Continuing a new series exploring the realms of Astrom, this time it’s the turn of Hendar, the third Mortal realm after Aranar and Ciricen. Hendar is the greatest mortal nation in Astrom, far larger and more powerful than either Aranar or Ciricen. In size and wealth it rivals armist Maristonia and has always played a major role in the great events of Astrom. It is strategically placed to dominate the north, but also bears the huge responsibility of guarding the Haunted Pass, beyond which lurks the evil that has menaced Astrom for so long.
Hendar lies in the northwest of Astrom, a huge expanse of territory roughly triangular in shape. Its three corners touch the Haunted Pass in the north, Ithrill in the southwest and Aranar in the southeast. Along the base of this triangle run the Goragath Mountains, a large and impenetrable range containing some of the highest peaks in Astrom. These mountains form a huge barrier between Hendar and her southern neighbours, concentrating their viable borders into two strategic corridors: the Guloir valley in the southwest next to Ithrill and the coastal Stallion Pass with Aranar in the southeast.
The two diagonal sides of the triangle are Hendar’s coasts, running towards a tapering point in the north at the isthmus with Urunmar. The eastern coast runs along the Firth of Ciricen and faces rival Ciricen across a narrow body of hotly contested water. It is lined with ports and coastal fortifications. The western seaboard faces the Rétorn Ocean, looking westward upon a distant horizon.
The Haunted Pass in the north is a mountainous neck of land linking Urunmar with the rest of Astrom by the most slender of connections. With dreadful cliffs falling sheer into the frigid waters on either side, the only path north runs through a dark and winding valley between high and forbidding peaks. It is by this road that all invasions of the south have come, and few but the most foolhardy venture in the opposite direction.
Hendar is extremely mountainous in its southern marches where the Goragath Mountains stoop to the lowlands in descending steps and plateaux. These mountains also birth the great rivers of Hendar: the Goralar flowing west and the Gorathar flowing north. The Goralar drains all of southwestern Hendar, flowing through the rich farmland of Malator before emptying into the Rétorn Ocean on the western coast. The Gorathar and its tributaries marks the historic frontier between the dukedoms of Kalator and Nalator. It runs close to the capital city, Kalator, and past many fortified cities before reaching the Gulf of Urunmar on the northern coast. These twin valleys contain the vast majority of Hendar’s population and arable land.
North of these two great basins lie the Guard Hills, a vast upland of low hills, lakes and enclosed northern fiefdoms. This territory is cooler, sparser and on the periphery of Hendarian interests. It has long, empty coasts and many undisturbed forests. In its far north this region is a watchful one, full of guard towers from which the hills take their name, and rarely free of the fear of Urunmar.
Politically, Hendar is divided into five great dukedoms, equal in pride if not in power. This was the legacy of one of the early kings, who in a misguided attempt to keep the peace between five acrimonious children divided the realm between them. The royal portion fell to Kalator in the east and contained most of the young nation’s administrative apparatus, as well as rich valleys, cities and coasts. Malator was richer still and larger, occupying the whole southwest of the country and presiding over the Ithrillian border.
Nalator was the largest of all, representing the whole of the north and two-thirds of the whole kingdom, but it was the least-inhabited, its people fierce but few. Jalator was small and tucked away in the mountainous south, but this meant that it controlled the vast majority of the kingdom’s minerals and precious metals. Finally, there was Lalator, a tiny border patrimony lying beyond the Stallion Hills on the doorstep of Aranar. It was merely a spectator in the wars between the other dukedoms, and instead became a centre of learning and cultural exchange.
In geography and experience Hendar bears a resemblance to medieval France, too large for its own good, filled with great rivers and having a mountainous southern border. Also like France, Hendar had an uncanny ability to arouse the jealousy and enmity of its neighbours, acquiring a reputation for wealth, sophistication and pride. Ciricen was to Hendar what medieval England was to France, valiant but much weaker.
Hendar began its history as a community in exile. Eretholin was an Avatar prince banished from Kalimar along with his father Lithar and his son Faranor. When they stayed in Ciricen, Eretholin crossed the Firth of Ciricen to establish his own kingdom in exile. This became known as the land of Endomar, and for long centuries the followers of Eretholin slowly grew into a great people.
