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    Tal Aska - An Elven City in the Vesve
    Posted on Thu, July 14, 2005 by Dongul
    kirt writes "Tal Aska is an elven city in the eastern Vesve Forest that I developed for my campaign, and is suitable for inclusion in most campaigns. This article describes the geography, economics, history, defense, and important people of Tal Aska. A sketch map of the city as a MS Word file is available for download HERE. Most of the description of the city is set pre-Greyhawk Wars, but suggestions are given for adapting it to the post-Wars events of particular campaigns.

    Tal Aska - An elven city in the Vesve
    By: kirt
    Used with Permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author.

    Placement

    The intended placement of Tal Aska is about fifteen or twenty miles from the eastern edge of the Vesve forest, at least thirty miles and as many as one hundred fifty miles north of the Defiled Glades. With some changes in the geography, it could be placed elsewhere in the Vesve, or in Celene, so long as it is in some frontier region menaced by evil armies. My Vesve has a high escarpment running through most of the forest, parallel to the eastern edge and dividing the Whyestil lowlands from the Clatspur-Yatil highlands, and two small rivers draining the central Vesve that converge in Tal Aska. The escarpment can be a local phenomenon if an extensive one is not suitable to your campaign, but the escarpment and rivers are essential for the waterfalls on which the city is centered.

    Geography

    The city of Tal Aska (elvish for “Two Falls” or “Twin Cascades”) is located at the confluence of two swift eastward-flowing rivers that drain the central Vesve. The rivers separately pass over the Vesve Escarpment, creating two high and beautiful waterfalls. At the bottom of the falls, the waters commingle in a large lake that is further fed by natural springs seeping out of the base of the escarpment. The south falls are known as the “Crystal Falls” for the purity of their water, and for the occasional gemstones found at their base. The north falls are called the “Crimson Falls” for the bright red color they take on in the late fall, when the southern sun shines on them as it rises over the leafless forest. A single river drains the lake and eventually empties into the Whyestil. The city is actually a diffuse congregation of homes and shops that originally lay along the shores of the lake and, to a lesser extent, the rivers above the Escarpment. In time the population expanded to numerous farmsteads in the river valley below the lake (1).

    The lake is shallow along most of its shores and moderately deep in the center. Its placid surface is a great reflector, and much local poetry is given to describing the scenes of nature reflected in it - the falls themselves, the blossoms of spring, the trailing hand of a lover in a lazy punt. It is said that those who know Oerthlore can use the lake as a scrying device when the surface carries the reflection of both moons. While the lake itself is not of great depth, the bedrock underlying it is open to innumerable fissures and crevices, flooded caves and even a few passageways. Most of these are scarcely bigger than the fish and crustaceans that use them as refuge, but it is rumored that many are as large as elves, and a handful as large as houses. Likewise, at least one water-filled tunnel is said not to end, but to continue even unto the Underdark.

    The lake has excellent fishing and this, combined with the good local hunting, has contributed to the elven community’s growth. The lake drains into a broad, slow-flowing river that moves off southeast and empties into the Whyestil. The flood valley of this river is excellent farming and pastureland, and formerly supplied the bulk of the produce for the city (1). With the return of Iuz, this hinterland has been abandoned, as it is largely indefensible. The now wild and overgrown former fields and pastures support large numbers of game animals, more even than the dense natural forest, and most hunting expeditions from the city use this land.

    The river that drains the lake is navigable by boat from the city all the way down to Whyestil Lake, although the marshy passages and the numerous, shifting sandbars require a shallow draft and an experienced pilot. The flow of the river is slow enough that a vessel with sufficient crew can oar upriver, with some effort. The river is at its narrowest just as it exits the lake through a rocky channel: there, the elves built a long stone bridge many centuries ago. This is the only passable crossing downstream to Whyestil Lake itself, the river being too broad and deep to ford. Above the falls, the twin rivers are much narrower, but also more swift. The next fordable spot is twenty miles upstream, and is the site of one of the Iron Necklace fortifications (2).

