IFAQ: Aerenal, Continued

The island of Aerenal is home to the majority of the elves of Eberron, including the Aereni and the Tairnadal. I’ve written a number of articles about these cultures, and Exploring Eberron delves deeper still, but my Patreon supporters came up with a few new questions!E

Are the people of Khorvaire aware of the basics of the Undying Court?

I think the common people of Khorvaire are aware that the Aereni worship their ancestors and keep them alive as some form of undead, but that’s about it; I wouldn’t expect a random citizen of the Five Nations to know what a “Deathless” is without making an Intelligence (Religion) check.

Have the Aereni sought to colonize a major Irian manifest zone elsewhere?

It’s never been mentioned in any canon source. The Valraean Protectorate in Exploring Eberron was established to create a secure buffer around Aerenal rather than being driven by a desire for significant expansion. However, just because it hasn’t been done in canon is no reason not to do it in your story. If *I* were to do this, I personally wouldn’t make it AERENAL that’s driving the colony, but rather a specific noble line or dissident group that wants to essentially found a “New Aerenal”—perhaps tied to the Skullborn, the elves who yearn to become deathless but who aren’t willing (or worthy) to follow the long and difficult path this transition usually requires. A secondary advantage to this—making it a smaller faction, not Aerenal as a whole—is that it makes it easier for adventurers to oppose the colony (or ally with it) without affecting their relationship with Aerenal itself.

Is it possible for other non Elven religions or groups to create and maintain positive energy undead like the Undying Court?

Sure. It requires powerful Irian manifest zones, a specific set of rituals and resources, and a population that’s fiercely devoted to the undead—as part of the idea of the positive energy undead it’s that devotion that sustains them when they leave the manifest zone. Like any sort of magic, this isn’t supposed to be easy or trivial; if it was, everyone would be doing it! But it’s not supposed to be something that’s somehow limited to ELVES. I could easily imagine an Irian zone in the Demon Wastes that serves as a bastion for the Ghaash’kala, with a few deathless elders who have protected this haven for millennia.

It seems weird to me how close the Undying Court is to the goals of the Seekers, especially considering the latter were inspired by its enemy.

All of the Elven cultures—the Tairnadal, the Aereni, the line of Vol—were driven by the basic question of how do we preserve our greatest souls? The Aereni created the Undying Court, preserving their heroes with their devotion. The Tairnadal become living avatars of their patron ancestors. The line of Vol noted that the flaw with both of these approaches is they are dependent on their being living elves who continue to practice their devotion. If all elves died—or simply had a change of heart—the patron ancestors would be forgotten and the Undying Court would be trapped in Shae Mordai. So Vol embraced Mabaran necromancy, ensuring that its beloved ancestors would be able to TAKE the lifeforce they needed to survive, whether as vampires, liches, or other undead.

As discussed in Exploring Eberron, the Blood of Vol is a comparatively young religion that was born on Khorvaire and is only loosely inspired by the traditions of the line of Vol (which are preserved more closely by the Bloodsail elves of Farlnen). But actually, the goals of the Undying Court and the Blood of Vol aren’t really that similar. Both agree that death is oblivion. The Blood of Vol believes that all living creatures have a spark of divinity within them—that there is divine potential in life, but that most creatures die before they can master this power. They believe that only the living have this power, and that while undeath may be a way to escape oblivion, undead creatures—both deathless and Mabaran—no longer have the spark of divinity and can never achieve their true potential. The Undying Court essentially believes the OPPOSITE of this; they believe in a transcendental state that can only be attained by the deathless, but the fact that the deathless rely on the living to sustain them prevents everyone from getting to pursue this power. So the Aereni don’t want to live forever; they believe that death and the transition to deathlessness is a necessary part of ascension.

So, they’re similar in “They are religions that believe death is bad and that it’s possible for people to ascend to a higher state.” But the Aereni believe that only a few people can achieve this higher state and that it can only be achieved after death, while the Blood of Vol believe that it’s possible for everyone to achieve divinity, but that death is the absolute end of that journey.

What was there in Aerenal before the elves?

