I’ve got so much campaign prep to get done that if I don’t do it here, in public, I’ll never get it done in time…
Chapters 10-13 are all in final form. I don’t change “speaker” in mid-paragraph, but the speaker does change from one paragraph to the next. So if it seems like the tone changes direction suddenly – sometimes it does.
The Power Of Ideas
From Lolth’s perspective, the only benefit from the (premature) commitment of her people to a path overtly opposed to, and by, the other Totem Spirits was that her people no longer needed to operate beneath a veil of subterfuge. Their secret was now revealed, permitting them to operate more openly, and thereby to pursue their current agenda – whatever it happened to be – with greater speed and vigor. Having forcibly stabilized her power base, Lolth began by addressing a personal vulnerability: so long as her followers were all Drow, She was as much a hostage to their fate as they were to Hers. If, for any reason, they were to fall from grace or, despite her best efforts at ensuring their safety, be slaughtered in sufficient quantities, She would be unmade. It was essential that She develop a second tier of worshippers.
For practical reasons, these should have Strengths that her beloved Drow lacked, so that the one threat was less likely to overcome both. Any shortcomings could be overcome through Spellweaving, but Her primary criteria must be size, strength, and an innate bond with the Surface World. While She, and Her people, had spent many long years in isolation, She had not permitted herself to become ignorant of the world above the surface; just the opposite. She would spend long hours scrying through her Spiderweb Mirror, searching not only the now but the possible nows of tomorrow. It is not unfair to say that She knew more of the surface world than did the Elves or even their beloved, simpleminded, earnest, Corellan.
After contemplating the possibilities, She gathered the most powerful and subtle Spellweavers from amongst her subjects, and together they did labor for decades to produce – two berries. When ready, these berries were planted most carefully in selected places by stealth. With the passing of a handful of seasons, the vines of these berries flourished and prospered. With these preparations complete, a small company of hand-picked Drow followers were sent forth in the guise of Elves to befriend the leader of the Ogre Clan of Ketchzagrat.
The ogres were a simple people, Hunters and Fishermen and Gatherers of leaves, and were all one people, one tribe. Then came the Elves, who liked the way they lived with the land, and took the smartest thinkers to teach them religion and other mighty tricks. And when these returned, they were strong, and clever, and called themselves Magi, as had the Elves, and they warned that some of the Elves were jealous, and were arousing Humans to attack the Ogres. But the Ogre Magi had learned of a miraculous plant that would make the Ogres bigger and stronger and thicker of skin, a plant which they called Bluevein. The ogres knew of Bluevein only that it killed any who ate the leaves, but the Ogre Magi had been taught the secret of squeezing out the oil from the berries of the Bluevein. And they taught that there were two types of Bluevein plant, one with thin leaves and one with broad leaves, and that the thin-leaved variety was good for Ogre Magi only, and that the broad-leafed variety was just for Ogres who were not Magi.
To the Ogres, it seemed right that the earth to which they belonged should protect them, and so they eagerly swallowed the brew of the Ogre Magi, and they grew strong and tough and beat the humans who dared to attack them until they went away. And the Humans went to the leaders of the Elves and complained, and the Bad Elves chased away those Elves who had befriended the Ogres, telling them never to come back. And so the Ogres knew that the Humans and Elves were bad, and they named the once-Elves who were their friends Drow, which means “smart”.
Then Humans and Elves came, and tried to trick the Ogre Magi into taking away the Bluevein because they were scared of the Ogres, but the Ogre Magi told the ordinary Ogres and we hit the Humans and Elves until they went away, too. And the chief gave his cub to the smartest of the Ogre Magi and went away, and the Magi Azh-krupt became the chief of all the Ogres.
Azh-krupt told the Ogres that the Humans and Elves would come back in greater numbers, too many for them to fight even with the help of the Bluevein, because the humans would cheat. It would take a long time before the Ogres were strong enough to hurt all the Humans and Elves, but if they did what the Magi told them, they would be safe. He made it a rule that Ogres drink Bluevein every week, and the Ogres liked feeling big and strong and the Magi was the leader, so they did it. And he broke the Ogres into tribes, and each Ogre Magi took one of the tribes away to keep them safe.
The Ogre Magi did not like to be in charge, so they made it a rule that there was a Chief of each tribe, and they made it a rule that the Chief was in charge unless the Magi said different, and the Ogres liked easy rules so they did it that way. And the Ogres grew big and strong and did well.
