Syhelia, the blessed lands of the clouds.
Syhelia, a nation of elves that inhabited an archipelago of tropical islands shrouded in mist. It was a land of ideal peace, the waters were rich with fish, and the land was fertile enough to support bountiful harvests. As a result, many of the inhabitants of Syhelia chose worship of their God, Aormir, the god of Aether . But nearly a century ago, Syhelia was invaded by a menagerie of necromancers from the wastelands of Xarth, lead by the Ancient Lich himself who sought to enslave the populace. They brushed aside the hasty defense the mages of the monastaries through together to stop them and began a systematic genocide of the islands.
Desperate, the people prayed for salvation from Aormir whom they had always honored and sacrificed so much for. It seemed their prayers had gone unanswered, but that very night. Seven massive crystals fell from the heavens, landing at the center of each island. Each was a massive repository of divine/holy mana, before the Necromancers could even comprehend what was happening, the islands began to ascend from the waters and evils below. The people of Syhelia were saved, for without constant reinforcements from their ships the Necromancers stranded on the island were subdued. Of course, being stranded on floating islands seemed like a recipe for disaster, but that was when the Gods second gift was revealed. For embedded within the chest of each Syhelian, was a shard of crystal identical to the massive ones that were similarly embedded in the islands. These shards allowed the Syhelians to grow beautiful wings that could then either remain physically attached to them or stored within their crystals. These crystals also provided them with various other benefits that differed for each Syhelian.
For the next decade, life on Syhelia was good, the Monastaries became an even more prominent part of Syhelian life then before, the Abbots of the seven Monastaries became the ruling council of Syhelia, enforcing their laws and maintaining order with an egalitarian spirit that was appreciated by all. Yet in those ten years, their gratitude towards their god slowly soured into arrogance. They were the chosen race, destined to rule over the lesser sentients that were physically and spiritually below them.At the height of this arrogance, three Abbots conspired to harness the power of the 'Aether Crystals' that until then had only been used to keep the islands aloft, and so, one dawn, the Abbots struck, betraying the honor guard surrounding one of the Aether Crystals, slaughtering them and attempting to tap into the divine mana pool of the Crystal. Yet when they tapped into it, they were not met with the rewards of divinity, but the anger of a being far greater than them. The traitor Abbots and their followers were struck down from the islands, their wings and crystals turning as black as their hearts and they were sapped of their magical gifts. Without mana pools, they were doomed to death, yet they found the power to persevere and gain revenge by mastering Aura, becoming known as the 'Asren' or traitors in their language. They would become vicious raiders and pirates, roaming the seas and preying on the merchant mariner and his ilk.
The folly of their brethren illuminated the other Syhelians of their arrogance and so they repented. They returned to their humble lives, seeking to atone for the sins of the Asren by fighting against evil in all its forms and offering aid to the less fortunate stranded on the ground. They are plagued by the traitor Asren at every turn who raid their island homes periodically. With the Asrens aura capabilities, the Syhelians magic is rendered futile, and so ironically, they turned to the Aether Crystals divine mana pool to repulse the Asren. Thus the traitors who sought to use the Crystals for their own gain are constantly foiled by their former kin using the same Crystals.
The Government of Syhelia is based on a council of the seven Abbots who are in charge of the massive monasteries that are on each of the seven islands. Thus religion is an integral part of the government. The monasteries also serve as courts of law, with monks judging cases based on their righteousness. The remaining 90% of an islands population goes towards supporting the monasteries.
Life on Syhelia revolves around the Monasteries, which in turn revolve around the Aether Crystals at their center, which in turn revolve around Aormir. The teachings of the monastaries encourage faith and good will, thus every Syhelian strives to be generous and caring, Syhelians are almost all of the same religion, and those who do not follow their religion are forced to spend half of each year on land in the hopes they will see their own folly and the generosity of their Aormir.
The constant attacks of the Asren have lead the Syhelians to be somewhat distrustful of the land below, for many times the Asren have gained allies with promises of the Aether Crystals power. These same attacks also lead to a rather defensive mindset, Syhelian architecture is as a result, a series of thick stone constructions, partially underground, with the Monastaries being virtual citadels.
Remnants of their seafaring island culture from more than a century ago still remains embedded in the hearts and minds of the Syhelian people, thus, whenever their islands happen to be over water, they often enjoy competitions over their prowess in sailing, fishing, and other maritime related activities.
For the average Syhelian, their relationship to their God is personified by the Aether shard embedded in their chest which reflects them as a person. With such a reminder, they will often meditate on the ever changing nature of the shard that grants them flight, as well as the personal affinity they gain from the shard. In addition, if the shard is to be shattered, the Syhelian will lose whatever magical ability they gained from it as well as losing their wings.
