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The Foresters of Thyatisby Korro Zal from Threshold Magazine issue 11
The Foresters of Thyatis
by Korro Zal
Origins of the Order
The origins of the Thyatian Guild of Foresters stretch back almost 800 years in the past.1 In the relatively early days of the Thyatian Empire, efforts were made to promote magical training amongst those citizens capable of such in order to create a cadre of loyal magic-users who could counter the magical might of the rival Alphatian Empire. While there were a number of powerful wizards in Thyatis, their numbers did not compare to the vast population of powerful wizards Alphatia could call upon, and many were occupied in service to the empire or were disinclined towards or unwilling to participate in any sort of large-scale training program.
Such efforts were able to progress, however, in the 3rd century when a large band of goblins, organized under a charismatic and clever shaman who bore a burning hatred of elves, invaded the forest lands of the Vyalian elves, pushing across the Traladaran border to Thyatian territory. Emboldened by early successes and commanding a cadre of goblin warriors accustomed to forest skirmishes, the shaman, Granark the Wolf, set his sights towards pushing out the Vyalian elves at the behest of his patron immortal.2 Instead of engaging in large, pitched battles, the shaman elected to stage numerous hit and run attacks, dividing his forces into many small war bands which harried the elves mercilessly. The elves, worn down by the seemingly limitless number of goblin foes who proved unusually adept at combating the elves, eventually made the decision to appeal to the Thyatian government for assistance.
Six hundred years ago, Vyalia was nominally part of the Thyatian Empire, but was largely settled by elf clans and had few humans or any kind of overt Imperial presence. Nevertheless, in response, the Thyatian government sent a young but capable officer, Acastian Kelmeiarius, and his unit to Vyalia. Acastian and his men had proven unusually adept at skirmishing and commando tactics, having proven themselves in numerous battles against humanoid foes and bandits throughout the empire. In a campaign lasting several years, the combined elven and Thyatian forces drove back the goblins steadily. According to historical records, , Acastian slew Granark when the shaman marshaled his forces into a last, desperate push towards Greenheight, and the remaining goblin survivors, their morale broken, retreated back into Traladara.
During the campaign, Acastian and his soldiers forged strong bonds with a number of elves, granting both sides a chance to learn from each other. In particular, Acastian struck up a friendship with the elf lord Yntherin Greenheight, who possessed a great interest and curiosity in these humans who seemed to have such affinity for the kind of warfare the elves excelled at. The feeling was mutual; not only did Acastian learn about elven tactics and strategies from his allies, but also a great deal about elven traditions and customs, and even became a proficient speaker of Elvish. As such, when the conflict ended and Acastian had delivered his final report to the Thyatian senate outlining the alliance`s success, one Thyatian senator, Dioclesio Glanavitos, a former military mage and conscripti senator3 who had taken a personal interest in the issue of increasing the magical proficiency of the empire, came up with an unusual proposal: would the Greenheight elves, having worked alongside and come to appreciate their human allies, be willing to tutor promising candidates in magic? The magical proficiency of the elves was well-known; surely, he reasoned, here was an opportunity to secure magical training from tutors who were well-practiced at such and owed a debt of gratitude to the empire to boot. The proposal was well-received by Empress Irene4, who herself was a magic-user with an interest in the elves, and intrigued by the proposal
The senator`s proposal was well-received by the Vyalian elves; in fact, Yntherin Greenheight went a step further and proposed that in addition to training magic-users for the empire, worthy Thyatian soldiers could also be trained in Elven tactics to create units of scouts and skirmishers who could work well alongside Elven soldiers. As humans were unable to learn the ways of fighting and magic as Elves do5, Yntherin did not envision the humans who had fought alongside the Elves as candidates for magical training, but rather nominated his friend Acastian and many of his soldiers to serve as the first recruits for this new unit. The Thyatian government, pleased at having secured such cooperation, immediately promoted Vyalia to County status and made Yntherin its ruler, instilling strong bonds between the Elven peoples of Vyalia and the rest of the Thyatian Empire.
According to the autobiography he penned towards the end of his life, Yntherin decided that as a reward for his human friend's courage and loyalty to the Greenheight Elves, he would honor Acastian with a special ceremony. The far-sighted elf was not merely thanking his friend; given the growing power of the Thyatian Empire, he reasoned that securing stronger bonds between elves and humans would benefit both sides in the long run. But the elf lord also did not want to see the elves become subservient to or dominated by the humans, so he sought to create an alliance that would instill respect for the elves and their culture by impressing upon the Thyatians the strengths of his people. Providing magical training was one sure way to do that, but creating loyal friends and allies within the Thyatian military would prove even more effective, he reasoned. And in Acastian, he wrote, he had found a friend and ally who could help him forge an alliance of mutual respect and dependency.
What happened next surprised everyone. Yntherin, in order to impress upon Acastian the respect he was being shown, decided to hold the ceremony at the clan’s Tree of Life, and many prominent clan members and their Treekeeper were also in attendance. As Yntherin declared his friend an honorary member of the Greenheight clan, a presence made itself felt to all present. To the shock and surprise of all who were in attendance, a ghostly arm extended itself from the Tree of Life and descended upon the kneeling Acastian, who could only stare in awe at the spectacle. As the ghostly hand made contact with his brow, the Thyatian officer felt himself being infused with an energy he could not truly understand but could neither doubt the power of, one which caused him to be seized with visions of the elves and their history, their joys and their sorrows, to hear fragments of famous elven poems and songs, to feel the profound connection between the elves and the forests, and finally, to grasp within his very soul the magic which is inherent to the elven experience and way of life—indeed, perhaps the magic which gives elves life. In that moment, Acastian had transcended the normal human capacity for understanding, receiving an insight into the way of the elves that not even his years living amongst them had provided.
