- Gennaian Isles
All Itheri learn as children the legend of the Flotilla, the enormous fleet of ships that brought their ancestors to A’therys. Hymns tell of a seafaring society that followed the moon to the new world, leaving behind an even greater empire that was lost in the First Calling. The Flotilla sailed for untold human years, drifting among the stars, bathed in the soft light of its guiding sphere. Eventually, the waters warmed and the sky lightened, and the weary travelers were graced with the sight of land. Not all the ships had made it to their final destination, claimed by forgotten seas or separated to seek their own harbor. Those who did arrive safely praised the moon for their salvation, and on their first night ashore the light of the moon came down to receive their prayers. The light introduced itself as Veser, and its shadow came forward as Naios, Lunar Twins of the Tides. The humans pledged themselves to these gods, and began building a society in the image of their lost home.
As the sailors began to regain their footing on land, they spread across the islands on which they had landed. Small towns began cropping up, always on the shore, to support this expansion and slower expeditions inward. They eventually came into contact with the Alor to the south, though they remained predominantly aloof of all foreigners for some centuries. The ships of the Flotilla that had served the Itheri on their journey were rapidly falling into disrepair, unsuited as they were to the seas of their new home. The decision was made to deconstruct the vessels, to use their strong beams and hulls for the nation’s capital city. Much was learned from the process, and so began A’therian Ithero’s long history of master shipbuilding and maritime engineering. The city, named Calastore after the flagship of the Flotilla, was first finished c. 1C-310, though it has been rebuilt many times since.
During the last centuries of the first Cycle, Ithero returned to the sea with newly built vessels that could venture beyond their island coasts. The country opened itself to diplomacy, first with their southern neighbors the Alor, and then to the other nations of the world as they came into contact. The Itheri rapidly became known for their prowess as sailors and their direct manner of negotiating, both of which only helped to build their trade network. However, Ithero was not the only early pioneer of international travel, even if perhaps they were the most peaceable. The armies of Vrovona had also expanded into the world, often complicating the dealings of Itheri merchants and explorers. By around 1C-560, a long series of direct clashes and indirect posturing had brought tensions between the empires to their height. At this point, the gods themselves confronted one another; while their mortal subjects did not hear the debate, the command to wage war echoed across both nations.
The early part of the war was fierce, if somewhat uncertain on the side of the Itheri. While the Vrovonic Empire was experienced in the art of war, Ithero could hardly consider itself equally prepared. Admirals of the still nascent naval forces took direction from the Twingods and their priesthood, managing to circumvent the raw might of the Vrovonic Legion with superior tactics and strategy. But in outright battle, Vrovona could not be bested. The vast distance between the two empires complicated things further: most of the fighting was done on other continents, on and around the numerous Vrovonic holdings in the world. All the while, the Twingods and Vrovona were said to fight in the sky above, with records from many nations reflecting an impossibly high number of eclipses across the second Cycle. However, as the battle raged on above, the mortals below grew tired of fighting. After generations of battle, the two forces simply went through the motions, reaching an effective stalemate by around 2C-240. Itheri citizens started to believe that the war my never end, and feared that their superiority on the battlefield may eventually lead the Vrovonics to victory. Their diplomatic allies to the south had other ideas, though, weary of the position into which the war had placed them. At the turn of the second Cycle's third century, Thesse dispatched her diplomats to both northern capitals, herself rising to discuss terms with the heavenly bodies. With an outside perspective and skilled mediation, the deities were reconciled, and formed a tight friendship for the ages.
With the Sundering at an end, the Itheri once again found themselves free to sail the seas of A’therys. New ship designs built during the war allowed them to enter the third Cycle with zeal, expanding their trade network beyond even the reach of centuries past. The merchanting guilds of Calastore and Irin made their names in this age, as did many explorers: Agosto Marcolo first circumnavigated the globe in the name of the Twingods, completing his three-year journey in 3C-177. Ithero expanded its territorial holdings beyond their home isles as well, establishing colonies in the western hemisphere as well as closer to home in the Kestrin and Marcolo Seas. The Crestwright School of Navigation, an Eszari institution built to train naval officers circa 2C-30, moved to a larger campus in the capital and began accepting international students in 3C-206. In 3C-294, an Itheri shipyard delivered the first ship not built for its own citizens, destined for service in the Vrovonic Legion. By midway through the third Cycle, the naval empire was at the height of its power.
