Welcome to the fourth instalment in my Realms of Astrom series. Ithrill is one of the two great elven nations, lying on the western edge of Astrom. Founded by Lancearon in the later First Chapter, it grew into a strong kingdom with a high destiny before it. Alone with Kalimar, Ithrill survived the Great Betrayal, which saw mortality descend across the other nations of Astrom. Ever after, the two immortal nations were separated on opposite sides of the continent with mortal realms lying in-between.
Ithrill occupies the westernmost part of Astrom, jutting out in the west just as Kalimar does in the east. It is shaped like a horse’s body with a tail curling round underneath it: a vast oblong of lowland country beneath the Goragath Mountains with a great curving peninsula extending out to the south and curving back round to the east.
Most of the oblong is low-lying country running down in great valleys from the mountains to the north, dotted with low hills and carpeted in thick forests. From the marching pinewoods, spruces, larches and firs on the southward slopes of the Goragath Mountains to the shimmering white bark and copious white blossom of the rillendi trees from which the land takes its name, Ithrill is full of trees both beautiful and exotic, many of which are not found outside its borders. There are whispering birch and aspen woods in the hills of the south-east, vast beech and elm forests in the interior, giant spreading serephiren on the southern coasts and knotted yews and oaks on the western coast, perpetually bent eastward by the winds coming in off the ocean.
The land not covered by these forests is composed of rich, fertile vales, chalk downs, vast flowering alpine meadows and open heathland. The tail, or ‘The Silver Finger’, as it is known, is much rockier, with tall cliffs, countless secret inlets and cloven coves. Covered in vineyards and groves of olives, eucalyptus and cypress trees, a spine-like ridge runs down most of its length. Lancen is the name of the uttermost tip of the Silver Finger, which reaches so far south as to be level with northern Maristonia, whereas most of Ithrill is north of the Vanri and therefore reckoned as part of Ciroken, the northern half of the continent.
Enclosed within the curve of the Silver Finger is Silver Bay, otherwise known as the Ithrillian Sea. Extending from the noble city of Del Tharmar in the west to the mouths of the Vanri, it is a huge inlet and provides a long, sandy coastline whose ports look south to trade with Maristonia, whereas the rockier western coast, north and south of the westernmost point at Cape Caval, is oriented rather to Hendar in the north.
Ithrill’s continental borders are rivers: the Elarim in the east and the Guloir in the north. The Elarim was the frontier of the unknown when Lancearon first crossed it, coming down the Vanri from the east. He claimed all the land beyond as his kingdom, though it was not till much later that his folk settled on the Guloir as the northern frontier. Across the Guloir were explorers coming southwest from Endomar (future Hendar), and these two people groups agreed the Guloir as their border, a fast-flowing, deep-cloven river rushing down from the western Goragath. The high mountains then form a long, continuous border with Hendar as far as the source of the Elarim. Beyond that Ithrill ceases and the mountain-chain forms the border between Hendar and Aranar instead.
Climatically Ithrill resembles Italy: hot sun-drenched coasts and cooler inland vales below the mountains. The sweep of Silver Bay is similar to the coastline from northern Italy to Catalonia, whereas the northern coast near the Hendarian border is more akin to the south-west of France, with limestone gorges and a wild ocean-facing coastline. The mountains rise far higher and extend much further than the Alps, but nevertheless the terrain is similar, with much of upland Ithrill feeling reminiscent of Switzerland.
Lancearon was a hero in the Great Wars, when Elvendom fought against the primordial powers of darkness, but he found the ensuing peace difficult to bear. His boredom and restless energy eventually found expression in a great expedition. No longer content to live in a small land under the control of others, he led forth a great migration of all three elven kindreds. Together they forged westwards, opening new lands and reaching the Elarim River.
Beyond this was a new and enchanting land that Lancearon fell in love with and claimed as his own. Thus was born the kingdom of Ithrill, an independent realm but which acknowledged the overlordship of the High King. Here Lancearon ordered things as he wished, but he allowed a great deal of autonomy to his chief followers, who spread out throughout the land and established varied communities, from the Wood-elven enclaves in the forests to the alpine Avatar towers and from the ocean-facing Marintor harbours to the erudite and elegant city of Del Tharmar on Silver Bay.
This new kingdom was as diverse and as peaceful as Kalimar in the east, but it was only the third new principality to be created outside of the mother kingdom. Both Ciricen and Endomar had been established before the Great Wars, but these three countries were so far removed from each other that they had barely any contact with each other for centuries, each growing slowly in isolation.
Ithrill remained a sleepy outpost of Elvendom for long millennia. Its people farmed the lands and seas, created and composed new music and works of art and gradually beautified and enriched their land even more, but they had little to do with the world outside their chosen borders. Yet as the Second Chapter wore on, this contented isolation was fated not to last, for religious dispute arose and poisoned the peace of Astrom.
The elves had never fought amongst themselves, but increasingly they found themselves at variance on theological and doctrinal issues. Whereas the elves of Ithrill remained in the true faith and followed the teachings of the priests of Kalimar, their neighbours in Endomar and Aranar fell into ever deeper and darker heresies. Long years passed and Ithrill’s stance gradually shifted from one of detached disagreement to proactive concern and intervention, sponsoring missionaries and prophets to work abroad and bring their kindred back to the true faith.
