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Zephrah is the village of the Air Ashari in the Summit Peaks of Tal'Dorei, located at the rift between the Elemental Plane of Air and Exandria. The Air Ashari are one of four Ashari tribes, formerly a single druidic and nomadic society during the Calamity. The tribes split to guard and over time heal rifts to the elemental planes that opened in Exandria, and the Air Ashari established themselves near the Rift of Air. Zephrah is led by a headmaster called the Voice of the Tempest, who ascends to their position after completing a lengthy journey to the other tribes.

It is the home of the player characters Keyleth, the current Voice of the Tempest, and Orym.

Description

Zephrah is a village at the top of the Summit Peaks near the Lucidian Coast and is located near a portal to the Elemental Plane of Air, called the Rift of Air. With Terrah, is one of two Ashari villages in Tal'Dorei.[1][2] It is located on tall mountain bluffs with cliffs falling into a sheer drop at either side.[3] Mountain caves hidden among these cliffs provide emergency shelter for the village.[4]

Trees grow out of the cliff sides at the outskirts of the village.[5] At the far edge of the outcropping on which Zephrah sits grows a cherry blossom tree, which is used as a central gathering place. It is described as twisting and gnarled but elegant and beautiful. Its branches are long and thin, its bark is a deep and vibrant dark brown with some gray patches, and moss grows at its base and in shadowed areas under its branches.[6] A tree propagated from the Sun Tree in Whitestone grows on a ley line, planted by Keyleth in 811 PD;[7] as it grew, she embedded a raven feather from Vax'ildan and other relics of the Raven Queen into its trunk, and the tree attracted ravens, previously unseen in Zephrah.[8]

Described as simple and beautiful, the village is built on a hill surrounded by trees, and it is composed of around one hundred homes built into the mountainside and at the edges of the cliffs. Homes are simple, natural, and dome-like in shape and made of stone, leather, and well-crafted, intricate strips of long, curved wood that appear grown into their shapes and further smoothly bent using druidic magic. A number of homes are built around or from trees, or the trees grew through these buildings.[3][9][5] By 836, the cliffs were also dotted with windmills.[4]

Because the top of the Summit Peaks are suffused in power air elemental magic from the nearby rift,[2] a strong, ever-present wind surrounds the village, protecting it from aerial invaders and creating a visible "windfall" of clouds, leaves, and dust.[10][3] Air Ashari magic keeps the air still inside Zephrah itself,[3][5] but a gentle whistling sound is constantly heard inside the village.[9]

Society

The people of Zephrah, the Air Ashari, guard the portal to the Elemental Plane of Air and strive to eventually heal the rift. They also watch over the Frostweald and maintain the natural balance of their surrounding lands.[2][1] Zephrah's location protects its people from most hardship and trespassers. This safety is said to have "bred a certain recklessness" and a "lack of stoicism and restraint" scorned by the Earth Ashari at Terrah. Despite this, the Air Ashari perform their duties with as much dedication as the other tribes.[11] They balance this sense of duty against free-spirited playfulness, and they culturally value freedom of the skies.[12]

The headmaster of Zephrah, its leader, is titled Voice of the Tempest, whose duties include monitoring travel through the portal, druidic rituals, and visiting outsiders.[2] As with all Ashari tribes, a chosen leader-to-be embarks on a years-long journey called an Aramenté, during which they visit each village to earn the respect of the other headmasters and establish connections between the leaders; they ascend to headmaster upon their return, and their predecessor retires. Should the chosen Ashari not return within a reasonable amount of time, someone among their family or an allied family is chosen in their place and embarks on their own Aramenté.[1][13]

Official art of a skysailor, by Claudia SG Ianniciello from Critical Role: Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting, p. 45.[art 3]

Zephrah lives on high-elevation vegetation and occasionally by hunting large avians, so most in the village are farmers and skilled hunters and climbers.[2][14] By 836 PD, the village also began milling grain bought from the Dividing Plains. Leaders and warriors travel around the mountains by riding on the constant winds using skysails, a magical glider. The village has never maintained a formal army, but many Voices of the Tempest have trained people to defend Zephrah and most adults can use a spear or staff in self-defense. About one in ten people in Zephrah have some elemental training and can cast the spell Gust of Wind at least once a day. Skydancers, Zephrah's most skilled skysailors, are seen as local heroes in their dual capacity as warriors and artistic performers. Keyleth expanded the training of skydancers, intending for them to respond to any emergency in Tal'Dorei such as the Chroma Conclave attacks.[2][4]

