The Lleweith Kingdoms
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Life in the Lleweith Kingdoms


Life, Beliefs, and Society

In the Lleweith social structure lies the origin of that of all of modern Ralstaa. There are very large and distinct castes within Lleweith culture. First there are the noblemen - warrior priests who are charged with protecting the people, body and soul, both by guiding their faith and raising arms against their foes. Noblemen have the right to rule, passed down through the blood, by descent from an ancestor enshrined in the hall of heroes, or else rewarded for martial loyalty with a knighthood beneath a monarch. Next come the warrior, the retainers of knights and nobles. Then the artisans, with no particular stratification of trades, who can earn their own living with skill. Traders or merchants are not considered artisans, and are seen as much lesser in standing, despite their wealth and noble patrons. Next come the citizens - dwellers in the tohls who make the great cities function. A citizen is employed gainfully, but not as an artisan, and this class includes merchants and apprentices, as well as those who trade in food, lodging and the like. Next come the villeins, who live off the land in smaller settlements, under the rule of a monarch, and finally the churls, who live in free hamlets in no-man's-land between fiefs, with no lord to protect them.
Their relationship with the land is crucial to the Lleweith mindset. The Lleweith Ralstaans see the land as something not to be trusted, to be shit out by great stone walls and stout wooden gates, and watched keenly and suspiciously. But it is a necessary evil. They must brave the land's dangers to claim its bounty, and so there is a grudging respect. This means that Lleweith society is focused on massively urbanized areas, surrounded by enormous tracts of near unexplored wilderness, broken by roads that lead to villages that exploit small regions of tamed land around them. To many this is a strange structure, and it can leave many great cities rich in goods and materials, and poor in foodstuffs, but it also makes for small, wealthy, militarily powerful domains, led by a divinely ordained warrior elite, who can best any warrior elsewhere in the world.

Like other regions of Ralstaa, and most of Allornus, the deficit between noble and commoner is impassable. Villeins and citizens are the property of their overlords - indentured serfs expected to toil their lives away in the fields. Artisans and warriors are free men, but a monarch or noble is free to persecute them as much as they like should the prove disloyal or problematic. And while any man can conceivably go out into the unclaimed wilderness and found his own domain, then go before the High King and be recognized as a monarch himself, and a member of the Oercorast, giving the impression that even a pauper could become a king, the reality is that only a powerful or wealthy individual could have hope of achieving such a lofty ambition. And were he to do so his new found neighbours would quickly band together to crush him should his new land even hint weakness.
Perhaps the most unique aspect of Ralstaan life is that the fiefs of Ralstaa are united, and yet disunited. The odd laws that incorporated the High Kingdom give the various monarchs of the land free reign to conduct their own politics. This extends to their exploiting their natural resources as they choose, making their own laws, levying their own tributes, defining their own borders, and even making war upon one another as they choose! And yet each monarch is expected to unite together at the behest of the High King when he calls for tribute, armies, or resources. In addition they are expected to maintain his temple in their lands, and no other, and to send their chosen heirs to Tohl, to serve as pages until they come of age, and learn the way of a true Ralstaan warrior-priest.

Dance and Music

The Lleweith love dance, and dance is central to many social gatherings and festivals, and even religious ceremonies. However to the Lleweith dance is not a gleeful or exuberant thing, but rather a structured and disciplined art form, predicated on the precision and detail with which every movement is executed. Even the smallest point of a toe or hand is crucial to the appreciation of the dance. Music tends to be slow, and undulating, with each piece of music. Though this sort of demure exhibition is gaining traction in the royal courts of foreign lands to the east and west, but here it is a mainstay of even the festivals of the small villages of southern Lammornia.

Archery

Lleweith are proud of their natural prowess as woodsmen and archers, great huntsmen, especially boastful of this, with archery pervading their legends. The Lleweith longbow is a finely crafted weapon indeed, combining the best of range, strength, and deadly accuracy, but requiring a lifetime's devotion to master. While the Lleweith might consider the sword and shield the tools of war, it is a man's accuracy with a bow demonstrates much more about his skill, seasoning, and worth, and tourneys will near always mix combat with targeteering, with many warriors choosing to show mercy on the field of blood to a man whose skill at archery exceeds their own, with the claim that the world cannot afford to lose hands as skilled as these.

