Arambashia is the largest of the human controlled countries. Its name can be broken down in the druidic tongue to mean Place of Prairie Winds. Much of the country is covered by plains and plateaus with pockets of woodland forming in the valleys. The countries Southern region is lightly forested with plenty of wide open spaces lending to excellent land for farming. The treeline becomes thick the closer one ventures to the border of Resonn. In the Northeastern portions are large, thick pockets of forest that have enough water sources to allow for such growth making the region extremely valuable to the kingdoms that control it.
In 792 LD, the Arambashian kingdoms determined that all would benefit from the formation of a democratic union, in which the kingdoms would defer to in order to better protect one another from their enemies, as well as themselves. A court was gathered from a single delegate sent by each kingdom to determine if the proposition would succeed. This Unification Court convened for 3 month following the bloody stalemate produced by Sention Crown War. The Court determined that it was in the best interests of the kingdoms to form the Union of Aramish States, and that a neutral kingdom had been selected to serve as the central meeting ground of the new government.
The named capital was the city of Arambash; a city resting upon the ancient ruins of a kingdom dating back to the Golden Age. This central city would serve to usher in a new Golden Age and restore peace between the kingdoms.
Aramish nobility are the most well off of the people in the country. Nobles enjoy the bulk of the wealth within their respective kingdoms. They can hold private armies, control huge tracts of land and are able to help dictate laws where a Shal'tan allows. Their wealth can take them many places, and grants them access into circles where less fortunate people are not allowed. Nobles are always treated with respect and are known to have any transgression they make overlooked.
Noble houses are always squabbling with one another, trying in vain to orchestrate the ruin of another house. Any methods they take must be subtle as most of the kingdoms frown upon battling Noble houses. In-fighting makes a kingdom look weak, which could bring war quickly to their doorstep if another thinks it would be to their advantage. The last such war was the Battle of Kasod Hill when the kingdom of Fardok overtook the kingdom of Heigl in 820 LD. That battle was the last combat between kingdoms after the Unification Court brought the nations together to form present day Arambashia (called the Union of Aramish States – UAS) in 792 LD. Nobles retained the powers they had given to themselves after the Sundering; among them, laws include:
A noble cannot be stripped of title.
A noble retains all rights to lands granted unto them, unless they willing forfeit said property in the form of a Writ of Renunciation, formally granting that property back to the Shal'tan or in trade to another.
A noble can make demands of the people in their court.
A noble can oversee minor law and dictate rulings.
A noble can ascend to the seat of Shal'tan when one is no longer present and an heir does not exist.
Treatment of Women
A woman's status in Arambashia takes the more “traditional” place of homekeeper and assistant. Women hold less than equal footing with their male counterparts in the county. They are not allowed to take on roles that are male dominated which include military and political work. Their place according to Aramish law is to take on rolls of service; cooking, cleaning, and housekeeping to name a few. Labor positions may be held by women of the poorer classes though it is discouraged. Women working along side of men is highly discouraged in general, resulting in women getting inferior pay.
Girls are raised to accept the dominion of men within their society. It is their place to make sure that their man lives comfortably, often at the cost of ones self identity. Women are expected to behave in manners befitting their class, not to question a mans 'better' judgment, and to care for the needs of home and family without complaint. Going against the rules that have been set in place can mean punishment, often severe and sometimes fatal. By the time a woman is 14 her family will have selected an arrangement for marriage. Over the next year she will learn the duties of a wife from her mother and other married members of her family. Arranged couples may or may not court during this time depending on the wishes of the brides Father. Families often make such arrangements for personal gain or favors owed. It falls to the wives to rear children and keep the home. More wives means shared duties and can come as a mixed blessing depending on the kind of husband a woman is given to. The wedding takes place during the approximate time period of her day of birth.
A woman who enters a relationship with another man can be considered a homewrecker if she is not married to him. A male can also force (to some extent) a marriage if it was the woman who approached him and he has already married once. This can lead to disputes over a woman's fidelity which reflects upon the honor of ones home which is viewed negatively in Arambashia.
Women have the misfortune of serving as objects for possession or trade rather than her value as an individual. A woman who is successful in a trade skill for instance, must stand behind the name of her husband if she is married, or her employer.