No one present truly understood what had happened, but all the elves clearly grasped this was the work of Ilsundal, their immortal patron. This was confirmed when the clan Treekeeper, in communion with their patron, learned that Ilsundal had chosen to favor Yntherin`s decision to make Acastian an honorary member of the clan by instilling within the noble human part of the power of the elves—namely, their inherent ability to work magic even while encumbered by armor.6
Awed by this revelation, Yntherin repeated the ceremony with those men and women of Acastian`s unit who had also shown a particular affinity for the elven lifestyle and the ways of the forest, and the same experience was repeated in each case. And so the Thyatian Guild of Foresters was born, with Acastian and a dozen of his comrades serving as the first of the order. In the years since, the human population of Vyalia has grown, with the county now boasting 20,000 residents, of which roughly 25% are elven.7 The mostly human community of Foreston has become the center of the order, ruled by the head of the Forester`s Guild (who in 1000 AC is Larandia Lymianoporus8, a veteran Forester and Knight of Thyatis with thirty years’ experience).
In the centuries to come, the order would grow, eventually encompassing several hundred members. In keeping with tradition, every candidate to the order is adopted by an elf clan and lives among them for at least three years. Then, if judged worthy by the clan, the prospective Forester is brought to the clan Tree of Life and the same ceremony is performed. Should Ilsundal find the candidate worthy, a new Forester is born and takes his or her place amongst the clan members.
Recruitment and Training
The majority of applicants to the Forester's Guild come from the County of Vyalia; the humans who have settled there in the centuries since the order began have been heavily influenced by their elven neighbors, adopting their views and philosophies, particularly regarding protecting the forests of their homeland. Naturally, these people produce from their ranks many ideal candidates for Forester training. Typically, an interested candidate will seek out the Guild headquarters in Foreston, the largest human community in the county, and make their intentions known; if such an individual should seem a likely prospect to the Foresters there (a decision which is neither made quickly nor rashly), then the candidate will be introduced to one or possibly several of the elven families who sponsor Foresters9--should a particular family find the candidate suitable and believe he or she has the necessary affinity with the elven way of life in addition to the family in particular, then they will invite the candidate to live with them, upon which their training as a Forester will begin.
Not all candidates come from the county, however; many Vyalian elves and Foresters are adventurers, and travel extensively throughout the empire and visit many different nations. Should they encounter an individual who seems a strong candidate (again, not a decision made lightly—such a situation usually comes about when they have opportunity to observe the individual over an extended period of time to assess their character), they may invite the individual to Vyalia if he or she seems interested in the possibility. Most of these individuals are Thyatians, but occasionally citizens of other nations are chosen as well. The Guild has an understanding with the Thyatian government in which they will not train a member of a nation considered hostile to the empire, meaning that citizens of Alphatia are almost always out of the question. Typically, at any given time there are at least a few Karameikans and Darokinians amongst the Guild`s ranks, with those of other nationalities present much less commonly. In any case, upon becoming a Forester the individual must declare themselves a citizen of Vyalia and a member of their elven clan, which by default also declares them to be Thyatian citizens.
Once a candidate begins his or her training, they begin their new lives as a member of their adoptive elven family. They are expected to obey the family elders faithfully, absorbing all they have to teach. Candidates are assessed at all stages to evaluate their loyalty, honesty, sense of honor, affinity for the elven ways and their reverence for the natural world in general and the forests in particular.10 Should the candidate at any stage fall short of these expectations, they can be dismissed from their family, and when this occurs their chance at becoming a Forester is forever gone—no other elven family will adopt them. If the candidate should prove worthy, however, then after three years or so the adoptive family's elders will begin consulting with other clan members and Foresters who have witnessed the candidate's training. If all are in agreement that the initiate has the necessary qualities to join the ranks of the Foresters, then they will be taken to the Tree of Life and initiated into the guild and made members of their adoptive elven clan in the same solemn ceremony Acastian experienced eight centuries ago.
Relations with the Thyatian Government
The Foresters offer a unique blend of abilities that makes them suited for a wide variety of missions. In particular, unlike normal soldiers and magic-users, they are ideal for stealth, spying and scouting missions where their surprising ability to wield magic while bearing arms and armor confounds and surprises many foes.11 However, they are generally not deployed in standard military units, but instead used as specialists who are requested when needed. This is done primarily for two reasons.
The first is the surprise factor. In spite of their long history, the Foresters have never been a large order, only numbering about 160 members at the current day.12 Even within the Thyatian Empire many are unaware of the order (particularly those who live far from the County of Vyalia), and even those who are may regard the Foresters as nothing more than a myth or simply a bunch of scouts and skirmishers whose reputation has been exaggerated by tall tales. As such, foes who are faced with a Forester are often deeply surprised when their armored opponent suddenly casts a spell, a useful tactic that takes many foes off balance. The Thyatian government takes advantage of this situation by maintaining no permanent all-Forester units13, instead sending small bands on scouting or spying missions, or secreting Foresters within the ranks of other units, providing them with an unexpected magical might that foils crafty assassins and snipers who might seek to take out dangerous spell casters early in a battle. In short, obscurity and deception are two of the main strengths that Foresters rely on when engaging in conflict, and thus the government uses them sparingly to maximize such strengths.
The second reason is the oath that Foresters swear to their elven clans. It is important to remember that this oath is to the clan, and not the Thyatian government. Foresters are indeed often loyal to their nation, often more so than many ordinary citizens due to their long history of fighting for the empire, but their duty to their elven clan is even more binding. Furthermore, the clan binds the Foresters in an iron-clad code of conduct, requiring its members to uphold the tenets of honesty, bravery and the utmost loyalty to their elven clan. Given the Thyatian Empire`s well-deserved reputation for treachery, it is understandable that some missions the government might call upon its troops to perform might conflict with the Forester`s code of honor. As such, Foresters are never chosen for a mission randomly, but are rather carefully selected when a particular mission would benefit from their strengths and contain parameters that do not offend the order`s notions of proper conduct.
