Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Societies Besides Man: Elves

We know what most human D&D communities look like: medieval (or mostly Renaissance really, but that's neither here nor there—in the 10th Age they are firmly medieval) towns, hamlets, villages, and cities. But what the hell do elvish cities look like? What about dwarves? There are some vague thoughts of great mountain fastnesses and strange woodland towns, I'm certain, but there Arunia is here to offer you more... so much more.

Note that this segment deals exclusively with wind elves and touches not upon wood, silver, or refuser elves.

Do elves really have peasants? Servants?
Elvish society is filled with farmers and servants. However, what this means to an elf is far different from what it means to a man. One of the important things to recognize is that the elvish states rely on citizen-militias, assuming that every single elf within them is a potential soldier. Unlike a mannish levee, these militiamen are at least somewhat trained in swordplay (thanks to the paidea), making them far more competent.

Even elvish servants and farmers believe themselves to be essentially "free." Obligations can be broken easily in elvish society and there are no ironclad contracts. While a Milean man might be "servile" and thus unable to engage in certain types of transactions, even the meanest and basest servant in an elvish kingdom is under his own manicipium—no lord has power over him unless he consents to that arrangement save his king alone. Elves sometimes refer to this as "direct subjugation," meaning they are directly the subjects of their king and no middle-man can interfere if the elf does not wish it.

What do elvish cities look like?
They are vast, though they are often equal to or lesser in population to mannish cities. Only the oldest parts of an elvish city would even be recognizable as a city to most men or dwarves. The further one gets from the heart of the city, the more green space one finds. Elvish roads meander this way and that, garden-like, through meadows and stands of trees. Elvish homes tend to be rambling affairs of stone built in the so-called "courtyard" style.

The elven lower classes generally attach themselves to a lord in the city, living on their estate and within their courtyard-house if they can. Those who cannot and are too poor to build houses of their own generally erect temporary structures in the wide green garden-spaces of the city. Much industry is done out of doors, and even in the most calcified hearts of the eldest elvish settlements one will find trees and patches of grass between the stone structures.

Elves also build in wood, though they treat it with special oils and waxes to give it longevity. Their structures tend to bely a sense of unearthly grace, slenderness, and almost impossible beauty. Some scholars speculate that there are spells holding up the most impossible of elvish towers, and its true that a school of architectural magic has grown up amongst the elves: warding, preserving, and balancing spells that mannish mages would scoff at as a waste of time.

Do elves have towns?
Not as we know them. The closest thing to an elvish "town" is generally a cluster of buildings that happen to be placed nearby. While regional justice falls under the manicipius of the local lord, they cannot act without permission from the council of common folk that must be then assembled to ratify or nullify their decrees.

These loosely affiliated groups are known to the elves as towns though it may be hard for men to recognize them as such. These towns are generally comprised of a temple, a number of smallholder's farms or settlements, and anywhere between no and three small elvish noble-men's manses. Unlike mannish nobles, the elvish do not extract tax from anyone—their only income that even approaches the tax-in-kind of mannish kingdoms are the great fields worked by servants who live within their house itself.

What is elvish law like?
The elves aren't too keen on written law. Customary law is by far the more common and there is no such thing as an elvish jurist. Trials are either conducted before the king himself or, if the case doesn't warrant this, before a jury of elves chosen by the defendant, the accuser, and the local lord. Elvish trials aim at fairness and reasonable outcome, not strict adherence or dogmatic application of law.

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