The herd is divided in territory but largely united in their society. The inhabitants of the shattered islands live a mostly monastic lifestyle, valuing balance, knowledge, integrity, and honor above all else. They are highly spiritual and philosophical phae and see their gods as guides who walk beside them on the path to self discovery and understanding of the world around them.
Their biggest belief is that all things require balance and that fawns should be brought up to understand there are no inherent good or bad choices, but rather that each choice has a consequence. Whilst they find physical mastery important for survival and inner stillness, they place a much larger emphasis on the training of the mind. They spend large amounts of time on reflection, study, and self-mastery.
However well intended these values are, the society can be hypocritical in their beliefs around balance. They are often ill adjusted in faster-paced surroundings. The beliefs and lifestyles of other herds are often overwhelming upon first encounter. They claim to accept and respect all individuals for their skills and inherent spiritual value but can sometimes subtly favor the brighter star among a group of young fawns. One of their biggest downfalls is the identity they attach to their knowledge and often wanting to be right.
Despite their shortcomings, they are an overall accepting and patient people if a little hermitic and awkward towards the outside world. They value integrity and honor and the pursuit of a study or craft specialism, but also tend to be quite competitive, desiring to be the best in their chosen craft. They can be quick to overanalyze and pull apart others’ way of thinking or living, but are much more reticent when it comes to discussing the flaws in their own logic and reasoning.
Rituals, Traditions, and Ceremonies
Passage of Transcendence
Youngsters are required to leave the island from 6-7 years of age (for two years) to travel the isles for self discovery and to decide whether they feel their roots lie with their home. The goal of this trek is two-fold. On the one hand, other herd members are grateful for what the youngster learns about the world as they don’t venture out as much themself so they are able to ‘update’ their knowledge should the individual return. Secondly, its most important purpose is for the youngsters to identify whether they feel more “at home” in another place so that they don’t live out their lives under others’ expectations. This is not a religious trek and young phae are discouraged from pushing their beliefs on others or informing about their way of life without consent.
The welcoming back of any youngsters that return. This ceremony is highly celebrated and considered as a second birthday as they mark the day as a rebirth and rediscovery of who the youngster has become and what they have learnt. A party is thrown in their honor and they are also brought up to date with what has happened while they were gone.
Vow of Knowledge
Every member of the herd is required to speak their vow to the pursuit of knowledge, balance, and honor. Youngsters will take their vow once they pass their Ingress, while outsiders wishing to join the herd will take their vow after they have found their place within the herd. Typically, the traditional vow will be recited but the speaker may choose to add their own words at the end. This vow is considered to be the heart of each phae’s spiritual journey, so each herd member must take care to follow their vow carefully.
The traditional vow is as follows:
“I, [name], vow before you all to dedicate my life to the pursuit of wisdom through knowledge, peace through balance, and honor through solidarity. I will dedicate my soul to the discovery of these principles and leave my spirit in the hooves of Izmir [or their patron god of choice].”
Once a year the herd holds a ceremony with offerings to all the gods and then finally their own by the Lake of Mirrors. Usually items associated with each god (and maybe incense/light) are placed on driftwood as a thank you for allowing the continued flow of knowledge and as a token of respect. This is an age-old tradition for the herd to pay respects to all the gods of their pantheon (that they know of) for the contributions they pay to the living world. This typically happens on the first spring day of every year.
Wake of Stillness
Typically, the last day of every year is spent on the beach. There will be a full day of meditation and silence where individuals will reflect on their past year, their personal challenges and changes, the deaths and births of family and kin, and pray to their god about what they want for themselves going forward.
A large event is held the same evening as the Wake of Stillness where everyone gets together to celebrate. It is a release of any heavy emotions that one might encounter during the stay and a celebration of life. Typically this is when individuals will adorn themselves in silks, veils, and jewelry that they don’t typically wear in hues of purple, silver, blue, and black.
Legends and Stories
The herd attempts to be as inclusive as they can in their values but may falter in believing certain strengths are more important than others in an individual (e.g. intelligence over brawn) and can suffer in the undercurrent of ingrained competitiveness that is by and large not acknowledged. Whilst they may not discriminate about someone’s looks, beliefs, gender, capabilities, and origins, the underlying message that those at the top of their profession or chosen skill are respected/valued more can be more harmful than they often care to admit.
