The Elverground is the large
open area of grassland plain to be found south of
New-Santhala. Windswept, featureless, and suffering from a semi-arid
climate, the Elverground is sparley populated, yet here three major races live
in proximity to each other - the elves, the
humans and the the
halflings all have settlements here. Much
of the plain is at some considerable altitude, and while elevations vary, the
plains are at their highest altitude where they border the southern mountains
of the Rimmerins Ring. The area south of Vezash is of a much kinder climate and
altitude, and was once covered by the larger
The Name of the Elverground itself is rather lost in the mists of time. Some scholars say that the name refers to the fact that it is one of the few places in Santharia where the elves have left their forest homes and live in the open. Others, who maintain that the elves probably haven't dwelt on the Elverground very long, say that Elver may come from a word from the Eyelian tribe of men, meaning "high" or literally "over" ground. Others say that the name is from a Styrásh word - perhaps derving from "hevil" (hevil) meaning "yellow", though this seems to have little direct relation to the area. The existance of the shire of Elenveran suggests that the root "Elver" may as well be derived from this hobbit name, though assessing whether the plain or the shire got it's name first is proving to be a virtually impossible task!
The Liguist Monty Reandor, a human researcher currently working in Voldar, whose research interests include the connections between convetnional Styrásh and Ylffer, says that the name may have come from a complex chain of events as words were passed between the Quaelhoirhim and the Ylfferhim and then onto other races:
"My current favourite theory is that the name [Elverground] may have derived from the Styrásh word Dáth'Evér (Dáth'Evér) [meaning] a blank or featureless place. The Ylfferhim, both in the old and modern form of their tounge have the word Dá'elver meaning a blank canvas, obviously coming from the Styrásh that the tribe originally spoke and still uses. This Ylffer word has then been passed back to the Quaelhoirhim and been adopted into conventional and common Styrásh used as an expression to denote a barren landscape, a place or a person with unused potential. While human liguistics are certainly not my specialty, it would not be too hard to imagine that incoming human migrants would have heard Quaelhoirhim merchants refering to the area as the "Dá'elver" and assumed it to be the areas name... with time becoming rounded and placed with the Tharian suffix "ground". This event was probably far later, one suspects sometime after the Second Sarvonian War when the Tharian language became more widely spoken in the midland and southern continent."
-- From the paper: "Styrásh-Ylffer Connections- How two tribes have shaped modern Styrásh development" (1620), published in the Santharian Journal of Linguistics issue 50, page 21.
Image description: Impressions of the mostly barren and featureless landscape. Pic drawn by Wren.
open plains of the Elverground stand at altitude begining in the southern range
of the Rimmerins Ring and stretching for some considerable distance in all
directions. Much of the plain is at some considerable altitude, and while
elevations vary, the plains are at their highest altitude where they boarder
the southern mountains of Rimmerin's Ring and generally decline toward sea
level as one moves further south toward the
Zeiphyrian Forests, west toward the Auturian
Woods. As one moves east, altitude is also lost, but much of the
Elverground's height has been eroded by the
Thaehelvil River as it cuts its way through the land toward the sea. As a
result, where the Elverground meets the Yellow River, south of Vezash, the
river is bordered by rather dramatic cliffs and a steep sided valley.
The climate predisposed the area to be mainly grassland, as rain fall is low and erratic, meaning few trees grow on the Elverground - espcially where there are areas of greater elvation. As a result, the Elverground forms a wind tunnel between the sheltered valleys of Rimmerins ring and the high canopy of the Zeiphyrian Forests. Most of year the wind is only slightly higher than in the surrounding areas, but whenever a due east or west wind blows across Santharia the effect, it seems, is multiplied considerably and the winds howl across the Elverground, often at gale force as they squeeze down this wind alley. This added wind is often pleasantly refreshing, especially in the heat of midsummer when temperatures in both New-Santhala and the Zeiphyr are scorching, and quite beautiful as it disturbs the long grasslands.
Few paths wind the way across the Elverground. The area is for the most part barren and featureless. One can walk for days and see nothing but rolling grasslands as far as the eye can see. As such, without a map and a familiarity with the lay of the land, it would be all too easy to wonder off the badly worn roads and get lost. One road runs north from Elving, to the shire of Elenveran, nestled between the southern peaks of Rimmerins Ring, and on to New-Santhala, and walked only by the elves and the hobbits. Few other roads cross the Elverground, with the Quaelhoirhim elves prefering to travel through the forests where posible, and the main human routes passing either side of the Elverground.
