The Settlement of Eh'lah
The Settlement of Eh'lah is an Official GemStone IV Document, and it is protected from editing.
The Settlement of Eh'lah
- by Loremaster Rhai’zke
When the great city of Sharath was destroyed, not everyone was there to attend the rituals taking place at that tragic moment. All accounts state that groups of scouts or explorers had been sent out prior to the event and returned to find devastation brought down upon the Dhe'nar.
As the group reached the top of a hill that overlooked the city, they were witness to fire raining down. The mountain exploded as cracks and fissures burst open, sending rivers of fast-moving molten rock across the countryside. The company watched as their home disintegrated under the unrelenting flows of lava. Thinking that their people had been destroyed, this group migrated south, carrying "The Way" with them, determined it would not perish in the flames that had claimed their homeland. Eventually, they found a beautiful river delta nestled in a rich tropical rainforest. It was here that they decided to settle, naming the river Sai'ri, meaning future life. They established a small settlement along the wide river just north of the delta calling it Eh'lah, which means hope or rebirth.
Not knowing that there were survivors rebuilding Sharath, those who traveled away from the destruction created a new life for the Firstborn in the harsh ecosystem that thrived along the river and coast.
While the areas about Sharath are favorable for herds of smaller grazing animals, the areas about Eh'lah are not so agreeable. The jungle is quick to encroach upon clearings, and pastures are difficult to maintain.
Many staple crops, like corn, were grown in terraced gardens along the outskirts of the village. These were lined with stone walls to stop erosion. Water beds were created by digging raised canals out from the river. The settlers lay woven reed mats over the water and layer them with rich, fertile mud. The seeds are then planted. These water beds are easy to care for, and the plants grow quickly, allowing for several growing seasons. Small groves of fruit-bearing trees are easy to maintain. There are also plenty of natural resources. The jungle is filled with trees and plants to be harvested.
When the survivors decided to settle on the river, they constructed a limestone platform in the center of what would become their village. This served as a place to gather as a culture, hold traditional rites and ceremonies, and hold important meetings. As the settlement expanded, so did this important monument. Layers were added, and the structure grew to be pyramid in shape, yet solid, never rising higher than the rainforest canopy. Around the base, diagonal to each corner, are four smaller structures, one for each caste. Over time, the jungle has crept in, covering the buildings with vines, moss, and other growth until they have begun to blend into the rainforest itself, becoming part of the surrounding jungle environment.
Granite and limestone are primary building materials and can be found along the river banks. A thick clay is mixed with mud along the edge of the water, perfect for shaping and heating into bricks.
Homes are crafted from a wide variety of materials. Those who are more elite build their structures from granite and limestone. The settlers learned to work with the materials at hand, and they carve beautiful sculptures into the exterior walls of their homes. The interiors are filled with fine rugs and furniture as well as works of art, and eventually books and other written resources. More common homes are crafted from sun or fire-baked river clay bricks. The interiors are simple with partitions separating rooms.
While both Sharath and Eh'lah are set in jungles, the village is more overgrown, more deeply set into the rainforest than Sharath. Also, it does not contain any mountainous terrain or cave networks. Thus, they have no indigenous Khanshael population.
Large trees with wide trunks dominate the emergent layer of the rainforest, with few leaves growing from their branches. Thick canopy trees shade the settlement, blanketing it in dark shadows for much of the day, with the sun penetrating through when it is at its highest over the noon hour. Smaller trees with large leaves create the understory layer, their foliage locking in the moisture and heat, creating extreme humidity. The forest floor layer is damp and mossy, with small shrubs and an abundance of bugs. Trees and shrubs covered with fruits and blossoms add color to the dark, verdant environment.
Many different types of creatures make this hot, dangerous place their home. Colorful birds, reptiles, and small mammals fill the ecosystem. In addition to creatures you would expect in a rainforest, there are large predator lizards that live along the river beds as well as unique, dangerous felines.