Whilst they preach balance, patience, and self knowledge they can often be blinded to certain hypocrisies they can create in doing so. They don’t tend to enjoy being wrong about something but make it a point that being wrong is a crucial part of learning. In integrating action and consequence in their society they often miss the weight and influence of the finer social nuances in situations (and can be too quick to want to explain or rationalize a situation that involves a lot of complicated emotions or social problems).
Above all else they value patience, dedication, and the will to improve oneself. Not placing the importance of one individual above the needs of the group as a whole is respected but not always necessary if the situation calls for dire self-preservation (e.g. life or death). Since one of their core beliefs is that all things require balance, a lot of their inner workings, laws, and standings center around action and effect.
Whilst the herd does not see beauty as something of great importance or something that defines an individual, they do place emphasis on personal hygiene and making sure to take care of one’s mind and body.
Coats with hues of lilac, silver, black, white, grays, and blues are seen as aesthetically pleasing for their likeness to the gods and the herd tends to find that kudu markings give an individual an air of sharp authority but do not weigh these things as others might.
Gender and Sex Roles
Whilst the herd acknowledges that there are certain advantages in inherent capabilities of the sexes towards having more of a base affinity to certain tasks they do not see this as limiting to what an individual can do.
The majority of the population respects an individuals chosen gender identity over their sex and those who do not are frowned upon or asked if they are not better suited elsewhere. The same goes for romantic and sexual orientation. These aspects are just taken and respected as being a part of who someone is to their core.
Marriage and Romantic Relationships
There is no set standard for marriage and relationships within the herd as herd members are largely left to marry and be with who they please.
Whilst polygamy is understood and valued, monogamy tends to be a bit more common because individuals of the herd tend not to want to be distracted too much by potential of a more complicated relationship dynamic. For this reason, successful harems and polycules are in fact respected for the time and effort put into maintaining the relationships whilst also working on one’s profession or study.
View of Other Herds
These are the general views of the average Mirroweld NPC concerning the other herds of The Elaphaea Archipelagoes.
Mirroweld shares a very close-knit but complicated political and economical relationship with Dawnspire. In the years following the war, they were one of the few herd willing to engage in trade with Mirroweld due to their shared accountability in the course of its developments. Both were equally marred and damaged under corrupt guidance and share an understanding because of it. However, and perhaps hypocritically, this also causes a basis of distrust between them knowing the manner in which the other was led astray and the actions it caused them to take.
Mirroweld respects and understand’s Vinelocke’s mistrust and defensiveness towards them. Where there was once a strong unity between the neighboring herds built on mutual respect, it has been completely shattered due to the war. They have been trying through the years to repair whatever trust Vinelocke might still be capable of giving them, but the progress has been extremely slow. At the same time, Mirroweld worries that the wounds from the war have long since festered into animosity or retributive reactionism and this causes them too, to be mistrustful and on-guard around Phae from Vinelocke.
Mirroweld is hyper-aware of Stonemire’s accusatory stance towards them on the disappearance of their god. Understanding their responsibility, they have been trying to research the deity ever since recovering from the war behind the scenes and ways in which a deity might return from having their energy depleted so extremely. At times, however, Mirroweld feels offended by the vitriol of Stonemire’s hatred towards them and their attitude towards the Lowlanders who were once their own has never sat well with them.
Though Helmfirth’s playful taunting can sometimes catch the less socially-adept among Mirroweld off-guard, they are extremely appreciative of the way the herd has brought levity to a past that can feel so incredibly suffocating. Especially as, the Phae alive in Mirroweld today were not alive during the war but have continuously suffered for the actions of their ancestors and have been forced to bare the weight of constant reminder from their elders since a very young age. Not only do they enjoy the company of Phae from Helmfirth for this reason but they find themselves inspired by their ingenuity and creative minds.
Mirroweld holds sympathy for the plight of the Lowlanders and their circumstances. Whenever possible, they try to show them alliance without treading on the toes of Stonemire too much. They deeply appreciate their understanding and approach towards them, always happy to engage in trade.
The phae of Mirroweld have no real opinion on renegades and generally view them in a neutral light. They can be so incredibly varied in behavior, motives, and origins that there is no set standard interpretation of them. Rather, renegades are closely observed for their behavior and their driving force for being so individualistic. This is done more so as a point of caution and study than outright distrust.