AETHANI TRIBES

The Aethani Elves are nomads who travel throughout Darejh. Many consider the Aethani to be primitive, but they are a people with a rich culture and strong sense of history.

Government and Politics

The Aethani are organized into a hierarchy of tribes, clans and families. Each tribe is governed by a Chief who is advised by a council of Shamans who represent their respective clans. Although the Chief is often the leader of the most powerful clan in a given tribe, once he becomes a Chief he is no longer of any clan and lives and dies for the benefit of the tribe as a whole. The Shamans are also the spiritual leaders of the clans and tribes of the Aethani. They are highly respected by all and hold the highest position in the rigid caste system of the Aethani.

There are five Aethani tribes in Iesadhe: Roan Medhai, Baedal Daek, Hushnar Kaen, Paene Chaec, and the Khalei Chukra. Most of the tribes remain separate from each other, following their own routes through Iesadhe; however, every three years at the Miaela (Great Festival) all the tribes gather to trade material and immaterial commodities. More often than not, the Chiefs and Shamans of the tribes also gather to discuss issues of governmental importance that affect all of the tribes. This is an important event and few Aethani miss it.

Roan Medhai

Led by the war chief Bholnai, the Roan Medhai (Stone Tears), travel throughout the northern plains of Iesadhe, following the seasonal paths of the creatures they hunt. With a rich history of martial valor beginning with the war chief Godhasiv, the proud Roan Medhai consider themselves the saviors of the Aethani and are very militant and ethnocentric.

Baedal Daek

The Cloud Watchers are led by Sikhaen, the youngest man to lead a tribe. The Baedal Daek travel a short circuit in southwestern Iesadhe bordering near the Great Pale. Frequently having to deal with tharged raiders and coming in contact with imperial soldiers, the Cloud Watchers have not inherited the prejudices of the Roan Medhai and frequently engage in trade with sheinar merchants. In fact, most of what is known about the history and cultural intricacies of the Aethani come from the Baedal Daek.

Hushnar Kaen

Lacking a war chief, the Hushnar Kaen are led by their shaman, Tejhaer. The Touched Ones travel a circuit that parallels the Roan Medhai, often resulting in conflict with the prickly Stone Tears. Adding to the tension, Tejhaer has encouraged egalitarian changes to Aethani culture, allowing those in the lower castes to join in hunts and increasing mercantile contact with the Iesadhean.

Paene Chaec

Led by the war chief Dosaed, the Paene Chaec (Water Bearers) travel a short circuit along the eastern coast, traveling in-land during the winter months when fishing is scarce. Because of their limited circuit, they are the most sedentary of the Aethani and it is only a matter of time before they settle along the coast permanently.

Khalei Chukra

Known as the Black Circle, they are led by the war chief, Chaendor. Their path is the northernmost of the Aethani, buttressing against the Shiv Katham mountains in the north. During their southern path, they often come into contact with the Roan Medhai, their ancestral rivals. During this time of year, skirmishes are frequent as both sides hone their fighting skills. Over the years, Chaendor has attempted to cajole, bribe, and threaten Tejhaer into an alliance, all to no avail.

Of all the tribes, the Black Circle's warriors engage in ritual scarfication to commemorate battle one. As their tradition hold, they also paint their faces in black soot prior to battle.

Crime and Punishment

The Aethani lack a codified system of law and each tribe has its own social and ethical mores. These customs are based on tradition and personal interpretations of the Aethani honor system. Any crimes are punished by banishment or execution and are enforced by the Chief and the warriors of the tribe. Of all the punishments, exile is considered the severest. A banished Aethani is without family or tribe, forsaken to wander the world alone. As the forsaken suffers in this world, his spirit suffers in the next because there is no one to give him a proper funeral or to honor his memory after death. In a society were personal honor is considered paramount, some actions can be considered to impinge upon another’s honor. In these crimes of honor, resolution often occurs in the form of a ritualized trial of combat.

Economics

The Aethani engage in barter as a means of trade. The existence of a merchant caste has arisen only since trade relations began with the humans. During the Great Festival, the tribes come together in northern Iesadhe to engage in a week of celebration and trade. Recently, to the ire of the Roan, Sheinari merchants have begun to attend the festival.

Society and Culture

There are few variations among the various Aethani tribes and the nomads form a homogenous nation. Physically, the Aethani are a tall, lean people averaging six feet in height. The northern tribes have a coppery skin, while that of their southern cousins is olive in tone. Their hair is invariably black or dark brown; their almond shaped eyes are pale in comparison their skin tone and hair color, found in shades of hazel, gray, blue, and green. Their most distinguishing feature is the sharp point topping their ears.

