Faraden lies to the west of the Empire. It is a rocky, hilly nation on the far side of the Lasambrian hills. The Faraden are canny traders and fierce warriors. Up until very recently, the Faraden traded frequently with the Freeborn at Anduz, but since the fall of Segura in 363 YE this has become a good deal more difficult. They are known to trade with their neighbours the Iron Confederacy, but also with lands to the south and west that are largely unvisited by Imperial traders - their nation serves as a “gateway” to the southwestern parts of the continent.
The people of Faraden have a lot in common with the Empire but are very independent. A major bone of contention is that their religion is closely related to the Imperial faith but includes elements that the Imperial Synod believes is heretical, which helps make them extra touchy around Imperial citizens. They are often unprepared for what they see as the 'superior' attitude of their Imperial neighbours.
The people of Faraden gather together into extended families, each lead by a High Lord or High Lady. The nation as a whole is lead by the Lord (or Lady) of the Five Winds, who is chosen by agreement of the High Lords and High Ladies and serves for life. The Lord of the Five Winds in practice comes from one of a half-dozen extremely rich “noble” families to whom the other families owe debts of loyalty and allegiance. It is a somewhat feudal society. Lords and Ladies serve as judges, while the High Lord or High Lady effectively rules the nation with the support of the Lords.
Politics between the various powerful families can become intense, especially when it is time to select a new Lady of the Five Winds. The support of a powerful Imperial faction can offer additional weight to a High Lord or High Lady in their internal maneuvering.
In this nation, the traders are very much in charge, and pay their warriors to protect their people and their borders. They do not especially value ambition, and consequently it is traditional for a family to specialise in one or two areas. They're not a true caste-based society, but a Faraden who is at odds with the profession practiced by her family will need to find another family prepared to take them in, and another family will only do this for people who are very skilled.
Changing family is always done as part of a transaction; it costs money to buy someone from their family, so the family “buying” you needs to be sure it will get a return on its investment. Priests usually oversee adoption ceremonies and often testify that the adoptee is now part of the family. This is important given Faraden spiritual beliefs about reincarnation, but it increases the cost to the family adopting their new member as liao must usually be secured.
Unlike their Imperial neighbours, Faraden keep human slaves. Criminals, especially thieves, are often sentenced to slavery for a period of time depending on the value of the item they stole and the dishonour the theft caused. Faraden slaves always serve for a period of time, and their sentence can be ended prematurely if their family chooses to buy their debt off; foreigners are kept indefinitely and are not well treated.
Culture and Customs
As a people, they are first-and-foremost traders, who look for wealth outside their palaces, and outside their borders. They are not the daring, reckless adventurers that the Freeborn are, nor the cunning and ruthless mercantilists of the League, but rather they are clever entrepreneurs who view wealth as a means to an end rather than an end in itself - comfort, happiness and power all flow from the coin purse.
The most striking element of Faraden culture is the value they place on the concept of honour. Each Faraden has a sense of personal honour, but also recognises family honour and national honour. An offence against any one of these causes them to become intractable and even hostile. They will tell someone if they are offending their honour and then the onus is on that person to make amends – if they've been insulted with words, then a sincere apology sorts the situation out. If the situation is not quickly dealt with, it will often escalate until a High Lord or High Lady becomes involved.
Tied up with their idea of honour is a form of escalating lex talionis – every punishment among the Faraden includes an element of deterrent and is often quite cruel. If someone steals from them, then not only is the item returned but they expect punishment for the dishonour caused often in the form of mutilation, corporal punishment or enslavement. If someone kills one of their relatives, they expect that person and one of their relatives to be killed in return, and so on. This means that the Faraden are fairly law-abiding people, but their concept of legality puts them squarely at odds with the codes of Imperial Law.
This fierce attitude to law and justice means vendettas are common between rivals, and are often settled by bloodshed. Sometimes those vendettas get settled on Imperial soil, which can lead to all sorts of diplomatic incidents.
They especially enjoy flags, streamers, kites and other things that move in the wind; most Faraden settlements are decorated with these adornments, and wind-chimes are common. They also like wind instruments over any other sort – recorders and penny whistles particularly.
As a nation they fear and hate the sea – in tales it is a place of horror full of dreadful creatures that kill anyone foolish enough to venture out onto it. Sea storms are seen as ill omened (as opposed to storms over land which represent the power and fury of nature and are seen as good omens). Sailors are figures of superstitious dread among the Faraden and they do not willingly associate with them.
