I'll be joining.
It's good to be here. I've looked around, and while I'm by no means sure my ideas completely mesh, I believe I can find some people of quality and substance. This is my first interest check, and indeed, my first group roleplay to be running. I joined this site to seek recourse for my ideas, lest they pile up and become nonsense. Honestly, I could use some advice, too, so any sort of constructive criticism would be helpful. Once this project gets off the ground, it'll be called the Free Company.
Summary of the Setting
The Ring is an idea I've had for what must be a year now. It started as a simple backdrop for me to test the waters of my imagination with, and it's burgeoned into something grander. As of now, it includes two "continents" (I use the term loosely, since they are separated by mere trees populated by hostile tribes), fourteen cultures, and three "species" (four, if you want to be mean to some of the well-adapted human subspecies.)
I've a keen aversion to the way elves, dwarves and orcs are usually handled, and don't include them in my imagination. The same goes for magic. I've done a lot of thinking on how I want my magic to work.
On the surface, the Ring is fairly well like the Earth. The only real differences are that the Ring is set during what would be our ice age: cave lions and cave hyenas harass peasants and plebes, Irish Elk (called "Great Elk" from this point on) roam the massive plains and enterprising people trade in mammoth ivory and the powerful teeth of the woolly rhinoceros, which makes for great pestles.
The primary difference in the Ring is that the peoples therein were crafted not with the idea of communal society in mind, but were instead dreamt of for the purpose of realizing independence and individuality, something foreign in the greater universe. The Ringgoers lack patience for one another, and therefore any sort of tribe, civilization or culture is inherently magical. A culture is kept together by the force of aether-speaking "magicians", whose thoughts, whether they know it or not, soothe and calm the tensions of society. Every village has its aether-magicians, often maintaining (whether falsely, or without their awareness) that they are mere elders. Larger groups cannot be managed by the mere vibrations of one, and therefore Gods were conceived. Because Gods are not by their nature products of the aether, they oppress and refuse the power of aether-magicians, though magicians exist everywhere in earned secrecy. Gods are mascots and representatives of a nation's strengths and ideals, and do not claim to have created the world. Ringgoers, by and large, believe that the Ring is, was, and always will be. The tendency in the Ring is for peoples to organize in only small family groups, and in much of the Ring that is so. Elsewhere, barbarian tribes have taken hold, held together by the powers of shamans and other magicians. In civilizations, the Gods are maintained as secret, not advertised to those outside. In the Ring, when a nation knows your Gods, they know your nation, and this gives them an edge in warfare. The conflicts of nations are both trials of arms and the metaphysical strugglings of their mascot-titans. By knowing an enemy's God you can learn the enemy nation's next moves. Therefore, Ringgoer societies are immensely xenophobic, and do not accept foreigners, or cultured slaves.
Civilizations in the Ring feel a strong distance from the wooded lands which barbarians populate, and they chop down trees habitually, as the powerful barbarians tend to remain in the woods, where rare, magic beasts known as White Stags roam, repopulating trees. Wolves roam the forests, but the plains, both manmade and otherwise, are populated by big cats and hyenas. The civilizations use selectively bred hyenas rather than wolves and the wolf is by and large considered barbaric. Common pack animals include yaks, aurochs, horses, donkeys, and mammoths. Mammoths are allowed to roam relatively freely, because they trample down the soil, making it difficult for trees to then grow. Few societies have tamed mammoths for war. Wood is an extremely valuable trade resource because of the habit of chopping down any and all developing forests.
The most developed "civilizations" so far are set around a massive semisaline lake perhaps the size of the Mediterranean, known only as the Tear, for the light salt in its waters. Around the Tear are many cultures: that of the unified nation of Madzarchen, the republican island of Kuline, the wide-ranging vanguard state of Great Calulaia, the migratory-yet-sedentary nation of Holy Nissur, the many city-states of Sulieos, the Reef Kingdom and their allies of the sea, the semi-aquatic Lor-kayss tribes, the mound-dwelling, slave-ruled state of the Men of Haugrtalfheimr, the merchant oligarchy of Kerimpal, the authority-hating Wonygs, and the Desolated Lands. I've listed them in relative order of military importance. Inactive and unknown is the Rusalka City, the Mindslaves, and the Freemind-Wendigo alliance.
Despite the xenophobic, heavily communal and groupthought-influenced civilizations of the Tear, there are those who roam between nations. They are the Free People, few in number, strong in will. Free People are the outcasts of civilizations, those who were not invoked into the culture, the slum-dogs and refugees, the orphans of war, or the barbarian, from the woodlands ringing the Tear. They roam freely, allowed to remain only as long as they cause no trouble. Sometimes, Free People get together to form mercenary troops, offering their services to empires in need. Free People worship only one god for unity to recognize one another, and stay scattered so that no one realizes. Theirs is the Spirit of One, the independent, the mighty, those who do not need for tribe. Ironically, the Free People rely on this God to give them the unity required to make do and be provided with goods.
Our story would begin in the Desolated Lands, where life is nasty, brutish and short. Free People flock there, and the place is home to many of them, though they leave in time for greener pastures. First finding one another, and then forming a mercenary troop, our group's adventures would see them travelling the slave routes to smuggle out escaped property, interacting with and guarding the fabled and mysterious Rusalky, gathering new friends and faces across the whole of the Tear. Our enemy? Poverty, casualty, domination. Our friend? Crime, the downtrodden, will.
PostambleTo form a good mercenary troop, one requires not just faith in the Spirit of One, whose interpretations vary wildly, but also magic. We would need a shamanic figure, a magician of some talent, able to soothe the minds of others both through talk and the opening up of their ability to conceive of minds opposite their own.
We would need a niche, a specialty, and warriors to fill out that role, men and women who know their craft and can do it with reliability. We would need camp followers, to manage the inventories, to provide goods, people who have learned from important stories where those who would help Free People may be found and how they may be contacted. All these duties are important in the managing of a Free Company. All in all, I suspect a good roleplay would require four or five other people.
The roleplay will be sweeping and battle scenes will be aplenty, though so will simple life on the road, and the intrigues of smuggling goods from cities to ourselves, and the discovery of enemies and terrors. The Ring is a world that has long since mastered medieval warfare, and it shows, I like to think. Please, do contact me if you want to know more than I've explained here. Below is information pertaining to the many Tear cultures, which I shall expand as I go on, mostly to entertain myself. Since it's a rather fleshed out setting, I'd be totally pleased to help people make their character sheets.
Madzarchen refers to itself as being a miracle state. In the now-distant past, the Lowlands people, whose name has been forgotten, warred constantly with those of the Mountains, who've also made it their business to forget. Mountain people are potent warriors, while Lowlands people had a great deal of culture to them, and wealth to accompany it. An early Saint of Madzarchen, whose name has also been lost, met each side, and reconciled them. The Mountains claim that this saint inspired the King of the Lowlands, Valere, to beseech his superiors, accepted Mountain Gods, and sought to gain legitimacy through Mountain means. They view the Valere in light of someone who got over his Lowlands pride and accepted the superiority of his neighbors, marrying two cultures together, something almost unheard of in the Ring. The Lowlands have a different take, and see Valere as being one who assured the Lowlands of safety, while sacrificing little. The end result is the same. Valere defeated a minor Mountain force, and sent word to the great clans of the Mountains that he would wish to speak with them. He proposed that the Lowlands will accept Mountain Gods, and that Mountain people would forever retain their sovereignty within their own lands, and that he would make them rich in campaigns that they, themselves, would lead, while the people would be united under the same spirit as the Mountains, securing safety. He would marry a Queen, elected from the Mountains, and each Lowland King would depend on the authority vested in her to lead both. Miraculously, the Mountains accepted his proposal, themselves weary of projecting their strength into the sprawling Lowlands. Each nation forgot their own names (yet another "miracle" tied into this saga) and united under a wholly made up one: Madzarchen. Madzarchen means nothing, but the common opinion is that it simply means "Miracle".
Madzarchen is the premier military power in the Ring, historically having conquered the nation of Kuline and currently possessing some islands and holdings. Madzarchen's society in the Lowlands is feudal and patriarchal, emphasizing the male role the Lowlands has, while the Mountains are clannish, and matriarchal, dominated by the political intrigues of the women of the Mountain houses. Both Lowlands and Mountains are known for being haughty, though the Lowlands cloak theirs in treaty and legality, and the Mountains in the affairs of honor and martial potency. Mountain men consider it unmanly not to listen to and obey the advice of their wives and female political superiors, and make it their business to protect the honor of the Mountain women. The capital city is Vulonne Hee, a city astride an immensely wide river from which their shipbuilding comes. Madzarchen has no strong trade dedication, though a ready supply of "soul-metals" are extracted, frequently dredged up from semispherical harbor that an Earthling would recognize as an impact crater. Madzarchen, like most cultures of the Ring, is insulatory. The Spirit of Miracles is a prominent God, as are the Laborer, the Judiciar, the Living Line, and the Moving Wall.
Madzarchen's armor technology is on par with the 13th century; steel lamellar armor is common, as are high-capped, steeply angled helmets with metal flags adorned. Madzarchen prides itself on ingenious battle tactics centered around the wagon fort and the use of siege weapons on the battlefield. A Madzarchen general (almost always of the Mountains) tries to lead an army consisting of a viable siege corps, some heavily armored Mountain infantrymen, a goodly amount of crossbows, some chariots, heavy Lowlands cavalry, and moghavarr javelinmen from the lower houses of the Mountains. When approaching or marching, a Madzarchen army will strive to march divided and diffuse, while their javelinmen pin and skirmish enemy scouting forces, eventually forcing the enemy to pursue. By then, a Madzarchen army will have found a good defensible position, set its wagons into three or four wagon forts consisting of two concentric rings, and assumed defensive position. As the enemy advance, they find themselves faced with these imposing defenses from which devastating triple-bow siege ballistas fire, while infantrymen fill the gaps, and crossbows fire both in both repeating and arbalest varieties. Nigh-unassailable, the enemy cannot resist being pinned down by missile fire while their siege weapons are destroyed by iron ballista darts and their cavalry are made useless by the circled wagons. Infantry can easily withdraw into the wagon forts should they need to. Secondary in this whole approach are the cavalrymen and the javelins: if necesary, cavalry will intercept or hammer-strike an infantry charge. Once the enemy are broken the wagon forts are opened, chariots are brought forward, and javelinmen ride them as taxis after the pursuing enemy. Despite this, Madzarchen generals can still wage war in the conventional way without the wagon fortresses, and use this to bring battle to the enemy when other means have failed, or when they must react swiftly. Madzarchen armies are well trained and well disciplined, and often are responsible for the building of roads. Moghavarr have, at times, been able to deter and defeat enemy cavalry charges, given the right battlefield conditions.
Madzarchen's navy was once great, but is no longer so. The Mountains, lacking any experience in naval affairs, have slowly over time sought to diminish the navy to enhance their political power. By now, Madzarchen's naval forces are considered second rate. They do still, however, boast potent galleys covered in rhinoceros hide and majestic, siege-weapon armed tower ships. The real problem is not the quality of the vessels themselves, but the fact that little effort is paid to providing adequate admiralty for them as a result of internal conditions.
