High Rock is a western region of the Empire of Tamriel in the Elder Scrolls Series of Game. It borders Hammerfell to the south-east and Skyrim to the north-east. It is mainly populated by the Bretons. The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall, named after the city-state of Daggerfall, is partly set in this province. High Rock, along with the Summerset Isles, are the only provinces of Tamriel that do not share a land-border with Cyrodiil.
High Rock encompasses Greater Bretony, the Dellese Islands, and, by tradition the Western Reach. Its regional geography is varied. The forested peaks of the northern Wrothgarian Mountains are occupied mainly by herders, living in small hamlets. The only truly cosmopolitan cities lie along the Iliac bay, the enclosed body of water across from which sits Hammerfell. A number of kingdoms have prospered due to trade around the bay and up the Bjoulsae River, such as Wayrest. Inland, the countryside rises into the windswept plateau of North Kambria. This region is known for its many small villages and towns, and for the many grim fortifications that dot the hills and crags around them. In the past, these castles were the domains of many petty kings and lords that ruled the massive patchwork of small nations that used to make up High Rock. Many of these fortresses are now in ruins, as the Empire has been demolishing them since the time of Tiber Septim to prevent them from being used as bases for future rebellions.
With its fertile soils and generally clement weather, High Rock has attracted many cultures throughout history. The Aedra were the first of these. The Adamantine Tower, on a small island in the middle of the Iliac Bay, is widely considered to be the oldest structure in Tamriel. According to ancient tales, it was crafted in the Dawn Era by the Aedra as a location for meeting and deciding what would be the fate of Nirn. Despite being heavily immersed in myth, it is true that when the first Aldmer came to the region, the Tower was already standing.
There is evidence that early beast men of one variety or another may have been the original inhabitants of High Rock, but the Aldmer coming from the Summerset Isles were the first to settle and form permanent communities. The early Nedic people who arrived next were stumbling on a highly sophisticated culture, and were quickly overwhelmed and absorbed. One of the earliest tales of Khosey describes a Nord raiding party attacking a group of what they presumed to be Aldmer, but who were, on closer inspection, a mongrel race between human and elf, the remnants of the earlier lost Nedic tribe. They were somewhat awkwardly called Manmeri, but we know them today as the Bretons.
It took many centuries for the Bretons to become the dominant force in High Rock. For most of the First Era, the elves kept their hold on the land, with the Nords founding fortified towns along the coasts to support their pillaging parties, such as Daggerfall, which as a kingdom would have a profound influence on High Rock in years to come.
Of all the families of Aldmer who colonized High Rock, none did it as successfully as the Clan Direnni. So dominant were they that by the middle of the First Era, the whole of High Rock was commonly called the Direnni Hegemony. As an economic and military power, they were formidable enough to pose a continued threat to the battle hardened Nords and the nascent Alessian Empire of Cyrodiil. Taking advantage of internal strife in Skyrim, the Hegemony began taking land north and south of High Rock, claiming portions of Skyrim and Hammerfell. At the peak of their power, they controlled nearly a quarter of Tamriel. But they had overextended their reach, and slowly, year by year, they lost all that they had gained, falling back to their fortress on the Isle of Balfiera, the Adamantine Tower, now called the Direnni Tower.
The Bretons were operating beneath the eyes of history, and their rise in High Rock was through commerce and the foundation of small villages in well chosen positions, such as the sleepy fishing hamlet of Wayrest on the coast between the Bjoulsae River and the Iliac Bay. Daggerfall, Camlorn, and Reich Gradkeep, and many other Nordic cities became Breton not by any act of war, but simply by being assimilated by them. By the end of the First Era, High Rock was the land of the Bretons, and would be so ever after.
But High Rock was never a single cohesive Breton nation. The power vacuum left by the decline of the Dirennis fractured High Rock into a hundred fiefdoms of small, walled city states. This has often left the Bretons at the mercy of the larger powers of Tamriel, but has also made High Rock surprisingly resilient during the times of chaos following the fall of the great empires.
Scarcely had the rule of the Dirennis passed into history before two new powers arrived in the region. The Redguards of Yokuda began their conquest of Hammerfell in the 808th year of the First Era, largely displacing beast folk in their attacks, but also supplanting Breton settlements along the southern Iliac Bay. The two cultures warred over dominance in the Bay, until they were faced with a common enemy in the Orcish kingdom of Orsinium.
The rise and fall and rebirth of Orsinium is detailed in a larger section, but suffice it to say for now that the discovery of the "monstrous" kingdom of the creatures, as they were regarded, was a very unpleasant surprise to both the Redguards and Bretons. An alliance between Daggerfall and the new kingdom of Sentinel led to the long war known as the Siege of Orsinium. The humans eventually prevailed: Orsinium was destroyed and the Orcs dispersed far and wide across Tamriel.
High Rock fared relatively well during the long interregnum following the fall of the Cyrodilic Empire, but its multitude of fractious kingdoms were easily conquered by Tiber Septim. Indeed, many Bretons welcomed the rebirth of the Empire. Still, some of them managed to unite to stop the encroachment of the Camoran Usurper in his destructive march northward from Valenwood in 3E 267. With a weak Emperor on the Imperial throne, and no clear leadership from the usual powers of the west, the Usurper may have swept over High Rock had the smallest of regions of the Iliac Bay not banded together under the Baron of Dwynnen to defeat him. Once again, an overwhelming force had underestimated the Bretons, and was, in turn, defeated.
The unity was lost when the threat was removed, and for the next one hundred and fifty years, internal and external conflicts continued. In the east, the Nords reclaimed some of their old kingdoms in the War of the Bend'r-Mahk. In the west, the War of Betony, though ostensibly between Daggerfall and Sentinel, spilled into Daggerfall's neighboring kingdoms. In the center, Orsinium reappeared as the home of the Orcs, threatening once again the fortunes of Wayrest. In the year 417, however, the province redefined itself in a most mysterious way.
They call the event the Miracle of Peace. On the 10th of Frostfall, a strange force exploded over the Iliac Bay, displacing armies and decimating whole territories. Though its nature is still unknown, most Bretons believe it was the ancient Gods who had once made High Rock their home scouring the land, making it whole once again. Though it was a painful process for most - the Miracle is sometimes spoken of as the Warp in the West - the result of it is a province that is more unified than it has ever been in modern history.
Where once there were a hundred small squabbling kingdoms, today, just two decades after the Miracle, there are five.
High Rock society can be divided into a noble elite, a middle class of merchants, and a destitute peasantry. The High Rock nobility is an overwhelming mass of titles, family lines and hereditary claims, that leaves most outsiders bewildered at its complexity. Although the Bretons are divided into numerous antagonistic groups, their manner of speech, architecture, and even clothing seems fairly uniform to an outsider. A common anecdote suggests that an outsider only needs to visit one or two High Rock towns, before he has an understanding of the entire country. Bretons have a strong tradition of being regarded as powerful mages, and this is especially true in the larger cities. In cities such as Daggerfall and Wayrest, the nobility can trace its lines throughout the Mages Guild, and children are tested at a young age for magical affinity. Magic is practiced by independent mages and medicine men in the more remote regions of the Wrothgarian Mountains.