Charali people hail from the vast plains on the southeastern portion of the continent. They are known far and wide for their horses, which are the best stock within the realm.
The Charali race is light complexioned, with blonde to red hair, and eye color ranging from green to grey. Most Charali are slightly built.
It is important to note that the Charali are nomads, and move with their horses throughout the plains of their land. There are no permanent settlements, nor are there schools of learning or other such ‘luxuries’. A Charali carries what he or she can with them, or on the backs of their horses.
A Charali in Lithmore for the first time will be somewhat wide-eyed, even after making the journey from their plains through other cities, at the splendor and grandiosity of the capital.
Note: Charali do not have what is considered ‘gentry’ according to Lithmorran standards. To them, wealthy horse breeders are nobility, though in the eyes of Lithmorrans, they are merely freemen. The Charali may only select the ‘gentry’ class if they have gained it through the mingling of blood through one of the duchies.
The Charalin were a nomadic people, more intent on raising their horses and cattle than the vagaries of surrounding politics. They ignored the fleeing Lithmorrans, and the other refugees who streamed across their lands. With little wealth to speak of, and no cities to besiege, the Charali were in turn ignored by King Dav.
It was not until the year 117, when Dav was assaulting Tubor, that the Charali drew the Lithmorran King’s eye their way. For, while Dav had superior numbers and the raw strength of arms to crush the Tubori, their knowledge of their island allowed for quick cavalry strikes along Dav’s flanks, routing his efforts time and again. The Charali, long known to breed the best horses of the lands, quickly became a target. Dav pulled his forces to the mainland, and directed his efforts to conquering the Charalin people.
In what became known as the 30 days war, King Dav overrode every defense that the Charali put up, and before long the watchfires of his armies stretched from one end of the Charali lands to the other. It was a ruthless war, wherein every effort was made to spare the mounts of the Charali, but no quarter given for the people. Fewer than 4 out of 10 Charalin survived the massacre, and only by fleeing with what horses they could herd to the kingdom of Vavard.
Today the majority of Charali retain their nomadic ways and have no home city. The plains in which they live remain free of any structured outside government despite the faltering, but dogged claims of Vavard. It is commonly known that these claims originate with the discovery of rich coal and iron deposits in the territory that could give Vavard an edge to break Vandago’s monopoly on arms.
Frontier settlements rise and fall frequently with new attempts to penetrate Charali lands, but seasonal weather patterns and poor farming have prevented true colonization. Vavard, however, remains undaunted by its limited successes and still retains heavy garrisons that often struggle for a further foothold into the plains.
Those that truly understand Charali culture are few and far between, but contact with Vavardi settlers has allowed enough communication between the people of the plains and the rest of the realm that some scholars appreciate the traditions and culture of Charali society. Despite the rough living of the nomads, those living in “The Plains” are attributed with a certain level of civilization and culture rarely granted to other fringe races of the Five Duchies.
The Charali Plain is a desolate area prone to dry heat and freezing cold. Summers are typically harsh and dry, with scorching hot temperatures. Winters on the Plain, conversely, are enough to kill a man, with temperatures that reach subzero. Rainy seasons are scarce, often causing problems for tribes and animal herds alike. Even worse than the unbearable heat of summer and the freezing temperatures of winter, however, is the unrelenting wind that sweeps through the Plain throughout each season. For this reason, fires must be expertly built and contained, lest the Charali run the risk of razing the grasses that sustain their herds and the animal skin teepees and yurts which sustain their families.
Family in Charali
Charali families tend to differ greatly from the common meaning of the word in surrounding regions. For most Charali, the word “family” includes one’s siblings, parents, and grandparents — but also one’s first cousins, second cousins, third cousins, several sets of in-laws, and more complicated familial relations that most other languages have no word for. It is not uncommon, too, for families to adopt one another en masse, small tribal units that merge and then wander and settle together at a whim. The birthrates here are higher than they are in much of the rest of the kingdom, though siblings’ ages can be somewhat more spread out due to the care Charali take to only have children when they are certain of being able to provide food for them.
Within the Charali culture, there is a very strong feminine gender bias. As opposed to other cultures where women are seen as fragile and weak, the women of Charali tribes are seen to have great wisdom, organizational abilities, keen minds, and communication skills. This lends them to positions of leadership and affords them a marked respect. Men fulfill an important role in their culture, not only as hunters and warriors, but also protectors of the women of the tribe. Tasks accomplished by women, such as raising children, cooking and maintaining the yurt are not looked down upon, but rather as allocation of what is a natural outpouring of a womans best attributes. However, neither are the tasks of the men, and some women have been known to eschew families in order to take up the bow and knife.
