Hlaalu Families Proposal Based on Skeleton Man Interview

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Vern's picture
Senior DeveloperInterior Reviewer
2018-08-13 09:52
Last seen:
4 min 58 sec ago

 Hlaalu Families Proposal Based on Skeleton Man Interview

Clan Hlaalu, the namesakes of the Great House, is both alive and large in modern day Morrowind with seven distinct families per the Skeleton Man interview:

Paulus Hlaalu: "The glory of the Indoril is long in the past. They once used their control of the Tribunal priesthood to dominate the other Houses, but their hegemony was overthrown during the Armistice, never to recover. House Hlaalu, of which I am blood kin, of the Seventh Family, of direct descent from Hlaalu Brevur (May We Seek Forever the Seyda Neen), now has undisputed mastery of the other four Houses. The day when Hlaalu is acknowleged as the only remaining Great House can now be foreseen with some assurance.

Clan Hlaalu got sidelined in a lot of old planning, so this write-ups meant to address that by expanding on the seven families with distinct identities that can be used for fluffing out the clans history and internal politics.

First Family

  • Direct descendants of the founder of the clan and the creators of the catacombs under what is now Narsis. The first family, while recognized as the senior branch, is less involved in house politics and has historically favored ceremonial roles within it and are generally more active in the temple. Guardianship of the catacombs and the family's ancestral tomb are the roles the first maintains above all.
  • Maintain their manor near the great temple of Narsis. (Not massive, but very well appointed with many relics of the clan across all seven families)
  • Don't really care about the empire, but hate the imperial cult.
  • Branch who perhaps unsurprisingly has the largest morag tong membership, though the least practical use of them.

Second Family

  • Descended from the second grandchild of the founder, the second family are the one outsiders are most familiar with. Their progenitor established a trade post to service those who came to inter their dead within the catacombs which grew quickly into the small town of Narsis. This marked the start of the Hlaalu clan growing into a proper house and with that the seconds progenitor is considered the true founder of House Hlaalu and their descendants have held the title of grandmaster most often through history.
  • The great Hlaalu clanstead houses the second familes many members, most importantly the grandmaster himself, and is the largest manor in Narsis. (And indeed is one of the most in all of Morrowind)
  • Leadership internally divided between being pro-cooperation (having been willing to back the empire before the armistice was even official) and a fairly vocal part of the family sympathizing with the camonna tong as they see their hold on power slipping as other clans become more and more powerful through imperial influence.
  • second or third children normally get sent around morrowind as representatives for the house.
  • The grandmaster of the House is of the second family, but is old and his grasp on the council is weak (description from the skeleton man interview)
  • Current duke of Narsis is also of the second family, the Grand Hlaalus grandson infact, who was kicked off of the council and his appointed successor blocked, as he attempted to hold both the council and ducal seats together which is a hard taboo. (Per dialogue Vedam Dren actually did step down from being grandmaster/councilor when he became Duke but implementation didn't match up)

Third family

  • Officially extinct, the third family are in fact scattered through the Kwoom tribes of the shipal highlands. The main household of the third family was exterminated during an early clan war with the second family over control of Narsis and so the majority fled the city, joining the wandering clans for safety and in time integrating within them. This caused quite a bit of tension between the wandering clans and the Hlaalu of Narsis, as the descendants of the third agitated the red khans into raiding narsis quite aggressively, in time though blood won out over the vengeance and marriage pacts turned the feud into a cornerstone of House Hlaalu's alliance and eventual suzrenity of the Kwoom. (Though that was/is a closely guarded secret of the House, as the Kwoom clans have historically been used by the Hlaalu when they wish to act with deniability.)
  • The branch most overtly hostile to the empire, though arguably the least of a threat given they cant attack Imperial insituions from within like some of the others can.


Fourth Family (The Hlaalo’s)

  • The loss of a third of the clan began the trend of families moving away from Narsis to establish themselves, rather than making challenges to the dominant branch, hence the Hlaalo family ( change made to overtly signal to the second family they had no design on challenging them) went west up the kanit river establishing several of the early farmsteads which would become the breadbasket of the house. The Hlaalo's lands technically being under the waters march rather than their kin house had always been a sore spot for them, making them some of the earliest proponents of the houses expansion and has led to them making many enemies outside the house over the years. Family is still mostly known for their plantations and have their manor near those lands.
  • The Family that's second most hostile to the empire and backs the CT pretty consistently. (Ralen Hlaalo in vanilla would have been the "white sheep" of the Family)

