I Am a Genius: listen to my words

I Have the Conch


listen to my words

Silkur: Knives, Pride, and Lots of Wine

Geography

Silkur is a mild land, for the most part. Gentle rolling plains and pasturelands, broken by the occasional copse of trees, dominate the landscape. To the north the hill country rises into the mountains of the peninsula guarding Silkurt Bay, but even these mountains aren’t very fierce. They are nice to look at though. This is all well and good with the Silkurees. They would much rather have an attractive mountain range than an imposing and threatening one.

In the south summers are warm and winters are cool, but far from frigid. Silkurees make their living here farming or raising cattle. Where there aren’t farms the cattlemen drive their herds to and fro. There is no love lost between the farmers and the cattlemen, as the settled farmers despise the wanderers and their lumbering beasts, and the cattlemen cannot stand the sight of the fences the farmers frequently erect to protect their crops from the herds. While there’s certainly tension it rarely erupts into violence. In Silkur, killing for money or business, or for just about any reason, is for the most part very bad form.

The south is also home to two of the primary cities of Silkur: Venda and Luf. Just north of the region where Silkur gently rolls into Bregtoran they mark the definite entry into Silkur lands and culture. Venda, in the west, lies a good distance from the River Nabal and the forested north of the nomad lands. It is home to towering granaries and the great Seed Market where the crops of Silkur farms are bought and sold by merchants and rural lords. The granaries are located mostly on the outskirts of the city, on all sides. While Venda has no wall, the surrounding round towers of the granaries, taller than anything else in the city, give it a walled in feeling. The Seed Market, the largest building meant for humans, is a tall, vaulted hall near the center of the city filled with the merchants’ booths and the clamor of business negotiations.

Venda is also home to a sizable Bregtorian community, being so near to the border. Located in the south of the city, Little Breg, as it is known, is home to many Bregtorian craftsmen and, of course, the alehouses and their tall, thick mugs and skalds. While the Bregtorians tend to stay within their community, relations between the Silkurees and these men from the south are good.

Luf lies on the eastern side of Silkur, about as far from the gentle mountains separating Silkur from the Tyleri Jungle as Venda is from the Nabal. If Venda is the farmers’ city, Luf belongs to the cattlemen. Luf is a walled city surrounded by seemingly endless stockyards and their bovine occupants. Accordingly, the air around Luf has a distinct aroma. It’s a bad idea to mention this to the Lufans, though. Like all Silkurees, Lufans take pride in their home, and an unpleasant comment concerning the smell of their city is a slight to their honor.

The streets in Luf are wider than in many cities so as to accommodate the large amount of horse traffic. Cattlemen are never too far from their mounts. This also explains the interesting position of the Streetsmens’ Guild. With its home in the Guild Hall nigh unto the east wall of the city, the guild and its streetsmen are the lowest class of citizens in Luf, and yet nearly the most powerful. Were it not for their numerous host the city would soon be clogged with manure from the copious horses and the occasional cattle herds that pass through the city. The Guild has a heavy hand in the governance of the city, and one of the main tasks of the city council is to keep the guild happy and working. Each stretch of street has its streetsman, with black shirt, wheelbarrow, and spade, charged with keeping that area clean. Contrary to its name, the Guild accepts both men and women, and anyone who cares to join can take up the spade. It’s held throughout Silkur that if a person’s down on their luck they can always find work as a streetsman in Luf, and this is largely true.

Once a year Luf is home to the Cattlemen’s Fair, a weeklong celebration that centers around games where cattlemen compete with each other in races and feats of prowess on horseback and dangerous contests with the fiercest of bulls. The most important contests are held in the Parade Ring, a large stone arena capable of holding thousands of spectators. The week of the Cattlemen’s Fair is a rowdy, raucous, and exciting time, and it draws crowds from near and far to participate in the revelry as well as the competitions.

Like Venda to the east, Luf also has a population of Bregtorians, but not nearly as large. The Bregtorians in Luf tend to mix throughout the city, and have not congregated as they have in Venda.

