The Houses of Uburru are a diverse lot, as elves cannot stand to be codified by some arbitrary definition of race. Even so, their culture has survived in much the same form and method for centuries. There are several houses and, while most elves are generally not directly aligned with a specific house, they all pay homage or tribute to a House Lord and are beholden to the House for many things. The individuality and free spirit of elves helps balance the constant power play of the ruling classes. Each house has, therefore, a different sort of character and nature, but all houses have a considerable amount of diversity within them.
Formal Name: United Elven Houses of Uburru
Ruling Body: Each region has a House that controls it, comprised of interwoven families of the ruling class. A House Lord heads each House and answers to the House Lord of House Da Soro. The Lord of House Da Soro is essentially the Lord of his own house and the king or queen of Uburru.
Common Races: Elves of all kinds, some halflings, dwarves, siarrans, half-elves, gnomes, and humans. More rarely, some kobolds and other humanoids can be found roaming the area.
Capital: Nan-Uburru Ari
Major Cities: Nan-Uburru Ari, Da Soro Ari, Shibei Ari, Utaku Ari, Iuchi Ari, Shiko Ari, Shinjo Ari, Nan-Shinjo, Oyu Bei-Had, Oyu Na-T’uran’i (Oyunasurani)
Population Centers: the Shibei live in tree villages amongst the forests of the Walking Trees, the Moto live in small clan enclaves or in nomadic groups that live in yurt-type tents, the Shinjo live in stone towers grown from the earth and huts of straw and wood and mud, the Iuchi live in carefully constructed buildings of wood, paper, and stone, the Shiko tend to live in highly decorated carved caves, and the Da Soro live in large estate houses that either grow outward in sections or upward by single stories.
Territory: Uburru stretches from the seasonal Marwadi River’s bed in the west to the Eastern Wall of Bei-Had in the east and from the Broken Hills in the north to The Vast in the south. It encompasses the forests of the Walking Trees, the Open Chase, the Wide Course, the Hilltop Estates, and the Eastern Wall.
Provinces: House Shibei controls the forests of the Walking Trees and the enclave at Na-T’uran’; House Moto controls the northern Open Chase and parts north- and east-ward; House Shiko controls the Eastern Wall and open territory in its shadow; House Iuchi controls the majority of the central plains, including much of the Open Chase and part of the Wide Course; House Utaku controls the central plains abutting the Marwadi River; House Shinjo controls most of the Wide Course and, as repayment for efforts in the Undead War, part of the Open Chase; House Da Soro controls all of the Hilltop Estates and small parst of the adjacent regions; the sea elves control the territory off the coast in The Vast.
Terrain: The majority is flat to rolling grasslands and fertile bush; in the northeast, the territory is dry grassland; in the northwest, the territory is covered in primal forest; in the southeast, the terrain is hilly and dotted with ancient growth forests and groves; in the southwest, the territory is a bit dry and scrubby but fairly fertile; the southern coast is typically moist and lush; the eastern territory against the Eastern Wall is a bit hilly with lowalnds marshy and hilltops covered in low scrub or trees.
Environment: Most parts of Uburru are fertile and well-supplied with natural rainfall. Temperatures tend to the subtropical in all but the northeast corner, which is more temperate in clime and a bit dry. The east, along the mountain wall, is typically marshy, and the south is pleasant pretty much all year long. The dry air of the southwest is noticeable but not bothersome. Thunderstorms are quite common through most of the territory and occur almost every time it rains. Most of the region is host to grasslands or savannah with some areas of light ot dense forest and mixed copses of temperate to tropical trees.
Growth Style: Elven communities usually grow very slowly over time. Each type of community tends to grow differently, with some going skyward right away and others spreading out or splitting off to give each community plenty of space. Elves tend to grow into their territory like a forest: slowly and in response to natural stimuli.
Economic Base: For the most part, elves emphasize self-sufficiency. Because of this, each territory tends to fill all of its own needs. That being said, elves produce more of what they can than they tend to need, allowing them to trade for items of interest from distant lands. The trade and barter systems both fluorish throughout Uburru. Most products come from trees and plants, as many elves are averse to killing animals, but all sorts of animal and earth products are also available.
Coinage: Elves have fairly standard coins, though they also use coins made of electrum and steel.
