FAQ: Tairnadal Patrons and Beasts

The Darguul warlord studied Caerys, slowly spinning the chan of his flail. “What could bring you to this place, elf?” His tribe gathered around them, forming a wide circle of shadows and gleaming red eyes.

Caerys held her double blade in the falcon guard, level with her shoulders and spreading out like wings. “I came in search of legends. Ten thousand years ago Daealyth of Taeri stood this ground and faced your ancestors, and twenty fell before his singing blades. You are no Dhakaani of old, and a mere twenty of you will bring no honor to the Taeri.”The warlord hissed in fury, and his flail flashed in the firelight. The chain wrapped around Caerys’ blade but she twisted away. The flail flew into the darkness. She spun forward, her double blade weaving a circle of fire as she danced toward the chieftain. In a moment the song of steel was over.

Caerys watched as the warlord fell to the ground. With a contemptuous snap of her wrist, she flicked the blood from her blade into the eyes of the stunned onlookers. She smiled behind her spirit veil, counting the blades arrayed against her.

“But forty will.”

—Dragonshards: Elves of Valenar, Part One

The Tairnadal elves of Eberron are devoted to the arts of war. When a Tairnadal elf reaches adolescence, a rite is perform that determines which of the patron ancestors has chosen the child. From that point on, it is the duty of the elf to emulate this ancestor, perfecting their skills and following in their footsteps. Each Tairnadal wears a zaelshin, an amulet that bears the sigil of their patron; when performing heroic deeds they cover their face with a veil known as a zaelta (“spirit mask”), so the enemy sees the zaelshin rather than the face of the living elf.

The Tairnadal have always been called out as one of the most efficient and deadly fighting forces in Eberron. In part this is due to their discipline and absolute devotion to the arts of war. The Tairnadal are ascetics who undergo decades of harsh training, and spend their lives searching for ever greater challenges for their skills. But the idea has always been that there’s a possibly supernatural aspect. Through their devotion, the Tairnadal preserve the spirits of their greatest champions; but the idea is that this allows the ancient heroes to guide the living elves. When a Tairnadal elf acts on instinct and intuition, they believe that the spirit of their ancestor can guide their hands and direct their thoughts. So for a Tairnadal, following the path of an ancestor isn’t simply an annoying chore; they believe that the more closely they emulate the ancestor, the easier it is for the patron to live through them, sharing their legendary skills.

So in part, the devotion of the Tairnadal is based on the belief that they are keeping the spirits of their ancestors from fading into oblivion. But this is balanced against the belief that the living Tairnadal receive concrete benefits from this relationship—that the exceptional skills of Tairnadal warriors and wizards reflect the direct guidance of these ancestors.

Over the years, there are a number of questions that come up frequently.

  • If Tairnadal culture is based on the relationship with the ancestors, how did it begin? Who were the first ancestors?
  • Is it possible for my character to become a patron ancestor, or can living elves never be seen as the equals of their ancestors?
  • Where are the patron ancestors? If their spirits still exist, why haven’t they been resurrected?
  • How do I choose a patron ancestor for my character? Why does it matter?
  • Can half-elves become Tairnadal?
  • What’s the difference between Valenar elves and Tairnadal?

Who are the patron ancestors?

One thing that many people don’t realize is that the original patron ancestors weren’t Tairnadal. The elves who fought against the ancient giants came from many different cultures. In Dragon 407, the article “Vadallia and Cardaen” presents two patron ancestors—one a warrior queen who was born free in the wilds of Xen’drik, the other a wizard trained by the Cul’sir giants who turned against his masters. The original patron ancestors were united by their common cause, but they came from many different cultures and backgrounds. Tairnadal culture was born on Aerenal, forged by refugees united by the stories of their champions and the determination that they would never be conquered again.

So the FIRST patron ancestors were heroes who fought against the giants. But while the foundation of the Tairnadal faith is to honor and preserve the ancestors, it’s understood that this is because it lets the mortal elf channel the skills of those legendary heroes… and potentially to use those skills to become legends in their own right. Look back to the story that begins this article. What this tells us was that in the Age of monsters there was a Tairnadal champion named Daealyth who was channeling the patron ancestor Taeri, one of the champions of Xen’drik. But the deeds of Daealyth were so exceptional that she herself became a legend—and TODAY, we have the elf Caerys, who is channeling Daealyth. So as a Tairnadal elf it is your duty to honor your ancestor and to do all that you can to bring glory to their name; but the hope is that in doing so you will become a vessel for their spirit and that together you will forge NEW legends—and that someday, future Tairnadal will channel YOUR spirit.

A secondary aspect to this is the idea that when dealing with generational ancestors, you do honor the patrons of your patron. In the opening paragraph, Caerys says that the battle will “bring no honor to the Taeri.” While she is the chosen of Daealyth, Daealyth was chosen by Taeri, and Caerys feels a secondary allegiance to the original champion.

Summing up: The first patron ancestors were champions of the conflicts on Xen’drik. However, over the course of tens of thousands of years new patrons have risen, and if you perform legendary deeds as a Tairnadal elf you yourself could become a patron ancestor.

in developing a patron ancestor—whether as a player or DM—consider that they are a celebrated, legendary figure and that the elves what to make sure they are never forgotten. Why are they celebrated and admired? What was their greatest achievement? Did they have a particular tool or treasure they were known for? Despite being beloved and preserved in memory, did they have any notable flaws? Because it’s the duty of the revenant to embody their flaws as well as their virtues! But an elf wouldn’t be preserve as a patron ancestor unless their virtues significantly outweighed their flaws.

