The Sovereign City-State of Selemath
Selemath is the ancestral home of the Veldamari - the High Elves. It is found deep in the forested region that dominates southwestern Terrenus, the area previously known as Oliver Scudder's Woods to the humans, though the Veldamari refer to all of Scudder's Woods as Orolindaria: "the Great Woods".
While they do not consider themselves to be directly under the rule of Odin, they acknowledge him as the rightful ruler of the rest of Terrenus, and laud his efforts to spread the truths of Gaianism.
Selemath is situated at the highest point on a line of gentle forested hills that runs from northwest to southeast. From most places in the city, the ground slopes gently away in every direction. The centre of the city is its highest point, and home to some of its oldest and largest structures: the royal palace, which also houses many of the Royal Guard, the city library, and an ancient temple to Gaia: the Temple of the Tree.
From a distance, it is impossible for a newcomer to discern where the forest ends and the city begins, especially during the day. Most of the original trees have been left standing; the fluid architecture of the Elves incorporates the living trees into its structure, often curving to allow a large tree to grow, and sometimes even using the living wood as part of the structural form of a dwelling, by means of enchantments and flexible building materials that can be modified over time to allow for the growth of the tree.
Most dwellings are constructed of a mix of wood and stone, many having two or three storeys, and featuring high arches and pillars that mimic the natural structures of trees with intertwining branches. Within a dwelling, most doorways are closed by an ornamental hanging of heavy fabric rather than a wooden door. These fabric door hangings, called veldaln, are often very beautiful, featuring delicate embroidery and feltwork that has been a family member’s labour of love for many years. Some show family portraits or woodland scenes, while many others feature the mother tree.
The climate of Selemath is moderate, affected mostly by the weather systems of the great sea to the south and east, and the warm inlands to the west. Snow is rare and considered a treat, as it covers the ground with a mere dusting that is gone in a day. As a rule of thumb, if the wind is coming from the southeast, it will bring rain, and if it comes from the west, it will bring sunshine.
At night, the paths that wind through the city are lit by a variety of bioluminescent life forms: the path itself is clearly marked by an edging of bioluminescent moss and mushrooms, while the trees which arch over the paths are entwined with symbiotic vine-like plants called moonbright. These vines are carnivorous, catching insects and tree parasites in their globes of sticky, sap-like nectar. These translucent globes regularly grow between two to nine inches across, and the larger ones cast a cool, bright light like moonlight, hence their name; the nectar itself is the source of the bioluminescence.
The Veldamari are immortal: births and deaths are equally rare in their peaceful society. Historically their population has increased slightly over time, although easier access to the rest of the world by means of airships has meant that many young people choose to settle elsewhere in Terrenus, which has caused a small but noticeable decline in the population in the recent past.
Their current population is around 1.9 million, with about 800,000 living in the city proper, and the rest spread out in smaller communities in the woodlands all around. Over 97% of the population is Elvish, with the remaining 3% consisting of centaurs, gnomes, humans, and other more exotic creatures who find the city a peaceful refuge from the bustle of the larger cities of Terrenus.
Selemath maintains a small standing army in the form of the Royal Guard, which consists of about 8,000 armed Elves, trained and equipped for archery, swordfighting and magical combat. About 20% of the Royal Guard is female. In addition, every Elvish citizen of Selemath is required to spend fifty years on duty with the Royal Auxiliary Force before they reach two hundred years of age, where they are trained in archery, leadership and the basics of hand-to-hand combat and guerilla tactics; at the completion of their time with the Auxiliary they are given a bow and quiver of arrows, which it is their duty to keep in good repair for the remainder of their life. This practice ensures that if war ever comes to Selemath, a very high percentage of its civilian population will be able to mobilize in an organized fashion for combat.
Culture and Lifestyle
The Elves worship Gaia, after their own fashion. For more on Elvish Gaianism, see the Veldamari.
The sleeping and waking of an Elf does not follow the pattern of alternating consciousness and unconsciousness that is practiced by humans. Unless ill or injured, an Elf will rarely pass into a deep, unconscious sleep. Instead, when they are at their ease they often pass into a state of half-dreaming, while still cognizant of their surroundings. As they are as likely to do so during the day as during the night, they are often up and about all the night long; the streets of Selemath, well-lit by its bioluminescent plants, are almost as crowded at midnight as at midday.
The arts in almost every form are practiced at a high level in this cultured city: it has its own choirs, orchestras, dramatic arts groups, and guilds for nearly every kind of fine craftsmanship imaginable, from embroidery to swordsmithery.
The Veldamari live on a diet of nutrient-rich plants, fruits and root vegetables which thrive in the forests all around. Many hundreds of acres of forest are dedicated to providing food for the residents of the city; rather than clear-cutting the woods, the Veldamari carefully cultivate and ‘garden’ the native flora, in the honoured role of Thessli, which is part farmer, part gardener, and part woodsman. The Thessli also provide high-quality lumber both for use in Selemath and for export, carefully choosing trees whose removal will improve the health of the surrounding woods.
Within the city itself, trees and plants also abound in a natural extension of the Orolindaria, and every family has a small personal garden of herbs and edible plants.
Selemath is also home to an abundance of freshwater springs. Many of these have been carefully tended so that they continue to run cleanly, often into a fountain or stone pool, with gardens all around.
