Ethnographies of Erelandis: The Shadowtouched

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Not all the inhabitants of Erelandis originate from either Erelandis or Sheolan. In fact, there are four distinct groups that find their beginnings in the shadowy void between the two worlds. Collectively, these races are referred to as the Shadowtouched.

While traversing the planes to reach Erelandis, some settlers fell victim to the dark horrors of the void. Many of these died from the trauma, but a small group from each of the main races proved resilient enough to survive contact with the dark beings of the nether. These select few, the Shadowtouched, became twisted facsimiles of their former selves, becoming dark in complexion and mentality. Each subrace of the Shadowtouched are referred to by names based on their original race: Dark Elves, or Drow come from Elven ancestry, Tieflings are corrupted Humans, Shadow Dwarves originate from the Dwarven clans, and Blackskale are the befouled of the Dragonborn.

While the four races differ in source, all share similar transformations. Through the contact they suffered, each Shadowtouched’s mind was broken in one way or another. The severity of the damage varied from individual to individual, but the race as a whole suffers from a high degree of mental instability and volatility in personality and emotion. This has led to a full spectrum of mental states across members and also the development of transmuted forms of their original languages which allow for more efficient communication between Shadowtouched while retaining the format of the source language.

Physical malady caused by contact is less widespread throughout the race, but all Shadowtouched bear blackened pigmentation and complexions with black, red, or purple eyes. The majority of physical alterations from void contact came in the form of forced speciation, which pushed the Shadowtouched to form a fledgling and fragmented society in the midst and following wake of planewalking between realms.

One oddity of the physiology of the Shadowtouched is the guaranteed  transmission of abnormalities from the source races to offspring. Transmission of some form of physical deviation is certain, but the form of pathologies cannot be predicted based on genetics or any other biological processes or indicators. Each individual is a unique mix of complications distinct from any observable force.

Due to the shared origin, the majority of the source races maintain only a cautious distance from their Shadowtouched kindred rather than outright hostility. It is common for members of one race to draw weapons in a defensive manner when encountering Shadowtouched of a different source species than their own. The vast array of mental afflictions however makes for dangerous encounters despite shared origins, which has been cause for concern and conflict throughout the history of Erelandis. Typically, Shadowtouched are given a wide berth and are left to their own, but occasional interaction gives way to job offers as mercenaries and messengers in dangerous missions.

As violent pariahs in a new world, Shadowtouched are met usually in small clusters of members with similar, if misguided, objectives. These groups function primarily as a survival mechanism in their nomadic, stuporous travels rather than a family unit or societal system; many times, members will come and go based on whims and differences in priorities. Such desertions cause little effect on group morale or decisions as they are expected by all the members of a traveling group.

A common reason for departure from one group in favor of another is clear indications of acceptance. Being tormented beings, the major goal of all Shadowtouched is peace of mind, which can be difficult to find in a world hesitant of contact. This, coupled with systematic oppression and even destruction at the hands of Priodym, causes a loss of sense of self in many members of the race. There is a common saying that states “A will-broken Shadowtouched can’t help but bleed themselves and others.”, because without hope of peace, madness solidifies its hold on the mind of a Shadowtouched and the creature loses all parts of its personality and becalmed a beast of the darkness.

Ethnographies of Erelandis: The Dragonborn

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Where there is knowledge, there are always numerous endeavors to expand it. Typically this is seen in innovation and technology, but there also exists the backbone of society: its history. The Dragonborn are the curators of the history of both Sheolan and Erelandis, with the role stretching back long before the foundations of Sheolan began to crumble.

The oldest race of Sheolan from a biological standpoint, the Dragonborn have long suffered poor luck in dealings with other races. Despite a general attitude of neutrality in the vast majority of Sheolan conflicts, the race has suffered collateral damage, both intended and accidental, on numerous accounts with several notable near-extinction events pushing the race to the limits of its endurance. This repeated destruction is the main driving force behind the thirst for knowledge of the past, as Dragonborn culture and history is a weatlh of knowledge to be fought for. The race in general has an interest and love for archaeology because of this pressing cultural defense. In the process of preserving their own culture, however, they became adept at discovering and maintaining the cultural lineage of all races, not just their own.

