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Against the Shadow  |  Places on Aryth  |  Elven Sanctuaries
Elven Sanctuaries

The concept

A bit everywhere on Aryth, elves have kept secret places, havens of peace and reverie in the darkening world, that they alone know of, and that they jealously keep (these places existed before even the first humans came to Eredane, and were hidden from them ever since). Strangely, although those places are obviously magic, they do not radiate arcane magic or divine magic (it is a different, more subtle yet powerful brand of magic that "makes" them).

 

Whether they predate the fey people or not (individual DM's choice), these places' "special" characteristics can only be felt by "uncorrupted fey" (ie, no orcs or dworgs), and perhaps a human Feyblooded character could "feel" that this place has strange powers, as a sense of faerie emanates from it. Keep in mind that they are neither Power Nexi nor God Touched regions, but rather the last remnants of a lost age of faery that even the elves barely remember.

 

Being "faerie" places, those can only be found whilst following one's heart. There are no maps, no indications, no magical beacons and so forth. All a pilgrim has to show him the way are elven songs from the Times of Old, which he has to sing while traveling. Somehow, it will inspire him to find the place that best suits his mood... (ie, a sad character could be relieved of his burden, a vengeful one might be granted peace of mind, and so on). It can be interpreted, according to each DM's tastes, as a riddle that can be solved by using the song's text as containing hints and clues. Or, more poetically, the player and DM will interact, the player RPing the mood of his character and the DM describing his travel accordingly (this would IMHO better reflect the faery idea).


These places, while somehow remaining "hidden" from all non-fey, had to be evacuated by their guardians (staying there became too dangerous, as these places are isolated, and powerful individuals such as these are desperately needed somewhere else). Most of them have an "abandoned" look, that only reflects the feel of loss and despair of the Last Age of the world.

Their locations are fondly remembered, but it takes an expedition to reach those places and practice the "hope" ritual. These are the last remnants of a time when the fey races had settled the whole of Eredane, and most of them are scattered outside of Erethor, in lonely places devoid of any presence (humans, orcs, fey...), but that can be not too distant from Shadow-occupied settlements. So, such "pilgrimages" would be risky endeavors.

 

Orcs and corrupted elves *know* such places exist, but have no certain way to know where to find them (unless of course they track a pilgrim in his pilgrimage).

 

If you want to add a sense of mystery, why not saying that a pilgrim, no matter what efforts he makes, once he has completed the pilgrimage and come back home, cannot find again the way without the song. Either his memory is somehow erased, or the place *shifts* constantly (it will then be found in a completely different region, as if it had a mind of its own...).

 

Description

These are not buildings, but more often a small glade in a forest, a small river creek or hidden dale, where the last elven poets and spiritual channelers (most often druids) still go to remember the Days Goneby, and practice old rituals of feasting, singing and dreaming.
 

Most pilgrims tell of an eerie feeling in these sanctuaries : some stories are told of places in which there seems to be eternal spring, and provide a feeling of being “reborn”. In those places, corrupt pilgrims can take a new start in life and see their sins purified from them. Performing soothing rituals can help erase any Corruption points the character is suffering from (perhaps it could even cure perverted fey people, like orcs that could be “purified” into dwarves again, or “redeem” darkelves like Ardherin? This remains to be seen and is subject to much speculation – perhaps the PCs could try with a captured orc prisoner?).

 

In others, there seems to be a forever shining summer sun, a remembering of the long-lost and fabled Summer isles of the Fey, which Aradil sent some Miransil explorers to at the end of the Third Age. In those places, desperate people are reminded of the lasting beauty of the world and regain a new sense of duty to protect what can still be saved. Performing hope rituals in such places can help erasing any Despair points the character would have.

 

In some places, trees seem to be trapped in forever autumn, and are littered with falling leaves, which remind the pilgrims of the fleeting nature of time… Despite its inherent sadness, there is yet beauty to be felt in those places. Those who perform rituals there are often granted visions of the future, and shown ways to overcome the ambiant evil that invades Eredane.

