The Vavardi people are the economic powerhouses of the realm. Known for their manufactured goods, merchant princes, and decadant lifestyles, they are also the only duchy besides Lithmore itself to outlaw slavery, though indentured servitude remains prevalent. The Vavardi view themselves as urbane and sophisticated, and indeed, most of the other duchies would agree.
The Vavardi as a people tend to be close in appearance to Lithmorrans, but warmer in hue due to their proximity to the Charali plains and the subtle intermix of regional features there. They tend to be dark blonde to brunette with light eyes in shades of blue or green to brown.
Average Height/Weight Statistics:
Female 1.68m (5’6″ ft) 58 kg (130 lbs)
Male 1.73m (5’8″ ft) 64 kg (145 lbs)
Only the most impoverished of the Vavardi people live in houses built of wood. Overall, cities and villages are dotted with beautiful and graceful houses built of stone or clay bricks. They are ostentatious in size and arching entryways, commonly decorated with carvings or intricate façades. The interiors of houses are frequently floored in either mosaic tiles, flat stones, or marble. They are then covered with soft carpeting or exquisite tapestry rugs. Lit by wall sconces, the walls are either plastered or painted with murals, and often draped with rich fabrics and pieces of art.
Where Vavard’s architecture truly shines is in her public monuments. Large, gushing fountains, enormous arches, marble tiled plazas, and tall, elegant statuary are found in every nook and cranny possible. City buildings are constructed not only to be functional, but beautiful, and are built of white stone and marble.
Capua, or the Capuan region, is a subset of the city of Vavard which extends along the banks of the Kirulean Sea. The combination of Vavard’s sub-tropical climate and the rich nutrients imbued into the soil by the sea produce soil that is ripe for growing a particular variety of white grape called the Capuan Blonde. Actually faint green in color, Capuan Blonde grapes have a neutral aroma and flavor which some believe makes them ideal for distilling.
Though the duchy of Vavard is renowned for its fine brandy, that spirit can be made anywhere grapes are grown. However, brandy from Capua has such strict production standards that the term “capuan” can only be applied to brandy made from this region’s grapes in the manner specified by the local government.
Vavard is reknowned for its pleasant, sub-tropical climate. Due to its favorable positioning along the Kirulean sea, the weather is enjoyable year round. The summers while warm and long lasting, are not entirely scorching hot. The winters are mild, with snow being a rarity in winter, rather than commonplace. This has extended the growing season and made the growth of fruits such as oranges, lemons and olives possible. Rains fall in both spring and summer, nourishing the ground and keeping the lands cooled but not chilly.
Contributions: Due to the fact that the Vavardi had money, and lots of it, it has become customary to try to outspend the others around you. This is evidenced as the wealthy attempt to outgive to the church, charitable causes and the latest artistic stars. This has built up Vavard as a center of culture and refinement unseen elsewhere in the nation. A person wishing to gain recognition will go to elaborate lengths to make their giving large and noticeable.
Public Recreation: Vavard with its leisurely mode of life is decorated in an array of public recreation found nowhere else. Some of these include public baths and gymnasiums. While women are unlikely to make use of the gymnasiums, both genders openly use the public baths, a social gathering place to soak, talk, read and overall relax.
Marriage Proposals: When the matter of matrimony is being approached, the Vavardi are all businesslike and it is likely to be a sound business and political decision. However, whether convenience or love is the compelling force, marriage proposals are all conducted the same. There is a formal exchange held in front of friends and family between the couple. The man will offer a cloak to the potential bride; the woman will then in turn pour and offer him a glass of wine. This symbolic exchange indicates a willingness of each party to provide not only for the necessities of life, but the pleasures as well.
Wedding Rings: The Vavardi do not exchange nor wear wedding bands, and some speculate this is a throwback to eschewing anything Lithmorran from pre-Consolidation days. Of interest though, it is not incredibly uncommon on the day of a wedding for a man to gift his new bride with a ring, for naturally women enjoy jewelry. It is to be noted that this ring is in no means a part of the actual ceremony or standard and could just as easily be a vineyard or a book. While the rings themselves are not standard, there is a romantic tradition that a ring given on the day of a marriage is worn on the right hand, so that it might be closer to the heart.
Education received by the Vavardi children differs vastly depending on the class and gender of the child. Before the age of four, boys and girls from all social levels attend the necessary classes in reading, writing, counting, art and music. These schools are usually well funded by the local tax revenues and the competitive contributions of the wealthy. The lessons begin in mid-mornings and last until late afternoons, through not a compulsory system, it is a rare occurrence indeed for any parents to miss the opportunity for their offspring, as there is strong civic pressure for all citizens to be educated.
The young pupils enjoy diverse reading materials, from the Erra Pater to classic plays written by famous bards, from a collection of nursery rhymes to the King’s public speeches. By the end of an education that lasts five years or until the teacher is satisfied with the children’s progress, whichever is longer, they will possess the basic knowledge in many fields: economics, arts, laws, music and adequate command in a second language.
