Legends of Belariath

Swan Maidens

The Swan Maidens, or Swan May as they are sometimes known, are a form of nature spirit. They appear to be always female and only rarely encountered on the wilds. Even rarer is the appearance of one in the more civilized reaches of Belariath. Their exact origin is a mystery, like that of most of the woodland beings, for they are not overly given to discussing such personal matters. They are rather less sociable than most nature races, not sharing the same extroverted personalities, which even the most shy of Nymphs, will exhibit in comfortable surroundings. They are often depicted as the queens of the forest, aloof and serene, with all the grace and beauty the very name might suggest.

Character Creation

Starter Classes: Mage, Druid, Artisan, Laymen, Healer, Entertainer

Advanced Classes: Air Mage, Water Mage, Priestess, Seductress

Starting Stats:

STR INT AGI RES STA SPL LFE
Basic Stats 1 6 4 3 4 3 5

Background

In the Common Language, they call themselves the Flock, or specifically, the White Swans. The name of the Swan Maiden, or slang Swan May, is one given by the Outsiders (those not belonging to the race) as only females have ever been seen. It is a common misconception that the race is made up entirely of females; however, like any other natural being, they also have males. The males, or cobs, are too necessary to the village to be spared for any time in exploration. The women instead are sent out, and only on the rarest of occasions. For this reason, the Flock, or the Swan Maidens, have taken on a fairy tale-like reputation among the Outsiders. They are often depicted as the queens of the forest, aloof and serene, with all the grace and beauty the very name they were given might suggest.

Like the Nymphs, they are peaceful and are greatly disturbed by violence. They live from the earth and take care of it. Their way of life is very unobtrusive to nature and a Swan May village, should one ever be discovered by an Outsider, might almost be missed for their thicket-like nests are almost invisible unless one is looking for them. In fact, their natures are so peaceful that the Flock will move their entire village to a new location if the Outsiders come too near, rather than fight for the land. This has happened more recently in the past several years as the Outsiders grow more and more in population.

There are two different groups of Swans, or Flocks; the White Swans wholive in the north and the Black Swans to the south.

The White Swans are the most common to make contact with Outsiders among this rare race. Although exquisitely beautiful and sensual in their graceful and quiet ways, the White Swans are extremely prudish. This stems from a deep-seated belief in superstition. The White are rarely social, and if so, only with few at a time. They do not believe in public displays of affection, except among the dearest of friends, and to participate in the sex act outside of a Life-Bond is strictly forbidden. It is said that to do so would result in the loss of a Swan's wings and she would be stuck in her human form for the rest of her life. No one has ever tested this.

The White Swans are very much a part of nature and their entire lives may be spent studying one single aspect of it. The creation of fruit on a tree, or the erosion of rock in a stream, is considered an art form to the Flock and the White Swan study and devote themselves to these beautiful aspects of nature.

The Black Swans value the earth as the White do, but are more eager to reap from it and often throw celebrations, complete with libations, to hail a coming season or a new bud. The White consider this behavior inappropriate and crude. The Black Swans, though they would fit more easily into the culture of the Outsiders for their boisterous ways, are even more private than their lighter cousins. They prefer to stay to the south, in the hotter weather. Sex is embraced as a part of nature, the creation of new life, although a Swan Maiden may bear only one child in her lifetime. The Black Swans also do not believe in having a single mate, but several, and are truly polyandrous. Sometimes a group will form a multiple Life bond and separate from their flock to form a new one. Because of these values, there are more Black Swans than White Swans.

An ongoing feud exists between the two peoples, which has existed since the beginning. Because of this, any who remain gray past their first years of life are considered marked, an abomination and sometimes worse than an enemy. Gray Swans are exceptionally rare as one is born for every generation.

Appearance

The Flock has two forms, which they can switch back and forth between.The first, and their main form, is that of a swan. The second is of a beautiful youth, male or female depending on the gender. They can change back and forth between the two forms as they wish, but because they are intensely secretive of themselves, they will never change in front of an Outsider. They retain their intelligence in their swan form, of course, but forfeit all other benefits they might gain in their other form, that of a human-like female, including the ability to communicate with Outsiders.

