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Ironwood (Elven Barony of)
Location: Norwold, continent of Brun, southeast of Alpha, facing the New Alphatian Sea.
Area: 3,486 sq. mi. (9,029 sq. km.).
Population: 4,000, roughly 74% elves, 20% humans and 5% other demihumans (in Laran only), 1% intelligent woodland creatures.
Languages: Elvish (Callarii, Shiye, Alfheim and Vyalia dialects), Thyatian, Alphatian, Fairy Tongue.
Coinage: Golden leaf (gp), silver acorn (sp); barter common.
Taxes: Gifts of the trees (special: see under Land).
Government Type: Barony (independent elven dominion: the baron is advised by the clanmasters).
Industries: Hunting, Crafts (woodworking, leatherworking, goldcraft).
Important Figures: Elarianthas Blackblade (Baron, elf, male, F10/M15), Thyandros (Blackblade Clanmaster, elf, male, F9/M9), Taragin Oakbranch (Lightseeker Clanmaster, elf, male, F10/M10), Renshiye (Shalidye Clanmaster, elf, male, R10/T8), Sythandria (Mythuinn Clanmistress, elf, female, M7/P7 of Ilsundal), Shelingar (Lightseeker Clanholder, elf, male, F4/M3).
Flora and Fauna: The elven Barony of Ironwood consists mostly of a large evergreen ancient forest and also comprises a narrow area of plains near the coast of the New Alphatian Sea. The elves don't cultivate the land extensively, but rely on the fruits and the products of the forest and on the game that lives inside it; small kitchen gardens can be found near the coastline. The animals commonly encountered in Ironwood are bears, deer, elks, moose, wild boars and wolves. The land is a heaven for sylvan races and has been totally purged of the humanoid tribes that once lived here (though they continue to live on the nearby mountains and hills in the north). A clan of treants and centaurs also live here in a special protected zone of the forest, as well as some unicorns, fairy people, hsiao and metamorphs. Creatures such as basilisks, gorgons, chimerae, decapuses and vegetal monsters have been spotted throughout the dominion.
Further Reading: CM1 Test of the Warlords, previous almanacs.
Description by Synthala of Aasla.
Even though I've been commissioned with writing an updated version of this interesting dominion from my editor, I must say that after my recent visit to Ironwood few has changed in comparison to what Alasdhair MacCallum wrote the previous year. For this reason, I have used most of his notes in my commentary, changing things here and there where he didn't seem to catch the true meaning of the elven ways.
The Barony of Ironwood lies some 280 miles (440 km.) to the southeast of Alpha, nestled under the northernmost tip of the Final Range. The dominion itself is small in comparison to the northern foresthomes and not widely known, but it seems it's a heaven for the elves living in southern Norwold. Only about one sixth of the entire area is not covered by forest: in this zone lies a city that closely resembles the human towns [the baron admitted that he copied the town plans of his birthplace, Rifllian, in the Kingdom of Karameikos. Synthala.]. This is the city of Laran, where the baron is building a great port that will help boosting the economy of the nation and trading with the other countries. However, this is not the capital of the barony, which in fact is named Persimmon and is located deep inside the forest, built in the typical elven style.
Laran is the only place of the entire barony where non-elves are free to roam and live in. The buildings have been built by human engineers and suit the human way of life. Also, the baron has provided the city with a complicate system of running water of gnomish design that makes everyone happy and above all clean.
The forest that covers the land almost extensively is made of huge evergreen trees, from sequoias to firs that tower magnificently to the sky like ancient colossi. The woods are teeming with natural and animal life, and the elves take great care in protecting the natural heaven their baron is trying to create here. Packs of deer and moose roam freely in the Forest of Persimmon, and flocks of sparrows, woodpeckers and skylarks make their nest in the highest limbs of the tree trunks. You can also find fresh streams of sparkling water flowing through the forest and gatherers and hunters that move around so silently that it's difficult to discern them from the common sounds of the woods.
However, only fellow elvenkind are admitted to witness this breathtaking experience. It is indeed forbidden to any non-elf to venture into the forest, a law the baron passed in AY 2005 [AC 1005. Ed.] that makes Ironwood very similar to the foresthomes. This step has been taken to prevent the destruction of the ecosystem the Ironwood elves are slowly and patiently trying to build and protect, and all the elves living here support and enforce it. Fortunately I was able to come and go inside Ironwood without too many restraints, given my vows of friendship with the sylvan folks, but elves are however always a bit distrustful of humans walking under their sacred woods.
