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Gifts of the Nereids

Author: 
Anonymous

When I was young, my parents brought me to the cave where the priests worshiped the Nereids. They dedicated me to the temple, so that I might one day become a priest, too.

There were only three other children in the temple when I was growing up. The others made fun of me until I was ten years old because one of my legs was shorter than the other and I had a limp.

One day, we were running through the cave (something that was forbidden, but the priests often looked the other way, letting children be children) and I tripped and fell face down into the water. I hit my head and blacked out. The other children were far ahead of me already, so they didn't see.

Later, the priests told me that one of the Nereids had lifted me out of the water. I said I didn't remember that happening, but later on, I did recall the feeling of floating and also a kind of terror, like I had seen something I was not supposed to see, something that was too beautiful for mortal eyes.

The priests instructed us in our relationship to the Nereids. We were required to memorize the gifts of the Nereids and repeat them back every day:

The gifts of the Nereids are three-fold:

the beauty of their form,
the sweetness of their singing,
and protection from harm.

The older children got to help the priests with the rituals. Meat was brought to the central altar to feed the Nereids, and once a year, one priest would go deep into the cave to meditate among their singing. When he would emerge, he would give a prophesy.

When he comes of age, each child has a choice to stay and become a priest or to go into exile. After so many years living in the cave, I could not imagine another life, and so I chose the priesthood. But sometimes I long for sunlight and wonder where a different path might have taken me, and what sights I might have seen if I had chosen exile.

Varieties of Faith: The Wood Elves

Author: 
Brother Mikhael Karkuxor of the Imperial College

The Eight
(though few Bosmer outside the Empire accept the limitation of Divines to eight):

Auri-El (King of the Aldmer):
The Elven Akatosh is Auri-El. Auri-El is the soul of Anui-El, who, in turn, is the soul of Anu the Everything. He is the chief of most Aldmeri pantheons. Most Altmeri and Bosmeri claim direct descent from Auri-El. In his only known moment of weakness, he agreed to take his part in the creation of the mortal plane, that act which forever sundered the Elves from the spirit worlds of eternity. To make up for it, Auri-El led the original Aldmer against the armies of Lorkhan in mythic times, vanquishing that tyrant and establishing the first kingdoms of the Aldmer, Aldmeris and Old Ehlnofey. He then ascended to heaven in full observance of his followers so that they might learn the steps needed to escape the mortal plane.

Y'ffre (God of the Forest):
Most important deity of the Bosmeri pantheon. While Auri-El the Time Dragon might be the king of the gods, the Bosmer revere Y'ffre as the spirit of "the now." According to the Wood Elves, after the creation of the mortal plane everything was in chaos. The first mortals were turning into plants and animals and back again. Then Y'ffre transformed himself into the first of the Ehlnofey, or "Earth Bones." After these laws of nature were established, mortals had a semblance of safety in the new world, because they could finally understand it. Y'ffre is sometimes called the Storyteller, for the lessons he taught the first Bosmer. Some Bosmer still possess the knowledge of the chaos times, which they can use to great effect (the Wild Hunt).

Arkay (God of the Cycle of Life and Death):
Arkay is the god of burials and funeral rites, and is sometimes associated with the seasons. His priests are staunch opponents of necromancy and all forms of the undead. It is said that Arkay did not exist before the world was created by the gods under Lorkhan's supervision/urging/trickery. Therefore, he is sometimes called the Mortals' God.

Xarxes:
Xarxes is the god of ancestry and secret knowledge. He began as a scribe to Auri-El, and has kept track of all Aldmeri accomplishments, large and small, since the beginning of time. He created his wife, Oghma, from his favorite moments in history.

Mara (Goddess of Love):
Nearly universal goddess. Origins started in mythic times as a fertility goddess. She is sometimes associated with Nir of the "Anuad," the female principle of the cosmos that gave birth to creation. For the Bosmer, she is the wife of Auri-El.

Stendarr (God of Mercy):
God of compassion and righteous rule. In early Aldmeri legends, Stendarr is the apologist of Men.

