On Silk

Discussion of Elder Scrolls lore and how it will be used in Province: Cyrodiil.
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Lady Nerevar
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On Silk

Postby Lady Nerevar » 17 Aug 2011, 21:46

I've been asked to post this, so here it is. It's unedited and unfinished, but I don't know when I'll get around to doing that.




The stiff, hempen silk of the Velothi Blight Moth, too coarse to be anything but practical; the translucent, mirror-like silks of the Summurset, too costly and taking too long to sing into being; the weija of Valenwood (which, though not itself a proper silk, is often classed longside them), too hard to obtain and bearing too much indigenous connotation -- the beautiful and versatile silks of the Niben outclass them all. It is easy to produce and work with, yet fine enough for noble use. It bears and excellent capacity for enchantment -- so much so, in fact, that for a long time it was used for nothing but.

The secret of Nibenean silk lies with the Ancestor Moths. Long-lived and omnivorous, these moths lay their eggs within dead flesh. Their larva hatches and digs its way out, forming a cocoon once it reaches air. The cocoon is made of several miles of silk, typically blood red in color. Seinius, a late Merethic era Ayleid scholar, speaks of them as “profane scavengers” who cover corpses “like a carpet of moss and rotting flowers.” Their Nedic slaves took advantage of the larva’s carnivores nature, and devised secret rituals to transfer their souls into the moth upon death, thereby avoiding the eternal resurrection and torment that was the favored tool of their masters. The Nede’s name for their saviors was miith, which meant at once “moth,” “ancestor,” and “spirit.” From it derive the modern “moth” and “myth” (meaning a history of ones ancestors). With the help of the Nede’s silent veneration, the populations of the Ancestor Moths increased, and by the time Alessia took the throne, the moths formed the spiritual heart of Cyrod.

Shortly after, the moth came to dominate the economic heart as well.

Though Alessia held the throne and the Ayleid hegemonies were subdued, the fledgling empire of men was weak and lacking in funds. The dead still littered the streets and forests, abandoned where they fell in zealous rebellion or futile resistance. Upon these hundred thousand corpses the Ancestor Moths laid their eggs. Although the actual discovery of the weaving of silk is not documented, an oral legend states that a young girl discovered the process while performing funerary rights on her dead father. The girl supposedly laid her hands, covered in tears, on the cocoon-laden corpse and the fibers stuck to her fingers. As she performed the many-stepped hand dance that honored the dead, the fibers wove together and formed the first span of cloth. Although this process does not match the modern production process, it is none the less and intriguing tale.

At first, silk, woven with the spirits and songs of the many dead, was restricted to the Nibenean faithful. Each cloth was a family, a link to a genealogical past with which the Cyrodil were obsessed because they had been denied it as slaves. News of this fabric quickly spread beyond the borders of the fledgling state, carried on the chests of diplomats, priests, and farmers alike. A Camoran ambassador to Alessia’s court spoke thus of the queen’s dress in a letter to a relative in Falinesti:

...her manyfold skirts glisten as the bay at sunset, make the very same sound as the forest canopy in winter’s breeze. Today she received me clad in purple (!), but before I could remark on the heresy I noticed that it was not a single cloth but a dozen, the topmost a nearly translucent crimson moving gently with each motion of the air, the lowest a heavy, night-sky blue which refused to move even when she walked. Those between ranged in color and thickness, each a counterpoint, until it seemed that she was both floating in air and firmly anchored to ground.


Foreign dignitaries were impressed by the fabric’s beauty and versatility, and Alessia, in her wisdom, decided to export it to finance the function of the state. Records indicate that many freedmen took up the harvest and weaving of silk, and, within 20 years of the fall of Ayleidoon, Cyrod was famous throughout Tamriel for its silks. These were simpler, unsouled forms, yet their quality was still beyond compare. Yet even as silks found their way abroad they became part of what it meant to be a Cyrodil.

The importance of the Ancestor Moth and its silk in Cyrodiilic culture cannot be stressed enough. Even the poorest families hang genealogical scarves of silk above their hearths, the waving lines and geometries of which tell the story of each family. Traditionally these scarves are made from the silk of the moths that house their ancestor’s spirits, and would be let out and remade anew each time a progenitor passed to the grave. Now, with rising population and falling faith, most are made of simple unsouled silk and embroidered with threads taken from the favored garment of the dead. Yet even these are worth a fortune and fiercely guarded, as are the numerous silken fetishes warriors weave onto their hair and armor prior to battle, or the silken souled lace in which a babe is placed in memory of the ancient Kothri custom of immersing newborns in coastal foam.

One particularly creative use of silk deserves a special mention: the armor known as Mythril. The term derives from the Nedic miith ii riil, which translates roughly to “storied strength of moth-carried ancestors.” Though the art to its manufacture has been lost to the ages, we know that it was made by interweaving song-strengthened silk with metal wire (initially copper, later silver) and binding the weave together with the spirit of an ancestor. One account replaces the metal with the hair of the one meant to wear the armor, and another claims that nothing but silk, spirit, and song is needed. Regardless of its manufacture, the strands were then bent into rings, which were linked in an intricate five-part pattern. The suits excelled at stopping the short sword and spear favored by foot soldiers, as well as the spells of magi. The making of the suits stopped sometime in the mid 1st era, perhaps prompted by the advent of heavier swords or sturdier metals. No full suits survived to modernity, though individual links or chains are found in the possession of many wealthy citizens. Many claim that the metal speaks to its carrier, and ensures that they win in battle.

Suffice it to say that the moth stands second only to the Amulet of Kings in the pantheon of cultural symbols. At times, the two have been in conflict: the priest-kings of the Alessian Order wore strands of silk weighed down with sorcerous words, proclaiming that they “need no gem but shining truth.” Similarly, Reman Cyrodiil is said to have worn the Amulet upon a single strand of Ancestor silk, eschewing the heavy chains and pendants of his Alessian forefathers in favor for spiritual wealth.

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SamirA
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Re: On Silk

Postby SamirA » 18 Aug 2011, 00:57

Great stuff here N, thank you.
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Osidian
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Re: On Silk

Postby Osidian » 18 Aug 2011, 01:48

That's amazing and a very interesting read, Lady N.
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Re: On Silk

Postby Revenant » 18 Aug 2011, 18:43

This seems even longer than the version I was hoping you'd post, (though that could just be that it looks longer in a post than in notepad), any updates to it are always going to be well recieved. We need all the "lore fitting" crazy shiz we can get to fill out what the 1st PGE started on. Thanks for obliging.

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Lady Nerevar
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Re: On Silk

Postby Lady Nerevar » 02 Sep 2011, 05:26

What looks to be a finished version is up at the BSF. The bottom 3 paragraphs are new, and there are some minor edits (diction stuff, iirc) in the rest of the text.


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