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A Treatise on the Nature of the Demihumans' Relics

by Marco Dalmonte

Special thanks to Andrew Theisen, Hervé Musseau, Thorfinn Tait and David Knott.

Preface: What is a Relic?

Each demi-human community has its Relic, as the old Companion set teaches. But what does it mean exactly? What's the difference between a clan with a relic and another that hasn't got one? From what we can understand of the demi-human cultures reading throughout the various gazetteers and other supplements, the clan is a living entity made of different parts that all contribute to its existence. And the Relic is the HEART of the clan. Now, what happens if your heart is ripped off your body? Simple: you die. The same applies for the elves, the halflings, the dwarves and all the other demihumans who have been raised to praise and value the relic more than their own life. It is a way of life and a way of thinking more than game mechanics we're talking about here.

The Relic is the centre of the community, the thing that makes people feel united and belonging to the same race, the same world. It is the nexus of everything in life, that which connects together all the members of the clan. It is above all the (in some cases sentient) representative of the deity they worship, of the Higher Being that gave them the life and that constantly watches over them. And the members of each clan can see it and feel its power and presence tangibly every day: it is an eternal testimony of its real existence.

Without the Relic, without that everlasting symbol of unity and of blessing, the community inevitably breaks apart and is destined to certain doom. And that's because its members think this in the first place, and if they think it, they will cause their downfall to come true (this attitude is called self-fulfilling prophecy). The Relic gives the members of a clan a reason to live and to have faith in the immortals, and when they haven't it anymore, then there is no more future for them: the world will simply swallow them, it's a matter of time. And so they don't live anymore, but they let themselves survive, maybe hoping that somebody take their relic back to them.

However, this is true only of those demi-human communities that have grown into these concepts and ideas, that is to say of those communities who know of the existence of relics and prize them. There can be some demi-human strongholds in faraway places of Mystara that have never heard of a Tree of Life or a Forge of Power and that have learnt to live according to other values (the Kogolors or the Blacklore elves for example): to them the relics are nothing. They could have also developed other kinds of relics. This is fully understandable. But for the same reason we must understand that for those born and raised with complete belief in the religious and social unifying power of the relic, the absence of it is not tolerable. There can simply be no healthy community without a Relic at its heart like there can be no living being without a heart.


The Tree of Life

As stated in numerous sources, the first ToL was created by Ilsundal in BC 1800 (GAZ5, page 7). However, it is not clear if it created the ToL before or after he became an Immortal: GAZ5 contradicts itself on this point.

"Shortly after they were settled, Ilsundal, the elves' leader, learned the path to become an Immortal in the Sphere of Energy. As his Test, he created the Tree of Life, an Avatar of his power to guide his people" (GAZ5, p.7)

Judging from this excerpt it seems he created the ToL as a mortal as part of his Test (see the Paths to Immortality in Master set or WotI) to become immortal. So he was able to imbue the ToL with his life essence even before attaining immortality (a truly unbelievable feat). But then later in the GAZ we read:

"The original Tree of Life was created by the Immortal Ilsundal shortly after he became an Immortal in the Sphere of Energy." (GAZ5, p.69)

So, in this case Ilsundal has created the ToL AFTER he achieved immortality. What's the truth then? Can a mortal create an item that is a sentient avatar of himself? We know that somebody else could have tried, but it seems he failed:

"According to reliable lore, Algorn is actually embodied as a Tree of Life growing in the midst of this magical pocket.[..] years after he was heard from, a new Tree of Life was noticed here which resembled an elf not unlike Algorn the Treekeeper." (GAZ5, p.22)

According to the tales then, the Treekeeper Algorn tried to attain immortality but failed, and after his disappearance the elves found a new Magic Place in the midst of which a new previously unknown ToL stood, its shape bearing Algorn's features. Whether it is true or not that this ToL is Algorn, this actually doesn't prove that he was trying to create his own ToL: after all why should he do this? The Test for the Path of Paragon requires the Paragon to craft an entirely unique and new magical item, and the ToL already existed. IMHO, Algorn was trying to perform some kind of other magical experiment that went awry, and in his last minutes, he begged Ilsundal (he was a Treekeeper) to let him stay in the forest to help his people, so Ilsundal turned him into a new ToL.

However, this does not help us finding an explanation regarding the nature of the original ToL, and since the canon material TSR gave us isn't helpful either, we'll have to make abductions. My personal explanation is that Ilsundal created the Tree of Life as a unique but non-sentient magical item and then attained immortality. After that, he returned to Mystara (nobody had noticed his brief departure) and transferred part of his immortal spirit into the Mother Tree, creating an artifact which was also a sentient avatar. Then he proclaimed himself the Guide of the Elven Race, giving the Tree to the elves as symbol of his perpetual link with them, and introduced a few wise elves to its mysteries (creating his own clergy of Treekeepers). As the last step, he ascended to the heavens in front of his people to abide forever with the Immortals.

Now, around AC 800 Mealiden and the Treekeepers asked Ilsundal to make duplicates of the Mother Tree to be brought with them in their long trek westwards and so Ilsundal CREATED other nine seedlings which would later grow into mature original ToL (the first example of avatars that grow older!). We know there are 10 Original ToL in Mystara: one is in the Sylvan Realm (sources: CM7, GAZ5), six were in Alfheim and are now in Karameikos and Wendar, protected by the clans they belong to (sources: GAZ5, WotI), and finally one is in Karameikos, the Callarii's ToL (source: GAZ5).

Three are still missing. Where are they? I don't know, but I can tell you for sure where they are not: they're not in Wendar, because the Wendarian elves have a totally different history and worship different immortals (source: PWA, the unofficial Wendar timeline by Shawn and me). The Shadow Elves don't have them for the same reasons, and also because if they had had one, they would have used it to save Canolbarth (source: GAZ13). The elves of Minrothad don't have any, because they worship different immortals (source: GAZ9). What elves do remain? Belcadiz elves (GAZ3), Norwold elves (CM1), Alphatia elves (DotE), Isle of Dawn elves (M5), Savage Coast elves (RS), Graakhalia elves (CoM), Ee'aars (OH), and N'djatwa (ogre/elf crossbreed from Dragon Magazine) if you count them. These are the ones we do know of, but others may exist. In this article I won't address the issue of the missing trees, however: this is left open to the various DMs.