Z'en (God of Toil):
Bosmeri god of payment in kind, which includes both just remuneration and retribution. Studies indicate origins in both Argonian and Akaviri mythologies, perhaps introduced into Valenwood by Kothringi sailors. Ostensibly an agriculture deity, Z'en sometimes proves to be an entity of a much higher cosmic order.

Baan Dar (The Bandit God):
Trickster spirit of thieves and beggars borrowed from the Khajiit.

Additional Deities with Significant Bosmeri Cults:

Herma-Mora (The Woodland Man):
Malicious trickster spirit (another one!) whose Bosmeri cultists say is not to be confused with the Daedra Hermaeus Mora. (Others deride this assertion.)

Jone and Jode (Little Moon God and Big Moon God):
Aldmeri gods of the Moons, they are spirits of fortune, both good and bad.

Hircine (The Huntsman, Father of Manbeasts):
Master of the Great Hunt and lord of all lycanthropes. Worshipers of Hircine are not as ruthless as those who worship other Daedra; they always give their prey at least a small chance to escape.

Lorkhan (The Missing God):
This Creator-Trickster-Tester deity is in every Tamrielic mythic tradition. His most popular name is the Aldmeri "Lorkhan," or Doom Drum. He convinced or contrived the Original Spirits to bring about the creation of the mortal plane, upsetting the status quo—much like his father Padomay had introduced instability into the universe in the Beginning Place. After the world is materialized, Lorkhan is separated from his divine center, sometimes involuntarily, and wanders the creation of the et'Ada. He and his metaphysical placement in the "scheme of things" is interpreted a variety of ways. To the Elves, he is the most unholy of all higher powers, as he forever broke their connection to the spirit plane. In the legends, he is almost always an enemy of the Aldmer and, therefore, a hero of early Mankind.

The Legend of Vastarie

Author: 
Afwa, a Student and Friend

Necromancy's known to many as a binding of souls to a form prepared—or in some cases, manufactured—by the conjurer.

While technically accurate, the implication is that souls bound in this manner are imprisoned against their will with no hope of release.

Further implied is the idea that souls occupying the construct are always sentient—the souls of men or mer—a fallacy perpetuated by the practice of animating corpses for martial or manual labors.

It is this misunderstanding and a potential for abuse that led to the vilification of necromancy and the expulsion of Mannimarco and his peers from the Isle of Artaeum.

Enter Vastarie, a student of the Psijic Order and contemporary of such notables as Vanus Galerion and Mannimarco.

While Mannimarco sought power through the direct application of necromantic energies, Vastarie's purposes were far more esoteric. She sought a way to delay the release of a sentient soul upon death that it might be consulted, its knowledge recorded for the ages.

It is to this end that she worked with Mannimarco after leaving Artaeum, searching for a way to trap souls as one might capture lesser Daedra.

Believing the secret lay with Molag Bal, the two conspired to enter Coldharbour and wrest it from the father of vampires himself. Together, they hatched a plan.

With a brash courage known only to the young, Mannimarco and his followers held open a portal to the Prince's realm. Ever thirsting for adventure, it was Vastarie who entered its depths and returned with a cache of black crystals the likes of which they had never seen.

To Mannimarco, they were perfect. Small, capable of containing even the most willful of souls, and apparently indestructible. To Vastarie, they were deeply flawed, for enchantment was the only safe way to free a soul from their depths.

Even so, she set about the task of reproducing the stones, breaking them down, testing them with a variety of substances until, by happy accident, she created something new: the first Sigil Geode.

Clear as crystal, this new device was capable of holding sentient souls within its depths, but unlike the gems wrested from the Lord of Domination, it was exceptionally fragile and would only hold its charge for a matter of days.

Once imprisoned, souls could be transferred between geodes, but applying them as one would a soul gem effected a soul's release, instead.

Vastarie had found what she was looking for, but Mannimarco was furious. What use was a soul gem that could not be used to fuel an enchantment? He demanded Vastarie find a way to modify her creation to his purposes.

