IFAQ: The Elves of Aerenal

As chosen by my Patreon supporters, my next major article is going to be on the nobility of Khorvaire. This article is a shorter subject. Last week I wrote about the Tairnadal elves. This article deals with the other culture of Aerenal: the Aereni elves, the servants of the Undying Court. I’ve written about Aerenal in this article and this article, and there’s a section on Aerenal in Exploring Eberron; I’m including the two pages we’ve already previewed below. Let’s consider a few infrequently asked questions!

Image by Matthew Riley for Exploring Eberron

Are Phiarlan and Thuranni elves still considered Aereni? Are they eligible to become spirit idols or deathless? What about the elves with the Mark of Shadow who serve with the Cairdal Blades in Aerenal?

The answer to this is largely spelled out in this article. “Aereni” is a culture; being Aereni means that you honor your ancestors, give your devotion to the Undying Court, and serve the Sibling Kings. The shadow-marked families—Tialaen, Shol, Ellorrenthi, Paelion, Thuranni—were never actually Aereni; they remained independent from the Undying Court, the line of Vol, and the Tairnadal, and traveled between communities of all of these cultures. When the Undying Court eradicated the line of Vol and exiled its allies, the shadow-marked families chose to leave with them. Some feared that they too would be persecuted for their marks; others believed that the supporters of the Undying Court had committed an unforgivable sin in spilling so much elven blood. As this article says, “to mark their departure from elven society, (the shadow-marked families) formally joined their lines into a new alliance: House Phiarlan.

As for those shadow-marked elves who are occasionally seen in the Cairdal Blades? This is also explained in the article: “A handful remained, believing that it was their duty to the kingdom; these elves found themselves largely absorbed into other lines, and this mingling of blood causes the Mark of Shadows to occasionally appear in Aerenal.” The elves who develop the Mark of Shadow in Aerenal aren’t Phiarlan or Thuranni; they are now Jhaelian or Mendyrian. And the mark only appears rarely because unlike the houses, the Aereni aren’t trying to arrange matches to produce the mark; the marked bloodlines are heavily diluted.

So no: the elves of House Thuranni and Phiarlan aren’t Aereni. They intentionally severed their ties to their homeland and have no loyalty to the Undying Court or the Sibling Kings. And since elevation to the Undying Court—whether as a spirit idol or as one of the deathless—is an honor the Aereni bestow on their most celebrated citizens, it is not offered to those elves who have abandoned their homeland and its traditions.

With that said, a Phiarlan elf could return to Aerenal, abandoning the house and embracing the Aereni traditions; they’d just have to find a noble line willing to adopt them, just like the shadow-marked elves who stayed behind when the phiarlans originally left. And as Aereni, such elves would be eligible to join the Court, though again, they’d have to impress the priests and people with their worth. But joining the court isn’t about whether you have a dragonmark; it’s whether you are a devotee of the Undying Court who has proven yourself worthy to join it, and whose talents and achievements justify this gift.


Could someone use a spirit idol as a template to clone a revered ancestor? Perhaps by transferring the soul into a construct body, or even a living elf willing to give their body to the ancestor?

All of this seems possible, but the real question is would the ancestor be happy about it? As noted in the ExE preview, for many Aereni becoming a spirit idol is something they look forward to. When they aren’t interacting with the living, the spirit within the idol exists within a paradise of its own making, dwelling within its memories and ideas. The Aereni see life as something you do to prepare for your afterlife. You don’t want to die too quickly, because then you don’t have enough memories to build a satisfying eternity. But most see life as the chrysalis, with the spirit idol as a blessed ascension, eternity unbound by the physical form.

So COULD the soul within a spirit idol be transferred into some other vessel? Sure, I don’t see why not. But this isn’t a problem the Priests of Transition are trying to solve; they see the spirit idol as being a blessed member of the Undying Court, not as a victim who needs to be saved.

Do Aereni ever join the Tairnadal, for instance one who feels rejected and out of place with their family?

Sure! We’ve mentioned it before. And likewise, zaelantar youths sometimes leave the steppes and become Aereni; this is one path for a Tairnadal youth who doesn’t get chosen by a patron ancestor. This isn’t common in either direction; a would-be Aereni has to be accepted by a noble line, while a would-be Tairnadal has to be chosen by a patron ancestor to truly become Tairnadal. But it certainly happens.

The Tairnadal faith seems fundamentally more demanding than the Undying Court. Both revolve around preserving and communing with honored ancestors, but the Tairnadal faith requires imitation and constant war, while it doesn’t seem like the Undying Court places any demands on its followers (maybe to eliminate Mabaran undead)?

The Tairnadal faith is more demanding than the Undying Court, yes. This is because the end result of the devotion is completely different. Through their faith, the Aereni seek to preserve the Undying Court. But with the exception of the ascendant counselors and divine spellcasters, the Aereni have a very concrete, limited relationship with their ancestors. If you took the Right of Counsel feat in the 3.5 ECS, you had to physically go to Shae Mordai to speak with your ancestor. By contrast, each Tairnadal vessel believes that they are a living vessel for the spirit of their patron. They believe that the patron offers them direct, personal guidance—that their remarkable skills are the result of the patron guiding their hands. So the Tairnadal endures this more demanding service because they believe that they receive a more dramatic benefit in exchange.

