D.6. Silvaan (Half-Elf)
"In the western lands, we are called half-Elves. In Quenardya, we are half-humans. The very names we use for ourselves carry the mark of something unfinished, sullied, incomplete. Our entire identity is defined by the things we are not. My dear brothers and sisters, we shall never find our place in the world until we begin to see ourselves as intact, whole -- something special in our own right. The Elves and humans, our dear parents, have given us life, but we must find our identity apart from either of them. It is time to leave the nest." -- Jonathan Three Rivers, founder of the Silvaan separatist movement
The Silvaan (singular and plural) are a race descended from the hybridization of humans and Elves. They possess many of the strengths of both races, but they are hampered from engaging fully in either race's society: Silvaan live three to four times as long as humans, but less than half as long as most Elves. After millennia of feeling trapped between two worlds, unable to belong to either, the Silvaan finally withdrew into enclaves of their own kind, determined to forge for themselves a cultural identity that they could call their own. After some 250 years, this great experiment seems to be working.
Silvaan resemble slender humans with light bone structure, angular features, and modestly pointed ears. They range in height from around 163 cm (5'4") to 191 cm (6'3"), with a mean around 178 cm (5'10") for both males and females. They tend to have slender builds, though not as willowy as those of Elves; mass typically ranges from 54 kg (119 lbs.) to 82 kg (180 lbs). Skin tone varies from alabaster to deep reddish brown, depending on the individual's human heritage; the most commonly-seen skin tones range from tan to bronze. The eyes are large and usually oval to almond-shaped, and in most Silvaan the irises are near-black in color, though lighter hues are sometimes seen among paler-skinned individuals. Hair color may be anything from silver-white to blue-black, with auburn, brown and black being particularly common. Unlike Elves, Silvaan do carry the genes for red hair, and it and its variants (strawberry blonde, copper, auburn) are not uncommon.
General Attributes: Silvaan are within the bounds of human norms in most aspects of their physical and mental capabilities. While they are, on average, somewhat more intelligent and perceptive than the average human, they are not as prone to the extremes of creative genius that are sometimes found among humanity. There are many bright minds among the Silvaan, but comparatively few great visionaries and prodigies. Physically, Silvaan tend to be agile and dextrous but not particularly strong; eye-hand coordination is higher on average than in humans, and Silvaan are four times as likely as humans to be ambidextrous, but their light frames do not acquire muscle mass as easily as those of most humans. Silvaan are rarely overweight and almost never obese.
Lifespan & Reproduction: Silvaan are long-lived compared to humans. They reach physical maturity in their mid- to late twenties, and usually live 300 to 400 years (though the latter is considered very old, comparable to late 90s in humans). Silvaan women are fertile from around age 20 to age 150; men become potent around age 25 and remain so until late in life. Twins are rarer than they are among humans, and higher-order multiple births are almost unheard of.
Magic: Virtually all Silvaan have at least some aptitude for magery, a gift inherent in their Elven blood. Their bodies are resistant to transformation spells that were not specifically designed for Silvaan or Elves; the Curse of Metamor, for instance, bonds to their bodies but cannot change them. Silvaan are also somewhat resistant to Mind-Affecting Enchantments, including sleep-spells and mental domination, and to telepathic manipulation. Silvaan can use any enchanted item designed for Elves as if they were Elves, and any designed for humans as if they were human.
Psionics: Psi abilities are extremely rare among Silvaan, cropping up only about 5% as often as they do among humans. Silvaan psis generally breed with psis in the human Psi Collective, so their offspring are human; for all practical purposes, there are no second-generation Silvaan psis.
Interbreeding: Silvaan can interbreed with both humans and Elves, but the results do not follow the normal Mendelian laws of heredity. When Silvaan mate with Elves, the result is another Silvaan; the child may have slightly more Elven features and a slightly stronger aptitude for magery, but s/he will not possess the unaging immortality of Elves.When a Silvaan mates with a human, the child is also human; the child will be beautiful, slender and agile by human standards, but s/he will mature at a fairly normal human rate, die by age 110 or 120 at the latest, and be as vulnerable to transformation magic and Mind-Affecting Enchantment as a child born of two humans.
