do you dream? I mean, what can you dream of; if from under your forest ceiling
you have never seen the stars?" (Melád aphorism)
The Mélad'rhím (Styrásh Mélad'rhím) or Grey Elves are best described as a nomadic gathering of elves from both the Injerín and the Artyrhón tribes. The first references to them appear to suggest that they have their origins some time around 500 b.S., though much lore in the North is spoken, so their precise derivations are difficult to acertain. While originally simply a gathering of descending elves from other tribes, they are now a distinctive bloodline, and so may finally deserve the title of tribe.
The Grey elves get their name from both their appearance and their
Due to their hertiage from the learned Injerín and the rough, adventurous Artyrhón; the Melád share many characteristics with their relatives, being tall - easily exceeding the height of a human - with sharp, angular features. They also tend to have a light colouring: their complexion is best described to be typically pale, one could almost believe them to be made of the finest porcelain if it were not for their rather unkempt appearance. Their hair is uniformly blonde - though shade varies from a strawberry colour all the way to pure white - which is far commoner than one might imagine. Hair is also uniformly straight, and is worn loose by both sexes. Their eyes are most often a soft grey, contributing to their name, but blue, green and the lightest shade of lilac imaginable also occur.
What seperates the Melád elves from their parent tribes is the Melád's more muscular tone, on average these wandering elves weigh more and are far broader than either of their parent tribes. One can assume this is due to the effect and harshness of their nomadic lifestyle which requires them to be physically stronger. They also appear wilder than either the Injerín or the or the Artyrhón, but don't let their look decieve you into believing them to be uncivilised - far from it! Their lifestyle is based on a take on elven philosophy that is quite unlike any tribe on the continent. Their search is knowledge and enlightenment, it is simply that their method is different and will be described in a later section. No one in the tribe is held to this life style, they are free to join either the Artyrhón or the Injerín (who over the years have taken in some reluctant wanderers born to the tribe) just as the tribe warmly accepts newcomers from its parent tribes.
Melád elves are often tattooed; some considerably so, using a grey ink produced by the poeritt flower. This is a unique trait to this tribe as no other wood elven tribe in the northern part of the Sarvonian continent uses body art in this way.
The Melád life span is about average for that of an elf, natural life span being some 500 to 600 years. However, more frequently than in any other wood elven tribe, their life is cut short by external circumstances; by lack of food, attack, lack of clothing, by the sheer harshness of the life they have chosen.
Coat of Arms/Sign. This elven tribe has no coat of arms as such. As a nomadic tribe they have nowhere to hang them. However, the Melád have its own very distinctive form of art that allows their settlements and their members to be easily identified.
The entrances to tents are often adorned with an interlocking series of lines that usually form a circular pattern. Such patterns represent the Injčrá, a concept that probably has its origins with the Injerín tribe. The lines dart over and under each other in a complexity with no ends signifying the continuity of life and the rite of renewal. In the centre are often depicted the animals upon which the tribe are reliant for food - the elves drive very small herds of both elk and cuncu sheep - or more common animals that they share the land with, that they have great respect for and try not to disturb. Popular images are both species of Sarvonian bear, garthooks, wolverines and gryphons as well as lesser drakes. Images are simple, bold and stylised, a world away from the careful, lifelike art created by the other Wood Elven tribes of the North.
These images are fist painted on to rough fabric that the elves make from spinning wool and then weaving it, using dye extracted from the poeritt flower predominantly, but hues of blue and reds are also harvested from the lowra and the teki tree respectively.
Similarly when the elves reach their mid-childhood they receive a tattoo of interlocking lines on their upper arms if the child is male, and between the shoulder blades if female (one good way to tell the sexes apart!). This type of art - Sú'ufán'lohoán (Styrásh Sú'ufán'lohoán) meaning "Weaving Work" is what the Injerín call it - distinguishes them from the other elves, and it pervades everything: jewelery, metal work, weapons, clothing and what little they commit to paper is equally written surrounded by interlocking boarders that often take longer to create than the writing itself.
Territory. The Melád'rhím are a nomadic people of Northern Sarvonia, with a disliking for routine or for dwelling in one place for any period of time. However, they are limited by natural and racial barriers, and so have in effect adopted a pattern of migration, if a somewhat unreliable and erratic one.