Diet and Eating Customs

Eating is somewhat utilitarian to the Lleweith people. There are usually two meals a day, an afternoon meal and a late evening meal immediately before sleep. The former is eaten in the place of work, be that with the herds, or in a place of business, while the evening meal is taken with an extended family unit, that with which an individual shares a home (and not as a whole community as that of the Shaeish). Eating out is not uncommon for citizens of major tohls, and street-side food vendors are especially common and affordable, with vendors frequently moving between places of business during the afternoon to save busy artisans needing to come to them. In terms of fare joints of hrid, venison, coarse brown bread, wine and ale are what one might expect to find on a villein's table, or available on the roadside with hawkers, with cheese and honey also available on bread. The upper classes enjoy finer wines, refined, sugary spirits like brandy, rum and whiskey, finer floured pale breads and fattier meats like chicken, duck, pheasant, beef, and pork. Fish and shellfish are considered poor fare, but many coastal villages bulk out hrid or venison stews with shellfish, or replace meat with white fish a night or two a week.

Fashion and Dress

There are important distinctions between the costume of the Lleweith Ralstaans, as indeed there are for most Ralstaans. Firstly gender, and then social class. Citizens, villeins, artisans and nobles might all be expected to be attired differently, with sumptory laws of varying degrees of rigidity in place in various fiefs to enforce these distinctions. The primary for men is a tunic - a generally a long fabric panel, folded over with a neck-hole cut into the centre, and sleeves attached. While a citizen or villein might display his wealth with made finer cloth, rarer colour, or even Ghan silk. The tunic is belted at the waits, with either a leather or strong fabric belt, with the leather decoratively embossed for the wealthier citizens. While citizens and artisans might be expected to wear a fitting trouser, villeins wear strips of cloth wound round the leg, and held in place by long raw hide laces, while nobility might be expected to more readily wear hose. While a nobleman might wear his tunic cut long, sometimes below the knee, often with baggy sleeves and a trailing surcoat in his house colours, peasants and warriors usually wear the garment little below the waist. A surcoat, worn over clothing or armour, usually takes the form of a long strip of cloth worn over the head, and cinched at the waist, but open at the sides, however some noblemen, particularly servants with no martial training or women, have a sleeve fastened at the top by loose laces layered over the tunic, that can be opened to above the elbow, so as to trail below the arm revealing the tunic beneath. Footwear, not always worn amongst the poor, varies from a sandal bound to the bottom of wrappings to felt booties, to leather calf boots.

For winter, outside or regular attire, a cloak or coat is worn. While citizens and nobles prefer a short cape which barely comes to the waist, and droops over one or the other shoulder, fastened with a lace or decorative brooch, a chaperon, a one-piece hood and cape over the shoulders, is worn by villeins and poorer citizens, and a conical straw hat, with no distinct brim, bound under the chin is a must for field work or travel. Noblemen and warriors, when not in armour, wear a single, highly decorative spaulder - a 'u' of worked metal - over their shoulders, fastened with laces below the arm and to the cape. This exquisite piece of metalwork is inlaid with precious metals, and denotes a warrior as much as the weapon at his hip.

Women of all classes tend towards a simple sleeved tunic dress, fastened with brooches or ribbons at the shoulders, with a vertical slit, usually laced or else revealing a plain undertunic, at the bodice. amongst citizens, and especially nobility, borders and hems are often decorated with embroidery, and linings of silk and other exotic materials, as well as indulgence of colour and lace-work are embellishments indication noble lineage. While trousers are the province of the male costume, women do wear hose - crude or fine - in the winter months or in colder climes. An under-tunic is usually worn, and cloaks and mantles are unisex, even in the upper classes, though only an older women could wear a furred coat. The wives of artisans often wear a heavily embroidered or decorated waistcoat or girdle as an outward sign of their wealth and status, but this fashion is seen as ostentatious and showy amongst the nobility.

