Full Version: The Demise of the Elderlings (Spoilers for all books, especially RWC)
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Demise of the Elderlings Theory.

What exactly happened to the Elderlings, and for that matter the Dragons?

There are a lot of points of contention in my theory, so I've broken them down into numbered section to make discussions flow more smoothly. (I love arguing theories!)

1. Time Frame

What ever it was, it must have happened fairly quickly. Or at least, the majority of the damage was done in one fell swoop. I believe that the dragons and the Elderlings, at least in this local area, died out more or less simultaneously. otherwise, Elderlings from somewhere else along the river have freed the buried Dragon cases from Frengong. For that matter, presumably they would have been able to find Sea Serpents and lead them to the cocooning grounds along the Rain Wild River.

2. Was it Global warming?

The devastation that destroyed the Dragons and Elderlings seems to be relatively localized. We have definate evidence of sunken structures throughout the Pirate Isles. Sea Serpents recognize structures that they used to fly over underwater along the coast. The Skill Pillar on Others Island is knocked over and underwater. Presumably, neither of these things were true when the Elderlings built it.

On the other hand, a relatiely short distance north is the island of Aslevjal, where Elderling harbour structures are still at proper sea level. Although there is are a great deal of Elderling structures in the Six Duchies, none of them seem to be obviously at the wrong elevation. Even Kelsingra, with the exception of the missing chunk, is still pretty intact - not like Frengong or Cassarick.

3. Memory Stone is a Rare Commodity.

Others Island, in conjunction with the Serpent River (Rain Wild River) is the Dragons only nesting/cocooning ground. Dragons and Sea Serpents both have enormous home ranges. If there were a population of Dragons somewhere else in the world, they would have been apparent. Surely, they would have moved into the range vacated by the up-until-recently-extinct Cursed Shores dragons. Sea Serpents were almost mythical along the Cursed Shores until about ten years before the begining of the LST, so they too apparently range quite far. If there was another population of Sea Serpents in the world they would have encountered "our" Sea Serpents at some point.

I think that the reason there are only two cocooning grounds, both along the same river, is that the Memory Stone only comes from one place - namely, the area including Kelsingra, the Stone Dragon Garden, and Verity's Quarry. Dragons need this stuff to cocoon, and this river, whose headwaters are presumably near the source of this stone, is the only place where one can find Memory Sand.

(Aside: Memory Stone is black streaked with silver. Skill Water is also silver, and is found in the same place as memory stone. The two must be related. Either the Skill water is dissolved Memory Stone Silver Stuff, of the Memory Stone has picked up flecks of pure skill from contact with the Skill Water. I haven't decided which yet.)

4. Underwater Ruins

Either the land sank, or the sea rose. I think it's the land sank, mostly because land in other parts of the world (Aslevjal, as mentioned before) hasn't sunk. If the ocean rose, presumably all of it would rise. Also, there are changes in the Rain Wilds topography that could be best explained by large scale land subsidence. The Rain Wild River was once a more or less straight, deep, clear river travelling through a wide valley. Now, it's a wide, shallow, meandering river with a myriad of tributaries, where the land in between said tributaries is decidedly swampy.

Rivers flow toward the ocean (or a big lake, or to where they peter out in the desert, or to another river, etc) along a particular curve. If the land rises, as in the case of the canyons along the Colorado River, a canyon is formed as the river erodes down to its natural level. On the other hand, if the land subsides, the river suddenly loses its momentum in its path toward its delta. It will form meanders, or spread out into a lake or a swamp, like the Rain Wild River. For that matter, like the large shallow lake/marsh Thymara and co. encounter on the way to Kelsingra. Ruins are found below the surface of this lake, so it was presumably once a low-lying plain bordering on a river of smaller lake. Tintaglia also states that the Serpent River, which borders Kelsingra, is much shallower than it used to be when she attempts to land in it and nearly cripples herself. Land subsidence can cause a river to broaden and become shallower.

