The Eldeen Reaches cover the northwestern region of Khorvaire to the Shadowcrag Mountains. The eastern Reaches feature fertile plains and rolling hills, but dense forests cover the majority of the nation. These forests house some of the most primeval trees on the continent, ancient growths that have survived the rise and fall of empires and witnessed the arrival of humans on the shores of Khorvaire. The forces of magic permeate these woods, and strange beasts and mischievous fey roam the land. Many dangers also lurk in the deep woods, and the humanoids who make their home in these forests don’t always take kindly to visitors.
The deep woods of the Eldeen Reaches remain mostly as uncultivated and pure as they were when the world was young. In the Age of Monsters, when the Goblinoids forged an empire across Khorvaire, the Eldeen Reaches were the domain of Orcs who sought to live in harmony with the wilderness. The Orcs were devastated and decimated in the war against the Daelkyr. As a result of this terrible conflict, the forest was seeded with aberrations and horrid creatures formed by the sinister shapers of flesh.
The druid society grew and spread throughout the forest, under the guidance of the Great Druid Oalian, an awakened great pine who has watched over the woods for more than four thousand years. The younger races brought their own customs and perspectives to the Reaches, of course, and Oalian’s teachings had already begun diverge from those of the original Gatekeepers. In time, the druids fragmented into a dozen sects. Meanwhile, the nation of Aundair claimed the fertile plains along the eastern edge of the woods, and farmers and settlers spread across the river. Despite minor conflicts between Shifter and settler, settler and druid, and even among the druids themselves, the region prospered.
The Last War proved to be the undoing of the old order. As the conflict intensified, Aundair pulled its forces back to protect its heartland and eastern borders, leaving the Eldeen Reaches to fend for themselves. Bandit lords sponsored by Karrnath and the Lhazaar Principalities harried the farms west of the Wynarn River, using the forest as a base and staging ground. In the south, Brelish troops crossed the Silver Lake to occupy Sylbaran, Greenblade, and Erlaskar. As things went from bad to worse, an army of druids and rangers emerged from the forest. In 956 YK, the Wardens of the Wood rallied the farmers and peasants, crushing the bandit army before it knew what was happening. With order restored in the north, the Wardens turned their attention to the south. In 959 YK, they finally succeeded in driving the Brelish forces back across the lake.
Angry at the Aundairian crown for abandoning them, the people swore allegiance to the Great Druid, breaking all ties with the lords of Aundair and resisting several Aundair attempts to regain control. Since 958 YK, the people of the Eldeen Reaches have considered themselves to be part of an independent nation, and they were finally recognized as such with the signing of the Treaty of Thronehold. It remains to be seen whether Aundair will try to reclaim its old territories now that the Last War has ended.
The Eldeen Reaches contain some of the most fertile land in all of Khorvaire. Guided by the ancient wisdom of the druids, Eldeen farmers produce abundant harvests of all manner of crops – much more than the relatively small population can use. Therefore, agriculture has become a big business for the people of the Reaches. Breland and Karrnath, in particular, utilize Eldeen produce to supplement the output of their own farms to help feed their highly industrialized societies. For this reason, both nations have tried to gain footholds in the region, and may do so again if trade or peace efforts fail.
In addition to agriculture, animal husbandry is a major industry in the eastern reaches. House Vadalis is concentrated in the Eldeen Reaches and has spent generations working to domesticate the unusual creatures of the region and using magebreeding techniques to produce new and superior lines of existing species. Mounts, guard beasts, superior livestock, and exotic pets often originate in the Eldeen Reaches.
Darkwood groves are scattered throughout the reaches, and the forests contain many exotic plants and animals that have valuable alchemical or mystical properties. However, the druids discourage the harvesting of rare plants from the woods, and the Wardens of the Wood deal harshly with poachers caught hunting the creatures of the forest for personal gain.
Poaching aside, most of the druid sects tolerate the industries of the northeastern farms and House Vadalis, as long as the land and livestock are treated with care and respect. Many villages have a local druid who provides spiritual guidance and agricultural advice. However, a few extremist sects – most notably the Ashbound – view such as a violation of the natural order. These extremist sects occasionally strike out against the northeastern communities.
Life and Society
Two distinct cultures occupy the Eldeen Reaches. The Towering Wood that fills most of the region is home to the various druid sects, while the agricultural communities dominate the northeastern plains.
The farmers of the northeastern region live simple, rustic lives. They have worked the land for generations and possess a strong sense of pride and ownership. the typical Reacher has little interest in events beyond his village but a fierce loyalty to the people of his community. The region has never been heavily populated, and there is plenty of room for the farmers to expand. A Reacher focuses on caring for the land, producing a good harvest, and leaving his or her children a larger farm. While strangers may be treated with suspicion in some communities, in general the people of the Reaches are generous and friendly, doing what they can to make travelers comfortable.
House Vadalis maintains communities along the eastern border that are larger than the farming villages and generally more sophisticated in terms of the services and forms of entertainment available to travelers. While House Vadalis respects the power and influence of the Wardens of the Wood, House Vadalis towns rarely have druid advisors; the house considers the powers of its dragonmark heirs to be proof of its own strong bond to nature.