    Settlement and Economy

    Elven settlement is currently divided between the lower city, clustered on the southern shore of the lake, and the upper city, strung out along the southern bank of the south river above the escarpment.

    Most of the subsistence of the city comes from fishing the lake and hunting game in the river valley downstream. The fisherfolk live only in the lower city, and keep vegetable gardens around their homes as well, but do not have tilled fields. Those elves who prefer to spend their time in hunting or craftwork live scattered about in the lower city and in cottages along the banks of the river above, and they grow vegetables as well. The city has an extensive communal apple orchard in which all are expected to work and all are free to harvest. The major exports from the city are dried and smoked fish and hand-pressed small-brew hard cider. There is also a fair export of craft goods (weaving, fine carpentry, and marine items such as nets, rope, and sails being prominent). In better days there was considerable income from tourism (both elven and human) in the city, but recent times have been less romantic and more practical.

    The city has a sizable port district with several docks, a small shipyard, and a few warehouses. Most fishing is done in small vessels of two to four people, with bait and line or net. For commerce, the elves favor longboats with step-down masts. These have a shallow enough draft for river passage and can have the mast raised and a sail put up when they enter the lake. Several hundred of the city’s inhabitants make their living through sailing or shipbuilding, which is unusual for elves.

    As one of the largest population centers in the Vesve, Tal Aska is a major trading site and has a weekly market fair. The market square, with its many stalls and display tents, is located on the east side of the city, near the port district. Besides elves, human, gnome, and halfling traders and merchants all frequent the fairs. Goods usually come into the city by land from the south, and those bound for other parts of the Vesve leave the same way. Goods destined for Furyondy are usually sent downriver in boats and then out on the Whyestil to Crockport. Few civilian goods come from or go to the north. The only community of any size to the north, Wendover (3), is self-sufficient and trades little. Its citizens do attend the market fairs in Tal Aska to get luxury items when they can. Tal Aska has traditionally sponsored the two Iron Necklace Forts (2) to the north, so supply caravans under military escort use the northern trail out of the city.

    History

    Tal Aska is the largest and oldest elven city in the East Kingdom (4) and the third largest in the Vesve. Nevertheless, it is now a mere shadow of the city that existed a century ago, before the Iuzian invasions. Then, it was known as “The Star of the East”, and was home to ten thousand elves. Nearly two thousand of its inhabitants died while defending the East Kingdom during the massive Iuzian campaign of 571-573 CY. After that, the elven strategy turned from guerilla counter-strikes to fortified defense. Half of the elves that lived in Tal Aska moved deeper into the woods to establish the more remote city of Ironstead in the Free Lands (4). The number of inhabitants in Tal Aska has further dwindled since then, both from the combat deaths of residents serving in other parts of the Vesve and from elves abandoning the city for safer lands to the south and west. On the eve of the Greyhawk Wars, the population of the city is roughly fifteen hundred.

    Despite its recent tragic history, the city remains vibrant, hopeful, and resolute. Regular Iuzian troops have never yet come within sight of the city. Many consider Tal Aska to be the brightest city in the Vesve, for it lacks the grim fatalism of the Great Northern City (4), the otherworldliness of Flameflower, or the lackadaisical attitude of Ironstead.

    Present Situation (Pre-Greyhawk Wars)

    Defense

    At one time, elves lived along all sides of the lake as well as both banks of both the rivers above the falls. After the Iuzian invasion necessitated the construction of the Iron Necklace (2), the northern shore of the lake and both banks of the northern river were abandoned. There is now a large military camp in the highlands between the two rivers, but civilian houses and businesses are permitted only on the south shore of the lake and the south bank of the southern river. While the north shore has the best view of the falls, and once boasted many waterfront restaurants and inns, there are no sightseers there now. All buildings and trees were removed from the northern lakeshore and the northern riverbanks to allow a clear field for archery fire. The trees were herded out with the aid of treants and herutaur (5), rather than put to the axe, of course. The swath of open fields thus created has proven favorable to herds of deer, elk, and wild horses and they now maintain this area as grasslands. Further back from the water, the woods bristle with snares, deadfalls, and spiked pit traps. These are maintained by the elves and their locations are changed every year. Large natural animals like deer are frequently warned about these traps by elves using speak with animals; those that fall victim anyway are honored at feasts.

