Ilael

Though the islands are generally marked on maps as ‘Ilael’, the people are a seagoing culture and the islands themselves are only sparsely inhabited.  The Ilael spend almost their entire lives on ships, going onto land only to trade and resupply.  Ships that hug the mainland are generally left alone, but the Ilael consider the open sea to be their territory.  Those that cross it must pay tithes for the right, or risk being taken by Ilael ships.

Ilael is a matriarchal society, ruled by the Queen of the Sea.  Admirals and shamans are always female, though all other positions including captain are equally open to men and women, though male captains are rare due to various aspects of Ilael’s culture.  The few that exist are usually the husbands of admirals.  The queen’s husband is a king and does outrank admirals, but it is the queen who rules Ilael.  The water gives life, as a woman gives life, and thus the waves can only be ruled by a woman.

Despite their far ranging ways, the Ilael are a surprisingly united and close-knit cultures.  Ships take almost any excuse to gather together.  It is discouraged, though not entirely unheard of, to marry within your own crew, thus courtships among the Ilael are often whirlwind things undertaken in such meetings.  A man is considered to join his wife’s family, and heritage is passed along the maternal line.  In theory, anyone who proves their worth can climb the ranks and become a captain.  In practice, however, captaincy is often a matter of inheritance.  Whoever is lower ranked joins the other’s crew, but when ranks are equal the man is expected to join the woman’s crew.  This is custom, however, rather than law, and exceptions are not unheard of.  Ultimately, the decision of who joins a crew is up to the captain.  The head of the family is the wife, and the marriage ceremony consists of her claiming her husband as hers.

The actual islands are heavily forested, and those that dwell there are shipbuilders.  The islands are protected by reefs and straits that function almost as a labyrinth, wrecking ships that do not know how to pass them safely.  To get a ship, a prospective captain must prove themselves worthy and make an offering to the builders.  Sometimes the builders send prospective captains on specific quests, as is common for members of the royal line.

Each ship is expected to be self-supporting, and a captain that cannot manage this can be stripped of their rank via a vote of either two admirals or a dozen other captains.  Others can be demoted by their captain.  There is a considerable disgrace to being demoted, and captains that lose their ships by any means often commit suicide due to the shame.  Captains are known for not leaving sinking ships, preferring that they and their vessel ‘die together’.

Funeral rites involve being buried at sea, and the Ilael will go to great lengths to recover the corpses of those of their kin that die upon land so that they may be interred properly below the waves.  They are born on the water and prefer to die on the water.  Those that die on land and cannot be returned to the sea are burned, in the hopes the smoke will become cloud and return their kin to the ocean as rain.  Actually burying an Ilael is a good way to turn their kin and crew’s vengeance upon you.

They do not have ‘gods’, but practice a form of shamanism.  Each ship has a shaman that serves the captain as advisor and healer.  On certain matters, the captain is expected to defer to the shaman, and it is common for captain and shaman to be related.

Most Ilael speak multiple languages so as to facilitate trade, but they have their own language as well.

Officially, they do not keep slaves and look down upon those who do.  If the Ilael serve, it is willingly.  However, the lowest ranked members of ships are often indistinguishable from slaves in how they are expected to obey as well as how they can be punished.  The Ilael point out that they aren’t slaves though, because everyone, even the Queen herself, once started at that rank and they are all expected to rise out of it.

The people of Ilael are dark, almost black-skinned.  They have little to no body hair, and tend to wear their hair cropped short.  As befits a people that live on the sea, they are all strong swimmers and known to be able to hold their breath and dive down deeper than other people.  Some even claim the Ilael have gills and webbed feet.  They have little concern about nudity among their own, though when trading or otherwise near land they conform to the local customs so as not to create a ruckus.

Advertisements

Unitafels

One of the biggest differences between the people of the Unitafels and the Wilders is that the tribes of the Unitafels will kill you if you mistake them for Wilders.

The Unitafels is a harsh land except for the areas directly around the lakes known as the Three Jewels.  It’s a volatile area, prone to volcanoes and earthquakes, full of rocky outcroppings and ravines.  It doesn’t rain often, and when it does, it floods.

It is sparsely populated, and the people that dwell within can best be culturally described as ‘folks even the Wilders don’t want’.  They are savage and practice rites such as headhunting and cannibalism.

What territory is The Unitafels is somewhat up for debate.  Some maps put the Three Jewels into the borders of Natiel and confine The Unitafels to the badlands of the west, but they are nomadic enough to be encountered well into the territory of Tebotas, Natiel, and even Akobul, and their area that can be called a city is located on one of the islands in the Second Jewel.  It is known human sacrifice is practiced there, and there are are buildings within the city that have walls made of human bone.

Little is known of why they sacrifice humans, as what few scholars have tried to ask typically have ended up sacrificed.  The Unitafels have their own language, and seem to disdain speaking the language of others.

What captives escape sacrifice or other dark practices are sold into Tebotas.
There are many old ruins to be found in the territory of the Unitafels, and it was once a thriving kingdom.  Legend holds that a dragon appeared, and rather than slay it the Lord of the Unitafels ordered human sacrifices be made in an attempt to placate it and use it against his enemies.  The dragon, having developed a taste for human flesh, laid waste before vanishing into darkness once more.

