Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Masks of the Elf Queen's Court

Wood, high and dark elf masks
It is said that the Elf Queen is the most beautiful elf in existence. To ensure this legend go unchallenged, The Courts of the Shard are conducted with all participants fully masked. Only the Queen stays unmasked, the center of a whirling pool of intrigue, beauty and danger. Every elf has a mask ready to wear, just in case they receive a summons from her majesty or encounter her on one of her rare trips outside The Eternal Wood. Every elf grew up on tales of previous Elf Queens dressing as a commoner to see how her subjects lived.

Each mask starts from the same basic construction. A full-face porcelain mask in the shape of a face.  That's one reason proper elocution is important in court. Expensive masks can afford enchantments to allow the wearer to be heard. New masks must require the wearer to speak up over the crowd. Removing a mask in the presence of the Elf Queen definitely means expulsion from the Court. The length of the term depends on the severity of the offense. An accident usually means the end of the night. Removing a mask to do violence results in an exile of at least a decade.

Wood elf masks feature nature elements, of course. Some elves prefer animalistic patterns, predatory stripes, or colors that compliment the bright floral colors of wood elf hair. Many masks look to encorporate a type of anaimal as a theme. Bright birds and striped fur are common looks. Those elves who truck with the High Druid disdain using pelts and other animal pieces, preferring face paints and natural construction from renewable sources.

High elves spare no expense on their masks. Gold inlays, jeweled brows, and bright, bold colors that turn the mask into a beautiful, alien, androgynous face. These masks often incorporate sun motifs for those elves who wish to show their devotion to Luxana, the High Sky Goddess. There are those who would argue Luxana is the one elf more beautiful than the queen are often kept from the Elf Queen's sight, lest political favor clash with religious fanaticism.

Dark elves masks  are studies in contrast, with the white of the mask balanced by charcoal greys and dark blacks. Often, these masks feature intricate skull and death patterns drawn outward from the eyes. These patterns can only truly appreciated when seeing the mask from a very short distance, which allows the dark elf to whisper advice, rather than shout. Spider motifs are common, but have fallen out of favor thanks to rumors of a hidden cult devoted to She Who Spins In Darkness.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Taking the Stone

by +Brad Davies 

Except for the one or two rare instances, Clerics of Yrd are almost exclusively dwarves due to the extreme demands of faith Yrd places on his followers. A dwarf must freely choose to become a cleric, usually after years of service apprenticed to an older cleric of the order. The older cleric acts as a mentor and teaches their ward knowledge they will need as a full-fledged cleric. Most importantly, they prepare their ward to Take the Stone, an ancient ritual given to the dwarves from Yrd himself.

After a dwarf declares his intent to Take the Stone, he is giving 10 days to settle his affairs. On the 10th day, a great funeral feast is laid out before the ward and his kindred. During the feast, great deeds of the wards life are recounted. He is toasted and congratulated through tearful smiles as his family say their farewells to him. Just before midnight, the ward gives his final speech to a quiet mournful crowd. This are to be his final words of this life. After he is done, the crowd raises their cups and drain them silently. They place their closed fist over their hearts in last solomn salute to the ward and then turn their backs to him.

The ward is then taken by his mentor and the other clerics out of the hall. His is then lead down a series of tunnels deep under the Forge to tunnels said to have been mined by the First Dwarves themselves. There, they carve a hole into the side of the tunnel. The ward strips, climbs into the hole and lays down. The clerics say a prayer to Yrd and collapse the enterance to the hole. The ward remains there for 3 days. During that time, the ward is tested by Yrd. His heart and mind are judged. His intentions and aspirations are weighed.Some say Yrd himself talks to the ward. If he is deemed unworthy, he is turned to stone and crumbles into dust, never to live again. If Yrd embraces him, the stones part a pathway out to his new life. He has Taken the Stone.

The new Cleric of Yrd seems to look much like he did in his previous life. It’s subtle differences that prove he is not the same person.. His demeanor takes on a gravitas of someone with a great responsibility. Physically, his eyes have taken on a slate grey color and have a depth to them. He is cooler to the touch than most dwarves. His body is unnaturally still and all his movements seem to convey a purpose. Mentally, he remembers his cleric training vividly but not the person he learned it from. His past personal life is like a half remembered dream. He has no feelings towards his life before he became a Cleric, only an inkling that he had lived before.