IFAQ: Who Leads The Tairnadal?

When time permits, I like to answer questions from my Patreon supporters. Joseph asks:

Who actually leads the Tairnadal elves? Is it a theocracy?

It’s an interesting question. The Tairnadal are the elves of the Aerenal steppes, and the elves who have claimed Valenar are Tairnadal elves. The Aereni are ruled by the Undying Court and the Sibling Kings. Valenar has a “High King.” But what of the Tairnadal of Aerenal? Do they have a monarch, or are they ruled by the Keepers of the past?

The reason this hasn’t been answered in the past is because it’s not a question with a simple answer. There is no single monarch or high priest who leads the Tairnadal, and the answer is rooted in their unusual and rigid culture. All the cultures of Aerenal cling tightly to tradition and the past. The Tairnadal came to Aerenal as soldiers—fresh from fighting against the giants of Xen’drik and their minions—and never stood down. What drives and defines the Tairnadal is their devotion to their patron ancestors. This began before the elves even reached Aerenal, as a basic cult of personality: those warriors who’d served with fallen champions being determined to honor their heroes by following in their footsteps. Those who were most devoted to this path swore that they felt a connection to their idols—that the spirit of the champions were guiding them. So this basic element—preserve the ancestors by emulating their lives—was a part of Tairnadal society from the beginning. The traditions and role of the Keepers of the Past evolved on Aerenal, but the patron ancestors were with them from the start.

Tairnadal society is shaped by their religion. This is described on page 147 of Rising From The Last War and I’m not going to retread it entirely here. But to sum up: when an elf comes of age the Keepers of the Past determine which ancestor has chosen them, and “it’s your sacred duty… to live your life as they did and to allow the champion to walk the world again through you.” It’s important to recognize that there’s a twofold aspect to this duty. The first is that through this devotion, the living preserve the ancestors. But there is also the concrete belief that through this devotion, the ancestor can act through the revenant—that the living benefit because they receive their guidance from the dead. The doctrine of the faith is that you can only receive this guidance from the ancestor that has chosen you—which means that if you refuse to accept that bond, you are denying your community the chance to benefit from the ancestor’s supernatural guidance. Essentially, the Tairnadal believe that you will never be as useful on your own as you could be if you embraced the path of your patron ancestor, and that refusing to follow that path is deadly arrogance and selfishness, and there is no place for such selfishness in a tight-knit warband.

So: Tairnadal culture is based on people emulating the lives of their patron ancestors. But these ancestors were fighting a guerilla war. Which means that the Tairnadal have to engage in endless war to follow their example… and with this in mind, they have been engaging in complex wargames for tens of thousands of years. Combatants will spare an enemy when possible—you don’t finish off a fallen foe—there is no point to a battle that doesn’t truly test the skills of the combatants, and battles are fought with spell and steel.

Working with this foundation, there are two basic aspects to Tairnadal civilization: war and peace. the zaelantar and zaeltairn. The zaelantar (“peaceful souls”) maintain the civilian infrastructure, while the zaeltairn (“warrior souls”) serve in an army and fight the endless war.

The zaelantar raise and train both young elves and beasts of war and burden. They craft weapons and tools, and they maintain the settled communities of the steppes. The bulk of the zaelantar are young elves. Remember that an elf receives a patron ancestor when they come of age. But this doesn’t usually happen until an elf is at least 60! In the initial decades of their lives, they train in basic skills (Background! Elven weapon familiarity!), study Tairnadal history, and maintain their community—including carry for the younger elves. Through this process they are effectively auditioning to the patron ancestors. The young elf who excels at hunting expects they will be chosen by a legendary archer or stalker. The elf who becomes a leader in the community hopes to be chosen by one of the great leaders of the past. Nonetheless, you are talking about elves spending at least four decades of what humans would consider adult life working in a zaelantar community. So who performs basic, necessary tasks? The elves who haven’t yet been set on a different path. Other zaelantar include former tairn who are unable to fight—either because of age or some other infirmity—but who can teach the young. The Keepers of the Past are largely zaelantar, serving to train and guide. And finally, there are those who have been chosen by patron ancestors whose legendary skills are tied to the civic sphere: fabled smiths, legendary teachers, the Siyal Marrain (druids who tend the beasts), and so on.

The zaeltairn engage in war, emulating their ancestors in the field. They are split into armies, each of when is further divided into clans and bands. A Tairnadal army is effectively a city-state. It isn’t a temporary duty; once assigned to an army Tairnadal serve until they die or until they retire (or are forced to retire) to train the young. Most armies are mobile; most of the patron ancestors were guerilla soldiers and mobility was vital; they follow migratory paths across the steppes. There are a few that are settled, based on the specialties of the ancestors represented by the army. Notably, each of the great jungles of the region—around Shae Thoridor and Var-Shalas—are home to an army, whose members specialize in jungle warfare and commando operations.

