Kindred of the Sea is the name given themselves by one of the northern coastal peoples of Ellenesia. Since when they were assimilated into the Valor Alliance much of their culture was banned, it is no longer exactly from where the Kindred of the Sea originally hail, or whether two or more similar peoples and cultures were joined together and merged in the cult known as the Tears of Eseliana, since they have legends and customs that suggest the possibility of different areas of origin. The story of Eseliana, from whom they take their name, features a female hero (or at least one who became identified as female during the ban) who saved a scant handful of survivors from a massacre on the Sea of Tears and re-established her people on the north shores of the Sea of Tears. However many of their rites suggest a more northern origin; the Polar Lights play a very large role in their culture and especially the ceremony for the dead and are called the ‘Gates of Heaven’, despite the fact that they are not seen very frequently even on the northern shores of Ellenesia, let alone those of the Sea of Tears.
The Tears of Eseliana are an underground cult, with a somewhat grass-roots structure. One is as formally or officially a member as anyone by taking sea-oath from a sea mage. The leader of the Tears of Eseliana is known as the Daughter, but she is not an absolute leader, and enclaves may contest, or even outright defy, her wishes. However, she is generally accorded a great deal of respect, which varies depending on how much her powers truly suit her position as the Daughter. The Tears of Eseliana have a great deal of appeal for those who wish to learn magic outside the official channels of the Valor Alliance, whether that is because they do not have enough aptitude to be considered, or because they do not want to join a religious order or the Valor Hall, or because they are not men. They also have appeal to those who have an interest in the folk customs and lore of the northern peoples that is provoked, but not satiated, by the pieces of it which remain in the culture of Scanmir, particularly in the more rural, secluded areas and on the coast. Because of this, who is and is not a member of the Tears of Eseliana can be a somewhat hazy thing, as some may take sea-oath for the mage-training who are less interested in the cultural elements than others who have not taken sea-oath, and many may be true members of the Tears, having taken sea-oath, and may live their lives as ordinary trades or workfolk, who don’t do anything more illegal than private whispered or chanted rituals for marriages or births or deaths or festivals.
Due to the relatively unorganized nature of the Tears, different sea-sworn or enclaves can have very different approaches or goals. Some may practice little more than to gather a few times a year to sing some songs, tell some stories, and dance some dances, and quietly recruit, while a few more dedicated individuals learn the sea-magic, while others may be of a more active, violent nature and engage in assassinations and other acts of war. They are not uncommonly in an antagonistic, or even hostile, relationship with other cults that teach magery or wizardry, though they will sometimes put aside differences and work together, and in the cities they often have alliances with thieves and smugglers’ guilds.
In some ways the Tears of Eseliana are absolutely opposed to the Valor Alliance, since the Daughter can never be a man and women mages are held in reverence. However, magic is not forbidden to men, and many honored sea-mages are men. The Daughter is always an unmarried non-man, since the Tears of Eseliana believe that women have especial connection to the spirits of the sea and magic for the purpose of protecting and caring for their families and children, and no magic can be stronger than that of a woman whose baby is threatened, but the one who cares for the people as a whole must not have children born of her own body. She is not the mother of a few, but the Daughter of the people.
The full understanding of the Kindred of the Sea allows mage-craft to all, while holding that there is nothing stronger for the defense of her children than the mage-craft of a mother, but also that one who has no gender or sex is blessed by the sea to be the mage-priest of the people. However, under the ban of the Valor Alliance with the full exercise of their culture being forbidden and impossible, various influences resulted in the Tears of Eseliana largely forgetting that the mage-priest of the people is neither male nor female, instead partially confusing that role with that of the mother-mage, both being absolutely forbidden under the religion of the Valor Alliance. Outside the pressures of the Valor Alliance and the counter-reaction provoked by them, the Kindred of the Sea have generally permitted male or female mages who have no interest in marriage and have forsworn marriage (and this must be out of a genuine lack of interest) to take the role of the mage-priest of the people in the absence of one who is truly without gender or sex.
The Kindred of the Sea believe that all life comes from the sea, and that the sea lives in all life, conflating blood with the salt ocean. Thus, they believe that all life is connected and thus all are kin. Even the sky, for the sky carries the water that comes off the ocean to replenish the life that comes out of the ocean, and from the sky the water returns to the ocean. They have a great reverence for the Gates of Heaven (the Polar Lights) considering them to be the visible manifestation of the pathway or gates of the world of spirits. They prefer to bury their dead at sea, especially under the new moon, and the rites of farewell do not focus on the living mourning the departed spirit, but rather on assuring the departed spirit that she is free to go on to the life of spirits and need not mourn the living, for all are connected and this return to the ocean is a part of the natural order of life and her friends and companions will follow soon.
The Kindred of the Sea are the only people to exist, for a time, on both Areaer and Alaer.