The Vale of Carmin and the pass of the same name are located in the northernmost third of the Jora Mountains. The Joras are largely harsh, rocky, young mountains, often rising to over 20,000 feet in height. The snowpack of the mountains fuels streams and rivers nearly all year round, and the mountains are etched and riddled with caves and crevasses. The slopes are covered with coniferous and deciduous forests, and more than a thousand human and non-human tribes have been documented in the foothills and highlands of the region. In addition, bears and wolves, along with more dangerous predators like caltav are common.
The Vale of Carmin, then, comes as a radical surprise. The main portion of the Vale is a 46-mile long corridor through the Joras at 6,500-foot elevation. Hundred-foot cliffs line most of both sides of the Vale, which ranges from six to seventeen miles wide. Two rivers, the Erdrien flowing west and the Moremmal running east, have their main sources here, and the result is a rich, lushly green and hauntingly beautiful place in the middle of this raging wilderness.
Above this wondrous and unexpected paradise are the upper slopes. Less hospitable in the winters when they are almost completely inaccessible, these regions, called the North and South Slopes, are home to the herders and terrace-farmers of Aldyn, who grow barley and oats for their sheep and goats, who pasture at higher altitudes in summertime.
The Aldysh live almost completely intermingled within their six clanns in the Vale and the two Upper Slope regions, largely between the altitudes of 6,300 feet and 12, 100 feet. Conditions between these extremes differ radically, especially in winter when the upcountry can be frozen solid and the Vale itself seems caught in the grips of a second spring.
The Six Clans (the Cyfailli, Llafuror, Proffyddur, Ta-y-Braint, Rheolwr, and Pennaf) first created an alliance for the control and defense of the Vale from their many enemies and rivals for control of this natural wonder in 867 Draven Reckoning (DR), 167 years ago. The Vale had been in a state of disunity and strife since the collapse of Imperial power in the region in the second or third century. Evidence suggests that the Six Clanns were merely the last of several tribal powers to take control, and make good on their last-invader advantage. [Society age value: 5]
Aldyn is not out of trouble yet, however. Surrounded by weaker yet more numerous tribes, it is isolated from the truly civilized nations nearby, not only by the violence which surrounds it, but also the sheer harshness of the surrounding environment. Not for nothing did the Empire name it Carmin ("Gateway") Pass, and fortify the Vale with some of their most awesome construction projects. The two main switchback roads which climb to the main valley floor from east and west are in fair to poor condition, with crude bridges replacing the elegant Imperial drawbridges and rough-hewn doors to replaces the bronze doors of the Empire's gatehouses. Even these entry points are closed by November, when snow closes both passes until late March or mid April. [Isolation: 3]
Aldyn is not so major a trade route as the Great Gap, 370 miles south. However, it is an important northern trade route for a fast-moving merchant train which can outmaneuver tribal raiding parties or carry cargo valuable enough to buy them off. Aldyn, at the mid-point on this trade path, does not benefit so much from this trade; it is more of a layover than an actual terminus. Still, the Aldysh are learning. Two trading fairs are now held, with the eastern one in May, and the western fair in September. This permits merchants the best opportunities to beat raiders and snow when the Vale begins to be shut in for the winter. [Interaction: 8]
The Tanistry of Aldyn lags slightly behind many of its civilized neighbors in terms of technology, though it is far ahead of its immediate tribal enemies. Iron armor and weapons are standard for most Aldysh warriors, who represent a goodly chunk of the population. Iron plowshares are standard in most villages, terraced fields fill the Upper Slopes. More and more houses are being built of mortared stonework, and crude but recognizable arches are present in many public buildings. In addition, the Six Clanns have inherited the duty for the protection of the twin shrines of Etanna and Maelruan, and they have taken their newfound cultural obligations very seriously indeed. Paper and ink, while not common, are available fairly cheaply, and learning is being renewed in this long forgotten outpost of Empire. [Tech Value: 10; emphasis, Agriculture, Misc.; rate of advance: 7; rate of assimilation: 8; DMV 11; PMV 9; AEV 11; BAV 11; TCV 10, MV 10, MiscV 10.]
