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Ta'Ardenai is an Official GemStone IV Document, and it is protected from editing.

Ta'Ardenai is home of the Ardenai elves and one of the five remaining Elven city-states of the former Elven Empire.


City Layout & City-State Information

Located on the northeastern side of Elanith, Ta'Ardenai is the northernmost of the elven nations, and the Ardenai maintain a closeness to the land unmatched by any save the sylvankind. From their rocky coastal shores to their rich, old wood forests to the northern steppes, the Ardenai embrace the natural world around them.

The changes in clime and terrain throughout Ta'Ardenai yield vastly different outlooks throughout the Ardenai, and it is these differences, many believe, that make the Ardenai some of the foremost diplomats in Elanthia; diplomacy training begins at home, navigating the complex relationships between coastal Ardenai, forest Ardenai, and plains Ardenai, and everyone in between (including the sometimes difficult relationships with the local enclave of Vylem).

Geographically speaking, a significant piece of the city-state is comprised of the Dralys'Vaen (most commonly known as the Darkling Wood), which cuts a swathe through the middle of the nation. Numerous smaller forests, woods, and groves dot the remainder, often clustered around the borders and rivers of Ta'Ardenai. The coastal area is rugged and rocky, with two primary rivers that empty into the ocean (Vyr'Rithani and Vyr'Lasvinne), and several smaller rivers and streams criss-crossing the country. The land between the coast and the Darkling Wood is used predominantly for the raising of sheep, roltons, cattle, and other small herd animals. The land is arable, however, so crops are also found here. On the far side of the Darkling Wood, the Ardenai share borders with halflings as the lands turn to colder plains with pockets of valleys, lakes, and forests.

The city of Ta'Ardenai is located within the depths of the expansive Darkling Wood, and it is the main city-sized gathering in the nation, with the majority of Ta'Ardenai being comprised of smaller villages and moderately sized towns. The burghal gnome presence throughout Ta'Ardenai is light, with a small enclave of Nylem near the city itself, and one of Vylem near the coastal city of Lae'Rithani.

Several glacier-formed fjords (the Kariel Fjords) array themselves in the northernmost coastal area of Ta'Ardenai, their deep waters home to numerous unique fish and cold-water coral reefs. Dozens of tiny skerries at the outlet of each fjord make navigation into their waters difficult, and the tall mountains bordering each fjord further protect the waters. Dedicated Ardenai, as well as giantmen and halflings, risk life and limb to visit the fjords as they are considered special, if not sacred, to many. The southernmost fjord, known to the Ardenai as Paelyskari, is also the most accessible, and thus, some small amount of tourism to it is allowed (and often encouraged, as it sates the fjord-mad and thus protects the rest).

Locations of Note in Ta'Ardenai

  • Arelvyr: A medium-sized river flowing out of northern Ta'Ardenai to join with Vyr'Masaein and form Vyr'Lasvinne
  • Drayrrend: A small community in the Darkling Wood just outside the city of Ta'Ardenai proper
  • Echoes of Paldenephi: The location of the Summer Court set upon coastal cliffs where the Glimaelys river ends in a spectacular waterfall. There is no port here, but it is a popular summer tourist location with smaller docks where the cliffs reduce to manageable rocky shores
  • Esthaen Fields: A large farming area bordering the Darkling Wood through which Vyr'Glimaelys flows. There are several small farming villages and hamlets throughout, and it is known for its arable land and herds of darkling wood roltons as well as goats.
  • Kariel Fjords: The collection of fjords in northeastern Ta'Ardenai and beyond
  • Kisthymn: A coastal dale along the southwest of Ta'Ardenai
  • Lae'Lasvinne: A port city on Vyr'Lasvinne in northeastern Ta'Ardenai
  • Lae'Rithani: A port city on the Rithani river
  • Paelyskari: A fjord in the upper reaches of Ta'Ardenai
  • Ta'Ardenai: The main city, located in the Darkling Wood
  • Veskevyn: A garrison along the upper central border of Ta'Ardenai
  • Vyr'Lasvinne: A northeastern river formed when Vyr'Masein and Arelvyr join. The Winter Court is held at this confluence.
  • Vyr'Masaein: A small river coming down the northern mountains to meet with the Arelvyr to create the much larger Vyr'Lasvinne
  • Vyr'Velaquin: A river that flows near the Vernal Court, traversing through the Darkling Wood to the southwestern coast of Ta'Ardenai
  • Vy'Velaquin: A small-sized port town in southwestern Ta'Ardenai

A Note on City-States and the Elven Nations

While originally designed to be independent city-state enclaves with shared land between, this notion of talatien, or "cities of independent cooperation" was quickly abandoned for the more traditional vantael, or "small cooperating kingdoms or nations." The areas surrounding each city-state were claimed in their names, such as "Ta'Ardenai lands" and eventually, the terminology metamorphized into the entire area being called by the city name (such as Ta'Ardenai referring to both the city and to the nation), leading most to continue to refer to them erroneously as city-states.