Typically, when the planning stages of military operations call for Forester involvement, a Thyatian official will send a message to the head of the Forester`s Guild in Foreston, who will then assign members to the operation as he or she sees fit. In rare cases, a request may go unfulfilled if no suitable Foresters are available or if the guild leader strongly disagrees with the nature of the operation, but this is done sparingly and only with good reason. The Forester`s Guild enjoys a great deal of autonomy compared to other branches of the Thyatian government and military, and as such does not care to jeopardize this special status by angering the government. Similarly, as mentioned above, most Thyatian officials limit their requests to when it is clearly needed to avoid clashes with the Forester code of honor or overtax the resources of such a small order. Nevertheless, in spite of these limitations, the Foresters have proven invaluable in many operations, and as a result there were few significant conflicts between the guild and the government until the events of Wrath of the Immortals (see below).
One last note of importance concerns the legal status of Foresters. Although citizens of Thyatis, Foresters are also, for all intents and purposes, considered members of their elven clans. The Vyalian clans are granted a certain amount of autonomy within Thyatian law, and barring any crime short of treason or something equally heinous, clan members accused of breaking the law have the right to be tried by their clan. The clans will protect a Forester as they would any other elf, though as noted above crimes that are serious enough may cause this protection to be lost--although crimes of that magnitude are likely to strip a Forester of his or her status anyway, upon which they will no longer be considered a member of the clan.
Foresters and Ilsundal
Foresters receive their powers through the grace of the immortal Ilsundal, who created them to instill greater bonds between humans and elves. This serves two purposes: firstly, it helps impress upon humans a reverence for the elven way of life and the natural world, encouraging a respect for both that would blunt any destructive urges towards either, be it through over-cutting of the forests or wars of aggression towards the elves. Secondly, it encourages the elves to be less reclusive, seeking out good relations with humans in order to forge alliances that would protect the race.
As such, Foresters are bound to embody these goals as best as possible, helping to foster good relations between the two peoples and protect the forest lands of their home. They must also uphold high standards of personal conduct in order to present the order as honorable and trustworthy, ensuring that their word will be respected in times of trouble (which is particularly important in an empire such as Thyatis where treachery is commonplace). Towards this end, Ilsundal monitors the actions of his Foresters as he does his clerics, and can withdraw a Forester`s powers if he or she is found to have acted contrary to these goals. In particular, Foresters are expected to demonstrate absolute loyalty to their elven clans and to act in an exemplary fashion, a code of conduct which includes the following tenets:
Obey the orders of elven clan leaders, as well as the head of the Forester's Guild
Respect and protect the natural world--hunting and logging are acceptable, provided it is done in a sustainable fashion and for necessary reasons (hunting for sport is prohibited)
Refuse any course of action which would harm or betray the elves (should the Forester be placed in a no-win situation where he or she is forced to take an action that would cause harm to elven peoples, the lesser evil must be chosen)
Seek to promote good relations between the Vyalian Elves and the other peoples of Thyatis in order to ensure the safety and stability of the elven clan (again, if placed in a no-win situation, the Forester must carefully choose the best way forward possible)
Avoid the treacherous conduct common throughout Thyatis, emphasizing honesty and integrity--a Forester's word is his or her bond (dishonesty and subterfuge in times of conflict against enemies of the elves or Thyatis is acceptable, in moderation)
Inflicting unnecessary pain or hardship on others, even enemies, is to be avoided--torture and slavery are out of the question (Foresters do not have to oppose these actions at every opportunity, particularly when it would harm Elven-Thyatian relations, but they will never actively participate in them)
A Forester who falls short of such ideals may receive a warning from Ilsundal, usually in the form of a dream where the immortal makes his displeasure with the offender's actions known (though he never actually appears in such dreams or speaks directly to the offender--usually the dream utilizes symbolism and metaphor to make such points). A Forester who ignores such warnings or egregiously violates his or her code will have their powers immediately stripped from them, and once this is done there is no chance of redemption--he or she is cast out forever, unable to wield magic at all.
A Forester in good standing, however, is immediately recognizable by clerics of Ilsundal, who can sense the deep connection the Forester has with the immortal. They will tend to view a Forester in much the same way as other faiths might a paladin, and will consider him or her one of their own, allowing them access to elven records, documents and histories that most humans would be barred from reading. Furthermore, Ilsundal guides the actions of powerful Foresters; characters capable of casting the Contact Outer Plane spell automatically reach Ilsundal, who will answer questions pertaining to the elves without any chance of driving the caster insane or lying (though the chance of knowing remains the same—consider Ilsundal to be at Distance 8 for the purposes of these questions, 3 for others).14
The Forester`s bond with Ilsundal is not merely meant to instill reverence, however; it also has to do with the nature of the connection between the two. Ilsundal grants Foresters their elven-based ability to wield magic while armored via the immortal spell Bestow, which costs 5 Permanent Power Points per use. However, since there are roughly around 160 Foresters in the order at any given time and the guild has existed for 800 years or so, it is clearly impossible for even a powerful immortal such as Ilsundal to expend such power. He accomplishes such using a special technique he developed which causes the points to return to him upon the end of the Forester`s service (usually this occurs at death, though Foresters who violate their code can have the bond severed much quicker), but this requires a close relationship between the recipient and the patron immortal in order for this to work. The Forester's utmost adherence to the teachings of Ilsundal and the sacred vows he or she makes to defend and respect the elven clan makes this connection possible. (This is also why few immortals maintain such orders, as Ilsundal is investing about 800 of his Power Points in the guild, something only a powerful immortal would even consider doing—and even then, only with good reason.)
