The history of Astrom spans 10,000 years from its first beginning to the latest events. Starting today on Earth, an equivalent stretch of time would take you back to the Mesolithic Age of 8,000 BC and the dawn of agriculture and settled civilisation. That’s an immense passage of time, containing the sum total of all our recorded human history, and it gives me tremendous scope for telling stories across a vast canvas of time and space. But it also needs a little explanation, a few pointers on how to navigate it. Looking back across all the time between now and 8,000 BC we wouldn’t know what to make of it if we didn’t break it up and lay a framework of understanding over it, for example designating the Bronze and Iron Ages, the Classical, Hellenistic & Roman periods, followed by the early, high and late Middle Ages, and so on.
A similar framework is needed for Astrom, and at its most basic it divides up history into four “chapters”. The term chapter reflects the elvish conception of time as the great divine story of Prelan, their Creator. The elves of Kalimar simply counted the years from the First StarFall – the seminal event when the six forefathers and foremothers of the three main kindreds arrived on Astrom in star-capsules – before which there yawned a gulf of existence wholly unknown to the elves. The elves of Kalimar did not reckon in chapters, but simply allowed the tally of years to keep accumulating. However, their kindred who founded new realms elsewhere in the continent were not content with this single, unbroken stream of chronology and imposed the chapter framework where a new chapter was deemed to begin every three thousand years. Thus, they distinguished between different epochs, and determined in advance that the chapters would be equal units of time, not marked by watershed events. Accordingly, any alignment between the turn of a chapter and a momentous event, such as the Great Betrayal in 3000 SC, was accidental (or providential).
In Ithrill, Alanmar, Ciricen, Endomar and Jaglalir, where thriving independent kingdoms and lordships were well-established, the transition from the First Chapter to the Second Chapter was observed at the end of the 3,000th year after the First StarFall, and 3000 FC was followed by 1 SC. For some it was an excuse for great ceremony and celebration, for others it was a more prosaic administrative affair. Only in Kalimar was the transition not recognised, and for them 1 SC was merely the year 3,001.
When reckoning the history of Astrom, then, here are the chapters, and the abbreviations by which they are denoted.
First Chapter (FC) 0-3,000
Second Chapter (SC) 3,001-6,000
Third Chapter (TC) 6,001-9,000
Fourth Chapter (FOC) 9,001-10,000
To help newcomers to Astrom get their bearings, the events of the Oron Amular novels are set in the fifth century FOC, that is, half-way through the Fourth Chapter. The year of Kulothiel’s Tournament, 444 FOC, is thus very late on and within the final 6% of the whole 10,000-year story. For the people of that time the first four and a half centuries of the Fourth Chapter are the recent and moderately well-known past, the time since defeat of Kurundar in the Second War, though outside the great noble houses, monasteries and universities, average folk had little knowledge of anything beyond living memory in their own small patch of Astrom. Curillian alone of mortals alive at the time of the Oron Amular Tournament can remember the end of the Third Chapter, the days of his troubled youth when the Second War was just breaking out.
For mortals in 444 the Third Chapter is ancient history, the Second Chapter is a semi-legendary distant past and the First Chapter is an obscure myth lost in the mists of time. The immortal elves, however, see it very differently. The 444 years of the Fourth Chapter so far are a brief passage of time and a great many living elves are old enough to remember some or most of the Third Chapter. Since elves do not die of natural causes, only those slain in battle have passed from the world, and so the oldest elves remember the first two chapters. Their memories are far stronger and more reliable than our own, meaning that their memories of their earliest years are still bright and well-defined, though not entirely free from prejudice and the evolving perspectives of hindsight.
In what follows I will describe each chapter, both the events that marked their beginning and end but also the key developments in-between and how they might compare to Earth’s history.
The First Chapter is when recorded history began on Astrom. The First Chapter tells the story of the origins of the elves, of their growth and spread across Astrom, and of their bliss and sorrow along the way. The first year began when the elves first awoke, six of them emerging from their star-capsules. For a half a millennium they were alone and explored their new home in a wild, beautiful, empty world. In 500 FC a second Star-Fall occurred, bringing a much larger population of thousands more elves. Thus increased, the elves were now able to create the kingdom of Kalimar, the first and greatest of their realms, in which distinct kingdoms of High-elves, Sea-elves and Wood-elves were all ruled by one High King, Avatar. This kingdom increased in numbers and in bliss for many centuries before the horizon started to darken.
Hints of evil and opposition in the world grew and grew until the Great Wars broke out, in which the elves fought their defining struggle against demons and the forces of darkness. These wars were the hinge event of the First Chapter, taking place in the 18th and 19th centuries. Thus, the First Chapter has two distinct halves, a phase of great peace and innocence before the Great Wars, and a phase of sorrow, rebuilding and re-imagining the world that followed the wars. The elves were forever changed by this experience, for they had by necessity become warlike, more assertive and more wary. Through war they had discovered their true strength, but at great cost. Some responded by retreating inwards, fencing themselves off and vainly trying to recover the lost bliss of former days, but others responded with great outward-looking dynamism. It was the latter which sparked a wave of large migrations in which elves traversed the length and breadth of Astrom to establish vibrant new kingdoms. By the end of the First Chapter, after 3,000 years had elapsed, Elvendom encompassed Ciricen and Endomar in the north, Ithrill in the west, Alanmar in the south and various principalities in the centre, in what would one day become Aranar, as well as Kalimar.
The great advances of this chapter were agriculture, art, architecture and all kinds of crafts learned from divine Prélan. The Sea-elves mastered ship-building and grew in confidence in navigation, the Wood-elves delighted in music and woodlore, and the High-elves developed great skills in mining, craftsmanship and writing. The demands of war forced all three kindreds to develop increasingly sophisticated weapons and armour, but the pace of technological development slowed dramatically after the wars.
If 8,000 BC is our equivalent starting point on Earth then by the end of the First Chapter we have reached 5,000 BC, when agriculture is well-established in the Fertile Crescent and the first cities have been built.
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