The Thaelon Forest (lit. "tae lón", Styrásh for "Covered Wood", "Secret Wood" or more freely translated "Sanctuary Wood") is Santharia's largest forest, and may even be the biggest on Caelereth, comparable in size only to forests like the Shaded Forest in Northern Sarvonia or the Drifting Woods of Nybelmar. It is located in the northernmost province of the United Kingdom, Vardýnn, and stretches for sure over a 1000 strals from east to west and at least an estimated 300 strals from north to south. The enormous size becomes especially evident if you consider travelling times: It takes a fast courier no less 12 days to pass through on a secure route when on his way to Nyermersys to New-Santhala, and at least 15 days when riding along the southern border along the Vandrina to go from Voldar to Ephirn's Lake! The Thaelon is a tranquil and serene place, sacred to all elven tribes of Sarvonia. They are believed to have their mythological roots in these woods, and thus it is surrounded in mystery to all but the elves. However, how much the elves themselves understand of this forest remains unknown. Many elves believe it to be the centre of the world where the ancient Tree of Life, Eu'reóll, has its roots and thus it is supposed to be the place of origin of many things.
Indeed the inexplicable mysteries that surround parts of the forest are
manifold. Some areas emanate an aura of magic
that is beyond the comprehension of any human.
The innermost places are even said to be guarded by plant-beings and protected
by eerie phenomenons like wisps and phantasms that make it impossible to enter
the heart of the sanctuary. The Thaelon is also rumoured to still be the home
of the enigmatic and numinous light
elves, but their sightings are rare; they usually appear to selected
Throughout the forest there is also a vast diversity of flora and fauna which is uncompared to any other forest in the known world. - Travellers beware: To travel in the Thaelon without a guide is for all but elves quite a risk to take.
Thaelon is vast and endless, and vast and endless is what it contains - or at least so it seems once
one has taken a
journey through it. After having covered hundreds of
strals one still will not see
the forest's confines, but one will become witness of how the character of the forest
changes as does the vegetation throughout the long ride. The Thaelon is
a world of its own, with its own laws as the elves are
known to say themselves in a proverb, "ránn tae lón" (loosly translated meaning
"the sovereign is the Thaelon" or "the Thaelon commands"). There are tales of
elves who are said to have lived their long
lives in the forest solely, never venturing out. Yet, despite
its vastness the Thaelon forest of today - unlike other
elven woods - is only inhabited in parts. In
general it is important to differentiate between the various forest sections,
as depending on where one looks at the Thaelon a different picture presents
itself to the eye with different history to
tell, or which tales and myths lie within.
There are at least four major sections to discern at the Thaelon: The most important is the sanctuary of the Ó'phyría to the east with the heart and most mystical place of the forest, the Sálen'seiá. The Aelle'lón lies to the northwest, named after the Aellenrhim elves, the keepers of the Thaelon, who reside there. Then there is the Aviariáth, southwest of the Ó'phyría, harbouring many a shrine of the Santharian and elven Gods, and also featuring graves of famous people who accompanied the elves through the centuries as friends, thus including a whole plethora of druidic groves. And finally we have the Már'cál'ethrón, consisting mainly of forested moorland between the river arms of the Vandrina in the west.
The four now very distinct sections are said to have once formed one large forest entity, which the woes of time like wars, earthquakes and floods have brought appart. The elves on the other hand would argue that the Thaelon might have changed its appearance over the years, but that its spirit is still the same. The Aellenrhim guardian Raug'thuóc once was quoted: "Wherever you are listening to the [Thaelon] forest, it speaks with the same voice - if you only accept it." The elves are indeed convinced that as the Tree of Life is just a reflection of the Thoughts of Avá, so the forest of the Thaelon is a reflection of the Tree of Life, and thus subject to change, and in the process of that represents the realization of divinity in this world. Thus the Thaelon's diversity, which it has developed since its creation millenia ag,o also reminds us how it once was one - and how perhaps, one day, things will return again to their origins, to the Thoughts of the High Goddess.
Let's have a closer look now at the four main forest sections we've just mentioned:
The Ó'phyría ("Everlasting High Woods") and the Sálen'seiá ("Silent Heaven")
The main part of the Thaelon is the easternmost, which is called the "Ó'phyría" (Styrásh for "Everlasting High Woods") by the elves, centering around the heart of the forest and sanctuary of the elves, the "Sálen'seiá" ("Silent Heaven"), which supposedly harbours the mysterious light elves and according to mythology still offers secret access to Eu'reóll, the Tree of Life. The Ó'phyría stretches approximately 425 strals from north to south and 360 strals from east to west.