But where ARE the patron ancestors? Are they in Dolurrh? Why don’t they get resurrected?

People only linger in Dolurrh for about a month before their spirits fade. In the past this has been used as a concrete limit on any form of resurrection; that unless a spirit is somehow kept from fading in Dolurrh (as some say occurs if the soul is snatched by the Keeper), there’s no way to return after it fades.

This is concrete fact. But no one knows if there’s anything beyond Dolurrh. The vassals of the Sovereign Host believe that Dolurrh is a gateway to the realms of the Sovereigns. Followers of the Silver Flame say the spirit moves on from Dolurrh to merge with the Silver Flame. The Blood of Vol says that fading is oblivion. The Tairnadal faith maintains that you persist for as long as you’re remembered. The more people who remember you, the stronger your spirit and the greater your ability to influence the world. Thus, the patron ancestors aren’t in Dolurrh and are beyond the reach of resurrection, but it’s believed that they continue to exist regardless.

How do I choose a patron ancestor for my character? Why does it matter?

Tairnadal elves don’t get to choose their patron ancestors; rather, the ancestor chooses the living elf. So Tairnadal children spend their youth essentially auditioning for the ancestors. The basic belief is that if you prove yourself to be an exceptional archer you’ll be chosen by a patron who specializes in archery—that early aptitudes inform the choice. But again, ultimately, the patron chooses the elf. You might EXPECT to be chosen by the legendary archer because of your skill, only to be chosen by a brave swordsman—who may have picked you because of your bravery, or some other aspect of your character you haven’t considered to be an asset.

One thing that is rarely a factor is bloodline. Consider the assertion that one in every 200 people is thought to be related to Genghis Khan. Most Tairnadal elves are related to many of the patron ancestors. It’s possible that you will end up tied to the same ancestor as your parents or siblings, but it’s not expected.

So in choosing a patron ancestor for your character, the primary question is how will it affect your story. Consider the following elements. F

  • Legend. The Tairnadal patrons are legends. They become patrons because the elves believe that their deeds must not be forgotten and that others should follow their example. What did your patron do to earn this devotion? What were they known for? What was their greatest deed? Did they have a legendary weapon or accessory (and if so, are you working to find it)? A signature move or spell? What is a distinctive thing about them that you can emulate?
  • Ideals, Bonds, Flaws. As a Tairnadal you’re expected to pattern your after your ancestor. Are your personality traits something you’ve cultivated to be more like your ancestor? Or are they things you’re trying to overcome? For example, if your flaw is your overconfidence, it could be that you’re NOT naturally overconfident, but you’re TRYING to be, because that’s something your ancestor was known for.
  • Class Features. Patrons are suppose to share their skills with their revenants. Do you see your ancestor as a source of class features—either those you have at the moment or those you will eventually gain? For example, if you’re a ranger, your Favored Enemy and Fighting Style likely reflect your ancestor. When you cast hunter’s mark, you might describe it as feeling your ancestor guide your aim. As a rogue or bard, it makes sense for your expertise to be tied to the skills your ancestor was celebrated for. If you’re a sorcerer or a true, your patron likely was as well. If you’re a warlock you might serve the same patron as your ancestor; if you’re a hexblade, your patron might be the weapon they carried. So, what does your class and your choices say about your ancestor?
  • Relationship. Are you proud to follow in your ancestor’s footsteps? Do you value their guidance and believe that together you will create new legends? Did you hope you’d be chosen by them, or did you always imagine you’d be chosen by a different patron? Beyond that, what is your actually relationship with the patron? Do you feel their presence guiding you? Do you have visions while trancing? This is especially appropriate for Tairnadal paladins, clerics, or warlocks; you could believe that the ancestor has a concrete purpose for you to fulfil.
  • Rivals. There are many more elves than patrons, and most patron ancestors have multiple elves following in their footsteps. You can find entire warbands dedicated to a particular patron. How well-represented is your patron among the Tairnadal? Are there dozens or hundreds of elves following in their footsteps, or are you one of only a few? What makes you stand out from the others? Do you have a particular rival who’s determined to be a better revenant than you?

Once you’ve considered these things, you can work out the rest of the details with your DM. How will your patron fit into the campaign? Are you trying to find their legendary artifact weapon? Are you driven to defend the innocent, or to hunt down a particular type of creature? As a Tairnadal you have a story you’re trying to relive; ideally that story should fit into the scope of the campaign your DM has in mind, not clash with it.

Can Half-Elves Become Tairnadal?

Ultimately that’s not up to mortals; it’s up to the patrons. What we’ve said is that there’s never been a case of a half-elf being chosen by a patron ancestor. But there’s nothing stopping you from making a Khoravar character who believes they HAVE been chosen and is trying to prove it. Again, if a Keeper of the Past could confirm it, it’s not the place of mortals to deny it.

What’s the difference between Valenar and Tairnadal?

Valenar are a subset of the Tairnadal elves. They are Tairnadal who came to Khorvaire as mercenaries and laid claim to the region they were protecting. The short form is that if you’re VALENAR then you fought in the Last War and served under High King Shaeras Vadallia. if you’re Tairnadal you could have remained on Aerenal and taken no part in the Last War. The Valenar are an armed host engaged in an active military operation; this means, for example, that there are no Tairnadal children in Valenar, because the civilian infrastructure of Tairnadal society remains in Aerenal; the Valenar are part of an ongoing military operation.

