Introduction & History
The Gwaenor are a race of survivors who escaped the devastation of their homeland and clawed out a place for themselves in Mernalt. Though both the Caenor and the Gwaenor made the long journey across the Eastern Sea, the Gwaenor did so fleeing the chaos and destruction that engulfed their homeland. Unlike the Caenor they were not well prepared or provisioned for the Journey, many perished in the crossing and the survivors arrived on the shores of Caeros starving, beleaguered and at the mercy of the Caenor.
The Gwaenor who survived the difficult crossing were not welcomed by their Caenor cousins. The Caenor held all who remained in the elven homeland responsible for driving the Caenor into exile, and so refused to allow the Gwaenor to live on Caeros. The Caenor divided the refugees and forced them to settle in small colonies around the Ailin Bay, providing them with little help or assistance. But the Gwaenor are a hardy people, and as they tamed the forests and worked the land their numbers grew, bolstered by the arrival of more and more refugees from the homeland.
After having survived the apocalypse that engulfed their homeland, the long starved crossing of the eastern sea, and being placed with little assistance on the shores of the Ailin bay, the Gwaenor faced yet another existential threat. The fey worshiped as gods by the barbaric men of the Ailin bay declared that the presence of elves in Mernalt challenged the will of Kravaan, and declared a war of extermination against the Gwaenor. Thus began the Haranye Agarwaen a century of total war between the disparate human tribes of the Ailin Bay and the Gwaenor settlers marked by atrocities and massacres. Though the Gwaenor suffered many losses in this war they also won great victories, and expanded their territory within the Ailin Bay. Over the course of the war most humans turned against the Kravaanite fey and grudgingly accepted the inevitability of elves living in Mernalt. Elves and Humans would fight over territory and wealth in the years to come, but never again would they wage a war of extermination against each other.
Despite the trials and threats of extermination they have suffered the Gwaenor have emerged as a powerful force in Mernalt. They have built wealthy and powerful societies around the Ailin Bay, and though they are part of the Caenor kingdom of Seran Caelthas , Gwaenor lords are becoming increasingly influential at the Royal Court and are gaining a larger and larger hand in shaping the policies and actions the kingdom undertakes.
Elves, Half-Elves & Eldakan
The elves who managed to escape the destruction of their homeland were predominantly those near the shore with access to boats, and so the first generation of Gwaenor contained a large number of young single men who had been sailors or fishermen. In Mernalt Gwaenor marriage customs clashed with the practices of the Caenor, and few if any Gwaenor men were able to obtain Caenor brides. The settling of a large number of single Gwaenor men near human populations led to a great deal of intermingling and sexual contact between the two groups. Though Gwaenor rarely if ever married human women (why marry for life someone who will die so quickly) cohabitation, concubinage, and other arrangements were common.
As a result of this early interbreeding and he gender imbalance in the first generation of Gwaenor, nearly every living Gwaenor is, to some extent, mixed race and shares elven and human blood. However the Gwaenor and the Caenor share a belief in elven superiority, and this mixed race status is deeply shameful to the Gwaenor, who are loathe to admit that they share any blood with humans. Furthermore the legal system of Seran Caelthas, which governs the Gwaenor, only permits full-blooded elves to own land (though humans de facto own their own land in many regions, they are not legally recognized as doing so) so racial status has important economic consequences.
Race and class status are therefore deeply intertwined in Gwaenor society. Almost everyone is to some degree a mixture of human and elven, but what you are actually recognized as depends more on your class than on your ancestry. Wealthy land-owners are considered to be either completely elven ( Telume ) or almost completely elven ( Makwa ) . Middle class craftsmen or small farmers are considered one half or quarter elven ( Pereldar or Canath ). Low class peasants and laborers are considered to be either fully human or at most to have a few drops of elven blood ( Limig or Sint ). These categories are somewhat fluid, a successful half-elven ( Pereldar ) merchant may fund a genealogical study that determines they are really fully elven and purchase land. A full blooded elf landlord who drunkenly gambles away their land is now considered to be half-elven and have displayed human weakness.
The linkage of race, class, and social status in Gwaenor society and the ability of individuals to rise or fall within this structure, means that individuals are always looking to cement their own place within these social structures. In Caenor society individuals are undeniably elves, but in Gwaenor society individuals must constantly affirm that they are elves or risk losing that status. Being elvish is not a passive state but rather a deliberate action. The Gwaenor term “Eldakan”, refers to a wide set of behaviors that signify “elf-ness”. Eldakan includes expected moral characteristics, restraint, patience, long-term thinking; but also speech patterns, mannerisms and body language that emphasize elven fluidity and grace. Eldakan also encompasses body modification, such as ear and head binding, designed to exaggerate traditionally elven facial features.
Gwaenor, particularly upper class Gwaenor, are constantly engaged in competitions over their racial status and attempts to outdo one another at Eldakan. The most vicious insult in Gwaenor society is to refer to someone as less elven than they are socially accepted as. Calling someone who claims full-elven status a Pereldar, or worse a Sint, inevitably, though not immediately, leads to violence.
