see: Seven Sovereignties, The
Also referred to as alfar, elf (pl. elves), or Ellyllon, the Aelvar (sing. Aelvar) are a race of eternally young beings that populate the world of Esperia. They reside within the Seven Sovereignties, ruled by seven queens.
They are the same height as men but possess slighter frames and large, motile ears that taper into points. The Aelvar also possess large eyes with a dominating iris -- completely covering the sclera (or "whites"). Their pupils are often hidden in bright lighting conditions but appear as vertical slits, like a cat or serpent. In darkness, the pupils open widely and the iris emits a feint glow. This enables the Aelvar to see well in nearly complete darkness.
Our opening tale is presented from the perspective of one of the Aelvar sovereignties.
Aislinn /ash-ling/ is the queen of the Tir Y Goeden ("Land of the Tree" in the Aelvar language of "Tylwyth") sovereignty. Given the nickname "The Red Queen", due to the heavy heraldic usage of various shades of red throughout her sovereignty, Aislinn is the first protagonist we meet in The War of The Trees saga.
Amaroks are large, solitary wolves that possess a thick hide of bright white or deep black fur. These creatures make their home in the frigid northeastern reaches of the continent and along the Sárú Scamall Mountains of the northern hinterlands.
The Goddess of the Frosts, Cethlenn, is believed to have created these creatures to serve as her hunting hounds.
Legends tell of an army from long ago, faithful to Cethlenn, that rode into battle upon the backs of fierce amaroks, like noble steeds. Statues of the Goddess are often depicted with these giant wolves at her feet.
Known as "Mother Oak", this ancient tree resides in the heart of the continent of Fódhla.
In Aelvar origin myths, this gigantic tree was believed to have been planted by The Gods be to bear the first Aelvar when the world was young. Its massive root networks twist and tear through the verdant landscapes in all directions.
Few, if any, Aelvar have ever ventured close enough to touch the An Darach as it is situated deep within the holy lands of The Garden of The Gods. This place is forbidden to all but The Gods and their chosen few.
Aoife /iːvʌ/ is the younger sister of Deirdre. She was taken from the Tir O Afonydd sovereignty, along with Caolan, Darwen, her sister, Deirdre, and a handful of others, to serve Tir Y Goeden when the young prince wed Aislinn many seasons ago.
Unlike her sister, she preferred the more physically demanding roles of the Tir Y Goeden military as a child. Skills in hunting all manner of beast, gained through seasons of training, are only rivaled by her strikingly good looks. Though she shares her sister's blue eyes, her golden locks are a stark contrast to other river folk of Tir O Afonydd.
The highest position within the hierarchy of the Brón (or "Sisterhood") of druids, the archdruid leads her subordinates of druids and neophytes to carry out the will of The Gods. It is said that she communicates directly with these divine beings.
Currently, the title is held by the mysterious, Badb.
She is the current archdruid. Little is known of Badb /baɪð/ beyond her mysterious abilities to control the great Iolair ("War Eagles") and other birds (especially crows).
It is said that she had two other sisters but, over the ages, few can recollect their names or faces.
Badb wields a strange scepter when performing various religious ceremonies. There appears to be a different scepter for each sovereignty she visits -- that represents that sovereignty's patron God. Some have seen her speak to the strange visage sculpted upon the scepter's finial as if holding a conversation with it.
Balor, or Balor the Radiant, is regarded as the Bringer of Light to the world of Esperia. It is believed this God created the Solas Mór (or Great Light), that passes through the sky, to watch over the lands. During the day, this brightly burning eye sees all below it.
By evening, the Solas Mór sets, returning to the God's eye socket from which it was cast. This is why most statues of Balor depict him blindfolded (or with other forms of eye coverings). The eye that remains in his head during the day also possesses an overwhelming brilliance and remains closed. When opened, it casts a deadly gaze of searing light, capable of laying waste to the land for several leagues. This is why Balor is also called The Blind God despite seeing all with his illuminating eye in the sky.
Balor is also the largest of The Gods -- even taller than his king, Indech. His heavily muscled physique is covered in black robes that match his long, black beard and hair.
