The Callasine are a people that have faced adversity and have triumphed. They are genteel and courteous, but those who mistake grace and beauty for weakness soon regret making that mistake with the people of the Veiled Kingdom.
The lands of the Veiled Kingdom lies between the accursed Rainbow Isles and the Sea of Kaos. North of Callasine lands lies the bogs of Morread while its east is the Querathas Isilien (called the Silent Forest), the wild lands and the Labyrinthium within the Jungle.
Few are the maps in Midworld that accurately pinpoint the location of Callas Selvarion, although many agree that she stands somewhere upon Vylithia, the Shrouded Isle. Only the Callasine themselves are privy to the fact that Callas Selvarion occupies the eastern section of Vylithia, keeping watch over the channel called the Crossing of Eldarys.
Most foreigners assume that Vylithia is a place of mist and gloom. If they spoke of ancient Vylithia before the arrival of Her Radiance, they would have said true. But the behind the misty walls, Vylithia is a paradise on the flesh of Midworld. Seasons come and pass, but thanks to the power of the Queen of Stars, they are often mild – the Veil that protects Callas Selvarion wards away intruders and storms.
Callas Selvarion itself is a wonder to behold. Choir Athariel worked diligently with their Queen to make their hidden city a place of great beauty. Towering archways and silvery spires reach toward the heavens while trees and parks bring natural splendor to the city’s architecture.
The city is twinned around hilly terrain and divided by several concentric circles that mark the growth of Callas Selvarion through the centuries. The Vallis river splits the city from the north and exits at its east while the Faellon river skirts the city’s western edges. At the city’s very center is Circel Celest, the Queen’s palace. It is surrounded by the embassies and visiting manors of the greatest Choirs of the Callasines. The headquarters of the four Knightly Orders also stand adjacent to Circel Celest, each building is crafted to add to the main palace’s glory.
While many temples to the Celestial Church dot the city, the four main temples are each set in a cardinal direction (North, South, etc) from Circel Celest. The main temples of Athalarian and of Neheris are situated near the two main harbors of the city: Ohsis ni Athai (Sun-rise Port) and Ohsis ni Nehai (Star-rise Port). While the Sunset Bridge (Ranach ni Nirash) and Moonrise Gate (Arach ni Xirai)
The largest forge-temple of Athalarian Verathul sits at the mouth of the Vallas river, amidst the industries, smithies, shipyards and workhouses of the Callasine. This golden bannered forge-temple is sometimes called the “Gilded Cage” because it not only headquarters the police force for most of the city but also because it is where criminals are brought when they are awaiting their sentence (whether it is a fine, exile or death).
The tallest spire-temple of Neheris Kesarai is also seaside but lies south of the Queen’s palace; it is the second tallest structure in Callas Selvarion and features a massive clock that tells the hour, the day and the moon through enspelled wind chimes that can be heard across the city. The “Chiming Tower” is also adjacent to the academic district and its mercantile quarters.
The main temple of Cadrafel Ahroun sits to the west, surrounded by the Quiet Gardens – a massive field populated by the family trees of less well-off Callasine and of lost Choirs. Entry into the Quiet Gardens is allowed to all Callasine but Cadrafel’s “Masked Temple” is forbidden to everyone except those from the Clergy, from the Crown or those given special permissions. The Silmaril Cadrafel often help their Athalarian brethren maintain the Sunset Bridge (Ranach ni Nirash) at the western outskirts of the city.
The biggest of the Shrouded Moon’s cathedral-temples lie to the north, adjacent to the administrative buildings of Callas Selvarion, the residential districts and the entertainment districts (e.g. the theatres, the auditoriums, etc). The cathedral of Hope’s Solace is built around a massive silver-flowered tree; it shades the temple from the sun and rains petals and leaves according to the season. Soft songs can often be heard echoing from its upper windows. The presence of the Athalarian Silmaril is rare here, except to the far north where Arach ni Xirai or the Moonrise Gate, the city’s busiest gate, is under heavy guard.
Outside Callas Selvarion
The remainder of Vylithia remains largely unchanged and untouched. The Callasine are not a fecund people and they prefer to maintain the area’s natural majesty. Among the wilderness and patrolled by the Knightly Order of the Hawk are the Queen’s roads. These roads connect the different manors of the Veiled Kingdom’s biggest Choirs. Smaller Choirs prefer to live within the city or near its outskirts.
Choir Athariel maintains several holdings at the outskirts of Callas Selvarion. Their main estate sits at the western edge of Vylithia, near the richest mines of the Callasine. The southern edge of Vylithia is held by Choir Shaerach and dotted with the orchards of their finest Moonspring trees. Shaerach’s main estate (Minas Shaerach) is wrapped around two massive oaks. An isle to the northwest marks Choir Eldressar’s main estate and also houses the University of Varwen as well as Eldressar’s personal shipyards. A great bridge connects Minas Eldressar to Vylithia, but the members of the Choir prefer to use watercraft.
