Valkor

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This page describes the kingdom of Valkor, or more commonly known as The Children of Light.

The Children of Light

The Children of Light is the collective name for those people in the Icesus valley who live in the Kingdom of Valkor, within the sphere of influence of the Church of Elements. It includes humans, elves and dwarves, though there are smaller numbers (less than 5%) of orcs and goblins.

There is a rigid social structure within the Church which comprises three classes: the Templars who are the ruling class, the Sectarians who preach the faith of the Church of Elements, and the common people who perform all the labour. In theory, the three groups are bound together by their faith in their elemental gods. In practice, the only unifying factor is that they all belong to the kingdom of Valkor. This treatise will look at each of the three groups in turn.

To understand the reach of the Children of Light, it is necessary to understand the geography and politics of the Kingdom of Valkor.

Geography (and Politics) of the Kingdom of Valkor

Provinces

Geographically, the Kingdom of Valkor, occupies the northwest area of the Icesus valley - the lands conquered by the Templars over the past 2 generations. But the Children of Light continue to live in the southern, more easily cultivated, lands and the Church and Templars hold the greatest power and influence close to the capital city of Vaerlon.

To the north, the new doctrines and customs give room to traditional Eskaran ways. The map shows that Valkor claims the northern provinces, but it is actually unclear where the lands of pagans begin. Certainly the Eskaran pagans living in the northern forests do not respect the division of land made by the Templars, and rebel groups from Eskara continue to fight even today. The other pagan groups of Gaesati and Wilders move about as they please.

To the south, the Children of Light are threatened by a different foe - the Kingdom of Tyranus. Here the people worship their one-eyed Gods; some years they trade with Valkor, and other years they wage war.

Nearer to Vaerlon, a tense situation is developing. Recently, there have been problems with looting in the southeast provinces of Valkor (especially Clover and Heartlands). It is rumoured that many of these bandits are not ordinary bandits, but actually soldiers who have defected from the Templars and are now operating for the eastern czardom of Graemor. This gives rise to further rumours that the unified force of the Templars is disintegrating. In the two provinces, the Khatuns have hung several people alongside their families to stop the spreading of false rumors. But the stories whispered in streets continue to circulate.

The sectarians and common people of the Church of Elements do not put their faith in the rumors of the dissolution of the Templars. They are seen to be bloody conquerors, and terrible rulers, but the common folk believe the Templars guarantee social peace and protect their subjects from both the pagans and the eastern Czardom of Graemor. It is also very difficult for both the people and the members of the sects to imagine a world without Templars. So far, rumors of unrest have largely been ignored and life has continued according to the old model.

Social Order

Under the laws of the Templar Kingdom of Valkor, only a Templar can own land and that land is inherited by the eldest male direct descendant. He becomes Khan, and his son will become Khan on his death.

If there is no son, the land will pass to the eldest daughter (if she is of age), and to her husband upon her marriage. If the daughter is not of age, or if there are no children, the man’s wife will become Khatun until such time as a ‘proper’ heir is identified.

In the provinces, a landowner has the title of Khan or Khatun, and reigns as a complete monarch.

The laws of the Valkor kingdom require that Khans take care of all persons in their province, but they rarely do so. They give little consideration to reported crime, they are more likely to behead all persons involved, and levy increased taxes on the remaining family members. The punishments that the Khans (and Khatuns) distribute to the lower classes tend to be cruel, straightforward, and often collective.

So the common folk hesitate to bring matters to the khan's attention, they have learned instead to settle things with the village elders. Troublemakers and peace breakers are brought under control by "stocks and sticks" where the guilty party is confined to wooden stock and the villages offered the opportunity to take their revenge with their choice of thick and thin sticks.

Sectarians have slightly more leeway than the general population, but only so long as they do not interfere with secular politics. The Templars value the sects because they are useful for maintaining the peace of society. However, if sects do begin to intervene in earthly affairs, they will very quickly arrive at the end of their rope, which usually means that they will be hanging by the neck of it in some tall spruce.

Marriage and Family

The Church has a fixed and limited attitude toward sex: the purpose of sex is to produce children, and people are to choose one spouse with whom to spend their lives. The church has an equally negative attitude towards sexuality, but people do not live by this principle: the common people living in barns find their comfort, pleasure, and safety in each other's bodies. The Templars also seek their comforts, but they do so with silk bed sheets. As to the sectarians, there are many paths.