Describing all of the challenges the elf refugees faced in founding their nation and all of the wonders they discovered would be the subject of a major article, not an IFAQ. However, if the question is were there any CIVILIZATIONS in Aerenal before the elves, no. The elves didn’t come to Aerenal as conquerors with the power to sweep aside an existing nation. They were a diverse armada of refugees from different subcultures, fleeing both war and dragonfire. The modern cultures—Vol, Aereni, Tairnadal—evolved ON Aerenal. But the idea has always been presented that Aerenal was an untamed and undeveloped land, a seemingly blessed refuge for these weary travelers.

Having said that, it’s a valid question as to WHY Aerenal was uninhabited. Humanoids are spread across Eberron, and Aerenal is a large and fertile land. Why had no one settled there? Here’s a few possibilities, each of which could support a different story.

  • It wasn’t sheer luck that brought the refugee fleet to Aerenal, and it wasn’t pure chance that the land was uninhabited and ready from their use. A cabal of dragons were responsible for both of these things; they secretly protected and guided the fleet, and they had carefully cleared the land in advance. This surely means that Aerenal has a role to play in the Prophecy, and it would surely be tied to the ongoing Elf-Dragon Wars. Canon sources have already suggested that those “wars” might be Argonnessen honing the skills of the elves in preparation for a true challenge yet to come; it could be that they set this plan in motion tens of thousands of years ago. If this is the case, it both means that the dragons have a plan for Aerenal and that there MIGHT have been a previous civilization on Aerenal, but if so, the dragons destroyed or removed it. Who knows? Perhaps Seren civilization began on Aerenal!
  • Aerenal is filled with powerful Irian manifest zones that support the creation of deathless. It’s possible that there was a previous civilization that achieved the creation of deathless, only to disappear completely long before the elves arrived. Did all of its members achieve some sort of deathless transition? Or, like the line of Vol warned, did the living members of the society die (perhaps due to a plague, perhaps due to dragons?) leaving their deathless to fade away without mortal devotion?
  • Aerenal also holds powerful Mabaran manifest zones. One possibility is that the prior society sought to harness THIS power, and their unwise efforts ultimately resulted in the death of their people. Alternatively, their major cities could have been consumed by Mabar (as described in Exploring Eberron), perhaps still existing there; could this be the origin of the Bone King? If either of these scenarios are true, could the cataclysm occur a second time? Or could the Undying Court hold it at bay?

Are there humanoids that have a significant presence or role in Aerenal beyond elves and half elves—something more meaningful than just traders, ambassadors, or tourists?

No. The 3.5 Eberron Campaign Setting presents the population of Aerenal as 77% elves, 19% deathless, 3% half-elves, 1% other. Both Aereni and Tairnadal are insular cultures unwelcoming to outsiders, and at least throughout the history of the elven presence there’s never been a rival humanoid culture on Aerenal.

That’s all for now! Thanks as always to my Patreon supporters for making this blog possible.

48 thoughts on “IFAQ: Aerenal, Continued

    • What exactly distinguishes the proto-Tairnadal and proto-Aereni?
      The basic difference is who embraced the arts of war versus who wanted to lay down their weapons. The majority of the proto-Tairnadal came from warlike cultures, such as Vadallia in the “Vadallia and Cardaen” article. But that same article notes that Cardaen born as a Cul’sir slave. So again, Tairnadal culture was created on Aerenal and fused various pre-existing cultures. The same is true of the Aereni: it combined the traditions of multiple cultures. Some of these are still reflected by the traditions of the different noble lines — Melideth, Jhaelian, Tolaen, etc.

      • OK that’s a really helpful distinguishing line – “We’ve finally found a home” versus “We must always be ready to fight for what’s ours”. Generally speaking, how important are the Draleus Tairn to the defense against the dragons? Does the Undying Court do the heavy lifting?

        • OK that’s a really helpful distinguishing line – “We’ve finally found a home” versus “We must always be ready to fight for what’s ours”.
          Yes, that’s the idea.

          Generally speaking, how important are the Draleus Tairn to the defense against the dragons? Does the Undying Court do the heavy lifting?
          The Undying Court does the HEAVY lifting — but a big part of that is preventing the use of EPIC MAGIC. Xen’drik wasn’t destroyed by individual dragons breathing fire, it broken by curses of immense power. The Undying Court shields Aerenal from magical attack, but the Draleus Tairn (and the Tairnadal in general, and the Cairdal Blades, and other Aereni forces) actually clash with individual dragons. So the Tairnadal play a significant role, it’s just that without the protection of the Undying Court it wouldn’t come down to sword-vs-scale combat.