As a society, Madzarchen draws some inspiration in greater or lesser part from the following: Medieval Britannic relations and the formation of Great Britain, Visigothic Spain/Catalans, Mesopotamia, Tang/Song China, Hussites and Muscovy. At current, Madzarchen is ruled by King Thibaulde of the Lowlands and his wife High Queen Ena Favolise of the Mountains. Physically, Madzarchens range from shorter, olive-skinned Lowlands folk to the tall, thin-haired and high-cheeked Mountainers. Lowlands folk have thicker, fuller features, whereas Mountain people tend to be drawn and a bit gaunt in the face. Some Mountain men wear beards, which they keep well-trimmed and rarely braided. Madzarchen sports no tradition of female warriors, but has an occasional warrior Queen. Architecturally, Madzarchen is Romanesque, though larger buildings often have broad pyramidal structure in the roof. Madzarchen almost invariably uses stone for their buildings, and considers wood as a building material to be barbaric.
Republic of Kuline
Kuline is ancient, though its people are not fully aware of it. Modern-day Kuline was born out of the colonization and conquest of its then-tribal society by Madzarchen, and its urban culture is heavily influenced by the sprawling style of Madzarchen cities. Madzarchen withdrew several hundred years ago in the face of cultural revolution spurred by nearly pristine Kuline revivalists in the wilderness, and the new state adopted a republic government. Madzarchen society is still divided between semi-tribal people in the outskirts and some islands off the main island's coast and the more literary, political culture of the cities. Madzarchen has few great heroes in its history as most of them are maintained by the traditionalists only, whereas the cities tend to dislike all attempts to write off history to the acts of a few great men and women. The senate is much more fond of thinking in terms of the natural resilience and potency of Kuline's culture. Kuline's last two rulers stripped the senate of much power, however. There's little information from the Palace itself, but the military tradition is largely considered responsible. Kuline believes in a sort of equality between men and women, both legally and in terms of social roles. Much of the urban culture centers around pride in their "revolutionary" tendencies as opposed to the memory of "repressive" Madzarchen and its mercantilist policies. Bitter senatorial disputes around legal issues once marked Kuline's government, but no more. The new government is directly autocratic and based on power over the military as opposed to the elected senate. All people owning land on which they employ at least twenty other people are entitled to vote, though Kuline is now under the Principate led by a hereditary Prince.
Kuline is a rapidly rising military power in the Ring, hinging around its strong tradition of professional soldiers. Historically they have been impartial, but that is no longer the case. Kuline views itself as being opposed to Madzarchen and what Madzarchen represents, and to that end employs and accepts trade from anyone and everyone. They have gone to great strides to increase the power of their military, and Rijeka, the capital, is host to Kerimpallan trade delegations and leaders from about the Tear to assure geopolitical interests. Kuline has a well-developed martial culture and theoretically could employ a rather large militia from both its male and female populace. The greatest Kuliner resource is its abundance of metals, though it doesn't trade away anything of great potential value to states it does not see as helping its interests. In spite of this new settled geopolitical view of the Principate the revolutionary spirit is far from dead: the prince has not managed to bring the revolutionary Nuracan the Bastard in. The respect for revolutionaries is well-entrenched in Kuline's culture, and many who know of Nuracan will not speak of it, so that he is protected by silence of the mass. Foremost among Kuline's gods is the Spirit of Revolution, who can only be won over by "fighting the enemies of the People." Virtually anyone who claims to be doing that can rely on a certain amount of support.
In terms of technology, Kuline shines in its armor. Bolstered by the rapid and easy acquisition of high quality ores, the officers of Kuline frequently wear full-body plate armor, whereas common soldiery wear coat of plate. Short stabbing swords are the most common, but Kuline also sports some dedicated spears. The most common ranged weapon is the javelin, but Kuline's javelinmen are not the famed moghavarr of the Madzarchen. However, they are able skirmishers, easily able to do their duties. Kuline also sports potent and well-trained archers, but they are not a primary focus as the sword and shield is. Archers are meant to only cover the advance of the infantry. The Kuline approach to war is aggressive and offensive: the infantry march in tight formation with large shields and then the shield wall closes and cuts through the enemy with detached discipline and sword-thrusts. The discipline of Kuline's armies is excellent. On occasion, Kuline musters elephant cavalry using mastodons, though they largely only serve to pull large loads.
With an abundance of timber and an island nation, it is no small surprise that Kuline has modernized its navy along Kerimpal lines. A recent miraculous victory over Madzarchen has made it dominant over its old enemy at sea.
Kuline's inspiration can be traced more than a bit to Republican Rome and the Principate period, though the strong respect for revolutionary spirit is as far as I know original. Kuliners are a dark-skinned, short and squat people (see Negritos). Kuliners are beardless and cannot grow them, except for some with Madzarchen blood in the cities. A woman in Kuline can very well do whatever she likes, with few exceptions. Kuline's architecture ranges from sprawling wooden houses for the extended family in the countryside to almost directly Madzarchen-style cityscapes. Madzarchen is ruled by the son of Hityer Pich, the last Prince, whose name is Thaksin Pich.
Great Calulaia is a nation of convenience. When barbarians invaded from the woodlands, they found it convenient to settle down and adapt a culture with the people they now ruled. The common folk find it convenient to allow them to stay and ward off further barbarian incursions. The barbarians in turn took the initiative to form into a nobility of their entire people and set the men living in separate camps, that they might move rapidly about the country. The cities were given a great deal of freedom to manage themselves, so they could focus on martial tasks. This arrangement works out well for everyone, and Great Calulaia's culture benefits from a people unburdened by the repressions of nobility, while benefiting from their protection. The noblewomen of Great Calulaia are town guards, by and large, and form the country's only consistent infantry corps, because they do not accompany the men. Socially, women tend to very rarely be military commanders of whole armies except in specialty campaigns. Noblemen, on the other hand, are cavalrymen and are the ones travelling the country while the women secure cities. The Calulaia were the original barbarian tribe that came in and conquered, but they have since evolved different strategies and methods. Since the nobility do not really do much actual administration, there is a strong civic culture among the cities hinging on management by mayors. The mayors largely are unable to seek power, because any attempt to solidify a personal or familial claim to the office is put down by the nobility sooner rather than later. Therefore the cities elect their leaders, with each city having different categories of people who may vote. The primary cultural mark of Great Calulaia is the bitterness and resentment found between the men and women, both empowered, but with one ostensibly second class.
Great Calulaia refers to itself as the vanguard state of much of the Tear, because it is they who possess valuable border zones against the forests and the barbarians therein. Because they selflessly protect their own territories and because this also benefits others, Great Calulaia believes it has the right to raid and take wealth from other cultures on the Tear. Great Calulaia is also sometimes paid tribute by other nations. They have a more negative relationship with others than even the xenophobic Tear-cultures find normal, and regularly raid whomever they can reach. Great Calulaia has no official capital and haughtily refuse to keep diplomats in other nations, in favor of simply riding to the borders and demanding to speak. The greatest resources of Great Calulaia are their shaggy horses, their trained mammoths, and their cannons. Great Calulaia inherited cannons from their predecessors and hold them in the same reverence; the maintenance of cannons and the making of gunpowder are performed by the state clergy. They worship the Gunpowder God, a great golem of the stuff whose right leg drinks from a pile of saltpetre, and whose left leg drinks from a pile of sulfur. The Gunpowder God's voice is thunder and in its arms is a powder horn. Great Calulaia nobles wear perfume made to smell like gunpowder: unburnt gunpowder scent represents ambition, and burnt gunpowder represents victory. Great Calulaia's armies are managed by the rulers of individual clans united by the culture of their nation, each themselves a military commander, and with no distinctive leader for the entirety of the armed forces. Sometimes this can result in indecisiveness in the wake of decisive victories.
Great Calulaia is the only country with cannons, and also the only country with more range in artillery than Madzarchen. In terms of armor, Great Calulaians prefer leather laminar armors of varying complexity, though they also sometimes reinforce their armor with laminar steel plates. Great Calulaia lancers wield extremely long (twenty-foot) lances, cavalry sabers and battle-axes, or even bows and war hammers. Their melee equipment is scarcely standardized, but their lances are, all cavalry but gunners wielding lances. Individual units may be drafted up to maintain regular types of equipment. The primary missile weapon of Great Calulaia's cavalry corps is the hand culverin, stuffed with shot and used en masse in wide lines to tear through enemy infantry formations from close range in anticipation of a charge. When Great Calulaia brings their cannons to the field (an uncommon occurence, and scarcely taken during brief raids) their armies are forced to march at a sixth of the rate, and they summon up Calulaia women and draft city-dwellers in whatever equipment they can muster (some cities are wealthier than others, and a few even have martial traditions). The cannons fire exploding iron missiles, and smaller ones can fire clusters of arrows and grapeshot. Infantry groups are defended with as many cannons as possible, and the drafting and use of wooden cannons is not uncommon. Women wield the halberd and short swords, conscripts have nonstandard infantry, armor, and equipment. Conscripts usually carry and craft wooden defenses for themselves. Mammoth-mounted cannons can also be used, though rarely. The army regularly marches with herds of reindeer and horses and does not maintain supply lines except when infantry and cannons are present. All cannons are maintained and fired by clergymen except when mounted. Hand-cannons are wielded by clerical Terror Bands, whose armor is tubular, sometimes wood and leather and always painted cannon-black. The more high-status Terror Band women and men will wear iron or steel laminar. Terror Band hand-cannons are built to be used as clubs as well, and have one end that is a military pick, and the rear is a spike to stab.
Some more expository on the tenuous position of the Calulaia people's nobility. Socially, Great Calulaia is split between the noblewomen infantry and the noblemen cavalry. Boys are raised back in the cities, under the noblewomen, but the two genders resent each other greatly. It is relatively common for a noblewoman to take a post-pubescent noble boy as a lover, because it is believed that there is no harm done if the boy must leave when he is sixteen anyway. This system is a matter of embarassment for the men, and a subtly acknowledged thing among the noblewomen. A mother will frequently try to protect her own, but it is a dog-eat-dog world within the cities. Women, despite their second class status are relatively free from patriarchal society, and are very well-represented within the numerous cults. The social status of commoners is both free and oppressed, in that they manage themselves and maintain many cultural distinctions, but are incapable of projecting any sort of power outside their strict territories. Each city and its surrounding countryside are ruled by local, non-Calulaia nobility.
Landlocked, Great Calulaia has no navy, though they do sometimes transport men and cannons on rivers for speed.
Great Calulaia's inspirations range from the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth to the Joseon Dynasty of Korea to Greek democracy and the habits of northern peoples. The arrangement of the barbarian warrior nobility and the local commoners is an inflated version of historical precedents. Great Calulaia nobles range in appearance from Tibetans to Inuits and Chukchis, with a few looking like Mongolians, while the commoners tend to look like Ainus with thick, scraggly beards. Commoner dress varies and is inspired by northern cultures, with people often greasing their skin with bear grease under thick parkas. Nobles wear parkas as well, but dye them in extravagant colors, each parka representing a different unit in a past campaign that they served in. Great Calulaia architecture is very often of wood, this being a wealthy resource for them, and often intricatively carved at that. Their cities are made up of rings of wood and have been maintained since before the Calulaia themselves. Great Calulaia nobles' names tend to be based around Turkic ones.