Valenar Beasts

Previous editions have focused on the amazing horses of the Valenar, beasts with seemingly supernatural attributes. We’ve always highlighted that despite its best efforts, House Vadalis has never been able to breed these horses in captivity. Over the course of two editions, we’ve called out a few things the first is the idea that what makes the horses special isn’t simply genetic—that it’s tied to the idea that the HORSE is channeling the spirit of a legendary ancestor, that this is replicating the bond between the patron and their animal companion. This led us to the thought that it shouldn’t be limited to horses. While the Valenar are renowned for their cavalry, they also have expert commandos, assassins, and soldiers of every specialty—an elf could have a remarkable hound or hawk. The key point is that the idea of being chosen by a Valenar beast isn’t simply that the animal likes you; it’s that there’s a bond between you and the spirit within the beast. This is why you can only have one Valenar beast; if your patron was bound to a hawk, you can have a Valenar hawk as a companion, but you can’t later trade it in for a horse. The hawk is a defining part of your ancestor’s story.

Rising From The Last War does suggest that a Valenar beast could bond to a non-elf adventurer. This would be exceptionally remarkable, and the big question is what this means. Do you have some distant blood tie to the ancestor? Do you have a spiritual connection to them? Could you be an elf reincarnated in human form? Or has the spirit simply judged you to be a worthy companion?

House Vadalis hasn’t given up on replicating Valenar beast. But the idea is that what makes the beast special is the SPIRIT, and this only manifests when it is bound to a Tairnadal companion; when bred in captivity away from their people, the spirit won’t manifest and the Valenar beast will be born as a mundane creature, not fey.

Further Reading…

This isn’t the first article I’ve written about the Tairnadal. If you want to dig deep, you should explore the following links.

Additional Questions…

If you have questions about the Tairnadal, post them in the comments! Thanks as always to my Patreon supporters, who keep this site running.

Has there ever been a Tairnadal who was later turned into a deathless?

It’s an interesting question, and more complicated than you might think. Bear in mind that the Aereni and the Tairnadal are two entirely different cultures with different values and traditions. The Tairnadal are ascetic, nomadic, and relentlessly martial. The Aereni are static and peaceful. While they join forces against common threats, they have relatively little in common and there’s not a lot of interaction between them. Looking to the deathless, the Aereni consider their tradition to be superior because the deathless continues to exist in this world. The Tairnadal consider their path to be superior, because the ancestor lives on through hundreds of revenants; they see that as a form of ascension, a superior form of immortality to just being trapped in Shae Mordai for eternity. A secondary factor is that while, per 3.5 rules, it is possible for a priest of the Undying Court to animate lesser deathless, the entire principle of the undying is that they are sustained by the devotion of their descendants—that for a Tairnadal deathless to survive, they would need to have the love and devotion of a sufficient population of local elves.

So could it happen? Sure. The Tairnadal and Aereni have joined forces multiple times to fight against dragons, and perhaps a Tairnadal champion performed such great deeds that the Aereni animated them after death and have sustained them with their love. But the TAIRNADAL might consider this to be a punishment rather than a blessing; they might rather live on in the memories of their descendants rather than be trapped in an undead body.

In saying that the Tairnadal ancestors aren’t in Dolurrh, are you confirming that there IS something beyond Dolurrh? Doesn’t that have enormous implications for other religions?

The Tairnadal faith is just that: a faith. The Tairnadal BELIEVE their ancestors are reaching out from beyond Dolurrh, just as a Vassal smith believes that Onatar is guiding her hands. You can’t just have a casual conversation with a patron—”Hey, Great-great-great-uncle Haen, what’s it like beyond Dolurrh?” Instead, they communicate through visions and intuition.

With that said: the Tairnadal are channeling SOMETHING. It is a concrete fact that a revenant blade can gain a supernatural level of skill by following the path of their ancestors. There is SOMETHING real going on here. And it’s quite possible that it’s exactly what the Tairnadal believe it to be. The idea of a patron ancestor existing in a state beyond death and guiding multiple descendants is very similar to the kalashtar quori, who also exist in the collective souls of their bloodlines. But the point is that there’s no absolute certainty here… and even if the Tairnadal spirits do somehow exist beyond Dolurrh, it doesn’t reveal what happens to the souls of faithful Vassals or reveal whether the Sovereigns exist.

What is the relationship between the Aereni and Tairnadal like? Did they just kinda divide up the isles between them and call it good?

This is summed up on page 218 of the original Eberron Campaign Setting: “Relations between the Tairnadal and the elves of the Undying Court are cordial. They honor the same ancestors, and respect the shared blood that flows through their veins.” It’s also the case that elves do move between the two cultures. Children who don’t adapt to the harsh life of the Tairnadal may be fostered among the Aereni, while the ECS says that “In the last few millennia many younger elves of southern bloodlines have left their homes to join the Tairnadal.” The Tairnadal have fought alongside the Aereni when Aerenal has been attacked, and as I suggest elsewhere, you might well find Tairnadal mercenaries serving as marines on Aereni ships. So yes, they split up the island long ago. The Tairnadal have remained in their territory, and so far there’s never been a conflict over those borders; Aerenal isn’t overcrowded.

What sources of internal conflict does Valenar/the Tairnadal have?

Tairnadal culture has little room for internal dissent. It is, in essence, a highly disciplined army that is further united by deep devotion to a shared religion. This ties to the general elf dedication to tradition and is reflected by the fact that the civilization has stood, virtually unchanged, for over twenty thousand years. On the one hand, this reflects unity and stability; on the other hand, it also reflects the general stagnation of Aerenal.

