The Garden of MagicThe only widely known Elven civilization in The Eye only achieved that status fairly recently. While some would reasonably think they would prefer to dwell in forests or jungles, Sen'ssinai is in the midst of the deserts of the Midland Steppe. It seems, by any definition, to be a long-term project to use their magical expertise to bring life and vegetation to the desert, with the settlements that come with it being secondary. With the increased Teleran presence in the region and blossoming trade with the Golden Empire, however, Sen'ssinai has started to become a proper nation in its own right.
When we arrived, we found him there, working the earth and sand. "Come join me a while.", he said, a calm smile on his face. "It's been some time since I had company."Elves, despite the age of their race, are typically not known for founding cities or raising kingdoms. They lack the ambition of Humans or Orcs, can often communicate with each other over long distances through magic, and can live off most land with ease. Most are far more prone to travel the world and explore, living out their lives as an experience rather than a mission with any goal in mind. Sometimes, however, one finds themself engrossed in a task that they can pour their lives into. Jarael, a pseudo-mythical figure in the nation's history and its alleged founder, is said to have been one such elf. Theories abound on Jarael's exact motives for his work. Some say he had traveled Arrboth and learned from its people before settling there, and this does have the virtue of matching the knowledge he clearly possessed. Some Elves believe he saw the conflict over the Varulosph and wanted to give the people more fertile land so they would no longer have to wage war to survive. Some believe he was inspired by the legends of the great flaming serpent and wished to leave his own mark upon the land for the better. But no one would ever really get a clear answer on whether Sen'ssinai had some goal in mind or was simply a passion project, a sort of zen garden. When the old elf passed on, that this mystery was left unsolved hardly mattered. Others had been inspired to take up his work with dozens of goals of their own, and word steadily spread over the decades and centuries that the unassuming desert was a safe haven for any elf that sought it. Of course, without his guidance, those who remained were left with only a vague understanding of what to do. Sen'ssinai was clearly Jarael's work to bring life, water, plants and animals to the previously near-lifeless desert, but to what end? Some wished to spread life as far as possible, others simply wanted their quiet, secluded oasis, and still others wanted a great Elven civilization to call their own.
We acted without purpose - or, perhaps, with too much purpose. Too many. Our efforts were divided, clashed with each other, and there were no winners.Tensions can run deep without being expressed, and this was the case for Sen'ssinai in the years following Jarael's passing. The inclusion of elves from across The Eye meant few trusted each other, and groups formed around common goals as much as they did close-knit clans. Some left entirely, having no interest in the conflict, and others simply split off into separate towns across the ample space of the desert. This would only delay the inevitable conflict, as the spreading settlements would ultimately encroach upon each other with time. Unbeknownst to his followers, Jarael had left one last gift in Sen'ssinai. Perhaps he had discovered it there, as it seems unlikely that any mortal hand could create such a thing, or perhaps he had poured the last of his life and magical power into it in his passing. What he left would became known as Jarael's Amnesty, a fountain with the power to revive one dead being per year. It would be centuries before the Elves discovered its full power, and they would do so by spilling the blood of their own. In that moment where silent seething disagreement had turned into violence, Jarael's Amnesty stopped it in a second as the first to fall rose again, squandering his gift and replacing the combatant's heightened tension with shame. Reparations would take time, but not nearly as much as the silent separation that came before them. Veryn, the revived, was chosen as arbiter as the various groups debated, and various agreements were made. Those seeking refuge would be allowed in, though they would keep themselves hidden from the steppe tribes for fear of violence until Sen'ssinai was large enough to support them. These simple principles would guide them without incident, stemming their undue spread while still allowing the desert to flourish in peace.
