The Cultural Anomaly of the Menevian North-West Edit
Reywell Society Edit
As can be said of any people, while the majority will adhere to an overall similar culture there will always be a few outliers that bend the trend or in some cases break away from it altogether. Such is the case with the town of Reywell. A town on the Menevian coast, it is not as large as the town of Aldingbury further north, nor as strategically vital as West Castle on the border with Nova Orsinium, it is the nucleus of what can be described as a distinct cultural shift from the traditional culture that is common in Menevia.
While all the same hallmarks are present - the sense of community, the importance of hospitality rituals and the emphasis of honourable conduct - like Reywell Tealeaves, their culture is spiced with certain foreign influences; a particular martial pride, a certain suspicion of their neighbours (a distinctly un-Menevian outlook by many standards) while maintaining strong bonds between close kinsmen, an emphasis on smaller communities looking inward during times of peace and then banding together in a time of crisis before returning to relative autonomy. Compared to the large intersocietal links found in the rest of Menevia, the relatively insular societies of Barony Reywell and the surrounding lands stand out like a sore thumb.
The reason for the proverbial scrib in the cultural egg-crate that is Menevia’s cultural identity stems from two factors; the arrival of foreign settlers and localized conflicts with the Orsimer. The arrival of Nordic exiles from Skyrim - by way of the Iliac Bay – coincided with the flaring up of Bretic-Orc conflict during the second era. Making landfall in Reywell first, these immigrants were quickly put to work fending off the Orsimeri hordes. They were wildly successful, working with the local population to help drive the Orcs back. As reward, they were able to settle in the lands surrounding Reywell. This success brought more settlers from the fatherland, even bringing about a new Nordic dynasty among the rulers of Reywell, at least for a time. Over time, the Nordic population was essentially bred out, but many of the cultural practices failed to die off entirely, resulting in an atypical Menevian society.
As mentioned previously, Reywell’s smaller villages and towns as well as a few settlements beyond the barony’s borders have a more insular society than your typical Menevian village. A stranger knocking on a Reyweller’s door is not guaranteed a warm welcome. However, not assisting a fellow member of the village wherein the guest has not previously dishonoured the host is heavily frowned upon, and can result in honourable retribution by the offended party. This is certainly a throwback to Nordic influence, where villages remained mostly autonomous and the social status quo was well defined.
Another defining part of the Reywell character is their strong military identity. This is an example of where the traditional Menevian mindset has been altered by traditions of a foreign culture and created new meaning. Each settlement’s members belong to a military unit called a Fyrd. Each family is expected to commit at least a single member to the Fyrd. Belonging to a Fyrd is of paramount importance to the average Reyweller, much like being part of a guild is important to a tradesman. Being part of one guarantee’s protection and support from their fellows. If a member is waylaid by bandits on the road, it is common practice for the Fyrd to be mustered to root the bandits out. If a member falls on hard times, they can be assured support by other members of the Fyrd. This tradition evolved from the Nordic Warband, a close military unit held together by social bonds and oaths of honour. To be banished from a Fyrd is a dour sentence, as it effectively banishes that person’s immediate family as well, ostracising them until they find another Fyrd or else prove themselves again..
A Town on the White Cliffs Edit
When the Nords first arrived in Reywell, they found it sitting atop the edge of what they called Sot’Gol’Kol, which means “White Stone Cliff”, a reference to the tall coastal cliff faces that span from the city of Menevia all the way towards the port town of Aldingbury. Without any form of natural harbour present, unlike in Aldingbury and Menevia to the north and south respectively, why the Nords chose to land here is anyone’s guess. Regardless, what they found was a land home to an old but fading branch of the nobility. Like many Bretic settlements of the era, there would have been a castle upon level ground, wherein the local knight or lord resided, and nearby would have been a small village where the peasantry worked the land in exchange for protection by the noble. The arrival of the Nords and influence of the Nordic immigrants resulted in significant changes to the town’s appearance, resulting in the Reywell known in present times.