So: the Tairnadal are effectively an army, broken into a clearly defined system of warclans and warbands. The endless training exercises conducted between these united provides an outlet for competition within the culture, as does the competition between revenants struggling to be the best avatars of their patrons. There’s also a tension between revenants whose patron ancestors had feuds. But this is friendly competition; people who truly don’t fit it will simply be expelled from the society, typically fostered to the Aereni. With that said, there are some philosophical divisions, shown by the Silaes Tairn, Dralaeus Tairn, and Valaes Tairn; but these are long-established sects that have coexisted for millennia.

Within the Valaes Tairn, the primary point of conflict is simple: who supports the Valenar initiative? While many of the warclans joined Shaeras’s expedition, others chose to remain on Aerenal and disapprove of his actions (which some see as a dishonorable betrayal of a client). As a Tairnadal elf, you should decide if you serve in Valenar or if you oppose it.

Valenar is a different issue, because it involves many different factions. The TAIRNADAL in Valenar are strongly united; they are, again, a disciplined army in the field. But you also have Cyran loyalists, House Lyrandar, Khoravar immigrants, and the khunan majority, all with different aspirations and dreams. House Lyrandar imagines a Khoravar state, while most Tairnadal see the kingdom as a tool—the perfect place to fight a war without threatening Aerenal.

There are no Valenar civilians? This is news to me. Do they rely on locals for everything else? Are children and noncombatants shipped out?

This is discussed in more detail in this post, among other places. But yes, that’s the idea. The Tairnadal don’t need land. They don’t care about Valenar as a long-term kingdom (with the understanding that “long-term” has a different meaning for people who live for centuries). It’s a military beachhead and an opportunity for conflict; what they WANT is to encourage a powerful enemy to attack them, allowing them to emulate their ancestors (who fought a guerilla war against a powerful foe). By keeping their civilian infrastructure on Aerenal they maintain the ability to abandon Valenar entirely if it serves their purposes.

I understand that the Valenar elves use the locals to fill civilian roles but who does that for the Tairnadal back home. Who grows the food, looks after the kids, makes sure no one poops in the well, etc?

This is covered in this article:

On Aerenal, much of the mundane work is done by elves who have yet to earn blade or steed. But there are master craftsmen among the elves of Valenar, those who dedicate their lives to the work of supporting the soldiers. This is not a choice; it is religious duty. When a child comes of age among the Tairnadal, the Keepers of the Past perform divinations to see which of the ancient heroes has chosen the initiate. Honorable warrior, stormcalling druid, merciless hunter, master smith –- these are just a few of the archetypes found among the ancient Tairnadal, and it is up to the young elf to follow whatever path is laid before him. Most of the Valaes Tairn are deadly warriors, but some are destined to support their kindred as smiths, engineers, or other vital tasks. These elves are known as the zaelantar, “peaceful spirits.” They are viewed with a mixture of respect and pity by their warlike brethren; the work they do is vital, and yet they are denied the chance to ride into battle or stalk prey.

The critical point here is that Tairnadal undergo decades of training and service before they are bound to an ancestor. So you might not be bound to an ancestor until you’re 60 years old. Which is fairly trivial for an elf who could live for a thousand years, but that’s still a good 40 years of productive labor. So who looks after the kids? Older kids. Meanwhile, elders who’ve retired from active duty train the youth, along with the Keepers of the Past.

With that said, bear in mind that Tairnadal society is completely unlike life in the Five Nations. The Tairnadal are essentially an army, and you’re in boot camp for the first few decades of your life. EVERYONE does latrine duty when it’s their turn, and everyone makes sure people don’t poop in the well; if you do, expect harsh military discipline. As an adult, you’re part of a warband; the warbands are nomadic, remaining in motion and living off the land. This lifestyle is sustained both by strict population control AND by powerful druidic magic that ensures that the Tairnadal don’t grow beyond the ability to sustain this nomadic lifestyle—with primal magic used both to enhance the fertility of the land and its creatures and to improve the efficiency of Tairnadal foraging (see the cualra flask in the article linked above).

So Tairnadal warbands are mobile and self-sufficent. These migrate between settled communities that train the young and provide the services of the zaelantar and the Keepers of the Past. Most of the work to maintain these communities is performed by young elves (who can, again, be up to 60 years old!) who’ve yet to be assigned an ancestor and a warband. Meanwhile, the Siyal Marrain are responsible for maintaining both the Valenar beasts and the land itself, ensuring that the warbands aren’t overtaxing its resources.

Also, are there non-military ancestors (great healers and guides, to say nothing of artists and lovers)?

There are great healers and guides, as well as artists and lovers; they’re just ALSO deadly warriors. Luckily, D&D supports this. The great healer is a war cleric or druid, who can smite as well as heal. The great artist might a bard of the College of Blades, whose artistry is deadly. As for great lovers, the story of Vadallia and Cardaen is a story of tragic love; it’s just that the lovers happen to be a peerless warrior and a mighty wizard.

This is a fundamental difference between Tairnadal and Aereni. The Ascendant counselors of the Undying Court include sages, philosophers, and abstract artists. But Tairnadal society is relentlessly martial. Life revolves around perfection of martial skill and magic. Those who yearn for a more peaceful life can become Aereni; this does happen, just as some among the Aereni leave their culture to follow the path of the Tairnadal. With that said, there are patrons that fill more traditionally civilian roles; we’ve spoken of the zaelantar artisans (mentioned above) and of the Siyal Marrain who tend the horses and the land. But even they are part of the core cycle of Tairnadal culture. There’s no patron who’s “the poet who never touched a blade or cast a spell,” unless he somehow defeated an army with his words.

Is it possible for a Tairnadal warlock’s patron to BE their ancestor? 