Silvaan can also interbreed with Plane-touched, some outsiders, and some Fae. The resulting offspring in these cases are usually Silvaan in appearance and lifespan, though they will carry some marks of their supernatural ancestry. They could theoretically produce offspring with Breed, as well, but no such union has ever been recorded to date. Dragons who have taken on humanoid form could also sire offspring with Silvaan females, as they can with humans, but such children have not been seen since the dragons began their long-standing policy of isolationism.
It has only been a couple of centuries since the Silvaan finally won recognition as a separate and distinct people (see History, below), and Silvaan society still bears the marks of its youth. While there are Silvaan communities scattered all over the world, especially in Galendor, they all share certain core values because of their common heritage.
Most Silvaan are progressive and idealistic. They see the world in terms of right and wrong, freedom and injustice, and they are quick to stand up for "the little guy". They have little use for authoritarians, preferring to decide on courses of action as a group (or elect leaders from among themselves, if absolutely necessary). They believe that the future will be better than the past, if people have the guts to stand up and make it so. They are interested in laws only in so far as they advance the cause of social justice; in matters of private life they are fiercely independent. In this they would be natural allies of the Psi Collective, if either group dealt with the other enough to realize the mutual advantages of such cooperation.
While they are generally a compassionate people motivated by the desire to make the world a better place, the Silvaan can be so zealous that they get on other people's nerves. More conservative races see them as hasty, brash and unreasonable, hopping from one crisis to the next in order to give meaning to their existence. In addition, while they dislike government intervention in their own lives, they are more than willing to demand such intervention elsewhere if they believe it will help put stop to some great injustice or social ill. Many also suffer from the delusion that their own point of view is the only logical one; if anyone disagrees with them on a major political issue or philosophical idea, they must be either misunderstanding the Silvaan's arguments or harboring some sinister, ulterior motive. Silvaan are not quite as adaptable as humans, and one consequence of this is that their belief systems are generally rigid and resistant to change.
The key virtues prized by Silvaan society are compassion, devotion to one's cause or beliefs, and a social conscience. Their most common vices are arrogance, recklessness, and inflexibility.
Humans and Elves Meet:
Eleven thousand years ago, nomadic tribes of humans came across a land bridge from Kitchlande to western Galendor, searching for better grazing lands for their herds. They discovered a land inhabited by Elves, a mystical people with highly developed culture, magic and technology. The Elven cities were larger and more wondrous than these poor Stone-Age herdsmen could even dream of, yet they lived in harmony with the land around them in a way that the great human civilizations of legend had not. The humans soon developed a reverence for them that bordered on worship.
The Elves, for their part, knew of humans all too well. Two thousand years prior -- well over sixty generations for the humans, but within the lifetimes of some Elves' grandparents -- a human civilization led by powerful wizards had attempted to storm across the land bridge to plunder the riches of the Elven cities. The war was ended when a desperate Elven prince performed forbidden dark magic, destroying the human warlords and tearing a whole between the material world and a place that Should Not Be. This rift destroyed the Elven city of Jagoduun and unleashed great evil into the world -- so great, in fact, that the rift was not fully healed for nearly twelve thousand years.
The Elves remembered the bitter lessons of Jagoduun and felt great sorrow and shame for what their prince had done -- not only had he destroyed a great city, he had reduced the humans to little more than apes. When humans returned to the Elven lands as primitive nomads, the Elves felt that shame afresh. This time, they vowed, they would do better: they would take this young race under their wing and teach them the ways of civilization, without provoking the bloodthirsty ambition that had led to the destruction of the last great human kingdom. This time, the humans would not need to try to take anything from the Elves by force; their prosperity and their knowledge would be shared freely. They could not be trusted to govern their own affairs, of course -- they were little more than children -- but the Elves opened their homes to the humans and accepted them as servants, students and wards.
The First Half-Elves:
Many Elves soon became very fond of humans. While they were homely, clumsy and short-lived by Elven standards, the humans absorbed information at an astonishing rate, and they were capable of incredible spontaneity and creativity when they were freed from worries about where their next meals were coming from. Humans also matured swiftly, and showed a very great appetite for sex. It has been widely stated that enthusiasm is the best aphrodisiac, and that was indeed the case here: while the Elven sex drive is inconsistent and irregular, human females were receptive for a week or more out of every single month -- and human males were essentially receptive at any time and place imaginable. Since Elven society, like that of humans, always contained individuals who were unable to obtain sex from their fellow Elves every time they wanted it, some human-Elven coupling was bound to take place. What no one expected, however, was for these acts to result in pregnancy.
