Of Poets, Fools and Madmen. . .
The Fehladurh, along with the Khurorkh (collectively known as the Kith) are the First Children of Dashin, the oldest races of Panisadore. Elven oral history extends back far as 100,000 years, to the Age of the First Suns. If not the most secretive of races (some social theorists and scholars argue this point,) they certainly have the most secrets in their keeping, as well as the biggest.
Their name is derived from the proto-dialectical roots meaning “Gentle People,” an appellation which has confounded scholars for centuries. Even viewed in contrast to the meaning of Khurorkh as “Fierce People” in a related proto-dialect, few who have run afoul of elven pride and sense of honor would describe a race which views dueling as the highest form of art as “gentle.” What few grasp is that the race has changed of the course of a hundred millennia, in some ways rather drastically. In the time of the First Suns the Fehladurh were a much gentler people. Contemplative and caring (traits they still display, to the further confusion of their neighbors,) they viewed themselves as the caretakers of nature, as the Khurorkh were its protectors. The relationship between the two races was one of mutual respect and benefit for thousands of years. United in the common goal of preserving the world from the abominations of Dashin’s perverted reflection, Gaurashiage, each contributed complimentary traits and skills to the effort, balancing each other’s weaknesses and honoring each other for doing so. Unable to overcome them from without, during the darkness of the first Ice Age, Gaurashiage, through her spawn, found the way to corrupt them from within.
It was Pride, the All Knowing, eldest of her spawn, who seduced the Fehladurh. Throughout the Age of the First Suns the Fehladurh had led the Kith, guiding both with the wisdom of their long experience. Their legends say that their lifespans where far greater then – some immeasurably so. Many generations of the Khurorkh would be born and pass before a single generation of the Fehladurh reached maturity. Eventually some among them grew to believe that the Fehladurh should rule the Khurorkh rather than leading their nations together, suffering no disagreement but instead imposing their will and judgment to force obedience in place of seeking cooperation. Convinced of their greater wisdom, more and more of the Fehladurh came to agree with them. In the difficulties of the first Ice Age, when the face of the Golden Sun no longer remained in the living memory and all had come to despair of it ever being seen once more, conflict and dissent between the twin nations of the Kith grew ever sharper and more frequent. The spawn of Gaurashige become more numerous, fearsome and bold with each passing year, compounding the hardship as both of the Kith dwindled in numbers. In struggling to overcome their common troubles the Fehladurh laid their plans for survival over increasingly longer terms, looking well beyond the lifespans of their own children and grandchildren.
Many Khurorkh began to believe, at times rightly, that their allies’s plans were for their welfare alone, little heeding the welfare of the many Khurorkh generations over the long, slow course of time; though it was increasing amounts of Khurorkh blood which bought that time. In many lands the Khurorkh ceased to heed the counsel of the Fehladurh, choosing to chart their own courses likewise. Unlike the planning of the elves however, that of the orkhs did not rely upon the mutual cooperation of the Kith in order to achieve their own ends and so was often counter to the desires of their ancient allies. Over time interaction between the two grew more rare and more heated. Seeing their plans unraveling before they were even begun, the Fehladurh became both more desperate to prevent this and more certain that only they had the proper foresight and perspective to govern the mutual resources and actions of the Kith. Despairing of convincing the Khurorkh to continue to follow their lead willingly, taking into account patterns of events they could neither perceive nor remember, toward ends which they could not see, in their desperation the Fehladurh began resorting to subtle coercion and manipulation, using magic to achieve by false means what they could not by fair.
Claiming a desire to mend the growing rift between them, Fehladurh leaders in those areas where the conflict was greatest held council with clan, shyz’n and grove elders. In the course of their meetings the Fehladurh gifted their estranged allies with potent magical weapons and defenses other dweomers to aid them in times to come. Known only to a small handful of the elves, carefully concealed within the magics of some of them were small spells of charm and influence, none at first powerful enough, nor intended, to force their will or truly control those they were betraying, but sufficient to gain false trust and favor for their aims and designs for the future. On the surface of things, these councils appeared to reach a mutually positive conclusion, with the Fehladurh both taking time to make their reasons, span and course of their plans clear, as well as listening to and acknowledging the concerns of the Khurorkh. Through a combination of carefully calculated concessions and an audience now more inclined to view them favorably, the elves succeeded in manufacturing the appearance of reaching understanding and agreement with the Khurorkh elders, once more reuniting the two nations.
In light of its apparent success, the strategy was repeated elsewhere and further reinforced over time throughout. With typical elven patience, the Fehladuhr gradually regained the further favor and trust of ensuing Khurorkh generations. While doubt and dissension remained, compounded by further danger, hardship and loss of Khurorkh life, the leadership of both races continued to appear as of one mind in any significant matters. In light of their common struggle to survive and the resulting slow but steady dwindling of their numbers, the Fehladurh eventually proposed and won agreement of the Khurorkh to resettle among them.
