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Trees of Life in Mystaraby Simone Neri
This is a translation of an old article of mine collecting official info about the Trees of Life, with a lot of speculations on my side as an extra.
TREE OF LIFE ORIGIN:
From GAZ9 info it is likely that Ilsundal modelled its first Tree of Life basing on the sacred tree of the Verdier elves:
The Verdier clan of elves left their clan tree behind when they emigrated from their homeland. Some say that tree was the inspiration for Ilsundal's later creation, the Tree of Life, familiar to so many mainland elves... However this may be, the Verdier elves arrived in the Minrothad Islands without any relic at all. Whatever sprig or offshoot of the clan tree went with them had perished during their long travels.... Alawyn Verdier was keeper at that time, although no relic existed for her and her assistants to guard. Discontented with her useless existence, Alawyn and a few brave companions went on a quest to find a new relic for the Verdier wood elves. The keepers were gone for five years.
If you assume this sentence to be true, Ilsundal should have taken his "inspiration" before 2200-2100BC, that is before the separation between the Verdier clan and the rest of the Ilsundal Migration. Notice, anyway, that this would mean that Ilsundal took three to four centuries to actually create the first Tree of Life (which was born in BC1800).
THE FIRST TREE OF LIFE:
The First Tree of Life was born in the Sylvan Realm in BC1800 at the same time of Ilsundal ascent to Immortality. This Tree is an Ilsundal's avatar and it existed as a unique artifact for another 1000 years. It is very unlikely that other branches of this Tree were created during this millennium, so any elvish clan who did not have any contact with Sylvan Realms elves after BC800 should not possess a Tree of Life of its own in the present time (see below for a few examples).
Facing the increasingly menacing pressure from surrounding human communities Ilsundal created 9 seeds from the First Tree which were assigned to 9 elvish clans who dispersed in Mystara.
Those 9 Trees are an exact clone of the First Tree (from GAZ5): everyone of them is an avatar of Ilsundal as well. As those 10 Trees are identical I'd call them Mother Trees, to distinguish themselves from the Children Trees generated by the seeds of the Mother Trees.
Notice that even if the First Tree generated 9 seeds, the resulting Mother Trees are not linked with the First Tree anymore. This is made clear in CM7 module, as only the Feadiel Tree (taken from the Sylvan Realm Tree/First Tree in a subsequent time) get ill from the weakening of the First Tree. If there still was a parent-son linkage between the First Tree and its 9 seeds, the whole Trees of Life of Alfheim (and of Mystara) would have been weakened.
We could assume that the 10 Mother Trees act as independent artifacts, each of them generating its own lineage which is not influenced at all by the health status of any other Mother Tree. After all, the main purpose of the 9 seeds of the First Tree was to save the original Tree of Life lineage by making it less dependent from a single Tree, so it seem sound to me to have the 10 Trees operating independently on one another. I'd also say that the best way to secure the Tree of Life lineage would be to disperse the Mother Trees in many different places, so to have at least some of them survive an external aggression (the elvish diaspora of AC1006-1008 could fit this scope by splitting in two distant areas the large concentration of Mother Trees in Alfheim).
1) CM7 explicitly mentions the Mother Tree of the Sylvan Realm (which could also be inferred by other sources related to Ilsundal and its quest for Immortality, such as GAZ5, HW, WotI and the like):
Feadiel (in the Sylvan Realm)
2) GAZ5 explicitly mentions 6 Mother Trees (I associate them with the elvish clan name who attend to each Tree):
Chossum (in Alfheim)
Grunalf (in Alfheim)
Erendyl (in Alfheim)
Long Runner (in Alfheim)
Mealidil (in Alfheim)
Red Arrow (in Alfheim)
Notice that, from GAZ5, Red Arrow clan got its seed from Mealiden some time later with respect to the other clans, because at first the Red Arrows were part of the Mealidils:
This clan was once a part of the Mealidil clan. During Mealiden's long march to find a homeland, the Red Arrows were his honour guard who protected him and provided most of their military force. At that time they were simply the Red Arrow Guard. Eventually, their way of life changed so much from the Mealidil kinsmen that Mealiden declared them a new clan.
3) GAZ5 hypnotises that Callarii elves could have another Mother Tree:
We have purposely stated that there are 10 Mother Trees of Life. Seven are accounted for in these pages. The Callarii elves of Karameikos might have another one...
