Twelfth Day, Third Month, 870 AD.
Alekos Virgilos, Prince.
Kingdom of Polaeros.
The Seeker's Palace.
It has been too long since last we spoke. I am thrilled to hear about your book you are compiling on the cultures of the world, and more so that you contacted me asking for my own viewpoints and writing to assist you. It almost feels like those halcyon days in Aenirhen, both of us being fostered under Lord Brathaxe. Enough of my pleasantries, there is time enough for me to write them at the bottom of this letter; You have asked for my input on Klironomea and Teleytaios, and so I shall oblige.
Once, centuries ago, the continent of Kliskorios was divided into two great kingdoms; the Kingdom of Klironomea, and the Kingdom of Terranea.
Then came the War of Sundering and the Year of Desolation, and the two great kingdoms were gone, replaced by a hundred petty despots, oligarchic councils, military commands and theocratic statelets. Over time these petty nations coalesced, and the lands that were once united as Klironomea became the Heptarchy.
Whilst the seven kingdoms of the Heptarchy are more relevant in modern history, Klironomea itself has tales worth telling. Its armies of professional soldiers could put to shame any other on the continent, their infrastructure projects still span across the breadth of the Heptarchy and beyond, and the famous and infamous monarchs of that time are remembered by the masses, even when all else is forgotten.
Klironomea was founded, fittingly, with the Return of the Klironomeans. A tribe who had once lived in the centre regions of Klironomea, forced out of their homes into the Dathan peninsula. Hundreds of years later they returned, subjugating or else destroying the myriad peoples who had once lived there, taking it all so that they may never be forced from their homes again. Whether or not these legends are true is the subject of much scholarly debate, but what is certain is that low-klironomean, the lowborns in the Heptarchy and even the Old-Church are heavily influenced by the Skraelings, who were the dominant power before the Klironomeans returned.
The Kingdom itself was quick to dispense of feudalism, instead operating on a bureaucracy headed by the petty nobility and town councils, ensuring that there was never any one person strong enough to challenge the rule of the Kings. The Klironomean Legions were the greatest fighting force in all Kliskorios, for other nations relied upon warriors or slaves, whereas Klironomea only took on the free and the disciplined, breaking almost any army that dared to invade their homeland.
The first Klironomeans, influenced by their time in Dathan, adopted the teachings of the Church of the Saint, however the natives were not easy to part from their own Corvid Pantheon, and it seemed as though religious strife and civil conflict would engulf the new Kingdom even as it took its tentative first steps into the world. In the end the solution for this issue came from Agia, or Saint in low-klironomean, Arwald. Saint Arwald preached a hybridisation of the faiths of the local Skraelings and the Klironomeans. Each of their seven deities became Angels rather than Gods, and he claimed that it was they who had empowered the First Saint in the Age of Silence to beat back the darkness.
The Jay became Demea, Angel of Fertility. The Owl became Polaris, Angel of Knowledge and Stars, the Jackdaw became Arnka, Angel of the Hunt, and so on. The most curious shift is that of the Crow, the head of the Corvid Pantheon, into Hydran, the Angel of the Seas. It seems a most curious shift, until one realises that, whilst it may seem strange to strip away the aspects of fatherhood and kingship from the crow and leave only one of his more minor aspects, there was already a symbol of fatherhood and kingship in the Church of the Saint; the first saint himself represented these things, and was made to sit at the head of the pantheon, leaving Hydran dominion over the seas and the stars alongside Polaris.
For just over three-hundred years spanning eighteen Kings and four Royal Houses the Klironomeans would forge a kingdom that ranged across all the lands from the Great Ocean in the west to the Drakespine Mountains in the east. The kingdom reached its greatest extent in the reign of King Wulfstan II, wherein it had conquered the Ibaenean Peninsula and a third each of the Tildan and Dathan Peninsulas, leaving Terranea as a rump state and a shell of its former self.
During the reign of his son, however, the Kingdom of Klironomea was at last defeated in battle, and the land shattered into a thousand pieces. From these pieces seven successors would rise, each one claiming the mantle of the true heir to Klironomea, hoping to reunite the former kingdom under their own rule.
Foremost amongst these seven successors is the Kingdom of Teleytaios. With the largest population, professional army, knightly order, second largest landmass, and having its seat of governance in the old capital, Anaria, there are few who would not say that Teleytaios is the strongest of the seven kingdoms of the Heptarchy.
Controlling the entirety of the western coast of Klironomea, which by itself makes up the vast majority of the Heptarchy's coastline, it is naturally given that Teleytaios is gifted with a glut of skilled seamen; sailors, fishers, whalers and merchantmen from across the north flock to Anaria and Aenirhen, and even exotic goods from the south sometimes find their way into the bustling markets of the capital.