Property and inheritances pass through the womans line rather than the father, as only the mother of the child is entirely assured in the procreation matter. Daughters are only slightly prefered over sons, and men who sire children on women may or may not be allowed into a woman’s home. Her family joins her in the raising of a child while the father remains with his own, unless given an invitation by the head of the household, the eldest woman present.
In times of war, male prisoners are often taken from other tribes and forced into slavery within the Charali camps, a juxtaposition of the concept of women being battle spoils in other cultures. In this case alone, men are seen as property, and the High Mother of the tribe usually decides into whose hands the male prisoners of war will fall. The male prisoner is forced to swear fealty to the tribe and its High Mother and is usually placed in the service of one of the women who lost her male protectors in battle. It is common for many of the adult women to have accumulated up to as many as three male servants through this process.
In dress, Charali are the most practically clothed, using indigenous materials, which include a wide variety of leathers and simply made cloth of felt. Because of this emphasis on practicality, men and women both wear pants or breeches, especially when hunting. On special occasions, men and women wear a long tunic-dress with side slits in place of the more practical tunic. During winters, felt is made in abundance and this is the only time sleeved-garments are worn. Although somewhat limited in style and cut, Charali clothing is a strong identifying mark by showing sub-regional, tribal, and personal affiliations. Such markings frequently occur in patterns of paint on leather, fringe, bonework, beadwork, as well as the occasional (and highly prized) feather or shell.
Tunic: The basic tunic is made of felt, usually of natural or muted colors. Without sleeves, the tunic is ultimately practical and plain, lacking a collar. Wealthy or influential Charali men and women wear colorful and stylized vests of felt, often with complicated designs or applique patterns. The Charali tend towards more geometric than scenic patterns in their clothing, though sometimes they depict animals on garments and bags.
Headbands: The Charali wear their hair very long, and it’s almost always exceedingly thick and straight. Men and women may tie it back for hunting, but typically they wear only a leather or beaded headband. Whether leather or beadwork, the headband is of bright, beautiful pattern.
Jewelry: Made of bone and leather, the typical Charali rarely has metal jewelry, though tribal leaders and their close family may wear bronze.
Bracers and wristbands: The Charali all wear bracers and wristbands. In rough order, felt bands about the wrist, painted, beaded, fringed, boned or a combination thereof speaks of a common tribesman. Wisdoms (those over the age of 40) typically wear leather, and tribal leaders or distinguished hunters wear bronze bands.
Status: Charali fashion clearly communicates status and affiliations. The primary place for these identifying marks is through the headband and wrist bracer/bands. The most powerful person in a tribe is the most senior woman, and she sets herself apart with a colorfully beaded headband trailing dyed black feathers from a bird of prey.
The Charali people lead a life of traveling, never staying in one place for too long. They tend to migrate based on the current conditions of their environment. A typical reason for migration within a tribe is the overuse or freezing of grasslands for horses or cattle. Once this resource has been used up, the tribes must move in order to maintain their livelihoods. Each tribe follows a nomadic route that varies only slightly from season to season. Because of this itinerate lifestyle, the Charali have created special types of housing to accommodate for their cyclic travels. Charali tribal hierarchy is easily discernable through these types of housing. While most tribesmen live in easily-movable, conical teepees, tribal leadership resides in cylindrical structures referred to as ‘yurts.’ The yurt is typically floored with lavish carpets of soft animal skins and furs.
Given the harsh environment that the Charali have grown accustomed to living in, they have developed very strong hospitality rules to those whom they might receive as guests. The rationale for these adopted tenets stands because the nomadic peoples of the Plains must already face the dangers of their lands- why should they face the same while within their homes. As such, it is generally accepted amongst the Charali people that no murder or other foul play may ever occur within a man’s yurt or teepee. Once a man has shared food or water outside his home, the person receiving these favors is considered a guest and falls under the protection of the Charali who has shared them with him. To disobey either of these rules would be to bring a great dishonor to one’s family and ancestors.
Education akin to that of Lithmore’s society is not stressed amongst the Charali peoples. A nomadic people, the Charali instead chose to educate their offspring in the means of survival on the oft-times brutal plains.
Standard education consists of skills used in day to day life and these life skills are often divided amongst the tribe depending upon ones social-standing. The lower members of the tribe are typically taught to be proficient in animal husbandry, horsemanship, and falconry. Middling ranks in the tribes assume the roles of the hunters and gatherers, learning how to hunt for food and how to work the hides of the animals that they have managed to kill. The upper echelon of each tribe typically becomes classed as the warriors, learning valuable skills in combat for the protection of the tribe. Families within each rank of the tribe are often acclaimed due to their great skill in one of these areas.
