Bloodhollow and Beyond - A Vigil of Vesh Campaign
Name: The Virgin Woods of Denev
Population: Not known; most estimate 100,000-
Government: Reincamational monarchy
Ruler: Lord of the Verdant Seat Olithtagard of the Fiery Wing
Language: Middle Elvish
Religion: Denev, Tanil
Currency: None known; most transactions among the elves are by barter or exchange of valued
possessions, artwork, gems, etc.
Resources: None that the elves will allow to be exploited.
Allies: Amalthea, Vesh
The elves ofVera-Tre, literally “Virgin Woods,” were different from their brethren on Termana. Like the titans, they felt tied to the land itself, and revered the living embodiment of Scarn, the titaness Denev. Faithful servants of the Earth Mother, the Vera-Trean elves cared for her forests, tended her beasts, they felt with the living world. The great forest of the Ganjus was the center of their existence, and the tree-city of Vera-Tre their beloved home.
When the Titanswar erupted, these elves struggled to continue serving Denev, and to preserve their forests from the bloody camage that warped the lands elsewhere. Denev herself finally decided to join the war on the side of the gods, but told her people to stay in their forest and defend it against those who would pollute it. When the destruction of Mormo resulted in the corruption of the peaceful Broadreach Forest, the Vera-Trean elves’ fellow Denev-worshippers were forced to flee. The pain of the Broadreach was felt in the depths of the Ganjus, and the elves’ determination to keep their land unpolluted was redoubled.
Titanspawn armies approached the great forest, but the determined defenders held them at bay. When the war finally ended, the Ganjus was one of few regions relatively untouched by the violence. There were still problems, however. Bands of titanspawn lurked in the woods and had to be hunted down. The fallout from magical catastrophes and powerful rituals threatened to do what the titans had failed to do, and the Vera-Trean elves, aided by the Incarnates and the Jordeh druids, cast numerous healing rituals to help keep the forest healthy.
Though she slumbered beneath the ground, merged with the land itself, Denev’s presence was still felt in the forest, for many believed that her final resting place was in the Ganjus. It is known that the titaness once manifested herself in the Ganjus more than any other place on Scarn, which tends to support this theory. Since the war, the realm has remained isolated, though the followers of Denev are welcome regardless of their species and nationality. Those truly loyal to the Earth Mother keep the land’s secrets, however, and little is truly known about what lies in the heart of the Ganjus. A few trusted members of the Veshian vigils have also been allowed into the forest, but these lucky individuals are also keeping mum about what they know.
With the exception of non-elven Denev worshippers and druids, Ganjus’ population is exclusively elvish. Virtually unchanged since the days before the Divine War, the elves of Vera-Tre are a proud, handsome people with golden hair, pale skin and clear gold, blue or – rarely – green eyes. Both males and females wear only breeches or loincloths in warmer months, buckskin or furs when it grows colder. Tattoos are common, in geometric or naturalistic patterns.
Insular and, in some cases, downright isolationist, the Vera-Trean elves are not terribly warm or friendly, even to their allies. The long years and hardships of the Divine War, and the troubles that it caused, have combined to increase the elves’ distrust of the outside world. The friendship of a Vera-Trean elf is a hard thing to earn, and once earned should not be taken lightly; but a handful of outsiders have actually succeeded in winning the elves’ trust. These few, known as the Mother’s Blessed Ones, have full freedom of travel in the forest and can count on the elves’ aid should it ever be needed.
Life in Vera-Tre is one of natural, unhurried rhythm. The elves see it as their duty to live harmoniously with the world around them, and all things are carried out in accordance with Denev’s own cycle of life and death. Daily activities are geared toward the task of preserving and defending the forest. This is not to say that the elves do not engage in leisure activities or entertainment. Holidays take place at the two equinoxes and two solstices of the year, and are accompanied by singing, dancing, feasting, and ceremonies dedicated to Denev. In spring and summer, the joys of life are celebrated, while in autumn and fall the elves give thanks for the eternal cycle, and ceremonies all recognize the transitory nature of mortal existence. All elves hope that their lives are useful and productive, and that after their death and reincarnation, their mortal remains will serve the land well.
Elves enjoy songs and stories, though their tales always emphasize the blessings of Denev and the natural order. The bards of Denev are known as the Chorus of the Ages, and though they are rare, their reputation extends well beyond the Ganjus. They wander the land, receiving food and shelter in exchange for songs and news of the outside world, and, besides the incarnates, are the most likely wood elves to be encountered outside the forest. Each year, at summer solstice, called the Festival of the Sun, members of the Chorus gather in the Grove of the Mother and exchange information, so that all will know what is happening in the Ganjus and the world beyond.
The forest’s best-known, or at least most widely traveled, inhabitants are the incarnates. These mystical warrior-spellcasters are druids who have been reincarnated numerous times, and remember many, if not all, of their previous lives. The wisdom learned in countless lifetimes is turned to aiding the cause of Denev, the preservation of the forest, and the cause of absolute neutrality. Incarnates have been known to leave the Ganjus and wander Ghelspad, seeking wisdom and defending nature when it is in peril, and also trying to learn of their own previous incarnations.
