The Paélrhem Elves (lit. "Mist
Tribe") live in floating hills and cliffs above Taegion Madroth and Taegion
Naevreth, overlooking the sea. Their deep connection with the sky and surf
allows them to assume cloud forms, through which they can descend to the sea or
ascend into their floating homes. While their population appears to be
relatively small compared to the neighbouring
human tribes, exact numbers are hard to tell; the reclusiveness of the
Paélrhem coupled with their ability to assume the form of clouds makes their
true numbers nearly impossible to guess.
Appearance. Although originally an off-shoot of the Kaýrrhem Elves, the Paélrhem have since developed a distinct appearance, making them immediately recognizable in the way their image and movements seem to evoke images of towering cliffs wrapped in clouds, and white-crested waves breaking on the shore. So long dwelling within the clouds and mists, they have come, through the generations, to reflect their surroundings.
Paélrhem often wear their hair long, white to grey-white strands that catch the breeze, occasionally with small braids. The strands, straight and light, give the elves an airy lightness, like wind-swept foam lifted from the surface of the sea. Their cloud-white hair accentuates the colour of their eyes, which ranges from pale blue to aquamarine to sea-foam green. Occasionally the colour of the eyes seems to change depending on the weather or the movement of the tides.
While the Kaýr remain only distant cousins to the Paélrhem, they share many physical attributes. Like the Kaýr, Paélrhem Elves may reach a height of 2.3 peds, with men being slightly taller than women. The Paélrhem have also retained the slenderness of the Kaýr, with bodies lithe and light, echoing the essence of clouds, with light-coloured skin tones.
Coat of Arms/Sign. Because of the Paélrhem’s reclusive nature and limited interaction with surrounding tribes, they developed no Coat of Arms by which to identify themselves. However, they are still represented on maps and records through a Coat of Arms created for them by their neighbours, constructed from their associations to the sky and sea. The Coat of Arms used to represent the Paélrhem is round and features a large wave in the lower right, rising up to a curl in the middle of the circle. The wave is coloured blue, and is set against a pale sky. Against the left is a floating cliff in grey-brown, and on the top two long, soft clouds seem to linger in the air, coloured grey. The entire circular image is encircled by a braid, an association probably derived from the small braids the Paélrhem occasionally wear in their hair.
Territory. The Paélrhem are scattered along the floating cliffs and hills above the Taegion Madroth and Taegion Naevreth in north-eastern Nybelmar. They call these floating masses Yphrocál, a word derived from the Styrásh ýphero’cál or “sky land.” This collection of fractured and broken pieces of floating hills and mountains vary drastically in size. Many are an amalgamation of gentle, mound-like structures with tree roots winding through them and steep, sloping mountains covered in mosses and small shrubs. The elves live in networks that run inside of these floating structures (see Housing).
The Yphrocál may float inland, though they never drift too far away from the coast. This occasional journey inland allows for trade with the Aelónrhim. However, the Yphrocál are more commonly seen along the coast, and this is considered by the elves to be their natural home. These elves rarely journey outside their territory, and most only hear about them through their trading partners.
People. The Paélrhem are a tribe deeply connected to the wind and surf, to the changes in the weather and the movements of the tides. While many elves find connection to nature within the forest trees, the Paélrhem find in the skies and seas their connection to the changing nature of the Dream, to the cycles that govern all things. The interconnectedness of the seasons and the weather and the tides and surf and winds reminds the Paélrhem of the interconnectedness of all things within the Dream; their habitat is the manifestation of the Dream’s true nature and forces.
This deep connection with the Dream manifests in a natural connection to the mists and clouds. Almost from birth, these elves have the ability to turn their bodies into vapours, floating through the air as clouds. These aspects are often called cloud-forms by the Gondolwain who share their coast, though the elves themselves call them sky forms, or ýphero’naíl. These forms allow them to ascend to their homes in floating cliffs near the coast, and to descend to the sea to fish and trade.
While all elflings are born with the ability to morph into their cloud form, they can only maintain this form for a minute or two. As a Paélrhem lengthens in years, so the time they can maintain the form lengthens. At the end of a Paélrhem’s life, which may vary from 400 to 500 years of age, she will assume her cloud-form for the last time and ascend into the sky, dissipating into the air, leaving no trace behind. She merges with the essence of the Dream.