One last feature of the land worth mentioning is its economy. Each year the elves give their lord the "gifts of the forest." Basically, the baron receives a share of the products the elves gather and hunt in the woods, plus some of the by-products of hunting, craftworks and a few mineral resources that some elves extract from the soil or the rivers using the appropriate tools built by the gnomes and halflings living in Laran. These gifts of the forest represent what the human landlords call the standard and resource incomes. Aside from these, the elves are not obliged to pay anything else to their clan, even though they must be always ready to lend a hand and work for it should it be needed. As for the people living in Laran, a tax of 10% of their annual income is collected once a year, and all the imported or exported products are duty free (a real economic heaven). Laran is also the only place where coins are minted and have a value inside the barony: in all the other parts barter is the rule [although the elves are known to barter not only products of the woods but also finely crafted items and jewels. Synthala.].
The majority of the population of Ironwood is made of elves, with the few representatives of the human and other demihuman races living together in the town of Laran. The elves of Ironwood, however, do not belong to one single stock or clan: there are Callarii elves from Karameikos (about thirty percent of the elven population), who came here with the baron when he founded the dominion about ten years ago. Then there are the Shiye, who already lived here when Lord Blackblade arrived (fifteen percent of the elves) and who have successfully integrated with the other elves. And finally there is a large chunk of newly arrived Alfheimers (forty-five percent) and some representatives of the Vyalia of Thyatis (ten percent), who are beginning to integrate among their brethren. The elves are just like any other member of their race found in the Old World, even though the influx of the Shiye culture has made them a bit more wise and proud than the common ones. They view themselves as the new example of the true elven race, being the result of a multicultural elven society that has taken the better features of its members. So these elves consider themselves as the guardians of the Old Way, as they call it, a way of life and of thinking that has been lost by nowadays Alfheimers [the previous model of the elven race, according to Lord Blackblade. Synthala.] and that has been slightly modified by the Shiye, the Callarii, the Vyalia and all the other clans due to their past and present history. What Lord Blackblade is trying to do in Ironwood is to re-create the elven land of the myths, Evergrun, where all the elves lived in peace with one another and with their forest brethren, the animals and the wood spirits.
Lord Blackblade is an ambitious elf, almost an idealist, but so far he has been able to achieve many of his goals. However, his ultimate goal, what his people now call the Great Project, is far more difficult and demanding than founding a barony and creating a natural park. Yet he and his followers seem resolute and very confident in their possibilities, and are now trying to obtain the greatest achievement for their race: to unify all the elves of Norwold under the same banner, in order to create the first elven empire of the world. A very unlikely accomplishment, considering how the northern Shiye are fond of their secrecy and independence from one another [which was also the cause that prompted them to leave Alphatia and settle in Norwold. Synthala.], but who knows: considering Lord Blackblade has a whole elven lifetime to accomplish it, maybe his dream will come true in the distant future. Until then, he is content of establishing friendly relationships with the other elven communities living in Norwold and I don't think he will make any political attempts before he has obtained the full support and loyalty of the newly arrived Alfheimers.
During the past three years Lord Blackblade introduced in the barony a slightly modified religious belief that helped integrate the various clans and strengthen their ties instead of creating rivalries. Being a well educated and experienced elf, he created a veritable elven church named the Faith of the Ancestors, where he included all the Immortals worshipped by his people without choosing anyone as head of the pantheon. The common belief that unify all the believers is that these deities are indissolubly linked to the elven race, that they have all worked to protect it and make it great, that they all gave the elves the gifts of the forest and that for this reason they must all be revered with the same extent for the major glory of the elven race. This way he is trying to prevent the religious disputes that might arise among the various priests and gives the elves the possibility to revere their own patron without angering the other believers or the Immortals. The pantheon of the Faith of the Ancestors so far comprises Ilsundal, Mealiden, Ordana, Eiryndul and Calitha Starbrow. However, since he only started this project during the last years, it has not been widely accepted yet. The baron is convinced that this is the first step to uniting all elves, but it will take him a long time to make this "universal elven faith" popular among all the elves of Norwold. He has already a few followers, but they are only a small fraction of his barony (say about 10% of elves). Elves need time for this kind of things.
