advanced for its time. Yokudan navies were superior to those found among the Tamrielic kingdoms,and their astronomical knowledge, martial arts, agriculture, politics, and philosophy were the envy of the world. Yet, it was not meant to last. For reasons now lost to us, Yokuda’s fate was sealed as it slipped into the Azurian Sea in ancient times.
Most civilizations would have fallen along with their home, but the Yokudans were a seafaring people. Before it sank into the sea Yokuda had been nothing but a collection of large islands, so it was only natural that it’s people were bred for navigation. And so it was, the Yokudan fleet set sail to the east, in search of a new home, a new challenge.
The next chapter of Yokudan history was bloody one. As their refugees took solace on an island off the coast, the Ra Gada warrior class continued on to the mainland of Hammerfell. The Yokudans weren’t looking to make friends in Tamriel, nor did they. Men and Elves had already begun to settle the land, but that did not stop the Ra Gada from carving them out.
The Yokudan fleet was nothing short of an invasion, and the Ra Gada took the coasts Hammerfell’s by storm. Later when the rest of the refugees arrived on Hammerfell they erected their cities on the very ruins left behind by their warriors. Within a few short months the foreign invaders had replaced the Elven and Nordic forces who had fought over Hammerfell for centuries. From the rich and plentiful coastline, they launched assault after assault, eventually driving off the last Orcs who had also settled the region.
The Yokudans had raided and adapted to the land so fast, the other mortal races had no choice but to yield Hammerfell to it’s new masters. Tamriel was made to recognize their new neighbors as Redguards, a grammatical corruption of the word “Ra Gada”. The Redguards are considered “newcomers” to Tamriel, seeing as every other modern race had already emerged on the continent before the Ra Gada arrive on Tamriel’s shores.
Due their aggressive expansion you would think the other races of Tamriel would hold a grudge toward the Redguards, on the contrary they had become famous as warriors, having bested even the Orc Strongholds. No, it was actually the Redguards that scorned their neighbors. Seeing themselves as invaders, they saw the races of Tamriel as weak. Looking through the lens of a martial culture, the Redguards had little respect for those who couldn’t even defend their own lands. From their new home in Hammerfell the Redguards held complete independence from the other Provinces.
So fierce was their independence they wouldn’t even partake in economic trade with the other races until the Bretons and Orcs proved their worth in the Siege of Orsinium centuries later. This further proves you don’t earn a Redguards respect without holding your own on the field battle. This newfound respect for the Bretons and Orcs would lend itself to a new alliance in the dark days to come…
When Tamriel’s skies darkened in the later years of the 2nd Era, Hammerfell faced the largest invasion since the Yokudans themselves raided its coasts millennia ago. In attacking Hammerfell, Molag Bal issued his challenge to the Redguards, and they would gladly meet it, but not alone. In Hammerfell’s darkest hour an alliance was formed. The Bretons had earned their respect by spilling blood along side the Redguards centuries earlier, and it paved the way for the Daggerfall Covenant. Under the Covenant the Redguards fought side-by-side with the Orcs, and together they showed Tamriel the means for survival. Once the Daedric threat had subsided, the Covenant was disbanded, and the Redguards would be thrown into civil war.
So dawns the third Era, and Tiber Septim along with it. Many believed even Tiber Septim’s Imperials would fail to take Hammerfell from those raised from birth to defend it, yet when the Imperial Legions invaded the province they met with little resistance. Civil war had left the Redguards weaker than they had ever been, and in the chaos, the organization of the Legion reigned supreme.
Although they certainly did not ask for Septim’s Empire, the Redguards ended up benefitting immeasurably under its new regime. You could go as far as to say Tiber Septim did right by the Redguards, because under his rule their people spread across the face of Tamriel. The Forebears in particular welcomed the new opportunities and challenges the Empire had to offer them. Many Redguards went on to serve under the Imperial Legion, which did much to strengthen their military.
The division in Hammerfell society was not mended by joining the Empire, even to this day. In general, northern Hammerfell continued to be more traditionally Yokudan, in style, dress, and personality, and the southern lands, where the Forebears landed, tended to be more progressive by adapting to Imperial customs.
Following the Miracle of Peace, the Forebear kingdom of Sentinel grew to encompass the entirety of the northern coast of Hammerfell, shifting the balance of power, making Hammerfell even more Imperial in the coming centuries. Hammerfell’s people were adapting under the Empire more and more each day, but in classic Yokudan tradition, this growth would not come without blood.
A land dispute with the Bretons, and an invasion from Nords would sow the seeds of doubt in the minds of every Redguard. Hammerfell was losing land under Imperial Rule, and an Empire too weak to defend its land is no Empire worth keeping.
With the coming of the 4th Era the Great War had erupted. The Aldmeri Dominion marched on the White Gold Tower determined to deliver Tamriel back into the hands of the Elves. Even with the support of the other Provinces Emperor Titus Mede II proved weak, and in his cowardice he signed the White-Gold Concordat with the Dominion, and with it, he betrayed the whole of Hammerfell. As a part of their surrender, the Dominion was given large tracts of southern Hammerfell, leaving the Redguards to suffer the failure of its Empire.
The Aldmeri Dominion marched on Hammerfell to claim the land given to them by Titus Mede. A challenge the Redguards answered.
Though the Imperials left them to their fate, the Redguards refused to accept the burden of a crumbling Empire. In the end, the heroic Redguards met the Aldmeri Dominion on the battlefield of southern Hammerfell, and with ferocity, determination, and blood they single handedly brought the Dominion’s army to a standstill.
The Redguards say that their successful rebellion proves that the White-Gold Concordat was a mistake. If the coward Titus Mede had kept his nerve, the Aldmeri could have been truly defeated by the combined forces of Hammerfell and the rest of the Empire.
But he did not, and although Hammerfell proved strong enough to resist, the rest of the Empire grows weaker with each passing day. As it stands the Elves muster their forces in Valenwood, readying themselves to take back what it theirs by ancient right- but that, is a story for another day.