History of the Confederacy
Excerpts from Suranna Strongwinds’ report to the Elven Council of Knowledge, entitled “100 Years Amongst the Tribes”
The Formation of the Confederacy
A transcript of a story told by Cu’lain, as recorded by Suranna Strongwinds for presentation to the Elven Council of Knowledge
It is in the nature of the people to grow. Grow tall, grow strong, grow wise, or to grow slow, grow fat, grow arrogant. Because we are the children of Potential, yet built to echo the makings of Achievement, we live on the edge of sharpened obsidian. Ever ready to fall on way or the other for fear of being cut in two.
(I did not understand much of what he said in way of preamble. The subject seems much given to rambling and metaphor. Suffice it to say that the preamble was lengthy enough to bore even the sturdiest elf. A complete transcript including dialect analysis and examination of metaphor is available in the Council of Knowledge library. For purposes of this transcript, please be aware that the subject’s preamble lasted for eighteen and one half minutes and was a pontification on human tendencies toward arrogance as a special conglomerate. For a human, it was actually quite an insightful observation of his own species. Just dull. S.S.)
When the time came for the people to learn that their arrogance was that of a child, the lesson was to be given by the greatest of arrogants: Brother Achievement.
Was the arrogance of the people wrong? It was no more wrong than a child demanding to be treated like a warrior. It is merely ignorance. But the child must learn better, and must earn his place amongst the warriors, else he will be danger to himself and others.
So it was that over 300 summers ago our arrogance was shattered on the spears of the red plains soldiers.
(As near as my comparative notes can ascertain, the year the subject is referring to is approximately 263BP by the reckoning of current calendars. SS.)
The people were fragmented, all of the tribes jealously guarded their land, allowing only small trading groups to enter each other’s villages. Suspicion reigned between all of the tribes, with the Skae being the most maligned, and the most outcast.
Then one evening, at the first touching of Achievement to the horizon, when Potential was able to see the fate of his creations, across the plains came the invaders. Their glistening metal skin turned blood red in the rays of the Great Brother.
The Skae knew the arrogance of great warriors, and the Skae knew no fear. At first attack of the men of the red plains they first lost one, then the other.
The skin of the intruders was as hard as the hardest earths and turned their weapons aside. The invaders did not fight as solitary men, but as one large beast encased in scales, and covered in horns. The plains, seeming red in the setting of Achievement, became truly red when washed in the blood of the first Skae martyrs who fell in the quest of the maturity of our people. The great fight lasted many days, and only when the Skae survivors turned to the embrace of the woods did the slaughter end. The slaughter ended, yes; but the fight began in earnest.
When the Skae warriors, with their children and others, called upon the Curn and the Pyren and the other tribes, they were at first greeted with suspicion. The Skae had been a threat to the other tribes for too long for them to be welcomed without hesitation. But when the extent of the tribe’s wounding was seen, they were given all the aid available. The three main tribes then sent an envoy of warriors and leaders to see the people of the red plains. When they arrived, the newcomers had gone, leaving no trace but the destruction they had caused.
When the envoy saw the destruction visited upon the Skae, the leaders cried. Their tears expressed both deepest grief and highest joy. Grief for the horrible damage visited upon the Skae tribe, but joy for the strength and the endurance of the defenders of the woods, for if the Skae had not held them, the intruders would surely have pushed far into the woods.
This, when known by all people, worked much towards the burying of old blood feuds that others harboured against the Skae, and the other tribes instead held the Skae in their bosoms as the saviors of all.
Then one day, in the Fall’s first lost leaves of that summer’s end, Kenthorn, the tenth timekeeper of the Pyren, spoke with Tecum-deth, the last of the great Skae chiefs.
“To Tecum-deth I bring great desire for a long and good life, and I also bring to you my concern. I am worried your brave sacrifice has left your people weakened, and that the coming winter will be harsh.”