A special exception is made for a woman who is born into possession of magic, divine or arcane. If these women are discovered they are brought before the council and are trained. Those with a basic gift for magic are returned to their families after they have had enough training to keep their power from being a danger. Even simple magic ability makes a woman more desirable and suitable as a wife for a higher class and can elevate a family to greater privilege.
Some families will withhold any information suggesting that a daughter has power though, for those with a true penchant for magic will go on to higher learning within the council. These women are removed from their families and will no longer have any association with them (as far as possession is concerned). They will usually marry into Noble families for the benefit of the Council and to keep powerful bloodlines elevated to positions that can sway opinions.
Major events must take place on another day of celebration. This ensures that the gods smile upon the event and grant their favor. This is especially important for weddings as it will dictate how sound the marriage will be. It is widely believed that a marriage that turns sour does so because the wedding did not take place on a proper day of celebration. As such, most weddings are held on the bride's day of birth. It also represents the birth of a new family
A dowry is commonly given to the groom. A larger dowry means that the bride will be able to live more comfortably and it also suggests how good or blessed the marriage will be.
A wedding ceremony lasts only a few hours, but celebrations afterward have been known to last weeks or, in the case of the nobility, months. The most notable according being, according to legend, the wedding of Herr Walter Zhan and Lady Genivera Waters. The celebration of their love and union lasted 3 months before the Shal'tan began shoeing guests outs of his kingdom (present day Norbrook), at which point the guests set their servants to work constructing homes before the winter season so they could continue their festivities.
A marriage cannot be broken, but a man may marry multiple women during his lifetime. Magical bloodlines are often joined together to maintain blood purity as well.
Treatment of the Poor
The poor get the short end of the stick within Arambashia. They are treated with disdain, neglected, abused or generally ignored as if they simply weren't there. Temples often collect alms to help out those in need, but they have few options that go beyond the occasional helpful soul. Winter can be especially harsh when one finds themselves without a home. As they are still subjects of the kingdoms they must obey the Lords of they might quickly find themselves cast out into the wilds.
Work can always be found tending to fields or performing laborious tasks that few others would take on simply to earn a few coppers. If they are lucky they may even be provided rudimentary shelter. Most are less fortunate however, and can find themselves conscripted into armies against their will, sold into slavers, or forced into the underbellies of cities because there is nowhere else to go to survive. In some of Arambashia's major cities there are entire settlements of poor that dwell in the sewers, braving the monstrous dangers that can be cultivated in the depths simply to avoid many of the harsh conditions on the streets.
Guards are put on patrol by the nobility with the expressed purpose of clearing the poor out of the city. They will drive them out, beat them, and even kill over minor transgressions. Those who do not might find themselves on the receiving end of things if a nobleman finds out they went against a command. Citizens often ignore any such sights on the streets because the poor are considers little more than a slave labor force. Privileged folk are even brought up to believe this, further cultivating the already bad image that poor have.
Some poor are driven to thievery, for which the penalties can be severe. Survive drives these people more than fear which can cause crime to increase greatly. They will band together as well, creating gangs for the benefit of survival and fighting against the oppression of the guard. Some cities have entire districts quarantined off because of gang presences. Squatting is also common and groups of poor have been known to drive the working classes from their homes simply to have a place to live.
Rumors exist of places in the wilds where the poor and homeless can go to survive but the is less information about where they are. Often these rumors make the places sound like a paradise. It is very likely that such rumors are the work of the upper classes trying to spread propaganda to clear out the streets.
Treatment of the Elderly
Given the many hardships of living in Arambashia, few ever reach old age. Those who reach the age of 50 are typically considered Elders within their social circles. An elder is well respected in Arambashia, given deference based upon their social and economical standing. At times, even poor elders are granted respect well above their status, allowing them to transcend some social limits, even if only temporarily. They are seen as a source of wisdom and experience from which the younger generations will grow.
Aramish families tend to stay close as they grow, giving purpose to all members of the family. Where the youth are charged with maintaining a home, Elders help to raise the children and provide advice as well as direction. Elders are active participants in local politics and serve to direct their communities as well as their homes.