It is unclear when the Faraden first came to the lands they now inhabit, but they are believed to have migrated there from somewhere further south around six hundred years ago. They carved a land out from the barbarian orcs in the area who were no match for their single-minded, methodical campaign. When the Freeborn arrived in the land that is now the Brass Coast there were a few scattered families of Faraden living in western Segura, who were either absorbed by the Freeborn, fell to orcish aggression from the Lasambrian hills, or voluntarily relocated back to Faraden.
Relations between Freeborn and Faraden remained cordial, and when Highborn missionaries eventually crossed the Lasambrian Hills to Faraden they found a people receptive to their teachings, and a religion not massively dissimilar to the Imperial Faith. However the Faraden had no interest in joining the Empire, and refused to give up their core philosophical belief in Justice, nor to recognise as essential the virtues of wisdom, vigilance or ambition. Religious conflict with the Empire briefly boiled over during the reign of Empress Teleri when certain reactionary forces in the Imperial Synod called for a war with the impious 'barbarian' Faraden, but the fighting was short lived and found little support with any of the Imperial nations who shared a border with their eastern neighbours.
Occasional bands of Faraden warriors have served as mercenaries, especially in The Marches and Wintermark; in return some groups of Imperial soldiers have spent a little time as auxiliaries to Faraden forces protecting their northern borders from the Jotun.
Faraden Military Concerns
The Faraden favour families of professional warriors and soldiers who protect their borders, although even the most mercantile or religious family is likely to have a few members who practice with arms and armour to protect their kin from bandits or rampaging beasts. They also have a history of skirmishes along their borders with the Iron Confederacy, and even occasionally with troops or bandits out of Segura. Since Liathaven was taken by the orcs, however, the Faraden have apparently been having increasing problems with the southern Jotun, as well as having to fend off opportunistic raids from the Lasambrian hills.
In battle Faraden warriors prefer round shields, one-handed swords and bows. They layer leather and metal armour, and the more ornamental the armour, the higher the warrior's status the warrior. They prefer to fight with small units rather than engaging in large campaign battles, but when the Lord (or Lady) of the Five Winds calls they are capable of fielding large armies made up of units that can still function independently in pursuit of a military goal.
Faraden Economic Concerns
The Faraden value wealth, but they value it for the comfort and opportunity it brings, rather than as an end in itself. Relations between families often involve the transfer of wealth, not only in the form of coins but in goods and animals. It is common for families to be tied with almost feudal bonds, where a smaller family gives regular tribute to a larger family in return for protection or access to resources. Other families serve as retainers to larger families in return for payment.
The Faraden make their own lead coins for internal use, but they use coinage from all over their part of the world, and that includes Imperial coinage. As a nation where trade is paramount, they are adept at valuing the coins of other nations; some are melted down for their metal content, others are traded as a commodity in their own right. For example, a Faraden family with a surfeit of Imperial coinage will trade it to a family with stronger Imperial ties, possibly in return for commodities or currency of interest to the nations with which they in turn trade.
Their traders range far and wide; it is common for a group of Faraden traders to set off with a wagon or two laden with goods and disappear for a year or two, returning home with entirely different goods and (hopefully) plenty of coins. Their connections with distant foreigners mean they often have odd materials or items for sale when they visit the Empire.
The Faraden do not have much in the way of forest, so they are often willing to trade for weirwood and especially the iridescent gloaming that they use to make their richest dyes. In return they trade the fruits of their western mines (especially orichalcum and weltsilver).
Faraden Religious Beliefs
In the Faraden, Highborn wayfarers and Freeborn sutannir found a people receptive to their teachings, and a religion not massively dissimilar to the Imperial Faith. However the Faraden refused to recognise as essential the virtues of wisdom, vigilance or ambition. More worryingly for the Highborn, they claimed that 'justice' was as important as the other virtues and insisted on including it alongside courage, loyalty, prosperity and pride. While they are spiritual kin to the people of the Empire, but the shared similarity of their beliefs just throws the differences into stark relief - there are priests on both sides who would like to see the matter of their religious differences settled once and for all.
The priests of Faraden refuse to accept the truth of the Labyrinth and instead teach that after life there is an endless howling waste where souls wander; the more virtuous they are in life, the more friendly the spirits of that place are, and the more they help the wanderer to find their way back to true life. They also believe that souls are always born into the same family; wiping out all members of a family consigns the dead spirits of that family to an eternity of wandering in the howling waste, until they eventually become malign spirits. This belief in reincarnation along familial lines is one of the reasons that adoption between families is such a significant event in a Faraden life.