There are three great cities in the region held by the Tairnadal.

  • Var-Shalas is the largest city of the Tairnadal. It is the stronghold of the Keepers of the Past, and it is here that the Shanutar (council of lords) conducts its business.
  • Shae Thoridor is the second great city of the zaelantar. It is smaller than Var-shalas, but nonetheless an important seat of the Keepers of the Past and an industrial center for the goods required by the armies.
  • Taer Senadal is a fortress—but an unusual one. Var-Shalas and Shae Thoridor are surrounded by walls of bronzewood thorns, similar to Taer Valaestas in Valenar. Taer Senadal is a fortress of stone. Because it’s not a fortress built to defend the region from attack; it’s built to be attacked. Senadal can be roughly translated as “whetstone,” and Taer Senadal is a fortress manned by youths in the late stages of their training. Armies take turns attacking the fortress, allowing the youths to hone their skills as they defend it and the tairn to practice attacking fortifications.

All of which finally brings us back to the original question: Who rules the Tairnadal? Are they a theocracy?

Religion is the absolute foundation of Tairnadal culture. Following the dictates of the religion sensible (the faithful receive the guidance of the ancestors), a duty to the dead (it preserves the ancestors), and a duty to the community (as the ancestral guidance makes you a more effective citizen). But the Keepers of the Past are guides, not leaders. The basic leadership role within the Tairnadal is the shan, which can be loosely translated as “lord.” Each band has a lu-shan (“band lord”), clan leaders simply use the title shan, and the leaders of armies are var-shan (“great lord”). On the side of the zaelantar, an an-shan (“young lord”) is a youth who guides a band of youths, while a tar-shan (“peace lord”) maintains a village or a district of one of the great cities. Note that shan is not a gendered term, and any tairnadal can hold this position.

The twist to this is that the characterization of Shaeras Vadallia as “High King” is largely a translation error. Shaeras is the var-shan of Valenar, the Great Lord of the Army of Valenar. it is the highest position of authority that the Tairnadal recognize, but each army has a var-shan of its own.

With this in mind, the structure of Valenar is a general model for the Tairnadal overall. As described in the ECS, there are 45 warclans on Khorvaire; this is the Army of Valenar. At any given time, twenty of these clans are under the direct command of the var-shan (Shaeras Vadallia), while the rest are active in the field. The same is true for the armies on Aerenal: each army has a core of clans that remain close and under the direct command of the var-shan, while others follow general direction but operate independently. Likewise, within a clan a certain number of bands remain under the direct command of the shan, while others may be dispersed on independent operations (scouting, harrying, etc). While the structure of Tairnadal society is relentlessly martial, they actually don’t have a complex hierarchy of ranks. Warbands are essentially families, whose members serve together indefinitely. When there is a split-second military decision to be made, the lu-shan commands and cannot be questioned. But if there are other issues, the band debates them around the campfire and consensus rules. The lu-shan does have the final say, but it is rare for a lu-shan to veto the decisions of the band without clear military reason. And if this is done, the band respects the decision because they respect the lu-shan, not because of the title alone. This ties to an important fact: those appointed to leadership roles are elves channeling the spirits of legendary leaders. Within a clan, of course the Vadallia revenant is the lu-shan, because she’s channeling Vadallia. Taeri is an unparalled swordsman, but he’s not a leader; who would even think of appointing a Taeri as shan? It is also the case that a respected revenant’s word carries a great deal of weight in matters related to that ancestor. A Vadallia lu-shan is a good general war leader, but when planning an ambush they may defer to the Falaen revenant, trusting their expertise in matters of stealth and cunning.

This overall structure flows upstream. If the shan issues a command it must be obeyed. But unless it’s an urgent matter, the shan will seek the consensus of the lu-shan. If it isn’t a question of war, they will seek the guidance of Keepers of the Past or even the tar-shan. Beyond this, each army dispatches two clans to Var-Shalas and one to Shae Thoridor. These clans protect the cities, but the shans also represent their army in the shanutar—a council that includes the tar-shans, and which is overseen by Keepers of the Past.

So once again: Who leads the Tairnadal? When decisions must be made in a moment, a shan’s word is absolute. In other matters, the Tairnadal seek consensus—whether a lu-shan consulting with their band, a shan seeking consensus from the lu-shans, or the var-shan consulting the shans. Beyond this, people respect the ancestors that are channeled; they look to those guided by ancient leaders to channel that wisdom.

All of which is a VERY long answer to what seemed like a simple question, but there you have it!

How do the Draleus Tairn and the Silaes Tairn fit into this structure?