"Enter the Thaelon [i.e. the Ò'phyría] and meet the wonders of life, of whence it came and where it goes," the Aellenrhim librarian Baianác Téthelías wrote when he described the forest to the Santharian King Tiandor in an encounter on the Day of Avis not too long ago. "Step into the sanctum that holds ancient times as if they were never forgotten, breathe past and future fresh as a breeze, take it all in and feel the very moment become intense. Smell the forest, sense its everlasting presence, hear other existences echoing in it. Walk in it as if you have become the center of the world and you will see that you gain insights in your being and a prospect into the unknown that lies beyond. With other words: Dream!" - Indeed Téthelías's account of how the Ó'phyría welcomes its visitors is hardly exaggerated. The Ó'phyría is ancient, magical as some say for the lack of a better word, "enchanted" as the poets call it. It lets everyone stepping into it feel its power and incredibly elevating aura instantly, and the consciousness gains an unknown awareness. "Enter the Ó'phyría the first time in your life and you will know that you've finally come home," a famed elven poet expresses it, alluding to the notion that the wood engulfs the visitor with a strange kind of intimacy, that sometimes even might be interpreted as frightening due to the suddenness of finding something unexplainably dear in an altogether alien forest.
While the outer boundary of the forest appears playful and inviting with a huge variety of flora, in the inner parts of the Ó'phyría the floor receives only very little direct light. Mosses and fungi are plentiful on the forest floor and along with this trees and other plant life is also abundant. Trees such as the silkel, the magnificent mahood-euwen, the overhanging cam'trah and many more common trees grow strong and tall. The cam'trah trees often have climbers on them like the glittering vine of the ounashria or the spiralingly growing whirlvine that make them appear like plants that were decorated by hand, adding to their fascinating appearance. It is furthermore known that the ounashria vines are preferred places for spiders to weave their silk, so don't be surprised to find whole spooky areas full with cobwebbed trees in the deeper recesses. One will also come across a plethora of bushes in the Ó'phyría, among them allia, wizardleaf, zifel or the rare but wonderfully flowering macadan bush along with sawleaf shrubs and the bright Quimron's daggers. It has to be noted however that bush growth is limited in this part of the Thaelon compared to the dense Aviariáth for example, as the Ó'phyría features mostly tall proud trees that give the forest a very ordered and thus distinct look. Especially euwen groves within the Ó'phyría leave a hard to forget impression, for it is like unto entering a vast, extended hall, whose ceiling seems to be carried by numerous imposing wooden pillars, and whose ground is so soft it could easily be mistaken for a velvet carpet. For it is one of the unusual habits of the Euwen to sink their roots, thirsting for water, deeply into the ground, so that the grown trunks look like artificial posts rammed into the earth, the more so since for the inattentive observer they seem to sprout upward into the sky without any means of support.
The deeper one ventures into the forest, the more eerie it gets: Among the magical trees growing in the Ó'phyría one might chance upon phenomenons like the famous wisps, mysterious glowing balls that are said to be spiritual in nature and who might guide or fool one, one might never know. Other mysterious happenings include the injuchanía, odd sunbeams that seem to get a life of their own when observed for several minutes, or the "quáraváshín" ("time winds"), powerful gusts spiraling through the canopy, said to come out of nowhere and stirring up long forgotten memories in any passers-by. Notorious is also the cór'pharín, the "travelling blackness", that makes the visitor feel as if the part of the forest that has just been crossed now appears completely different, as if an invisible hand from time to time draws a curtain in the distance, with entirely different, unrecognizable trees. Watcher phantasms, distant observing humanoid shapes, are also said to be spotted from time to time, but seem to be more of an exception. Even very obvious landmarks like standing stones sometimes are said to disappear, or one might suddenly find one's self at the edge of the forest for no apparent reason. Most of these apparitions are believed to be associated with the Astyrhim, the light elves, who are invisible to the eye of the regular mortal and if at all can only turn corporeal in the presence of elves (with a few exceptions perhaps). They are said to protect their territory along with other plant-beings like the pendrowe, which are used as guardians to prevent people from penetrating to the heart of the forest, the Sálen'seiá (Styrásh for "Silent Heaven"). It is also possible that drasil, or "history trees", grow in the innermost areas, yet it is impossible to venture to the core of the forest without getting hopelessly lost. Expeditions in this regard are frowned upon by the Aellenrhim keepers, who had to take adventurous explorers out of the forest more than once, saving their lives. There are rumours however that druids are allowed to enter the Sálen'seiá from time to time under guidance of the Aellenrhim keepers, yet under which conditions and circumstances is not being revealed.
