Language and Culture
In the Word, there is is Mind, and in its all-knowing it saves us from the darkness.
In the Tongue, there is Blood, and in its all-feeling it preserves that which is worthy to be saved."
Before the coming of the Crown, the Hin were not, and had never been, a unified race, aside from their common gods. Spread all over the world alongside the larger races, the Hin had dozens of different nations and cultures, shaped more by the land and the people around them than by bloodline.
The Exodus uprooted huge populations, thrust together with distant family and given the overwhelming task of learning to coexist through a dozen different languages in the tiny sliver of time left before the Darkness fell.
That such a task could be accomplished was foretold in the Word; perhaps this is why it was somehow accomplished. Perhaps the different clans understood the magnitude of the penalty for failure. Perhaps it was sheer dumb luck.
The culture of the Citadels has slowly homogenized over the centuries, as barriers crumble in the shared space. But there is also a concerted effort to ensure that the roots of the Hin clans are not forgotten, the old cultures kept alive.
There are five major ethnic groups recognized today, and while their edges have blurred they are generally defined by one of the six common languages besides Luiric that are spoken in the Citadels.
The Gehmut people were one of the largest independent Hin nations in the world before, and one of the few to hold settled Hin-exclusive land for several centuries. A culture shaped by, and at odds with, the Langmen people of humans and other Tall Folk nearby, the Gehmut kept strict walls between themselves and their neighbors; cultural and literal. A settled, city-building nation, the Gehmut maintained order through piety to the Hin pantheon. They were, perhaps obviously, the first to be approached by the Prophet Erech, and the first nation to commit themselves publicly to the Exodus, paving the way for the others that followed.
The stereotypical Gehmut is focused intensely on their pride, their family, and their traditions. In a Gehmut family line, service to the Church and service to one’s blood are considered interchangeable ideas; if a family is not working towards the good of the Citadels, it is no family at all. What “working towards the good of the Citadels” entails is, of course, a matter of perspective, and what one family considers to be faithful service another may see as idleness, waste, or blasphemy. There is a refusal to compromise that seems core to most Gehmut, a belief in what is Right that only strengthens when attacked.
The Gehmut are the largest ethnic and social group inside the citadels, and there are significant populations in all five still remaining. The associated language, Gehmutir, is spoken nearly everywhere inside and outside the walls, although in Pirantos and Taghira it is usually only enough for crude conversation. Gehmutir is a dense, fricative-heavy language, but a comparatively simple one, relying heavily on compound words for complex ideas.
The majority of the Gehmut have an olive complexion, dark or pale-blonde hair, and dark eyes, though they value family lines more than physical appearance, and many other phenotypes consider themselves Gehmut.
The Zossimic people, unlike the Gehmut, were never an independent Hin state. They were part of a larger society, seamlessly intermixed with the human Rodima and dwarven Zavic cultures in a nation collectively known as Vlastara. For centuries, Vlastara alternated between aggressive expansionism and internal strife, and the constant conflict and pressure produced a diamond-hard sense of national pride. To be Vlastaran was to be part of the greatest nation in the world, for all its sins and squabbles, and even the most loathsome Vlastaran was still a brother.
The Exodus changed that. Suddenly, the nation was split: the gods of the Zossim were preaching an abandonment of their homeland in the face of a catastrophe the Rodima and Zavic knew nothing about. The strife threw the nation into a brief, bitter civil war, resulting in the departure of roughly half the Zossimic population of Vlastara. Those who left did so weeping, betraying their nation for the survival of their people. For this collective sin, the Zossim have never forgiven themselves.
Zossim are nationalists sworn to a nation that no longer exists, and the melancholy of this condition is bone-deep in the culture. There is a very clear notion of the ideal Zossimic citizen; bright, strong, honest, forthright, canny, brave, and above all noble. Only the proudest Zossim believes themselves to meet even most of those criteria, and though most pretend themselves to be such citizens, they are keenly aware of their shortcomings and hypocrisies.
There is a deep focus on family in Zossimic culture, but it is much more concerned with the actuality of the relationships rather than the ideal of the whole. One’s family is one’s responsibility, one’s close kin inescapable, for good or ill. This is reflected heavily in Zossimic names, which rely on patrynomics and matrynomics rather than surnames, as well as a rigid distinction between diminutives and nicknames used by family and those used by others.
Zossimic is a complex and multileveled language, full of secondary articulation, tonal synonyms, and double meaning. It has a level of a nuance that allows to speaker to convey exactly what they mean, and a linguistic history built on subverting these similarly clear meanings. Its complexity makes it extremely daunting to those who did not grow up with it, not the least because of the ease and frequency with which the language employs puns. Zossimic is spoken mostly in Taghira and Skallingtel.
Zossimic peoples have predominantly pale skin, and matched sets of either dark or pale hair and eyes, with mismatches vanishingly rare.
