You see Riend Ar'Fiernel the Master Artisan.
She appears to be a Sylvankind.
She is tall in stature and has a lithesome, nimble build. She appears to be in the bloom of youth. She has expressive, malachite-flecked chestnut eyes and gardenia white skin. She has fine, textured hellebore black hair cropped to fall in tousled, sheared layers reaching just below her ears. She has an oval face, a gently sloped nose and slender shoulders. Though her features are predominantly Sylvan, subtleties in the shape of her face and the tilt of her eyes appear faintly Erithian.
Riend’s home is located in the southeast forests of Elanith, nestled between the ancient Sylvan home of Nevishrim and Barrett’s Gorge. First settled in the year 1343, or so the stories go, but whispers of an earlier encampment near Ne’Yuscarl Point is hinted at depending on which founding family you speak to.
The wise and honorable sylvan mage Illiweth Siergeth banded together sylvans from all the D'ahranal together and sought refuge after the closing of Yuriquen. They travelled first to the edges of the Southron Wastes, gathering those sylvans who had fled after the battle against Myrdanian, before they began to retrace the steps that once brought them to their beloved Silver Veil.
The First Year
With so many people in their caravan, it took nearly a decade to reach the forests nestled within the tail of the Dragonspine. Conditions and sickness began to dwindle their numbers. What once boasted tens of thousands strong now could barely count more than three.
In the early spring of 1343, the sylvan settlement of Llythwere was established. A people accustomed to the nomadic life slowly began branching out and growing roots. Plans were made to create a modest, but traditional sylvan structure high up in the sturdy trees of the forest. Before construction could begin, materials needed to be gathered and foraging patrols were sent out. None ever returned.
Fear wove its way through the people of Llythwere and talk of moving north closer to the civilization of Ta’Illistim was on everyone’s minds. The idea of dealing with the intrusive elves seemed the lesser evil to dying in the wilderness. The fledgling council, which had only just been created a few weeks prior, deliberated for a fortnight on the matter before deciding that they would remain in Llythwere,
Over the next few months a silent, invisible war was waged against the small settlement. With no discernable motive or preference, sylvans of all ages began to disappear in the dark of night. Each morning, people woke fearful, dreading to discover their loved ones were taken in the night.
It wasn’t until their fourth month at Lylthwere that they discovered the identity of their enemy: a band of rogue Faendryl bandits. Still weak from travel and malnourished, their numbers were decimated, leaving less than half a thousand survivors. With so few Ne’Yuscarl left and Illiweth Siergeth’s failing health, they were unable to draw enough power to erect a protective Nanrithowan They were left with only a few armaments to defend against the invaders.
The raiding continued through the spring and, by mid summer, there were less than a hundred sylvans left in Llythwere. What little supplies they had would not last through the winter, and they were incapable of producing crops and too frightened to set out into the forest to forage. Desperate to save their people, the council sought the aid of Imaera and held a commune that lasted nine days and nights. In the early morning of the ninth day, Imaera appeared before them and spoke to the sylvans of a great sacrifice to be made for salvation. That in giving up that which they held dearest, they would be saved from the threat and Lylthwere would thrive for many generations.
Her riddles perplexed the council, and they spent days meditating on its meaning. A decision was never made and enlightenment was not discovered for three days after the commune Illiweth Siegeth passed in her sleep. The last known mage of Yuriquen and, with so few sylvans left to learn the arts or power the spells, any hope of establishing protective wards gone with her.
Despite their meager means, the sylvans held a traditional memorial for their leader and laid her to rest in the foothills of the Dragonspine. The council took her passing as an omen: Imaera’s prophecy come true. They bade their people to wait patiently for the promised prosperity, but the cold of winter and the empty bellys of the children left the sylvans ill at ease.
The Long Winter
By the beginning of the new year, the sylvans were desperate. Food stores were empty and they had taken to stripping the bark of nearby trees to feed themselves. Sickness and injury riddled what was left of the small community, threatening to end their dwindling family.
What members of the Ne’Yuscarl remained took up patrolling the forests to forage for any food and herbs they could find. On one such trip Gearith Tilweth was caught in a terrible snowfall, unable to make the trip home. The blizzard lasted days and weak with hunger, the sylvan became lost in the forest and feared for his life.