As the third Cycle spun onward, Ithero began to turn its gaze towards the smaller nearby states that had evaded its control for centuries. The many northern islands had various human settlements that did not swear fealty to the Twingods, having not arrived to the isles with the Flotilla. The weaker of these states had been absorbed during the first Cycle or annexed during the Second, but a few held out due either to their population size or their powerful rulers. With Ithero’s military machine now otherwise unoccupied, the Twingods demanded that their empire be unified under one rule. By 3C-419, only one remained, ruled and protected by the ancient sorceress Corata Aiya. The rocky, densely-forested island proved as difficult to assault as it had always been, but this time the now mightier Itheri Navy successfully toppled their defenses. As the city was about to fall, Queen Aiya waded out into the carnage, confronting Veser and Naios directly. The Twingods ordered their baffled soldiers to cease fire, and they accompanied her into her castle. Some days afterwards, the unmistakable voice of the deities thundered forth, uncharacteristically demanding that the island and its inhabitants be destroyed. The island’s every building was razed, and any people who had not already managed to escape were put to death. As the navy sailed away, the smoke from the fires was said to settle over the island, mixing with an unnatural mist that pervades to this day.
After the events of 3C-419, Veser and Naios were neither seen nor heard from again. Except for relatively quiet statements made to the military, the Church of the Twingods was silent on the nature of the disappearance. Fearing public reaction to the absence of their gods, the Itheri Admiralty instituted martial law in 3C-422, only easing off after 3C-431 when a suitable human-led thalassocratic government could be instituted. The Church threw their support behind the Board of Admirals and their administration, helping to settle unrest in the populace. The position of Lord Admiral was created to direct meetings between the Admiralty and serve as overall commander of the fleet in times of war. The country was divided into administrative districts, each under the command of a Vice Admiral which quickly became a predominantly political position. By the late sixth century, Ithero had fully settled into the notion of military rule, having made the transition relatively peacefully.
Wherever the Twins had gone, the Church felt the need to be present for their people more than ever. Sermons spilled out onto the streets, no longer confined to the cathedrals in the major cities. The priesthood, divided since its inception into pairs serving Veser on one side and Naios on the other, began formally advising the Office of the Lord Admiral in 3C-507. Soon, the Church was present in almost every aspect of life that the navy would allow, stopping short of having an economic presence; the Board of Admirals voted to disallow the Church from investing in businesses in 3C-519. Itheri citizens were largely appreciative of this increasing prevalence, particularly as the Cycle's fifth century came to a close and rumors of disappearances in the outer districts began. Initially waved off by the Church, rumors grew of unidentifiable strangers prowling rural marshes, and of people taken from their homes in the night, until even the military was forced to take notice. Priests began sermonizing about the dangers of mysterious shapeshifting creatures from legend, blaming them for the odd happenings and disappearances. Citizens of Calastore largely ignored these sensationalist preachings, but the strange sounds that would emanate from the sewers on moonless nights soon convinced many. Fearing panic yet again, in 3C-626 the Itheri Navy stepped in and began arresting those suspected of “shapeshifting,” even as the Church instilled in their followers a fear of strangers. Arrests became more and more common, sometimes occurring in the dead of night; increasingly, terrified mobs made the arrests themselves. Foreigners fled from the country, fearful for their own safety, as the Church called for the destruction of all shapeshifters everywhere.
