Thusund, known contradictorily as the land of the Sea and deriving its name from its many islands; it is a shortened form of what is believed to refer to a thousand isles. Legend has it that the northern tribe first arrived to Saelnar on these islands and lived here for many years before they migrated to the mainland. Investigations into language supports this; many of the oldest names such as Sigvard Drakevin lost their meaning in common Mearcspeech but was still understood in the dialect of Thusund on the more remote islands that saw little contact with the outside world. Its banner was a black raven on white cloth, possibly the oldest banner of Men from the time of the First Great War.
It should not be presumed that the islands of Thusund were places of inactivity, though. The islanders had by far the most numerous fleet, both for fishing, commerce, and war, probably more ships than both Ealond and Vidrevi put together. The ships of Thusund served two vital purposes for Adalmearc. Militarily, they were a match for the fleets of the South Cities, deterring any interest in war. Economically, their merchant fleet was responsible for all the trade between Adalmearc and the South Cities, Alcázar in particular. The reason for this was due to geography.
Between the southernmost islands of Thusund and the mainland lay a strait known as the Teeth. They were shallow waters with many cliffs that claimed unwary sailors. Only ships with flat keels and strong knowledge of the pathways between the cliffs could navigate those waters. The islanders were the only ones able to find the waterways of the Teeth, and their flat ships were very useful for sailing up the rivers of Adalmearc as well, making them ideal transports.
It was possible to avoid the Teeth by sailing west and then south, circumventing the islands of Thusund. But that required sailing out on open sea to reach Alcázar, which was not only dangerous but also impossible to navigate without landmarks. The islanders had their ways for navigating the open sea, but they kept it a closely guarded secret. This method allowed the islanders to also conduct trade on larger crafts built specifically to withstand the turmoil of the open sea; such ships were unable to sail on the rivers, however, and were typically only used to travel between Alcázar and Herbergja.
Cities of Thusund
Being generally populous, Thusund had numerous cities bustling with trade. Three cities were of primary importance, though: Dvaros, Herbergja, and Bjarghold. Dvaros was the capital and seat of the kings of Thusund; it was quite possibly the oldest human settlement in Adalmearc, built during the Great War or even before if such a thing is possible. It had a large harbour, naturally, and was built up against the cliffs. In general, Thusund was not particularly fertile land, which is why fishing and trade was of such importance. Rising up against the mountainside, Dvaros was an imposing sight from the deck of a ship as one sailed into the bay; it was all but impossible to attack from land, and the bay was reinforced by enormous walls to protect against assaults from the sea.
Herbergja was the second-largest city in Adalmearc and not only the economic centre of Thusund but of all of Adalmearc. Legend claims that when the tribes first sailed from the islands of Thusund to the mainland, Herbergja was where they settled due to its natural harbour; the name of the city means something akin to shelter in the oldest tongue. Along with the harbour, Herbergja sat at the mouth of the river Mihtea; this not only provided fresh water but also easy transport into the heart of Adalmearc. While not a political centre akin to Middanhal, Herbergja was often referred to as the capital of the West, situated where Thusund, Vidrevi, and Ealond met.
Each day, hundreds of ships arrived or departed, making Herbergja the heart that pumped wealth and coin through Adalmearc. Its wealth, as well as the fact that it lay on the mainland, made the city a source of contention for centuries. Ealond maintained the claim that the city rightfully belonged to them, since it bordered on their lands and they saw it as an intrusion of the islanders onto the mainland. This claim was always rejected by Thusund, considering that Herbergja was built before Ealond was settled; and ever since the Alliance of Adalmearc was established, the high kings sided always with Thusund in this matter. Denying their old rival the second-most important city in the realms and a source of vast wealth probably also influenced the kings of Adalrik into supporting Thusund.
Herbergja was thus the source of strife and war many times, and the city was attacked and conquered more than once whenever the kings of Ealond saw a chance. It was impossible to hold the city without also having a superior fleet, however, since it was vulnerable to attacks from the sea; thus, Thusund rarely had trouble retaking the city. As a deterrent, the Order later kept a large garrison in Herbergja, second in size only to the one in Middanhal; due to this, the marshal of Thusund also had his headquarters here rather than in the capital of the realm as was the case in the other kingdoms. There was a small garrison along with an envoy in Dvaros but nothing more.
Regardless of its past, Herbergja remained a vibrant city. It was the only city in the realms boasting such diversity, and where people from outside the Seven Realms might be found in great numbers. Most of these were merchants or servants to them, conducting trade, but many of them eventually settled permanently along with their families. They were allowed to practise their own faith privately, as long as they did not make attempts of conversion.
The third city of note in Thusund was Bjarghold. Unlike the others, it was little more than a town placed on the cliff sides overlooking the sea in some distance from Dvaros; a precarious little harbour was attached to the village, though it conducted no trade or fishing. It was the stronghold of the priestesses of Disfara, whose great sanctuary lay close by the town. The only purpose of the harbour was to send ships with messengers to Dvaros or Herbergja when the priestesses required it. Thus the town in itself was of little note, but the wealth and importance of the priestesses meant that its name was known to all islanders.
Power in Thusund was thus scattered in this fashion. The kings ruled in Dvaros, where their war ships were also docked; the priestesses were placed in Bjarghold, overseeing what happened in the realm and interfering at times. The marshal and the Order was in Herbergja along with most of the merchants. This gave rise to the view that things in Thusund happened slowly; consultations between the king and the priestesses, or the marshal and the king, or the priestesses and the merchants, all might take days. Nonetheless, due to being the great facilitator of trade, Thusund remained a vital part of Adalmearc and ensuring that the Alliance endured.