The Power Of Blood
Lolth had observed the tactics and techniques that had evolved between the Elves and Dwarves in the First Drow War, and had deliberately built an army that would enable her to utilize the most effective of them, while maintaining what she perceived as her people’s advantage. Given that She assumed that her Drow were, by definition, inherently superior to the Elves of the Surface world, she had only to choose a martial ally capable of overpowering the Dwarves. The Ogres fitted this bill perfectly – bigger, stronger, and almost as hardy, even before the Drow provided them with Bluevein. Eventually it came time to put the new alliance to the test.
There was also a security vulnerability that could be tolerated no longer: the Aquatic Elves. While the Drow had been merely estranged from their Surface kindred, and the Aquatic Elves knew not where to search for them, the Underdark Tunnels had been secure. The comfort of this veil of secrecy was now gone; the Surface Elves were now Her people’s implacable foes, and moreover knew where they resided. It might take the Isallithin a while to find the underground rivers apon which Her Drow were dependant, but eventually they would succeed. The only choice was to obliterate the water-dwellers while the opportunity presented itself.
The Drow contacted one of the newly-scattered tribes of Ogres, who happened to have settled on a riverbank, and taught them to make nets and boats and spears with barbed heads. They then told the Ogres that they had learned that the Elves were trying to sneak up on them by breathing the water in the river. The Ogres thought this was cheating, and decided to hurt the River Elves until they went away. And the Drow friends of the Ogres said that they would help.
Elsewhere, other agents of the Spider Queen were rousing other Ogre Tribes with the same story. Thus the Drow led an army of Archers and Ogres, and a small corps of Magi, in an unprovoked assault on the Aquatic Elves from multiple sides. Villages were razed and whole populations slaughtered. Fleeing in terror, the Riverdwellers were driven upriver toward the very underground channels that Lolth had feared they would one day discover and exploit, and which she had carefully mapped and charted in preparation. When they were trapped, Lolth turned the waters into flame. Hotter and hotter, she exhorted the flames, reveling in the destruction of those who were, in her eyes, an abomination. For millennia it was believed that the Isallithin had perished utterly on that terrible day (though it was rumored that, in desperation, Aquatic Spellweavers had transformed the last survivors into a new variety of Isallithin that could survive the deeper oceans, and that interference in the weaving perpetrated by the Dark Elves and haste-induced errors caused this change to go awry).
With the success of these tactics, she directed her Ambassadors to the Ogre Magi to educate their pupils in the principles of indirect warfare, and called apon the Ogres to harass the Elves of the Surface World by proxy. The objectives of these raids was many-fold. Firstly, to keep the Surface Elves off balance, never knowing if this strike was the beginning of a major confrontation or just another feint. Secondly, to enable her allies to slake their need for constant conflict without risking major confrontation. Thirdly, to probe the defenses of the Elves and locate any vulnerabilities for eventual exploitation. And finally, to erode the knowledge and resources of the Surface Elves. For there was always the chance that a raid would kill someone of high skill or power through mischance before they were able to pass on that skill – and every such setback would be twice as hard to overcome, thanks to the draining of resources that the raids would cause. A people under perpetual siege tend to lose the little things that give them an edge in more significant confrontations.
Lolth had no fear of Elvish warriors, no matter how skilled they were; she was apprehensive about what such warriors could do if backed by Spellweaving. And so, at Lolth’s behest, the Ogres exerted themselves against less-dangerous opponents – Orcs, Goblins, Bugbears, and the like – driving them by conquest, or by the simple occupation of key territories, toward the Elven lands, and confrontation.
The Guardians Of The Forest
The Elvish Spellweavers had not wasted their time, either. Long before the act of genocide that would cement an implacable barrier between Elf and Drow, they had known that their Kin would be coming, in person or in proxy. The first act of the newly-formed Elven Council was to look to the defenses, especially those of the “capital” of Elvarheim, which had been named Ellessarunne. With this complete, they turned their attention to their first duty and the impact that these developments would have apon it; the Elves had been created by Corellan to be the Stewards of Nature, the guides and masters of life. That task now forced apon them the creation of Guardians to protect the forests themselves.
Long ago, the Elves had awakened trees.
The Sharing of Elven Blood with the awakened trees had created Treants – half-Elven trees.
