Several thousand years before the time we are discussing, the Tua came into Tuadem through a pass in the mountains in its south, which otherwise sealed Tuadem off from the rest of the world. (It sticks into the sea, but neither the inhabitants of Tuadem nor their overseas neighbors are involved in seacraft, although there is the beginning of trade with an overseas land.) These are the "Shield Mountains," Gwere Shato vy. The pass through which they came was later closed by a volcano (Pyngys Khai, "Fist of Fire"), protecting and isolating them. The proto-Tua invaders spoke a very early form of Indo-European, from one of the northern branches, most closely related to the Balts.
Before the Tua invasion the land was inhabited by the Hilatua, the "People of the Mother."
The invasion took place over several generations and in several waves, with some elements dribbling in and others coming in large groups. During this period there was still intercourse between the Tua in Tuadem and those outside it. The invasion was less violent than it sounds. There was considerable mixing of cultures. The resultant mix is the Tua culture we are speaking of, neither Indo-European nor Hilatua, but a blend of the two.
Tuadem is divided north to south by a range of mountains. In the north this range extends to the sea; in the south it peters out in an area of swamps. There is a major pass, Kuth Kely, through the mountains, and all trade must go either through it or along a road in the small passable land between the mountains and the swamps.
As Tua culture developed a split occurred between northern and southern Tuadem. This was partly the result of geographical differences and the resultant economic differences, and partly the result of differing waves of Tua invaders settling in different parts of Tuadem. The earliest waves had settled in the south, closest to the pass. A lot of cultural mixing had gone on there. Later invaders had pushed on into the north, an area sparsely populated by the Hilatua. The culture that arose there was less influenced by the Hilatua. In the east, the area of fens and swamps, live people who are more Hilatua and less Tua than elsewhere.
The typical Indo-European cattle raids escalated into full-scale wars between north and south. Each side reacted by unifying under kings, beginning the Period of the Two Kings. Forts were built at either end of Kuth Kely, Belso Pekh (Castle of the Guard) in the south and Belso Kuth (Castle of the Pass) in the north. The southerners also built a wall with a castle in the middle between the mountains and the wetlands. This castle was Belso Dhorgo.
After several hundred years of fighting (off and on) the south conquered the north and the two were unified once more under Wisonto, the first king of Tuadem. He established his capital at Belso Kely, a castle not far from Kuth Kely that had been built on what was originally likely a sacred hill.
Since they had been built with solely military considerations in mind all the castles except Belso Kely soon fell into disrepair.
One of the major factors in the cultural unifying of Tuadem was the Book of Hymns. It had been circulating in several different forms, having been written down very early. (It is possible that writing was invented originally for the purpose of recording the hymns.) Some of the hymns varied little (the Bull Slaying Hymn, for instance), others had local variants (e.g., the fire lighting rituals), and others appeared only in one or more collections but not in all. The College of Priests, which formerly had served a minor role, was given the task of compiling an authoritative version. Wisonto hoped that this would help unite the land.
The Priests and Priestesses gathered all the variants, including oral traditions and commentary and with them created the Book of Hymns. Few of the variants were actually eliminated. Because of this the hymns sometimes contradict each other. This is not seen as a failing by the Tua, however, but as a demonstration of the truth that context can alter fact.
Eventually the kings had grown to such power that they began to be succeeded by their sons, rather than by their daughters’ husbands as was traditional. They had great political and military power, but their spiritual power dwindled. The fertility of the land suffered as a result. Cattle raids once again turned into civil wars, and the last king was killed in battle, leaving no children. Since then the local rulers have increased in power, and are not anxious to have a new king. The common people are, however. The College of Priests are doing their best to hold things together. The nobles see it to their advantage to keep things in order to a certain extent - enough for trade, but not enough to lose any of their power. They are doing their best to boost the College’s spiritual power, thereby ensuring a fertile land, without boosting their political power. The only way the College and the common people can see to bring peace is through a king.
At the time we are dealing with, the cycle is starting up again - cattle raids are more frequent, more violent, and larger in scale, and they are occurring outside the normal campaign season. A North-South split is once again developing. There is talk of rebuilding the castles and wall.
Town and House
Each village or town has a hall which serves as tavern, inn, meeting house, etc. It has a small shrine to Selpater, the town’s patron deity. Towns are usually surrounded by palisades with four gates. The North one is only used to bring corpses out for funerals. The North is not unlucky but rather taboo, since it is the direction the Gods come from and the dead go. The East gate is the main one and it is the one that visitors come through.