Having said that, a critical point is that we just haven’t talked much about what Aereni devotion actually looks like. Only the elite Deathguard are charged to fight Mabaran undead. An Aereni civilian shows their devotion through prayers, which combine expressions of gratitude for the ongoing protection the Court provides with tales that commemorate their deeds and discoveries. But the second way an Aereni honors the ancestors is by following in their footsteps. This isn’t as dramatic or absolute as the Tairnadal revenant. But Aereni do seek to hone a skill that one of their ancestors perfected—to study their teachings and master their techniques. The point is that these skills often have nothing to do with WAR and often aren’t as OBVIOUS as the revenant’s martial devotion. But the Aereni painter is honoring a great painter of the past. The bowyer followers the example of a legendary artisan (and may have served the deathless artisan as an apprentice). As a side note, this is why the WGtE suggested an Aereni variant that sacrificed weapon proficiencies for expertise with a single skill or tool—because that focused expertise is a form of Aereni devotion. Exploring Eberron includes a different approach to this concept.

So Tairnadal devotion is more demanding and intense than Aereni devotion. But the Aereni do offer prayers to their ancestors throughout the day, and they think about their ancestors constantly, reflecting on their lessons and honoring them through the exercise of their skills.

How do clerics of the Undying Court actually MANIFEST? Are they rare? For the cleric, what does it feel like to cast a spell and how do they believe they are doing it?

So under the hood, the Undying Court actually has a great deal in common with the Silver Flame. The Silver Flame was created when a force of immortals bound their spirits together into a force of pure celestial energy. The Undying Court is likewise a gestalt of souls—it is essentially a smaller Silver Flame, whose coherent elements are able to also maintain independent existence (as deathless) while still adding their power to the whole.

When a cleric of the Undying Court casts a spell, they are drawing on that GESTALT, not dealing with a single, specific member of the Court. They don’t send in a request for magic that has to be approved; what it MEANS to be a cleric of the Undying Court is that you have been recognized as a worthy vessel of its power and you have been granted the ability to draw on that well of energy. This is especially important beyond Aerenal, as the Court can’t directly affect the world the way it does in Aerenal; it NEEDS champions to serve as its hands. But essentially, as a cleric of the Undying Court, when you cast a spell, you are reaching out with your mind and channeling the power of your collective ancestors. You can FEEL them all around you, hear dozens of whispering voices, feel their strength and support. But it’s not that ONE SPECIFIC ANCESTOR is with you; it’s the gestalt as a whole.

HAVING SAID THAT, in my campaign I WILL give a cleric or paladin of the Undying Court a close relationship to a particular ancestor. They can’t initiate contact with that ancestor, but it may give them divine visions (something I discuss in this article) and missions. If they use commune or similar spells, it will be that ancestor who gives them answers. It’s a little like the idea of Tira Miron being the Voice of the Flame; the UC spellcaster will have a specific ancestor who acts as their intermediary to the Court. So that’s a unique aspect to worshipping the Court.

As for rarity, in my opinion Aerenal has more divine spellcasters than any nation in Khorvaire, even Thrane. For the Aereni, divine magic IS a science. They CREATED a divine power source, and it’s part of their government! A divine caster of the Undying Court still needs faith; it’s that faith that allows them to channel the power. But they are also, essentially, granted a license to draw on the power of the Court.

Of course, that’s if they ARE legitimate representatives of the Court. You could certainly play a character who is in essence a divine hacker—stealing energy from the Court to cast their spells WITHOUT actually being an authorized agent of the Court. This could be an interesting path for a Divine Soul sorcerer. Another option would be an Undying Warlock, who would have a relationship with a specific ancestor rather than drawing on the power of the Court… which could be because the ancestor is running a rogue operation hidden from the rest of the Court!

Just how many bodily desires do Deathless retain anyways?

In my opinion, none. Deathless are described as desiccated corpses. Consider the description of the ascendant counselor: the corpse of an elf so shriveled and aged it seems no more substantial than smoke. What survives in the deathless is the SOUL, loosely bound to the body. What makes an ascendant counselor “ascendant” is that they have moved almost entirely beyond their bodies; from the 3.5 ECS “They rarely inhabit their physical forms, preferring to explore the universe in astral form.” The body of a deathless is a corpse. it has no biological processes; if you pushed food down its throat it would just rot in its stomach cavity.

However, the counter to this is that the deathless experience reality in a way mortals can’t imagine. They are sustained by positive energy, by the love of their descendants; that is their food and drink. Do they love? Certainly. On a certain level, they ARE love; just as they are sustained by the energy of their descendants, they are defined by the love they feel for them in return. This is why deathless are “usually neutral good.” What we’ve said about Mabaran undead is that they are drawn towards evil because the hunger of Mabar hollows them out emotionally, driving them to become predators; conversely, the Deathless are sustained by love, and this softens a cruel heart.

Meanwhile, spirit idols are sustained by positive energy but live in a world they craft from their memories. They eat, they drink, they love. But they eat anything they can imagine, whether it’s having the memory of their favorite meal or whether they can combine different tastes they remember to create something new. Their companions are likewise the memories of people they knew, so they can return to an old lover, duel with a rival, or share a drink with a close friend. All of which ties to whether either form of deathless would WANT to return to life. The key with the spirit idol is that the elves believe that you need to live long enough to HAVE enough memories and ideas to populate eternity. So they will raise people who die young, even if they are deemed worthy of joining the court, because they haven’t completely the life segment of their spiritual journey. But they see physical existence as, essentially, a chore—something you do in preparation for what comes next, not the highest form of existence.

That’s all for now, but there’s more Aerenal ahead in Exploring Eberron! Thanks as always to my Patreon supporters, who keep this site going!

56 thoughts on “IFAQ: The Elves of Aerenal

  1. Someone had brought this up, with extraplanar traveling, how likely are you to run into an astral projecting deathless councilor while on other planes of existence? How has their presence affected other planes?

    • how likely are you to run into an astral projecting deathless councilor while on other planes of existence?