I would like to stop a little more on the topic of the creation of the other nine ToL. Andrew Theisen brought up an interesting point regarding their method of creation: "On the nature of the other ToL, perhaps they were created not as Ilsundal's avatar (like the original ToL), but like you hypothesised for Algorn, they were created from the spirits of other elven Treekeepers? Perhaps they had served Ilsundal well, or did something like Algorn (failed attempt at Immortality) and were rewarded with being turned into Trees of Life? In this respect, they may be seen in a similar manner to Titans, or other Exalted-type creatures?" [end quote]

It could be. However, in this case those nine seedlings should be considered not avatars of Ilsundal but.. "vegetal titans". Yet they do function like any ToL described in Companion set (actually, they are the reference to look at when judging the nature of other ToL). Also I don't believe they all were created because so many Treekeepers failed their attempts at becoming Immortals: there cannot be so many would be immortals in a small area such as the Sylvan Realm in only 1000 years (well, at least that's my impression). However, I could think about Treekeepers who sacrificed themselves for their race and clans accepting to become the vehicles of Ilsundal's power. The ceremony for the creation of the nine seedlings could have in fact required an extreme act of distress on the part of the Treekeepers (Ilsundal had to create nine seedlings from the Original Tree, and we know there is a strong bond between Treekeepers and the ToL), so extreme that they knew they would have faced death itself. Maybe Ilsundal wanted to reward them for their loyalty and sacrifice and allowed their spirit to reside inside the new seedlings, thus making them sentient. In this case they would be slightly different from the original Tree in the sense that they are still living avatars of Ilsundal but only because the spirit that inhabits them is that of a Treekeeper (who in fact "a living avatar of Ilsundal" according to the religious beliefs, much like a cleric of Kagyar is a "living avatar" of the deity -I found this reference in GAZ6). So Ilsundal gives them all the spells and powers he gave to the Original Tree, but they don't count as avatars of him. Much less expensive in terms of Power Points..

A final note regarding the ToL to introduce my next chapter about another elven relic:

"The Verdier elves left their clan tree behind when they emigrated from their homeland. Some say that tree was the inspiration for Ilsundal's later creation, the Tree of Life, familiar to so many mainland elves. [..] Whatever sprig or offshoot of the clan tree went with them had perished during their long travels" (GAZ9, p.43)

This paragraph is really puzzling. This says that the elves who lived in Evergrun (for this is the homeland of the Verdiers, as one might from the last line which speaks of "long travels") had a special tree of some sort who was considered a relic. So it seems that the elves have always had a tree relic.. or is it? Could it not be instead the influence of what was written in the Companion set on those authors who wrote the gazetteers and the adventure modules that which prompted these lines (as Hervé Musseau suggested)?

Whatever the truth (and I doubt we will ever know), another simple explanation could be put forward without talking out the game mechanics. We all know the elves originally worshipped Ordana who created them, and we also know that Ordana's symbol is a tree (she herself is viewed as a Tree-Woman). So what if the tree we're talking about here was a tree that Ordana initially gave to all the elves to help them survive in the world? What if it was a tree that gave them never-ending fruits and healed those who asked for her help (much like the cornucopia of the Greek myths)? Ordana gave it to every community of elves in Evergrun, but when they were forced to flee to Grunland few of the trees survived (if any.. maybe their magic was tied to the land of Evergrun). And after that, when the elves led by Ilsundal undertook the migration northwards, none of those trees were still alive and so the elves had no more relics. This is why Ilsundal has created his artifact: to give the elves a new relic to unite them again.

More about this theory of the Tree of Ordana: we know that many mythologies have Trees in them (the Norse World Tree, the Biblical Tree, etc.). So maybe there were not many Trees of Ordana but one "uber" Tree of some sort created by the Immortal: a giant sheltering cornucopia tree (this is also very close to our Tree of Life, the one God created in the early days in the Garden of Eden -and since Evergrun is basically the elven Eden then the paragon holds). When Evergrun collapsed, it was presumed destroyed, but maybe it was just changed- there are still wild elves down there... So the One Tree is now lost (Evergrun was obliterated when the axis shifted.. or if not really obliterated, probably is now buried under the ices). However, two possible scenarios come to my mind: it is possible that Ordana transported Evergrun to her homeplane before it was destroyed, and it is there that the Elves go now when they die (very close to our beliefs). It is also possible that Evergrun still exists under the ices of the southern hemisphere (or in the Hollow World), and in this case whoever ventures there could make the greatest discovery of all times: an immense and mighty tree completely preserved under the ice that towers in the middle of those icy and dangerous mountains.. a tree with magical properties.. Imagine a scenario similar to HPL's "At the mountains of Madness" but with a mighty ancient relic instead of Lovecraft's horrors. But if you want to give your players some chill (besides that of the extreme latitude), then the Tree might also be sentient, a primeval Gakarak with the powers we mentioned which can speak to the minds of the nearby people and which has gone a little crazy after all those years (or maybe has been corrupted by a nearby Burrower). Now it wants to be awakened and freed from its icy prison, and it will manipulate whoever stumbles upon it to free itself.. and maybe its Burrower master.. A most definitely twisted version of Eden (read Clive Barker's "Waveworld" to have a better image of a crazed Guardian Angel and of a deserted Eden).