The Paélrhem’s homes among the floating cliffs of Taegion Madroth and Taegion Naevreth are here and there covered with Ílarol’pheraní, commonly known as Silkel Trees. They grow into the floating masses of rock, their roots weaving through the earth and stone, and their shimmering branches and strong trunk are coated always in a thin layer of cloudy mist. Among the Paélrhem, this mist represents the remnants of ancient spirits, the spirits of their ancestors, and many Paélrhem visit the trees for guidance. Especially near the end of an elf’s life, he comes here to meditate, to understand and connect themselves with the Dream, and it is usually among these trees that a Paélrhem dies - assuming their ýphero’naíl and merging into the Dream.
In addition to their cloud form, the Paélrhem’s extreme sensitivity to their environment have helped them develop magic to manipulate mists, winds, and water. This adds to the reclusive reputation of the elves, who do not often interact with the outside, save for the nomadic Aelónrhim tribe and occasionally the Gondolwain. A traveler seeking the elves out would find their settlements too hidden by mist and fog, and may wander for days without seeing any sign of them. Rumours about misdirection magics - those which turn travelers around and disorient them - try to explain why these elves remain so elusive. These are, however, mere rumours.
Despite the Paélrhem’s relatively cold climate (at least in comparison to southern Nybelmar), the Paélrhem generally wear only minimal clothing. Their bodies are well-adapted to their environment, and they are able to maintain a temperature that allows them to comfortably swim through seas and float through airs that many would find uncomfortably chill.
Most of the surrounding inhabitance tend to not be too interested in these elves: their reclusive yet peaceful nature inform their harmlessness. Those who have journeyed to find them were primarily fascinated with their strange forms and their unique relationship to the Dream. The Paélrhem may occasionally trade with the nomadic Aelónrhim, and are occasionally in contact with the Gondolwain men who share their coast. Otherwise, these elves keep to themselves; a Paélrhem journeying away from the environment with which she is so deeply connected is virtually unheard of.
Most of the Paélrhem are only minimally literate, as they have little need to read or write. All elfings learn the elven myths at a young age, usually from teachers or elders who can read from the Carpá’dosía. The learning itself is done orally, though, with elflings hearing the myth and committing it to memory. Because the elves do not write, they often have greater capacities for memory, and while many elves may only know the first few pages, there are more than a few Paélrhem who know the whole work by heart. This Carpá’dosía, it should be noted, is slightly smaller than the Sarvonian version. Because the Kaýr supposedly left Sarvonia before the fall of Fá’áv’cál’âr, the record of this does not exist in the Nybelmarian Carpá’dosía.
The Paélrhem’s relative illiteracy derives from their way of life. All their songs and poems are committed to memory and are passed down orally, and in fact their closeness to the oral rather than the visual nature of language makes them very sensitive to the prosody of language. Theirs is a culture filled with some of the most beautiful arias, filled with soft and lilting harmonies. They do not hold historical records, believing in the cycles of the Dream: the seasons arrive and pass, the tides go in and out, the waves approach and retreat. There is a belief among the Paélrhem that all things move in cycles, including time. If time is moving in cycles, repeating itself (in one manifestation or another), there is little need to record it. The only known record of song emerged in the research notes of a Santharian researcher who took down their lyric:
Sae’llán só Páel’rhimís
Doranté sóh galnosían sóh cashín:
Sá sae’llán sáh kelsharías
Ae’llí ýn avá chan’karathím.
Xeuát uím sá sae’llán.
Welanté foár ám jhé sáh bavmaría:
Só vaéy só thyronís.
Alí foár avaéf sá Valanajís.
Xeuát uím só vaéy.
Katranté sóh herinín ám sáh ypheroía.
Mehí chanthím foár sá terquán.
Xeuát uím sá nareuá.
Chuhanté á sóh avashín sáh alyría.
Styráns chán dolín sá marís.
Styráns quóc í án sharél,
Dré zilsháns és só kéreth’thyrón.
of the Paélrhem
The waves beat on the rocks.
The song of the cliffs.
Playing (like music) all time as one.
The song connects us.
The tides shift in and out
The cycle of the sea.
Moving in oneness of the Dream.
The cycle connects us.
The clouds and skies storm.
The becoming of heaven.
Changing all in the turning.
The becoming connects us.
The rains fall through the winds
We are all drops of the water.
We are distinct for a moment.
Then we merge into the vast ocean.
As for all elves,
Carpá’dosía provides the backbone to
the Paélrhem’s spiritual life. They show deference for all the gods, including
both Avá and
Coór. However, particularly important to
the culture are Grothar,
elves’ connection to the sky and surf and
their desire for peace make these three gods particularly salient. Rituals to
each are performed daily; Paélrhem usually pray to Baveras in the early
morning, to Grothar in the late
morning, and Eyasha in the evening.