The Elverground is littered however with the remains of an era when more humans dwelt on the Elverground, old deserted paths lead to and from the Sophronian capital, Sophronia, that now lies in ruins on the eastern edge of the Elverground. Many other small human villages also lie empty as their residents left either because of war or the atrractions of first Vezash, as the Eyelian Eagle clan capital, and then by the lure of jobs in New-Santhala as capital of the newly united kingdom. A few isolated farmsteads still remain, though in modern Santharia the majority are now elven rather than human. Many of the ancient paths that link these deserted villages and farmsteads are in disrepair and often end abruptly for no apparent reason. Certain routes used by farmers are not marked at all other than by the wear in the grass caused by generations of passing feet and carts.
Farmsteads on the Elverground come in three types that more or less corespond to the three races who farm it. The humans build rustic looking stone houses or further from Vezash, timber housing - though both of these materials must be imported. The Quaelhoirhim elves have stolen the idea of constructing Ophra from the Aellenrhim, farming in enclosures, as the traditional Aellenrhim Seán'feárn can be built with mud and dried grasses, materials easily found on the Elverground. The Seán'feárn are also particularly well adapted to coping with high winds, as their round shape means they maintain less damage than square buildings. The Elverground is the only place outside the Bolder Forest, far to the north, where such Ophra can be seen. The idea was probably brought to the Quaelhoirhim by a travelling scholar of the Aellenrhim, possibly as early as before the First Sarvonian War.
Hobbit farmers living on the extreme south of the shire. They live in underground houses, though their raised ceilings of the main living quaters are recogonizable from the surface as barrel shaped mounds in an attempt to discourage "big people" wandering over their homes. To walk on a hobbit's roof is considered very poor manners indeed!
Location. The Elverground falls in the Santharian province of Sanguia and is due south of New-Santhala and due north of the Zeiphyrian Forests. The Elverground is commonly said to be bordered east and west by two rivers, the Thaehelvil and the Mashdai, commonly thought to mark the end of the Elverground.
|Map description. Location of the Elverground grasslands in the Santharian province of Sanguia, south of New-Santhala and north of the Zeiphyrian Woods. Map drawn by Artimidor.|
People. The Elverground
is one of those places where deer,
sheep and birds, each quite easily outnumber
the humans who live on the open elverground.
Vezash is the only major town on the Elverground with a population of about 600
indviduals. Other than this there are, In total, no more than nine villages and
homesteads on the Elverground, containing perhaps at most 200 individuals. Those
who do live here, however, make up one of the most multi-racial rural
communities in Santharia. The far east and west of
the area are dominated by humans. Vezash on
the far eastern fringe of the Elverground represents the old capital of the
Eagle clan of the Eyelians, an
ancient human ribe. The people who live, both
in Vezash itself and in villages around it on the eastern Elverground tend to be
from this ethnic background. The area was originally settled and belonged to
Ealgor. We know his lands encompassed all of the Elverground, what we know now
as the Vale of the Brownies and the southern foothills of the Rimmerins Ring.
The western Elverground is also populated by humans, and their roots may well lie in the Sophronian kingdom that once stood here, though the western Elverground has changed hands more often and seen more migration than any other part of the plain.
The windblown central area is probably the hardest to work and live in. This central region belongs to the Quaelhoirhim elves and in the north to the hobbits of Elvenveran. Elenveran lies on the very northern edge of the Elverground verging on the foothills of the Rimmerins Ring range. While the shire has well defined borders just south of the Rimmerins ring, there are few clear boundaries as to where the elven farmlands begin, and hobbit farmlands end. Indeed several hobbit farmers have made their homes so far south it has become far easier to trade with the Quaelhoirhim than their home shire. The Quaelhoirhim have quite an affection for the local hobbits and would happily give the shirefolk free run of their forest, if only they were not so prone to being eaten by wolves or lesser drakes, or to getting lost! As a result, hobbit parties must report to the guardpost on the Elving road, and will be accompanied from the Elverground into the forest.
As has been implied, most folk who live on the Elverground are farmers of one sort or another. The grasslands are ideal grazing for large herds of sawis sheep, cattle, deer and domestic goats. There are few other resources in the area other than the rich black soil that gives a crop yield that farmers of other areas only dream about. The region has its downsides though. Farmers here must be of the hardy sort, all too often crops may be flattened by the perpetual high winds,or fail because there is too little water. Local drought is common, and local areas of the Elverground often suffer droughts. Droughts on large scale are less common, but have occured on three notable occasions. Elven records say that the whole Elverground suffered a three year drought starting in 505 b.S., the next occured for a six month period affecting only the western half of the Elverground in 50.b.S. The last and the most well documented was the two and a half year drought in 60 a.S. The crops failed, the grassland died, so that animal herds collapsed, fires on the dry dying grass became common place, engulfing several villages and farmhouses. The wind picked up soil exposed by fires and carried it long distances, creating great duststorms on the Elverground. Dust was even found in small quantities as far away as Elsreth up north near the Ancythrian Sea. The whole Elverground began to resemble the Rath-Dath desert. As a result the drought is often refered to by locals as "The Sandstorm". Starvation in isolated areas was common. Happily the rains returned in time for the 63 a.S. harvest to be healthy and the grassland began to repropagate.
