I’ve got so much campaign prep to get done that if I don’t do it in public, I’ll either never get it done in time…
Chapters 15-17 are all in reasonably final form. I try not to change “speaker” in mid-paragraph, but the speaker does sometimes change from one paragraph to the next. So if it seems like the tone changes direction suddenly – sometimes it does.
The Verdonne Insurrection: Elves in the Age Of Heresies
Throughout their history, the Elves had largely been preoccupied with social and interracial problems. They had given little thought to the larger theological reality that surrounded them, and had no true conception of the vast powers against which Corellan struggled to protect his people. Elvish theological thought was focused on the Totem Spirits of Nature that guided them; their scholars debated whether the belligerency and inconstancy of other races could be attributed to their seeming inability to perceive the wisdom of their spirit-totems, and Elvish philosophy was turned continually inward, focused on defining exactly what it meant to be an Elf, and how best to have that quintessential Elvishness express itself throughout their society. Even the rearing and education of the Verdonne had been left to the Verdonne themselves, so preoccupied were the Elves in their soul-searching and expression of the results through Spellweaving to more closely conform the environment to their natures and perceptions.
The crushing disappointment of the truth of The Other, who they had romanticized into idealized and nobly tragic figures, had soured any interest in the outside world and the beliefs and knowledge of outsiders. The world hurt so much that they turned their backs toward it and became an insular and self-preoccupied society.
This was a state of acute vulnerability to the forces which had corrupted the Spider-totems with Ambitions, and when what became known as The Age Of Heresies began, that vulnerability would exact a heavy toll on Elvish society.
The weapons employed by the Chaos Powers against the Elves were curiosity, insecurity, and ego, and they would prove devastatingly effective.
The Elves of the time had accepted the presence and role of the Verdonne within their realm as a part of everyday life. The subject was no more to be given special consideration than were the presence of the Bluebird and the role of its song as an inspiration to poets and artists. The Verdonne, who were long-lived even as were their Elvish creators, slowly began to perceive that the forest they protected with life, leaf, and limb was altering in its nature, little by little. From one day to the next, the changes were so insignificant as to go unnoticed, but over a span of centuries, they added up into an increasingly alien world. After discussing it amongst themselves at length, they resolved to ask the Elves, and here the Spellweavers proved that history was doomed to repeat itself apon the preoccupied.
After the episode with the Dwarves, the Elves had created the Council Of Elves to ‘guide’ the King toward his decisions in all matters relating to other species; but they failed to apply their hard-learned principles to their own creation, treating them as part of their domain, and not as a separate species with whom they had a relationship based apon common interest. Instead of referring the Verdonne’s gentle questions to the council, they answered in simple terms and without thought, being distracted by whatever they were concentrating apon at that particular moment, replying that they were changing the forest to make it a better home for the Elves, closer to their nature.
The Verdonne questioner accepted this, and left; and he and his kind thought long and hard apon the over-simple truth of the reply. Almost thirty years passed before the Verdonne came to the realization that the more perfectly the Forest suited the Elves, the less perfect an abode for their kind it became. Increasingly, they would come to exist only at the Sufferance of their elvish masters, slaves to their whims and fancies; and yet it was by their efforts, and deaths, that the Forest remained unmolested.
The question of what should be done about this was another to be given slow and careful consideration, but in time – another 22 years to be precise – they reached the conclusion that their role was to protect the Forest as Nature had intended it to be. The Elvish manipulations were as unnatural as the destructive instincts of the Fallen Races against which the Verdonne struggled regularly. The Elves had to be treated as an enemy by the Verdonne.
The result was a Slave Revolt (from the perspective of the Verdonne) and an act of Heresy (from the perspective of the Elves). The first strike was against the Spellweavers, and those of martial prowess, and it was swift and brutal. A few at a time, the Verdonne infiltrated the heart of the Forest, where they were welcomed by the Elves. Few realized how many had gathered until their appointed leader, Silverleaf, gave a great booming cry and signaled the attack.
