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Life as the Selhomarrians See It

by Geoff Gander

The Self and the Community:

A father speaking to his children the evening before their Wandering:

"As in the olden days of Lhomarr, and of today, the life of the average citizen of the realm is one of striving for accomplishment. All other benefits in life, be they wealth, happiness, or a long life, are all products of a striving for personal achievement. Strive for this one virtue, and all others will come in their time, if you are truly deserving of them.

"Now, the only way to achieve what you desire in life is to focus yourself totally upon your goal, whatever it may be. You must be totally loyal, absolutely devoted to your task. Your concentration must not falter by the tiniest amount. Then, and only then, will you see the results of your efforts.

"Yet another pillar of our lives is devotion to those we love and cherish. When you have families of your own, you must provide for them to the utmost, give of yourself so that the next generation may build upon what you have accomplished. If you do not, you will betray the trust and labour of countless generations before you. Remember the tales that Gallos the Aged told you in the town square, about the Homecoming? In them is the reason why we fight for our families and for our people above ourselves. When our people came to this new world, we had nothing but each other. Only by sacrificing for all were we able to rebuild our shattered homes and lives..

"Remember that Xeron watches over us all, and especially those of us on our Wandering. Do no unkind act to your neighbour, and help the helpless. Render unto the weak your entire spirit, and Xeron shall protect you.

"Now, why don't you two go to sleep? The hour is late, and unless you get a good rest, you will be too tired to meet up with your friends on the Wandering tomorrow!"

As the above passage implies, the notion of devoting oneself to personal accomplishment is highly important to the Lhomarrians. It does not matter what you do - as long as you devote yourself to your task, and give your best effort. Going hand in hand with this is the idea that, as long as you devote yourself to these principles, all things you wish to accomplish will come to pass in their own time. This national drive for development and accomplishment is tempered by the realisation that the common good must come before that of the individual. Thus, the average Lhomarrian strives for perfection in everything that he or she does, so that his or her efforts will benefit the rest of society the most.

This belief was in existence even when old Lhomarr still existed, but was reinforced by the war with Y'hog, and by the early years of hardship in the Hollow World - not to mention the Spell of Preservation. As a result, the perception that the good of the people must come before that of the individual was firmly entrenched in the Lhomarrian psyche. This does not mean, of course, that a Lhomarrian will sacrifice his or her life for any cause; it has to be for something that will have an impact on those he or she cares about, or on the people as a whole. Neither will a Lhomarrian willingly risk his or her own life for something trivial or pointless.

For example, a Lhomarrian would lay down his life in order to ensure the escape of his friends from danger, not only because it is better to lose only one person as opposed to a group; it is also because, in Lhomarrian culture, friendship is among the most sacred bonds, and he would want his friends to live. Lhomarrians do not make friends easily, not because they are inherently unfriendly; but because, to them, friendship implies a willingness to sacrifice one's life for another. Therefore, they do not make such a commitment to just anyone - a true friend is someone who has proved himself over time to be loyal, trustworthy, and open, and who respects such a bond.

In the same light, a Lhomarrian will not sacrifice his life for a pointless cause. If nothing will be gained my sacrificing one's own life to hold off a foe (i.e.: all of his friends would die anyway, or that such a sacrifice is not needed when other solutions are available), then a Lhomarrian will not do so. In some cases, it is better to fight and run away, so that one may fight another day. This is to say that Lhomarrians are not a fatalistic people - they have a definite sense of self-preservation, and know when sacrifices would only cause more harm.

Lhomarrians who act selfishly (at least, by Lhomarrian standards) are not ostracised by their people, as some might expect. Instead, they are looked upon with pity, as though they are flawed beings - missing some vital element in their being. They are treated the same as foreigners would be - people who are closed- minded, unaware of the higher purpose of serving the community, so that it might serve them when they are in need. Some attempts might be made to bring them into the fold, but such "aberrations" are largely left to themselves, as it has been deemed by the high priests that it is the will of Xeron that such people exist, to test the resolve of the majority.

Of course, none of this means that a Lhomarrian PC, for example, would be totally bound by such beliefs. The player is free to control his or her player as they see fit; they should just keep the above information in mind.

The Role of Xeron (and Other Immortals):

From a prayer by Thessia, High Priestess at Calmnis:

"Blessed be the wonders of Xeron, for He is the light. Blessed be the powers of Xeron, for He is the shaper of all things. He is the maker of the trees, the sky, the earth, the very mountains. He is all."

