The Great Forest

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The Great Forest

In the northwest of Novitas lies an enormous temperate rain forest that stretches for hundreds of miles. This is the Great Forest, known as Fionn A’ilean (fee-own eye-lean) in the Elvish tongue, and is home of the Wood Elves, or as they call themselves, “The People.” The Elves here live a nomadic, seemingly carefree, existence. They are hunter-gatherers who routinely move through the forest in large familial clans, uprooting themselves with regularity so as to not strain the resources of one patch of forest for too long.

The Wood Elves of the Great Forest are generally perceived by outsiders as chaotic and loosely organized. Typical Wood Elves dislike the staid attitudes of the Earthkin, get along well with Faekin, respect Drakes, and laugh at the so-called “Walled” Elves from Evenandra. For the most part they judge everyone else on their individual merits. Their dress tends towards earth tones and simple lines – mostly browns and greens with natural themes. Ostentatious material goods and clothing are seen as more burdensome than valuable. Indeed, the nobility of Fionn A’ilean wear clothing whose decoration only matches a high elven commoner by comparison. Their warriors tend to use missile weapons, bows, or dual swords, and avoid heavy armor.

History

There is a song that The People sing about their history and the coming to Fionn A'ilean. Below are excerpts from the Edda's common translation:

A History of The People
Gods-winds swept to Godspeed. Godswept survivors to the Gods-home perfect.
Stewards set free upon the land.
Gifted six god-homes; all but the one. Wild-kept was to be the Elemental's Forest.
There was she grounded. Beloved holy grove.
Her forestsong - Cycles of creation. Cycled into destruction. God-home heartbeat.
Nature's perfect fury withheld.
Glacier, her ice-hard resolve. Tested. Given form.
Firestorms, goddess' wrath, held this way. Held at bay. Her flame would end the Gods-War, and more...

The original settlers of the Scholar's City were primarily men and elves of Andaranien stock. A great many stayed. There is an ancient legend telling of the pact left by the Scholar. Men and elves of Nalben were bound to hold the pact sacred as their part for keeping the Gods-home:

“In staying you take this vow. All designs lay encoded here. The Sigil Stone harnesses the Well. The Runescript holds the Center. The Center holds the land. The Center is the Well. Two are one. Keep them forever one.”
~Lore of the Ancients, Vol. 2. Chap. 4

In the time before the Avatar War, the Elemental's Grove was cordoned off by powerful and almost unimaginably complex wards, known to be anchored somewhere within the levels of the Library City. After the sundering of Nalbendel the First Martriarch, Bethanael, led the survivors into the Elemental's Grove. The elves were the first of The People, and although there were a few human settlements early in those days most taxed the land too steeply and had to leave Fionn A'ilean or risk disturbing its delicate balance. Now The People live within the Great Forest and keep it wild and unharmed, as best they can, as the pact required. The elves arrived with nothing, in a place where mortal feet had never strayed, and under their Matriarchs became the keepers of two sacred duties: to preserve The People, and to preserve the Great Forest. In the eyes of elven elders the two goals have become one.

In the pursuit of the preservation of The People and the Great Forest, the desire for material gain or conventional technological progress fell by the wayside. A tight community sprung forth, with a lively oral tradition for the keeping of histories and lineages. The need to live in the moment and experience every heartbeat joyfully sprung from a time when they had little hope and great responsibility. Rather than fade, or become corrupted by grief, they sang and played at every opportunity. Possessions faded away. Life and love had to reign, and reign it does. The unquenchable spirit of elven kind lives on.

Cultural Values

The People work their hardest to live in the moment, refusing to fret over the horrors of the past, or to be anxious about what the future might bring. Nature is seen as the quintessential form of this present-minded lifestyle, as the beasts in the field do not weep over their childhoods, and the trees prepare for winter without worrying over it. Harmony with nature and accepting its wildness is thus at the core of the Wood Elven being. They live, love, and protect the natural world as a part of themselves. Their existence and that of the Great Forest are intertwined. One's quality of life is seen as a paramount pursuit.