      Not very. Ascendant councilors are largely interested in observation; consider that “exploration” could mean “will sit in this one spot for three years to see what happens.” Consider also that the planes can be as large as the world itself; If I told you “there’s fifty people exploring Earth right now, go find one of them” do you think you could? But beyond that, there’s also the questions of what they are doing. Ascendant councilors are loosely tied to their bodies. They explore “the universe” (among other things, meaning they have likely visited the moons). But they aren’t out there being rash mortal adventurers. They are largely observing; an immortal councilor could spend decades just contemplating a particular grove in Lamannia. What isn’t clearly stated is the idea that many councilors are actually spiritually merged. When we talk about the gestalt of the Undying Court, it’s because the majority of ascendant councilors actually merge their spirits together an exist in an ecstatic union; essentially, the Undying Court IS a parallel to the Silver Flame (or the Umbra of the Qabalrin) because it is a union of spirits, it’s simply that the councilors CAN choose to separate and return to their bodies if they must. But I consider the “explorers” to actually be a fairly small percentage of the Court; at any given time, the majority are part of the spiritual union that forms the core of the Court.

      How has their presence affected other planes?

      Very little. The councilors aren’t trying to affect other planes, and it’s immensely difficult to do so. Even the positive planes will react poorly to mortals trying to change their basic principles, and as powerful as they are, individual ascendant councilors aren’t especially significant when it comes to the power levels you can encounter in the planes. An ascendant councilor would be very unwise to draw the wrath of the Bone King or the Empress of Shadows, so again, they primarily observe. But you’ll have a better idea both of why it’s difficult to affect planes and the forces that would oppose them once ExE comes out.

  2. I should have been clearer with my inquiry regarding “cloning.” By “transfer,” I meant “transfer the newly-created clone.”

    I do not think there would not be that much point to a direct transfer without cloning. Would the priests be more open to such an idea?

    • I think it is certainly something that could WORK. The question is whether it’s something the priests or the idol would actually WANT. The Aereni want to avoid OBLIVION, but they aren’t determined to remain ensconced in flesh indefinitely; for many, immortality within a spirit idol is actually something they view as a reward. If you go to put them back into a body, they might say “No thanks, I’ve moved beyond that.”

      So that’s why the PRIESTS might not do it. But there could certainly be Aereni who do think it’s a good idea; there could even be a mad artificer who’s doing it without the permission of the spirits.

      • In the future, will the Aereni develop magical suits of armor equipped with powerful magic as a defense force against a world that’s rapidly advancing? Could these warriors be inspired by the Tairnadal cavalry to the north and be called “Dragoons”? What if some of them defected to the state of New Cyre, would they say “My life for Cyre!”?

        • Setting aside the Starcraft joke, I could imagine the Aereni creating golem bodies that could be animated by embedded spirit idols. I don’t think such a thing is common, as we’ve never discussed it—so it’s not like it’s something seen as an ideal state. But it’s certainly an idea that could be explored in Eberron 40K.

    • To clarify, my thought is that the spirit idol contains the soul, and if the idea is to transfer the soul back from the idol into a physical body, the soul may not have any desire to do so. However, if the question is whether a COPY of the soul could be imprinted onto a cloned body—so the spirit idol exists but there’s ALSO a living version of that individual, and you’ve essentially somehow copied their soul—that’s a dramatic concept that the Aereni currently aren’t capable of and that could have all sorts of crazy ripple effects. What does it mean? Are you destroying an innocent soul when you overwrite it with the memories of the idol? Are you weakening the soul of the idol?

      Essentially, it might be possible, but I’d put it into the “mad science” category and if I used it I’d definitely want to explore the unforeseen consequences of it… and consider again that the Aereni don’t like change. Personally I’d see it as something that an Aereni outlier might perfect but that would be rejected by the Court… and that they might then bring the technique to Khorvaire with dramatic results.

  3. Hey Keith! I’ve fallen in love with your world and your writing and I wanted to ask something specific about the Undying Court in way of a cleric; how would that manifest? Given the Undying Court is a concrete group of entities that has achieved a level of apotheosis, is it still highly uncommon to see a genuine cleric of the Undying Court in Aerenal, and even more so if they’re out in Khorvaire proper?

    Also, another question about it; how would it /feel/ for a cleric of the Undying Court to cast a spell? Would they be using their connection to an ancestor within the court to cast it? I understand there’s a level of Your Eberron, Your Rules, but still, I value your input on things 🙂

    • Interesting question! I’ve just added an extended answer to the end of the article. Hopefully it addresses the question!

  4. Aerenal seems fairly close-off or limited in its commerce with the outside world (one port open to outsiders, fairly strictly regulated) if I recall correctly, yet many buildings in Sharn (if not other places in Khorvaire) make liberal use of densewood and darkwood, materials exported by Aerenal. Is this something which has been slowly built up over time, or do the Aereni not care as much about those materials vs. bronzewood, soarwood and livewood?

    Are soarwood groves mentioned as being in the southern Lhazaar Principalities in one of your articles a remnant of the exiled elves, Aereni explorers, or something else?

    If they’ve ever had cause to encounter them, do Aereni sailors have any opinions on the “densewood” and “bronzewood” of the Shadow Marches, mined from their petrified trees?

    Is there any commerce between Riedra and Aerenal?

    • Is there any commerce between Riedra and Aerenal?
      Not according to canon.
      To date, the Inspired have kept their distance from the lands of the dragons and the Undying Court. Interactions generally occur on foreign soil, either in the courts of Khorvaire or in Stormreach on Xen’drik. No hostility is apparent between these powers, but the ancient elves and mighty dragons watch the Inspired with great interest. (Secrets of Sarlona p. 58)

      The Jhodra also contains a number of embassies. To date, Aundair, Breland, Karrnath, the Mror Holds, Q’barra, and Zilargo have established consulates in Dar Jin. The Inspired have not yet extended an invitation to the elves of Aerenal or Valenar. (Secrets of Sarlona, p. 73)

      I’ll answer the other questions when time permits.

