She plucked a goblin from the night
Like dark wind from the land.
She starved it, kept it from her sight
But always near at hand.
She told the darkness "Bring him fears,
I'll listen for his plea;
I'll wipe away his puppy tears
And he will stay with me.
The fabled kingdom of Eskara is also known as the Pearl of the North. It is a kingdom born out of desolation and urgent need of survival. It consists of people of various origins who have been raised and nurtured by the harsh arctic environment. Many shapeshifters and wilders have found their home in this kingdom. They are very well suited to extremely cold temperatures and therefore can support much more servants in arctic provinces.
The Valley of Eskara
Most of the kingdom is covered in heavy snow, tormented by blizzards and the weather gets worse the closer you get to the northern mountain ranges.
In this ever-shifting horizon, it is said, the fabled Valley of Eskara lies hidden between two high fjells. This Valley is a safe haven for many wilders living in the North, and it is also a home to a powerful witch-queen of the Wilders.
To find the valley, one should first pack and travel to the far north, into the province of Eskara. Some wilder natives of the area might know the location of the Valley, but they do not give away that information for free.
Gender status in Eskaran culture
Eskaran communities are both matrilineal (descent is traced through the female line) and matriarchal (the culture is run by women). Women hold the primary power in all areas of society including politics, justice, education, business and social privilege; and they do so largely to the exclusion of men. These northern women have gained this advantage because they are better able to learn and manage the witchcraft which thrives throughout Eskaran culture. Eskaran women built the communities and they built them for women. Men are necessary members of society but if they want to thrive in Eskara, their best option is to get along with women as best they can. If they are able to get along with many women, that is to their benefit.
From the time of first settlement in the north, the Eskaran women have been better able to use the local witchcraft than men. From the beginning they used this advantage to enhance their standing in society and today the vast majority of professionals in the kingdom of Eskara are women. Gender roles In Eskara are not completely opposite to Icesus culture. Men are still physically stronger and fulfill the roles of society in which this strength is beneficial - some examples include construction, farming, and transport. However, these tasks are considered less valuable than those performed by women - teaching, land management, business.
Today they are the moral authority, landholders, business owners, and teachers. Men are less valued in the community and they are given the physically demanding jobs, the boring or routine jobs, and the dangerous jobs (provided the high-spirited women do not claim them first). The military follows this same pattern: the low ranks of foot soldiers are men who, due to their sacrifice and greater physical strength, are well suited to this task. But the leadership roles are taken up by women, even in the lower tiers. The higher up the chain of command, the rarer the male. Great leaders and heroinesof Eskara are invariably women. When men are mentioned in songs or stories, they are usually remembered as the weapon bearers, trusted subordinates, children and lovers of great female leaders.
It is possible for a man to 'succeed' in a traditionally female role, but only if they have the support of one or more women. Men must work to develop good looks, pleasing demeanor, and sexual desirability as these are seen as being attractive to women. It is also important that a man is suitably humble towards women - he may be invited to offer an opinion, and it may dissent from the woman's, but in all cases, decisions are made by women, and all men are expected to accept such decisions.
More on Gender Roles
Slavery does not exist in Eskara, but every man is beholden to all women in general, but more specifically to a 'primary' woman This would be his life partner, or his mother if not joined. If both partner and mother are deceased, the role will be assumed by a senior woman from the partner's family (eg. her mother or sister), or from his mother's family. It is sometimes possible that a young woman becomes primary woman to her much older brother or uncle! The role of the primary woman is to feed and clothe the man, to ensure he is gainfully employed, and to monitor his behaviour in society.
But all women also have the role is to gain wealth and power for herself and family. After all, the wisdom of the old Eskara say that men never choose women because of wealth or status, they just fall in love with women because of them.
