Sea Elves of Erdreja
It has recently come to my attention that the majority of surface-dwellers know little about the sea-elven race. A large percentage of this number is due to complete ignorance of our existence, exactly as the Council of Elders would have it. Others dismiss us as myths or as the product of drunken talk, and over-active imaginations; again as the Council would have it. The few who are aware of us are mostly misinformed about us, and we therefore remain as much an enigma to you as we were when the first official scout came above-water three years ago.
I myself have lived above water, in Erin, for a little over ninety years, in complete contradiction to the express wishes of the Council of Elders. Having been the only sea-elf above water, to my knowledge, for so long, I decided to introduce myself to Nine-Tides. As a result I found myself attending the Lions Parliament of 1097, and there leant of his death earlier in the year. I did get to meet his squire, Speeding Eel, a short time later, and I have slowly made a new life for myself among the Lions.
For millennia my race has hidden itself from the eyes of the surface-dwelling races, in the hope that we could live peaceful lives, safe from the wars, etc that occasionally wrack the surface world. I left the seas around Erin, and thus renounced my position in sea-elf society because I thought this policy was wrong. Spending a long time studying those around me, I slowly grew to appreciate the complexity of the world my people wished to be distanced from. I’ll admit to seeing why the Elders would wish to hide, but I think we also have a lot to learn from the other races of Edraja and Avalon, and our seclusion should come to an end. Slowly over the last year, I have spoken to others of my race who have come above-water, and it is to their courage that this work is dedicated. It is also in the spirit of this courage that I uncover secrets about our race that the Elders would keep hidden, and you’ll see why.
To Orka, Rip-Tide, Kai and Vash, this is for you, and in memory of Nine-Tides and Speeding Eel.
The social lives of sea-elves are a complex affair, comprising a wide variety of loyalties. At any given time, many of these loyalties can, and do clash with each other, and the desires of the individual.
The above diagram shows a much-simplified view of a few of the loyalties any individual sea-elf may be expected to fulfil. Where an arrow joins two groups together, the person/organisation at the start of the line owes ties of loyalty to the person/organisation at the arrow end of the line. As long as these ties exist, the individual may take no action that hampers the activities of, or otherwise harms those they owe loyalty to.
Having seen this diagram, and the intricacies of sea-elf loyalties, is it any wonder that many of our race are chaotic in nature? Or is this nature and organisation a by-product of our semi-nomadic life-style?
It is worth noting that many of my race see some of the above loyalties as being purely optional.
This is the single sea-elf, be they mage, incantor, warrior, or worker. Unless they are Rogues, all individuals belong to a clan and a tribe, as well as (optionally) a profession and/or faction.
This is the immediate and extended family of the individual, and may include as many as seventeen generations among its number. In human terms this may stretch the definition of family, but to a sea-elf it is considered normal, due to our extended life span. Clans are often spread over a very large area, and their members often belong to a different tribe to even their closest relatives.
The most powerful sea-elf in each clan may declare themselves Clan Elders, but to do so they must pass a series of trials, including that of the Challenge Ritual.
All sea-elf tribes consist of members from the various clans who live in the tribe’s territory. It is the nature of the tribal structure to accept any sea-elf individual in their territory into the tribe, except those known as Rogues.
Tribal territory may consist of as little as a few square miles (for a small tribe), or may be as large as all within one hundred miles of a given oceanic current. As a result of this many of the tribes follow a nomadic tradition, following the flows of a current, or the migratory routes of vast schools of fish.
When the paths of two nomadic tribes meet, they often engage in several days of trade and negotiation, and it is not uncommon for individuals to switch tribe during this time. A side effect of this is to introduce new blood, skills and ideas into the community.
In extremely rare occasions it is possible for a tribe and clan to be the same thing. This means that both the tribe, and clan contain the same members, with no outsiders from another tribe, or clan. This is so rare that it has been millennia since a clan-tribe has been seen, during the early days of the Tribe of Erin.
Clan Elders Council
This body consists of the Elders of all the sea-elven clans, and meets infrequently to discuss matters of import to the entire race. For this reason, even those Rogues who have managed to elevate themselves to Clan Elder status are invited to comment at these meetings. Other then the Ritual and Spiritual Leaders this is the single most powerful entity within sea-elf society. The last meeting of the Clan Elders was held about eighty years ago, to discuss the threat posed by those Unliving who had been found within sea-elven territories. Their conclusion was that no threat existed, and the Unliving would be easily disposed of. Not even a year ago, Unliving managed to wipe out a whole sea-elf colony just off Cymria, so it would appear that the Elders were wrong.
