Thursday, March 08, 2007

Ecology of the Lowlanders

Legend and History

Pre-Orulin Elves

In ancient times, it is said that there were no lowlander elves and orulin elves. All elves made their homes on the ground. It was these early elves, who predate humankind by millenia of millenia, who altered the trees, changing them from within to grow.

In these early times, elves were as simple and barbaric as human tribes are known to be today. In the forest, survival through the cold winter was chancy at best. Little else is known about the primeval forest as it existed then, but it is thought to have been even more dangerous than Olemheiden is today. The elves did not yet control it unconditionally, and it is nearly certain that there were other kindreds than elf, also vying for supremacy of this land.

Taming the Orulins

But the elves developed horticultural skills, taming the forest and making it yield fruit and raw materials to their tending. They also made trees that grew larger and larger, yielding more of the raw materials they needed to survive, building their culture from the cloth of arboreal agriculture and, when the trees became large enough, living out their lives within the branches. It was only after thousands of years of such husbandry that the familiar orulin came to exist in its present form.

During the millenia that it took elfkind to change trees into orulins, the elves themselves changed. Taming the forest gave them the tools they needed to control Olemheiden itself, until there were no other significant humanoid presences within its boundaries; a reign that has continued almost unbroken to this day. The elves, more confident in their domain, now a unified political force, began to crave political and trade power to better the status of their nation within the world.

The War of Faeriekind

A war was fought between the elves and faeriekind. It is said that the dryads attacked the elves when elves tried to make orulins produce metal, gems and gold. This War of Faeriekind lasted many years.

Elfkind itself split politically at this time. One faction supported the alterations to the trees and fought in the war against the dryads; another wanted from the trees only what they could produce naturally and sought to protect them. When the blood finally finished soaking into the forest earth, the dryads and protectors prevailed against the alterers. The alterers had lost so many of their men, women and children that but a trickle of them moved from the orulins to the forest floor.

The banished elves, left with no knowledge and no culture by the dryads, became the lowlanders, determined never to enter the orulins again.

In victory, faeriekind welcomed back the elves, but stripped all of them of the arcane knowledge they used to create the orulins. What elves know today of the tending of orulins has been hard-won knowledge developed from scratch by recent generations.

Culture and Family Structure

After the War of Faeriekind, orulin elves relinquished the idea of a "nation of Olemheiden" and became tribal, with each orulin governing itself. At the same time, the lowlander elves spread themselves even more thinly, living few and far apart on the forest floor.

As the history would suggest, the number of lowlanders is far less than the number of orulin elves. The numbers are actually dwindling, ever-so-slowly, to just a few hundred today in a few dozen scattered clans. There are many factors contributing to their slow decline, including: migration to the orulins, danger from wild animals and monsters, the limited number of safe granite outcrops for dwelling places on the ground in Olemheiden, and the fact that a clan's enclave cannot be expanded easily to accommodate more family members.

Lowlanders keep tight-knit, extended families, who all live together inside a burrow or enclave. The elves inside the burrow usually number around 10-20, from several generations. There are a few dozen of these enclaves within Olemheiden, widely spaced from one another. Lowlander families like to keep to themselves, interacting only to trade, only rarely making social visits even to other lowlander families. Lowlanders born inside a burrow will usually live out their lives there.

Lowland elves also fiercely value their independence from the orulin elves, and rarely trade with them. However, there is no animosity between these two races, and lowland elves will sometimes offer help to orulin elves when the situation calls for it. Because of the limited relations and trade, lowland elves are considered primitive by orulin standards, keeping few manufactured comforts in their dwellings, and building the tools of their lives out of the things they can make or gather themselves from the forest. Even their dress tends to be simple and down-to-earth. They wear no textiles, making clothing from animal skins. They augment this clothing with camouflage makeup and leafy headdresses when they are outside.

Lowlander Dwellings

Lowlander burrows, or "enclaves", are carved into the base of granite outcrops which are a common feature of Olemheiden. They are built for defensibility and seclusion, camouflaged from their surroundings to the point that even other elves cannot find them.

An enclave starts with a large granite outcrop in the forest floor. It is considered advantageous if there are other natural defenses around the outcrop such as a water barrier, thick tree growth on one side, a steep slope, etc. but these are not prerequisites. The enclave is carved out of the raw stone, descending below ground level at first, where there is generally a utility room and entrance chamber. Then the rest of the dwelling is carved up into the rock, so all the living space and storage is above ground level. This prevents most problems with flooding. The granite and the angle of the carving protects against forest fires and enclaves usually have two sets of reinforced doors to keep out hostiles monsters and animals.

Lowlanders are able to carve and maintain their enclaves through a combination of metal tools and magic. Druidic magic is common among lowlanders. As for the metal tools, lowlanders typically trade for these.

Enclaves have the aforementioned vestibule, a workroom, three large sleeping rooms, and a community room (usually the largest of all the rooms), arranged vertically from lowest to highest in that order. These rooms will be separated by doors for maximum defensibility. Naturally, with space this cramped, lowland elves tend to do a lot of their daily activities outdoors where they have room.

The enclaves protect lowlanders through a combination of factors. First, lowland elves protect themselves through a low-profile existence. They don't keep herds of animals or large crop boundaries outside their dwellings, but they might have one or two family animals, to keep from drawing attention. They disguise their territories with camouflage, especially at the entrance to the dwelling, so they cannot be seen even if the general vicinity of their home is known. The small outdoor area a lowlander family defines as its own is usually marked by the growth of natural-appearing hedges, undergrowth and briars. The style of this boundary growth is one aspect of lowland elf culture that is shared by all the families, and it is recognizable to other lowland elves; they regard it as a warning to stay away unless invited when they come upon the boundary of some other family's domain. Outsiders such as orulin elves might not recognize these boundaries unless they are familiar with lowlander culture, so the growth usually contains some thorny plants to keep such outsiders from blundering through.


As already discussed, lowlanders do not grow large crops or keep herds of animals. They eat by hunting and gathering in the forest, although they might maintain a special deer herd which, though free, is considered part of their territory; other lowlanders will not hunt outside of their own section of forest. Lowlanders often have a family garden for fresh produce, small in size; they do not trade from this garden, only growing enough to feed themselves. If they have family animals, they will probably be quiet, low-profile animals such as goats that they can let out to feed in the forest and bring back in at night.

Though their dwellings are too small to contain forges or manufacturing devices of any kind, lowlanders nevertheless can make a few things for trade: art created from wood and stone, finely-made fur clothing, and things fashioned with magic. If they can, they will make their own tools, but most families have at least a few tools they traded for and kept. Compared to orulin elves, lowlanders have easier access to some things, such as stone and root vegetables, so they sometimes trade these things to orulin elves.

On the whole, lowlanders are as economically isolated from the rest of the world as orulin elves and perhaps moreso.