I’m inclined to say no, because to me this muddies the line between cleric and warlock. To me, a cleric is someone who draws their magic from their faith in a higher power… while a warlock has an arrangement with a concrete entity. Essentially, the cleric requires faith while the warlock doesn’t; the warlock is making a deal with someone they know exists. This changes the dynamic because warlock patrons usually have clear, finite agendas, and because in principle you COULD find a warlock patron and punch them in the nose.

So looking to an Archfey warlock: if their patron is an archfey of Thelanis, that’s a being that exists and who we can go and meet. It can have quarrels with other archfey. It might betray or deceive the warlock. It could give you a physical gift or want you to bring it something. By contrast, if it’s a patron ancestor it only exists in this abstract “It’s sustained in the memory of all Tairnadal” way… it’s more like the devotion of a cleric or paladin than the bargaining of a warlock.

So personally, I would keep that intact. Rather than saying that the patron is your ancestor, I’d say that you have the SAME patron as your ancestor. If your ancestor was an archfey warlock, you are following in their footsteps by becoming an archfey warlock, serving the same patron they did—and there’s an interesting relationship in that your patron is an immortal being who KNEW your ancestor. It can still be that your pact blade is the blade your ancestor wielded, that your familiar was their familiar—but it’s because you’re serving the same patron they didn’t, not because they are the patron.

What’s up with the Valenar slaughtering refugees fleeing from the Mourning?

I didn’t work on the book that described this incident, and it doesn’t make any sense to me. Valenar don’t revel in needless bloodshed. The ancestors they emulate were rebels who rose up against tyranny and cruelty. As a rule, the Valenar don’t want to conquer or oppress; they want to fight conquerors and oppressors. Note that they themselves don’t actually RULE Valenar; they’ve left the administration to the Khoravar. Many believe that the Valenar don’t actually WANT a kingdom; what they want is to provoke a powerful nation into attacking them, because THAT replicates the conflict with the giants—guerillas fighting against overwhelming odds. It’s very likely that they’ve claimed Valenar solely because they want Karrnath or Darguun to try to take it from them.

So: in suggesting that they needlessly slaughtered civilians, I want to know WHY. Valenar aren’t inherently cruel. They could have perceived the refugees as a threat, perhaps thought they were BRINGING the Mourning. Or it’s possible they were in some way following the path of an ancestor. But if so, I’d want to know HOW the ancestor’s story drove them to slaughter civilians—and what it is that would make such an ancestor a figure worth celebrating and preserving. If you said that there’s an ancestor who was undefeated in battle, who saved tens of thousands of elves, but who also showed no mercy to enemy civilians, OK, I could perhaps accept that. But the short form is that this incident was created by an author who didn’t explain the reasons behind it and likely didn’t fully understand Tairnadal culture, so I don’t give it a lot of weight.

Thanks for reading and happy holidays!

50 thoughts on “FAQ: Tairnadal Patrons and Beasts

      • You mentioned Tairnadal deathless, but what about the other way around? Is there the possibility that some of the elves who were unable to be turned to deathless, such as Aeren, are instead revered by the Tairnadal?

        • Aeren’s greatest deeds were foreseeing fall of Xen’drik, spreading the message to many different clans, and leading the exodus. Modern Tairnadal elves likely have difficulty in emulating her (if possible) with martial exercises. Having said that, ALL Aereni (and Tairnadal) remember Aeren. So while she might not have particular avatars, the Tairnadal could believe she lives through all elves.

          • Exactly right. Aeren isn’t a patron ancestor because her deeds can’t be emulated through martial exercise, but it’s reasonable to think that the Tairnadal still believe she lives on in the memory of the elves.

  1. Tairnadals are great! Is the one in the picture a Valaes Tairn? I imagine that their clothing style is made to accommodate the weather and conditions of the Blade Desert. Do other Tairnadal culture have different clothing style?

    • Tairnadal will dress appropriately to the environment they’re in, certainly. The main thing is that the zaelta—the cloth over the lower face—has cultural significance beyond its utility.

  2. So, there is a little confusion I have regarding your answer on “where are the patron ancestors?” On one hand, you say that they have faded from Dolurrh. However, we also know that the patron ancestors are having an active hand in choosing who represents them in modern times.

    To me, the implication is that you are either saying that the patron ancestors are actually reaching from beyond Dolurrh in a sense (which would open up all manner of questions for the other faiths of Eberron) or that the Tairnadal rituals are actually touching on something other than their ancestors… but close to them. Do you see these rituals as possibly calling upon mirrors of the spirits in Thelanis or the like?

    • Not Keith Baker obviously but how does this differ substantially from other divine magic? Eberron is a setting where the belief in something can manifest magic. There is no proof that the gods exist and yet their believers of enough faith and will an create magical effects they claim comes from their gods. So to I don’t see how the spirits of their ancestors actually have to exist at all. The collective Tairnedal belief that they do makes it real in part.

    • The Tairnadal faith is just that: a faith. The Tairnadal BELIEVE their ancestors are reaching out from beyond Dolurrh, just as a Vassal smith believes that Onatar is guiding her hands. You can’t just have a casual conversation with a patron—”Hey, Great-great-great-uncle Haen, what’s it like beyond Dolurrh?” Instead, they communication through visions and intution, just like the Sovereigns.

      One theologist could argue that the Tairnadal are simply drawing their inspiration from the Sovereigns and simply putting different trappings on it. Another could say that this just means that it is possible for mortals to ascend to a higher state and that the Sovereigns and Tairnadal ancestors are two different examples of ascended mortals. A third could say that the Tairnadal are simply delusional and any supernatural powers they possess are drawn from the Silver Flame or perhaps their own divine sparks. Nothing about the Tairnadal faith is more concrete than, say, the Sovereign Host; it is first and foremost about FAITH.

