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Antalians of the East:

by Geoff Gander

Overheard at a lecture at the University of Wendar:

"As you have been made aware in past lectures, the history of Alphatia is not nearly so flawless as some would have you believe. We have discussed the histories of Argonath and Ilmaryll, based on such fragmentary records that remain. We also know a small amount about the lost nation of Ystmarhavn, which existed on the island we now call "Qeodhar", but not nearly as much as those other two nations I have mentioned.

"We are on somewhat better footing concerning the realms founded by Ystmarhavner explorers in the centuries following the founding of that land, believed to be sometime between BC 1400 and BC 1000. My examinations, conducted in the Alphatian port city of Ybod in 998, have found conclusive evidence of simple fortifications and longhouses. Later examinations revealed these ruins, buried beneath modern Ybod, to be the port of Tyrshavn, reportedly founded circa BC 800 by the Ystmarhavner warlord known as Haakon the Mighty. Several songs recount the tale of Haakon's voyage to mainland Alphatia from Ystmarhavn in search of land and bounty, and of the numerous battles he fought against the Yanifey lordlings known to have inhabited those lands at that time.

"We know that Haakon's realm initially centred on Tyrshavn, but it is known that he quickly extended his realm to the east and the south, along the coasts. His successors continued this tradition of expansion, and, by the time Haakon's great-grandson - Olaf - died circa BC 719, the jarldom of Østheim stretched from Tyrshavn in the north to Vyksland (Azafez) in the south, and inland as far as the Kerothar Mountains. It was a powerful realm by all accounts of that time; even in the earliest accounts of Argonath, some 300 years later, there are tales of the great battle prowess of the warriors of Østheim, who sold their swords to any who offered enough gold.

"While Østheim was still in its infancy, other realms were being founded by other Ystmarhavners, further south. Some 150 years after Haakon achieved his first victory against the Yanifey, Ylsa of the Sharpened Blade conquered the citadel of Terkyn, and renamed it Grønborg. Her dominion, also named Grønborg, occupied much of what is now coastal Trollhattan, while her own fortress was centred on what is now Torpes.

"Between these two jarldoms, a third colony was formed circa BC 600, under the rule of Tarald the Black. His jarldom, Markland, was centred on the port of Taraldsstad, which today is in ruins, and extended as far east as the Kerothar Mountains, as well. Lying between the other two jarldoms, Markland's history, as much as we know of it, was one of constant vigilance along its borders.

"For some 200 years after the founding of Markland, circa BC 400, the three jarldoms maintained an uneasy truce between them. Founded by different rulers at different times, the three nations are believed to have conducted their affairs in a likewise different manner. Grønborg is described in songs from that day as being highly belligerent, making frequent raids upon Markland to the north. Østheim maintained ties with Ystmarhavn, but largely ignored its other neighbours. Markland, ignored by Østheim to the north, and under frequent attack by Grønborg, fought often to maintain its borders. It is believed that, many times, successions were frequently contested, and there is evidence that all three jarldoms experienced their share of civil wars. This became especially prevalent after BC 200, when all three dynasties had suffered the loss of heirs and heiresses. During this time of decline, there were numerous claims to the thrones.

"Adding to these problems were the increasing tensions between Argonath and Alphatia, as well as the fall of Ilmaryll. With open warfare erupting to the east, the three jarldoms were increasingly threatened by a growing Alphatia. Emperors at that time sent envoys, requesting the use of naval facilities in their efforts to conquer Argonath, but they refused, saying they would fight to retain their independence. So it was that, according to almost forgotten Alphatian documents circa BC 100, Grønborg was invaded by Alphatia from the south. Though the defenders fought with great ferocity, they could not hold their positions, as surviving records report the conquest of much of that nation, leaving only the port of Grønborg and its environs free. Alphatian accounts from that time testify to a great series of fortifications stretching across the peninsula, beyond which the Alphatians could not penetrate.

"Responses in Markland were those of panic. Several lesser jarls pledged fealty to Alphatia, in the hopes that their lands would be spared, while the King at that time, Sven, appealed to Østheim for aid. Within ten years of the invasion of Grønborg, Markland had been reduced to a collection of feuding dominions, some receiving support from Alphatia in their efforts to gain power at the expense of their neighbours. Those in the north did not protest when Østheim annexed them to secure more defensive positions, while southern territories became Alphatian puppet states. By BC 70, as conventional sources indicate, Markland ceased to exist.

"We must now consider the delicate position of Østheim. Though the centuries, its ties with Ystmarhavn became more sporadic as the latter nation turned increasingly to piracy, sometimes even raiding its own former colony! Argonath to the east was rapidly disintegrating under sustained Alphatian invasions, and almost all contact with Grønborg had been lost after the invasion of that land. Markland, always a weak nation, was no longer worth considering after BC 100. One surviving tale from that time tells of 200 bold sailors who headed west, over what is now the Alphatian Sea, in search of new lands, while another tells of migrations to what is now Helskir on the Isle of Dawn. So it was that, by BC 60, that last former colony of Ystmarhavn faced the might of Alphatia. The eastern lands near the Kerothar Mountains fell first, with waves of refugees likely fleeing to Tyrshavn and Vyksland. Over a period of several years, the battle lines slowly ground westwards, towards the coast. The warriors of Østheim had no doubt studied the previous invasions, as surviving military records in Alphatian archives attest. The Østheimers were described as ferocious fighters who easily felled two men for every one man they lost, though the Alphatians had numbers and magic on their side.