While the rebuilding of Sharath focused on learning from the past to create newer ways, those living in Eh'lah clung to the memory of the old and recreated the traditional ceremonies faithfully. They also created new ways, made to keep alive the memory of those that had perished in the fires. They never forgot, never allowed themselves to let go of the loss, and never faltered from the Way they held so dear.
A comparison of Eh'lah to Sharath shows many similarities, but there are a few fundamental differences in the most basic of rites and traditions. In fact, where the oldest traditions of the Dhe'nar are concerned, it seems Eh'lah has simply added their own slant to them instead of making sweeping changes.
However, further comparison shows several differences between the two places. In outlook and lifestyle, Eh'lah seems at once more spiritual and more tribal. Those who live in the village tend to wear less, most especially into battle. Tourneys and tests of strength and bravery tend to be more rough and dangerous than the ones in Sharath.
The most public ceremony is the Keening. Each evening, the Priestesses come forth from the temple with their assigned Tishi'qa (the Handmaidens, a group of all-female warriors assigned to protect and guard the Priestesses at all times), each carrying a lit torch. They file out in two columns, one to each side of the river, holding their torches high in the air. They speak not a word, and as they take their places, the entire village falls silent. In that deep silence, the Priestesses begin keening; wailing with their voices pitched high to remind them of the loss of Sharath. This ceremony still continues, even after the settlement reconnected with their homeland, as a remembrance of what was.
The Great Hunt
The most notable of the changes, perhaps, is the coming of age ritual, the Great Hunt. Children are still sent, naked and unarmed, into the jungles to return with a prize from the animal they killed. However, where Sharath's young simply go out to return with what they will, the children in Eh'lah must declare what creature they will kill before they leave the village. To return with the skin of another creature is to fail as surely as if they died.
When a child returns successful from their Great Hunt, they are taken to the Temple and the Chamber of Remembrance. They are left alone in the dark room, and after a time of sitting and quiet meditation, the Chamber shows its true colors. The Chamber is designed to show proof of Eh'lah's belief that the body remembers...that the blood will always recall what has come before, as it is passed down through the years. Thus, each child sits in the dark, and he remembers the Fall of Sharath, seeing it as if he had been upon the hillside witnessing the rain of fire.
The Dhe'nar dialect is also slightly different in Eh'lah than in Sharath. While the two languages are certainly compatible, the language in Eh'lah is often considered of an older variety and includes many words that those from Sharath seem to have forgotten. The village's dialect seems to contain more contractions and words with two apostrophes than the larger city.
Names in Eh'lah are "backwards" by the standards of most cities. Those that live in the village use what would normally be termed the surname, or last name, as the name they are called by, and their first name as a special "true name" to be used under special circumstances. Thus, Selayne Treynfor becomes Treynfor to the populace, and someone like Gorgne Ta'Haryne becomes Haryne, with the prefix dropped.
Watching his prey from the branch of a large tree that hung over the river Sai'ri, a young boy waited. He had stalked the pack of lizards all morning, taking care he was not seen. As the pack split up and began to wander, Ne'tyn saw his chance. As he was about to jump from above and take the blood of the Sai'ri monster, he saw movement off in the jungle.
Distracted by the sounds, the lizard dashed off into the river. The boy paused a moment, torn between following the creature or investigating the disruption. Carefully, he made his way from tree to tree towards whatever was moving about. Below, he saw a group of dark elves. He was startled to hear them speaking Dhe'narsi. Although it sounded different, he could understand most of the words. Scanning their appearance, he saw their braids and a unique symbol stitched upon a sash that was tied diagonal about each chest. Without thinking, he drew a loud breathe inward, causing the group to look up. The boy knew that symbol. It was etched into the walls of the temple, it was the symbol of Sharath.
A group of explorers from Sharath had found the settlement of Eh'lah, and the Dhe'nar of Eh'lah were overjoyed to learn that Sharath still stood, even in a changed and rebuilt form. Those in Eh'lah sent representatives to Sharath, and the two towns began rediscovering each other and working together for the good of the Family and "The Way."
Information is taken from original documentation created by members of The Obsidian Tower