The Kingdom of Velsephay
Religions: Pentatric Worship, most often in the form of the Three Sisters (Ilifinsata, Avasha, and Gulmé), Ôemag
Imports: metal, water, wool, beef, fish, leather
Exports: crafted wooden goods, bows, medicinal herbs, spices, vegetables, red wine, mushrooms, giant animals, silk and other fabrics, musical instruments, everleaf wood
Alignment: NG, N, CG
Straddling the great rift between the Upper Shards and the Shoal Kingdoms lies Velsephay, a kingdom set among the boughs of gigantic divine trees. At first a wild place, home only to a loose smattering of disenfranchised humans, furtive druids, and wandering manx tribes, this all changed when the Ælven Civil War ended. The race as a whole was shaken and accursed, and the losers of this struggle found themselves stripped of their magical birthright both physically and metaphysically. Cast out without the riches of their Imperial brethren, spellbooks burned, and magical artifacts seized by the Emperor, the exiles wandered, led by Avrillandria-Vasrithaella, the Never Queen. Her bid for the Empire over, and her people broken and heartsick, she came at last with her ailing fleet of damaged ships to a sprawling collection of shards that spiraled from the bottom of the Upper Shards, down to the Shoal Kingdoms of the middle strata.
These shards were home to great golden trees, said to be of divine creation. Vast boughs and gigantic leaves stirred as the skyships passed, and here they chose to set down, rather than risk tumbling into the Beneath as their skyships failed them.
Yet it was meant to be, for the exiled ælven found in these strange and holy trees a form of beauty that eased some measure of their broken hearts. Forbidden to them was the Empire and its ancient glory. The ivory walled cities, the fountains of light, the Ancestral Spirits of their Houses – never would they see these things again. But among the golden boughs they found allies, and later friends. Druids, the Pentatra, human settlers, merren wanderers – all of these diverse people encountered the exiled ælven . Their desperate plight did not allow for the ælven arrogance and aloofness of the Empire, and so new friendships and alliances were forced, and tolerance began to find a place in the ælven heart. Stripped of their magic, they were helpless, but amidst the branches of the mighty everleaf trees, the ælven found a new way. Gone were their Ancestral Spirits, dispersed by their enemies. Instead they turned to wind, rain, and tree. They learned the secret ways of the airy bowers, and began to revere nature as they once revered their own magical nature. As new generations of ælven were born, they grew to love their home, and understand it more than their forefathers. Though the eldest amongst them found it hard to turn their back on a lifetime of wizardry, the younger never knew it, and so grew to embrace the druid’s path of balance and nature. Though some of the older ælven grew bitter and resentful of their treetop kingdom, the young ælven were free to try and move beyond the past. The Never Queen’s kingdom was a new adventure for this branch of the ælven race, and what an adventure it was.
The everleaf grows to tremendous size, and its curious trunk forms flattened areas at those places it branches off. Plazas fill these spaces, and the wide tree limbs are so huge that winding streets are placed there. Though the tree-top cities of Velsephay are spread out and plazas look down upon each other in layer upon layer, the ælven seem to have grown to love their new home. The everleaf trees are formed through druidic magic, in many cases, to allow for more complicated structures such as stairs, tunnels, and; when druidic magic is not available, careful botanical supervision can be employed to create similar desired results. Though humans find a more mundane approach to ‘training’ the everleaf frustrating, ælven have the patience to see such a project through. The everleaf’s size is such that entire ecologies can exist upon it. Rainwater streams can be found coursing down the everleaf’s bark, and all manner of insects, birds, mammals, and reptiles can be found filling niches on the everleaf. So vast is the everleaf that other plants can find root on its bark, and the ælven have encouraged this so that now flowers of all sorts festoon the limbs of the everleaf, planted in wood-formed planters with imported soil. Various wild berries, vegetables, and edible fungi can be found occurring naturally in this arboreal world.