The Pearl of Power

"When Calitha Starbrow ascended to immortality in Evergrun, she created as her Test the Pearl of Power, a living relic that is the close-kept secret of the water elf clans of Minrothad." (GAZ9, p.42)

So Calitha is the first elf who attained immortality on Mystara (Ordana is not an elf as you might remember), and she created the Pearl as the new powerful magic item required by the Path of the Paragon. But again the problem posed by the ToL arises: has it always been a living relic or not? And besides, how can a pearl be a living being? A tree is a natural (vegetal) life form, but a pearl is not. So again, this is probably due to the Companion rules about the elven relic, the only one to be sentient among the demi-human relics (and since the Pearl is an elven relic..). But let's go on reading:

"A fragment of the Pearl was secretly taken by Poladan Meditor, at that time an assistant keeper of the relic. [..] At first Meditor was secretive about what he had done. For a long time the water elves had no relic at all to speak of, and when the fledgling pearl began to develop, the new keeper and his assistants kept the news to themselves. When the power of the off-shoot relic became noticeable, the keeper was confirmed in his office, but the elves kept the news of their clan relic from their human neighbours." (GAZ9, p.42)

Now, given the fact that the pearl reaches maturity (becoming a true sentient relic) after 1d4 centuries, provided it is bathed in sea water monthly (see GAZ9 page 43), the new Pearl should have become sentient around BC 2900-2600 (the elves fled from Evergrun in BC 3000). But the text mentions "human neighbours" and we all know there were none in Grunland (present day Vulcania) around that period. Also it is highly unlikely that Poladan Meditor wasn't alive when this happened, since we all know the lifespan of an elf is really long and when Poladan took the fragment of the Pearl was only an assistant keeper (not older than 200 years IMO). So the Pearl obviously reached maturity in more than four centuries, maybe because Poladan didn't perform the right rituals all the time.. or maybe for another reason which I will explain later. Suppose that the Pearl didn't grow in those four centuries but became sentient AFTER the migration led by Ilsundal: maybe this was the reason why the Meditor left Ilsundal's migration in BC 2100 and settled in Karameikos, because they wanted to keep the Pearl to themselves (the Verdier simply stayed because the enjoyed the climate). But how did the pearl managed to survive for so long during the migration across Davania (remember it must be bathed monthly in sea water)? My answer is: none of the above explanations is true.

Consider this: if the Pearl already existed when Ilsundal created his ToL, why did he attain immortality? His ToL would have been nothing so exceptional nor unique if the Pearl already existed and worked the same way. For this reason and also from the bits excerpted from the above quotes, I believe the Pearl was not alive in BC 1800, when Ilsundal created the ToL.

My explanation is this: Calitha created a great magic item, the Pearl, back in the Evergrun days, and she left it to her clan as a precious artifact to be used in her name. The Keeper was merely the elf who knew all the powers of the artifact and who could use it as such: the pearl was not sentient at that time. The Great Rain of Fire came and the elves had to flee. Believing he could use a chunk of the pearl in the same way the Keeper used the whole relic, Poladan stole one bit of it. Then, when he realised it didn't worked as he had planned, he hid it not to be accused of sacrilege, and passed it to his heirs as a great heirloom, never quite revealing its true nature. The Pearl was lost in the migration from Evergrun to Grunland, but a small chunk survived, unknown even to Calitha.

And then Ilsundal came and he led the elves northwards: in modern day Karameikos the Verdier and Meditor decided they had had enough of this trek and split from Ilsundal's group, loving the climate and the woods and settling there. Maybe there was some quarrelling between their clanleaders and Ilsundal about his real ability to rule and about where his foolish ideas were going to take them (they had travelled for over 300 years after all, and even elves can get tired of wandering after so much time). Or maybe, as GAZ9 suggests, the two groups were prompted by the Powers of Time whom they honoured (probably Calitha and Ordana) to leave Ilsundal's migration and to settle in the lands west of present days Thyatis. Whichever the case, they decided to begin a new life there. In the same century, BC 2100, Ilsundal found the promised land and the elves settled in the Sylvan Realm. In BC 2000 (see PC3 - the date given in GAZ9 is wrong), the Meditor elves were left stranded on the newly formed island of Alfeisle in the Sea of Dread as a consequence of local cataclysms.

In BC 1800 Ilsundal attained immortality as I already described. It didn't take him too much time to realise that there were many other elven clans scattered around the world who needed to find a religious guide and inspiration. So he proposed to Calitha and Ordana to give these elves some relics that resembled the old Tree of Ordana or his own Tree of Life, relics that would have constituted the centre of the religious and social life of the elves and that would have unified them throughout the world. Obviously, each clan would have had a relic close to its needs and beliefs, so they began to work. Calitha created the Frond of Life for the Aquarendi imitating Ilsundal's Tree of Life and used one of her mortal identities to do it (Tallivai the Rootmaker). Ordana probably created the Carven Oak (I'll detail it later in this article) for the Verdier who had begun a quest for a relic. The Wendar elves had already their artifact-relic and so had the Shiyes (I assume they too have a relic, although I ignore its powers and aspect). The Shadow Elves were at that time unknown to the Elven Protectors, and even if they were known, they were far too different from the normal elves to be helped (and besides, they seemed to already worship another immortal).

The Meditors had always been Calitha's followers but they still needed a relic. So Calitha searched for her Pearl of Power to be brought to them again but could not find it anywhere. However, she spotted the remains of it in one of the Meditor's houses, and she proceeded in enchanting it again, this time imbuing it with her lifeforce like she had done with the Frond of Life. She then sent visions to the elf who owned the chunk of the Pearl instructing him of the practices he had to follow to make it grow properly. He listened and became the first Pearl Keeper. In about four-five centuries the Pearl grew and reached mature state, becoming fully sentient (BC 1000 ca). By this time, the Nithians led by Minroth had already colonised Trader's Isle. GAZ9 doesn't mention any known relationship between humans and Meditors before AC 276 (GAZ9, p.6), however that line I previously quoted ["the elves kept the news of their clan relic from their human neighbours." (GAZ9, p.42)] is clear: the elves were afraid the human neighbours could discover their relic and so they kept it secret. What I suggest is that maybe the Meditors spotted the Nithian settlements some time after the Pearl Keeper had revealed the existence of the new relic to his clan (around BC 1000), but they shun the Nithians knowing the humans were treacherous and could have used it for foul goals (remember the GRoF). Then, when Nithia was destroyed, the elves were left no memories of them.

