A Basic History of the Grand Duchy of ShornhelmEdit
No one, or at least, none of the history-writing caste, now knows why the Direnni chose to populate the area now known as Shornhelm. A certain school suggests that Shornhelm Keep may have been founded as a northern watchtower, guarding the Direnni's border. This is of course a ludicrous claim, as to this day there has yet to be a single successful invasion through the Wrothgarian mountains. Whereas, even in the first era, the Nothern coast was populated with many Nedic fishing tribes, these harmless bands where of no concequence to the Empire of the Direnni - what could drive fishermen to climb the highest peak in Western Tamriel, only to have to march down the other side to even find a single shack to plunder?
Another school has it that the Direnni wanted to establish an inland trade route with the Northmen of "The Point". This theory is as hopeless as the first, for much of the same reasons. The Direnni had no great need for fish, and when the Nothern tribes where brought under the hedgemony, the Aldmer simply chose to settle a new enclave there and go about educating the barberous rabble themselves, putting them to work on the merchant navy. This was the Direnni's usual method
A third school argues that the reasons lay not in temporal matters, but in the wants of the arcane. The argument goes, that as Shornhelm was founded as during the later lifetime of Raven Direnni, that, like Castle Daggerfall, it might also have been one of her fancies. This theory is supported by documents of a possibly dubious nature mentioning what is thought to have been a popular idea among the Direnni Clan at the time, that Skyrim drew it's favor with the mer-scattering Kyne from The Throat in the World's unique procimity to the Queen of the Air Spirits. Shornhelm, that folly of a tower placed on the highest plateu of the Wrothgarian Mountains, may have been an attempt to steal Skyrim's patron goddess' attention away by creating a new highest point on Tamriel. The pecular wide, shunted shape of Shornhelm Keep is suggest to be represenative not of a large, flat tower, but of the first stages of the tallest tower of them all. The construction of Shornhelm Keep, by far the oldest of all structures in High Wrothgaria, does coincide with the waning of the Direnni's power - some scholars have even suggested that the enormous cost of attempting to build this tower may have in part led to the great Clan's downfall.
This theory has its own obvious problems, not least of which that the hypothesised "completed" Shornhelm Keep would have had to have been at least twice the height of Crystal Tower to come clost to matching High Hrothgar's summit. It also seems unlikely that Raven Direnni, the famous Witch who in the 1st era invented enchantment itself, could have allowed such a folly to even be attempted.
For whatever reason, Shornhelm has always had strong links to the Arcane. Studes of the construction of Shornhelm Keep's original stone shows that it was fused together not with mortar but with some now-forgotten magical technique, giant stones that can be traced to come from as far as Eagle Brook and Evermore melded together with what now could never be accomplished in either the schools of destruction of alteration. Many mages must have been involved in its contruction, and all of the earliest settlements that sprung up around the great building site where wizard towers.
In fact, even after the construction of Shornhelm Keep was either finished or abandoned, it seems that the mage class exclusively made up the population of Shornhelm. The question, however, is not why so many mages chose to live in Shornhelm, but why anyone would choose to move there at all.
For those who have not visited Shornhelm or its environs, it constitutes the highest snowy plateu of the Wrothgarian mountains. The many mountainous peaks and valleys surrounding this summit are the least hospitable lands in all of High Rock, in fact, it is generally assumed that looming Shornhelm is the very Rock that gives our provence its name.
The Nedic settlers that would later found Northpoint, vagrants from both Saarthal and Atmora, never settled on Shornhelm - it must have represented everything that had moved to leave behind: savage cold, bleak tundra giving in to sharp, ebony-black jagged rocks.
But, for some reason mysterious to us, during the High Direnni period there was a sudden influx of entrepid Direnni mages into the area, as the Mages Guild at Shornhelm Keep (thought to be the first founded by Galerion outside of Alinor) acted as a lamp to a cloud of moths, drawing in the magically inclined from throughout the Hedgemony. The first thing these new inhabitants had to contend with where the Sky Whales, a feral breed that had either been hunted to extinction or driven out of Skyrim by this time; these hulking, dangerous creatures were unique in possessing giant horns like that of a unicorn.
