Sylvians for Dummies

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Sylvians for Dummies

Post  Mizu on Sun May 25, 2014 1:03 pm

Note: Below is an in-depth description of Sylvians and the various aspects of their existence. For your convenience, there is a Quick-Reference Guide at the bottom of the page. Still a WIP; I’ll post it in the races page once it’s finished.


What is a Sylvian?


Spoiler:
The term "Sylvian" (informal), or "Nemian" (formal), is a name that refers to any member of the nymphic and druidic species that inhabits the feral regions of the world. Sometimes called sprites or dryads, not much is known to human records about this shy and fragmented race. It is known, however, that their intimate connection with nature is undoubtable. They are infamous as troublemakers and tricksters, as tenacious protectors of the wild, or even as the benevolent friends of the common farmer. While they have a strong cultural identity, they do not organize themselves as most other sentient races do, causing many to believe that they are a rather tribal and primitive people, due to their erratic and disorganized distribution, and their seemingly structureless home in the wild. In some ways, this is true to an extent. The Sylvi people don't partake in industry or trade, nor territorial expansion as many other races have become accustomed to.


Grammar and Its Bastardization

Spoiler:
The word “Sylvi” means “of or relating to Sylvians”, and is the correct adjectival form of the term in the common speech (e.g. “Sylvi culture” as opposed to “Sylvian culture”). They are commonly known as Sylvians, but to the more scholastic and scientific communities, they’re more often known as “Nemians” - a jargon term that’s short for “Neminari”, which translates roughly to: “[the] Children of Nemia” (see “History”). In actuality, neither the word “Sylvian” (A bastardized Sylvi term) nor the word “Neminari” (A term manufactured by scholars) are in fact legitimate Sylvi words. The word “Sylvian”, for example, is a corruption (of a corruption of a corruption) of the original terms: “Silfēna” (Which is both a female name and a term denoting a female Sylvian; most accurately pronounced: Sil-faen-ah) and/or “Silfāni” (Both a unisexual name and a term that denotes a male Sylvian; most accurately pronounced: Sil-fahn-ee). One of these original words was eventually corrupted into “Silfeena” (Sil-feen-ah), which was later corrupted to “Silfean”, where the “ah” was dropped due to a translation error (which was read by humans as “Silfian”), and was then in turn corrupted into the modern “Sylvian” many years after. Although the Sylvi language possesses similarities to the common tongue, it is fundamentally separate, and is further distincted by its somewhat unusual syntax and grammar. Additionally, the vast majority of Sylvi words contain no silent letters.


How long have they existed?

Spoiler:
It is unsure when the Sylvians came into the world, but if legends are to be followed, they are believed to be as old as nature itself. Like most sentient creatures on the planet, Sylvians possess a religious faith - a faith that is similar to the druidic practices (that may be inspired by Sylvi practices) of some tribal peoples, both ancient and modern. it is believed that their deity, Vitami, first created them as the tenders of his beloved forests (see “Religion”). As far back as human recorded history shows, inklings of the Sylvians' presence in the world has been shown. Humans only truly started to take note of them as they began to expand and grow as a civilized, expansionist species.


What does a Sylvian look like?

Spoiler:
Sylvians are widely considered shapeshifters. However, this is somewhat misleading. They do possess the ability to change appearance, but it is limited, and they are not capable of a lot of the things one may think of when the word “Shapeshifter” crosses their mind. They are naturally humanoid in appearance, so it is of little effort for them to give the deception of humanity, a form many of them keep. In their natural form (which can vary wildly between individuals), they often will look fairly human, but often possess unusual skin tones, pupilless eyes, strange markings, and other such things to differentiate themselves from the race that they love to mimic - sometimes in ways more drastic than others, depending on where they stand in Sylvi society. This will be elaborated on later.


What makes a Sylvian different from a human?