But it was not to be: the wilful waywardness of the divergent nations descended into apostasy and the worship of abominations. The culmination of this was the Great Betrayal, a watershed event which brought down the Curse of Mortality in Endomar (henceforward known as Hendar), Aranar and Ciricen, but which exempted the faithful Ithrill. It remained an elven kingdom and a deathless nation, but found itself surrounded by mortal powers, estranged and hostile.
Lancearon found the defiant unrepentance of King Eretol of Hendar impossible to stomach, and so he invaded while the new mortal kingdom was still adjusting to its new reality. He limited himself to deposing one king in favour of a new one more amenable to his views, but the price of his success was sowing the seeds for millennia of contention between Ithrill and Hendar.
Not only were the two nations natural geopolitical rivals, the two great powers of western Astrom, but their differences extended to every sphere of life and the memory of bloodshed lived long in rancour. Even after Hendar returned more or less to the true faith after a virtuous king ended her civil war, there was now too deep a sundering in thought, values and priorities for the two countries to sit easily alongside one another.
Nor did the Great Betrayal leave Ithrill wholly unscathed, for the Curse of Morality afflicted many individual apostates in Lancearon’s kingdom, mainly in the vice-ridden ports of the western coast. This domestic problem was much harder to deal with than recreant foreign powers. They were sufficiently widespread, and inter-married with elves so much before the true consequences of mortality became apparent, that a numerous mixed race population grew up of uncertain lineage and fate. These Genauri straddled the border and proved to be a law unto themselves in both Ithrill and Hendar, individuals of uncertain loyalties and whose morality or otherwise proved to be determined by their own relationship to Prélan.
It was many long years before this intractable problem could be resolved and unity restored to the realm of Ithrill. The era of the Genauri overlapped with the era of the Ship-Kings, when rulers throughout Astrom engaged in naval rivalry, and the Genauri proved to be adept mariners, valuable allies and dangerous foes. Ultimately it was only the arising of a common enemy in the north which expunged the old quarrels, as Mortals and elves alike contested the seas with the Black Fleets pouring out of the cold latitudes of Urunmar.
The naval war was soon succeeded by a land war, one which Lancearon’s foresight prepared Ithrill for by furnishing it with a lethal army along the model of the Kalimari legions during the Great Wars. Ithrill played a large part in overthrowing the north during the First War of Kurundar, an experience which persuaded Lancearon of the need for true unity among the Free Peoples. To this end he was prepared to forgive and overlook differences of race and creed, and became one of the leading architects of the Great Union.
The Great Union was a noble experiment in supranational government and collaboration, and in it Ithrill went much further than other nations in subsuming its resources and institutions within the new, overarching ones. This left Ithrill vulnerable when the Great Union inevitably collapsed, a vulnerability which a new dynasty in Hendar exploited by annexing the northwestern province of Noir.
This act of aggression was a betrayal which shocked and grieved Lancearon to his core. Combined with the failure of the Great Union, it convinced him that Mortals could never be trusted and that voluntary co-operation and peace between nations was impossible. Foreboding that Kurundar would arise again, Lancearon conceived a bold and revolutionary vision. He would unite the Free Peoples under his own rule, compelling friends and foes by all means necessary to accept his vision.
This led to the Silver Wars, a millennium-long conflict by which Lancearon gradually conquered the whole of Ciroken, starting with political intrigue and daring diplomatic forays but evolving into naked aggression and conquest, with Hendar being the main victim. Ithrill was transformed from a peaceful, devolved kingdom of dispersed strength into an ultra-efficient military-economic powerhouse capable of ruling and administering a far-flung and unruly empire. Lancearon became the Silver Emperor, one of the most brilliant and controversial figures in Astrom’s history.
Even after the return of Kurundar became apparent, Lancearon’s contemporaries found it difficult to look past his bloody annexations and iron-fisted tyranny to the noble aspirations beyond. It was the Free Peoples themselves who suffered most from his actions, in which enlightened autocracy and ruthlessness were mingled. Kurundar bided his time for centuries, preparing the terrible onslaught to come.
When the Second War of Kurundar broke out the Free Peoples were still only partially reconciled to Lancearon’s imperial dream, but they suddenly found that only his military might and resolute leadership offered any hope against the northern storm. Although centuries later than he envisaged, Lancearon now played the part he had foreseen, leading the defence of the Free Peoples under silver banners. His strength was only just adequate to prevent their annihilation and the enslavement of all Astrom, for Kurundar was mightier far than in the First War. Most of Ciroken was lost and desperate fighting reached even the borders of Kalimar and Ithrill before the tide was turned, and even then it was a long, exhausting road to liberate the lost territory and finally defeat Kurundar again.
The Second War of Kurundar drained the Silver Empire’s military, financial and spiritual resources – everything was committed to the life-and-death struggle, and the empire which emerged from the war was a hollow wreck. It did not long survive the new hard-earned peace, and Lancearon retreated back to Ithrill, to rule as a simple king again and reflect on both his triumph and his transgressions.
Ithrill remained strong in the Fourth Chapter, with a sophisticated centralised state and a feared army, but it was no longer a leader in Astrom’s brotherhood of nations. Should great evil ever again menace the continent, Ithrill will surely play its part, but never again will Lancearon be Astrom’s flawed saviour.
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