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Ironwood (Elven Barony of)

Location: South-east of Alpha facing the New Alphatian Sea.
Area: 3,500 sq. mi. (7,875 km2)
Population: 4,000, roughly 74% elves, 20% humans and 5% other demi-humans (in Laran only), 1% intelligent woodland creatures.
Languages: Elvish (Callarii, Shiye, Alfheim, Vyalia dialect), Thyatian Common, Alphatian Common (Alpha dialect), Fairy Tongue.
Coinage: Crown (gp), Mirror (sp); barter common.
Taxes: Gifts of the trees (special: see under Land).
Government Type: Feudal barony, although the Baron is strongly influenced by the various Clanmasters.
Industries: Hunting, Crafts (woodworking, leatherworking, goldcraft).
Important Figures: Baron Elariathas Blackblade (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), and Clanholder Shelingar (elf, male, F4/M3).
Flora and Fauna: The land consists mostly of a large evergreen ancient forest and comprises also 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, chimeras, decapus and vegetal monsters have been spotted throughout the dominion.

Description: by Alasdhair MacCallum

If only a few months ago somebody had told me I had to pose as an elf just to visit a forest I would have made a fool of him. But you can never know what life reserves you, that's the most important lesson I've learned during my rather adventuresome existence. However, that's how things turned out, more or less. I was here in Alpha ready to set sail for Oceansend (I planned to visit that land before returning to my beloved Klantyre) when I stumbled into an elf in one of the alleyways of the city. [Editor's Note: Readers of last year's Mystaran Almanac will realise that these events took place between Alasdhair's description of Alpha and Oceansend. This article was not included last year because the Almanac did not have as much interest in the area at the time. Now, we are adding Ironwood in our ever-growing hopes to describe all the lands of Norwold.]

Apparently, he was having some "financial problems" with a couple of shady "tax collectors", as he put it: so I offered to help him solving his troubles and I lent him a hand. You know, I've never liked tax collectors, especially those who go about armed to their teeth.

Less than a hour after our meeting, we were drinking in one of Alpha's best taverns and he was telling me of the important duty he was accomplishing in the city. He was here on behalf of his Lord, Elarianthas Blackblade, to hire engineers to worked on the "Great Project". So, after helping him find the right people, I decided to accompany him in his trip back to Ironwood (which was on the course to Oceansend, after all), to find out more about this elven paradise he had told me about so passionately.

The Land

The Barony of Ironwood lies some 280 miles (440 Km) to the south-east of Alpha, nestled under the northernmost tip of the Final Range. The dominion itself is very small and not widely known, but it seems it's a heaven for the elves living in 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. This is the city of Laran, where the Baron is building a great port which he hopes will help increase trade with other countries. However, this is not the capital of the barony. The capital, located deep inside the forest, is Persimmon - a town built in a more typical elven style.

Laran is the only place of the entire barony where non-elves are free to roam and live. It reminds me much of the old Alfheim Town. The buildings have been built by and for humans. 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. Yes, cleanness is the first word that comes to my mind in describing the town of Laran and the Barony of Ironwood as a whole.

The forest which 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 refuge 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. Elven gatherers and hunters move around so silently that it's difficult to discern them from the common sounds of the woods. However, to witness such a wonderful show you must have pointy ears, a slender figure and speak the elven tongue.

"It is forbidden to any non-elf to venture into the forest": this is the exact text of the most important law issued by the Baron more than eight years ago. This step has been taken to prevent the destruction or the upsetting 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.

And so, to overcome this fastidious rule your intrepid correspondent has had to polymorph into an elf and to travel disguised like this among the sylvan folk that I encountered during my exploration of Ironwood. The risk was high, but it was worth trying (and I did meet other individuals who had the same idea during my wanderings, though if they were humans like me or other kind of beings I could not always tell). But in spite of my precautions, there was a place I was not really able to explore like I wanted, this being what the elves simply call the Reserve, of which I will speak later in this letter.

One last feature of the land I'd like to detail in this report regards its economy. The elves here don't pay any taxes to their lord, or better, they don't pay taxes the way we humans do. In fact, each year they give their lord the "gifts of the forest". The Baron therefore 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. Aside from these, the elves are not obliged to pay anything else to their clan, even though they must be always ready to work for the community 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 paradise). 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).

The People

The majority of the population of Ironwood are elves, with a few humans and other demi-humans living in the town of Laran. The elves of Ironwood however do not belong to one single stock or clan. A third are Callarii elves from Karameikos who came here with the Baron when he founded the dominion around ten years ago. The rest are the Shiyes - also called the Norwold elves - who already lived here when Lord Blackblade arrived. The two elven races have successfully integrated with each other. [Ed.'s Note: Since Alasdhair has written this report, there is now a large group of newly arrived Alfheimers equalling the number of elves already in Ironwood. Some Vyalia elves of Thyatis are rumoured to also by on their way of joining those in Ironwood.]

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 suspicious and haughty than the common high elves. They view themselves as the new example of the true elven race, being the result of a multi-cultural elven society that has taken the better features of its members. These elves therefore consider themselves as the guardians of the Old Way, a way of life and of thinking that they believe has now been lost by modern elves. Lord Blackblade is trying to recreate 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. And then there is also the Great Project.

