I. SPECULATIONS ON THE POLITICAL STRUCTURES OF THE AOSDA AND HY-BRASYL
The period before the rise of the golden kingdom of Hy-Brasyl, and of Danaan dating, is little known to historians. Some records exist, but these are very rare. What we do know is that the scholarly Aosdic civilization, the first of historical importance, fell when its rulers sought out the forbidden dark realm of the gods—Kadath. It drove them to madness, and the history of the great philosopher-kings of Temuair’s earliest history is now all but lost. This darkness, in whatever form it has approached humanity, is an important theme in the history of the rulers of Temuair and certainly that of its noble families. Like the men and women of the Aosda, the worship of darkness has often led to the downfall—or empowerment—of many nobles. Since the very beginning, then, the changing power relations of the kingdoms and cities of our continent have often been marked by resurgences of dhubh, the darkness. It is, after all, power that such men and women seek—and the darkness is indeed powerful, if only until deo, the forces of light, awaken to destroy it.
The fall of the Aosda occurred around Grinneal 15000, and all who knew the darkness perished. The enlightened rule of philosopher-kings and judges came to an abrupt end. With the old rulers lost to Kadath, those who remained lived in simple villages. By Grinneal 22000, they prospered and grew into independent city-states, wed to one another by commerce and diplomacy. Local rulers were interested only in seeking trade partners and maintaining the peace. These city-states were typically organized as aristocratic republics in which the merchant elites elected their leaders periodically. From time to time, usurpers would seize power for themselves and become the founders of petty kingdoms. On the whole, however, things were prosperous and peaceful, and the rulers during these early aeons rarely felt the thirst of power and cared even less for the glory of conquest. People yearned for the prosperity of the old Aosdic civilization.
Grinneal 32092 was the last year of Grinneal dating, coinciding with the arrival of the Tuatha de Danaan in Temuair and the first year of Danaan dating. These people carried with them the favor of the goddess Danaan, and by Danaan 102 the kingdom of Hy-Brasyl was founded and the realms of Temuair united peacefully. It was an era of great cultural and intellectual achievement, outshining even that of the Aosda. Under such a golden age, it seemed as if the enlightened rule of philosopher-kings was restored, even as it faded from memory. The rulers, from the highest king to the lesser nobility, had pure hearts and were content in governing their subjects justly. There was no danger to protect them from.
Despite the prosperity of all under the kingdom of Hy-Brasyl, it was a rigidly hierarchical society. The ruling class, made up of the royal family and nobles, sat at the top. Noble families drew their prestige and claims to power from their ancestral connection to the old dynasties of the Tuatha (the concept of “ginealach”). Those who did not have these traditional ancestries, real or imagined, were forbidden from holding a title. Below the ruling class were the scholars, then the merchants, then commoners. The greatest of the nobles, the dukes (diùc) each ruled a province that passed from generation to generation through primogeniture: inheritance by the eldest child. The dukes were served by lesser nobles who held a number of titles: iaerla, the earls, and baran, the barons. The holder of a ruling title each had his or her retainers, and swore to protect them in return for their loyal service.
In Danaan 1102, however, Hy-Brasyl became divided after the last king of the royal line had died. A thousand years of unity had been dissolved. Sovereignty, before a privilege enjoyed only by the king, was now claimed by several rulers. The hierarchical political structures survived right until the days of the drowning of Hy-Brasyl in Danaan 1431, but the existence of competing ruling dynasties led to conflict. The sovereign rulers demanded military commitments of their retainers, and to provide their liege lords with armies, the nobles consolidated their control over the agricultural lands and the commoners who worked them. These hierarchical structures therefore became even stricter, and the duties between lord and vassal more pronounced. Under threat of arms, subjects were required to serve their masters, either by fighting or working the land. Under both periods of Hy-Brasyl—the golden kingdom and the divided realms—the power of the nobility was strong.
At the drowning of Hy-Brasyl, however, all was lost. Most perished beneath the waters, but still some survived: the wise who obeyed the dark omens in the night sky fled before disaster struck, and the strongest men and women—commoners hardened by work and battle—managed to reach the safety of the highlands. The old rulers were lost to the rising seas as the waves crept higher, squabbling amongst themselves to the very end.