Where and if the entrance to the Sálen'seiá can be found at all and what this "heart of the forest" actually contains, nobody can say, maybe not even the Aellenrhim keepers. It is believed by many elves though that it still exists in the Thaelon, this tree so old and wonderful, the Eu'reóll, the Tree of Life, which - according to elven myth - was responsible for the creation of the races as we know them (see Myth/Lore). According to the common interpretation of that myth many elves think that the Tree lives on beyond time and space, and that it therefore can still be found in the Thaelon's innermost sanctuary. Whether it is physically there or can be reached only via a portal or through magical means will probably remain a mystery forever.
The Aelle'lón ("Forest of the
Somewhat seperated from the Ó'phyría is the second larger section of the Thaelon, the "Aelle'lón" (short for "Forest of the Aellenrhim"). It is practically adjacent to the provincal capital of Voldar, located northeast of it, and in relation to the Ó'phyría it lies northwest. The Aelle'lón stretches approximately 120 strals from north to south and 280 strals from east to west.
In between these forest sections there is only scantily growing forest-like vegetation, a place which is used partly for cultivation of crops and vegetables by the elves. As can be already gathered by its name the Aelle'lón harbours the caretakers of the Thaelon, the highly literate and tradition-oriented Aellenrhim elves, who have their typical ophá homes on natural clearings with the Aelle'lón. While the majority of the Aellenrhim lives in the Bolder to the north, the selected people living in the Thaelon see it as an honour and duty to tend to the Ó'phyría and Aviariáth woods of the Thaelon.
Compared to the other forest sections, the Aelle'lón is less diverse and much more like other woods across Southern Sarvonia, especially like the original home of the Aellenrhim, the Bolder, that lies just to the north. Oak trees, ashwudes and baych trees as well as some euwen (smaller versions of the notorious mahood-euwen that grow in the Ó'phyría) can can be found in the Aelle'lón. The border regions of this forest sections contain a variety of birches of a multitude of colours. Shaded by these lofty trees grow plants such as allia, doch nut, goldenbell, rosemint, shade grass, tareptail weed, and wizardleaf.
The Aviariáth ("Place of Spirits")
The Aviariáth is full of rolling hills stretching until the Vandrina river in the south, where this large forest finds its end. It stretches approximately 135 strals from north to south and 335 strals from east to west. It is the part of the Thaelon where the elves revere their ancestors and the Gods, and tribute to the spirits is given, a concept which is difficult for humans to graps however. The elves, as the Children of the Wind (see the Cárpa'dosía), believe that upon their death the individual spirit returns from where it has come, to its divine source that is beyond the comprehension of the mortals. In a traditional rite a dead elf's body undergoes the elemental cleansing - it is washed, then burned and eventually strewn into the wind to fall back on the earth to nurture the the ground again that represents the realization of the High Goddess Avá's Dream. The ashes of few selected elves are scattered in the Aviariáth, which is a very special honour, the same applies for ashes of dead people of other races, who were close to the elves and agreed to undergo the ritual cleansing as well.
The Aviariáth definitely is not a burial grove as one finds it in various other places of Sarvonia. There exist only a few traditional graves in this part of the Thaelon, for example those belonging to legendary heroes and wizards of other races who helped to defend the Thaelon with their lives during the great Sarvonian Wars. What there is to find however in these woods are shrines decdicated to the Aviaría, the Twelve Gods as the Santharian humans call them, all of them well integrated into the canopy, which are sought out often by travellers, elf or human alike. Aside from the worship of the Twelve there's also worship of nature itself or of the "Primal Spirits" taking place in this part of the forest, as various druidic orders have their bases here. Especially green and brown druids have their own groves, which are tolerated by the elves tending the Thaelon.
But actually the Aviariáth is not so much a consistent forest, but more an agglomeration of patches of rather common trees and bushes that grow pretty dispersed around the hills dominating this area. There are exceptions to this of course, as here and there a whole grove spreads over several strals, many of those are druidic bases or are at least temporarily inhabited by druid. However, the large majority of the Aviariáth resembles more a densly overgrown lanscape than an actual forest. Some hills and smaller mountains found there are actually quite high and provide a magnificent view on the complete Thaelon. Ashwude, birch and baych are the most common trees found here, along with a plethora of fruit bearing trees and berry bushes that make a journey through this pure and intense nature a real treat. The Aviariáth, right after the Ó'phyría, is also the second best place in Santharia where plants that lean towards magical properties can be harvested best, like for example the zifel, wizardweed or even the fascinating canthalman - not that this is advised to a great degree, mind you, as the forest wardens are prone to ban one from their holy sites if one enters their territory with purely selfish intentions.