Previously the two races had always lived separately, but in close proximity to each other. While the elves had generally chosen to construct and populate permanent fortified holdings, the enclaves of the Khurorkh were primarily more temporary tribal stockades where they lived for no more than a few generations, a practice continued to this day. In view of their comparative lifespans the Khurorkh valued permanence far less then the Fehladurh, and considered the potential impact of their settlements upon the surrounding environment as an undesirable permanence. Both to mitigate this and in response to the varying threat locals they attended to in their roles as defenders of the natural world, they had lived in a semi-nomadic fashion. However, the increasing need for strength of numbers and the sharing of abilities and resources presented a clear necessity for this integration and change in lifestyle for mutual safety. So as the times came to abandon their various temporary domains, rather than moving onward to construct new ones, they migrated to the demesnes of the Felhadurh.
This did in fact work well for a time, and the Kith dwelt peaceably, prospering somewhat together. The Fehladurh leaders kept secret their manipulations and many of their people were even happy to have the Khurorkh living among them. Marriage between the two people, previously rare but not unheard of, became much more frequent, even if never commonplace. Such marriages had always produced fertile hybrid offspring, displaying a robust combination of traits inherited from both races. While these children grew in numbers, with lifespans only little longer than the Khurorkh, they were perceived by both races as essentially Khurorkh themselves. Further, they proved even more fertile than either parent and frequently intermarried among themselves. Still, the threat and incursions of Gaurashiage’s spawn continued to increase and succeeding generations of Khurorkh found themselves being treated more and more as simply the armies of the Fehladurh, being sent out under elven leaders to protect their homes as the Fehladurh saw fit, ever “looking beyond merely the needs of the present moment.”
As increasing numbers of elves came to simply take their presence and risk of life for granted, the Khurorkh correspondingly bore the increasing brunt of the difficulties faced by both. As dissension and discord grew once more among the Khurorkh in general, growing numbers among the Fehladurh began to view them as ungrateful, perceiving the integration of the Kith which the elves had proposed to have been a favor which they had done them, giving shelter to a people who would not have been able to survive on their own and assuming a sense of entitlement to the unquestioning cooperation of the Khurorkh in all matters. Fearing another impending schism, the Fehladurh further increased the frequency and strength of their magical manipulations, going so far at times when all else failed to sway them as outright direct spellcasting to gain the compliance of the Khurorkh. Eventually Fehladurh officers in the field even began resorting to mass spellcasting and complete magical control of Khurorkh leaders to prevent the mutiny of orkhish warriors under their command when faced with otherwise unacceptable risk and loss in order to achieve their objectives. Some dozen generations after joining the Fehladurh in their fortified cities the Khurorkh found themselves among them to be second class and expendable.
Inevitably, the Khurorkh finally started to recognize the unthinkable reality underlying Fehladurh actions and with growing dread began to investigate more deeply the many helpful gifts of their allies until they discovered the duplicitous truth concealed within them. The` Fehladurh could never have imagined the force of the Khurorkh rage in the storm which broke upon them once the the full horror and scope of their sickening betrayal was revealed. Almost overnight the illusion was shattered in flaming, bloody shards and in the ghastly light of the dawning Kith War the the Khurorkh left the cities of the Fehladurh smoking behind them, near ruins littered with the bodies of elf and orkh alike. When they finally accepted the reality of what they had thought impossible, they could only believe that the Fehladurh as a whole had been complicit in the deception and so lashed out in retaliation upon the entire race indiscriminately, seeing no need to offer any explanation for the result which they must surely have known their act must someday bring upon them.
For their part, the Fehladurh as a people were as shocked and horrified by the acts of the Khurorkh as the latter had been when they understood the acts of the Fehladurh’s leaders. Not privy to the inner councils, the vast majority had truly believed that the offer to shelter the Khurorkh had been an act of kindness and compassion made in order to save them from an inevitable extinction, not fully comprehending that they likewise faced extinction. They had been led to believe that the Khurorkh had been unable to grasp the reach of their plans over the course of many centuries, and like children had had to be cajoled for their own good along the pathways which those who knew best were trying to guide them. As a palliative to their pride, the Khurorkh had been told that the Fehladur needed them as much as they were needed by the Khurorkh. Even within the inner circles, where it was understood that they needed Khurorkh cooperation to fulfill their plans, few where aware of how that cooperation had been achieved, as most would have condemned the very suggestion. So the destructive fury of their neighbors took the Fehladurh people utterly by surprise. Further, had they been told the reason behind the act, they no more would have believed it than the Khurorkh had thought it possible. In the terror and anguish of the aftermath, the guilty chose to perpetuate and compound their treachery toward their own people rather than admit that they had betrayed both.
Soon the survivors of the Fehladurh had gathered, armed to make war and grimly determined to wreak as bloody a vengeance upon their former allies as only would surpass their people’s sudden, inexplicable slaughter. Led by those who wished only to bury the truth beneath even greater deceit they marched forth in pursuit of their enemies who now sought only to be as far away and rid of their traitorous cousins as possible. By the end of a year war had enveloped the entire inhabitable world. Wherever the Khurorkh settled, the Felhaldurh searched them out, relentlessly hunting them down with the same unwavering determination as the Khurorkh had shown in seeking out Gaurashiage’s spawn throughout the world. Neither side seeing reason to account for the acts they believed the other must have understood, the Kith war raged for nearly a century before attrition caused the Fehladurh to relent briefly (in their eyes) that they might rebuild their homes and numbers.