Now the Elvish Spellweavers began to craft a still more aware form of tree-life, which they named Verdonne, which means “Quickbranch”.
The timing was more critical than they knew: even as the first Verdonne saplings were being planted, Lolth was committing her act of unforgivable hatred against her subjects’ kin. When the first bodies of the Isallithin washed up apon the riverbanks of the Sarner, the elves were stricken with grief, and for days wandered their homes of verdant green in confusion and shock, unable to comprehend what had taken place. But the spirit of Corellan moved amongst them and comforted them, and slowly they began to ask who had done this. And the Forest Elves consulted the trees, and the High Elves consulted the auguries, and the Plains Elves did beseech all the creatures of the world to search for the answers, and in time, the truth was revealed, and the Elves knew that their kindred were truly beyond redemption. Corellan was inconsolable, and in his grief and rage, he proclaimed the Drow to be a Fallen Race, and declared eternal enmity between the surviving branches of Elvenkind and the subjects of the Spider-Queen, Lolth.
And even as the first Verdonne branch sprouted and budded and began to grow, Lolth’s allies’ cat’s-paws were preparing their first assaults against the greenest of Forests.
Orc-Wars and Fallen Races
By this time, the Elves numbered almost 40,000, the highest population level that they would ever record. Five thousand of these were High Elves, and twelve thousands called the forests home, but most numerous were the Plains Elves. The assault masterminded by the Drow was a masterpiece of tactical savagery.
It began with a feint by small bands of Orcs, raiding into the forests down the mountain slopes of Mont Ayer and Mont Thuyon, the twin peaks that straddle the valley of the Elves, while thousands of Goblins mounted on wolves drove across the valley homes of the Plains Elves, driving all before them toward the Sarner. At the same time, Ogres dragged steel mangonels from hidden tunnels and commenced bombarding the towers of the High Elves. The ammunition fired by these siege weapons consisted of heavy, spiked balls of steel, augmented magically to inflict greater damage on their targets by fragmenting apon impact. The Towers, which consisted of fitted stone blocks held together by the weight of the blocks without mortar, were unable to resist, and great rents quickly appeared, into which hordes of Orcs wielding short spears and bronze swords swarmed. Although individually these foes were no match for the High Elves’ arcane abilities, force of numbers took its toll and thousands were killed, especially the young and the infirm. Most significantly, these attacks prevented the High Elves from coming to the aid of their kin in the valley. In effect, they were reduced to the choice of a sure and prolonged defense, or an uncertain counteroffensive which would certainly cost the lives of their families.
Without the protection of the High elves, the Forest Elves were forced to respond to the marauding bands of Orcish raiders, and they did so with seemingly great effect; the invaders turned and fled from the forests, dashing at full speed through lines of wolf-mounted Goblins, who made short work of the Forest defenders who eagerly pursued them. With this sudden reversal of battlefield fortune, it was the Forest Elves’ turn to flee from the field of battle, hotly pursued by the faster and more mobile Wolf Riders, while the Orcish attackers reformed into a picket line and showered the plains elves with arrows from their short bows.
Even as the Forest Elves made their desperate dash toward Elvarheim, the outlying tracts of forest before them erupted into flames, put to the torch by a more substantial army of 3,000 Orcs and 500 Ogres armed with oil and torches. This force had made their way along the Sarner by stealth and remained hidden while their kin lured the defenders of the forest into the open fields. Had the High elves not been engaged in their own desperate struggle, their elevated vantage points would have permitted them to warn their Forest Kin of the danger; Lolth’s initial strike was intended not only to prevent the High Elves from assisting the others, but to prevent discovery of this intrusion until it was too late. The defenders of the forest were killed quickly where they stood and fought, or incinerated ruthlessly if they braved the inferno before them, or slaughtered, helpless, by the stealthy force if they managed to force passage through the wall of flames.
With the outer battalions of Forest Elves dead, the Wolf Riders resumed sweeping the Plains Elves toward the river, to which the force that had put the torch to the forest now retreated, reforming their ranks on the riverbanks, and trapping the Plains Elves between two armies. All told, 7,000 attackers slaughtered more than 36,000 elves in one grim day of battle. The surviving High Elves numbered but a few hundreds, the survivors of the Plains numbered barely a thousand more than this; only the Forest Elves survived in numbers. Almost 1/3rd of the forest of Elvarheim had been blackened and burnt.
