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Mealiden's Trees of Lifeby Marco Dalmonte
Federico Kaftal asked:
When Mealiden migrates from the Sylvan Realm, he grows 9 new Trees of Life and takes them with him, presumably one per each tribe he was leading south. Six of them end up in Alfheim (the Feadiel tree comes from the original Ilsundal Tree of the Sylvan Realm, it's not one of the nine grown by Mealiden). The seventh must be in possession of the Callarii Elves in Karameikos, since this tribe was part of Mealiden's exodus. But now two questions come to my mind: Question #1: Where are the two remaining Mealiden's Trees of Life? Question #2: After the Canolbarth forest dies (Wrath of the Immortals campaign) what's going to happen to the Trees of Life of the Alfheim Elves? Will they survive and be transferred somehow, or are they doomed like the rest of the forest?
Question #2 is easier: they're hidden by the elves and are supposedly later healed through the uneasy truce with the shadowelves.
Question #1 is more difficult. I'll point you to an article I wrote some years ago which is also readable on my site (the title was Treatise on Demihuman Relics). The excerpt which can be of some interest here is the following:
" Now, around AC 800 Mealiden and the Treekeepers asked Ilsundal to make duplicates of the Mother Tree to be brought with them in their long trek westwards and so Ilsundal CREATED other nine seedlings which would later grow into mature original ToL (the first example of avatars that grow older!). We know there are 10 Original ToL in Mystara: one is in the Sylvan Realm (sources: CM7, GAZ5), six were in Alfheim and are now in Karameikos and Wendar, protected by the clans they belong to (sources: GAZ5, WotI), and finally one is in Karameikos, the Callarii's ToL (source: GAZ5).
" Two are still missing. Where are they? I don't know, but I can tell you for sure where they are not: they're not in Wendar, because the Wendarian elves have a totally different history and worship different immortals (source: PWA, the unofficial Wendar timeline by Shawn Stanley and me). The Shadow Elves don't have them for the same reasons, and also because if they had had one, they would have used it to save Canolbarth (source: GAZ13). The elves of Minrothad don't have any, because they worship different immortals (source: GAZ9). What elves do remain? Belcadiz elves (GAZ3), Vyalia elves (GAZ1, Dawn of the Emperors boxed set), Norwold elves (CM1), Alphatia elves (DotE boxed set), Isle of Dawn elves (M5), Savage Coast elves (Red Steel/Savage Coast), Graakhalia elves (Champions of Mystara boxed set), Ee'aars (Orc's Head supplement), and N'djatwa (ogre/elf crossbreed from Dragon Magazine) if you count them. These are the ones we do know of, but others may exist."
Going further , we can see that Vyalia elves have a ToL as said in DotE (see County of Vyalia). This is the exact quote:
"When a Forester trainee is ready to become a Forester formally, [..] the Forester is taken to the Tree of Life of the sponsoring clan (this tree is hidden deep in the forest, far off the recognisable forest trails). There, in a special ceremony, he is formally adopted by the clan and visited by a ghostly presence called an Arm of Ilsundal, which fill him with the energies which will allow him to cast magic as the elves do." (DotE, Book 1, page 13)
So, given the fact that there are 6 clans of Vyalia in Thyatis (Blueleaves, Diamaraks, Hierydyls, Greenheights, Treeshields and Etherdyls), there must be then six ToL in Thyatis. There is also a clan of reclusive Vyalia living in the Karameikos side of the Forest of Dymrak: however, I haven't found any reference that says they own a ToL, so I don't think they have one (they probably worship Ordana like in the old ways through a different mysticism..).
How can these 6 ToL be explained? Where do they come from? I personally can think of two plausible explanations, both quite simple actually.
First theory: The Alfheimers' gift. This is the hypothesis I currently support. When the Alfheimers came with Mealiden out of the Rainbow Path after escaping the Sylvan Realm, they landed in what would later become known as Thyatis. From Daniel Boese's Timeline:
"800 BC: Elves led by Mealiden Starwatcher leave the Sylvan Realm via the magical rainbow; they carry nine seedlings of the tree of life with them. They land in the forested regions of what would later be called Thyatis, but are driven out by the warlike humans there, and flee northward. The Callarii clan settles in Traladara territory; most of the rest settle in a windy steppes area."
