There have been humans in the Su'uvenayan archipelago for thousands of years. It must have been at one time part of the original Atalantean Alliance, but all traces of that culture are lost, presumably due to the devastation of the war between the Thanatayan Empire and the Atalantean Alliance. Even the language spoken today is derived from Thanatayan and was probably introduced by the arrival of the Sea People. At any rate, the earliest known inhabitants of the archipelago were the Forest People, a people unrelated to the Sea People, who arrived and gradually drove them out most of the land, until they remained a majority only in the eastern part of Samadria. Exact dates are hard to place, but this process probably happened between 3000 and 2000 BP. Although the Sea people clearly came from Southern Lumulea, exactly where they came from is unknown and there must have been a prolonged period when the cultures were out of contact, as culturally and linguistically there are great differences. The incoming people were split up along tribal and clan lines, but over the course of time the Hadawan clan came to dominate from its central position on the fertile plains of western Talarg.
During the early period of Hadawan rule, the kings were busy expanding their rule over the whole archipelago. This was a long period of dozens of small wars and shifting alliances as the clans fought against absorption into the growing Hadawan power or allied themselves with it. All of the western isles were eventually settled under Hadawan rule and although the Whentish peninsula remained independent with its own prince, the Whentish Princes did homage to Talarg. The followed a period of peace and growing trade - in the late period of Hadawan rule, the influence of the mainland began to be felt in Su'uvenayan culture as trade opened up across the great shallows. Selestria, Ashkiria and Peregorn had already advanced to a comparatively more sophisticated level of civilization. Thanks to the relative ease of sea travel and trade - especially with the kingdoms of Peregorn and Selestria in southern Lumulea, technology, writing, literature and philosophy came into the Yamato lands. The Hadawan court even adopted Selestrian script for its documents, and the first dependable records in Su'uvenayan history date to around 1560 BP. The Hadawan also established a religion too: The cult of the Twelve, as a formal religion rather than a collection of cults, is first mentioned in documents about 100 years later. The Su'uvenayan archipelago's position off the mainland gave two benefits: culture, technology and ideas could be brought into the country, but the voyage was difficult enough to keep out casual travelers and keep the kingdom out of the political intrigues of the southern Lumulean states. Nonetheless, the Hadawan government was originally strongly based on the Peregonese system: there were 12 graded ranks of court official and a great council, The Hada advised the High King, who ruled through minor lords on the other islands. Everything was controlled from the capital - established at Taelk after 1210 BP - while The White City became the royal seat and the seat of the Church.
Although the Hadawan came to rule the entire archipelago, by about 1100 BP the High Kings were actually pulling back from the day-to-day business of ruling a country. They were becoming symbols of power rather than the wielders of power. As the High Kings retired from government, control passed to the court officials, particularly the Taelor family, who had extensive lands on Ostragya. In 1058 BP, a Taelor prince, Garant, became the regent for his five-year-old grandson (his daughter had married the former king). Taelor family members filled all the important jobs at court and in the general administration of the country and the family built a series of political alliances by carefully chosen marriages. As a result five successive Hadawan High Kings married Taelor brides, thus making sure of the family position at Court!
The Taelor period was a time when Su'uvenyan culture came into its own, leaving its Lumulean roots behind. It is one of the classical ages of Su'uvenyan literature, for example. At the same time, however, the Taelor were changing the way that the archipelago was governed. The central government became corrupt and weak. Land ownership started shifting to great estates as the Taelor accumulated wealth and their rivals sought to do the same. The nobles who held government offices were given tax-free hereditary estates as payments. Many peasants and lesser landholders were only too happy to hand over their property to these estates to escape from the heavy taxes levied on them!
At around the same time, the Armiger class was coming to prominence as more than just another group of fighting men. Originally they were the leaders of common foot soldiers - at that point most men served at least some time in the levy and many were part-time warriors as well as farmers - but there came to be a collection of families that practiced no other trade than that of fighting. It was possible to win promotion to the ranks of the Armiger class, and in time, to be an Armiger also implied a degree of service to a superior. In the case of the Armiger class, this service was to the High King, a courtier or a provincial lord.
