|Resources||Mushrooms, Moss, Platinum, Opals|
The habitable area of Eyrecradia consists of groups of caverns linked by tunnels, variously naturally occurring or previously mined out for travel and transport. In the days of the Vel'Caelum, the artificial tunnels were precarious and prone to cave-ins and collapses, though under Razdissi rule these have mostly been shored up substantially and travel around the region is now considered reasonably safe and reliable.
There are three main cavern complexes, each of them home to one of the elven tribes:
Nearest the surface is Caelythe, an underground "forest" of stalagmites covered in moss and is home to the Moss Elves. Caelythe's most notable feature is the moss canopy above the stalagmites, above which the Moss Elves live in dwellings suspended from the cavern ceiling. Caelythe and its neighbouring caverns are the primary location for the cultivated mushrooms which make up the bulk of the Eyrecradian diet, and the bioluminescent moss which forms an important element in their culture.
The traditional capital of Eyrecradia is the Ore Elves' home of Sylvania, a city hewn from a spacious cavern. The cavern in which it stands is broadly square, and the wall opposite the entrance has hewn from it a large, ornate temple with shrines to the various gods they worship. This is also the home of the High Cleric, also known as the Pretoria or Praetorius. This area is where the Razdissi administration previously maintained their headquarters, although most diplomatic functions were removed to Linnalla.
The Gem Elves live in Makarieth, a cavern filled with their homes hewn from the rock walls. The city is arranged vertically, with narrow staircases carved into the rock and the people living literally on top of each other. Although few foreigners visit Makarieth, since even its entrance is deeper than Sylvania, it is not uncommon for those who do to be afflicted with acrophobia when looking down its central bore. Most of the elves live away from the main bore face, however, and properties overlooking the main shaft are highly coveted.
The Razdissi also established a settlement called Linnalla, which is smaller than the great residential caverns but is nearer the surface even than Caelythe, and is used as a diplomatic staging-post for dealing with overworlders. As such places are wont to do it has expanded and harbours merchants and ambassadors, mostly from nearby regions but some from further afield. Building here can be ramshackle and is often free-standing rather than carved from the walls as in the deeper caverns. It is not however considered the principal avenue of ingress and egress to the region by the natives, since there are connecting tunnels to Razdis, Elbaraz and Shikurai deeper underground.
Most of the water supply for the elves comes from two underground rivers: the Vulatume in the north, whose course roughly follows the Keldagrim border, and feeds into the Sea of Darkness in Shikurai. It was this river the elves followed to reach and colonise that region. In the south is the Surulama, which is believed eventually to feed into the Nadanada but has not been extensively explored.
PeopleEditThe people of Eyrecradia are a type of fae, commonly called elves. They are clearly closely related to the fae of the Heartwaste and Nyroth, but marked by a number of local idiosyncracies. It is not known when the elves first took to the caverns under the Heartwaste, but they appear to have diverged physically during that period. They retain the pointed ears, slender build and delicate features of their fae cousins, but tend to be slightly shorter. There are three distinct tribes among them, each with their physiological and aesthetic idiosyncrasies.
Helmi, colloquially known as Gem Elves, have skin that ranges from dark grey to obsidian black, with eyes and hair the colour of jewels. Emerald, lapis lazuli, topaz, opal, ruby, and amethyst colours are not unusual. They are regarded as extremely hardy by their fellows. In the years since the decline of the Eyrecradian theocratic edifice, the Helmi have become the most significant of the tribes, headed by the Benxia family.
Maagi, or Ore Elves, have stone-grey skin and metallic hair, the colours of which can include copper, electrum, cobalt, brass, bronze, or iron. They are renowned for their versatility. They were formerly the dominant tribe, but their numbers and influence have fallen into decline since the extinction of the Vel'Caelum and Turath dynasties.
Sambli, or Moss Elves, are perhaps the strangest of the tribes, and have pale grey skin, green eyes, and hair that can range from off-white to green and red, while their blood is bioluminescent. They are known for their exceptional weaving, navigation, and scouting skills and are headed for practical purposes by the Turienth family.
The caverns of Caelythe provide Eyrecradia with a respectable supply of both mushrooms and bioluminescent moss, both of which they offer for trade. From the mines surrounding Sylvania they also have a supply of precious metals, most remarkable among which is platinum, and during the Razdissi period they also began to mine opals.
The most pressing need in the region, as with many underground regions, is for wood, although the elves also enjoy many foods that do not grow conveniently underground, such as meat, fruit and vegetables, and related products such as leather.
The old religion of Eyrecradia is a pagan animism, not dissimilar to the Razdissi animism which applies its principles to inanimate minerals. However the religion was never fully organised due to irreconcileable differences between the various tribal sects. The position of Praetorius, or High Priest, the titular ruler of the region, was little more than a figurehead and compromise to prevent all-out religious schism. Still, religious life in Eyrecradia fell into a sorry state under Weiss's rule and this decline only continued under Razdissi governance. Divided by issues of doctrine and dogma, the priests lost their grip on the key ministries and their influence on the governor. Eventually even the office of Pretorius fell into disarray, a succession of weak individuals who could be easily manipulated pushed into office for political reasons. The elves have largely lost their faith in their traditional clergy.
Eyrecradia has long called itself a theocracy, though it is questionable to what extent this was ever truly the case. Certainly, by the early fourth century the government was essentially monarchic after the death of Arkho'sarra and the succession of Queen Weiss, although their ministries were still dominated by the priesthood.
The collapse of the influential Vel'Caelum and Turath families, culminating with the disappearance of Queen Weiss and the brief rule of her daughter Jaune, led to a power vacuum at the top of Eyrecradian society, with no clear heir, the traditional ruling dynasties unable to produce a suitable candidate, and the clergy divided by issues of dogma, unable to offer leadership. The Mormaer of Razdis, whose people had an ancient connection to Eyrecradia, stepped in to restore order and appointed a governor of his own choosing. Under Razdissi rule, the Benxia family started to assume more prominence, with Melhib Benxia being treated by Mormaer Vali as his own daughter prior to her marriage to Alfmark of Jarrland.
Alfmark sought to build ties with Eyrecradia but Razdis was retreating into isolation once more and paying little attention to the region. When his sons eventually returned from a sojourn there they reported that the governor was dying and no replacement appeared to be forthcoming. With no clear candidate available from within the kingdom and the tribes in danger of fracturing, Alfmark claimed rule himself by right of Melhib, in the hope of ensuring a peaceful and stable transfer of power.