OK, now, we don't know for sure how many years did they stay in those woods. We know that they were driven out the fertile plains by the surrounding humans, but I think they had the opportunity to settle in the woods for some time. I let you note that Mealiden was acclaimed king of Alfheim only a century after this date (BC 700, according to the canonical fonts). This is a very long timespan, so I believe that the elves actually stayed in the forest of Dymrak for no less than 5-10 years before being forced to flee westwards. And during this time they became friends with the elves already living there: the Vyalias. In exchange for their help and friendship, they then gave the Vyalia six daughters ToL from one of their Mother Trees (one for each clan), as a gesture of eternal bond and brotherhood. Then they were forced to move out when their population was too numerous and couldn't be supported by the gifts of the forest, or more probably because Mealiden wanted a land of his own to rule and dreamt of becoming a new symbol for the elves like Ilsundal had been. This way, the Vyalia of Thyatis have now their ToL and worship Ilsundal like their brethren of Alfheim.
Second theory: the Missing Clan. When Mealiden arrived in what would be later called Thyatis, the Vyalia clan was one of the clans that had followed him via the Rainbow Path. However, at that time many elves had lost their hopes to find a better land where to begin a new life, and after they were driven off by the humans and the Shiye abandoned the main group, they stumbled in the woods of Dymrak. The Vyalia liked the place, but Mealiden escorted the followers to move on to the promised land, where with the help of Ilsundal they would have founded a new kingdom. But the Vyalia refused, like the Shiye had done a short time before, and they settled in the forest of Dymrak, keeping with them one of the nine original seedlings. Then the Callarii did the same when they passed through Karameikos. As you see, the testimonies of the defections from Mealiden's migration are many and well known, so we can suppose the same happened with the Vyalia. At that time, the Vyalia were a single united clan. But as time passed, many of the younger generations wanted to found their own clans and parted from the original: and so the six clans that now inhabit Thyatis were formed, and each one had its own daughter ToL. But where is the Original ToL nowadays? Two options: the Vyalia of Karameikos have it (the other Vyalia clans were founded because the younger elves refused to live in isolation as the older members taught. This explains the difference between Thyatis' and Karameikos' Vyalias), being the main clan from which the others originated. Second option: one of the six clans has it, probably the Greenheights since they're the rulers.
As you will note, the first hypothesis doesn't contradict canon stuff, while the second bends the rules, so to speak, supposing the Vyalia left Mealiden when no published supplement about Mystara has ever mentioned it (while on the contrary all the defections of other clans in the history of elves have always been reported). But if you accept the first hypothesis, then two problems still remain:
1) where the heck are the missing ToL?
2) Where do the Vyalia come from?
As for my first question, I must admit I don't really know, even though I will mention later the possible fate of another ToL.
Regarding the second, it's not that difficult to answer. Remember that Vyalia closely resemble the Verdier and Meditor elves of Minrothad (both are bright eyed and pale of complexion). My hypothesis then is that the Vyalia belonged to the Verdier clan. When the Verdier decided to sail off to find their lost brethren (the Meditor) around BC 1720, the Vyalia simply chose to remain where they were, in the forest of Dymrak, thus splitting the clan in two and founding the new clan of Vyalia. Then in the following decades the isolationists decided to live hidden inside the Karameikan part of Dymrak, while the other Vyalia scattered in the Thyatian part of the forest forming the six new clans as previously told.
I think this holds, what about you?
But let's now come to the end of this letter and talk about the Shiye and the mysterious Trueflower clan of the Thothian Plateau. Quoting from Daniel Boese's Timeline again:
"BC 800: One of the elf-clans, the Shiye, listens to the guidance of the elf-immortal Eiryndul and makes a dangerous crossing to the continent of Alphatia, where they set up their own kingdom in the deep central forests of that continent."
