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WHITE OAK (Elven Lands of the)
Location: Continent of Brun, north of the Great Bay, northeast of Panteria. NW
Area: Approx. 44,890 sq. mi. (116,265 sq. km.) in central Lothbarth.
Population: Approx. 5,000 elves.
Languages: Elven (Shiye-Lawr and Alfheim dialects).
Coinage: Barter only.
Government Type: Elven foresthomes each led by a clanmaster, recognising more or less explicitly the spiritual leadership of Zoltan and the political leadership of King Blackblade. Member of the elven Kingdom of Nordalfheim.
Industries: Hunting and gathering.
Important Figures: Zoltan Hytaxius (High Priest).
Flora and Fauna: The dense northern forests are covered with evergreen, mainly pine; in the lands nearest to the Great Bay, they intermingle with various hardwood trees: oak, elm, maple, walnut, ash, orchard trees. It is among these that stands Zoltan's magical Tree of Life-the White Oak. In the north, the pine trees do not block the faint sun's rays, allowing a rather thick layer of vegetation to grow at ground level: shrubs, short grass; waist-high grass in glades. In the south, the thick canopy blocks the sun, providing little light for plants to grow underneath. Many animals live in the forests, especially small mammals and rodents, boars, deer, elk, caribou, moose, bears, wolves, blink dogs, and white and green dragonflies. Many fairies also dwell there, especially centaurs, actaeons and shargugh. More dangerous denizens include the occasional rogue white or green dragon, basilisks, decapuses, and the rare wyrds.
Coats of arms: High Priest Zoltan Hytaxius: Uses no coat of arms; human lords generally attribute him a white oak over green. Each foresthome also has its own symbol; human lords often represent the Shiye elves as a whole with one-or from three to a dozen-green pines over white.
Further Reading: CM1 Test of the Warlords, Zoltan the Treekeeper by Hervé Musseau, previous almanacs.
Description by Adik de Chevas and Arcadius.
Shiye elves live in small communities called foresthomes in the vast cold forests of Norwold; many such clans make their home in the area situated between the Great Bay and the Landsplit River. Among these, the foresthomes located in the central region recognise the leadership of Zoltan the Treekeeper.
This great forest is known to the elves as Lothbarth, the forest covered by snow, wrongly translated into "the White Forest" by both Thyatians and Alphatians; the native Heldanners simply refer to it as the Great Forest, a name commonly used by other settlers as well. Very few humans have made their home in this forest, preferring to settle on the coastline near the Great Bay or by the Alphatian Sea, leaving the reclusive elves pretty much alone.
The forest is sparsely populated by Shiye elves, a few thousand of them living in small clans called foresthomes. Foresthomes often exist miles and miles away from each other, mostly in the southern part where hardwood trees are more numerous. Elves rarely travel far from their homes, but hunters can sometimes be encountered in uninhabited wilderness-but beware because they are likely to hunt you like any game just for fun!
The climate of the southern and eastern parts of the forest are somewhat tempered by the Great Bay and the Alphatian Sea, though it remains rather chilly. This is enough for hardwood trees to grow, with almost a five month growing season during good years. These are the parts of Lothbarth that Shiye live in, leaving the northern and western parts mostly uninhabited. Those regions experience very short growing periods, a few months at best and virtually none during the colder years, especially where the forest gives way to the Icereach range to the west. In such regions, only coniferous trees can grow and life is especially hard for those rare foresthomes that prefer to live in the pine trees rather than the more welcoming oaks.
Lothbarth houses 21 Shiye clans (nine major and several minor clans), scattered about the forest; others can be found throughout the rest of Norwold. Of these, one major and seven minor clans can be considered directly or indirectly under Zoltan's guidance [including Quillan's barony, which recognises Zoltan's spiritual leadership but is however independent. Arcadius.]; the others have remained independent from his influence, often vehemently.
The most important of these clans is clan Ithyshiye, in which Zoltan originally settled when he came to Norwold. Not only is this clan one of the largest in Norwold, but it is also in its territory that stands the fabled Tree of Life that made Zoltan famous among the Shiye-and gain sway over the Shiye despite the opposition of the clergy of Eiryndul. Despite the original friction, especially with the local clerics [of Eiryndul, the traditional Immortal patron of the Shiye. Ed.], the Ithyshiye are now staunch supporters of Zoltan [but without forfeiting their cultural attachment to Eiryndul either. Arcadius.].
A close ally of Zoltan's is Baron Quillan Elm-Grower: though independent from White Oak, the Barony of the Elms recognises the spiritual guidance of Zoltan. Actually, the Almashiye clan is probably the most open-minded in all of Norwold [it is probably why Quillan settled among them-that and the fact that they do use primarily elms for their homes, Quillan's preferred tree and a reminder of his home village in Alfheim. Arcadius.] and certainly more supportive of Zoltan than many other clans. Quillan often acts as the representative of Zoltan regarding dealings with humans, as the elf enjoys their company more so than the estranged treekeeper.
The Shiye elves tend to be secretive, and shun contact with the humans of Norwold. They enjoy playing practical jokes, a tradition that has not dwindled despite the influence of Zoltan [most Shiye still revere Eiryndul above Ilsundal, despite Zoltan's best efforts, or even the efforts of Elarianthas Blackblade to the south to spread a new pantheon. Arcadius.]. Since Zoltan himself is not a model of openness, this is one trait that his influence over the elves definitely did not change. On the other hand, worship of Ilsundal has somewhat spread again among the Shiye, as even many clerics of Eiryndul avoid strongly opposing the powerful Zoltan unless their patron Immortal urges them to.
Now that Zoltan has become the High Priest of the Faith of the Ancestors (the newly-created elven pantheon founded by Lord Blackblade and spread in all the dominions of Nordalfheim), he hopes that by widening the faiths allowed in the lands of Nordalfheim the elves will all come to recognise him as their main spiritual leader.
