Sunday, 28 August 2016

Ferren Fywarden’s 'Observations upon the Syladrian Halflings'

And so the Halflings arrive!  Below is a snippet from Ferren Fywarden’s 'Observations upon the Syladrian Halflings', an extract from the journals he kept. For those new to this kind of thing, Lore Posts on this blog are designed to  do two things. The first is to give the reader an insight into the world of Esdaria through the eyes of one of its inhabitants. As a real-world historical written source was once written in a time and a place by a living hand, those presented here are written by fictional Esdarian figures. Each document has the potential to be as complicated as a piece real-world historical literature: writers have motives, prejudices, and pasts of their own; their sources aren't always reliable, and sometimes they make honest mistakes. To make it easier for the reader, notes and analysis, as well as explanatory background upon the fictional document is also presented, allowing the reader to make their own mind up about the legitimacy of the presented source.
The second thing Lore Posts are designed to do is introduce a few basic background ideas and concepts that directly relate to the short(ish) stories, though you do not need to read the Lore in order to understand the stories - fear not! Anyone who read the last blog post will be aware that the upcoming short(ish) story, Stonesworn, is set among the Esdarian Halflings. If you are interested in finding out more about the history and world of Esdaria, a list of all available Lore Posts will be attached at the bottom of this entry.


For the scholar, Ferren Fywarden is something of a best-case scenario. Born to a rich Altmerian clothier and traveling merchant, he was ten years old when the Altmerian capital of Baradun fell to Emperor Lyshir III in the one-hundred and fiftieth year of the Second Era of Imperial History. However, at the time he and his parents were on the road travelling to Palvia in the then-named Kingdom of Maedar. They returned home several weeks later to discover the upheaval and decided to stay on the roads for a few more weeks, bartering and trading, before eventually returning. It seems to have been during this period that Ferren developed a love for the road. When his father died to sickness, Ferren, who was by now in his twenty-fourth year, took over the family business. He almost forsook his father's Altmerian roots for a life on the road traveling and trading, thus he began to keep extensive journals of his travels with his mother, Hildae, and his wife, Lorlia.

All this information below comes from the extensive records that Ferren kept of his work and journeys. These diaries were well-curated and given to the Imperial University upon Ferren’s retirement from his life as a traveling merchant in the one-hundredth and ninety-eighth year of the Second Era of Imperial History, when he was fifty-eight years old. The extracts reveal Ferren to have been an observant and intelligent man, obsessed with careful planning and recording almost everything he saw. He was particularly interested in the Halfling-folk, and he had a special section in part of his diaries where he detailed all he knew about the Dwarves and Gnomes. The only real issue with Ferren’s account is that he never himself visited the cities-under-the-mountains, as the Halfling-folk are notoriously loath to let anyone from the Upper-World into their cavernous homes.

The following extracts are taken from the eighth volume in his twenty-strong series of writings. A chance meeting with an exiled Dwarf trader from the Great Mountains – his name Gyrgord, though unmentioned here in this extract – seems to pinpoint the moment at which Ferren took a great deal of interest in the secretive Syladrian Halflings. He went to near-extreme measures to catalogue what he knew of them, dedicating sections of his diaries to noting down all he could about the Halflings. Though all of his sources are unnamed, it is highly probable that the information Ferren records came from the less enigmatic Halflings of the Great and Aordun Mountains. The Syladrians are renowned for their secrecy, and to this day remain apart and aloof from the goings on of the rest of Esdaria.


Arganon, the Great Creator

The Halflings, be they Aordunni, Deep-Folk (note: Daefurdi is the rough Dwarf-tongue name for the ‘Deep-Folk’, or rather those Halflings who dwell under the Great Mountains), or Syladrian, all share reverence of one deity. Known as the ‘Great Creator’, and rarely referred to by his traditional name, Arganon, the Dwarf-folk attribute the existence of all things to a great smith in the heavens. Arganon is an absent god, neither warlike nor interceptive. He watches from afar as his creations rise and fall, and the Halflings rarely attribute unexplained phenomena to their god. They see his creations all around themselves, but are reluctant to look for his hand at work within the goings-on of the World.
Their theology is simple to follow: Arganon created all things. After sculpting the World, the Great Creator wished to see it populated, so he made life. Those things which live and breathe were crafted as statues from stone and then given motion and will by the Great Creator himself – be they Man, dog, Elf, stag, Halfling or goat. The first things which swim in the seas were cut from the stone under the waves, whilst those first things which walked upon lands were carved from cliffs and hills. Arganon’s gift of life to those things let them forge their own paths through their lives - one he does not interfere with.
Like all built things, the Halflings accept that lives are ephemeral. As a statue cracks and crumbles, or a sword blunts and shatters, those things that live and walk will also break and fade. Thus, when a Halfling dies, they are returned to the stone: interred within rock and left there to pass back into the arms of their creator, where they can become the stone once more and one day be shaped anew.
The King, the Heartstone and the Ironrend Covenant

