The Ecology of the Tresolmi Elf
Our usual 2nd Wednesday content, Descendants: LA, will be updating Friday instead of today because this week, there’s something special going on! I, along with several other fantasy authors are participating in a blog hop where we’re all doing posts relating to elves and other magical creatures.
It’s all very exciting and if you head on over to that site and the other blogs, you can score a chance to win awesome prizes from them, or the Grand Prize (featuring everyone’s books, plus an Amazon Gift Card) from the Rafflecopter raffle at the bottom of the linked page. I’ll also be choosing someone from the comments to win a copy of A Girl and Her Monster (Rune Breaker, #1). (In the spirit of fantasy and Dungeons and Dragons, I will be using polyhedral dice to make this choice.)
As for my entry, I’m going to delegate this week and hand this over to an old friend from the Rune Breaker series, Keese Kaiel Arunsteadeles, chronicler on the path of the loreman. Actually, I’ve just stolen a write-up he sent back to the Bardic College at Harpsfell, which just happens to resemble an old Ecology Of… article from the old Dragon Magazine (and one I did for WoE for hailene).
So without further ado, let’s dig into the Ecology of the Tresolmi elves. (I only noticed this on the second run-through, but I inadvertently stole Linkara’s ‘lets dig into…’ deal. I’ve been binging too hard on AT4W.)
Most people know at least one elf. It has only been some thirty years since the destruction of Sylph’s sacred lands in the Ashing, which drove the elves, miare and lasconti from their ancestral homes and flooded the nations of Novrom, Chordin and Callen with refugees of those races.
They are our neighbors, our clerks, our librarians, and magistrates; longer lived than we humans or their half-elven cousins, but in no way exotic. We have, in short, become used to them and rarely consider that their race once had a culture apart from ours or that most of them can even remember it.
My eyes have been opened in the three months I’ve spent in the Elfhame Comtria in Vini Tresolm. The elves there have maintained a way of life said to be highly similar to that which existed in Sylph’s land, the Great Green Expanse since at least the end of Draconic Control, some six hundred years ago. I have learned much from them and of them, which I hope to share with my peers upon completion of my walkabout. Herein is contained an organization of my thoughts, musings and other notes as gleaned over these months living as the guest of Nimue Hundral, Third Seat Councilor of Comtria.
I suppose I should begin with a categorical description of the race of elves who live in the Tresolm.
The average Tresolmi elf reaches between five feet, ten inches tall and six feet, six inches tall at adulthood with females averaging two inches taller than their male counterparts. They have long limbs, but proportionately shorter torsos than humans and their average weight is between 160 and 190 pounds despite looking thinner and more delicate overall, thanks to bone and muscle that is significantly more dense than a human’s. It is due to this density that elves are notoriously poor swimmers. In fact, hydrophobia is common among them.
Skin tones range from san brown to deep brown with rare families (those with ancestors from the Isle of Nyce) having darker skin. Green eyes are the most prevalent eye color, followed by hazel, brown and yellow. Although I have read accounts of elves with blue eyes, I have not met one, nor spoken to a Tresolmi elf who knows one.
Hair colors are often metallic; copper or gold (these are not poetic terms. The hue of their hair is closer to dull gold or copper than simply blonde or red) but also range into dark browns and blacks. Among the Tresolmi elves, coloring one’s hair is considered almost as routine as combing it and a vast array of both natural and unnatural colors abound.
One of the most well known features of all elves are their ears, with those of the Tresolmi elves being the most prominent. Said ears stick out from the head between three and four inches, ending in points. The top edges of these ears are usually at right angles with the side of the head, but there is a not-uncommon family trait that causes them slope upward to as much as a forty-five degree angle.
Elves in general have very sharp front teeth and canines, being descended from daoine, who are obligate carnivores. The rear teeth. However, are grinding molars, unlike those of their fore-bearers. Nonetheless, the elven diet consists more heavily of meat than the human or half-elf equivalent with very little starch or dairy.
Otherwise, elves are nearly indistinguishable outwardly from thin, athletic humans. Internally, however, they have several key differences. Beyond denser muscle and bone, elves have two additional organs in their body cavity.
One is situated between the lungs and the blood vessels leading from the heart to the lungs pass through it. The organ secretes an enzyme that allows the blood to bond more efficiently with oxygen by stripping it from humidity in the air. This is a key reason why Tresolmi elves thrive so well in their jungle home and so poorly in arid lands like Taunaun or eastern Callen.
The second organ is a gland located alongside the liver. This gland provides a chemical seemingly necessary for elven digestion, was removal of it results in a wasting death. The secretion of said gland, taken from willing donors upon death, is used by Tresolmi hospitalers to stimulate appetites in infants. Lost of appetite in infancy is strange malady that strikes Tresolmi children, but not their Nycean brethren or those elves formerly of the Great Green Expanse.