OK, imagine the scene: the Shiye are on Thyatian mainland and they split from Mealiden's group. However, they manage to keep their ToL (or maybe they steal it, knowing their nature..). The new spiritual leader tells them he has had an omen from their new patron: that he will guide them across the sea to a forested land to the east, where they will finally live in happiness and freedom. So they build barges and ships (or maybe the Meditor elves help them crossing the Sea of Dawn) and they come across a vast land very soon: the Isle of Dawn. They're very happy and praise the new Immortal for the land he's granted them, but the leader insists: they must cross this land for the promised forest is on the other side (they made landfall on the western shore, probably on the Shadow Coast). So they climb atop the plateau and they find a lush primeval forest sparsely inhabited and full of animals and friendly creatures. But for the second time the leader tells them this is not the promised land: this is only an island, and they must sail again eastwards towards a great continent that will be their new house. Many of them move... but some of them stay (this has always been a constant in the elven migrations): the Trueflowers. And they also manage to take into custody the ToL of the clan, since the leader openly says that they will no longer need it where they are going: the New Guide will give them a better relic! This way, the Shiye leader prompts all that are not loyal to him or to Eiryndul to leave the main group and to remain behind, where they won't hamper the clan anymore.
So this is the story of the Trueflower clan of the Thothian Plateau, a clan of elves detailed in M5: Talons of Night. The references to this clan of elves can be found on page 26 (where the map shows its location and officially names it "Trueflower clan") and on page 30, where the attitude of the clanmaster towards strangers is briefly told. For those who want to know, I've invented the whole story of the clan from the first word to the last basing myself of what we know of the elven migrations. And for those who also want to know more about the Trueflowers, I must tell you that M5 doesn't detail them: they're only mentioned as being a clan of elves that the PCs can befriend to help the phanatons of the IoD to defeat the evil araneas.
As the last sidenote about the Trueflowers, module M5 says that they "couldn't care less about the strife between Alphatia and Thyatis, two nations they've never heard of." (M5, p.30). This obviously means that they haven't had any contact with nations or cultures outside the plateau for a very long time. They do know there are other races out there, but they don't know about Thyatis and Alphatia.
So, if you also consider this piece of information, you'll see that my theory is not so unlikely (indeed in the ninth century BC, when I hypothesised they settled in the IoD, Thyatis had not yet been founded and Alphatia was not widely known -especially to elves that had lived on the other side of the continent- being arrived on Mystara only two hundred years before).
I don't know if this is acceptable for you, but in this case one of the missing ToL is in the IoD, so one more are missing (provided you don't think the Vyalia have one too). As for the Shiye in the Foresthomes, this theory would explain why they cannot materially have ToL, but instead their relic should be a relic of Eiryndul (if any).
Unless you think they braved the sea once more to come to the Trueflowers only to ask for a small daughter tree of a long forgotten and forsaken elven deity..
As a final note, this is a brief exchange between me and Daniel Boese about another possible ToL's position:
Daniel Boese : I do note (from information gleaned during my compilation of sources for my timeline) that in one of the Dragon issues #175, I believe, where the Savage Coast is introduced, Bruce Heard notes that some elves abandoned the Mealiden (or was it Ilsundal?) migration and settle in the Savage Coast. Most were destroyed by Wogar's horde, but a few remained north of the Great Escarpment. Maybe they do have one in the SC? (I don't know how the original Dragon SC info jibes with the AD&D SC info, though).
AFAIK, Mealiden never passed through the Savage Coast. The Rainbow Path, as you know, is an interplanar phenomenon that transported the elves directly from the Sylvan Realm to Thyatis, and the lands upon which it passes are charted in CM7 and they don't include the Savage Coast. This way I think the elves you're referring to must have been part of Ilsundal's migration, and so they couldn't possibly have had any Tree of Life.
Ah! Here's the event you mentioned: "Elves appeared in the region roughly 3,300 years ago and spread throughout the eastern and central Savage Coast. They did not affect the local cultures in any significant way; while living alongside the Oltecs, the elves did not mingle much with them." (Red Steel, Lands of the Savage Coast book, page 6) This testifies that the elves that spread in the SC belonged to Ilsundal's migration (BC 2300, that's "roughly 3,300 years ago") and so they couldn't possibly have any ToL since non had been already created.