Eye of Argonia - Black Marsh Province Mod

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Atrayonis
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Statement of Intention

Eye of Argonia is a dummy province mod, intended to coordinate assets within Tamriel_Data, maps and lore between Tamriel Rebuilt, Province Cyrodiil, and Beyond Skyrim (where feasible) and serve as a platform to plug a hole in the Morrowind Kalpa that needs to be filled.
It is not going to be in "active" development until such a time that its development would no longer negatively affect the small manpower pools in the other province mods. For now, the initial heightmap ESP exists to fill in mapping space, and no further CS activity is planned.

There is not, to the best of my knowledge, an actual Black Marsh mod being developed right now. If there is, this project is going to take second seat to it, of course.

Overview

Black Marsh is the province least under the control of the Empire. Although "The Argonian Account" is entertainment literature, its portrayal holds a strong kernel of truth.
The Septim Empire controls several "first wave" settlements, these either subverted preexisting Argonian settlements through violent effort, or built on top of older, ruined ones. These are the cities near the ocean, or major waterways, and generally the district centers and major trade hubs. As Black Marsh is a net drain on the Empire, their population number has been artificially inflated and they cannot exist at their current size without outside trade and subsidies.
Many more "second wave" settlements exist to support trade routes and supply legion bases and prison complexes. Most of these are colonial villages in the style of Raven Rock. All but a few of them exist because the Empire desires it, and without subsidies they would be abandoned and fall into ruin.
More of Black Marsh is in native hands, ruled by Argonians who have no desire to deal with the Empire or are in abstract opposition to it. While the secular Argonians have adopted or at least understand Imperial customs and are recognizeable as "normal", the An-Xileel are political mystics who have little love for the Empire, while the Taj Eel Xa'nith are a violent resistant movement, originally centered around the Arnesian Jungle region but spreading along the Cyrodiilic border as well.
More of Black Marsh is wilderness. Here, Hist cultists, feral bandits, and arch-heretics hole up in sunken ziggurats or well-defended caves while the Empire's prisoner-soldiers are trying to make a living and instill civilisation in the worst place on Tamriel.

Faction Design Notes

Secular Argonians

The average Sahxleel has accepted or is at least aware of the Septim's rule of Black Marsh. They live in cities or villages which woule be recognizeable to a foreigner, and while they may worship the Hist (some few are also go "cult shopping" as lay members of the Nine Divines' Imperial Cult), they are nice enough to get along with. The peasants are ignorant, the nobility corrupt, the few members of the Imperial Guilds are sort of weird, but other than their private nature, these are the Argonians you could encounter everyhwere in the Empire. Murderous bandits included.

An-Xileel

The first Argonian political movement, the urban An-Xileel are staunch supporters of a modern (theobureocratic) Black Marsh state. Relatively anti-Imperial, they believe that Black Marsh has been politically stunted by misrule and corruption at least since the priest-kingom was supplanted by a western monarchy. Extremists in the An-Xileel believe the misrule to be deliberate and take a dim view on foreign ideas in Argonian heads, while the mainstream moderates merely believe that the Cyrodiils simply cannot understand Black Marsh properly, as they have no connection to its roots and the Hist god-trees.
Since their resolute loss of a peasant uprising near Soulrest, the extremists are however on the decline.

Taj Eel Xa'nith

Originally a resistance movement against the encroaching Dunmer slavers, the aftermath of the Arnesian war and the annexation of most of the Arnesian Jungle saw an upsurge in membership and radicalisation of the movement. Now racially and violently opposed to non-Argonians, the Taj Eel Xa'nith have spread their influence to most small villages in the northern and western parts of Black Marsh, where they conduct bloody raids against smoothskins and foreign-born Argonians.
Design Note: in the future, the Taj Eel Xa'nith will fuse with and take over the An-Xileel, turning them into the kind of radical pro-Argonian nationalists that would invade and kill their way across a different province the first chance they get.