4) CoM states that the known Mother Trees are actually eight (see the background of NPC Asvoria Treesearcher, in the loose sheet describing the "Elven Swan" flying ship):
Asvoria Treesearcher, an elf of the Feadiel clan, created this flying vessel to aid in her search for the lost Trees of Life (The Trees of Life are elven clan relics. Of the ten Mother Trees thought to exist, only eight are accounted for).
... The Swan Ship is designed to land primary on water. Although the bottom of her hull is flat enough to land on solid ground, she cannot be safely landed in rough terrain...
The eight known Mother Tree could refer to the Callarii Mother Tree speculated in 3), to a Shiye-Lawr Mother Tree (see below) or to another Mother Tree owned by some other clan. This last hypothesis seems the least probable to me, given the other hints mentioned in the official modules about the Callarii or the Shiye owning a Mother Tree of their own. Moreover, notice that Asvoria's flying ship seems suited to cross an ocean, which could hint that the unknown Mother Trees should be searched outside the continent of Brun.
5) Hints about the Shiye-Lawr elves owning a Mother Tree:
a)- From CM1 it is known that the Norwold elves own some Trees of Life:
Unknown to the king... several dozen elven communities (known by various explorers as "Foresthomes") thrive in the forests of Norwold. Each of the communities is home to 200-1,200 elves... A Tree of Life stands at the centre of each of these communities.
b)- PWAII specifies that Norwold elves are of Shiye stock:
There are also several Foresthomes, or elvish communities, in this land. Each has a population of 200 to 1200 elves. These are Shiye-Lawr elves from the continent of Alphatia; hardy and independent, they decided to settle in this wilderness rather than submit to the rule of Shiye-Lawr's king. Some Shiye-Lawr elves who were left homeless when Alphatia sank have recently settled in this area as well.
(actually the Dragonlord Trilogy suggests that Norwold elvish population includes also Wendarian elves, but this info does not change the assumption above)
c)- Norwold Trees of Life are all Children Trees. From GAZ5 it is known that the minimum population for an elvish settlement in order to possess a Children Tree of Life is 500, while for a Mother Tree of Life it increases to 1500 people.
From PWAII total Norwold elvish population is 7500 people, of whom 300 are refugees from sunken Alphatia and 1200 live in a large settlement near Oceansend. If, accordingly to CM1 quote above, in Norwold there are "several dozens" elvish communities then their average size should be around 300 people - far below the minimum population requirement for owning a Mother Tree.
* Notice, anyway, that in GAZ5 there are a couple of exceptions to this rule: both Feadiel and Grunalf Mother Tree communities have populations below 1500. This could be explained for Feadiels as being a relatively young community in Alfheim, while the Grunalfs intentionally keep their settlements underpopulated in order to better study plant lifeforms. So it is still - though dimly - possible that the Norwold elves actually own a Mother Tree.
d)- PWAI explains that Norwold elves do not have ties with Alfheim elves:
PWAI page 209:
After long consultations and planning sessions, Princess Tanadaleyo decides to send a diplomatic party to the elvish communities in the region of Norwold. She and her advisors have chosen these elves because they have no ties with Alfheim. Should the mission to Norwold fail, the diplomatic party will have to return by way of Wendar and seek help there, even though there are now Alfheim elves in Wendar who will naturally seek to poison the Wendarian's minds against the shadow elves.
Moreover, if the shadow elves seek help to the Norwold elves, this would mean that there is no parent-son relationship between the Alfheim and Norwold Trees of Life, as from CM7 it is known that even a distress situation from a parent Tree of Life is transmitted to its sons. In PWAI there are no hints about such a circumstance happening:
PWAI page 222:
The party of emissaries from Aengmor reaches the region of Norwold and one of the many small elf-clan communities in the deep woods there.
The shadow elves explain their situation before clan-leaders and ask for help in the development of spells to save the trees of Canolbarth. They present rich gifts to the Norwold elves and try to retain their pride while asking for help.
The clan leaders they speak to decide to give it a try. They'll assemble elf-scholars and see what sort of magic they can develop. The shadow elves do have cuttings and potted trees of the sort that need to be saved, a necessary elements in all these researches.