5. The Missing Piece

There's a chunk missing from Kelsingra, but the rest of the city seems to be mostly intact. This is a little harder to explain. I don't think it is a meteor, because large meteor strikes are incredibly violent and it seems unlikely that relatively fragile structures like the map tower would have survived that. Admittedly, it seems unlikely that anything sufficiently violent to knock out a chunk of the city could possibly have left the rest of the city so intact. Also worth mentioning is the fact that the Serpent River near Kelsingra, although shallow, actually still has cut banks. So, although it has changed, it hasn't changed as much as the rest of the river/swamp system.

6. Lahars and such.

The big flood in DH is probably a Lahar, a volcanic mudslide that occurs when volcanic eruptions melt mountaintop glaciers. These things are extremely dangerous, can travel at speeds of 60 kph over a distance of 300 kilometers, and have arguably claimed the most lives in volcano-related natural disasters because of the enormous distance they can cover. A Lahar 300 km from its source can still be quite deadly. Usually these are more mud than water, but I think we can grant Ms. Hobb some poetic lisence here. Anyway, this means that the volcanic eruption that caused this flood (backed up by the earthquake and sooty rain that foreran it) could have happened quite far away, or been fairly nearby. The nearly flat nature of the Rain Wilds means that the lahar would not have travelled very fast, by giant raging doom flood standards.

7. So, where are you going with this, Lord Punctual?

I think that there was a period of increased Geological volatility in the time of the Elderlings. This would have been a much more massive eruption, and possibly also from a closer volcano, than the one that happened in DH. By the way, I think that this volcano is in the opposite directions from Kettricken's Mountains.

I think that this volcano was formed initially as a result of block faulting in the area - meaning that large blocks of land are vertically offset from one another. This is why the Mountains give way so sharply to the broad plain where Kelsingra is located.

When the volcano errupted, it erupted massively, emptying its magma chambre. This caused the already unstable land to subside substantially. Most of the rain wilds subsided as one large piece, however smaller isolated sections dropped even further, explaining the chunk that is missing from Kelsingra.

Prevailing wind currents kept the city of Kelsingra from being burried in ash. Frengong and Cassarick weren't so lucky. In DK, prevailing winds carried volcanic ask downriver where it landed on tarman's decks. "Dirty Rain" isn't uncommon in the Rain Wilds, but no-one who visits Kelsingra ever comments on there being ash all over the place. Back in the day, these same winds carried ash down the former course of the Serpent River, beginning to bury the cities along the river in ash.

8. How did Frengong and Cassarick get burried, and why are all the tributaries of the Rain River acidic if the acid comes from that distant volcano?

The Elderlings who lived in Frengong saw what was happening. Frengong had the primary cocooning ground, and most of the dragon cases were there. The Elderlings dragged the cases inside, ironically into the same room where Elderling Oldsters gathered to make Memory-Stone Dragons, thinking that eventually the sunlight coming in through the sky-light would prompt the dragons to emerge, and they would be able to walk out through the room's large doors.

Unfortunately, shortly thereafter the rest of the disaster happened. Much like the Lahar in DH, a flood rushed down the now flatter valley, carrying debris, sediment, and more ash-mud with it to bury the two cities entirely. This initial flood tract eventually became the "other river" at the junction where Tarman ran aground in DH - the milky white, acidic, volcanic meltwater river that is the source of the acid in the Rain Wild River. This flood inundated the entire sunken valley with sulphuric acid tinged water, which is why all of the tributaries that Tarman passed, except the one that eventually led to Kelsingra, were acid as well. They all drained from the same acid-contaminated basin.

9. So, what about Kelsingra?

Because of the turmoil along the former Serpent River, the Kelsingrans were more or less cut off from the outside world. This would not have been such a problem, except for the "missing chunk." I believe that this is a small block fault that subsided more than the rest of the city. In Kelsingra, the Silver Skill Water underlies the regular ground water. When this chunk fell, it exposed the Silver Water to the river water, as the river water flooded in and claimed the sunken section of the city. This means that the river water became contaminated with the Skill Water, which is deadly to regular humans and dangerous to Elderlings. I think the river was probably the main source of water for the city, because they would have the be incredibly careful when drilling their wells not to accidentally dip too deep and come up with Skill Water. With the River contaminated, I think the Elderlings died off from poisoning, or else abandoned the city with the help of their Dragon friends (and skill pillars) upon realising that it was no longer liveable. Sadly, the regular humans who lived there were almost certainly unable to escape using either of those means, and died, trapped.

