Almost every people or race of the world marks the passage of the days, seasons, and years in some fashion. Sages of Arkcanus and a dozen other kingdoms carefully chronicle the history and happenings in the Roll of Years. Even the warcallers of unlettered orc tribes have been known to compose chants and drumming to record the days and the deeds of their chieftains.
Hours of the Day
Accurate timepieces are generally very rare, and most people break up the day into a number of ‘sections’ – dawn, morning, highsun (or highnoon, or just noon), afternoon, dusk, evening, midnight, and deadhour. Dozens of regional variations of these exist, causing no end of confusion for travelers.
These divisons are arbitrary – one person’s highsun may be another’s afternoon – but local customs dictate the average length of each section. Each of these periods lasts anywhere from 1-4 hours, so highsun is generally accounted to be the middle of the day and an hour or so on either side.
Few of the realms have cause to measure an hour with any degree of accuracy. People are used to gauging time by intuition, the movement of the sun, and the activity of the world around them. Two merchants may decide to show up at a particular tavern at dusk, and chances are that they will arrive within 15-20 minutes of each other.
In large cities, the tolling of temple bells replaces this more casual approach to time. Several major faiths attempt to measure time more accurately – adepts of Meckane the Artificer treasure their mechanical clocks and delight in sounding them for all to hear. Valonarites assign acolytes to watch sundials, carefully adjusted by years of observation of the sun’s movement in the sky. Traditionally, the hours are numbered from 1 to 12 twice, and the bells sound once for each hour on the hour. Thus, “twelve bells” is interchangable with “midnight” or “highsun”, depending on the context.
Day and Night
The world’s days are 24 hours long, divided into day and night by the rising and setting of the sun. In southern lands such as Halskora, the length of day and night does not vary much with the seasons, and tend to be around equal in length. In the north, days are much longer during the winter seasons – Midwinter Day in Northmere (a city in the Free Lands) sees little more than 8 hours of sunlight, but may see up to 16 at Midsummer.
Ten days comprise a week, also known as a tenday, or, less commonly, as a ride. The individual days are not given names, but are rather referred to by number as: “first-day” “second-day”, and so on.
Each year of 365 days is divided into 12 months of 30 days, and each of these months can then be divided into three tendays. Five special days fall between the months; these annual holidays mark the seasons or the changing of the seasons.
These months may be seen as roughly corresponding to those of the Gregorian calendar.
|–||Feast of the Night|
Five times a year, the annual holidays are observed either as festivals or days of rest in most every civilized land. Each seasonal festival is celebrated differently according to the tradions of the land and the particular holiday of note.
- Midwinter: Nobles and monarchs greet the halfway point of winter with a feast day that they call the High Feast of Winter; traditionally, it is a night of high-spirited revel, designed to drive out the cold. The common folk enjoy the celebration a bit less – among them it is commonly called Deadwinter Day, noted mainly as a day to shelter inside for the halfway point of winter, to recover for the hard times still to come.
- Thawtide: The official beginning of spring is a day of peace and rejoicing. Even if snow still covers the ground, clerics, nobles, and other wealthy folk make a point of hanging out flowers grown in special rooms within temples and houses. They distribute the flowers among the people, who wear them or cast them upon the ground as bright offerings to the deities who summon the summer.
- Midsummer: Midsummer night is a time of feasting and music and love. It is a night where acquaintances turn into dalliances, courtships turn into betrothals, and the deities themselves are said to take part by ensuring good weather for feasting and frolicking out of doors. Bad weather on this night is taken as an omen of extremely ill fortune to come.
- Harvesttide: This holiday of feasting to celebrate the autumn harvest also marks a time of journeys. Emissaries, pilgrims, adventurers, and anyone else eager to make speed traditionally leave on their journeys the following day – before the worst of the mud clogs the tracks and the rain freezes to snow.
- Feast of the Night: The Feast of the Night celebrates ancestors and the honored dead. Stories of ancestors’ exploits mix with the legends of gods until it can be hard to tell one from the other. Wine and food flow freely on this night.
Once every four years, Swordmeet is added to the calendar as a “leap day” immediately following Midsummer night. Swordmeet is a day of open council between the people and their rulers. It is a day for making or renewing pacts and for proving oneself in tournaments. Those not seeking advancement treat the elite’s tournaments, duels, and trials of magical prowess as welcome additions to the holiday’s theatrical and musical entertainments. Festivals on this day range from the somber to the outrageous.
Almost every land and race has its own preferred system for marking the passing years. The traditions of the major calendar, known as Starfall Reckoning (or SR), and Roll of Years is said to have been passed down to the humans by the elves.
Charsilans measure years from the foundtion of their empire, when Charsil the Phoenix-Mage ripped Cormythir the World Tree assunder, using a piece of its ancient heartwood to mark the site of his people’s new life nearly 600 years ago.
Some draconic calendars are reputed to stretch back more than 10,000 years, although few dragons care about something as mundane as the scholarly accounting of events that even the oldest dragons alive today do not remember.
The calendar against which most are compared is Starfall Reckoning (SR), marked by the treaty signed between the elves of Cormythir and the humans of the Starfall Sea that led to the rise of the realm of Selian. Starfall Reckoning was the first human calendar the Elven Court reconciled with its own ages-old calendar, and thus became widespread anywhere elves and humans lived in peace.
The Roll of Years
Very few of the common folk bother with musty calendars and meaningless numbers. Instead, years are known by names, written down in the Roll of Years.