In the eight hundred years of its existence, the Guild of Foresters, a tradition unique to Thyatis15, has generated numerous heroes who have served the empire bravely. A few such individuals are noted here in the history that follows (with a focus upon the present day). Some abbreviated statistics are included, which requires some explanation.
Level: The listed levels assumes a 36-level progression, as used with Irondrake`s version of the Forester (see the article in this issue). If you are using the classic BECMI level progression with Attack Ranks, assume ranks D and E are equivalent to levels 11 and 12, with each successive rank worth three levels (thus a Forester with a listed level of 24 would be Attack Rank I). If you are using 2nd or 5th edition (or another system with a 20 level progression), keep levels the same with all classes up until level 12 and then count each three additional levels as one level (so the above-mentioned level 24 Forester would be level 16).
Alignment: The BECMI three alignment system is used, with the nine alignment version used in later editions appearing in parenthesis.
Half-Elves: In BECMI, these should be considered racially human with some elven features (possibly using the option in GAZ5 that grants infravision in exchange for a small experience penalty).
Class: If using 2nd edition, typically the Ranger class would stand in for the Forester, but I feel the Ranger class isn't “magical” enough to properly simulate a Forester. This issue can be solved by building Foresters as multi-classed Ranger/Magic-Users (an exception is made in this case regarding the prohibition against humans multi-classing) and creating a Forester kit for these characters, which involves the following changes:
Cleric spells of the Animal and Plant spheres may be used as if they were wizard spells, and are recorded in spell books (this replaces normal Ranger spell casting)
The Alertness skill (see the Red Steel Character Guide) must be chosen at 1st level
Spell casting can be performed in armor, which differs from the standard 2nd edition rule that only multi-classed elves and half-elves in elfin chain can cast magical spells while so protected
However, the following strictures also apply to balance out these hefty benefits:
Spells from the schools of Invocation and Necromancy cannot be learned
Should the Forester betray his or her clan, or perform an evil act, all magical powers are lost as is Ranger status—the character becomes a Fighter of equal level, with his or her experience point total dropping to the lowest number needed to qualify for the level
The character will be assigned missions from his elven clan or the Guild of Foresters occasionally, and enemies of the guild will target her as well
Human Foresters are treated as multi-classed characters, dividing experience evenly between the two classes, and may never dual-class as humans normally can
(Under these rules, calculate Forester levels as normal for a 20-level progression, and then subtract two to determine the Forester`s Ranger and Magic-User levels. As such, a 24th level Forester should be a 14th level Ranger/ 14th level Magic-User with the Forester kit.)16
If using 5th edition, the Forester Guild can be created as an Organization, as found in the 5E Dungeon Master's Guide. This organization provides more benefits than the others, but demands more in return:
Requirements: The character must be a Ranger of good alignment who has lived amongst the Vyalian elves for at least three years and taken forests as their Favored Terrain. Once the first point of renown is gained, the character is initiated as a clan member.
Table 1: Forester Progression
Gain two cantrips from the Bard list (or the Sword Coast Campaign Guide, if available)
Learn one bonus spell from the following list and one additional spell each even level gained: Faerie Fire, Feather Fall, Silent Image, Sleep, Gust of Wind, Mirror Image, Misty Step, Web. Only spells of a level that can be cast may be selected.
Add the following to the additional spells available list above: Clairvoyance, Counterspell, Dispel Magic, Haste
Add the following to the additional spells available list above: Arcane Eye, Confusion, Dimension Door, Hallucinatory Terrain
Add the following to the additional spells available list above: Cloudkill, Conjure Elemental, Scrying, Transmute Rock (from Princes of the Apocalypse)
In exchange for these numerous benefits, the Forester is bound by the code of conduct mentioned above, and failure to do so or loss of their good alignment will strip them of all magical powers and reduce their renown to 0, which can never rise higher again as they will be banished from the order. By appealing to another immortal, normal Ranger spell-casting powers might be regained, but the bonuses above never will be, not by any means.17 The Forester's Guild will make requests of them, and enemies of Vyalia will target them, as mentioned above with the Forester kit. In addition, a Favored Enemy which does not threaten the Vyalian Elves or Thyatis cannot be chosen.
Avengers: If using 2nd edition, these should be treated as Fighters with the Defender kit (see the Red Steel Campaign Guide). If using 5th edition, these should be treated as Paladins with the Oathbreaker sub-class.
A Short History of the Order
203 AC: Acastian and his unit are deployed to Vyalia to help with the defense of the elven peoples.
206 AC18: The goblins defeated, Acastian and twelve of his compatriots become the first Foresters with the unexpected blessing of Ilsundal. Humans begin settling in the new County of Vyalia and Foreston becomes the center of the guild.
230 AC: Acastian (Male Thyatian Lawful (LG) Forester 27) retires as head of the Forester Guild. In his place, Beliscia Thorion (Female Kerendan Lawful (LG) Forester 21) takes over leadership of the order. Her first act is to agree to assign Forester agents to the Agentes in Rebus19, serving as spies and adventurers in the service of the empire, something the guild will excel in the centuries to come.
313 AC: The Emperor Alexan II puts down the Hattian revolution with the assistance of Forester spies, which contributes to the hatred many Storm Soldiers bear for the Guild.
