The Thaehelvil River is the name of the longest river in Santharia, though it is dwarved by the great river complexes of the northern continent. The river's source is in the Kairian Teeth, the Hills south of Elsreth, and it winds its slow flowing way through the province of Sanguia before finding the sea in a large delta. The river has an annual pattern of flooding, bursting its banks in early spring almost every year since records have been kept. Flooding is usually very minor, and helps to keep the Thaehelvil's flood plain fertile. However, interference with the River's path or its surroundings have caused these floods to be exacerbated.
|Image description. The longest River found in the United Kingdom of Santharia, the Thaehelvil, also known as the "Yellow Wanderer". Picture drawn by Reegen.|
river takes its name from two composed
Styrásh words, Tháeh (Tháeh)
meaning yellow, and Helvíl (Helvíl)
meaning Wanderer. The elven name of
Tháeh'helvíl has been rounded by the surrounding Tharian speaking
human populations to its common name, though
humans are well aware of the original
meaning. A inscription by an unknown resident of Santhala, enscribed on a tree
on a vantage point above the river reads:
"Where is thou bound, Lonely yellow traveller,
That you pass us by /Our city, /With scarce even a sound."
The river derives its name mainly from its murky waters, coloured yellow by the
sulphur and ash that stains the soil on the foot slopes of the Volcano Argor.
The waters, especially in its lower courses carries one of the largest loads silt and alluvium per unit flow in Caelereth. When the river annually breaks its banks, the waters deposit this sediment, creating the huge alluvial plains that surround the river.
The river's upper course is know to be virtually unpassable. Near the source rapids rage ceaselessly. Hence in Elsreth the river is also known as the white waters. As the water loses gradient near the dwarven mines of Tyr Thromgolin it accumulates the yellow colour it is famous for.
The river has moulded the landscape around it like the Alluvial Plains west of Argor and south of Santhala. The river may as well be in part responsible for the formation of the Anaios Gap. This is one of the most senic spots on the river: Here the Thaehelvil divides in two, one part of the river plunging down the gap to form a huge waterfall, before converging with the rest of the river.
At its mouth the Thaehelvil forms na alluvial delta west of the seaside town of Brinsley. Though the delta is larger than it first appears. The first branch of the delta is the small river Aieryn that flows through the Quallian. This large delta area and its surroundings are known as the Thaehelvil Estuary and is one of the most fertile areas of Santharia, and combined with the warm climate and almost continual growing season makes the southwestern corner of Santharia lush and green. The river in the lower reaches of the delta is tidal, with daily high and low water marks, and the water in the delta is distinctly salty to the taste. From Chylikis or Brinsley one can see the force of the river's flow as great torrents of yellow are pushed out for miles into the clear blue Aetryam Sea.
The Thaehelvil is unusual in that for such a large river it has very few tributaries. The only tributary of any note is the Wide River, flowing out of the Vale of the Brownies. Instead the river is fed by run off from precipitation that falls on the highlands of Rimmerins Ring, that surrounds the river.
Location. The river dominates the Midland region of Santharia, originating in Enthronia, the River mainly flows through the province of Sanguia. Flowing through the central part of Santhala, the Thaehelvil provides a water supply for many towns in the area.
People. The river is
the lifeblood of the Santharian Midlands. It is
vital to the people living in five towns. To them the river is a drinking
source, an abundant source of food where fisheries do good business, a place to
bathe, a place of leisure, a source of power - driving mills and waterwheels,
and an important means of transport.
The river is home to a group of mostly elves, named by the residents of Santhala disrespectively as the "Water Rats", after the vermin that populates the river. These elves are members of a large extended family who travel in small numbers up and down the river and the surrounding coast lines. Some have even been, so they will tell you, to Aeruillin and the Northern Continent. They travel in small numbers, believing that you cannot be close in thought to Avá's Dream if you remain always in the place you were born - in the forest, away from other races! Urban ledgend in New-Santhala says that when questioned by a Quaelhoirhim merchant about their life style, a member of the group responded, "How can you belong to the land if you know not what it is to belong to the Sea? Can you be close to the Dreamer if you do not look upon all of Her Dream?" The Water Rats make a living from doing odd jobs, and making small items to sell. Many residents dislike the Rats because they do not pay city taxes (hence their name), yet may moor in cities and towns for weeks at a time. They are also often blamed for leaving the river bank in a mess! However, most "Water Rats" hold the River in the upmost respect.
