Tuesday, January 24, 2012

[Secaelia] The Demi-Human Races

While there are tales of great nations of dwarves and elves in the distant past, these are merely legends now. The demi-human races have mostly faded away. The elves dwell deep within the most ancient and primordial forests, and are reputed to have worked their own magic to ensure that none survive the trek to find them. The dwarves remain holed up in their own subterranean lairs, hidden amidst never-ending labyrinths of tunnels and traps, seldom being seen above the ground. The halflings and the gnomes are hardly seen at all, leading many to believe that they have become extinct; that is, until one or several wander into a town to trade, and then disappear once again. None of the demi-human races are common anywhere in the world, though it is most common to find them within Eflart, as often as servants or bondsmen as traders, travellers, or adventurers. Elves, because of their natural talents with wizardry, are often treated with a combination of disgust, disdain, and suspicion; dwarves, because of their reputation for deceitful, violent, and troublesome tendencies, are also often shut out of many establishments; halflings and gnomes, due to their preternatural ability to get in and out of unlikely places and situations (which lends itself readily to thievery), are also often watched very closely whenever they enter a town or city.

There are very few demi-humans who dwell permanently within human cities. Many who do have indentured themselves into service for some reason or another. Some appear, for all intents and purposes, to just be simple shopkeepers and artisans, who have an honest living and who endure the occasional jeers from those who have negative opinions of their race. Even fewer eke out a dishonest living as thieves, scoundrels, and highwaymen, as the penalties for those of their race found guilty of such crimes are much steeper than their human counterparts; this does not deter many, however, who hold that the most important policy for a criminal is to never get caught. The vast majority of demi-humans found within the human world, however, are itinerants, adventurers, and factotums. Very few attempts are made to create alliances with demi-human nations, wherever they may be. But neither have there been many attempts to entirely subdue them and tie them to the yoke of human sovereignty. There is a story of one of the princes of Ruvirion once ordering a forest where elves were reputed to live be burned to the ground. The forest burned, and shortly afterwards he himself was found burnt to ashes in his own bed. Ever since, there has been a policy of non-intervention in place; elvish and dwarvish enclaves are considered sovereign territory within the two empires, given to this right by sworn imperial edict, and required to abide by all imperial laws and customs (and to agree to surrender to imperial authorities upon noncompliance to these laws) as soon as they set foot out of their designated habitation areas and into imperial territory.

Most interaction between humans and demi-humans is cordial, and without incident. As one goes nearer to the capitals, anti-demi-human propaganda is more prominent, and hostility towards demi-humans is more commonplace, but throughout most of the known world, whether Estia or Ruvirion, there is no bad blood. Many humans within the empires may consider demi-humans to be inherently "inferior" to them, and certainly might question the demi-humans' seemingly immediate decisions to surrender to the human empires, but actual anti-demi-human violence is uncommon. Humans of larger cities might deface shops owned or operated by demi-humans, or shout negative slogans at them in public, but these types are usually punished when caught in the act. Still, demi-humans are, according to imperial law, second-class citizens, and do not have the same rights and privileges as humans wherever imperial law is being upheld. This is not to say that many towns actually observe these laws when not directly being observed or governed by imperial forces, and many have very strongly pro-demi-human beliefs. Nevertheless, those who are not accustomed to the presence of demi-humans might display fear, hostility, suspicion, or confusion when required to make contact with them.

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