 

Some fey places of Northern Eredane are perpetually covered in a cold winter’s snow. They are said to be under the constant watch of Xione, and she will give her blessing to any warriors or partisans who perform rituals in her honor, which somehow involve courage and resilience in the face of adversity. Those who perform rituals there (which could have a darker tone given Xione’s personality) might gain, either Cold resistance for a month, or an additional Fate Point (if you use them).

 

There are also rumours of places of eternal night, that are constantly under the starlight’s protection. Strangely, those stars don’t seem to be the same as the ones known in Eredane. Some elven scholars wonder whether this place is located in the current timeflow or rather “set” before the Sundering. Others think they belong to other, very distant, parts of the world (under the “equator”). Its effects are unknown, for none could ever find in the elven libraries the matching song, that were reputed destroy when the Highwall Library was sacked.


One example of a fey sanctuary is a pure small lake in the Northlands, called the Merethlin, whose water is lightened once a year on Spring's Day (yes, dancing lights can be seen there, and images of long dead elven princes and artists cheerfully laughing, singing and dancing by torchlight around it - this is actually the reflection of the last banquet of the elves before the Men came on Eredane. Some pretend that a Palantir was sunk at the bottom of the lake, which would explain the visions). Elves have a fondness for the Merethlin, and even though it now lies in the heart of the Northern Plains, right in orc-occupied territory, some still make a pilgrimage on its shores to keep hope alive in the hearts of the fey, offering it libations of elven wine, flowers and songs...


The Ritual of Hope

These rituals are very important, for they "renew" the people with hope (they are lost powerful and animist-like rituals -without them, the fey races would long ago have succumbed to despair and embraced the Dark Lord's Path). They do not give powers like spells or magic item creation, but instead give a new sense of hope to any fey people that are not yet fallen to the Shadow's Despair. They are the very soul of the fey people.

A PC who manages his pilgrimage gets a new sense of hope: it erases all his current Despair points (see my thread in the Midnight general discussion board), without spending Fate points.

If you don't use such mechanics, it grants him a +3 Wil save bonus for 1 whole month after completing the pilgrimage (this reflects the PC's newfound sense of purpose).

 

Some elves say that such  places are actually operating like a charm: in a faery lake, if someone takes a small vial of the water with them, they can drink it for a charm effect but its efficacy only lasts for 30 days; in an eternal glade where lies an ancient oak tree, an acorn carried from there acts like a charm for up to 30 days. The reason that the items lose their efficacy is that they no longer draw upon the inherent magic of the spot once removed from it -- but the potency of the place is strong and lingers before it fades away. Such items are sometimes given by the place’s guardian if the visitor has helped him manage a task (like the protection of the place). They always wear the inconspicuous form of a natural element: a leaf from a tree, a small pebble from a pond, a vial of pure water, etc. Their effects are similar to those of a greater charms, with one additional effect: for their whole duration, their bearer is immune to the effects of Despair or Corruption. Alternately, they are rumoured to be able to heal any wound or poison, but only once. Those “souvenirs” are very prized possessions of the elves, and showing them in elven lands is a matter of great pride.


Using a focus in the sanctuaries

A focus is some unimportant item that symbolizes a PC’s dedication to the fight against Izrador, whatever his motivation. A character whose beloved wife was killed by an orcish raid and driven by revenge might crry a lock of her hair around his neck, to remember her and gain a “reminder” of what he’s fighting for. For another, it could be the shackles that he kept after escaping his life as the slave of  an evil puppet prince: in this case, it helps reminding him of what he’s gained and will fight to keep – his freedom. Every time a PC is eligible for a save against Despair, he gains a +2 bonus to his save if he carries his focus. If it works, it means he has successfully struggled against a wave of despair, because his focus helped him regain a sense of purpose. Every time a character who carries a Focus gains access to such a sanctuary, its effects gain a +1 increment; thus, a focus that gives a +2 to saves against despair might then give a +3 bonus,and so on.