To the northwest of the open south the land rises into hill country. The hill country and the neighboring peninsula is the least populated area of Silkur, with towns being much less frequent. Often a town of these hills will consist of nothing more than a small fort of the hill lord surrounded by the huts of those peasants bound to his service. There are no large cities in the hills. While it isn’t overly dangerous to travel, the hill country of Silkur is a wild place. Many who live there make their living tending small flocks of sheep in pastures surrounded by stone walls to keep the wolves or other beasts out.

The hills lead up to the mountainous peninsula where almost no one lives. The peninsula has always been wild, wilder than the hills, and the peaks which quickly rise from the waters of the bay or the ocean are home to much wild game, drawing the hill lords out to the hunt on occasion. It is known that a few hermits make the low, steep mountains their home, shepherding small flocks of longhaired mountain goats.

On the south end of Silkurt Bay where the mountains give way to the hills, and then to the lowlands near the mouth of the Nabal, are the trading towns of the bay. Here the goods of the Silkuree heartland are brought to be packed and loaded onto small ships that carry them out to the merchants and the great trading fleet of Bask. None of them large enough to be called cities, these several towns are situated in the many good but small natural harbors that the bay affords. The docks are busy places as the small ships are almost always coming or going. Only rarely will a large ocean-going vessel come to anchor in one of the bay towns, as most of the business for those ships ends in Bask.

In order to better regulate the movement of goods out to the island, and collectively command better prices for their services, these towns have come under a single authority, the Bay Towns Council, which acts as a common city council whose principal responsibility is the harbors and the ferry fleet.

To the east of the peninsula is the north coast of Silkur, also known as the Flower Coast. This is due to a number of flower farms that can be found outside many of the towns and vineyards scattered along the coastal road. These farms are able to grow many varieties year-round due to the steady climate with warm to hot temperatures that vary only slightly with the changing of the seasons. While not nearly as numerous as the farms or ranches of the south, it isn’t uncommon to see a splash of color in the distance when travelling along the coastal road. These farms are mostly expensive hobbies for wealthy landowners. The growing of flowers is highly respected, though, as the Silkurees are quick to appreciate beauty. Some of the flowers are harvested for use in dyes or in the making of rare spices. Occasionally a shipment of bulbs or seeds will make its way to the port of Silkur-Na-Fal and the world beyond.

To the far northeast of Silkur lands is Silkur-Na-Fal, which from an old speech is translated "Silkur by the Sea." This city is the largest in Silkur, and the ancient seat of its culture that has given its name to all the lands of the Silkurees. Silkur-Na-Fal, or more commonly known simply as Silkur to Silkurees, is set on a peninsula between a small bay and the great ocean, which ocean Silkurees commonly refer to as "the Fal." (Silkurees can tell whether the city or the land as a whole is being referred to mostly by context. Foreigners are often confused, though, which helps to foster the Silkurees’ natural ethnocentrism.) On the far side of the bay is the Tylerian Empire.

"The Fal"

The word fal comes from an ancient version of the Silkuree tongue, and it generally means "sea." Most Silkurees, when referring to the ocean, will simply call it the Fal, and of all words in the Silkuree tongue fal has been the longest in use. It is also commonly used when referring to the city name, Silkur-Na-Fal ("Silkur by the Sea,") and when speaking of the Gate of the Fal or the Sons of the Fal (a door and a guard corps, respectively) within that city, or in the Silkuree anthem. It might be inferred through this use of the word that Silkurees are great seamen, which is not really the case. The Silkurees do hold the sea in reverence, in recognition of its power and importance, but mostly because of the beauty they see in it. The sea is the most common subject for Silkuree artists, followed distantly by the short, steep-sided mountains of the peninsula that guards Silkurt Bay. Many weary landowners will repair for a season to the Flower Coast to spend time in sight and smell of the sea to rejuvenate themselves. Ancient legends among the Silkurees hold that their first fathers came from across the sea. While largely ignored, or held to be fiction, the legends add to the respect that Silkurees have for the great waters to the north.