Balor's wife, Cethlenn, bore him a son, Conaing, and a daughter, Faeda. Scripture describes Balor's protective nature for his family to be unrivaled. It is said that he built the great Tor Ynys Cetne and lifted it from the ocean to serve as a mighty fortress for them. Despite this, Balor and Cethlenn primarily reside in The Garden of The Gods, at court with their king, Indech.
Vicious and highly territorial, this large serpent possesses a horned-head that, when severed, can grow another body from its stump.
The young hatch from large broods but ultimately consume most of their brethren as they compete for food within the nest.
Beithir are quick as a lightning strike and can grow to nearly 50 feet in length. As they mature, they sprout four limbs that drastically altar their anatomical makeup.
These elder Beithir can even sprout multiple heads -- giving them the name "Hydra."
Beithir blood, like their corrosive venom, is composed of a highly acidic material that dissolves most organic material (except metal). Their scaly hide is highly resistant to this acid and thus leather made from it is often used by Aelvar hunters that brave the Esperian wilderness.
Brón means "Sisterhood" in the Aelvar language of Tylwyth. It is the term reserved for the holy order of druids that travel between the Seven Sovereignties delivering the commands of The Gods.
Led by the archdruid, Badb, these emissaries of The Gods are gifted with divine powers. It is said that Badb can control the great Iolair -- the giant war eagles that partake in a sacramental ritual known as The Harvest.
Aelvar daughters are taken, in their early youth, to the Garden of The Gods, where they spend ages training as neophytes to become fully-vested druids of the Brón.
No male druids exist as of the tales covered in Second Genesis.
The Brón are afforded a station above royalty and few Aelvar are foolish enough to question their authority.
The king-consort of Tir Y Goeden, Caolan once belonged to the Tir O Afonydd sovereignty before his arranged marriage to Aislinn.
He is one of the initial heroes of The War of The Trees saga and is the father of Zevulaun - the ill-fated prince that sparked a great rebellion.
This is the Aelvar term for fauns. "Cernute" (pl. Cernuti) translates to "Horned One" in the Aelvar language of Tylwyth.
For more information, see: Faun.
Cethlenn, also known as the "Goddess of the Frosts", is the wife of Balor and mother of Conaing.
All depictions of her contain long white hair, an icy blue or white complexion, and always wearing a white and blue dress with intricately laced sleeves.
While her affection for the domain of cold in the north is recorded in various religious texts, Cethlenn is also said to be partial to the large wolves, or "Amaroks", of the northern and eastern sovereignties.
Some excerpts of scripture even describe her as "The Mother of Wolves" and statues of her are often carved with Amaroks at her feet.
The island of Ynys Gannaid, or the "Shining White Island" is said to contain a crystalline palace from which a great Aelvar army, from ages past, was garrisoned. This army swore loyalty to Cethlenn and were rewarded with this icy paradise. The unwelcomed are turned away and most trespassers freeze to death before ever landing on the island's shores.
Great and terrible, Conaing is the almighty God that watches over the sovereignty of Tir Y Goeden. Votive statues of him, some as tall as one-hundred feet, are erected all throughout the land.
It is said that Conaing stands as tall as some mountains, with twisting horns, like tree roots, sprouting from his brow. His braided beard is depicted as dark brown with golden rings, and his heavily muscled body is adorned with opulent jewels and gold.
Only the druids have gazed upon his physical form and it is through these accounts that Aelvar artwork is depicted.
Conaing's favored Iolair, giant white eagles, are sent from The Garden of The Gods, after each full cycle of the moon phases, to collect the sacrificed Aelvar males offered to him in a tithe. This is known as The Harvest.
Long ago, the great city of Croí an Chrainn ("Heart of the Tree") stood defiantly at the foothills of the northern mountains in the Tir Y Goeden Sovereignty. It is said, the beautiful and highly adored queen, Niamh, ruled over her people from this city.
A great calamity befell Croí an Chrainn and nearly all of its residents perished. Survivors were brought to a new capital city, Hafanhaid ("Flock Haven"), after a period of wandering the deadly landscapes of an untamed wilderness. This deliverance was facilitated by The Gods and it is from these survivors The Red Queen, Aislinn o'Hafanhaid, rose to power.
Little is remembered of the Croí an Chrainn's splendor and its ruins have been dubbed "The Forbidden City." Survivors, and newcomers to the Tir Y Goeden sovereignty alike, are warned to never venture into these accursed ruins.