For the sake of society, all Children of Light are considered to be strictly monogamous. Where persons err (and the Templars are more likely to err than others) all children are born inside the marriage. Should it happen that a child is clearly not the child of the two parents, e.g. a half-elf child born to two humans, then the child will be considered to be an ‘outside child’ of the mother. Each father (birth, family) has the option to claim the child as his own; and they can determine whether or not to grant an inheritance (and land).

All property is inherited through the father. There are few inheritance disputes because the father ultimately determines the inheritance and the eldest son inherits everything. An eldest boy will easily find a willing spouse when he reaches a suitable age, while the younger ones will have to earn their place in the world.

At the marriage ceremony, the man's father brings his son to the prayer pole, where he hands his son to his future wife. Then the Church priest will give a short sermon, urging the spouses to love each other and to be faithful one another; he will advise the man to make wise decisions and the woman to obey her husband. Once the ceremony is completed, the woman moves to live in the man's house along side his parents and siblings.

Templars

The Templars originate from the eastern steppes and remnants of their past shape their culture today. All children are raised to be worthy riders and warriors. Where the older children (sons and daughters) are tied to the land and businesses, many of the younger offspring will join the Templar knights as a way to see the world.

Templars place complete control of emotions and unquestioning loyalty to the higher power as a measure of humanity. Their iron will and discipline, combined with superb organization skills (compared to those of many surrounding nations), have allowed them to conquer vast areas and unite the new provinces into what has become the invincible Valkor empire.

The Templars can be divided into nobles (land-owning tribes of khans and khatuns), and the temple knights. Over the generations the noble families have developed court etiquette, customs and culture, which dictates their day-to-day behaviour, lifestyle, and dress. On the other hand, the temple knights are soldiers, they are the same ferocious and ruthless horsemen as originally rode in from the eastern steppes, and they have little tolerance for the finer elements of court life. Indeed, friction has begun to form between the two groups: the noble families regard the temple knights as foolish and uneducated, while the knights regard the noble families as weak and soft.

Government

All of the land in the Kingdom of Valkor has been divided into provinces by the Templars. Within the province, the landowner has the right to call him- or herself as a Khan or Khatun. Women may rule the province for some period of time, but the land always passes through marriage to the man and in turn it is passed to the eldest son, so this state of affairs is usually self-correcting.

The status of a Khan is determined by the number of temple knights he has the right to keep in his arms. An araw-Khan has the right to keep ten templar knights, a khan with status "zuut" has one hundred, and status “minghan” has one thousand knights. Valkor does not currently have a minghan-Khan or Khatun. Templars are by no means the only servants or even soldiers of the Khans, but it is the number of temple knights that indicates the power of the Khan or Khatun.

Khans are rulers in their province, but they swear allegiance to the ruler of the capital of Vaerlon. In turn, the ruler of Vaerlon pledges allegiance to the Horduk-khan Kendal Vinistek; a dwarven woman who is leader of the entire Templar order who has tens of thousands of Templar knights under her wing.

At the moment, the situation is somewhat confusing because Vaerlon's heir (Morgan Tensldor) is a girl of 15 years, and she will not become Khatun for another 13 years. Each of the Khans swore allegiance to her father and his heirs (and therefore to Morgan) but many are uncomfortable with the idea of a Khatun of Vaerlon. Some of the bolder Templar rulers in the south have gone so far as to suggest that they might be more appropriate to the task. In the north, there are Khans who resent that they do not receive enough support from ‘the girl in Vaerlon’, that it would be different if there were a ‘proper Khan’. The stronger zuut-Khans of the north are already skirmishing with each other, competing to be seen as the strongest force against the pagans (and therefore a possible ruler for Vaerlon and the entire kingdom). The administration of the Templars is confused across the kingdom and especially so in the north. The threat of a civil war rustles in the air.

There are still some army troops in the kingdom of Valkor, known as Army of Vaerlon, who work for the City. While their duty is to protect the heir of Vaerlon (who will one day be a Khatun) they are actually independent of the system Khans and Khatuns. The cost of supporting the Army is borne by the city of Vaerlon, paid from business taxes, import duties, fines, etc..

The army of Vaerlon is organized according to the same principle of "ten" as the Khans: an araw-Commander of the army commands ten fighters, paying for their maintenance and support; a "zuut" commands one hundred and the "minghan" would lead a thousand men to the battle. Again there are no minghans in the kingdom. Military leaders do not own land, as this is the exclusive right of the khan. Instead, they get their food and other supplies from the khan or khatun on whose land they are stationed.

Right and Wrong

The Templars believe that every human being is an integral representative of his family first and his khan second. Public behavior is of the utmost importance, and public disgrace is directed at both the individual and his family. Oddly enough, secret sins are not condemned as they are unseen, and therefore do not tarnish the reputation of the sinner or his family.