Fifth Family

  • “The Kragenmoor Hlaalus”, the fifth family was the first to gain a significant presence far from Narsis, moving north to site of veloths arrival in Morrowind. While modern day Kragenmoor is known as the second city of House Hlaalu (though not of the clan), Kragenmoor was first a small camp under the watchful eye of the Dwarves of Kragen whose own city stared down at it from above. In time this camp would grow to include a fort to watch against orc, nede and ayleid raids from across the mountains, the dwarves offering fickle protection. That fort would grow under the warrior clans who would go on to found the waters march, and key to that growth was the arrival of hlaathoom merchants and the connection they brought upriver from the south. While eclipsed by the Sadras and Indarys when Kragenmoor officially came under House Hlaalus control in the early third era (the house had been undermining the Waters March through the entire second era and had been running Kragenmoor behind closed doors for at least a century before the turn of the third), the fifth family of clan Hlaalu is still a respected fixture of the city to this day.
  • Cooperates with the Empire, but aren't as strong believers in either the Empires as an institution (like the Indarys) or of the empires gods (like the Sadras) putting them behind both when it comes to Kragenmoors current politics.
  • A sub-branch of this family is present in Baan Malur, a hold over from their friendship with the waters march, though is estranged from the house.

Sixth Family

  • “The Outlanders”, the sixth were the family that first passed back over the mountains to trade with the inhabitants of cyrodiil and blackmarsh, later going even further making the first expedition by sea to trade with Elsweyr, the sixth are wrapped up in many different reputations, as depending on the period they have been seen as great exemplars of their house daringly going passed the safety of morrowind into the debased lands of the n’wah to retrieve riches unimagined, while in leaner years being seen as “tainted” for their long absences from their homeland and “proper velothi ways'', a reputation which by association permeated through the entire clan. An open secret is that the Sixth families traders were (and still are) spies for clan hlaalu wherever they do business, sending reports back to narsis on affairs of trade. Unsurprisingly they were founding backers of HCC and have the strongest presence in the company of any of the Hlaalu families (though the current director isn't one of them).
  • Their manor was outside Narsis on the cyrod road, being as their mixed fortunes were seen as better kept at arm's length, but is now the middle of the Farmers district, of which they own much of the land for.
  • Not fans of the Cammona tong due to their jingoism being bad for business, but likewise arent strong supporters of imperial rule and how it restricts their business ventures either (the Sixth Family were heavily involved in the slave trade pre-armistice)
  • Maintain estates in Cyrodiil and own property in most of tamriels largest cities.
  • Have sent the MT after people who think mentioning the “Sixth house” in relation to them is funny.


Seventh family

  • Distinguished as a separate branch by the famed Hlaalu Brevur, one of the most dynamic if ultimately tragic figures of the house.

Early concept art shows House Hlaalu with gems in their foreheads. These gems were purportedly part of the glass in the construction of the Seyda Neen.

The Seyda Neen was the flagship of a fleet that Hlaalu sent to sea at the behest of a Saint, "to see the face of Veloth". The mariners on this voyage would send back for the rest of their House when they had found whatever this "face" was.

But an unnatural storm destroyed the fleet, the jetsam and flotsam coming back to the shore. The Hlaalu used this to construct the Lighthouse, so that any of their countrymer that may have survived the storm could find their way back. House nobles embedded their flagship's glass in their foreheads, because Morrowind” - Kirkbride, 2015

  • While Brevur and his wealth were lost to the sea his family were able to work the tragedy to its utmost, ostensibly making Brevur a martyr for the entire House and with that projecting themselves to the status of a distinct family of the clan.  (See the quote at the top of the page about them being the seventh)
  • Maintain their estate near Narsis’s port.
  • Most overtly imperialized family, heavily involved with the empire's civil admin, the proconsuls staff and advisory roles in imperial government postings. Fairly even religious split in the family, but still leans towards the temple.


This is still a pretty heavy WIP, but I've not had many idea for expanding it further so putting it public in this still patchy state so it can get discussed and fleshed out by those who are more imaginative.

Vern's picture
Senior DeveloperInterior Reviewer
2018-08-13 09:52
Last seen:
4 min 58 sec ago

Just a few notes since parts of this proposal is pretty bare bones

I am amenable to swapping around the places of the 4th, 5th and 6th families, my sensibilities here are from least to most adventurous, gradually moving away sort of signifying milestones of the house during the early to mid tribunte, but I could see the value of going straight to the outlander exploration as an escape from the second or going up the kanit being more important important milestones for the early house.