A few dozen Alfheim elves call the forest north of the Marquisate of Panteria home. These elves have followed Zoltan back to Norwold rather than remain in Wendar after the invasion of their homeland by the expansionist shadow elves. They did not meet much welcome from their brethren, though, and settled on the fringes of Lothbarth nearer to human lands. They often make pilgrimages to Zoltan's Tree of Life, and have come over the years to trading goods from Panteria for products of Shiye (or their own) making, so that they now often look more like caravans of merchants than actual pilgrims.
The Shiye elves of Norwold are a sub-group of the elves that left the Sylvan Realms, following the guidance of the elven Immortal Eiryndul. However, they didn't want to submit to the king of the Shiye-Lawr in Alphatia, as they were even more independent-minded that their brethren, and settled in the isolated forest of Lothbarth in Norwold instead, far from both humans and other elves.
The Shiye enjoyed their freedom, as they were for the most part left alone by other cultures or races in their cold forest. Contacts with the native Heldanners, or with settlers from Alphatia, Thyatis or elsewhere were very rare at best, and the dragons from the Wyrmsteeth also left the Shiye alone [it is speculated that a very old sub-species of elves, known as the Eldar, who are said to live among the dragons, may be the reason for the dragons' attitude, but this is an unconfirmed legend. Arcadius.].
When King Ericall opened the lands of Norwold to colonisation, the Shiye were very isolated, even from each other, only meeting occasionally at Sinar. The mere fact that some few nobles settled among them was a surprise to them, something they didn't expect and opposed rather vehemently. They made the life of these undesirable lords a misery, applying their Immortal's teachings with formidable refinery.
One of the most controversial such lords was Zoltan, because he was human, and a high-ranking priest of rival Ilsundal. Upon his arrival among the Ithyshiye, he planted a seed which grew into a mighty Tree of Life overnight [there is no oral record of the elves that indicate such a rapid growth for a Tree of Life ever, but I may not be aware of all the elven treekeepers' secrets. Arcadius.]. The existence of the White Oak [named after the tree's actual colour, which is the same as albino Zoltan's skin colour. Adik.] [I believe that the oak is the same colour as Zoltan's skin because it is somehow connected to his soul, maybe because of a special design by Ilsundal Himself. Arcadius.] is very controversial among the Shiye.
The opposition to Zoltan came to a peak during the Great War, as the followers of Eiryndul vehemently opposed any cooperation with the Alphatians against the allies of Glantri [which meant the Heldannic Knights, at the time. Adik.]. Not only did they oppose Zoltan internally, but they even broke their traditional isolationism by stirring up trouble in Alphatian dominions. In AC 1007Zoltan disappeared and it was thought he had left the land; actually he was in Alfheim helping the elves flee the shadowelf invasion to Wendar.
After his return from Alfheim, Zoltan stopped promoting any tentative alliance with the Alphatians; he even cut almost all contact with the court at Alpha. It was also at this time that he earned the friendship of Quillan the Alfheimer. His promoting of Ilsundal still does not win him the affection of many Shiye, but he was able to expand his influence over a great part of Lothbarth nonetheless, especially after the sinking of Alphatia and the end of the Shiye's enhanced hostility toward the humans. Zoltan is very suspicious of the shadow elves and their openings toward the Alfheimers in Wendar; he and Elarianthas Blackblade agreed for the first time on something when the two absolutely refused the shadow elves any help to bring Canolbarth's rains back [they finally got the help from an independent clan which opposed both lords. Adik.].
In the recent Norwold Wars [AC 1016. Ed.], Zoltan didn't send troops to aid the southern nations engaged in the struggle. He preferred to follow his policy of non-intervention in non-elven matters, even though he helped Ericall and his nobles in purging Norwold from the deadly Red Fog that threatened to kill thousands of people. In Sviftmont AC 1016, after seeking advice from his Immortal patron Ilsundal through prayers at the White Oak, Zoltan was imparted with a glimpse of the Immortals' plans for the elves, and his part in its accomplishment. Thus he went to Ironwood to relinquish his leadership in favour of Elarianthas Blackblade, and took the lead of the official religion of the new-founded Kingdom of Nordalfheim, paving the way for the creation of the largest elven kingdom since the fall of Alfheim.
It is very difficult to get a glimpse of a Tree of Life, especially if you're not an elf. The situation has only worsened since the invasion of Alfheim, as treekeepers had to give special attention to their artifact trees or even hide them away from the evil shadow elves. The White Oak, however, is not so restricted, because Zoltan wanted all Shiye, many of whom had never seen a Tree of Life, to be able to come and hopefully discover the way of Ilsundal. Alfheim refugees without a Tree of Life can also make pilgrimages to the sacred tree. Thus, contrary to what happens in most clans, access to the Tree of Life is not restricted to the treekeeper and his assistants, but open to any, including non-elves. In fact, this is the one place where the Shiye won't annoy you-but you bet they will play pranks on you on your way there, as they will be amused-or irritated-by the presence of humans in their forest.
Unless you're Shiye [something I doubt, as I don't think many Shiye read the Mystaran Almanac. Adik.], I advise you not to venture into Lothbarth. Even though the elves will tell you that one can live in the cold forest, it isn't a nice place to go on vacation. Besides, the elves will detect the presence of trespassers rapidly, and they certainly won't let your trip unfold uneventfully. But don't respond to their provocation with fireballs though, as they would in turn resort to even greater violence. No, you should accept their practical jokes with smile, and they will eventually let you pass; but if you really want to win their respect, you should return the favour and play even bolder and funnier pranks at them. Anyway, the safest way to get to the White Oak remains teleportation.