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The Reach is a geographic region surrounded by High Rock, Skyrim and Hammerfell. Its territory once extended into High Rock, but that portion was split off to create the Western Reach during the late First Era and has remained separate ever since. The region was historically inhabited by the native, Daedra-worshipping Reachmen, who were primarily of Breton descent. Control of the Reach has changed hands between the Reachmen, Nords, and even the Cyrodilics numerous times over the centuries in various conflicts, and the Reachmen became well-known for resisting foreign rule by using ancient magic and an intimate knowledge of the landscape to their advantage in guerrilla warfare and espionage tactics.
In the Fourth Era, the Reach is the southwestern hold of Skyrim. Near the southwestern corner, the capital Markarth, formerly a Dwemer stronghold, emerges from the living rock of the Druadach Mountains, which transition into the Jerall Mountains near the hold's southeast corner. The Karth River begins in the southern region and drains the mountains, running like a deep gouge through the middle of the hold. Settlements such as Karthwasten and Old Hroldan can be found along the Karth. The peaks of the Druadach range lie to the west of it, and high bluffs typically rise on the east leading to grassland and tundra. The Reachmen and settled Bretons constitute the demographic majority of the Reach and its various settlements, and an Orc stronghold can be found in the steppes of the mountains in the south of the hold.
It is unclear who first came to inhabit the Reach, whether Nedes or Aldmer, but it is said that the first to invade it were the earliest Atmoran tribes to settle in Tamriel. High King Olaf One-Eye conquered the Reach for Skyrim at some point during his reign between 1E 420 and 1E 452. The Dwemer of Clan Kragen arrived in the region sometime after 1E 420 and established the city-state of Arkngthamz. Clan Kragen's success at fending off the local Nords inspired other Dwemer clans to expand into Skyrim as well. It is presumably during this period, prior to the Dwemer's disappearance around 1E 700, that the city of Markarth was constructed.
Around 1E 1030, the Reach was ruled by ten warring Reachman kings. Most of them submitted to the invading Imperial forces of Empress Hestra, though many ultimately joined the rebellion led by Red Eagle, the legendary hero of the Reachmen. They could not win this conflict, but in a campaign lasting two or more years, Red Eagle and his followers made the Empire pay dearly for invading their land. Although the Empire was ultimately able to exert control over the Reach, widespread resistance continued long afterward.
After thwarting the Akaviri invasion in 1E 2704, Emperor Reman of the Second Empire turned his attention to the "madmen of the Reach". He divided the geographical Reach between the Imperial provinces of High Rock and Skyrim to reduce the power or incomes of any individual ruler, and the Western Reach has existed as a separate entity ever since. Despite this, the Reach failed to be tamed, and not a decade passed without troops from either Evermore or Solitude marching into the Reach in another vain attempt to bring the Reachmen to heel. Emperor Reman's Dragonguard also built Sky Haven Temple in the mountains of the Reach to support their crusade against dragons. The Temple was sealed off by Emperor Reman II after the completion of Alduin's Wall in 1E 2818.
Following the Second Empire's collapse in 2E 430, the Reach was left to its own devices. It eventually became an independent kingdom ruled by the Reachmen themselves under the infamous Durcorach the Black Drake, who conquered the Empire of Cyrodiil and installed himself as the first of the Longhouse Emperors. Durcorach met his demise during a failed invasion of High Rock in 2E 542. By 2E 578, even as Durcorach's grandson Leovic reigned over the Empire, control of the Reach had passed to the so-called Despot of Markarth. Amidst the chaos of both the Planemeld and the Three Banners War, numerous Reachman tribes attempted to extend their influence into High Rock and Skyrim.
The Nords reclaimed the Reach as the ninth hold of Skyrim in 2E 852, when the future Emperor Tiber Septim besieged and defeated Reachmen forces at Old Hroldan with an army of Colovian troops and Nord berserkers. Markarth and the Reach were subsequently occupied by the Nords, while Imperial propaganda branded the Reachmen as rebellious and lawless mongrels.
Nationalistic Reachmen passively resisted Nord rule for centuries until finding the perfect opportunity to strike in 4E 174, while the forces of the Empire were committed to fighting the Aldmeri Dominion in the Great War. The Reachmen rose up, seizing Markarth and most of the hold, ruling the Reach as an independent kingdom for two years. The government of Skyrim, growing desperate, enlisted a militia led by Ulfric Stormcloak which retook the Reach in 4E 176. The survivors of the revolt were scattered into the wilderness, becoming the Forsworn.
- For game-specific information, see the Skyrim article.
- The Improved Emperor's Guide to Tamriel: Northern Bangkorai and the Mountains — Flaccus Terentius, 2E 581
- Pocket Guide to the Empire, 1st Edition — Imperial Geographical Society and 'YR', 2E 864
- The "Madmen" of the Reach — Arrianus Arius, Imperial Scholar
- Annals of the Dragonguard — Brother Annulus
- Holdings of Jarl Gjalund — Slafknir the Scribe
- The Holds of Skyrim
- The City of Stone — Amanda Alleia
- The plaque commemorating Olaf outside the Palace of the Kings in Windhelm
- Arkngthamz-Phng — Neramo
- The Legend of Red Eagle — Tredayn Dren
- Annals of the Dragonguard — Brother Annulus
- Atlas of Dragons — Brother Mathnan
- Chronicles of the Five Companions 4 — Abnur Tharn
- Travails and Triumphs of a Monarch — His Majesty King Emeric
- Events of ESO
- The Arcturian Heresy — The Underking, Ysmir Kingmaker
- Kibell's dialogue in Skyrim
- The Bear of Markarth — Arrianus Arius, Imperial Scholar