Realizing her friend would never stop searching, and that further discoveries made with him would only advance his goals, she gathered up her research and left with Telacar, her husband and a powerful necromancer in his own right.

Together, they fled Mannimarco's grasp, eventually hiding in an Ayleid ruin deep within Valenwood. There, they lived for many years, as quietly as they could while perfecting their art. For decades, they had each other and seemed happy—until the day Vastarie left.

In the years that followed, she wandered the surface of Nirn, exploring places of power. She visited Wayrest, Alik'r, the Crystal Tower, and the libraries of Dune, searching for some answer to a question that gnawed at her very soul.

In time, she found what she was looking for and returned to Valenwood. There, she built a tower and took on apprentices, teaching them her particular brand of necromancy and furthering her research.

Using her Sigil Geodes, we bound the souls of lesser Daedra, postponing their return to Oblivion as one might with a soul gem. We then worked on a way to manifest the trapped spirit into the world.

Early attempts had unexpected, even dangerous results. Geodes shattered, sending shards of broken crystal into the flesh of our fellow students—misapplied energies bound the souls of the living into the tiny stones—but as we studied we corrected our mistakes and refined the process.

Eventually, Vastarie had it down to a science. By applying a Sigil Geode at the moment of death, a soul could be suspended within its depths. Through applied conjuration, it could be drawn into an ectoplasmic shell where it could be consulted at leisure.

She wrote the foundling Mages Guild of her discovery. Vanus Galerion himself came to witness her demonstration, which involved consulting an old groundskeeper who had volunteered to demonstrate the process.

He was horrified when she bound the soul into her apparatus, and when the process was completed, with the old groundskeeper was released and allowed to return to Aetherius, he was white as a sheet.

Slowly, he stood to address the assembled students. He spoke with vindictiveness and an anger none would expect from his unassuming mien. When he was finished, he turned and left.

Some followed him. None could blame them, he wasn't wrong—the Sigil Geode was a dangerous creation. Misused, it could spark wars and bring about destruction unheard of in our history.

Vastarie was undeterred, convinced that Galerion's willful ignorance would lead to his undoing, but something else would gain her attention in the years to come. A vast ruin was discovered beneath her tower's foundation, concealed from sight and scrying by the power of a Daedric Prince.

In time, she walked into those ruins and never came out. Some of us still await her return.

The Devouring of Gil-Var-Dale

Author: 
Fastor

Everyone knows what happened to Gil-Var-Delle. And at the same time, no one does.

Legend has it that Molag Bal, the dreaded Daedric Prince, set foot into that Wood Elf township—consumed it, according to the myth—whatever that actually means. Ancient tales employ metaphors like armies employ soldiers.

If Bal himself visited this plane with evil intent, why do any of us remain? The stories about him would lead one to believe he would not have stopped with the razing of a single Wood Elf town—he wouldn't have stopped until all of Tamriel was in flames. Just one common question of many regarding the Daedric Prince's so-called visit.

Some retort that perhaps someone stopped him—possibly an opposing Daedric Prince, a Divine, or an agent of the Aedra. But again, where is the evidence for this? No mage or historian—that I've spoken to, at least—has been able to reference a specific text for this information.

Many a historical fiction piece has attempted to dramatize what occurred there, but none of those stories can be confirmed, except to say that a catastrophic event struck the town. Perhaps the residents were killed, perhaps they fled. None were ever heard from again, but for all anyone knows, a large fire could have been the culprit. I can't imagine anything more catastrophic than that to a Wood Elf dwelling.

Today, Gil-Var-Delle is a maligned place, and there are not many who dare to venture near. But not because of any tangible foes—save cowardice and superstition.

The Book of the Great Tree

Author: 
Anonymous

(excerpts)
All things to the Tree
From the Tree, all things
— Ayleid prophecy

* * * * *
Let this be your first lesson: the roots of the First Tree grasp all the ground on which you stand. When the rains and wind come, it will be the roots that hold you firm. Under the roots lies Nirn, and over her boughs shines Aetherius. She provides both floor and roof. You need no other shelter.