The First Epoch of Halfling History, which started some two-thousand years ago, began with the colonisation of the Syladrian Mountains by the Halflings that had previously existed in a semi-nomadic state. The first clans that are recorded in Halfling history are the Silverhews, Stoneshapers, Eldors, Steelshatters, and Ironrends, and themselves appear to be in some form of partial alliance (note: the Book of Stone - the definitive record of history kept by the Syladrian Halflings, shows this to be correct). The Aordunni and Deep-Folk appear later in the First Epoch, and most Dwarf-folk assert they began as splinter-groups of original Syladrian Halflings that moved into other Esdarian mountain ranges.
            During the period of building and colonisation, the Halflings began to excavate massive amounts of stone from the Syladrian Mountains, creating a city of tunnels and a maze of house-lined passages within the very rock itself. Whilst unearthing a particularly large chamber, the Syladrian Halflings discovered a huge deposit of obsidian. The stone became sacred to the Halflings, and they named it Oartstunne (note: literally ‘Heartstone’).
After they had colonised the Syladras Mountains, the first Syladrian king, Torun I Ironrend, took power over the Syladrian Halflings. Unpopular and known for being cruel and oppressive, Torun I was eventually killed fighting a mountain wyrm – or so legend tells. When he died, his son Torunsson I took the throne and the new king established the Ironrend Covenant. The Covenant was - and remains to this day - a council of leading house-clan patriarchs and matriarchs who act as a parliament of sorts. Intended to temper and control the king following the unpopularity of Torun I, the Ironrend Covenant has stood the test of time and still exists to this day. When a king dies, the Ironrend Covenant elect a new king from their number, and hereditary successions are rare.

The House-Clan, the Patriarch, the Matriarch, and the Gnome

Initially a nomadic people who existed in clans and tribes, the Halfling-folk took the names of their clans as their own when they settled in the Syladras Mountains. Many of the most prestigious house-clans still exist to this day, such as the Silverhews (note: though the point about prestigious house-clans is true, the likelihood is that Ferren’s information would have come from a Dwarf or Gnome that had left the mountains. In this case, it seems probable that the Halfling to which he spoke was from a family that left the Syladrian Mountains shortly after the end of the First Epoch of Halfling History and did not know that house-clan Silverhew had been destroyed around one-thousand years before in a civil war – information that has itself only just been learned recently by the Upper-World due to the secrecy of the Syladrian the Halflings).
            The most senior member of the house-clan is made its head – be they the eldest, most direct in blood, or most honoured, deciding is usually left to the house-clan itself. Either patriarchal or matriarchal, the Dwarf who is made the head of the family becomes its spokesperson and its public face. If uplifted by the king, that Dwarf will also be the family member who sits upon the Ironrend Covenant.
            Gnomes, however, hold a much more complicated and enigmatic role within Halfling society. Quiet and industrious, they come from their own families, much more like those of Men and Elves. They have neither matriarchs nor patriarchs, but instead pledge themselves to Dwarf clan-families as servants, as a knight might to a lord. Not as physically apt as a Dwarf, the Gnome takes on a supportive role within the clan-family, often as a cook, cleaner, or carer, though they are fine craftsmen and many clan-families financially supports Gnomish artisans in order to improve the standing of their own names. The Gnomes I have met, however, are particularly reluctant to speak of home and the role they play within Halfling society under the mountains.

Heirlooms and Succession

Objects play particular significance within Halfling society. As a people who pride themselves on what they create with fire and hammer, certain items can come to carry huge significance and meaning for a clan-family. Weapons and armour in particular are often passed down from house-clan head to next of kin, and the deeds performed with the aid of that particular object are passed on, as if contained within the object itself. For a example, a warrior clan-family patriarch gives his clan-family matriarch-to-be daughter his shield which he once used to defend folk from a famous troll or goblin.  The heirlooms is designed to serve as a reminder to the next owner, as well as setting a tacit standard: the shield which defended against a goblin warlord will be used to defend again. A sword that slays a king will be looked upon with fear by monarchs, so another example would go.


Those who leave the mountains and walk beneath the sky with Men and Elves earn the label of ‘Upper-Worlders’ by those Halflings who remain under the mountains. It is a label that carries with it no love, and Upper-Worlders are not welcome to return back to the lands under the mountains. Though in more recent years, the Deep-Folk and the Aordunni Dwarves have become more common sights in the Upper-World, it remains taboo for a a Syladrian to leave the halls of Khur-Karzana; it is a sentence of self-exile. Of course, it is necessary for some Syladrian Halflings to exist outside of the walls of the mountain in order for their societies to function: a few farmers and traders are ordained by the Ironrend Covenant to interact with Upper-Worlders, though trade and communication with Halflings who have left the mountains either by choice or through exile is totally forbidden. 

Aethwyrd's 'Vidorian Geographies' 
Aethwyrd and Olivari's Map of Esdaria
Odr's letter to Ysrod, 'Of Giants and Trolls'
Commander Ludwig Nicstaed's The Creatures and Monsters of Esdaria: A Bestiary Written In Blood 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
Archmother Himwyra's 'On the Church of the Divine Empress: Hierarchies and Origins'

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