The Már'cál'ethrón ("Swamp Extension")
The Már'cál'ethrón (Styrásh for "Swamp Extension [of the Thaelon]") is the westernmost part of the giantic Thaelon forest, consisting mainly of marshland between the arms of the river Vandrina. It occupies a large portion of land that reaches until the Darksea and the Peninsula of Paragonj, bordering Voldar in the north and Cemphiria in the south. All in all Már'cál'ethrón stretches approximately 125 strals from north to south and 390 strals from east to west, which alone is still much larger than most other major forests in Santharia.
While still a forest, the dense vegetation of the easternmost parts of the Thaelon slowly dissipates here in the west, where the land more and more succumbs to the waters of the Vandrina, which spreads between the river's arms to the north and south. With the decreasing vegetation also the hilly landscape prevalent in the Aviariáth flattens out, and the scenery becomes gloomier and more obscure and melancholic, but as well more dangerous for the occasional traveller who seeks passage from Voldar to Cemphiria or the other way round. Especially the central part of the Már'cál'ethrón is hazardous territory and should be avoided at rainy days or when fog roams the lands. There are a few secured roads crossing Már'cál'ethrón, which are used by couriers and traders, but when it can be avoided detours should be preferred.
Some passages still represent whole forest patches that are pretty intact, at other sections large ponds have developed, where rotting trees are slowly drowning, stretching their branches out of the murky waters which appear like skeletal arms of giants having suffered their demise there. Getting lost at night in the Már'cál'ethrón at one such section can send shivers down one's spine... Especially the ominous wisps, perhaps as straying remnants of the Ó'phyría wisps, can be found in these swamps as well and have been made responsible for many a disappearance that happened in the region. Others link such incidents to eerie and evil to the core moor creatures like the ugly swamphags, in whom the inhabitants of Voldar have a very strong belief. While their existence is disputed among scholars of renown, many a Voldarian will urge you to move on immediately once you hear a somewhat trusted melody in the Thaelon swamps, which one might mistake for the soughing of the wind. Because the story goes that once you contemplate already seriously on whether its the wind playing tricks on you or someone's really singing out there, it's already too late...
Several tragic deaths have also led some people to assume that the swamps are cursed and that therefore ghosts still linger in these waters for the one or the other reason - human superstition claims that if the good souls end up as spirits in the eastern parts of the Thaelon (as the twsited human interpretation of elven lore goes), then the western half must be reserved for those that failed their ultimate test once their life has ended.
Location. The Thaelon is
situated in one of the northernmost Santharian
provinces, Vardýnn. The forest surrounds nearly the
whole town of the province's capital, Voldar,
stretching up more than 1000 strals
from west to east at parts and an estimated 300
strals from north to south.
While the density of the forest varies considerably and there are larger spaces
between some sections of the forest, the Thaelon is still a whole gigantic
entity and fascinating magical atmosphere can
be felt in any part of it. It is said however that the time needed to pass
through the forest is relative, especially if one tries to go another route than
the regular path. Couriers have gotten lost for fortnights in the Thaelon,
others ended up at the outskirts on the other side of the forest within a day
lacking any reasonable explanation how they got there.
The borders of the gigantic Thaelon Forest constitute the Silvermarshes and the town of Weyring to the north. To the south the forest reaches until the river Vandrina stretching until Cemphiria, occupying the majority of land between the upper and the lower parts of the river leading into the Dark Sea. In the extreme east of the forest lies the town of Holm, and at the very west the Thaelon spreads in his spurs until the Peninsula of Paragonj and its southernmost settlement, Accam.
Image description. The light elf Treanais, a figure from elven myth, curious about the way of the mortal men, and thus finally losing her spiritual form. Picture by Eratin.
People. Though all - at least Southern Sarvonian - elves call the Thaelon their "home to which they will return some day" few actually live there. The native people of the Thaelon, or more precisely of the Ó'phyría ("Everlasting Woods"), are thought to be the fabled Astyrhim, or light elves, who are said to exist mainly in their spiritual forms, yet they retain the ability to manifest into a corporeal shape if needed. They are said to be the fairest of all elven tribes, but their existence and purpose is hardly understood and what is known about them stems from vague sources, of tales and legends. Some even doubt that they actually walk these woods, but are unreal and mere thoughts and dreams. At any rate they don't seem to interfere directly in Caelerethian history, and the few times the Thaelon became part of conflicts of historical proportions, the light elves never showed up, yet the otherwordly sanctuary miraculously was kept clean of enemies. As a consequence of non-existing confirmed sightings of these people they are assumed myth to all but the elves, but have a solid place in all kinds of lore surrounding these woods. Even if only half of what is told about them has a grain of truth, the Astyrhim are the most remarkable tribe on the Sarvonian continent, if not the entire world.
