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Half-Elven Songs

The following letter was written by Davosian Windersea, Master of the Bard Guild in Fairport, upon Jastatos 7, 5103. To date, his request for half-elven acceptance in Fairport has been refused by his home guild. Ironically, the guild in Phannus has begun to use his letter as an example in rhetoric classes.

My guildmates,

When people refer to "half-elven culture," they rarely mean anything more by it than a joke, and this is true whether the speaker is from the Elven Nations, the Turamzzyrian Empire, the depths of a dwarven city, or the height of an icy halfling outpost. Half-elves, the traditional belief runs, do not have a culture. They are legally recognized in the Turamzzyrian Empire as nothing but another kind of elf, and Chaston's Edict covers them just as it covers the elves. There are too many and too few half-elves. They hail from a thousand places, but they never grow up together, and they are cast off and spat upon no matter what that birthplace may be. Even when they band together in adulthood, no half-elven community has ever succeeded for more than a generation or two. Elves can always return to their cities, but half-elves have no homes to which they may return.

Because of their outcast status, a surprising number of half-elves wind up as wanderers who never stay for long in any city. Some of these wanderers become traders, some become mercenaries, some become rangers, and some become bards. We, the bards of Elanith, have
always been keepers of lore, history, and culture, and, as a result, the Bard Guild has become the sole source of half-elven community that spans geography.

This odd mixture of prejudice and privilege has existed at least the life of the Turamzzyrian Empire, and this state will continue whether the local members of a given Guild wish it to be or not. While not all Bard Guilds will accept half-elves into their halls as new members (Fairport has always been steadfast in its rejection) guild law requires that, if one Bard Guild accepts a given person, then all Bard Guilds must accept that person. To do otherwise would result in the offending Guild being outcast from the Guild structure as a whole. Therefore, Fairport's Bard Guild must offer shelter to an accepted bard from Oire, even if that bard should happen to be half-elven... or dwarven, giantkin, gnomish, or krolvin! This state will continue unless we officially remove ourselves from the greater Bard Guild, an option that I recommend against. (If the reasons why are not obvious, then I recommend you back to your history teachers.)

In elven lands, the impact of such a system is not so very great, as half-elves live pitiably short lives compared to their elven relatives. In the Turamzzyrian Empire, however, the effect is quite different. While half-elves rarely hold high posts within the Guild, they routinely see several generations of humans buried, and they are taken as eternal fixtures even if they are not particularly honored. The Bard Guild prides itself on respecting skill and style over race, which, combined with the longevity of half-elves, has resulted in many half-elven songs becoming deeply entrenched within official bardic society. Several songs written by or about half-elves are used as training pieces for apprentices, while others are recorded for all time in
Guild scrolls and Guild songbooks. To jog your memory....

"Jori's Eyes" - With its simple melody and precise fingering, this song has long been a practice piece for students beginning the lute, but the lyrics were written by a human bard from Oire upon her first visit to Tamzyrr.

"The Mule" - This song (and its author) were removed hastily from Selanthia prior to the destruction of both in a Conquest Fete in 5098. Most bards are more familiar with a different set of lyrics for the song, and they perform it as "A Noble Daughter." Look back in the records, however, and you may determine to your own satisfaction which came first.

"Tansy and Thyme" - This song appears without much acclaim in the records of the Swale roughly sixty years ago. The author's trail can be followed in bardic records from the Swale all the way out to the northern lands claimed by the halflings, where this song became suddenly popular in the city of Icemule Trace. It is most often performed as an instrumental dance song anywhere south of Solhaven.

"Ill Wind, Ill Fruit" - This song comes from the elven city of Ta'Nalfein, where it was apparently discovered among the personal possessions after all members of a family were slain in an unpleasant accident. In its best-known form, this is a trio that requires two pipers and one singer. When performed in Torre, it is usually adapted for two pipers and a lute instead, as the lyrics are not particularly popular.

"Old Rock Sings" - This song is at least five hundred years old, but it has grown steadily in popularity in the last few years, particularly in the Vornavis region. Few people requesting it realize its true significance, however -- the records vary as to whether it was written by an elf about his human lover, or by a half-elf about the love between his parents, but it is definitely an artifact of half-elven heritage.

These are only a few examples, but I assure you that I could continue the list until it stretched as long as a giantman's arm. It is time that we of Fairport recognize our half-elven community as more than cast-offs who live in other lands. Torre tradition has never permitted half-elves to enter the guild here, but I see three whenever I visit the guild in Phannus, and not one is without a weight of esteem and regard in the world. If one of those half-elves chooses to visit the guild in Fairport, we are obliged to accept his presence, but we would not accept him as a new guild member if he walked through our doors tomorrow without the word of Phannus for his prowess.

Why?

We do not introduce our songs by saying, "This song was written by a half-elf." Why should we decline potential guildmembers by saying, "This bard is a half-elf?" Why should we watch the skill of one hundred years past and three hundred years to come leave our doorstep in favor of another, more accepting venue?

Do we not want those who possess the greatest skill to be welcome in our guild? Does that not matter more than the shape of a man's ears? Let us accept the half-elven bards of Fairport openly, rather than watching them leave for River's Rest, Phannus, and parts beyond. With the ascension of a new Emperor, the Empire has entered a new age of acceptance, and it is time that we step bravely into this new age instead of clinging to relics of the past.

Upon reading these words, others will surely react with disgust, and others will say that my wits have flown to a blow from some mugger. I caution you to mute your venom. The facts may not have been thrown in your face before, but they were present for you to see, and it is hardly my fault that you preferred blindness. You may think of the authors of these songs as being gone and dead, when the songs were written four hundred years ago, but you forget that four hundred years is within the lifetime of a half-elf, and the man you decry may arrive, heavy with the weight of four hundred years' reputation, on your doorstep tomorrow. Remember the nature of the situation, and then hold your tongue.

Davosian Windersea
Guildmaster of Fairport



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