The Skilled Investigators.
Notes about the elves and the Kingdom.
The following notes add nothing to the story but may be of interest to readers who wish to know more details about things!
History and Geography.
The world is in many respects similar to our own. A day is twenty five of our hours. Other than days, the year, which is exactly 360 days and never varies, is divided into four equal seasons and the date simply refers to the day in the season e.g.1st Spring. The 90 day seasons are divided into shorter periods for convenience. This was done by humans, initially and the elves have simply adopted human time divisions. For the sake of simplicity I have called the 30 day periods months but they have no names other than 1st, 2nd and 3rd part of each season and are rarely mentioned. Each month is further subdivided into three tendays – slightly longer than our week but serving the same purpose. The end of a tenday tends to equate to our weekend. Although elves prefer to use self-referential measures (see below) they are not very bothered about time and are happy to use the human calendar, particularly as it helps to keep everyone able to keep appointments, whether they are for peace negotiations or for trade.
The years, according to the elves of The Kingdom, are numbered from the founding of the first kingship there. The current year is 564 FG (from Gallan).There is a hereditary royal family. The story of The Scroll takes place some time between 90th Spring and 1st Autumn.
The Kingdom occupies a south facing coastal strip on the west side of a large continent. The elves came originally from lands in the far west, across the ocean. The Kingdom belongs to the elves. It shares a border with human lands but although there is no prohibition, and some trade, the two races rarely cross.
The climate is similar to that of North Wales, thinking of the drier west coast and Llyn peninsula rather than the mountainous regions. The flora and fauna are similar too, although the elves keep goats rather than sheep.
The main industries are fishing, boat building, agriculture and stone work. There are still some gems unmined, mostly on the coast, and there is a small amount of timber in the east. Most of this goes for furniture and housing needs. There are minor industries such as the harvesting of reeds for thatching, in the low lying and slightly swampy areas nearer the mouth of the main river (the Browan) and weaving mills powered by the river in its higher reaches.
Language and names.
As Fel explains in the story, the first elf settlers didn’t bother dreaming up imaginative names for places etc. and their descriptive names have stuck. The elves themselves often have flowery names, directly taken from history or romance, or derived from these. Their surnames, on the other hand, signify their family interests. An elf who builds a new business can change his or her surname to suit, but many don’t bother. Presumably, in time, these names will no longer describe the holders’ actual trades but be of mere historical interest.
Flower names are descriptions; suneyes, windbells, moonflowers correspond roughly to daisies, harebells and night scented stock, whilst minebreath is heather (the Spanish call heather minebreath because it grows around the top of mine shafts).I have used British names for trees and most animals, to make understanding easier but I would add a word of caution. A daisy, or an ash tree or any other living thing in The Kingdom, will only be an approximation of its earth counterpart, occupying the same biological niche. You are welcome to imagine the differences for yourself. The elves, not knowing our Terran species, won’t mention them!
Humans living near the borders and the elves of The Kingdom share the same language, and the elves find some other elves, from far-off foreign countries, very hard to understand. I have used standard British English to represent elvish speech, with variations depending on whether the elves are speaking casually among friends, or formally, for example at Genef’s interview. The formal language contains some slightly archaic wording, as is usual in such things. One or two minor characters have a tinge of local dialect but this would never be difficult for others to understand. The only ‘invented’ words are personal names. Like the elves, I have used plain description for place names, and, as mentioned above, for some flora and fauna. The place names echo some English names (e.g. Ironbridge) but I have tried to avoid any hints of other languages such as the English endings ‘ton’ or ‘burgh’ or ‘ham’. The elves who settled The Kingdom were all from one area and brought their language with them. The humans just across the border learnt and adopted the elvish tongue rather than the other way round. Lonis and Corale are examples of places named in the old human tongue. Some human documents and ceremonies use the old tongue, too.
Elves are smaller and slighter than humans on average but can pass for human if their ears and hands are covered. Their ears are long and pointed, and their hearing is sharp. Their eyes are slightly elongated and they have excellent farsight. Their nearsight varies in much the same way as that of humans. They have five fingers and a thumb on each hand, and six toes on each foot. Their hair tends to be shiny with metallic glints that are the envy of humans who try without success to capture the same effect with dyes and sprays. Very few elves can swim and most are afraid of water, especially salt water. Great courage is needed to man the fishing fleets and ocean going ships. Most elves would not consider travelling abroad for pleasure. It is all the more surprising that the capital, Lonis, stands on a marsh that is filled by the sea at high tide, and that most elves can handle a coracle on the river.