Originally, the royal government found the Armigers useful in putting down rebellions within the kingdom, and expanding the borders of the kingdom in Samadria but with the shift in power to mighty landowners, the loyalties of the Armigers also shifted. The Armigers came to serve and protect the great lords, fighting against other great landlords, bandits and rebellious locals. Although some of these Armigers were from humble families, the Armiger families that prospered and attracted allies could usually trace their ancestors back for centuries, often to some (minor) royal relative banished from Court to seek his fortune elsewhere. Among these clans of aristocratic Armigers, the most powerful were the Haydan on Terregor and the Kaynes on Samadria. No longer content to merely serve and resentful of the prominence of the Taelor, the Armigers began to interfere in government politics. At first they did this by supporting various factions at court, but before long they had essentially supplanted their patrons and were intriguing purely on their own account.
In 855 BP there was a crisis in the royal succession. The new High King, Sanor, was a sickly child. When he died (some said, poisoned) the Haydan family backed his cousin, who was from Talarg. The regent (Haman Taelor) however, insisted that another of his sons-in-law should be the new High King, and Gorman Taelor duly ascended the throne. Gorman, however, died in 853 BP and the issue of succession arose again. The Haydan and Kayne families sent representatives to court - as did other less influential Armiger families. It was now they who were to decide the course of royal politics, not the Taelor court officials.
Politics rapidly broke down. Several months of minor skirmishing on Dendrith and Ostragya culminated in a combined fleet and land battle on Klinth and at the Battle of Darissor in 852 BP, the Kayne Armigers were defeated and the regent had to accept the Haydan candidate. The new High King, Flett Praychor determined that the defeated Armigers would pay the price for their defiance. Many important Kayne Armigers were executed and others, rather than accept imprisonment or execution committed suicide by throwing themselves into the sea, when flight proved impossible.
All of these deaths helped the Haydan family to rise rapidly to power in the royal Court. Once he was secure, High King Praychor decided that he had had enough of ruling and abdicated in favor of his son, Flett II Praychor. The Haydan took a leaf out of the Taelor book and began a policy of making sure that royal wives came from their family. There were, however, still plenty of members of the Kayne family in Samadria, and some of the noble families at court persuaded them that revenge was a good idea. All in all, the Kayne didn't take much persuading.
This time, in 841-37 BP, the civil war that followed was a straightforward fight between the Haydan and the Kayne. Although the war seemed to go well initially for the Haydan, events soon turned against them. The Kayne fleet attacked and besieged Fleyn, but the surprise attack on the Haydan headquarters, Hart Terregor, was betrayed when several Kayne Armigers refused to join in a rebellion against the High King. The siege was broken and the Kayne Armigers slaughtered.
The Kayne Armigers who had refused to rebel received no mercy for their kinsmen's actions - although their warning had helped defeat the attack on Hart Terregor, they were all subsequently beheaded. The Haydan were determined to eradicate their rivals.
At this stage Hall Haydan, the head of the Haydan family, was seemingly unassailable. He had defeated his Armiger rivals and beaten the Taelor at their own game. In 820 BP his grandson (via his daughter), High King Arian, took the throne. Hall Haydan, however, hadn't quite killed all the Kaynes and in 20 years the survivors had become strong enough to challenge him once again.
The war itself began again in 819 BP when Manish Kayne, the only high-ranking Kayne left at court (he survived due to his marriage to another of Hall Haydan's daughters) rebelled against the High King. Though soon overcome, his example inspired his cousin Karl Kayne, living on the Whentish peninsula, to raise an army to chastise the Haydan, whom he painted as bloody-handed usurpers.
The War of the Western Islands would last for 4 years. Once again, the Kaynes (and the Taelor ) opposed the Haydan, but this time they were supported by other Armiger families from Talarg. Despite the help of their allies, the Kaynes were initially unsuccessful again, being defeated at the battles of Klant and Kallakor.
