As a councilor, Master Aryon seems to value and derive most of his political power from making and maintaining relationships. He values his established relationships very highly, and is comfortable assuming a very strong two-way loyalty wherever they exist. I think this is overall his biggest strength, and what makes him stand out from the other Telvanni. Whether he is seeking out allies on the Telvanni Council, sending medicine to the Zainab Camp, reaching across the aisle to end the Mage’s Guild Monopoly, or simply treating/paying his employees and peasants very well to ensure their loyalty; it seems to consistently be his go-to method. Aryon not only cultivates important and powerful relationships, but he feels comfortable wielding those relationships to exert and extend his power.
Early in his career, Aryon was mentored by Divayth Fyr. It seems to me that he chose Fyr mostly for the prestige the name would bring him (like a modern academic choosing an institution, advisor, or PI mostly for the prestige of the name). Aryon has always been a very ambitious Dunmer. Especially back when Aryon was untested and green, he would need to make this choice very carefully. He later would go on to become the first rogue Telvanni and take Tel Vos in such a dramatic gesture that nobody could deny his admission to the council.
From Latest Rumors with Telvanni members: “We’ve been fortunate. We tested the resolve of the Duke and the other Houses when we grabbed Tel Vos. And we found out they weren’t going to fight to protect the settlement charters, we sent out our deviants and malcontents to stake new claims. Some will survive, some won’t. Hlaalu and Redoran have to respond. But in the end, the ones that survive will extend our power and influence here on Vvardenfell.”
Fyr enjoyed such prestige among the Telvanni that Aryon’s credentials would not be questioned – even if the other Telvanni saw him as a precocious upstart. Even after Aryon was is an established and powerful Telvanni in his own right, he seems to defer to the weight and prestige Fyr’s name brings; he writes to Fyr “Even Gothren and Neloth must admit that you are older and wiser and in every way superior to them in the arcane arts” when pointing out that if Fyr made a bid for the council it would surely go unchallenged.
But Aryon’s old mentor seems, by all accounts, to be completely apathetic and apolitical. Despite this, Aryon seems confident that if he could convince Fyr to join the council, that he would be a strong political ally. Since Fyr seemingly has no political position, I therefore can only assume that Aryon was completely counting on their history together to be enough for Fyr to back up Aryon’s positions whenever needed. Unfortunately for Aryon, Fyr’s history with Aryon was not enough to get him into politics, and he declines.
He also is willing to rely on his friendship with Baladas Demnevanni to ensure him as an ally, which seems reasonable as Baladas had been in Telvanni politics before and is presumably a known political fit for Aryon. But even riskier, he is willing to rely heavily on his mentor-mentee relationship with the Nerevarine to solidify his political influence. The Nerevarine is literally the player, and therefore is untested and we have no guarantee for what their politics are. They could be apolitical (like Fyr), or they might even be more conservative (like Aryon’s enemies). But once again, Aryon is confident that their history and relationship will be enough to earn the Nerevarine’s support.
Aryon is consistently loyal to the Nerevarine, and expects absolute loyalty in return. He talks about plans and allies with the Nerevarine in terms of “us” and “we,” no question in his mind that they are operating as a team. And his consistent kindness and loyalty to you, the player, really do make you want to return in kind. When he talks to you, he makes you feel like you are the most important person in the world and that you have his full attention in all things. No concern of yours is too small for him. This is how it feels talking with real life people with very high interpersonal skills, and often those sorts of people genuinely do feel a deep compassion and concern for the people they talk to. It seems natural, that if he extends that concern to you, he feels he can assume you likewise extend it to him. Since your concerns are his concerns, he assumes his concerns are your concerns. And it is this dynamic that he seems happy to wield as a weapon.
This is also how he approaches more traditionally political situations outside of interpersonal relationships, like negotiations. Before Aryon, the peasants of Vos used to be consistently raided by the Zainab. Where almost all other House Mer (and Imperials) on Vvardenfell respond to Ashlander raids with an even greater show of force, Aryon wants to address the root of the problem. He realizes that, short of wiping out the Ashlanders, responding to them with force won’t ever make the problem go away. He has identified the root of the problem to be resource insecurity among the Zainab tribe, and seems to think that if he addresses that resource insecurity, he can count on the raids to stop.
Is this out of genuine compassion for the Ashlanders, or is this out of an attempt to better control them? And ultimately, does it matter? Certainly, Aryon won’t allow the Zainab to continue raiding his small-folk. That is the minimum obligation of a Lord to his peasants in textbook Feudalism – the lord is expected to defend his peasants from attacks. If not, then the lord is not upholding his side of the contract, and they are free to seek work elsewhere with another lord.
But in addition to stopping the raids, sending the Zainab regular shipments of medicine will certainly make them reliant on Aryon. It might appear to be a relationship built out of the best of intentions, but it also puts Aryon firmly in control.
The Zainab wise woman, Sonummu Zabanat, sees right to the heart of it, saying to the Nerevarine: “So you come to ask me about the trade goods wanted by the Zainab. Perhaps I should ask you why you want to know. But perhaps I already know why. The mage-lord Master Aryon is shrewd. He thinks to bind us to Telvanni ways by binding us to Telvanni things. But I see no harm, and much good, in giving you an answer.”
Ultimately she decides that it is better to allow her tribe to rely on Aryon for medicine than to continue to clash with (and be defeated by) his mercenaries when they try to take such resources by force. And it is this exchange that I think is the best summary and example of Aryon’s politics and methods of negotiating relationships. He is incredibly shrewd and savvy, and is unafraid of using his interpersonal skills to further his own ambition. But at the same time his relationships aren’t meaningless to him, and he is trustworthy to those he counts as his allies.