Semberholme (Part 2)
Legend and Mystery
By Ed Greenwood
"Could we amend that to 'awed and privileged and elsewhere', perhaps," the Dragon Queen suggested.
"My queen," the King of Cormyr replied, putting an arm around her, "your wisdom, as ever, rules me."
"Well, now," Filfaeril observed, as Vangerdahast's ring flared into life, "that's a revelation."
By the time Cormanthyr rose to its height, Semberholme had largely been left to insane or sick elves. The birthing and child-rearing cradle of the realm (where elf children could be born amid green growing things and learn the ways of the forests rather than the clash and bustle of Myth Drannor or the lassitude and depression of ill and exhausted Tel-quessir) had moved to the Tangletrees, a bustling community inside its vast barrier maze of living trees. Most elves dwelling between the Thunder Peaks, Moonsea, Dragonreach, and the Dragonmere brought their children there to dwell in relative safety from foes. Very frail elder elves and sick elves were taken to the remote tranquility of Semberholme.
After the fall of Myth Drannor (and the attacks on the Tangletrees that left it largely ruined and abandoned), the newly mist-protected Semberholme area once again became both sorts of refuge, with the aid of some powerful human and half-elf druids working along its borders. One such was Aubaerus the Ravenmaster, to whom Silvanus granted very long life in return for dedication to this task. Aubaerus is still alive and hale today, some six and a half centuries after first aiding in the "Shunning of Semberholme."
The elves took a lesson from the strife in which Cormanthyr was shattered -- no matter how impressive and fortress-like a settlement may be, it is a fixed-location target that foes can ultimately overwhelm with repeated attack.
At the end of the Year of Doom (714 DR), the most powerful and influential surviving elves of Cormanthyr made the decision to found no new settlements in Semberholme. Instead, they adopted a nomadic lifestyle. Thousands of tree homes and cache caves were constructed all over the area, aided by the traditional elven 'gardening' of the woods to foster tree and shrub growth in particular spots and the shaping of trees to desired configurations. In this way, the elves created natural walls and tangles that, in combination with the rise and fall of the land, steer intruders along certain routes by making movement in other directions nigh impossible. Elf families "in the Sember" moved about constantly, never gathering in large numbers anywhere except in response to intruders.
Existing settlements such as Aluiantl, Llanthorn, and Muirllar were abandoned. Aluiantl, which was known to be known to foes of Cormanthyr, was even fitted with traps to greet intruders, from dells planted with carnivorous forest life to spike-pits (wherein the spikes were magically-altered living needletrunk trees) to gigantic deadfalls of immense, delicately-balanced -- and still-growing! -- trees.
Aside from roving warrior bands such as the one led by Alok Silverspear, elves disappeared from human contact, and word was spread that they'd all died or been driven out by great lurking evils of fell undeath magic, disease, and prowling demons and devils that were still present in the area. Luvon Greencloak, the sole, visible elf envoy, 'confirmed' these menaces and the retreat of all but a handful of terrified or insane Tel-quessir (repeatedly -- and of course falsely -- informing all who asked that the elves were gone from the lands east of the Thunder Peaks, a deceit Elminster and other allies of the elves willingly abetted). Rumors were even planted that the crawling undead magics fed on and consumed elven magic items and that monsters roamed the wilderlands consuming coins or gems, so as to discourage the inevitable treasure-hunters.
To this day, there are no permanent settlements (at least, as humans understand the term) in Semberholme. An unobservant traveler blundering through the region might even think it untouched wilderness -- even as they trudged right past many of the literally thousands of trazaethe overhead.
(Trazaethe, a word sometimes rendered trazaith, means 'living tree homes'. It refers to family-sized dwellings that consist of linked chambers formed by the cradling, living upper boughs of large trees.)
A cluster of elf dwellings (often linked by rope-bridges, lines, or ladders) equal in size to a thorp or small hamlet is known as a miior (shared flower). Semberholme contains hundreds of miior. Unlike ground settlements, however, these are occupied only from time to time.
As a result of their lifestyles, Sember elves know intimately the precise locations of not merely landmarks and trails, but dwellings, traps, and thousands of hidden caches (mainly in trees, but also crevices, forest caverns, and even the overgrown cellars of now-vanished ancient buildings). Sember elves have very few possessions. Their adornments usually double as useful everyday items and treble as magic items. For example, a gem-adorned pendant may function as a magnifying lens, have a hidden carry-cavity for medicinal or magical powder, and have the powers of a lantern of revealing, a periapt of proof against poison, a pearl of power, or a medallion of thoughts. Sember elves always know where weapons, magic, food, and other supplies (bandages, clean water, splints, cloaks, blankets, and cots) are cached nearby.
In our next column, we'll discover where the King and Queen of Cormyr have ended up and explore another facet of Realmslore with them.
© 2004 Wizards of the Coast, Inc. All rights reserved.