Hist Cultists

Tribal societies, clustered around hamlets and Hist mangroves. Hippies and cultists. No overarching government.

Syncretic Cult of Seth

The Brotherhood of Seath has been the dominant cult in the city of Gideon since they left the Remanite Cyrodiil.
Decades later, a group of cultists wandered off into Murkwood to find enlightenment and ran across Hist Cultists. What emerged out of the jungle resembles one third Nibenese Cult, one third Hist Cult, and one third something else.
Worst of all, Seth or whatever is posing as it, is responding to their prayers in a fashion untraceable by outsiders, and it has changed the cult profoundly.

Today, they dominate the city of Helstrom (where the Empire cannot reach them), several outlying villages in the swampy interior of the province, and seek to spread their influence. Many cities in Black Marsh have one or two cells of Sethites, and they are trying to reach northwards to Narsis.
Design Note: an Arena religion, the Brotherhood of Seth is scaled down to local levels and takes over some of the Lore behind the Dark Brotherhood, including the Shadowscales, as the Dark Brotherhood is in line with its vanilla Morrowind portrayal: a worldly guild of professional assassins in opposition to the cooky death cultists of the Morag Tong.

The Empire

The Empire is struggling to regain control after the recent uprising around Soulrest.
The capital of Lilmoth is under continued political threat by the An-Xileel, the Taj Eel Xa'nith are creating trouble, Helstrom continues to be a unreachable festering wound that oozes assassinations and cultists, and threats of aggressive pirates from the east are causing unrest in the fortress-harbor of Thorn.

The only booming enterprises in Black Marsh are the notorious prison complexes in Blackrose and Stormhold, and they are always receiving guests.

Mages Guild and Imperial Archeological Society

Both guilds are interested in Black Marsh for its murky history.

The Mages Guild tends to send its most hopeful alchemist apprentices to train in Black Marsh as well as its malcontents, which turns a lot of young, ambitious people loose on an underfunded bureocracy, making the guild halls no less lethal than the swamps.

Design Note: the main quest of Eye of Argonia, the search for the relic in question (which ultimately would not be found) would be sponsored by the IAS.

East Empire Company

Tasked with sustaining trade across the eastern provinces, a lot of "second wave" settlements are ruled over by mercantile nobility sponsored and at the mercy of the EEC.
Turning a profit in Black Marsh is often like wringing blood from a stone, and with the peasant uprising around Soulrest, the EEC's focus has turned away from the big plantation and logging and back to the little rest-stop hamlets. Suddenly forced to turn a profit, local magnates and nobles are scrabbling for whatever riches they can get their hands on and mercenaries and adventurers are in high demand.

Notable Settlements

Lilmoth

Capital of Black Marsh and seat of the Imperial King.

Gideon

A city which for all intents and purposes is a Nibenese city, with the Brotherhood of Seth (the original one) as the ruling cult and political power.

Stormhold

Nearly a border pass to Morrowind, trade that fuels lesser settlements passes through Stormhold from Narsis.

Thorn

A massively fortified city and harbour located in the Thornmarsh coast, Thorn is the major seat of Imperial power on the eastern coast and one of the few harbours which is capable of servicing the massive Imperial warships.
Set to protect the entire east of Tamriel from smugglers, pirates, and an invasion from Akavir, the legionnaries were forced to sit by idly as Dunmer and Argonians slaughtered each other during the Arnesian War and many have taken to various vices.

Misc. Things

Kothringi

The silver-skinned human race continues to be extinct.

Lilmothiil

The vulpine beast race, thought to be related to the Khajiit, continues to be extinct.

Cantemiric Velothi

The Cantemiric Velothi inhabited what is now the Arnesian Jungle before it was flooded during the last first era. Most of their strongholds remain at the bottom, underneath the massive root network.

The Cantemiric Velothi themselves migrated north and joined mainstream Dres society.