Wood Elves are typically willing to share their culture and lifestyle with anyone. They are open to outsiders moving in and living with them, so long as they are willing to adopt the Wood Elven way of life. The Wood Elven lifestyle is nomadic, but given the elven lifespan, that could mean a Lodge may stay in one place for several years or even into decades before moving on. As a matriarchal society, the Clan Matrons consult with Druids to determine when and where to move before they tax the local resources beyond immediate recovery. It is the tendency of Wood Elves to take the long view. Practices that result in lowest impact on their surroundings are favored as common wisdom, though there is more to that particular history than meets the eye of common travelers.

The People organize by familial clans in Lodges, Clans, or Tribes. The categorization of a group tends to depend more on the non-elven observer's language than a Wood Elf's own. The People are an exceedingly family oriented race. Children born out of wedlock are common and bear no particular stigma. Family lines are matrilineal, so children stay with their mothers whenever such a question might be raised. When Wood Elves decide upon a Life Partner (marriage) it doesn't necessarily mean monogamy either.

It is important to note that Wood Elves consider themselves and their High Elven relatives as a single people. They use the same language, consider each others lineages valid, and commonly address each other as “Cousin”. Wood Elves tends to make the small distinction by referring to The People (themselves) and The Walled People (High Elves).

There is little crime to be found in the Great Forest. The People generally consider greed to be at the root of evil acts. Jealousy, theft, unfair exchanges - all of these things can be tracked back to covetousness. Wood Elves have not forgotten the time of their exodus to Fionn A’ilean.

It is the general view of the Wood Elf that members of other races obviously couldn't be as happy or content as they themselves are. Indeed how could anyone be happy while tied to a single location or content laboring in support of a lifestyle measured only in material goods and wealth?

Religion

The People of the Great Forest worship the Sept, but in a most informal way. Their religious observances tend to resemble parties more than services, and Wood Elves are not identified by outsiders as particularly pious. This isn't an indication of a lack of faith or reverence for The Seven. The Wood Elven lifestyle is such that it integrates the will of the Seven in every aspect of life, and creating a structured division between times of worship and “the rest of life” is seen as most unnatural. There is thus nothing resembling an organized church in Fionn A’ilean. . Wood Elf Septons are very uncommon, and when a Wood Elf does take the lead to gather others in worship, it is done organically in a shamanic fashion. Some clans go as far as to refer to the gods with representative animal names. Festivals for the gods occur, but they are worked in around festivals for gathering seasonal foodstuffs or hunting seasons. Stories about the gods are passed along via the oral tradition, with very little written down. In short, Wood Elven culture is not designed around the gods, it simply integrates them into a rather fluid culture.

Since the Wood Elves left the ruins of the Library City to come to Fionn A’ilean, only a precious few have been recognized as Chosen by the Gods. Those that do give up name and family, no mere feat, and adopt the calling they sense in the will of the Gods. Seeker, Guardian, Searcher, and Servant are a few of the names they have called themselves in the few generations since the Avatar War.

While not a religious practice per se, it should be noted that many of The People become druids. Druids are seen with much the same reverence as a Septon would be elsewhere due to their incredible sense of oneness with nature. Over decades of living so closely with the trees and natural creatures, nearly everyone with latent druidic talent has had the opportunity to explore it. Druids fill a vital role in Wood Elven society. They can communicate intimately with the land and sense its needs. They are able to tell whether the clan is beginning to overtax a region and can help guide the matriarch to new grounds. Druids can speak to the trees and convey messages between clans as well. This talent lends itself to another purpose as well – the impromptu militaristic force comprised of rangers, known as Wildrunners. The role of the Wildrunner is a sacred duty and considered with some reverence, and will be covered in the discussion about the military of the Great Forest.

Economy

Wood elves have structured their society in such a way that no city would be considered a trade center or capital. Most Wood Elves live in small mobile villages and temporary farming settlements. As such, there is not a buildup of central wealth or a desire for more than can be carried, or at most buried in small cairns to be recovered several decades later. This is done as in the case of the occasional anvil or weapon cache – items too bulky to be moved from place to place with any efficiency. There is little equating a cash economy. Barter is common, profiteering is rare, and group property ownership is the norm. Long-standing property debts, such as they are, are traditionally forgiven on a 49 year cycle.

