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[Regionbuilding] the Pseulk

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  • [Regionbuilding] the Pseulk

    In the Southwest, at the edge of the world beyond the Cinder Isles, there is a little bulge of land bursting out with islands, the Pseulk, a place of songs of freedom and chains of iron.


    (Obviously this map is going to get revised quite a bit as I go on, but it's a base to start from.)

    It is now the Second Satrapiate, a period of social dislocation and opportunity. After a long period of Lintha domination of the Cinder Isles through the open sea between the Pseulk and Caul, the Realm has taken back its former possession and is ready to reintegrate it into world economy and culture. The traditional Pseulké ruling classes know that they see a time of threat - and also of opportunity. They are not as attentive to the fact that their traditional subordinates see the same.

    With its scattered islands, fractal coast, jungled mountains, and stretches of desert, it is hard to administer the Pseulk through a central government. The dominant political unit here, as it has been from the second century after the Contagion, is the uxarchial city-state.The Satrapy of the Pseulk itself is limited to the enforcement of property claims between cities and the exaction of tribute, but this is far from inconsequential on the ground.

    Ethnicity in the Pseulk
    For most literate people in the Pseulk, its human inhabitants can be divided into six main groups: Creoles, High Pseulké, Low ​Pseulké, Northerners, Barbarians, and Elenda. These are frequently treated as if they were essential divisions based in blood ancestry, but in fact the boundaries are extremely porous, with intermarriage and changes in "ethnic" status following changes in social status, especially between Creoles and High Pseulké, between High and Low Pseulké, and between Low Pseulké, Northerners, and Barbarians.
    • Creoles are the descendants of Realm citizens who moved to the Pseulk during the First Satrapiate; during the "Second Age of Liberty" between the First and Second Satrapiates, they assimilated considerably to High Pseulké culture and forms of political organization, while in turn, a number of Pseulké who were really neither "High" nor "Low" increasingly found adopting Creole customs to be amenable. As such, while in Creole-heavy cities ethnic markers like lighter skin, darker hair, and epicanthic folds are more common, identification as Creole rather than High Pseulke at the individual level is a matter of dialect (the Creole version of Low Realm and modern Pseulké language are mutually comprehensible,) politics (support for the Realm, production for export, and relative religious orthodoxy,) and lifestyle (monogamy or, at least, a system where husbands have relatively more power and wives/consorts beyond the first relatively less.) Pseulké and Creole Dragon-Blooded are by now all recognized as members of the Cynis Pseulchao cadet house.
    • The normative Pseulké economic and familial unit is the polygynous, matriarchal, autarkic household, with a council of wives ruling over a population of dependents. Those who are free in this system are the High Pseulké. Although the dominant ideology does not see men as strictly inferior to women in virtue or competence, it does hold that polygyny is a necessary eugenic measure this close to the taint of the Wyld, and that within the self-governing household and city-states these are amalgated into, husbands have sufficient influence through demands on their affection that formal power ought be reserved to women. So too the dominant political philosophy holds that free women with children (including children by proxy, that is, slaves) are the set with the most stake and investment in the political unit, and thus its proper governors. Like the Delzahn the High Pseulké give the system a safety valve through the institution of Dereth (teret), but they are stricter about it, requiring sterilization, tatooing rather than distinctive dress, and priestly approval.
    • The Low Pseulké are those held in dependence in the same system. Although the official justification for the distinction is that the lower orders are more Wyld-corrupted, at a practical level the existence of a slave market means their reproduction is encouraged (although many socially conservative matrons disapprove of this.) Low Pseulké are formally wards, held in a state of benevolent dependence. Gender roles are much less strict. Few Low Pseulké can read, although most speak multiple languages - with the regular trickle of Northerners into Pseulké households, languages are adopted as fads through slave communities until comprehension by their betters renders them useless. Although they cannot bear weapons, Martial Arts that look like ecstatic religious dancing have been developed among them. For all these and their exagerrated shows of loyalty and gratitude, slaves are regarded by the free as inherently flighty, emotional, and treacherous, confirming their lack of suitability to governance of the cities. In addition, there are in many cities a class of farmers and artisans who live in monogamous households, pay rent to but are rarely being directly governed by the rich, and fluctuate between High and Low status. When the strains of war increase, they are recognized as High and armed, their "masters" recategorized as landlords; in times of peace, their debts rack up and they accept Low status as payment.
    • Northerners are slaves imported from elsewhere to serve either in the household system, more commonly, latifunda oriented towards export of cash crops. With the Realm both opening up trade and demanding monetary tribute, this latter sector has expanded exponentially in recent decades, fueling demand for Northerners as well as the sale of Low Pseulké and the shift of many households away from yams and personal service towards sugar and marajuana. "Northerner" is, of course, an artificial category grouping together people from many cultures - an influx that has, despite the perversity of method, made the Pseulk incredibly culturally vibrant - but in any event it's a moot point - as soon as anybody would cease to identify with their ancestral culture, a generation or two down the line, they've ceased to be "Northerners" at all and have instead become Low Pseulké (through the household system,) Barbarians (through maronage,) or dead (through the export plantations.)
    • Barbarians are anyone not participating in the nexus of agriculture, households, city-states, and tribute; they live in egalitarian communities who live by foraging, raiding, and keeping one step ahead of the settled folk. Often there is some participation in the greater economy through the growing of coffee or other goods, and indeed agriculture in the deep jungle is in some senses relatively easy - as is foraging - allowing plenty of time for cultural life, but "Barbarian" communities that stay in one place for long get re-enslaved. For the same considerations, they are often suspicious of new maroons, who frequently must band together and learn all the secrets to survival on their own.
    • "Elenda" is a local corruption of "Lintha," and indeed the Elenda are an offshoot of the Lintha family - perhaps exiled for some crime against the Lintha's depraved gods? - who have adopted life as traders rather than pirates. Traditional Lintha concerns about blood purity, to say nothing of their scandalous religion, mean that they've remained separate from Pseulké society since having stayed in the region apart from the main Family's control and lifestyle for centuries. They are convenient targets for slaughter when disaster strikes, regarded as unusually honest brokers otherwise, and always seen as prosperous, though there are also "land Elenda" who eke out a miserable existence handling ritually unclean tasks in the cities.
    Next up: the city of Elepos, Hope of the Hopeless, running out of hope itself! (I plan to alternate between regions (or other proper nouns) and themes, but no real promises about how this will all evolve.)
    Last edited by Matthias; 05-11-2016, 06:29 PM.

  • #2
    I'm looking forward to seeing how this develops.