Early History of the Seven Realms
No texts that can be dated from the time before the First Great War survive, not even fragments. The earliest texts available seem to be from late 2nd century. The systematic writing of annals did not begin until around the 6th century during the reign of King Sibold, possibly inspired by the victory over the outlanders and the desire to ensure it was not forgotten. It was the first great invasion in about three hundred years since the War of the South Cities, which took place in the 2nd century and presumably catapulted Arn into subjugating all of Adalmearc under his rule. Apparently, already at Sibold’s time little was known of these events, so the king decided to ensure extensive annals were written about the events of his own time and onwards so that knowledge of his own reign would not end up as obscured as Arn's had become. Over the years, the King’s Quills also attempted to reconstruct the centuries that had been lost to the passage of time; the following is primarily based on these attempts.
Before the First Great War
Unfortunately, very little if anything seems to be known about the First Great War. It was obviously a near cataclysmic event, considering its memory survived for a thousand years until another war took its place as being termed ‘the Great War’. But which enemy was fought is unknown, how long the war lasted, and even how exactly the peoples of Adalmearc were involved. When the war did end, however, it was considered a new beginning. It is generally assumed that the Mearcian calendar began with the building of Middanhal into a permanent settlement as year 0 after the end of the Great War.
By tracing the differences in language and dialect, we may distinguish between up towards four or five tribes, populating what eventually became the Seven Realms. We can distinctly say that one tribe, the smallest, populated what became Heohlond. Another, also small in size, populated Hæthiod. It should here be noted, however, that what little is known about the outlanders would suggest that they were originally if not the same, then closely related to the tribe that settled in Hæthiod.
The third of these tribes, which must have been numerous, settled in Ealond, Korndale and southern Adalrik. The uncertainty whether there remains only a fourth or also a fifth tribe concerns those people that settled in Thusund, Vidrevi, and northern Adalrik. Some argue that there is a clear difference between the dialect spoken on the islands of Thusund compared to Adalrik. Others argue that this is simply the effect of isolation and distance, meaning that the same language was spoken in Thusund and Adalrik, but it eventually evolved in different ways. In favour of this may be that it is impossible to decipher whether Vidrevi, situated between Thusund and Adalrik, should belong to one dialect or the other. Many of its older names, such as geographical locations, are clearly closely connected with the dialect spoken in Thusund; but the names of people seem to follow the dialect spoken in Adalrik, rather. Some believe this simply to be a result of the variant spoken in Adalrik becoming dominant as Adalrik became the dominant realm, which is not unreasonable.
The Realms of Saelnar
Regardless, in the aftermath of the Great War, these seven kingdoms arose. All were sovereign and seemed to compete against each other, though naturally on different terms. Ealond and Adalrik were always at odds, it would seem. Heohlond, having no other neighbour than Adalrik, was typically forced to support them, though often internal strife kept them outside foreign affairs. Korndale and Hæthiod attempted to remain free of either major power’s sphere of influence by aligning with each other. Vidrevi seems to have supported Ealond, desiring to restrict the influence of Adalrik; Thusund on the other hand seems to have considered Ealond and Vidrevi as its primary opponents and thus been inclined towards allying with Adalrik.
A fluid state of war, ceasefires, and tense relations appears to have been the case for the first two centuries. The existence of the jarls as border protectors are a good indication of this. The jarls seem to have at times become a double-edged sword, however, as becomes apparent once we reach the earliest fragments that we do possess concerning the history of Adalmearc.
War of the South Cities
Towards the end of the 2nd century, an invasion was carried out by the South Cities, led primarily by Alcázar. In a show of pragmatism, the Mearcians style this the War of the South Cities. It should be noted, of course, that at this time, Adalmearc was not gathered under the rule of the dragonborn; indeed, not even the name Adalmearc existed. Here, the fragments still speak of the Seven Realms of Saelnar.