    • The 3.5 ECS says “The elves take care to limit the amount of this miraculous lumber that they export. They have a long view of life, and have no intention of deforesting the land for quick profit.” In the case of densewood, I’d say that Sharn is one of the most concentrated examples of its use in the Five Nations, and it wasn’t built in a day! I would also suggest that densewood is the most common of the unusual lumbers of Aerenal, so despite their care to limit exports, yes, densewood is the most significant export… though today, soarwood is probably more valuable, and the Aereni themselves don’t make great use of it.

      The possibility of the Shadow Marches being an alternative source of densewood is an idea presented in an article—and to be fair, that article is actually about a region of the world of Phoenix: Dawn Command, with the suggested that it could be ADAPTED to Eberron by being placed in the Shadow Marches. It’s not a canon view of the Shadow Marches; the descriptions of Zarash’ak and the Rising section on the Shadow Marches say nothing about ancient petrified trees. Likewise, IIRC the only mention of Soarwood in the Lhazaar Principalities is in a COMMENT on that thread, where you asked if it was possible and I said “It seems like a reasonable concept to me. The main issue with both this and introducing Densewood to the Marches is taking unique resources away from Aerenal.” So I suggested it as a POSSIBILITY… but it’s not canon and I’m not even sure it’s something I’d use in my campaign.

      Having said that: IF I had these lumbers appear elsewhere, no, I wouldn’t actually tie it to elves at all. If it was possible to simply plant soarwood seeds in normal soil, someone would have done it. In my opinion, this is about planar, likely the balance and interaction between the energies of Irian, Lamannia, and Thelanis. Aerenal’s unusual degree tie to Irian essentially creates unusual interactions that can produce these things, but these plants won’t flourish in mundane soil. So it’s possible that there could be other places in Khorvaire that happen to have the same ideal convergence of energies, but that wouldn’t be the work of the elves.

      • Sorry, was the article that got me into Eberron! But I will point out, that was Matthew Booth, not I, who asked that. I went back and checked because if it was me then I had built a rather unusual mental web over the years to disassociate from asking it!

        On topic: I can see the wisdom in tying it to planar zones, definitely. I don’t personally like the soarwood in Lhazaar idea outside of a very small concentrated area, but like I said before the idea of the metal and stone poor Marches substituting expensive and hard to work special woods that mimic the properties of the woods of Aerenal is kinda cool to me (especially as it’s a mostly undeveloped region that focuses on dragonshard export otherwise) with metal weapons still being a commodity they need to import (in 3.5 as crafting time was tied to cost, a metal weapon made from bronzewood would take an ungodly amount of time to fashion, and be very expensive)

        • But I will point out, that was Matthew Booth, not I, who asked that.

          My mistake! In fairness, it was quite some time ago and it was a Matthew B…

  5. How sustainable is Aerenal in the long term? The manifest zone is finite in size if nothing else, and there are only so many living elves living on finite land.

    Could the population of deathless and spirit idols eventually grow beyond what the devotion of the living could support? Could the manifest zone be drained of power from constant use? Or does the fact that it is a manifest zone to the plane of endless creation sort of preclude that? On that note, is power being extracted at all or is it more of a passive thing?

    And even if any of the above is a problem, is it likely to be a problem in the immediate future? Are any steps being taken to deal with it in the future? (I imagine the deathless have the long term perspective to start taking steps now if they foresee an issue)

    • The Player’s Guide to Eberron addresses this: …the elves are very cautious about their island and its resources. Therefore, only the greatest heroes of the land are chosen to become deathless. The Aereni keep a close eye on the population of their homeland, because they know it can only support so many elves—living or deathless.

      Manifest zones (and there’s many zones to Irian in Aerenal, not just one) don’t run out of energy, but a zone can only support so many deathless. But yes, the Aereni are VERY aware of the limits on their resources, and this is reflected both in the number of people that become deathless and in population growth among the living.

      • Just how many bodily desires do Deathless retain anyways? “Deathless do not breathe, eat, or sleep” is explicit, but do they have any urge to (as many outsiders do)? Do they love? Given vampires (and other intelligent undead) are traditionally able to love but not act on it, can deathless that are their opposite do the physical part?

        • Just how many bodily desires do Deathless retain anyways?

          In my opinion, none. Deathless are described as desiccated corpses. Consider the description of the ascendant counselor: the corpse of an elf so shriveled and aged it seems no more substantial than smoke. What survives in the deathless is the SOUL, loosely bound to the body. What makes an ascendant counselor “ascendant” is that they have moved almost entirely beyond their bodies; from the 3.5 ECS “They rarely inhabit their physical forms, preferring to explore the universe in astral form.” The body of a deathless is a corpse. it has no biological processes; if you pushed food down its throat it would just rot in its stomach cavity.

          However, the counter to this is that the deathless experience reality in a way mortals can’t imagine. They are sustained by positive energy, by the love of their descendants; that is their food and drink. Do they love? Certainly. On a certain level, they ARE love; just as they are sustained by the energy of their descendants, they are defined by the love they feel for them in return. This is why deathless are “usually neutral good.” What we’ve said about Mabaran undead is that they are drawn towards evil because the hunger of Mabar hollows them out emotionally, driving them to become predators; conversely, the Deathless are sustained by love, and this softens a cruel heart.