Population: almost entirely made up of elementally aligned high elves with individuals and groups of other races hosted in or roaming throughout the mostly open territory
Languages: Elven, common, ancient elven, gnome, halfling, dwarven, human dialects, and siarran.
Alignments: Mostly CG, NG and CN, with a small amount of N, NE and LG. Very few elves tend to LN, but the ruling castes tend towards more lawful and benevolent behavior.
Worship: Uburru elves tend to worship traditional elven gods, as well as the ancestors that brought them into Uburru and established them there, as well as the primal elemental forces to which they are attuned and the spirits of the natural world around them in a complex interplay of gods, subservient spirits, and wild spirits. Uburru elves have a hatred of all things demonic, diabolical, or undead and will not worship anything related to them.
Allies: They are on positive terms with the Routufenzen and Opar Hatalu, and have a tenuous alliance with the gnomes of Pelenia and the Siarrans of Bei-Had. The creatures of The Vast are a mixed lot in terms of reliability and alliance.
Enemies: The undead hordes of the Chambers to the north are a constant threat and the unsavory lot from the Endless Pits are counted as enemies and criminals until proven otherwise. Further, the local population of humanoids and half-breeds are usually treated with distate, at best.
Ancient and diverse, the elves of Uburru claim to have blood ties to the gods archived and a record of the history of the world in their libraries, but they are curiously reticent to share it all. Being happy to share many tales with the public, this makes them a mysterious and somewhat suspect folk. Even so, they have surpassed the ability of any other race to live in harmony with Arat’ and her denizens and survive the flux of time. The various elven houses united to form the current nation of Uburru and control it with far-traveling arrows and swift-moving mounts. They are a key element to the survival and prosperity of the central lands and perhaps the world.
Life and Society
Though under a very structured ruling system, code of laws, and social expectations, the elves of Uburru still show a surprising amount of freedom, individuality, and creativity. Their most creative efforts go into connecting and coexisting with the natural world and decorating their lives with bits of interest. This concept of decoration runs into all aspects of life in Uburru and amongst all of the races there. Decoration can be found on swords and shield and armor as well as on clothing, architecture, tree-shaping, roadways, and vehicles. It can be heard in the intricate language of the elves and in their lengthy songs and stories. It is demonstrated in the way that they embellish their magic and social events. The boredom of long lives is punctuated by a love of collecting or at least experiencing many fun and interesting things over time. Because of this desire to embellish one’s life, an elf may travel many times during his lifespan and seek out strange new territory. Encountering elves in Uburru is an experience typically steeped in decorative language and acoutrements, often buffeted by the wind of scorn for those who do not seek such things. The elves of Uburru are fast friends of the dwarves only because they hate the same enemies and have a similar love of beautiful things. Life in Uburru typically revolves around the crafts that an elf has or profession that he practices, mingled with some level of adventuring or wandering flair. Visitors are welcomed unless they intend harm to others and feasts are often celebrated at the drop of a leaf.
Clothing: The base dress for most people in Uburru is form-fitting leggings or breeches, short loose tunics, and soft boots, most of which is made from natural fibers like cotton, jute and hemp, with a bit of wool, fur and leather thrown in. Common additions to this are over-robes, hooded cloaks, and sashes or belts. The ruling class often uses multi-layered robes and kimonos, complete with circlets or chains of office, obi-type sash belts and slippers or platform sandals, these typically made from fine silk, polished cotton, and special wood fiber. Moto elves typically wear leather riding boots and short robe-like wool jackets at all times. Elves of Uburru are notorious for layering different colors or even shades and patterns of a single color to create more interest in their appearance.
Adornment: Elves are very fond of jewelry, though the amount they wear is usually carefully limited to a tasteful and meaningful few pieces. Common choices include bangles, bracers, necklaces, rings, coronets, circlets, chains, and hair combs. These are most often made with silver of some kind, but copper, gold, steel, mythril, electrum and dalumno are all used. Precious stones are used, but usually in small bits, like sparkling stars on whatever they adorn. Embroidery is very common in clothing and decorations, as well as tapestry and patterned weaves. Some elves mark or paint themselves. Moto elves do ritual scarring and scar coloring, many Shibei wear war paint or camouflage hunting paint, and many officials paint their hair, faces, hands, and/or nails as a visual code to distinguish themselves at a glance. An extremely common accessory among elves in Uburru is some kind of decorated hand fan.