From the start the elves of the north were a folk apart, different in their customs and beliefs. Long sundering from their kin in Kalimar and elsewhere caused a divergence in language, culture and values. It was long indeed before they had any regular dealings with their cousins in the south, when the principalities of Aranar and Ithrill started to grow to their south, but when meaningful contact was re-established, the elves already found themselves estranged by their long separation.
The elves of Endomar were discovered to entertain strange beliefs and doctrines about Prélan, led by their wayward king and his chief followers, among whom were theologians of uncertain soundness. As the wild northern lands were settled, as cities sprang up and trade commenced with their neighbours, the church in Endomar acquired a reputation for errant practices and peculiar ideology.
As the Second Chapter passed the differences between Endomar and the more orthodox elven nations reached a point of schism and missionaries from Kalimar began a futile mission to recall their kindred to the true faith. Prélan raised up a succession of native-born prophets to lead His people to repentance, but the elves of Endomar refused and walked ever further from the truth, persecuting the messengers of Prélan.
As Endomar grew larger and stronger the spiritual health of the nation worsened, some clinging to false religion, some renouncing faith altogether and some stooping even to demon worship. Matters reached a head when the leaders of Endomar led the great majority of the population in a mass rejection of Prélan, an event known to the elves as The Great Betrayal. Similar public repudiations took place in Ciricen and Aranar, and the elves of Ithrill and Kalimar who stayed true to Prélan watched helplessly as the Curse of Mortality descended on their kin.
Endomar entered the Third Chapter grappling with the new reality of mortality. Instead of repenting, its people rejected even the traditional Kinyar language and espoused a new tongue, Édulyar. In this language Endomar, the land of the north, became Hendar, the Mortal Kingdom.
Even as its people were acclimatising to the constraints of mortality, Hendar was invaded by Lancearon of Ithrill, who slew the leaders of the Great Betrayal in a personal crusade. Hendar was left reeling from this savage intervention, with some of its people swearing enmity to the elves and others longing to return to the old ways. In these torturous circumstances the agony of Hendar plumbed new depths as the dying King Molodan divided up his kingdom between five rebellious children, each of whom took one of the dukedoms of Kalator, Malator, Nalator, Jalator and Lalator.
Not till several centuries of civil war and devastation had passed did Hendar again become a united kingdom, but as it did so it began to establish its new identity and place in the world. Old wounds were healed and normal relations were established with the nearby nations, elven and Mortal alike. The reconciliation of Elf and Mortal was accelerated by the rise of Kurundar as a common enemy in the north. Vigorous kings led Hendar in the vanguard of the Free Peoples, shaking off the shadow and helping to overthrow evil.
Hendar afterwards took a leading role in the Great Union, clasping the hand of Lancearon and other monarchs in an alliance of unprecedented closeness and assimilation. Yet it was not to last, for a new dynasty arose which rejected this integration and forged an independent path for Hendar, pursuing dreams of glory and hegemony.
Whilst his neighbours were in a pacifist posture and unprepared, King Ciryexeres took the fateful step of annexing territory from Ithrill. For Lancearon this was a defining moment, convincing him that Mortals could never be trusted and that Hendar could no longer be viewed as an ally. Biding his time until he had transformed Ithrill onto a war-footing, Lancearon avenged the annexation by invading Hendar. Thus began the Silver Wars, a thousand-year conflict in which Hendar was slowly consumed by the Silver Empire.
Lancearon’s great project was to unite the nations of Astrom under his personal rule, fusing them together into an empire capable of withstanding the renewed threat of Kurundar. Hendar suffered first, most and longest from Lancearon’s attentions. Despite many glorious episodes and drawn-out defiance, Hendar suffered a remorseless and humiliating decline, retreating into servitude until at the last she was completely conquered.
Lancearon’s rule was benevolent, yet still he never succeeded in winning the bulk of Hendarian society to his cause or vision. This much at least he did achieve: he led them to victory when Kurundar invaded, as Lancearon had foreseen. The Third Chapter ended in fire and blood as the Second War of Kurundar raged. For a time virtually all of Hendar lay under the iron-shod feet of the orcs, and only a herculean effort liberated her in the first century of the Fourth Chapter.
In the aftermath of this epic conflict, Hendar found new leadership and a new national awakening. She achieved liberation not only from Urunmar but from the Silver Empire also. As the Fourth Chapter unfolded, Hendar was once again free, strong and prosperous. Yet if Kurundar should arise again, Hendar will have to defend herself, standing as she ever has in the first line of defence against the north.
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