The basis of their migration is the Sea. The Grey elves cannot leave the continent as their sea dwelling cousins the Arthyron elves do, because, as mentioned previously they drive small herds of animals. However, they hold the mighty oceans that surround the Northern part of the continent in the highest respect. Consequently the first line of the "Arythásh" ("The Principles" - a poem that sets out much of the tribes take on elven philosophy) begins with the Sea:
dreamt of Oceans vast
Of waves that shape the land'"
The Melád are bewitched and
enchanted by the sea, they view it as "a concept beyond mortal imagination; a
world beyond wonder, and untouchable to remain unspoilt by the grace of She who
dreams". Yet they are not seafarers, not only because of practical
consideration, but because they believe that the Dreamer sets certain mysteries
in place to remain unsolved - lest the creation forget to dream, and by
implication forget the Dreamer. The Melád elves would rather not know what lies
in and beyond the sea, but create their own ideas, poems and songs about it.
The tribe always spends the winters on the coastline as the wetter air from
the sea keeps the weather here milder than in the continental interior. They
wander, never moving far from the coastline, but stay at each site rather
longer than they would during the summer. In the winter months they may remain
for as long as 3 months in one site - as near to a permanent home as they get -
while during the summer the typical stay is only a month or so. The Grey elves prefer,
for much the same reasons, to stay in the southern area of the continent, around
the Sea of Tears, or around the Aelyvian Sea, from the Land of the
far as the world of the Kanapan Men. They are also the only
elves of any
derivation who walk in the lands of the shadow elves, the non-corporeal elves
closest in Spirit to the Chaos Lord Coór, and therefore somewhat more aligned to neutrality
than the drow. The Injerín look down on this considering it inappropriate for
worshippers of Avá. It is thought that this is probably how the tribe got its
name - that the Injerín dubbed them "Grey Elves" for walking among the Shadow
The fact that the Melád commonly do walk these lands, possibly has something to do with a certain amount of shared philosophy. While the Injerín see shadow elves as servants of the Darkness that is Coór, the Melad Elves actually acknowledges that shadow elves have a point; that Avá and Coór are two sides of the same coin, as night is day. That for the Dream, for nature to exist, the land must be destroyed. For new life to come, death is inevitable. They cite volcanoes, raining fire and destruction to create fertile new lands for men to farm; they cite landslides, pulling land into sea, that the coastline ever changes and they cite forest fires that rejuvinate old forests.
But just because the Melád sympathise with the shadow elves, does not make them friends with the Diorye'oleal, Ak'váth'rhím (whose self obsession is to Grey Elven minds the pinacle of philosophical ignorance) or the Folkmore Elves or hold any sympathies for the causes of the dark elves or the Losh-Oc, for whom they hold a deep disliking. They also recognise the dangers associated with travelling in lands that belong to these tribes. This keeps them pinned firmly in the Northern continent, and while the tribe tells tales of the day when they will face the challenges of the Tandala Highlands and cross them to meet the Southern lands, this is a practical impossibility as the area south of the Celeste Lowlands represents the home to the Losh-Oc and to the Diorye'oleal.
As a result the migration routes of the Grey Elves lie roughly between the Gulf of Glandor and the Sea of Tears. Rarely in their history have they reached the Icelands. There is one recorded incident of them visiting this frozen world, out of sheer curiosity, but the tribe tells that it cost them very dearly, as they were still migrating southward through the center heartlands of Northern Sarvonia when the winter fell and they suffered many deaths from cold, being to weak to see off attacks from Rohm-Oc. They have also travelled the peninsula of Kru'ul extensivly.
While much of the reasoning behind this migration is held in philosophical ideals, there are also simple practical elements that keep the tribe on the move. The tribe's extensive movements are often required to move their animals from one grazing area to another in response to variations in terrain and climate in order to provide the best possible conditions for their livestock and optimize their chances of survival.
People. The Melád elves are the true rangers of the Northlands, knowing just about all there is to know about the world in which they live. Their knowledge is practical, not from books or word of mouth, but from sheer necesssity. Their knowledge of Northern Sarvonian herblore is second to none. The craftmanship of their weapons, hunting and skinning tools is exacting. They can tan a hide in no time at all using simply materials they find around them. Melád can track animal, beast or being if it passed a places up to a year previously. They can walk in stealth in the forest and never make a sound. They are an endlessly resourceful people. But they are lost in a city!
