These are my Elves, long deliberated. However, much of the work for this was already done by Arnold K and Skerples, so take what they've written and dump it into a blender, then mix well. I've added my own touches, so if anything below contradicts the above, then that's how it is in my setting. For example, my Handsome Men are jungle-folk and swamp dwellers, rather than lurking in the classical forests of Medieval or Gaelic art.
The Handsome Men are beautiful. They possess pleasing faces and delicate, tapered ears. They are tall and graceful, with watchmaker's hands and long, pianist's fingers. They move with speed and liquidity, such that every movement seems to be a dance. Their hides range in color, from off-white to dark black, but also more eccentric colors, such as dandelion yellow, robin's egg blue and rouge red. Their eyes are similarly hued, brilliant, a million stark colors. Many of them have eyes of two different colors, while others merely have eyes of bright blue, red, or purple. Others have even more exotic colored eyes though, such as gold, silver, or eyes that are a fusion of two colors interwoven together. They all possess radically different hair colors as well. Some are brown, black or fair-haired and some have red hair, but others have purple, green or blue hair.
However, despite their narrow builds and graceful movements, you must not underestimate them. Handsome Men's thin limbs possess surprising strength. Though this won't be a surprise to anyone who has spent any amount of time around them. Handsome Men seem to possess limitless energy and never sleep. They do actually, but only for about four hours a day. This is not a fact you will discover easily though, as no Handsome Man will ever tell you he is going to sleep. Besides their limitless energy however, they also do everything in an excessive way. They do not merely walk anywhere, they strut and stride, posing when they arrive. They do not merely clean their homes, they parade around and slide down their halls. To them, everything is a performance, and all the world a stage.
Handsome Men are generally:
- Consummately Polite
- Unwilling to acknowledge the ugly aspects of reality/life
- Great appreciators of skill and beauty
- High Energy
The Handsome Men have carefully scrubbed their speech of anything that might be hurtful, ugly or offensive. They do not discuss unpleasant topics openly. To discuss things of an unpleasant nature they pad it in layers of euphemisms and pretense. Handsome Men do not fight other people, they "dance" with them, or "Serenade the wind" with them. This applies to all their speech as well. Anything that could be considered an unsettling or unsafe word has been given a cuter, friendlier name.
Prostitute --> Cuddle Buddy
Constable --> Smile Insurer
Soldier --> Martyr-Maker
Assassin --> Crossing Double
Spy --> Surprise Master
Lawyer --> Guideline Inspector
Slaver/Master --> Absolute Custodian
Man-Catcher --> Wanderering Friend/Glomper
Clown --> Subjugulator
Slave --> Dependent Employee
Handsome Men are said to live like savages, squatting on the earth in placid communion with Nature. However, anyone who knows anything knows that the Handsome Men curtail Nature, and work to control her, just like any other people. The forests of the Handsome Men resemble parks, with very tall trees and plenty of space for sunlight to slip through the canopy to cover the ground in lush grasses. You may not notice it, but each of these forests have been specially cultivated and modified to make them more beautiful, but also to preserve the appearance of being natural. For example, a Handsome Man have have had his Dependent Employees carefully paint some of the rocks in a stream bed a different color, or filled the woods with the animated corpses of deer, who are instructed to prance around and act like deer, but when or if you strike them, you will find nothing but bones beneath their artificial fur.
Similarly, Handsome Men structures are designed to accentuate and fit into Natural Spaces, at least for the Handsome Men not privileged enough to live in the cities. Though these natural spaces have usually all been modified, at least slightly. Handsome Men use their magic to command nature, so they are fond of doing that. Handsome Men will modify the way trees grow to shade their paths and dye wildflowers different colors, or poison the local stream with chemicals to make it sparkle more in the sunlight.
Handsome Men cities, on the other hand, are the only obvious thing the Handsome Men build. Their cities are full of great manses and lavish public works. Every surface there is carefully designed to either display a work of beauty, draw attention to some other work of beauty, but most importantly, to not class with the surroundings.
Handsome Men have extreme difficulty conceiving children. This is usually not due to lack of trying, or their women perishing in child-birth. Their families tend to be small as a result, with one or two children per couple, assuming they have any.