Hair in Lleweithe Culture

Though it can be said that long hair is important to all of the Ralstaan peoples as more than merely a fashion, Lleweithe hair is especially important, and it is with them that the tradition of long hair as a sign of battle prowess started. Lleweith knights seldom wear Dreadlocks like many other warriors, and usually have a servant totally devoted to brushing and nourishing their hair when they travel. They will also usually wear a belt made up of the cut-off hair of all their honourable opponents. Complex series' of knots in these tell detailed stories about the hair’s previous owner, and how he was defeated. While Dunsain Clanlanders also wear these belts, the knots are unique to the Lleweithe, and often only the man who cares for the knight’s hair will be totally fluent with this language. To take a man's hair and not his life is considered the ultimate insult a warrior can suffer, and he will usually fall upon his sword rather than suffer such indignity.

Transportation and Communication

The Great Northern Highway snakes through Bradenthyr, taking many caravans and horsemen from Caldare all the way through the Cold Gates, and the Lammornian Highway leads south from Tohl, but beyond these two major trade routes there are few major thoroughfares. Ikar are popular throughout the Lleweith knife for those who can afford the exorbitant cost of keeping an aerie, with heavy-limbed horses and mules for overland travel by caravans, traders and common warriors. The Lleweith are especially wary of the wild seas, but they prove too convenient to disuse, and so boats and barges are used, though they are seen as almost exclusively for transporting goods, and cling to the coast. Few men would willingly look to the sea as a means of travel, but they would be more open minded about plying the rivers from place to place, where land is ever in reach. Hawks and falcons are used to carry messages, but large aerial predators make these unreliable, especially over long distances of particularly wild lands, and so noble-sponsored merchant caravans are the most common and reliable way of carrying a message from place to place. Generally low literacy makes even this nigh impossible for the lower classes. But then men without recognized trades are bonded to their lands and lord, so they have no call to communicate with (or have any awareness of) the world beyond their home-fief. Within the fief, however, even villeins are free to go from settlement to settlement should they choose.

Faith

By law all monarchs of the Lleweith lands are required to be ordained into the Temple of the Sun, and are required to maintain the temple in their lands, as the leaders of the faith in the lands they rule over. In turn, all subjects of a fief must worship at the Temple of the Sun, else not worship at all, and unbelievers are persecuted mercilessly. In the central arm of the temple, the focus on sacrifice of goods, and even life, is especially strong. To the Lleweith Rallah sacrified her body, and her people, to take her turn as the sun and give day to the world, and so it is right for the Ral to sacrifice to replenish and nourish her, and make her stronger and more able to protect them. Indeed the initial feud with the Iri to the west, that saw them all but driven from the Knives of Rallah, came when they would not offer their lives to Irik as the Ral did to Rallah after her departure, though he also sacrificed his body and people to become the sky. Even today the Ralstaans claim this is why the Irians' empire fell, while Ralstaa was reborn, and the Temple of the Sun makes allowances for small offerings to be made to Irik on the longest and shortest nights of the year.

The Temple of the Sun often depicts worship as a thankless task, teaching its people to be strong for their divhi rather than seek her aid. Though the various house cults do elevate deified ancestors to the position of divine guardians of a land, each house cult tends only to offer boons in prosperity and war. Shaven-headed temple virgins, girls of high birth given to the temple as infants, are raised in luxury within the temple, to be offered as ritual sacrifice to join Rallah when they come of age, and families are proud to have temple virgins in their generation. Some lands even allow them to become divine patrons of sorts within the house cult. The Ralstaans take their faith very seriously, quickly taking offence, and expecting little in return for their devotions. They are not hostile to outsiders' faiths, but intensely suspicious, and a foreigner trying to share his beliefs with a member of the temple will find the temper of these sun-worshippers short. Their offerings are justified when the sun rises every morning, and for the folk of Ralstaa that is enough.