Aethani clothing is functional. They commonly dress in leathers or light cotton garments during the summer months and adding wool or animal furs during the winters. Clothing, whether made or bought, is rarely adorned and jewelry is a considered a foolish human luxury. The Aethani, however, are not lacking in personal adornment; rather, men and women commonly paint their bodies with symbolic tattoos and colorful dyes, while some warriors will engage in ritual scarification.

Aethani society is based on two principle foundations: a rigid caste system and a strong sense of honor. Every Aethani knows his or her place in the culture from the most honored warrior to the most forgettable dung collector. Although caste based prejudices abound, the code of honor keeps those in the higher castes from persecuting those lower than them. Equally importantly, the caste system is embedded to such a degree in the culture that it is unspoken. To speak of one's own caste is undignified, to mention the caste of another is dishonorable. The Shaman are of the highest caste, followed by the warriors. Some in the warrior caste contend they are of a higher caste then the shaman priests since most War Chiefs come from the warrior caste. The warrior caste is followed by the merchants, laborers, and finally, the destitute.Finally, one's caste is hereditary. Even if the son of a warrior chooses not to follow the life of a fighter, he receives the honor and respect due one of his inherited caste. It is, however, possible to lose one's caste through acts that are dishonorable or by marrying into a lower caste. As is apparent, the Aethani caste system is complex and often confusing to those not born into Aethani society.

The Aethani maintain a patriarchal society and women rarely ascend to position of power.

The Aethani code of honor, known as Ar’ Hiraj (The Way), has been in place nearly as long as the caste system. Unlike the codes of conduct that govern many military organizations, Ar’ Hirajh is as much a guide to life as it is a military doctrine. It is not a formalized code, but a philosophical doctrine. The keystone of Ar’ Hirajh is honesty. As an Aethani’s appearance speaks of his deeds, so his words and actions should speak of his soul. Whether in daily life or in the field of battle, lying and deception are the acts of a dishonorable coward. Thus, Ar’Aethani warriors rarely use stealth in warfare when fighting amongst each other. Ar’ Hirajh also dictates reverence for nature and the spirits that embody it. Many Aethani consider the other races to be inherently lacking in honor and thus, do not deserve to be treated within the bounds of Ar’ Hirajh. This is particularly true in the case of the Sheinari. Aethani contact with the confederates is limited to merchants. Coupled with the inherent low status afforded to merchants in Aethani culture, the Sheinari are believed to be inherently deceptive.

Arts and Academics

Although lacking a written language, the Aethani have a rich history of mythic poetry and song. Their history is maintained through these epic songs and poems and by the Shamans. The most famous of these is The Journeys of Aerod, a lengthy poem on the exploits of a mythic warrior that is the basis of Aethani cosmology and mythology. In its entirety, the epic can takes days to complete and is only told from beginning to end during the Great Festival.

Artistic expression is limited to ritual tattoos and body art. Used to designate clan and tribal affiliations, social status, and personal histories, the bodies of male and female Aethani are often richly decorated with colorful designs and images. The tribe of a Ar'Aethani is represented by a unique tattoo. Each tribe has a different stylized symbol and color: Roan use a stylized tear drop, Baedal a cloud, Hushnar a palm, Paene a ocean wave, and the Chukra, a circle. This symbol is surrounded by four concentric shapes that represent the standing of the Aethani. The outer ring represents a Shaman, and the next ring represents an War Chief. These rings are colored during a ceremony of ascension, whether to the status of an Shaman or an War Chief. The third ring represents a warrior and the fourth ring represents women and the lower castes. Either of these rings are marked when the Aethani comes of age. The final circle is the mark of an outcast; an Aethani who has this final circle decorated has been outcast from their tribe. Such a mark is a sign of failure and disgrace and the person is shunned by all Aethani.

Religion

Older than the Dhomestic faith, the Aethani religion is as much philosophy as faith. Although there are variations in the specifics of their beliefs among the various Aethani tribes, Sheinar scholars have deduced certain core elements. At its core, the Aethani believe that every thing has a spirit, a connection to another plane of existence. They hold that the world was created by the God, Sura and his wife, Chani, who manifest their presence in the sun and the moon, respectively. Sura created the physical world and Chani embodied it with spirit. Although they watch over the world in turn, day and night, they no longer have any direct impact on it.

Although it is not quite clear, the Aethani apparently believe that the spirits of the world must be appeased as they are the conduit to Sura and Chani. It is the spirits that guide and protect, harass and punish the Aethani, while the aloof Sura and Chani watch from afar. Some spirits are benevolent guardians, while others are hostile and malevolent tricksters. Some spirits serve as patrons for a tribe, while others may adopt a particularly noble warrior or shaman. There are innumerable spirits, each represented by an animal or natural phenomenon; such spirits are a part of every day life and minor rituals and superstitions are a common among the Aethani. At times, however, spirits may be appeased or called upon for help through the shamans and druids that hold a key place in the Aethani tribes. warriors, shamans, rangers will often be adopted by a particular spirit that becomes their patron.