“Kenthorn, we have no stone walls like your people. We have used our stores of food, our waters have been despoiled by the intruders. We will return to our hunting grounds to die. If the Red men do not return, then we will die walking the snow of the plains seeking for any way to avenge the deaths of our scurl.”
(Brief notation upon the major dialect points of this narrative. Scurls seems to be a Skae term which does not directly translate into the standard tongue. The basic translation would be ‘one who is worthy to fight/stand by my side.’ Scurl appears to be either singular or plural without any change in the word or its usage. Scurl is a title that is in no way official, any more than you could officially become a friend. What’s more, scurl is more of an estimation of worthiness in someone’s eyes than any sort of friendship. For instance, a valiant enemy would be called Scurl while a cowardly friend would not. Even though it is not a title, and cannot be taken (only given), anyone who has been publicly declared a Scurl, would be worthy of honour dependent upon the worth of the warrior making the declaration. IE: the Scurl of a hero would be afforded much greater respect then the scurl of an untried warrior S.S.)
Kenthorn replied, “That would be a poor payment for your noble sacrifices. Why do you not seek shelter with us until our Father returns, you will be afforded great honour, and cared for until the time is again right.”
(“…until our Father returns…” Here the speaker is referring to the advent of spring. SS)
“We will not seek shelter from our enemies like children hiding in a hole! The Skae will more gladly march into the arms of our ancestors than to become the domestic animals of other people! I recognize the kindness that you have demonstrated to our wounded, and the care you’ve shown our children and so will not take offense, but our only pause will be that which aids our strength and speed.”
“Truly you are a great chief of the Skae, but I am a Pyren Timekeeper. My wisdom is that of planning and foresight. Please allow me to use my wisdom on your behalf, as a gift to your brave scurl.”
Tecum-deth nodded slowly, “As you have shown that you have new respect for my people, and because of your rank amongst your own, you shall present a gift to the dead if it is your wish.”
“Then let my wisdom and guidance be my offering, and let its value be judged by your ears. First let your force remain here for a period of one week. This will permit many beneficial things, you may gain strength through food and rest, you may strengthen the new bonds that bind our tribes, and you may fully honour the fallen in our temples; the greatest in all the woods. But secondly, it is certain that Hoskarl Spirit-hunter, the Curn first elder will come to us, and you can consult with the spirits through them and aid your search.”
Tecum-deth agreed, and on the sixth sunset after this meeting, the Curn elders arrived at the Pyren town at which Tecum-deth and Kenthorn sheltered. Hoskarl approached the two other leaders and spoke; “The spirits of the Skae crowd the Land of the Dead. They went in such great numbers that the ancestors of the Skae called upon the ancestors of the other tribes for assistance with the newcomers. Our tribes work together in death now, just as we work together with the survivors. With our dead joining as one group, and the three tribes all mingling in each other’s lands, all the spirits of the world wait for us. From this point we can fall back to our previous arrogance and ignorance, or we can step forward into responsible adulthood taking our rightful place in the world.”
Tecum-deth responded thusly, “The place that you speak of, shaman, has been bought with the blood of the Skae! What claim do your tribes have to it?! The Skae will embrace mist before you are allowed to usurp our heritage!”
“He speaks true.” Kenthorn agreed. “We cannot claim their sacrifice as our own. Instead we must congratulate them for their own merits, yet continue to seek our own.”
Hoskarl chuckled, “Look to your own skills and observe, Kenthorn, your people have many skills which mine lack. Your people cut stones and create their homes from them, it it not so? We three are stones. Each of us has a place, has skills, has lore that the others lack. When a builder of the Pyren takes stones, they begin as separate things, each of a stone of its own, each with its own limits. But when a builder melds them into a house, they become another thing, even though they are still each a separate stone, together they are greater than anyone of them could ever be. So it is with us. Either we all become greater together, or we all become weaker apart.
The leaders all lapsed into thought.
Tecum-deth spoke. “The Skae have pursued the arts of hunting and war, and even with our people winnowed by the depredations of the Red men, we boast the greatest warriors of all the tribes. What more can any have or ask?”