Templars respect power and detachment and despise weakness in all forms. In particular, they disregard any public display of emotion. Only the strong and the cold can survive in this world, the weak are a burden on their families and the khans.

Loyalty and courage are everything to the Templars. A templar must show absolute and unquestionable loyalty to parents, family, ancestors, and the Khan. Any templar is presumed to be ready to slit his own throat with his ritual knife at the whim of his khan or khatun. As head of the family, the khan may be selfish, corrupt, or stupid, but his subordinates would never say so. They are, at all times, loyal to him and will obey him without question.

The courage of the Templar must be shown in all situations; cowardice is the worst kind of weakness. Courage should not be confused with hot-headedness or stupidity, it is assumed that Templar will consider carefully the risks and consequences of his actions.

A Templar attaches particular importance to the presentation of a calm demeanor at all times, he will work to ‘keep the face’, meaning the face of his family. All family members will observe manners, will follow agreed rituals and at all times will remain calm. A person who fails to do so, by being publicly embarrassed or showing his feelings too clearly, is said to have ‘lost the face’ which is the face of the family.

Honour is of great importance to the Templars. Whether a promise is made in private or public, a Templar will keep his word. ‘Honorary debt’ is a special kind of promise or commitment, it happens when one templar assists another, and it must be repaid within the shortest time possible. Sometimes this debt can be so large (e.g. keeping a secret sin from being known, thus preventing the shame and destruction of the entire family) that the Templar will spend the rest of their lives searching desperately for the opportunity to provide a similar response to his helper or their family.

Templar Customs

Horses are especially important animals in Templar culture, and the relationship between Templar and horse begins as soon as a child has the balance to sit upright. They are essential to the Templar knights, and even an ordinary knight will own at least three. The knights prefer mares because the milk provides an extra source of food during long war rides and they are generally easier to train than stallions.

The Templar knights live and work as soldiers, they wear simple and functional clothing. Furs are leather and are preferred over fabric clothing which is less durable. The soldiers wear little jewelry and carry weapons almost everywhere. In their behavior they are generally silent, expressionless and straightforward to the point of brutality.

Noble Templars, on the other hand, strive to wear the finest clothes possible. The rich and mighty bring silk from far away lands for their pleasure; they also wear large amounts of gold and silver jewelry. To make it easier to ‘keep the face’ (and preserve their honour and the honour of their family), noble Templars will cover the lower part of their face with a scarf or cloth, except in the presence of their friends and relatives.

All Templars are very polite in their behavior, even with their enemies; they identify behavior as the decisive difference between humans and animals. A skilled templar can (and will) insult a competitor or enemy subtly and seemingly politely and do so unendingly. It is not at all uncommon in official circumstances for two longtime enemies to swap courtesies for several hours at a time, and do so with great devotion, each trying to goad the other into to losing his temper and thus ‘lose the face’.

As they greet each other, Templars politely bow their arms crossed over their chest or kneel in front of truly high-profile women.

Templars tend to exchange small gifts in many situations, such as when guests arrive or when they meet an old acquaintance after a long time. A good gift is elegant rather than functional, and comes with an interesting detail or story. However, the gift should not be too expensive or spectacular, because the receiving party must reciprocate with an equally marvelous gift and story, and do so within a reasonable time.

Warfare

Templar knights are intimidating opponents, both as individuals and as a military unit. They prefer to fight from horseback, and their skill is unrivalled.

They are divided into archer knights and lance knights. Archer knights wear light armours, and their main weapon is the Templar’s dreaded bone bow. Their favoured method of attack is to swoop in on horseback, shoot a volley of arrows at their opponents' necks and flee before the opponent has had time to react. Their skill is so great that they are able to shoot their arrows straight back as they flee the battlefield.

Lance knights wear heavy armours and carry wooden lances with an iron tip. They also carry a sword and shield which are used after the first attack. They typically attack in a wedge-shaped formation, but only after archer knights have first weakened an enemy.

Today, the Templars continue their expansion across the sparsely populated and rugged terrain of the north. Here there is no room for large cavalry tactics, and the Templars recruit large numbers of infantry from their newly conquered territories. The Templar knights are ready to fight on foot as well, using a long, slightly curved and narrow-edged sword that easily cuts through the pagan-made armors.

