The Mith’lani Records – Prologue

“I’m sorry, Thalvic, but if your demeanor was as bitter as this swill in front of me, I’d throw myself from the highest peak of the Mithulan Mountains within an hour of your company.”

Thalvic bellowed with laughter from deep within his rotund belly for what seemed like an eternity. Aelfwine Theodwita withdrew a handkerchief from a pocket in his sleeve and began to remove the spittle that had flown from Thalvic’s gaping maw onto the historian’s plain brown cloak. Both men wore similar weatherproof cloaks of heavy flax, lacquered to keep out the snow and hail, though the traditional Mith’lani feather, hide, and bone fetishes that adorned Thalvic’s cloak were notably absent from Aelfwine’s. Even with an ocean and half a continent between him and Greatvale, the historian retained a distaste for all things ostentatious shared by many in the Folkdeed.

Thalvic wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, obviously fighting back a few remaining laughs.

“So you dislike svanka?” Thalvic asked. “This is the lifeblood of the Mith’lani! You wish to know what it is to be a child of Mother Mithulan? Then drink deep the milk from her teats my brother!”

With a slap on the back that nearly knocked Aelfwine to the floor, Thalvic refilled the historian’s iron tankard. The scent of the svanka, a liquor made from fermented lichen and flax, sent Aelfwine’s head spinning. It was his belief that to learn of a people’s history, one must understand the people as they exist today. Learning of the Mith’lani was proving to be as much a physical challenge as it was an academic one…

“I meant no offense, brother.” Aelfwine spoke the Mith’lani words slowly, but with an impressive level of fluency.

“Nonsense, is already forgotten!” Thalvic meandered back to his bench opposite the historian. As he lowered his significant girth, the wooden boards groaned – it was a testament to Mith’lani craftsmanship that they held at all.

“Brother, continue where you were. You were preparing to ask another question I believe?”

“Yes, I was.” Aelfwine paused momentarily, considering the consequences of his next question. While his host was showing himself to be a paragon of hospitality, he also knew that strapped to Thalvic’s right thigh was a traditional nuthlak hunting knife. In the Mithulan Mountains an insult was met in one of two ways; with a hearty laugh, or with tempered steel sliding across your throat…

Aelfwine withdrew a piece of parchment and dipped his quill slowly into his inkwell.

“Thalvic, why did the Mith’lani invade the Kastan’ose Valley, before the Vazj arrived?”

The large man stopped mid-movement, his tankard frozen just in from of his parted lips. Slowly, he set the drink down on the wide table in front of them, and met Aelfwine with a stony gaze. Aelfwine met the rock grey eyes across from him, knowing that to look away would be tantamount to suicide. Thalvic kept his gaze locked on Aelfwine for what seemed like an eternity.

Finally, the silence was broken.

“Let me refill your mug, historian. And you best fetch another piece of parchment.”

Kingdom of Greatvale

The lands of the Greatvale

The lands of the Greatvale

The Kingdom of Greatvale was one of the Nine Ancient Realms that dominated the Greatvale region for over five thousand years until it was reorganized into the Greatvale Folkdeed.

Around 5450 PC, Wulfred of Dunburgh led a party of colonists from the Hidden Lands toward the Sunset Lands. After their expedition was blown off course in bad weather, and after surviving a shipwreck that nearly claimed the life of Wulfred, they arrived in Greatvale near what is now known as the Beacon in Fralin’s Deep.

Wulfred led the survivors of the expedition up the estuary they named the Great Tidewater to a site suitable for encampment.  It is said that upon seeing the site for the first time, Wulfred exclaimed, “Ah, here at last is a home for our people.” Thus was the place named “Folkhame.” Accounts vary as to when the term Greatvale was first used, as it is not entirely clear when the scope of the valley was realized.

Wulfred remained as leader of the colony until  his death, when he was succeeded by his son Cynric.  Neither Wulfred nor Cynric, despite being considered the founding members of a royal dynasty that would last thousands of years, were ever called “king” during their lifetimes.  The term that was used of Wulfred and his descendants was traditionally “Boroughreeve,” roughly equivalent to “mayor.”  By the middle of the Fifth Millennium PC, the term buriff had lost all exclusive association with the Borough of Folkhame and had come to refer to the lord, based in Folkhame, who ruled the lands of the vale surrounding the Tidewater.

