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Argonians (they prefer Saxhleel in Jel, their native tongue, a word that seems to mean "People of the Root") are the little-understood reptilian denizens of Black Marsh. Years of defending their borders have made the Argonians experts in guerrilla warfare, and their natural abilities make them equally at home in water and on land. They have developed natural immunities to the diseases and poisons that have doomed many would-be explorers and conquerors of the region, and have been known to exude a sharp, faintly sulfurous odor when agitated. Very old Argonians can be distinguished by their paler, even translucent, scales. Their seemingly expressionless faces belie a calm intelligence, and many Argonians are well-versed in the magical arts. Others rely on stealth or steel to survive, and their natural agility makes them adept at either. They are, in general, a reserved people, slow to trust and hard to know, yet they are fiercely loyal, and will fight to the death for those they have named as friends.
While Argonians appear reptilian in nature at first glance, they also exhibit qualities of fish and amphibians: they are able to breathe underwater through small gills behind their ears, and swim using the same method as that of a tadpole or eel by moving their tail side-to-side to propel through the water. Argonians possess the most alien personalities in all of Tamriel from a human or meric perspective and it is often assumed that Argonians possess neither personality nor emotions. Of course this is not true; Argonians simply do not facially express their emotions as much as man and mer do, though anger is easily detectable from their bared teeth and narrowed eyes. Argonians' genders are sometimes referred to as life-phases, implying they may be able to change gender. It is said that upon exiting the juvenile stage of life, an Argonian will lick Hist sap in order to stimulate the hormonal glands, which sprout appropriate organs from which the Argonian's gender can be determined. However, this is unconfirmed, and Argonian hatchlings may apparently be of either gender. Argonian appearance ranges from reptilian to almost human; this is caused by the Hist sap they ingest as hatchlings which ceremonially takes place on their Naming Day. Ancient cave paintings depict figures which appear to be more tree-like than Argonian.
The earliest historical records suggest that the Argonians were already present in preliterate tribal communities when the Aldmer began exploring Tamriel, and that no man or mer could survive in their fetid, septic environment. This proved untrue, as members of a surprising amount of races and cultures inhabited Black Marsh over the years, and the province remained relatively peaceful until the Second Era. Of course, the other races didn't know what to make of them; they were perceived as everything from curiosities to heroes to monsters. Some of them began venturing out into other parts of Tamriel in the First Era, and proved surprisingly adept at assimilating into other cultures.
Pirates began using Argonia as a base to attack rich merchant groups in eastern Cyrodiil, leading the Alessian Empire to launch an anti-piracy campaign in 1E 1033 that took them deep into the heart of the swamps, where they encountered heavy resistance from the Argonians (who, thanks to their experiences with the pirates, had developed a deep distrust of outsiders). They were quick to leave once the pirates had been dealt with. Argonians wouldn't be brought into the Imperial fold until a year after their defeat in the Battle of Argonia in 1E 2811. The Empire, which could only really govern pockets of the province along the coast and borders given the harsh interior, used it as a prison for the worst of criminals who could not be trusted in conventional dungeons. During the Interregnum of the Second Era, in 2E 560, a mysterious and lethal flu broke out which killed virtually every non-reptilian race in Black Marsh.
Saying Tiber Septim conquered Black Marsh is a bit of an overstatement; he gained control over the borders and major population centers along the coast, but he wisely avoided trying to assert control over the interior. He would once again use the province mainly as a place for high-security prisons. Unfortunately for the Argonians, the very traits that enabled them to survive so well in the swamps of their homelands also made them ideal slaves for hard labor in regions of Morrowind that would prove unbearable to other races. During the Interregnum, bandits once again roamed the province in large numbers and entire tribes of Argonians were enslaved. In 3E 396, during the Imperial Simulacrum, a slave revolt escalated into the Dunmer instigating the Arnesian War with Black Marsh and taking a significant amount of territory (and undoubtedly many new slaves). Along with the Khajiit, Argonians, particularly in eastern Tamriel, carried the constant risk of being kidnapped and enslaved. Though enslaving any civilized race is illegal in the rest of the Empire, the Dunmer of Morrowind had practiced it since time immemorial and continued to do so even after joining the Third Empire, despite the disgust and frustration of many people throughout Tamriel. This was due to the favorable conditions of the treaty under which Morrowind joined the Empire, which allowed the Dunmer to follow their ancient traditions and maintain great autonomy in their domestic affairs. King Helseth eventually abolished slavery in Morrowind for a wide variety of reasons.