The kingdom itself has shrugged off the petty feudalism of its neighbours, reinstating the system of Royal Bureaucracy that was lost when the Kingdom of Klironomea fell. Of course, the high nobility wasn’t happy to simply give away what was left of their power, and rose in rebellion against my father.
I shall touch upon the so-called 'Twilight Rebellion' later. First we must look at the royal family of Teleytaios.
The Royal House, House Sperakos, once served as hereditary commanders of the Royal Fleet. When Klironomea collapsed they centralised their power in the capital and surrounding lands, quickly carving a new realm out of the disparate petty fiefdoms that sprang up in the decades after the Year of Desolation. They had to fend off outside invaders and internal claimants with diligence and efficiency to keep hold over their kingdom. Now we stand as the longest unbroken royal line in the history of every nation in the Heptarchy, and the Kingdom that proceeded it as well.
Our family's coat of arms has forever been a single blue flower upon a purple field, though few members of the house have ever taken it as their own sigil, unmodified at least.
My father, King Cordan Sperakos, took a red flower on a blue field as his sigil.
I took a purple flower on a blue field for my sigil; the colours of my family inverted to signify my bastardry.
My sister, Princess Roma Sperakos, has taken the heraldry of our father for her own.
My brother, Prince Rhema Sperakos, instead has a light-green flower on a dark-green field.
Where our family may not share one coat of arms, we do share our words;
"Where Clouds Meet Waves, There Shall We Dwell."
Its meaning is plain to all those who read it; we do not fear death or hardship, for we know our destiny is to one day sail to the heavens and take our place alongside the saints, free from the trappings of worldly life and struggles therein.
Of course, every ruler needs a place to rule from. The Royal Family, my family, rules from the city of Anaria. The city is the largest on the continent, not by a wide margin, but a great expanse is still covered by its old walls and gatehouses. Before being the capital of Teleytaios it was the capital of Klironomea, and even before the Klironomeans returned to Klironomea it was a position of importance, being the place of meeting for the Skraeling Greatmoot.
If one were to enter the city, it would likely be from the east. The east of the city is largely residential in nature, with huge stretches of compact housing broken up by the odd market square or church. To the south lies what was once the productive heart of the city, the workshop district, though nowadays there is little made there. The south of the city is built on and around a series of eight small hillocks, which the nobility, having been ousted from their rural castles and manors, have instead bought out and fitted to contain manse after manse of luxury and opulence.
If one travels west they will find the great dockyards and ports of the city, bustling with local fishwives, southern merchants, and sometimes even Brythonian whalers with their leviathan-ships. Indeed, the docks of Anaria remain one of the only man-made places that such great vessels can safely moor and weigh anchor, and a great many Brythonians take advantage of the thousands of unemployed dockhands and sailors loitering around by employing them for their expertise on their ships.
The stories that those whalers must be able to tell, travelling so far out, all the way to the Ouroborisian Sea, where one can sail in a straight line for a month and never see land, the great creatures they find there... whales, colossal squids, and I have heard rumours that some of these men have laid eyes upon aquatic umbra, each one a dozen miles long. If such rumours are true, then they are surely some of the only men alive to have seen such a terrifying and magnificent sight, as those umbra left on land now rarely grow larger than a barn.
To the north of the city there is, fittingly, the northern district. Originally it was designed as a self-sufficient fortress within the city; a place where the people could live relatively normal lives, albeit with a slightly marshal bent, in times of peace, and an impenetrable redoubt and fallback point in times of war. Nowadays, after two centuries of borderline abandonment, it mostly acts as a secondary residential region; its residents live lives even poorer than their peers in the eastern district, and their shanty towns are closer to slums and stys than dwellings fit for a man. And yet there they reside, eking out a forlorn existence on the scraps of the capital.
In the centre of the city resides its crown jewel; the Old Keep. Its name is the last relic of what it once was, since nowadays it is a sprawling palatial complex with bureaucratic offices, royal chambers, open gardens, and drilling fields. There’s even a small barracks for the royal guards. The Old Keep, or simply 'the Palace', is truly one of the greatest examples of a royal residence in the known world.
The borders of the Kingdom I call home stretch from the mighty river Aenir in the north all the way to the mountains of the Brokowa Heights in the south, and from the Great Ocean in the west to Owkrestos and Nordicos in the east. As the second largest and wealthiest of the kingdoms of the Heptarchy defending the borders has never been truly difficult; Owkrestos and Nordicos are both insular and relatively friendly, with the exception of border skirmishes and bandits crossing between the kingdoms. The mighty fortress of Castelos and its twenty-mile wall bar the way to the hostile Al-Alema to the south, whilst the rush of the Aenir does the same from the north. Both from north and south great armies could propel themselves towards Teleytaios, but they would hardly be a scattered band when they crossed the border.