The Unification of Greatvale

In 3792 PC, the Buriff of Folkhame had succeeded in subduing or outright conquering all the other regions of the valley and established one unified political entity.  The unification of the vale brought about a transformation in the culture of the region and the belief that a new era of civilization had been achieved.  With that change, the Buriff took on the title of cyning or “king”, a term translated from neighboring tongues for a concept that had in reality long existed in the vale.  With the unification of the valley, the Kingdom of Greatvale was born.

Dynastic History

The Kingdom of Greatvale was ruled over the millennia by a number of different dynasties, but all of them claimed descent from Wulfred in some fashion or another, and so according to the official chronicles of the Kingdom of Greatvale, the line of Wulfred continued throughout the entire monarchy.  Contemporary scholars doubt the claims of a number of the dynasties as to the bloodlines of Wulfred, but the question is not settled.

The End of the Monarchy

The final dynasty to sit on the throne of Greatvale, the Beornish Dynasty, was plagued by capricious rulers who often bordered on the brutish.  The Last King, Godwine III Beorncyning, was such an erratic and cruel leader that his reign led directly to the Long Campaign of 118-110 PC that ended the monarchy once and for all and established the Folkdeed of Greatvale.

The Patronage

The Patronage is located in the northeast portion of the Sunrise Lands, located at the confluence of the Fithalir and Adder Rivers. It is bounded on the north by the Barkeater Mountains, to the east by the Long River, to the west by the Saltmarshes, and to the south by the Fortress Mountains.

The lands of the Patronage and surrounding realms

The lands of the Patronage and surrounding realms

In the Third Century PC, in response to the continued commercial and economic growth of the Kingdom of Greatvale, Carmadh attempted to establish a number of colonies in a bid to become a continent spanning empire. King Azh-Azuza granted colonization rights to a number of companies that would agree to establish colonies of a certain size. A number of Carmadhi companies committed to founding colonies along the shores of the Fithalir River on the east coast of the sunrise lands.

In 247 PC, the first Carmadhi company, the Fithalir River Trading Company, established a colony at the mouth of the Fithalir on the Island of Many Hills. By the royal charter granted to each company, the head of the company, or Patroon, was granted lordship rights over a tract of land not to exceed ten leagues long (or five leagues long if on both sides of the river) and five leagues inland.  The families that agreed to settle on this patronage land, were in effect indentured servants for a period of fifteen years, during which all income generated went to the Patroon who forwarded a percentage on to the king in Carmadh.

In 223 PC, Ethif Zu’ujja founded the patronage of Fort Naranj near the juncture of the Fithalir and Adder Rivers.  The patronage established under Zu’ujja began to prosper immediately from the fur and lumber trade.  The fur trade was made even more lucrative by good relations Zu’ujja developed with the indigenous populations of the high forest and the lands south of the Barkeater Mountains. His son, Gikud Zu’ujja continued development of the patronage and by the beginning of the Second Century PC, the Zu’ujja Patronage was the wealthiest of all the Carmadhi patronages established along the Fithalir.  The patronage system was a great success for Carmadh, allowing them to grow in wealth and prestige among the realms of the Sunrise Lands and would likely have continued unabated but for the Catastrophe.

With the Catastrophe, much of the communication between Carmadh and their patronage colonies in the east was severed.  By the time the Lost Time was over, the Zu’ujja Patronage had managed to establish itself as the sole surviving patronage of the region, having conquered or purchased the other realms.  The records of this era (as with the records of so many other realms during the Lost Time) are fragmentary, but suggest that through a combination of military prowess and diplomatic cunning, The Zu’ujja patroons won control over the whole Fithalir Valley from the Island of Many Hills and the Great Isle in the south to the edge of the Barkeater Mountains in the north. Unverified reports suggest that the Zu’ujjas even entered into a pact with the Nine Related Tribes to the south that effectively surrounded the historic patronage of the Fithalir River Trading Company and led to its conquest. By the end of the Seventh Century AC, the Patronage (as it was now called), was in effective control of all the lands from the Long River to the east to Saltmarsh in the west.