Due to the diversity of the Aramish Kingdom states, there is no one accepted god or specific religion in Arambashia. Followers of any god are allowed to operate freely so long as they do not cause disruptions. It is not uncommon to see temples dedicated to both good and dark gods positioned near to each other. The peoples of Arambashia believe that it is important to dedicate themselves to each of the gods lest one should turn their fury toward them.
How prevalent a god is depends greatly upon a region. Within the mainland and the Capital, worship of Demuen and Oontarm is quite common. Many have small shrines to each of these gods in their homes, in additional to their often daily visits to the major temples. Smaller temples can be found in this area dedicated to Balphurus (to ward away chaos in ones life), Marisse (prayers for luck and guided fates are often performed at her temples, which often double a houses of gambling), and Estridae (the goddess of life is most revered in central Arambashia as a god of the home).
Along the coasts temples to Moratem abound. Found along the shorelines facing the sea, these shrines exist to thank the god for his guardianship over the terrible waters. These temples and shrines are often constructed as light houses to protect ships from rocky shoals. Also found on the coast are shrines to Zamikye. Their construction, and existence are taboo along the coast, but they are found with disturbing frequency. It is widely accepted that shrines to the goddess of the sea serve only to bring misfortune to those who travel over the ocean. If found, such a shrine is to be burned with the holy fire of Demuen to ward off the wrath of the sinister goddess.
Further inland, in the crop kingdoms, Ivandris sees the most worship as his followers pray for a great harvest year. They often leave gifts of gold or plant flora in the vicinity of a shrine, creating massive communal gardens depending on the size of a community.
Shrines to Pasquirn are surprisingly prevalent as well, much to the dismay of outsiders who consider the goddess a pox. The people of the plains pray to the goddess to overlook their crops and to ward off sickness. After harvest seasons, her shrines are often filled with the results of good harvests to thank the goddess warding off sickness or locust swarms.
Death is a superstition filled ordeal for the people of Arambashia. It is a time of reflection, or remembering that people are mortal and must fear the gods. There is no specific ritual or actions that must be done when someone dies in Arambashia, due to the diversity of religions. The process of death is left to individual families and is based upon their beliefs.
When someone dies in Arambashia, it is not uncommon for people to gather flowers and place them in the hands of the deceased to serve aid them in finding the afterlife. When flowers are absent, they will apply incense or perfume to the hands. It is believed that the smell will lead the spirit to a pleasant place. The opposite is true if something vile is placed on the decease's hands, that it will lead them to someplace evil. Other superstitions that abound in Arambashia forbid looking in the eyes of a dead man, as that is sure to bring ones death much sooner, and failing to kiss the forehead of a deceased loved one will bring them back to haunt you.
Funerals (assuming there is one, and depending on how affluent a family is) and grieving can last nearly a month. The first few weeks are reserved to preservation of the body. Magical families can often preserve a corpse for lengthy periods of time, leaving little burden on when a funeral must be performed. Many Aramish families do without excessive use of magic, opting to use natural preservation methods and applying perfumes to hide the smell.
After a body is laid to rest, it is not uncommon for family members to remain at the burial site for several days, praying to the gods for the safe passage of their loved ones. Many remain seeking a sign from the divines or the deceased that they have gone on to a better place. During this time families will guard the burial grounds from animals or pestilent bugs (flies) that would disturb the resting dead, and therefore interrupt their journey to the afterlife. After a week if a spirit has not returned, family members are free to depart, knowing their loved one has made it to the other side.
Crime and Punishment
Due to the fact that Aramish states are separate Kingdoms, laws and punishments vary widely. Basic justice systems are present in all courts, usually consisting of a Sheriff who oversees a specific county as assigned to them by the Shal'tan. Sheriff's are charged with enforcing law, and can conscript individuals to assist them in bringing justice. They are granted power to organize militias and to appoint Deputies.
A Sheriff is able to create new laws that stand official within a kingdom unless they are superseded only by the decree of the Shal'tan. The Sheriff serves as the judge for an area, and must be of Noble standing. As Nobles are already granted power to dictate on judgments and rulings, the position of Sheriff is granted the last say in these matters. Abuse or dereliction of duties is determined by a tribunal chosen by the Nobility.
Deputies may be selected from any social standing and are to serve as the arm of the Sheriff.