Although Silkur is not a unified kingdom by any means, most (if not all) Silkurees will refer to Silkur-Na-Fal as their capital, and even the most rural and remote of Silkurees holds a place in their heart for the grand city. Loyalty comes first to hearth (one’s family,) then to home (one’s city, town, or region,) and then to heritage (race and culture.) Silkur-Na-Fal stands as a symbol of that heritage.

The tall, white walls of the city can be seen at a great distance from the sea, and the Serrafon, a lighthouse tower making up part of the north wall on the ocean, is the tallest structure in all of Silkur and a good part of the Tylerian Empire to the east. A smaller, partnering lighthouse, towering nonetheless, sits at the point of the small peninsula. Both help to guide mariners into Silkur Port, as they call it, at the western end of the small bay.

Silkur-Na-Fal is the most cosmopolitan of Silkuree cities. While it’s never openly stated (it would be an affront to the honor of other Silkurees) residents of the capital hold themselves a little higher than others, and are granted a measure of respect when travelling throughout Silkur lands. Foreigners are a common sight on the streets of the city, and several languages are commonly spoken. While busy, it’s a very pleasant city. Many of the flower farmers bring their freshly cut wares to be sold here, and it’s tradition in the capital to give gifts of the flowers on important occasions or to bless the beginnings of marriages, friendships, business relationships, or anything. Flowers are grown in the city itself on balconies and hanging pots. The Serrafon, its tower made of the same white stone as the walls, shines brightly when the sun is out (which is almost always) and can be seen from all corners of the city. The wind travelling up Little Bay (as it’s called in Silkur) wafts the aroma of the sea into the heart of the city, up to the steps of the Palace itself.

The Palace is the home of the city council of Silkur-Na-Fal, and after the Serrafon it is the tallest of buildings in the city, taller even than the walls. Hundreds of years ago, as the city was taking its place as one of the important cities of the coast and the principal city of Silkur, the council sent to Parthann for architects to design them a house of governance. The result is the Palace, a glorious blend of Parthann virtuosity and Silkuree style. The main hall is reached by climbing the Two Hundred Steps and passing through the Gate of the Fal, huge doors made of an unknown black metal that many claim was brought out of the north in the times before Silkurees kept track of history. To forgo the toil of trudging up the steps every day council members and the servants of the council devised curious ox-driven elevators to lift them to the top, but all petitioners must make the climb as a symbolic gesture to prove the worth of their petition.

Well defended by strong walls and the passion of the Silkurees themselves, Silkur-Na-Fal has not known war for many years. The council and the guards they employ are ever watchful, though, for while relations have not been poor with their powerful neighbors, they do not trust the Tylerians to the east.

 

The Silkurees Themselves

As varied as Silkur is geographically, so is it demographically. While it is predominantly Silkuree in ethnicity, humans of each elemental type are represented.

Most common are the plains, river, and forest types, as the majority of Silkuree lands is given to these elements: wide plains, rolling pastures, small groves, and lakes, ponds, and streams. Humans of these three dominant types have found a welcome home here. The rest of the country accommodates the other types as one would expect: there are more ocean types along the coasts of the ocean and the bay, hill types in the highlands to the northwest, and more mountain humans in the peninsula and to the east than elsewhere.

The least represented of the types are the desert and jungle humans. Their element is not found within Silkuree lands in any appreciable degree, and so obviously their numbers are fewer. There are some jungle types that live along the flower coast, as the more tropical climate in the north turns the groves and copses of the south into pockets of more dense and lush vegetation. Desert types are mostly found in the cities, where small communities are often centered around the Tarthite or Parthite priests of the seminaries.

Two major reasons exist that make Silkur a land where elemental type is more of a personal issue rather than a social one. First of all, the variety of types that inhabit the land have given the Silkurees a familiarity with diversity, and little cause to fear a person of one element or the other. Secondly, with this variety it’s likely that there’s a little bit of many elements in every Silkuree’s lineage. To judge a man or woman adversely because of their type would in most cases impinge the honor of one’s own family, and it would also be a surefire way to get one’s self into a duel. Consequently, humans of all elements generally feel comfortable anywhere within Silkuree lands, and the population reflects this. It is not uncommon to see mountain humans in Venda, forest humans in the capital, etc.

