The Early Years
When the High Ones landed on
Abode in the wrong time, the slaughter by the frightened humans scattered
the survivors to the four winds. Recovering from his first shock, Var
sought out those close by, and brought them together (Decision Maker). Knowing that the High Ones lacked
the numbers and power to return to the stars, Var believed that it was
best for the survivors to separate into groups, so that different ways
of surviving could be tried. Leading his small group away from the others,
Var struggled to learn how to survive, teaching the others. But it was
not he who relearned the the most important lesson for survival. Tayalli and Kayeer were the first to Recognize. (Patterns) Kayeer, it also was a few years later,
who demonstrated to the others that they must accept all of the world's
patterns in order to survive as a people. (Life Lives On Death Lives On
Life Lives On)
First-Born to this group
of elves, Aerva was soon followed by Aelin and Aerva's sister, Solarn. Raising children was not easy for immortals
who had not done so in eons (What Little
Girls Are Made of), and 'born-heres' were apt to find understanding
more easily among themselves than by their parents. (The Honey Tree)
Nevertheless, 'born-heres' and Firstcomers get along, and a yearning
Healer discovers that it is not strictly necessary to Recognize in order
to have children.
The Willed Born
But what happens when children
become a means, and not an end? While the Eldests of the Isle ( in later
periods) strive to keep memory alive of all the Isle's history, the
time of the "Willed-Born" is one even they are reluctant to disclose.
What most elves know is that time ended in tragedy and a sundering of
the tribe ... and in the shattering of a leader's confidence.
Fall of the High Ones
Of all the Firstcomers,
Var turned to Maelin most often for advice. When Maelin was savagely
killed in a human ambush, Var, in his grief and hatred, proposed to
war upon the humans. Maelin's young son, Vrayl objected. (Revolt) Moving away from the humans who had attacked
them, the elves settled in caves next to a waterfall. Now the leader
of the tribe, Vrayl tried to ensure their safety by playing on humans'
superstitions, playing tricks and setting traps, and making sure that
humans never actually saw the elves. He succeeded, at least for a while,
but was far less successful in making peace with his embittered predecessor.
They might have eventually have settled their situation ... until Vrayl
Recognized Liria, Vrayl's lovemate.
If peace did not last between
Var and Vrayl, neither did peace between human and elf. An accident
gave the humans their first good look at the elves. A forest fire was
blamed on the 'demons' by a man from the tribe which had killed Maelin
and others several generations before. Sworn to find the demons and
destroy them, the man persuaded several human tribes to unite and invade
the 'haunted' area. Capturing a hunting party, the band of warriors
retreated to a prepared site. Torturing the captives, they waited for
the remainder of the demons to walk into their trap.
Which Vrayl nearly did.
Warned barely in time by the captives' sendings, the young leader was
hesitating, trying to think of way of freeing the captives, when his
father, Daleur acted. The rockshaper brought down the roof
of the caves where most of the human warriors were hiding, perishing
himself, but giving the others the chance they needed. The captives
were rescued, but Solarn was dead and Elzrian was mortally wounded. Dying, the young
mystic (the only elf taught by Var since the Willed-Born disaster) sent
a vision of a valley and lake that would "take the magic, hold it, and
give it back again." With the pursuing humans literally pounding on
the shaped entrance to their caves, Vrayl decided to follow that vision.
(The Ten Who Crossed the Mountains)
The decision was fateful ... and fatal ...
Succeeding in their quest,
the reduced tribe settled in caves along the eastern shoreline of the
Lake. The first elf born in the valley, Taiva
was apt to be led into mischief by Vaerrain,
the last child born to a Firstcomer parent. (Taiva's Little Adventure) Vaerrain's penchant
for getting into trouble did not disappear with adulthood, when her
carelessness led to her near-capture by surprised human hunters. Fortunately,
Vaerrain was blessed with not a little imagination: taking inspiration
from the little 'pond-builders' (beavers), Vaerrain proposed moving
to the Lake's island for safety. (Haven)
With the elves living on
the Isle, their way of life settled into its final form. Young children
and pregnant elves rarely, if ever, left the Isle. Children learned
basic skills while still on the Isle, then proved their skills under
the tutelage of a pair of mentors during their first years ashore.