However, in time Karl Kayne was able to forge alliances with a number of other military families and create an army sizeable enough to chase the Haydan out of the capital, Taelk, and later off Ostragya as well. Fleeing southward down the coast of Talarg, the Haydan resisted valiantly in a series of land and sea battles. In the end, the opposing forces clashed in a huge naval battle in the Southern Channel off the northern coast of Terregor. The young High King Arian, was drowned, together with most of the leaders of the Haydan clan and a number of lords who had remained loyal to the High King. Those who were not killed in battle were later executed. The Kayne's alliance had triumphed.
However, soon after this victory, the Kaynes became suspicious of the Joiry family, who controlled the capital and were now showing signs of independence. At the same time, the leader of the Taelor family was purposefully playing factions against one another in hopes of regaining control over the royal court. Late in 815 BP, as the Kayne's hostility grew, the Joiry rebelled. When the Kayne fleet met theirs in the Middle Channel off Teh, their Taelor allies switched sides and the Kayne fleet was swiftly crushed. Although Karl Kayne cut his way free, beached his ship and fled into the mountains, he was captured and killed by being thrown off a high cliff. His body was never found though, and he passed into myth. With his death, the surviving Kaynes lost the last of their leaders and were slowly eclipsed by other Samadrian families who had fought in the war.
Of course, there had been battles between Armiger rivals before. What made the War of the Middle Islands so significant was that the players, largely in the process of creating effective alliances between great regional powers, had established policies and institutions that actually superseded royal rule. Rather than simply usurping the old courtly offices or attaching themselves to aristocratic patrons, the Kaynes created new offices and appointed to them warriors whose allegiance was to the Kayne family first. Among these were stewards and constables with the authority to adjudicate in matters both economic and political. Needless to say, the new system was not stronger than the alliances on which it rested; but it was swiftly copied by the other Armiger families.
The long-term implications of the shift in administrative control were perhaps not immediately obvious to either the old nobility or the military aristocracy. Certainly, the victorious Joiry, made no attempt to eliminate the court; on the contrary, they were rather generous with the Taelor family, whose prestige in cultural matters they recognized. However the death of Arian II, the new High King-to-be in a storm at sea the following year suddenly change d the political landscape. The death of so many of the Haydan and Taelor families meant that there was no candidate left who had a clear line to the throne. The Joiry raised a candidate distantly related to Flett Praychor, but the Taelor refused to accept him. The few surviving Haydan and their allies called him a pretender and claimed that a cousin of Arian I was the true heir. The Taelor elevated a cousin of old Haman Taelor. On distant Samadria, the noble families claimed the rule of High Kings was at an end and refused to accept any of them.
The War of the Middle Islands thus came to be the most celebrated of all engagements between Armigers. It was viewed as the culmination of the Armiger ideal, a fight to the death between two major families - and also as a turning point in Su'venayan history, where the old kingdom splintered into first 4 (Terregor, Talarg, Ostragya and Samadria, and then into 6, as Thurbulon and Hallanwell, largely untouched by the previous 4 years of war, refused to accept the Joiry Prince as King and seceded. Talarg and the Joiry, exhausted by the war against the Haydan could only reluctantly let them go and several years later confirmed the status quo at a peace brokered by the Arcobulon.
With the breakup of the kingdom a fact, Hal Joiry did not bother with any of the political maneuvering at Court that the Taelor and the Haydan had used. His power was based on his armies, not on any royal family connections. His candidate for High King was forced into retirement, and then exiled to Peregorn, where he died. Hal Joiry took the title and office of King of Talarg. He also moved the center of his power to Heatenbor on the southern plains of Talarg - partly to reinforce the break with the past, partly to build up a base to forestall any attacks from Terregor. The old royal Court was ignored and surprisingly rapidly, it withered away, with one last flowering during the "War of the Two Kings" (see below). In 613 BP, after two wars, and with the status quo firmly established, the Joiry family moved the capital back to Taelk.
On Samadria, the Seyne familiy replaced the Kaynes as the most powerful family. They did it through a clever series of murders and conspiracies that killed every Kayne heir and many of their supporters. The new Seyne rulers, however, never bothered becoming Kings. Instead, they assembled a council drawn from all the noble families. The Seyne ruled as "speakers", which meant in theory simply that they were first among equals. However the Speaker had the right to appoint members to the council in cases of dispute, and they appointed a series of puppets to many of the seats, including even young children!