 

Government and Military

As mentioned above, Silkur is not a united land. It knows no king, and never has. Land has been handed down, traded, bought and sold for hundreds of years, and no one questions ownership or commands respect or loyalty solely for who they are. There is no formal system of aristocracy and no titles except for the ones the wealthy or the landowners take for themselves.

Those with money and land tend to make the policy. They are prevented from becoming oppressive, self-seeking, and ruthless tyrants by the strong sense of honor by which Silkuree culture is characterized. Every man has honor, and every man has power enough to shape his fate to a certain degree. The wealthy and powerful just have more opportunities.

Those who are wealthy and powerful have for the most part arrived at their power and wealth through business. The merchant families with the oldest established holdings and business relationships are the most powerful. Virtually all money in Silkur is old money. As wealth is not requisite for honor, few (if any) Silkurees look to money as a means to improve their life or gain happiness.

In the countryside of the south and the northeast the large landowners rule. They own the farms, the ranches (and sometimes both,) which feed the people and produce the main exports from Silkuree lands. They maintain small mercenary forces to maintain order on their estate and the surrounding area. They live in large country estates, usually removed from the small towns or villages that provide workers for the farms and ranches. The management of the agricultural enterprises is left almost entirely to the care of the experienced hands and bosses, and often these positions are handed down from father to son, so that many families of workers and landowners have relationships that run back for a hundred years or more.

To the north, in the hill country, the landowners are fewer, as there is little agricultural profit to be made from the wilder country they inhabit. The hill lords often make their profits from small shepherding enterprises, or merely from the protection they offer from the wild beasts and sometimes bandits with whom they share the country.

Cities, and the largest of towns, are governed by councils. The councils are composed of representatives of the wealthy families that inhabit those cities, and there are no elected offices. The wealthy families of the cities have made their money largely through commerce and trading, although most urban families have holdings outside the cities. The merchant families employ various purchasing agents, mule teams, and salesmen to keep the profits coming in.

Being composed of members from each of the important families, the city councils take on more responsibility than the rural landowners do over the lives of those who live within their charge. They are more organized, and they maintain formal police and defense forces, pass laws in agreement with all council members to maintain order and keep working relationships good for all, and often establish relationships with other cities, nations, or lords, working collectively to achieve their aims.

Not unlike the councils of larger cities, the Bay Towns Council (mentioned above) coordinates the business and governance of the several towns lining Silkurt Bay that move the export goods to the island of Bask.

The main military presence in Silkur are the corps of guards employed by the councils. Each of the cities or towns that have so organized has its own corps of guards, with a distinct livery. The largest and most well known of these corps belong to the largest cities. The City Guards of Venda wear red with white breast-stripes running across the shirt. The Watch of Luf wears sky blue shirts and tan trousers. The Harbor Guard of the Bay Towns Council wear their mail shirts over undershirts of green, and are known for their long halberds and poleaxes, which are often used to fish out longshoremen or others who have accidentally fallen into the bay.

The most well known of all guard corps in Silkur are the Sons of the Fal of Silkur-Na-Fal, seen by all Silkurees as a quasi-national army. They are the largest of all such corps, and the most elite, and any Silkuree who aspires to a military career eventually hopes to work his or her way up to joining the Sons. The Sons of the Fal wear the mail shirt on the outside of undershirts of silvery gray, after the fashion of the Harbor Guards. The mail is stained black through a process as it forged together into individual shirts.

In the face of invasion Silkur relies on conscription to man a citizens’ militia. The largest of councils and landowners have an informal network that is activated according to need, and Silkurees are usually quick to come to the defense of their brothers or sisters. These armies are surprisingly effective, for not only are the Silkurees staunch defenders of their lands in both word and deed, but for cultural reasons they are also skilled fighters.

Both the Harbor Guards and the Sons of the Fal employ small craft in the protection of their harbors. Aside from this Silkur maintains no military presence on the high seas.