Well-known Templars

Katrina Lohengrin

Katrina Lohengrin, a human woman, currently controls most of the power in Vaerlon. Ten years ago, she was the chief of the guard of Gradon Tensldor, son and heir of Tegiv Tensldor, the former Khan of Vaerlon. When Tegiv was assassinated, alongside his wife and son, Katrina managed to save Morgan from the assassins. To prevent the kingdom from drifting into chaos, Katrina assumed command of the Army of Vaerlon and proclaimed herself a deputy governor until the heiress Morgan Tensldor has reached the age of majority.

Katrina has proven herself to be a determined, brave and strong-willed woman, though she is not very sophisticated as a ruler. Katrina has a reputation for being a loyal and honorable soldier, and her position has been recognized by most khans. Still many court members wonder if she really plans to relinquish power when Morgan reaches the age of twenty-eight in thirteen years.

Katrina is about forty years old; she is in top physical shape and her intelligence is sharper than ever. She has numerous scars on her face and hands, from battlefields and bar brawls (she is known to become nasty if drunk). She wears the simple clothing of a soldier, though covers her face as required by the noble court etiquette. She has made a statement indicating preparations are being made for war against the Eskarans, though some will whisper that it is only a blunder and the real target is Maelyrra Maerlith-Madris.

Maelyrra Maerlith-Madris

Maelyrra Maerlith-Madris is a sophisticated Templar, elite from the brow of her elite elven brow to the soles of her elite elven feet. Even at the age of over 800, she easily breaks the hearts of young men (and possibly women) of the court.

Her every movement and word conveys a sense of aesthetics and beauty, whether it is her home, her company or her body. Her tall, dark-skin body is always dressed in the most fashionable clothes and stylish jewelry. Maelyrra has never married, but recently she said she has finally found the ‘one’. She has not gone so far as to identify her intended.

Maelyrra has sworn to her loyalty to Morgan Tensldor, Heir of Vaerlon, but has refused to recognize Katrina Lohengrin's role as deputy ruler. With Templar politeness, she has hinted that Katrina Lohengrin holds the heir hostage.

Maelyrra is said to have the widest and most skilled network of spies and blackmailers in the entire valley, and many khans are said to have secretly sworn allegiance to her. She is suspected of plotting against Tegiv Tensldor, the former khan of Vaerlon (father of Morgan Tensldor). Other people have believed she attempted to kidnap Gradon Tensldor (former heir, brother of Morgan Tensldor) with the intent of entering into a forced marriage. There are more than a few people who believe she is responsible for the assassination of Tegiv and Gradon Tensldor.

Bandits are a constant scourge in Maelyrra's world and she is looking for a way to defeat them, especially in her province of Knightsword (near Vaerlon). A less cunning Khan would probably use force and collective punishment, but Maelyrra does not want to risk the serfs' rebellion in the current turbulent political situation. So the unrest in Knightsword has been allowed to build.

Tuatha Khazakul

Tuatha is a member of the relatively powerful Khazakul dwarf family and is a controversial figure in Vaerlon. He is not humble in the way a dwarf representative of the court is expected to be, and otherwise violates the label blatantly and repeatedly. An example is that court etiquette requires that love matters be handled subtly. However, Tuatha flaunts his numerous (short- and long-term) romantic relationships with elves rather than hiding them discreetly.

Tuatha does not seem to have any political ambition of his own. He is possibly the best duelist in the whole of Valkor, and the Khazakul's family decision-makers are happy to use him as a tool against their enemies. More than once they have manufactured a situation where they claim defamation that can only be resolved by a duel. It is said that none of his opponents have been able to face the stare of his eyes in the duel, but they all have had to turn their gaze aside.

Tuatha himself dreams of a chance to test his skills against Fauldron the Bandit. He would also be happy to encounter pagan protagonists and heroines on the battlefield, but so far the chances have been low.

Tuatha is a short and heavy dwarf, a little over 200 years old, His face is, in a word, ugly, and his hands are big and coarse. He wears very plain and simple clothing, preferring a black scarf to cover the lower part of his face, often it has the image of a red screaming monster. Only rarely is his rough voice heard cutting through the air, and then his words are usually as sharp as his axe.

In battle, Tuatha is completely unrestrained. He does not follow traditional fighting styles or rules, but punches his opponent with the back of his axe, his elbow or knee, or even with his head. People have not actually accused Tuatha of ‘witchcraft’, but he is still known to have been subjected to the so-called seven strikes of pre-mothers while in battle.

Sectarians

Some people want to walk more closely with their god, and these are the people who become Sectarians in the Church of Elements. It is a long journey, filled with sacrifice.