  3. Bonus question! You mention not being fond of the idea that the Tairnadal carried out the assaults on fleeing Cyrans after the Day of Mourning. Do you think that it would be more likely that these assaults were the work of the citizens of that region, such as the Khunan nobility?

    • It’s entirely possible. It’s important to remember that this was a time of war and that this was a sudden surge of people across a contested border. It’s easy in the aftermath to say “Innocent people were killed! It’s an abomination!” But we can easily imagine scenarios — it was night! They refused to identify themselves or to acknowledge our hails! It seemed like an enemy offensive! — where this sort of thing could happen.

      The main point to me is that the wholesale slaughter of civilians is uncharacteristic for the Tairnadal as a culture. They seek to emulate ancestors who FOUGHT tyranny, not to become tyrants.

  4. Why are they called Valenar beasts instead of Tairnadal beasts? Are the beasts specific to Valenar and not to the Tairnadal as a whole?

    • It’s the common name for the creatures in Khorvaire. Most of the people in the Five Nations have never heard the word “Tairnadal” and only know that they are associated with those elves in Valenar, thus, Valenar beasts. Same way they were called “Valenar horses” in 3.5.

  5. There are no Valenar civilians? This is news to me. Do they rely on locals gor everything else? Are children and noncombatants shipped out?

    Also, are there non-military ancestors (great healers and guides, to say nothing of artists and lovers)?

    • There are no Valenar civilians? This is news to me. Do they rely on locals for everything else? Are children and noncombatants shipped out?

      This is discussed in more detail in this post, among other places: http://keith-baker.com/eberron-flashback-aereni-and-tairnadal/ But that’s exactly the point. The Tairnadal don’t need land. They don’t care about Valenar as a kingdom. It’s a military beachhead and an opportunity for conflict. By keeping their civilian infrastructure on Aerenal they maintain the ability to abandon Valenar entirely if it serves their purposes.

      Also, are there non-military ancestors (great healers and guides, to say nothing of artists and lovers)?

      There are great healers and guides, as well as artists and lovers; they are just ALSO deadly warriors. Luckily, D&D supports this. The great healer is a war cleric, who can smite as well as heal. The great artist is a bard of the College of Blades. As for great lovers, the story of Vadallia and Cardaen is a story of tragic love; it’s just that the lovers happen to be a deadly warrior and a mighty wizard.

      This is a core fundamental difference between Tairnadal and Aereni. The Ascendant counselors include sages, philosophers, and abstract artists. But Tairnadal society is relentlessly martial. Life revolves around perfection of martial skill and magic. Those who yearn for a more peaceful life can become Aereni; this does happen, just as some among the Aereni leave their culture to follow the path of the Tairnadal. With that said, there are patrons that fill more traditionally civilian roles; we’ve spoken of the great smiths and of the Siyal Marrain who tend the horses and other Valenar beasts. But even they are part of the core cycle of Valenar culture. There’s no patron who’s “the poet who never touched a blade or cast a spell,” unless he somehow defeated an army with a word.

        • Tairnadal hunt and forage. The nation of Valenar has an agricultural economy, but that predates the Tairnadal occupation and runs as it did before their arrival, largely overseen by the Khoravar gentry. The Tairnadal also employ magical tools to facilitate efficient foraging (such as the cualra flask).

          Bear in mind that the AERENI farm, and this is one reason they make up the majority of the population of Aerenal; the Tairnadal culture isn’t suited to maintaining a large population.

  6. I created a Tairnadal multiclassed monk/wizard (bladesinger tradition). Have you developed any monastic orders specifically for the Tairnadal?

    • Aerenal maintains a navy, and Tairnadal may serve as mercenary marines. But the Tairnadal don’t maintain a navy of their own.

  7. Keith, what is the relationship between the Aereni and Tairnadal like? Did they just kinda divide up the isles between them and call it good?

  8. What sources of internal conflict does Valenar/the Tairnadal have?

    I can easily find some source of internal conflict in the rest of Khorvaire’s nations. Aundair has an unstable triumvirate. Breland has republic vs. nobility sentiment. Karrnath has Kaius vs. Vol. Thrane has the Keeper against the selfish Cardinals and the Shadow in the Flame (which could even wind up as a three way conflict). The Mror Holds have clan squabbles. Zilargo has The Trust and whatever it is they’re opposing. Darguun, Demon Wastes, Droaam, The Eldeen Reaches, the Lhazaar Principalities and Talenta Plains aren’t too firmly united and could result in conflict any day (some more than others). Even Cyre’s refugees are divided on assimilation, revenge or somehow rebuilding.

  9. What sources of internal conflict does Valenar/the Tairnadal have?

    I can easily find some source of internal conflict in the rest of Khorvaire’s nations. Aundair has an unstable triumvirate. Breland has republic vs. nobility sentiment. Karrnath has Kaius vs. Vol. Thrane has the Keeper against the selfish Cardinals and the Shadow in the Flame (which could even wind up as a three way conflict). The Mror Holds have clan squabbles. Zilargo has The Trust and whatever it is they’re opposing. Darguun, Demon Wastes, Droaam, The Eldeen Reaches, the Lhazaar Principalities and Talenta Plains aren’t too firmly united and could result in conflict any day (some more than others). Even Cyre’s refugees are divided on assimilation, revenge or somehow rebuilding.

  10. The Tairnadal are awesome, their culture is reminiscent of Star Trek’s Klingons. I could picture a Tarnadal saying something like “Our gods (giants) are dead. Ancient Klingon (elf) warriors slew them a millennia ago. They were… more trouble than they were worth.”