Caught in the middle of this were the families of Kith and Kin, paired elf and orkh and their human offspring. Reviled and blamed by both races for the atrocities of the other and held traitorous for their loyalties to their families before their race, they fled before all, desperately seeking a refuge from a world which had suddenly gone utterly mad. Gradually these made their way to the salt marshes of the equator in which they hid from all. In the brief respite afforded by the elven withdrawal, the Fehladurh of these families likewise chose to withdraw further. Their Khurorkh mates were long since dead and their human descendants, more numerous with each passing year, no longer remembered even their appearance. Sadly, if anything, the memory of the Khurorkh among them was one more of fear than of family. Seeing that their children now prospered and fearing the possible consequences of seeking to guide and shape their blossoming culture, the Fehladurh elders chose to leave that they might find their own identity separate from either Kithen people. Setting sail toward the rising sun they made their way out into the icy heart of the remaining ocean waters until they found a vast, hospitable island of warm waters and hot springs. There they made their secret home and refuge, not venturing forth again until long after the sun had returned and the rising waters had turned their home into many islands, isolated still further from lands of their brethren, to finally learn the terrible truth which had changed them all forever.
Meanwhile, the war renewed its fury. Knowing that the Khurorkh were likewise growing stronger, the Felhladurh struck swiftly and suddenly, blasting their known settlements with a storm of arcane powers. They did not find the Khurorkh unprepared however, and the might of their druids turned aside much of the destructive force before their armies, arrayed throughout the world met once more upon fields of blood. Still undiscovered, their faithless leaders had fueled the painful fire of the Fehladurh’s long memories, piling deceit upon festering deception until many wished nothing less than to eradicate the Khurorkh entirely. By this time more than a few had come to believe that their allies had been corrupted by Gaurashiage in their ageless battle against her spawn until they had become the very enemy which they had struggled to repel. Playing upon their fearful delusions the traitors urged their people to pitiless slaughter. Yet for all their magic, they could not overcome the determined defenses of the Khurorkh warriors. Many settlements did indeed fall, but few among the Fehladurh could bring themselves to put the defenseless survivors, children for the most part, to the sword. Nor when they considered their alternatives could they find signs among them of the taint and perversion of Gaurashiage. So it was decided that those they could not kill they would capture, cutting them off entirely from Khurorkh society that they might save them from its corruption. Not knowing what to do with these captives, yet needing to keep them occupied, they set them to the labor of rebuilding the ruined cities of the Fehladuhr so that, by the end of another century of warfare, the slavery which the Khurorkh believed to have been the ultimate goal of the Fehladurh had in some places become a reality.
During the first pause in the war, a relatively unknown Fehladurh cleric (believed to have been from one of the Kith and Kin families and who’s original name and family have been forgotten,) returned to his home from a long retreat in one of the ancient monasteries now isolated deep within the ice bound mountains of the north. Formerly a priest of Shalireah, he had spent much time with the druids and monks of the Khurorkh after completing his novitiate and had come to a deep appreciation of their comprehension of the natural world they lived in. It is believed that he had spent some years studying the teachings given by Kherrekh Jhenghallahr personally, subsequent to his enlightenment. Kherrekh had died before the original rift between the Kith which had prompted their eventual betrayal had grown appreciably. By the time the Khurorkh tribes had migrated to the elven cities he had grown in their esteem to being held as the patron saint of the monks of their people. The hidden monastery had become a repository of his deepest teachings upon the nature of reality and reaching comprehension of it. Meditating daily for over a century within an ice cave, this cleric had finally reached a complete breakthrough in his understanding. Faint rumor of the Kith War had reached the druid/monks but the existence of their monastery was already a close bound secret and they knew they were safe from the Fehladurh reprisals. Knowing that this solitary Fehladurh aspirant represented the only hope of uncovering and correcting the causes of the conflict, the succession of abbots said nothing of the rumors and waited patiently for his attainment. When finally they were able to confirm his enlightenment they named him Yahfallanh, “The One Who Sees,” and upon his homecoming he became known by this in the tongue of the Fehladurh as Avalyin. The current abbot explained as much of the situation as they had been able to learn in their isolation and both agreed that something more must be at work than was evident upon the surface of things. The Khurorkh had sent word of the Fehladurh’s treacherous attempts to control their people magically and their belief that the entire race had been party to their betrayal as well as their response and the subsequent retaliation of the Fehladur. Unthinkable as the acts were, Avalyin agreed to return to his people to determine the truth of the matter and seek an end to the hostilities.
Nothing was thought of his appearance among them once more, as refugees of the war were common,` and for his part Avalyin said nothing of his retreat. He knew that the Khurorkh had left behind the items which the Fehladurh had given them upon their exodus, but little was known regarding what happened to them in the aftermath. As a monk now many held his loyalties suspect since it was very rare for any of the Fehladurh in that time to take this “path of the hermit druids” and he was slow in gaining the trust of others. Gradually he renewed his ties with the church of Shalireah, as they among the elven clergy were the least eager to pursue the war.