  1. From my understanding, Aereni elves are raised communally, with each metropolitan area serving as the entire communal family. For example, the entire region around Shae Cairdal belongs to the line of Mendyrian, and everyone raised there is part of the communal family that is the line of Mendyrian. Is this correct?

    Regardless, how does the “line of X” system work for expatriates who live in Shae Lias, in Sharn? Or for expatriates in general? How can Aereni elves be raised communally, under specific lines, outside of Aerenal itself?

    Was Minara Vol unusual for placing a special importance on her biological daughter, compared to the more communally-minded Aereni society at large?

    • From my understanding, Aereni elves are raised communally, with each metropolitan area serving as the entire communal family. For example, the entire region around Shae Cairdal belongs to the line of Mendyrian, and everyone raised there is part of the communal family that is the line of Mendyrian. Is this correct?

      Not exactly. A “line” is an alliance of multiple ancient families. So, per PGtE: “An elf can be part of the line of Jhaelian while having the family name Dolorenthi.” It is only the NOBLE HOUSE that isn’t hereditary; the nobility is raised from the most accomplished members of the other families. So as an Aereni elf, you have a family, it’s just that as an Aereni NOBLE you are part of a second “family.” As as a NOBLE, you are part of a second family — and the children of nobility are raised by the family of one of their parents.

      Regardless, how does the “line of X” system work for expatriates who live in Shae Lias, in Sharn? Or for expatriates in general? How can Aereni elves be raised communally, under specific lines, outside of Aerenal itself?
      So, Aereni aren’t raised communally; they’re raised in families, it’s just that those families communally provide members of the nobility. So the point is that an Aereni in Sharn might be a Dolorenthi, and they would raise their children as Dolorenthi; but if they returned to Aerenal they would be part of the line of Jhaelian.

      Was Minara Vol unusual for placing a special importance on her biological daughter, compared to the more communally-minded Aereni society at large?
      So Aereni can have strong family bonds. The sole restriction is that the child of a noble can’t inherit their parent’s position in the nobility. But beyond that, Aereni families can have strong bonds.

      A possible point of confusion is that the TAIRNADAL rely on communal child-rearing, as children born to members of warbands are raised by the zaelantar. But the Aereni do have families; it’s only the noble house that draws its members from across the line.

  2. Are the Aereni familiar with the concept that if a Mabaran manifest zone’s energies are channeled into necromantic creation of undead, the surrounding land will have less disease and famine? If so, why are the Aereni not creating Mabaran undead, and what do they have to gain from destroying Mabaran undead?

    What is the Aereni stance on Dolurrhi necromancy specifically, as opposed to Irian or Mabaran necromancy?

    If Irian necromancy is “cleaner” than Mabaran necromancy, then why do necromancers in general seem to prefer Mabaran necromancy, especially in Khorvaire? What are the hidden costs and stipulations of Irian necromancy?

    • Are the Aereni familiar with the concept that if a Mabaran manifest zone’s energies are channeled into necromantic creation of undead, the surrounding land will have less disease and famine? If so, why are the Aereni not creating Mabaran undead, and what do they have to gain from destroying Mabaran undead?
      It’s not specifically CREATING UNDEAD that contains the threat of dangerous Mabaran manifest zones; what we’ve called out is that many Seekers “perform rituals that contain those energies.” Creating undead is one possible way to use that power, but there’s other approaches that simply dissipate the negative energy. Given its large number of Mabaran manifest zones, the Aereni undoubtedly have developed their own techniques for containing the threats posed by these zones. As for undead, the position of the Undying Court is that Mabaran undead are ongoing conduits that drain life energy from the world, and destroying them eliminates this threat.

      What is the Aereni stance on Dolurrhi necromancy specifically, as opposed to Irian or Mabaran necromancy?
      I’ve probably painted things with too broad a brush. It’s too broad to say that the Aereni oppose ALL manipulation of the energies of Mabar. They oppose the creation of Mabaran undead because they believe that such undead are an ongoing drain on the life energy of the world. But they don’t really care if you cast toll the dead, even if they’d RATHER you used sacred flame. And Aereni are experts in other forms of necromancy, such as speaking to the dead. Basically, they are concerned with actions that consume the lifeforce of the world. Think of it like an environmental issue. A cantrip that inflicts necrotic damage isn’t a big thing. Spells like the 3.5 unhallow are an example of a more extensive intrusion of Mabaran energies that they’d oppose.