The Aldysh are largely agricultural, though large portions of the population are still involved in herding goats and sheep on the upper slopes. Barley, wheat, oats and rye are the most common crops, though gardens produce a number of vegetables and cooking and medicinal herbs. Potatoes, onions, pears and apples are common in most diets; meat is usually mountain rabbit or other small game, though venison or beef make regular appearances in middle-class diets, and a boar or catav will grace a chieftan's table a several times a month. [Fully Agricultural; Sedentary; minor classification: semi-nomadic herder population in summertime]
Aldyn's government seems simple at first, but it is rapidly becoming a fierce struggle between the power of the Tanist and the old clann chieftans. To someone from a place with an advanced political form of government, the shift is fascinating. Most power is still concentrated in the hands of the six clann chieftans, who in turn delegate much power and authority to the hundred or so tribal chiefs and the hundreds of extended-family heads. However, the six clann heads are working more and more as the administrators and advisory council for the Tanist- a tribal word for 'heir'. Who the Tanist is heir to is anyone's guess, but the Tanist is elected by the six clann heads from among the members of the house of Garron in the Clann Pennaf. The house was chosen by lot at a ceremony of covenant with Etanna and Maelruan in 869, and the Tanists, who are chosen to serve for life, have been chosen from the Garron family ever since. [Tribal nation/Feudalism split; Power 3 (clan chiefs hold most power); Authority 5 (Tanist, acting through and with the Tribal Council made up of the chiefs of the six clanns, is very respected); Consent 7 (high level of broad-based support for both clann-based and Tanist-decreed action); Constitutional support 8 (individual rights well-defined and guarded by family and tribal councils, in addition to traditional conservatism of both Tanist and his council)]
Aldyn has a slowly evolving law code, obviously growing out of the Six Clanns' old tribal laws. The Tanist and Council have created a rather large body of law, however, most of it concerned with the very gradual curbing of tribal power and authority in exchange for a series of individual compacts with the Tanist in his role as sovereign of Aldyn - an emerging feudal order. This has been sparked by the appearance in Aldyn of younger sons of lowland nobles looking for land. Each personally sworn to the Tanist, they have been installed, sometimes with other lowlander settlers, in key strategic points both inside the Vale and at its edges, expanding the Tanistry's area of control a few miles further from the inner fortress of the Vale. [Legal complexity: 3]
Clann society is oriented back along both maternal and paternal lines of descent, although lineage itself is determined solely through the father's line and clann. The effect is an elaborate web of relationships between cousins, uncles, second cousins and others, all bound by ties of fellowship and kinship. In times past, this was part of the reason for the Six Clanns' success in holding the Vale against outsiders, but now they are interfering with regard to the lowlanders ensconced on the Tanistry's borders. A little friendly raiding for practice has always been part of the pattern of life here, but a number of clann warriors have died as a result of misunderstandings between highlanders and lowlanders. The sooner a lowlander is integrated into the customary web of family and extended-kin relationships, the better. Tribal inheritances are normally divided among all children, but in the interest of solidifying the power of the Tanist, land now is inherited by the eldest child with training in weapons, who now is expected to make an oath of mutal love and loyalty with the Tanist. [Nondominant kinship; patrilineal/cognatic, semi-partible inheritance, land to eldest child with weapons experience]
The Tanist now pays a merchant from Cabero in a nearby kingdom to run a mint for Aldyn. Located in the Tanist's capital city of Llonydd ("peaceful"), an old imperial fortress-town halfway through the Vale, the mint produces two coins in reasonable numbers, and a third coin as one 'to grow into', as the merchant has been known to say with a nod and a wink. The silver "Owl", called after Etanna's sacred bird stamped into one side (with Tanist Areyvor's portrait on the other), is a silver coin and the chief coin of the two Aldysh fairs. For more common marketplace use, the "Fountain" of Wisdom from Maelruan's precinct is minted in copper, 1/20th of the value of an owl. Both are chopped into halves, quarters and eighths, both professionally in the mint and more crudely in the marketplace itself. Official fractions have regularly milled edges - have a merchant weigh any other type. In addition, there is an infrequently minted coin, the "Tree", which is of gold, and worth 20 Owls. [An "Owl" is one EU]