Fabled Nissur, mighty Nissur, Nissur of terror and cruelty. Nissur is a legend, a state whom all Tear cultures know of, and few believe exist. Holy Nissur has slowly traveled about the Tear, fostering a warlike culture. In fact, every god of Nissur is also a god of war, since their whole society serves nothing short of war. When Nissur invades a nation, they abandon their former as soon as victory is assured, overwhelm it, slaughter all that they can in ghastly ways and populate it, only to repeat the process in no more than a century. Over their long travels they have left behind only texts, the bragging of Nissur rulers. These texts are the comic books of the Ring: Nissur is the antagonist who is so unimaginably terrible that surely no one but the righteous can withstand them. When Nissur arrives at a new culture, it is all the more shocking that a literary legend is now quite literal. The texts detail their methods and means, the organization of their armies, the learning of their generals and the miraculous events that coincide with their most incredible battles. They are popular with the armchair general and with the fervent nationalist.
Holy Nissur's culture fundamentally believes that the Ring, as it stands, is poisoned. The only culture that believes the world was created, they believe that eons ago the Ring was made for a grand, righteous purpose, and that there were ages of only glory, where mighty men and women "walked like giants, unstoppable in their will". This time is as a dream to them, though they believe that somewhere, it still continues. The Ring was poisoned, Nissur asserts, and its purpose perverted by the Tear cultures. Now, the Ring is doomed to never live up to its ancient and glorious past. In a world that is doomed, Nissur sees no reason to not be as cruel as they are. The decision to base their culture on war is a rebellious refusal to participate in the "foul corruption" that has poisoned the world. By destroying the world and roaming it, they punish it for its failure. At the same time, they maintain the whimpering desire to find that time of glory again, a time their shamans can almost touch.
Shamans and magicians are not opposed in Holy Nissur. A society so often on the move, and so often encountered with the screaming, blood-curdled cries of the enemy requires support. Organized into hundredmen units the magicians keep their minds dedicated to the gods of war, backing society. At the same time, magicians uphold Nissur's need to touch on the times of glories past, and put their people into enthralling trances, where they conceive of the once-time, adulating it.
Avatars of the Gods rule Holy Nissur, first among them the dormin, avatar of Nimrud, the Cleanser. An immensely small government is a hallmark of Holy Nissur, and each of the avatars that make up their government are also front-line generals. So much divine power at the front of battles, habitually used is incredibly potent in war, giving Nissur advantages. First, is the "miracles". Lightning strikes and natural catastrophes often occur during the most vicious battles of Holy Nissur, and walls have come down, shattered by nothing. Holy Nissur is used to the trials of fissures in the earth opening up and swallowing troops, but their enemies are not. The natural catastrophes just as often hurt Nissur as help, but the sheer terror they spread always grants them a boon.
Nissur's population is entirely made up of warriors. That is not to say that they do not know how to tend crops or harvest grain, but when the day is done, each Nissur man and woman is expected to know how to wield their trademark weapons, the leaf-bladed sword, the spear, the bow, and the axe. Men are more often the warriors, but once a campaign seems victorious, the women leave the territory they guard and farm in the meanwhile, doubling Nissur's numbers on the front. A warring nation like Nissur needs sons desperately, and while women are eager and capable champions of battle, the life of a woman lost is far more than the life of a man. It is only in this way that women are considered at all different from men. Women who insist on being at the front lines are not discouraged.
Technologically, Nissur is more primitive than other nations. Iron is their standard, and in some respects they still use bronze, since it can be cold-hammered back into working order. Brightly colored and extravagant fur padding and clothing is worn under the iron and bronze lamellar they wear, and their helmets are spiked at the top and made up of aggressive angles. Holy Nissur's armies are made up of infantry, both heavily armed and more lightly, though almost all infantry wield the bow. Their cavalry is generally quite talented, ranging from fast and light horse archers to cotton-armored medium lancers, though again, each uses bows. Chariots have long since been abandoned, but are ridden by the avatars of the gods in battle. The most unique thing about Holy Nissur is that through taming the Great Elk, a seven foot deer with up to twelve foot wide antlers, they can make the enemy's cavalry useless. The sight of a Great Elk with its body painted in vivid colors and its antlers tipped in spikes, as well as its sheer size terrify horses. However, the beast's great antlers make it a difficult proposition for attacking infantry, since they cannot close ranks tightly. Instead, Great Elk are used almost exclusively against enemy cavalry. With a balanced, well-ordered army and several strong advantages, the lower technology of Holy Nissur is well overcome.
As far as inspiration goes, I draw from the Sami of Scandinavia, the Assyrians of Mesopotamia (heavily), and the Australian Aboriginals. Holy Nissur has little architecture of their own aside from monuments (often of skulls, or stone wrapped in human flesh), and their clothing is a curious mix of ancient Iraq and the far north. Holy Nissur men wear ringleted beards and have larger noses than most, along with darker skin and a bit of a forward brow being common.
The Ossaugh Chiefdom hosts some of the greatest cavalry around the Tear, and the only culture with a purely matriarchal outlook. Ossaugh Chiefdom horses are small, but with immense endurance. Because men are heavier than women, the women consistently took up horse archery and cavalry duties, and as the nation slowly developed towards a strong horse archery tradition it was the noblewomen who rose to prominence. When the original barbarian tribes arrived onto the lands it already had a view that settled people were "herds" like horses. Women became the strongest class after decades of inter-faction warfare and using mobility and cavalry discipline to destroy their enemies, and crafted a society where every nobleman is the social inferior of every noblewoman, regardless of his bloodline. Magde of the Ossaugh was the founder of the state, after uniting and slowly destroying every other culture with her "Thousand-Sister Swarm".
The nobility of the Ossaugh Chiefdom are flexible and adaptable, consistently adopting women from the "herds" (a word the Ossaugh use to refer to the common city and countryside-dwellers) into their ranks. In the military, women dominate the strong arm of their forces as archers. Short arrows using overdraw half-tubes are the common weapon amongst the foot archers, while women on horseback wield lassoes, maces, axes, swords and two bows, or a sword, bow and two-handed lance. Lower classmen have a role in Ossaugh's army as well, and are drilled into pikemen. A male pike wall is considered useless on the battlefield without the "fangs" of foot archers, who can fire at nearly 600 meters of distance with deadly effect. Ossaugh armor tends towards boiled leather among the lower nobility, and steel or iron lamellar on the upper. Another curiosity among Ossaugh is their use of "battle-beasts", whom the Rusalky know as "Wendigo", nine foot tall, six foot wide gorilla-walking, heavily-muscled and nigh-invincible monstrosities who can be slowed down through destroying their skull, but regenerate and recover. Ossaugh has five hundred or so of these creatures available to them and unleashes them on cities during sieges to compensate for them only having the traction trebuchet. Other Ossaugh siege tactics are to use fear with their immense herds of horses to make the enemy assume their numbers are larger than they are, dropping diseased corpses into the city, and driving refugees into the city "free of charge". The end result is a heavily demoralized enemy who either gives them great tribute, or else has their city taken and looted for weeks. Ossaugh horse archers and archers are the greatest in the Ring, and are generally more heavily armored than those of other nations, owing to the lighter build of women versus men. Men are often given the military tasks that it is beneath a woman to do, such as digging trenches, crafting siege equipment and the like. However, blacksmiths are almost always women, albeit frequently with male helpers. The common equipment of a man in the military is a pike, whatever armor he is granted by his liege, a short sword of some kind and in some cases and ahlspiess. Female cavalry also come on reindeer (for younger women and certain scouts) and the Great Elk (for anti-cavalry purposes) varieties.
Socially, Ossaugh is a strict hierarchy. At the bottom are the "herds", managed by the local chief of the realm and considered equivalent to slaves. "Herds" are made up of both men and women, but social mobility does exist, especially for women. At the upper echelon is the High Chief, her vassals, the female members of their family, and then the lower clans' women. The males are then ranked below all female nobility in the same order. Ossaugh women value force of arms and bravery in each other, and in men they value music, artistry, textile talents and humility. A man may seek to be wed to an Ossaugh woman and is expected to open his efforts by sending her gifts. Once she feels her value has been given appropriate tribute she may confront that man as a "Beast", the lowest level of courtship. From being a nonperson, a Beast is permitted to give his tribute in person, to sing songs, show art, and personalize his gifts to her, though he is often not permitted to say her name. A woman can upgrade her Beast to a Concubine by giving him explicit verbal approval of his worth to her, often in a statement such as "You are a good creature. I look on you with favor." Concubines have begun their relationship with the woman of their choosing but are not yet considered to be of any value to their courted woman. A woman may seek to make her wish of claim known on a Concubine of hers through "Betrothing" him, by which she applies bronze rings to his thumbs, toes, and neck. The relationship is now in the hands of her negotiations. The woman must then pay the value of her Betrothed to the noblewoman who owns him or manages him (in case of a herd-man, his liege, and in case of a nobleman, his matriarch). After that tribute (tribute is often in the form of many men and women from one noblewoman's herd to the other) is given the man is said to be "Stabled", a social condition explained thus: "I have many horses in my herd. They can stay outside. Only the most valued are stabled." This is the typical manner in which a man raises in rank, as he then becomes a nobleman. Women of particular value expect to be devoted to for longer periods of time and given more extravagant gifts, and a woman can have many men in her Stable.
The social advancement of women is different. In order to free a woman up from childbirthing (though they never give birth to more than a child every four years) some women agree to be foster children with a selected man, and those children are then adopted by the more highly ranked woman. This is a popular means of securing a woman's family line, though her blood does not run. The other means is through simple adoption. A herd woman who is strong and hardy and show promise may be adopted into the family, sometimes on the term that she bring a certain number of children to the line. Fluid adoption of new women into the nobility keeps them able and strong. Women take the management of new adoptions into the family seriously in order to keep the family strong and themselves in commission as long as possible.
Despite the apparent barbarity of the Ossaugh Chiefdom, it is foremost a society of great and unchanging laws. The laws of the land are applied across all people, and even the High Chief herself is under their auspices. The High Chief must maintain an army and noble people and sometimes whole families are raised and lowered on a meritocratic basis. A simple sort of judicial system exists wherein crimes must have evidence and must be presented before the High Chief's representatives at every herd. The High Chief is elected at the death of each last one, and in order to be legitimate this election must occur. Property laws are significant and people from herds are discouraged from travelling between for fear that one noblewoman would suspect "theft".
The economy of the Ossaugh Chiefdom hinges on a raiding component with tribute granted as well as their massive herds and the metal-mining in the Chiefdom's northeastern half. Wood is commonly a trade good with the Ossaugh Chiefdom, much as it is with Great Calulaia.