Housing. The Paélrhem live along the cliffs, mountains, and hills that float above the land to overlook the ocean; these floating structures they call Yphrocál. The elves have naturally assumed living spaces that allow them to be close to both the sky and sea. Their homes are carved directly into the steep mountains and crags of the Yphrocál, in caves that extend deeply into the floating pieces of rock and earth. While some Paélrhem settlements have steps and stairs carved on the outside of the cliffs, most stairs and passageways are entirely within the cliffs themselves.
As the Paélrhem have grown and settled, the intricate maze of rooms, stairs, and passages have only grown more intricate and complex, and yet any Paélrhem elf would find no trouble at all navigating them. These elaborate housing complexes, so to speak, should not be confused with dwarven living spaces deep within the earth. Despite its complexity, the Paélrhem housing labyrinths are always close to the air because the qualities of the Yphrocál, and an elf is never far from the ocean and sky. No matter where you are in this structure, you can always hear the rush of the ocean and the sound of gulls, feel the winds off the ocean winding through the passages, and smell the salt and brine of the sea.
All rooms within each settlement’s collection of floating hills are interconnected, and some say, all the Paélrhem settlements are connected through an intricate maze of passages and rope-bridges, though this is mere rumour. The cliffs move around, often independently of one another, and the rope bridges connecting two floating mountains may be detached and re-attached to another depending on the movement of the Yphrocál. Although their locations may shift, all the members of a settlement are deeply and intimately linked with one another, either by living together within a single mass of floating rock, or through rope-vines that interconnect a network of floating rocks. The elves work together, live together, play together, and there is very little differentiation between one person’s living space and another’s. The Paélrhem share space with one another freely and openly.
The Paélrhem often decorate the inside of their interconnected home; the walls and passages are filled with designs and carvings related to the sea: porpoises, whales, gulls, clouds, waves, corals, sea shells, and other such images surrounded by braiding and interwoven design. Not all the passages are decorated in this way, but passages that do display such carvings are breathtakingly beautiful.
Clothing. The clothing of the Paélrhem is fashioned from the silk of the Ílarol’pheraní that cover the floating cliffs. These silkel trees produce threads of silk that are unusually light, even compared to other silkel trees. Some attribute this to the close connection between these trees and the sky, engendered by the trees’ growing on the cliffs. For the Paélrhem, the tree produces such a light thread because of the spirits that surround the tree, manifested in the mist that always lingers around the trunk and in the branches. The lightness of these spirits imbues the silk with lightness.
The Paélrhem harvest the silk and further treat it to make the threads even lighter, though the fabric is never dyed. How this is accomplished remains a mystery the tribe keeps to itself, but through this process, they produce a material that is as light as spider silk. If released to the wind, it would float, not fall. This material is used to fashion clothing capable of moving with the Paélrhem as he assumes his cloud form (ýphero’naíl). As a Paélrhem ascends as a cloud, floating into his cliff home, the cloth appears like a gossamer spiderweb caught on the breeze, shimmering briefly in the light as it ascends.
The style of clothing may vary, but is often very light and loose. Women may wear a garment that covers her entirely, like a dress, but these are generally reserved for special occasions, such as rituals or prayers. Far more common is a minimal two-piece design - one that covers her top and bottom just enough for protection and cleanliness. This allows her to move easily and freely, both in the sky and in the sea. The men similarly wear a cloth about their waists, but generally leave their chests bare. As with most other elves, clothing is donned to protect the body and keep it clean: the comfort elves have with their own body negates the need to cover their bodies for modesty’s sake. The Paélrhem elves do not wear shoes - because they dwell in the sea and sky, such things are not needed.
Diet. The Paélrhem spend most of their life along the coast, and therefore much of the food comes from the sea. The elves often hunt together, sometimes with nets they use to catch schools of fish, or else with knives to take down larger aquatic game. This includes the large Teekra that inhabit the waters just off the coast. These large fish can grow to two peds in length, and often swim in large schools. Because of their size, and often their fiery temperaments, they are dangerous game, but provide a good source of nutrition. As such, the Paélrhem often work together to corner one, and then work swiftly to take it down quickly and humanely.
The Teekra are not the only large game the Paélrhem consume. Despite the dangers, Paélrhem may also hunt the giant kraken less frequently. Unlike the Teekra, the kraken do not travel in schools--but they are also more dangerous for their enormous strength and their razor-lined tentacles. Many elves must work in tandem in order to take one down without injury. Through use of a pulley system, large game like Teekra and giant kraken may be hauled back up to the Yphrocál, where it can be cooked or prepared.