But I am keen on how the first through third progresses . The first family being the dominant branch is incongruent with how velothi principles dont respect simply being the senior branch, revering things for just being old was a key critisim of the Altmer, but I'd not go further than the second since there would still be non-hlaalu families who were around what would become Narsis. retainers, hangers on, slaves ect, so we shouldn’t drag out how long the founding of the clanstead took, because we then end up in this scenario where it becomes a matter of doubt as to if the Hlaalu did found Narsis or merely took it over and this notion has always bugged me, since it implies the Hlaalu are just theives and cant build anything themselves which for the house who even then have been around the longest feels deeply wrong. Speaking to a broad timeline, by the point the third family has emerged the high velothi period would have ended and it would be the warring houses period, Narsis being so far removed from the Nords or the major political feuding around Ebonheart and Mournhold would need some form of internal threat to have an equivlent issue at this time which the brutal feud between the second and third families would provide play into.

On the Hlaalo family being a deliberate name change, given the Hlaalu's and Hlaalos are both in house Hlaalu I dont think any attemempt to make the two not directly related will be possible to take seriously, so I think maing it a deliberate in-universe separation makes it more justifiable. And it doesnt have to have happened as soon as they packed up and left either, a gradual linguisitc drift which was welcomed for the same reasons as the deliberate change works just as well.

On having multiple families having manors in the same city, I was keenly aware that seven Hlaalu manors in narsis would both look ridiculous and crowd out other families, which would cause quests to suffer, hence the third, fourth and fifth all being well outside it, keeping the number as constrained as possible.

On there being seven families, Seven being the most important number in dunmeri religion and there being seven families does lend a question as to if their are ties to the 3 and 4 which might make for a fun rumor or easter egg piece of apocrypha

My order would be:

  1. Mephala, ties to the Morag tong and being the secret keepers of teh House
  2. Boethia, the most politically dominant and closest adherents to boethian principles of any great house.
  3. Dagon, were destroyed, scattered and are now the most aggressive
  4. Bal, changed their name and are the most land-hungry (dominant)
  5. Sheogorath, ngl they were just the last ones left
  6. Malacath, wander around the furthest and are the least trusted
  7. Azura, tied to prophecy and the sea’s (dusk and dawn, the last being first can also be somewhat round-aboutly equated)

But thats more an amusing sidenote, than something I'd want to gum up actual planning with.

"Nomen album delenda est" - a great man

"Forum sigantures suck" - the same great man

Chef's picture
Senior DeveloperAsset ReviewerExterior ReviewerInterior Developer
2018-06-02 23:21
Last seen:
6 hours 55 min ago

I endorse this, especially the blood hlaalu grand master part

Sarilho1's picture
2022-12-11 13:10
Last seen:
8 months 18 hours ago

Very interesting write-up. I'm just a bit concerned about the way Hlaalu/Hlallo are handled:

  • The proposal for a deliberate name change to avoid clashes with the first family is a bit too convenient and hard to swallow. It's like someone changing his name to John Smoth to avoid being confused with John Smith. Furthermore, they are still nominally under House Hlaalu, so it's not even a proper break.
  • The linguistic drift can be a very problematic explanation, in particular if given in game, because then it means that scholars are aware of the linguistic phenomenon and should be able to present other examples where the shift can be witnessed.

However, I do agree that it makes sense to consider them part of the same house. So I would like to give a different proposal which in many aspects mirrors the Telvanni. Note, however, that I favor an approach where the following proposal is only vaguely hinted and the players are free to make their own interpretations.

  1.  Hlaalu and Hlaalo can be understood as compound names based on the root "hla".
  2. The meaning of "hla" doesn't have to be properly explained, but from its presence in toponyms, like Hla Oad, it could be inferred to mean "stronghold"/"clan's stronghold", "manor"/"clan's manor" (this would require renaming Hla Bulor in Telvannis, as it hints "hla" might mean "shanty town" - a possibility, but doesn't seem very prestigious as the root of Hlaalu). This mirrors the "tels" of the Telvanni, whose meaning is never properly defined, but is understood by the player to mean "tower" (but could still perfectly mean "stronghold" or "refugee").
  3. The -alu and -alo could be understood as suffixes with -alo possibly meaning "outside" (like the English prefixes exo-/out-). This would mean that Hlaalo would be understood as "Outside manor"/"Outside base", consistent with the history of them being the first to construct their base outside Narsis. The meaning of "-alu" doesn't have to be explained: the player might think it means "inside", by dichotomy, but it can be left vague, much like the meaning of "vanni" in Telvanni (and possibly "vayn" in Telvayn).

In order to support this approach, the "hla" of the Hlaalu would have to be a bit more widespread toponomycally, though not as much as widespread as the "tel" of the Telvanni. Just add it to some small (possibly shanty) towns that developed around a Hlaalu manor, seeking new business opportunities and protection.