Inspiration for the Ossaugh Chiefdom is largely just my attempt at making a played-straight Amazon society that's complex and interesting. Men as artistic-minded people whose works exist for the pleasure of women is largely my way of paying tribute to the long history of men being passionate artists, in contrast to our current belief that men aren't passionate at all. It is this trait that the Ossaugh women value highly in men while they test them for steadfastness. I largely had to design a matriarchal culture from the ground up using the historical precedent that female cavalry were more common back when horses were smaller. Ossaugh people use Frankish/Germanic naming conventions and a similar appearance, and in terms of architecture the men craft domed wooden and marble buildings in elaborate painted colors, often to pay tribute to their beloveds. The heavy emphasis on law is inspired by the nobility-limiting ways of Genghis Khan's Mongols, as is the meritocracy. Adopting women into the nobility is a necessity for keeping the female population up and freeing up time for the women to warfare.
City-States of Sulieos
The myriad city-states of Sulieos are proud and able. Formed from long-standing necessity, the region of Sulieos only gradually developed a common culture, formed out of chaotic and warlike exchange. A Sulieos person's concept of nationhood is not similar to that of the other Ringgoer civilizations. Instead, Sulieos' city-states are mutually antagonistic, only barely acknowledging their common cultural background. During times of war against foreign powers the city-states of Sulieos form leagues but are much more content to squabble with one another. Governed by despots, the common people of Sulieos follow a highly stratified society hinging on hereditary same-gender vocations. It is expected that one master the talent of their forefather/mother by their twenty-fifth year, and that their own same-gender children shall also take up the task. Aside from independent vocations, Sulieosians live in communal clan-dwellings, pooling their resources to provide a means for advancing the group's interests. A clan-dwelling will have equipment for various vocations, room and board and throw their weight behind the advancement of each person's recognition within their vocation. Government is affected competitively by gaining jobs for bureaucrat vocationers. Sulieos society is stratified based on the quality of vocations as well as the advancement of that person's vocation. It is easier for someone with a long-standing, high-dwelling vocationary lineage than someone who has abandoned their vocation to pick up a new one. More prestigious clans are also of import. One joins a clan through opting in to one as opposed to another as part of their marriage vows. Either one or the other partner drops the clan of their birth. Other times, clans adopt folk in, but this is rare and often scandalous, frequently provoking clan vendettas. The vocationary system of Sulieos makes most jobs that would be a single one in other countries the collective labor of many specialists in Sulieos. Only people who live in cities are considered citizens: all others are "agrarians" and they are taxed and taken from by whomever gets troops and collectors out to them at tax-time. Agrarians are often harassed and discontented during more intense war-time campaigns.
As a military force, Sulieos brings to bear its citizen-soldier armies, who favor the pike. Vocationers take up most specific roles in the army, while the bulk of the soldiery is made up of levied troops. Sulieos favors the sling as a missile weapon and can launch projectiles at incredible ranges. All military specialists are vocationers, including slingers, skirmishers, cavalry, the two front ranks of a pike line (called bronze-chests for the bronze breast plates they wear), officers, strategists, logisticians and others. Innovations of Sulieos include the naphtha grenade, which they throw by sling to break up opposing pike formations so that they can close and exploit weaknesses. Often battles result in what can be called "phalanx foreplay", continually and slowly adjusting positions and not closing while they attempt to bombard the other side to disadvantage. Sulieos commanders are hesitant to engage their pikes unless the battle will be a very decisive victory, hence most battles "end" in withdrawal, regrouping, and fighting the next day. A battle of this sort can last for days, easing and stopping when both sides are mutually tired, and ending only when one side withdraws. Failure to withdraw quickly enough results in the other side closing ranks and obliterating the opposing force. Sulieos' military like everything else shines through the vocationary system: they are never short of skilled military engineers, and Sulieos is dotted with stationary defenses. Technologically, Sulieos' military relies on bronze shields strapped to their arm, quilted gambeson armor (bronze chests on infantry vocationers), the ancient and venerable sling and short swords. The bow is also present, but the sling is favored for its ability to throw grenades. Sulieos' siege weaponry is lacking, limited to various kinds of ballistas and early catapults, though they do have repeating ballistas. Sulieos' cavalry tend to toss javelins, though certain city-states rely on "quilted cataphracts" with lances, bows and maces to drive off the raids of foreign nations. At times, quilted cataphracts have scale armor laced over their quilted gambesons, as with more wealthy clans.
Sulieos' navy relies on traditional war galleys with ramming heads, while other ships utilize their naphtha in combat, pumped onto enemy vessels. Sulieos' trade with other places is limited because of their relative lack of unity, as is their naval potential.
Groups of vocations have divinities associated to them in Sulieos, categorized by what kind of duty it is. In general, the only major gender difference in Sulieos is that while men tend to be more active and direct, female vocations are more often facilitators. Thus women are well-represented among the government and the bureaucracy and in jobs that "provide", while men are more well-represented as people who "do". There's a great deal of interplay and mixed ground here: a blacksmith is not considered a gendered vocation at all.
Sulieos' inspirations for me are pretty widely set. Greece is pretty prominent, but so are renaissance culture, guilds, and the caste-clans of India. The vocationary system stems from that. Sulieos' people are a touch dark-skinned and love to do their hair in elaborate ways. Women prefer ringlets and ornamentation, men prefer tousle-able, youthful locks. They are not a toga society, but dress in an eclectic, heavily-robed style crossed with the foppery of medieval landsknechts. There are 27 Sulieos city-states, architecturally laid out in concentric rings of stone. Sulieos buildings and clansteads are wide, square-structured, and grow together as the clan buys lesser buildings around it and adds them on.
Reef Kingdom and the Lor-kayss
The history of the Reef Kingdom is tied into the aquatic, Tear-dwelling Lor-kayss tribes. Sixty thousand, five hundred and seventy eight years have elapsed since the Lor-kayss "followed their prophet into the sea". The Lor-kayss are those tribes which followed the hermaphroditic prophet named Lor-kayss into the ocean, escaping eons ago from "terrible monsters upon land". Lor-kayss stories say that the prophet, either as woman or as man, brought his/her people forward and presented speeches, exhortations, rallying cries of such "persuasive power" that the Lor-kayss "found themselves changing". During those early days of the one-week exhortations of the he/she prophet Lor-kayss, the modern-day Lor-kayss people believe that they had changed shape so frequently that in the transition, they lost themselves and became a new nation, fully believing the destiny laid out for them by the prophet. Their new bodies were made well for the sea, and they moved into it, and have settled there ever since.
Lor-kayss people have considerable husbandry. Despite their origins, they have developed means for staying in underwater caves hinging on low-light plants and bioluminescent insects. Domestication of the orcas and several dolphin species has given them a wide-ranging territory surrounding the Reef Kingdom isles. Lor-kayss people have a predominantly peaceful culture, since the relatively low population of Lor-kayss peoples precludes their fighting over territory. Instead, Lor-kayss people simply look after their schools of fish, making sure to introduce new fish every once in a while to "keep the blood good". Lor-kayss people do not have an artistic tradition (their dark cave homes preclude aesthetics) or a written language, nor do they use fire in daily life. Lor-kayss culture is relatively easy, with a four hour work day being the most common and the rest of the time spent reclining, relaxing, and discussing. A highly developed verbal and personal culture is a hallmark of the Lor-kayss. The Lor-kayss see the world as a mingling of male and female principles, and believe that in order to possess beauty, an object must have both male and female qualities. Everything in the Lor-kayss worldview can be seen this way: the sea is male, and referred to as the Water-feather realm, while the land is female, and named for Sun-mother. Life exists in both realms only through the intermingling of them, periodically referred to mating, courtship, or love. Currents and plant life under the sea are the result of Sun-mother, while rains and rivers on land are the result of Water-feather. Even human beings are viewed in this way: the Lor-kayss value the mythic quality of hermaphroditism, and culturally the men are fascinated and desirous of "female" traits, while the women are the same way about men. Women view Lor-kayss as being "woman who became man" and men view it the other way around. In body type, the Lor-kayss tend towards a thick androgyny. The culture of the Lor-kayss is kind, compassionate and gentle.
Lor-kayss people originally settled the Reef Kingdom isles forty thousand years ago, resulting in free tribes that looked to the sea as their lifegiver, and the Lor-kayss in particular as their progenitors. As recently as thirty thousand years ago the first pan-Reef alliance was started, at the behest and guidance of the Lor-kayss. Over the years many Reef cultures have risen to preeminence, always birthed out of the chaos of the previous one, and always with inspiration and guidance by the Lor-kayss. The Lor-kayss do not really bother to remember in stark detail every social arrangement that has happened on land, but merely refer to the long-standing tradition of civilizations in the Reef Isles as being "The Reef Kingdom". In reverence of their Lor-kayss progenitors, the modern-day confederacy of the Reef refers to itself as the Reef Kingdom, despite that not matching their arrangement. Lor-kayss religion and worldview is common and revered among the Reef Kingdom. The primary difference, however, is that the Water-father and Sun-mother figures are both split further into the resources and mascots common to all mass cultures, unlike the tribal Lor-kayss versions. The Lor-kayss after millenia of breeding their animals have long since taken to breeding themselves for the traits they find beautiful and desirable. Their intellectual culture and their breeding means they are very often quick to understand new concepts and experimental in their knowledge. Lor-kayss do not wear clothing except when at a long swim, during which they wear shark or whaleskin wetsuits.
Lor-kayss tend to believe that things are only good in a social sense if they do not damage the harmony of a group. One can "marry" (it is a purely individual decision) anyone they choose, and have sex (in the recreational sense) with whomever they choose as well. However, breeding, since it affects the entire group, is selected by consensus based on the consideration of positive traits.
Socially the Reef Kingdom varies. It is a confederacy of cities and their territories on the any islands, each of them pledged in allegiance to the dominant island-city of Pakaas. Pakaas has a system wherein the noble families elect a representative, the First Speaker, for themselves, who owns all government property as personal property. The Reef Kingdom is on the surface the most primitive people in the Ring, with little animal husbandry, but very efficient, water-borne farming systems. Terraces down the sloped surfaces of the Reef Kingdom isles and farms on and along the lakes are a common sight. Nobility of the Reef Kingdom often breed with Lor-kayss women at the Lor-kayss' behest. In terms of gender disparity, peasants tend to be all on the same level, while the nobility expects women to manage the affairs of the estate while their husbands manage external matters. Women are not really prominent among the leading figures of the Reef Kingdom and it's considered a bad omen for a man's wife to be taking his seat on the many councils. Women of the Reef Kingdom are domestic, though they do double-duty in the labor force. Women are permitted, however, to own land, slaves, and business enterprises, though these enterprises pass in name to their political husbands. In fact, most of the time women continue to be the management of their businesses and properties.
The real complexity of the Reef Kingdom is in the First Speaker's property. The First Speaker is expected to maintain a large navy and military, and to use this to raid and capture territories about the Ring. The First Speaker invests heavily in keeping the navy and army up to date and this is what has granted the Reef Kingdom the second-strongest naval force on the Tear. Their navy is similar in style to Madzarchen, with ships covered in hides to provide fireproofing, ships of speed to surround, ramming vessels, and large fortress ships loaded with fire archers. Other inventions include poison gas used at sea and iron plates to cover the sides of ships; some vessels have up to thirty-six paddle wheels to keep them moving forward. The reconnaissance of the Lor-kayss provides them with plenty of information on the sea, while the First Speaker's finest ships are rowed by immensely strong Lor-kayss rowers. All these factors gives the Reef Kingdom tremendous advantage at sea.
