Elayne Silverlark was recognised as an Exemplar of Loyalty by the Highborn Assembly of the Virtuous in pre-Imperial Highguard. She was recognised as an exemplar of Loyalty by the Imperial Synod in 18YE.
Lady Elayne Silverlark was an extraordinary troubadour gifted in many arts. She was a musician, a poet, and a dramatist whose talents were highly sought after by great houses and exceptional questing knights alike. They offered her gold, glory, love and more, but while she would occasionally pen something exalting the glory of the truly exceptional, she turned down all paid commissions. To the bafflement of many, she devoted her life to travelling alongside Lord Endric Castrovalva - a questing knight whose skills and reputation were rarely more than adequate on a good day according to all the histories.
The nature of the relationship between Elayne and Endric is a matter for some debate. Some scholars believe that there was an unrequited romantic connection between the two, but this belief is by no means universal. A common alternative suggestion is that Elayne and Endric were siblings, and that Silverlark was driven by familial duty help her less capable brother. Others suggest an even more prosaic relationship - that Endric had in some fashion helped Elayne pass her own test of mettle, and that she felt a lifelong obligation to honour this debt.
Some of her fellow troubadours are said to have mocked Elayne, but their scorn was largely ineffective. Her skills were beyond question - not only as a composer but as a performer. In the words of Arutha Aurelius, writing shortly after her death, "There was no need for her to be modest about her art - in fact, picking an unimpressive knight to sing about rather than some grand hero represented an artistic challenge that other troubadours have often balked at, or failed miserably to accomplish."
Regardless of the true nature of the relationship, several households aided Lord Endric, not for his talents, but for those of the one who accompanied him. For seven years the trouabdour and the knight travelled together, covering most of Dawn and having adventures in Highguard, Wintermark, and parts of southern Varushka. Indeed, the two are said to have spent a year in Wintermark, as guests of one hall or another. Endric would fight alongside the Wintermark warriors, with Elayne at his side, and then during the evenings the Silverlark would sing songs of the heroes of Dawn for the entertainment of the Winterfolk.
Elayne did much more than compose songs about Lord Endric. According to the stories she was his constant companion, helping him out of the many scrapes his naivety and warm heart would invariably get him into. She encouraged him to stand his ground when others criticised him, to hone such skills as he had, and to follow his conscience even when it lead to trouble for the pair of them. With Elayne beside him, Lord Endric's confidence grew and he began to seek out greater and greater challenges.
Endric died shortly after returning to Dawn from Wintermark, of wounds sustained in a vicious battle against the savage orc tribe occupying Semmerholm. Along with a handful of knights and yeofolk, they held off an orc warband many times their number until reinforcements arrived. Thanks to his leadership and bravery, the frontier outpost of Auvanne was preserved against the orc assault - and would go on not only to become a major settlement, but to serve as a base of operations for the final conquest of Semmerholm in 52YE. Endric and his fellow warriors were interred beneath a barrow mound on the side of the hill overlooking the town - a hill that bears his name to this day.
Heroic as his actions were, Endric would have passed unremarked into history without the efforts of Elayne Silverlark. She travelled across Dawn, singing songs of his adventures and especially exalting his courage and duty to the people of Dawn. The Flowers of Auvanne became a Dawnish standard, recounting the bittersweet glory of those who fell against the orcs. Several of the better-known stories of Lord Endric develop the theme that one does not need to be naturally talented to seek glory - that a good heart, courage, and a refusal to turn aside from one's path are more important than looks or might at arms.
After the death of Lord Endric, Elayne travelled to Bastion in Highguard. There she sang The Flowers of Auvanne outside the Basilica of Seven Doors every evening for a month, and during the day she performed songs and poems exalting the names of the heroes of Dawn. Several prominent priests invited her to speak with them, and she recounted tales not only of Lord Endric, but of many other knights and nobles of Dawn, praising their Courage and Pride. Through Elayne, the Highborn synod came to understand the virtue of Dawn, and appreciated the possibility of bringing the Way to her people.
Elayne Silverlark died shortly after returning to Dawn from Bastion. She was recognised as an exemplar of Loyalty by the Highborn Assembly twenty years after her death - an act that some historians claimed helped the wayfarers immeasurably when it came to bringing the Way to the people of Dawn. As per her instructions, she was interred on Endric's Hill in a low barrow not far from the tomb of the questing knight to whom she had devoted most of her life - and most people assumed that her story ended there.
