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Belfalas

Belfalas and Dor-en-Ernil

Dor-en-Ernil referred to the autonomous principality of the Princes of Dol Amroth.It was often used interchangeable with Belfalas, though Belfalas proper only referred to the coastal lands, which were a royal fief, though both regions were de facto ruled by the Prince of Dol Amroth.

History

The land of Dor-en-Ernil and Belfalas was first inhabited during the early Second Age by the Daen Coentis, who took strategic advantage of the Ered Torthonion as the major arm of their highland fastness. Because of its mountainous character, the Númenórean settlement of the peninsula was a late phenomenon, beginning in ernest only as a result of Elendil the Tall's grant to Edhelion of Dor-en-Ernil in conjunction with the need to counterbalance the separatist tendencies of the Faithful west of Belfalas.

The division of Dor-en-Ernil into a patchwork of feudal estates was a lengthy process. During the twenty- nine years between the foundation of Dor-en-Ernil and the War of the Last Alliance, Edhelion busied himself with the fortification of his domain, constructing Ost-en-Ernil and the mountain fortress of Naur Amrûn, along with several lesser strongholds and towers.The prince also created manorial estates in the Glinduin and Ringló valleys at this time, over which he retained personal control, entrusting them to the stewardship of knights from his own household. The actual apportioning of land to knights began at the onset of the Third Age, following the War of the Last Alliance. Edhelion rewarded his bravest retainers with estates on the tip of the peninsula, south of Cirith Dudhrandir and in Nan Roechbin and the Din-Lamedon to the north. The fertile farmlands of the lower Ringló vale remained in the hands of Edhelion and his descendants, as they had become the principal breadbasket for Dol Amroth.

The Glinduin valley was also kept in the hands of the prince and for many generations undivided; but as the first millennium of the Third Age drew on, much of this region also became enfeoffed. This process had unintended consequences: the town of Linhir was founded and the isle of Tolfalas was lost to the royal house, when the prince's younger brother, Eärnil I of Gondor, who had been given possession of these estates, was named the heir of Tarannon in TA 832.

The formal grant of township status to mercantile Linhir in T.A. 1226 further complicated relations between Dor-en-Ernil and the kings, as it inevitably led to the weakening of the feudal estates of the Glinduin valley, both economically and politically. The nadir of princely authority over eastern Dor-en-Ernil came during the Kin-strife, when the folk of Linhir sided with the confederates against the prince's will, and Castamir nullified the latters right to appoint the towns squire. The prince recovered his claim to Linhir following the return of Eldacar of Gondor, but Linhir retained its semi-independent political status well into the Third Age.

By comparison with the rest of southern Gondor, the history of Dor-en-Ernil after the Kin-strife was remarkably peaceful. Because of their lineage, and the self-sufficiency of Dor-en-Ernil' economy, the princely line was able to maintain its domain uninterrupted through the end of the third Age. Following the demise of the kings, the house grew to even greater prominence among the Dúnedain, due to the heroic exploits of Imrazôr the Númenórean and his fabled union with the Elven- maid, Mithrellas. The renewed princely house of Galador, their son, was thereafter unquestionably first in the affairs of the South-kingdom, and was a major source of stability to other noble lineages in Gondor that married into Galador's line.

The return of the king to Gondor at the close of the age did not lead to the diminishment of Dor-en-Ernil's prince. Although his aim was nothing less than the restoration of the Realms-in-Exile to imperial power, Aragorn Elessar made no effort to dismantle the existing feudal system of southern Gondor; rather, the new king confirmed and strengthened the power of the nobility that had survived the War of the Ring- Prince Imrahil of Dol Amroth was one of the chief beneficiaries of this policy, and one of Elessar's first deeds was to return Tolfalas and Linhir to the possession of Dol Amroth.The first noble lineage of southern Gondor, and the last to remain standing throughout the realm's long history, the princely line of Dor-en-Ernil was to rise to even greater power during the Fourth Age.