    A narrow single-track path leads north out of the city to the Iron Necklace forts and the elven village of Wendover (3). The trail itself is not trapped, but it is not safe to go more than ten yards or so off the path within a few miles of the city. The path becomes more indirect the closer one approaches to the city - it has many twists and turns and at times seems to go everywhere except toward the city. In fact, it has been made to pass by numerous knolls with camouflaged fortifications, so the elves have many opportunities to observe and ambush groups that seek to use the safety of the path to approach the city.

    At the eastern end of the lake, where it narrows into the out-flowing river, are the docks and shipyards of the city. A stone bridge with three separate arches crosses the river here, each span being supported by a different islet of bedrock emerging from the river. The bridge is stunning, adorned with intricately carved surfaces in patterns that vary depending on the distance and perspective of the viewer. The bridge is heavily fortified, with a ballista/archery tower in each of its four corners and gatehouses with portcullises at each end. From here, the elves can hold off assaults from the north as well as control river traffic. Heavy nets are kept in rolls along both sides of the bridge and can be lowered to prevent ships from passing underneath.

    The lake is controlled by several “archery barges” with stout mantlets that are drawn by friendly, harnessed giant turtles. The barges patrol the shoreline and can provide flanking fire to support the bridge.

    There are three stone towers along the southern shore of the lake and a fourth atop the escarpment. Rather than being open to the air, the most elevated tower has a glasssteel dome on top, under which is a swivel-mounted tube with set-in lenses of far seeing. This serves as the main observatory point for city defense and has a field of view for miles to the north and east. The ballistae in all four of the towers, as well as those on the bridge, are grooved so as to allow the launching of hollowed-out gourds containing firewater in addition to normal missiles. The archery barges each have two small, mounted mangonels for launching gourds as well.

    Another key area of defense is the narrow stone staircase that climbs the face of the escarpment, providing access between the lower (lake) city and the upper (southern river) neighborhoods. This stairway has been cut into the natural rock wall so as to completely hide it from the northern shore, but expose it to fire from the towers that guard its base and summit. Thus, elven defenders can swiftly move between the upper and lower cities unseen from the north shore, but should either part of the city be taken the invaders would fall in great numbers on the stairs when trying to reach the other part. Similar stairs on the north shore were removed when the north side of the lake was abandoned, and there is now no easy way to scale the escarpment on that side.

    The general defensive strategy is to delay and debilitate approaching forces with traps and ambushes until the city can be alerted. By the time the enemy attains the river or lake and attempts to cross, a large defensive force will have been gathered that can hit the massed enemy forces with artillery and magic while remaining safe behind fortifications or across water. Other than the shoreline towers, there are few defenses and no walls in the city itself, which is a haphazard collection of homes, shops, and gardens. Should the defenses be breached and the enemy actually approaches the city itself, a general retreat and evacuation is conducted. It is widely rumored that one of the members of the East Kingdom Royal Family (4) possesses a hereditary magic item that can be used to open a secret cave behind one of the waterfalls. This cave is said to be lit with glowing fungi, to be large enough for the entire city’s population, and to have in storage enough magically preserved food to last a year. Despite the ubiquity of this rumor, every teller of the tale has his or her own version as to the identity of the royal family member, the identity of the magic item, and even as to which falls the cave is behind.

    Defending the city during the winter would be the greatest challenge for Tal Aska. This close to Whyestil Lake, the area receives several feet of lake-effect snow in the winter. This covers the traps on the north side, rendering many of them harmless. While the defenders are still mobile in snow, being skilled in skis and snowshoes, daylight ambush is difficult with the trees denuded and the ground so bright. Most of the forces of Iuz have infravision, making nighttime ambushes equally challenging. Although the water near the falls never freezes, the eastern end of the lake sometimes freezes over enough to allow a lake crossing without use of the bridge. Finally, the giant turtles (which provide the motive power for the archery barges) hibernate through the winter.