The barony is fairly recent since it was founded in AY 2003, [AC 1003. Ed.] yet it is already remarkably stable for a frontiers land and enjoys friendly relationships with its neighbouring states. The founder of the barony, Lord Elarianthas Blackblade, is the clanholder of the Blackblade clan to which all of the land belongs. He is the leader of the country in front of King Ericall, to whom he swore fealty, but since we are talking about an elven dominion, he must also answer to the clanmaster of the Blackblades [his father Thyandros. Synthala.] and to the other three sages that represent the major clans of the barony: Taragin of Clan Lightseeker [newly arrived Alfheimers. Synthala.], Renshiye of clan Shalidye (Shiye) and Sythandria of clan Mythuinn (Vyalia). Lord Blackblade founded the barony in AY 2003 [AC 1003. Ed.], when he persuaded many of his old clan mates to join him up in Norwold and created clan Blackblade, with the blessings of the Callarii leaders of Karameikos. In the ensuing years he remained loyal to Ericall, but was seldom involved in the power plays that erupted among the other barons. Rather he was content with his small isolated dominion and worked steadily to make it a heaven for his race.
Persimmon was built at the end of year AY 2003 [AC 1003. Ed.] and the construction of Laran followed in AY 2004 [AC 1004. Ed.]. In AY 2005 [AC 1005. Ed.] Lord Blackblade passed the famous Protection Act: only the elves and the sylvan creatures were allowed to roam freely in the forest, whereas the other races were confined to Laran and the coastal territories. During all those years he had worked to integrate the Shiye and Callarii cultures together, but it was only at the end of year AY 2006 [AC 1006. Ed.] that the Shiye that lived in his territory finally swore open allegiance to him and acknowledged to be part of his clan, hailing him as their new leader. With their help he began contacting all the other Shiye communities of Norwold and established friendly relationship with all the druids living in the continent. The foundation of the Faith of the Ancestors is the last step in his path to unification and dates back to AY 2012 [AC 1012. Ed.].
It was only after the fall of Alfheim that he also began to work at the Project Evergrun: turning his dominion into a centre of elven lore and magical research and creating a natural park where samples of all the vegetal and animal species of the continent could live and be protected. This turned out to be a nice move from the political and economic point of view too, since some other minor Shiye clans living south of the Great Bay supported him and sent representatives to help and take part in this great project.
Lord Blackblade also achieved two great goals during the Great War that ravaged the continent. First of all, he was able to draw a small number of members of the Fairy Court to his dominion, creating a protected territory where they could live in peace. Later, via teleport spells he also transported a small clan of treants to this same magical place [called the Reserve. Synthala], saving them from another baron who wanted to exterminate them to annex their forest to his dominion. The Reserve is now one of the most protected and inaccessible places in Norwold, rumoured to host many more inhabitants than one could presume from its rather small size (an 8 miles diameter area). However, Lord Blackblade is not really "in control" of this part of the forest: the fey folk probably consider him as a friend, maybe a hero, but they'll never answer his commands. They have their own rules and rulers, as we all know from the old fairy tales.
After the end of the Great War, Lord Blackblade contacted Vyalians and Alfheimers to explain them his project, and many of them moved to Norwold to put at his disposal their invaluable knowledge about magic, nature and history. After that, he declared his nation independent from King Ericall's kingdom but he didn't cut the diplomatic ties with Alpha, knowing he needs a powerful human ally in Norwold to found a demihuman nation. He is currently a loose ally of Ericall [a treaty of mutual friendship exists between the two countries. Synthala.], even though he is not obliged to send troops or money in case of need. Nowadays this small but ever-growing barony is on friendly terms with its human neighbours [even though some of them actually covet its lore and natural resources. Synthala.] and Lord Blackblade is trying to establish the religious basis for the future unification of the Norwold elves, even though problems persist about the primate of the faith and the choice of the spiritual leader. Also, not all the other elven communities of Norwold have established contact with Ironwood [Shiye are really proud of their independence. Synthala.].
Finally, according to some rumours the northern foresthomes may present an obstacle to Lord Blackblade's dreams of glory. In fact, the human Treekeeper Zoltan [lord of White Oak. Synthala.] has a considerable influence on those elves, and he has so far rejected Lord Blackblade's proposals, obviously irritating the elf. There is a religious issue going on between the two, and it's far from being solved. According to hearsay, there has been only one occasion when the two lords have agreed on a common decision. Around AY 2010 [AC 1010. Ed.] some shadow elves came to Norwold to ask for the elves' help. Unfortunately there were already some Alfheimers living in Ironwood by that time (minor clans) and tensions erupted. A few native elves were found murdered and after a brief inspection a shadow elf was discovered while trying to penetrate the Tree of Magic to obtain magical knowledge. The shadow elves were exiled and ordered never to return. Contacts have not been re-established and the current relationship is tense. As soon as Zoltan heard about this fact, he came to Ironwood for the first and only time and gained an audience with the baron: when the two came out of the meeting room, they were both smiling and joking like old time friends, as the guards told me. This is the only time they actually acted friendly towards one another.