Though the realm of Velsephay is one of golden-green leaves and beautiful vistas, danger lurks amongst in the shadows of the forest canopy. The trees are said to be either a potent concentration of Ōemag’s essense, or a gift from Avasha. Regardless, clerics who have come to Velsephay agree that the trees are holy. This divine power courses through the mighty trees, and those animals who sup upon it or the fruit of the tree have grown huge. Many giant insects and spiders inhabit the everleaf, and these are the most commonly available aerial mounts for the Velsephayans. This gigantism extends to those who creatures who feed upon these immense insects, and it has perhaps become a natural occurrence after so long. These giant beasts are a danger to travelers on the remote, wild limbs of the everleaf; most deadly are the gigantic mammals, such as the treebear and the lavenders – immense green tigers who prey upon anything they can find. A wide variety of animals or every sort have adapted to life in Velsephay’s arboreal reaches. To defend against these vicious treetop predators, many ælven train in the ways of the wood and the fighting of such beasts. The path of the ranger is a common one amongst the younger ælven .
There, amongst the golden-green leaves and the deep bark, ælven and human work together with merren and manx to form a strange new kingdom. Though poor in many ways, the spirit of this union is as stalwart as the heart of any Fioran warrior.
Life and Society
Due to the long lives of the ælven, Velsephay has not forgotten the civil war that turned brother against brother and led to the Kinstrifing. The oldest amongst the ælven citizens remember their Imperial days, and the glories of Xauphinelle; they have gathered new spellbooks and rekindled their magical might behind closed doors, perhaps dreaming of striking back some day. Some among them plot to regain past glories, but the young are for the most part not so hindered.
Velsephay is one of the most racially tolerant nations in all the shards. To survive in a place without metal, abundant livestock, or stable agriculture, the various races have had to band together. For all its wealth of tolerance, Velsephay is a poor kingdom. Though able to provide for its citizens, Velsephay’s armed forces barely exist, and rangers and militia make up the bulk of their troops. The glory of the Cloud Lords is not to be found in Velsephay.
The shards that the everleaf grow out of are small in comparison to the overall surface area of the gigantic trees. The higher in the branches one lives, the greater ones station in life. The poorest live amongst the roots of the everleaf, seeking out survival without the shelter of the leaves and branches. Strange creatures are rumored to live amongst the roots of the everleaf, and so the lives of the poor in their root-towns are more dangerous than those of their brethren.
Pentatric worship exists in Velsephay, brought from the higher shards by human settlers after the last Rising. Though, to some, arcane magic is a bitter reminder of the Empire, most Velsephayan ælven accept the Pentatra’s wizards and clerics. Worship of the Pentatric gods centers around Gulmé, Ilifinsata, and Avasha, the Three Sisters who gave the divine everleaf life. Many Velsephayans, of all races, are devout followers of the Three Sisters, though they make offerings to the other gods if the situation warrants. Worship of Chaltis is less common than in other areas, for both practical reasons and the relations of fierce Chaltis with her more temperate sisters. In general, Velsephayan ælven do not take up the path of wizardry. In part this is because magic no longer comes easily to the Velsephayan ælven, but it also has roots in unspoken societal pressure to avoid the "Xauphinellan art".
The most prestigious families in Velsephay are ælven to some degree, many of them claiming direct blood-relation to the queen. In Velsephay, the Imperial disdain for half-ælven children has been gradually eroded, and now half-ælven children are regarded as a sign of Velsephay’s strength, connecting the strength and adaptability of the human race with the fey wisdom of the ageless ælven. Half-ælven children are recognized as heirs and true blood-descendants in Velsephay, a sharp contrast from the state of affairs for half-ælven in Xauphinelle.
Court acceptance of non-ælven races has been slow. The humans and merren have managed to make their way to acceptance through diligent service to the crown, and the ælven nobility have gradually opened their arms, if not their hearts, to their fellow races. Still, the non-ælven nobles must deal with a tenuous place in a court that is still focused on the defeats of long ago. Humans and merren have found their way the easiest into Velsephayen high society, but there are both a manx count and a dwarven earl who hold newly settled lands in the name of the beloved Queen.
