Ancient records found in the Everbark and corroborated by ancient elven texts describe an ancient Brownie kingdom called Birn (a corruption of this term is the modern Tharian word "Brownie"). Considered to be a lost Golden Age by modern-day Brownies, Birn supposedly lasted for five thousand years, although the accuracy of this figure is sometimes disputed by modern historians and archeologists. Centered on what is now the north edge of the Paelelon Forest, it dominated the south of what is now the southern Sarvonian continent during much the same time period that the ancient elven kingdom of Fá'áv’cál''âr dominated the North. No trace of Birn now remains, with the notable exception of the Everbark. Much of current-day Brownie culture, language, and customs were purposfully reconstructed from ancient records pertaining to Birn.
Appearance. Brownie appearance has not significantly changed in the more than 10.000 years since the fall of Birn. Then, as now, Brownies have hair, eyes, and skin all of the same color, either red, brown, green, yellow, blue, white, grey, or black. The only exception to this description were and are the Rat Brownies.
Coat of Arms/Sign. No coat of arms was ever needed for Birn. Different dynasties would use various symbols for their reigns, but these were only used internally.
Birn was located in what is now the Paelelon
forest, especially at the nothern edge. It also had a definite influence on
many areas to the south, some up to dozens of furlays distant.
Brownies share the belief with the
elves that they had been created in the
Thaelon forest with the burning of the
Tree of Life. They then are said to have immediately migrated southward, all
Brownies ending up in the area of what is
now the northern edge of the Paelelon forest
within three hundred years after their creation.
The Paelelon forest is known for being slightly damp; as the Seanian Swamps are not too far away. In the early morning a fog shrouds the floor of the forest. Alltogether the Paelelon is a chilly place due to the dampness and lack of sun. There is little breeze however; it is as if the forest emanates the cold.
In the summer, though, the area can get a little muggy; the dampness of the area creates a sticky heat. It does not rain often in the Paelelon, if it does it is a gentle mist-like shower of drops. In winter, the fog that usually rises becomes frozen on the ground, and it creates a glistening wonderland. Leaves snap at one's step, and the trees are coated in a thin layer of frozen dew. However, it does not snow in the Paelelon.
After the fall of Birn, Brownies scattered to the four corners of Caelereth.
Brownies in Birn
utilized lifemagic in their daily lives to such an extent that, as a direct
result, they began to hold life in contempt. They could be categorized as cruel
and heartless when dealing with those they saw as below them, which included
plants, animals, anyone not of Birn, and classes lower than their own within
Birn. In the last two epochs of Birn, they also began to develop a mischievious
quality in defiance of the unfairness of life, delighting in playing practical
jokes on hapless victims, most noteably on their new neighbors, the
Red-colored Brownies, making up less than 6% of the population, are natuarally adept at lifemagic. In Birn, this skill was used extensively, even recklessly, with many common items being imbued with a life of their own.
Upper classes generally made their homes in
adlemir trees, with larger buildings being cut into the trunk itself, with
holes cut through the bark to let in the sunlight. Smaller houses and other
buildings would be constructed of lashed together twigs, often utilizing many
still-living twigs, built along branches and on the trunk.
The lower class lived in the raised root mazes of trees closely related to urban trees. They built huts of lashed together twigs, daubed with mud to provide firm insulated walls.
Clothing. The lower class, both male and female, dressed much as modern-day Brownies do, either in skins of hunted animals, or in leaves, bark, and other plant parts. The upper classes dressed much the same – with one noteable exception. For the upper classes, one’s place in society was highly visible. The more clout someone carried, the more things they would wear that carried some sort of life still. A fur cloak might have a tail still attached – which would still twitch, and if pricked, would bleed. A leaf skirt might stay green and fresh year round. These living clothes were produced by redbark Brownies, using lifemagic to keep pieces of plants or animals alive even after they have been taken apart and made into clothing.
Diet. The staple food in Birn was a kind of bread baked from greenbark moss, which was farmed on the lower parts of the trees the Brownies lived in. Various cultivated and gathered vegetables, fruits, and berries, such as vinterberries, as well as some small wild game, added variety to the diet. Various herbs were used to lightly season the food.