Ayleids

Ayleid ruins are centered around the border to Cyrodiil. Lore developed for Province: Cyrodiil takes precedence.

Terrifying Daedric Foe's picture
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A modder known as zackg was working on an Argonia mod some years ago. I seem to remember him making some models, with some screenshots shown on some other forum somewhere on the internet, but nothing substantial was made and the project, such as it, is now dead.

This is a good idea to collate everything in one place so province mods can offer a consistent vision of Tamriel.

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His laptop actually got stolen and he had no backup for it.

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Atrayonis
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There is supposedly some TESIII Black Marsh mod project stealthily ongoing, but they are very secretive (if it's even real).

For other mods, Silgrad Tower attempted to make one for Oblivion, there's this thing and of course Beyond Skyrim has one in the making as well.

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Atrayonis
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Elaboration on the Brotherhood of Seth. Did pass muster of Gnomey and Infragris, so it can plopped into TR and P:C if so desired.

Official History

The original Cult of Seth began and evolved during the stifling, absolute rule of the Marukhati order of the Alessian Empire.

While monotheistic worship of The One was the state religion, the rulers of the Empire encouraged minor cults to form in supplication of the cult of The One, offering lesser deities to glorify the chief position of the one, true God. The “Cult of Sethis” formed as one such cult, its followers worshiped an approved version of Sithis as the indescribable action of The One. Even at that time, the nature of its mystery made it attractive to persecuted Nocturnal cultists, who used it as a cover to secretly worship the Ur-Dra.

 

During the centuries between the collapse of the Marukhati state and the emergence of the Reman Empire, the new era of intellectual freedom changed the Cult as well. Worship of the mystery became more overt and “The One” became downplayed, with the indescribable action becoming more and more prominent in itself.

Over time, “Seth” had become the indescribable (mortal) action warring against (divine) will. Attractive not only to the old worshipers of Sethis, would-be rationalists, a second cabal of Nocturnal worshipers, and death cultists that viewed mortal action as agency over life and death. During the late Reman Empire, the cult had essentially split into three sub-cults held together by a council of Elders.

 

Before this identity crisis could be resolved or the cults split, the Reman Empire collapsed into the Akaviri Potentate. The cult left an increasingly hostile Cyrodiil shortly afterwards and migrated to the barely civilized frontier cities of Black Marsh, settling in the town of Gideon. Soon enough they were the unofficial rulers of the city, which they remain to this day.

 

Cult activities include the furthering of natural philosophy, mystic rationalization, and a focus on the stars and planets as representatives of the Gods. “Seth, the Black God” stands for a void in common divine influence, the supplanting of natural order with mortal intellect.

Cult activities often involve the ritual extinguishing of candles, recitation of mathematical mantras under the influence of drugged incense, and fortune telling by using entrails of sacrificial animals (which, in Black Marsh, are naturally not goats or pigs).

 

Various scatted cells of the Cult of Seth exist all over Black Marsh, some of them little more than a front for the Dark Brotherhood or local murder cults. The cult elders in Gideon are taking an active interest in stamping out these heresies, often with the help of unaffiliated mercenaries.

Despite their efforts, Gideon remains “the Black City”, an eerie place that many avoid if they can and those in the know believe that the assassins are cultists and there is some deep, dark secret hiding in Gideon.

 

Secret History

During the early second era, the unified teachings and rituals of modern times didn’t exist yet. Several sub-cults existed: renewed veneration of the Ur-Dra‘s mystery, attempts to intellectually connect the pseudo-god Seth to Sithis, a philosophical understanding of the divine as states in contrast with mortal actions, and worship of the Serpent stars were the most prominent ones.

 

Fascinated by the Argonian Hist worship and dissatisfied with the consolidating cult and its emerging intellectual and dry nature, a large but internally divided group set off into the swamps of inner Black Marsh to learn more and spread their own teachings in turn.

