While the Sylphs have no central realm or government to call their own, their innate drive to explore and collect has spread their race and culture to the farthest corners of the Known World. Their insatiable curiosity is both a curse and their race’s greatest gift.
Sylphs are small, humanoid creatures about half the size of a man. Each sylph has a pair of leathery wings, each as long as the creatures’ bodies, sprouting from his back. Their skin is covered in fine, short hair that ranges in color from dark blues to inky blacks, and even deep browns. Sylph hands and feet each have three digits (two long fingers and an opposing thumb), and all twelve digits are tipped with sharp, retractable claws.
Their heads are small with sharp features, pointed jaws, and round skulls. Sylph ears are longer and more muscular than those of humans; they can be “flapped down” for protection when not in use, or stretched wide and erect to catch an inhumanly wide range of sounds. Sylph noses are sharp and long, with small fine nostrils. Their mouths are large, thin-lipped, and occupied by two pairs of small fangs. Their eyes are larger than those of men, with a bluish glow surrounding a black pupil.
Male sylphs dress plainly in order to attract as little attention as possible. Most wear drab-brown leather tunics with short or long sleeves, and matching short leather pants that cover the knee. Both tunic and shorts are covered in pockets. Sometimes they wear leather helmets if they travel a long distance. No jewelry is worn since this is kept at their home for display.
Female sylphs wear jewelry and make hair weaves from other animals. Their leather clothing tends to be more elaborate and is designed for appearance and as well as utility. Sylph women carry their young with them in small leather pouches that can be worn on the back. It is not uncommon to see a female going to a gnome marketplace with their young to purchase goods.
Sylphs wear nothing on their feet. While they are used primarily for walking and standing, they serve as an excellent second set of hands when the sylph is in flight.
Above all, sylphs are collectors. Their culture is driven by a compulsive need to explore, investigate, and go where no one else has gone—or at least, where no one wants them to be—and bring back treasures from their journeys.
These “treasures” can be physical items (coins, artifacts, tools, etc.), but are just as often information, such as troop movements on the eastern front, secrets between lord governor and his magistrate, rumors in the local brothel, and the true history of the ancient temple in the swamp. No treasure of any type is ever discarded. They are hoarded, traded, sold, and form the backbone of the sylph economy and culture.
Sylphs gladly trade or sell their treasures (usually information) to outsiders. In this way, they have become an important asset to all the major cultures of the Known World. In exchange for their intelligence reports, the sylphs receive protection and whatever resources they need to support themselves.
Occasionally, a sylph rejects his race’s obsession with collecting. He is invariably pitied and eventually cast out of his clan as a sad abomination.
Small, quiet, and wiry, sylphs are well-suited for their lives of slipping into places that other races cannot reach. Their bones are hollow and wrapped tightly with what little muscle they have. Sylphs are not fragile—they can withstand abuses such as high altitudes and narrow breathing spaces with ease.
Sylphs prefer to avoid combat whenever possible, since they have wings to escape. If forced to fight, they do with short knives (since flying with anything larger would be impractical) and their claws. When a clan of sylphs is driven to battle, they prefer to take the initiative—flying in on silent wings in the middle of the night, they descend upon their enemies and dispatch them without a sound.
Sylphs hold few lands as their own, but are found throughout the Known World. Wherever human or elder race culture thrives, the sylphs are found nearby. Entire clans settle on the outskirts of cities, temples, and other hubs of civilization where they can find both customer for their treasures and an ample supply of new treasures to add to their collections.
This is the image that most outsiders have of sylphs: spies, merchants, and scavengers living at the edges of civilization. Most clans live in trees, caves, and other natural habitations nearby. Some live in the cities of other races, usually in their own neighborhoods, in houses that are only accessible from the second floor.
Sylph homes are simple and crude. They usually consist of little more than two rooms: one to live in, and one for storing the family’s treasures. A home is occupied by a single family (a mated pair and their offspring), though other members of the family’s clan usually live nearby.