Archeolinguists specializing in Elven state that the roots of "Ta" as a city prefix are derived from the word "talatien," and they theorize that "Va" would have been the preferred prefix for each nation, but the metamorphosis from city to nation was such that this never took form. Scholars state that had vantael been formed from the beginning, the nations would have been called Va'Loenthra, Va'Ardenai, and so on, but instead, the language naturally evolved to encompass the duality of the "Ta" term. Given that "ta" can also be found in the word vantael, no significant effort to change this has been brought forward (a somewhat pedantic Illistim scribe a few thousand years ago made a name for herself, and a footnote in history, by campaigning for just this. Numerous documents she and her few followers had scribed had to be redone when it was uncovered they had changed the "Ta" to "Va.")

A remnant of this original cooperation, or perhaps a continuation thereof, is the existence of the United City-States Bank seen throughout the elven nations. While there do exist independent, private financial institutions, the predominant banking system is a shared one across the east. Elven financial experts occasionally attempt to convince their peers across Elanith of the virtues of this system in an effort to bring all of Elanith's banking under the singular umbrella of the United City-States Bank, but so far, they have been unsuccessful.


From the smaller villages and hamlets to the capital city of Ta’Ardenai, the Ardenai focus their architecture on creating connections with the environment by cultivating and encouraging nature to meet their needs as opposed to fitting their homes into their surroundings. Many structures use granite or marble in greens, greys, and veined whites as well as a variety of local coniferous and hardwood trees (especially popular is the celaeun for interior design usage). Open walkways and paths meander between buildings, their heights covered with decorative vaults of wild materials.

Flowering vines, moss, and other greenery weave together, forming natural canopies above open balconies, courts, and verandas. Stone columns fashioned in the shape of tree trunks and roots give shape to open gardens, while crystal blue-green streams dance over rock formations as they flow through these verdant terraces. Many buildings incorporate these streams and brooks in their designs, allowing them to trickle through the structures.

Cross and rib-vaulted ceilings made from bent and woven branches and vines blend into the treetops above, their supports adorned with natural tracery, sometimes left open or filled with colored glass to catch the errant beams of light to create a colorful display across the floor below. The ceiling domes are often centered with an oculus surrounded by stone mosaics. Similar to the domes, floors are frequently set with colored stones depicting scenes with historical events, patrons, and nature being prominent themes. Archways are common transitions between sections of buildings and gardens with ogee, trefoil, and multifoil patterns being familiar designs.

Pathways and trails are illuminated by sel'elun, a specially cultivated flower that glows in the dark. The blossom can be found on vines that are guided to grow about tree trunks and branches that border the walkways in Ta'Ardenai. While closed during the day, their pink, peach, and violet petals open as the sun sets, revealing glowing golden honey centers with their natural brilliance brightening the immediate vicinity. In addition to the sel'elun, several varieties of luminous moss flourish along the roots adding their viridian hues to the evening light.

Outside the city of Ta'Ardenai, the buildings are crafted in a wide variety of styles with wood and stone still being the most common materials. Without the protection of the thick trees and greenery of the forests, however, the buildings have less of an open layout. Sturdy walls and tiled or thatched roofs are more practical. While the environment may play a part in the change in architecture, it cannot change the decorative style of the Ardenai. Trees, leaves, and floral themes still abound in carvings, natural artwork, structure, and furniture designs.

A Note on Gardens
A popular trend in Ardenai architecture is the mossery. Ta'Ardenai has several lush mosses, and creating small gardens abundant in a variety of mosses with some accompanying fungi and flowers has become a common occurrence. In some areas, these mosseries are under domed glaesineth, allowing one to be protected by the elements while still enjoying nature's beauty. Seating arrangements are typically natural affairs, such as worn stones and moss-covered stumps.

Woodsgardens are also common, a cultivated area within a nearby wood for an Ardenai to retreat to and relax. While sometimes there are edible items grown here, the focus is more on gathering together the forest's natural flora into a pleasing area of repose.

In areas where greenery is sparse, elaborate stone gardens are also a common sight, often with a nod toward the Geldiran found deeper inland, with wind holes cut in various stones to create windsongs. These, however, are aesthetic and decorative and do not hold the same meanings as the burial grounds.

