It has come up that we need to fill some details about the feral elves of the Cartisan Forests. I, obviously, have an image in my head of what and who these people are. My players will have their own ideas. What I am going to do here is sketch out what I know about them, and then invite interested parties to fill in what they ‘know’ about them.
I will post this to the wiki on Obsidian Portal as well, and keep it updated with any developments that may arise on this blog. Any player in the campaign may also edit it there, as well.
Before the Sundering, there were three great elven nations. Millions of human slaves laboured under the oppressive rule of the Arch Heretic in the east, while the Candalar were worshiped as gods by the humans of the south. To the east, ruling over forests older even than the elves, lived the Cartisan.
Cartisan, in their own language, meant gardener. They used their prodigious powers to tend and shape the forests. While the other kingdoms built fortresses and city-sized monuments from stone, earth, and metal, the Cartisan willed the trees to grow into cities and walls and strongholds. It would be a mistake, however, to say that the Cartisan elves were one with nature. Rather, they were masters of it. Like all elves, they prized domination over coexistence, and pride over humility. The Cartisan were quick to anger, slow to forgive, and dismissive of the achievements of others.
Uniquely, the Cartisan did not allow humans to live in their lands. They viewed Man as little more than a beast and often hunted them for sport. Scholars believe that the primary motivation for their participation in the Great Intervention was political, rather than altruism. They cared little for the fate of the humans in the Over-empire and saw the dwarven plan as an excuse to reduce the power of their closest rival.
After the Sundering
When Carathas sundered the Prime, the forests turned against the Cartisan. Beasts and spirits now haunted their former home, even the trees themselves became hostile. Ravaged by the Affliction, disease, famine, and predation, the Cartisan were nearly wiped out.
Those that remained survived only by setting aside the old ways. They became nomadic, hunting and foraging, and avoiding the ruins of their shattered cities. This new existence, harsh and often short, forced them to deal with the Affliction. They are constantly moving, and always suspicious.
In a land where every shadow contains a deadly threat, there is little time for scholarly tradition. Each tribe maintains an oral history, passed down through generations by the Keepers. As tribes merge through marriage or conquest, their histories intertwine, resulting in new forms of old myths and legends.
The Keeper is, in most cases, the heart of the tribe. It is through their stories and songs that the tribe is kept whole. The myths tell people how to behave, and how to be a member of the tribe. They are called upon to judge crimes, officiate weddings, and help observe funeral rites. They know the lineage of every tribe member and their accomplishments. The myths of the tribe are often embellished or altered to incorporate the living stories of the tribe.
The moss-born have a primarily matriarchal and matrilineal society. Women hold the key roles in a tribe – chief, keeper, first hunter – except when it comes to handling the dead. That task always falls to a man, formally known as the Watcher of the Roads.
With so much of their history erased and only preserved in the malleable memories of the Keepers, the moss-born do not hold to any trace of their Cartisan ancestors. If anything, they view their shadowy forebears as traitors who allowed the Sundering to happen through negligence. Many tribes have stories that show how pride and wrath lead to folly and danger. The moss-born are proud of who they are now, not the great works of their former empire. Relics of the past age are often regarded as suspicious and dangerous.
Through the oral histories of the Keepers, the moss-born practice a form of ancestor worship. It is believed that the dead wander a shadowy realm that is a mixture of the ancient past and the far future, called The Roads, until they are called to return to this world. There are notions of reincarnation, although this varies from tribe to tribe. Some hold that the spirits of the dead can return to life as a new-born, while others think that the dead watch the living and may intercede on their behalf – even to the point of manifesting into reality.
There is no real concept of gods in the moss-born mythology. They remember, somewhat, that they used to be gods themselves and have now fallen. A handful of tribes practice ritual sacrifice to appease their ancestors, but this is the exception.
Dreams and visions are regarded with suspicion. Most tribes believe that they are the voices of the dead, and that the dead should only communicate with the Watcher of the Roads. As with all things, there are exceptions. At least a dozen small tribes routinely use hallucinogenics, attempting to commune with the ancestors.
The majority of moss-born see blood magic as an abomination and those that use it as harbingers of destruction. When a Wilder is discovered they are either put to death or exiled. Of the exiles, those that survive may eventually find their way to one of the savage tribes that haunt the deepest parts of the forest. These bloodthirsty clans actively practice arcane magic but little else is known about them.
Given their nomadic lifestyle, the moss-born have little use for artwork that cannot be easily packed away and carried with them. Many choose to tattoo themselves, recording their accomplishments and lineage in wild patterns and symbols. Some tribes daub their tents with ornate murals, and others decorate their spears with carvings of twisting vines and animal motifs. Weapons, antlers, horns, ayes, and feathers dominate moss-born imagery.
Moss-born and Men
The last century and a half have seen a increase in human settlers in the ancestral lands of the Cartisan. The Imperials have dubbed this region the East March, in effect claiming all of it as their own. They have brought industry, religion and disease over the mountains in equal proportion. Naturally, this has lead to conflicts with the moss-born tribes.
Humans consider the elves to be dangerous savages. Although they have attempted to convert some to the Creed, they have met with little success.
The elves see Men as interlopers, treading upon sacred ground for greed and profit.
Several tribes made war on the Imperial settlers but were quickly put to rout by the legions. It soon became apparent, however, that human soldiers were no match for elven skirmishers in the deep forests, suffering a number of disasterous defeats when their commanders attempted to pursue moss-born aggressors.
Now the humans expand and the tribes retreat. There have been atrocities and massacres on both sides, but the disorganised elves in the western reaches of the March have suffered greatly. There is friction between tribes as they begin to encroach on each others’ hunting grounds.