Kardesian Customs
Nowhere in their appearance, their way of life, their technology do the Kardesians so resemble their purported Mhulak cousins than in their customs, the way they conduct their societies. A fierce warrior caste, of the like the Mhulak no longer keep, they believe that individuality is the path to vice, that the tribe not the individual is the most pure being, and they aspire to join the world in one great, mythic, utopian world-tribe. One being made up of many. An aspiration that they will realize by force if necessary.

Communal Living


The Kardes embrace the tribe, or Karda not the self, as the single greatest condition in which to exist, but they're not so mindfully, or wholeheartedly devoted to the concept as the Mhulak. The problem is that they embrace their own tribe as the one true form of the world-tribe, and so paradoxically in trying to bring the peace or race-wide unity, they regularly make war on one another, even when their tribes have as little philosophical difference as a name. To the Kardes reavers all false Karda must be broken and united into the true Karda. Only then can the world have order.

Leaderless Tribes

The Kardesians have no leaders, for them the tribe is the leader, and no position within it, no matter how seemingly prestigious or influential, can be conceived of as working against the tribe. Thus there is no necessity for a leader. There are those whose path is to make decisions, such as those who command warriors in battle, or those who train the young to a task, but they have no authority, merely mutually recognized purpose. Even the Igar - the teacher who assigns life-tasks to the young - is not a leader, and outside of her particular role she has no more or less influence than any other member of the tribe.

The Self

To the Kardesians the idea of individuality is anathema. To them there is only the tribe, a great living thing of which each individual is merely a limb, and they see no individual freedom of more value than the liberty of the tribe. Therefore the Kardes will happily adopt whatever life-task they are assigned by their Igar, and perform it to the best of their ability, without thought of thanks, for the rest of their lives. A whaler would no more baulk at being a whaler than a leg would bemoan being a leg, it is simply beyond the scope of their philosophy.

Parenting

A Kardesian father's job begins and ends with impregnating a woman, and once a mother has carried her child to term her job too is done. From then on children are given over to the Kardes tasked with raising children, known as the drowners. Kardesians know who their parents are, and those parents are by no means cut off from their offspring, but the family does not form a unit within the tribe, and it is as likely that a parent will have no contact with their offspring as that they will spend every day together. They would not conceive of treating one member of the Karda differently simply because of shared heritage.

Path Assignment

When a child eventually shows a propensity for something, they are assigned a path by the Karda Igar, or tribe-mother, whose sole task is to assign these jobs. Known as life-tasks, an individual is by no means bound to that particular path - Igars are perfectly willing to admit a mistake - but so long as the individual performs as expected, and no shortage appears in another profession, they can expect to do the same thing for the rest of their lives. Whalers, hunters, reavers, pathfinders, warriors, food-preparers, boat-builders, and child-rearers are some of the more common assignments.

When a child is assigned a life-task he is sometimes give a toda, a tool that symbolizes the path, that he will likely use. These toda take on great significance to the individual, almost as a symbol of purpose that the self would be to an outsider. Stories of entire tribes going to war over a spoon or hammer are surprisingly common. Ghan merchants are often confounded when trading with Kardes, that they prize many seemingly-mundane objects so highly, and yet have little regard for things of true value. Of course when a toda breaks in the course of its intended use that is entirely different, and inevitable, and it is merely cast aside and replaced, with the replacement taking on the old tool's significance.

Life Purpose

After his path is assigned to him, no true Kardesian could conceive of deviating from it. Some Kardes actually compare themselves to the toda of the tribe, for the tribe is immortal and they merely have the honour of being used by it - an honour for which they were created, and a tribe to which they owe their existence. They doe their single-minded best to hone themselves to that task, eschewing the diversity most civilized peoples embrace, trusting those around them to fill any gaps in their own knowledge.

Names


Kardesians don't strictly have individual names the way landsmen do, but nor are they simply named for their function as Mhulak are. Rather each life-task has a handful of traditional names, from which one is chosen when a Kardesian is assigned to his life-task. They will almost never deviate from these. However since the Kardes have no language of their own, and especially for names have a fondness for borrowing from Tu'dra-Bachk and Gan, sometimes even Vorgan, this pool of names can vary wildly from Karda to Karda, giving dispirit individuals a range of names that are almost as personal as those of landsmen.

War


While the tribe might seem like a multi-faceted and functional society like any other primitive tribe to an outsider, what it is is an engine specifically and single-mindedly engineered to go to war. Every resource gathered, every craft undertaken, every path in the Karda leads with frightening focus to empowering the tribe to make war, and thus inflate itself. The Karda must either grow or perish, and it grows by proving itself stronger, and thus truer, than other Karda. Once a Karda is completely defeated, it accepts that its way must have been wrong, and the survivors gladly become sworn brothers and sisters of the tribe that they had been fighting. Such is the Kardes way. They do not consider such clashes undesirable, but rather the right and proper way to determine which Karda is truly the world-tribe they all seek to belong to.