Aldyn's economy is largely local, with outside activity largely limited to small and portable goods. Aldyn itself produces a fair amount of raw wool and finished cloth, which at present is too bulky to haul down out of the mountains, despite its quality. The main Vale produces a number of fine summer-berry wines, which are mostly consumed locally. Metals and good metalwork are available in Llonydd- swords and mail are a specialty among these warrior people. However, large stretches of Vale and Upper Slopes are unexploited: Aldyn has neither the manpower nor the need to exploit the resources it has. Even Llonydd , the only town of any size at all, has fewer than 3,000 people. [Resources 8, Exploitation 7 (35%), Trade 10]
There is some talk about creating a small army to defend the two entry roads to the Vale itself, but currently, any and every person is expected to know the sword, bow or axe and spear unless excused by extreme youth or age, or infirmity. Failing to respond to the alarm signalling an attack is a very serious matter in most community assemblies, and even foreigners should be prepared to answer the call. In addition, though they were completely wiped out after the collapse of the Empire, the Pleidweryi ("Supporters") of Etanna and Maelruan have been re-established at their ancient headquarters at Garadd. This provides an additional force of elite mounted troops, every bit as well equipped as their secular counterparts, the knights of the lowland kingdoms. [Provisional, all inclusive forces; Supplementary knightly order, 60 members]
When the Empire fell, some 22% of the population were worshippers in this popular and ancient mystery religion, centered at the twin shrine of Garadd, thirteen miles south and 4,700 feet above Llonydd. The Six Clanns liberated and reconsecrated the shrine in 871, unplugging Maelruan's sacred spring of Wisdom, and replanting Etanna's oaks. In a sure sign of the gods' favor, the sacred owls left the Matriarch's Tabernacle, six hundred miles away, to return to their original home. It is only recently, though, that part of the flood of pilgrims to the Tabernacle has turned towards the Vale. Regrettably, most have been turned back by the banditry and tribal warfare which ravages the area. For the most part, the Aldysh have Garadd and several other of the major related sites to themselves. [Religion: TV 17; PV 16; DV 5]
Maelruan's cult is having a positive effect on the education of most Aldysh, of course. The traditional study of literature and writing are becoming more common, though both are still far from universal. More and more of the political business of the Tanistry is being recorded for posterity- the library in Llonydd is one of the most busy (if least generally used) buldings in the city. [Scholastics: TV 13; PV 7; DV 6]
In the arts, of course, and especially in poetry and music, the Aldysh outshine nearly everyone. Who has not guffawed in laughter at the modest claims of an Aldysh troubadour, claiming to be a "mere highland shepherd, a toddler in the art of speech and song"? Kenan, and Caevel, and Marec are only some of the balladeers which have come to the lowlands, their ears and harpstrings tuned. Thirty-six new musical and poetic patterns have been introduced to the lowlands by their golden thoats, in addition to many new lyrics set in the ancient patterns of the Empire. Oh, to have been born a "mere highland shepherd!" [Art: TV 15 (20 for poetry & music); PV 10 (18); DV 12 (16)]
The Aldysh, like most of their tribal compatriots, have more than a bit of the fey in them. Unlike the mages of the plains, they work their magic in short instants. Though much less powerful, it can be significantly more dangerous, for they speak of these dreaded talents of their adepts as part of the Art of the Thinker. It is held to be indifferent, however, not on a par with the power of the Twin Gods, and so 'magic' is tolerated but little more. [Magic: based on a psionics system TV 9; PV 6; DV 5]
Status is founded upon the networks of kinship and heritage of individuals and families, and upon the codes of honor which the Six Clanns regard with utmost seriousness. Honor is practically a physical thing, so great its importance in this society, and a system of counting coup has evolved to deal with the challenges of not wishing to kill a possible relative in the practice raiding sessions carried on all the time though out Aldyn. Martial ability is much respected, and testing duels are common sporting events at tribal or festival gatherings. Poetic and musical ability are especially respected at gatherings of all types, and competitions in both are becoming raucous, carnival affairs. The poets have already gained an important right enshrined in the written law- the right to satirize and parody anyone without retribution in the course of their trade. This 'freedom of the press' is galling to many, but it just as often backfires on the poets, who have no recourse to the law if they are in turn satirized.