Psychics in Arambashia
Arambashians have an intense hatred and fear toward those with psychic powers. It is rooted deep in their nature, and while the people no longer remember the origin of their hate though they are quick to create new reasons for why they should all be killed. Many stories exist in small towns about psychics who assumed control over the town using their evil powers before finally being driven out by heroic figures. In these tales the psychics take control of the minds of others and command them against their will simply for amusement.
The people fear the loss of their freewill, even though most swear allegiance to a Shal'tan which they claim is very different. One has the choice to accept an edict given by a man with god's blood. They don't get a choice if someone is meddling with their minds. Many would rather die than loose the perception of freewill. As such, when a psychic is discovered they are put to death with very little in the way of a trial, and often in the absence of evidence. In some communities a simple accusation is all it takes to end someones life.
When a person does get a trial, the result is less than desirable. Trials vary in intensity and can be anything from tying a weight to a persons feet and casting them into water, up to the dreaded fvainbast; a process the charges lightning energy through a persons body boiling their blood from the inside out. It is claimed that a psychic can resist the awful power and reveal themselves in a great surge of energy. Fvainbast has been used in battles to debilitate enemy psychics in past battles between Arambashia and Naltronia.
The bulk of accused psychics are burned at the stake to purify their bodies with Demuen's influence. It is said that this frees their souls to move on to the afterlife. Burnings are a spectacle that people readily observe as they believe that watching a psychic burn will block their minds from future intrusions and wash away an evils that the psychic may have placed on them.
False accusation is extremely common and often employed by people seeking revenge or to silence others. Men with carnal desires that don't wish to tarnish their reputation might claim that the woman they slept with used psychic power to take advantage of them. Women have very little recourse to such claims as they are the ones who are blessed with the psychic curse. Their daughters are at an even greater risk.
Psychics powers typically manifest at puberty. With their hormones out of sync, both females and the rarer male psychic will display their power in a burst of energy that visibly flows starting at their eyes, enveloping their body. This first manifestation is usually harmless though males have been know to cause great damage, or even kill themselves due to the erratic power. Women seem to have greater control over the manifestation and it signals for them new life.
That life can be quickly cut short in Arambashia, for if anyone sees the first manifestation it is as good as a death sentence. There are some who will take in psychics without question in the country, but they are few and far between. Others see these psychics as a means to grow in power and may keep them hidden until they have outgrown their usefulness. Such options are rarely available for the newly awoken. If they are not immediately caught, it is likely that they soon will be unless they flee. The turmoil of puberty makes control over power random and difficult to predict and control.
To flee can be just as damning as staying however, as the wilds are quite dangerous too. With so few options it is not surprising that most psychics do not live beyond their first year after their awakening.
Arambashians consider their lands to be the birthplace of modern magic. Nearly ever city and town has a place dedicated to the study of magic, governed by members of the Council who are loyal to both Tower and Country. They praise the use of magic and readily employ it as a tool whenever possible, completing magnificent structures and otherwise impossible structures quickly and efficiently.
The Council can trace ties to Aramish families past the age of Nightmares, making some Noble magical families more that 900 years old. This deep seated trust of magic has made Aramish states a perfect refuge for magi who find little trust elsewhere. During the Necromancer Hunts of the 960's (LD) many practitioners fled to Arambashia. Those who did not find acceptance of communities were often assisted to the nearest Council friendly home where the could find transport to the Tower. Others, particularly at the border of Arambashia and Naltronia, found not only acceptance but renewed purpose as they helped to break the tide of dead rising from the Grayling Plague. It is widely regarded in the city of Dantis that without the efforts of the 'trusted' necromancers, a cure for the plague would never have been discovered.
Many families in Arambashia are able to make the claim of Pureblood magic users. Their bloodlines have been directed to ensure that their offspring always bear magical power. These families are often prominent Nobles in their respective kingdoms and help to direct laws that will help the Council's operations within the country. Newblood magic users often find new acceptance in communities. This can elevate their social status, and provide avenues to marriage that can elevate the social standing of their entire family.
Those with a penchant for greater magical prowess often attain celebrity status in communities, sometimes elevating their 'power' in a community above even the loftiest nobles. Those with Council titles find even greater acceptance as many of the people want to appease such individuals in the hope that it will help their standing, or open doors that would otherwise be closed (applications for children with some magic ability who were not selected for apprenticeship by other magi for instance).