Karkin Culture & History
The Karkin people are considered by many of their neighbors as “wild” people, uncivilized, harsh, and somewhat mad. These stereotypes are based on the kai’toxkita (see below), the independent nomads that roam the wastelands and plains of Karkin territory, which foreigners sometimes project on all Karkin. In reality the Karkin have an advanced civilization that dates back thousands of years. The mere fact that they have survived independent from the domination of the Tosi and Selupa (without question the most powerful forces in western Elta) attests to their strength and resilience, though also to the harsh climates of their central lands, which are largely dry and hot, which has been repellent to the Tosi in the past.
Karkin religion, Soqtiil, is based around a pantheon of gods that relate to various elements of nature as well as abstract concepts. A large part of Soqtiil is sacrifice to the gods, which is based on the assumption that mortals are inherently inferior to the gods, which is regarded as an intrinsic sin, and as an offense to the gods. Therefore people are required and expected to make sacrifices of various types (usually non-violent kinds of sacrifice, such as giving up a rare object to the river goddess by throwing it in the water, for example). The gods themselves are not conscious beings, but rather sources of raw energy that are affected by the actions and existence of the mortals on Aeniith. To “appease” these forces and purge the inherent sin of mortal inferiority, the sacrifices are made to “feed” the gods and “distract” them from this is disruptive and bothersome weakness. Inferiority and superiority are accepted as truths of reality, and though the inferior exist to be dominated by the superior by definition, their mere existence is troubling to the superior. In this way, the Karkin are interpreting misfortunes and disasters in the world as the inevitable irritation of the gods to the inferiority of the Aeniithian mortals.
A prominent aspect of the religion is the bae people, whom the Karkin regard as divine beings. This is due to their belief that the bae were created specially by the gods, since the bae are so genetically distinct from other humanoids in Aeniith. The Karkin believe that the gods created the bae to pass the divine knowledge of the gods onto the other races of Aeniith in their ultimate moment of need and desperation. But beyond this is there very little practical agreement on how to treat or view the bae. Most treat them similarly to other cultures. Some believe they should be worshipped, almost as the gods themselves, while some consider them as empty vessels, something to be used to further Karkin interests, some very radical Karkin even support the idea of using them in slavery. (See: Baen Origin for more info.)
Politics and Government
The Karkin are ruled and protected by seven major clans positioned in various locations across the Karkin island. Most of them are centered in cities that build up around their power source like a halo. The clans do not have many seed houses that spread out to more isolated areas, so the government ends up being very centralized most of the time. For this reason, the laws set by these clans do not reach a lot of places in Karkin territory. Many laws are even unknown to some people. As a result, theft, murder, and anarchy are not uncommon in some places. Other places, however, have set up makeshift autonomous democratic governments on a local scale, which serve to keep relative order in villages and towns that are outside of the clans’ attention. Perhaps part of the reason the clans have not expanded so as to be able to govern more isolated regions of the lands that are putatively under their control is that they are constantly fighting each other. The political alliances change often, but the current state of the clans is as follows:
nahuːmil — Currently the most powerful of the Karkin clans, they are based in the northern city of xiɳə, near the Selupa border. They often clash with the Selupa, especially when their people stray over the Selupa border in their hunting parties. They are allies of the χatimis and fighting on and off with the kaimeː to their west, with whom they compete for food sources. The nahuːmil actually began as a vigilante band that kept some degree of order in the city of xiɳə when the former clan there, the huːʃkən, collapsed due to internal corruption and disintegration. The ensuing chaos and conflict in the city became dangerous for many people, and the nahuːmil arose as a kind of protectorate group. They are a good example of a rogue group that rises to power due to competency, willpower, and having solid public relations.
χatimis — The oldest Karkin ruling clan. Those high in the hierarchy are known for being obligated to perform many odd-seeming ceremonies relating to their positions. The lives of many in χatimis, especially in public life, are very ritualized. The traditions of metaphorical actions are deeply ingrained in the collective psyche of those close to the χatimis, even those living physically far from their center but protected by them and thus culturally influenced by them. They are highly respected by many other clans, as well as by the populace, though there has long been a sense of secrecy about them, and even mysticism, since many of their practices remain mysteries and are understood only superficially by those not directly involved with them.