The river is the major naviagable route connecting the capital of Santharia New-Santhala to the coast and the southern cities of Thalambath and Strata. For it is far quicker to take goods up the river, than attempt to make the long and difficult journey to and from the far south of the continent.
The river is also a place of trade, where it flows through the towns and cities, markets, docks and places of trade spring up. In New-Santhala one can also find floating goods boats, looking to sell to people on the ferry crossing from one side of the city to the other. The river is, also sadly enough, a waste disposal system. In its lower courses it carries much of the unwanted waste materials from New-Santhala, however, this seems to sediment to the bottom of the river, leaving the shallower reaches less effected. The river is also so important to argiculture, it is often channeled for irrigation of croplands. In the city of New-Santhala, the river is also canalized in to a sort of proto-sewer system and a canal system. This canalization however does cause problems, including heavier floods than is usual within the city. As a result certain areas of the city have extensive flood defences, such as Levys and land use strategies, putting parkland along the vulnerable edges of the river.
Coat of Arms. The river itself has no arms, it belongs to no tribe or race, as it flows through many towns, daming could effect many residents downstream, so a long standing, unspoken agreement exists that while the river may be channeled for irrigation purposes, it may not be dammed.
The river itself, however, is represented on the the Coats of Arms of many of the towns it flows through, for the river is so important to many settlements.
Climate. The River flows through the Midlands of Santharia that are warm, with mild and moist winters.
Flora. The river has a diverse plant life both in and out of its Waters. Willows are along the length of the river, though the Marsh willow is restricted to the Lower river estuary where the ground in places is wet. The water is full of plants. In the upper course you can find many oxygenating plants like pullum weed, as well as tiny floating plants, algea, that would form a layer on the water's surface if it weren't for the strong currents created by the rapids. In the lower river, several types of water lilly are found that are related to the tyrscaru and enjoy the salty waters of the estuary. The estuary is choked in many places by the yealm water reed that grows prolifically. In the shadow of the volcano only the Algea seem to be able to cope with the sulphur content!
Fauna. The animals you find in the river's waters depend on where on the river's course you are.
In the rapid waters or the upper course one finds wildlife typical of freshwater streams all over Santharia. In fact the rapids near its source is home to a vast ecosystem... perhaps because of the vast quatity of insect life one finds at its base. The ecosystem is too complex and varied to mention every creature that lives here, but below is an overview of the main creatures one will find:
If you visit the shores of the rapids at twilight, the first thing you will notice is that the river buzzes. Draw closer and the water appears black, right up until the moment you get to the water's edge. By the time you realise what is going on, you have probably been bitten! But don't worry - the bite is not severe, it may itch a little but that is all. Because, just above the river's surface, you have witnessed the daily mating dance of the madis, a tiny blood sucking fly with a life cycle of just 48 hours. The eggs are laid on the underside of vegetation overhanging the water. The hatching larvae then detatch themselves and drop into (hopefully calm water), metamorphosise in the river bed before, the next day, they emerge and hover over the water to begin the cycle once more. Another common resident of the Upper Course of the river is the ferryman, a small beetle that lives in the calm pools of water created by the very rocks that create the rapids. These strange little beetles float on the water's surface and "row" to move out of the way, often from one side of a pool to the other, rather like a ferryman. These larvae are to live in the waters and pupate in the river bed.
Both insects, in their larval stages are prey to another common river resident, the carris fly. When adult these are large moth-like insects that live a strange migratory life. They leave the Theahelvil in late summer after metamorphosis, as the waters at this time becomes rougher, due to increased flow and load from precipitation over the highlands, and breeding becomes to difficult! They fly to the calm warm waters of Occen's Lake near Bardavos to the south. Here they mate and die. The next generation then will fly back to the Thaehelvil River to begin the cycle again. The larvae are special because they are carnivorous. They incase themselves in vegetation or hollow sticks washed into the river, emerging only to grab their prey with their mouth parts!
Where the river waters are fast flowing, so only small or agile fish survive here. Swordfins and whitetails are common, while gumpies and jumper fish live in the deeper areas of the river. Large flatworms, called "mudworms", spend their lives semisubmerged in the soft mud areas of the river bed. However, the top of the foodchain is dominated by the creatures of the river bank.
