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Ealé Duvh

(in english respelling)
ee-lay doov

1. In Cravven language, the h of the combination vh following a singular vowel indicates the elongation of the vowel.
2. Orvon on the Reservations speak lower and further back in their throats, and will pronounce the first part more like eh-lay.


A woman's handmaidens affix a simple headpiece to her hair behind the upper shell of her right ear. Often, there are several gemstones on the clip—pearls, amethysts, or quartz—and a bloom of white swan feathers fanning toward the back. Along with this final piece are silver earrings, strands that hang down almost to the shoulders and are sometimes as thin as woven spidersilk.

The man wears the feathers on his wrist, usually tucked under the sleeve and clipped to a matching silver bracelet. If he is to wear a pin or cufflinks, they match the gemstones on his betrothed's headpiece.

For centuries upon centuries, this has been the custom across the Cravvik Isles and the Protectorate. The symbol of the white swan for love and purity and matrimony comes from a hearty smattering of mythology from the Pyramisic religion, and as white swans are beautiful and hidden across the globe, their feathers have made a delicate, well-suited accent to many wedding traditions.

However, ealé duvh does not refer to the feathers of white swans; it refers to those of black swans.

A Modern Fairy Tale

In the mid-1370s, Aristan Ryker II was deployed in the Protectorate when he fell in love with the daughter of a slighen family displaced by the Rape of the Imperium. He brought the young woman back to the Confederacy with him in 1378 so they could marry and start a family, and while the Confederacy was particularly amenable to slighen integration at the time—they were looking to quickly expand their army and the immigrant slighen provided a natural solution—they were not as keen on the idea of such a highly-esteemed nobleman as Ryker marrying one.

To dissuade the union, and others like it, they included several minor laws within the Slighen Appeals. One of these caveats was the prohibition of the Cravven wedding tradition to wear white swan feathers and silver. They instated the law on the basis that white swan feathers were a symbol of the truly noble and pure of heart, and slighen were not worthy of wearing such luxuries. The Triadic even went so far as to prohibit anyone involved in such a union from either wearing or owning white swan feathers or from wearing silver wedding accessories in general.

This made Lord Ryker's betrothed terribly upset, as the jewelry had been a part of her family's culture since even the birth of the minor deities themselves. Thus, Ryker took her in his arms and assured his bride that he would find her something even more rare and beautiful for their wedding.

Ryker prayed deeply to the goddess Beatrix before sailing out into the Murdan, and that summer he sailed all the way up to the outer Cravvik Isles, so far that he came across a tiny island that no one in the entire globe had ever before found. On that island were six black swans—a species that was thought to be purely mythical on the main continent and of which these six were the only ones—along with a generous deposit of pure gold ore. Ryker claimed the island as his property, along with the black swans that inhabited it, and sailed back to the Confederacy with a handful of their feathers and a nugget of gold.

Once back home, he registered his ownership of the island with the Guilds of Armistace under House Ryker so no one else would ever be able to sell the black swans or their feathers. He married his slighen bride, who looked more beautiful herself than any bride in white feathers and silver, and later House Ryker would make a fortune selling both the swan feathers and gold.

The Cravven Bird Cycle

Several shards of knowledge gathered from the remains of the Cravven Imperium are indicative of what historians refer to as a 'symbolic language,' perhaps concerning birds or animals. While most of these fragments regarding a Cravven language of birds are just that—isolated pieces from a long-destroyed and defunct civilization—historians have gleaned some bits of meaning from residual artifacts.

Dawn, birth and early childhood, The Spilling Yolk
Morning, adolescence and young love, The Early Rise
Noon, early adulthood and duty/strength, The Zenith
Dusk, marriage and devotion, The Bowing Grace
Midnight, death and endings, The Fallen Dark

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House Ryker Monopoly
Since Aristan's initial discovery and ownership of the island, House Ryker has cultivated it and grown its swan population to upwards of eighty birds. Several 'caretakers' live on the island as well to watch over the swans, and the swans themselves are strictly used for their feathers—any other usage is a violation of Ryker's agreement with the Guilds.

Black swan feathers were instantly coveted by the nobility, however House Ryker will typically only sell their feathers to slighen or their betrotheds. In consequence, the feathers have come to be a mark of a wealthy or respectable slighen in the Confederacy, often those having gained such honor through a military career or their betrothal itself.


Dyed Feathers

While it's quite easy and inexpensive to simply dye white swan feathers black and market them as the real thing, it's virtually impossible to actually get away with such a con. For one, House Ryker's monopoly over the swans makes any 'black swan feathers' sold elsewhere suspect. But slighen themselves not only have particularly keen senses of smells and can often detect different dyes; many of them have undergone slighen-specific military training, which includes learning to detect poisons. As many dyes and inks are ingestive poisons, or chemically similar, slighen can usually tell the difference between a real black feather and a dyed one.
by mirescosmo

As Quills

Beourjen newlyweds typically sign their wedding license and agreements at the end of their wedding tour with a quill, and those with black feathers as part of the initial ceremony will often use them in place of a standard quill. This is specifically only for those with the black feathers though, as ink can stain and ruin white feathers.

Funeral Rites
Cravven tradition dictates that the swan feathers and jewelry from the wedding are to be kept safe and later buried with the individual upon their death. They may either be worn by the deceased when buried, or simply placed around them in the coffin along with their other cherished valuables. In many processions the individual's spouse will bring the wedding adornments with them into the church or passing chamber and place them in the coffin with the individual themselves when they say their last farewell.

Aside from the long-held tradition of being buried with one's valuables to have them for comfort while in the golden realm of the gods, there are two ideas on further importance of the feathers staying with the individual through death. One thought, more implied by remnants of the Cravven Imperium, is that the feathers help the deceased's soul actually fly to the golden realm after they've died. Another idea is that the feathers will help the couple find each other in the afterlife once they are both deceased.


During an expansion of the Guardsrest in 1541 in which several hundred recently buried soldiers had to be relocated to accomodate those who'd died in the Border Wars, the gravesmen noticed that a larger number of soldiers had been buried with black swan feathers than what was historically consistent. The prevalence of the feathers themselves wasn't all that strange, or even that much (estimates suggest one out of every twenty to thirty burials contained black feathers), however a short investigation turned up a few other oddities. The fact that the majority of the soldiers with the feathers were unmarried nobles was a strange pattern itself, but there was also no evidence of any of the soldiers having purchased the feathers. Nor did House Ryker's ledgers reflect any significant increase in profit.

The investigation was ultimately abandoned. House Ryker insisted they'd only sold feathers to slighen or those romantically involved with them, and any further inquiries were met with either a dismissive or defensive demeanor.
My opinion is that it is positively revolting that they would, first, obstruct the sacredness of any grave—which is a legal offense and violation of dignity to any individual, not just our soldiers—but then to bring into speculation something as inconsequential as a black feather? Because that's what it is; it's a fucking feather. And yes, it is traditionally associated with marriage but the court is not acquainted with all the nuances of slighen tradition and customs. So, in my opinion, this is an unwarranted and needless harrassment of the men—and women as well—who sacrificed their lives for our nation, and who should truly be allowed to rest peacefully in their graves.
— Slighen Elisabeta Ryker, 1541

Cover image: by Darkmoon_Art @ Pixabay


Author's Notes

For PanthersEye's Unofficial Fashionable Treasure Challenge

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