Political


Political System

The city, or Tohl, forms the heart of a fief. Usually a king, or the equivalent, will firmly rule a central tohl, with his hereditary territory spreading from his walls, as far as he can see from his tallest tower. When a king wants to extend his territories, he must initiate knights from amongst his servants, or from unlanded noble warriors loyal to him, and sponsor them to raise caers and tors, which in turn rule all they can see from their highest tower. However a fief is often relatively small, and kings seldom have much desire to claim more territory than they can dominate, or extend their territories into useless wilderness unless valuable resources are found. Where fiefs meet, conflict is rife, as knights strive to raise their liege's banner over valuable territory, or battling over matters of pride when one tor is erected within sight of another, thus claiming the same lands. However unlike the Shaeish lands, where fiefs remain small and splintered, there is a movement in the Lleweith lands to reunite the old provinces under a single strong king. Invariably, however, this seldom lasts more than a few generations. Largely unclaimed buffers, populated by free-hamlets - small settlements protected by, and owing fielty to, no fief - are common.

As in all of Ralstaa, these fiefs are incorporated into the High Kingdom, meaning that they must send their named heirs to the High King as pages, for initiation into the Temple of the Sun, and though it goes unsaid, as hostages of a sort. Fiefs must pay predetermined tributes to the High King, answer his call to sit in the Oercorast, provide warriors to his armies when called to, uphold the Temple of the Sun in their homes, as the only faith of their family, and enforce certain of the High King's laws, but they are largely free to rule their fiefs as they choose, make war upon one another, make their own laws and taxes, and determine their people's rights as sole sovereigns.

Law and Order

Though self-governing free-hamlets common between fiefs, and these can be as different from one another as night and day in their laws and customs, the fiefs themselves were incorporated into the High Kingdom early in Viran Uth-Rallis' reformation, and thus most kept their old laws, predating the reformation and making them quite diverse, with many of the older, more traditional centres of Lleweith power, lands like Haeliard and Lammornia, now proving especially archaic and unusual. Conversely lands like Branddale, and especially the High Kingdom's hub of Bradenthyr, are much more progressive, formed around the laws penned by Alan Caldare.

Generally speaking a king's rights are absolute, except where the High King's law supersedes, and the knights are the arbiters of his power. Citizens and villeins are the indentured to the noblemen who rule their lands, and the lower classes are not allowed much mobility, while artisans and warriors are given great levity. All subjects of a fief are expected to follow the Temple of the Sun, though the right to worship in house cults varies from restricted to the members of that house, to mandatory for all of the fief's subjects, and all variants in between. A knight will press-gang able bodied men into armed militia if his warriors are not enough to keep the peace or enforce the law, and the knight, king, or an appointed proxy of noble birth sits in judgement over any free citizen, while men without trade have no right to trial or appeal.

Military

Lleweith fiefs are particularly represented by small, elite forces on the field of battle. Well armed, well trained, seasoned knights, and their common-blooded apprentices often clash in engagements of less than fifty men on both sides, though when an engagement involves trying to hold territory they are bolstered by untrained peasant levies. In the east and west free hamlet based mercenaries bolster the armies of knights, are less common in the Lleweith lands, and are even actively hunted as bandits. As a result armies can be extremely variable and often chaotic. Led by knights, with whatever combination of weapons they favour, and their mix of barbaric savagery and unforgiving warrior code, seemingly invincible warrior clad all in shining or pitted plate armour, sometimes lacquered in their heraldic colours, with their belts of hair. The knights are surrounded by an entourage, with mail clad warriors with pike and bow, accompanied by grooms, and even minstrels, who sing of the knight's feats as battle is joined. And at the back of these imposing professionals, capable of besting near any other warriors on Allornus, are a haphazard and fearful rabble of peasants, in shreds of abandoned armour, improvised helms made of pots and buckets, with a mix of farming implements and spears scavenged from ancient battlefields.

