First Holt


This is the holt nearest to the portal where most people enter the Otherforest. The inhabitants have an oven for baking, and use extensive crop irrigation. The Great Tree, a giant fog-catcher tree, shaped with enough rooms for 100 elves to house themselves if need be, is not to be missed. Outside of the Great Tree is a glade where the oven and fire pit are, referred to as 'The Dancing.'

First impressions : Upon falling out of the Portal from Earth, one wakes in a circular glen. The grass is now short and hardy, and there are no bushes or trees growing within the circle, but there is a large tree-trunk which fell across it, and the elves who use the glen have not cleared it away, they use it as a dancing prop. The whole glen is surrounded by evergreens and small wide-bolls, bushes and small boulders. A streamlet winds its way around the south side of the glen, and it is here that most dancers take a break before going back into the Holt proper. There are berry plants growing here, Dreamberries, Blackberries and Blueberries, though the Dream- and Black berries do not grow at the same season.

A few minutes east of the Portal Glen is the first real sign on inhabitation, Willow's tree-den sits on a small rise-and-fall hill to the south of a small path. Her tree is largish, and has several knot hole entrances in it which are immediately obvious, if you haven't already noticed the hanging color-pots and many leather hides stretched out all around. On the south side where the lower entrance is, there is a small garden and streamlet (the same one that is near the Portal Glen).

Directly south of the Portal Glen is Rivercalm's Pool, which is the deepest point that the streamlet goes until it joins the Greenriver several hundred miles away. Here in the Pool can be found larger fish than the ones living in the rest of the stream, since they have the time to grow large in the calm water.

The stream is the recognizable border of the Holt, on the south and west sides. Following it east for more than a mile one comes to the edges of a large and fairly unexplored swamp, only one person goes there on a regular basis, Sureblade. The Swamp is home to many birds and more lizards, however it is cool and only the warmest days will burn off the perpetual layer of fog which covers it. None of the plants found in the Swamp can be shaped. At the center of it is a hill, actually a quarter-mile wide geode. It is used by Sureblade for his metal working, in a most peculiar way, see his character description for that. Inside the hill are several veins of metal ore, and thousands of crystals, gems and stones. Sureblade mainly uses the ores, only rarely using any of the other items. Deeply beneath the surface of the ground is a water table quite unconnected to the stream and even the Swamp waters. With the lack of a moon, there is no adequate explanation, therefore, of the rising and falling of the tides within the hill. The geode is broken open at the bottom, and the caverns beneath have never been explored, even by Sureblade.

Back on the path from the Portal... to the north a few minutes travel from Willow's den is Yellowhawk and Musica's den, a tree-formation that is not quite a tree house, but more that than a boll-den. There, they hang weavings and incomplete musical instruments, and whatever else the pair have going at the moment.

Due west from the Portal is a large cave, made out of a soft boulder. This used to be Carver's den when he was unmated many years ago. There are still remnants of his habitation there, candles, leathers, woven mats. This place has housed many travelers, though, and all leave something behind for the next. In front of the opening is a shaped wolf-head. Past Carver's cave the terrain gets more and more hilly until it becomes sharp cliffs and peaks. There are waterfalls and several streams that split off, one becoming the Holt border.

Farther west are groves of evergreens and towering redwoods, and before the peaks there is a glade where some elves have gone to gain their soul-names, or for other reasons of privacy. Shifter and his brood lived in a rock formation here before moving north.

Heading directly west from Yellowhawk's den is a deep forest, with vines and many nests above, shaped by Ivy and Oaksprout. It is properly known as Ivy's Wood. Here, simply thousands of birds dwell, knowing that they are safe from hunting. Peacocks and shrikes live with owls and hawks, all hunting elsewhere if need be. One tree stands much higher than the others in the area, Ivy's den-tree, but it cannot be detected from the ground, as the canopy is so dense beneath it as to not allow for the sighting. The top of the tree, however, affords a fabulous view of the rest of the holt.

North along the hills by Yellowhawk's den the land becomes flatter and more sparsely dotted with trees. An hour of travel away there is little tree cover, but a lot of bushes. Groves of wide-bolls break this up for another hour or so, then the land becomes completely flat and subject to flooding. It is here that Stride and the unbonded wolves live, in the surrounding hills and north-west in the forest past the one large cliff-face. Much farther north from there are three large mountains, none with names, eternally covered in snow. Storms wrap around these before hitting the Holt, so the weather-shapers in the area get a good warning before sheltering down for a bit.