By the time the Fehladurh renewed their aggression he had managed to achieve a small degree of influence among Shalireah’s priesthood through his own teachings and a small few had come to realize that he had indeed achieved enlightenment. Still, this fact needed to remain secret likewise and his teachings given carefully that they and their origin would not be recognized as echoing those of Kherrekh. As the war progressed further, a growing faction within Shalireah’s followers evinced greater misgivings and reluctance to pursue the conflict. With the functional enslavement of the Khurorkh prisoners this became open dissent, alarming some of the Fehladurh leaders when it became clear that some of the people were listening to them. Since Shalireah’s clerics had taken little part in the actual combat of the war to begin with, they proposed that her church instead assume the mantle of directing the healing work which the war necessitated. To this they assented and, true to form, were soon presented with magical gifts of protection and healing which would aid them in their service, including many staves of healing and strings of prayer beads. Avalyin himself was personally given not only a staff but a potent periapt of wisdom. In his enlightened state he could easily perceive the spells of influence and control woven carefully within them without being affected by them. Investigating the other gifts which he was able to gain access to he determined that most were likewise enchanted and what the Khurorkh had accused the Fehladurh of doing was now being perpetrated upon their own people. To those that had been likewise gifted whom he could trust Avalyin revealed the true nature of the gifts and countermeasures were devised and implemented among them. Still, this was far from determining the truth of the original accusations and it was obvious that on the basis of this alone revelation of the deceit would leave many unconvinced, reluctant as they would be to believe it possible. Rather than risk internal strife among the Fehladurh at such a time, those who knew the truth instead played along as if their enchantment had been successful and bid their time.
As the perpetual ebb and flow of the war dragged on some were able to utilize the appearance of their renewed support to move closer to those exercising the control, identifying some of the actual agents of the conspiracy within their leadership. After many long years they succeeded in tracking down and identifying a number of the original items given to the Khurorkh which had been recovered and later given to others of the Fehladurh. It took them nearly three centuries of careful, covert investigation to piece together a sufficiently complete picture of the actual acts of betrayal and their perpetrators. By that time the traitors had managed to secure a sizable and powerful following in support of their policies, playing upon the pain and thirst for revenge many of the Fehladurh harbored within them, so that more than a few had come to view the Khurorkh as nothing more than savage and bloodthirsty beasts, fallen from their former state into service to Gaurashiage. It was clear that a sizable portion might well feel that the ends had justified the means, at least with regard to the Khurorkh. Further, not being among those who had been directly manipulated in this fashion, would hold it of less account than the perceived necessity of conquering the Khurokh.
Even as they were ferreting out the traitors among the Fehladurh, the conspirators could see where the greatest threat to their secret lay. When it became clear that Avalyin was preparing to finally expose them, in desperation they played their final hand, managing to assassinate not only him but some of the church elders in his confidence. Regardless, it was too late and sufficient damage had been done. Slowly at first word and evidence of their betrayal spread among the Fehladurh. Initially horrified and unwilling to believe it, the gradually rising tide of the Fehladurh backlash took nearly another century before crashing down upon them. By this time Avalyin was viewed by many as a martyr to truth and Fehladurh honor in whose memory they rallied against those who had betrayed them and murdered him to hide it. Meanwhile, the conspirators had been consolidating their own position and support in the face of the mounting recoil which they could no longer prevent, and when the tide finally broke the Fehladurh were soon engulfed in civil war.
Throughout the world chaos reigned as the Fehladurh split into factions, uncertain as to what to do. Some now wished to make peace with the Khurorkh, others, while now understanding the cause, could not forgive them for their initial retaliation, still others thought that it was simply too late to repair the damage and the war now could only end in the defeat of one or the other. Those who had caused it in the first place and the followers they had gathered preferred to pursue the course already begun rather than admit their error. In the Fehladurh cities and strongholds where the latter held greatest sway they moved swiftly to seize control while their compatriots, where still concealed, worked to undermine any efforts at reunification and those now exposed fled to the safety of the traitors’ demesnes.
While fewest in numbers among the factions, these were still led by those who had long been among the Fehladurh’s most trusted and respected leaders. Further, they had been formulating and preparing their contingencies against this eventuality for centuries and among their first acts were the preemptive assassinations of many of their peers from whom they had managed to conceal their actions for so long. They followed up on this with a widespread covert campaign of misinformation and political sabotage directed toward creating further confusion, distrust and disagreement among the rest of the Fehladurh. This was then coupled with numerous direct attacks` designed to appear as conducted by other developing factions so that no one was certain who the actual enemy within was. Principal among their targets of course was the church of Shalireah, focused principally upon their divine magic users and resources as well as those actively working to further expose the scope of their plans and activities. Calling themselves simply the Druewenh, or the (Only) People, by the time the faction lines were clearly drawn they had a significant magical edge, primarily arcane in nature, over the rest of their people.
