Vandagan

Vandagans are from the duchy of the same name, the realm northeast of Lithmore. Known for architecture, engineering and building, the Vandagans economy is really supported by the heavy customs duties from Argvard’s Canal, the only navigatable outlet from the Dralth Ocean to the Kirulean
Sea. Vandago is the center of trade along the Tunne Bay, and a major point of entry for Tubori goods to the mainland.

Vandagans are dark complexioned, with black to brown hair coloring being the most prevalent. They are known for their canted, generally light eyes that provide a strong contrast to their dusky tones. They tend to be of the stockier, more muscular build than their neighbors.

Average Height/Weight Statistics:

Female 1.63m (5’4″ ft) 52 kg (114 lbs)
Male 1.67m (5’6″ ft) 63 kg (139 lbs)

Architecture

Due to the Vandagan national enthusiasm for architecture, a house is perhaps a man or woman’s single biggest status object. An interesting consequence of this is that far fewer people tend to be homeless in Vandago, even if their homes are truly crafted of crude materials- it’s a shame far greater than most anything but being branded a heretic. Homes
are most fiercely fought over in inheritence disputes than any other possessions, especially prior to the days of the Decree of Sodality.

The richest members of Vandagan society have quite sound homes framed with supporting steel, around which and within which stones are placed. Thicker walls mean deeper pockets, and are yet another point of pride, as are the stones with which one manages to have the structure filled. Granite is fairly common, due to a natural abundance of the rock- the richest might decorate their inside walls with alabaster, some types of marble, and multiple windows. The grandiosity of homes in Vandago tends to be difficult to match outside of the duchy, nobles and rich stonemasons or wool producers vying with each other for the tallest, most sumptuously decorated, most expensively crafted domiciles possible.

Far more average in Vandago than these towering and heavy manors are the much smaller, wood-framed houses of the middle and lower classes. Although many of these wood-frames houses of the middle class do manage at times to approximate the luxuries of the steel-framed, using carpeting and interior decoration standards that are quite similar, they’re usually constructed on a much smaller scale and from cheaper stones, a fact most Vandagans can recognize simply by looking at them. This trend of attempting to imitate with poorer materials has even spawned a saying in Vandago- to ‘gild one’s stones’ is to try and appear of far greater status than one actually is.

The more numerous poor will also be able to avail themselves of wood frameworks, but often simply fill them in with mud or various less salubrious pastes they can throw together. The luckiest poor may manage to either steal enough stone from a quarry they work for to shore up the house for Vandago’s bitterest winters; however, it’s more common for them to simply layer on as many mud casings as they can. The poor in Vandago never tend to stop working on their houses, both out of stubborn pride and out of the simple necessity to stay warm.

Climate

The Vandagan climate is a continental one with cool summers and frigid winters. In honestly, the weather can be easily categorized as cool to cold year round with temperatures that seldom rise enough to qualify for hot. Snow is heavy, starting in mid-autumn and remaining until well into spring to thaw. Winds are bitingly cold in the winter, and fast enough to add chill to the air in all months, save summer.

Customs

Wedding Rings: The Vandagans consider marriage to be sacrosanct and it is highly venerated in their society. To this point, a couple will exchange wedding rings upon their nuptials as a symbol of the eternity of their union. This also functions as an outward sign to those around them that they are indeed wedded and is a public proclamation proudly worn.

Fragrance: Vandagans surprisingly make ample use of perfumes, colognes and fragranced oils, on par with the luxury ridden Vavardi. Their reasoning however is quite different. As it is cool nearly year round, bathing is an infrequent occurance. The use of fragrance is used to diffuse and disguise the unrecently bathed body. Although for the purposes of avoiding announcements of that fact, it is worn on a daily basis, so one cannot know if you bathed that day or even that month.

Candle Blessing: On the first day of spring, the faithful gather in their local parish for the Candle Blessing: a specially held mass in which each individual lights a candle and blessings are pronounced on the people for the year to come. As part of the customary blessing goes, the candle is held, while lit, under the throat, to purify it after the cold and closed quarters of the winter.