Kenthorn spoke. “The Pyren have learned mastery of the stone, and with it have built unbeatable walls, we have irrigated our fields and stored our grain with our knowledge. We hold time itself in our hands and let no occasion pass without the accumulation of knowledge being stored for future generations.”
Hoskarl spoke. “The Curn have walked the woods more than any other and learned the ways of the woods, the spirits speak to many of our people as they move through the woods. Any secrets that may be kept by any man, woman or spirit within the woods can be discovered by the Curn, and when secrets are found we can implore the spirits themselves to guide our use of the knowledge.”
Tecum-deth looked at the other leaders and said, “No matter how great a warrior is, he must acknowledge that many shall stand stronger than the few. I will join with you as long as we can still walk the path of the warrior.”
Hoskarl smiled. “With the scouts and spirits of the Curn by my side, I shall call you warrior. What’s more, all the Curn people shall call you friend so long as the spirits guide us.”
The great leaders all joined their hands and Kenthorn told them, “This joining of the tribes will be recorded in the vault of time so that the example set today may be passed on to all that come behind us, that we may be judged by the time that will come as the upholders of the dignity of the forest. We here today have left our hand prints in time so that others may measure their reach against our by looking at the hands that secured their future.”
That night, amongst feasting and rejoicing, the new brotherhood of the tribes was declared and celebrated, and in the light of the next day no red men could be found, for the lesson of the people had been learned. It was not until the next generation of the people of the woods had grown in harmony, that the spirits once again afforded us a lesson using the soldiers of the plains as tools to demonstrate our own weakness.
The Confederate nations all share a basic belief system, but the details differ from tribe to tribe. Even within the villages of a larger tribe, it is not unknown for minor variances in creeds and rituals to manifest themselves.
The basic religious base of the Confederate peoples is an animistic base; the belief that all things have a spirit of some form that is worthy of, if not worship, then at least respect. All things have their place in the world, and their spirits (when in harmony with their own position in the grand scheme of things) interact with all the other spirits of creation to ensure the smooth and respectful running of the cosmos.
This does not mean that spirits are locked into any specific behavior by the nature of their physical manifestations, or that their actions are in any way preordained by their form. In their mythology, certain types of spirits do tend towards behavioral patterns (i.e. tree spirits tend toward quiet and nurturing personalities, rock spirits tend to be quiet and extremely slow moving, etc.) but these are nothing more than the same sort of stereotypes that can be found amongst the human populace, and just as easily broken. The large difference between the religions of the Confederate peoples and that of the Tawdonians is that the animist paradigms impose no specific order of the universe upon the spirits within it. In other words, although it is a common feature of the other theocratic structures of this land to stratify society according to classes or legal structures and encourage those within it to stay in their allotted position, the animist precepts merely expand upon the society as a whole and allow the adherent to participate in a much larger society. Humility and stability is encouraged by the daunting task of functioning within a society of such scope, but the religions themselves impose no set caste or rank upon any individual human spirits, it is up to them to prove their worth by earning the respect of the spirits with which they interact. The belief that one is always surrounded by spirits that are directly influenced by and influencing ones actions does however tend to encourage a polite society, but does allow for the individual to strive for any goal which they believe to be personally important.
The Confederate peoples believe:
- All things, animate and inanimate, have a spirit.
- All spirits share a community in which their actions affect each other.
- Certain trained individuals have the ability to communicate with spirits and act as an intermediary between the worlds.
These spirits are common to all of the Confederate peoples, and points the likelihood of a common originating religion which diversified into the modern variations. For historical purposes it should be noted that this shared belief system was instrumental in forging a common goal amongst the Confederates when faced for the first time with a civilization other than their own.
The Great Mother
A reference to the earth itself. The Great Mother is the spirit of this entire material world, but not of that which is upon it: trees, rocks, streams, lakes, etc. all have their own spirits. She is generally regarded as the most powerful and important of all spirits, but she is held to be a complete non-interventionist Although she is concerned with all spirits she does not ever offer any succor that is unearned, but to those that would work to earn what they would possess her bounty is potentially unlimited.