If the Forest Elves had been spared the worst of the Orc-wars, they bore the brunt of this unexpected assault. Their most powerful and learned were felled in the first stroke. To fully appreciate the magnitude of the calamity, it must be recognized that the Verdonne had been entrusted with the keys to all the defenses of the Forest, were trusted completely, were able to proceed unmolested to the most sensitive of locations throughout the Elvish Kingdom in preparation for the assault, were as able to instantly relay messages from one to another by means of the trees of the forest as were the Elves (in fact, messages between the Verdonne were presumed to pertain to the defense of the realm and were given priority at the instruction of the Elves themselves), and the greatest vulnerability of the Verdonne – fire – could not be exploited without irreparably harming the forest itself. The result was a slaughter.
Some Elves were desperate enough to resort to weapons of flame regardless of the risks, and in the struggle, control over the fires was soon lost. The resulting conflagration swept through the forest as an even more unstoppable and implacable foe than ever the Verdonne would have been. And yet, the desperate measure achieved its objectives, as the Verdonne fell back before the flames and fled, all coordination amongst themselves lost to the panicked cries of the Forest, retreating instinctively to the banks of the Sarner. The Elves had beaten back the Verdonne Insurrection in but a week, but within the course of that week the heart of the Elvish Realm became a smoking ruin. More than half of the population of Elvarheim were lost in insurrection.
When at last the fires abated, the survivors began to reconstruct their society in imitation of its former glory; but much context and understanding had been lost, and often the forms were preserved and mimicked without an understanding of the reasons those customs had evolved, or their purpose. Elvish society began to stagnate from that moment, and its eventual collapse became inevitable.
Though it took weeks of patient discussion and debate, the survivors formed a new Council, and confirmed the ascendancy of the sole survivor of the Royal Family. The council then directed the formation of a delegation to approach the Verdonne Enclave that had gathered by the banks of the Sarner, to learn the cause of the conflict and what might be done to resolve the Verdonne’s grievances. By the time the delegation warily approached, almost three long months had passed, and to their surprise, the Enclave had been all but abandoned. Only Silverleaf remained, mortally wounded and badly burned in the fires. He informed the delegation that his brethren had all departed, to take up the burden of the protection of forests and glades wherever they might be found; and that so far as he and his kind were concerned, Elvarheim was a true forest in seeming only, perverted and twisted as it had been by Elvish Spellweaving, and unworthy of the protection of the Verdonne, who would henceforth hold themselves fully independent of the Elvish Kingdom.
Silverleaf had been waiting patiently to deliver his message of Verdonne Independence, sustaining himself only through sheer force of will bolstered by his healing arts; this last task achieved, the Liberator Of The Verdonne permitted himself to succumb to his wounds.
The Elvish delegation were greatly puzzled by this statement. Only when information was forthcoming from their Human neighbors about the religious strife that they had been experiencing, the acts of heresy and betrayal and compounded confusion that had been experienced, did they begin to grasp the root cause of the disagreement, even though the specific misunderstanding that had been central to the Verdonne Insurrection remained unknown. By this time, almost a century had passed, and it was too late to repair relations with their creations.
So it was that the delegation returned to their devastated forest home to begin the long process of mourning, and the slow process of rebuilding, still in a state of confusion over what had transpired and why.
Noletinechor: Guardians Of The Elvish Legacy
Elvish society is organic in nature, slowly growing and evolving to accommodate sustained changes in circumstance, much as does a tree. Change occurs in miniscule increments, and traditions and forms remain unchanged for centuries, until the old ways are proven inadequate to the burdens of a catastrophic and usually unexpected disaster.
The loss during the Verdonne Insurrection of their most learned, and wise, and their most adroit Spellweavers, and most subtle (and incomplete) Spellweavings, was just such a calamity, and as was their way, the elves reacted to it by debating for years what should be done to prevent a recurrence. Indeed, it was only the imminent demise of the most senior of the survivors and awareness of the loss of the unique perspectives and understandings that would result, that cut short the debate.
The elvish solution was a planned society as rigidly defined as any promulgated by Lolth; the Royal Council instituted a completely regimented career path for all the young elves approaching maturity designed to protect and preserve as much of the elvish culture as had survived.