The looming threat of destruction also has been a critical factor in the development of the Dragonborn society as a whole. By being forced to constantly flee death, the race developed the skill of building temporary but formidable fortresses that are repackagable for movement to conserve precious resources in times of escape.

Along with constructed defenses, the Dragonborn adapted to survive in harsh environments, using natural phenomena as a means of defense. Frequently this means that bands would set up residence in deserts and other arid, harsh biomes. The tough environments taught the Dragonborn to live on what little they could find, so food typically was not stored for long, also making escape an easier task.

Society has also banded into close-knit, familial clusters that utilize every member’s talents in a highly optimized work structure. Young Dragonborn are tested for aptitudes through means that are unique to each band. These aptitudes are then nurtured and promoted, leading to highly specialized members of society. This specialization and subsistence style of life created a great sense of respect for nature and the balances found within. With study, the Dragonborn became adept at camouflage and blending in with their environments, making it harder to detect entire bands. This also enforced the political isolationism of the race, but allowed different bands the ability to still interact with subtle signals and signs left throughout the operation area of a band’s fortress.

As much of the destruction that has befallen the numerous clans of Dragonborn was of magical origin, the use of such abilities is typically frowned upon in society. Normally, such a cultural taboo would significantly reduce the survivability of a race, but the fear of conflict pushed the specialization of all workers to involve deep martial combat training, making Dragonborn fierce opponents and specialized Razorscale warriors indomitable in many combat situations. Complimentary to this, the specialized craftsmen of the bands are talented weaponsmiths who ingeniously design components of the fortresses as masterwork quality weapons so that in case of attack, a Dragonborn is never far from a form of defense.

Following the theme of destruction as a key motivator in the history of the Dragonborn, the general sentiment towards all other races is highly cautious, on the brink of paranoia. With countless wars in Sheolan instigated by the various Human civilizations, there is a smoldering flame of hatred that burns in the hearts of all Dragonborn. Despite this ire that flows freely among the bands, outsider contact is still approached in a neutral, if not courteous manner as the hopes of peace still shine in each Dragonborn’s heart. Provocation is met with a rapid defense response, but never a preemptive strike.

During the Age of Cooperation, the Dragonborn chose to look to the past to search for anything that could help the efforts at resurrecting the land or at the very least to endure the massive ecological changes. Many expeditions were sent out, each one bringing back only small aspects of information. The knowledge was slow to gather and only had noticeable applications as time continued to run out, so the majority of their efforts were considered wasted and, through a lack of understanding, the other races developed a bitter attitude toward the Dragonborn for not contributing as much at the beginning of Cooperation efforts.

This lack of beneficial efforts was changed once sygaldry was developed. Throughout many of the expeditions, there had been common traces of influences and effects that could not have originated on Sheolan. Evidences of multiple planes of existence were prevalent throughout the historical strata of Sheolan, and while the Church of the Loyal Fury believed on faith that there were extradimensional planes, the Dragonborn were able to conclusively prove that they did in fact exist and could be accessed and traversed to different lands.  With this information, efforts of all the races became focused on means by which to open a gate.

Due to the negative attitudes towards the Dragonborn, the race was denied access to Erelandis until the other three major races had set up settlements. Rather than attempting to stake a claim in the fertile Kinsine Foothills, the Dragonborn decided to stick to the tradition of isolationism and move north into the harsher climate of the Goshen Steppes. The Steppes were also littered with caverns and other interesting natural phenomenon that piqued the curiosity of the race too, giving more reason for the race to suffer the unrelenting elements.

