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In the central Breida Mountains there is a network of mountain valleys that was completely isolated from the lowlands by �deadlands� during the sundered times. They had only about a dozen food plants, and there was a large and wily population of rodents that ate both the humans� food and the food of the primary domesticated meat animal�the rabbit. There were also goats, which came to be raised mostly for milk and cheese, as their numbers, which at one time were plentiful enough to allow goat meat to be a regular part of the diet, had been dwindling due to inbreeding.
The people of this area tend to be short and sturdy, with very curly hair. In sundered times, the hair color ranges from blond to red to deep browns. Skin ranges from pale to mid-brown, and tans from a light tan to a deep, golden brown. Brown and gray eyes are most common, green and blue happen, but not hazel. Since annexation by the Empire, however, there has been some intermarrying, and the physical type is a little more varied. In times of plenty, the people of this area tend to put on weight.
This is an area that the Upheaval literally heaved around, leaving rich deposits of metals and gems at or near the surface in a number of spots. What the people lacked in food and materials for making beautiful clothing, they made up in metal working, making beautiful jewelry as well as just about anything else that could be made of metal.
Both the lowlands farmers and the highlanders were worshippers of a deity called Kiffumik, who was believed to be male in the sundered times. Kiffumik�s entourage and servants were cats, an animal that had died in an epidemic in that area hundreds of years ago, and whose demise led to an explosion in the population of rats and mice.
Kiffumik�s priesthood ruled the area, dividing scarce resources, and enforcing the rule that women were chattel by driving anyone who objected into the deadlands to die. Whether they died in front of the observers who came to the edge of the deadlands, or disappeared into the deadlands to die (there are records of both), the priests used this as evidence that Kiffumik approved.
People who were more skeptical, or who wanted to live their own way, retreated to the higher reaches of the mountains, to join one of the tiny mountain tribes or to live as hermits in a cave or hut.
It was not immediately apparent to the Kiffumiyi when the deadlands changed, and were no longer deadly. Obo, a teenage girl who enjoyed making up outrageous stories to get attention, started preaching a heresy that Kiffumik was a woman, and wanted women to rule in the area. She was sent into the deadlands, which she entered dancing and singing, determined to leave an impression on the many people who had come to see her die.
That would have been the end of it, but she returned with bags and boxes of seeds, exotic fruits, books on orchard management, and dozens of cats. She was hailed as the new prophet of the goddess, Kiffumik. Less-well known is the fact that she also brought several dozen exotic (to them) goat kids, which she traded to the mountain tribes once she was established in the Temple of Kiffumik.
She was wise enough not to simply overturn the status of the genders when she took power, instead naming only the former priests of Kiffumik as chattel, and granting the other men equal citizenship with the women, except for the right to rule, be it the temple or towns or a family or a tribe. She did, however, establish strict rules for the behavior of men and boys, and violence was swiftly punished, and recurring violent behavior would redefine a male�s status, permanently, as chattel. There were very few rules to prevent the mistreatment of chattel.
To keep the men in order, Obo told bone-chilling tales of the wraiths of Kiffumik, who kept the deadlands dead, and who, she claimed, would obey her orders and destroy people who would not accept the new order of things. A few men snuck into the mountains, dragging their women behind them. The traditions say their leader got high up and suddenly his head vanished. The man behind him lost a hand, and all connection with reality, becoming a howling, shambling madman. The group ran for the lowlands, where the remaining men begged Obo�s forgiveness, and joined the priests in captivity.
There are a number of tiny mountain tribes, some tiny enough to be little more than an extended family, and others large enough to have several very small villages. The Kuleilyi live on the highest mountain in the area, and travel higher into the mountain than the other tribes, and they developed the wraith mythology most extensively. Their lore states that the wraiths dislike music made from metal instruments, especially bells and whistles.
All of the tribes, and many of the Kiffumiyi, decorate the tops of their dwellings with metal bells. The Kuleilyi in particular only venture higher than their villages with bell-tipped staffs, and anyone who does so regularly, whether miners or goat-herders, also learn the ball-whistle dances. It is said that hitting a wraith with a ball whistle will destroy the wraith, as well as marking said whistle and burning the reed inside the metal ball.
This has been generalized by the Kuleilyi into the belief that metal is a magical material. They have a tradition of fortune telling using a series of metal disks with images on them. Each set is made individually, for a particularly rich or holy person, using the lost-wax process. Children and students can learn the images and symbology using images drawn on cardboard, but those cards are seen as having a much less solid connection to the natural and supernatural world than the disks.
The divination disks come in two groups: the Common Group, being one group of seven sevens of iron disks, and the Precious Group, composed of five groups of three threes (corresponding to the natural/artificial/abstract structure of the nouns in the language) in bronze, brass, copper, silver, and gold.
|Basic concept||Natural||Human Made||Abstract||�||�||�||�|
|Nature / Essence||Newborn||Artist||Moons||�||�||�||�|
|Nurture / Learning||Child||Books||Community||�||COPPER||�||�|
|Will / Choice||Teenager||Knife||Mandala||�||�||�||�|
|Space||Cave||House||The Ancient World||�||SILVER||�||�|
|Nurturing||Hearth||Clear Blue||Drinking Water||Blessing Bells||Mama Cougar||Garden Fence||Mother|
|Distant||Path||Horizon||Rainbow||Horn||Starbird (Eagle)||Ancient Seaside||Suitor|
|Sheltering||Meadow||Constellations||Stream||Ball Whistles||Rock Tender||Door||Grandparent|
|Contradictory||Forest||Clouds||Hail||Silence||Griffin||Market Square||Bright Dancer|
|Disasterous||Volcano||Wraith||Flash Floods||Scream||Salamander||End of the World||Corpse|
There is also one single disk, called Mystery, that is made by joining the different metals together in a swirling pattern, and which is otherwise left undecorated.
The simplest reading pattern is three disks. The first represents the nature of the problem or issue at hand; the second typically represents the tools or technology involved or needed in that situation while the third represents the knowledge or attitudes that are affecting or could be used to affect things.
The Kuleilyi, in particular, have a tenuous connection to the Empire, though they are officially assimilated. The local licensing office is run by the mayor of the area, who is always the hereditary chief of the Kuleilyi. She charges a nominal fee for licensing babies, sometimes paying the fee from her own pocket. She also maintains a file of licenses for each family�s home, herds, and farming activities, allotting the traditional gifts given to her family as chief to the licensing fees, and maintaining a relationship with a nearby trader-clan to take their salable goods and sell them, providing the pool of cash used to pay teachers and license fees.
Since the tribe asks little from the Empire and requires few Empire services, this lax interpretation of the licensing laws is allowed, so long as children are sent to the Empire teacher posted there to ensure that should any Kuleilyi citizen desire to travel, trade with other Empire citizens, or take up any kind of life off the mountain, they know what is expected of them. The teachers rarely last more than their initial two-year contract, though about once a generation someone marries into the tribe and the tribe is able to renew the contract until the woman wishes to retire from that profession.
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Obo: A teenage girl who rebelled against the patriarchal society she grew up in, was exiled, and returned as a prophet and savior.