There are at least two places to see if you're allowed to travel through Ironwood: Persimmon and the Tree of Magic.
Persimmon is the stronghold of the Blackblade clan, a mighty fortress built atop the giant trees of the Forest of Persimmon in perfect elven style. Lord Blackblade copied the Alfheim clan strongholds when he built it, with narrow catwalks and roped bridges swinging at an altitude of more than 80 meters, deeply concealed by lower tree branches always covered with thick foliage. The living quarters themselves have been carved out the tree trunks in most cases, while other structures have been built by the elves out of the trees (lookout places, fortified gates and laboratories being the most common). The stronghold is always teeming with life, and you can see elves walking everywhere and gliding down the higher quarters using vines almost constantly. In fact this is not only the capital of the nation but also the centre for all the magical studies sponsored by the baron, and it boasts two of the main features of this land. The first one, which rises proudly at the centre of the stronghold, is the fabled Tree of Life of the clan, a daughter oak tree of the Callarii clan, well tended and constantly guarded by its treekeeper and his assistants.
The second impressive feature of Persimmon is the repository of all the magical secrets of the barony: the Tree of Magic, an ancient sequoia not very tall (about 70-80 meters high) but incredibly broad (diameter of 60 meters). Many elves say that actually Lord Blackblade has caused it to become that large with powerful magics, and having witnessed His Lordness at work I may even believe it. The elves told me that the Tree of Magic is divided into ten different levels, nine for each level of power of the spells researched, and another subterranean one for the research an experimentation of all kind of elemental and nature related magic. Some of the elves I met in Persimmon have even told me that many powerful human mages visit the tree from time to time, all of them trusted and invited by Lord Blackblade, and that visitors from other planes sometimes pop up in the laboratories attracted by the energy released inside them. Another tall tale rumour wants that once a year the Tree of Magic is visited by none others than the spirits of the elven Immortals, who roam about it and talk with the higher elf-mages about the secrets of the universe and the lost lore of the elven race.
But the wonders of this small barony don't end here. If you're lucky or powerful enough you could also be allowed to enter the Reserve, that secluded patch of forest where the fairy folk and the sylvan races dwell unmolested. Only the animals, the druids and the clan leaders of the barony are allowed to enter it because of a pact between those beings and Lord Blackblade. The Reserve is small but many beings are said to live in there, as if it existed in another larger dimension. Also, for unknown reasons, it seems that if you're not invited by those living in there, you won't be able to access it in any way: once you walk inside it you'll simply find yourself exiting at the other side of the area. Whatever it is, the Reserve surely contains many marvels to those who are allowed to visit it. However, if you are thinking of trying to visit it during the Day of Dread, know that it's useless, for during that day that part of the forest simply doesn't exist. As far as I know, it vanishes the night before, leaving a big empty valley in the middle of the forest, reappearing again the following dawn!
Well, if you're a dwarf or a shadow elf it's better not to walk this land altogether. And this applies to all the troublemakers of any other race, of course. But there's one place in the whole dominion I would advise you not to go too near, and this is the Dragon's Spur. It lies at the western border of the dominion and is not exactly part of it, but being very near to the border (one mile) it is a constant threat. The Dragon's Spur is a jagged mountain on the foothills of the Final Range. It is home to a small number of orcs who serve a local clan of mountain giants, who in turn once followed an ancient black dragon by the name of S'hastarl. No elf has ever ventured there and the few adventurers who tried never showed up again on this part of the mountain. Lord Blackblade himself once tried to eradicate this menace by finding out the dragon's lair and killing him, but he was never able to locate it. S'hastarl has not been spotted for a hundred years and the humanoids have not ventured inside Ironwood so far, but the lords of the western dominions [Stamtral, Vyolstagrad and Moonland. Synthala.] have had problems with them in the last year. Some elven sages in fact speculate that the dragon might be awakening from a decades long slumber and will soon be eager to restate his predominance over the region.