They’re armies. The Draleus Tairn are largely defined by their ancestors; their patrons are heroes renowned for fighting dragons. The Silaes Tairn have some ancestral overlap with the Valaes, but believe that the the battle should be taken back to Xen’drik. Note that bands of Draleus and Silaes Tairn DO make expeditions to Xen’drik; the Draleus are also always preparing for the next time Argonnessen attacks Aerenal.

So are armies all made up of people who follow the same ancestors?

Not at all. Essentially, think of the ancestors as being military specialties. You’re rarely going to find a warband that has more than one Vadallia, because it doesn’t NEED more than one Vadallia. On the other hand, a band with a specific purpose—commandos, archers, scouts—may have multiple elves who channel the same ancestor because they want that overlap of skills. But ancestors are shared among all the Valaes armies, assigned to clans and bands as suits the needs of each unit.

How difficult is it for an ambitious revenant to break the mold of their ancestors and forge their own name in memory? Is this more within the wheelhouse of player characters, or are there examples of exceptional tairnadal who exceed the precedent of their patron ancestor, becoming patrons in their own right?

This is specifically discussed in this article… which gives the example of Carys Daealyth, who is guided by Daealyth Taeri, who was guided by Taeri. The main point is that those champions don’t typically BREAK the mold, they go beyond it. From that article:
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.

How does parenting work among the Tairnadal? Are familial relations important?

Generally, NO. Who your father and mother are is far less important than who your patron ancestor is. Tairnadal don’t maintain property, so you’re not passing your holdings down to a child. Critically, note that the Tairnadal don’t use family names: a Tairnadal elf uses a given name and the name of their patron ancestor. So Shaeras Vadallia may have been the son of Jael Cardaen and Sol Taeri; ultimately, that doesn’t matter. A child is given to the Zaelantar to be raised, and becomes an adult when chosen by a patron ancestor. And it’s worth noting that at this point, almost all Tairnadal are in some way tied to all of the patron ancestors; it’s not like there’s only one bloodline that produces Vadallias, or that you expect to be chosen by the same patron as your parents.

With that said, Tairnadal likely know who their parents are, and there are cases where relatives end up serving together in the same band or clan. So you can have siblings who feel a strong attachment or even a parent and child with a bond. But on the societal level, your personal lineage isn’t as significant as your spiritual lineage.

Can you talk a little about dynamics between Tairnadal elves and Lyrandar/Half-elves in Valenar? Especially with a Khoravar with a Tairnadal parent?

If you can find it, this is discussed in an Expeditionary Dispatches article from WotC called “The People of Taer Valaestas.”

As called out in the previous answer, direct blood lineage is less important to the Tairnadal than spiritual lineage, and it is the belief of the Tairnadal (supported by existing precedent) that no Khoravar can channel a patron ancestor. So essentially, the Tairnadal treat the Khoravar as being akin to zaelantar. They are people with a connection to the elves, and they are willing to do important tasks no tairn wishes to do. However, with most zaelantar there is the understanding that they will become tairn (or that they have been chosen by a peaceful ancestor, which is still an honor and duty), while they don’t believe that to be possible with the Khoravar. So the essential point is that they see the Khoravar as useful children but don’t believe they will ever grow up or be able to undertake the true responsibility of a Tairnadal—to embody an ancestor. That’s not their fault, just a sad fact. Of course, what we’ve said is that if any Khoravar could prove this wrong and channel an ancestor, it would be a player character!

Are there ever cases where a young elf coming of age is not selected by ANY ancestor? If so, how are such elves regarded by their fellows?

The Keepers of the Past aren’t selected by any one ancestor; instead, they have the ability to hear many ancestors, which is what allows them to serve in their role. In one campaign I ran, a PC played a Tairnadal shaman whose role was specifically to channel and remember a host of lesser ancestors who weren’t significant enough to become full patron ancestors, but that deserved to be remembered.

If the elf isn’t chosen by an ancestor and lacks the gift of the Keepers, what it means is, essentially, that they didn’t graduate. I said that MOST elves receive an ancestor at around 60, after they undergo a few decades as zaelantar. If you don’t get picked? Work another decade as zaelantar and we’ll try again at the next time. It would be assumed that if you’re not picked it’s because you haven’t displayed enough value to be chosen; that doesn’t mean you deserve to be shunned, it means you need to go back to work and do better. You’re a disappointment, certainly. But there may well be a case where it’s later discovered that a particular elf didn’t get picked because ALL of the ancestors wanted them and they couldn’t reach an agreement, or something like that; there could certainly be a tale of the elf who was thought to be shunned but who was in fact the most exceptional of all (… and went on to become a player character!). But the typical answer is that they would simply continue on as zaelantar.

Second question: Since the Tairnadal are constantly looking for battles to fight, do they ever seek out manifest zones of Shavarath, or venture to that plane itself?