For the most part The People practice cottage industry on a system of barter with the outside world. Wood carvers, bowyers, and leather workers peddle handcrafts. Herbalists and those particularly skilled in woodscraft provide drugs, river fish, hunted meats, fur, leathers, herbs, and medicines to fill the wagons of returning Civenite caravans. In general they trade for complex weapons, although some clans have traditional master-smiths practicing the arts handed down from Nalbendel.

A given Wood Elf pursues a trade on its own merit for the benefit of all, and not to accumulate personal wealth. Bartering is not done in order to exchange value for value, but instead to give value where value is needed. Wood Elves are naturally compelled to ply whatever trade suits them for the betterment of their community, and thus the typical problems in a barter economy do not arise (e.g., What percentage of a cow do I need to give you for a new coat?)

Magic is an industry all its own and spell casting is considered a part of regular tradecraft. Alchemy is a common discipline as the portable nature of elixirs and balms suits Wood Elves well. There is an abundance of Alchemical supplies within the Great Forest and the extracts of the plants and fungi are the nation’s chief export, when the need arises to procure items that do not occur naturally within the Forest. Some in the cities scoff at the idea of Wood Elves and their “stump alchemy” but few can deny the quality and efficacy of Alchmical products coming out of the Great Forest.

Military

The Elves of Fionn A’liean have no standing army. They have no fortresses or barracks. There is no individual city to defend or paved road to patrol. While not intentionally designed this way, this organic and fluid structure has been the ultimate deterrent to would-be invaders. Since value is not stored in central locations (e.g., no vault for gold), outside intelligence agencies have historically labeled the Great Forest as a location unfit for imperial conquest. What has gone largely unseen, however, is the fierce defensive force that advancing armies would meet if they tried.

Wildrunners are Elves who have taken up the mantle of the wild. They are rangers who move singly or in groups of twos and fives among the forest and keep the borders safe. The Great Forest is by no means secure in the traditional sense. The border is quite permeable, really. Setting foot into Fionn A’liean, however, will inevitably rouse a nearby Wildrunner, who will begin to contact his comrades in ways unlike those of any other people.

Wildrunners are more often than not Druids, and as such they can communicate with others faster than a hawk can fly. Some can travel through the magical lines of force within the earth, and are reported to be able to disappear from plain view with a word or less. All are masterful archers and skilled with woodcraft. Many are experts in trapsetting and sabotage.

Rarely will survivors from forest raids ever be able to report how many Wildrunners they encountered or even where.

These specialists don’t face an enemy directly. Instead, they spoil the invaders’ taste for war by whittling down its numbers with arrows in the dark and carefully laid traps. Enemies that prove willing to suffer such attrition find their commanders dead upon waking. Wildrunners continue this guerrilla combat until it becomes apparent that whatever plunder or land was hoped to be claimed won’t be worth it. Without treasure to steal or infrastructure to claim, invasion isn’t worth the cost. While their numbers would not overwhelm the Legions of Civen on an open battlefield, their abilities within the wood make each Wildrunner worth many times as many invading soldiers, and those who have briefly considered pillaging the reclusive Wood Elven settlements have each learned this the hard way.

As a defensive force, the Wildrunners more than meet the needs of the People. Individual Wildrunners are highly trained and self-sufficient. They are efficient, patient, wily foes, and their ability to move quickly, coupled with an ability to communicate and coordinate nearly instantly puts them at a distinct advantage to any within their borders. There is no known count of Wildrunners.

Places of Interest

Cedarhaven

Few visitors to Fionn A’ilean ever go further than Cedarhaven. There roams a community of Elven seaside dwellers who broker most of the Great Forest's trade with the outside world. There is a very small human village there, with an actual tavern, a wheelwright, and a permanent well. The Elven people migrate back and forth every season up and down the coast around Cedarhaven working the seasonal resources. Of all The People, those living near Cedarhaven are most known for their gift-giving and generosity. No visitor there is ever denied a meal or a warm pallet.

Germinas

After the War of the Avatars there were a few surviving human communities that settled in the Great Forest. Germinas was once one of them. Left by their Elven neighbors to live within the small confines of their settlement, The People granted them their complete autonomy. Tragically, through internal strife, betrayal, and necromancy, Germinas fell into a local war. While the threat was contained, the corruption of Germinas stands as an example used by some Matriarchs to do more than dissuade The People from considering a more settled lifestyle, but to consider humans as dangerously unstable and corruptible.