      • Could you please expound a little on “As for undead, the position of the Undying Court is that Mabaran undead are ongoing conduits that drain life energy from the world, and destroying them eliminates this threat”? It is a valid position to take, but if an undying councilor was specifically asked to posit some form of evidence of Mabaran undead draining the life force of the world wherever they travel, what proof would that councilor actually be able to cite?

        Do Aereni believe Dolurrhi necromancy to have a deleterious effect on the life force of the world?

        • The fundamental nature of Mabar is to consume light, life, and hope. That is what it is: the embodiment of entropy and consuming darkness. Per EXE: “Sentient undead are created when a dying creature’s soul is bound to Mabar instead of passing to Dolurrh. The energy of Mabar sustains the creature—be it wraith, mummy, or vampire—while the creature serves as a conduit to the Endless Night. This is why many undead directly consume the life force of other creatures. Even those who don’t do so directly may drain life from the world simply by existing; this is why plants are often withered in areas frequented by the undead.”

          It’s not a simple thing to prove; if they could prove it easily, then everyone would believe it. They can point to the number of undead that actively drain life force or sustenance from their victims (Vampires! Spectres! Wraiths!). They can point to the common trope that vegetation withers and beasts shun areas occupied by the undead. They can point to the dangers of Mabaran manifest zones. But the whole point is that this is like global warming in our world. The Deathguard aren’t saying that Karrnath’s use of skeletal armies will drain all life from the world TOMORROW. But they believe that their science is sound and that you don’t want to wait until you start to see the consequences. It’s not that one more lich will destroy the world, any more than one more gas-powered car will, on its own, destroy the environment. Meanwhile, BECAUSE it’s not easy to show an absolute, direct negative effect of that one skeleton, people like the Blood of Vol DON’T take the Aereni claim seriously.

          This is why they are presented as a religious order; it’s a matter of faith. They believe that it should be OBVIOUS Mabaran undead are destroying the world; they are vessels of Mabar, which strives to consume all life. But they can’t PROVE that to people who refuse to believe it.

          Do Aereni believe Dolurrhi necromancy to have a deleterious effect on the life force of the world?
          Dolurrh doesn’t actively consume light and life as Mabar does, so generally, no, they don’t see interaction with Dolurrh to be a threat.

          • What is the Aereni logic behind Mabaran undead supposedly creating a significant imbalance in the world by introducing too much entropy/decay, whereas creating more Irian undead and inserting more growth/life into the system is perfectly fine?

          • I don’t think anyone (in the setting) has expressed a concern that there could be too much positive energy in the world. Positive energy sustains life; we’ve talked about how dangerous Mabaran manifest zones can be, but we’ve never suggested that Irian zones cause any sort of danger… on the contrary, they are usually sought out.

            One important point here: the Aereni believe that positive energy is the essence of life. Not only do living things require positive energy to survive, UNDEAD require positive energy to survive. The vampire is the obvious example of this: it needs to feed on the living, draining their positive energy. What the Aereni assert is that ALL Mabaran undead are like the vampire, just less obvious—that they HAVE to consume positive energy to survive, and just do this so subtly that people don’t notice. The skeleton doesn’t drink blood… but why do plants wither around Fort Zombie? According to the Aereni, it’s because the Karrnathi undead are draining the ambient positive energy from the region.

            By contrast, the deathless need positive energy to survive, but they can’t TAKE it from mortals; the mortals have to GIVE it to them through their devotion. Which was the argument of the line of Vol in the first place: that the deathless were flawed because they relied on willing mortals to GIVE them the energy they need to survive, while the Vol vampire could take what they needed.

            One might say “Wait, if all undead need need positive energy to survive, why are Mabaran undead usually vulnerable to radiant damage?” The point is that they survive by CONSUMING life energy, but they have a specific process for doing so (again, most obvious in the vampire). They FEED on positive energy, but on trickles drawn through the medium of living things. But they are innately anti-life, suffused with the essence of Mabar; the pure radiant energy of Irian is their antithesis, disrupting and destroying them. To look at it another way, as humans we need heat to survive—but FIRE will still destroy us.