There are as many Tribal Councils as there are tribes of sea-elves. In almost all instances, the tribal council will be made up of the most powerful or influential sea-elves within the tribe. While, in theory, each council member has the right to vote on all matters brought into a session, the voting is often dominated by a Clan Elder, Ritualist or Spiritualist.
The Tribal Councils meet as often as weekly in order to discuss anything that may affect the tribe or to discuss trade agreements, (etc.), with other tribes. It is usually at one of these meetings that those whose actions mark them as trouble for the tribe, or the tribe’s rulers, manage to get themselves awarded the status of Rogue. When such a decision is made, all within the tribe and anyone else hearing of the decision must abide by it, or risk similar judgement falling on them.
Despite seeming to have so much power, the Tribal Council is powerless to prevent individuals from leaving the tribe to join another.
No matter what a sea-elf’s profession, there is a Council, or body to represent them. Each of these councils is expected to have at least one member on any Tribal Council, and where possible, one within the Clan Elders Council. The former is easy to achieve for the most part, but the latter is almost impossible.
These councils could be likened to the Guilds of the surface dwellers.
This trio of Ritualists are considered to be the law when it comes to sea-elven rituals. Unless they have passed a major ritual as conforming to their idea of the correct formats, there is no hope of getting the ritual committed to memory, (either individual, or written), for use by others. Performing a major ritual without the consent of the Ritual Leaders often results in a quiet word with the relevant Tribal Councils, and the sentence of Rogue being passed, regardless of the rituals success, or failure.
This means that all major rituals tend to look and feel the same, due to strict conformity to the pre-specified formats. While they may all look the same, this does tend to guarantee the desired result, instead of some of the more dangerous side effects of failure.
It could be said that unless this trio is aware of the ritual being enacted, and having passed it as “safe”, then the ritual itself doesn’t exist. The Ritual Leaders hold all known lore about sea-elven rituals in their grasp, and are probably aware of rituals that have not been enacted in millennia.
These sea-elves are the senior authorities within their own belief structures, and go by many different titles. For example the highest authority within the following of Alhydra goes by the title of High Priest, whilst the equivalent for the followers of Kraken is Deepest Trenarch.
Because of the spirituality of many of the sea-elf populations in certain regions, the Spiritual Leaders have almost total control of all activities in those areas, whilst in others they have almost no power at all. It should be noted that this is in perfect balance with their own internal squabbles, which prevents any one of the belief systems gaining the upper hand in any region.
This is actually only included to make as full a list of political ties as possible. It is almost unknown for a sea-elf to remain above water long enough to become aware of the factions of Edraja, but the number of this who have become aware has rapidly been increasing over the last few years.
Even when a sea-elf does become aware of the factions, their existence is often a fact that they accept, and then ignore. In extremely rare circumstances, sea-elves have been known to ally themselves to a faction, but only out of convenience. When a sea-elf swears loyalty to a faction, this is considered a self-declaration of their Rogue status.
These are those sea-elves who by action or declaration place themselves outside normal sea-elf society. This could be due to political ties, or differences that can not be reconciled by staying a member of a sea-elven society, or due to the disruptive actions of the individual concerned.
Once a sea-elf is considered Rogue they are forever spurned by all other sea-elves who are aware of their status, especially their tribes, councils, and clans. On rare occasions, a rogue may manage to gather others to their banner, but these are simply declaring themselves rogues also by their actions. In this way, entire Rogue clans and tribes have been formed, but they are usually hunted down and destroyed.
The only ways for a Rogue to re-enter sea-elven society is to become a member of the Clan Elders Council when a major threat hangs over the whole race, or to prove themselves worthy to once more enter society (usually by some great act).
While the majority of the Elders believe that isolationism is the best thing for our race, a few have questioned this, and acted accordingly. In an attempt to find out how our races emergence would be received, a handful of scouts have been sent above water in recent years. The first that I became aware of was Nine-Tides, who unfortunately died before I had a chance to meet him. It is possible that there are more scouts out there that I haven’t heard about, but they are probably trying to keep a low profile, as per orders.
It is very possible that some Rogues see themselves as scouts, and are in fact being utilised as such, despite their status. In the political games of isolationism, our race is probably among the best there is. It is of great wonder however, after all the centuries of our isolation, that more sea-elves don’t volunteer for scouting duties.