The centre of Lhomarrian culture revolves around Xeron, otherwise known as Ixion. He is the provider of the Hollow World's sun - this the Lhomarrian priests have learned. Thus, the Lhomarrians believe it is by his will that all life survives - proof of his superiority in all things.

They also believe that they were saved by Xeron for their virtue on the "old world" (the surface), and that they have been given a second chance to prove themselves worthy of his praise. This is incorrect, for it was Ka the Preserver who brought them here - Ixion had nothing to do with it, though he certainly didn't mind the salvation of a nation of his followers.

The Lhomarrians are also aware of Xeron's temperamental nature - like a fire, his emotions change and flicker. They realise this, but they forgive him for it, and try to live their lives in as balanced a fashion as possible. This is because they both respect and fear his power. Beyond this, however, Xeron is revered as the creator of all - all living things of the world are his creations, no matter how malevolent they may be. If his creations attack the Lhomarrians, then it is a test of the Lhomarrians' faith and spirit as a people. The only exception to this is the Carnifex, acknowledged as evil incarnate and the products of blasphemous Beings beyond the realms of sanity. Although none have been encountered since the sinking of Lhomarr, they are remembered, and cursed, through the mourning of the loss of the old land.

Xeron is then looked upon as the provider of all, the creator of all, and the protector of all that is good. Such an attitude evolved over millennia of trials and tribulations. Thus, while the Lhomarrians are not a fatalistic people, putting all of their faith on the will of one Immortal, they do see Xeron as a controlling power, but one whose rules are flexible enough to work with, and to allow a good measure of free will.

Likewise, just as qualities favoured by Xeron are valued by the Lhomarrians, those opposed to him are regarded as evil. For example, the very concept of the undead is considered abhorrent, and such creatures are destroyed wherever they are found. Also considered evil is the Immortal Thanatos, and all related worship of him. The Outer Beings worshipped by the Carnifex, and that race in particular, are also considered abhorrent in the extreme, to such an extent that those found honouring these beings are either exiled or executed.

Xeron is not the only Immortal honoured by the Lhomarrians. The fastest-growing religion in Selhomarr is the worship of Diulanna. In recent centuries she has taken notice of the strong-willed character of these people, and has become well acquainted with their history and culture. Seeing the Lhomarrians as a people who unwittingly follow her own principles, she has appeared in recent centuries to more open-minded priests, who have converted to her ways. Now, temples to Diulanna are slowly spreading across the empire, though still in the shadow of those to Xeron. The priesthood of Xeron, seeing that the priests of Diulanna pose no threat to them, have allowed this worship to exist. Also worshipped by some Lhomarrians are Thanatos and the Outer Beings, though this is illegal, and ceremonies are held in secret. Their rituals are dark and blasphemous, involving experiments on the undead, and plots to seize power.

The Role of the Priesthood:

From another speech by Gallos the Aged, at Myiad:

"Without the illumination provided by our sagely priests in all matters spiritual, I have no doubt that we would be lost to the world of Men, for they showed us the true way of Xeron - and of salvation."

For many Lhomarrians, the priesthood has been the only social force that has remained largely unchanged over time. The imperial dynasty has been overthrown once, with the execution of Galhossian (even though his son assumed the throne afterwards), and the land of Lhomarr itself has been destroyed by sinking. Only the people themselves remain, and their memories and beliefs. It was the priesthood that helped the Lhomarrians rebuild in their new home, and it was the priesthood that has kept alive numerous traditions, as well as preserved the accumulated lore of the Lhomarrians intact (some ancient scrolls date from the time before the sinking of Lhomarr, but these are truly rare, and guarded closely).

The priesthood is the centre of most Lhomarrians' daily lives. Whether it is to celebrate a new birth, the coming of age called the Wandering, or a marriage, or to commemorate a death, the priests and priestesses of Xeron contribute to their communities by reminding people of their duties to society, to Xeron, and to themselves. Finally, many Lhomarrians look to their local priests and priestesses for guidance, or just for someone to hear them out.

The majority of Selhomarr's priesthood, about 65%, is female. Because of this fact, religious and spiritual matters are often held by the average Lhomarrian to be the province of women, believed to be the more spiritual sex.

