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Old 02-20-2015, 06:43 PM
DarkAngel DarkAngel is offline

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Tome of Experience Scrapped Idea: Gone with the Ęther

The surprisingly warm reception given to my character description on Balaa got me thinking about another story I decided not to write. Like A Brave New World (of WarCraft), this story got a cheesy title referencing a famous book. Let me assure you that the story has nothing in common with its namesake. Mitchell was a Romantic, and I am a Postmodernist. The title stuck largely because of the idea that, like the Antebellum South, the High Elves were a society that prided itself on being more civilized than everyone else yet were actually quite depraved. While I intend to put up a summary over the next few days, I will leave you with my hilariously cheesy introduction for now.

Quote:
There was a land of Magic and Cool Forests called Quel’Thalas… Here in this pretty world true Decorum took its last bow.. Here lived the last Elven generation of Lords and their Ladies, of Liege and of Vassal… Look for it only in books and tales, for it is no more than a dream remembered.
A Civilization gone with the ęther…
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Old 02-20-2015, 06:46 PM
Shaman Shaman is offline

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...more?
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Old 02-21-2015, 12:03 PM
DarkAngel DarkAngel is offline

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Originally Posted by Shaman View Post
...more?
Hey, the thread will get more hits if updated slowly, right? Besides, I discovered my notes file got corrupted at some point, so piecing this back together isn't easy. Not to mention that I'm trying to decide which events to put in what Dispatches, writing an original novella, and looking for a job. Not easy.

Anyway, this story is heavily inspired by Travels through Azeroth and Outland, so I must give credit where credit is due. It also has a few tie-ins to The Falconbridge Chronicles down the page. Unfortunately, due to the rough nature of these notes, most characters do not have names. However, since this story is primarily about a culture and the paths of four people through it, it is my hope you will forgive the shortcomings of this rough summary.

Opening Scene:
The children in a nursery are prepped for their parents' daily visit.

Introduce the four protagonists, currently children.
  • Renander Goldenmist
  • Drendron Skygaze
  • Erinana Goldensong
  • Fienra Everlight

The parents enter and have conversations to drop certain ideas.
  • Hint at Great Houses and Retainer Houses, though not yet fully explain.
  • No matter how many families may be part of a given household, all children are raised together.
  • Convential wisdom says this practice produces more loyal retainers.
  • Magic makes possible an entire society of aristocrats by eliminating manual labor.
  • The major exception is childcare, which cannot be automated.
  • It is considered a great honor for a retainer to be given this task.

The kids don't get to do much beacuse this is a "children don't speak unless spoken to" culture. They basically stand there in a line, holding as still as possible. The parents worry that Fienra, the youngest, is small for her age. However, they also note she has plenty of time to catch up.

NOTE: This story was concepted back when the RPG was still canon, so the kids grow up at roughly half the Human rate.

End of Scene
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Old 02-21-2015, 12:19 PM
Aneurysm Aneurysm is offline

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I must be experienced a case of severe déją vu, because I can swear I've read this before.


Or wait, is this an old project you're revisiting?
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Old 02-22-2015, 02:53 PM
DarkAngel DarkAngel is offline

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aneurysm View Post
I must be experienced a case of severe déją vu, because I can swear I've read this before.


Or wait, is this an old project you're revisiting?
Unless I've been unwittingly sending out mind-control waves on someone, this should be new. The idea of Great Houses and Retainer Houses is lifted directly from Destron, so maybe that's what you're thinking of. Fienra makes an appearance in Nagrand, as well.

Objectives for Phase One:
  1. Fill out the culture (because children need to be taught these things)
  2. Differentiate the protagonists

Explain fully the three-tiered system of peerage that defines High Elf society. The Royal House holds absolute authority. A handful of Great Houses is deputized to govern various regions of the country. Most people belong to Retainer Houses, sworn to the service of a Great House. Each house has a Head of House, who takes vows of service to the next-higher tier.

Members of a Retainer House are addressed as "the Honorable Lord/Lady ____" in the third person and "your honor" in the second. However, the Head of House is "his/her excellency" or "your excellency." A member of a Great House is "your grace," while the Head of House is "your highness." A member of the Royal House is "your royal highness," and the king is "your majesty." Use of these honorifics is essential when making introductions so that everyone understands their rank. However, only someone who is above you in the "chain of command" would be "my lord/lady."

This estate happens to be a household of the House Goldenmist, a Great House. Renander belongs to the Great House, and the other children are offspring of his parents' sworn companions. (More on that later.) The first major plot event comes when the death of a childless uncle suddenly makes Renander's father Head of House. Renander is now heir to the throne, and he begins a years-long campaign to compel obedience from the other children. However, as he is constantly reminded, he has no authority whatsoever until he comes of age.

What happened to this uncle? I never did quite pin that down, but it was going to involve Trolls -- and a lot of clucking about how producing an heir should've been a higher priority.

As for the other children, Erinana constantly chafes under the rigid confines of defined social roles. Drendron plots to escape the estate and have adventures in the world beyond. While he occasionally collaborates with Erinana on this project, it is but a child's fantasy. Nothing ever comes of it. Fienra just tags along and naively tries to be helpful to everyone.

During this period, the estate is visited by a Direct Retainer. Direct Retainers are Retainer Houses that serve the Royal House directly. While a few perform state functions too sensitive to be entrusted to any Great House, most travel constantly among various Great House households, seeking grumbles of disloyalty or other misdeeds. Everyone exchanges pleasantries, but there is tension because of his purpose.