By this time the Khurorkh had also divided sharply among themselves. The majority simply wished to be left alone and have nothing further to do with the Fehladurh. Their military engagements with the elves had been, and remained, purely defensive. However, as the Fehladurh continued to pursue and exact their retribution upon them, it became increasingly clear that this would not be the case. As a result, a growing number of the Khurorkh determined to carry the war to the Fehladurh, believing that they would have no peace until the elves were destroyed and unwilling to forgive their betrayal and subsequent aggression. When the Fehladurh policies toward their prisoners became widely known their pain turned to hatred and they went on the offensive, brutally sacking and razing some of the cities in which Khurorkh prisoners labored. The enslaved, once freed, joined them in their assaults upon the elves, offering no quarter and killing all whom they encountered. This faction became known as the Pahrorkh, or Burning Fury, for the all consuming rage which flamed within them. Seeking to fight fire with fire, where their enemies had succumbed to Pride, they now turned to Pahkreet to aid them in their revenge. Foremost among them were numerous apostate monks who had ceased to believe that enlightenment was possible in the world of strife and bloodshed. To the chains which many wielded were added vicious spikes to rend and tear where before they had been used merely to entrap and ensnare. The Pahrorkh withdrew from the Khurorkh enclaves, constantly moving and hiding in the wilderness from which they conducted savage guerrilla strikes against their enemies.
The internal schisms of either race remained unknown to the other for a number of centuries further. Fighting between the Kith continued for the most part in cycles of aggression and consolidation among the Fehladurh, punctuated by violence between their own factions, while the assaults by the constantly growing numbers of the Pahrorkh slowly escalated in both frequency and severity. With neither side perceiving the separate identities of their assailants from the majorities among each other, misunderstanding between them only increased proportionally. However, in regions where neither warring minority had any significant presence, an uneasy truce developed simply by way of an absence of direct aggression on the part of either race. Within these pockets of unspoken detente, both races began to turn their attention toward their own internal conflicts. Where the Khurorkh refrained from attacking Fehladurh who were likewise ignoring them, Pahrorkh saw an opportunity to fall upon the elves while their attention lay elsewhere. Rather than permit their potential armistice be ruined, the Khurorkh intervened to repel their incursions wherever possible, drawing increasing Pahrorkh enmity as a result. With the growing Pahrorkh hostility then came escalating violence between them and outright civil war spread between the two camps.
This pattern continued to spread until, by the time the hidden sun finally returned, the Kith War had developed into separate internal wars among both races. Although interracial fighting by Pahrorkh and Druewenh continued unabated, the actual identity of these combatants became slowly evident both in contrast to the actions of the majorities of their respective people and by the atrocities committed by each. In the growing warmth of the returning sun, orkh and elf both began once more to attack each other, only now directing their reprisals specifically toward the aggressors among the other race. These military actions remained independent of each other but collectively they still managed to turn the tide against both Pahrorkh and Druewenh, driving both back from their territories and strongholds into the thawing regions north and south. The Pahrorkh began seeking refuge in many of the mountain caverns being revealed once more while the Druewenh sought out and retreated to ancient cities the Fehladurh had abandoned millennia previously to the encroaching cold. With the foresight typical of the Fehladurh, many of these had been left preserved toward the hope of returning some day, and the rest of the Fehladurh likewise began to search for them in a race to resettle the lands becoming habitable once more.
As they were backed further into a corner Druewenh and Pahrorkh alike escalated the violence of their counterattacks, slaughtering all others indiscriminately. Increasingly, Khurorkh and Fehladurh forces found themselves in close proximity, engaging the same enemy. Fighting between them still occurred from time to time where neither was able to determine the loyalties of the other, but with greater frequency they were instead able to concentrate their separate strengths against their common foes. Even without any true cooperation they succeeded from forcing the Druewenh from their reclaimed strongholds one after another before they could gain a secure foothold in them. Desperately, the Druewenh searched deeper within the icy reaches for cities still concealed by vast glaciers, retreating into secret fastnesses still hidden beneath the massive expanses of ice and snow, venturing forth rarely to assault their enemies with tactics similar to those of the Pahrorkh, but augmented by fell arcane powers which they developed in their hidden fortresses.
The Pahrorkh, separated from the Khurorkh now by over a thousand years, had begun to exhibit the characteristics, both physical and social, which have come to typify their race. Rarely exposed to the suns in their frozen keeps, the appearance of the Druewenh likewise underwent drastic change. When they began to sally forth once more in force they displayed the jet black skin and stark white hair by which they are now recognized. It is universally believed that this abrupt (by elven standards) alteration was accomplished by some magical means to adapt to the freezing cold of their new environment. Both races further evinced an increasing preference to strike under cover of darkness which was evidently no longer a hindrance to them. Still, the ice (and shorelines) retreated further and further in the renewed warmth of the twin suns and with them both Druewenh and Pahrorkh.
Throughout the course of the Kith War, the reverence of their respective races for Kherrekh and Avalyin grew. Already quasi-deities by virtue of their enlightenment before their deaths, it was known by their followers that they had passed beyond the wheel of incarnation, remaining immortal instead to guide them from planar homes in the Outlands. Their teachings spread steadily among their people and even as the war and hatred between the Kith grew, planted the seeds of their eventual reconciliation. Foremost among their followers in the final years of the war were two warrior priests, a woman of the Fehladurh named Durmahd and a Khurorkh man named Jehlhakh. Again and again they encountered each other in battles against Druewenh and Pahrorkh and grew to respect one another. With growing trust and admiration they were instrumental in defusing tensions between their respective armies. Their leadership and example drew the attention of both races, and as it progressed their followers grew apace, flocking to both banners.