Living as they did high
in the mountains, with long, severe winters, the Isle developed two
distinct modes of life, following the seasons. During the brief warm
season, most elves were on the shore, hunting, growing and gathering,
or on the Isle processing the gathered stuff for storage. During the
long winters--assuming sufficient stores had been gathered--the elves
had the leisure to play, or concentrate on learning skills whether magic
or mundane. Vrayl encouraged both types of skills, but particularly
the former, certain that, if the elves did not assiduously apply themselves
to learning and using magic, they would gradually lose those skills
altogether. Aerva agreed with him, but tended to stress the 'crafters'
A big problem during the
summers was keeping contact between the Isle and the shore parties,
especially when humans ventured up the mountains. An indifferent hunter
even before his arm was crippled by humans, Tinar strove to find an
answer to the problem. (As Stubborn as Tinar)
For the Lake, For the
Tinar's hard-won solution
allows the Isle to expand the scope of their shore expeditions. But
the personal cost to him is severe. When a young boy accidentally reveals
a far greater talent, that child is faced with an adult decision. (Danaan)
Sacrificing his own chance of ever earning 'shore-freedom,' Danaan
must find an alternative way of being accepted as an adult by the
Isle. (The Teaching of Farseeker.)
While no human tribe lives
in the Valley itself, incursions become more frequent as legends of
the 'sky-demons' grow and spread. Some discussion within the Isle is
given to the idea of attempting to block the Pass through which most
humans travel, but the concern about the long-term effects on animal
migratory patterns--and the fact that the Pass is not the only means
of entrance--dissuade the elves from making any such effort. When incidents
prove that the Isle is not entirely a haven, at least during prolonged
dry spells, Vrayl leads an effort to increase the size of the Lake by
shaping a dam at its northern end. The effort ends in failure when the
badly designed dam bursts, taking Vrayl's life. Faced with the abrupt
loss of their long-time leader, the Isle must settle competing claims
for leadership. (Break the LakeHolder!) Led by Vaerrain (who had correctly
argued the flaws in the first LakeHolder, despite her lack of rock-shaping
talent), the rock-shapers created a second, successful dam. Celebrating,
the elves let their guard down, with tragic results, as a human raiding
party attacks, killing--among others-- the strongest shaper and the
Isle's only Healer. (Courage Is)
Stunned by the deaths, the
Council of Elders strives to increase the safety of the Isle by increasing
restrictions on shore-going activities. Not everyone tamely accepts
their decrees, one young lad in particular, who refuses to be Isle-bound
for any reason or anyone. (Wolfsbane) And, much as some elves might
wish otherwise, the Isle's population is too large to sustain without
shore-parties, let alone the problem that many prefer the challenge
and freedom of the shore, as opposed to the safety of the Isle.
If the Elders cannot deny
others the freedom to gather and hunt and risk their lives, they can
do their best to instill caution into the children they help raise.
Errors and foolish mistakes are apt to linger long in the common memory
of the Isle, turned into tales for the youngsters--as is the incident
of two brothers who sneaked away from their hunting party to gather
star-crystals from a secret vein, and never came back. (Fool's
The Years of Sorrow
Gornga One-Eye of the Brown
Bear tribe was an ambitious human with one overriding goal in his life--the
destruction of the evil sky-demons. Knowing that it was impossible to
gain any information about the defiled Valley from the ancient, un-aging
and mindless sky-demon slave, he determined to capture sky-demons for
that purpose. Twice, he succeeded in capturing sky-demons. He lost his
first victim before he could torture him, but on the second attempt,
he seemed to be succeeding, until the Isle bestirred itself and went
for a rescue. Gornga failed, but his death did not stop his dream, which
his mate's son inherited.