The First Speaker is constantly planning for raiding campaigns on weaker powers, especially in the Desolated Lands. In the Desolated Lands the First Speaker maintains both slaving operations in the interior and plantations on the coast, with cash crops being farmed. If at any time a significant power arises, the First Speaker's people are simply removed from the territory. Through these colonial investments the economic fortune of the Reef Kingdom's military is ensured, and slaves are traded to Kerimpal in exchange for knowhow and resources, while many good quality timbers are traded from the Wonygs and metals from Kuline. The Reef Kingdom does not trade anything it sees as being too advantageous to a foe, though many of its foods and spices are well desired by foreigners.
The First Speaker's army is a marine force, sometimes unarmored and often in studded leather painted in specific colors so that they can be ordered from sea by flag. They range from light infantry with bola for slaving to medium infantry utilizing siege weaponry, and their standard varies depending on the nature of the campaign and the quality of the First Speaker. Mercenaries are relatively common amongst the First Speaker's army and the First Speaker is known for being heavily desirous of the finest Wonyg crossbowmen and women. By far the elite of the First Speaker's troops are certain Lor-kayss, who are armed and armored in the surface styles and make for potent shock infantry. The weakest contingent in the First Speaker's military corps are cavalry, limited to light cavalry and largely meant to pursue routers. Common infantry weapons are maces of varying styles, as well as in throwing varieties. As a professional army, the Reef Kingdom can boast of having strong capable infantry, though they lack the most potent missile weapons in the absence of Wonyg mercenaries, whom they can only pick up and employ while on campaign. The Reef Kingdom isles do not permit foreigners on their shores at all. Trade with Kerimpal is done through their territory in the Desolated Lands.
Traditional Lor-kayss weapons are crafted simply, and include spears made from whatever they can find, clubs of stone made of shark teeth. Stone clubs made of jade are the most common weapons, and serve adequately against lightly armored seafarers which they periodically raid on behalf of the Reef Kingdom.
The Reef Kingdom is inspired in aesthetics and practices and technology by the Aztec Triple Alliance as well Polynesia and Incas. Their varied different cities are often inspired across that sphere. In their methods they are a mixture of the early colonial Europeans and the Vikings. In physical makeup the Lor-kayss are by far the strangest: an average Lor-kayss man may be as much as seven feet tall and 308 pounds, with women being 90% of that. In terms of physical strength they are the mightiest people in the Ring, comparable to the strongest human who has ever lived, Louis Cyr. A Lor-kayss's body is marked by thick, potent features, broad, powerful shoulders, a layer of subcutaneous fat across them that both smooths their heavy musculature to aerodynamic efficiency and keeps them warm in a fireless world. Their hands and feet are broader and flatter for swimming purposes, their faces are shallow, lacking much of the ridges on a surfacer face. Lor-kayss have long, rigid nails which they use instead of flints for knives, and their teeth are generally carnivorous. They're a big people, with high body temperature, incredible autonomic control and eidetic memories. The Reef Kingdom people vary but are generally thought of as being chubby people with smiling faces and black hair in various tied styles. The Reef Kingdom isles are warmer because of their being surrounded by the sea, and the Reef Kingdom people in general retain heat very well, so that they can often be seen unclothed. There are seven Reef Kingdom territories and architecturally they like spires and spirals, lengthy staircases up the spiraling heights of a building, and broader buildings below. Most common dwellings are of mud-brick or simpler mud huts.
Men of Haugrtalfheimr
The freedom-loving nation of the Men of Haugralfheimr are a subtle, cautious folk who lack the powerful military of their rivals, but are nonetheless flourishing. Benefiting from their invention of the seed drill and good farming practices as well as their fertile homeland, the Men of Haugrtalfheimr have much to be defend. The Men of Haugrtalfheimr are one of the few nations with absolutely no nobility or anything close to it: instead, they are a society ruled by practiced and trained slaves. Each person in Haugrtalfheimr (including children) has the right to vote for a representative (the mother casts her children's vote until they're twelve), and from these, the top three are given the power to appoint the government. Parties and leagues are explicitly banned, with each candidate limited to speeches at particular dates. Each district in a city has a government, and the entire nation has its own. Slaves are considered trustworthy: since a slave cannot benefit from their position (they are not legally entitled to own property) it is rather difficult for a slave-in-government to be corrupt. Meanwhile, the Men of Haugrtalfheimr conscript people at random to serve in the militia, who both protect the city and are its police. Haugrtalfheimr pays a great deal of money to buy the most intelligent and able slaves, and maintains some of the finest schools for the express purpose of training the most able rulers of its slaves. Aside from governing slaves, employing slave labor or the ownership of "domestic" slaves is foreign to Haugrtalfheimr. Slaves are entitled to pass and enact laws, draw taxes and assign them. Each action of the slaves requires ratification from the three representatives, but if they are not ratified, the slaves-in-government can self-ratify and call a new election with at least 60% of the people approving of their actions in a referendum. The life of a governing slave is austere and simple, but they are not punished or abused. Slaves also fill roles in the judicial branch. Haugrtalfheimr prides itself on their ancient customs and freedoms.
The nations of the Tear tend towards being either very powerful at war, or defensive in inventive ways. For a nation like Madzarchen, stuck between both, their solution is an adequately strong army. Haugrtalfheimr is also a defensive country as a result of centuries of accommodation with warlike neighbors. Unlike Madzarchen or Kuline, however, Haugrtalfheimr's solution to invasive enemies is not an adequately strong army, but instead an immensely difficult to capture country. The buildings of Haugrtalfheimr are stone pyramids buried in dirt: very labor-intensive, but the end result is a very capable building. Pyramids exist that can house as many as a thousand people in its small apartments. The pyramids are well-engineered and boast ducts for central heating as well as plumbing: farms are built on top of the cities to save space, and the settlement's stone walls almost always protect the city's food. A Haugrtalfheimr city is built with self-sustainability in mind, always placed near a naturally occurring water source that can be moved into the city by aqueduct. Sieges on Haugrtalheimr can barely if ever be won by blockade, and assaults on Haugrtalfheimr cities require attacking very capable and potent walls. Each building can also be converted into a fortress of sorts.
The military of Haugrtalfheimr is as-stated a militia. Preferring the shield wall, they boast spears and the axe, because it can be used for practical purpose as well as war. Haugralfheimr armor is paper lamellar: the paper is of strong quality and as capable as similar steel, but much cheaper. Their armor is lacquered and painted blue. Most families of Haugrtalfheimr own a set that has stayed with them after the ten year militia term. Haugrtalfheimr also draws from its hunting populace for archers, and has a small cavalry component that in peacetime serves to herd animals and drive wildlife into hunting traps. As a defensive militia Haugrtalfheimr can adequately protect their walls, but on the battlefield they lack the capabilities of their rivals. Opportunistically aggressive, they will only assault when conditions either require it or if they feel it'd be easy. On average and especially when on the offensive, Haugrtalfheimr relies on mercenaries, especially Wonygs.
Socially, Haugrtalfheimr is gender-traditionalist, believing that women are primarily caregivers and mothers: they are empowered to act in the interests of their children, but discouraged from any and all dangerous or otherwise "distracting" tasks. Women are only a small part of the labor force because they are expected to spend their time raising children. A woman has the right to divorce her husband without reason and simply by stating that she divorces him aloud in public, a law originally meant to be for the children's interest, but protected by the female voters (an amendment requires a 51 percent majority to pass). A woman entering into a marriage holds all her property, and is entitled to a proportion of her husband's property upon leaving the marriage, depending on how the judge interprets the needs of her children. Women are entitled to be elected as representatives, and it is not uncommon for slaves sympathetic to the plight of women to interpret the laws with an eye to correcting imbalances, both groups being disadvantaged. Pro-women's rights groups regularly "vandalize" coins with their slogans. Consistently, the female voters push for greater flexibility in the laws, but male voters paired with split opinions in their own camp means that progress is slow. There is no nobility or upper class in Haugrtalfheimr, and most things are held in common, save for plots of farmland. The classes extant are divided along labor: blacksmiths, farmers, etcetera. All land above "ground" can be bought and sold, while all land below ground is assigned and common, including homes and dwellings. Representatives come from all walks of life. Certain people in the merchant class are permitted to travel between cities, but otherwise mobility of the populace is discouraged, especially in women. The government employs and distributes money to all people depending on the quality of their work, except merchants who are expected to earn money through their travels between cities.
Inspiration for Haugrtalfheimr comes from the Norse (the name, mostly, and their style of warfare/helmets and weaponry and names), but they're pretty far from that. Central heating and water in stone structures can be traced back as far as the Hittites, and the seed drill was extant in China during the medieval period. Haugrtalfheimr people are traditionally Nordic in appearance, and dress in traditional Nordic style. When I designed Haugrtalfheimr as a gender-traditionalist society, I wanted to avoid the fantasy cliche of having every society be accepting of women in any role. The women of Haugrtalfheimr, however, are not sheltered, and they understand that they should be pushing for greater rights outside the home. I wanted to have Haugrtalfheir be that way in order to strike a familiar, but dissimilar tone for the modern person, and to highlight the admirable spirit of Haugrtalfheimr women.
Merchants of Kerimpal
The Mercants of Kerimpal are a soft power empire of traders and their interests. In the Ring, where very little trade occurs, Kerimpal's niche is to control what there is, operating as middlemen and finding business opportunities in the many Tear nations. Ownership of property and management of import firms is the primary determination of social status among the Kerimpallans. Kerimpal began as a state that inherited from its predecessors a great deal of technologies, both in terms of navy and in fantastic machines. In the former state, these inventions were barely used, but early Kerimpal exploited them to their greatest potential, eventually resulting in the merchant class overshadowing the military and religious classes, and invoking them under it. Modern-day Kerimpal employs everyone under the auspices of merchant clans and cooperatives, relying on the necessity of their trade more than military might for national defense. The government of Kerimpal is largely made up of entitled merchant clans who rule by consent of the many: clans with a certain amount of income and a certain number of employees are allowed to claim a place on the ruling council, but with sufficient opposition, they can be removed from office. The result is that some of the more powerful clans are actively seeking to change their public perception in order to claim spots on the council through charity and judicious monitoring of their standards. Smaller, local councils manage the individual laws of townships and the like, and the nation is ruled by only the greatest merchant clans, who reach consensus on issues or otherwise not at all. When agreements degenerate and no one has made any headway, it is not uncommon for the council to collapse into cut-throat mudslinging in order to force the naysayers out.