    Fortunately, Iuz has not yet found a way to feed or move large numbers of troops in the winter, and he retains in the Vesve only a small defensive complement from late fall to mid-spring. The leaders of Tal Aska are eager for any news of Iuz’s growing priesthood, for they believe that a major assault on the city will come during winter and be composed mostly of priest-led undead.

    As stated previously, there is a large military camp above the falls, on a peak in between the two rivers, which protects the city’s western approach. Some soldiers from the city are stationed here on a rotating basis, but the majority of the garrison is elves in the Vesve-wide Defense League or the Green Shafts (2, 6).

    The last salient feature as regards the defense of Tal Aska is that the meadows to the south of the city are home to a small herd of five pegasi. These creatures are allied with the elves. Although they are not bonded mounts, they allow a number of different individuals to ride them – the Lady of Tal Aska, all six members of the Warder Council, the assistant to the Civil Guard Captain, and all four of the royal grandchildren (see below for all). Thus, the pegasi can be used for reconnaissance, rapid command delivery, and even tactical strikes when the situation warrants it (such as against flying opponents). All of the individuals whom they allow to ride them have personal aerial saddles and tack, have proficiency in aerial riding, and proficiency in light aerial lance when allowed by class.

    Important People

    Defense outside the city is provided by the Warders, four hundred elves organized into five companies of about 80 elves each (around 50 faroth and 30 herutaur (5)). Each company is responsible for a certain section of territory outside the city, and they know that land intimately, including the location of all of the traps and ambush sites. Outside their assigned zone, however, common Warders know only a little about the landscape and nothing about trap placement. The reasoning is that in a city of this size, there are bound to be Iuzian spies, even if only unwitting ones (charmed, scried, mind-read, etc.). Thus, most individuals possess only a small portion of strategic information about the city’s defenses.

    The Warder companies are headed by Company Commanders; these five individuals and the Chief Warder are the six members of the Warder Council and they plan and execute city defense. Each of these six members knows the details about every section of trapped land, but they are all protected against magical influences. The Chief Warder, Whisperfang, is an aged faroth and a formidable veteran (18th level) of a decade of guerilla strikes against Iuz. Other members of the Council are either faroth (levels 17, 13, and 10) or faroth/thieves (levels 11/7 and 7/6). All members of the Warder Council may ride the pegasi of Tal Aska. Two faroth who are not on the Council but who are important in the Warders are of 7th and 5th level - all other Warders are of no more than third level and most are first.

    Independent of the Warders is the Civil Guard, which is responsible for the defense of the city proper. The Civil Guard garrisons the bridge as well as the archery barges and the towers. This group numbers less than two hundred and is composed mostly of arathalian and nolengol for land defense and faroth on the barges. Most individuals are of second level and none are more than fourth. Each nolengol in the Guard is required to know at least two of the spells Magic Missile, Sleep, Light, or Firewater. Besides their military functions, the members of the Civil Guard are responsible for public order and serve as constables and peacekeepers.

    The Civil Guard is headed by Butternut, the Captain of the Guard (Fighter/Mage/Thief 6/6/6) and his female assistant Sunnydew (Fighter/Mage 5/8, pegasus rider). The city’s defense is greatly aided by three volunteers who are not actually members of the Guard; they are nolengol of 11th, 7th, and 5th level. All of them know warding and illusion magic as well as mass-destruction spells.

    Tal Aska is administered by the Lady of Tal Aska (sometimes called the Lady of the Lake), a capable and matronly Fighter/Mage/Cleric (6/6/6, Priestess of Corellon, pegasus rider). She is of noble blood, has ties to the East Kingdom Royal Family, and serves as their representative. She handles political and economic matters with skill and largely by herself. In matters of defense, she is advised by the Warder Council and the Captain of the Guard. In this area, she generally defers to their opinions.

