Whatever prowess Dragonborn Elspeth demonstrates in battle, she owes to the formidable Xeri Tharys, her irreverent and sardonic trainer and mentor, who was also her father’s trainer and mentor.
Xeri was born in Narsis, Morrowind, in 4E 17, which is coincidentally the year that Titus Mede captured Imperial City and was crowned Emperor. Her mother Loliah died when she was very young and her father was a mercenary who never liked to stay in one place for very long. She was raised by her grandmother, Balam, a highly respected wisewoman. Although she refused any official recognition, Balam, being situated in Narsis, was closely associated with House Hlaluu and tended to the needs of most of its most nobles. In her lifetime she witnessed some of Morrowind’s most turbulent and troubling events: the Oblivion Crisis, the eruption of Red Mountain, the attack by the Argonians of Black Marsh, and the release of Morrowind from the Empire and Hlaluu from the great houses.
Balam was able to get on quite well without the support of an intact Great House and the Empire, though her economic status was somewhat diminished. She tended mostly to refugees and immigrants who came around as a result of many of the aforementioned disasters, and still kept the patronage of several Dunmer nobles. But life was considerably more chaotic in those years. Her health and her abilities were diminishing, and she would need a protégé to pass her skills on to. She viewed Xeri’s birth as a sign of hope, that her granddaughter would inherit her gift of sight and use it to bring some stability and comfort to their small part of Nirn.
But fate had other plans. Xeri showed no sign of the gift, nor did she have the temperament required for any sort of healing or religious station. She was a firebrand, prone to bring chaos and destruction wherever she went. As a child and adolescent she was brash and defiant with no patience or respect for any kind of authority. She refused to sit still, wanting to spend her days running and breaking things. In a last ditch attempt to reign her in, Balam brought Xeri to Solstheim to meet the Elder who confirmed what they already knew. Xeri didn’t, nor would she ever, have visions.
With this, Xeri decided to forge her own path. She packed her few treasured belongings, saw that someone would look in on her grandmother, and went on a long walking journey of Morrowind, seeking out something that would give her a sense of purpose. She tried to join up with the Ashlanders but failed as the defiance of her youth and her refusal to retain knowledge of her own people caught up with her. Along the way she managed to hone her fighting and thieving skills and sought out various tongs, thinking that she might become an assassin, but she lacked the discipline required of the formal groups.
When her grandmother died, she took her small inheritance and decided to head to Cyrodiil, hoping to move on to Hammerfell. In Cyrodiil she quickly ran out of money and was stuck in Cheydinhal, working as a bodyguard to some noble Dunmer’s spoiled rotten daughter. She hated this, but the pay was too good to pass up. It was here that she learned that despite her deep resistance to authority, she was quite capable of asserting it and had a penchant for taking the less assertive children of nobles and turning them around. With the naturally aggressive and courageous knightly types, she butted heads. But otherwise she was sought out by noble families to turn their lazy, spoiled children around. She made a good deal of money doing this, and though she disliked being yoked to so many noble families, she had more power and prestige than ever before. She moved between Cheydinhall, Imperial City, Skingraad and eventually settled in Chorrol for a spell.
It was there that she met Anya Sigeweald, a descendent of the Hero of Kvatch who, tired of the politics in High Rock, decided to move back to the home of her famous ancestor and there she found Xeri to help teach and discipline her energetic and adventurous—but undisciplined and fickle—son, Bedyn.
Unlike most of the nobles she worked for, Xeri became quite close to Anya. They both shared a disdain for the pretense of most noble families and eventually shared an emotionally and physically intimate relationship—the only one Xeri would ever have or want. As a result, Bedyn became a favored student and Xeri remained in his employ (more or less) even when the Blades recruited him. She was vocal in her opinions regarding the choices Bedyn and Anya made, most notable was her opposition to his marriage to Evangeline (Elspeth’s mother). Nevertheless, the well-being of the family (including their steward, Nerussa) was her primary concern, over and above the rest of her career.
During the Great War, Xeri worked with the Blades and with the Legion, though she refused to join either of them. She was an asset, though nothing she did could remotely be considered heroic, until after the Concordat was signed, at which point she helped as many Blades escape the Thalmor as possible. Her final act in this capacity was the rescue of a priestess of Talos, a Nord named Runa. By now she had heard of Evangeline and Bedyn’s exile and with nowhere else to go, she and Runa fled to the mountains, where they joined the Sigeweads in Frostcrag Village.
Xeri was restless during this period, but as more mages others came seeking solace and protection, she began to assist Evangeline in mounting a resistance against the Thalmor. She imagined she would help train up new recruits and looked forward to this until Evangeline gave birth to Elspeth. And on that night Xeri, who had been told she would never have her grandmother’s gift, had a vision. Though she despised the trope, she realized Elspeth was destined for greatness. And she knew what she needed to do. She committed herself to Elspeth’s training. And after Bedyn died, she and Runa brought Elspeth to Cyrodiil so that she could have a more comprehensive training and education.