Spoiler:
Externally, a Sylvian may not appear all that much inhuman, but in their natural forms they do possess a number of features that make them unique - their skin being a good starting point to illustrate some of these differences. Although Sylvians are extremely varied in their appearances and physical properties (as if they were a large group of many subspecies), the thickness of their skin is a feature shared by all - it is far thicker than the average human’s, and has about it an odd elasticity and absorbency that isn’t found in their human counterparts. Additionally, the rather colorful tone of their blood (a somewhat purplish red) gives their skin a rather light and subtly tinted appearance.

Given the special absorbency of their skin, Sylvians are very sensitive to pollutants found in liquids. This makes them remarkably good at detecting poisons in the goblets of kings and other political figures, making them desirable servants for powerful individuals. Given that Sylvians are immune to natural poisons, this deal often works out well for them.

External differences aside, as they rarely show their true forms, the vast majority of their differences come from what can’t be seen on the outside - most of their differences are, in fact, internal. One of the most noteworthy details is the actuality that Sylvians are more akin to plants than to animals - the vast majority of their nutrition actually comes from water and sunlight rather than the consumption of food. Despite this, they are able to indulge in heterotrophic behavior and often do so during holidays and celebrations. No one really knows how their bodies work, but it is known that meat doesn’t agree with most Sylvians.

Sylvians are amazingly quick at regenerating wounds and lost limbs, making them very difficult to kill (for the certain maniac who wishes to do so). This is often attributed to their blood, which pours out over wounds and closes them in an amazingly quick amount of time - a particularly kind and selfless Sylvian might wound themself to save a dying human.

Sylvians are fast and dexterous, but a Sylvi fighter is often notably weaker than the average human soldier - in combat, which they engage in infrequently, preferring diplomacy, a Sylvi relies on quick reflexes and slight of hand to beat their belligerents, as they often can’t take a hit without becoming incapacitated, despite their resilience. They have remarkable magical affinity, and one is almost guaranteed to see a Sylvian use magic* during combat. Additionally, many Sylvians often skip using weapons, as they usually wish to only incapacitate their enemy rather than kill them - for this reason, they commonly use only their bare fists and feet. In terms of weapons, they will sometimes use vistri (a light Sylvi fist weapon, from the word for “punish” - used for quick knock outs), lacri (A non-deadly whip, meant to inflict pain and paralysis at a distance via poisons), and pecri (needles taken from a plant that are thrown to inflict paralysis). Sylvi weapons are grown rather than forged.

Sylvians are also immune to the process of aging, which leads many scholars to believe that they are simply corporeal spirits, rather than a species. This is a debatable topic.

Footnotes:
* Sylvi magic most often focuses on the art of illusion, evasion, and sensory stimulation (Their spells are often very visually spectacular and dazzling). In combat, they use this magic to distract their foe and to evade attacks. Instead of using something such as incantations to channel magical energy, Sylvians use complex gestures and body movements to accomplish this, somewhat like a dance - as such, Sylvians are often very visually spectacular on the battlefield, whipping around like a whirlwind with artful blows and beautifully timed steps and dodges. Sylvi magic is not without its rules, however. Besides being an art exclusive to Sylvians, it is also the only kind of magic they can practice. Additionally, Sylvi magic is not inherently deadly by itself. No fireballs or needle storms can be found here.




Sylvi magic is special for each Sylvian, and each Sylvian channels their magic in their own ways, making their magic unique. It is not uncommon to come across an individual Sylvian who is the sole practitioner of a certain spell.




Examples of Sylvi magic include, but are not limited to: phasing in and out of trees, exploding into a shower of flower petals (a favorite of Flosara), filling an area with intoxicating spores, and other such things. Use your imagination.


“Radices”

Spoiler:
A “Radix” (a word that roughly means “origin point” in another tongue) is an odd term coined by even odder scholars. That is, the self-proclaimed “Silfologists” (or “Nemiologists”, depending on who you’re asking) who also coined the term “Nemian”.