The design of houses varies throughout Tuadem. In Belso Kely, for instance, they resemble medieval town houses. There they are of half-timbered or wattle and daub construction, and are frequently two stories with only a storage cellar below ground. In other areas, however, the design is more traditional and less ambitious. There they are built half underground. They are square, with the edges oriented toward the four directions. (In some towns they are round.) The entrance is always to the East and is covered by a roofed porch. On the front support poles of the porch are figures, usually just heads, of the threshold gods, the Dwoter vy. The roof is peaked toward the center where there is a smokehole, often round. The hearth is in the center and has a small shrine to the hearth goddess Marenji next to it on its south. Houses may be divided into rooms (with curtains instead of walls), but there is always a center room where the hearth is. That room may extend to the North wall, where the table is. Tables are low, and the Tua sit on the ground. In cold months they will sit on blankets or furs, but they by far prefer to sit on the floor, which is packed dirt. Sitting in chairs (done in the larger towns) makes most Tua uncomfortable, since it keeps them from touching the Earth. There is a family shrine on the North side of the table, and no one ever sits there. Mother and Father sit on the West and East, with children ranged on the South. "Halfway between earth and sky we are, growing from one and extending into the other, like all things in this world. Our houses are like trees, with their roots in the Earth and their crowns in the sky."
Tua society is stratified. There are the nobles, the artisans, and the farmers. A feudal society is developing. The lack of order has led many smaller landowners to attach themselves to larger ones. While still free in theory, the unsettled conditions make it much to their advantage to stay attached. Essentially they are trading rents and/or labor for safety.
The social categories don't all correspond to what we would think of them, however. Nobility is more a state of mind or a recognition by others. The old expression about "people of quality" is close. In Tuadem the nobility are likely to be farmers. They have more land under their control than most farmers, though, and it is the best land. As a result they live a significantly better life. Warriors come from the nobility.
The cattle and horse herds belong to the nobility, although they may be herded by lower classes. Sheep and goats are kept by farmers; nobles consider owning them beneath their dignity. In some parts of Tuadem, in fact, nobles won't even use the products of sheep or goats.
Artisans include all specialists. They are not just smiths, artists, and such. Healers, midwives, and beekeepers are also artisans. Although not noble, they frequently sit in on Councils.
Members of the farming class don't always own their own land. Instead they rent from the nobility. Although not serfs, they do not often change masters. This is due in part to tradition and in part to a reluctance on the part of the nobility to compete with others in their towns in this realm.
The unrest is leading the society closer and closer to feudalism. The lower classes are beginning to see that they have lost much of their ancient freedom and are in danger of losing more. Part of this emotion is vented in longing for a king.
Merchants are part of the artisan class. Because there is no trade outside of Tuadem they do not have as much power as they otherwise might.
Theoretically there is great social mobility. While nobility is from birth, it may also be married into, (like everything else, it is passed through the woman), and anyone can train to be an artisan. In practice, however, there is little mobility. Classes tend to marry within themselves and an artisan needs a teacher. The question is, who will be the teacher? The choice of a student is up to the teacher, not the other way around. Teachers tend to take students from their own class; indeed, from their own families. Trades therefore tend to stay within families.
Outside the classes are the hunters and the shamans. Both fields require a call, generally received during the puberty rites. Those who receive the call may be from any of the classes. Hunters are all male, but shamans may be male or female. A shaman usually has another profession as well, but particularly effective healing shamans may make it a full-time career.
Government and Warfare
Towns are ruled by a Council of Elders. Decisions are by discussion and agreement. A distinction is made between Common Law (Kertu) and legislated law (Jewo). Kertu does not change in pattern, though its expression in Jewo may. Jewo comes out of Kertu; it must be in harmony with Kertu. The goal is not slavish orthodoxy but creative composition.
There is also a chieftain, the Harajato. This position is semi-hereditary, being occupied by the husband of the eldest daughter of the previous Harajato (actually, of the Haraja, the wife of the previous Harajato). Although the Tua are neither exclusively endogamous nor exogamous the Haraja is exogamous (to the town). This has the social benefits of increasing ties between townships, getting rid of overly ambitious local lads, and preventing competition within townships for the chieftainship.