* * * * *
Azra Root grows along the banks of the slow-moving rivers. Pull it gently free of the mud and wrap the roots in a damp cloth. Thus the plant may be transported. These will take root in pots and baskets of moss, if they are kept moist enough.

* * * * *
When the Saliache Elves first came to the Elden Root, they were led to it by Meridia's shining colors, which told them this was her gift and blessing. The Tree's branches and roots are as hands, reaching at once into the Mundus and Overworld. On this, we built Mundus' greatest city and prove ourselves her highest and most honored race.

* * * * *
In the heat of the summer, shroud the leaves of the Alocasia in silk. The fruit will grow larger and sweeter if the growing process is thus slowed. It is said Y'ffre took its fallen fruit as tribute.

The Alomeria plant is related to this, but will not bear fruit. You may know it as Water Hyacinth.

* * * * *
When they arrived, they said, "This is the Grove of the One Great Tree. This is the Grove of the Sages, the Elden Grove. We brought with us life and knowledge, and in the shade of the Great Tree, we build the classrooms and libraries, so that we would make a harvest of our legacy of intellect."

* * * * *
The seed of the Nirnroot may be carried great distances by birds and other creatures. Near the Great Tree, the fronds grow tall and lush. Farther away, they may grow reedier and less hardy.

Let this likewise be a lesson.

Ayleid Survivals in Valenwood

Author: 
Cuinur of Cloudrest, 4th Tier Scholar of Tamrielic Minutiae

This report was commissioned by the Thalmor Committee of Alliance Relations to investigate whether there might be an indoctrinal advantage to emphasizing the Ayleid lineage woven into the bloodlines of our cousins the Wood Elves. My extensive travels in Valenwood have enabled me to determine the historical facts behind the matter; whether these facts can support a useful campaign promoting alliance fellowship is up to the Committee and the Sapiarch of Indoctrination.

As Pluribel of Dusk has noted in her magisterial "Collapse of the Ayleids," blame for the White-Gold Catastrophe of 1E 243 can be attributed to a half-dozen disastrous factors, of which the bloody insurrection by indentured human laborers may not be the most important. Pluribel emphasizes, quite rightly in my belief, the Narfinsel Schism of the late Merethic Era, which pitted the more conservative Aedra-worshiping Ayleid clans against those decadent yet undeniably vigorous clans that had adopted Daedra-worship. This conflict reached its climax in 1E 198 at the Scouring of Wendelbek, when King Glinferen of Atatar led a combined force of Daedraphile warriors against the traditionalist Barsaebics of Ayleidoon. The Barsaebics were driven out of the Heartland into northwest Argonia, and thereafter organized opposition to Daedra-worship in Cyrodiil was effectively over.

In any event, by most measures Ayleid civilization had been in decline for several generations by the time the White-Gold Tower fell to the savagery of the Nedes. Standing amid the ruins of a great Elven culture, the victors concocted a justification for the blood on their hands by painting the defeated clans as vicious Daedraphiles who reveled in torture and cruelty. An exception was made for those clans, mainly Aedric adherents, who had thrown in their lot with the hordes of the Slave-Queen. Of course, this only delayed their extermination, for the barbarous Nedes inevitably came after their former allies once the other Elves of Cyrodiil had been hunted to extinction.

Thus began the Ayleid Diaspora, in which the Heartland Elves sought to find new homes elsewhere in Tamriel—to decidedly mixed success. Those who fled north into the lands once held by the Falmer were slaughtered by Nords led by the infamous Vrage the Butcher. The Barsaebics, by that time well established in Argonia, refused admittance to their former persecutors the Atatarics, and most of that clan died on an ill-fated expedition into the lands of the Cat-Men. Several clans set out on the long march through Hammerfell to the Iliac Bay, and some actually made it, where they joined with (and were absorbed by) the long-established Direnni of Balfiera.

