Section I: Sapient Races
Section II: Beastly Races
(also called Manlings)
Quite a number of documents have been sent to me on the topic of alreus, and I wish to extend my heartfelt gratitude to the contributors, yet I fear that the majority of these contributions should not be included in this work. I know that alreus are not the most popular race in this world, yet I do not wish to indulge in publishing diatribes that consist of little more than “damn thieving manlings, they should be corralled onto an island they can never leave”.
Therefore, please forgive me if I have not included texts that reflect your personal opinion about alreus and rather have chosen to use documents of more scientific value, hard though they were to find.
“Adult alreu reach a height of three feet. A very few have been known to grow some six inches taller and are considered giants by their race. Other than most would think, height is not considered to be an advantage – rather something to be ashamed of wherefore alreu mothers sometimes employ drugs to stunt the growth of unusually large children.
“They are humanoid and look remarkably like human children with their slightly oversized heads and notably oversized eyes. Other than a human, their limbs are very much longer and spindly, giving the creature – when hunched over – the look of a spider. An innocent spider, bringing a kind of danger entirely different from arachnoids.
“As for clothes, they generally wear vests, breeches as well as thin-soled boots; all fashioned from cotton or such like cloths. Never do they wear leather since they abhor the touch of animal hides on their bodies. (Perhaps they believe the spirit of such an animal would endanger their own souls. With a race as confused as this, I would readily believe everything.)
“Rarely can one find an alreu who does not carry a knapsack or a number of pouches filled with a large variety of items, both useful and useless. Just as rarely is an alreu found without a set of the minuscule tools of their race that they use to tinker with practically every object that comes within their reach. Most keep their tools in a special belt pouch that unrolls at a touch and offers an easy selection of the proper instruments.
“It is noteworthy that alreus have an uncanny instinct for tinkering. If they had enough brains to create sensible tools rather than ridiculous and useless objects, alreus would make for the best repairmen and craftsmen of the planet, rivaling even the knightdwarves. Unfortunately, the reason and wits of your average alreu are far too scattered for this to ever become likely.
“In fact every reader should beware the an alreu’s proximity to treasured possessions, for the tinkerer in the creature will inevitably awaken, and said possessions will be altered in ways unimaginable to the reasonable person. (Not only unimaginable for the outcome of the tinkering but also for the ways the alreu chose to achieve this with masterful precision.) For instance, a warrior might find that his blade has been broken up into a myriad of shards that are artfully attached to the inside of his shield, forming the image of its owner when seen in the right light. The sword’s handle might be on the outside of the shield, as well as several other items that belong to not only the blade’s owner but also some of his companions.”
“Up to a few years ago I was convinced that the thought of an alreu homeland was as ridiculous as the thought of a quiet, lethargic alreu.
“Recently, though, I went on a journey to the Blue Land. A dangerous journey, in my opinion, but worthwhile since fellow scholars of Darawk had discovered an ancient library in the ruins of what might have once been a temple or even an academy dedicated to knowledge. Despite the dangers of this primitive country and its very unhealthy inhabitants – unhealthy to us civilized people, certainly -, I spent several months there trying to reconstruct ancient documents, nearly consumed by the passage of time.
“Amongst the documents I found a book written by someone who claims to be a High Priest of Derask, which I suspect is a distorted – and feminine! – form of our own lord, the god Darawk. To honor that ‘priest’, I will submit his relevant text in its original form, though I will have to caution you that this man’s grasp of language was mediocre at best. (Perhaps language customs have changed since that time; others will have to inform me of the veracity of this assumption.) Here, the priest begins:
“’Thus speaketh I, Zerethast, loyal and humbel servant of She who gaves us wisdom, our Lady Derask. A plagg hath descended upon our land, terribel and cruel. The plagg is ye elroy that have flooded into our land in ye time of Loshatek Ye Proud, blessed by Derask, blessed by Hagwenius, blessed by Dakirjust. Mistaken we were at first by ye semblence of innocence of ye creatures who told us they were driven from their land of Ghedzen. They told that armys had come to Ghedzen, to slaughter every elroy they saw.
“’We wondered who would do such a cruel thing. Ye elroy seemed harmless, their pleyd moved our hearts. Thus we took in ye elroy, and we were to learn that a plagg and kurse had been lowered on us. For ye creatures know not of ownership, they steal whatever they see, or they destroy it.’
“The priest went on to describe further the kinds of damage that the alreu caused. There is no need to continue in this, since we are well accustomed to the alreu today. I find rather interesting that he describes them as somewhat more frantic – if such a thing is conceivable – than they are known today, perhaps due to their loss of a homeland.