      • Also on this point, are there forms of necromancy other than Irian, Mabaran, and, presumably, Dolurrhi? For example, is the necromancy employed by Katashkan Lords of Dust and Cults of the Dragon Below its own proprietary discipline, or is it still Mabaran necromancy? What do the Aereni know of Katashka in general?

        What do the Aereni know of the Qabalrin and their form of necromancy?

        • One of the basic principles of Eberron’s cosmology is that positive energy flows from Irian, while negative energy flows from Mabar (or more technically, negative energy is the visible sign of Mabar consuming energy). Therefore, any form of necromancy that generates negative energy can be generally classified as “Mabaran”, while necromancy or other magic that generates positive energy is tied to Irian.

          So yes, the Qabalrin practiced Mabaran necromancy, even though their actual TECHNIQUES were different from those of other modern necromancers. Qabalrin necromancy formed a foundation for some of the practices of the line of Vol, but beyond that the Aereni know little about the Qabalrin.

      • So how does this apply to Monster Manual 3’s Trilloch, a CN outsider (not undead) native to Mabar (per its one sentence “In Eberron” section) that is healed by negative energy and damaged by positive energy? (Apparently the thing predates 3E and has more details in earlier editions)

        (I recall there’s at least one other living creature in 3E that’s healed by negative energy and damaged by positive energy and isn’t quasi-undead like MM3’s Death Giant, MM4’s tomb spider or various oozes, but I don’t know where it is from)

        • As I recall, under the rules of 3.5, all standard undead are healed by negative energy and harmed by positive energy. Again, the principle is that an undead creature is suffused with the negative energy of Mabar, and that it is what animates it. Negative energy thus strengthens the vessel. Raw positive energy disrupts that and harms it. However, the PURPOSE of the undead creature is to serve as a conduit to Mabar—a vector that allows it to consume positive energy. So it’s formed with negative energy, but it FEEDS on positive energy… which again is why so many forms of undead drain the energy or vitality of living creatures. Again, we need heat to survive, but fire will kill us. Mabaran undead can CONSUME positive energy, but in its raw form it will destroy them, because they are creatures of negative energy.

          With outsiders, it’s simpler. It makes sense that immortals of Mabar would be healed by negative energy and harmed by positive, because they are LITERAL EMBODIMENTS of Mabar, which IS negative energy. Any immortal of Mabar most likely is mostly formed of negative energy.

  3. So if the average citizen of the Five Nations is unaware of the difference, would Karrns make any equivalence between their reliance on undead during the Seeker involvement with the military, or would Seekers compare the two cultures themselves? Would this play into Kaius’ marriage to Etrigani and the average Karrn’s acceptance of a “foreign queen”?

    • Would Karrns make any equivalence between their reliance on undead during the Seeker involvement with the military…
      Maybe? I don’t think the common citizen of the Five Nations is familiar enough with life in Aerenal for it to have a lot of weight. But sure, there may have been Karrn nobles who said “Trust me, this undead thing is all the rage in Aerenal.” Having said that, it is an interesting point in favor of the commoner’s acceptance of Etrigani, though of course she DOESN’T support the widespread use of undead…

  4. There are some facets of Aereni lore that you presumably did not work on, such as the portrayal of Shae Mordai in the Explorer’s Handbook, the Madwood also in the Explorer’s Handbook, and the Death-Eaters and Dynastians in Faiths of Eberron. Do you find there to be any major issues with these portrayals?

    The Player’s Guide to Eberron claims that the Aereni Deathguard have branches in Sarlona and Argonnessen, though the Argonnessen branch is not actually based in Argonnessen. How do the Aereni Deathguard possibly operate in Sarlona, let alone Argonnessen, if the people there would be heavily suspicious towards Aereni elves tromping around?

    • According to Secrets of Sarlona the Inspired haven’t extended an invitation to the Aereni or Tairnadal to build consulates in Riedra because the elves don’t dream and are therefore dangerous. However, there are other countries the Deathguard could have a presence in: Adar, the Tashana Tundra, and Syrkarn. Could be the Deathguard have hired agents from one of the elven Dragonmarked Houses to act as agents or maybe they have a light presence in an area outside of the Riedran zone of control.

