A Brief History of Lareth

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Deep in the Ramillic Ocean, roughly one thousand miles to the south of the great continent of Hadrada, lies a vast tropical archipelago. These are the Isles of Lareth, and they cover more than half a million square miles of open ocean. Hundreds of tiny islands make up Lareth, some are heavily populated, while others are too small or too remote to support permanent settlements.
 
Scholars speculate that in ages past Lareth may have been one continuous land, and that much of it has either been pulverised or flooded in long forgotten cataclysms. Certainly, there is evidence to suggest that the Isles of Lareth are the mountains and the high ground of a sunken continent. The Sasheenie Sea between and around the islands is extremely shallow (seldom exceeding more than fifty feet in depth). This makes the islands an oasis of life in the middle of a vast and pitiless ocean.

The First Great War

Thousands of years ago, Lareth was the elven kingdom of Valhellana. It was  ancestral home of an extensive community of fair folk who had become divorced from their brethren in Urova 5000 miles to the north-west. During the first great war against Karatath, all the seas in the Northern World were boiled away, leaving Lareth bereft and barren. The resident elves used all their powers to try and save their home, hoping their magic would be sufficient to stave off the violent droughts and unpredictable storms unleashed by Karatath’s incidental cruelty. Their power was found wanting.

Lareth and all its inhabitants would have perished during this dark and terrible time were it not for the intervention of a great spirit of the earth called Domordis. This vastly powerful source of primal energy enhanced the powers of the elves and gave them the ability to defend Lareth over the two-hundred seasons in which there were no seas, and the Sasheenie was a desert.

After the final defeat of Karatath the seas returned to the Northern World, and the elves of Cyryth Allavorean prepared to abandon the broken would of Iourn for the paradise of the Greymere. The elves of Lareth chose not to go with them. They had suffered far more at the hands of Karatath than their Urovan kin, and they wanted to use their powers for the betterment of the islands, and restore what had been lost.

The elves of Lareth realised that in making this decision, they were cutting off all ties not only with other elves, but also with the fabled realm of Arvandor – the place all elves journey to when they weary of this life. Without a link to Arvandor, the elves of Lareth were faced with finite lives. Although the elven body can endure indefinitely, the mind cannot. And all elves reach a point when they must step over from this world and take their reward in the next. Without Arvandor the Larethi were left with two equally horrible choices: to submit to death, or to exist forever as a meaningless shell – a mockery of what they once were.

Fortunately for the elves, their plight was noticed by the great Domordis. He took pity on the elves and offered their souls protection in his realm. As the elves had worked so closely with Domordis for so long, worshipped him as a god in many cases, this seemed a poetic as well as pragmatic course of action.

And thus, when elves have properly tired of the world of Iourn they can “Visit the Mountain”. They can journey into the deep places of Lareth and there they can commune with the earth spirit himself. These elves never return to the waking world, but their spirit and their essence is present across all Lareth. They are in every tree, every blade of grass and every grain of sand. And for the elves of Lareth, that is enough.

The newly invigorated Larethi elves used their powers, and those of Domordis, to restore the islands to their former glory. As the seawalker druids of the Oceanic Order were restoring life to the seas, so Domordis and his elves restored life to the land. And a century after the defeat of Karatath, it was as though no calamity had befallen Lareth at all. They were once again a paradise, and the elves were a nation at peace.

The Rise of the Hadradans

However, the isles did not remain at peace. Directly to the north of Lareth is the vast continent of Hadrada. There the human Hadradan Empire dwelt. They were a rising power on Iourn. After heavy defeats early in the war against Karatath, they had absented themselves entirely from the conflict, closing their borders and watching while the world burned around them.

A monotheistic culture, the Hadradans dispensed with their altruistic Elyastic ideals, and fully embraced the darker and more dangerous teachings of the prophet Vanda. Vandanism taught that the Hadradans were a pre-eminent race, chosen by God, and that it was their destiny to rule over lesser cultures and inferior (non-human) races. To begin with, the Hadradans went to war with their own continent. They pushed back the primitive Vikallians into the far north, and they all but eradicated the great dwarven nation of Zalak’kûn, although they were kept from the Cradlelands by a force of even greater potency than themselves.