Again back at the path... Over several minutes traveling in the light woods, there are some hills, not big ones, and then the path becomes much more traveled. All around, deeply set into the woods, are dens, some used year-round, many only when desired or the weather permits. About half an hour along the path from Willow's den, to the north is a rock formation where Tantumble lives, a waterfall ending in a small pool (which filters to the water table and does not connect to the south stream), and two very large trees mark this territory. Behind the waterfall is Tantumble's den, shaped into the red stones.

Only another few minutes travel on the Path, slightly off it to the north side, is the Hot Springs. A welcome sight for the original elves, and in fact always a nice place to sit and be with friends, it has been shaped only minimally, with added seats shaped into the edges of the pool, and a small ridge to the right, providing a shelter for elves or clothing which are to remain dry. Many rocks and shrubs surround this area, and just to the north of the Springs is Pounce's lair, a large shaped tree, which she inhabits with Harper after he arrives.

Over the rise to the east of the Hot Springs, the Path becomes nearly a road. At its widest, it crests the hill. There are several trees around the sides of the Path, but directly before it is nothing. Standing on the top of the hill at the Path gives a view of the Dancing, and the first real view of the Great Tree.

The Dancing is a wide glade surrounded by hills and completely picked over for sharp stones. Originally a generic meeting place, it quickly became the center of the Holt. The south hill is where the musicians typically arrange themselves, as sound carries well off the rounded edges of the Dancing. On the north side is the Great Tree, and just to the west of the main entrance is the fire pit. All the trees nearby have inhabitants, Hunter and Comet live in the wide-boll directly beside the Great Tree, while Flame and Nightblossom live beside that one.

Farther to the north of the Great Tree there are groves and forests of trees, large and small. The best hunting is done here. No tree is shaped, no stone. All the animals sense this and arrive, every year, to bear young or to hunt in competition with the elves. Five full days travel is the north-south dimension of this forest, uninterrupted east-west for nearly two hands of days. This forest borders the rock flats. ((Note: this is where the Farpack's territory begins.))

Due east from the Dancing are larger wide-bolls, and several more fog-catchers, all housing elves. Families tend to take the fog-catchers, individuals use the wide-bolls. Many stone outcroppings are found here, between and beneath the trees, with the small streams breaking up and rejoining farther south-west. Many craft-dens are situated out this way: Surehand's wood carving grove supplies most of the plant matter for the wooden crafts; Brightstar's stone shaped den is full up with all the bones and antlers that hunters give her, in exchange for splendid weapons and jewelry; Moonstone generally seats herself outside her tree den to work with gems and metals. This area has a widely spread hill arrangement, so rarely does one inhabitant see another just by looking out of their tree, there is usually something in the way, which is fine by the elves.

Farther than this is a river, one that joins the streams much farther south. On the west bank there are trees and many plants, on the east side there was a fire that threatened the whole holt, and most of the plant life is still struggling to regain a hold. The ground is blackened, particularly the farther east one goes. Before he left, Marrow had his den out this way, to be nearer the animals he befriended, but that den is completely black with ash and fused stone. The rock-shapers do work out this way, but the plant shapers try to ignore it, as it reminds them that their art depends entirely on nature.

After the fire, the flint sheet rocks at the very eastern edge of the holt were shaped over with less volatile stones, so another fire can be avoided. There is little of elfin value out this way, north or south, since the fire claimed so much land. The far north and south borders are overgrown, and should someday be ready for living in again.

Back at the Dancing, if there is anything going on in the glen, it is watched by many from the limbs of the Great Tree. The largest fog-catcher the elves have either seen or shaped, it sits and is very impressive indeed. Convalescing healed elves use a stroll around the base of the Tree as their daily exercise. The wide fanlike roots of the Tree have long been shaped to go deeply into the ground, and certainly the other fog-catchers in the area are sprouted from this one. The roots themselves are seldom seen, since the elves have covered them magically with layers of reinforcing stone and gems, making the whole place more stable. Built into this stone is the oven, hidden nearly in the back of the tree.

The entrance to the Great Tree is very wide, three arm-widths. It is arched slightly, following the natural curvature of the knothole opening it had originally been. The stone reinforcement flattens out a pace away from the entrance. At the height of the arch (about six elf-heights or 30 feet) there are connection hooks for wintertime leather banners and door flaps, which usually are stored just inside the opening, rolled. Around the height of the first limbs, only 20 feet up, there are lattice-shaped windows, some having shaped crystals or glass in them, most open. There are vines hanging from most of the lower branches, so climbing up to them is no problem, and one does not have to enter the tree to do so.

