Welcome to the fifth instalment in my Realms of Astrom series. We’ve already done Aranar, Ciricen, Hendar and Ithrill. This time we go right back to the beginning, to the dawn of history, to the oldest and most beautiful of all the lands of Astrom: Kalimar. Let me tell you about the cradle of elven civilisation.
Kalimar occupies the easternmost part of Astrom, jutting out into the Troizon Ocean like an uneven triangle. To the north across Beachbone Bay is the mortal kingdom of Ciricen; west lie the barren highlands of Dorzand, and beyond them the rolling plains of Aranar; and south below the inlet of Nimrell Bay is Maristonia.
Greater Kalimar includes all of the Black Mountains, from whose steep western faces the elves keep a watchful eye on Dorzand from hidden towers. Further north, where the mountains fail, the border is the swift and broad River Dorohir, beyond which the rugged moorlands of northern Dorzand sweep west to the mountainous isthmus of Ciricen. This is a watchful border and a tense region, but in the south the peace is more assured. Maristonia and Kalimar are friendlier neighbours with a shared past when Avatar kings once ruled both nations. Now the armists keep a respectful distance from the invisible border. No river or wall marks the frontier across a narrow strip of land between Tol Ankil and Nimrell Bay, but everyone knows it is there and only important merchants or messengers tread the Armist Road back and forth.
The Black Mountains are both a border wall for Kalimar and a water-tower, for all the kingdom’s great rivers flow down from its heights, north, east and south. From south to north the Rivers Nimrell, Beurell, Amulir, Varell, Ustan, Danill, Orileigh and Dorohir divide the kingdom into neat chunks of territory, each containing well-watered and fertile country.
Beyond the mountains and their surrounding foothills, most of Kalimar is low-lying, green and rolling country. It is a mild, pleasant land of airy woods, laughing streams and good soil. Its fields are rich, its orchards plentiful and its pastures abundant. There is a reason why Prélan sent the first elves here, knowing it would make a good home for them in every way. With plentiful precious metals and ores in the mountains, navigable waterways and ample forests, this land had everything its inhabitants would need to create the first and most beautiful of all the civilisations of Astrom.
The climate is mild and balanced, with moderate rains blowing in from the eastward ocean and severe cold experienced only in the high mountains. Its southern coasts and plains are hot in the summer whereas the northern coasts are cooler, but nowhere are the winters harsh. It does not enjoy the Mediterranean heat of Maristonia in the south, nor does it endure the biting winters and cold winds of Ciricen in the north; instead, it occupies a happy place in-between, not unlike France in our world.
Although the geography of Kalimar does not vary much in the temperate lowlands curving round the mountains, it is divided in cultural terms. The three main elven kindreds share it peacefully between them, each keeping to the terrain which suits them best. The Wood-elven Firnai occupy the great forests: Tol Ankil in the south, Faurelimar in the north and the kingdom-sized Therenmar in the heart of the realm. The Sea-elven Marintors live around the coasts in great ship-building ports or in caves and grottoes beside the beaches and cliffs. They are the explorers and traders of Kalimar, and their lands skirt the entire seaboard like a graceful necklace of pearls. Which leaves the Avatar, the High-elves, who occupy the vast majority of Kalimar. They dwell in the great rolling plains and farm the broad valleys; they mine and shepherd in the foothills and tend the sun-soaked vineyards of the Golden Finger, the tapering promontory at the very eastern tip of Kalimar.
Recorded history began in Astrom with the arrival of the first elves. Six there were, the forefathers and foremothers of the three kindreds. As legend has it, each pair crashed to Astrom in fallen star capsules, from which they awoke to behold their first dawn over this beautiful country.
Marintor and Ithíriel awoke beside the shell-studded strands of Nimrell Bay, and being enamoured of the sea and its music in the white cliffs they became the progenitors of the Sea-elven race. Further inland Firnar and Fírana awoke in the heart of Therenmar amid the radiant glory of the trees. They made this woodland paradise their home, the first of the Wood-elves. Finally, and eldest of all, Avatar and his spouse Mírianna awoke on the fair hill of Arasanfell, surrounded by the woods of Tol Erest in the very heart of Kalimar. From them came the Avatar, the elves who loved open country and great cities.
These six first elves and their children were visited by Prélan shortly afterwards and had a great feast with Him at which He instructed them in the best way to live and how to arrange their coming kingdoms. Avatar and Mírianna He appointed to be High King and High Queen, over Firnar and Fírana and Marintor and Ithíriel as kings and queens of the Wood-elves and Sea-elves respectively.
After this feast came a remarkable event known as The Starfall, a seminal event in the history of Elvendom, in which thousands of smaller star capsules rained down to Astrom from the heavens. In them were more elves, lesser in stature than the first six but similar to them in body, mind and temperament. Those who landed near the coasts gave their allegiance to Marintor and Ithíriel and became Sea-elves; those who landed in the forests owned Firnar and Fírana as their rulers and became Wood-elves; and the rest became Avatar under the rulership of Avatar and Mírianna.
With this sudden population explosion, the kingdom of the elves was created and it grew apace until it filled the later boundaries of Kalimar. Their lords ruled them well and they dwelt in great peace and rising prosperity as their craft and knowledge reached every greater heights. The only blemish on their bliss was a quarrel between Eretholin and Avar, two princely cousins in the House of Avatar. It was from the subsequent exile of Eretholin that the far-flung elven settlements in Ciricen and Endomar (Hendar) came.