This apparently cumbersome arrangement worked well enough for the Seyne to hold on to power until 433 BP. In 474 BP and again in 471, the Seyne were able to organize Samadrian attacks on the island of Anaria - until that time, part of the kingdom of Ostragya. The first attempt was repulsed, but the 471 expedition was finally successful in conquering the island and many refugees fled to Ostragya, due to the help of a new cult of magicians. Though Samadria had by far the larger army, the fighting at sea had been unexpectedly savage, and in general the Ostragyans had the better of it. Samadrian revenge on the ports of Anaria where the shiplords had been based was bitter and the economy of both countries took a generation to recover.
Militarily defeating the Ostragyans and subsequently distributing rewards seriously weakened the Seyne's resources and power slipped away from the family. They were unable to resist a more equal distribution of power and the city where the council met - Samadria's unofficial capital - shifted from the Seyne stronghold of Karkassagor to Leyar, home of the Meylnes family.
The cost of the war with Ostragya meant that interest in meddling in the politics of the Western Isles receded even further. The Samadrians began to look eastwards towards the largely unsettled lands and over the next two centuries they expanded their borders into the forested lands north of the Kijarney peaks, founding towns like Durwut, Turum and Pawat. This bought them into conflict with the Forest People. The Forest People were not organized enough for this to ever really become a war, but they gave up land only reluctantly. Even today there are small groups roaming the remaining forests, living equally by hunting and banditry, though the land is by and large settled. Most of them however, retreated over the heath land called the Harrowlands. Few settled there since the Harrowlands are not a very hospitable land, traveling instead into the forests of the Northern Cloudheads. The discovery of gold in streams on the slopes of the colossal peak called the Sentinel only provoked even faster expansion, but here the Samadrians came into contact with the ancient city of Vulea - which came as nasty surprise, since they had previously thought it only a myth. Even the Samadrian Armigers proved no match for the Vampire-queen's sorcery, the altitude and the cruel mountain heights. The undeclared war ended by both sides pretending it had never happened and the Samadrians settled for founding the town of Peagfor high in the foothills to serve as a transit for Vulea's gold. Samadrian expansion continues, most recently to include another formerly independent city state, the ancient city of Paddish - once a mighty home of sorcery, but now ruined by war, earthquake and flood. Though Samadria occupies it, the Padishites are not yet reconciled to the loss of their independence.
The Taelor did actually try to restore the royal administrative system, together with a High King and the council of Twelve and for many years the Taelor kings styled themselves as the rightful rulers of the Su'uvenayan archipelago. But they were unable to impose their rule on the other kingdoms. The "War Between the Kings" dragged on for 49 years as the Ostragyans fought against both the Haydans and their allies, and the Joiry. In 769 BP, however, Talarg defeated the Ostragyan forces in a series of bloody battles on Dendrith, capturing the Taelor king. In a surprising move, the Joiry raised him to the throne, reuniting Talarg and Ostragya and to some extent restoring the old formula of controlling the king through appointments to the council of twelve. The Taelor king was carried off to Taelk, which was once again to be the capital. This restoration was clearly aimed at the Armiger families of Terregor who the Joiry saw as their greatest rivals, but it was to be relatively short-lived. The restoration period was one of great refinement of manners, of great art and literary works as the royal court experienced one last flowering and, incidentally, marked the rise of the Arcobulon, who negotiated the treaties, as a political force. However, in 741 BP the Taelor king was assassinated and was followed by his eight-year-old son. He too died within a year, and was followed by his younger brother, Yearas.