Shellfish and seaweed also make up a significant part of the elves’ diet. Shellfish and mollusks are often collected along the sandy bottom of the ocean and then brought up in woven baskets to the Yphrocál. Seaweed is often collected and dried, then used as a garnish for meals. The small berries of the Lyphen tree is also sometimes used in meals, appealing for its citrus-like flavouring.
Other, more exotic foods enter the Paélrhem diet through trade with the Aelónrhim and Gondolwain. For their collection of seafood, the Paélrhem receive a variety of fruits, spices, and meats.
Weapons. The Paélrhem do not have anything they would consider to be weapons. As a reclusive tribe with peaceful relations with their neighbours, these elves have no need for weapons. However, they do have knives and utensils for carving, cooking, and hunting. These knives are occasionally made from rock but are more often carved from the bones of whales that either beach themselves on the coast during dangerous conditions or else simply those who die and are washed up on the beach. Knives carved from bone are often ceremonial, and like most of the Paélrhem’s ritual tools and utensils, are richly carved.
Occupations. As in most elf tribes, Paélrhem have equal gender relations. There are, however, some occupations more often held by men, and others more often held by women. All roles in the community are valued, no matter how small or insignificant a task may seem. Each is viewed in a larger context; all members and the work they do is integral for the continued functioning of the community. All work is interconnected. The weavers make the clothes that the fishers need to protect them, and the fishers provide the fish that the cooks need to feed the tribe, and the cooks provide food for the carvers who need it to sustain themselves, and the carvers provide the tools and equipment that the fishers, weavers, and cooks use. Everyone is interconnected, and depends on one another for their survival.
Fishers are one of the most apparent occupations among the Paélrhem, and one of the most numerous. Because of the big game the elves often hunt, collecting food requires many people and a great deal of teamwork. Because this sort of hunt requires, not agility, but raw strength, most fishers are men. There are female fishers, but most of them are gatherers, collecting shellfish and mollusks from off the sea floor, and harvesting seaweed.
Carvers serve a variety of functions in the tribe, the most apparent of which is creating the knives and tools needed to hunt large fish and kraken. They also produce the tools and utensils for other facets of life in the Yphrocál, including those for cooking. They are also the primary builders: they produce and maintain the cavernous passageways through the Yphrocál, the Paélrhem’s home. From large caverns and passageways to small knives and utensils, the carvers aid their community in many ways. They decorate the walls of the Yphrocál with intricate designs, and produce the ceremonial tools of whale bone. Women tend to serve most often as carvers.
Cooks handle and prepare the food fishers collect. This group of individuals, most often male, are experts in not only producing good food for the nourishment of the tribe, but in the anatomy of all creatures brought up from the sea. They know how to use every part of an animal’s body to ensure that nothing goes to waste.
Weavers harvest silk from the silkel tree and turn it into the cloth the members of the tribe need to keep their bodies clean and protected. The harvested silk is treated in such a way that the material produced is light and airy, able to move with a Paélrhem even when they assume their cloud form. This treatment remains a mystery, though there is no end to speculations. Weavers are also considered the most connected to the natural energies, as the clothing they produce is often said to have magical properties of protection and healing. They are most often female.
Government. The Paélrhem from all accounts are a loosely connected group of settlements, each functioning within its own collection of interconnected islands of the Yphrocál. They trade materials and resources and frequently engage one another in social gathering, but the community maintains very little governance, as it has very little need of government. However, like most elven tribes, the Paélrhem have a Ránn who acts as the tribe’s priestess for ceremonial affairs. The Ránn, along with a group of elders, conduct the various rituals for the tribe.
The Ránn, unlike many human leaders, is not chosen by hereditary means. Rather, an elf becomes a Ránn because she is both knowledgeable in ritual and elven myth and because her energies are intertwined with the Dream: that is, she is more attuned to the changing nature of the Dream, and acts as a guide to attune others with the Dream. While a Ránn may spend her whole life in this position, usually her term is shorter than her lifespan, ranging between 200 and 300 years, in most cases. Because the Dream is ever-changing and energies are ever-changing, often another elf more attuned to the new balances in the Dream will take over leadership as Ránn.
Ránn are not elected by the Paélrhem, or chosen by an elite council. The elves, because of their abilities to read energies and recognize astral auras, require no democratic vote; everyone knows the new Ránn almost as soon as they sense her presence. Many others may be well-attuned to the Dream, but there is always one more attuned than another. These others often serve as part of a council. The term “elder council” often attributed to it by humans is not an accurate term, as the council contains both older and younger elves. While many of these are often elders, there tend to be a few younger elves in their ranks. The size of the council is hard to estimate: some say there are only 10 or 12 members, while others say there may be many, many more.