For the most part the Grey elves stay away from humans. Not that they dislike them - if a human wanders into their temporary settlements then they would welcome him warmly and have him tell them all about his people and his life. They are simply bemused by the concept of belonging to one place - to have a home and to be surrounded by hundreds of people, never leaving one place - its all a bit much for them. However, the Kuglimz's stability means they have many resources that the Grey Elves do not, and they are sometimes drawn to the Kuglimz settlments to trade. Similarly, they do not visit the Injerín settlements. They simply make their prescence felt, and allow the Injerín to come to them if they so wish. They do however, venture into Arthyron settlements. They're strongest relationship is with their seafaring cousins. Their life views are not so different and the Arthyron are always pleased beyond words to see them in a way the Injerín are not. Injerín mothers worry that the Melád will spirit their children away with the promise of adventure. Arthyron mothers hope that the Meáad's tales of foreign parts and other races will inspire their children to be curious and bold.
The Melád elves are not great traders, however, and will not trade with the orcs or the dark elves, preferring simply to avoid them where possible, far more like the Injerín than the Arthyron. But unlike the Injerín, they have ceased to seek knowledge in the words of the past; not that lore and history is not important to them, it is, but they seek as well the essence that lies within the Dream itself to be one with the Dream by learning from it as it exists in the present. They cannot understand how wood elven tribes can consider themselves tied to the land - the Dream - if they do not experience it in as much of its fullness as possible before their lives are over. The Melád are scholarly in their own way, though and among their number there are many bards who can tell you tales of elves in both Northern and Southern parts of the continent. Quite how they have established this knowledge is unclear, especially to those of the in the South, knowledge of this tribe has only recently come to light, and yet they seem to know so much about Southern people. The Mélad'rhím often speak of the High Lady, who does not, as it appears, have a true name, or it has been lost to the mists of history - which is unexpected for someone who seems to be so important to the tribe and led some scholars to suggest she is a mere myth, perhaps stolen from tales from surrounding elven, maybe even human tribes. She appears to be some kind of spiritual leader, who arrived "out of the sea, cloaked in robes of dew itself, and gave us purpose and direction" ("The Arythásh" V3, paragraph 2). Given the proposed first date of the tribes existence, and the existence in the Southern Continent of a legend that one of the Axhai continued to exist in physical form into modern times, it has been suggested that this figure might have been Daltar, the supposed mother of the long standing Aellenrhim Ava'ránn Aia'merán. However, such neat stories to explain the eloquence of an essentially wild tribe remains total speculation, mainly from elven quaters, and is backed by very little hard physical evidence. This High Lady is attributed with the tribes incredible eloquence of phrase and sharp philosophical thinking. Whoever she was, fictional or not, she is attributed with the articulate nature of these people, and that is no bad thing.
Housing. Melád settlements have always been of a temporary nature and are used mainly for sleeping and cooking in. Unlike other nomads - such as the Sor'inyt or the Shendar; who construct tents and take the raw materials of the structures with them when it comes time to move on - the Mélad'rhím do not carry anything with them while on the move. They build structures which are referred to - mainly by outsiders as the elves themselves have little need to refer to them at all - as Zalari, a shortened version of Zalari'zoúm (Old Injerín tongue "Zalarián" - meaning literally home that is passed on). The name comes from the fact that when time comes for the elves to move on - usually after a few weeks, the structures are simply left; either to decay, returning what the elves have harvested to the soil and so completing the cycle that is so important to them, or to be reoccupied by other races that inhabit that particular area. It is common for humans often to take over previous Melád settlements and make them their own, often fortifying their frail structures.
Zalari are built around the central livestock enclosure (or ophá in Styrásh) that are edged by peripheral fences, made from dead wood. Zalari are themselves are made of poles, twigs, and grass, and plastered with cow dung and mud. They are characterised by low flat roofs and are often square in shape. Ventilation is channelled through a narrow opening which serves as the entrance and some Zalari have one or two "windows" - holes in the wall of no more than 20 x 20 centimetres. The same approach to house building is taken by several Southern Sarvonian tribes, but the warmer weather makes the result significantly more durable. In the wet and cold of the North, Zalari are marked by a lack of durability. The roof and the walls frequently crack and peel, they are susceptible to fire, pests and harsh weather and do not stand up well to high winds. To maintain a zalari of this kind for more than a month would be a nearly impossible job without using other building materials. However, as the Melád never really intend to stay in a place as long as this they don't seem to mind the drawbacks to their methods of building.