Lord Blackblade is trying to unify all the elves of Norwold under the same banner, in order to create the first Elven Empire of the world. An impossible project if you ask me, considering how the northern Shiye are fond of their secrecy and independence from one another, but who knows. Since Lord Blackblade has an 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 believe he will make any political attempts before he has obtained the full support and loyalty of the newly arrived Alfheimers (which may prove a bit more difficult than he thinks).

During the past three years Lord Blackblade has created a new elven religion called the Faith of the Ancestors, where he included all the Immortals worshipped by his people without choosing anyone particular Immortal as head of the pantheon. The common belief that unify all believers is that these deities have all worked to protect the elven race and that they all gave the elves the gifts of the forest. For this reason they must all be revered with the same extent as they are all Immortals of the Elves. With this religion 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 followers of other 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. There are a few followers, but they are only a small fraction of the population. Elves need a long time to change their ways.

Recent History

Ironwood was founded only eleven years ago [That would be AC 1013 when this was written. Ed.], yet it is already remarkably stable for a frontier's land and enjoys friendly relationships with its neighbouring states. Lord Elariathas Blackblade is the ruler of this land, but like most elven nations he must also answer for his decisions to the Clanmaster of the various clans. Lord Blackblade received his title when he swore fealty to Ericall of Alpha. The Baron then persuaded many of his old clanmates 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 and Norwold, 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 paradise for his race.

During all his years as baron he has worked to integrate the Shiye and Callarii cultures together, but it was only at the end of year AC 1006 that the Shiye that lived in his territory finally swore open allegiance to him and acknowledged to be part of his clan. With their help he began contacting all the other Shiye communities of Norwold and establishing friendly relationship with the druids of Norwold. He hopes to one day obtain their support and unify them, creating a great elven empire. The foundation of the Faith of the Ancestors is the last step in his path to unification and dates back to AC 1012.

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.

During the war known as The Wrath of the Immortals that ravaged the continent, Lord Blackblade was able to draw a small number of members of the Fairy Court and other woodland beings such as treants to his dominion. He created a protected territory where they could live in peace called the Reserve. The Reserve is now one of the most protected and inaccessible place in Norwold, rumoured to host many more inhabitants than one could presume from its rather small size (8 miles diameter area). I suspect Lord Blackblade is not really "in control" of this part of the forest; the fey folk probably consider him as a friend but they'll never answer his commands. They have their own rules and rulers, as we all know from the old fairy tales.

Not all the other elven communities of Norwold have established contact with Ironwood (Shiye are really proud of their independence), and according to some rumours I've heard the northern Foresthomes may present an obstacle to Lord Blackblade's dreams of glory. In fact, there is a human Treekeeper named Zoltan in that region who has a considerable influence on those elves but who has so far rejected Lord Blackblade's proposals, obviously irritating the elf. There is also a religious issue going on between the two, and from what I've been able to hear it seems it won't be resolved so soon.

Around AC 1010 some Shadow Elves came to Norwold to ask for the elves' help. Unfortunately there were already a few 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.

Don't Miss

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. 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. In most cases, the living quarters themselves have been carved out the trees themselves. A few other structures have been built by the elves atop the tree branches (lookout places, fortified gates and laboratories being the most common). 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 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 claim that Lord Blackblade used magic to enhance the tree's natural diameter 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 in all kind of elemental and nature-related magic. I have not been able to visit it because I feared being discovered by their scrying devices: there are guards who magically inspect every new visitor to the tree in order to prevent thieves stealing precious information.

Some elves told me that many powerful human mages visit the Tree from time to time, all of them trusted and invited by Lord Blackblade. Even visitors from other planes of existence sometimes enter the laboratories, attracted by the magical energy released inside them. It is also said 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. Since I have not witnessed these events, I don't know if this is truth of legend.

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 druids and the clanleaders of the barony are permitted to enter thanks to a pact between those beings and Lord Blackblade. It seems that if you're not invited by the inhabitants, you won't be able to access it in any way; once you walk inside you'll simply find yourself exiting at the other side of the area (I experienced the phenomenon myself!). Whatever it is, the Reserve surely contains many marvels to those who are allowed to visit, and if you think of trying to do it during the Day of Dread, well forget it! In that day that part of the forest simply doesn't exist. As far as I could discern, the night before it vanishes, leaving a big empty valley in the middle of the forest, and at dawn of the new year it reappears!

Do Miss

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 dominion I would advise one not to approach. That would be the Dragon's Spur. It lies at the western edge of the dominion and, although slightly outside the borders (about a kilometre), it is a constant threat. The Dragon's Spur is a jagged mountain that belongs to 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 follow an ancient black dragon by the name of S'hastarl. No elf has ever ventured there and the few adventurers who tried have never returned. Lord Blackblade himself once tried to eradicate this menace by finding out the dragon's lair and killing him, but he wasn't able to locate it and ended up roasting only a clan of orcs. S'hastarl has not been spotted for a hundred years and the goblinoids have not ventured inside Ironwood so far, but the lord of the western dominion has had frequent problems with them in the last months, and this is no good news for Ironwood either. Some elven sages in fact have speculated that the dragon might be awakening from a decades long slumber and will soon be eager to restate his predominance over the region.