Culture

Bregtorians fight because they have a passion for battle. Silkurees fight because, well… the Silkurees are just plain temperamental.
-ak Karmin al Jareed, historian, Imperial University of Parthann

Three words can summarize Silkuree culture: beauty, honor, and violence.

Silkurees are quick to appreciate beauty, in many of its forms. They are fond of painting and dancing, of growing things, of color, and above all, of living beautifully, as they would term it. A beautiful lifestyle is one where work is appreciated but not worshipped, where honor is maintained, where family is abundant, and where leisure is perfected to an art form. The Silkurees are master celebrators, and they celebrate often. Whether one is celebrating a wedding or simply an idle afternoon on the front porch of a country estate, the Silkurees take these celebrations seriously. Food, environment, company, and activity must all be taken into consideration. Wine, or other forms of alcohol, are essential ingredients for nearly every occasion, and there is an appropriate wine for almost every occasion. The Silkurees are very fond of their wine, which is mostly produced by the northern vineyards along the Flower Coast. Silkuree wine has established something of a reputation internationally. While wine and alcohol are important, the Silkurees are very careful not to get inebriated. Drunkenness does not belong in a beautiful lifestyle. In fact, for a man to get drunk would be impinging his own honor. As a result, Silkurees as a whole have a very high physiological tolerance to alcohol, and are very conscious of its effects on their bodies.

Honor also plays a large part in Silkuree culture. The paths to honor are many, and accessible to all; every man, woman and child has it, is born with it, and in their lifetime may increase or diminish it. Several means of gaining honor lie in everyday life: working hard at whatever worthwhile task, generosity, the pursuit of beauty, etc. Any opposite behavior detracts from a person’s honor. Living up to one’s loyalties is another means by which honor is gained. As mentioned above, a Silkuree’s loyalty is threefold: first to hearth, then to home, and then to heritage.

Family is very important to the Silkurees. A Silkuree is expected to support his or her family members and relatives should they need it. This support can be economic, political, or even physical. Elders are well cared for in Silkur, as it is a point of honor for a man to respect the elders of his family. The hill lords and their folk in the north take family very seriously, more so than most Silkurees. There, family sticks together, and it isn’t uncommon to see an entire village as the home of just two or three families (in the extended sense: aunts, uncles, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc.)

Loyalty to one’s place of birth comes next. Many Silkurees stay put and travel very little during their lifetime, and so their loyalty lies in their place of residence. Those that do travel carry their place of birth with them in their hearts and cherish their memory of it. To a wanderer born in the village of Methre on the Flower Coast, Methre will always be the sweetest place, home to the most hospitable of folk, surrounded by thousand of fields of flowers, where the sun always shines. The wanderer will hold Methre in her heart wherever her travels take her. Anyone who calls this memory into question, who insults Methre, or has unkind things to say about it, calls her honor into question, and this is not lightly done. This is why Silkurees are quick to compliment a place and slow to criticize, no matter what their opinion of it. Many violent confrontations are avoided this way.

"Fair Havens and Fal"

The Silkuree anthem is of ancient date and is beloved by the Silkuree people. It is as appropriate to sing it in the tavern as it is to sing it during matters of state or on holidays. The words of the first two verses are recorded here. There are forty-four in all.

Oh fair havens and Fal, my fair havens and Fal,
I look ever to thee, blessed land!
Though I roam from thy ways and thy sun-brightened days,
I still hold thee in heart and in hand!
And if dark days descend and nigh bring to an end
The beauty that in thee endures,
In heart still art thou fair, and to thee I’ll repair
As the wind makes its way to the Fal, the Fal.
As the wind makes its way to the Fal.