History & Beliefs
Right back at the very dawn of time there lived the Creators, five beings of almost ultimate power. Many were the Creators in number, counting among them the ten Ancestors revered most by the sea-elves. Paramount among these ten is the creator our race, Kraken. The four Major Elemental Ancestors: Pyro (Fire), Alhydra (Water), Eyrie (Air), and Krend (Earth). The five Minor Elemental Ancestors are Angel (Life), Fury (Death), Shard (Spirit), Pearn (Body) and Raal (Magic). Each of the nine Elementals embodies the very essence of the element they represent.
It is believed that the four Major Elementals created the world of Edraja at the behest of Kraken, utilising their own substance as the building blocks. Then the combined power of the five Minor Elementals was moulded by Kraken to create the many varied races.
Among these races were the first of the Elven-kind, the race known in our histories as the Kelmori, or The First Ones. The Kelmori inhabited the seas of the world, many of which we now call home, and reigned there unchallenged for several millennia, until the Threat emerged.
It seems from much of the early Kelmori texts that they were aware that Kraken’s plan for the world was flawed, and had expected to face a challenge at some time. However, when the Threat first surfaced, the Kelmori were unprepared, having become complacent in their superiority over the other sea-bound races. The one thing they were unable to conceive was an invasion from above; they seemingly had no concept that life could exist out of water.
The Kelmori records are very unclear in their description of the Threat, but they do describe in detail the political division it’s emergence caused. The Kelmori very rapidly became three almost distinct factions, the Sea-Elves, the Eldar, and those who remained true Kelmori. It is thanks to this division that our race still exists, having evolved, and adapted to the idea of the existence of life of equal, or superior power to our own.
The war against the Threat lasted for over three hundred years, with the Kelmori fighting with mundane weaponry, the Eldar fighting with magic, and the Sea-Elves fighting with whatever came to hand. It is strange to think that we survived the war as a race, while the Kelmori were rendered extinct, and the Eldar scattered to the four flows never to be heard from except in rumour and legend. Even now it is unclear how the Kelmori and Eldar were defeated, or why the Sea-Elves survived. Then again, the exact nature of the Threat still remains very much an unknown.
Much debate goes on as to the eventual direction taken by the descendants of the Eldar. Some speculate that they remained in the seas, and became extinct over a very short period of time, having been tainted in some way by their battle with the Threat, and the powerful magics they employed in the war. A more believable speculation is that the Eldar were evolved by the magics they employed, and were no longer able to live below water, and so emerged onto land, giving rise to the various races of Elf known to live above water. Of course this speculation is widely ridiculed among the Sea-Elf Elders, as many of them believe that the land-elves evolved from an offshoot of our own race. Regardless of the truth in this matter, Sea-Elf history has always been one of vigilance against threats from those who dwell on land, and as a result of the war. It was decided several millennia ago to simply isolate ourselves from those who dwelt above water, a drastic step, but one that has seemingly worked, until recent times.
Over the last few years, a new danger to the Sea-Elves has emerged in the form of the Unliving. There have been a number of attacks on colonies, and tribes over the last few months, which have managed to devastate large numbers of Sea-Elves. Current theories say that this danger has emerged due to the increase in Unliving threats to the land dwellers, but I believe it more likely to be a resurgence of the Threat. This is born out with the ease our Incanters have adapted to dealing with the new danger.
The belief that Kraken is the First Ancestor dates back to the times of the Kelmori. This belief is echoed in all major belief systems within Sea-Elf society, including those who follow the Outsiders (or the ancestors not paramount in Sea-Elf histories).
Kraken is a mostly beneficient entity, but is capable of fits of extreme rage, and cruelty. During his beneficient times, Kraken manifests as a giant squid of no more than fifity feet in length.. When enraged, this manifestation becomes a four hundred foot squid with in excess of twenty arms.
Of all the Major Elementals, Alhydra is the most important to our race, as she embodies the very environment that sustains us. In her own environment, Alhydra is almost supreme, no-one understamds the flows, and currents of the ocean better . Outside her environment she holds little power, and we ourselves start to suffer ill effects after a period of time.
It is Alhydra that the largest number of Incanters follow as they recognise that without her benevilance our race could not exist. Even those who pay homage to Kraken pay more than token lip-ervice to Alhydra.
There are very few Sea-Elves who will admit to the worship of Pyro, being the embodyment of the fire that all our race dread. While Pyro may not be worshipped as such, recognisiton is paid to him by the fact that we use the springs heated by underground fires in the forging process of many of our weapons.