Weapons. Spears and darts, the latter shot from blowtubes, were the main weapons used in Birn. Spears were up to two palmspans long, made of wood, and tipped with poison. Blowtubes were about two or three nailsbreadths long, and hollow. The poisoned darts they shot fit snugly inside, so that a puff of breath could launch them with devastating accuracy in the short range. Various traps were also used, including deadfalls, nets, triplines, pits, and others even more imaginative.
Birn had a highly stratified society, in which an individual had no possibility
of advancement beyond the class in which they were born. One's class was not
neccessarily determined by the family into which he or she was born, but by the
coloration of their hair, skin, and eyes. The level in society of one’s class
differed from epoch to epoch, as shown below.
The highest caste during the Second Epoch was composed exclusively of redbarks. As adepts in lifemagic, they were seen to be so essential to the survival of everyone in Birn that they went unchallenged until the Third Epoch. A redbark Queen ruled and made the laws, and all redbarks lived in luxury, at least when they weren't on guard duty, which they did in turns to protect Birn, using their lifemagic to discourage dangerous animals from causing havoc in the growing community. They also altered plants and animals to assist them in this task, creating pendrowe, drasil, and other species in the process. Among the Redbarks of Birn, lifemagic was a highly developed art. The Redbarks of Birn spoke their own secret language, and kept extensive records, a few of which have survived to the present day.
During the Second Epoch, the next caste consisted of the two classes of Brownies who were considered to be citizens; the Greens and the Browns. Each speaking their own language, and constantly in competition with each other, they nevertheless formed the backbone of Second Epoch Birn society, culture, and learning, and their languages became the languages of general commerce.
The last caste in every epoch consisted of Brownies who were denied citizenship. It was composed of Bluebarks, Yellowbarks, Whitebarks, Greybarks, and Blackbarks. They were despised, in theory because of the results of the 500 year war of the First Epoch. Possessing their own distinct language, they rarely had the leisure to learn to read or write it. These non-citizens were refused every benefit of society, and they became slaves, beggars, and prostitutes of and for the citizen and ruler castes.
The Third Epoch saw a reworking of this class system. Greens and Browns predominated on the throne, and so these two would alternate as an upper class and an upper middle class, while Reds became a middle class, restricted to their guard duties and producing living coins, clothes, and other such items on demand.
The Fourth Epoch saw a series of disasters, begun in the minds of many because of the ill omen of a member of the lower class, a grey, taking the throne. He tried to abolish the class system, but only succeeded in causing general unrest. The ripping apart of Caelereth during this epoch, and the arrival of the Eophyrhim drow to the Paelelon forest did not help matters. It was pretty much each surviving the best he could in whatever way he could during the entire epoch. In effect, every Birni besides the monarch himself became lower class, and the monarchy itself was virtually lost.
The Fifth Epoch apparently saw a restoration of the class system of the third epoch, with green and brown claimants contending for the throne. However, the redbarks were no longer just a middle class, as in the third epoch. They were now the power behind the throne, the true rulers of Birn. The middle class was composed of whichever of green and brown was currently out of power.
Beginning in the Second Epoch, Birn was an absolute monarchy, yet not strictly
hereditary. Whenever the right to be sole heir to the throne was challenged, the
two claimants would play a game of tree ball for one day, from dawn until dusk,
with the winner taking the throne. Those that shared class and coloration
represented by the monarch became an oligarchy of sorts, receiving all of the
best jobs along with the lesser privileges of government office. For details as
to which particular group controlled the throne in each epoch, please refer to
the Occupations and History sections.
In the First Epoch, the proto-tribes were not yet unified. Each of them was governed at first by a member of the first generation of Brownies. After these died, each was governed by the most senior Brownie in the proto-tribe.
Production/Trade. Trade betweeen Birn and Fá'áv’cál'âr, or any other kingdom for that matter, was very difficult logistically. Brownie traders found it difficult to carry large amounts of items the Big People desired for trade, while the Big People found it difficult to keep track of tiny Birni money, or even to tell the different denominations apart. However, some few individuals, both Brownie and Big People, did manage to make their living through trade. Birni were able to gather rare herbs and other plant-based substances found in minute amounts with an efficiency and of a purity that no Big Person could match. They would gather these into several-ladle pouches, and use these for trade.
Natural Resources. The resources utilized by the Brownies of Birn are all directly derived from the living plants and animals of the Paelelon Forest and of the plain directly to the north. They had little interest in developing the other resources available, and traded plant- or animal-derived products with other races if ever they felt the need to obtain minerals, metals, rare woods, or other curiousities.
