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House Phiarlan is a dragonmarked house known throughout Khorvaire, although they are now based in Sharn, Breland, after their former base of operation in Cyre was destroyed in the Mourning. To the public, Phiarlan is a house of entertainment composed of bards, actors, artists, and acrobats, though in secret it is a house of spies.
While all members of House Phiarlan are elves, not all members carry the Mark of Shadow dragonmark. House Phiarlan includes both the Entertainers Guild and the Artisans Guild, but they also secretly run the Serpentine Table and the Carnival of Shadows. During the Shadow Schism, a portion of House Phiarlan splintered off to form House Thuranni. House Phiarlan's original headquarters were destroyed in Cyre, and they have not created a new headquarters, preferring to stick to the shadows.
House Phiarlan was one of the first dragonmarked houses to form and it can trace its origins back to when the elves rebelled against their giant captors in Xen'drik during the Age of Giants. The first members of House Phiarlan were scouts and bards who raised morale and brought news and information to the scattered elven tribes. When the elves first discovered the island nation of Aerenal, the Phiarlans traveled between settlements as troubadours and mediators. Over time, the Phiarlans mastered the art of trading information and made sure to use the information they had to their advantage. About 25,000 years ago, the Undying Court made its first appearance in Aerenal and out of fear, the Phiarlans were given the task of serving the Sibling Kings as spies in an effort to help maintain order in the land.
At the dawn of the Current Age, around 3200 years ago, the first dragonmarks appeared, including the Mark of Shadow. During this time the dragons were already at war with the elves and the dragonmarked garnered the suspicion of the dragons. When it was revealed that House Vol was in an alliance with dragons, the Sibling Kings and the dragons united in an attempt to exterminate the House. The elves who carried the Mark of Shadow knew it to be unsafe for the dragonmarked in Aerenal so they fled to Khorvaire in an effort to avoid the same fate as House Vol. Upon arriving in the continent, they banded together to form House Phiarlan around 2600 years ago. The House's artistic skills earned them a place within the Five Nations and in time the Serpentine Table offered its expertise to those in power there.
The Last War
During the Last War, which began in 894 YK, House Phiarlan offered its services of spying and intelligence to all nations, refusing to side with anyone. Due to House Phiarlan's secrecy and the fact that they took contracts from all sides, eventually House Phiarlan agents found themselves contracted against each other, which led to conflicting loyalties. The result was a cataclysmic event for Phiarlan named the Shadow Schism, which tore the House apart and led to the creation of Phiarlan's rivals, House Thuranni, who themselves are former members of Phiarlan.
"Phiarlan" is an Elven word that translates roughly to spirit keepers.
House Phiarlan uses two symbols: the heraldic mark of the hydra and the mask of shadows. The mark of the hydra is the house's primary symbol and features a five-headed hydra with a blade resting below it. Four of the heads appear aggressive whilst the other is calm. The symbol represents the artistic divisions within the house and its resilience. The less-popular symbol, the mask of shadows, is usually worn by members as either literal full-sized masks or more subtle badges or jewellery. The mask of shadows is silver in color and has a stylized design.
The members of Phiarlan have held strongly to their traditions. They believe that the greatest treasures of the house are the works of ancient artists. The great works that the house has can normally only be performed by a single person. These heirlooms are handed down by the person who possesses the heirloom, giving it to another worthy individual.
In the past, marrying into House Phiarlan was a rare event that would never occur more than twice in a century. However, the Shadow Schism greatly reduced its membership and bloodline's diversity. Though the House still only accepts elves, it now allows those outside of the dragonmarked families to join. For a candidate to even be considered they must have exceptional artistic talent or equal skill in stealth and subterfuge.
The Five Demesnes
The Demesne of Memory deals with the written word. Phiarlan novelists, playwrights, and poets all study at it. The Phiarlan have a good amount of money thanks to their books, songs, and plays because they have a powerful effect on public opinion. An individual can pay for a Phiarlan author to portray them in a good light or vilify an enemy. Phiarlans are also used as speech writers and many politicians have hired them to improve their image.
As its name suggests, the Demesne of Motion has to do with the art of the body. The art forms studied here are dance, gymnastics, wrestling, mime, contortion, massage, and many more. Phiarlans have mastered many different forms and styles of dance and they are known for their grace and power. Acrobats of the Carnival of Shadows train in this demesne before starting in the Carnival. The Serpentine Table normally take some of the most gifted students of motion for their group.
Phiarlan escorts study the arts of motion and shadow. These elves are used for people that need companionship or to make an impression and the Phiarlan can change their appearance through their magic to appear as anyone the client needs or wants.
The Demesne of Music teaches the arts of sound, song, and instruments, with different styles from all over Eberron. Most Phiarlan learn at this demesne and it is second in popularity only to the Demesne of Shadow.
The Demesne of Shape teaches the different ways of making costumes, sets, props, and instruments. Aesthetic artists, sculptors, painters, and potters also learn at this demesne. The Phiarlans use the skill that they obtained at Aerenal to create many things.
The first Demesne of Shape was located in the city of Atur in Karrnath, but it was taken over by the newly founded House Thuranni. House Phiarlan has reestablished the Demesne of Shape in the Thrane city of Thaliost.
The Demesne of Shadow covers the art of deception. The illusions used in the house's various artforms and plays are learned here. This also serves as the center for verbal arts of deception and coercion, feigned emotion, and role assumption.
The Demesne of Shadow is located in Sharn in Breland. The Demense of Shadow was located in Metrol in Cyre, but with Cyre destroyed in the Mourning, the new Demesne of Shadow has been established in Sharn. With the destruction of the first Demesne of Music, it is the oldest of the Five Demesnes and is the current home of the house matriarch.
- Keith Baker, Bill Slavicsek, & James Wyatt (2004). Eberron Campaign Setting. (Wizards of the Coast), p. ?. ISBN 0-7869-3274-0.
- Keith Baker, Ari Marmell, Michelle Lyons and C.A. Suleiman (2006). Dragonmarked. (Wizards of the Coast), p. ?. ISBN 0-7869-3933-8.
- David Noonan, Ari Marmell, and Robert J. Schwalb (2009). Eberron Player's Guide. (Wizards of the Coast), p. ?. ISBN 0-7869-5100-1.
- James Wyatt and Keith Baker (2009). Eberron Campaign Guide. (Wizards of the Coast), p. ?. ISBN 0-7869-5099-4.