Major Geographical Features
The Tree-Heart Rift: One of the major trees that make up the tree-ring of Isindae is marked by a deep funnel-shaped bowel in the top of its trunk. Nearly a half-mile in diameter, the Tree-Heart Rift is a sacred place to the druids of Velsephay, who say the pulse of the trees can be heard there. It is said that those who descend to the bottom of the bark-lined 'canyon' are sometimes granted visions of the future, though such a gift is not without danger; the Tree-Heart Rift seems to breed creatures of great size, even for Velsephay.
Mafael and Hushwarna, the Lovers: Closer to the Upper Shards than all other everleaf cities, these twin trees lean close together, and their branches intertwined. Some believe the Lovers are tree-kageshin of Avasha and another god, forced to celebrate their divine passions through the divine trees. The identity of the other god is heavily debated; some claim it to be Eimag Solær, for the Lovers are a place of gaiety and unusual happiness for even Velsephay. The Queen keeps her Bright-Season palace here, amidst the bustle of one of Velsephay's busiest ports.
The Shoalward Spiral: This series of stepping-stone shards bridge the distance from Velsephay to the Shoal Kingdoms. Without them, convenient travel from the Shoals to the Upper Shards would be impossible. With them, a small skyship can travel up at a leisurely pace and live off the shards it passes. Many inns compete for such voyagers, each attempting to create a distinctive and exotic image or theme to tempt travelers. Criminal Guilds have recently started harassing innkeeps on the Spiral-Run, while trying to establish their own inns, both for profit and to assist in transporting black-market goods.
Rootside: Variously known as the Deeps, the Dirtside, the Shaded Hollows, and the Mud, Rootside slums can be found at the base of any everleaf. Here descend the desperate and the destitute. If you cannot afford the wood-shaped comforts of the higher branches, the Roots are where you will fall, unless you take one final step and seek the cold embrace of the Beneath. Ever envious of the glory higher up in the boughs of the everleafs, some citizens of Velsephay turn to crime. The pre-eminent guild in Velsephay is the Mud League. While younger thieves enjoy the risk of scaling bark and stealing from the rich above, the Mud-leaguers keep their fingers upon smuggling, blackmail, extortion, and other more lucrative long-term endeavors. The Roots are not necessarily a dangerous place, as the Shards go, but danger can be found if one goes looking for it. Mud-leaguers are usually well-mannered, and resort to lethal violence only as a last resort - a habit stemming from the ælven beliefs that have infiltrated all of Velsephayan society.
Still, despite the vestiges of good-breeding, the thieves of Dirtside are a serious lot, and many are unafraid to dabble in the arcane magic that polite society keeps at arm's length. They are who you go to when you need certain items, need specialized services, or require discretion in some minor bloody work.
In addition to the criminal element, many strange predators make their home amidst the tree's roots. Having monstrous beasts burrow into your Rootside home is one of the more obvious dangers facing those who live among the Shaded Hollows.
The Spider-Run: It is no surprise that the merren, masters of animals all-across the Shards, have managed to tame certain breeds of giant spider that are common to Velsephay's highest limbs. On the everleaf named Maleas, the Spider-Run can be found, noteable by its web-festooned homes. It is somewhat in vogue amongst the young nobles of the Queen's Court to learn how to ride these beasts, and race them amongst the heights of the everleaf. Most popular is the Velvet Leaper, a breed of jumping spider as large as a horse, though the more faster ground speed of the more aggressive Hookjaw appeals to some. The rangers of Velsephay also tend to use spiders for mounts. Besides riding beasts, the merren of the Spider-Run have bred large web-spinning spiders from which they harvest a fine gossamer-silk.
Isindae: The capitol of Velsephay is spread across the branches and bowers of the great tree Isindae and her two 'saplings' that grow on nearby shards: Phælluvana and Green Hope. The three everleaf trees feature magnificent plazas and balconys, and are full of a strange fey beauty that many visitors breathtaking; indeed, many visitors choose to become citizens of Vesephay after visiting the capital. Here the Queen's court generally meets, and the toast of Velsephayan society can be found meeting on out of the way branches with foreign dignitaries and other important people. The greatest concentration of Velsephayan nobility exists here in Isindae.
Plots and Rumors
Secret Societies of Velsephay: Coming Soon...