A dozen distinct druid sects inhabit the Towering Wood. The largest of the sects, the Wardens of the Wood, has communities scattered throughout the forest. The other sects are largely nomadic. Most remain within specific regions of the great wood, but the Ashbound and a few others migrate across the length of the forest. Each sect has its own customs and practices, and sometimes these customs conflict with those of another group. The Wardens of the Wood provide a warm welcome to all travelers who show proper respect for the forces of nature, while the Ashbound are often suspicious of travelers and hostile towards those who practice arcane magic.
The majority of Khorvaire’s Shifter population resides in the western half of the Reaches. While many shifters have integrated into the druid sects, a number of shifter tribes also live in the woods. Like the druid sects, each tribe has distinct customs. Some of the shifter tribes follow a nomadic lifestyle; these shifters generally celebrate their bond to the natural world and prefer to avoid all contact with other races. Stationary tribes usually embrace their human heritage, establishing hamlets and trading with travelers and the people of the northeastern plains. All suffered to at least some degree at the hands of the Silver Flame inquisitions over the centuries, but in recent years the Church of the Silver Flame has altered its attitude toward the shifters; it no longer considers them to be spawn of evil. While it hasn’t embrace the shifters, the Church no longer sees them as creatures that must be destroyed (despite their lycanthropic heritage).
Government and Politics
For the past forty years, the Eldeen Reaches have officially been under the protection and guidance of Oalian, the Great Druid of the Wardens of the Wood. Long dominant in the forest, the Wardens have spread out into the plains to ensure order throughout the region. Each village has a druid counselor who provides magical assistance and spiritual guidance, and who advises the leaders of the community. Councils made up of representatives from each farming family govern each of the communities. Bands of Warden rangers patrol the forest, responding to threats as they arise.
The shifter tribes and druid sects have their own customs, but leaders are usually chosen based on age and spiritual wisdom. Concepts of law are guided by the ways of nature, and justice is usually swift and harsh.
Politically, the folk of the Eldeen Reaches largely ignore the events of the east and ignored in return. The Wardens of the Wood have made clear to Breland and Aundair that they will defend the nation against any military threat and have no interest in further discussions regarding borders, treaties, or resource rights.
The Gatekeepers – The oldest druid tradition in all of Khorvaire, the Gatekeepers hold true to their charge of vigilance against the horrors of the Dragon Below. Today, less than a hundred Gatekeepers work within the Reaches. These druids maintain old wards scattered around the region, seals that hold the Daelkyr and other ancient powers in check. They also watch the skies for signs of deadly planar convergences. Most of the Gatekeepers in the Eldeen Reaches are Orcs, though a few Humans and Half-Orcs can be found within the sect.
The Wardens of the Wood – The largest and most influential druid sect in the Eldeen Reaches, the Wardens can be found across the nation, guarding both plain and forest. Their ranks have swelled over the last generation, as many a farmer’s son or daughter has dedicated his or her life to the druidic mysteries. The Wardens maintain order across the Reaches, and all of the sects respect the power and wisdom of the Great Druid who commands them. Oalian, a massive greatpine approximately 210 feet high and more than four thousand years old, was touched by the awaken spell of a long-dead Gatekeeper druid. Bound to the land and the great forest of the Eldeen Reaches, Oalian is the oldest and most powerful druid in Eberron. The Wardens maintain communities throughout the region, including Greenheart, Sylbaran, and Havenglen.
The Cults of the Dragon Below – The legacy of the Daelkyr can be found throughout the great wood. Aberrations and other twisted horrors still lurk in the shadows of the forest. Cultists from the Shadow Marches occasionally travel into the Reaches, and shifter tribes and eastern villagers have sometimes been corrupted by the seductive madness of the Dragon Below. These cultists generally battle the Gatekeepers, seeking to undo the ancient wards guarded by the Orc druids.
The Lesser Sects – In addition to the Wardens of the Wood, a number of smaller sects – which can prove to be valuable allies or dangerous antagonists – also work within the region. These include the Ashbound, dangerous fanatics who roam the great forest, striking against the farmers of the plains and others they see as threats to the natural order; the Children Winter, nihilists who embrace death as part of the natural cycle of life; and the Greensinger, druids and rangers with close ties to the Fey, who can be found near the Twilight Demesne.
Druid traditions dominate the Eldeen Reaches. The Wardens of the Wood hold sway over the region, and most communities have a Warden druid who serves as a spiritual guide and adviser. The Wardens seek to find a balance between human advancement and nature. Unlike the Ashbound, the Wardens have no problem with agriculture, animal husbandry, or hunting for food, as long as proper respect is shown for the land. The Wardens also respect the fey as embodiments of nature – destroying a dryad’s tree is a terrible crime.
While most of the villagers of the eastern Reaches respect the authority and wisdom of the druids, other beliefs and traditions can be found; the Wardens do not prevent the worship of other deities. While few churches exist in the reaches, the Sovereign Lords Dol Arrah, Olladra, Boldrei, and especially Arawi and Balinor are commonly invoked and revered.