Around the same time a shadow emerged upon the elven horizon, rumours of some great evil in the world after the tragic loss of some Marintor expeditions out to sea. Having begun to explore and settle the islands lying just beyond the eastern horizon, the Sea-elves were venturing further and some never came back, only a few traumatised survivors with muddled tales of horror. Slowly the elves learned more about this evil, which though it came in the form of black-sailed ships prowling the ocean, clearly came from further afield and was driven by something much greater. In response, the elves began to arm themselves, turning their previously peaceful skills of administration, ship-building and forging to military ends, building both an army and a navy.
It was not until centuries later that the storm broke and long-awaited clash came. In what became known as the The Great Wars, the great Fire-Demon of the Underworld invaded the elven islands, conquering them one by one in a wave of fire and blood. Leading hordes of demons, ogres, trolls, orcs and dragons, this great enemy looked set to devour even Kalimar itself unless defeated on the last of the islands. Many elven heroes performed great deeds and feats of valour in this ancient conflict and the names of Lancearon, Normandil and Ruthion rose to great renown.
For all their heroism, however, the enemy’s power was too great until at last he was brought to single combat in a final stand by Avatar himself. The Elder King came forth with the last host of all three kindreds and fought the forces of darkness in and around the Triumblen Isles. After an epic struggle lasting many days, things were going ill when Avatar wielded his most potent magic and cast a spell from his Star-amulet to overthrow the Fire-Demon and imprison him again in the Underworld. This great deed was the most famous of all the events of the First Chapter, a titanic victory over a ferocious foe. Ever since, the Fire-Demon has been locked in the Underworld, held there so long as this greatest of all elven magics should last.
Yet this great victory came at a tremendous cost, both in the number of the slain and in the shattered innocence of the elves. Now they knew sorrow and great loss, and ever after their experiences in the world were bittersweet. They emerged from the Great Wars a changed people: harder, fiercer and more wary.
The Great Wars also triggered many other far-reaching events, not the least of which was the restlessness of many of the surviving heroes who hungered now for greater things after their hands rested from deeds of war. First Lancearon and then Arvarion led great migrations out of Kalimar, founding the new kingdoms of Ithrill in the west and Alanmar (Maristonia) in the south. Elvendom was suddenly spreading fast, especially when these new realms were reckoned on top of the growing principalities in Ciricen and Endomar.
Another knock-on effect of the wars was the grief of Avatar, which was such that he departed Kalimar and went to dwell overseas in Avariandel. Before he went founded the League of Wizardry at Oron Amular, charging them under the leadership of his second son Northolin to use their powers, derived from the Pool of High Magic, for the betterment and protection of Astrom. To his elder son, Avarone, he bequeathed the High Kingship and the throne of Kalimar.
Long peace had Kalimar then, lasting until the end of the First Chapter and well into the Second Chapter. Despite its ancient lineage and prestige, Kalimar became something of a spectator on the edge of great world events which mostly centred on the new realms to north, west and south. The Second Chapter was written and acted out by the League of Wizardry and by the elves of the other realms, as well as by armists and dwarves. Kalimar lapsed into a slumbering peace, its days of war and bliss alike falling back into the mists of time.
It took great events to shake Kalimar out of this national torpor. The Great Betrayal at the end of the Second Chapter was a watershed moment, the culmination of a centuries’ long process of heresy in many elven realms, and when it ushered in the Dawn of Mortality, it suddenly left Kalimar surrounded by Mortal nations which had repudiated the true worship of Prélan. Now they had reason to fear and suspect their neighbours, which kept them watchful after some initial confrontations.
As the Mortal kingdoms took root and established themselves, they were, for the most part, shunned by Kalimar, and it was the League of Wizardry, through a comprehensive network of ambassadors, which kept Kalimar connected to the outside world. Kalimari ships helped defeat the Northmen fleets during the Ship-king Era and King Avalar, the great-grandson of Avatar, led a host to the First War of Kurundar, but otherwise Kalimar locked itself in insular isolation. She refused, for instance, to participate in the Great Union, an extraordinary political experiment attempted after the overthrow of Kurundar, in which different kingdoms tied themselves together under a unified government.
Kalimar watched on as the Union rose, struggled and fell, and was only peripherally involved in the Dragon Wars of Ciricen. She took another step into self-imposed seclusion after Avatar himself had to repel an ill-advised naval raid by the corsairs on the Inner Isles. Not only were the corsairs annihilated without trace, but the Elder King took the extreme step of casting a magical shroud over the islands so that no mortal mariners could discover them.
At the same time the elves of mainland Kalimar grew ever more wary of outsiders, remaining politically close only to Maristonia, and even that friendship waned with the passing centuries. The contrast with Ithrill, which exerted itself under Lancearon to conquer the entire continent, could not have been greater, and the two elven realms became estranged.
Only the second rising of Kurundar brought them together again, forcing them to fight side by side to overthrow him again. This time Kalimar itself was invaded and evil creatures brought destruction to the sacred and unscarred interior of the elven heartlands. They were repulsed with great difficulty and loss, and in the aftermath many elves forsook the mainland and retired to the hidden islands.
Thus, we come to the Fourth Chapter, with Kalimar very much a spent force. Still strong, still wealthy, and full of unimaginable knowledge and treasure and art, but utterly cut off from the outside world and bereft of purpose. The slow decline of the League of Wizardry extinguished the last remaining link to the rest of Astrom, and so Kulothiel’s decision to invite folk of every nation to his tournament at Oron Amular was an unprecedented step and one deeply resented by High King Lithan.
As for the outcome of that Tournament and its repercussions for Kalimar, that would be revealing too much for now. Come back next time for the next instalment.
Thank you for reading. If you’ve enjoyed it, please tell others about World of Astrom. Be sure to subscribe to this blog to continue reading this series. Up next: Lurallan, home of corsairs and desert tribes in the extreme south.