Found in most areas of Southern Sarvonia, Greylers are groups of hermits who live together in secret, in places which are difficult to access, which are about a day or more’s travel from the nearest habitation. When people think of Greylers, they think of an old, grey-haired man (hence the name “Greyler”) who loves other men in the way that most men love women, although this does not cover the wide variations which can be found both within and between Greyler communities.
Picture description. This man looks so miserable because has just come out of the communal living area of his group of Greylers. Image by Bard Judith.
It should be noted that these people tend not to use the word "Greyler" to describe themselves. This is in part because this word is now used as derogatory slang, and in part because Greylers do not mingle with the outside world and therefore they have no need of a name for themselves. They are aware of the name "Greyler" as most of them have lived outside of Greyler communities at some point in their lives, but they don't use it or any other name explicitly as they don't talk about themselves in relation to the outside world very often.
Greylers vary widely in their appearances, both from person to person within
each band, and overall between the different bands. When people think of
Greylers, they think of an old, grey-haired man but Greylers can be young (as
many are when they first join a band of Greylers), and can also be women and of
races other than human. Generally, any one
group of Greylers will reflect the appearance of the people who live in the area
around the community, as most members are originally from those settlements.
The only other point worth mentioning about the Greylers’ appearance is that they are sometimes mistaken for watchers, the eerie man-shaped apparitions which are sometimes encountered in dark, creepy locations. This can happen by accident, but one band of Greylers who live in Xaramon near the Ilian Plateau take great pleasure in frightening travellers and the villagers from that area by dressing themselves in long, ragged grey cloaks and pretending to be watchers. They believe that the villagers especially deserve it, as they were the ones who forced them to live apart in the first place.
Territory. Greyler communities are found in all eight provinces of the Kingdom of Santharia. Groups can usually be found in areas near small towns and villages. The more settlements nearby, the bigger the group of Greylers will tend to be. Groups may become as large as about thirty or forty Greylers, although this is unusual - these larger groups do not seem to stay together long (see Government). Groups usually tend to number between two and ten people at any one time. As the communities are usually so small and as they consist of the outcast of society, there is not much reproduction within them. As such, Greyler communities aren't always permanent over time. There have been very few cases of a reproductively capable couple finding love in Greyler communities and producing children, but never yet enough to provide a population growth to the degree that a community might grow into a village, although it is theoretically possible.
Greyler communities are never shown on maps as they are too small to be mapped. They are also usually well hidden from the casual observer. Greylers take up residence in places where their group can stay well hidden, but will still be accessible to someone whose need is great enough to seek them out. Rocky, hard-to-climb mountains and densely forested hills are the preferred location of Greyler bands, although some have been reported as living in the more impenetrable marshlands like the Seanian Swamps in Enthronia. Most of these locations are a day or more’s journey from the nearest human habitation.
Whilst the size of a group of Greylers is in part determined by how many settlements are nearby, this only applies to small towns and villages, not large towns and cities. There are no Greyler communities in or near cities because large towns and cities are impersonal (in small villages everyone knows everyone else's business) and therefore in cities many would be able to keep their various "oddnesses" secret. Also, cities absorb "odd" types relatively easily - at least more easily than villages. Large towns and cities are big enough that people who would otherwise be persecuted into becoming Greylers can find a place where they fit in. For example, a woman who rejects suitors and traditional village values may be hounded out of her home village for being disobedient and shrewish. If she lived in a city however, she may become a respected citizen by taking up a post as a town guardswoman. A foppish, affected man whose sexual preferences are different from the majority of Santharians may be reviled in a village, but could fit right in at court, or as an eccentric fabric merchant.
In most instances cities are big and accepting enough for people who might otherwise have become Greylers to disappear in the crowd, or to be accepted as a part – if a slightly odd part – of the community. Another place where Greylers are not found is in the Ráhaz-Dáth Desert, which is the area occupied by the Shendar. This seems to be for reasons fairly similar to those governing the lack of Greylers in cities - the Shendar have a more accepting culture than that of the more typical Southern Sarvonian peoples, and tend not to reject those who do not fit in to society as easily.
People. People generally join the Greylers for one of two reasons: either they wish to retire from society, or they were forced to leave. As such, Greylers are often melancholic people. Their groups can be quite joyful, celebrating the fact that they are no longer forced to conform by the people around them. There is, however, usually always an undercurrent of sadness within individual Greylers, a wistful wish that things had been different so that they would not have to live away from the people whom they once knew. Greylers usually bear the scars of an early life lived in pain.
Picture description. A young man looks bitterly back down the hills toward his village, from his new home in a cave among the Greylers. Image by Quellion.
Reasons which may lead someone to retire from society may be religious,
political, philosophical or social. For example, old sailors may join the
Greylers for reasons of sexual preference. A young wife may join to escape the
man they were forced to marry. Other examples of those who may choose to leave
society are people who will not eat the flesh of animals, people who believe in
different things to those around them (whether religious or political) and
people who are sad to the point of believing they will never be happy again.