As a result, Handsome Men build large households around them, recruiting and controlling servants, monsters, Dependent Employees (slaves), spirits, and Magical Beasts bound to them through those same magicks.
Handsome Men weddings, despite their odd customs and ceremony, are not as odd as one might think. They usually marry for love, and the parents of the bride and bridegroom have a limited role in the wedding, except what the bride and bridegroom will permit them to have. The only real restriction on who can marry who is a cultural one, and that is that the bride and bridegroom should be of the same rank. As the Handsome Men see it, smallfolk should marry smallfolk, royalty should marry royalty, and Handsome Men, which are above all the other beasts of the field and peoples of the world, should only marry each other.
Handsome Men Patriarchs are also known to oversee marriages between members of their household. If you wish to marry one of the members of a Handsome Man's household, you will need to ask the permission of that person's "Father" or "Mother".
But while the marriage itself may be rather normal in function, the ceremonies are most certainly not.
Firstly, the bride and bridegroom, will be dressed in layers and layers of cloth. The bride will wear her under-garments, then her petticoats, then a corset, then a large dress, then a headscarf, and etc. She will continue until she is covered head to toe in fabric. The bridegroom will be dressed the same way, covered head to toe in fabric. Their outer clothing will usually be primary colors, such as blue and red, yellow and blue, or red and yellow. They are then brought before an official to officiate their union and take their vows. For two Handsome Men, it might be an Angel or a Demigod, but for two members of a Household, it might be the Patriarch of that Household, and for two Dependent Employees (slaves), it would be their Custodians (masters). Then vows and oaths of fidelity will be exchanged and made, and once the marriage is officially sealed, the bride and bridegroom will then be then shed their outer garments, to reveal that their garments underneath are a blend of the two colors. For example, after the bride sheds her red wrappings and the bridegroom his blue shroud, they will both be revealed to be wearing purple. This is a practice always greeted by thunderous applause.
Then their will be a feast and games, though for the uninitiated, Handsome Men feasts and parties can be extremely disconcerting, even frightening. These entertainments and activities last as long as needed, and can vary from wedding to wedding, so there is no point in discussing them. However, their is one last custom that is almost universal among the Handsome Men, and that is the concept of stealing the bride and bridegroom's clothes. Throughout the evening the games and festivities will continue, with the bride and bridegroom going to participate in all of them, usually together. As they do, enterprising party guests will sneak up on them and take pieces of their clothing off. To aid in this, Handsome Men wedding dresses are losely tied together, so they can be pulled apart with minimal effort. This continues, depending on the region, until both of them are down to their under-things, naked, or one is deprived of all their clothing. In some regions, the bridegroom is expected to surrender a piece of his clothing to cover his bride, but not the other way around. In either case, once one or both of the newly-weds are sufficiently undressed, they will dismiss the precedings and send the guests home, while they retire to their bed chambers.
Divorce among the Handsome Men is similarly eccentric. When a husband and wife split apart, their property is divided between the two of them. This means that servants who may have served together for decades might be separated, or the families of Dependent Employees might be torn apart. These divorce proceedings are usually rife with betrayals and intrigue, as the agent's of the husband and wife try to get the members of their separating household to follow one or the other. These proceedings rarely go smoothly, with much negotiating, arm-twisting, bribery and back-room dealing proceeding the formal divorce.
I have been using the term Handsome Men to refer to them throughout, but I use "Man" in the older sense, to mean "person". This is the term that is applied to them by outsiders, and the Handsome Men do not protest it, having largely adopted it. But what I've said here largely applies to male and female Handsome Men equally. The Handsome Men have liberated their women, allowing the wealthy females of their kind to attain all the privileges and rights of a wealthy male. They largely do not treat females different than males, in outsiders or in their own kind.
Handsome Men have liberal attitudes toward sexuality, a fact that horrifies their neighbors and enemies. Their are lurid tales told in all the surrounding lands of their degenerate sexual practices. These stories, despite their lurid and sordid nature, are rarely exaggerated. Handsome Men are perfectly comfortable with unwed people sleeping around, as long as the two people are of equal rank and it is consensual.
They do have pleasure domes and party palaces in their cities, where vast orgies are held, though these are often dismissed by outsiders as mere scuttle-butt.