Many early half-Elven pregnancies resulted in miscarriages or stillborn children, particularly if the mother was Elven. Over time, however, the Elven healers began to learn how to account for the differences in physiology, and healthy half-Elven children began to be born in surprisingly large numbers. Many human women saw how beautiful the half-Elven children were and began actively seeking Elven males who would be receptive to their advances. Then the half-Elves themselves began to reach maturity and marry amongst themselves, and it was proven that the race was true-breeding: two half-Elves who conceived a child would always produce another half-Elf. The half-Elven population began to grow even faster. While they were still not considered as responsible as full-blooded Elves, the half-Elves began to be relied upon as "middle management" between the Elves and the more numerous humans -- they could serve as mages, clerics, teachers, and in other skilled occupations where humans were not considered reliable enough to be employed.
Half-Elves were particularly prized by the Elves as warriors and rangers -- while they could not reach the level of expertise shown by an Elven weapons master, they learned more quickly than Elves and were soon more numerous as well. The loss of even one Elven warrior was a grave blow, and many warriors died without ever having children; with the half-Elves, it was much more likely that a warrior would already have left a child or two, even if he died at a relatively young age. The Elves were at peace among themselves, and for a long time they had little need of warriors, but the coming of the Great Darkness changed that.
Decline of the Elven Empire:
The Great Darkness was a vast horde of daedra and their allies that marched from the Northlands against the Elves and dragons of Galendor, about 4000 years after humans first settled in the Elven lands. The gods sent their celestials to fight alongside the mortals, but the bulk of the fighting in the Alliance of Light was done by half-Elven warriors led by Elven generals. The Alliance of Light was victorious, but both the Elves and the half-Elves suffered horrific casualties. They came home, their numbers greatly reduced, to a land where they were vastly outnumbered by humans, most of whom had been left to tend the fields, herds and forges under the supervision of a few Elven masters. For every ten humans, eight had lost their Elven masters in the war. The burden of caring for them was overwhelming, and the grief-stricken Elves found they no longer had the energy or will to continue doing so. They withdrew from most of the continent, settling their survivors in the lands of Aelfwood, the Sylvan Mountains, and what would one day be called the Outer Midlands. They brought the surviving half-Elves with them, but most of the humans were left to fend for themselves with the learning and resources the Elves had left for them. It would be centuries before human civilization recovered from the shock of being suddenly left on their own.
The half-Elves, meanwhile, slowly dwindled in population along with the Elves. There was a slight upturn in their numbers after the Human-Elf War (-559 to -549 CR), and again when the Outer Midlands accepted human refugees after the collapse of the Suielman Empire (ca. 150 CR), but it was not to last; most humans no longer trusted Elves as they once had, though those who lived under Elven rule remained loyal. The Elves grew more and more uneasy at the constant bickering and squabbling of the human lands around their borders, and began to long for the solitude of the Aelfwood. At last, in the early 400s, the Elves began a more gradual withdrawal from the Outer Midlands, this time taking care to train human stewards who could rule their lands wisely. The half-Elves found that they were unwelcome in these lands when the Elves left -- the rulers tended to consider them a threat to their position, since they visibly resembled the old Elven masters -- so they withdrew to Aelfwood along with the remaining Elves. With the sack of Yerebey, the last remaining Elven city outside the forest, the Elven civilization reached its low point; many felt sure that it was only a matter of time before the Elves vanished entirely.