There are also Aellenrhim
inhabiting the Thaelon, but their numbers are few. The tribe has always had a
presence in the Aellen'lón part of the gigantic forest to the northwest.
The Bolder’s proximity to the Thaelon and their
relation to Daltelár, one of the Four (the
elder elves, sent by
the High Avá'ránn to take knowledge to
the races), means
they have a deep respect and feeling of responsibility towards this place. They
protect it and care for the sacred woods.
In general the
Aellenrhim have to be seen as a
quite withdrawn tribe, as their interests lie mainly in preserving the
knowledge of their ancestors, in documenting current events and reinterpreting
history - their exceptionally long life span helps them to maintain an unbiased
perspective. History and belief are closely connected in the eyes of these elves,
and thus it makes sense for them to be chosen as the watchers over the most
sacred place the elves know, the Thaelon,
and particularly the Ó'phyría, sanctuary of Avá.
Humans speculate whether there is much more to that relationship between the
Aellenrhim and the forest than
meets the eye. What is fact is that various groups of
elves enter the sacred Ó'phyría every few
months or so, staying on their own in the forest until their replacements arrive. It is
believed that aside from protecting the forest, planting seeds after disasters and such, they
also decipher the meanings of the standing stones found therein, draw charts
that make the forest's magic predictable and
let them pass certain gateways or
even have means to communicate - directly or indirectly - with the
at certain times of the year.
A third group of people that call the Thaelon, or at least the part called the "Aviariáth", their home, are the druids. They are in good terms with the wardens of the woods, the Aellenrhim, and are allowed to have bases - some temporary, some permanent - in the groves found in the southern part. Similar to the elves the druids aren't looking for company, but stay to themselves. Yet how much there is communication and mutual assistance in their duties between the Aellenrhim and the druids, is unclear. That there is some can hardly be denied, though, as there are reports from independent sources that druids are actually admitted from time to time into the Sálen'seiá, the holiest part of the forest.
Every other tribe or race that once sought refuge in the confines of these woods, has left again after a short while - it seems that the forest is very selective on the matter whom it allows to stay and whom not: As we know from ancient sources even Tiraelhon (Sand Elves), explorers from the southern continent of Aeruillin, were once reported to have dwelt in the Thaelon for a while, but this did not last long. A band of Brownies, the westerward sent division of the Brownie hero Keekoo the Deliverer, once lived in the forest during the fourth millenium b.S., but like many others they soon moved on. They reached the Thaelon thinking it a wonderful place and settled there. Yet they were never able to shake the feeling of uneasiness that they had while they were living there, however, and eventually they continued their journey wandering further north.
Climate. Speaking about the climate of the Thaelon is tricky, as one cannot easily summarize a forest of that size, and one that has its unpredicatable caprices regarding the weather. In general one could say that the forest atmosphere tends towards cool in summer in most parts of the forest where there is a lot of vegetation, as is common in the woods of central and northern Santharia. The swamps in the very west are often muggy and sometimes hot though, while the weather is even cooler in the Ó'phyría, the hotter it is elsewhere. What is for sure is that much rain falls upon this grand forest, necessary to feed the immense amount of vegetation, the flora is also fed by the river Vandrina and its many off-shoots. On the edge of the forest the trees offer little protection from the westward blowing winds, on their way to Milkengrad, or the cold, harsh winds coming from Northern Sarvonia. As one journeys further into the forest the higher concentration of various vegetation adds protection, but there are other perils located there.
The Ó'phyría however, the magical and mysterious northwestern part of the Thaelon, doesn't seem to follow regular schemes. The euwen trees that obscure the sky there and thus are responsible for the name "covering woods" (Styrásh "thae'lón"), make sure that the strong Injèrá doesn't penetrate to the forest floor, which keeps the Ó'phyría cool and fresh most of the time. In winter it isn't uncommon to see mahood euwen all covered with a thick layer of ice. An observed, enchanted by the fascinating magic of such a miraculous sight tells us: "It may be well several nailsbredth thick, coating every branch, every sprig, every pine-needle. Sometimes the wind has blown at a certain direction, then the ice has strange, crystal-like forms, often a fore long. And all is glinting and sparkling like a forest of jewels." (Talia Sturmwind) The euwen however are not the only natural phenomenon that make the Ó'phyría somewhat different compared to the rest of the forest: Strong gusts of winds with no apparent source roam the northeastern Thaelon, chilly coldness might be experienced in the hottest summer along with unexplainable visions, sounds or memories. Tales tell of even extremely fierce storms that took off all of a sudden, seemingly having their source solely inside the forest itself. Such storms can last blinks, minutes or hours and turn the usual calmness of the Ó'phyría into a shocking experience for someone who got lost in it. As with so many things regarding this part of the forest, the causes are uncertain.