The Land

The peninsula of Belfalas was defined by the outflow of the Morthond-Ringló confluence in the west and the Glinduin-Serni estuary to the east, between which it reached a width of more than 120 miles. The peninsula itself was dominated by the rugged Ered Torthonion, the great arm of the White Mountains that jutted southward into the Bay, forming its angular wall of massive, breath-taking cliffs. Several islets branched out from the peninsula's westerly coast, forming chains of outliers from the parent mountains.

The Land of the Prince continued north from the Bay, bounded by the Ringló and Glinduin valleys, until it reached the Din-Lamedon, where the Ered Torthonion met the White Mountains. As the spine of the Ered Torthonion drew near to the Bay, it divided into parallel mountain ranges, which encompassed two highland vales— Nan Roechbin and Cúm Taran.

With the notable exception of Dol Amroth, the tall Cliffs of Belfalas' western coasts possessed few safe anchor- ages. These cliffs, however, receded as the eastern coasts moved northward to form the Glinduin-Serni estuary, making the coast more hospitable to shipping and settlement. Although the majority of the peninsula was densely inhabited, much of it (with the exception of the part facing the estuary) was relatively isolated. Only a single pass, Cirith Dudhrandir, afforded sure passage through the heart of Dor-en-Ernil, though it was fairly easy to just follow the coast of the peninsula from east to west. The principal draw-back to the tatter was that such a route was time-consuming, taking up to ten days to traverse on horseback.

Olvar and Kelvar

Although the soil of Dor-en-Ernil was rich, arable land was scarce with the important exception of the Glinduin and Ringló valleys.The mountainous zone lent itself to shepherding, though in Dor-en-Ernil the sheep were raised more to feed the nobilty than for the harvesting of their wool, as was done in neighboring Anfalas. Although small, the secluded mountain valleys sustained some of the mightiest trees in southern Gondor, rivaling the primeval woodlands of Andrast in all but height. As their name suggested, the Ered Torthonion were primarily a home to pine forests, and the great pines of the Ered Torthonion were coveted by ship-wrights throughout southern Gondor. However the trees, like the land itself, were the possessions of the prince, and were felled only at his bidding.

The animal life of Dor-en-Ernil was abundant, though there were few deadly predators, save for the wolves of the Ered Torthonion (which generally kept to themselves), deer and boar were plentiful in the virgin forests of the mountain valleys, and their presence was one of the reasons why the prince forbade the disturbance of these fine hunting preserves. One species of bird unique to Belfalas was the fabled Kirinki, which the Faithful had brought with them when the remnants of the Guild of Venturers settled on the northern coasts of the bay. These birds found the climate and character of the peninsula to their liking, and had remained there ever since.

The Inhabitants

Noble

As elsewhere in southern Gondor, the population of Dor-en-Ernil contained both Númenorean and Daen elements. To a peculiar degree, however, these groups had remained relatively separate and unmixed throughout the history of the peninsula.

The neighboring regions of Lebennin, Anfalas, and Lamedon, conversely, had witnessed a gradual dilution of the purity of the Dúnedain through intermarriage. The reasons for this were various, but chief among them were the political circumstances of Elendil's original feudal grant to Edhelion.

The foundation of Dor-en-Ernil was the result of a compromise between Elendil's sons and the existing Númenorean nobility of Pelargir for political supremacy in southern Gondor. By granting Dor-en-Ernil to Edhelion, Elendil enabled that noble line to increase its own power without becoming a source of rivalry to the kingship. This meant that the initial Númenórean colonization of the peninsula was essentially aristocratic—and, hence, pure- blooded—in character. The result was a much more sharply-defined cleavage between the Númenorean rulers and the Daen subjects.

The distinctive nature of the aboriginal Daen presence on the peninsula contributed equally to the success of this hierarchy. The forbidding aspect of Belfalas' coasts deflected the majority of pre-Downfall Númenórean contacts with the Daen Coentis. This prevented the development of the sphere of cultural influence that existed elsewhere in southern Gondor, consequently averting a crucial catalyst for the emergence of a subjugated people like the assimilated, lowland Danan Lin. Thus, when Edhelion and his retainers arrived in Belfalas, they were confronted with an already highly-developed Daen culture. This, however, was confined to the mountainous highlands of the Ered Torthonion, and so did not pose any great interference to the establishment of lowland fiefdoms.