Eventually the Fehladurh and Khurorkh under their command began to coordinate their separate efforts, and with increasing cooperation, when they became shield mates, swearing their oaths to each other before their gathered armies, the two peoples combined forces for the first time in thousands of years. Their united forces became known far and wide as the Hands of Peace, and when the hidden Dreuwenh citadels were finally uncovered, together they launched a series of massive and decisive assaults upon them, driving out the Druewenh entirely. Utterly routed and with nowhere else to turn, the Druewenh fled their overwhelming onslaught by retiring beneath the surface of the land, driving ever deeper until they reached a place of relative safely, far from their pursuers above. Displacing or enslaving the races they discovered in their exodus, they settled in the Underdark to bide their time and grow in strength until the could return once more to reclaim homes they had lost and wreak vengeance upon those who had driven them from the face of the land Although it would take many centuries for the two races to reconcile, with these acts the interminable Kith War for all intent was finally ended.
Before their eventual deaths during the Defense of Raelehg Din (Thunder Pass), Durhmad and Jehlhakh established the Hands of Peace as a formal militant spiritual order modeled largely on the Khurorkh shyz’n (the Khurorkh still view and treat it as one,) under the patronage of St Kherrekh of the 10,000 Blossoms and the Beatified Avalyin Who Perceives the World. As neither was given to formal “teaching,” preferring instead to offer the example of their actions and conduct, the specifics of their own enlightenment remain undetermined and vague at best. Still, it is certain that both had reached that state prior to their deaths. (Jehlhakh in particular is known to have been well over a hundred years old at the time of his death, yet still seeming no more than middle aged in body and activity.) Subsequently their followers canonized them as The Friends, with the Hands of Peace as the active arm of their fledgling church. As the order continued its work to promote peace between the various races it eventually split into three, with the more militant (predominantly Khurorkh and other followers of the teachings of St. Kherrekh) forming a separate order as The Servers of the Way while the more contemplative members founded the monasteries of The Disciples of the Way and the remainder focused more upon the non-violent practices of Avalyin, eventually expanding considerably through the inclusion of the healer priests of Melanar Bloodmoon. To this day the clerics and monks of these orders continue to work very closely together with members of the various constituent churches, orders and monasteries training and working extensively among each other. Ultimately all of the above can now be viewed as separate chapters of a larger, cohesive (if somewhat diverse) religion, focusing their efforts in specific intra-supportive activities. It has been primarily through the efforts of the above that the wounds of the Kith War were eventually healed and cooperation between Khurorkh and Fehladurh restored.
Even so, the cultures of both races were indelibly altered by the countless centuries of strife. The Khurorkh adapted most quickly and readily to the understanding of what had transpired. Even though the Fehladurh had been first to fall, it could not be denied that in their hatred many among the Khurorkh had likewise fallen and the Pahrorkh now hated their brethren only second to the Fehladurh (whom they continued to view as one with the Druewenh). However, over the course of nearly 10,000 years the teachings of St. Kherrekh had taken hold of the people as a whole, reshaping their culture into its present form. The development of the core principal of khürpahkk proved a powerful counter to the downward spiral of rage and hatred which consumed the Pahrorkh, and with greater awareness and certainty the Khurorkh could be sure not to repeat the mistakes of their past.
For the Fehladurh this proved much more difficult. Realizing that they had been likewise misled and betrayed by their own leaders did little to assuage the guilt they felt as a people for the cause of the war. While the teachings of Avalyin had introduced a profound spiritual element within the church of Shalireah which had subsequently taken a leading role in ending the war and repairing its damage, they had less of an effect upon the Fehladurh as a whole. It would be thousands of years more before they could be seen to have significantly informed the spiritual understanding of the clerics of the Primordials, although eventually they would become as pervasive an element of elven spirituality as those of Kherrekh had become among the Khurorkh. The greatest difficulty the Feahladurh faced in hindsight was the fact that the pride which had led to their leaders’ downfall arose from what truly was the greatest endowment they had to offer others. Their extreme longevity produced a far reaching perspective unmatched even among the races of Burrowing People beginning to appear upon the surface. From this arose the capability to conceive and implement long range plans to their conclusion, spanning many generations among other races. At the same time it was clear that without this perspective other races were unlikely to heed the guidance offered unless they were to establish first a surety of impeccable honor in both motive and deed. Coercion of others became the greatest of evils in Fehladurh eyes, whether through deceit, threat or force, and freedom of choice, regardless of whether wise or foolish, became of paramount value.
On the part of the Fehladurh then, the remainder of the Age of The Old Sun was typified by an increasing laissez-faire even with regard to their own separate realms. With the ocean’s waters expansion, the hidden tribes of Kith and Kin found themselves initially stranded, yet further secure, among the islands of the reformed equatorial sea. Having no access to the subterranean world, they had no initial contact with the Burrowing Peoples, and for centuries sought none with either parent race, both of which they feared had gone mad. However, as the world warmed once more their island homes proved ever more hospitable and the tribes flourished. As they grew more numerous they spread throughout the archipelagos, at first in simple canoe and rafts, and later developing more sophisticated craft. Inevitably they were discovered by merchant navigators as expanding trade sought to bridge the continents between which they now found themselves.