II. THE RISE OF THE THREE KINGDOMS
Those who did not drown wandered the great continent before settling into kingdoms. The kingdom of Finach, now called Mileth, was founded in Danaan 1501. Sarnath, later to be called Gear Inbhir, was founded in Danaan 1574. Niara, the last of the three great kingdoms, arose a decade later in Danaan 1584. The nobility of each kingdom had its own respective structure: Finach was a military aristocracy where knights ruled, and their kings and queens were warlords. The study of magic was particularly important in Sarnath, where the lords and ladies of the great wizard families held power in a magocracy. When their monarch died, a new one was elected. Niara’s nobility resembled that of Finach, but still appreciated the power of mages and included them in their ruling class.
Two theories of rule began to emerge. The first was a belief in a divinely sanctioned reign: the monarch earned his or her throne through the grace of the gods, and their right to rule could not be questioned by mere men or women. This concept was called “ceart,” often used in the phrase “is leo an ríocht ó cheart” (“the kingdom is theirs by right”). Such an idea departed from the old claims to lineage of the Tuatha, as the old dynasties had come to an end during the great drowning. The second theory of rule was that of conquest. A man or woman was simply entitled to whatever lands they could take by force, provided they ruled justly. This was not always at odds with divine right, however. Many great battles were described as an “appeal to the gods,” who were said to have decided the victor. Whether by conquest or divine sanction, or both, the rulers of the land invented new ideas to secure their claims to power.
In practical terms, rulers were crowned by the sword and magic. None could resist the armies of warriors and wizards that marched into their lands, and those lands—the personal possessions of warring kings and queens—traded hands often. To the peasants that worked the fields, their liege lords were not protectors but masters come to take their crops and their sons and daughters to support their armies. Even moreso than in the later days of Hy-Brasyl, the nobility of the kingdoms was structured according to the needs of military conquest. Whether they were warriors or wizards, one’s fighting prowess in battle became the preeminent way by which noble families defined themselves and their claims to power. There was no peace or prosperity during the period of the warring kingdoms. All that was built could be destroyed or pillaged, seized by force of arms. Only the strong could rule, else they were crushed by others.
The wizards reached their moment of greatest influence during this time. After rediscovering the element of darkness in Danaan 1703, the students of magic had new weapons to fight for their kings and queens, who in turn rewarded them with court appointments. The practice of magic was restricted to those who served the monarchs directly, who were jealous of such power. The wizards proved to be invaluable in war and elsewhere, much to the resentment of other nobles who had earned their place by fighting in the fields. Yet, studious as they were, the wizards were ignorant to the lessons of the fall of the Aosda. They summoned dark creatures known as the Dubhaimid, the children of darkness, and unleashed them upon the field of battle.
At a great battle beyond the walls of Finach, however, the destructive potential of magic was witnessed by all—the Wastelands by Mileth now stand as a testament to their folly. What use was magic to these warring rulers if it destroyed the very land they sought to take? The wizards began to lose favor in the royal courts, and founded their own academies to continue their studies. Others sought refuge in the worship of Danaan. The forces of darkness grew in strength, however, and were defeated in the costly Great War between Danaan and Chadul. Temuair was left desolate as never before, and the kingdoms were soon to be divided again.
III. THE RISE OF LOURES
It was not the Great War itself that caused the balkanization of Temuair in the Ninth Aeon. Seanchas Temuair indicates that the divisions had occurred no sooner than 250 years after the end of the conflict. Given the thousands of years that we have gone over in chapter I, however, such a period seems like a child’s playtime in comparison. It is nevertheless during these centuries after the war that we begin to see the political structure of our own age take form. The appetite for conquest that defined the era of the three kingdoms, reaching its pinnacle in the horrors of the Great War, was sated after Chadul was defeated by Danaan in the year 1980. The people of Temuair craved peace, and the men and women of the land were too busy rebuilding to serve in any army.
As a result, the aristocracy was no longer defined solely by the military needs of the rulers. Their control over the lands and its people loosened. The firstborn sons and daughters saw their own inheritance rights weaken as younger siblings pressed their own claims. Primogeniture gave way to appanage succession: each child inherited a share of the parent’s lands and titles, with the oldest gaining the largest portion. Under such a system, the kingdoms shrunk in size with each passing generation. The three kingdoms that existed before the Great War were fragmented to ten by the time that Lord Tenes rose to power in Danaan 2421.