Bushes and plants might grow and blossom in winter as if it were during the year, but one cannot make a rule out of it. It is impossible to predict how Ó'phyrían vegetation behaves and why. In general the Ó'phyría doesn't seem to be as affected by the seasons as the rest of the forest, and always manages to surprise with conditions one wouldn't expect to be possible at certain times of years.
Flora. Within the Thaelon you will find many different kinds of vegetation. The majority of trees are deciduous, with a modicum of evergreens throughout. The wood is a true omnium gatherum of trees and herbs of various kinds and is an extraordinary example of healthy nature. Yes, some even claim that the forest purifies the soul and that it can make physical wounds heal faster. This might have magical reasons as prominent Ximaxian mages suggest, but some herbwomen claim that the scent of the plants and the atmosphere created thereof are mainly responsible why body and mind react so strongly to healing efforts.
The most famous trees you will find at the Thaelon are the mahood-euwen which grows only deep inside the Ó'phyría. From the appearance of these trees also the name of the forest derives: "Táe'lón" (lit. "tae lón") is Styrásh for "Covered Wood". While the stems of the trees are completely even and smooth, the branches of the mahood-euwen cover the complete sky and they lock with the branches of other trees nearby. Therefore the forest also is called the famous "cloud-soft darkwood" as the poet Meowin puts it, or not so poetically said: Often one can get the impression to wander through an enormous natural hall, laid out with hundreds of peds of carpet. This has its reasons in the fact that the forest allows only very few sunlight to penetrate to the ground, so that the ground is nearly completely covered with mosses. The few rays of light shining on the mosses add a fantastic, indescribable atmosphere to the scene one will not so easily forget, because it fills heart and soul with a feeling of well-balance and contentment.
Silkel trees are another kind of tree that grow in abundance throughout the Ó'phyría. They are commonly associated with Thaelon's fabled inhabitants, the light elves. The little light that manages to penetrate the covering canopy of the mahood-euwen seems to be drawn to these trees. In such and dark and mysterious place they shine with a silver light, a representation of the Astyrhim. The Astyrhim are thought to be the reason that these trees grow here, as their ethereality and obscure magic are thought to be the means of the creation of this tree, some say that they changed unicorns into these trees.
One of the most unusual plants to dwell within Ó'phyría is of course the pendrowe. Pendrowe are supposed to serve as a guardian of the inner core of the forest, protecting its plant and animal life. It is them that keep the forest so untouched. If one were to look at Thaelon very closely they may notice that though it looks natural and unchanged, it actually isn't. The pendrowe are constantly influencing the forest ever so slightly to grow how they want it. Amazingly they all seem to agree on how the forest should look and work harmoniously. Pendrowe are also known to grow in combination with ounashria vines, that hang like decoration from the tree, which furthermore invite spiders to weave their silk, often resulting in a rather eerie sight to behold.
Various sources confirm the existence of drasil ("history trees") as well in the Sálen'seiá, the heart of the Ó'phyría. Possibly arranged in a ring, mingled with pendrowe they act as guardians to everything inside the innermost sanctuary. However, this is mere speculation. It is said that whereas the pendrowe simply steer intruders away the drasil are much harsher. Some tales say that all who try a pass them are never seen again, and their fate in unknown. The drasil living there are said to be some of the most ancient ones, and their fruit is of a yellow/golden shine instead of green, which is just another mystery of Thaelon. Few touch their bark, and receive visions of their memories. Some elves, and the occasional Brownie, have claimed to have seen these visions, and speak of the wonders that they held.
The Ó'phyría also features magical plants like wizardleaf, zifel or the rare but wonderfully flowering macadan bush along with sawleaf shrubs and the bright Quimron's daggers. Especially wizardleaf is known to grow in many elven forests, but most notably of them is the Thaelon. The ground of great parts of the forest is covered with a carpet of this most intriguing plant. These areas are thought to be where the magical aura that surrounds Thaelon is most concentrated. It has been rumoured that the leaves of some wizardleaves change colour depending on surrounding elements without magical manipulation. This plant is but another sign of the deep, underlying magic in and around Thaelon.
Outside of the Ó'phyría more common plants can be found like the ashwude, various kinds of birch and the baych tree grow for example primarily in the Aviariáth. The Thaelon also holds less unusual trees in the western parts, such as the yellow birch, the Arvins cedar, the ashwude and the fragrans. Along the edge of Thaelon grow the infamous deadly nightshade as well as the poisonous allia, but these plants do not actually grow in the forest.
