Belkondíl (olg. 'land by the rivers') is a region in the southwestern corner of the Elondorian mainland on both banks of the rivers Cëlac and Brethan and the name of an ancient Olgish kingdom of vaguely the same dimensions. It is the homeland to the Olgish and Western Soskish cultures and was the core territory and first province of the Lécaronian Empire and initially its economic, cultural, and spiritual centre before its decline in favour of the Seligonian provinces. It borders both the Timesthe to the east and south and Runion to the west, leading to a split between the lusher and warmer meadows and woodland on the Timesthian side and the barren heath and moorland on the harsher Runion coast, one of the most sparsely populated regions in all of Elondor.
Etymology and Names
The name Belkondíl in this form seems to have originated as an adjective denoting relation to Belkontár, which itself derives from Proto-Ortûlékian *bêl-kond-tar 'land by the rivers', appealing to the region's location around the rivers Cëlac and Brethan. Later, the adjectival form became more prominent in use and eventually replaced the original label, a development commonly seen in Olgish place names. The old form Belkontár is still preserved in HArb. 'Elkontar', in Aribelian Myth the name of the First White City and capital of Almen, the legendary country of Aribelian origin south of the Ilathw. According to the (much younger) Lonsorigi, the Ortûlékian form of the name has been in use since the very beginning of its settlement; it is, however, not attested in writing until the 11th century B.E.B. and presumably has its origins in the tumultous conflicts of the time preceding the foundation of Lon Avoch, initially vaguely denoting the area of Olgish dominion, sometimes including but usually explicitly separate from the Soskish sphere of influence. The first use of the term in its later context is found in the Claims of Enethin.
The most common epithet for Belkondíl might be the Country of Dark-Green Meadows (MOlg. Iranatimuritar), in reference to its mossy fields and moors and often in contrast with the Country of Light-Green Meadows (MOlg. Iranolikuritar), which is usually applied to Seligon, especially the fertile plains around the River Eargliss. In Iilish, the country is called Bealamas 'Land of the Burning Hills'. The Old Besokian term, as evidenced on the Nishunâc World Map, was Tûnûshetor 'Great Marsh', hence Proto-Soskish Tûnustu and Môrethic Dûnutu.
Traditionally, Belkondíl is considered to include all of the southwestern corner of Elondor, west of the Besokan and the Gulf of Seligon and south of the Reknayan Mountains and the River Ilathw. It is surrounded by sea on three sides, the Timesthe (including the Gulf of Seligon) in the east and southeast and Runion in the west and southwest. The main defining geographical feature, however, are the rivers Cëlac and Brethan, the cradles of Olgish culture, the former entering Belkondíl from the western Reknaya near the city of Lágon and passing many of its most important landmarks, the latter rising from the Lemmi-Dirith in the forest of Kali-Tonin and meandring through the heath of Orinion before forming the Brethan Delta south of the Imban forest. Both ultimately flow into the White Sea, a large bight between the peninsulas of Corbin and Noldorin, at the boundary between the southern and eastern seas. The two river valleys are separated by the Olgish Highlands, a mountain range part of the Variscan Belkondilic Mountains. Other major mountain ranges and forests include the Rouningwood, where Dúrith the Elder is said to have discovered the Language of the Forest and subsequently invented sorcery, Kali-Tonin, including Lemmi-Dirith and the well of the Brethan, the Besokian Woods, the mythical Forest of Corbin, and the Harking Hills of Orinion.
Belkondíl is the core land of Olgish legend, and many of its cities and landmarks have a great historic significance in Olgish culture. Ortûlék itself, the fabeled point of origin of the Olgs, Genes, and Auls and later seat of the Kings of Belkondíl, is part of its heartland, located in the plain of the same name on the western bank of the Cëlac between the Rouningwood and the forest of Kali-Tonin. The two other major Olgish royal seats are located not far, along the course of the Cëlac: Lágon, afoot the mountains on the northern edge of Belkondíl, capital of the mythical first Olgish Kingdom and a major political player even into Lécaronian times, and Soskilón, the epicentre of Olgish-Soskish contact and capital of Lécaron after Ortûlék was abandonend during the King's Plague of E.B. 1326.
History of the Definition
For the first centuries of its use, the term's definitions was vague and variable. It most commonly referred to the strip of land between Cëlac and Brethan south of Lágon, in the time of Olgish Clan Wars roughly equivalent to the Olgish sphere of influence, purposefully excluding the Genes in the Ilathw plains, the Sosks and Auls in Oakshire, the Edhennín, and Morineb, and the Noldorinians in the later Brethanian lands. The first full definition of the extent of Belkondíl is given more than a thousand years later in the Claims of Enethin of E.B. 19 to the land rightfully subject to the Crown of Ortûlék. According to this claim, Belkondíl contains all area between the Ilathw and Besokan Rivers, including the islands of Corbin and the Mairn. This definition was retained in all sources following Enethin's time, including the Lonsorigi in their portrayal of early history.
