The island of Stirk is one of the most prominent locations in the Abecean Sea. Lying almost exactly between the prominent ports of Cyrodiil, Hammerfell, Valenwood and the Summerset Isles, it has proven a safe harbor for the many trade-ships frequenting these routes. While the island itself offers little to the aspiring merchant, its harbor forms a welcome respite from the many threats of the Abecean, from piracy, Sloadic slave raids, and unnatural storms, up to the dreaded Maelstrom of Bal.
Stirk has only one settlement, also known as Stirk. The inhabitants of this sizable port-town are primarily employed as fishermen, specializing in the catch of the Abecean Longfin, which proliferates in the temperate waters surrounding the island. Most of the catch is transported to the nearby coastal cities of Anvil, Rihad, and Falinesti, where the specific variant caught in Stirk's waters is considered a delicacy. As a result of this sudden success, Stirk's fishing industry has gone through something of a modernization. Other than fishing, many of the common folk are known to find temporary employment as hard labor in the nearby port cities, sailing to and from on the many trade and fishing transports. Neither fishing nor labor are very profitable, and the majority of Sitrk's population lives in a state of poverty.
This is in sharp contrast to the island's recent appeal as a destination for the upper class. In the summer, when the Imperial City becomes unbearably hot and humid, the Empire's notable families are known to travel to the spas of Mir Corrup or go on a "spiritual" pilgrimage to the temple of Dibella in Anvil (and the other pleasures the city the city is infamous for). A visit to Stirk is considered an essential part of such a vacation.
In times past, a couple of noble families were known to maintain country houses on the island, attracted to its quiet hills and windswept beaches. Local magnates have capitalized on this to great success, attracting all kinds of merchants and nobility: healers in the Imperial City advise their patrons a vacation in Stirk's temperate environment as a remedy for the many ailments of both the jungled Heartland and the frantic politics of Imperial civilization.
The Ayleid Period
The island of Stirk first knew habitation with the arrival of the Ayleid during the Late Merethic Era. The furthest west of Cyrodiil had until then largely been ignored by this people, whose great centers of culture and civilization were mostly concentrated in the Heartland. The Ayleid cities of Colovia were few and far between, and their inhabitants, sometimes called the Lipsacullean or "Distant Towers" Ayleid, had little say in the affairs of their people.
The sudden founding of the harbor-city of Wormusoel, as well as the sea-fortresses of Nagaiarelle and Vabriasel, had to do with the increasingly aggressive posturing of the Summerset Isles and the various mercantile Elven kingdoms of High Rock, like the upcoming Direnni. The Ayleid feared to lose its grip on the mainland to the rival Elven kingdoms, and strengthened its borders against possible incursions (the same thing as happened along the northern border, where the Empire of the Nords posed much the same threat).
Wormusoel was evidentially meant as a harbor for the Ayleid fleet, while the sea-fortresses, built on unnatural islands raised from the sea by magic, would each control access to the shore, evidence of the Ayleid's isolationist nature. This focus on the external threat was an obvious miscalculation, as the doom of the Ayleid Hegemony would be come from within.
Early Colovian Expansion
Following the Alessian Rebellion, most of the weak-willed Lipsacullean kingdoms found no problems in surrendering to the encroaching Nordic armies. The Abecean strongholds were an exception: their lords had been installed by the exalted sorceror-kings of the Adonacyrean ("Noble Center") Ayleid, who held to the ruthless and abject philosophies most associated with the Ayleid. For about a century, the off-shore kingdoms plagued the Trident Shore with skirmishes and incursions. But what little knowledge of sea warfare the Ayleid possessed was no match to Nordic maritime prowess, and, despite tacit support from Alinor and Direnni, the sea cities would soon crumble to the pressure from the Colo-Nords on one side and frequent Sloadic raids on the other.
1E 343 saw the final conquest of Wormusoel by a Colo-Nordic force, led by Skalgar Hellebor, a Nordic vassal of the Shore-King. As a reward, Skalgar was installed as the first Baron of Stirk tasked to defend the Trident Coast from foreign invasions. Skalgar was the descendant of one of the Nordic mercenaries who came to Alessia's aid during the Rebellion. As such, their distant descendants, the Helvor family, can claim to be authentic Colo-Nordic nobility.
