Friday, November 2, 2012

Folklore, Rumors, and Legends of the Shieldlands

These are (mostly) actually from play.  Some are false, some true, and some of questionable veracity.
  • It's widely believed that elves choose their gender upon reaching adulthood, and that some never choose at all.  When asked directly, elves generally change the subject.
  • The nomadic Yezidi horsemen are ancestor-worshippers, and believe that the deities of other groups are actually powerful evil spirits.  They believe that resurrection is a trick to bring demons into the mortal world in human guise, as no Yezidi soul would return from the paradise beyond, where there are more goats than a man can eat, endless seas of fresh water, and the worship of one's living relatives.
  • Rust monsters are unusually friendly beasts who bear no ill-will towards mankind, greeting people carrying food (metal) with a happy burbling noise and a companionable headbutt, much like one would expect from a cat looking to be fed.  Sadly, most humans don't perceive it quite the same way.  This problem is only exacerbated by the belief that the flesh of the rust monster is delicious; gourmands purport that it has the best qualities of both lobster and steak.
  • The rat-men worship a death god named Hao-Dee.  For a non-goblin to utter his name is a blasphemy most terrible, and warrants a holy war seeking their destruction.  Some linguistic scholars believe that the utterance of "Howdy!" in greeting among Shieldlanders originated as a means of signaling mutual enmity towards goblinkind.  Most Shieldlanders are quite unaware of both this hypothesis and the fact that saying "Howdy" to goblins will greatly provoke them.
  • A dwarf's beard is the source of his stonecunning, and if he shaves, he loses this ability until his beard grows back.  Thus, shaven beards are seen only among the nobility, for whom it is a symbol of not needing to know their depth beneath the earth.  That other races' women do not have beards leads to all kinds of confusion as a result, when uninformed dwarves mistake them for nobility.  Female dwarves do have beards, which in addition to imparting stonecunning are often woven into slings for hands-free carrying of their children.
  • Ghouls are either very stupid or rather cunning, depending on who you ask.  They can also climb, and sometimes lurk on ceilings.
  • It is widely believed that hollow, circular tubes which are open on both ends serve as conduits for dark forces.  This conveniently explains the complete lack of sewer systems in the Shieldlands.  The fact that most Shieldlander plumbers are slightly mad and promote an air of the occult doesn't help matters.
  • The elves call their progenitor sun goddess Amaterasu.  The Zaharans call it Ammon-Ra in its destructive male aspect.  The humans bastardized the Zaharan name to Ammonar.  The typical reaction of elves to this mispronunciation is one of gentle disappointment with the folly of the short-lived races, occasionally accompanied by mockery and derision.  If one persists in this after being repeatedly corrected, however, they will eventually become deadly serious, and may challenge the offender to a duel.
  • It is said that residing on holy ground delays or reverses the terrible aging caused by the touch of the restless dead.
  • The orcs of the Shieldlands have an aversion to the color red; ever since the utter destruction of the orcish Red Horde at the hands of Ancaglon the Black, to use the color in a tribal name is to invite defeat.  The same is true of painting a shield red, and the one way in which the orcs respect hygiene is that they are very careful to scour blood from their weapons and armor after battle.  They also prefer targets who wear red, believing them to be easily vanquished.
  • Every spring, the town of Opportunity celebrates All Thieves' Day.  Any thefts successfully committed on this day within city limits and without the victim's knowledge are not prosecutable.  If the victim discovers the theft before sunset, though, then he has until the end of the next week to recover his possessions before they become the rightful property of the thief.  Tradition holds that the celebration began one spring after a particularly harsh winter with the stealing of food stores.  Merchants, and most other wise folk, tend to avoid the town on this day, but a bustling market develops outside the gates.
  • Gnolls can't help but laugh.  Sadly, this means that they find laughter unpleasant (much like we do sneezing) and are somewhat touchy on the subject.  As they already have short fuses by nature, there is no surer way to end up fighting a gnoll than to tell a joke, and gnolls bear a remarkable hatred for bards and halflings.
  • The Judge of Deal has suffered injuries that would kill most mortal men, and none know his age; many believe that he is immortal so long as the town of Deal stands.  Sages scoff at this notion, and make a hobby of proposing alternate explanations.
  • Witch-hunts are traditional in the Shieldlands, occurring in the weeks preceding the two equinoxes and the two solstices.  During these periods, witches hunt for fresh components for the rituals they perform on those days of unusual power.  Many children partake in scavenger hunts during these weeks out of imitation, and some witches arrange such hunts as a means of finding promising children for either apprenticeship or sacrifice, depending on the disposition of the witch in question.  Adults, on the other hand, are unusually polite towards witches during these times, as the witches are often in a hurry and apt to turn obstacles into newts.
  • The elephantmen never forget.
  • A dwarven creation myth holds that in the beginning, Armok created the dwarves, but grew bored when they failed to war amongst themselves and instead spent their time mining and creating works of art.  Thus, Armok created dragons to go forth and devour the dwarves, and strengthen them in the crucible of dragonfire.  As a result, dragonhunting is regarded as a sacred act of worship among the dwarves.  To rear a dragon, however, is sacrilege, while to ride a vanquished dragon is an expression of utmost divine favor and right to rule.  Shieldlanders who know of this myth generally have a different take, blaming the dwarves for the dragons who eat their livestock.  When a dragon appears to menace a township, it is not the virgins but the dwarves who are first offered up to it by the fearful human populace.  Dragons, for their part, do seem to prefer humanoids with beards who smell of alcohol, but are not picky as to the actual species.  It is also believed that this origin is the reason that dragons love gold.
Anything I'm forgetting, gents?

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