This is all I have to say about the Pearl of Power: it is very similar to the ToL, it can reproduce like it, it is sentient, and at the moment only one exists (that of the Meditors). It is basically the copy of the ToL, but it's Calitha's relic for the Meditors.

The Frond of Life

All that PC3: The Sea People accessory mentions about the Frond of Life is this:

"Tallivai the Root Maker is the most honoured of elven immortals. She is credited with the creation of the first Frond of Life. She represents life and continuity to the elves, and the abundant bounty of the sea." (PC3, page 52)

The accessory also specifically says that the Frond of Life is a magical seaweed that has similar powers to a Tree of Life, that each is an Avatar of Tallivai and that is cared by a Frond Keeper (PC3, p.21). It also details the objects that can be manufactured using a Frond. As you can see, it is completely the same as the ToL, but it's been made for the aquatic elves. This doesn't contrast with the theory I explained above (which, I would like to remind you, it's not in contrast with the clashing information the various supplements give us: I'm just trying to put the tiles together to obtain a clear image).

Just one thing I would like to underline about the Frond. The book says that each Aquarendi settlement has one (like the forest elves), so I infer there can be only one Original Frond (in contrast to the 10 Original ToL), which is held in Kellaalri, the Cavern of the Frond. However, the Cavern is also the place where the Aquarendi worship Manwara (the Old Being of the Sea, Protius), who is not in friendly terms with Calitha. I wonder how this could be possible..

The Carven Oak

The true identity of the Creator of the Carven Oak is not revealed in GAZ9, even though the book says:

"They had brought with them the Carven Oak, a powerful artifact given to the wood elves by the immortal they follow." (GAZ9, p.43)

Since they are elves and since in this case the artifact must bear some resemblance with its creator (it was created to be used as a holy relic), I would say that Ordana is the Immortal worshipped by the Verdier (who follow the ancient traditions and didn't know of Ilsundal's fate since they left him). Also, both Verdiers and Meditors worship Powers of Time (GAZ9, p.4) and Ordana belongs to the Sphere of Time, and if you consider that Ordana's symbol is an Oak Leaf, then it is likely that my assumption is correct.

GAZ9 also says that the Carven Oak is a Greater Artifact of Time and that it possesses none of the powers of common elven relics. However, this doesn't prevent it from being worshipped as a Clan Relic and from having its Keepers. In fact, only the Keeper and his senior assistant know all of the powers, uses and danger of the relic (GAZ9, p.44) and even though the Keeper is listed only as "E6" in the NPC section, I believe he and his assistants can very well be considered normal clerics of Ordana (like Treekeepers, only they are devoted to Ordana). This is due to the kind of worship and devotion the Verdiers have towards their Relic and its creator, which makes its Keepers true priests of the deity.

The Egg of the Phoenix

This item is only briefly mentioned in an adventure detailed in GAZ5 called "The Missing Artifact". From the title we can easily infer this is a very powerful item, yet it didn't get mentioned in the section of the gazetteer detailing the "Secrets of the Elves", appearing only briefly in the adventure appendix. The only information we have is this:

"This is an artifact, said to be the creation of Mealiden - the artifact he created in the process of becoming immortal." (GAZ5, p. 87) Then it goes on detailing the powers of the Egg.

Previously in the adventure (at the beginning), it was written that the Egg belonged to the clan Mealidil and that it was considered a "very valuable artifact" (GAZ5, p.85). From this meagre information, what we can deduce is that the Egg is a proper artifact, but it's not considered a "relic" in the real sense of the term. That is, it has no religious power, it is not commonly worshipped as the gift of the immortals: it is only a valuable heirloom with immense powers left to the Mealidil clan by Mealiden. Were a branch of the Mealidil clan to split from the main group and to claim it as its own relic, it would then be worshipped as such, BUT it could not be reproduced like the common ToL, nor would it have the powers of the demi-human relics (unless Mealiden himself altered it like I said Ilsundal and Calitha have done). However, there could be a special Egg keeper with the charge of taking care of the Egg and with the knowledge to activate its powers, but this would not have the powers of any Treekeeper Elf (spellcasting abilities and so on), unless Mealiden himself granted him such skills because of his devotion (very likely if the devotion is sincere: after all Mealiden has no reported clergy of his own, which is very strange for an Immortal).

The Elvenstar

And we finally arrive to examine the Elvenstar, one of the most controversial and mysterious artifacts of the elven race. The Elvenstar is introduced and featured only in X11: Saga of the Shadowlord, but its powers have never been described fully (or I shall say clearly). It is indeed an artifact and it can be used by anyone, although it has many drawbacks for those Chaotic people who attempt to use it. However, it can be considered (and in fact I have done so) a real Relic of the Wendar and Denagoth elves.

X11 tells us that the Geffronell elves gave the Elvenstar to Bensarian of Kevar when he gave them the Blackstick to hide it. The Elvenstar is a precious and unique item, an artifact to be precise (even though by the time X11 came out the Master set rules for artifacts were not out yet, so it was not described using those rules). It seems really strange then that the elves of Geffron had bestowed it upon Bensarian as a simple gesture of friendship (also considered the fact that elves are not so openly friendly towards humans after the GRoF). True, he was a respected sage and a renowned friend of the elves, and he also seems to have elven blood in his lineage from his physical description. However, this is still an incredible event for the elves to give a human their relic. So what? Maybe the elves ignored the true power of the Elvenstar? Maybe it was not a relic for them? Very unlikely, since the elves of that region (Geffron) had owned and used it for decades if not centuries, and they were not a naive folk (note that they live in a very turbulent region full of humanoids and other dangers).