Climate and Vegetation
The climate of Belkondíl is determined both by its relatively flat relief and by its location in between two oceans. The shallow hills of the west provide little protection from the westerlies, leaving most of Belkondíl's west coast exposed to Runion's harsh climate. Vegetation in this part is particularly sparse, with heath and moorland stretching over miles without as much as a small forest. Rain is frequent all year round, with moderate summers and mild winters. This area is among the most sparsely populated in all of Elondor and extends eastward roughly to the Brethan valley and south until Tár-Noldorin and the western shores of the White Sea, including most of Tarébras, Atrissar, Orinion, Noldorin, and the Mairn. Crops grown here are largely restricted to rye, barley, and flax, but farming is focussed on animal husbandry, chiefly of cattle and sheep, and fishing in the lush waters of the Runion.
The lands east of the Brethan, and especially east of the Cëlac, are influenced by the somewhat milder climate of the western Timesthe. While still considerably colder than Seligon, which is reached directly by the warm waters of the Timesthian Current before they cool along the shores of Old Seligon, eastern Belkondíl is more densely forested and in general more suitable for the cultivation of crops. The Rouningwood, a mixed forest reaching from the River Dôkob eastward until Singrall, is among the longest continuous woodland areas within the Lécaronian domain and of great economic and cultural significance.
Political Divisions and Settlement Structure
Early Olgish society is based around the clan as basic unit of social and political organization. Claims of high kingship and local territorial rule exist but are restricted to a mostly ceremonial and symbolic level. Only after the Olgish Clan Wars, the first truly territorial dependencies form; this form of organization is strengthened during the Iilish occupation and eventually solidified in the first historical Kingdom of Belkondíl under Enethin of Ortûlék, who divides the lands included in his claim (not all of which eventually pledge their allegiance and are incorporated into his kingdom) into 13 counties, which remain the main unit of geographical division even into imperial Lécaronian times. Each county is ruled by an Earl or Countess (MOlg. Corwin, Corwina, from the old term for a chieftain), who reports directly to the King (later a secondary title borne by the Lécaronian Emperor) and can bestow lower-level fees to vassals in their own right.
Settlements are mostly orginzed, as typical in Olgish settlement structure, in pales, each of which consists of a cluster of villages that, while separated from the next pale by oftentimes many miles of uninhabited heath or forestland, are located in close proximity to each other, usually around an common source of resources, such as a lake or a forest. A pale is goverend by a baron or an elected mayor residing in the pale's main settlement, often a chartered town, who has minor autonomy in his decision-making on a local level and reports to the local earl or, for pales in the Palatinate, to the Emperor directly.
Counties and Landmarks
As Lécaronian province, Belkondíl was divided into the following counties (west to east, north to south):
- Tarébras (capital Belkison), stretching eastward from Belkison along the Ilathw, at times reaching Cas Gennwr and the Dôkob valley, including the southern part of the territory of Wertian culture and language. Fully part of the Kingdom of Geran after the Geranian War, with Belkison provisional capital L.R. 687‒704.
- Lágon, traditionally considered a city state but granted various territorial powers, mostly of the northwestern Rouningwood.
- Nerrid (capital Singrall), northern half of the Edhennín east of the river Nellac, including the western part of the Besokian Woods and Nendrem Tinar in the Golim Sound. Later, the largely autonomous and mostly Soskish-inhabited Oakshire, itself including the valleys of Tár and Pár and Lake Marin, is also nominally appended to this county. The heavily contended-for Isle of Golim is at times also considered a part of Nerrid.
- Atrissar (capital Talis), the open land west of Ortûlék and the upper Brethan, westward up to the coast, including the ancient battlefield of Arnim-Sowen and the Brethan well at Lemmi-Dirith. Split into Northern and Southern Atrissar after the Geranian War, Southern Atrissar remaining with Lécaron.
- Ortûlék, the plain of Ortûlék, including the sacred hill of Ortûlék and the convergence of Cëlac and Äroïn. Governed from Soskilón, the Earl of Ortûlék a minor title of the royal family.
- Gërrun (capital Iliston), the southern half of the Edhennín stretching along the Gulf of Belkondíl. Most fertile county and granary of Belkondíl.
- Mairn (capital Acainn), the Mairn archipelago west of Atrissar and Orinion. Main area of Brethanian culture and language.
- Orinion (capital Molbewín), a vast territory west of the Brethan of roughly the extent of the mythical Orinion, homeland of the Brethanians, including Narn Aran, the Imban Forest, the Harking Hills with the mining town of Eres, the peninsula of Mortim-Arnim with the legendary battlefield of the same name, and the Noldorinian peninsula, the last refuge of the Noldorinian people before the complete disappearance around the 15th century B.E.B.