"Perhaps I misheard you - you say there are reports of an Elvish civilization in the desert?"The arrival of the Teleran refugees during and after the empire's conquest of The Ashlands complicated matters and put Sen'ssinai's unity to the test. Suddenly needing to support a growing population, some incapable of magic, all while keeping inconspicuous would prove a daunting task. On the other hand, the Teleran brought summoning and a culture centered around Fire and change that resonated well with their new protectors. While simple shelters had been the norm, the architectural ideas of these newcomers would quickly spread, giving rise to intricate and shining glass buildings among the verdant oases. At the same time, new innovations from the Human perspective helped to reduce the very strain many feared it would cause. Ironically, while it would happen fairly shortly after their arrival, the Telerans were not the ones that would cause Sen'ssinai's discovery. Instead, it was ambitious Golden Empire caravans trying to take shortcuts that realized the presence of the oasis towns, which they were happy to use and pass through. They would not keep the secret for long, and the empire was less than thrilled to realize that they had neighbors under their noses for centuries. For now, the future of the two nations remains uncertain, but if the merchant interests of Arrboth have anything to say on the matter, things will remain peaceful for quite some time.Reasonably skeptical imperial officer
Demography and Population
Despite a slowly increasing population of Humans thanks to Teleran expansion, most people within Sen'ssinai are still Elves. Those who stay for a considerable time often have darker skin and lighter hair than their compatriots, and given the reputation of the land among their people this can sometimes be considered a mark of pride. Firetouched and Goblins come next in terms of commonality for the same reasons as men. Dwarves are rare as a matter of sheer distance from their ancestral lands, and Orcs are almost unheard of, still largely ostracized by the majority.
Technically, the Golden Empire holds claim to all the land of Arrboth, but as it stands it cannot hold the central deserts that Sen'ssinai inhabits. This makes them a safe haven for anyone seeking protection from the eyes of the empire, though they are loathe to harbor outright criminals in their midst.
Sen'ssinai has no standing military, but they have little need for one. With the advantage of the terrain and the commonality of powerful mages and summoners in their ranks, fighting them is an uphill battle for any traditional military force.
As a nation where magic is, naturally, commonly available, Sen'ssinai has few purely technological innovations, but a variety of enhancements to the use of zeon. Enhancements include apparatus that capture wasted zeon during the use of spells, specialized one-way containers, along with various trinkets with spells sealed into them. In this way, they share their wealth of knowledge with each other, allowing even the unpracticed to contribute effectively. Construction of fine wood-paper has also taken off to satisfy the common need to create spellbooks in recent years, though they have no notion of a printing press with the magical writing methods at their disposal. The sheer prevalence of capable casters in the region gives it a quality of life that seems at odds with its location and architecture (as impressive as its glass buildings can often look). Rapid communication between settlements, up to date mapping of both terrain and ground composition through Air and Earth magic, magical forging of some basic items nearly on the level of mass production and quick disposal and decomposition of the same are all luxuries on display. It is said that some Elves that stay in Sen'ssinai rather than continuing on their travels do so because they've been spoiled by the sheer conveniences of the isolated nation. For the same reason, many worry about the reliance upon magic that only functions due to the sheer concentration of the magic-capable race, which typically takes far longer to replenish and whose secrets traditionally take longer to learn and master. Some scholars note that it may hold some similarities to ancient empires from the Age of Illusions such as the Icemen, and they rarely make such comparisons positively. At the same time, it would be hasty to call them completely reliant upon magic. Waterwheels, rope pulleys and cranes, wheelbarrows and similar devices are frequently used for construction and cultivation. Telerene glassmaking techniques are just as prevalent if not moreso than in the Golden Empire, and in the absence of dedicated mining it is sometimes even reinforced for use in tools and weaponry. Hourglasses and sundials are used along with observations of the sky to allow for great precision in plant-growing and husbandry, all without the need to repeatedly use magic. With a growing human population, these innovations have only become more necessary in recent years.
As religiously open as it is, the nation has frequently become a refuge for those persecuted in the empire, especially the Teleran people. As a result, while their reverence of Fire is common, various other sects are present as well. Nomads that worship The Traveler commonly rest in its open oases, and even worshipers of Light who, or one reason or another, are considered heretical within the Golden Empire find a place in its towns. Traditional Rusgans have been known to settle when their magical experiments run afoul of the empire, and some cults may even find refuge there as long as they avoid causing trouble for the locals.