As such, the Handsome Men are generally tolerant of sexual deviance, with the exception of when two people of sufficiently different ranks are together, either sexually or romantically. If a Handsome Man were to be caught with a Dependent Employee, it would be a severe scandal, though in such cases, the lower ranked one is always punished more severely, and depending on the heights the higher ranked one has reached, they may not be punished at all.
That being said, the Handsome Men still demand that all sexual activity be kept behind closed doors, and have taken great pains to remove all mentions of sex and sexuality from their speech. Anyone holding hands or kissing in public would be punished, and anyone caught committing a sexual act where someone else who did not wish to see it could see it would face severe sanction.
The Handsome Men are an ageless people. Once their bodies mature, they cease to age, remaining young and beautiful forever. Their souls are so strong that they can halt the natural process of decay and entropy, protecting the Handsome Man from the rigors of age. Couple this with the Handsome Men's easy access to magic, including healing and restoration, and in theory, a Handsome Man can live forever, assuming they are not killed through violence or suffer a catastrophic accident.
As such, as Handsome Men age, they tend to grow more skittish, more cautious, and in some cases, more paranoid. All Handsome Men know that on a long enough timeline, the odds of being attacked by an opponent they cannot defeat or being caught in some kind of natural disaster, or being afflicted with a disease that their magic cannot drive out grows to a near certainty. As such, while a young Handsome Man may be willing to fight you head-on, an older Handsome Man would rather seal you inside a building, set fire to the structure, then wait outside, waiting to riddle anyone fleeing the flames with arrows.
For a people as long-lived as the Handsome Men, death is not a mere tragedy, it is a catastrophe. They mourn any member of their household that passes, down to the lowliest Dependent Employees. Even these lowly ones can receive somber and dignified funerals, paid for by their masters. But when a Handsome Man perishes, it is a blow to all of society. All parties cease and all the Handsome Men who knew the deceased clothe themselves in sackcloth and sprinkled ashes on them. While at all other times Handsome Men will keep their heads, now they will wander the streets, singing mournful songs, composing morbid poetry, and weeping openly. Colorful banners will be brought down and replaced with banners of black, and skulls and other symbols of death displayed openly.
For the first time in a while, the streets of the community at night will be silent, and all Handsome Men will be encouraged to think of what they are not doing. After all, even for them, life is not infinite. They are not immortal. These are times of oaths and promises made, of renewal and new life, as the living use the wake as an excuse to examine their own lives, and try to remedy any regrets they may have.
Finally, a note. If the deceased died violently, this will be the time where oaths of vengeance are sworn. Depending on the rank of the person who perished, this can mean anything from a few family members strapping on their swords to go hunt down the perpetrator to an entire army being marshaled to drown the perpetrator's land in war-blood.
The Handsome Men are said to pray to themselves. But this is misunderstanding. You can't pray to yourself. Prayer requires one to look up, and it's impossible to look up while staring at your own feet. The Handsome Men revere the All-Mind, a transcendent, universal force that infected our universe with consciousness. They believe that the All-Mind is the source of all life, especially intelligent, conscious life.
All souls inevitably attempt to return to the All-Mind upon death, but not all make it. This is the final goal of all souls, to rejoin the All-Mind and enter into sacred communion with the rest of the cosmos. However, unless one knows about the All-Mind and wishes to join it, it is impossible to do this. Instead, most souls are guided merely by primordial instinct, which can serve someone well, to a certain extent.
The greatest of souls climb into the Heavens, where they become Angels or Gods (depending on what sect you ask). Less moral but still somewhat virtuous souls cannot climb so high, and fall back to Earth, where they are captured by a woman's uterus and transferred into the growing shell of her child. This process of descent and re-capture erases the soul's old memories and personality, and the soul is born again to try. This is the fate of most souls, the Handsome Men say. Furthermore, what kind of uterus a failed soul is trapped in depends on how they live. Their is a vast hierarchy of intelligent races in the Church of the All-Mind, with Handsome Men being at the top of, and primitive races like Gnolls, Orzane and Dwarves at the bottom. However, some souls are too wicked even for that. They are so heavy with sin that they plunge past the Earth, falling into Sheol. There they are twisted and changed, transformed into abominations, deathless creatures who attempt to defy the natural laws of death and reincarnation. The Handsome Men call these creatures Hungry Ghosts or Narakans. Other peoples prefer to call them by their another name- Demons.