Flora and Fauna: The most common types of animals on the plains of Uburru are herd animals and their predators. Even so, these creatures have characteristics peculiar to Uburru. Deer of Uburru seem to be fairly normal other than the fact that they have paws instead of hooves and tend to run like cheetah. They are swift and fierce, which is what gave the name Uburru to this place. Also present here are various kinds of antelope, horses of the best quality, unicorns, bison, wolves, dogs, cats, mice, goats, sheep, fish, bees, dragonflies, ants, snakes, eagles, hawks, owls, lizards, ferrets, weasels, prairie dogs, marmots, bear, centipedes, millipedes, firefiles, long-nosed camels, elk, songbirds, ravens, and raccoons. Common plants include corn, wheat, barley, rye, millet, rice, oats, grapes, berries of many kinds, reeds, sweetgrass, irongrass, bluegrass, emerald grass, grasses of many other kinds, sunflowers, nut trees, apples, pears, peaches, plums, cherries, tubers, flowers of a million varieties, ivy, moon ivy, liana, conifers, ferns, umbrella bushes, home trees, living trees, walking trees, and a variety of other trees (oak, ash, bronzewood, alder, aspen, silver pea, and banyan, etc.).
Food: Elves of Uburru are not strictly vegetarian, as other elves tend to be, but they do eat meat sparingly and typically only of a type related to their area and what they need for other purposes (hide, leather, fur, bone, etc.). Elves of Uburru waste little of what they cultivate and slaughter. Most common foods include raw or toasted nuts, berries in various forms, fresh or dried fruit, tubers (boiled, mashed, or fired), raw grains, granola, vegetable oil, spices of many kinds, and vegetables of all kinds (fresh, mashed, boiled, baked, grilled, fried, etc.). Wine of various kinds and juices of most fruits and many vegetables are common fare. Of the meats eaten, the most common are deer, antelope, rabbit, and game bird. Fish is also quite common, with fresh fish found in communities along the shore and fresh water bodies and dried or smoked fish found in communties away from the water. Bread, meal-cakes, and grain-bars are eaten with most meals and especially when travelling. Honey is a common sweetening agent, as is cane juice. Teas are common and come in a plethora of varieties. In fact, most elves have their own secret recipes for tea and practice a kind of lifelong best-in-show tea competition with everyone they know. At least one particularly evil elf has killed for a particularly good tea recipe. Those rare elves who do not care much for the tea competition ceremony will instead focus on spiced wines in much the same way.
Education: Most of the people of the Uburru are elves that apprentice in very long stages to various masters to learn their knowledge, their artisanry, and their artistic talents. In big cities, many masters spend time teaching prospective and actual students and their employees at academies of learning. These institutions are the most likely historical origin for the modern bardic colleges and arcane academies found elsewhere in the world. Subjects at Uburru academies include almost any craft, profession, art, music style, or trade. This includes the crafts exhibited by adventuring classes and NPC classes. The real determination of what is taught at a specific academy depends on the master(s) teaching there. Elves, though not much of an inventive race beyond their desire to learn, to beautify, and to enjoy life to its fullest, are naturally curious and pensive in nature. This has lead to many great advancements being accredited to them, especially in regards to magic and integration with nature and the environment. Many academies and masters produce new advancements on a regular basis. Students are encouraged and even taught skills to help them think for themselves and constantly seek out new knowledge. Naturally, students taking this part of their curriculum to heart will invent of reinvent things.
Trades: Jeweler, metalsmith, trader, armorer, bowyer, animal trainer/keeper, fletcher, weaponsmith, leatherer, farmer, hunter, scribe, gatherer, artists, actor, cook, vintner, apiary, priest, warrior, engineer, fisherman, healer, architect, sailor, weaver, tracker, forager, archer, sniper, guardian, tea-maker, gardener, tree-keeper, practical magician, guide, paper maker, binder, scribe, crystal grower, gemcutter, painter, potter, shipwright, trapper, furrier, apothecary, sailor, herbalist, miller, tanner, basket weaver, vine weaver, architect.