There had been pockets of native lowlanders that rendered tribute to the Coentis, but these were swiftly absorbed by the feudal estates. The remainder of what became the peasantry of Dor-en-Ernil either derived from the commoners attached to Edhelion's retainers from Lebennin, or from the migration of commoners from elsewhere in the realm — especially after the War of the Last Alliance, when population tensions elsewhere were beginning to precipitate political conflict and had to be alleviated somehow. The prince's acceptance of such newcomers assured their ready compliance with and resignation to the hierarchical divisions of this feudal society, thereby defusing any potential threat to the established order from below.

The feudalism of Dor-en-Ernil, with its all-important connection between land ownership and blood lineage, encouraged and enforced the strict ethnic divisions among the inhabitants of the peninsula; by the same token, however, the erosion of feudal relations would disrupt or even erase these social distinctions. This threat was realized in the loss of feudal control over the town of Linhir in T. A. 1226. The emergence of the town, first as a haven for the royal fleet and later as the preeminent commercial center for western Lebennin, forced the Local estates of the Glinduin valley to adapt to an economy quite different from and at odds with-that of peninsular Belfalas. While such changes did not directly undermine the nobles' claims to the land, they did provide many of their subjects greater opportunities for turning a profit from their labor, and so brought them a greater degree of leverage and control over their life, up to and including the abandonment of their lord's estate for a new life as an artisan in Linhir or as a freeholder in Lebennin. For though the common folk of Dor-en-Ernil were subject to the authority of the prince and his retainers in many matters, they were not slaves, and could not under the Laws of Númenor be compelled into servitude by force, should they wish to live their lives under a civil or military jurisdiction other than that of Dor-en-Ernil. This not-withstanding, the vast majority of Dor-en-Ernil's rural population had been perfectly content to remain where it was, because of the security their lords provided in times of adversity.

The Coentis clans had traditionally inhabited the mountains of Dor-en-Ernil. Five of these, however,had refused to take part in the Oathbreaking, renouncing Morthec Gruan as their king and joining the Dúnedain in the Last Alliance.The sixth, Morthec's own ancestral clan, fell under the curse of the Oathbreakers, and gradually dwindled and faded into obscurity (though it was still in existence in T.A. 1640). The remaining clans persisted through to the end of the Third Age, and were reckoned among the Danan Lin, despite the fact that their culture remained relatively untouched by that of the surrounding Dúnedain.

Politics and Power

Dor-en-Ernil was the oldest feudal domain in Númenorean history; it was therefore not only the forerunner of the later feudalization of southern Gondor, but the archetype of the very concept of feudal power itself. What distinguished this grant from earlier Númenorean models of royal patronage was not its substance, but its legal form. Without Edhelion's acceptance, Elendil and his sons would never have been acknowledged as the rightful rulers of Gondor, and so would have lacked the legal power to grant land to the nobility in the first place. Unlike the fiefs bestowed by future kings, Elendil's grant to Edhelion could not be revoked without seriously undermining royal legitimacy in the eyes of the Faithful. Paradoxically, then, Edhelion's submission to the authority of his future king was at the same time an uncoerced, legally binding agreement enacted between political equals. The reciprocal quality of this deed, albeit under less "equal" terms, subsequently became, the essence of power in Dor-en-Ernil under the prince. The mutual obligations of alliance in war and friendship in peace imposed constraints on both the prince and his enfeoffed retainers, preventing either party from violating the oaths on which the continued legitimacy of their own claims rested. When the prince enfeoffed one of his estates, relinquished all rights to ownership of that land. At the same time, the landed knight was honor-bound to support the prince in all matters: and the fulfillment of his oat ensured him that the land would remain in the possession of his lineage, never to be violated while his lord ruled at Dol Amroth.To be sure, these same idealized benefits were claimed for other forms of Númenórean rule; but the peculiar circumstances and position of the Prince of Dor-en-Ernil rendered those benefits uniquely realizable in practice. The prince, after all, had the favor of the Lady of the Seas; and its authority was, moreover, on an equal footing with that of the kings. Few nobles could wish for a more auspicious situation.

