This message arrives with a wish for your continued good health, and every respect that a student can offer his master.
The occasion for writing is, of course, my continued absence for twelve years from the solstice celebrations, and the concern that this has raised in some quarters. Yes, it is true that I have settled here not only in a city, not only in a large city, but in a human city. Yes, I live in Khason.
Yes, I am fully aware of the various depredations of these humans against the forests around them, and their various offences against the natural order. This has been the focus of my research for these past few years. To ally your fears, no: I have no truck whatever with the so-called brotherhood of the new moon, it is not at all my position that humans need to be actively culled. The situation is … rather more nuanced.
Perhaps I should introduce the bulky and still incomplete notes that accompany this message.
Simply put, humans – and elves, for that matter – are living creatures. They build homes, they organise themselves into a society, they affect and are affected by the world around them. After living here for only a few months it occured to me to study them as I would a beaver dam, a beehive, a stream. Both for it’s own sake, and also as a way of understanding ourselves. After all – we are not so different (they and we interbreed, after all), but studying humans has the advantage that they live several generations to our one.
The other important reason for such study is these very depredations and offences against nature – the logging, the fouling of the streams, the rippings open of the earth – that they commit. It seemed and still seems to me that we need to know what we are dealing with. I have come to believe that we can best achieve our purpose by guiding them, rather than opposing them. This has always been our way, not to mention that opposing them is, I would point out, probably infeasible.
Humans do not especially wish to destroy forests, to wipe out entire species of animal. What they want is to life safely, and for their children to be happy and healthy. We can help them and guide them to a mode of living in equilibrium with the rest of the World.
But humans uniquely live in massive, above-ground cities. To understand them, we must ask: what kind of thing is a city, and how might it be understood?
I propose that a city might well be understood in terms of the cardinal elements, and I present to you the fruits of my initial research of the human city of Khason which is organised along those lines.
The element of Earth corresponds to a city’s static, physical presence. It is important to treat this as being its entire impact on the lands around it – not merely the city itself, but the farmlands that sustain it. In this section, I explore such questions as how much of the flow of river Greylock is consumed by the city? What proportion of the rainfall of the surrounding lands is captured and annexed? What is the city’s resource basin? What areas do its roads serve?
The element of Water corresponds to the inhabitants of the city, in terms of their bodily presence. In this section I ask such question as how many people inhabit the city? How long do they live, and of what might they be expected to die? What can we expect the population to be in 20 years, and how distributed? How is the city provisioned – what do the people eat and drink, and how is the food distributed within the city? Where does all the waste go, and how does it get there? What pestilences arise in the city, how do they spread and how are they typically contained?
The element of Fire corresponds to the activities of the city in relation to the cities and world around it. Put simply: war and commerce. How many trees are cut down, what is the volume of ore extracted from the earth? What do people do all day? What do people do to earn money? Where does the money come from, and where is it spent? How large are its armies, and with whom do they war?
The element of Air corresponds to the city’s governance and culture. What do the people think about? How do fashions and prejudices spread, and where are they likely to come from? Who makes the laws, and how are they enforced (a question with surprising answers, in a place with an active thieves guild).
And the element of Æether, of course, corresponds to the movements of magic – arcane and divine – in the city.
Naturally, the categories are not always clear cut – obvious examples are easy to think of. So much so, that often the point of interest is the interaction of the elements. Nevertheless, this treatment provides at least a framework from which to start.
It is my hope that our order might be able to make a place in human cities, to participate and somewhat guide their development. Our goal should be to contain the size of the population and to reduce the amount that it wastes. Presently, the only methods in common use for containing population size are periodic wars to cull the commons, and no thought at all is given to resource limits. We should establish groves within cites (fast-growing varieties at first) and create a presence. We should curry favour with the commons with parks and hospitals, and with farming. We should seek to become a trusted source of advice for the ruling classes, as pertains to the expansion of the city and the use of the lands around it. And we should offer free, nonjudgemental – I am inclining towards calling it – “family planning” advice and help.
There is a place for our order and orders like ours in human cities. They will continue to be a presence in the world. We need to be in them to help deal with them.
I have spent 12 years absent from the Grove, and it has affected me and my magic in strange ways. I no longer feel the same connection to the living things of nature. Now, when I call (which I have need to do, ocassionally – the city can be dangerous) I am more likely to be answered by a swarm of rats or a mob of humans. It’s odd – I once asked one of the mob why he had come to my aid, and he said that he “felt strongly” that he “needed to be here”.
For 12 years I hgave studied. I know them, and they begin to know me. I think that Khason city is my home now.
Urban Druid. Replace Summon Nature’s Ally with Summon Urban Ally. You’ll find ’em in cities, angling to get on planning councils and planting oak trees all over the shop. Any house falls down, the druids will be all over the site lobbying to replace it with a park. They have urban rangers, a few inquisitors and regular fighters, and a smattering of rogues and bards. The inquisitors have an odd habit of chaining themselves to trees that are slated to be cut down.
Oh, and you’ll also find the druids working with various sex godesses distributing contraceptive potions to the masses. In bulk.
Sometimes allies, sometimes enemies. When they go bad, and start feeling that the place is getting a mite populous, you’ll see them importing crates of pre-infected plague rats. Occasionally they set fire to a foundry or tannery.
I kind of like the idea of hippie “This place is an offence against nature!” inquisitors.