          Meanwhile, spirit idols are sustained by positive energy but live in a world they craft from their memories. They eat, they drink, they love. But they eat anything they can imagine, whether it’s having the memory of their favorite meal or whether they can combine different tastes they remember to create something new. Their companions are likewise the memories of people they knew, so they can return to an old lover, duel with a rival, or share a drink with a close friend. All of which ties to whether either form of deathless would WANT to return to life. The key with the spirit idol is that the elves believe that you need to live long enough to HAVE enough memories and ideas to populate eternity. So they will raise people who die young, even if they are deemed worthy of joining the court, because they haven’t completely the life segment of their spiritual journey. But they see physical existence as, essentially, a chore—something you do in preparation for what comes next, not the highest form of existence.

      • Do you think it likely that some portion of the court could split off and attempt to find another manifest zone to sustain a larger number of deathless?
        If so, would this occur naturally as time went on or would it require some sort of schism within the court before this would occur?

        • It seems like an excellent thing to explore during a campaign, and it could go either way. If a new massive Irian zone was discovered, I could certainly see a peaceful attempt by the Court to claim it. But if you WANTED to create a schism and have an Aereni civil war, it’s certainly a plotline that could be explored. The main issue is what such a fracture would do to the gestalt power of the Court. If it was literally split in two, it’s possible that the fragments wouldn’t wield enough power to repel a draconic attack or fully empower clerics.

      • I remember there was a magical item, an orrery of the planes, in 3.5 that could generate a temporary manifest zone. Could something like that be used to increase the number of deathless that could be supported through something like Eldritch Machine versions or as an option for deathless that need to travel?

        • I think the real question is not could you do this, but what would be the full consequences. Manifest zones can be found all over Eberron, and there aren’t any obvious signs that they exist in a fragile, delicate balance with each other, so I suspect the creation of small manifest zones even permanently wouldn’t have extreme large-scale consequences… but a small manifest zone to Irian might not support all that much. And creating new large-scale, permanent manifest zones to Irian might have larger implications. What does it mean for the amount of Irian’s light reaching Eberron to suddenly, permanently increase by, say, 20%? Are the consequences truly limited to the new manifest zone, or does this have some knock-on impacts on the amount of positive energy elsewhere?

          My own thought here is that rather than a scarcity issue (i.e. predicting that light would be less common elsewhere), the worry might be more that a stronger connection to Irian would mean more of its light gets through everywhere. Perhaps a big enough change could alter Irian’s orbit? We have some experience with the implications of a plane becoming permanently remote, but what about permanently coterminous?

          Just some things to think about, since I doubt there’s going to be an obvious canonical answer to this.

  6. Hi Keith,

    What are the names of the bodies of water around Aerenal? Does Aerenal divide the Thunder and Lhazaar seas? What counts as the Dragonreach? Canon maps are inconsistent and don’t try to delineate well

  7. You’ve said that for clerics of the Undying Court regard divine magic as a science and themselves as the experts. How do they view the other religions’ divine power sources, particularly the Vol-ite clerics of the Bloodsails? Do they assume that they represent inferior soul-gestalts or do they just not care? Are the Bloodsails interested in replicating what Aerenal has in the Court or does it not interest them?

    And, on a totally different front, do clerics of the Silver Flame occur on Aerenal or no?

    • How do they view the other religions’ divine power sources?

      They are generally ambivalent. Approaching divine magic from a more scientific perspective, the Aereni approach is essentially “If it puts you in touch with a divine power source, you can believe whatever stupid thing you want.” They know that THEIR divine power source is exactly what they think it is. If you want to believe that your divine power comes from a sun goddess, you go right ahead.

      Do clerics of the Silver Flame occur on Aerenal or no?

      On a MECHANICAL level, nothing prevents an Aereni elf from being a cleric of the Silver Flame. But from a cultural perspective, it’s a deadly insult to your ancestors: why are you giving your precious devotion to a different force? The Deathguard can fight undead with the power of the Court—why are you running off and begging for spiritual scraps from an alien power instead of sharing in the strength of your ancestors? So the Aereni have nothing AGAINST the Silver Flame, but they don’t believe that AERENI should waste their time on it.

      Are the Bloodsails interested in replicating what Aerenal has in the Court or does it not interest them?

      The Bloodsails are descended from allies of the line of Vol. The line of Vol explicitly opposed the principles behind the Undying Court and devoted their efforts to Mabaran necromancy. Vol’s philosophy maintains that the deathless are dependent on positive energy—which means they either have to squat in manifest zones or beg the living for their love. If all the living elves either died or, say, decided to worship the Silver Flame instead of the Undying Court, the deathless would be trapped in their manifest zones. The Mabaran undead created by the rituals of the Bloodsails can TAKE the energy they need to survive. Sure, they don’t have the gestalt power of the Undying Court, but they will survive even if all the living are destroyed. So NO, the Bloodsails do NOT seek to emulate the Undying Court; their ancestors were exiled from Aerenal after the destruction of Vol precisely because they refused to turn to the ways of the Undying Court.

      As for what they think of the power source of the Bloodsails, according to Dragon 410, “Bloodsail priests… shape their divine spells from the raw energy of Mabar.” So what does the Undying Court think of that? Not a fan! Meanwhile, the Divinity Within is an idea that evolved on Khorvaire (And is NOT something the Bloodsails believe in). The Aereni typically say “Sure, a mortal soul can generate divine magic. But why limit yourself to one soul when your could combine many souls into a powerful gestalt?”

      • Do you think there would be much mechanical difference between Bloodsail Priests and Seekers? Would one side lean more Grave Domain, and the other Death Domain?

        • Rising From The Last War suggests that clerics of the Blood of Vol could take either the Death domain or the Life domain, and that makes sense to me; it assigns the Grave domain to the Undying Court, and that also seems logical. With the Bloodsails, I’d say that they would be focused on the Death domain. The point of giving the Blood of Vol both Life and Death is that one can focus on the necromantic aspect (Death) or on the spark of life and divinity; that one who channels the Divinity Within can be a font of life as opposed to being focused on death. As the Bloodsails draw their power from Mabar, they are more focused on the forces of death and undeath.