More eloquent than his father,
Bregor succeeded where Gornga failed. Urged on by the story of the Brown
Bear tribe's near destruction by the evil demons, supported by Na'ska's
priests, Bregor won the gathered human tribes to his jihad. A few voices
from the Earth Mother's chosen protested, but they were drowned in the
thunder of hate.
Confident that they had
destroyed ambitions for a major attack with their rescue of the captive
elves, the Elders took note--through the farwalkers' talents--of the
usual once-every-five years gathering of the humans below the Pass ...
and of the gathering's apparently uneventful dispersal. As usual, assumed
everyone, the next four years would be relatively free of danger from
humans, save for the occasional, ambitious raiding party from a single
tribe or--at most--two tribes.
But the elves were wrong.
Fatally wrong. The Pass Watch -- a small group of elves assigned to
the usually boring and uneventful task of guarding the top of the Pass
(against those aforementioned raiding parties)--was ambushed. Too late--his
attention previously drawn by a smaller mass of humans working their
way up the gorge below the Lake Falls--Farseeker sent his spirit out
down the Pass, to find the massed tribes of humans on their way up.
With no time to send sufficient
rock-shapers to the Pass to close it, and with the largest group of
Isle warriors already finding positions to attack the gorge raiders,
Farseeker suggested pulling everyone into the Isle, and waiting for
time to defeat the humans--who were far too many for the Valley to support.
He was overwhelmingly shouted down. The Valley is ours -- we have
made it ours! was the cry. Too many elves had already died, too
many tortured to death by five-fingered hands. The Isle chose to fight.
It was a bitter war of four
long years, of ever-increasing viciousness on both sides. The spiral
of hatred fed on itself, until even the youngest became its victims.
When that happened, it drove the most sensitive elf in the Isle insane
... or so would be the Isle's consensus of his actions. And yet, that
insanity created what none of the fighting had--a chance to end the
war. (Spiral of Hatred)
And from the chance, came
the end. The sole survivor of her tribe, Frangra spoke to the other
women. Even though, by then, many of the women had become directly involved
in the fighting, many listened, and most agreed. Leading the Isle warriors,
Vaerrain and Raven declared truce, that
the humans would not be attacked until first snow. Savagely-reduced
in numbers, many half-starved, the human tribes packed up and left.
They left behind a few maddened fighters, to be hunted down or allowed
to starve, a shattered, half-burned, near-lifeless Valley--and an Isle
of elves trapped in their hatred, unable to feel anything else. The
handful of Elders who had been protected from the fighting could not
find a way to bring their people back to some semblance of normality.
The way back was found--as perhaps it could only have been found--by
one who had been fully involved in the fighting and who--like most--had
suffered loss. From that, Dwan Hall-Builder gained her nickname and
her seat on the Council of Elders. (The
Hall of Remembrance).
The first Night of Remembrance
would be forever remembered for its astonishing outcome--six pregnancies,
three of them by Recognition. Greater joy could not be imagined--and
yet it was a mixed joy, for that night also left the Healer, Silvertree,
bereft of her powers, and a maimed, exhausted Farseeker in a coma. (Renewal)
The losses troubled the Elders and some others, but most set the news
aside with a shrug, preferring to revel in the prospect of a physical
renewal of the Isle's numbers.