    I wonder if the elf’s have any cool creation myths about themselves.

  11. Is it possible for a Tairnadal warlock’s patron to BE their ancestor? You’ve already mentioned a hexblade using the same weapon as their patron ancestor. I could see psionic ancestors empowering a Great Old One warlock, an illusionist ancestor subbing in for an Archfey, a cleric ancestor choosing a Celestial pact revenant, or a diabolist and pyromancer ancestor replacing an actual Fiend as patron.

    I mean if we look at mechanics and themes, it fits rather nicely. Patrons demand warlocks behave a certain way in accordance to their wills, just as ancestors requires the revenant emulate their behavior. A pact familiar could easily be a bonded beast, a pact blade inherited from that very ancestor, or a pact tome made up of spells invented or perfected by said ancestor…

    • I’m inclined to say no, because to me this muddies the line between cleric and warlock. To me, a cleric is someone who draws their magic from their faith in a higher power… while a warlock has an arrangement with a concrete entity. Essentially, the cleric requires faith while the warlock doesn’t; the warlock is making a deal with someone they know exists. This changes the dynamic because warlock patrons usually have clear, finite agendas, and because in principle you COULD find a warlock patron and punch them in the nose.

      So looking to an Archfey warlock: if their patron is an archfey of Thelanis, that’s a being that exists and who we can go and meet. It can have quarrels with other archfey. It might betray or deceive the warlock. It could give you a physical gift or want you to bring it something. By contrast, if it’s a patron ancestor it only exists in this abstract “It’s sustained in the memory of all Tairnadal” way… it’s more like the devotion of a cleric or paladin than the bargaining of a warlock.

      So personally, I would keep that intact. Rather than saying that the patron is your ancestor, I’d say that you have the SAME patron as your ancestor. If your ancestor was an archfey warlock, you are following in their footsteps by becoming an archfey warlock, serving the same patron they did—and there’s an interesting relationship in that your patron is an immortal being who KNEW your ancestor. It can still be that your pact blade is the blade your ancestor wielded, that your familiar was their familiar—but it’s because you’re serving the same patron they didn’t, not because they are the patron.

      • I like the clear distinction between clerics and warlocks in Eberron. I always found the lore rather confusing in other settings, where the gods are just as real as patrons and patrons are lesser gods themselves. Some gods like Asmodeus use both clerics and warlocks…at which point the distinction is purely mechanical.

    • I don’t have my books handy, but I don’t think much has been written about them (the Dralaeus Tairn are discussed in Dragons of Eberron). Subject for another article, perhaps…

  12. So, I understand that the Valenar elves use the locals to fill civilian roles but who does that for the Tairnadal back home. Who grows the food, looks after the kids, makes sure no one poops in the well, etc? These don’t seem like things patron ancestors would cover but any kind of civilization needs. Are there Tairnadal who don’t attach to patron ancestors to do these tasks or do they work it out some other way?

    • Good question! I’ve added a detailed answer to the Q&A section following the previous “civilian” question. Here’s an excerpt:

      Tairnadal warbands are mobile and self-sufficent. These migrate between settled communities that train the young and provide the services of the zaelantar and the Keepers of the Past. Most of the work to maintain these communities is performed by young elves (who can, again, be up to 60 years old!) who’ve yet to be assigned an ancestor and a warband. Meanwhile, the Siyal Marrain are responsible for maintaining both the Tairnadal beasts and the land itself, ensuring that the warbands aren’t overtaxing its resources.

      • Thanks so much for the response. The link to the article appears to be broken though. Can you give me the name so I can look it up?

        Thanks again and Happy New year. I’m very excited to see what it brings for Eberron.

        • The article is called “Expeditionary Dispatches: Crossing Valenar”. However, it looks like the Wizards archive site is down at the moment.

  13. There’s an illustration on page 21 of Rising from the Last War that keeps bugging me. Next to an Aereni elf there’s a drow wearing an elegant suit of armor that I could connect to Tairnadal culture. However, the description says “Tairnadal elf in Vulkoori armor”. Is this a typo, or an interesting character example where a drow somehow got to join the Valaes Tairn? I believe it to be the former (one of the reasons being that Vulkoori armor looks a lot different in other illustrations), but I’d like your thoughts on this possibility.
    Thanks in advance!

    • I didn’t commission this piece of art, and I agree with the various issues. It looks like a drow elf; the armor doesn’t look Vulkoori (and the Vulkoori aren’t noted for using bows); and they aren’t following the Tairnadal tradition of covering their face in battle. So I think it’s a confused image.

      With that said, while I’d expect it to be very rare, I have no issues with the idea that a handful of drow joined the elf rebellion and fled with Aeren—and that there could be drow among the Aereni or Tairnadal, including a drow patron ancestor or drow member of the Undying Court.

  14. “Races of Eberron” mentioned the Dalan Rae, an heretic warrior cult among the Valenar elves, which basically advocates to seek an early death in battle, in the hope of returning as a spirit. I don’t think I ever saw it mentioned anywhere else since then, so maybe it wasn’t one of your ideas to begin with, but I’d be curious if you could elaborate a bit on that.

    Functionally, my understanding is that those “Near Dead” are sort of mirroring the “Stillborn” among the Aereni: young hotheads searching for a shortcut through the long ways of Elven traditions, that would lead only the most worthy to become a Deathless… or a Tairnadal patron spirit. But concretely, I have a hard time picturing what “a host of such spirit warriors to ride alongside the living champions of Valenar” (that the cult hopes to buid) is supposed to look like and what purpose it’d be supposed to serve.

