It’s November! So, anyone who knows me knows I’m deep in the throes of another month of NaNoWriMo. I try to take advantage of the event to help keep my writing focused on rough drafting chapters, getting those words down on paper in the rawest form and to avoid that temptation in the back of my mind. The one pointing out mistakes and urging me to rewrite that one sentence twenty times until it’s perfect.
As I’m working on the third and final book in the Soulstone Prophecy series, Tomb of the Fallen, I find myself paging through the first two books to research places and things I touched on earlier. One thing I noted during my research was details on the elves of Allwyn, better known as the Alvar. I wanted to take a little time and share some information about the Alvar. Now, November is not the wisest of times to do this, with the pressure of a NaNoWriMo’s daily word count hanging over my head, but I must answer the muse’s call when I hear it.
In book one, Cradle of the Gods, there were only a couple mentions of the elves. But, in book two, Time of the Stonechosen, I introduced the elves and their home, the Deepwood.
When creating the elves of Allwyn, I researched various historic lore on elves. There are many references to elves in various cultures’ mythology. For example, in Norse mythology they were originally a race of minor gods of nature and fertility. There are many references to them in German and English folklore in prayers, ballads, folktales, and even medical texts.
Of course, our first impression of elves is heavily influenced by J. R. R. Tolkien’s epic work, The Lord of the Rings, and from that work they have spread across modern fantasy.
Allwyn is a fantasy world and I knew I wanted elves to play a part in the story, but I also wanted them to be unique to Allwyn. As I did more research, I found myself being pulled to the stories of Nymphs and Dryads. They too had a long history in various myths and folklore, but had more of a connection with specific places in nature. A tree, a hidden glade, and so on. I decided to combine aspects of all three into Allwyn’s definition of an elf.
I felt I needed to differentiate my version of elves from any preconceived notions, so I decided to help by having them refer to themselves by a different name. They would call themselves the Alvar. I had found my elves. I just need to create their story.
In the creation myths of Allwyn, the Primordials (Daomur, Ilsmur, Haurtu, etc.) created the various races by imbuing a piece of themselves into the flora or fauna of Allwyn. The Goddess Islmur chose trees.
Different trees produce different looks to the Alvar. All Alvar are female, like Islmur, and procreate from joining with trees themselves, thus why they are so protective of them, even more so for the tree they came from.
The Alvar are protectors of the trees, groves, woods and mountain forests. They are the ladies of the oaks, pines, poplar, and ash. They defend the forests from anything that threatens them.
Alvar are shy creatures, who spend much of their time enjoying the gifts of Allwyn. They could spend hours watching a stream flowing by or how the wind rustles the leaves of a tree. They are simple and content beings. They find the attempts of other races to change Allwyn’s gifts a waste of time. Stonework is ugly to them as is civilization. They spend their time in isolation, wandering their forest home.
In book two Ghile first encounters the Alvar, Arenuin:
He knew immediately it was female, that it was a she. And she was beautiful. Where there should’ve been a trunk, he could make out a body and two long, thin legs, the white bark freckled with grey, diamond-shaped specks. What he had mistaken for a branch touching the water, was her arm. Her willowy fingers still gently stirred the water’s surface. Where there should’ve been hair were small, light green leaves, a silver sheen playing throughout. It reminded Ghile of the school of minnows he used to chase through the shallow blue waters along the shore of Crystal Lake. The silvery leaves framed a long face and fell past lithe shoulders. But what captured him more than anything else, were her eyes. They were large, taking up more than twice as much space as a human’s and a radiant blue. Even from this distance, he could see little specks of light flowing through them, like a river of stars.”
Alvar grow their entire lives. So, the age of an Alvar can somewhat be determined by their size. When first born, they are already larger than humans, standing close to nine feet tall. The oldest are as tall as most trees, rising as high as fifty to sixty feet.
Since there are only female Alvar and they can trace their ancestry through a single line, they use a matronymic naming convention. We see this when Ghile meets his first Alvar, Arenuin.
“She rose and stepped forward to tower over Ghile. “This one is Arenuin of Arenell of Areduin of Arethell of. . . ”
Magic in Allwyn runs through everything and is named the Dreamsong, since many describe it as the music of life, flowing through and connecting all things. Islmur is the Goddess of Magic and her progeny, the Alvar, see the Dreamsong in all things. This ability to see the actual flow of magic is reflected in their large almond-shaped eyes.
The Alvar speak a language that sounds like singing to others, those who hear it often cry at its beauty. Very few, other than Alvar, can understand Alvarsong. The Alvar have the ability to bestow the gift of understanding on others, but it often changes the recipient profoundly, both physically and mentally. An example of this is the dwarf, Dagbar, who was granted the ability to understand Alvarsong by the Goddess Islmur herself. Dagbar’s eyes reflect this change. One eye is now solid white, the other a solid blue.
With their special affinity with magic and trees, the Alvar have unique magical abilities associated with trees. The first is known as treestepping. It is the Alvar’s form of traveling long distances. They are able to step through one tree and emerge from another. Treestepping has its limits. The trees they traveled through must be touching through root or limb. The other ability is treesinging. It was how the Alvar communicate. The Alvar sing a message which is then held within the surrounding trees. Other Alvar who enter that area of the forest can then hear the message reverberating within the surround trees.
Alvar’s ability to actually see magic also makes them some of the most gifted users of magic in Allwyn. The most talented among them are known as Spellsingers. All of nature responds to their call. The trees, plants, animals, and even the weather will answer their call.
When an Alvar decides to reproduce, she chooses a tree and bonds with it. This is like treestepping, except the Alvar melds with the tree and remains there for a year. During this time, a cocoon like shape slowly develops on the tree’s trunk. After this gestation period, the Alvar emerges from the tree. Later that same day, a newborn Alvar steps shakily from the tree. Almost immediately the tree loses its leaves and its bark lightens and takes on a silvery hue. The tree becomes a Silverwood, the hardest and rarest tree in all of Allwyn. The Alvar name the tree, Anualmar which translates into ancestor tree. This birthing is one of the few times the reclusive Alvar gather in significant numbers. They both welcome the new sister and sing their respect to the Anualmar for its sacrifice.
If you want to learn more about the Alvar or the world of Allwyn, consider picking up a copy of the first book in the series, Cradle of the Gods!