Aritan: The Imperial Age.
The Thegndomes of Brynland
Honor, Oath, and Legacy
Several hundred years ago, the exact date is unknown as Brynland’s calender system can best be described as poetic, a migration of a scale never before seen took place in the north. it is unclear what prompted it, but an army of clansfolk and warriors hundreds of thousands strong coagulated and began making its way across the north.
Led by a warlord Named Brynja, it rampaged across the taigas, across the mountains, picking up new followers everywhere it went, and found itself in an isolated landmass in the west. Following roughly a generation of sporadic warfare, a peace treaty was agreed upon with the various local nations, and the massive army settled in the new land and Brynland was formed.
The newcomers were quick to assimilate into the local culture, though they brought their own traditions and influences to it as well, and the new government that Brynja established heavily focused on egalitarianism, and ensuring that all sides of the conflict would be able to have their voice heard. This kept the various groups within the newly created country relatively united under their charismatic leader, and her popularity only grew throughout her reign.
When it finally ended,Either through her death, or her taking a ship crafted by wolves to explore the spirit lands across the ocean depending on which historian you ask, her legacy among the people was able to maintain the traditions of government she had established.
Though over the following centuries the country was wracked by civil wars of varying scales, territorial disputes and secessionist movements, Brynland has managed to keep itself and its various subcultures together, and majoritively intact. In the most recent century, it has even been forced to break from its previous isolationism and begin actually trading with outsiders, though its stampede of progression may be at an end, under the current imperial occupation.
Brynland is composed of several primary landforms which interchange across its breadth. Highland regions occupy much of the northern section, the areas near the mountains, and the far south of the country. though generally not exceeding an altitude where flora can grow on them, these highlands remain extremely treacherous to negotiate, as they are filled with ravines, sheer cliffs, and jutting boulders. they compose a significant portion of the land percentage. Between the major highland ranges, and in the low valleys that form between them, the land is filled with rolling hill country, much of which is heavily forested. Very little of Brynland is actually flat, and many of the hills and valleys remain filled with seemingly random rocks and boulders that appear to have accumulated in various places, making even the lowland areas somewhat difficult to travel. The climate is fairly uniform throughout the country, grey and rainy year round, varying only slightly in certain regions. Only the northernmost highlands, and the Snakeback mountains in the east receive snow on a regular basis, though particularly cold winters do sweep snow through other areas of the country. The bay lowland areas around The Emerald Bay in the south are also somewhat distinctive, in that they receive so much rainfall, and have such a consistent temperature that a temperate rainforest dominates the region.
Brynland has a very loose aristocracy which actually has relatively little power over its populations. Its top rank is held, arguably, by the position of Jarl. A rank developed out of the old warchiefs and lesser kings that made up the original invasion force, and local governments of the region. The title has retained its military roots, and its duties are still primarily seen as the leadership of warriors, and the protection of their territory.
Next in the list is the title of Thegn. Originally simply a title that referred to a person who owned land, the Thegndom being the land owned, Thegn has acquired a few more connotations. First off, as history progressed, the difference between the Jarls and Thegns dwindled, as more and more jarls simply became governers of the land that their soldiers occupied. As the Thegn’s task was historically, first and foremost, to ensure the safety and health of whatever people lived on the land that they owned, that duty began to extend to the jarls who governed the land with their militaries. In an increasingly feudal progression, most Jarls now hold the additional title of Thegn, though independent Thegns still exist in relatively secluded communities.
After the Thegn is the somewhat more specific position of Huscarl. A huscarl is simply a warrior sworn to the service of a jarl, or more rarely a community. A huscarl’s lord is expected to provide them with equipment, and able and worthy leadership. Should a jarl disgrace his huscarls, or command them to do something dishonorable, the huscarls have the right to go to the Moot and request dismissal from service. The Huscarl also plays a crucial role in the militarized section of civilian life, being responsible for the training of the Fyrd militia, and often living in the communities that they protect.
The common folk of Brynland are actually relatively well off for the steadily more feudal nature of their society. The independent and individualistic nature of their culture carries over to all levels of life, and Jarls tend to stay out of the affairs of their subjects until war begins. The relationship is actually a mutually beneficial one, as the people have access to a greater organization, protection, and training from the dedicated warrior class, and should a war break out on a full scale the Jarl has access to the Fyrd militia to augment his military’s numbers. The Fyrd is composed of the folk of the community, trained by the Huscarls, and equipped by local smiths and artisans who are generally exempt from service, depending on the community in question. One quarter of the community is required to be on active standby for service in the militia during each season of the year, though again this number changes from community to community. Still, the system ensures that almost every brynland farmhand is at capable in a fight, and probably owns a spear and shield.
Brynland is governed centrally by the Jarlsmoot, in Jarlsgard. The moot is essentially a giant meeting hall wherein Jarls may come to debate issues of legal precedent, settle disputes, and address threats to the unity and safety of the country. Needless to say, this is never ever an efficient process. The Jarl of Jarlsgard, also titled the High King of Brynland, though this is a symbolic title to represent the continuation of the legacy of Brynja, attempts to run these meetings and ensure that they remain orderly and that fights only break out for short periods of time and are settled with proper duels of honor. Independent from the moot, Jarls and Thegns are generally free to run their territories in whatever way they see fit, pending the approval of their subjects. The effective training and arming of virtually every citizen actually does marvels to ensure that jarls do not oppress their people too much, as even the most famed warrior would be hard pressed to stop every one of their citizens attempting to thrust a spear into them.