 

Using the elven sanctuaries in your campaign

  • What happens when the Shadow's legions hear of such a place, learn of its magical properties and mistake it for a lost power nexus, sending a legate and an orc legion to "pump" the magic out of this place? Of course, this will happen when the PCs are to escort an elf poet on a pilgrimage they do not understand. Then the "pilgrimage" would take a different turn: how to protect such an isolated area? Its taking by the Shadow's forces would still add a bit more despair to the elves...

  • Another good idea for a campaign is a party centered around "reclaiming" these lost elven sanctuaries that are scattered across the expanse of Eredane. The Witch Queen believes that these lost places are important to the war against Izrador, and she fears that if she waits too long these sanctuaries will fall into his clutches. Perhaps she wishes to use these havens as hidden redoubts for her spies and warriors abroad, strategic locations where elves can strike out at the Shadow from within.

  • Ardherin could also have made it his pet project to find these sacred havens of Elvish beauty and desecrate them in the name of Izrador. So, an elite unit of Legates and evil wildlanders are literally racing against the heroes in locating the elven sanctuaries. If the heroes manage to defeat the Night King's lackies and rediscover these ancient places, it would be a huge blow against Izrador and a giant boon to the resistance.

  • Perhaps the sanctuary the PCs visit has had its guardian fallen ill, dead from old age (or worse), or even despaired and fleeing/committing suicide? It would add a sense of mystery to the place (just having the party guess what happened). It could be played like this: The party's elf wanders over the only thing that marrs the natural perfection, a pile of stone, wood, and weeds. He places his hand on it and sadly looks at it. His comrades ask « what is it?” He replies: “the guardian's grave”…

  • Cold iron, a metal that causes pain to fey people and makes them lose their innate magic abilities, can be produced only if the metal is plunged into a faery lake's waters, thus fouling them forever. And blades can only be forged, using this same metal, once a fey victim is sacrificed to them and their soul, put in torment, is chained to the weapon and forced to "feed" its powers against fellow fey people (ie, a blade made when killing a dwarf would be "dwarfbane", another created when sacrificing a gnome would be "gnomebane", etc. By "-bane", I'm not suggesting the ability of the same name, only "focusing" the effects of Cold Iron on this specific race).

    Of course, one "mission" for the PCs would be to make a pilgrimage to an elven sanctuary, only to find a killed pilgrim and a dead guardian. The person who killed them, a legate specialized on the creation of Cold Iron weapons, followed the pilgrim (not much trouble when one can spy on them with an astirax), and slew both him and the guardian. Now he has mounted a huge expedition of orcs, with chariots and heavy equipment, to permanently foul the lake and make it a weapon against the elves... The PCs would somehow have to harass the cohort to delay them and allow elven reinforcements to stop the legate's expedition, and if possible kill him. Otherwise the Shadow will have gained another potent weapon against the last resisting fey people, and the legate will begin mass-production of Cold Iron halberds for Grial Fey-Killer's troops...

  • There are elves who are corrupted (Ardherin, and the elven army unit of Theros Obsidia ) that would know of the elven sanctuaries. Captured elves might be tortured for the information or a group of elves could be followed as they made their pilgrimage to a sanctuary. After they've bagged their prey, then they can destroy it – unless the PCs have their word to say about it.

  • How about in one sanctuary the guardian is still there; a presence felt but not seen. If the PCs win through to its sanctuary, and are deemed worthy (read perform some task, solve a riddle, bring an offering, etc) the guardian will give them some boon (bonus to saves, skills, whatever; answer to a question; useful piece of information, such as a legate's plans, weaknesses or location of a powerful covenent item, etc.).

  • On the other hand, perhaps the guardian is still there, but has been corrupted (as a consequnece of one of the plot hooks you outline, e.g. corrupted fey have found the sanctuary, etc.). The guardian is now evil and powerful and the sanctuary blighted by gloom and menace. If the PCs can perform a ritual, make a sarcrifice, or complete some quest they have a chance to purify the guardian and cleanse the sanctuary - a noble endevour to bring back hope if ever there was one...  The elemental wierd from Monster Manual II might be a good template to base a sanctuary guardian on.

 

Author: smeagol.

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