The doch nut is a plant however that thrives everywhere in the area. This tasty little treat is favoured by both elves and animals, as are many other bushes that grow berries. Such bushes, along with goldenbells and the rosemints are spread throughout the Thaelon, feeding deer and rodent alike. The Aelle'lón is furthermore beset with shade grass, or "woodsweed", as it is sometimes called. Preferring little or no sunlight it grows in the deeper parts of the Aelle'lón, and as well in the Ó'phyría as mahood-euwen provide perfect conditions for this grass. Shade grass provides nourishment for most of the forests herbivores. In the Aviariáth and the southern rim of the Thaelon grows a plant hated by gardeners, the tareptail weed. It prospers in the south, but not a single tareptail has been seen in the northern or the eastern section, because of their loath of cold.
Fauna. In terms of creatures inhabiting the forest the Thaelon of course is better known for its good share of featuring phantasm phenomenons and apparitions than wildlife, as the latter can be found in similar form at nearby woods. This especially applies for the Ó'phyría, the most mythical section of the forest. Phantasms that are said to exist in the Thaelon include watchers, wisps, injuchanía, which are odd sunbeams that seem to get a life of their own when observed for several minutes, quáraváshín ("time winds"), representing powerful gusts spiraling through the canopy that evoke distant memories - to name just a few such phenomenons. No phantasms, but beings of major mythical relevance are the drasil ("history trees") and pendrowe that are said to inhabit the Sálen'seiá, the very heart of the Thaelon (read more on those creatures under Flora), or the swamphags that are supposed to live in the Már'cál'ethrón. It is even rumoured - if one would like to believe the more fantastical stories - that unicorns still roam through this forest, though they are seen as rarely as light elves to the eye of the common mortal, which is practically never. Legend has it anyway that these unicorns are still watching over those of their brethren who were turned into the magnificent silkel trees by the elves in order to prevent humans with their beauty from cutting down the forest.
Aside from these creatures and phenomenons the Thaelon Forest holds a variety of animals common in Southern Sarvonia, mainly in the Aelle'lón section, among them deer, rabbits, kuatu, arshir and raoshir, and birds such as the cuuloo, aelirel, coa-coa and haloen. Also the majestic death dance butterflies live strictly within the limits of the Thaelon, and then mostly in the shady parts of the Ó'phyría or the Aviariáth. The aggressive flunki rodents are very common in the northern part of the wood and the surrounding area. Another quilled animal that dwells in Thaelon is the riccio, though in comparison they are a much gentler creature. Apart from these are much more rare, and often beautiful, creatures. The majestic taedrius bird, cousin of the caladrius, are only found in this forest. The whistling beetle is a major food supply for the taedrius, and also dwell deep within the forest. The main predator of the prior animals and a main hunting interest of the Aellenrhim guardians is the horned wolf, another creature that has only one mate. They spend much of their time in the deeper, denser centre of the forest, and so are often unseen, yet at Sundrown their songs can be heard.
For further details on the Thaelon's fauna, please refer to the Description section, details on phantasms and the like can be found especially in the paragraphs dealing with the Ó'phyría.
Resources. The Thaelon, as a place of sanctuary for the elves, is hardly a territory to look extensively for minerals, to collect wood on a grand scale or to hunt for game in order to make a fortune with selling some pelts. The Thaelon is protected and restricted for travellers in some parts, and the few resources that are available especially in the northwestern section, at the Aelle'lón, are used by the Aellenrhim guardians to ensure their own living. Everything the forest - or more precisely the Aelle'lón - cannot provide, the Aellenrhim get from their sisters and brothers in the Bolder further north, who do regular business with other races, unlike the Aelle'lón inhabitants, who prefer to keep to themselves. One of the few exceptions however where people are allowed to gather resources is during the silkel harvest in the offshots of the eastern Ó'phyría. This event takes place once a year and is done mostly by Caltharians under supervision of the forest guardians, in exchange for other goods the Aellenrhim need.
The Aelle'lón obviously harbours wood, from the fire-resistant and fresh-scented yellow birch, to the soft and rot-resistant deer tree, to the hard ashwude. The ranging variety of timber available in this forest thus is its prime resource, and there is enough supply of supple woods suitable for making bows and such like, which the elves use to hunt. Minerals or gems are practically non-existent in the whole region the Thaelon covers, at least not in the parts that are accessible to most people.
Image description. An elven circle of standing stones, probably erected by elves thousands of years ago. Picture drawn by Arbaon.