      Though the Inspired have their own forces to deal with undead and extra-planar threats in Riedra in the Edgewalkers, its worth noting members of the Deathguard might be alarmed by the Shanjueed Jungle of Corvagura in Riedra in particular. The jungle is one of the largest Mabaran manifest zones in Eberron and an Inspired empowered its effects in an attempt to wipe out the psionically-manipulated animals they produced. The effects are slowly expanding and its constantly guarded by Edgewalkers so the spontaneous undead don’t escape and menace the population.

      • It’s is an important point that Riedra doesn’t use necromancy and has the Edgewalkers actively containing such threats, so there’s not a lot of reason for the Deathguard to be trying to operate in Riedra. Given the immense age of Aereni civilization, it’s entirely reasonable to say that they’ve had Wardens of Sarlona for twenty thousand years, but they haven’t actually RUN AN OPERATION in Sarlona in, say, 600 years.

    • There are some facets of Aereni lore that you presumably did not work on, such as the portrayal of Shae Mordai in the Explorer’s Handbook, the Madwood also in the Explorer’s Handbook, and the Death-Eaters and Dynastians in Faiths of Eberron. Do you find there to be any major issues with these portrayals?
      Starting with Faiths of Eberron: first, it describes the Tairnadal and Valenar as “variant sects” of the Undying Court, when they are an entirely separate tradition—and the Valenar ARE Tairnadal, not a separate tradition. It doesn’t mention the Skullborn (which used a different name in 3.5, but were still called out). Personally, the only way I’d use the Death Eaters would be as an Aereni Cult of the Dragon Below, likely inspired by Katashka. I don’t object to the Dynastians, though they aren’t something I use.

      I wasn’t involved on Explorer’s Handbook, but I don’t have particular issues with these elements.

      The Player’s Guide to Eberron claims that the Aereni Deathguard have branches in Sarlona and Argonnessen, though the Argonnessen branch is not actually based in Argonnessen. How do the Aereni Deathguard possibly operate in Sarlona, let alone Argonnessen…
      The idea that it has established branches on other continents doesn’t make sense to me. I’m fine with the principle that there’s a Warden for each continent, but I’d expect all four Wardens to reside in Aerenal and simply to coordinate the actions of agents operating in those regions. I’d expect the Deathguard to maintain safehouses and deep cover agents in those continents, but it’s not like you could go to Sharn and say “Hey, I’m looking for the local Deathguard office?” In terms of how they operate in hostile territory, they’d do it either with illusion, cosmetic transmutation, local recruits, or the similar techniques — the same way any covert organization would operate in hostile territory.

      • Why would someone be unable to go to Sharn and ask for the local Deathguard office? Sharn has a dedicated Aereni district, and one of the most influential people there, Mayne Jhaelian, has ties to the Deathguard. Page 22 of Rising from the Last War has the Cairdal Blades as the Aereni espionage agency, while page 98 has the Deathguard as the Aereni religious order. Is there something about the Deathguard that prevents it from operating relatively openly in Sharn?

        • It’s up to you how you choose to present the Deathguard in your campaign. You could choose to present them much like Silver FLame templars, operating publically and merely offering their assistance to people who might want it. I generally take the approach that they believe that their mission is more important than local laws and that they will engage in unsanctioned operations in foreign nations. So they ARE a religious order, but in my Eberron they are largely covert when conducting operations on foreign soil. But you can presented them however best works for your story.

  5. A possibility is that the Gith used to live on Aerenal prior to a Daelkyr attack, and that the undead gith leader is due to either Mabaran manifest zones or Irian manifest zones (If we disbelieve their mythology of being from a different reality).

  6. Regarding the Vol line. Way back in Dragon 365, your Dolurrh’s Dawn article, you included among the historical figures of that place Ashalyn Vol. ” An Aereni necromancer born five thousand years ago, Ashalyn laid many of the cornerstones of the faith that has evolved into the modern Blood of Vol.”

    Obscure pull I know, I’m just curious, was Ashalyn meant to be the Vol people meant when they say “The Blood of Vol” rather than Erandis, and was Ashalyn an undead lord of the Vol line who fell in its defense when the dragons and Undying Court came to eradicate them?

