Similar in height to the Neran, The Waerd average about 5'7" (170cm), however they are both stronger and leaner than the more common tribe of Mann. Members of The Waerd average around 150 lbs and, after generations of sun exposure among the sparse vegetation of the Semi-Arid Deserts of Elyria, have developed a darker complexion. Able to shelter from the worst of the midday sun in the rocky outcroppings and caves of the region, the Waerd tend to have brown eyes, dark brown skin, and either dark brown, brown, or light brown hair. Additionally, the males and females of The Waerd tend to be more androgynous in nature, both looking more similar in appearance to one another than the other tribes. This serves their purpose well, and adheres to a core value of their culture. It allows the females and males to be equally intimidating when outside the desert, and it further emphasizes their forsaken identities. That said, while you may not know the gender of The Waerd, one thing you can be sure of is their cool determination and steely resolve. Only The Waerd truly matter to The Waerd.
Long ago, before written history, The Waerd were members of the Erishé; Qindred settlers of the Hot, Arid Desert outside of Karcion, and descendents of Erathor. As time passed, a splinter of the Erishé wandered beyond the boundaries of the Arid Desert into the Hot, Semi-Arid Desert, in search of a less nomadic lifestyle. There they settled and remained for some time.
According to legend, during the Breaking at the end of the first Godswar, they were separated from the rest of Karcion, their home now isolated in what would become the new Elyria. As time passed, they began to feel cut-off from the rest of their people, abandoned, forgotten. They gradually began to resent the Erishé and wished to resume a place of honor and glory among the Antepyrovians. As a result, in the Second Godswar when Erathor's brother, Aiden, Qin of War, attempted to gain power from the other Qin, The Waerd abandoned their ancestor and fought beside Aiden. In the end, Aiden was defeated, and his followers driven back. The Erishé pursued the Waerd and drove them out of the Hot, Semi-Arid Desert, into the Cold, Semi-Arid Desert.
In the Cold, Semi-Arid Desert they were faced with a different lifestyle, and forced to recognize the harsh duality of life. Where once they had mostly warm weather, and only short, well-defined rainy seasons, their new environment proved a fickle mistress. When winter came, the extreme temperature differences between day and night saw many of The Waerd freeze to death. No longer did the warmth of the sun sustain them, and no longer did the fire of their ancestor protect them. Where before there were few creatures of the desert, now there were many - many large or dangerous enough to be predators of Mann.
So The Waerd were forced to travel across the extreme desert, burning by day, and freezing by night, hunted rather than hunting. It was then that the Two-Fold Queen presented herself. She explained that the Ancients of the past no longer held power in their new world, and that it was she who gave or withheld heat, she who dealt life or death. After which, the Two-Fold Queen promised them her protection and led them to an ideal settlement in the hills, where she showed them the underground rivers and aquivers. She agreed to provide for them so long as they did as she asked and united and became as one - a task they take quite literally.
First and foremost The Waerd are a collectivist society that aim to act as one. This is seen in all walks of life. For example, they always refer to themselves in the plural. If you ask a Waerd what tribe he/she is they'll respond "We are The Waerd." In addition, their lack of interest in material things and possessions, such as fancy clothing or jewelry, results in an extremely uniform looking dress code. Using linens and desert silk to stay cool and dry during the day, with warm colors that range from tans and browns to reds, the Waerd generally dress in the same drab outfits regardless of profession. When leaving the desert, the Waerd have a standard set of traveling clothes, which serves to not only heighten the apparent uniformity of the tribe, but also makes it more difficult to tell them apart. This is further emphasized by the unisex nature of the Waerd's clothing, with patterns having neither male or female versions, but just a single unisex version. Finally, the general belief in conformity, uniformity, and convergence toward a single ideal makes the Waerd frown heavily on cross-breading with other tribes, an act seen as heresy among the nobles and aristocracy.
In addition to their collectivist nature, the Waerd have no interest in individual or personal conquest, and live only for the settlement and the will of The Queen. They respect duty, bravery, and personal sacrifice, and believe there is little room for fear in the lives of the Waerd. Similarly, they believe emotions lead to an imbalance and an inability to take the necessary actions when it comes to "The Great Work."
The "Great Work" is of course assassination. The Waerd believe that killing is a duty, and do not take pleasure in it, however it is an integral part of their religion and culture. So while they may actively look to balance the world in other ways, all Waerd are capable of killing. This is not done indiscriminately, mind you, and assassinations are carried out by the will of the Two-Fold Queen. And although a Waerd can still kill as a personal choice, it is not condoned by the collective unless it is approved by The Queen. To prevent dishonoring the family or tribe, or being recognized, all assassinations are carried out either wearing a disguise, or with their face hidden by a shemagh. Even when not assassinating, the Waerd follow a general philosophy of "Let them remember the deeds of the Two-Fold Queen, not the individual."