Exports: various spirits (wines, ales, meads), travel food/rations, textiles of various kinds, mythril, pearls, silk rope, vessels of various kinds, tools, bronzewood, smoked fish, clothing, medecine, potions, bows, arrows, swords, horses, songbirds, boats, dried fruit, exotic pets, sweetgrass, nuts, shields, armore, magical items of various kinds, mother-of-pearl, edible flatware and dishes, irongrass baskets and other items, historical texts, paper, books, scrolls, songs, dance, stories, metal mirrors, daggers, jewelry (especially necklaces, rings, earrings), and refined goods of all kinds
Entertainment: Active arts are a favorite, such as dance performances, communal dancing, kabuki-style theater, and the twirling of staff, baton, or streamers. The use of magic in these shows is nearly inevitable. It is not uncommon for impromptu communal singing and concerts to occur, though the sheer number of regular events of this type make it hard for foreigners to distinguish between them. Other great favorites include instrumental music, storytelling, poetry recitation, strategy games, artistic displays, flower gathering as a community, and intricate and interesting spell shows. On the physical competition side, racing, and gymnastics competitions vie for attention against the favorites: archery and fencing. Elves are all well-versed in the use of bow and sword and many enjoy competing whenever possible to improve their skill. The type of bow and sword varies by region: the northern Houses (Shibei and Moto) tend to Katana or Wakizashi, and Daikyu. The western tribes (Utaku and Shinjo) prefer horn scimitars and composite longbows. The Da Soro and many of the ruling houses prefer the elven court blades (rapier-like swords of great craftsmanship) and elven double bow. The Iuchi prefer the longsword and longbow, and Shiko prefer shortsword and shortbow because of the close quarters in their tunnels and caves.
Health: Hygeine is of the utmost importance to elves, even for the hard-riding Moto and the dirt-digging Shiko. Bathing on a regular basis is a must, especially with natural soap, scrubbing agents, and perfumed water. Taking care of one’s health once it has deteriorated is a well-honed art amongst the elves. They are masters of herbal and apothecarial healing arts, such as incense and aromatherapy, rare-bit remedies, healing draughts and potions, poultices, casts, and health-promoting teas. They are also known for various methods of controlling body temperature, bandaging skills, anesthesia, and antibiotics, though their terms for these things are far more mystical in nature. Lancing, acupuncture, and the use of magic in healing are also very common. Dwellings and cities are kept in very neat order with elevation of homes, careful hydrological and sewage planning, regular sweeping and maintenance, environmental heating and cooling systems, and natural methods of providing for all of their needs, coached by magic.
Architecture: Elves living in forested areas tend to live in houses supported by or made from trees. These viallages are typically built on platforms supported by or suspended from the great trees in which they are built. They may also be made by shaping the growth of a tree through natural or magical means to create a house within the tree itself. Plains elves typically build homes with wood and stone frames with a sod roof covered in the same grass that grows all arouund their homes. Major buildings in these areas are typically made from trees that have been developed through massive use of magic and natural warping or from crystal seeded in the ground and grown above into the shape needed for use. Obviously, quite a bit of magic is used in this kind of a project. The Da Soro and several other regions make houses of stone and wood with paper or woven grass screen dividing the rooms. Other common building materials include shaped stone, glassteel, adobe, and woven brush. City planning is complex among the elves and apparently chaotic, though the organic quality and the focus on nearly seamless integration with the environment is ever-apparent. Most cities are created with environmental defenses built in. Magic is plainly evident in the creation of all but the tiniest of elven communities, which still use natural settings and environment to maximize viability and defensibility of the village.
Transportation: By far, other than walking or running, the most common mode of transport among the elves of Uburru is the horse or something dragged behind it. Horses of all kinds are found in Uburru and tend to be of the highest quality. Carriages and carts are common, drawn by horse or domesticated bison, but often eschewed for the freedom of being on horseback or running free. Rarely, a unicorn consents to be ridden. In the territory bordering on the Opar Hatalu, it is not uncommon for horses to be exchanged for waste striders. Rowboats are common on freshwater bodies and sailboats are common along the shore and on larger freshwater bodies. Flying mounts are not uncommon and the most common of these are giant insects and giant birds. In areas where horses are not common (like Da Soro or Shiko territory), rulers are often carried on palanquin. Of course, one should never discount magic as a practical mode of travel for the mystic elves, either, and several methods are used by this folk. The waypoints are rumored to be inventions of ancient and since-lost elven clans (though they are just as often rumored to be the creation of other ancient societies and even star-people). In common use are teleport points, complete with specifying marks and error-removing wards, but these are usually only used by people of great power and importance.