Fortunately, it was the Benaedresha who first made landfall among the Kin. They were surprised to find them speaking a dialect of the Fehladurh tongue incorporating many Khurorkh loan words. Establishing trade and resupply ports in the islands, they gradually charted trade routes between the continents. Intrigued and encouraged, the humans soon followed suit. Through the ensuing centuries their growing population expanded north and south from the shores of the equatorial sea and around the coastlines. It was the Fehladurh who first recognized the new comers and realized their origins. For their own part, the humans had by that time forgotten the actual nature of their ancestry, couched as it was in ancient tales of mighty warriors, horrendous monsters and near immortals in a frozen world of fear and chaos. The Fehladurh chose to reveal nothing of their past to them, though they sent word to the Khurorkh of what they perceived.
Hardly a golden age, the humans had fought extensively among each other, waging numerous small wars between the islands, and as they expanded onto the continent, did likewise with many whom they found there. Cities and kingdoms rose and fell, some disappearing entirely from memory while the many races learned to live among each other before the Old Sun disappeared once more.
Not long after the Benaedreshan merchant caravels had establishes many of their principle ports among the Melanosha the Felhaldurh who had birthed their race chose to end their long, self imposed exile. Sailing across the ocean in vessels of unprecedented design, they sought first their hidden cousins among the eastern archipelago, making landfall in places far from any potential navigational paths from either coastline. While the Malenosha were suspicious of them at first, uncertain as to their origins and intentions, the Beneadresha, exploring the islands of the Dividing Sea eventually stumbled upon them. Finding them much different from the nations of Fehladurh they were familiar with they were able to reassure the Malenosha that these were indeed the descendants of those Old Ones who had led them to their home. This meeting likewise gave the sea elves to understand that the war which they had fled was long since over and its true causes now known. They stayed for a time, learning of the chain of events subsequent to their diaspora and establishing envoys among the Malenosha. Returning to their secluded home once more, they related what they had learned to their people and subsequently began cautiously sending other vessels first to the shores of the southern continent and later to the north.
When they had renewed contact with their own kind upon the continents, the changes which the Kith War had wrought upon the remnants of those who had engaged in it and the contemplative influence of Avalyin were much in evidence. The Felhaldurh had grown even more cautious, not only in act, but in counsel, especially such as given to others. While they had not suffered so much a lack of confidence, they were very concerned to ensure that their counsel was valued, proffering little by way of advice to others save that it were specifically requested of them. They had become much more introspective as a whole, not only in the conduct of their affairs as a people but likewise as individuals in the examination of their desires, goals and motives. Beyond re-examining and rebuilding their relations with the Khurorkh, they were further having to consider the changes wrought in the world by the introduction of the Burrowing Peoples.
As the Age of the Old Sun wore on, this was further accentuated by their rather reluctant, but gradually increasing, contact with the human descendants of the clans of Kith and Kin. These newest nations, slowly expanding and exploring the world, had forgotten their ancient ancestral origins among the Kith which, for the Fehladurh, only brought the memory of their mistakes and the rift they created into sharper relief. As much as they could then, the Fehadurh remained aloof and neutral in their relationships with others, the Tarag-duhl (tarag: after, following [chronologically], descendant; duhl: those [who], the ones [that, which], or Kin, in particular. Nonetheless they were the primary influence behind the broadest religious and spiritual developments which characterized the age.
Fate, or fortune, formerly seen as a fickle, random force in the world against which one struggled in life, had been perceived instead by Avalyin as a force arising as the result of one’s actions. As such, it was therefore something which not only could be foreseen in relation to past and present actions and conditions, but created through conscious choice of action given sufficient understanding of the forces and elements involved. Through this change in perception of the operative force came a related alteration in the perception of, and relationship with, the deity associated with it. Thelema ceased to be associated with the slower, far wandering moon and instead was portrayed, like the brighter sun, as illuminating one’s path, laying bare and revealing what would otherwise be hidden in shadow from one’s awareness. The desire to comprehend and understand this process became a universal occupation and temples of the Revealing Light became commonplace among all of the races. They remained centers of thought, learning and especially, planning, until the light of her sun disappeared from view once more, thousands of years later. By that time however, her followers were well prepared for the coming darkness.
Additionally, the church of Shalireah underwent significant change, directly reflecting the changes in her worship among both Fehladurh and Tarak-dulh. The Kin had retained a strongly animist and solar focused religion from their forebears which had slowly changed through their many centuries of isolation. The reverence of Salistreah, the vital red sun, had eventually assumed a place of primacy among the human tribes who viewed her more simply, and potently, as the source of creative energy itself which invigorates and gives life to the world. Meanwhile, the Fehladurh had grown to view the creative force and appreciation of beauty inspired by Shalireah in a more personal manner as expressed through their various burgeoning art forms and reflected in the light of the evening star. By the end of the Age of the Old Sun there were clearly two distinct goddesses, Salistreah and Shaliah, and their ethos’s, followers and churches much as they are now.
For their own part, the sea elves, or Salidurh as the became known, remained much more like the Fehladurh had been originally. They kept to themselves as well however, little involved in the affairs of the world and kept the location of their new homeland a secret, voyaging to the continents but inviting no visitors from them. Even they were somewhat changed, and perhaps even more reticent in their counsel than their cousins, watching with evident unease many of the changes occurring between their visits.