This will take months at the very least.
From a)-d) hints it is very likely that a Mother Tree of Life exists in the Shiye-Lawr kingdom of Alphatia and that Norwold Trees of Life are its children.
Known Children Trees of Life in Mystara:
- Erewan clan: Those elves are a dissident group of the Erendyl Clan: their Tree should come from the Erendyl Mother Tree.
- Feadiel Clan (of Alfheim): From CM7, their Tree come from the Sylvan Realm Mother Tree.
- Lesser Alfheim Clans: From GAZ5 there are about 20000 elves divided in 10 lesser clans with little power:
Some 20,000 elves do not owe any allegiance to these major clans. They are split up into about 10 minor clans ranging in membership from 500 to 4,000 elves.
Some of them could likely have Trees from the other major Alfheim Clans' Mother Trees.
- Belcadiz Clan: From GAZ3 they have a Tree of Life. From GAZ5 this Tree should likely come from the Long Runner Mother Tree:
Dona Victoria, the clan's oldest member, is Dona Leontina's aunt and the Treekeeper. (GAZ3 page 24)
Coolhands (Mate of the Clanmaster of the Long Runner Clan). Coolhands is actually Dona Ilona de Belcadiz, a Glantrian elf who came to Alfheim to study the Trees of Life. (GAZ5 page 42)
- Shiye clans of Norwold, Shiye-Lawr and the Alphatian kingdoms of Floating Ar and Foresthome: For sure some Norwold clans have Trees of Life born from a non-Alfheim related Mother Tree. If we assume that there is a Mother Tree in Shiye-Lawr (see above) then the Shiyes of Mystara should have many children Trees scattered among their communities.
- Tarlyon Clan: From CM5 module. Their sacred relic is obviously a Tree of Life. Tarlyon Elfhome placement is unknown. A good location could be north of the Black Mountains. If so, it is possible that they managed to get their Tree of Life from the same group of refugees (or are themselves part of those refugees) who fled the Sylvan Realm "on foot" and reached Graakhalia in AC610 (see CoM Graakhalia timeline).
- Savage Coast elves: It could be inferred the existence of a Sylvan Realm Children Tree in the Robrenn area. From CM7 a delegation of druids reached the Feadiel clan in Alfheim just before the beginning of the adventure, as they sensed the distress call from the Sylvan Realm Mother Tree. Among them there is the druid Cucurbita Pepo, which in VotPA it is said to live in the kingdom of Robrenn. It is likely that those Robrennian druids noticed a weakening in a Tree of Life in their country and moved to help the Feadiels, who are linked to the same Mother Tree.
- Vyalia Clans: From DotE they have Trees of Life (they use them in the Foresters' initiation ceremony). Notice, however, that they should not possess Mother Trees (Vyalia's main settlements of Foreston and Greenheight have both less than 1500 inhabitants) nor every community should own a Children Tree (from GAZ5 there should be a minimum distance of 50 miles between two Trees - for this reason, in particular, Blueleaves and Etheredyls clans should not have a Tree of their own). Maybe a few other Children Trees are possible in the Karameikan side of the Vyalia elves. It is possible that the Vyalia took their trees from Alfheim elves or Callarii elves, the latter being the most likely option, in my opinion.
- Callarii Clans: Accordingly to PWAs there should be some 30000 Callarii elves living in Karameikos. They should be divided in many smaller clans (the Gildenhelm clan being cited in the DM's Survival Kit supplement): whether or not the Callarii possess a Mother Tree, many of the lesser clans should have their own Children Trees.
Supposed Children Trees of Life in Mystara:
- Wendarian and Denagothian elves: It is likely that their sacred relic is just the Elvenstar. Anyway, from AC1008 onwards, they could start to own their own Children Trees of Life due to the strong Alfheimers immigration in the area.
- Pearl Islands elves: They are cited in DotE. Their clan is unknown but, given the long interaction between the Pearl Islands and the Thyatian Empire, it is possible that those elves are actually Verdier of Vyalia settlers. they could own a few Trees of Life from the Vyalia elves.
- Southern elves from the Thyatian Hinterlands: From DotE. They belong to the southern elves stock (maybe they are similar to the Belcadiz elves). They could own a few Trees of Life born from both Vyalia or Belcadiz Trees.