The only other profession on the Elverground except farming is perpetuated by as small community of elves. Living in the Shadow of the Rimmerins Ring these elves are so called Wind Singers, Clerics to Grothar, the Weather God. They take advantage of the mountain heights to the north and the Elvergrounds nature to listen to the secrets the wind holds in stock for them, carrying the spirit of the elven High Goddess Avá the Beautiful sung in the windy voice of Grothar.
Coat of Arms/Sign. Unusually for an area inside a province and not claimed by any particular ethnic group, the Elverground, while it does not have a Coat of Arms as such, is represented on many buildings by its most famous resident. The mythical Tarkkin is often depicted on buildings and gates on the Elverground. As the patron of farmers, the prescence of Jeyriall's pet is thought to promise fertile soils and a good growing season. Farmers not only honour Tarkkin, but many try to attract his presence by leaving small offerings out on winter nights - such as a saucer of milk, a bail of hay, occasionally more extravagant gifts are left. (One cousin of mine once told me that he had seen a great gift wrapped stone carving of Tarkkin outside the home of one farmer. It was certainly gone in the morning, but who claimed it is anyone's guess!)
Tarkkin is also depicted on the great stone gates of Elving as one comes down from the Elverground into the forest along the Elving road.
Other than Tarkkin, the Elverground is paradise to anyone with enough spare time to coat of arms spot. Elven enclosures fly the Quaelhoirhim coats of arms, suprisingly there seem to be no Tethinrhim homesteads on the Elverground. It may be that the Quaelhoirhim consider the plains to belong to them, though they would probably never declare it openly. Perhaps the Tethinrhim simply have no need of it, or have no will to farm among the humans who occupy the Western end of the Elverground - certainly it is difficult to imagine any tribe of elves except the confident and open Quaelhoirhim wanting to farm among other races, and with their greater populous they certainly need the reasources that the Elverground can provide. There are rumours that Elving has an agreement with the neighbouring tribe, that the Quaelhoirhim will supply any goods that the Tethinrhim may want in return for the warrior tribes' continued alliance.
Human homesteads fly coats of arms from many origins. Some fly the colours of the Eyelians, stating their historical roots, some display the arms of Vezash, or Elsreth, some the Santharian colours, some villages show all three. In the ruins the coat of arms of Sophronia are seen, and in the west it may still be displayed by families who can trace their families to this people. Some larger human settlements also have their own village coat of arms of which they are exceedingly proud - derviving from those who first settled there or from those of some wealthy patron perhaps.
As for the hobbits - well they aren't the sort of folk to go flying coats of arms about. They are who they are, and everybody knows it. There's no need for every farmer on the Elvenground to go delcaring it now is there? But wonder into Elenveran itself, and in the town hall is that coat of arms of the shire. Each of the smaller settlements have their coat of arms, but all are variations on the Elvenveran shield.
Climate. The climate predisposed the area to be mainly grassland, as rain fall is low and erratic, and small localised droughts are common, meaning few trees grow on the Elverground - especially where there are areas of greater elevation. As a result, the Elverground forms a wind tunnel between the sheltered valleys of the Rimmerins ring and the high canopy of the Zeiphyrian Forests. The effects of this wind tunneling are felt most in the midpart of the Elverground, more or less exactly due north of Elving, where the wind is being pushed through the Elverground's narrowest point. It is escaping to the north of this mid point however, into the hobbit shire of Elvenveran and the wind drops, perhaps because of greater altitude, or perhaps because the towering Rimmerins Ring to the north gives some shelter.
Flora. Though the Elverground is often refered to as barren, this belies the true biodiversity of the plains. While they are vastly featureless, and dry, a vast quantity of different plants and animals make a highly successful living on the Elverground.
Vegetation forms the very basis of this ecosystem, and the plains are unique in Santharia, very different from the steppelands of the more northerly part of the country, and from the Narfost Plain.
The vegetation is domintated by the grasses; predominantly the alth'ho grass and wean grass, which do very well in the windy plains, even when the rains are poor. Loriv is rare but can be found on the Elverground, as can Quepurs' love, yahrle, and at higher elevation the skyweed. At certain times of the year, especially at earliest spring and late summer, the Elverground blooms into a carpet of colour as plants like Erissa's tears, wild roses as well as their domestic cousins grow over large areas. The injèrá'yránía or sun rose is common on the Elverground, thriving in the sun and not minding the wind much, though it avoids the higher altitude of the northern ground.