  8. Is it that Deathless can’t leave the Irian manifest zone, or that they cease to exist if they do? Can Deathless teleport between Irian zones? Planeshift or otherwise travel to to Irian itself?

    • Is it that Deathless can’t leave the Irian manifest zone, or that they cease to exist if they do? Can Deathless teleport between Irian zones?

      The Deathless are sustained by positive energy. If they’re in an Irian manifest zone, they are drawing directly from the source. If they leave the manifest zone, they turn to the devotion of the local elves. This is how you can have a councilor in Stormreach; they’re surrounded by a community of devoted elves. If the deathless leaves such an area, it’s not INSTANT; it just starts to fade. The exact rate at which an unsupported deathless will dissipate isn’t defined. It could be a matter of hours, or it could be days; it makes a certain amount of sense that it would be related to the strength of the deathless, so an ascendant counsellor would last longer than standard deathless soldier. But looking to the councilor in Stormreach, while it’s possible they teleported, it’s more likely that they just took a boat. The Aereni crew of the boat might not have been sufficient to sustain them indefinitely, and it was probably a difficult journey, but they survived.

      A deathless who traveled to Irian would be sustained by its energy. However, there’s three factors here. The first is that while the energy of Irian will keep a deathless alive, it is less SATISFYING than mortal devotion. Consider that positive energy is essentially the food of the deathless; drawing on Irian is like eating bland porridge every day, while the devotion of your descendants is a rich meal filled with flavors. So going to Irian WOULD keep them alive; but it would be a bland existence without the love of their descendants.

      The second point is that the power of the Undying Court comes from the gestalt. Ascendant counselors are only loosely tied to their bodies. They spend most of their time in astral form, and much of that merged together with other counselors. This is where the true divine power of the Court comes from – not from individual counselors but from these melded ancients. So the ascendant counselors don’t exist in solitude, and they aren’t limited by their bodies; they are part of a greater whole that stretches across Aerenal. Going to Irian would ensure their survival, but cut them off from the gestalt.

      The third point is that the inhabitants of Irian don’t actually WANT creatures from Eberron moving in and squatting. They wouldn’t mind a few of them, and it’s quite reasonable to imagine that there are a few deathless who dwell in Irian. But if a large group of deathless wanted to set up a city in Irian, the locals would have other ideas.

  9. How much do you imagine the Aereni would combine arcane and divine magic?

    I’m particularly curious from the perspective of a character I’d love to play sometime – an Aereni artificer who’s come to Khorvaire to investigate this whole Warforged thing, because the humans making constructs is one thing but the humans creating living beings with souls* is quite another; and since life and the soul is often associated with divine magic, I’m wondering if it’d be appropriate to flavour some of the spells and infusions as being made to draw on the power of the Court.

    Partly this is just because I love the imagery of magic items covered in tiny inscribed prayers that are a vital part of how the item functions, naturally.

    *I know the canon position is that nobody’s worked out warforged have souls yet, but I figure if anyone’s likely to notice that it’s these ancient experts with their millenia of experience in a very soul-focused area of interest, and it makes for an interesting character hook!

    • How much do you imagine the Aereni would combine arcane and divine magic?

      The ExE excerpt shown in this article says “Both arcane and divine magic are woven into Aereni civilization more deeply than in the Five Nations.” I do think this includes the idea of combining the two in interesting ways, and I could absolutely see an Aereni artificer describing their creations as using aspects of arcane magic while drawing on the power of the Court. With that said, the challenge of the Aereni artificer is the idea that the elves don’t encourage innovation, which is why the Five Nations are catching up to Aerenal despite their civilization being so much younger. As an Aereni artificer you could be following the traditions of your ancestors. Or as a player character, you could be driven by an unusual spirit of innovation, a desire to break from tradition; the question is how your actions and inventions will be received by those who fear change.

      • There’s an interesting idea in a traditionalist Aereni Artificer PC that just occurred to me – treating the Infusions as practice work.

        Every time the character prepares an infused item it’s an attempt to make something to a pattern passed down from a centuries-old master, and of course the item works perfectly well; but there’s almost certainly some kind of minor flaw or deviation from the pattern in it, so while it might be useful enough in a pinch, and the other PCs might not see the problem, it *clearly* needs to be put aside and another attempt made.

      • There must have been some elves who were interested in innovation, those who had to set up the system of deathless perhaps. Do any such individuals “survive” as deathless, perhaps acting as a somewhat progressive voice, or does deathlessness tend to make them supernaturally set in their ways?

        Might such individuals make decent patrons for more innovation inclined mortal elves, or would that sort of thing tend to rock the boat more than the rest of the Court is comfortable with?

        • There must have been some elves who were interested in innovation, those who had to set up the system of deathless perhaps.

          The idea isn’t that the Aereni are willfully ignorant and actively stamp out anyone who tries to innovate. It’s simply that most mature elves are most comfortable using the tools and techniques they know; they firmly BELIEVE that old ways are the best ways and that there is no NEED to shake things up. If someone tries to do something new, it’s not that they will be actively sabotaged like you might see with House Cannith in Khorvaire; it’s that no one will support them. In Cannith, an innovative artificer will generate excitement, and potentially be promoted or offered resources; in Aerenal, the innovator will be met with skepticism and “We don’t need a new wand; the old one works fine.” They CAN innovate—the Court is an example, and Aereni magic has undoubtedly evolved since the beginning—but the PACE of innovation is glacial. Taking a thousand years to perfect a new spell is entirely reasonable; why rush?