Refugees from Hadradan excesses fled the continent, and many came to Lareth. Large communities of displaced dwarves set themselves up in the completely incongruous surroundings of tropical Lareth. Many of the dwarven priests of Moradin had brought with them rocks from their old home in the Black Hills, and many used them to recreate their own delves on a much smaller scale. They were a shamed and broken people, born as dwarves but forced to live as hobbits.

Eventually, the Hadradans began to flex their new military might beyond their borders. They came to the Isles of Lareth in 618 PL, and they brought with them a military war machine the likes of which the islands had never seen. This coupled with their divine fervour, and utter hatred of anything that wasn’t human gae the Hadradans a dangerous edge. The elves had no response to this fury, and the islands fell under Hadradan occupation in short order, and the inhabitants were enslaved.

The Hadradans did not content themselves with Lareth. Their navies were sent across the northern world, from Urova in the west to the Andos in the east. However, the xenophobic Hadradans couldn’t bear the thought of sharing these newly conquered lands with non-humans, so they began transporting all manner of different races to Lareth and leaving them there. The Isles became a penal colony.

And so it was for hundreds of seasons. Generations lived and died under the Hadradan yoke. The priesthood of Domordis went underground (literally in some cases) and the elves bided their time until such a point that they could liberate their land. Their chance came two hundred and twenty years ago.

In 20 PL the Hadradans advanced too far, stirring up enemies they could not defeat. These Mannenites invaded the Hadradan empire, and struck it a blow from which it was never able to recover. In order to protect their homeland the Hadradans pulled back their troops from many of their foreign holdings including the Isles of Lareth. Without a body of Hadradan troops enforcing law and order, revolution quickly followed. By the time the six moons appeared in the sky, Lareth was all but free of the Hadradans

The Coming of the Moons

The end of the Hadradan occupation was heralded by the appearance of six moons in the night sky. These were the gods Calafax, Sharrash, Vítaeous, Mortis, Terranor and Zephyre. Elemental beings who personified change and encouraged revolution in all who saw them. In Urova, the Moon Gods would speak to a prophet named Uros who would pen the fabled Korvast Scrolls and lead to the creation of dozens of new religions to worship the moon gods.

The Isles of Lareth were lacking a Godspeaker, and had therefore had no direct line to the wishes or intentions of these entities. Worship of the new moons was still inevitable, and many mystics were able to tap into the power of the gods and create many powerful effects. Worship of the moons was sporadic, and there was no formal church for any of the gods. Eventually, the worship of the moon gods was to come together into a loose confederation of clergies called the Sixfold Faith, bthat was many hundreds of seasons after the Hadradans left the islands. In the beginning, all the appearance of the moons did was to add to volatility of newly free Lareth.

For in the aftermath of Hadradan occupation came anarchy. Countless pirates, tin pot tyrants and would-be dictators attempted to seize islands for themselves and carve out their own empire. The priesthood of Domordis worked tirelessly to curb these extremists and return the isles to the peaceful state they enjoyed before the Hadradan occupation. They were not entirely successful; and it was time rather than the intervention of any one mollifying force that restored tranquillity to the islands.

Lareth Today

It is now more than eight hundred seasons since the Hadradans abandoned Lareth. So long that there are few elves who remember those times. Today, Lareth is a collection of autonomous island-states: some stand alone, others enjoy the security of pacts and treaties. These states are divided by political and geographic necessity, but they are not divided in terms of race. After so many centuries the elf, hobbit, orc and dwarf communities were completely integrated. Even the many humans marooned on Lareth after the Hadradan garrison left, were absorbed into the wider society.

To an outsider, the Isles of Lareth seem like paradise. With miles of sandy beaches, palm trees, magnificent sunsets and a relaxed attitude to life little seems to worry the indigenous population. Of course, nothing is ever quite that simple. Many of the isolated islands have become havens for pirates who pillage the trade routes between Lareth, Hadrada and the Cradlelands. There is division within the druidic order between those who worship Domordis, and those that cling to the ancient teachings of Eldagaire. And then there is the sea: the source of all life for the islands, but also ripe with the promise of its destruction.

NEXT TIME:
The Religions of Lareth


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