On entering the main room inside the Great Tree the first thing that will be noticed is that it is light. Both the open windows and light filtering in through the branch-openings lend some, but most comes from the torches, candles and small fire-baskets placed all around. When the larger fires are on, the smoke from them leaves through a number of holes, never getting into the eyes of the elves. When the fires are not on, typically in the morning and full day, the lights seen are from small gems and crystals that have been placed into the inner bark by a variety of shapers, some who have since moved on. Each shard of crystal glows through magic, having been imbued long ago by its individual shaper. When fire-shapers near any of these they glow more brightly, and when the person who shaped them does, they glow most strongly. The patterns on the walls are only vaguely familiar, they do not mirror the actual sky seen by elfin eyes. They do however look a lot like the ones seen from earth.

To the right of the entrance is the main stair-ramp. Directly to the left of the entrance is another wall shaped to lend privacy to the healer's den. That den usually houses Sweetsong and her assistants, but any healer is welcome. The door-flap is always open, unless there is a serious healing going on.

The main room is an open, airy place, the ceiling being another few elf-heights above the top of the entrance. It takes up about half the distance to the center of the trunk, and is shaped like a semi-circle. Hung on all the walls, between and around the glow-crystals, are tapestries and some paintings. Each of these is by a different artisan, mostly having to do with the history of the holt, though some portraits are on display here. They get changed every few seasons, and are fairly subtle -- no glaring colors or patterns, they are designed to blend in with the walls. The central floor is of a rich texture, smooth before the elves began shaping it, and it is often used as a place to meet or dance. Low shaped seats line the room, some even grown on the side of the stair-ramp. Nooks and seats can be found anywhere there is not already a tapestry or crystal. There is one larger seat situated higher than head level, where either the chief or the central speaker of the night sits, commanding attention. There are furs covering this seat, unlike most others.

Directly to the side of the stair-ramp between it and the entrance is a selection of weapons, for hunting. The weaponsmiths usually are creating something, and few people have room in their own den for a long spear or sharp object, so this is where they are stored. Baskets hold them up, some axes and swords are slung on the wall just above them, along with shields which go mostly unused.

Up the ramp, the first branch on the right (all branches are on the right, while the inner openings are actually inside the tree) is Longmane's meeting branch. There, the top is open to the sky (though one cannot actually see the sky for all the other branches atop it), and people can see down if they stand on the shaped bench-style seats. This is the only low branch without vines to access it. The branch is about two spans wide at the entrance, it widens out a bit to accommodate the seats, and is about six spans long, after which it is sealed and growing naturally. In the middle of the open part is a table, basically flat, but it does have small nubs growing on it, which some elves may shape to give them a holder for a cup, or whatever. At the far end of the table is a game that Longmane and his father Strongheart are usually playing (like chess, with several additions shaped above it). The bench seats can fit up to two dozen elves, more if they also sit on the edge of the branch, though for a meeting this size, they would more often move back into the main den.

The ramp continues, about six strides later on the left is the entrance to the first inner den, it contains furs and leather hides, thongs and other straps, mostly for the winter-flaps, some just being stored. Almost directly opposite this den is the entrance to the next branch, it curves back on itself briefly and then the branch opens. This one is rarely used by groups, it is large enough to fit up to three elves, standing only. It is a private place.

The ramp sharply rises after that branch, several stairs are shaped into it. On the left are the entrances to two dens, Longmane's sleep-den and beside it Strongheart and Hummingbird's. A pace or so past it is another opening to a branch. This one is very wide, and fairly flat. Hummingbird uses this one to take off from, as do other fliers, it is a good wide area, barely even shaped inside the branch, more likely the top of a branch was flattened to get this effect. The leafy twigs start many paces away, and the downward pointing branches from above have been long cleared away, to give a good open place.

Now the ramp faces the very back of the tree. It is about halfway up the trunk, and it splits here. The left fork of it enters a twisting set of shaped and fairly dark corridors, where there are many dens and hideyholes. The right one continues to rise, opening only twice until it reaches the top branch.

On the west facing side, the ramp levels out and becomes a kind of corridor, and the inner trunk is most slanted here, the ceiling of the corridor is pointed. The west branch opening is shaded much of the time by many vines and curling creepers, this is where Ivy usually stays when she is away from her own tree-den. The branch itself is about three spans wide, and seven long. There are many small growing branches sprouted from the edges of the opening and top, there to be shaped into braided or more complex patterns and left to grow up. It is most latticed here, and any sunlight that comes in is dappled strongly.