335 AC: In the middle of Emperor Alexandros`s campaign to retake Thyatian territories lost to the Alphatians on the Isle of Dawn20, several Forester operatives are kidnapped by the Alphatian wizard and general Rishardian. Having heard stories of these elite human armored magic-users, the Alphatian general ruthlessly tortures them for information about the guild, interested in how they came to be. All Foresters die in captivity save one, Belsasiana Ceruldynitos (Female Thyatian Lawful (NG) Forester 9), who escapes captivity and returns to Thyatis. After she reports the fate of her compatriots to the order, this cements enmity between the guild and the Alphatian Empire.
445 AC: Foresters engaging in a diplomatic mission with the sea elves of Minrothad become caught up in the Silver Purge; unable to stop the mobs descending upon New Alphatia, their senior member Juliela Daphnothemites (Female Nuari-Thyatian Lawful (NG) Forester 8) leads them in helping some residents of the city to flee its total destruction. This results in some ill will between Minrothad and the Guild.
486 AC: Thyatian territories on the Isle of Dawn, including West Portage and Helskir, are overrun by Alphatian troops. The Emperor Romanos, through the assistance of Forester spies and commandos, breaks the advance at the Siege of Redstone.21 He bestows honors upon the order for the crucial role they played, which increases the prestige of the guild. In the following years, the number of applicants to the order increases steadily.
524 AC: After failing to find an immortal sponsor in the Sphere of Energy, Rishardian (who has magically extended his life) turns to the Sphere of Entropy and is accepted as a candidate for immortality by Thanatos, who still bears ill will towards the order given their role in suppressing the Hattian revolution. Rishardian (Male Alphatian Chaotic (CE) Magic-User 36) remains interested in somehow reverse-engineering the process which creates Foresters to create similar agents in his service. He takes advantage of the conflict in Alaysia to kidnap several Foresters for experimentation.
547 AC: Foresters and Vyalian Elves are invited to Minrothad by the Sea Elven clans in an attempt to dispel the mistrust between the guild and Minrothad. There is an ulterior motive; the Minrothaddans, already skilled with Alphatian sea magic, are interested in creating a corps of merchant princes from the ranks of human merchant captains.22 Instead of utilizing the Forester method of having a candidate live with the elves, however, they use the Tutorial Guild to instruct students.23
565 AC: Following a series of prolonged conflict between Alphatian and Thyatian colonies in Alaysia, an Alphatian advance is halted near Fabia in a battle that heavily relies upon the Retebius Air Corps. They are assisted by the Forester hero and Griffon Knight of the Air Callisine Acropatian (Male Kerendan Lawful (LG) Forester 27) who, along with a cadre of his fellow Forester Knights, manages to slay the opposing Alphatian admiral, after which the battle is mostly won by Thyatis. In the years to come, Emperor Wien Dien-Ling honors both orders, renaming the Retebius Air Corps the Retebius Air Fleet. This, in turn, starts a long era of cooperation between the Fleet and the Forester Guild, which at any given time in the years to follow has several members serving as Knights.24
571 AC: Investigating reports of a missing Forester, several members of the order, led by Callisine, stumble upon Rishardian`s lair. They destroy the lab and free their comrade, forcing the Alphatian wizard to flee. Thanatos abandons the wizard, who, bitter at his failure to secure immortality, becomes a lich in the years to come, continuing to prey upon the order.
585 AC: The legendary Forester hero Callisine Acropatian leaves Thyatis on his quest for immortality, sailing south towards Davania with his friend Bastius Occandro (Male Minrothaddan Neutral (LN) Fighter 12-Merchant Prince 10). They are never seen nor heard from again.
612 AC: Angelius Cantrithus (Male Thyatian Chaotic (NE) Fighter-Avenger 18), a failed Forester initiate and Knight of Thyatis, strikes a bargain with Rishardian--in exchange for magical assistance to help boost his career, he uses his contacts within the Agentes to learn the details of several missions involving Foresters, using that information to help the lich secure Forester subjects for his experiments.
620 AC: After years of attempting to track down several missing Foresters, Galetinius Halanenan (Male Thyatian Lawful (LG) Forester 10) discovers Angelius`s role in helping to ambush the missing members. Summoning several allies from the Guild, he discovers a dungeon complex beneath Angelius`s estate where he makes the chilling discovery that the captured Foresters have been experimented upon and used to make a new kind of undead creature. The Foresters destroy most of the horrors before Rishardian arrives to save the last few specimens and teleports away with them—although he never succeeded in creating his own warrior-mage minions, he did discover a new type of undead creature similar to a Wyrd that could be created from tortured Foresters.
700 AC: The Battle of Foreston—Rishardian assaults the town using a Gate to bring in an army of undead , led by elite squads of Forester-Wyrds and a Nightwalker. The Foresters and Vyalian Elves defend the town in a pitched battle, which ends when the Guild Leader Arcadia Chrysterios (Female Thyatian Lawful (NG) Forester 24) slays the Nightwalker in a one-on-one combat. Clerics residing in Foreston also play a role in dispersing the undead, and most of the Forester-Wyrds are destroyed. Of Rishardian, though, there is no sign—he is not seen once the battle is underway.
754 AC: Famed Forester scholar and adventurer Honorius Metopolites (Male Alphatian Lawful (NG) Forester 21), an Alphatian by blood born in the Thyatian territories on the Isle of Dawn, uses his racial appearance to go on an extended tour of Alphatia, which lasts several years. Upon returning to Thyatis, he pens the book A Thyatian`s Travels in Alphatia, which is still considered the definitive guide to Alphatia within the present-day empire.