 

After long travels, they encountered aberrant Hist worshipers near the impenetrable swamps of central Black Marsh. After an agreement was reached, they underwent various vision quests, involving Hist Sap, Nibenese drugs, and assorted poisons said to originate from Vaermina‘s realm.

 

They contacted, or believe to have contacted, an entity associated with or residing in the outer void. Conceiving as alternatively a black Hist, a goat with too many horns, an inverted dodecahedron, or an emaciated woman holding a skeletal baby, the presence bored into the minds of the questers. Their own world now seemed too lively and unbearably colorful in comparison, and when they woke up the next day, they found themselves changed both physically, mentally, and spiritually.

 

The newly-formed Brotherhood of Seth (now alternatively the “Black Tree”, “Dread Father”, or “Dark Mother”) went out to murder the world piece by piece. Capable of supplanting the Argonian bond with the Hist and forming similar bonds and sharing the vision with outsiders, they proved themselves capable survivors and eventually supplanted their parent Cult in Gideon, although it survives as testing ground for new members and containment for the members that are too squeamish to advance in rank and into the inner mysteries.

 

For those in the know, the “true” Brotherhood can be contact with arcane rituals or trances. They will murder a target for a price paid in blood, money, or other things. Many rulers of Black Marsh have contacted the Cult of Seth in order to murder their rivals, and often the price was paid in peasant lives.

 

Cells are spread all across Black Marsh, often as part of traditional and unsuspecting Argonian villages. Feelers have started to reach into southern Cyrodiil, southern Morrowind, and eastern Elsweyr since the Simulacrum.

Several low-level conflicts exist with the Dark Brotherhood, who have successfully been trying to establish a foothold in Black Marsh and the Morag Tong, who does not accept unsanctioned assassins in Morrowind.

 

The Tennets

The Cult of Seth is first and foremost focused on sending souls to their Dread Father/Black Mother to lessen the vibrancy of the world and bring it closer to the void. They believe their instrument to be murder with ritually prepared knives.

In truth (and the leadership is aware of this) their own souls are sent to Seth after a life of murder and assassinations while their victims are recycled in the Dreamsleeve. Only neophytes would balk at this, as the veterans and fanatics of the Cult are too enamored with the sterile outer void to fear it and have consumed too much of Seth’s black sap to live in the mundane world anymore.

The Cult associates itself with darkness at all levels. Whereas they reject the cults of Namira and Nocturnal as too illuminated and avataresque, they feel a certain kinship to the void between the stars.

Children born under the signs of the Shadow and the Serpent are often kidnapped or donated by lay Cultists and grow up in the cult, killing since a young age. Argonians, the most numerous of the Cult’s rank and file, raised this way are called “Shadowscales” and are the Cult’s most well-known assassins within Black Marsh.

 

Implementation

The Brotherhood of Seth exists primarily to “absorb” the Dark Brotherhood niche that Oblivion, Skyrim, and ESO turned the formerly worldly assassin’s guild into.

Sethite cells should be found in several of the Argonian settlements around Helstrom (the unofficial capital of the Cult) and as cave interiors in the wilderness. NPCs should have the faction association, but nothing else. Deliberately chosen topics would alert the player that the Argonian farmer is actually a Cult member, leading to a certain feeling of low-level hostility.

Their impact should primarily be antagonistic, perhaps as part of the Imperial Legion questline of EoA. Sethite cult cells could replace generic bandit caves in Black Marsh’s interior, and dead Dark Brotherhood members (perhaps with a sigil in their inventory) would add to the mystery.

Ultimately, for the player in the know, they should invoke the sort of cosmic horror that the Daedra should have been. The Black Tree is purported to be something from beyond the stars, older than Anu, and even those that contact it via secondary means (corrupted Hist sap, which in itself is worrysome) are irrevocably driven insane.

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Apologies if the following question is nonsensical given lore established by TR/other province mods/been hashed on IRC, and my possibly faulty memory if the question is explicitly answered in Morrowind or earlier lore, but are foreign born Argonians even a thing?