    Two other important citizens are Bards of 12th and 8th-level. The younger is only in Tal Aska occasionally, and more often she wanders the Vesve. The other is quite elderly and is regarded as a bit senile. He spends many hours each day and night at the base of one or the other of the falls, drenched by foam and listening intently to what he calls “the music of the waters”. He is the only non-Warder allowed on the north side of the lake, and that is only because the Warders have tired of retrieving him from there.

    Tal Aska is large enough and old enough to boast of a religious pantheon with a central temple dedicated to all the major elven deities. This temple is located in the heart of the lower city, surrounded by gardens of rock and flower. Sixteen acolytes (1st-level each) work in the temple, and take turns serving all of the members of the Seldarine.

    There is also a beautiful shrine to Corellon located up the southern river, a few miles outside the city. It is thus a long journey to reach the shrine, particularly for the inhabitants of the lower city, who have to climb the staircase each time. The priestess of Corellon (9th-level) who tends the shrine encourages the faithful to meditate on the journeys of Corellon during their trek to worship, and so arrive “in a properly elevated state of mind”. However, she personally attends to anyone from the city who needs ministry but cannot make the trip to the shrine (the ill and injured, or those caring for small children). Worshippers arriving at the shrine are more often seen by the under priestess (4th-level) or the fourteen female acolytes (1st-level each). This shrine and clergy are unusual in that they venerate Corellon in Her female aspect, only. Scattered throughout the city are first level servants of other deities – Solonor (nine), Hanali (five), Rillifane (four), Angharredh (four), Erevan (four), Aerdrie (three), Labelas (three), Sehanine (three), Obad-hai (two), and Ehlonna (one). Most of these individuals are not full-time clergy, but work at some other trade and have small shrines they tend in their homes or in public places. When a serious occasion for worship occurs they use the Pantheonic Temple. The only major elven god without dedicated clergy in Tal Aska is Fenmarel, and the Acolytes of the Pantheon make sure that He is venerated.

    The Royal Family

    The Royals of the East Kingdom are most frequently found in Tal Aska. They have a palace of rosy limestone on the lake, a “hunting lodge” on the southern river (more like a small wooden palace) and a magically-outfitted royal barge. Several members also have private manses scattered about. During the Fest of the Long Night, all fires and lights in the city are extinguished except for a single candle in each window of the Palace on the Lake. The citizens wend through the streets and sing or go out on the lake to view the palace and candles reflected in the water.

    The head of the Royal Family is Queen Goldenbough (Fighter/Mage/Cleric 6/6/6, Priestess of Corellon) and her consort is Swiftwater (Fighter/Mage/Thief 5/5/6). Their titles are now used only in courtesy, for they have abdicated in favor of their three children. Prince Foxglove (Fighter/Mage/Thief 5/6/7) is the eldest; he and his consort (Fighter/Mage/Thief 4/4/5) nominally rule Tal Aska, but they leave all the administration up to the Lady of Tal Aska (described above). Prince Winterstar (Faroth/Thief 10/7) and his consort Hollyberry (Faroth/Thief 7/6) rule Wendover (3) but seldom visit there, leaving most affairs to his Seneschal. Princess Coppereyes is the youngest of the Royal Children. She (Nolengol/Thief 9/8) and her consort (Mage/Thief 6/7) almost never officially visit their domain in Tanglemere (7), but it is said that they often go there in disguise. They leave the governing up to their cousin (the Queen’s nephew) Lord Meadowmarsh (Nolengol/Thief 7/7). The grandchildren of the Queen include Lord Patterpaw (Fighter/Mage 4/5) and Lady Doveheart (Fighter/Mage 4/5), who are the children of Foxglove, and Lord Firehair (Nolengol 8) and Lady Silvermoon (Bard 7), who are the children of Winterstar. All four of these grandchildren are able to ride the pegasi of Tal Aska.

    Important Royal servants often found in Tal Aska include high level Nolengol (11, 7, 5), Bards (9, 6), and Faroth (10, 7, 6). The Knights of the East Kingdom are led by the Royal Regent Thundercloud (Arathalion 14), said to be as formidable a warrior as any elf in the Vesve. Other knights include a Knight Companion (Arathalian 8), two Bannerets (Arathalian 7), and three Bachelors (Arathalian 5).