The Handsome Men have no Gods. To them, the Gods are not worth worshiping, as they are merely aspects of the All-Mind, just as they are.
Angel of Pride
Arnold K already did the definitive one here, so I'm not going to even bother.
Other cultures that do not share the values of the Handsome Men refer to these creatures as Demons of Hubris.
Angel of Dominance
These creatures look like Mustachioed humanoids with rippling muscles and glowing eyes, and wings of golden feathers. They get stronger and grow more powerful as they more damage. The only way to beat them in combat is to deliberately pull your punches so they won't get stronger, or to finish them off before they can get stronger than you. These Angels seek to remind those who attempt to rise above their station of why the hierarchy exists. They, and the Handsome Men, refuse to acknowledge the irony of such an arch-conservative being praised by a society that so values freedom. If you can't defeat one of these creatures, try grovelling. It's not going to kill something that accepts its place. This Angel's only weaknesses are its pride and its own tendency to underestimate its opponents.
Other cultures that do not share the values of the Handsome Men refer to these creatures as Demons of Oppression or Demons of Hierarchy.
Angel of Need
Angels of Desire resemble the thing that a person values most. If someone is sexually deprived, they resemble that person's most eccentric fantasy of a perfect partner. If a person values money, the Angel will seem to either be a person carrying some fabulously valuable treasure, or the treasure itself. If attacked or threatened with destruction, the Angel will transform into a modified version of its original form, now possessing wings, barbed flagella, and other intimidating things. This Angel wants to encourage people to give into their desires, whether good or bad. They can be defeated by an iron will and a stern refusal.
Other cultures that do not share the values of the Handsome Men refer to these creatures as Demons of Desire or Demons of Vice.
Demon of Humility
Demons of Humility come to check the proud and knock down the haughty, to reveal to the narcissistic just how vulnerable and weak they actually are. They walk with bowed backs and speak with firm, but plain language, not favoring flowery speech or elaborate ceremony. They have long horns like a ram's and knotted beards. Their faces tend to resemble either goats or apes, and they wear homespun or other modest garments, usually disguising themselves beneath hoods and cloaks of simple fabric. These Demons have the power to make you miss, make others resist your abilities or spells, and allow you to be blinded by your own pride, so you misunderstand what you are seeing.
Other cultures that do not share the values of the Handsome Men refer to these creatures as Angels of Meekness or Angels of Modesty.
Demon of Obedience/Service
Demons of Obedience come to encourage the greater to give of themselves to the lesser, to advocate that the King serve his people, to demand that the aristocracy prove its superiority by sheltering the underclass. They are proud firebrands, standing with unbowed backs, bound in spectral shackles of transparent, hardened blue smoke. They have lupine muzzles and are covered in dense fur, and their faces resemble dogs or horses. They have hooves, and can run incredibly fast. They also have the power of being able to strike and bind people with their spectral chains, to cause damage that would strike someone else to strike them instead, and to heal with a touch. These Demons however, also have one major weakness. They cannot make their own choices except when they are alone. When presented with another being with a will of its own, they can only follow orders. They choose to follow the orders, but they can only take actions that others suggest. As such, they will usually bring along some mortal followers, to give them suggestions and make full use of their pwoers.
Other cultures that do not share the values of the Handsome Men refer to these creatures as Angels of Orderliness or Angels of Duty.
Demon of Temperance
These creatures come to remind everyone that there is nothing worse than getting exactly what you ask for. They resemble gluttons of a specific kind, either immensely fat men, or lascivious women, or greedy misers. They come and offer someone what they most desire, and try to tempt them into going too far. They might encourage a glutton to attend a cannibal feast, or a lustful man to engage in a degenerate act, or a miser to rob an orphan. If the glutton passes the test by refusing, the Demon will reward them with a small boon, and encourage them to work to improve themselves further. If the glutton indulges, however, the Demon of Temperance will transform into a righteous judge, clad in mirror-bright clothing, face uncovered to reveal a bald head covered in eyes, a crown of fire and holy words floating above their heads. These Demons can curse people, breathe fire from their mouths, and speak magic words that can blind, stun or imprison.
Other cultures that do not share the values of the Handsome Men refer to these creatures as Angels of Moderation.