The aspirant sets foot on the path by seeking out a patriarch or matriarch of a nearby monastery or church and tries to convince them of the sincerity of his priestly intentions. Usually the patriarch accepts the newcomer as a novice, and so begins a strict and regular life under the watchful eye of the clergy of the monastery. Novices are responsible for all day-to-day chores in the monastery and are often allowed to work until their backs are sore and nails boody, it is said this helps to refine their souls.

At some point the patriarch will determine that the novice has attained the necessary maturity, and he will appoint the aspirant as a priest or priestess, and grants them the right to leave the monastery to spread the word of the Church of Element. It depends on the novice how long it takes for spiritual growth to become a priest, but rarely is it less than ten years.

All sectarians--novices, priests and patriarchs--are expected to refrain from all bodily pleasures while serving in the monastery. After leaving the monastery, they are expected to continue a clean and abstinent life at least until marriage. Or the priest may choose to swear an oath of chastity. This is not compulsory, but it is regarded as a sign of great virtue. Priests and priestesses who swear this oath are called ‘white robes’ (the white robe is forbidden to all other priests), and patriarchs are almost invariably among this group.

In principle, any priest can establish a new monastery and become its patriarch or matriarch. In practice, this requires a large number of followers, as well as outside supporters (to provide food), and permission from a landowner (to provide shelter). It is surprisingly difficult to obtain the necessary resourcesl, and new monasteries are usually established mainly in border areas, where there are plenty of pagans to be converted.

Government

When the Templars declared the Church of Element to be the official religion in the kingdom of Valkor, they simultaneously issued an order that barred the Church from ever having a central leadership. The official explanation for the ordinance was the need to preserve the purity of the faith and to help the clergy work more closely with the people. But the true reason was no doubt clear to all by then: the Templars wanted to limit the power of the Church. The Church could only consist of individual monasteries, each led by a patriarch with the power of spirit in that monastery. Other monasteries in the Church of Elements have no power over other patriarchs, though their patriarchs and matriarchs can express disapproval.

The Templars mandate was a success, and the Church of Elements is today a fragmented entity, both physically and scholastically. However, people cannot be prevented from organizing as they please, and sects based on the elements have arisen within the Church. These began to evolve from the recorded teachings of individual wise priests, and today there are extensive scholarly entities that are recognized by tens of thousands of people throughout the valley.

Each elemental sect represents a specific interpretation of the doctrine of the Church of Elements, and while most monasteries acknowledge the support of a single sect, there are some monasteries that have priests of several sects. So the members of a sect are not united by a common leader, but rather by a common ideology and morality. Church members of the same sect usually offer strong support to each other.

The ordinary people are unaffected by this arrangement. They are lectured in weekly sermons by the priest from a nearby monastery, and otherwise have no time for in-depth reflection on Church doctrine. However the sects are not always capable of peaceful coexistence, and the common people sometimes become pawns, and the different sects struggle to claim their souls while slandering the other sects as heretics.

Right and Wrong

The sectarian perception of right and wrong is strongly based in Church doctrine, and the tenets of their specific elemental sect. Abstaining from bodily pleasures and desires is common to all sects, as is living up to spiritual values. In addition, many monasteries have a very strong internal discipline that their members are expected to follow. To question the prevailing hierarchy, its representatives, or the goodness and omnipotence of the Church or the sect, is utterly unacceptable.

Appearance and Customs

With regard to appearance, the sectarians tend to be more alike than they are different. Novices dress in plain simple robes, the colour identifies the sect (red for fire, blue for water, brown for earth, yellow for air). Priests and Patriarchs continue to wear coloured robes of heavier weight (and warmth). Higher rank priests and may have embroidery and small ornamentation on their robe, but as a group, most sectarians do not wear jewelry.

If a priest has sworn an oath of chastity, they will wear a white robe regardless of their sect.

Sometimes there are differences within a sect, some monasteries require that all members shave their heads bald, others prohibit any cutting of body hair.

Religion

All Sectarians are maintained by a Church teacher, and most follow the traditional teaching of the Church of Elements. A few members of sects follow other, less respected, paths… and some of these do so secretly, others unknowingly. This is a much wider topic than can be discussed in this treatise at this time.

Warfare

Sectarians do not use any kind of weaponry. This is prohibited not only by their doctrine of peace, but also by the law of the Templars. A small number of fighters or Templar knights are sometimes placed in monasteries where defense is required.

In practice, this is not always enough to keep bandits or Eskarite rebels at bay, and many monasteries in dangerous areas are protected by a stone or wood palisade wall which, when in distress, is raised up by a crowd of people swarming in from nearby villages as alarmed by monastery bells.