Silverleaf

While no more built up than any other region in the Great Forest, Silverleaf is the closest thing to a seat of power that the Wood Elves hold with. Should one desire to arrange a council of matriarchs at the Ancient Grove, they start here. Clan Silvertree roams Silverleaf and due to their far reaching familial connections, someone there knows a member of nearly each “house” and clan within Fionn A’ilean.

Verdur’ Kash

The warmest, most lush heart of the Great Forest hosts the tranquil community of Verdur' Kash. Verdurans, the Elemental's Children, reside here in their greatest numbers. The People now live among them, warm blooded Elves and sentient plants as neighbors. The Verdurans are a noble, patient, nearly undying people. There are no finer herbalists or woodcrafters known. There are Verdurans that remember eons before The People arrived, and being slow to accept change, have only just begun to accept that Elvenkind may be here to stay.

Ilian

Illian is unique among the regions of Fionn A’ilean. The People dwelling here have adopted a less nomadic lifestyle that is deeply bound to the sea. It is rumored that they have become so tuned to the tides and migrations of aquatic species that their Druids speak to the spirits of the sea itself, coaxing leviathons into prowling the waters sinking boats without a Druidic chaperone. They trade pearls, alchemical supplies, and molded shell implements to their sister clans in the Great Forest.

Redbark

In the northern reaches of Fionn A’ilean rises cold, rugged stony hill country. The People choosing the dwell there endure near constant border pressure from lesser-known Gershan feudal lords. Wildrunners from this region are largely considered the most dour and aggressive. Given their increased exposure to the worst climate and most bloodthirstly neighbors, this is understandable. Additionally Cold-Ironwood grows in the Redbark Reaches and can be wrought by Verduran craftsmen into weapons nearly as strong as steel.

Elven Views of other Species and Groups

Faekin

Elves tend to be entirely accepting of Faekin and see no problem with fae-mixed heritage. In Elvish, the word “Touched”, when used with a positive inflection, refers to the Faekin as in “Fae-Touched”.

High Elves

The Elves see themselves as one people. This is something human cultures sometimes have a difficult time understanding. Among Elves there are two very different ways of life and either tends to be embraced fully. The Wood Elves, primarily the descendants of the Elven peoples of Nalbendel, accept High Elves as distant cousins. Among the leading matriarchal families they refer to other Elves formally as “Cousin”, especially when greeting High Elves. Due to the rigid caste structure of Evenandren society, some High Elves choose to relocate to the Fionn A’ilean and they are welcomed among their forest-dwelling counterparts.

Humans

Humans are seen as short lived and wildly varied. Savvy humans sometimes grow tired with being spoken to slowly, or in simple language the way many talk to children, but generally the elves mean no offense. Human beings grow old and die before a newborn elven child will reach what is considered adulthood (even though they will have advanced physically and mentally through adolescence at the same rate as humans), and The People will often consider the human mind childlike. Given this understanding, humans are judged on individual character and accomplishments. It is often a point of fascination that humans seem able to learn complex skills like magic and combat. Though while humans can develop incredible competency, they almost never learn the accompanying grace that ought to go with such mastery.

Slaves

There is no slavery in the Great Forest. Among the common Elves living there, the practice is a foreign concept. When they first hear about slavery reactions tend to be mixed, but follow along a central theme: the practice is viewed as repugnant. Wildrunners are educated as to the basic concept of slavery and are charged to liberate slaves without exception. Typically this action is followed by an offer of folding any of the freed into the society should they be willing. Those wishing to make their way in the Freelands often try to make their start in Elfmeet.

Snow-Goblins

The history between Wood Elves and Snow-Goblins is fraught with complexity. They have no love for each other and hardly have any formal trade relationships. In Wood Elven in the oral tradition, Snow-Goblins are typically referred to as “The Tainted”. This reference stems from their common ancestry and the corruption of the Goblin people at the time of the Seal of Wahkarn's breaking. The violent, ostentatious, and slave-driven culture of the Gershians places them psychologically and culturally at odds with each other more often than not.

Terrans

The general view of Earthkin can summed into three words: covetous, greedy, and wasteful. Wood Elven-Terran friendships are uncommon since their many of their most sacred cultural values and views on the nature of antisocial behavior are fundamentally opposed. Wood Elves view greed as one of the basest impulses and often track the roots of destructive practices back to it. The pursuit and acquisition of material wealth is generally judged as the root of all evil.