Finally, the Waerd view knowledge and information as a vital role in maintaining the balance.
"Desert" is the native language of The Weard, a language spoken only by them and their distant relatives, the Erishé. When The Waerd began to emerge from their settlements within the hills and mesas of the cold semi-arid desert, they picked up the Neran language as a means to communicate with the other nearby tribes. As they have no desire to interact with the To'resk or Janoa, and the Dras already speak Neran, they have little need to learn additional languages.
The Waerd, like the Dras, are Servants of the Two-Fold Queen and are tasked to uphold the Balance. Those in her service are often misunderstood and mistrusted by others, as their motivations are never fully understood. The Two-Fold Queen is the keeper of balance; the giver and the taker, the hand of judgement, and the granter of mercy. And while few claim to have actually seen her, those who have say that she is both a beacon of light, and the darkness of the abyss. Those that have not seen her, believe that she makes her will known through natural phenomenon and look to the world around them for signs of change which may be manifestations of her desires.
More than anything, the Servants of the Two-Fold queen recognize and hold true the universal Law of Extremes, stating that "When two counter-balancing forces are carried to their extremes they are seen to be identical. In that, one is blinded as effectively by a brilliant light as they are by darkness."
As a result, the Servants seek to maintain balance and equilibrium in all things and disregard many of the societal conventions held by the other religions in order to do so. In particular, the Servants believe that Death is but the fertilization of life; that darkness is but the shadow cast by the light; and that good and evil are but terms created by the more naive tribes of Mann-kind to explain both the favorable and unfavorable - but necessary - deeds of the Servants.
Like other religions, all Servants share those same basic tenets but there are individual differences between the The Waerd and Dras. Where the Dras embrace life; living life to its fullest and encouraging others to do the same, the Waerd embrace death, and view sacrifice as a natural part of the cycle. Too much prey for people to eat? Kill more prey! Not enough prey for people to eat? Kill more people! In either case, the Waerd use darkness and death as implements of balance.
Where the Dras see the world as various shades of gray, and seek to bring the world back to the middle, The Waerd see the world as only black and white; you're either one of the Waerd, or you're not. You're either light or dark. That said, Chaos is okay so long as it counterbalances Order. Nothing is out of bounds so long as the action is taken in direct response to an unbalancing force. When action is warranted it is their duty to take it.
The Waerd love a Capella chants, like Gregorian monks, because it reverberates in caves, caverns, and across the cliff faces and makes them feel as one. In addition, music and singing is generally written for duets or quartets, as they feel an even number of performers better maintains the balance.
The artwork of The Waerd is frequently religious, featuring both the Two-fold Queen and ritual sacrifice. In addition, there is often artwork or carvings which depict happiness and sadness in equal measure, as both are realistic and necessary parts of life. Their more secular works tend to be drawing or cave paintings which can range from still-life drawings or anatomy, to perception-based works and optional illusions such as images that appear to shift as you look at them, being two images at the same time.
The Cold Semi-Arid desert can be a harsh mistress. There is limited surface water, however underground rivers and aquifers make it possible for people to survive who know where to look. Even still, dehydration is possible when not near caves, caverns, or underground aquifers, which is exacerbated during periodic droughts. There is also a scarcity of food relative to the other temperate and tropical biomes, with less than average vegetation.
If the shortage of food and water wasn't enough, weather fluctuates daily during the winter, cold at night and hot during the day. This necessitates different clothing at different times of the day, or at least modular clothing or layering that can be taken off as necessary. Additionally, winters are rainy and temperate, while summers are hot and dry. This seasonal cycle also requires specialized clothing, requiring the Waerd to dress in clothing that is suitable for both seasons. Finally, the exposure to the sun is dangerous in the desert, and sand and wind storms are not uncommon. As a result, most of The Waerd wear shemaghs or other head covering to keep the sand out of their eyes and the sun off their heads.
Finally, the Cold Semi-Arid desert is no stranger to predators. There are no small number of poisonous reptiates and insects, and a range of nocturnal hunters such as bobcats and coyotes. As a result, the Waerd typically sleep grouped together, either in their desert caverns and caves, or huddled together around a fire - protection from both predators and dropping temperatures.
All that said, the Waerd have accepted the lifestyle of the desert and have thrived in it. They've learned various dry farming techniques and can farm what food they need that they cannot hunt or gather for.
The Waerd have a range of architecture depending on social class. The lowest members of society take rooms inside naturally forming caves and caverns. These structured created over the years through wind and water eriosion. The slightly more elevated make mud or brick housing outside of the caves and caverns, giving more ready access to farmable land. Finally, those chosen by The Two-Fold Queen to lead the Servants build housing and structures directly into the hills and mesas, often in bowls or valleys formed by erosion.
The Waerd trade primarily in people, information, and services - not in goods - however they do craft for their own needs. In addition, many gain skills in foreign trades or crafts so they can embed themselves in outside settlements to gain information and intelligence.