797 AC: Foresters, both Knights of the Air and those serving in marine units, help halt the Alphatian advance towards the Pearl Islands25 This marks the first time Foresters are secreted in marine units, and their surprising magical support helps overpower the Alphatians in many boarding actions. Many Pearl Islanders develop an affection for the order as a result, which leads to some political cooperation amongst the Philosopher faction of the Senate.26
826 AC: An uprising of Alaysian nomads pushes out the Alphatians and threatens the Thyatian colonies.27 The government requests Forester support, but the order, uncomfortable with the way the empire has run the colonies and increasingly influenced by the Philosopher faction`s anti-imperialist leanings, declines to participate. While this angers the Emperor and some Thyatian military officials, the popularity of the order shields them from any repercussions.
900 AC: The Thyatian acquisition of the new Province of Traladara begins. Foresters participate in scouting missions, but mostly help to reduce acts of aggression towards the Traladaran people and engage in diplomatic missions with the elves of the region, which helps to contribute to further human-elven cooperation later in the realm`s history. This also makes the order known to the elven Callarii clans of the region.
960 AC: During the Alphatian Spike Assault, units of Foresters lead by the Guild Leader Galerica Prochiarius (Female Thyatian-Ochaelan Lawful (LG) Forester 24), assist Thincol with defending the capital, again playing a pivotal role and earning the soon-to-be Emperor`s good will.
962 AC: After Foresters bravely help retake the city of Kendach, upon which the Alphatian Emperor Tylion IV abdicates, Thincol establishes the Ranger Knights of Thyatis, a small group of Foresters assigned to the Emperor`s service and overseen by his Magist, Demetrion. These Foresters engage in a number of missions on the Emperor`s behalf, as dictated by Demetrion, who is careful to only use them when the mission does not compromise their code of ethics.
970 AC: Larandia Lymianoporus, the current head of the Forester Guild, joins the order. After twenty years of adventuring, Larandia (Female Thyatian Lawful (LG) Forester 27) becomes head of the order in 990 AC28 upon Galerica Prochiarius`s retirement.
The Decline of the Order
1000 AC: Ilsundal allies with Ixion and Valerias as part of the Ring of Fire against Rad, fearful of what the nucleus of the spheres might inflict upon the highly magical elves.29 This, however, creates a problem where the Foresters are concerned: while elves in areas such as Alfheim can be marshaled against Glantri, Vanya ensures that Thyatis sides with Rad, possibly forcing the guild to work against Ilsundal's interests. At this time, Ilsundal does not involve the Foresters in his schemes but some members of the order, in response to dreams they have received, do help agents in the immortal's service from abroad enter Thyatis, though they are not aware of the reasons other than it serves the interests of the elves.
1001-1004 AC: Ilsundal continues to move agents into position throughout Mystara in order to oppose Rad, which includes actions meant to destabilize Thyatis. Valerias, in her guise as Helena Ledamiades30, helps weaken the Thyatian Officer Corps through encouraging them to engage in decadent pursuits. On occasion, Foresters are called upon to help in such schemes, such as helping to smuggle zzonga into the empire. This troubles some members of the order, but they are led to believe that this is required to act against anti-elven Thyatian elements, which prior events such as those enacted by Angelius render a credible threat.
1005 AC: Upon the declaration of war between Alphatia and Thyatis, Ilsundal, who is allied with the immortal Alphatia, patron of her namesake empire, sends prominent Foresters dreams that convey unease regarding the war and dire warnings regarding Glantri. Larandia, unsure what to make of these omens, quietly sends some Foresters out of Thyatis to engage in information gathering missions in Glantri, and sends some Foresters to engage in spying missions in Alphatia but declines many other requests from the Thyatian government. This reluctance strains relations between the order and the empire.
One Forester sent to Alphatia, however, interprets Ilsundal's dreams differently. Reynard Milton (Male Darokinian Lawful (Chaotic Good) Forester 15), a Forester originally from Darokin who, while loyal to the Vyalian Elves never particularly warmed up to the notion of being a Thyatian citizen and harbored serious doubts about its imperialist policies, interpreted his visions as proof of the empire's evil intentions. Swaying his fellow Forester comrades to his way of thinking, he makes the disastrous decision to turn on the empire, feeling it serves the interests of Ilsundal. He makes contact with the Alphatians who, advised by a cleric of Alphatia to believe the Foresters, allow the Forester spies to switch sides. He continues to feed information to Thyatis to hide his treason, but only sends intelligence which is worthless or flawed.
1005 AC, Fall: In a disastrous turn of events for the Thyatian Empire, West Portage, Kendach and Fenswatch fall to the Alphatians. Although the main reason was due to the loss of troop discipline and morale thanks to Valerias's meddling31, faulty intelligence sent by the traitorous Forester spies also played a critical role in the debacle. Furthermore, Reynard and his fellow conspirators are present after the fall of those fortresses, helping their Alphatian allies within sight of captured Thyatian officers, one of whom later escapes and reports the incident to his superiors upon making his way home.
Within the Senate there is an explosion of outrage--the Guild of Foresters had long been viewed as one of the most honorable and patriotic orders within the empire, and this act of treason hits hard, damaging the order's credibility severely. Larandia, along with the Senator from Foreston, Diatres Imlacris32, hastily rushes to the Guild's defense, claiming that the traitors do not represent the order as a whole. No punitive action is taken against the order at this time, but their prestige is heavily damaged, and many Foresters are demoralized by this turn of events. Ilsundal is deeply troubled by this, realizing that his actions have put his servants in a bad position.
1006 AC: Although the order faced no explicit punishment following Reynard's treason, the empire tests their loyalty by making increasing demands of the guild, constantly requesting Foresters to be sent on dangerous combat missions, as opposed to the usual espionage missions they are no longer trusted with. Many members, eager to prove their loyalty to Thyatis, accept such missions, and suffer many casualties as a result. By summer, more than twenty have died in various operations, a serious blow to an order that only numbered less than 200. Reynard calls upon the order to join him, stating that Thyatis is hopelessly corrupt and not worthy of the Foresters' service.