  7. I had been wondering abour Aerenal-before-the-elves…and, lo! here comes this article! The notion that dragons somehow protected and guided Aeren’s Exodus makes a lot of sense. I wonder, though, if one could make a case (and an interesting story) out of the notion that the Lords of Dust were the guiding hand? After all, it’s statistically likely that one or more Overlords are imprisoned on Aerenal. Perhaps they caused any previous settlement to fail, in anticipation of the Prophecy-fulfilling arrival of the elves? Could the Undying Court be unaware? Or could they be aware that they are fulfilling a Prophetic thread, but now that they are locked into the Irian zones of Aerenal, feel they have no choice but to ride it out,and hope they are powerful enough to avert the ultimate disaster?

    • I wonder, though, if one could make a case (and an interesting story) out of the notion that the Lords of Dust were the guiding hand?

      It’s certainly possible. The main issue I’d see is the Elf-Dragon Wars: the fact that Argonnessen has essentially TESTED Aerenal repeatedly, but has never actually unleashed its full power against it — which to me feels more like they are getting the elves to hone their skills rather than actually seeing them as a threat (although the case that they are just using it as a test for young dragons is also viable). But yes, when I was writing the article I almost said “But was it the dragons… or the Lords of Dust?” Either is possible.

    • Even if Aeren did have relatives that survived to propagate, remember that Aeren lived ~40,000 years ago. Even if Elves waited till they were almost middle aged to have kids, that’s still over 220 generations of elves (compare with Ghenghis Khan having a fraction of that and is estimated to be ancestor of 10% of his former domain). The bloodline would be in virtually every elf and it wouldn’t matter.

  8. I know this article is about Aerenal, but you say all elven cultures ask the question of how they they save their greatest souls? So how do the rest of the elven cultures approach this view? The Bloodsails obviously take a similar approach to the line of Vol, but what about the Houses of Shadow and the drow cultures?

    • I was only speaking of the three cultures of Aerenal. The drow have no common culture with the elves, and the modern drow cultures largely evolved after the elves fled Xen’drik. The Houses of Shadow were loosely Aereni until they left, but abandoned those traditions when they chose to leave Aerenal. It’s quite likely that there are Phiarlan ancestors in the Undying Court.

  9. If the elf slaves were knowledgeable enough in seamanship and shipwrighting to cross the ocean to Aerenal, why didn’t the giants do it before the quori and dragons? I’ve seen no indication there were ever giant colonies in Aerenal and Khorvaire. One of the WotC web articles even established the giants had airships anyone could use.

    • Probably pride if I had to guess.

      Separately, Aeren supposedly died of a wasting sickness at before reaching Aerenal, so to me (IME at least), that sounds an awful lot like Aeren died to scurvy. So I generally don’t take those ancient epves to have been that great of sailors, so much as desperate refugees doing what they knew they had to try in order to escape.

    • Wandering Mage is correct. The elven exodus wasn’t a display of expert seamanship; it was desperate refugees getting on anything that could float, and it was a miracle they found Aerenal. Aeren died on the journey, and they surely weren’t alone in that; I expect many died of sickness and others died because their vessels couldn’t survive storms. This ties to the idea that dragons may have been guiding and protecting them —- because it’s amazing that anyone survived the journey.

      As for the giants, the simple fact is that they DIDN’T go beyond Xen’drik. Why not? At this point it’s forty thousand years too late to know. Certainly it was possible. Perhaps they never felt a need to, as they never ran out of land or resources. Perhaps they’d made some sort of bargain with the dragons who taught them magic; perhaps the destruction of Xen’drik had nothing to do with the elves, and occurred because the Cul’sir Dominion was preparing to colonize Khorvaire. If this is the case, then the giants could have been skilled sailors who explored the rest of the world, but simply never colonized it.

      Ultimately, the canon fact is that the giants didn’t colonize beyond Xen’drik. If you’ve got a good story that works for your adventure as to why, run with that.

  10. Great article as always!
    Random thought (I seem to have at least once of these an article): Given that there IS probably/statistically almost certainly an Overlord beneath Aerenal, I wonder if the Elf/Dragon war(s) are in part to keep the elves sharp enough that they can DO something should the Lords of Dust become a bit more active there, especially since the Undying Court prevents major draconic interference.
    Actual question! Regarding the Deathguard, how knowledgeable do you see them being? For example, Kaius is reeeeally good at concealing his vampiric nature, does the Deathguard know about it? If not, and they found out, would they risk trying to kill him, even with the ramifications killing a monarch could have if Aerenal was blamed for it?