Perhaps the most important aspect of the priesthood's role is its duty to educate the young, assisted by the elderly. Under Lhomarrian law, all children are required to attend school between the ages of 6 and 14. Most schools are one-room affairs, located throughout the towns, cities, and villages so that all families will have a school within two or three miles' distance. The curriculum consists of mathematics, reading, writing, singing, basic nature lore, geography, and history. The end result is that almost all Lhomarrians have a solid, albeit subjective and basic, understanding of their history, as well as their part of the world. The above skills learned in school do not necessarily translate into actual attribute-based skills; rather, they provide a benchmark by which other can assess how educated, or well-rounded, a person is. As a result of this system, which originated on the surface, the priesthood has strong influence over the young, which it takes very seriously. Due in part to tradition, and to the Spell of Preservation, no priest would dream of using his or her position to influence the minds of the young towards a malign goal - though this does not mean it never happens. For this duty to the young, then, the priesthood is doubly honoured.

This duty is also performed by the elderly, as mentioned above, though to a lesser extent. Lhomarrian society does not make light of the great potential the elders of a community have towards influencing the young. As a result, venerable citizens are often encouraged to get involved in the community, to share what they have learned, and to provide extra guidance.

The Role of the Druids:

Part of the Druid's Chant:

"We are the keepers of the sacred trust. The trust of the trees, of the rivers, of life itself. We guard them as we would guard our loved ones, for there is no difference."

Just as the priesthood has the role of safeguarding the spirituality and the souls of the people, so the druidic orders scattered throughout Selhomarr protect the sanctity of the land itself. The druids venture into the wilds to heal the sick and wounded flora and fauna, discourage hunters from taking more than they are due, and educate the people on nature's bounty and what they are given in life. This role of protector originated on the surface world, not long before the sinking of Lhomarr.

In the closing days of the war with Y'hog, the stresses of keeping up the war effort, and of feeding and housing the thousands of refugees that came to Lhomarr began to make themselves known. Conditions were so bad that citizens, desperate for wood to burn and food to eat, would go into the wild to fell trees by the dozen and hunt animals by the herd. The druids, alarmed at the prospect of mass extinction, and further misery, protected the pristine lands as best they could, so that nature's bounty would not be plundered forever. Small battles were fought in the forests, and the formerly indifferent druids became involved in the affairs of the nation through their experiences. Ka the Preserver saw this trait developing in the druids - this involvement in the state at large - and realised that it would be for the better, since all people could be made aware of what was happening in the wilderness. Thus, those druids he brought to the Hollow World were those who most strongly followed these principles.

In the Hollow World, the druids guided the people by showing them what foods were safe to eat, when to hunt, and when not to. As a result, the Lhomarrians, under the tutelage of the druids, began to practice an early form of "sustainable development" - taking only what they needed from nature, and making sure that something is given back in return. The druids also, as with their surface counterparts, took care of the wild. They made sure the ecosystem did not get out of hand, and that no one destroyed anything wantonly. Currently, almost every reasonably-sized forest has a council of druids living within its bounds.

The druids also have an important advisory role to play. Each year, all of the councils meet to determine who their High Emissary to the Emperor (or Empress) will be. This person is then sent to the capital city for one year, to advise the ruler on what sort of policy or action is required regarding the wilderness. They will tell him or her how many animals should be hunted, where the breeding grounds will be in a given year (so they can be avoided), and any news about events in the wild - such as diseases. The choice, determined by consensus, is then announced, and the new emissary is then dispatched to the capital. Just outside of Calimnis is the Imperial Grove, measuring 200 acres, where the emissary actually lives, and cares for the local wildlife. Once the emissary's term is up, he or she will return home, and a new emissary will be chosen.

The Role of the Ruler:

Spoken by Aymaranos, personal attendant to the emperor:

"Our emperor is a man of great responsibility. On his shoulders rest the interests and the security of the state. He must do battle with political foes at home, and occasionally in the outside world. He must balance the will of the people with that of the priesthood and the druids, and that of Xeron. He does many things, but for all that I do not envy him. His is a lonely life, indeed."

The ruler of Selhomarr, whether it is an emperor or an empress, has important and taxing duties. The primary responsibility of the ruler is to ensure the interests of the people, the priesthood, the druids, and of Xeron are all balanced as much as possible. This is done through the use of numerous advisers from each of these groups, who brief the ruler on the important issues of the day. Each of the ten regional princes also sends a representative to Calimnis to inform the ruler of what is happening in each province, as well as convey personal messages. Hopefully, the ruler can arrive at compromises that provide some satisfaction for all parties, though this does not always happen.