In the fall, as Alfheim's trees begin to sicken, Ilsundal becomes increasingly alarmed. He sends more dire visions to the order, and Larandia quietly sends some Forester agents to Darokin to help investigate.
1007 AC: With nearly fifty casualties, and the order's reputation still heavily damaged, morale is lower amongst the surviving members of the order than it ever has been in its history. Reynard continues to help his Alphatian masters, and there are incidents where Foresters traveling within Thyatis are attacked, often by emboldened Hattians, who have long nursed a grudge against the order.
With the fall of Alfheim, Ilsundal comes to a decision. Although he still values the order, he realizes it suffers from divided loyalties and thus must change to address this issue. He sends further visions to many prominent Foresters, showing the order assisting the elves fleeing Alfheim and settling in countries other than Thyatis, showing a future guild largely defined by loyalty to the elves and organized amongst several nations rather than bound to merely one. Larandia, after pondering such visions, sends her nephew Justinian Lymianoporus (Male Half-Elven Lawful (NG) Forester 12) at the head of a delegation to meet the elven refugees en route and help guide them to Karameikos, where the Vyalian elves also have a presence.
Other Foresters, guided by Ilsundal and their own moral compasses and dislike for Thyatis' imperialist policies, quietly help the Pearl Islanders and Ochalea in their independence movements, and both declare independence by winter. Such an act would have been unthinkable even in spite of the Foresters` dislike of Thyatis' historical treatment of those regions only a few short years ago, but the actions of the past two years have weakened the Foresters' loyalty to their parent nation--many see themselves increasingly as servants of Ilsundal rather than imperial citizens.
1008 AC, Spring: Reynard and his fellow Alphatian Foresters help with the pacification of Helskir, which causes the order's reputation to suffer even further. Even within Vyalia, few applicants seek to enter the order, and a handful who do are murdered on their way to Foreston by Storm Soldiers who have hidden themselves within the County for that purpose. Even after they are caught, public opinion against them is muted, much to the order's chagrin.
Justinian and his followers reach Karameikos with the Alfheim refugees, who are granted dominions in the eastern forests of Karameikos. They provide what assistance they can, establishing good relations with the Callarii and Vyalian Elves who live in that nation.
1008 AC, Summer: The war continues to go poorly for Thyatis, with the Alphatians in a position to attack mainland Thyatis. Petroniel Halataum (Male Kerendan Lawful (LG) Forester 15), a Knight of the Air, accompanies the Retebius Air Fleet and several other Forester Knights to meet the Alphatian fleet before it can reach the Thyatian mainland. Still deeply loyal to the empire, Petroniel is determined to stop the Alphatians at any cost, though his resolve is tested when he learns his former friend, Reynard, is helping command the Alphatian fleet as an advisor on Thyatian tactics.
Petroniel communes with Ilsundal, asking his patron immortal what he should do. Ilsundal is torn--although members of the order are now in conflict, both sides are doing what they believe is in the best interests of the elves and the order, and Reynard has been led to this path by Ilsundal's own influence. Petroniel acts as he does because he is convinced that a strong union with Thyatis is best to preserve the guild and protect the ways of the Vyalian Elves. Bitterly realizing that he has caused this sad turn of events, Ilsundal strips none of the Foresters involved of their powers, and has no answers for Petroniel.
Petroniel decides, reluctantly, to go into battle with his fellows. In the events which follow, he finds himself pitted against the Alphatian airship the traitorous Reynard travels on, and after his hippogriff is mortally wounded Petroniel is forced to crash onto the deck of the ship and face Reynard directly alongside a contingent of his fellow Knights of the Air. For the first time in the history of the order, two Foresters find themselves fighting each other on opposite sides of a war.
In the duel which follows, he slays Reynard, but the ship is critically damaged and crashes, killing Petroniel in the process. The Alphatian advance is stopped--for now--and Petroniel becomes a hero of the empire for his brave sacrifice, helping to restore some of the order's lost prestige. The only Forester to survive the battle is Trention Lycostorion, a Pegasus Knight33, who also becomes a hero of the order. While this helps the Forester`s Guild somewhat, the fact that two of its members have been forced to kill each other is yet another terrible blow to the morale of its members. Although some still favor a union with Thyatis, the majority are now looking towards Karameikos and embracing Ilsundal's visions of an order that transcends national boundaries.
1009 AC, Spring: Forester agents and skirmishers help slow the Alphatian advance into Thyatis, but given the casualties they have suffered and the fact that still more have chosen to go to Karameikos to help the elves there means their numbers are limited. Still, they engage in enough acts of heroism to further repair their tattered reputation within the empire.
Justinian and his fellow Foresters consult with the Karameikan elves about setting up a branch of the Foresters within Karameikos. Ilsundal informs the Treekeepers of those Alfheim and Callarii clans that he will honor any such ceremony performed by them, provided the same standards are kept. The elves, still struggling to adjust to their situation, gladly accept the help.
1009 AC, Fall: The war finally ends for a battered Thyatis, and the Foresters there are freed at last from having to fight the Alphatians. The order's reputation is improved, though still nowhere near what it was before the war. The Week Without Magic shocks the Vyalian Elves and the Foresters to the core, however, and during this time vengeful Hattian terrorists, guided by Thanatos, assassinate several weakened Foresters.
Larandia calls a meeting of the Forester`s Guild, and outlines her vision of the future of the order. She approves of Justinian's efforts to establish a Karameikan branch of the order, as she senses that this is Ilsundal's will. She gives every member of the order a choice--they may stay in Vyalia, or go to Karameikos. Of the sixty surviving Foresters, forty choose to renounce their Thyatian citizenship and go to Karameikos. The remaining twenty, including Larandia, choose to stay.