- Lécaronian Palatinate (centred on Soskilón), formed from the ancient county of Ton (a name going back to the Iilish occupation), the area under directly authority of the Lécaronian Emperor, including the Forest of Kali-Tonin, the northern tip of the Olgish Highlands, and the Estermarsh.
- Gliron (capital Gëlenem), comprising most of the Cëlac and the land to its west south of Soskilón, including the southern part of the Olgish Highlands, the City of Tinnas, Cëllar, the Tardennin, Irin's Bay, and the Cëlacmouth.
- Morineb (capital Mor Nostim), the traditional country of Morineb, east of the Cëlac, south of the Glírob, and north of Corbin. In the east bordering the Gulf of Belkondíl, the Gulf of Seligon, and the Timesthe.
- Corbin (capital City of Corbin), the peninsula of Corbin and the island of Kerrvaryn. Homeland of Corbian culture and language, long independent from the rest of Belkondíl. With the Grey Gate, this county includes the main entry to the White Sea from the east, and the harbour cities of Corbin, Arenys, and Everyn are located here, some of the most important ports in the trade with Seligon.
Prehistory: The Golden Age of Man and the Age of Longing
Belkondíl is presumed to have been the first area settled by humans during the original peopling of Elondor, when western Nokimi populations migrated north into Tár-Noldorin during the last ice age and later dispersed all over the continent. Light hair most likely first emerged some 15,000 years B.E.B. among the population that had remained in the southwest and was now slowly receding towards the mountainous refugia to the north. After the Last Glacial Maximum, the upper Cëlac valley was among the first regions reclaimed. It was here that the ancestors of the Ortûlékians and Noldorinians came into contact with early farming, which had began to slowly spread west from the Besokan Valley with the earliest Besokian explorations between the ninth and seventh millennium B.E.B. Around 6500, the early Ortûlékians domesticate the wild Aurochs of the Rouningwood, beginning their long history of cattle breeding. This time falls about equal with the Golden Age of Man and the Age of Longing from Olgish legend, when the separation of the Genic, Olgish, and Aulish peoples is said to have occurred and magic was discovered by Dúrith the Elder in the Rouningwood. Olgish metalworking originates in the fifth millennium in the area of the later Lágon.
Ortûlékian territory at this point seems to be mostly restricted to Ortûlék proper and the western Rouningwood, while most of western and southwestern Belkondíl is occupied by the Noldorinians. East of the Ortûlékian domain, the early Besokians engage on recurring explorations from at least B.E.B. 3200, and the Sosks establish their presence in Oakshire around 2500. The first horses are domesticated here in the following two centuries, driving the expansion of the Sosks southward across the Edhennín. By 2100, four Soskish kingdoms have been established in Belkondíl, Tûnusta in the later Oakshire, Hûnutû and Dûroc in the Edhennín, and Norfêgu in Morineb. Soskilón is founded as a trading station under the name Ûrîdun-e-Sârish in 2053; at this point, the Olgs have begun their expansion south and are in permanent contact with the flourishing Soskish kingdoms. Their clans are already in frequent contention with each other, and by the end of the 21st century, tensions within the Ortûlékian population have reached boiling point. The final stage of the first Olgish expansion, which will later inspire the monumental and legendary account of the First War and the Parting of the Peoples, is brief and violent, driving the Auls, Genes, and Noldorinians from their lands to claim them for themselves and subduing the Soskish kingdom save for Tûnusta.
The Bronze Age: From the Early Days to the Age of Towers
By 2011, according to legend, all of Belkondíl save for Oakshire and the Noldorin is under Olgish rule. The clans make peace, united under one high king ruling from Lágon. This First Kingdom of Belkondíl lasts for only a few centuries before tension break it apart again. The Olgish Clan Wars rage for most of the middle Bronze Age and end in the foundation of several smaller kingdoms, the most important of them Lon Avoch of the White Sea, founded in 1298, beginning the Age of Younger Kings. This is the end of the clan as the primary political unit in Olgish culture, replaced by new, semi-territorial counties and principalities. The relative stability of the following centuries facilitates the second Olgish expansion, into the Ilathw valley, displacing the Early Aribelian populations there, and north into the western Reknaya. According to legend, the same period also sees the first invasions from the west, when the mythical Nathari land on the shores of Belkondíl and fight several bloody battles until their decisive defeat at the hands of Irlikun of Lon Avoch in the 1222 Second Battle of Mortim-Arnim.
This time of relative peace is followed by another period of unrest when the larger kingdoms of the Younger Kings break apart and in 1185, Lágon finally loses its, long only symbolic, status as foremost city of Belkondíl as its royal bloodline is expelled and goes into exile in the Kingdom of Simaël. The following Age of Towers is marked by brief wars and the formation of smaller, self-sufficient kingdoms, longingly looking back at the glory of the Younger Kings. The first parchment manuscripts in Early Old Olgish survive from this time, in the form of chronicles and early heroic poetry.