Through the course of the 2nd glacial period many of the Fehladurh maintained their “separate but cooperative” stance with the surrounding nations, abandoning their inland cities to the encroaching ice once again and sealing them magically to preserve them until their eventual return, leaving behind secret caches of magic, tools and weapons against their future need. Of those forced to relocate, a large portion sought refuge among those of their race in warmer climes. A significant number however, largely followers of The Friends and members of their church’s associated orders, chose instead to join the Khurorkh and Tarag-duhl in their migrations and settle among them. These latter both learned and shared much in this time, helping to establish strong ties and relationships among all three races in some areas which persist to this day. Additionally they were able to act as envoys between their settlements and the Fehaladurh fastnesses to the benefit of both.
When the New Sun finally dawned upon the world the basis of much of the current social and cultural conditions, particularly interracial, on Panisadore had been formed. The Fehladurh had come to focus much of their social energy and attention upon establishing and maintaining their integrity among others, both with regard to their motives and their neutrality in racial and sectarian matters. The deepest and most significant cultural development however, was a passionate and driving sense of purpose, largely individual, but also informing larger collective social groups. In observing the swift passage of change over those with whom they lived, the Fehladurh were often at a loss as to how to react and adapt to these changes as well as the loss of those whom they had barely begun to know. Their dilemma forced them to consider profoundly what truly mattered to them, which, once discovered, served as a sort of anchoring polestar, or personal context around which these changes spiraled and in relation to which they could understand and respond to them. Whether this was the creation of enduring beauty, establishing harmony among the discordant, some spiritual ethos or perfecting some personal capability, the hallmark of the Fehladuirh became an unwavering dedication to a chosen cause. Communities and other social groups among them likewise sought to determine a sense of purpose, such as the preservation of a natural region, diplomatic objectives or, as always, plans and contingencies for the future.
Among individuals such a raison d’etre is taken very personally, though expressed openly, focusing much of their sense of self. This, coupled with their regard for integrity, forms the basis of their acute regard for personal honor. To question an elf about their cause, whether its value, their dedication to it or worse, their motives for embracing and pursuing it, is to give intolerable insult regarding a matter in particular which they strive fiercely to be above reproach. In defending their honor, elven dueling then is as much a matter of demonstrating the strength of their dedication through its grave risk as it is one of seeking redress for the insult given. The practice has taken on a mantle of formality (in some cases quite elaborate,) in its execution. Not always lethal, it is not uncommon to bid some thing or service related in some fashion to the cause for the duel and defaulting to the victor upon first blood or yielding. The practice has further taken on many forms besides by blade, most commonly arcane or a combination of the two, but may also include the agreement of both parties to face some common challenge competitively. The classic “Riddle Game” has become an extremely formal dueling practice commonly engaged in even among juveniles for the settling of disputes. Personal combat can take numerous forms – duels originally employed spears cast between the combatants twice (essentially returning the weapons to their owners) and then used in melee should the throws prove indecisive. As a result of metallurgical advances during the Age of the New Sun, elven bladesmiths have developed rapier-style swords to their highest known forms, creating weapons of unparalleled lightness and balance employed in personal combat. Another weapon unique to the Fehladurh, commonly referred to as simply the elven buckler (detailed elsewhere) is frequently used in duels incorporating arcane combat and/or archery. Less common, and frequently the most lethal, are archery duels, usually limited to between 3 and 5 arrows fired in quick succession. Finally, the least common and most formal type of duel is the Counter-Hunt. This is usually a combined arcane-physical contest incorporating all the abilities at each duelist’s command in a strictly circumscribed area for the safety of others. Primarily practiced in regions where the landscape provides varied terrain incorporating numerous opportunities for cover and concealment, it essentially constitutes a no-holds-barred combat between individuals or small groups beginning the duel from separate locations and seeking out their opponent(s) while attempting to prevent them from doing the same..
As the ANS has progressed, the Fehladurh on the whole have settled into a position of neutral diplomacy among the nations which have arisen around them. They have taken great pains to establish good relationships with their neighbors as much as possible, utilizing diplomatic means to subtly influence matters around them rather than seeking to shape other societies directly. While their awareness of “the long view” continues to inform and shape their own culture(s) and policies, they have accepted the fact that they cannot expect other races to defer to them in acknowledgment of this, at time presenting them with great dilemmas as to how to ethically accomplish things they recognize as vital necessities which lie outside the comprehension of the shorter lived races, or at least stand far lower in their more immediate concerns and priorities. The most pressing concern of the Fehladurh as a whole in the present epoch is their awareness of the solar/glacial cycle and the fact that the world is nearing the peak of its current interglacial period. The (relatively) recent reappearance on the world’s surface of the Lyricists, initially as a self-exiled renegade religious faction of the Druewenh, has made it clear to them that during the coming glacial period the Gauredurh (as they have come to name the Druewenh,) can be expected to attempt to return to, and reclaim (i.e., enslave,) the surface. Much of the Fehladurh’s planning therefore is toward what they perceive as an inevitable war for which the exiled Gauredurh have been preparing for millenia.
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