Note: The graphics for this page aren't finished yet. (12/28/2000)
The Isle, seen from above, is an oval shape, with the longer axis running roughly north to south. It has a number of levels, more below the water than above. The details shift from year to year, but the basic layout has been fixed since the addition of the Hall of Remembrance and the Tower, designed and built the first century after the Years of Sorrow.
|The exterior of the tower is a double spiral, pierced with several entrances for watchers, and covered with vines trained by the plant-shapers. It also includes the main intakes and exhausts for the hearth-fires.|
|The base of the Tower encloses the Hall of Remembrance. This Hall is filled with tapestries, rock-shapings and other items which commemorate the history of the Isle and those who have died. Farseeker spends most of his time here during the summers. By tradition, no one speaks aloud here.|
|Interior gardens take up this level, with the exterior walls composed mainly of transparent or translucent stone. Thanks to the gardens, the elves enjoy a certain amount of fresh plant food year round. A certain amount of experimentation with plant changes is usually going on, though the plantshapers have to be careful -- what works well in the ambience of the magic-soaked Isle may not do well in the Valley -- or vice versa. The tradition of experimenting goes back to Diirla. Dawnflower is acknowledged as the ablest and most creative of the living plantshapers.|
|The center of life within the Isle tends to center on the Great Hall. It's the single largest space within the Isle, with several levels, and a balcony running around most of its perimeter which leads to various trysting rooms, the Weaving Hall and the Council Hall, and weapons storage rooms. The lower level includes exits to the outside. The Grand Hall is where the major feasts are held. Eight columns, shaped like trees, support the higher levels. The outside walls of this level are terraced and are covered with plants|
|The Walkway surrounds the Isle at its maximum above-water perimeter, about two human-heights above the lake waters. The northernmost part of the walkway supports the summertime kiln and forge. The southernmost point is used for diving. A raft is usually moored nearby during the summer.|
|Starglow Hall, named for the flecks of clear-crystal embedded in every stone surface, is where most of the non-lifemated elves hang out during the winter. The arrangements within the hall are random and subject to frequent change, consisting of single stools and small tables, multilevel, fur-topped lounges, ledges along the wall, and even seats and tables depending from the ceiling. Games rule in this hall, whether they are table games, or the ever continuing, many ruled (mostly unspoken), and sometimes explosive game known as "Lovemates and Furmates."|
|The hearth halls and bathing pools dominate this level, along with the individual rooms. The bathing rooms, which included heated pools and waterfalls come in various sizes, from just large enough for a family to large enough for all the Starglow Hall habitants. The hearth halls (equivalent to kitchens and dining rooms), also vary in size.|
|Living areas are increasingly interspersed with storage rooms, the deeper down one goes in the Isle. Several large rooms at the very root of the Isle, which lead to the under lake tunnels, are used as practice areas by the warriors during the winter seasons.|
( Variations of phrases are indicated by  around words.)
Furmate(s) - The Isleanders add a third word to 'lovemates' and 'lifemates'. 'Furmates'generally refers to casual liasons that may last anywhere from several nights to several years, but are not expected to be enduring.
Break the Lakeholder!
Var's Curse [of Madness]
By Valley and Lake [and Isle ]
High Moons and Sweet Breezes
[By] Haliil's [Broken] Heart
Willed-Born - Refers in general to anyone born outside of Recognition, but in particular, the elves born outside of Recognition between the early years and the time that Vrayl took the leadership from Var.
Shore-Freedom - Children are restricted to the Isle except on extremely rare occasions. To gain access to the shore, a child must demonstrate proficiency in sending, heal-crafting, at least one weapon, fire-making and a knowledge of plants. Once a child has demonstrated this, generally by age fourteen or so, he or she goes ashore with a pair of mentors, whose responsibilities are to teach the youngster survival skills. Permission to lead a hunt for a large prey animal is usually the sign that the mentors consider the youth is ready to be acknowledged as an adult. A successful hunt is almost always followed by a return to the Isle and a name-feast. Most often, one (or both) of the mentors will take the youth as a fur-mate for the following winter-season, continuing their education in a different field.