The Patronage remains to this day one of the great economic powerhouses of the far east and continues to have strong economic ties with Carmadh, although Carmadh has never formally relinquished its claims on the lands of the historic patronages and as a result there are always rumors of conflict brewing.

 

The Elder Folk

The Elder Folk were one of the primordial civilizations of the Hidden Lands. It is unclear whether the Elder Folk were once civilization or many.  The existence and near ubiquity of the Elder Tongue suggests that the Elder Folk who colonized the Sunrise and Sunset Lands were of one cultural stock.  However, the existence of some cultures and languages whose linguistic heritage is markedly different (e.g., Greatvale, Kastan’ose, Norrist) argues for a much more diverse ancestral group than is commonly supposed.

The Elder Folk civilization first appeared around 7000 PC and developed what they referred to as “the sciences”—written language, mathematics, architecture, bronze working, and agriculture; in short, all the technologies of civilization.  Although the Edler Folk invented writing, they left behind no written records of their history and much of what is known (or believed) about them is the stuff of legend.

They were reported to have been masters not only of the “sciences”, they were masters of the “arts”—more commonly known as magic.  The few stories that have survived from the two-thousand year period the Elder Folk were on the Hidden Lands present a complex and bizarre portrait of a people grounded in the ordinary and using the tools of the extraordinary.  It is said that they built simple cities of brick and stone that floated in the air, tethered by rope ladders to the ground.

Beginning in the the mid-sixth millennium PC, the Elder Folk began to explore the world and founded a number of colonies on both the Sunrise and Sunset Lands.  In a window that lasted about 500 years, waves of emigres left the Hidden Lands for these colonies on the shores of the Middling Sea.  Toward the end of this period, all contact with the Hidden Lands was cut off, including the location of the Hidden Lands themselves, an event usually assumed to be the result of magic.  There is a fair amount of debate as to whether the explorers and emigres were aware of some impending disaster or whether it caught them unawares. In any event, the lack of an enduring written record of the period has meant that any knowledge of the Elder Folk’s time in the Hidden Lands has been communicated only through legend.

The Kastan’ose Civilizations

A Brief History of the Djunna, the Last Surviving Civilization of the Kastan’ose Valley

Compiled by Aelfwine Theodwita, Senior Historian of the Gaderung of Education, 1213 AC

The Kastan’ose Valley Civilizations represented a unique amalgamation of cultures in their golden era, from roughly 600 PC to 806 AC. Born from the gathering of several distinct nomadic tribes drawn to the Kastan’ose River and the rich vegetation of the surrounding Kastan’ose Valley, these civilizations were born not from the blood of conflict but rather from fires fueled by mercantile and aesthetic competition. For more than a millennium the Kastan’ose Valley contained some of the most materially affluent and culturally rich societies within memory; of more significance, however, they created what may be the most advanced cultural community to have ever claimed the Sunset Lands as home. While the Kastan’ose knew something of the vastness of the world (Lu’Amina as they called it) they held to the concept that to know one’s land was all that was needed to live a fulfilled live. Know the Kastan’ose Valley they did, for even at the height of their population, the densely packed Civilizations knew never to exploit their land beyond its limits to recover. Left undisturbed, the Kastan’ose Valley Civilizations would likely inhabit their homeland today. Instead, their end came from sword and swine…

To understand how they died, one must understand how they lived. The Kastan’ose Valley, which follows the Kastan’ose River due west for roughly 40 leagues after its birth in the snowcapped Mithulan Mountains, lies near the northwest coast of the Sunset Lands. The Valley was a natural breadbasket, with citrus trees lining both slopes and a thin grain called leshhni growing on the banks of the river. Birds and amphibious life was plentiful, and herds of a dog-sized rodent (the now extinct shna’mina) roamed the foothills nearest the Mithulan Mountains. It was here that nomadic tribes, at least thirty that we know of, began to settle in the Kastan’ose.

