Thursday, July 1, 2010

Trouble So Hard

The so-called black folk are old acquaintances of hardship. From ancient slavery to modern discrimination, mistrust, and even sporadic pogroms, they have endured--even prospered--still clinging to their old customs. The Ealderdish-descended majority stereotype them as lazy, ignorant, and superstitious. It's a common belief that they are cursed as a people.

Ironically, the ancient stories and songs of black folk might agree, after a fashion.

Black folk are found throughout the continent, but are most common in the South, where they were once enslaved by the giantish Ancients, and the City and the Steel League, where they have migrated in more recent times to find work. The City neighborhood of Solace in particular is the cultural capital of the Black New World.  They remain something of a people apart, and tend to settle in their own enclaves, in no small part because it provides them some degree of protection from wider society. There, in secret, they can tell stories of the ancient days, before the calamity that befell them.

Long ago when the black folk spoke one tongue--and not the tongue of the Ealderdish invaders--they called themselves "The True People." They first enterered Ealderdish history when merhcant-explorers came to their continent and named it "Ebon-Land," not for its peoples' skin tones, but for the strong, dark wood they found there. The folk were primitive, though there were scattered, enigmatic ruins of a more advanced culture--one the Ealderdish were certain couldn't have arisen natively.

They met them again on islands off the New World, and in the South, where the black folk had been brought by the Ancients to toil in the construction of their tomb-mounds, and underground cities. The ancients were gone, and the black folk, like the Natives, were seen as squatters in the ruins of a greater race. The Ealderdish tolerated them (mostly), but didn't trust these people who kept to themselves, and knew powerful magics.

The Ealderdish may have not remembered the black folk, but the black folk remembered them. Their old campfire tales and songs recalled what they see as the true history of the world, a history the infant cultures of Ealderde have never known.

Once Ebon-Land held the greatest civilization in the world, their tales say, but that civilization was at war with the rapacious people of now sunken Meropis. Though Ebon-Land was more advanced in art and philosophy, Meropis surpassed them in the arts of war. Their wizards worked mighty magics not just to destroy Ebon-Land, but to wipe it from history. Even with Ebon-Land's strong defenses, the ritual was horrifically effective. Only a few now-anomalous ruins were left of a once mighty culture. And only the strongest willed of the black folk even remembered the past that had been taken from them.

So those who remembered told their people's stories, and saw to it that they were passed down over the generations. The stories also warned of the results of the depraved experiments of Meropis--where its sorcerer-scientists had sought to create a race of soldiers by crossbreeding humans with the subhuman stock of the northern forests. With Meropis gone, the savage, half-human tribes spread out over the land they would come to call the Old World, Ealderde, never guessing how young it truly was.


ze bulette said...

Perhaps its strange, but I never thought to have human racism in my D&D games. Maybe I unconsciously figured there was enough ill-will between the various demi-humans and sentient humanoids to fill any need.

Trey said...

I think that's one of the advantages of demihumans. I've often been more influenced by S&S which don't tend to use demihumans and do tend to have racism--though admittedly, its never been a big point.

For this setting, the same issues applied and it felt a little like--uh--whitewashing--to leave the issue out.