The Great Fall of the gods and daedra lords was the beginning of a new age for humans, Elves and half-Elves alike. After the Battle of the Starchild, in which the Elves came to Metamor's aid at the half-Elf Tessariel's request, an alliance was signed between Duke Thomas V of Metamor and the High King of Quenardya. This opened up serious ties of trade and diplomacy between humans and Elves for the first time in 300 years -- not so long in Elven terms, but many generations by human standards. The Elves were a natural market for the rich mithril deposits Metamor had only recently discovered within its territory, and the unworked native metal was traded to Elven craftsmen in exchange for powerful, long-lasting enchanted items that Metamor could use for expansion and development in the liberated Northlands. Wizards from Metamor (and its allies in Marigund) shared knowledge with their Elven counterparts, gaining ancient magical secrets long lost to mankind in exchange for new spells that the highly creative humans had invented. Neither Metamor nor Quenardya was then at the height of its power -- but since the Starchild had transferred nearly the full power of the pantheon to Metamor Keep (and thus, to Kyia), and the range of the Curse was already expanding, the course of future events was becoming clear. The Keep itself was now truly unassailable; the Keepers had the legendary Elves on their side; and the gods themselves had fallen from heaven when they dared to use the Valley as the site of their Armageddon. The mighty armies of Sathmore and the fanatical legions of Lanton and its allies had been sent home with their tails between their legs at a single command from the Starchild. Metamor had suddenly acquired a mystique that the great kingdoms of its day would not dare to oppose -- and it was not forgotten that a half-Elf, a physical embodiment of the bridge between the two peoples, had been the person to make the alliance possible.
The ties between Metamor, Quenardya, and the lands of the Outer Midlands were further strengthened by the struggles against Lilith and Talia over the next decade. Lilith's attempts to expand her influence beyond the dark forests were modest and cautious, but Talia used her troops extravagantly -- first merely unseating corrupt barons and allies of Nasoj or Lanton, and later holding entire cities hostage to try to force Metamor to meet her demands. Keepers and Quenardyans took the field in defense of their Midlander allies, and for the first time in their lives the young humans and half-Elves raised in Aelfwood were exposed to human-built civilization. Tessariel was the first half-Elf to make Metamor her home, but many others would follow her in the years thereafter.
The half-Elves were respected and valued wherever they went within Metamor's holdings -- most people never saw full-blooded Elves, even in those days, and the half-Elves were a living reminder of their allies to the East. These half-bloods carried with them a portion of the Elven grace, beauty and charisma, and many of them had a driving need to pursue excellence in whatever they did -- an attempt to mimic the apparent perfection they saw in their Elven masters. The half-Elves did not learn as swiftly as humans, and aged more slowly -- but given time, they could develop great mastery and skill in nearly anything they devoted themselves to. And time was something that half-Elves had in abundance, at least by human standards.
As much as they were welcomed, however, and became an increasing part of Metamorian society in the centuries that followed, the half-Elves always stood apart from their human neighbors. A half-Elf could easily outlive four generations of human friends, and most humans could not understand the persistent inferiority complex that plagued many half-Elves -- for the half-Elves had never stopped comparing themselves to full-blooded Elves, with their ageless lives and inhuman grace and artistry. To be a half-Elf was, almost literally, to be something incomplete -- half of a perfect whole, never capable of achieving that perfection. They could not even hope to achieve that perfection for their descendants, for a single drop of human blood in one's lineage guaranteed that a person would age and die, no matter how many times the half-Elves bred back to full-blooded Elves. While in human society half-Elves were not seen as merely clever children, as they were under Elven rule, they were still unsure of what identity remained to them when they were separated from their Elven masters. It was nearly a thousand years before a particularly extraordinary half-Elf hit upon the answer.
The Silvaan Separatists:
The man's name was Jonathan Three Rivers. He was a half-Elf born of half-Elves -- his father raised in a human society, his mother raised among the Elves. He was born in 1693 CR in the city of Marigund, in the south-central Outer Midlands. As a major artery of trade between the Midlands and the Elven communities of the Sylvan Mountains, Marigund was home to one of the largest populations of half-Elves in the Empire, though they could not have been called a community in any meaningful sense. Like many half-Elves who grew up among humans, Jonathan matured more slowly than his peers and often felt the shame of being smaller and more childish than other children his own age.
Unlike many young half-Elves, however, Jonathan was raised by parents who were proud of their biracial heritage. Jonathan's father was the product of an affair between a human noblewoman and a Elven artist visiting at court, while his mother was born to an Elf-maid who had taken a human bondservant as a lover. Both were conceived in love, and both were cherished and protected by their mothers, who helped them to avoid the characteristic inferiority complex that plagued most half-Elves in those days. Both were keenly perceptive individuals who were able to see the strengths and weaknesses of both the human and Elven societies, and they instilled this understanding in young Jonathan.