I write about Shavarath in Exploring Eberron, and that’s a pretty extreme option; it is a vicious meat grinder and it would take exceptional mortals to survive there for an extended amount of time. Consider that the immortals are CONSTANTLY being killed and just reform; it’s a touch road for elves to jump in where angels fear to tread. With that said, it’s entirely possible that the Tairnadal SUMMON fiends or other extraplanar threats so they have worthy foes to fight. They might even use undead! Exploring the actual forms of conflicts the Tairnadal fight on Aerenal is a deep topic that could definitely fill another article.

That’s all for now. Thanks as always to my Patreon supporters, who keep this site going and help choose topics! And if for some reason you’re looking for even MORE information about the Tairnadal, this article answers many questions and has links to many other articles!

56 thoughts on “IFAQ: Who Leads The Tairnadal?

    • Yes, “taarn” is a linguistic corruption of tairn, as it was Tairnadal elves who fought the Dhakaani.

      • That is the kind of linguistic connection that suggests a really cool history there

  1. Thank you for the great answer! Towards the beginning of the article you say that the ancestor worship began on Xen’drik, but was refined on Aerenal. The other two factions of Elves, the Undying Court and what would become Vol’s allies utilized the Irian and Mabaran manifest zones respectively. Do the Tairnadal have a particularly sacred or magical site they use as part of their faith?

    • The Aereni rely on sacred sites because they have to; the deathless are dependent on the energy of Irian, which was especially vital in the beginning. The ancestors aren’t tied to places, they’re tied to PEOPLE. Var-Shalas is the seat of the Keepers of the Past and thus their most sacred site, but they aren’t dependent on it in the way the Aereni are tied to Shae Mordai.

  2. How difficult is it for an ambitious revenant to break the mold of their ancestors and forge their own name in memory? Is this more within the wheelhouse of player characters, or are there examples of exceptional tairnadal who exceed the precedent of their patron ancestor, becoming patrons in their own right?

    • This is specifically discussed in the article I linked to a few times here:
      … which gives the example of Carys Daealyth, who is guided by Daealyth Taeri, who was guided by Taeri.

      The main point is that those champions don’t typically BREAK the mold, they go beyond them. From that article:
      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.

  3. Who makes assignments to the armies? Do the Keepers of the past, or do the Shans determine the make-up of their own armies? I assume the Shans assign the bands and clans together, but how does a Tirnadal who has just come of age (and presumably was always in a civilian role) come to a particular army?

    • There’s a bunch of factors here. While Tairnadal youth maintain the civilian infrastructure, during that time, they are essentially in a military academy. It’s not like you go from raking leaves one day to being sent out to an army the next. The youth spend decades honing their basic skills, and part of that process is discovering their aptitudes. An elf is chosen by Cardaen BECAUSE they have proven themselves to have an aptitude for the arcane. It’s not that Cardaen picks them and POW, they’re a wizard; it’s that they have already learned the basics of wizardry and Cardaen’s guidance is a crowning touch. So by their final decade an elf is already a ranger, or a wizard, or a fighter; and they expect to be chosen by an ancestor that reinforces that. They are essentially auditioning for the ancestors as they develop their skills.

      So with that in mind, the tairn in residence at the great cities are both evaluating the youths and also conveying to the Keepers the needs of their armies. The Valaes Rae will let them know that they need archers, while the Valaes Dor are short on wizards. If there are conflicting needs, this will be debated in the Shanutar and they will come to an agreement. It is quite possible that there is essentially a drafting process, where the shans in residence choose the new tairn for their armies. Once you get to an army, then it’s a case of the lu-shans passing requests up to the shans, and the shans to the var-shan; what does your clan or band need?

      Having said that, there are cases where the choice of ancestor determines the army. This is especially the case with the Draleus; they represent a different set of ancestors than the other armies, and if you’re chosen by a Draleus ancestor, the choice is made for you.

  4. Very cool article as usual. You answered one of my questions in earlier comments, but I still have a couple. Firstt, are thee ever cases where a young elf coming of age is not selected by ANY ancestor? If so, how are such elves regarded by their fellows. Are they shunned, considered wastes of flesh, since they aren’t sustaining an ancestral spirit? Or…might they be considered special, a reflection that the ancestors perceive that Tairnadal society needs something new, something innovative? In that case, the young elf might receive special encouragement to find a way to do epic deeds on a wholly new path, and fill a void in the needs of the Tairnadal for future generations?
    Second question: Since the Tairnadal are contantly looking for pattles to fight, do they ever seek out manifest zones of Shavarath, or venture to that plane itself? The Eternal Battle would seem s great place for a warband frustrated by an excess of peace in Khorvaire to hone their skills. Or is Shavarath considered inappropriate because the battles are never cnclusive?