    Events of the Greyhawk Wars

    The Wars have not yet come to my campaign, but here is one possible future.

    The initial thrust of Iuz in the Vesve fell far to the south of Tal Aska. Thousands of Iuzian troops landed on the coast and began working their way southeast in an attempt to flank Chendl and cut off aid from the west during the siege of that city (Marklands, page 50). The forces of the Vesve and a contingent from Littleberg met them in an area now known as the Badlands. The protracted battle that lasted a month drained Tal Aska of most of its troops. Nearly all warriors went south to fight, leaving a minimal defensive contingent in the city. Lord Firehair was killed in the battle, and his body was never recovered - it, and many magic items he bore, are lost somewhere in the Defiled Glades.

    When the orc horde was finally broken, and began its retreat, its commanders received word to do as much as damage possible along the way back. Nearly half the surviving force headed straight for Tal Aska. Pursuit was tepid - the human forces quickly disengaged and only some of the elves followed the retreating orcs. There was no way the elves of Tal Aska who had fought in the south could hope to arrive at their home before the orcs. Prince Winterstar was in the vanguard of the pursuit, constantly assaulting the retreating hordes. He tried in vain to turn the orcs or force them to stop, but they simply avoided him and the handful of other heroes who spread death among their retreating ranks. The orc force finally made a pause a few hours march to the south of Tal Aska the city prepared for assault. With few traps south of the city, the orcs could largely approach unhindered. Hollyberry evacuated the civilian population - many say they took refuge in the fabled caves behind the falls. Only a handful of Warders and Civil Guard, those that had not gone south to fight, remained in the city. They abandoned the bridge as irrelevant and prepared to defend the four towers of the city.

    A major demon in service to Iuz scouted the city, and found the old bard still at the base of the falls, having refused to leave. The demon killed the bard, consumed his soul, and took his form. Appearing before Lady Doveheart, who was quartered in the Royal Lodge above the falls, the demon in the form of the old bard told her that the orc shamans had discovered the secret caves and that her people would soon die unless she did something. He offered her a powerful magic item and asked her to use it to save her people. She accepted it, but when she sought to activate its powers, found it to be an item of great evil. First it corrupted her soul, and then slew her body while her guards watched helplessly and the bard-demon gloated.

    Whisperfang had fought in the Badlands and been gravely wounded. He knew of the impending assault on Tal Aska and seethed in frustration, unable to leave his bed. At last he called on his patron, Solonor. Though it cost him his life, he prayed he could be in Tal Aska to defend it. A voice responded, “And if it costs more than your life?” Whisperfang answered, “Even still,” and died soon after.

    That night a flight of minor demons struck Tal Aska, assaulting the tower defenders from within the towers themselves. Most elves died swiftly; few escaped. Hours later the orc horde swarmed the lower city and laid waste to all in their path. All of the buildings were torched and the few defenders that had escaped the demons were slain. The Acolytes of the Pantheon had removed their holy consecrations from the building hours before, and fled up the staircase to the upper city. Orc shamans used the captured building as their headquarters and practiced bloody rituals in it throughout the night. The Lady of the Lake fell while defending the entrance of the rosy palace, and her body was repeatedly violated until it was unrecognizable as having belonged to an elf. It is said that she died content, having foreknowledge that her willing sacrifice would preserve the Shrine of Corellon in the upper city. Indeed, the orcs spent so much time in debauchery in the lower city, including the parading of the Lady’s corpse, that they remained camped there all the next day and did not yet venture to the upper city.

    At dusk that next day the orcs were being roused by the lashes of their overseers when something curious happened. At moonrise a pale figure emerged from the blood-spattered former Pantheon. The shade of Whisperfang strode through the orc ranks, launching silent arrows that killed nonetheless. He started with the shamans and leaders, then killed indiscriminately when he could find no more. Spells and weapons were of no effect against him, and soon the orcs were in full rout, fleeing as fast as they could from the ghostly figure, who pursued them flying (8). Those that fled north over the bridge were cut down by the scores of traps. Those that fled to the south were met by the pursuing force, the returning warriors of Tal Aska finally arriving home, led by Prince Winterstar. It is said that no orc lived to greet the next sunrise.