- Following the death of Lord Endric, Elayne made a pilgrimage to Bastion, and sang The Flowers of Auvenne outside the gates of the Basilica of Seven Doors.
- The songs and poems she wrote remain an inspiration, and stand as her legacy.
- Her salvation is renowned in two ways. Firstly, by inspiring Endric, she ensured he was able to face the threat to Auvanne, and secure the Dawnish foothold in Semmerholm that would later be vital to the defeat of the orc tribe there. Secondly, through her pilgrimage to Bastion, she helped to bring the Way to Dawn.
The great mystery of Elayne Silverlark is the nature of her relationship with Lord Endric, especially whether it was romantic in nature. The last scion of the House Castrovalva fell in the first century YE, and contemporary accounts of the two are often muddled and confused. All the stories agree that Endric was good-hearted, and that Elayne was his constant companion and supporter but apart from that there are few consistent facts.
A few stories claim that Endric and Elayne were married. It has been suggested that perhaps Lord Endric married Elayne for love when she was still a yeofolk, that he helped her to complete her own test of mettle - and so her lifelong dedication to him were a consequence of her gratitude and their devotion to each other. But most serious scholars believe what little evidence there is for this version of events was invented decades later to romanticise their relationship. There is a record of a young knight passing a test of mettle to enter House Coeur, who is referred to as the daughter of Lord Endric of Castrovalva. Given their relative fame, it is inconceivable that Elayne would not be mentioned if the young girl was known to be her daughter.
There are a few stories that present Endric as an ignorant buffoon, or as a well-meaning naif. He was known to have suffered an illness in childhood that affected his growth and physcal standing but in some stories Endric can barely lift his sword and Elayne has to fabricate cunning ruses to help him avoid a duel or a battle. There is some evidence for this version of events in a bawdy poem that heaps ridicule on Endric, however it is attributed to Lord Guy of House Arianne. He was a prominent rival of Lady Elayne and many scholars suspect that the poem is more propaganda than history.
Although Endric died first, their relative ages are not known, and there is some suggestion that Elayne was Endric's teacher, instructing him in swordsmanship, courtly ways, and the path of glory. According to this version of events, providing Endric with the instruction needed to pass a test of mettle was Elayne's test. It might explain their relationship if Elayne tutored the young Endric, helping him to surpass himself and then perhaps she determined to become a questing troubadour - devoting her life to the challenge of making Endric the greatest knight he could possibly be. The obvious flaw in this version of events is that they were members of different noble houses... however event that would make sense - if say Endric's birth father were the Earl of House Silverlark.
The other version of the familial story is that Elayne and Endric were siblings - some claim they were born to a noble family and some claim they were born in a yeofolk household, though the latter seems unlikely. Each passed a test of mettle with another house - but rather than go their separate ways, they chose to adventure together as brother and sister. This is mostly based on a study of her surviving works, with scholars claiming that Elayne's descriptions of Endric in her prose are intimate, but are more familial than romantic. This is often put forwarded as the best supported basis for their companionship by scholars though it has little popular appeal.
The other explanation for the lack of obvious romance in Elayne's poetry is that she and Endric were simply true friends. A affectionate trust built of years fighting and travelling together meant that each supported the other to the limits of their abilities. There is a surviving letter written by an Elaine Silverlark that is addressed to an unknown cousin who is due to be wed. The author congratulates her cousin on her good fortune but professes to have no interest in love, or any the affections of the heart, stating rather that her music is her true heart's companion and suggesting that romance is a delusion that distracts one from the pursuit of glory. This would fit with Elayne's poetry - which stirs even the coldest heart to glory - but never mentions love. Critics of this most prosaic interpretation point out that the writer's name is spelled differently and that anyway the writer is clearly very young, and may well have been written before Elayne came of age.
The controversy is linked to the Hallowing of Silverlark's Tears. This aura infuses an object with the power of Loyalty, and encourages the bearer of the item to conceal their devotion from others. Prior to 89YE the aura was generally called the Hallowing of the Sheltered Candle, but in Summer of that year the Imperial Synod undertook to rename the aura. According to some accounts, there was heated debate on the topic but there was already some popular support for the change thanks to the work of a strong-willed Dawnish troubadour named Edain of the Second Look. Through her music, Edain helped popularize the idea that Elayne held unrequited romantic feelings for Lord Endric. She was responsible for both the Statement of Principle that suggested the change and the Mandate required to communicate this name change to priests across the Empire.