To land dwellers below, their interactions with Syhelians are limited, the only Syhelians that stray far from their island home are either wandering warrior monks, seeking to purge the Asren or spread their philosophy to those below, or exiles, that will generally succumb to bitterness and become Asren. However some exiles reject the ordered and overly kind attitude of the Syhelians and the utter consuming gluttony of the Asrens, these exiles are the most 'human' of their people.
In their egalitarian spirit, females are roughly equal to males, but males are generally expected to do hard labor while the females are in charge of craftmanship. There are of course exceptions, and in terms of leadership, there have been an an equal number of male and female Abbots/Abesses in Syhelian history.
Thanks to Asren raids, the monks whose monastaries are built around the Aether Crystals that are the sole target of the Asren have become militaristic in nature. Thus, the monastaries resemble citadels, and to be a Syhelian monk is to be a Syhelian warrior, a defender of righteousness and the Aether Crystals. Since the Asren are almost entirely aura users, the Syhelians have become focused on martial arts and swordsmanship as well as endo-mana spells to empower them and fight the Asren. However, the average Syhelian is generally magically attuned at some level thanks to their Aether Shards and even before becoming a monk, learns of other magic. The Abbot of each monastary is however, a powerful archmage, capable of channeling the divine mana of the Aether Crystals as a last resort to repel the Asren.
The Asren are of course, Aura users, however their Aura powers are dependent on the corrupted Aether Shard within them and if it were too be shattered, they would face a slow death, for they would be without mana or aura.
For the Syhelians, religion is salvation, Aormir saved them from certain death and will no doubt continue to bless them so long as they reciprocate his gifts with constant worship, deeds of valor, and spreading of his teachings of kindness and prosperity.
Syhelians worship Aormir, the God of Aether, in the absence of the Aormir himself, the center of their worship has become the Aether Crystals which are filled with a limited resevoir of divine mana that is used to keep the islands aloft. At the beginning of spring, the Syhelians hold a massive festival to honor their God that lasts an entire week. At the end of this, the Aether Crystals are once again filled with Divine Mana, to keep the islands aloft for another year. This time is known as the Festival of Edros(also refers to the first quarter of their year), and the Syhelian calendar is based around it. After the Festival of Edros is over, administrative duties such as new monks are annointed into the order, and long standing disputes are settled.
Thanks to their elevation, the phases of the moon and astrological events have become more important to the Syhelians, and they have various religious practices depending on the phase of the moon.
The Syhelians have four major times in their calender. Edros, the time of dawn. Abris, the time of light. Elros, the time of dusk. And Istuss, the time of darkness.
During Edros, the Syhelians are generally in an attitude of reconciliation and rebirth, settling old disputes with neighbors, planting the new years crops, and participating in many festivities.
During Abris, the Syhelians are most involved in the surface world, regular missions of warrior monks are sent to hunt down the Asren traitors and spread their teachings.
During Elros, the Syhelians are most concerned with preparations, for Asren raids begin to occur at this time and winter is coming. They gradually become more isolated from the surface as they prepare defenses and harvest the years crops.
During Istuss, the Syhelians are most concerned with the defense of the Aether Crystals, for this is when they are at their lowest reserves of divine mana from keeping the islands aloft for an entire year, thus Asren raids occur almost every week.
A Syhelian is expected to be kind, generous, strong, and chivalrous. However they are also taught to be humble of their gifts, lest they fall to the corruption of the Asren.
Their society is generally very ordered, and so a Syhelian is most comfortable with strong leadership and a well structured environment.
A Syhelian is at home in both water and air, however land features that are not on their islands, such as dense forests, cold climates, and large mountains, are unfamiliar and cause some discomfort.
A Syhelian cannot stand for cruelty and injustice
A Syhelian observes his religion no matter where he is, paying special attention to his or her Aether Shard, praying during the full moon, and observing the various practices of the religious calendar. (ex:celebrating during Edros, or becoming withdrawn and introspective during Elros)
Some or all of these traits are not present in an exiled Syhelian who is not an Asren.
All Asren are by nature, greedy in some way, however this does not mean they are wholly evil, some Asren after falling into this pit of gluttony, become disgusted and fight to rise above it all. Thus, greed can remain a personality flaw to an otherwise kind person.
The Syhelians have an Elvish dialect that over the century of isolation has become more and more distinct. However it is still understandable to elvish speakers although there can be moments of comedic misunderstanding. Common is still taught as a secondary language, for how else are the Syhelians to spread their philosophy to the land dwellers if they cannot be understood?