I am still working on my sydhi in my campaign, especially since it seems likely the current group may be venturing into their lands soon, and there are a few more cultural aspects that I need to flesh out. Most of what I wrote in my previous article on Culture in Gaming was about the artistic aspects of culture, such as dance, music, and visual art. Now I want to focus on the heritage of the sydhi, and really find out what makes them something other than just nature-loving humans with non-American art forms.
To start with, let’s look at the history of the sydhi, which I have never truly spelled out on in the Memory Fading wiki. I’ve poked at a few issues, and I definitely have a major historical perspective of them from the last six hundred years of campaign time, but the history I’m talking about is the sydhis’ legacy and heritage. What makes them who they are today, and what are the overall motivational factors behind everything they do.
One part of the sydhi history I’ve never written about, but I’ve always known about in my head, is that they are not the pure, pristine-of-heart race that they may superficially appear to be. This particular aspect of their history was formed back in the first days of Memory Fading when I was trying to find ways to really differentiate the sydhi from the standard fantasy elves – in particular, the Tolkien elves – who are almost always portrayed as “the inheritors of the planet who were good and pure, until the evil, usurping humans/goblins/giants/etcetera appeared and ran them off.” You see, in the far, far past of Memory Fading’s history, there was a race of beings called the Aedryn (EE-drun), who for the most part ruled the world until their undoing. Being the most powerful beings on the planet, they held dominion over other beings. In fact, they kept slaves of the myari and the sydhi. They were cruel masters, and never allowed for any race other than themselves to come into a position of power or respect on the planet. After their untimely demise, the other races were free to begin lives anew, and to fulfill their own goals and ambitions. However, part of the darkness of the Aedryn had seeped into the sydhi. One clan of the sydhi rose above the others, and through strength of arms and magic, forced the rest of the sydhi into their servitude.
Thousands of years passed in this manner, until a great cataclysm destroyed the sydhi homeland, and they were forced to find a new continent. They traveled east across the great ocean in magical ships which had been built from the bones of the earth, and eventually found a continent in which to rule. During the voyages across the sea, an inner struggle broke out amongst the sydhi, and those who were masters were split into two new groups, which would become the urshael and the sydhi we know today. Of the third, and largest, group of ancient sydhi, who at this time were the slaves and servants of the more powerful, many were slain during the battles. Upon landing, the battles increased, until finally, a truce was made between the urshael and the sydhi. The urshael would take all the lands above the Tarsus Gamo, or “Great Spine (the large mountains in the north that are labeled as the Frosthorns on the maps of humans),” and the sydhi would take all the lands below those mountains. The third group, now the smallest and weakest, simply wanted to sail away in the great ships, and never be near their cousins again, but during the battles, the sydhi set fire to the ships, forever locking them onto this continent. That third group of sydhi, today simply known as Husayi, or “the Lost,” disappeared into the mountains to the east.
It took many millenia for the sydhi to realize the error of their ways, and seek forgiveness and redemption with the Lost colony, but they have never been able to find any traces of them.
This history gives me two words that I’m looking to use as themes for the sydhi as a whole. Redemption and haunted. The sydhi seek redemption for their terrible, past wrongs, and they are a haunted race who know that they have a history of violence that far outdoes many of the human and other races across the land. This gives me a stone from which to step into the motivations of the sydhi nowadays. For thousands of years, they believed only that the way of peace would be an acceptable way to live, and thus, when humans and others began coming to Alsa Eru, instead of fighting for their land, they diminished into smaller tribes and smaller cities. When at least, that dreadful, final war between sydhi and humans came about, the sydhi finally took up arms to defend themselves, but it was too late. As the last king of the sydhi said before his death at the hands of Tlek humans, “We have started digging a well while the house burns down around us. It is too late.”
The sydhi have lost everything – their original deity was destroyed by their former masters, their original tribes were split, never to reunite, their brethren were slain by their own hands, and then when they finally believed peace to have been accomplished, they were swept from the land like so many roaches out the kitchen door. The sydhi are haunted.
Nowadays, they keep mostly to themselves, though they have recently struck up peaceful relationships with various other civilizations around the continent. They still seek their redemption, and thus even though they have recently reallied themselves with [some of] the urshael, and have grown in power over the last six hundred years, they do not seek to usurp or reclaim their lands – they simply want to live.
More to come….