As he grew to adulthood, however, Jonathan began to see that neither Elven nor human society could truly include half-Elves as equals; humans would always see half-Elves as shadows of the Elves' magical nature, while Elves would always see "half-humans" as little more than children. During his twenties and thirties he traveled extensively among both human- and Elf-led communities as an Imperial courier, talking to fellow half-Elves wherever he found them. Along the way he observed, pondered, and filled hundreds of pages with his journals.
Two things in particular disturbed Jonathan. First, the half-Elves and humans of Quenardya had no voice in their government; while they performed many essential functions within Quenardyan society, all of them were bondservants of their Elven masters. Even more worrisome to Jonathan, none of the half-Elves he met seemed to have a real sense of being both human and Elven in heritage; either they considered themselves mostly human with a few traits that made them seem alien, or they thought of themselves as incomplete mimics of the Elves, like a poor apprentice's copy of his master's painting. None of them seemed to appreciate that they were the heirs of two different cultures, each with its own strengths. As he grew and learned, he eventually came to the conclusion that most people couldn't deal with being half something and half something else; to really be at peace with themselves, they had to find a cohesive identity, something that would fuse the disparate parts of their heritage into a unified whole. He realized that his search for answers and understanding was being driven by his own feelings of incompleteness -- but while most half-Elves seemed to be missing part of their own nature, he had all the pieces to complete this puzzle of identity, if only he could figure out how to put them together.
By 1726, when Jonathan was 33, printing presses were becoming common enough that books could be mass-produced without enlisting an army of scribes. With the aid of a printer in Marigund whom he had befriended, Jonathan wrote and published his first book, which he entitled Bastard: Confessions of an Elf-Human Hybrid. The book was part autobiography, part travelogue and part social analysis, but its disparate components blended naturally with one another and the writing was clear, eloquent and thoughtful. The somewhat alarming title caught the attention of the learned and the common folk alike, stimulating conversation about Jonathan and his ideas. Humans and half-Elves alike bought the book in vast numbers, and even a surprising number of Elves took an interest in it (in spite of the fact that the writings of humans and half-Elves were usually considered childish and simple-minded).
Jonathan was an instant celebrity in Marigund, where he soon found himself swamped by half-Elves who wanted to hear more about his ideas. He did not immediately return to writing, but instead used the profits from his book to fund its publication in other cities throughout the Empire and Quenardya. Word of mouth preceded the book's publication at Metamor City, and when it was finally released in the Imperial capital it sold through three complete printings in less than two years.
Jonathan now had more money than he had ever seen before in his life -- but more importantly, he had contacts at all levels of society in two large and powerful nations. His next objective was to parlay his newfound influence into achieving a tangible goal -- namely, winning suffrage for the half-Elves and humans of Quenardya.
Jonathan and his supporters wavered back and forth on whether to include humans in this crusade, or limit their focus to winning suffrage for their fellow hybrids. While they all agreed that humans had as much right to a voice in government as they did, they feared that a victory that included the humans might trap half-Elves into an identity as a sub-group of humanity. In the end, however, Jonathan decided that they needed to include the humans -- not just for the added support or because of the moral considerations, but because he feared that winning suffrage only for those with Elven blood would perpetuate the idea of the hybrids as "incomplete Elves", both in the minds of the Elves and among the hybrids themselves. There would be time later to establish that they had won freedom for all non-Elves, and that their alliance with the humans had been a partnership of two distinct peoples -- but if they allowed the mindset to take root that only those of Elven blood could rule themselves, they would never be truly free.
The "battle" for suffrage rights in Quenardya was, in truth, rather mild as such things go. Elves as a race tend to be non-confrontational, preferring to go their own way and withdraw rather than fight. The tough part, in this case, was to win the battle in the hearts and minds of all people, Elves and non-Elves alike, so that the Elves would really accept the hybrids and humans as partners and not simply retreat into yet another, smaller corner of the world. Jonathan and his allies campaigned hard all across Quenardya for the reforms they sought, building support at the grass-roots level. Eventually, in 1735, the High King of Quenardya -- and his wife, the divine Queen Artela -- invited Jonathan Three Rivers to come to Taralas for an audience, to explain his goals to the royal court. Jonathan gave a passionate presentation of his mission and answered the courtiers' questions ably and respectfully. Nothing had yet been decided when he left Taralas the next morning, but the discussion of equal suffrage and democratic reform was under way at the highest levels of Elven government. By the beginning of 1738, the Elven court had issued guidelines for the liberation of human and half-human bondservants; five years after that, the first elections were held in Quenardya to appoint governing councils at the local and provincial levels. The "revolution" had been bloodless.