As the primary merchant power of the Ring, Kerimpal has a fleet of splendid merchantman vessels, often carrying up to 800 tons of cargo. These ships have minimal crews and very little means to defeat enemies, and are always escorted by a contingent of warships. Both wings have to be owned by the merchant class, as Kerimpal has no central army or navy. Soldiers vary in quality and capability, and are generally permanent employees of particular clans, meant to protect merchants and merchant quarters. Mercenaries are extremely common amongst the Kerimpallans. Kerimpal vessels rely heavily on sail as opposed to rowing. Sail configuration on Kerimpallan vessels is well laid-out, with a higher cruising speed than Reef Kingdom, Madzarchen or Sulieos vessels. The pride of Kerimpal is their warring paddle wheel ships, capable of the top speed of their rivals as an attack speed, they are often equipped with as much as 30 paddle wheels, often concealed from the enemy so that the ship appears to move of its own accord. Paddle wheel ships can be used for ramming or for maneuvering, using siege weapons or archers to fire from protected towers. Of utmost importance is Kerimpal's ability to withdraw at greater speed than their rivals. When forced to war, Kerimpal's private armies can form a considerably large naval force, albeit rarely with the command line of enemies. In terms of tonnage, Kerimpal's possible naval force makes them the most substantial presence on the sea. The vast majority of Kerimpal warships are small vessels, opportunistic workhorses that can ram, bombard and strafe with equal talent. In the five or six seafaring wars that Kerimpal has fought with the Reef Kingdom, it often came down to numbers and the ability to withdraw. The top of many Kerimpal warships is a thick bed of iron spikes, and the ships are fireproofed in various ways. As such, many of their ships are effective and frightening rammers, while others trade that for bombard potential. In either case, the average warship is fast and agile, owing to its paddle wheels.
The land itself of Kerimpal is situated along a narrow peninsula, while many merchant clans own personal islands in the outcrops and at the sea, with their own drydocks. Kerimpal cities are built of red-brick, round, like storehouses, and shingled. Kerimpal lacks the material culture for large palatial structures. The largest structures are in districts of the city owned by particular clans, generally shipyards, barracks, and containers. In order to impress other clans and business associates, these storehouses can have a great deal of impressive cog-driven mechanization.
In terms of dress, Kerimpallans try to make strong impressions. Their clothing is bright and colorful, varying by season: during the summer months, both sexes wear very little clothing at all, women opting for a dazzling bare-chested vest and skirts of layered color, and men going with loincloths with festive faces and corded elements hanging from the joints, while they also appreciate shoulder-shirts, who cover the chest only with rare feathers hanging down. Kerimpallans strive towards a certain kind of aesthetic athleticism, baring their bodies regularly and with pride, counting the days until the warm season. During the winter Kerimpallans opt for flowing robes, pleated down the legs. Shoes and gloves and the shoulder elements of winter dress are of dyed animal skin. Both men and women of Kerimpal keep their hair long, women opting for elaborate ringleted hairstyles, and men preferring thick, heavy hair framing their faces. Jewelry is a Kerimpallan passion, and they especially love to wear it in their hair.
The social structure of Kerimpal hinges on private ownership of business. with male and female being absolutely irrelevant as far as they are concerned. Even employees in another person's business are expected to have some sort of entrepreneurial plan for the future, and to use their time away for advancing their interests. Therefore, the majority of Kerimpallans have some sort of business of their own, be it selling fruit, investment into a firm, or something more substantial. To facilitate this the work day is most often short, limited to five or six hours. Exceptions exist for sailors and guards, who struggle to manage their own businesses and are therefore paid very well. Large clans organize into centralized firms for all of one's needs, struggling to provide everything better than their rivals, and controlling whole districts in cities. People moving to cities are often bidded on for their residence, large clans striving to offer the lowest possible price for accommodations and needs. Depending on which clan owns one's home, a person can have many services offered, and a great deal of luxury. Schooling is offered by by most clans free of charge, and out of their own pocket.
In terms of technology Kerimpal is at the forefront of much of the Tear. Aside from gunpowder, the most advanced Wonygs crossbows, and Madzarchen's siege weaponry, there is nothing one can find elsewhere in the Tear that Kerimpal has not experimented with. Cog-driven mechanisms are common, and various kinds of pumps are used to make the Kerimpallan's life easier. Most impressively, Kerimpal has regular reports of the movements of capital and business through bulletins and papers, able to be delivered and produced because the Kerimpallans have invented the printing press with moveable type. The famous "Chronicles of the dormin" that details the conquests of Nissur are distributed by Kerimpallan merchants to the nobility through this invention. On occasion, Holy Nissur grants gifts to the Kerimpallans for their "help".
Kerimpallan is the Tear's common language; most nobles and merchants can speak it, even in Great Calulaia who has no direct connection to the Kerimpallans. Kerimpal's governing councils group together, collect tribute from many merchant clans and use that money to purchase or rent land from those Tear civilizations on the sea, establishing Kerimpal quarters, most often isolated from the rest of the culture. It is through these places that Kerimpal engages in their trade.
Kerimpal too has a place for the avatars of the Gods: the Gods represent the many facets and actions of trade, while a few are for those poor souls who cannot engage. Avatars of the Gods often take on judicial roles, resolving and judging conflicts between clans and firms. Often those clans which are doing well have a particularly sharp member become an avatar of some God. When a clan agrees to allow an avatar to moderate their disputes with another, they must also swear to abide by the judgment.
Kerimpal is inspired in some loose way by a ton of things. Their dress is inspired by that of the Ancient Minoans, their attitude a growth on capitalistic feeling, and their army/navy takes from Joseon Korea, Greece, and private military contractors.
Wonygs is the aptly named land from whence the Wonygs come from. This makes perfect sense to your average Wonyg. Wonygs are fiercely independent and despise authority, and their culture has degenerated into their current form through the ableness of the common people. In ancient times, there was at one point a Kingdom of Wonygs, but after multiple defeats its culture was flailing and weak. New Kings would be elected by heir nobility rapidly and to no avail, while the common people began to diverge, arm themselves, and arrange into communes. It was when the Wonyg culture-hero Niano the Smooth went to the land of Madzarchen, seduced a Mountain Queen and brought back the crossbow did the Wonygs truly find their place. "Slickness" became the order of the day: that trait of effortless, suave resilience and coolness without emotional instability and with smug entitlement and excessive extravagance or understated simplicity. The crossbow, considered a "slick" weapon for its ease of use, its power, and its complex, flashy mechanisms was popularized amongst all Wonygs. In time the crossbow's position became so prominent that the ownership of a true battle-ready crossbow is an item of adulthood; without a crossbow at the ready, Wonygs feel naked and vulnerable. As the crossbow became popular the position of Wonygs' nobility collapsed still further: when a nobleman attempted to tax his "peasants", they more and more refused to accept it on the basis of a personal affront on their "slickness", and with their crossbows, killed his tax collectors.
By now nobles of Wonygs do not attempt to command or rule the people who are ostensibly under their power. Wonygs are a rebellious people, untrusting of anyone who claims greater power than they. They've no respect for physical strength or intelligence, since it is reckoned that a thirty year old, immensely strong man can be killed just as easily by a thirteen year old girl than an mighty or intelligent person. Trees proliferate the entirety of the Wonygs homeland, resulting in many considering them a mere barbarian people. In tone with their independent behavior and their desire for greater "slickness", many young Wonygs get onto catamarans and sail the Tear's coasts, offering their service as mercenaries in exchange for raw metals and crossbow components. The more one brings back, and the more impressive stories, the slicker one is.
There are only two classes in Wonygs: common folk and nobility. Nobility still cling to their ancient traditions, though by now they are almost irrelevant. The nobility elects a King, but under the silent ballot system, and because of the fierce independence of the Wonygs that they are also affected by, the nobles then immediately state that they did not vote for the King, and will not serve him. The state of the nobility is constant low-intensity civil war as the King or Queen is forced to fight his or her own vassals. Should the warring of the noble clans disturb or disrupt the "peasantry", they find themselves skewered with quarrels. If, by chance, a Queen should defeat her vassals and force their obedience then she must be cautious: to build roads is to offend the commoners, who recall that roads are "things that armies march down, yes? And then what? Surely taxes?" Any effort to expand internal infrastructure is met with overt hostility by the common Wonyg. Any effort by the government to improve its efficiency will be met with assassination, so freedom-loving are Wonygs people.
Wonygs settlements are operated on a largely volunteer basis; food and game and fences are constructed "when we want to", and many commune-dwellers spend lazy days in each clan's personal wooden hill fort, telling stories and comparing their slickness. Those people who have no desire to be slick generally are forced to become blacksmiths and crafters, spending their days making implements to enhance the slickness of others. Once a person believes they have been as slick as they can possibly become, it is common for them to then be married to a person of equal slickness. The spiritual quality of slickness once married is reckoned to stay permanent, giving children a slough of old stories and parents forever at their height of prestige to look up to.
Wonygs' military technology is utterly limited to the crossbow. Any other weapon requires too much skill for too little benefit: one can learn to wield a spear for their whole life, but then some person comes up and shoots you with a crossbow. Instead, Wonygs prefer to live life on the edge, using the many varieties of crossbows and knowing that such a weapon means that they have the ability to kill anyone else, and everyone else has the same ability. Lacking much internal infrastructure the Wonygs instead use the proliferated components from noble clans and the mining-blacksmithing complexes that Kings often build; they siphon down from the "upper class" to the lower with ease. Armor is virtually unknown among the Wonygs though they are fond of flashy and colorful wooden slatted armor with crazy, blue grinning faces painted on the helmets. Wonygs crossbows are their true area of expertise: from what little mining and blacksmithing is available to them they have advanced the technology to unparalleled levels. When Niano the Smooth brought the crossbow back to the Wonygs he only brought two designs: the lever-driven repeating crossbow and the steel arbalest, fired by windlass. The Wonygs have invented many incredible things: a repeating crossbow that can be aimed, fires with the power and range of a longbow, and with increasingly large sizes of box magzines and a pump action reload, the cranequin, so that any person can reload the heaviest of crossbows, compound mechanisms and bows crafted out of steel so that their arbalests are immensely powerful and at truly terrifying ranges. Wonygs crossbows are often augmented with accessories such as a reinforced butt for clubbing, bolt-holders on the sides, bayonets underneath, sights and even Kerimpallan lenses for telescopic sights. More slick Wonygs have more complex accessories in greater quantities. The Wonygs are obsessive about having as slick of things as one can have, so that they are always looking for things to impress their fellows with. In this way the lowly Wonyg blacksmith can harvest the crumbs of prestige off their clients.
Wonygs may have incredible crossbows with huge range and impressive power and rates of fire, but what they lack is any sort of military manner. Wonygs do not like to obey orders, and consider it far slicker to run away from combat than get stuck in melee, where a Wonyg, even with a bayonet is at a disadvantage and where her crossbow is at risk of damage. Instead, Wonygs fight like hooligans, whooping and cheering and shooting wildly for maximum appearance of effortlessness. Despite the terrible power they can unleash on the battlefield they are at their deadliest when one has invaded their land and the entire populace strives to take pot shots at one's army on the march. Wonygs as mercenaries are known for their deadliness equally as with their laziness: if they do not feel like fighting they will only barely put up a token fight and leave at their leisure. The grinning Wonyg, greedy for coin and lazy for work is well-known with all ocean-going Tear cultures.
Wonygs musical and artistic culture is quite well-represented, however. Driving, pulsing beats dominated by single epitomes of slickness are the most common, many Wonygs having invented lyrical poetry about their own prestige and the attraction others feel to them on that basis. Other times simple beats and rhythms are produced a capella, complete with showy dancing. The telling of old stories about the slick is common as a means of explaining one's own actions.