The only realm the sylphs claim as their own is the Crater of Lugos on the vast plains of Jasinu. The crater is riddled with caves and tunnels, filled with sylphs who call the place home. A vast glass temple to Lugos rises above the crater’s rim. This is the center of sylph religion and culture, and it is every sylph’s duty to visit the great city at least once during his or her lifetime.
Not all sylphs are found in the Crater of Lugos or orbiting the civilizations of others. Many of them have dedicated themselves to exploring the vast reaches of the Known Worlds untouched by other races. Alone or in mated pairs, these sylphs vanish for years at a time, but always return with the most fabulous treasures and stories.
Sylphs are omnivores. They have a wide palate and eat whatever the races around them eat. They do not farm, but gather fruit, and occasionally hunt if they have to. Those that live around other races often trade for whatever food they need.
Clan and family are important to sylphs. Family lines can be traces through either male or female lines, depending on one’s clan. Clans can be large with thousands of members, but families are small, consisting of the mated pair and up to two offspring. Mothers are primarily responsible for caring for the young.
Sylphs live to be around 200 years old, and achieve maturity at around 15 years. When their collection of treasures is large enough to justify their own homes, sylph youngsters are encouraged to leave their parents’ home to establish their own nests.
As dispersed as they are, the sylphs have no central government. If living amongst another race, they abide by that race’s laws as much as they can. For internal affairs, the clan member with the largest collection of treasures is considered the “Great Gatherer,” and is the informal leader. In times of shortage or danger, the Gatherer coordinates the clan’s efforts and collects spare resources to supply the whole clan as necessary. In time of peace and plenty, the position is essentially ceremonial.
The closest thing the sylphs have to a central government is the council of clans that meets in the Crater of Lugos. The council is made up of representatives from all the clans. If an issue arises that they feel must result in a law, they make it so and disperse the information to their respective clans. This does not happen often.
The council also maintains a network of sylph agents who spy and carry out other secret missions on behalf of the race and their god Lugos. This network is known as the Silver Scroll Gatherers, named for the scroll of Lugos that first brought them together. The existence of the Gatherers is an open secret, though none outside the group actually know who is an agent, or those agents’ missions. A sylph may sometimes claim to be a Silver Scroll Gatherer just to impress outsiders.
Sylphs are known for their tight, condensed written language. The language is so efficient it can convey a page of information in just a few characters. Sylphs typically write (using durable ink and parchment of their own creation) by dipping their claws directly into the ink and scratching out the text. They are skilled enough to write with either hand or foot.
Every Elder Race has had dealings at one point or another with the sylphs, whether for good or ill. Sylphs are looked upon as a “necessary evil,” since they get into everything. Sometimes gnomes, salamanders, and undines find a sylph poking around in someone’s home or work area. These activities can easily lead to bad reactions and possible ejection of the sylphs in the community. This is where the Great Gatherer or another sharp individual sylph steps in, using bribery, coercion tactics and sometimes blackmail to “smooth things over.” Sylphs have no desire to leave the other races as they are the main source of secrets and treasures. Sylphs are generally allowed to stay; they provide valuable information on the other races and will give up some secrets.
Humanity also has a mixed reaction to sylphs. Some admire them and seek their training in the arts of spying and secret-gathering. Others attack sylphs on sight, considering them untrustworthy and dangerous. Some human priests and scholars have developed a valuable, if costly, relationship with sylphs who sell them whatever knowledge they seek.
Beliefs and Gods
Lugos, God of the Sylphs, is the only acknowledged or spoken deity. No priesthood exists for Lugos, but each person shows him proper respect in their home altars. A simple sacrifice of goods is often made, with the Great Gatherer holding these items in a very select location. These treasures amount to 10% of each sylphs gathering total, but this number can vary greatly from 1% to well over 50%. A select group of watchers in the community look after the community treasure along with the Great Gatherer. This wealth is redistributed for special projects in the community or dealing with other races in sponsorship of a few select sylphs in a new community. These matters are directed by the god himself, as he is the Greatest Gatherer of them all.
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