It is a rare thing to speak of a peaceful encounter when more than one people first meet. But the tribes that settled in the Kastan’ose found no need to engage in competition; both resources and land were plentiful for wandering groups that rarely accounted for more than several hundred. Interactions were fueled by curiosity, not survival. Soon, specialization occurred among the various groups. While all had enough to live comfortably, the resources of the Kastan’ose were not spread equally. The Djunna, settled near the beginning of the river at the foothills of the Mithulan, began to hunt and eventually herd the shna’mina. The meat soon became a delicacy throughout the Valley. Other tribes traded in citrus, or fish, or in the case of the northwestern most tribes the strong wood from the evergreens of coastal plains. These tribes remained separated geographically, and by localized customs, but became deeply intertwined economically.

As the languages of the Kastan’ose tribes began to meld, allowing for more efficient trade, the different ideals and myths of the once nomadic groups began to spread and intermingle. As mentioned earlier, there was a word for the world at large: Lu’Amina. Of much more importance, though, was the Lu’Kastani. The former translates to “our world,” the latter to “our land.” Knowledge of the Kastan’ose Valley was of the utmost importance to these tribes. To know the world beyond the slopes of the Valley was unimportant, and left to a handful of impetuous youths. To know the land surrounding the Kastan’ose River itself, specifically to understand how to draw her resources while focusing on conservation of the intertwined systems within the Valley, became the focus of their varying religions and philosophies. Regardless of the gods or spirits they worshiped, all people of Kastan’ose held this concept as central.

The Kastan’ose were among the few people to be unaffected by the Catastrophe, so isolated were they. The first contact the Kastan’ose had with an outside group was with the Mith’lani, or “men of stone,” in 806 AC. The Mith’lani, natives of the Mithulan Mountains, had developed a mighty war machine fighting off incursions from the barbarians to the east of the mountain range (located near what is now called the Bay of Fingers). While they were in truth men of flesh and bone their iron swords and simple plate armor fooled the Kastan’ose, who knew nothing in the way of metallurgy, into believing they were of the Mountain itself. The Mith’lani descended into the foothills near the beginning of the Kastan’ose River. The Djunna were overwhelmed; armed with nothing but the long throwing spears used to hunt shna’mina and with no armor of any kind, they surrendered within a few days of the invasion. The Mith’lani used their captives’ habitations as a forward barracks, and forced the Djunna to gather as many shna’mina as possible to be slaughtered for the army. Many Djunna resisted, as this order was tantamount to an assault on Lu’Kastani itself. It is estimated that for every five Djunna who lived before the invasion, three were killed in this first week. The rest submitted.

With a foothold in the Kastan’ose Valley the Mith’lani planned to march west and seize as much land as possible, possibly continuing past the valley to the coastal plain. This plan was halted by an unexpected unification of the Kastan’ose people. It seems the Mith’lani underestimated the importance the Valley itself held to the Kastan’ose people as a whole, regardless of their cultural differences. Despite their technological advantage, for three cycles of the Moon the Mith’lani were cheated their easy conquest by a people who knew their land as intimately as they knew themselves. This continued until the night of the third full moon, when the Vazj arrived from the Sunset Sea.

The coastal city states that existed en masse at the time were razed to the ground by these mysterious peoples. They quickly marched through the plains and into the Valley. Within a week from their arrival they had marched to the Mithulan Mountains themselves. The Kastan’ose and Mith’lani were killed in equal measure, a slaughter so immense that few details of these vile men (if they were men at all) exist today. It is believed that the Vazj marched east over the Mountains all the way to the coast of the Middling Sea. Whether they changed their direction to the north or south, or somehow departed into the Middling Sea, no one knows. They vanished as quickly as they arrived, leaving behind nary a single Vazj body or artifact, only death and destruction.

While the slaughter was immense, it was not complete. Of all those killed, it was the defenseless Djunna who survived. The exact reason is a matter of speculation; the most popular theories hold that the Djunna were able to hide in the thick forests where they were forced to hunt, or perhaps the Vazj showed uncharacteristic mercy and spared the defenseless slaves. For whatever reason, the Djunna were the only living women and men left in the Kastan’ose Valley. Lu’Kastani had not been spared such mercy, though, and what the Djunna inherited resembled in no way the fertile land settled by their ancestors.