Inspirations of the Wonygs... hmm. I crafted the Wonygs with this in mind: urban gangbanger/extreme libertarianism/hippie communes. Their crossbow fetish is a means for them to refuse all outside authority and everything else in their culture is a means to enhance slickness, a kind of combination of our coolness, sexiness and mellow attitude with a particularly confident flair. I researched whether it would be possible within medieval technology to craft compound bows, confirmed that they could be, and then gave them this marvelous repeating crossbow. There's no particular reason that crossbow couldn't be crafted upwards of 120 pounds of draw weight, and since it's basically just a regular bow strapped into a repeater frame the Wonyg equivalent repeating crossbow can even use a compound or composite bow. Their armor and dress are made to be flamboyant and distinctive, advertising the person who wears it. This image was directly inspirational in their armor and dress. The Wonygs music they invented is the Ring equivalent of rap, and the a capella is beatboxing. Wonygs are chaotic and wild, but they have advanced in technology more quickly than most other nations and live happier lives. Wonygs vary in appearance greatly, as they have over the years assimilated barbarian wanderers into their vibrant culture. The traditional appearance of Wonygs is short, stout, lightly frecked, red-haired and smirking.
Kingdom of Esque
A remnant state, the Kingdom of Esque was born from several dying nations overwhelmed by barbarian and White Stag influx. Unable to keep the trees away and unable to defeat the barbarians, the legendary harbinger of the Esque arose. He had come from a culture already aware that the grouped belief of a nation can change the people's forms, and gathered as many of the errant wanderers from broken cultures as he could. Exhorting them to change, he started a new culture through great magic and convinced the people without doubt that they must and would become dwellers in the trees. Esque revere this early founder universally.
The Esque, as they named themselves, have not forgotten the secret of changing their bodies. Over time they have changed themselves to live amongst the trees better. Esque men are hollow boned, powerful-legged, with loose skin under their arms for gliding from tree to tree. Esque women, on the other hand, are more robust with stronger bones in order to survive giving birth. Esque forefingers are capped with tough claws for climbing and grappling, and their legs are quite powerful: an Esque can jump ten meters from a standing position, and more if at a run. Esque have very strong double-rowed regenerating teeth, which they use to make paper from wood and plant pulp. The paper is used in the crafting of armor and houses suspended up in the trees. Esque do not appreciate open flames, preferring to live in secrecy. They keep bon fires far away from their civilized areas and rarely permit an open flame. Their homes are kept covered in wax quite frequently or otherwise in thick lacquered paper layers. Thus, Esque take hot rocks from their bon fires, distribute them amongst the houses and maintain constant sauna-like conditions. During winter, Esque hibernate, covering their homes with snow for insulation while others stay awake for one-week shifts, burning stored animal fats. The female Esque are quite valuable during the winter, where their large bodies help keep everyone else warmer. Equally active at day and night, Esque tend towards large eyes and ears for increased nocturnal awareness.
Common weapons of the Esque are the bow and arrow and very long, hollow lances. Esque are excellent skirmishers, able to outrun any infantry, and in a melee they prefer to leap, with or without the spear as an aid, and then stab from that height and with gravity. In this way Esque are more than a match for staggered or individual warriors, and adequate archers. Bows launched by the foot are common among them for the purposes of hunting various elephant species, and they are surprisingly powerful weapons at war. An Esque lance-charge is a very risky maneuver and is difficult to succeed at unless flanking or attacking from the rear, but Esque are mobile and able to do that if they are backed somehow else. Esque wear paper armor and use traded metals for their spear and arrow heads. They do not stand up in melee combat, the men being too frail and even Esque women are less robust than an ordinary Tear-dweller. Esquer men do not feel comfortable on the battlefield without female presence, and therefore any group of soldiers will always have a few women involved, most often as officers, but otherwise simply to relieve the mood of the men.
The social system of the Esque is dominated by matriarchal politics. From an Esquer's birth, a man is always in the shadow of a woman. From his mother, who controls the affairs of her household, an Esque man will marry his wife and move to her household, often under the same roof as her own mother who is treated as venerated matriarch. The King of the Esque is always male, but there is a large council made up of selected elders from every locale. If the King makes a decision the elders do not want, they can block that movement. 70% of the elders are women and the affairs of the women as leaders is universally well-respected. Esquer women, being the larger sex are looked to for physical warmth as well. Esquer women inherit over the boys, and clans are traced through the female line. The men of the culture are so used to seeking female approval that both sexes are uncomfortable in same-gender environments and must be mixed.
The Esque, being a rarely encountered society that most peoples are not even aware constitute a true culture are often more easily tolerated than others. They are even allied to another state, almost unheard of within the Ring. Esque serve as mercenaries fairly often in exchange for resources their primitive means cannot produce, serving an acceptable role as flanking infantry.
Inspirations for the Esque are like, wasps and monkeys and flying squirrels. They started out as my desire to design a soft matriarchy, but then I didn't want them to be just that, so I ended up with them being this. Esque men are 5'5" on average while the women are 5'10". Women are much more robustly built, but still not as heavily built as other humans. Esque wear buckskin clothing, often colored dark colors for camouflage.
The Desolated Lands are the ruined husk of seven nations that were overrun and smashed by a large barbarian migration. Tomes from the time (few have been recovered) speak of the barbarians attacking as a wild roving horde, but always finding the weaknesses in their foes, always appearing where they were unexpected, always somehow two or three steps ahead of their enemies. The nations of the Desolated Lands were collapsed under the weight of this migration while they called on their dead monarchs to rise and fight to preserve them to no avail. Those barbarians continued on a destructive path towards Madzarchen, where they then withdrew, travelling into the forests south and ceasing. Every nation aware of the campaigns watched with horror as these seven cultures were devastated some two hundred years past.
Now, the Desolated Lands are scattered cities and ever-raided townships, riddled with fledgeling culture-tribes and the remnant warbands of those seven nations, many of whom are still ruled by their still-driven Undying Monarchs. Low in population and with every city changing hands by some warlord, the Desolated Lands are vied for control by far too many groups while other barbarians periodically invade and the Reef Kingdom expands its coastal territory. Free People are common here, as some warlord always has use for mercenaries, but the roving zealots of new cultures are fickle and brash. Such a hot-bed of new cultures is suicidal to invade for any established culture: should this new group disseminate in one's own lands, or new territory be captured, how would it be controlled and invoked into the greater nation's ways? As such, long stays in the Desolated Lands are avoided like the plague.
Multitudes of new and rising cultures spawn, so that there is practically no uniformity. Their warlike nature and the banding together of oppressed urban and agrarian populations is the primary business of the people, who either try gather in societies or else die by violent means. The Desolated Lands are a good site for mercenaries to be recruited from as well, but the operation is risky, as the Reef Kingdom scowls at any foreign ships in their coastal plantations. Technology changes hands largely through war in the Desolated Lands, with few cities in good enough shape to craft or expand. Many once-noble capitals have become wooden shantytowns as the population struggles to keep the trees away so that barbarians are not encouraged to wander.
Slavery is the primary reason for foreign interest in the Desolated Lands. So far away from their geological basis, and with no possibility to learn a culture's way and return to a nation capable of doing anything with it, the Reef Kingdom regularly launches slave raids into the interior, captures them, sells them to Kerimpal from where they scatter. Slaves are kept around the Tear as domestic servants and bodyguards. The slave routes are well-established and extremely profitable, since every noble desires slaves to expand their prestige.
What the Reef Kingdom does not know, however, is that there is a means for slaves to return. Hidden in foreign nations are minuscule ports, where slaves run to if they escape. Having learned knowledge of foreign nations, they are shipped back across the Tear to the Desolated Lands and held in compounds in relative safety, returned to freedom in exchange for allowing the so-called Recondite Odyssey organization to sell the information they know to dealers. Recondite Odyssey finances the freeing of slaves and makes sure that people know how and where to escape once they are present, taking on the tremendous risk in order to sell the information, so that they might free more slaves. In fact, Recondite Odyssey is dependent on this profit and the more they gather and protect slaves in their compounds, the more they rely on the continuing of the slave trade to finance them. Rumors of association with powerful businesswomen from an unknown country abound and in effect many members of Recondite Odyssey are feared and reviled by the other people of the Desolated Lands for their brutal methods of protecting their safe havens for former slaves. Former slaves, it is rumored, are also prevented from returning elsewhere: the information that makes them valuable would be valueless if it was scattered all throughout the Desolated Lands.
The most secretive and unknown peoples in the entire Ring, the five thousand Rusalky live in the forests to Madzarchen's south, protected by their barbarians and busying themselves in their business. Rusalky are the spirits of those who were murdered and yet death's thrall refused so fiercely and so vibrantly that the aether itself took notice, became fascinated, and crafted for them a means to stay alive. In the hundreds of thousands of years of existence, Rusalky were merely wanderers, always in the shape of wide-eyed, colorless women with tawny hair. They would roam the forests and lake-shores, tempting men and women to their company, dancing and speaking with them, enraptured by the company of mortals. The folk stories of the "colorless women" are everywhere in the Tear and always end in the death of those who followed. Ages ago in the Rusalky refer to as the "Eon of Wendigo", a Rusalka would find herself preyed upon by the massive, terrible beasts, devoured for the souls she lashed to her own. After the Wendigo were driven away and defeated Rusalky still had their enemies in the form of aether-magicians capable of banishing them, civilizations who would recognize her aether-nature and insist her out of existence and the cruel desires of mortals. Most Rusalky remember these times and are thankful for their chance to live free from fear.
Gradually, as Rusalky became older and devoured more souls, some of them accumulated soul-mass enough after their feedings to invoke prophecy. By communing with the greater aether from a position of great mass they could extract knowledge and if done properly, they could make increasingly accurate predictions. When some Rusalky began to use this gift to gather barbarian tribals around them, establishing a reliable food source, they also were of a means now to finally learn about the outside world. Selling prophecy in exchange for new people, and new human interaction which they so craved became common among these early seers. As they gradually developed webs of information and knowledge, many Rusalky came to suspect that others like themselves must exist, but just as secretly as themselves. Without a means to contact one another, their theories were unproven.
All this changed with the dawning of Enarei, the oldest and most powerful Rusalka, with twenty thousand years under her and untold souls tied into her aether-mass. Enarei used the immensity of her powers to find many Rusalky and sent her emissaries, promising them a homeland and comfortable life, interesting slaves, comforts to remind them of their past lives, and above all else safety. A great many Rusalky followed her and accompanied; others were forced into obedience or intimidated by the enormity of her powers.
It was Enarei who led the barbarian migration that crafted the desolated lands, leading and conquering and slaughtering these nations to establish the ferocious reputation of the barbarians who would be the vanguard of her new city. Once in the city she began establishing buildings and structures, employing barbarian labor to make things in the individual desires of her followers. She crafted the single law that any Rusalka could do as she pleases, so long as she does not interfere in the business of another or harm the future of the Rusalka City. Enarei's own prophetic power would make sure of both things.
Before long the Rusalka had reached out and established contact with wealthy families across the Tear, trading their prophecy for slaves and goods. The economy of the Rusalka City hinges on these slaves as food sources, but the Rusalky do not enjoy the "eating" of a slave, finding the act grim and terrible. Instead, the vast majority of a Rusalka's income is spent on purchasing pleasantries for herself and her cattle, making sure they live the most comfortable lives she can manage.