Manisar

Manisar is perhaps the oldest continually existing nation.  Other nations have been conquered, reformed, and altered through the years, but Manisar endured even when it was ruled by the Wilderfolk.

There are two types of people in Manisar: Manisarians and slaves.  Manisar’s economy rests on the slave trade.  Their armies are made up of highly trained slave warriors, and every person laboring in their fields is a slave.  The average citizen of Manisar is a slave.  Some suggest there are only a few thousand actual Manisarians.

They buy, train, and sell slaves to other nations, even nations that supposedly don’t have slavery.  Slave revolts are put down brutally.  If a slave kills a master, all that master’s slaves are killed in retaliation.  The usual method is to herd them into the slave barracks and then set the barracks ablaze, followed by crucifying any missed by the fire.

Slaves from Manisar are actually preferred among slave owners, as the Manisar have become quite good over the years at training them.  A slave trader’s reputation is dependent upon the quality of slaves they sell, and thus they take considerable pride in their work of breaking and training human beings to the point that a Manisarian slave is more or less completely brain-washed into enjoying whatever purpose they are trained toward.

In many ways, Manisar is actually quite impressive.  It’s buildings are architectural wonders, with towers that soar gracefully into the heights.  Actual Manisarians live rich, pampered lives, surrounded by comfort, and barely have to lift their hands to see to their own needs.  They make a show of being indolent, but are generally considered to be very cunning and often ruthless individuals.  Negotiating with a Manisarian always entails risk, and if you aren’t careful, they’ll end up owning everything, including you.  They have a tendency to simply take what they want from other lands, and thus their culture varies depending on what is ‘in fashion’ at the moment.

There are a lot of religions in Manisar due to slaves bringing theirs with them when taken.  Thus Manisar has a hodgepodge of temples and shrines.  However, actual Manisarians tend to either not be religious or to simply practice whatever religion benefits them most at the moment.

Actual Manisarians speak their own language that they use to speak to each other, and they refuse to teach it to others to prevent the advantage having their own private language gives them.  They all are also versed in the common tongue.  Slaves are taught the common tongue if they don’t already know it, and discouraged from speaking any other language to prevent plotting.

The Wild Lands

The Wilderfolk are not a single culture, or even a single people.  No one is entirely certain how many clans exist in the Wildlands.  The clans range in size from clan Draak of Darodelf, which rivals some countries in size and scope, down to clans of only a few dozen individuals.  As they also tend to be rugged individualists, it is hard to pin down exactly what their culture is.  They kill each other as readily as they do non-Wilders.

There are some constants.  A child is not named until they have drawn breath for ten days.  The rite of passage into adulthood occurs at age twelve, when the child must prove themselves worthy to their leader in order to gain the right to own property.  Raids are a common means to undertake this rite, with the child gathering some friends together to go prove themselves as warriors.  It’s considered less glorious, but they can also accomplish the rite by proving their skill at a craft.  There are some that never do actually achieve adulthood, but these usually end up becoming slaves at some point.  Once a leader approves an act or offering, the newly minted adult gains their sigil and can use it to mark what is their’s.  Sigils are usually, but not always, passed along family lines, with families identifying with particular symbols for generations.

Wilders keep slaves.  They have no compunction about taking members of rival clans as slaves.  The rights a slave has in Wilder society depends heavily on the status of their master.  ‘Untended’ slaves are often at the mercy of those around them.  As long as they aren’t damaged, anyway.  If a slave is damaged their master has the right to seek recourse.  If a slave ‘provokes’, they can be punished with up to a hundred lashes.  A slave can earn or purchase their freedom, though the price to do so varies.  Ultimately, the price is set by the master, though a slave can bring a case to a clan leader that a price is unjustifiably high, in which case the master must produce someone actually willing and able to pay that price for the slave or lower the price.

Wilders that cannot take care of themselves often have little recourse other than to sell themselves into slavery.  There are no beggars in the Wildlands not because there is no poverty, but because the Wilders find such a notion to be utterly absurd.  Anyone begging them for anything would likely just find themselves taken as a slave if they are useful, and killed or abandoned if they are not.  It is expected that a master keep their slaves tended, and a master that does not could find themselves enslaved.  There are no ‘orphans’, an orphaned child is usually claimed by another within the clan.  A person cannot be enslaved until they reach the age of twelve.  However, sickly or otherwise weak children are often simply abandoned to die of exposure.

Otherwise, they are a rather egalitarian society.  There are no real gender roles, and a woman can lead a raid as easily as a man can.  Wilders tend not to care who sleeps with who.  They don’t really have a concept of ‘legitimacy’.  If a parent claims a child, that child is theirs, and even adoption is relatively informal.  While they do practice marriage, the monogamy of a marriage is entirely the business of those involved.  Marriage is a means of cementing ties, not a dictation of who sleeps with who and there are a married individuals in the Wildlands who’ve never slept beneath the same roof.  Homosexuality and bisexuality are not remarked upon, and a person is treated as whatever gender they claim to be.  Wilders tend to take other Wilders as individuals, though they do tend to lump outsiders together.