It is not known how long he traveled blindly through the heavy storm, or would have continued to had he not come upon a small encampment. A group of people, the likes of which he had never seen before greeted him kindly, though guardedly. Their height rivaled that of the the giantkin he had once glimpsed on a trail through Barrett’s Gorge. Both their male and females were completely bald on top of their heads but all had extremely long, pale hair that flowed down to their waists. But what was most striking about these fair, strange people were their eyes. Instead of pupils, their light eyes had slitted sclera.
Too hungry and weak to be truly afraid, he accepted the hospitality of these people and quickly fell asleep by their fire. He woke only once in the night to speak deliriously of his people and their plight before passing out again. The next morning he did not wake, and a quiet prayer was spoken over the body.
After a lengthy discussion about what to do with the body, the group came to a labored decision. Instead of leaving the sylph’s body, the strangers took him and returned him to Lythwere, curious about the people the small man has spoken of.
At first, the sylvans were wary. It had not been an entire season since the Faendryl’s attacks and their desire for peace and solitude from the outside world, as well as the discovery of their deceased brotherkin made them less than hospitable.
Communication between the sylvans and the strangers was difficult and frustrating in the beginning. Their language sounded lyrical to the sylvans but held no discernable alphabet or dialect they knew. The strangers, whom the sylvans gathered called themselves the “Erithi,” could understand pieces of the sylvan language but prefered to answer in elven. Having distanced themselves from their elven cousins for millennia, there were very sylvans few left who spoke the language.
After a brief adjustment period, the two races were able to communicate through a strange mix of languages and drawings. The Erithi offered the sylvans their protection, supplies to keep them through the winter, and assistance rebuilding their homes. Such an offer seemed too good to be true, but left with their proposal or a winter they weren’t certain they would survive… they had no choice.
An accord was struck and within a week more Erithians appeared in Lythwere bearing desperately needed food, medicine and supplies to build. Before long a tentative friendship blossomed between the two races, despite the looming shadow of their bargain.
At Great Cost
By the time spring was settling in the forest the sylvans were flourishing. Their homes now spanned the tallest branches of the forest and their people were well-fed and strong. Very little thought was given to the conditions of their bargain with the Erithi and the two races existed in amicable prosperity.
Two more seasons passed, bringing the with it the anniversary of the arrival of the Erithians to Lythwere and a new uneasiness settled like a blanket across the settlement. Would their new friends leave and sever all ties with them? Would the conditions of their bargain finally be made clear?
The Erithians met with the sylvan council and with a year to learn the other’s language, they were able to communicate easily this time, leaving little room for misunderstanding. In exchange for the help given to the sylvans, the Erithians sought to expand their population and experiment with genetics. Over the centuries their ability to produce healthy offspring had diminished and the threat to their clan was dire. To this end they would require one sylvan of female sex from each generation to conceive a child with an erithi male.
The sylvans were shocked and horrified, they railed against such a horrific demand, feeling as if they had been tricked by their exotic benefactors. With no other recourse honor bound them to accept this condition, but the goodwill built between the two races was severely damaged.
Tenets of the bargain were marked down and signed by both parties over the next few days. The sylvan was required to be between the ages of 300-350, as these were considered to be the most fertile years by the Erithians. She must also be healthy to lessen any chance of transmitting diseases to the male or the child. She must also be a virgin in order to ensure the child’s paternity.
This process, for the sylvans refused to acknowledge it as any kind of union, would take place in Lythwere and the “couple” would be housed together during conception and throughout the term of the pregnancy. If the couple were not able to conceive over the course of a year, steps would be taken to select another female to replace her.
Any offspring that resulted in the bargain would automatically be given to the male and returned to their clan to be raised as they saw fit. The mother would never see the child again. Of all the conditions in this bargain, this was the only one the Erithi capitulated on. One female child in every ten generations would be allowed to remain with the sylvan mother, but would be required to be tithed when she came of age.
With no choice, the council discussed the bargain with the people and shared in their horror and sorrow. They sought to discover ways to keep their bloodlines strong and clean, while spreading the burden of this bargain out among them. It was decided that each family would take turns, offering up one child every twelfth generation. How they chose the child from their own growing families was left to their own choosing.