The Yangin, long ago, were slaves. The Savilmey empire was one of the mightiest in the world, and most of its power was carried on the backs of smaller nations that it conquered and forced into service. For most of the Savilmey reign, slavery was a surprisingly businesslike affair; slaves could buy their ownership and become free, free folk could become slaves through debt or crime, and many slaves indirectly held significant power. After nearly 500 years in this fashion, a religious uprising in the empire caused the attitude towards slaves to change to a matter of divine supereority: slaves were no longer people, but tools. For another 200 years greater cruelties and injustices mounted as the society of slaveowners grew increasingly decadent. Revolts were harshly beaten down, but when one inevitably succeeded, it lit a fire that swept through the Savilmey social order as though it had been soaked in pitch. Chaos reigned for years before the newly freed slaves were able to establish a lasting and stable society. New Savilmey was built in the image of its distant past, but each citizen was proudly free, guaranteed basic rights by the new laws set down.
The Hin were a traditional slave race in Old Savilmey for its entire history, and towards the end of the institution generations had been bred in captivity and servitude. When the slavers fell, their Hin slaves took the name Yangin, and formed a powerful identity around being equal partners in the new world. They succeeded admirably, becoming one of the dominant forces in New Savilmey. The schism caused by the Exodus took so long to resolve that the third of the Yangin population that finally left in their great fleet of ships was the last to arrive at the site of the Citadels.
The Yangin are a friendly, enthusiastic people, who take a great pride in the age and sophistication of their culture. To their mind, the joy of creating and attaining is a thing to be shared, and a bit (or a lot) of friendly competition is means to that end. This can occasionally come off as smugness, not helped in the least by the Yangin’s tendency to observe the rituals of other cultures with patronizing smiles. Under all the finery and charm, there is a steel-hard resolve at the core of the Yangin people. They have not forgotten the pain of their past, and will not allow themselves or their kin to be returned to it, ever again.
Yangin family ties are complex to the point of abstraction, a dizzying web of marriage contracts and ceremonial brotherhoods and sisterhoods considered blood-binding. Family documents can take up reams and reams of parchment, with copies both in the home and at the local Yangin enclave.
Yangin is a mellifluous language, with dozens of dialectical differences that have developed in mutual cooperation. A speaker of Yangine can be understood anywhere the language is used, but to truly understand in turn they have to learn how the locals speak it.
Yangin peoples mostly have tawny skin and hair, and eyes with pronounced epicanthic folds and a wide range of colours. However, anyone who participates in Yangin culture and language above others can quickly find themselves married or blood-bonded in.
Hasern family is a loosely-associated affair: with relationships taking greater importance than ties of blood. Hasern names reflect this, containing but one personal name and a long following string of identifiers denoting the things that Hasern considers important: father of one, brother of another, business partner of a third, citizen of a district or a street, and crafter of exceptional wares.
The Arangatu tribes lived in the jungles of Kuimbae for far longer than their history records. Their oral tradition suggests that they came to the land when the forest did, as much a part of it as every leaf. For centuries, they lived in enclaves built around the roots of great trees, culturing the landscape around them to yield food, medicine and clothing without disturbing the ecological balance.
When human explorers arrived in Kuimbae, they upset that balance, and the Arangatu suffered for it. Diseases against which they had no protection ravaged their population, dropping it to less than a fifth of its former number. What remained was a pale shadow of the former heights of the Arangatu, and many survivors chose to abandon their people’s way of life and become citizens of the human colonies that had begun to emerge.
The Arangatu people remained split for generations, even as their population began to recover. Those who left the forests, bringing knowledge with them, helped the colonies grow into thriving multicultural cities; those who remained became ever more isolated, focused on ecological balance. But when Sheela Pehr, ancient patron of the Arangatu, delivered visions of the Exodus, she did so to both as though they were one tribe, and it was as one tribe they answered, as best they could.
The two halves of Arangatu culture have remained in uneasy cooperation since they entered the citadels. The city-dwellers, or Tava’i, took to the new life easily, blending with other cultures and languages within scant decades. Those from the enclaves, the Kaagu’i, had a much harder time of it. Many left to join the Shepherds, and the remainder flocked to Church service in the temple of Sheela Pehr in droves, tending the conservatories and turning them into the ecological powerhouses they are today. Most Arangatu met in public are Tava’i, with Kaagu’i rarely venturing outside the domes, but it is unthinkable to suggest to either side that they are not one people, with one set of shared interests.
There are two Arangatu languages, spoken by the respective subcultures; Tava and Kaagu. Kaagu, the original language, is a breathy, staccato dialect full of glottal stops and nasal harmonies. Its use of chronological tense is distinctive, as prefixes and suffixes denoting tense are also used for superlatives, the difference being entirely contextual. Tava is a patois blended from Kaagu and the human language Pesoa, which has shared linguistic roots with Gehmutir and Hasieran and follows similar grammar, though maintaining the quirk of tense from Kaagu.
Arangatu people have bronze to dark skin and brown or auburn hair, with mostly green eyes. Orange eyes occur rarely, and almost exclusively among the Kaagu’i.