Early records note a wooden fortress in the Nordic style and a modest fishing village – likely more of a military outpost than an actual settlement. Stirk then disappears from most history writing, save for the occasional mention of a siege by Bosmer, Sload, Altmer, etc. At times, Colovian military accounts mention a handful of warriors from Stirk, usually fighting under the banner of the Trident Coast. Stirk resurfaces during the Yokudan invasion of 1E 808, when the Barony was attacked by a Redguard invasion fleet. If the Redguards had been successful in conquering Stirk, there is no doubt they would have used this outpost to claim most of the western seaboard as well. As it stands, Stirk countered the invasion, and the Ra Gada was halted at the location of modern-day Sutch.
The Thrassian Menace
Much less successful was the defense against the Thrassian Plague of 1E 2200-2260. Stirk was among the first victims of the disease, and suffered heavily before a cure and proper quarantine methods were established. Only a tenth of the population survived, and if the Baron's son had not been present at the court of Kvatch at the time, the noble line would have been wiped out.Titus Helvor survived thanks to Kvatch's draconian quarantine, and was one of the greatest advocates for the complete extermination of the Sload afterwards, swearing fealty to the Bendu Olo, the Baron of Anvil, after the last Shore-King's demise. The Barons of Stirk continued to play an unusually prominent role in the Oloi Confederacy and the War of Righteousness (1E 2321-1E 2331) afterwards, and one account of that confusing struggle claims that Baron-Captain Aravest Helvor led a fleet of Colovian warships up the Niben in one of the most daring attacks on the Imperial City yet.
An Era of Peace
Following this excitement came a period of relative calm and prosperity. The Helvors returned to Stirk to rebuild that island's sedate existence, of which the historical record says little. Stirk swore loyalty to Reman along with its father-kingdom, Anvil, and played a small part as a resupplying station during the conquests of the Second Empire. The harbor was expanded for military use, though in later years these improvements would be lost. Somewhere around 1E 2840, a priest of Kynareth visited the island and wrote a short tract on its natural beauty, the piety of the local population and the presence of the Divine in the winds – the only mention of the island outside of a military context.
Destruction of the Tiber Wars
Stirk returns from obscurity during the Tiber Wars. The island is once again in military service, especially during the conquest of High Rock and Hammerfell by Admiral Amiel Richton. In 2E 864, the military depot is attacked by pirates of the Restless League, prompting widespread retaliation against the island's then-numerous Redguard inhabitants. In 2E 896, Stirk is shortly occupied by the Altmeri navy, before they are routed by a Legion counter-invasion. The spiteful Altmeri commander orders the village burned down. After the war, the Altmer are forced to finance the rebuilding of the city's defenses, and it is decided to move the city center closer inland, away from the harbor.
After the wars, peace returns, and Stirk gradually assumed its modern guise as a fishing town and halfway stop for the Abecean trade. Stirk remained untouched by the Camoran Usurper's passage, and its strong defenses held off the pirates that made Anvil their home in that period. In later years, some tension developed between the Helvor family and the new Counts of Anvil, the line of Umbranox - since the latter do not have Colo-Nordic ancestry, the Helvors considered them unfit to rule.
The Simulacra and the unrest in the Iliac Bay have caused a resurgence of piracy, which the local authorities are ill-equipped to handle. The Imperial administration has conceived of far-off places like Stirk as a punishment detail for incompetent or unfavored dignitaries, meaning that the rulers of Stirk, if they have any capacity at all, find themselves in a bad position to enact meaningful change. The latest two administrators, Geval Ugenring and Cocious Hassell, are examples of this trend. The Helvor family finds itself on the margins of modern Imperial society, where their blood is and history are less important than the gold in their pockets or the weight of their name in the Imperial City. While they still hold the title of Baron, it has been hollowed out by the arrangements of Victus Pilious, an upstart noble entrepreneur who has taken over most of the island's fishing industry.
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