By 4C-51, the now crippled country existed in a state of fear-induced martial law. Soldiers roamed the streets during the day, ever on the lookout for unusual behaviors and individuals, while priests were still said to enter homes at night in search of remaining shapeshifters. For over two centuries this way of life continued, driving citizens beyond the complacency of despair to whispers of action. Almost everyone alive knew someone who had a friend or family member arrested under supposition of shapeshifting, with most having forgotten what the crime even constituted. Even the navy seemed to be growing frustrated with the domineering nature of the Church, which some saw as having steered the nation away from its ancient cultural ideals of acceptance. A growing contingent among the admiralty began speaking out against the invasive, clergy-supported governmental policies, and a new Lord Admiral elected in 4C-268 was the first to take legislative action. This came as a great relief to the country, as his first orders ended patrols in cities and implemented popular policies that reduced the Church’s power. Several bishops spoke out fervently against these changes, but they found that their power was gone; by 4C-275, most clergymen who railed against the new ways had been replaced. The population had not turned its back on the Church entirely, and attendance steadily began to rise over the next half-century, but the events did much to divorce the Itheri from their twin deities.
For the remainder of their history leading up to the Second Calling, Ithero struggled to regain the dominance it had once held in the global economy. The stunted empire’s lack of guiding deities had severely damaged their reputation in the eyes of foreign diplomats, a notion which aggravated the admiralty greatly. They reached out to their ancient ally Vrovona in 4C-691, beginning a slow mend of their image. By the end of the fourth cycle, most of the old colonies in the eastern hemisphere were back under Itheri control, but with funds being short, settlements further afield remained out of reach. In 5C-112 the Board of Admirals elected to formally grant sovereignty to the states they could not afford to forcibly regain. The next several centuries were spent rebuilding their network at home, and retaking the developmental progress they had lost during the previous Cycle. By 5C-703, the country was beginning to resemble its former self, but without the Twingods at the helm. When the Second Calling did come at the end of the sixth Cycle and the rest of the gods departed, Ithero was already well-adapted to operating on their own.
Though the Itheri entered the seventh Cycle without major issues, they still reeled from the effects it had on the other nations of the world. Countries that did not outright collapse still retreated within their borders, insulating themselves against an uncertain future. Many feared that the ever-powerful Itheri Navy would take advantage of them in their time of weakness, and some cults even insinuated that the Church of the Twingods was responsible for the actions of the Mortal Heroes. For their part, Ithero was forced to become less reliant on trade from other parts of A’therys and instead begin leaning more heavily on its own natural resources. This would put them in direct conflict with the newly-reformed Aloreh by 7C-240, as border disputes in the Kestrin Sea came to the forefront. The cold dispute escalated quickly, with accusations of spying and interference levied by both sides against the other. After Lord Admiral Baldovino Baldassare survived an assassination attempt during deescalation talks in the Orator Court, in 7C-259 Ithero entered opposite Aloreh into the first modern war in A’therys.
Concerned though they were with the access the Alor had to advanced Daggerlander technologies, the admiralty intended to outmatch their opponent with superior strategy just as they had done across millennia of campaigns. Ithero found itself much less able to rely on its own ally, Vrovona, as civil war loomed in the frozen north. But they were able to send several detachments of legionnaires even still, who proved nearly unstoppable in the few land engagements across the war. For most of the Eventide, as it came to be called, Ithero held the upper hand, decimating the western Alor city of Corvingy before turning its attention to the south and east. Unfortunately, disaster struck in the siege of Ciondel on their march towards Methes Avonthes, and Ithero suffered a major defeat at the hands of Aloreh’s ever-improving air fleet. Ithero was forced onto the defensive for the first time in the war as enemy airships headed for Calastore, and defeat was all but assured. Intervention came in the form of the mysterious magical destruction of the Alor flagship, which took much of its own fleet and nearly half the defending Itheri ships with it as it crashed into the Bay of Crescents. With neither side capable of any further fighting, a peace treaty was signed with Aloreh in 7C-264. By then, the Board of Admirals was anxious to get the war behind them and rebuild their forces, as civil strife had reared its head in the northern isles.