Shawn Stanley and I thought about all these incongruencies and tried to give them a plausible explanation in our Timeline for the Wendar-Denagoth region. Also, since we saw that the Wendar elves had no relic whatsoever, I proposed to give them the Elvenstar as such, as a gift from their patron immortals: the Korrigans. The Elvenstar is not a relic in the real sense of the term (that is, it possesses none of the powers of the demihuman relics as described in the Companion set). In fact it is much more similar to the Carven Oak (an artifact worshipped as a heirloom left by the Patron immortals), even though in this case its powers are more important to the people of Wendar than its religious value. Without it, Wendar would be doomed (like the Geffronell elves have been), and the elves (and humans too) know it. For this reason it is highly prized and revered, for the life of Wendar depends on it. Yet there is no Keeper of the Elvenstar, and if there ever was one, now it's the King of Wendar's duty to keep it and to use it to help all the people of the region (even though the elves feel it's their right to have the priority over the use of the artifact). Should the Wizard King pass this duty to somebody else in the future (most probably an elf follower of the Korrigans), he will then become the new Keeper of the Star and a priest of the Korrigans too.

Note about the Foresthomes

I do second Hervé Musseau's opinion about this issue. Here's the complete quote:

" CM1 is an old module that was based on the green box, before Mystara was really described (notably by the Gaz series), and the green box states that each elven clan has a Tree of Life. But we know that many elven clans have no ToL, and that some don't even have a relic (eg the Shadow Elves, or any of the HW elves). Trees of Life in later Mystara products were tied to Ilsundal, and elves with different histories and faiths were given other relics (eg the Carven Oak). So I (but you may disagree and handle it differently IYC) assume that pre-Gaz accessories should have the phrase "Tree of Life" replaced by "clan relic", and that post-Gaz accessories have the phrase "Tree of Life" actually mean one of Ilsundal's Tree of Life (including daughter trees). " [end quote]

The Foresthomes were introduced in module CM1, a module printed shortly after Companion set was released. Since the adventure detailed the elves of the north too, the author (Douglas Niles) probably thought it good to stick to what had been published previously. Thus he gave the Norwold elves (later called Shiye in DotE, belonging to the clan that settled in Alphatia in BC 800) the Tree of Life as their relic, following the guidelines given in Companion set (Player's Book). However, on account of later products (i.e. the Gazetteers) and of the arguments emerged in our conversation, it seems to me that CM1 has never really explained WHY there were ToL up there, and instead of giving us the final answer, DotE contributed to spread further chaos in this already intricate story. This way, we must reason with our logic and take into consideration the different elven cultures that have been so far detailed in the Mystara supplements: if we do admit the possibility of an elven culture without a ToL (and we saw there are some even in the Old World), then we must also allow ourselves the benefit of the doubt, so to speak. There is no clear reason to assume the Norwold Shiye have a ToL if we look at their history. Probably what Douglas Niles wanted to say is that they have a relic, but as we've seen not all the elves' relics are ToL. For this reason I believe the Norwold elves should have a different relic, maybe Eiryndul's relic (if any). However, if you do support the theory they've got a ToL, then it must certainly be one of the missing ToL of the legend.

Note about the Chamber of the Spheres

Following the thread to its logical end then, we couldn't possibly avoid to spend a few words for the Shadow Elves. When GAZ13 first came out, I think many of you may have felt a chill run down their spine. "Gee.. underground elves.. cool! Hey, but wait! These are not drow elves! Even Cooler! But look: they haven't got Fungi of Life!" *sigh of relief*

That could have been a possible series of thoughts of those who read for the first time GAZ13, and fortunately now we can joke about this. But if the writers of GAZ13 had stuck to "canon" and followed the guidelines given in Companion set, we would probably be here now talking about the Fungi of Life and of their growth methods above ground. Carl Sargent and Gary Thomas have done a masterful job with the Shadow Elves, creating a race unique in its beliefs and customs but that fitted (almost) perfectly within the intricate Mystara timeline. They recognised that they had to bend some rules and that the Shadow Elves' culture was not like the common elven way of life, and so they tried to supply to the lack of a powerful relic with something else. And thus the Chamber of the Spheres was created.

Sure, many of you will object when I say the CoS is the Shadow Elves' relic: after all, only the shamans know of its existence, so it doesn't really fit into my previous description of a typical demihuman relic. But the Shadow Elves aren't really a typical demihuman society, or are they? So what I'm trying to explain is that the Shadow Elves have a relic at the heart of their community too, but only some of them (the shamans) know of its existence, and amongst them only the highest ranking shamans know of its real power and use. But nevertheless, since this is a gift from Rafiel and since Rafiel is the soul of the shadowelves, then this is a true relic for them. Think about it: the centre of the religious life of the shadowelves is Rafiel's temple, and the First Temple is the one built in the City of Stars within the Refuge of Stone. So this is the fulcrum of the shadowelves' religion: and what lies hidden in the core of this temple? The secret heart within the heart: as you can see, my theory is not that outrageous..


The Crucible of Blackflame

The history of the halfling relic is one of the clearest and simplest in comparison with those of the elven and dwarven relics. In GAZ8 the whole tale of how the Blackflame was discovered under the Black Spires Mountains is told without mysteries (aside from the real origin of the Blackflame): "746 BC: hin discover Blackflame deep under the mountains" (GAZ8, p. 8).

This means that prior BC 746 the halflings had no relic whatsoever, and so during their early ages, when they lived in Davania, they didn't own a relic. This probably sets them apart from the other demi-humans, as both elves and dwarves have already had a relic at the centre of their communities from their earlier beginnings. But this also means that the hins felt the need for a relic later in life, because of the events that occurred them, and this is perfectly logic. We'll see this in detail below.

Later on, in the Sacred Mysteries section (pages 16-20), it is revealed that the Blackflame is "a substance of the Sphere of Energy. Released in the Known World in very few places (usually deep caverns, such as those in the Black Spires mountain range in the Five Shires) by the Hierarch of Energy, it can be used by individuals aspiring to immortality by the Path of the Paragon." (GAZ8, p. 18).

