What were/are your people like?
What were your people like, and how do you know?
We went back through our LJ entries on the subject, and pulled out some parts related to the time just before to somewhat after the War, which I'll explain in its place, and to our nature in general. Most is unconfirmed memory, and I will cite supporting sources where they apply.
Ljossalfar and dokkalfar are from a common stock, and do not have any significant differences in physical demographics. We are tall, with the average height being around six feet. This is consistent with the heights of those in our system, checked against Sapphire's self-reported height with respect to the body. Pure-blooded alfar are light-skinned with golden-blond hair and blue eyes, but many of us have interbred with other races to produce different results. The height seems to breed true nearly all of the time, and the skin color almost as often. Hair and eye color are the most likely to change, and breeding with a race that tends to produce intersex or gender-shifter individuals seems to generally produce a child of that type if the genes for it are there. Again, this is consistent with our system and its memories of what else might be in our ancestry, but we're also a small population and it's not much to judge by.
Our experience of death is different from that of humans. We do not die of old age. If someone is killed in an accident or through violence, he or she will swiftly reincarnate, with a good memory of the prior lifetime, and into the same caste. There are some magical techniques that can be used to produce a more lingering death, in which the core essence must repair itself after death, taking longer to reincarnate and obscuring the memories of the prior life. When this happens, the individual is moved along a cyclic progression of the castes, either rising or falling in birth-rank according to that order.
We have not yet gotten a full impression of the castes. I use that word because birth is essential and mobility fairly limited within an individual lifetime, but there are many layers of stratification. The ruling nobles could be seen as one caste, but within that group, there is also an inner ranking according to the relative power of one's Clan. Within the nobles of a Clan, there is an inner ranking according to the status of one's House. Within the nobles of a House, there is the variable ranking of personal power.
Likewise, there is a broad-band caste of lesser nobles, with which the word "scholar" seems to click, although we get the impression that it's a culture-specific definition of that word and not necessarily a pure academic type. They were valued for their knowledge in some way. Below them is a broad-band grouping of castes that were roughly equivalent to managers in first-world human society, and below that a broad-band grouping of castes that were roughly equivalent to wage slaves. Sorting out the finer details of this system is a matter of great interest to us.
The significant differences between the two tribes are spiritual and philisophical. Both are very concerned about remaining close to a perceived standard of racial purity, but they disagree about what this means. The ljossalfar do not care about mixed blood, but are very concerned about maintaining a standard of decorum that they believe goes back to our ancient roots. They abhor killing, at least on the surface, and attempt to preserve the social strata that they currently occupy. As all are respected regardless of their rank, and political backbiting can get fairly nasty, most ljossalfar are fairly happy with this set-up, regardless of caste. Those who truly thirsted for something more, before the War happened, were low-to-mid-rank nobles, and the War took care of most of them.
A ljossalfar woman whom Rhun knew in a past life, who now lives in another body, has confirmed some details for us. She remembers the harshness of the political system, and that the administration sometimes used killing as a political tool. However, given our joint impression of things, it is likely that this was severely restricted, and possibly done out of the sight of the public. We-in-the-system have speculated on whether the Assassins' Guild some of us remember from dokkalfar lives was also present among the ljossalfar - Rhun's memories in particular seem to imply this - and if so, what a scandal it would be if that were revealed to the general populace...
The dokkalfar lived in a harsher environment. While alfar in Ljossalfheim could magically heal and plump up the edible plants, we did not have that ability over the plants of our new home. I think this was at least part of the reason why we lived underground; we had a weak ability to alter the lichen of the tunnels we constructed, and it allowed us to leave the aboveground untouched for maximum growing space. Of course, we could have also lived in the trees, but we didn't.
We accepted temporary death as a part of everyday reality for all castes. We had to be very good at what we did, and survive off of as little as we could. Children were raised communally, mostly tended to by Sapphire's race. That race normally divided childrearing responsibilities among the whole community, and adults treated all of the children as their nieces and nephews. For us, it was just a way of farming out what we saw as a distraction from the work of surviving, to our servants.
At roughly the equivalent of age 15 or 16 for humans, our children were assigned to a Guild based on their strengths and weaknesses, and given mentors who were not related to them so that they would be pushed to perform appropriately. Most Guilds led their apprentices through an experience that could be emotionally crushing, but not fatal. The military lost a number of apprentices each year, and the Assassins' Guild positively churned through them, but this was seen as the cost of staying strong in the face of perceived threats from our neighbors and from our former kin.
Likely because of this atmosphere, visible signs of foreign blood were a negative modifier to one's caste-given social rank. The unfavorable, whether of low caste, having dramatic foreign features, or members of the races we brought along in small numbers to serve us, were not treated with contempt or disgust. They were mainly ignored, but that was bad enough.
The Assassins' Guild dealt out the more lingering sort of death, which we saw as a necessary part of the cycle of life. We believed that it was natural for us to progress through the changes in caste, and looking back, those in the system wonder if the ljossalfar had not deliberately stopped this at some point and then decided to forget about it.
In the past, we were reluctant to speak about the reasons for the War because we feared retribution from them...but the less we let our fears cloud our beliefs about what will happen now, the less we believe they will be able to touch us - if word even gets back to them. We believe that the War was fought over the desire to set the wheel of rank spinning again, and those who would become the dokkalfar choosing to send some of the ljossalfar to their next station in life...forcibly.
The War seems to have ended when the ljossalfar captured the mate of the resistance leader, and she agreed to accept exile for her and her people in exchange for his return. There were those - including our leader's daughter and eventual heir - who believe we could have won if not for our leader "selling us out for that man"...but I don't believe it. Both of those women - and I - were predisposed to severe emotional fits and psychological frailty. The resistance leader was a figurehead because of her breeding; her mate was the one who made the decisions and later ruled the dokkalfar from the shadows. Their daughter, regardless of blood, should not have been High Queen. Her son and his daughter, my half-sister Shainin, led a covert resistance against her, but were caught and executed. Since that purge, in which Rhun and I were also killed, we have no information about what has become of our settlement in Swartalfheim.
There's more, little scattered details, but I think this is enough for one day.
"All knowledge is worth having." -Phedre no Delaunay
"Everything has a price." -Jaenelle Angelline
"I think if you try, that's being your best." -Echo