I’m not very good at this — the consistency, that is. When I produce posts they’re good, but producing them regularly… there’s the struggle.
So I’m enlisting a little bit more help in that regard. In an effort to provide more regular content, other members of the development team will contribute posts. I will still chime in, but I need to accept that I can’t do it all. (That’s been something of an ongoing lesson throughout this process.)
(Oh, and this one’s me. I’ll let you know when it’s other folks.)
The last of the sourcebooks promised from the initial Kickstarter — Elven Nations — is making its way through the last stages of development. The manuscript has been turned over to editorial for review and proofreading, and only a couple of minor finishing touches remain before it heads into layout. This week I want to provide a broad overview of the book, touching on the history and central conflict that underpins the relationship between the three political powers the book describes.
The history of the elven nations stretches back centuries, long before the Theran Empire. The Court at Wyrm Wood was the spiritual and cultural center of elvenkind, defining what it meant to be an elf. Far flung settlements and nations could look to the Rose Throne, and the Queens who sat on it, as an ideal to strive for.
Unfortunately, time brings change, even for a people as long-lived and traditional as the elves. When the distant land of Shosara incorporated techniques from their human neighbors into elven ship designs, it brought up a debate that led to the death of a queen, the division of a people, and the eventual founding of the Theran Empire.
The Court’s power was able to enforce the Separation, but it created the first cracks in elven unity. With the growth of the Theran Empire and the revelation of the coming Scourge, more strain was put on loyal elven subjects. The desire for survival won out over loyalty to the Rose Throne, and Alachia’s threats to Separate those who accepted Theran aid rang hollow.
Of course, the consequences of Alachia’s decision are well known. Wyrm Wood is now Blood Wood, corrupted and insular. Alachia still sits on the Rose Throne, but her pride keeps her from publicly recognizing the price of the Court’s survival might have been too high. The Ritual of Thorns has irrevocably altered the Wood, damaging and corrupting its pattern, possibly beyond repair. Prolonging the ritual reinforces the damage and spreads the corruption. Ending it could mean the permanent loss of the elves’ ancestral and spiritual home.
The Western Kingdoms, called the Gwydenro by the locals, remained loyal to Wyrm Wood. They did not accept Theran aid, but did manage to steal some secrets of the Rites of Protection and incorporated that knowledge into their own protective wards. The capital city, Sereatha, survived the Scourge — but barely. Where once the city was built atop a collection of hills, the towers that remain stand on a large mesa, the result of some unknown force or entity digging around the edges of the city’s kaer.
Other fiefdoms in the Western Kingdoms survived, but many did not. The southern territories are now part of the Wastes, and while the prevailing winds carry the ash away from the Gwydenro, it is a blight that still threatens settlements trying to rebuild.
Despite the Separation, and perhaps in part because of it, Shosara survived the Scourge with little damage. After being cut off from “proper” elven culture the elves of Shosara forged stronger bonds with their neighbors, blending their cultures, enhancing strengths and reducing weaknesses. Since they were already cast out, they had no difficulty accepting Theran aid, and the rich resources of the region around the Gwyn Sea paid for the Rites without needing to resort to slavery.
The Shosaran people spent the centuries sharing a single, massive citadel, which led to even more mixing of traditional elven culture and beliefs with those of other Namegivers. After the Scourge, the citadel was opened and the long work of rebuilding began.
The corruption of Wyrm Wood has led many elves to question their cultural traditions. The Court is changed, no longer reflecting the reality of elves across Barsaive and other lands. Without the Court to look to… what does it mean to be an elf?
Alachia still maintains the Rose Throne and her Court as the seat of elven culture, and wants to reassert dominance over her former subjects. But the effects of the Ritual, and Alachia’s persistent pride, make this difficult
A new leader has recently ascended in Sereatha, declaring the Queen and Blood Wood irrevocably lost and corrupt. As the largest loyal subject of the lost Court, he seeks to establish Sereatha as the new center of elven culture.
Shosara has taken their own stance. They survived — and thrived — because of lessons they learned from other Namegivers. They agree the Court is corrupt and lost, but blind tradition and hidebound thinking are what led it there. Continuing the same adherence to tradition — which Sereatha promotes — will inevitably lead down that same path. New ideas and being open to learning from others is the proper course for the future of the elven people.
These are the Elven Nations. Three kingdoms facing a political and philosophical struggle to define the future of elvenkind.