Rusalky also facilitate trade in Suicides, those souls who, when being drawn from the aether refused. The result is that they are instead of being given independence of thought are instead shunted through partially: they are as immortal as the Rusalky themselves, but lacking any will of their own instead form personality and identity through mimicry. A Suicide accustomed to certain cultures will instinctively take on those traits, gradually becoming a more "realistic" being. Early Suicides remain listlessness in their eyes, absence of color in their irises, poreless, smooth skin and physics-free hair. As they become more accustomed they gain the appearance of real skin, blood vessels, internal organs, faces with more potent features. Rusalky do not enjoy keeping a Suicide with so much lifelike feature in it and do not enjoy the company of these beings: they advertise their presence across the aether in a way that makes them immensely predictable. There is also the risk of Suicides going rogue if allowed to form too much of a personality, and so they are instead flayed of the presences they detect. Suicides are aware of this process, and refer to each flaying as a death, and the new gatherings as life. While a Suicide needs to feed on mortals just as a Rusalka does, Suicides believe they have more common ground with mortals, and empathize in their own way. Suicides are born to Rusalky and traded; they make excellent diplomats and representatives and can be linked to the owning Rusalky during the flaying so that they are always connected. A Suicide kept close to a Rusalky naturally grows to have some innate link to her mental state and they can be immensely protective.
Rusalky can easily see through one another and find the presence of each other boring, but Queen Enarei forces them to participate in rituals meant to invoke some respect for their shared background. Common practices are public dances and singing, while Enarei insists on them that they are all Sisters. The Rusalky only abide by her desires because it is she who is the most potent prophet, she who sees further than any of them.
There are many castes of Rusalky based on their relative wealth, affluence, and the level of pleasantries they have. Lowliest among the Rusalky are the Young, whose prophetic power is so minimal that they are forced to engage in tribal warfare with barbarians to try and find souls to devour. In combat a Rusalka is a poor opponent; her narrow limbs and half-present nature means that while she is tireless, she lacks strength. On the other hand, a Rusalka cannot be killed by ordinary means so that the Young, with tribes of three hundred and fifty to five hundred followers are at least able to establish some means of a stable income. The Young are able to keep a larger amount of tribal people under their sway because they are most often isolated from mainstream Rusalka culture. There are seven hundred and sixty five Young Rusalky.
Above the Young but often beneath them in terms of income are the Unconversant. With a mere twenty-five to a hundred tribal people under their sway, they can barely afford to devour their required twelve persons per year extracting from there, and selling their meager and unreliable prophecy nets them between six to eight slaves. They are almost entirely dependent on sacrifice. There are three thousand, five hundred and eighty eight of these lowly creatures. Many Unconversant are taken under the wing of superior class Rusalky and given charity in the form of free time to spend with the more affluent Rusalky's slaves. They are rarely if ever permitted to feed on another Sister's slaves, however.
The Informed are the Rusalka City's middle class, numbering five hundred and sixty eight. The trade of the Informed net them an average of twenty people per year, and some Informed even employ Suicides. They trade in information as well as prophecy to supplement their growth, and can appreciate a harem of slaves whom they favor the most for company, talk, and the exchange of gifts. By the time an Informed has come about, they have the prophetic talent of a gifted mortal aether-magician with soul-metals. Their mass and the primitive means of holding together groups a Rusalka can manage means they can only keep between a hundred and twenty-five ttribals under their power. Rusalky compulsion is not subtle and intuitive like it is for mortals, making this kind of magic very difficult for them, even with their greater soul-mass. They simply do not understand the mortal mind.
The Seers are the beginning of the upper tier of Rusalka. By the time one is a Seer one's knack for prophetic power is so advanced that the gift is beyond coincidence. Seers have an income in the hundreds of persons per year. With their increased power and the awe it inspires in their tribal followers, Seers can maintain between one and two and a half thousand tribal peoples without the inter-Rusalka exchange common in the lower classes. Each Seer employs tens of suicides, with three thousand, five hundred and twenty three among them, to the Informed's two hundred and fifty two. Seers are the most charitable of the Rusalky.
The Fifty Prophets are the absolute greatest among the Rusalky, each able to employ between five thousand and ten thousand tribals among them. Income by the time of a Prophet is irrelevant, and many of their slaves are engaged in other businesses, managing schools and the like for the benefit of other slaves. A Prophet's prices are high and their powers potent, and the Prophets know more about the world of the Tear than most entire kingdoms. An astonishing seven thousand, six hundred and ninety-nine Suicides are among the Prophets.
The Queen herself is a class unto her own. While she is not known to engage in much business, she has more ability to do so than anyone else. It is Enarei who invokes the Young into Rusalka culture once they show some ability, Enarei who collects those Sisters who do not survive the transition and are instead driven mad. Enarei's ritual to invoke the Young is by throwing herself into an immensely deep prophecy from which her soul dips into the well of the aether, and then project it through those Lost Sisters into the Young. Such a prophecy can be so consuming that her physical body needs to be beaten to draw her out of it, while for other Rusalka a mere water droplet can awaken them. The experience is harrowing and frightening, showing the strength of sight possible and to change their entire perspective on life. Enarei's Lost Sisters are those who can wipe the Suicides as well, one of the means she maintains control. There are nearly five hundred Lost Sisters at Enarei's disposal and she cares for them utterly, though many of her slaves find the Lostling's presence off-putting. Enarei employs and feeds nine hundred and seventy four Suicides.
Rusalky mentality is focused on the manner of their death. While a Rusalka may obsess over her life, she only remembers the manner of her death in stark detail. Their life is spent mulling over the details, trying to reconstruct the person from the manner of their death. As they build in philosophy they begin to in many ways base themselves on the philosophy borne out of their death. As a Rusalky's soul-mass increases she gains more details about her actual life, and her name and habits change as she gets more accurate information. Only Enarei fully remembers her entire life. More "dramatic" deaths are often a mark of higher-class Rusalky who form stronger personalities on stronger, more visceral deaths.
In case it was not yet clear, a Rusalka "feeds" through sexual intercourse to orgasm. Rusalky do not enjoy or appreciate sex, to them it is only a harbinger of death. What a Rusalka most wants from mortals is their company and presence and conversation, and the fact that she must decide which slaves she appreciates the least deeply wounds her. It is, however, a necessity: a Rusalka must eat twelve times per year, a Suicide four. In some way they believe that a slave has a chance to live forever as their soul is lashed to her own, but the act is still a matter of great solemness. Slaves are given the finest lives its owner can afford both to make them more interesting for their Rusalka owner and to apologize in a way for the ending of their life. If a Rusalka especially despises someone, they may show physical affection, dress in provocative ways, or anything else that links to sex in a mortal mind. Such an act is a declaration of intent to kill, something immensely perverse and evil by Rusalky standards.
Rusalky can control their hair as frail limbs, wrapping it loosely about their necks at times, and other times spreading it about their faces. Suicide is not an act of great concern for Rusalky as they can regenerate fully from a single hair.
If a Rusalka cannot feed on a mortal soul, there is an alternative. Largely considered gauche and humorous, a hungry Rusalka may feed on a tree. The tree is magically inclined to begin fruiting immediately, completing the act within several months during which the Rusalka is sustained. The disadvantage is that she is unable to do anything else but stay up in its branches, guarding it until its last fruit drops naturally. That this commonly occurs in the lower classes frequently is cause for their staying in that class. Lower-ranking Rusalka like the Young and the Unconversant use weapons to defend the trees or engage in warfare, but the use of weapons is considered a sign of their poverty and is in no sense inspirational. The more gentle a Rusalka can be, largely, the more genteel her status. Rusalky can improve the accuracy of their prophecy by participating in many consecutive feedings, but that act is considered heinous.
Nearly a tenth of the slaves in the Desolated Lands' Recondite Odyssey organization are Rusalka sleeper-slaves, who are to gather information for their mistresses and then upon their return (escorted by the Odyssey's people) are freed along with some other slaves of their choosing. Without the Rusalka's information networks, traffic, and the activity of the Suicides, Recondite Odyssey could not exist. There is some great irony in the existence of the primary anti-slave organization relying on a society of slave-devouring prophets.
The Rusalka are inspired by, well, a lot of stuff. Since I've started to only use this space to talk about how they should be regarded, Rusalky are not evil, nor are they good. They enjoy and desire human company, and are immune to most kinds of death. If starved, a Rusalka merely goes mad. One thing no Rusalka save Enarei knows is that roughly nine City-States in Sulieos have captive Rusalka, kept in boxes and forced to be engorged on slaves. Part of the reason Sulieos does not unite into a single nation is the element of power the captive Rusalky give; it's very difficult to plan for prophecy. A man or woman can be reborn as a Rusalka, but for the most part it is mothers who manage the ferocious will to live required. All Rusalky look the same in their unlife, and the image I use for inspiration in that regard is here.
Last edited by agreyloon; 03-29-2013 at 06:41 PM.
gadzooks, thar be a lotta stuff ta read! Be savin this fer later then. An' color me intrested.
Holy Nissur sometimes gets tired of simply killing people, and prefers mutilation and maiming. Inspiration from Assyrian proclamations."Yea, for Holy Nissur has descended,
Yea, for Holy Nissur has conquered,
and Holy Nissur has victory and the winnings of victory,
and Holy Nissur has crushed the genitals of this country today."
"I, the dormin of Holy Nissur, vanquisher from on high, champion of the high perch did come to this land
and I, the dormin of Holy Nissur, slaughterer of masses, did strike their King three times with mighty blows
and I, the dormin of Holy Nissur, emptier of breasts, did flay their youths and daughters
and I, the dormin of Holy Nissur did wrap my chariot in their leathers."Holy Nissur, you're terrible. For historical reference, this is the kind of stuff the Assyrians bragged about:"I came to this land in spring and by fall, through siege rams and attack ladders I took seventeen cities, forty villages, seventy thousand captives, nine hundred slaves.
I and the sons and daughters found them in their homes like animals, and butchered them without the dignity of animals. We gashed them from the neck to spine-base, so that their body was not fully cleaved;
We laid them in the sun around the King's domain, dancing around his mutilated people, and on the eighth day, their bodies burst with foul gas and they were wracked with maggots and filth, which we loaded onto our catapults, and hurled into their city
On the tenth day their walls came down with mines and breaches, and forward came the Gods
Our wheels greased with the mucked flesh of their nation."
"I built a pillar over against his city gate, and I flayed all the chief men who had revolted, and I covered the pillar with their skins; some I walled up within the pillar, some I impaled upon the pillar on stakes, and others I bound to stakes round the about the pillar; many within the border of my own land I flayed, and I spread their skins upon the walls; and I cut off the limbs of the officers, of the royal officers who had rebelled."
Last edited by agreyloon; 03-14-2013 at 10:04 PM.
I'd like to join, If you'd have me.
Finished reading. And ye, me still interested.
Great, all. I'll be writing up an OOC thread by Monday, hopefully, including character guide and whatsit. Until then, I finished the summary of the Men of Haugrtalfheimr, which means I have only Kerimpal, Wonygs, the Desolated Lands and the Rusalka City left.
This image seemed pertinent.
Last edited by agreyloon; 03-17-2013 at 02:16 AM.
I'll be looking forward to it.