But now those Forest survivors counterattacked; even as the invading hordes advanced warily into the tree line of the forest, the Spellweavers and inner battalions (originally intended to be nothing more than reinforcements, to be deployed where needed), turned on the attackers, and by sacrificing much of their power and lives, devastated the invading force. Routed, the invaders began to flee, and the bugbear infantry and their goblin cavalry support quailed, giving the surviving High Elves the chance to rally.
This was the tale of the day the Elves met the Other. It was not the joyful reunion that had been wished for. For the next 110 years, all of Elvarheim would bend itself to the protection, rearing, and education of the saplings which were intended to be the Elvish masterstroke, while those to whom the Elves owed their very existence, the Other, layed siege apon the Forest’s defenses. The bitter irony of the situation was not lost apon the Elves. While any besieging Orc who dared brave passage beneath the forest canopy was quickly killed, the same fate awaited any Elf foolish enough to seek passage beyond the protection of the Spellweavers of the Forest.
After decades of patience, success came to the Elvish Spellweavers, as the newly-matured Verdonne drove back the Orcs; but they would come again, and frequently. The Elvish sacrifices had not been in vain, and the siege was broken. For the 270 years that followed, the Forests of Elvarheim would remain inviolate and under the protection of the Guardians Of The Forest.
A pattern soon developed, a rhythm of life: this race or that would invade or assault the Elven borders, sometimes in strength and sometimes in isolation, sometimes openly and at other times from concealment or through cunning. The Verdonne, guided by the Elves, would block the incursion, and turn it back, before returning to their dwelling places to await the next assault. It even came to be perceived as ‘normal’ by both sets of combatants.
The Ongoing Elvish Glossary
- Arnost: Simple Speech (Modern “Common”, a human tongue)
- Arrunquessor: Plains Elves
- Ayer: Nuthanori word meaning “Squat”. Mont Ayer is the name of one of the two peaks that define the traditional elvish lands.
- Calquissir: High Elves
- Corellan: The First
- Drow: “Those Who Dwell Apart” (in Nuthanorl). Added to Ogre by the Drow with the meaning of “Smart”.
- Ellessarune: The “Shining City” of the Tarquessir, home of the Elvish King and capital of the Elven Lands to this day.
- Eltrhinast: “Guiding Spirit”
- Elvarheim: “Blessed Leafy Home”: The Elven Forest, homeland of the Tarquessir and the centre of Elven Power in modern times
- Gilandthor: “The Gathering”, the formal title of the Elvish Council.
- Hithainduil: High Elven Language
- Illvayssor: “The Other”, a mythical race
- Isallithin: “The Sundered”, a name applied to Aquatic Elves
- King: A human title interpreted by Elves as “speaker to others” and defined as such within their language.
- Magi: A corruption of the Zamiel word “Machus”, which means “of the wise.”
- Mont: Nuthanori word meaning “High Place”. Used human-style in the naming of Mountains.
- Nuthanorl: Low Elven Language, Common Elven
- Sarner: A human abbreviation of the Hithainduil word “Saranariuthenal” which means, literally, “Swift and Wide”. The River Sarner runs through the central valley of Elvarheim.
- Tarquessir: Forest Elves
- Thuyon: Nuthanori word meaning “Tall Spires”. Mont Thuyon is the name of the taller of the two peaks that define the traditional elvish lands; Modern Elvarheim lies between the foothills of Mont Thuyon and the River Sarner.
- Verdonne: “Quickbranch”, an artificial race created by Elves to be “The Guardians Of The Forest”.
- Zamiel: Drow Language
Next time: Insurrection, Aftermath, and the Beginning of the Second Great Dwarfwar – All to come in Chapters 15 through 17!
- Inventing and Reinventing Races in DnD: An Introduction to the Orcs and Elves series part 1
- Inventing and Reinventing Races in DnD: An Introduction to the Orcs and Elves series part 2
- Inventing and Reinventing Races in DnD: An Introduction to the Orcs and Elves series part 3
- Inventing and Reinventing Races in DnD: An Introduction to the Orcs and Elves series part 4
- Inventing and Reinventing Races in DnD: An Introduction to the Orcs and Elves series part 5
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 1-4
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 5-10
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 11-14
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 15-17
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 18-20
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 21-23
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 24-26
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 27-28
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 29-31
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 32-36
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 37-40
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 41-43
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 44-46
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 47-51