The Town of Reywell itself is fairly small by Menevian standards; with just over three thousand people living within the town’s walls, it is just large enough to warrant its inclusion on most maps. The two largest buildings within the town walls are Castle Reywell and Dibella’s Cathedral. Castle Reywell is unusual in that it sits right in the middle of the town. Typically, this is a situation that only occurs in the capitals of large Duchies or Kingdoms, and is seldom seen in towns of Reywell’s size. The castle itself is actually the oldest part of the current Reywell town, and given the relative strategic unimportance of its position compared to other places like West Castle or Lamford, it is a large and well-fortified citadel, serving as fortress and lordly residence both. Surrounded by a moat and high stone walls, and featuring a simple keep, it is a relatively simple type of castle that has stood the test of time. While Castle Reywell is the bastion of men, Dibella’s Cathedral is the bastion of the Divine. The second great work that was built in Reywell, it is much younger than the castle. With its spires and decorative ikons, it draws clear inspiration from the architecture found in Daggerfall, particularly the Temple of Kynareth – curious given the much closer proximity to Wayrest and the enmity between these two kingdoms – though obviously lacking much of the mystery and ancientness of its western muse. Many believe that the reason for this is due to the arrival of Daggerfallian monks in the First Era during the Siege of Orsinium, and that the current cathedral was built on top of the relatively simply chapel that once stood there. Both of these buildings, along with the wall that surrounds the town, are made with bright white stone, hewn from the cliff face at the nearby quarry.
A bit further away from the town is an outlying cluster of buildings. Why there should be such a settlement so close to a heavily walled town is answered by virtue of its age, as it predates the walled town surrounding Castle Reywell. Called “Old Reywell”, it is accepted as the original settlement, established before the castle and surrounding town was built. Here the oldest buildings of the town stand near some of the newest; old longhouses and hovels stand beside small villas and manors – the most recent of which is the Aydelotte Manor, built by Baron Henry as a gift to his wife.
The lands of the region are largely void of large forests, consisting mostly of verdant plains and plenty for arable land, making it something of a breadbasket for Menevia. These ideal conditions have allowed the people of Reywell and the surrounds to be highly self-sufficient, relying less on trade than other settlements. This has further reinforced the more insular nature of the region’s folk. The wide open spaces has resulted in fairly decent horse breeding, among the best in Menevia (though paling in comparison to the prized steeds of Camlorn). Reywell armies are noted for their out-riders; lightly armed lancers and swordsmen that bulk out the numbers of the heavily armoured knights and men-at-arms, though typically, most of a Reywell force will comprise of infantry, famed for their shield wall.
The Barons of Reywell Edit
No one is quite sure how old Reywell is, but of note is the nearby ruins that suggest that the region was once home to a somewhat important Direnni outpost. While most of the knowledge about the ruin has been lost to time, the name at least has endured, translated from Aldmeris into Rey’s Well. Some believe that it is named after an important Direnni leader, who was charged with holding the region. Others believe that the name is a mistranslation, and that the ruin is actually called a “Ray Well”, designed to capture the sun’s rays and harness them into magicka. Currently, there is little proof for either theory.
The Marshall Dynasty Edit
While the origins of the name are up for debate, most scholars agree that the town as it is known today was first settled by Daggerfallian chevaliers following the Thirty Year Siege of Orsinium. Indeed, the first written account of Reywell appears shortly after the founding of the Kingdom of Wayrest in 1E 1100, whereupon a charter of sworn vassals, there is one Arthur Marshall, Baron of Reywell, written in among the nobles who pledged fealty to the Gardner Kings. Unfortunately the historical record after Baron Arthur disappears, though a few centuries later there is a fairly consistent record of the Marshall family, mostly in the form of old ledgers dictating the payments the family made to the crown, as well as the building and restoring of many small border forts in the local region. However, the records of the Marshall family disappear after the Middle Dawn, and do not resurface.
The Longhill Dynasty Edit
The next reference to a Baron of Reywell appears in 2E 301, when a young nobleman named Arnauld Longhill commissions several masons to rebuild his motte and bailey fortress at Reywell into a mighty stone keep. Little is said of Arnauld’s lineage, though if the sources of the time are anything to go by, his family had already ruled Reywell for several generations by the time Arnauld arrived on the scene. Thus, archivists and historians guess that the Longhills became the Barons of Reywell at some point in the mid twenty-ninth century 1E.
