Crown of Shadows
Languages of Eredane
Eredane is home to many different cultures, most of which trace their lineages from ancient times before the First Age. They have inherited old tongues that over eons have changed, been combined with other languages, or have simply been lost and then born anew. There are native languages, cultural tongues, tongues of necessity, and trader’s glot, as well as magical cants, enemy tongues, and the lost prayer words of the gods. Across the lands of Eredane, there are many languages and it is always a significant advantage to know more than one’s mother tongue.
Some languages, like items, are restricted, meaning that only characters of certain races can begin play with any skill ranks in the language. Other characters can only learn these languages during gameplay, and must of course find teachers to instruct them or live among those who use the language.
The hosts of Izrador contain far more sorts of foul creatures than just orcs, and none of these have the orcs’ facility with language. As a result, the armies and agents of Izrador use a language the dwarves call Black Tongue. It is a simple tongue that even the most dim-witted ogre is able to master. They use this language when encamped, on patrol, or fighting together. Many of the non-orc races of Izrador’s horde have begun using the language exclusively, even when among only their own kind.
Because of its simplicity, Black Tongue can only be used at pidgin competence.
Courtier and Colonial
The southern Erenlanders are descended from the colonial Sarcosans that invaded Eredane in the Second Age. Their language was thick tongued with such soft sounds and throaty hisses that their Dornish enemies once called them “snakemen.” The early Sarcosans were a very hierarchical people, with the nobles and commoners living as almost separate cultures. Each spoke their own version of their mother tongue, however, as a sign of station and education. The nobles spoke what was called Courtier while the masses spoke a version known as Colonial. When the Old Kings of the Dorns joined with the Sarcosans to form the Kingdom of Erenland, the traditional social stratification became less defined. Over time, Courtier became the language of science, philosophy, and politics, while Colonial became the common tongue of peasants and lords alike.
Because of its complexity, Courtier can only be used at basic competence or fluent level.
The Dornish and Sarcosan ancestors of modern Erenlanders did not speak the same language, and neither culture’s tongue is particularly easy to learn. As a result, the forces of necessity conspired to form a sort of pidgin of Norther and Colonial that most other races simply call Erenlander. Most humans speak at least some Erenlander, and those of the central plains, where Dornish and Sarcosan culture are most intermixed, speak it almost exclusively. Fey that learn a human tongue almost always learn Erenlander, as it combines the easier aspects of both parent tongues and is the most universal human language.
Characters with at least basic competence in either Colonial or Norther are considered to have a pidgin competence level in Erenlander. Characters with at least basic competence in both Colonial and Norther are considered to have a basic competence level in Erenlander.
Halflings speak a musical language that shares common linguistic rules and vocabulary with the tongue of their Danisil cousins. The languages are so similar, in fact, that Danisil elves and halflings that do not speak a formal word of each other’s native tongue can usually communicate their basic meaning. There are notable differences in pronunciation between the nomadic and agrarian tribes of halflings that give each a slight accent to the other’s ears, but only halflings seem to notice the difference.
Characters with at least basic competence in Jungle Mouth are considered to have a pidgin competence level in Halfling.
High elven is the oldest tongue in Eredane, and most races of elves speak it, though with a variety of accents and regional variations. The tongue is purest at the Court and in the remaining scholar’s halls. It reaches its most exotic form in the far north when spoken by the people of the Veradeen. High Elven is a fluid, sibilant tongue that is difficult for other races to learn. Pronunciation is challenging, and the meanings of the words vary by the addition or subtraction of countless suffixes that allow for great specificity in names and descriptions. As a result, High Elven is seldom spoken by non-elves.
Because of its complexity, High Elven can only be used at basic competence or fluent level.
The elves of the southern jungle have their own native tongue, which other elves often refer to as Jungle Mouth. It has a lineage that links it to High Elven, but most of its vocabulary and pronunciation are dramatically different, as are some key elements of its syntax. As a result, speakers of Jungle Mouth can often almost understand High Elven, but ultimately become confounded. Characters that speak High Elven, on the other hand, have no problem learning Jungle Mouth.
Characters with at least basic competence in High Elven or Halfling are considered to have a pidgin competence level in Jungle Mouth.
Like most Dornish cultural traditions, Norther is an heirloom from the peoples of the Dornland River Valley of Pelluria beyond the Pale Ocean. This bastardized, vowelheavy tongue is almost as difficult to learn as High Elven and has almost as many dialects as Old Dwarven. The dialects are not so incomprehensible that Northmen cannot understand each other but do often identify the house to which a character belongs.
Old Dwarven and Clan Dialects
Old Dwarven is the mother tongue of the dwarves, but their long history of clan isolation has led to the natural development of clan dialects. Many dialects are quite similar and mutually comprehensible, while others have become unique languages unto themselves. Though all dwarves speak their own clan dialect, the increased isolationism of the dwarves as a whole has served to even isolate many clans from each other. As a result, not all young dwarves still learn Old Dwarven and know only their clan tongue. Old Dwarven is the language of the clanmoots so the fact it is fading away is a bad sign for the already strained unity of the dwarves. Old Dwarven is guttural, with many stretched syllables and hard stops, but it is also melodic and beautiful in its own unique way.