The Iilish Occupation and Rebellion under Enethin
As the Bronze Age draws to an end, a new power briefly appears in Belkondíl as the emerging Iilish Empire invades from the sea and, beginning in 286, occupies most of the Edhennín west beyond the Cëlac and the northern part of Morineb. The Iilish Occupation lasts for more than 250 years and leaves persisting traces on eastern Belkondíl, most notably the structuring of the Edhennín into the counties of Nerrid, Gëllun, and Ton. Only when the Dragon in Banishment, the rightful heir to the royal line of Lágon and the rule over all of Belkdoníl, returns from exile and rallies the Olgish forces behind him can the foreign invadors be expelled. The Battle of the Glírob in 3 and the following Sacking of Iliston in the autumn of B.E.B. 1 prove fatal for the occupying host; the Iiles leave Belkondíl for good. The charismatic leader of this rebellion, the Dragon in Banishment, Enethin of Cëllar, ceizes his sudden popularity to claim the title of Enethin of Ortûlék and the permanent leadership over the council of Olgish peers. His recognition by the kings and queens of Belkondíl marks the return of High Kingship as it has before only existed in legend and at the same time the beginning of a new era, defined by the newly developed metal his legendary sword Brithalion was forged from. The Bronze Age of Belkondíl comes to an end.
The first decades of the Iron Age are branded by the growing aspirations of the new King of the Olgs, whose increasingly ambitious claims of dominion are finally formalized in E.B. 19. For the first time, Belkondíl is defined as a territory, and so are its counties, the new unit of division its young king has devised. Ortûlék, until now only a place of worship, becomes site to his castle and capital of the Second Kingdom of Belkondíl. Enethin is elegant in rewarding his followers and quick to dispose of enemies. A large faction of the Edhenian nobility, who partially sided with the Iilish Empire during the war, are banished with all of their retinue in a long and opulent trial in E.B. 17 and forced to resettle in Iilish territory. They are subsequently granted lands in southern Amasia by the Iilish Emperor, beginning conflicts with the Dasmilians and Hakessians that will lead to the Olgish Conquest of Seligon.
The Rise and Fall of Lécaron
In the following centuries, as peace has again taken hold of Belkondíl, art and science flourish in the new Olgish kingdom. It is in this time that most works of classical Old Olgish literature are written, including the canonical compilation of Olgish Legends in the Lonsorigi, written in the emerging new standard, the Koine of Soskilon, Lágon, and Ortûlék. While the Conquest of Seligon is ongoing, the Olgish populations in the Reknaya and Geran gain increasing dominance, and first relations with the Aribelian culture north of Geran lead to the bloody Aribelian Wars and the subsequent subduction of large parts of the Kingdom of Aribel as the self-governed Northwestern Colonies. As Olgish dominance reaches its high point, so does the power of the King of Belkondíl, Dírian III. In an attempt to gain sway over all Olgish-controlled territories in Elondor, he offers his protection to all rulers still adhering to the old Olgish faith or a religion of its progeny. In E.B. 1312, Dírian is crowed Emperor of all Olgish kingdoms and principalities: The Empire of Lécaron is born.
The time under Lécaronian rule proves even more peaceful and prosperous. Belkondíl is first province and heartland of the Empire, all its great riches and luxuries are brought together here, most importantly the stolen treasures of Seligon. With this arrival of a plurality of foreign ideas and artifacts, Olgish culture also undergoes a major shift, embracing Seligonian Fashion and many of the customs orginating in Seligon's Olgish kingdoms. The Olgish language has already receded to the fringes; most of the Empire's provinces speak Soskish, the language of their Edhenian invadors, and in L.R. 540, Ésôrin the Wise declares Lécaronian Soskish the official language of court and administration in the Empire, Olgish remaining only in ecclesiastic and ceremonial use.
It is this centrality that finally also brings Belkondíl back in the focus of war and unrest. In the troublesome 7th century L.R., when Lécaron reaches the high of its power only to within half a century lose most of its territory, Belkondíl experiences the first major external conflict in centuries. After Lécaron's critical defeat in the Geranian War of Independence 666‒672, the young Kingdom of Geran does not halt once its own lands are liberated. In the early summer of 687, the Geranian cavalry crosses the Ilathw and invades Ortûlék, beginning the devastating four-year Geranian War. The fatal Battle of Talis of 691 forces Lécaron into a truce. Atrissar is split between the kingdom and the empire, Tarébras has long declared for the invadors and remains with their new polity. Lécaron gradually loses more and more lands all over Elondor; by 740, the empire is truncated to its core lands in Belkondíl and its first conquests in Iilish territory.