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The History of the Sylvan Elves
The Final Forest (ca. -2985 to present)

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Years of travel had been hard on the sylvans. One summer found them traversing a dense, pristine forest. It was an impressive wood, complete with streams, old-growth trees and bountiful game. As they passed beneath its expansive canopy, walking through banks of ferns that reached to the waist, the sylvans began to covertly consider the notion that they might finally be at the end of their great trek. At first, the idea was merely mentioned in passing over a campfire, or by way of sharing idle chat while watering the travois beasts. Gradually, it grew into an item of conversation, and as the hundreds of sylvans crossed the forest floor, leaving hardly a footprint, they began to map the wood with a growing desire to finally settle.

The forest was vast, populated with both deciduous and evergreen trees. This wood extended from the western borders of a river that would eventually mark the boundary between the wood and the human empire, to the rocky slopes of the DragonSpine Mountains on the eastern perimeter. The sylvans named the river on the western boundary of the forest Andemyon, meaning the Edge of All. They explored in all directions, finding mile after mile of rich, healthy forests with trees so tall, they dwarfed the heights recorded for the trees that had once sheltered the fabled city of Ithnishmyn. The sylvans were cautiously pleased.

Eventually, as the sylvans delved deeper into the fabulous wood, they discovered a wide swale of silver-leafed aspens. This expanse of trees was mysterious and magical in nature. They marveled at such a discovery. This was the epitome of everything they had imagined and hoped to find during the years they had journeyed: a wood, spanning hundreds of miles, with a semi-sentient nature at its core and a deep resonance coursing through its roots. The sylvans passed through the forest, careful to observe all reverences in order to lessen the impact of their crossing.

They were not prepared for what they found within the guardian perimeter. Passing through the beautiful silver-leafed trees, they emerged into a forest of immense modwirs. The trees appeared to be as old as the mountains flanking their eastern edges, certainly the oldest living things the sylvans had ever examined with their intrinsic understanding of these matters, and the travelers were amazed.

They spread out to explore, traversing the modwir forest in groups, then rejoining at dusk to compare stories of what they had found. The forest's bounty of herbs, ferns and roots, not to mention the huge trees themselves, was a rich discovery. Added to that, trails created by deer and other animals wended through the wood in abundance. Finally arriving at the forest's heart, the sylvans found seven colossal trees growing in a lopsided ring.

The trees were huge, larger than any the sylvans had ever seen. As they walked beneath the giants, they marveled at the age and power coursing through the ancient boles and roots. Within the first week of finding the trees, the sylvans held a ceremony dedicating the forest to their patron goddess, pledging to guard it for all time. This forest they promised never to forsake, no matter what the provocation.

After consulting the local forest spirits, they called the forest Yuriqen, or Trees of the Sky alluding to the leviathan height of the modwirs. Initial construction was begun, aimed at gaining access to the lower branches, as these towered hundreds of feet above the forest floor and were wide enough to accommodate two or three sylvans walking abreast. An elaborate system of stairs was designed, and as the sylvans gained access to the forest canopy, they began construction of elegant dwellings and promenades. They began to build a city that would surpass any that their ancestors had created before.

As the vaulted heights of Yuriqen's dwellings rose amidst the branches, sunlight blessed the expanses of canvas and the clouds caressed the facile ramparts. Never was a city more integrated within its surroundings, embracing the trees that gave it support. Graceful domiciles extended upwards, spanning hundreds of feet, and walks bordered with ivy and other flowering vines wound their way along the tops of wide, mossy branches. Gradually, different disciplines found refuge in individual trees, their members discerning a concentration of specific magical energy within each of the giant modwirs.

Yuriqen was everything and more than the sylvans could have imagined. Plants growing beneath the leviathans matured faster and more bountifully than anywhere else they had known. Songbirds filled the expansive canopy overhead. The city grew as years passed, and the winters seemed mild and forgiving beneath that beneficial cloak of aromatic needles. The sylvans prospered within the shade of Yuriqen, and they gave thanks to the underlying energy that fueled their prosperity.

As the population grew, the D'ahranals, having been only nominally influential during the years of travel, began to wield greater power, quickly growing to their former authority. They gradually assumed control of various sections of the sylvan city. And guilds within the three D'Ahranals, present in the old days but lacking much influence, came into their own. Additionally, a fourth D'Ahranal was born, called the Lassaran. This group was initiated by and primarily composed of individuals who embraced the habit of venturing away from the home forest in search of groups or family members who had been separated from the main host and lost in the past.