The Great Father
A reference to the seasons. The Father would teach self reliance to any who would learn his lessons, and therefore is at least as unteachable as the great mother. His presence is indicated by summer, when he has returned with the bounty of his journeys as a gift to the Great Mother, but he will never remain for long and his passing is denoted by the onset of winter.
A representation of the sun. Achievement is the oldest child of the Great Mother and the Great Father. Achievement is the creator of all the animals and birds and aquatic creatures. He is typified as an arrogant personality that is reliable, clever and honest. He is however unimaginative and prone to fits of outrage at the rare occasion that he may fail at any of his endeavours.
The spirit of the moon. The younger of the two brothers (also called the eternal rivals) his only creation is that of humanity, a creation that his brother criticises as weak and unable to fit with the other spirits in the world. Nevertheless, Potential’s creation foolishly exercises dominion over the spirits created by achievement in ways unforeseen. Although humanity is abandoned by their Creator to seek their own way in the world, Achievement, jealous of his brother’s creation will frequently subject humanity to tests and lessons. He is typified as unreliable, but subject to flashes of inspiration and moments of epiphany.
Differences between the Tribes
The Skae are a warrior society with overtones of ancestor worship. The major difference, then, is that the Skae believe that once they die that they will join their ancestors in the afterlife where their own ancestors will judge them for their life’s actions. Their ancestors are assumed to always have at least one judge observing their charge at all times from the moment of their birth until the moment of their death. Those who are judged fit to join them in the afterlife will be welcomed with feasting and hunting, but those found wanting will be hunted for the rest of eternity or until they earn a chance to go back to earth and try again.
When judging a fallen Skae, they will be judged on their bravery and their defence of their ancestors’ principles and lands.
The Pyren believe that all spirits wish naturally to strive towards perfection, but that any individual spirit lacks the means to find the path. It is only through the diligent striving to bring other spirits together with yours that you may pool your resources and join to become a greater spirit to whom the boundaries of life and earth have no meaning.
This is held more as an ideal, however, than any real goal. It is considered that the attempt is more important than the success. The goal manifests itself in the daily life of the spiritual Pyren by the desire to work with the material forms of the other spirits in an attempt to gain a higher understanding of their interrelationships.
Pyren consider fine craftsmanship to not be just a manual skill, but a truer understanding of another spirit type, and therefore, an assistance given to another spirit in achieving their final stage of evolution.
Many Pyren women (and men) scoff at the idea that Potential is male. After all, they say, Potential is the “mother” of humanity and is represented by the moon, with its monthly cycles of waxing and waning. Some Pyren go so far as to call the spirit “Sister Potential.”
The Curn are the most spiritual of the three major tribes, and are generally noted as the spiritual leaders of the woods. The other tribes have a respect for the Curn as the tribe that lives most in tune with the desires of the spirit world, attempting to live in harmony with all that surrounds them. They are assisted in this task by the fact that they have the highest number of shamans among their ranks than are enjoyed, per capita, by the other tribes.
The Curn claim many great talents for their spiritual leaders, including the ability to send their spirits to the other worlds in order to communicate with the other spirits, including the dead. Because the Curn have the lion’s share of the spiritual leaders, their form of spirituality is the basis from which the other tribes draw their religions.
In general the Curn lean more towards the natural spirits than ancestor veneration, though the latter is not uncommon particularly in villages with a nearby Skae influence.
The Curn see the spirits in everything, spirits of rock, tree and river, of wolf and rabbit and of wind and fire. Everything has a spirit, and everything depends on the existence of these spirits for survival.
Spirits all have their own individual personality, and can be anything from wise and mischievous to brooding and violent. Some spirits are more powerful than others, and these are accorded additional respect. The spirits can be fickle and jealous, but one invites misfortune to purposefully upset them.
