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The Fall of Ilmaryl

by Geoff Gander

From a lecture a the University of Wendar:

"As I am sure you remember from a previous lecture, the empire of Alphatia was not always so cohesive as it seems today. We have already discussed the politics and events surrounding the fall of the northern realm of Argonath during the Alphatian Suppression Wars, of which one event in particular, the collapse of the realm of Ilmaryl, was crucial to the future consolidation of the Alphatian state.

"Now then, as you have no doubt read in your texts, the elven king Illashiye was an industrious ruler, as well as a peaceful one. Not only was he able to claim the northern reaches of the newly-formed kingdom of Shiye-Lawr without a fight, circa BC 600, or AY 400; existing records indicate that his reign was one marked with prosperity and progress. Unlike his xenophobic brethren to the south, Illashiye allowed beings of other races to settle within his nation's borders, specifically the humans who had inhabited the region for untold centuries - the Yanifey. In fact, there are surviving fragments of songs sung in the courts of the continent at that time, which praise him as 'Illashiye the Just'.

"Since the kingdom of Ilmaryl posed no threat militarily to Alphatia, and ties of kinship with the elves of Shiye-Lawr were strong, the growing Alphatian Empire never took an aggressive stance against it. Do not forget that around this time, from BC 600 to BC 400 (AY 400 to AY 600), Shiye-Lawr had not yet officially aligned with the Alphatian Empire. Many Alphatian princes and kings had invited King Ardashiye to their courts, in the hopes of wooing him over to their fold, but to no avail. Ardashiye was a very stubborn elf, one who had led his clan, the Shiye, from Brun around BC 800 in search of new lands, and he would not give them up easily once he had them. Though he had settled in the woods of what is now Shiye-Lawr with the permission of the Alphatian Emperor at the time, Kerothar II, Ardashiye was very much an independent ruler. For the first few centuries of elvish settlement, relations between the two races were cordial, but guarded. While Kerothar had allowed the elves to settle in the hopes of learning more about this strange race, and ultimately hoping to rule over them, he was nonetheless aware that the Shiye were powerful, with considerable magical resources that could have crippled the nascent Alphatian empire, should he move against them. Incidentally, some say that even today, the Alphatians are trying to fully incorporate Shiye-Lawr, for some have observed that the current king of that land, Acroshiye, seems to be very independent and wilful, though the truth remains to be seen.

"So, in the end, the standard strategy of the imperial family was to be on good terms with the elves, and to subtly try to win them over. This is why the small kingdom of Ilmaryl remained unmolested, even though it was known to be sympathetic to the northern kingdom of Argonath, enemy of Alphatia. Of the actual events transpiring in Ilmaryl, we know little, for such records as might exist now lie within the borders of Blackheart, and we all know how perilous it would be to go searching there for information. All that is known is that Ilmaryl was a peaceful kingdom, whose forests and rivers were of breathtaking beauty, and whose inhabitants were said to be very enlightened and pure. One event, not twenty years before the great flight from Dor-Addon, capital of Ilmaryl, is clear.

"One day, so the legends say, there came to Illashiye's hall in Dor- Addon an elf of considerable charisma. He was named Atziann, though the courtesans of Dor-Addon called him Atziann of the Night, for all of his clothing was set to be of the deepest black, so dark, in fact, that one bard reportedly claimed that he saw the darkness between the stars deep within their folds. Exaggeration, I assume. In any case, Atziann proved to be a singularly likeable elf, albeit a tragic one. He claimed to be the sole survivor of his clan, and he shared a litany of trials and tribulations spanning more than a century, until he came to Ilmaryl, there to hopefully find a home once more. Illashiye took an instant liking to Atziann, and from then on treated him as a brother, and seldom were they said to be far apart ever afterwards.

"As the seasons passed, some members of the court at Dor-Addon noticed a change in disposition in their liege. Where Illashiye was once cheerful and open, he seemed more withdrawn now, and less apt to enjoy the fruits of life as they presented themselves. As Illashiye grew colder, Atziann seemed to glow with even more energy and charisma. More years passed, and Illashiye soon grew into a hardened, bitter king. He began to suspect his own family of plotting against him, so it is said, and frequently he fell into fits of madness, which only Atziann seemed able to cure, through his own quiet counsel.

"Even the land suffered from Illashiye's malaise. Where once the trees grew tall and strong, now they were said to wither and die, and those trees that grew in their place were decidedly uglier, with damp, leprous bark and withered leaves. Swamps developed in the lowlands, and, in one year, a deadly plague arose in the lowlands, which, according to existing records kept in Shiye-Lawr, decimated the human population of Ilmaryl. Worst of all, tales were spreading quickly of horrible monsters in the deepest woods. The king of Shiye-Lawr at the time, Kordarith Aradeyth, saw the increasing chaos and misery along his northern border, and, in a gesture of friendship, reportedly offered to send his own forces into the country to help settle the matter. Illashiye, in a fit of rage, refused the offers, and even went so far as to blame his cousins to the south for the problems, accusing them of deliberately plotting to destroy his kingdom.

"The sad events that followed are dutifully recorded in the classic text, 'Shiye-emdal'iith', or 'Saga of the Shiye'. The great work documents the tragic events that followed, from Illashiye's call to arms, with Atziann never far away to offer guidance, to the Battle of Aradeyth, the northernmost settlement in Shiye-Lawr, where the massed armies of both kingdoms clashed. Many an elf fell that day, including Kordarith himself, as well as his most trusted companions. Atziann is also presumed to have died that day, as no record is given of anyone ever finding him, dead or alive. Illashiye survived, though he was mortally wounded, and thus he was carried back to Dor-Addon, there to await his final days.