Blackflame is then a form of energy native of the Outer Planes (probably Draesten, Homeplane of the Sphere of Energy) released on the Prime by Ixion in an attempt to help the candidate immortals in his own Sphere. Yet the halflings (who are not renowned for attaining immortality in the Path of the Paragon) are the only ones to benefit from this item. How can this be explained? In order to understand the true meaning of Blackflame to halflings, we must first delve deeper into the true history of Blackflame.

As I stated earlier, halflings didn't possess an immortal relic till they came to live in Brun (around BC 1300), fleeing mass persecutions at the hands of the Empire of Varellya in Davania (their true homeland). Some halflings stayed there, and still live in Davania nowadays, although they are very different from Five Shires' hin both in their customs and beliefs. But back to our point, when the halflings arrived in the Five Shires they thought they had found paradise, and founded Faerdinel, their first realm. Then they came in contact with the Gentle Folk, a reclusive group of elves who had migrated here from the inhospitable Glantrian territory four centuries before, fleeing the Glantrian catastrophe caused by the activation of a Blackmoor nuclear artifact. The Gentle Folk were a peaceable and somewhat remissive culture, who nevertheless influenced greatly the hins and took them under protection, so to speak. This is testified from the fact that until the Gentle Folk's disappearance in BC 1000, the hins lived free and in peace. But then, after the elves' disappearance, orcs invaded and the hins started three long centuries of strife and slavery.

Then in BC 746 the hins found the Blackflame under their mountains and only two years after they were able to repel the orcish overlords and to chase them away forever, beginning their Time of Heroes. Was this incidental? How comes that the hins were left in peace till the Gentle Folk lived in their region, and then suddenly conquered, only to regain freedom after 300 years? The only hypothesis I can make is that Blackflame has always been the source of the hins' freedom and power in the region.

According to Andrew Theisen's hypothesis, Blackflame originates from the Dimension of Nightmares, where it is the negative counterpart of Mystara's common flame. As such, it is cold to the touch, it's black and radiates darkness instead of light. Why can Blackflame be found only in the Shires? Again following Andrew's hypothesis, we can say that what caused the Blackflame to appear in Mystara were the world shattering earthquakes that caused the downfall of the Taymoran Empire between BC 2000 and BC 1700 and formed Ierendi and Minrothad isles. These earthquakes were probably caused by the Taymorans dabblings in elemental and planar magics, and another unforeseen result was also the opening of dimensional rifts with the elemental planes of the Dimension of Nightmares. From these rifts leaked into the Prime Plane the negative elemental substance known as blackflame (later the Glantrian catastrophe of BC 1700 sealed back those rifts between Mystara and the Nightmare Dimension, trapping clans of Deep Glaurants, originally of that dimension, in Mystara). The Hierarch of Energy at that time (most likely Ixion), seeing this as a good opportunity to experiment the fiery energy of another opposite dimension in Mystara, seized part of this blackflame and hid it beneath the current Five Shires, waiting for the moment to inspire some worthy candidate to immortality to discover it.

Then came the Gentle Folk in BC 1700, and through their wanderings in the subterranean caves, they emerged in the Five Shires. But at this same time, clans of Deep glaurants were also living there, and they began to chase away the new immigrants. The Gentle Folk stumbled upon the blackflame, and used it to counter the Deep Glaurants' attacks, succeeding in repelling them and finally being left in peace. When the hins came, they took the little fellows under their protection, and with the help of the Blackflame kept the country free.

But when they disappeared (both because of the Immortals' will to transfer them in the Hollow World and because of their remissive attitude towards life), the hins were left to their own, and succumbed to the orcs. Only when in BC 746 they found the secret of Blackflame were they able to organise the resistance and chase away the orcs, gaining independence and freedom.

Nowadays Blackflame is regarded by all hins as the source of their freedom and their way of living, and for this reason the Crucible of Blackflame is of utter importance for every living clan of halflings that originated in the Shires. It is to be noted however, that even if the hins of the Five Shires have their own three Halfling Heroes (hin Immortals Nob Nar, Coberham and Brindorhin) that inspire them, these hin attained immortality during the Time of Heroes, that's to say after the hins discovered Blackflame and how to use it. They cannot be the inventors of the Crucible then, or can they? It's time to make another distinction between the three Immortals.

First of all, we can be sure that Nob Nar has followed either the Path of the Epic Hero (Sphere of Thought) or that of the Polymath (Sphere of Matter) according to the ballads and legends centred on his deeds. Brindorhin is a more obscure hero, although given his name ending with "hin", he could very well have followed either the Path of the Epic Hero (Sphere of Thought) or that of the Dynast (Sphere of Time), thus explaining why the halflings of the Five Shires dub themselves hin (in honour to the hero-founder of the nation). If this is true, Gunzuth (last king of the nation) is probably another alter ego of Brindorhin.

Lastly, Coberham Shadowglint could surely have followed the Path of the Epic Hero and be an Immortal of Thought, but his nickname implies something subtler. Shadowglint = Light in the Shadows = Blackflame Coberham Shadowglint could very well have been the first Hin Master. He could have become a Master by studying the Blackflame and learning his secrets, then built the Crucible as part of his Trial, while sharing the Secret Mysteries of the Blackflame with other hins and creating the Hin Masters could have been his Testimony in the Path of the Paragon (Sphere of Energy). And this makes sense, since the Blackflame is said to be used by the Immortals of the Sphere of Energy.

This way we realise how close is the link between the Blackflame, the Hin Heroes and the halflings originally of the Five Shires. And as a side note, this also means that if the above holds true, the Immortal Patron of Coberham Shadowglint was Ixion, and that probably the Hin Masters still pay homage to Ixion as well as Coberham, Nob Nar and Brindorhin.