Dress

In this as in many other areas, the Vandagans tend to imitate their Lithmorran neighbors, although they surprisingly allow a greater freedom in the dress of both sexes and emphasize adornment equally with multiple layers as a sign of fashionable clothing.

Many layers of cloth are favoured, especially lacy, flounced petticoats that can often be extremely decorative, with long skirts cut to display their needle-wrought hems. A fashionable type would never be seen without outer layers as well, although coats are often worn instead of the ubiquitous Lithmorran cloak, stitched upon the back with the crests of any family worth having one. Standards of necklines and hemlines have some freedom, often varying with the season- but the lower the neckline, the more outer layers are recommended to make up for it, and any skirt above mid-calf is seen as questionably racy. Modestly costumed women are typically afforded more respect in any situation, and no woman with bare arms is ever permitted into anything formal, be it entertainment or business. However, uncovered hair is commonly acceptable for men and just coming into fashion as a daring new trend for women- not to say that there aren’t many who plait, pin or otherwise fasten it up, influenced by older trends.

Material-wise, wool is largely favoured here due to the prevalence of sheep and the slightly chill climate, even in upper-class costumes which make use of extremely fine varieties. A wool tunic of any deep, dark colour unbroken but for contrasting embroidery is often the central unit of a Vandagan’s costume, rich or poor- quality, not style, and accessories tend to distinguish. Velvet is favoured more than silk among the aristocracy, and Vandagan clothing tends to actually be rather weighty to carry. Glass beadwork often decorates hems and cuffs of the well-off, and pearls from the seacoast shine on the clothing of the richest. This trend towards decoration combined with Lithmore-influenced layering of winter-weight fabrics leads to some of the most substantial outfits around.

Surprisingly for their scientific and politically-minded culture, the Vandagans tend to dress in a way that appears more progressive and often more stylish to the other duchies than do Lithmorrans, slightly less centered upon modesty and with a far greater personal freedom. It’s quite possible for a single noble to begin a new trend by simply showing up in something new and unusual, and within the few boundaries set, it happens quite often.

Education

While not as fixated on the point of education as Lithmorrans, Vandagans with the funds available tend to consider it a high priority to have their children educated.

Many richer members of Vandagan society have studied in Lithmore itself to be truly cultured, cosmopolitan and experienced with the liberal arts, before returning to Vandago to devote themselves to the arts of rhetoric and debate considered proper and necessary for their highly political way of life. This is mostly true for males, Vandagan women of the upper classes receiving at most private tutelage in manners and the feminine arts. Needlework, dancing, music, and fine speech are all the average noble or gentry woman might expect to learn, usually kept out of the heavier subjects the men study.

The average school in Vandago itself tends to focus primarily on practical subjects such as engineering, rudimentary physics and architecture, with a slant more towards actual career teaching than liberal arts curriculums. Middle-class male Vandagans will often attend these vocational schools as a route to success, fueling the duchy’s dominance as an architectural and scientific power. It’s not unheard-of for middle class women to attend as well so as to find a career that will allow them to be somewhat respected and self-sufficient in their own right, whereas the poorer of both sexes
will be lucky if they can attain enough of a basic education to be able to read and write.

Membership in the Church is the one real exception to the dominance of practical schooling in Vandago. Those who take holy orders are rigorously educated in theology and learning, putting a Vandagan’s time-honoured love of a good argument behind obscure doctrines and scriptural passages. The church schools in Vandago are extremely thorough due to their rich funding, producing scholars whose focus on effective and powerful sermons is well-supported by their practice in debate and speech.

All in all, the Vandagan approach to learning mirrors that of the Lithmorran in the upper classes, albeit slanted more towards use in the turbulent world of Vandagan politics rather than simply for its own sake. The middle classes focus on learning in its practical applications, leading the duchy to success in scientific pursuits, whereas the lower classes tend to find any form of education whatsoever both difficult to obtain and largely useless in everyday life.