    Thus was Tal Aska “saved”, though at great cost. Few commoners had died, mostly the Civil Guard who had been in the towers. While the lower city was destroyed, the upper city remained untouched, save for the Royal Hunting Lodge. A month after the battle, the spirit of Lady Doveheart began haunting the lodge as a banshee. Her keening can be heard at night from the military camp and the Shrine of Corellon, but only affects magically those within sight of the Lodge.

    The Pact of Greyhawk did not settle boundaries in the Vesve, and fighting continued there for years after the Wars. Tal Aska as a city was abandoned, and the civilians were resettled elsewhere in the Vesve. The military camp and single tower above the falls were kept garrisoned, and several skirmishes were fought along the escarpment in the ensuing years. The shade of Whisperfang remained, appearing each night at moonrise and disappearing at moonset, and in between killing any enemy of the elves he could find.

    Post-Crusade History

    After the Great Crusade and Flight of Fiends, the elves recovered substantial territory in the Vesve, which may have included Tal Aska, if the dungeon master wishes. Two alternate futures are described below.

    If the elves have re-taken the land, Tal Aska will have been re-settled as a city. However, settlement has remained in the upper city only. The bridge has been re-garrisoned. The remains of the homes, shops, and warehouses have been removed or recycled, though the docks and shipwright’s remains. The stone ruins of the Pantheon and Palace on the Lake have been purposely grown over with ivy and flowers. The shade of Whisperfang remains, but is almost never seen. When it is, it is a sure sign that evil is about.

    If, instead, Tal Aska has been in Iuzian hands for a time, the upper city will have been pillaged as well, and the shrine desecrated. There will be no settlement of Iuzian troops nearby, as the shade of Whisperfang still haunts and hunts. Iuzian priests will have summoned or unleashed a great evil, though. Some huge tentacled beast now inhabits the lake, and will attack all foolish enough to come near (9). Whisperfang has tried to kill it, but its powers of regeneration are considerable and the elven shade no longer bothers, though he might try to hold it at bay if a party that included elves was attacked. Iuzian troops and settlers will be just outside the range of Whisperfang’s prowls, and the area of Tal Aska will be patrolled during the day. In this case, characters may be on a mission to recover something hidden in the ruins of the rosy palace, the shrine, or to find and open the rumored cave behind the falls. Also, the royal barge went missing during the initial orcish assault on Tal Aska. Rumor has it the elves guarding it asked one or more of the turtles to sink it when they saw the orcs running through the city. It, or the magic items on it, could be recovered by a party strong enough to confront the beast in the lake.

    Some Notes on My Campaign

    I began my Greyhawk Campaign in 1987, before publication of The Marklands, and my Vesve differs substantially from the one described therein (Beastmen? What Beastmen?). With modest effort, a dungeon master can fit Tal Aska into most any Vesve campaign, but this section explains the non-canon references included in the article. Special thanks are due Glenn Dammerung, for sharing with me information from the most recent canon treatment of the Vesve, in the January 2005 issue of Dungeon.

    Please see a map of Tal Aska HERE.

    1. In my campaign most elves live by hunting and gathering, not farming or herding, but I think some sort of agriculture would be necessary for a city the (original) size of Tal Aska to exist. Believe it or not, elven agriculture is about as polemic a topic as you could broach on Greytalk. If your campaign does not have a place for it, ignore the references to agriculture and assume that the city has never had more than two thousand elves.

    2. In response to the Iuzian invasion of the early 570s, the various powers in the Vesve created a Defense League to coordinate defense of the forest. The most important work of the League is the maintenance of the Iron Necklace, a series of fortifications providing a barrier to further Iuzian incursions.