The Seasonal Courts of Ta’Ardenai

The Ardenai have an elaborate, traveling court system honoring ancestral migratory patterns as seen in The Seasonal Courts of Ta'Ardenai.

Food and Drink

Honoring the bounties of earth and sea, the Ardenai strive to utilize every component of their ingredients, from the simplest seed to the mightiest of antlers, for pure waste indicates a wanton disregard for nature and bodes ill for those who believe in the magicks of the land.

The cuisine of the Ardenai varies depending upon the location of villages themselves, as living off the land may yield more pescatarian offerings along the coastline, whilst those living in the frostier climes may depend on the preservation of meats and grains to satiate their hunger. Before we can study the differences between northern and southern customs, one must observe the similarities that bind this culture through their mutual nourishment from what is available through their migrations from seasonal courts and beyond.

Breaking fasts and midday meals are often enjoyed in a series of small dishes called tasana, the diminutive bites more common than larger meals, as most Ardenai rise with the morning sun to begin their duties which often place them far from the comfort of hearth and home.

For northern Ardenai, palm-sized pieces of dough known as farael are typically cooked over the fire, the mixture of acorn or oat flour simply stirred in a cup or bowl with an egg and water fresh from the nearby stream. Additives are typically a drizzle of honey and a mug of thuja-infused tea, the availability only hampered by the location of the encampment. With more prosperous harvest times, these pockets of bread can be stuffed with mushrooms and herbs, or foraged berries sweetened with honey. The same combinations of grains and forageables are also common in afraen, a type of porridge consumed with small portions, the hearty meals able to sustain them until the next stop.

Southern Ardenai share their northern kin's affinity for dense breads, typically mixing cornmeal or buckwheat with dried kelp before baking. Within mobile encampments, the mixture of flour and kelp is often wrapped in wide lytani leaves then nestled alongside the roaring fire, creating a steamed loaf that is frequently accompanied with evieryl, a mead infused with coffee grounds and cinnamon, staples of a migratory lifestyle. A thick, creamy yogurt called venkael is often consumed during the spring season in the south, their northern cousins typically utilizing the darkling wood sheep's milk to create vencaryn.

After more sparse harvests, the early and midday meals feature more preserved, calorically dense plates such salt-cured chunks of fat-laden elk meat or the cheeks of large saltwater fish served alongside wild rice. Flavorful mixes of edible fungi, birch or pine bark, and berries provide additional nourishment, the forest and fields cultivated to ensure that there is ample sustenance throughout the year.

Northern and southern Ardenai diets are heavily influenced by the location of encampments and the changing seasons, utilizing practices such as dehydrating and brining to ensure harvests can be consumed throughout the harsh winters. Livestock, once they've approached an age where they are unable to assist in farming, are humanely killed and every part utilized for the upcoming winter season. Elk, deer, bison, and domestic animal meat is typically shredded, mixed with local vegetation and animal fats, then dried to create pymael. The preserved discs of meat create an easily transported protein, typically consumed with a barrel of thuja-spiced mead or barley beer. Each family has their own traditions regarding fermentation and preferences for flavors, once again using local ingredients that give each new barrel a unique flavor.

Fish are a staple to the Ardenai diet, freshly caught and consumed in the warmer seasons, or brined in the fall and winter. A preferred method of cooking fish involves encasing the whole fish within layers of dried clay and steaming it over a plank of wood placed askew to the campfire, the encased piece often stuffed with herbs, tea leaves, or kelp to season the fish, the skin rubbed with acorn flour seasoned with amil, a type of wild garlic found in the Darkling Woods. Wild seeds and amaranth are served alongside, either as a rice-like substitute or in a form of a thin cracker, which also serves as a useful vessel for porridge in lieu of cutlery.

The Ardenai, like their cousins the Loenthra and Nalfein, share an affinity for wine, utilizing vertical farming techniques to coax varieties of grapes to spread across tree trunk to tree trunk, creating a natural canopy across the encampment. Cordials infused with florals and berries are often gifted for celebrations, while meads fermented with unique honeys presented at coming-of-age ceremonies, there is never a shortage of celebratory imbibement amongst the encampments alongside the harvests of season.

Traveling Markets
The preservation of fruits, flora, and herbs are an integral component of Ardenai life, and the migratory nature of certain clans have adopted a makeshift traveling market or trisalaet, often opting to return to the same area in hopes that other migratory peoples will meet annually to trade for necessary supplies and other tools for the frugal wanderer.   At the turning of each season, entrepreneurial Ardenai will craft a variety of goods, including preserved foliage, hand-carved vessels of wood and clay, fragrant sachets of woodland moss, and thick furs acquired whilst on the hunt for meat or fish. 