Work, Class and Occupation
In contrast to the urban Caenor the Gwaenor are a rural people who work the land. Gwaenor mostly farm and ranch, but they also cut timber and mine. Gwaenor farm the rich floodplains at the mouth of the Fion River, ranch cattle in the rolling hills of Estmere , and cut trees on the ouskirts of the EuleWood. In all things the Gwaenor are an enterprising people, seeking to expand their family, territory, and wealth.
h2. Rural Life
A typical Gwaenor farm is large enough that it requires multiple families to fully work the land. The farm is legally owned by a full elf ( Telume ) and is home to his wife (women may own property but Gwaenor inheritance law prioritizes sons and husbands, so female land ownership is rare), and his legitimized children. They are joined by a number of half-elven families ( Pereldar ) who perform mostly skilled labor and craftwork but help out in the fields during harvest. Often times these half elves are the illegitimate children of the Telume owner, who will not inherit the farm but enjoy an elevated status within it. Lastly there are a number of human tenant farmers, who are provided with room, board, and a share of the harvest in exchange for working in the fields and tending the crops.
This general structure, in which a single full blooded Telume has legal ownership over a business enterprise and employs a large number of less pure Pereldar and Sint is quite common in Gwaenor society. Farms, ranches and logging camps all follow this structure. Larger enterprises like mines or trading companies use this same structure but scale it up, having multiple Telume owners and vastly more Pereldar and Sint underlings. These structures clearly advantage the upper-class of Telume who get the lions share of the profits and control the decision making.
The Gwaenor make no attempt to disguise the unfairness of this system. Though the Haranye Agarwaenn ended many human generations ago the horrors of that period are still fresh in the minds of most Gwaenor. That humans should occupy a lower place in the social order seems a fair punishment for their attempt to exterminate elvenkind. Half-elves can be trusted more, since they too risked extermination, but their human weakness and shorter lives make them untrustworthy and unworthy of controlling property.
While most Gwaenor tend farms and ranches in the countryside the past century has seen substantial growth in the size of Gwaenor cities. Almost all of these cities are built around trade and transporting the timber, iron, and other raw materials produced in the country side to Caeros. Urban Gwaenor tend to be involved in this trade somehow, directly as merchants, dockhands, and porters, or working in any of the myriad inns, restaurants and shops where sailors and merchants spend their coin.
The cities are home to thriving middle class of Pereldar shopwners, inkeeps and craftsmen. Small urban businesses are one of the few enterprises in Gwaenor society not dominated by Telume. While Pereldar may not legally own the large amounts of land necessary for farms they are permitted to own small shops and buildings. The cities represent a place of opportunity and hope for many lower and middle class Gwaenor.
In addition to this middle class Pereldar the cities are also home to a small number of ultra-rich Telume who are either wealthy merchants or own vast estates. For this group the city offers more comfort, luxury, and variety than their rural mansions. The cities offer access to the arts and culture produced through out Seran Caelthas and an opportunity to purchase luxury goods made on Caeros. While these ultra-rich Telume view themselves as more educated and cultured than their provincial counterparts, they are regarded as soft and weak by those who still live in the countryside. Their affection for what Gwaenor see as the decadence of Caenor arts and luxuries means they are often referred to by their detractors as Caitanor, meaning “fake Caenor”.
Values & Society
Gwaenor society prides toughness, perseverance, and success. Their constant history of near destruction and deprivation before this new period of wealth and growth gives the Gwaenor a willingness to do whatever is necessary to obtain the power and security previously unavailable to them. A Gwaenor is judged by how they provide for their own family and their own people, not whether they dealt fairly with outsiders. At the end of the day all that truly matters is ensuring the growth and wellbeing of your own family in particular and the Gwaenor race in general.
There is a great deal of violence in Gwaenor society. Though the Haranye Agarwaenn ended two hundred years ago and discredited the Kravaanites, some devotees to the old ways still see elf-killing as a sacred duty. Human and Sint workers occasionally become frustrated with their subordinate position and rebel against the Telume who employ them. Gwaenor men are expected to be capable fighter and serve in local militias that protect against rebellious tenants or bloodthirsty marauders. A Gwaenor is expected to be unafraid of either inflicting or receiving violence, they must be willing to put their life on the line and do what is necessary to keep the social hierarchy intact.
Though a willingness to partake in violence is values in Gwaenor society, impulsivity is not. A Gwaenor who is pushed to the point where pride requires he respond is expected to demonstrate self restraint in the moment. Common responses to verbal insults or insulting behavior (disobedience by inferiors) is to simply notify the offender where and when they will be beaten and publicly humiliated. The more egregious the insult and the status of the offender both determine how long a Gwaenor is expected to wait before handing out retribution. A Sint who commits a minor offense may be given only a week before vengance is taken against them, but a Telume who commits the most flagrant of offenses may simply be notified that they have a year left to live. This practice of delayed retribution is considered part of Edakan and serves to demonstrate the elven patience of the offended party.
Gwaenor society (or at least the upper class) has adopted into its everyday life many of the highly formal elements of traditional elven culture. Both Caenor and Gwaenor culture contains Arapaeth meaning “high speech” or “high elven”. Arapaeth is a set of ritual “scripts” that dictate precisely what an elf should say and do in specific situations, such as agreeing to a contract, speaking at a funeral, or offering an apology. Arapaeth scripts usually contain strictly worded sections that an elf is expected to recite from memory, but also sections in which an elf is expected to improvise to fit the specifics of the situation while maintaining the rhyme and meter of the memorized script. Knowledge of all the many Arapaeth scripts and the ability to improvise the appropriate sections is necessary for any elf who wants to be seen as well mannered and upper-class.
As part of Erdakan, Gwaenor society has increasing integrated Arapaeth into everyday interactions. While the Caenor reserve Arapaeth for special circumstances Gwaenor use them for such mundane interactions as greeting someone in the morning, saying goodbye, or commenting on the weather. An individuals ability to use (or from the Caenor perspective, overuse) Arapaeth is a testament to their class and upbringing