    3. Wendover is a small elven village on the frontier with Iuz in my campaign. It may be the subject of a future submission. The name “Wendover” is short for “Wind-over-water”, and also refers to real world frontier town that my Utah friends frequented.

    4. My Vesve is divided into four major provinces, all of which owe loose obedience to the Lord of the High Elves. The Northern Kingdom is almost completely overrun by the forces of Iuz, and there are no living claimants to its throne. Only the Great Northern City remains, and this is administered by a civilian democracy within limits set by a military council. The Western Kingdom (which includes Flameflower) is mostly intact and is ruled by the King or Queen of the West. A King or Queen of the East traditionally rules the East Kingdom, but the last Queen recently abdicated and the land is now divided among her children. Iuz occupies about half of the territory of the East Kingdom, and Tal Aska lies a day’s march from frontier of Iuzian land. The southern part of the Vesve is known as the Hartlands, and has many independent communities administered by the Elven Knights of the Hart. In addition to these four major provinces there are also the so-called Free Lands, which are actually under Furyondian control.

    5. In my campaign, elves have unlimited advancement in four elven-only classes of my own invention: “Herutaur” (druid-mages), “Arathalian” (noble warriors), “Faroth” (wilderness warriors), and “Nolengol” (sorcerers). Earlier Canonfire! articles described Faroth, Arathalian, and their roles in the Elven Knights of the Hart (all formatted for 2nd Edition). If not of these elven classes, elves may take the human classes available in 1st Edition, with the level limit restrictions presented in 1st Edition’s Unearthed Arcana. The non-player character level distribution for elves is derived from 1st Edition Monster Manual.

    6. Furyondy considers the entire Vesve to be a protectorate, and the elves do not publicly disagree. The King of Furyondy appoints a Lord or Lady Warden of the Vesve to administer in His name. The Lord Warden is in command of the Green Shafts, the single largest armed force in the Vesve. This force is composed of nearly three thousand elves, though it is rare for a company of more than fifty to be assembled in one place. Most of these elves serve in other capacities, so the force as such exists mostly as a Furyondian concept except when it is mustered for specific action.

    7. Tanglemere is another elven village in my campaign. It is located south and west of Tal Aska, on the trail to Ironstead. In a post-Wars campaign, it was probably overtaken by the destruction of the forest and is now inside the Defiled Glades.

    8. Whisperfang in undeath has largely the same stats as he had in life, with the following modifications: he is ethereal and may only manifest on Oerth within a mile of Tal Aska, and only when at least one moon is in the sky. He can fly, but at the same speed he had walking in life. He is immune to weapons of less power than +3, to spells of less than 3rd level, and to all spells that specifically target a victim’s mind or body. If he takes enough damage to kill him, he disappears, but his body will re-appear at the next moonrise. He attacks only with bow and arrow. If there are any unused arrows within thirty feet of him, he can take and use these - they will appear in his hand. Magic arrows he attempts to take against the will of their owner require a save vs. spells (or Will save at DC 18) for the owner modified by the bonus of the arrow, success indicating that the arrow remains in the owner’s possession and no further attempts may be made on that particular item, ever. If there are no available arrows in range for him, he will use some of his essence to make an arrow, costing him 1 hp each (thus, a prolonged combat could eventually result in Whisperfang spending his entire essence and disappearing, but he will arise the next night). Whisperfang may not communicate in any form. He cannot be permanently destroyed while Iuz lives: Solonor has tied their destinies together. Anything that destroys him is temporary, and he will reform at the next moonrise.

    9. Something like the creature in the lake outside the mines of Moria in Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.

    "
     
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    Re: Tal Aska - An Elven City in the Vesve (Score: 1)
    by Scottenkainen on Fri, July 22, 2005
    (User Info | Send a Message)
    Bravo on two points in particular -- describing the region around the city in three dimensions (locations that are only envisioned from a 2-D map so often do not rise above 2-D in game play), and acknowledging the issue of agriculture in your first endnote. I had planned to take you to task on that, but it seems you anticipated me. ;)

    ~Scott C.




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