"Into the LeafWild"
LeafHaven, the Refuge of Leaves
3000 years ago, when King Faeran and his brothers emerged from the Feywild, this world was primal, filled with elemental powers and dominated by dragons. The dark forestlands, once protected and shepherded by a gentle tribe of firbolgs, had come under the thrall of an ancient green dragon called Zan-Moar, with her roving hordes of kobold abominations and dragonborn soldiers. With the aid of the enraged firbolgs (whom the elves honored with the name “Sentinels”), King Faeran and his heroes, including a luminous cleric named Analia, slew the dragon and her hordes. Out of the dragon’s carcasse grew the most magnificent elm trees, rapidly ascending to supernatural heights. The trees seemed to span both the material plane and the Feywild, drawing into their boughs the eternal spring and wild beauty of the Feywild. In the midst of the elm grove, King Faeran founded his wood elf kingdom, and as the canopy of the trees rose off the ground, so did the throne room and palaces of the king and his court.
LeafHaven, “the Refuge of Leaves,” is a large, ancient city in the LeafWild forest, and the seat of the wood elf kingdom, Elaras.
Lord Brann (a wood elf) and his wife, Lady Aereste (a high elf), rule over all of Elaras together in relative peace. Their marriage was a political alliance between the House of Faeran (his family) and the House of Caderas (her family, a still largely high elf noble family with many ties to the Feywild — the Grand Duke Casimir is also of the House of Caderas). But for all of their marriage’s political advantage, the king and queen truly and passionately love each other, so much that their romance has become almost legendary among the elves. They allow the baronies a high level of autonomy, and tend to focus on matters of study, culture, and history. Perhaps that is why the present crisis has been allowed to grow unchecked.
As a city of peace, no weapons of any kind are permitted in the city, unless to titled knights of the barons or to the LeafWardens. The guardposts at the city entrances check all visitors, fill out careful paperwork, and place them in vaults, to be reclaimed upon exiting the city.
There are two ways to enter the city: either from the GreenRoad, via grand stairs up to the Barkway, or by the river, to the docks and ports of the Rootfloor level.
The ancient Rootfloor covers both banks of the Elhuin River, and is home to the lowest classes, the homeless, and the transients and outlanders not quite welcome in Elven society. There are gnomes, a few odd humans, and even the rare dwarf (Durn’s Forge). There are a few seedy taverns (including a house of ill repute, “The Warm Nest”). All the forges are confined to the Rootfloor, both the LeafWardens’ licensed forges and the privately owned businesses. Ostlers, butchers, fishers, brewers, launderers, dyers, millers, and dockworkers also have businesses and homes among the great elm roots.
On the southern banks of the Elhuin, there are quays with storehouses, boatyards, and fisheries: some legitimate, some less so. One stone bridge crosses the Elhuin to the north, where are found the more reputable forges, barracks, stables, and shops. There lies also a secret entrance leading under the massive, interwoven elm trees of old, to a dark shrine to the Emerald Empress, Zan-Moar. Her skull has been set up as an altar in the dank stone cavern… an enchantment hedge is seeking to harness the dragon’s legacy…
The HopeSeed settlers have formed an enclave in the Rootfloor, as refugees. These wood elves settled as recently as 80 years ago on the southern shores of Gel-Aedralon, the lake of the dead. Eager to recoup some sense of trade superiority on the Elhuin after SeaGate (now called Allharbour) gained its independence, certain ambitious elves settled there hastily, eager to make a space for their families away from LeafHaven. The royal family gave them a charter, with their express recommendation to wait until a circle of druids could make the preparations. Of course, they did not. Selling everything, the fifteen families set out and made a promising start of it. But on the morning of this year’s Awakening, when the whole settlement was gathered in the square to celebrate, the forest seemed to suddenly erupt, and three treants destroyed the entire settlement. Everyone managed to escape, but the settlement was devoured by the LeafWild. The magistrate, Malthendir, wanted to create an Elven proto-democracy among the elven men, building a large timber town hall for regular meetings. The experiment was a success, and these elves continue to deliberate even in their makeshift camp in LeafHaven’s Rootfloor…
There are a few cults to lesser known deities (including the one to the deceased Zan-Moar), and even a couple arcane hedges who study and work in secret. Also operating in secret is the black market:
- a run-down taphouse, “The Red Tankard,” holds underground exotic animal fights or even a fight night, and keep books on wagers.
- a gnomish “herbalist” secretly traffics in poisons and drugs, and fronts an assassin’s guild.
- a human “import/export” agent who moonlights as a fence in stolen goods, and fronts a thieves’ guild.
- a pawnshop, “Getting’s Goods," claims to be able to get anything a customer is looking for (they’re a smuggling operation with ties to “the Baker’s Dozen).
- and several other il/legitimate, dis/reputable businesses.
In the LeafWarden complex, below the roots, there is a vast dungeon of cells and storerooms for dangerous artifacts, including magical weapons.
A wide and open causeway network, artfully suspended among trunks of the elm trees, connects the entire city. A main thoroughfare (Faeran’s March) runs the length of LeafHaven, with four secondary avenues intersecting it and crossing the Elhuin. Most of the reputable shops and taverns can be found along Faeroe’s March: jewelers, drapers and tailors, leatherworkers, potters (with kilns below), artists and artisans, architects, furniture makers, bakers, weavers, paperers, etc. Most of the homes are carved into the trees on or above the Barkway, accessed by spiraling stairs. Most homes and businesses here are open to the warm air. There are temples to Ehlonna (big — with clerics, acolytes, and pilgrims seeking favor) and Analia (small — with proving grounds for paladins), and a large library/university (named for an ancient scholar and teacher, Velduinon; students and doctors engage in debate, and scholars [scribes, archivists, and cartographers] conduct research in sunlit alcoves). There are also public plazas at the intersections, from which citizens can descend to the Rootfloor or ascend to LeafHaven proper. Those plazas feature statues of elven heroes, gardens maintained by druids, and large stone braziers for light at night. From these plazas, residents can access the guildhalls for scholars, craftsmen, artists, and healers are found.
There are two schools, one north (for highborns) and one south (for rootfloor and lowborn children). There is also an isolated cloister for druids, who serve as gardeners, trailblazers, and fire brigade.
There are criminal elements here, as well. Organized crime is run from the Barkway, (two competing spies’ guilds keeping each other in check, both dealing in secrets and information). One guild focuses on trade secrets and goings-on within the city, particularly as they relate to their “protection” and “enforcement” operations. The other is run by Sandon, a high elf of noble lineage, who focuses his gaze on wider diplomatic and political matters; they have a more flexible attitude toward the arcane than most elves, considering magic a powerful tool for security and intelligence.
The loftiest part of the city, there are large, circular courts held aloft in the canopy, far taller than the surrounding forest. North and west is the Elm Throne, the arching palace and court of Lord Brann and Lady Aereste. The temple to Ehlonna and the Velduinon Library extend this high, as well as some homes of wealthy or noble families are to be found on this level. The LeafWardens have three watchtowers at the peripheries of the city up in the treetops. Many of the courts are open to the public, with well manicured gardens.
The LeafWarden compound is east of the Elm Throne, with forges and outfitters on the Rootfloor level, with vaults and cellars beneath. The barracks, offices, and briefing rooms for the LeafWardens fill the Barkway level. There are also city watch divisions with precincts here. And the drilling grounds, training gauntlets, and watchtowers extend up to the LeafHaven level.