Erstarwyn is the name of the independent city-state built on Mount Arwyn in northeastern Prindern. It was established as a temple city and currently serves as the center of Orthodox Phaelism. The city-state is a theocracy ruled by the True Phaelist Council. It has been heavily contested throughout its history by every religious group on Prindern.
Erstarwyn is populated almost entirely on one mountain. Mount Arwyn is rocky, and it has gently rising slopes for much of its height on all but the northern side. There are few natural resources on Mount Arwyn aside from various types of stone. The city-state includes all the land north of Mount Arwyn to the sea, but this land has few natural resources and much of it is uninhabited. The city-state thus relies heavily on its neighbors to meet its needs. There is one known well in the city that does not draw water from outside, within the Temple of Mora, but it is considered sacred and only used for drinking during emergencies. Whether or not it is capable of sustaining the city alone for any significant length of time is unknown.
Ancient History Edit
Mount Arwyn was considered sacred since before recorded history. It's unclear what set this mountain apart from the others around it, but archaeologists have uncovered signs of early sacrifice and standing stones dating back to the earliest human settlements in the area. The first temple, a simple unmarked room with shelves carved into the walls for incense, carved into the mountain about halfway up the western side, has been dated back to around -1800 Reformed. It is unclear who this temple was intended for, but it is currently used as a public space.
There are five other carved temple spaces on the mountain, indicating that it was used for a number of gatherings and purposes in its earliest history. Each originally had a standing stone near the entrance which, when viewed from within, appear to have lined up with specific astronomical events. Of these six cave-stones, only two remain standing today and one other was standing within the last thousand years. Without knowing the height of the missing stones, it is difficult to know exactly what they were used to observe, leading to great degrees of speculation among modern researchers.
Arwyn Priesthood Edit
By -1400 Reformed, temple design had shifted into actual buildings. Most of these were small and simple, made from local materials and lightly decorated. Only three building from this period remain in their original form. Simple dwellings began to appear on and around the mountain at this time, as well as rudimentary inns on the base. The mountain had begun to acquire more pilgrims from northern Prindern, and some of these had stayed behind to begin serving their gods directly and aiding worshipers. These were the first priests specific to the location rather than a local tribe or village, and their establishment raised strife. There was heated debate about who had what rights on the mountain and how worship there should be practiced and organized and even which gods would be worshiped there. Old secular disputes between the represented groups filtered into the priesthood, which began actively fighting over control of the mountain and the souls of those who worshiped there. In -1214 Reformed, a poem called The Blood of Arwyn was written by a priest of Phala, mourning the dispute and describing the mountain as covered in sacrificial blood mingled with the blood of the murdered. The name of this poem was borrowed for a murder mystery novel written in 1867.
Under Erst Empire Edit
In -1158 Reformed, Feluidices led the forces of the young Erst Empire onto Mount Arwyn and conquered the splintered priesthood there. After establishing control of the region, he declared the temple complex covering the mountain an actual city named Erstarwyn. He organized the priests into a structured religious order under command of the emperor and created a civil system of government over the mountain and its surrounding land. While many decried the efforts as an attempt to corrupt or destroy the religions practiced there, these arguments faded as the locals came to admit that the empire had at least brought peace and structure to the area.
A major construction effort to build up the temple sites and make travel on the mountain easier began in -1126. Many of the older structures were used as foundations, with the new structures largely adding to the existing temples. The blended religion of Mount Arwyn became the official religion of the Erst Empire, though it was still incredibly fluid and subject to the addition of emperor worship. The temples built during this time were dedicated to most of the gods later reconciled in Phaelism, as well as a few from early versions of Agnara and other local spirits and now-forgotten gods. Once the Erst Empire began settling portions of Tempest in -1015, various fae and the being believed to rule over the fae started to appear in Arwyn worship, as well.
During this period, the Arwyn priesthood went through a slow transition into two primary factions based on a perceived dichotomy among the gods. There had always been some belief that there were gods who supported mankind's power over fate and some who opposed mankind because of it. The priests of Arwyn, having a significant period of peace to discuss the gods and mankind's role in their machinations and the universe at large, became increasingly scholarly in their pursuit and began debating whether humans have a moral obligation to overcome the gods, or to become their agents. After the return of Magus from the Higher Realms in -925, this debate increased in scope and energy, giving rise to a series of lectures and treatises that culminated in the teachings of Mendarius in the -7th century.
As part of a larger restructuring of the empire in -857, the entire peninsula surrounding Erstarwyn and the islands to the north were compiled into a single district, named Halmar. The temple city was made the capital of this district, which necessitated the construction of a governor's palace and a judicial court on the mountain. As an appeasement, the Halmar district charter included a stipulation that, while the governor would be a secular figure appointed by the emperor, 75% of the advisory staff would be appointed by the priesthood.
Agnar Period Edit
In -531 Reformed, Nilarchus I and his Agnarin followers conquered Erstarwyn. They did not change the name of the city, but did begin major revisions to the temples and local infrastructure. They outlawed the worship of any beings but the Agnar, and repurposed or destroyed every temple that did not suit their purposes. The Arwyn priesthood was outlawed and replaced with the Agnarin priesthood. The Arwyn priests who did not flee or convert were killed, while the ones who left Erstarwyn continued their religion elsewhere, now called Mendarianism.
The Agnarin emphasis on art and structure were brought to full bear on Erstarwyn, producing the first true roads, plumbing, and stylized architecture the mountain had ever known. The entire mountain went through a massive redesign during this period, and much of the beauty and layout imposed on the city has remained unchanged into the modern day.
Vorelli Period and Early Independence Edit
The war between Vorell and the Great and Glorious Empire of the Wailing Winds for control of northern Prindern led to Vorell conquering Erstarwyn with the help of Pran in 12 Reformed. While considering themselves heirs of the Erst Empire, Vorell was specifically Phaelist by this period and began slowly removing references to the Agnar in favor of their gods. This work was halted in 23 Reformed when the First Schism War broke out. Two years later, largely as a political move, Vorell established the True Phaelist Council and gave them dominion over Erstarwyn, splitting it off into an independent city-state. The Council began reworking Erstarwyn in earnest, but saw the value in the changes the Agnarin had made to the place and sought to disrupt the city's layout as little as possible. This decision put them at odds with the Vorelli government, who was too busy fighting both the Agnarin and the Enrelisha to do much about it. In 39, however, the Agnarin managed to break through the Vorelli southern line and laid siege to Erstarwyn. Vorell put its concerns about Erstarwyn's practices aside and conceded the First Schism War in order to focus entirely on saving the holy city and driving the Agnarin back. Once the siege was broken and the battle lines moved south again in 41, Vorell gave Erstarwyn all the land north of Mount Arwyn to the sea to help them avoid being in such a precarious situation again. These borders have since remained unchanged.