10. What about the dragons?

I think it probably took quite a long time for the Rain Wilds area to stabilize enough to expose the cocooning grounds at Cassrick. Even in "present day" it took a lot of humans building locks and staircases to get the serpents up the river. In the time of geological upheaval and presumably society collapse, it would have been downright impossible. I think that for a time, Dragons went on mating and laying eggs - which is why we still have sea serpents and Others, but not Dragons. It's not that they're longer lived, but the latest laid dragon eggs would have yielded serpents, and Others, that were significantly younger than the dragons that laid those eggs. The Sea Serpents in LST were at the end of their life spans. They are most likely members of the very last generation of dragon offspring - hatched from eggs laid well after the actual disaster.

The same would be true of the Others. Perhaps the reason that there seem to be so many of them is that Dragons began to become rather desperate toward the end and began to pal around with humans more than they would have under other circumstances. (No pun intended.)

11. And the rest of the Elderlings?

The Elderlings seem to have cities all around the world. Elderlings have great difficulty reproducing. I think that the largest increase to their numbers probably comes from Dragons sculpting more Elderlings, not from Elderlings having little Elderlings of their own. Without Dragons to bolster their numbers (and for that matter, support their societies) they probably disappeared through a combination of dying out, and marrying into the much larger regular human population. It also should be said that Kelsingra was the administrative capital of the Elderling civilization. It's pretty hard for a society to accomplish anything after it has lost its administrative capital, even without considering the natural disaster and the loss of the Dragons cocooning grounds.

12. And I think that's it. A lot of these points need backing up with book references, I know, and I'll get to that soon, I promise. I was just kinda anxious to get my crazy theory out there and see what everyone thought of it.
(May-18-2010, 07:51 AM (UTC))Lord Punctual Wrote: [ -> ]I think that the reason there are only two cocooning grounds, both along the same river, is that the Memory Stone only comes from one place - namely, the area including Kelsingra, the Stone Dragon Garden, and Verity's Quarry. Dragons need this stuff to cocoon, and this river, whose headwaters are presumably near the source of this stone, is the only place where one can find Memory Sand.

I'm still going through Smiling but thought I'd comment while I had it in my head...I was certain that there was a source of memory stone in a quarry on Aslevjal (or somewhere in the Out Islands), and it was from there that the Pale Woman quarried the stone to make her dragons?

Loving it so far Smiling !!!
Very good point, Farseer. I don't remember if there was a specific quarry there, I'll have to look it up. Ways my theory could still be plausible:

1. It's possible that the Pale Woman craved her dragons out of cannibalized stones from Elderling dwellings, which they imported.

2. Or, if there is a significant deposit of memory stone bedrock, perhaps it isn't being actively eroded by a river, and thus there is no Memory Sand?

3. Or, perhaps there is a significant amount of Memory Stone that is forming into Memory Sand, but Aslevjal is so far north that the conditions are not conducive to Serpents spinning their cocoons. Perhaps there isn't enough sunlight (short winter days at high latitudes) or perhaps the Serpents can't abide cold water to swim up there, or for that matter perhaps the very cold winter would itself be enough to kill a hibernating Serpent? They are a little fragile, after all, and Dragons certainly don't like the cold.
I'm still thinking on the rest (so funny that there is a 5000 character translation limit on each post and your post ended up with a word count of 2097 Big Grin ...go Lord Punctual!), but a thought popped into my head (yep, it happens sometimesLightbulb!) and I had to bring it out into the light.

I find it interesting that The Blood Plague has never seemed to come into contention anywhere as a possible reason for the demise of Elderlings/dragons...hmm...a number of people in Bingtown etc died from a wave of it (all of the Vestrit sons, Davad Restart's wife etc), and it was considered by many that the source of the plague was the Rain Wilds. Could there have been an earlier epidemic, possibly even brought about by the changes in the river/volcanic activity? SO MUCH to think about...! ***off to the Kindle Store to buy the LST for Blood Plague research!***
I can be a bit wordy at times.