The invasion was aimed towards Thusund at first, and the other realms had no immediate reason to interfere as such or to aid Thusund. Pleas from the island kingdom were sent east, though, reaching Adalrik. The reader should be aware that already at this point, the hero worship of Sigvard, first king of Adalrik, had begun. It seems to have started very soon after his death, if not already during his lifetime. What deed he might have performed during the Great War is unknown to us, but it is possible that as the third king of Adalrik, Sigtrygg, who was Sigvard’s grandson, felt he had a responsibility to live up to. More pragmatically, Thusund had been a strong safeguard against the ambitions of both Vidrevi and Ealond in the past, keeping them in check through its entente with Adalrik.
Whatever the causes, King Sigtrygg gathered an army and prepared to come to Thusund’s aid. What happens next is uncertain, however. Obviously, the geography presented a problem for Sigtrygg. To reach Thusund, he would have to march through either Vidrevi or Ealond, either of whom might be inclined to hinder his passing. Secondly, the South Cities had attacked the islands of Thusund and not its possessions on the mainland, i.e. the port city of Herbergja. Even if Sigtrygg’s army could pass through hostile lands, they would require the islanders’ ships or another fleet to be able to properly join the war.
Civil war in Adalrik
It seems that Sigtrygg opted for travelling through Ealond, probably aiming to reach Herbergja first and solve his transport problem then or at the very least keep the great city safe from the southern mercenaries. It is unknown what happened, but he never arrived. The king died somewhere on the road. Some speculate that he never even left Adalrik but died somewhere in the province of Vale, considering the jarl of Vale took advantage of the situation and perhaps prompted it to happen. This is countered by the fact that the army of Adalrik seems to have been in Ealond when the king died, though, since it fell into disarray and did not stop the jarl of Vale. With the king dead and his army away, Jarl Vale seized Middanhal. He killed Sigtrygg’s eldest son and heir and declared himself king, though the Adalthing had not convened to approve him.
Again the sources are very vague and unclear on what happened afterwards. What we do know is that another of Sigtrygg’s sons, Arn, was not in Middanhal at the time; he was apparently in Heohlond on a diplomatic task of some sort. Up towards a year passed where the jarl of Vale ruled, attempting to make his claim recognised by the rest of the nobility of Adalrik. Eventually Arn returned, backed by an army of highlanders; whatever his task had been in Heohlond, he seems to have succeeded overwhelmingly. The jarls of Theodstan and Isarn immediately raised their levies and joined him, and although it is uncertain how it happened exactly, Arn deposed the usurper and was soon recognised by the Adalthing as the new king of Adalrik.
Resolution of the War of the South Cities
While this had happened, Thusund had not received aid. Instead it had all but fallen to the mercenaries of the South Cities. One by one, their major islands were taken and their ships seized. Dominating the seas, the South Cities turned towards the mainland. There are rumours mentioned in the fragments that they made a pact with Vidrevi, ensuring the foresters would not interfere against the South Cities as long as Vidrevi was not attacked, but this is difficult to verify. In any case, the South Cities turned towards Ealond. It would be near impossible to besiege and conquer Herbergja without violating the territory of Ealond in any case, and the South Cities gladly launched the next stage of their invasion.
A year-long siege of Herbergja ensued, followed by numerous skirmishes across Ealond as its fertile lands were razed. The typical enmity between Ealond and Adalrik was swallowed as the rivermen requested aid from the new king of Adalrik. Here, Arn showed his political acuity by renewing the Alliance. What is meant by this is not completely known, but there seems to have existed an alliance between the tribes of Saelnar during the Great War. It was this that Arn proposed was now revived, allying the Seven Realms against the invaders. His demand was, naturally, that this alliance be led by the descendant of Sigvard, namely himself and his heirs, and that it would last in peacetime as well as war.
The situation in Ealond must have been desperate, for they accepted these terms. Heohlond joined as well, most likely in realisation that they were subject to Adalrik in any case; and again, apparently Arn’s diplomatic mission went exceedingly well in the highlands. It is in fact believed that the woman who eventually became his queen was of highland birth.