In their human-like form, they are tall and have distinctive, but not outrageously, long slender necks which give them a noble appearance. They are truly beautiful by most standards and have a delicate grace that often has them mistaken for elves.

In their swan form, the White Swans have perfectly snow white feathers, and standing on their feet they are about three to four feet tall at the top of their head. They have a pale yellow beak and a black mask of skin that stretches from the top of their beak and around their eyes, the color of which is either blue or brown. In their human form, they have pale but healthy looking skin. Their head is crowned with white feathers that can be flared up to look like a crown or lay flat against their skull. Some Swan May have long, white blond hair which grows from beneath those feathers, and it is a small vanity they possess to style it or grow it as long as they can. Their eyebrows are either of hair or very fine small feathers. Their eyes remain blue or brown, and their eyelashes, which are very thick and long, are dark black, contrasting with the rest of their pale features.

The White Swans wear robes of a gauzy, unknown material that cover their body from shoulder to feet. Beneath it they may wear other clothing, always white, but it is considered very improper to be seen in public without ones robes. Sometimes the robes are decorated with an accent color, usually gold or a pale hue like lavender.

The Black Swans, in their natural forms, have dark black feathers, so inky they sometimes seem to suck up the light rather than reflect it. Their eyes are either red or black and are surrounded with a red mask that reaches around their eyes from their dark yellow or orange beak. They are slightly smaller than their White cousins and only reach at most 3.5 feet tall. In their human-like forms, they are tall like their cousins, but their skin is pure black, darker than that of the Dark Elves, or the Sheyka without the dusty or bluish appearance. They look very much like the White Swans, and if they should have hair as well, falling from beneath their feathery crown, it is always twisted into curls and grown as long as possible as a matter of pride. Their eyes remain red or black after the change and their eyebrows are strangely a fiery red which draws attention to their beautiful faces.

The Black Swans also wear robes, but prefer to leave them open and go naked beneath. Nature gave them their perfect bodiesafter all; it is necessary to display them. The Black Swans may also make jewelry out of natural objects such as nuts or small, pretty stones.

The rare Gray Swans are fully gray in their feathers and, depending on whether they were born to the White or Black Flock, they either have blue, brown, red, or black eyes. They do not have a black or red mask, and the gray skin blends into their feathers. They are only 3 feet tall at the top of their head.When in human form, they are as gray as the White Swans are white or as black as the Black Swans. Their hair is either silver or flat gray, as well as their crown of feathers and feathery eyebrows. They tend to have stunted growth, though they're as equally pretty. There is no difference between a Gray Swan and any other Swan, except the coloration and their being disliked or pitied by their people.

The Gray Swans wear simple gray robes and rarely draw attention to themselves with jewelry or further adornment of clothes. It is considered by all Swans to be insulting if a Gray Swan flaunts themselves.

White Swan Maidens are quiet creatures, soft spoken and introspective, as much as the Black Swans are boisterous and extroverted among their flock. Both their personalities are sometimes seen as haughty, almost disdainful of the other races. They are cautious and shy in their dealings with all other beings. Their thoughtful outlook on nature leads them to a greater understanding of the balance necessary for any life to exist. They have been known to aid travelers in peril, and at other times ignore those who would benefit most from their kindness. Swan Maidens are complex and least understood, a reason for which these beings appear frequently in the stories and art of the other races, most notably the elves.Usually such themes are tragic. Their rarity amongst the Outsiders causes many to believe they are purely fictional.

Friendships have been known to exist, such as that told about a Swan May who had been shot by an arrow in her swan form. A High Elf found her, unknowing her true nature, and tended the Swan May carefully. When the Swan May was well enough to take human form, the Elf was so stricken by her beauty that he immediately fell in love with her, vowing never to leave her side. She would spend her days as a swan, riding majestically upon the sweet cool waters while he watched patiently from the shaded edge of their pond. And each night the Swan May would come to his bed to lay with him in her human shape. They spent many centuries thus, until the elf, gray and weak with age, kissed her one last time, though the Swan May had aged not a day. Or so the stories go.