The only true threat to the stability of Dor-en-Ernil system of land tenure could come from inheritance disputes among the eligible heirs to a given estate. In order to prevent the breakup of family estates, an essential component of the feudal oath was that an enfeoffed knight named only a single (male) inheritor to his estate, and that remaining sons should be sworn into the prince's service household knights. In this way, the prince was able to satisfy the need for honor and status among the sons of nobility without thereby jeopardizing the stability of his estate system. This policy also provided the prince with a self-replenishing military force, the possession of which ensured that no noble was ever capable of posing a military threat to Dol Amrofh.

The Daen clans of the Ered Torthonion were officially subject to the prince, but in practice the clans were left to their own devices, so long as they payed an annual tribute (usually in the form of sheep or wool). Also, like the landed knights of Dor-en-Ernil, the Daen were obligated to send a levy in support of the prince's war-host. With the exception of the War or the Last Alliance, however, the prince rarely called upon his Daen subjects to fulfill this obligation, save in times of dire need, such as Dor-en-Ernil itself being threatened by a superior foe.

Warcraft

The core of Dor-en-Ernil's military prowess lay in its mounted knights, who were rivaled only by the Northmen for their horsemanship and were, in fact, the South- kingdom's only true cavalry. Although invariably at the forefront of Gondor's many wars, the knights of Dor-en-Ernil were not a standing army, though they were quickly mustered. Because a landward military threat of any significance had ever existed for Dor-en-Ernil, the cavalry as a military company did not often take part in the defense of the peninsula itself (the latter being the traditional task of the princt's modest war-fleet) Due to Dor-en-Ernil's self-contained nature under the rule of the prince, its army was more self-reliant than those of other Gondurian territories. For example, the prince never relied on the hiring of archers from Anfalas as so many other governors did, but would instead raise and train his own yeomen. The cavalry of Dor-en-Ernil, numbering as many as 400 knights, was supported by the prince's own regular infantry (garrisoned at Ost-en-Ernil, Naur Amrûn and other fortresses contrulled directly by the prince), which generally approached 5.000 well-trained men-at-arms. In times of large-scale conflicts this infantry could be supplemented by a militia (if raised by the knights) of 8,000. If summoned by the prince, the Daen of the Ered Torthonion could find up to 200 clansmen (which would fight in battle as a separate company and under us own leaders). The Maethorath-in-Ernil also maintained small bodies of elite rangers, which rarely numbered more than three or four dozen men,

The principal threat to Belfalas had always been by sea, and the prince developed the maritime defenses of his domain primarily in response to the spread of Corsair warfare after T.A. 1634, though his family had possessed a small number of warships prior to the Kin-strife. Despite the manpower and raw materials available to them, however, the princes never rivaled the kings in the building of an offensive naval force. Instead, the fleet of Dor-en-Ernil was always designed with the defense of the peninsula in mind, emphasizing swift Coastal vessels capable ot negotiating the fiefs rugged coasts.

Characters:

Ainur:

Nenseld Roamingstar

Men:

TA ca. 3018-19: Aras Balangyl Erianir Túmir Turthoren

Other:

Pebble

Regions

Belfalas Cirith Dudhrandir Dol Amroth Ernilos Glanhir Lond Cobas Methrast Nan Rochben

Settlements and Points of Interest

Amrûnaur Barad Rill Corsair hideout Cûm Taran  Dol Brannor Edhellond Emyn Ernil Nickel-mines Endil Erchar's Camp Ethillorn Gaerlond Galibur Hata Khezrat Herion's Camp Lang Boha Linhir Lond Ernil Spathlin Tungobel

References

  • MERP:Southern Gondor - The Land
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