For example, the druids might be upset that the princes in the northern provinces are allowing increased hunting, but this has been advised because the harvest was poorer than expected, and the priests have said that Xeron has decreed no one must go hungry this winter, because of ill omens for the future (perhaps a war or some other development that will require healthy people). This might anger northern farmers, who do not wish strangers traipsing around their lands looking for game. Such events as these, while a headache for the ruler, must be dealt with in order for Selhomarr to prosper. Normally, all parties concerned realise that concessions must be made on all sides if everyone is to ultimately benefit, so truly difficult situations are rare.

The ruler must also see to the security of Selhomarr. Each prince must report to the ruler once per year to announce how many soldiers are available for combat, how many weapons are available, how shipbuilding is progressing, and so on. Using this information, the ruler can decide whether or not to beef up patrols, or to furnish another exploratory mission. These external concerns are also related to dealing with other nations - it is the ruler's duty to meet with any foreign dignitaries, and to represent his or her country's interests, and to defend them.

Finally, as the embodiment of the nation, the ruler must ensure that he or she does nothing that would disgrace the imperial family, its legacy, or Selhomarr as a whole. This means that he or she must act courteously in public at all times, and provide an example for others to follow.

Although the ruler is held accountable to the princes, the priesthood, the druids, and the people in the above manner, his or her power is determined by succession - the eldest son or daughter of the current ruler will be the one who sits on the throne, barring any accidents. For many rulers, ascending to the throne is the first time in their lives that they have any measure of autonomy. In most cases, marriage is determined before the future ruler gains power, often to the progeny of one of the regional princes - though these marriages do not confer any extra status on that prince.

Politically speaking, the imperial consort has no real power, except in the case of the death of the ruler, in which case he or she assumes power until an heir is of age to assume the throne.

Lhomarrians and the Hollow World, and Other Peoples:

As has been discussed to a degree, the Lhomarrians are a fairly religious people. It is necessary to understand how these beliefs concerning Xeron and his role in their history affect the Lhomarrians' perception of the world, and of the other peoples in it.

The general view among the Lhomarrians regarding the Hollow World is that they were the first people here, and they were brought here because of the will of Xeron, because he saw that some elements of Lhomarr were worth preserving, and that those who were saved were his chosen people. Other peoples, while generally deserving of respect, are not the chosen of Xeron, and so cannot possibly hold the same degree of favour with him enjoyed by the Lhomarrians. This is through no fault of their own, since they obviously came from other worlds, because the old world of Lhomarr's day was certainly destroyed with the continent's sinking. This does not mean that Lhomarrians consider themselves superior to other peoples, just different - closer to Xeron, the "true " god.

As for other religions, they are also accorded some respect, as it is generally impolite to insult those things held dear by others. This is tempered with the knowledge that these other gods, or Immortals, cannot possibly be as powerful as Xeron, or as old. Otherwise, these other peoples would have been here before the Lhomarrians, and Xeron obviously created this world, according to the Lhomarrians, as he brought them here. Many Lhomarrians also see Xeron as the power behind the Hollow World's sun (which is true), but they accord him with the power over all forms of life, because, to the Lhomarrians, life is impossible without the sun's light. They have never met any race, nor seen any intelligent creatures, that live their lives underground, away from the sun's rays. Thus, according to Lhomarrian philosophy and theology, nothing can exist without Xeron. It is partially the Spell of Preservation, and also the will of Ixion, through his Lhomarrian priests, that this belief is held. Otherwise, the Lhomarrians would have begun to question how they were brought here - and where "here" is - and might eventually have figured out the truth behind the Hollow World. After all, they have spent enough time here to think long on the subject. Ixion realises that this belief - that Xeron is the most powerful and oldest god - may make relations difficult, but the Lhomarrians are a peaceful people who would never warp such a belief into a notion of superiority. The other Immortals see that this solution is far from ideal, but it will hold off curiosity.