ʃkulŋaː — The ʃkulŋaː are considered by many the militarily fiercest of the protector clans. Their devotion to the populace under their protection borders on fanatical in the opinions of some other clans. They have reserved so many of the resources for defensive purposes that the standard of living for the clan rulers is consistently lower than the relative wealth that such nobles live in amongst the Karkin. This has earned them the appellation smlunqə, ‘the sacrificial’. They are located on the southeastern coast.
siutri — The siutri are more a guild than a clan, since its leadership and membership is based on ability and profession rather than bloodline, as opposed to the other clans, wherein the leadership is passed from parent to child. The siutri elect a leader for their clan through a democratic process. The siutri are well known for being an artisanal and artistic nucleus in Karkin society. They promote the practice of the arts they are concerned with (all sorts of things, from bread-making to gold-smithing to painting) to the public and offer a starting point for those who are trying to survive as artists or craftspeople. They are a generally peaceful clan, preferring to stay out of politics as much as possible (which is difficult with the Karkin), and they have maintained positive relations with most other clans. One factor that aids this is their mercantile power within the country, since their main source of income is the export of the goods they create.
kaimeː — This is the newest formed clan of the Karkin. Its members are all originally not even Karkin, having come to the country from the Mo Chiriade after the war between the Karkin, Selupa, and the Mo Chiriade in 403 e.k. The kaimeː members migrated from Mo Chiriade because the economic situation had so badly degraded since the war (which was a ridiculous war over fishing rights among other things), that they opted to go to Karkin, their former enemy state, since Karkin had not really suffered as badly, having made better allies during the war who supplied them with goods. In Mo Chiriade this family had been at one time a head of a large tribe in central Naga, but during the war they had fallen from power due to their poverty. Once in Karkin they attempted to establish themselves as an independent clan, but were ultimately rejected in each of the cities they tried to install themselves in. However, they were offered a position as a sort of vassal clan (that is, a clan that works in service of another in exchange for certain privileges) by the nahuːmil. This they accepted, but over the years they slowly gained economic and political independence. The nahuːmil then released them from their obligations. The kaimeː, however, responded by overtaking large amounts of the rural sections of nahuːmil controlled lands, since these were major agricultural hotspots. The nahuːmil, of course, responded with anger, and now the two clans have been skirmishing on and off, but no all out war has occurred yet.
uʎei — This is the smallest of the ruling clans. Its members share the city of naʃmeː with the siutri, since they are relatively militarily weak in comparison to most other clans. They have only defensive soldiers, who consist of an order called the nispaɴil, who practice a specific type of martial art known as ainesk, which involves various kinds of attacks named after elemental properties of Aeniith (storm, fire, etc.). They are devoted and obligated under oath to serve and protect the uʎei (similarly to the ʃkulŋaː with their fierce protection of their populace). The uʎei, despite their small size, are able to maintain their position of power due to one major factor: they possess arcane technology and medical techniques that are totally unknown to most other Karkin. They have historically committed themselves to research of these areas and kept this information very secret so that they can maintain a monopoly on such things. There have been rumors that they have gleaned some of their techniques from the technologically advanced Selupa, but there is no evidence whatsoever for this idea. They have achieved feats that are amazing considering the technology of the rest of Elta and Aeniith in general at this time, having even created advanced prosthetic limbs with digits that are organically connected to the tendons of the limb, so that the fingers of a hand, for example, can move when pressure is applied to the forearm. They have devised a tool based on air pressure that can be used by the intact arm, a foot, or even mouth to control the prosthetic, making the fingers clench and release. It has been inventions like this that have made uʎei so indispensable to the Karkin, and is ultimately the reason they haven’t been obliterated by militarily stronger clans.
kona — The kona are the mercantile clan of Karkin. They send their merchants far out into Aeniith, even into Keta, to gather goods from far away to maintain the wealth of both their own clan and populace but also to strengthen the economy of Karkin in general. The clan is headed by hasχəːŋ, a matriarchal leader of great age and prestige. She has four daughters and two sons who control the lesser merchants and send them to their designated countries to trade with both inhabitants and foreign governments. Because they work abroad so much, the kona have started teaching their members foreign languages en masse. It is obligatory for all clan members to begin studying at least one foreign language by the age of eight years. They then send speakers of specific language(s) to the corresponding countries, and for this reason, their public relations have been very good throughout most of the countries they trade with. kona are known for being very smooth commercial diplomats.