Even though he lasted for 30 years as king, Yearas couldn't halt the decline of his family fortunes. Real power had passed permanently from the High King to the great Armiger families who had become a class of hereditary feudal lords called Shiplords, after their ability to raise ships of warriors. Even the Joiry, the most powerful family, had difficulty controlling these shiplords, grown powerful and aggressive after more than a century of almost continuous war. When Yearas died, his brother - who lived on Dendrith - was proclaimed king by the Ostragyan Shiplords, disenchanted by being excluded from power. They refused to recognize Yearas' sons and the restoration collapsed. In two years of fierce fighting, Dendrith was permanently annexed to Talarg, the Ostragyan pretender was killed and shortly afterwards Yearas' two sons died mysteriously. Poisoned by the Ostragyans, some said. Killed by the Talargs, now that their political usefulness was ended, others said. With the end of their pretensions to rule the whole archipelago, the Taelor family had to fight to retain their lordship against the rebellious shiplords, but after another generation's fighting which reached the point of mass combat in the streets of Kasshert, their seat, they prevailed. The successor kings spent the next two centuries rebuilding the country's economy, clearing and developing the island of Anaria, which was better suited to agriculture and building a trade fleet in imitation of the Northern Princes from Thurbulon and Hallanwell, although trade was mostly carried on with Samadria. This era came to an end when the Samadrians attacked and eventually conquered Anaria, adding it to the Kingdom of Samadria. Several fruitless wars were fought over the next century in an attempt to reclaim Anaria, but the only effect was to further impoverish Ostragya and eventually the shiplords gave it up as a lost cause - though some families still cherish faint dreams of one day recovering their lost estates. Since then the Ostragyan kings have contented themselves with rebuilding trade with Samadria and Talarg and occasionally meddling in the still fractious politics between Talarg and Terregor.
Through all of this maneuvering Thurbulon and Hallanwell kept themselves mostly out of the fighting. Their rulers concentrated on fleet-building and competed in establishing trade routes across the great shallows. Although they initially supplied troops to Talarg, this soon stopped. Alarmed by the Restoration, they also imported mercenary troops from Peregorn and Salestria and when Talarg made several attempts to reincorporate the two smaller kingdoms into a restored great Kingdom, the sharp defeats dealt to sword and axe-wielding Archipelago Armigers by the massed mercenary pikes spurred the adoption of this weapon and heavier armour among the Armigers. The collapse of the restoration and the resumption of the ongoing feud between Talarg, Ostragya and Terregor allowed Thurbulon and Hallanwell to slide back into a bucolic peace where trading (and piracy along the Lumulean coast) was only broken by minor coastal skirmishes among the shiplords. This peace ended in 316 BP when first the Prince of Thurbulon and then the Prince of Hallanwell became involved in mainland politics first by supplying fleets and later by supplying soldiers and money to the rulers of Salestria in their wars with Tyranc. The defeat of Salestria ended with an attempted counter invasion by a huge Tyranc fleet, supported by a flying castle and filled with monstrous creatures. Alarmed by the prospect of having Tyranc armies on his doorstep, the King of Talarg agreed to an alliance and that summer saw a series of naval engagements and attempted invasions all along the northern coast of the western isles. In the end the Tyranc fleet attempted a siege of the White City, to establish a base for further conquest. The siege dragged on for two years until the Tyranc gave in and attempted to withdraw. Harassed by Su'uvenatan ships their fleet was totally destroyed in a series of naval skirmishes. The Arcobulon took credit for their defeat - but so did every shiplord. One consequence of this war was that the invasion drained so much energy from Tyranc that Southern Salestria, which had been on the verge of defeat, was able to survive.
For Terregor, the two hundred years (from 804 to 573 BP) is known as the Age of the Little Wars. Though their power was diminished, the Haydan had not forgotten their ambitions. They continued to regard the Joiry and Taelor dynasties and their princelings as usurpers. The wars against the Kaynes and later the Taelor and Joiry had weakened the Haydan, but it had also left them with a great many ambitious shiplords. To prevent them from turning them ambitions elsewhere, the Haydan lords encouraged them to dream of reuniting the kingdoms under their rule, even though they lacked the finances to carry out such an enterprise. This resulted in continual raiding and counter-raiding across the southern straits against Talarg, the occasional raid overseas to Ostragya and continuous internal conflicts and raiding in the small southern islands. From time to time troops from Terregor took participating in external conflicts, such as the war between Talarg and Ostragya, where they launched an attack in support of the Ostragyans, besieging and eventually sacking Heatanbor, before retreating back over the straits.
