Sylvar, the orphaned ones
The land is only half the danger of the north. If the cold does not kill you, and if you manage to slay the beasts bleeding magic... there are the Sylf's to worry about. Learn their customs, follow them strictly. They are kind to strangers I hear, but to disrespect them is your death, my friend. They do not fear death up there. No, they wield it like a weapon. Men and women practising witchcraft, speaking with the passed, calling onto spirits. The women especially. Unnerving, pretty things. Don't be fooled by sweet lips of theirs. it is their eyes you should watch. Dark as the night, it betrays the horrific things you could do to them should you displease them, or their mother goddess.
Sylvar are a relatively small people. The tallest men standing at 6 feet tall, and women just a few inches below that. Their bodies are built to withstand the harsh cold climates of the northern tundra; very pale skin helps them absorb what little sunlight reaches Sylmaneth, and the near black eyes of their people help see in the darkness.
Sylvar women tend to be rather round, full creatures. Such physique not only allows for an ease of childbirth, but the extra amounts of fat help keep one warm and safe in the cold environments. Wide hips and what an Olthambrian man might describe as a "heaving" chest are the most typical sight, and standard of the Sylvar woman.
Men on the other hand, whilst short, tend to carry a fair amount of muscle, for the same purpose as the women carry fat; to help them survive the cold. Whilst men with lean physique are appreciated amongst the forest dwellers for their potential in hunting and scouting, anyone in Sylmaneth who rests on the skinny side will be talk of the town, and often invited to perhaps enjoy a bowl of stew, get some meat on those bones.
Genetics and Reproduction
Sylvar reproduce via live birth. Like all things, the process of reproduction amongst them has also been influenced by the magically fuelled land they inhabit. A Sylvar pregnancy lasts 12 months of time. In this time, the mother often emits a strong arcane signature, even if she has no actual magical capabilities herself. This remains a medical mystery until the current day.
Whilst plenty Dorozi women complain about the physical changes associated with pregnancy and childbirth, it is the mental effects that seem to trouble Sylvar women the most. Severe mood swings, headaches and random bursts of arcane ability, completely uncontrolled by the mother. The elven kind can only procreate with the Olthamite and Dorozi people.
Dietary Needs and Habits
Whilst Olthamite intelligence lies in great halls of exclusive parties where rich men and women discuss politics and philosophy, the core of Sylvar intelligence lies in the things unseen. A Sylvar child has more knowledge about the matters of magic than many young students of the arcane in other places. A northern farmer knows that when food starts disappearing from the cupboards and the children weep at night, a zmora is in the house, and one should hang lavender by the windows and contact the local witch if the spirit manages to break in.
The soldiers know to never leave a dead man behind, unless you wish beasts like the vodyanoy or bagiennik to rise in the next week. The village folk know to honour a woman who drowned herself in grief so that she does not rise. And if she does, what to do to make the spirit calm, docile, without killing it.
This knowledge of course shapes the people of the north, into mysterious people with traditions and rituals often seen as morbid outside of their home.
Perception and Sensory Capabilities
Sylmaneth is a strange land. It leaves a mark on any who live in it, even for a short time. It is no surprise in that case that the Sylvar have developed a number of abilities as normal to them as breathing, and yet not observed in any other species.
The prime example of this is a Sylvar's sensitivity to magic. All Sylvar can sense it around them. Even the ones born with no talent for magic at all, can tell when it is present; this normally materialises in the form of a feeling, depending on the kind of magic present. Necromancy leaves a chilling sensation in ones bones, divination feels as if someone is staring at you. Evocation feels like a burning in one's throat etc. All Sylvar are taught to recognise the way different magic feels at a very young age.
Like the citizens of Olthambria, Sylvar have perfect vision in the dark. This proves especially useful in the most northern parts of the country where nights are harsh and in winter, can last for days.
Civilization and Culture
Amongst the Sylvar, there is beauty in imperfection. In scars and marks of age, in dimples and stretch marks and broken noses and uneven smiles. Things that distinguish one creature from the average. As such, tattoos and ritual scarring are also considered an attractive feature.
Whilst in Olthambria one is only suitably presented when all blemish and dust are removed from them and their attire, and in Dorozar the height of flirtatious aesthetic is indistinguishable from one's state fresh out of bed, Sylvar ride take up the space between the two extremes. An organised mess, as it is commonly referred to.
Fur coats and hats are commonplace fashion trends amongst both men and women, as is floral embroidery on anything from shirts to handkerchiefs. Thick shawls and flower wreaths make for popular head wear in winter and summer months respectively.
A Sylvar woman is like the moon. Gorgeous, yet distant and full of mystery. In Sylmaneth, a good woman is strong; she is a pillar for her family to rest on. Always in check of her emotions; discarding the mask she wears for the people close to hear heart and none else. It is a difficult balance to maintain; to show enough but not too much, and judge who is worthy of seeing behind the carefully crafted visage the rest of the world gets to see. Sylvar women are taught to always know how to protect themselves. Unlike in Dorozar, this does not always mean training in open combat. Magic, alchemy and other methods of indirect confrontation are respectable ways a Sylvar woman can defend herself and her loved ones.
The men on the other hand, are permitted to be emotional. Ruled by their hearts and arms. They provide the physical well-being; the monetary resources, the food and the lumber to their family. The perfect man gifts his heart to a cause, and protects his own. He knows what he wants and strives for it. He knows how to fight, one way or another, and is not afraid of making difficult decisions as they come.People within Sylvar society who do not identify with the sex they were born with may choose to live their lives as the other, with the help of healing magic designed to realign the mind and the body. Others, may feel they suit neither label, and find a role in Sylvar society suitable for them outside of this split.
