The mirdain are a sophisticated and cultured people, who tend to prefer diplomacy to warfare, and subtlety to brute force. Theirs is an empire of influence and trade, and of intelligence networks which extend like sinuous branches from their forest-clad homeland.
In combat, mirdain warriors move with innate grace and fluidity, seeking the perfect opening before striking with surgical precision. The mirdain are renowned tacticians, who may overcome near-insurmountable odds through brilliantly deployed maneuvers, ruses and stratagems.
Mirendil and the Republic
The borders of the mirdain realm continues to move with the tides of war, but its core will always remain Mirendil, a vast and ancient forest which dominates the southwestern part of Agon's main continent.
To its north, the Mirendil is bordered by the plains and gently rolling hills of the Mahirim Tribelands. To the south and east, beyond a no-man's-land shattered by war, lies Nagast, the poisoned and spell-blasted homeland of the Alfar. Across the Ruby Sea to the south lies Rubaiyat, a desert continent which was recently overrun by the seemingly unstoppable undead hordes of the Red Pharaoh. To the east of the Forest Republic lies the fiercely contested heartlands of Agon, which are slowly being devoured by the Pall of Synochus, a Deathless Mage who wields strange and powerful forms of shadow magic.
The Mirendil Forest itself is intersected by several broad, winding rivers, the most famous of which is the Irthan, which rises in the darkest depths of the forest and empties into the Eirandar wetlands of western Mirendil. Several mountain chains and lakes further perforate the forest, making it a less geographically uniform place than a cursory glance would suggest.
A unique feature of the Mirendil is a number of elemental regions, which are connected to strange elemental zones by permanent vortex-portals, Through these portals issue elemental matter, as well as weather effects and monsters native to the target elemental planes. The most famous elemental zones are Northern Erinthel, in which the climate is arctic, and Northwestern Alyani, which is constantly ravaged by firestorms. All elemental zones were created as a side-effect of a failed magical experiment performed during the Usurper Wars, and all attempts at closing them have failed.
Wildsprings are sacred sylvan sites that are found throughout Mirendil. Though their appearance varies somewhat, most wildsprings feature circular lakes with small islets in their center. Each such islet is home to a single Tree of All Seeds, while the lake itself tends to be encircled by tall standing stones. Fairies and pixies live in and around the Tree of All Seeds, and the dense woods surrounding wildsprings are home to many other sylvan creatures.
Enemies: The beastmen of the Mirendil
Since before the dawn of history, the great forest has served as the battleground for wars between mirdain and beastmen. The very oldest elven songs tell of victories against the beastmen, and fighting this ancient enemy remains a true test of valor for mirdain warriors.
Like the mirdain, beastmen are children of the Mirendil, who prefer the forest to any other habitat. But while the mirdain venerate the trees they live among, the beastmen see them as valuable resources waiting to be harvested. They cut down the forest surrounding their villages, then move on when nothing is left but a scarred wasteland. Predictably, local mirdain will try to eradicate new beastmen settlements before too much damage is done.
Beastmen stand close to three meters tall and their powerfully built bodies are covered in thick black fur. Trunk-like arms and legs indicate their awesome strength, and their feet are clawed paws, resembling those of a bear. Their hands, however, have five flexible, hair-covered fingers, and beastmen are capable of using wide variety of tools.
Enemies: The Forest Prophets
According to these fundamentalist druids, the Mirendil belongs to the animals and to the creatures which have co-existed with them since the days of the first trees, such as centaurs, dryads and the faerie. In essence, the Forest Prophets want to rid the Mirendil of all civilized, house-building cultures, such as the beastmen and the mirdain, and they will not rest until the forest has been cleansed of every last farmer, woodcutter and city-dweller.
The Forest Prophets build their sylvan armies using a curse which shatters the sanity of normal animals and fills them with an implacable, suicidal rage. Animals bestowed with the Forest Prophets' curse will attack any humanoid creature they encounter. Slowly but surely, afflicted animals are consumed by this curse, until they are little more than undead husks kept moving by the hatred which courses through their decayed bodies.
Unbeknownst to the majority of Prophets, their real leader is a huge and ancient dragon, who dwells in an earthen cave deep under the Mirendil. The dragon's ultimate goal is to establish himself as a prophet-emperor of Mirendil when the Republic has been sufficiently weakened.
The mirdain capital straddles the Irthan river near its source, with approximately half of the city's hometrees rising from on each bank of the river. As it flows out of Charybdis, the Irthan plunges over an enormous waterfall which sends wave after wave of mist into the tall, glistening trees above. Looking down from one of the house-platforms of Charybdis, one might easily form the impression that the mirdain capital floats among clouds.
Like all mirdain settlements, Charybdis is built on a large number of levels which are interconnected by stairs, elevators and wooden bridges. The mirdain prefer to live among the leaves and branches of gargantuan, sky-blue hometrees, but many businesses and defensive structures stand on the ground. An ancient, deeply sacred Tree of All Seeds, which stands on a small island in the Irthan, is said to be the parent of all other trees of its kind.
Mirdain adventurers start their careers in one of three villages which all lie in the vicinity of Charybdis. King's Holdfast is dominated by three small subsidiaries of the Irthan, which run through it and form its boundaries, respectively. Near this village lies one of the largest and most revered wildsprings in all of Mirendil. Leafhelm covers several spacious plateaus on a large, craggy mountain which rises dramatically from the forest floor. Beladin's Rest is built under and among the gargantuan branches of Eryasil, a truly enormous greenroot which is the largest tree in all of Agon.
Culture and religion
Mirdain society is dominated by a class of nobles called elflords, who are the only citizens eligible for election to the Grand Parliament, which is where all important decisions of law and policy are made. From among their number, the elflords elect a single Aran who serves as a largely symbolic head of state.