Most elves reach sexual maturity at the age of twenty, though I have observed that some do not experience the onset of puberty until as late as the mid-thirties. The Tresolmi elves think nothing of this and in any event, legal adulthood for them does not start until thirty.
Once they have attained adulthood, elves have an extremely long reproductive cycle. Females are only fertile once every eighteen months with the window of fertility lasting twenty-five days on average. Gestation lasts fourteen months and the infant develops slowly as well.
Thanks to the human half of their heritage, elves are highly compatible with most races on Ere. Like half-elves, elves breed true with each other and the union of an elf and a daoine is an elf. The term ‘half-elf’ typically refers to their more prolific offspring with humans, but they are more than capable of fostering offspring with half-elves, hailene, miare, lasconti, and halflings. Unlike their daoine predecessors, the magic in elven blood is not enough to overcome the biological barriers between them and minotaur, the savage races, or dwarves.
According to records graciously provided by my host, an elf of the Tresolm might live as long as two hundred and twenty years, though most live to about one hundred and thirty barring accident or murder. The hostility of the Tresolmi jungles, however, cut the average down to one hundred and five.
Like humans, elves suffer from declining health and mental faculties in old age, but at a much lower rate per capita in the Tresolmi (though not on Nyce). I have yet to determine why this is, though I suspect it to be related to the more active lifestyle enjoyed by the Tresolmis.
Though this is common knowledge to the learned, I am including this section for completeness.
Elves were not present during Saint’s Landing. Sylph the First brought with her across the endless eternities between worlds two peoples: the sidhe and their servitor race, the daoine. It was only after their arrival that it was discovered that the power that permeates Ere, the Well of Souls, is harmful to the sidhe and Sylph withdrew them to the green moon, Azelia, leaving the daoine to be their representatives in the world.
The daoine, however, were not immune to the effects of the Well and found themselves made mortal and their magic weakened by prolonged exposure. To remedy this, they withdrew periodically to Azelia, leaving human stewards in their place. Eventually, romances began to spring up in the mixed courts, the children of which were the first elves; long lived and magically inclined like their daoine sires, but not at all inconvenienced by the presence of the Well. Over centuries, elven populations exploded until they supplanted the daoine on Ere entirely.
I am requesting that the body in charge of reporting structure change the name of this section heading when discussing sapient species in general, to say nothing of common races when describing cultures. My host was disgusted to hear that I am describing the elfhame as a ‘habitat’ as if her people were animals.
Pending that, I will dutifully describe the communities present in the Tresolm.
It is common knowledge that the Tresolmi elves have a huge population of those with mastery of the positive aspect of anima: vitae. They use that mastery to sculpt trees and other plant life to their needs. The crowning achievement of these practitioners is the elfhame: a network of plants that constitute their cities. Central to most elfhames is an elf-developed species called the titan boll, a tree resembling a colossal mangrove that possesses a root system that can extend to over a mile in diameter.
The Tresolmi build their communities radially out from the trunk of these gigantic trees, planting smaller stands of trees in the moss that grows on the roots, which they then grow at an accelerated rate and shape into structures suitable for living and business using vitae . The uneven nature of the root system makes true paths between buildings impossible, necessitating much climbing, jumping and crawling to get anywhere.
The spreading boughs of the titan boll, hanging with even thicker moss, serve as farmland for the community. A typical elfhame contains between two thousand and twenty thousand individuals. Larger communities involve multiple titan bolls and might support up to fifty thousand, such as the Elfhame Amonru.
As for the actual environment, most of the nation of Vini Tresolm is rainforest and jungle, fed by copious rivers running from the mountain ranges of Genmide to the north. Elfhames are always grown in lakes to ensure that the titan boll remains healthy and to keep the population near a plentiful stock of fish.
Over their lifetime, an elf in Vini Tresolm who does not travel might never experience full sun thanks to the dramatic canopy that spreads of the elfhame. Despite this, they have no sensitivity to the sun, they simply do not like bright, natural light.
Tresolmi elves claim that their traditions have been preserved since they first threw off the yoke of oppression during the Era of Draconic Control. As a minor student on the era, I will say that if this is true, they have been significantly updated since that time.
The cornerstone of Tresolmi society is the raising of children and reproduction in general. The birth day of anyone who is not yet an adult is a minor holiday for their family and neighbors, given greater importance than they are given among other races. The birth of a second child is especially celebrated due in part to the fact that some ten percent of elves of all backgrounds become sterile after their first birth.
Children are raised communally and their instruction is left to the grandparents and childless aunts and uncles. This tradition makes for very closely-knit family units.
Marriage among the Tresolmi elves is an interesting inversion compared to how things are done in my native Novrom. Once they reach adulthood, elves in the Tresolm are encouraged to court as many eligible partners as possible until a pregnancy occurs, at which time the two parties are then betrothed.