Mercy

The Kardesian warriors universally give mercy once their victory is certain. It is their way to force an enemy into compliance, and they have no desire to take a single life more than is necessary to achieve this goal. After all, every dead warrior is a warrior whose prowess cannot adorn and empower one's own Karda. In fact when a warrior proves himself a truly great commodity, the Kardes will consider it an unfortunate waste to kill him at all, and the greatest are usually avoided in a skirmish, or else captured where possible. Entire parties of a tribe's warriors will sometimes be assigned the task of netting particularly fine opponents to protect in preparation for victory and indoctrination into the Karda.

The Karda


As well as being the tribe to which they belong, the Karda is also the religion of the Kardes, but not quite religion, it is more a philosophy that deifies the tribe, which also shares the name Karda, which crudely translates to "place of belonging" or "purpose", though more simply it might be seen to mean both "body" and "home". Quite literally the Kardes venerate the idealized image of the world-tribe that they are trying to bring about as a Divhi. The perfect tribe, to them, is not something embodied in the world, but rather a blueprint for the inevitable paradise that it will bring when the Karda is finally realized. And of course each Karda believes that it is their tribe that is destined to grow to encompass the world.

Conquest

The Kardes see war and conquest as a way of bringing the order of the Karda to the world, to bring about the world-tribe. They generally only have an interest in bringing other Kardes into the Karda, at least by force, and so usually they only make war on one another. But they are also more than willing to put down a foe who makes a nuance of himself. Carroghan raiders pressing the snowfields have repeatedly discovered that the Kardesian tribes will not tolerate being trifled with. But they have also learned that the Kardesians want for little, despite their base lifestyle, and that which they do not want, they simply destroy, in an effort to cripple a foe's ability to continue to be troublesome.

Conversion

Of course, if an outsider - virtually any outsider - wants to convert to the tribe's Karda that is not only acceptable, but generally welcome, so long as the desire is deemed genuine. That said, few outsiders would want to. They will immediately be stripped of their name, and assigned a life-task, and if the backbreaking work in the harsh climates is not enough to drive off an outsider, the expectations of the much smaller and less robust members of other races are no less than those placed upon the giant Kardes.

Women

Apart from the Igar, symbolic mother of the whole Karda, the Kardes recognize no difference between men and women beyond the physiological, and are perplexed that other races put such emphasis on differences in gender. Kardesian men do tend to be larger than the women, and so the majority of warriors are male, but many powerful women number in their war parties too. One thing unique to women is hostage-gifting. Allied Karda will sometimes make a trade of a number of young women, both as a sign of friendship (the women are thought of as a skilled gift - skilled primarily in child-making) and serve to diversify an otherwise shallow gene-pool. These hostages immediately become a part of their new Karda, but they seldom forget their old Karda, and if the two tribes do eventually fall to warring these hostages must try to escape and return to their own Karda. Often at the outset of such a conflict all current hostages are massacred.

Birth, Marriage and Death


None of the occasions that landsmen might mark with sentimentality or ritual have much meaning to the Kardesians. Birth is the way in which the tribe replenishes itself, death a natural part of that cycle, and to understand marriage requires individuality, for to be married would be to distance yourself from the Karda. In a sense a tribe might view the relationship they have with their entire tribe as a sort of marriage, though they were born into it. However this does not mean that love-matches do not occur amongst the Kardes, simply that they do not formalize them with a concept so crass as fidelity or family. A man and a woman, or indeed a man and a man, or a woman and a woman, who are attracted to one another are free to fraternize, and conduct their relationship however they see fit, so long as this doesn't effect their loyalty to the Karda. Such a potentially messy arrangement often leads of bitter jealousies, but there are specific individuals within a Karda tasked solely with untangling such romantic knots - often by sending a woman away to another Karda as a hostage-gift.

Drowning

The only ritual around the Kardesian appreciation of life remains their obsession with drowning. The very moment a child is born the infant is immersed in salt water and held there. The weak drown, the strong emerge, unbreathing, to draw breath anew. This death and resurrection at the hands of the sea appeases the ocean. It has taken the life of every Kardsian once, and it will surely not desire to do so again. Perhaps this ritual accounts for their uncanny ability to ply wild and frozen seas other races would not survive, however it comes at a price. Less than one in three newborns survive drowning at the hands of the Karda's drowners.

Hospitality and Civility


To the Kardes, an often unforgiving warrior people, hospitality, and more importantly how to conduct oneself as host and guest, is surprisingly important. They will always offer a traveller who does not give offence a place by their fire, and a meal on the condition that he hear of the grandeur and righteousness of their Karda. He need not convert, there is no pressure nor even invitation to do so, he is simply invited to hear what he hears and judge for himself whether or not theirs is the true Karda. And once he has eaten the tribe's food, no visitor can ever be harmed even if he proves to be the tribe's worst foe, unless he strikes first. If somehow he is harmed, even by his own enemy, it is a grave dishonour to the tribe and they will take vengeance as if the guest was one of their own.

Speaking to Outsiders

Another vitally important custom amongst the Kardes - one that has cost many foreigners their lives - is that no outsider may address any member of the tribe save for the Igar, though a member of the tribe may address them if they are in the tribe's territory. Not until the visitor has heard the story of the Karda, and been named Kar-Fala, or "as brother" by the Igar may be speak directly to anyone else. Breach of this taboo frees the tribe of all duties of hospitality to the offender.