What was that calamity? Some stories blame it on a mighty siege by a great cernute warlord. Others conflict this narrative and claim The Gods themselves brought down their wrath upon the city and its rulers for failing their duties. History is seldom written by eyewitnesses.
The great Daranu (or "Thunder" River in Tylwyth) flows southward from beneath the spring-fed Niwaelod Lake that sits high upon a great plateau near the heart of the continent. It serves as a massive trade channel with various river ports darting its banks on both sides. At its mouth, several trade cities mark its transition from freshwater into the briny waters of the Ysol Sea.
Though the waters are mostly tranquil, there are parts with dangerous rapids -- especially below the Hanging City of Easanna Arda. Two massive waterfalls, cleft by an outcropping of stone cliffs, feed the river from the plateau above it.
The low-born Aelvar that live along the banks of the Daranu, south of the capital, are colloquially referred to as "river folk."
An elite Aelvar soldier of the Tir Y Goeden army, Darwen is an expert hunter and slayer of Cernuti.
Darwen was originally from the soverignty of Tir O Afonydd and came to Tir Y Goeden with his childhood friend, Caolan.
Though Darwen is a low-born member of the river folk, a caste beneath Aelvar nobility, he gained his position within the ranks of the military through excellence and valor.
Darwen bears the black hair and bright green eyes that are characteristic of the river folk of Tir O Afonydd.
Troubling events, prior to the arranged marriage of Caolan to the then princess Aislinn of Tir Y Goeden, nearly destroyed the royal family of Tir O Afonydd. Perhaps Darwen accompanying the prince to the new sovereignty was for the best?
Dela /θ'eɪlʌ/ is the God of metalsmithing. It is said that he gave the gift of metallurgy to the first Aelvar in an effort to aid them in a war against the trolls.
Little is known about this reclusive God's appearance beyond statues of him being depicted wearing a large, goggled helmet and a full harness of metal plate armor.
His son, Morc, is regularly depicted with him in statues and votive art. Although Dela is said to be more measured and reserved, Morc is his direct opposite.
He is also said to wield a great hammer that is capable of splitting mountains in twain. A small replica of the hammer is often worn as a religious medallion by the Aelvar of the Tir Y Gerrig soverignty in the south.
Every army of The Seven Sovereignties pray to Dela, along with Morc, before battle in hopes that their metal arms and armor do not fail in combat.
Dierdre was originally from the Tir O Afonydd sovereignty but, along with a handful of others, she was brought to Tir Y Goeden to serve this new land.
She possesses the characteristic black hair of the lowborn river folk of Tir O Afonydd but has blue eyes, similar to the redheaded nobility of those lands.
Since Aelvar do not suffer most ailments, nor do they succumb to the betrayals of age, Deirdre's role as an apothecary began as a student of herbalism. Her tinctures and concoctions were often leveraged for recreational purposes until her true calling in animal husbandry made better use of her skills.
When Queen Aislinn fell pregnant, it was Deirdre that was called upon to assess her mysterious condition. This led to the lowborn herbalist becoming a midwife for the royal family. After the prince was born, Deirdre's talents helped sooth the ailing queen and comfort the infant.
Deirdre's role as a midwife became extremely taxing on her as more and more pregnancies and births cropped up around the sovereignty.
Druids are the religious leaders of the Aelvar people. It is through their guidance, gained from audiences with The Gods, that all holy doctrine is issued and carried out.
Daughters are taken from their families at a young age to become neophytes within the The Garden of The Gods. Through ages of study and tutelage, they ascend into the Brón ("Sisterhood"). Few males, if any, have ever been inducted into this religious order.
Led by the archdruid, Badb, druids freely travel between the Seven Sovereignties to pass on divine edicts from The Gods.
Dusios (pl. "Dusioi") is a term used for a gathering fauns, similar to a tribe.
These nomadic creatures gather together in these multi-family groups and setup temporary tents and other dwellings for short periods of time before packing everything up and moving once more. Aelvar soldiers have observed these migration patterns to be linked to their hunting and gathering limitations.
The capital city of the Tir O Afonydd sovereignty, Easanna Arda translates to "High Waterfalls" in the Aelvar language of Tylwyth. Also known as "The Hanging City", this seat of power for the ruling class is suspended above two thunderous waterfalls that feed into the great Daranu River below. It is presided over by the Bright Queen, Joan.