The Undead

Most Wood Elves have no regular encounters with the undead. As such, they tend to feel bad for undead, but don’t hate them. Generally zthey pity such creatures. These Elves view undead destruction as a gruesome but necessary way to send restore balance. In a sense, the culture sees destroying undead as a kindness. While undead are pitied, necromancers who defile the dead and create undead are scorned by all.

Relationships with other Countries

The Freelands

Freelanders hold a special place in the hearts of the Matriarchs. These are the people who either survived or have resettled into the lands once inhabited the The People and the Children of Man. Fionn A’ilean is where The People reside now, but it was not always so. It is a lawless place and can be brutal to the point of hopelessness for some Wild Elven visitors. In other ways it represents hope as humans, terrans, the Touched, and even Elves are able to make lives for each other there. Wildrunners on the path of advancement often spend a few years there learning the ways of outsiders, so much the better to do their duties after they return to The Forest.

Empire of Civen

The Civenite humans are an enigma. They trade fairly with Fionn A’ilean but they sell themselves into servitude to each other. They fight well but they do it in straight lines. They are short lived but master many crafts and magics. Everything they do seems to be effective yet graceless. Many human merchants from the southern coast travel through the Freelands to trade in Cedarhaven for alchemical supplies and uncommon woodcraft. The Civenite obsession with coins is a curious thing. There are earthenware pots full of Civenite coins given originally as bribes and tips that sit buried waiting for adventurous young Elves to carry into other lands as they seek adventure.

Dellin Tribelands

Barbarians coming down from the tribelands with any business other than looking for a fight are rare. Occaisionally a Wildrunner will happen across an escaped slave, or a tribal healer seeking rare herbs, but otherwise the wild humans are seen as a consistent source of violence. A few Elven Clans have established trade with some of the more diplomatic tribes, and these relationships are encouraged and cultivated carefully. It is hoped that with enough positive reinforcement that the Dellins might become a more interesting and approachable people in the future.

Realm of Evenandra

Evenandra is the sister nation to Fionn A’ilean. When our cousins among the Walled Elves find that the pressure of perfection or the stagnation of their castes become too much to bear they are welcomed into the clan of their choosing. It was not so long ago — a mere four or five centuries — that Nalbendel and Evenandra were peers in art and culture and many recall their grandparent’s tales of hosting their noble cousins within their homes.

Kingdom of Gersh

Relations with the Tainted are almost nonexistent. As a race the Snow Goblins are the living embodiment of the corruption and malice the Dark Three bleed into the world. There is no trade between Fionn A’ilean and Goblinkind because there is no fairness to be found. There are Wildrunners permanently assigned to the northern border where diplomacy is regularly conducted at arrowpoint.

Kingdom of Terra

Terran philosophies and those of The People are hard pressed to be more opposed. The Great Forest sees little trade with its southern neighbor. There is simply no need for the heavy trappings of comfort that the Terrans provide. There is no other people on Novitas who are more sedentary and inflexible than the Terran people, so while no hostility exists between them their relations are not considered friendly. Wildrunners observe little of a watch on the Terran side and generally leave the way between open to what traffic, if any, exists.

Theocracy of Vlean

The Theocracy is so closed off and oppressive that The People at large have no desire to trade or travel there. No Vleanoan envoy has made more than perfunctory contact with the Great Forest in decades. It is known that the Vleanoan Septons are ruthless in their hunting down and extermination of The Touched and any Touched Vleanoan refugee is welcomed at the Forest’s edge with open arms. The idea of a strict hierarchy that enforces a peasant class on the edge of starvation while pouring wealth into the Church is such a violation of The People’s core principles that it’s existence is considered to be wild rumor.

Other Information (Unsourced)

In the northwest of Novitas lies an enormous forest that stretches for hundreds of miles. This is the Great Forest, Fionn A’ilean in the Elvish tongue, home of the Wood Elves. Here the elves live a nomadic, and largely carefree, existence. They are hunter-gatherers who routinely move through the forest in large familial clans, uprooting themselves with regularity so as to not strain the resources of one patch of forest for too long.

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