Orcs have a great facility for language. Their own tongue features exotic and complex sounds that only they are able to pronounce despite their protruding lower tusks. The orc language reflects orc culture in that it is strictly tiered and intensely direct. The language has vocabulary and syntax that allows each social level to speak with absolute deference to the levels above, and absolute authority to the ones below. Orc linguistic ability has allowed many orc soldiers to learn Old Dwarven, High Elven, and Norther, and now in the conquered lands they are quickly learning the other fey and human tongues. Though some dwarves, elves, and Dorns are able to speak Orcish, their command of the language is poor and childlike in comparison to the typical orc’s fluency in other races’ tongues.
Non-orcs may only gain pidgin or basic competance in Orcish.
Snow Elf Patrol Sign
Though the Erunsil speak a heavily accented version of High Elven, they also possess their own unique form of sign language. Born of their long history fighting the orcs, Patrol Sign is simplistic and does not allow for the exchange of anything but basic descriptive and instructional information. It does, however, allow elven soldiers to pass information silently when in dangerous situations. Even those of the Erunsil that do not fight usually learn this language, and many of the snow elves that command Aradil’s southern armies have taught it to their soldiers. Patrol Sign requires visual contact between users, and only a few basic signs can be read beyond 50 yards.
Because of its simplicity, Patrol Sign can only be used at pidgin competence. Patrol Sign is a restricted language.
The Sundered Tongues
These are the languages of smoke and stone, lightning and river, angel and demon. There are countless such tongues whose pronunciations, meaning, and grammar have been lost since the Sundering, although many share similar alphabets. There is now no single tongue that trapped spirits use, having over the millennia taken on the languages of Eredane or in some cases forgotten how to speak entirely. Any trapped spirit has a 10% chance of speaking any given Sundered Tongue.
No mortal may speak or write a Sundered Tongue beyond pidgin competence, and none may learn a Sundered Tongue except by being taught it by a trapped spirit; the natures of the languages themselves are so alien and otherworldly that mortals’ comprehension of them varies significantly from person to person, and two pupils taught by the same trapped spirit end up making and hearing completely different sounds when using the same language. Yet, trapped spirits who speak that language would be able to understand the simplistic meanings of both speakers equally. Why or how this can be is not understood.
Sundered Tongues are all restricted languages.
This language uses many grunts, sighs, growls, whistles, and other primal sounds, and is used by fey spirits like nymphs, satyrs, and dryads, as well as the intelligent dire animals of Erethor. Strangely enough, goblins and giant-kin pass down a pidgin version of this language to their young, as well, lending some credence to the theory that the giant-kin were originally a race of the elthedar and that the goblin-kin were a race of true fey. However, its use is discouraged by the orc and oruk overseers who command the giant-kin, and most forget its use by the time they are of fighting age.
Sylvan is a restricted language.
The Gnomish tongue shares a common root with Old Dwarven, but then Gnomish also shares vocabulary, slang, and idioms with almost every other language as well. Gnome culture is characterized by its adaptability, which seems to be reflected in its language. A history of widespread trading concerns has not only made gnomes Eredane’s finest practical linguists, it has also transformed their own language into a universal pidgin that most simply call Trader’s Tongue. If there is a common language in Eredane, it is Gnomish. Because most races recognize many of their own words and linguistic elements in Trader’s Tongue, they find it unusually easy to learn.
Characters with at least basic competence in Colonial, Erenlander, Halfling, High Elven, Norther, or Old Dwarven are considered to have a pidgin competence level in Trader’s Tongue.
Most of the major languages of Eredane, if written at all, use unique, traditional alphabets.
High Elven and Jungle Mouth share an alphabet, and though the spoken tongue of the halflings is significantly different, the written language uses the same 38 letters as High Elven.
Old Dwarven does not use an alphabet and is recorded in pictographs instead. There are thousands of these, and learning to read and write Old Dwarven actually requires that a character take four additional ranks in the language, rather than just two. Those clan dialects very similar to Old Dwarven share its library of pictographs, but most clan dialects have no written version.
Trader’s Tongue is written primarily in Elven script, but a greatly simplified version that has, over the centuries, incorporated elements from the other alphabets of Eredane.
Norther has a simple alphabet of 18 letters, which is the linguistic reason its pronunciation is so vowel heavy.
Colonial and Courtier share the same linguistic roots and use the same 30-letter alphabet. Erenlander, despite or perhaps because of its Norther influences, uses a 23-letter subset of the Sarcosan alphabet.
Orcs do not have a written language, and so both Orcish and Black Tongue lack alphabets entirely. When missives are sent among the elite of the Shadow’s minions, Erenlander is most often used.