The Longhill dynasty ruled in a time of great change and conflict. They were the rulers of Reywell when Menevia became a realm in its own right late in the Second Era, now owing direct loyalty to their fellow Menevian house, the Colisandes. Accounts from contemporaries in the period note that while the Longhills were cautious of this change of allegiance, Reywell soon thrived under its new liege lords.
But this was not to last. Soon, the Orsimer were soon seeking to expand their borders again, bringing them into constant conflict with Menevia. Those that bore the brunt of the attack were Reywell, West Castle and Aldingbury. Within House Longhill there are several references to the loss of Barons to fighting the Orsimer, resulting in many brothers, uncles and cousins claiming the title due to the previous ruler dying childless. Indeed, there is a record, written by a monk at the time, of Reywell having been ruled by no less than five barons in the space of seven years. The tune was similar among other noble families of northern Menevia. With the orcs pressing harder and harder against their borders, something had to give.
It was during this period that Baron Florian Longhill rose to prominence. Having inherited Reywell from his childless nephew only two years before, he was already seen as a fine leader; a brave knight that had earned his spurs against the orcish hordes. He was also a highly political individual. His daughter Delilah Longhill was married to William Colisande, the second son of Rufus Colisande, Lord of Menevia. This seemed to be a fairly simply arrangement; both families would receive an alliance without any issues of succession.
However this did not remain such for very long. Florian’s own son and heir, Harold, was slain in battle against the orcs. Then came the news that Lord Rufus’s eldest son had also died. Menevia was set to be ruled by William Colisande upon his father’s death, and the future of House Longhill was bleak. Surrounded by orcs, political intrigue and the potential collapse of the region, Florian prayed for a miracle. And on the 3rd of Sun’s Disk, in 2E 789, his prayers were answered. A monk who was on the beach that day fishing described the sight thus:
And from the mist came the heads of monsters. Dragons and demons, all the beasts of Oblivion. And each head was affixed to the bow of ship, and there were fifty heads staring from fifty ships. And behold sixty times fifty soldiers, men of steel and iron and braided hair, of hoarse voices and fierce battle cries.
The Sons of Skyrim had reached our shores. The Nords had come.
A great number of Nordic warriors under the command of Thane Alvar Wolf-Bane, reached the Menevian coast about a mile south of Reywell, searching plunder and battle. While many initially saw the Nordic incursion as a menace, Baron Florian saw it as an opportunity. He soon met Alvar with a proposition. He would grant the Nords land to settle and in return they would fight off the orcs. Seeing as Nords liked to fight almost as much as Orcs do (perhaps even more), they readily agreed.
With their numbers bolstered by the Nords, the tide soon turned in favour of the Menevians. The Nords led the charge against the Orsimer, driving them back time and time again. By 2E 794, the orcs had been forced out of Menevia. Baron Florian kept his promise, with many of the Nords integrating with the local populace or forming villages of their own.
Nordic Dynasty Edit
Peace reigned for two years until Florian’s death in 796. William Colisande quickly pressed a claim on Reywell on behalf of his wife and their young son, Jauffre. He marched into Reywell with a small force and proclaimed himself Baron-Regent until his son was of age. This was largely accepted by the population aside from one notable group; the Nords.
Leif Alvarsson, the new Thane, was quick to point out that his own father, and Baron Florian had both fought to keep Reywell out of orcish hands, while William had done nothing, remaining in the safety of the capital. Rallying the local Nord population to him Leif quickly overwhelmed the meagre force that William had brought and sent the Colisande back home, declaring that he was now the Baron of Reywell by right of conquest.
William returned to his father Rufus, stating that the land now rightfully belonged to their family and that they should take it by force. Rufus Colisande – cautious and wise – instead opened negotiations, offering Leif the chance to surrender the title peacefully to his son and infant grandson. Few could not have predicted that Leif would refuse this demand, but what may have been truly surprising was the Lords of West Castle and Aldingbury pledging to take up arms alongside Alvarsson if Lord Colisande went to war.
Caring little himself about the Barony, and more concerned with stability and peace than pursuing more titles, Lord Rufus opened the negotiations again, stating that Leif would be able to remain Baron of Reywell so long as he married Rufus’s daughter and renewed Reywell’s fealty to the Lords of Menevia. Leif agreed to the terms, marrying Lady Matilda Colisande in 2E 797.