This means that the only real threat comes from the hordes of Scelopyrene barbarians to the north, whose longships allow them unrestricted access to almost the entirety of our coastline. Even so, they have never dared attack our lands in force, indeed, never have they so much as attempted raids on our coastlines.
Teleytaios follows the Church of the Saint, though its worshippers are far from unified. The vast majority of the populous follows the Ybridica Agiathos, or the Old Church in low-klironomean. The majority of the upper classes and those living in Anaria tend towards the New Church, the Alithini Agiathos, however smaller, insular groups exist which still propagate the words of the various cults and sub-sections of the faith. The Ichorian Cult, Cult of the Ampithere-Worship, and the Cult of the Deep Waves all boast large congregations, indeed, the Cult of the Deep Waves is the only one of the minor cults to boast of a substantial following in Anaria itself, as the majority of those in the western districts of the city pray to the Angel Hydran for protection on his seas.
Some even whisper that the mysterious Cult of the Choir have strongholds hidden in the midst of our kingdom, though there is little evidence to suggest such an abhorrent faith exists at all. Any faith that demands its adherents cannibalise the divine is on such a level of madness that I sincerely hope no one is capable of falling so low.
Even the Silent Cult has gained followers in recent years, especially around the outbreaks of the Black Grave in 858 and 862 AD, as people took to worshiping the Angel of Death so that they may ensure a peaceful afterlife for their families.
No look at Teleytaios can be complete without mentioning the Twilight Rebellion. The victory of the royalist forces in the last act of the nobility's defiance have paved the way for the reintroduction of the bureaucratic system, lost in Teleytaios since the shattering of Klironomea and the formation of the Heptarchy, and the beginning of the end of petty feudalism.
The war began with my father sending every lord and lady in the land a missive stripping them of their lands and titles. I had previously served as Lord-Protector of the North, and the lords there knew me well. Many agreed to lay down their arms and take on new positions of power, removed from rulership but not from power. Those that didn't amassed themselves in the west at Seastream, where I was able to soundly rout their forces with the assistance of those loyal to me and my father. I found myself in a slight predicament from a wound I'd taken in the battle, but that isn't important here.
After another month of rallying, making plans and waiting to hear news from my father and siblings it occurred to me that we were waiting when we should have been moving. The nobles to the south had some twenty-thousand men under their banner, and we only had ten-thousand, but that didn't matter, because I'd just received a raven stating that my younger brother had been captured outside the town of Haestinghen. We rode south, and some of my fury at those who dared to harm my brother seemed to spill into the army. We stood eight-thousand strong, outnumbered by half, with only a fraction of their heavy cavalry and knights. I was young, only fifteen years old, but it didn't matter. My younger brother was their captive, and my army was as buoyed with bloodlust as I was. We walked away from that field bloodied and bruised, but they barely walked away at all. Two-thousand of our royalist forces lay dead, but every man we lost killed three of theirs.
I ordered Haestinghen be damn near stripped bare that night to try and find my brother, only to find that the nobles had escaped with him in the rearguard. It was then that Ser Romanos and the beginnings of his Order came to me, offering me aid. It was him that stopped me from razing the town completely in anger, instead directing us west. Apparently the six-thousand survivors that had fled the field were moving to meet with the main noble host, which had been besieging Anaria since the start of the conflict.
Our army was allowed a single day of rest, and even then I felt restless. We departed the next day, and marched with damn impressive speed. Were it not for our baggage train falling behind we may have caught them that first day of the march.
Instead we marched for weeks as they slipped away from us. As my brother slipped away from me. We eventually caught them as they reached their friendly camps before the walls of the capital, and then we fell upon them like savage beasts.
The Battle of the Anarian Marches ended the Siege of Anaria and made sure that the Marches were well fertilised that year. I still had my six-thousand veterans bloodied from Haestinghen and Seastream, and the two-thousand who hadn't been present. Not only that, but we were reinforced by Ser Romanos' own five-hundred mounted knights.
A force of eight and a half thousand men was arrayed against the now ten-thousand before the capital, far greater odds than before, and we were still in a bloodlust from being denied my brother's return. They outnumbered us still, but that doesn't matter nearly as much in a war camp. I rode at the head of the charge, behind only Ser Romanos on his great steed, and plunged myself into the battle.
My lance broke off into someone's chest on the initial charge, and a longbow brought down my destrier, throwing me from the saddle. I fought first with my sword, and when that shattered I picked up a war-pick. When it proved too heavy for my young body I abandoned it in favour of an axe. When the axe-head got stuck in a man's skull and I couldn't wrench it free I picked up the next weapon, and the next, and the next. I fought with spear and sword, hammer and javelin, axe and dagger, until eventually the fighting ceased with four-thousand of the noble forces dead. I found my brother, and while he had always been unstable he was now completely shaken, his mind given over to fits and madness from the trauma of his captivity.