Thy shores ever will last, and from ages now past
Thou hast risen to greatness and fame.
And the whole of the south, from an unbidden mouth,
Sings high praises to thy mighty name!
And the glory that flies out of thy fairest skies
Shines abroad to illumine world.
But to its own it yearns, and it e’er must return
As the wind makes its way to the Fal, the Fal.
As the wind makes its way to the Fal

Lastly comes loyalty to heritage. Silkurees are proud of who they are and how they live. Silkur is to the Silkurees as a shining crown, more glorious than any in the world, and each Silkuree’s birthplace is to them the gem in that crown. Foreigners can’t be expected to understand this, and so the Silkuree will always treat them with respect, yet ever so subtly as a child also, for their ignorance in this. Silkur-Na-Fal, the default capital of the fragmented Silkur lands, is the greatest symbol of this loyalty. It is quite obviously (to Silkurees) the grandest city of any of the great cities of the world. Its towers are higher, its walls thicker, its streets more beautiful and more bright. Just about everything that is best about Silkur (and thus about life) is found there. Often the memory or mention of the capital city will draw surrounding Silkurees into the singing of "Fair Havens and Fal," the traditional Silkuree anthem. Anyone who insults Silkur or its capital insults the Silkuree.

After the big three loyalties lie others that one would expect: loyalty to friends, to profession, even loyalty to brands of wine. It’s plain to see that there are many ways to insult a Silkuree, and altercations where honor is on the line are common occurrences. The traditional-and practically only-means of resolving questions of honor is combat. Silkurees are extremely quick to a fight. That includes all Silkurees: men, women, and children. What makes it complicated is that if one Silkuree is insulted, ties of blood, friendship, or geography may draw others in. An ill-timed remark can erupt into a brawling mob if the right people are present.
 

Fortunately, most often the conflict is only between two individuals: the insulter and the insulted. And the most common form of combat in these situations is the knife fight. All Silkurees carry knives. The size and style may vary with the region. Rural folk tend to carry larger knives with broad blades, and they wear them outwardly on their belt. The urban Silkuree more often carries a smaller knife, quicker in the hand and more easily concealed. There is nothing sinister about concealing a knife in Silkur; any man or woman is expected to be carrying one whether it’s visible or not.

There is nothing formal about the duels, and no procedure or ceremony is followed. Gender makes no difference either, as speed and skill are as important as strength in the knife duels of the Silkurees, so women may duel men and not think twice of it. Once it’s agreed that there’s to be a fight (usually indicated by the insulted party drawing their knife and glaring at the offender, who draws in return) it’s not over until one party yields. As mentioned above, it is generally very bad form to kill in Silkur, even during the heat of a duel. To kill a rival in a duel is to cast great dishonor upon one’s self, and in many places is punishable by law. It is of necessity, then, not only by the frequency of their duels, but by their nonlethal manner as well, that the Silkurees are very skilled knife fighters. Prowess in arms is another path towards honor, if approached correctly, and the greatest knife fighters are some of the most respected and honored individuals in a community. Another result of the frequency of duels is the high incidence of scars among Silkurees.

This culture of violence also helps to explain the effectiveness of their citizens’ militias, which are formed according to need. When need arises and word is spread of conscription, it isn’t long before all able bodied men, and some women, line up outside the city hall or landowner’s gates of their own accord. Service in the militia brings not only an opportunity to achieve honor in battle, but the opportunity to achieve it in defense of the Silkur lands and heritage, and few things are more honorable and important to the Silkuree.

Religion is not a powerful element in Silkuree culture. Their most frequent religious urge is to express gratitude in celebratory toasts to the angels, gods, or whatever powers that be for the blessings of the beautiful life they enjoy. There are those Silkurees who do worship regularly, but the devout Silkuree is the exception to the rule.

Native Silkuree religion consists mostly of wandering priests. These wandering priests never get too doctrinal or deep, and do not belong to a clear organization. Becoming a Silkuree priest often only requires a respectable knowledge of the general Azmothian religious tradition and a desire to take up the vocation. For this reason Silkuree priests are not very respected as religious figures outside their native lands. Silkuree priests sometimes use other cultures’ religions to flavor their ministry. They may borrow from the faith of Tarth and Parthann, lugging around a weighty text of scripture (which would be more of an accessory than a useful religious device.) Or they may borrow from the Church of Bask, using the Sailor’s Prayer and wearing an ornate Basker sea charm as a necklace, or from the Bregtorian Army of the Faithful, hefting a warhammer and frequently spouting battle metaphors. The degree to which they borrow depends on the priest. Mostly the borrowing is that of form rather than substance.