As a last note, GAZ8 says that the number of hin clans existing at one time must not be more than 100. This certainly doesn't mean there cannot be more than one hundred halfling clans, but that there cannot be more than 100 clans possessing a Crucible of Blackflame (which is given to each clan of hins born in the Five Shires). This is probably derives from the fact that the Blackflame well under the Five Shires cannot be used for creating more than one hundred Crucibles (and Chamber of the Ancestors, where the Crucible is held - see page 16 of GAZ8, DM's Booklet) without extinguishing it or depowering it severely, so the hin Masters have fixed this limitation for the Shires welfare.

Note on the Denial Power of Hins

As for the power to negate spells attributed to hins living in the Five Shires, this is probably another side effect of the Crucible of Blackflames. My reasoning is that all of the Crucibles existing within the Shires create a mystical web that alters the magic used inside the Shires to the point of granting every hin that worships the Hin Heroes the power of calling upon the Crucibles' power and negate any one spell that is cast in his presence (the Denial power is based upon the hin's Willpower - see page 3 of GAZ8 Player's Booklet). This power was probably forethought by Coberham as another means of defence for his folk. However, given the fact there cannot be more than 100 Crucibles at any one time, this means the area effectively benefiting from this power is limited (the Five Shires). Were all of the Crucibles to be moved to another location, I suspect the Denial power would affect all hins (since the Crucible is attuned to the hin lifeforce) living in this other location.


Forge of Power

The dwarven Forge of Power is different from the elven and halfling relic in that it was not invented by one of them to attain immortality, but rather it was given to the dwarves by their Immortal Patron, Kagyar Flasheyes.

There is no mention in GAZ6, The Dwarves of Rockhome, of a certain date where this immortal gift was granted to the dwarven people. Likewise, the gazetteer is unfortunately very sketchy on the subject of the Forge's cult and priestly care. All we know about the Forge of Power can be derived from the Companion set, and this is not much in comparison to the information gathered about the other demi-human relics through the various official supplements. Yet we do know enough about the dwarven history to speculate a possible origin of the Forge, and fortunately the details on its own history are so scant in the official supplements that this allows us the freedom to create without making inconsistencies.

We can say that the first dwarves that appeared throughout Mystara at the dawn of the times did not follow Kagyar, mainly because he himself was at that time a simple Brute-man. We can however speculate that by the time of Blackmoor (BC 5000), the dwarves were enough evolved to have a special interest in the crafts and ores, much like the current dwarves, even though their attitude was more carefree and friendly towards the other culture. These were the Kogolor dwarves kin. Now, Hollow World supplement, when talking about the Kogolors, says that their patrons are Frey/Freya and Garal Glitterlode, and that Kagyar has abandoned them. However, this refers to modern days Kogolors living in the Hollow World, not to Blackmoor era dwarves. In fact, Frey and Freya did attain immortality after Blackmoor's destruction, while Garal was a protégé of Kagyar, so he must be younger than the dwarven deity.

This leaves us with the original problem: who was the first dwarves' patron at the time of early Blackmoor? A possible idea is Wayland, immortal patron of metallurgy and artisans, even though we don't know how old he is. For this reason I assume that the early dwarves' patrons were both Kagyar and Wayland, and later Garal Glitterlode, when Blackmoor was at its golden age.

Now that we have deduced who the first Immortal patrons of the dwarves were, we can speculate a bit more about the dwarven relic. As hypothesised by Sharon Dornhoff, the Blackmoor dwarves probably already had a Forge which was at the centre of their society, much like the Forge of Power is to modern days' dwarves. However, I speculate that these forges were mundane items, whose discovery had probably been prompted by Wayland and whose usage was not limited to the clergy. Later, when Kagyar felt the need to reshape the dwarven race to withstand the effects of radiations due to the Blackmoor catastrophe, he also borrowed the idea of the forge as central element of the dwarven society. So he altered the dwarves' physic and mentality, made them stouter and more apt to dwelling underground, instilled them with an unparalleled passion for mining ores and crafting items and placed them in the Known World. And in order to assure his children would not disappoint him, he created for them the Forge of Power.

The modern Forge of Power is a relic imbued not only with astounding magical powers, but also with a deep social meaning. The Forge had been granted by Kagyar to his children as a sign of his favour, as the eternal symbol of their destiny and national character. It was more than a magical means to create items of superior manufacture: it symbolised their lifestyle. And at the same time, in order to legitimate this lifestyle, Kagyar made sure that the Forge could only be used under the supervision of his Keepers, loyal dwarf-priests. It was no more a mundane item, albeit very important to the life of the community, like the old days Forge. It was now a religious and institutionalised symbol that sanctioned Kagyar's supreme role in the dwarves' life and gave the dwarves the guidelines for their evolution.

So this is the current state of the Forge of Power in the dwarven society: an imposed Gift from God that testifies their preferred state (something very similar to the Hebrew Ark of Alliance). But it is also a way to control and influence the dwarves' mind and politics by the priest caste, heralds of Kagyar himself.

The last thing to understand before closing the topic is perhaps the most difficult: how can a Forge of Power be duplicate? We have seen that other relics can be easily duplicated to be granted to other demi-human clans (i.e. Tree of Life, Frond of Life, Blackflame). Others however, have not such power and are unique items (Elvenstar, Pearl of Power, Carven Oak, Chamber of the Spheres). The dwarven relic could easily belong to the second category, given its specifics, were it not for the fact that the Companion set clearly states that every dwarven clan has its own Forge of Power. Now, since the first Forge was given to the dwarves by Kagyar, as we have seen, it is undoubtedly outside the dwarves' power to create copies of an immortal artifact. For this reason, we are left with only two possible explanations: either the different Forges must be created through a complicate and long ritual that involves calling upon the immortal spirit of Kagyar in the process to render the new Forge sentient (as Companion set states it is), or the First Forge of Power has some obscure means to duplicate itself without bothering Kagyar every time.