The alien world in which The War of the Trees saga takes place, Esperia is very different from our own world in many ways. A large, ringed moon, known as "Theia" looms in the pink-violet skies over this world -- visible in both day and night. There are no ferrous metals on this world, nor does silver exist here naturally. The single continent of Fódhla, with its few outer islands, are all that is known to the peoples of Esperia.
The word "Esperia" means "Evening" in a long lost ancient dialect of a forgotten Aelvar language.
Faeda is the Goddess of fertility and agriculture. Though her domain resides in the verdant fields and pastures of the mainland, she mainly dwells within a mighty tower on the island of Tor Ynys Cetne.
She is depicted as an alluring, voluptuous Goddess with long brown hair, wreathed in flowers, and adorned in a green dress with varying leaf patterns.
It is said that her father, Balor, received a prophecy that his children would be slain in some kind of conflict. This prompted him build an unscalable tower on an island surrounded by tall cliffs.
Despite her father's attempts to keep her locked away, there are excerpts from scripture that tell of her ability to change forms and occasionally escape her island refuge. It is during this time she is said to seduce males of various species by assuming pleasant-looking female forms.
Although she is worshiped for agricultural blessings, the Aelvar of the Seven Sovereignties do not view other forms of fertility to be much of a virtue and rarely pray to her in such matters. However, the vanity of the Aelvar compels them to pray to her for gifts of beauty and matters of the heart.
Fauns are caprine creatures with the furry legs, tail, and cloven hooves of a goat. They also possess two horns that come in an assortment of styles, earning them the name "Cernuti" ("Horned Ones" in Tylwyth) by the Aelvar.
In addition to their goat-like qualities, they also appear to possess heads, arms, and torsos that resemble more densely muscled Aelvar. The males sport beards when they mature and many fauns are prone to painting their hides with cryptic symbols -- even tattooing themselves with their odd designs.
They are nomadic and gather in small "dusioi" ("tribes") that roam the plains, forests, and hilly lowlands of southern Fódhla.
Though primitive and uncivilized by Aelvar standards, fauns make use of crude weaponry that can pose a threat.
They speak a nearly incomprehensible language and show signs of being highly organized when they conduct raids on Aelvar settlements for food and materials.
Considered more of a pest than a true danger to the interior towns of the southern sovereignties, royal armies of trained Aelvar are regularly sent into the countryside in a, Gods-ordained, "Wild Hunt" to dispatch these bothersome "beasts."
The great continent of Fódhla is the main landmass of the known world. Aelvar origin myths describe the continent to be that of The Goddess that bears its name. It states that all life resides upon her resting body as she maintains her eternal slumber within the endlessly rocking waters of the Mór Ocean. Should she awaken, the world, and all life upon it, shall end.
The Gods regularly sway their titanic sister by producing the great winds from the heavens and the tides from the seas. Some myths claim that low tides occur when The Gods leave the sea and high tides occur when they return.
The continent is divided into Seven Sovereignties, ruled by seven Aelvar queens. In the heart of the continent, a gigantic tree (known as "An Darach") grows high above the clouds. Its vast network of roots radiate outward and extend to the sea along the edges of the continent in the cardinal directions.
The Garden of The Gods, a paradise from which The Gods hold court, exists at the base of this giant tree. The Brón, a holy order of druids, are the only known mortals to gaze upon its divine splendor.
Galanar is a faun and the aging chieftain of his dusios ("tribe"). More information about this character shall become available as future books are released.
Deep within the heart of the continent, shaded by the wondrous branches of the titanic, An Darach, the hallowed domain of The Gods resides.
These lands are sacred to Aelvar and only the chosen Brón among them dare tread on this holy ground.
It is said The Gods hold court here, beneath the boughs of the An Darach, and preside over the lands from a court of white marble and faewood.
The Gods of the Aelvar exist in a pantheon of beings that physically manifest in this world. They are said to be giant (some taller than a hundred feet) and first emerged from the endless Mór Ocean that once fully covered the world.
There are patron Gods for each sovereignty -- lands divided up by The Gods to protect their Aelvar children from the deadly fauna that dwell beyond the safe confines of various walled cities.