Religion and customs
In Brynland, spirituality is the domain of the Spirits, shockingly enough. Spirits reside in every living thing, and they permeate all actions. The spirits of animals and trees are associated with certain traits or tendencies, depending on the animal or tree. For all animals, there is a single Great Spirit that embodies the animal’s kind as a whole. These spirits are multitudinous, and many are revered by different people throughout Brynland, but the four most commonly worshipped ones in most Brynlander’s lives are the Great Spirit of Snake, associated with summer, patience, and beauty, the Great Spirit of Hawk, associated with autumn, precision, and independence, the Great Spirit of Wolf, associated with winter, loyalty, and ferocity, and the Great Spirit of Elk, associated with spring, family, and protectiveness. These are by no means the only spirits worshiped, and Owl, Bear, Beaver, Songbird, and Mountain Cat all have their own place in the animistic pantheon. Additionally, one Great Spirit, the spirit, the World Spirit, is revered by all, though not in the same way. When a living thing dies, its spirit enters into the Realm of Spirits. This realm is functionally very similar to the living one, except that it is occupied by the spirits of all things which have ever died. The collective energy of all of these spirits forms the World Spirit, the collective into which all things will eventually fall at the end of times. Then, their energy will be sent back out to remake the world anew once more, and start history over again.
The spirit of a person is unique in that they are each conscious and free, and so can shape the way their spirit will affect the world when it joins the rest. Additionally, a person’s spirit has relationships unlike any other living thing, and these affect the way their spirit will progress in the afterlife as well, in particular, through the legacy that a person leaves after their death. This means that it is the aim of every good Brynlander to excel in everything they do, to treat their friends and family and community with respect, so that they will be remembered fondly, and excel at whatever they do so that they will be remembered with pride. This is no small part of why Brynlanders are so individualistic, and so focused on their tasks. Every crafter seeks to make her memory live on in every item she fashions, every farmer’s legacy is written in the memories of the people he feeds, and every warrior seeks to fight and die in the most glorious way possible so that songs will be sung of their deeds for generations.
Gender Roles and Child Rearing
Brynland gender roles are among the more egalitarian of the world. While there may have once been stronger differences in the roles in the ancient past, a person is influenced prior to birth by the spirits of their ancestors. These spirits do not discriminate based on gender, so it is entirely possible for a man to have strongly feminine tendancies, or a woman to have masculine ones. Ages of this occurring have blurred the line on societal gender roles to the point that they are functionally nonexistent, as the wisdom of the spirits of one’s ancestors are always given far greater trust than any mortal social rules. A side effect of this is that homosexuality and alternative gender identities are very commonly accepted, as they are simply a person channeling the influence of more varied ancestors.
When children are born, however, their rearing is entirely under the jurisdiction of the mother. Usually, children are raised by both parents who have, in most circumstances, engaged in a marriage oath. These are held to the same kinds of rules as oaths of alliance and honor among warriors. Since parents are usually both professionals of some sort in the community, most villages will have some sort of wet nurse/primitive daycare system. A person or group of people who have made it their role in community to help raise and protect children.
As a child develops, they are usually treated as apprentices in their parent’s work, being given menial helping tasks around their places of work. Most children are expected to go into their parents professions, but it is not uncommon for some particularly rebellious ones to apprentice at other professions around the town, pending the approval of the most senior member of that profession. Children finally come of age at 15, at which point they are expected to continue assisting in their profession, ultimately find someone to have children with, build a house with them, or live in the more convenient parent’s house if its easy, and continue the process.
Dress and Appearance
Brynlanders tend to be rugged hardy folk. Broad of shoulder and strong of jaw, though this is of course by no means universal. Their hair tends towards red or darker brown, but blondes are also common. Their skin, while generally lighter than the people of the south, is commonly ruddier than other people of similar latitude, though a great deal of variation exists in both hair and skin tone. Beards are common among men, and hair is usually worn in whatever manner the person deems efficient or attractive at any given time.
Brynland clothing tends to reflect the dedication and skill of its crafters. Though simple and efficient in design, the standard churl’s wool or linen tunic and breeches are commonly decorated or patterned in some way, with curvilinear plant like knot-work a common art style. Additionally, Brynlanders possess a spectacular love of woven and braided leather, with even the simplest belt, or leather armor having at least some sort of decorative weave on its surface layer. Particularly skilled leatherworkers even work in symbolic patterns into the weave. Serving both functionally as simple armor, and decoratively in spectacular fashion, these leather tunics are a common sight and a very popular export to fashion conscious imperial nobles in recent times.
Brynland’s arms and armor commonly show the same level of decorative skill as their clothes, with swords and axes usually having some sort of engraving. The distinctive round bossed shields they use are also usually painted in some way or, among the particularly dedicated, covered in a layer of woven leather.