As they are not unified, they have no standing army.  However, anyone actually trying to invade runs the risk of bringing the entire horde down on themselves, as the Wilders love nothing more than a good brawl.  The Wildlands themselves get their name for a reason, as a good portion of the land is harsh and dangerous.  A fact of which the Wilders are rather proud.  They have a certain level of contempt for the soft folk that dwell in the soft lands.

Wilders fight for glory, and have little military discipline.  They raid in surprise attacks, fighting as individuals rather than as cohesive units.  Few can stand against Wilders in small skirmishes, but against larger, disciplined troops, Wilders tend to break easily and retreat.  They wear light armor, preferring to stay mobile.

While they do have gods, they are as lax about religious practices as they are about virtually everything else.  Their gods are more ancestral heroes than actual deities, and they don’t really have much in the way of temples or even religious practices.  There are household shines, but those are more a matter of respect than prayer.  The idea of begging favor from the gods is something Wilders have trouble grasping.  Gods are more something you show off too rather than something you expect aid from.  And the more showing off you do, the more you please the gods, and the better chance you have of joining them.

Wilders tend to be dark haired and dark eyed, and are prone to being fairly large and strong.  The average height for a Wilder man is over six feet, and the average woman is only an inch or two shorter.  There are variations among their dress, but most wear leather vests that show their clan markings and the accomplishments of an individual.  Few Wilders are literate, and most make do with a form of pictographs when knowledge must be conveyed in a visual format.

Clan Draak – Clan Draak is a nation unto itself, and some confuse this clan with Wilder society as a whole.  This is in part because the leader of Clan Draak, the dragon king/queen, claims to be the ruler of the Wilders and there is rarely another individual powerful enough to put lie to that claim.  Clan Draak has it’s own nobility and chiefs within the clan itself, and is possibly the oldest of the clans.  It was Clan Draak that united the Wilders and once conquered the world, though that was a thousand years ago.  Those that see only Darodelf might even mistake the Wilders for a civilized people.

Solsthriem

Solsthriem borders the icy reaches, and in some ways sits apart from the rest of the world.  The only real threat to them is the Wilders, as they are situated far enough away that other lands don’t really bother with them.

Two hundred years ago, the southern half of Solsthriem was part of Thatela, and the northernmost part of was a land of outlaws and hill folks that had been driven out of the more civilized lands to eek out a living on their own.  They often turned to banditry.  During the War of Two Kings, King Deniel and his men fled into the hills.  Duke Gautier convinced a group of bandits to act as spies and scouts, and after their actions turned the tide in Deniel’s favor, King Deniel offered to pardon any and all of those living in the hills that joined his forces.  The resulting force of skirmishers and guerillas drove King Alessio back into what is now Thatela.

Deniel knew that he could defend the land he held, but continuing to try to take Thatela from his twin would ultimately end in Deniel’s defeat.  Rather than throw his people away, he chose to forge the lands he held into the nation that is Solsthriem.

Culturally, Thatela and Solsthriem remain quite similar.  Every couple generations, Thatela tries to make a play to recover it’s ‘lost province’ and the two nations war for a couple years.  There are quite a few villages along the border that aren’t entirely sure which country they are actually in.

Solsthriem is not as wealthy as Thatela, and thus does lag behind a little in terms of advances.  They have a spire and magi, though it is but a shadow of those in other nations.  That doesn’t stop Solsthriem’s people from being patriots.  The people of Solsthriem still cling to the ideals espoused by King Deniel.  Chivalry, generosity, and honor are points of pride with them, and they can be quite prickly when either are offended.  Knights are expected be exemplars of such ideals, and take oaths to express them.  Some honor those oaths better than others.

Tournaments are a big to-do in Solsthriem, and it is possible for even a poor farmer’s son to participate and win a knighthood.  Many younger sons and lesser lords beggar themselves trying to win in tournaments, but those that do win are lauded as champions and heroes.

It is a very patriarchal society.  A woman does not inherit unless all her male relatives are dead.  The daughters of noble houses have little say in who they get to marry, and their hands are bartered to secure alliances.  Women are expected to be virtuous and chaste, with the men expected in return to uphold the ideals of chivalry and defend said women.  A ‘disgraced’ woman is considered unmarriageable by the upper castes, and such women are all but exiled from their families.  The man that ‘disgraced’ her may escape unscathed, or may find himself at the mercy of her menfolk.  In the best case, he may simply be made to make an honest woman of her.  Or he’s just hunted down and killed.  While it isn’t unheard of for young women to learn to fence as a sport, women do not fight and cannot become knights.

When it comes to sex, they can be rather puritanical.  There are fairly strict nudity taboos, and public displays of affection are frowned upon.  Both men and women’s garments are very modest, and showing too much skin is considered scandalous.  Sex is not a topic of conversation for polite company.  Brothels exist, and everyone carefully pretends they do not.

They inherited their religious practices from Thatela, worshiping the three gods.  However, religion isn’t quite as important in Solsthriem as it is in Thatela, and most Solsthriem practice their religion only casually.