Most successful—and they were more than a few—were the clans that fled southwest beneath the canopy of Valenwood. The clans of Anutwyll, Vilverin, Talwinque, Bawn, and Varondo all escaped largely intact to carve out a new life under the trees. These clans all worshiped Daedric Princes, but they seem to have done so with less fervor after their enforced migration to Valenwood—possibly due to the fact that the Princes, when called upon, had offered little or no help to the forsaken clans. Fortunately their new hosts, the Bosmer, were remarkably generous in welcoming the Ayleids into their realm, so long as the Heartland Elves agreed to adopt aspects of the Green Pact and refrain from harming the forest. Having little choice, the Ayleids agreed, and this probably contributed to the dilution of their culture.

For diluted it was, absorbed over time, and eventually forgotten. I have walked the great Ayleid ruins of Valenwood—Hectahame, Rulanyil's Fall, Belarata, Laeloria, and a dozen more—and none of them, not one, was still occupied only two thousand years after the Diaspora. For some reason, once the Ayleids were under the great graht-oaks they, and their distinctive culture, simply melted away.

In explaining the extinction of the Valenwood Ayleids, my predecessor Gelgarad the Velaspid was very attached to his "Theorem of Disheritage," which held that for some reason the Forest Ayleids became unable to breed with each other and could only generate offspring by mating with the local Bosmer. This would certainly account for the Ayleids' gradual disappearance, but unfortunately Gelgarad's theorem is supported only by old stories and legends, and absent facts it cannot be proven.

It is worth mentioning here the competing theory of Doctor Thetis of the Shimmerene Academy. Her explanation blames Ayleid decline on over-consumption of the unusually potent beverages of the Bosmer. Doctor Thetis believes the Ayleids, vulnerable in their grief over their losses, fell prey to the Wood Elves' paralyzing brews and simply gave up trying. In this they may have been encouraged by the Bosmer themselves, who often seem insulted by others' displays of industrious effort.

And what did our forest-dwelling cousins learn from the Ayleids? Precious little, apparently, other than some advanced techniques of stonework and masonry. Heartland Elven culture seems to have made little lasting impression on the culture of the Wood Elves. Their attitude seems to me summed up by the statement of Fonlor, the Yorethane of Elden Root, whose response when I asked him about the Ayleids was as follows: "The Ayleids? Oh, yes. Nice fellows. Took themselves too seriously, though, and what did it get them?"

Gathiel's Diary

Author: 
Gathiel

This wasting disease eats at me, taking a little more of me each day. It takes all I have not to give in to despair and self-pity. Why me? Why now? I am young, and I have done my best to treat my neighbors with kindness, support my clan, love my husband, and care for the forest.

It's worse when I see what this has done to poor Eranas. He does not sleep. He hardly eats. Day and night he is hunched over his workbench, trying new mixtures with the dead plants he's gathered from the forest floor.
I tell him he mustn't let his own health suffer on my account, but I can see how much it pains him to see me this way. Meanwhile, I grow weaker. My hand shakes as I write this.

This morning I woke to my husband sitting over me. There were tears in his eyes. He gave me a potion to drink, but once again, there was no change in my illness. It's useless. As long as he insists on keeping the Green Pact, the potions will never be potent enough, even if they are the right ones.

It seems my husband has had the same thought. While he was gone today, I searched through his workbench. I found a book on rare horticulture. It fell open to a tear-stained entry on Sanguine Alendil, the sacred blossom, and its association with cures for wasting sickness.

I know my husband. He would never cut the sacred flower, but I'm not willing to die when there's hope of a cure. The Green Pact can't be a suicide pact, can it? The forest is supposed to care for us. I am too weak to harvest Sanguine Alendil myself, but I will find a way.

*****
It is done. I have arranged that my husband will find the plant, already cut, in the forest where he searches for dead flowers each morning. I have no regrets.