Typical wares include knotted lengths of dried fish or boar jerky called imaen, grass-woven pouches of dried thuja leaf (reportedly used for ceremonial use) and other herbal infusions, and sap-sealed jars of floral preserves, although one can always find a unique treasure hidden amongst the various sundries if one is willing to barter.

Drinks of Ta'Ardenai

Aeltsina: While often a catch-all term for any wine with strong floral overtones, in Ta'Ardenai, aeltsina is typically an ice wine made with sea holly and wood violets.

Arbutus Liqueur: A prominent forest gnome family in Ta'Ardenai rose to fame by producing this unique liqueur made from distilled arbutus berries and sel'elun vines. It is sweet, lightly floral, and highly potent. It is a popular drink at the autumnal court.

Caerandas: Caerandas is a potent botanical liqueur crafted by Ardenai elves and Greengair forest gnomes working in conjunction to corner a continent-wide demand. The formula is secret but is rumored to contain at least 150 botanicals with a wine base. Also known as chartreuse because of its signature color, the liqueur is popular across Elanith, typically within cocktails but the best batches of caerandas are savored unmixed.

Malyrtak: The small burghal gnome enclave near Ta'Ardenai has a group of dedicated distillers who create malyrtak, an unusual wormwood-based liqueur with a uniquely bitter taste and a sickly yellow color. The alcohol is polarizing in drinking circles, both for its astringent taste and its nauseatingly bitter scent. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, malyrtak has a following amongst younger gnomes and elves rebelling against those insisting on palatal perfection. The word itself is Elven and roughly translates into "rotting pond water."

Vipir: Vipir is a prestige port by the Vipiraet family in Ta'Ardenai. Its proprietary blend includes crushed violets, rose blossoms, a Ta'Ardenai vanilla brandy aged in celaeun casks, and the vipaet grape. It is sweet, slightly floral, and lushly full-bodied.

Fauna, Flora, and Precious Materials

Ta'Ardenai is rife with flora and fauna, and they use their natural resources well. One can read more about this at Flora, Fauna, and Precious Materials of Ta'Ardenai.

Groups of Ta'Ardenai

Like any nation, there are numerous groups and organizations. Here are but a few.

The Aegia'val

Since the Horse War approximately 20,000 years ago, Ta'Ardenai's greatest shame has been allowing the Mad King to goad the nation into the sorcery that eradicated the ponies of the halflings. Amends were made after the deposing of said king, and while many halflings still feel a bitterness over the loss of these ponies, it is a bitterness tempered by the vastness of time, especially with those halflings who regularly have contact with their Ardenai neighbors.

It has been whispered but never confirmed that clandestine research into recreating the herds began within decades of the king's death. The rumors claim that sorcerers, scientists, alchemists, and equine experts from both Ta'Ardenai and halfling groups work together and have for thousands of years.

In recent years, these whispers have grown a bit louder and the order given a name -- the Aegia'val. That the Aegia'val exists is certain. That it includes Ardenai and halflings is also certain. However, members claim it is merely an order that promotes strong border relations and unity.

Their symbol serves to add to the mystery and rumors -- a bronze pony inlaid with a malachite oak leaf on its withers.

Ashkar'nai: The Elk People of Ta'Ardenai

In the upper plains of Ta'Ardenai, between the Darkling Wood and the northern steppes, there live the Ashkar'nai (or simply, the Ashkar). These Ardenai have been and continue to be nomadic, eschewing permanent settlements and traveling from place to place and setting up temporary encampments. The Ashkar are riders of great renown, and their preferred steed is the majestic elk.

Numerous rites and rituals surround a young Ashkar selecting (and being selected by) their first elk companion, and once bonded, the two are nigh inseparable. Ashkar are typically fighters and elk-back hunters of great skill, but a community cannot exist on fighting alone, and the elk riders are no exception. They care for numerous herds of alpaca, for example, and the older, infirm, or just otherwise so inclined, may opt to station themselves at one of the numerous semi-permanent encampments and manage small-scale farming, harvesting of wools, treating of hides, and other necessary activities.

It would be a mistake to think the Ashkar are primitive. They are still Ardenai elves, and some of the Ardenai's most refined and successful diplomats have come from Ashkar backgrounds. Numerous druids and rangers of note hail from these traveling bands as well.

The Ashkar's sole permanent settlement is Veskevyn, found along the upper central border of Ta'Ardenai. Considered a garrison, Veskevyn has highly fortified walls and a labyrinthine interior designed to trap any who attack and allow the Ardenai to pick them off at their leisure. Indeed, the entire garrison is rarely occupied and instead serves as a giant lure.