Any who had shown the slightest potential for Spellweaving was apprenticed to the aging masters of that craft. Of the remainder, any with any talent for any of a dozen arts or crafts or disciplines that had been identified as ‘uniquely’ or ‘characteristically’ Elvish by the committees formed to debate the subject were recruited into a new vocation, the Noletinechor, or “Lore Shields”. Each was then trained intensively in each of these definitive social attributes, and those who did not achieve a satisfactory standard of accomplishment were released back into the general population to contribute to society as they wished.
From their beginnings, the Noletinechor were subjects of considerable controversy amongst the elves. Never had the free-spirited woodland dwellers been subject to such harsh regimentation, and the prospect of being forced into the Noletinechor was hugely unpopular, though the elite few who succeeded in the disciplines were greatly respected – and the subjects of considerable sympathy. They were also the butts of much Elvish humor, which did little to brighten their dispositions; that, when combined with the general hot-headedness of youth, quickly gave the members of the group a reputation for being grim of demeanor and irritable by nature. ‘Prickly… almost Dwarven,’ was the frequent comment, accompanied by a wry smile.
The Noletinechor were artisans, poets, and musicians, craftsmen of the highest caliber. They memorized the 1145 songs that had been identified as ‘Fundamental expressions of Elvishness’, they learned the 7 musical modes and 173 forms of dance that were ‘definitively’ Elvish, and were educated, in as much detail as possible, in the history of the Elven peoples. His role in that history made Corellan himself another vital field of knowledge that the Noletinechor had to master. They became, almost by definition, the experts on elvish rituals and social customs, the keepers and protectors of the legacy of an entire cultural development.
They were not warriors.
The Second Great Dwarfwar: Beginnings, Boundaries and Confrontations
Having safeguarded the things that made them Elvish, the learned bodies that had created the Noletinechor had turned to the pressing question of protecting their borders. While it was recovering, the forests held little of interest to outsiders, and as yet the Fallen races did not realize that the Elven lands were now unprotected; neither situation could last. The forest had bloomed with new foliage years earlier, but the trees were just trees; they had not yet been awakened and assimilated into Elvarheim. An invisible line within the Forest demarked the territory of the Elves. Nevertheless, since the new growth formed a connecting corridor between Elvarheim and the huts of the Amrunquessor, which lay between the forests and the mountaintop dwellings of the Calquessir, there was periodic travel through the new growth.
The first indication that their grace period had expired was when one such pair of travelers, named Arudrial and Denowyn, found that many of the trees in the vicinity of Mount Elrozi had been cut down and the timber removed.
The travelers first blamed Ogres, seeking timber for their seige apparatus, or other members of the Fallen Races, seeking lumber for construction, woodworking, or bonfires. But when the scene was surveyed by the experienced Pathfinder Therialas, the true culprits were identified.
Therialas had been a tenderfoot warrior, barely adult, during the confrontation over the Prince Of Lies affair. Now a very respectable 549 years of age, he was the greatest tracker in all Elvarheim; but even with all his experience, it was no easy task to cross the five-hundred-and-ten year gulf since the last time he had seen the imprint of a Dwarven Boot. Nevertheless, he achieved the task and duly reported to the Council that undoubtedly, the footprints he had seen were those of Dwarvenkind.
This posed a new challenge for the Council to debate; the Elven lands had never had any formalized borders, and while the Living Forest of Elvarheim was clearly their domain, protected and nurtured and shaped by Spellweaving, the trees that had been felled were… just trees. Could they truly claim this as part of the Elven realm? Should they? Was this really a cause, a justification, for war?
Ultimately, the decision rested on a very human perspective, viewed through a very Elvish perspective. Instead of their normal pragmatism, the decision was founded on sentiment and emotion; many Elves had died protecting the trees that had previously occupied that region, and with their long lives, that was an even more poignant sacrifice. Further, it was a connecting corridor between the habitats of the differing branches of the Elven people. Finally, there remained the suspicion that there might be another force behind the Dwarven Incursion; Calquessir divinations had long ago revealed the connection between the Drow and the assaults by the Fallen Races, and there was the potential that this was simply more of the same.
