The dense and endless forest of the Elanien kingdom might remind you of an eerie folktale. Predators with razor-sharp tongues lurk in the underbrush, charming water-maidens called vodyanitsya lure in unsuspecting passersby, and the crowns of trees abound with nests woven of bones. But underneath the creepiness of it all, you’ll find that everything falls into a natural order. To survive in these lands, you must respect the interconnections that make this ecosystem work, you ought to watch each other’s back, and you need to guard these dreadful woods - with all your elanien might - from something far more terrifying.
United by Adversity
The Elaniens had been sieved out by natural selection long before they had any kingdom. Having fallen out of a portal in the middle of a dense untouched forest, it was near impossible for any of them to survive. They faced peril at every turn: falling prey to a never-before-seen animal, having your feet broken by protruding roots that permeate this land, eating wild berries when you’re dying of hunger. Only a few were able to overcome it all and finally have the luck to stumble upon someone’s lodging. But even then, as night came, the walls offered no protection against the life-sucking darkness known as the crawling murk.
The remaining survivors began exploring the lands they found themselves in. Brave rangers who learned to communicate with nature, if not merge with it entirely, discovered new homesteads and became the connecting strings binding the scattered community together. Now it was possible to find a surgeon, an engineer, a blacksmith, a shoemaker. Blueprints for all kinds of light emitting contraptions began circulating from village to village, forcing the crawling murk to retreat. Disparate communities began to band together as they grew increasingly reliant upon each other.
It was the leader of the rangers who first realized that something was wrong. Previously safe trails were infested with aggressive animals, and even herbivores were now death-bearing. Trouble would ensue each time something dangerous fell out of the portal. This time, however, everything went haywire before the rangers could get to the culprit. Wave after wave, beasts of all kind were spurting out from deep within the forest, tearing apart houses and anyone in their way. The forest was drenched in blood and couldn’t get enough of it. The rangers gathered the escapees and led them to the rivers - their only salvation. Overcrowded boats and hastily built rafts set off downstream travelling days and nights on end, while the water beneath them seethed with raging fish.
On the rocky islands in the lower reaches of the river, calamity brought together many hundreds of refugees from all over Elan. Wounded, frightened, and having lost everything they were in desperate need of a ray of hope. Someone opened up a barrel of wine carried on shore by the river, someone else took out the last of their food supplies - and a feast broke out. It was then that the Elaniens crowned their leader of heroes who led them out of the clutches of death. The crown of the Elanien King was just a hoop from that very same wine barrel. Now at the site of the coronation stands Leitana - the shining city the Elaniens built together atop of the barren cliffs.
Their king rules the Elaniens to this day. He is rarely seen in his residence built as a gift to him, and can often be found in the thick of the forest, leading a detachment of his most experienced comrades in arms.
An Incinerating Beauty
The strength of the Elaniens lies in their unity: everyone is held accountable for everyone and everything else. Elaniens don’t think of themselves as owners of this land. Instead they see themselves as part of a complex ecosystem. When a new foreign object falls out of the portal, the Elanien keepers will break through the thickest of woods to get to the object and seal it away in a warehouse. When gathering lumber, mining for stone, smelting steel, or moulding glass for optics, Elaniens try not to upset the natural order of things, for consequences may be unpredictable. The power and splendor of Elan are nourished by devices that harness the energy of plants without causing them any harm. Elanien technologies are impressive in their magnificence: ornately woven metal containing within it a deadly force of light particles. The curious looking beacons protruding above the thicket can be easily spotted both day and night. They are a welcome gift to wanderers, and can fend off shadows from the past if they ever decide to make themselves known again. In Leitana, every shrub is decorated with fancy light bulbs and lanterns. At the entrance to the capital, giant towers illuminate the vicinity with bluish rays. Entry points are patrolled by guards with heavy weapons that can instantly incinerate any threat.
The Elaniens have reason to be fearful. Immediately to the east of them lies the Valley of Sins, made up entirely of flesh and blood. The Valley absorbs and digests everything within its reach. Its ugly creatures are the manifestations of the basest of instincts: to kill, to devour, to fornicate... Elan is shielded from the Valley by a strong force of Luceaiders - knights armed with powerful photon guns. Their Bastion, a gloomy yet majestic fortress built by the river, attracts creatures of all kinds like a light luring in insects. The foot of the fortress walls is littered with steaming carcasses, the stench of which makes your stomach churn. The most desperate knights make forays deep into the Valley, gathering intelligence while engaging in battle. Luceaiders boats guard the coast from the Bastion to the capital itself: if the monsters of the Valley slip into the river system, the heart of Elan will be infected. Understanding what is at stake, every true Elanien considers it his duty to help the Bastion - with provisions, tools or a pair of working hands to build the fortifications.
But the Valley is changing. The monsters have become increasingly more coordinated. And further out behind them, the Luceaiders keep spotting humanoid figures. Who are they? Potential allies who found a way to negotiate with the Valley? Or are they an enemy so cunning that any attempts at being reasonable would be futile? For Elan, much may depend on the answers to these questions.