The ramp continues in its corridor form until it is facing the south again, the front of the tree, and it opens as an archway similar to the main entrance of the tree, only much smaller. The branch it opens onto rises sharply, and there are a set of stairs in it. It opens out to a kind of spoon shape, virtually invisible from the ground outside, because of all the vinery and branches between it and there. There is a small bench shaped around the round part, much like a restaurant booth without a table. This branch is about eight paces long by two wide, until the ending of it, where it bulbs out to about four paces wide. Many private parties are held here, often by fliers who snake around all the vines to get in, rather than taking the long corridor way around.

The corridor is now shaded by the ceiling, and though not claustrophobic in nature, the ceiling is much closer to the head than anywhere else. The whole thing wraps around to the very back of the tree again, where the hall is steep. It terminates in a kind of anteroom, goes slightly past the high branch, only about three paces. It is a rounded room inside the tree, where some things are stored or even forgotten. Few people venture here now. The top branch opening is a flattened archway, just over the head. Vines and new growth sprout here, and get in the way of a good view of the branch. It had been shaped once long ago, by the first comers, but most of that shaping has been grown over. The branch is very wide, about eight paces, and fairly close to that long. The main area is flat and open, framed by grown seats or occasional benches, many of these are now sprouting. It is open to the air, and the end of the branch is very much alive and sprouting. Several other branches can be seen from the edge of this one, but since no one really goes up here they are still private. The magical problems here started with several accidental overshapings, making new growth sealed up on itself. The tree is somewhat sentient, so says Rafter of the Nomads, as his very advanced plant shaping allowed him to communicate to the tree. It was worried about being killed or sapped of its own magic, so whenever plant shaping was done on it, it simply saved the energy for later use, when it attacked Ivy and was forced to give up a lot of power to Strongheart. (Dramatic rescue! The tree hates him!) Now, elves make sure to 'ask' the tree if they can shape, and it does a lot of the work itself, at least up in the top.

The very top of the tree is a large tangle of thinner branches, ones not suitable for hollowing or denmaking, though they would make very good cover, and do, for the flocks of birds nearby. It is impossible to fall out of this part of the tree, there are simply too many crossing branches. It makes an excellent hide and seek area, even if you can see someone, it might take minutes to get to them!

Back down at the bottom of the tree! When the healer's den flap is closed, elves always either send briefly to see if there is something happening inside, or clapping once which is the elfin equivalent of knocking. The room is darkened or usually subdued, with candles only, as it is better for the subject not to be under glaring lights. The ceiling is high and flat, and along the walls there are many nets or shelves grown out with salves, powders, liquids, all manner of healing equipment and bowls, towels and leathers for cleaning up. It has the scent of herbs, not quite overpowering, but it if weren't for those herbs the room would be rank from all the blood spilled here. It serves as a birthing den to those women who want to go there, and as a kind of meeting room for the healers when there is need. The center of the room is recessed, and filled with furs and soft cloth. There are pillows lining the pit, and there the subject is set until they can move again. The frame of the room has some seats, cushions and piled leathers, with more things like baskets holding the more-oft used items. There are tapestries on the walls here, soothing images laced with magic. There are always several pots and urns burning with the medicinal herbs, sometimes only one but more often three or four, combining whatever useful concoctions the healers think are needed.

At the right side of the den is a leather flap covered in beads and crystals. Past this is a long hallway that is utterly dark on first look, then once the eyes have gotten used to it, small lichen plants can be seen, and mushrooms line the whole left side of the area. It is not very wide, only about two paces, and the right hand wall is nearly straight up, with nothing growing on it. The left side is somewhat tiered, so that different kinds of spores can grow on whatever surface they need. Every kind of mushroom, lichen and toadstool is grown here, mostly for drying and storing, some for fresh use in stews, very few for medicinal or entertainment purposes. Most of the time, anyone may simply pluck whatever they want to eat, since they seem to grow overnight (some do!). Some have been shaped over many years to provide more than their natural nutrition, and some have been made neutral if they were originally poisonous. This part of the hall is curved with the outside angle of the tree, and the wall is only about an arm's length thick. Careful listening will show that there is an opening far above, it is primarily dark because it is curved back down on the outside. Fliers might get to this high spot, where a slight breeze enters, but it is impossible to climb up to unless using some kind of aid like plant shaping or rappelling gear. The view from here is of the hot-spring area though it cannot be directly viewed. The corridor runs beneath the main ramp, and the opening is beneath and to the side of the floor of it.

Past the mushroom area is a completely dark part of the corridor, where the only light might come in from the opening at the top of the left wall. Directly at the back of the tree, however, there is a series of trapdoors and vines, which open usually by accident, dumping the elf out into the back grassy area. This tends to surprise most elves who had not known of it. Much like the way a trapdoor spider's door opens, this one works in reverse, open at the top and hinged at the bottom. From the outside it is impossible to see, and most people just don't mention it. It is unknown who first shaped this part, but it has been there almost as long as the rest of the shaped areas.