Shortly after establishing themselves, Dragonborn expeditions began issuing forth into the region, probing at all the corners and shadows they could find. Reports began coming back from these groups of what appeared to be the ruins of a long-dead civilization buried deep underground. While the Dragonborn maintain an objective, historical stance on this evidence, no other races are willing to believe that there were previous inhabitants in Erelandis based on the unblemished lands that they see on the surface.

Ethnographies of Erelandis: The Wood Elves

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Wood Elves, a derivative of the more generalized Elven race, have established themselves as the primary merchant group in Erelandis. Serving as the middleman between the High Elven and Dwarven producers and the Human consumers, Wood Elves have settled themselves in nicely as the primary means of sygaldry trade.

This role is not a new undertaking for the race; for ages, the Wood Elves of Sheolan worked as traders, often transporting goods across dangerous landscapes and battlegrouds. More commonly in that era, they were known as Ruinwalkers, as they claimed no home but the open road, which largely consisted of the decaying remains of the previous empire. This nomadic lifestyle afforded them the luxury of neutrality in many of the conflicts of Sheolan, and their chosen trade actually thrived during the more-and-more frequent wars fought over the lands.

Though capable of captaining naval vessels, Wood Elves prefer land-based transport to oceanic, despite reasonable arguments to the efficiency and speed of water-based transport. Much of this decision relies on the natural connection Wood Elves seem to have with wild nature. This trait was unknown to the vast majority of Pre-Sygaldric Era Wood Elves, as much of the natural flora and fauna of Sheolan had long since been buried deep below the surface.

The Age of Cooperation brought about a change in ideals for the Wood Elf race as a whole. A society, formerly driven by financial gain, turned their attention towards using their gains to help regenerate the land that they indirectly helped destroy. Through these efforts, the Wood Elves were successful in cultivating life despite the overwhelmingly-harsh conditions that continued to spread across Sheolan. Their efforts likely allowed enough time for the Patriarchal Body to finally complete the mission of the Forerunner Crusade, allowing exodus from their dying home.

Despite their innate ability to cultivate life, many of the Wood Elves died in the years leading up to the Sygaldric Age. Of the group that survived, four lineages survived: House Faelyn, House Celaena, House Kethryllia, and House Ruvyn.  One member of each house was given the title of Master Cultivator, given their expertise and raw talent at cultivating life. Not knowing how life would continue after crossing the planes to Erelandis, each Master Cultivator made plans to set up a home for their respective lineage. They also knew that space would not be as freely available as it was to previous exiles, given that all the Humans had already traversed the planes before them.

Upon reaching Erelandis, many of the Wood Elves began weeping uncontrollably at the beauty of the lush, untouched land they had found. The Kinsine Foothills were a perfect match for the weary travelers, with far more life than they had ever known on Sheolan. Without even a word from the fledgling state of Priodym, the four lineages ventured into the Foothills, leaving the human settlements alone.

After a few weeks of exploration, the race decided it was time to settle down. However, the wanderlust in each of their hearts drove them to abandon their settlement in hopes of finding new, less fixed lodgings. With unrest and discomfort growing in the families, the four Master Cultivators came together to discuss a solution to their disparaging need for the comfort of the road and the comfort of home. Ramiel Kethryllia was the one to suggest the cultivation of a home for each of their families in the trees they loved so dearly. The Master Cultivators agreed unanimously to undertake this rather unwieldy and unprecedented use of their talents. To grow these ent-homes, the four Houses worked together to produce a massive tree for each of the Houses. Each tree was named after its respective House, and after numerous hours of practice, each Master Cultivator learned to control the ent-homes and steer them to wherever they pleased.

Once each House had a home of their own, the four Master Cultivators decided to part ways in order to start developing their trade networks. As they departed, concerns were raised about competition within the race, but after careful discussion, the Master Cultivators developed trade laws that would insure good relations among Houses while encouraging a semi-aggressive symbiosis that would promote prosperity in all the Houses of the Wood Elves of Erelandis.