In his natural form, it believed that Pyro resembles a column of flame, but in Alhydra’s domain his form is limited to that of the fiire which manages to flicker upon molten rock.
Krend’s domain is the land that lies both above and below water. As the essence of Earth, Krend is recognised as the creator of the metals used in the forging of many sea-elven weapons. Without the sea-beds created by Krend, the watery environment of Alhydra and our race would become vapour as it came into contact with the fires of Pyro’s molten rock. For this reason alone, many Sea-Elves willingly follow Krend, and have even been known to go as far as to suggest that our race belong on land, not below the sea. These few are often considered radicals, and quickly gain Rogue status.
The last of the Four Major Elementals is Eyrie, the essence of Air. Little is really known, by our race, of this ancestor, except for her contribution to the survival of our race. Without the infusion of air into Alhydra’s seas it would be impossible for any of my race to survive above water for any period of time.
The Minor Elementals
The Minor Elementals feature quite extensively in Sea-Elf society, as they represent the many aspects of our lives. When ever a Sea-Elf is born, the blessings of Angel are called down upon them as part of the naming process. When a Sea-Elf dies his essence is consigned to the realms of Fury. Those who seek to heal the mind and body, worship either Shard or Pearn, and the followers of magic often call on the poewrs granted them by Raal. In all respects these five play a part in almost all aspects of Sea-Elf life, and why not, it was their combined power that made us what we are.
As a Sea-Elf of great repute dies, it is possible for them to become ancestors. This requires a lot of worshippers, and a dedication to our race during life that is unparalleled in many societies. For this reason alone, the vast majority of Sea-Elves will find their souls consigned to the oblivion of Fury, rather than receiving the empowerment of belief.
There are also those known as the Outsiders, or the ancestors not of our race. There are almost as many ancestors unknown to our race as there are beliefs that we know nothing about. It is extremely rare for a Sea-Elf to follow an Outsider, due to the fact that most are unaware of the existence of ancestors other than our own.
There are many complex customs in Sea-Elf society, and it would take a very long time to write them all down. The following is a list of the ones that outsiders are most likely to come across.
Birth and Naming
As Sea-Elves are born from a clutch of eggs, several are born at any one birthing. As a result of this few of them receive their names until the yearly Naming Ceremony. At this time, all those born during that year are gathered together and each is given their three names.
The first of these names is their public name, or the name that they will use in normal everyday conversations. This name is the one they use when introducing themselves to strangers, in public, or when speaking to those who have not earned the right to use their second name.
The second name is the familiar name, and the knowledge of this name is usually restricted to friends and family. The giving of the right to use this name forms ties of friendship and loyalty. Anyone given the right to use this name is able to call on the giver as a friend, and ally.
The final name is the personal name, and this is one of the best-guarded secrets any Sea-Elf can keep. There is also another term by which this name is known, and that is the power name. Anyone who knows a Sea-Elf’s power name has the right to call on the Sea-Elf for anything, and they are unable to refuse the request, should it not harm themselves, or the Sea-Elf race as a whole. Because this name is so closely guarded, very few non-Sea-Elves ever learn of the existence of this name, let alone the power name of an individual.
The Rite of Passage
Any Sea-Elf surviving to the age of one hundred, is allowed to undergo the first stage of the Rite of Passage, and if successful earns the right to add their clan name to their own name. Thus at one hundred years of age, I stopped being simply Kelvar, and became Kelvar Trealkor, or Kelvar of clan Trealkor (as some surface dwelling races would phrase it). The clan name is very often public knowledge anyway, and therefore is never guarded against, except when dealing with those who may wish harm to the clan.
At the age of one hundred and fifty, the Sea-Elf may be asked to complete the Rite of Passage, at which point they become a full adult member of Sea-Elf society, with all the benefits, and responsibilities that entails. The requirements of the Rite of Passage are different for every clan, and the variations are too numerous to list.
The Challenge Ritual
Once a Sea-Elf has reached the age of four hundred, they are considered mature enough to lead their clans. To attain this right, they must complete the Challenge Ritual, before the Council of Elders, and thus gain the status of Clan Elder. However, before anyone may undertake this rite, they must be either replacing a deceased Elder of their clan, or attempting to start a new clan. In the latter case, the challenges set out in the Ritual become far more dangerous to the participant, and few are willing to take the required risks. Except for the existence of this ancient Ritual, there is little leaked information as to the actual requirements of the Ritual, as it is a closely guarded secret. This prevents candidates from preparing adequately for the tasks, and the Ritual becomes a true measure of their abilities.