The roots of the Forest Republic go back almost to the Usurper Wars, which ended 80 000 years ago. In the almost incomprehensibly long ages which have passed since, mirdain society has accumulated such a large number of rituals, customs and laws that most foreign observers find its affairs to be unnecessarily, almost impenetrably complicated. To a mirdain, however, this only indicates that most foreign observers lack the intelligence necessary for advanced politics and administration.
Though not a very religious people, the mirdain do see the Mirendil Forest as a living entity who must be respected and protected - even worshipped, according to some strains of thought. Veneration for the forest is a central aspect of mirdain culture, and the most important rituals in the (crowded) ceremonial calendar are tied to the changing of the Mirendil's seasons.
In a sense, the mirdain may also be said to worship a gallery of epic heroes, who are the subjects of countless songs, tales and poems. Foremost among these paragons are Myrthai (male) and Lorathai (female) who are worshipped both as tragic heroes and as doomed, perfect lovers.
Movers and shakers
On the surface, the Forest Republic may appear to be a serene and unchanging place, but those who choose to immerse themselves in mirdain affairs - through quests handed out by competing factions - discover a world of intrigue, treachery and deadly power struggles.
Though Arans physically occupy the Emerald Throne, theyare controlled by the elflords who elect them to serve as figureheads of their rule. As a class, the elflords are primarily interested in maintaining a status quo which has remained in place through millennia. Arrogant, hugely conservative, and sometimes self-serving, they are capable of dealing quite harshly with those who oppose them.
Named for the magically illuminated spire which rises from their citadel in Iriendir, the Serene Spire is an ancient circle of mages They have always been a power to be reckoned with in Mirendil, and are endlessly vying for power with the Emerald Throne. The Serene Spire are just as arrogant their old rival, but somewhat less conservative, and less afraid of trying new things.
The members of the Arrowhead faction would prefer less diplomacy and espionage, more head-on warfare against the enemies of the mirdain. In addition to believing that the Republic has been far too forgiving of its enemies, the Arrowhead feel that the time has come for a regime change: They want to replace the parliament of the elflords with a leaner, meaner state in which the military controls the Emerald Throne.
The Circle of Druids are the protectors of the forest, and the transmitters of the forest's magic into mirdain society. Predictably, the druids are vehemently opposed to any exploitation of the forest, and they are sworn enemies of the beastmen. The Circle of Druids are also deeply concerned by the growing number of animals which are driven mad by the cruel and deluded Forest Prophets.
What makes the mirdain special?
Mirdain are born with an aptitude for magic, and though there are exceptions, most of them obtain at least a smattering of magical skills. Most mirdain children learn to hunt as they grow up, and as a result, they tend to excel with the bow later in life.
The mirdain ride enormous cats which have been bred for size, obedience and ferocity. They resemble the Snow Leopards of the northern continent of Niflheim, with their black-spotted white fur, long, bushy tails, and pale blue eyes. Unlike Snow Leopards, however, Aerdin cats have huge tusks which protrude from their upper jaws, and which they use quite effectively in combat. The mirdain tend to equip Aerdin with soft and simple saddles which do not inhibit movement too much.
The mirdain are staunch and ancient allies of the humans and the dwarves, though their tendency to see themselves as natural leaders causes a fair amount of friction. Mirdain prefer clans which contain mirdain, elves and humans, and alliances with any of the other races are unlikely, though not impossible.
How the mirdain see the world:
"The empires and kingdoms of other races may rise and fall, but the Forest Republic remains, eternal and unchanged. We must be true to our ancient laws and customs, which - like the trees themselves - have grown and flourished in Mirendil's soil."
- Naessa Rivermist, elflord member of the Grand Parliament.
"We seek to know all, understand all and be prepared for all. Wherever you travel on Agon, the subtle hand of the Republic may be felt but never seen."
- Selewyn Shadesong, mirdain diplomat
"For too long, the mirdain have been content to subtly manipulate, and the current war-torn state of the world bears witness to that policy's failure. Since the lesser races evidently lack the intellect and temperament to properly govern themselves, we should unite them under the aegis of firm but enlightened mirdain rule."
- Sirthas Dragonshield, Arrowhead commander
"At little more than two centuries of age, the human kingdom of Mercia should be forgiven some of its naiveté and brashness. If the humans would but accept our leadership a little more readily, the mirdain might guide them past some of the traps and pitfalls of youth."
- Caradhan Silverhold, Serene Spire mage
"Guided by the teachings of Ymir, the dwarves have turned their race and nation into the vessels of a strange and idiosyncratic destiny. If those stout little worker drones would but listen to reason, their energies might be put to better use."
- Nailys Snowleaf, mirdain merchant
How others see the mirdain
"Nothing in this world gives me greater pleasure than a long chase followed by the felling of full-grown mirdain prey."
- Muldôn the Tireless, mahirim hunter
"Words, words, words… sometimes a friendly punch in the face is needed to make my mirdain clanmates discuss less and do more."
- Hardvald Darkthrone, dwarven clan leader
"Soon Melek will create a black hole to suck the sun out of the sky and end daylight forever. On that night, the rivers of Agon will become blood courses for the liquid proof of our hatred of the depraved and effeminate Mirdain."
- Daelil Arkinshard, alfar priestess
"Uzkar say: kill first, discuss peaceful alternathieves later. What I like to do is crush big mirdain heads and make them go quiet."
- Uzkar Finefist, orkish raider
"The mirdain are lost in a labyrinth of their own making, full of outdated laws, customs and beliefs. This means that they tend to dither and discuss endlessly when swift, decisive action is called for. If the mirdain would but shake off some of their cultural ballast, they would make even better allies for Mercia and the human race."
- Simeon Bailmarsh, human admiral