Creating even more tension is the fact that the visitor is accompanied by Lordaeron's ambassador to Quel'Thalas, who thought tagging along on the rounds would make a good vacation -- and a good way to show his son life outside of Silvermoon. Again, the household is unfailingly polite, but his presence is merely tolerated. They are pleased to learn the ambassador is of noble stock, and hope his son will learn the Decorum that defines their lives. (For last few centuries, the embassy has been effectively hereditary.) They see fit to put the boy in with their own children, who have much greater difficulty hiding their prejudices. Only Fienra agrees to play with him.

EDIT: Emphasize at this point that Elves bow to each other rather than shake hands. In fact, they don't really touch each other at all; and as such, any tactile contact is thought of as a violation.

Perhaps you can see why I shied away from writing this. I envisioned this as what anthropologists call a "high-context culture," i.e. one in which people prefer to say things by implication. There is also a honne vs. tatemae tension that, as an American, I can't even hope to get right.

Tomorrow: Career Paths
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Last edited by DarkAngel; 02-22-2015 at 04:24 PM.. Reason: Forgot detail
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Old 02-23-2015, 03:16 PM
DarkAngel DarkAngel is offline

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Phase Two: Adolescence to young adulthood

Objective: Nudge the protagonists onto the paths that will define their fates

The first plot event of this phase chronologically belongs in the previous one, but I place it here because of its importance to character trajectory. Newly-elected Archbishop Alonsus Faol happens to pass through the area, providing a catalyst to discuss the national religion.
  • It is traditional for a new archbishop to visit each national diocese.
  • The archbishop's itinerary is a break from the usual, however, in that he is also speaking at local parishes along the way, not just the cathedrals.
  • Lightism was established as the national religion by royal decree centuries ago.
  • Church attendance is officially not required, as that would go against the tenets of the faith.
  • However, due to the rigid social expectations of the culture, it effectively is mandatory.
  • The centerpiece of every Elven church is a stained-glass window depicting the Ecstasy of St. Ireesa, the nation's patron saint.
  • The Thalassian church has a distinct musical tradition in which choirs are used in a flowing, beautiful way; not the grandiose style seen in Human churches.
  • Also, a string ensemble is used in place of an organ.
  • Parishioners sit in box pews according to family.
  • Members of the Great House, if present, sit in the front.
  • This arrangement creates problems for visitors and non-officiating priests, so an extra bench is provided in the back.

I put a lot of thought into how much of real Christian practice could be adapted to Light theology. While a symbolic meal would perfectly express the spirit of, well, sharing the spirit, it comes with loads of Unfortunate Implications. I eventually decided to call the ceremony a 'liturgy,' not a 'Mass,' and just be really vague about what they actually did. The sermon is the important part.

Fienra notices that, unusually, the back bench is completely filled with strange Elves who are dirty and poorly dressed. Her mother explains that these are ranrim (a word I made up from Sindarin roots meaning 'lost people'), individuals "expelled from their Houses for conduct unbecoming their station." She indicates that acknowledging the existence of such people, let alone allowing them in church, is almost sacrilegious. Faol, however, explains that he invited the ranrim to church today as reminder about church teaching on outcasts.

The reaction from the congregation is both impeccably polite and violently hostile. After the service there is much grumbling about "Who does he think he is to change our traditions?" and how entering into any degree of association the the Human church was a grave mistake. There are also a lot justifications about how the system binds the nation into an ordered whole, which is the more important part of the Light. However, Fienra, ever sensitive and naive, is deeply affected. She sees the hypocrisy and begins working against it in subtle, socially acceptable ways.

Some time passes. Okay, a lot of time. Erinana begins to demonstrate magical talent head-and-shoulders above the other children, leading her to begin special tutoring. Lord Goldenmist finally gets through his denial and realizes his son has become an honorless thug. He assigns [Veteran Retainer] to look after Renander, with explicit instructions to "teach him the true meaning of honor."

As the children become adolescents, their parents begin exploring options for suitable mates. This becomes a catalyst for discussion about marriage customs in the society.
  • While final choice is left with the individual, they must choose from a carefully vetted field selected by their parents.
  • Heads of House must also sign off on the match.
  • Great Houses prefer to choose mates from their Retainer Houses whenever possible, as marriages among Great Houses come with unseemly political strings.
  • Marriage among Retainers of different Great Houses is vanishingly rare, and requires both Heads of House of the Great Houses to approve.
  • Marriage of a Great House to a Retainer of another Great House is "simply not done" -- and the subject of a good many romance novels.
  • Retainers who "marry up" are never considered members of the Great House, and their own children outrank them.

Under normal conditions, members of Retainer Houses would study a trade and marry as soon as they come of age. Alternately, they may become Sworn Companions of a same-sex member of their Great House. These individuals take a special vow to be ready to serve their lord or lady at all times. It is traditional that the spouses of the Sworn Companions will act as defacto Sworn Companions to the spouse of the Great House member. Together, they form a household of the Great House.

All four protagonists are repulsed by the idea of being forced to marry, and seek ways to delay the heir-producing requirement. The primary way to do this is by joining a Royal Charter, special services under the direct control of the king. While the king appoints the heads of the Royal Charters, longstanding tradition has put them under the effective control of the Great Houses. The Ranger-General has always been a Windrunner, for example.

Erinana throws herself into her magical studies, hoping to earn a place in the prestigious Magister's College. Drendron begins an intensive physical regimen to become a Ranger. Already having strong ties of faith, Fienra joins the priesthood.

[Veteran Retainer] takes Renander off the estate entirely and begins training him as an officer in his father's part-time army.

The other three protagonists make their goals, and all the necessary Heads of House sign off on everything. Erinana not only qualifies for entrance, but earns a personal apprenticeship to one of the top Magisters. She promptly snubs everyone by opting to study at Dalaran instead. The necessary authorities accept this, but are not at all happy with that girl...
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