In the modern era, the duplicity of Veskevyn's nature is well-known and mostly unnecessary, and the Ardenai instead hold war games with one another and their border compatriots, kindred and halfling alike.

The Myomancers of Ta'Ardenai

In a land known for its wildness, there are those that are wild even by Ardenai standards, and one such group are the individuals who practice the art of myomancy. The Ardenai myomancers are comprised of not just Ardenai elves (and half-elven Ardenai), but a handful of forest gnomes and a few burghal gnomes as well.

Using a variety of no-harm capture techniques, the myomancers gather up small mice and other rodents which are then used in a variety of divination and omen-seeking practices, none of which bring any harm to the creatures. Some collect as many different sorts of rodents as possible, while others specialize in just a singular type, and still others limit themselves to one particular rodent they have bonded to. When that rodent dies (a natural, typically pampered death), then the bonded myomancer may seek out another on a sort of spiritual quest.

It is not unusual to see a myomancer carrying at least one, if not several, rodents in a tekuhr. From a Gnomish term used by the burghal gnomes specifically, a tekuhr is an engineered clockwork cage with at least two layers. Rodents within the cage learn to use the gears, levers, and buttons to navigate the cage, finding food, water, sleeping areas, and play areas. Large ones are often attached to poles or pulled in small handcarts, but smaller tekuhr can be attached to a sturdy belt. The burghal myomancers who contributed this carrying method claim it keeps their subjects alert and happy and thus sets the stage for the best omen-reading.

Others may carry their companions in smaller, less elaborate trappings, such as simple, but well-crafted wooden containers. Still others believe the best myomancy comes from observing the local populations of rodents without capturing, and they spend long hours in their natural habitats before making predictions from those findings and observations.

No matter the method used, the myomancers of Ta'Ardenai treat their rodential compatriots with an almost reverent air and are seen by many to be just a bit on the other side of "a tad bit unusual."

A Note on the Alsira Within the wilds of the Darkling Wood scurry and scamper the alsiras. These tiny rodents were once thought to be unique to Ta'Ardenai, as they are not found anywhere else in Elanith. As such, they are quite popular with myomancers. However, a visiting erithi recognized the creature as one nicknamed the "lotus dormouse" (and even less commonly, the "lotus rhino") found in the woods and mountains, especially around the mountain lotuses. Formally known as the yatasa by the erithi, they appear to be successful transplants to Atan Irith from Ta'Ardenai by some visiting erithi hundreds of years ago.

Alsiras make a high-pitched, trumpeting squeak when they hunt, and they have a fur-covered skeletal protrusion between their ears that resembles a miniature horn of sorts. This unusual sound and look make an alsira a coveted companion for many myomancers.

The Reytdraen: Order of the Darkest Root

While the Nalfein have the reputation for covertness and poisoncraft, and the Ardenai are known for diplomacy, there is a saying amongst these envoys -- "Sometimes, the most diplomatic act is death."

When more traditionally understood means of diplomacy fail and the situation warrants, the Reytdraen may be called in. Translated as either the Order of the Deepest Root or the Order of the Darkest Root, the Reytdraen is an alleged order of Ardenai assassins who use their knowledge of plants and wildlife to craft methods of expiration indistinguishable from natural deaths.

Many a timely death that smoothed the way into peaceful resolutions have been credited to the Reytdraen, but officially, Ta'Ardenai denies the existence of any such organization.

OOC Notes & Credits

  • Many thanks to the players and GMS who provided numerous ideas over the years for Ta'Ardenai (and all things elven). You have all provided so much inspiration that your thoughts and feelings are intricately entwined within this document.
  • Extra thanks to GM Mariath for her stellar QC
  • Created in 2023-2024 by:
    • GM Casil (General ideas and input, guru oversight)
    • GM Elysani (Food and Drink, guru oversight)
    • GM Thandiwe (Seasonal Courts)
    • GM Valyrka (Architecture, guru oversight)
    • GM Xynwen (Project lead, City Layout & City-State Information, Drinks of Ta'Ardenai, Unique Materials of Ta'Ardenai, Groups, several of the the new words, final review for consistency)
  • Material Restrictions:
    • Apysel: Requires fodder. Can also be called "forest nacre" where nacre is the noun
    • Celsylk: Requires fodder
    • Elun'vaen: Requires fodder. Can also be called "forest moonstone" where moonstone is the noun
    • Faetha: Open use. The color is "faetha green" or "faetha-hued/colored" not faetha by itself
  • Fauna Restrictions:
    • Alsira: Duskruin rats cannot be altered into these.
Elf - edit
Great Houses:
Major Settlements:
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