The Highborn scholar, Esther of the High Well, who has made a study of Elayne's virtue, argues that any interpretation of their relationship is a mistake. According to Esther, the mystery of their relationship is what makes it so enduring. Each wayfarer projects their own feelings onto the story, each citizen imagines the relationship with Endric in the way that makes sense for them. Elayne is a such an inspiring exemplar of Loyalty precisely because we don't know why she was so devoted to Endric - knowing the human reasons for her decisions can only undermine the sense of awe that their relationship inspires.
The Missing Tomb
In 68YE, shortly after the conquest of Semmerholm, the Imperial Synod authorized the Cardinal of Loyalty to use a dose of true liao to consecrate Elayne's barrow on Endric's Hill. All accounts agree that the Cardinal, a charismatic Dawnish troubadour called Lord Rorn, took the precious liao and set off for Endric's Hill as soon as the business was completed. The Cardinal never returned to Anvil and was replaced two seasons later, but for a long time everyone assumed everything was simply fine. Elayne's tomb became an especially popular place of pilgrimage not only for Dawnish questing knights and troubadours, but also for adventurous Winterfolk who come to meditate on the meaning of duty and sacrifice.
It was something of a shock therefore, when the Synod discovered that the aura surrounding Elayne's tomb had faded. In those days the effects of true liao were less well understood and it appears that most visitors to the tomb had simply not realized anything was wrong when the aura on the tomb faded after a season. Numerous wild theories abounded, but most sensible people assumed that Lord Rorn had simply absconded with the priceless treasure and was probably living like a king on his ill-gotten gains.
In the following season, the Synod ordered a full investigate of the matter, including a team of inquisitors who were sent via the Sentinel Gate to check the tomb for any clues. They discovered - to their horror - that the tomb was completely empty. There was no trace of Elayne's body or her last possessions - in fact there was no sign that any body had ever been interred there.
Since that day the final location of Elayne Silverlark remains an enduring mystery. In recent years, the Golden Heart, a Dawnish knightly order have been prominent in searching for the real tomb. These Loyalty troubadours, place great importance both by the example set by Elayne's devotion to others and the matters of true love they say are raised by her life story. They are believed to carry a reliquary said to contain the heart of Elayne Silverlark.
Inspirational Tomb and Basilica
Ten years after the discovery of the empty tomb, and partly in response to the ongoing failure to discover what had occurred, the order was given to commission a basilica of Elayne Silverlark to be built in Bastion. A modest structure was raised on the northern side of the city, built in the style of a Dawnish chapel. There was some final controversy over this decision, as some felt the new basilica was an attempt to draw a discreet veil over the scandal of the missing tomb and the stolen liao.
To try to resolve the dispute, funds were dispersed from the virtue fund to acquire Elayne's original mandolin - the same one which she played for the thanes of Wintermark and the priests at the Basilica of Seven Doors. The instrument was purchased from House Coeur who had fallen on hard times - and it now sits in pride of place in the nave of the chapel. The basilica is kept consecrated, and is another popular place of pilgrimage for devotees of Loyalty.
Elayne's final resting place remains a mystery to this day, as does the fate of the missing liao.
Elayne Silverlark in Play
Stories claim that Endric and Elayne spent a year in Wintermark, but it is possible that they were there much longer than is generally believed. According to some skops the pair spent several years travelling the length-and-breadth of the country, enjoying the hospitality of the thanes. As exotic visitors from distant Dawn, they served almost as ambassadors, presenting a previously unfamiliar image of their people as heroic adventurers quite prepared to seek glory fighting the Jotun or protecting the halls of their hosts.
Elayne studied extensively with the scops, and the pair are believed to have traveled for a time with the famed Steinr hereo Theodric Mooting. Dawnish troubadours say that she taught Theodric much about the Dawnish use of instruments in their music, and in turn there is some evidence that her later works were influenced by the traditions of the northern bards. Certainly, when she returned to Dawn, Elayne often performed some of the more accessible songs and poems about Wintermark heroes - probably adapted to appeal to her Dawnish audience. Some historians credit Elayne with having helped to lay the foundation for a greater understanding between the two nations, drawing parallels between heroism and glory.
