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A Brief History of the Isle


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 ...

Haven

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' lessoning more.

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 Isle

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 Mountain)

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).

Renewal

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 his mind.

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?

The Lake-Dwellers

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 frequent.

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 Lake-Dwellers, Truce)

Firewalker

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 itself. (Firewalker).

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...