The Elder Scrolls

Why ‘Legends: Great WAr’ isn’t a Reliable Account of the Great War

Content of the article: "Why ‘Legends: Great WAr’ isn’t a Reliable Account of the Great War"

Four years ago, /u/ladynerevar wrote a blistering review of the Legends main storyline, with the immortal line

Legends seems to have completely missed all this, and paid attention only to the sort of armor they wear and the fact that there was once a dude named Naarifin who was part of an invasion of Cyrodiil.

She concluded that as the framework is the narrator Kellen telling stories around the campfire, that was how she’d treat it. Her post is well worth reading and set the tone for teslore ‘s dislike of Legends: Great War.

To declare my bias up front, I have to admit to hating Legends for a lot of reasons, such as its boring Daedric cult plot and its Dunmer heroine looking un-Dunmer because that wouldn’t be attractive? A lot of it just feels off, like Boethiah requiring a sacrifice of thousands of people by the governing power (that’d be more Molag Bal’s department, usually) or the travel times from Imperial City to Skyrim changing depending on the plot from lengthy to practically instantaneous.

But the main titles aren’t perfect or consistent either. They often make strange choices, ignore previous lore, and we don’t throw them out. As the years wear on, people have given Legends a second chance.

I don’t know how many people, though, have actually read through the plot and compared it to our other big source on the Great War. This post is about how Legends stacks up against the personal account of the war by the Tenth Legion’s commander, Legate Justianus Quintius, and which account is most likely to be true.

Legate Justianus Quintius is an interesting guy. Along with Lathenil (the author of Rising Threat), he’s one of our main sources on the Rise of the Thalmor. He’s lumped in with the paranoid Lathenil sometimes, but he’s actually a pretty even-handed guy who gives people credit when he feels it’s due. It’s Quintius who tells us of Summerset’s successes in the Oblivion Crisis, for instance. And it’s Quintius who calls it “peevishness or ignorance” to refuse to recognize Summerset by its ancient name Alinor. Similarly, Quintius is up front about how Hammerfell feels betrayed post-White Gold Concordat, and quotes the view of critics of Titus Mede’s decision not to fight on.

What I’m saying is that Quintius is a thoughtful, sober historian who tries to limit his narrative to matters within his own expertise and research. He may not reach the full truth, because no historian ever does. And he wants you to know that up-front.

Author's Note: Much of what is written in this book is pieced together from documents captured from the enemy during the war, interrogation of prisoners, and eyewitness accounts from surviving soldiers and Imperial officers. I myself commanded the Tenth Legion in Hammerfell and Cyrodiil until I was wounded in 175 during the assault on the Imperial City. That said, the full truth of some events may never be known. I have done my best to fill in the gaps with educated conjectures based on my experience as well as my hard-earned knowledge of the enemy.

I’m not going to take Quintius as gospel truth, but I do think that right off-the-bat he deserves a bit more respect than he’s sometimes given when he’s mixed up with Lathenil.

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On to the main issue with Legends.


Stories can do surprising things, spearmaiden, *whether they are true or not. *And this is one you should hear. It comes from the Great War that nearly ended the empire.

It began when the High Elves slaughtered every Imperial Blade.

Calling themselves the new Aldmeri Dominion, they and their allies swept through the land.

…even capturing the Imperial City itself.

Ok, I could quibble minorly about the High Elves “calling themselves the new Aldmeri Dominion” about 150 years after the Dominion was founded, or the unofficial loose-cannon Blades being called “Imperial”, but Kellen isn’t a precise speaker, and as a summary, it’s not the worst. Yet.

The emperor fled north, leaving Cyrodiil to the invaders.

Wait, what?

Oh, maybe this is Kellen being delightfully imprecise again.

Laaneth suggested they seek out the Imperial Army, then in exile in Skyrim, and warn the emperor of Naarifin's plot.

And this is where Legends falls apart completely.

Legends is based around something that never happened: Titus Mede and the entire Legion leaving Cyrodiil to go off and hide in Skyrim. They’re so great at hiding in Legends that even the local Nords don’t know where they’re hiding out so it takes our heroes clever scouting to discover them!

Let me contrast this with Quintius’s narration of the war.

