The Western Isles are a series of islands in the Cuananiar Ocean west of the Kreisens and southwest of the Seven Kingdoms. Its largest city is Caer Uffren, which serves as its political capital and main center of learning and culture.
The Western Isles are a loose confederation centered around their ship captains. The most prominent of these, or at least the one accepted by the most captains, is called the thalassocrat, and serves as the primary head of state.
The thalassocrat, currently Etain Muirghein, rules only with the overall consent of the other captains as first among equals. Changing from one thalassocrat to another is merely the change of allegiance from enough captains to a new option. This happens rarely, though, as switching mid-stream tends to disrupt trade, the primary focus of the realm.
Generally, the transition of power happens when the current thalassocrat dies or gets fed up with the job. In the second instance, they relinquish the title of thalassocrat, but remain captain of their own vessel.
However, this arrangement provides for constant disagreement. While it is rare for captains to actually battle other captains, they tend to go their own way, with a few exceptions. They, as a whole, know it would be foolish to get into a war with nearby realms, especially the Empire of Makhaira.
This is reinforced by the simple fact that while their morcurrachs are probably the best warships in Shijuren, they are first and foremost trading vessels. So, while captains will occasionally turn to piracy, most know their easiest path to wealth is commerce, especially along the Ring Route.
While the Islanders are perhaps the greatest traders in all of Shijuren, their primary source of wealth are the immense mineral deposits spread across the various islands. There are several large gold, copper, tin, zinc, and lead mines. Also, the Isles are a major source of green vitriol, highly prized for its use as a textile dye.
This natural wealth, combined with its geographic isolation from the rest of Shijuren, prompted the Islanders to become great mariners. Now they are the pre-eminent shipwrights of the world, though they tend to be secretive about their innovations.
For centuries, their morcurrachs have sailed into ports west to east and back again. This commerce has supplanted their natural resources as their primary source of wealth, though their resources remain abundant.
Since they are a wealthy realm, they tend to have a strong military centered around the capabilities of the morcurrachs. Even the feared longships of Svellheim are rarely a match for a morcurrach one on one.
This means that only an expedition that significantly outnumbered the Islander morcurrachs could have any chance to overwhelm the Isles. The only realm that could conceivably mount such an expedition is the Empire of Makhaira, and some emperors have seriously contemplated the idea.
However, the Islanders are generally on good terms with both the Seven Kingdoms and Svellheim, especially since none of the three realms would like to see Makhaira become more of a maritime power than it already is. Even though the three realms compete commercially, they can only survive against the empire in a group.
Additionally, the Islanders have a small, but generally well-trained, number of warriors who serve as what little army they need. These warriors gather others who serve in sort of an apprenticeship called scuibhers. They are generally armed in mail, with shields and swords and are greatly respected by warriors from other realms.
The original settlement of the Western Isles is lost to myth and legend, but it is likely people lived there even before the War of the Giants ended. Even so, the Isles as they are generally understood currently did not come into being until 1066 MG, when Bréanainn claimed Caer Uffren and was accepted as the first thalassocrat.