After this point in children’s lives, they will go on different ways separated by their social class. The lower classes are left to the families’ devices, the boys would be ushered to help their fathers and the girls will learn housekeeping skills with the mother, until they are of a marriageable age. The middle class children will continue their study in the secondary tier education. The lessons are conducted in smaller classes, and a fee is charged to the parents. Apart from the core studies in economics, architecture, a foreign language, and a form of art or music, students are encouraged to attend special conferences held by visiting luminaries from different fields of walk and life. The second tier lasts them as long as the third tier schools, and after five years the students will be able to become apprentices of their chosen vacation, return to assist their families, or enter the first tier education, either studying abroad at the University of Lithmore or attending specialized classes at The Vavard Academy of Economics.
The children of nobilities and affluent families are given the attentions of personal tutors. Politics, laws, economics, religion text, history, fine arts, music, court dances, etiquette and no less than three languages of their choice, name but a few of the lessons the children will receive in the sophisticated first tier education system. In addition, the females will be encouraged, and in many cases expected, to take up the womanly arts of embroidery, fashion, and household management, develop a fine singing voice or a musical instrument in order to prepare themselves as suitable matches for their inevitable marriages. The males are nudged in another direction, statecraft, architecture, warfare, and dueling to round themselves out, but otherwise intense studies in business management and economics. By the time they reach their majority, the young adults will be thoroughly equipped to enter and meet the expectations of the higher society.
As a great number of Vavardi priests come from the itinerant gentry class, they typically favor sunny yellows in the vestments of their clergy. During services, they usually offer lengthy, elaborate sermons, generally more as a ritualistic congregation of faith than for the purpose of delivering an especially explicit message. Indeed, there’s much pomp and circumstance in Vavardi masses. A great deal of social expectation and status are attached to the collection plate part of the Mass ceremony, which often leads to minor competitions in shows of charity.
Representatives of merchant houses often send servants along in their stead, donating heavily to the church, which tends to favor them for the grandiose public works erected within the duchy. Promotion in the ranks of Vavardian clergy is unofficially (though this is hardly secretive) based on one’s ability to manage funds, and it’s not uncommon for their priests to achieve higher ranks at a much younger age than those in other duchies.
Family in Vavard
Vavardi families tend to marry off their daughters at sixteen to a man of the appropriate social standing, regardless of what age he may be. As the descendants of merchants and tradesmen, however, the prosperity factor has dropped Vavardi birthrates to the lowest of the kingdom. The richer couples — nobility, and even the most moderately successful merchants — tend to have only one or two children early on and lavish them with attention. The proximity of Vavard to the Charali culture has led to a rediscovery of the idea of extended family as compared to other large cities, however, and the Charali concept of having children whenever you can afford to raise them has led to more than a few Vavard families with large sizes. This is especially true among the lower classes, who often have upwards of five children per household. A similar gap is evident in Vavardi attitudes towards extended family, as nobility tend to be keep far better contact with distant relatives than do the merchants and the lower classes. Annulments are slightly more common here than in other regions, but are still looked down upon both by religion and society.
The Vavardi lead the kingdom in high fashion, frequently prompting new styles to be rabidly embraced by other duchies in an attempt to remain current and stylish. Their clothing is marked by the preponderance of silk, the more and lighter the better. It is not uncommon for an outfit to contain some 10 to 25 layers of nearly transparently light silk, velvets being reserved mostly for the cold winter months. Given the ample wealth of the duchy due to trade in rare and luxury goods, the Vavardi are highly competitive to outshine each other for displays of wealth in their clothing and accessories.
However, despite the nearly obnoxious displays of decadent silks and gems, comfort is considered as crucial a facet in one’s apparel as the cut, material and accruements. An outfit that looks uncomfortable is likely to draw jabs as much as an unflattering cut or a poorly crafted fabric. Also characteristic to Vavardi dress is the exquisite levels of embroidery on every article of clothing from the Duke down to the lowest peasant. However, given the drive for comfort, the embroidery while exceptionally elaborate is of almost impossibly fine details so as to not weigh down the cloth, and potentially ripping it. The lower classes are more likely to have denser embroidery to compensate for the lesser quality, yet sturdier materials. In keeping with the protection of the integrity of the silks, painted scenes replacing some to all of the embroidery is becoming widely popular.
Food is an obsession with the Vavardi second only to fashion. In fact, there are nearly as many laws regarding the production, labeling and sale of foodstuffs as there are in regards to business practices. Every meal in a Vavardi home, from the poorest peasant to the Duke himself is an event pleasing to all the senses and not merely the stomach. This leaves them with the reputation of being food snobs, as they will not set out anything on their table that is not the finest they can procure. Quality ingredients are vital and presentation is just as important as the taste of a dish. All meals are taken with the family, never standing or in a hurry, but seated and slowly appreciated.