The abolition of slavery improved relations with Morrowind, but Argonians did not forget the transgressions of the Dark Elves. The ramifications of the arrival of the Nerevarine, especially the loss of their living gods, left the Dunmer very weak at the beginning of the Fourth Era, and the Argonians had emerged from the Oblivion Crisis more unified, stronger and ambitious than ever before. Taking advantage of the eruption of Red Mountain that weakened Morrowind, they ruthlessly invaded mainland Morrowind with the goal of conquering the crippled Dunmer. They had early success in conquering southern Morrowind, sacking many cities including Mournhold. However, the Argonians were repelled by the army of House Redoran, which successfully halted the Argonians from invading the rest of Morrowind.
 Society and Religion
The Argonian pantheon is mostly unknown but seems to include some reverence of Sithis, as any Argonian hatched under the sign of the Shadow is given in to the service of the Dark Brotherhood and referred to as a "Shadowscale". However, that practice has waned in the Fourth Era for unknown reasons. It seems likely, due to many contradictory accounts, that the Argonians do not have just one religion attributable to them.
Argonians worship (or at least, deeply respect) the Hist. Some early sources suggested the Hist were an ugly and frail breed of Argonians, but other more reliable sources have since revealed that they are a type of ancient, sentient tree native to Tamriel that Argonians cherish, and that the trees secrete a type of sap-like resin that hardens and can be sculpted into an ideal armor. In addition, Hist sap can be violently hallucinogenic when ingested. The Argonians apparently believe that the Hist have given them their souls and that when they die, their souls are returned to the Hist to be reincarnated as a new Argonian. They feel a connection to the Hist when in Black Marsh, but this diminishes with distance. When an Argonian makes physical contact with a Hist tree, it may communicate with them through visions. Every Argonian wedding proposal band is supposed to have three flawless amethysts as part of their design: the two outer gems represent the couple to be married, and the one in the center represents the Hist.
The economic system and way of life amongst Argonians in Black Marsh is seen as "backwards", as they mainly farm, fish and hunt for subsistence and have only recently seen fit to start inter-provincial trade. However, Argonian ale and wine are highly sought after, expensive exports from Black Marsh. Like all the odder-looking races, the Argonians experience quite a bit of prejudice and hostility, even from people not trying to enslave them. Their native language involves many grunts and squeaks, and the intricacies and rationale of their naming conventions are completely unknown to outsiders.
Argonians usually live in tribes, each having their own customs as well as differing appearances. There are a few known tribes:
- Agacephs: Most have needle-like faces and vary in color from bright green to orange. Found in inner Argonia, near the Hist.
- Archeins: During the era when other races tried to put plantations in Argonia, Archeins were very powerful, and made fortunes by selling other Argonians into slavery. Since the other races realized Argonia is unfit for plantations, they have gone bankrupt.
- Paatru: Described as "toad-like", they live in the inner part of Argonia.
- Sarpa: Described as being "winged", though it's unclear if this is meant literally or not. They live in the interior of Argonia.
- Nagas: They are described as having "huge mouths filled with dripping needle-like fangs". Usually seven to eight feet tall, the Nagas appear to be more snake-like than other Argonians. When the other races were attempting to put plantations into Argonia, they generally acted as highway robbers; however, since the other races ceased trying to put plantations in Argonia, they have left the roads and have gone back into the inner swamps.