Grudgingly, Lithmorran attitudes have managed to work their way into the Charali way of life through Davite missionaries from the Holy Order. These highly educated men and women, schooled predominantly in theology, have taken to teaching the willing Plainsmen some city-customs. Though not widely accepted or used, some Charali’s have taken to learning to read and write because of the clergymen present within their tribal hierarchy. These traveling missionaries have also attempted to sway the Charali’s in their religious beliefs, but their efforts have met with dissonance, as the Plains-people continue to cling to the ways of old.
The Charali written language, a relatively new development, uses the Lithmorran and Vavardi scripts to approximate the sounds of Charali words.
Disparate communities in Charali typically have only small congregations, if any. As such, sermons tend to be fairly truncated and address topics concerning the recent local gossip. These are led by missionaries determined to spread the faith to the unenlightened heathens. Still, the Holy Order has at best a minimal following in the Plains and maintains little impact on the Charalin or their way of life. However, its trappings have been interwoven almost inextricably with ancient tribal spiritualities and superstitions. The practicing Charalin make extensive use of saints, angels and demons now, in place of the old rites of spirit and ancestor worship. The lack of a set bisophoric See means that there is little in the way of “regular” practice of Davism in this region. Thus tribes can have widely disparate pseudo-pantheons of saints, devils, rituals and holidays.
The Charali people subsist largely on a diet composed of meat due to their hunter and gatherer nature. Most of the animals that the Charali have with them are horses, dogs, and sturdy cows. They strive to make full use of each animal that they kill for food, thus drinking mare’s milk, tanning the hides of sturdy cows used for meat and milk, and working the hair of horses bred for riding into felt.
The Plainsmen are known for their unique use of things found in the environment to use for food in times of scavenging and gathering. Of specific note is the use of long grasses in most meals made in Charali homes. It is said that the grass adds a special flavor to each dish and that its nutritional value is high. In the Charali quest to make full use of each part of their kills, they have developed many delicacies that perhaps the average Lithmorran would think disgusting. Charali are known to suck the marrow from animal bones or to drizzle it on their meals as a form of dressing. Another food-related custom in Charali is that in order for the senior-most woman in a tribe to ascend to power, she must swallow the eyes of a horse whole. It is said that this will double her honor, thrice her loyalty, and halve her enemies.
The Charali people lead a very ritualistic way of life, their practices in warfare denoting this sentiment precisely. In open conflict, tribal leaders will meet in order to declare when, and for how long, a war shall last. Conflicts between tribes are typically resolved in these small-scale battles, and in only a few cases in history has a blood vendetta (war to the ultimate destruction of a tribe) been called. Given that the Charali believe that their ancestors watch their actions on Urth, death and dying in association with these tribal battles are dealt with ceremoniously. Special cares are taken to make sure that the bodies of the dead are not defiled in any way so that they may greet the ancestors without bringing shame to their families or tribes.
Of particular note is the Charalin take on the premise of honesty. To the Plainsmen, honesty is not a matter of spoken word, but instead of intent. A Charali might say one thing, but in truth mean another. Much of their speech is made through plays on words- the Charali focus on positive manners and use speech to communicate only as a method of harmonizing each man with every other and the world as a whole. Speaking in this way is not considered to be dishonest amongst the Charali, but instead it is required to be an honorable and good person. Speaking honestly, in Lithmorran terms, would be a grave breach of the Charali protocol and would bring dishonor to ones tribe. Because of this unique manner of speaking, Lithmorrans often consider the Charali to be liars.
In this hunter and gatherer society, the sake of the tribe is often promoted before the sake of the self, and for this reason, honor is viewed as allegiance to the tribe. In these terms, one who does not perform his duties or has failed in them has set the tribe back, and will be shunned for a time appropriate in accordance with the duties he has been remiss in accomplishing. To bring shame or dishonor to the tribe or ones ancestors is considered one of the greatest wrongs amongst the Charali people and such an act is to be avoided at all costs.
The first thing that comes to ones mind when thinking of Charali is almost always horses. Known to sell for upwards of fifty gold pieces at times, Charali horses are amongst the best in all of the King’s territories. These exotic animals are praised for their beautiful coats and glossy hair, also used in decorative clothing and necklaces. Though the Charali people are primarily known for their skill in breeding champion horses, there are several other goods which have been exported from the Plains of late due to their exotic nature.
Grass and reed weavings have become exceptionally popular in Lithmorran and Vavardi homes, simply for their avant-garde flair in decorating the homes of the upper class. Also popular amongst the Charali people, and a trend beginning to become apparent in Vavard, is the making of felt from both human and animal hair. This material is highly durable and is useful in keeping warm in the harsh conditions of the Plains.
Of particular use to those in the city of Lithmore, salts and dung exported from the Plains have served the purpose of flavoring foods and for aid in fire-building. Procured from the steppes of Charali, the salts exported from these lands are said to have a more granular texture and biting taste than those extracted from other areas. Charali horse dung, when dried, is rumored to rival even lamp oil in the duration of the fire it will create.