A unique aspect of Karkin culture is the strict separation of the population into those who are under the protection of a ruling clan and those who are left on their own, whom the clans feel no obligation to help, protect, or account for. Those under protection are called toxkita, while those without protection are the kai’toxkita. The latter term has come to have pejorative implication, implying harshness, incivility, or insanity. There is a strict social divide between these people, the kai’toxkita being a minority whose interests are, by nature, undermined in society. The kai’toxkita are those whose small towns and villages are either in total anarchy or are led by makeshift local governments (if they can be called that, being on such a small scale), and they are economically often at a disadvantage. Many kai’toxkita end up dying in the winter due to a lack of food, as the lands whereon they live are very barren and dry and the small amount of agricultural produce that they make each summer cannot sustain their population. They have no way to trade efficiently with those in the cities since transportation of goods takes a long time. Pack animals are rare and expeditions across the desert are few. So the kai’toxkita are effectively cut off from the rest of society. When a few do make it to the cities, they are persecuted and shunned, which leads them to continued economic disadvantage, which in turn drives many to crime in order to survive. Thus their bad reputation amongst the toxkita is propagated, and the kai’toxkita remain marginalized. In the past kai’toxkita have risen up against the cities of Karkin, and they have had before significant organization amongst themselves, with hierarchical leaders. All of these uprisings have ultimately failed, however, which has just driven them further into the fringes of society as well as making enemies of the ruling clans in the cities.
History and Relations with the Tosi
Since the Karkin are so close to Tosi territory, it is curious that the Karkin have survived as an autonomous country for so long. No other country in the area, save the Selupa, has survived Tosi conquest with their political autonomy in tact. There are several reasons for the so-called Karkin luck. First of all, much of Karkin land, especially that which is largely unprotected by the clans, is very dry, cool, and barren in places. This makes it difficult to put to use for agriculture or any purpose, especially for those who are not familiar with the territory. The Tosi were not familiar with the territory when they attempted an invasion in 201 e.k. They first invaded the land unprotected by the clans, and were met with fierce resistance from the local kai’toxkita. The Tosi were not at the time able to afford very large amounts of troops in the area because they were fighting three other wars abroad, and thus the Karkin campaign was low on the list of priorities for the Tosi Empress. Also, there was internal bickering amongst the Tosi middle nobility at the time. The woman to lead the campaign for the Empress, the nadʒa (which translates roughly to “general” but also covers civil and political responsibilities), was am lede ossa tiːl. The practice at the time was to give governence to the nadʒa who conquers the land she has been sent to invade. am lede, however, was undersupplied in regards to both troops and weaponry and food. Because of the lack of food, she was obliged to continually attack small towns of the kai’toxkita, which was not something that really contributed toward gaining control of the region, just simply feeding her troops. This also made the kai’toxkita even angrier, and gave them greater incentive to organize their scattered people into a formidable resistance band. For these reasons, am lede ossa tiːl was not able to maintain her presence in Karkin without backup support from Tos. So the Empress sent an additional nadʒa to aid am lede, fi lek wan. Together, the two women’s forces were able to secure much of the area that am lede had originally invaded. Now a new problem arose: fi lek wan felt that since she had saved the Karkin campaign from total ruin, she deserved the governing position of the area when it was established as a Tosi annexation. am lede argued that their combined forces had subdued the Karkin lands, each of them equally contributing to its weakening, so therefore they ought to govern it jointly. They disputed this for months, and at times their troops even skirmished between each other, and though this was not officially condoned by their leaders, it was a manifestation of the growing resentment between the two women as well as their people. The Empress finally had had enough of the petty problems in Karkin, and simply nixed the entire campaign, much to the chagrin of am lede and fi lek. The Empress decided that Karkin simply was not worth the trouble.
It was thus that Karkin narrowly avoided being another Tosi vassal state.
Now, three hundred years after the failed invasion of Karkin, the Tosi and Karkin have a surprisingly peaceful relationship. The Tosi value the Karkin as allies, mainly for some of the special technological skills and mercantile ties of its ruling clans, specifically the the kona, uʎei, and siutri. The Tosi have also been the primary force keeping peace between the Selupa and the Karkin, since the Selupa are also an ally of theirs, and the Tosi wish to protect the interests of both countries for the Empress’s own purposes; a war between the Selupa and Karkin would be damaging to the Tosi.