The Isle of Ulthuan, known alternatively as the Ten Kingdoms, is the ancestral home of the Elven race, and is currently inhabited by the High Elves. Ulthuan forms a hollow ring of land floating in the sea, surrounding an Inner Sea. This inner sea is accessible only at the Straits of Lothern, in the south of the island.[1a]
Ulthuan is split up into provinces, each with its own character and ways of waging war. Ulthuan was shattered in the distant past, during the Sundering with the Dark Elves, and much of its North and Western coasts now lie underwater. The eastern approaches are protected by the Shifting Isles, a treacherous maze of magical mists and moving sandbanks. Ulthuan is also home to the majority of the world's remaining Dragons, who slumber under the volcanic mountain ranges of the Dragon Spine Mountains in Caledor.[1a]
Ulthuan is ruled by a collection of princes, princesses and mages, above whom preside the Phoenix King and the Everqueen. The relationship between these rulers is not as simple as the titles would suggest. The kingship is elective while the queenship is hereditary, and both monarchs maintain entirely separate courts. The Everqueen is always the Queen of Avelorn. Her realm is the site of the principal shrine of the Earth Mother, and she is regarded as the spiritual leader of the whole Elven realm. The position of Everqueen is always taken up by the firstborn daughter of the previous queen, conceived during her year-long ritual marriage to the Phoenix King. After this formal marriage, they are free to take new consorts, but only the daughter conceived from the marriage of the Phoenix King and the Everqueen can be the new Everqueen.[1g]
Hence the Queens of Avelorn have always been the Everqueens of Ulthuan, forming an unbroken chain from ages past. By contrast, the Phoenix King is chosen from among the princes of Ulthuan, one year after the death of the previous incumbent. Each is crowned during a holy ceremony, held at the massive pyramidal Shrine of Asuryan and attended by the legions of the Phoenix Guard and the princes of Ulthuan. The process of choosing the new Phoenix King is rife with intrigue. Emotions often run hot during this fraught and delicate event. Traditionally, the last thirty days of the year of mourning are set aside for the election to take place; however, in practice the debate starts much sooner than that. Often, the politicking starts long before the reigning Phoenix King has died. High Elves love intrigue, and never is the prize greater than when a new Phoenix King is chosen.[1g]
The grandest of Ulthuan's noble families each look for their candidate to be chosen, and they vie for the support of their peers for their choice. Further to this, each realm in Ulthuan desires the new Phoenix King to be chosen from their land. So it is that rivalries are set aside — or created — to ensure that the agendas of the noble houses are met. For all the deception, manipulation, and chicanery employed during the election process, it is almost unheard of for the tactics employed to escalate to violence or outright sabotage. Such actions are considered heretical, for the Phoenix King is the anointed servant of Asuryan. Few high elf nobles are so consumed with victory that they could believe, even for a moment, that the Creator God would ever approve of a king selected by the ruling council under such dubious and destructive circumstances.[1g]
Ulthuan is located off the eastern coast of the New World, near the isthmus linking Lustria to the northern lands of Naggaroth. The island currently lies approximately 300 miles from the New World at its nearest point, though this was less in the time before the Sundering.[1a]
The kingdoms of Ulthuan are generally separated into the Inner Kingdoms, which have part or all of their coast on the inner sea, and the Outer Kingdoms, which face the great ocean. The Inner Kingdoms are often characterised as being introverted and dreamy, while the Outer Kingdoms are more rugged and accustomed to warfare.[1a]
- Eataine - The Kingdom of Eataine is simply the hinterland of the vast city-state of Lothern, and first amongst the elf kingdoms of Ulthuan. It is the home of the current Phoenix King, Finubar, and the site of his Phoenix Court. Eataine is dotted with vineyards, villas and summer estates to which the noble families of the city retire. The city is one of the wonders of the known world and the source of Eataine's prosperity.
- Caledor - The Kingdom of Caledor is a thinly populated, mountainous realm. Its sparse population has ever belied its power, for it is here, beneath the blazing peaks of the Dragon Spine Mountains, that the dragons dwell. Here, long ago, came Caledor Dragontamer. Mightiest of the ancient mages, he bound the fearsome dragons to his will, using harnesses of enchanted truesteel smelted in the fiery heart of Vaul's Anvil. His descendants named their kingdom Caledor in his honour.
- Ellyrion - The Kingdom of Ellyrion is a land of gentle summers and mild winters, of sweeping plains, azure skies and heady pollen. It is famed for its horses, who thunder across moor and heath from dawn to dusk. The steeds of Ellyrion are the swiftest and most noble of four-legged beasts, much prized by nobles of the Ten Kingdoms, and those of the lands beyond. To folk from other lands, the Ellyrian steppes appear to stretch on forever. Indeed, time and distance work strangely here. A traveller can walk directly towards his destination for hours upon hours, growing ever more distant from his starting point, yet never coming closer to his goal. The Ellyrians know the secret paths and ways through their land, for they have learnt them from the horses, but such secrets are seldom shared -- even amongst the elves.