Though not all Gods are said to influence all sovereignties, they all hold court within The Garden of The Gods, within the central lands of the continent, and regularly return to their domain beneath the Mór Ocean.
Today, few Aelvar, beyond the druidic order of the Brón, have ever laid eyes upon their great and terrible forms. Instead, massive stone statues have been erected throughout the sovereignties to remind the Aelvar of their Gods' presence.
It is here, various ceremonies and rituals are carried out, including: naming children, marriages, burying the dead, drawing "The Lottery", and providing tithes to The Gods (see: "The Harvest").
Notable Gods include:
Balor, Conaing, Cethlenn, Dela, Faeda, Fódhla, Indech, Morc, Tethra, & Theia.
The capital city of the Tir Y Goeden sovereignty and the seat of power for its royal family, Hafanhaid translates to "Flock Haven" in the Aelvar language of "Tylwyth."
It was built after the fall of Tir Y Goeden's first capital city, Croí an Chrainn (or "Heart of the Tree" in Tylwyth), during the Dark Times. Scripture tells of The Gods building this sanctuary to protect their children from the dangers looming beyond the sovereignty's borders.
Located within the interior of the Tir Y Goeden sovereignty, Hafahaid serves as a crossroads for various trades routes. Like a spoke and wheel, roads fan out to the four corners of the sovereignty and meet within this city as a hub.
Originally presided over by Queen Niamh, her infant daughter, Aislinn ascended to rule after the queen was executed for failing to provide a suitable tithe for The Harvest. Though a royal court of advisors had acted as an assembly of stewards until Aislinn came of age, the royal bloodline of Tir Y Goeden technically remained intact during this period.
With that said, rumors of Aislinn's true parentage circulate to this day but most of her subjects adore "The Red Queen." It was she that helped secure the northern borders from cernuti incursions by leading the charge in a campaign of several strikes -- known as "The Wild Hunt."
Today, Hafanhaid stands as a shining jewel in the southwestern reaches of the continent.
In ages past, a great conflict befell the continent of Fódhla. In the dawn of Aelvarkind, the world was beset by the life-devouring trolls. These foul beasts were both mighty in strength and numbers. They preyed upon all other beings and laid waste to creation.
The Gods, along with their allied Aelvar forces, successfully cleansed the world of these unclean creatures. They drove the remaining survivors deep underground and away from the light of this world.
In the wake of this costly victory, The Gods sought to mitigate any future damage from other possible enemies of creation by dividing the continent into seven compartmentalized lands - the seven sovereignties.
Each sovereignty was appointed a royal leader - chosen from generals of the great Aelvar armies that had fought during the Troll Wars.
These generals were all female. As a result, the social structure became matriarchal, with Aelvar females holding the majority of leadership roles.
One of our protagonists, Aislinn, is the queen of the southwestern sovereignty of Tir Y Goeden (The Land of the Tree).
The other sovereignties are as follows:
Also known as "Conaing's Tower", this island fortress resides off the northwestern coast of the Tir Y Goeden sovereignty.
It serves as a beacon for wayward seafarers and all are warned never to approach or travel beyond it.
The massive tower also serves as roosts for the mighty Iolair, war eagles, that assist in the rituals of The Harvest.
No Aelvar has ever scaled this titanic tower's insurmountable walls.
The infant prince of Queen Aislinn and the king-consort, Caolan of Tir Y Goeden, Zevulaun's birth marks a strange disruption in the lives of the Aelvar. Since Aelvar births are extremely rare, his mother's pregnancy was something many have never seen in their lives. After his birth, many more Aelvar have fallen pregnant.
Religious texts claim the first Aelvar were born from the seeds of the great An Darach tree that resides within the center of the continent - a hub between the Seven Sovereignties.
Few Aelvar can recall their parents. Most were either claimed by The Harvest or by The Gods for failing to obey.
Coincidentally, on the day of Zevulaun's naming ceremony (the day in which newborn Aelvar receive their names from The Gods), the young prince's name was drawn for The Harvest. This series of strange events have planted seeds of defiance within his parents. How could The Gods demand a mere infant be sacrificed to them? Such a new life hasn't had a chance to live!
Perhaps The Gods know more of Zevulaun's true potential than they care to share with their disciples?