Most stories though, have a rather different ending, such as this one: A beautiful youth was hunting in the wilds when he spied a majestic swan. In his foolishness he struck the creature a blow with his javelin, spilling crimson life across it's snowy down. As he splashed among the reeds and lilies to retrieve his prize, he found instead a beautiful woman, unadorned but for the feathers on her head and the spear in her heart. Horrified by his own action, the youth returned to his home unseen and locked himself alone in his room. The beautiful woman he had killed would be the last person his eyes would ever see; he spent the rest of his days weeping alone in the darkness.

Which stories are true and which are not is a subject best left to the Bards who sing of them. Swan Maidens approach civilization only when there is a need to do so, bearing a hidden purpose they are usually loath to disclose. They resemble High Elves in their attitude, regarding others with initial disdain, though this reaction may be improved upon if the other person uses the correct approach. The Swan May usually expect a certain amount of respect and recognition, but not undue familiarity.

Swan Mays are quiet beings, usually calm and serene, seeming to pay little attention to the goings on around them. In actuality this is untrue; they are excellent observers and are quick to pick up customs and behavior from those around them. They enjoy learning and possess great intellect. They have been known as poets and composers of delicately orchestrated music of the sort not usually found at the local inn or tavern, but more in keeping with the tastes of the Elven Lords. Their subtle wit and distracted manner of speech lend a certain air of superiority; or perhaps fragility, as if they avoid contact with others directly for fear of some emotional or even physical distress.Those few who are able to penetrate the Swan May's resistance will find a very warm and tender being, devoted and loving.

The idea of slavery is entirely unnatural to the Swans.No matter which culture they come from, they are very much of the belief that it's all for one and one for all. The idea that someone would give up their will to another, or take power of another's will, is strange to the Swans.Because of their fragile natures, one or two have been captured and enslaved successfully, but a member of the Flock would likely not make a good Master or Mistress. With the exception of elder Swans who may carry the wealth of wisdom and may be sought to make difficult decisions, there is no other hierarchy among Flocks, which are usually 3-10 members large, though some have been up to 30. Flocks are kept small because it is easier to live peacefully and with as little damage to nature.

Those of the Flock appear to have an extremely long life. Because they live in solitude, they are not often subjected to disease or attack and thus have developed life spans to rival the Elves. Also, upon reaching their mature appearance (in human form appearing 25-35 years old), they seem to stop aging physically. When they die of old age, they are aware that their timehas come to an end and often there is a sort of pre-funeral held before the Swan goes to sleep, never to wake up.

Skills and Abilities

Most Swan Maidens are skilled in the use of magic, and the most knowledgeable may become Air Mages, if they so desire. They are able to use any spell available to the Mage class. Swan Maidens may also be any of the non-combat classes, including Healer. They may not be Warriors, Clerics, or Thieves, nor may they wear any kind of physical armor or carry any weapon.

Special Abilities

Swan Maidens have a special kinship with all feathered animals and are able to speak with birds of any sort, whether the Swan May is in human or swan form. They may use this ability as often as desired and without restriction, except for the following: A Swan Maiden may never order a bird to attack someone, steal an object, "dive-bomb" someone's drink with bird droppings, or any other such activity. They may ask the creature simple questions, use them to look for someone or something, or simply sing a pleasant song.

Restrictions

They are not restricted from learning or using offensive spells; however, a Swan Maiden confronted with the choice of taking a life, or losing her own, would rather sacrifice herself than kill another. For the most part, a Swan Maiden will use defensive spells and non-lethal offensive spells to stun an opponent long enough to make her escape.

Role-play Notes

Swan Maidens may change into their natural forms during role play as long as there is no combat, or sex, involved in the scene.

Males of the Flock are not playable and exist only for background.