It could be said tongue in cheek that Sen'ssinai strives to have as little foreign policy as possible. Unfortunately, the Golden Empire of Arrboth has had to diplomatically recognize them as a sovereign nation subject to the regulations of foreign trade. There is some dispute among the desert settlements on how to handle this given their lack of much centralized government, leaving the future uncertain in this regard.
Agriculture & Industry
A great deal of the plants grown in the region are not for cultivation purposes; most are grown semi-wild and simply helped along in their spread. These varied plants help retain water in the soil past the point of magical intervention, leading to a stable cycle. Of course, the nation still needs to meet its own dietary needs, and there is little widely available magic that can remedy this. Thus, plants that produce edible nuts and berries (along with fruit trees on the larger side) are especially common, and there are various agreements across the settlements regarding humane animal consumption. While this varies, most agree not to artificially accelerate the growth of animals, nor to kill them before they have had a chance to mate. A select few are purely vegetarian, using their somewhat advanced natural knowledge to maintain such a selective diet. Farms do exist in parts of the land, however, out of sheer necessity in a time of increasing human population. Cotton and hemp are grown for clothing, rope, and paper, and rice is a common means to support both the mortal races and livestock. Chickens are a common staple here due to the fact that their eggs are considered acceptable sources of protein even by the majority of Elves. Camels are sometimes milked in the region as well for similar reasons, making cheese a steadily developing commodity that the empire largely lacks. With ample sand from the immediate and surrounding deserts, glasswork of the magical or mundane varieties (as much as Teleran craftsmanship can be called 'mundane') is abundant. Some groups that have settled in the region actively use Sen'ssinai as a platform to look for untapped gold in the deserts, beyond the reach of imperial claims. Reactions to this practice is mixed, ranging from disgust to lack of concern provided it doesn't interfere with working the land, to even actively helping with Earthen magics.
Trade & Transport
As with the rest of Arrboth, most trade into, out of, and through Sen'ssinai is via land caravans. The region does have a few shallow rivers, but even fewer shipwrights and sailors. Better yet, imperial caravans are eager to make use of the passages across the desert to more directly reach other markets, and they are often happy to buy whatever the locals will sell to profit off foreign products. A few cobblestone roadways and bridges connect the area, but for the most part the only conveniences that it provides for travel are water, shade, and more stable footing than sand.
While fleeting magic and the expansion of nature are of questionable material value on their own, no one disputes the Elves' ability to teach and remember. The sheer breadth of topics taught in Sen'ssinai's academies, some of their few buildings truly built to last, is easily the greatest in the contemporary world. Literacy, mathematics, philosophy, sciences ranging from biology to astronomy, history, and various language courses can be found for both children and adult scholars, along with libraries steadily amassed over the centuries. On top of this, it is the only place in the world that will freely teach magic to those with willingness and aptitude, rather than having to find a secluded master. Some wizards are wary of the potential long-term consequences of this, and have performed anything from protests to attempted sabotage to keep the mystic arts out of the hands of the masterless. Reaching the area with the express intent to learn magic, partly as a result of this, is easier said than done. Many Arrbothi imperials will refuse to help those who are clearly passing through the empire solely to reach Sen'ssinai, some stopping the most obvious as early as the ports of Chal. Ambushes from highwaymen are common as well, as many who would make such a trip are not only expected to be rich and naive, but lack the protection of the empire. Without the sponsor of a caravan, it can be a dangerous prospect for a novice mage.
Golden Empire glasswork pales in comparison to Sen'ssinai's, so many merchants are eager to buy up whatever the Telerans will sell. Magical artifacts only leave the deserts rarely, but when they do it is at exorbitant prices that do little to reflect the actual difficulty of their construction. Some towns have even started putting a price on using their streams to restock on water, though this has done little to deter caravans and instead proves a source of easy income.
While traffic is ostensibly limited by the empire, caravans have quickly come to learn what the Elves and their allies are willing to buy. This mainly takes the form of useful ingredients (or even just seeds) from The Rusgan, gemstones, fertilizers, and ironically some works of art and musical instruments.
Remove these ads. Join the Worldbuilders Guild