“It is a pity that Zerethast does never actually mention where that homeland, Ghedzen, is located, nor does he say who invaded said land. At some later point he does say that his people in the Blue Land have decided to expel the alreu from their own land, ‘for Loshatek Ye Invincibel hath learned ye lessen that was taught by ye slayers of elroy. Thus he spakes to the lordlings to take up what swords were left and slay ye plagg-bearers.’ However successful that drive may have been at the time, there is no doubt it was doomed to failure. As a matter of fact, during my stay in the Blue Land I have come to know a community of alreu living not far from that very library.
“Still, there is indeed a homeland of the alreu. Wherever it may be located, it would be worthwhile to investigate it for traces of whether the alreu were in some way changed by their flight.”
“Woefully, the behavior of an alreu is well familiar to all the denizens of Gushémal. They do not understand the meaning of ownership; a result of their open lifestyle. ‘Meins ist deins,’ that is the philosophy they follow. It translates pretty well as ‘What belongs to me belongs to you’ – though this is quite loose since there is no actual word for ‘to belong’ in the alreu tongue.
“This characteristic is typical of all alreu, and it is well displayed in any village of theirs. The houses are wildly scattered about, with nothing similar to a road or any central place detectable. Mind you, if I speak of houses, the term ‘kennel’ would probably be more suitable since an alreu house consists of a small shack that serves as little more than a foreroom to the actual living abode which is a series of tunnels dug into the ground.
“(It is noteworthy that alreu villages are not confined to areas of soft ground; they have been quite inventive in tunneling through rocky ground as well, and their methods of stabilizing the tunnels are nearly as effective as those in a dwarven mine. This is unusual in that most alreu inventions are useless or counterproductive – yet I believe that there is no incentive like self-preservation to propel the imagination. Living in a tunnel that might collapse at any time certainly is not a peaceful environment, and there is little the alreu love more than peace.)
“The tunnels grow over generations, with each adding a minimum of two new rooms to the abode. Since the families always stick close together, some alreu houses have as many as one hundred rooms that are interconnected in the most diverse – and surprising – ways. It is certainly for the better that no human or elf could ever enter such an abode – due to the difference in size -, since the mind boggles at the sight of a living room with dozens of doors leading off into any given direction, including up and down. Worse since the doors are usually open, and there are constant visitors coming and going, with nary a moment to breathe in calm.
“There is a neverending stream of words and noise in such an abode, a cacophony that baffles the ears of a member of any other species. Yet to the alreu this is what they call a happy family, a restful place. ‘Ein Augenblick ohne Worte ist ein verlorener Augenblick’ (‘A moment without words is a lost moment’) is another saying of theirs; very aptly does it describe how they pursue life.
“It is therefore not surprising that there is a wealth of proverbs that the alreu have created; and neither is it surprising that they never bothered to develop a written language. They are generally too busy speaking. (Oh, they are very capable of speaking and tinkering at the same time; so that would not be an impediment from writing – but they believe that written words never carry the true message as well as spoken words could.)
“Personally I regret that few scholars have taken the time to honestly investigate this people, in particular their proverbs and their history (related always in the form of legends about ancestors). There is much knowledge and enlightenment to be drawn from them… Yet I must admit that I myself have only overcome my aversion towards alreu near the end of my life, and what days remain are too few to write suitably about these creatures.
“Nonetheless, I shall continue. As the alreu say, ‘Fill your breath with speech’ – which is actually the most polite and flowery form of greeting known in their language.
“Returning to their incomprehension of ownership, alreu love to give presents. They cherish little as much as a present, no matter what it is. Presents signify more than just friendship or family; often they are given to fulfill a need of the other. (I myself was once given a sparkling gem worth many fortunes by an alreu who said that the jewel would fit my vest nicely. He was right.) Another reason for a present, at least as important, is to give it so that the recipient may improve it. ‘My skill is less than yours,’ an alreu may say and return a while later fully expecting his gift to have been enhanced to perfection – or what alreu perceive as such.
“Strangely enough a gift always remains in the – for lack of a better word – possession of the recipient, unless it is given away freely. Alreu usually just take whatever they like, yet a gift is sacred. To take it would be cruel, since it either fulfills a need or has not been enhanced to its fullest. (The gem I mentioned before is still in my possession. I wore it openly in the alreu community for more than a year, and never did a single hand reach for it.)
“Which is not to mean that the recipients will keep the items they have been given. Oftentimes a present is given away only minutes after receiving it! This is never seen as an offense by the giver, at best a correction of the perception. ‘Yes, I have a need but the need of my friend here is stronger’ or ‘You overestimate my skill, my friend,’ these are also typical notions.
“I would be remiss if I did not mention in this respect that the alreu communities are strongly connected, no matter how far away they may be. Another example from my own experience serves splendidly: During one of my early visits to a nearby alreu village, I ‘lost’ a brooch that I value highly. It was a loss I felt keenly, and for a while I despised the alreu for this. Yet ten years later, at a village at the other end of the continent, an alreu found that the gem – the very jewel mentioned before – would be splendidly improved with a brooch juxtaposed. And what did my friend give me but the very brooch that I had thought lost forever?!”