The only detail of the Vazj army that we know of today is their use of some sort pig or boar as a war beast. They stood as high as a man’s breast and likely weighed as much as a warhorse. It is believed that the Vazj released them before their army moved forward; this stampeding juggernaut of gnashing teeth and goring tusks would cause massive damage to an enemy before the army itself ever arrived. Their existence is known primarily from the many skeletons buried in layers of rock and snow near the zenith of the Mithulan Mountains. It would seem they were not prepared for the bone-aching chill of the peaks.

Within the Kastan’ose Valley, however, they carried out their mission with horrifying efficiency. A land once composed of lush vegetation and thick groves set among rolling hills became a cesspool. The swine, and the army that followed, devoured or otherwise destroyed most of the intertwining systems of life that defined the Kastan’ose. The river was dammed by the felled forests, and today the Kastan’ose Valley is little more than a lifeless swamp interrupted by intermittent hills. The only plant still found in the area is the leshni grain. It is on this alone that the Djunna survive.

At the end of the invasion, over 400 years ago, nearly three thousand Djunna survived. Today, there are barely four hundred. They are a ghost, a vestigial reminder of a once great civilization. They are phantoms passing through a 40 league long graveyard.

Rumors spread through the northwest of the Sunset Lands, though, that could bring the Kastan’ose Valley back into the forefront of the land’s events. Civil war is brewing throughout the Duchy of Gurefren, the region’s main power, its political stability worn thin from expansion beyond the northern highlands into the plains and coasts surrounding the Kastan’ose River… To the west, in The Sunset Sea, strange ships are said to have docked on the Isles of Empty. It is said that these vessels carry not just men, but herds of beasts standing high as a man but with the girth of cattle. It is said they carry these tusked beasts by the score… and to the east, something stirs in the Mithulan Mountains, and on the tongues of all Djunna is repeated one phrase, Mishallan Shin’Amina: The World’s Bane.

Vardanit

The mountainous territory of Vardanit occupies the stretch of land connecting the northwestern peninsula of the Sunrise Lands to the rest of the continent, cutting off the outcropping to the west of the mountain range which provides the shortest journey across the Middling Sea.  However, most who can afford to choose to embark from the bay to the south instead, given the harsh nature of the Vardan climate and terrain.  Only one road is maintained through the Vardanit, and travelers from outside are generally advised to keep within its borders for their own safety.

Vardanit and neighboring Carmadh

Vardanit and neighboring Carmadh

The most easily ascertained features of Vardan culture include the production of beautifully worked silver and velvet products and a rich collective repository of epics, poetry, and songs.  Vardan food centers on goat or lamb stew, usually roasted and served over rice or large square-shaped flatbread with boiled eggs.  Almost all Vardan men perpetually chew the leaves of the garn plant, which seem to work as a mild intoxicant.  Vardans have a reputation among those who visit them for long-windedness and involved, perhaps even misleading, speech, but this impression can be attributed somewhat to the Vardan diglossia.  As a mark of respect and honor, Vardans will usually only address outside visitors in the higher register of their language, reserved otherwise for educational and religious arenas and more closely related to Thuva-Tha, the elder tongue.  Thus, knowledge of the everyday, lower register of the Vardan language is limited to the Vardan themselves and those few determined traders who have spent decades trekking through the mountain passes of Vardanit.

The Vardan themselves are highly hospitable but maintain strict privacy about certain aspects of their culture, especially those pertaining to religion.  Rumors abound among neighboring peoples about their practices, including that they worship either demons or fire, and perhaps also incorporate cannibalism into their rituals.  The only one among these wild tales to be corroborated is the report that some groups among the Vardan historically view handling fire or burning brands as a mark of holiness, although no outsider has observed this practice for some fifty years.  During the brief Carmadhi occupation of the southern reaches of Vardanit, Carmadh military conducted brutal raids on Vardan settlements with objection to the fire-handling ceremonies as a pretext, driving the practice underground if it continues at all.  Since the end of the Carmadh occupation, the Vardan have continued in the principle of dapet, or necessary concealment, which allows them to lie without moral consequences if directly asked about inner tenets or practices of their religion.  Thus, any information gleaned about them since the Carmadh occupation must be regarded with some suspicion.