Those who were forced to leave may also be welcomed by many bands of Greylers.
These might include any of the above if they were found out, and can also
include deformed people or people otherwise disadvantaged from birth (blind,
missing a limb etc.), also mothers with their deformed
babies and people with orcish blood in their
Much of the time when common people speak of Greylers they think of crazy, "man-loving" old men, although people do seem to know that there are often more than just those types of people living in Greyler communities – it just seems to be something which they say as a shortcut. Villagers do not, however, let this knowledge get in the way of bringing their children up to hate and fear Greylers, and it is for this reason that Greylers are so secretive about their living places. They usually accept all people who ask to join, as long as they are proven to be genuine and not just someone who has come to make fun of them. Young people especially are tested to make sure of their sincerity, as there are very few Greyler clans who have not been the butt of a village youth’s dare.
Membership of the Greylers is fluid. Not all members stay in the same group of Greylers for their entire life, and nor do they even stay a Greyler for their entire life. It can be a lonely, sometimes miserable existence and so many of those who can, do return to society – although not usually to that part of it which they left.
Housing. Greylers live in various different types of accommodation depending on the area and the skills of the various members of the specific band. In many places they live in caves which are made more comfortable with beds, firepits and such. In other, more hidden communities they build huts or even proper houses. Greylers may live in a communal house or cave, may all live separately, or something in between. Once again this depends on the individuals which make up the band and their preferences.
Clothing. Greylers also vary on the clothing they wear. Some Greylers will wear rags only, salvaging what they brought with them when they first arrived to the community. Those few bands who have some form of trade with nearby communities may wear clothing typical of their areas. Other groups of Greylers have been reported to wear nothing at all! Those groups lucky enough to have one member or more who can weave or sew will wear homemade garments, the complexity of which will again vary depending on the people of the particular band – their preferences and skills.
Diet. Greylers eat what they grow themselves. Almost without exception, Greylers are too hermetic to trade for food, and so will cultivate their own crops and keep their own livestock. Communities are often set up near springs, and so they will sometimes have access to freshwater fish. Their diet tends to reflect what the majority of people in their area eat, but at least one community of Greylers (located in west New-Santhala, at the territory of the old kingdom of Eyelia) exists because the people there have philosophical beliefs about the nature of animals, and therefore refuse to eat their flesh.
Weapons. Greylers are commonly believed to be peaceful, and usually are, up to the point that they do not have any special weaponry associated with them. However - woe betide the youth who finds his way up to the local Greylers’ habitance to harass them! Greylers are not all old, and nor are they all entirely peaceful. Many ex-sailors retire into Greyler communities and not many of them would leave their cutlass behind!
Occupations. Greylers spend most of their time doing the menial tasks which ensure their survival, whether that is helping tend gardens or livestock, sewing, weaving, cleaning or some other task. There are no real occupations within a typical Greyler community (although it must be mentioned that most Greyler communities are not typical!), but sometimes (in groups where they work together rather than those where each looks after him- or herself) a single person will be appointed to do each of these chores. One type of task which is peculiar to Greyler communities is that sometimes a single person will be appointed to pretend to be a solitary hermit, and from time to time will go to the closest town to trade for necessities which that community is unable to make or grow for itself.
Government. Most Greyler communities have one person (or couple, or small group of people) who is provisionally “in charge”. They tend to be the wisest, if not the eldest also. They are not usually elected at all, but become the leader simply because they are the person or people to whom all the others go when they need something, or to whom all the others will listen. This person allocates tasks and ensures that they are done, greets new members and makes sure that they are genuine and have not just come to make fun of the Greylers, and settles disputes between members amongst other things.
As mentioned earlier, larger groups of Greylers do not stay together long. The larger the group, the more varied the types of persons living there may become. Not all Greylers are accepting of all deviations which people may display, for example some Greylers who will not eat meat may not find it acceptable that other Greylers find the same sex attractive. Differences in opinion which occur like this, or which occur when some members disagree with the others in some other way, can lead to factions forming. If these factions disagree too vehemently the group may split, requiring one group to move to a new location. Different degrees of disagreement can call for different distances of physical separation. Thus, groups which disagree only slightly may be found living within a short distance of one another.
Production/Trade. As might be assumed due to the reason for their existence, Greylers do not trade except in dire need. When this does occur, usually money which the members brought with them when they arrive is used to barter with, rather than any produce. They tend to barter for things like gardening tools, and blankets if the clan has no weaver amongst their number.
Holidays, Festivals and Observances. Festivals also vary with the composition of the group, sometimes reflecting the people around the community, and at other times rejecting convention entirely and consisting of an entirely different set of observances.
Sayings. There exist several sayings referring to the Greylers throughout Santharia. Here is a short overview:
Saying:Tell it to the Greylers!
Information provided by Grunok the Exile