Birni celebrated several holidays, many of them for political or religious
reasons. The birthday of the reigning monarch was always celebrated, with
varying degrees of enthusiasm. Lightning day was celebrated with feasting,
gifts, dancing, and merryment as all Birni celebrated the day they were formed
from pieces of bark from the Tree of Life. Various days to appease the spirits
of specific trees, rocks, and streams were also celebrated. Birni saw themselves
as being the spirits of the bark of the Tree of Life, and thus as being
themselves a vital part of the spirit world found in nature. These celebrations
were thus seen as being for their own distant cousins, and just as real and
relevant as a birthday party for that strange uncle that you were always afraid
Important Achievements. The Everbark was an amazing Birni fortress made by hollowing out an adlemir tree, and enhancing it by means of lifemagic. All that we know of Birn today comes from records and artifacts that have been found, primarily by Keekoo and Greybark, perfectly preserved within the Everbark.
The Second Epoch of Birn saw the creation of a common writing system for the four classes of society. It was pictorial, with additional letters used for different forms of the word and endings, and was originally used by reds, but was quickly adopted for both the brown and green languages. It turned out to be difficult to learn and was thus rarely used by the lower class, as they lacked the leisure time in which to learn it. Meanwhile redbarks shifted to using a syllabic written language.
Lifemagic was used extensively in Birn, and many items were imbued with a kind of life of their own. Wooden coins imbued with lifemagic were used throughout the history of Birn. The clothes of the upper classes was often alive in its own right. Drasil and pendrowe were plants that were given full mobility by the redbarks of Birn.
Blowtubes and devious traps were invented in the First Epoch of Birn, as were various poisons, many of which are still used today by Brownies.
A highly-developed religion based on the appeasement of the spirits of nature, spirits of rock, tree, and stream, was developed early in Birn’s history, early enough that the Rat Brownies shared these beliefs. Unlike modern Brownie beliefs, they believed that they themselves were each the embodiment of a spirit of nature, and that they were thus appeasing their own distant cousins.
The mischievious attitude thought today to be typically Brownie was developed out of a kind of self-defense in the Fourth Epoch of Birn.
The sport of tree ball was invented as well in the Second Epoch as a way of choosing between claimants to the throne of Birn.
History. Birni history lasted for five thousand years, and is divided into five epochs, beginning in c. 15.000 b.S. Each age lasted for a thousand years. Birn collapsed in ca. 10.000 b.S., just before the War of the Chosen really got started.
The First Epoch of Birn
Greybark reports the following about events in Birn’s First Era:
"According to Brownie tradition, as the Tree of Life burned, 272 Brownie individuals were formed from flaming pieces of its bark, speaking 144 different languages. As family groups formed, each would end up speaking a conglomeration of the individual languages involved. At first each family group remained distinct from the others, but as the Brownie first generation began to die of old age, and the numbers of Brownies in each family group began to decrease alarmingly, many family groups combined with each other. By the time the last of the first generation died off 500 years after their creation, only five such combined groups were left, namely, a predominately Brownbark group, a predominately Greenbark group, and a group in which the majority of women were Redbarks, as well as two groups composed of mixed shades. The languages of the Brownbarks and Greenbarks were directly derived from two of the original languages spoken by the first generation of Brownies, which is the main reason Keekoo the Deliverer selected these two languages to use to re-create the now-archaic universal Brownie language now known as Old Browniin for his newly-freed kindred.“
-- "Birnish Discoveries" by Greybark, p. 17 f.
These five proto-tribes, living in the area now known as the Paelelon Forest, spent the next 500 years in an almost constant state of warfare. Shifting alliances between proto-tribes and betrayals characterized the second half of Birn’s First Epoch. The redbarks refined their lifemagic, making it into an effective weapon. One of the mixed proto-tribes tamed various animals, which they then set on their rival proto-tribes. The other mixed proto-tribe specialized in poisons, which when smeared on the tip of a spear, made every hit more effective. The brownbark and greenbark proto-tribes got into an arms race with each other, quickly developing blowpipes and various traps. In between battles, each of these five proto-tribes honed their particular specialty to virtual perfection. This epoch ended with the lifemagic-wielding redbark proto-tribe leading an alliance of the warlike greenbark and brownbark proto-tribes against the animal-taming proto-tribe, while keeping it from forming an alliance with the poison-using proto-tribe. This mass attack ended in eventual victory for the redbark alliance, putting the redbarks firmly in power in a new order for the next epoch. (The poison-using proto-tribe, having fled the Paelelon during the war, became the tribe now known as Rat Brownies, and began to live off of the refuse of the other races at Fá'áv’cál'âr, and thus had no more contact with Birn).