Arms and Armor: Arms and armor of the folk of Uburru are typically made of steel, mythril, dalumno, bronze, brownzewood, glassteel, and leather, with various pieces made of moon-ivy, darkleaf, leafweave, and irongrass. Elves prefer swords (elven court blades, rapiers, scimitars, longswords, katana, wakizashi, shortword) and bows (shortbow, longbow, composite longbow, daikyu longbow, double-bow). Other common weapons include staff, spear, dagger, club, bolos, blowguns, slings, hand-axes, sickles, caltrops, great clubs, kama, kukri, nunchaku, three-part staff, siangham, and shuriken. A particular favorite of the courts is the war-fan (functions as a weapon or as a parrying shield). Elves tend mostly to leather, leather scale, studded leather or hide armor, but brigandine, scale, chain, breastplate, asahina, and dastana are also common. The use of bracers, greaves and helmets is common, as well. War-fans, bucklers and kote are popular defenses. Shields of small to large size and made of leather, wood, or steel are available but not common, and tower shields are unheard of, though siege shields made from large tortoise shells are common during war.
Government: Small villages and towns are largely self-governed on a patriarchal or matriarchal basis, with a town council of elders directing things. On the regional level and in cities, a warlord or cleric will lead the people and make demands of village councils. Tribal areas are ruled by a council of regional leaders (all usually part of the same family and House), lead by a chieftain (usually the ruler of the House). These leaders form the national council, which is guided by regents (from Da Soro) and a Lord (from Da Soro).
Land and Water: While there is no true “ownership” in the non-elven way of thinking in Uburru, there is such a deep-rooted sense of respect for other individuals that land someone is using or has made use of is typically left to that individual or group. Items have ownership, but not land. Land chosen for use by the entire community is kept up by the members of that community. Water supply, storage, drainage, and irrigation are integrated into local landscape and environment. Most towns and cities have gathering systems for rainfall and “rainmakers” (usually druids or priests) call for rain if an insufficient amount has fallen. Most larger cities also have a well and cistern or ready access to a natural supply of water. Water is not truly owned by anyone in an elven community unless it is in a container that can be carried away. Defilement of a water source brings swift retribution by those who make use of it.
Religion: Elves of Uburru have a curious sort of religion that is really more of a method of integrating nature, spirits, and ancestors into their lives. They respect nature nigh unto worship. They also revere deceased ancestors as pseudo-deities, links to the gods and spirit guides. True worship in the clearest sense, however, is reserved for the most ancient of ancestors, the gods. They have a particularly strong connection to the gods of nature, the celestial entities, and elemental gods of their own tribal type. Though they have this affinity, these are not the only gods that they can follow. The patron god of the Moto is the family of the moons. The patron god of the forest and plains elves is the most powerful nature god. For the Da Soro, the sun, stars, and ancestors are most important. Sea and aquatic elves worship foremost Sas’elas of the Deep, a god who came from the stars and now controls much of the undersea.
Spheres: Air (wind, breath, birds, song/music), Fire (heat, flame, purification, drive), Earth (life, growth, mythril), Water (clarity, compassion, healing), Light (sun, energy, purity), Plant (food, nature, bronzewood), Life (longevity, peace, healing), Freedom (travel, resistance, indivicuality, artistry), Celestial (sun, moon, stars, eternity)
Symbology: To the elves of Uburru, the following symbols are of particular import: Moon (duality, order and change, beauty), Horse (speed, power, travel, unity), Tree (life, nature, home, strength), Bamboo (resiliency, flexibility, stength, utility), Bow (war, hunting, defense), Sword (leadership, protection, resistance, justice), Runes (learning, knowledge, history), Ship (travel, power, ocean, river), White (light, spirituality, eternity, purity) and Green (nature, growth, prosperity, peace).