The history of Tenes and the rise of Loures as the central power in Temuair has been well-documented by aisling historians, so I will address these developments only as they pertain to the structural changes in the nobility and ruling class during this period. Through conquest and alliance, Tenes united the ten kingdoms of Temuair under the League of Darkness. He built the great castle of Loures upon the plain of Ardmagh, where he held court. Through his queen, the Lady Dubhreal, he controlled the power of darkness, and as he grew older sought immortality for himself and his allies. To that end, he formed the Pact of Anaman in Danaan 2468. Through it, the nobles were granted a thousand years of life.
This was a remarkable development, but its implications for political history have often been ignored. The long lifespan of these rulers—or, at least, the promise thereof—meant that the system of appanage succession was no longer practical. The fertility of the nobles does not seem to have diminished as they advanced to impossibly old ages, and the prospect of dividing their realms between dozens of (legitimate) children was problematic. Like Tenes, they dreamt of the golden age of Hy-Brasyl and the stability of its rule. To maintain the strength of their holdings and ensure their family legacy, the nobles once again adopted primogeniture inheritance and enshrined it into law upon the old model of the Tuatha. No longer would their realms be divided upon succession. There was no immediate effect, however, as the nobles would not die anytime soon.
After the fall of Tenes to Ainmeal, the champion of Danaan, in the year 2921, the empire and the imperial court were founded. The tensions were palpable. Ainmeal the Conqueror, the first emperor of Loures, bore the favour of the goddess, even as most of the old nobility still worshipped the darkness through thinly-veiled secret rituals. Ainmeal treaded lightly so as to maintain the peace, and his marriage to Dubhreal—an unwelcome wedding to secure his claim to the throne—meant that darkness lurked even in the imperial bedchambers. By the time that Ealagad had taken power as the fourth empress of Loures, Lady Dubhreal had died. Ealagad, the Steel Swan, was a champion of the light like Ainmeal, her grandfather. She saw the darkness in the imperial court, at that time a den of iniquity defined by intrigue and plotting, and began to consolidate her control over the nobles.
Under Ealagad, the empire controlled all ten kingdoms, whether directly or through diplomatic means. The kingdoms of Temuair were once again subject to Loures, and were ruled by lords and ladies who bent their knee to the imperial throne. The power of the nobility had therefore diminished since the victory of Ainmeal as he and his dynasty, anointed by Danaan, inevitably sought to reform the court and cleanse it of whatever darkness remained therein. The members of the Pact of Anaman had disappeared with Tenes, but just when order was finally restored to Temuair, the Dubhaimid struck from the Isle of Man. The Shadows War ensued. The forces of darkness under Chadul arose once more to challenge Danaan; and, while the darkness was defeated due to her sacrifice, its influence was enough to drive the members of the imperial court to madness. Like the old rulers of Hy-Brasyl and the Aosdic philosopher-kings before them, the nobles fell and the empire was shattered.
IV. THE RISE OF THE CITIES
During the chaos of the the Shadows War, many historical records from the period were destroyed. Despite its relative proximity to the present day, we know little about the immediate aftermath of this war and the fate of the empire. Even the lineage of the present king of Loures, Bruce, is a matter of speculation. In all likeliness, Ealagad, who never married, died without an heir and the empire fell apart once more. The formal rule of Loures over the rest of Temuair has since weakened, and the cities are largely autonomous. As evidenced by the fact that the cities still respect the authority of the knights of Loures and of King Bruce’s decree protecting all aislings from harm (save those who perform unspeakable rites at the altar in Mileth), the power of the throne still remains in some form.
It is perhaps more important to note the effect of the war on the power of the nobles. The imperial court was lost to the darkness, and their lands are now ruled by an ascendant lesser nobility with weaker claims on their demesnes. I dare not recount here some of the things I have heard whispered in the castle of Loures, but it is clear that the darkness still resides in the hearts of many nobles. I fear that this is the nature of the capital itself, and of dark things upon which it was built. In any case, the weakened status of the nobility in our present age has corresponded with the powerful rise of another political group: the leaders of Temuair’s cities.