With an army combining the forces of Adalrik, Ealond, and Heohlond, Arn marched against the invading forces. He defeated them in several battles, eventually lifting the siege of Herbergja. Adding the remnants of the army of Thusund and its few ships to his own, Arn must have displayed a natural capacity for warfare upon the sea, for somehow he managed to liberate the islands of Thusund despite his fleet being far inferior in numbers. It is presumed that he sailed often at night, a highly risky venture, storming the occupied strongholds one by one. Some sources claim it took up towards ten years, which would indicate a less risky strategy of avoiding to engage the superior fleet of the South Cities, and instead a more cautious approach of conducting long sieges.
The War of the Dragon
Regardless of how he did it, Arn was able to win the war. He easily added Thusund to his alliance, since they were in no position to resist him. He put pressure on Korndale, who quickly realised they had little choice but to follow suit as well with their neighbour of Ealond already a vassal; with Korndale having given in, Hæthiod could not deny entering Arn’s alliance. Only Vidrevi resisted, and in the end Arn had to invade to force them under his rule.
His supposed reasons for invading seem unclear; to some extent, Vidrevi had not been part of the war and done nothing to deserve this. Arn claimed, however, that Vidrevi had aided the South Cities in their invasion and were thus one of the warring parties, regardless of how that aid had manifested itself. Whether his pretext was one or the other, it came to war in the great forests of Vidrevi. Again, several years passed as the foresters defended themselves admirably. But they were invaded by Arn’s forces from the east and pressured by the ships from Thusund in the west, and eventually had to surrender.
Fairly close to the turn of the 2nd century, and some fifteen years into his reign, Arn had done what no other had been able to achieve before him; he had united all of Saelnar under his rule. He called his new dominion Adalmearc and styled himself as high king, allowing the other kings to continue ruling as his vassals in their respective realms.
Notable events of Arn's reign
There are three other things to note concerning Arn’s reign. When his wars of unification had ended, he seems to have turned towards building programmes. Two of these projects are noteworthy. One is in Middanhal, where he made plans to greatly expand both the Temple and the Citadel. It is uncertain how much was completed in his lifetime, and how much was left for his son and heir to finish, however. Regardless, Arn did make great changes to the city, which is reflected in the main street of Middanhal that bears his name.
The second of his great building programmes was the Langstan. A great wall, running from the coast in the west all along the southern border of Adalmearc, and then up along the eastern border of Hæthiod. It was a massive undertaking, and it does raise some questions. Apparently, the South Cities did not attack merely by ship; otherwise building a wall to protect against them invading via land would be pointless. It seems safe to assume that the War of the South Cities was exceedingly brutal in Ealond, and part of the purpose of the Langstan was to ensure that Adalmearc could only be reached by ship; the combination of the fleets of Thusund and Vidrevi must have been considered sufficient to deter further invasions by the South Cities.
Some have also speculated that in this period, the outlanders began their incursions into Hæthiod and Korndale. This seems reasonable, considering it makes the construction of the Langstan much more sensible; however, it is strange to imagine that this means the outlanders raided Hæthiod and to a lesser extent Korndale for more than three hundred years before their first large-scale invasion.
The last act for which Arn is remembered is founding the Order. Arn must have realised the need for a strong military force loyal to the high king, regardless of the location and origin of that force throughout the Seven Realms. Furthermore, a standing army might have helped to repel the South Cities much faster than was the case. The Order was imagined as the rope that would tie the Seven Realms together, which it did with unquestionable success for the next many centuries to come.
Adalmearc after Arn
The centuries between Arn and Sibold seem to have been relatively peaceful. Probably not on a smaller scale; there were always border disputes between local noblemen or feuds and such. But perhaps surprisingly, the next three centuries do not seem to have seen any major wars, invasions, rebellions or similar, at least not any noteworthy enough to have been remembered. When we reach the reign of Sibold in the 6th century, we also reach the beginning of the writing of the annals. The next major conflict after the War of the Dragon is the first outlander invasion, which is described in more detail in the entry under Hæthiod. As for the Second Great War, the reader will have to consult the chronicles to learn more.