It is known for sure, however, that the Vardan worldview prizes balance.  Part of this emphasis on balance involves a belief in reincarnation, which among other factors leads to a great affection for infants and children in Vardanit.  Since any new-born Vardan may in fact contain the soul of a recently-deceased loved one, children are highly favored and often seem spoiled to outside visitors.  Through a series of rituals and tests, religious practioners among the Vardan are sometimes able to determine the previous identity of a newborn.

The other reason for this devotion to the young is a marked lack of fertility among Vardan men.  (Some outside researchers have posited that the garn plant which plays such a central role in male Vardan social life may have cumulative contraceptive qualities, but not enough studies have been conducted to prove conclusive.)  Vardan society, then, is monogamous in structure, reflecting the cosmological concern with balance, but male outside visitors are regularly boarded alone in the room of a daughter or young wife.  Like lying under the auspices of dapet, intercourse under such circumstances carries no moral consequences for the family or the traveler, but instead is officially viewed as a contribution to the continuation of the entire people.  (Some reports have emerged, however, of altercations between husbands and such visitors should anything but discretion be exercised afterward.)  Vardan society is therefore matrilineal, tracing family lines and religious belonging along the only path that can be determined for certain, and outside males are sometimes “localized” through marriage with Vardan women, though the opposite is never true.

The Vardan, living as they do in isolated settlements carved from (and sometimes into) the stone of their mountains, tend to be self-sufficient and have little use for centralized authority, traits which contributed to their intransigence and repression under the Carmadhi occupation.  They have historically offered refuge to exiles or refugees from other realms.  Vardanit does, however, contain one single leader in the person of the Danthag, literally the “people’s best.”  The Danthag is believed to be the one Vardan in each generation capable of containing two reincarnated souls, specifically those of the first mother and father of the Vardan, and so symbolically serves as both to the entire people, never expressing one gender to the exclusion of the other.  In a furtherance of the Vardan concern with balance, the Danthag lives within a large cavern in what Vardan believe to be the exact middle of their realm, thus forming the physical, religious, and political “center.”  In practice, however, the Danthag’s power lies more in the realms of ritual and, in extreme cases, conflict resolution, with local governance performed within smaller areas by a yazdan, or “least person,” whose rhetoric is traditionally constrained by an extreme modesty but who nonetheless exercises near total control within their domain.

The Folkdeed of Greatvale

The Greatvale Folkdeed is the only republic in all of the Sunrise Lands.   Occupying the lands surrounding the breakwater of the Great Tidewater, the Folkdeed is an anomaly in the cultures of the continent.

Governance

Seal of the Folkdeed of Greatvale: “The Ealdormoot and Folk of Greatvale: Justice, Truth, Equality”

Seal of the Folkdeed of Greatvale: “The Ealdormoot and Folk of Greatvale: Justice, Truth, Equality”

The Folkdeed is governed by an Ealdormoot, consisting of Ealdormen and Ealdorwomen elected by the people of Greatvale to serve for a term of four years. The Ealdormoot is assisted in its work by a series of lower houses known as the Gaderungs responsible largely for defining the regulations and the parameters of the laws promulgated by the Ealdormoot.  Each region of the Folkdeed has its own Gaderung, which elects an Ealdorman or Ealdorwoman to serve in the Ealdormoot. There are also a number of Gaderungs-at-Large, responsible for the oversight and administration of particular areas, such as food, resources, medicine, and education. Each Gaderung-at-Large elects its own Ealdorman or Ealdorwoman to the Ealdormoot. Every two years, the Ealdormoot elects two Rædgivers who serve essentially as head of state and head of government, though the divisions are not clear and are fluid, depending on the working relationship of the two Rædgivers.  In addition, the two often function effectively as War Chief and Peace Chief, one responsible for foreign and military affairs, the other for domestic and economic affairs. In times of crisis, the Ealdormoot may choose to elect essentially two war chiefs or two peace chiefs, depending on whether the crisis is foreign or domestic.  Together, the Rædgivers may exercise a veto over legislation passed by the Ealdormoot. If one Rædgiver vetoes a bill, the Ealdormoot may override the veto by a two-thirds majority.  If both Rædgivers veto the bill, the Ealdormoot may override the veto by a three-fourths majority.