"By BC 50, the Alphatians were massed just beyond the eastern hinterlands of Tyrshavn and Vyksland. So desperate had the Østheimers become that they sent scouts to Grønborg to seek help. Only one account exists from that time describing what was found. Apparently, the entire city was deserted, even though the Alphatians had erected several fortifications beyond the imposing defensive wall. No trace existed of the inhabitants, an the Alphatians were preparing for a massive assault. By the time the expedition had returned to Vyksland, circa BC 49, the Alphatians had overrun Tyrshavn, and were proceeding southwards along the coast, systematically eliminating all opposition.

"By BC 48, Vyksland was under siege, the last portion of Østheim free of Alphatian rule. The last king of that realm, Harald, had apparently decided to lead what remained of his people to freedom. Thus, one night a vast flotilla of longships crashed through an Alphatian naval blockade, and sailed westwards. Only the weak, and those wishing to fight for their homes, remained behind. The very next day, the last of the colonies in Alphatia was conquered.

"As for Harald and his followers, no one knows where they might have gone. Records in the west were not very accurate in those times, though there is a possibility that he might have made it to safety. Such things are the subject of speculation. Well, class, I hope you have found this lecture edifying, and perhaps I shall see some fine scholarly research before our classes recess for the midwinter festivals. Dismissed!"

DM Notes:

The Ystmarhavner colonies of Østheim, Markland, and Grønborg were founded after BC 800, when adventuresome warriors sailed south in search of more plunder and land. Østheim was founded in that year, and until BC 400 enjoyed a period on almost uninterrupted expansion. Its warriors became well known as mercenaries, hiring themselves out to the Ystmarhavners, the Argonathians, and even the Alphatians on occasion - whoever offered the most gold. Blessed with good fishing and fair soils, Østheim was the most powerful of the three jarldoms. It was their inferior numbers, and their lack of magic prowess, that led to their failure against the Alphatians in BC 48. Østheim's rulers had become somewhat decadent after BC 400, but not nearly so corrupt as many of the Alphatian nobles at that time. As a result, Østheim's initial borders were maintained until its collapse after BC 60.

After the fall of Østheim, Harald led his people to Ostland, where they were welcomed warmly by their distant kindred. They remained distinct until AC 150, after which they had adopted local ways. Earlier groups settled in Norwold and Helskir, where they quickly blended into the local population.

In BC 650, Ylsa founded the realm of Grønborg, which, though it was sparsely populated, more than made up for this weakness through the ferociousness of its warriors. The soldiers of Grønborg did not sell their services, and they did not seek to expand beyond what could be easily held. Though frequent raids were made on Markland, Grønborg did not try to give cause for its strong neighbours to invade it. This delicate position did not prevent the Alphatian invasion of BC 116, which saw all but the city of Grønborg itself fall to the invaders, though the Alphatians lost over 10,000 men in doing so. Thanks to the formidable defences of that city, the Alphatians could never conquer it, and instead were put on the defensive on several occasions as Grønborg soldiers conducted numerous raids against them. Between BC 109 and BC 72, Alphatia was actually forced to pull back several miles from the city, so ferocious were the attacks. The Alphatians still had numbers and magic on their side, which eventually pushed the defenders back into Grønborg proper by BC 68.

Realizing that the end was near, Cnute, the king at that time, ordered the evacuation of Grønborg. Slowly but surely, the populace fled the city, leaving the soldiers behind to hold off the Alphatians. Fortunately, the Alphatians had suffered enough casualties in fighting against Grønborg to make them cautious, as well as careless; Grønborg had resisted so long that few soldiers stationed there ever paid it much attention. By BC 62, the last cityfolk had left, and by BC 59, the last of the soldiers silently departed, leaving the Alphatians besieging an abandoned city for nine years. It is a credit to rampant zzonga addiction among the Alphatian officers that such a ploy was able to work. The refugees from Grønborg settled in what is now Norwold, Dunadale, and Ostland.

Markland was the least powerful of the three colonies. Established in BC 600 at Taraldsstad, Markland was always preyed upon by its stronger neighbours, and, after the death of Tarald in BC 582, was riven with internal strife. Marklanders paid fealty to whomever was dominant in their own regions, whether they were Alphatian, from Grønborg, or from Østheim. This worsened after BC 200, when there were so many claims to the throne that civil was the norm. Between BC 103 and BC 94, several petty jarldoms in northern Markland, making up almost one-third of its territory, were annexed by Østheim. At the same time, southern dominions were falling under the control of Alphatia. In the centre, a thin belt of neutral land, owned by the descendants of Tarald, separated the two powers. As a result, Markland was frequently a battleground between Alphatia and Østheim. The last vestiges of this realm vanished in BC 78, when the city of Taraldsstad was utterly destroyed during fighting between Alphatia, Østheim, and surviving Marklander soldiers.

Alphatia, for its own part, had gained new lands, and several thousand slaves, which were quickly dispersed throughout the empire. The lands that it gained were marginal compared to its more southerly territories, and the Antalian slaves proved wilful and treacherous, eager to take vengeance on the people who conquered them. Many were sent to the newly-established colony of Esterhold, to work as farmers, while others were abandoned on the coasts of what would become Norwold, which at that time was unclaimed. In all, Alphatia lost almost 19,000 soldiers in its conquest of the three jarldoms.