Two years later, the six
children were born to a celebrating Isle. They were sure to be unique,
and they were infinitely precious, more--perhaps--than children usually
were. Most were given names reflecting the Isle's hope-- Newdawn, Joy,
Sunshine, Tyl, Spring -- and Jest. Joy was simply that, and a reason
for her 'second-father' to strive harder to overcome his handicaps from
his long captivity. (A Joy to See). Jest was laughter and a single point
in common for a Recognized pair who despised each other, while Tyl was
simple, heart-felt joy and love of living for all who raised him. None
of these three had gifts out of the ordinary, but the other three were
different. Sunshine's gift of music was unmatched even by her mother's
first Recognized mate--who was killed, along with their young daughter,
in the waning days of the war. Before she could even walk, Spring was
clearly a gifted plantshaper--and perhaps more. And Newdawn--so quick
to glide and send, so bright and clever, so anxious to be the first
of the six to win shore-freedom--must surely be--like his father, like
his mother's other children--a strong rockshaper. He dreamed of the
day he would mold the living rock into the forms of beauty he saw in
But everyone around Newdawn
was wrong, and Farseeker was not yet aware enough to look into the lad's
eyes and see the talents waiting to blossom. Newdawn was the grandson
of Var, the one ancestral High One who had ever come close to reclaiming
all the pre-Fall powers. Var had never shaped rock. But he had been
able to call fire. Newdawn inherited that ability, unknowing, in full,
terrible measure. (Wildfire!)
As Newdawn's first, tragic
hunt proved, the magic used during the Years of Sorrow had not simply
dissipated. Driven by hate and rage, the magic was pooling, stagnating,
darkened by the black emotions of the Years of Sorrow. Could anyone
or anything release the magic and cleanse the Valley?
Broken by the Years of Sorrow,
the human tribes drifted away, amalgamated, or disappeared. New tribes
moved in, mingling their blood, their legends, and their gods. The sky-demons
were not forgotten, but without a living symbol with which to invoke
hate; with the oral history of the terrible losses inflicted by the
war, the new tribes lacked the drive that the old ones had possessed.
Raids up the Pass or the Gorge did not cease, but they became far less
Numbers slowly returning
to the level of the pre-war era, the Isle seemed once more to enter
a timeless groove, where one might not notice the passing of human generations.
A tall, spiralling Tower now defied the world's wish to end elvin-kind,
while its base sheltered the Hall of Remembrance, a place meant to ease
contact between the time-bound and the timeless. The Great Hall below
that was the gathering place for Isle-wide celebrations, while other,
more modest rooms catered to everyday activities and smaller celebrations.
But while the Isle might
seem timeless, changes do occur. A blind far-walker remembers himself,
triggering an ancient rivalry. (Triangle) A Healer saves a potter's
life and meets his eyes and soul in Recognition, an event threatening
not only the bond between lifemates but between sisters as well. And
if war has not raged between elf and human, it rages between human and
human. Forced to flee their lake-dwelling homes by an invasion of half-starved
barbarians, a small band of humans threaten to encroach on the Valley.
The tribe has no legends of sky-demons, no knowledge that they should
hate and fear the elves. The Isle must face its own dark heritage, to
learn if elves and humans can ever hope to live in peace... (The
The Valley is not the only
location within the mountains that holds magic. Sensing something wrong,
the Council decides to send the annual Fall Hunt towards Crooked Mountain,
where the Isle's ancestors once dwelled for a cold-season. From her
aerie atop the distinctive peak, Moth
sights a trio of elves toiling down the side of the Mountain of Despair.
They are climbing down towards the Ledge of Madness, as the first blizzard
of the season bears down on them. The Ledge, with its ancient, shaped
shelter would seem safe enough. Except for the dark pool of magic surrounding
it. Except for the timing--so like that ancient time when other elves
sought shelter, gripped by despair ... and madness, and murder... (The Ledge of Madness)
Of the three elves who followed
the faint traces of the ancient Mountain Stairs, one is a thief, one
is a child who can neither speak nor send, and one is a scarred elf
with no past. Thrown together by chance (Thief),
they seek to find other elves, in hope of finding Healing for a boy
who should have, long since, become a man. Rescued by the hunters, they
must adapt to a place almost as far beyond their imagining as the Palace
And the Future?
What lies in the Isle's
future? With the Firewalker stories, the Isle history is roughly contiguous
with the original Elfquest stories, perhaps a few years earlier. What
happens when the Palace comes to life? What happens when Rayek steals
the Palace out of time? For that, we will just have to wait and see...