In the winter months, however, certain alterations are made to help make their homes a little more durable. Over the basic frame tanned hides are used, which hold the structure together more firmly and keep out the cold and the wet more sucessfully. The hide base is then covered with a vail of rough fabric and then the normal building materials are applied on top. The fabric covering prevents the hides becoming soiled and allows them to be recylced. These are the only building materials that the Grey elves will salvage and take with them.
Clothing. Clothing is at once both simple and practical, but also elaboratly decorated with the Melád's famed line working. The Melád elves make their clothing from hardwearing and water repellant materials that will help keep the cold out. Woolen capes are made by the tribe to keep the cold out, but restrict movement, so may not be worn during physical activity. Leather is a favourite, obtained from the small number of animals they herd. They also wear hides and skins from the nul'tum which they obtain from the Artyrhón or from hunting in the Kuglimz lands (which, it must be noted, isn't overly popular with the Kuglimz). These are fashioned into a vest, which is light weight and leaves the arms free and allows dexterity - very important to the Melád lifestyle. Both sexes wear trousers fashioned from animal hide, as trousers are simply more practical. Because of the harshness of their world, those who participate in harder functions, such as hunting, gathering and on occasion fighting, also make protectors for the major joints; the elbows, wrists, knees and ankles to prevent jarring and strains; a strained ankle in this nomadic tribe can be the difference between life and death. Hide boots are popular also, souled usually with wood. The tribe also produces small amounts of personal metal work, probably during the winter months when the tribe is stationary for a period of time from ores found around. They make belts, bracelets and weapons that are crude, and yet in their own peculiar way quite exquisite to behold.
Small amounts of jewellery is also occasionally worn. It will have been fashioned by them personally, or by a close friend or relative. All jewllery is, however, small and worn close to the skin - to wear dangling ornaments simply is possible. Many things are used to make their adornments: metals, flax, seashells, pretty pebbles or animal teeth (which may also adorn the joint coverings).
Diet. The Melad Elves are primarily hunter gatherers, but also herd small numbers of livestock, mainly goats - which were probably originally obtained from the Kuglimz - and sawis sheep, as they are less agressive than the cuncu and slightly hardier and small numbers of elk, which also live wild in the Northern continent. They also keep a few kev'lor horses that are well tended to (the elves of course do not eat the horses, but I mention it here only because it seems a good point to bring it to your attention).
However, the Mélad'rhím are very attached to their animals, and prefer only to take their meat and hide when the animal dies a death of natural causes than kill it. As a result their main diet consists of nuts, berries and roots that they can collect from their environent. They may also hunt, but are loathed to take life from an animal and when they do hunt, they are very careful to take old or sick animals.
Weapons. The favourite weapons of the Melád are spears - easily fashioned from metal or from flint - and useful at long and short distances. Daggers can be fashioned from by the tribe - but swords require far more resources than the tribe has at its disposal, so if this is the favoured weapon then the elf must trade for one and they can be obtained by the Kuglimz.
Sling shots are also popular, costing nothing and requiring little effort to construct.
Occupations. The burdens of the tribe are split equally, with no elf taking responsibilty for any specific area. Instead each elf is a "jack of all trades" with all members taking it in turn to hunt, prepare food, tend the animals, look after the children. Little distinction is made between the sexes either, with males and females spending the same amount of time on each task. This strange rota system is not strict or particularly orderly, nor is it organised or orchestrated by any one member of the tribe. Individuals simply know instinctively what they should be doing and when. They are so reliant upon each other for survival that an almost empathic link exists between them. Just as the cells of the body work together to be a whole organism simply by knowing what the cells around it are doing, so the individual Grey Elf marks his/her function by what he/she sees what needs to be doen at that particular time.
Government. The simple part of this section is to tell you the Melád elves have no governmental structure in the common sense.
The Hard part is to explain to you how this does not descend into total anarchy. It is difficult because it is not fully understood... - and yet it is the state to which all wood elven cultures seem to aim.
As was hinted previously, there is no one elf in charge of the tribe. There obviously was, at some point, a "Ránn" of some kind as all of the Wood Elves of Northern Sarvonia make reference to her who was the first leader, and the only leader. But the tribe now functions as a communal unit.