The Air Ashari are often identified by blue and white robes or by symbols in gold, green, and blue.[15] They wear scale-like leather armor that reaches to the legs and are often armed with staffs.[16] Though not all the Ashari keep the gods, Melora, the Wildmother is the preferred deity in Zephrah because "her freedom is like that of the wind".[12]

By 836 PD, Zephrah has become less insular, though it remains isolated from the rest of the world. Many, including those with innate connection to air, outside druids, and other spellcasters, have successfully proven to Keyleth their respect for the sky and now live in Zephrah. Largely, Keyleth has campaigned against Ashari isolationism and moved toward integrating Zephrah politically and economically with the rest of Tal'Dorei.[4]

Demographics

In 812 PD, Zephrah was a village with a population of 410 people. Most of the villagers were half-elves (75%) with some humans (10%), halflings (10%), and tieflings (5%) as well.[17] There were also apparently genasi at that time.[18]

In 836 PD, the population had grown to 1,310. It remained mostly half-elven (65%) with some of elemental ancestry (12%), humans (10%), halfings (9%), tieflings (5%), and other races (2%). The significant increase in population is attributed to those outside the Ashari successfully petitioning Keyleth for permission to live in Zephrah.[4]

At some point in Keyleth's time as Voice of the Tempest, there were also dwarves, orcs, and elves, among others.[8]

Notable people

Name Type Description
Keyleth PC Voice of the Tempest beginning in 811 PD and member of Vox Machina
Orym PC Former guard and member of the Crown Keepers and Bells Hells
Derrig PC Master of Defense in 813 PD tasked with assembling the local guard[19]
Dwala NPC Keyleth's predecessor as Voice of the Tempest,[20] who died of an illness[1]
Korrin NPC Keyleth's father and acting Voice of the Tempest after Dwala's death until Keyleth's installation as headmaster[1]
Vilya NPC Keyleth's mother who disappeared during her Aramenté around 800 PD[21] and returned in 836 PD[22]

History

Background

Fan art of Zephrah, by Kent Davis.[art 4]

During a celestial solstice about 900 or 1,000 years before Campaign One,[23] during the Calamity,[fn 1] elemental rifts tore open across Exandria, causing terrible earthquakes, fires, and a flood of elemental monsters. Though they eventually beat back the elementals, the people of Exandria were terrified of what would happen on the next solstice. The druidic Ashari, until then a single nomadic society on the continent that would later be called Tal'Dorei, agreed to split into four tribes to seal the rifts and watch over the major remaining portals. The Air Ashari remained in Tal'Dorei and founded Zephrah.[1]

Vilya was chosen as the next Voice of the Tempest, and she left on her Aramenté in 794 or 795 PD.[24] She did not return to Zephrah, having disappeared in the Elemental Plane of Water at Vesrah after completing her trial at Pyrah around 800 PD.[25][21] Dwala later died of illness, resulting in Vilya's husband Korrin to become acting Voice of the Tempest in the interim.[1] Vilya's daughter Keyleth left on her own Aramenté when she turned twenty in 809 PD.[26]

Campaign One

After Thordak escaped the Elemental Plane of Fire and devastated Pyrah, Zephrah was contacted by survivors. Leaving behind most of the village to cloak Zephrah and protect it from Thordak, Korrin led four others to Pyrah to aid them and arrived a day later.[15]

Zephrah tracked Tal'Dorei's armies as they marched on Emon to face Thordak, and the Air Ashari awaited a call for their aid. The day before the attack on Emon, Keyleth, Vax'ildan, and Allura Vysoren visited Zephrah to request air support to thin out the wyvern flock over Emon. At Keyleth's request, Korrin tasked Zephrah's conjurers with creating a dangerous storm and sending toward the city at mid-day before the battle and committed about one hundred people, including himself, to engage the wyverns in the sky once a signal was given. He confirmed to Keyleth that enough people would remain in Zephrah to defend it and that the magical protections around the village would protect it from stray wyverns or other flying creatures.[27] Once the attack on Emon began and Keyleth signaled to the Ashari, the Air Ashari were seen commanding the storm from skysails.[28]