In the Sylvar society, neither gender is expected to make the first move. Attraction is traditionally expressed through a gift given to the other party. This may not be just any gift, however; this gift must be personal to the man or woman in question. Should the person feel the same way, they are expected to give a personalised gift in return. If they do not reciprocate feelings, they are expected to give no gift in return, and to return their gift to its sender. The sender then buries the failed gift somewhere close to their home, allowing them to symbolically cast their feeling of rejection back to the earth, helping them to better deal with this heartbreak.
Casual sex is generally tolerated as a form of self-exploration, with young Sylvar expected to go and figure out what the act means to them. Exploring one another is a large part of sex to the Sylvar, and it is almost never solely-physical. Pregnancy is socially-accepted after a Sylvar grows out of their exploratory phase, so long as everyone involved in the act consented, and was aware of the fact that the woman would be getting pregnant. Infidelity is considered to exist when the offending party is in a relationship of some sort, and is regarded as morally repugnant. Polygamy is also accepted, so long as all people involved consent to the situation. However, it does take a slight adjustment period for most Sylvar to understand - or at least accept - the dynamic involved, as these types of relationships are very rare.
In Sylmaneth, a relationship is a serious commitment. To allow someone to see the whole of you is to put oneself in the most vulnerable position. One does not simply fall into a relationship. It is a process of long discussion; the start of which is the gift. Should one half accept it, they reciprocate and the two in love sit down to speak. What it is they wish and want for, what it is they expect. Some outsiders compare this process to agreement of terms, deem it extremely unromantic. Sylvar however tend to believe there to be nothing more romantic and sensual than good communication.
Average Technological Level
Common Customs, Traditions and Rituals
- A Sylvar offers advice only once. This advice, often times begins with the words "Are you sure?" Seasoned friends to the Sylvar know this is often good reason for pause and reconsideration. Due to their longevity and slightly twisted way of thinking, they can often see things in ways others cannot. And so, they offer advice. But only once, on any given matter, unless circumstances change significantly. The Sylvar believe what is worth hearing, should only be said once.
- Whilst in other parts of the world the word "witch" is a derogatory term, amongst the people of Sylmaneth this is a word in common parlance, often a title of some respect. So much so that in other nations such as Olthambria, there is a distinction between a "witch" being an old hag to scare children and kill young men, and a "Sylvar witch," being a man or woman of great arcane talent, and knowledge.
- Along this same vein, rituals in Sylmaneth are a common occurrence. Small villages, towns and even cities hold at least one ritual per month on the full moon, where shards of their goddess are all illuminated fully in the night sky. Smaller rituals are performed on regular basis by the head of the house, for things all the way from casting out the rain on her child's sports event, through casting out spirits terrorising her families dreams to asking the same spirits to push the in laws out of the house a few days early.
- To cut off ones hair and give it to someone, is a deceleration of war. Personal declarations of war between two craftsmen, between the high priestess of one village and another, of between Her Majesty and a ruler of another Land. As such, any figure of authority with a long mane of hair is a sign of a healthy, peaceful reign.
- When a young couple is wed, they plant a tree in the garden of their home. When the couple disagree or argue. They sit and talk beneath this very same tree, to remind them where it all began. If the couple divorces, they both leave the home and cut down the tree, so that a new couple may plant their own.
- The colour red is rather prominent in Sylvar culture, in clothing, jewellery or even rituals. This is because the colour is supposedly able to ward off negative energy.
FaithThe Sylvar are deeply religious folk. They worship their mother, the moon, even after her death as the mother of tides, the light in the dark. Under her light, Sylmaneth would come to life each evening, the people would pray to her, and she would love them dearly. Now they mourn the broken lady, as orphaned children. Still, they hold rituals and reverence in her name, whilst taking turn to learn to revere the land on which they live. Its spirits, its flora and fauna; the things which their mother has brought to life alongside them.
- Being punctual is seen as the most basic form of respect. To be late without warning is considered similarly as a slap to the face.
- There are certain things one should avoid gifting a Sylvar. These things include but are not limited to; clocks, shoes, or things in odd numbers. This comes from a superstition by which such gifts mean an individuals departure from your life.
- The Sylvar are a deeply religious people. As such, jokes pertaining to the death of their goddess are considered not only in very poor taste, but can often result in a complete cut off from any Sylvar present.
Interspecies Relations and Assumptions
Sylvar are, by their very nature, a patient race, known to possess a pragmatic and clear sense of loyalty and camaraderie. They are kind to those who are on their side, and conversely, they are ruthless to those who are not. A Sylvar is brought up to believe that the gentle ease of friendship is paramount above all else, and every decision is made with this in mind. A Sylvar faced with a dilemma never makes a choice before they consider the following; the folk they travel with. The folk they break bread with. The folk they fight alongside. The folk they would die for, if needs be. The care a Sylvar feels for their brothers and sisters in arms, is colossal, and there is next-to-nothing they won’t do to protect them.
Sylvar possess an innately-mysterious demeanour to those who first meet them, always seeming to have their affairs in order. They do not make any decision lightly, and are known for their intense loyalty. A Sylvar will typically enjoy a pleasant relationship with Dorozi and Olthamites. The former appreciate the Sylvar’s level-headedness – a trait that contrasts well with their inherent enthusiasm. The latter possess a reliability and sense of organisation that is most-effectively shared with a Sylvar’s loyalty, and the two races often respect one another.
Khords primarily know the Sylvar as the buyers of their produce, and while the pair could likely get on well thanks to their mutual spirituality, the distance and technological barrier between their two peoples makes interaction difficult. Arenians are known to resent the Sylvar for the punishments delivered by them – a decision that was not made solely by the northerners, yet they often seem to forget this. As such, Sylvar have a reputation throughout Aren as pompous, cold-blooded tyrants, interested only in persecution.