I cannot say precisely how elven courtship progresses in Vini Tresolm. It seems to be a very private affair and the elves of Comtria are relatively isolated from the rest of the world. Meaning that I am seen as too alien to consider for even a courtship in the name of research. What little I have learned indicates that most couples are happy with who they eventually pair with. There is even a belief prevalent among the Tresolmi that conception can only occur in the presence of true love. This is a romantic notion and no doubt attractive, but I would like to gather more hard data before passing such an idea along.
While the elves of the Tresolm care most about life, they seem surprisingly uncaring about the dead. Corpses of the deceased (once confirmed to be free of disease) are, for lack of a better word, mulched and fed to the growing plant structures or the boll titan itself the same as any organic waste from melon rinds to excrement. This is one tradition I am certain is not a holdover from Draconic Control, as the shrines and tombs of elven heroes from that era can be found all over Elfhame Amonru.
I’ve spoken to many about this practice and they assure me that this is the way of Sylph Reborn; that the dead shall give up their essence for the living while their soul goes to the Well. This is one of the few outright religious sentiments I’ve heard outside of temples. Tresolmi elves are by far some of the most secular peoples on Ere. They do not even use the names of gods as oaths.
There are, however, temples and they are well looked after. In the Tresolm, one will find temples to Sylph and Hessa, but very little for any other gods. I know that among the latest generation of adults, there is some support for Pandemos, but I have not seen evidence of it in my own experience.
Tresolmi cooking is something that takes a bit of getting used to. While enthusiastic about their carnivore heritage, they nonetheless have a massive sweet tooth. Cuisine, therefore, consists mostly of fish and fowl cooked in a variety of sticky-sweet fruit sauces. The recent introduction of sugar cane from Rizen has made the food in more cosmopolitan areas even sweeter to the point that a meal is often chased with a salty broth rather than dessert.
Elves in general do not make breads and pastries, but they do make a staple of a hard, crusty biscuit made from pounded legumes called nolana that is used very much like bread and crumbled into dishes as a thickener.
Most communities in the Tresolm are governed by a council of elders that in turns advises an elected council. Any adult may vote or hold office and the position is held for life or until the council of elders brings a vote of no confidence against them.
The various elfhames are essentially autonomous city-states that just happen to usually be at peace. Smaller communities routinely mount raids on one another in times of great need.
It has only been since the Ashing and the subsequent signing of the Thirteen Nation Accords that most of the Tresolm has opened to foreign trade and travel. The Great Green Expanse had always been open and the introduction of refugees among the elven communities into the Tresolm planted the idea among them that open borders would benefit them.
As such, the full extent to which outside influences will effect the elves of Vini Tresolm remains to be seen. Personally, I have seen little change here in Comtria, so deep in the interior jungle, but in my time at Amonru, I have noticed that foreign entertainment, especially the dime novel, are taking hold.
Integration, however, looks to be a long road. The shear physical challenge of travel inside an elfhame will stymie many non-elves who are not as athletic or more prone to injuries from repetitive stress. I’ve only been able to keep up with my hosts by developing a spell to let me gain a handhold in a tree even when none are present. The elfhames also lack skydocks, meaning that the only trade they can receive right now are from the old, expensive airships that can land on water, or jungle caravans.
At least in Comtria, no one seems to find this particularly problematic.
Contrary to popular belief and the stereotype set by the Nycean elves, those of the Tresolm do not harbor any particular xenophobia. Instead, they just happen to be in a deeply Tresolm-centric mindset where they cannot fathom others not having similar lifestyles. Even after these long weeks, Nimue still wrinkles her nose in disgust when she sees me drinking water instead of the highly sweetened fruits juices her people prefer, and she has expressed utter distress over some of my dime novels describing elves living in cities of straight, flat streets in full sun.
That said, progress finds a way. A new class of international merchants is emerging in the elfhames along the borders. They are buying up riding spiders and sure-footed ornises as well as Tresolmi giant bats to form trading fleets to begin ferrying products into and out of Novrom and Mindeforme. The process will be slow, but I have faith that one day, Vini Tresolm will become a well-placed player in the global market, particularly in the production of lumber, spices and skill in the form of vitae masters.
In closing, I would like this report submitted as a living document. In one week, I will be traveling even deeper into the jungle to the Elfhame Korai to live there for a month with a vitae master going by Life Weaver Thuum Haibakes. I hope to learn more of our enigmatic neighbors on this leg of my walkabout and intend to add to this report in that time.
My thanks to the College for funding my walkabout and giving me the opportunity to step upon the path of the loreman in the first place, to my mentor, Traceren Ridsekes, and to the body of Loreman Trials for their advice and resources.
May your voices be strong, your minds be sharp, and the Word and Song serve and be served by you well.
~ Keese Kaiel Arunsteadeles
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