Faith

With its substantial independent wealth, the tithes given to the Vandagan clergy give a great deal of personal resources to the church of that diocese, leading to some of the kingdom’s most splendid and elegant clerical vestments. Mass rituals in Vandago are very similar on the whole to Lithmorran ones, and often tend to copy the scripture and format exactly; though often masses hold a lesser focus on community activities and public forum and focus on riveting sermons. The orations of Vandagan priests are well-known for their passion and zeal, though it’s whispered that they lack a fair amount of overall substance.

Family in Vandago

The Vandagan culture has taken several elements from its trade partner and former owners in Tubor and merged them with classical, mainland Davism, sometimes taking some of the more extreme elements of each. The result is a city in which prosperity has reduced birthrates to three per family (slightly higher among the lower classes), while the average age at marriage (twenty) is the highest in the kingdom. Large age differences between husband and wife are frowned upon more here than elsewhere, and families retain virtually no contact with their more distant relatives. Annulments and divorces are totally unknown in Vandago, one of the few key points on which the Vandagan clerics are more strict even than Lithmorran ones.

Food

Due to the chilly climate, Vandagan choices in food is determined by what can be produced in the short growing season. There is also the practicality issue that foods are consumed to provide the extra energy needed to remain warm, and are considered heavy. The most popular choices for meals include bread, butter, meats, potatoes and eggs. These are incorporated into almost every dish at every meal in some capacity. Fruits and vegetables are enjoyed but seldom used in the bulk of most dishes, being almost a garnish instead.

The monotony of the variation on the same food theme is broken up by the addition of foods such as mushrooms, lard, cabbage, milk, curds, cucumbers, tomatoes, berries, apples, garlic and onions. Beer and berry ale are regularly drank, although a fermented beet beverage is the most popular choice for people of all classes. Whey separated out from the curds is used to pickle and preserve fruits, vegetables and even meats for winter storage.

Morals

The Vandagans are a proud people acutely conscious of where they stand to each other and the rest of the world in relation to personal status and political clout. That said, in public details morality is as tight in Vandago as even in Lithmore, despite the greater permissiveness in dress. Behind the scenes, however, is where the differences lie.

Vandagan thought and moral practice behind closed doors tends to be dominated by a clear-eyed practicality. Whereas the Vandagans remain faithful sons and daughters of the Church, at times this devotion almost seems to be founded in the fact that to do so is the ultimate route to success. Certain sins from the Official List of Sinful Practice are prioritized in different orders within Vandago- it’s considered terribly immoral to deny your station and act below it, but moves to transcend it are often viewed with a tacit approval, especially if one is successful.

Births outside of wedlock and other conjugal sins are viewed with an almost unsurpassed blackness. Marriage is a rather sacred thing in Vandago, and never to be rushed or hurried by most opinions- this is largely resultant from the amount of time each middle to upper-class family takes in deciding what would be the most advantageous step. An annulment or a divorce, intruding on this sanctity, is a mark of shame so great that it is to be avoided at all costs, and is generally simply not permitted. Whether marriage’s sanctity comes from sheer religious faith or from a recognition of its use as a social tool in cementing trade and noble alliances… Well, the Vandagans aren’t telling, and all pay at the very least lip service to the importance of the Lord wedding two souls for life.

Sins relating to greed, however, tend to be somewhat swept under the rug. The Vandagans are by no means poor, but it’s been said that a Vandagan is only content with where he is at one point- after he’s dead. The continual struggle to better oneself, while usually driven more by political plays for power, is inextricably linked with economics, and thus most tend to turn a blind eye to usury and graft. Only when the Church is not receiving its proper tithes does this become a matter of concern- however, neglect of tithes is extremely rare in Vandago. Indeed, it’s more often that tithes are ridiculously generous, to the point where some nobles have almost bankrupted themselves attempting to one-up their neighbors.