The Second Epoch of Birn
The first Queen (rule ca. 14.000-13.984) of the unified proto-tribes, Queen Huatl, realized that in order to keep her kingdom together, members of all different classes and walks of life must see themselves as belonging to something that went beyond their families and their proto-tribes. In light of this, when she took her throne, she declared herself to be Queen of Birn, and her people to be the Birni people, or Birnis (a corruption of this term is the modern word Brownie). The term Birni was taken from the redbark word for "bark", as the Brownies believe that they were formed from pieces of bark from the Tree of Life. Queen Huatl also introduced the pictorial writing system, previously only used by reds, for the use of Birni of any language. At the same time, the redbark language began to use a syllabic writing system. Wooden coins endowed with lifemagic began to be minted during her reign, as well.
Queen Huatl reigned for sixteen years, then died. Unfortunately there were two claimants to the throne – both daughters, of course. The rivalry between the two escalated until Birn was brought to the brink of civil war. As the 500 years of warfare of the first epoch was still recent enough history to be considered something to be avoided at all costs, a council of all redbarks was called to find a more peaceful solution. After much discussion, they came up with the game of treeball. Each claimant was to form a team among their own supporters, with the prize for the winner being the throne. When the sun set at the end of the game, the winning claimant promptly had the losing claimant executed. She then retroactively proclaimed the period of time from approx. 15.000 – 14.000 b.S to be the First Epoch of Birn to add further legitimacy to her reign. From the Second Epoch forward, any time there was more than one claimant to the throne of Birn, each claimant would form a treeball team, with the winning team captain becoming Queen (or king, in later epochs), and the losing team captain generally losing her life.
The Third Epoch of Birn
For a thousand years, every queen had been a redbark. In the Third Epoch, this changed dramatically. Ruling families during this Epoch came from the brownbark and greenbark classes. It all began when redbark numbers had dwindled somewhat, and all were needed to protect the borders of Birn from wildlife incursions. A clever brownbark led a popular uprising, claiming that the redbarks were no better than common guards. After the success of his uprising, he restored the status quo, except of course for putting brownbarks above greenbarks. After his death, a greenbark mounted a formal challenge against his heir, and after winning the requisite treeball match, took the throne. The descendants of these two revolutionaries played a treeball game for the throne at the death of each king, thus determining whether greens or browns would be on the throne of Birn for the next reign. Redbarks became members of a new middle caste, below the greens and browns and above the lower classes.
The Fourth Epoch of Birn
The Fourth Epoch of Birn (ca. 12.000-11.000 b.S.) was not very safe, to say the least. The world of Caelereth was smashed and scattered as Fá'áv’cál''âr fell. This Epoch began with the reign of a greybark king named after the cylian poppy. Many thought of a grey king as being a bad idea, and there was general unrest, which because of this and other circumstnces, persisted for the next millenium. King Poppy (to put his name into Tharian, ca. 12.000-11.960 b.S.), being from the lower class, had many ideas about a classless society. However, many of the former middle and upper classes were unhappy with these ideas and resisted them. This resulted in work slowdowns, riots, vandalism, and general confusion. His son and grandson followed in his footsteps, and things got steadily worse.
In the year King Poppy’s reigning grandson died, the Great Sundering began. It would last for 150 years. Before the Sundering, all of the landmass in Caelereth were gathered into a singular, immense, disc-shaped continent. During the Sundering, this landmass was violently ripped apart into the continents of today, as Caelereth itself convulsed to its core. It is even said that pieces of the world are now missing – that they have become their own worlds, being lost in the Void. Birn, along with everywhere else in Caelereth, was decimated.
Shortly after the end of the Sundering (11.750 b.S.), the Birni discovered that they were no longer alone in the Paelelon. Beginning in 11.700 b.S., they were hunted for sport and occasionally to bring variety to the diet by the new Eophyrhim drow inhabitants, who claimed the entire Paelelon. Several night attacks were made on the dark elves, but each was soundly defeated, as drow are active at night, unbeknownst to the Birni.