          So looking to the Deathless innovators: there UNDOUBTEDLY are some, because if you DID make a great innovation and were honored for it, you’d be preserved. I don’t think that becoming deathless would innately quash innovation, so they could be progressive voices. But on the other hand, it is about AGE as much as anything else. They made a great innovation ten thousand years ago… isn’t that good enough? Do we NEED to keep changing and pushing the envelope, or can we just hone that technique that was innovative 10,000 years ago and REALLY perfect it?

          One thing we haven’t discussed is if there were any Aereni innovators or artisans who weren’t appreciated in their lifetime and were allowed to truly die… and are now mourned as a great loss, as their work has become part of the foundation of society. That would certain be a great Aereni tragedy.

          • Out of curiosity, could an ancestor… swap cultures so to speak? If there was an Aereni inventor who didn’t earn deathlessness but enough people thought they deserved to be preserved, could they start being venerated in the Tairnadal tradition and be maintained that way? Obviously a living Tairnadal could just switch and be granted deathlessness in a more conventional way.

    • As far as I can tell, in 5E the only mechanical distinction between “arcane magic” and “divine magic” is the focus.

      • Mechanically, sure – that’s why I’m thinking about an artificer potentially using some things that we might call Divine magic.

        But from a flavour perspective, the idea of Aereni magic being split between arcane magic, which manipulates the background magic of Eberron, and divine magic, which channels power from the Undying Court, allows a clear distinction; and in particular the fact that the Undying Court are sustained by the love and devotion of the rest of the Aereni means there might be some really cool thematic possibilities in an Artificer making items that are both a piece of devotional art used in ritual worship for mortals to support the Court *and* a channel for the Court to send back some of their power when it’s called for.

  10. How accessible is Regeneration to the Aereni? To the Tairnadal? At 7th level it seems to be at the top end, but do they have a more ritualized version that’s more accessible?

    • The Tairnadal have the advantage of having more powerful individuals, but they are not as industrialized as Khorvaire. As the ExE excerpt calls out, an Aereni artificer may have the ability to create a very rare item that no Cannith forge can produce, but it’s a hand-crafted, unique work that takes years to produce. As you say, 7th level is the top end of effects that are found in Aerenal, which means it is certainly possible to find adepts of the Undying Court who can perform it… but it’s not in any way common.

      With that said, the point is that lower level effects are more common in Aerenal than in Khorvaire. So rather than giving them casual access to regeneration, I’d consider what they’ve done with prosthetics. Livewood limbs are an obvious answer, but I could also see an ectoplasmic prosthetic—a literal phantom limb.

  11. You’ve said in the past that the Karrnathi Skeletons are united in characteristics and can’t advance, yet this also seems to be the case with the Undying Councilors and Ascendant Councilors. Are the Undying highly in continuity with their living selves (ala vampires or liches) and these rules are anomalous or does their transition into a higher state radically transform their personality and aptitudes?

    Also, what’s the level of intimacy between the undying and the living on Aerenal? How closely do they live in proximity?

    • You’ve said in the past that the Karrnathi Skeletons are united in characteristics and can’t advance, yet this also seems to be the case with the Undying Councilors and Ascendant Councilors.

      Personally, I think the stats given for the deathless in 3.5 should be seen as templates rather than absolutes. Karrnathi skeletons are animated by something fundamentally inhuman. They are largely identical because they are essentially all animated by the same force; they don’t have the memories of the mortals whose bones they use. By contrast, the deathless are the preserved spirits of mortals. Some of the powers of an ascendant councilor are powers from their deathless state, but they should also include the unique skills that earned them admission to the Court to begin with. So there could be a deathless wizard, a deathless smith, a deathless bard.

      With that said, the question is CAN THEY ADVANCE? They can certainly gain more POWER, as shown by the Ascendant Councilor. Their statistics can improve and they can gain more hit dice. But can they learn entirely new things? What we’ve said before is that mature elves often have trouble with new concepts, just as it can be difficult for many older humans to adapt to new tools. I think the deathless take this even further. They are masters of their crafts and they can MAINTAIN those remarkable skills, but they don’t continue to advance in skill as mortals might; it is largely that they maintain a mental status quo while gaining additional power through the supernatural evolution of their spirit.

      Also, what’s the level of intimacy between the undying and the living on Aerenal? How closely do they live in proximity?

      There are communities of deathless—most notably Shae Mordai—where they remain in isolation from the living. There are wells line with spirit idols that dwell within their trances. But there are also deathless—both incarnate and spirit idols—who remain part of civilization, serving as mentors and guardians. ASCENDANT councilors are rarely encountered, because they spent very little time within their bodies; so a large point of Shae Mordai is that it’s where the bodies of the ascendant councilors are kept.

  12. Hi Keith! You say that aereni see life as a chrysalis. Isn’t it a contradiction with the general principle that alla elves cultures refuse to die and/or let their heroes to go?

    Also I remember that once – I think on Facebook – you suggested that the Court, although good, could be seen as a creepy entity and even be used as the villain of a campaign. Did you ever write an article on that, or would you like to share this point?

    Also: would aereni follow the court in any creepy agenda?

    Thanks!

    • You say that aereni see life as a chrysalis. Isn’t it a contradiction with the general principle that alla elves cultures refuse to die and/or let their heroes to go?

      Not at all. The Aereni don’t want their heroes to be lost forever. As a deathless — whether incarnate or a spirit idol — they WILL exist forever, provided they receive positive energy. They don’t need to continue to exist in the SAME FORM; the elves just want to make sure that they exist. To the Aereni, existence as a spirit idol is superior to physical existence; you suffer no maladies and you are immortal, and you can enjoy all the pleasures you enjoyed in life. So again, life is a chrysalis; you move on from mortal existence to higher spiritual evolution, whether as a spirit idol or in a quest to become ascendant. Either way, you ARE refusing to embrace the oblivion of death.

      the Court, although good, could be seen as a creepy entity and even be used as the villain of a campaign. Did you ever write an article on that, or would you like to share this point? Would aereni follow the court in any creepy agenda?

