Monday, September 2, 2013

Humans: An Overview

by Frank Shaw

Created by Ariga in memory of her love for Mar, humans have found their way across the world of Desylinn thanks to the Lash-ti-Nowish and the slave trade they created for the Mariean Empire. The bulk of humanity live in two regions: the Southern Islands just off the coast of the main land of Desylinn and the chains of islands called the Tears of Ariga, which are a vast distance south of the continent.

On Desylinn most humans integrate into the dominate societies around them. Humans in the Red Clan city of Shinkyuden adopt the Red Clan’s culture as best they can, while in Hub they play the games of the Great Guilds vying for power and prestige among the ranks. In the Free Cities humans plot amongst and with the nobles of Tarn Modeshi, serve as cult leaders in Chaido, barter and trade in the markets of Q’lazz and exemplify their marshal prowess in Bann Tordech. However a majority of mainland humans belong to the Kindred, having taken Khan marks.

While it’s rare to find a predominantly human village on the mainland, other than on the southern coast, they are a few to be found in Eart’linn and the Fertile Lands. These villages borrow heavily from the nearby cultures as most humans are generations removed from the Southern Islands or the Tears of Ariga. The only practice still commonplace is ritualized tattooing on the arms and torso.

The Southern Islands:

The Southern Islands are heavily influenced by the Lash-ti-Nowish and have a large influx of non-humans living on the larger islands. Islands nearest the coast have small Lash-ti-nowish cities which served as outposts during the height of the Empire. It was common for humans on more distant islands to raid and capture other villages to trade with the Snakes for weapons and tools from the mainland. Prized by the elves for their hardiness, appearance and the ease with which they could break their wills, humans made valuable slaves. The slave trade has since stopped though prisoners are still taken, typically women and children, who are used to tend fields and unsavory jobs. Most are eventually integrated into the village, either when they come of age or when they marry their abductors.

Villages are ruled by chieftains. With a strong emphasis on hunting and fishing the culture is male dominated, leaving women in a second class role. All men are considered warriors, though a distinct hierarchy exists. The chieftain is typically an elder warrior who has gained notoriety through his prowess and cunning. This can be contested by battle, but it is rare for the role of chieftain to go outside a small circle of warriors and their children. Those who have proven themselves often act as the chieftains honor guards. In addition to guarding and advising the chieftain, they also help train thier young sons, allowing them to gain significant martial prowess over the other villagers.

Tattooing is common. Large facial tattoos are worn by the men with the best warriors bearing the largest tattoos. Arm and back tattoos are common as well; keeping record of raids, hunts, foes defeated, or even life debts. It is rare to meet a human from the Southern Islands without some sort of tattoo. Women will often have magical tattoos to aid in their work, grant them fertility, or a symbol of Ariga which bestows a small boon when touched while praying.

Several nearby villages will often form confederacies ruled by a high chieftain. The high chieftain is typically voted on by all the villages’ men. Typically the chieftain with the most intimidating honor guard will win, being better able to garner favor with those outside his village. Villages that are in allegiance to each other are typically united by common enemies or threats and can be relied upon to come to one another’s aid.  There are usually no more than three to seven villages united in this way and typically no village is further than two days by boat.

Only the most “tested” warriors own boats, small catamarans, typically crewed by the owner and two or three others. Primarily used for fishing, there are typically enough boats in the village for every man of age to take to the water for raids. Occasionally the men will travel inland to hunt larger game, typically massive beasts which are dangerous to hunt, but yield great amounts of meat.

Women cultivate fields of taro and yams, tend to small herds of goats and boars and raise children until they come of age. Their only real form of power comes from tending the family shrines to Ariga and Mar often serving as the village shamans. When spiritual matters arise it is to the women that the men typically turn. There are villages that have abandoned the worship of Ariga. These villages worship one of the Brothers -typically Daikado- or one of the darker aspects of Nhoj. The villages practice violent rites of passage, blood sacrifices and whole sale massacres of any nearby neighbors that refuse to join in their debauched practices.

 The Tears of Ariga:

The Tears of Ariga are dominated by humanity, as they are far from the mainland and difficult to find. The first of the archipelagos are many weeks travel from the southern shore of Desylinn while the farthest islands require months of travel. The archipelagos are made up of dense chains of islands broken up by large expanses of ocean. The largest of the islands, Go’Arig, is surrounded by dense clusters of islands, making navigation difficult. Roughly about a tenth of the size of the mainland to the north it is here where the second significant human culture exists.

Go’Arig is not fully homogenous, nomadic humans live in the eastern mountain ranges while tribes of vicious hunters live in the dense rain forests on the north western shore. The southern shore has many small violent villages that worship Tlal.

The predominant culture of Go’Arig is the “Oki’aki Humaruk’arig” or the Princes of Mar and Ariga. A society of 4 distinct castes: The Oki’aki or The Princes, Muamaro or the Priests, Koa Huki’aki or the warriors and Loamo la or the Vassals. Each bears a caste tattoo except the Oki'aki.

Controlling the island as a series of principalities the Oki’aki rule as a council where deft politicking garners considerably more power than simple wealth. Even so, outright aggression and war is not uncommon either. The Oki’Aki have absolute control over the land and demand regular taxes and tributes from the vassals, using the warriors to excise the taxes and quell revolts.

All priests bear their caste mark on their forehead. The more elaborate the tattoo indicating their power and respect with in the caste. It’s the only caste where women may hold power. The religion of Go’Arig focuses on the highly ritualized worship of Mar, only paying lip service to Ariga and the other gods. Acting in a specific role that commands some respect and influence it isn’t uncommon for an Oki’aki to install a “Priest” into a particular position in order to execute an agenda. Priests serve as councilors, historians, and bookkeepers to the various Princes and occasionally as generals in times of war.

Professional soldiers have become common as many of the Oki’aki are willing to wage wars for territory and influence. Unlike the upper castes, where power and influence is gained through bribes and deceit, the Warrior caste is meritocratic. While some politicking does occur among the leaders of the warriors, promotion through the ranks is the reward for valor and service. Given land to farm, the Warriors are taxed little and often raise their sons to follow in their footsteps. Each bear a small tattoo on their cheeks, the Warrior caste mark, which becomes more complex as the warrior rises through the ranks.

At the bottom are the vassals bearing tattoos on their hands and forearms they toil away in the fields of rice and soybeans, raise livestock and fruit and live their dreary lives with little to no change. Their only hope for true social mobilization is by joining monasteries or the ranks of the Warrior caste. Those that join the monasteries find their lives not significantly different from before. Many excess children are given to the monasteries to ease the burden on their families.  Those that learn the art of politics may however find themselves gaining power and favor in the monasteries until gaining a Priest Mark. During wartime vassals act as fodder for the Princes, and survivors of large wars are few and far between as vassals typically do not receive sufficient training. While most survivors opt to go back to their dreary, yet somewhat safer lives, those that receive recognition will often take the warriors mark.

Well over a month’s travel from the mainland Go’Arig only has a single nonhuman city, Gutua’oki or City of the Snake Princes. Independent of the Oki’aki, Gutua’oki is controlled by the Lash-ti-nowish, who are the only race with ships that regularly travel the open ocean. It is here where representatives of the Guilds may be found in small numbers. The Merchant’s Guild has the largest presence, hoping to gain a strong foot hold on the island. Seeking ways to influence the Princes, very few have been successful, some relying on magical means and deceit to sway the Oki’aki.