Farwalking, spirit-walker - Both terms refer to the ability to send one's spirit out of one's body. This gift plays a vital role during the summers, allowing the different groups of elves to stay in contact with each other, who would otherwise be out of sending-range. The four elves who can consistently 'farwalk' are Tinar, Farseeker, Arrowrock and Brightdark.
Until Vrayl's death, one person was acknowledged as the leader of the tribe. After the Isle was founded, individuals might be in charge of shore-groups, but any final decisions lay in Vrayl's hands. But after he died, the elves could not come to an agreement about who should lead them, the primary contenders being Tinar and Vaerrain. Out of this conflict rose the Council -- initially consisting of Tinar, Vaerrain, Dlen and Aerva. The Council makes most of the decisions for the Isle, generally in consensus, and is also the final arbitrator of disputes between individuals. Any elf not satisfied with a decision can demand a hearing before the entire population of the Isle, but this is rarely invoked. The Council as of the 'current era' consists of the three the four original members, plus Dwan Hall-Builder, Farseeker and Whlen.
Most leadership roles outside of the Council are informal and based on the situation. During the era leading up to the Years of Sorrow, one elf was acknowledged as the War Leader. The "Hunt Leader" is the elf who organizes the major hunting trips, and leads the Fall Hunt.
Elzrian's dying gift to his people was a vision of a place that could "take magic, and hold it, then give it back again." The Isle is the culmination of that vision, alive with magic throughout every cubic centimeter of its structure.
Concerned that their descendants might dwindle in power, the Eldests have always insisted that every elf learn to use their innate abilities to their fullest, and few things draw their ire more than a youngster who tries to avoid those lessons.
All elves are able to send -- nobody refuses to learn this to their fullest ability, because if they don't, they are stuck in the Isle. Nearly all can glide, though the talent varies widely, from barely being able to 'leap' their own height, to some who can glide in the face of a fairly stiff wind and carry others without strain. Plant- and rock-shapers are also plentiful. The latter, indeed, are required, else the Isle could not have reached or maintain its [current-era] form.
Because the Isle tries to minimize fuel use, many elves have learned to do what Taiva learned to do by accident--to focus their magic to 'light' clear-crystals. Many walls are inset with flakes of mica or other translucent stone, while crystalline disks dangle from most ceilings.
As with most tribes, the other magic talents are rare. The Isle spent many years without a 'true' Healer, though a fair number of elves have limited self-healing abilities. Full-fledged fire-makers and self-shapers are equally rare, though again, some others have very limited versions of the gifts. Shielding and hynotic gifts crop up more frequently, as do animal-bonding gifts.
The rarest gift is Farseeker's ability to look into a new-born's eyes and 'see' what their magic talents will be.
Most elves notice that their abilities are noticeably stronger within the ambiance of the Isle. Nearly all can still call on their talents away from the Isle, but they may have to concentrate harder, and the effort tends to be draining.
One thing all rock-shapers learn is how to link, or merge, their powers to focus on a single objective. Most of the Isle's structure has been created from such merges, usually led by a single mind. Other talents use merges very rarely, except for merged sendings, when it is necessary for a group to attract Farseeker's attention because of an emergency.
While the Eldests are very insistent on elves learning to use magic, they are also sensitive to the need to learn non-magical skills. All children are expected to learn the use of a weapon, the basics of heal-crafting, be able to swim, and be able to identify useful and harmful plants before going ashore.
Weaponry -- The Isle uses most of the standard weapons -- bows and arrows, slings, knives, various types of spears. Most spears used for hunting are lightweight and are designed to be used with spear-throwers. Since there are no trolls around and the Isle -- as of yet -- hasn't figured out metallurgy -- swords are rare. The favored tactic when fighting with humans is to avoid getting close, requiring stealth, ambush and traps. When forced to get in close, most elves prefer double-headed spears to add to their reach.