As time went on, fewer and fewer Birni were left. The redbarks that were left converted one of Birn’s adlemir trees into a hollow fortress, named the Everbark. All of the reds, greens, and browns lived inside, as well as a scattering of the lower class. The redbarks, besides perfecting their new fortress home, were busy laying plans for the next epoch.
The Fifth Epoch of Birn
During this epoch, it appeared that browns and greens struggled against each other for the throne, but the real power in this epoch was behind the throne – the reds. Under their influence, the Birni established a tight perimeter of trees around the everbark and guarded those closely. Brownies were encouraged to move to these trees, but also armed, equipped, and backed up by pendrowe, drasil, and every other living deterrent the redbark lifemagic-users could come up with. Faced with this kind of stiff resistance, the Eophyrhim backed off, no longer coming into Birn itself to hunt.
The monarchs of Birn, with red approval, of course, began once again to send sorties against the Eophyrhim. Having learned of their nocturnal habits, they no longer went at night, but during the day, when everyone was asleep. Instead of attacking the drow physically, they destroyed whatever crops or property they could, as well as sneaking into houses and knotting drow’s hair, poisoning water supplies, and generally making a nuisance of themselves. These attacks, while generally causing little actual damage to the drow, were a tremendous boost to Birn’s morale.
Birn continued to expand and prosper throughout the Fifth Epoch, until Saban seduced five of the redbarks with flattering words and promises of earth-shaking power. The following excerpts are taken from a recent translation of Keekoo's "History of Birn".
"Birn soon thrived, reaching an estimated population of 50 thousand individuals at the peak of the Fifth Epoch. Once it had reached this peak, however, it was infected with a cancer. Five Redbarks were seduced by the honeyed promises of Saban, from the elven kingdom far to the north. Believing themselves to be more pure, more worthy of wielding power then their sisters, they took steps to seize that power and make it their own. The names of these five - Rraopila the man-hater, Blackrosepetal of the night, Blood Leaf of the twisted passions and hungers, cunning Dragoneye, and Cinnabark the ruthless tree ball flyer - these names were whispered in fearful dread for a thousand years after their time. Using Dragoneye's skill combined with the strength of all five together, they assassinated their rivals one by one, cautiously, by subtily altering the living components of sicknesses, or by making common herbs poisonous, or by a dozen other ways. It was the yellowbark with a knife in the dark, however, that finally got caught.
Having determined that he was in debt and friendless, the monarch assumed that he was a common criminal. If he had been, the dozen guards sent to capture him should have been more then enough. When they never reported back, the redbarks that were the power behind the throne were alarmed, and swiftly called up the raiding parties as a citizen militia. Only a little more than half responded.
The other half, appropriately, ambushed them as they were advancing through Birn’s tree ball field. The Battle of the Field ended inconclusively, with heavy casualties on each side. Now in a state of civil war, Birn continued to experience fighting for another seven years. In the sixth year of the conflict, Blackrosepetal and Blood Leaf began to target those redbarks that were on guard duty, protecting Birn both from the wilderness and from the threat of drow hunting dogs. Unable to both wage war effectively and protect Birn, the redbarks ceased their protective duties. The wilderness flooded in. Wolves and hounds grew fat. Birds of prey gathered. Evil won and everyone else scattered, destined to be caged as pets by other races, or else live like rats on their garbage."
-- "History of Birn" by Keekoo the Deliverer, p. 31 ff., p. 67, p. 104-110.
Thus did the civilization of Birn collapse, as it was betrayed from within. A few stayed to preserve as much as possible of their legacy in the Everbark tree. The others scattered, trying to survive in a world that seemed bent on killing them. Only those that were caught and kept as pets, good luck charms, or livestock by humans, elves, dwarves, or orcs were able to survive.
Shrouded in the mists of
time, it is extremely difficult to pin down the earlier important dates
in Birn with any exactitude. The preceeding dates are based on the best
estimates currently available for the date of the Tree of Life being hit
by lightning. Dates after 11.700 b.S. have been corroborated by drow
|See also||Aohu'o (Akdorian tribe), Brownies (the race), Etherial Void (mystical region), Keekoo the Deliverer (Brownie hero), Llaoihrr (Vale Brownies), Memnoor (Void Brownie tribe), Milken (Milken Brownies), Rat Brownies, Seven Schools of Magic|
Information provided by Greybark