As far as religious practice goes, the Silkurees don’t like sermons. Priests are there to perform weddings and the initiations of infants into life, the young into adulthood, and the dead into the afterlife. They may say a few words on these occassions, but anything longer than five minutes is considered bad form. They live from charity and the gratuities they receive for performing these very ambiguous ordinances (which are often specified and designed by the worshipper who desires them.) As a result, they aren’t very wealthy. They’re given respect for their office, but it’s a courteous, social respect, not a reverential one.

Exceptions to the generally superficial nature of Silkuree religion are the Silkurees who have taken loyalty to family to the extreme, and who practice a form of ancestor worship. Small cults exist, none of them very organized, which hold that revered ancestors become angels when they die. This ancestor worship is most common in the northwestern hill country of Silkur, but can be found elsewhere in the land. In Silkur when honor is concerned, matters of religion are largely irrelevant, unless it’s a matter involving a slight to one’s ancestry and the worship of those progenitors.

Aside from the priests that borrow from other traditions, evidence of foreign religions can be found in Silkur fairly easily. In Venda’s Little Breg and in other areas to the south where significant populations of Bregtorians can be found there are chapels of the Bregtorian faith, the Army of the Faithful. In every major city Parthite or Tarthite (or sometimes both) seminaries and worship halls can be found, and their scholar disciples even succeed in the occasional convert among the more urban Silkurees. While the Church of Bask maintains no official presence in Silkur, expatriate priests can be found in the towns lining the Bay of Silkur, and at the harbor of Silkur-Na-Fal. The Silkuree capital is also home to the only official presence of the Tylerian faith in Silkur. This temple caters to the small Tylerian population of the city and is tolerated, but those in authority keep a watchful eye on it.

In addition to religion, Silkur has been culturally influenced in other ways by neighbors, particularly Bregtoran. The influence of Bregtorian culture can be found mostly in the far south, in large instances such as Little Breg in Venda, or in smaller ways, such as the presence of traditional Bregtorian metalwork and patterns in the handle of a fieldhand’s blade.

 

The Schools

 

For Silkurees, fanaticism or abundant zeal are not virtues, and anyone who gives themselves over to a sole purpose or occupation, who dedicates their life to just one thing, is considered slightly touched and well outside the norm. Too much dedication can bring a loss of honor, and this explains why little of renown has emerged from Silkur lands, except for wine, of course. Dedication to wine is a dedication to life and to beauty, and is not counted as overly zealous.

Some few Silkurees believe that a dedication to combat, like a dedication to wine and celebration, is also worthwhile. This is an easily understood position by all Silkurees, given the often violent nature of their relationships, but it is not often shared as it is far too taxing for the tastes of most Silkurees, given the inevitable encroachments on their practice of celebrating often. While most Silkurees mock the sacrifices these martial devotees make, and do not share the belief that their practices give to them any special advantages, they do respect their abilities, and are very careful not to offend them.

These devotees have organized themselves into various groups that can be found all over Silkur. There are schools, as they call themselves, that date back hundreds of years, and others that are relatively new. These schools are not religious in nature. One thing common among all schools is the belief that the greatest abilities are endowed to those who achieve ultimate control over the physical body. This focus on bodily discipline takes many forms, depending on the particular group and their code. All groups regulate the intake of alcohol and other body- or mind-altering substances to some degree, and some ban their consumption altogether. Diet, sleep habits, and the use of herbs, among other things, are means towards their end of bodily control. While often mocked, the benefits that these regimens grant to those who follow them are real, and the most adept practitioners achieve sometimes amazing results.

Following is a list of the main schools in existence, as well as their areas of focus and where they are found.

The Unity is the oldest known school. Branches can be found in all major cities of Silkur. The head of the school, the "One," leads the branch in Silkur-Na-Fal. The Unity is a moderate school, limiting consumption of alcohol and meats but not forbidding them. Their main focus is meditation and stretching exercises. Dropouts of The Unity are often hired on as contortionists in circuses in lands outside of Silkur.