Yuriqen grew into a city, both from the standpoint of territory and population, and in doing so, the councilors and leaders of the D'Ahranals became aware that its borders needed protection. Never again would they take the chance that outsiders would find them and force another march. A border guard was established. Called Ne'Yuscarl, it was composed of elite archers and woodsmen found among the existing sylvan army. A perimeter ring was identified, threading through the outer edge of the aspens in a trail that marked the sylvan perception of their boundaries. The Ne'Yuscarl constructed camoflaged lookout platforms in the trees along this ring, and prepared to mount a perennial watch.

Fighting was infrequent along the border of the Veil, called thus as an abbreviation of 'Silver Veil', as the sylvans named the aspen forest. By the end of the second century, the distinguished Ne'Yuscarl had enough members to monitor the entire area between the forest's edge and the outer perimeter of the Veil. And thus, in most cases, they were able to turn away any rare human intruders long before they reached that boundary.

However, as a added deterrent, led by the great sylvan mage Ranilyn Sigheart, a 'working' was accomplished, using new and ingenious methods she developed. A magical rite that lasted days preceded the spell's invocation. As Ranilyn spoke the final words of the spell, energy coursed through the trees, streaking through the trunks and curling its way though the rich dark soil beneath the trees. She and her cadre of associate mages had succeeded in placing a powerful warding magic within the roots and boles of the aspens of the Veil. This magic was not deadly; instead it inflicted a disarming confusion upon any soul who entered the wood without knowing the sister incantation. Called 'Rithowan', the second spell turned the effects of the former from disorientation to a heightened awareness and perception. All members of the Ne'Yuscarl were taught the Rithowan upon initiation to the Guard. Only a handful of mages, though, were considered strong enough to periodically refresh the effectiveness of the 'Nanrithowan', as the warding portion of the magic was called.

The renewal of Nanrithowan's power grew into a bi-annual celebration. Held in the month of Olaesta as the aspens were donning their beautiful raiment of leaves, the festival offered entertainments by actors, bards, jugglers, dancers and musicians, as well as a sumptuous feast. Lasting well into the early hours of the following morning, the festivity was characterized by all manner of capriciousness and foolery, symbolizing the effect of Nanrithowan's magic.

Yuriqen was a bountiful protector, and the sylvans lived within its embrace in harmony. The seven trees each became a specialized center, with residences, shops and temples. Promenades arched through the heights, their sides protected by thick ropes of braided vines. The widest part of the great oval created by the trees' placement extended east to west. Sitting at the center of the oval's northern side was the largest of the modwirs, a giant called Yr'Thrumh. The only one of the giants to have stairs that reached the ground, the tree was dedicated to the 'Circle,' or loosely, the combination of all things and all energy contained in the world and the power encompassed by that whole. Here was found an expansive central plaza, its edges ringed by impressive residences. The high council met within one of these, as did the high congress of the D'ahranals. Also within Yr'Thrumh was the great hall of the Kytawa, its entry guarded by two towering sculptures of pelicans, with arched necks pointing their beaks toward the ground, as though to inspect anyone entering the dwelling.

Traveling to the east across the graceful hanging bridges, one reached the next modwir, called Yr'Tael. This tree's symbol was the sunrise, for it guarded the east. Within its vast branches were found many scholars and halls of learning, for the magnificent Temple of the Dawn was located within the tree's highest branches. Not surprisingly, there were a number of schools offering clerical instruction to be found in Yr'Tael. The breathtaking morning view of the DragonSpine peaks glistening in the dawn's light from the bridges of Yr'Tael was a common subject for sylvan artists.

To the southeast of Yr'Tael was Yr'Nyx, a popular location featuring much of the city's loveliest architecture, since Yr'Vyx was the home of the dance, a symbol of all things artistic and fine. Not surprisingly, the Fresiawn was to be found in the branches of this modwir, along with many shops offering musical instruments, artwork and apparel.

Yr'Vara stood southwest of Yr'Nyx, its wide avenues named for all aspects of the realm of dreams. For dreams was this tree's symbol. While no D'ahranal had built a great hall there, the tree was a center for poetry and literature, and featured both libraries and book merchants in abundance. It was also a favored haunt of lovers of all ages, since its paths and bridges were considered the loveliest in Yuriqen, and in many cases the most shadowed and private.

Sitting west of Yr'Vara was Yr'Shryv. It was ironic that this tree sat in closest proximity of Yr'Vara, with its lovers and romance. For the symbol for Yr'Shryv was the Otherlife, or death in some interpretations. Here were found the dwellings of those specializing in the embalming arts, as well as sylvans who were known as seers and soothsayers. Academies for mages and sorcerers also made a home within the branches of Yr'Shryv, and many small shops offered various charms and incantations for all manner of uses, such as to ward off bad luck, or attract a lover's interest. Legends and stories told of the restless souls of departed sylvans, called Others, sometimes walking along the dark, twisting alleys of Yr'Shryv.