Transportation -- While the Isle does have tunnels under the lake leading to the shore, during most eras, the elves prefer to use boats for hauling the results of their foraging from the shore to the Isle. Most boats are fancily-shaped canoes with bird-motifs. For major hauling, two boats are lashed together with a platform to provide stability. The Isle has a docking and storage area for the boats, which is usually hidden from the shore, as the exterior wall is only shaped open when boats leave and return.
To travel during winters, the elves have developed skis, snowshoes, sleds and skates.
Food-Gathering -- The Isleanders may not have plowed fields, but in some ways, the entire Valley is a carefully tended garden. It is riddled with tiny meadows growing grains and squashes; berry bushes and fruit trees may seem to grow randomly when viewed from the ground, but snake in intricate patterns from the air; ancient evergreens are tended as carefully as perennials.
Most of the hunting occurs in the Valley, with Whlen and the Hunt Leaders tracking the numbers of animals living and controlling how many may be killed in a season. Hunting within the Valley is generally done in small numbers, down to individuals. When hunting promises to be poor within the Valley, larger foraging groups, well-armed, will leave the Valley for surrounding areas. Such parties will bring back not only meat and hides, but also plants and seeds, either to supplement supplies or to provide new varieties to breed with existing stock.
Fishing is also done in the Lake itself, either by net or line and hook from boats, or underwater with harpoons.
Food Preparation - Cooking during the wintertime is often elaborate and time-consuming, particularly for the feasts. Ice is hewn during the winter-time and stored in several 'cold' rooms for use during the summers. The elves discovered early fermentation for wines and breads. Almost every type of fruit and berry has been experimented with for wines at some time or other. Honey is also rarely used to create honey-wine (mead), but the amount gathered in a season is generally too small to spare any from its more preferred uses as a sweetener and as an ingredient in travelling food.
Clothing -- Clothing is made from leathers, furs, various plantfibers, wools, and silk. Most elves have separate outfits for inside and outside the Isle, as well are for the different seasons. Many also have special, elaborate outfits for feasts, frequently heavily-embroidered and trimmed with jewels or fur. Common furs, leathers, and the simpler woven materials are considered part of the common stores, freely available to draw on. Less-common skins,and the finer weaves, belong to the hunter or weaver, while the pure metals and gem-stones belong to the shapers who ease them out of the rock. Bartering of goods and skills is lively, ongoing activity within the Isle. The elves who get tend to get the most admiration and most pursuit by would-be furmates are those who give away the most items over the course of a long winter.
Pottery and Glass - Both crafts are essentially single-handed inventions of the Isle's first full-fledged fire-maker, Fireclay. Fired and glazed clay items have mostly replaced the earlier shaped-stone dishes. Fireclay and his students have developed numerous, colorful glazes and intricate designs. Glass-making as a skill lags behind pottery-making, being confined mostly to beads and some sculpture. (Glass-blowing has not yet developed.)
Metallurgy -- Deposits of the three soft metals (copper, silver and gold) are moderately available in the mountains surrounding the Isle. The Isle has not yet developed alloys, but Grayhammer, with Fireclay's help, is patiently trying to figure out how to create the equivalent of Starstone's legendary weapons.
Heal-crafting -- Before the Firstcomer Liria died, she locked-sent to her Recognized and gifted him with all her knowledge of the elves' phsyical selves, Healing, and non-magical healing. In turn, Vrayl gave this knowledge to the first Healer of the Isle, his grand-daughter Dlen. With her limited ability and the awareness that she could not possibly get to every injured elf in time, Dlen concentrated on expanding the Isle's knowledge of how to heal without magic, and insisted, with Aerva's backing, that everyone leaving the Isle must demonstrate basic heal-crafting skills. Saiya, Dlen's daughter who had no Healing ability at all (except for a Healer's sensitivity), built on her mother's work, methodically expanding the Isle's pharmaecology.
Music -- The Isle history is transmitted through stories, through direct-sendings, and through music and dance. The Isle has the equivalent of panpipes, flutes, harps, and drums of all sizes. It also has, in the Great Hall, a set of tuned, shaped-rock pipes which are played by striking.