East of the Island of Mists is the Silent Forest, a place of mystery and terror. The Court of Stars does not expressly forbid entrance into Querathas Isilien, but travel within the enchanted woods is greatly discouraged because of their peril. Even the hardy folk of the Fir’bolg do not enter the Silent Forest; the northern sections of these woods are considered to be death itself. The Veil that covers most of the land can confuse even the wisest ranger and it hides the deadly monstrosities that wait for the unwary to pass.
Surviving explorers and the Order of the Hawk have noted several locations of danger and wonder within the wood.
– The Despoiled Grove: a place where the trees have grown twisted with malice and the earth is blacked by sorcery. Dangerous creatures lurk here and it resists all attempts at purification.
– The Temple to the Forgotten Goddess: Although they have been thoroughly documented and examined, the true nature of this place remains a mystery. Its tendency of attracting horrible creatures does not make its study any easier.
– The Lost Garden: Believed to be a place of rest for ancient Elven heroes, disturbing any of the cairns of this place is said to bring a curse on the defiler. At night, ephemeral lights are said to be seen floating in this garden.
– The Seeping Wound: Hidden by the canopy, the Wound is a gigantic cavern that delves deep into the earth. The few who return from their attempts at documenting its depths report illusions, grasping roots, dangerous pitfalls and the omnipresent sound of something breathing (some report an incomprehensible whispering instead).
– The Court of Trees: One of the thickest parts of the Silent Forest is the Court of Trees. Trees have been seen moving in this area and even attacking the unwary.
– The Wild Circle: Explorers here have noted strange colored trees that mark a ring that is a mile in diameter. Academics report that magic here is greatly empowered but the disappearance of almost every scholarly expedition into the Circle has curtailed any effort to study it.
The laws of Callas Selvarion extends from the Queen of Stars and is administered by the Celestial Church and Her Knightly Orders.
The following are the Cardinal Crimes of Callas Selvarion and their lesser versions:
Murder – Cardinal Murder is the willful, needless and unprovoked slaying of another Callasine. This also includes the use of soul entrapping magics or the use of assassins. Lesser murder is the slaying of Mortals that are not Elves or citizens of Callas Selvarion or needlessly killing any creature.
Cruelty – Cardinal Cruelty is the willful and needless torture, rape or maiming (physical or psychic) of another individual. Attempted murder is also considered to be Cardinal Cruelty. Lesser Cruelty includes the committing of this crime on a foreigner or on any non-sentient being.
Thievery – Cardinal Thievery is the unlawful taking or destruction of a Callasine’s physical property or the evasion of the Queen’s taxes or punishments. Lesser Thievery is Thievery committed upon a foreigner or the criminal evasion of debt, dues or lawful tribute.
Betrayal – Cardinal Betrayal is the willful breaking of sacred oaths or vows of fealty. This includes the evasion of due process and the betrayal of kin or one’s organization. Lesser Betrayal consists of the willful and/or criminal misuse of one’s subordinates or peers. Unwillingly or unwillingly breaking one’s oath or vow may be considered Lesser Betrayal.
Diablerie – Cardinal Diablerie includes willful association with Demons and the use of Dark Magics, typically (but not limited to) the spells of Diabolists, or Demonic devices. Also included in this crime is the criminal use of magic and research into forbidden knowledge. Lesser Diablerie includes willful and friendly association with Diabolists, Demons and other Dark entities.
Treason – Sometimes called High Betrayal, Treason is willful sedition against the Crown. Speaking against the Queen’s policies is allowed but hindering/attacking the agents of Her Court or abetting the Crown’s enemies is one of the greatest crimes imaginable. Treason always results in Spiritual Crucifixion (see below). There is no such Crime as lesser Treason.
Blasphemy – Cardinal Blasphemy is the desecration of sacred objects and holy places. Attacking or hindering the members of the Celestial Church in their duties is also considered to be Cardinal Blasphemy. There is no such Crime as lesser Blasphemy.
The Cardinal Crimes easily overlap with one another. Stealing from one’s kin is both Cardinal Betrayal and Cardinal Thievery, thereby deepening the severity of the misdeed in the eyes of the Church and the Queen.
Being found guilty of one or more Cardinal Crimes can result in harsh penalties including, but not limited to: Exile, Execution and Spiritual Crucifixion. Spiritual Crucifixion is the worst of all penalties and is performed by the grim servitors of Cadrafel Ahroun; it involves a sacred painful ritual that destroys a criminal’s body and irreversibly affixes a criminal’s soul into a special stone in the Temple of Masks.
Lesser punishments include Banishment (exile for a set duration or until a certain condition), a Geas (a curse that hinders activity), (limited) Servitude to the wronged party and/or a Ransom (paid to the wronged party or their Choir).