The Vavardi diet, while rich in culinary delights, is actually a light mode of eating. Fish comprises the bulk of the protein consumed, along with nuts and cheeses; piscine offerings being the most amply provided due to the proximity to the Kirulean Sea. Pork and beef are also greatly enjoyed and seen frequently mixed into a dish to extend it further. Fruits and vegetables make up the majority of the food offerings found in Vavard, so much so that parents never struggle with getting these into their children, but more have to caution them to exercise some restraint lest they cause a stomach ache. Pastries are considered artisan foods and left to the capable hands of an expert. Many are made from buttery, flaky dough and filled with either sweet fillings such as nuts, honey, chocolate or dried fruits or savory ones such as cheeses, herbs, or dried vegetables. Dairy products are more likely to come from goats rather than their bovine counterparts, although milk is almost never drank but consumed in cheeses and yogurts. There is no life without bread, and soft crusty loaves are the most prized, still piping hot from the oven, prompting the lady of the home or her servants to purchase it minutes before the meal is to be served.
While not precisely lacking in morality, morals take on a different meaning for the Vavardi than say their Lithmorran neighbors. They see the Lithmorran prudism as a waste of time and energy that could be better spent making money. In turn, that money might be spent to build grand cathedrals and monuments to the glory of Dav and the Orderite Faith. By this logic, it is a glory to Dav and his Holy Order to do well, make money, live well and display it for all to see, for this is an enactment of Dav’s utopia.
Their version of morality might look to be hedonism to the outsider’s eyes, although they consider themselves most practical about how life works. The Vavardi blink not an eye at what seems to be outright sinfulness, but they pay their tithes, attend confession and serve their penances. In fact, there is a quick comparison made between the Vavardi and the Cult of Transcendant Ecstacy. However, to the Vavardi mind, this is no heresy, but a life pleasing to the Lord. In fact, they scoff at the very idea of the cult, as a poor imitation of their lives and regimenting it in some stuffy Lithmorran fashion.
One could argue that while they were conquered militarily, the Vavardi have maintained their independence in spirit, with their flippant approach to morality and propriety. They are prone to wild partying, heavy in drinking and sensual pleasures. There is no prevailing thought of humility and guilt for enjoying life for all its joys. So open are their mores that they even have public baths with mixed bathing, typically done in the most sensible fashion: bare. Marriages are almost never annulled, but this is due to political and economic reasons more than a high view of marriage. In fact, infidelity is next to never raised as an issue as it is readily accepted that both parties will find their pleasures elsewhere once the union has produced offspring.
These quotes generally sum up the Vavardi thoughts about those from other regions from the perspective of Vavardi themselves:
“Stuffy and boring, they’re like that queer uncle every family has, but never, ever talks about.”
“Vandago is Lithmore with proper Vavardi sensibility and pride.”
“Interlopers that steal our land, harass our missionaries, and generally make a foul nuisance of themselves. A foul-smelling nuisance, that is.”
“Strip away any sensibility from a Lithmorran and you get a Hillman. Strangely enough, their fashion is far more progressive than our well-meaning but puritanical overlords.”
“Like a strange cult. That’s what happens with inbreeding in the isles, though. No privacy whatsoever, although they’ve got it right when they don’t rely so much on blood and titles.”
“What kind of people avoid liquor? Joyless ones, that’s who.”
“The infidels have a lot of exotic goods. A lot. If only they’d kick the magic habit.”
“Our Order is progressive and corrupt. Lithmore’s is rigid, unyielding, and entirely corrupt. We pay our tithes and attend confession more than anyone else, so we know what we’re talking about.”
“A good reeve with a middling rank can make one’s lot in life easier. A reeve with a grudge can make life difficult. Good that they’re so easily bribed!”
“It’s a pity that one organization has a monopoly on the prettiest girls with the fairest voices. Spread the wealth around. Put a bard in the collection plate!”
“Anyone who’s anyone has a family member who’s in the Brotherhood. It’s not even worth bragging about anymore.”
“Ridiculous conspiracy theories invented by would-be novelists; not bad for a night’s entertainment, but you’d look the fool to confess belief.”
“Lithmorran drones… though, the cynical ones are great to have at parties.”
Trade isn’t just an aspect of the Vavardi economy, it is a way of life. In fact, business is what Vavard is all about. Settled by merchants and nobles fleeing from King Dav and his Law of Giving, a city grew up overnight with the sole function of making money and keeping it. But with their lofty educations, ample wealth and fairly easy lifestyle, it made fine arts not only possible early on, but a hot selling commodity.
Given the high standards of living of the Vavardi settlers of years past, the duchy bypassed the trade of raw materials and made a killing at selling high quality manufactured goods at a premium price. Some of these items include silks, precious gems, dry wines, fine glass, and luxury goods. There is an axiom: “If you cannot buy it from Vavard, you cannot buy it anywhere.” That is not too far from the truth, as the Vavardi are shrewd businesspeople, constantly trying to find a new good or market to outsell their rivals, and their friends.