Elves of Wyrdeep

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The Empire's Expatriates: The Elves of the Wyrdeep is an Official GemStone IV Document, and it is protected from editing.

The Empire's Expatriates: The Elves of the Wyrdeep

Introduction

The Turamzzyrian Empire is a young empire, as they go. Whereas the elves can trace their civilization back more than 50,000 years, the Sun Throne is a relatively recent addition to the political stage. Selantha Anodheles can be credited with the might and power that the Empire wields today, as it was through her tenacity that the Kannalan Alliance was destroyed and the southwest region of the known world brought into the Empire's control.

It was also during Selantha's reign that the first inklings of racism toward elves in the Empire territories began to spread, mainly due to a startling increase in banditry by particularly brutal elven thieves. Selantha capitalized on these feelings to consolidate her power in those early days of her reign.

Two years after Selantha's death, the grandson of the brutal elven bandit-lord Terilithian was captured and made the allegation that Selantha had been secretly supporting the bandits' activities in order to further her goals of expansion. Although the tale is and was not "officially" believed, then-Regent Chaston Kestrel used this opportunity to unseat the Anodheles family from the Sun Throne. Shortly thereafter, in 4310, he issued the famed Chaston's Edict:[1]

"By order of the Sun Throne, let it be known that all citizens of the Turamzzyrian Empire who are, or who are provably believed to be descended from Elven Stock, are hereby prohibited from owning land or business;

Let it further be known that all lands and businesses presently held by those of Elven Stock are hereby, and in perpetuity, property of the Sun Throne;

Let it further be known that any citizen who resists, or is found to be in violation of this Edict, will suffer the ire of the Sun Throne."

With the stroke of a quill, thus began the massive emigration of the Empire's elven citizens. Chaston's enforcers took over where the quill left off and saw to it that the elves no longer felt welcome. Some left with a great hue and cry, such as the Archmage Inar'ru of Kezmon Isle, who prophesied a terrible curse before leading over two thousand elven citizens westward over the Sunset Sea, never to be heard from again. There were skirmishes and battles between humans and rebel elves for some time after the Edict, but they eventually died down as more elves emigrated rather than face the enforcers. Most of the Empire's elves simply migrated north or east, out of the Empire's largest towns and cities, and sought refuge from persecution in the relative safety of the dark and wild Wyrdeep Forest. Often forgotten by most tales is the fact, however, that after the devastating eruption of Mount Ysspethos that took the lives of Chaston and both his daughters, the young Emperor Immuron disbanded the enforcers and ordered the harassment of elven citizens stopped.

The Darkling Wyrdeep

So it was that beginning in 4310, the year of Chaston's Edict, the Empire's contact with the elves of the Wyrdeep became essentially nil. The Wyrdeep forest itself provided plenty of motivation for humans to stay on its outskirts. Ancient, deep, and foreboding, tales of horror and fright seemed to crop up from nowhere and effectively kept all but the most brave or foolish humans from prying into its heart. The human communities that border the forest tell numerous tales of the faeriekin of the forest and attribute madness, crop failures, disappearances, and most other mysteries to fey wiles.

The Wyrdeep is bordered on the north and east by the great DragonSpine mountains and occupies an area at least twice as large as the Sea of Fire, although exactly how large it is is impossible to determine. If you consult three maps of the Empire, you will come away with three ideas of the breadth of the forest. Some cartographers and travelers have reported unusual experiences in going through the forest, with stories of paths changing and 100-year old trees appearing where a clearing lay the day before. It is the rare traveler that heads due east into the heart of the forest, and it is rarer still for one to be seen again. Those who do return speak haltingly of the terrible sickness that gripped them, rendering them confused and nauseous, along with other more unsettling tales of their waking dreams.

One of the most widely known tales is of the Wyrdeep Huntsman. Interestingly, this tale has two sides, but more will be told of that later in this treatise. As with most such tales, every grandmother tells the tale differently, but some threads of the weaving hold fast through all the tellings. Here is how the humans know the Huntsman:

"There was a great ranger who knew more of the Wyrdeep than any other. He walked the paths, scaled the hills, and knew each tree by its true name. At hunting game, he had no equal. His heart was true, and when he sought a life's companion from the wilds, a pure and noble white wolf answered his call. He called her Nynell.

The Wyrdeep took notice of him then, angered for she considered Nynell one of hers. But the anger of such an ancient forest is a slow thing that smolders and waits and plots. She saw potential. The forest had need of a warden to hold her borders and see to her desires. So it was that one day, she caused a stinging thorn to become caught in Nynell's coat. As he groomed his companion, the ranger was pierced in the mound of his right thumb, and a silent poison flowed toward his heart. Thus began dreams and visions of darkness and horror, and faint whispers on the wind. A suggestion here, a shadow there – slowly, the ranger's heart was twisted by the fey forest, which in turn twisted Nynell's, until the pair became revenants of Wyrdeep.