  5. Are the armies in Aerenal comprised of mixed groups of Silaes Tairn and Draleus Tairn (as the Valaes Tairn are in Valenar?) or is an army always made of one group of revenant?

    • Are the armies in Aerenal comprised of mixed groups of Silaes Tairn and Draleus Tairn (as the Valaes Tairn are in Valenar?) or is an army always made of one group of revenant?

      I tried to call this out at the end of the article, but maybe it wasn’t clear. The Draelus Tairn are a separate army. Among other things, they are inspired by ancestors renowned for fighting DRAGONS—ancestors who have gained their fame from deeds performed on Aerenal itself, not from fighting giants on Xen’drik or goblins on Khorvaire. So they are a unique army united by the ancestors they emulate, and they prepare to defend Aerenal against future draconic attack.

      The Silaes Tairn is a separate army, but its ancestors overlap with the Valaes Tairn. The Silaes simply feel that it’s pointless to emulate the ancestors through war games on Aerenal when they could be fighting giants on Xen’drik; the Valaes response is that the giants of Xen’drik aren’t the enemeis of old and there’s no point to fighting devolved brutes.

      So armies are guided by a single PHILOSOPHY—Silaes, Draelus, Valaes—because that determines the actions the army takes. But there are dozens of different revenants represented within each army.

  6. Who are the Tairnadal fighting on Aerenal? Are the just engaging in war-games, or are there actually things at stake?

    • It’s a complex question that could be the subject of another article. To a large degree Tairnadal fight Tairnadal because it’s the most accessible challenging foe (though note that the Silaes prefer to fight in enemies in Xen’drik). These are technically wargames, with the different armies taking on different roles, but they are fought in earnest; you don’t go out of your way to kill a downed foe, but people do die in these conflicts, which is one reason they remain fewer in number than the Aereni. In certain circumstances they likely used summoned creatures or manifest zones as a way to generate challenging foes without killing their own (though elves may well die fighting these challenging foes).

      This is why the Host of Valenar was excited to join the Last War: to have the chance to face a new foe. And right now what they are trying to do is to provoke a deadly enemy into conflict. Through their aggressive behavior, they WANT to goad Karrnath or Darguun into attacking them.

    • Not that I’m aware of. It’s something that was considered for Rising but didn’t make the cut.

  7. Other point of clarity – the main armies featured in canon are the Valaes Tairn, Draleus Tairn, and Silaes Tairn. Are the others of note? Also, my understanding of the Shanutar is each of these armies has equal representation on the council, through the tar-shan of the clan sent to represent that army.

    • *sorry, re-reading there’s two clans sent as representative. But the point about equal representation remains.

    • The Draleus, Valaes, and Silaes are philosophies rather than armies, though in the case of Draleus and Valeas they are both. The Valaes Tairn are the dominant philosophy and there are multiple Valaes armies. The Host of Valenar is ONE of the Valaes Armies, but there are still a number of others—three or four?—that remain in Aerenal. It is likely that a number of clans were released to join the Host of Valenar when Shaeras presented his plans, so it may be the LARGEST army. But there are other Valaes armies, and the Shanutar has representatives from more than one.

      There are also quite possibly additional smaller armies like the Draleus and the Silaes. Like most things in Eberron, this is a space where a DM and player should have room to add new ideas that suit a story.

  8. Do the Draleus and Silaes have major philosophical differences from the Valaes Tairn? Or is it just a matter of what they think their ancestors would have done?

    If the Silaes think that the fight should be taken back to Xen’drik, why haven’t they gone back long term or established their own beachhead like Stormreach? Is it purely retaliatory expeditions?

    • Do the Draleus and Silaes have major philosophical differences from the Valaes Tairn? Or is it just a matter of what they think their ancestors would have done?

      They are all still Tairnadal, but they honor their ancestors in different ways — in part because the Draelus ancestors need to be honored in a different way, because they fought very different battles.

      I believe the Draleus Tairn primarily focus on preparation for draconic attack, as those do happen every few centuries on Aerenal. And I think the Silaes Tairn DO send expeditions to Xen’drik on a regular basis; but they’re also happy to take a century or two to hone their skills and build up between expeditions. During an expedition they will maintain beachheads, but as with Valenar, the Tairnadal don’t especially WANT to build and maintain colonies. So they haven’t established an equivalent to Stormreach. But if they launch a major offensive, they will certainly create a temporary beachhead as part of it – but it will be more likely to be far closer to Aerenal than Stormreach.

  9. Are there any honorary ancestors; some dwarf, human, goblin, giant, dragon, etc., who so fully embodied/adopted/advanced the Tairnadal (or an individual elf’s) cause that the Tairnadal see an absolute need to remember them as well?