There is a group of elves who from the first settlement have deliberately lived near the sea, making their homes in sea caves and taking delight in mastering their inborn fear of the waves. They are known as water elves. They do not differ (except perhaps psychologically) from their fellow countrymen. Rath, who comes from and is named for the village of Cave, is of their number.
Religion and social institutions.
Religion is not complex, or onerous. Most elves believe there is a goddess who created the world and is benignly if somewhat distantly interested in its inhabitants. Apart from the birth and death ceremonies, she is rarely invoked and there is no particular form of worship, although it is said that the goddess approves of a life well lived. A kind of ‘to work is to pray’ attitude. There is no religious text although there are long-established ‘ceremonials’ which lay out the form for ceremonies.
The testers are not a religious sect. They represent a desire to return to old fashioned values, as they see them, and this, to most of them, involves less pleasure, less public appearance by women, and conforming to arbitrary rules they have found to their taste.
There are superstitions, usually with good rationales, e.g. not walking under ladders (a workman might spill the paint) and there is a universal gesture intended to bring luck, the fully clenched fist. This may be waved, with no hostile significance.
Coracles have a symbolic significance. Round, or oval, they represent half of an egg. They are used in the death ceremony, when the corpse is placed, in a shroud, in a coracle and sent down the river to the sea. They are also used in the birth ceremony when a baby is presented to the goddess. The presenter sits with the baby in a coracle and faces the rising sun, asking the goddess to accept the birth, life and death of the young one.
Elves, who mature slowly, are considered children until they are eighteen. Till then, they attend school, locally, and do what their parents and others tell them. Between eighteen and twenty five they are between-agers. They live at home, with no financial responsibilities, and usually follow some educational hobby or interest. They may, like Genef, have a loose apprenticeship to a healer or some other worker. At twenty five they are said to be at the eve of life, and they receive a scroll. This sets out their expected career. It is often written by someone who has intimate knowledge of the family plus in some cases the Skill of Knowing Touch. They may then leave home for further detailed training (e.g. Fel trained to teach in Corale and Genef went to Lonis to join the Investigator Guild).Very few elves have much aptitude for mathematics or hard sciences. Often, their ‘inventions’ and machines are borrowed from humans. Barring illness or accident, elves can expect to live to at least a hundred. Perhaps as a result a between-ager might have the turbulent emotions and raging hormones common to human teenagers but by Genef’s age elves are usually mature and confident. Healers are usually trained ‘on the job’ and use a combination of psychology and herbal remedies. They are also veterinarians. Surgery is rare and confined to amputations in emergency – it is a dangerous procedure. In some respects, not all, elvish society resembles European life in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
There are no policemen as we know them. The local sieur, or major landholder, keeps general order and settles disputes over land and suchlike. The king’s court has judges, who hear cases and respond in the name of the king. Crime is investigated by the Guild of Investigators who then present the case to the judge, acting as both police and lawyers, although the accused are encouraged to seek others to plead their cases for them. Judges and investigators are paid by the king. Defence may be undertaken by the defendant him/herself, their family, or any investigator/judge who can be persuaded to take the case but money should not change hands; if it does, the defendant will automatically lose.
Money and measures.
The monetary system is as follows:
6 knuckles = 1 finger
6 fingers = 1 palm
6 palms = 1 fist
6 fists = 1 hand
If you regard a knuckle as being worth around 2pence (British money!) a finger is worth 12p, a palm is 72p, a fist is £4.32 and a hand is £25.92. Genef’s new flier therefore cost about the equivalent of £518.40, cheaper, incidentally, than a paraglider on earth, but still expensive! Especially in a largely rural economy. The conversion rate is intended to show approximate equivalent values at the time of writing. If you wish to convert further, for example to dollars or euros, you’re on your own!