Major Companies and Institutions
- The Royal Guard & Royal Auxiliaries
- The Thessli Guild
- The Veldior Trading Company: this large, profitable company has a hand in most of the trading that goes on between Selemath and the other cities of Terrenus. Some of its main imports are salt, magitech novelty items, paints, and silk, while its main exports are fine artisan craftworks, seeds and seedlings of rare plants, and lumber.
Parks and Recreation
For its beauty and tranquility, almost the whole city of Selemath could be characterized as a park. It is impossible to travel more than a few minutes through the city without encountering some beautiful sight, be it a carefully-tended garden around a freshwater spring providing public access to water, or a shrine to Gaia, with letters of prayer gently tied to the boughs of a sacred tree.
Landmarks and monuments
Several of the city’s landmarks are gathered at the central high point of the Selemath’s natural hills:
- The Royal Palace: this expansive, many-levelled structure is home to the Queen and her family, along with several members of the council. The Queen holds public audiences to all citizens of the city for a few hours every afternoon in the throneroom. However, residents are encouraged to take advantage of the many mediators and lawyers available at the palace and throughout the realm, leaving the queen free to address only the most serious matters.
- The City Library: more than a simple repository of scrolls, the Library is also the hub of post-secondary education in Selemath; see the section on Education below.
- The Temple of the Tree: This ancient holy site centres around an ancient giant of the forest; one of the oldest and largest trees still living on the continent. It takes almost five minutes just to walk around its base; its living branches stretch into the air for hundreds of feet, the undisputed king of the skyline. The temple itself is simply an open-air series of pillars and archways that lovingly surround the base of the tree, with seating here and there for those who wish to simply sit and contemplate the majestic sight. The Veldamari often come to the tree for prayer or contemplation when their hearts are troubled; simply the sight of the tree brings comfort and peace to restless souls. Expectant mothers and those with young children also come often to be ‘blessed’ by the peaceful spirit emanating from the gentle giant.
Other landmarks include the airship landing pad, which is in a natural meadow about ten minutes’ walk from the palace, and which always attracts merchants eager to sell their wares to newly-arrived tourists, and the Royal Theatre, located about half an hour’s walk from the palace, which has some of the best acoustics anywhere in Terrenus.
The Veldamari government is a hereditary monarchy. The crown passes to the firstborn of each generation, independent of gender. The current ruler is Queen Anoria. She is aided in her rule by a circle of advisors, though her decision on any matter is considered final. In addition to the Elven advisors, the queen takes into careful consideration the opinion of the ambassador from the Scudder centaurs, with whom they share the vast expanse of Orolindaria.
There are court-appointed judges and mediators available at the palace to handle legal disputes and cases of injustice. Due to the peaceful nature of the Veldamari, who are naturally predisposed to lawfulness and goodness, such disputes are far less frequent than in the bustling human cities of Terrenus.
The Elves are, as a rule, literate and well-educated. They have access to most of the same levels of magitech as the rest of Terrenus, although for the most part they eschew use of techno-gadgets in favour of the use of ‘pure’ elemental magic and traditional craftsmanship, as they are proficient in both of these areas, and value beauty and craftsmanship much more highly than efficiency and usefulness.
As there are, at any given time, relatively few young people in Selemath, the regular system of education is tutoring, carried out partially by the extended family and partially by professional tutors.
For higher education, the Library boasts a faculty of professors who teach a range of subjects, including the finer nuances of elemental magic, history, poetry, music, economics, herbology, medicine, and ecology. It is here, by passing a rigorous entrance exam, that students may pursue graduate studies with the goal of eventually attaining the honoured rank of Thessli. The educational program takes decades to complete, equipping new Thessli with a thorough knowledge of every plant native to the Orolindaria, its uses, how to care for it from seed through to its decay and return to the soil, as well as the practical magic involved in curing blight and encouraging a withering shoot to blossom, and the intricate ways in which the flora and fauna of the Orolindaria depends upon each individual life form to allow it to form a healthy whole.
There are monthly airship ferries from Doughton, Casper and Weland to Selemath; it is not part of the Lightening Rail or Warp Gate systems.
Within the city, transportation is almost exclusively by foot, although horse-drawn carts are available for special occasions or those unable to walk.
- Queen Anoria and her husband, Lord Mirdos
- Goldenrye Scudder, speaker for the centaurs on the council
- Lady Laurelei, chief of the Thessli Guild, council member
- Lady Mabelinara, Queen’s Magician and Keeper of Lore; head of the council and one of the oldest and most revered Elves
- Sir Elendar, captain of the Royal Guard
- Sir Sorados, captain of the Royal Auxiliaries
History and politics
As a political body, the Veldamari have remained mostly separatist, preferring to keep to themselves and mind their own business, and let the human and racially-varied cities of the rest of the continent do the same. To this end, they have declined the offers from the Terrenus government to incorporate Selemath in its network of Lightening Rails and Warp Gates, although they do maintain a crystal communication system with Ignatz, and regular airship ferries sail from Doughton, Casper and Weland to Selemath, as humans and other races travel to see the beautiful, peaceful city, and young Elves travel to see the rest of the world.
They have a military force, however it serves only to protect the city, as a deterrent to any potential invasion or annexation by the other forces on the continent.