Technology


Architecture

All of Ralstaa's towns and villages have the same stalwart, solid feel as their cities. Two-roomed cottages, bisected by a central wall and firepit, all built from hewn stone with timber and thatch rooves are the norm. Houses will usually have a stout wooden lean-to by a rear door acting as a pantry and cold store. The houses will have a main room, where meals are cooked and eaten, and where livestock are brought indoors in the colder months (and straw scattered on the floor to accommodate them), or to avoid predators. The rear room is a communal sleeping area, usually with enough shallow cots with straw mattresses to accommodate the family and a visitor or two. Narrow, shuttered windows, almost reminiscent of arrow slits keep the weather out, while letting some fresh air and light in. Except for free hamlets, which are often too small, settlements are almost universally fortified, either by ditch and palisade or a proper wall. While these may not hold against invaders, they are useful against bandit attack or predators like wolves and bears. In larger or wealthier settlements tiled rooves, larger windows, decorative carved shutters, and woven tapestries are the norm. Many houses have two smaller sleeping chambers, and the fireplace, instead of being central, is located against a wall in the common room. Usually larger settlements have broad-beamed wooden barns for livestock, meaning that they house is generally cleaner and better furnished. In cities local stone colours each tohl individually, with large square buildings featuring cut stone, or sometimes brick, stone or cement, shuttered mullioned windows with sloped rooves concealed behind square façades. Capitals generally have very simple decorations, usually floral or heraldic. The stone-dressing is very accurate, and spires and minarets are common in richer neighbourhoods. Cheap undecorated timber extensions are also common in crowded or poor parts of cities.

Caers and Tors

Undoubtedly the people of Ralstaa are the greatest stonemasons in Allornus, and their fortresses are the imposing peak of this craft. While the proud Lleweith and dour Dunsain compete to claim the greatest of these, the distinction seems to move from caer to caer with each generation. To the Ralstaans there are two crucial kinds of fortification - the caer and the tor. When a knight first comes to a region where he wants to establish a holding, he directs his people to open a quarry on defensible land, and just back from this (so that the quarry itself acts as a refused approach to the fortification) he constructs a tall, round tower in local hewn stone; the tor. The tor is simply a strong tower, round in shape to best endure blows from catapult, built deep to foil sappers, with an entrance perhaps twenty feet from the ground, accessible via a fortified ground-level gatehouse and over a drawbridge.

As the knight becomes more wealthy, and a settlement establishes in the shadow of his tor, he uses his tor as a cornerstone for a new fortification, first building two new towers, and linking to them with stout, tall battlements, before enclosing a central courtyard with another tower, and two more walls, each centred around a round barbican, which is protected by a timber hoarding. Then he encloses this structure with a lower curtain wall, again broken by low, round barbicans. This stone concentric-castle is the caer, though exactly when in its evolution it earns the name is unclear. The original tor remains the highest tower, and becomes the citadel, strongest point of the caer, usually overlooking the main gate to the inner courtyard, which almost always sits opposite the gate from the outer.

Of course many variations occur, around terrain, scale, and particular innovations, but for the most part this design has been around some three centuries, and near all major caers have been modified to match the devastatingly effective concentric model. It is worth noting, however, that a great deal of wealth and time is needed to turn a tor to a caer, and in many cases even powerful noble houses will make do with a stout tor, with no ambition for growth.

Medicine

Medicine in central Ralstaa isn't markedly different to that available in the rest of the High Kingdom, or indeed that available over most of Allornus, which is to say treatment is relatively poor, with leeches being used to purify blood of infection, or clean wounds, and amputation for particularly nasty infections or injuries. While in the cities a healer might be expected to created herbal poultices or pills to help with a particular pain or ailment, churogeons deal with amputations and blood purifications, as well as the setting of broken bones and proper dressing of wounds. However in small settlements where such services would be a luxury there is more frequently a wise woman or man who, though ostracised as a magician, knows a plethora of local cures, both herbal and mineral in nature, as well as having the tools to perform dressing of wounds, and the necessary knowledge to set breaks properly. Amputations, however, are often performed messily by whoever deems it necessary, and so many opt to keep a ruined limb over the risk of removal.