The High King (Tutano) and Queen (Reghja) were Haraja and Harajato of Belso Kely. In those days the College of Priests were religious and magical teachers and practitioners, counselors to the king, and judges. When the last King and Queen died the College took on the government of Belso Kely but declined the rule of Tuadem. They turned over most of their non-religious responsibilities to the Town Council, as least as far as Belso Kely was concerned. Although they could not wield the kingly power, they had much religious authority which they used to hold Tuadem together. They remained the court of last appeal.
Between the level of the High King and Queen, and the Harajato and Haraja, is that of the regional kings and queens, the Herjoto vy and Heredhja vy. These represent different parts of Tuadem. It is against their interests for there to be a High King, and so they are working against that possibility. In fact, they are growing in strength and independence. In their hearts each of them has the ambition to once again unite Tuadem, only with themselves as High King and Queen.
The Haraja has veto power over the Harajato's actions. Otherwise he has complete command during war. War may only be declared by the Council except during an actual attack. In practice, each spring (during the month of Komort) the young hotheads prevail on the Harajato to let them go raid the other tribes. If the Harajato agrees and the Haraja can't hold them back (frequently she is the one who urged them on in the first place), they go to the Council. The Council rarely turns down their request, but frequently limits the time allowed. The Harajato always goes with raiding parties and sometimes the Haraja goes as well.
Battles are fought on foot and on horseback. Single combat is common and large pitched battles extremely rare. It must be remembered that this is a heroic society, where war is not for conquest or control of other peoples but for prestige among one's own people. The Tua consider themselves all one people (although the north/south split is beginning to have its effect again) even though individuals may think their town is the best. Many nobles disdain armor, with the odd result that the foot soldiers are often better armored than the chariot fighters.
Armor is limited to quilting, leather, and scales or sewn rings. Weapons include swords, throwing spears, and darts. Bows are used mainly by horsemen. The bows used are short (3 - 4') but powerful recurve bows strengthened with sinew.
The land is controlled by the women but is worked by the men. Individual women control certain plots of land and pass this control on, but they do not own them. In some towns this land is divided into small strips apportioned among the families, while in others it is in the form of large fields.
Crops include barley, oats, wheat, various legumes, root vegetables, cabbages, flax, hemp, cherries, roses, and apples. Grapes are not grown; the climate is wrong for them.
Hunting is not a major source of protein, but there is much religious significance to it. Hunters are set apart, and live communally outside town walls. Hunters are set apart because they live under the rule of the forest god Kaitarto and therefore do not partake of the rules of civilization. Ordinarily, no one else hunts. On Zyzypeng, the feast of the dead, however, all males are required to hunt. There is also a hunt in conjunction with boys' puberty rites.
The diet of Tuadem is high in grain, legumes, and dairy products. Meat, vegetables, and herbs are used in lesser quantity, meat composing perhaps 5% of the total diet. The vegetables are used almost as condiments (there are many different kinds of pickles.)
Sac, or tea, is made from rose hips, with other herbs added in varying proportions. ("Sac" is also used to mean a rose hip.) Homes invariably have several rose bushes growing outside them. They are also planted outside town walls, partly as defense and also to provide sac. There is also a tea made from roasted chicory and grain called sac rhegwo, "dark tea." This is often called just "rhegwo." Each family generally has its own formula for sac, and there is a certain competition among families over who has the best one. There are also regional variations.
Herding has great importance, both economically and religiously. The proto-Tua were nomadic herders of cattle and horses and they continue to keep great herds. Only nobles may actually own cattle or horse herds, although others may use them or herd them for the nobles. Donkeys are kept for transportation and plowing by those without horses. There are no oxen, as religious rules forbid the castration of bulls.
Goats and sheep are also herded and are an important source of meat, milk, wool, and hides. Pigs are not herded, but wild pigs are plentiful and provide food for festivals.
Hemp is grown both for cordage and for marijuana.
There are a variety of instruments played in Tuadem: drums, flutes, harps, bagpipes, horns, and the wesh, an instrument that makes a sound like the wind and is only used in sacred music. It is similar to a bagpipe, having an air-filled skin which is squeezed so as to keep the sound going with no need to interrupt it to allow the player to take a breath. People sing a lot, but few play instruments. The wesh is played mostly by shamans, priests, and minstrels that travel from town to town. There is a musicians' guild in the bigger towns, but its members are borderline shamans. This is because to sing oneself is only normal, but to make an instrument sing is akin to magic. Anyone can play the wesh, however, since it is used in virtually all religious rites.