Conflict resolution: Typically, the guilt or innocence of an individual is established by a judicial court convened by a Therin of Xirith (for civic matters) or of Athalarian (for military matters). In extremely rare cases, the Queen herself (or a proxy that she assigns) may convene a trial.
For almost all trials, the accused must be present to be judged. Most are accosted by the Athalarian Silmaril, the Order of the Heron or the Order of the Hawk (if they are in foreign lands) and imprisoned in the Gilded Cage while they await trial. In rare occasions, the Queen and the Queen alone may judge a suspect in their absence.
The innocent are set free and criers are sent to announce their innocence to the Veiled Kingdom. Those who are judged to be guilty are given the appropriate sentence by the Judge. However, Callas Selvarion is unique amongst the Kingdoms of Midworld in its assumption that the suspect is innocent until proven guilty.
There are rumors abound that the Cadrafel Silmaril are sometimes sent on missions to slay death-sentenced Callasine who seek to escape the Queen’s justice. The Celestial Church does not confirm this rumor.
Typically, civic disputes (non-criminal) between two Choirs or two individuals are arbitrated by a Therin of Xirith. Most Callasines prefer to find a mediator (also a Priest of Xirith) and find a common ground before taking matters to a judge. Parties that are unsatisfied with a judge’s decision may attempt to appeal to the Queen, but doing so is unseemly and is only reserved for the gravest of matters.
Choirs and Families
The family is the basic unit of the Elven society, at its heart is the matriarch, followed by the husband(s) (some Callasines practice polyandry) and the various children communally raised by all the parents. The children and the husbands follow the guidance of the matriarch and maintain the family’s needs.
The next tier is the Choir, a component of Callasine culture composed of multiple families. The members of a Choir are bound together by kinship or by marriage. Under the dictates of their Arch-Matriarchs, Choirs pool their collective resources, power and influence toward their communal well-being. Families may choose to leave a Choir at any time but only an Arch-Matriarch can allow entry into this familial unit, through marriage, adoption or even the assimilation of an entire family.
The Arch-Matriarch of a Choir is a position that is traditionally passed from mother to first-born daughter. Breaking from the traditional inheritance of Choir governance is rare amongst the hide-bound Callasines, but it occurs amongst Arch-Matriarchs who recognize leadership, charisma and sagacity in a young member of the Choir; these Elves are then mentored and tutored by the Arch-Matriarch and the other Choir elders in their path.
Arch-Matriarchs are usually skilled in magic and/or advanced in age, but they are mainly revered for their wisdom and their presence. These women are advised and aided by the various elders of a Choir, although they are not bound to these folk’s counsel.
Not all Callasine belong to Choirs and not all Choirs are important pillars of Callasine society. A Choir can be compared to a tiny village working together in harmony or a clan united by tradition and distant ancestry. However, each recognized Choir that pays its dues to the Veiled Kingdom is allowed a voice in its governance and their Arch-Matriarchs (or selected proxies) are allowed entrance when the Queen gathers her Parliament. Some members of especially wealthy Choirs take a permanent residence near Circel Celest.
Many Callasines practice monogamy, with marriages that are bound by love and romance. This is not the only case however. Some Callasines marry for friendship, for status or for familial duties. Arranged marriages are an uncommon occurrence although it is a Cardinal Betrayal to force marriage upon another.
Most newlywed couples stay within the bride’s Choir. Sometimes, a couple may join with a husband’s Choir (with the Arch-Matriarch’s permission) or even leave both Choirs entirely. No grievance is levied against those Callasines who seek their own independence, but they are given no help either. Such families often stay at the edge of Callas Selvarion or make their own homes in the wilderness of Vylithia – they typically lack the financial backing to remain in the main sections of the Veiled City.
Joining the Clergy is a pivotal event in a Callasine’s life. Despite their celebrated status in Elven society, Priests face an endless amount of work, immense pressure from their superiors and high expectations from the secular sector. Because their role in Callasine culture is both colossal and multi-faceted, the various initiations are the most trying of ordeals. Although there is no penalty for failure, not every Elven neophyte passes into the Priesthood of the Celestial Church.
Besides the stresses of working as the Callasine’s spiritual guides and civic servants, Priests are expected to side with the Church even against one’s own family and Choir. As a show of loyalty, some Silmaril (such as the Valara of Xirith Kesellas) drop their Choir names completely, not even adopting a new Choir name even after marriage. They believe that true loyalty is to the Church and the people of Callas Selvarion. But such extreme measures are not required, of course.
Those Callasine who side with their family against the Church may find themselves removed from the clergy and banned from using divine magic under pain of exile (Blasphemy). Fortunately, such circumstances are extremely rare. Few stand against the influence of the Celestial Church and the Church itself focuses its efforts on serving the needs of the Callasine people.