In essence, Vandagan morality is driven by some difficult to deduce combination of true religious faith and an acknowledgment of the reality of the world, centered around the endless efforts to better one’s political standing that make up the entire duchy’s favourite pastime.

Perspectives

These quotes generally sum up the Vandagan thoughts about those from other regions from the perspective of Vandagans themselves:

Lithmorran:

“Well, we’re a lot like Lithmore. We have been since Jaren’s time. But even we can see they’re more than a little bit
backwards these days. Avoiding the real world just makes one’s faith suffer a bit; the Lithmorrans are so blind to reality, but it’s charming in a childlike way.”

Vavardi:

“A clever front for the Cult of Transcendent Ecstasy! Soon, we’ll supplant them as the economic powerhouse, and they’ll be left with nothing but their illicit affairs, public bathhouses, and gaudy clothes.”

Charali:

“Hard to say. Never seen one. Though, if they got into a fight with Vavard, it would be difficult to cheer for the Vavardi.”

Hill Folk:

“Simple-minded fanatics… but I wouldn’t say it to their face.”

Tubori:

“Colorful folk. It’s amazing they don’t freeze to death exposing so much skin.”

Farin:

“Too much tabac smoke and frivolous festivals. A peculiar aversion to a good glass of wine. But overall, their hearts are in the right place.”

Daravi:

“The Daravi Sultanate is in the perfect place – as far from us as possible.”

Order:

“Stalwart defenders of the faith, our spiritual leaders, and those who will lead us to the side of the Lord. It’s blasphemy to think anything else.”

Reeves:

“It’s hard to argue with law and order.”

Troubadours:

“Anyone who wants a career in politics must have one: a bard is almost as necessary an adviser as water to a man dying of thirst.”

Brotherhood:

“A very prosperous cartel. Cartels, however, undermine the tenets of good government.”

The Masque:

“If they exist, and it’s unlikely they do, they’re surely a necessary hand of the Order.”

The Knights:

“The destination of many gentlemen and noblemen. A finer institution to which one might aspire could never be conceived.”

Trade

The Vandagans are largely based around two separate industries that seem somewhat conflicting- clothing and architecture. Of the first they primarily supply the raw materials, whereas of the second they tend to involve themselves in every area of production and work.

Rich red and purple dyes produced from snails serve as a major export, as well as many different types and forms of wools, especially those heavier and finer than the ones native to Lithmore. Most other fabrics are left to other duchies, but Vandagan wool is famed and popular in the northern countries for its softness, comfort and warmth. Some of the most methodically produced brands can cost nearly as much as silk or velvet themselves, and sometimes are exported already interwoven with decorative golden and silver thread. Pearls tend to be something Vandagans export as well, although that industry is shared with the Tubori by necessity.

However, their national industry is truly stonework and architecture. Blessed with a high natural amount of fine stone, Vandagans have seized upon this advantage to export not only the raw material but the finished project and the workers who finish it. Famed for the creation of Dav’s citadel in Lithmore, Vandagans regard architecture as an extremely high art, with sculpture not far behind. A majority of schools in the duchy focus on either the principles of stone-working as art or science, and even a Vandagan who can’t read can likely tell the difference between one type of rock and another.

Secondary to this focus comes also a high output of iron, moreso in raw form than processed, and usually of quality. Fine steels are time-consumingly crafted from this iron as well, and it’s one of the most notable marks of status in Vandago to be able to afford a steel-framed house. What isn’t used in this fashion is shipped away to be forged into fine armor and weapons, and Vandagan steel is often coveted by those in the know of weapon-making.

Vandago is also known for a few various and sundry other exports, such as fine paper produced from plants that grow along the shore of the ocean, and a truly gigantic breed of pigs that gave rise to the famous mention in the Anjene Divine- “Vandagans have the biggest swine.” These enormous hogs are exported as curiosities, delicacies, and sometimes simply to kitchens that need to order more or less ‘in bulk’.