Church priests who travel alone to spread the word of the Church of Elements are often much more vulnerable than their brethren living in monasteries and have to rely on the good will of others on the road. Because the goodwill of other people is often a luxury in the valley, many wandering priests quickly learn to defend themselves with a wooden staff cut from the forest, their bare hands, or everyday tools such as a hatchet designed to split firewood.

Well-known sectarians

Amaury the Hermit

Amaury is said to have lived his entire life as a hermit in the northern forests, and joined the Church of Elements from following the teachings of the sect of Mystical Wisdom. He traveled south to Vaerlon and gathered a significant number of zealot followers. Today he is feared at Vaerlon's court and many influential members of the Church of Elements, such as Alice the Merciful, accuse him of elevating himself to the level of elemental gods.

Amaury and his followers have been accused of libel, idolatry, and the use of many drugs. However, no one can deny the power of Amaury, or the power of his faith, for he is the only person who has been able to stop the powerful epilepsy seizures of Morgan Tensldor, the heir of Vaerlon. Previous to his arrival, countless church priests and Templar mystics tried to help the heir and failed. Amaury’s success provided entry to the court. Katrina Lohengrin needs him to guarantee the health of the heir, and he is seen to have considerable influence with the heir and the deputy ruler.

However, the court has not completely accepted the man from the backwoods with open arms. Amaury has been subjected to numerous assassination attempts, but all have failed. It is said he possesses superhuman perseverance and power.

Amaury is tall and flabby. Even in the court, he wears a simple robe with a piece of string as a belt. He rarely rinses or bathes, body or clothing, but he is said to carry no smell. Certainly, he is known to appear in the midst of a crowd, seemingly unnoticed like a cat.

Amaury's hair is a messy and thickety black bush, and his eyes are burning and his followers claim he can penetrate the veil of flesh and stare directly into the human soul. It is believed that Amaury knows the ‘inner truth’ of each person he meets. Certainly many men fall silent under his gaze, preferring silence to the risk of being caught in a lie.

There are many rumours about an ugly scar that runs around Amaury’s neck - he wrapped a rope of fire around his neck; he got it from hanging from a tree, by the neck for three days; an assassin cut off his head but his body secured it back in place. No story seems to outrageous, and Amaury only smiles and nods when a new tale is offered.

No one doubts the power of Amaury, but some argue that his light does not shine as brightly as it once did; some say that perhaps the light is becoming a darker blue.

Alise the Merciful

At 40 years, Alise is very young to be a matriarch. She was born of a noble Templar family, but left her former life behind to follow the path of the Church of Elements in the monastery. Alise rose to the position of a matriarch very quickly, and malicious tongues claim that her high-born lineage made it happen. Alise leads the White Monastery, and she is possibly the strongest matriarch in the sect of the Sisters of Grace. She has no official position, nor is she allowed by the laws of the Templars, but she is respected so much that there are at least five patriarchs and matriarchs who are ready to obey her without questioning. Alice is said to still be in contact with some of the Templars, and Maelyrra Maerlith-Madris is said to be a personal friend.

Alise is a rotund, sturdy woman who wears a white robe (meaning she has taken an oath of chastity). She always speaks softly and softly, and her followers say there is compassion and understanding in her big eyes. A couple of hours of conversation with her is said to have led many hardened criminals and murderers to improve their ways. She has created her position as a skilled peacemaker and negotiator with an almost supernatural ability to find the root of the problems and make people settle things in peace.

Alise is sometimes suspected of witchcraft. She is said to be relatively modest (TOO modest) for a matriarch of the monastery, and she only rarely shines the light of the church.

Cecily the Chaste

The young priestess of the sect of Illuminating Flame is the only person to have survived the strange plague which killed all the other members of her village in the province of Stormshield. Cecily was only a child at that time and she claims to have had a vision of Zrammas that told her to assemble an Orthodox army of the Fire and free the valley of its oppressive darkness and sin.

Cecily joined the monastery, graduated as a priestess at an unprecedented pace, and has since toured the provinces, gathering followers who she commands to leave behind all their worldly possessions. The number of her followers has grown almost explosively, and she has next announced that she will head to Atherton, where, according to her, "the flood of pure faith will sweep away the dam of filth built by sinners."

Cecily is young, just over 20 years and always wears a red robe that covers her whole body, leaving only her face visible. She has gotten her nickname from the fact that she doesn't take off her robe, even in the heat of summer, and no one is known to have ever seen her without it. Cecily's eyes are big and her complexion is lean. She is relatively tall as a woman and has an internally driven heat and conviction when speaking about things of faith.