If one is lucky enough to get past the trapdoor, there is a whole other inner set of rooms, directly behind the speaker's seat when seen from the front. They are all fairly crescent shaped, following the natural woods inside, and there are a varying number of these, they are easily shaped and mostly used as dens or hiding places. Nothing gets left behind in these, if it were it would be shaped over in a matter of days.

Through the trap door, the outside area is usually clear and clutter free, though a good coating of dropped leaves might be there in autumn. The stone coating is thin here, since the roots are larger and stronger. They tend to head straight down into the ground in the back, whereas the ones in the front and sides spread out horizontally. The area is lighter in color than most other places, the trees behind the Great Tree are ash and white-barks, and it usually looks as if someone dropped a whole lot of white paint over everything. Even the bushes and ground are light.

Straight north from the Great Tree is Spider Wood, the white trees and shrubs made even more eerie by the nightly spinning of webs, which all catch the morning mist and are quite the beautiful sight. There are clearings and copses, creating a maze of pathways that lead away from the Tree. The trees here are set fairly far apart, and more undergrowth is here than in any other part of the forest. Past this area is the north hunting ground, mentioned earlier.


The trip from First Holt to Storm Mountain Holt is a dangerous one. Following the western border, it is easiest to reach the mountains at the north end, as the southern ones are too loose and boulders tend to fall at odd moments there. The travel is uninterrupted mountains, there are no paths, there are no passes, no maps exist that show how to get there. Fliers who wish to visit have a much easier time, but the hunting between the two holts is very bad, as little if anything lives in the mountains, and most of the 'lighter' traveling is past the snowline. By the time the original Storm Mountain elves had reached their destination they were half-starved and very disoriented, following only Bloodleaf's instructions. No amount of ground searching will betray the path they used, it is totally weathered by now.

Leader is Longmane , one of the first comers to the Otherforest. He is the mate of Snow and father of Wolfpride . Longmane is tall for an elf, because of his earthly stature, but he is totally elfin. He is very intelligent, and will try to talk out any arguments brought to him before resorting to a challenge. He is one of the strongest senders on the planet, and has an unusual power: coersion. He is in fact the first person to have that power. He will gladly greet any new elf that comes through the nearby portal but knows better than to invite any to stay more than a season or so. He lives within the Great Tree with the rest of his large (transplanted) family.

The main tanner of the First Holt is Willow . She not only has animal bonding to a certain degree, but also a strange precognitive ability that allows her to make clothing for someone before they arrive on the Otherforest. She uses natural dyes and all kinds of furs and skins, and tends to make subtle colors rather than brights. The other clothing maker of the First Holt is Rill , who weaves plant fibers and silks. She makes brighter colors and fancier patterns than Willow, but cannot tan hides nearly as well.

The weaponsmith of the First Holt is Sureblade , who is often assisted by Bladelock or Brightstar . There are always a number of spears, javelins, knives and axes at the entrance to the Great Tree, just for people who are in-between weapons of their own. Gadget is the only true techno-phile here, he is attempting to make machines and things for the elves.

An interesting person to meet: Starshine the mapmaker. She is the first elf in the world to have invented a written language. She uses flattened dried leaves, much like papyrus, to write on. Starshine can supply anyone with a map of the local area, and is always interested in getting information on farther places. She can take a send-image and transfer it to paper. Working with her is Commune , a lately-arrived woman who has the same ability with water and plant shaping. She and her son Glyph gather information and images.

The First holt contains the most structured dancers of the elfin world, Hummingbird, Prowl, Pounce, Musica, Nightblossom, Buck, Blackwing, Silversplash and Yellowhawk being the mainstay of the dancers. Most also double as musicians, but Keeper, Sweetsong, Aurashine, Cat's Paw and Surehand are usually found in tow. Several of them have complimentary powers for dancing and music-making, Nightblossom makes many flutes and shakers, Cat's Paw makes drums. Surehand is also the main artisan of the First holt.

Someone else worth mentioning: Farlight , the son of Phantasm and Dreamcast . He was the focus of a kidnapping attempt, perpetrated by a pair of non-human Otherforest imports. He has more power than any other elf, including Snow herself, which was why the aliens wanted him. They led a long chase across the plains and into the Hall of Portals, and from there through a number of other worlds (reached by those portals). Farlight was too young to remember many of the events that occurred barely after he was born, but he is aflicted by a lasting xenophobia.

Inhabitants of the First Holt ((FEMALE)) ((MALE)) /c = child

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Cat's Paw