Jel is an incredibly complicated and yet simplistic language. It has no real sense of time; there is no real sense of distant past, and even less of the future. The closest it comes to the idea of tense is the recent past and near future, but the language focuses mostly on the present. Jel is composed mostly of hisses and other noises that are difficult, if not impossible, to be made by other races. Although many Argonians know another language, very few non-Argonians know Jel, contributing to their alienation from the other races. Very few can obtain even a basic grasp of Jel, leading some to believe that it cannot be spoken by men or mer. Little is known about its origins, but it is believed to have something to do with the Hist. The language is often described as being "as close to pure thought as possible".
 See Also
- For game-specific information, see the Online, Skyrim, Oblivion, Shadowkey, Morrowind, Daggerfall and Arena articles.
- Lore:Argonian Names
- The Argonian Account by Waughin Jarth — Decumus Scotti's continued adventures, now in Black Marsh
- The Lusty Argonian Maid by Crassius Curio — Short excerpts from Crassius Curio's bawdy play
- The Horror of Castle Xyr by Baloth-Kul — A One Act Play
- Pocket Guide to the Empire, 1st Edition: The Wild Regions — Imperial Geographical Society, 2E 864
- Pocket Guide to the Empire, 3rd Edition: The War with the Trees: Argonia and the Black Marsh — Imperial Geographical Society, 3E 432
- ^ a b c d e f The Infernal City — Greg Keyes
- ^ Dialogue in Morrowind: "The Argonians of Black Marsh call themselves the 'People of the Root'"
- ^ a b Father of the Niben — Florin Jaliil
- ^ Morrowind description
- ^ Myths and Legends of the Hist — Cirantille
- ^ a b Travelling-New-Woman's dialogue
"My parents told me not to lick the Hist tree until my Naming Day, so I did. My parents caught me and a boy from my nest in a soft-leaf patch right before the naming ceremony. I feared I'd get more of a licking from my parents than I gave the tree... So I ran as fast as I could through the swamp and into the rest of the kids waiting for their naming ceremony. Everyone had a good laugh and the name stuck."
- ^ Lord of Souls — Greg Keyes
- ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Pocket Guide to the Empire, 3rd Edition: The War with the Trees: Argonia and the Black Marsh — Imperial Geographical Society, 3E 432
- ^ Before the Ages of Man — Aicantar of Shimerene
- ^ Tamrielic Artifacts — Yagrum Bagarn
- ^ Pocket Guide to the Empire, 1st Edition: Morrowind — Imperial Geographical Society, 2E 864
- ^ Lives of the Saints — Tribunal Temple
- ^ The Eastern Provinces Impartially Considered
- ^ Provinces of Tamriel
- ^ a b Pocket Guide to the Empire, 3rd Edition: The Temple: Morrowind — Imperial Geographical Society, 3E 432
- ^ Events of Morrowind.
- ^ Events of Oblivion.
- ^ a b Events of Skyrim
- ^ Varieties of Faith in the Empire — Brother Mikhael Karkuxor
- ^ Pocket Guide to the Empire, 1st Edition: The Wild Regions — Imperial Geographical Society, 2E 864
- ^ Pocket Guide to the Empire, 3rd Edition: All the Eras of Man, A Comprehensive History of our History — Imperial Geographical Society, 3E 432
- ^ Events during the Oblivion crisis.
- ^ Ancient Tales of the Dwemer, Part II: The Seed — Marobar Sul
- ^ Talen-Jei's dialogue in Skyrim.
- ^ Ancestors and the Dunmer
- ^ Book Three of 2920, The Last Year of the First Era - First Seed — Carlovac Townway
- ^ The Buying Game — Adabael Timsar-Dadisun
- ^ Guide to Chorrol — Alessia Ottus
- ^ Guide to Anvil — Alessia Ottus
- ^ Guide to Leyawiin — Alessia Ottus
- ^ The Madness of Pelagius — Tsathenes
- ^ The Argonian Account — Waughin Jarth