In 4E 174, the Thalmor leadership committed all available forces to the campaign in Cyrodiil, gambling on a decisive victory to end the war once and for all. During the spring, Aldmeri reinforcements gathered in southern Cyrodiil, and on 12th of Second Seed, they launched a massive assault on the Imperial City itself. One army drove north to completely surround the city, while Lord Naarifin's main force attacked the walls from the south, east, and west. The Emperor's decision to fight his way out of the city rather than make a last stand was a bold one. No general dared advise him to abandon the capital, but Titus II was proven right in the end.

While the Eighth Legion fought a desperate (and doomed) rearguard action on the walls of the city, Titus II broke out of the city to the north with his main army, smashing through the surrounding the Aldmeri forces and linking up with reinforcements marching south from Skyrim under General Jonna.

Legends' developers apparently understood this retreat from the Imperial City northwards to link with Skyrim reinforcements “marching south from Skyrim” as Titus Mede taking the entire Legion up to Skyrim with him. The heroes of Legends have to traverse a Cyrodiil entirely occupied by the Dominion, it would seem, though the geography is so imprecise I can’t be entirely sure. In Kellen’s story, the Legion stays camped in Skyrim till just before Red Ring.

Let’s get back to Quintius. What happened after Titus left the Imperial city and met up with General Jonna?

Meanwhile, however, the capital fell to the invaders and the infamous Sack of the Imperial City began. The Imperial Palace was burned, the White-Gold Tower itself looted, and all manner of atrocities carried out by the vengeful elves on the innocent populace.

Ok, Legends does portray atrocities, though these sound less organized than in Kellen’s story. But I’ll give Legends a point here for trying to expand the original source.


In Hammerfell, General Decianus was preparing to drive the Aldmeri back from Skaven when he was ordered to march for Cyrodiil. Unwilling to abandon Hammerfell completely, he allowed a great number of "invalids" to be discharged from the Legions before they marched east. These veterans formed the core of the army that eventually drove Lady Arannelya's forces back across the Alik'r late in 174, taking heavy losses on their retreat from harassing attacks by the Alik'r warriors.

Our author Quintius was part of Decianus’ army in Hammerfell, and went with him to Cyrodiil.

4E 175: The Battle of the Red Ring

During the winter of 4E 174-175, the Thalmor seem to have believed that the war in Cyrodiil was all but over. They made several attempts to negotiate with Titus II. The Emperor encouraged them in their belief that he was preparing to surrender; meanwhile, he gathered his forces to retake the Imperial City.

In what is now known as the Battle of the Red Ring, a battle that will serve as a model for Imperial strategists for generations to come, Titus II divided his forces into three. One army, with the legions from Hammerfell under General Decianus, was hidden in the Colovian Highlands near Chorrol. The Aldmeri were unaware that he was no longer in Hammerfell, possibly because the Imperial veterans Decianus had left behind led Lady Arannelya to believe that she still faced an Imperial army. The second army, largely of Nord legions under General Jonna, took up position near Cheydinhal. The main army was commanded by the Emperor himself, and would undertake the main assault of the Imperial City from the north.

According to Quintius, during that whole winter, the Colovian Highlands and Nibenese East near Cheydinhall were part of Imperial territory, the Emperor and his Legions were preparing for the spring campaign to retake the Imperial City. Titus Mede and his main troops were not off hiding in Skyrim.

So, who are we going to believe: the Legate who was there and is writing a history of the events? Or some guy without any credentials telling stories to inspire people around a campfire?

Even if Quintius had some mysterious reason to lie about the subject, it’s not something he could fabricate. We’re talking about whole Legions, with many, many surviving veterans, as well as the peoples of Skyrim and Cyrodiil as witness. There is no way Quintius could be hiding the truth about where the main troops in the war were. And Quintius’ version of events is also the sane one, that explains the set-up for the Red Ring, something Kellen’s doesn’t.

In conclusion, the Legends storyline can be mined for interesting bits of lore, if it’s Kellen’s recounting of the story as he heard/remembers it, but it can’t be taken seriously as an eyewitness narrative of the actual war. That leaves lots of interesting possibilities: maybe Titus Mede did take a private trip up to Skyrim off the books, what’s up with Lord Naarifin and the daedra? But the main account of the war is nonsense.


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