Sylvi culture is divided into clear, finely divided sects and subsects. These sects are not unlike family clans in human society (or, perhaps more accurately, “jobs”), although members of a sect are not necessarily related, and these “clans” permeate Sylvi society more thoroughly. Each sect contains certain kinds of Sylvian (like a subspecies) that have specific roles to fill in the race-wide duty of tending to nature’s well-being, as well as facilitating growth and renewal within the environment. The five main Sylvi sects all focus on a certain broad, generalized type of flora each - these are the Flosara*, the Antonari**, the Mimimari***, the Lymfara****, and the Cryptamati^*. These are tenders of flowers, tenders of trees, tenders of “small plants” (shrubs, grasses, etc; excluding ferns and mosses), tenders of aquatic growths (excluding algae), and the tenders of “Cryptogamous” growths (that is, those growths that have no true flowers or seeds, and reproduce via spores - i.e. ferns, mosses, fungi, and algae; a diverse, yet orderly group), respectively. Beneath each sect is an almost endless stream of smaller and smaller subsects (all of which are considered members of the original sect) down a social pyramid^** of importance - each descending subsect focusing on a smaller and more specific task than the one before it. This is not unlike the order of scientific classifications for living things. Within each subsect there are usually divisions: For example, a member of the pine subsect (which falls under the Antonari Sect) will have a very large variety of divisions (sub-subsects) that make what individuals do more specific - a division dictates exactly which pine a certain individual cares for. As a further example, there is a specific subsect of the Mimimari, the “Rascari”, only of around 50 members, who tend soley to a select variety of berry bush (Rascberries - an extremely poisonous berry that is not to be confused with “Raspberries”) that grows in a tight distribution within the Dimberg Mountains. The reason that they are the sole tenders of this very specific type of plant is that the bush has anomalous characteristics^*** - it bears no relation to other berry bushes, and therefore belongs to its own, divisionless subsect of Sylvians, separate from those others who concern themselves with“berry bushes”.


Now, on to the original subject of what a “Radix” is:

Spoiler:
A Radix refers to the specific species of plant that an individual Sylvian tends to. In the case of the Rascari, all 50 members have the rascberry bush as their Radix. Therefore, a member of the Antonari’s Radix is not a “tree” - rather it may be a specific type of pine that grows in a specific river valley. In fact, there are technically no members of the “Main Sects” - they are umbrella terms for all the subsects (who have members) that fall under them.

It goes without saying that Radices are important to Sylvians, although the term “Radix” is misleading. “Radix” implies that the Sylvian came from the plant itself, however, this is untrue. Sylvians are born to parents (parents who happen to  not be inanimate growths). The Sylvi term for “Radix” is “Solmiara” (Meaning, quite cheesily, “friend [of my] soul”).

When separated from their Radix for extended periods of time, Sylvians will begin to fall ill (after a few months) - if left for too long, they will often perish as a result (after over a year, on average). As such, if a Sylvian is traveling, they will often carry a small piece of their Radix with them - the rule is a very lenient one. A short, respectful ceremony takes place (a prayer to Vitami and an expression of gratitude to the plant) before the Sylvian takes the piece they have been given - interestingly, a piece often falls off for them, such as a flower losing a petal. To end the ceremony, the Sylvian will often place a modest gift at the base of the plant - as tradition goes, it is to be shared by both the plant and Vitami. This little piece of plant matter can be stowed away in a safe location (such as a locket for those Sylvians who enjoy human pleasures) to ward off illness and keep the Sylvian healthy if long-distance travel has become necessary.


Footnotes:
* “Floss-ara”; comes from a Sylvi word for blossom, or flower - Flosi (Floss-ee). The “i” is dropped and replaced with the suffix “ara”, which, because the word is feminine, denotes “Friend of”.

** “Ant-o-nari”; comes from a Sylvi word for both the noun “tree”, and the adjective “stoic (or strong of character)” - Antsa. The “sa” is dropped and replaced with “onari”, which, because the word is masculine, denotes “Child of”. The “t” and “tsa” sounds are reserved for words that denote power, strength, massive size, or great like or dislike - hence the words for tree, strength, and even the name of their god (Vitami), all contain a sharp “t” or “tsa” sound. For the same reason, granted titles most often contain this sound as well. Sharp consonants are rare in the language, and mispronouncing a word via inserting a harsh consonant or vowel where it doesn’t belong is considered rude or vulgar.

