The land of the Dragon, geographically the largest, strongest, and most central realm of Adalmearc; it is understandable that in the end, it became the dominant realm. The exact circumstances are uncertain, though events seemed to have played out in the 2nd or 3rd century. The sources are, unfortunately, somewhat confusing. The reign of the first 3 kings of Adalrik, starting with Sigvard Drakevin, seems straight-forward enough. But then the old annals speak of regicide and civil war as well as foreign invasions; and yet, a few years later, all of this was seemingly resolved and Arn of Old took up rule as the fourth king of Adalrik. About a decade after this, he had united all the Seven Realms under his crown in what is known as the War of the Dragon and could proclaim himself the first high king. The events of how this came to pass are shrouded in mystery, though some of the oldest annals might illuminate the events surrounding Arn’s rise to the throne – often considered the greatest of the kings of Adalrik.
The capital of Adalrik was Middanhal, the largest city in the realms. Its geographical position was always of great importance. It controlled the only easily traversed pass in the Weolcan Mountains, and thus controlled passage between the northern and southern realms; only other alternative was circumventing the mountains by sea to the west. Religiously, even before Adalmearc was unified, Middanhal was the centre of worship. The reasons for this are unclear and seem to date back to a time before the First Great War. Afterwards, however, it is easy to understand. With the construction of the Temple and the office of the high priest being elevated as superior to all the six priesthoods, the position of Middanhal as a religious centre became unquestionable. The dominant priesthood of Adalrik was the cult of Rihimil, the Lord of Dragons; subsequently, the banner of Adalrik was a crowned silver dragon upon a black background. This is not to be confused with a golden dragon on blue background, which was the personal banner of the high king.
As the capital of not only Adalrik but all of Adalmearc, Middanhal was also the political centre; being home to the headquarters of the Order of Adal, it was lastly also the centre of military strength in the realms. Thus, being the seat of political, military, and religious power, it is understandable that Middanhal remained the most important city of the Seven Realms, and why it was considered a marvel of the known world.
With its strategic location in the mountain pass, Middanhal sat exactly between the northern and southern parts of the realm. Adalrik was unique in the sense that of the Seven Realms, it was the only realm to be inhabited by both northerners and southerners. Both cultures had a strong influence on Middanhal, though this did not extend much to the provinces beyond; the northern regions resembled the North, and the southern regions resembled the South. The South was more populous than the North, yet the northern culture had the strongest hold. This was no doubt due to the fact that the royal line of Sigvard were northerners originally and their customs held sway.
One of these customs was the Adalthing, which was an assembly of noblemen. It wielded considerable influence, and weaker or less politically gifted kings often found their reign stymied by strong jarls. The members of the Adalthing were all landed noblemen, which meant the jarls, landgraves, and margraves, as well as any recognised athelings of Sigvard. For many centuries, the only recognised cadet branch was House Arnling, who could trace their lineage of male ancestry directly to Arn of Old. Later on, a second cadet branch was recognised as House Hardling, descended from Sighard.
The Adalthing listened to and extended grievances against the king or other noblemen. They had to vote, known as a counting of voices, to approve the king’s successor to the throne. In periods of interregnum, they also voted for a lord protector to hold office until the approved successor might be crowned. The Adalthing also had to approve of the harsher punishments that the king wished to inflict, such as execution or exile. This was another northern custom apparent in Adalrik; capital punishment was considered rare. Typically, all punishments were either exile or fines. Should the king wish to see an offender or similar executed, the Adalthing had to approve such a course of action; similar if the desired punishment was exile.
Of course, the influence of the Adalthing and its protection in such cases extended only to those of noble birth. Commoners might be punished however the king saw fit. The nobility was another aspect unique to Adalrik. Whereas the other northern realms typically only distinguished between landed and un-landed nobility, Adalrik had no less than four classes of nobility. The fourth and lowest, beorns, was the same as with the other realms; descendants of the old warrior class without landed titles, they were nonetheless considered nobility in the eyes of the law. The third class were the margraves; landed noblemen who were vassals to one of the four jarls of the realm. The second class were the landgraves, whose provinces were typically larger than that of a margrave. The landgraves were direct vassals of the king. The first class were the four jarls, with the jarldoms being Isarn, Theodstan, Vale, and Ingmond.
The four jarldoms
The jarls were originally tasked with protecting the borders of Adalrik, and thus their position dated back to before the time of Arn of Old. They still maintained the border fortifications, and for this task they were aided by their vassals, the margraves. Each jarldom had a different number of margraves, which affected their influence in the Adalthing. The number of votes in the assembly was divided, so that each member of the three upper classes had one vote; jarls, landgraves, and margraves. However, should a margrave be absent, his liege the jarl might cast a vote on the absent margrave’s behalf. In general, the margraves voted as their jarl does. This meant that each jarl typically wielded another dozen votes in the Adalthing next to his own. The political influence of the four jarls was thus vast in Adalrik, and their cooperation or defiance towards the king typically defined that king’s reign.
The four jarldoms were fairly distinct and could be characterised differently. Isarn to the north-west was named for the iron mines in its domain; apart from that, it also had rich silver deposits. This made the jarls of Isarn very wealthy, as their silver was the lifeblood of the economy of the Seven Realms. Their iron was also considered of high quality, and the Order of Adal used almost exclusively iron from Isarn for their weaponry.
Theodstan was the least populated of the jarldoms. It lay to the north-east in stony terrain; it depended to some extent on the trade with the quarries of Heohlond to survive. Otherwise it was sheep country, supplying Adalrik and Heohlond with wool. This gave the northern gate of Middanhal its colloquial name of Sheepgate.
Vale was to the south-west; it was the largest of the four jarldoms, reflecting that in ancient times it guarded the border against Ealond, which was the primary rival of Adalrik. Apart from its size, Vale also benefitted greatly from its location. The great river Mihtea, which had its source in the mountains above Middanhal, flowed through Vale before reaching Ealond and finally the sea. This meant that trade moved through Vale to reach Middanhal, which made the jarls of Vale exceedingly rich.
The final jarldom to the south-east was Ingmond. In ancient times it was an important cult site, which was reflected in its name. The priesthood of Rihimil also maintained a large temple in Ingmond. The salt trade from Hæthiod travelled through here, and Ingmond always had close ties with Hæthiod since the royal line of Hæthiod was descended from the jarls of Ingmond.