    • The Tairnadal have bards, and remembering stories is very important to them. They may well HONOR non-elves who assisted their cause. But that’s not the same as being a patron ancestor, and we’ve never suggested that the Tairnadal recognize any non-elves as patron ancestors.

  10. If a modern elf channels an ancestor who channeled an older ancestor, does the modern descendant channel only the closer ancestor, or would they be channeling a gestalt of both ancestors?

    • They only channel the closer ancestor, but they honor the older ancestor. This is specifically discussed in the Q&A article linked a few times in this article. One quote: 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.

  11. How does parenting work, if the elves are bonded to their army for life? Few years of shore leave then give the kid to a (their?) clan? Are those familial relationships important in any way? How do you know which group of Zaelantar get to raise the kid?

    • How does parenting work, if the elves are bonded to their army for life?

      Blood relations aren’t an important part of Tairnadal culture. Note that they don’t use family names; they indicate their patron ancestor. Shaeras Vadallia isn’t part of the family of Vadallia, he was a youth named Shaeras who was chosen by the patron ancestor Vadallia. So that’s correct: you give your child to the zaelantar and they raise them and train them, and you aren’t expected to have an ongoing relationship with them. Children know who their parents are, and there are definitely cases where relatives serve in the same band or army, but on a larger scale that relationship isn’t as important as your relationship to your patron ancestor.

      This also brings up the point that “Patron Ancestor” is a very broad term. It is assumed that at this point most Tairnadal have some blood connection to MOST of the patron ancestors; it’s not a strict line like the dragonmarked houses. So a child isn’t expected to have the same patron as their parents—though again, that can happen.

      Note that as a rule, the Tairnadal don’t own property. It’s possible that a parent could pass a favored weapon or item to a child on death. but they don’t own land, and in the case of powerful artifacts it’s likely that the artifact would be claimed by the army and redistributed to a worthy revenant by the var-shan. Given this, Valenar is an unusual experience because we’ve called out that Valenar elves have been granted land by Shaeras… but what we’ve also said is that most don’t actually care about it and generally ignore it. To a certain degree the grant of land is more “Patrol this area” than “I grant this to you and your descendants” — again, the Tairnadal don’t actually care about holding Valenar indefinitely.

    • I’ve added a slightly more concise answer to the end of the article that also takes the Khoravar into account.

  12. Can you talk a little about dinamics between Tairnadal elves and Lyrandar/Half-elves in Valenar? Sometimes its hard to see how this could work and maybe this became a major point in a campaign that will start after corona (a player mine has a Tairnadal mother and a Lyrandar father, the father died and maybe the party could go visit Valenar). My question is more about ways you see this dinamic in a story, how each of them see, or can see, each other, how much power Lyrandar have there and would work the daily dinamic in a Valenar City.

  13. Thanks Keith, its always cool to learn more about the Tairnadal!

    The Draleus Tairn seem to be the most mysterious of the three sects of Tairnadal, and I was curious if you saw their role expanding beyond fighting or hunting the dragons of Argonnessen to include fighting the dragonborn since their introduction to the setting in 4th Edition. Specifically, do you think the Draleus Tairn would have a history of conflict with the dragonborn empire or their descendants in Q’barra while the Valaes Tairn were busy fighting the Dhakaani goblinoids?

      • Expanding off of that, during the Age of Monsters when the Tairnadal were fighting the Dhakaani Empire and both groups conflicted with the Dragonborn of Q’Barra (I THINK), were those elves who fought the goblins and did great deeds also fighting the dragonborn to the same degree, or did the huge mountain range mainly mean it was the dragonborn vs. the goblins vs. the elves, not elves vs. dragonborn?

        If the Valaes fought the dragonborn at all, were the Draleus Tairn involved? Advising certain warriors or starting to incorporate training secrets from their defensive endeavours into the Valaes’ aggressive attacks in Valenar?

        • By canon—according to the timeline in the ECG—the dragonborn empire fell thousands of years before the Tairnadal came to Khorvaire in force, so there would have been minimal contact between them and the Tairnadal would have primarily fought the Dhakaani. However, this is definitely a case of “What’s the story you want to tell?” If you WANT to suggest that the Tairnadal had an earlier expedition that clashed with the dragonborn, or even invaded Q’barra from the sea, tell that story.

          • Once again, when I’m wrong the answer is EVEN BETTER than I thought! That’s great, that really gives a cool scale and, like you said, there’s room for earlier smaller conflicts. Forgot about the sheet duration of the goblin empire there

  14. Faiths of Eberron says the Silver Flame’s Purified “acknowledge the existence and divinity of other gods, such as the Sovereign Host and the Dark Six, and of the three great Dragons. They even honor them, knowing them worthy of respect.” but that the Flame is ultimately above them all. Does such a concept exist among the Tairnadal?

