High Queen Guinnear was the first female ruler of Damryn, and the instigator of the War of the Narrow Sea and the conquest of Carnthor. She is seen as one of Damryn's most successful military leaders, though her development into an almost mythic figure has muddied honest historical appraisal of her achievements. Guinnear is the first person most Damryans think of when they consider the achievements of women in their history, and has become a justification over the centuries for women to take a more involved role in Damryan society. Most images of the fierce Damryan warrior are built around Guinnear.
Guinnear was wed to High King Joavan, a man much older than her who had needed to remarry later in life when his first wife and heirs were slain by Demonblooded. Consequentially it was not much surprise to anyone, least of all her, when Joavan perished when their son Machar was a mere five years old.
Members of the King's Council bickered amongst themselves as to who would take the regency for the under-age High King, before Guinnear herself seized the position. Legend suggests she had not been permitted into the King's Council, but stormed in anyway, stood before the High Throne, and declared herself the regent. For she was not just the High Queen as the wife of a High King, but was also the great-granddaughter of a High King herself, with royal blood in her veins and the best legitimate claim to the throne after Machar himself. By sheer force of personality and with a few key allies in the Council, she was able to secure the role of the regent.
But Guinnear effectively ruled in her own right. The first challenge which fell upon her were the tensions between Calavria and the Iron Empire, and the threat the latter presented to the Realm's economy and supremacy. Ignoring the calls to simply assault the Empire, Guinnear gathered her forces while working closely with the Calavrians. As she made ready her army she dispatched competent soldiers to supplement the protection of the Calavrian trading ships, while using the coffers of the Realm to fund privateers to harangue Imperial ships.
It is not known if she was intentionally trying to provoke the Empire or simply keeping them under control while she gathered her forces, but within months the Calavrians came to Caer Brennan with damning proof that one of their ships had been sunk by pirates on the payroll of the Iron Empire. It mattered not that Damryn had been doing much the same: it was a sufficient justification for war.
And Guinnear was ready for war. Most records suggest she knew full well that the Iron Empire was focused on its eastern borders, the distant forests where they fought against the onslaught of trolls, but modern historians suggest it is unlikely that the Realm knew enough of Imperial matters to make military decisions based upon them. Whether Guinnear knew this was the case or not, it still gave her invading army a tremendous advantage.
They landed at Carnthor, the western-most point of the Iron Empire and the home of the bulk of its best ports and shipyards. With the Imperial army far to the east, the combined army of the Realm swarmed over the region and secured it in a matter of months. What had originally been expected to be a raid which would keep the Iron Empire cowed and uninclined to extend itself in the Narrow Sea became, instead, a matter of conquest. Guinnear claimed Carnthor for the Realm, and elevated a Damryan general named Torrianus, reputed to be her lover, to the position of Duke of Carnthor, and her representative across the Narrow Sea. The forces of the Realm in Carnthor successfully fortified themselves enough to secure the land against the Imperial counter-attacks when the army returned from the east, despite their size, Carnthor would remain safely in human hands for fifty years.
It is seen as a mixed blessing that not long after this, Machar came of age and ascended to the High Throne. His reign was marked with the uprisings and struggles to keep Carnthor in human hands as the elves, inside and outside of the border, fought against Realm occupation, which would result in Carnthor becoming the most continuous and bloody battleground in the whole Realm for centuries. Some say that if Guinnear had remained as queen, she could have kept Carnthor in line, and the Realm would never have lost its holding across the Narrow Sea. Her detractors claim that she should never have seized Carnthor in the first place as it was impossible to hold, and since she was never faced with the uprisings there is no evidence that she could have dealt with them any more effectively than her son did.
Her fate was comfortable, however. Torrianus returned from Carnthor when Machar took the throne, granting the lands to his own son, and rejoined Guinnear. The first High Queen of Damryn had the freedom of retiring a living legend, undefeated and beloved by all, instead of her story continuing with great risk of an eventual defeat, and the tarnishing of her myth.