Faraden priests have minimal access to liao, meaning that liao ceremonies are much less commonly practiced among them. What liao they do have access to is often traded with the Empire, and some Navarr especially make a point of trading liao to the Faraden. As a consequence of their restricted access to spiritual ceremonies, priests are rarer in Faraden than in the Empire and many serve in roles as advisors to political figures than as religious figures.
Funerals are air burials; the body is laid out on a raised platform and left for the elements and the birds. Sometimes valuable items are placed on these platforms and it is a capital crime to take them. An item that falls off a platform is available for anyone to take however, and if the platform collapses. it is taken as a sign that the spirit has been reborn and the items can be claimed. Burying people in the ground is seen as abhorrent, and burning them is seen as offensive. Vultures and other carrion-birds are seen as lucky by the Faraden.
Faraden Magic Traditions
As with merchants, warriors and priest some families specialist in magic and sell their services to the other families. Each family jealously guards its store of ritual lore, and so Faraden magicians are not as widely versed as those of the Empire although they often possess a ritual or two unknown by their neighbours to the east. Their ritual performances often involve streamers, smoke and other things that rise into the wind, and their magicians often use fakir-like tricks, flash powder and the like to create odd effects alongside their actual magic to impress their audiences.
Wind and fire are used extensively as metaphors for magic, and their stories contain images of spirits and magical creatures whose bodies are composed entirely of living flame and living wind. It is never entirely clear if the magician believes in these spirits, or if they are merely metaphors for magical processes. Their ritual magicians use the same names for the four 'corporeal' realms as their Imperial neighbours. Instead of Day and Night however they call the remaining two Realms Wind and Flame. The wind they say travels everywhere and sees and knows everything. The flame by contrast dances, shifts and changes; comes from nowhere, and returns to nowhere when it dies.
Faraden is a little larger than an Imperial nation, and the population is usually spread out across a number of towns that surround the estates of a High Lord or High Lady. The Palace of the Five Winds is the largest settlement in Faraden, but only just approaches the size of the Imperial cities of Meade or Siroc. Fortifications are common - almost all settlements are surrounded by a stone wall. Faraden love to make their homes as sumptuous and beautiful as they can afford. Their buildings are designed with strong aesthetics as well as practical considerations, and they are very skilled at working with stone, especially white granite. Minarets, domes and towers are all very common features in Faraden architecture and they are known to be talented bridge and road builders as befits the broken terrain that forms most of their home.
Look and Feel
The basic influence on Faraden costume is medieval Mongolia and has been summarized as: an upright collar (preferably on a base layer); a wrap-around tunic (preferably as an over layer); fuller sleeves but tight from wrist to elbow; contrasting or decorative trim to edges; fuller/baggy trousers that are either tight to knee or tucked into long boots. Armour is worn in layers: a top layer of plated leather is common, but as a sleeveless vest rather than a full-length hauberk. Below that some padded armour, like a short-sleeved gambeson, with nicely decorated shoulders, both worn over a raw silk long-sleeved tunic. Heavier armour is likewise worn in layers, and it is much more common for Faraden warriors to wear chain armour than plate (this image might represent a heavily armoured Faraden.
The Faraden are a wealthy people, and show it by dying kit deep, vibrant colours. While their costume shows obvious signs of Mongolian influence, the colour palette is much richer than the traditional darker browns, and is often highly ornamented. Colourful sashes are a common element of their costume, as is curling decoration reminiscent of wind or smoke.
Faraden in Play
Faraden lies near to the Empire, and they speak the language known as Imperial, represented by English.
The Faraden are guardedly friendly to the Empire as a whole. For the most part, they do not send their priests to negotiate with the Empire, and the Empire has learned not to send missionaries to Faraden unless they are prepared to be cautious. Religion remains a point of contention, and the Faraden so no signs of changing their traditions any time soon. Honour can also cause problems - casual friendliness from Imperial citizens has been misinterpreted as contempt, leading to tragic misunderstandings. Faraden visitors to the Empire are often on their 'best behaviour' but accidents can and do happen, and the Faraden expect anyone who offends against their values, persons or goods to be punished severely which often puts them at odds with Imperial Law.
The information here should be sufficient to create a character with a background connection to Faraden, but a connection to one family is unlikely to impress a member of another family. It is worth bearing in mind that while the Faraden draw on Mongolian imagery, they are not plains-living, warlike cavalry-folk; they are traders first and warriors second. They drive wagons drawn by oxen, they don't ride horses.
The Faraden do not have ports; you could however represent trade with this nation using a business resource, especially if you diversify the resource to include small amounts of orichalcum or weltsilver.