In a northwest direction from Yr'Shryv stood the modwir called Yr'Mez. This giant was home to the Tyesterons, and their impressive great hall featured a large practice arena as well as a lofty archery range high within the trees upper reaches. The symbol of Yr'Mez was sunset, and the residences within its branches had a glorious view of the same most evenings. Weapons and archery merchants were numerous along Yr'Mez's wide promenades, and its bridges were wider than any other tree, to allow the frequent passage of militia groups.

Finally, standing between Yr'Mez and Yr'Thrumh was the modwir called Yr'Weth, a tree boasting a symbol meaning life. A large percentage of its residences were family homes, since this tree offered the quietest neighborhoods among the trees of Yuriqen. Included though was the impressive Hall of Healing, a stately dwelling that seemed to capture light and fair breezes. There the sylvan healers were taught their craft. When the Lassarans were granted official D'ahranal status, they built their great hall in Yr'Weth, for to the west stretched the distances that extended the siren call.

While the sylvans were in general a serene, even-keeled people, their social interactions tended to be weighted with all the ceremony and custom they had carried with them through the long years they journeyed across the continent. While various aspects of the social customs had been greatly relaxed during the years of travel, once Yuriqen offered them homes, safety and a comfortable living, the sylvans embraced their ancient traditions. Their extended families were tightly knit and usually large. A family generally lived in one multi-leveled dwelling, and interacted on a constant basis. The raising of children was shared among the household's adults, and aunts and uncles carried as much authority as a child's parents. Familial loyalty was considered almost as important as loyalty to the council and one's D'aharanal. The obligation of bringing honor to the household was considered of paramount importance, and it was one of the first objectives to which a young sylvan pledged oath.

Marriage was more than a union between two sylvans; it was considered a solemn oath that was not to be broken unless all other recourses had been exhausted. During the long years spent journeying to Yuriqen, the union between sylvan individuals often relied, out of necessity, on two individuals choosing each other. In Yuriqen, such unofficial practices soon disappeared. Marriages were usually arranged between families, and were designed to bring about honor for the houses more than to facilitate any sort of romantic alliance. Often two sylvans who were betrothed had never met prior to the engagement ceremony. In some cases, where two households were closely allied, such as ties within a D'aharanal, the attraction of a suitable sylvan youth to a likewise interested girl was deemed auspicious, and the betrothal of the two combined both political and emotional goals. Ultimately, the happiness of the pair was considered important, but children resulting from the union were the ultimate goal.

The basis of sylvan religion was a faith and attendant ceremonies with Imaera at its heart. Thus, it was logical that a newly married couple resided with the bride's family. The strong, matriarchal chain had sustained the sylvans during their long years of hardship and it stood them good stead in the years of plenty as well. Households welcomed the new grooms into the family, considering them as brothers equal to any man related by blood.

Childbirth was a family affair, a ceremony wherein women of the family cemented their bonds as sisters, mothers and daughters, while they helped the new mother through the painful process. During the labor, the men of the household gathered to tell family stories that reached back through the generations. When the new arrival was announced, the birth was joyfully though quietly acknowledged and, if the labor had been a long one, the household retired to rest. On the sorrowful occasions when either the baby or mother or both did not survive, the family retired and regrouped the following day to mourn together.

Newborns of either sex were appreciated equally. Offspring were given the name of the household in which they were born, and their successes in life honored both parents, as well as the family in which they were raised.

In some instances, a family observed that one of its children preferred a same-sex partner. These individuals were not considered to be any less worthy than others; rather it was viewed as a different, though valid path. The child often communicated this preference to the elders of the household, since nothing was considered wrong about the choice.

In that case, the arrangements for a union were handled identically to those of the other children, although the number of available partners was more limited. While limited choices often meant an alliance that was not deemed as profitable, it was known that the happiness of the prospective marriage partners directly affected the happiness of the household at large, and this meant much more than wealth or political gain. Once a partner was found for the child, the marriage ceremony was celebrated as joyfully as any other marriage. However, in choosing which household the pair would make their home, the details were somewhat more complicated. These negotiations were settled during the betrothal, usually benefiting the more successful household, or else the household that offered the best potential for children. For it was always expected that at least one member of a same-sex union would choose a surrogate partner in order to bring the blessing of a child to the household.

As years of plenty replenished the decimated population of the sylvans, this expectation was relaxed. In later years, bringing honor to a household via service or excellence in a chosen endeavor was viewed as a worthy contribution.