Common People

The common people of the valley are the most numerous. They are the foundation upon which the society of Children of Light is built: serfs, artisans, hunters, fishermen, fighters and merchants. The common people are diverse in size and in appearance, but also in their habits, wealth and appearance. The lineage and customs of the common people of the north combined with those of the new settlers from the east of the kingdom; and mingled again with the lifestyle of the settlers who migrated from the south-east. Nowadays, most common people have a touch of Templar blood and tradition, even though the gap between these particular groups is huge.

The worst off of the common people are the serfs in the south and the poor in the cities. The life of a serf, from birth to death, is to work in the Khan’s fields; to try to choose to do otherwise is to invite the threat of the death penalty.

Urban poverty offers more in terms of freedom - you can die of hunger and cold in your own peace. In Vaerlon and elsewhere, members of the common people who have been able to demonstrate to the Templars that they possess rare and useful skills have been more successful.

Representatives of the common people are generally more closely monitored and more severely stomped on by the Templar iron boot in the southern provinces than in the northern frontier. In the border areas, life is dangerous due to Wilder and Eskaran raids, but people may have greater liberties because their effective around-the-clock monitoring is not possible.

As a result, some members of the common people have fled to the northern forests and asked to join the Eskarite rebels. This is not easy, as Eskarans, on the basis of their experience, presume that any person arriving is probably a Templar spy. But some ‘southerners’ do manage to win Eskaran trust and create some sort of position among the rebels.

Government

Khans tend to distribute cruel and collective punishments, so common people have developed their own systems for dealing with disagreements and disputes. Usually, the parties will agree to ask a respected resident of the village to serve as an impartial third party in disputes between the others. If a settlement is not reached, the elder of the village, often known as the Seeress, will be consulted. This particular village elder then decides what to do. Only if this fails will the parties approach the province courts where the Khans of important houses make the decision.

Some rich tradesmen and craftsmen are able to live outside of this system. They have been fortunate enough to raise enough money and influence, and the support of a sympathetic Templar which allows them to have more control of their dailing living and working situation. These people are often able to hire assistants, and even fighters , but they are free to go about their lives as they choose. However, their success and spirit is also hanging by a thread of hair, or more precisely, the favor of the khan that rules the area. Just one blatant mistake and their heads fall like any other member of the common people who stepped on the toes of the Templars.

A third group of common people is made up of urban thieves who have developed around cities. They earn their livelihood by extortion, theft and trafficking of illegal goods. It is not clear how much their thief activity is formally networked, but it is certain that any merchant who wants to succeed also needs the recommendation of some thief high-up.

Right and Wrong

The life of the common people is simple, uncomplicated, and usually filled with hard manual labor; they live where they are told, work as they are told, and feed and clothe themselves as best they can. Their perception of what is good and what is bad is guided by whether it benefits or harms the village. Laziness or avoiding work is seen as wrong, as is stealing from another villager or destroying his property. But it is wrong to complain about a wrongdoer to the Khans because the only possible result is that the entire village will be punished. The village is all important, and there is no feeling for outsiders.

The common people have no use for courage, bravery or even intelligence. You can do better as a slave by keeping your eyes to the earth and by working tirelessly. But the fireside tales tell of heroes who cheat the noble families, who trick the knights... but these are heroes to be wondered at, not role models for the children.

The common people appreciate humility, thrift, and helpfulness. They take care of the poor and the needy because the valley winter is cold and merciless. However, no one will be given more than what they need, and everyone’s first priority is to ensure the feeding of their own family. Moderate hospitality is an absolute must among the common people. No matter how poor the house is, one night on the floor and, if possible, something small to eat, must be offered to strangers. No one is driven into a cold night.

Appearance and Customs

The common people usually wear very simple and practical clothing, usually made of undyed sheep’s wool. Jewelry is scarce, if it exists it is made of wood, bone or, more rarely, copper. There are many kinds of people among the commoners, but in the west and south people are generally lighter in both skin and hair color than in the east and north. However, all members of the people are usually weather-beaten and sunburned in the summer.

Wealthy merchants differ somewhat from the rest of the nation, as they can usually afford finer fabrics and jewelry and to stay indoors when the weather is unpleasant.

The common people tend to shake hands when meeting each other and then look each other in the eye. It is an honor to keep your clothes and body as clean as possible (which is often not all that clean) and so people bathe or sauna at least once a week. Bathing is important especially in the winter, as the sauna is often the only place where a commoner will actually feel warm.