Baron Leif soon looked to strengthen his holdings. While respecting the strength of castle Reywell, he was from a land where castles were few and far between. Skyrim instead was known for its mighty fortified cities or military forts, not the stone keeps of High rock. He began the project of building another town, closer to the castle and encircled by a large wall. This became known as Reywell Town, while the smaller, older village earned the name Old Reywell.
By 2E 814, the wall and most of the internal structures within were complete when news reached Baron Leif of the death of Lord Rufus Colisande. With William inheriting his father’s army, it didn’t take long for him to press his claim once more on the Barony of Reywell. Leif rallied his men and decided to meet Rufus in pitched battle, such is the Nord way. However, Leif had not allowed enough time for all his Nordic warbands to muster, nor all of the Menevian militia, and so when battle was joined, he found himself terribly outnumbered.
Leif and his sons were soundly defeated at the Battle of Kirkwood Field. Leif himself died trying to give his men time to retreat before he was cut down by William’s heavy cavalry. His sons also died in the battle. In order to end the bloodshed, Baroness Matilda surrendered to her brother, and thus Reywell became part of the Colisande’s demesne, providing them access to a great deal more fertile farming land than previously. William promptly exiled Matilda along with her young daughter Tyra, fearing that one day she might use Tyra to start a rebellion against him. However, complete victory had eluded him, for he could not locate Alvar’s Coronet, the circlet that Rufus had placed upon the Nord’s head when formally naming him Baron of Reywell.
Colisande Rule Edit
The Colisande rule of Reywell was typically done from their capital in Menevia city, the barony held in their name by a trust castellan, or occasionally the heir apparent. However their reign there was plagued with unrest. The Breto-Nordic culture that had started to take hold there due to the mixing of the two races often brought the Colisandes into conflict with their own subjects. Despite this, they managed to keep Reywell in the family for a hundred years.
During this time, several attempts made to integrate Reywell into the larger culture of Menevia were largely met with strife. The individualistic culture that the Nords had brought with them proved not at all receptive towards the cultural change the Colisandes attempted to usher in. At the most, they reinforced the importance of the culture that had existed prior to the Nords' arrival, but ultimately this did very little.
Aydelotte Dynasty Edit
3E 32 saw everything change again when a new claimant arrived to take Reywell; Roran Aydelotte. When Roran first arrived on the scene, many treated his claim as dubious at best. His father was a knight in the service to the Baron of West Castle, who seemed to have no ties to Reywell. However, further inspection of his family tree revealed the source of the claim.
When William Colisande had banished his sister, she fled north, eventually seeking refuge in Darguard, and soon found service as a handmaiden for the lady of a noble house. Her daughter Tyra grew up in this court, and eventually married the second son of the local nobleman – Lord Valor Auraelyon. This cadet branch of Auraelyons eventually ended with Tarhelm Auraelyon, whose daughter married one Sir Lliam Aydelotte, Roran’s father.
Lord Abel Colisande – the ruler of Menevia at the time – denounced the claim as false, but when Roran Aydelotte produced Alvar’s Coronet, it was suddenly a problem he could not ignore. Once again, West Castle and Aldingbury declared for Roran, remembering the old ties in harder times. The majority of the population of Reywell also declared for Aydelotte. Lord Colisande also called in his vassals, and the conflict commenced in earnest.
One year later saw Roran Aydelotte make a decisive victory at the Siege of Deermont. Lord Abel Colisande renounced all claim to Reywell, and in return, the now Baron Roran Aydelotte swore an oath of allegiance to the Lord of Menevia.
Roran’s descendants have held Reywell ever since, surviving the War of the Red Diamond, the Warp in the West, the Oblivion Crisis and the Shattering of the Empire. One member of the dynasty, Baron Henry Aydelotte is worth special note, as he was largely responsible for keeping northern Menevia together during the Oblivion Crisis, and for leading the only Wayrester contingent to take part in the siege of Nova Orsinium, and who died in doing so.
With his daughter Valerie Aydelotte the current Baroness of Reywell unwed and showing no indications of settling down, the future of the barony is uncertain. Who will next lay claim to Reywell? Perhaps Lady Aydelotte shall marry a northern Menevian lord? Or will her cousin, the Baron of West Castle, inherit the barony? Only time will tell.