I wanted to hang every nobleman and lady who had rebelled for what they had done; some fourteen thousand men lay dead and the King's own trueborn son had been held in captivity, but my father was persuaded otherwise by my sister, who instead offered clemency to the lords if they would lay down their arms and become a part of this new bureaucracy we were to create.
When my father agreed with her and the nobles called it an 'acceptable offer' I stormed back to Aenirhen enraged. I would follow my father through any course, but I was so given over to rage that I wouldn't return to Anaria for two years.
For some, the Twilight Rebellion was a war to regain the bureaucracy of old.
For me, it was a war to get back my brother.
I don't think I succeeded.
The modern military of Teleytaios is one of the greatest in the Heptarchy. The kingdom can call on six-thousand Armsmen, professional soldiers, at any time, and one thousand of them are trained in the building, maintenance and usage of siege equipment and field-artillery pieces. Teleytaios is actually one of only three klironomean kingdoms to maintain such an artillery force, and it is certainly larger than its peers.
Aside from its Armsmen, there are some three or four thousand knights in Teleytaios, including chapterhouses from both the Order of the Bloody Cross and the Order of the Hanged Martyr. By far the largest of the Teleytaian knightly orders is the Order of the Violet, led by Grandmaster Romanos, which has come to encompass the majority of knights in the kingdom, though hedge knights can still be found wandering from village to village in search of work and acknowledgement.
The Knights of the Order of the Violet may appear as little more than a band of standard knights at first, but that is because the ones most commonly seen are merely members of the Order, not yet brought into its ranks fully as Violet Knights. The Violet Knights are true soldiers and great warriors, wielding greatpikes of castle-forged steel and clad in plate armour, the charge of their thundering destriers could turn even the staunchest of armies into ribbons of flesh and piles of crushed bone, as I witnessed personally at the Battle of the Anarian Marches.
Despite its large professional force, the majority of Teleytaian military power still comes from the conscripted masses; some twenty thousand men are able to be called upon, and while they may not be professionals a great many of them have some level of experience, whether it be from fighting bandits, raiders or umbra.
There are few sellsword companies operating out of Teleytaios; its relatively stable and peaceful nature when compared to the chaos of some of the other kingdoms, Licotemos or Owkrestos for instance, means that very few see the profit in remaining in Teleytaios for long. Doubtless in the event of a looming conflict some companies would be lured in, but it is far more likely for a company to be formed of Teleytaian sellswords and then venture abroad looking for work. One such group is the Band of the Wren, but it is a common fallacy that Symon's Starlings is Teleytaian. Whilst the majority of the company, as well as Symon himself, is Teleytaian, the company was actually formed in Owkrestos. However few there may be in the kingdom itself, the various bands of sellsword expatriates could be a formidable force if brought together.
I know my vision of the Kingdom of Teleytaios may appear biased, and that is because it is. I was born here, I've lived here almost my whole life, my best friend was fostered here with me, before he left back for home, and my family have ruled these lands for almost a millennium unbroken. This kingdom, so dear to my heart, seems now to be on the rise. With the death of the nobility and the chaos in the rest of the Heptarchy, it would only take the right leader to reunite the disparate Kingdoms back into the single greatest power the northern continent has ever known; the Kingdom of Klironomea.
I hope writing of my own knowledge living here is sufficient for the book you are hoping to compile, my friend. I have missed you in the years since you left, but I hear that you may soon be coronated? If that is the case, then congratulations! If possible I would be honoured to attend, though I fear that with my father’s refusal to name a successor the realm will be too paralysed for me to leave for some time.
I apologise if at times it seems as though I have allowed my emotions to cloud my words, since I've never been that good at understanding emotional reactions, but then you were the one that taught me not to worry about expressing my emotions sometimes. I hope your own Kingdom of Polaeros is treating you well? If this book of yours is to encompass as much as you say it would, I would be more than glad to assist you going forwards in my free time. It may not be as easy as when we were children, what with the thousand and a half miles between us, but I still remember those long nights we spent together hiding in the library, reading of ancient cities and great heroes until the sun came up and we were dragged out by the scruffs of our necks.
I still remember how we smiled at each other those nights, even as we were dragged out. You say I changed after Haestinghen, and I think I have now finally come to terms with it and have gained at least some closure. I was so blinded by fury at the time that I didn't even realise that I'd killed my first man. I killed seven more at the Marches. I don't think it's possible to remain unchanged after that, but I wish I had known how to deal with it better than I did; it was never my intention to push you away, but then you've accepted my apology in three visits and a hundred letters now. It will be good to see you again soon, Alek.
I miss you dearly.
Your friend, now and always,
Prince Lykourgos Sperakos.