We can only imagine those early battles between adventuring Direnni warlocks, making their way into the blizzard-kissed rocky outcrops of High Wrothgaria, and the vicious Sky Whales that dogged the skies. Of course, prosperity tells us two things: the High Rock Sky Whales where soon themselves hunted to extinction, and their horns made excellent material for housemaking; you only need to look across a single valley in the Shornhelm region to see the craggy rock peppered with the dozens of Ivory Towers erected in that period, still the seats of the ruling class to this day.
Being taken from the Direnni caste, the mage-adventurers of early Shornhelm where almost exclusively elven, and only brought with them only the most meagre collection of man-serfs in order to deal with the menial tasks of running a magetower. Each mage would bring a single apprentence in order to assist with his or her research and continue the line of enquiry at the event of the magelord's death. This tradition continues to this day, and it is well known that, although all of the current Ivory Towers of Shornhelm at one point or another have been inherited by a human apprentice, there are many experiments and investigations started in the first era that are have not yet been completed, having been continually researched for millennia, passed down from master to apprentice.
Owing to a uniquely large mage caste (the earliest census of Shornhelm, dating from the early Common Era, has mages roughly equal in number with the non-magically-gifted, a quite remarkable statistic when it is considered that even the peasantry are included in this metric), and its peculiar position on the steppes of Wrothgaria, Shornhelm not only resisted much of the intergration of Nedic and Aldmeri peoples found throughout the rest of the Direnni Hedgemony, its population retaining more Aldmeri traits than anywhere else in High Rock, but also became culturally cut-off from the rest of the provence. As the Direnni's power and influence waned, and trade began to fade between the city of Shornhelm and Balfiera, the mages simply stayed where they where, keeping their serfs, utterly unintested in the affairs of kings and merchants.
Shornhelm retained this stubbornly Aldmeri character throughout much of its history. The ancient rivalry with Northpoint, a kabd seen by the denziens of Shornhelm as without any real connection to the Direnni past, is well documented. The Shornish people are, to this day, easily recognisable by their high cheekbones and slightly pointed ears. Shornish, the ancient dialect now no-longer spoken in anything but the most remote villages in Shornhelm, is said to have more in common with ancient Aldmeris than what is currently spoken in Alinor; isolation from the rest of Tamriel has kept Shornhelm crystalised, immune to change.
Another unique feature Shornhelm boasted until well into the Third Era was being the only known Magocracy. After the fall of the Direnni, Shornhelm itself, being the least desirable land in all of High Rock, was of no interest to the new Dukes and Kings who replaced the old order. The only force uniting the area in any way, both from outside interference and dealing with general matters that concerned the area, was the Arcane Assembly, a meeting of each of the magelords to discuss any matter of importance. This was the de facto government of Shornhelm, where any legal matters would be settled by a simple vote, with each Tower carrying equal weight, regardless of the population of the demense of the magelord in question (the Six individual Magisters of Shornhelm City individually had equal say as the High Mystic of Yugvlan, who at various times was the only living inhabitant of his domain).
This system had persisted for millennia, surviving even Talos' conquering of the area (The Arcane Assembly signed a proclaimation welcoming the Empire to call the mountain their own and take any profits from the land they wished: inviting them to take care of the dull adiminstirative tasks the Assembly almost voted unanemously as being below their class anyway). However, Shornhelm found itself in a risky spot after it had supported the Camaron Usurper in his attempted conquest of Tamriel. Although Shornhelm was not forced to pay any reperations for this by the victorious parties, when, soon after, Andorak Lariat waged a war against the Elder Council who had disenfranchised his father from the Imperial Throne, in what is popularly known as "Talos's heart beating no more", the Elder Council capitulated and offered Andorak Shornhelm as a Kingdom to rule in a peace settlement.
Of course, Andorak, a Breton himself, was not so easily fooled by the offer of the most inhospitial piece of land in all High Rock as a fitting Kingdom. Shornhelm was, of course, offered as it had no real political make-up of it's own and thus could be handed away relatively without scandal. Knowing this, Andorak refused the offer out of hand, and the Elder Council where forced to include the then-independant Earldom of Markwasten, which at that point stretched from Gwened to the high moors of Markwasten proper and was one of the most formidable powers in nothern High Rock.
This started the peroid of union between Markwasten and Shornhelm, as well as the installation of the Lariat family as Kings of Shornhelm, an area now taken to expand far beyond the steppes of High Wrothgaria for the first time.