    • I think it would be really cool if Etrigani was a Deathguard agent and her relation with Kaius while sincere is ALSO a Deathguard scheme to expose Vol.

      • I think it would be really cool if Etrigani was a Deathguard agent and her relation with Kaius while sincere is ALSO a Deathguard scheme to expose Vol.
        The funny thing is that this is what I’ve always done in my campaign and I actually had to check to make sure it wasn’t actually stated in a canon source. I think I first mentioned it in this article. Etrigani truly loves Kaius, but is also in a position to try to steer Karrnath away from the continued use of undead and to investigate the activities of Lady Illmarrow.

        As I’ve discussed in some of the other related comments, this is ultimately an environmental issue. A single vampire is like a single gas-guzzling car. It’s BAD, but it’s not like ONE VAMPIRE will destroy the world. On the other hand, Karrnath embracing the industrialized use of necromancy? That’s bad. Hence, Etrigani being sent to gain influence in court—though not in the way originally planned.

        Addressing Samantha’s original question: the information-gathering abilities of the Deathguard are ultimately up to the DM; how powerful do you WANT them to be? By canon, they’re a fairly small group from an isolationist nation; they don’t have the resources of the Trust or the Houses of Shadow. On the other hand, Aerenal is considerably more advanced than the Five Nations and they get some support from the Undying Court, so they can have powerful divination. I DON’T think they are aware of EVERY SINGLE VAMPIRE in Khorvaire. But they are always watching, and could turn up as unexpected allies in adventurers are facing an undead threat. With that said, one of the main principles of Eberron is that the world needs adventurers to solve its problems; that the Deathguard CAN’T just eliminate every necromancer in Karrnath. Case in point, they are well aware of the Bloodsail Principality but don’t feel that they have either the power or the justification in the eyes of the world to destroy it.

  11. When I asked about them seeking an Irian manifest zone colony it was because my understanding is that Aerenal can only hold a certain number of Deathless. And ultimately if the number of elves who can be allowed to ascend becomes a trickle or freezes, there will be societal unrest. With the elves in general and the Aereni in particular likely to see things in the long term, I’d expect they’d at least have a back up plan. Ofc the question would be, where would they even find a decent-sized Irian zone but that would then be up to how someone would want to run it in their campaign.

    On the issue of the Deathguard and Sarlona, while I can see them not really having a reason to act within Riedra proper, I’d expect Endseeker cults in Adar, the Heirs of Ohr Kaluun and even the Eneko cults of Karrak to all be sources of dangerous necromancy.

    • When I asked about them seeking an Irian manifest zone colony it was because my understanding is that Aerenal can only hold a certain number of Deathless…
      Your thought process makes sense. Part of the issue is that—as noted on page 168 of Exploring Eberron—Irian manifest zones are valuable supernatural resources. House Jorasco is always looking to build healing houses in smaller zones, and towns are often built in larger zones. So they aren’t extremely common and they’re usually already claimed by someone or something; Breland doesn’t have a bunch of Irian zones it just isn’t using. Where there are unclaimed zones—such as Xen’drik—the main issue is that if they’re unclaimed it’s likely because the region is dangerous. Aerenal provides exceptional security, and establishing a new colony far from the protection of the Court is a frightening prospect; again, Valraea is still within its sphere of influence. So it makes SENSE and it’s FORWARD-THINKING; but by canon it’s not something they’ve actually done yet. As I suggest, i think it’s most likely to BE done by a splinter group—like the Skullborn—who are breaking with tradition and seeking opportunities they believe are being denied to them because of the restrictions on joining the Court. But if you want to run a camapign in which Aerenal is engaging in a wider program of colonization, it’s certainly a plausible story.

      And yes, I almost mentioned the Heirs of Ohr Kaluun as a Deathguard concern in Sarlona. Again, part of it comes to RESOURCES. If the INSPIRED can’t identify and locate a particular cult, it would be remarkable if the Deathguard are able to (though not impossible, if they have a divinatory system backed by the Undying Court that specifically senses Mabaran energies). All of the groups you mentioned would be concerns, and that’s why they’d have at least some agents monitoring activities in the continent, but they don’t have the resources to actually target every eneko cult.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.