The Named are the Lowest levels of society, as they are those who still possess an identity. Once a member of The Waerd has demonstrated their commitment to The Waerd by renouncing their individual possessions and contributing their land to the collective, they are added to the Told. You are among The Named as a child.
The Told support the Waerd from an economic level as crafters, traders, and shop-owners. While members of The Told still have a name they can use when talking to outsiders, members of The Waerd refer to The Told by their profession and settlement name. Ie, a blacksmith of the settlement named Copperhead would simply be referred to "Blacksmith", or "Blacksmith Copperhead" if being specific.
The Set are responsible for the well-being of The Waerd, ensuring their ability to thrive, and coordinating people. They are also responsible for doling out justice and communicating The Two-Fold Queens will.
The Familiar plan and coordinate The Waerd, brokering information, creating political relationships, and passing down orders from The Two-Fold Queen. They are also information brokers and maintain a sort of Job Placement Service, communicating to The Set jobs that need to be fulfilled both inside and outside of Waerdic Settlements.
In a power vacuum, whomever among the vassals looks most like the last leader is granted Casus Belli, so as to keep the appearance of continuity among the people. As a result, the vast majority of the Waerd look extremely similar.
Knowledge is shared freely among the Waerd, with schools existing in each settlement and made available without charge to the others. The schools themselves range in subjects from infiltration, subterfuge, and disguise, to serviceable trades such as mining, smithing, masonry, and cartography. As a result, The Waerd are considered to have a broad range of knowledge by outsiders and are often hired as tutors or trainers, which they use as an opportunity to gain additional information. Jacks of all trades, masters of none, their breadth of knowledge can make The Waerd useful in almost all capacities.
In addition to the schools they provide freely available to one another, they also have a small set of schools along their outer borders which are open to outsiders. In these schools, they teach a renowned fighting style to the influential and powerful members of the other tribes, and they make no secret that the price of admission is information for their own use.
After the Second Godswar the people of the desert vowed never to take sides in open warfare again. Not only did they suffer for their past mistakes, but doing so would also imbalance the scales and violate their oath to the Two-Fold Queen. As a result, The Waerd do not fight in wars. They will start wars. They will end wars. But they do shed blood on the battlefield. Theirs is a war from behind the curtains.
That all said, The Waerd are among the most tactical fighters in Elyria, and are renowned as effective assassins. While they typically strike first or use sabotage or subterfuge to avoid direct confrontation, they are never-the-less Skilled in melee combat using short-bladed or fist weapons, and are known to utilize thrown weapons such as fire flasks and smoke bombs - both constructed using alchemical minerals found in the caves and caverns of their semi-arid desert.
Finally, while effective in solo combat, The Waerd are lethal in groups, and very rarely move about alone. If you engage a solitary Waerd, the other one will be the last thing you didn't see.
Dras - The Dras and the Waerd are alone in recognizing the necessity of the Two-Fold Queen. And while their perspectives on the Two-Fold Queen differ, they recognize one another's belief, and respect it. Furthermore, the Waerd and Dras have a strong history of trade, with the Waerd supplying certain foods and resources, such as beans, while the Dras provide alchemical solutions and Jet goods.
Neran - As the Neran are among the largest and most prolific tribe, The Waerd view them as essential allies to gaining the information necessary to achieve their goals. Indeed, Neran political structure creates many opportunities for the Waerd, both in information gathering and assassinations, and the Waerd frequently take jobs as tutors, tradesman, or assassins within the Neran society.
Janoa - While the Waerd respect the physical prowess of the Janoa, the Janoa's arrogance and hunger for power is unacceptable to the Waerd. As well, being such strong warriors, and having little regard for others beyond themselves, the Waerd cautiously observe the Janoa, ensuring they never upset the balance.
To'resk - The only true enemies of the Waerd are The To'resk. The two tribes are diametrically opposed in almost all things. Where the To'resk prefer diplomacy and mercantilism, The Waerd have no use for words, and prefer action over anything else. Where the To'resk attempt to live in relative harmony with the other tribes, through negotiations and trade agreements, The Waerd stolidly withstand any attempts at negotiation or alliance by the To'resk. This is not without cause. According to The Waerd, where the To'resk rely on ceremony and manners as a faux attempt at stability and consistency, tradition and custom is at the very core of The Waerd. As such, they view the To'resk as pretenders and sycophants. While The Waerd are the very definition of a communal society, the To'reshian virtues of self-preservation and personal and family prosperity, fly in the face of everything The Waerd hold sacred, and they view it as their responsibility to take from the To'resk what has been given to them in order to impart balance. Finally, while the To'resk hold true to their ancestors and continue to uphold their belief in the Qin, they believe The Weard have abandoned their faith in favor of the Two-Fold Queen, and the To'resk find it apropos that desert is the root of deserter.