In addition, the notion of political authority is developing as well.Slowly, traditions are building up around the Tanist and the Clann Chiefs who are his advisors and supporters. Custom is thick in such a society, of course [rated 6], but the elective nature of the Tanist-ship and the Chieftanships makes society very fluid. Ability and honor matter a great deal in the elections, of course; those of the lowest status are not viable candidates [Rigidity: 3]
Anyone possessing a lineage from one of the Six Clanns, and can prove blood descent through the paternal line, is entitled to a vote in the appropriate Clann and Tribal and household assemblies. At the enormous gatherings when a Tanist is elected (everyone with the right to a vote comes, and that's nearly everyone), fights sometimes break out about who is related to whom. Only members of the House of Garron are eligible to be Tanist, but nearly every other office in the Tanistry is open to anyone. There are no offices which are automatically hereditary, with the exception of lowlander fiefs.
By tribal custom, all persons are entitled to freedom, and the right to defend themselves and their honor. Land, arms and armor, personal effects, and animals are all considered personal property, and an extension of the person. Women hold the right of marriage and divorce, and it is customary for a woman to announce an engagement by giving her cloak pin to her chosen partner. If a man gives his own cloak pin in pledge, the marriage contract is sealed, and they are husband and wife. The woman may ask for her cloak pin back at any time, thus breaking the marriage. In accordance with Maelruan's decree in the Book of Wisdom 8:37, the Aldwysh practice the Feasts of the Changes at the changing of the seasons. Single men and women may invite any partner they please to their beds; if any children are born of the union, they are consecrated to the priesthood of the Twin Gods. Loose sexuality is frowned on otherwise. 'Shield-pairings' among warriors, as praised in Widsom 36:18-29, are more common than in the lowlands, but still not common. They are sometimes blessed in the roughly the same way as marriages, however, and expected to be as monagamous.
Because they are not largely tied into the network of kinship bonds, lowlanders get the short end of the stick most everywhere in Aldyn. They may not legally participate in many parts of the Clann system, and none may serve with a vote in the Tanist's Council.
STATUS HIERARCHY Ruling Agency Political Tanist & immediate family (8-10 people) 20 Poltical/Official Clann Chieftans & family (6-60 people) 19 Ecclesiastic I Prophets of Twin Gods (5 people) 18 Ruling Class Official Tribal Chieftans, family 17 Warrior I Warleaders, senior warriors 15-16 Ecclesiastic II Priests of Twin Gods 14-15 Privileged Class Fine Arts Poets, musicians 12-16 Warrior II Most tribal warriors, lowland warriors 10-14 Academic Scribes, religious teachers 08-12 Professional doctors, healers, midwives 07-13 Professional Class Arcane Adepts 05-07 Artisan Smiths, crafters, carpenters, masons 06-10 Merchant Traders, merchants, visiting traders 04-08 Labor Archetype Labor Farmers, herders, miners, woodcutters 02-10 Fringe Archetype Fringe Unproven lowlanders 01-03 Hermits 01-08 Outlaws, criminals, dubious talents 00-04