Bones of the Forest

Author: 
Anonymous

Penitent, be one with the moment. Feel the solidity of the ground under your feet, and taste the wind. By his will is our world manifest, and the rocks, and the trees, and the birds in the sky. Y'ffre is with you at every turn, in every moment.
To complete your venerations here, intone: "In the Storyteller's name, I stand upon the bones of the world. I drink in the promise and power of nature's law, and breathe out my thanks."

Woodhearth: A Pocket Guide

Author: 
Anonymous

Since the disappearance of Falinesti, there is no city that completely expresses the character and history of the Wood Elves more than Woodhearth.

Situated on the southwestern shores of Valenwood, Woodhearth had humble beginnings as an Imperial settlement, constructed and maintained by the Emperors in order to facilitate trade with the region's Wood Elf settlements.

The Wood Elves of the region reacted with a mix of curiosity, friendship, and hostility to the city, which was part thriving port town and part fortress, protecting against the wilds of Valenwood.
Several times, hostile Bosmer led assaults against the city's walls. Several times, they managed to bring down sections of the wall with concentrated bursts of powerful destruction magics, only to be driven back by the tenacity of the Imperial forces and their superior equipment.

A peace was eventually struck with the Green Pact Bosmer of Valenwood, and in time a Bosmer settlement sprang up and even overtook the Imperial buildings, as that special connection the Wood Elves have with their forest was invoked to create the treehomes and walkways that are characteristic of Bosmer settlement.

As the Bosmer became an instrumental force in the Empire, control of Woodhearth was gradually ceded back to autonomous Wood Elf rule. A treethane was established in Woodhearth, and while the parts of the city that had been constructed by the Imperials fell into disrepair, the city as a whole thrived.

Within a generation, the treethanes of Woodhearth gained a reputation for determined leadership and fair judgment, among both the Wood Elves and their allies.

At the time of writing, the Treethane of Woodhearth is Fariel, and she governs both as Treethane and as a member of the Thalmor, under Queen Ayrenn of the newly-formed Aldmeri Dominion. Woodhearth continues to be a major port, along with Seaside Sanctuary, in Valenwood, and it is home to members of all races.

Last of the Old Bones

Author: 
Anonymous

Many years before your time, and many well before mine, great creatures walked the surface of Nirn. Where they came from, none could say. After a time they faded and vanished, all gone away to the lost corners of the world. All save one.

A great beast made entirely of bones did burrow a writhing path through the ground, named the Destroyer by those who survived its passage. Though none could say where it went or what drove it, all knew the barren swaths of land in its wake.

It is said the Destroyer's coming could be felt as a quailing of the sod a full day before its arrival. When it arrived in a place, the great beast would writhe about, shattering walls and toppling buildings. Cliffs would turn to slurry in the great quakes brought by its pursuit, and many a pod home burst beneath its bones. It did so until it found Men or Mer who could answer its question.

For the Destroyer would always question its victims. The oldest accounts of these questions were all variations on, "Where can I find the old bones?" The canniest of those asked would point in a direction deemed most expediently away from, and least destructive to, their remaining homes.

As the Destroyer searched—evidently in vain—its questions changed. As it neared the end of its rampage it was known to ask, "May I sleep here? It has been so long since I slept."

The only one known to answer "yes" to this question was the treethane of Falinesti, the Walking City. Knowing Falinesti would soon move on from where it wintered in Southpoint, she convinced the Destroyer to sleep in the boughs of Arborfell, an orchard known for its abundance of bats.

There, the Y'ffre priesthood planted a blessed seed in the skull of the great beast as it slept. This seed soon grew into a sapling, the sapling into a great tree, and the great tree into the Barrowbough. The bones have not stirred since.

In the ages following the Destroyer's final rest, ancient bones have sometimes been unearthed throughout Valenwood. Though silent, these remains are brought to Arborfell—now the "Bone Orchard"—in hopes that they will always remain so.

This tradition has spread throughout Valenwood. Bosmer far and wide have taken to burying the bones of their loved ones in the shade of the Barrowbough. Here they believe Y'ffre will grant his blessing, a final sleep for the lost.