The Wyrdeep took the ranger and reclaimed Nynell and her whole pack.

Now, his eyes gleam even on moonless nights, and he flickers in and out of sight like a banshee, often reappearing far from when he last vanished. His direwolves are mottled grey and black, large as ponies, and are all but invisible themselves, though the rumble of their growls reverberates through the trees and echoes as though through a deep stone canyon, seeming to come from all directions at once."

Upheaval – The First Elven War (4599 - 4610)

By 4459, the elves of the Wyrdeep had made their settlements and rebuilt their lives as expatriates, enough to begin furtive trading with the humans to the west. Via sympathetic intermediaries, the elves sent lumber, furs, and other goods into the Empire. Although they were technically in violation of Chaston's Edict, the impenetrable and ill-omened forest encouraged the Empire to ignore the elves that called it home.

However, in 4599, a minor lord, Gallard Wilke, decided it was time that the elves paid imperial taxes and sent in a group of collectors. Unfortunately, the elves took umbrage at the notion and slew the man. Lord Wilke, a proud man, could not allow this in lands that he claimed as part of his barony and sent a garrison of men to raze a small village on the fringes of the forest.

This act led, of course, to the First Elven War. Shortly after the skirmishes began, the Empire learned that the Elven Nations were providing support to the rebels in the Wyrdeep, and Emperor Krellove Chandrennin ordered a full-scale war as a result, and the banners from all over the Empire were called. The great General Vaycero of Idolone led his forces to many victories, including the decisive win at Barrett's Gorge where General Sykka, a bastard son of House Hammarskal of Highmount, assisted by flanking and shattering the line of elven archers.

Despite these advances, however, the war was not an easy one. The supply chain supporting General Vaycero suffered from frequent barbarian attacks, and eventually, he was forced to build and garrison a fortress to hold the area and send the rest of his troops back to their own lords. Vaycero began preparations for another campaign in early 4610, but in Phoenatos of the same year, Emperor Krellove died, leaving the Sun Throne to his heir, Toscus the Fat. Toscus was well-known to have preferred court life and court feasts to military conquests and ordered Vaycero to stand down, ending the First Elven War.

Closed Borders (4628 - 5030)

The next twelve years in the Empire were relatively peaceful and the elves began rebuilding their communities, until a Nalfein messenger was apprehended attempting to leave Tamzyrr with a letter bearing Toscus' seal. A zealous imperial guard, Veta Vilaunne (third daughter of the Baron of Oire), took it upon herself to rid the Empire of its treasonous head and assassinated Toscus.[2]

Toscus died childless, and the Sun Throne passed to his nephew Baeronnar. Baeronnar had inherited all the zealotry of his great-uncle Krellove, and as his first act[3] immediately ordered the hero General Sykka (now a hale 59 years old) to 'catch the sylvan devils by surprise.' Unfortunately for General Sykka, Baeronnar's war was ill-fated, and some say accursed, by his bloody rise to power. General Sykka had scarce rallied his armies and begun to again harry and raze villages on the southern edge of the Wyrdeep around Barrett's Gorge, when the Witch Winter began. The harrowing fate of that army, whose numbers were reduced to one in five men by the relentless winter, was terrible to behold and sowed the seeds of discontent within the major houses of the Empire. General Sykka did not survive.

After the Witch Winter, a series of events kept the attention of the Sun Throne off the Wyrdeep: krolvin, the catastrophic second and third Elven Wars, court intrigues, deposed rulers, and more that is outside the scope of this tome.

It can be supposed that the Witch Winter was no easier on the Wyrdeep elves than it was on anyone else, but beyond that, little is known of the next four hundred years in the Wyrdeep. Presumably, the elves rebuilt their communities and resumed their lives as best they could. Although the Elven Nations had sent troops to their aid in the First Elven War, it could be said that the war was caused by those selfsame elves -- a fact not lost on the Wyrdeep community. They closed their borders once again and guarded them fiercely against human and elf alike.

The earliest-known elven version of the tale of the Wyrdeep Huntsman dates from this period of isolationism. As with the human version, there are many variations from grandmother to grandmother, but certain elements appear in most.

"There was a great ranger who knew the secret paths and hidden ways of the Wyrdeep. He guarded our borders and tended the land, and in return, the Wyrdeep ensured that his dragon-bone arrows flew true to their marks without fail. His life's companion was a great white wolf called Nyin'niel, which means "Snow's Heart."

He realized one day that he could improve our lives if he traded with those outsiders. So, he began traveling the borders, trading his perfect furs and pelts with human and elf alike. As time went on, he became known for the exceptional quality of his work and was sought out by traders from around the land. He shared his success with all within the Wyrdeep, and our communities prospered.