*** “Mim-i-mari”; comes from multiple words. The first word is a Sylvi word that can mean “small”, “little”, or “diminutive” - Mimo (Mee-moe). The second word is “ima”, which is a context-reliant term that can mean anywhere from “things”, to “people”, to “weeds” (Note that their concept of “weeds” is different from that of humans’ - they believe all plants have a right to grow. For them, “weeds” simply means a tight, mixed grouping of different kinds of plants.). Together these words make “Mima”, which most often means “small things (or plants)”. The “a”, for obvious reasons, isn’t dropped when the suffix “ari”, meaning “Sibling of”, is added.

**** “Lymfara”; comes from the Sylvi umbrella term for aquatic plants and algae - Lymfa (Lim-fuh). “Ara” is added - again, "Child of".

^* “Cryptamati” comes from the word “Crypta”, meaning “hidden” or “obscure”, and “mati”, meaning “marriage” or “partnership”, and is a very large sect based on the huge sects that lie beneath it. Translated literally, it means “hidden marriage”, referring to the method in which this sect’s variety of radices mutually reproduce via spores. Under this sect are the Tallari, the Teritari, the Boletaro, and the Myrofari. That is: algae, ferns, fungi, and mosses respectively.

^** The “social pyramid”, if it were to be drawn, would most likely look like an upside-down triangle. Unlike in a human social pyramid, the most “important” subsects also have the most members. For example, one of the biggest subsects of the Antonari Sect are those that tend to pines - this puts them near the top in terms of members and “prestige”.

^*** The reason that this subsect is anomalous is because it only cares for one type of plant because it is the sole member of its allotted category. Aside from bearing deadly poisonous magenta berries and having an almost intentionally confusing name, the pink thorns of the Rascberry bush are also, in fact, venemous. Pricking one’s finger on the bush causes the human body to go into anaphylactic shock - this is also true for other fleshy, unprotected creatures who are unfortunate enough to brush up against it. It is fortunate that the bush only grows in limited numbers on or near the banks of a small set of creeks high in the Dimberg Mountains, so that humans may be spared of the pure, unrelenting evil of this hell growth. Interestingly, the Rascgachí, a bird, quite enjoys the taste of its berries.


You said you would elaborate on appearances; care to?


Spoiler:
Yes. Appearances vary between sects, subsects, and divisions - as do various personality traits. It can be largely assumed though that Sylvians possess traits that would seem to pair naturally with their Radices.

Flosara Sylvians are naturally small, with soft features, bright eyes (both literally and figuratively) and often with thin, youthful frames. They often have very cheerful and optimistic personalities, and are usually the driving force behind every traditional Sylvi celebration - a favorite of theirs is the celebration of dance during the beginning of Spring.

Antonari Sylvians are often tall, strong, and imposing - they possess the naturally thin frame that Sylvians share, but it by no means makes them appear weak. They often have brown, gray, or dull green eyes - and are usually very serious in dress and attitude. Stoic, dutiful, and responsible would be a description best attributed to the average Antonari.

The Mimimari, although their name would imply otherwise, are not inherently the smallest of the Sylvians (that title belongs to the Flosara). Because the Mimimari Sect is such a diverse one (in fact, one might call it the “miscellaneous” category), there is an equally diverse amount of variation in appearance, making it hard to generalize their appearances.

The Lymfara, being in care of that which grows in water, have bodies that reflect this - their height varies, but they all possess lithe, graceful bodies that seem perfectly suited to swimming (and dancing, much to the chagrin of the Flosara); both men and women of this group are often enamored with their own hair or eyes, and have a tendency to care a little too much about their appearances.

The Cryptomati are the oddballs of Sylvi society, and they have features and personality traits to reflect this. Despite not having much power, they are by far the oldest sect. The Teritari, those who care for ferns, are tall and graceful, and have feather-like growths coming from their bodies, often in the form of tails, or coming from their arms somewhat like wings. They’re often quiet, wise, and reclusive. The Tallari* are even stranger visually, Myrofari are often lazy and sloth-like, and the Boletaro** are different enough to need a section of explaination devoted to them .