The Argonian life cycle is, to the best of my recollection, so intertwined with the Hist can Argonians be born outside of Black Marsh and still be Argonians in any sense of the word without access to the Hist sap often said to be responsible for both their forms and intelligence? And if their are Argonian populations native to other regions (in the sense of being born in them) then does that imply that Hist sap or even live trees, as seen in Oblivion, are extensively exported from Black Marsh to the other provinces to support those Argonian populations? 

That would then, be a commodity which the Empire would likely try to control, as well as something that would completely dominate the reproduction life (at least) of Imperialized Argonians in the other provinces, which in turn, could provide both quest hooks in the current province mods, as well as a quest chain in any hypothetical Argonia mod. And provide some way for Imperial rulers forced to extract something they value from the province to make a profit.

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Atrayonis
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It's not a nonsensical question.

Foreign born Argonians are very much a thing. While they don't ingest hist sap (and as such don't carry bits and pieces of the Hist soulmass within them), they are about as sapient and capable as any other Argonian. They might be lacking some inherent understanding or spirituality that the native born Argonians have, but the difference would be subtle.

The Hist sap was responsible for uplifting the tree-climbing lizards of Black Marsh, but it's not some sort of a drug whose absence will regress the Argonians: once uplifted (and it wasn't intentional on part of the Hist to begin with), they are going to stay uplifted. As such, the whole hist sap smuggling and selling business is not going to happen.

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Rulers from Arena, and their settlement's political rivals:

(Settlement names in bold for easier reading)

City-States:
-King Herula of Archon, rivals are Lilmoth and Thorn
-King Claudios of Blackrose, rival is Lilmoth
-Queen Demia of Gideon (the city, not the religious order which has a base in the city), rival is Soulrest
-King Germanus of Helstrom, rival is Stormhold
-Queen Artomeda of Lilmoth, rivals are Archon and Blackrose
-Queen Heciana of Soulrest, rival is Gideon
-Queen Aphiana of Stormhold, rival is Helstrom
-King Tibus of Thorn, rival is Archon

Towns
-Prince Pilerius of Greenspring, rival is Tenmar Wall
-Duke Germanicus of Tenmar Wall, rival is Greenspring
-Princess Tabiana of Riverwalk, rival is Greenglade
-Baroness Macedetera of Greenglade, rival is Riverwalk
-Prince Demetrus of Moonmarch, rival is Rockgrove
-Count Diocletate of Rockgrove, rival is Moonmarch
-Baroness Demetera of Seaspring, rival is Rockpark
-Princess Dematea of Rockpark, rival is Seaspring

Villages
-Lord Tibius of Alten Corimont, rival is Rockpoint
-Lord Augusterius of Rockpoint, rival are Alten Corimont and Alten Markmont
-Lord Augustrandos of Alten Markmont, rival is Rockpoint
-Lady Judiana of Alten Meirhall (forgot to look for its rival and too lazy to go back and look atm, but will in the future)
-Lady Niketera of Branchgrove, rival is Portdun Mont
-Lord Diacletate of Branchmont, rival is Riverbridge
-Lord Caligias of Chasecreek, rival is Branchmont
-Lord Caligius of Chasepoint, rival is Stonewastes
-Lord Diacletian of Stonewastes, rivals are Chasepoint and Glenbridge
-Lady Niketera of Glenbridge, rival is Stonewastes
-Lord Julos of Longmont, rival is Rockspring
-Lady Hecatea of Portdun Mont, rival is Branchgrove
-Lord Demetrius of Riverbridge, rivals are Branchmont and Seafalls
-Lord Hericus of Rockguard, rival is Glenbridge
-Lady Athatea of Seafalls, rival is Riverbridge
-Lord Tibides of Rockspring (didn't realize UESP doesn't have the rival listed, once again I'll do this later)

Rawr.