It should be noted that many Curn look upon the Fey with a certain wonder, these are the creatures of the greater spirits (The Faeries) and are therefore worthy of some respect. This attitude pervades amongst villages and communities that have never actually had contact with the Fey races.
The Confederates measure the year by the seasons as defined by solstices and equinoxes. Dates within a season are given based on the phases of the moon. For example: the 2nd new moon of the Spring.
Brother Potential Day
Date: Winter Solstices
The longest night of the year, it is a day for starting new things. Many oaths are taken on this day. Old disagreements are set aside and new friendships formed. Thanks is offered to Brother Potential for creating humans. In many Pyren influenced villages; competitions are held on this day to demonstrate skills in crafts.
Brother Achievement Day
Date: Summer Solstices
The longest day of the year, it is a day is taken to recognize members of the communities who have made a significant contribution to the community in which they live. These contributions can be anything from the Skae war chief who successfully led the defence of the town against a significant foe, to a smith who is marking his twentieth year of working for his neighbours. On this day, games are held to demonstrate fighting and hunting skills.
Date: First New Moon of Spring
An annual day set aside in recognition of the ancestors. It is celebrated throughout the Confederacy but is considered significantly more important among the Skae. This is traditionally a day of storytelling as the tales of the family’s ancestors are passed on to the next generation.
The Festival of All Spirits
Date: Second Full Moon of Summer
On this day, all spirits are recognized. Small ceremonies (that differ from tribe to tribe) dot the day as the people thank the spirits who watch over them. Some ceremonies are uniquely personal thanksgiving to spirit guides, others are large communal events. The only ceremony held in common is a evening bonfire in honour of the Great Mother and Father. This is the most important holiday for the Curn.
Date: The first New Moon of the Fall
An annual feast held in recognition of the founding of the Confederacy.
Date: The seven days following the first Full Moon of the Fall
The seven days following the 10th full moon of the year. The week in which representatives of all the major tribes come together at the Patience Rock for a ceremonial gathering and meetings. Throughout the Confederacy this gathering is imitated on a smaller scale. The similarities the tribes share are recognized, their differences celebrated. It is a time for trade, demonstrations of skill and renewing of friendship. For many this is the last chance to socialize and trade with those outside of their immediate tribe prior to hunkering down for winter. Traditionally, lanterns carved out of squashes are placed outside Patience Week gatherings to keep away unfriendly spirits.
Thinking Like a Confederate
People from the Confederacy come from a sophisticated, nature and spirit based society, and take great offense to being called “wild” or “savage”, as many Imperials would label them. The tribes of the Confederacy have been described using terms relating to some of the early societies of our real world, including Picts, Celts, Hurons, Mayans, Incans, and Klingons (okay, so Klingons aren’t real, but you get the point).
Looking Like a Confederate
These cultures all dress and behave quite differently from the feudal medieval/classical greco-roman models. When playing a Confederate character, try to engage in some tribal/spiritual roleplaying. Look into our real Native cultures to see the sort of things they do and try to bring a bit more flavour to our game world. Use war cries in battle, pray to your ancestors for guidance, wear beads and feathers, face paint, go on a vision quest- even if you’re not a psychic, it would be cool and quite possibly rewarding. Even if you don’t want to do research, make something up!
Tips for Playing a Curn
Most of what needs to be said about playing a Curn has already been said under the “Confederates” heading. The comments about war cries, (some players have adopted wolf howls) and consulting spirits are particularly appropriate for Curn. One might want to think about choosing a particular spirit totem for themselves. Various adornments, reflecting the Curn’s connection to the spirit world, would also be appropriate.
Music is an important element of Curn culture, and musicians and dancers are well respected within the community. Music is always played at special events, ceremonies and celebrations and is frequently composed specifically for that event. When the Curn go into battle en masse, whenever possible they do so the to sound of music. Drums pound, warriors sing and the battlefield echoes with the sound of mighty Curn Warbells.