The Faewyr are a people hailing originally from the mysterious land of Tyr-Gwyrd. Often described as a wild and wary people, they have a powerful reverence for both their ancestors and for the natural world. Their druidic traditions run all the way back to their origin myths, where the spiritual predecessors of humankind were either unable or unwilling to heed the Will of the Wilds and were nearly preyed upon to extinction by primal animal spirits, but the last surviors were taken in by a pack of curious wolves. From there they began to emulate various traits and virtues of the animal spirits around them until they were able to have a fighting chance at survival on their own.
In appearance Faewyr are fair-skinned, often being quite pale. Their eyes tend to be shades of green or brown. In what is perhaps their most identifying physical trait, their hair is primarily in hues of red, though occasionally can be shades of brown or blond. While their people seem to have no especially dominant typical stature, there are some such tendencies among the clans and realms.
Much of their ancient culture and history are shrouded in mystery due to Draumfeldr, a protective shroud around their ancestral homeland that causes forgetfulness in any that pass through it to leave. Still, those Faewyr who have passed through it do retain some knowledge, or at least patchy memories, which has no doubt influenced the societies they've gone on to build in Arad - particularly in early Aetgard which was originally established by Faewyr.
((Their traditional naming scheme is in a roughly Old Norse fashion.))
The Faewyr are a clannish people, banding together quickly to aid their kin while being wary of outsiders. While clans are naturally built upon family bonds, a clan name can also be bestowed by a clan leader upon those of no blood relation for virtually any reason the clan leader chooses. Even those clearly not of the Faewyr race can be taken into a Faewyr clan, though this is far less common. Some clans pride themselves on the purity of their ancestral bloodlines, while others believe they strengthen their clan by bringing in the many virtues and traits of those outside their bloodline, and consider anyone given their clan name to be as good as blood relatives.
Social hierarchy generally follows a caste system: skills and talents are largely believed to be hereditary, or at least best passed down from parent to child. Thus, to be born to baker parents is to likely become a baker oneself, those born in warrior families are taught to be warriors as well, and so on. It is possible for an individual to break out of this predestined role by declaring a desire to do so at a yearly Wyrmeet during the year of their coming of age. The individual will then have one year to demonstrate that they are better suited at another role, to be judged by the local chief and experts in the desired field. Failure to do so comes with a heavy social burden and stigma, and can harm a clan's reputation, so this decision is not made lightly, and often permission is requested from the clan chief before making an official declaration at a Wyrmeet.
The caste system applies to leadership roles as well, though the Faewyr people are encouraged to frequently challenge their leaders for their positions in order to keep them sharp and competent. However, the current leader gets to choose the type of challenge, not the challenger. Challengers must therefore be confident that they can best the current leader in virtually any kind of competition. This is done to encourage only those who are more competent than the current leader in many ways, rather than allowing a narrowly-talented challenger to exploit a leader's single opportune weakness.
Additionally, the Faewyr people are traditionally split into three groups based on their expected time of activity during the day (which is naturally influenced by their current or intended line of work):
- The Dagurgondur ("Daywalkers") are primarily active while the sun is up.
- The Naeturgondur ("Nightwalkers") are primarily active while the sun is down.
- The Rokkurgondur ("Duskwalkers") are active from afternoon to evening, covering the transition period. This tends to be the smallest group.
Like many Faewyr traditions, this is traced back to their origin mythology: Not only did ancient Man need a constant watch against all the primal animal spirits seeking to prey upon them, but also needed specialists watching and emulating the useful skills and techniques of animals both diurnal and nocturnal. While not all Faewyr today abide by or sort themselves into these classifications, it is quite common for individuals to identify as one of the three and wear associated iconography.
Traditional Faewyr law states that no nation or civilization should ever be subject to a singular leader-figure. In their origin mythology, Man survived by many individuals working together, taking on different roles and learning their own skills and talents, playing to their strengths and filling in for each others' weaknesses when necessary. They apply the same to their society: A singular overall leader would be lacking in perspective and subject the people to the leader's weaknesses. Faewyr law therefore states that society be made up of several individual groups, each coming to the aid of others when necessary for the good of the Faewyr people, all holding one another accountable, sharing their own personal wisdom and abundance with their fellows. While in reality the individual clans will often keep many of their assets and resources to themselves rather than working in constant harmony with what they may well consider their competitors in other clans, the system does help all Faewyr leaders keep tabs on each other and help keep one another in check. Once each Winter Solstice, all the leaders of the greatest clans will meet together to discuss the overall state of the Faewyr people and their various lands, and settle any disputes that could not be resolved locally.
The above law was eventually broken by the people of the nation of Aetgard - originally established by Faewyr - when the individual clans were forcibly united by war into the Kingdom of Aetgard. Its spirit was somewhat reintroduced later, when several monarchs of Aetgard and their individual kingdoms were given a large amount of autonomy, but were still held accountable to the High King or High Queen of the Great Kingdom of Aetgard.
Each Faewyr clan is led by a sort of chief called a Leidtogi. Traditionally female, being the mother of the family, there are some clans who have had male leaders at times.
Just as a clan name can be bestowed upon anyone, it can also be taken away. To have no clan is to be one of the Ythwyr, cast out and bereft of kin, unable to live within the boundaries of any clan village, with no rights by Faewyr law, sometimes branded with a mark indicating their claness status at the time of their expulsion. Ythwyr will sometimes band together to form their own outcast clans that are not recognized by the rest of Faewyr society, though often the shame is taken so seriously as to cause the individual to live in self-imposed exile and extreme isoloation. Occasionally, a clanless individual can somehow prove themselves to another clan and be taken in. This is rare due to the stigmas associated with Ythwyr, and often dangerous - with their lack of rights and protections by Faewyr law, they run the risk of being taken as a slave, or any number of other unpleasant fates that may befall someone considered to be without any rights. There is even a term for Ythwyr who annoy clans with their attempts to show their merits and be taken in: Hattreynir, roughly translating to "one who loudly tries too hard."
An individual can have multiple clan names, though is expected to take one as their primary clan. Any more than two clan names and an individual is subject to suspicion, however - loyalty to so many clans would be difficult to prove or maintain, and so leaders are unlikely to bestow clan names on individuals who are already part of more than one. Still, there are a rare few historic figures who have been in several clans, and been a credit to all. Hiding one's clan names in some attempt to be more readily considered for additional clans is considered a very serious crime, and is likely to result in all clan leaders revoking that individual's membership in their clans in addition to severe punishments by Faewyr law. One popular Faewyr legend tells of the many horrible trials of a man who tried to amass as many clan names as possible, eventually leading to his forgetting his own true name, being cast out from all clans, scorned even by the Ythwir, and ultimately being devoured by Verungnr at sea when attempting to flee Tyr-Gwyrd.
There is a small set of traditional Faewyr laws that extends over all its people, though their enforcement is primarily subject to local leaders, who can in practice choose to ignore the traditional laws in favor of their own. To do so is to risk the combined ire of other Faewyr leaders, however. This does a decent job of keeping the traditional laws enforced - giving other clans a reason to unite against one's clan and divide up one's lands and assets amongst themselves in the aftermath is rarely a good idea. In the end, might often makes right in Faewyr culture.