- Avelorn - The Kingdom of Avelorn is the oldest of all the Elven realms. Ancient glamours lie upon its tangled groves, and creatures of legend still walk beneath its eaves. Yet Avelorn's glories are maintained only by the constant watchfulness of the rangers that guard its borders, for the monsters of the Annulii Mountains are drawn to this realm as to no other; scarcely a day passes without an attack by some dread creature. Avelorn is ruled by the Everqueen, the chosen of the Earth Mother, mistress of the undying forest, preserver of green fastness, observer of the rites of the golden spring, and monarch of one of the Twin Thrones of Ulthuan.
- Saphery - The Kingdom of Saphery is an enchanted land, with skies that shine with all the colours of the rainbow, hills that move by night and warm rivers that glow with gentle light. Magic courses through the blood of Sapherian elves, and all of the realm's princes are also mages of awesome power. They are reclusive and idiosyncratic, dwelling in exquisite mansions far from other outposts of civilisation. Each noble's home has its own character that reflects the interests and magical research of its patron.
- Yvresse - The Kingdom of Yvresse is the land of mists. It encompasses not only a sizable part of eastern Ulthuan, but also the islands of the Eastern Ocean. The mainland is a wild coastline, fringed by deep coniferous forests. The foothills of the Annulii march off to form distant peaks that tower dramatically into the clouds. Yvresse is the least densely populated kingdom of Ulthuan, and by those elves from other realms, it is often considered a bleak coastal realm, and less than lovely -- but to those who call it their home, the towering cliffs and soaring sea birds are sights as fine as any to be seen on the continent of Ulthuan.
- Cothique - The Kingdom of Cothique is a coastal realm, inhabited by shrewd and hardy seafolk. It is a cold realm, battered by chill northeastern winds, and little-loved, save by its own people. Yet even these folk of Cothique are renowned for their wanderlust, and reputedly spend as little time within their own land as possible. Their graceful vessels plough the turbulent northern waters in search of goods and trade with different lands. This is a highly dangerous area to sail, not just because of the perilous waters, but because the seas contain many monstrous creatures stirred up by the collapse of northern Ulthuan centuries ago. Kraken, huge shark-like megalodons, behemoths and even the dread black leviathan are all known to lurk in the waters north of Ulthuan.
- Chrace - The Kingdom of Chrace was once a relatively empty and peaceful region of Ulthuan, occupied only by those who sought to escape the civilised realms and return to nature. Now, Chrace exists in a state of permanent war, for it is the main route through which the Dark Elves seek access to the Inner Lands. Its settlements are fortified, its glades ring to the sound of sword upon steel, and its populace lives ever under the shadow of battle. The once-wondrous forests have become perilous, for dark magic has scoured the land, corrupting ancient groves and giving birth to monstrous creatures.
- Nagarythe - The Kingdom of Nagarythe, also known as the Shadowlands, are a dark and desolate region, but was once the greatest of the elven kingdoms. Here, the first Phoenix King once held court, and it was here that the greatest battles against daemonkind were won. That desperate struggle hardened and embittered the folk of Nagarythe, so that other elves came to regard them as a cruel and bloodthirsty people. After Aenarion's death his son Malekith inherited the kingdom. When Malekith rose against the rightful Phoenix King, he led his warriors in a savage and destructive war. Nagarythe was destroyed and many of its people fled with their evil master to the cold lands of the New World.
- Tiranoc - The Kingdom of Tiranoc is the westernmost of Ulthuan's realms. Once it was the fairest of the elf lands, where majestic snow-capped peaks towered over sweeping flower-strewn plains. Its people were great sailors who colonised many lands to the west. Wealth flowed from these colonies: gold to gild the city's spires, silver to be wrought into the bodywork of chariots, furs for winter wear and medicinal herbs to cure the sick. The charioteers of Tiranoc, famed throughout the land for their skill and daring, raced between their white marble cities. The folk were content and peaceful, and their lives golden. But this time of happiness was to pass.
Long years of wars against the forces of Chaos, the Dwarfs and the Dark Elves have caused the steady decline of the High Elves. The cities of Ulthuan no longer bustle with life, but are mostly shells of their former glory. There are still mighty cities to be found on Ulthuan, however. The most notable are listed below:
- Anlec, Nagarythe (Destroyed)
- Gaen Vale, Avelorn
- Lothern, Eataine
- Tor Achare, Chrace
- Tor Anroc, Tiranoc
- Tor Caled, Caledor (Destroyed)
- Tor Dynal, Cothique
- Tor Elyr, Ellyrion
- Tor Hoeth, Saphery
- Tor Yvresse, Yvresse
Ulthuan is full of places of importance, not just for the elves but the whole world. A selection of the most important are listed below: