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Lore:Systres History: Volume 2

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Systres History: Volume 2
by Trilam Heladren, Associate Dean of Eltheric History, University of Gwylim
A history of the Systres Archipelago

Far to the west of Y'ffelon and the Systres Archipelago, the struggle for Yokuda neared its disastrous end. In the 1E 600s, Mansel Sesnit's diplomatic purges and Randic Torn's controversial decrees led to a burst of emigration—scattering disfavored nobles and their vassals to the countless rocky islands east of the continent. These islands had long served as refuges for exiles, pirates, and the bedraggled remnants of the Lefthand Empire—better known as the Sinistral Elves.

While many believe that the Lefthanded Elves were destroyed utterly by the Redguards' ancestors, I have found ample evidence that some survived well into the First Era. Naval records document protracted sieges of "Elf" settlements east of Moni up until the latter years of the Merethic. We cannot prove the Lefthander theory with certainty, however, as the High-Yokudan word for "Elf" derives from a doubly ancient term meaning simply "enemy." In Yokuda, practically anyone could be an enemy at any time given the diplomatic fluidity of the Singer Period.

Whatever the case, the island squatters, Elven or otherwise, were obliged to travel farther east into the Eltheric to evade the new batch of Yokudan refugees. Some moved southeast toward Summerset where they either perished at sea or found common cause with Maormer privateers. Others moved northeast toward Iliac Bay. Scant records of these voyages exist, aside from a few Direnni naval dispatches that outline brief battles with "ships of western flag." One of these fleets, however, sailed east and dropped anchor in the Systres Archipelago—not to visit, but to conquer.

Again, it is difficult to determine the exact composition of the invading fleet given the vagaries of High-Yokudan language and the scant druidic records that remain. Many of my contemporaries—including my dear friend, Garnobag gro-Malog—insist that the fleet consisted of Yokudan dissidents who fled the continent centuries prior, during the rule of Emperor Ardanan Haba. As for myself, I believe the invaders were Sinistral Mer.

The chief point of contention comes from one of the few surviving druidic texts that describe the events of 1E 665. The author—a member of the Draoife named Bralen Tussad—described the invaders as "Westerners, both long-of-face and long-of-ear." At first glance, this seems a clear reference to Lefthanded Elves. Garnobag, however, makes a compelling case for the idea that Tussad was not describing the invaders' physical features, but rather their helmets. Yokudan helmets of the mid-late Merethic often featured "Tava Resplendent"—a stylized metallic depiction of the winged deity with wings outstretched. This crest gave the helmets an aquiline shape where the wings strongly resembled Elven ears.

Garnobag takes this thesis a step further by positing that the Lefthanded Elves did not, in fact, exist at all; he asserts that the entire Sinistral narrative is essentially a transcription error where "Elf" and "enemy" are tragically conflated. He contends that Lefthanded Elves were simply Lefthanded enemies—no more Elven than the Nedes or Atmorans. I find this extremely difficult to believe, but I will not debate the issue here. Rather, let us return to the primary text.

In a later entry, Tussad describes an attack on one of High Isle's shrines, stating: "The swordfolk walked shield-to-shoulder, in great lines like snakes of the field." It is in this entry that we find the truth. "Shield-to-shoulder." While antiquarians have found Yokudan shields in Na-Totambu ruins, they remain rare—likely serving as ceremonial relics or art pieces rather than items wielded in battle. In her elegy for a fallen warrior, famed ansei, Nasifa of Seven Cuts, states: "Never did she lift a shield as Elf and Goblin do. She sought no shelter but what steel and shehai provides. The fortress that kills. The cutting defense." Again and again Yokudan warrior-poets repeat this refrain: shields are a refuge of the other. The idea that a full contingent of Yokudan warriors would stride "shield-to-shoulder" runs counter to everything we know about Yokudan military practice. It corresponds perfectly with at least one race, though—Elves.

The Elves' siege of the Systres was a protracted affair resulting in the deaths of hundreds of fighters on both sides. In the end, as the Elves approached the heart of druidom [sic], the islands themselves intervened. Mount Firesong, the druids' sacred volcano at the center of Y'ffelon, erupted, consuming both druids and Elves in a cataclysm that rivaled the Red Mountain disaster of 1E 668. In fact, I humbly suggest that the events may have been related, given the corresponding dates.

In the end, the Elves kept hold of the archipelago, such as it was, and the druids faded into the background of history—either in hidden enclaves on the Systres themselves, or on barren rocks nearby.

The Lefthanders' victory was relatively short-lived. Warriors of the First Ra Gada arrived in the Systres in 1E 785 and annihilated the starving remnants of the invading force. The Yokudans left the island as quickly as they came, sailing east to claim their destiny in Hammerfell. Only the druids remained—much diminished, but far wiser.