Jonathan put the Quenardyan reforms in context in his second book, From Slaves To Brothers: The Liberation of the Quenardyan Working Class. Unlike his first book, From Slaves To Brothers was written first in Modern Elvish and then re-written in Common. Many half-Elves living in Quenardya could not read Common, and he wanted to be sure that they would have a record of their own history that was accessible to them. It was in this book that he first coined the term "Silvaan" to refer to Elf-human hybrids. The term was derived from the Common word "sylvan", meaning "of the forest". The odd spelling in Common is a direct transliteration of the characters used to spell this word in Elvish, which uses a phonetic character system in which the equivalent of "double-a" is used to signify the "broad a" sound. The word "Silvaan" also bears a close resemblance to an Old Elvish compound word meaning "shining beauty", which was a deliberate move on Jonathan's part: he wanted his people to stop thinking of themselves as inadequate or insufficient, and to instead see themselves as beautiful beings who could be a light and an inspiration to the rest of the world.
Today Silvaan can be found throughout most of Galendor; they are rare in Yamato, which fought two wars with Quenardya in the last 150 years, and can only be found in Rukilia when they are working as activists or subversives to fight for the rights of the lower classes. Silvaan communities first tend to form wherever there is a need for them to fill or a cause for them to champion; as they form connections to the surrounding people and settle down among them, other Silvaan come to join them, until an entire neighborhood or district of Silvaan has appeared in a place where there were none a generation before. Silvaan communites tend to be compassionate and considerate neighbors and are usually well-liked by those around them, though their crusading mentality can be wearisome to those of a more easygoing temperament. Silvaan communities are somewhat rarer in the Southlands than in Galendor, rarer still in Fan Shoar, and almost unheard of in Irombi -- half-Elves in these latter continents are more likely to be the first-generation descendants of Elves living abroad, and do not usually associate themselves with the Silvaan culture.
Silvaan disagree widely in their views of the Empire. While Metamor extended its influence over western Galendor through non-aggressive means, and usually for humanitarian purposes, some Silvaan see any government with so much power as a danger, particularly when the power is vested in one individual. Majestrix Kyia may be benevolent and immortal, but she is not infallible, and the popularly-elected legislatures of the Imperial provinces are not nearly enough to counter the inherently anti-democratic hierarchy of appointed governors, ministers and secretaries. Other Silvaan believe that a monarchy that rules lightly is better than a republic that rules oppressively; elected human rulers often become slaves of the finaciers who put them in office, and their brief lifespans give them a drive to make their mark on their office regardless of whether it is good for the people. By contrast, Silvaan in Quenardya are generally supportive of the government; the nation's federal system ensures that the powers given to the Queen and her functionaries are strictly controlled, and sovereignity rests with the states and the people rather than with the monarch. The Silvaan find a lot of common ground with the fiercely libertarian humans of Whales, but they often come into conflict when the Silvaan's passion for social justice clashes with the hard-nosed rational egoism of Whalish culture.
Silvaan in other countries might be supporters of the government, vocal activists protesting against corruption in the public arena, or insurgents secretly working to overthrow regimes that they see as irredeemably evil. Depending on how accurate their reading of the situation is, they may be a powerful force for good or a noxious agitating presence that keeps political tensions at or near the boiling point. Silvaan tend to prefer nonviolent method of confronting oppression and tyranny, but there have been plenty of them who have slid into acts of sabotage and armed resistance when the governments they opposed failed to cave to social pressure alone. Whatever their methods, Silvaan are never content to be invisible; as Jonathan Three Rivers once said,
"You have spent your entire existence in the shadows of Elves and humans. Step forth into the light and be seen, in all the beauty and richness that your life can offer the world. They may praise you as heroes or denounce you as heretics, but one thing above all: they will know that you have lived!"