In the archipelago, warfare had always included dirty tricks, assassination and outright treachery but during earlier conflicts, such as the War of the Western Islands, the families who had behaved in this fashion were widely regarded as villains. As the kingdom fell apart, however, all became fair in love and war. A quick murder was as acceptable as winning a battle. It was a wise man who took precautions against assassination, even if he didn't plot the deaths of his rivals and superiors. Near the end of this period, the old and noble family of Haydan ceased to exist, its fertility unable to keep pace with the casualties suffered in its pursuit of kingship. The Haydan lands were parceled out among their allies and relatives and the shiplords of Terregor started to lose interest in the unattainable aim of the conquest of Terregor. The Joiry kings of Talarg, having heavily fortified Heatenbor after its sacking, heaved a sigh of relief and moved their capital back to more congenial Taelk. However, this did not lead to peace, as the Terregor shiplords continued to raid the southern coast of Talarg, occasionally sailing as far as Dendrith, while the Shiplords of Talarg, enraged by these raids, raided Terregor lands in reprisal. The castles that dot nearly every headland in the two kingdoms date from this era as does the expression that "In Terregor every fisherman is a pirate and every farmer a bandit". When they weren't raiding Talarg, the shiplords of Terregor and the southern isles raided each other, or marched to war to expand their territory, establish themselves as the successors to the Haydan or simply to avenge an insult. At the end of the Age of Little Wars a half dozen powerful shiplords ruled Terregor, each with their own territory. Although the constant fighting diminished, a shifting pattern of rivalries and alliances was typical of the times. One clan would ally with another against the threat from a third, only to find that their allies had become just as great a threat, or that previously loyal underlings were now more dangerous than any external threat. It took several generations for the Flangalls to gain an edge over their rivals, and in 469 BP, they gained control of Terregor itself by the dirty trick of briefly allying with several powerful shiplords from Talarg. In return once they had pacified Terregors's northern coast, they signed a treaty forbidding raiding into Talarg. In truth, the raiding never really ended but the ascendancy of the Flangalls greatly decreased it. Over the next 200 years the Flangalls first strengthened their grip on Terregor, taking the kingship in 316 BP and gradually brought all the lords of the southern isles to acknowledge their suzerainty.
Though the political situation today is more stable, tensions from past time still lurk below the surface. Overall, the transition into Six Kingdoms period was a time of prolonged civil unrest, remarkable social fluidity, and notable creativity. In the Taelor era the aristocracy had grudgingly accepted a political role for their military subordinates, but in the subsequent period the military aspect became dominant. This was viewed, particularly by the once singularly powerful, as an inversion of the proper order. The arrival of untutored provincial warriors and their retinues in Taelk effected previously unthinkable juxtapositions of social classes engaged in similar cultural pursuits.
The political powers of the period were members of land-owning, military families. The old royal governors and lords were dependant on them for enforcing any sort of order at all. By first cooperating with and then replacing these royal appointees, the families achieved influence over whole regions. These Armiger families became the actual rulers over the different parts of the archipelago, and continuously fought against each other for several centuries during the age of civil wars.
Nevertheless, despite the complaints of many aristocrats, the imposition of the new order - or disorder - had multiple beneficial effects on the practice of the arts.
The shiplords attempted to establish their legitimacy through their patronage of the arts, while the old nobles sponsored artists to demonstrate their superiority in this sphere. The increase in trade with Lumulea and fads for imported goods or ideas established a dominant aesthetic mode for the period, while journeys of travelers to and from Peregor provided yet another avenue for stimulation of the arts, expressed in the construction of soaring temples to the Twelve and giant statues built from this era on.
In addition to the cultural changes wrought by sheer military power, the fortunes of war and the overturning of the established order provided further possibilities for startlingly swift advancement and important patronage for talented but low-born individuals. People of every sort found possibilities congenial to their talents in this time of relative meritocracy. Growing in real power, the temples became to an even greater degree centers for the consideration, assimilation, and dissemination of culture.
Regional dissemination of central cultural values was another important catalyst for development. The increasing strength of provincial leaders allowed them to assume patronage roles and to invite distinguished court artists to regions distant from the center of culture. From the time of the War of two Kings and in the century following, this process was accelerated as the court itself was engulfed in war.