The Boletaro is a Cryptomati sect that is by far the strangest and most varied of the sects. Boletaro Sylvians are barely Sylvians at all - in fact, they contradict a lot of the traits that the others all share unanimously. The foremost of these being the fact that the Boletaro, unlike their fellows, are heterotrophs - that is, they cannot survive through the same means as other Sylvians. They must eat. For many Boletaro, this is of little consequence - many simply consume dead leaves or soil and the like, or, alternatively, they’ll try human food. They must do this because they, like their radices, are unable to produce nutrients for themselves. Many Boletaro are outsiders and not considered a part of the Sylvi people - by both parties. As such, the Boletaro Sect within Sylvi society is a comparatively small one. Those who do consider themselves a part of Sylvi society, appearance-wise, are often quite like the Flosara - however, they are usually pale in appearance, and don’t possess the same lively tint that other Sylvians have. Additionally, they often have withdrawn or eccentric personalities, black, oily blood, and unlike Flosara, the vast majority do not enjoy dance or large gatherings.

Footnotes:
*Those Cryptomati who care for algae are strange. In fact, one might even call them out of place. These Cryptomati, the Tallari, in the opinion of others, spend too much time in the water, and have an annoying habit of keeping their eyes open really, really wide at nearly all times while they stare silently at things. Like the Boletaro, they are often subconsciously (or consciously, depending on who you're asking) viewed as outsiders -  possessing narrow, primal forms, strange hands with unusually long fingers, and thin, thread-like tails alongside bestial legs, they definitely have the appearance of “an outsider”. Some believe this to be part of an ancient curse, the reasons of its incurment having been long forgotten.

** “Bole-eh-tar-o”; Comes from the Sylvi word “Boletar”, which means, roughly, “fake plant”. The word comes from “Bol”, meaning either “not real”, “mimicking”, or “fake”; and “etari”, which means “growth” (noun). Context is key to this word, as in one application it is proper and accepted, but in another it is an insult. Species of fungi are referred to, as a whole, as “Boletari” (fake plants) - which is considered non-offensive; when Sylvians call them “fake plants”, they are simply referring to how they act similar to plants without actually being plants. However, calling a Sylvian a “Boletar” indicates you believe he or she is without duty, honesty, or, for lack of a better word, is a “mistake”. “Boletarari” is a non-offensive term for a member of the Boletaro sect - interestingly, it means “Sibling of the People of the Boletari”. The word “Boletaro” is anomalous, in that a portion of its translated meaning, “[People] of the Boletari”, is not explicit. “People” is only implied.


“Outsiders”

Spoiler:
The Boletaro outsiders are, for lack of a better description, widely believed to be monsters. Since many fungi display parasitic or unsavory heterotrophic behavior, these outsiders often employ predatory or other disturbingly creative methods of obtaining nutrients. Many prefer to be alone, and they vary widely in looks, but almost none of them are devoid of some form of monstrous characteristic - be it sharp teeth, bestial appendages, a twisted mind, or something equally as dark. One such Boletaro, the Sueka, a large, long-limbed Sylvian representing a parasitic species of fungus native to select tropical swamps, has the ability to drain fluids from prey - usually human or Xillidi (their favored prey) - via an extended, worm-like proboscis that emerges sharply from the throat during feeding, before liquifying their victim's insides and drinking the result as a second helping.

These Sylvians are completely alien from their cousins, and are most often simply beasts with sentient masks. Even those that possess measurable intelligence are often devoid of sympathy and compassion, and enjoy acting on impulse, living in the present with little regard for past or future. These characteristics make the seemingly intelligent, compassionate face that all Sylvians share disturbingly deceptive. These individuals are sometimes referred to as “Boltsi”*, an everyday Sylvi word meaning “deceivers”.