If a man wants to succeed in Eskara, it is very important for him to win the approval of women. It is often easy for a young and handsome man to do just fine, but for an older or less good-looking man, the situation may be more challenging. A man is expected to prove his worth to women, and Eskara is similar to other cultures - the measure of a man relates directly to his sexual attractiveness and performance. However, an Eskaran man must constantly monitor his display of sexuality in public - any excessive frenzy suggests that he is not in control of his body and therefore a significant threat to society.
A household compound will consist of a 'big house' where the oldest woman (matriarch) lives alongside sisters and daughters, and a men's barracks. There may also be one or more 'small houses' where older daughters will live, freeing up space in the Big House for younger women. So the Big House can be home for three or four generations of women and their children. The most senior women will share authority for the home and various family businesses, or they may assign the management roles to their daughters. Most women work outside the home, as professionals or in business.
If life-partnered, men will live in the Big House alongside the women. Casual partners and non-partnered men (e.g. brothers) will stay in the barracks. They are often invited to the big house for daily meals or special events, but it is not a right.
From the age of two years, children are housed in the household 'creche' until they come of age at sixteen years. The creche is managed by one of the women in the household, often with the assistance of young women who are beginning to train family management skills.
Daily lessons are provided, and all children are expected to contribute to household chores. Once they come of age, the young women will move to a separate bedroom in the Big House, the young men move to the barracks.
The burden of a Eskaran woman
Once she comes of age the young woman moves to her own sleeping room (or rooms) in her mother's home. She begins to assume responsibility for herself, with regard to education and employment. She will also take some form of responsibility for one or two males in the family. This usually includes the youngest male child in the home, it may extend to male cousins under age ten who do not have sisters as well as aged uncles or grandparents.
By time she is twenty six years, a young woman will have expanded her responsibility for additional males. She is likely working outside the home - either as a professional or in the family business. She is expected to show cold and calm judgment at all times. She will have mastered the ability to put one's feelings and desires aside for the common good. Expectations for an Eskaran woman are high, and if she cannot live up to these expectations the family will feel great shame.
In return, this discipline brings its own rewards, not the least of which is the open enjoyment of female sexuality. Except for the religious sects, Eskara's inhabitants view the expression of female sexuality as a creative art form, it is considered constructive, beautiful and essential to life. Indeed, it is natural for a woman to desire sex and to be open in her statements reg be accepted in her speeches and actions. Young women visit each other freely and the younger occupants of the men's barracks are invited to special parties.
The place of an Eskaran man
When an Eskaran man comes of age he dons long pants and moves from the children's room to the men's barracks. Even if he is invited to share the bed of a woman, this is seen as a temporary arrangement and he will maintain his space in the men's barracks.
In Eskara, a man is considered to be incomplete and flawed. They are impulsive, they are clumsy, they lack the wit, sensitivity, depth and responsibility of a woman. They are not usually seen as independent and functioning individuals. A man is always recognized as the life-partner (or son) of the higher status 'primary' woman, he is seen to be under her responsibility and control.
Should a man complete a significant task or event, this achievement belongs to the 'primary' woman. Similarly a man who causes aggravation in society is a disgrace to the 'primary' woman and her family. This structure survives the grave, should a man outlive his partner, the responsibility passes first to her of-age daughters and granddaughters, then to her sisters (and her daughters). In all settlements, 'unclaimed' men are the collective responsibility of the local council of women.
The imperfection of a man in relation to a woman is particularly evident in sexuality. Women's sexuality which is typically arranged by rite and ceremony - of which there are many variations, even including a handful of rituals for 'spontaneity'. In contrast, men's sexuality is driven by his urges and this is considered to be dirtier and more destructive. An extreme example of men's uncontrolled sexuality is the rare and horrific crime of rape, which is punished most severely.
Kingdom specific traits in provinces play
Their heroes are much more independent and have extremely long range, e.g. barbarian hordes. Eskarans are very mobile, suited in roaming over extremely long distances. They have a special unit using which able to convert resources into food. Their heroes are able to destroy palisades in addition to their units. This kingdom is of neutral alignment. The Eskaran units are made mostly of human individuals.