The Green School was founded in the hill country and is mostly restricted to that area. Devotees of the Green School are vegetarians, and they are also forbidden to consume alcohol. While they do not drink it, they do maintain the curious practice of washing their bodies with highly distilled alcohol, which they claim purifies the flesh of imperfections. Widely held to be the most conservative and extreme order, both male and female devotees also take vows of celibacy. Those who break this vow are cast out of the school and held in great dishonor by their peers. While extreme in its regimen, some of the most celebrated and accomplished fighters in Silkuree history have come from this school.

No one, not even any of its members, knows where the Land Fish School acquired its name, but it is still in use. The Land Fish originated in the lands near the River Nabal in the west, and have spread to include members and branches in much of central and southern Silkur. Their largest school is located roughly a day’s ride east of the mouth of the Nabal, close to where the plains rise into the hill country. While not as extreme as the Green School, the Land Fish School is almost as curious. Its members hold to a unique sleep schedule. They sleep for one hour, and then are awake for four. They then sleep for another hour, followed by four more hours of wakefulness, and so on through the day and night. Members train themselves to fall asleep on a moment’s notice, and to also awake naturally after the space of an hour. Land Fish devotees are also very silent, and while they do not forbid speech, they speak only when it is very, very necessary.

The Yurinath School is named after its founder, the famed cattleman Yurin Tellara, and is located in Luf and its environs. Their practice is unique in that they incorporate the mastery of horses into their regimen of self-discipline. Yurinath devotees spend much time on horseback, sometimes going for days without dismounting. They have developed a form of communication with horses through sound and touch that many find uncanny. They also are strict vegetarians, and often subject themselves to fasts where they consume nothing but mare’s milk for extended periods of time. Yurinath horsemen are of world renown for their abilities, and are much sought after, but few ever leave the plains and pastures of southern Silkur, and none without good reason.

 

Silkurees Abroad

As Silkur is not a unified nation or kingdom, Silkur itself maintains no formal diplomatic relationships with any other national entity. Sometimes individual cities or other authorities may form these relationships, but they form them on behalf of that city only, and not of all Silkur. Given its nature as cultural capital, Silkur-Na-Fal often sets the tone for the Silkuree approach to other nations.

Silkur as a whole has had little trouble with its neighbors. Their most frequent contact comes with the Bregtorians to the south, with whom they have an amicable relationship for the most part. Some scholars believe the Silkurees and Bregtorians to be distant cousins, racially.

The Silkurees have little to no contact with the nomads that inhabit the plains to the west. Most of the nomad lands opposite Silkur across the River Nabal are forested, and the nomads themselves venture there only infrequently. As the nomads are not a business-minded people, the Silkurees have seen little reason to seek them out.

Silkurees, and Silkur-Na-Fal specifically, maintain a peace with the Tylerians to the east. There is some trade across the Little Bay, or over the gentle mountains that divide the Silkur lands from the Tyleri Jungle, from which both Silkuree and Tylerian profit. Politically, though, the Silkurees are watchful of their imperial neighbors and wary of any encroachments they might make. They are aware of Tyleri conquests to the east and the uneasy peace they maintain with the Free Cities, with whom Silkurees share a love of independence, if nothing else.

As individuals Silkurees sometimes travel abroad, either as sailors on the merchant vessels of other nations, or as adventurers seeking honor and accomplishment in faraway places, or as agents for various Silkuree commercial enterprises that have business abroad. Some Silkurees leave their lands to make a new home elsewhere, though this is not common, and is generally the result of some falling out or other unfortunate event at home that drove them away.

It is hard for people of other lands not to have opinions of the Silkurees. They are very social and personable, and very hard to ignore. Wherever they are, they carry their culture with them. While the Silkurees themselves think they are being reserved, people of other nations find that Silkurees tend to boast and brag of their home country often.

With their entrenched concept of honor and the violence it often causes, the Silkurees have earned a reputation for rashness and hot tempers. This can get them into trouble very easily outside their own lands. This has also caused many people to see all Silkurees as criminals and vagabonds constantly in search of fights. Generally, though, Silkurees are seen of as fun, and nice to have around in a party, if you can tolerate them and know your way around their culture.

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