Fan art of Keyleth addressing Zephrah for the first time as Voice of the Tempest, by Lap Pun Cheung.[art 5]

After completing her Aramenté, Keyleth returned to Zephrah to seek her father's blessing and be formally installed as Voice of the Tempest. Korrin called for a celebration to be held right before sunset.[16] Once preparations were completed and a feast was had, everyone gathered at the base of the large cherry blossom tree at the edge of the village. Korrin ceremonially bestowed the Mantle of the Tempest on Keyleth, officially making her the leader of the people of Zephrah.[29] Later that night, Keyleth and Korrin discussed the future of the Air Ashari and agreed that Zephrah and the other Ashari needed to open themselves up to the broader world as their isolation is increasingly unsustainable. They hoped that cultivating other allies would prevent incidents like Thordak's devastation of Pyrah in the future.[13]

Keyleth and Vax'ildan later returned to Zephrah, living there for a year. With the help of Percival de Rolo and Taryon Darrington, Keyleth installed an emergency communication system between the four Ashari tribes, called the Crisis Orbs, in the form of magical crystal beacons in each village; tapping one beacon will light all beacons that village's designated color, alerting the other Ashari to an emergency. Keyleth also planted a cutting from the Sun Tree in Whitestone, a sister tree dedicated to the Matron of Ravens.[7][fn 2][30]

After Campaign One

After defeating Vecna and helping rebuild Vasselheim, Keyleth returned to Zephrah to lead full-time. As Voice of the Tempest, she became one of two central points of the balance between civilization and nature in Tal'dorei, and the Council of Tal'Dorei often reached out to her for guidance.[8] She eventually became an ambassador for all the Asahri tribes to the Council,[31] and she moved toward Zephrah's greater political and economic integration into Tal'Dorei so that their needs may be heard by the Council. She faces resistance in her campaign to break down the Ashari's isolationism, but this resistance is mostly from within the Ashari.[4]

Fan art of Vilya's return to Zephrah and reunion with Keyleth, by Toby Sharp.[art 6]

By 836 PD, Keyleth and Percy introduced various technological developments to Zephrah, most notably windmills. Kept secret from the rest of the village, two of the mills refine whitestone into residuum to construct magic items and arm the skydancers.[4] This arrangement continued into late 842 PD, and it remained largely kept from most in Zephrah.[32] Vilya, who was living without her memory on Rumblecusp for years after escaping the Plane of Water, regained her memories with help from the Mighty Nein and was finally able to return to Zephrah in 836 PD. She did so through Transport via Plants and was greeted by Keyleth immediately upon arrival.[22] The same year, Keyleth was suddenly attacked by strange assailants who dropped out of the trees. Though the attempt on Keyleth's life was unsuccessful, several others died. Because this was the first attack on Keyleth in her time at Zephrah, she and others debated whether it was a real attempt, a test, or something else. The felled assailants melted into goo, causing them to be unidentifiable, and no further information could be uncovered at the time nor for years after.[33][34] Orym, who was present at the attack, left the village soon after to travel.[35]

Crates of residuum originating from Zephrah were stolen in Emon by the Nameless Ones in late 842 PD.[32] This was discovered by Orym, who was adventuring in Emon, and he had word sent to Zephrah about the theft.[36] Months later in 843 PD, Keyleth received information about an attack in Jrusar in Marquet that was similar to the attack on her many years ago. She requested that Orym investigate the matter and its possible connections to the Zephrah attack.[33] She brought him and two friends, Dorian Storm and Fearne, to Zephrah, then to Emon before sending them onward toward Jrusar via skyship.[37]

Footnotes

  1. Other events that occurred about 1,000 years before Campaign One, such as the fall of Uthtor and the creation of the Pallid Grove, are said to have happened during the Calamity.
  2. Marisha said Keyleth planted the cutting in Vesrah, but this is understood to be a mistake due to context and "The Chapter Closes" (1x115).