A theory by David Knott has the dwarves creating a new FoP from an old one, although he doesn't really elaborate on what means "old" Forge (can a FoP become exhausted?). According to his words: "There must be some method for creating a new Forge of Power from an old one, but that the process must be a long and difficult one. To keep things simple, I would use the same method as is given in the D&D Rules Cyclopaedia for making a Rockship -- but (optionally) add as a last step that the Dwarven Lens must be shattered and its shards fed into the Forge of Power to activate it. This would make it very costly and time consuming to create a new Forge of Power (at about a thousand years per Forge each), but it would be possible. Actually, I suspect that Dwarves are more likely to make new Forges of Power than to make Rockships."

The only major hindrance I see here is the timeframe given: thousand years to produce a new Forge is not exactly what I call timely. And since there are at least three dwarven clans that live outside Rockhome (Burohur in Thyatis, Rocktooth in Norwold and the Alphatian dwarves of Denwarf-Hurgon) that must have gotten their Forge before setting out for the new region (which happened within the last millennia), this means it's impossible to have produced three FoP in so short time. For the sake of simplicity and logic then, we could simply decrease the timeframe to a more reasonable scale (a century instead of a millennia): this suits our needs perfectly. Thus the mystery of the Forge of Power duplication is solved: a complex ritual is needed to bless the new FoP with Kagyar's essence, which is then transferred into it definitely by smashing a Dwarven Lens onto it. This keeps the process quite lengthy and dangerous at the same time, and explains why there are so few dwarven Forges out there.


Gnomish Relic: Fantasy Physics

Gnomes are the fourth demi-human race known on Mystara, and most commonly considered the "poorer brethren" by all other demi-human races. The truth is that gnomes only appeared as playable PCs with PC2, Top Ballista. Until that time, they were only considered an NPC race, and as such was given no covering in the Companion rules, which described the Demihuman Relics in detail.

But this doesn't mean gnomes are a subrace or that they haven't got a detailed history. Their history is, if possible, more detailed and intriguing than the dwarves' one, making the gnomes the only real itinerant race among the demi-humans of Mystara. Up to now, gnomes have no real place to call home or homeland (whereas the dwarves have Rockhome, the hins the Shires and the elves have multiple choices!) and have always lived where their errands took them, looking for new, strange and bizarre things following their nature.

Also, this doesn't mean that the whole reasoning behind Demi-human Relics that has prompted this article doesn't apply to gnomes. Indeed, even gnomes have a relic, although we can deduce it only basing ourselves on the only adventure module focusing on gnomes ever published for Mystara: CM4, Earthshaker. Quoting directly from page 16 of the module:

"The clan's relic, the Clock of Timelessness, is a 5-foot clock with a skeleton movement (the inner works can be seen clearly). Unlike Earthshaker, the relic is ornately decorated; gears are filigreed, armatures sculpted, and jewels are lavishly set in the clock's face. The relic has all the standard powers of a relic as described in the Companion rules.

In addition, the relic can be used to fashion the rare equation of time. The equation allows time travel to any specific point in time. First the keeper and his aides must study and record the movements of the clock in perfect detail for one year. With this data, they must perform thousands of complex, magical, mathematical formulae in their heads. Nothing of this can be written on paper and the slightest error will cause the end result to be imperfect. Performing these calculations takes 20 years.

When the final formula has been completed, the keeper and the clanmaster can correctly set the clock. When the clock is set, one person or object is instantly transported through time to the chosen date. The transported object remains there for 24 hours and then must either transport again (by use of another equation of time) or fade into non-existence. Anything that fades disappears utterly and totally from the Multiverse as if it had never existed (although any possessions or previous deeds of a character do not change)."

As we can see here, the gnomes' relic is the Clock of Timelessness, and it surely has unique peculiarities and powers that set it apart from the other "common" Demi-human Relics so far considered. Or at least this is the Earthshaker's gnomes relic.

In fact, I believe that every clan of gnomes around Mystara has a different relic, with different powers, but all of them share the same fact of being avatars of Garal Glitterlode, just like every rightful Demi-human Relic should be. Quoting from Thorfinn Tait's good idea:

"Like the Trees of Life, gnomish relics are avatars of the gnomes' Immortal (and creator), Garal Glitterlode. However, the gnomish relic is of a completely different kind from the other demihuman relics. It fills an entire room in the heart of the clan stronghold or meeting place. It consists of hundreds of whirring gears, metal tubes and pipes, valves, levers, buttons, dials, grills, flashing lights and little plates of glass. Of course it is never left untended, and there are always at least a few gnomish engineers running around the little platforms and walkways, meddling and "improving" on it.

But what does it do? Well, it has number of different functions. First, it serves as the centre for the gnomes' communication tubes (most gnome strongholds have some form of communication system [internal, but sometimes external too] which utilises air tubes and message cylinders). Second, it is a source of "power" for some of the gnomes' inventions (usually menial house-work inventions). Third, it has a limited form of intelligence (being an avatar of Garal Glitterlode), and it can answer questions the gnomes ask of it. The questions are spoken into a metal tube, and answers appear magically on the little glass plates. Of course, the answers are not always helpful, and very often pretty obscure. But when it comes to the realms of Fantasy Physics, it can be quite informative and helpful (perhaps giving a +2 bonus to the Fantasy Physics skill checks of a gnome who consults with it)."

To conclude, I think that even gnomes do possess a relic, but it is different and has several different powers from clan to clan. The Clock of Timelessness is just one example, while another is certainly the Flying City of Serraine. Within the city, the engine that makes it fly is probably another gnomish relic imbued with the spirit of Garal. And I'm sure the gnomes of Highforge in Karameikos have another kind of relic not yet known to us, just like those living in Hule. For all we may know, there is however one thing that all these relics have in common (besides sharing the power of Garal): they're based on Fantasy Physics, and they've been all built by the same gnomes that use them. This is the first and only example of self-made relics among the demi-humans, and although it is true that probably without Garal's intervention the gnomish relics wouldn't be so special, we must however reckon that the gnomes are much more independent and self-willed than their demi-human brethren. Fantasy Physics is the gnomes' real inimitable relic!