All Handsome Men, with a few exceptions, can do magic innately. As such, magic isn't a strange and terrifying supernatural force, but a mere fact of life. Not all Handsome Men are Wizards, as wizarding is like getting a college degree. Additionally, becoming a Wizard is not a difficult thing for a Handsome Man, but it is largely a niche application. For the Handsome Men, using magic is like being able to operate a computer in the West in 2018. Almost all people can do it, at least on a basic level, but only a some of the more educated classes really know how they work, or how to repair them. This is how Wizards are generally treated, they are respected as understanding things most Handsome Men know innately, but are generally thought of as weird, in the same way that someone who obsesses over trains or antique telephones is in our society.
The Handsome Men prioritize two things when dressing, fashion and non-offensiveness. All Handsome Men strive to outdo each other with lavish outfits and elaborate fashions. Handsome fashion is strange and alien, utterly impractical and barely understandable.
The second thing they strive for is to make sure that their outfit won't be thought of as upsetting or offensive. For this reason they usually dress modestly when out in public. They also avoid decorating their clothing with religious or political symbols, as well as things that they feel the people in an area might be bothered by.
Handsome Men also possess one other thing that I feel I should mention- the War Face. You see, Handsome Men compartmentalize parts of their identity in very literal ways. For example, if the Handsome Men works a job that is not ideal, they will sometimes adopt a different persona for working hours, sometimes taking a new name or even appearance, using their innate magical abilities to alter their appearance. But while not all Handsome Men do this for work, they all do this for combat. All Handsome Men are trained in combat, but they regard violence as ugly. So when attacked, they will run away, change into their War Faces, then come back. For little brothers and sisters, who also use War Faces, their War Face is usually just some clever weapons, a mask and a change of clothes. For the Handsome Men, it is done through magic that physically alters their bodies, allowing them to fully channel the immense strength of their souls into their bodies without damaging them.
The Handsome Men are bound by a rigid class hierarchy. At the top of the hierarchy are the wealthiest of the Handsome Men, the elders of their cities and the proctors of the pleasure-domes or the party-palaces. These Party Patriarchs are the social and cultural elite of their society, and usually hold great political influence, even if they dwell in a theoretically democratic system. Next you have the Handsome Men who are allowed to attend their galas, but not to host them. Then we have the Handsome Men not permitted to dwell within the cities and banished to the wild lands beyond.
From there we have the lesser members of the Handsome society, the other species and peoples brought into their care. These "little brothers and sisters" as they are collectively known are each regarded as less than Handsome Men, but still possess some political rights within society. They usually must attach themselves to a Handsome Man's and join his household, but this is not always the case. And even if they do join a household, this is a voluntary association. Additionally, the "little brothers" and "little sisters" can receive wages for their work, own property, but they cannot vote or take Dependent Employees in. Then beneath them there are the Slave-folk, which are the people from outside lands. Anyone who is not a member of a Handsome Man's household and/or someone who pays taxes, obeys the law or a King, or is aligned with a Lawful religion will be considered one of the slave-folk. These people have few political rights, but generally are to be pitied, and not oppressed. If you are a foreigner traveling through Handsome Man land, this is your status.
Finally, at the bottom we have the Dependent Employees, who have no rights, and are treated like livestock. They are protected by their Custodian's property rights, at least in theory, but have no real rights or protections beside that. Their treatment is entirely dependent on their Custodian. However, due to the Handsome Men's squeamishness, most are not treated any worse than smallfolk in some brutal lands, or slaves in more gentle ones.
All the upper ranks are regarded with respect, and far greater consideration is given to their opinions, as in any society. However, in Handsome society, in the absence of written constitutions or laws, the opinion of the elite carries the same weight as a king's decree. What the Party Patriarch declares to be rude is evil, and what he praises is virtue. So if you offend an elite Handsome Man, you could find yourself staring down an angry mob.
Furthermore, there is no uniform justice system among the Handsome Men. Instead, their criminal-justice system is basically street justice, but bound by strict tradition. The most air-tight of these traditions is that someone can only be accused of a violation of a compact or agreement by someone of equal rank or higher. Thus, those at the bottom of the society are at the mercy of the elite, with no written law to defend them. As such, for those low on the hierarchy, justice is either swift and brutal or non-existent, depending on whether or not what they are being accused of is true.