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 See Critical Role: Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting, pp. 30–31.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 See Critical Role: Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting, pp. 44–45.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 See "The Siege of Emon" (1x78) from 1:42:49 through 1:45:55.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 See Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting Reborn, pp. 69–71.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 See "Voice of the Tempest" (1x90) from 3:29:43 through 3:31:17.
  6. See "Voice of the Tempest" (1x90) at 3:40:00.
  7. 7.0 7.1 See "One Year Later..." (1x95) from 0:38:46 through 0:40:40.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 See "The Chapter Closes" (1x115) at 4:10:00.
  9. 9.0 9.1 See "Dangerous Dealings" (1x42) at 0:37:56.
  10. See "The Siege of Emon" (1x78) at 1:53:33.
  11. See Critical Role: Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting, p. 129.
  12. 12.0 12.1 See Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting Reborn, pp. 48–49.
  13. 13.0 13.1 See "Vox Machina Go to Hell" (1x91) from 0:14:09 through 0:20:06.
  14. See "Trial by Firelight" (3x02) at 1:36:17.
  15. 15.0 15.1 See "Those Who Walk Away" (1x45) from 2:51:22 through 2:53:30.
  16. 16.0 16.1 See "Voice of the Tempest" (1x90) from 3:34:27 through 3:38:27.
  17. See Critical Role: Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting, p. 44.
  18. See Critical Role: Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting, p. 28. Genasi in Tal'Dorei are said to be most common among the Ashari, and Zephrah is one of two Ashari villages on the continent.
  19. See "Dalen's Closet" (Sx47) from 10:32 through 11:26.
  20. See "Voice of the Tempest" (1x90) at 3:43:12.
  21. 21.0 21.1 See "Aramente to Pyrah" (1x22) at 2:52:00.  In 810 PD, Vilya is said to have visited and left Pyrah ten years prior.
  22. 22.0 22.1 See "Devoutness and Dicks" (2x107) at 3:50:45.
  23. See "Aramente to Pyrah" (1x22) at 1:17:27.
  24. See "Enter Vasselheim" (1x16) at 26:51.  Keyleth, who is 21 in this episode set in 810 PD, says she was five or six years old when Vilya left home.
  25. See "Onward to Vesrah" (1x87) at 3:28:19.
  26. The Chronicles of Exandria, p. [citation needed]
  27. See "The Siege of Emon" (1x78) from 1:48:33 through 1:53:53.  It is clarified how many of the Air Ashari are present at 2:43:43.
  28. See "The Siege of Emon" (1x78) at 3:51:46.
  29. See "Voice of the Tempest" (1x90) from 3:39:07 through 3:57:16.
  30. See "The Chapter Closes" (1x115) at 4:11:10.
  31. See Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting Reborn, p. 46.
  32. 32.0 32.1 See "The Nameless Ones" (E1x01) at 3:56:45.
  33. 33.0 33.1 See "Growing Bonds and Teasing Threads" (3x06) from 3:10:00 through 3:14:40.
  34. See "Chasing Nightmares" (3x11) from 4:10:24 through 4:21:15.
  35. See "Chasing Nightmares" (3x11) at 4:29:48.
  36. See "The Oh No Plateau" (E1x02) from 1:51:56 through 1:54:50.
  37. See "The Draw of Destiny" (3x01) at 1:12:05.  Fearne mentions having been to Zephrah in "On the Trail of a Killer" (3x04) at 2:42:57 and "Growing Bonds and Teasing Threads" (3x06) at 0:42:15.

Art:

  1. Official art of Keyleth and Vilya conversing at Zephrah, by Kent Davis (source). Used with permission.
  2. Official map of Zephrah's location in the Summit Peaks by the Lucidian Coast, by Andy Law from Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting. This file is a copyrighted work. Its use in this article is asserted to qualify as fair use of the material under United States copyright law.
  3. Official art of a skysailor, by Claudia SG Ianniciello from Critical Role: Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting, p. 45. This file is a copyrighted work. Its use in this article is asserted to qualify as fair use of the material under United States copyright law.
  4. Fan art of Zephrah, by Kent Davis (source). Used with permission.
  5. Fan art of Keyleth addressing Zephrah for the first time as Voice of the Tempest, by Lap Pun Cheung (source). Used with permission.
  6. Fan art of Vilya's return to Zephrah and reunion with Keyleth, by Toby Sharp (source). Used with permission.
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