The Thaelon has however a certain reputation for harbouring various powerful
magical reagents, which one isn't likely to
find elsewhere. Among these are plants like the
zifel (also known as
"wizard weed"), the
faur'querín ("seven leaf") or the much rarer, but
extremely potent Xeuá reagent macadan. Fungi
like the oumatron or the thán'ac'hár also have to be mentioned in this regard.
All of these plants are said to exist in the Thaelon due to the prevalence of
magical sources in the forest, be it explicit
(near standing stones, graves of mages etc.) or hidden. Gathering said reagents however is frowned upon
by the Aellenrhim protectors of the
forest and might result in a life-long ban from the area.
Myth/Lore. The Thaelon is an ancient forest primarily full with elven lore, which dates back to the time when the world of Caelereth came into being. Many of these ancient myths are guarded mostly by the Aellenrhim protectors of the wood, but several mythical stories supposedly related to the Thaelon can be found in the most important religious tome of the elves, the "Cárpa'dosía", the "Book of the Beginnings". There the creation of the Tree of Life out of the Thought of the High Goddess Avá is the central theme, and the elves are convinced that said Tree of Life once grew in the Thaelon. They also believe that the now burning Tree of Life (after it was inflammed by Coór the Dark One) still stands in midst of this magnificent wood, yet only a few selected ones might actually see it, as it is probably hidden to the eyes of the mortals in time or space and can only be accessed through a secret portal or a spiritual voyage. It should be noted here that many Sarvonian Brownies also share the belief that they sprang from the Tree of Life and thus the Thaelon has a special significance for them. Sarvonian humans have their own creation myth, however they accept the elven insistanee on the Thaelon's importance and arrange themselves with the Aellenrhim guardians.
Throughout history there have also been various other miraculous occurrences to humans reported in the Thaelon or its direct vicinity, some of them of major significance for tribes and kingdoms. Other mysterious incidents are of seemingly minor importance, or at least it isn't entirely clear if the influence of the forest, be it its inhabitants or native phenomenons, was intentional or just accidental.
Among the most famous stories related to the Thaelon is the one about the young Katya Ileri, a young girl from Yarrow, who stumbled into the forest after her home and family had been destroyed in the Dragonstorm of 1648 b.S. Legend has it that she was healed in the forest by the light elves and that she was guided via this fabulous encounter to her eventual destiny of becoming Queen of Erpheronia, the unforgotten "Beggar Queen", Katya the Just. As such she confronted the adamant dragon Ol'dem'brey and become highly respected among her tribe and Southern Sarvonia in general. What became of her after the death of her consort is shrouded in mystery, as it is said that she left Voldar after her abdication and returned to the Thaelon, and since then she has never been seen again. - Whether this story is true or just something the people of Erpheronia put together to comfort themselves after her unexplainable disappearance, remains unclear however.
Other tales include couriers, who had to deliver important messages, and seemed to have skipped several hundred strals within instants, perhaps due to assistance from forces within the forest. Yet other messengers got lost when seeking a shortcut, so maybe the same forces worked against them or they just didn't know the mazelike ways of the Thaelon enough to be able to escape from it again. In the early 16th century a.S. it also appears that the Thaelon prevented goblins actively from passing through the forest and rejoining with other darkfriends who had made their way to the south from another side. Similar things are supposed to have happened on several other occasions. Also certain individuals, especially people inclined to magic (e.g. macanti, who claim to be "Gifted" ones), tell of xperiences of clairvoyancy in the confines of the Thaelon - having seen answers to past events for example to clarify the death of a loved one or to have seen things which were still to happen. Priestesses of Seyella and Baveras Aids therefore also visit the shrines in the Aviariáth from time to time, for one hoping to strengthen their belief by being at such a sacred placed, but also sometimes praying for signs and visions received through a devine encounter, as so many others claim to have made. Furthermore some speak of dreams and visions of events that took place at the same time as they were in the Thaelon, of which they could not have known at that time. Even tales of resurrection of humble beggars and famous human captains alike who defended the forest with their lives are not uncommon - the Aellenrhim guardians would say that one better believes in these accounts.
The Thaelon has also been the center point of many invented stories, lore based on loose facts and poems. Humans have always been intrigued with the unknown and are fascinated by the various phenomenons prevalent in this large wood, especially as the elves seem interested not to share these secrets with other races. Since only the elves probably understand the Thaelon (to which degree remains to be debated nevertheless), humans cannot help but wonder about its mysteries and use this backdrop for original storytelling or to express strong sentiments like hope, longing and the wish for eternal life in literature related to the Thaelon. One example of this is the poem by the famous poet Meowin from his "Voyage to the Clouds":