It took many years to discover the incompatibility between sylvans and erithi. Nearly a decade passed without any offspring. Tensions rose between the races, and the erithi accused the sylvans on more than one occasion of purposefully keeping their females from becoming pregnant in order to sidestep the arrangement. Having neither the ability to, nor the intention of dishonoring their bargain, the sylvans sought out the real reason for the problem. With little to no experience with these things, the council was at a loss. It wasn’t until one of their own herbalists explained that he had run into a similar problem trying to cross-breed seed from the trees of their silver veil with the local trees. The difference in their species was too great to produce offspring.
The sylvans approached the erithi with this information and it was met with relief and approval. With only a cryptic explanation of their returning to their homes to seek out a solution and the promise to return, the erithi left Lythwere.
A Less than Welcome Return
It took nearly a year for the erithi to return to the sylvan settlement with an answer to their problem. To the dismay and general horror of the people, they were informed that a ritual would be performed between the pledged male and the female. Their blood would be mixed and they would be be bonded together until a child was conceived. At birth the bond would be severed and the two allowed to part.
At the time, very little was understood of blood magic, but since it has been revealed as the basis of the tithe ritual the sylvans go through. A heavy mistrust of magic in general, any sphere beyond the most common is not actively practiced. In general a deep-seeded distrust of blood magic is common among sylvans of Lythwere, stemming from this accord.
After a period of preparation, the ritual took place on the second full moon of the year. Outside of the couple, only the elders are allowed to attend, therefore very little is known about the ritual. Rumors suggest that the couple share their blood and bind themselves together. Days later, the ritual was completed and a child conceived soon afterwards. As promised, once born the parents were no longer bonded and the child given over to the erithians to raise. The sylvan was then allowed the freedom to choose her own path, no longer bound to the rules of the tithing.
For over thirty-seven hundred years the tithing has been upheld by the sylvans, without fail. Throughout that time they have thrived and built a true home for themselves. While they will never attain the golden age that was nurtured in Yuriqen they have created a society that holds to the traditions of their people.
The Almost Uprising
Riend’s mother, Saoirce Ar’Fiernel, was a reknown mage among the people of Lythwere, one of the last students of Illiweth Siergeth. With her people protected and thriving, their numbers steadily increasing, she sought to improve upon the Nanrithowan they were strong enough to create. This included allowing the Erithians to pass through the wards unharmed. Few knew she also held the power to stop it, and when it came time for her tithing she pondered revoking it and casting the erithi out.
Considering the practice barbaric, she sought to end it altogether and sought support from others equally unsettled by the tithing. Unrest steadily grew into firm opposition as she gained followers in her efforts. Had she not been persuaded, it is generally thought that the tithe would have ended and the prosperity found with the erithian aid would have ceased, leaving the sylvans in a state only marginally better than when the erithi found them.
Set on her path, it was her own grandmother who stepped in and attempted to sway her from it. “The tithe is not a punishment. It is a burden we bear proudly because in tithing we are honoring our people, our ancestors and the covenant we made to protect ourselves.” She explained. “There is no honor greater than putting the needs of others above your own.” Her grandmother’s words resonated and with the sliver of doubt it created, she found her opposition waning and replaced by a keen sense of duty she would eventually instill in her daughter.
Present Day Lythwere
When Riend was born, her mother was filled with joy and sorrow. Having been born ten generations after the last female in her line, Saoirce was allowed to keep and raise her, but it would also sentence her to the same fate she had with the tithe. Resigned to the fate her daughter would endure, she sought to give her a life of freedom she, personally, had not known.
Riend was raised like any sylvan child, taught to hunt with a bow, hide and live within the forest. When she was old enough, her mother tasked her to travel under the guise of bringing knowledge from the west to their forest. Allowing her the freedom to explore the world and experiences cultures previously unknown to them, Riend was given this blessing and curse. Her travels took her across Elanith and eventually she settled in the town of Wehnimer’s Landing, falling in love with it’s rustic nature settled in the untamed wilderness.
With the world stretched out before her she lived, full of hope and wonder… bound to a future without realizing she was chained.
Master of the Rogue Guild
Master of Voln