The river is also home to numerous small lizards and birds who live in and on the river. The dragonfly and the mako (a small green lizard) can often be found sunning themselves on the rocks near the river. In trees overhanging the river fisherbirds can be found, who sit in wait for their next meal to come too close to the river's surface. Dippers, can also be found wading through the shallows, with perfect adaptations to their feet to prevent them being washed away. The prieta can also be seen grazing the river's banks, where it often comes to drink. The pinicle of the foodchain are represented by adyrn, a small bird of prey, that is often seen hovering over the river and the fields surrounding the river, searching for its dinner, and by the herin, that lives in the trees overhanging the river.
In the shadow of the volcano, however, the sulphur content of the river rockets to levels that most fauna cannot tolerate! The only residents living in the shadow of the Volcano is the gumper, the ferryman, the mudworm and the red fisherbird, in far increased numbers. As a result the volcano acts rather like a transition point in the river.
By the time the river reaches New-Santhala, the sulphur concentration of the river has decreased sufficiently to allow much of the wildlife to return. However, here there is one noteable addition - rats, in particular the water rat, thrive in the Thaehelvil as it runs through New-Santhala. However, the prolific breeding of the rats on the water's edge has been combated by the increase in numbers of the lemouren - a large onimivour, that looks rather like a cat and spends the majority of its time in the water or in its tunnels on the river bank. Other small rodents such as mice and shrews also live in the river banks here.
As one works further downriver and reaches the estuary, more fish like the whiteback and pike are found, and oysters also populate the river, making the area a rich fishery. The Fisherbirds are outcompeted by the estuary falcon and the banded ricau, and so are not found around the delta, though dippers do return to the smaller streams of the delta. Some areas of the delta are so slow flowing that it provides ideal territory for species like the yellow bogsnappers. At the very mouth of the estary one may also find normally sea going species such as the kingell. The river then discharges into the Sea.
Resources. The river is a drinking source, and is canalised in places into a sort of makeshift sewer and plumbing system. It is also canalised to form canals and for irrigation of farmland. The river is a place to bathe, to wash and to play. It is also the primary source of power in the region, driving mills and waterwheels, and a means of transport. The river is also a great source of salt and sulphur is distilled, and the yealm that grows in its lower course is used as a building material in many towns.
Myth/Lore. The Thaehelvil River plays such a huge part in the life of the towns around it, that it seems inevitable that it shouldn't be associated with many many stories. In fact it seems the River has aquired a life of its own...
The Maiden's Future
In Elsreth it is said that the rapid can tell you your future. If young maids look into its water in the moonlight it is said that the babbling river will whisper the name of the man she will marry.
The River Lord
The Old Yellow traveller of the river's elven name is often called the River Lord, said to be the beloved child and first creation of Baveras - or so the bards in New-Santhala will tell you. The River Lord himself is often depicted as a Yellow skinned elf, or sometimes as a bearded man dressed in yellow. He, lordly above all rivers directs their ebb and flow. And heaven help you if he is angered...
For, should you misuse the River, or should you forget to make your tributes to his mother and creator Baveras, The River Lord will direct the waters of his river, the Thaehelvil, up against you in tumult. Much of this myth is probably based on the Great Floods of the First Sarvonian War, where many bards tell that the River Lord was upset by the theft of Maengolth's blood and the use of his river to wage war, so he raised up a great flood against both men and elves. In all truth however, the floods were more likely to have been caused by extensive removal of the Zeiphyrian Forest that used to cover the banks of the river, and heavy rainfall!
The Brinsley Washerwoman
Another story, probably came from the memory of the flood, that is told to children of New-Santhala and Elsreth is that of the Brinsley Washerwoman. The story tells of a young woman, forced by poverty to be a washerwoman, like all her maternal ancestors. But the young woman did not wish to be a washerwoman, she only wanted to play in the water as she had as a child; and so often did she plead to the River Lord, that he sent a small swordfin fish which she found in her washwater. The swordfin begged the girl for her to protect it from the all the bigger fish and from the bird who would eat him. She agreed, and kept the little fish in her wash water for several months. The little fish grew bigger and bigger, and the girl found it harder and harder to keep the fish. But, still she kept her promise. The day came however, when the fish was larger than any other in the Thaehelvil River. That day, the fish asked her to return it to the yellow waters. That, the flood waters came, but they rose and continued to rise and engulfed the town. The town's people took fright and sheltered in the clock tower and on the roofs of buildings! In the confusion of the flood the fish took the girl on her back and carried her away to meet with Baveras herself, who gave her a tail, and she joined the merfolk playing among the waves.
Information provided by Wren