Death and Burial
When a Sea-Elf dies, their body is generally returned to the region they called home, and left to drift to the sea floor. At this point the body is left to decay, or becomes food for the carnivores that dwell at those depths, thus continuing the cycle of life. As the carnivores eat the body, (or the body rots), so the soul is released to continue it’s journey.
If a Sea-Elf dies on land, and the body is not returned to the sea, there is a very good chance that the soul will be unable to depart, and the decease may well return to annoy those they left behind. This has happened on at least one occasion to my knowledge, and as more Sea-Elves start to enjoy life on land, such instances will probably increase in number.
Many land dwellers have likened the Sea-Elf race to fish, and whilst this is a racist, and derogatory term, it is partly based on fact. While we are not actually descended from fish, we do share several biological similarities.
Just as fish breath the oxygen in the water, via the filtering caused by their gills, so do Sea-Elves. The gills are located on the surface of the skin, beneath two flaps located to either side of the waist, between the lower pairs of ribs. When in water, these flaps open to allow water to filter through the gills, where the oxygen is extracted, and passed via connecting air pipes into the lungs (located in the same region as in humans). The amount of oxygen drawn out of the water by a Sea-Elves gills is about two-thirds that in the air breathed by those who dwell on land.
When out of water, the same flaps of skin cover the gills, to keep the moisture in, and prevent them from drying out. At this point the secondary breathing method comes into play, and the Sea-Elf starts to inhale through their nose and mouth. While breathing in this fashion, Sea-Elves can seem almost drunk due to the increased flow of oxygen into their system. This is one of the reasons Sea-Elves venturing onto land seem to act a little oddly for the first few days, while their bodies adapt to the sudden rise in oxygen levels.
In extreme emergencies, when out of water, Sea-Elves can breath through their gills for a brief period of time, but this is extremely painful, and requires vast amounts of concentration and willpower. When the gills are surrounded by liquid, an involuntary action causes the flaps to open, and the Sea-Elf automatically reverts to breathing through the gills.
Sea-Elves mate in the same way as many other humanoid races, and are thus able to reproduce with other races. However, just as male seahorses have a pouch within which they carry the fertilised eggs to fully term, so do male Sea-Elves. While it may seem strange to many other races, it is perfectly natural at the end of intercourse for a female Sea-Elf to squirt the fertilised eggs into this pouch, and allow the male the problems of birthing.
Due to the manner in which Sea-Elves reproduce, it is virtually impossible for the female to become pregnant, but not unknown. In cases where the female is unable to deposit the fertilised eggs into the male pouch, she may retain up to two, and carry them to full term herself. This really only occurs when a female Sea-Elf mates with a non-Sea-Elf male. In the rare instances of male Sea-Elves breeding with non-Sea-Elf females, the male is unable to carry the fertilised eggs, and so the female carries the children to full term. One highly unusual version of this occurred recently, where a human female managed to successfully mate with the spirit of a deceased Sea-Elven scout. Quite how this was managed is unclear, but the child appears to be healthy, and shares racial characteristics from both parents. This is in itself unusual, as cross-racial breeding usually results in a child whose racial make up is predominantly that of the male.
Since I spoke out when living among my people, I have endeavoured to decrease the distance between my race, and those who dwell on land. I was declared Rogue for my outspokenness, and left the seas to live in Cymria. After ninety years above water, I now believe that it’s time we started to involve ourselves more in the affairs of others, and take an interest in the surface world once again. I myself have joined the ranks of the Lions, and am slowly gathering other land-dwelling Sea-Elf Rogues, whose beliefs are similar to my own.
This work only starts to scratch the surface of the complexity of Sea-Elf society and culture. It does serve to outline a few of the differences that separate us from other races, and attempts to show some of the similarities. There is much that I have chosen to exclude, due to the sensitive nature of some of it, but other materials that I was forbidden to include have been added to present as full a picture of our race as I possibly could. I wish I could have shown details of some Sea-Elf rituals, but I am only now starting to learn about them myself, and am meeting some resistance due to my Rogue status. Having read through the details I have been able to assemble here, I hope that my race is a little less mysterious to you. If I have managed to teach you a few things, then I have succeeded in at least part of my goal.
Again, I repeat the dedication I made at the start. This book was written in memory of Speeding Eel and Nine-Tides, and in honour of the courage shown by Vash, Kai, Orka, and Rip-Tide in coming above water, despite the opposition of the Elders.
Kelvar Trealkor, Shannock Gareth Dell, Lions Faction