The Shadows War was ultimately won, we know, when the wizards of Rucesion discovered the sixth element: light. In hanging magical lanterns about the cities, they kept the darkness at bay as the Dubhaimid ravaged the countryside. The cities remained intact and survived the war with all of their strength; the nobles, their manors, and their land holdings did not. As if climbing out from the rubble of a great earthquake, the city-dwellers suddenly found themselves surrounded by destruction—the empire and its ruling class was no more. The nobles would begin to recover their strength, but it was clear that power in Temuair now resided with the semi-autonomous cities.
A number of demographic factors also contributed to the rise of the cities. The most significant of these, of course, came with Deoch’s gift of the aisling spark. The arrival of the first aislings from the fields, where they toiled as mundanes, swelled the population of the city centers. There, they studied to become great warriors, wizards, priests, monks, and rogues, and the history of the world since their arrival in the first year of Deoch dating has largely been shaped by them. Accordingly, the mundanes granted them the privilege to stand for elected office in the great cities of Mileth and Rucesion, where they still dictate the laws and protect the cities as guard militias. The democratic institutions that they have built are a testament to their creativity. The expansion of the banks, particularly in Rucesion, also speak to the wealth brought to the cities by their adventures in Temuair and even far across the seas in Medenia. In all areas, the arrival of aislings has had a profound impact on the power relations of our continent, even as they are still subject to mundane authorities.
Meanwhile, the nobles now wield little power. As the present work shows, this has only been a recent development in the history of Temuair. They stand in the shadow of a glorious past, as if cursed by the gods for their worship of the darkness and their lust for power. Their rule is confined to their country estates and the surrounding farmlands, and those without lands bear petty titles and gather at the royal court of Loures where they depend upon the patronage of the king. The history of the nobility is that the nobility is history. But this does not mean that all is lost: history, a grand story of the past, is a powerful source of inspiration. The memory of the golden kingdom of Hy-Brasyl has not yet faded. The darkness, ever the ally of nobles, still pulses beneath the ancient stones of forgotten ruins. And, as sure as men and women—aisling or mundane—still have ambitions, the past may repeat itself. Who has ever lived that was not struck with awe at the thought of an iron crown upon their brow?
Since time immemorial, such has been the driving force of history. If we have seen the sunset of kingdoms and empires, then—for good or ill—they will surely return with the dawn.
APPENDIX: BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTES
This serves as a brief note through which to acknowledge the works of those historians who have inspired “A History of the Nobility of Temuair,” and also as a reference guide to this historical literature. Indeed, most of the events that I have discussed throughout are drawn directly from these sources. My own original contributions lie in the changing political structures which have accompanied events such as the drowning of Hy-Brasyl, the rise of Finach, Sarnath, and Niara, the rise of Tenes and the war with Ainmeal, the Shadows War, etc.
Seanchas Temuair, vol. 1 has been my primary reference work during the course of my research. Aeife’s classic “Grinneal—Beginning” has been the source by which I speculated on the events before and during the Aosdic civilization in chapter I. Chapter II, covering the history of the early kingdoms of Finach, Sarnath, and Niara after the drowning of Hy-Brasyl, is probably as speculative as the first chapter. I have nonetheless found a valuable source in Katrionah’s “Descent into Darkness: The Eight Aeon of Temuair,” and learned valuable supplementary information from NitroTFD’s “Niaran History” and Veneficus’s “As the Land Bleeds—A Brief Overview of the Elemental Wars.”
Chapter III covers the period of history most documented by aisling historians, which has inadvertently caused some problems even as it presented a bountiful collection of research to use. For the rise of Loures, Tenes, and Ainmeal, and related events, I borrowed from the three classic works on the period: Chloe’s “Blood of the Forgotten Empire,” Etienne’s “L’Imperatore,” and Rookerin’s “The League of Darkness and its Pact of Anaman.” These works sometimes disagree on important details. To illustrate my point, I invite the reader to consider the difference of 465 years between the founding of Loures as recorded by Etienne and by Rookerin. By no means am I complaining—differences of opinion are necessary to uncover the truth in the study of history, as is the case in any other discipline. The same works were instrumental in piecing together chapter IV. Mixed with references to such fine historical tomes were a few of my own humble observations.
The author is indebted to these historians and to Danu De Lancret for her feedback.