It's not impossible that the Blood Plague was inplicated in the demise of the Elderlings and Dragons. I seem to remember that there was an outbreak of the Blood Plague in Chalced in Burrick's time, so perhaps these plagues come up from time to time in lands bordering the Rain Wilds.

The question is, is the Blood Plague somehow related to the Rain Wilds strangeness? Or is it something carried downriver from the source of the Acid-Water? Or is it a red herring, just a result of a big ol' swamp? (Like, say, malaria.)

Good luck at the Kindle store.... My books are all still made of, uh, paper.
(May-18-2010, 03:05 PM (UTC))Lord Punctual Wrote: [ -> ]I can be a bit wordy at times.

Me too! 'Concise' and I can never seem to meet in the middle!

I'm still going through your theories...just want to check a few things so I don't do what I did with my 'Chalced' post...research/checking first, post second!
Re the OP:
Point 1 - yes fairly quickly or else presumably they'd have done more to save themselves. they DID put the dragon cocoons from the beach at trehaug into the buildings, that must have taken SOME time. I do find it a bit weird that not a single elderling survived? I mean humans are alive and well....

Point 2 - I'm not sure I'd say the areas the Elderlings inhabited seemed to be a localised area. There's a lot of land between the Cursed Shores and Aslevjal island! Were the areas inhabited by the Elderlings actually targeted in some way by some deliberate attack???
It does seem like sea levels have risen (or some land sunk), and presumably the climate of Aslevjal (at least) has got a LOT colder. I think these are secondary effects of the event that killed the Elderlings (or unrelated!), as it seems whatever killed them was FAST.

Point 3 - I've often wondered where the serpents actually were coming from at the start of LST. I guess they may have drifted so far away from their nesting and cocooning grounds only because SO much time had passed that they spread out everywhere.
(minor note, I don't think other dragons would have moved into the cursed shores because climate change has made it pretty inhospitable to dragons. The 6 duchies might be better! (more food) but a bit cold. although now it looks like way upriver of trehaug is ok once you get to kelsingra) BUT i think you're right in assuming there are no other dragons.

Point 4 - Although rivers DO tend to get wider and shallower over time..... but whether enough time has passed for this to explain the Rain Wilds river changes I don't know.

Point 5 - I didn't even know there WAS a missing piece - hehe!

Point 6 - yup definite geological instability around here! (frequent earth tremors and quakes are mentioned.....)

Point 7 - Not sure where ' I think that this volcano is in the opposite directions from Kettricken's Mountains.' would be?
I presumed they were travelling North when travelling upriver.... from the map in Fool's Fate.... but the description in DH completely contradicts this when they get to the river fork. Unless South is up on the map?? (which doesn't fit with anything else). If ash from the volcano is carried downriver with prevailing wind, and Kelsingra isn't affected by ash, then isn't the volcano near Kelsingra? (aieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee)
I guess we can't be sure the current day volcano spouting ash is necessarily the same one that started all the trouble? (if that is what started it).
And I am not sure I can assume the descriptions of where ash is blowing to etc are going to fit accurately with my map in another book....... (most authors seem to have trouble with this for some reason!)

Point 8 - Hmmm what's Frengong? (am I a complete doofus?) (don't answer that)

Also - yeah the acid river that would be the way to the volcano! Now if I could just figure out if RH is saying its coming from NW or NE........ or somewhere else entirely!!!

Point 9 - You make a good point about how cut off they would be with all this acidic water, and now skill tainted water, floating around them! But did the dragons help them go elsewhere? You'd think in the initial turmoil they'd try to fly them out rather than hang around and see what happens (but were the dragons too arrogant to do this. you'd think they could save themselves at least. still a mystery why almost all dragons died out.)

Point 10 - ok I guess it's possible dragons died out progressively of old age! Wow you'd think they'd be able to sort themselves out a bit better than that. Maybe regretting not helping the Elderlings now eh dragons???? I can see Icefyre doing what he did fitting into your scenario. You'd have thought the dragons would at least have tried to 'make new Elderlings' long before letting themselves all die out. (assuming Eldering help would have prevented dragons dying out, and assuming they wouldn't want to associate with puny humans AS IS)

Point 11 - sort of blows Point 1 out of the water !!!