Another notable Boltsa is the Grex of the southern Grey Marshes. One of the few Boltsi with measurable intelligence, these small, child-like Sylvians use a combination of deception and pack mentality to seize prey. Picky eaters who never travel alone, these creatures, as calling them anything otherwise would be misleading, are the bane of travelers and natives alike. Fortunately, they are surprisingly difficult to stumble upon, are afraid of groups, and those who don’t fall for their elementary tricks can easily escape or fend them off, as they are a decidedly weak and craven species of Feral Sylvian.


Footnotes:
* “Bole-tsee”; singular is “Boltsa”


Religion

Spoiler:
Sylvians possess a single, unanimous, and monotheistic religion that centers around the beings Vitami and Somni. Additionally, they believe that each forest, marsh, river, mountain, or other such thing contains the soul of a powerful spirit, each being of varying moral alignment - similar to the concept of Djinns.

Vitami and Somni are described as siblings that can never be in power at the same time - without exception, one remains asleep while the other is awake. Vitami and Somni represent different halves of the same being, therefore, technically, they worship only one deity, making their religion monotheistic. Vitami, the brother, is known as the creator and father of all the Sylvians, as well as all the things that they protect and adore. Vitami represents the ideals and concepts of loyalty, duty, compassion, growth, and strength of character. Vitami is only awake during the seasons of Spring and Summer, before his sister, Somni, watches over the seasons of Fall and Winter. Somni is regarded as a compassionate, unbiased being that protects all Sylvians during the months of Winter - regardless of their moral or intellectual status. She ensures that everything is in order before Spring and that the cycle of life continues smoothly. Additionally, it is believed that without her, Sylvians would not be able to sleep, as Somni also watches over their dreams*. She represents the ideals and concepts of intelligence, strength of will, responsibility, humility, and perseverance.

Notable holidays:
- The Vernal Equinox - Somni is bid farewell and Vitami is welcomed. Followed by a one-week celebration of Spring.
- The Autumnal Equinox - Vitami is bid farewell and Somni is welcomed. Followed by a “mourning period” for the dying plant life.




History

WIP; will include a timeline




"Domestication"




WIP




Stats




WIP

Quick-Reference:

1. Sylvians - informal human term. The Sylvi term for themselves is either “Silfēna” (a female) or “Silfāni” (a male). The plural is not gender-specific, and is simply “Silfati”. “Nemian” is a human created word that scholars use to sound smart.

2. “Sprig” is an insult coined by humans that is most often aimed towards “humanized” Sylvians. “Boletar” is a context-specific Sylvi word that can be either an insult that means dishonest and lazy, or a non-offensive term for a fungus.

3. Sylvians are divided into clans: Flosara (flowers), Antonari (trees), Mimimari (grasses, shrubs, etc.), Lymfara (aquatic plants, excluding algae), and Cryptamari (subsects: Teritari - ferns, Myrofari - mosses, Boletaro - fungi, and Tallari - algae). Within each is a subsect: such as “pines”, “algae”, or “mushrooms”, that are further defined by divisions: such as “ponderosa pine”, “green algae”, or “button mushroom”.

4. “Radix” refers to the plant that a specific Sylvian is in charge of (e.g. ponderosa pine).

5. Sylvians can fall ill and die without their Radix nearby (on average: 1-2 months before illness; about a year for death to become a possibility). Sylvians can counteract this by carrying a small piece of their Radix around with them (such as a flower petal, leaf, etc.), which they may obtain for themselves after conducting a small ceremony. The piece of the plant won’t wilt in the Sylvian’s presence.

6. Notable holidays are on the Spring and Autumn Equinox.

7. Religion worships Vitami and Somni, brother and sister, who represent two halves of the same being (Vitami: Spring/Summer; Somni: Fall/Winter). Sylvians also believe that rivers, forests, mountains, marshes, etc. are each watched over by a powerful spirit.





8. Sylvians are extremely fast and dexterous, but are often lacking notably in strength, and even more so in constitution. They can only use one kind of magic, Sylvi magic, which all have a high affinity for - they are also the only ones able to use this race-specific magic.



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Mizu

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