The people of Selhomarr have also explored vast tracts of the world, and have reached the conclusion that they are living inside a sphere. The priesthood has thought long on the subject of what might lie on the other side, and has concluded that the domain of Xeron must surely lie there. If this is so, then all virtuous Lhomarrians will go there after they die, making this realm forbidden to mortals. This is another move by Ixion to discourage curiosity. By making the outside world taboo, only the most independent-minded Lhomarrians will venture forth, but many of these never return, anyway. Claims by "insane" veteran explorers who ventured south, beyond the Lands Without Light, that there is a cold world with blue skies and a yellow sun are refuted, for they ventured too close to Xeron's domain, and he chose not to let them see Paradise.

How all of this applies to personal interactions is up to the individual (and to the DM). Most often, Lhomarrians will be polite to strangers, and accord them the respect due a human being. On theological issues, a Lhomarrian will also be polite, but very inflexible. They will calmly listen to what the other person has to say, but will insist that Xeron is the only "true" god, since their people came to the Hollow World before anyone else, and saw no evidence of the works of other gods. This is a result partly of the Spell of Preservation, which ossifies belief systems, the will of Ixion, as discussed above, and of the Lhomarrian education system, which has a definite bias. The results of such meetings are those described in the Hollow World DM's Guide.

So, generally speaking, the Lhomarrians have used their long time spent here to explore their surroundings. The fact that they have been here so long, and that they have seen so much of the Hollow World, has led them to ask many questions about the nature of their home. Fortunately, the Spell of Preservation, and suggestions made by Ixion to his priests, have discouraged active contemplation of the true nature of the Hollow World, so that there is no danger of them finding out the truth.

The Family and Domestic Life:

To the average Lhomarrian, the family is the most important part of a person's life. Even a person's love and fear of Xeron, and for the people as a whole, must come second. Though one may not be able to live without sunlight, it is inconceivable to these people that a person could live without the love of another, or one's family. Likewise, if the family unit is weak, so too is the nation. Therefore, many Lhomarrians of all walks of life view the family as the central focus of one's life - without which nothing else is possible.

In Lhomarrian society, both men and women are generally considered equal in the home. Both parents are expected by law, and by tradition, to share in the duties of raising children, and in maintaining a stable environment. This equality exists in almost all sectors of society, such that it is not uncommon to see women working as shopkeepers, entertainers, officials, and so on. Also, though women are free to pursue careers, Lhomarrian society strongly encourages men to do so. The belief is that, although both parents are equal, men are considered the main financial supporters of the family, and those who do not work are neglecting their duties. The only restrictions between the sexes that exist in Lhomarrian society concern the military. Officially, only men may serve in the army or the navy, though women who have trained themselves (up to second level or so) will find their services accepted, should they apply. Beyond that, just about every opportunity is open to both sexes.

Just as duties towards the family are taken seriously by Lhomarrians, marriage is also an important responsibility. There is an unspoken expectation in Lhomarrian society that everyone will wed - those who do not are either considered to have a higher calling from Xeron himself, or odd, depending on how they behave in public. Marriage is invariably a serious event, but one full of joy. Each family assesses the other - how large their homes are, how much land they own, what their professions are - in order to determine the other family's social standing. This is not elitism; rather, it is done out of concern for the children that are sure to come. No Lhomarrian would want to enter into a family where the children are not provided or cared for properly, as such environments are not conducive to the youth achieving their potential. Society would ultimately suffer. Marriage is a lifetime commitment - there is no legal system of divorce. Thus, prospective partners also have to be sure about each other, as much as is possible, and even then to be prepared to work all their problems out.

The Lhomarrian family is an extended one - it is common to see parents, two or three children, grandparents, and possibly unwed aunts and uncles living under one roof. Even when this is not so, almost all family members often live within walking distance of each other. All members of the family contribute to household chores, and for children, the word of their parents is law. This arrangement provides children with opportunities to learn from their grandparents, and to keep in contact with a larger portion of their family than is the case in other cultures. Also, this situation makes it far easier for women to earn a living - grandparents, aunts, and uncles are often available to look after the children for a few hours each day, when they are not at the local school.

Most people in Selhomarr are either farmers or fishermen, meaning that the days are long and hard. This burden is lightened somewhat by having an extended family - there are many people around the help with the work - so the general mood is a quite happy one. Those living in the towns and cities have preserved this traditional social arrangement, through no small part by the Spell of Preservation. Whenever people find themselves with free time, the entire family gets together to tell stories, play various games, sing songs, or visit neighbours for an evening of revelry. The latter activity happens most often after the harvests are over, or the catches are in.