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
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
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
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
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,
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.
Guildmaster of Fairport