Major Geographical Features: On the north, Uburru is flanked by the high hills belonging to the Routufenzen and the territory in the far north bordering those hills is rolling plains of hardy, if dry, grass. In the easternmost portion of this area, the rolling hills rise higher and become rockier, matching the territory of the Lost Tombs and beyond. In the west, the territory flattens out and becomes covered in thick old growth forest mixed with high canopy wilderness. In the far east, the cliffs of the Eastern Wall rise suddenly from the swampy hills below them. To the west, these hills flatten out into well-watered plains and grasslands dotted by copses and groves. In the southeast, the hills are quite prominent and many of them are topped by the estates of various lords, with the sides of the hills covered in terraced farmland and roadways. In the west and southwest, the territory is low and flat and sees little rainfall, being nearly desert-like and covered in loose grass or scrub. This territory is well-known for its cattle. The southern coast is mostly gravel beaches home to fishing villages and shipyards. The Eastern Wall extends beyond the coast southward, and few elves take residence in the caves above the sea.
Important Sites: The Tree of Life in Oyu Na-T’uran’i (Oyunasurani) is actually considered part of Uburru (to the elves) and an extension of the forest of living trees. In fact, there is less than a mile of separation between them. The ravine that marks the separation of Uburru from the tombs of the lost and forgotten is an important site and well-patrolled. The Hilltop Estates of the Southeast are a center for intrigue and politics, as well as a strong producer of foodstuffs. The capital at Nan-Uburru Ari is a true metropolis built in towers, trees, burrows, and floating platforms; a marvel to behold. The House capitals of Da Soro Ari, Shibei Ari, Utaku Ari, Iuchi Ari, Shiko Ari, and Shinjo Ari are each marvels of their own kind. The new fortress and town of Nan-Shinjo in the northern plains is an impressive testament to how quickly elves can assimilate themselves into and appropriately manipulate their environment. The tiered rock-carved city of Oyu Bei-Had, a trading haven between the central lands and the territories beyond the crags to the east, is a marvel of elven engineering in a medium usually thought to be more suited to dwarves. The architecture is definitely delicate in appearance, as elves tend to make things, but a powerful testament to their ability to simply adapt the natural surrounding while maintaining a strong and independent environment. One of the most important sites of all is the seasonal dry river bed of the Marwadi, which marks the long western border with the Opar Hatalu. During the season of its flow, the high banks are covered with temporary shelters and elves plying the waters with nets for fishing and boats for trading. The water floods the lower plains nearby for irrigation and the harvest is usually plentiful. During the dry seasons, this region is largely vacant, with only a few year-round outposts watching over an empty river valley.
Regional History: The elves are quite long-lived, and they have histories that stretch back, they say, all the way to the time of the first children of Arat’. If they do, they do not share much of these with anyone else, preferring instead to trade in histories they know are less controversial. The history of this region in particular starts with elves coming down out of the gap at the north end of Bei-Had from other territory where they had been, possibly Shinomen. From that time, the elves saw the great open hills and plains of Uburru and spread out there. It is said that they even spread across the entire central lands until some unspoken occurrence in the past caused them to become more insular. Others claim they traveled away from the ancestral homeland of Greenfolk, by way of the Central Lands before venturing into and back out of Shinomen Forest. Before the rise of giants and humans in Ha-Sin’nana, the elves say, they defined their borders and set their watchful eye to the north, against the dead. In the recent past (to them), they joined an accord between dwarves, halflings, and their court to establish a free trading community at Na-T’uran’. In the even more recent past, they have had a long and bitter war with legions of undead from the tombs of the forgotten visitors, against which they have guarded, nearly losing an entire House in the most recent incursions. The elves have vowed to find a way to put an end to it, though they still struggle with trying to find a way to do so.
Plots and Rumors: It is said that the goblins of Yan-Tek are seeking a way to find a tower in Greenfolk or Animen purported to have a gate into the court of Uburru so that they can mount a massive offensive at the heart of the elves and take their territory. The undead have become restless again and there may be more attacks and wars with them on the horizon. Skirmishes and raids in the deep have the aquatic elves of Uburru scrambling to maintain control of their territory. Spies whisper that the expansionist elements of the court in Pellenia seeks to take over southwestern Uburru. With the Shinjo clan now controlling the largest holdings in the empire, they may make a move to take control of the capital city, the courts, and the whole of Uburru. The same elements among the Shinjo seeking power in Uburru may settle for taking it from Opar Hatalu or Pelenia. Tribes of cave-elves may be amassing to take the territory of the Shiko and become masters of the cave cities of the Eastern Wall. Undead sympathizers in Utaku territory may open doors for the undead to take control of the Uburru heartland.