    Since my longest-running character in Eberron is a Tairnadal warblade/barbarian, whose departure from Valenar has much to do with the rising of this cult that he despises (also meaning that he could return home to sort things out at some point in the future), any insight or idea that you could share about that would be most welcome.

    By advance, thanks, and happy new year!

    • The beliefs of the Dalan Rae don’t make much sense. An underlying point of both deathless and Tairnadal ancestors is that they rely on the devotion of the living. The key to becoming a patron ancestor is to live a life so remarkable that your legend lives on after you’re gone, and it’s going to be hard (though not, I suppose, impossible) to do that in a hurry. It’s also the case that patron ancestors don’t manifest physically, so they aren’t coming back as spirit warriors.

      With that said, if I wanted to use this in a campaign, what I’d say is that these warriors ARE coming back as spirit warriors—and the question is both HOW and WHAT ARE THEY. I’d probably say that these spirit warriors aren’t actually DEATHLESS—that they are a form of Mabaran (negative) undead. Imagine a powerful necromancer who’s uncovered Qabalrin techniques, who somehow enchants the zaelshin of the Dalan Rae so that when they die, they return as ghosts bound to the will of the necromancer. So they ARE building a host of spirit warriors; but these are actually destined for an evil purpose.

      • “I’d say is that these warriors ARE coming back as spirit warriors—and the question is both HOW and WHAT ARE THEY”

        Upon hearing this my mind instantly linked it with self-manifesting undead. The Dalan Rae figuring out a way to force themselves to manifest as undead (instead of it being fairly random) when killed would be interesting.

  15. What about commanders among the Tairnadal? Probably nearly all commanders are superb individual warriors, true, but wouldn’t there be some ancestors whose legends are based on their feats as commanders or strategists or tacticians? If so, is there the equivalent of an “officers candidate school” in the training of those young Tairdadal who aspire to attract selection by one of these legendary commanders? I’m guessing that a young elf chosen by such a spirit might automatically be put in charge of a warband, but that larger scale operations would still be directed by more senior and proven channelers of the legendary commanders.

    • There were absolutely legendary heroes whose legends are founded on their deeds as strategists and commanders. The legends were forged not just in a war, but in a war against a vastly more powerful foe; outthinking the enemy was just as important as deeds on the battlefield.

      The first sixty years of a Tairnadal’s life are spent in intense training. This begins with a decade or two of basic training, but there’s only so much basic training you can do before focusing on SOME degree of personal aptitude. Some will focus on strategy, others on stealth, others on pure combat arts. It’s assumed that this is grooming you to be chosen by an ancestor who specializes in those skills, though that’s not a sure thing. Once an ancestor has been selected, the initiate will be placed in a warband based on their skills and their ancestor. Warbands are themselves specialized units. People are used to thinking of Valenar as cavalry warriors because those are the ones you SEE, but there are warbands comprised entirely of commandos focused on stealth operations, warbands oriented around mystical bombardment, and so on; it’s not just a random “We’ll throw one of everything into a band!” So commanders may be spread around, but I’m sure you also have warbands that are essentially command staff; never expected to enter the front line, but rather to guide the other bands from afar.

  16. Hey Keith, thank you very much for this detailed and very helpful article. I’ a great admirer of the world you and your colleagues created. To my knowledge it’s the most elegant and interesting manifestation of D&D rules in a world.

    I have two questions:

    1) I’d like to take my campaign to Valenar soon. I’ve greatly relied on novels to understand the flavor of places such as the Mournland, Breland, Droaam, or the Talenta Plains. I’m yet to grasp how to describe what players would experience when they travel to Valenar. Are there any novels or short stories that paint a picture of the place?

    2) I’d like to make their quest personal and link it to Tairnadal culture and I’d like to hear what you think of it. Two of my PCs are twin elf brothers, one wearing a mark of Shadow, both unknown bastards of Tolar Paelion d’Phiarlan, raised by their mother Cina Yaeldrin, living a poor, secluded life in a vinyard in Aundair. When the mark manifested the PCs pressed her mother to reveal their fathers identity. They decided to leave town, particularly because Cina had been seen with Tolar some 100 years ago and if Thuranni were to find out that she had dragonmarked offspring, they would all be in mortal danger. The boys were accepted as foundlings and educated in the Shadow Demesne in Sharn while their mother traveled to the Talenta Plains and fell in love with a halfling druid of all people, the teacher of another PC by the way. After many years the twins have come into their own and reached level 9 and I’d like to take the story back to their ancestry. Here’s what I had in mind, after reading your article: Cina was born in Aerenal, a Tairnadal and had been chosen by Vadallia’s spirit, the first in a thousand years to be directly chosen by this legendary leader. Even though she was a gentle soul who wanted a simple life as a musician, she dared not ask for it lest she let down her people. She was trained and then sent to Metrol with a group of emissaries to negotiate the contract of the mercenary services of her people. That’s when she met Tolar and fell in love and became pregnant while the last war was getting started. Tolar couldn’t marry outside of the house and she couldn’t be a war leader when pregnant so shame drove her to exile in Audair, where she spent the last 100 years raising her boys. Now back to the situation in the Talenta Plains: A Valenar war band learns of an elf living amongst halflings and identifies her. A hotheaded young leader and wizard, chosen by Cardaen, gets the idea that it is his responsibility to abduct her in order to reciprocate the initial abduction. A few halflings escape the slaughter that follows and live to contact the PCs. Now they come in to rescue their mother from Valenar. Where would the start looking? What kinds of NPCs would be knowledgeable and willing to help? I’d be grateful for any suggestions.

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