- Hulean elves: Given the fact that the Savage Coast elves got a few Trees of Life from the Sylvan Realm, it is possible that even the Hulean elves own a few of them.
- Abaddon Woods elves: These elves should live in the Abaddon Woods, a large forest stretching along the southern border of the Adri Varma plateau, accordingly to the original B3 "Palace of the Silver Princess" module. This info was retconned in following modules as the Abaddon Woods were turned into wastelands. Anyway, I think it could still be possible to suppose that those elves belong to the past of the Adri Varma plateau, in an epoch were the local climate was milder and more welcoming for trees. Changings in the climate of the plateau could have followed the same pattern described in CoM for the nearby Great Waste area. Under this approach the rising of the new Atruaghin Plateau in BC795 could have made the Adri Varma a drier land, destroying the Abaddon Woods in a few decades. It is still possible that the elves living there had contact with Alfheim elves and got a Tree of Life before their extinction/migration.
- Savage elves of the Midlands: From the Dragonlord Trilogy. I would include among those elves even the savage elves from Taneilan described in the Book of Wondrous Inventions, even if their locations is not explicitly given. Even if it is not stated that those elves actually own a Tree of Life, the proximity to the Sylvan Realm and the travel "on foot" across the continent of Brun of Sylvan Realm refugees in AC600-610 (see CoM Graakhalia entry) should have brought to them the knowledge of these artifacts. So it is remotely possible that some savage elvish communities in Central Brun actually own their Trees of Life.
- Lindenelm elves: This is an exiled elvish clan living in the Achelos Woods described in M5 module (see Kavva Lindenelm pregenerated PC background). Their proximity to the Callarii elves, the fact that Kavva Lindenelm travelled to Norwold and mated with a local elf, and the strong migration of Alfheim elves in the area after AC1008 strongly suggest that the Lindenelms should have a Tree of Life.
Elvish clans without a Tree of Life:
I would group them in two categories:
a) - Clans belonging to the Ilsundal Migration who separated from it before BC800;
b) - Clans who do not use Trees of Life due to environmental constraints or interference with other relics;
- Avariel: These winged elves left Ilsundal Migration in BC2300 (they were not yet winged at the time). From Dragon Magazine #200;
- Hatwa elves: The original elvish clan who formed the N'djatwa elves in VotPA. They follow the Forest Way, so they should have been part of the Ilsundal Migration. Nevertheless, given their very southern position they should have stopped there in ancient times, possibly shortly after BC2800;
- South polar elves: If they ever followed the Ilsundal Migration (it seems not) they should have left it in the beginning, shortly after BC2800 (from VotPA);
- Shadow elves: They never met Ilsundal, they live underground and follow another Immortal (from GAZ13);
- Aquarendi: Their sacred relics are magical marine weeds (from PC2);
- Meditor: Their sacred relic is the Pearl of Power (from GAZ9);
- Verdier: Their sacred relic is the Carven Oak (from GAZ9);
- Sheyallia: From CoM. They leave the Ilsundal Migration in 2200PI but they make contact with Sylvan Realm elves in AC610, so for sure they know about the Trees of Life. Nevertheless, their subterranean environment appears to be hostile to the Tree of Life growth;
- "Elves of the mounds": From a short adventure in Dungeon Magazine #1. They follow the Forest Way, so they likely were part of the Ilsundal Migration. Nevertheless, there are no hints about them owning a Tree of Life in the adventure; the location of their settlement is unknown, either.
- Trueflower elves: From M5 module. In the adventure it is said that the Trueflower elves never had words of the Empire of Thyatis or Alphatia, which means that they lost contact with the external world before BC1000. For this reason it is very unlikely that they own a Tree of Life.
- Elvish half-breed of Kavaja: They are described in a few articles Bruce Heard wrote about the Kavaja region, south-east of Slagovich. These elves are actually a mixed race between elves and cattle. Due to their hybrid condition it is unlikely they still own a Tree of Life, if they ever had one of these artifacts.
- Moreover, it has to be assumed that the ancient elvish clans who lived in Glantri around BC2200-BC1700 (Truedyl-Gentle Folk, Icevale, Shadow Elves accordingly to HW boxed set, Atziann's clan, etc.) did not possess any Tree of Life.