      I don’t believe I’ve written anything about it, but there’s an obvious example from history: the destruction of the line of Vol. The supporters of the Court say it was necessary to destroy a great threat to all life, but it’s entirely possible it was a ruthless action to destroy their one major political rival. And yes, many Aereni did support the Court in this creepy agenda.

  13. “Of course, that’s if they ARE legitimate representatives of the Court. You could certainly play a character who is in essence a divine hacker—stealing energy from the Court to cast their spells WITHOUT actually being an authorized agent of the Court. This could be an interesting path for a Divine Soul sorcerer. Another option would be an Undying Warlock, who would have a relationship with a specific ancestor rather than drawing on the power of the Court… which could be because the ancestor is running a rogue operation hidden from the rest of the Court!”

    And for 3E, there’s the Ur Priest prestige class. It’s kinda broken if you remotely try to though.

  14. Are Aerenal and the Feyspires in contact with each other, and if so, which ones? If so, have any eladrin tried to join Aereni society?

  15. While Volo’s Guide presents aasimar as being born among humans only, I couldn’t help but feel that the Aereni would produce its own share of elven-descent aasimars, guided by an Undying ancestor rather than an angelic mentor. The racial stats of aasimar work extremely well to represent the powers of Irian and the Undying Court, after all. So how common, in your Eberron, are Aereni aasimars?

    • No aasimar is common in my Eberron. I don’t think a normal commoner knows the word “aasimar.” However, Aereni aasimar are probably the most common form of aasimar, and Exploring Eberron includes an aasimar subrace to reflect this.

  16. I remember from an old Eberron book a peculiar type of flesh weaving – I can’t recall the exact book and it has been some time so if anything is wrong I apologize in advance.

    I remember that it had gnomes that learned to combine flesh with elemental powers and weirdos with plant powers – but also necrografts. Elves inheriting the preserved parts of their ancestors and wearing them. I’m pretty sure these parts were also magical in some manner like the rest of the grafts detailed in the book.

    I’m curious if this…. tradition is still a thing for the elves?
    Like the magic might be gone but you can still inherit great-great-great grandpapa’s arm, and they can attach it to you no problem? Or if this type of fleshcraft was even wide spread – maybe being a secret practiced only by a few elven families.

    • The book in question is Magic of Eberron. I didn’t work on that book, and I’ve never used its ideas in any of my personal campaigns. So this is certainly something you can explore, but it’s not something I have a lot of opinions about.

      Personally, it doesn’t feel very Aereni to me. The Aereni preserve the spirit as much as the body. Spirit idols preserve the spirit WITHOUT the body, and the goal of the Deathless is to become ascendant councilors who aren’t bound to their bodies. Keeping Uncle Bob’s arm doesn’t really seem to fit that to me.

      If I were to use it, I would probably use it as a TAIRNADAL tradition; after all, the Tairnadal seek to become physical avatars for their disembodied ancestors, and I could easily see the idea that grafting a preserved relic of an ancestor’s body is a way to be pysically closer to them. This would be an interesting approach to things like the Eye of Vecna; it’s not that Vecna was a lich, it’s that Vecna is a patron ancestor, and still sees the world through his eye.

      • You know, that would be a pretty interesting way to bring the Vecna body parts to Eberron. And the implication that the ancestor as able to see through the eye – to still influence the world through their body part is a spooky one. It reminds me of the vestige magic fluff – how you could make pacts with weird spirits from ~somewhere~ and they had weird influence over their summoners. From what I remember a few of those spirits were just normal people the god’s thought were icky.

        I’d pull on that and incorporate it into this type of magic. It might even be heretical to the standard elven soul magic – cause wherever these ancestor souls went it isn’t where they were supposed to end up. I kind of want to make this even sadder some how. Like half elves who didn’t know what they were doing. They (surprisingly) produced a powerful necromancer (and his children ended up being necromanticly inclined as well) and this was the end result. Using necromancy to keep their human and elven ancestors together, practicing corrupt spiritualism, and embalming techniques.

  17. What is the Aereni stance on Karrnathi use of undead or the Blood of Vol? For the latter in particular, the Aereni are probably one of the few groups to be aware of the meaning of the name Vol. Since the Aereni are so insular I’m sure they don’t have much reason to interact typically, but certainly the Aereni would know of them.

    • The Aereni despise all use of Mabaran undead. They strongly disapprove of the Karrnathi used of undead, and Aereni diplomats — such as Etrigani — surely discouraged it. But it’s a lot like climate accords in our world. The Aereni don’t think the world will END because you raise a skeleton, they are just looking at things with the perspective of immortals and think you are shortening the lifespan of the planet. They surely acted diplomatically to try to change Karrnath’s behavior, but they weren’t going to go to war over it.

      As for the Blood of Vol, the Deathguard has thoroughly investigated the Blood of Vol and concluded that the Seekers don’t know the significance of the name. But that’s WHY it’s so important that the faith WASN’T actually started by Erandis. The faith itself is innocent, and aside from its willingness to use Mabaran undead, there’s nothing about the faith itself that is inherently an issue for the Undying Court. People harnessing their divine sparks isn’t an issue, and the Aereni themselves believe that Dolurrh is oblivion.

      • Thanks for the reply! “Climate accords” is a really helpful way to put that, thanks.

        This all reminds me of Demise, from the 3.5 setting book. I have to imagine she would not be terribly popular with the Deathguard if they ever crossed paths.

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