In addition, the Gaderungs, in conclave together, elect the Witeger, which loosely translates as “prophet.” The role of the Witeger is to serve as ombudsman and critic of the government.  The Witeger serves for a period of nine years and can only be removed from office by evidence of corruption or other serious crimes.  The Witeger has no formal veto power but their opinion carries significant weight with the people and may inform subsequent elections.  The position is considered sacrosanct by the traditions of the Folkdeed and Rædgivers who ignore that fact do so at their peril.  (See, the story of Eadlin Lahwita.)

Social Equality

The people of Greatvale have a strong distaste for the social stratification of the other realms in the Sunrise Lands.  They show no respect for lords and ladies and have even less for those who rule by inheritance or bloodlines.  They respect accomplishment and will offer respect (albeit grudgingly) to hereditary rulers who govern well and actually accomplish things even if by definition such rulers would be accounted tyrants by the people of Greatvale. Greatvalers are often proud to boast their common origins as this demonstrates that whatever accomplishments they have are earned through labor and hard work, as opposed to inheritance.  Wealthy Greatvalers will often ceremonially disinherit their children at the age of seventeen so as to give them the honor of earning their own wealth and making their own accomplishments. Those who are of able mind and body who choose to subsist off of inherited wealth are treated with scorn and derision by the great majority of Greatvalers. The people of Greatvale respect hard work and believe that work should be rewarded and appreciated.  Therefore, they find the practice of slavery extremely distasteful for both humanitarian and philosophical reasons.  Indentured servitude is sometimes permitted within the boundaries of the Folkdeed, but only as punishment for serious crimes, usually involving theft or breach of the public trust.

Citizenship

The Greatvale population is divided into two classes: Boroughsetters and Boroughræders, which translate roughly as “residents” and “citizens”.  All Greatvalers, whether Boroughsetters or Boroughræders are entitled to basic fundamental rights: freedom of conscience, personal autonomy, freedom of speech, freedom of association, and other civil rights.  Only Boroughræders, however, may vote and hold elective office.  All Greatvalers are born as Boroughsetters and at the age of seventeen become eligible to seek Boroughræden, or citizenship.  Citizenship may be attained through study, military service, or other national service. The final requirement of citizenship is to take the Oath, in which each Boroughræder pledges to support the Folkdeed in times of crisis through military service, the sciences (this is broadly understood and includes things like economics or language), or other service.  About half of the population of Greatvale are Boroughræders.  A Boroughsetter can apply for citizenship at any time during his or her lifetime.  In rare cases, an individual can lose the rights of citizenship (usually as the result of serious crimes), but rarely loses the rights of nationality.

Defense

The Folkdeed has no standing army, but the national defense is made up of ordinary residents seeking to fulfill their service obligations or citizens who seek to use military service as their fulfillment of their Oath.  Surprisingly, only a bare majority of those who defend the Folkdeed in times of crisis earned their citizenship through military service, a significant portion of the defenders of Greatvale being drawn from those who had earned their citizenship through study or other service. The armies of the Folkdeed, while not professionals, are exceptionally well-trained and have in the past defeated forces of far greater numbers, usually through highly disciplined tactics using close formations, shield walls, and spear phalanxes.

Relations with outsiders

The people of the Greatvale Folkdeed are treated with wariness by the peoples of the surrounding realms.  While generally admired for their cultural, economic, and military prowess, their politics make them objects of suspicion.  Greatvalers traveling through other realms will often find themselves harassed by agents of the realm who fear that the Greatvalers are there to sow dissension among the people and spread their repulsive doctrine.  Greatvalers are also viewed by many as smug and self-righteous, especially when it comes to issues of wealth or politics.  There are numerous anecdotes of Greatvalers being injured or even killed in altercations wherein they had insulted some lord or lady as being lazy and worthless.