One day, he met with a trader unknown to him. As the ranger arrived, laden with goods and with Nyin'niel trotting at his heel, the trader rose to his feet as if to greet, and made a sharp gesture, and suddenly the ground beneath the feet of the ranger grew insubstantial and vanished! Man and wolf plummeted into a slick-walled pit from which there was no escape. The trader spit a single word into the darkness of the pit, "Traitor," and made another gesture - restoring the earth and burying the pair alive.

The wolves of the Wyrdeep mourned the loss of the pure white Nyin'niel and her companion long and loudly, howling for three days and three nights. The wind rose to match the baying, whipping with a terrible screeching through the trees.

No elf left the security of home and hearth those three nights, and none can say they witnessed what came next. But that was when the sightings of the Shade began. A whisper here, and breeze there, a barely heard low growl beside the ear. We saw few and fewer outsiders after that night, and tales of the Wyrdeep Huntsman spread through our villages. Some believe the trader was human from the west; others, an elf from the eastern nations. Who can say? The Shade was returned to the forest and now serves only the Wyrdeep."

The Undead Menace (4953-5074)

The appearance of the Horned Cabal in the Southron Wastes caused a widespread ripple effect of changes in the Empire. First and foremost, the Order of Voln, previously a small and largely ignored sect, grew to great prominence. During the years when Chaston's Edict was strong, it suffered from outside influences purging its ranks of Ordlyn and Hathlyn. But with the rise of the Cabal, more and more found themselves drawn to take the oath of Voln, and especially in the regions surrounding Elstreth, where the Cabal focused their attacks, the ranks of the brotherhood included Ordlyn and Hathlyn in unity and equality with their human brothers.

These changes in society wended their way to the Wyrdeep slowly. Understandably, the Wyrdeep elves were wary and careful in their relations with outsiders. But by 5030, the younger generations of the Wyrdeep began to see opportunities outside their remote community. Trade between the elves and the villages on the western side of the Wyrdeep began, and some elves even opened shops and businesses in cooperation with human landowners. Many of these entrepreneurs gravitated to the barony of Bourth, where there existed a group of humans who were sympathetic and favored the idea of exempting the Wyrdeep elves from Chaston's Edict.

Chief among their arguments was the fact that many Wyrdeep elves had heard the call of the Order of Voln and come to join the battle against the Cabal. In the year 5057, the numbers of the Order stemming from Bourth had grown so large that it was decided to rebuild K'Tafali Manor in order to train them in their homeland, rather than force them to travel the dangerous roads to Waterford, Nydds, or Elstreth. Lord Fasthr's original manor was lost during the War of the Kannalan Alliance, much to the sorrow of the Order. With the resurgence of the Order, the news that K'Tafali Manor was to be rebuilt was warmly welcomed, not only by their brothers, but also by the people of Bourth. The combined efforts of the brotherhood saw a new monastery erected where the old manor stood within the year. Duke Chandrennin himself selected a half-elven master from Elstreth to be the Grandmaster at the K'Tafali Monastery, who took for this new name Grandmaster Finevas, in honor of the great elven master Fineval.

The battle against the undead continues to this day, but the day the lich Thollett was struck down by Grandmaster Allasander's singing blade, Spiritcry, marked over 120 years since the Cabal emerged from the wastes. Now, nearly forty years since that day, only three lichs remain in the Cabal, and the Order of Voln is stronger than ever.

New Relations (5074 - Present)

Trade and relations between the elves of the Wyrdeep and the human communities continues to grow, albeit slowly. The years of the Empress Mynal'lyanna saw a step backward in those relations, although it was not as pronounced in the eastern Empire. However, since her death, Emperor Aurmont has shown no interest in expansionism and has not fostered any increase in nationalism as Mynal'lyanna did.

The elves of the Wyrdeep have long memories and are not as quick to accept the current state of politics as an indicator of anything beyond short-term opportunities. However, they accept the goodwill of those who wear the white feather for the time being. There have even been some cases where inter-marriages and half-blood offspring have occurred, though the experiences of these children do vary widely. It seems that proximity to K'Tafali Monastery is an indicator, however, and elves and half-elves from that area are more engaged with local human populations than anywhere else.

Footnotes

  1. Chaston's Edict was amended in 4479 by Emperor Roginard to include other non-human races in addition to elves, collectively referred to as Ordlyn (an old Kannalan term). The term Hathlyn refers to half-elves.
  2. It is interesting to note that Veta Vilaunne was sent to Tamzyrr as a grim and argumentative black sheep of the Vilaunne family, who are generally known for being laconic and are well-loved by their equally laconic people. Nevertheless, they enthusiastically paid for a massive royal wedding, and Lady Villaune made a point to write to Veta weekly from then on.
  3. His second act was to wed Veta Vilaunne; so impressed was he by her quick response to Toscus' treachery. Their complicated relationship has become the subject of tales and tomes, and has generously been described as "stormy," owing to their strong personalities and unyielding natures. Nevertheless, they bore two children, Baeronnar (destined to become Baeronnar II) and Princess Velinda.

Published on November 16, 2014.