A household was based on the authority of the matriarch, however her mate or a chosen son was expected to join her in making decisions that affected the good of the whole. If the husband of a blood daughter of the household was the best choice to head the family, he was offered the opportunity to assume the important role. The decision of who was to stand as her consort rested with the matriarch. Though typically understated among sylvan families, it was undoubtedly the single most defining symbol of power within the structure of a household.

The sylvans practiced a religion dedicated to Imaera. It celebrated the advent of each season with a rich holiday featuring feast, song and prayer. While sylvans were a conservative people, they embraced life and the joyful living of it with exuberance. The quarterly Holy Days, interspersed with other, lesser holidays, provided a year rich with festivity and spiritual relevance. However, it should be noted that the sylvans always recognized the importance of endings as well as beginnings, and to this end, a second school of worship was recognized, drawing those who wished to dedicated themselves to a darker goddess than Imaera. Recognized throughout sylvan history, from the time of Ithnishmyn to Yuriqen, this conclave worshipped the goddess Gosaena, celebrating her domination of death and the mystery of Otherlife. The acolytes, monks and priestesses of this religious group were easily identified by their grey robes, as well as by their silence.

Compared to the rest of sylvan history over the centuries, recountals concerning the closing of Yuriqen were sketchy. Legends told of a usurping sorcerer who found the city and attacked it by inflicting the Silver Veil with a disease that either defoliated the trees, or else turned their lovely silvery leaves as black as night. While it was more probable, considering the location of the city, that any enemy threatening it would be human, accounts were consistent in describing the assailant as a rogue Faendryl elf. Certainly, the might needed for one individual to threaten such a magically protected stronghold as Yuriqen was considerable.

Myrdanian he was called, and he was reputed to be beautiful of feature, a tall elf with long golden hair and compelling grey eyes. Initially, he approached the sylvans seeking friendship. The fact that he was admitted to the cloistered city gives testament to his compelling personality. He was an admirable intellect as well as an accomplished musician. He played harp as skillfully as any the sylvans had ever heard. As they grew acquainted with him and fell prey to his charisma, the sylvans began to believe that it might be time to drop their walls and seek their lost brethren, the elves.

One ancient councilor among them, Alesanderie by name, sensed his duplicity, and on a moonless night, she crept into his sleeping chamber, determined to breach his mental bastions. Using an influsion of rare forest herbs, she poured a few drops upon his lips as he slept, and incanting a magical spell that worked in tandem with the drug, she beheld the threat of the beast within him. However, the sorcerer awoke and lashed back at the intrusion, and dealt Alesanderie a mortal blow. But she was of sturdy stock, and she lived long enough to regain consciousness one last time and communicate the vision she had of Myrdanian to three of her fellow councilors. This was enough to warn her people.

A few days later, the five most powerful councilors took Myrdanian unaware, binding him with a concentrated version of Nanrithowan, which rendered him senseless. They transported him out of Yuriqen and to the edges of the sylvan forest. While the three councilors who had witnessed Alesanderie's dying visions advocated death to the sorcerer, the others disagreed. Death had never been the sylvan way. So it was decided that Myrdanian be left at the forest's edge until the effects of the spell wore off, a time span that promised to be less than swift.

The sorcerer managed to keep himself alive amidst the torture of weeks of nausea, confusion and disorientation. Then, finding a suitable location on the southern side of the sylvan forest, he began to build a tower.

For years the sorceror waged an onslaught against the sylvans, sending dark magic and foul beasts against them. Finally, in desperation, the sylvans decided to invoke an escalated version of Nanrithowan, a spell that would effectively seal off the city to any further attack, but at the same time, seal in the residents. They had knowledge of a nullification spell, however once they cast the intial spell, they knew they would have no hint of a safe time to work its partner. They would be completely cut off from the rest of the world. The Lassarans were given the choice of leaving Yuriqen or staying. Many chose to leave, seeing it as their destiny to carry sylvan knowledge to bands and families that had been lost during the long, arduous journeys.

These emissaries stealthily departed the Silver Veil and made for the east in search of their kindred, carrying with them the history of Yuriqen.

As orcs and other beasts under the sorcerer's dominion assaulted the sylvans' magical barricades, the preparation of the spell began. It was a fearsome undertaking, for it required the lives of those invoking the magic to seal its conclusion. Seven councilors died invoking the spell. Magic rolled through the forest, enveloping all fel creatures creeping through the trees within its terrible grasp, and they died a torturous death. As dusk settled on the Seven Modwirs, the whole population of Yuriqen stood on the western bridges watching the sun sink below the horizon.

They vowed to hold the forest even though it took isolation for the rest of their lives as well as that of their descendants.

 

 

 



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