Economy


Trade

As in all of western Ralstaa, with the formal outlawing of trade cabals only small, independent merchant caravans or traders with a noble sponsor may move goods for sale from place to place - in fact in the Lleweith lands trade cabals are even persecuted in free hamlets, meaning that no substantial merchant bodies really exist anywhere. Even in the dubiously incorporated land of Haeliard trade cabals are dogged into submission by armed sorties. The alternative? Large private caravans, with plenty of oxen, and wagons, must vie for noble sponsors, benefactors and protectors, to take a shipment of goods, or a continued shipment of goods, to another settlement or fief. The Lleweith attitude to trade is to keep a settlement self sufficient, and devote its artisans to a specific trade, mastering it to the best of their ability, and exporting their chosen craft, while importing the crafts of their neighbours, which can in turn be traded with other neighbours. On a small scale this proved surprisingly efficient, but seldom particularly profitable for anyone save the sponsor.

Major Export and Import

In most of the Lleweith fiefs, with the rich Lammordia as the glaring exception, raw materials are generally jealously hoarded by the kings of the lands - not to imply that each and every fief isn't rich in stone, timber, meat, wine, and the necessities of life - but generally speaking it is the fine crafts that kings and knights sponsor trade of from tohl to tohl and fief to fief for wealth, or other goods. Each city has its own specialist craft, and is packed with skilled artisans working to produce goods for export via caravan. Of course, especially in Tohl, but equally true of all large cities, there is a lack of food, and so there is a considerable appetite for surplus foodstuffs imported oversea from the west Shaeish lands to supplement the meagre crops of the Lleweith territories, which some seasons would otherwise be barely sufficient for survival.

Plate Armour

Without a doubt, the pride of the Lleweith warrior class is their impenetrable plate armour. Scarcely a century has passed since mail, worn with a breastplate and perhaps a pair of vambraces, began its evolution into the articulated suits of full plate that the wealthiest of knights sport today, and though the Shaeish warriors have begun to grudgingly invest in the heavy armour (though most still prefer their old mail coats) it is the Lleweith from whom they must purchase this wonder of warcraft. Lleweith armourers are some of the most famous, revered, and celebrated citizens of its Tohls, with every city boasting a few elite armourers capable of full plate, competing for those who will pay their enormous prices. Every suit is a work of art as much as a tool of war, and every suit commissioned and custom fitted to its owner. Truly, were every Ralstaan knight to have such armour, the armies of the high kingdom would be invincible!

Money

Like the rest of civilized Ralstaa, trade by caravans and merchants, or in cities, is handled in currency. And with the close proximity of centres of wealth like Tohl and Tohl Dannis, the gold standard is more rigorously enforced than ever. The one ounce sovereign, half ounce half sovereign, silver penny, and silver ha'penny, mostly of Bradenthyr mint, are all more than a common man might hope to see in his life, but single-side minted copper farthings originate from courts all over the region, and are often found split crudely into halves, thirds, or quarters. Currency breaks down as two half sovereigns to a sovereign, twelve pennies to the sovereign, two half pennies to the penny, and fifteen farthings to the penny (or one hundred and eighty to the sovereign). Perhaps half the copper of the region carries the arms of the High King, and the vast majority of gold and silver share that origin. In fact, smaller traders might treat other arms in higher denominations with downright suspicion.

The Knives of Rallah, High Kingdom of Ralstaa
The Shaeish Kingdoms Caldare, Donnaigh, Rhuovaith, Kileirey, Balleymoore, Cannavin, Wynd, Breconn, Coulbaigh
The Lleweith Kingdoms Avalaigh, Haeliard, Lammornia, Branddale, Talladale, Bradenthyr, Tohl
The Starwood Cwmbran, Kentallen Wood, Uerenuell
Tuarvael Castrette, Serlot, Friesse
The Dunsain Kingdoms Byrnham, Blackstone, Craigbyrn, Duncarrick, Strath Gorge, Garynshae, The Clanlands, Aulorn's Gate
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