The druids of Vera-Tre are an especially powerful group, known as the Jordeh. Their duties are somewhat more esoteric than those of the incarnates: seeing to the spiritual well-being of the forest and its inhabitants. This does not mean that they are necessarily kind, for the natural world can often be cruel. The Jordeh see it as their duty to keep the natural order functioning, and maintain the balance of Denev’s world. In addition to this, the Jordeh are responsible for finding the incarnates who rule Vera-Tre.
Vera-Tre’s leader is an incarnate who recalls a life as one of the Four Eldest Beasts: Wings-of-Fire the hawk, Moon-in-the-Eyes the wolf, Stag-of-Seven- Tines the stag, or Fur-Like-Dusk, the bear. Succession takes place when a wood-elven child remembers a life as one of the Four Beasts in a ceremony overseen by senior Jordeh. The ruler, known as the Lord of the Verdant Seat, is aided by senior incarnates called keepers, each of whom oversees a different aspect of the forest’s health. These individuals include the Keeper of the Forest, Keeper of the Seeds, Keeper of Streams, Keeper of Beasts and Keeper of Birds.
Crime and Punishment
Crime is rare in Vera-Tre, since the strict adherence to the ways of nature make any attempt to impose an artificial code of laws all but useless. There is no formal list of crimes or punishments – the only real offense is harming the forest or its inhabitants unnecessarily, and anyone accused of such a crime is expected to justify his actions to the Jordeh or face the consequences. These can vary from a sort of internal exile, in which the criminal is shunned and avoided by other elves for a time, to banishment from the Ganjus for anywhere from a month to life, and finally execution and “reunion” with the Earth Mother. This last is reserved for the most heinous of crimes – consorting with titanspawn, murder of a Jordeh, destruction of the forest, war against Vera-Tre or Denev. Even in such cases, the elves do not consider execution a true death sentence. The soul, liberated from the misjudgments and errors of its current incarnation, is allowed to move on and atone for its errors, while the criminal’s physical body is returned to the embrace of the Earth Mother, where the elves hope that it will serve the land better.
Outsiders are dealt with firmly, though the elves do not kill intruders without cause. Those who enter the Ganjus unbidden usually simply find themselves rendered unconscious and awaken well away from the forest. Those who don’t get the hint and attempt to return are issued strong warnings, and told that future incursions will be punished harshly, before they are once more rendered helpless and removed. Those who persist in entering the forest have been known to end up in a different part of Ghelspad with a large portion of their memories missing. Others, especially those who insist on cutting down the region’s trees, hunting its animals, or plundering its riches, often end up as deer, rabbits or even mice – all the better, the elves claim, to teach them to live in harmony with Denev. Invaders, or those who enter the Ganjus intent on violence, meet with stiff resistance from the region’s defenders and usually simply disappear, swallowed up by the land itself. The eventual fate of these individuals is not known, but it is probably quite unpleasant.
The titaness Denev is more than just a goddess. To the elves she is the land, part of Scarn and part of themselves. It is said that she actually slumbers beneath the forest, and that the Grove of the Mother is the place where she began her sleep. All daily activity is dedicated to furthering her vision of natural harmony, and the eternal balance of the wild. The Jordeh are the titaness’ living representatives in the forest. They wander the realm, seeing to the spiritual well-being of both the elves and the living things of the Ganjus. Ceremonies and rituals are generally performed with individuals or small groups, save on festival days, when solstice or equinox rituals are intended to affect and benefit the entire nation.
The realm has no formal military force, but its inhabitants are so accustomed to defending their forests that they can instantly forge themselves into a potent defensive army. The incarnates and Jordeh take the lead in such instances, providing scouting, magical support and a command infrastructure. Woodelf rangers and hunters form the bulk of the troops who will oppose invaders. The elite archers of the forest, the Lilliandeli, act as officers and roaming guerilla forces engaging in hit and run attacks. The Lilliandeli are known across the continent and not limited to the Ganjus, and outside the forest include half-elves and elf-friends in their ranks.
The City of Vera-Tre
Vera-Tre is not a city so much as a portion of the forest reserved for the elves’ habitation. An outside observer should not be blamed for failing to see any city at all. Art and architecture in this remarkable settlement are all highly naturalistic, incorporating the normal shapes of the trees, rocks and streams. Here, the great trees of Ganjus grow as they did before the Divine War, and some have attained an enormous girth. These gargantuan trees are used as dwellings, with chambers magically grown to blend into the living wood. Entrances and windows are natural-looking, like gaps or knots in the wood, or tangles of roots leading to passages or rooms.
Druidic Groves: Several important groves dot the settlement, including the twin Sunlight and Moonlight Groves, used respectively for day- and night-based rituals, and the Grove of Silver and the Grove of Gold, where many important ceremonies take place, including the rituals of contemplation, where incarnates discover their previous incarnations, and the summoning of the beasts, in which the incarnates commune with the spirits of the Four Eldest Beasts.
The Verdant Seat: The eldest incarnate, who bears the spirit of one of the Four Eldest Beasts, normally oversees the realm from this massive tree near the center of the settlement. Massive and unbelievably ancient, the tree itself is thought by the elves to be directly connected to Denev’s physical body. The Seat rises above the forest, and near its crown the branches form a sort of amphitheater, where numerous elves can sit and converse. The Lord of the Verdant Seat uses this place to meet with his advisors and receives news of the realm from members of the Chorus of the Ages.