Interestingly, in the Wintermark tradition Endric comes across as much less of a buffoon than in the more southern traditions. He is presented as a capable, heroic warrior whose great weakness is that he is rash. He rarely thinks before throwing himself into a dangerous situation, and Elayne often has to come to his aid whether it is rescuing him from an ogre's cookpot or helping him extricate himself from an accidental engagement to a thane.
There are comparatively few tales of the pair's visit to Varushka but all share a common theme, and are quite popular with children. Endric accidentally offends a Sovereign, and Elayne seeks out the aid of a volhov or wise one to work out how to rescue him or free him from his curse. She is often aided in these stories by a trio of magical animals - guided by the brave hound Pale Illya, advised by the clever squirrel Red Bashya, and protected by the stalwart bear Black Tuskovich.
While these stories are often full of criticism of the gung ho attitude of the Dawnish questing knight, and how ill-suited it is to the realities of life in Varushka, they tend to present Elayne Silverlark in a positive light. Her loyalty to Endric means she refuses to abandon him even when others try to persuade her that he is lost. She takes the time to learn from wiser heads how best to deal with the situation, and then bravely confronts the evil force that has captured her companion. Most importantly, through a combination of loyalty, wisdom, and courage she is successful in saving Endric, and often by doing so helps weaken or stymie one of the dark powers of Varushka.
According to some theological scholars, it is unlikely Elayne and Endric ever visited Varushka - they suggest the stories told by the stzena are at best parables and at worst satires rather than recountings of true events.
The stories of Elayne Silverlark are not particularly popular in the Marches. Some friars criticise the relationship between Elayne and Endric, and claim that it is actually an attempt to justify the subservient relationship place of yeofolk in Dawnish society (despite the fact that both characters were almost certainly nobles). Others point out that allowing Elayne's story to utterly eclipse that of the person who ultimately did many courageous deeds does a great disservice to Endric.
The most persistent argument, however, is that Elayne receives recognition not for any personal virtue but because of simple politics. Elayne lived at a time before the Way had been widely accepted in Dawn, and the troubadours were not priests of virtue - yet many of the stories claim her as a missionary who helped spread the Way in Dawn. These friars argue that Elayne's songs and poems about Lord Endric are a form of propaganda - they subtly teach the lesson that virtue alone leads to glory and that glory is an end in itself. These Marchers argue that at the foundation of the Empire the Highborn and the troubadours colluded to greatly exaggerate Elayne's importance, simply to encourage questing knights and Dawnish pilgrims alike to embrace the Way and acknowledge the pre-eminence of the Imperial Synod.
The Silverlark tradition began during the reign of Emperor Guntherm who claimed to be have found inspiration in the Silverlark's poetry. Most individuals who call themselves Silverlarks are Dawnish troubadours, or Wintermark scops though there have been a handful of Varushkan stzena, and a smattering of musicians, poets, playwrights, and priests from other nations. There is no formal organisation; but Silverlarks typically carry a medallion or pin in the shape of a silver or white bird in flight. For many members the bird is a lark, but in Wintermark it is typically a hawk or falcon. Some Varushkans further complicate the situation by perching the bird on the head of a long-nosed hound.
Silverlarks strive to follow in the footsteps of Elayne. They dedicate themselves to supporting, publicising, and exalting heroic or worthy deeds. Some attach themselves to a specific individual with the potential to become a great inspirational hero, while others choose a different individual to support each season. Silverlarks share heroic tales across the Empire - and some try to expose cowards, liars, and braggarts. It is common for a troubadour to add a tale of heroism from Wintermark to their repertoire, or for a stenza to reinterpret the deeds of a glorious Dawnish knight that may contain a valuable lesson for Varushkan listeners.
Most Silverlarks seem to share two core beliefs that unite them. Firstly, that the Empire as a whole can learn from and be inspired by tales of individual achievement. Secondly, that their own tales are of secondary importance to those of the heroes they support. Among themselves, Silverlarks may speak of their own achievements but it is grounds for ostracism for someone who claims to be a Silverlark to aggrandise their own actions beyond those of the hero they support.
Real World Inspiration
When creating songs and stories about Elayne Silverlark and Lord Endric, there are a few real world inspirations you can draw on. P G Wodehouse's Jeeves and Wooster stories could serve as inspiration for tales of social misadventure (with Elayne in the role of the unflappable and competent Jeeves). Cervantes' Don Quixote could provide some inspiration for a more muddled Endric whose heart is in the right place but who is at odds with the world around him.