    • I don’t think either the Aereni or the Tairnadal care about the religious beliefs of other cultures. To the degree that they acknowledge the existence of the Sovereigns, they probably think they ARE patron ancestors — after all, by myth they were champions who fought demons — and that the people of Khorvaire just have a weird, flawed way of honoring them and a lot of strange ideas about them. But in general they don’t care what other people do. Their religions are unique to their culture and not something they want to spread to others; what other cultures believe isn’t their concern.

  15. I believe in the past you have said that the Chamber does not *seriously* attack Aerenal – in part because they have no reason to (at least since the Line of Vol was extinguished( and in part beacuse the Undying Court is so very powerful on their home turf – but that young dragons do go to Aerenal to prove themselves. Is there, perhpas, a tacit understanding between the Chamber and the Court that both the young dragons and the Dralaes Tairn need battle as a whetstone to keep them sharp, and so periodic clashes will happen and as long as they stay within limits, some deaths on either side are tolerable?

    • This is addressed on page 11 of Dragons of Eberron, and like the Mourning it is called out as an intentional mystery that will never have a canon answer. DoE suggests that it could be that the dragons use it as a proving ground for their young warriors; that it might be that they are indeed honing the power and skills of the elves to prepare them for a future conflict; or that it is purely a small faction within Argonnessen that is behind the attacks and thus that they lack the force to see their goal through. So sure, your theory is possible; but it’s not something that will be concretely answered.

      With that said, bear in mind that the elves aren’t fighting with THE CHAMBER. The Elf-Dragon wars actually predate the existence of the Chamber, and are carried out by the faction known as the Light of Siberys, which is essentially the army of Argonnessen. But again, if you want the canon background on this it’s covered in Dragons of Eberron.

  16. Are there armies other than the Dralaeus, Silaes and Valaes? How many could there be?

  17. Hi Keith and thank you as always!

    I have two questions on the topic:

    1) if your ancestor was a great hero, but even know for not following orders and discipline, you are supposed to imitate that ancestor in that to. So, are your leaders aware of that? Would they punish you?
    2) even worst: you reject the ancestor and your tradition, but you later become a hero and save your army. Can you still become an ancestor? Should your follower, for following you, follow you not?

    • if your ancestor was a great hero, but even know for not following orders and discipline, you are supposed to imitate that ancestor in that to. So, are your leaders aware of that? Would they punish you?

      So, you’ve called out an important detail, but I want to highlight it: your ancestor was a great hero. You don’t GET to be a patron ancestor unless you are celebrated and your descendants refuse to let you go. There are patron ancestors with negative aspects, but these are ALWAYS going to be outweighed by their positive aspects. If an ancestor is especially cruel, there has to be SOMETHING that makes people put up with that cruelty. And the second part of this is that the ancestors ARE celebrated. The Tairnadal know all about the ancestors. If your ancestor is a legendary maverick—a champion who never obeyed orders but always saved the day—OF COURSE your leaders know that. EVERYONE knows that. That’s his story, and we’ve been telling that story for tens of thousands of years.

      So: if you have been chosen by the Maverick, it’s your DUTY to emulate the Maverick, which means you NEED to disobey orders and follow your own instincts. You NEED to do what they would do if they were still alive. And your leaders know that. Which means that when they assign you to a warband, they are going to make that assignment with that in mind. You aren’t going to be a war band that’s trusted to hold the line and stay in formation; you’re going to be in a UNIT of Mavericks, and you’re going to be scouts or skirmishers who are trusted to act on your own initiative, to do what you do best and NOT to follow orders. Remember again that the leaders have been managing this situation for tens of thousands of years — your patron ancestor essentially determines your role in the army.

      As for #2: You don’t get to BE in an army if you reject your ancestor. Tairnadal society is very strict. If you refuse to follow the traditions, you can go elsewhere (and, for example, become an adventurer). So, let’s imagine that this is exactly what happens: You refuse to accept your chosen ancestor (which is a background many PCs do choose) and are forced to leave Aerenal and find your own way in the world. But in the process you DO become an amazing hero and save Aerenal and the world, because hey, you’re a player character. Can you become a patron ancestor? Sure. IF THE PEOPLE CELEBRATE YOU AND REFUSE TO FORGET YOU. Becoming a patron ancestor isn’t like becoming one of the Deathless. It’s not a ritual that just happens. It happens BECAUSE the Tairnadal refuse to let your memory die and want to keep you with them. Which is unlikely to happen if you have nothing to do with your people! So likely it’s a middle of the road. You may have refused to accept tradition, but unless you win the love and respect of the Tairnadal on some level, you won’t become a patron. You’d have to make some kind of peace with them. If you just turn your back on them and defy every tradition, I can’t imagine them celebrating you.