The Paélrhem, for as long as anyone can remember, have been led by a Ránn (not a Rónn). A Ránn’s mate is often termed a Rónn, and while he often serves on the council, he does not lead in high religious ceremony. The Paélrhem keep no historical records, and while there may have been a time when the tribe was led by a Rónn, the occasion will forever be lost to history.
Production/Trade. The Paélrhem are an exclusive tribe, and as such, their network of trade is extremely small. Besides the nomadic Aelónrhim, whom they encounter when the Yphrocál drift inland, or the Gondolwain, who share their coast, the Paélrhem do not have contact with any other tribes. Even among the few contacts the tribe has, trading is relatively scarce.
The Aelónrhim, the closer of the Paélrhem’s trading partners, supplies the tribe with spices and meats, in particular, as well as some fruits and vegetables the Paélrhem are unlikely to find in their own coastal territories. In return, the Paélrhem offer salt, seaweed, and dried strips of fish and kraken.
The Gondolwain are slightly more estranged trading partners, and while many members of the tribe regard this race of humans with some ambivalence, there has never been poor relations among the two tribes. The Paélrhem leave the Gondolwain alone, for the most part, allowing the human tribe to continue their naval wars with the Aca-Santerrans, and in return the Gondolwain stay out of the affairs of the Paélrhem. The occasional material trade between the two tribes revolves around exchanging seafood and occasionally whale-bone tools for fruits and vegetables, including citrus fruits, which help stave off scurfy and aid a more well-rounded diet.
Natural Resources. While the Paélrhem may not have fertile plains on which to grow crops or raise livestock, their coastal home provides them with an abundance of natural resources, particularly seafood. The Paélrhem collect smaller-size fish in large nets, while larger fish, like the Teekre, are hunted by large groups of fishers. The meat of these fish can be cooked, dried, or even eaten raw.
Apart from these fish, the Paélrhem also find kraken in their coastal territory. These tentacled creatures can grow enormous, and often large groups of elves must work as a coordinated team to bring one down. However, once killed, the meat of the kraken can be dried and eaten as a snack or else used for trade with other tribes like the Aelónrhim. Because of the difficulty in bringing down one of these beasts, the meat of the kraken is rare and very valuable. Of all the tribe’s resources, kraken meat is the most prized.
Along with the more dangerous sea creatures, the sea also provides shellfish and mollusks, along with seaweed that can be dried and used as a garnish. The sea also provides salt - necessary to all tribes for the preservation of meat.
Occasionally whales or whale bones will wash up along the coast, and the bones are often used to create tools - such as knives and utensils. Whale-bone tools made by the Paélrhem are especially valued, though. Not only are they of excellent quality, but they may be intricately decorated with designs or motifs of sea creatures. Many belief that the elves who create these tools imbue them with magic, so that the knife never dulls or the wielder has greater luck in hunt or trade. They are therefore valued highly, particularly by the Gondolwain who are the only known human tribe to have ever obtained one.
Holidays, Festivals and Observances. The Paélrhem are a spiritual tribe, and as such observe their primary gods, Baveras, Grothar, and Eyasha, through daily rituals. In the early morning, they show deference to Baveras through a cleansing ritual, where an elf will wash her hands and face and pray for fair tides and good health. Later in the morning, the elves, either in groups or alone, will sing sky-songs, which praise Grothar and ask for good weather for the day. During the evenings, in groups or alone, the elves will sing songs to Eyasha, asking for continued peace.
Along with these daily rituals, Paélrhem also have festivals for each god once a year. During the month of the changing wings (Méh'avashín), the elves collect to sing songs to Grothar, to praise him for the previous year’s weather and to pray for continued good weather. The day of the festival seems to change depending on the year, and may last anywhere from a few days to a week. The festival generally takes place regardless of weather and, in fact, rain and lightning are generally regarded as good signs.
Sometime during the month of the rising sun (Dál'injerá) the Paélrhem spend a few days worshipping Eyasha. This festival involves at least one day and night in which all the elves pray and sing to Eyasha for twenty-four hours. The reason for this practice stems from a desire to praise Eyasha for the peace experienced throughout the day - in both hours of light and darkness. During this time, the Paélrhem also pray for continued peace.
Closer to the end of the year, during the month of the passing clouds (Sálari'herín), the elves spend a full week praising Baveras. Tides and ocean conditions tend to be one of the most dangerous parts of Paélrhem life, and so prayers to Baveras are particularly important. Because of the relationship between Baveras and Grothar, praising and earning favour of one is believed to help gain favour from the other. The festival is also coupled with yearly cleansing rituals, a time for elves to realign themselves with the true nature of the Dream.