All elves think in comunal terms - Styrásh is built to reflect that, with the word "I" very often replaced by the word "We". But few tribes ever obtain a community so harmonious that they do not require a leader or wise elder to give direction. This is probably a consequence of a certain ease of survival. What I mean by that is this; in Southern Sarvonia, in the Injerín's safe woods in the Aythron's High defended coastal forts the elves are relativly safe from attack - they are not likely to starve or be affected by the cold or damp. As a result, the lack of pressure to survive means that other elven tribes may argue about differences in philosophy, idealology, acceptable behaviour and other such matters. They are simply not dependend on their neighbours in the same way. The Melád elves are under intense surivial pressure all the time. As a result their minds function as a communal unit. Self preservation is tribe preservation.
Every action is taken for the good of the tribe. They are remarkably tuned into the thoughts of the other. Melád elves are not telepaths you understand, but certainly appear to be empathic to some extent. They do not have meetings to discuss direction of movement or what is the best course of action, it is almost as though they come to a communal agreement before the subject is even broached verbally. The Injerín often describe this as the simple following of instinct and that because they live in the same conditions each elf has the same instincts as his/her fellows, but somehow this just seems insufficient to explain the incredibly efficient functioning of the tribe.
Given that their existence seems to tend toward the elven ideal, it is curious, and somewhat ironic, to note that their existence is in many ways far more similar to the Rhom-Oc orcs than to any other Sarvonian elf tribe.
Production/Trade. The Grey Elves are predominantly self sufficient, living off the land. However, there are certain things which they simply must obtain. Usually they will swap their leather, metal and stone work for what they need. However, they also know of many hidden mineral deposits all over the North and it has not been unknown for them to take what they need to fund larger purchases such as horses or livestock. The elves may also offer their services as trackers, their knowledge of herbs or their skills as tellers of tales to earn whatever currency will obtain them what they require.
Natural Resources. [...]
Holidays, Festivals and Observances. There is little time in the life of a Melád elf for holidays, however they observe basically the same holidays as the Artyrhon elves:
(lit. The Time of Disconnection)
The somber gathering begins with darkest hour of night, wooden models of their ancient city of Parthenon are set afire while all around interlink hands all the while the gathered sing songs of sorrow and shed many a tear. This is in rememberance of the destruction of Parthenon by Gouran, and their feelings of seperation from other elves not only physically but also idealisticly.
Weívoc'kará (lit. Destiny's Time)
This is a three day event stretching from the fith to eighth day of Cort'ometra. The fifth day begins with every child launching a wooden boat into the waters of Eight Winds Bay. This signifies the escaping of the Arthyrón from the clutches of Gouran into the sea. The rest of the day and the next are spent along the beaches with ones family in thoughtful contemplation of the past. No food is eaten, nor any drunk, not even a sheltered is allowed. This is so they may faithfully remember their past. The third day though, is one of great rejoicing and once again smiles break forth, just as the safety of their islands broke forth from the waves and saved their forefathers.
Winter is also a very
important time for the Mélad'rhím. To be in one place offers them a period of
silent reflection of the Gods and the Dream. Thus it is in winter that you may
hear them sing and tell tales of the earliest of days.
History. Melád history is difficult to trace or acertain. Lore is strictly oral, and the Grey elves take little interest in their own past, interested predominantly in gleaning what they can about creation from the present time. Only certain tales stand out, most of which have been mentioned previously.
The tribe seems to have its roots sometime about 500 b.S, created by a gathering of Injerín and Artyrhón elves, who under each other's influence determined to chart the Northern Sarvonian continent. However, the tribe doesn't seem to have achieved this - most of the maps of the continent are attributed to the Artyrhón or the Kuglimz.
At some point the Melád's purpose and philosophies went under some kind of radical mutation. This is primarily attributed to the figure the Grey elves call the "High Lady", but as mentioned previously her identity, and her actual existence are very difficult to ascertain. Her proposed existence is hypothised for the mid 5th century b.S. This is when the wandering elves first aquire the name "Grey", probably from the Injerín for what they think is unsound philosophy - a turning away by the elven wanderers from the ancient books and the teachings of the Injerín.
In the beginnings of their existence the Grey elves wondered close to the Western seaboard, before becoming more adventurous and moving futher and further west. The only detailed recorded movement in their history is that fabled trip to the Icelands, and even then it is only remembered in such detail because the Mélad'rhím went to Worldquest, the home of their parent tribes to recover after they were very nearly wiped out by the trip back and told both parent tribes the stories during their stay.
Information provided by Wren