      But at the end of the day, the goal of the revenant is to say what would my patron do if they were here now? So if your independent character became a patron ancestor, their revenants WOULD be driven to be independent. But again, if you don’t form SOME sort of bridge to Tairnadal culture, you’re not going to become a patron.

  18. You may have answered this in prior articles, but the Prince of All Things Forgotten and Unloved prompted me to ask, are memories of ancestors expanded in ways that change what for(rather than if) they remembered? Is there a Dead Sea Scrolls, or lost diary of Kitsune McStabby, Rider of the Battleground?

  19. I usually make the Tairnadal Elves ruled by a Supreme War-lord (which I will from now on call Toran-Shan), elected every 100 years by the council of the warlords.

  20. Its been nearly 40k years since the fall of the giant civilization. Elves have been in Aerenal for 30k years.
    When did the last of the Tarinadal patrons die?
    Is the increase of the Tarinadal population hitting a critical mass with more elves but the same amount of ancestors?

    • When did the last of the Tairnadal patrons die?

      The patron ancestors come from different points in history. The oldest of the ancestors are those who fought against the giants in Xen’drik. But there are patrons whose legends were forged fighting Dhakaani goblins, and most of the Draleus ancestors established their legends fighting dragons on Aerenal. The linked FAQ article tells the story of Caerys, who is a revenant of Daealyth, who was in turn a revenant of Taeri. All Tairnadal hope that even though they are following in their ancestors’ footsteps, they will perform such great deeds that they will become patrons in their own right.

      As for the population, bear in mind that elven fertility is exceptionally low — the elves have been on Aerenal for many times longer than human civilization has existed and yet haven’t overcrowded it — and that the Tairnadal live dangerous lives. But also bear in mind that many elves can embody the same ancestor. There’s no risk of “running out” of ancestors; instead, the ancestors are sort of like military specialties, where people know “It’s a magical problem? Find a Cardaen.”

  21. In my Eberron campaign I briefly had a half-Drow warlock (father was a half-Drow, so really he is 1/2 elf, 1/4 Drow, 1/4 human) from Aerenal who was chosen by a sort of Eldritch Maverick patron ancestor. The group basically fell apart due to schedules and I’ve had to continue with a short roster of players, but I’m still interested in how that could have played out.

    Would it be possible to have a patron ancestor who was actually a Drow or half-elf/Half-drow, but they aren’t remembered that way? Like, maybe it just isn’t mentioned?

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

    • Would it be possible to have a patron ancestor who was actually a Drow or half-elf/Half-drow, but they aren’t remembered that way? Like, maybe it just isn’t mentioned?

      It’s certainly possible to have an ancestor who’s drow or half-drow, just as there could be drow deathless among the Undying Court. Aerenal was settled by refugees and rebels from a host of cultures. While MOST drow fought the rebels, there’s no reason that some couldn’t have turned against their masters and escaped with the rebels. Personally, I find it fairly unlikely that this fact would be FORGOTTEN, though. The reason patron ancestors become patron ancestors is because they are celebrated and remembered, because people refuse to let them die; it seems like if a significant aspect of them was completely forgotten that, well, people aren’t doing a very good job of preserving their memory. But anything is possible.

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

      Sure! We’ve mentioned it before. And likewise, zaelantar youths sometimes leave the steppes and become Aereni. The main thing is that the would-be Tairnadal still has to be chosen by a patron. As long as that happens, they’re welcomed.

  22. Are there any Tairn that would hold both roles within their community e.g. one whose ancestor was a great Artificer or Forge Cleric? If so, how would they operate? Would they have to pick between being a Zaelantar and Zaeltairn, or would they be expected to fulfil both roles at different points?

    • If the question is can a zaelantar be chosen by a patron ancestor and remain a peaceful soul, absolutely. When we’ve mentioned the zaelantar in the past, it’s specifically been in the context of Tairnadal chosen by non-martial ancestors. There aren’t many of these ancestors, but yes: there’s certainly a legendary smith, and at least one legendary druid who guides the Siyal Marrain who care for the beasts.

      Would a Tairnadal artificer or forge cleric be Zaelantar or Zaeltairn? The answer is simple: what are they celebrated for? The revenant is supposed to emulate their deeds. Do the legends told about them focus on their amazing creations, or of their deeds on the battlefield? Did they fight alongside a band of soldiers or did they stay close to the forge? The revenant should try to follow in their footsteps.

  23. Could there be Elves who fulfill both roles in their community? e.g. someone emulating a Patron artificer or forge cleric?

    If so, would there be any specific implications for them? Would the be expected to split their time between the Zaelantar and Zaeltairn, or would they have to choose one or the other?

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