Elves measure things by reference to themselves. An average male elf is about 5’5” and that is the standard length, height, or width. A shin is a quarter of an elf. A foot (not to be confused with our ‘foot’ measurement) is a third of a shin. So there are twelve foots (the plural is not ‘feet’) in an elf. Smaller measurement are bits. And sixths or twelfths of bits if you want to get into engineering. There are eighteen bits in a foot. Anyone who wants to convert to metric measures is welcome. Fel is twelve foots and a bit tall, Genef is four bits under twelve foots, and Rath is almost thirteen foots, quite tall for an elf. Boats, fabric, anything really, are measured in elves and apart from engineers nobody worries much about accuracy.
Weight is based on the average elf again and this is about 8 stones. The elves would laugh at our confusion – they use the same subdivisions as for length and know quite well from the context which is meant. So there are twelve foots per elf, etc. Cooks don’t use these measures. They guess, or use a handy cup, making sure the proportions are correct.
Food, clothing, animals.
Sugar and other delicacies are imported so there is plenty of variety in foodstuffs, at least in Lonis and Corale. Coffee is unknown. Tea made from various leaves, flowers or berries is the ubiquitous drink. Some elves sweeten it with sugar or honey. Milk is not added. The only milk usually available is goat’s milk and the same applies to cheese. A few cows are kept in some areas and where this is the case, milk and cream are in plentiful supply. Butter from these farms is sold to the entire Kingdom. In winter, cream can also be sent further afield wrapped with ice blocks. Cow leather is particularly prized.
Clothes are made from natural fabrics. Goat hair is knitted into silky woollen garments, flax is cultivated, leather comes from goatskin as well as cow hide, cotton and silk are imported from overseas, and a waterproofing resin has been developed from a plant source. When painted on a finished garment it keeps out most of the rain. Most people wear loose trousers and tunics, although some women, particularly older ones, favour skirts, and for formal wear, dresses and jackets are designed to enhance natural beauty.
Dogs are kept as guard dogs, cats are valued for their mousing activities, and as well as goats, the elves keep mules, for riding, carrying and pulling carts and carriages. The mules are usually bought from humans. A few wealthy families (the Mineholders for example) may have ponies and small horses which they love dearly and breed judiciously. Elves are brought up at home in the saddle. Sheep and pigs are unknown. Duck eggs may be gathered near the river banks and there are wild roadfowl which lay eggs in hedges. No flocks of birds are kept apart from the messenger birds of Lonis.
For the sake of making this account complete, I ought to repeat the information about Skills as explained in the story. There are five Skills, corresponding to the five senses. They can be taught by a rapid transfer of information under light hypnosis, but some people (and animals) are born with one or more. They are:
1) Knowing Touch – this tells the Skilled person whether the subject is telling the truth. It also gives a certain amount of recent history and a look into the future. It can be helpful to scroll writers and investigators as well as to healers.
2) Teaching Taste – this identifies toxins. It can also be used to identify flora and fauna and is often found naturally in animals (e.g. Penny)
3) Inner Hearing – provides an explanation of complicated matters and also allows normally sharp-eared elves to eavesdrop from an incredible distance, which varies from person to person.
4) Protective Smell – the Skilled one (e.g.Scratch) can sense an aura of evil around wrongdoers, and can also predict imminent danger. Sometimes, a user can tell where the danger is coming from.
5) Power Sight – as the name suggests, Power Sight can be used to impose power on people, by a kind of hypnotism. It can also be used to heal, both mentally and spiritually and can therefore be used to calm frightened or angry subjects.
The Skills can be taught in any order, although Power Sight in particular needs maturity to be handled correctly. All the Skills require practice and will give more information to the experienced user. All can be abused.
Other forms of Skill used by elves and sometimes called magic by humans are:
1) Stilling – the elf is not only so still that even breathing cannot be detected; they are also merged with their surroundings and unlikely to be noticed. But younger elves (e.g. Genef) sometimes forget about their shadows.
2) Flight – using a wing similar to a paraglider, coloured to blend into the sky. All children are taught to fly.
3) Elves have remarkable long sight and hearing and can run very fast.
The Skills do not carry any penalties and need no arcane knowledge. But anyone using the Sense Skills on themselves or people close to them will inevitably suffer some distress. It is not always good to know when death approaches.
Any other business…
If, as I plan, I write the five sequels to this story that are already outlined in my head and on my computer, more information may be vouchsafed me and I will of course share it with you