Much of this justice is also carried out not by the Handsome Men themselves, as distributing justice is such a messy, emotional task, but is done by a special caste of "little brothers" called Subjugulators. These are gigantic beings, specially modified to be strong, tough, and terrifying. The Subjugulators set up their tents of justice outside of cities and try "little brothers", Dependent Employees abandoned by their Custodians, and slave-folk. Their rulings are arbitrary and often seemingly senseless, and their judgements are always excessively violent. All non-Handsome Men regard them with hysterical dread. The Handsome Men think them hilarious.
The Handsome Men believe that the perfect society is one where no one bothers anyone else. As such, in the lands of the Handsome Men, if you smile, keep any ugly or unsightly things behind closed doors, and make polite chit-chat, no one will question you. The Handsome Men are immensely concerned with constantly keeping up appearances. They are usually too busy to notice what other people are doing, as long as it is subtle. Additionally, even if they notice, they are skilled at ignoring things, so they will likely ignore it.
However, if an offense is too extreme, the person being interrupted or aggrieved by your act of rudeness will go speak to the immediate superior of the person responsible, usually their Custodian or the Patriarch of their "Family". Depending on the seriousness of the act of rudeness, ugliness or violation of taboo, the superior may elect to deal with it behind closed doors. However, if an offense is too large, or involves a large proportion of the party, a "Party Punishment" will be ordered. These are grim affairs where the aggrieved gather at the superior's home, along with the accused, and set about detailing their grievances with the accused, and inflicting punishment upon them. These punishments can be anything from rebukes and insults to lashes from a whip. These "Punishment Parties" can be anything from a small group of friends pulling aside one of their own to rebuke them to a Handsome Man being called before an entire community, to be pelted with insults, rotten fruit and stones.
When the Handsome Men execute people, this is also how they do it, by organizing so-called "Last Dances" where they lure the unsuspecting rule-breaker to a friendly person's house, then the aggrieved come out of hiding and attack them, either stabbing them to death in the parlor or beating the accused with staves, then dragging them outside to be hung.
The Handsome Men are Chaotic in nature, and tend to hold political power in suspicion and active contempt. They do not have organized nation-states or central government. The Handsome Men do not have an Empire or even a unified state, instead each Handsome Man city-state largely does as it pleases, while the Handsome Men who are not high-status enough to live in the cities live aloofly, free of anyone's authority but their own. The Handsome Men who live in the wild lands around the city rule over their lands and house-holds like petty kings, exercising absolute authority to punish or pardon as they see fit.
Most Handsome Men city-states share this same stubborn independence, most forming Republics or Democracies. The form of a Handsome Republic or Democracy is usually something like this: Everyone gets 1 vote per lifetime lived. Usually this is around 50 years, or however long the non-Handsome population live. If you are a citizen and you've lived less time then that, you get 1 vote. If you are a citizen and you've lived longer than that alloted time, you get an additional vote. This continues up and up, so the older a Handsome Man is, the more political power he receives. This was intended so that the older members of a community would be able to always to hold sway over the young, and to guide their earnest passions with aged wisdom. In reality, however, it means that politics is the domain of the old, and the elders of a Handsome Man city are always making the important decisions, with the young either falling in line or abandoning politics.
The Handsome Men believe in Freedom in the same way the Virginia Chavaliers did. They believe that they are the most enlightened and virtuous of all people, thus, they deserve to be free. Other intelligent species are less virtuous than them, thus it is okay to make them into Dependent Employees (ie- enslave them), as they were clearly less virtuous and need the gentle hand of their Custodian to achieve true enlightenment and union with the All-Mind.
This belief in Freedom is also why the Handsome Men revere Angels and Fear Demons, even as they do not honor any Gods. Angels are clearly special as they are born freer than any mortal, their wings allowing them to be free even from the ground. But Demons are also special, in that they are gross and repulsive, enslaved by their past sins. Of course, you must remember that the Handsome men do not hold the same virtues as you. To the Handsome Men, their Angels are prideful, full of passionate, uncontrollable desire, and seek to dominate those beneath them, as is their right. Their Demons, likewise, are humble, unwilling to take control and lead those weaker than them, and restrained by foolish false religions and incorrect philosophy.
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