"The closing days of Ilmaryl are unknown, though some general events are clear. Illashiye only lived for a week after his return to Dor- Addon, and it is known that this was a horrible time. Tales are told of the horrible wailings heard from Illashiye's quarters, and of his family's unsuccessful attempts to comfort him. On the final night, when most others were asleep, a terrible shriek was heard, echoing throughout the palace. Quickly the guards rushed to Illashiye's chambers, though what they saw no one knows now. Within hours, a great panic spread throughout Dor-Addon, as citizens - human and elf - rushed to pack their most precious belongings and flee. One bard who was present writes:

'A greate Panick was seene amongst the Citizenry,
Such thatte unseemly and evill Forces doth stride
'Mongst all Menne and Elfes, be they Wealthie or Poore.
They tooke 'pon their Backes all Thynges thatte could be Brought,
And in beastlie Cacophonie didst they Goe unto thee Nighte.'

"This horrible, yet unexplained flight lasted a day and a night. Afterwards, not a single soul was left within Dor-Addon - all was in darkness, save for the burning of the palace. Dor-Addon was not the only settled region of Ilmaryl to be emptied. Within the next week, the madness that took the capital had spread to the countryside, as elves and humans fled in every direction, driven only by the desire to be away from Ilmaryl. The vast majority of the elves fled south to Shiye-Lawr, where they rejoined their brethren in peace - the antagonisms aroused during the war being relaxed in this time of need. The humans found no welcome in Shiye-Lawr, and many either fled south into Alphatia, or, along with a small number of elves, westwards to what is now Norwold. Many of the Foresthomes of modern Norwold were in fact founded by these elves. By the first weeks of AY 734, or BC 266 by the Thyatian calendar, Ilmaryl was no more.

"As for what remains today of olden Ilmaryl, and Dor-Addon, that answer lies within the Ugly Wood of Blackheart. Rumours abound in that kingdom of a ruined city deep within the forests, and of spectral lights late at night in that region. The greatest mystery is of course Illashiye - what did he see that fateful night that frightened him so, and which caused such panic that an entire kingdom was emptied? What role did Atziann play in Illashiye's downfall, as some historians are beginning to ponder? Perhaps one of you might be lucky enough to plumb those mysteries some day. In any case, that finishes today's lecture. Remember that there is an examination next week, and I shall be paying close attention to getting such things as dates correct. Those of you who did not do so well on their Alphatian Suppression Wars papers should take note! Dismissed!"

DM Notes:

The fall of Ilmaryl was no accident; in fact, it was accomplished solely through the efforts of Atziann, one of Atzanteotl's avatars. Embittered against much of his race long ago, particularly the surface elves, Atzanteotl saw the rise of a powerful, and potentially prosperous, elven nation on Alphatia as a possible threat to his future plans. Not trusting his servants to accomplish the task of destroying both Shiye-Lawr and Ilmaryl, he decided to do it himself.

Thus, he entered Illashiye's court as Atziann, and using his charm he quickly became a close friend of the elven king, supplying him with valuable advice, and what seemed to be honest companionship. Over the years, his counsel turned towards other matters, telling Illashiye - who has by now become dependent upon Atziann's advice - that there were enemies all around, and that Ardashiye of Shiye-Lawr secretly mocked the young king. This tactic of misinformation and prodding eventually led Illashiye to declare war on his southern neighbour, which ultimately cost him his life.

Atzanteotl's corruption also extended to the land itself. Knowing that Ilmaryl was rich in resources, the Immortal knew that any ruler could use the land to his or her advantage to stage a recovery, even after the worst disasters. Thus, he caused the plague which wiped out most of the human farmers, as well as the blight that turned the once lovely forests of this fallen nation into the Ugly Wood of today. So powerful was his spell that the taint remains to this day, blighting all that live within it. With the kingdom faltering, Illashiye was forced to turn to Atziann even more for guidance, bringing him fully under the evil Immortal's control.

Unfortunately for Atzanteotl, the Battle of Aradeyth was not sufficient to break the centuries of friendship between the elves of both nations, so no lasting divisions developed within elvish society. What it did accomplish, though, was the final decisive stroke against Ilmaryl, which broke the nation utterly. Beset with natural disasters and a horrible war, the elves of Ilmaryl no longer had the stomach to persevere; it would not take much to force them to abandon their nation.

As for the final hours of Ilmaryl, in which Dor-Addon was emptied in terror, that also has the mark of Atzanteotl. On his deathbed, Illashiye saw Atziann come to him (he had vanished during the Battle of Aradeyth), mocking the dying king, and freeing his mind so he could see, just before he died, how his actions in part caused the downfall of Ilmaryl, and how, in his weakness, he allowed Atzanteotl to control him. Realising that he was partly to blame for the destruction of his nation, Illashiye lost his last grip on sanity, and went mad. As a final insult to the raving elf, Atzanteotl polymorphed Illashiye into a monstrous form - turning his body into that of a black snake, leaving only his head untouched, a final reminder of how he both betrayed his people, and how he served Atzanteotl (one of whose forms is that of a black snake with an elf's head). It was this form in which Illashiye's guards found him, and in their terror they fled, spreading the word about what happened. Believing that the Immortals had punished them for their actions, the people of Dor-Addon fled, and the palace was burnt down in the process.