Hmmmm well , all in all, it's plausible!

I hadn't really considered that it could have been a long slow decline rather than a quick death of all at once. Still hard to fathom how they couldn't recover, but if those arrogant dragons declared they didn't need silly Elderlings I can sort of see it to an extent.
(May-18-2010, 08:47 AM (UTC))Farseer Wrote: [ -> ]I'm still going through Smiling but thought I'd comment while I had it in my head...I was certain that there was a source of memory stone in a quarry on Aslevjal (or somewhere in the Out Islands), and it was from there that the Pale Woman quarried the stone to make her dragons?

Yes I thought it was in the water at the shore? I remember Fitz first seeing it there half carved or something. I think it's certainly possible the PW brought it with her, as we know she did cart the stuff around. Then again, where would SHE have got it from? Did she visit the quarry where Verity carved his dragon??????????????????????????
Aslevjal doesn't fit very well with the other natural cocooning grounds, so I tend to think PW did bring it. It would be strange to have had Elderlings there and no dragons. It could have been a nesting ground like Others Island? (being an island). Either way, the climate is certainly much colder than in the past so I can't see dragons going near the place to lay eggs or serpents making cocoons there now.

(May-18-2010, 02:55 PM (UTC))Farseer Wrote: [ -> ]I find it interesting that The Blood Plague has never seemed to come into contention anywhere as a possible reason for the demise of Elderlings/dragons..

I certainly think this could have been a factor, especially if it did turn out to be a longer slower demise. I think blood plague is simply a natural disease (re Lord P comments above).
(May-28-2010, 09:50 AM (UTC))Nuytsia Wrote: [ -> ]Point 8 - Hmmm what's Frengong?

CRIKEY! I don't have anywhere near enough TIME to give comment to all of these posts...I have bits and pieces typed out on Word docs everywhere Big Grin !!!

I will answer this one though (and not the second one!)...Frengong is the anciently-named Elderling city that is buried beneath Trehaug (humans just called it Trehaug after they settled there).

Cassarick, on the other hand, is the actual Elderling name for the city (as far as I remember!!!), and not one given to it by the Rain is Kelsingra.
(May-28-2010, 09:50 AM (UTC))Nuytsia Wrote: [ -> ]Yes I thought it was in the water at the shore? I remember Fitz first seeing it there half carved or something. I think it's certainly possible the PW brought it with her, as we know she did cart the stuff around. Then again, where would SHE have got it from? Did she visit the quarry where Verity carved his dragon??????????????????????????

Me again! Yes, the Pale Woman did 'cart around' the memory stone in the Red Ships to assist with the Forging of the Six Duchies folk but it was from the quarry on Aslevjal that she obtained that memory stone, not the quarry north of the Mountain Kingdom (across from Kelsingra).

Fitz did see blocks of stone near the shore and, at first look, thought they made a dragon shape however they were blocks put together to be shaped as a dragon's shape but was not one 'whole' memory stone block which had been shpaed (like Verity's dragon etc). It was here that we first truly learnt what happened to the anmas of all of those Forged ones...which Fitz heard as many conversations and whispers etc when he got close to the stone.

Fitz also saw the actual quarry for himself and looked down into it to see a number of other memory stone blocks on its floor, so we know that at least two memory stone quarries exist. If there are two, there certainly may be more...for instance, where did the memory stone at Wintrow's monastery come from Smiling ? Most likely somewhere close!

Just imagine what would have happened in the Farseer trilogy if Regal had known of the Aslevjal quarry Crown !!!!
Thanks for that! Sorry I had totally forgotten about Fitz seeing an actual quarry on Aslevjal, but it sounds sort of familiar now!
Honestly, it blows me away that you remember anything at all with you not having read them for ages, OR not having the books with you to look back over!! How you can then come on here and make so many informed posts just amazes me Clapping.

I, on the other hand, own them ALL (in book, e-book and some now audio format!!) and it's getting to be just one big soup of info, I've read/heard them so often...but I STILL have to keep going back to the books to check things, and that's without the 'deep' discussions...I just shake my head and think, "These people are just too clever for me" Blushing !!!!
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