And so it was resolved that the Elves would seek reparations for the damages, and for the incursion, and would offer to negotiate forest management for the Dwarves. A trade agreement would benefit both – in comparison to the alternative. A delegation was assembled for the purpose and given careful instruction by the ‘Dwarven Expert’ from the Council.
The Elvish delegation approached the entrance to the Dwarven mines with caution; they were used to the forests of Elvarheim, which were ringed with layer apon layer of defenses. What they were seeing as they approached was nothing but unspoiled wilderness, save for a large spoil heap – a small mountain, if truth were told – filling a valley next to the entrance with rubble. The closer they came to the unsealed, unguarded entrance, completely out in the open, the more nervous they became.
Their caution approached paranoia as they examined the silver-plated steel girders that framed the entrance, and the delicately-carved runes inset across the entrance. “Ring The Gong,” pronounced an Elf who was learned in the Dwarven script, “and wait.” A scout warily approached the entrance, and found a large bronze gong mounted to the ceiling on one side, just beyond the portal, with a hammer on the ground next to it. Warily, the scout picked up the hammer and struck the gong gingerly.
He was completely unprepared for the massive swell of ringing bells that sounded from the enchanted device, and fled back to the remainder of the party. It was clear that the Elvish hearing was more sensitive – it could almost be said, more delicate – than that of the Dwarves. In the distance, even removed some small way from the entrance, the party could clearly hear other bells relaying the summons into the shafts of shaped stone.
While they waited, the Elves examined the workmanship of the portal more thoroughly, and were increasingly impressed. The lines might be rigid and straight, and broadened to resist weathering from the elements, but the edges were crisp and sharp, and the decorative shapes were subtle and not without their artistic merit. They might have their own style and a different set of chosen materials, but the Dwarvish artisans were clearly as proficient as any Elven craftsman.
For three days, the delegation waited, while nervousness turned to anxiety, and anxiety to boredom, and boredom to irritation, and all the guidance of the council became a distant memory.
If you climb too quickly from deep under the ground to the surface, you forget how to breathe right. Weaklings die from it. You have to be slow, and patient, and take time for your body to remember how to breathe thin air. Even more if the surface is high in the mountains. Elves don’t dig deep, not like Drow, so they don’t know this. Stupid of them.
But eventually, the patience of the delegation was rewarded. A small group of Dwarves exited the tunnels and took up a defensive posture, weapons drawn and at the ready, lips curled in thinly-disguised contempt. They were followed by a Dwarf dressed in somewhat better fashion, with gems and gold practically dripping from his clothing and personal effects.
“We have come to discuss the unlawful destruction of Elvish trees by your kind without our leave. The forest is ours, and you have harmed it, cutting down that which belonged to the Elvish nation and carting it away. We demand the oath of you and all your kind that this will not happen again, and we demand wergild for those trees whose voices you have stilled,” began the leader of the Elvish delegation.
“Hear me, Elf: we want none of your sickly and twisted forest. That which we cut down and removed belonged to none, the trees were good and healthy and unprotected, and we will take as much of the lumber as we want or need. Go back and tell your scrawny little King that neighbors are polite to each other, and if he wants to discuss things in a civil manner, he must kiss my boot in apology. We have learned our lessons from your kind, and will never be as helpless again as we were when they drove us from our homes. Who do you think you are, to make demands of The Clans?”
“We are those who were injured, whose lands were violated, the party wronged – that is who we are, and the source of our demands. You are the one who will apologize, for your actions, for the actions of your kind, and for your disrespect toward the King of Elves. Withdraw your ridiculous request and apologize, and we will discuss fair recompense for the slaughter of the outlying forest; refuse and a state of war will exist between our nations!”
“Kiss my Braided Beard, you poncy snob. We’ll give you more war than you can stomach if you set foot in our domain again.”
Thus it was that the Elvish people and the Dwarvish people found themselves at odds once again.
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.
- Noletinechor: “Lore Shields”, an elvish historical vocation
- 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: War, subterfuge, hidden agendas, festering resentments, and the origins of the Huyondaltha as the Second Great Dwarfwar continues in Chapters 18 through 20!