Place – Enthilen
The events of When Darkness Descends occur almost entirely within the land of Enthilen, which is located in a region called Ostamp. The word ‘Enthilen’ is derived from the German word ‘enthüllen’, which means to unveil or reveal. (In TRT, word derivations and translations shouldn’t be taken literally. For example, I sometimes use words that are verbs in a particular language, as nouns in the languages of Ostamp).
Geography – Enthilen is dominated by the Dambay Plains, a huge region of low, rolling hills covered in short grasses and herbs, with occasional patches of shrubs or small trees in some of the valleys. The River Milawa is the main river running through the eastern half of the plains, from the Desolate Mountains towards Gestade. The north of Enthilen is dominated by the Desolate Mountains; massive, rugged peaks that are sparsely vegetated with the taller mountains always covered in snow. These mountains form the border between Enthilen and Nordland and are impassable except through Detranté, the pass of the damned.
The western edge of Enthilen is marked by the Scaur Hills and the Riverlands Escarpment. The hills are a maze of boulders and stone-littered paths covered in low, prickly shrubs and gnarled trees. The escarpment is a tall, sheer cliff that acts as a barrier between Enthilen and the lands to the west.
The south of Enthilen is dominated by the huge forest of Babir Birramal (called Grōz Forst by the Erstürmen). Once, this forest extended further north, but timber extraction by successive settlers has driven its border south. Nevertheless, an average person would take around 5 days to walk the forest north to south, and much longer east to west.
Off the east coast of Enthilen are a group of islands including the Abrolous Isles and Bramble Island. These islands are considered part of Enthilen, although the Erstürmen rarely visit them. Bramble Island is a favourite fishing haunt for villagers from Dorfisch.
The Anchep River is the largest river in Enthilen, running almost the entire length of the landscape from the Desolate Mountains to the Anchep Delta, emptying into Ghadang, the vast southern ocean. The river runs through a district called the Riverlands (funny about that!) and the settlers of the Riverlands consider themselves free and independent of Erstürmen rule, although the Erstürmen still count the Riverlands as part of Enthilen.
Cultures – Enthilen is home to the Erstürmen [er-steer-men], the Dobunni [doe-bun-ee], other free peoples not identifying as either Erstürmen or Dobunni, stone- and weald-grells, and mouldewerps [mold-werp]. You’ll also find draughouls [dra-ghoul] floating about the landscape. While these would once have been Erstürmen or Dobunni, for example, they’re not aligned with any culture, bound only by the treasures associated with the throne of the dead (or anyone who commands these treasures).
Settlements – The two major cities of Enthilen are Sardis and Laodicea. The ruined stone-grell city of Malang Gunya lies in the middle of the Dambay Plains, but now this is nothing more than an Erstürmen outpost home to two dozen soldiers. Sardis was built by the Erstürmen on an island in the middle of the Anchep River. It has always been home to the reigning Erstürmen king and his immediate family, and consists of seven concentric circles each delineated by a high wall. The inner circle is where the royal court resides. Outside the main wall of Sardis, on the other side of the Anchep River, is the shanty town of Slumstadt. Slumstadt is sprawling and growing bigger as more farmers and their families abandon infertile land and move to the city to seek a better life.
Laodicea is the port city of Enthilen and was built by the Dobunni many generations ago. It sits on the shore of Traders Bay, and merchant ships regularly ply the waters of the bay, trading goods from the different lands of Ostamp and beyond. Laodicea was invaded by the Erstürmen when King Faramund led refugees from Nordland. A truce between the Erstürmen and Dobunni was eventually signed, dividing Laodicea into four quarters: King’s Quarter; Southern Vale; Docklands; Terraces.
The Erstürmen maintain four outposts throughout Enthilen, and various smaller guardhouses. Gestade is the largest outpost, and watches over the eastern shore. Süden Forst is the next largest, guarding the northern edge of Babir Birramal. Smaller outposts occur at Malang Gunya and the entrance to Detranté, with guardhouses in places such as the top and bottom of the Riverlands Escarpment at Rārian Falls.
Other than the Southern Vale of Laodicea, the main Dobunni settlement is Bagendon which lies hidden in the Scaur Hills. (And no, Bagendon is not a homage to Tolkien [Bag End]. The word ‘Dobunni’ comes from an Iron Age British tribe, and apparently one of their settlements was called Bagendon).
On an island adjacent to the south coast of Enthilen, the weald-grells built the city of Giigal. You’ll be introduced to this city in Book 3.
Smaller towns and villages occur throughout the remainder of Enthilen, including the villages of Dorfisch and Breadelbane.
History – The written history of Enthilen goes as far back as the time of Volerdie, the Divine Creator. He ruled over a city called Pergamos, which was built in the Dambay Plains. When Volerdie fled the city, it fell into disrepair and its citizens abandoned it, travelling north to the region now known as Nordland. The Erstürmen consider these people to be their original ancestors and hence claim that Enthilen was always their land. The mouldewerps would likely have something to say about that. Although the werps have no written history (other than paintings on cave walls), it is highly possibly that they lived in Enthilen at least during (if not before) the time of Volerdie. Dwarrow would know. Probably. At least he’d convince us he knew!
Long after the fall of Pergamos, the stone-grells settled in Enthilen, having travelled far across the southern ocean of Ghadang. They built the city of Malang Gunya in the middle of the Dambay Plains and farmed the land, resulting in conflicts between grells and werps. After the stone-grells, came the ancestors of the Dobunni who built the city of Laodicea next to Traders Bay. The Dobunni were peaceful and welcomed other cultures into their city.
Three generations before the events portrayed in When Darkness Descends, the Erstürmen returned to Enthilen from Nordland after being routed from that land by people they call ‘barbarians’. The Erstürmen came as warriors and conquerors and fought the Dobunni for control of Laodicea. They overran the Dobunni settlement of Iglund in the middle of the Anchep River and built their royal city of Sardis there. King Alaric also expelled the stone-grells from Malang Gunya. (They’re not very nice people these Erstürmen! Well, some of them are OK).
Before the destruction of Malang Gunya, there was a war among the stone-grells, leading them to split into two tribes (stone-grells or weald-grells). The weald-grells abandoned Malang Gunya and walked south to build their own settlement. There is now a truce between the stone- and weald-grells, and they interbreed from time to time.
The stone-grells hunted the mouldewerps out of the Dambay Plains, forcing them into hiding in places such as the Scaur Hills. Nobody knows how many mouldewerps still exist. Well, Dwarrow probably knows.
So, there you have a potted description of Enthilen with a little insight into the origin of certain words. For the next blog (August), I’ll talk more about the culture of the Erstürmen which is a German word meaning ‘to conquer’ or to ‘take by storm.’
Until then – keep reading, writing and thinking about how to make the world a better place.
PS – If any native German speakers want to correct my translations, please do so in the comments section. I have only Google as my guide.