However, farmers in places have cleared this natural fauna to grow crops. All the traditional crops and vegetables are grown here, but the Elverground is most famous, certainly in human circles for producing large quantities of kaouje which can be shipped to Saloh or New-Santhala for further processing. It is a profitable crop for farmers as it does well on the Elverground naturally, and can be sold easily for a relatively high price. Grazing of animals has also taken its toll on the flora of the Elverground. Where elk graze the tips of grasses, sheep herds chew right to the soil. While the damage is in no way permenent, grazing grounds can be easily identified.
Fauna. In these modern times, it is domestic animals you are most likely to see: sheep, goats and cattle are the normal sight. Though the occasional capricus can be seen, these have never dwelt on the Elverground in any great numbers. The main residents of the plain were until recent times mainly elk and steppe deer.
Top of the food chain is represented by the shingar, whose number have increased in recent years. While the shingar could not tackle a full grown elk or capricus, they easily take sheep, and young calves. However, they are very shy of humans and tend not to make too much of a nuicanse of themselves.
Resources. The region is fairly isolated and open. Resources are limited. The open grasslands are superb pasture, and the climate permitting, the deep black soils are very fertile agricultural land for crops. The wind is also being harnessed. Two windmills exist on the Elverground. One near the hobbit shire and the other about a days ride south west. The power generated as the wind is tunneled through the Elverground is perfect to turn all kinds of machinery, though here, for the time being at least the mills are only used for turning millstones.
Myth/Lore. There are few myths about how the Elverground came to be. In fact, humans will tell you that the Elverground is unchanging and has remained unchanged since the creation of the world. They find it difficult to imagine that the Elverground was ever any other way, though they do know that the Zeiphyr was once far larger than it is now, and covered the far southeastern part ot the Elverground and beyond.
Among elves, however, there is a tale that the plain was once a meadow, a garden made by the Gods for peoples of all races to live in. The dwarves are said to have refused it, prefering the great mountains far to the west that Urtengor had provided, but men, elves and halflings dwelt happily withing its boundaries. But then came the War of the Chosen, the elves left for their forests, and who knows what became of the men!
When the war was over a new breed of men had arrived, the Beastmasters. They, so the elves say, angered Grothar, by worshipping the Sky as father and the Land as mother, when it was Grothar who directed the elements. Grothar, though not a cruel God, is changeable and must be constantly entertained. So he sent drought, but the Windsingers appealed to Grothar, and he relented on the condition that the Windsingers would approach the Eyelians, and he sent a constant wind to remind people that he must be worshipped. While much of this story is disagreed with by the humans in these parts, many now believe in Grothar, if not the rest of the twelve. There is a simple reason for this: the climate is so unpredictable, that the fertility of the land is an obsession! Any God or creature that could maintain the harvest and thus the stability of the areas economy is considered worth worshipping. Thus, you will find many worship Grothar, Jeyriall, Tarkkin, though some worship the land, and the sky and the sun as well - just to be safe!
There are a myriad of minor 'gods', if such a word can be used, to be found on the Elverground. Predominantly among humans, who believe they can be appealed to through magical incantations and such. There is much talk of Weather Fairies, benevolant, but sometimes restless spirits, who can be attracted by scattering rose petals over freshly ploughed earth. This will ensure the Weather Faires are kind to the earth during the year. There is also much talk of Bes - a strange shadowy figure, not quite a god - more like Tarkkin in that he is a mythical figure of no particular origin. There are no specific stories about him, he is simply known as a being who is resposible for the fertility for those who dwell on the eEverground. Where exactly he comes from is something of a mystery. Bss himself is a Grotsque Monkey like figure, often with his tounge out. Small figurines are often made of pebbles, or ocassionally grass or straw, which are thought to ensure fertility if kept in the home of those who work the lands.
By far the most common ritual on the Elverground is the practice of making prayers to Grothar by writing requests on light-coloured strips of fabric, then tying them on the branches of willows. The willows must be specially planted and well cared for, as the Elverground is far from their natural habitat. As the rain and wind washes out the ink, the sun bleaches the colours, and the wind ripples and snaps at the streamers, the petitions are brought to Grothar’s attention. Farmers also often carve runes for "só avásh" (wind) on their gateposts on their land, and the festivals of Grothar are well obseved in this part of the Land.
Jeyriall and Tarkkin are also very well thought of and worshipped on the Elverground by people of all races. Deep sided goblets are often kept in houses to honour the Goddess, and her festivals are well observed. Tarkkin is often offered small gifts and such, though many elves say the best gift that can be offered to Tarkkin is to stay off the Elverground at night and allow him to do his work.
Information provided by Wren