Magic

The Aethani maintain a stricter position in regards to magic than the empire in that only Shaman are allowed to practice magic. It is believed that magic is a powerful and wild force that can only be tamed by someone in absolute harmony with nature. Children who are found to have the ability to wield magic are often given to the local Shaman so that they may be taught the means for controlling the magic.

In game terms, any Aethani character that can cast spells is called a "shaman," regardless of whether or not they are of the shamanic class. For example, if a player creates a druid or sorceror from a game mechanics perspective, within the setting the character will be referred to as a shaman.

Rites and Rituals

A society were symbolism and status are of such significance, important events of an Aethani's life are marked by rituals. The four most important rituals through which most Aethani pass are the Rite of Birth, the Rite of Naming, the Rite of Bonding, and Rite of Passing.

The Rite of Birth is fairly self evident and is performed a full month after the child has been born. For the first month of life it is believed the child is still a part of the mother and has to prove it can survive outside the womb. In the rite the child receives their first tattoo usually on the arm, though the Roan tattoo above the eye. This signifies that the tribe has recognized the child and it's right to live in the eyes of the spirits. The child is also given it's birth name by the father which is represented by a tattoo over the child's heart.

The Rite of Naming is performed in the spring of the child's twelfth year. During this rite of passage , the child's status in the tribe is recognized and is the most important of the rituals. The ritual varies for the different castes, the most rigorous and lengthy undertaken by the warriors of the tribe. After the ritual, the child is an adult and honor bound to fulfill the responsibilities of his or her position. The birth name is replaced by an adult name chosen by the child. Most keep their birth name with only minimal change as a sign of respect to their parents and ancestors.
The Rite of Bonding is akin to marriage, though it signifies far more to the Aethani. During the rite of bonding, the man and the woman have each other's names tattooed onto themselves. Once completed, the bond can only be broken upon death and even then few engage in the ritual again. The Shamans never take this rite as they must abstain from bonding with a woman to preserve the purity of their spirit.

The final rite in the life of an Aethani is the self evident Rite of Passing. The most ritualistic of ceremonies, without this ritual the soul cannot join its ancestors. Thus, those souls of outcasts suffer a fate far worse than the body's exile. As the body is prepared, the Chief and the Shamans step forward to recount the deeds of the dead. They are followed by kin and, finally, clan. To speak poorly of the dead is an ill omen and those who do not know the dead well often repeat a ritualistic phrase. For the Chief or the Shamans to repeat this phrase is sign of dishonor as the dead has not earned his place amongst his ancestors.

Military

The Aethani are a martial race, but not all of the tribes are actively militant. The least militant tribes can field armies of approximately 5,000 warriors, while the most militant tribe (Roan) can field a force of over 12,000 men. In addition, even non warriors are capable of fighting well enough to defend themselves and their homes. Thus, though lacking in the sophistication of the empire, the Aethani are a formidable force.

The Aethani use their fierce appearance as a tool in battle. By tradition, warriors heavily tattoo their bodies to commemorate every battle in which they have engaged. Their preferred weapon, known as a j’halva, is an intimidating long bladed, double edged spear which they use with the ferocity of a dervish. Some of the most renowned Aethani warriors are capable of using one in each hand.
Although they often travel on horseback, the Aethani dismount and then fight on foot. Traditionally, the Aethani do not use bows. Instead, most Aethani carry light javelins which they hurl with astounding accuracy across quite a distance before closing with their enemies with the j’halva.


Notable Locations

Caravans

As nomads, the Aethani have few established settlements. They travel and live in their caravans. The Aethani travel in cycles, stopping for four month periods and traveling for two.

The Great Festival

The Great Festival is the only time when all the tribes come together. Held every three years near Kanderais Falls during the middle of summer, the gathering lasts for two weeks. Primarily a social event, the Great Festival has economic implications as the different tribes exchange goods. The economic nature has taken the fore in recent years as Sheinări merchants have begun to come to the festival. Although they are restricted to the periphery, and the Roan refuse to trade with the Sheinări, many Ar’Aethani have come to appreciate their presence.

Paene Villages

Over the last few decades, a few Paene clans have established villages along the eastern coast of Iesadhe. Many consider their choice of a sedentary life a failing; however, during each cycle, more and more families remain. The Roan believe that they are being influenced by the humans with whom they are having increasing contact.

These villages are small affairs nestled in coastal groves. Lacking walls, the villages are protected by warriors who patrol the area. Except for the occasional Dhomestic missionary or Sheinari merchant, they are left alone.

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