In Karameikos, Justinian seeks out and is granted an audience with King Stefan. He proposes a Karameikan Forester's Guild that will swear loyalty to Karameikos rather than Thyatis. Stefan is somewhat reluctant to accept members of a formerly Thyatian martial order, but, after consulting with his advisors, chooses to accept the offer. The Order of the Griffon makes contact with the Foresters, hoping to establish ties.
1010 AC: With the sinking of Alphatia, the conflict is finished. The Forester's Guild in Vyalia remains, and once again is receiving a healthy number of applicants, moved by tales of Petroniel's heroism. In time, the order will grow to its original size. In the years to follow, Larandia will swear loyalty to Eusebius after his father's death in 1012, and the order will continue to engage in the sorts of activities it did before the war. However, it will never enjoy the same level of prestige it did before the conflict, as Reynard and his cohorts will form a stain on the guild's reputation for a long time. There are still a fair amount of senators and government officials who feel the order was not punished sufficiently, or even favor disbanding it outright.
However, the order no longer exists solely in Thyatis. The Karameikan Guild of Foresters also grows in size, accepting promising Karameikan students who are sponsored by Alfheim, Callarii and Vyalian clans. Justin Karameikos, Stefan's second son, sensing that Karameikos's new elven population will prove critical to the future of the nation, chooses to apply for entrance into the order and is accepted, fostering even greater ties between the nation and the new Karameikan Forester`s Guild. Relations between the two guilds are good, and this causes some trouble for the Thyatian branch, as Karameikos refused to aid Thyatis during the war.
The Order of the Griffon welcomes Foresters to its ranks, and several former Knights of the Air amongst them are instrumental in efforts to secure griffon mounts for the knighthood's use.34
In time, efforts will be made to expand the order into Darokin as elves begin to return there to help save the Canolbarth forest.35 The Foresters as an order have spread beyond Thyatis, and continue to promote the will of Ilsundal throughout many parts of Mystara.
1 There is a small discrepancy in the Dawn of the Emperors boxed set between the Dungeon Master`s Sourcebook and Player`s Guide to Thyatis; the former states the order is around 800 years old and the latter 500 years old. I have chosen to go with the former date in this case.
2 Unknown; possibly Thanatos, who assumed many different guises simply to cause trouble. It is also speculated that Granark might have possessed an artifact or intelligent sword that pushed him towards such a combative stance towards elves.
3 See Threshold 4, “Senators of the Thyatian Empire.”
4 See James Ruhland`s “History of the Thyatian People”
5 This statement assumes the BECMI rules system; if using a later edition, there may well be other kinds of humans who can wield arcane magic in armor.
6 Ibid (as above).
7 As per Dawn of the Emperors.
9According to Dawn of the Emperors, the Greenheight and Diamarak clans are the most likely to sponsor Foresters. The other clans, namely the Blueleaves (artists), Etheredyls (philosophers) and Hierydyls (scholars) only rarely sponsor Foresters given their lack of emphasis on martial pursuits. The final clan, Treeshields, is very martially oriented, but many of their members are traditionalists who look upon the Foresters with some suspicion and thus rarely sponsor them.
10 There is another discrepancy in the Dawn of the Emperors boxes set here; the Dungeon Master`s Sourcebook states Foresters must be Lawful, while the Player`s Guide to Thyatis states they may be of any alignment. Again, I have chosen to go with the former—in systems other than BECMI, “Lawful” should be interpreted as an adherence to elven tradition, loyalty to the elven clan, and an honorable disposition.
11 Again, this assumes the BECMI ruleset where this is unique to Foresters and Elves.
12 In 1000 AC, according to Dawn of the Emperors.
13 Special units of Treeshield clan elves do exist, however.
14 As per the rules for Contact Other Plane in the Rules Cyclopedia.
15 The Hollow World Box set makes references to Foresters amongst some of the cultures that live there. How and why Foresters came to be there is probably best covered in a separate article. In addition, the Merchant-Princes of Minrothad could also be considered a specialized kind of nautical Forester sponsored by Calitha Starbrow, who would also have a reason to foster strong human-elven relations like Ilsundal does.
16If these rules are used, the Riders of Renyard in the Dragon Mountain box set should be considered to have the Forester kit
17Ruaidhri Hawkbane is known to have done this, restoring the spell ability of an ex-Forester whose elven lover was slain by werebeasts and subsequently violated the Forester code in pursuit of revenge.
18 According to James Ruhland`s History of the Thyatian People, Empress Irene ruled from 202-211 AC; I chose this year for no particular reason to serve as the start of the order..
19 See Threshold 3, "Thyatian Senators."
20 See James Ruhland`s “History of the Thyatian People.”
21 Ibid. This is written as occurring in the late 5th century; again, I chose this year at random.
22 This reflects my view that Merchant Princes are a Sea Elven version of the Forester, though oriented towards trade and seafaring, and bound by Calitha Starbrow. This allows them to cast spells in armor as Foresters do.
23 It isn't clear exactly when spell-casting human Merchant Princes originated in Minrothaddan history; I assumed this to have occurred in the 6th century based on the history of Minrothad in Threshold 4.
24 See James Ruhland`s “History of the Thyatian People”
26 See Threshold 2, “Senators of the Thyatian Empire.”
27 See GAZ2.
28 See Dawn of the Emperors.
29 See Wrath of the Immortals
30 Ibid. (The Immortal’s Fury 73)
32 See Threshold 4, "Thyatian Senators."
33 This is the sample character provided in the Dawn of the Emperors box set.
34 See Karameikos: Kingdom of Adventure boxed set.
35See the Almanacs for the years 1013 and afterwards on the Vaults of Pandius.