Most of the food is bread and porridge, and root vegetables (rutabaga, potatoes, carrots). A well-off household will, with some luck, have some fish or meat several times in a month.

Religion

Common people have adopted the faith of the Church of Elements, but the old pagan practices linger on and have recently gained new vitality. Within most villages, there are both true worshipers of the Church of Elements (who condemn all forms of witchcraft as evil) and full-blooded pagans (who oppose the spread of Church doctrines). However, most of the people are in the midst of these two extremes. The faith of the Church of Elements is strongest in the southern provinces around Vaerlon, the heathen are the most vibrant in the northern frontiers.

A typical commoner worships the Church of Elements sincerely, but will use hex words when needed. They will also practice the old worship rites, and not see that they conflict with the Church. Being practical, they know there are a lot of powerful supernatural beings in the world and it is common sense that you try to have a good relationship with everyone. Commoners approve of the wisdom of the priests and priestesses of the Church of Elements, but they believe that in the ordinary world, there are other, more practical ideas which must be taken into consideration, and the Church does not seem to be aware of those forces.

Warfare

The common people can defend themselves with sticks, sickles, staffs and whatever against whoever. But they have no right to bear arms without a special permit. The people who receive this permit from the khan are called "fighters," and they have the task of preserving peace in the provinces. They also have the task of dying in the Templar armies in any major battle.

Well-known Commoners

Fauldron the Bandit

Fauldron is Vaerlon's most wanted, feared and admired bandit, and his reputation has already reached such a level that he is rumoured to carry out the thefts of any ten men combined. Fauldron leads his own band of robbers, called Fauldron's claws. However, he loves adventures and often works alone.

Most of Fauldron's crimes have been committed on the land of Khatun Maelyrra Maerlith-Madris; she has promised a great reward for Fauldron dead, and twice the reward for Fauldron alive. The Khatun would be happy to chat with Fauldron for a few days (or weeks) in the torture chamber of her castle.

Fauldron is about thirty, tall and unnaturally skinny. He is inordinately fond of feathers - wearing them as decorations in his clothes and hair, and even the butt end of his fighting spear. However, Fauldron's strongest weapon is his scream which is seen as a kind of witchcraft. He is said to have screamed so loud on a battlefield that survivors swear they saw a tree fall as if it were cut by his voice. People have been knocked out, deafened or even killed by his screaming.

Aeryn the Cunning

The title "cunning", in the opinion of many, does not do justice to Aeryn. But nor do the other words used to describe her: Aeryn the clever, the gimmicky and (less flattering) the insidious. Aeryn is the richest and most influential representative of Atherton, as her numerous shops, workshops and taverns tell. Aeryn is also said to control the local bandit forces and is suspected by some to be even more powerful than an average Khan. It is certain that Aeryn's rival's merchant booths tend to burn mysteriously and appear otherwise surprisingly susceptible to robbery and damage, and their owners appear equally susceptible to murder.

Aeryn is said to have recently sought to expand her sphere of influence also within the Templars and the Church of Elements. The famous Preacher Cecily the Chaste has sworn to cleanse Atherton of criminals, sinners, and corrupt officials, which many take to include Aeryn. So far, Aeryn has reacted to these covert threats by donning a red road and acting out the possibilities of Cecily in the streets of Atherton, to the loud laughter of her friends and bystanders. In the streets, however, it is reported that her bandits are preparing for a clash ahead.

Aeryn is a fat, middle-aged woman who always wears expensive clothes and a large amount of jewelry. She is rarely seen without several guards and never without her pet a skinny greyhound named for a marking on one ear. Commoners talk of ‘the White Spot’, whispering that the pet is a useful partner to her mistress in _too_ many ways. Aeryn's intelligence is sharp and her ‘street smarts’ are unmatched throughout the valley. She is also known to control some lesser animal spirits and even some wilders.

Drudus the Strong

Drudus is rumored to be the strongest man in the entire valley, and to date he is undefeated in arm wrestling and wrestling. There have been enough challengers, and the Khatun of the province of Harvest has promised to organize a big party in honor of the winner of Drudus, when one will finally be found.

Drudus is a giant-sized and big bellied b'rogh man in his thirties. He speaks slowly and uses simple words, and this has earned him a reputation of being stupid. Drudus is good-natured and always believes in good people. Although everyone in his village admires him for his power, he is also laughed at behind his back for his simplicity. This is despite the fact that Drudus does the work of four men in the village. Drudus became a widower a year ago and has been looking for a wife ever since. Many women have made themselves available, but Drudus has so far rejected their advances.

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